US seeks explanation from China on Internet freedom

The US government has had multiple meetings with Chinese authorities over Google’s allegations that Chinese authorities were indulging in email hacking and censorship

The United States has held several rounds of meetings with China on the allegations of search engine giant Google that Chinese authorities were indulging in email hacking and censorship, according to a top Obama administration official, reports PTI.

"Specifically on the Google-China issue, I think it would be fair to say that the US government has had multiple meetings with Chinese authorities on this matter and will have more in the coming days," assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Kurt Campbell, said yesterday.

"It is also the case that we take this matter very seriously and, as secretary of state Hillary Clinton said last week, the whole issue does raise serious concerns," he told reporters at a news conference.

"Now, it is also clear that China has denied the allegations made by Google. But we also think that the Chinese are in the best position to explain this, and we are asking them for an explanation," Mr Campbell said in response to a question.

"We are not prepared to go into any further specifics at this time, but we will be having more discussions with Chinese interlocutors in the coming days," he said when asked about the US position on the Google-China spat.

Last week, the state department had said that it would issue a demarche to the Chinese this week on Google’s allegations with regard to email hacking and censorship.

In terms of the cyber arena, the ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy, Mr Campbell said.  He added that cyberspace provides a platform for innovation and prosperity and the means to improve general welfare around the globe.

US president Barack Obama has identified cyber-security as a national priority that underpins global security and economic prosperity and also contributes to free expression, he said.

"In addition, the president specifically made Internet freedom a central human rights issue of his trip to China, holding the first-ever online town hall meeting, where he highlighted the principles that freedom of expression, including free and open Internet use, is a universal right that should be available to all people, whether they are in the United States, China, or indeed any other nation," Mr Campbell said.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be giving an address on 21st January on the importance of Internet freedom in the 21st century. "We will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear," he said.

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    Tesco's first cash-and-carry outlet in India likely this year

    The third largest retailer in the world is planning to open its first wholesale cash-and-carry outlet in India this year

    Tesco Plc, the third largest retailer in the world, is planning to open its first wholesale cash-and-carry outlet in India this year, said a senior official from the company.

    "We will open our first wholesale cash-and-carry outlet in India this year," Tesco international and internal communications director Greg Sage told PTI.

    Tesco already has a presence in India through a joint venture with the Tata group. These stores are located in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai.
    Mr Greg said, "We see a huge opportunity for future growth in India.”

    Corporate and legal affairs director and Tesco board member Lucy Neville-Rolfe said that Tesco operated 4,331 stores worldwide and employed 470,000 people in 14 countries.

    Besides India, the other international markets where the UK retail giant Tesco has a presence include Thailand, Poland, Hungary, South Korea, China, Ireland, Malaysia, Slovakia, Turkey, Japan and the US.

    "We continue to expand our international business and are investing in banking, mobile phones and other retail services," Mr Sage said.

    Each of Tesco's international businesses also has a community plan, which include initiatives to help consumers to be green and meet "our commitment to be a zero-carbon business by 2050", he added.

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    Indian bourses are heading downwards

    Indian markets continued to slide on the back of weak global cues

    Weak global markets, along with fears of stimulus tightening by the Indian government, weighed heavily on market sentiments. The Sensex declined 155 points from the previous day’s close, ending the day at 17,486 while the Nifty ended the day at 5,226, down 49 points.

    India VIX, a volatility index based on the S&P CNX Nifty index option prices which measures the market’s expectation of volatility over the next 30 calendar days, rose 4% at 22.

    During trading hours, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said that it was permitting the introduction of currency futures in euro, yen, and pound sterling with immediate effect. Prior to this, the RBI had only allowed currency futures trading in dollar-rupee contracts.

    Pronab Sen, chief secretary, said in a television interview that monthly inflation may touch double digits by March 2010.

    As per recent media reports, commercial banks are unlikely to raise lending rates in the near term, given the surplus liquidity in the system and poor demand for loans, even if the central bank signals a tightening of the monetary policy by hiking the cash reserve ratio (CRR). Bankers, economists and bond markets expect a hike in CRR by the central bank at the quarterly policy review on 29 January 2010.

    At 14:00 hrs IST, the Sensex was trading at 17,572, down 68 points from the previous day’s close, while the Nifty was trading at 5,250, down 24 points.

    However, by 15:00 hrs IST, the Sensex was trading down 125 points from the previous day’s close at 17,515 while the Nifty declined 42 points at 5,233.

    Divestment candidates were the major gainers today following the divestment secretary’s comments on Monday. Andrew Yule, Transport Corporation, National Fertiliser and FACT were locked at the 20% upper circuit each while RCF and Hindustan Copper were up nearly 19%. HMT, ITI and NMDC were up 14%, 11% and 6% respectively. STC India gained 6%.

    DLF has reportedly decided to exit its mutual fund venture, DLF Pramerica Mutual Fund, by selling its entire stake to its overseas partner in the venture, US-based Prudential Financial, as the company seeks to focus on its core business. Prudential Financial is expected to buy DLF’s 39% stake in the asset management company that is yet to start operations. DLF fell 2%.

    Larsen & Toubro (L&T) will reportedly invest around Rs25,000 crore to build its thermal power business in the next five years. L&T Power, the wholly-owned subsidiary of L&T, will have a generation capacity of 5,500 megawatts (MW), including hydropower, by 2015. The stock declined 1%.

    As per media reports, Reliance Capital is looking to sell up to 20% stake in Reliance Mutual Fund to a strategic foreign partner. The stock was down 1%.

    The finance ministry disbursed Rs12,000 crore subsidy to oil companies, according to reports. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) was given Rs7,000 crore subsidy while the total subsidy payout to Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) stood at Rs5,000 crore.

    However, oil-marketing companies witnessed selling pressure despite the news of disbursement of subsidy. HPCL, IOC and BPCL fell 2%-3%.

    During the day, Asia’s key benchmark indices in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan fell by between 0.09%-1.07% whereas indices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and China rose by between 0.03%-1.02%.

    As per media reports, the central banks of China and Taiwan tightened policy to drain money from the banking system. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lifted the auction yield on one-year bills in its regular open market operation for a second week in a row, and by more than expected. Taiwan also pushed up its overnight lending rate, the rate at which banks borrow and lend to each other, by one basis point to an eight-month high.

    On Monday, 18 January 2010, US markets remained closed. However, in premarket trading today, the Dow was trading 40 points lower.

    Yesterday, we had said that the bourses would open higher and they did so. Tomorrow, we expect Indian markets to remain down.


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