Is the Apple Tablet Ready for Business?

Today marks the announcement of Apple’s latest technology–the yet unnamed Apple Tablet. We don’t yet know the exact details of the device, but expectations are high for it.

Personally, I would expect it to look like a sizably larger iPhone, about the size of the original Amazon Kindle, and have a color screen. I think (but we’ll see) the key focus of the device will be its integration with the Apple iTunes Store–it will become the portal through which Apple (and content publishers like newspapers) can easily and quickly charge for premium content.

So, what’s the mean for a business traveler?My (pre-announcement) take is that business travelers should view the upcoming (I’d guess June) Apple Tablet as a super-alternative to e-book readers, with some potentially interesting new options. If you’ve held off for now on buying a Kindle or Nook, continue holding off until we get more details on the tablet. It might change your plans. In fact, the Apple Tablet may be better for business travelers than it is for business people, if you consider it as an entertainment alternative to e-book readers, iPods or portable DVD players.

Of course there are other takes on what the tablet may mean for business people. For example, Apple’s extensive library of iPhone apps is a large draw for business travelers and business people. But it would be even more powerful if Apple opens it up and allows it to connect with external devices, such as a keyboard. Then you could really take notes or write on it, using it much as you would a laptop. I’m not sure we’re there yet, but let’s see what Apple has up its sleeve.

Army Chief orders court martial against Lt Gen Prakash

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor on Friday ordered for court martial against former Military Secretary Lt. General Avadhesh Prakash, who was indicted by the Court of Inquiry (CoI) investigating the Sukhna land scam.

Earlier this week, Defence Minister A K Antony advised General Kapoor to initiate disciplinary action against Lt General Prakash, as against the Army chief’s recommendation to initiate administrative action against his former aide.

The procedure of the court martial is expected to go on for at least six months.

This is first time in the history of the India armed forces that a Military Secretary is facing the court martial.

The CoI report accused Lt. General Prakash of misusing his office.

Lt General Prakash was one of the top eight Principal Staff Officers at the Army headquarters.

Along with Lt General Prakash, the CoI had indicted Lt General P K Rath for their role in issuing a no objection certificate to a private firm, which falsely claimed to establish an affiliate of the famous Ajmer-based Mayo College on land adjacent to the Sukhna military station in Darjeeling.

On January 27, Lt General Prakash was removed from the post of Military Secretary.

SRK should go to Karachi to play with Pak players: Sena

Shiv Sena on Friday attacked Shah Rukh Khan for lamenting exclusion of Pakistani players from IPL and dared him to take the players in his team Kolkata Knight Riders.

“If Shah Rukh wants Pakistani players to play here, he should go to Karachi and Islamabad to play with them…If he includes Pakistani players in his team, he should be aware of the consequences,” Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told reporters here.

Reacting to the non-selection of Pakistani players in the IPL auction, Bollywood star and co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders Shah Rukh Khan had recently said that they (Pakistani players) should have been welcomed.

“I truly believe they (Pakistan players) should have been chosen,” Khan had said.

“We would have loved to have Pakistani players if they were made available legally,” he had said.

Meanwhile, protesting the actor’s comment, Sena activists tore posters of SRK’s upcoming movie ‘My Name Is Khan’ at Eternity Mall premises in neighbouring Thane. The activists handed over a letter to the owner of the mall asking to stop release of the movie.

I feel undeserving on being awarded Padma Shri: Saif

He is one of the youngest actors to have been honoured with Padma Shri and many may be wondering if it isn’t too early for him to receive the award.

But they are not the only one as actor Saif Ali Khan himself is pretty low key about the entire affair.

He is accepting the title with all humility but still truly believes that there are many more people out there who truly deserved it more than him.

“Honestly speaking, I feel really humbled and undeserving on being awarded the Padma Shri. It isn’t something that I had asked for and since Government of India has done this for me, all I can do is to deliver my best and live up to it,” Saif said in an interview.

In the past, some of the biggest names in the field of entertainment who have been conferred with National honours are veterans like Amitabh Bachchan (Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan), Rajnikanth (Padma Bhushan) and Kamal Hassan (Padma Shri).

This year, Aamir Khan has joined the elite list with a Padma Bhushan against his name. Bollywood diva Rekha has also been awarded with Padma Shri this year.

“Each of the names that you mention are so distinguished and they truly deserve a National honor at this level,” said Saif.

“This is why I feel a little low key because in current times, someone like Aamir Khan truly deserves a Padma Bhushan. May be I wasn’t really worthy of it. There are many people who deserve it much more me,” the actor said.

Machu Picchu airlift rescues hundreds of tourists

About 1,400 tourists have been airlifted from near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru following floods that destroyed road and rail links.

A break in the weather allowed the government to send in helicopters, but about 800 tourists are still stranded.

Tourists’ patience has been stretched, with prices for some goods soaring.

The Machu Picchu site, which attracts more than 400,000 visitors a year, will be closed for several weeks after the heaviest rainfall for 15 years.

‘An adventure’

Tourists were stranded in the town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the ruins, after rainfall severed road and rail links.

They have complained at the slow pace of the rescue effort.

More than 2,500 tourists have been rescued since Monday, officials said.

The evacuation has been done by age, with the elderly and children taken first.

American Karel Schultz, 46, told Associated Press news agency: “It’s been an adventure, a bit more than we bargained for.”

Some tourists had to rely on locals for food after cash machines dried up.

A number of hotels were reported to have increased prices considerably.

The train to the city of Cuzco is the only means of transport on the last leg of the trip to the Machu Picchu ruins, and has been suspended since Saturday when it was blocked by one of 40 landslides in the area.

Five people are reported to have died, including two residents killed when their home was destroyed, and a trekker crushed while sleeping in a tent.

Obama prioritises jobs in key speech

US President Barack Obama has said in his first State of the Union address that creating jobs must be the nation’s number one focus.

Mr Obama accepted Americans were “hurting” and that his election pledge of change had not come quickly enough.

He defended his healthcare reform efforts and bank bail-out policy, but said there would be a spending freeze from 2011 to tackle the budget deficit.

Bob McDonnell, for the Republicans, criticised the expansion of government.

The Virginia governor said the federal government was “simply trying to do too much”.

‘Devastation remains’

Mr Obama was given the traditional warm welcome by all sides of Congress and received several standing ovations.

He opened his address by saying the US had to “answer history’s call”.

On the issue of employment, Mr Obama said: “People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

“Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.”

On the economy, Mr Obama said he had taken office a year ago “amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt”.

“The devastation remains,” he said. “One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

“I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They’re not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for president.”

He said he would insist on the new jobs bill. “The House has passed a jobs bill… as the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same.”

Mr Obama defended the controversial bank bail-outs, saying they were necessary to save the economy.

“When I ran for president, I promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular – I would do what was necessary,” he said.

“If we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.”

But he said the budget deficit had to be tackled.

“Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years,” he said.

President Obama also tackled lobbying. He had openly criticised last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court rejecting long-standing limits on how much companies can spend on political campaigns.

“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities,” he said.

His words brought a reaction from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who shook his head and appeared to mouth the words, “No, it’s not true”.

The president also talked about global warming, urging the Senate to “advance” work on climate change, while acknowledging deep disagreement on a bill to cap carbon emissions.

On healthcare, Mr Obama said he took his share of the blame for not explaining the situation better.

But he said many Americans were losing their insurance, adding: “I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.”

Military gay law

On security, Mr Obama said the war in Iraq was ending and “all of our troops are coming home”.

He said increased US efforts in Afghanistan would help the Afghans start taking the lead in 2011. International allies had also stepped up their commitment, he said, and would use Thursday’s Afghan conference in London to “reaffirm our common purpose”.

“There will be difficult days ahead. But I am confident we will succeed,” he said.

Mr Obama also referred to a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), saying the US and Russia were completing negotiations on the “farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades”.

He also announced he would tackle the controversial law that bars openly gay people from serving in the military.

He said: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”

He ended the speech with the words: “We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s seize this moment – to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more.”

The BBC’s Richard Lister, in Washington, says it was a sober speech for serious times, primarily devoted to domestic issues.

He says the president talked optimistically about the capacity of the American people to endure hardships, and come through stronger, but at times he also sounded defensive, saying he never suggested he could bring the change he promised all by himself.

Republican Bob McDonnell said that despite rising unemployment, the Democratic Congress continued “deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt”.

“The amount of this debt is on pace to double in five years, and triple in 10,” he said.

“This is simply unsustainable. The president’s partial freeze on discretionary spending is a laudable step, but a small one.

“The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level.”

Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain said he was surprised Mr Obama still wanted to push ahead with a comprehensive healthcare overhaul.

“What I thought he would have said was ‘Look I hear the message from the Massachusetts election, now let’s start over’. Frankly, that would’ve put the burden on us,” he said.

Mr Obama’s address follows the Democratic Party’s loss of a key Senate seat in Massachusetts last week which has deprived them of their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate.

The loss puts in danger the president’s sweeping legislative agenda he set out after taking office a year ago.

RBI lifts cash reserve ratio, holds rates

The Reserve Bank of India left short-term interest rates unchanged on Friday, as expected, but surprised markets with a higher-than-forecast 75 basis point rise in banks’ cash reserve requirements and warned of mounting inflation.

The RBI called on the government to get its fiscal house in order and said monetary policy would be ineffective unless the government rolls back its borrowing, which is on track to hit a record 4.5 trillion rupees (US$96.9 bln) this fiscal year.

Despite increasing inflationary pressures, the central bank has been under pressure from senior government officials to hold off from raising its policy rates, which they argue would undermine the economic recovery.

Analysts said Friday’s move would just be the start of monetary tightening this year.

“Going forward, we expect an inter-policy hike in the reverse repo and a hike in the repo rate in the April policy,” said Shubhada Rao, chief economist at the Yes Bank in Mumbai.

Bond yields rose and stock prices fell following Friday’s policy review release.

“Though the inflationary pressures in the domestic economy stem predominantly from the supply side, the consolidating recovery increases the risks of these pressures spilling over into a wider inflationary process,” it said in its third quarter review.

The central bank lifted its wholesale price index inflation forecast for the end of the fiscal year in March to 8.5 percent from its earlier forecast of 6.5 percent, but said it expected inflation to moderate from July, assuming a normal monsoon and global oil prices holding at current levels.