Politics & the Nation

  • Pakistani terror outfits behind Mumbai carnage
    • That the terror outfits based on Pakistan are behind the Mumbai carnage is now clear with reports of the revelations from the sole captured terrorist coming out.
    • I believe the whole incident points to a miserable failure of our coast guard. In spite of two of its officers getting killed in the high seas, the fact that it did not know their whereabouts/safety or preferred to keep mum, is quite troubling, to say the least.
    • It is a reality that Pakistan based terror outfits will keep trying to perpetrate more such attacks. While the Pakistani government cannot escape the blame, what is needed is not increasing the anti-Pak rhetoric, but being more prepared. We know it is as ineffective as ineffective can be in controlling the bad elements within its government and borders. What needs to be done is raise India's preparedness to tackle such incidents by carefully analyzing the way each such incident is handled by us. Raising specialist outfits a la the NSG, arming them to teeth, training them, counselling civilians in facing such situations etc., are somethings that come to mind.
    • And more importantly life should go on. Looking back at the incident should be to learn lessons, not to keep ruing about good days gone by or to re-live the bad experience.
  • One interesting read about being bullet proof
    • Do you know the speed at which a bullet from an AK series of rifle travels? Reportedly at about 2600 kmph. Even if one were to wear a helmet that can protect one's head from a bullet coming from an AK series of rifle, the mere impact of the bullet will snap the spinal chord of the victim. Hence they say, there is no point in trying to come up with a head protective gear against AK series of rifles. That explains the deadliness of the AK series of guns.
    • The terrorists used the AK 56 series of rifles in their assault in Mumbai.
Finance & Economy
  • Will online advertising take a hit in the current economic downturn?
    • Online advertising has an advantage over traditional advertising. The advantage arises from its belonging to both 'above-the-line' and 'below-the-line' groups of marketing spends. Hence it is expected that it will not take a hit even during recession.
    • What are these 'above-the-line' and 'below-the-line' market spends?
    • Above-the-line spending drives brand “awareness” (probably on television) or “consideration” by a consumer planning a purchase (probably in a newspaper).
    • Below-the-line spending includes promotions or coupons to whet the consumer’s “preference” for the brand as he nears a purchase, or schemes such as frequent-flyer miles to increase his “loyalty” afterwards.
    • Experience has shown that it is the former which takes a bad hit during recessions, while the latter is less impacted by a recession.
    • So how does online advertising occupy both the spaces?
      • Consider for example an online ad of a company called Kraft, which is a food company. It has an image that raises brand awareness, a clickable link that reveals a recipe which increases consideration, another clickable link that provides coupons and yet another clickable link that initiates a game that can be shared with friends. As these components of the ad increase brand awareness as well as consideration, the ad spend falls under both 'above-the-line' and 'below-the-line' marketing spends.
  • ATF prices cut for a record sixth time (ATF: Aviation Turbine Fuel; the fuel used by aeroplanes)
    • ATF prices will be Rs 36,900 per kilo-liter (KL) in Delhi, Rs 45,248 per KL in Kolkata, Rs 38,103 per KL in Mumbai and Rs 40,998 per KL in Chennai.
    • Why the difference in prices among cities? Because of differing sales tax rates.
    • In spite of the cut, airlines are reluctant to pass on the benefit to the passengers because they have suffered huge losses on account of the uncontrollable operational costs over the last one year. ATF itself accounts for about 50% of the operational costs for them; up from about 35% a year ago. They are awaiting the government's move to bring ATF under the declared goods; a move which would reduce the sales tax rate to 4%.
    • In this context, it would be interesting to know the profit/loss made by the OMCs (Oil Marketing Companies) on retail sales of fuels. Take a look at this graphic.
  • Ever heard of bottom fishing?
    • This is one good ET Guide book piece that explains it well. Simply stated it means buying stock when they are trading at their lowest values. In the current market scenario there can be many doing some bottom fishing.
  • Similarly one more article that beautifully explains about ETFs: Exchange Traded Funds. Read it here.
  • Colombia's kidnap victims
    • The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is an organization in Colombia that has fought to overthrow the Colombian government and install a Marxist government since the 1960s
    • It has suffered a series of defeats in recent years and has turned to the drug trade to raise money for its struggle in the 1990s. In addition it has also resorted to high-level kidnaps of locals and foreigners with a view to trade them for release of its cadre from the government prisons and for ransom. But the Colombian government refused to engage with them in talks, as a matter of policy.
    • Colombia witnessed protests against FARC demanding that the kidnap victims be released. FARC reportedly has hundreds of people in its custody.
  • What is Black Friday? What is Thanksgiving day?
    • Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, where it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.
    • Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, at the end of the harvest season, is an annual American Federal holiday to express thanks for one's material and spiritual possessions.
  • Look at how drug firms play sinister games for the sake of profit
    • Whenever we hear a tirade against multi-national drug companies from our local intelligentia, many of us are likely to dismiss them as outright leftist propaganda.
    • It is not the developing countries alone that are battlegrounds for such action. Even Europe itself, according to the European Commission, remains one. The drug companies' use legal action and multiple patents to delay the introduction of generic drugs which would be available at a lower cost than the branded ones. Because of this, the EU healthcare providers have lost about 3bn euros ($3.9bn; £2.5bn) in savings between 2000 and 2007.
    • Drug firms said the "perfectly lawful" measures were justified to protect investment in research and development.
    • It is interesting to note that drug firms spend about 17% of their turnover on R&D efforts.
Science & Technology
  • Britain to equip its police with tasers.
    • What are tasers? A taser is a electroshock weapon that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology to cause neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) and strong muscle contractions through the involuntary stimulation of both the sensory nerves and the motor nerves.
    • Tasers were introduced as less-lethal weapons to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous subjects, often when what they consider to be a more lethal weapon would have otherwise been used. The use of Tasers has become controversial following instances of Taser use which have resulted in injury and death
    • The Taser is named after a fictional weapon: Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle. Taser is a registered trade name.
Language lesson
    • Play it by ear
      • Verb: Decide on one's actions as one goes along, depending on the situation.
      • eg: "She didn't know what to expect from her new job, so she played it by ear"