Politics & the Nation
  • More teeth to the anti-terror act.  Though we don't normally go into the details of various Acts, this one is important in view of the recent Mumbai attacks.  Some excerpts:
    • Seeking some major changes to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as part of its sharpened offensive against terror, the government has virtually ruled out bail for a terror accused who is not an Indian citizen and has entered the country illegally. It has also sought to raise the maximum limit for detention for a terror offence from 90 days to 180 days.
    • Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill,the police custody limit for a terror accused is proposed to be extended from 15 to 30 days. The accused can be detained for up to 90 days, and a court can extend this period to a maximum of 180 days, if satisfied with the progress of investigations. Only, the public prosecutor will have to convince the court with the specific reasons for detaining the accused beyond 90 days.
    • In certain cases where the court sees reasonable grounds to believe that the terror charges are prima facie true, the accused may be denied bail altogether.
    • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet on Monday, seeks to extend the definition of a terror act to include attacks on a public functionary and kidnapping or abduction of a person with a view to compelling the State to do or abstain from any act.
    • Significantly, where arms and explosives are recovered on an accused and there is reason to believe that they were used to commit the offence, or if the forensic evidence points to their use by the accused at the site of offence, the court shall presume the complicity of the accused, putting the onus on the latter to prove his innocence.
    • Want a good criticism of our present political system?  Get this one from Jayaprakash Narayan:
      • He is one of the leaders in India today that I consider worth listening to and following.  But alas, such leaders are struggling to find an acceptance; still.  Will Mumbai change this situation?
      • Look at his criticism of the present state of affairs:
        • Mired in vote buying, competitive populism, criminalisation, sloth, divisive and vote bank politics, monumental corruption and gross incompetence, traditional parties have failed spectacularly.
          • Pedigree, ill-gotten wealth, caste and criminality are the passports for political recruitment.
          • Here is his advice:
            • Political India is fragmented, and there are no national verdicts. The composition of Parliament is now merely the aggregate of verdicts in states. This should change. Meanwhile, big change will have to come in metropolitan cities and one or two big states where widely respected, popular movements can influence the thinking of most people. Once we demonstrate the possibility of change in action, much of India will follow suit. We must simultaneously engage with the established parties to force the pace of change. Massive political transformation in a complex and vast nation is not easy. But it is within reach.
            • Are we game?
            Finance & Economy
            • Satyam does reverse engineering
              • This fourth largest IT company of the country has done what was thought improbable so far.  It acquired with $1.6 bn two firms which are operating in infrastructure space.  What raises hackles of the analysts is the fact that those two companies belong to the sons Mr. Ramalinga Raju, the Chairman of Satyam Computers.  
              • Though he says that the acquisition is part of a de-risking strategy, analysts are not convinced and charge the company with using shareholder funds for lining the pockets of the promoters.
              • Well, this is one issue that is sure to rake up issues of corporate governance in India again.  Stay tuned for the different interpretations that will appear in the course of the next few days.
            • What is a DLC?
              • Dual Listed Company.
              • What are its characteristics?  An excerpt from this article  in today's ET:
                • A DLC structure comprises series of contractual arrangements between two listed entities, to achieve economic substance of a traditional merger without the companies forgoing separate identities, separate shareholders and stock exchange listings. This arrangement enables companies to contractually operate as a single economic unit, as though they have executed a traditional merger.
                • The essence of a DLC is the equalisation agreement entered into between the companies, which determines the legal and economic rights between the shareholders and facilitates achievement of desired economic integration. It is comparable to a unified charter document which lines out the guiding principles for all governance matters right from functioning of board and shareholders' rights till the termination of DLC. The proportion in which joint voting rights are exercised and profits accrue to the shareholders of both the companies depends on equalisation ratio, which is arrived at after factoring in the relative valuations of the companies at the time of formation of a DLC.
                • A DLC arrangement enables the companies to pool in their assets, share infrastructure, expand business and operations to new territories, but at the same time avoid drawbacks of a traditional cross-border merger. Since the model does not involve issuance of additional shares or share swap, this arrangement should not give rise to any capital gains tax issues. More importantly, unlike mergers, a DLC arrangement may be terminated anytime.
            • UN authorizes world militaries to pursue Somali pirates on land
              • The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Tuesday aimed at combating piracy along the Horn of Africa by allowing military forces to chase pirates onto land in cases of "hot pursuit."
              • While we welcome this move, this is how it should authorize terrorist victim countries to take appropriate action against people indulging in terrorist activities from other countries.  This is what India should be gunning for at the UN.
            • Why is deflation a concern?
              • It is a serious problem for an economy because people postpone making any large purchases as they believe prices are going to fall, which stifles economic activity even further.
              • The Federal Reserve has reduced the key rate (the target rate for banks to charge to lend to each other overnight) 0.25%, the lowest ever rate that it announced since record keeping began in 1954.
            Science & Technology
            • New species discovered in Mekong Delta.
              • The photos are about species that were discovered in the Mekong Delta (in Vietnam and five other countries) between 1997 and 2007.
              • Many of these species were thought to be extinct or were discovered for the first time.  Worth watching.
              Computing & IT
              • Get a peek into a nerd's world
                • Here is an interview from Eugene Kaspersky, an interesting character who gathered over 4,00,000 computer virus signatures. He runs a successful $200 mn software firm now.
                • Get an inkling of slammerware and DDOS attacks from him.  It is here.
              • Are you using Internet Explorer as your default browser?
                • Then be cautious.  Experts are saying that we should keep away from using it at least temporarily as they found a serious security flaw in it.
                • The flaw reportedly allows criminals to break into our system and steal our stored passwords.