Politics & the Nation
  • Some noteworthy commentary on the recent collapse of a section of the DMRC bridge that was under construction
    • The response to the accident reflected popular attitudes to accidents: the rush to affix blame, own up moral responsibility, institute inquiries. All this is fine, but we need to go beyond. These accidents raise important systemic issues about engineering, cutting across know-how, ethics, organisational structure, adequate budgeting and institutionalisation of safety norms, going beyond any specific project or leadership, howsoever competent.
    • The task is to institutionalise safety and quality, and prevent accidents that can turn into disasters, given the scale and interconnectedness of some pieces of modern industrial/urban infrastructure.
    • Proactive regulation, laying down of standards and their enforcement are things that need to go beyond routine matters of form. The framework exists, the job is to make it operative. Things are a whole lot worse when it comes to performing the post-mortem on a major accident.
    • Going beyond the identification of culpability and speedy punitive action, ranges from the sociology of man-machine interface and managerial practices in project execution to deficits of ethics, know-how and funds for detailed iterations of alternate scenarios of engineering stress to be overcome.
Finance & Economy
  • A very good criticism of the budget
    • Criticizing budget for politics sake is one thing; but doing it on merits is totally another. Take a look at this article that does a beautiful job of criticizing the budget purely on merits. Some bullets worth our noting:
    • Fiscal deficit projected is out of touch with reality. No clear road map or credible strategies to rein in fiscal deficit given.
    • Failure to outline any policy framework, or regulatory changes designed to improve the climate for private investment.
    • Commitment to implement GST from April 2010 is well intentioned; but daunting.
    • The tendency for adhocism in exemptions or tax rates have continued unabated.
  • Debt management office
    • The government is reportedly fast tracking the establishment of an independent debt management office. A draft bill that will pave the way for the creation of a debt management office (DMO) is currently being studied by the law ministry. The bill will be placed before the Cabinet for its approval by the end of this month.
    • The debt management office will divest RBI of its responsibility, removing conflict of interest inherent in banking regulator and monetary policy manager acting as investment banker to the government
    • Conflict of interest arises when RBI functions as an efficient debt manager, trying to minimise borrowing cost, which could interfere with its monetary policy management in an environment of rising inflation when the bank may be required to maintain a tight monetary policy stance and raise interest rates
    • The current arrangement also interferes with interest rates in the secondary market, thereby coming in the way of development of a vibrant bond market
    • Moreover, government’s own debt management would be carried out more independently without a natural bias in favour of high interest rates
    • DMO will help expand govt’s borrowing window
    • Countries such as the UK and Portugal already have DMOs to manage public debt.
Science & Technology
  • India microprocessor
    • An ambitious project that is being kicked off under the aegis of government leadership and investment seeks to design a home-grown processor, which it is hoped will ward off the rising threat of espionage into strategic segments like defence, telecom and space.
    • The project to make the India Microprocessor, as it is being tentatively called, will see scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and IIT Delhi coming together under the aegis of the department of IT.
    • An entity, to be called Zerone Corporation for now and with an initial investment of $200 million, will carry out the project.
    • The India Microprocessor is likely to adopt Sun Microsystem’s Open Sparc open source chip design technology, along with Linux operating system and MySQL database software.
    • The chip could also help India develop a low-cost mobile phone, worth say just Rs 500, high-tech defence precision systems and a host of other applications in areas including healthcare and weather forecasting.
  • America's first Hispanic woman Supreme Court judge
    • The Senate Judiciary Committee is to confirm the appointment of Ms. Sonia Sotomayor as America's first Hispanic woman judge of the Supreme Court. Conservative critics of Ms Sotomayor are doubly enraged by her feminist leanings and the perception that her Hispanic roots could lead her to make decisions based on ethnicity rather than the law. But in the end the Republicans preferred not to kick up much of a fuss as they risk alienating female and Hispanic voters in a battle they can not win.
  • Marriage hunting grips Japan
    • Konkatsu or marriage hunting appears to be gripping Japanese like never before. People in the 20 to 40 age bracket in Japan are reportedly thronging marriage halls in search of Mr or Mrs Right. The trend arose out of Japanese belief that finding the right partner is a matter of good research and thorough planning.
  • Obesity is linked to same sex parent
    • There is a strong link in obesity between mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, but not across the gender divide, research suggests.
  • Mark Webber wins his maiden F1 title
    • Red Bull's Mark Webber (Australian) won the German Grand Prix despite battling a drive through penalty for touching a co-racer's car.
    • The penalty meant he had to drive through the pits - where there is a 120km/h speed limit - before rejoining the race.
Language lesssons
  • viaduct: Noun
    • Bridge consisting of a series of arches supported by piers used to carry a road (or railway) over a valley
  • dressed to the nines: idiom
    • wearing very fashionable or expensive clothes
  • balmy: Adjective
    • Mild and pleasant
    • eg: Dressed to the nines on a balmy summer night, a crowd of young Japanese filled the reception area of a Tokyo wedding hall.
  • willy-nilly: Adverb
    • In a random manner; without having a choice
  • carry the can: Verb
    • Accept the unpleasant consequences of one's actions