Politics & the Nation
  • Beleaguered Omar Abdullah briefs CCS and the PM
    • Take a look at this news report that made it to the headlines. The political establishment in the country both at the Centre and in the State of J&K appears to be having no answers to the ongoing protests in J&K.
    • When there is, what some political commentators call trust deficit, dialogue becomes almost impossible and the violence on the street had to be met with a strong hand to quell it. Sometimes it will appear that only time can solve the problem -- by tiring one party or the other.
  • The dispute over Babli (a.k.a Babhali) project between AP and Maharashtra
    • Andhra Pradesh had taken the matter on the Babhali barrage to court in 2005, a year after the construction began, apprehending that it would be denied its due share of Godavari water. In an interim order in 2007, the apex court said Maharashtra could continue with the construction of the barrage but not install the 13 gates, which form the most crucial part as their height determines how much water can be stored.
    • Babhali barrage is being constructed on Godavari around 83 km from Nanded. Maharashtra claims the barrage will extend water supply to 58 villages and irrigate 7,995 hectares of land. Andhra Pradesh has claimed that the construction of the barrage will alter the natural flow of Godavari in that state and affect agriculture in the river basin. It has also claimed that the dam was being constructed within the backwaters of Pochampad dam and in violation of the Godavari Water Dispute Agreement of 1975.
    • The Babhali Project was cleared in 1995, but its construction began only in 2004.
    • Leaders from Andhra Pradesh have claimed that Maharashtra has gone ahead with the construction of the barrage and thus violated the apex court’s interim orders.
Finance & Economy
  • BlackBerry to open code for security check
    • Canada's Research in Motion (RIM) -- the Company that offers BlackBerry services -- has for the first time agreed to allow Indian security agencies to monitor its BlackBerry services, in an attempt to avert an outright government ban.
    • The company has offered to share with security agencies its technical codes for corporate email services, open up access to all consumer emails within 15 days and also develop tools in 6 to 8 months to allow monitoring of chats.
    • With regard to its general consumer email, RIM has said the services provided by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Loop and Tata can already be monitored. RIM also assured that it is working with mobile phone companies like Aircel, BSNL, MTNL, Idea and Reliance Communications to install the requisite infrastructure to ensure that general consumer emails offered by these firms are in formats that can monitored by security agencies within the next 15 days, documents with the telecom ministry said.
    • At present, BlackBerry maker RIM has close to a million customers, and along with Nokia, collectively account for all the corporate email consumers on mobile phones in India. The Intelligence Bureau had recently asked the telecom department to stop Nokia’s popular messaging services in India until they can be monitored, another sign of the growing discomfort of the country’s spooks with similar offerings they view as suspect from a security angle.
    • During its meeting with the telecom department officials, RIM explained that corporate emails sent via the BlackBerry handset are sent in an encrypted format. This encryption code first scrambles the emails sent from a BlackBerry device and unscrambles it when the message reaches its target. The encrypted email is sent to the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) located in the premises of the corporate that avails of this service. In the BES, this email is stored in the decrypted format, but when the message is pushed back to the BlackBerry handset of the receiver, it is again sent in an encrypted format. RIM executives also explained that the only way security agencies can access these emails in the decrypted form is at the email server.
    • Indian intelligence agencies have also been demanding that RIM set up a server in India and channel all data traffic originating from Indian mobile networks to these servers. But, during the meetings, RIM executives clarified that emails and messages are not stored in BlackBerry server placed in Canada as is normally believed to be.
    • In 2008, the Indian government had threatened to block BlackBerry services unless RIM provided intelligence agencies here access to monitor all data, especially email, routed through these handsets. The government had also insisted that RIM put in place a system that would allow them to intercept data sent through these handsets as it feared that these services could be exploited by terrorists. RIM was also asked to give access to its algorithms so that security agencies here could decrypt messages. After several rounds of talks between the government and RIM, the telecom department in late-2008 had announced that the issue had been resolved.
  • The impact of the financial crisis on the Indian corporate sector
    • The impact of the financial crisis on the Indian corporate sector became evident in the first quarter of 2008-09 when the rate of growth of profits after tax (PAT) plummeted to 3.27% from the record high growth rate of 37.22% in the corresponding quarter of 2007-08. For the two subsequent quarters, the crisis deepened and profits showed a heavy decline.
    • However, since the last quarter of 2008-09, an unexpected upward movement was noticed in profits of the corporate sector despite the financial crisis. The PAT picked up from –26.42% in the third quarter of 2008-09 to 18% in the first quarter of 2009-10. In the subsequent quarters of 2009-10, strong performance was shown by the corporate sector in terms of growth in PAT and this occurred despite fall in net sales from the last quarter of 2008-09 to the second quarter of 2009-10.
    • An important reason for such strong growth of profits has to do with commodity prices. As is widely known, the financial crisis softened prices in commodity markets. The commodity crisis, in turn, cushioned the impact of the financial crisis as Indian companies improved their margins from the savings in input costs, mainly raw material prices.
  • The kind of payment processing that we will see in future...
    • AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the biggest US mobile carriers, are reportedly planning a venture to displace credit and debit cards with smartphones, posing a new threat to Visa and MasterCard.
    • The partnership, which also includes Deutsche Telekom unit T-Mobile USA, may work with Discover Financial Services and Barclays to test a system at stores in Atlanta and three other US cities that would let a consumer pay with the contactless wave of a smartphone.
    • The service, similar to those already available in Japan, Turkey and the UK, would use contactless technology to complete purchases in stores. They’d be processed through Discover’s payments network, currently the fourth-biggest behind Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Barclays would be the bank helping to manage the accounts.
  • SC asks HCs to keep off debt recovery proceedings
    • The Supreme Court has asked the high courts not to interfere with the debt recovery proceedings initiated against defaulters, upholding the right of lenders to recover their dues.
    • All alternatives available to the borrowers should be exercised before the high courts exercise their discretion to interfere with recovery proceedings, said a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly, setting aside an Allahabad High Court order.
    • See the reasoning given by the court:
    • “We are conscious that the powers conferred upon the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any government, directions, orders or writs including the five prerogative writs for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III or for any other purpose are very wide and there is no express limitation on exercise of that power but, at the same time, we cannot be oblivious of the rules of self-imposed restraint evolved by apex court which every High Court is bound to keep in view while exercising power under article 226 of the constitution.”
  • All about interest rate swaps
  • Want to know a bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and concepts like spam-dexing, link farming etc.?
    • Follow this article. Some interesting figures from it:
    • Only 10% people go to the page two of a search engine. It is estimated that nearly 43% of people using a search engine click on the top three searches while only 16% go further.
  • GSM i.e., 2G is broken
    • A techie has demonstrated that users of 2G technology are vulnerable for snooping. Read this interesting story.
  • Bangladesh Supreme Court gives a historic judgement
    • Take a look at this article. In one stroke, the Supreme Court there has rendered religion-based political parties illegal and struck down a far reaching Constitutional Amendment that was brought about by an illegal regime.
    • Bangladesh will surely witness some tumultuous changes in the coming weeks, if not months.
  • US output grows for 12th month, but at slower pace
    • Manufacturing in the US expanded in July at the slowest pace this year, signalling the world’s largest economy is cooling at the start of the second half.
    • A measure of new orders fell to the lowest since June 2009, indicating production may ease to a more sustainable pace as the surge in inventory rebuilding that sparked a manufacturing-led economic recovery winds down.
  • Keeping the faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian
    • Written by the former Speaker of Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, this book reportedly contains some scathing attack on his ex-party boss Prakash Karat on a variety of issues. Though already available in a number of bookstalls, this is set for a formal release by the Prime Minister on August 21.
Language Lessons
  • subterfuge: Noun
    • Something intended to misrepresent the true nature of an activity
    • eg: There are proposals to impose conditions regarding imported equipment and software that are so onerous that few manufacturers will agree to them — unless they intend to flout them through some clever subterfuge.
  • petard: Noun
    • An explosive device used to break down a gate or wall