28 oct 2015

prepared by ashok sharma

The Hindu: October 28, 2015 00:05 IST Dealing with a fugitive


In the shadowy world where organised crime and intelligence agencies have their interplay all the time, nothing is what it might appear to be. The arrest of Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, or Chhota Rajan, may not just be an important achievement for the Indian security establishment; it may be part of a larger narrative from a world where the activities of intelligence agencies, police organisations, and the criminal underworld all overlap. It is the latest twist in the bizarre story of the Mumbai underworld that started off in the realms of smuggling and black-marketing, moved on to controlling real estate and the world of movies with its financial clout, then wreaked havoc in the very city that was its playground, before dispersing globally. Those underworld gangs have hardly disappeared; in fact, they have grown in strength and stealth capabilities. Rajan's arrest in Bali upon his arrival there from Australia, which had become his home for many years after his being in South East Asia and Africa, symbolises the global tentacles of the Mumbai underworld. His mentor-turned-archrival Dawood Ibrahim reportedly lives in Karachi, and both have financial interests spanning different continents. While such criminal syndicates have operated on a global scale, Indian intelligence agencies and the police have had to remain mere onlookers, unable to do much to counter them. In the wake of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, while Dawood was blamed for it all, Rajan emerged as a 'Hindu don' and a hero to even some in the security establishment. Thanks largely to the official patronage extended to him, Rajan was able to survive, and flourish even while in alien territories.

Rajan may have been of use to both the Mumbai police and Indian intelligence to a limited extent in their efforts to deal with the Dawood Ibrahim gang. However, his entire career, especially his activities during the period since he split from the Dawood gang, raises serious questions not just about him but also about the official patronage he enjoyed. There have been murmurs about Rajan aiding the partisan agenda of sections of the security establishment. The February 2010 killing of advocate Shahid Azmi, who represented Muslims who were allegedly framed in various terror cases, raised disturbing questions about the exact role that Rajan played in covering up certain unprofessional acts of the Mumbai police and the intelligence agencies while investigating terror cases. Dawood's role in aiding anti-India terror has been proven in Indian courts and acknowledged by foreign governments and United Nations agencies. Rajan is no angel either. He is wanted for long in India for running an organised crime syndicate, conspiracy, murders and other serious criminal acts. He has been part of the criminal underground that challenged the Indian state for years, weakened its institutions and poisoned the body politic. The government must take every possible step to ensure that Chhota Rajan is brought back to India and tried under the laws of the land. He should be dealt with as a criminal and as a fugitive, no less.


·        fu·gi·tive

A person who has escaped from a place or is in hiding, especially to avoid arrest or persecution.


·        clout

>informal power or the authority to influence other people's decisions


·        wreak

Cause (a large amount of damage or harm).



·        hav·oc

Widespread destruction.


·        ten·ta·cle

A slender flexible limb or appendage in an animal, especially around the mouth of an invertebrate, used for grasping, moving about, or bearing sense organs.


·        on·look·er

A nonparticipating observer; a spectator.



The Hindu: October 28, 2015 00:05 IST

A daughter comes home

Far from having a fairytale ending, the story of Geeta turned into a reality television show as she returned to India after a decade in Pakistan. Since the time she was separated from her family and appeared in Lahore, she has had an extraordinary life, learning to live with her disabilities, at the Edhi Foundation in Karachi, before diplomats negotiated the labyrinth of strained India-Pakistan ties to ensure her comeback. But the kind of homecoming that Geeta would have been praying for is hardly what she faces today; she will be handed over by the family that she knows and that took care of her well in Pakistan, to a welfare home in Indore. There she must now live until her real family is identified. The most difficult of it all is that her real-life agonies and the quest for her family are playing out in the glare of the arc-lights. Ever since the government decided to take up her case and have Geeta repatriated — she had made formal representations to come to India for at least five years — it has made a spectacle of its efforts. While External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, to her credit, took a humane and personal interest in her welfare, the question is whether the intense publicity this young, frail girl has faced was required at all. Would it not have been easier if, once the Indian High Commissioner had formally identified Geeta as an Indian citizen (the High Commission had been in touch with her for years), she could have been brought to India along with the Edhi family on a private trip, or if necessary, several trips, to try and get a positive identification of her family before every move of hers was publicised? That way, when Geeta was transferred back, it would not be to a set of strangers at a halfway house that she would be handed over to, but to her own family.

Instead of treating Geeta as a victim of the most tragic circumstances, not to mention her speech and hearing impairment, the government has made her a poster-girl for its commitment to Indians in need everywhere. She was paraded at a stiff media conference addressed by the Minister and the Foreign Secretary, while the media subjected her to some atrocious questions including on her age, what she ate, and whether she was converted while she lived in Pakistan. The hope is that from this point on the government will take its trusteeship of Geeta to a more private space, and ensure that she is reunited with her family at the earliest opportunity, be given an education, and made the master of her own future. Rather than being a time for flag-waving, this is a time for privacy, and sensitive and caring handling, away from the attentions of politicians and the media, for the young child who lost her way over the international border years ago, and has returned as Bharat ki beti.


·        lab·y·rinth

A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze.


·        strained

(of an atmosphere, situation, or relationship) not relaxed or comfortable; tense or uneasy.


·        ag·o·ny

Extreme physical or mental suffering.


·        quest

A long or arduous search for something.


·        re·pa·tri·ate

Send (someone) back to their own country.


·        frail

(of a person) weak and delicate.


·        a·tro·cious

Horrifyingly wicked.



Business Standard

Behind the excitement


Few places outside Silicon Valley and Beijing seem as exciting for an entrepreneur founding a start-up as India today. Angel investor events happen seemingly every week where youngsters connect with investors, sometimes raising crores of rupees on the strength of a five-minute presentation. The big question: Will all this excitement and hype lead to a comparable spurt in jobs? Companies like Flipkart have already created 33,000 jobs, Snapdeal some 7,000 and counting. Taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber have not only taken India a world away from black and yellow taxis with a dirty dustcloth over the meter, but created tens of thousands of jobs for drivers who have the happy experience of being their own bosses and are able to obtain the financing required to own the cars they drive.

Only time will tell how many new jobs are being created, after deducting how many are substitutions from the old economy. Bigbasket's online grocery store may seem extraordinary with their punctual delivery to your front door but it is impossible to guess whether the helpers at the local grocery store are being dismissed as a result of a dip in sales. So many me-too online grocery stores have come into existence - 25 or so - that rumours are already swirling about some entrants exiting the business, with consequent job losses.

Nonetheless, these are asset-light models, which is a boon for a capital-scarce country like India. By getting the attention of international titans in e-commerce such as Amazon, Softbank and Uber, the startup universe constitutes the purest transfer of wealth from the developed world to the developing world. Unlike loans from the World Bank, seed money invested does not need to be paid back if a venture fails. If the bubble bursts, the price will be paid by very wealthy, very savvy investors rather than middle-class shareholders. The apparent transformation of business processes is another unalloyed good, but the transformation of sections of India's economy in the manner that information technology giants like TCS and Infosys accomplished both in terms of generating jobs and exports seems far in the future, if not impossible. The information technology sector is estimated to account for three million middle-class jobs today. Each such job is estimated to support an additional four in other sectors. Without IT exports, services trade would look quite gloomy. Few of these start-ups have presented radically new ideas in their rush to an impressive valuation, and are Indian variations on the theme of e-retailing or transport rather than a whole new opportunity in the way that business process outsourcing by General Electric, say, to Bengaluru or Gurgaon was. India will likely need to see much more innovation in the old and new economy before it sees millions of new jobs.


·        hype

Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.


·        spurt

Gush out in a sudden and forceful stream.


·        swirl

Move in a twisting or spiraling pattern.


Indian Express

The meat of health

even as Kerala MPs revolt against the ham-handedness of Delhi Police in raiding Kerala House and demand the reinstatement of their beloved beef (sorry, buffalo) fry, the WHO — or rather, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — is playing spoilsport. According to new research, red and processed meats (so long, sausages) are approximately as carcinogenic for humans as noted cancer-causing substances like asbestos, plutonium and tobacco. So, yes, bacon can make everything taste better — and help you shuffle off the mortal coil a tad quicker. Befitting news for Halloween week!

But those with a beef against beef might want to hold their celebrations. Science is also bent on ruining cheese and sugar, which are apparently as addictive as drugs.

And before vegetarians get too smug, also verboten for a long life, it seems, is too much milk and dairy.

Piling on the painful food restrictions, just like rashers of crispy, salty bacon loaded on to a juicy double cheeseburger: white bread, artificial sweetener, the cola Baba Ramdev insists will rot your teeth off, Chinese-style salted fish, caffeine (not as bad as cigarettes but in the same category as petrol and petrol exhaust fumes — so the morning cuppa has more in common with gasoline than just taste) and fried food. Sometimes, though, certain foods have staged comebacks as the scientific consensus has evolved.

Butter was once item-non-grata in a health-conscious household; now, it is a source of good fat. Dark chocolate has been imbued with all manner of mystical healing properties, and even the general embargo on alcohol has room for one exception — red wine. Still, meat lovers probably shouldn't hold out hope for when, say, Parma ham makes its big return, because even if it doesn't cause cancer, it does clog up the ol' arteries.

The IARC's vendetta against yummy food also caused some collateral damage to the internet, where bacon memes rival cats in silly costumes for popularity. Whatever will become of the kid who claimed "Bacon is good for me" to the tune of a few million YouTube hits?


·        re·volt

Rise in rebellion.



A person who behaves in a way that spoils others' pleasure, especially by not joining in an activity


·        ba·con

Cured meat from the sides and belly of a pig, having distinct strips of fat and typically served in thin slices.


·        shuffle off this mortal coil (humorous)

to die


·        smug

Having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements.


·        ver·bo·ten

Forbidden, especially by an authority.


·        im·bue

Inspire or permeate with a feeling or quality


·        em·bar·go

An official ban on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country.



oct 28 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

Underwater Games

A Cold War hangover may explain reports of Putin's plans to destroy the internet

Russian subs are cruising alarmingly close to undersea fibre optic cables that form the backbone of the global internet. Or so say some US officials reportedly worried about increased Russian activity along these undersea cable routes ­ which transmit more than 95% of global internet traffic and on which hinge financial transactions worth trillions of dollars. Or, goes an alternative theory, instead of attempting a dramatic assault on the entire internet, these Russian subs are hunting the secret cables operated by US security agencies. But all this alarmism smells of a Cold War hangover.

It's true that Russia has long been trying ­ and failing ­ to isolate its own internet from the rest of the world. There have even been reports that President Vladimir Putin ordered tests to see if a natio nal intranet of local domain names could continue running if cut off from the global internet! He has called the internet a CIA plot and his desire for a walled internet has grown with western sanctions. Would Putin revenge the internet that he has failed to control by destroying it? Consider that the strategic and business costs to Russia would also be humongous. But more pertinently , even if he wanted to, it's technologically troublesome for him to succeed in this goal.

The internet's designed as a network that does not depend on all its connection points, and can reroute traffic via alternative cables when some become unavailable. Remember when a few undersea cables were damaged in 2008 and much of western India lost its outbound capacity? Well, cable operators found new routes quite quickly.Since then the undersea cable network has grown even more and it now boasts enough redundancy for us to sleep (or surf) peacefully

·        hu·mon·gous

Huge; enormous.



Oct 28 2015 : The Economic Times (Bangalore)

Will the Penny Drop Over Call Drops?

Blame too little spectrum and its restricted sharing

If you put a child on a near-starvation diet, would you blame it for not gaining weight or height as it normally should? Would you, further, order corporal punishment for the child's refusal to grow? If you are the government of India, you would. The government's proposed remedy for frequent call drops -fines on the telecom operators (telcos) -permits no other inference. This is ridiculous.Because of the government's incompetence, the total spectrum assigned for use by telcos is ridiculously small in India: 0.1 MHz per-million population, half the figure for China and 136th of Germany's. This has to go up and what is available must be allowed to be fully shared, shedding the restrictions imposed now.

Of course, spectrum scarcity is not a creation of the present government. It flows from the systemic inertia that has our bureaucracy in thrall, whoever holds political office. The historical legacy of spectrum allocation across sectors determined in the prehistory of modern telecom continues unchanged. Large swathes of spectrum are reserved for analogue terrestrial TV broadcast.

Much of it can be released by switch ing to digital broadcast. But this is not a priority for anyone. Defence has been assigned large chunks suited for a time when communications hogged spectrum. This can be trimmed and released for civilian use. Large chunks of spectrum lie unusable because they lie scattered among different users, and await consolidation as contiguous bands for the same user class.

The worst part of policy is obtuse refusal to let telcos share the sliver of spectrum at their disposal. Trading norms are a misnomer: spectrum can be sold, not traded.One telco cannot have more than 25% of the spectrum in a service area and not more than 50% of the spectrum in a particular band. These caps and the ban on continuous trading are restrictive. Unrestricted trading will create a common pool of spectrum that all companies dip into, permitting maximum use of this scarce resource. Scrap caps on the quantum and frequency of trading and widen the spectrum pool.

·        cor·po·ral

A low-ranking noncommissioned officer in the armed forces, in particular (in the US Army) an NCO ranking above private first class and below sergeant or (in the US Marine Corps) an NCO ranking above lance corporal and below sergeant.


·        thrall

The state of being in someone's power or having great power over someone.


·        swathe

Wrap in several layers of fabric.


·        ter·res·tri·al

Of, on, or relating to the earth.


·        ob·tuse

Annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand.


The Guardian

view on the South China Sea: cool heads must prevail

ensions flared up in one of Asia's strategic hotspots on Tuesday when a US warship entered a 12-mile zone off one of China's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, drawing an angry reaction. The Chinese foreign ministry said the move was a "deliberate provocation" and called in the US ambassador in Beijing. It was the first time in the three years since China started pushing its territorial claim to a huge stretch of the sea bordering the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia that the US had chosen to demonstrate what it calls "the exercise of freedom of navigation".

In this new balance of power between China and the US, there were certainly reasons to worry about how the incident would unfold. As it turns out, although rhetoric was heightened, there seemed to be a clear if unspoken intention on both sides to keep the confrontation within certain limits. But it was nevertheless a striking gambit in the region's complex and unpredictable geopolitics, where there are too few mechanisms to prevent escalation.

The incursion made by the US navy destroyer USS Lassen near the disputed Spratly Islands was hardly a surprise. Washington had indicated weeks in advance that it would act. In a region of huge importance for global trade routes, the US wants to push back against China's policy of placing great swaths of sea within its "sovereignty". Nor was it a coincidence that the American show of strength came one month after the Chinese president Xi Jinping had visited Washington: the symbolism was strong, but without the added insult of a warship sailing while Xi was being toasted in the White House. This time, no incident occurred, something that can probably be put down to careful planning and early warnings.

For the last two years, China has been alarming many of its neighbours by claiming most of the South China Sea for itself, and accelerating a large-scale programme aimed at transforming underwater reefs into islands. It then builds them up as deep-draught harbours suitable for warships and runways that can handle almost any aircraft. This policy of creating facts on the ground violates international law. China's claim to new 12-mile zones runs counter to UN conventions which only recognise natural islands, defined as ones that exist even when the tide is high.

For these reasons, the US move can hardly be called reckless. The US is upholding a fundamental principle essential for the global economy. It is sending a signal that Chinese unilateral moves will not be accepted as a fait accompli. It has equally pointed out that illegal 12-mile zones will not be recognised, no matter who sets claim to them (Vietnam and the Philippines have also built artificial structures in the Spratly area.)

Yet there is always a danger of miscalculation. Washington may have avoided the kind of "red line" talk that has harmed its international credibility in the past, where it ended up being seen as empty language. But now that the USS Lassen has set a precedent, questions remain. China's new assertiveness is being tested as much as America's resilience and its capacity to deploy shrewd diplomacy. Keeping channels of communication open, showing restraint and careful management of a tricky strategic relationship will be key if things are to be prevented from ever getting out of hand.


·        flare–up

: a sudden occurrence of flame

: a sudden occurrence or expression of anger

: an occurrence in which something (such as violence or a disease) suddenly begins or becomes worse


·        gam·bit

(in chess) an opening in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of some compensating advantage.


·        in·cur·sion

An invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one.


·        put down put someone/something on a surface

criticize someone publicly

kill an old animal

write something

pay part of cost

let out of car

when a plane lands

put a baby in bed

ask someone to consider something

stop a protest using force


·        fait

Common misspelling of fate


The Dawn(pakistan)

Jolted again

As if on cue, the earth shook one more time in October, 10 years to the month after the devastating quake of 2005. The great jolt of 2015 may compare with the quake of 2005 on the Richter scale, but on ground its aftermath has been very different.

This time, even though more than 100 precious lives were lost, there was mercifully no catastrophic damage and no calamitous loss of life on the scale we saw in 2005.

Of course, the main reason for this is that the epicentre of yesterday's temblor lay further away from densely populated urban centres, as well as the far greater depth at which it occurred. But there is no escaping the memories of 2005 it seems, and certainly no escaping the lessons that those memories left behind for us.


Our country is built atop a zone of "heightened seismic hazard", to use the language of geologists, and even after 2005, geologists had warned that only a fraction of the massive pent-up energy that has built up in the labyrinthine network of fault lines that we live on, had been released. The risk of more large earthquakes persists they said, and building codes needed to be strictly enforced to ensure concrete structures could withstand another shock. The jolt of 2015 is a reminder that this was no idle talk.

The scale of the devastation may have been lesser this time, but nevertheless it cannot be ignored. In some cases, we had a narrow miss, as the footage that showed the elevated portions of the Rawalpindi metro bus route shaking, made clear.

Landslides were reported in some parts of the Northern Areas, with a particularly big one at Nagar, but fortunately none near habitable areas and no glacial lake outburst floods were caused by the quake.

We were lucky, in spite of the considerable damage and hardship for untold numbers of people, but one is inevitably left wondering whether the structures built since 2005 have been constructed specifically to withstand a stronger shock.

Sadly, some channels chose to bring religious scholars on air and ask them what people could do to better prepare themselves for natural disasters. The response, predictably enough, was that people ought to become more pious and pray harder.

The jolt of 2015 is an unambiguous reminder that an earthquake can strike again at any moment, and that little can be done to prevent this in a zone of heightened seismic hazard.

An earthquake can strike at almost any place in the country. And if its epicentre should be any nearer, or its depth any shallower — factors that are entirely up to nature — then the consequences could be far more devastating than they were this time.

Let this episode jolt us into the awareness that it is high time we woke up and took disaster preparedness and response more seriously.

·        jolt

>past tense: jolted; past participle: jolted

push or shake (someone or something) abruptly and roughly.

"a surge in the crowd behind him jolted him forwards"


·        cue

A thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance


·        af·ter·math

The consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event


·        tem·blor

An earthquake.


·        . idle talk - idle or foolish and irrelevant talkidle talk - idle or foolish and irrelevant talk

·        pi·ous

Devoutly religious.



the NewYOrk Times

Europe Is Spying on You

STRASBOURG, France — When Edward Snowden disclosed details of America's huge surveillance program two years ago, many in Europe thought that the response would be increased transparency and stronger oversight of security services. European countries, however, are moving in the opposite direction. Instead of more public scrutiny, we are getting more snooping.

Pushed to respond to the atrocious attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and by the threats posed by the Islamic State to Europe's internal security, several countries are amending their counterterrorism legislation to grant more intrusive powers to security services, especially in terms of mass electronic surveillance.

France recently adopted a controversial law on surveillance that permits major intrusions, without prior judicial authorization, into the private lives of suspects and those who communicate with them, live or work in the same place or even just happen to be near them.

The German Parliament adopted a new data retention law on Oct. 16 that requires telecommunications operators and Internet service providers to retain connection data for up to 10 weeks. And the British government intends to increase the authorities' powers to carry out mass surveillance and bulk collection of intercepted data.

Meanwhile, Austria is set to discuss a draft law that would allow a new security agency to operate with reduced external control and to collect and store communication data for up to six years. The Netherlands is considering legislation allowing dragnet surveillance of all telecommunications, indiscriminate gathering of metadata, decryption and intrusion into the computers of non-suspects. And in Finland, the government is even considering changing the Constitution to weaken privacy protections in order to ease the adoption of a bill granting the military and intelligence services the power to conduct electronic mass surveillance with little oversight.

Governments now argue that to guarantee our security we have to sacrifice some rights. This is a specious argument. By shifting from targeted to mass surveillance, governments risk undermining democracy while pretending to protect it.

They are also betraying a long political and judicial tradition affording broad protection to privacy in Europe, where democratic legal systems have evolved to protect individuals from arbitrary interference by the state in their private and family life. The European Court of Human Rights has long upheld the principle that surveillance interferes with the right to privacy. Although the court accepts that the use of confidential information is essential in combating terrorist threats, it has held that the collection, use and storage of such information should be authorized only under exceptional and precise conditions, and must be accompanied by adequate legal safeguards and independent supervision. The court has consistently applied this principle for decades when it was called to judge the conduct of several European countries, which were combating domestic terrorist groups.

More recently, as new technologies have offered more avenues to increase surveillance and data collection, the court has reiterated its position in a number of leading cases against several countries, including France, Romania, Russia and Britain, condemned for having infringed the right to private and family life that in the interpretation of the court covers also "the physical and psychological integrity of a person."

Last year, the European Court of Justice set limits on telecommunication data retention. By invalidating a European Union directive for its unnecessary "wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with the fundamental right to respect for private life" and personal data, this court reaffirmed the outstanding place privacy holds in Europe. This judgment echoed a 2006 German Constitutional Court ruling that the German police had breached the individual right to self-determination and human dignity after they conducted a computerized search of suspected terrorists.

Regrettably, these judgments are often ignored by key decision-makers. Many of the surveillance policies that have recently been adopted in Europe fail to abide by these legal standards. Worse, many of the new intrusive measures would be applied without any prior judicial review establishing their legality, proportionality or necessity. This gives excessive power to governments and creates a clear risk of arbitrary application and abuse.

If European governments and parliaments do not respect fundamental principles and judicial obligations, our lives will become much less private. Our ability to participate effectively in public life is threatened, too, because these measures curtail our freedom of speech and our right to receive information — including that of public interest. Not all whistleblowers have the technical knowledge Mr. Snowden possessed. Many would fear discovery if they communicated with journalists, who in turn would lose valuable sources, jeopardizing their ability to reveal unlawful conduct in both the public and private spheres. Watergates can only happen when whistleblowers feel protected

Indiscriminate mass surveillance can also impinge on attorney-client privilege and medical confidentiality. You might think twice before seeing a lawyer or a doctor, knowing that the authorities — and private companies — are aware of your communications and movements.

It is essential that European countries pause and consider the damage they have done. At a minimum, three core safeguards should be provided.

First, legislation should limit surveillance and the use of data in a way that strictly respects the right to privacy as spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European data protection standards, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and that of the European Court of Justice. These norms oblige states to respect human rights when they gather and store information relating to our private lives and to protect individuals from unlawful surveillance, including when carried out by foreign agencies.Second, there must be rigorous procedures for the examination, use and storage of all data obtained, and those subjected to surveillance should be given a chance to exercise their legal rights to appeal.

Third, security agencies must operate under independent scrutiny and judicial review. This will require intrusive oversight powers for parliaments and a judiciary that is involved in the decision-making process to ensure accountability. Countries that have adopted controversial surveillance laws should reconsider or amend them. And those considering new surveillance legislation should do so with great caution.

Terrorism is a real threat and it requires an effective response. But adopting surveillance measures that undermine human rights and the rule of law is not the solution.

·        snoop

Investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something, especially information about someone's private affairs


·        in·tru·sive

Causing disruption or annoyance through being unwelcome or uninvited.


·        spe·cious

Superficially plausible, but actually wrong


·        jeop·ard·ize

Put (someone or something) into a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm, or failure.


The moscow Times

Rooting Out Corruption Can Be Murder (Op-Ed)

It was clear to everyone from the start that the authorities would not take the "Krasnogorsk shooter," Amiran Georgadze, alive. In the end, he was found dead from gunshots wounds in an apparent suicide. He was like the main character in a typical mafia movie, someone whom nobody wanted to see live — not the chance survivors of his violence, not investigators whom he might have been chummy with only days before, and certainly not anyone from the Moscow regional administration.

It is easy to dream up various scenarios. Perhaps Georgadze hid documents in a safe deposit box that, in the event of his death, would incriminate his many accomplices among the political elite. After all, at the time of his death he had his international passport with him for some reason. Did he have an escape plan? Georgadze was apparently an impulsive person and did not hide any "dirt" on his friends beforehand.

However, rumors have it that incriminating documents mysteriously disappeared from Georgadze's numerous companies during the four days that a police manhunt combed the Krasnogorsk region and found his body purely by chance in a Timoshkino village dacha next door to the dacha of the head of the Krasnogorsk region — who seems to have luckily escaped becoming Georgadze's next victim.

As for the investigation into the possible suicide, one famous Russian lawyer posted the following comment on Facebook: "Court-appointed forensic specialists typically first ask: 'Which conclusion did you say I should reach in this case?'"

Will the "Krasnogorsk shooter" case come under scrutiny by at least the regional authorities? Will they look into conflict of interest claims against the officials who grant building permits and land grants and pay closer heed to complaints coming from citizens? Regarding the latter, Moscow region activists have posted a great deal of evidence on social networks detailing misconduct in construction and land allotment. This includes lucrative rights to forests that very suddenly and conveniently became infested with bark beetles.

Citizens' complaints reached the district and regional heads, and probably the offices of the Federal Security Service that stand only one floor above the crime scene. Thankfully, none of those workers were hurt in the attack.

Now officials are checking into claims on social networks that an entire high-rise apartment building was erected and sold to new residents without having been hooked up to the central water line and sewage system. And whereas regional officials previously had no time to check into such rumors, now they are determined to get to the bottom of things.

Of course, senior officials had no idea what schemes their subordinates had hatched, and in order to find out, they had to take over authority for land allotments from the head of the Krasnogorsk region. And apparently as a result, local officials could not honor their illegal promises to Georgadze, or return his $20 million and the "advance" they had earlier received. It was a force majeure situation.

It is easy to imagine that investigators will now closely examine those areas where business intersects with officials who are on the take — land allotment, building permits and connections to the power mains; how tax officials will diligently check every single businessperson to confirm that their real expenses do not exceed their declared incomes; how officials will go back and question activists to obtain useful information and resurrect and look into all the Moscow region scandals that had been successfully hushed up in recent years; and how they will go after every person who signed off on a building that was never connected to the city's sewage system.

However, none of that will happen. At most, one person will get dismissed: Krasnogorsk regional head Boris Rasskazov, who has served as his post for decades and who narrowly escaped death at the hands of the "unlucky" businessman.

Admittedly, this system has learned how to limit the negative fallout from such "unusual situations" in which one such excess can uncover a gaping hole of corruption so huge that anyone gazing into its depths would spontaneously exclaim, "This whole system is rotten to the core!" The Moscow region is not unusual in this regard, but the authorities are skilled at explaining away such incidents as the result of a personal feud between the killer and two of his victims — and nothing more.

The system works in this way for its self-preservation. Any attempt to thoroughly "clean house" could lead to such brutal internal feuding that the system would simply collapse — especially if any outside "bloggers" are allowed to have their say about such revelations of misconduct. After all, anyone outside the system is, by definition, unmanageable and therefore "politically irresponsible."

Better not to let that anti-corruption genie out of the bottle because there's no telling where it will end. That risks implanting a dangerous idea into the brainwashed minds of the population — namely, that the authorities not only steal, as people already know, but that they could be dismissed for such minor misdoings.

Putin alone has the right to decide who stays and who goes, and not because this one stole or didn't steal, but because "that's how it's done" in the backroom battle between economic entities for an ever-shrinking cut of the financial and material resources available. And if people get this idea into their heads, they begin thinking of themselves as the arbiters of the political process. And rulers consider that more dangerous than even the most monstrous corruption.

·        root out >to remove altogether

·        chum·my

On friendly terms; friendly.


·        in·crim·i·nate

Make (someone) appear guilty of a crime or wrongdoing; strongly imply the guilt of (someone).


·        im·pul·sive

Acting or done without forethought.


·        be·fore·hand

Before an action or event; in advance.


·        hatch

(of a young bird, fish, or reptile) emerge from its egg.


·        res·ur·rect

Restore (a dead person) to life.


·        feud

Take part in a prolonged quarrel or conflict.



The economist

Cracking the vault

A FEW dollars spent at Starbucks, a monthly mortgage payment, a Netflix fee, Starbucks again: bank-account statements are not exactly exciting stuff. But there is gold hidden in this by-product of our financial lives, or so many budding technology firms believe. A host of startups crave access to the data and are pitching services, from budgeting apps to cheaper loans, to those who open their books to them. Yet banks worry that co-operating is the first step towards losing the lucrative grip they have on their customers.

Squeezing insights out of a bank statement is hardly at the cutting edge of big data. Years of salary payments confirm stable employment; bounced cheques hint at carelessness; regular green fees suggest an interest in golf. Banks implicitly use balance and income information when making loan decisions. That has typically given them a leg up over such rivals as consumer-lending companies, which have to base offers of credit on less detailed information.

Add the fact that switching bank accounts is seen as a chore, and incumbents are in effect shielded from competition. But three things have changed in recent years. The first is the plethora of "fintech" competitors trying to take on banks. The second is internet banking, which has given nearly everyone access to reams of their own financial information in handy digital form. The third is regulation, which is swinging in favour of the upstarts by forcing banks to share the data generated by all those trips to the coffee shop.

Data are already seeping out of banks' digital vaults and, in the process, giving a sense of why such leaks are damaging. A slew of firms, such as Mint in America, offer to aggregate the data from customers' various bank accounts, credit-card statements and retirement-savings plans in a single place. This gives customers a comprehensive view of their finances. Because these firms have a startup's focus on being easy and appealing to use, their apps make most banks' mobile offerings look clunky.

Worse, banks' efforts to sell multiple products to current-account holders are being undercut by the financial aggregators, which pitch financial products to customers using the data they have accumulated. "If we see you are paying 4% on your mortgage and there is a product in the market that would let you pay 2%, we think you will want to know about it," says Joan Burkovic of Bankin', a French aggregator. Your bank would rather you didn't.

Among the keenest potential users of personal bank data are peer-to-peer lenders, platforms that match those wanting to borrow money with those wanting to lend it. The likes of Zopa in Britain and Lending Club in America boast about their algorithms' ability to sift good credit risks from bad ones. But the computer programs are only as good as the data fed into them. Information from credit bureaus is useful but limited. "Bank-account information is probably the most valuable data source for underwriting credit that isn't in widespread use," says Martin Kissinger from Lendable, a peer-to-peer firm.

Not only the balance and cashflow are interesting; individual transactions can be revealing, too. How much a small business pays in taxes, say, can give insight into its profitability months before it files its accounts, says Anil Stocker of MarketInvoice, a lending platform. Payments to and from directors, or refunds to customers, can also help gauge its financial health.

Banks are understandably hesitant to send their customers' information to potential competitors, even with the customer's consent. In America banks have long allowed customers to download their data to compile tax returns; that capability is now being jerry-rigged to feed into other services (Mint belongs to Intuit, a purveyor of tax software). Regulators compel British banks to allow customers to download data in a standard-format spreadsheet.

If banks are not willing or obliged to share, there are services that will retrieve current-account data without the bank's approval. These startups ask customers to share their online banking passwords, in order to log into their accounts and copy and paste page upon page of online statements. Such "scraping" happens in a legal grey area. Banks moan about their terms of service being breached. British regulators frown upon it, for security reasons, making life difficult for would-be Mints; American regulators are said to be unhappy as well. Services such as Yodlee, a Californian outfit, offer to scrape or download bank records, whichever is least inconvenient.

Online lending platforms are wary of scraping: customers are understandably reluctant to hand over their passwords. Only people turned away for credit elsewhere (often for a reason) are likely to do so. Instead, aggregators often make do with data which are patchy or delayed. The likes of Zopa and Lending Club, for example, merely ask for smartphone snapshots of bank statements—a retrograde step, by fintech's standards, and one that limits the insights they can gather.

Policymakers in Europe have concluded that forcing banks to share data at consumers' request will yield big benefits for the banking public. Earlier this month the European Union adopted a directive on payment services, which will in effect force banks to impart data to third parties in a convenient format. Customers will also be able to authorise fintech firms to make payments from their bank accounts.

Banks say publicly they are open to the idea of more competition. Some are starting to release data more readily. But many fear they are fighting fintech with one hand tied behind their backs. Startups operate with the privacy mores of the technology sector; consumers opt in to their products, and so expect to be bombarded with ads. Banks are more like utilities, trusted to safeguard information rather than use it. When ING, a Dutch bank, last year mulled offering advertisers the opportunity to pitch to its customers based on their spending data, an outcry forced a quick reversal.

Having seen consumers desert their branches, banks now worry that customers will desert their apps and websites, too. Bosses glimpse a future where customers use banks merely as a utility, depositing their money there but using unregulated startups to manage it. Smoother data-sharing would make that a reality. It is a prospect that should indeed frighten bankers as much as it delights their customers.


·        lu·cra·tive

Producing a great deal of profit.


·        chore

A routine task, especially a household one.


·        in·cum·bent

The holder of an office or post.


·        pleth·o·ra

A large or excessive amount of (something).


·        ream

500 (formerly 480) sheets of paper.


·        seep out (of something)

[for a fluid] to trickle or leak out of something. A lot of oil has seeped out of the car onto the driveway. There is oil seeping out. There must be a leak.


·        frown

Furrow one's brow in an expression of disapproval, displeasure, or concentration.


·        war·y

Feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems


·        mull

Think about (a fact, proposal, or request) deeply and at length


·        out·cry

An exclamation or shout.



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