SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

Hacking Elections: Tales from Far and Near

THE Netflix film, The Great Hack, relates Cambridge Analytica’s role in Trump’s 2016 elections to a much larger issue – the threat to our democracy from global tech giants.  It is not the Facebook data that Cambridge “hacked”, but the election itself.  And what is at stake is not just an election, but the very future of democracy. If elections can be hacked, so can our democracy. The film poses a fundamental question for our times: are more elections in more places going to be won by the best data “team” that money can buy?

Fifty Years of First Moon Landing

IT was one of those seminal moments in human history, when those fortunate to have been around ask “where were you when humans first landed on the Moon.” This writer was lucky to have been where he watched that electrifying moment live on television, when US astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on to the lunar surface (followed by Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin) on July 20, 1969, from the lander named “Eagle”, the Apollo 11 spacecraft having been launched from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA, on July 16, 1969.

Chandrayaan-2 and the Indian Space Journey

INDIA’S on-going space exploration programme takes its next step with the launch on July 15, 2019 of Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) second venture to the moon. The first mission was mainly conducted by the orbiting spacecraft while a probe with the Indian flag was sent to crash on the moon’s surface, symbolically “planting” the Indian tricolour on the moon.

Trump’s Version of the Iran Accord: Heads I Win, Tails you Lose

THE US, after walking out of the Iran accord, is now shouting foul as Iran breaches the 300 Kg enriched-uranium stockpile limit of the accord. So does the US expect Iran to live up to the accord while it happily reneges on it? Or is its concept of international accords the playground bully’s version of a coin toss, “heads I win, tails you lose”?

Giant Aerospace Merger

MERGER fever seems to be spreading, this time in aerospace which has witnessed continuous merger and acquisitions (M&A) activity for over several decades as technologies have advanced, R&D and production costs have gone through the roof and even large firms have found it difficult to compete with the bigger players, especially if their main work is in broadly the same market segment.

Facebook’s Funny Money – or Facebucks – and Real Money

FACEBOOK’S proposed currency Libra – or as a wag put it, Facebucks – has created a storm. Libertarians see Libra, a variant of a cryptocurrency backed by Facebook’s big bucks and the bevy of companies that it has put together, bringing the day when cryptocurrencies will truly challenge all global currencies and fulfilling Hayek’s dream of The Denationalisation of Money.

Cyber Bombs, the Russian Grid and the Threat of War

THE New York Times recent report that the US Cyber Command has planted “malware” – read cyber bombs – deep into the Russian grid, should worry not just the Russian people, but all of us.  Taking down a country’s grid leads to blackouts, and disrupts a country’s vital infrastructure: communication networks such as metros, railways, airports, hospitals, telecommunications including cell phones; it can lead to failure of hydroelectric plants and dams causing devastating floods, nuclear plants outages and possible meltdown.

Global Capital, Digital Monopolies and New Forms of Enclosure

THE beginning of the digital monopoly age, the age in which the digital monopolies start emerging and the neoliberal economic model has been roughly coterminous. Both come of age in the 90s. While the neoliberal economic model seems to be in a crisis, the digital monopolies show no sign of flagging. On the contrary, along with the continued expansion of older players, we are witnessing the rise of many new ones.

Continuing Trade-cum-Tech War between the US and China

THE US sanctions on Huawei has transformed what started as a trade war between the US and China into a full blown tech war. The US has followed the additional tariffs of 10-25 per cent on $250 billion Chinese goods by putting Huawei, the Chinese telecom and mobile manufacturing giant, on the “entities list”, effectively a sanctions list. This forbids all companies having US content from selling to it.

Fiat-Chrysler and Renault Mega Auto Merger

ITALIAN-US automobile major Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has proposed a 50:50 “merger of equals” with Renault (pronounced reno) of France which the latter, and major shareholders of both companies, have responded favourably to. If and when the merger does go through, and we shall discuss the ifs and buts later, it will create the world’s third largest auto maker behind Toyota of Japan and Volkswagen (VW) of Germany.

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