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Year in Review 2016: A world exclusive interview with the real star of this year

Somewhere down the road, the year 2016 ran away from us. It  feels like just yesterday that we were living in a world where Leicester City Football Club could never really be crowned Champions of England, where Donald Trump could never become US president, J Jayalalithaa could never be elected for a second successive as Tamil Nadu’s chief minister. And all through this, we were paying for goods and services with crisp Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

So you can imagine our surprise when we were informed — by first, post and later, email — by the powers-that-be that the year was about to end. If that wasn’t shocking enough to us at FP Special Forces, imagine our distress when we were informed that we had to submit an article about the shining star of 2016. 

After several minutes of fretting, frowning and trying to construct all sorts of excuses — including, but not limited to the creation of imaginary diseases that we had inexplicably contracted — to get out of doing any work, our crack investigative reportage specialist took up the challenge. And not just ‘took up the challenge’, but secured a super-ultra-mega-hyper-exclusive interview with the star herself himself itself. It was the most obvious choice. After all, who else could it be?

The ATM.

Loosely-edited and only slightly embellished excerpts of the interview follow:

Interviewing-ATM1_380Interviewing-ATM1_380Hello,… Errr… Do you speak English?

Hello to you too. Of course, I speak English. I also speak Hindi. And sometimes, I speak a variety of local languages. You’ve caught me on a good day, because today, I speak Marathi too.

Great. What was the first thought that went through your mind when you heard you were the star of 2016?

Wow. I’m still doing my very best to let that sink in. You know-… pffffffrrrrrrrtttt 

Excuse me?

I do apologise. That was terrible behaviour on my part. It’s just that when people need cash, especially in these trying times, I must sacrifice etiquette and manners for speed and dispense their notes as quickly as I can.

Don’t worry about it. Has anyone ever told you that you’re extremely polite?

Not lately, no. But it’s alright. People have a lot on their minds. The way I see it, the least I can do is be polite when I have so many people lining up to see me on a daily basis.

I was going to mention that: It’s not that you weren’t in demand earlier, but your popularity seems to have really soared towards the end of 2016.

Yes, it was my 15 seconds of fame-…

How about 50 days of fame?

(laughs) Yes, quite right. That’s very topical.

Thank you.

My popularity, as you put it, did soar. It was rather unexpected and in fact, took me by surprise. Having people queue up like that to see me everyday was like a dream. I doubt Amitabh Bachchan has as many people queuing up outside his bungalow. Even when I was exhausted, or rather it was my supplies that were exhausted for the day, they still stood around, waiting and cursing their bad luck that they didn’t get a chance to see me up close and personal. I don’t recall a time when I’ve given out as many autographs as I did these past weeks. In fact, I regularly ran out of paper on which to give out personalised messages.

You mean receipts?

Yes. But most of all, I was just doing my job. You know the adage ‘time is money, money is time’?

Well, time is money, when you’re queuing so long.

Right you are. I was, however, slightly saddened at the sort of anger aimed in my direction during the two days that I was unwell and unable to meet the people lining up in front of me.

That’s right. You were ‘out of service’ for the two days after the prime minister’s address to the nation, were you not?

I was. Frankly, it was a case of terrible indigestion. Realising that everything inside me had turned into scrap or waste overnight was enough to make me terribly unwell. But I believe I bounced back quite well.

Well, that’s a matter of opinion.

Alright, it took me some time to get back on my feet. Having said that, I realise I don’t have feet. But it took me some time to get back to normal, but then it would take you as long if you had undergone a procedure as serious as the one I underwent. For you, it would be a bit like a procedure that changed you in a way that you went from peeing standing up to peeing-…

Right. The recalibration process. I understand. You don’t need to continue with that metaphor. But how difficult was the transition?

To be honest, things were a lot easier later. Let me tell you, those thin new notes are so easy to dispense. They’re like a dream. And so bright and flashy. You know you’ll never misplace a Rs 2,000 note.

How long do you think this popularity of yours is going to last?

Well, you never know. Your prime minister is scheduled to make some big announcements on New Year’s Eve and he just might say something that boosts my popularity even more. Maybe, I’ll be dispensing something apart from notes. Maybe I’ll be sent on paid vacation for a few months. Who knows?

In fact, I don’t see it (how long popularity lasts) that way at all. I plan to make the most of it for as long as it lasts.

A paid vacation?

Yes, I’ve always wanted to see the world: India Gate, Machu Picchu, the Louvre, Silicon Valley, Nala Sopara-…

Wait. Nala Sopara?

Well, you get the idea.

Not really. But let’s continue.

Actually, let’s not. There’s far too long a queue behind you. Do you want to withdraw some money? Maybe an autograph?

Got any Rs 100 notes?

No. NEXT!!

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:53 IST

Researcher found security holes at smartphone-only bank N26 | Reuters

By Eric Auchard

HAMBURG German fintech company N26, which made its name mocking traditional banks, has found itself on the receiving end of criticism after a security researcher proved its smartphone apps exposed users to potential account hijacking.N26, previously known as Number26, has expanded rapidly since it launched in early 2015 as a smartphone-only bank with no local branches, with the backing of major global investors including Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel.     Vincent Haupert, a research fellow and PhD student in the computer science department of the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, told the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg how he and two colleagues found N26 security defences riddled with holes that could have been used to defraud thousands of users.     “They say you can open a bank account in just eight minutes,” Haupert said. “As it turns out, you can lose it even faster.”    In a statement, N26 thanked Haupert for alerting the company to “a theoretical security vulnerability” and advising it on fixes, which N26 said it completed this month.    N26 offers a range of online banking and other financial services to 200,000 customers in 17 European countries through a banking licence granted earlier this year by German financial regulator Bafin.    N26 executives have been the most outspoken among new fintech players in arguing traditional banks are failing to serve customers more directly by relying on antiquated local branch relationships instead of modern, phone-based services.

    “I don’t see banks at all as my competitors. They just can’t move fast enough,” N26 Chief Executive Valentin Stalf told Reuters last year.    Haupert told the Chaos conference, Europe’s biggest annual gathering of hackers, how his team had found numerous ways to attack N26 banking apps to hijack individual customer accounts.    “With such a strategy, fintechs squander the trust that banks established over years,” he said.For example, Haupert said he compared data from a leak of 68 million account credentials from online file sharing company Dropbox with information on N26 users he was able to request from the company’s own software feed to identify 33,000 N26 user credentials – without being thwarted by N26 anti-fraud systems.

From there, he said it would have been simple to send a phishing email to these N26 customers that could potentially have allowed him to break into their accounts.     “Don’t worry, we didn’t do this,” Haupert said. “My professor had legal concerns.”    Instead, Haupert disclosed his research findings to N26 on Sept. 25.

    In response, N26 said in a statement it had made customer accounts more secure by reducing and encrypting data transfers, by blocking brute-force attacks in which hackers can quickly guess user credentials, and fixing voice-recognition security weaknesses in its app for the newest Apple mobile devices.     “At no time during these scenarios was personal data of our customers available to third parties,” the statement said. “No N26 customer was impacted by the demonstrated vulnerabilities.”    It added: “We have fully addressed and closed all vulnerabilities promptly and completely” and quoted Haupert as saying earlier this month that all vulnerabilities he had uncovered appeared to have been fixed.  Still, Haupert said regulators needed to take a closer look at the security of banks. “It was Bafin that granted a banking license to N26 only six months ago,” he said, adding that security weaknesses at that time were rampant.A spokesman for the financial regulator declined to comment.  (Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Mark Potter)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 23:34 IST

Apple boss Tim Cook meets PM Modi and his gold iPhone

Apple CEO Tim Cook met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday morning, as a part of his maiden trip to India aimed at boosting sales for the iPhone. Cook sat down with Modi, who has a penchant for selfies — often using his gold iPhone — has gotten him into trouble earlier.Modi breached electoral rules when he photographed himself holding his party’s symbol of a lotus flower immediately after casting his vote in the 2014 general election, one of the many selfies he regularly takes with his Apple phone.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cook met Modi in New Delhi on Saturday, and hopes Modi’s enthusiasm for phones can help Apple as it tries to bolster sales in India.
ALSO READ Apple CEO Tim Cook meets Modi, launches updated version of PM’s mobile appWhile smartphone usage is surging as the middle class swells, most Indians still can’t afford Apple’s iPhones and the company has only about 2% market share in a country where 100 million phones were sold last year.Apart from snapping the usual selfie, Modi is expected to tell Cook that if Apple wants to sell more phones in India, it should make them here, and help the prime minister realise his ambition of turning the country into a manufacturing powerhouse.Cook will also have to remember not to come between Modi and his love of the limelight: on a trip to Silicon Valley in September Modi appeared to shove Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg aside so that the cameras could capture him fully.Cook and Modi’s meeting was expected to cap an unusually long trip to India that has seen the Apple boss pray at an elephant-god temple in Mumbai, watch cricket and dine with Bollywood stars.

PM Modi interacts with Stanford University students

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday held wide-ranging discussion with a group of 25 students from Stanford University during which he answered questions on India’s relationship with neighbouring countries and competitive cooperative federalism.The group from the International Policy Studies department of the varsity comprised students from various countries, including India.Welcoming the students, Modi said they are all soon-to-be policy-makers, and therefore, what they assimilate at this point in time, will definitely shape their decisions and choices in the near future, a PMO release said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In the course of the interaction, the Prime Minister answered questions on diplomatic relations between countries, India’s relationship with neighbouring countries, the Act East Policy, his recent visit to Silicon Valley, his commitment to technology and e-governance, and competitive cooperative federalism,” the release added.

Intolerance and startups cannot go hand-in-hand: Rahul Gandhi

Kochi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday took a dig at the NDA government’s startup initiative, saying intolerance and startups cannot go hand-in-hand as it is essential to have free movement of ideas for such a mission to prosper.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Interacting with budding entrepreneurs during his visit to the Startup village near Kalamassery in Kochi, he said youths across the globe are attracted to Silicon Valley due to its inclusive nature.

“There is no discrimination in the name of colour, gender or mode of dressing there,” he was quoted as saying in a government release here.

Noting that intolerance and startups can’t go hand in hand, the Congress leader said encouraging free thinking and tolerance are two essential things required for laying a strong foundation for India’s dreams to develop.

Speaking at the function in which media was not allowed, he said students and youths should be allowed to think freely as innovation require free movement of ideas.

“For a start-up to prosper it is essential to have free movement of ideas… we should not allow incidents of violence and bloodshed. To avoid incidents like suicide of a Dalit research scholar in Hyderabad and protests of Film Institute in Pune, youths should be allowed to think freely,” he said.

Gandhi, who spent nearly an hour inside the Startup Village, was taken around various facilties there, PH Kurian, Principal Secretary, Information Technology Department, said.

When it was pointed out by an entrepreneur that politicians usually make promises, Gandhi immediately quipped he was not there to make any promises.

“I am not making any promises and I will not,” he said.

“You are the people with challenging ideas around,” he said, adding, he was aware that entrepreneurs do face problems.

The Kalamassery-based Startup Village, India’s first incubator, is funded jointly by the public and private sector.

Started in April 2012, Kerala Startup Mission took over physical space of the Startup Village this January.

Aiming to launch 1,000 technology startups over the next 10 years and start the search for the next billion-dollar Indian company, the Startup Village focusses primarily on student startups and telecom innovation.


Bengaluru: 5 arrested for assaulting Tanzanian woman, ‘racism’ angle tops global headlines

Five people suspected of assaulting a Tanzanian woman were arrested early on Thursday, Police Commissioner N.S. Megharik said as the debate rages over whether policemen at the scene made the Bengaluru blot worse by standing by and not helping the woman in distress.

“We have arrested the five accused after interrogating them on Wednesday night under detention in the case registered on the victim’s statement in a road rage incident,” Megharik told IANS here.

Racist? Who me? Couldn't be! A screen grab from CNN-IBNRacist? Who me? Couldn't be! A screen grab from CNN-IBN

Racist? Who me? Couldn’t be! A screen grab from CNN-IBN

The commissioner, however, did not disclose names and age of the five accused.

The Hindu reports on one of the witnesses saying two policemen at the scene did not help the victim and instead pushed her again towards the angry mob.

Media in the US picking up the story is headlining ‘racism’ and questioning Bengaluru’s credentials as India’s Silicon Valley.

In a case of mistaken identity, a mob assaulted the victim, Lina Martin, 21, suspecting her to be a friend of a Sudanese student, Mohammad Ahad, whose car ran over a woman pedestrian (Shabana Taz) fatally while driving drunk on the same (Sunday) night.

“Arrest of the accused has been made on the basis of eye witnesses’ account and from the video footage from closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) in the area. We will produce them in a local court for custody and further interrogation,” Megharik said.

Denying reports in a section of media that the victim was stripped and paraded, Megharik said in her statement that she was only assaulted and molested in which her T-shirt was torn off.

“Though the car mishap was 30 minutes before the victim reached the spot in the other car, the mob thought she was Ahad’s friend and assaulted her,” deputy police commissioner T.R. Suresh told reporters on Wednesday night.

Ahad was also arrested on Sunday night for the fatal mishap involving his car and drunken driving.

Police did not register the case soon after the road mishap and the mob attack, as the victim was not in city for two days since Sunday to record her statement.

With IANS inputs

Thank you, Mr Modi: India needs free access to the internet more than it needs Free Basics

On Thursday morning we read reports of displeasure being expressed by the PMO on the way Facebook has responded to TRAI’s consultation paper on differential pricing. According to sources, quoted in an Economic Times report, the PMO has set up a ‘high-powered committee’ which will be headed by the Union Minister for Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad and several other ministers.

In many ways, this is a welcome sign. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say, long due. A few months ago, during a townhall at the Facebook HQ in the Silicon Valley, PM Narendra Modi got emotional and cried while talking about his mother. That indeed, is a very emotional moment to say the least. And while there may be no direct apparent connection, there is a clear link. Between the PM’s initiative to get India’s perception changing in the global arena, and his focus on start-ups. And before we could put it away in the past, Zuckerberg showed up in Delhi.

Image courtesy: FacebookImage courtesy: Facebook

Image courtesy: Facebook

Every Indian mother has a right to see her sons and daughters rise high. Create impactful businesses and surge ahead to scale the ambitions of a young India. We are a nation that belongs to the youth. Statisticians depict India’s age demographics as a sloped pyramid – essentially we have many babies to fuel the economy’s growth for years to come. In contrast, the United States has a flabby pyramid, which will soon form an hourglass. In simple terms, evolved markets such as the United States would have a significant percentage of citizens in their 40s and 50s with fewer youth.

With a natural advantage as an active population, the key catalyst to our economic growth for the generations ahead is to equip the youth of the nation with as much opportunities and freedom as possible. And if they are to create businesses that scale up to be multi-billion dollar companies, then they would undoubtedly need a level playing field. The same level playing field that garage start-ups of the Silicon Valley enjoyed. Apple, Google, Yahoo, YouTube – the list could go on and on. And we haven’t gotten to the investment circle just yet. The basic access to the internet, which has been expressed vocally, and through numerous campaigns globally, is the need of the hour.

At the risk of using a cliché, the internet isn’t technology anymore. It’s an ecosystem, a platform for ambitious minds to thrive and exploit a billion opportunities. Times are changing and the internet isn’t just for learning, leisure or entertainment. Internet is undeniably the source for livelihood for millions. It may come across as luxury for leisure, or a far-fetched need much lower in priority.

But if the internet is used the way it is supposed to, it could bring in roti, kapda, and makaan in the lives of a billion citizens in India. Interestingly, that’s exactly what every government of the land aspires to do. Entrepreneurs such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma have stood up for the right of citizens like them who have been able to scale up and become billion dollar businesses. In addition, founders of start-ups including Zomato and Cleartrip also wrote to the PM urging him to ‘save the internet’. It wouldn’t be fair to restrict the proponents of a free and fair internet to a select few names.

It’s been encouraging to see TRAI stand up to Facebook while dealing with it on the issue of Free Basics. And with the PM’s office expressing its dissatisfaction, it’s a clear indication that the voice of citizens are being heard loud and clear.

For more stories on technology, visit Tech2 (

Bengaluru: Tanzanian girl stripped and beaten, her car set on fire; Sushma Swaraj says ‘deeply pained’, police hunt suspects

A Tanzanian woman was allegedly stripped and beaten on the streets of India’s Silicon Valley Bengaluru after a road accident where a Sudanese man ran over a local woman Saturday night. The locals who dragged the Tanzanian woman and attacked her thought she was in some way connected to the accident. The three friends traveling with her in the same car were also beaten up, and the car set on fire, media reports say.

Bengaluru Police have launched a manhunt for suspects.

“We have registered a case of riot and arson against the accused on victim’s statement in which she reported of being assaulted in a mistaken identity by a mob on the outskirts of the city,” city police commissioner N.S. Megharik told reporters here on Wednesday.

The police is denying reports that the victim was molested. Megharik said the African woman had admitted being only assaulted by a frenzied mob after her three male friends deserted her at Soladevanahalli where the car in which they were travelling was burnt.

“The incident occurred because the mob mistook the victim’s car being involved in a road mishap on same night (January 31) when a 20-year-old drunken Sudanese national (Mohammed Ahad Ismai) ran over a woman fatally. We arrested him after he was rescued from a raging mob,” Megharik said.

“We have formed special teams to trap the culprits and render justice to the victim who declined to file complaint against the accused fearing attack again.

The victim’s friends told police that on Sunday the furious mob had pulled them out of their car, assaulted them and molested her in which her clothes were torn.

Meanwhile, the city-based Tanzanian youth association decided to seek its embassy’s help in registering an assault case and booking the culprits.

Sushma Swaraj/ AFPSushma Swaraj/ AFP

Sushma Swaraj/ AFP

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday described the attack as “shameful”. The Hindu reports that the Tanzanian students struggled to get their complaint registered and have approached their embassy to help out as the attack made world headlines. ‘Indian mob strips, molests and beats Tanzanian student’ read The Washington Post headlines Wednesday afternoon local time in the US.

The High Commission of Tanzania has requested the Government of India of follow up on the matter, reports India Today.

The road accident which led to the attack was allegedly caused by rash and drunk driving by a Sudanese student at Ganapathinagar off the Hesaraghatta Main Road in North Bengaluru where a number of African students live and study at local colleges. The region and its surrounding areas constantly see a clash of cultures between locals and African students who avail affordable accomodation facilities in housing colonies in the area, reports The Indian Express.

Expressing deep pain over the Sunday incident on microblogging site Twitter, Swaraj said she has sought a report from the Karnataka government and asked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to ensure safety of foreign students. The Indian Express reports that the car was set on fire on the night of 31 January, after the fatal accident.

“We are deeply pained over the shameful incident with a Tanzanian girl in Bengaluru. I spoke to the chief minister Karnataka. He informed me that a criminal case has been registered and four accused have been arrested,” Sushma Swaraj said.

“I have asked the chief minister to ensure safety and security of all foreign students and stringent punishment for the guilty. I have asked for immediate report from the Government of Karnataka,” she said in her tweets.

Bangalore, often called India’s Silicon Valley for being the hub of global software firms, is home to hundreds of foreign students, including 150 from Tanzania, reports BBC.

With IANS inputs

Bengaluru cops to now give pre-marital counselling

They also stated that many people call them citing parental pressure on them to get married. In such cases, they also counsel the parents.

dna Web Team

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