Technology
Users can now self-destruct conversations on Facebook Messenger
Social media giant Facebook is introducing a new secret conversation on its Messenger app that will help users self destruct their conversations after setting a timer to it.
 
Earlier this week, Facebook began offering an option to encrypt posts end to end -- a way to have secret conversations with other users -- to some 900 million Messenger users.
 
Now within a secret conversation, users can also choose to set a timer to control the length of time each message you send remains visible within the conversation. 
 
The service uses the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems.
 
"Your messages and calls on Messenger already benefit from strong security systems -- Messenger uses secure communications channels," said Facebook in a blog post.
 
We've heard from you that there are times when you want additional safeguards -- perhaps when discussing private information like an illness or a health issue with trusted friends and family, or sending financial information to an accountant, the blog post read. 
 
To do this, Facebook is testing to create one-to-one secret conversations in Messenger that will be end-to-end encrypted and allows only the communicating users to read the messages. 
 
The upgrade will prohibit even Facebook from reading users' conversation.
 
Secret conversations are available on a limited test basis right now, but we will be making the option more widely available later, the blog post added. 
 
Secret conversations currently do not support rich content like GIFs and videos, making payments or other popular Messenger features.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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How India's concretising cities are becoming heat islands
The monsoon has currently dissipated intense heat across India’s growing cities, but temperatures are rising and will continue to climb because of the way urban areas are expanding.
 
With trees, lakes and open spaces replaced by roads, expanses of concrete with closely spaced multi-storeyed buildings - often in violation of zoning and setback laws - Indian cities are turning into “heat islands”, according to an IndiaSpend review of scientific studies in five cities.
 
A clear trend is evident: The difference between the daytime maximum and nighttime minimum daily temperatures - the diurnal temperature range (DTR) - is steadily declining. This indicates that concretising cores of cities are retaining heat, even as temperatures rise in formerly cooler outskirts, as they, too, urbanise. A higher range of temperature indicates greater cooling.
 
* In Delhi, over a decade to 2011, the temperature range declined by more than 2 deg C, one of India’s strongest heat-island effects.
 
* In Chennai, the morning temperature at the city centre is between 3 to 4.5 deg C higher than its greener fringes.
 
* In Thiruvananthapuram, when a cool, evening breeze blows, the greener rural areas cool by 3.4 deg C, the city areas by half as much.
 
* In Guwahati, city areas are warmer by 2.13 deg C than the peripheries during the day and by 2.29 deg C at night.
 
* In Kochi, a canyon-like effect of buildings funnels heat into the city, creating a “heat island” that makes the centre 4.6 deg C warmer in winter and 3.7 deg C in winter.
 
Heat islands are created by a combination of design, construction material and environment. Closely built buildings form canyons that trap heat reflecting from their walls. Air-conditioning vents, especially in narrow alleys, further warm up buildings and nearby areas.
 
Trees, shrubs, grass and soil absorb heat and cool the land, but since these are increasingly absent in Indian urban design, and what existed is being cleared, what’s left is concrete and asphalt, which soak in and intensify the day’s heat, staying hot for many hours at night.
 
Things are set to worsen, as IndiaSpend reported in March 2016. Kolkata’s tree cover fell from 23.4% to 7.3% over 20 years, as the built-up area rose 190%. By 2030, vegetation will be 3.37% of Kolkata’s area. 
 
Ahmedabad’s tree cover fell from 46% to 24% over 20 years; the built-up area rose 132%. 
 
By 2030, vegetation will be 3% of Ahmedabad’s area. 
 
Bhopal’s tree cover fell from 66% to 22% over 22 years. By 2018, it will be 11% of the city’s area. Hyderabad’s tree cover fell from 2.71% to 1.66% over 20 years. By 2024, it will be 1.84% of the city’s area.
 
On an instinctive, tactile level, you can feel the effects of heat islands in cities dissipate and the temperature drop when you pass a rare, green expanse, such as Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens or Jawaharlal Nehru University and Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science.
 
Here are the details of what’s happening in five cities:
 
Delhi: Intense heat island
 
Population: 11 million. Area: 1,484 sq km.
 
As Delhi’s metropolitan population grew 20% between 2001 and 2011, the difference between its maximum and minimum temperatures flattened out, a 2015 paper reported. Wider temperature variations - meaning cooler areas - were evident in urban villages and open areas. Northwest and Southwest Delhi, areas of intense growth, registered the largest fall in temperature variation - between 2.5 to 4 deg C.
 
Chennai: Star of fire becomes warmer
 
Population: 4.68 million. Area: 426 sq km.
 
During the hottest period of the year in late May - called agni natchatiram (star of fire) - the temperature in the commercial complexes and densely populated residential expanses of central and north Chennai registered the most variations; the outskirts were cooler, a 2016 paper said. Compared with observations in 1991 and 2008, heat islands have grown more intense, with a 1.5 to 2 deg C variation with the peripheries in 1991 growing to 2.53 deg C by 2008. Wherever there was vegetation, a cooling effect was evident.
 
Guwahati: Heat islands make summers hotter
 
Population: 0.95 million. Area: 216 sq km.
 
The creation of heat islands in Guwahati indicates that India’s smaller cities, too, have areas of growing heat, as they concretise. A daytime heat-island effect left core city areas up to 2.12 deg C warmer than the outskirts and 2.29 deg C at night, according to a 2014 study, illustrating how heat once absorbed by roads and buildings intensifies. 
 
Kochi: Tall buildings act as heat funnels
 
Population: 0.61 million. Area: 95 sq km.
 
Thanks to tall buildings funnelling and focusing heat, the heat-island effect was stronger early morning than late evening, stronger in winter than summer, a 2014 paper said. Heat islands had the greatest impact in what was termed “compact mid-rise zones” close to the city centre, where average building heights range from nine to 24 m. The most intense cooling was apparent in open and sparsely built areas in all seasons. Pre-monsoon rains and overcast skies weakened Kochi’s heat-island effect.
 
Thiruvananthapuram: How the wind is blocked
 
Population: 1.96 million. Area: 215 sq km.
 
Like Kochi, Kerala’s capital reported a 2.4 deg C higher temperature at the city centre, with areas of densely arranged low-rise (one- to three-storey) and high-rise (three- to eight-storey) buildings the warmest, according to a 2014 paper. The maximum evening temperature drop of 3.4 deg C was reported in rural areas, a degree more than city areas. The city is cooled by a sea wind between 8 and 9 pm, but the wind was blocked in areas with dense buildings, keeping temperatures high.
 
Variations of these trends were manifest in other cities, and it was evident that traditional building material cooled homes better. In Vellore, Tamil Nadu, roofs of thatch had the best cooling effect, a 2015 paper reported.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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IDS 2016: Will black money declarants get away with a 31% tax rate instead of 45%?
The union government has launched its ambitious Income Declaration Scheme, 2016 (the scheme or IDS) as Chapter IX of the Finance Act, 2016. The scheme is effective from 1st June to 30 September 2016. However, several chartered accounts (CAs) have highlighted the gap (or lack of sufficient clarification) in tax charged (45%) and how it can be mis-used to make the effective rate as low as 31%, under the IDS initiative.
 
Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society, Ahmedabad Chartered Accountants’ Association, Karnataka State Chartered Accountants’ Association and Chamber of Tax Consultants, in a letter to Hasmukh Adhia, Revenue Secretary have highlighted different interpretations of the reply given to FAQ No5 in Circular No25/2016 issued on 30 June 2016. 
 
The core of the controversy is, nowhere does the government circular or the FAQs (which anyway cannot be used as a reliable source at any legal forum), clarify as to what should be the source of the tax paid on the income disclosed. Under IDS, the effective tax is 45%. A person declaring an income of Rs10 lakh can pay Rs4.5 lakh or 45% as tax, including 30% basic tax, 7.5% as Krishi Kalyan Cess and 7.5% of the undisclosed income as penalty. But what would be the source of this Rs4.5 lakh? Could this be from black money or should it be from white money only? Common sense, dictates that it should be from white money. However, IDS rules and FAQ do not clarify that. In fact, the FAQ opens the door to misuse. 
 
To take forward the above example, what if a person has another Rs5 lakh as undisclosed money over and above the Rs10 lakh he is declaring? A person with an undisclosed income of Rs15 lakh can declare Rs10 lakh under the scheme and pay 45% tax from the balance Rs5 lakh of undisclosed funds. This would mean that he would be able to convert Rs14.5 lakh of his black money into white and pay Rs4.5 lakh tax on it, effectively bringing his tax rate under IDS down to 31%. This makes a mockery of the IDS scheme and the genuine taxpayer, who is paying tax at 30.9% year after year. The black money holder would be paying the same rate of tax after avoiding such payment for years. Here is an illustration given by the CA Associations to the Finance Ministry...
 
 
Is this the intention of the government? Certainly not, but the FAQ issued by the government opens the door to precisely this. See this Q&A issued in Circular No. 25/2016 dated 30 June 2016… 
 
 
Question No. 5: Where a valid declaration is made after making valuation as per the provisions of the Scheme, read with IDS Rules and tax, surcharge & penalty as specified in the Scheme have been paid, whether the department will make any enquiry in respect of sources of income, payment of tax, surcharge and penalty? (emphasis added)
 
Answer: No.”
 
If the source of tax will not be questioned, it is easy for the declarer to game the system as described above. Some CAs are apparently already advising clients to take this route of including even the 45% tax when they declare undisclosed income. 
 
The associations says, "As a result of this FAQ and the reply provided, at various forums, an interpretation has been discussed that the effective rate of tax in such cases could work out to 31% instead of 45%." 
 
According to the letter sent by the associations of CAs, even senior officers from the Income-tax department are not clear about this issue and are giving different replies. "The problem that is caused on account of this confusion is that different people are providing differing advice to potential declarants. Considering the fact this is an extremely important issue and goes to the very heart of the IDS, there is an urgent need to clarify whether the view that is being advocated by some as illustrated above is correct. The reply to FAQ No. 5 in Circular No. 25 mentioned above needs to be either modified or further clarified with the help of an example," the letter says. 
 
The associations have also requested the Finance Ministry to issue a clarification on this ambiguity at the earliest. 
 

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COMMENTS

SURESH SINDHI

5 months ago

My answer is that if the income tax is also payable from the same undisclosed income which is being disclosed under IDS then the tax would be 81.8182%. I have derived this figure mathematically. I can share the calculations, if interested to know maths behind it.

REPLY

SUJIT TALUKDER

In Reply to SURESH SINDHI 4 months ago

How is that, Sir? Please elaborate the calculation.

Bajaj Roopchand Murlidhar

5 months ago

Its all gamut of financial. Smart guy on account of creative analytical approach always benefited.

SuchindranathAiyerS

5 months ago

The Khangress have always had a soft corner for their fellow criminals. With amnesties, loop holes and so on, largely to favour their own. The BJP seems to be toeing the line in this as in all other ugliness of Indian Tyranny called governance.

Nikhil Vadia

5 months ago

This is nothing new. Every Black money declaration scheme had a loop hole to reduce tax rate in some manner. If clarification does not come, assume it to be intentional.

Sharad Jain

5 months ago

Thanks for highlighting the ambiguity, hope clarity comes sooner than later.

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