CM Yediyurappa awaits Shah”s nod to expand cabinet

The much-delayed cabinet expansion of the three-week-old BJP government in Karnataka is set to take place this week after party”s national president Amit Shah clears the names of legislators for inducting, an official source said on Sunday.

“If Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa receives the list of names by Monday night or early Tuesday from Shah, the cabinet will be expanded same afternoon after a meeting of the BJP legislature party at the secretariat before noon,” the source told .

Though Yediyurappa met Shah in Delhi at his office in North Block on Saturday evening and submitted him a list finalised by the party”s state leaders in consultation with BJP”s national general secretary B.L. Santosh in the national capital on Friday, there is no communique from Shah yet.

“As senior party leaders, including those who were ministers in the previous BJP government from 2008-13, are keenly waiting for Shah”s nod to get into the cabinet again, Yediyurappa will explain to those omitted the reasons for their exclusion at the meeting and call for restraint to prevent dissent, as expectations are high,” said the source on the condition of anonymity.

A party official, however, said in the first phase of cabinet expansion, over a dozen lawmakers would be sworn-in ministers, keeping in view their caste and community combination with fair representation from the state”s four regions — northern, coastal, central and southern.

“As the BJP won more seats from the northern, coastal and central regions in the 2018 assembly elections, emerging as the single largest party with 105 seats in the 225-member House, a lion”s share of the ministry and portfolios will go to those elected from there,” party”s state unit spokesman G. Madhusudana told here.

To fill the remaining cabinet posts in the 34-member ministry, Yediyurappa is likely to wait for 6 months in the event of by-elections to the 17 assembly segments from where the Congress and JD-S rebel legislators were disqualified by the previous speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar in July for defying their party whip to withdraw their resignations, attend the monsoon session and vote in favour of the confidence motion their former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy moved on July 18 but lost on July 23 due to their revolt.

“The admission of the Congress-JD-S rebels into the party and their inclusion in the ministry depends on the outcome of their petitions against their disqualification in the Supreme Court and their prospects of winning if the bye-elections are held,” added Madhusudana.

With the saffron party and Yediyurappa being strong believers in astrology and the position of their planetary stars, some in the party consider Tuesday inauspicious for cabinet expansion as per the Hindu calendar.

Yediyurappa, 76, took oath for the fourth time as the BJP chief minister on July 26, but could not expansion his cabinet for various reasons beyond his control, as the party”s high command was busy with the Parliament session, legislative bills on Jammu and Kashmir and heavy rains and floods across the state over the last three weeks.


Science & Technology

NASA probe finds water-bearing minerals on Bennu

A team of scientists from NASA have discovered the evidence of abundant water-bearing minerals on the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

Bennu is the target of NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, which began orbiting the asteroid on December 31. 

“The scientists are interested in the composition of Bennu because similar objects may have seeded the Earth with water and organic materials,” said the study’s lead author Victoria Hamilton from the Southwest Research Institute.

“OSIRIS-REx data confirm previous ground-based observations pointing to aqueously altered, hydrated minerals on the surface of the asteroid,” Hamilton added.

In the study, published in the Nature Astronomy journal, the team identified infrared properties similar to those in a type of meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites.

Two types of carbonaceous chondrites called CI and CM chondrites contain several per cent by weight of organic compounds and some also contain water in abundance of 10-15 per cent and as much as 20 per cent in rare cases.

The presence of volatile organic chemicals and water indicates that they have not undergone substantial heating.

“Because asteroids with hydrated minerals are found throughout the main asteroid belt, significant ice must have been present in the disk during and shortly after the time of carbonaceous asteroid accretion,” Hamilton said.

During planetary formation, scientists believe that water was one of the many chemical components that accreted to form Earth. However, most scientists think additional water was delivered in part by comets and pieces of asteroids, including water-bearing carbonaceous meteorites, Hamilton said.

“Many of these meteorites also contain prebiotic organic chemicals and amino acids, which are precursors to the origin of life. The details of water delivery to Earth as well as the larger issue of the different inventories of water ice in the early solar system affect how we view the solar system formation,” she explained.

OSIRIS-REx, launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023. Bennu may contain unaltered material from the very beginning of our solar system.




Competing with Apple, Samsung to expand its retail presence in US

Keeping in line with the prevailing competition with Apple, Samsung is planning to inaugurate three full-scale stores in Los Angeles, New York and Houston on February 20, aiming to expand its retail footprint in the US, Apple Insider reported.

Samsung intends to allow users to try and buy its products ranging from smartphones to Virtual Reality (VR) glasses and televisions via these retail stores. 

Much like Apple Stores, the South Korean giant plans on providing in-person customer support along with walk-in repairs available for mobile devices.

Up until now, Samsung’s retail presence in the US was marked only by pop-up stores and dedicated spaces in franchisees like Best Buy. This move comes at a time when Apple is coping with declining iPhone sales, driven mostly by tough competition in China from local smartphone makers.

“Apple has long touted its retail stores as one of its key advantages, since people can try products in advance and have a place to turn if they need help with setup or troubleshooting. It remains to be seen whether Samsung would be able to cultivate an equal or superior level of support and whether or not will enough people choose to shop at outlets instead of online or at the many third-party vendors that carry Samsung gears,” the report said.

Due to low traffic and poor response, the company failed in its attempts at retail expansion in the UK and withdrew quickly.

On February 20, Samsung is also hosting its “Unpacked” event in San Francisco, where it will announce its first foldable smartphone and “Galaxy S10”, the report noted.



Working ‘hard’ to expand team to fight misinformation

With Twitter finding itself in the midst of a controversy for not sending its CEO to appear before a parliamentary panel on Monday, the microblogging site has said that it is “working hard” to expand its team and resources to help tackle the spread of misinformation on its platform.

The response, which does not provide any clue about the team size it was expanding, comes in the backdrop of apprehensions that during the upcoming 2019 general elections bad actors could use social media platforms to spread propaganda and misinformation to influence voters.

Twitter was earlier accused by the government of being “slow” in removing “objectionable content” from its platform.

The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology (IT) wants to question the Twitter CEO over measures taken to ensure the safety and security of the users and allegations that the social media site is discriminating against “nationalist” posts on its platform.

With the Twitter CEO not showing up for the meeting on Monday, the committee has again summoned Twitter’s CEO to appear before it on February 25.

“Attempts to deliberately undermine the public conversation by spreading misinformation at scale, is something we care deeply about at Twitter,” Twitter India said in a blog post on Monday.

“And while we are working hard to expand our team and resources to help tackle this issue, it is important that everyone builds their capacity in order to protect and enhance the public conversation,” it added.

Twitter said it entered into a partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on media literacy to help its users spot false information, and also reached out to 100,000 youth across the Asia Pacific region to engage them in a series of digital citizenship workshops, safety roundtables and panel discussions.

“In India, we launched the #EduTweet initiative in partnership with the School Leaders Network where we engaged 865 school leaders, educators and influencers from 2,700 schools across India on issues such as media literacy and the digital classroom,” Twitter India said.

“We also partnered with Responsible Netism (a non-profit start up) on their Cyber Psychology Conference which engaged schools across Maharashtra on online safety for children,” it added.