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Toshiba CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani Resigns as Buyout Offer Stirs Turmoil

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 14 April 2021

Toshiba’s president Nobuaki Kurumatani has resigned, the firm announced Wednesday, as a buyout offer from a private equity fund reportedly stirs turmoil inside the Japanese company.

The resignation came as reports said two other funds were considering their own offers for the Japanese household name, potentially setting up a bidding war.

In a statement, Toshiba said the board had accepted Kurumatani’s resignation, without giving details on why he had asked to step down. He will be replaced by chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa, the firm said.

The move comes as board members raise questions about the buyout offer from CVC Capital Partners, where Kurumatani formerly headed Japanese operations.

The private equity firm is reportedly offering a deal in excess of $20 billion (roughly Rs. 1,50,410 crores), though there are reports that some in Toshiba see that sum as too small.

The Financial Times said Wednesday that another private equity fund, KKR, is planning to offer its own larger buyout proposal.

Bloomberg News reported that a third, Canadian Brookfield Asset Management, was also exploring a possible offer.

Toshiba last week confirmed it had received an offer from CVC Capital Partners which would take Toshiba private.

Delisting the firm could produce faster decision-making by Toshiba’s management, which has clashed with shareholders recently.

It could also allow Toshiba to concentrate resources on renewable energies and other core businesses.

‘Sticky situation’
CVC and Toshiba have close ties.

Kurumatani worked for the fund between 2017 and 2018, and a senior executive at CVC Japan currently serves as an outside director on Toshiba’s board.

That closeness has reportedly sparked concern, and Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners, said Kurumatani’s departure would “remove uncertainty over potential conflicts of interest”.

It will also “force the board to seek other offers that are in the best interests of shareholders”, he told AFP.

“It is a very sticky situation at present.”

The turmoil inside Toshiba is a fresh blow for the firm, which has been trying to improve its governance after an accounting scandal in 2015 and the 2017 bankruptcy of its US nuclear subsidiary.

After sweeping restructuring, its earnings rebounded and it returned to the prestigious first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in January.

Any buyout offer is likely to face significant challenges, including securing financing and regulatory approval.

Last week Toshiba warned the financing assistance CVC is expected to seek was likely to involve “a substantial amount of time and considerable complexity”.

Toshiba shares jumped 4.46 percent to JPY 4,800 (roughly Rs. 3,300) shortly after markets opened in Tokyo.

The CVC offer is reportedly around JPY 5,000 (roughly Rs. 3,400) a share, but Tang said he believes “a price north of JPY 6,000 (roughly Rs. 4,100) is necessary to get shareholders over the line”

Science

ISRO’s Faces SSLV-D1 Data Loss at Terminal Phase of the Mission, Placed in Wrong Orbit

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By ANI | Updated: 8 August 2022

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday said its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) placed satellites into elliptical orbit instead of a circular orbit. Sharing the updates of its satellite launch, ISRO said “SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356kx76km elliptical orbit instead of 356km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2.”

Earlier in the day, ISRO launched its first new rocket the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) and a student-made satellite-AzaadiSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

To mark the country’s celebrations of “Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the SSLV, co-passenger satellite called “AzaadiSAT” comprising 75 payloads built by 750 students from 75 rural government schools across India was launched.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath on Sunday said that both Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) were injected but the “orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable.”

“All stages performed normal. Both satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable,” the ISRO chief said.

He further said that the SSLV-D1 suffered data loss at the terminal phase of the mission.

“In the terminal phase of the mission, some data loss is occurring. We are analysing the data to conclude the final outcome of the mission with respect to achieving a stable orbit,” Somanath added.

Girls who designed the satellite also witnessed the SSLV-D1 launch. The general public also witnessed the launch from the viewing gallery of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

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Baidu Bags License to Operate China’s First Fully Driverless Robotaxi Service

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 August 2022

China search engine giant Baidu said on Monday it has obtained permits to operate fully driverless robotaxi services on open roads from two Chinese cities, the first of their kind in the country.

The permits, awarded by the southwestern municipality of Chongqing and the central city of Wuhan, allow commercial robotaxis to offer rides to the public without human safety drivers in the car. They come into effect on Monday.

Baidu said they marked a “turning point” in China’s policy-making towards autonomous driving.

“These permits have deep significance for the industry,” Wei Dong, chief safety operation officer of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, told Reuters in an interview. “If we think of the exploration of space, this moment is equal to landing on the moon.”

At first, Baidu will deploy a batch of five fee-charging robotaxis in each city, where they will be allowed to operate in designated areas from 9am to 5pm in Wuhan and 9:30am to 4:30pm in Chongqing, the company said in a statement.

The service areas span 30 square km in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District and 13 square km in the Wuhan Economic & Technological Development Zone.

In April, Baidu’s Apollo and Toyota-backed Pony.ai said that they received permits in Beijing to deploy robotaxis without safety drivers in the driver’s seat on open roads within a 60 square km area. But the Beijing permits still require them to have a safety driver in the passenger seat. These services have started.

Baidu is also in talks with local governments in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, to secure licenses within a year to test fully-driverless and unpaid robotaxis in those cities, according to Wei.

China’s efforts to fast-track autonomous vehicle trials and permits come as US regulators are also pushing ahead with milestone-setting autonomous driving policies.

In January, self-driving company Cruise received a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission that allows it to offer paid and fully driverless rides from 10 pm to 6 am in select streets in San Francisco.

Apollo Go, Baidu’s robotaxi service, has operated over 1 million rides across 10 Chinese cities since its launch in 2020.

Baidu has not reported any problems with the service and has not given a breakdown for how much it has invested in the project.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk Challenges Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to Public Debate Over Bot Users, Says Deal Cold Move Ahead

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By Associated Press | Updated: 8 August 2022

Elon Musk said Saturday that his planned $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.5 lakh crore) takeover of Twitter should move forward if the company can confirm some details about how it measures whether user accounts are ‘spam bots’ or real people.

The billionaire and Tesla CEO has been trying to back out of his April agreement to buy the social media company, leading Twitter to sue him last month to complete the acquisition. Musk countersued, accusing Twitter of misleading his team about the true size of its user base and other problems he said amounted to fraud and breach of contract.

Both sides are headed toward an October trial in a Delaware court.

“If Twitter simply provides their method of sampling 100 accounts and how they’re confirmed to be real, the deal should proceed on original terms,” Musk tweeted early Saturday. “However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not.”

Musk, who has more than 100 million Twitter followers, went on to challenge Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to a “public debate about the Twitter bot percentage.”

The company has repeatedly disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission an estimate that fewer than 5 percent of user accounts are fake or spam, with a disclaimer that it could be higher. Musk waived his right to further due diligence when he signed the April merger agreement.

Twitter has argued in court that Musk is deliberately trying to tank the deal and using the bot question as an excuse because market conditions have deteriorated and the acquisition no longer serves his interests. In a court filing Thursday, it describes his counterclaims as an imagined story “contradicted by the evidence and common sense.”

“Musk invents representations Twitter never made and then tries to wield, selectively, the extensive confidential data Twitter provided him to conjure a breach of those purported representations,” company attorneys wrote.

While Musk has tried to keep the focus on bot disclosures, Twitter’s legal team has been digging for information about a host of tech investors and entrepreneurs connected to Musk in a wide-ranging subpoena that could net some of their private communications with the Tesla CEO.

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Apps

Twitter Breach Said to Have Exposed Anonymous Account Owners

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By Associated Press | Updated: 6 August 2022

A vulnerability in Twitter’s software that exposed an undetermined number of owners of anonymous accounts to potential identity compromise last year was apparently exploited by a malicious actor, the social media company said Friday.

It did not confirm a report that data on 5.4 million users was offered for sale online as a result but said users worldwide were affected.

The breach is especially worrisome because many Twitter account owners, including human rights activists, do not disclose their identities in their profiles for security reasons that include fear of persecution by repressive authorities.

“This is very bad for many who use pseudonymous Twitter accounts,” US Naval Academy data security expert Jeff Kosseff tweeted.

The vulnerability allowed someone to determine during log-in whether a particular phone number or email address was tied to an existing Twitter account, thereby revealing account owners, the company said.

Twitter said it did not know how many users may have been affected, and stressed that no passwords were exposed.

“We can confirm the impact was global,” a Twitter spokesperson said via email. “We cannot determine exactly how many accounts were impacted or the location of the account holders.”

Twitter’s acknowledgment in a blog post Friday followed a report last month by the digital privacy advocacy group Restore Privacy detailing how data presumably obtained from the vulnerability was being sold on a popular hacking forum for $30,000 (roughly Rs. 28.9 lakh).

A security researcher discovered the flaw in January, informed Twitter and was paid a reported $5,000 (roughly Rs. 4 lakh) bounty. Twitter said the bug, introduced in a June 2021 software update, was immediately fixed.

Twitter said it learned about the data sale on the hacking forum from media reports and “confirmed that a bad actor had taken advantage of the issue before it was addressed.”

It said it was directly notifying all account owners that it can confirm were affected.

“We are publishing this update because we aren’t able to confirm every account that was potentially impacted, and are particularly mindful of people with pseudonymous accounts who can be targeted by state or other actors,” the company said.

It recommended users seeking to keep their identities veiled not add a publicly known phone number or email address to their Twitter account.

“If you operate a pseudonymous Twitter account, we understand the risks an incident like this can introduce and deeply regret that this happened,” it said.

The revelation of the breach comes while Twitter is in a legal battle with Tesla CEO Elon Musk over his attempt to back out from his previous offer to buy San Francisco-based Twitter for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,500 crore).

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Internet

Google Launches ‘India Ki Udaan’ to Mark 75 Years of Country’s Independence

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 6 August 2022

Capturing the milestones the country has achieved in its 75-year journey since independence, software major Google has unveiled an online project, drawing from rich archives and featuring artistic illustrations to tell the story of India.

The project – India ki Udaan – executed by Google Arts and Culture celebrates the achievements of the country and is “themed on the unwavering and undying spirit of India over these past 75 years”.

It was officially launched at a glittering event held at the Sunder Nursery here on Friday in the presence of Union Culture and Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy and senior officials of the culture ministry and Google.

As part of the countrywide celebrations to commemorate 75 years of independence, Google also announced its collaboration with the Ministry of Culture focused “on reaching informative online content that showcases the contributions of Indians and the evolution of India since 1947 to support the government’s year-long ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ programme”, the software giant said in a statement.

It also announced that its popular Doodle4Google contest for 2022, themed on “In the next 25 years, my India will…”, is now open for entries to the students of Classes 1-10.

“The winner of this year’s Doodle4Google will see their artwork on the Google homepage in India on November 14 and win a Rs. 5 lakh college scholarship, a Rs. 2 lakh technology package for their school or non-profit organisation, a recognition of achievement, Google hardware and fun Google collectibles. Four group winners and 15 finalists will also win exciting prizes,” it said.

Reddy urged the Google team to create a special doodle on “Har Ghar Tiranga”, which would encourage its employees and others to enthusiastically take part in the campaign.

In his speech, the minister also said Google could help the culture ministry in digital mapping of the boundaries of its over 3,000 centrally-protected monuments that will help in better monitoring of the sites and checking encroachment.

It can also help in digitisation of rare archival material, he added.

“Therefore, we urge the Google team to be a partner in the government’s transformative journey as also to promote India’s tourism destinations,” Reddy said.

“To mark 75 years of India’s independence, Google announced the launch of a series of special initiatives across its products and services that will offer content and experiences created especially for the occasion to hundreds of millions of Indians through the anniversary year,” the statement said.

The centrepiece of its celebrations is a new online collection titled India Ki Udaan, available on the Google Arts and Culture website. It pays tributes to India’s rich cultural history and includes iconic moments from the last 75 years.

Published in English and Hindi, it allows people to explore more than 120 illustrations and 21 stories created by 10 talented artists, alongside exhibitions from various institutions – including the Ministry of Tourism, the Museum of Art and Photography, the Heritage Directorate of the Indian Railways, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Dastkari Haat Samiti.

“This initiative offers a unique view of India’s remarkable moments and lets people discover some of the most memorable moments in India’s modern history, its iconic personalities, its proudest scientific and sporting achievements, and how women in India continue to inspire the world. This commemorative collection will be expanded with a unique blend of archives and artistry for people in India and across the globe,” Google said.

Merging technologies and India’s rich cultural heritage, the new Google Arts and Culture collection, “India Ki Udaan”, (literally translated as “India takes flight”), “is themed on the unwavering and undying spirit of India over these past 75 years”, it added.

Simon Rein, senior programme manager at Google Arts and Culture, told PTI that the project “marries the rich archival content with artistic talent as demonstrated by illustrators”.

A physical representation of the new digital collection was also set up at the venue, with a kite-shaped digital screen, pictures with augmented reality experience and other tech-driven experiences.

Rein said kite has been used as an “optimistic metaphor” to describe India’s journey in the last 75 years as also to engage and educate the audience at home and also those who are not from India but wish to learn about its story.

In its 10th year in India, Google Arts and Culture has showcased the country’s rich culture in many ways. Working with more than 100 partners in India, it has brought the country’s cultural heritage to people all over the world.

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Mobiles

Greek Government Rocked by Resignations Amid Long-Simmering Surveillance Scandal

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 6 August 2022

Greece’s conservative government was rocked Friday by a long-simmering surveillance scandal after its intelligence chief and a close aide to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis resigned in the space of an hour. Panagiotis Kontoleon offered his resignation due to management “errors” during his time in the role, Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.

The announcement that Kontoleon had resigned from his position at the head of national intelligence service EYP came less than an hour after the secretary general of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also quit.

The resignations came a week after the leader of the country’s Socialist opposition party, Nikos Androulakis, filed a complaint with the supreme court over “attempted” spying on his mobile phone using Predator malware.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

The government has consistently denied any state involvement, saying it had not bought software of that type, but the rows have sparked an outcry in the country.

Government spokesman Yiannis Economou has said it was “plausible” that individuals used Predator to spy and that all of Europe faced surveillance threats.

In November, Greek minister of state George Gerapetritis had insisted to AFP that there is “no surveillance of journalists in Greece” by the state.

“Greece fully adheres to the values of democratic society and rule of law, especially pluralism and the freedom of the press,” Gerapetritis said.

As such, he argued there was “no need for further action” to verify the alleged monitoring of investigative journalist Stavros Malichudis.

Kontoleon, who was appointed EYP head in 2019 after Mitsotakis’s conservative party won power that year, had implied while in that role that the journalists had been targeted on the order of foreign intelligence services.

Investigative websites Reporters United and Inside Story have accused Dimitriadis — a nephew of Mitsotakis — of being linked to the alleged spying scandals involving Androulakis and Greek financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

Dimitriadis on Friday threatened to sue Reporters United and leftist daily Efsyn unless they withdraw a story on the case. Koukakis was also warned to refrain from retweeting the story.

In one of his first acts upon assuming power in 2019, Mitsotakis raised eyebrows by attaching the national intelligence service to his office.

The main opposition party, the left-wing Syriza, called the affair “a huge scandal”. Its leader, former premier Alexis Tsipras, said the resignation of Dimitriadis was “an admission of guilt” and that Mitsotakis himself bore some of the responsibility.

“Mr Mitsotakis must give explanations to the Greek people over his own Watergate,” Tsipras said.

A dystopian, Orwellian reality

Experts note that Predator, originally developed in North Macedonia and subsequently in Israel, can access both messages and conversations.

“A few days ago I was informed by the European Parliament that there was an attempt to bug my mobile phone with Predator surveillance software,” Androulakis told the media as he left a court in Athens on July 26.

“Finding out who is behind these harmful practices is not a personal matter but a democratic duty,” he added.

The European Parliament set up a special service for MEPs to check their phones for illegal surveillance software following hacks using a spyware similar to Predator called Pegasus.

Androulakis used the service for “a precautionary check of his phone on June 28, 2022”.

“From the first check, a suspicious link related to the Predator surveillance tool was detected,” his PASOK party said in a statement.

The software can infiltrate mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

“Predator is among the most expensive spyware and is out of reach for individuals,” cybersecurity specialist Anastasios Arampatzis told AFP, saying only a state would need its sophisticated security features.

“Security and the protection of one’s private life must be guaranteed by any democratic regime. If a state spies on its citizens, we’re heading towards a dystopian, Orwellian reality.”

Spain’s intelligence chief was sacked earlier this year after it emerged that top politicians — including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan separatists — had been targeted by phone hacking.

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