Three-wheelers to join ride-hailing bandwagon

Three-wheelers to join ride-hailing bandwagon

They had called a strike demanding a ban on fast-growing ride-hailing services in order to ensure their long-held dominance on the streets and keep competitors at bay. But CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers are now coming to terms with the changing reality and accepting the technological transformation.

They have started joining a new mobile app platform called "Hellow".

The mode of transport, which has drawn a lot of flak over the years because of high fares and poor customer service, will start using the app from March.

A local software company, Top II, started the test run yesterday. As many as 500 CNG-run auto-rickshaws have so far been registered with the service expected to be launched in a month and a half, said Rakibul Hasan, director marketing of the firm.

The safety of the commuters and government-approved fares would be maintained, he added.

According to the government-set rate, fare for the first two kilometres is Tk 40 while it is Tk 12 for each of the next kilometres. The waiting charge is Tk 2 for every minute.

Commuters have to spend close to double for availing a ride-share service like Uber or Pathao cars. For motorbikes, the fares are more or less similar.

Actually, we are trying to modernise the auto-rickshaw service as its demand is still high despite the ride-hailing services," said Rakibul.

CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers are often criticised for charging way more than the government-set fares and behaving badly with passengers.

We have addressed these issues and arranged training session for many drivers over the last four months. We want to make it clear that the platform will not have any indecent drivers," Rakibul told The Daily Star.

Leaders of the Auto-rickshaw Workers' Oikya Parishad said the drivers also have understood the challenges and they are now willing to cooperate.

Sometimes, people get scared even at the mention of the words 'CNG driver'. We want this situation to change," said Shakhawat Hossain Dulal, general secretary of the platform.

It will take time but at least we are giving it a try," he said.

Talking to this correspondent, Fathema Khatun, who uses Uber to go to work, said she hopes that the CNG fare would go down significantly if the vehicles are run using any app.

Drivers will share 15 percent of their revenue of each trip with Top II, Rakibul said.

Dulal, however, said they have not yet finalised anything about the issue.

The inception of Pathao and Uber, when launched in 2016, was a much-desired relief for commuters against the “hard to get” auto-rickshaws. is resulted in a drastic drop in CNG auto-rickshaw demand.

Late in November last year, CNG drivers even demonstrated across the capital and the port city demanding withdrawal of the Pathao, Uber and other ride-sharing service.

CNG-run auto-rickshaws started losing customers since ride- sharing services began,” said Rokeya Prachi, communication director of 'Hellow' authorities.

Prachi, who is also a national film award winning actress, said, “Riders were also not comfortable with the auto-rickshaws for many reasons. We have worked on those issues following a survey.

She also said auto-rickshaw drivers will get adequate passengers if their vehicles can be brought under this app-based service and hoped that this will end squabbling over fares.

The app will now come under the “Ride-sharing Service Guidelines 2017” approved by the government yesterday.

Prachi said they also have plans to launch car and motorcycle services through their app, which will be in Bangla.

At a recent press conference, Top II said their service will be available round the clock and the drivers will be bound to go anywhere in the city.

Within a short time we will introduce a customer care service," said Rakibul.

Currently, there are only 13,000 government registered CNG-run auto-rickshaws in the city. The total number of the vehicles is over 25,000.

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2 ‘robbers’ beaten dead in Narayanganj

2 ‘robbers’ beaten dead in Narayanganj

Two youths, believed to be robbers, were beaten dead at Narayanganj’s Bandar upazila early today.

The identities of the deceased could not be known, but they were aged around 25-28, our local correspondent reports.

Abul Kalam, officer-in-charge (OC) of Bandar Police Station, said some 10-12 masked robbers attacked the house of one Rafique Munshi in Musapur union around 3:00am.

Locals gave a chase and managed to catch two of them and beat them dead, he said. Six villagers were also injured during the chasing, the police official said.

The bodies have been sent to Narayanganj General Hospital morgue, he added.

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Hong Kong democracy leader jailed 2nd time for 2014 protest

Hong Kong democracy leader jailed 2nd time for 2014 protest

Wong and 19 other demonstrators were found guilty of criminal contempt of court because they refused to obey a court injunction order to leave a protest zone in late November 2014.

The protest was part of the biggest populist uprising for decades in Hong Kong and posed a spirited challenge to Beijing’s Communist Party leaders in demanding full democracy.

For more than two months, tens of thousands of mostly student and young demonstrators camped out in tents on major highways, defying government, police and Chinese demands to leave. Umbrellas became a symbol of defiance after protesters used them as shields against police pepper spray and batons.

High Court Judge Andrew Chan said that even though Wong only stayed in the protest area for 90 minutes on the day in question, “his involvement in obstructing the clearance operation was deep and extensive. He played a leading role on that day”.

In view of his overall involvement, I am of the view that the only appropriate punishment . will be one of immediate imprisonment,” said Chan.

Another activist, Raphael Wong, was also jailed, while the remaining protesters, including former student leader Lester Shum, received suspended sentences.

Thank you your honor for your ruling. Our determination to fight for genuine universal suffrage will not waver,” stated Raphael Wong in the courtroom before being taken away.

Lawyers for both the Wongs said they would appeal, but they were denied an immediate request for bail.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 amid promises that the Asian financial hub would enjoy a high degree of autonomy under a so-called ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement.

A perceived tightening of control by Beijing’s Communist Party leaders in recent years, however, has fueled a groundswell of pro-democracy activism aimed at defending the city’s constitutionally enshrined freedoms.

While a spirited young generation has given Hong Kong’s flagging push for democracy fresh impetus, some 100 key activists have, or could be, jailed in upcoming trials, in what critics say is an attempt to counter the movement’s momentum.

Upon learning about the sentence from his lawyers shortly before the court hearing started, Joshua Wong looked up from behind the dock, squeezed his eyes shut and sighed. Wong chose not to fight the charge in the spirit of civil disobedience.

Wong had begun serving a six-months imprisonment sentence last August for a separate unlawful assembly charge, but he was granted bail by Hong Kong’s highest court, which heard the appeal against the sentence on Tuesday. It would decide upon the case on a later date.

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Deconstructing bitcoins: Future of money or a fraud?

Deconstructing bitcoins: Future of money or a fraud?

Bitcoin’s popularity in Asia has had a positive influence on other alternative cryptocurrencies such as ethereum and litecoin. Clearly there is a great demand for such digital money, even though its volatility hurts.

Asia has reacted both warmly and violently to the rising interest and craze in cryptocurrencies.

Asian regulators have either out rightly banned the use of the most popular cryptocurrency – mostly bitcoins – in their respective countries, or issued warnings to people against its pitfalls. pan is the only exception in Asia – having legalised its use last year.

Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan made his millions (US$100 million) in record time and lost them too within a week, the Statesman reported. His example has come in handy to warn those reposing blind faith in the future of cryptocurrency.

On the other hand, Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, who is arguably Asia's richest too, and who transformed India's telecom sector with his Reliance Jio Network is reportedly contemplating floating another version of the cryptocurrency – JioCoin.

What is Bitcoin?

A cryptocurrency is a virtual currency which is encrypted and anonymous, making it secure and hard to track. It has no physical manifestation and exists only as a unique string of numbers and characters in the memory of computers. These currencies are traded on online exchanges only geared towards cryptocurrencies, reports Dawn.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency which was started in 2009 by an anonymous group or person who go/goes by the name of Satoshi Nakomoto, who vanished from the online community in 2010.

What makes Bitcoin unique is that unlike conventional currencies, no central bank or government issues cryptocurrencies and it is not legal tender - you cannot use it to pay your taxes for example. Instead the value and volume of transactions all depend on the community that trades in them. Like physical currencies, however, digital currencies are backed by trust. Whereas paper currencies require their users to trust that national state banks will stand by the value invested in them, cryptocurrencies require a more dispersed form of trust - that their algorithm will prevent fraud and in the demand and supply from other users.

Bitcoin can also be used anonymously since unlike credit cards or a bank account, there is no associated address or ID registered with your Bitcoin account -- and this is all part of the appeal of cryptocurrencies. However, Bitcoin isn't as anonymous as its fans and suspicious authorities state -- it can be possibly traced to you through your IP address, service provider or spending patterns for instance.

There are currently 16. 78 million Bitcoins in circulation with a limited number of new Bitcoins added every day. And anyone with a high-powered computer and some know-how can obtain these. Bitcoins are 'mined' by powerful algorithm-crunching computers which 'discover' new bitcoins - essentially the solving of complex mathematical puzzles through computing power. These are, in turn, validated by the 'blockchain' - a virtual grid containing nodes representing users that act as the collective validation system.

Unfortunately, mining Bitcoins requires a lot of electric power. According to the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, 10 US households can be powered for a day by the energy consumed by a single Bitcoin transaction.

What are the risks?

Most financial experts consider cryptocurrencies as highly speculative instruments. This is because they are not backed by any asset or issuer. The valuation of cryptocurrencies is not transparent and there is little information to help consumers gauge the fair value, the Straits Times reported.

At the same time, the prices of cryptocurrencies are highly speculative and can fluctuate greatly within a short period of time.

There is a high risk of a sharp reduction in prices. In the worst-case scenario, the cryptocurrency could be rendered worthless, and investors run the risk of losing all their capital.

Only time will tell if cyrptocurrency is a fraud or our collective future.

Bangladesh Bank has banned the use of Bitcoin by issuing a circular on its website. The circular reads that Bitcoin is not an authorised and legal currency in any other country in the world.

Transaction with this currency may cause a violation of the existing money laundering and terrorist financing regulations," the circular reads.

Besides, these currencies do not conform to Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947, Anti Terrorism Act 2009 and Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012, the notice adds.

Bangladeshis have been asked to refrain from performing, assisting and advertising all kind of transactions through the virtual currencies like Bitcoin to avoid financial and legal damages.

In India, there are at least 15 bitcoin exchange forums, with the majority being set up over the past two years. According to investigation agencies, with the demand and price of cryptocurrencies on the rise, cyber criminals have found innovative ways to dupe those looking to invest.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has formed a committee to fast track the process of making a law to regulate trade of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins in the country. India's main concern is to ensure clean money is being used to trade, and to prevent the misuse of cryptocurrencies by terror groups and other anti-national elements.

Amidst this, cryptocurrency dealer Pluto Exchange has announced the launch of India's first mobile application for transacting in virtual currencies.

Other Asian countries have been more harsh.

Bank Indonesia (BI) teamed up with the National Police to prevent transactions using cryptocurrency bitcoin in Bali after the central bank declared it an illegal form of payment in Indonesia, the Jakarta Post reported.

The country has warned against owning, selling and trading in cryptocurrency.

Owning virtual currencies is very risky and inherently speculative," the central bank said in a statement. The digital tokens "are prone to forming asset bubbles and tend to be used as method for money laundering and terrorism funding, so it has the potential to affect financial-system stability and harm the public.

The move highlights the challenge faced by regulators as they seek to manage potential risks from the global cryptocurrency mania while lacking the authority to prohibit its use, Bloomberg reported.

The Pakistan government has outlawed cryptocurrency and the State Bank of Pakistan's official stance is that it does not intend to legalise bitcoins or cryptocurrencies in the future, the Dawn reported.

However, this hasn't stopped an underground exchange of cryptocurrencies from mushrooming in Pakistan. One can trade in bitcoins on websites, Facebook and WhatsApp among other mediums.

The other hurdle for Bitcoin is its volatility. Although initially put forward as an eventual global substitute for sovereign currency, speculation saw its value jump more than 1900 percent in 2017 - at the beginning of the year its value was a mere US$1,000 - only to fall to below US$12,000 and then recover to around US$15,000 in a matter of days in December.

Bitcoin's popularity has had a positive influence on other alternative cryptocurrencies such as ethereum and litecoin and given birth to a whole host of new cryptocurrencies. Clearly there is a great demand for such digital money. Each one has tried to differentiate itself with new features: ZCASH, DASH and Monero lend an extra layer of anonymity, even more than other 'cryptos'.

Then there are cryptocurrencies that are geared towards specific uses. Ripple, for example, has been tailor-made to facilitate banking transactions. Filecoin and Siacoin are meant to focus on monetary exchanges on distributive storage while even the fast-food chain Burger King is coming up with its own cryptocurrency. There even are a few rappers who have issued their own cryptocurrency.

Blockchains, the underlying technology that powers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, shows more promise on the acceptability and legalisation side.

While some merchants are still hesitant to accept cryptocurrency, one businessman in Sabah has signed and sealed the sale of a piece of land in Sabah's east coast Libaran Island using Bitcoin, the Star has reported.

The deal, worth half a Bitcoin (about RM38,000), was transacted between one of Sabah's top tourism entrepreneurs Alexander Yee and his friend Polycarp Chin.

Malaysia's Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said recently that there would be no blanket ban on cryptocurrencies as such action would only curb innovation and creativity in the financial sector.

The Korea Herald quoted a Yonhap report saying nearly 2 million South Koreans are estimated to have used cryptocurrency apps in the past week (Jan 7-15).

A total of 1. 96 million people may have used apps that allow them to handle digital currencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum, last week, up from 140,000 tallied between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5, according to data from WiseApp, an application analytics company.

Cryptocurrencies have rapidly gained popularity in recent weeks among South Korean investors hoping to make quick money, prompting the government to announce a plan to rein in the frenzy over virtual currency in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Last week, the Ministry of Justice announced that the government is preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency exchanges at home.

In an opinion piece the Kathmandu Post suggested that instead of banning bitcoins, Nepal could study its underlying technology and could create a blockchain to form a regulated digital currency of its own.

Digital currencies are the future of transactions. Humankind cannot remain reliant upon paper money and metal coins. In an era of science where there are possibilities of colonising and terraforming distant planets, paper money and metal coins could be huge hurdles for humans if they are to be used as modes of transaction for any exchanges. The digital world is in need of digital money," wrote a contributor for the Kathmandu Post.

Unlike China and South Korea, whose regulators have clamped down hard on the cryptocurrency, Japan has welcomed it with open arms.

Bitcoin is recognised as legal tender in the world's third-biggest economy and nearly one third of global bitcoin transactions in December were denominated in yen.

According to various media reports, in April, Japan passed a law recognising bitcoin and other virtual currencies as legal tender while also stressing the need for transparency and financial stability.

The virtual currency bitcoin has recently seen its price skyrocket. A growing number of experts are saying the price increases are a bubble with little real economic foundation that will eventually burst and bring the price crashing down. Individual Japanese bitcoin investors - of whom there seem to be many - should take extra caution in handling the digital currency, the Japan News reported.

The price for 1 bitcoin in January 2017 was about US$1,000, but it rose dramatically during the year, briefly touching a high above US$19,000 in December.

It is difficult to predict how the bitcoin market will fluctuate from now on, but there is no mistaking the fact that it is becoming considerably capricious and unstable.

Prof. Naoyuki Iwashita of Kyoto University told the Japan News: "Whether [the price] goes up more or comes crashing down tomorrow, it won't be surprising. Only God knows.

Investors need to bear this in mind.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued two warnings about investing in these currencies in the past five months, the Straits Times reported.

It is also concerned about what are known as initial coin offerings, when digital tokens are offered to investors in much the same way that shares are in a new listing.

The MAS noted last August that if a digital token constitutes a product regulated under Singapore securities laws, then any offer of digital currency must comply with the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act.

Exemptions may be granted if it is a small offer of securities, or if the offer is made only to institutional or accredited investors.

According to a report in the Nation, in Thailand, the bitcoin frenzy is still in the early stage, with a few cases of potential frauds being pursued by the Department of Special Investigation.

In these cases, innocent investors have been lured into investing in bitcoin and other digital units with a promise of lucrative returns. These cases, which are essentially Ponzi money schemes, are illegal under Thai law, even though bitcoin and the like are not outlawed at this stage.

In addition, some Thai establishments, such as coffeeshops and bistros, have offered to accept bitcoin at their own risk due to their perceived trendiness and the entrepreneurs' personal obsessions with the new currencies.

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Breastfeeding for 6 months cuts diabetes risk in half

Breastfeeding for 6 months cuts diabetes risk in half

Women who breastfeed their babies for six months or more may be able to cut their risk of developing diabetes in the future by nearly half, according to a study Tuesday.

The findings from a three-decade US study of more than 1,200 white and African-American women were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors," said lead author Erica Gunderson, senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente.

The study showed that women who breastfed for six months or more across had a 47 percent reduction in their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, when compared to those who did not breastfeed at all.

For women who breastfed for six months or less, there was a 25 percent reduction in diabetes risk.

Researchers suggested that breastfeeding may unleash protective effects via hormones that act in the pancreas, controlling blood insulin levels and blood sugar.

The incidence of diabetes decreased in a graded manner as breastfeeding duration increased, regardless of race, gestational diabetes, lifestyle behaviors, body size, and other metabolic risk factors measured before pregnancy, implying the possibility that the underlying mechanism may be biological," Gunderson said.

Previous research has shown that breastfeeding has other long-term benefits for mothers, including a lower a risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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Provide funds to achieve SDGs : PM

Provide funds to achieve SDGs : PM

To ensure the disbursement of funds is a big challenge to achieve sustainable development goals. For this, the developed countries will have to come forward with financial and technical assistance to implement the development goals," she said.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day Bangladesh Development Forum at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel. The slogan of this year's forum is "Partnership for Development".

She also said that in addition to traditional financial assistance in dealing with environmental and climate change, the international community will have to be more attentive to the world trade system.

This can contribute to overall global development, including poverty alleviation, employment generation," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said in the development of ongoing progress, Bangladesh considers private partnerships, including international partner countries and organisations as important.

She mentioned that the government has now initiated the establishment of 100 economic zones in different areas of the country for foreign direct investment, working in other infrastructure development and implementing necessary reform programmes to create a more foreign investment-friendly environment.

In this regard, recently the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) has been formed by merging Board of Investment and Privatization Commission," she said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh has to achieve rapid growth in investment.

Increasing the productivity by geometric rates can solve the investment limitations partly. Due to proper use of education and skill, improvements in skilled workers of Bangladesh abroad will increase remittance and encourage innovative initiatives," she said.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith, vice president of the World Bank Annette Dixon, vice president of the Asian Development Bank Wencai Zhang, deputy director general of Japan's foreign affairs ministry Minoru Masujima, and director general of the Opec Fund for International Development Suleiman Jasir Al-Herbish , among others, spoke at the programme.

About 700 delegates representing Bangladesh government and various development partners are attending the event. The forum comprises of Bangladesh and its development partners and is seen as a platform to discuss the country's development process.

The last meeting of the forum took place in Dhaka in November 2015.

The forum will start its proceedings with a keynote session on implementation of the Seventh Five-Year Plan and the SDGs and the challenges Bangladesh confronts in attaining them.

Separate sessions will be held on agriculture and extreme climate conditions, creating enabling environment for foreign direct investment, addressing inequality and fostering quality education and ICT. Sessions on addressing violence against women and ensuring women empowerment and improving urban service delivery.

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High-tech skincare solutions set to shake up the industry

High-tech skincare solutions set to shake up the industry

Technology is changing our lives -- and our beauty routines. If the latest innovations from the cosmetics industry are anything to go by, skincare is in for a major, high-tech overhaul in 2018.

Here are some of the concepts that have made headlines this year.

Skincare giant Neutrogena is raising its digital game, with the introduction of its new ‘Neutrogena Skin360' app and an accompanying ‘SkinScanner'. wered by FitSkin, the SkinScanner is a tool that attaches to the user's phone and analyzes the skin via 12 high-powered lights, a 30x magnification lens and highly-accurate sensors.

The tool then provides data on the skin's condition, covering everything from moisture levels to the depth of wrinkles, transmitting the information to the app, which gives the user different scores for various skin elements. As well as offering relevant skincare advice, the app also aims to educate users about how their skin changes over time, to allow them to adjust their beauty routines accordingly.

L'Oréal is taking sun protection seriously this year, having just unveiled the first battery-free wearable electronic UV sensor. Dubbed ‘UV Sense', the sensor is designed to be worn on the thumbnail for up to two weeks, where it measures individual UV exposure and can store up to three months of data. It can be reapplied to the nail with additional adhesives, is powered by the user's mobile phone and comes with an accompanying mobile app that translates data covering the user's exposure levels and encouraging sun-safety habits when necessary.

L'Oréal has also launched a limited-edition of its pioneering ‘My UV Patch', the stretchable skin sensor it debuted in 2016. oth technologies will be available from its La Roche-Posay brand later this year.

Earlier this month, Japanese beauty brand Shiseido announced the acquisition of an XPLTM ‘Second Skin' technology from US startup Olivo Laboratories, which creates a "breathable, flexible and nearly invisible artificial skin. According to the brand, the concept could potentially offer "a number of benefits previously unachievable through traditional cosmetics or even cosmetic surgery," opening up possibilities for significantly enhanced skincare and suncare solutions via "skin shape correction.

Our transaction with Olivo is an exciting next step in our ongoing pursuit to create entirely new categories of beauty products at a global scale as a part of our VISION 2020, middle to long term strategy," said Masahiko Uotani, President and CEO of Shiseido. Olivo's groundbreaking ‘Second Skin' technology will join Shiseido's already robust innovation portfolio, which includes the personalization technology startup MATCHCo, the artificial intelligence-empowered beauty company Giaran, and our own Shiseido-developed OPTUNE, a digital, personalized skincare platform.

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Beyond Modi-Bibi Bonhomie: Limits of Indian-Israeli Convergence

Beyond Modi-Bibi Bonhomie: Limits of Indian-Israeli Convergence

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

by Manoj Joshi

In the Modi era, India-Israel relations exist in two planes. The first is the normal one of friendly relations between two states who have had normal diplomatic relations since 1992 and, from India’s point of view, have a strategic dimension based on I

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ISRO Releases First Image Captured By Cartosat-2 Series

ISRO Releases First Image Captured By Cartosat-2 Series

ISRO released an image of a part of Indore with Holkar Cricket Stadium in the centre. The image was captured by the satellite on Monday. Cartosat-2 series is the primary satellite carried by PSLV-C40 on Jan 12

CHENNAI: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday released the first image captured by Cartosat-2 series satellite, four

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China In Talks For Sale of Jet Engine Technology To Germany

China In Talks For Sale of Jet Engine Technology To Germany

WS-15 turbofan jet engine, which is purportedly designed for use in China’s J-20 stealth fighter

Export of state-of-the-art machinery to a country known for its high-quality products would improve the international image of China’s manufacturing industry

China is in talks to sell Germany state-of-the-art machinery and technology critical in the

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