By Press Trust of India | Updated: 17 August 2022
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday launched the LDF government’s own e-taxi service app — named ‘Kerala Savari’ — which is said to be the first such initiative by any state in the country. Vijayan also flagged off, at the app launch event, the auto-rickshaws which would be operating under the new online taxi hiring service that has been rolled out by the state Labour Department.
Under the new initiative, the state government will link the existing autorickshaw-taxi networks in Kerala with an aim to ensure safe and dispute-free travel for the public at affordable rates prevailing in the state.
It is also envisaged as a helping hand to the autorickshaw-taxi labour sector, which is facing several challenges, the government had said last month when it had announced the launch of the service.
The government had said it has been learnt that there was a difference of 20-30 percent between the rate received by the motor transport labourers and the rate charged from the passengers in all the existing online cab services.
As people prefer to use online taxi services, many of the conventional taxi stands have disappeared and a large number of motor transport workers have been rendered jobless, the government had said.
The Kerala Motor Transport Workers’ Welfare Fund Board is the implementation agency, which would act with the support of the departments like Legal Metrology, Transport, IT, Police and so on.
Kerala Savari would charge only eight percent service charge in addition to the rate fixed by the government, which was 20 to 30 percent in other online taxis, the government had said.
The amount, collected as service charge, would be utilised for the project implementation and promotional incentives for passengers and drivers, it added.
A police clearance certificate has been made mandatory for drivers joining the scheme and the app also has the feature of a ‘panic button’ which can be used in case there is any accident or another similar danger.
“It has been decided to implement the scheme across the state. At present, as many as 500 auto-taxi drivers in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation limits are the members of the scheme. Officials of various departments have imparted training to them in various subjects,” the government had said.
SpaceX Rocket With Next International Space Station Crew Enters Orbit, Including Russian Cosmonaut: All Details
By Reuters | Updated: 6 October 2022
A SpaceX rocket soared into orbit from Florida on Wednesday carrying the next long-term International Space Station crew, with a Russian cosmonaut, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut flying together in a demonstration of US-Russian teamwork in space despite Ukraine war tensions.
A high-ranking official of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said shortly after the launch that the flight marked “a new phase of our cooperation” with the US space agency NASA.
The SpaceX launch vehicle, consisting of a Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endurance, lifted off into clear skies at noon EDT (9:30pm IST) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The two-stage, 23-story-tall Falcon 9 ascended from the launch tower as its nine Merlin engines roared to life in billowing clouds of vapor and a reddish-orange fireball.
The mission is notable for the inclusion of Anna Kikina, 38, the lone female cosmonaut on active duty with Roscosmos, making it the first spaceflight with a Russian launched from US soil in two decades. As the spacecraft entered Earth orbit, Kikina radioed her thanks to NASA, Roscosmos and their International Space Station (ISS) partners for “giving us this great opportunity.”
“We’re so glad to do it together,” Kikina said.
Kikina, who had trained in the US for the flight since spring 2021, was essentially swapping places with a NASA astronaut who took her seat aboard a Russian Soyuz flight to the ISS last month under a new ride-sharing deal signed by NASA and Roscosmos in July.
About nine minutes after Wednesday’s launch, the rocket’s upper stage delivered the Crew Dragon into a preliminary orbit as it streaked through space at nearly 16,000 miles per hour (27,000 kph). The reusable lower-stage booster flew itself back to Earth and landed safely on a drone recovery vessel at sea.
The four crew members and their autonomously flying capsule were due to reach the ISS in about 29 hours, on Thursday evening, to begin a 150-day science mission aboard the orbital laboratory some 250 miles (420 km) above Earth.
The mission, designated Crew-5, marks the fifth full-fledged ISS crew NASA has flown aboard a SpaceX vehicle since the private rocket venture founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk began sending US astronauts aloft in May 2020.
The team was led by Nicole Aunapu Mann, 45, who became the first Native American woman sent to orbit by NASA and the first woman to take the commander’s seat of a SpaceX Crew Dragon.
Moments after reaching orbit, as mission control wished the crew “Godspeed,” Mann radioed back, “Awesome. Thank you so much to the Falcon team. Whew! That was a smooth ride uphill.”
Mann, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel and combat fighter pilot, is also among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions aimed at returning humans to the moon later this decade.
The designated pilot was Mann’s fellow spaceflight rookie Josh Cassada, 49, a U.S. Navy aviator and test pilot with a doctorate in high-energy particle physics. Rounding out the crew from Japan’s space agency JAXA was Koichi Wakata, 59, a robotics expert making his fifth voyage to space.
The team will be welcomed by seven existing ISS occupants – the Crew-4 team consisting of three Americans and an Italian astronaut – as well as two Russians and the NASA astronaut who flew with them to orbit on a Soyuz flight.
The new arrivals are set to conduct more than 200 experiments, many focused on medical research ranging from 3-D “bio-printing” of human tissue to a study of bacteria cultured in microgravity.
ISS, the length of a football field, has been continuously occupied since 2000, operated by a US-Russian-led consortium that includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries. It was born in part to improve relations between Washington and Moscow following the Soviet Union’s collapse and the end of Cold War rivalries that spurred the original American-Soviet space race.
NASA-Roscosmos relations have been tested since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and US imposed sweeping sanctions against Moscow.
At a post-launch NASA-SpaceX briefing on Wednesday, Sergei Krikalev, head of human spaceflight for Roscosmos, said he and the agency chief Yuri Borisov were seeking to ease tensions after Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, raised questions about the future of the ISS partnership.
Krikalev cited bilateral teamwork in space dating back to the Apollo-Soyuz era in 1975, saying, “We started our cooperation many years ago, over 40 years ago, and will continue our cooperation as long as I can imagine.”
The July crew-exchange deal paved the way for resuming routine joint US-Russian flights to the ISS that had begun during the space shuttle era and continued after shuttles ceased flying in 2011. From then until SpaceX began offering crewed launch services nine years later, Soyuz was the only avenue to orbit for US astronauts.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Roblox Faces Lawsuit for Enabling Minor’s Sexual, Financial Exploitation; Meta, Snap, Discord Also Targeted
By Reuters | Updated: 6 October 2022
Roblox has been accused of enabling a California girl’s sexual and financial exploitation by adult men, according to a lawsuit against the online gaming firm on Tuesday. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, also targets online chat company Discord, Snapchat parent Snap and Instagram parent Meta. Snap and Meta are already facing dozens of similar lawsuits.
Meta declined to comment. Roblox and Snap could not immediately be reached.
A Discord spokesperson said the company has a “zero-tolerance policy for anyone who endangers or sexualizes children” but declined to comment directly on the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, which was seen by Reuters, the minor was born in 2009 and began using Roblox when she was nine or ten years old. Roblox is popular with children under 13 but also has adult users.
Starting in early 2020, the minor came into contact with adult men through Roblox, who encouraged her to sign up for Discord, Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with them, according to the lawsuit. None of the companies required parental consent, and Discord did not verify the minor’s age even though it said it did not allow users under 13 years old, the lawsuit said.
The men exploited her by encouraging her to drink and abuse prescription drugs and send sexually explicit photos of herself, according to the lawsuit. One man allegedly persuaded her to send him money.
The minor suffered severe mental health problems leading to suicide attempts and hospitalisation as a result of her experience, the lawsuit said.
Both the minor and her mother claim the companies failed to take steps to keep minors using their platforms safe, and that Snap and Instagram encouraged addiction in children. They are seeking unspecified damages.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Spotify Acquires Content Moderation Firm Kinzen to Detect Harmful Content on the Platform
By Reuters | Updated: 5 October 2022
Audio-streaming service Spotify Technology on Wednesday said it had acquired Kinzen, a firm that has helped it identify harmful content on the platform.
The acquisition is part of Spotify’s efforts to deal with harmful content on its service after a backlash earlier this year over “The Joe Rogan Experience”, in which the podcaster was accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
The Dublin-based firm has been working with Spotify since 2020, initially focusing on the integrity of election-related content around the world. Since then, Kinzen’s remit has expanded to include targeting misinformation, disinformaton and hate speech.
“Kinzen offers a combination of tools and expertise to help us better understand the content on our platform and emerging abuse trends,” said Sarah Hoyle, Spotify’s head of trust and safety.
Deal terms were not disclosed.
Earlier this year, Spotify said it would be more transparent in how it determines what is acceptable and unacceptable content. It published its platform rules for the first time in January. In June, it formed a Safety Advisory Council to provide input on harmful content.
Kinzen will provide early warnings about problems in different markets, helping Spotify more effectively moderate content in more languages.
In other news, Spotify recently announced the launch of a new audiobooks service in the US. Under the new initiative, the streaming service will offer over 3,00,000 titles. Users in the US will now be able to find audiobooks as a separate section on Spotify alongside music and podcasts in their library, in search, and in their curated recommendations on the Spotify home page.
The Sweden-based company announced in a blog post that users can discover audiobooks in the Spotify app, and will be redirected to purchase them on the company’s website. Once purchased, the audiobook will remain accessible from the user’s library.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Amazon Suspends at Least 50 Workers After Employees Protested Against Fire Incident
By Associated Press | Updated: 5 October 2022
Amazon has suspended at least 50 warehouse employees who refused to work their shifts following a trash compactor fire at one of its New York facilities, according to union organisers.
The company suspended the workers, with pay, on Tuesday, a day after the fire disrupted operations at the Staten Island warehouse that voted to unionise earlier this year.
Derrick Palmer, the Vice President of the Amazon Labor Union, said day-shift workers were sent home with pay due to the fire, which began late afternoon Monday. But night-shift employees, who were just coming in for their shift, were told to remain in a break area until management figured out the situation, he said.
Dozens of workers began to raise concerns about safety. Some were worried the air in the facility would be unsafe to breathe because of smoke from the fire. Eventually, roughly 100 workers held a sit-down protest at the facility’s main office, demanding to be sent home with pay.
“They were saying ‘we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel safe to work’,” Palmer said.
Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan said in a prepared statement that the company had asked all night shift employees to report to their shifts on Monday after the New York Fire Department certified the building as safe.
“While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission,” Flaningan said. Some workers had also walked out, while others continued with the protest, according to organisers.
The suspended workers were notified by email and phone that their security badges would be inactive during the duration of the probe, Palmer said. The suspensions are in effect indefinitely as the company investigates. The number of suspended workers could rise. Seth Goldstein, an attorney for the union, said the workers intend to file unfair labour practice charges against Amazon with the National Labor Relations Board.
Amazon has filed over two dozen objections with the agency seeking to toss out the union’s April win. Meanwhile, warehouse workers at a separate facility near Albany, New York will be voting in their own union election next week.
SpaceX to Fly Russian Cosmonaut Anna Kikina to International Space Station Amid Ukraine War
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 October 2022
The United States will on Wednesday carry a Russian to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX ship, in a voyage that carries symbolic significance amid the Ukraine war.
Anna Kikina, the only female cosmonaut in service, is part of the Crew-5 mission, which also includes one Japanese and two American astronauts.
Blast-off is set for noon from the Kennedy Space Center, with the weather forecast so far promising.
Two weeks ago, an American astronaut took off on a Russian Soyuz rocket for the orbital platform.
The long-planned astronaut exchange program has been maintained despite soaring tensions between the two countries since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Ensuring the operation of the ISS has become one of the few remaining areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia.
“When you each are flying other’s crew members, you know that you have a huge responsibility that you’re promising to the other country,” NASA associate administrator Kathy Lueders told reporters in a recent press conference.
“At a working level, we really appreciated the constancy in the relationship, even during some really, really tough times geopolitically.”
Fifth female cosmonaut
Kikina, 38 and an engineer by training, will become the fifth Russian female professional cosmonaut to go into space.
“I hope in the near future we have more women in the cosmonaut corps,” the Novosibirsk native told AFP in August.
The Soviet Union put the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963, nearly 20 years before the first American woman Sally Ride. Since then, America has flown dozens more women.
It will also be the first spaceflight for American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, but the fifth for Japan’s Koichi Wakata.
After a journey of about 30 hours, their ship will dock with the station on Thursday, ready to begin a five-month science mission and relieve the four members of Crew-4, who will stay a few days for handover.
Crew-5’s arrival will bring the total number of astronauts on the ISS to 11, including two other Russians and an American who arrived on the recent Soyuz.
ISS future unclear
Kikina will be the first Russian to fly with Elon Musk’s SpaceX which, along with Boeing, has a “taxi service” contract with NASA.
Musk himself waded into the conflict Thursday by proposing a peace deal that involved re-running, under UN supervision, annexation referendums in Moscow-occupied regions of Ukraine and acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula.
The post enraged Ukrainians, including the country’s envoy to Germany, who responded with an expletive.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington have increased considerably in the space field after the announcement of American sanctions against the Russian aerospace industry, in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia thus announced this summer that it wanted to leave the ISS “after 2024” in favor of creating its own station, albeit without setting a precise date.
The director of manned flights at Roscosmos, Sergei Krikaliov, declared Monday he hoped the Russian government agrees to extend participation in the ISS after 2024.
The United States, for its part, wants to continue operating until at least 2030, then transition to commercially run stations.
As things stand, the ISS cannot function without joint cooperation, as the US side is responsible for power and life support and the Russian side for propulsion and maintaining orbit.
Between 2011 — when the Space Shuttle program ended — and SpaceX’s first flight to the ISS in 2020, the United States was dependent on Russia for flying its crew to the station, paying tens of millions of dollars per seat.
The loss of this monopoly represents a significant income reduction for the Russian space program. The current crew exchange program, by contrast, is a barter-based agreement with no exchange of money.
RuPay Credit Card UPI Usage: No Charge for Transactions Up to Rs. 2,000, NPCI Says
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 5 October 2022
There will be no charge for RuPay credit card use on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) for transactions up to Rs. 2,000 in line with the RBI direction, a recent NPCI circular said.
RuPay credit card has been operational for the last four years, and all major banks are enabled and are issuing incremental cards for both commercial and retail segments.
“During credit card on-boarding on the apps, the device binding and UPI PIN setting process shall include and be construed as customer consent for credit card enablement for all types of transactions,” the circular dated October 4 said.
For international transaction enablement, the existing process from the app will apply to credit cards too, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) said in the circular.
Nil Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) would apply for this category up to the transaction amount less than and equal to Rs. 2,000, it noted.
MDR is the cost paid by a merchant to a bank for accepting payment from their customers via credit or debit cards every time a card is used for payments in their stores. The merchant discount rate is expressed in the percentage of the transaction amount.
“This circular is applicable from the issuance date and members are requested to take note and bring the contents of this circular to the notice of the relevant stakeholders,” it said.
“The basic objective of linking credit cards to UPI is to provide a customer with a wider choice of payments. Currently, UPI is linked through debit cards to savings accounts or current accounts,” Reserve Bank Deputy Governor T Rabi Sankar had earlier said.
As per the circular, UPI apps would ensure complete transparency on transactions made by a customer using a credit card, by means of easily accessible transaction history and clearly visible user interface while making the payment.
Credit card issuers and apps will send appropriate notifications or communications to the customer during each event of the credit card lifecycle for such transactions, as per the circular.
The step will promote the homegrown payment gateway and encourage wider acceptance of RuPay cards.
It further said there is a need to maintain a separate mobile number attached to an add-on card.
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