New York, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — Uber is aiming to boost driver and passenger safety in an effort to rebuild trust in the brand.
The ride-hailing company has created a feature on its app to reach out to passengers and drivers if it detects an accident or unplanned stop. Drivers will also have access to a hands-free feature to pick up passengers without touching their phones, and they will no longer see data detailing where they retrieved passengers in the past.
"This is just the beginning of the journey for Uber," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Wednesday during the company's unveiling of the new features in New York City. "We want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet."
Uber plans to use location data to figure out if a stop seems unusual because there's no traffic or if a car hasn't made it to its final destination. If there is a long, unexpected stop during a trip, both the rider and the driver will receive a ride check notification to ask if everything is OK.
The company has also added a button to its app for drivers to contact emergency services, similar to the one it created for passengers in March. Uber says using the button is more efficient than calling 911 because the Uber app contains the vehicle's exact location.
Going forward, Uber will conceal specific pickup and drop-off addresses in the driver's trip history so that only the general area where a trip has started and ended will show up on the driver's app, not the address.
Khosrowshahi has made safety one of his top priorities since taking over as CEO a year ago. In April, Uber started doing annual criminal background checks on U.S. drivers and hired a company to constantly monitor criminal arrests.
The moves are an attempt to repair Uber's reputation after a wave of major scandals and bad press. About two weeks after Khosrowshahi started, London's transport regulator decided to strip Uber of its license to operate, saying that the company may be endangering public safety and security. Khosrowshahi apologized, flew to London to meet with officials and promised to change. A court eventually gave Uber a license, although much shorter than normal so it can be evaluated.
Since it began operating in 2009, Uber has been dogged by reports of drivers accosting passengers, including lawsuits alleging sexual assaults. Last year, the company was fined $8.9 million by the state of Colorado for allowing people with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to work as drivers. The Public Utilities Commission said it found nearly 60 people were allowed to drive in the state despite having previous felony convictions or major traffic violations including drunken driving.
Despite the scandals, Uber's ridership is growing, although it is struggling to make money ahead of Khosrowshahi's planned public stock offering sometime next year. The San Francisco company lost $891 million in the quarter ending last June, narrowing from a $1.06 billion loss for the same time last year.
Khosrowshahi, 49, an Iranian refugee, worked at Expedia and its parent company for 19 years before replacing combative but innovative Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Analysts say he has created a corporate culture of honesty that employees respect.
On Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said he hopes Uber will be the standard by which other transportation players are measured in terms of safety.
"In the end, we want you to know when you get into that car, whether you're a rider or a driver, that Uber's got your back," he said.
Beijing, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — China is trying to defuse a spiraling tariff war with Washington over technology policy by highlighting gains in other trade-related areas.
The Cabinet press office invited The Associated Press to interview the head of the country's patent and copyright office, as part of government efforts to persuade Washington and other trading partners to tone down objections to Chinese industry policy.
The official, Shen Changyu, pointed to improvements in fighting violations, previously a target of complaints by the United States, Europe and other traders.
"China's work on intellectual property protection is solid and very productive," said Shen, commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office. "This point should be evaluated objectively and fairly by the international community."
The interview coincided with a series of events organized by Chinese officials, including briefings for foreign reporters by economists and other researchers, seeking to change minds abroad.
They have emphasized China's importance as a market, its plans to end ownership limits in its auto industry and other regulatory changes. But none of those moves directly addresses the policies that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to impose penalty tariffs on Chinese goods.
Washington says Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. American officials say Chinese plans for state-led development of global champions in robotics and other fields violate Beijing's free-trade commitments and might erode American industrial leadership.
The Cabinet press office said Shen couldn't address those complaints because his office has no role in technology policy.
The Trump administration has imposed 25 percent duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports and is poised to add similar penalties on another $200 billion list of goods as early as this week. Beijing says it will retaliate.
Washington and Beijing went to the brink of a trade war in the 1990s over complaints China allowed rampant unlicensed copying of medicine, movies, software, designing clothing and other goods. Business groups say enforcement has improved since then, largely because Chinese companies started creating their own technology in smartphones, solar power and other fields that required protection.
Shen cited promises this year by President Xi Jinping and China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, to strength enforcement and "make infringers pay a heavy price."
"It is an independent choice for us to build an innovative country and promote economic and social development," said Shen.
The conflict has largely moved on from over rampant Chinese copying of Hollywood movies, music, software and medicines to one focused on the bedrock of Beijing's state-led development strategy.
Chinese officials have rejected U.S. pressure to scale back industry plans Beijing sees as the path to prosperity and global influence.
"Ratcheting up U.S. pressure will not work on China," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, last week. "For people who still think China will give in to intimidation, threats and groundless criticism, I think it's the time for them to wake up."
Chinese leaders also have stressed protection for patents and copyrights in meetings with foreign businesspeople, though their reaction suggested the topic is no longer the irritant it once was.
Li, the premier, asked representatives of some of Europe's biggest companies at a July meeting to give examples of intellectual property theft or measures they wanted changed. None did during the portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to watch. Instead, a German auto executive expressed concern about Chinese industrial standards — part of technology policy.
Shen expressed frustration at the U.S. government's "Section 301" investigation that concluded Beijing improperly obtains foreign technology.
"In the 301 survey, intellectual property was a justification or an excuse," said Shen. "We hope the U.S. government will provide specific infringement cases or clues. We will deal with them seriously and will not tolerate them."
China faces similar, though more muted, criticism from Europe and other trading partners.
The 28-nation European Union challenged China's rules on technology licensing in a June complaint to the World Trade Organization. The EU said Beijing unfairly favors domestic companies in violation of its commitments to treat all competitors equally.
At a government-organized event last week, researchers from official think tanks stressed the potential gains from collaboration between the two biggest global economies and what might be lost if they fight.
"The United States and China are interdependent. Not just trade in goods but in many other areas too," said Wu Baiyi, director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"These are the only two countries with more than $10 trillion of economic scale," said Wu. "If there is a serious (economic) war between these two countries, then the whole world economic system may collapse. This will be a disaster for the whole world."
New Delhi, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of farmers, workers and agricultural laborers marched Wednesday to India's Parliament demanding better wages, more jobs, higher prices for their produce and an end to privatization of state-run companies.
Waving red communist flags and banners, the protesters blamed the Hindu nationalist government for hardships caused by years of declining earnings in the agriculture sector. The farmers want the government to ensure they earn at least one and a half times their costs in producing their crops.
The march was organized by the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Farmers' Group, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power after making many promises, but had betrayed the people.
"They said they would ensure a better life for the working class. So, it is a show of anger against this government and their policies that are only pro-corporate," he said.
Rain-dependent agriculture employs more than half of India's 1.3 billion people, but shrinking earnings mean it now accounts for only 15 percent of India's economy. The bulk of Indian farmers are poor.
Failed harvests force poor farmers to borrow money at high interest rates to buy seeds, fertilizers and food for their cattle. They often mortgage their land and, as debts mount, some are driven to suicide.
Beijing, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — China faces bigger economic challenges than its trade war with the U.S.
Even before the two sides started imposing tit-for-tat tariffs, growth in the world's No. 2 economy was already forecast to cool from 6.8 percent last year to a still-robust 6.5 percent this year.
Communist leaders who are trying to engineer slower, more self-sustaining growth clamped down last year on a bank lending boom that encouraged businesses and families to borrow and spend beyond their means. That's a tricky balance to strike, and some worry the economy is weakening too much.
Growth in retail sales, a bigger part of the Chinese economy than exports, was weaker than expected in July and close to a 14-year low. Factory output and other sectors also slowed. Beijing responded by easing controls on lending and boosting government spending.
"We expect the economy to get worse before it gets better," Nomura economists said in a report.
Trump's advisers say the slowdown gives Washington leverage in the trade battle.
"Their economy looks terrible," Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said at a Cabinet meeting this month.
But analysts closer to China say it is doing better than Americans might think.
"A lot of this economic slowdown is really the result of an intended policy," said Tai Hui of J.P. Morgan Asset Management in Hong Kong. "The overall growth momentum is still relatively healthy and certainly broadly in line with the authorities' plans."
Here is a breakdown of China's economic strengths and weaknesses:
July's downturn was more abrupt than policymakers wanted, as growth in factory output slowed to 6 percent and corporate profits weakened. Investment in factories and other fixed assets rose at the slowest rate in 19 years.
Weaker demand from Chinese steel mills has taken global prices for iron ore down 14 percent this year — and 60 percent from their 2010 peak. That hurts Australia and other producers.
Chinese leaders want to shift the focus from growth numbers to poverty reduction, energy efficiency and the environment. But they need to keep the expansion above 6 percent to hit their target of doubling incomes from 2010 levels by 2020.
China's yuan has sunk in value against the dollar. That helps exporters by making Chinese toys, appliances and other goods cheaper for American consumers. But regulators worry it will trigger an outflow of money, making it harder for companies to borrow.
Banks have been told to lend more freely to small exporters that might be hurt by Trump's tariffs. That temporarily backtracks on government efforts to rein in rising debt.
Beijing sees the "growth slowdown as a bigger near-term risk," said UBS economists in a report.
The government is pumping money into the economy with plans to spend more on building roads, bridges and other public works.
This month, sales of infrastructure bonds raised 280 billion yuan ($41 billion), more than the total for the first seven months of the year, according to Macquarie Bank's Larry Hu.
Beijing has speeded up the rollout of plans to ease restrictions on foreign ownership in auto manufacturing, banking and insurance.
The moves are not, however, intended to address the American complaints about Chinese plans for state-led creation of global champions in robotics, electric cars and other technologies that Washington says violate Beijing's market-opening commitments and might erode U.S. industrial leadership.
Instead, China is trying to reduce reliance on foreign markets and technology by promoting domestic consumption and industry development.
While Wall Street sets records, China's stock market is 2018's worst global performer.
The market benchmark tumbled 25 percent from its January peak to mid-August. It has gained 3.7 percent since then after government spending plans helped to revive investor confidence.
The biggest decliners are real estate, construction and other companies hardest-hit by Beijing's lending controls.
Shares in Poly Real Estate Group, one of China's biggest developers, have lost 40 percent of their value this year. Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., the country's biggest aluminum producer, is down by half.
The biggest gainers are smaller tech companies that look set to benefit from official industry plans. Shares in Zhongshi Technology Ltd., a Beijing-based maker of insulators for telecoms, medical and automotive equipment, are up 400 percent this year.
July exports to the United States rose 13.3 percent over a year ago despite a tariff hike. Forecasters expect exports to soften but mainly due to flagging global demand rather than American controls.
The tariffs target Chinese goods such as medical equipment and factory machinery that Washington says benefit from improper industrial policies. But U.S. officials have tried to limit the blow to consumers by avoiding penalties on Barbie dolls, Apple iPhones and many other brand-name products made in Chinese factories.
China is the world's No. 1 trader, but exports have shrunk as a share of the economy, to 19 percent of gross domestic product from 38 percent in 2005. Exports supplied 0.6 percentage points of GDP growth of 6.8 percent in 2017, while consumption accounted for more than half.
The United States buys about 20 percent of China's exports. Sellers of low-margin goods such as surgical gloves and handbags say American customers are canceling orders. But producers of higher-technology goods such as factory machinery and medical equipment report little impact.
Chinese leaders are encouraging exporters to sell to other markets, especially in Asia and Africa. That will be a challenge, because their consumers buy lower-value goods than Americans.
So far, U.S. tariff hikes have had little impact on a Chinese economy that is bigger than Japan and Germany combined. The first round hit July 6 and Trump says they could spread to cover up to $250 billion of Chinese imports.
Credit Suisse says if all threatened U.S. tariffs are imposed, that might trim 0.2 percentage points off Chinese growth this year and 1.9 percentage points in 2019.
"I don't think Beijing is willing to yield significantly," said Hui of J.P. Morgan. "Especially to pressure from another country. You know the historical precedent of that is just not acceptable."
Dhaka, Sep 4 (UNB) - Bangladesh is likely to receive another funding from newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for improvement of drinking water supply and sanitation facilities in the rural municipal areas.
According to official sources in the China-led multilateral financial institution, AIIB and World Bank will jointly implement a scheme titled `Bangladesh Municipal Water Supply and Sanitation Project` at a total cost of $270 million.
Of the total cost, AIIB and World Bank will invest $130 million each while Bangladesh government will have $10 million investment, said Laurel Ostfield, head of communication and development of the Beijing-based AIIB while talking to reporters during the visit of a high profile delegation of her bank to Dhamrai of Manikganj on Monday.
The 5-member AIIB delegation led by its UK Director Emil Levendoglu visited the area to see the implementation progress of the new bank`s $165 million funding for the Rural Electrification Board (REB).
The project titled `Distribution System Upgrade and Expansion` is a part of a greater scheme of $274 million in power and energy sector which will benefit $12.5 million people through providing $2.5 million new power connections in the rural area across the country.
During the visit, the delegation members had interactions with the beneficiaries of the project where they said that now they have been benefited a lot by getting electricity connection as it improved their quality and standard of living.
“In addition to use of different electric appliances, now I can easily recharge our mobile phones and communicate with my husband working abroad. My children can study at night taking benefit of electricity” said Hasna Begum.
However, some of the villagers alleged that they had to spend up to Tk 7000 to get an electricity connection although official cost is about Tk 600.
“We had to pay the extra amount to some middlemen to get electricity connections”, alleged Osman Mia.
The villagers suggested strong monitoring of the project implementation to ensure transparency in every stages of the project.
Talking to reporters Emil Levendoglu said the AIIB is considering more funding for Bangladesh to improve its infrastructure and livelihood of the rural people.
“As part of the AIIB objective, the new project on water supply and sanitation was designed to bring more benefits to the people of Bangladesh”, he said.
Laurel Ostfield informed that the AIIB will consider the new fund for Bangladesh in a meeting in April next year.
She said that by providing sustainable access to water supply and sanitation to selected small to medium pourashavas, the new project will contribute to the government`s key objectives of improved urban environment and health in Bangladesh.