Male, Female or X? Air Passengers to Get More Gender Options From Airlines

British Airways and Air New Zealand have joined a wave of major U.S. airlines planning to introduce extra gender options for LGBT+ passengers who don’t identify as either male or female.

LGBT+ groups have welcomed the change, saying it would smooth the way for many trans, intersex and non-binary passengers — or those who simply don’t look typically male or female — who have long faced discrimination when flying.

“It’s a big move”, Julia Ehrt, of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Persons presenting as gender non-conforming or trans persons who might not have been able to change their name or gender markers in passports regularly have serious challenges in traveling.

“That can range from being challenged about your gender marker or first name upon check-in or at security, through to outright denial of being able to board a plane.”

Global aviation body the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently released new guidance for airlines who want to offer non-binary gender options for passengers.

Typical examples of non-binary markers could include a X or ‘undisclosed’ instead of male or female, and the gender-neutral title Mx instead of Mr or Mrs.

Several major U.S. airlines including United, American Airlines and Delta have confirmed they are preparing to bring in more gender options in the wake of the new guidelines.

Now British Airways and Air New Zealand say they are planning to follow suit.

“We know how important it is for all of our customers to feel comfortable and welcome no matter how they self-identify,” a spokesman for British Airways said on Wednesday.

“We are working to change our booking platform to reflect this.”

Air New Zealand said it was “exploring how we can introduce non-binary gender options across our various digital environments.”

The Lufthansa Group, which owns Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it was “taking the implementation of additional gender options into consideration.”

Up to 1.7 percent of people are intersex  meaning they are born with sex characteristics that are neither definitively male or female – according to the United Nations.

In addition, studies suggest that a growing number of people identify as trans or non-binary.

More than 10 percent of U.S. adults identify as LGBT+, rising to 20 percent among younger millennial, found a 2016 study by LGBT+ group GLAAD which argued that youth increasingly reject binary identities such as male or female.

Experts said airlines would be looking to adapt to changing demographics and social norms.

“The world itself is evolving… it’s in airlines’ interests to show they are friendly to all types of people,” said British aviation expert John Strickland.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Reuters Data Show Google’s New Cloud Boss Has Big Task to Catch Rivals

Google has a new cloud computing boss and big ambitions to someday produce more revenue from that business than from advertising. Now comes the hard part: winning over big-spending customers.

Alphabet Inc’s cloud computing division remains a distant third behind Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp in terms of global revenue, according to analysts’ estimates. A few major companies manage their data on Google’s servers. But Google has nowhere near the vast customer base of Amazon, according to a new Reuters analysis of company regulatory filings.

Businesses generally are not required to disclose their cloud vendors. Reuters found 311 out of about 5,000 worldwide that did so in 2018. While not comprehensive, the data provide a window into Google’s challenge.

Thirty five of those companies named Google as a cloud provider. The largest by market capitalization were oil major Total SA and bank HSBC Holdings Plc.

Amazon Web Services led with 227 clients, including travel company Expedia Group Inc and industrials giant Siemens AG. Microsoft’s Azure cloud had 69 firms, among them weapons maker Axon Enterprise Inc and business data firm Dun & Bradstreet Co. Thirty four of the companies cited multiple clouds.

The previously untracked data show the work ahead for Thomas Kurian, who is weeks on the job as chief executive of Google Cloud. Kurian has vowed to double down where Google has seen promising results. Specifically, he plans to target governments and top companies in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, media and finance.

“A lot of our focus as we go forward is making sure that our sales organization has the background and the ability to sell to large, more traditional companies,” Kurian said at a Goldman Sachs investor conference last week. “There’s enormous appetite in those companies to consider Google.”

Google declined to comment or make Kurian available for an interview.

People familiar with his plans said he is looking to reshape his division’s culture. A key part is developing or acquiring easy-to-use, industry-specific corporate applications, an area that Amazon and Microsoft do not dominate.

“It’s about the on-ramp onto their cloud,” said Daniel Ives, a New York-based financial analyst following the cloud industry for Wedbush Securities. “The main way to get that is through applications.”

A 22-year veteran of Oracle Corp, Kurian gave the database company fresh life as the product leader behind its move to selling cloud services. His hire is already making potential customers reconsider Google, said Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, a Monta Vista, Calif.-based firm that helps businesses negotiate cloud deals.

“They’ve worked with him,” Wang said. “There’s a trust factor that wasn’t there before.”

Kurian also must reassure some investors bewildered by Google’s cloud ambitions: Diversifying revenue beyond advertising is a plus, but it is not coming cheap.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon combined spent nearly $53 billion on capital expenses last year, driven by data center projects to house their clouds.

With gross margins of 20 percent or less, selling cloud storage or tools for which customers need specialized staff is less lucrative for a small vendor, industry experts said. But margins on the type of software Kurian likely wants to offer can top even the 60 percent of Google’s ad business.

“The next wave of growth is going to have to come from the heavy hitting applications,” said Kerry Liu, chief executive at Rubikloud, which helps retailers with cloud projects.

‘Geeky, Techy platform’

Google got serious about the cloud around 2016, five years after Amazon Web Services had become a multibillion-dollar behemoth. But Google’s reputation for limited customer support has attracted mostly newer businesses or those with significant tech know-how.

Mike Fisher, Etsy Inc’s chief technology officer, said Google’s superior AI tools helped win over the New York-based crafts marketplace. Fisher expects data-crunching algorithms to account for 25 percent of its server use this year, up from 10 percent last year.

“We’ve been more pleasantly surprised than we thought,” Fisher said of the cloud’s benefits.

Advertising software company OpenX recently agreed to spend at least $110 million on Google Cloud over five years. The Pasadena, Calif. firm bet its clients would benefit from transacting on the same infrastructure as Google’s ads system. “It’s a bit more of a geeky, techy platform, but we’re that kind of company,” said Chief Technology Officer Paul Ryan.

Kurian’s plan

To attract more traditional corporate clients, Google Cloud will need to do some handholding, executives at its partners and rivals said.

Kurian is well-suited to the role. Two of his former colleagues said his follow-up and candid disclosures about product limitations helped seal deals at Oracle. An early riser, Kurian impressed staff with his meticulous preparation for morning meetings as well as his recall of the tiniest details of clients’ systems from years before.

Kurian also managed billions of dollars in acquisitions at Oracle, including the purchases of software firms BEA Systems and Taleo.

Applications could come through similar deals and internally: Google is testing product recommendation software for shopping apps, a person familiar with the project said, to add to its small set of specialized tools.

Kurian told the investor conference that “you will see us continue to expand our footprint there.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Samsung’s Folding Phone Aims to Rejuvenate Smartphone Market

Ten years after launching its Galaxy line of smartphones, Samsung Electronics unveiled a new form of the ubiquitous device — a phone that seamlessly turns into a tablet — to create some new excitement in the sluggish global smartphone market.

At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Fold, its long-awaited foldable smartphone. Only FlexPai, by Royale, a U.S.-based Chinese company, has anything like it on the market, but the FlexPai has garnered mixed reviews.

Samsung ignored the FlexPai’s existence and unveiled the Galaxy Fold as if it were the first of its kind.

“The size of our screens is still fundamentally limited by the size of our devices until now,” said Justin Denison, Samsung senior vice president of product marketing. “With the Galaxy Fold, we are creating a new dimension for your phone and your life. We are giving you a device that doesn’t just define category, it defies category.”

 

WATCH: Samsung Rolls Out New Smartphones

Three apps at once for multitasking

When closed, the Galaxy Fold is a smartphone. When opened, the Fold turns into an expansive tablet.

The device is for the impatient multitaskers because users can run three apps at the same time and continuously use the apps while moving from phone to tablet.

The Galaxy Fold is slated to go on sale in late April. It will cost nearly $2,000. That price tag caused sticker shock at the event, eliciting gasps and some grumbling among the audience.

But it appears the Galaxy Fold is in keeping with Samsung’s aim to generate buzz for the smartphone market, while also aiming for the market’s high end, where Apple and its iPhone dominate.

Slumping smartphone sales

The challenge smartphone makers have faced in recent years is that consumers hold on to the devices for longer and longer, seeing few reasons to upgrade.

The leader in worldwide smartphone sales, the South Korean electronics firm is hoping to give consumers a few reasons to trade in their older ones, and generate buzz about what smartphones can be in the future.

Samsung’s new line of Galaxy smartphone, the S10, comes in three models, S10e, S10 and the S10+. The S10 models have bigger screens, more battery life and more cameras packed in each device than earlier Galaxy lines.

​Ultrasound fingerprint scanner

The S10 has the world’s first “ultrasonic fingerprint scanner,” which uses sound waves that bounce from a user’s fingertip to unlock a device. It’s unclear if the fingerprint scanner will work through screen savers. And the S10 can act as a charger for other devices such as watches.

The S10 line, with a price starting at $749, will start shipping March 8.

Samsung executives say that with the firm’s foldable phone and new S10 line, it is ushering in the mobile era for the next decade.

“For those who say everything possible has already been done,” said DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung’s IT and mobile communications division. “I say open your mind and get ready for the dawn of a new mobile era.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Students Build City of the Future

A future of rising oceans and stronger storms awaits the next generation as the climate warms. It will take talented engineers and city planners to tackle those challenges. The annual Future City competition aims to get middle school students excited about learning the skills they’ll need. More than 40,000 students from 1,500 schools participated this year. VOA’s Steve Baragona was at the finals in Washington.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

As Democrats Lean Left for 2020, Trump Cries Socialism

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the latest entrant into the increasingly crowded Democratic presidential field for 2020. Sanders and several other Democrats in the race advocate progressive views on key issues like the economy, the environment and health care. In response, President Donald Trump charged that the Democratic Party is headed down the road of socialism, setting up what could be a major ideological debate next year. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Resumption of High-level US-China Trade Talks Raises Hopes

The Trump administration is set Thursday to resume high-level talks with Chinese officials, aiming to ease a trade standoff that’s unnerved global investors and clouded the outlook for the world economy.

A Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He will meet in Washington with a U.S. team led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as well as Larry Kudlow, a key White House economic adviser, and Peter Navarro, a trade adviser. The talks are expected to end Friday.

The world’s two biggest economies are locked in a trade war that President Donald Trump started over his allegations that China deploys predatory tactics to try to overtake U.S. technological dominance. Beijing’s unfair tactics, trade analysts agree, include pressuring American companies to hand over trade secrets and in some cases stealing them outright. 

To try to force China to change its ways, Trump has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions in Chinese goods. Beijing has retaliated with tariffs of its own. China rejects the allegations and complains that Washington’s goal is simply to cripple a rising economic competitor.

On March 2, the Trump administration has warned, it will escalate its import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent if the two sides haven’t reached a resolution by then. But in recent days, Trump has signaled that he may be willing to extend the deadline if negotiators are making progress.

The conflict has rattled markets. It’s also fanned uncertainty among businesses that must decide where to invest and whether Trump’s tariffs – which raise the cost of the affected imports – will be in effect long enough to justify replacing Chinese suppliers with those from countries not subject to the tariffs. 

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have all downgraded their forecasts for the global economy, citing the heightened trade tensions.

After meetings last week in Beijing, Lighthizer said the two countries had “made headway.” 

And citing upbeat comments from the two countries, Xingdong Chen, chief China economist at BNP Paribas, said the negotiators are “likely to make progress, convincing Trump it is worth extending the tariff truce if necessary.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

US Judge Grants Former Trump Lawyer Prison Delay

A U.S. judge on Wednesday granted a request by Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, to delay the start of his prison term by two months.

Cohen, 52, had been scheduled to report to prison on March 6 to begin a three-year sentence for fraud, tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress.

In a letter to Judge William Pauley, one of Cohen’s lawyers asked that the date be pushed back to May 6 so Cohen can recover from shoulder surgery and prepare for upcoming testimony before Congress.

Judge Pauley agreed to the request.

Cohen is scheduled to deliver closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on February 28 and has also been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Planned open-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee was put off after what Cohen alleged were public threats against him and his family from Trump and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Cohen admitted multiple charges in December related to work he performed for the real estate tycoon and pledged to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller leads the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, a probe that increasingly menaces the White House.

Cohen notably told prosecutors that Trump directed him to arrange illegal hush payments to two alleged former lovers ahead of the 2016 election.

He also admitted lying to Congress over pursuing a Moscow real estate deal in Trump’s name during the election, even after Trump had secured the Republican nomination.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Sanders’ Early Fundraising Surpasses Rivals

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced Wednesday it raised nearly $6 million during its first day of online fundraising, easily exceeding first-day totals amassed by his rivals.

More than 220,000 donors contributed to Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, in a 24-hour period since he announced his bid Tuesday for the White House, eclipsing his 2015 first-day fundraising total of more than $1.5 million.

Public disclosures showed Senator Kamala Harris of California was previously the top early Democratic fundraiser, with more than 38,000 donors contributing $1.5 million. Harris announced her candidacy on January 21.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts raised nearly $300,000 online on December 31, the day she announced an exploratory campaign committee.

Senator Amy Klobuchar raised more than $1 million in 48 hours after launching her campaign on February 10, campaign officials said.

Sanders’ show of strength is not surprising. He raised more than $200 million when he opposed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

In its announcement Wednesday, the Sanders campaign touted a large grassroots donor base that includes individuals who have already “contributed $600,000 in donations that will recur every month.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

US Trade Representative to Testify on China Next Week

 U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will testify next week at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on U.S.-China trade issues, a spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee said on Wednesday.

Lighthizer has been the lead negotiator in ongoing trade negotiations with Beijing as the world’s two largest economies seek to find agreement amid a bitter dispute that has seen both sides impose tariffs on imports.

In a statement, the committee said the hearing was scheduled for Feb. 27, just days ahead of President Donald Trump’s March 1 deadline that the Republican U.S. leader has said could slide.

China and the United States began their latest round of talks this week.

 

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!