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Grab launches SME loans and micro-insurance in Southeast Asia

In its latest move beyond ride-hailing, Southeast Asia’s Grab has started to offer financing to SMEs and micro-insurance to its drivers.

The launch comes just weeks after Grab raised $1.5 billion from the Vision Fund as part of a larger $5 billion Series H funding round that’ll be used to battle rival Go-Jek, which is vying with Grab to become the top on-demand app for Southeast Asia’s 600 million-plus consumers.

Grab acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business in 2018 and it has spent the past year or so pushing a ‘super app’ strategy. That’s essentially an effort to become a daily app for Southeast Asia and, beyond rides, it entails food delivery, payments and other services on demand. Financial services are also a significant chunk of that focus, and now Grab is switching on loans and micro-insurance for the first time.

Initially, the first market is Singapore, but the plan is to expand to Southeast Asia’s five other major markets, Reuben Lai,  who is senior managing director and co-head of Grab Financial, told TechCrunch on the sidelines of the Money20/20 conference in Singapore. Lai declined to provide a timeframe for the expansion.

The company announced its launch into financial services last year and that, Lai confirmed, was a purely offline effort. Now the new financial products announced today will be available from within the Grab app itself.

Grab is also planning to develop a ‘marketplace’ of financial products that will allow other financial organizations to promote services to its 130 million registered users. Grab doesn’t provide figures for its active user base.

Grab announced a platform play last summer that allows selected partners to develop services that sit within its app. Some services have included grocery delivers from Happy Fresh, video streaming service Hooq, and health services from China’s Ping An.

Reddit waits until it’s too late to ban violence-glorifying subreddits

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Another day, another internet giant belatedly deciding to apply its own policies in the face of a tragedy. 

Following the tragic Christchurch terrorist attack in New Zealand that left 49 people dead and scores more injured, and the subsequent sharing online of a livestream from the killer, Reddit has banned two subreddits that it now says glorified or celebrated violence. 

The first, r/watchpeopledie, was pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a place where people shared and commented on grisly videos of real deaths. The second, r/gore, was less specific in its death requirements but also contained violent video and images.  Read more…

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CXA, a health-focused digital insurance startup, raises $25M

CXA Group, a Singapore-based startup that helps make insurance more accessible and affordable, has raised $25 million for expansion in Asia and later into Europe and North America.

The startup takes a unique route to insurance. Rather than going to consumers directly, it taps corporations to offer their employees health flexible options. That’s to say that instead of rigid plans that force employees to use a certain gym or particular healthcare, a collection over 1,000 programs and options can be tailored to let employees pick what’s relevant or appealing to them. The ultimate goal is to bring value to employees to keep them healthier and lower the overall premiums for their employers.

“Our purpose is to empower personalized choices for better living for employees,” CXA founder and CEO Rosaline Koo told TechCrunch in an interview. “We use data and tech to recommend better choices.”

The company is primarily focused on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where it claims to works with 600 enterprises including Fortune 500 firms. The company has over 200 staff, and it has acquired two traditional insurance brokerages in China to help grow its footprint, gain requisite licenses and its logistics in areas such as health checkups.

We last wrote about CXA in 2017 when it raised a $25 million Series B, and this new Series C round takes it to $58 million from investors to date. Existing backers include B Capital, the BCG-backed fund from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, EDBI — the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board — and early Go-Jek backer Openspace Ventures, and they are joined by a glut of big-name backers in this round.

Those new investors include a lot of corporates. There’s HSBC, Singtel Innov8 (of Singaporean telco Singtel), Telkom Indonesia MDI Ventures (of Indonesia telco Telkom), Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia (Japanese trading firm) Muang Thai Fuchsia Ventures (Thailand-based insurance firm), Humanica (Thailand-based HR firm) and PE firm Heritas Venture Fund.

“There are additional insurance companies and strategic partners that we aren’t listing,” said Koo.

Rosaline Koo is founder and CEO of CXA Group

That’s a very deliberate selection of large corporates which is part of a new strategy to widen CXA audience.

The company had initially gone after massive firms — it claims to reach a collective 400,000 employees — but now the goal is to reach SMEs and non-Fortune 500 enterprises. To do that, it is using the reach and connections of larger service companies to reach their customers.

“We believe that banks and telcos can cross-sell insurance and banking services,” said Koo, who grew up in LA and counts benefits broker Mercer on her resume. “With demographic and work life event data, plus health data, we’re able to target the right banking and insurance services.

“We can help move them away from spamming,” she added. “Because we will have the right data to really target the right offering to the right person at the right time. No firm wants an agent sitting in their canteen bothering their staff, now it’s all digital and we’re moving insurance and banking into a new paradigm.”

The ultimate goal is to combat a health problem that Koo believes is only getting worse in the Asia Pacific region.

“Chronic disease comes here 10 years before anywhere else,” she said, citing an Emory research paper which concluded that chronic diseases in Asia are “rising at a rate that exceeds global increases.”

“There’s such a crying need for solutions, but companies can’t force the brokers to lower costs as employees are getting sick… double-digit increases are normal, but we think this approach can help drop them. We want to start changing the cost of healthcare in Asia, where it is an epidemic, using data and personalization at scale in a way to help the community,” Koo added.

Talking to Koo makes it very clear that she is focused on growing CXA’s reach in Asia this year, but further down the line, there are ambitions to expand to other parts of the world. Europe and North America, she said, may come in 2020.

Amazon reportedly nixes its price parity requirement for third-party sellers in the U.S.

Amazon will stop forbidding third-party merchants who list on its e-commerce platform in the United States from selling the same products on other sites for lower prices, reports Axios.

The company’s decision to end its price parity provision comes three months after Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the Department of Justice to open an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s policies and a few days after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she would make breaking up Amazon, Google and Facebook a big part of her campaign platform.

Also called “most favored nation” (MFN) requirements, Amazon’s price parity provisions gave it a competitive edge, but because of its size, also led to concerns about its impact on competition and fair pricing for consumers. Amazon stopped requiring price parity of its European Union sellers in 2013 after it was the subject of investigations by the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office.

In a statement, Blumenthal said Amazon’s “wise and welcome decision comes only after aggressive advocacy and attention that compelled Amazon to abandon its abusive contract clause.” He added that “I remain deeply troubled that federal regulators responsible for cracking down on anti-competitive practices seem asleep at the wheel, at great cost to American innovation and consumers.”

TechCrunch has contacted Amazon for comment.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says labor should not fear automation

It’s impossible to discuss the seismic shift toward automation without a conversation about job loss. Opponent of these technologies criticize a displacement that could some day result wide scale unemployment among what is often considered “unskilled” roles. Advocates, meanwhile, tend to suggest that reports of that nature tend to be overstated. Workforces shift, as they have done for time time immemorial.

During a conversation at SXSW this week, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered another take entirely.

“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work,” she said in an answer reported by The Verge. “We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.”

The response to an audience member’s question is a take that doesn’t too often get repeated in broader conversations about automation. Often times industry spokespeople will discuss technology’s potential to replace jobs that are deemed “dull, dirty and dangerous” — menial tasks that many roboticists will suggest no one really wants in the first place.

This just such a shockingly intelligent thing for any politician to say. https://t.co/QcRJNW12g6

— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) March 10, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez’s answer, on the other other hand, speaks to a viewpoint more in-line with her own Democratic Socialist views. It’s a suggestion that, if harnessed correctly, such technologies could one day liberate workers from a capitalist system where being a worker is inexorably tied to one’s identity and livelihood.

The newly elected Congresswoman elaborated on her position by pointing out the benefits that automation could bring to a society.

“We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in,” The Verge quoted Ocasio-Cortez as saying. “Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”

And Ocasio-Cortez cited Bill Gates’ suggestion (first floated in a presentation on Quartz) that a robot tax might be a way to make that vision real. “What [Gates is] really talking about is taxing corporations,” she reportedly said. “But it’s easier to say: ‘tax a robot.’”

Her response to the automation question has met with applause from some writers who have been notably prescient about the future.

“This [is] just such a shockingly intelligent thing for any politician to say,” novelist William Gibson said via tweet. It is, at very least, a fresh perspective on a well-trod topic and the kind of outlook that could breath some life in a vital conversation about our collective technological future.

Automation will have an unquestionably profound impact on jobs in the coming decades — we’ve already seen much of that already, for roles in places like warehouses. Every study on the subject acknowledges this, with jobs “destroyed” number in the tens of millions and above, while jobs “created” are often times a fraction of that massive number.

The congresswoman’s comments, however, suggest that, independent of those numbers, perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong the question all along.

It’s time to disrupt nuclear weapons

Beatrice Fihn
Contributor

Beatrice Fihn is the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

“Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities.”

Those are the words of Leo Szilard, one of the scientists who pushed for the development of nuclear weapons. He wrote them as part of a petition signed by dozens of other scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project pleading with President Harry Truman not to use the nuclear bomb on Japan.

Mere months after its introduction in 1945, the architects of today’s nuclear world feared the implications of the technology they had created.

Nearly 75 years later it’s time again to ask technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs and academics: will you be party to the ‘ruthless annihilation of cities’? Will you expend your talents in the service of nuclear weapons? Will you use technology to create or to destroy?

Our moment of choice

Humanity is at another turning point.

A new nuclear arms race has begun in earnest with the US and Russia leading the way; tearing up the promise of lasting peace in favor of a new Cold War. Russia’s latest weapon is built to destroy entire coast lines with a radioactive tsunami. The US is building new nuclear weapons that are ‘more likely to be used’.

Meanwhile, North Korea appears to again be building its nascent nuclear weapons program. And India and Pakistan stand on the verge of open nuclear conflict, which climate modeling shows could lead to a global famine killing upwards of 2 billion people.

An Indian student wearing a mask poses with her hands painted with a slogans for peace during a rally to mark Hiroshima Day, in Mumbai on August 6, 2018. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

How do we stop this march toward oblivion?

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has created an opening — a chance to radically change course with the power of international law and shifting norms. The nuclear ban treaty will become international law once 50 nations have ratified it. We are already at 22.

The financial world is also recognizing the risk, with some of the world’s biggest pension funds divesting from nuclear weapons. But there is something even more powerful than the almighty dollar; human capital.

“It took innovation, technological disruption, and ingenuity to create the nuclear dawn. We will need those same forces in greater measure to bring about a nuclear dusk.”

The nuclear weapons industrial complex relies on the most talented scientists, engineers, physicists and technologists to build this deadly arsenal. As more of that talent moves into the tech sector, defense contractors and the Pentagon is seeking to work with major technology companies and disruptive startups, as well as continue their work with universities.

Without those talented technologists, there would be no new nuclear arms race. It’s time to divest human capital from nuclear weapons.

A mistake to end humanity?

Just over one year ago Hawaiians took cover and frantically Googled, “What to do during a nuclear attack”. Days later many Japanese mobile phone users also received a false alert for an inbound nuclear missile.

The combination of human error and technological flaws these incidents exposed makes accidental nuclear attacks an inevitability if we don’t move to end nuclear weapons before they end us.

The development of new machine learning technologies, autonomous weapons systems, cyber threats and social media manipulation are already destabilizing the global political order and potentially increasing the risk of a nuclear cataclysm. That is why it’s vital that the technology community collectively commits to using their skills and knowledge to protect us from nuclear eradication by joining the effort for global nuclear abolition.

A mock “killer robot” is pictured in central London on April 23, 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop “Killer Robots,” which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. (Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

We need to stop this foolish nuclear escalation in its tracks. Our commitment must be to a nuclear weapons-free world, by disrupting the trajectory we are currently heading on. Business as usual will likely end in nuclear war.

It took innovation, technological disruption, and ingenuity to create the nuclear dawn. We will need those same forces in greater measure to bring about a nuclear dusk — the complete disarmament of nuclear-armed states and safeguards against future proliferation.

The belief that we can keep doing what we have done for seven decades for another seven decades is naive. It relies on a fanciful, misplaced faith in the illogical idea of deterrence. We are told simultaneously that nuclear weapons keep the world safe, by never being used. They bestow power, but only make certain states powerful.

This fallacy has been exposed by this moment in time. Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons have proliferated. Key treaties have been torn up or are under threat. And even more states are threatening to develop nuclear weapons.

So I am putting out a call to you: join us with this necessary disruption; declare that you will not have a hand in our demise; declare that you will use technology for good.

Tesla called out for sneaky math on Model 3 pricing

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Just like when Germany wasn’t too pleased with Tesla’s naming choice for its semi-autonomous feature (confusingly called Autopilot), the country’s automotive industry group is calling out the American electric vehicle company for misleading pricing online for the Model 3 sedan.

This week Reuters reported that the Wettbewerbszentrale nonprofit association that oversees fairness in the auto industry asked Tesla to include the full price of the car and remove the price based on gas savings and tax incentives and rebates. 

Tesla appears to have already reversed course ahead of the March 20 deadline for the change. Accessing the Model 3 website through a VPN set to a location in Germany Friday afternoon, the full price before savings is listed, with no mention of estimated savings on the bottom bar or elsewhere. Read more…

More about Tesla, Model 3, Electric Vehicles, Autopilot, and Tech

YouTube demonetizes anti-vaccination videos

YouTube will demonetize channels that promote anti-vaccination views, after a report by BuzzFeed News found ads, including from health companies, running before anti-vax videos. The platform will also place a new information panel that links to the Wikipedia entry on “vaccine hesitancy” before anti-vax videos. Information panels (part of YouTube’s efforts to combat misinformation) about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine had already appeared in front of anti-vaccination videos that mentioned it.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a YouTube spokesperson said “we have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies. We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and remove ads.”

This is the second issue this week that has prompted YouTube advertisers to suspend their ads BuzzFeed News’ initial report on Feb. 20 came as several major advertisers, including Nestle and Epic Games, said they were pausing ads after YouTube creator Matt Watson revealed how the platform’s recommendation algorithm was being exploited by what he described as a “soft-core pedophilia ring.”

BuzzFeed News found that the top search results for queries about vaccine safety were usually from legitimate sources, like hospitals, but then YouTube’s Up Next algorithm would often recommend anti-vaccination videos. Ads, which are placed by YouTube’s advertising algorithm, appeared in front of many of those videos. YouTube also told BuzzFeed it would implement changes to its Up Next algorithm to prevent the spread of anti-vax videos.

Outbreaks of measles throughout the United States and in other countries have prompted scrutiny into the role of social media and tech companies, including Facebook and Google, in spreading misinformation.

Advertisers contacted by BuzzFeed News who said they will take action to prevent their ads from running in front of anti-vax videos include Nomad Health, Retail Me Not, Grammarly, Brilliant Earth, CWCBExpo, XTIVIA, and SolarWinds. Vitacost told BuzzFeed News that it had already pulled ads after the child exploitation issues became known.

Anto-vax channels now demonetized include VAXXED TV, LarryCook333, and iHealthTube.

How Do I Manage My Expenses After Getting Married?

Getting married is an exciting time for any couple. It’s the beautiful prospect of waking up every day next to your best friend and sharing your lives and home together. But there are some tricky avenues of a new marriage to tackle, such as learning to live with each other’s house-habits.

Another area that may be a little tricky to talk about is how to merge your finances.

Some couples may feel uncomfortable talking about how much money they make or how they like to spend it. Others are completely open about their financial lives. How easy it is for you depends on how well you and your spouse are able to communicate with one another.

In this article, we’ll share with you some great tips about financial-planning-for-newly-married-couples.

Talk about your finances

financial planning

To get the ball rolling, you and your spouse must be willing to open up about your personal finances. It can be very helpful to talk about your spending and saving habits and how you grew up viewing money. Having this discussion can help couples understand what financial standpoint their spouse is coming from.

Talking about money also means talking about any debts you have accumulated.
This can be uncomfortable or even embarrassing, but it’s important for your spouse to know what, if any, debts you are bringing into the marriage.

Not only is this helpful for circumstances where your debt becomes a shared debt after marriage, but it can also help you decide as a couple how to pay off anything that you owe as partners.

Figure out a money management system

What financial advice you follow regarding money management is different for each and every couple. Do you have a “what’s mine is yours” attitude about finances or would you prefer to keep separate bank accounts? There are pros and cons to having a shared bank account vs. keeping things separate, and vice-versa.

You and your spouse need to find out which works best for you.

If you decide to keep your accounts and income separate, you must decide how you will split bills, mortgage, insurance, and other monthly payments for your marital home.

Decide on a monthly budget

In order to have a successful merging of finances, you and your spouse need to sit down together as a couple and decide on a monthly budget. Markdown your shared monthly income as well as a list of your monthly expenses. Take groceries, gas, and date night into account when making your realistic budget.

After deducting your expenses from your income pool, decide how to ration what is left. Many couples opt to use any leftover money for personal savings.

Remember not to forget about your monthly spending allowances when making your budget. This “fun money” allows you and your spouse to have a measure of financial freedom. This money can be used to pursue hobbies and interests or order takeout without having to share every purchase in detail with your spouse.

Start saving money

financial savings

One of the best pieces of financial advice for after getting married is to start making a shared high-interest savings account.

Newlyweds are eager to plan their lives together and they will need money to make their dreams a reality.

  • Starting a family – As of 2017, the average cost of raising a child from birth to eighteen years old was $233,610. Putting away money for starting a family can be very beneficial in reducing financial stress once the baby arrives.
  • Buying a home together – Whether a couple is planning to start a family or not, many dream of the day when they will be able to buy their first home. Saving for the down payment on a home together is a wise course of action.
  • Retirement – One excellent piece of financial advice is to start saving for your retirement as early as you can. Match your employer’s deposits so that you and your partner will be guaranteed a fantastic retirement to spend together.
  • Saving for a new car – You may already have a vehicle, but no car lasts forever. Having money saved for a newer car can help you upgrade into something that is safer and more cost-effective.
  • Putting money aside for emergencies – You never know when an unforeseen occurrence such as sickness, natural disaster, home repair or sudden loss of job will affect your family income. Having money saved for the unexpected will help you and your spouse feel safe and secure about your future.

See Also: 5 Financial Emergencies Everyone Must Be Prepared For

Keep communication open

Deciding on a budget is the easy part, sticking to it is where things get hard. Make sure you practice open communication and don’t shy away from talking to your spouse about money matters.

Many couples find it helpful to have a monthly “financial marriage check-in” to see how things are going financially. Here you can celebrate small victories you’ve made in saving money, paying off debts or spending less that month.

A monthly check-in is also an opportunity to look at money coming in and out of the household. It can help pinpoint which areas could still use improvement.

The subject of money can be awkward, so make sure you approach potentially uncomfortable topics with love and respect.

Work as a team

After getting married, you and your spouse are officially partners in all things — love, life, finances. Keep this in mind when communicating about money matters. Learn how to problem-solve effectively.

Overview

Getting married is all about healthy communication.

Therefore, the best financial advice you can take from this article is to have a regular, open, honest discussion with your spouse about how you’re handling your money. Set small financial goals you can reach as a couple, stick to your budget, and learn how to problem-solve respectfully.

The post How Do I Manage My Expenses After Getting Married? appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Vynn Capital snags investment from Malaysia’s MAVCAP for its maiden Southeast Asia fund

Vynn Capital, a new entrant to Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem, is gearing up to close its maiden fund after it landed an undisclosed sum from Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP) as one of its anchor LPs.

Founded by former Gobi Ventures VC Victor Chua and Singaporean investor Darren Chua (no relation) one year ago, Kuala Lumpur-based Vynn is targeting a $40 million fund for Southeast Asia. The firm has already made four investments and, on the LP side, gone after traditional businesses and Southeast Asia’s family corporations. Landing MAVCAP — which is Malaysia’s largest investor has backed VC funds including Gobi — is a major coup for a debut fund.

“The investment from MAVCAP is a very good validation for Vynn Capital,” said Victor Chua, who is Malaysian. “Personally, having been active in the local and regional ecosystem, I’ve benefited from the growth trajectory of the ecosystem and am now able to launch a new fund that is addressing the need of the traditional businesses to be innovative.”

“The thesis of the fund is Southeast Asia, but through our investment we are focused on how it will be invested in Malaysian deals,” MAVCAP’s Shahril Anas told TechCrunch in an interview. “We have some carry and expect returns that we can invest into local entrepreneurs in Malaysia, we are also keen to look at how other countries’ economies interact with startups.”

Anas said the approach is to be very hands-off, MAVCAP has various other fund investments, but he reiterated that there may be specific data or insight that the organization looks to glean.

Southeast Asia is emerging from the shadows of China and India to become a target market for startups and, by extension, the investors who write the checks to finance them.

Beyond a cumulative population of over 600 million people, the region’s ‘digital economy’ is tipped to grow to $240 billion by 2025 from $31 million in 2015, according to a report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek.

Some of the other investors vying for a slice of the opportunity include new funds from Openspace Ventures ($135 million), Indonesia-focused Intudo ($50 million), Qualgro ($100 million) and Golden Gate Ventures ($100 million) and Sequoia India ($695 million).

5 Romantic Date Night Ideas For Going Out This Valentine’s Day

If you’re lucky enough to be all loved-up this February 14th, don’t be a cynic and ignore it altogether. Head out and spend a nice evening to remember with your better half.

You might roll your eyes at the thought of slow-motion embraces and drooping bouquets, but planning a unique date experience your partner will actually treasure — that’s romance.

Though there are many romantic ideas for couples that would rather stay in the comfort of their own home this Valentine’s Day, there are lots of options for those who are looking to dress up to celebrate.

Here are five unique Valentine’s date night ideas you should totally consider:

’Memory Lane’ Treasure Hunt

Arrange a trip through your relationship archives by guiding your loved one around your city. You can make pit-stops at the bars, cafes, bridges, and buildings that brought you together. If you’re so inclined, hand-write clues, draw something, get poetic or even be full-on cryptic.

Once your partner has solved all the riddles, meet him in your favorite bar for a cozy drink and a spot of romantic reminiscing. This kind of date — with potential for mix-ups, belly-laugh, and a few wrong turns — should bring out the kid in both of you. It’s also a brilliant chance to remember some of the best moments in your story together so far.

A Night at the Museum

night at the museum

What could be more romantic than strolling hand-in-hand across echoing marble floors, gazing at Renaissance art, ancient Roman artifacts or Victorian specimen jars?

Based on your partner’s interests and passions, seek out an off-the-beaten-track collection to explore together. You might be able to tour the one-time home of their favorite author, see a carefully curated display of the sport they play or from a country they’ve traveled in.

Many top museums now open up for late-night tours, so consider an early afternoon at a lesser-known gallery before heading to your city’s coolest museum at sundown. Couples who learn together stay together after all.

Ride the Waltzers

If you’d like to inject some magic into your relationship, research has shown there are a few simple activities which have been proven to help bring couples closer. One theory is that sharing a thrill with a partner can improve intimacy. Getting your hearts racing in each other’s company helps further the bond.

For a Valentine’s burst of adrenaline, what about a classic old-fashioned fair round for some vintage romance?

The colorful lights are an ideal backdrop for a photo together and the rickety swoop of a Ferris wheel adds a drop of nostalgia to your date. Cling on tight to your loved one as the roller coaster clatters upwards and raise your voices as one electrifying scream on the way down.

Murder Mystery Party

For some spine-tingling, Agatha Christie-inspired glamour this February 14th, take your partner to a Murder Mystery Party or host one yourself. A group activity takes off some of the Valentine’s pressure that can get in the way on a date night. So, book tickets to a professional evening hosted by actors in a nearby stately home.

You’ll be expected to look the part, so it’s an excuse to don your smartest suit and get a proper 1950s-style shave. Taking on different roles is a recipe for fun or disaster with your favorite person in the world.

Get into character, practice your accents, and impress them with your acting skills. Hosting one at home could also be an excellent way to share Valentine’s with some of your other favorite couples.

Winter Picnic

winter picnic

Valentine’s Day, of course, falls in February, which is often the chilliest month of the year. But if the forecast is cold and crisp with no rain in sight, the frosty temperature shouldn’t stop you and your other half getting wrapped up for a bracing seaside stroll.

Catch the bus or train to your nearest, prettiest beach, kitted out in your warmest woolens and robust pair of gloves. Treat your partner to a windswept march along the coastline. You can blast away the cobwebs and take in some cracking sunset seascapes.

If you want to win extra romance points, pack a winter picnic to remember. Think flaskfuls of steaming hot chocolate, slices of pie, hot sausages, and red wine.

See Also: The Romantically Challenged Guy’s Guide to a Successful Valentine’s Day

The post 5 Romantic Date Night Ideas For Going Out This Valentine’s Day appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

What to Give On Valentine’s Day: A DumbLittleMan Gift Guide

Finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is not that easy. No matter who you are giving a gift to or what stage of romantic relationship you’re in, you’re bound to spend a lot of time thinking about your present. That means hours or even days of asking around and browsing the internet for gift ideas.

Now, if you’re still undecided about what gifts to give your special someone this Valentine’s Day, don’t worry. Below, we’re sharing with you some really awesome Valentine’s day gift ideas. We’ve categorized the gifts for your convenience, too.

For Her

Spa Kit: Body & Earth Spa Gifts for Her

Does your special someone rarely have time to relax and unwind? If your answer is yes, then this makes the perfect gift this Valentine’s day.

This spa set comes with a body mist, body scrub, body lotion, bubble bath, shower gel, massage soap, and bath salts which are all formulated with nourishing ingredients. Additionally, the items are also formulated with floral lily essential oils. The scent helps in calming the mind and promoting overall well-being.

Eternity Flowers: Ling’s Moment Artificial Flowers 50pcs Real Looking Dusty Rose

Fresh flowers are great for Valentine’s Day but they don’t last that long. So instead of giving away fresh flowers on such a special event, consider eternity flowers. They don’t wither and they won’t cause allergies, too!

This particular product is made of soft but high quality latex foam which makes the flowers look like fresh ones. They are handmade and the resulting variations in color and sizes make them appear like real flowers.

Jewelry: MyNameNecklace Custom Made Pendant Jewelry

This name pendant has a romantic feel to it and anyone who receives it for Valentine’s Day will surely feel special. Even with a cursive font, the letters aren’t that hard to read. The edges are also perfectly rounded so you won’t have to worry about irritating your skin.

Scented Candles: Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle, Balsam & Cedar

No Valentine’s Day gift list will be complete without scented candles, particularly if you’re thinking of a gift for a woman. This Yankee Candle is a treat to the senses with its aromatic cedar wood and juniper berry blend. It’s a festive fragrance that can make anyone’s day feel so much better.

Bath Bombs: LifeAround2Angels Bath Bombs Gift Set

Oh, bath bombs! These ones are unlike your usual bath bombs. For one, they don’t stain the tub. That means you won’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning your tub after your bath. They are also therapeutic and moisturizing, particularly if you have normal to dry skin.

Luxury Robes: Richie House Women’s Plush Soft Warm Fleece Bathrobe

There’s probably nothing cozier than slipping into a really comfortable bath robe at the end of the day. If you know someone who feels that way, get her this soft warm fleece robe.

Made with 100% polyester fleece fabric, it’s comfortable, durable, and easy to take care of. It even has two oversized front pockets for keeping your mobile phone or even the TV remote!

Makeup Kit: Docolor Makeup Brushes

These brushes don’t just look nice but they are also feel luxurious against the skin. There’s no shedding so you can expect them to last long. Plus, they don’t fade or get scratched easily.

And the best part? They are actually vegan brushes.

Lingerie: Avidlove Women Lingerie Lace Babydoll V Neck Sleepwear Strap Chemise

This gift idea isn’t for everyone but if you know someone who loves to feel extra gorgeous, then this makes an ideal gift. This lingerie is very flattering that it’ll look good on just about anyone. It has adjustable spaghetti straps to allow one to get that perfect fit.

Shawl Wrap: GERINLY Lightweight Scarf

This scarf isn’t just a scarf. It can actually be worn in multiple ways. You can use it as a summer shawl, a bandana, a wrap skirt or a head scarf. With that, it’s the perfect accessory to wear all year round.

The design is simply feminine. It can add a modern touch to just about any type of outfit.

Hair Tools: Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizer

With unique airflow vents and multiple heat settings, this particular hair styling tool from Revlon can give your hair the shine and volume it needs in just one step. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes styling her hair without spending a lot of time. Plus, with its Ionic Technology, it can actually minimize heat damage.

For Him

Cuff Links: UHIBROS Mens Cuff Links

These cuff links are made of solid brass which guarantees strength. They are quite long lasting, too. With a rhodium-plated design, they won’t fade or get dents easily. You can expect them to stay looking like new even with continual use.

Neck Tie: Set of 3 Elegant Neck Ties By Mens Collections

To complete just about any business attire, get this set of neck ties. They are quite versatile as they have designs for the classy, bold, and casual. With two striped and one paisley, they are great for pairing with solid color shirts and hard-to-match shirts.

Hip Flask: BarMe Stainless Steel 8 oz Hip Flask

For a hip flask that makes drinking on the go really easy, get this one. With a stainless steel flask funnel, it’ll make sure that no drop gets wasted. Designed with stainless steel, you won’t have to worry about it getting rusty over time.

Shaving Kit: Schick Hydro Sense Razors for Men

For men who like to keep themselves looking neat all the time, this Shick shaving kit makes a practical gift. It comes with two types of razors, refills, and a shaving cream. What’s really nice about this one is that it’s able to adjust to provide a really close shave with less irritation.

Wallet: HIMI Wallet for Men

Thinking of getting your man a wallet? Choose this!

HIMI Wallet for Men is made of genuine leather. It feels soft and comfortable to touch. Plus, it has an RFID blocking security feature to keep critical information safe from unauthorized scanners. It has 2 ID windows and a total of 10 card slots.

Bartender Kit: Expert Cocktail Shaker Home Bar Set

This bartender kit has almost everything you need to create a basic at-home bar. It has all the staple bar supplies, such as shaker tins, cocktail strainer, cocktail jigger, and shot glasses.

The items don’t retain odor or stain as they are made with durable stainless steel. They have this chilling effect that greatly amplifies flavors.

Bluetooth Speaker: Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker

For the music enthusiast, you can never go wrong with a Bluetooth speaker such as this product. It has a 24-hour battery life and a 66-feet Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. You can use it to play music at home, at the park or anywhere you want.

Compact Multi-Tool: LEATHERMAN – Squirt PS4 Multitool, Black

This compact tool comes with almost every tool you need when you’re on the go. It’s a perfect choice for men who like being outdoors. Equipped with 9 tools, you can cut a fishing line or open boxes and bottles with it.

Bag: NEWHEY Mens Messenger Bag

This bag has a lot of room for storage. With a total of 9 pockets, you can use it to keep your umbrella, wallet, cards, laptop, and even your water bottle. It has this adjustable strap and padded handle to reduce your fatigue when carrying it.

For Him or Her

Romance Journal: Our Q&A a Day: 3-Year Journal for 2 People

This journal is a fun little exercise for couples. From really silly questions to topics that’ll urge you to reflect on your self, its content can easily make you look forward to opening it each morning.

Himalayan Salt Lamp: Himalayan Glow 1301B Tall Round Natural Salt Lamp

This salt lamp doesn’t just make a great accent home decor but it also brings warmth to any home or room. It features an adjustable brightness to allow you to create the ambiance you need to relax.

Card Games: Our Moments Couples: 100 Thought Provoking Conversation Starters for Great Relationships

Card games aren’t going away anytime soon and this particular product is one good reason why. It’ll encourage you to interact with your partner and be closer than ever. It’s also a fun way to relieve stress and look back at what you went through as a couple.

Reed Diffuser: Chesapeake Bay Candle Mind & Body Reed Diffuser

This reed diffuser has a clean, minimalistic feel. Whether you are giving it to a female or male friend, you won’t regret it. The diffuser can last for 3 months and it comes with a small bottle of fragrance oil you can use.

Pedometer: Realalt 3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer

Since it’s important to keep an active lifestyle all year round, why not get your friend a pedometer? This particular product is easy to set up and use even for those who have never used one before. With 3D Tri-Axis Sensor Technology, it’s one of the most reliable pedometers around.

Sleeping Bag: Abco Tech Sleeping Bag

For people who like traveling, camping or hiking, this is an excellent gift to choose. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and extremely portable. With a waterproof and weather-resistant design, it can keep you warm even when you are exposed in extreme weathers.

Wine Set: Vremi VRM020018N Wine Accessory Set

This 9-piece wine accessory kit includes an electric cork remover, foil cutter, vacuum pump, aerator pourer, and airtight stoppers to keep your bottle of wine in mint condition. With its black and silver design, it can easily match any kitchen decor.

Massager: Naipo Massage Pillow Neck Back Massager

With massage nodes that mimic the motions or a real therapist’s hand, this massager can help you de-stress and relax right at the comfort of your home or even your office. It allows you to massage specific body parts whenever and wherever you like.

Weighted Blanket: YnM Weighted Blanket

Made with 100% premium cotton, this weighted blanket provides just the right temperature control for your body. It’s really useful for when you are feeling anxious or you just can’t sleep well. With a 7-layer system, it’s designed to surround and form according to your shape.

The post What to Give On Valentine’s Day: A DumbLittleMan Gift Guide appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

NASA releases the “last light” image taken by Kepler before it retired last year

NASA Kepler space telescope’s “last light” image

NASA has released the final view taken by Kepler in September, shortly before the space telescope was retired after nearly a decade of unprecedented discoveries about the universe beyond our solar system.

“It bookends the moment of intense excitement nine and a half years earlier when the spacecraft first opened its eye to the skies and captured its ’first light’ image,” wrote NASA Ames Research Center public affairs officer Alison Hawkes. “Kepler went on to discover more than 2,600 worlds beyond our solar system and statistically proved that our galaxy has even more planets than stars.”

The “last light” image was taken on September 25, about a month before Kepler retired. The space telescope was pointed in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and the image encompasses the TRAPPIST-1 system, containing “seven rocky planets, at least three of them believed to be temperate worlds,” Hawkes wrote, and the GJ 9827 system, a star with an orbiting super Earth exoplanet (or planet outside the Solar System) that is “considered an excellent opportunity for follow up observations with other telescopes to study an atmosphere of a faraway world.”

Kepler’s field of view also slightly overlapped with NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), its planet-hunting successor, so astronomers will be able to compare data from the two. TESS launched last year and is expected to catalogue more than 1,500 exoplanets.

Kepler’s legacy is even more extraordinary because its primary mission was originally planned to last for 3.5 years. Instead, the space craft, named for 17th-century German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler operated for nine years, thanks a combination of its sturdy construction and fuel reserve. During that time, it discovered more than 4,500 confirmed planets and planet candidates, including 3,912 exoplanets.

Significantly, many of the planets Kepler discovered may be similar to Earth in size, with NASA analysis concluding that 20 to 50 percent of the stars in the sky are likely orbited by “small, possibly rocky planets that are in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water could pool on the surface” and potentially host life.

Kepler also continued recording specific targets every 30 seconds, doing so for a few hour after the “last light” image was taken. “Although Kepler’s transmitters have been turned off and it is no longer collecting science, its data will be mined for many years to come,” Hawkes wrote.

Optimus Ride deploys more self-driving vehicles

Optimus Ride, an MIT spinoff, is gearing up to deploy its self-driving vehicles within a mixed-use development located in Reston, Virginia. Thanks to a partnership with Brookfield Properties, Optimus Ride will deploy an autonomous vehicle service throughout Halley Rise, a development that features housing, retail, offices and public spaces in June.

“We are pleased to announce our partnership with Brookfield, the world’s leading real estate developer,” Optimus Ride CEO Dr. Ryan Chin said in a press release. “We will deploy our self-driving system at Brookfield’s Halley Rise location this summer to provide users with autonomous mobility access between office buildings as we continue to scale our business. In the future, we will advance our partnership by deploying our self-driving systems at additional Brookfield sites around the world.”

During phase one of the deployment, just three Optimus Ride autonomous vehicles will in service to transport people within the development. In the greater D.C. area alone, Brookfield owns 40 properties.

Given that Brookfield has properties throughout the world, Optimus Ride plans to deploy its autonomous services in additional Brookfield developments. Optimus Ride has previously deployed autonomous driving services near Boston, in an urban development called Union Point.

Apple pays millions in backdated taxes to French authorities

Apple has agreed to pay back a large sum in backdated taxes. The company has confirmed the information to the AFP and Reuters. According to L’Express, Apple could have paid as much as €500 million ($572 million) — the AFP also confirmed that sum.

“The French tax administration recently concluded a multi-year audit on the company’s French accounts, and those details will be published in our public accounts,” the company told Reuters. French authorities can’t confirm the transaction due to tax secrecy.

This isn’t the first time French tax authorities investigate on tech companies. Amazon also settled a dispute with French authorities back in February 2018.

In August 2016, the European Commission ruled that Apple had benefited from illegal tax benefits from 2003 to 2014. Like many global companies, Apple has been accused of optimizing its corporate structure to lower the effective corporate tax rate in Europe.

While Apple appealed the decision back in 2016 saying that everything was legal, the company finished paying back the fine in September 2018. There are now $16.4 billion (€14.3 billion) sitting in an escrow account, waiting for the appeal.

And it sounds like Apple should have paid more taxes in France in particular. French tax authorities focused on profits generated in France over the past ten years.

Last month, the French government announced that it would start taxing big tech companies in France even if they report profits in another country. This tax will be based on revenue generated in France. Other European countries could follow the same model.

127 member countries of the OECD are also discussing new taxation rules for big tech companies. This time, the OECD wants to force companies to report profits in all countries where they operate.

Apple’s long-time Siri leader reportedly no longer in charge

The man who has headed up Siri at Apple since 2012 is no longer at the helm, according to The Information. Bill Stasior remains at the company in a different role, the report states.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment.

Stasior joined Apple to take over Siri in 2012 after being poached from Amazon’s A9 retail search team. At this in time, most of the original Siri co-founders had already left Apple and Stasior was tasked with taking on the mantle of deciding where the digital assistant should move next.

Siri has had a troubled history at Apple. Though the voice assistant arrived with a big splash, the company’s inability to iterate the product quickly left its competitors ample opportunity to leapfrog its capabilities. Something that both Amazon and Google clearly have with their Alexa and Google Assistant platforms.

This past April, Apple hired Google’s John Giannandrea to lead AI and machine learning efforts at the company, a division that includes Siri and CoreML. Giannandrea is expected to be leading the search for a new leader for the Siri team, the report says.

Naspers takes full control of Russian classifieds site Avito in $1.16B deal

South African internet conglomerate Naspers is best known for backing Chinese tech giant Tencent, but it also operates a vast network of online classifieds businesses. That network just got a little larger after Naspers took full control of Russia-based Avito through a new $1.16 billion all-cash investment to top up its ownership to over 99 percent.

Avito is Russia’s top classifieds site, claiming 10.3 million unique daily visitors. It currently has close to 47 million listings covering categories that include goods, auto, real estate, jobs and services.

The deal, which was made via Naspers’ OLX Group, takes its ownership to 99.6 percent on a fully diluted basis and values the full company at $3.85 billion.

While classifieds may sound like a very retro corner of e-commerce, it remains a growing business (just ask Facebook, which has been growing its own marketplace and giving it increasing exposure across its own network).

Particularly in emerging and developing markets, leading local players continue to find traction. In the last six months ending September 30, Avito generated sales of 10.3 million rubles ($157.50 million), up 30 percent on the year before; and it operates with a 65.4 percent ebitda margin, with listings growing 7.4 percent to 17.46 million — according to Vostok New Ventures, one of the backers who sold up in this deal.

“Avito’s talented management team, led by CEO Vladimir Pravdivy, has demonstrated the capacity to achieve remarkable growth consistently over time,” said Martin Scheepbouwer, CEO of the OLX Group, in a statement. “Business performance is excellent and we look forward to continuing this trend by further leveraging the technology, knowledge and experience from Avito within OLX Group and vice versa.”

In Russia specifically, the market has a lot of potential in e-commerce — the country has very high internet and smartphone penetration, with a large population — but it lags behind the UK, France and Germany when it comes to total market size. Morgan Stanley estimates that the market will be worth around €31 billion by 2020, but as a point of comparison, in 2017, the UK was already pushing 200 billion, and France and Germany respectively both were clearing over €90 billion annually in e-commerce sales.

Analysts have highlighted how on challenge in Russia is that the market lacks one specific strong leader in e-commerce marketplaces, with Yandex (in partnership with Sberbank), Mail.ru (in partnership with Alibaba), Ozon (backed in part by Rakuten), and Wildberries together only taking 27 percent of the market. That leaves the door open for someone to come in and to consolidate that more, and that presents a double opportunity for Naspers: it can either find itself getting a good deal for Avito from another buyer, or take the plunge to do it buying itself using Avito as its foothold.

Naspers-OLX originally took a majority stake in 2015 through a $1.2 billion investment. Before that, it had been involved in Avito as early as 2013, when the company was formed by a merger between Slando.ru and OLX.ru, two rivals that were both backed by Naspers.

Consolidating its position in companies where it’s already strong helps Naspers also use the cash from those operations to invest in newer areas of business like tapping into more on-demand services and innovations in financial services to complement the legacy areas.

“Avito is the leading online classifieds player in Russia and our decision to increase our stake reflects our belief in the long-term prospects of this great business and the Russian internet market,” said Bob van Dijk, Naspers CEO, in a statement. “This investment further strengthens our global position in online classifieds, a core focus for Naspers alongside online food delivery and fintech.”

One-quarter of jobs are at ‘high-risk’ of being automated

No one will be entirely safe from automation in the future, but according to a new study out of the Brookings Institute, around 25 percent of U.S. jobs are at “high risk.” It’s a stark bit of foreshadowing in a job market that has yet to fully rebound.

Roles in transportation, food prep, production and office admin are among those at highest risk, with robotics and artificial intelligence threatening to automate in the neighborhood of 70 percent of tasks, according to the study. Activities involving processing, data collection and physical labor are, unsurprisingly, most at risk here.

Automation is expected to have an outsized impact in certain regions in the country, and among less well educated workers. Likewise, it’s expect to impact different segments of the population in different ways.

“Youth, and less educated workers, along with underrepresented groups all appear likely to face significantly more acute challenges from automation in the coming years,” according to the study. “Young workers and Hispanics will be especially exposed.”

There does seem to be a certain inevitability in all of this. And certainly we’ve seen versions of this scenario played out, decade after after. But local governments and industries can help brace for impact, by educating and developing skills among existing workers, says Brookings.

Zuckerberg is breaking promises to Instagram and WhatsApp. Be concerned.

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Mark Zuckerberg is doing exactly what he promised Instagram and WhatsApp he wouldn’t: messing with their independence by creating one system to rule them all. 

The Facebook founder plans to bring the back ends of Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram closer together with that of his own social network, as Facebook has now confirmed to the New York Times

This consolidation may come with benefits for the billions of users involved, such as making it easier for anyone to send messages across the apps. But it’s also the biggest sign yet that Zuckerberg is tightening his grip on services he once promised complete autonomy — and it comes on the heels of  the Instagram and the WhatsApp founders exiting Facebook.  Read more…

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