by: Josh ConstineFacebook Messenger is all set up to allow friends to send each other money. All Facebook has to do is turn on the feature, according to screenshots and video taken using iOS app exploration developer tool Cycript by Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude.Messenger’s payment option lets users can send money in a message similar to how they can send a photo. Users can add a debit card in Messenger, or use one they already have on file with Facebook. An in-app pincode also exists for added security around payments.It’s unclear whether Facebook will monetize Messenger by charging a small fee for money transfers, or offer the functionality for free to drive usage of its standalone chat app. That will be up to David Marcus, the new head of Messenger who was formerly the president of PayPal.Why Facebook chose to poach Marcus is now obvious: Facebook Messenger payments could compete with Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, and other peer-to-peer money transfer apps. continue reading » 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
Southampton Town leaders have been talking about the need to provide more affordable housing for years. On Thursday, June 7, as the town board took its first look at legislation that would ease restrictions on affordable accessory apartments, especially in areas with higher real estate values, board members learned it could be a little more difficult than they at first thought.“The thing we all agree on is we have a crisis,” said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who made increasing the number of affordable accessory apartments a priority shortly after taking office in 2016. “There is this clock ticking, and as that clock ticks, more people are leaving our community.”A law currently on the books allows property owners who have at least three-quarters of an acre to apply for an accessory apartment through a permitting process. In the 18 years that law has been in effect, only 352 accessory apartments have been created — and those apartments are not subject to any price controls, town Planning and Land Use Administrator Kyle Collins told the board.Under a new proposal that was presented by Assistant Town Attorney Kara Bak and Housing and Community Development Director Diana Weir, the town would allow properties as small as 15,000 square feet to be eligible for an accessory apartment with the caveat that landlords would have to enroll them in the town’s affordable housing program and cap rents based on federal guidelines.The restrictions would only be eased in hamlets where the median home price was higher than the townwide median price.That element of the law immediately drew the objection of Councilwoman Christine Scalera, the sole Republican on the board, who questioned whether limiting affordable rentals to only those areas with higher property values would violate federal fair housing standards.Although Bak said the legislation was aiming to promote affordable housing in the eastern half of town, where it is needed the most, Scalera asked, “Can you do that in a constitutional way?”Scalera said she was also concerned that easing the lot-size restriction for accessory apartments could open the door to a flood of applications because, she said, it could make up to 9000 lots in town eligible. “It’s a truly significant increase in density, a downzoning,” she said.She also questioned how the town, which she said already has problems enforcing the code, would be able to keep up with the new demand on its resources.When Scalera suggested that Hampton Bays is “already overrun” by illegal apartments, Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni accused her of exaggerating. “Watch your rhetoric,” he said.Although Schiavoni said he had some concerns with the impact of accessory apartments on neighbors, and suggested the town might want to create a review board to oversee the permitting practice, he said there was a clear need for more affordable housing. “Let’s not let perfect get in the way of good,” he said.The supervisor also disagreed with Scalera’s take, arguing that her figures were “grossly inflated,” although she stood by her numbers. He also disputed her contention that the law would violate fair housing standards, arguing that it is intended to target an imbalance that currently has most of the town’s affordable housing concentrated west of the Shinnecock Canal.The proposed law could be amended, Schneiderman added, to limit the number of permits that could be given in any year to 25 or 50. If the town board didn’t like the way the program was working, it could simply refuse to issue more permits,” he said.Councilwoman Julie Lofstad said even though the current law would not include Hampton Bays there may be people living in that hamlet who might want to take advantage of a such a program to be able to stay in their homes. The town has to be ready to hire more code enforcement officers to conduct inspections, she added.Councilman John Bouvier supported the measure, but said the town needs to also to look at the need to provide housing for seasonal workers.He added that if board members are concerned about code enforcement, they could require that inspections be conducted with each two-year lease and possibly catch problems before they grow too serious.The board asked Bak and Weir to continue working on the law and agreed to discuss it again at a future work [email protected] Share
MUMBAI, India | Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. There’s a twist, though: Instead of being the game-changing phenomena it was in the U.S., Uber faces a slew of competitors using similar technology.The concept Uber helped pioneer just four years ago has transformed some markets before it even had a chance to enter them. Homegrown taxi apps are already slogging it out for dominance in numerous Asian countries.China has a taxi-hailing app called Kuadi that says it logs more than 6 million transactions per day. Malaysia-based GrabTaxi operates in five Southeast Asian countries and recently announced more than $10 million in new investment. India has two competing taxi-app companies, Meru Cabs and Ola Cabs.The proliferation of taxi apps means that Uber, which raised $258 million in venture capital last year, much of it from Google Ventures, must distinguish itself from local companies as well as international challengers including Easy Taxi and Lyft. This month, Lyft got a $250 million cash infusion from investors including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.“We have to build our brand up from scratch in a lot of these places,” said Sam Gellman, who is heading Uber’s Asian expansion.To compete against local lookalikes, Uber said it is taking a two-prong strategy. First, partner with local players who can tailor their business to demand, whether for fast no-frills rides or luxury cars on call. Second, target Asia’s upwardly mobile business travelers who will appreciate having one service they can use in dozens of cities worldwide.The company has in the last year started operating in 18 cities in Asia, Australia and New Zealand including Seoul, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and five Indian cities.Uber uses a free GPS-enabled app for customers to use their phones to summon rides, usually from a private car company instead of an ordinary licensed cab and promising a quicker response time that is often within 10 minutes. Drivers respond using their own Uber-provided smartphones mounted on the dashboard and follow the map to an exact location.In the U.S. and Europe, Uber has variously drawn acclaim by urban customers tired of difficulty finding cabs and protests by taxi companies accusing it of running unlicensed taxi services. Just last month, an organization representing Seattle-area taxi drivers sued Uber, alleging it is involved in “unlawful and deceptive business practices.”Legal woes, though, are less of a problem in Asia than lookalike local competitors. The business models of Asian rivals vary: some run their own fleets, others depend on advertising, while Uber makes commissions on fares, but all employ distinctly Uber-like smartphone apps.China’s Kuaidi says its app is used 6.2 million times a day and makes 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in revenue each month through advertising by linking customers to regular taxis.Cai Jing, 29, a Shanghai-based purchaser for a food company, uses Chinese taxi apps a few times a week.“They’re way more effective at getting me a taxi than just waiting on the street,” said Cai, who hadn’t heard of Uber.One market Uber sees huge potential in particular is India, with its vast population of 1.2 billion. In the last year, Uber has launched in Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. That’s more cities than in any other country except the United States.Uber India’s Jambu Palaniappan said the market is one of the fastest-growing he has seen. The company declined to give specific figures.One reason for rapid growth in India is pent-up demand. In Mumbai, for instance, its distinctive black-and-yellow licensed cabs number just 42,000, inadequate for a city of 22 million. Plus, most licensed taxis are banned from having air conditioning under an archaic municipal rule, leaving passengers suffering with rolled-down windows in suffocating heat and noxious pollution. The city does allow air-conditioned “radio taxis,” but getting one can take an hour or more.Newly minted Uber driver Dinish Karamsesula, whose employer partnered with the company in Mumbai, said he’s busier since getting the smartphone mounted on his black SUV, usually only rented out by the day. He now makes several short trips a day.“I’m on salary so I don’t get the profits,” he said. “But sometimes the customers are so happy with the car being cool and clean, they give me tips,” he said, driving past weaving motorbikes, ancient Premier Padmini cabs, the occasional wandering cow and a bicycle loaded with sacks of rice.Still, Uber’s Indian taxi-app rivals, both of which operate their own fleets, say they have little fear of the competition.“We have a very strong understanding of what the Indian customer wants and needs,” Ola Cabs spokesman Anand Subramanian said.He said Ola operates on a cash basis while Uber only works with credit cards, which only a miniscule percentage of Indians have.Other regional competitors focus on price. Anthony Tan, who founded GrabTaxi in 2012, said the company’s rides are often half of what Uber costs.“We are very much focused on the mass market. People going to work and school, visiting their grandmothers in the hospital,” Tan said.Uber, however, is undeterred“Once you are successful, you are going to have clones and copycats,” said Palaniappan. “The more options the customer has, the better. It forces us to be better and more relevant, too.”Associated Press researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai, AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and AP writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Dear Editor,The renewal of local democracy was recently concluded on November 12, 2018 and there was a number of new additional Local Authority Area’s (LAA’s) for the Local Government Elections (LGE) – Caracas/Wyburgs being one of the several new LAA. Unfortunately, after the conclusion of the LGE, this new LAA remains in the dark on the way forward.The internal elections was held at the Lochaber Primary School impeding on students’ time because there was no other building to accommodate the councillors, likewise staff was sent from elsewhere to conduct this internal election.Guyanese are aware that good governance, accountability and transparency are vital for the development of all communities, but the Minister of Communities Mr Bulkhan imposed a system whereby no preparation is done to access and implement that system. This is a definite case of “putting the cart in front of the horse”.The New Amsterdam Town Council (NA M&TC) has been governed by the PNC/R for numerous years, the last two elections were no different, with majority seats garnered by the APNU and the PPP/C and the AFC only managed three and one respectively. The NA M&TC also concluded their internal elections where the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were elected.The Municipalities operate under the Municipal and District Council Act Chapter 28:01 in section 60 which states that Municipalities must maintain standing committees. The most important standing committee is the finance committee notwithstanding the fact that it ensures proper accountability and transparency which is crucial for the functioning of all Municipalities.In chapter 28:01 section 62, it also states, “A council may appoint Councillors to be the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of a standing committee” and continues in sections 63, ” A committee of a Council may include persons who are not Councillors but who became of their special skill or experience will, in the opinion of the council, be able to assist in the consideration of the work of the committee.The law also cautioned that “no person other than a Councillor shall be a member of either the finance committees mentioned in schedule 5 or of a committee prescribed by a constitution order.Based on the constitution the New Amsterdam Municipality was allowed to elect the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the finance committee but conveniently used the majority of APNU Councillors of the Council to exclude Councillors from the opposition parties, that is the PPP/C and the AFC. The exclusion of the opposition Councillors was a deliberate act to exclude transparency and accountability since this particular Council is managed by the APNU. It must be noted that even the APNU-managed City Council of Georgetown included two PPP/ Councillors on their finance committee.Why did the New Amsterdam Mayor and Town Council exclude the PPP/C and AFC Councillors from their finance committee?It is evident that the New Amsterdam Town Council will continue to function without scrutiny, lack of accountability and transparency. We must demand that protection for taxpayer’s monies be paramount. The exclusion of Councillors from the opposition on the finance committee is to avoid scrutiny and continue to misuse public funds.Yours respectfully,Zamal Hussain