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Google Launches 'India Ki Udaan' to Mark 75 Years of Country's Independence

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Capturing the milestones the country has achieved in its 75-year journey since independence, software major Google has unveiled an online project, drawing from rich archives and featuring artistic illustrations to tell the story of India.

The project – India ki Udaan – executed by Google Arts and Culture celebrates the achievements of the country and is “themed on the unwavering and undying spirit of India over these past 75 years”.

It was officially launched at a glittering event held at the Sunder Nursery here on Friday in the presence of Union Culture and Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy and senior officials of the culture ministry and Google.

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As part of the countrywide celebrations to commemorate 75 years of independence, Google also announced its collaboration with the Ministry of Culture focused “on reaching informative online content that showcases the contributions of Indians and the evolution of India since 1947 to support the government’s year-long ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ programme”, the software giant said in a statement.

It also announced that its popular Doodle4Google contest for 2022, themed on “In the next 25 years, my India will…”, is now open for entries to the students of Classes 1-10.

“The winner of this year’s Doodle4Google will see their artwork on the Google homepage in India on November 14 and win a Rs. 5 lakh college scholarship, a Rs. 2 lakh technology package for their school or non-profit organisation, a recognition of achievement, Google hardware and fun Google collectibles. Four group winners and 15 finalists will also win exciting prizes,” it said.

Reddy urged the Google team to create a special doodle on “Har Ghar Tiranga”, which would encourage its employees and others to enthusiastically take part in the campaign.

In his speech, the minister also said Google could help the culture ministry in digital mapping of the boundaries of its over 3,000 centrally-protected monuments that will help in better monitoring of the sites and checking encroachment.

It can also help in digitisation of rare archival material, he added.

“Therefore, we urge the Google team to be a partner in the government’s transformative journey as also to promote India’s tourism destinations,” Reddy said.

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“To mark 75 years of India’s independence, Google announced the launch of a series of special initiatives across its products and services that will offer content and experiences created especially for the occasion to hundreds of millions of Indians through the anniversary year,” the statement said.

The centrepiece of its celebrations is a new online collection titled India Ki Udaan, available on the Google Arts and Culture website. It pays tributes to India’s rich cultural history and includes iconic moments from the last 75 years.

Published in English and Hindi, it allows people to explore more than 120 illustrations and 21 stories created by 10 talented artists, alongside exhibitions from various institutions – including the Ministry of Tourism, the Museum of Art and Photography, the Heritage Directorate of the Indian Railways, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Dastkari Haat Samiti.

“This initiative offers a unique view of India’s remarkable moments and lets people discover some of the most memorable moments in India’s modern history, its iconic personalities, its proudest scientific and sporting achievements, and how women in India continue to inspire the world. This commemorative collection will be expanded with a unique blend of archives and artistry for people in India and across the globe,” Google said.

Merging technologies and India’s rich cultural heritage, the new Google Arts and Culture collection, “India Ki Udaan”, (literally translated as “India takes flight”), “is themed on the unwavering and undying spirit of India over these past 75 years”, it added.

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Simon Rein, senior programme manager at Google Arts and Culture, told PTI that the project “marries the rich archival content with artistic talent as demonstrated by illustrators”.

A physical representation of the new digital collection was also set up at the venue, with a kite-shaped digital screen, pictures with augmented reality experience and other tech-driven experiences.

Rein said kite has been used as an “optimistic metaphor” to describe India’s journey in the last 75 years as also to engage and educate the audience at home and also those who are not from India but wish to learn about its story.

In its 10th year in India, Google Arts and Culture has showcased the country’s rich culture in many ways. Working with more than 100 partners in India, it has brought the country’s cultural heritage to people all over the world. 


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Best Buy Trims Jobs After It Cuts Sales and Profit Forecast Citing Surging Inflation

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Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, is trimming jobs in an effort to adjust to new changes in consumer behaviour as the virus wanes.

Best Buy declined to say how many jobs it was cutting, but The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news, estimated it involved hundreds of jobs at the store level.

“We’re always evaluating and evolving our teams to make sure we’re serving our customers,” Best Buy said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. ‘With an ever-changing macroeconomic environment, including customers shopping more digitally than ever, we have made adjustments to our teams that include eliminating a small number of roles.”

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The job cuts come after Best Buy reduced its annual sales and profit forecast late last month, citing surging inflation that has dampened consumer spending on gadgets. The Minneapolis-based company echoed Walmart, which a few days before cut its profit outlook. The nation’s largest retailer said that higher prices on basic necessities are forcing shoppers to cut back on discretionary items .

Walmart also announced earlier this month that it was cutting jobs at its corporate headquarters as part of a restructuring effort.

Still, the latest snapshot on the overall US job market remains strong even as inflation continues to rage and affect all types of businesses. Last week, the government reported that unemployment dropped another notch, from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent, matching the more than 50-year low reached just before the pandemic took hold. The economy has now gained back all 22 million jobs lost in March and April 2020 when COVID-19 hit the US.

Best Buy said last month it now expects this year’s sales at stores opened at least a year to be down 11 percent, much steeper than the 3 percent to 6 percent drop it originally forecast in May.

For Best Buy’s fiscal second quarter, it expects comparable sales to be down 13 percent. Still, revenue for the quarter should be roughly 7.5 percent higher than the second quarter of 2020, it said.

Best Buy is slated to report its quarterly results on August 30.


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US Regulator to Investigate Deaths of Amazon Workers in New Jersey: Details

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Federal work-safety investigators are looking into the death of an Amazon worker and an injury that potentially led to the death of another employee, adding to a probe already underway following a third fatality during the company’s annual Prime Day shopping event in mid-July.All three Amazon workers died within the past month and were employed at company facilities in New Jersey.

The new Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) investigations are putting fresh scrutiny on Amazon’s injury rates and workplace-safety procedures, which have long been criticized by labor and safety advocates as inadequate.

Department of Labor spokesperson Denisha Braxton confirmed Thursday that the most-recent fatality took place last week at an Amazon facility in Monroe Township, about 20 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of Trenton. The second probe is looking into a July 24 accident at an Amazon facility in Robbinsville. The worker involved in that accident died three days later, according to Braxton.

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In a statement, Robbinsville Police Chief Michael Polaski said police responded to the warehouse, called PNE5, on July 24 after receiving a report that a worker fell from a three-foot (one-meter) ladder and struck his head.

Polaski said the worker was conscious and alert when police arrived. But police were told CPR was conducted on the person by other workers prior to their arrival, he said. The person was transported to a hospital and OSHA was notified of the incident on the same day, he added.

Police in Monroe Township didn’t immediately reply for a request for comment on the incident there.

The two most recent deaths were first reported by the USA Today Network.

OSHA officials declined to provide additional information about any of the deaths, citing the open investigations. The agency has up to six month to complete each probe.

Sam Stephenson, a spokesperson for Seattle-based Amazon, said in a statement the company was “deeply saddened by the passing of our colleagues and offer our condolences to their family and friends.”

“Our investigations are ongoing and we’re cooperating with OSHA, which is conducting its own reviews of the events, as it often does in these situations,” Stephenson said.

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Last month, OSHA launched another investigation into a worker fatality at an Amazon warehouse in the New Jersey town of Carteret during the company’s Prime Day shopping event, which turned out to be the biggest in the company’s history. Federal officials haven’t released additional details about the death, but news reports have identified the worker as 42-year-old Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias.

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company’s internal investigation into the Carteret death shows it “was not a work-related incident, and instead was related to a personal medical condition.”

“OSHA is currently investigating the incident, and, based upon the evidence currently available to us, we fully expect that it will reach the same conclusion,” the spokesperson said.

News of the deaths comes amid broader scrutiny into the company’s operations. In late July, OSHA officials inspected Amazon facilities in New York, Illinois and Florida after receiving referrals alleging health and safety violations from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office is also investigating safety hazards at Amazon warehouses and “fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others,” according to a spokesperson for the office.


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US FTC Considering New Rules to Rein in Tech Firms' Collection of Personal Data, Protect Privacy

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Whether it’s the fitness tracker on your wrist, the “smart” home appliances in your house or the latest kids’ fad going viral in online videos, they all produce a trove of personal data for big tech companies.

How that data is being used and protected has led to growing public concern and officials’ outrage. And now federal regulators are looking at drafting rules to crack down on what they call harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the initiative Thursday, seeking public comment on the effects of companies’ data collection and the potential benefit of new rules to protect consumers’ privacy.

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The FTC defines commercial surveillance as “the business of collecting, analyzing and profiting from information about people.”

In Congress, bipartisan condemnation of the data power of Meta — the parent of Facebook and Instagram — Google and other tech giants that have earned riches by aggregating consumer information used by online advertisers, has brought national data privacy legislation to its closest point ever to passage.

Around the country, parents’ concern has deepened over the impact of social media on children. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, stunned Congress and the public last fall when she exposed internal company research showing apparent serious harm to some teens from Instagram. Those revelations were followed by senators grilling executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety in the wake of suicides and other harms to teens attributed by their parents to their usage of the platforms.

As concerns rise, social media platforms from Snapchat to TikTok to Instagram are adding new features they say will make their services safer and more age appropriate. But the changes rarely address the algorithms pushing endless content that can drag anyone, not just teens, into harmful rabbit holes.

The Democratic members of the FTC said Thursday it’s imperative for Congress to pass a new law, but that the agency was taking action in the meantime by issuing the notice of proposed rules.

“Mass surveillance has heightened the risks and stakes of data breaches, deception, manipulation and other abuses,” the FTC said.

Agency officials noted that the FTC has brought hundreds of enforcement actions against companies over the last two decades for violations of privacy and data security. They included cases involving the sharing of health-related data with third parties, the collection and sharing of sensitive TV viewing data for targeted advertising, and failure to put in adequate security measures to protect sensitive data such as Social Security numbers.

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However, the officials said, the FTC’s ability to deter illegal conduct is limited because it generally lacks authority to seek financial penalties for initial violations of law. That could change if the comprehensive privacy legislation were to clear Congress.

“Firms now collect personal data on individuals at a massive scale and in a stunning array of contexts,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in an online news conference. “Our goal today is to begin building a robust public record to inform whether the FTC should issue rules to address commercial surveillance and data security practices, and what those rules should potentially look like.”

“We are very, very eager to hear from the public,” Khan said.

Topics of interest could include how companies use algorithms and automated systems to analyze the information they collect, and the potential effects of various data practices.

Khan, who was an outspoken critic of Big Tech as a law professor, was appointed by President Joe Biden last year to head the FTC — an independent agency that polices competition and consumer protection as well as digital privacy.

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The rulemaking proposal was adopted in a 3-2 vote by the five FTC commissioners. Khan and the other two Democrats voted to issue it, while the two Republicans opposed it.

On Tuesday, Snapchat introduced new parental controls in what it calls the “Family Center” — a tool that lets parents see who their teens are messaging, though not the content of the messages themselves. Both parents and their children have to opt into the service.


How is Alexa faring in India? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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