EMMA LAUNCHES HEFORSHE REPORT

EMMA WATSON was on hand to support the UN’s HeForShe campaign during the UN World Economic Forum at Davos on Friday, unveiling the Impact 10x10x10 parity report. The actress and UN ambassador took the opportunity to interview 10 male CEOs who have committed to advancing gender equality in their organisations to find out how they plan to do so.

In the series of interviews, which were broadcast, Watson noted that “full female participation in the workforce could boost GDP by $28 trillion within a decade,” reports the World Economic Forum, calling it the “single biggest stimulus to the economy”.

The Impact 10x10x10 initiative is about helping those who are interested in helping the cause but aren’t sure how, “engaging governments, businesses and universities and having them make concrete commitments to gender equality”, according to Watson. In the last year alone it has managed to secure the assurance of top global brands, including Barclays, Vodafone and Unilever that they will address the issue in their corporations.

“But I want to hear from the human beings that are behind these organisations,” she implored when she launched the programme last year. “Girls, who have been your mentors? Parents, did you make sure you treated your children equally – if so, how have you done it? Husbands, have you been supporting your female partner privately so that she can fulfil her dreams too? Young men, have you spoken up in a conversation when a woman was casually degraded or dismissed? How did this affect you? How did this affect the woman you stepped up for? Businessmen, have you mentored and supported women in leadership positions? Writers, have you challenged the language and imagery used to portray women in the media? CEOs, have you implemented the women’s empowerment principles in your companies? What change have you seen? Are you someone that has been persuaded to become HeForShes and collected their signatures for our website? How many have you got? We want to know, we want to hear from you.”

Since assuming her role as UN ambassador in July 2014, Watson has made a big impact on the international stage, harnessing her fame and global fanbase to highlight gender equality. Last January, when she outlined her year-long plan for the campaign, she spoke of her amazement at the response that she had already received from men and women all over the world; in March, she took her crusade to Facebook, where she held a forum on the subject that was broadcast live over the social-media platform; and in August she made an exclusive film for British Vogue addressing equal rights in the fashion industry.

FIRST LOOK: BIONDA CASTANA FOR LK BENNETT

 BRITISH shoe label Bionda Castana’s first collaboration – with high-street brand LK Bennett – may not be accompanied by the global fanfare of an H&M designer collection, but the product itself is just as covetable. Sharing the first look at the forthcoming collection with Vogue, Bionda Castana co-founder Natalia Barbieri explained that the label’s aim was not to simply imitate its signature styles, but rather to harmonise the brand’s aesthetic with the needs of the LK Bennett customer.

“The main thing in our minds was ‘vibrancy’ and creating a capsule collection that was memorable, yet wearable,” Barbieri told us, noting that the LK Bennett archives also provided inspiration. “We looked to the Fifties and Seventies and sought to mix this feel with signature elements of LK Bennett and Bionda Castana. This meant, for example, creating a Fifties-esque mid-heel that is complemented by a modern and unexpected transparent mesh accent. LK Bennett is known for its polka-dot print and low-heeled offering, while we are known for our graphic prints, refined heels and subtle use of mesh. Once we identified these signature traits we found a natural synergy that made for an exciting collection.”

The collaboration came about when the shoe label was paired with LK Bennett CEO Robert Bensoussan – the former CEO of Jimmy Choo, and a man who therefore knows a thing or two about the shoe business – when it was awarded the Walpole Brand of Tomorrow prize for 2015. Following the design process – for which, co-founder Jennifer Portman reveals, the duo were given “carte blanche” – the pair worked closely with the “fantastic” LK Bennett production team to ensure the final manifestation of the collection was up to their standards, despite the difference in price point.

With a global following, hundreds of international stockists, and a list of celebrity fans that any major house would covet – from Dakota Fanning, January Jones and Diane Kruger, to Alexa Chung and Karlie Kloss – Bionda Castana’s first foray into accessible luxury is likely to sell out in hours, but Barbieri revealed that she’s keeping one pair aside for herself.

“I love the raspberry chequerboard Jerry high-heeled sandal,” she smiled, despite always trying her best not to play favourites among styles. “It embodies both the LK Bennett and Bionda Castana worlds by using our signatures of laces, graphic prints and the thinner stiletto.”

MakeMyTrip Under Scanner for Alleged Tax Evasion

MakeMyTrip Under Scanner for Alleged Tax Evasion

Online travel company MakeMyTrip is under probe for alleged service tax evasion of Rs. 75 crores.

The Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) has registered a case against the online travel services provider for allegedly not depositing service tax which it had collected from the customers, official sources said.

Following the probe, one of the company’s senior executives was arrested by the DGCEI officials and released on bail last week, they said.

When reached for comments, a company spokesperson said the service tax case is an industry issue and it will be contesting the case with appropriate authorities.

“At MakeMyTrip, we strongly believe in an ethical, transparent and compliant corporate culture and abide by all laws and regulations of the country. The service tax case in question is potentially an industry issue that can impact all Online Travel Agents (OTAs).

“We have a strong case as advised by our tax advisors and therefore will be contesting the matter with the appropriate authorities. We are extending our full cooperation to the authorities in the investigation. Further, the company official who was detained by the authorities has already been released,” the spokesperson said.

Service tax is charged at the rate of 14.5 percent (including 0.5 percent of Swachh Bharat Cess).

The DGCEI investigation has found that the company was collecting two types of taxes – service tax on 60 percent of the rate negotiated by MakeMyTrip with the hotels towards renting of rooms and service tax on 10 percent of the gross value on the customer vouchers by treating themselves as tour operators. The second category of service tax was being mentioned as MMT (MakeMyTrip) Tax by the firm, the sources said.

It is also found by the DGCEI that MakeMyTrip was depositing so called MMT Tax and not the the one collected from the customers towards renting of hotel rooms, they said.

MakeMyTrip has collected Service Tax to the tune of Rs. 83 crores (approximately) from October 2010 to September 2015 from customers for taxable service of renting of hotel rooms out of which Rs. 67 crores has not been deposited in the government account, the sources said.

The estimated alleged evasion of service tax by MakeMyTrip is about Rs. 75 crores. The firm has so far deposited Rs. 15 crores towards its anticipated service tax liability and has promised to deposit Rs. 10 crores during the hearing of the bail application of its executive, sources said.

Meanwhile, the DGCEI has conducted a detailed background check of some of the 30,000 hotels which have agreements with MakeMyTrip. So far the verification conducted in respect of 490 hotels has found that 212 of them are not even registered with the service tax authorities, they said.

“Necessary action will also be taken against these hotels by concerned service tax authorities,” they said.

Humble Store Is Having Its Own Winter Sale

Humble Store Is Having Its Own Winter Sale

If you missed the Steam Winter Sale or weren’t too happy with what you saw, Humble Bundle is having a Winter Sale of its own. The sale started over the weekend and will run for the entirety of two weeks until 10am PT (or 11:30pm IST) on January 29.

The Humble store is providing discounts on some of 2015’s biggest hits and AAA games from previous years. Here are some of the best deals we identified:

  • Just Cause 3 – 20% off
  • Rocket League – 30% off
  • Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin – 60% off
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition – 75% off
  • Dishonored Game of the Year Edition – 66% off
  • Wolfenstein The New Order – 85% off
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited – 60% off
  • Cities Skylines – 60% off
  • The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt – 50% off
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed – 75% off
  • Company of Heroes 2 – 75% off
  • Ark Survival Evolved – 40% off
  • Evoland 2 – 50% off
  • Grid Autosport – 75% off
  • Devil May Cry Complete Pack – 70% off
  • Build your own ‘Double Fine’ bundle – 85% off 3 games and 90% off 5 games

And as always with Humble, you can choose from a list of over 30,000 charities to donate 10 percent of all your spending on the site. Do note that you will need to pay in US Dollars or face conversion charges as the Humble Store doesn’t currently support INR pricing unlike Steam.

Oppo F1 With 5-Inch Display, 13-Megapixel Camera Launched

Oppo F1 With 5-Inch Display, 13-Megapixel Camera Launched

Oppo F1, the company’s new camera-focused smartphone, has been officially launched. The handset, which went on pre-orders via a third-party retailer website, is now officially up for pre-orders in Europe. The device costs EUR 229 (roughly Rs. 16,800) and comes bundled with an Oppo Selfie Stick.

As per the smartphone listing on the company’s Europe website, the dual-SIM (Micro-SIM + Nano-SIM) supporting Oppo F1 runs on ColorOS 2.1 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, sports an aluminium body and is slim at 7.25mm. It houses a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) resolution IPS display protected by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 4 coating with pixel density of 294ppi. The smartphone is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, Adreno 405 GPU, and 3GB LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 1866MHz are also included the handset.

In the camera department, the Oppo F1 bears a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and single LED flash. It also includes an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with wider f/2.0 aperture (1/ 4-inch sensor) along with software features such as Beautify 3.0, 8 live colour filters, and more. The display also doubles as the flash in low-light environments. It also includes proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, and digital compass. The smartphone is backed by a 2500mAh Li-Po battery and houses 16GB of inbuilt storage.

As for the connectivity, the smartphone supports 4G LTE networks (India bands supported), along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Micro-USB connectivity.

At the time of its CES announcement, Oppo said the new F-Series smartphones will keep photography as its central focus. As per Sky Li, Oppo Vice President and Managing Director of International Mobile Business, the new series is said to “inherit the excellent camera performance and exquisite design tradition.”

Oppo is set to debut its camera-focused ‘F’ smartphone series with the launch of its Oppo F1 in Indiaon January 28.

Microsoft to Bring Windows Phone’s Word Flow Keyboard to iOS

Microsoft to Bring Windows Phone's Word Flow Keyboard to iOS

Microsoft until now restricted its Word Flow Keyboard app to its own Windows Phone platform. The Redmond-based tech giant is now planning to bring it to Android and iOS as well.

In an email sent to some Windows Insider testers, shared by The Verge, Microsoft said it is hunting foriPhone 5s (or later) users to test the Word Flow keyboard app on iOS. The company however, did not mention as to when it will bring the final version of the app outside its ecosystem, or when work would begin on the Android version.

“Word Flow keyboard has long been one of the highly praised features on Windows Phone and was used to break the Guinness World Record for fastest texting. We are now working on extending this keyboard to other platforms, starting with iOS,” said the company in the email. “Before publicly releasing this keyboard to the App Store, we’d love to give Insiders like you a preview. With your feedback, we’ll build a roadmap of improvements to the keyboard over time.”

The Word flow keyboard debuted with Windows Phone 8.1 in 2014. The Swype keyboard-like feature allows users to glide over the display and type words. Like other third-party keyboard apps, the Word Flow also features word and emoji prediction.

Talking about keyboard apps, SwiftKey last month rolled out an update on Android that brings several new features including a revamped emoji panel. The update primarily brings a redesigned emoji panel, apart from new light and dark themed emoji panels. It also adds double-word prediction and offers two free new festive holiday themes for all users. The emoji panel will now also remember the last used category for user convenience.

Tom Clancy’s The Division Won’t Have Microtransactions, Says Creative Director

Tom Clancy's The Division Won't Have Microtransactions, Says Creative Director

Ubisoft Massive’s creative director Magnus Jansen has said that there will no presence of microtransactions in the studio’s upcoming post-pandemic open world third-person RPG – Tom Clancy’s The Division.

In an interview with British video gaming blog VG247, Jansen said: “[Microtransactions are] one of the things that we looked at because if people like the game and want to purchase extra things I don’t mind that. But microtransactions, as it’s defined, we do not have them. You cannot spend a little bit of money and fast-track to get better gear or pay to win or vanity items. We do not have that. The short answer is no, we don’t have microtransactions, period.”

This goes to further cement one side of the story. On Thursday, in direct contrast to Jansen’s claims, The Division’s page listing on the PlayStation store was spotted with the words ‘In-game purchases optional’ in the description section. But in an interview with Gamespot on Friday, Jansen said that microtransactions “had been under consideration, but [pay-to-win] never made it into the game”.

It still doesn’t explain why the game page continues to carry that same description, or if it’s a misprint waiting to be corrected. Jansen went on to clarify that they do have planned downloadable content (DLC): “We will have DLC. We don’t have it yet because we’re just barely finishing the game. I just don’t want anyone to say that when we announce the DLC, ‘you said [no microtransactions]’.”

The Division will have a closed beta – for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC – towards the end of the month. It will be available publicly for purchase over a month later, on March 8.

European Antitrust Chief Takes Swipe at Privacy Issue

European Antitrust Chief Takes Swipe at Privacy IssueMargrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, warned Sunday that the collection of a vast amount of users’ data by a small number of tech companies like Google and Facebook could be in violation of the region’s tough competition rules.

Vestager’s comments are the latest in a growing chorus of European criticism about the privacy practices of US tech giants, many of which rely on crunching data based on people’s social media posts, online search queries and e-commerce purchases to fuel their digital advertising businesses.

The comments by Vestager, who, as the region’s top competition official, has sweeping powers to fine companies that are found to abuse their dominant market positions, show that European officials are stepping up their fight to strengthen data protection. In the European Union, an individual’s right to privacy is viewed on par with other fundamental rights like freedom of expression.

“If a few companies control the data you need to cut costs, then you give them the power to drive others out of the market,” Vestager said at the DLD conference, a gathering of digital executives and policymakers.

She said that “it’s hard to know” how much data is given up when using an online messaging service. “But it’s a business transaction, not a free giveaway,” she continued. “As consumers, we need to be treated fairly.”

Vestager’s warning shot in the often-rancorous privacy debate comes ahead of a January 31 deadline for Europe and the United States to reach a new data-sharing agreement.

The new so-called safe harbor agreement is needed after the European Court of Justice ruled last year that Europeans’ digital data was not sufficiently protected when transferred to the United States. Negotiations between the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, and the US Commerce Department are continuing – though legal experts, government officials and industry watchers think that an agreement may not be reached by the end of the month.

A number of European executives echoed Vestager’s fears about how a small number of US tech companies could use their large-scale data collection to favor their own services over those of rivals. Among them was Oliver Samwer, the German entrepreneur who co-founded Rocket Internet, one of the region’s most high-profile tech companies.

LG G4 Stylus 3G With 3000mAh Battery Launched

LG G4 Stylus 3G With 3000mAh Battery Launched at Rs. 19,000

LG India has introduced a new variant of the G4 Stylus smartphone priced at Rs. 19,000. The latest LG G4 Stylus 3G smartphone is now listed on the company site with pricing details and is a 3G-only version of the original G4 Stylus. We can expect the new smartphone from LG to be available to buy soon.

There are few differences between the LG G4 Stylus (Review) and the LG G4 Stylus 3G apart from the former’s 4G LTE support. Unlike the G4 Stylus which packs a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, the G4 Stylus 3G is powered by 1.4GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592M processor. The LTE model sports a 13-megapixel rear camera while the 3G model packs an 8-megapixel rear camera. Both the models come with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Rest of the specifications of the LG G4 Stylus 3G are same as the original G4 Stylus.

The Android 5.0 Lollipop-based LG G4 Stylus 3G comes with a UI derived from the 2015 flagship smartphone, the LG G4, which runs the LG UX 4.0. The G4 Stylus features a 5.7-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display offering a pixel density of 258ppi. Other specifications include 1GB of RAM; 16GB of built-in storage; expandable storage support via microSD card (up to 32GB); 3000mAh battery (removable); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.1; NFC; A-GPS; Glonass, and Micro-USB. It measures 154.3×79.2×9.6mm and weighs 163 grams.

Some of the highlights of the G4 derived UI on the G4 Stylus smartphones include Gesture Shot, which allows the camera to open and close a hand in front of the lens to start a three-second countdown for the shutter; Knock Code that allows users to unlock the phone by tapping a personalised ‘knock’ pattern on the display, and Glance View, which shows key notifications on the display when it is turned off.

To recall, LG had slashed the price of the G4 Stylus smartphone back in August in India. The G4 Stylus, which launched at Rs. 24,990 in India, was available at Rs. 21,000.

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus Affected by ‘Stuck’ Battery Percentage Bar, Confirms Apple

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus Affected by 'Stuck' Battery Percentage Bar, Confirms Apple

If your iPhone is not showing you the accurate battery level, you’re not alone. Apple has acknowledged a bug affecting iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus smartphones that is preventing the battery percentage bar from showing real-time information. The issue, as you can imagine, is misguiding people of the exact battery level they have left on their iPhone.

Apple wrote in a support document that the system time on the iPhone is apparently triggering the issue. When a user makes changes to the system time, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus stop updating the battery level. The issue is also affecting users who’re travelling from one time zone to another.

The issue has been reported by a number of users on Apple’s official forum. Several complaints on the thread go as back as October 20, 2015. “My iPhone 6s Plus battery percentage gets stuck frequently. Like for example, it will say 87 percent all day, and then I’ll plug it in for an hour, and it will still say 87 percent,” a user wrote. “The only fix I’ve found is to power the phone off and then turn it back on. Then the percentage will update correctly, and will usually continue to update properly for awhile. But eventually it gets stuck again.”

While Apple works on a fix, the company has shared a workaround. It asks affected users to restart their iPhone and then ensure that the system clock time is being automatically set. To do this, go to Settings > General > Date & Time and check if the Set Automatically option is turned on.