Iangotiana Rakotovao

Iangotiana Rakotovao

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 05:51

How Amazon became the leader of online shopping.

Amazon is undoubtedly the biggest e-commerce store in the world. You can find all sorts of items from electronics to books. From a tumble beginning as an online bookstore, the company has defied all odds to be what it is today.

Founded on July 25th, 1994, by Jeff Bezos, the company has grown in leaps and bounds over its 27-year history and has become a global icon and a pacesetter in the e-commerce industry. The biggest edge of Amazon comes from a product that was launched in 2005, the service is amazon prime. At that time, Amazon Prime cost 79 dollars per year and it allowed customers to get unlimited two-day deliveries on their orders. Without prime, it would cost a customer 9,48 dollars to get an item delivered within two days. This means that if a customer placed nine orders a year, prime would have paid for itself. Prime proved to be a game changer for the company as prime members spend more money and are more frequent customers on the site than non-prime members.

Amazon reported record profits in 2018, earning $10.1 billion in net income compared to just three billion dollars in 2017. Considering the company hardly had any annual profit 2016, it represents major growth.

Amazon long dominated the U.S e-commerce market, online sales are not actually the biggest moneymaker for the company. Its e-commerce division is not even profitable internationally. Instead, Amazon Web Services or AWS has generated the majority of the company’s operating income since 2016.

AWS is Amazon’s cloud computing division, comprised of a huge network of servers providing processing and storage solutions for companies, government agencies and individuals. Its clients, which include Netflix, Airbnb and Yelp, are changed for their volume of usage, the features they subscribe to, and the services they use.

In 2018, AWS brought in 7,3 billion dollars in operating income and 25,7 billion dollars in revenue which, for reference, is more than both McDonald’s and Macy’s. Although it is a huge reason behind Amazon’s recent probability, other areas of the company are seeing major growth as well. The fastest growing division of Amazon is its advertising business. It grew 95 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and brought in $10.1 billion in revenue for the year overall.

The last segment experiencing major growth is the third-party marketplace. While Amazon traditionally buys products in bulk from wholesales and sells them at a sight markup, in the third-party marketplace outside companies pay Amazon to sell their goods using its platform. Amazon takes about a 15 to 20 percent cut of the sales, while also collecting storage and shipping fees. While Amazon generates significantly less revenue from third-party merchants than from products it sells, margins are much higher, making it more profitable than the traditional model.

Today, more than half of all goods sold come from third-party sellers, and more and more businesses are signing up. Sales of third-party seller services rose by 34 percent in 2018 to 42.7 billion dollars.

Sources: New York Times, Forbes, Amazon, Consumer News and Business Channel

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law that provides the framework of the United States government. It also establishes the rights and freedoms of American citizens. On the 17th of September of each year, America observes Constitution Day.

The U.S. Constitution’s first three words “We the people” affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve the citizens. The American Constitution is the first permanent of its kind. It has influenced many nations in the design of their respective constitutions. The U.S. Constitution is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington DC.

The U.S. Constitution has a rich history. Former American President James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution his commitment to careful and accurate record keeping of the U.S. Constitution. The founding fathers gathered in the city of Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. On that day, they concluded of the constitutional convention.

The document was signed and made official. September 17 was then officially designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by the Congress on February 29, 1952. The purpose of the holiday is to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and to honor all American citizens. Public American educational institutions and federal agencies pledge to provide information, to teach, review and reflect upon the history of the U.S. constitution.

American people celebrate Constitution Day by attending local events such as parades and demonstrations to promote the freedoms guaranteed within the U.S. Constitution. If it happens that Constitution Day overlaps with another holiday, educational institutions and federal agencies observe the holiday in the next available weekend.

For the record, the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in all. The first ten are called the “Bill of Rights” and guarantee American citizens freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, right of trial by jury, freedom from excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments. The earliest amendments are the backbone of the protection of human rights.

It is the sworn duty of America’s leaders in every branch of the government to work with and faithfully respect the Constitution each and every day.

Sources: Constitution Day, Archives, Constitution Center, American Bar

Back to the Malibu Wave Contest 2019. The contest – which is one of the biggest kitesurfing contests in the world – took place on Ganh-Vietnam beaches in January 2019. During that event, Tsiory Panoël Razafindrasata achieved an honorable performance, making it to the semi-finals.

How did it all start?

It all started in 2013 when I was on vacation in Diego. When I visited the “Baie de Sakalava” and first played kitesurf, I immediately told myself, "I will go deeper into this sport." From there, I started getting to know more about kitesurfing at a Kitesurf school in Diego. At the same time, I started initiating my friends to this sport even though I was not qualified yet. In 2017, I decided to pursue a world kitesurfing instructor training in Mauritius. That allowed me to travel to many countries, such as Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia and to other kitesurfing spots.

Why kitesurfing?

My passion for kitesurfing has always been strong, but I have also realized that it promotes both myself and my country, as it attracts a lot of tourists. In fact, Madagascar has one of the best kitesurfing spots in the world, the Baie de Sakalava.

Has kitesurfing changed your life?

Yes, it has. My dream has always been to travel and to experience many other cultures and traditions. I fulfilled what I desired by kitesurfing then. I have also started to develop myself by growing my network around the world. Being associated with good management and leadership skills, kitesurfing is a rewarding career.

What makes kitesurfing so special?

The word “kitesurfing” itself suggests that the used equipment has two main parts. First, the kite— which serves as a sail— is blown by the wind so that users can float smoothly on the water with a side-on wind bringing them to a three-meter wave on the reef. The second tool is the board which consists of a foot step. All kinds of board are suitable for kitesurfing. Kitesurfing also contributes to the satisfaction of all the tourism related fields in Diego Suarez, such as hospitality, transportation, fishing.

How would you rate kitesurf in Madagascar?

It is true that Madagascar is still a developing country, but in terms of kitesurfing, it ranks as one of the richest and 100-percent qualified spots for kiteboarding in the world. The entire world acknowledges the natural beauty of Madagascar and its long winding seasons— which really favors kitesurfing.

How is the next championship coming along?

Back in 2019, we already participated in the Malibu Kite Wave Contest, and we have already reached the preliminary round. In 2020, we participated again in the fourth edition of this competition, and we performed even better. We are looking forward to seeing Madagascar being represented once again at the 2024 Olympic Games in France.

Today, the US celebrates American workers. Happy Labor Day!

In the late 1800s, American workers were obliged to work 12-hour days, seven days a week, under very difficult conditions. Unions finally had enough, and on May 1st, 1886, hundreds of thousands of people went on strike across the country to demand eight-hour workdays. Three days later, a bomb exploded in Chicago's Haymarket Square – the city at the center of the unrest – as tension mounted between strikers and scabs, killing seven police officers and four civilians. This event only added to the pressure for workers' rights, but it was not until nearly a decade later that President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day Act into law in 1894.

May Day continued to be recognized as Labor Day in the rest of the world, as the holiday was eventually adopted internationally. In the United States, the holiday was set for the first Monday in September. This was an attempt to distance any association with the Haymarket riots for fear that they would fuel support for communism and other radical ideas. May Day eventually became a major holiday in the former Soviet Union, marked by large military parades.

Labor Day celebrates the American worker. It is also the unofficial end of the summer vacation and recreation season. In most American school districts, summer ends right after Labor Day. The celebrations are informal, and the main purpose of this holiday is to give people a day off and to recognize the contributions of working men and women to the nation.

On any given Labor Day in the United States, you can smell the barbecues lighting up and see many people gathering informally in parks and in their own backyards. In addition to celebrating workers, this day indicates that summer is coming to an end. In tourist towns, you can start to see cars leaving and people going home. Parades are sometimes held to celebrate the day as well.

Labor Day is also important to professional sports because it marks the official start of the professional football season in the United States. On the Thursday immediately following Labor Day, sports fans watch the very first professional football game of the year. For college students, the start of the academic year occurs right after the holiday, and college football is in full swing shortly after the holiday.

“No white after Labor Day”!

According to historians, the phrase "no white after Labor Day" comes from the time when the upper class returned from their summer vacations and put away their light, white summer clothes to return to school and work. Wearing white shoes after Labor Day and before Memorial Day is considered a faux pas by some fashion-conscious Americans. However, this is a custom that is no longer practiced today.

Unfortunately, this year, once again, with the surge in cases of Covid-19 with the Delta variant across the country, despite eased restrictions, the US Government encourages American people not to commute too much to help stop the spread of the virus. Happy Labor Day, American people!

Sources: History, Britannica, Do Something, The United States Embassy in Georgia

Only 265 km from San Francisco lies one of America's jewels. Yosemite National Park is located on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. It holds an important place in the soul of the nation.

Yosemite took its shape at the end of the Ice Age when the region's glaciers carved the valley. Managed by the National Park Service agency, Yosemite covers an area of 2,000 square miles and is divided into five vegetation zones, ranging from oak woodlands to California scrub to an alpine pass. Four million visitors flock there each year, most of whom explore Yosemite Valley, which is open year-round. This breathtaking valley, 13 km long and 1.5 km wide, is unlike any other place on earth. From the west, take a detour to Tunnel View for an incredible view that has silenced many visitors and moved some to tears. To the right flows the veiled Bridalveil Fall, facing the raw granite of El Capitan Rock, while behind it stands the majestic facade of Half Dome at the valley floor.

From Tunnel View, you would quickly drive and then walk to Bridalveil Fall. The fall is in full flood in May, but retains its magic in all seasons. If you are looking for love, take a breath. For the Ahwahneechees, an indigenous people, inhaling the mist from the waterfall increases the chances of marriage.

The road to the park runs the banks of the Merced River, a wild and beautiful river that reveals different faces along the park's gorges before flowing gently into the valley, surrounded by pine forests, plains and beaches. It is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the mystical setting.  Along the Yosemite Valley Road there are 1,200 miles of hiking trails. The Four Mile Trail, created 150 years ago, climbs the face of the valley to an incredible panorama. At Glacier Point, the entire valley opens up to you, with the surrounding area as far as the eye can see. Further on, the little breath you have left will be filled with the view from Washburn Point.

Further down the valley you will find another famous trail, the Mist Trail. This five-hour hike is suitable for all hikers, and well worth it for its incredible views, including Vernal and Nevada Falls. The Mist Trail joins John Muir Trail, named after the great conservationist. He wrote in his book The Yosemite, published in 1912, "We all crave beauty, a place to play and pray, where Mother Nature can invigorate our bodies and souls." It was through his writings that the nation became aware of the importance of Yosemite, and that this place could be designated a national park. 

Sources: Yosemite, National Park Reservation, National Parks, National Geographic, Yosemite This Year, Mono County California

Wednesday, 01 September 2021 03:07

Does high technology make good neighbors?

In the modern world, everyone wants to order everything online with no long wait. Yet, are we ready for all changes that Big Tech can bring? Digital life expands far beyond our screens, into the real world. That means we have to live with the impact of technology in our own backyard.

The downside of electronic factories.

Technology may have almost solved the majority of human needs, but it has not totally made a good community. Some people in cities near e-commerce processing centers complain about traffic pollution and the safety hazards of vans and delivery trucks.

Communities where water is scarce worry about the needs of internet data centers that use water to keep equipment cool. Neighbors sometimes complain about noise or waste from nearby commercial kitchens and mini-warehouses of delivery services like Uber Eats. This brings noise, traffic, and pollution to more neighborhoods in exchange for faster deliveries.

Conflicts about sharing space and limiting public resources are not new. But we are increasingly living side by side with the physical manifestations of the technological services we want and need. Nor is it too obvious that we are equipped to treat them as our new neighbors. Companies that deliver burritos, alcohol, or bananas to our homes must also have real estate and transportation close to where we live and work. And the effects of climate change have made competition for energy and water more urgent.

According to Richard Mays, the mayor of The Dalles, Oregon, Oregon is home to many computer data centers; and residents disagreed about whether these activities brought enough taxes, jobs, and other benefits compared to what they meant in terms of pressure on roads and the energy grid.

However, no one individual or company is solely responsible for this situation. Our collective demand for more of everything online is to blame, and the public, our elected officials, and businesses need to confront this new reality much more directly. Our more technology-dependent lives require greater public awareness and smart public policy to effectively manage the ripple effects. We all have a stake in figuring out how to accommodate the future we want while keeping the communities we love intact.

Sources: News Update, The New York Times, Opera News, Tell Us Daily

 

Toliara, the southern Malagasy city, is known as the city of the sun because of its record of sunshine among all the cities in Madagascar. The streets are full of sunshine all year round with an average temperature of 28°C and it almost never rains, between 30 to 40 cm of rain per year. In Toliara, the wind called the TSIOKANTSIMO blows all the time. It comes from the south and it often promotes a sea full of anchovies.

There is a famous expression about Toliara: "Toliara tsy miroro"— which means Tulear never sleeps. This saying comes from the fact that the city is alive both day and night. Toliara is also known for its overabundance of rickshaws, the most common means of transportation in the city.

In Toliara, you can enjoy crowded markets and parking lots. It is a very dynamic city except from noon to 3pm when it is a general siesta. Shops are closed, sellers sleep under their stalls, guards sleep on the doorsteps, the streets are deserted: this is the sacred hours of Toliara.

Toliara can be divided into three main parts. First, there is the harbor where there are rather wooden houses on the seaside, inhabited by fishermen and dugoutmen. Then, there is the city center showcasing colonial houses, made of stone, with floor, intended for little more well-to-do families. Finally, there is the rest of the city, all around, which is mostly composed of houses made of metal sheets or made of "vojo" - meaning straw.

In Toliara, some houses have electricity and others do not. Most of these houses do not have running water at home. To get water, they have a common pump in each neighborhood. Rich and poor inhabitants alike, most of the inhabitants of Toliara still cook with charcoal. As for the dress code, most women still wear the traditional "lamba", a kind of Malagasy sarong. Even if most of them consider themselves Christians, the Muslim community is very present. Toliara is also the city of the "Vezo" tribe which speaks the Vezo language.

What Vezo means.

It goes back to the arrival of the first Austronesians in Madagascar. In their language which was a mixture of Malay and Javanese, Vezo meant "population by the sea" as opposed to bazimba – which became vazimba in Malagasy or "population of the forest". At the time when the Austronesians first arrived, there were only two types of Malagasy: the Vezo, those who lived on the coast, and the vazimba, those who lived inland.

Then along the time, there were new immigrants who came to make trade like Persians, Arabs, and others. Due to this mixing, some populations gradually changed their tribe’s name. Only the clan of the south-west of Madagascar keeps the old Austronesian name: the Vezo. Anyway, the magnificent people of the Vezo are looking forward to welcoming you in Toliara.

Sources: Madagascar Tourism in Tulear, Tour Operator Madagascar, Madagascar Ecotourisme

Also known as the Devil's Triangle, Hoodoo Sea, Limbo of the Lost, the Bermuda Triangle has been much discussed in popular movies, books, and documentaries. It is located on the southeast coast of the United States, in the Atlantic Ocean, between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico. If you connect the three points, you get the triangle region, which is about 500,000 square miles in size.

The term "Bermuda Triangle" was first used by Vincent Gadis in 1964 in his article published in Argosy Magazine. Stories around the Bermuda Triangle began in the days of Christopher Columbus, who is said to have seen a flame of fire crash into the sea in the triangle on his first voyage to the new world. Imagine what that could be!

In 1945, five U.S. Navy planes and 14 men disappeared in the area during routine training exercises. The U.S. Navy investigated and eventually declared the incident to be of unknown cause. This area has swallowed 75 aircraft, over 100 ships and over a thousand lives.

The most recent incident occurred on December 28, 2020. A boat with 20 people on board left Bimini in the Bahamas. It was supposed to arrive in Lakewood, Florida on December 29. The boat passed through an area encompassing the Bermuda Triangle and was reported missing. The boat has still not returned. The U.S. Coast Guard searched at least 17,000 square miles and found nothing. They have now suspended the search.

The role of paranormal activity and the presence of extraterrestrials have been strongly suggested by those who believe that something strange is going on. Many scientists have challenged this argument by offering rational explanations for the phenomenon. Among the few scientific explanations, the most popular is the theory of electromagnetic interference causing the compass problems. This theory claims that the earth's natural magnet exerts a very strong attraction that redirects the compass and other sophisticated equipment, allowing them to follow their intended course through the water. However, since no theory has been able to offer a concrete explanation, many continue to believe that there is nothing strange about the area, as most incidents have been reported inaccurately or as romanticized versions of the accidents.

The most accepted theory was presented by a team of scientists from the University of Colorado in 2016. A team analyzed satellite images of the area and noticed a series of hexagonal clouds that they believed could act as aerial bombs. These aerial bombs are believed to cause deadly blasts of air that exceed speeds of 170 miles per hour. These are hurricane force winds that can blast the air and unleash 45-foot-high waves into the air. Most boats do not survive such air speed.

Sources: The Conversation, Britannica, The New York Times, History, Bermuda Attractions

The truth always comes out of the mouths of children. With tantara, a game of dolls without dolls, little girls are already mothers and look at the adult world with an often-penetrating gaze.  Knock, knock! I am the mother! Knock, knock! I am the girl!

As a little girl, who has not played this at least once in her childhood? Find a small corner of a sidewalk, a staircase step, or a low wall and there you can start your tantara (literally means story). Draw a few lines with charcoal to mark off your playing area. Do not forget the precious pebbles (vato) which will animate the characters: the father, the mother, the children, the grandparents, etc.

The bigger the pebble, the elder the character it represents. The rule is simple: to make the pebble talk, hit it with a smaller one.

  • “Knock knock! Where are you going, Dadabe (grandfather)?
  • Knock knock! I'm going to buy a new hat to wear for the family dinner. 
  • Knock, knock! Can I come with you?
  • Knock knock! Yes, but hurry up, you have to be back before nightfall.” 

Here we go for perfectly improvised dialogues where the little girl projects her own little world, like a small open-air family theater where she plays her future role as a mother, wife, and woman.

Rather than a true ancestral heritage, tantara vato is an improvised game whose exact origin remains to be determined. However, it is thought to be an alternative game for most Malagasy children who cannot afford to play with dolls or Barbie. To replace the dollhouse, they draw a few lines on the ground and make pebbles talk.

There is no age limit to playing tantara. Who taught them this game? Nobody. They discover by observing and imitating others. Little girls may play alone or in a group, and it can quickly become very noisy! The dialogues are often rudimentary, but always very instructive for an attentive ear.

The little storyteller expresses her own experiences through the dialogue she tells. If there is alcoholism or domestic violence in her home, she is likely to bring it up in the tantara, and this is an excellent way for parents and other people to connect with her and help her. Every aspect of human life such as illness, adultery, death, abuse, can be reported in the stories. A reflection of the society in which we live in the end, is seen through the eyes of the little ones. Or, as the saying goes, the truth always comes out of the mouths of children.

Sources: Tour-Malin Madagascar, Africulture, Malagasy Students’ Union in Wuhan

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 03:51

Can Apple AirTags help find lost pets?

AirTags were marketed by Apple as the ultimate tool to prevent you from misplacing your keys, wallet, or bag. However, how about attaching it to a live animal and tracking its movements if it goes missing?

There's no major reason not to use AirTags to track your pet; but it is not going to work like many people think. After all, there is no secret that AirTags work very well for tracking a static object, such as a backpack left in an office, a car in a parking lot, or a wallet in the bushes on a path. By contrast, a pet introduces several new challenges.

First, Apple itself admits that AirTags were not designed to track living objects like a person or pet.

When a dog or cat goes missing, it is less likely to stay in one place but rather move its head erratically, sniffing, running, or looking in different directions. Movement seems to seriously disrupt the tracking ability of AirTags. In theory, you can locate the general location of a lost pet, but the key word in this sentence is “general”, meaning within a hundred to two hundred meters depending on the pet's movements. The provided information is only accurate if the pet is within a continuous eight-to-ten-meter radius of a compatible iPhone in a reception area. If your pet is in an area where it can be reliably tracked, it is likely that someone will see it and simply call the number on its collar, if it has one. However, if someone wants to steal your pet, the collar is the first thing they move. In this scenario, the AirTag becomes immediately useless.

What are the dangerous side effects of AirTags?

If you plan to attach a small lithium battery to your pet's neck, there are several potentially dangerous side effects to be aware of. Pets love to chew, especially dogs. If your dog's collar comes off, chances are your dog will chew or bite it and get a mouthful of raw lithium. Even worse, if the AirTag comes off the collar and falls off, there is a good chance your dog will eat it all. This is one of the reasons why AirTags have been banned from sale in several major Australian stores.

A ton of legal and privacy issues have been raised regarding the use of AirTags. Apple does not recommend pet owners to attach AirTags to their pets, then turn on Apple when the AirTag fails to find a lost pet.

Sources: The New York Times, World Tech News, Today World Latest News

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This website was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.