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Gowala delivering milk on demand

In the wake of the global epidemic of COVID-19, the local government and non-government organisations and institutions are fighting relentlessly to ensure safety, security and especially food security of the people of Bangladesh. Gowala food has come forward to help in this fight. Considering the circumstances, the organisation will deliver fresh milk to households upon calling a special number (9638666555). Apart from that, the delivery charge will be exempted upon any order that exceeds BDT 300. Order can also be placed through Gowala’s website.

Gowala’s managing director and co-founder, Shafiul Alam says, Gowala has been working from the beginning to create trust among people with fresh milk and dairy products. Gowala always deliveries products in standard packaging along with maintaining safety and hygiene of the food. In the current circumstances, to protect consumers from COVID-19, Gowala has taken these steps. At present, upon ordering 5 litres of milk, one can avail a 10% off.  We will keep this offer valid until the COVID-19 situation settles down. This offer is valid for different parts of Dhaka for the time being,

Responding to the COVID crisis, Peace Talk Café goes online

Currently, we are all going through a time of unprecedented changes and looming uncertainties. In this time, responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and youth pulse, Peace Talk Café – Presented by Digital Khichuri Challenge, organized an online discourse with the youth on addressing misinformation and hoax surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, on April 12 at 9.30 am-11:30 am.

This discourse is arranged every quarter to expand the space for dialogue between youth and speakers coming from diverse background, underlining the fact that, building peace is not only an effort of technical specialists but that each and every individual has a role to play. This is a part of UNDP’s on-going Digital Khichuri Challenge, which is a youth engagement platform that aims to create a peaceful and inclusive society. This edition, Peace Talk Cafe focused on the unparalleled impacts of COVID-19, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and disrupting peace in the country, and how the spread of misinformation and hoax was heightening this already escalating problem.

Addressing the rampant misinformation, Mohammad Abdul Quayyum, Head of Communications of UNDP said, “We are not just fighting an epidemic, we are also fighting an ‘infodemic’. This infodemic is spreading as fast as the epidemic. We have an abundance of information across all channels, be it TV or social media, which presents us with a challenge. Information can be an aid, but it can also pose a great danger if misused. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is an aid. But misinformation can be dangerous and must be avoided at all costs.”

When asked how we can identify fake news, Mohammad Nazmul Islam, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, mentioned: “Identifying fake news is a rather technical process but in a nutshell, when you come across any suspicious news, cross-check at least 3 other sources, run a keyword search and, in case of images, run a reverse image search.” He further added, “there are many ways to identify fake news, but we don’t make the effort to verify. We need to be more responsible in this regard.”

Sakib Bin Rashid, Deputy Manager, BRAC believes that the overwhelming spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 has to do with a lack of awareness generation among the masses. He mentioned “When we find people sharing misinformation, we tend to ridicule them, instead of correcting them. We have to bring about this attitude change. For those who are not receptive to change, it is our responsibility to make them understand, make them aware. Ridiculing them or not correcting them will contribute more to the problem”

Peace Talk Café was attended by Bangladeshi youth from all over the world who shared their remarks on what might be done to tackle the misinformation crisis within this COVID crisis.

বিশ্বজুড়ে কমছে বায়ুদূষণের মাত্রা

করোনাভাইরাসের সংক্রমণ বিশ্বজুড়ে ছড়িয়ে পড়ায় রাস্তাঘাট ও কলকারখানায় মানুষের ব্যস্ততা কমে গেছে। ফলে কার্বন নিঃসরণ কমেছে ব্যাপক হারে। বিশেষ করে বিশ্বের অন্যতম দূষিত বায়ুর দেশ ও কার্বন নিঃসরণকারী চীন, যুক্তরাষ্ট্র ও ভারতের বায়ুর মানে ব্যতিক্রমী উন্নতি ঘটেছে।

করোনাভাইরাস সংক্রমণের প্রভাবে চীনের বায়ুদূষণ নাটকীয় পর্যায়ে কমে গেছে। চীনের অত্যাধিক ভাইরাস সংক্রমিত এলাকাগুলোতে নাইট্রোজেন ডাই-অক্সাইডের পরিমাণ কমে গেছে আশ্চর্যজনক হারে। সাধারণত কল-কারখানা ও গাড়ির ধোঁয়া থেকেই বিষাক্ত এ গ্যাস নির্গত হয়।

করোনাভাইরাস মহামারী হিসেবে আবির্ভূত হলেও বিশ্বের উপকারও হচ্ছে। কমেছে দূষণ, হ্রাস পেয়েছে পৃথিবীর কার্বন নিঃসরণ মাত্রা। করোনার প্রাদুর্ভাবের পর দেশে দেশে স্বাস্থ্য জরুরি অবস্থা জারি করা হয়েছে। চীনের অত্যাধিক ভাইরাস সংক্রমিত এলাকাগুলোয় নাইট্রোজেন ডাই-অক্সাইডের পরিমাণ কমে গেছে আশ্চর্যজনক হারে।
সাধারণত কারখানা ও গাড়ির ধোঁয়া থেকেই বিষাক্ত এ গ্যাস নির্গত হয়। করোনা সংক্রমণের কারণে চীনে সিংহভাগ কলকারখানা দীর্ঘদিন বন্ধ থাকার পাশাপাশি বেশকিছু শহরে গাড়ি চলাচল নিষিদ্ধ হওয়ায় এর সুপ্রভাব পড়েছে প্রাকৃতিক পরিবেশে।

চীন, ইটালী বা ব্রিটেনের আকাশে অবিশ্বাস্য গতিতে কমছে নাট্রোজেন ডাই অক্সাইড, সালফার ডাই অক্সাইড আর কার্বন মনোক্সাইডের মাত্রা। আর এর ফলে দল বেঁধে ফিরে আসছে পাখির দল। সভ্যতা থেকে দূরে সরে যাওয়া নিরীহ ডলফিনের ঝাঁক ফিরে আসছে মানুষের কাছে!

ক্ষুদ্র এক ভাইরাস গোটা দুনিয়ার চিত্র পাল্টে দিচ্ছে। আমাদের মানসিকতা ও জীবনযাত্রার পরিবর্তনের ফলে সীমান্তের কাটা তার ভুলে গিয়ে গোটা পৃথিবী দাঁড়িয়েছে এক আকাশের নীচে। সবাই অজানা অচেনা প্রতিপক্ষ করোনাভাইরাসের বিরুদ্ধে লড়াইয়ে নেমেছে।

আমরা আমাদের ইমিউন সিস্টেমের কথা জানলেও পৃথিবীর ইমিউন সিস্টেমের কথা কখনো ভাবিনি। করোনা-বিপর্যস্ত মানুষ, দফায় দফায় ঘরবন্দী থাকায় পৃথিবীর দূষণ আরো কমবে। এর ফলে কমবে ক্যানসার, কিডনী, শ্বাসযন্ত্র ও অন্যান্য দূষণজনিত রোগ। আগামীর নতুন পৃথিবীতে নতুনভাবে নামবে মানুষ, ভাঙাচোরা অর্থনীতি, থমকে যাওয়া শিল্প, আমূল বদলে যাওয়া জীবনকে নতুন করে বাঁধতে।

The 7 lessons coronavirus has been teaching us

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is derived from a large family of coronaviruses which are common causes of colds and other upper respiratory infections. Although a close cousin of the virus, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS was more lethal but much less contagious than COVID-19. Till now, there have been no outbreaks of SARS worldwide, since its emergence in 2003. Zoonotic in nature, the pathogenicity of the coronavirus has caused a massive public hysteria –triggering governments and institutions alike to race into developing vaccines and anti-resistant drugs to fight off this plague. 

Nonetheless, every cloud has a “silver lining”, if you may, and as does this pandemic. It is about time we put things to perspective.

Mindfulness

This is the time to introspect on our mindless habitual behaviours which are causing these calamities. Every single one of our actions can have a dangerous reaction and the exponential growth of the coronavirus is, nevertheless, the seamless example of it. If we are more mindful, we can mitigate this crisis by a 3 fold. So, wash your hands. Wash them every time you come home. Wash them every time you are about to eat. And sanitize them every time you are out. Being aware will help us uphold this practice sustainably.

It is even more imperative because even though the incubation period of the coronavirus ranges from 1 to 14 days, this is a novel coronavirus, and that means –it could be asymptomatic for some carriers. For instance, a study revealed that 17.9% of people with the virus had no symptoms.

Prevention is better than cure

Coronavirus is the symbol of how we have taken everything for granted. We are the least bothered regarding washing or sanitizing our hands before eating. Never do we consider the penalties of this simple, but massive, slip-up. Ultimately, the only solution is to break ourselves from this mechanical inertia. Washing our hands effectively gets rid of the viral envelope of the coronavirus. Besides, hygiene is at the hub of maintaining good health and lifespans. It is vital to exercise proper sanitation to preserve economic and social well-being, and it should and must start from now.

The impact of communal effort

With over 36,000 people infected with the coronavirus, there is no herd immunity, indicating that everybody is vulnerable to infection. However, the global crisis has given us a glimpse of how a community-level coordinated response can tackle the spread of the virus. This has also shown us how vital it is to practice empathy and compassion, and with that, maintain social distancing –so that we can protect ourselves and those who are immunodeficient. Such measures like this are critical to flatten the curve of the pandemic. And disregarding procedures like this can make structural problems of the pandemic wider –as the real restrictive factors are expected to be the ventilators or the staff.

Being vigilant, not an alarmist

Fear is infectious, and in a time of a health crisis such as this, nothing is more important than staying alert, yet clam. Eventually, the only device to succumb to is the facts. The effects of consuming sensationalist media coverage regarding coronavirus pave the way for excessive panic.  At any rate, it is important to refrain from all that noise and merely heed official medical information and guidance and take care of yourself.

The need for better health surveillance

Although coronavirus is highly invasive, it is containable. And things could not have gotten to this degree if it had not been due to our culture of polarization. The skewered responses, collectively, have unveiled the failure of multilateral global health authorities. Member state-driven decision-making clarifies why the WHO tends to comply to national governments’ demands and agendas, even when they might impugn the organization’s primary mission. Yet, reverence to the sovereignty of one member state does not work if it put other nations and their people at risk.

Regardless, global health governance must fund country-level pandemic groundwork, surveillance, and response. And more money alone will not crack the operational problems that have condensed early control efforts.

Responsible capitalism as the saving grace

Currently, the C-suites everywhere are immersed with no steady answers, just best judgments and myriad mysteries over supply chains, volatile markets and the effect of travel bans and social distancing. However, liable firms will do everything imaginable to protect their people, i.e. employees, customers and supply chains. Reassuring health and safety are going to be the leading priority; the following will be to try to diminish the financial burden, particularly for staff on risky contracts. Yet, it is easier said than done.

But firms who offset this demand by providing real help to other groups will see vast benefits in the months and years ahead. These companies, who reckon the bigger picture, will shape a more resilient and more faithful workforce, be better positioned to undertake a persistent economic storm. All the huge corporations should be able to shield susceptible workers via dedicated schemes and cast-iron minimum income, including those people incapable to perform their duties because of sickness or through no fault of their own.

The time to digitally transform is now

In light of travel bans, school cessations, and recommendations to no mass gatherings and keeping our distance from others to curb the escalation of the virus, many people converted to digital tools to keep some aspect of normalcy. It has been pivotal to digitally transform our places of vocation and education to be able to operate effectually. Those companies able to use technology well to keep going and reconstruct their business model for the future by hastening digital transformation will be the ones ahead of their competition.

Even companies that were unaffected to the concept of a dispersed workforce have been compelled to allow working from home, so work can still be done while taking protection to halt the spread of the virus. At the core, the pandemic has established momentum in how we probably will do business. As Advertising mogul Sir Martin Sorrell advocated that the coronavirus outbreak will stimulate digital revolution, captivating consumers and businesses to move forward as things get tough.

It is fundamental to recognize that this pandemic will probably not be the last. But it gives us several contingency plans to prepare for. That being said, the time to be socially present and responsible is now –and it is up to us to transform the course of this pandemic. The right responses can minimize the repercussions, only if we act with clarity and most significantly, practice patience. After all, as Samuel Johnson once said, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance”.  

This website lets you track Coronavirus symptoms online

Bangladesh Society of Infectious and Tropical diseases have come up with an innovative way to track early coronavirus symptoms online. The website, coronatestbd, lets you answer a series of questions based on your health conditions. Based on the answers provided, the website will let you know if you are likely to show symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

See the website here: http://coronatestbd.com/

This is not an alternative to the coronavirus test available in medical units. Head to your nearest medical unit if you are showing early signs of coronavirus.

Rare pictures of Bangabandhu that you should see

In an attempt to honour Bangabandhu on his 100th birth anniversary, we present you with 8 selected rare pictures of Bangabandhu that showcase his illustrious life, from his political career to personal.

In conversation with Kunwal Malik of “This is She”

How many times have you wondered if you could actually trust a beauty brand? Even if you could, how dreadful was that for your bank account?

If you are arguing with yourself to find an answer to these questions then it’s time for you to not worry about it anymore. On this Women’s day, 8th March 2020, the grand launch of This is She a beauty brand that aims to empower you, took place

After coming to Bangladesh from Canada, Kunwal Malik was stunned by the beauty that this part of the world holds. Noticing how much the women of Bangladesh has embraced the beauty trends was another revolution for her. However, the quality of the products the women here are using was a big question to her.

Being a feminist herself, Kunwal Malik knew she needed to do something for the women to make them feel their most confident self. “Every woman is beautiful. And when confidence gets added to her persona, her beauty intensifies” shared Kumwal Malik

With a vision of bringing quality products to the beautiful women of our country, her brand This is She came to life.

This is she isn’t just a brand to her. It has a significant reason for its existence. Reminiscing the reason that inspired her to come up with this brand Kunwal Malik said, “ A lot of people ask me why did I start This is She with eyelashes? Well, there is a very interesting story behind that. Back when I was in Canada, I went to a really nice salon and tried their eyelash extensions as it was one of the most trending fashion trends then. So I did try them and then started the horror story. After a month they started shredding, which is a natural process but sadly all my natural eyelashes fell off with the extensions too. And let me tell you, it had a very bad effect on my confidence. I felt people are looking at my lashes, I didn’t enjoy wearing make-up anymore. After tons of research and using many remedies my eyelashes did come back but I just knew there are many many other women like me for whom eyelash extensions are probably not the best-suited idea, so This is She was my way of creating something for these women”

Following this experience, she decided to create her brand and the first thing she wanted to introduce her brand with was eye-lashes.

The quality of these lashes can easily be compared to the best of the best lashes that are out there in the international market now. She didn’t just stop at bringing these eyelashes, the packaging and the names of each lashset oozes the motto of the brand which is: Be Confident.

Just to name a few, dazzling queen, adorable brat, spoilt princess will actually make you feel like the princess that you are. 

Speaking of her future aspiration for the brand, Kunwal shared all the exciting products that are coming our way. “We are slowly but surely more moving towards skincare as well. I have noticed how humid the weather here is but hardly any quality sunscreen that one can find. Our next mission is to bring the best quality sunscreen to the beautiful ladies of Bangladesh at the most reasonable price possible.”

For the make-up artists out there, This is She is also coming up with bundle packages. In the packages, they will get customized eyelashes which are really high quality in discounted price.

This is She isn’t just a brand, the sentiment behind the birth of this brand is to make the women around us feel more confident in themselves so they can go and conquer the world without having to worry if their eyes are on fleek or not!

This is She, she is confident.

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The battle against our obsession with fair skin

It always seemed perplexing to me that in a country of 16 million people where majority of us are of a darker complexion, we have somehow come to equate beauty with fairness. Starting from young girls and boys to older men and women, this notion has been embedded into our minds and has permeated over the centuries.

The constant slurs

Every brown woman living in Bangladesh can attest to receiving an abundance of unsolicited advice and derogatory comments from strangers to family members over their complexion throughout their lifetime. Maybe it was in the form of a backhanded compliment like “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”; an advice from next-door aunty to try out some skin whitening creams (fair and lovely the undisputed champion); a quick natural homemade remedy from a friend that promised to instantly brighten your skin; a warning from your mother to stay indoors and avoid the sun, and the list goes on.

Seriously, just stop.


Artwork by Nafisa Afsara Chowdhury

The other side isn’t pretty either

Growing up, I personally didn’t hear such remarks myself because I got “lucky” by being born with a lighter complexion in a society that’s obsessed with fairness. But I did experience something else which was equally problematic. People have said things like “ki shundor forsha gayer rong” and “tomake toh foreigner lage” to me, as if those were meant to be compliments. I’m sorry but no, you have got it all wrong. I do not aspire to look like a foreigner, I do not think my lighter skin is somehow a personal victory, and neither do I think that this should be an acceptable form of flattery for any right-minded person.

The ridiculous ads

It shocks me that it is still acceptable to promote fairness products in the 21st century and reiterate the idea that a fairer skin is more desirable than the rest. These ridiculous ads will try to have you believe that if you become a couple of shades lighter, you will finally get that job you want, your family and boyfriend will love you more, all your problems will miraculously go away and you’ll live happily ever after. (Don’t we all wish it were that simple?)

Why are we so obsessed with being “fair and lovely”?

Original concept and Photo by Zainab Anwar. Artwork by Triory.

This unhealthy obsession that we have with fairness is a lot more complex than we often realize. Some may argue that this stems from the remnants of our colonial legacy in South Asia and plays out in the form of internalized colonialism, while others say that this fixation dates even further back in history, dealing with issues of class hierarchy.

It also goes without saying that our deep-rooted patriarchy that constantly objectifies women only helps to perpetuate this enslavement even further.

We also cannot deny that the mass media today contributes towards keeping such insidious ideas alive by feeding us Western beauty standards since eternity.

The damaging impact

Most of us girls grapple with loving ourselves because we were conditioned to believe in these unrealistic beauty standards that were always far from our reach. So many girls like me, around me, were constantly trying to attain this standard of beauty, all the while, rejecting their own brown skin. Leaving them dejected and bathing in self-loathe. Can we really blame them though? We live in a society that constantly tells us that our skin color is “nongra” or “moila”, so trying to feel content in our own skin was never even an option to begin with.

Here are some Bangladeshi women sharing their bitter experience of growing up with brown skin in Bangladesh:

X, a 29-year-old woman from Dhaka-

“I remember when I was a teenager, I’d try all kinds of things on my face hoping to lighten it because I was always made to feel like it wasn’t good enough. Looking back, thinking about all the harmful things that I tried in order to gain validation from this society truly scares me. What makes me even more upset is that I still find myself fighting this battle within me sometimes. Suppose, when I’m wearing a very bright colored outfit, I’ll think to myself  “Is this making me look too dark?” But it’s only now, in my late 20s that I’m turning the conversation around and asking myself, “What’s wrong with looking too dark? Absolutely nothing”. So, thankfully, after years of struggle, I’m in a much more healthy relationship with my own skin now”

Anika, a 23-year-old student from North South University-

“I’ve been fighting this brown skin prejudice since my childhood. I remember when I was in school; I didn’t get accepted as the lead role of a drama because of my “dark skin”. My visits to the parlor were always accompanied with suggestions of bleaching my skin to become “fairer”. It’s not just the people who we love dearly that perpetuate such ideals but it is also embedded within our social institutions. It’s everywhere. And it takes unimaginable strength to unlearn years of such toxic internalization and begin to treat yourself right ”

Dare to love yourself

In a world that constantly reminds us women that the color of our complexion fails to meet some false notion of beauty, just loving yourself and being proud of your skin becomes a revolutionary act for us girls. It means to dismantle these narratives that we’ve been forcefully fed for so long. It means to reclaim our brown skin in all its glory.

So, go on, tell those aunties off, bask in the sun, wear that bright colored outfit you were asked not to wear, put on that red lipstick and own it!

Citizenship Amendment Act of India, explained in 500 words

This past week, the capital of India, Delhi, saw its worst-ever communal violence since partition. Even after the dust had settled, an eerie silence has engulfed the streets of Delhi. Some fear that the thread of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood which Delhi is often famous for might be torn permanently.

India has been seeing a surge in protests-counter protests and communal violence for quite some time now after the controversial CAA and NRC had been passed in the Indian parliament. Experts claim that the CAA is the root behind the deadly communal violence in Delhi and protests in other parts of India. As neighbours, Bangladesh should be concerned and aware of what is happening in India. So what exactly are the CAA and NRC? What is going on in India and what does it mean for us? We try to explain.

What is the CAA?

People shout slogans during a demonstration against India’s new citizenship law in New Delhi on December 19, 2019. – (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

The CAA or the Citizen Amendment Act allows migrants of Hindu, Buddhist, Christians, Jain, Parsi and Sikh faiths from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have entered illegally in India on or before December 31, 2014, apply for Indian citizenship.

This controversial bill excludes particularly Muslims because the Indian government claims that people of the other six faiths may have faced religious persecution in the Muslim majority countries but the Muslims have not. It is therefore not an obligation for India to shelter the Muslims.

Why is the CAA problematic?

The CAA is problematic for a number of reasons. For example, there are minority Muslims in Pakistan who face persecution on a regular basis; the Baha’i, The Ahmadiyya. They will not be granted Indian citizenship under the CAA because they are Muslims although they are facing persecution which the BJP has termed as a criterion for citizenship application.

The CAA is particularly problematic when viewed in context with the NRC. The NRC or the National Register of Citizens in India requires Indian citizens to prove their citizenships with valid documents. Theoretically, it goes like this: The primary NRC will at first, exclude a large number of Indians, the majority of them from the marginal society who’ll lack documents. The CAA then might help a large section of these people gain back their citizenships. But the Muslims will be left out under the CAA and so, a large section of Indian Muslims, mostly marginal, will be left stateless in the end.

Is everyone protesting against the CAA?

Yes, technically. The protests have become complex and convoluted. Majority of Indians are protesting against it. But for different reasons. In Assam, for example, people are protesting against it because they fear it will give more power to Bengali speaking Hindu settlers from Bangladesh who migrated there during 1951-1971. The Assamese fear it will take away their linguistic and cultural heritage completely and they are against all immigrants, both Hindu and Muslims.

In Bengal, protests have erupted against the NRC since the inception of this bill and in Delhi, most people protested against the CAA citing that it goes against the secular constitution of India.

But yes, all over India, the majority of the people are protesting AGAINST the CAA and NRC, not in support of it.

How does it affect Bangladesh?

Theoretically, it does not. But what happens in India does have a butterfly effect in Bangladesh. We must remain vigilant that the communal spark of Delhi doesn’t reach Bangladesh. Minorities in Bangladesh should not feel unsafe due to the situation in India.

RMG in Bangladesh: Changes in the horizon

The impact of the RMG industry on our national economy has been mostly positive; at least on the surface. Implementation of relatively new technology like data science and machine learning is shifting business practices today.
The RMG sector might be in for big changes. And they might be vastly different from your expectations.

How it has worked

RMG and textile industries in Bangladesh have been mostly local in the past. They were efficient at the time, based on the nature of customer demands and buying behavior. And the production schedule matched the seasonal buying behavior of consumers of apparel in the country.

The business model has worked so far so well based mostly on the lower wage demands. The mixture of these few factors, along with many more variables created a favorable environment for textile businesses in the country. And the subcontinent by extension.

How RMG has changed

Automation brought on the biggest string of changes in the textile industry in Bangladesh. We moved on from hand sewn products to a more mechanical approach. But the dexterity of workers in operating machines remains an important factor to this day.

However, the workers are not dexterous enough it would seem. While we remained productive in comparison to our neighbors; hourly productivity remains relatively low from a global perspective. This in addition to rising wage demands and global competition is making our RMG industry less lucrative.

In addition, customer behavior is evolving. We have moved on from seasonal buying to more intermittent strings of purchases. This is driven by online presence of companies and prompt response times of platforms like Daraz or Aliexpress. We want things fast, and we want them all the time.

Factors of the next big change in RMG

Data analytics and AI is shaping the business environment and taking all business across the world in different directions. New supply chain designs based on Big Data about consumer behavior is shifting processes to a more predictive direction.

Businesses are forecasting demand patterns in consumers and filling demands before they are made. This calibrating of customer demands is affecting textile and even fashion industries by extension.

In addition, machine learning and AI is taking fashion modelling and textile demand in newer, weirder avenues. And all things point to the next big change in textile being brought on by data science and machine learning. By the way, check out this neat article on AI doing funky and potentially kinda bad stuff.