Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The retail industry’s new threat

The coronavirus outbreak is already impacting a vast number of industries, such as travel, yet retail could potentially suffer the double blow of supply chains being disrupted and shoppers staying home. As panic shopping picks up, retailers of essentials have struggled to keep enough items in store, while clothing and other non-essential retailers could be hit hard if shoppers begin to stay away from crowded malls and shopping areas. (CNN)


The Trump administration is adding 35,000 H-2B visas before the summer season

It’s the largest increase to the seasonal guest-worker passes since President Trump took office, but falls 10,000 short of what the departments of Homeland Security and Labor had pushed for. The decision comes amid heated debate about legal immigration to the U.S. Proponents argue immigrants are needed to aid in economic growth, while opponents believe American workers will only get higher wages if they don’t have to compete with foreign workers. (The Wall Street Journal)


Coronavirus Updates:

  • New Jersey’s Princeton University says it will move all of its seminars and lectures online starting on March 23 due to the coronavirus. The school is also asking students to consider staying at home after spring break. In a statement, the university’s president said “We are creating, supporting, and mandating alternative ways of meeting our academic and other programmatic requirements in ways consistent with social distancing.”
  • Novel coronavirus cases have reached more than 108,000 worldwide, as of today, with more than 3,820 deaths. At least 27,000 cases are outside of mainland China, including more than 7,300 cases and 366 deaths in hard-hit Italy. Italy’s authorities placed much of its northern country, affecting 15 million people, on lockdown. Travel restrictions have taken effect in 15 provinces overall.
  • At least 1,100 cases and 19 deaths have been reported in France, while South Korea confirmed 7,382 cases. South Korean Health Minister announced that authorities are “cautiously” optimistic that the country has passed the worst part of the outbreak as the number of new infections reported daily continues to decline. Meanwhile, China has reported the least number of cases since it began tracking it in January. (USA Today)


Cleaner energy sources resulted in a 2 percent drop in global carbon emissions in 2019

This would be the largest drop since 1990, according to a new report from the independent climate think-tank, Ember. Much of the change was attributed to a 3 percent drop in power produced by coal plants worldwide, particularly in the European Union (where coal generation fell by nearly a quarter) and the U.S., where it dropped by 16 percent. In addition, the use of wind and solar power grew by 15 percent last year and now comprises 8 percent of all electricity produced worldwide. Dave Jones, the report’s lead author, notes that the “cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid rollout of wind and solar.” (The Guardian)


Third-party sellers found to be selling expired food products are still actively selling on Amazon, and still receiving complaints

Millions of third-party sellers in Amazon’s Grocery & Gourmet section that was started in 2006 now sell hundreds of thousands of items on the platform. In October, data analytics company 3PM Solutions took a look at the top 100 food products sold on Amazon. In 1,000 customer reviews, they found 40% had more than five complaints from customers who said they receive expired products. The company followed-up this week and found that 50% of the same sellers have continued to complain about selling bad food products. Amazon says this happens in very “isolated incidents.” (CNBC)


A quarter of Americans, many of them non-white, are worried about data privacy and confidentiality in the 2020 census

The once-every-10-year census affects everything from federal funding to political representation to research projects that rely on accurate census data. The 2020 census is fraught with uncertainty for a variety of reasons, including a lack of money, a growing distrust in government and the months of debate over the now-dropped citizenship question, which the Census Bureau itself called a major barrier to participation. Researchers who work with census data know that people don’t participate in the census for different reasons, several of which may be related to fear over how data is stored and used. The Census Bureau conducted a survey in 2018 to better understand what attitudes the average American may hold about the census, and what motivates them to participate, if they choose to. About 17,500 people, ages 18 and older, responded to the survey. They found a lack of trust in all levels of government, across all surveyed groups:

  • Roughly one-quarter of respondents were worried that their responses to the census would be used against them. Those most concerned? Non-Hispanic Asians, households not proficient in English and those born outside of the U.S.
  • A quarter of respondents were worried about data privacy and confidentiality. Racial and ethnic minorities were much more concerned about this than non-Hispanic whites.
  • Ten percent of the people surveyed believed incorrectly that the census could be used to “locate people living in the country without documentation.” Another 37% didn’t know if the data would be used in that way.

Other Interesting facts revealed by the survey included:

  • Over a quarter of households surveyed indicated a low likelihood, or no likelihood whatsoever, of filling out the census form this year.
  • Funding for public works projects was the most popular choice, with 30% of householders identifying it as their primary or most important reason for participation.
  • Younger respondents, ages 18 to 34, were most likely to select community-oriented answers like public funding as their prime reason for participation, rather than choices like “It is my civic duty” or “It is used to enforce civil rights laws.” Community-oriented answers were also most popular among Asian, black and Hispanic householders.
  • Most importantly, 69% of households who indicated that they were less likely to respond to the census identified community motivators as the most important reason to respond, compared to 58% of those with a high likelihood of filling out the census.

(The Conversation)


A 28-year-old man who was shot in the head drove himself to a hospital on Sunday, said police in Chicago

The man, who was not identified, is currently in serious condition, officials say. He arrived in a small SUV and admitted himself into Stroger Hospital at around midnight on Sunday (3/8) with a gunshot wound to his head, according to the report. Officials think he was driving around the 1600 block of West Ogden Avenue when he was shot in the head. Police are now investigating the circumstances surrounding his shooting. The victim wasn’t able to provide details about the incident. It’s not clear if the shooting was accidental or targeted. The incident was among 13 shootings over the weekend across Chicago, according to figures compiled. At least one person was killed. (ABC 7)


The skies are filled with ‘ghost planes’ thanks to the strange market for flight slots

Across Europe, empty planes are flying back and forth from airport to airport thanks to a bizarre rule that requires airlines to use at least 80% of their scheduled “flight slots” or risk losing them. Carriers are flying some jets without any passengers at all because of controversial “use it or lose it” rules governing space at European airports. The UK Transport Secretary wrote to the independent airport slot co-ordinator urging it to relax the existing regulations because of concerns over the environmental impact of empty flights. Other Officials wants the rule to be shelved until the slump in passenger numbers driven by the coronavirus will be over. (The Times UK)


Bible survives fire that completely destroyed vehicle’s dashboard

The Deer Park, Texas Fire Department was dispatched to a vehicle fire. When firefighters arrived, they said the dashboard, engine compartment and passenger compartment of the vehicle had “completely burned up and dissolved into ash and melted plastic.” What they didn’t expect to find was an unscathed Bible that had been sitting on the dashboard the entire time. Only the back cover was damaged by the flames and only a little bit of water got on the pages. (Deer Park Fire Department Facebook)


Briton, 64, becomes oldest woman to row across any ocean after 3,000-mile trip

Sara Brewer, a 64-year-old woman from London, has become the oldest woman to ever row across an ocean, after she and her rowing partner arrived in Antigua on March 7th. Speed was not the team’s primary concern, they arrived about six weeks after the fastest crew made the journey for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Brewer and her rowing partner, 35-year-old Ann Prestidge, reportedly ran low on food and “fought through numerous storms” after leaving the Canary Islands on December 12th, 2019. Brewer, who only took up rowing in 2013, said she was “delighted to finally set foot on land.” (Sky News)


Middle-class Americans are skipping walking down the aisle for financial reasons

According to researchers, they’re “making the institution more of a luxury good enjoyed by prosperous Americans”. Marriage rates among middle-class Americans have drastically dropped over the last 40 years, compared with those either at the top or bottom of the financial ladder, according to a census data analysis. While in 1980, more middle-class Americans than high-earning Americans got married, the opposite is now true with about half of middle earners marrying in 2018, versus 60% of top earners. (The Wall Street Journal)


The U.S. has started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as it takes the first step to fulfill its recently signed peace deal with the Taliban

Over the next four and a half months, the U.S. military plans to reduce the number of forces there from roughly 13,000 to 8,600. Once the number of troops reaches that level, the U.S. commander in Kabul will pause the process and analyze the conditions, according to U.S. officials. The withdrawal, which marks an initial step in the peace plan to end the 18-year war, occurs as Afghanistan’s rival leaders were both sworn in as president during separate ceremonies earlier this week. The political turmoil threatens to upend the intra-Afghan talks slated to take place for the peace plan, which was signed on February 28th.  (BBC)


Wednesday Comes Humping Along With:

  • Dream 2020 Day
  • Johnny Appleseed Day
  • Key Deer Awareness Day
  • National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day
  • National Promposal Day (Ask to prom)
  • Registered Dietitian Day (2nd Wednesday)
  • World Plumbing Day

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