Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Google gets a union

In one of the first Big Tech unions, more than 225 workers at Google have formed a “minority union” with the Communications Workers of America. The more informal grouping allows for the inclusion of contractors at the Alphabet-owned company, who outnumber full-time workers, and doesn’t require contract negotiations. The announcement comes after demands by workers on such issues as pay and harassment, and is aimed at giving “structure and longevity to activism at Google,” according to the workers. (The New York Times)


Joint health care venture folds

Haven, once intended to tackle the high cost of health care in America, has folded. The joint venture between the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase informed employees this week that it will shutter by the end of the month. Three years ago, the trio sent shock waves through the medicine world with hopes its new company could innovate in the primary care, insurance and prescription drug space. Haven’s collapse reflects how hard it is to “radically improve” America’s “complicated and entrenched” health care system. (CNBC)


March Madness will be less mad

Pandemic or no pandemic, the games will go on. In an unprecedented move, the NCAA announced its men’s basketball tournament will take place in one city: Indianapolis. The NCAA president said they expect it to be challenging, “but we owe this opportunity to provide a healthy, safe environment.” Last year’s tournament was canceled altogether. Games will be played at several venues throughout the city, and while family members at this time will be permitted, whether fans will also be allowed is still to be determined. (Indianapolis Star)


Los Angeles ambulance crews told not to transport patients with little survival chance

Los Angeles County hospitals are now so inundated with COVID-19 patients, ambulance crews are reportedly being instructed to conserve use of oxygen and not to transport patients that have little chance of survival. The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency released a memo earlier this week stating that ambulance crews should conserve oxygen by only giving it to patients who have oxygen saturation levels below 90%. That comes following a directive last week that ambulance crews should not transport patients to the hospital who have virtually no chance for survival. Crews are instructed to attempt resuscitation for at least 20 minutes until the patient is stabilized. If a pulse is not restored or if the person is declared dead at the scene, they are not to be brought to the hospital. Emergency rooms are so full, patients are waiting as long as eight hours inside ambulances before a bed opens up. That means those ambulances can’t respond to other emergency calls, including those not related to the coronavirus. (The Los Angeles Times)


Kyle Rittenhouse pleads not guilty to all charges connected to shootings during Jacob Blake protests

18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse from Illinois is accused of fatally shooting two people and wounded a third amidst protests on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has pleaded not guilty to charges including intentional homicide. He entered his plea yesterday (1/5) in a brief hearing conducted by teleconference. Prosecutors say he left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and traveled to Kenosha after learning of a call to protect businesses in the wake of the August 23rd shooting by police of Jacob Blake. Kyle Rittenhouse has argued he fired in self-defense. Conservatives have rallied, describing him as a patriot who took up arms to protect people and property, and raised enough money to make his $2 million cash bail. Others see him as a domestic terrorist whose presence with a rifle incited protesters. (Associated Press)


The New York Stock Exchange has scrapped plans to delist three Chinese telecommunication companies

Recently the New York Stock Exchange said it planned to suspend China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom by January 11 to comply with an executive order in which President Trump barred investments in entities affiliated with the Chinese military, but in a brief statement issued earlier this week, the NYSE said that after further consultation with officials from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a Department of Treasury office that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions, it had decided not to move forward with the decision. The China Securities Regulatory Commission criticized Trump’s order, saying that it violates the rights of global investors, and would damage “rule and order.” The Chinese government accused the United States of politicizing trade issues and said it was prepared to take steps to protect the legal rights of its companies. (CNN)


Massachusetts veteran returns sword he stole from statue 40 years ago

A veteran returned a sword he stole from a statue of a Revolutionary War general 40 years ago, telling the head of the Massachusetts town’s historical commission that he regretted taking it. The man contacted the city hall saying he had the sword stolen from the town’s statue of General William Shepard in 1980. Gaylord agreed to give the man anonymity if he returned the bronze sword and arranged for him and his wife to drop it off at her home, she said. The man was described as a “great big bear of a guy,” and said he had worked at a bar in the town while he was enrolled as a student at Westfield State University. After a night of drinking, he and a group of friends went to steal the sword, which he said he wrenched loose with just his own strength. When they realized what they had done the next morning, they were not sure how to return the sword without facing consequences. The stolen sword was replaced with the help of a local sculptor and paid for by an anonymous donor. The returned sword is likely to be preserved by a local museum. General Shepard was born in the area in the 1730s and fought as a militia man and solider in multiple wars, including the Revolutionary War. The town erected the bronze statue of him in 1919. (Springfield Republican)


The Recording Academy has postponed the Grammy Awards to March 21, 2021

The show’s postponement is due to health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, California set a new single-day record of 74,000 new cases. The 63rd Grammy Awards were to broadcast from Los Angeles on the CBS network on Sunday, January 31st. Nominees for the 63rd Grammy Awards were announced in November of 2020. Grammy-nominated comedian Trevor Noah was slated to be the host of the 2021 Grammys, but it is unclear if he will still host this year’s show. (Music Row)


US car sales have picked up again

Americans are back to buying vehicles at their pre-pandemic pace, according to General Motors. As the nation’s largest automaker, GM has a pulse on industrywide trends, and the company said overall car sales to US consumers are now back to where they were before auto sales fell sharply in the spring following Covid-fueled job losses and widespread work from home. It’s an important milestone for the industry, and a much faster recovery than many experts were forecasting. It doesn’t mean that auto sales are all the way back: Fleet sales, which typically make up about 20% of overall US sales, are still way off, GM said. That’s especially true for sales to rental car companies, which account for roughly half of fleet sales. But Toyota (TM) also reported US quarterly sales rose 9% compared to a year ago. Toyota traditionally has not depended as much on fleet sales as some of its rivals. For the full year its sales were down 11%. (CNN)


IRS Relaunches Stimulus Check-Tracking Tool

The tool tells if check has been processed and whether payment will arrive via direct deposit, pre-paid card or paper check. If you’re still anxiously awaiting your latest stimulus check, there’s now a way to see if its been sent. The IRS has relaunched its “Get My Payment” tool at It allows Americans to see if their $600 stimulus has been processed. The tool will also tell you whether the payment will arrive via direct deposit, pre-paid card or paper check. The IRS began processing stimulus payments last week but said they may take a few days to appear in bank accounts. (Internal Revenue Service)


Microsoft is rumored to be working on a major redesign of Windows 10 that could bring big changes to the way the PC operating system looks and functions

Windows 10 could use a refresh. Aside from twice-annual tweaks, Windows 10 been mostly unchanged since its release in 2015. Six years is long in the tooth for any PC operating system, and a revolution is coming to personal computers that threatens Windows’ standing as the dominant productivity operating system. Microsoft updates Windows twice a year, usually adding a few welcome new features (a new screenshot tool, a cleaner Start Menu, etc.). This year’s spring update will be another one of those minor updates that adds polish and squashes bugs. But in the fall, Microsoft is expected to unleash a full-scale Windows 10 redesign. (CNN)


A Minnesota woman has a title very few people in the world share: two-time major pandemic survivor

Tillie Dybing, 107-year-old year old, who lives in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Her life started over a century ago on a North Dakota farm and would endure what few ever could. Starting with the 1918 flu pandemic, she was 5, and her hardworking parents both caught the virus. She also survived the loss of her beloved husband, and most recently, she survived COVID-19. “I don’t know, I didn’t feel any different,” she said. The stoic great-grandmother says the most painful part of COVID was staying inside her room. “I opened the door one day and wanted to go out and see what was going on, and the nurse hollered, ‘Tillie! Get back in your room!’” she said. She says laughter is a key to life, and so is faith. She also says to take life day-by-day instead of year-by-year. She just got the vaccine, and says it didn’t even hurt. And in typical form, she is feeling strong. She says after COVID, she’s looking forward to taking long summer drives with her son. (WCCO)


Liquor association issues warning after thousands of bottle caps stolen in South Africa

A recent robbery has left officials on the lookout for counterfeit booze. According to reports, a large number of bottle caps were recently stolen from a South African production facility. The SA Liquor Brand Owners Association issued a warning about possible counterfeit booze, after thousands of bottle caps were stolen on December 30th from a member company’s production facility in Durban, South Africa. The warning states that illegal alcohol makers and sellers will collect empty bottles from major brands and then reseal them with the stolen bottle caps. This allegedly makes the bottles look like an officially produced product, which is then sold to unknowing consumers and pose major health risks to them. The theft notably occurred two days after alcohol sales were banned in the area, due to a stricter new coronavirus-related lockdown. The association urged officials in the area to be on the lookout for illegal alcohol sales. The incident is still being investigated. (Sunday Times)


The First Wednesday Slips In With:

  • Armenian Christmas
  • Bean Day
  • Cuddle Up Day
  • Epiphany
  • Shortbread Day
  • Technology Day
  • Three Kings Day

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