Monday, May 3, 2021

A Google affiliate has teamed up with the Girl Scouts to deliver cookies by drone in Christiansburg, Virginia

Wing, a startup controlled by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been testing its drones in Christiansburg since late 2019. Up until now, Wing drones have been delivering mainly healthcare products, pastries, and coffees in the sparsely populated community, but the company recently teamed up with the Girl Scouts, which are struggling to sell cookies due to the pandemic. Although Amazon, Walmart, and UPS are testing delivery drones, it is unclear if they will be able to scale up these pilot projects due to technical and regulatory challenges. But, for now, the Girl Scouts are delighted. (Associated Press)


Personal incomes highest on record

It’s official: The consumer spending that shot economic growth higher during the last quarter was itself fueled by the biggest rise ever in incomes. The 21% surge in personal incomes during March, the most on records dating back to 1946, came as a third round of federal pandemic relief checks, along with extra unemployment benefits, flowed into U.S. households. Purchases of goods and services rose 4.2%, the most since June. Friday’s Commerce Department report also showed:

  • The personal savings rate more than doubled to 27.6% in the month,
  • disposable income jumped 23%,
  • Inflation rose an annual 2.3%, a key price index showed, even as the Federal Reserve has advised against comparisons with figures from a year ago, when the pandemic struck.



An autonomous ship is scheduled to depart across the Atlantic Ocean on May 15 using only AI and solar energy

The Mayflower 400 will use cameras, radars, IBM Watson, and computer vision technology to navigate, following the same path that the Pilgrims did in 1620. AI and edge computing software from IBM will navigate the fully autonomous boat. It will make onboard decisions via an edge computing module fed with data from an IBM AI engine. The AI-trained “captain” was trained on collision avoidance rules and images to make its way. The voyage was delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The University of Plymouth, autonomous craft specialists MSubs, and charity Promare also have worked on the project, which will travel from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Mass. and gather scientific data during the trip. This includes recording audio to help track whale populations and measuring sea levels and chemicals in the ocean. Allied Market Research predicts the autonomous shipping market could reach $135 billion by 2030. Fully autonomous oceangoing cargo ships could be routine in 10-15 years. (WION)


A series of rock structures built in Saudi Arabia are about 7,000 years old, according to a new study

A study shows that the mysterious structures dotted around the desert in northwestern Saudi Arabia, called “mustatils” from the Arabic word for “rectangle”, are about 7,000 years old. That’s much older than expected, and about 2,000 years older than either Stonehenge in England or the oldest Egyptian pyramid. Some of the ancient structures are more than 1,500 feet long, but comparatively narrow, and they’re often clustered together. They’re usually built on bedrock, often on rocky outcrops above the desert, but also in mountains and in relatively low-lying areas. The simplest mustatils were made by piling up rocks into low walls a few feet high to form long rectangles, with a thicker “head” wall at the highest end and a narrow entranceway on the opposite side. The researchers think they may have been built to guide a procession from one end to the other. But they also found many mustatils that were much more complex than they first thought, containing pillars, standing stones and smaller “cells” of rock walls. Kennedy and Thomas estimate one mustatil they surveyed was built by moving more than 12,000 tons of basalt stone, an arduous task that must have taken dozens of people months to complete. (NBC News)


UPDATE: Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store amid a dispute over search results

Streaming device-maker Roku Inc. removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store. The blackout makes the YouTube TV app, which lets subscribers watch dozens of live-TV channels online for a monthly fee, unavailable to Roku users who haven’t yet downloaded it. Existing YouTube TV subscribers on Roku will be able to keep using it, and the more popular free YouTube app remains available for download, a Roku spokesman said. Roku and other streaming-device makers have become the streaming era’s gatekeepers, and spats with streaming services and live-TV internet bundles echo the carriage disputes between cable carriers and their channels. Roku is the largest streaming-device maker in the U.S., accounting for 38% of the U.S. streaming-media player market, according to research firm Parks Associates. At the center of the dispute between Roku and YouTube TV’s parent, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, is the way search results are displayed on Roku’s platform, which Roku says Google is looking to manipulate, a claim that Google denies. Google also wants Roku to upgrade its hardware to accommodate larger memory requirements, less buffering and faster startup, according to people familiar with the matter. (The Wall Street Journal)


Colorado Lawmaker Doesn’t Know Where His Guns Are But Opposes New Law Requiring Safe Storage

Colorado State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg had to explain why he opposed gun bills while admitting he often does not know where his own guns are. One of the two bills concerns the responsibility of a gun owner to report a missing firearm to law enforcement. The other regulates the safest way to store firearms within a house or vehicle. The stolen-gun bill is named for a Denver woman who was shot and killed last year by a man with a gun stolen from a police officer friend of his. The purpose of the bill is to help law enforcement solve crimes more easily and prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who would not normally pass a background check. Analysis from the Center for American Progress showed that the U.S. has a rampant stolen gun problem and that stolen guns not reported pose a threat to public safety. According to the analysis, almost 20,000 guns were stolen in Colorado from 2012 to 2015 for a total value of $8.5 million. (Colorado Times Recorder)


Another Italian town is selling houses for one euro

This month, it’s the turn of another Sicilian town, Castiglione di Sicilia, to offer houses for the price of a coffee. On the slopes of Mount Etna, near chic Taormina and the beaches of Sicily’s east coast, the town is selling a bumper crop of houses: roughly 900 abandoned homes. Most are located in the oldest parts of the town. Around half are ruined, and will be given away at a symbolic price of $1.20. The rest are in better condition, and will be sold off cheaply. The Mayor has undertaken an ambitious project to breathe new life into his village where the population has shrunk from 14,000 in the early 1900s to barely 3,000 today. If there’s a lot of interest for the same property, an auction will be held. (CNN)


Arizona Joins List Of States Passing New Pro-Life Laws

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey added his state to the list of states passing new, strong pro-life bills by signing Senate Bill 1457, which expands the protection of unborn children with genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome. The new law makes it a class 6 felony in Arizona to perform an abortion solely because of a genetic abnormality, or accept or solicit money to finance such an abortion. The bill also forbids the mailing or delivery of abortifacient drugs. SB 1457 also bans abortion providers from receiving state money. (Think Civics)


Walmart delivery coming to your fridge

Grocery deliveries became ubiquitous throughout the pandemic as many opted for the services during lockdowns. Walmart is hoping the trend continues while taking the convenience one step further by skipping your stoop altogether and delivering your items to your fridge. Customers who sign up for the InHome service, available in a handful of regions having just expanded to southeast Florida and adding Atlanta in July, have to pay $19.95 a month with a 30-day free trial. (Bloomberg)


Uber announces free vaccine rides

Uber is making a push to provide low-income/high-risk communities access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The ride-sharing giant announced that people can now book vaccine appointments and receive a free or discounted ride through their app. Uber follows in the footsteps of other companies in helping with vaccine distribution. Amazon, Microsoft (LinkedIn’s parent) and Starbucks have all announced efforts to open vaccination sites, while grocers Aldi and Kroger are giving their employees PTO and cash incentives for showing proof of vaccines. (The Verge)


Thieves steal $48K worth of puppies from Florida business

Police are looking for two people who made off with a dozen puppies from a business in Largo, Florida. The stolen puppies are worth more than $48,000. The thieves broke in, stuffed some puppies into a bag, and walked out. The missing pups include a Siberian Husky, two Olde English bulldogs, three poodles, three Yorkshire Terriers, a Boston Terrier, a French Bulldog, and an English Bulldog. The police are requesting for those that have any information to contact them. (CBS 12)


Volunteers spent 40 days in a cave with no sunlight or way to tell time

As you can imagine, the sunlight was blinding to the 15 people who emerged from a cave in southwestern France for the first time in 40 days. They volunteered to spend 40 days in the cold, dark Lombrives cave without any way to tell the time or communicate with the outside world, all in the name of science, before finally coming out wearing special sunglasses to protect them from the light. The cave dwellers, seven women and eight men of different ages and backgrounds, were volunteers for the Deep Time research project, led by the Human Adaptation Institute based in France to gauge how humans adapt to extreme environments with no ability to measure time. The participants had no access to clocks, phones or communication devices. They had no idea what time, or even what day it was, and no way to find out what was happening in the outside world. Their only technology were cameras and devices used to track their movements and measure their sleep patterns. They were asked to eat, sleep and wake up whenever it felt natural. As a result, everyone ended up living according to their own personal clocks. That made it difficult to perform the tasks expected of them in the cave, things like fetching water, documenting signatures on the wall from previous cave explorers, and clearing out the debris and trash. When the experiment came to an end, one woman said she thought she had been in the cave for 29 days because that’s how many sleep cycles she had experienced. Another person said that “Time went by so fast and I still had, like, so [many] things I wanted to do in the cave.” (CBC)


Police Officer arrested, fired after Walmart fraud attempt

A St. Petersburg, Florida Police officer was arrested and fired after authorities said he tried to use a Texas woman’s credit card information to make hundreds of dollars in purchases from Walmart. The 25-year-old man, was sworn in as an officer in August, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department. He was placed on unpaid leave earlier this week when the Pinellas Park Police Department told the agency he was being investigated. The now-former officer turned himself in to the Pinellas County jail and was arrested on a felony charge of scheming to defraud. He was fired soon after, St. Petersburg police said, but because he was still on probation, the agency didn’t have to conduct an internal investigation or hold a hearing before firing him. (Tampa Bay Times)


Monday Is The Mack Daddy Of:

  • Chocolate Custard Day
  • Garden Meditation Day
  • Lumpy Rug Day
  • Melanoma Monday (First Monday)
  • Montana Day
  • Paranormal Day
  • Public Radio Day
  • Raspberry Pop Over Day
  • SAN (Storage Area Network) Architect Day
  • Special-abled Pets Day
  • Textiles Day
  • Two Different Colored Shoes Day
  • Wild Koala Day
  • World Press Freedom Day


Historical Events

  • 1830 – The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway is opened. It is the first steam hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets and include a tunnel.
  • 1915 – The poem In Flanders Fields is written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
  • 1920 – A Bolshevik coup fails in the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
  • 1921 – West Virginia becomes the first state to legislate a broad sales tax, but does not implement it until a number of years later due to issues surrounding its enforcement.
  • 1960 – The Off-Broadway musical comedy, The Fantasticks, opens in New York City’s Greenwich Village, eventually becoming the longest-running musical of all time.
  • 1973 – The 108-story Sears Tower in Chicago is topped out at 1.451 feet as the world’s tallest building.
  • 1987 – A crash by Bobby Allison at the Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama fencing at the start-finish line would lead NASCAR to develop restrictor plate racing the following season both at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.
  • 2000 – The sport of geocaching begins, with the first cache placed and the coordinates from a GPS posted on Usenet.
  • 2001 – The United States loses its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission for the first time since the commission was formed in 1947.
  • 2003 – New Hampshire’s famous Old Man of the Mountain collapses.