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Cyber Monday Sales Drop For The First Time Ever In 2021

This Cyber Monday, consumers spent upwards of $10.7 billion collectively on deals from their favorite online retailers. However, according to data from Adobe Analytics, this total marks a 1.4% decrease when compared to the lowest amount spent during Cyber Monday on record. 

Adobe Analytics initially began tracking e-commerce in 2012, and analyzes more than 1 trillion visits to retailer websites. This year’s tally for Cyber Monday marks the first time that the company has recorded a slowdown in spending on a major shopping day during the holiday season. 

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Last Cyber Monday wasn’t much different either, with consumers spending about $10.8 billion online. Last year was more predictable, however, as we were still in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most people weren’t leaving their house or in a position to spend a lot of money for the holidays. 

Adobe is still expecting that throughout the rest of this year’s holiday season, online retailer’s will see a relative increase in e-commerce activity. More shoppers have been opting to spread out their orders when it comes to holiday shopping to make it easier to pay off certain gifts. 

Between November 1st and Cyber Monday consumers in the US alone have spent about $109.8 billion online, which is an 11.9% increase from last year’s numbers, and the previous year’s. The company is anticipating digital sales to reach $207 billion by the end of the year, which would represent a record hain of 10%. 

Adobe reported that the Cyber Monday sales stats aren’t exactly surprising either. As previously mentioned, more shoppers have been spreading out the days in which they spend their money, as opposed to waiting for “Cyber Week” (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) to get all their shopping done. 

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Many larger online retailers have seen these patterns, and have even gone as far as to offer Black Friday deals all autumn and winter. Adobe reported that retailers made about $8.9 billion in online sales this Black Friday, and about $5.1 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day. 

According to data from Sensormatic Solutions, another retail tracker, shopper traffic on Black Friday was up 47.5% when compared to last year’s numbers, however, it was still down 28.3% when compared to 2019/pre-pandemic levels. 

“With early deals in October, consumers were not waiting around for discounts on big shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday,” said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights.

Adobe predicts that online retail trends will continue to fuel the market throughout the holiday season as deals on major retail websites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart continue to push “Black Friday Deals” throughout the entire holiday season.

Man in Prison

American Journalist Danny Fenster Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison In Myanmar

A military court in Myanmar has sentenced Danny Fenster, a 37-year-old American journalist from Detroit, to 11 years in prison, according to a statement from his lawyer. Fester has been detained in Myanmar for more than 5 months now. 

Fester was denied bail and has been held in Insein Prison since his arrest on May 24th. Than Zaw Aung, Fester’s lawyer, claimed Fester was found guilty this week of three charges brought against him by the Myanmar military, which seized control of the country in a coup back in February. 

The charges against Fester include breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group, and incitement under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code; which makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that may “cause fear or spread false news.”

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About 100 journalists have been detained in the country since the coup, and about 30 remain behind bars. Fester’s lawyer also announced that he has now been hit with two new criminal charges under the nation’s sedition and terrorism laws, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

The new charges were made under Section 124a of Myanmer’s Penal Code, which mandates seven to 20 years in prison for attempting to bring hatred, contempt or disaffection toward the government or military.

The other charge is under “Section 50a of the Counter Terrorism Law, which makes it a crime to have contact with officially designated ‘terrorist’ groups. Under the terrorism charge, Fenster could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted,” according to his lawyer and Myanmar’s sentencing guidelines.

Fester was initially arrested at Yangon International Airport while trying to leave the country to visit his family in the US. It was unclear why the charges were brought against the former managing editor of Frontier Myanmer. 

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Frontier Myanmar said in a statement posted on Facebook it was “deeply disappointed at the sentencing. Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” said Thomas Keen, Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief.

Frontier Myanmar said the “charges were based on the allegation that Fenster was working for banned media outlet Myanmar Now in the aftermath of the military coup. But Fenster had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020, and at the time of his arrest in May 2021 had been working with Frontier for more than nine months.”

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Kean.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the sentence was a “travesty of justice executed by a kangaroo court operating at the beck and call of the Myanmar military junta.”

“The rationale for this outrageous, rights abusing sentence is really twofold: To intimidate all remaining journalists inside Myanmar by punishing Fenster this way, while at the same time sending a message to the US that the Tatmadaw generals don’t appreciate being hit with economic sanctions and can bite back with hostage diplomacy,” Robertson said.

“Journalism is not a crime, and it shouldn’t be treated that way — meaning that Danny Fenster and the many Burmese journalists still behind bars should urgently be freed.”

Corporate Google Building

Alphabet, Google’s Parent Company, Earns $65 Billion In Revenue Thanks To Online Ads

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, posted that they earned $65 billion in revenue during the third-quarter, exceeding Wall Street’s initial predictions and doubling their expected profits thanks to online advertisements. 

Over the last three months Alphabet’s revenue rose by 41% to $65.2 billion, marking its largest revenue figure in 14 years. Before the pandemic the corporation posted a profit of $21 billion.

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Alphabet saw its share price increase by 57% as well for the year. This makes it the best performer of all the “FAANG” companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). Its advertising revenue alone rose to $53 billion, up from $37.1 billion last year. 

Revenue from Alphabet’s cloud division rose by 45% to $4.99 billion, trailing behind Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure. Operation losses for the sector decreased by nearly 50%, from $1.2 billion to $644 million. 

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet and Google, said “search is the heart of what we do. This quarter’s results show how our investments there are enabling us to build more helpful products for people and our partners.”

“Google campuses and cloud services will be run on carbon-free energy by 2030, and Google’s maps function will offer drivers an eco-option to find more fuel efficient routes to destinations and a wildfire system, so that consumers can make quick and informed decisions during emergencies.”

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Chief business officer Philipp Schindler said “it’s clear that uncertainty is the new normal for the global economic outlook, as uneven access to Covid vaccines affect different countries and regions experienced rates of economic recovery. The world is in flux. When it comes to anticipating change, predicting demand and investing in innovation, businesses need as much support now as they did a year and a half ago.”

In shopping, Schindler said, “some regions were experiencing a fourfold increase in search activity. Often those searches preceded in-person visits to stores. Bricks-and-mortar isn’t dead. Instead omni-channel [shopping] is in full force.”

Alphabet also emphasized their commitment to high-quality and accurate journalism, as well as open-access to information for all. Schindler explained that within the last quarter the company has added 120 news providers to it’s 1,000 information sources on Google’s News Showcase. 

Google intends to also purchase a New York City office building for $2.1 billion in the near future, as well as another campus in Silicon Valley, as a means of motivating employees to come back to the office.

Nice Restaurant

US Restaurant Workers Demanding Livable Wages Amid Reopenings 

America’s restaurant industry has opened up for business, however, a majority of staffers in these eateries are still coping with the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic impact, and the responsibility of enforcing health and safety protocols on angry customers for small wages. 

Restaurants all throughout the country have been struggling to find enough workers who are willing to fill open positions for minimum payment. Many industry workers throughout the nation blame the labor shortages on poor pay, unsafe working conditions, disrespect from customers, and concerns over the pandemic in general. 

Iesha Franceis is an employee at a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers chain in Durham, North Carolina, who recently spoke to the Guardian about why she believes restaurants throughout the nation are struggling.  

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“I currently make $11.40 an hour, employees are still struggling and employers are still not caring, and it’s their own fault these corporations are experiencing worker shortages. We are all still not making livable wages and these companies are still trying to penny pinch any way that they can.”

The leisure and hospitality industry currently has 1.7 million fewer jobs available when compared to before the pandemic. For the food industry, jobs declined by 42,000 in the month of August 2021, and overall has experienced a surge of workers quitting all throughout 2021. 

Francis herself led multiple walkouts at her restaurant over Covid-19 safety concerns and poor working conditions throughout the entire pandemic. This is a common form of protest that many industry workers have turned to in order to show their employers that they should be valued for being an essential worker during a global health crisis, and being paid like they’re working a summer job in high school is not going to cut it anymore. 

Franceis explained “many employees left through the pandemic while operating hours are still reduced, which has left me and my co-workers to deal with increased workloads and work extra hours to try to compensate for staffing shortages.

“Pay me what I’m worth. Because if I can sacrifice myself for your business to keep your wheels turning, then it’s time that you sacrifice yourself to keep my wheels turning. It’s off of our backs that their lives are so easy.”

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A spokesperson for Freddy’s said in an email: “Freddy’s has an uncompromising commitment to safety and expects each of our franchisees to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including following proper cleaning and sanitation protocols. Additionally, as an independent franchisee, the local owner in Durham is solely responsible for setting their employees’ hourly pay and salaries.”

Lily Nicholson is a server at a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee who discussed the constant harassment and issues workers are facing from customers who refuse to abide by mask mandates and Covid-19 safety protocols. Leading to a much bigger discussion over why low-paid employees are having to deal with verbal abuse from customers when they’re the ones working during a pandemic to provide services. 

“It’s such a precarious scenario. We’ve been the worker who has been deputized into enforcing this rule at the door that you’re supposed to have a mask on, so at the door you already have an altercation,” said Nicholson.

Many fast food employees also had no paid sick leave throughout the entire pandemic, so if they did happen to catch Covid, they were losing money everyday they had to stay home, and in some cases, employees were fired for not showing up. 

Essential workers in every industry are growing tired of not being as valued as the nation has made it seem to be throughout the past two years. Individuals are literally putting their lives on the line to clock into work and make the bare minimum so they can continue to scrap by. Time will tell how much longer the food industry, and others, will be able to last without a proper source of labor. 

Unemployment Claim

Weekly Jobless Claims In US Hit 18-Month Low

The Labor Department revealed this week that weekly jobless claims have decreased to almost pre-pandemic levels. People on state unemployment have also hit March 2020 levels when the pandemic was initially starting and shutting down multiple businesses.

Johnson & Johnson Claim Booster Shots Will Increase Immune Response 

Johnson & Johnson reported this week that booster doses of its one-shot Covid-19 vaccine generated a big spike in antibodies. Individuals who received a booster shot six to eight months after their initial J&J shots say their antibodies “increase nine-fold higher than 28 days after the first shot,” Johnson & Johnson said.

The data itself comes from two Phase 2 studies conducted in both the United States and Europe. J&J claim that around 2,000 individuals received a booster shot six months after their initial dose. 

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“New interim data from these studies demonstrate that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination,” the company said in its statement.

“We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses. With this new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine further increases antibody responses.”

J&J claimed that it’s currently in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration, US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, European Medicines Agency, World Health Organization, and other health authorities about offering a booster dose of the Janssen vaccine. 

“We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination,” Mammen added.

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According to the CDC around 14 million Americans have received the J&J vaccine. Dr. Dan Barouch is a vaccine researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School who has been studying the J&J vaccine.

“The boost at six months is going to look very impressive and substantially greater than what has already been reported in terms of the two month boost, and that is significant because, in my opinion, the boost should not be at two months, but it really should be at six months or later.”

Neither of the studies have looked at real-world efficacy yet, meaning the company hasn’t yet determined if the booster shot will prevent severe disease, but researchers are confident that the antibody levels they’re seeing in their initial research indicated immune protection. 

“I’m quite certain that the FDA, CDC, NIH, White House will use these data to likely justify or recommend a booster for J&J-vaccinated people, probably with a second shot of J&J,” Barouch explained.

American Airlines

United Airlines Now Requiring All US Employees To Get Covid-19 Vaccinations 

United Airlines will now require all of its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or they will risk termination. This is a first for major US travel agencies that will likely ramp up the pressure for rival services. 

Airlines have mainly been offering incentives for vaccinated employees, like extra pay or time off for being inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring all new employees show proof of vaccination in order to get hired and United followed suit in June. 

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United’s requirements mark the strictest mandate implemented by a travel service in the US so far. Other companies like Facebook and Walmart have announced that they are requiring all corporate employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office. 

 United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart sent out a note to all employees this Friday detailing why this requirement is so important for the future of the company and air travel in general. 

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

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The note detailed that United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give them approval, or by October 25th, whichever comes first. 

The mandate will not apply to regional airlines that fly shorter express flights for United. 

About 90% of all pilots and 80% of all flight attendants working for United Airlines claim to already be fully vaccinated, according to company officials. So the mandate is more so for employees working on the ground in the airports who see tens of thousands of flyers every day. 

About 60% of all American Airlines pilots are also vaccinated, according to a letter from the company’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, which has been working to get more employees vaccinated. 

The rise in Covid-19 cases last fall combined with the new highly-contagious Delta variant is motivating travel employees to create new ways to protect themselves from future travel. Time will tell what other agencies will follow United’s lead in terms of vaccination requirements.

Sexism In Irvine Activision Blizzard Office Leads To Worker Walkout 

Workers at Activision Blizzard, one of the nation’s leading video game companies, staged a one-day walkout at the company’s Irvine office location over alleged sexism in the workplace. This walkout comes just one day after the company announced a number of steps to address this specific issues. 

“We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

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“We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team,” Activision continued in a letter addressed to all employees from company CEO Bobby Kotick. 

Activision Blizzard is responsible for launching games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The company is currently facing a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges a “frat boy workplace culture that includes sexual harassment of women by executives.”

Current and former employees published their own letter this week detailing the allegations, and calling for “official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.” 

Kotick responded to this letter with his own, as mentioned above, which outlined new policies that would be put in place to better protect all employees from harassment. 

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“I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,” Kotick said in a Twitter post.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone-deaf. It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,” he wrote.

“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” the letter said.

“We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.”

The letter also detailed how the company will be improving on the way they hire employees as well: “Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.”

General Motors Issues Second Recall Of Chevy Bolt EVs After Vehicle Fires

General Motors (GM) has issued a second recall of its 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs after at least two of the electric vehicles erupted into flames.

According to GM, the company has “identified a second rare manufacturing defect in the EVs that increases the risk of fire.” The recall covers about 69,000 of the cars globally; 51,000 of which are located in the US.

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GM claims that in order to fix the problem the company needs to replace all the defective battery modules in the vehicles. This will be free for the owners, but in general is a costly fix for all companies involved. GM previously recalled the same vehicles for the same reason but claims that this time the repair is different because it’s not a software-based problem.

“We’re working with our supplier and manufacturing teams to determine how to best expedite battery capacity for module replacement under the recall. These teams are working around the clock on this issue.”

GM spokesman Dan Flores said that the company would “notify customers when replacement parts are ready for them.”

In the meantime, GM has asked all affected Bolt EV owners to set up their vehicles to a 90% state of charge limitation using the Hilltop Reserve mode or Target Charge level depending on the specific model of vehicle.

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GM is also asking that all owners avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of remaining range, and continue to not park their vehicles inside or charge them unattended overnight out of “an abundance of caution.”

One of the recent fires occurred at the home of a Vermont state lawmaker who claims the vehicle was charging at home when it lit on fire. GM has confirmed nine battery-related fires in the vehicles within the US.

Experts claim the battery cell packs in the vehicles have the potential to smoke or ignite internally which could then spread to the rest of the vehicle as a result. If the car is parked inside of a parking garage or any other indoor structure, this could lead to a much more serious issue.

GM says owners with questions should visit www.chevy.com/boltevrecall or contact its Chevrolet EV help line at 1-833-EVCHEVY or contact their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

18-Year-Old To Become Youngest Person In Space Alongside Jeff Bezos On Blue Origin Trip 

Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has announced its first paying customer. Oliver Daemen is an 18-year-old Dutch teenager who is about to be the youngest person to ever travel to space. 

Daemen will be joining Jeff and his brother Mark Bezos, as well as pilot Wally Funk on July 20th.

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Funk will also be breaking the record for oldest individual to go to space at 82-years-old. Funk is famous for being a member of Mercury 13, a group of all female pilots who, in the 1960’s, underwent testing to determine whether women could handle space travel or not. Even though the group of women performed just as well as NASA’s Mercury 7, the male counterpart to Mercury 13, they were rejected for being women. 

Funk is breaking the age record previously set by astronaut and senator John Glenn who traveled to space in 1998 at the age of 77. Daemen will be breaking the record previously set by Ghermon Titov, who was just 25 when he went into space for a four month mission. 

The Federal Aviation Administration approved of the Blue Origin launch this Monday, just one say after billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space aboard his rocket-powered vehicle developed by Virgin Galactic. 

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Virgin Galactic, like Blue Origin, plans to start flying paying customers up to the edge of space. Daemen was able to secure his spot on Blue Origin after the individual who won an auction for a seat on the rocket had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts. The original individual paid $28 million for the oppurtunity. 

“We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard. This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said.

“I am super excited to be going to space and joining Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk on the first Blue Origin crewed flight.”

A Blue origin spokesperson told the media that Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” the spokesperson said.