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Biden announces 24/7 L.A. port operations to ease supply chain jams – CBC.ca

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U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday a deal the White House helped broker in which the Port of Los Angeles will become a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation, part of an effort to relieve supply chain bottlenecks and move stranded container ships that are driving prices higher for U.S. consumers.

Biden said the deal was forged after weeks of negotiations and follows a commitment announced last month by the nearby Port of Long Beach to operate a 24/7 pilot program at one of its terminals.

The two ports handle nearly half of all the shipping containers entering the United States. Biden brought together power brokers from ports, unions and big business to hash out how to address a backlog of products that includes 500,000 containers on dozens of ships waiting to be offloaded at the two ports.

“A 24/7 system is what most of the leading countries of the world already operate on now, except us, until now,” Biden told reporters at the White House after holding a virtual roundtable with the heads of Walmart, FedEx Logistics, UPS, Target, Samsung Electronics North America, the Teamsters Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other groups.

Walmart, FedEx, UPS commit to more off-peak hours

Commitments by the Los Angeles port’s operator, longshoremen and several of the country’s largest retail and shipping companies are expected to help relieve the backlog. Walmart, FedEx and UPS made commitments to unload during off-peak hours, making it easier for the Los Angeles port to operate non-stop and reduce the backlog. 

“Today, Walmart, our nation’s largest retailer, is committing to go all-in on moving these products 24/7 from the ports to their stores nationwide,” Biden said. Specifically, the company is committing as much as a 50-per-cent increase in the use of off-peak hours over the next several weeks, he said.

A container filled with soybeans is lifted by a crane onto a ship at the Port of Los Angeles on June 10. The port will begin to operate all day long, following a similar move in recent weeks at the nearby Long Beach, Calif., port. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register/The Associated Press)

“Additionally, FedEx and UPS, two of our nation’s biggest freight movers, are committing today to significantly increase the amount of goods they’re moving at night,” Biden said.

Samsung, Home Depot and Target are also increasing their work in off-peak hours, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the meeting.

The supply chain blockages are driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, as sales of durable goods jumped amid worker shortages and transportation hub slowdowns. White House officials, scrambling to relieve global supply bottlenecks choking U.S. ports, highways and railways, have warned that Americans may face higher prices and some empty shelves this Christmas season. 

Republican lawmakers say Biden’s $1.9 trillion US coronavirus relief package has fuelled higher prices. A recent analysis issued by the investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that “supply constrained goods” account for 80 per cent of this year’s inflation overshoot, yet the political criticism continues to sting as housing and oil prices add to inflationary pressures.

Debate over ‘transitory’ nature

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has made inflation one of his central charges against Biden, a sign that getting prices under control could be essential for Democrats trying to hold on to congressional seats in next year’s elections.

“The Democrats’ inflation is so bad that even though the average American worker has gotten a multiple-percentage-point pay raise over the last year, their actual purchasing power has been cut,” McConnell said in a Senate speech last week. “Even dollar stores are having to raise their prices. Just ask any American family about their last few trips to the supermarket, the gas station or the toy store. Heaven forbid if they’ve had to participate in the housing market or the auto market anytime lately.”

Cost of Living8:57Supply chain backlogs and how they are hitting consumers’ wallets

18 months into the pandemic, Canadian businesses are still dealing with supply chain headaches. That means waiting months for that mid-century modern sofa you ordered. More importantly for many, it also means higher prices. Paul Haavardsrud explains why shipping backlogs and other supply chain issues are pushing up inflation. 8:57

The Biden administration has argued that higher inflation is temporary. Yet the supply chain issues have persisted months after the economy began to reopen and recover as vaccines lessened many of the risks from the pandemic.

Consumer prices climbed 5.4 per cent from a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. That is significantly above the Federal Reserve’s two per cent target. Higher energy, food and shelter costs were prime drivers of price increases in September. Used car and truck prices fell for the second straight month, but vehicle shortages and cost increases in prior months mean that prices are still 24.4 per cent higher from a year ago.

Inflation’s persistence has created a divide in how to describe the phenomenon.

Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic said Tuesday that he no longer calls inflation “transitory” and expects this current “episode” of inflation could last into 2022 or longer.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the former Fed chair, insisted to CBS News that the higher prices are “transitory” because once “we get the pandemic under control, the global economy comes back, these pressures will mitigate and I believe will go back to normal levels.”

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Facebook to rebrand itself and focus on the metaverse – CBC.ca

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Facebook Inc., under fire from regulators and lawmakers over its business practices, is planning to rebrand itself with a new group name that focuses on the metaverse, the Verge reported on Tuesday.

The name change will be announced next week, according to technology blog The Verge, which cited a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, since July. The group has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.

The move would likely position the flagship app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing brands such as Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the report. Google adopted such a structure when it reorganized into a holding company called Alphabet in 2015.

Facebook said it does not comment on “rumour or speculation.”

Rebrand would revamp tarnished image: analysts 

If true, the rebranding would make sense as the core Facebook business becomes less important to the group and it seeks to revamp an image tarnished by regulatory and legal scrutiny of how it handles user safety and hate speech, analysts said.

“It reflects the broadening out of the Facebook business. And then, secondly, I do think that Facebook’s brand is probably not the greatest given all of the events of the last three years or so,” internet analyst James Cordwell at Atlantic Equities said.

Facebook is under wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, with internal documents leaked by a whistleblower forming the basis for a U.S. Senate hearing last week.

WATCH | Ex insider blows the whistle on Facebook’s business practices: 

Whistleblower put spotlight on the future of Facebook | Conversation Panel

10 days ago

A Facebook whistleblower delivered scathing criticism of the company this week, calling it morally bankrupt for putting profit over the safety of users, including children. The Conversation Panel discusses what the testimony means for the future of the company and its users. 14:36

“Having a different parent brand will guard against having this negative association transferred into a new brand, or other brands that are in the portfolio,” said Shankha Basu, associate professor of marketing at University of Leeds.

Last month, Facebook appointed Andrew Bosworth, who heads up the social media company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, including products like its Oculus Quest VR headset, as chief technology officer.

Metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, is popular in Silicon Valley and has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft. The popular children’s game Roblox describes itself as a metaverse company. Epic Games’ Fortnite is also considered to be part of the metaverse.

Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on Oct. 28, but according to the Verge, it could be unveiled sooner.

WATCH | Tech reporter says Facebook is on the verge of a massive rebrand:

Tech reporter says Facebook is on the verge of a massive rebrand

2 hours ago

The Verge’s senior reporter Alex Heath tells Power & Politics the social media giant is set to undergo a series of changes — including a new company name. 5:31

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B.C. Children's Hospital reports troubling influx of kids with colds and flu – Vancouver Sun

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Health officials say a surge in respiratory syncytial virus is happening earlier than normal this year.

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B.C. Children’s Hospital reported Wednesday a spike in non-COVID-19 respiratory viral illnesses, such as colds and flus in children.

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That means the emergency room has been busier than normal and long waiting times can be expected.

Thirty per cent of all cases in the hospital’s emergency department in the past month have been children with respiratory illnesses, according to Dr. Claire Seaton, a pediatrician at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Rates of severe infection caused by COVID-19 remains low and overall only two per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. are under the age of 19.

“That hasn’t changed but what has changed is we are seeing a lot of other viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza, along with some of the other common cold viruses.”

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, and most children have been infected with the virus by age two. RSV symptoms are mild in healthy children and adults but the virus can cause severe infection in young infants, especially those born prematurely, or young children who have heart of lung disease.

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Seaton said they didn’t see many children with colds or flus last year, so they are worried it’s going to get a lot busier in the emergency department because of the RSV surge.

It is not unusual to see a spike in cold and flu viruses after kids go back to school in September and October but this year the kids may have reduced immunity to these common illnesses because it just wasn’t around last year.

Public health measures such as wearing masks, keeping a physical distance, washing hands, and getting a flu vaccine can help to keep the kids safe, she said.

Part of the reason for the surge at B.C. Children’s may be because parents are worried their child has COVID-19 so they take them to the emergency room.

Seaton said if a child has a cough or the sniffles then it’s best to keep them home from school or take them to get a COVID test , but it’s not always necessary to go to the emergency room.

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“I think it’s important to realize that the viral surge has already increased hospitalization rates in other parts of Canada,” she said. “So the RSV surge, which normally happens in November, is happening earlier this year … and we are starting to see those cases here.”

If parents are worried about their child’s illness they can check symptoms on the B.C. Children’s Hospital website.

“For respiratory illness, you should take your baby or young child to an emergency department if they have trouble breathing, significant problems with breathing or lips that look blue, and if your baby can’t suck or drink or feed very well,” she said, adding infants younger than three months with a fever should also be brought in to the ER.

Doctors and health experts are recommending that children six months and older get a flu vaccine this year, especially because of the potential for reduced immunity.

“Last year, the rates for RSV infection were very low or basically non-existent so we have a whole year’s worth of children who did not get those viruses so their natural immunity is potentially lower,” she said.

ticrawford@postmedia.com


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Canada competition watchdog may have to rely more on litigation – top official

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 Competition Bureau Canada watchdog may have to rely more on litigation after its proposed veto of a takeover was overturned, and this could make life harder for companies seeking to merge, the agency head said on Wednesday.

Matthew Boswell, commissioner of competition, noted his bureau had tried this year to block western Canadian oil and gas waste firm Secure Energy Services Inc from buying rival Tervita Corp.

Secure then turned to the independent Competition Tribunal, which denied the bureau’s injunction and underscored “the high bar that needs to be met to prevent mergers … that we allege are anti-competitive,” he said.

The tribunal, he said, had acted so quickly that the bureau had not had time to present all its evidence, raising valid questions about the state of competition laws in Canada.

“This decision has significant implications for how we conduct future merger reviews, particularly in cases where there are competition concerns,” Boswell said in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.

“This may mean that we must pursue a litigation-focused approach that is costly and less predictable for merging parties,” he added.

Secure relied on the so-called efficiencies defense, which is unique to Canada. Boswell said this procedure allowed the tribunal to allow an anti-competitive merger to proceed if the transaction was deemed to produce efficiency gains that were greater than its anti-competitive effects.

“The efficiencies defense raises significant practical

challenges for the Bureau to estimate and measure anti-competitive harm,” he said. “(We should) ask ourselves whether our competition laws are really working in the best interest of all Canadians.”

The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency set up to ensure fair competition. It investigates price fixing, bid-rigging and mergers, among other matters.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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