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Walmart, FedEx, UPS working to ease holiday bottlenecks-White House

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President Joe Biden will meet with retail and delivery CEOs and union heads Wednesday, as the White House rolls out new measures to ease supply chain bottlenecks ahead of the holiday season.

The Port of Los Angeles is going to expand its 24/7 operations to ease the shipping snarl there and at the Port of Long Beach, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the meeting.

In addition, three large carriers of goods – Walmart, FedEx and UPS – plan to step up their round-the-clock operations to speed the shipment of goods across the country, the official said.

Samsung, Home Depot and Target are also increasing their work in off-peak hours, the official said.

“By taking these steps, they’re saying to the rest of the supply chain, you need to move too,” the official said. “Let’s step it up.”

White House officials, scrambling to relieve global supply bottlenecks choking U.S. ports, highways and railways, are warning that Americans may face higher prices and some empty shelves this Christmas https://www.reuters.com/world/us/americans-may-not-get-some-christmas-treats-white-house-officials-warn-2021-10-12 season.

“My administration is working around the clock to move more goods faster and strengthen the resiliency of our supply chains,” Biden said in a tweet Wednesday.

The supply crisis is driven in part by the global COVID-19 pandemic, as sales of durable goods jumped amid worker shortages and transportation hub slowdowns. Lower-than-expected Christmas sales could hurt U.S. companies and pose a political risk for Biden.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the economy continues to be the most important issue for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Biden will meet at 1:45 p.m. ET (1745 GMT) at the White House with executives from the two ports as well as from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, Wal-Mart, FedEx, UPS, Target, the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Association, the Pacific Maritime Association, and more.

He will speak on these efforts at 2:20 p.m. (1820 GMT).

Some CEOs scheduled to attend noted they are already working around-the-clock. “We’ve been running 24/7 supply chain operations for years, including at the ports,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell in a blog post https://corporate.target.com/article/2021/10/supply-chain-update ahead of the meeting.

Target handles about 50% of its containers that arrive in California ports at night, he wrote, and is committed to increasing that amount by 10% over the next 90 days.

LONG-TIME ISSUES

The stop-and-start nature of the pandemic has snarled global supply chains that are optimized for predictable, just-in-time movements of goods.

The White House has been trying to tackle inflation-inducing supply bottlenecks of everything from meat to semiconductors. The administration formed a task force in June that meets weekly and named a “bottleneck” czar, John Porcari, to push private-sector companies to find ways to get goods flowing.

Still, thousands of shipping containers are on cargo ships offshore waiting to be offloaded at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Similar backlogs exist at ports in New York and Savannah, Georgia. A shortage of warehouse workers and truck drivers to pick up goods is partly to blame.

Moving to smooth 24/7 operations at ports, rail yards and warehouses will require coordination and more workers.

Port and labor executives in Los Angeles say overnight truck appointments at ports went unused in the past, for example, because drivers cannot drop off cargo there, as the sites were unattended.

Companies like Walmart are finding workarounds by sending containers on bulk cargo ships and offloading them on docks commonly used for commodities.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein, Arriana McLymore and Nandita Bose; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker)

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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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Canadian home price growth slows to near standstill in September

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Canadian home prices barely rose in September from August as a recent slowdown in housing sales weighed, data showed on Wednesday.

The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes in 11 major Canadian markets, rose 0.1% in September from August, marking the fourth consecutive month in which the monthly price increase was lower than the previous month.

“The slowdown in price growth can be linked to the slowdown in housing sales reported in recent months by the Canadian Real Estate Association,” Daren King, an economist at National Bank of Canada, said in a statement.

Eight of the 11 major markets rose, led by a 1% gain for Winnipeg, while prices were stable in Montreal and fell in Vancouver as well as in Ottawa-Gatineau. It was the first time in seven months that gains were not seen in all 11 regions.

On an annual basis, the index was up 17.3%, decelerating after it notched record annual growth in August. It was paced by a 31.7% gain in Halifax and a 28.0% gain in Hamilton.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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