Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.
The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.
Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.
“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.
“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.
The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.
“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”
The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.
Although most of the world’s food waste currently gives rise to methane gas and contributes to climate change, researchers in the US have found a way to use food waste to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
By turning “wet waste” into a kind of paraffin that powers jet engines, researchers claim their method reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 165% compared to fossil fuels, according to the BBC.
Their figure combines both the reductions in greenhouse gases emitted by airplanes and the emissions avoided by not sending food waste to landfills where it gives rise to methane gas.
From a market in India that turns 10 tons of food waste into energy to a factory in Indiana turning plastic waste into eco-friendly fuel, innovative solutions are on the rise as both the food and tech industries change rapidly.
A breakthrough moment
The scientists are from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Dayton, Yale University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and airlines including Southwest have already started collaborating with them.
With global passenger numbers expected to double by 2040, airlines are having to think seriously about how to cut their emissions. Delta Air Lines committed $1 billion last year to become carbon neutral by 2030.
According to NREL, airlines currently contribute 9% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
“If our refining pathway is scaled up, it could take as little as a year or two for airlines like Southwest to get the fuel regulatory approvals they need to start using wet waste SAF in commercial flights,” NREL scientist Derek Vardon and corresponding author of the paper said in a press release. “That means net-zero-carbon flights are on the horizon earlier than some might have thought.”
The scientists use catalytic conversion to produce paraffin
The researchers’ method interrupts the conversion of food waste into methane and produces volatile fatty acids.
Using catalytic conversion, they produced two types of sustainable paraffin.
Combining these two types and then mixing 70% of the result with jet fuel produced a suitable mixture that still meets airline fuel criteria.
“Since the SAF blend would have a carbon footprint 165% lower than fossil jet, that blend is high enough to decarbonize flight,” Vardon said.
Aside from a huge reduction in fossil fuel usage and putting food waste to good use, flights using SAF would produce 34% less soot than the flights of today.
“That’s where we see the most potential for this technology is that you’re preventing methane emissions, and dramatically lowering the carbon footprint of jet fuel,” Vardon told the BBC. “And you just can’t do that with fossil fuels without getting into things like offsets.”
While SAF wouldn’t completely solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, it would provide a lifeline for an industry that is undergoing a reevaluation amidst the coronavirus health crisis.
“It is undeniable that SAF’s role in reducing emissions across the industry and at Southwest will be significant,” said Michael AuBuchon, Southwest’s senior director of fuel supply chain management. “NREL’s research could provide a game-changing opportunity to make SAF cost-effective, leading to its larger-scale deployment.”
The research team plans to begin test flights with Southwest Airlines in 2023.
Europe is struggling to gather evidence against Amazon for the antitrust case it has opened against the e-commerce giant for its market dominance and anti-competition practices, the Financial Times reported.
Brussels announced the case in the summer of 2019 on allegations that Amazon was manipulating its algorithm to favor its own products over third-party sellers on its websites.
They have reportedly been unable to access the algorithm and the list of detailed questions they sent to Amazon has not yet received a response.
Antitrust lawsuits have become commonplace as big tech companies come under increasing levels of scrutiny, including in the US.
Parler has also filed lawsuits against Amazon while the gaming giant behind Fortnite, Epic Games, has taken on Google and Apple.
“Cases involving algorithms are complex,” a Brussels-based legal expert told the Financial Times. “But the EU doesn’t have to dictate how a computer code works. It is for the company that uses the algorithm to deliver a fair result.”
If Amazon is found to have breached European law, the company could be fined up to 10% of its annual revenue. The figure stood at $233 billion for 2018, meaning a fine of up to $23 billion, but has since increased.
The lawsuit was followed by a second one in November 2020 over the way Amazon uses data from third-party sellers on its websites.
The Financial Times said the EU had been given evidence that Amazon may not gain anything from disadvantaging third-party sellers as they generate large amounts of profit for the company.
“Why would Amazon want to worsen the customer experience if customers will realize they can get better quality products for cheaper elsewhere?” an insider with knowledge of the defense told the Financial Times.
Those familiar with the case said an investigation could still take years and may still result in a successful outcome for the EU.
Amazon did not respond to the FT’s request for comment and the EU said it was still investigating.
In a Clubhouse interview with New York Times reporter and CNBC co-anchor Andrew Ross in February, Gates spoke out against bitcoin citing environmental damages caused by the cryptocurrency.
“Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind,” Gates said. “It’s not a great climate thing.”However, he added that bitcoin’s energy use may be acceptable if green energy is used and it is not “crowding out other users.”
Gates clarified that he does not see climate change and bitcoin as being “closely related,” and labeled himself a “bitcoin skeptic,” citing a preference to invest in “products” like malaria and measles vaccines rather than cryptocurrencies.
Cryptocurrencies have become a major culprit for energy consumption, with the world’s bitcoin network using as much power as the whole of Ireland in 2018.
Analysis by the University of Cambridge released earlier this year suggested that bitcoin was now consuming more electricity than Argentina, according to the BBC.
Gates is not the only one to speak out against bitcoin’s environmental impact, with CIO of Société Générale’s Kleinwort Hambros bank, Fahad Kamal, saying bitcoin’s energy use was “staggering” and a major worry for investors.
Economist Nouriel Roubini also criticized bitcoin and the growing trend in bitcoin investment, spiked by endorsements from Tesla chief Elon Musk.
“Since the fundamental value of bitcoin is zero and would be negative if a proper carbon tax was applied to its massive polluting energy-hogging production, I predict that the current bubble will eventually end in another bust,” Roubini said.
However, others have stood behind bitcoin and the cryptocurrency soared to record highs on February 21, reaching $58,640. “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer previously told Sorkin on CNBC that it was “almost irresponsible” for companies not to own bitcoin.
Meanwhile, Ark Invest founder Cathie Woods said she expected the price of bitcoin to rise between $40,000 and $400,000 and that digital wallets would gut traditional banks.
Revolut has started operating as a bank in 10 Central European countries.
Using a license issued in Lithuania, Revolut Bank will operate in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
The British-born startup and financial app has been operating as a bank in Poland and Lithuania since last year while maintaining its services in other European countries using its e-money license.
Revolut started 15 years ago as a service for withdrawing money outside users’ home country without commissions, exchanging currencies at a more favorable exchange rate than with banks, and making payments between friends.
In February last year, Revolut was valued at $5.5 billion after raising $500 million from TCV, a Silicon Valley growth fund.
The advantage of a banking license is that it allows Revolut to be used for deposits, while e-money licenses mean Revolut serves as more of a wallet for its users.
After Brexit, the company moved its license from the UK to Lithuania in order to continue operating in European markets. However, Revolut has also applied for a UK banking license to improve its profitability.
“Revolut is now the fastest growing fintech company in Europe because we put the customer at the heart of everything that we do. Our product design is second to none, we have no hidden fees, and we are constantly building new and innovative financial products,” Revolut Bank CEO Virgilijus Mirkės said in a statement.
“Launching the bank in ten new European markets will provide a greater level of security and confidence for our customers, and will enable us to launch a host of new products and services in the near future,” he added.
In December 2020, the company broke even following a 40% revenue decrease earlier in the pandemic, suggesting that profitability may soon be on the cards.
Despite the pandemic, video game revenue reportedly exceeded sport and film combined in 2020.
According to data from the International Data Corporation reported by MarketWatch, the industry surged 20% to $179.7 billion.
The European Union has now approved Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game publisher Bethesda Softworks.
Microsoft’s acquisition is the company’s largest-ever purchase in the video game sector, Expansion reported.
When the tech giant first announced its plans in September, analysts said Microsoft was looking to diversify its business with more revenue from consumer products.
“As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a press release announcing the acquisition in September last year. “And together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
Bethesda is well-known for games including “Fallout,” “The Elder Scrolls,” and “Doom.”
All of Bethesda’s games will now come under Microsoft’s Xbox Studios umbrella.
The company said in September that the release of all PS5 games already announced by Bethesda would continue, but that the remainder of the games would be looked at on a “case-by-case basis,” with some new releases moving exclusively to Xbox.
The tech giant will also be able to incorporate Zenimax’s Bethesda games into its Xbox Game Pass cloud-based video game catalog.
Microsoft first requested EU approval on January 29 and the European Commission has now ruled that it will not pose competition problems to other providers.
Although most of us are now overloaded with information about COVID-19, there’s always more to learn.
New variants have led to more research and there is still no clear picture of when exactly the pandemic will end.
A John Hopkins professor, Dr. Martin Makary, said the US would reach herd immunity by April, but other experts disagree.
Until that happens, contact tracing and self-isolation will have to continue.
I decided to take the COVID-19 contact tracing course offered by John Hopkins so that I could learn more about the work of the trackers and how they’re helping to reduce the impact of the pandemic.
I took the Spanish version but the US course listed on Coursera is a free seven-hour class taught by Emily Gurley, Ph.D., MPH, an infectious disease epidemiologist with a background in outbreak response.
What you’ll learn and how
The course covers the science of COVID-19, including its infectious period and why contact tracing is a particularly effective method of stopping the virus in its tracks.
Course students will learn how to become contact tracers, identify contacts, and support both patients and healthcare workers in the process.
They will be given simulations to explain some of the challenges posed by contact tracing.
In my course, which was 21 hours long, we had a Virtual Campus Forum where people could ask classmates or tutors any questions they had about the course.
There’s also a final exam that’s easy enough to pass if you’ve studied and are clear on the key concepts.
There are several questions and it’ll take longer than you think as you have to really understand what they’re saying.
Unlike most exams, you won’t have to wait to find out your grade – they’ll tell you straight away.
After completing the course, you’ll get a certificate too.
You should take it even if you don’t work in healthcare
A lot of people asked me why I was taking the course if I wasn’t a healthcare professional.
My answer was always the same.
The course is a great way to learn more about what’s happening in our world right now and the important work contact tracers do.
People who aren’t healthcare workers will have had a different experience of the pandemic and there are worries that complacency is on the rise – testing has already declined in the US.
It could be a wake-up call, or it could prepare you if you ever have to deal with a COVID-19 case in your home or local community, as a lot of people don’t immediately know what to do and there’s a lot to take in.
I found the course very useful, although I think certain things could be improved – like having notes available in writing, for example. I’d give the course a B+.
Ultimately, I learned that being a contact tracer isn’t just about looking for positive cases, but also about saving lives.
A number of women are at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both at a Spanish and global level – from the first female president of the Spanish National Research Council to a researcher whose work in AI could reduce COVID-19 mortality by 50%.
While that percentage is slowly changing, there remain prominent gender gaps in STEM fields and women face more challenges than men in these sectors.
A study of 194 countries released last year suggested women-led countries handled the pandemic better than those led by men – and they’ve also played key roles in revolutionizing the pandemic response.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are 11 Spanish women who could hold the key to tackling COVID-19.
Sánchez-Felipe is researching a single-dose vaccine for long-term protection
Spanish researcher Lorena Sánchez-Felipe is working at the Rega Institute in Leuven, Belgium, to develop a vaccine that could change the course of the pandemic.
Her research group is creating a vaccine based on the yellow fever vaccine which carries a coronavirus antigen to train the immune system to recognize it. Sánchez-Felipe’s vaccine would protect people against both yellow fever and COVID-19.
She believes her vaccine could be especially vital in countries where yellow fever is still a problem and will also protect against COVID-19 in the long-term.
“We expect long-term immunity, given previous results we’ve seen with this type of vaccine,” Sánchez-Felipe told Business Insider España.
Sola is working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Senior scientist and co-director of the coronavirus laboratory at the National Center for Biotechnology at the Spanish National Research Council, Isabel Sola, has spent years researching the coronavirus family of infections.
Sola is now working to develop a vaccine based on a smallpox virus and is created using a virus that has been genetically modified to retain its reproduction properties. It thus goes from cell to cell with a controlled dose acting as a vector.
“From our experience with similar coronaviruses, this vaccine is 100% effective,” Sola told Business Insider España.
Del Val is a virologist and coordinates the Global Health platform
Spanish National Research Council virologist Margarita del Val has been one of the most visible faces of the pandemic response in Spain.
The expert coordinates the 150 teams brought together by the council on a large multidisciplinary research platform called “Global Health.”
Among the tasks carried out by the platform are the improvement of COVID-19 diagnostic systems, and they have pioneered a system for testing wastewater to identify whether the virus is spreading in a community.
Del Val has also been carrying out educational work during the pandemic and has warned of the need to be cautious about future possible waves and other pandemics.
Fernández-Sesma researches immune responses to COVID-19
Ana Fernández-Sesma directs a laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York which studies how certain types of viruses modulate our immune system, with a special focus on dengue.
The research she conducts on dengue places her among the five best-funded researchers by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States.
Fernández-Sesma told Business Insider España she aims to understand “what the virus does to evade barriers in a host and how the host protects itself.” Uncovering this could change the pandemic response, as our immune response to the virus has still not been fully understood.
She has also joined a group of researchers evaluating the immune system’s response to the virus in an effort to understand how it differs among patients.
Oliver is an AI expert working on predicting the evolution of the pandemic
Nuria Oliver has established herself as one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence experts. In her capacity as authority-appointed high commissioner for AI in Valencia.
Oliver works with a research group that tries to communicate the real data of the pandemic to those in charge of making decisions.
The group tries to predict the behavior of the virus using different potential scenarios, answering key questions like how many people will be infected and modeling human mobility.
During the 2009 influenza pandemic in Mexico, Oliver analyzed aggregate data from cell phone networks to investigate the effectiveness of government measures.
She also spearheaded a macro-survey to assess the impact of the measures adopted during lockdown that has warned of the increased socialization in risky environments.
Marco leads a project that focuses on preparing for subsequent waves
Spanish National Research Council professor Pilar Marco is the head of Nanobiotechnology for Diagnostics (Nb4D). The tool could revolutionize the pandemic response.
Marco leads a team researching devices that can simultaneously and rapidly detect several biomarkers of COVID-19 infection.
These quick detection diagnostic systems could prepare the world better for any future outbreaks of COVID-19.
Rodríguez is improving diagnoses and treatments through AI at IBM
Astrophysics and cosmology specialist María Rodriguez uses her knowledge of quantitative technical tools to help doctors provide better diagnoses and suggest individual treatments.
The computational biologist works with IBM applying artificial intelligence to the healthcare sector, focusing on integrating high-throughput molecular datasets to build comprehensive models of disease.
This sector could transform the treatment of cancer and immune and degenerative diseases, Rodriguez told Business Insider España.
García Vidal is working on an AI solution that could cut mortality in COVID-19 patients by 50%
Head of the Covid Digital Control Center at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, Dr. Carolina García Vidal, is leading one of the 207 projects named by the European Institute of Innovation as providing a better response to the healthcare crisis.
García Vidal’s initiative uses artificial intelligence to monitor the evolution of patient systems, anticipating the worsening of the disease.
Rosa Menéndez is the first female president of the Spanish National Research Council
In 2017, Rosa Menéndez became the first female president in the 80-year history of the Spanish National Research Council.
An organic chemistry graduate from the University of Oviedo, Menéndez is confident that the council will produce the first Spanish vaccine to fight COVID-19, with reports suggesting it could be ready by the end of 2022.
Many restaurants also share premises and facilities to cut costs even further.
Over the last year, dark kitchens have grown exponentially in popularity.
Grocery giant Kroger announced in October that it was opening more dark kitchens to meet surging delivery demand, and Chipotle outlined plans to open its first dark kitchen in November, although the chain has been using digital kitchens within its restaurants for some time.
In many ways, dark kitchens have been the saving grace of the pandemic, allowing restaurants to continue operating despite restrictions that ban diners from visiting their establishments.
25% of food deliveries during the pandemic come from dark kitchens, according to Spanish broadcaster RTVE.
It’s not just restaurants that are catching on – it’s delivery giants too.
Food delivery firm Deliveroo, now worth $7 billion, said it would spend its latest funding win of $180 million partly on investing in dark kitchens.
This will enable them to increase their profit margins hugely as they will no longer be dependent on delivery commissions from restaurants.
However, there are concerns that dark kitchens could threaten traditional dining establishments, as they cannot compete with the larger profit margins, quicker deliveries, and lower prices offered by dark kitchen restaurants.
If they do not return in numbers equivalent to pre-pandemic levels, it will be difficult for restaurants to recover from the losses incurred over lockdowns and closures will be inevitable.
Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said moviegoers’ relationship with cinema had changed forever due to the pandemic and that the effects will last in the long-term, Bloomberg reported.
Speaking at a media and technology conference hosted by Morgan Stanley, Chapek said the old approach with a gap between when a movie comes out in theaters and when it is available on-demand wasn’t “viable anymore.”
“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before, particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them,” Chapek said. “I’m not sure there’s going back.”
According to Bloomberg, Disney had the largest market share of any movie distributor before the pandemic hit, so any shift in focus to streaming will definitely be felt in movie theaters.
The media giant owns four streaming services – Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Star, with tailored versions for key international markets.
In February, the company announced its flagship service Disney Plus had hit 95 million subscribers, bringing the total number of subscriptions across all streaming services to 146 million, according to an earnings report.
Disney expects to treble the number of Disney Plus subscribers to between 230 and 260 million by 2024 and will double its investment in original content to about $15 billion over the next four years.
On Wednesday, the company announced it would shut 60 stores across North America to focus on a “more flexible, interconnected e-commerce experience.”
“This is the perfect time to make operational changes,” said Chapek, who took over the reins at Disney in February 2020 from former CEO Bob Iger.