Posts tagged with "Jobs"

Wall-to-wall tomatoes: A state-of-the-art indoor farm is transforming Appalachia into an agricultural hub

January 20, 2021

Inside a sprawling new indoor farm near the small eastern Kentucky town of Morehead, a harvest of tomatoes—the first ever at the facility—is being readied to ship to grocery stores across the country, Fast Company reports.

For AppHarvest, the startup running the farm, it represents a key step in proving that the hydroponic model of agriculture—farming without soil—is sustainable and offers a way to bring new jobs to a region that has struggled as the coal industry collapsed.

The 2.76-million-square-foot facility, designed to grow as many as 45 million pounds of tomatoes in a year, uses far less land and water than traditional farms. (All of the water it does use is filtered from rainwater captured and stored on-site.)

It doesn’t require pesticides. Unlike some other indoor farms that use LEDs calibrated to make plants grow, it relies mostly on natural light, saving energy. And while tomatoes are often trucked to the Midwest and East Coast from California or Mexico, the central location in Kentucky can also shrink the carbon footprint of delivery.

“Our big picture thesis is that most all fruit and vegetable production at scale, globally, will end up being grown in a controlled environment,” founder and CEO Jonathan Webb told Fast Company. Agriculture faces multiple challenges. Climate change is leading to more drought, flooding, and extreme heat. At the same time, as the global population grows, demand is quickly growing. (

Soil is another challenge, as agriculture is now depleting fertile topsoil so quickly that it could be gone in 60 years. “When we talk about other extractive industries, the one thing we’re not talking enough about is what we’re extracting from our soils, and how badly we’re degrading those soils to a point to whether or not they’re fertile,” he says.

The startup spent 2020 building the facility as COVID-19 spread. “Six hundred semi-trucks of materials is what it took to build it out,” says Webb. “And we were shipping those materials around the world during a pandemic.” Because the company works in agriculture, it was allowed to keep working with suppliers even as various shutdowns happened. The first tomatoes were planted in late October and early November.

As the company begins to ship its first deliveries to grocery stores, it’s simultaneously building two more farms: another 60-plus-acre facility near Richmond, Kentucky, and a 15-acre indoor farm for leafy greens in the small city of Berea. It aims to add a dozen indoor farms in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia by 2025.

Research contact: @FastCompany

There’s no safety in (phone) numbers

August 19, 2019

How many of us have “exchanged digits” with new acquaintances, written our phone numbers on customer profiles, and entered them into job applications? Roughly 100%? And what could possibly be wrong with this practice?

A column posted on August 15 by Brian X. Chen, the lead Consumer Technology writer at The New York Times may change your mind about that. Chen encourages readers, “Before you hand over your number, ask yourself: Is it worth the risk?”

Now that many of us have shifted from landlines to mobile devices, we rarely change phone numbers—bringing them with us when we move homes, schools, jobs, and accounts..

At the same time, the Times reports, our exclusive string of digits has increasingly become connected to apps and online services that are hooked into our personal lives. And it can lead to information from our offline worlds, including where we live and more.

In fact, your phone number may have now become an even stronger identifier than your full name, Chen believes.

He went out of his way to prove this theory recently, when he provided his phone number to Fyde, a mobile security firm based in Palo Alto, California.

Emre Tezisci, a security researcher at Fyde—and a self-described “ninja engineer” with a background in telecommunications, took on the task “with gusto,” Chen wrote, noting that, for purposes of the test, he and Tezisci previously “had never met or talked.”

Tezisci quickly plugged Chen’s cellphone number into White Pages Premium, an online database that charges $5 a month for access to public records. He then did a thorough web search and followed a data trail — linking Chen’s name and address to information in other online background-checking tools and public records — to track down more details.

“Soon,” Chen wrote in his Times column, “he had a full dossier on me — including my name and birth date, my address, the property taxes I pay and the names of members of my family.

From there, the situation quickly might have deteriorated. Tezisci could have used that information to try to answer security questions that would enable him to break into Chen’s online accounts. Or he could have targeted Chen or his loved ones with sophisticated phishing attacks. He and the other researchers at Fyde opted not to do so, since such attacks are illegal.

“If you want to give out your number, you are taking additional risk that you might not be aware of,” Fyde CEO Sinan Eren,  told Chen in an interview. “Because of collisions in names due to the massive number of people online today, a phone number is a stronger identifier.”

In just an hour, this is what the Fyde researcher found:

  • Chen’s current home address, its square footage, the cost of the property and the taxes he pays on it;
  • His past addresses from the last decade;
  • The full names of his mother, father, sister, and aunt;
  • Past phone numbers, including the landline for his parents’ home; and
  • Lack of a criminal record.

While Fyde declined to hack into Chen’s accounts , the company warned that there was plenty an attacker could do with the information:

  • Reset the password for an online account by answering such security questions as “What is your mother’s maiden name?”
  • Trick a customer service representative for that person’s phone carrier into porting my number onto a new SIM card, thus hijacking my digits — a practice called SIM swapping.
  • Mislead members of the person’s family into sharing their passwords or sending money.
  • Target the phone number with phishing texts and robocalls.
  • Break into the person’s voicemail and listen to messages.

So, when is it wise to share your number (and when is it not?

There are some situations when sharing your phone number is reasonable. When you enter your user name and password to get into your online banking account, the bank may call or text you with a temporary code that you must enter before you can log in. This is a security mechanism known as two-factor verification. In this situation, your phone number is a useful extra factor to prove you are who you say you are, The Times writer notes.

But which companies should you trust with your phone number? Unfortunately, Chen says, there is no neat solution.

As for two-factor authentication, most tech companies offer other verification options. They include apps that generate temporary security codes or a physical security key that can be plugged in. Generally, those are safer to use than a phone number.

Finally, a word to the wise: If you have business cards with your personal number printed on them, shred them and order new ones with just your office line.

Research contact: @nytimes

Walmart caves to pressure on jobs for disabled ‘people greeters’

March 4, 2019

Following more than a week of backlash from consumers and disability rights advocates, Walmart has pledged to make “every effort” to find other roles for handicapped workers slated to lose their jobs when the retailer eliminates the “people greeter” position at 1,000 stores in April, CBS News reports.

In late February, the discount stores began replacing greeters at its locations nationwide with what the company calls “customer hosts,” a Walmart spokesperson told the network news outlet. The newly created position requires employees to check receipts, help with product returns, and generally help with upkeep at the front of stores.

The disabled and the elderly—who number among other current employees in greeter positions—would struggle with the physical demands of the such job requirements, critics say.

Indeed, outraged customers and others in Walmart communities started online petitions, formed Facebook support groups; and called and emailed Walmart corporate to register their displeasure.

“This is a shameful day for the country’s largest corporate employer, and a slap in the face to thousands of veteran employees and others with physical disabilities who have given years of service to the corporation,” Kristi Branstetter, leader for OUR Walmart, Walmart associate. and member of worker advocacy group United4Respect, said in a statement.

OUR Walmart already has activated a network of 150,000 Walmart associates, according to a spokesperson for the group.

Walmart’s actions—fueled by an uncompromising quest to slash costs, no matter the consequence — seem to be discriminatory, plain and simple. We see you, Walmart, and we’re not having it,” Branstetter continued.

After the greeter positions disappear at designated stores in April, Walmart originally said that employees would have 60 days to explore other jobs at the company. Now, Walmart has assured employees with disabilities that they can consider their options “indefinitely.”

“This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved,” Walmart said in a statement.

Among those who are scheduled lose their greeter jobs is Adam Catlin, whose plight caught national attention in February after his mother, Holly, posted on social media that he would be let go by the Silinsgrove, Pennsylvania, store come April. However,Catlin  was offered a new job March 1 by Walmart that he will be able to start once the change takes place, according to his mom’s latest Facebook posts.

When the greeter jobs are eliminated April 26, Catlin will be able to start a new job as a self-checkout customer host the following day. Catlin will be moving his seat 30 feet from his place at the door to the self-checkout line where he will encourage shoppers to use the service.

“We’re just very, very happy that they took another look at this and worked with us,” Holly Catlin said.

The 30-year-old Catlin has cerebral palsy and has worked at his Walmart store in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania for more than a decade, CBS News said. Catlin, who is legally blind and uses a walker, was previously offered jobs last week as a cashier or a photo lab assistant, neither of which he would have been able to do as he is legally blind, lacks the finger dexterity to count money, and can’t move around the photo lab in his walker.

Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, said in a memo to store managers on February 28, “We are taking some specific steps to support” greeters with disabilities.” Walmart then released the memo publicly.

Acknowledging the change had “created some conversation,” Foran wrote: “Let me be clear: If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

Home Depot ‘guts’ exterior installation workforce nationwide

February 8, 2019

Home Depot is laying off installation workers at its stores nationwide, the company confirmed to Business Insider on January 6.

The retailer says that its cutbacks will affect fewer than 1,000 people. However, if you are looking to buy and install new gutters, you may find yourself putting the work off rather than putting the new system in.

“After reviewing the installation business, we’ve decided it’s right to wind down our roofing, siding, insulation and gutters installation programs,” a Home Depot spokesperson told the business news outlet. “We’re only exiting these four installation programs, so we’ll continue to offer dozens of other installation services.

Home Depot’s website describes its installation services team as a group of professional installers who work in partnership with the company. The blurb also says the team has “a critical role within home services” and requires talent with “top-notch skills” and “a drive for quality and customer service.”

Listed responsibilities for the installation services team include negotiating contracts, contributing to the company’s growth, and working with management.

“Going forward, we’ll focus our efforts on categories that enable us to deliver the best customer experience, while simplifying processes and business structure for our stores and sales team. This does impact some of our associates in our installation business, and our first priority is to take care of them, as well as customers. It’s an extremely small percentage of our overall workforce, and we’re working to identify potential positions for them in our stores and other parts of the company.”

As the news broke, Home Depot employees took to to voice their dismay.

“The layoffs are happening at the wrong end of the spectrum,” one anonymous poster wrote on the message board. “Should have been a top down changeover.”

Another commented, “So sad to hear from my current/previous HDE brothers and sisters. I am from Los Angeles and they have hollowed out the work force here from salesmen to management to installers. I now truly believe that they see us as a body count and could care less about how many lives they have [affected]. The worst part is they tried to spin it like it was going to be better for us lol. How dumb do they think we are?”

Research contact:

Amazon plans to split HQ2 in two East Coast locations

November 7, 2018

After conducting a yearlong search for a site for its second headquarters, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to manage a total of 50,000 employees in two East Coast locations, The New York Times reported on November 5.

The e-commerce company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens—a location just across the East River from Manhattan— according to two sources briefed on the discussions, the Times said.

In addition, Amazon is also close to sealing a deal to move to Crystal City, an urban neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Arlington County, Virginia, south of downtown Washington, D.C; one of the sources said.

Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area.

Amazon executives met two weeks ago with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D), said one of the people briefed on the process, adding that the state had offered potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. Executives met separately with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a person briefed on that discussion said.

“I am doing everything I can,” Cuomo told the press corps, including the Times, when asked on November 5 about the state’s efforts to lure the company. “We have a great incentive package,” he said.

“I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” Cuomo said. “Because it would be a great economic boost.”

According to the Times, the need to hire tens of thousands of high-tech workers has been the driving force behind the search, leading many to expect it to land in a major East Coast metropolitan area. Many experts have pointed to Crystal City as a front-runner, because of its strong public transit, educated work force and proximity to Washington.

JBG Smith, a developer who owns much of the land in Crystal City, declined to comment, as did Arlington County officials.

Amazon declined to comment on whether it had made any final decisions. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Amazon’s decision to pick two new locations instead of one.

Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters in September 2017, saying that the company was growing faster than it could hire in its hometown Seattle. The company said it would invest more than $5 billion over almost two decades in a second headquarters, hiring as many as 50,000 full-time employees that would earn more than $100,000 a year on average.

HQ2 would be “full equal to our current campus in Seattle,” the company said. If Amazon goes ahead with two new sites, it is unclear whether the company would refer to both of the locations as headquarters or if they would amount to large satellite offices.

Research contact: @KYWeise

U.S. voters give thumbs down to steel and aluminum tariffs

March 9, 2018

Half (50%) of American voters oppose tariffs on steel and aluminum, while 31% would support such a trade agenda, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll of 1,122  adults nationwide released on March 6.

In addition, the U.S. electorate disagrees, 64% versus 28%, with President Donald Trump’s claim that a trade war would be good for nation and easily won, according to the research findings.

Every listed party, gender, education, age and racial group oppose steel and aluminum tariffs, Quinnipiac reports—except for Republicans, who support tariffs by a lackluster 58% versus 20%; and white voters with no college degree, who are divided, 42% versus 40%.

If the tariffs were to raise the cost of goods that Americans purchase, the opposition would mount, according to poll respondents. Indeed, American voters would oppose such tariffs 59% versus 29 percent, if they had to pay higher prices as a result.

Still,the tariffs will be good for American jobs, 26% say—while 36 % say tariffs will be bad for jobs and 24% say the tariffs will have no substantial  impact on jobs.

Finally, Quinnipiac reports,American voters disapprove 54% versus 34% of the way in which the Trump administration is handling trade. Only Republicans and white voters with no college degree approve.