U.S. Midterm Election Results: Balance and Counterbalance
Republicans retain control of the Senate, expanding their majority.
Democrats take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years.
What are the consequences?
The Republican’s continued hold on the Senate gives them control over all critical federal judicial appointments, including nominations to the Supreme Court.
Democrats will be able to delay or stop many of President Trump's legislative priorities, such as funding for a proposed border wall and a new middle-class tax cut, or at least extract major concessions on contentious issues, like immigration reform, beforehand.
The Senate will still be able to block anything the Democrats pass.
Amazon's First Popup Shop Challenges Luxury Brands
E-commerce giant Amazon is investing in the fashion and luxury sectors and aims to dominate market share. Amazon already accounts for nearly half of all online purchases in the United States, and with their purchase of Wholefoods last year, Amazon ventured into physical stores and has now opened its first pop-up shop on Baker Street in London.
Luxury brands have long held the advantage of crafting a high-end customer experience in-store, and in spite of the sustained growth of shoppers preferring to place their orders online, luxury brand numbers of in-store visits have actually increased forty percent over the past three years, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey. Yet attracting these customers means luxury retailers have made significant investments into curating bigger and better experiences for customers to buy into, in addition to the actual products, by turning their shops into restaurants, spas, and galleries. Amazon has been paying attention, offering live music, free makeovers, a beauty panel, juice bars, and yoga classes during their week-long pop-up on Baker Street. A recent survey by Swedish bank Klarna surveyed two thousand shoppers, of whom 31 percent said they like to make purchases after they have left the store, where 61 percent said they find e-commerce to be tedious without allowing them to touch or see items.
Amazon Go stores in the United States have no cashiers nor checkouts. Customers walk in, pick something off a shelf, and walk out because thousands of sensors monitor each item and automatically bill the customer’s Amazon account. Amazon plans to rollout more of these stores in the U.S. and into the U.K. In the pop-up shop, Amazon Fire Tablets were held by assistants who could scan, view, compare, and purchase every product online; items could only be bought in the pop-up shop through the app.
Amazon has launched five of its own fashion labels within the past year, all of which were on display in its pop-up. Amazon owns a photo studio in Shoreditch, another trendy part of London, where stylists and photographers take over half a million images a year for its website.
The Ocean Cleanup deploys System 001 to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years
Founded in 2013 by then eighteen-year-old Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup has devised a system that will reduce the theoretical cleanup time of plastic in the ocean from millennia to mere years. The first cleanup prototype was deployed in June 2016 and the first full-scale operational system, System 001, was deployed into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October 2018.
Instead of going after the plastic – which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete – The Ocean Cleanup has developed a passive system which allows the ocean currents to concentrate the plastic itself. This will allow The Ocean Cleanup to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years. The goal is to capture the plastic by harnessing natural forces to move the system faster than the plastic is moving in the ocean. With its U-shape and screen below the surface the plastic will collect in the center of the system and a vessel will remove the collected plastic every few months. Captured plastic will then be processed and sorted on land for recycling.
Oxford University researchers advise a meat tax
When governments place sin taxes on food, such as sugar, their argument is it will save healthcare system and economic costs, but it disproportionately negatively impacts people with lower incomes because it’s often more affordable. Now researchers at Oxford University, who set out to determine the level of tax needed to offset the healthcare costs of eating red and processed meat, has recommended the government introduce a ‘meat tax’, which they say would double the price of a packet of sausages should be brought in to prevent thousands of Britons dying each year. They calculated that by increasing the cost of red meat by 14 percent and processed meat by 79 percent this will prevent six thousand deaths and save the U.K. National Health Service nearly £1 billion annually.
Research by Cancer Research UK found people who eat red meat raise their risk of bowel cancer by 30 percent, or rather, believe that the current consumption of red and processed meat exceeds recommended levels according to its doctors. The World Health Organisation has classified beef, lamb, and pork as carcinogenic when eaten in processed form, and "probably" cancer-causing when consumed unprocessed. Red meat consumption has also been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, and is considered a potential factor in sixty thousand U.K. deaths per year. Processed meats usually contain salts and other preservatives which can form toxic compounds which damage cells in the gut. A meat tax on processed meat is expected to change consumer behaviour by switching to eating unprocessed meat, but again, this is often more expensive.
The Millennium Seed Bank hits a snag in preserving the world’s seed banks of endangered plant species
The Millennium Seed Bank was set up by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew as the world’s largest and most diverse genetic ‘ark’, on track to have collected 25 percent of global species by 2020 as part of a wider scheme with institutions around the world to store the world’s plants in seed banks to prevent them from extinction. According to Kew scientist John Dickie, "Ex-situ conservation of plants is more critical than ever, with many threats to plant populations including climate change, habitat conversion and plant pathogens, we need to make sure we're doing all we can to conserve the most important and threatened species.”
However, a new study published in Nature Plants presents research by scientists that found the seeds of over a third of critically endangered species cannot be frozen because they cannot survive the process of drying and deep freezing and produce ‘recalcitrant seeds’, which die in the dying process. 27 percent of endangered species produce these seeds that cannot be banked, along with 35 percent of plants considered to be "vulnerable" to extinction.
The study suggests this is a particular problem for trees, with 33 percent of all the world's species producing seeds that do not survive the drying process. In tropical moist forests, such as rainforests or cloud forests, as many as half the species of trees which create the canopy can be unsuitable for preserving in seed banks. The researchers warn it may be ‘somewhat naive’ to assume it is possible to conserve tropical plants and trees outside of their natural habitats and say protecting entire forests may be the only way of saving certain species. Kew, along with other banks around the world, aim to conserve 75 percent of the threatened species outside of their natural habitat by 2020.