On the rise. News Items Monday, Part 2.
1. The U.S. food system is under renewed strain as Covid-19’s Omicron variant stretches workforces from processing plants to grocery stores, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves. In Arizona, one in 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major produce company were recently out sick. In Massachusetts, employee illnesses have slowed the flow of fish to supermarkets and restaurants. A grocery chain in the U.S. Southeast had to hire temporary workers after roughly one-third of employees at its distribution centers fell ill. Food-industry executives and analysts warn that the situation could persist for weeks or months, even as the current wave of Covid-19 infections eases. Recent virus-related absences among workers have added to continuing supply and transportation disruptions, keeping some foods scarce. Nearly two years ago, Covid-19 lockdowns drove a surge in grocery buying that cleared store shelves of products such as meat, baking ingredients and paper goods. Now some executives say supply challenges are worse than ever. (Source: wsj.com)
2. China has made a number of quantum breakthroughs during the past six years. One of the most notable arrived in 2016, when the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched Micius, the world’s first quantum satellite, and then used it the following year to make the first quantum-secured video call. At the time, few in the U.S. were alarmed since quantum computers — not communications — had been America’s primary focus. Had the U.S. wanted to, analysts say, it could have released its own quantum satellite, ahead of China. But since then, China has doubled down on its commitment to quantum communications — completing in 2021, for instance, roughly 3,000 miles of a ground-based quantum communications network — while also making significant advancements in quantum computing. A sense of urgency is now percolating up in the United States. “Just a couple of years ago, American companies and researchers appeared to be relatively confident that American research and innovation were still perhaps a decade or so ahead of China when it came to cutting-edge advances in techniques and quantum computing,” says Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and an expert on China’s quantum science and technologies. “And what we’ve seen since is that that gap is closing more quickly than expected across multiple modalities of, or pathways to, quantum computing.” (Source: thewirechina.com)
3. In today’s China, behemoths like Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings are out of favor, but “little giants” are on the rise. That’s the designation for a new generation of startups that have been selected under an ambitious government program aimed at fostering a technology industry that can compete with Silicon Valley. These often-obscure companies have demonstrated they’re doing something innovative and unique, and they’re targeting strategically important sectors like robotics, quantum computing and semiconductors. The program has been around for more than a decade, but it has taken on new prominence after Beijing launched a sweeping crackdown against leading companies like Alibaba and Tencent. The little giants label has become a valued measure of government endorsement, a signal for investors and employees that the companies are insulated from regulatory punishment. President Xi Jinping has given his personal blessing to the program. (Source: bloomberg.com)
4. Google has warned of a “devastating” impact on the internet if a court ruling that the search giant is liable for defamatory material contained in hyperlinked pages is not overturned. Google warned in a submission to the high court it will be forced to “censor” its search results if a $40,000 defamation damages award to George Defteros, a solicitor who represented Melbourne gangland figures, is allowed to stand. Defteros successfully sued Google, arguing its publication of search results that included a 2004 article in the Age about his arrest on conspiracy to murder charges – which were later dropped – defamed him. (Source: theguardian.com)