(Bloomberg) — Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. helped modernize brick-and-mortar retail with consumer data and online services. Now it hopes to do the same for China’s multitrillion-dollar manufacturing arena.
China’s largest corporation unveiled Wednesday a factory it’s been operating under wraps for the past three years on the outskirts of its hometown of Hangzhou, churning out apparel for clothing merchants on its Taobao and Tmall marketplaces. Dubbed Xunxi, the so-called smart or connected factory is designed to showcase Alibaba’s newest line of business, offering data analytics and back-end technology to manufacturers so they can customize and fine-tune factories in response to consumer demand.
“This allows traditional manufacturers to improve profitability and reduce inventory levels while still being able to meet these personalization needs,” said Alain Wu, chief executive officer of Alibaba-subsidiary Xunxi Digital Technology Co. Xunxi’s factory floor is equipped with cutting and sewing machines and conveyor belts that can be tracked remotely via smartphone, according to the company.
Alibaba is betting that its years of observing consumer behavior will be useful to the country’s producers, at a time Beijing is championing what it calls its “Industrial Internet” of smart factories. Xunxi — which means fast rhino — is the fruition of what billionaire founder Jack Ma called “new manufacturing” in 2016. It’s closely related to Alibaba’s “new retail” strategy of merging offline and online shopping: newer outfits like the Freshippo grocery chain have grown into a $12 billion business, contributing a fifth of total revenue in the June quarter.
While the country houses some of the world’s most advanced plants — which crank out everything from iPhones to electric vehicles — smaller manufacturers are struggling to adapt to changing consumer needs in a slowing economy. Alibaba’s starting point is apparel but it eventually aims to help more manufacturers parse data, automate logistics and maintain just-in-time inventory, much as it already does for Chinese convenience chains and big-box retailers.
Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang — who’s pledged to seed future growth beyond e-commerce — oversees both efforts. Alibaba’s leadership in Chinese e-commerce is being chipped away by multiple competitors. Upstart Pinduoduo Inc. has lured small-town buyers away with cheaper bargains, while JD.com Inc. has ventured beyond its traditional strength in consumer electronics into groceries, after Covid-19 spurred more online shopping. Shares in Alibaba gained roughly 30% so far this year, while both JD’s and Pinduoduo’s more than doubled.
Read more: New Alibaba Chief Explains Why He Wants to Kill His Own Business
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Mysterious beaked whale smashes mammal diving record
A little known, shy whale has surprised scientists by staying submerged for almost four hours.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are known for their abilities to dive deep and they average around an hour under water.
But researchers were astounded when they recorded one animal diving for three hours and 42 minutes.
They believe that it is the longest dive yet recorded for any whale and almost certainly a record for all mammals as well.
Beaked whale species are a bit of mystery to scientists, spending much of their time far from shore.
The Cuvier’s beaked whale has a stout body, a small sloping head and short beak. Males appear to have two teeth which they use for fighting, females don’t seem to have any.
They normally hunt squid for food, usually sucking the creatures into their mouths to eat them.
Scientists say that in pursuing their favourite food, these whales have been documented diving down to around 3,000m.
When they surface they spend about two minutes before diving again, meaning it is very difficult for researchers to observe and tag them.
In 2014, one whale was recorded diving for just over two hours, the longest known time underwater.
In this latest study, researchers recorded more than 3,600 dives by two dozen Cuvier’s beaked whales over a five-year period.
They recorded dives lasting from around half an hour to two hours thirteen minutes, well past the point at which an animal of this size should run out of oxygen.
But two dives by one individual whale “astounded” the research team.
One was almost three hours long, another three hours 42 minutes.
“The longest dive for the species was about two and a half hours, so this is the longest for Cuvier’s beaked whales, but it’s also the longest for any mammal,” Dr Nicola Quick, from Duke University in Durham, US, told BBC News.
While this one individual was recorded completing these extremely long dives, Dr Quick says her study showed that a large percentage of the animals observed were capable of going under for very long periods.
The researchers speculate that the whales might have an extremely slow metabolism, perhaps coupled with larger than average oxygen stores, and an ability to tolerate the build up of lactic acid.
“Their body muscles are sort of built differently, from what you maybe would expect from a deep diver,” said Dr Quick.
“They have sort of smaller brains, and quite a small lung volume. And they have a lot of good muscle tissues that are great for holding oxygen stores, which probably helps them to increase their dive durations.”
Fear may also have played a part in the record dive.
This species is vulnerable to killer whales and larger sharks. The whales react to threats by staying underwater as long as possible, until the predators move away.
And the deep dive may also have been in response to humans. The record took place some 24 days after exposure to a US Navy active sonar signal, and the researchers excluded them from their data set, as they could potentially have been impacted by the noise.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to be sensitive to sonar and other experts believe that this may have had an impact on the dive length.
“The recorded dive time of more than three hours is likely not typical, and instead the result of an individual pushed to its absolute limits,” said Nicola Hodgkins from Whale and Dolphin Conservation, who was not involved with the study.
“Only one whale, thought to already be compromised as a result of being exposed to extremely high levels of noise from military sonar, and therefore showing abnormal behaviour, was recorded undertaking such extreme dives.”
The research team found that there was little relationship between the length of dive and the recovery time needed by the whales before going down once again.
The scientists believe that studying these deep diving animals could offer some clues to challenging questions such as cancer in humans.
“There’s some interest in working with colleagues in oncology in Duke University, and even with Covid, as that involves cells losing oxygen or being in hypoxic conditions,” said Dr Quick.
“So if these whales are in these hypoxic conditions in their tissues, and if we can find out what they were doing, then could that have some other implication for human health or just ocean health in general?”
The study has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
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California moves to ban gas-powered cars
The state of California announced that it plans to ban sales of new cars and trucks powered by gasoline starting in 2035. Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, joins Yahoo Finance's The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss.
Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power provokes outrage, rebukes on Capitol Hill
President Trump’s stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election to Joe Biden was met with outrage from congressional Democrats — and implicit rebukes from Republicans.
At a press conference in the White House press briefing room on Wednesday, Trump was asked directly about the transfer of power.
“Mr. President, real quickly, win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the election?” asked reporter Brian Karem. “There has been rioting in Louisville, there has been rioting in many cities across this country, red and… your so-called red and blue states — will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?”
“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump responded. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
“I understand that, but people are rioting,” Karem said. “Do you commit to making a peaceful transferral of power…”
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there will be a continuation,” Trump said. “The ballots are out of control. You know it, and you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”
After taking a few more questions, Trump abruptly ended the press conference, saying he needed to take an “emergency call.”
Asked about the remarks, Biden appeared almost speechless late Wednesday.
“What country are we in? I’m being facetious,” he told reporters. “I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
“This is what an authoritarian sounds like,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Trump’s comments. Sanders was set to give a speech Thursday afternoon on what he called the president’s “unique threats to our democracy.”
“We have a president of the United States who wants to discredit people’s vote,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday morning. “Really? Really? What would our founders think? And what are these Republicans going to say to their children and their grandchildren when they ask them what did you do to strengthen our democracy when it was questioned as to whether an election was a proper way to transfer power in our country.
“I don’t know why the press doesn’t make more of this, to be very honest with you,” added Pelosi. “If he says that people swallow Clorox, we hear about it for the rest of our lives, but he’s trying to have the Constitution of the United States swallow Clorox — I appreciate these questions all of you have this morning I guess provoked by the arrogance and the disregard for the Constitution of the president’s statement last night.”
In an interview with Fox News radio on Thursday morning, Trump reiterated his refusal to commit to the results and again suggested the election would be determined by the Supreme Court.
“Oh, that I would agree with [the court’s ruling], but I think we have a long way before we get there,” the president said. “These ballots are a horror show.”
Republicans did not explicitly condemn Trump’s comments or mention the president by name but reinforced the importance of a peaceful transition of power.
“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday morning. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted Wednesday evening. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Earlier this week, Romney said he supported holding a vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
“As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on Thursday morning. “It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one and at noon on Jan 20,2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said Thursday morning that “both candidates must commit to abiding by the results, no matter the outcome,” although Biden has not called the validity of the election into question.
“The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP House leadership. “America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”
On Fox News Thursday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham made assurances that the transfer of power would be peaceful and said if the Supreme Court were to decide that Biden won, he would accept the result.
However, he said the potential of the election winding up in the Supreme Court was more reason to confirm Trump’s replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If Republicans are successful in confirming a conservative justice to replace Ginsburg, it would mean six of the nine justices were appointed by Republicans, with three of them appointed by Trump himself.
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