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Dominican Officials Say Plastics Company To Blame For Explosion That Killed 31 People

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Authorities in the Dominican Republic stated late Friday that they are pursuing a criminal prosecution against a plastics manufacturer based on information discovered during an investigation into a strong explosion that killed at least 31 people earlier this week.

According to a joint statement published by police and the Public Ministry, the blast occurred at a company called Vidal Plast, not a bakery, as authorities had previously stated. The explosion happened Monday afternoon in a bustling business center in San Cristobal, just west of Santo Domingo’s capital.

“The Public Ministry has evidence that calls into question the criminal responsibility of those responsible for the deaths of dozens of people and the loss of millions of dollars,” the statement added, citing prosecutor Fadulia Rosa Rubio.

The ministry looked into many people but did not name them.

The owners of Vidal Plast could not be reached for comment right away. According to corporate executives, the corporation recycles, buys, and sells plastic products.

Authorities also stated that they have proof that a fire broke out at the business in March, caused by a spark and a chemical substance and that the corporation failed to take any precautions “despite knowing the high risk of its operations.”

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Authorities in the Dominican Republic stated late Friday that they are pursuing a criminal prosecution against a plastics manufacturer.

The minister of industry and trade, Victor Bisonó, told reporters that the municipality had already closed the factory, but he did not disclose further specifics.

According to N Digital, a well-known Dominican online daily, the company was created in 2003. According to one of the company’s founders, the facility was not working, and two employees were simply removing items from the site when the explosion occurred, killing one of them.

Officials raised the death toll from 28 to 31 on Friday. So far, seven of the dead have been identified, according to authorities. The administration stated on Thursday that identifying all individuals killed in the incident could take up to three months.

The blast injured 59 more persons, most of whom are still hospitalized.

Another explosion occurred approximately 23 years ago in San Cristobal, the birthplace of tyrant Rafael Trujillo. In October 2000, an armaments store exploded, killing at least two individuals and injuring more than two dozen more, forcing officials to evacuate others.

SOURCE – (AP)

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

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For the nation’s bicycle stores, the last several years have certainly felt like the business version of the Tour de France, with innumerable twists and turns testing their stamina.

Early in the pandemic, a surge in interest in cycling drove sales up 64% to $5.4 billion in 2020, according to Circana, the retail tracking firm. It wasn’t uncommon for some stores to sell 100 or more bikes in a few days.

The boom did not last. Due to pandemic-related supply chain challenges, the retailers sold out of bikes and struggled to replenish. Inventory has caught up, but fewer people require new bicycles. Bicycle manufacturers have started lowering prices to clear off excess inventory. It all adds up to a challenging climate for retailers, with a few bright areas such as dirt and e-bikes.

“The industry had a hard time keeping up with demand for a couple of years, but then demand slowed as the lockdowns ended, and a lot of inventory started showing up,” said Stephen Frothingham, editor-in-chief of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. “So now for the last, a year and a half, the industry has struggled with having too much inventory, at the supplier level, at the factory level, at the distributor level, at the retail level.”

Circana reports that bike sales will reach $4.1 billion in 2023, up 23% from 2019 but down 24% from 2020. The recovery from the epidemic has been uneven, with large businesses such as REI and Scheels recovering faster than independent bike shops, according to Matt Tucker, director of client development for Circana’s sports equipment business.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

John McDonell, owner of Market Street Cycles on San Francisco’s famed Market Street, says the pandemic’s shift to hybrid labor has been especially difficult for business. During the summer, 3,000 bikes would pass by his shop each day. With fewer individuals commuting to work, that number has dropped to less than 1,000.

According to Pacer.ai, which tracks people’s activities based on smartphone usage, San Francisco falls behind all other major cities regarding workers returning to work, with office visits down 49% from April 2019.

“Our downtown is still a wasteland,” McDonell explained.

Independent bike stores now compete not only with national chains but also with bike manufacturers such as Specialized and Trek. These companies have been buying bike shops and selling their bikes directly to customers, thus eliminating the middleman. According to Frothingham, there are now over 1,000 bike shops in the country that are either owned by Trek or Specialized.

“They’ve got the money to absorb the fact that bike stores, you know, are not a super profitable thing, and in the process, they’ve also been able to cut us out of it,” McDonell stated.

McDonell has been obliged to use a skeleton team of himself and another employee, down from five earlier. His desire to sell his shop to a younger bike enthusiast when he retires is diminishing. He might close his store when his lease expires in a few years.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

“Now I am just trying to land it with both engines on fire and trying not to lose money on my way out,” he stated

Douglas Emerson’s bike business, University Bicycles, in Boulder, Colorado, is doing better, thanks to its placement in one of the country’s most popular biking destinations. He’s owned the shop for 39 years and employs 30 people.

University Bicycles, like other bike retailers, experienced a surge in bike sales due to the pandemic. Emerson recalls selling 107 bicycles in 48 hours. However, immediately following the boom, sales fell considerably due to a lack of inventory, and rentals declined because no one was traveling.

“It became a struggle right after the boom,” Emerson explained. “Since then, manufacturers have overproduced.” In addition, they have significantly reduced prices, which benefits consumers. However, tiny retailers generally cannot take advantage of those discounts.”

Emerson claims the shop hit a “saturation point” when everyone who wanted a bike purchased one. He now sells these consumer items such as jackets, helmets, and locks. His store has returned to its 2019 sales figures.

University Bicycles has also benefited from some of the changes in purchasing trends. The continued strong demand for e-bikes and the increased need for children’s bikes have contributed. Gravel bikes, which can be ridden on both paved and dirt routes, are displacing road cycles as a top seller.

John Ruger, a 50-year biker and faithful University Bicycles client, hasn’t purchased a bike in ten years but intends to buy a gravel bike at present costs. He says a top gravel bike he’s interested in, which would normally cost $12,000 to $14,000, is presently on sale for $8,000.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

“The timing is good,” he remarked. “I can get a bike now because they’re less expensive and my bikes are getting old.”

Shawna Williams, the owner of Free Range Cycles in Seattle, Washington, did not see the same sales boom as others because her 700-square-foot business was so small that she only accepted customers by appointment from March 2020 to May 2021.

However, Williams did have to deal with the coming shortages. She spent a great deal of time “checking in with other shops to see if we could buy something, even at retail, from them, just in order to get a repair done or a build done.”

She expanded her service offerings, such as repairs and maintenance, to compensate for decreasing bike sales. Despite the epidemic, the maneuvering allowed her to maintain consistent overall sales.

“Bike sales, the way that I have kind of framed the shop, are an awesome bonus, but we really need to be sustaining the shop through repair and, like, thoughtful accessory sales,” Williams stated. “A bike sale to me, if we do things well, that means creating a customer for life.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

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OpenAI and Reddit have partnered to deliver the social media platform’s content to ChatGPT.

Reddit’s share price increased by more than 10% before the market opened on Friday.

Reddit stated in a blog post that the partnership will grant OpenAI access to its data application programming interface, which provides real-time, structured, and unique content from the platform.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit users and moderators will also have access to new artificial intelligence-powered services, and OpenAI will be a Reddit advertising partner.

“Reddit has become one of the internet’s largest open archives of authentic, relevant, and always up-to-date human conversations about anything and everything,” co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman stated. “Including it in ChatGPT upholds our belief in a connected internet, helps people find more of what they’re looking for, and helps new audiences find community on Reddit.”

Reddit stated that the agreement is consistent with prior content arrangements and does not modify its data API or developer rules. These rules state that content obtained via Reddit’s data API cannot be utilized for commercial reasons without the platform’s approval.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit says API access remains free for non-commercial use under the published level.

“We are thrilled to partner with Reddit to enhance ChatGPT with uniquely timely and relevant information, as well as to explore the possibilities of enriching the Reddit experience with AI-powered features,” Brad Lightcap, OpenAI’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Reddit made its Wall Street debut in March, with investors driving the company’s worth to nearly $9 billion seconds after it started trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit has a sizable audience that visits the site regularly to debate a wide range of topics, from stupid memes to existential concerns, and receive suggestions from like-minded individuals.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman invested in Reddit early on, becoming one of the company’s largest owners.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Facebook And Instagram Face Fresh EU Digital Scrutiny Over Child Safety Measures

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LONDON — The European Union started new investigations into Facebook and Instagram on Thursday, alleging that they are failing to protect youngsters online, in contravention of the bloc’s rigorous digital standards for social media companies.

It’s the latest wave of investigation for parent business Meta Platforms under the 27-nation EU’s Digital Services Act, a broad set of regulations enacted last year to clean up online platforms and protect internet users.

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Facebook And Instagram Face Fresh EU Digital Scrutiny Over Child Safety Measures

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, expressed worry that the algorithmic algorithms used by Facebook and Instagram to propose content such as movies and postings could “exploit the weaknesses and inexperience” of minors and encourage “addictive behavior.” It’s concerned that these methods would exacerbate the so-called “rabbit hole” effect, which drives consumers to more distressing content.

The commission is also investigating Meta’s use of age-verification technologies to prevent youngsters from accessing Facebook or Instagram or viewing inappropriate information. Users must be at least 13 years old to create an account on these networks. It also investigates whether the corporation complies with DSA regulations demanding high privacy, safety, and security for children.

“We want young people to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online and have spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies designed to protect them,” Meta stated earlier. “This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission.”

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Facebook And Instagram Face Fresh EU Digital Scrutiny Over Child Safety Measures

The most recent DSA lawsuits center on child safety under the DSA, which mandates platforms to implement strict procedures to protect children. Earlier this year, the commission started two separate investigations into TikTok due to concerns about potential hazards to children.

“We are not convinced that Meta has done enough to comply with the DSA obligations — to mitigate the risks of negative effects on the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms Facebook and Instagram,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton stated on social media.

The cases announced on Thursday are not the first for Facebook and Instagram. The DSA is already investigating them over worries that they are not doing enough to combat foreign disinformation ahead of the EU elections next month.

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Facebook And Instagram Face Fresh EU Digital Scrutiny Over Child Safety Measures

X, a social media platform, and AliExpress, an ecommerce site, are under investigation for violating EU regulations.

There is no timeframe for the investigations to conclude. Violations may result in fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue.

SOURCE – (AP)

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