by The Chicago Times Staff

July 9, 2021

SPRINGDALE, AR — According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Tyson Foods is recalling another 500,000 pounds of chicken due to concerns that the meat may be contaminated with listeria.

According to the FSIS, the total amount of chicken products subject to recall has reached 8,955,296 pounds.  The massive recall comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with state authorities, discovered that the poultry sickened three people, one of whom died.

Schools, nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants, various retailers, and Department of Defense locations all received potentially contaminated “ready-to-eat” chicken products.  The chicken products were commercially sold to schools and were not part of the USDA National School Lunch Program, according to the FSIS.

The recalled products, which were labeled with the establishment number “EST. P-7089,” were sold at Walmart, Target, Kroger, Publix, and H-E-B, among others.  Between December 26, 2020, and April 13, 2021, they were created.

Fajita Chicken Breast Strips, Oven Roasted Diced Chicken Breast, Pulled Chicken Breast, Pulled Chicken Breast, and Chicken Wing Sections are among the items available.  The full FSIS list of recalled Tyson products and labels can be found here.

Customers should check their freezers for potentially contaminated products, which they should discard or return to the store where they were purchased.

Listeriosis is a serious type of food poisoning that causes symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, confusion, loss of balance, muscle aches, and convulsions.  An infection in a pregnant woman can result in miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth, or a life-threatening infection in the newborn.

Listeriosis can be fatal in the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

See the full announcement on the FSIS website for more details.


by The Chicago Times Staff

July 7, 2021

WASHINGTON — Amtrak announced a $7.3 billion purchase of new trains on Wednesday, claiming that it will “transform the future of rail travel” in the United States.

Siemens Mobility Inc. in California, a subsidiary of German conglomerate Siemens AG, will build a new fleet of 83 trains, some of which will be hybrid-battery powered.

“These new trains will reshape the future of rail travel by replacing our aging 40-to-50-year old fleet with state-of-the-art, American-made equipment.  This investment is essential to preserving and growing our Northeast Regional and state-supported services and will allow our customers to travel comfortably and safely, while deeply reducing criteria pollutants.” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement.

The taxpayer-funded railroad company claims that its new models will have more comfortable seating, as well as onboard Wi-Fi, individual power outlets and USB ports, and touchless restroom controls.

Amtrak, formally the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, stated in a press release that its investment will allow it to add an additional 130 trains to its fleet in the future, in addition to the purchase of equipment and a long-term parts supply and service agreement, facility modifications and upgrades, and other program expenses.

Amtrak’s order is the largest contract Siemens Mobility has ever had in North America, according to the company’s own press release.

The major agreement comes as President Joe Biden, a staunch supporter of Amtrak, pushes for an additional $80 billion in rail spending over the next five years as part of his infrastructure plan.  Under the president’s proposal, Amtrak would be the primary recipient of the funds.


by The Chicago Times Staff

July 6, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it had canceled a contentious cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that had the potential to be worth $10 billion.  Instead, it will seek a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon, as well as possibly other cloud service providers.

The Pentagon faced lengthy legal challenges from Amazon over the original $1 million contract awarded to Microsoft.  Amazon claimed that the Microsoft award was tainted by politics, citing then-President Donald Trump’s animosity toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who resigned as the company’s CEO on Monday.  Bezos owns The Washington Post.

JEDI will be replaced by a new program called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, according to Sherman, and Amazon and Microsoft will “likely” be awarded parts of the contract, though neither is guaranteed.  According to Sherman, the three other major cloud service providers might include Google, IBM, and Oracle.

“We understand the DoD s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided,” Microsoft said in response to the Pentagon announcement.

Amazon said it understands the Pentagon’s decision and agrees with it.  The company stated in a statement that the 2019 contract award was not based on the merits of competing proposals, but rather on “outside influence that has no place in government procurement.”

The JEDI project began with Microsoft receiving a $1 million contract as the first step in a 10-year deal with a potential value of $10 billion.  The project that will replace it is a five-year program, with Sherman estimating that the contract value will be “in the billions.”

Sherman stated that the government will negotiate the amount Microsoft will be compensated for the cancellation of its 2019 contract.

Amazon Web Services, a market leader in cloud computing, had long been viewed as a strong contender to lead the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, or JEDI.

The project’s goal was to store and process massive amounts of classified data, allowing the US military to improve battlefield communications and use artificial intelligence to improve war planning and fighting capabilities.


by The Chicago Times Staff

June 25, 2021

MEMPHIS, TN — FedEx made an almost $2 billion profit in the most recent quarter, after losing the previous year, thanks to an increase in online shopping and the expansion of its business-to-business shipping services.

During the epidemic, package delivery businesses like FedEx were in great demand as more people stayed at home and shopped online.  FedEx has been distributing COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based corporation reported $1.87 billion in net income for the three months ended May 31, compared to a $334 million loss the year before.

FedEx reported a 30 percent increase in revenue to $22.57 billion, exceeding expectations.

FedEx Corp. shares plummeted 4.34 percent to $290.50 in after-hours trading Thursday, after more than doubling in the previous year.


by H. Haverstock

June 15, 2021

PARIS — A French court ordered IKEA to pay a 1 million euro ($1.2 million) fine for spying on its French employees on Tuesday, after the world’s largest furniture retailer was found guilty of improperly gathering and storing employee data.

The French branch of Ingka Group, which owns the majority of IKEA stores worldwide, has been accused of spying on its employees and some customers for several years.  The flatpack furniture company, which admitted to some improper practices, was accused of violating employees’ privacy by reviewing bank account records and sometimes using phony employees to write up reports on staff.

According to worker representatives, the information was used to target union leaders in some cases or to IKEA’s advantage in customer disputes after the company trawled data on people’s finances and even what cars they drove.  It was also discovered that it had paid for access to police files.

Prosecutors had sought a fine of 2 million euros.  Lawyers for France’s CGT union and several individuals seeking compensation said the final sum was not large, but they were pleased with the result.

After taking steps to eliminate the surveillance tactics, the company said it was reviewing the court decision to see if additional measures were required.  IKEA Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologized and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again.

IKEA employs approximately 10,000 people in France, its third largest market after Germany and the United States, and has experimented with new formats there, including a store opened in the heart of Paris in 2019. 

Jean-Louis Baillot, the firm’s former chief executive in France, was found guilty in the case and sentenced to two years in prison with a two-year suspended sentence.  He was fined 50,000 euros by the judges for storing personal data.

In total, 15 people were charged in the trial.  Two of the accused, including a police officer, and Stefan Vanoverbeke, who ran IKEA in France from 2010 to 2015 and still holds a senior position in the group’s retail operations, were found not guilty on all charges.

Others were found not guilty of some charges, such as systematically disclosing confidential information, but guilty of others, such as illegally obtaining personal data.

Sanctions ranged from a 5,000 euro fine to several suspended prison sentences for a former human resources manager.

After the allegations surfaced in 2012, IKEA fired several managers and overhauled its internal policies.

The Swedish company has long denied establishing a widespread espionage system and was cleared on Tuesday of systematically violating personal data.


by The Chicago Times Staff

June 11, 2021

REDWOOD, CA — Electronic Arts, one of the world’s major video game producers, announced Thursday that hackers broke into its servers and took 780GB of key material, including source code and other internal tools.

According to an EA official, the business was aware of the incident and that no player data had been compromised.

“We are investigating a recent incident of intrusion into our network where a limited amount of game source code and related tools were stolen…There was no access to player data, and we have no reason to assume that player privacy has been jeopardized…We have already made security changes as a result of the event, and we do not expect any negative effects on our games or business…As part of this continuing criminal investigation, we are actively collaborating with law enforcement officers and other experts.”

EA further clarified that it was not a ransomware attack, in which hackers encrypt a company’s data and demand payment in exchange for its decryption.

The EA intrusion follows a couple of high-profile ransomware attacks in which meat producer JBS and the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the East Coast’s gasoline supply, each paid $11 million and $4.4 million in ransoms.