Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of August 16, 2021.
More cloud drama. The National Security Agency (NSA) has reportedly awarded Amazon Web Services a $10 billion cloud-computing contract, beating out Microsoft. In response, Microsoft filed a protest bid with an independent federal agency, the Government Accountability Office. The contract is known by the code name “WildandStormy.” Weeks ago, the Pentagon canceled a $10 billion contract it had awarded to Microsoft to build out cloud-computing services for the Department of Defense. In its decision, the Pentagon said that lengthy and expensive legal battles over the contract would make the technology outdated once completed.
- The takeaway: With this contract, Amazon and Microsoft continue to fight over leadership in cloud-computing. The NSA’s decision is expected to kick off another legal battle between the companies and the government, although Amazon reportedly holds the lead in terms of government projects. If the NSA is able to push through the legal fights from Microsoft, this contract would extend Amazon’s dominance further.
Learning to budget. In a 50-49 vote, the U.S. Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget framework last week. The budget now heads to the House of Representatives, which is expected to help pass the measure through a maneuver called reconciliation, when it reconvenes from summer recess in two weeks. This strategy would allow Congressional Democrats to pass their budget while also preventing a filibuster from Republicans that could prevent the bill from passing. The budget plan would entail government spending of $3.5 trillion over the course of a decade, and the money would be used to improve family services, health, and environment programs. The details of the budget will still need to be hammered out in Congress, if and when the bill is passed.
- The takeaway: Congressional Democrats have said that this budget would allocate money for children, families, the elderly, and others, while Republicans have argued that the spending would be a waste of money, leading to an increase in taxes, contribute to inflation, and more. Some left-leaning Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that the proposed spending doesn’t go far enough in areas such as fighting climate change. The Senate’s passage of the budget came hours after it approved a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill, one of the largest such spending bills in recent history.
The UN’s climate alarm. The United Nations’ (U.N.) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report that the world will not be able to avoid some effects of climate change, and urged changes that could prevent the crisis from worsening. The report squarely places the blame for the warming planet on “human influence,” including the burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. Additionally, the report found that even with immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet will continue to increase in temperature—warming at least 1.5℃ by 2040 or sooner—as a result of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere. Still, the report detailed what would need to happen, such as massive emission cuts, to limit further damage beyond 2050.
- The takeaway: The report also suggests that businesses and economies around the world are at risk financially from the effects of global warming. The most uplifting scenario in the report suggested that global warming could fall below 1.5℃ during the second half of the 21st century if the world reaches “net zero” emissions. Achieving that solutions outlined by the U.N. would require collaboration and funding across the globe, and many countries have struggled to mandate and finance climate action.
Wooing workers. Walmart is offering special bonuses and temporary pay raises through the holiday season. The majority of Walmart’s 190 warehouses will reportedly offer the pay bumps, though they vary by location. Some warehouses have offered workers $1,000 bonuses for not skipping any of their shifts during the second half of the summer. Others have issued raises through January 2022 as the holiday season ramps up.
- The takeaway: These incentives are reportedly an attempt to encourage and motivate workers at a time when there’s a national worker shortage, and a global strain on supply chains. A disparity between the high number of job openings requiring minimal education and a shortage of workers willing to do those jobs may be giving employees more power in job hunting. That follows one of the largest lay-offs since World War II, when nearly 22 million workers lost jobs at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S., with 1.6 million Americans on their payroll.
Here’s what we covered in last week’s Scan:
- The SEC will begin regulating cryptocurrencies.
- President Biden signs an executive order on electric vehicles.
- Google will make its own chips.
- Facebook will host its first ever movie premiere.