July 21, 2021

Over the last month, communities across the Western United States have imposed restrictions on water use as a major drought wreaks havoc on the region. This video looks at how the drop in the supply of surface water has hurt California farmers and why their pain could soon ripple out across the country.

Questions:

  1. How has the drought in the Western U.S. affected farmers in the region? 
  2. Do you think regulators should place restrictions on the use of groundwater Continue reading
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Yesterday, we looked at how cost-cutting measures used by rental car companies to survive the pandemic have now led to supply problems that are affecting travelers across the country. But rental cars aren’t the only items that are in short supply these days. For instance, a garden supply store called Valley View Farms experienced record sales of patio furniture in March as customers began to emerge from the extended stays at home. Soon after this boom, though, the Maryland retailer Continue reading

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As Americans start to travel once again, many people are getting sticker shock at the rental car counter as prices have increased significantly in the last few months. This video looks at how cost-cutting strategies used by rental companies during the pandemic have led to a shortage of cars that is likely to persist throughout the summer travel season. 

Questions:

  1. Why have rental car prices increased in recent months?
  2. What does the video recommend for travelers who are looking Continue reading
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June 22, 2021

Last month, we looked at how the global shortage of microchips has severely restricted production of everything from video game consoles to dog washing stations. This video examines the manufacturing process for these precious components and explains why semiconductor production cannot be easily increased. 

Questions:

  1. Why is it difficult for manufacturers to speed up production on microchips and semiconductors?
  2. What are some possible solutions for increasing global microchip production?
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The pandemic led to widespread disruptions across the world’s supply chains, leading to inflation and higher prices for many commodities. In response to these increasing costs, some companies have elected to reduce the size of their packaging rather than raise prices. For instance, Walmart shrank its Great Value paper towel rolls from 168 sheets to 120 sheets while the Tillamook County Creamery Association reduced its family sized ice cream containers from 56 ounces to 48 ounces. 

“Consumers check the Continue reading

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The Swedish company IKEA is famous across the globe for its meatballs and its wide array of furniture that customers must assemble at home. This video looks at how the retailer encourages sales by creating the “IKEA effect” with its winding floor plan that causes customers to snake through a series of product showrooms. 

Questions:

  1. What sort of strategies does IKEA use to keep costs low?
  2. How does the “IKEA effect” encourage customers to purchase furniture and home goods?
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Last week, hackers began a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, a major conduit that supplies nearly half of the East Coast’s oil. The hack completely shut down petroleum transportation as the Colonial Pipeline Company “proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems.” Although the company expects to have most of its capabilities returned by the end of the week, the shutdown has resulted in Continue reading

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The widespread disruptions caused by the pandemic resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs last year and subsequently applying for unemployment benefits. In one especially bleak week in spring 2020, new unemployment claims topped out at more than six million as businesses locked down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Although the amount of new claims steadily began to decline after this historic high, hundreds of thousands of Americans have nevertheless applied for unemployment week after week since the Continue reading

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At the beginning of the year, we looked at how an explosion in demand for consumer electronics led to a shortage of microchips across the globe. This semiconductor shortfall has continued in the intervening months and its impact has spread across numerous industries. Along with preventing carmakers from installing vital microchips in vehicles, the shortage has also hindered production of iPads, farming equipment, and even dog grooming machines. 

“This particular problem affects all aspects of manufacturing, from little people Continue reading

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April 29, 2021

The current vaccine rollout that is going strong throughout the country is largely the result of multi-billion dollar deals struck between economic powers like the U.S. and U.K. with pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna. But while bilateral trade agreements across the globe allowed for the largest vaccine rollout in history, this video looks at why these deals are also delaying the vaccination process in struggling countries like Brazil and India.

Questions:

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of bilateral Continue reading
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