Dollarama tops earning estimates as cost-conscious buyers boost sales

Canadian discount store chain Dollarama Inc beat market expectations for quarterly sales on Wednesday, benefiting from strong demfor its cheaper groceries household supplies.

With surging prices of groceries gasoline hammering consumer spending power, cost-conscious buyers have been thronging to dollar stores to snap up on affordable goods, boosting sales at Dollarama.

The company’s U.S. counterpart Dollar Tree Inc, however, trimmed its annual profit forecast in May, while Dollar General Corp cut its annual profit sales forecast, both citing slowing demfor discretionary goods.

Click to play video: 'IMF says U.S. inflation remains ‘stubbornly high,’ forecasts peak of 5.4% in 2023'

IMF says U.S. inflation remains ‘stubbornly high,’ forecasts peak of 5.4% in 2023

Last month, retail bellwether Walmart Inc said it saw strong demfor its low-priced groceries other essentials, is expecting this trend to continue in the back half of the year.

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Dollarama on Wednesday reaffirmed its fiscal 2024 same store sales forecast gross margin at 5.0 per cent to 6.0 per cent 43.5 per cent to 44.5 per cent, respectively.

The company’s sales rose to $1.29 billion in the first quarter, from $1.07 billion a year earlier, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $1.25 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

(Reporting by Juveria Tabassum Aatrayee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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A man-made cloud: Device generates electricity from thin air

A device that generates electricity using moisture in the air could be the future of sustainable power generation.

As global energy demands continue to escalate, scientists are increasingly focusing on sustainable energy generation to ensure grid stability address the urgent challenges posed by the unfolding climate crisis.

“Humidity is a vast, sustainable reservoir of energy that, unlike solar wind, is continuously available,” wrote a team of scientists led by Jun Yao, assistant professor of electrical computer engineering at UMass Amherst’s College of Engineering, in a recent study published in Advanced Materials. “However, previously described technologies for harvesting energy from air humidity are either not continuous or require unique material synthesis or processing, which has stymied scalability broad deployment.”

Yao his team have therefore developed a category of devices they termed “Air-gens” that continuously harvest electricity from moisture in the air through a newly elucidated sustainable mechanism that he says can be applied to any material.  

“The Air-gen device is made from a thin film containing many small holes called nanopores, which have a diameter smaller than one thousandth of the diameter of human hair,” Yao said in an email.  “The top of the film interface is exposed to air, whereas the bottom interface of the film is sealed.

“Water molecules [in the air] can pass through these nanopores from the top interface to the bottom interface, but they easily ‘bump’ into the pore surface before they can travel long,” he continued. “This means that the top interface will be bumped into more frequently than the bottom interface. Water molecules [in the air] can carry electricity or charge — this is why we can have lightning during a thunderstorm — so they donate a portion of the charge to the thin film when they contact its surface.”

As the top of the thin film has more contact with water molecules than the bottom, a charge separation builds up between the two layers, which when connected, results in a flow of electricity.

‘The working principle behind an Air-gen device is similar to that of a cloud building up charge before producing lightning,” added Yao. “Both utilize the movement charge-carrying in air water molecules to build up a charge separation. That’s why, in a loose sense, we may view the Air-gen device as a small-version ‘man-made cloud’.”

A happy accident

The team have been working on the design since 2018, where the initial effect came about as a serendipitous discovery. Yao his students were studying the sensing properties of a material made of protein nanowires that had been synthesized from a bacterium called Geobacter.

“Our initial intention was to make an electronic sensor out of the material, but my student at the time, Xiaomeng Liu, accidentally forgot to plug in power still observed electrical signal in ambient environment,” said Yao.

This happy accident diverged the team’s focus from sensors to energy generation. Yao says the initial discovery also inferred the likelihood of a “generic mechanism”, meaning different types of protein nanowires or materials could give similar results. “From there, we began to think about […] how it could be applied to other materials for broad impact, which has led to our recent paper,” he added.

More is needed before this technology is ready to hit the market, but Yao already has ideas for its use. “Air in itself does not contain high energy density, but excels in terms of abundance continuity,” he said. “The power volume in Air-gens may be improved with vertical stacking — like accommodating more people in a tall building. This means that they may be engineered into different form factors/sizes for various usages, ranging from small-scale (e.g., portable electronics), medium-scale (e.g., environmental deployment of devices), to large-scale (e.g., household usage) solutions.

“It would be good to not to compete for space but to use waste space for energy harvesting, since air is everywhere,” he added.

While this technology represents a promising advancement toward sustainable energy generation, there are several critical areas that require attention before it can be scaled up effectively. These areas include improving the device’s conversion efficiency, reducing costs, addressing scalability challenges. “This is where federal funding industrial investments will play a critical role in determining how fast the pace is,” said Yao.

Reference: Jun Yao, et al., Generic Air-Gen Effect in Nanoporous Materials for Sustainable Energy Harvesting from Air Humidity, Advanced Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202300748

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WordPress’ Jetpack AI will write your blog posts for you

WordPress is getting an AI writing assistant of its own called Jetpack AI, it’s built into the content management system’s editor. For WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere, owners will still be able to access the tool through the Jetpack plugin. Like any other generative AI tool, Jetpack can spit out content based on the prompt users type in, whether it’s a traditional article, a list or a table. The assistant can also switch the tone of the post, depending on what the user is going for: It could sound informative, optimistic, humorous or even sarcastic. 

If the user wants to write their own post, they could still ask Jetpack for help. They could either make the tool generate a headline based on what they’d written or use it to automatically check their grammar or correct any spelling mistakes. And if they want to include a translation of their article, they can use Jetpack AI to quickly translate it into any of its 12 available languages, including Spanish, French Korean. According to TechCrunch, Jetpack is free to use for all customers for the first 20 requests as sort of a free trial period. After that, users will have to pay $10 per month to be able to access the tool. 

While Jetpack AI can be especially useful for people already using WordPress, it’s just one of the AI-powered writing tools that have recently popped up. The Microsoft 365 Copilot, for instance, can create a proposal on Word based on spreadsheet data or change a written report’s tone. Google also recently imbued its Workspace apps with AI capabilities gave Docs the power to generate text based on the topic written on the page.

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EE customers stung by new Europe fees in 47 holiday hotspots

EE mobile customers stung by new Europe fees in 47 holiday hotspots – including Spain, Greece Italy

Charges: Pay-as-you-go customers with EE are now charged 70p a minute to make a call when they visit Europe

EE customers now have to pay extra to use their mobile phones in 47 European holiday hotspots — including Spain, Greece Italy.

Holidaymakers risk being stung with large bills unless they make changes to their account. 

Pay-as-you-go customers with telecoms giant EE are now charged 70p a minute to make a call, or 30p to send a text message when they visit Europe.

To get on the internet, customers will need to pay £3 for 500MB of data — which is enough to stream 100 songs. 

Before Brexit, mobile phone providers were banned from charging British customers extra fees when they were in Europe. But these rules no longer apply.

To avoid the charges, customers can purchase a £2.50 daily pass or a £10 seven-day add-on, which allows them to use their phone as normal. 

You need to opt in to these packages by replying to EE’s welcome text message when your flight lands.

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Pope Francis undergoing abdominal surgery in Rome to deal with intestinal issue, Vatican says

Pope Francis is undergoing abdominal surgery Wednesday at a hospital in Rome to treat an intestinal blockage, the Vatican says. 

A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the operation, which was “decided upon over the past few days by the medical team assisting the Holy Father, became necessary due to an incisional laparocele (hernia) that is causing recurrent, painful worsening sub-occlusive syndromes,” according to Vatican News. 

It said the 86-year-old Francis will “undergo a laparotomy abdominal wall surgery under general anaesthesia” at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital before staying there a few more days “to allow for a normal post-operative course full functional recovery.” 

This is the third time Francis has been admitted to the medical facility. 


Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican on Wednesday, June 7. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days at Gemelli to remove 13 inches of his large intestine. He had suffered what the Vatican said was a severe inflammation narrowing of the colon. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said the diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall that had prompted the 2021 surgery, had returned. 

The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man. He also suffers from sciatica nerve pain. In late March, Francis spent three days at Gemelli for an acute case of bronchitis, during which he was treated with intravenous antibiotics. He emerged April 1 saying “Still alive!” 


Pope Francis leaves Vatican in car

The car carrying Pope Francis to Gemelli hospital leaves The Vatican on Wednesday. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

Francis first visited the hospital on Tuesday for what the Vatican has described as medical tests. 

The surgery, which is happening in the early afternoon, comes ahead of scheduled trips for Francis to Portugal Mongolia in August. 

Prior to arriving at the hospital Wednesday, Francis appeared at his weekly general audience at the Vatican. 


Pope Francis prays in front of relics at Vatican

Pope Francis brings a rose before praying in front of the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, universal patroness of missions, left, as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican, Wednesday, June 7. (Andrew Medichini)

“On what would have been her 150th birthday, let us ask Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the patron saint of missions, for the grace to love Jesus as she loved Him, the grace to offer Him our trials our sorrows, as she did, so that He might be known loved by all,” read a tweet posted on his Twitter account Wednesday morning. 

Pope Francis also has used a wheelchair cane for walking assistance due to knee pain, but said last year he didn’t want to have an operation on his knee because the general anesthesia he was put under for the 2021 surgery had disagreeable side effects, according to Reuters. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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