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Mall Executive Backtracks From Statement on Amazon Retail Stores

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SEATTLE — A day after saying that Amazon plans to open hundreds of physical bookstores, the chief executive of a large shopping mall operator has backed away from the comments.

In a statement Wednesday from General Growth Properties, the mall operator’s chief executive, Sandeep Mathrani, said a comment he made this week on a conference call referring to the Internet retailer’s “goal” to open 300 to 400 bookstores “was not intended to represent Amazon’s plans.”

His remarks prompted widespread coverage, however, suggesting that the Internet retailer was on the verge of an ambitious expansion into physical retail after opening one bookstore in a Seattle shopping mall last year.

While a reversal of sorts, Mr. Mathrani’s statement on Wednesday was not technically a retraction; he did not say his earlier comment was inaccurate.

In fact, it is true that Amazon intends to open more bookstores, according to a person briefed on the matter who asked for anonymity because the plans are confidential. But Mr. Mathrani dramatically overstated the number, this person said.

It’s unclear how Mr. Mathrani came up with the 300 to 400 figure for Amazon’s store plans. Whether or not self-interest was a factor, the idea that the nation’s most important Internet retailer wants to open a chain of stores could be beneficial to the perception of shopping malls at a time when many of them are struggling. Mr. Mathrani’s Amazon remarks came during a bullish string of comments about Internet retailers investing in physical stores.

Mr. Mathrani’s comments could not have pleased Amazon, which closely guards all of its future plans. The company’s share price fell nearly 4 percent on Wednesday.

Kevin Berry, a spokesman for General Growth Properties, declined to comment on whether Amazon played any role in the company’s decision to back away from the comments. Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, also declined to comment.

Barnes & Noble, a major Amazon rival in books, might also have been chagrined to hear Mr. Mathrani talking up the prospects for a big Amazon store expansion. A quick search of the website for General Growth Properties shows that Barnes & Noble is a tenant in several of its malls, including the Shops at La Cantera in San Antonio, Tex., Deerbrook Mall in Humble, Tex., and Glenbrook Square in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, declined to comment.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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