Brexit lorry theatre, the demise of Sears and the coming of the Antichrist

Planet Business: New smartphone warnings, plus the tech that insists on folded laundry

Empty lorry charade: Goods vehicles with no goods form an orderly queue in Kent to demonstrate how the road will cope in a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Empty lorry charade: Goods vehicles with no goods form an orderly queue in Kent to demonstrate how the road will cope in a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

 

In numbers: Sears’ slide

126 Age of the US department store chain Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, but now flirting with liquidation.

8 Years since Sears has turned a profit. A merger with Kmart in 2005 and its handling by hedge fund manager and controlling shareholder Eddie Lampert has been blamed for its recent woes.

3,500 Stores operated by Sears Holdings in 2006. That number, even if it avoids liquidation, is set to fall below 500 soon.

Image of the week: Fake traffic

The latest piece of evidence that some national stereotypes just might be true came courtesy of this line of lorries, pictured demonstrating the apparent calm and patience that would ensue in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Yes, the British love queueing so much, the UK government organised a fake tailback in Kent between the Port of Dover and a disused airport designated as an “overflow” lorry park for 6,000 vehicles lest they get delayed by customs checks. The Monday morning exercise was dubbed a “Potemkin traffic jam” by the London Independent’s political sketch writer Tom Peck. Alas, not even this pointless, goods-free convoy managed to set off in time, while some lorries expected to participate in the charade had the good sense not to show up.

Patriarch Kirill at a service in Moscow: Web presents ‘an opportunity to gain global control over mankind’. Photograph: Mladen Antonov / AFP / Getty
Patriarch Kirill at a service in Moscow: Web presents ‘an opportunity to gain global control over mankind’. Photograph: Mladen Antonov / AFP / Getty

Getting to know: Patriarch Kirill

Readers may not feel they have much in common with Patriarch Kirill, but the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is of the opinion that people’s dependence on smartphones and modern technology could bring about the coming of the Antichrist – a highly relatable view, though that’s no way to talk about Alexa.

Speaking on Russian state television, the Patriarch advised people to be careful when using the “worldwide web of gadgets” because it represents “an opportunity to gain global control over mankind”. So he probably doesn’t accept cookies then. Expanding on his theme, the religious figurehead suggested the Antichrist, in this instance, would be “the person who will be at the head of the worldwide web, controlling all of humankind” – and a fleet of drones as well, right?

The list: Stars of CES

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) annual shindig in Las Vegas is a festival of technology, though not all technology. The organisers this year rescinded an award from a company with a sex toy that uses robotics and “biomimicry” and then prevented it from exhibiting – the sex toy in question, unlike the sex robot invited last year, was designed by and for women. So what pleasures were to be found?

1. Foldable televisions: South Korean electronics firm LG is one of the biggest promoters of the idea that people should be able to roll up their TV sets like a yoga mat.

2. Healthcare robots: Samsung’s Bot Care robot can measure blood pressure and heart rate, detect when its owner has fallen and administer medicine. But can it roll up a TV?

3. Argumentative computers: IBM has unveiled “Project Debater”, a piece of artificial intelligence that helps humans argue with computers. The company’s other announcement, a high-precision weather tool, just might be more satisfying.

4. Talking toilet: Plumbing company Kohler has brought along a smart toilet that promises users “a fully immersive experience”.

5. Folding device: Foldimate will fold your clothes for you, but you have to feed in each item one at a time. Top tip: Avoid burnout by neither folding your clothes nor aspiring to have folded clothes.

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