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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images; Kris Connor/Getty Images for Influence Nation Summit

After the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Dick's Sporting Goods decided to stop all sales of assault style guns and accessories in their stores. After a mass shooting at one of their own stores that took the lives of 22 people, Walmart decided to remove video game displays it deems violent.

Fred Guttenberg—whose 14 year-old daughter Jaime was murdered at her high school in Parkland—let the billion dollar retail chain know what he thought of their decision.

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As back to school shopping season gets into full swing (gulp, already!?), the cost of college is top of mind for many – and with good reason. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

That’s why Walmart’s announcement that it will pay for associate’s or bachelor’s college degrees for its 1.5 million full- and part-time employees is kind of a big deal. The nation’s largest retail employer announced in late May that employees will be able to pursue degrees in business or supply-chain management at three non-profit schools for just one dollar a day. The program, which is available to all Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club employees, will subsidize the cost of higher education. Degrees are being offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University in Irvine, California, and Bellevue University in Nebraska – nonprofit schools selected for their focus and strong outcomes on serving working adult learners.

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Walmart, one of the biggest retail corporations in the U.S., has filed a patent for an autonomous robot bee, eliciting comparisons to the British futuristic show Black Mirror, which addresses the possibilities and perils of technology.

Robot bees are more formally known as pollination drones, and they are being designed to carry pollen between plants just like regular bees. However, the drones would rely upon technology like sensors and cameras, instead of sensitive antennae, legs and wings.

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc's shelf-scanning robot roams the isles of a Wal-Mart store in this handout photo released October 26, 2017. (WalMart/Handout via REUTERS)

Walmart shoppers can expect to see robots roaming the aisles in 2018. After a successful testing pilot, the retailer plans to introduce robots to 50 stores by the end of January 2018, with more to come. These robots, which do not resemble humans, consist of a large, two-foot high canister base with a tall extension arm outfitted with a scanner and a camera. They cruise aisles, scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, things put in the wrong place by customers, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels. They move continuously through the store, alerting human employees of errors.

Walmart says the robots are 50 percent more productive and three times faster than a human. Plus, claims Walmart Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King, human employees are bad at this task. "If you are running up and down the aisle, and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn't do that job very well and they don't like it."

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[DIGEST: Business Insider, WSJ, USA Today, FT, Nation]

In the world of online shopping, unhappy customers can freely and anonymously voice their opinions. But the brick and mortar retailer will know little of their experience. It can’t tell if they are happy and spending money, or if they have a problem they will later complain about online. Walmart wants to change that.

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[DIGEST: Bloomberg, Business Insider, Market Watch, Fortune, Bloomberg]

Super-investor Warren Buffett has been a keen observer of the retail sector for decades. He predicted the demise of Kmart and Sears in 2005; today those stores are headed towards bankruptcy. Now he has divested his investment portfolio, held through the Berkshire Hathaway company, of another retailer’s stock: Walmart. Some analysts say this sends a signal that all is not well with the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer.

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Increasingly, large corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s are buckling under pressure to better support their employees. The long overdue yet somewhat lackluster result: these companies have started to offer their low-wage workers slightly higher wages and a few basic benefits. Walmart, for example, announced in February that it would raise wages for its lowest paid employees to at least $9 an hour, and McDonald’s announced in April that, in addition to increased wages, employees may now accrue up to five days in paid time off per year. These concessions are certainly improvements for low-wage workers, but the recent financial crisis has created somewhat of a “rearview mirror effect.” In other words: Warning— victories may be smaller than they appear.

But as the economy strengthens and employers find themselves in a buyer’s market for low wage jobs, companies like Walmart will need to act more aggressively to keep their employees happy—especially with the increasingly attractive benefits, including tuition reimbursement, offered to employees of Starbucks and Chipotle.

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