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News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Takumi Kawahara is watching his wife, Marie Kondo, massage her face with a brush.

She’s wearing a white bathrobe and standing next to a bouquet of pink cherry blossoms. She has asked for soft instrumental music to be piped into the room. It appears to calm her on this February morning in Los Angeles as a dozen production workers mill about, capturing footage that will show Kondo’s 3.5 million Instagram followers how to dry brush their faces. Kondo closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and starts making small circular motions on her forehead. When she opens her eyes, she has conjured up a euphoric expression for the camera.

Kawahara isn’t buying it. He taps me on the shoulder to show me his phone, on which he has pulled up the word ticklish in large letters on Google Translate. “Doesn’t that brush look ticklish to you?” he whispers to me, saying the word in English for the first time. He proceeds to wiggle as if someone is tickling him, giggling so much that his dapper gray fedora threatens to tip over onto his glasses. “There’s no way I would put that thing on my face.”

Kawahara, CEO of KonMari Media, which he cofounded with his wife in 2015 and which is headquartered in Hollywood, California, is a fixture at Kondo’s photo and video shoots, like the one today showcasing products sold on the KonMari website. The production crew often turns to him expectantly, waiting for him to exclaim, “Beautiful!” or “Excellent!,” a signal that they have nailed the shot and can move on to the next one.

Read the rest of this article at: Fast Company

News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The mysterious patient samples arrived at the Wuhan Institute of Virology at 7 P.M. on December 30, 2019. Moments later Shi Zhengli’s cell phone rang. It was her boss, the institute’s director. The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention had detected a novel coronavirus in two hospital patients with atypical pneumonia, and it wanted Shi’s renowned laboratory to investigate. If the finding was confirmed, the new pathogen could pose a serious public health threat—because it belonged to the same family of viruses as the one that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a disease that plagued 8,100 people and killed nearly 800 of them between 2002 and 2003. “Drop whatever you are doing and deal with it now,” she recalls the director saying.

Shi, a virologist who is often called China’s “bat woman” by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years, walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan. “I wondered if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong,” she says. “I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals—particularly bats, a known reservoir. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, “Could they have come from our lab?”

While Shi’s team at the Wuhan institute, an affiliate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, raced to uncover the identity of the contagion—over the following week they connected the illness to the novel coronavirus that become known as SARS-CoV-2—the disease spread like wildfire. By April 20 more than 84,000 people in China had been infected. About 80 percent of them lived in the province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, and more than 4,600 had died. Outside of China, about 2.4 million people across 210 or so countries and territories  had caught the virus, and more than 169,000 had perished from the disease it caused, COVID-19.

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

By early 2015, Robyn and Victor Robledo had checked all of society’s invisible boxes. They’d been married for 18 years and had five healthy, active children between the ages of 4 and 15. They ran a business together, a gymnastics and personal-training facility called Island Tumble. The family lived in Chula Vista, California, across the bay from San Diego, in a 3,000-square-foot house with a two-car garage, a backyard barbecue pit, and an outdoor pool with a waterslide. It had previously been a show house; a model of life lived well.

Something, though, was missing. Something, in the Robledos’ successful, sun-kissed lives, felt empty.

“I remember sitting on the beach with my husband,” Robyn Robledo says, “and I’m like, ‘I never see you. We’re still this much money in the hole. And all I want to do is sit on a beach and surf some waves. So what the heck’s the point [of living this way]?’”

Three months later, the Robledos turned their lives upside down. They sold nearly everything they owned, pulled their kids out of school, bought a 30-foot RV, and hit the road. Over the next two years, they drove through the American West, explored a dozen European countries, and went surfing on three continents. In 2017, they shuttered their California business and made a “great leap of faith,” according to their website, Nomads With a Purpose, to “go all-in on this epic journey” and become a full-time traveling family.

Read the rest of this article at: Afar

News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Back in March, when sheltering in place was still a novelty, Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky hung an oversized print from his company’s in-house magazine on a bare wall above his sofa, hoping it would brighten up his home office. The image, of a rustic cabin set against snowcapped mountains, seemed to signify the monumental task of running a home-sharing website during a deadly pandemic. Or perhaps it signified the absurdity of managing a multinational company via videoconference, appearing before employees, investors, and lenders exclusively from the waist up. “I do wear pants,” Chesky says in an interview over Zoom. “I want to be clear.”

Airbnb Inc., which Chesky founded in a much more modest San Francisco living room in 2008, is among the world’s most valuable lodging companies. It distinguished itself with an inventory of mostly short-term rentals (it takes a cut of about 15%) and had been preparing for what should have been a triumphant public listing right around now. The pandemic has crushed the global economy and shut down anything resembling a hotel. Officials who initially predicted a weekslong pause are now talking in terms of months or even seasons.

By comparison, Chesky’s problems don’t rate; he’s safe and comfortable working at home. But that hasn’t made the past few months any easier. “I’m not sure if there’s a more difficult thing that a CEO of a travel company could ever do than go through this,” Chesky says. “You feel like you were T-boned, or like a torpedo has just hit the ship.”

Chesky started Airbnb in the middle of the last global cataclysm. To homeowners struggling through the U.S. foreclosure crisis, Airbnb offered a way to help cover the next mortgage payment. To would-be travelers who couldn’t afford fancy hotels, it played up the character of the rentals its cash-strapped “hosts” were offering. Why stay at a cookie-cutter hotel in a financial district when you could rent a room in a cool-but-gritty neighborhood in Brooklyn or the Mission and stay a few more days?

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

News 04.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

If Ovidiu Olea is astonished by the fact that he’s gone from being a finance guy to a mask mogul in four months, he shows no sign of it. The transition started innocuously. Late in January, when the coronavirus spread beyond Wuhan, Olea decided he would buy masks for his staff. He lives in Hong Kong, where he runs a payment technology firm. His staff isn’t large – just 20 employees – but finding even a few hundred masks proved hard. Part of the problem was that last year, after protesters in Hong Kong used masks to hide their identity, the Chinese government restricted supplies from the mainland. Before the pandemic, half the world’s masks were manufactured in China; now, with production there shifting into overdrive, that figure may be as high as 85%. If China isn’t sending you masks, you likely aren’t getting any at all. We have no masks, local pharmacies told Olea, but if you find some, we’ll buy them from you.

Olea got to work. In a journal article, he read that epidemiologists spoke highly of N95 respirators, masks that filter out 95% of small particulate matter. Stealing time out of his day job, Olea began phoning N95 suppliers in Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, Ireland. Each one turned him down. “The answers ranged from ‘No’ to ‘We only sell to accredited buyers’ to ‘Come back next year,’” Olea told me. After three days, Olea found a South African firm named North Safety Products, which had 500,000 masks in stock. Olea bought them all, at less than a pound per mask, certain that he would be able to sell the surplus.

During their conversations, North Safety Products executives warned Olea to be careful. There were “interested parties” lurking outside its factory gates, ready to bribe truck drivers for their cargoes. Olea hired a security detail to ride alongside his truck of masks as it drove to the airport in Johannesburg. (He sent me a photo of the team: six grim men packing pistols and rifles, clad in camo and bulletproof vests. “They asked if I wanted machine guns as well. I thought not. We’re not invading Lesotho. Let’s keep it reasonable.”) In mid-February, two weeks after he placed his order, his shipment touched down in Hong Kong. Within six hours, the buyers he had signed up had collected nearly all of the masks. “Even if I’d had 5m masks,” Olea said, “I’d have sold out.”

Olea, who has a keen nose for business opportunities, quickly became possessed by this new line of work. Since February, as the pandemic has streaked around the planet, he has bought and sold on another million N95 masks from North Safety Products. In March, Olea became a middleman for Chinese-made three-ply masks, too, the simple kind that just about everyone everywhere is now opting to wear. He sold masks to the Hong Kong government, to European countries, via their diplomats in Hong Kong and China, and to European companies, which wanted them for their employees. All told, Olea reckons he’s sold about 48m of them.

By April, Olea decided he might as well take the next step. He bought a mask-making machine from a Chinese manufacturer: an eight-metre-long assembly line, which shapes and cuts sheets of plastic into masks. When I spoke to him, in mid-April, I was reading about mask prices close to £6 a pop, and Olea was waiting with giddy excitement for his machine to reach him. He was still running his payments firm, and masks were a departure from that work. “But these are weird times,” he insisted. “We all must do something to survive.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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