Indonesia: Hundreds of Sinovac vaccinated health workers get Covid-19, dozens in hospital

Most of the workers were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, said Badai Ismoyo, head of the health office in the district of Kudus in central Java, but dozens have been hospitalized with high fevers and falling oxygen-saturation levels.

Kudus, which has about 5,000 healthcare workers, is battling an outbreak believed to be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, which has raised its bed occupancy rates above 90%.

Designated as a priority group, healthcare workers were among the first to be vaccinated when inoculations began in January.

Almost all have received the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, according to the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI).

While the number of Indonesian healthcare workers dying from Covid-19 has dropped sharply from 158 in January to 13 in May, according to data initiative group LaporCovid-19, public health experts say the Java hospitalizations are cause for concern.

“The data shows they have the Delta variant (in Kudus) so it is no surprise that the breakthrough infection is higher than before, because, as we know, the majority of healthcare workers in Indonesia got Sinovac, and we still don’t know yet how effective it is in the real world against the Delta variant,” said Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University.

A spokesperson from Sinovac was not immediately available for comment on the efficacy of the Chinese firm’s CoronaVac against newer variants of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) approved emergency use of Sinovac’s vaccine this month, saying results showed it prevented symptomatic disease in 51% of recipients and prevented severe Covid-19 and hospital stays. read more

As Indonesia grappled with one of Asia’s worst outbreaks, with over 1.9 million infections and 53,000 deaths, its doctors and nurses have suffered a heavy toll of 946 deaths.

Many are now experiencing pandemic fatigue and taking a less vigilant approach to health protocols after being vaccinated, said Lenny Ekawati from LaporCovid-19.

Across Indonesia, at least five doctors and one nurse have died from Covid-19 despite being vaccinated, according to LaporCovid-19, although one had only received a first shot.

Indonesia's coronavirus spike has health experts worried the worst is yet to come

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many doctors have died since the vaccination program began.

In Kudus, one senior doctor has died, said IDI.

Nadia said there had been no deaths in Kudus since a new outbreak began in the past several weeks among medical workers and that those who contracted Covid-19 have had mild symptoms.

In Jakarta, the capital, radiologist Dr Prijo Sidipratomo told Reuters he knew of at least half a dozen doctors hospitalized with Covid-19 in the past month despite being vaccinated, with one now being treated in an ICU.

“It is alarming for us because we cannot rely on vaccinations only,” he said, urging people to take precautions.

Weeks after the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holidays, Indonesia has experienced a surge in cases, with the positivity rate exceeding 23% on Wednesday and daily cases nearing 10,000, its highest since late February.

In its latest report, the WHO urged Indonesia to tighten its lockdown amid increased transmission and a surge in bed occupancy rates.

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Climate change: How rich people could help save the planet



CNN
—  

Rich people don’t just have bigger bank balances and more lavish lifestyles than the rest of us – they also have bigger carbon footprints.

The more stuff you own, and the more you travel, the more fossils fuels are burned, and the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.

Jetting around, buying luxury goods, keeping mansions warm and driving supercars – they all have a carbon footprint.

Oxfam has estimated that the average carbon footprint of someone in the world’s richest 1% could be 175 times that of someone in the poorest 10%. Studies also show that the poor suffer the most from climate change.

Read: While the rich world braces for future climate change, the poor world is already being devastated by it

But some argue that the wealthy can do the most to help fix the climate crisis. Here’s how they could make a difference.

The buying decisions of the rich mean much more in the fight against climate change than those of most people.

Ilona Otto and her colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research estimated that the typical “super-rich” household of two people (which they defined as having net assets of more than $1 million, excluding their main home) has a carbon footprint of 129 tons of CO2 a year. That’s around 65 tons of CO2 a year per person, which is over 10 times the global average.

Otto noted that because the sample in the study was small, the numbers are illustrative. “Probably our estimates are even lower than the true emissions of millionaires,” she said.

“Regarding their own lifestyle choices, the rich can change a lot,” said Otto. “For instance, putting solar panels on the roofs of their houses. They can also afford electric cars and the best would be if they avoided flying.”

In the study, air travel accounted for more than half of the footprint of a super-rich couple.

Courtesy Zooey Braun

German architects Aktivhaus say this home generates twice as much energy as it consumes.

Read: Climate change: Do you know the basics?

Rich people also have more flexibility to make changes.

“A high-income consumer likely has access and is able to afford more climate-friendly products or produce from local farmers,” said Tom Bailey, who contributed to a new report that highlights consumption in high-income cities.

“High-income cities and high-income individuals also have the resources to trial new products, services and solutions,” he explained, adding that they have the capacity to create a market for more sustainable goods.

As well as choosing what to spend money on, rich people can choose what industries to invest in – or not to invest in.

Oxfam estimates that the number of billionaires on the Forbes list with business interests in the fossil fuel sector rose from 54 in 2010 to 88 in 2015, and the size of their fortunes expanded from over $200 billion to more than $300 billion.

Steam rises from a coal-fired power plant in Germany.

Lukas Schulze/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Steam rises from a coal-fired power plant in Germany.

But there’s a trend of wealthy investors selling their shares in climate-harming industries, known as divestment.

Over 1,100 organizations and 59,000 individuals, with combined assets totaling $8.8 trillion, have pledged to divest from fossil fuels through the online movement DivestInvest.

Among them is Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who signed the pledge on behalf of himself and his environment foundation – as well as a group of 22 affluent individuals from the Netherlands who pledged to remove their personal wealth from the top 200 oil, gas and coal companies.

Watch: Why climate change worries the world’s largest companies

“You don’t invest in coal, you don’t invest in oil, in gas, also in some car companies that produce normal cars, or aviation, so you direct the financial flows,” said Otto.

And with divestment, a little can go a long way. “We did some simulations that shows that with the divestment movement you don’t need everyone to divest,” said Otto. “If the minority of investors divest, the other investors will not invest in those fossil fuel assets because they will be afraid of losing money … even if they have no environmental concerns.”

Wealthy people are not just economic decision makers, they can have political influence too. They can fund political parties and campaigns and have access to lawmakers.

Otto argued that rich people could use their political power to instigate positive changes to climate policy.

“Those people with the highest emissions, they have the highest agency to change something,” said Otto. “There’s so much research about the poor, the impact of climate change on the poor … sustainable development goals and so on. But when it comes to action and sustainability and transformation, the poor cannot do anything because they are busy surviving.

“But the educated, the rich and the super-rich – it’s a completely different case. They have the money and the resources to act and they also have the social networks,” she explained.

The wealthy can also support climate research. In 2015, Microsoft founder Bill Gates committed $2 billion of his fortune to fund research and development into clean energy.

In May, a group of scientists wrote to 100 wealthy charities and families in the UK to ask for an “extraordinary increase” in funding for environmental and climate-related issues.

“We implore you to urgently consider significant investment to prevent further ecological catastrophe – whether through your personal investments or your philanthropy,” the letter said.

There’s plenty of incentive for the wealthy to demand climate action: A recent UN report warned that delaying climate policies will cost the world’s top companies $1.2 trillion over the next 15 years.

The super-rich might also have an influence on other people’s carbon emissions.

“High status in our societies remains associated with high material wealth,” said Otto. “It’s an aspiration to become like the very wealthy and you imitate the lifestyles of people who you want to be like.”

For example, air travel is no longer only a treat of the super-rich. This year, budget airline Ryanair was the only non-coal plant among Europe’s top 10 emitters.

Ryanair is among the EU's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, according to EU data. The rankings include power stations, manufacturing plants and aviation.

PAU BARRENA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Ryanair is among the EU’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, according to EU data. The rankings include power stations, manufacturing plants and aviation.

“We as a society have to search for new ways of leading ‘rich’ lives that are independent of material wealth,” said Stephanie Moser, of the University of Bern, in Switzerland, who found that a person’s carbon footprint is better indicated by their income than their environmental beliefs.

“We have to redefine wealth in our societies such that living a “good life” is possible without high greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

CNN News

Rising seas are turning Miami’s high ground into hot property


Miami
CNN
—  

In a city where “sunny day floods” increased 400% in a decade, rising seas are changing the old real estate mantra of “location, location, location.”

In Miami these days, it’s all about elevation, elevation, elevation.

And long before melted ice caps wash over Ocean Drive, one of America’s most vulnerable big cities is becoming a test case for the modern problem of climate gentrification.

While some scientific models predict enough polar ice melt to bring at least 10 feet of sea level rise to South Florida by 2100, just a modest 12 inches would make 15% of Miami uninhabitable, and much of that beachside property is among America’s most valuable.

READ: Millions of US homes at risk of chronic flooding this century, study says

Even now, as more frequent “king tides” bubble up through Florida’s porous limestone, pushing fish through sewers and onto streets, residents are becoming more aware that their city is built on the rippling shelves, ridges and canyons of a fossil seabed.

“Water is simply going back to the same places it flowed ages ago,” says Sam Purkis, Chair of the University of Miami’s Geosciences Department. “The irony is what happened 125,000 years ago is going to dictate what happens to your house now.”

The fickle undulations between city blocks could mean the difference between survival and retreat, and the rising cost of altitude is sparking a noticeable shift in community activism and municipal budgets.

CNN

In Pinecrest, artist Xavier Cortada installed murals showing how many feet above sea level intersections are.

Neighbors in Pinecrest formed America’s first Underwater Homeowners Association (complete with elevation yard signs) and named a marine scientist as president.

Miami Beach is spending millions elevating roads, upgrading pumps and changing building codes to allow residents to raise their mansions by five feet.

But in working-class, immigrant neighborhoods like Little Haiti, year-to-year sea level rise gets lost in the day-to-day struggle, and most had no idea that they live a lofty three feet higher than the wealthy folks on Miami Beach.

They found out when developers started calling, from everywhere.

“They were calling from China, from Venezuela. Coming here with cases of money!” says Marleine Bastien, a community organizer and longtime resident. “We used to think that the allure of Little Haiti was the fact that it’s close to downtown, close to both airports and close to the beach. Unbeknownst to us, it’s because we are positioned at a higher altitude.”

Pointing out a row of vacant shops, she ticks off the names of a dozen small business owners she says have been forced out by rising rents, and lists others who she says unwittingly took lowball offers with no understanding of Miami’s housing crisis.

“If you sell your home in Little Haiti, you think that you’re making a big deal, and it’s only after you sell, and then you realize, ‘Oh, I cannot buy anywhere else.’”

Marleine Bastien, center, protests with residents and activists against the Magic City plans.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Marleine Bastien, center, protests with residents and activists against the Magic City plans.

After her community center and day school were priced out of three different buildings, she caught wind of plans to build the sprawling $1 billion Magic City development on the edge of Little Haiti, featuring a promenade, high-end retail stores, high rise apartments and imagined by a consortium of local investors, including the founder of Cirque du Soleil.

Magic City developers insist that they picked the site based on location, not elevation.

A view of downtown Miami and South Beach from a plane shows the oceanfront development of the past.

Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

A view of downtown Miami and South Beach from a plane shows the oceanfront development of the past.

They promised to preserve the soul of Little Haiti and give $31 million to the community for affordable housing and other programs, but it wasn’t enough for Bastien. “This is a plan to actually erase Little Haiti,” she says. “Because this is the one place where immigration and climate gentrification collide.”

She fought the development with all the protesters and hand-lettered signs she could muster, but after a debate that went until 1 a.m., commissioners approved the permit with a 3-0 vote at the end of June.

“The area we took was all industrial,” says Max Sklar, VP with Plaza Equity Partners and a member of the development team. “There was no real thriving economy around these warehouses or vacant land. And so our goal is to create that economy.

“Can we appease everybody? Not 100%, that’s not feasible. It’s not realistic. But we’ve listened to them.”

He repeats a promise to deliver $6 million to a Little Haiti community trust before ground is even broken and, as a sign that he listened to at least one demand, acknowledges that the complex will now be called Magic City Little Haiti.

But while Bastien mourns the defeat, her neighbor and fellow organizer Leonie Hermantin welcomes the investment and hopes for the best. “Even if Magic City did not come today, the pace of gentrification is so rapid that our people will not be able to afford homes here anyways,” she says with a resigned head shake. “Magic City is not the government. Affordable housing policies have to come from the government.”

A woman uses an umbrella for shade as she walks on a hot day in Miami.

Bill Weir/CNN

A woman uses an umbrella for shade as she walks on a hot day in Miami.

“(Climate gentrification) is something that we are very closely monitoring,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tells me. “But we haven’t seen any direct evidence of it yet.”

Suarez is the rare Republican who passionately argues for climate mitigation plans and helped champion the $400 million Miami Forever bond, approved by voters to fund action to protect the city from the ravages of higher seas and stronger storms.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez championed a plan to tackle the impact of the climate crisis.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez championed a plan to tackle the impact of the climate crisis.

“We actually created in our first tranche of Miami Forever, a sustainability fund for people to renovate their homes so that they can stay in their properties rather than having to sell their properties,” he says.

But that fund is a relatively small $15 million, not enough to dent a housing crisis that grows with each heat wave and hurricane, in a city where over a quarter of residents live below the poverty level.

What’s happening in Little Haiti could be just one example of a “climate apartheid” that the United Nations warns is ahead, where there will be a gulf between the rich who can protect themselves from the impact of climate change and the poor who are left behind.

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said there was already evidence of how the climate crisis affects the rich and poor differently.

And he pointed out that those hurt most were likely those least responsible. “Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change, and have the least capacity to protect themselves,” Alston wrote last month.

CNN News

US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it



CNN
—  

If you’re looking for a reason to care about tree loss, this summer’s record-breaking heat waves might be it. Trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a recent study.

But tree cover in US cities is shrinking. A study published last year by the US Forest Service found that we lost 36 million trees annually from urban and rural communities over a five-year period. That’s a 1% drop from 2009 to 2014.

If we continue on this path, “cities will become warmer, more polluted and generally more unhealthy for inhabitants,” said David Nowak, a senior US Forest Service scientist and co-author of the study.

Nowak says there are many reasons our tree canopy is declining, including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, insects and disease. But the one reason for tree loss that humans can control is sensible development.

“We see the tree cover being swapped out for impervious cover, which means when we look at the photographs, what was there is now replaced with a parking lot or a building,” Nowak said.

More than 80% of the US population lives in urban areas, and most Americans live in forested regions along the East and West coasts, Nowak says.

“Every time we put a road down, we put a building and we cut a tree or add a tree, it not only affects that site, it affects the region.”

The study placed a value on tree loss based on trees’ role in air pollution removal and energy conservation.

The lost value amounted to $96 million a year.

Nowak lists 10 benefits trees provide to society:

Heat reduction: Trees provide shade for homes, office buildings, parks and roadways, cooling surface temperatures. They also take in and evaporate water, cooling the air around them. “Just walk in the shade of a tree on a hot day. You can’t get that from grass,” Nowak said. To get the full temperature benefit, tree canopy cover should exceed 40% of the area to be cooled, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “A single city block would need to be nearly half-covered by a leafy green network of branches and leaves,” the authors wrote.

Air pollution reduction: Trees absorb carbon and remove pollutants from the atmosphere.

Energy emissions reduction: Trees reduce energy costs by $4 billion a year, according to Nowak’s study. “The shading of those trees on buildings reduce your air conditioning costs. Take those trees away; now your buildings are heating up, you’re running your air conditioning more, and you’re burning more fuel from the power plants, so the pollution and emissions go up.”

Water quality improvement: Trees act as water filters, taking in dirty surface water and absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil.

Flooding reduction: Trees reduce flooding by absorbing water and reducing runoff into streams.

Noise reduction: Trees can deflect sound, one reason you’ll see them lining highways, along fences and between roads and neighborhoods. They can also add sound through birds chirping and wind blowing through leaves, noises that have shown psychological benefits.

Protection from UV radiation: Trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation, Nowak says.

Improved aesthetics: Ask any real estate agent, architect or city planner: Trees and leaf cover improve the looks and value of any property.

Improved human health: Many studies have found connections between exposure to nature and better mental and physical health. Some hospitals have added tree views and plantings for patients as a result of these studies. Doctors are even prescribing walks in nature for children and families due to evidence that nature exposure lowers blood pressure and stress hormones. And studies have associated living near green areas with lower death rates.

Wildlife habitat: Birds rely on trees for shelter, food and nesting. Worldwide, forests provide for a huge diversity of animal life.

Nowak says there’s a downside to trees too, such as pollen allergies or large falling branches in storms, “and people don’t like raking leaves.” But, he says, there are ways cities and counties can manage trees to help communities thrive. “You can’t just say ‘we’re not going to have forests.’ We might as well manage and work with the trees.”

“You don’t want a tree in the middle of a baseball field. It’s very difficult to play sports if you have trees in the way. Or trees in the middle of freeways.”

Nowak says we can design and manage tree canopies in our cities to help “affect the air, to affect the water, to affect our well-being.”

Urban forests especially need our help to replace fallen trees. Unlike rural areas, it is very difficult for trees to repopulate themselves in a city environment with so much pavement and asphalt.

“A lot of our native trees can’t actually find a place to drop an acorn so they can regenerate,” explains Greg Levine, co-executive director for Trees Atlanta.

“That’s why the community has to go in and actually plant a tree because the areas just aren’t natural anymore.”

The job is not complete when the saplings take root. Organizations like Trees Atlanta and their volunteers plan most of their year to care for these young trees until they’re mature enough to thrive on their own.

“We try to prune trees for 10 years to make sure they get a good healthy structure.” Levine adds. “We also add mulch around trees to help keep the moisture in the ground so the tree doesn’t dry up. We have to have a lot of patience with planting trees around pavement, making sure that they can rise to the challenge. “

Protect what you have: Nowak says the first step is caring for the trees on your own property. “We think we pay for our house, and so we must maintain it. But because we don’t pay for nature, we don’t need to. And that’s not necessarily true.”

Prune the dead limbs out of your trees: If they’re small enough, do it yourself or hire a company. The risk of limbs damaging your house is significantly lowered when there’s tree upkeep, Nowak said.

Notice where your trees may be in trouble: Often, you can observe when something’s wrong, such as when branches are losing leaves and breaking or when mushrooms are growing at the base or on the trees. You can also hire an arborist or tree canopy expert to assess the health of your trees on an annual basis. Or you can contact your local agricultural extension office for advice.

Don’t remove old trees if it’s not necessary: Instead, try taking smaller actions like removing branches. “It takes a long time for these big trees to get big: 50 to 100 years. And once they’re established, they can live a long time. But taking a big tree out and saying ‘we’ll replant,’ there’s no guarantee small trees will make it, and it will take a very long time to grow.”

Allow trees to grow on your property: Although everyone’s aesthetic is different, it’s the cheap way to get cooler yards and lower energy bills. It’s also an inexpensive approach to flood and noise control.

Nowak says he laughs when his neighbors wonder why their property doesn’t have more trees, because “I hear people running their lawn mowers.” Fallen seeds need a chance to implant, and constant mowing prevents that. If you don’t like where a seedling is growing, you can dig it up and plant it or a new tree where you like.

Educate yourself about trees and get involved: Many cities have tree ordinances that seek to protect very old, significant trees. You can get involved by attending city council meetings. You can also help your city plant trees by joining local nonprofit groups.

Volunteer or donate to tree planting and research organizations:

CNN’s Christopher Dawson contributed to this story.

CNN News

An anonymous donor is paying the college tuition of Black athletes who get straight As

The donor, a community member who didn’t want his identity revealed, was inspired to make change after realizing the lack of diversity in Centennial High School’s athlete scholarship.

He reached out to the school’s athletic department with a concern about their program, which required student athletes to have a cumulative grade point average above 90.

“When we tweeted out a photo of these scholar athletes after one of our banquets, it was like 16 kids from the football team, and all but one was White,” Centennial High School athletics director Jeff Burch told CNN. “Our football team does not look like that, our team is predominately African American, and he said ‘That needs to change.'”

The donor decided to find a way to offer Black students an incentive to focus on their grades as much as they did sports.

While Burch said he expected something like an iPad, TV, or paying off football fees, what the nameless philanthropist offered was far more generous.

For every semester of straight As a Black athlete gets, they will receive a semester of college paid in return.

“It blew my mind,” Burch said. “Many kids thought this was unattainable, they thought they couldn’t do it, but they did. And when they realized what they were capable of, that they can reach the goals they put in mind, it changed their lives.”

‘The scholarship changed my life’

Five students have so far received the scholarship since the launch of the Centennial High School African American Football Scholar Athlete Scholarship in 2019. The school, part of the Fulton County Schools, is located in Roswell, a northern suburb of Atlanta. The school has 1,950 students.

One of the students is Evan Walker, an 18-year-old lineman for the football team. Walker was never one to get bad grades, but they weren’t always As.

“The scholarship changed my life and changed the way I view life totally,” Walker told CNN. “It pushed me into a different mindset. Either I can be average or be above average, and this made me realize I can get all As, just to prove to myself I can get what I want.”

The opportunity motivated the new graduate to see how far he can push himself academically.

And his hard work paid off. Walker, who is choosing between pre-law at Purdue University and civil engineering at Georgia Southern, will receive three semesters of his college tuition paid off.

While the scholarship will help alleviate the financial burden of going to college and having to choose between a dream school or somewhere more affordable, Burch said the impact goes beyond that.

“The financial gift is obviously unbelievable, but the dedication, work ethic, and study habits it takes to get that 90 is going to serve them so well moving forward and preparing them from life after high school,” he said.

“It really has the potential to spark generational change for those students as they have their own families and kids.”

Once preoccupied with the worries of how or where they would be able to attend college, Walker and his four winning peers are now all one step closer to their goals.

“I don’t want to be the person who sees someone doing well and say, ‘I wish that were me.’ I’m going to make sure that is me,” Walker said.

“To any kid who feels like they can’t compete with other White kids that get scholarships they don’t receive, don’t let that stop you from being the best in or outside the classroom, even if it takes all your life.”

CNN News

Silicon Valley may look very different after the pandemic

Akram, who works for Google, moved with her husband and two young children from Los Altos — a 15-minute drive from the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters — to Dallas, Texas. The biggest reason for the move, she said, was cost of living.

“We were paying three times the mortgage of our house that we have here in Texas, but we had one-third of the space,” she said. Her choice of where to live is now “the question of the year,” she says, with Google’s September deadline approaching for employees to decide between moving offices, coming back or staying remote.

But the tech talent that Silicon Valley companies compete for has spread out across the country over the past year, and the pandemic has laid bare how much of their jobs can in fact be done remotely. With more than half of US adults fully vaccinated and a broader reopening on the horizon, many of those companies are figuring out how much remote work they’ll continue to allow, and employees are thinking harder about how much they want.

The result could have a big impact on Silicon Valley companies that spent billions on campuses and perks to keep workers at work as long as possible, and also on other big cities who are vying to attract talent away from the heartland of the tech industry.

Pros and cons

Just as the tech industry led the way in transitioning to remote work, its top companies are providing early templates for bringing workers back to the office (or not).

“Our [employees] actually have very different perceptions about working from home — some find it easier to separate work life if they’re in the office, some people actually find it easier to juggle if it’s at home,” Nikki Krishnamurthy, Uber’s chief people officer, told CNN Business in an interview. “I don’t think we would have had those insights if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”

Uber started bringing workers back to its brand-new headquarters, in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, for the first time in late March — a highly publicized office move years in the making that was further delayed by the pandemic. It’s given them until September to return to their pre-pandemic locations, after which they’ll be required to be in the office at least three days a week.

Krishnamurthy says the company chose that path after considering options to balance productivity, engagement, teamwork and flexibility, while also retaining its fast-moving culture. A survey of Uber employees in September last year showed 75% would prefer a hybrid model where they came into the office a few days a week.

“You might optimize more for flexibility, a little bit broader reach for talent anywhere, but will you give up your magic?” she said. “And we just didn’t want to give up our magic.”

Facebook says employees will generally be asked to return to their current office, though they can transfer to roles based in another location. “There is also an option for employees in eligible roles to apply for long-term remote work,” the company added in a statement. “We don’t see vibrant offices and healthy remote work as a tradeoff — we believe these can co-exist and be unified by one cohesive employee experience.”

Twitter has told employees they can work remotely “forever” if they so choose and their role allows it. Apple, which reportedly began bringing workers back as early as May last year, did not respond to requests for comment.
Google workers around the world will continue working remotely until September, after which they can choose between coming back to their pre-pandemic office, working out of a Google office in a different city or permanently working from anywhere if their role allows it, CEO Sundar Pichai said in a note to employees earlier this month.
Pichai said he expects 60% of the company’s global workforce will return to their pre-pandemic offices a few days a week, while 20% will move to a different office and the remaining 20% will work from home. It’s a slight departure from Google’s previous plan in which all employees would have come into the office three days a week — similar to Uber’s.
Silicon Valley is starting to bring workers back to the office

The tech industry might seem well-positioned for remote work indefinitely but it has also spent years building a culture of collaboration and innovation that it will be loath to give up, spending untold billions on huge offices and perks like free food, gyms and nap pods that convince employees to spend more time there than they do at home.

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University whose research has extensively focused on remote work, says a hybrid model like the one Uber is adopting will likely to become more of a norm.

“It is hard to come up with new ideas and products working fully remote,” he said. “Post pandemic that will not change as [tech] employees tend to work well when at least part of the week they are together.”

Battle of the tech hubs

It isn’t just employees making big moves. Earlier in the pandemic, there was a minor exodus of tech firms and executives from the Bay Area to other cities — with Florida and Texas emerging as particularly popular destinations.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), a descendant of the company credited with starting Silicon Valley, announced in December that it would move its headquarters to Houston. Oracle, another longtime Bay Area powerhouse, announced a move to Austin later that month. High profile individuals from the region, including Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, Dropbox (DBX) CEO Drew Houston and renowned Silicon Valley investor Jim Breyer have all moved to the Texan capital in recent months.
In an op-ed for CNN Business hailing Austin as an emerging tech destination, Breyer cited the city’s “culture of interdisciplinary collaboration” as well as its “comparative affordability, outdoor culture and professional development opportunities.”

Miami mayor Francis Suarez has spent months courting tech entrepreneurs and investors, with some success. Founders Fund, the venture capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, reportedly opened a big new office in the city, while Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer also moved there and started a firm aimed at incubating and investing in startups in the Miami tech scene.

Google invested billions in new office space even during the pandemic, and CEO Sundar Pichai expects 60% of employees will return to their pre-pandemic offices.
But there are indications the exodus from Silicon Valley may be somewhat exaggerated. Google committed more than $1 billion earlier this year to expanding its California offices, while Apple has reportedly leased six new buildings in the Bay Area city of Sunnyvale that can accommodate up to 3,000 employees.
A report in March by investment firm Telstra Ventures said 96.9% of startups stayed in the Bay Area, and VC investments increased 4% from 2019. “The Bay Area will continue to be the epicenter of tech for years to come,” Mark Sherman, general partner at Telstra Ventures, wrote in the report.

Decisions to make

It’s also unclear how decisions made during the worst of the pandemic might stick as the economy and people’s lives reopen.

Jasmine Shah moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up, last October. Before the pandemic, Shah, who works for the software company VMWare, would drive from her home in San Francisco to the firm’s offices in Palo Alto, a commute she described as “very hard.”

“The pandemic has blasted this whole idea that you have to be in the place you are,” she said.

Still, Shah says her exit from Silicon Valley has always felt temporary — a lot of her stuff is still in storage in San Francisco. Ultimately, she says, if you want to work in tech then the Bay Area is where the best career opportunities are. It largely remains tech’s biggest power center and the big guns such as Google, Facebook and Apple still have their massive headquarters there. But she’s unsure about living there long term because of how prohibitively expensive it is.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” she says. “I’m looking to change a lot of things.”

Google doubles down on office space despite the rise in remote work
There are also signs the region is already starting to bounce back. A report last month by real estate firm CBRE said rents in major US tech hubs, including San Francisco, San Jose, Cupertino (home to Apple) and Mountain View (home to Google) appear to have bottomed out and have started rising again this year.

And given how much the pandemic has accelerated our dependence on technology, major tech firms are likely to be laying the groundwork for a spurt of further growth, Colin Yasukochi, director of CBRE’s Tech Insights Center, told CNN Business.

Facebook says it doesn't see "see vibrant offices and healthy remote work as a tradeoff."

Krishnamurthy said Uber considered all possible options before settling on its three-days-a-week approach, but fears a downside to Silicon Valley companies — particularly smaller startups — that decide to go fully remote.

“I worry that at some point that they will lose productivity because they haven’t built those relationships,” she said. “If you start that way, it’s really hard to change culture … and I just wonder if the pandemic and these behaviors that have hardened will cause people to think they can do it all remote and then still wind up hitting that brick wall.”

With her deadline to decide approaching, Akram has a long-running pros and cons list. Google’s new policy adds more reasons for her to move back to California, she says. If she can stay in a more affordable area, she’s willing to drive a little farther to get to the office a few days a week.

“I was definitely really happy to see that they were listening to what the demand was out there and that they were open to changing things,” she said.

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A Louisiana high school senior was accused of violating his graduation’s dress code with his shoes— so a teacher switched with him

Daverius Peters told CNN he showed up to his high school graduation in a pair of black leather Alexander McQueen shoes, ready to walk across the stage to get his diploma when he was stopped, at the door. The faculty member informed him that his footwear violated the dress code, and he would not be permitted into his own graduation.

According to Peters, the students were required to wear dark-colored dress shoes and not allowed to wear slippers, athletic shoes, or opened-toed shoes. He thought his shoes matched the requirements.

He began pacing, and immediately spotted another teacher, John Butler, who had mentored him on several occasions through his high school career. Butler’s daughter was also graduating, and he was waiting on his wife when Peters franticly approached him.

“I told Mr. John, ‘Mr. John, she said I can’t graduate and walk across the stage because of my shoes,'” Peters said.

Butler was confused by the situation, telling CNN he then escorted Peters back to the door in hopes of clearing up the misunderstanding. Unfortunately, the faculty member still would not allow Peters to enter the ceremony.

“At that moment I didn’t have time to get upset or go back and forth with her — it was a no-brainer,” Butler said.

Butler took off his shoes, two sizes too big for Peters, which the senior graciously accepted. The teacher let him in with only a few minutes to spare before they were to begin the ceremony, and Butler attended the ceremony barefoot.

“You don’t stop a kid from receiving his high school diploma, already the most important moment of their life to that point, you don’t take that away for something as small as shoes — and that’s exactly what was going to happen,” Butler said.

Getting the shoes brought back the joy of the day

Peters said he was embarrassed, but getting Bulter’s shoes brought back the joy of the day.

“It felt good walking across the stage and hearing everybody saying my name,” Peters said.

As he shuffled across the stage, curling his toes to keep the large shoes from falling off, Peters’s mom, Jima Smith, told CNN she didn’t even know that it was her son.

“I see him sliding across the stage and wondered, ‘Whose shoes does he have on?'” Smith said.

Peters didn’t even tell his mom what happened until recently, and Smith said she is heartbroken about what happened to her son.

“I have been in complete disbelief of everything that went on, and I had no idea my child went through all these things fighting to get his diploma,” she said.

“This should not happen to any child, parent, or teacher, period — it put us all in a bad situation.”

The school acknowledges the situation, and Stevie Crovetto, director of public information at St. Charles Parish Public Schools, said in a statement to CNN that they are looking to revise the graduation dress code.

“We appreciate this being brought to our attention so we can continue our work towards more inclusive and equitable practices. We applaud Mr. Butler for his kind gesture and selfless act,” the statement said.

“I’m just so grateful it was Mr. John Butler who was there to save the day for my child,” Smith said. “I’m so grateful for him.”

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Liberian rebel sentenced in Switzerland for war crimes, cannibalism

The case was also Switzerland’s first war crimes trial in a civilian court. It involved 46-year-old Alieu Kosiah who went by the nom de guerre “bluff boy” in the rebel faction ULIMO that fought former President Charles Taylor’s army in the 1990s.

Kosiah faced 25 charges including one where he was accused of eating slices of a man’s heart. He was convicted of that and all but four of the other counts, documents from the Swiss Federal Court showed.

He was arrested in 2014 in Switzerland, where he had been living as a permanent resident. A 2011 Swiss law allows prosecution for serious crimes committed anywhere, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

A plaintiff in the case who testified that Kosiah ordered his brother’s murder urged other Liberians to come forward as witnesses and secure more convictions.

“If you set an example, the other guys will be afraid,” he said in a statement via the NGO Civitas Maxima that represented him. He asked not to be named in media reports for fear of reprisals.

Liberia has ignored pressure to prosecute crimes from its back-to-back wars between 1989-2003, in which thousands of child soldiers became bound up in power tussles exacerbated by ethnic rivalry.

Human Rights Watch called Friday’s sentencing a “landmark.”

“Switzerland’s efforts on this case should help mobilize wider accountability in Liberia as this shows that these crimes can be prosecuted. I see this as an opportunity,” the group’s Elise Keppler said.

Deportation, compensation

Activists in the Liberian capital Monrovia celebrated the verdict. “This will serve as a deterrent for others around the world. I think justice has taken its course,” said Dan Sayeh, a civil society campaigner.

Kosiah had denied all the charges and told the court he was a minor when first recruited into the conflict. His lawyer did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the sentence.

Kosiah was cleared on Friday of attempted murder of a civilian, accessory to the murder of a civilian, an order to loot and recruitment of a child soldier.

The court said that the 20-year sentence was the maximum it was allowed to give under Swiss law.

“No mitigating circumstances were taken into account in the sentencing. A deportation from Switzerland was also ordered for a period of 15 years,” it said. Kosiah was also ordered to pay compensation to seven plaintiffs, it added.

It was not immediately clear when the deportation would occur. The roughly 6-1/2 years that Kosiah has already served in pre-trial detention will count towards the sentence, the court papers showed.

Charles Taylor was sentenced for war crimes in 2012, but only for acts in neighboring Sierra Leone. His son, Chuckie, was sentenced for torture in Liberia by a US court in 2009.

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When the pandemic brought her business to a halt, this chef tackled food insecurity with farm-to-table meals

But when Covid hit, everything came to a halt.

“I didn’t know where my next penny was coming from,” said Ibraheem, who had to close down her business. “I didn’t know if I would be able to pay any bills.”

Pre-pandemic, Ibraheem had volunteered for years with youth programs in the Chicago area, teaching young people facing food insecurity how to grow and prepare vegetables from local community gardens.

As schools shut down and many people in the community were laid off or furloughed from their jobs, she started receiving phone calls from families of children she taught.

“Parents were calling to see if we were doing our ‘young chef’ camps, and at first, I thought they were looking for activities for their kids. But I quickly realized they were looking for a meal,” she said.

As a result of the pandemic, it is estimated that food insecurity has tripled among US households with children, according to the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. It is projected that 42 million Americans, including 1 in 6 children, may experience food insecurity this year, according to Feeding America.

“At first many people were too proud to say they needed help. They would say, ‘Hey, I’m fine,’ but you would hear the sound linger in their voice that said they were not fine,” Ibraheem said. “I told them how I lost my business and I’m not fine. Once you talk to people and see them every week, they open up.”

So, she started a free meal program that she called Kids with Coworkers — referring to all the children who were then home with their parents. She began by cooking healthy meals and making daily deliveries to nine families in need.

“Initially things started very small, it was very simple,” Ibraheem said. “But the need for food is so unbelievable. It just surpassed what we ever thought it would be. It’s not a class or gender or race thing. We’re in a pandemic. Everyone had lost some form of being able to take care of themselves.”

Word of her efforts quickly spread, and donations started arriving, which enabled her to expand. Early on, she hired a furloughed school bus driver to help deliver the meals, and her team operates out of a donated commercial kitchen space.

Since March 2020, Ibraheem says she has provided more than 60,000 meals to more than 600 people.

“To see people, especially families and seniors not have food is not acceptable,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that people were able to put food on the table.”

CNN’s Laura Klairmont spoke with Ibraheem about her efforts. Below is an edited version of their conversation

CNN: What types of situations are the people you are helping in?

Chef Q. Ibraheem: A lot of them are single parents, a lot are seniors. You have people that don’t have sick days, people that work [minimum wage jobs] where once that last check comes, the last check comes.

When the pandemic hit, so many families were struggling with childcare, finances, and, of course, food insecurity was major. Families were struggling with putting food on the table. In the beginning, one of the first parents that I talked to literally said they only had a couple cans of soup in their house, and they had five children. And that struck my heart so heavy, because I come from a single-parent home.

I know so many of these families and the kids, and you don’t want to see your neighbors hungry. So, it was really easy for me to say, “Let me cook.”

CNN: What’s unique about your approach to the food you’re serving the families?

Ibraheem: Cooking is my ultimate expression of love. You want to make someone happy. I got into cooking because I was always around food. My dad had a halal poultry shop. (And) there was my mom. And my mom was, like, “Hey, we cannot (afford to) travel all the time, so we’re actually going to travel through restaurants.” So twice a month, every paycheck, we would go to a different kind of restaurant.

It was really important for me to make sure that the meals were healthy and nutritious, because you know that you need these people to eat healthy right now. These are home-cooked meals. Everything is made from scratch. We prep every single thing. It takes a lot of time. We always make sure that there is something fresh on the plate. We’re very veggie-centric.

I wanted it to be the highest quality food I can get. So, we source a lot of food from the community gardens that we work with. I’m working with local farms and local producers, local artisans, to make sure that I could put the best food on the plates of our dinner guests.

We go really creative with the food. We try to do the most beautiful plating that we can do. We play with the textures. It’s very important for us to expose our dinner guests to different cultures, different food, edible flowers, fresh sorrel, just so they understand, “Hey, there is so much out here.”

CNN: What are your future plans?

Ibraheem: My dreams have changed. Of course, I’m going to do underground supper clubs. But long-term, I’ve realized the need for food and I’ve realized how big of a problem food insecurity is. So, I’m looking at taking all the components of what I do and hopefully opening up a community kitchen and take some of the youth that I actually train and hire them. And I’m just going full circle with sustainability and keep it in the community once again. I want to cook really good food. I want to take care of people. I also want to invest even more in the community.

There’s been a problem with food insecurity in our country, but the pandemic has shined a light on this major issue. I witnessed that people are literally a paycheck away from not eating. That’s heartbreaking. That’s unbelievable, but it’s so very real. And it’s continuously happening. And it’s important that we just face that issue and make sure that people eat. So many people go without and there are people that we still can’t serve. Each day there were more people calling.

I’m inspired to keep going because the need has not stopped. It’s a great feeling to know that I’m able to ease the burden, if just a little bit. I’m giving them a sense of understanding that we are in it together. A sense of knowing that people in your community do care.

Want to get involved? Check out the Kids with Coworkers website and see how to help.
To donate to Kids with Coworkers via GoFundMe, click here

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New spacesuits designed for NASA’s next moonwalk

Written by Megan Marples, CNN

Humans have explored the infinite abyss beyond Earth’s atmosphere for over half a century.

When astronauts explore the vast expanse of outer space, they need to wear high-tech spacesuits to protect them from the frigid conditions of the cosmos.

Hollywood movies have glamorized the iconic suit, its design leading the masses to believe it’s an outfit that can be slipped on within minutes.

In fact, the spacesuit is its own fully functioning spacecraft that takes hours to put on and requires help from one’s colleagues, said Cathleen Lewis, curator of international space programs and spacesuits at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

“The purpose of the spacesuit is to essentially exist as a human-shaped spacecraft that allows the human being to autonomously explore and do meaningful work outside the comfort of the spacecraft or space station,” Lewis said.

From start to finish, it can take up to four hours for an astronaut to suit up, Lewis said. Before going on a spacewalk, astronauts must check each piece of equipment and make sure they have enough critical supplies, such as oxygen and water.

Throughout the entire spacewalk process, a ground team back on Earth supports the astronauts. Flight controllers follow a procedure plan that’s around 30 pages long, but there are other plans in place should problems arise, said Sarah Korona, EVA flight controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “EVA” stands for extravehicular activity.

The anatomy of a spacesuit

A spacesuit is made up of nearly a half dozen different components and can have up to 16 layers, according to NASA.

The astronauts on the Artemis missions, NASA’s next program to send the first woman and the first person of color to the moon, will wear the latest spacesuit, called the exploration extravehicular mobility unit, also known as xEMU. Before the spacesuits make it to the moon, parts of them will be tested on the International Space Station.

NASA revealed a ground prototype of the new exploration extravehicular mobility unit (xEMU) in 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA

One of the main components is the cooling garment, said Richard Rhodes, the deputy lead for xEMU pressure garment development at NASA. The garment is made of tubes that circulate water around the astronaut, regulating body temperature and removing excess heat as they completes their work.

Each spacesuit has a portable life support system, which includes a water tank for the cooling garment, carbon dioxide removal system and more, according to NASA. This component also includes a two-way radio system so the astronauts can communicate.

The original spacesuits used during the Apollo missions were less flexible than the ones today.

“When the Apollo astronauts walked on the moon, they couldn’t bend over and pick up a rock,” said NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. “They had to have a little special tool with a handle on it.”

Fortunately, spacesuits have come a long way since then and have a more flexible structure with gloves.

The gloves are one of the most complicated parts of the spacesuit, and they are often the greatest source of complaints astronauts have about their suits, Lewis said.

“Gloves are very difficult to design to be protective and also allow the manual dexterity that astronauts need to do meaningful work,” she noted.

The pressurized gloves can feel constricting, especially after hours of work in space, she said. Their fingers also get cold, so heating elements need to be built into the gloves.

This glove is part of a NASA extravehicular mobility unit, the technical term for a spacesuit.

This glove is part of a NASA extravehicular mobility unit, the technical term for a spacesuit. Credit: NASA

When astronauts train to go to space, one of their training exercises includes picking up a dime in their spacesuit while underwater, Lewis said. These explorers need extreme dexterity when working in space, and the gloves are an added challenge.

Much of an astronaut’s spacesuit training is in a pool at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. The water simulates the feeling of weightlessness, which is similar to how it feels in space.

Scientists have experimented with different materials and had varying degrees of success over the years. At one point, Lewis said researchers experimented with Kevlar fingertips on the gloves.

“Kevlar is very good at stopping bullets but not very good at stopping knives — it’s easily cut,” she said.

Astronauts currently use synthetic plastic gloves, but scientists are always looking for better options, Lewis added.

On the outside of a spacesuit, there are colored stripes unique to each suit. This is how astronauts can tell who is in each suit when out in space, Lewis said.

This tried-and-true system will be used for the Artemis spacesuits, Rhodes confirmed.

Making the Artemis spacesuits

The first step in designing a spacesuit is to “understand who you are designing the suit for, what you want them to be able to do, and where you want them to be able to do it,” Rhodes said.

For the Artemis program, NASA needs their astronauts to be able to safely explore the moon’s surface.

Over the last four years, NASA has invested over $300 million in the development of the xEMU, Rhodes said. His team has tested dozens of components and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

He said the biggest challenge for the Artemis suits is making sure they are optimized for lunar exploration.

The suits need to be “light enough to support the lunar mission and robust enough to protect the astronaut while working in the very hazardous lunar environment,” Rhodes said.

There are thousands of parts that go into making the Artemis spacesuits, and they are sourced from all around the United States, Rhodes said. Some parts can take up to a year to build, but NASA is working to shorten the duration, he added.

The spacesuits will also be getting some upgrades for the latest lunar mission. Current and past extravehicular mobility units, the technical term for NASA’s spacesuits, allow for minimal movement of the waist, hips or ankles, Rhodes said.

The astronauts on the Artemis mission need to have more mobility so they can explore the rough terrain of the moon, he said, so his team is working on a suit that will allow for more movement while still being strong enough to protect the wearer.

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