COMPASS, the Compass logo, and other various trademarks, logos, designs, and slogans are the registered and unregistered trademarks of Urban Compass, Inc. dba Compass in the U.S. and/or other countries.
When we talk about contemporary design, we immediately think about design with simple clean lines, strong colours, sometimes with minimalist decorations. Contemporary design is very popular nowadays, because of its simplicity and beauty. Elegance and simplicity must come to the fore. In addition to well-chosen material for building and making furniture, it is very important and the layout of the rooms, then good lighting and the large windows.
POne user said the Robinhood said it would investigate and respond within ‘a few weeks.’ Now her money is gone
Robinhood says the issue of lost money for some users doesn’t stem from a breach of its systems. PHOTO BY ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG FILES
It took Soraya Bagheri a day to learn that 450 shares of Moderna Inc. had been liquidated in her Robinhood account and that $10,000 in withdrawals were pending. But after alerting the online brokerage to what she believed was a theft in progress, she received a frustrating email.
The firm wrote it would investigate and respond within “a few weeks.” Now her money is gone.
Expecting a pay raise next year? Don’t count on it.
Bagheri is among five Robinhood customers who recounted similar experiences to Bloomberg News, saying they’ve been left in limbo in recent weeks after someone sold their investments and withdrew funds. Because the wildly popular app has no emergency phone number, some said they tried in vain to intervene, only to watch helplessly as their money vanished.
“A limited number of customers appear to have had their Robinhood account targeted by cyber criminals because of their personal email account (that which is associated with their Robinhood account) being compromised outside of Robinhood,” a spokesman for the company said in an email. “We’re actively working with those impacted to secure their accounts.”
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The issue didn’t stem from a breach of Robinhood’s systems, the spokesman said.
‘This is addicting’: How the new retail investor mania is changing the stock market game
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Bagheri, a Washington attorney, and three other Robinhood users said they also contacted authorities including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Two of those customers said they have heard back from an official at the SEC seeking more information.
Finra and the SEC declined to comment.
Robinhood, founded seven years ago and based in Menlo Park, California, has exploded in popularity this year as millions of Americans stuck at home — including throngs of millennials — look to make some money during a pandemic that has sent stock prices swinging. But the no-fee brokerage app has also attracted consumer complaints, with novice investors confused by the vagaries of stock options and margin loans.
Now, even though the firm said this year that it has more than doubled its customer-service team, clients complain they’re struggling to get quick help when their funds are disappearing.
“They don’t have a customer service line, which I’m quite shocked about,” Bagheri said.
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Pruthvi Rao, a Chicago software engineer, said his account was hit on Oct. 6. His bet on Netflix Inc. was liquidated and US$2,850 was soon withdrawn. He said he’s sent more than a dozen emails to Robinhood’s customer support address, and that he even tried messaging some of the brokerage’s executives on LinkedIn.
“I’m in tremendous mental stress right now because this is all of my savings,” said Rao, 32, whose account was frozen by Robinhood in response to the fraudulent activity.
I’m in tremendous mental stress right now because this is all of my savings
He showed Bloomberg the same emailed response from Robinhood that Bagheri received. “We understand the sensitivity of your situation and will be escalating the matter to our fraud investigations team,” Robinhood customer service agents wrote them. “Please be aware that this process may take a few weeks, and the team working on your case won’t be able to provide constant updates.”
Rao said he had previously set up two-factor authentication to access his account, and Bagheri said she’s certain her Robinhood password is unique from all others, including her email. Neither believed they had been duped by phishing scams or malware. Both said they use the same email for Robinhood and other accounts, and that only Robinhood has been affected.
They also said Robinhood’s online portal showed their money went to a recipient at Revolut, another popular financial-technology startup. London-based Revolut, which offers a money transfer and exchange app, expanded to the U.S. this year.
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“Revolut has been made aware of the issue and is investigating urgently,” spokesman Kiran Wylie said Friday in an email.
Bill Hurley, who owns a metal-fabrication shop in Windsor, Connecticut, said he received notifications that stock and Bitcoin had been sold from his account on Sept. 21, and that US$5,000 was transferred to Revolut accounts in two transactions. He said he emailed Robinhood for assistance while the transactions were pending but received none.
“They’ve had more than enough time to deal with this,” he said.
Hurley, 56, said he reached out to the SEC and heard back from a lawyer for the regulator, who asked for additional information on what had happened.
After more than two weeks of emails seeking help from Robinhood, a customer support representative called him on Thursday, he said.
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How the merger bid for a small, Shariah-compliant REIT became the subject of confrontational shareholder capitalism.
Singapore loves REITs. Photographer: Maverick Asio/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty
There’s a glitzy side of Singapore property: the cavernous shopping malls; the tall office buildings; the pricey condominiums; the luxury hotels; and the hospitals where rich Indonesians and Bangladeshis seek treatment and five-star customer service.
But there’s also a vibrant market at the non-sexy end of the spectrum: the warehouses, the factory sheds and, increasingly, the data centers. Their owners are industrial real estate investment trusts, which collect rent and pass it on to unitholders. It’s something that appeals to an aging population that values the certainty of dividends more than the headiness of growth.
Some landlords, like Mapletree Industrial Trust, command market prices twice their net asset values. Others, like Sabana Shari’ah Compliant Industrial REIT, or Sabana REIT, trade at a chronic discount. This column is about Sabana, and how it became a vehicle in a Swiss value investor’s campaign to make confrontational shareholder capitalism work in polite and obedient Singapore.
Sabana is among the smallest of Singapore REITs: Its 18 properties across the island-state add up to a little more than 4 million square feet. But it has historically had big problems of governance and performance. In 2017, Sabana scrapped a property purchase from its then sponsor under pressure from unitholders; the REIT manager’s chief executive officer quit.
Still, performance remained lackluster. In September 2018, Sabana agreed to sell a factory site for less than half its book value, but the buyer couldn’t secure regulatory approvals and abandoned the deal. The factory spent all last year earning nothing. A warehouse also became tenantless in the fourth quarter of 2019, shaving a few percentage points off the property owner’s low occupancy rate.
Some REITs Get All The Love
Singapore’s Sabana, a factory landlord, could never make a mark, either with tenants or with investors.
It was relief to unitholders when in June last year control passed to to ESR Cayman Ltd., a Hong Kong-based logistics firm that owned another industrial landlord in Singapore. ESR-REIT is nearly four times as big as Sabana. The change in ownership perked up the interest of Jan Moermann, a Swiss who’s acquired a reputation as an activist investor in Singapore. Assisted by its Malaysian-born, Singapore-citizen research head Havard Chi, Moermann’s Quarz Capital Management Ltd. was already building a stake because it believed Sabana had good properties that could be managed better.
Toward the end of last year, Moermann called on ESR Cayman to merge its two Singapore real-estate trusts. Both Sabana and ESR-REIT were competing in the same market for industrial property. Conflict was a possibility, even though the managers of the two trusts say they don’t share information on strategy or operations.
Moermann put a value of 54.5 Singapore cents ($0.4) apiece on Sabana shares in a cash-plus-stock deal. But when the all-stock merger with ESR-REIT was finally announced in July, each Sabana unit was implicitly judged to be worth less than 38 Singapore cents, way below the book value of 51 cents. “We’re not here to fight over who gets one more piece of salami on the pizza,” said Adrian Chui, chief executive officer of ESR-REIT. “We want the pizza to become bigger.”
The Sabana management has publicly said that swapping 100 units for 94 units of ESR is a fair deal. That’s nearly 12% more than what the trust’s investors would have got from the market on average in the two years prior to the announcement.
Swapping 100 shares of Sabana for 94 of ESR is more than what unitholders would have got on average in the stock market — not of late, though
The question for unitholders isn’t so much whether ESR is a good home, but whether they can move in on better terms or aspire for a different sanctuary. Donald Han, the Sabana manager’s CEO, is right: Small in his business is unsexy. Even with low debt, the landlord can’t grow because most assets are already pledged. However, if ESR can secure cheaper refinancing for those properties, so can another strong owner. Now that Sabana is adding a 35,000-square-feet retail and F&B component to its flagship property, dropping the Shariah compliance tag to allow tenants that deal in alcohol or pork could also be of modest help.
Scouting for suitors from around the world after the Covid-19 travel restrictions end might throw up alternatives. Conversely, it’s also possible that the pandemic dislocation, combined with Singapore’s tightening restrictions on foreign workers, will erode the value of industrial properties, hurting Sabana unitholders if they hold out. Their portfolio is too small to afford the downtime involved in costly redevelopment.
Quarz and Hong Kong-based Black Crane Capital, which own 11% of the Sabana stock between them, are prepared to vote against the current offer when a shareholders’ meeting is called. They’re also asking the current Sabana management to leave if the merger fails.
In Singapore’s West-meets-East culture, people in positions of authority are rarely challenged so openly. Yet someone needs to do it. The chief of city’s Securities Investors Association invited the managers of the two merging entities and an analyst to discuss the deal. The moderation was courteous, and the participants agreed on everything.
How can there be a market without disagreement? Thanks to Moermann’s activism, the Monetary Authority of Singapore got involved to give its views on resolving conflict in situations where competing REITs are under single control. Mak Yuen Teen, a Singapore business professor, questioned the independence of a director on the Sabana manager’s board, drawing a reply.
“We try to make our criticism as constructive as possible,” says Moermann. “From the point of view of unitholders, this merger is not a necessity at all.”
The pandemic will leave a long shadow on rents and interest rates. This matters for Singapore, where every third dollar changing hands on the local exchange is because of buying or selling in a REIT. With all the uncertainties of the post-Covid economy, the least investors expect is that someone shine a light on their behalf, not just in gleaming storefronts and condominiums, but in gloomy warehouses and factory yards. For now, that job has gone to a foreigner.
(For more on the Quarz-Black Crane campaign, and the Sabana manager’s response, click here and here.)
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
A living room with a view. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg
Something big is missing from Singapore’s picturesque and impeccably maintained highway linking downtown with Changi A¬irport: traffic.
The collapse in international travel has hit the city-state especially hard. Borders are shut to tourists and much of Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s proud fleet is mothballed. The idea of “flights to nowhere” had even been floated — effectively three-hour sight-seeing trips that would be bundled with staycations, shopping vouchers and limousine services. Now that has been scrapped for a plan to serve lunch aboard a grounded jumbo jet, a tour of the carrier’s training facilities and home delivery of first- and business class meals.
The ability to get in and out of a nation that takes about 30 minutes to traverse has been a big draw for the more than one million expatriates who live here. Non-Singaporeans make up more than half of senior management roles in financial services. The idea of being stuck flying in circles has many rethinking the informal bargain they’ve struck with the city they call home. A big part of that was the opportunity to work in a dynamic region and experience diverse cultures and nations for a few years. In return, Singapore got talent, industrialization and unique ties to global networks, vital for a country without a hinterland or natural resources.
Singapore’s modus operandi has been to make itself a base camp for global capitalism and the people who make it tick. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first leader, laid out the welcome mat for multinational corporations: first for textiles, ship maintenance and petrochemicals, then for electronics, tourism and finance. Changi Airport, top-notch public transport, a commitment to education, and political stability made the city an appealing place to live. Relatively low tax rates only sweetened the deal (except for Americans, who need to pay income tax no matter where they live).
Now Lee’s vision is running into the wall of Covid-19. Singapore’s economy shrank a record 42.9% on an annualized basis in the second quarter from the previous three months, the deepest economic contraction since independence in 1965. While data point to a bounce before year-end, the government projects gross domestic product to decline as much as 7% in 2020. This has sharply refocused public discourse. Opportunities for locals are the priority.
When companies do pare headcount, they are prevailed upon to keep Singaporeans at the core of their staffing. Local press reports of legislative proceedings highlight references to a closely held list of firms on a watch list for their hiring practices. Banking and finance has fallen under heightened scrutiny. The government, which lost seats to the opposition in July’s general election, has tightened rules around employment visas for foreigners by raising minimum salaries twice this year. Figures released last week showed Singapore’s population fell slightly to 5.69 million in the year through June, the first drop since 2003. Work permit holders saw the largest decrease.
“We cannot sustain our openness if we do not provide enough opportunities for our own people,” Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told the Singapore Summit on Sept. 14. “It is not socially or politically sustainable. No society can be blindly open.”
Singapore is slowly cranking back to life after a strict lockdown. Throngs pulse through malls and hawker centers in suburbs of central Singapore. Subway trains are often full. A pilot scheme for international executives to travel in the region — under a strictly controlled itinerary and subject to Covid testing — is in the works. Children under six are no longer required to wear a mask.
But while the government will allow more people into their offices, work-from-home remains the default. As long as that’s the case, and the airport remains effectively a no-go zone, the more folks realize they don’t actually need to be in Singapore to do their jobs. If teams across Asia can be managed by Zoom from the living room, then that living room could be anywhere.
This realization is crystallizing as the headlines splashed across Singapore’s major English-language newspaper, the Straits Times, openly debate the role foreigners play in the economy. Far from feeling welcome, expats now spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders. Employers are quietly urging them to avoid anything that might attract attention.
That’s left many wondering whether uprooting their families has been worth it. You don’t have to come to Singapore for the privilege of getting laid off. Schools fret about families packing up. And those regional offices executives are sent here to run? They need to be able to get into them.
The caricature of the European sipping a gin and tonic under a shady tree with rent and school fees taken care of, pampered by maids, is woefully out of date. Relatively few employers these days pick up the tab for housing and tuition. Relocation company staff say the glory days of the expat packages ended with the global financial crisis. With economic warfare raging between China and the U.S., and fashionable talk about the world dividing into rival blocs, is an Asian experience still the resume booster it once was? A gig here feels no more secure than one at home.
As a 10-year-old boy, the flight returning to Australia from a family vacation in Europe stopped at the old Paya Lebar airport; I remember taking in the exotic night smells and marveling at the lights of hundreds of ships anchored just offshore. As a newly minted college graduate, Singapore was my first stop on a cross-Asia trip. Living in Malaysia in the late 1990s, visits to the city-state were a balm for the haphazardness of Kuala Lumpur. I returned with a young family last year. We pay taxes, live in a middle-class neighborhood and, through our spending, try to support the economy. I hope the shatter zone of the pandemic isn’t the end of our journey together.
Microsoft will accelerate digitization of the public sector and businesses with access to local cloud services and skill a minimum of 100,000 people in Greece in digital technologies
ATHENS, Greece – October 5, 2020 – Microsoft Corp. announced today its “GR for GRowth” initiative, a significant technology commitment to support the people, government and businesses of all sizes in Greece with technology and resources to create new opportunities for growth. As part of the plan, Microsoft announced its intent to build new datacenters that will establish a Microsoft Cloud region in the country, adding Greece to the world’s largest cloud infrastructure footprint and delivering access to low-latency, enterprise-grade cloud services. To support citizens in both professional and personal ambitions, Microsoft also announced its plan to skill approximately 100,000 people in Greece in digital technologies by 2025.
Microsoft President Brad Smith made the announcement at the New Acropolis Museum alongside Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece Prime Minister, and Theodosis Michalopoulos, General Manager of Microsoft Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of Greece will position the country among the digital leaders of Europe. A Microsoft datacenter region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy. At the same time, it is a long-term investment and a vote of confidence in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling 100,000 citizens will empower today and tomorrow’s Greek workforce,” said Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“By a substantial margin, this is the largest investment Microsoft has made in Greece in the 28 years we have been operating here. In part, this reflects confidence that our world-leading datacenter technology can help enable innovation and growth across Greece’s economy. In addition, this large investment reflects our optimism about Greece’s future, its forward-leaning government, and the country’s ongoing economic recovery,” said Brad Smith, President, Microsoft.
“Microsoft has a rich 28-year history in Greece with a growing ecosystem of 3,000 partners and customers, including startups, enterprises and NGOs. Today, with plans for Microsoft’s first datacenter region in the country and the holistic ‘GR for GRowth’ plan, we are building on this work, leveling up our contribution to the country’s economy. Our commitment is to be a technology ally in driving growth, now and for the generations to come for our country,” said Theodosis Michalopoulos, General Manager of Microsoft Greece Cyprus and Malta.
Delivering the Microsoft Cloud in Greece
Today’s announcement will pave the way for local companies, startups and institutions to fully utilize the potential of cloud computing, while maintaining the highest cybersecurity, data residency and compliance standards.
The Greece datacenter region will join Microsoft’s global footprint of cloud regions, now totaling 63 regions announced, with Microsoft Azure available in over 140 countries, and will provide companies local access to Microsoft’s full set of cloud services, all built on a foundation of trust:
• Microsoft Azure: An ever-expanding set of cloud services that offers computing, networking, databases, analytics, AI and IoT services.
• Microsoft 365: The world’s productivity cloud that delivers best-of-breed productivity apps integrated through cloud services and delivered as part of an open platform for business processes.
• Dynamics 365 and Power Platform: The next generation of intelligent business applications that enable organizations to grow, evolve and transform to meet the needs of customers and capture new opportunities.
• Compliance, security and privacy: Microsoft offers more than 90 certifications and spends $1 billion every year on cybersecurity to address security at every layer of the cloud. Microsoft’s Greece datacenter region will help companies comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and will also help customers store data at rest in Greece.
• Sustainably operated: As part of Microsoft’s global commitment to be carbon negative by 2030, the company will shift to 100 percent supply of renewable energy for its datacenters by 2025.
Accelerating digital transformation and innovation
Leading companies of Greece are already using Microsoft’s cloud to ensure their seamless operation, optimize their processes and increase customer satisfaction through advanced collaboration and cloud development services. Today, we are proud to announce that Alpha Bank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece, OTE Group, Piraeus Bank, Public Power Corporation (DEI) have all expressed their intent to use the Microsoft Cloud services when available from the new region in Greece.
In addition, Microsoft’s cloud services will play a key role in creating new ways to digitally preserve, celebrate and experience the culture of Greece. As part of Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage program, the company is collaborating with the Ministry of Culture and Sports to bring the Ancient City of Olympia to life using artificial intelligence and other technologies. The immersive, 3D presentation of the monuments and artifacts will give people around the world the opportunity to experience them as they were nearly 3,000 years ago. The project has been approved by the Archaeological Council (KAS) and will be available in 2021.
Skilling Greece’s workforce of tomorrow
The final pillar of today’s announcement is Microsoft’s plan to expand employment opportunities for local professionals and youth over the next five years. Microsoft aims to boost the digital competencies of an estimated 100,000 public sector, business and IT professionals, educators, and students to support the digital transformation of public and private organizations. This ambitious goal will be achieved over the next five years, through a three-pronged skilling program that includes online and physical courses and workshops:
• The broad and dedicated upskilling of Microsoft’s customer and partner ecosystems.
• The launch of a new skilling initiative in collaboration with the government especially designed for the civil servants covering the public-sector needs of modernization and digitization.
• Expansion and further investment in the existing programs with ReGeneration focusing on youth, unemployed and underserved communities, leveraging LinkedIn Learning, MS Learn and GitHub training programs.
Microsoft’s “GR for GRowth” initiative is a significant step for Greece, with technology as a catalyst for growth, providing people and businesses the tools and expertise to thrive and innovate in the digital era
While all of us are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to forget about the world’s longest-running pandemic—cholera. Over the last 200 years the deadly diarrheal disease, which thrives in areas without safe water and sanitation, has killed millions of people. The current cholera pandemic—the world’s seventh—started in 1961, spreading from South Asia to Africa and the Americas. Every year, cholera outbreaks around the globe affect about 4 million people and lead to as many as 130,000 deaths.
An affordable, effective, and safe oral cholera vaccine, however, is proving to be a game changer in the fight against this often-forgotten disease. Thanks in large part to recent cholera vaccination campaigns, the number of cholera cases decreased globally by 60 percent in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. Though 2019 saw an increase in cases, the total number of cholera deaths fell by 36 percent.
This breakthrough has been the life’s work of Dr. Firdausi Qadri, an immunologist and infectious disease researcher in Bangladesh. For the last 25 years, Dr. Qadri has been one of the few people advocating for an affordable vaccine to protect entire communities from cholera epidemics.
While there have been several cholera vaccines since the late 19th century, they were expensive and in short supply. In the early 2000s, the main cholera vaccine available was largely used by travelers from rich countries and was not practical for use in vaccination campaigns of poor communities at risk of the disease.
In 2011, Dr. Qadri and her team at the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease and Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) led a feasibility study on a newer, more affordable oral cholera vaccine, Shanchol. The study, which was done in partnership with our foundation, showed that the inexpensive vaccine could be an effective tool in stopping the spread of cholera in poor, urban environments, giving people more than 50 percent protection against the disease.
Dr. Qadri’s study—the largest trial of its kind—helped lead to a complete change in thinking about how the world could tackle the challenge of cholera. “You can have very good water, sanitation, education, good homes and people won’t have cholera. But until that happens, you need to stop the misery. You need to control the disease,” Dr. Qadri said. “And the vaccine is a one-stop solution.”
To be sure, access to clean water and sanitation are still critically important for controlling cholera in the long-term. During the 19th century, as cholera spread around the world from its original reservoir in India, outbreaks were eventually brought under control in America and Europe through huge investments in water and sewer systems. And work continues to improve access to clean water and sanitation in low-income countries. But infrastructure improvements can be expensive and take time to build and maintain. Cholera vaccination campaigns provide an important tool to save lives immediately and buy time for communities to pursue longer-term water and sanitation solutions.
In 2013, the WHO helped create an oral cholera vaccine stockpile, to contain and prevent outbreaks. Since then, more than 60 million doses have been shipped worldwide. In addition to Shanchol, a second affordable cholera vaccine, Euvichol, is now available, helping to increase vaccine supplies. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is supporting countries to use the cholera vaccine to target cholera “hotspots”—areas at highest risk—to prevent outbreaks before they happen.
This preventive approach will be even more critical in the years ahead because climate change, urbanization, and population growth create ideal conditions for the spread of cholera. Humanitarian crises are also a breeding ground for the disease. The civil war in Yemen, for example, has led to the largest and fastest-spreading cholera outbreak in modern history, infecting millions and killing more than 3,000 people since 2016.
Still, progress is being made. In Bangladesh, the arrival in 2017 of nearly one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into overcrowded camps raised concerns about a cholera epidemic. Working with the government, Dr. Qadri led a vaccination program that has helped prevent an outbreak.
“If this vaccination was not carried out, there would be chaotic conditions,” Dr. Qadri said. “We were able to prevent a major, major epidemic and deaths.”
Successes like this have helped fuel new optimism in the fight against cholera. The Global Task Force on Cholera Control, hosted by the World Health Organization, is a partnership of more than 50 institutions all working together to end cholera. The task force’s strategy aims to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent by 2030, and eliminate cholera in 20 countries, targeting areas where the disease is endemic and shifting from outbreak response to outbreak prevention.
Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Qadri, the world is making progress toward this goal. And maybe someday cholera will be a disease that can truly be forgotten.
The mechanisms by which cells defend against many viruses remain largely unknown. Defining these mechanisms is important not only for understanding viral pathogenesis but also for informing the development of antiviral therapeutics. The concerted efforts of antiviral factors within cells are central to host cell defense. Without these factors, the cell remains defenseless against potentially harmful pathogens. Understanding how the cell defends itself is particularly important for viruses that have the potential to affect global health, such as Ebola virus (EBOV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On page 241 of this issue, Bruchez et al. (1) developed a transposon screening approach in a human osteosarcoma cell line to identify a mechanism by which CD74, previously only associated with antigen presentation, directly inhibits EBOV and SARS-CoV-2 entry into host cells.
Ebola virus cell entry Normal cellular entry (left) of Ebola virus (EBOV) involves binding to cells expressing DC-SIGN (dendritic cell–specific ICAM-3–grabbing non-integrin 1) and TIM1 (T cell immunoglobulin mucin receptor 1), macropinocytosis, and cathepsin-mediated cleavage of the viral glycoproteins. Together with NPC1 (Niemann-Pick C1), glycoprotein cleavage allows fusion with endosomal membranes and genome release into the cytoplasm. However, CIITA (class II major histocompatibility complex transactivator) up-regulates the CD74 p41 isoform, which inhibits cathepsins and prevents genome release into the cytoplasm (right). GRAPHIC: KELLIE HOLOSKI/SCIENCEViruses must gain entry into the host cell to replicate. In the case of EBOV, an enveloped virus, virions are internalized by macropinocytosis . Once virions reach endosomes, host cathepsin proteases cleave viral glycoproteins. The glycoproteins then fuse with the lysosomal membrane, which is followed by release of the viral genome into the host cell cytoplasm, where viral replication can occur (2). Thus, cathepsin-mediated cleavage is a critical step in the entry of many enveloped viruses, including EBOV, into the host cell.
Similar to EBOV, coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are enveloped viruses that undergo a series of entry steps culminating in genome release. Coronavirus entry also requires delivery of incoming viral particles to host lysosomes, where the coronavirus spike protein is cleaved by cathepsins to facilitate fusion between virus and host membranes (3, 4). However, in contrast to EBOV, SARS-CoV-2 also requires the activity of transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) to prime the viral spike protein (5). Thus, despite their differences in size and shape, EBOV and SARS-CoV-2 rely on similar proteolytic processes to gain entry into a target cell.
Bruchez et al. used a transposon screen in which transposable elements were inserted in front of or within genes. This approach allowed for tandem gene activation and inactivation in a single screen. To identify host factors involved in EBOV infection, the authors infected these cells with EBOV and identified two main “hits,” including Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1), an intracellular EBOV receptor that is required for entry, thus validating the approach (6). NPC1 is a cholesterol transporter in the lysosome and is essential for EBOV fusion of the glycoproteins with the lysosomal membrane and subsequent genome release.
Additionally, the authors found that activation of the transcription factor major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II transactivator (CIITA) inhibited EBOV infection. CIITA is a nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain–like receptor (NLR). Typically, NLRs detect pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) within the cell and trigger an intracellular antimicrobial signaling cascade leading to nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) nuclear translocation and expression of various proinflammatory cytokines. Unlike most NLRs, CIITA acts mainly as a transcription factor to promote the expression of other genes, including serving as the master regulator of MHC gene expression. MHC presents peptides from either intracellular (MHC class I) or extracellular (MHC class II) proteins to adaptive immune cells. CIITA induces the expression of MHC class II genes to initiate antigen presentation. The authors determined that expression of CIITA was specifically associated with inhibition of cell entry by EBOV, thus defining the step of the viral life cycle that CIITA inhibits (see the figure).
Bruchez et al. identified CD74 as the CIITA-controlled host factor responsible for inhibiting EBOV entry. CD74, often called the invariant chain or Ii, is enriched in immune cell populations and associates with MHC class II. It localizes to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes and facilitates MHC class II export from the ER to vesicles that fuse with the late endosome, resulting in trafficking to the cell surface (7). CD74 also blocks the peptide-binding groove so that MHC molecules do not bind peptides prior to trafficking. Thus, without CD74, MHC class II molecules are not properly processed, and antigen presentation becomes impaired.
Bruchez et al. show that the thyroglobulin domain of CD74 is required for its antiviral activity. This domain inhibits cathepsins (8). CD74 has four isoforms but only two of them, p41 and p43, have the thyroglobulin domain. The authors show that the p41 isoform is responsible for the antiviral activity of CD74 against EBOV entry and inhibits SARS-CoV-2 fusion, suggesting a broad antiviral activity of CD74 against many cathepsin-dependent viruses. These findings highlight the often shared strategies of distinct viruses that are co-opted from host cells to promote cell entry.
These findings suggest that molecules involved in antigen presentation could also possess direct antiviral activity and that other factors with defined functions may possess additional roles in antiviral immunity. CIITA activates antiviral factors that inhibit a broad range of viruses, such as human T cell leukemia virus type 2 (HTLV-2) (9), although the steps of the viral life cycle that it targets differ from those for EBOV and SARS-CoV-2. During HTLV-2 infection, CIITA acts more directly and inhibits the viral transactivator protein (TAX2), which promotes transcription of the viral genome and thus directly inhibits HTLV-2 replication (9). Some viruses have evolved mechanisms to inhibit this restriction. For example, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), an oncogenic DNA virus, encodes Zta, a protein that directly inhibits CIITA and results in down-regulation of MHC class II molecules. This potentially allows EBV to escape recognition from the immune system (10).
The identification of host factors that could be targeted therapeutically to limit the replication of broad families of viruses may be an effective approach to combat viral-mediated disease. However, the therapeutic benefits of viral entry inhibitors are likely most effective prior to the onset of symptoms and the development of disease, given that by these stages, viral particles have already gained entry into the cell and begun to efficiently replicate.
Even with an open-concept design for your home, zoning of space is necessary for some order. The key is designing partitions that do not totally cut off individual spaces but allow continuity throughout. Go for customized structures with designs that don’t look bulky or rigid, allow light to pass through and let you see through them. Make sure they look good — bear in mind overall proportion to the surroundings — and are functional too, to make the most of your space.
• Company conducted the financing entirely via Zoom, Hangouts
• Funds to support M&A with company preparing for 2021 listing
Robert Vis Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg
MessageBird said it’s raised $200 million of new funding at a valuation of $3 billion in what’s expected to be the last cash injection before an initial public offering next year.
Some of the funds will be used for acquisitions, and MessageBird still believes it will be “IPO-ready” in the first half of 2021, Chief Executive Officer Robert Vis said in an interview this week.
“We think there’s going to be considerable consolidation going forward, so part of the raise is to put us in a position to do M&A,” said Vis, who founded MessageBird in 2011. “This could be anywhere from a very small company to a very sizable one.”
The founder also said he’s been approached by what seems like “every single SPAC provider in the world,” but that the company hasn’t decided whether to stick to a traditional IPO. Investments have poured into special-purpose acquisition companies this year with several businesses, including ChargePoint Inc. and Hims Inc., announcing deals with the publicly traded takeover vehicles.
MessageBird lets companies add a few lines of code to their app or website so customers can text, email or call-in with questions. Revenue is on track to grow 50% to about 300 million euros ($353 million) this year, buoyed in part by demand from e-commerce clients moving sales and support online, and the company is “around the profitability line,” Vis said.
The Amsterdam-based company’s IPO would follow U.S. rival Twilio Inc., which is now valued at about $44.4 billion four years after it listed at a $1.23 billion market value. Twilio’s share price has roughly tripled during the Covid-19 crisis due to a surge in demand for its products by companies depending on online services like WhatsApp and Zoom to resolve consumer complaints as stores sit vacant.
Vis said the pandemic’s impact on the business hadn’t just been related to fiscal details or staffing, but also a fundamental shift in his opinions about remote working and fundraising via video conference.
“I raised this $200 million from investors I’d never met before, all on Zoom and Google Hangouts,” Vis said. “I’m excited about thinking about what this will be like during IPO.”
The round was led by San Francisco-based Spark Capital, with participation from existing investors such as Atomico, Accel and Y-Combinator. MessageBird said Spark’s General Partner Will Reed will join its board.
Vis founded MessageBird in 2011 after selling his micropayments business, Zaypay. MessageBird now has about 350 employees in 21 cities, and additional offices in Singapore, San Francisco, Sydney and Bogota.
Companies often use the illusion of scarcity to make products appear more exclusive than they are. But not these.
1 October 2020, 10:35 CEST
A McDonald’s sandwich and an Hermès handbag may sound like improbable counterparts, but the appeal of both arises from the same impulse: scarcity. That five-figure status purse is so hard to buy it’s supposedly sold only to those willing to join a waiting list; likewise, the McRib appears for a short time each fall, as if out of nowhere, sparking a frenzy among fans who resort to using an online locater to find the nearest supply.
It’s not about “good taste,” either: The appeal is an instinct hardwired into the human brain. “As things are unavailable, we’ve learned we need to fight harder to get them,” says Kelly Goldsmith, a behavioral scientist and associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University whose research focuses on scarcity. “Whether that’s bison meat when we were cave people or A grades at school when you’re marked on a curve.”
Americans, who are more acquainted with abundance, are especially susceptible. Think of supermarkets bursting with 100,000 different products or the one-click, two-day time frame it takes to have anything we want shipped straight to our home. In our brain, a lack of something triggers a stronger reaction than too much.
A cabinet of collectible curiosities.Illustration: Franco Zacharzewski
Scarcity marketing is more common in the luxury sector than anywhere else. Scoring a hard-to-find sneaker is more than a purchase—it’s an ego-boosting success, Goldsmith says. “You’re not only showing the rest of the world how special you are,” she says. “You’re showing yourself that, too.”
Economic uncertainty is likely to further burnish the appeal
of products that seem scarce, according to research by Eesha Sharma, an associate professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Thanks to the instinct dubbed compensatory consumption, she says, “if you feel like you have fewer financial resources than other people, you offset the perceived deficit by acquiring things that are unavailable to others.”
Unlike the supply of the McRib and the Birkin, which are artificially throttled, some products do exist in truly finite quantities. They might be limited because of their rarity, such as a bottle of Benedictine rescued from a sunken ship. Others require a complex manufacturing process that cannot be replicated over and over. We’ve scoured the world for 26 of them to get while you can.
From left: Scott Fraser Ripley shirt, Gold & Wood glasses, Christy Dawn dress.Source: Vendors
SCOTT FRASER SHIRTS
The British menswear designer has a personal obsession with Italian-American knitwear from the 1950s through the 1970s and estimates that he has at least 200 pieces in his closet. Fraser used those classics as starting point for a Talented Mr. Ripley-inspired collection, which is produced outside Milan by a team of four people. Each merino wool piece takes about five weeks to finish. £310 ($400)
CHRISTY DAWN DRESSES
The design team at Christy Dawn in Los Angeles relies on dead stock fabric supplier Ragfinders of California for as much as 98% of its raw materials, says Chief Executive Officer Aras Baskauskas. Bolts as short as 3 yards go toward producing one-off designs and limited runs. The origins of this approach are practical: As a startup, it couldn’t afford the minimums that most textile manufacturers mandate, and it’s since become a signature of the brand. From $198
GOLD & WOOD EYEPIECES
Ten craftspeople work in the Luxembourg atelier of this ultraluxe optician, and it can take as many as three days to produce a single pair of glasses. Collections include one called Supersonic, which incorporates shards of the wing of a decommissioned Concorde into the design. Another, Copa, comes with 23-karat gold leaf laid by craftsmen in Versailles who use fiercely guarded, proprietary techniques. From €2,014 ($2,349) per pair
DARA LAMB WOMENSWEAR
Bespoke women’s tailor Lamb relies on vintage fabrics dating to the ’80s and ’90s for many of her designs. Her fine silks, tweeds, and woolens are often from small European mills no longer in existence, using techniques that digital printing and modern looms have rendered outmoded. The silk prints, for instance, were screened on long tables with hand-mixed inks. Lamb typically only has enough scraps of these fabrics to make three unique garments at most. Handmade jackets from $3,650, silk print blouses from $995
From left: Achille Salvagni vessel,7 Hydrowood couch, Wolf Whiskers shaving brush.Source: Vendors
WOLF WHISKERS BRUSHES
Peter Wolf is a U.S. Navy vet turned artisan who now fashions handmade wooden shaving brushes in his studio in Hampton Roads, Va. Wolf works only with the finest materials, including High Mountain White badger hair for the bristles. Because he hand-turns each on a lathe, production is limited to no more than 40 such brushes each month. He offers two dozen or so standard handles but also accepts custom commissions. From $78
ACHILLE SALVAGNI GLASSWARE
Italian interior designer Salvagni stumbled on a centuries-old haul of unused pigments from the same Murano factory that design legends Napoleone Martinuzzi and Tomaso Buzzi once used. Although these archival colors often incorporated now-outlawed chemicals, Salvagni persuaded glass blowers to use them in a collection of vessels whose shades are impossible to replicate. From $8,700
LUIGI BEVILACQUA CESELLATO VELVET
Venice was once the world’s velvet-making hub, where more than 1,000 weavers specialized in the plush fabric. Today only a handful remain, including this producer who specializes in soprarizzo velvet, which combines cut and uncut pile to maximize softness and texture. Using original 18th century looms, the material is produced through such a painstaking process that no more than 12 inches in length is made daily. Price on request
When Tasmania’s Pieman River was dammed in 1986 to generate hydroelectricity, nearby forests were flooded and the timbers there submerged. An entrepreneur has begun retrieving the preserved logs from the depths, dubbing the virgin trunks “hydrowood.” An estimated five years’ worth of wood is available for salvage. Such prized finds have been used by local furniture maker Simon Ancher in one-off pieces. Custom couch from $10,000
UXUA RETALHO LAMP
Erstwhile Diesel creative director Wilbert Das ditched fashion to operate a boutique hotel in Trancoso, Brazil, where he’s returned to design. His Rural Modern furniture collection uses only material sourced from within a 5-mile radius; the Retalho lamp shade is made solely from dead stock fabrics, mostly antique linen, and takes a month to complete. He’s made eight to order so far. $850
From left: Bona Furtuna olive oil, Bizzaria oranges, Carter Cutlery knife.Source: Vendors
As a karate-obsessed teen, Murray Carter stumbled on his future profession on a trip to Japan. While there he met 16th generation bladesmith Sensei Yasuyuki Sakemoto, whose family specialized in forging samurai swords. Carter spent six years apprenticing with him before returning to the U.S. to open his workshop, where he and his team turn out a limited number of hand-forged, laminated steel knives each year. From $180
BONA FURTUNA RISERVA DI NONNA ROSA OLIVE OIL
Seagate Technology LLC Chairman Steve Luczo bought a patch of land in Corleone, Italy, in memory of his grandmother Rose, who once tended the olive trees there. Those groves now produce gourmet extra virgin olive oil, his passion project. The most rarefied edition is drawn from only nine trees, some of which are 1,500 years old. $150
Once a year, Andrew Lawson harvests honey from the hives of the botanical garden on Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly, off England’s Cornish coast. Thanks to Galapagos-like weather patterns protecting them from incursions of disease that now blight most colonies, these bees offer the ultimate organic honey treat. Lawson doesn’t sell the results commercially; he posts an alert on the garden’s social media account when a few jars are available. First come, first served. £7 per jar
The origins of this aptly named citrus fruit date to the Medici-fueled Renaissance heyday of Florence, when botanical experiments were commonplace. Bizzaria is a graft chimera in which the cells of the rootstock and cultivar end up blending, so the resulting plant displays traits of both parents—in this case, a Florentine citron and a sour orange. Once thought lost, it was rediscovered by gardener Paolo Galeotti in 1980 and is propagated in limited numbers for sale. A mere 100 plants are available for purchase each year. From €35 per plant
Four foragers. Three hours. One bee. The pompona vanilla pod is harvested by a tiny group that wades into the Peruvian Amazon to hunt down a wild-flowering alternative to the standard vanilla plant. Humans hand-pollinate most of the pompona pods, but the aptly named endangered dilemma bee does it naturally. It’s the only insect able to help the mythical plant, as it lands on the flowers when they open for three hours once a year. The resulting pods are five times larger than a standard beans and have a distinctive smoky, leathery aroma. The entire annual harvest maxes out at a couple of hundred pods. About $25 per pod
From left: Cognac Frapin 750, Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Champagne, Zwack Unicum Riserva liqueur.Source: Vendors
COGNAC FRAPIN 750
Founded in 1270, Cognac Frapin marks its 750th anniversary this year by introducing a made-to-order blend relying entirely on liquid drawn from barrels that date to the 19th century. Limited to 21 bottles, one for each generation of the family, this blend is packaged in a Baccarat decanter and a wooden box, complete with a key to lock it away from thirsty guests. $50,000 per bottle
ZWACK UNICUM RISERVA
The standard edition of Zwack is a staple herbal liqueur in Hungarian bars, made by the namesake family since 1790. A new limited-edition riserva is a pet project of the latest generation to steer the distillery, siblings Izabella and Sándor. They take ordinary unicum and age it not once but twice before adding some Tokaji wine from the cellars of Izabella’s own winery. Both bitter and fruity, the result is a whiskeylike after-dinner drink. Only 13,000 bottles are made each year. About $30
BOLLINGER VIEILLES VIGNES
In the late 19th century, phylloxera aphids ravaged the vineyards of the Old World. There were a few exceptions, though: Small patches of land proved resistant to the blight for reasons that remain unclear even now. One of them was on the Bollinger estates in Champagne, where the vines still produce limited-edition cuvées, known as vieilles vignes (“old vines”). About 2,000 bottles are produced at a time, but only in exceptional years. $1,050
Last year, OceanX recovered a stash of rare De Haartman & Co. Benedictine liqueur, originally intended for the czar of Russia, from the 1917 shipwreck S.S. Kyros. The salvage company has started selling a handful of the 900 or so bottles to ordinary buyers. A selection of cognac found in the same wreck is also available. From $7,000 per bottle