“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
―Roy T. Bennett
🦠 On the Origins of COVID
A World Health Organization (WHO) team assembled to investigate the origins of COVID-19 in the city of Wuhan were denied entry into China, the international agency said on Tuesday.
Separately, an AP investigation last week found the Chinese government is engaged in a nationwide campaign to stifle the publication of research into the virus’ origins in southern China.
🤿 A deeper dive…
The WHO has been working for nearly a year to secure approval to send a 10-person team of international experts to China with the goal of probing the animal origin of the virus and examining how it transitioned to humans.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesussaid two team members left their home countries on Monday and Tuesday after China agreed to allow their entry.
But while the scientists were en route, the WHO was notified that officials had “not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” forcing them to turn back.
What do we know so far?
COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in central Hubei province in late 2019.
Experts initially believed the virus originated in a market selling exotic animals for meat, where they suggested it made the transition from animals (likely bats) to humans.
However, the origins of the virus remain hotly contested. Some scientists now believe the market may not have been the origin, and that the virus was only amplified there.
Dr. Tedros said he had been in contact with senior Chinese officials on Tuesday to stress “that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson yesterday said China and the WHO were still negotiating details, such as when the scientists would visit the country and what their itinerary would be.
A South Korean diplomatic delegation arrived in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, to negotiate the release of a South Korean oil tanker and its 20 crew members that were seized by Iran three days earlier. Iran is claiming the tanker violated environmental regulations, which the ship’s owner has denied.
More: The move comes as Tehran demands South Korean banks release $7B in cash from Iranian oil sales that have been withheld since 2019 due to economic sanctions on Iran. Tehran denied that Monday’s tanker seizure was related to the withheld funds.
Facebook, and by proxy, Instagram, indefinitely banned President Trump’s account “for at least the next two weeks” according to a post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, spanning the remainder of Trump’s time in office (Inauguration Day is January 20).
More: Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitch, and Shopify were among the other tech platforms to enact a ban on Trump’s account or implement other restrictions related to Wednesday’s riot.
💸 Boeing’s Fine Print
Boeing agreed yesterday to pay a $2.5B fine to settle a criminal probe with the Department of Justice into its 737 MAX airplane that was involved in two crashes claiming 346 lives (in Oct. 2018 & March 2019). As part of the settlement, the airline giant admitted it “deceived” the FAA about the capabilities of a flight-control system that was later implicated in the two crashes.
Separately… DOJ officials said the electronic filing system used by federal courts was likely compromised in the massive cyberattack that breached several government agencies (including access to non-public court documents).
💰 Rich Switch
Tesla CEO Elon Musk overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos yesterday to become the richest person in the world, according to some sources. Per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk’s net worth totaled $195B Thursday evening, roughly $10B higher than Bezos, after shares of Tesla rose 8% on the day. However, according to Forbes Real Time Billionaires, Bezos still held a ~$7B lead after market close Thursday.
More: Musk’s net worth was ~$27B at the beginning of 2020.
🍩 DONUT Holes
Fintech startup SoFiannounced plans to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company backed by investor Chamath Palihapitiya.
The price of Bitcoinrose above $40K for the first time yesterday, ending the day at ~$38.5K. The crypto market cap also rose above $1 trillion for the first time.
Robloxclosed a $520M round of funding valuing the company at $29.5B; announced plans to go public via direct listing rather than a traditional IPO.
After being introduced to the magical world of Harry Potter, Katelyn Suter’s 7-year-old niece Emrie – who was born blind and began reading in braille at age four – was eager to get her hands on a set of the books designed for vision-impaired readers.
“Unfortunately, we soon discovered that the Harry Potter books in braille are extremely expensive and not very accessible,” Katelyn wrote on GoFundMe, where she launched a campaign to buy one of the popular novels for her niece.
Katelyn’s GoFundMe campaign ultimately raised more than $4,000, enough for the accommodating aunt to buy five full sets of braille Harry Potter books – one for her niece and four to donate to local libraries.
Keith Walker, a 53-year-old Atlanta man who has been homeless since age 13, risked his life to save six dogs and 10 cats trapped inside a burning animal shelter.
Julia Fetherman, a 24-year-old from Connecticut whose brother experiences autism and ADHD, developed an app called Making Authentic Friendships, which helps teenagers and adults with special needs meet and connect with one another.
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📺 Against the Stream… a group of former Disney and Discovery execs are launching Struum, a new streaming service that aims to apply the ClassPass model to the current streaming landscape (the result: you only pay for the content you want).