“Six or seven weeks later, the ships come in all at once,” Mr. Lynch said. “That doesn’t help.”

Early this year, as shipping prices spiked and containers became scarce, the trouble was widely viewed as the momentary result of pandemic lockdowns. With schools and offices shut, Americans were stocking up on home office gear and equipment for basement gyms, drawing heavily on factories in Asia. Once life reopened, global shipping was supposed to return to normal.

But half a year later, the congestion is worse, with nearly 13 percent of the world’s cargo shipping capacity tied up by delays, according to data compiled by Sea-Intelligence, an industry research firm in Denmark.

Many businesses now assume that the pandemic has fundamentally altered commercial life in permanent ways. Those who might never have shopped for groceries or clothing online — especially older people — have gotten a taste of the convenience, forced to adjust to a lethal virus. Many are likely to retain the habit, maintaining pressure on the supply chain.

“Before the pandemic, could we have imagined mom and dad pointing and clicking to buy a piece of furniture?” said Ruel Joyner, owner of 24E Design Co., a boutique furniture outlet that occupies a brick storefront in Savannah’s graceful historic district. His online sales have tripled over the past year.

On top of those changes in behavior, the supply chain disruption has imposed new frictions.

Mr. Joyner, 46, designs his furniture in Savannah while relying on factories from China and India to manufacture many of his wares. The upheaval on the seas has slowed deliveries, limiting his sales.

He pointed to a brown leather recliner made for him in Dallas. The factory is struggling to secure the reclining mechanism from its supplier in China.

“Where we were getting stuff in 30 days, they are now telling us six months,” Mr. Joyner said. Customers are calling to complain.

His experience also underscores how the shortages and delays have become a source of concern about fair competition. Giant retailers like Target and Home Depot have responded by stockpiling goods in warehouses and, in some cases, chartering their own ships. These options are not available to the average small business.

Bottlenecks have a way of causing more bottlenecks. As many companies have ordered extra and earlier, especially as they prepare for the all-consuming holiday season, warehouses have become jammed. So containers have piled up at the Port of Savannah.

Mr. Lynch’s team — normally focused on its own facilities — has devoted time to scouring unused warehouse spaces inland, seeking to provide customers with alternative channels for their cargo.

Recently, a major retailer completely filled its 3 million square feet of local warehouse space. With its containers piling up in the yard, port staff worked to ship the cargo by rail to Charlotte, N.C., where the retailer had more space.

Such creativity may provide a modicum of relief, but the demands on the port are only intensifying.

On a muggy afternoon in late September, Christmas suddenly felt close at hand. The containers stacked on the riverbanks were surely full of holiday decorations, baking sheets, gifts and other material for the greatest wave of consumption on earth.

Will they get to stores in time?

“That’s the question everyone is asking,” Mr. Lynch said. “I think that’s a very tough question.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Moderna, Racing for Profits, Keeps Covid Vaccine Out of Reach of Poor

Moderna’s market value has nearly tripled this year to more than $120 billion. Two of its founders, as well as an early investor, this month made Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in the United States.

As the coronavirus spread in early 2020, Moderna raced to design its vaccine — which uses a new technology known as messenger RNA — and to plan a safety study. To manufacture the doses for that trial, the company received $900,000 from the nonprofit Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

The nonprofit group said Moderna had agreed to its “equitable access principles.” That meant, according to the coalition, that the vaccine would be “first available to populations when and where they are needed and at prices that are affordable to the populations at risk, especially low- and middle-income countries or to public sector entities that procure on their behalf.”

Moderna agreed in May to provide up to 34 million vaccine doses this year, plus up to 466 million doses in 2022, to Covax, the struggling United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world’s poor. The company has not yet shipped any of those doses, according to a Covax spokesman, although Covax has distributed tens of millions of Moderna doses donated by the United States.

Mr. Bancel said that many more doses would have gone to Covax this year had the two parties reached a supply deal in 2020. Aurélia Nguyen, a Covax official, denied that, saying, “It became clear early on that the best we could expect was minimal doses in 2021.”

Late last year, the Tunisian government was hoping to order Moderna doses. Dr. Hechmi Louzir, who led Tunisia’s vaccine procurement efforts, didn’t know how to contact Moderna to begin talks and asked the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia for help, he said. Officials there contacted Moderna, he said, but nothing came of it.

“We were very interested in Moderna,” Dr. Louzir said. “We tried.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Thomas H. Lee Partners Acquires House of Design

NAMPA, Idaho & BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (“THL”), a premier private equity firm investing in growth companies, announced today that it has acquired a majority interest in House of Design LLC (the “Company”), a leading provider of robotic automation systems and software for the residential construction market. THL’s investment will strengthen House of Design’s existing capabilities and provide capital and resources for future growth investments. House of Design’s co-founders will hold minority positions in the Company. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2012 and based in Nampa, Idaho, House of Design is a leading provider of automated solutions for the building components and residential offsite construction industries. The Company designs and engineers robotic systems that increase component manufacturers’ production output and capacity while reducing the challenges of labor shortages. Proprietary software makes House of Design’s system the only fully automated system that can produce complex variable trusses and wall panels without robot retraining or resetting.

THL’s investment in House of Design will accelerate the Company’s ability to build upon its leading robotic technology and software platform and accelerate new product innovation for its customers.

“Our partnership with THL is a monumental milestone for the Company,” said Shane Dittrich and Ryan Okelberry, Co-Founders of House of Design. “THL brings the expertise and sophistication needed to reach the next stage in our Company’s growth, and we have a shared vision for how to get there. We are excited to partner with THL and leverage their deep automation expertise and financial and operational resources to fuel House of Design’s growth strategy.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the House of Design team,” said Mike Kaczmarek, Managing Director at THL. “Persistent labor scarcity in the construction industry is driving greater need for automated solutions, and House of Design’s offerings help address labor shortage and worker safety challenges while providing an attractive ROI to the customer. THL is excited to support House of Design in continuously growing and innovating its product offerings to help customers increase production throughput and revenue.”

Stifel acted as financial advisor, Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as legal advisor and PwC acted as accounting and tax advisor to THL. PEAK Technology Partners, a San Francisco based investment bank, acted as the exclusive financial advisor and Stoel Rives acted as legal advisor to House of Design.

About House of Design

House of Design has established itself as a thought leader and premier provider of robotic solutions, dynamic software applications, and system integration services. Through a multitude of successful automation projects across varied industries, House of Design is recognized as an innovative, collaborative partner committed to the success of the clients it serves.

Founded in 2012 by two engineers, House of Design has grown to 100+ employees and one of the largest robotic integrators in the West. Over the last ten years House of Design has been recognized nationally for its innovation in the robotics industry and as a small business leader in Idaho. The company’s vision is to ensure that execution matches strategy, emerging opportunities are captured, and team members grow, prosper and their work changes the world.

For more information, please visit www.thehouseofdesign.com.

About Thomas H. Lee Partners

Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (“THL”) is a premier private equity firm investing in middle market growth companies exclusively in three sectors: Financial Services, Healthcare and Technology & Business Solutions. THL couples deep sector expertise with dedicated internal operating resources to transform and build great companies of lasting value in partnership with management. The Firm’s domain expertise and resources help to build great companies with an aim to accelerate growth, improve operations and drive long-term sustainable value. Since 1974, THL has raised more than $30 billion of equity capital, invested in over 160 companies and completed more than 500 add-on acquisitions representing an aggregate enterprise value at acquisition of over $210 billion. THL invests in automation companies through its flagship private equity fund and a dedicated automation fund. For more information, please visit www.thl.com.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

James Hardie Earns Distinguished David Weekley Homes’ 2021 Award

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–James Hardie Industries plc (ASX: JHX; NYSE: JHX), the world’s #1 producer and marketer of high-performance fiber cement and fiber gypsum building solutions, received a David Weekley Homes National Preferred Partner Award for outstanding quality and customer service.

James Hardie empowers homeowners and building professionals alike to achieve the home of their dreams through endless design possibilities with the added benefits of trusted protection and lasting beauty. The company delivers the highest quality products and world-class service.

The award recognizes field and manufacturing partners that have consistently operated at world-class levels, as determined by the home builder’s supplier evaluation platform. This comprehensive process, anchored by the National Preferred Partner Survey, evaluates companies in the areas of quality and customer service.

James Hardie and David Weekley Homes partner together to meet homebuyer design, durability and quality expectations. This award exemplifies and reinforces James Hardie’s commitment to homeowner satisfaction.

“David Weekley Homes is a valued partner who continues to motivate us to provide the best possible experience for customers,” said Sean Gadd, Executive Vice President, North America Commercial.

Johnny Cope, Senior Vice President, North America Sales, added, “At James Hardie, we strive to make any dream home possible not only with a variety of colors and textures, but with durable, long-lasting fiber cement technology that holds up over time and delivers the value homeowners deserve.”

“James Hardie has demonstrated world-class quality and service this year. They have gone above and beyond to provide us with the solutions needed to surpass the expectations of our homebuyers. It is our honor to name James Hardie as a National Preferred Partner,” said John Schiegg, Vice President of Supply Chain Services for David Weekley Homes.

To learn more about James Hardie, visit jameshardie.com. For more information about the award, visit davidweekleyhomes.com.

About James Hardie Building Products Inc.

James Hardie Industries is the world’s #1 producer and marketer of high-performance fiber cement and fiber gypsum building solutions. The company empowers homeowners and building professionals alike to achieve the home of their dreams with premium quality solutions that enable endless possibilities for design and aesthetics, while also delivering trusted protection and long-lasting beauty. Key to this effort is James Hardie’s dedication to its customers, market driven innovation, an inclusive and empowering company culture, and an unwavering commitment to its Zero Harm safety initiative. For more information about James Hardie visit www.jameshardie.com.

About David Weekley Homes

David Weekley Homes, founded in 1976, is headquartered in Houston and operates in 19 cities across the United States. David Weekley Homes was the first builder in the United States to be awarded the Triple Crown of American Home Building, an honor which includes “America’s Best Builder,” “National Housing Quality Award” and “National Builder of the Year.” Weekley has also appeared 15 times on FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®” list. Since inception, David Weekley Homes has closed more than 100,000 homes. For more information about David Weekley Homes, visit the company’s website at www.davidweekleyhomes.com.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?

Some of the animatronics at Disney’s parks have been doing their herky-jerky thing since the Nixon administration. The company knows that nostalgia won’t cut it with today’s children.


GLENDALE, Calif. — I was en route to meet Groot.

Not an imitation Groot conjured with video or those clunky virtual reality goggles. The Walt Disney Company’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us.

But first I had to find him. GPS had guided me to a warehouse on a dead-end street in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. The place seemed deserted. As soon as I parked, however, a man warily appeared from behind a jacaranda tree. Yes, I had an appointment. No, I was not hiding any recording devices. He made a phone call, and I was escorted into the warehouse through an unmarked door behind a dumpster.

In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.

It was Groot.

He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself.

audio-animatronics,” his word for mechanical figures with choreographed movements. There were endlessly harmonizing Small World dolls, marauding Caribbean pirates (“yo-ho!”), Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. The technology was a runaway hit, mesmerizing generations of children and helping to turn Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida into cultural touchstones and colossal businesses.

Disney’s 14 theme parks around the world attracted 156 million visitors in 2019, and the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products division generated $26 billion in revenue. The coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted operations for a year, but the masses have returned. The wait to get on the swaying Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Disney World on a recent day was two hours and 10 minutes — Delta variant, be darned.

Roblox online gaming universe and augmented reality Snapchat filters. Cars are driving themselves, and SpaceX rockets are autonomously landing on drone ships.

How are the rudimentary animatronic birds in Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room supposed to compete? They dazzled in 1963. Today, some people fall asleep.

“We think a lot about relevancy,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in April during a virtual event to promote the opening of an interactive Spider-Man ride and immersive “land” dedicated to Marvel’s Avengers. “We have an obligation to our fans, to our guests, to continue to evolve, to continue to create experiences that look new and different and pull them in. To make sure the experience is fresh and relevant.

“And all of that is risk,” Mr. D’Amaro acknowledged. “There is legacy here. People like the way things are. But we’re going to keep pushing, keep making it better.”

Wicked Witch of the West that flailed its arms and shifted its body with remarkable speed and precision.

More recently, Disney has introduced robot characters that seem to talk to guests (Mr. Potato Head, 2008). Others move with such elegance that some visitors mistake them for video projections (an “Avatar” shaman, 2017).

Disney attractions have always required the suspension of disbelief: Those are real flying galleons in Peter Pan’s Flight, not plastic ride vehicles on a rail. But advances in movie imagery — computer-generated animation, the blending of live-action footage with elaborate digital effects — have put pressure on Disney to make its robots more convincing.

“You know how Elsa moves,” said Kathryn Yancey, an Imagineering show mechanical engineer, referring to the “Frozen” princess. “Kids have watched the movie over and over, maybe even in the car that morning. So our animatronic Elsa also has to be fast and lyrical. She can’t be lumbering.”

WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, features a “stuntronic” robot (outfitted in Spidey spandex) that performs elaborate aerial tricks, just like a stunt person. A catapult hurls the untethered machine 65 feet into the air, where it completes various feats (somersaults in one pass, an “epic flail” in another) while autonomously adjusting its trajectory to land in a hidden net.

“It’s thrilling because it can be hard to tell whether it’s a robot or a person — the stuntronic Spider-Man, it’s that good,” Wade Heath said as he joined the line to re-ride WEB Slingers in early August. Mr. Heath, 32, a recruiter for Pinkerton, the security company, described himself as “a major Disney nerd” who has, at times, been surprised that the company’s parks have not evolved faster.

three years to develop. Disney declined to discuss the cost of the stuntronics endeavor, but the company easily invested millions of dollars. Now that the technology has been perfected, Disney plans to roll it out at other parks. WEB Slingers, for instance, has been greenlighted for Disneyland Paris.

Bob Weis, who leads Disney’s 1,000-plus member Imagineering division. In the beginning, it was just an expensive research project with no clear outcome.

“It’s not easy to prove return on investment for never-considered-possible inventions,” Mr. Weis said. “Our longstanding history of creating experiences that completely wow guests — for them to suspend disbelief and live in that moment — has paved the way for acceptance of this inherent risk.”

But budgets are not endless. “We have to be discerning because, as you can imagine, we have plenty of amazing ideas, capabilities and stories,” Mr. Weis added.

Boston Dynamics, where he contributed to an early version of Atlas, a running and jumping machine that inspires “how did they do that” amazement — followed by dystopian dread.

Baby Yoda and swinging ones like Spider-Man — that are challenging to bring to life in a realistic way, especially outdoors.

About 6,000 animatronics are in use at Disney parks worldwide, and almost all are bolted to the floor inside ride buildings. It’s part of the magic trick: By controlling the lighting and sight angles, Disney can make its animatronics seem more alive. For a long time, however, Disney has been enamored with robotics as an opportunity to make the walkways between rides more thrilling.

“We want to create incredible experiences outside of a show box,” said Leslie Evans, a senior Imagineering executive, referring to ride buildings. “To me, that’s going to be next level. These aren’t just parks. They are inhabited places.”

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, unveiled in 2019, asks groups of riders to work together to steer the ship. The ride’s queuing area features an impressive Hondo Ohnaka animatronic. (He’s a miscreant from the “Clone Wars” animated series.)

In 2003, Disney tested a free-roving animatronic dinosaur named Lucky; he pulled a flower cart, which concealed a puppeteer. In 2007, the company experimented with wireless animatronic Muppets that rode around in a remote-controlled vehicle and chatted with guests. (A technician operated the rig from afar.) Lucky and the Muppet Mobile Lab have since been retired.

play test” stage — a short, low-profile dry run at a theme park to gather guest feedback. Disney declined to say when or where.

Richard-Alexandre Peloquin was also towering in the air, except his lower body was ensconced in a contraption/costume that gave him legs the size of oil barrels and feet that resembled those of a Wampa, a furry “Star Wars” ice beast.

Asya Cara Peña, a ride development engineer, piped up with a rudimentary explanation. They were developing a full-body exoskeleton that could be applied to a wide variety of oversize characters — and that counteracted the force of gravity. Because of safety concerns, not to mention endurance, the weight of such hulking costumes (more than 40 pounds) could not rest entirely or even mostly on a puppeteer’s shoulders. Instead, it needed to be redirected to the ground.

“But it also needs to look natural and believable,” Ms. Peña said. “And it has to be something that different performers of different body types with different gaits can slip into with identical results.”

Just then, Mr. Becker began to sway unsteadily. “Whoa! Be careful!” Ms. Peña shouted, rushing to help him sit down on an elevated chair.

“We still have a long way to go,” Mr. Becker said a bit sheepishly. “The challenge is to not just have a big idea, but to get it all the way to the park.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Covid Variant Adds to Worker Anxieties

For much of the pandemic, Amazon has offered free on-site Covid testing for employees. It incorporated a variety of design features into warehouses to promote social distancing. But a worker at an Amazon warehouse in Oregon, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said there had been a gradual reduction in safety features, like the removal of physical barriers to enforce social distancing.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said that the company had removed barriers in some parts of warehouses where workers don’t spend much time in proximity, but that it had kept up distancing measures in other areas, like break rooms.

“We’re continuously evaluating the temporary measures we implemented in response to Covid-19 and making adjustments in alignment with public health authority guidance,” Ms. Nantel said. She added that the company would “begin ramping down our U.S. testing operations by July 30, 2021.”

At REI, the outdoor equipment and apparel retailer, four workers in different parts of the country, who asked not to be named for fear of workplace repercussions, complained that the company had recently enacted a potentially more punitive attendance policy it had planned to put in place just before the pandemic. Under the policy, part-time workers who use more than their allotted sick days are subject to discipline up to termination if the absences are unexcused. The workers also said they were concerned that many stores — after restricting capacity until this spring — had become more and more crowded.

Halley Knigge, a spokeswoman for REI, said that under its new policies the company allowed part-time workers to accrue sick leave for the first time and that the disciplinary policy was not substantively new but merely reworded. The stores, she added, continue to restrict occupancy to no more than 50 percent capacity, as they have since June 2020.

Workers elsewhere in the retail industry also complained about the growing crowds and difficulty of distancing inside stores like supermarkets. Karyn Johnson-Dorsey, a personal shopper from Riverside, Calif., who finds work on Instacart but also has her own roster of clients, said it had been increasingly difficult to maintain a safe distance from unmasked customers since the state eased masking and capacity restrictions in mid-June.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Invitation Homes & PulteGroup Form Strategic Relationship For Purchase Of Approximately 7,500 New Homes

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Invitation Homes Inc. (NYSE: INVH)(“Invitation Homes” or the “Company”) , the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, and PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), the nation’s third largest homebuilder, announced today the formation of an innovative strategic relationship. As part of this relationship, Invitation Homes expects to purchase approximately 7,500 new homes over the next five years that PulteGroup will design and build expressly for this purpose.

The companies have already reached agreement on the construction and sale of over 1,000 homes across seven communities over the next several years, with the first sales expected to close in 2022. Initial projects are scheduled for delivery in Florida, Georgia, Southern California, North Carolina and Texas.

At Invitation Homes, we’re committed to serving the growing share of Americans who are opting not to buy a house by providing high-quality homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools,” said Dallas Tanner, President and CEO of Invitation Homes. “We’re thrilled that this strategic relationship with PulteGroup further strengthens that commitment while also enhancing our multichannel acquisition approach to growth.”

We have been evaluating potential structures for participating in the single-family rental market that would seek to capitalize on our strengths in community development and new-home construction while delivering high returns,” said Ryan Marshall, PulteGroup President and CEO. “We are excited to be working with an industry leader in Invitation Homes, and believe this relationship will allow us to increase our scale in our existing markets, make investing in larger land parcels more practical, and generate attractive risk adjusted returns.”

About Invitation Homes

Invitation Homes is the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, meeting changing lifestyle demands by providing access to high-quality, updated homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools. The company’s mission, “Together with you, we make a house a home,” reflects its commitment to providing homes where individuals and families can thrive and high-touch service that continuously enhances residents’ living experiences.

About PulteGroup

PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in more than 40 markets throughout the country. Through its brand portfolio that includes Centex, Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta Homes, American West and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, the company is one of the industry’s most versatile homebuilders able to meet the needs of multiple buyer groups and respond to changing consumer demand. PulteGroup’s purpose is building incredible places where people can live their dreams.

For more information about PulteGroup, Inc. and PulteGroup brands, go to pultegroup.com; www.pulte.com; www.centex.com; www.delwebb.com; www.divosta.com; www.jwhomes.com; and www.americanwesthomes.com. Follow PulteGroup, Inc. on Twitter: @PulteGroupNews.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), which include, but are not limited to, statements related to the Company’s expectations regarding the performance of the Company’s business, its financial results, its liquidity and capital resources, and other non-historical statements. In some cases, you can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “guidance,” “believes,” “expects,” “potential,” “continues,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “seeks,” “projects,” “predicts,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including, among others, risks inherent to the single-family rental industry and the Company’s business model, macroeconomic factors beyond the Company’s control, competition in identifying and acquiring properties, competition in the leasing market for quality residents, increasing property taxes, homeowners’ association (“HOA”) fees, and insurance costs, the Company’s dependence on third parties for key services, risks related to the evaluation of properties, poor resident selection and defaults and non-renewals by the Company’s residents, performance of the Company’s information technology systems, risks related to the Company’s indebtedness, and risks related to the potential negative impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, business, associates, and residents. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. Moreover, many of these factors have been heightened as a result of the ongoing and numerous adverse impacts of COVID-19. The Company believes these factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Part I. Item 1A. “Risk Factors” of the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, and in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2021, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), as such factors may be updated from time to time in the Company’s periodic filings with the SEC, which are accessible on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. These factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read in conjunction with the other cautionary statements that are included in this release and in the Company’s other periodic filings. The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release, and the Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except to the extent otherwise required by law.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

American Campus Communities Leads Student Housing Industry with Four Innovator Awards at Annual InterFace Conference

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–American Campus Communities (NYSE: ACC), the nation’s largest student housing company, has once again been recognized in multiple award categories of Student Housing Business Magazine’s InterFace Conference Innovator Awards.

The Innovator Awards are given to student housing owners, developers, operators, architecture firms and universities for excellence in student housing development, marketing and operations. More than 100 industry experts judged on more than 140 entries in this year’s contest. This was the largest number of submissions to date.

ACC has been honored with the following on-campus awards for 2021:

“It’s an honor to be recognized alongside our innovative university partners for two communities, Manzanita Square and the UIC Academic and Residential Complex, that go above and beyond to create environments conducive to academic success and personal well-being for our students,” said Bill Bayless, CEO at ACC. “Our ACC team members across the country have remained focused on fulfilling our mission of putting students first and creating a place where they love living.”

Bayless gave the keynote address at the conference on Wednesday, July 14th at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas. In total, ACC has been awarded 43 SHB Innovator Awards since 2013.

About American Campus Communities

American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of March 31, 2021, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 207 properties with approximately 142,400 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

In addition to historical information, this press release contains forward-looking statements under the applicable federal securities law. These statements are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions regarding markets in which American Campus Communities, Inc. (the “company”) operates, operational strategies, anticipated events and trends, the economy, and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. These risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward looking-statements include those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, about which there are still many unknowns, including the duration of the pandemic and the extent of its impact, and those discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020 under the heading “Risk Factors” and under the heading “Business – Forward-looking Statements” and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, including our preleasing activity or expected full year 2021 operating results, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Soviets Once Denied a Deadly Anthrax Lab Leak. U.S. Scientists Backed the Story.

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Patients with unexplained pneumonias started showing up at hospitals; within days, dozens were dead. The secret police seized doctors’ records and ordered them to keep silent. American spies picked up clues about a lab leak, but the local authorities had a more mundane explanation: contaminated meat.

It took more than a decade for the truth to come out.

In April and May 1979, at least 66 people died after airborne anthrax bacteria emerged from a military lab in the Soviet Union. But leading American scientists voiced confidence in the Soviets’ claim that the pathogen had jumped from animals to humans. Only after a full-fledged investigation in the 1990s did one of those scientists confirm the earlier suspicions: The accident in what is now the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg was a lab leak, one of the deadliest ever documented.

Nowadays, some of the victims’ graves appear abandoned, their names worn off their metal plates in the back of a cemetery on the outskirts of town, where they were buried in coffins with an agricultural disinfectant. But the story of the accident that took their lives, and the cover-up that hid it, has renewed relevance as scientists search for the origins of Covid-19.

Joshua Lederberg, the Nobel-winning American biologist, wrote in a memo after a fact-finding trip to Moscow in 1986. “The current Soviet account is very likely to be true.”

Many scientists believe that the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic evolved in animals and jumped at some point to humans. But scientists are also calling for deeper investigation of the possibility of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

There is also widespread concern that the Chinese government — which, like the Soviet government decades before it, dismisses the possibility of a lab leak — is not providing international investigators with access and data that could shed light on the pandemic’s origins.

“We all have a common interest in finding out if it was due to a laboratory accident,” Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist, said in an interview this month from Cambridge, Mass., referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “Maybe it was a kind of accident that our present guidelines don’t protect against adequately.”

could have been linked to a military facility nearby. Six years later, he wrote that the Soviet explanation of the epidemic’s natural origins was “plausible.” The evidence the Soviets provided was consistent, he said, with the theory that people had been stricken by intestinal anthrax that originated in contaminated bone meal used as animal feed.

Then, in 1992, after the Soviet Union collapsed, President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia acknowledged “our military development was the cause” of the anthrax outbreak.

Dr. Meselson and his wife, the medical anthropologist Jeanne Guillemin, came to Yekaterinburg with other American experts for a painstaking study. They documented how a northeasterly wind on April 2, 1979, must have scattered as little as a few milligrams of anthrax spores accidentally released from the factory across a narrow zone extending at least 30 miles downwind.

“You can concoct a completely crazy story and make it plausible by the way you design it,” Dr. Meselson said, explaining why the Soviets had succeeded in dispelling suspicions about a lab leak.

In Sverdlovsk, as Yekaterinburg was known in Soviet times, those suspicions appeared as soon as people started falling mysteriously ill, according to interviews this month with residents who remember those days.

Raisa Smirnova, then a 32-year-old worker at a ceramics factory nearby, says she had friends at the mysterious compound who used their special privileges to help her procure otherwise hard-to-find oranges and canned meat. She also heard that there was some sort of secret work on germs being done there, and local rumors would attribute occasional disease outbreaks to the lab.

symptoms of low blood oxygen levels.

She was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and, she says, spent a week there unconscious. By May, some 18 of her co-workers had died. Before she was allowed to go home, K.G.B. agents took her a document to sign, prohibiting her from talking about the events for 25 years.

At Sverdlovsk’s epidemiological service, the epidemiologist Viktor Romanenko was a foot soldier in the cover-up. He says he knew immediately that the disease outbreak striking the city could not be intestinal, food-borne anthrax as the senior health authorities claimed. The pattern and timing of the cases’ distribution showed that the source was airborne and a one-time event.

“We all understood that this was utter nonsense,” said Dr. Romanenko, who went on to become a senior regional health official in post-Soviet times.

But in a Communist state, he had no choice but to go along with the charade, and he and his colleagues spent months seizing and testing meat. K.G.B. agents descended on his office and took away medical records. The Soviet Union had signed a treaty banning biological weapons, and national interests were at stake.

“There was an understanding that we had to get as far away as possible from the biological-weapons theory,” Dr. Romanenko recalled. “The task was to defend the honor of the country.”

There were even jitters at the Evening Sverdlovsk, a local newspaper. A correspondent from The New York Times called the newsroom as the outbreak unfolded, recalls a journalist there at the time, Aleksandr Pashkov. The editor in chief told the staff to stop answering long-distance calls, lest anyone go off-message if the correspondent called again.

“He who can keep a secret comes out on top,” Mr. Pashkov said.

As the Soviet Union crumbled, so did its ability to keep secrets. For a 1992 documentary, Mr. Pashkov tracked down a retired counterintelligence officer in Ukraine — now a different country — who had worked in Sverdlovsk at the time. Telephone intercepts at the military lab, the officer said, revealed that a technician had forgotten to replace a safety filter.

Soon, Mr. Yeltsin — who himself was part of the cover-up as the top Communist official in the region in 1979 — admitted that the military was to blame.

“You need to understand one simple thing,” Mr. Pashkov said. “Why did all this become known? The collapse of the Union.”

The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Meselson and Dr. Guillemin visited Yekaterinburg several times in the 1990s to document the leak. Interviewing survivors, they plotted the victims’ whereabouts and investigated weather records, finding that Dr. Meselson and others had been wrong to give credence to the Soviet narrative.

Dr. Meselson said that when he contacted a Russian official in the early 1990s about reinvestigating the outbreak, the response was, “Why take skeletons out of the closet?”

But he said that determining the origins of epidemics becomes more critical when geopolitics are involved. Had he and his colleagues not proved the cause of the outbreak back then, he said, the matter might still be an irritant in the relationship between Russia and the West.

The same goes for the investigation into the source of Covid-19, Dr. Meselson said. As long as the pandemic’s source remains a matter of suspicion, he said, the question will continue to raise tensions with China, more so than if the truth were known.

“There’s a huge difference between people who are still trying to prove a point against emotional opposition and people who can look back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I was right,’” Dr. Meselson said. “One of them fuels wars. The other is history. We need to get all these things solved. We need history, we don’t need all this emotion.”

Unlike Covid-19, anthrax does not easily pass from human to human, which is why the Sverdlovsk lab leak did not cause a broader epidemic. Even the Sverdlovsk case, however, has not been fully solved. It remains unclear whether the secret activity at the factory was illegal biological weapons development — which the Soviet Union is known to have performed — or vaccine research.

Under President Vladimir V. Putin, revealing Russian historical shortcomings has increasingly been deemed unpatriotic. With the government mum on what exactly happened, a different theory has gained currency: Perhaps it was Western agents who deliberately released anthrax spores to undermine the Communist regime.

“The concept of truth, in fact, is very complicated,” said Lev Grinberg, a Yekaterinburg pathologist who secretly preserved evidence of the true nature of the outbreak in 1979. “Those who don’t want to accept the truth will always find ways not to accept it.”

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

John Cena Apologizes to China for Calling Taiwan a Country

John Cena, the professional wrestler and a star of “F9,” the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, apologized to fans in China on Tuesday after he referred to Taiwan as a country while giving a promotional interview.

Joining a long list of celebrities and companies that have profusely apologized after taking an errant step through China’s political minefields, Mr. Cena posted a video apology in Mandarin on Weibo, a Chinese social network.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, to be a breakaway province and claims it as part of China. Referring to it as a country is often an offensive assertion in China, where matters of sovereignty and territory are passionate issues driven by a strong sense of nationalism.

Mr. Cena apologized for a statement he made in an interview with the Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS. In it, he told the reporter in Mandarin, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch” the film.

Xinjiang, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong or the status of Taiwan and Tibet.

a fierce backlash when Daryl Morey, then the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protests in 2019. (LeBron James, one of basketball’s biggest stars, offered a China-friendly response, saying Mr. Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand” by supporting the protesters.)

Movie studios often preemptively ensure their content won’t run afoul of Chinese censors, a practice once mocked by “South Park.”

But quite often, the political problems arise in cases where a company appeared to have no idea it was accidentally crossing a line.

That list would include Gap, which in 2018 created a T-shirt that omitted Taiwan, parts of Tibet and islands in the South China Sea from a map of China on the shirt’s design. The luxury brands Versace, Givenchy and Coach said in 2019 they all made mistakes when they produced T-shirts that identified Hong Kong and Macau as countries.

“Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,” the company said in a statement at the time.

China ordered 36 airlines to remove references to Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as separate countries on their websites in 2018, a step the Trump administration dismissed as “Orwellian nonsense.”

That year, Marriott clarified on its Weibo account that it “will absolutely not support any separatist organization that will undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” after a customer survey listed the territories as separate countries.

Mercedes-Benz Instagram account quoted the Dalai Lama, whom many in China view as a dangerous separatist advocating Tibetan independence.

The release of “F9” was delayed for a year during the coronavirus pandemic. It drew an estimated $162 million in tickets in eight international markets, including China and South Korea, over the weekend. As the newest film in a hugely successful series, “F9” is seen by Hollywood as the kind of blockbuster needed to draw people back to theaters.

Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting from Taipei, and Claire Fu from Beijing.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<