embraced by many in the tech industry. “This is what happens when you work to change things,” she said in a TV interview. “First they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world.”

In the years since Theranos collapsed, more tech start-ups have followed its strategy of looking outside the small network of Sand Hill Road venture capital firms for funding. Start-ups are raising more money at higher valuations, and deal-making has accelerated. Mutual funds, hedge funds, family offices, private equity funds and megafunds like SoftBank’s Vision Fund have rushed to back them.

Mr. Salehizadeh said Silicon Valley’s shift to a focus on fund-raising over all else was one reason he had left to set up a private equity firm on the East Coast. The big money brought more glitz to tech start-ups, he said, but it had little basis in business fundamentals.

“You’re always left feeling like either you’re an idiot or you’re brilliant,” he said. “It’s a tough way to be an investor.”

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Digital Currency Group and Jamestown Partner to Bring One Times Square to the Decentraland Metaverse

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Digital Currency Group (DCG), the most active investor in the blockchain and digital assets industry, and global real estate firm Jamestown today announced a joint partnership to recreate One Time Square in Decentraland, the leading decentralized virtual world.

DCG is one of the largest owners of digital real estate (“LAND”) in Decentraland. Jamestown is the owner of One Times Square, which is the site of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop Celebration.

Simon Koster, DCG’s Head of Real Estate, stated, “The metaverse is quickly evolving to bring together the most interesting and alluring parts of our favorite physical places around the world. From destinations, to gaming, education, retail and more, we can expect the metaverse to revolutionize our current online experience. This event highlights how virtual events can cohesively integrate with real ones in an effort to bring once-in-a-lifetime experiences to so many that would have never been able to participate otherwise.”

The future of real estate is the thoughtful integration of the virtual and physical worlds, optimized for user experience,” said Michael Phillips, President of Jamestown. “The metaverse is an important part of the evolution of real estate and the built environment. Whereas physical real estate is largely limited to people with geographic proximity, the metaverse can give people around the world meaningful access to places through immersive virtual experiences. Recreating One Times Square in the Decentraland metaverse is part of a larger digital asset strategy to evolve and enhance our physical real estate for Web 3.0 and open new pathways for our assets to exist in multiple metaverses in the future.”

The Decentraland community is ready for this perfect capstone to an incredible year,” said Fede Molina on behalf of the Decentraland Foundation. “We can’t wait to ring in 2022 with friends all over the world and show off how far our ecosystem has come. The partnership between Jamestown and DCG to develop One Times Square embodies the beauty of Decentraland: brands and builders bring their diverse assets and ideas to our virtual world, and, in so doing, enrich the experience for all.”

The Party

The virtual One Times Square (-106, -119) will launch in Decentraland on New Year’s Eve with the MetaFest 2022 global party featuring music and entertainment acts, rooftop VIP lounges, CryptoArt galleries, and immersive games. Live feeds of the real-world Times Square and virtual Zoom parties will stream on digital billboards, bringing global partygoers together in the metaverse to celebrate the New Year.

Official programming will begin at 11:00 p.m. EST and continue into the early hours of 2022.

CoinDesk, the leading crypto media and events company, will debut year-in-review video content in its auditorium (-103, -120) and broadcast interviews with people on its “Most Influential” list. Partygoers who visit the space can claim QR codes for discounted tickets to Consensus, the annual crypto festival, taking place in Austin in June 2022.

The Build

Leading metaverse development firms GrowYourBase and MetaVenture Studios were engaged to construct and operate the virtual One Times Square in Decentraland. It is the first high-rise build in Decentraland and includes the recreation of the physical asset’s digital signage and New Year’s Eve Ball.

In addition to the One Times Square building, the build area, which spans approximately 170 LAND parcels, includes five buildings, each with distinct exteriors and activated interiors.

The Metaverse

Decentraland is a decentralized metaverse; anyone can enter as an avatar and purchase LAND and other in-world goods with Decentraland’s native MANA currency. It launched publicly at the start of 2020 with events starting in 2021. Since its launch, Decentraland has attracted celebrities like DeadMau5, 3LAU, and Paris Hilton to headline its virtual festivals. In 2021, Decentraland saw a 15x increase in daily active users.

The History

MetaFest 2022 is the latest chapter in a long history of New Year’s Eve celebrations focused on Times Square. Revelers began celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square in 1904, and the New Year’s Eve Ball made its debut atop One Times Square in 1907. Over a century later, it is still the focal point of New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people typically attend the real-life Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration each year, while more than 1 billion people worldwide view one of the many live broadcasts of the festivities. People also can experience New Year’s Eve in Times Square through VNYE, an immersive virtual experience launched by Jamestown in 2020. Through the VNYE app and vnye.com, which reached more than 3.7 million people in its inaugural year, people can explore Times Square, play games, and livestream New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square and around the world.

About Digital Currency Group

Founded in 2015 by CEO Barry Silbert, DCG is the most active investor in the blockchain sector, with a mission to accelerate the development of a better financial system through the proliferation of digital assets and blockchain technology. Today, DCG sits at the epicenter of the industry, backing more than 200 blockchain-related companies in over 35 countries. DCG also invests directly in digital currencies and other digital assets. In addition to its investment portfolio, DCG is the parent company of Genesis (a global digital asset prime brokerage), Grayscale Investments (the world’s largest digital currency asset manager), CoinDesk (a leading financial media, data, and information company), Foundry (a leader in bitcoin mining and staking), Luno (a leading cryptocurrency platform with a large international footprint), and TradeBlock (an institutional trading platform).

About Jamestown

Jamestown is a global, design-focused real estate investment and management firm with a 38-year track record and mission to create places that inspire. Since its founding in 1983, Jamestown has executed transactions in excess of $35 billion. As of September 30, 2021, Jamestown has assets under management of $13.1 billion and a portfolio spanning key markets throughout the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. Jamestown employs more than 400 people worldwide with headquarters in Atlanta and Cologne, and offices in Amsterdam, Bogotá, Boston, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, New York, San Francisco, and Washington. Current and previous projects include One Times Square and Chelsea Market in New York, Industry City in Brooklyn, Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, the Innovation and Design Building in Boston, and Groot Handelsgebouw in Rotterdam. For more information, visit www.jamestownlp.com.

One Times Square Decentraland Press Experience

We will be hosting a private, guided walk-through of the development for members of the press prior to the launch event. On New Year’s Eve, members of the press are invited to join our teams in the private gallery for a special viewing of the Ball Drop Celebration.

Please contact Media@jamestownlp.com or press@dcg.co to register your interest.

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Bowman Expands Texas Operations Through Acquisition of Houston and San Antonio based Terra Associates, Inc.

RESTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. (the “Company” or “Bowman”) (NASDAQ: BWMN), today announced it had entered into a definitive purchase agreement for the acquisition of Terra Associates, Inc. (“Terra”). Closing is scheduled to occur on December 31, 2021, subject to customary closing conditions. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Terra delivers civil design and engineering solutions to clients focused on traffic and transportation planning, water-wastewater solutions, landscape and irrigation systems, office and industrial facilities, and multi-family development. Under the continuing leadership of Vickie Henkel, Terra’s staff of 30+ professionals work from offices in Houston and San Antonio for both public and private sector clients. In connection with their water-wastewater practice, Terra serves in the role of District Engineer for several Texas-based Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs).

“Terra is a company with a forty-year heritage of serving eastern Texas,” said Gary Bowman, CEO of Bowman. “The leadership of Terra has surrounded themselves with a team of committed and energetic professionals who will all be great additions to Bowman. We have been intent on growing our Texas operations and this acquisition, following closely on the heels of our acquisition of 1519 Surveying, fortifies Bowman’s presence in the Lone Star state. Terra’s experience in commercial site work, transportation design and utility district services are highly complementary to our portfolio of services and align with our growth plans and evolving market demand. I am pleased to welcome everyone at Terra to Bowman and I am excited about the potential for our future together.”

“Choosing to join Bowman was an easy decision,” said Vickie Henkel, CEO of Terra. “Bowman’s approach to growth is very exciting to all of us at Terra. We’ve gotten to know the leadership at Bowman over the course of the acquisition process and we all feel very comfortable with the decision. Their commitment to helping our leadership and staff grow without changing the core of who we are is a big part of what makes us excited about this opportunity. The opportunity to be a part of an entrepreneurial public company is both exciting and energizing. We are all looking forward to the future as a Bowman company.”

The acquisition, which the Company expects to be immediately accretive, was financed with a combination of cash, seller financing, and stock. The Company expects the Terra acquisition to initially contribute approximately $5.5 million of annualized net service billing.

“We are continuing to execute on our commitment to growth at a reasonable price,” said Bruce Labovitz, Bowman’s CFO. “This will be our last acquisition in 2021, and it brings our annualized acquired revenue for the year to approximately $36 million. The Terra acquisition is within our target multiple range and it meets all of our objectives for operating performance metrics. As is our practice, we will provide more detailed information on M&A activities and pipeline in connection with scheduled quarterly communications.”

About Terra, Inc.

Terra Associates, Inc. (Terra) has provided civil engineering, surveying, economical design, project management and permitting services for multi-family, retail developments, office/industrial projects, and municipalities for over forty years. During its award-winning history, the company has added traffic engineering, landscape architecture and irrigation design services. With multiple certifications including LEED, Texas HUB, and SBE, Terra’s team of 30+ professionals work every day to exceed client expectations for reliability and innovation. Additional information on Terra, its team, and its projects can be found at www.terraassoc.com.

About Bowman Consulting Group Ltd.

Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Bowman is an engineering services firm delivering innovative infrastructure solutions to customers who own, develop, and maintain the built environment. With 950 employees and more than 35 offices throughout the United Sates, Bowman provides a variety of planning, engineering, construction management, commissioning, environmental consulting, geomatics, survey, land procurement and other technical services to customers operating in a diverse set of regulated end markets. On May 11, 2021, Bowman completed its $51.7 million initial public offering and began trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol BWMN. For more information, visit www.bowman.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release may contain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The Company cautions that these statements are qualified by important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected by the forward-looking statements contained in this news release. Such factors include: (a) changes in demand from the local and state government and private clients that we serve; (b) general economic conditions, nationally and globally, and their effect on the market for our services; (c) competitive pressures and trends in our industry and our ability to successfully compete with our competitors; (d) changes in laws, regulations, or policies; and (e) the “Risk Factors” set forth in the Company’s most recent SEC filings. All forward-looking statements are based on information available to the Company on the date hereof, and the Company assumes no obligation to update such statements, except as required by law.

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Würth Opens First North American Flagship Store with 24/7 Technology Concept Provided by Wanzl

LEIPHEIM, Germany & VAUGHAN, Canada–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The 24/7 self-checkout store concept developed by Wanzl together with Würth is already established in Germany. Now, Würth’s Canadian subsidiary of the assembly and fastening materials provider has followed this frictionless format, which gives customers the flexibility to shop around the clock via a Würth eShop account. Würth Canada Ltd. opened North America’s first flagship store in September of this year, located in Vaughan, a city in the Greater Toronto Area. This marks an important milestone for Würth and Wanzl North America (NA).

Würth offers more than 4,000 products in the Canadian 24/7 store. From hardware to hand tools, to chemicals, electrical supplies, abrasives and PPE, Würth has what you need for your everyday industrial needs. As with the German 24/7 stores, this store is a hybrid solution. As Würth Vice President Goran Abramovic explains, “We want to give our customers the optimal shopping experience no matter how they choose to buy from us. During normal opening hours, we invite all customers to come see the breadth of our product range, receive product and technical advice from our qualified staff, and pay for their purchases at the service check-out desk. Additionally, approved business customers have the option of accessing the 24/7 functionality at any time (day or night) with their activated Würth eShop account. Whether someone needs an item early in the morning, late at night, on a weekend or a Holiday, Würth is always there for you.”

Store technology, Shop Equipment and Support – Wanzl North America’s contribution

Wanzl NA has provided a turnkey solution for this project by transferring the self-checkout concept from German 24/7 Würth stores. As with the German stores, Wanzl is responsible for the back-end technology in the Canadian 24/7 store. At its heart is the WanzlConnect® software platform. All technical processes in the store are controlled via WanzlConnect – including 24/7 access. Approved customers need to log-in to their Würth eShop account to access the store and request a QR code. They scan the code at the outer store entrance to enter the building, and a second time inside at the eGate entrance system. Once on the retail floor, the customer can browse the extensive range of products at their leisure for up to one hour.

To purchase, the customer scans the QR code at the exit gates, and accesses the self-checkout station through a Wanzl Galaxyport. To initiate checkout, the initial QR code is scanned at the self-checkout station. Here, merchandise is scanned, and automatically debited from the customer’s Würth eShop account.

The modern and structured look of the Würth Canada store design borrows heavily from Würth Germany’s stores, co-developed last year with Wanzl Germany. Wanzl NA supplied “wire tech 100®” shelving for product presentation, hand baskets, shopping carts, and local sourcing of millwork, such as the Service Desk and decorative items. Additionally, on-site installation, assembly and commissioning were the responsibility of Wanzl, as is ongoing 24/7 technical support for Würth Canada.

Ben Hinnen, CEO of Wanzl North America, stated that, “This is the first Würth 24/7 store in North America and is a clear demonstration of Wanzl’s global capabilities as a partner, executed locally. Wanzl is a total solution provider of not only products, including self-checkout systems, but also of store concept development through planning, design, and installation, in addition to complete lifecycle technical support during ongoing operations.”

About Wanzl North America

Wanzl North America, formerly Technibilt Ltd, is a leading B2B solution provider for Retailers. Founded in 1946 and acquired by Wanzl GmbH & Co. KGaA in 2012, Wanzl North America is the leading manufacturer of shopping carts, and enhances retailer’s customers’ shopping experience through superior solutions in design, innovation and customer service. The parent company, Wanzl GmbH & Co. KGaA, is an owner-managed family company in its third generation, with over 4,600 employees, global production sites and sales outlets. Together, Wanzl offers over 100,000 products, solutions, and innovations. Visit Wanzl North America at www.wanzl.com/NA.

About Würth Canada Limited

Würth Canada Limited was founded in Montreal, Québec in 1971. Its state-of-the-art Head Office has been located in Guelph, Ontario since 2014. Würth Canada has established itself in the Automotive, Trucking, and Industrial marketplaces and has more than 400 sales representatives servicing customers from Victoria, British Columbia to St-John’s, Newfoundland. Visit Würth Canada Limited at www.wurth.ca.

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ADDING MULTIMEDIA Satoshi Island, a Real World Crypto Paradise, Launches

SATOSHI ISLAND, Vanuatu–(BUSINESS WIRE)–After two years preparing for launch, Satoshi Island, the crypto focused private island officially went public today. Satoshi Island Limited, which owns the entire 32 million sq. ft. South Pacific island, is approved to go forward with their plan to transform it into the cryptocurrency capital of the world. With favorable laws, support from the government and all the approvals necessary to embark on the development, the tropical island paradise is being designed with the crypto ethos in mind. Satoshi Island will become the first real-world crypto economy, decentralized democracy and also have real estate and licenses all represented by non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“Living, working, and visiting Satoshi Island will be an experience like no other. The tech industry has Silicon Valley, the entertainment industry has Los Angeles and soon the crypto community will have its own mecca,” said James Law, principal of James Law Cybertecture and chief architect of Satoshi Island.

The first stage of development has already been completed. It includes traditional island-style villas which serve as a check-in area and a relaxation center where visitors can unwind before exploring the entirety of the island. The remainder of the island is being developed with ultra-modern modular homes and offices designed and built by James Law Cybertecture. The modular smart homes called “Satoshi Island Modules” are built offsite and are shipped to the island move-in-ready. With a current production ability of around 200 modules per month, coupled with the rapid installation process, Satoshi Island expects to welcome the first Satoshi Islanders by Q4 of 2022.

An Evolution in NFTs

Satoshi Island is taking the next step in the evolution of NFTs by introducing a way to turn digital ownership into physical ownership. Anyone can own a piece of the island by acquiring Satoshi Island land NFTs that entitle holders with the same rights as holding a physical land title. Land NFT owners can develop their property with private homes or apartment complexes and choose to reside in them or lease them to other would-be Satoshi Islanders. The NFTs can be bought and sold easily, without any of the complications associated with the transfer of traditional real estate, but for those who would prefer a more traditional form of ownership, the NFTs can be converted into a new type of token, called the Non Fungible Property Token (NFPT). Once converted from NFT to NFPT, Satoshi Island Limited will assist the holder in turning their digital rights into physical documentation on the official land registrar of Vanuatu. Although the NFPT was conceptualized for use on Satoshi Island, the technology and intellectual property associated with this process will be freely available, under open source license, to private companies or governments which see merit in its application.

A Metaverse Mirrored in Reality

Although Satoshi Island is a real place, there is also a Satoshi Island metaverse giving anyone the ability to explore a virtual replica of the island where they can watch the development progress on the real island. Landowners can also use this virtual version of the island to design their homes online before finalizing their builds in the real world.

Real-World Decentralized Democracy

Satoshi Island will be governed by its residents in a true democracy built on the blockchain. Representatives of the people will be elected fairly and transparently and all Satoshi Islanders will get a chance to have their say. One NFT, One Vote.

About Satoshi Island

Satoshi Island is a 32 million sq. ft. private island in development to become home for crypto professionals and enthusiasts worldwide. The island is fully approved to develop into the first real-world crypto economy and blockchain based democracy. Satoshi Island recognizes crypto as its exclusive form of currency and has millions of sq. ft. of residential and commercial land represented by non-fungible-tokens (NFTs). The island, which is owned by Satoshi Island Limited, is located in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu, neighboring the popular tourism destination, Fiji. With favorable laws supporting innovation and new technologies, the crypto focused island is now welcoming individuals and companies within the crypto industry to join the first wave of Satoshi Islanders.

For more information about land NFTs, residency and tourism, visit www.Satoshi-Island.com.

Twitter: @SatoshiIsland

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Covid Live Updates: Variant Alert From South Africa Prompts Rush to Halt Flights

ImageIn the town of Parys, South Africa, on Friday. South Africans faced travel restrictions in several countries over growing fears about the new variant.
Credit…Kim Ludbrook/EPA, via Shutterstock

An increasing number of countries — including Britain, France, Israel, Italy and Singapore — were moving on Friday to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries in the region, a day after South African authorities identified a concerning new coronavirus variant with mutations that one scientist said marked a “big jump in evolution.”

In the past, governments have taken days, weeks or months to issue travel restrictions in response to new variants. This time, restrictions came within hours of South Africa’s announcement — and hours before health officials from the country were scheduled to discuss the variant with the World Health Organization.

Britain, France and Israel announced bans on flights from South Africa and several neighboring countries on Thursday, citing the threat of the new variant. Britain’s flight ban applies to six countries — South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe — and begins at noon local time on Friday.

“More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now,” Sajid Javid, the British health secretary, said on Twitter.

“While no cases have been detected so far on French territory, the principle of maximum precaution must apply,” Jean Castex, France’s prime minister, said in a statement, adding that anyone in France who had recently traveled to those countries should get tested and identify themselves to the authorities.

The governments of Croatia, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Japan and Singapore announced on Friday that they would impose similar restrictions. Markets were down in Japan in response to the variant’s discovery, and officials in Australia and in New Zealand said that they were monitoring it closely.

“Our scientists are at work to study the new B.1.1.529 variant,” Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said in a statement, using the variant’s scientific name. “Meanwhile we err on the side of caution.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, also said in a Twitter post on Friday morning that it would propose restricting air travel to European countries from southern Africa because of concerns about the variant.

In the past two days, scientists detected the variant after observing an increase in infections in South Africa’s economic hub surrounding Johannesburg. So far only a few dozen cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Botswana.

A number of variants have emerged since the onset of the pandemic. One underlying concern about them is whether they will stymie the fight against the virus or limit the effectiveness of vaccines. South African scientists will meet with the World Health Organization technical team on Friday to discuss the new variant, and the authorities will assign it a letter of the Greek alphabet.

In a statement posted on Friday on a government website, South Africa said it would urge Britain to reconsider its travel restrictions, saying: “The U.K.’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the U.K. seems to have been rushed, as even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps.”

In December last year, South Africa was the first nation to report the appearance of the Beta variant, which has now spread to nearly 70 countries. Scientists have been concerned that some clinical trials have shown that vaccines offer less protection against the Beta variant. Since then, the more virulent and aggressive Delta variant has spread all over the world and is believed to be fueling the latest surge in cases.

With over 1,200 new infections, South Africa’s daily infection rate is much lower than that in Germany, where new cases are driving a wave. However, the density of mutations on this new variant raises fears that it could be highly contagious, leading scientists to sound the alarm early.

“This variant did surprise us — it has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta,” said Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform.

Emma Bubola, John Yoon and Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

Credit…Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Scientists are still unclear on how effective vaccines will be against the new variant flagged by a team in South Africa, which displays mutations that might resist neutralization. Only several dozen cases have been fully identified so far in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.

The new variant, B.1.1.529, has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” with more than 30 in the spike protein alone, according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform.

On the ACE2 receptor — the protein that helps to create an entry point for the coronavirus to infect human cells — the new variant has 10 mutations. In comparison, the Beta variant has three and the Delta variant two, Mr. de Oliveira said.

The variant shares similarities with the Lambda and Beta variants, which are associated with an innate evasion of immunity, said Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform.

“All these things are what give us some concern that this variant might have not just enhanced transmissibility, so spread more efficiently, but might also be able to get around parts of the immune system and the protection we have in our immune system,” Dr. Lessells said.

The new variant has largely been detected among young people, the cohort that also has the lowest vaccination rate in South Africa. Just over a quarter of those ages between 18 and 34 in South Africa are vaccinated, said Dr. Joe Phaahla, the country’s minister of health.

While cases of the variant are mainly concentrated in the country’s economic hub, particularly in the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria, it is “only a matter of time” before the virus spreads across the country as schools close and families prepare to travel for the holiday season, Dr. Phaahla said.

Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that it had detected two cases of a new variant identified in South Africa, which scientists have warned shows a “big jump in evolution” and could limit the effectiveness of vaccines.

The infections were detected in a man who had returned to Hong Kong from South Africa this month, and later in another man staying across the hall in the same quarantine hotel. (Hong Kong requires almost all overseas arrivals to quarantine in hotels for two to three weeks.) The virus’s genetic sequence was identical in both men, suggesting airborne transmission, according to the city’s Center for Health Protection. Both men were vaccinated.

Further sequencing by the University of Hong Kong confirmed that the viruses belonged to the new variant from South Africa, officials said, though they acknowledged that information about the variant’s public health impact was “lacking at the moment.”

Some Hong Kong experts have questioned the length and efficacy of Hong Kong’s quarantines, noting that officials have recorded several cases of residents in quarantine hotels apparently infecting people who were staying in other rooms.

In the case of the latest variant infections, the government has blamed the first man for not wearing a surgical mask when opening his hotel room door, as well as “unsatisfactory air flow” in the hotel. As of Friday afternoon there had been no reports of infections in nearby rooms.

The presence of the new variant may complicate efforts to reopen the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. For months, Hong Kong officials have said that resuming quarantine-free travel between the Chinese territory and the mainland — virtually the only places in the world still pursuing a containment strategy that seeks full eradication of the virus — is their top priority, even though the strategy has damaged the city’s reputation as a global finance hub.

Mainland officials have said that Hong Kong is not doing enough to control the virus, even though the city has recorded just two locally transmitted cases in the last six months. The mainland has recently faced new domestic outbreaks; on Thursday, the National Health Commission there reported four new local cases.

On Thursday evening, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, John Lee, said mainland officials had told him earlier in the day that Hong Kong had “basically fulfilled” the conditions to reopen the border. He said details would still need to be worked out, including the introduction of a mainland-style “health code” app that has raised privacy concerns.

Asked by a reporter whether the new variant would delay reopening with the mainland, Mr. Lee said only that the Hong Kong authorities would “ensure that adequate research and tracking are done in this regard.”

“Of course, we must manage and control any new risks,” he said.

Credit…Focke Strangmann/EPA, via Shutterstock

Nearly 20 months after pandemic lockdowns first began, governments across Europe are beginning to tighten restrictions again amid the latest wave of new coronavirus cases, threatening the gains that the region has made against the pandemic.

France is racing to offer booster shots to all adults and will not renew health passes for those who refuse. Deaths are rising in Germany, with its 68 percent vaccination rate, a worrying trend for a highly inoculated country. Austria has been in a nationwide lockdown since Monday, and made vaccinations mandatory.

In Eastern Europe, where far-right and populist groups have fueled vaccine skepticism, vaccination rates are lower than the rest of the continent. Bulgaria, where a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated, is turning back to shutdowns or other restrictive measures.

The quickly deteriorating situation in Europe is worrisome for the United States, where seven-day average of new cases has risen 24 percent in the past two weeks. (The number of new deaths reported in the United States is down 6 percent.) Trends in new cases in the United States have tended to follow Europe by a few weeks.

“Time and again, we’ve seen how the infection dynamics in Europe are mirrored here several weeks later,” Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, told reporters on Wednesday. “The future is unfolding before us, and it must be a wake-up call for our region because we are even more vulnerable.”

The White House insists that while new infections are on the rise, the United States can avoid European-style lockdowns.

“We are not headed in that direction,” Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said this week. “We have the tools to accelerate the path out of this pandemic: widely available vaccinations, booster shots, kids’ shots, therapeutics.”

But the chief of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that some countries had lapsed into a “false sense of security.”

He issued a warning during a news briefing on Wednesday: “While Europe is again the epicenter of the pandemic, no country or region is out of the woods.”

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Facebook Debates What to Do With Its Like and Share Buttons

SAN FRANCISCO — In 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

But the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

“The mechanics of our platform are not neutral,” they concluded.

hide posts they do not want to see and turning off political group recommendations to reduce the spread of misinformation.

But the core way that Facebook operates — a network where information can spread rapidly and where people can accumulate friends and followers and Likes — ultimately remains largely unchanged.

Many significant modifications to the social network were blocked in the service of growth and keeping users engaged, some current and former executives said. Facebook is valued at more than $900 billion.

“There’s a gap between the fact that you can have pretty open conversations inside of Facebook as an employee,” said Brian Boland, a Facebook vice president who left last year. “Actually getting change done can be much harder.”

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

post this month, Mr. Zuckerberg said it was “deeply illogical” that the company would give priority to harmful content because Facebook’s advertisers don’t want to buy ads on a platform that spreads hate and misinformation.

“At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” he wrote.

When Mr. Zuckerberg founded Facebook 17 years ago in his Harvard University dorm room, the site’s mission was to connect people on college campuses and bring them into digital groups with common interests and locations.

Growth exploded in 2006 when Facebook introduced the News Feed, a central stream of photos, videos and status updates posted by people’s friends. Over time, the company added more features to keep people interested in spending time on the platform.

In 2009, Facebook introduced the Like button. The tiny thumbs-up symbol, a simple indicator of people’s preferences, became one of the social network’s most important features. The company allowed other websites to adopt the Like button so users could share their interests back to their Facebook profiles.

That gave Facebook insight into people’s activities and sentiments outside of its own site, so it could better target them with advertising. Likes also signified what users wanted to see more of in their News Feeds so people would spend more time on Facebook.

Facebook also added the groups feature, where people join private communication channels to talk about specific interests, and pages, which allowed businesses and celebrities to amass large fan bases and broadcast messages to those followers.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has said that research on users’ well-being led to investments in anti-bullying measures on Instagram.

Yet Facebook cannot simply tweak itself so that it becomes a healthier social network when so many problems trace back to core features, said Jane Lytvynenko, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center, who studies social networks and misinformation.

“When we talk about the Like button, the share button, the News Feed and their power, we’re essentially talking about the infrastructure that the network is built on top of,” she said. “The crux of the problem here is the infrastructure itself.”

As Facebook’s researchers dug into how its products worked, the worrisome results piled up.

In a July 2019 study of groups, researchers traced how members in those communities could be targeted with misinformation. The starting point, the researchers said, were people known as “invite whales,” who sent invitations out to others to join a private group.

These people were effective at getting thousands to join new groups so that the communities ballooned almost overnight, the study said. Then the invite whales could spam the groups with posts promoting ethnic violence or other harmful content, according to the study.

Another 2019 report looked at how some people accrued large followings on their Facebook pages, often using posts about cute animals and other innocuous topics. But once a page had grown to tens of thousands of followers, the founders sold it. The buyers then used the pages to show followers misinformation or politically divisive content, according to the study.

As researchers studied the Like button, executives considered hiding the feature on Facebook as well, according to the documents. In September 2019, it removed Likes from users’ Facebook posts in a small experiment in Australia.

The company wanted to see if the change would reduce pressure and social comparison among users. That, in turn, might encourage people to post more frequently to the network.

But people did not share more posts after the Like button was removed. Facebook chose not to roll the test out more broadly, noting, “Like counts are extremely low on the long list of problems we need to solve.”

Last year, company researchers also evaluated the share button. In a September 2020 study, a researcher wrote that the button and so-called reshare aggregation units in the News Feed, which are automatically generated clusters of posts that have already been shared by people’s friends, were “designed to attract attention and encourage engagement.”

But gone unchecked, the features could “serve to amplify bad content and sources,” such as bullying and borderline nudity posts, the researcher said.

That’s because the features made people less hesitant to share posts, videos and messages with one another. In fact, users were three times more likely to share any kind of content from the reshare aggregation units, the researcher said.

One post that spread widely this way was an undated message from an account called “The Angry Patriot.” The post notified users that people protesting police brutality were “targeting a police station” in Portland, Ore. After it was shared through reshare aggregation units, hundreds of hate-filled comments flooded in. It was an example of “hate bait,” the researcher said.

A common thread in the documents was how Facebook employees argued for changes in how the social network worked and often blamed executives for standing in the way.

In an August 2020 internal post, a Facebook researcher criticized the recommendation system that suggests pages and groups for people to follow and said it can “very quickly lead users down the path to conspiracy theories and groups.”

“Out of fears over potential public and policy stakeholder responses, we are knowingly exposing users to risks of integrity harms,” the researcher wrote. “During the time that we’ve hesitated, I’ve seen folks from my hometown go further and further down the rabbit hole” of conspiracy theory movements like QAnon and anti-vaccination and Covid-19 conspiracies.

The researcher added, “It has been painful to observe.”

Reporting was contributed by Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Cecilia Kang and Ryan Mac.

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Tesla to Move Headquarters to Texas from California

Tesla will move its headquarters from California to Austin, Texas, where it is building a new factory, its chief executive, Elon Musk, said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.

The move makes good on a threat that Mr. Musk issued more than a year ago when he was frustrated by local coronavirus lockdown orders that forced Tesla to pause production at its factory in Fremont, Calif. Mr. Musk on Thursday said the company would keep that factory and expand production there.

“There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area,” he said, adding that high housing prices there translate to long commutes for some employees. The Texas factory, which is near Austin and will manufacture Tesla’s Cybertruck, is minutes from downtown and from an airport, he said.

Mr. Musk was an outspoken early critic of pandemic restrictions, calling them “fascist” and predicting in March 2020 that there would be almost no new cases of virus infections by the end of April. In December, he said he had moved himself to Texas to be near the new factory. His other company, SpaceX, launches rockets from the state.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise said in December that it was moving to the Houston area, and Charles Schwab has moved to a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.

Mr. Musk’s decision will surely add fuel to a ceaseless debate between officials and executives in Texas and California about which state is a better place to do business. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, and his predecessors, have courted California companies to move to the state, arguing that it has lower taxes and lower housing and other costs. California has long played up the technological prowess of Silicon Valley and its universities as the reason many entrepreneurs start and build their companies there, a list that includes Tesla, Facebook, Google and Apple.

Texas has become more attractive to workers in recent years, too, with a generally lower cost of living. Austin, a thriving liberal city that is home to the University of Texas, in particular has boomed. Many technology companies, some based in California, have built huge campuses there. As a result, though, housing costs and traffic have increased significantly, leaving the city with the kinds of problems local governments in California have been dealing with for years.

Mr. Musk’s announcement is likely to take on political overtones, too.

Last month, Mr. Abbott invoked Mr. Musk in explaining why a new Texas law that greatly restricts abortion would not hurt the state economically. “Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas,” the governor told CNBC.

he said on Twitter. “That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics.”

On Thursday evening, a Twitter post by Governor Abbott welcomed the news, saying “the Lone Star State is the land of opportunity and innovation.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, Erin Mellon, did not directly comment on Tesla’s move but said in a statement that the state was “home to the biggest ideas and companies on the planet” and that California would “stand up for workers, public health and a woman’s right to choose.”

Mr. Musk revealed the company’s move after shareholders voted on a series of proposals aimed at improving Tesla’s corporate governance. According to preliminary results, investors sided with Tesla on all but two measures that it opposed: one that would force its board members to run for re-election annually, down from every three years, and another that would require the company to publish more detail about efforts to diversify its work force.

In a report last year, Tesla revealed that its U.S. leadership was 59 percent white and 83 percent male. The company’s overall U.S. work force is 79 percent male and 34 percent white.

The vote comes days after a federal jury ordered Tesla to pay $137 million to Owen Diaz, a former contractor who said he faced repeated racist harassment while working at the Fremont factory, in 2015 and 2016. Tesla faces similar accusations from dozens of others in a class-action lawsuit.

The diversity report proposal, from Calvert Research and Management, a firm that focuses on responsible investment and is owned by Morgan Stanley, requires Tesla to publish annual reports about its diversity and inclusion efforts, something many other large companies already do.

Investors also re-elected to the board Kimbal Musk, Mr. Musk’s brother, and James Murdoch, the former 21st Century Fox executive, despite a recommendation to vote against them by ISS, a firm that advises investors on shareholder votes and corporate governance.

Proposals calling for additional reporting both on Tesla’s practice of using mandatory arbitration to resolve employee disputes and on the human rights impact of how it sources materials failed, according to early results. A final tally will be announced in the coming days, the company said.

Ivan Penn contributed reporting.

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