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Elon Musk bans remote work

Elon Musk has ordered all employees to return to the office full-time or resign. In two leaked memos, he makes it clear that remote work will not be allowed except for "particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible". These memos have been reported on news networks and Twitter feeds. The news network CNBC transcribed the first memo.

How Meta targets political ads

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, says it will provide outside researchers more information on how political and social ads are targeted on its platform, providing insight into the ways that politicians, campaign operatives and political strategists buy and use ads during election periods. Starting from May 2022, academics and researchers registered with Facebook Open Research and Transparency will be allowed to see more detailed targeting data, including which interest categories—such as “people who like dogs” or “people who enjoy the outdoors”—have been chosen to aim ads at specific people.

Meta also plans to include summaries of targeting information for some of its ads in its publicly viewable Ad Library. Created in 2019, the Ad Library allows the public to obtain information about political ads, thus helping to safeguard elections against the misuse of digital advertising.

Salmon sushi is Norwegian

Look at the menu of any sushi shop in Japan and you will almost certainly see salmon: fatty, tender and bright orange. But salmon is actually a relatively new addition to the sushi menu.

Behind salmon’s rise to popularity is the Norwegian marketing campaign: Project Japan. In the 1970s, Norway began commercial salmon farming but, with decreasing seafood consumption at home, salmon was soon filling industrial freezers. Japan, meanwhile, had been overfishing its waters, and with Japanese fishermen told to remain within their exclusive economic zones by the United Nations, Japan began opening up its once nearly self-sufficient seafood industry to foreign suppliers.

Breakthrough in medicine

New research from the Babraham Institute has potentially made a revolutionary breakthrough in regenerative medicine. The scientists developed a method to rejuvenate skin cells by 30 years. 

Our cells have several functions, such as providing structure and support, transporting molecules, producing energy, helping with growth, creating metabolic reactions and helping in reproduction. However, with age, cells lose these functions and accumulate age marks. 

New research reprogrammed cells by restoring their functions and changing the molecular measures of biological age. Rejuvenated skin cells produced more collagen that helped heal wounds and provide structure to our skin, the same as natural young skin cells do. 

This research is based on the Nobel Prize method developed by Shinya Yamanaka in 2007 of creating stem cells—cells that have the ability to turn into any cell type with any function. 

Nonprofit business: Clean the World

One night at a hotel in 2009, tech executive Shawn Seipler thought about how many bars of soap guests use for a night and then leave. He called the front desk to find out what they did with the used soap and learned that they just throw it away. In the U.S. alone, hotels throw out about 3.3 million bars of soap every day.

So, Seipler started Clean the World, a nonprofit that recycles soap, in his garage. He quickly discovered that major hotel chains, airlines, cruise companies and casinos were happy to pay him to take their waste. The business has since grown into a $750k production facility in Orlando, Florida, with branch operations around the world.

Do trees talk to each other?

People generally think of trees as disconnected loners, competing for water, nutrients, and sunlight, with winners shading out losers and sucking them dry. But evidence to the contrary is coming to light. Forest trees are, in fact, cooperative and live in interdependent relationships maintained by communication and collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.

Unlike other organisms, most of the communication between trees happens underground, through a system known as the “Wood Wide Web”. “[Trees] in every forest that is not too damaged”, explains Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and author, “are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behaviour when they receive these messages.”

Indonesia bans palm oil exports

In late April, the Indonesian government announced a temporary ban on exports of crude palm oil and its refined products, such as cooking oil. The decision came as a surprise to commercial goods traders as the government had previously stated the ban would only apply to refined products. After the government’s initial statement, prices of crude palm oil significantly fluctuated given uncertainties about what products the ban would cover. Prices have again skyrocketed in light of the most recent announcement.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the world has seen a wave of food protectionism, as governments seek to protect domestic food supplies in light of surging agricultural prices. As the world’s largest edible oils shipper, providing one third of global supplies, Indonesia threatens to worsen global food inflation with its decision and raises the risk of a full-blown hunger crisis.

Venture capital discrimination

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator—the tech accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing—has funded a number of successful start-ups including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. Despite this, in 2013 he made a controversial comment about how he evaluates potential companies. He managed to both offend many foreign-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and reveal a prejudice common among venture capitalists.

“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told Inc. magazine. “I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and [you] can’t [do that] if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”