Daily Archives: May 27, 2020

Dystopia to utopia: key predictions for the future of multifamily post COVID-19 – Lexology

Posted: May 27, 2020 at 6:46 pm

A world of social distancing has focused minds more than ever on connectivity. Innovation in the structure and operation of multifamily assets has a critical role to play in forging a new concept of community in dislocating times.

The economic reality of COVID-19 is that renting in Australia will no longer be a temporary solution as individuals save up money for their first starter homes. Instead, it will become a permanent housing choice for many individuals who want the freedom and affordability that renting can provide.

There will be a myriad of legal issues spanning real estate, structured title, technology, privacy, competition and planning but each can be navigated. As is always the case, legal issues should not be a barrier to meeting a clear public need.

In this article, we outline our predictions for how multifamily assets will evolve in a post COVID-19 world to facilitate the creation of a new long-term rental product.

1. Security of tenure

According to the most recent national census, nearly one third of Australians now rent. Only one in five of Australias 6.79 million millennials owned their own home in 2014, well below the national average of 69.3%. Overall, Australia has seen a 380 bps decline in home ownership as a percentage of the total population.

The cost of rent as a percentage of median household income is 17.4% compared with mortgage repayments of 28.9%. Current economic circumstances means that renting will become a more viable option than ownership, while tenants will be keen to ensure security of tenure.

The existing residential market is owned by small and disparate operators who, without scale and platform, cannot offer security of tenure to residents and consistent and institutionalised management teams.

Improving resident satisfaction to maintain high occupancy rates is a critical element of institutional multifamily management to ensure residents remain as tenants for longer. Institutional investment in multifamily will provide security of tenure for residents, who can sign medium to long term contracts without the fear of break of the lease.

In these uncertain times, multifamily will provide security.

2. Co-working - collaborative amenities

The working from home mandate has blurred the separation of the office and home. While working from home has provided many benefits (including reduction in commute times and increased family time) it has impacted on collaboration in the workplace and increased desire for a distinction of where home and work begin and end (particularly in open plan living).

The evolution of the workplace enables multifamily to bridge (or indeed increase) the gap between living and working while providing opportunities for collaboration between organisations as well as intra-organisations.

Communal workspaces that provide dedicated workspaces, complete with silent areas, meeting rooms and full conference technology means that a residents apartment can be better utilised (without doubling up of offices in each apartment) while at the same time providing an opportunity to interact with others.

3. Authentic social connections

Community is the new amenity and authentic social connections are critical to its success. Apartment blocks and the residents within it can be an extended family bubble.

Concierge services that manage resident events can link residents and foster connections. Common areas of multifamily complexes can be re-imagined as writing and recording rooms available to residents and enable other residents to watch others perform.

Providing services such as hairdressing, beauty and chef services within apartment blocks will enable residents to access these services from within their bubble.

4. Wellbeing

Small gyms with limited and infrequently used equipment were already in decline before social distancing. Dedicated and flexible studio spaces (including those outdoor) for yoga, barre, reformer pilates and TRX with personal trainers maximise space and encourage residents in pursuit of an active life.

In addition to roof top gardens with sails (to enable outdoor activity in inclement weather), properties can implement community gardens which allow residents to grow their own food, enjoy the outdoors and improve their sense of wellness by connecting with nature.

Features like these let renters build a real sense of community with each other and unwind from the stresses and strains of modern life.

5. Pets are tenants too

The importance of pets to mental health means that it will not be enough to just tolerate cats and dogs multifamily will need to cater for pets by offering amenities that make caring for them easier.

Dog parks are the most obvious option. Other avenues include adding dog jungle gyms and other toys to make the space more entertaining for pets, and providing benches and seating areas to give owners a place to relax. Onsite pet grooming and veterinary services will support this further.

6. On demand contactless delivery

Communities will be able to partner with delivery services to offer residents the option to dine in from a range of local restaurants. Residential lockers in designated delivery areas (including outside the building) will enable deliveries of meals, groceries and parcels while limiting contact.

Dedicated cold rooms will allow for deliveries of groceries.

This on demand contactless delivery will be enhanced by a personal digital human assistant as the concierge. A digital system which is fully integrated into the building will let a delivery driver drop off a parcel for a resident whos not home by unlocking and opening the doors to a secure parcel drop-off zone, and for grocery delivery will unlock the cold storage room and can then send a personalised text message to the resident to tell them the package has arrived.

7. Technology the new amenity?

Digital technology advancements will be necessary to meet the needs of residents and will go well beyond high-speed secure internet with increased bandwidth for gaming, streaming and video calls. Residents will look to mobile apps like Hello Alfred (a concierge service), Baroo (dog walking service) and Dwello (payment of rent) as a given.

Artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies enable the creation of platforms for multifamily operators to focus on the resident experience. Smart home features have broad applications for the apartment industry, from creating operational efficiencies to offering high-tech amenities.

Artificial intelligence continues to make big leaps including with identity verification. For multifamily, facial recognition can be used to verify guests or service personal coming on and going off the property.

With billions of devices now IoT-enabled, more will start happening with smart spaces. This technology has more potential than just turning on lights, locking doors and opening blinds with the touch of a smartphone. Access control in multifamily is fast becoming the next space, enabling residents to book (and pay for) amenity and services.

8. Location

The potential disaggregation of office space to a suburban scatter model will refocus the location of multifamily from the CBD to urban fringe areas which will attract young, upwardly mobile renters and pedestrian commuters and reduce the burden on public transport and infrastructure.

9. Home as a place of sanctuary

The innovations above will enable the home to once again be a place of sanctuary.

Innovations such as vibrant green walls both in common areas and in apartments and floor screens that create the effect of a window and natural light will mimic the feeling of being in a park while providing privacy.

The current open plan design of apartments will be remodelled to identify areas for alone time including juliette balconies and quiet zones.

The future of multifamily the art of sharing

The COVID-19 crisis has made home both a sanctuary and claustrophobic the question is how to balance the inherent tension between a desire to distance while interacting meaningfully.

Institutional investment in multifamily has the ability to balance this tension and facilitate the creation of a new long-term rental product. This will increase living options for Australians and encourage a more efficient and professionally managed rental sector through know-how, technology and innovation transfer.

Multifamily as an institutional asset class in Australia will meaningfully expand the bubble of existence for residents and provide distance and connectivity.

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Utopia looks to the future with new product line – Catering Insight

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Utopia Tableware is focusing on future opportunities, as it is working on a range of protection equipment to aid with new safety measures as the market reopens.

Marketing director Kathryn Oldershaw detailed: The range represents a significant investment for Utopia and is being specifically developed for the hospitality industry.

One thing were very aware of is that foodservice operators do not want to feel that their PPE may be depriving healthcare workers, so were developing new sources that wont in any way interfere with NHS supplies.

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She emphasised that this builds on the companys solid foundations: Utopia entered 2020 in an excellent financial position with strong reserves and liquidity. We were delighted to launch our new look catalogue, showcasing our new collections, at Ambiente in the dedicated Horeca hall.

Nevertheless, Oldershaw acknowledged: Unfortunately those exciting times came to an abrupt end for all of us in the hospitality industry.

We acted decisively and quickly at the point that a lockdown became likely to secure our strong financial position. We have been planning our route out of lockdown ever since, taking into consideration the likely very slow return of the hospitality sector. Based on even the most pessimistic forecasts, were in the fortunate position that our business model works and we will continue to be financially secure and stable.

Utopia has remained open throughout this unprecedented period. We have operated with a skeleton staff working safely, determined to continue to provide our customers with the service that they expect.

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Michelman Strengthens Applications Expertise with New Global Business Development & Applications Director for Printing & Packaging – PR Web

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Ralph Giammarco


Michelman is pleased to announce the hiring of Ralph Giammarco as Global Business Development & Applications Director for Printing & Packaging. Ralph has a rich background and extensive relationships in the industry and will be responsible for improving the customer experience and expanding the companys Printing & Packaging market segment.

Rick Michelman, Chief Technology Officer & Executive Vice President, commented that, Ralph has worked with Michelman for many years as Vice President and Team Leader of S-One Labels & Packaging LLC, one of the main distributors of our DigiPrime product portfolio geared for HP Indigo printers, converters, and paper mills. We believe that bringing Ralphs extensive market and product development skills to Michelman will have major benefits to both companies as well as the overall labels and packaging markets.

Ralph has over 30 years in the Printing & Packaging Industry with numerous global development roles at Avery Dennison, Tekra, and General Electric, along with leadership and ownership roles at Utopia Digital Technologies and S-One Holdings Corporation.

Continues Michelman, This experience has well-positioned him to manage the business and application development of our digital, paper converting, and flexible packaging market segments, allowing us to expand these segments product, technology, and geographical dimensions.

Ron Simkins, CEO of S-One Holdings Corporation, adds, This is what S-One is all about, we want our team members to make their ideas realities, learn and mentor, and create opportunities. Im confident Ralph will take his strong leadership and innovation mindset to one of our trusted partners, and help expand our opportunities geographically and into new markets. S-One Labels and Packaging LLC has had tremendous growth and success under his vision, and the high-powered team he has built is ready to take the baton and continue to work with Ralph in this new opportunity.

About MichelmanMichelman is a global developer and manufacturer of environmentally friendly advanced materials for industry, offering solutions for the coatings, printing & packaging and industrial manufacturing markets. The companys surface additives and polymeric binders are used by leading manufacturers around the world to enhance performance attributes and add value in applications including wood and floor care products, metal and industrial coatings, paints, varnishes, inks, fibers and composites. Michelman is also well-known as an innovator in the development of barrier and functional coatings, as well as digital printing press primers that are used in the production of consumer and industrial packaging and paper products, labels, and commercially printed materials. Michelman serves its customers with production facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, product development and technical service centers in several major global markets, and a worldwide team of highly trained business development personnel.

About S-One Holdings CorporationS-One Holdings Corporation is a global holding company headquartered in Sarasota, Fla., that oversees a number of subsidiary companies: S-One Labels and Packaging, LexJet, Utopia Digital Technologies, ABAQA, Brand Management Group, Avatrex, and Digiprint Supplies. S-Ones subsidiaries and brands are known throughout the graphics and media industries for the research, development, manufacturing, sale and distribution of products for imaging and design professionals worldwide. Through its subsidiary companies, S-One has strategic alliances with Michelman, CharterNex, Futamura, PSI, Protect-all, Kustom Group, KDX-Europe, Taghleef, VerifyMe, HP and KODAK.

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Braslia at 60: Behind one of the world’s most intriguing planned cities – CityMetric

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This article appears on CityMetric courtesy of Blueprint magazine.

The drive down the central axis of Braslias Plano Piloto is unlike any other. Vast, sometimes lush fields of grass are surrounded by some of Oscar Niemeyers finest works: a stark, white, domed theatre, a cathedral shaped like a crown of thorns, an army of glass and teal-shuttered administrative buildings culminating in the postcard image of two white towers, flanked by two semi-spheres, one of which is upturned in a nod to the scales of justice the Brazilian Congress. The buildings are beautiful, but its really the scale of this so-called Monumental Axis that makes it incredible: huge open spaces, tall towers rising on the horizon, and a sky so blue and boundless it appears coloured in.

Today, the city designed to be Brazils capital looks as otherworldly as it did 60 years ago, on 21 April 1960, when architects Lcio Costa and Niemeyer unveiled it to the world at the behest of then-president Juscelino Kubitschek. Braslia is the dream of all Brazilians, Niemeyer told philosopher Marshall Berman in the latters 1982 book All That Is Solid Melts into Air a sprawling, modern capital, enlivening the once semi-deserted central plane of a sleeping giant of a nation. It was at once a clever ploy to facilitate development and a utopia of modernism. But it also became and remains a city of contrasts and disparities, ivory towers of government looming over favelas of abject poverty.

Famously designed in the shape of an airplane or a cross, depending on who you ask the Braslia we know today was the result of a public competition won by Costa, as the urban planner, and Niemeyer, helming the buildings. There were dozens of candidates of the highest quality from all over the country that applied, remembers Professor Carlos Lemos, from the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of So Paulo. In his 90s today, Lemos was left in charge of Niemeyers So Paulo practice in the late 1950s when the boss all but moved to central Brazil to build a new capital. When the result came out there was a bit of a letdown because many architects had worked extremely hard to solve this puzzle: how to build a countrys capital, says Lemos. And in the end it was an incredibly simple project that was selected.

Though Braslia is quintessentially a modernist city, the notion that the capital of Brazil should be moved to the interior from the historic coastal capital of Rio de Janeiro had been around since at least the mid-18th century. The name Braslia was already being used as a then-mythological unifying central capital since at least 1822, and the location of a future city the approximate mathematical centre of the Brazilian territory was selected and enshrined in the countrys first constitution in 1891 after it obtained independence from Portugal.

It wasnt until 1956 and the election of Kubitschek that concrete plans were drawn up and construction began. The story of Braslia is a completely mythological narrative, explains historian Walkiria Freitas, undertaking a research fellowship on Brazilian modernism at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO). Its all seen as a single homogenous story to push for the construction of a new powerhouse nation in Brazil, and look at territorial unity as a key force. For Kubitschek, building Braslia was just the start of the occupation of the central plains of the country with large-scale agriculture, which is a big driver of wealth in Brazil today.

Braslia's great lawn was inspired by the National Mall in Washington, DC. (Shutterstock)

Costa and Niemeyers Braslia has its roots in Le Corbusiers seminal Athens Charter (1933), and in that sense, it is not unique in its vision, but is arguably the most complete example of this philosophy ever built. It is the Ville Radieuse, according to the French masters vision: a linear city based upon the abstract shape of the human body with head, spine, arms and legs. The design maintained the idea of high-rise housing blocks, free circulation and abundant green spaces proposed in his earlier work. Costa, though, described Braslia as an airplane, with the official government buildings and palaces located at the cockpit perhaps a nod to the modernity and development the capital was meant to deliver to rural Brazil. Its a city without street corners, says Lemos. No one could imagine how a city withoutstreet crossing could possibly work.

The city is heaving with symbolic value, as a marker of the transformation of Brazilian society. The Plaza, and the central axis where the ministries are is a space worthy of a great capital, says Lemos. Certainly, Costa thought about Washington, DC, when he envisioned this area. The great lawn which is often dry because it doesnt rain there surrounded by buildings of the highest architectural quality is a space of unimaginable grandiosity.

Costa and Niemeyer carefully crafted a space where all three branches of government are equally represented: a triangle is formed by the Supreme Court, the Planalto Palace where the Presidential offices are and the Itamaraty Palace, home of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all in the shadow of the Congress and Senate towers beyond. There is very little landscaping its rumoured that Niemeyer didnt want to overshadow his work by adding plants, thus bringing to an end what had previously been a very fruitful relationship with landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The sparsity of vegetation and the vastness of the central plains ultimately add to the sense of almost ethereal immensity.

The Cathedral of Braslia is shaped like a crown of thorns. (Shutterstock)

Any city would have struggled to live up to the lofty goals to which Braslia was built of an egalitarian, functional, developed Shangri-La of the tropics, free of the corruption and poverty that that blighted the rest the Brazil. The mere presence of inhabitants occupying these rarefied spaces and interacting with the theoretical narrative behind them would create a paradox making it impossible to implement the architects utopian vision, because a city can be a symbol, but it will also always be a living, changing environment. This paradox only grew stronger when Braslia was listed by the Brazilian National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) and subsequently when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The original Pilot Plan, the part shaped like an airplane, is stuck, rigid and immutable, while the surrounding areas change and grow to accommodate the growing population.

Though the cockpit of Braslias airplane is the citys postcard image, it is defined by Costas vision for the residential areas, located in the wings. In his original plan, Costa envisioned a series of super blocks residential blocks with mixed-income, high-density housing designed by Niemeyer, and services like schools, shops, churches and entertainment all arranged around a shared internal square or park. These are essentially villages within the city and are extremely popular to this day.

These superblocks were designed to transform, both architecturally and socially, an urban way of life established in pre-industrial cities, according to James Holston in his 1989 book The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Braslia. However, because Kubitscheks building plan involved inaugurating Braslia no later than 1960 (his final year in office), most of the super blocks were never completed. In fact, only one, the now-famous 107 South block, was finished according to Costas plan and with Niemeyers design. This mixed-income project was supposed to drive a democratisation of urban spaces in Braslia, explains Freitas. This did not work. From an urbanism point of view, the greatest discrepancy between what was proposed for Braslia and what it is today is housing.

Braslia will never be a very green city: It is impossible to get around without cars and public transport is extremely limited. (Kazuo Okubo)

From its inception, and because of myriad government plans to retain control over the land in the Pilot Plan and its surroundings, real estate speculation was and remains rampant. Additionally, Costas plan only accounted for a population of 500,000 people moving into Braslia, but because of a bounty of jobs in construction in the early years and opportunity for service workers later on, workers from all over the country quickly poured into the capital, looking for a piece of the promised land. Today there are over two million inhabitants in Braslia. They sold the city as a symbol of opportunity, of modernity, and it was very attractive to Brazilians, says Freitas, so from the very beginning Braslia buckled under the weight of its inhabitants, many of whom were unwanted. Thats how the Satellite Cities emerged.

These satellite suburbs are technically neighbouring cities to Costas original planned area and vary immensely in quality, ranging from middle-class commuter neighbourhoods to some of the most deprived favelas in the country. Plenty of the poorest areas are the direct result of forced removals of marginalised populations who were seen to be blighting the immaculate Pilot Plan with their illegal, often makeshift settlements. Some argue that Braslia as it was imagined in the Athens Plan was a good project for a city, but that given the reality of the country it generated a highly segregated city that doesnt work, says Freitas. Ultimately it is a city made for cars, not people, with a total separation of class by urban area.

The JK Memorial honors former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek, founder of Braslia. (Kazuo Okubo)

Planning an entire city will always be a challenge because inevitably the one is forced to envision how the city will be used not only in the immediate future, but in the decades and even centuries to come. But countries are still designing dedicated cities, even capitals. Myanmar inaugurated its seat of kings planned capital Naypyidaw in 2006, to replace the historic capital Yangon. Like with Braslia, the move placed the administrative capital closer to the geographical centre of the country, but unlike Braslia, there were limited plans to populate the city, and images of deserted six-lane motorways and empty stadiums became emblematic of the city. Today, less than a million people live in Naypyidaw, while Yangon remains the defacto leading city with over 7 million inhabitants.

Egypt, which announced it would be relocating its administrative capital to a new site 45 kilometres away from Cairo, will be looking at Braslia as a blueprint. Government buildings and foreign embassies will be relocated from central Cairo to the new development, in hopes of relieving congestion and overcrowding in the existing capital. The city is currently home to an estimated 18 million people, but that figure is expected to double by 2050. However, there are already notable differences in the two plans: Egypts new capital is almost entirely privately funded, while Braslia was a government funded endeavour; Egypts new capital will not open until at least 2050, while Braslia was completed in a rush in four years. There are striking similarities too, though, with residential areas being centred around smaller parks with shops and services, with the central administrative services running down the middle. The project is being helmed by SOM, the firm behind the Burj Khalifa and so many other steel and glass skyscrapers.

Because the project is in its early stages, its unclear if the new capital will be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that Braslia encountered. The same criticisms that are being levelled at the Egyptian capital: that it is a vanity project, that its diverting resources needed elsewhere in the country, were levelled at Braslia and Kubitschek, explains Freitas. Egypt, like Brazil, is a country marred by inequality, and it seems unlikely that a privately funded for-profit new capital will prioritise addressing these fundamental concerns. But ultimately, the building of a capital is as much about creating a new icon to revitalise a countrys image than it is about building a functional city.

Today, shortcomings in Braslias original masterplan are more apparent than ever as environmental concerns are forcing us to reassess how we live. Braslia will never be a very green city: the air is so dry and hot. It is impossible to get around the city without cars, and public transport is extremely limited, but this problematic car-centric vision was designed into the very fabric of the city.

A statue outside the Federal Supreme Court. (Kazuo Okubo)

In April, on the day Braslia officially completed six decades as the capital, the local government announced plans to relax strict zoning and conservation regulations to permit new construction in the area around Braslia s central axis. The idea is that by relaxing restrictions some of the satellite cities and hubs around the preserved Pilot Plan might benefit economically and some of the inequality inherent to the city might be eased, where historically most of the growth has been contained within the historic centre. But there is growing concern amid the population and experts about what that would mean for the Costa and Niemeyers beloved nucleus. The proposal is a dismantling of all the protection of the conservation area, explains Freitas. As a historian I have criticised parts of the preservation process that happened in Braslia, but at the same time I cannot defend walking back these protections and leaving the city open to new development. My criticism is meant to help improve the city, and not damage further a site of national heritage.

When it opened, Braslia might have been a dream of Brazilians, because they dreamt of modernity since their independence from Portugal. But realised dreams, planned utopias, eventually become complex realities. Steeped in contradictions by its very nature, Braslia remains a reflection of the country it represents: beautiful and aspirational, but ultimately dysfunctional and raging with inequality. Said Lucio Costa in 1987s Braslia Revisited of his most famous creation: The city, which first lived inside my head, broke free, no longer belongs to me it belongs to Brazil.

Rita Lobo is a freelance journalist based in London.

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In N.H., a drive-in live concert is what the new normal may look (and sound) like during the coronavirus pandemic – The Boston Globe

Posted: at 6:46 pm

There was also occasional sun, a nice breeze, other people around at a safe distance, of course and live music.

This is going to be the new normal, I think, for quite a while, Kevin Mach, who drove from Fairhaven, Mass., said from behind a black face mask. He and a friend were set up in a space right near the stage, two folding chairs and a small tray table laden with food beside their silver Prius.

Im just thrilled that someone, anyone is doing something to create a scenario in which people can experience things that are almost, almost normal again.

Last weekend, Tupelo held its inaugural drive-in concert, with plans to continue to hold five to six weekly shows over the summer.

The first show, there were people that were coming up, and they were teary-eyed, owner Scott Hayward said. It just fills that void, you know? . . . Theres something about going to a live show; it could be comedy or music, but theres something that lets you just shut off your head for an hour and a half" from all the stress the pandemic has brought.

Hayward started thinking about presenting outdoor shows after it became clear it would be a long time before he could reopen the 700-seat indoor venue. Then the state announced in early May that drive-in movie theaters would be able to open May 11 and detailed the rules they would have to follow.

Hayward saw how he could make it work at Tupelo.

He and his team spent an intense two weeks pulling off the transformation. The undertaking included building an outdoor stage; figuring out all the logistics of where to put people and how to serve food, all while following new safety rules; designing a whole new brand for the Tupelo Drive-in Experience," then making a stage backdrop, T-shirts, new webpages, with the new logo; procuring an outdoor sound system.

It was an entirely new business model in about two weeks, said Hayward.

When the pandemic hit, Hayward promised to keep paying his full-time employees even while Tupelo was closed. With the drive-in shows, hes able to go back to offering hours to his 30 part-time employees similar to what theyd worked before the shutdown. His goal is to make enough money over the summer that the business can survive the winter even if indoor events remain disrupted.

Each $75 ticket gains entrance for one car, with a maximum of 75 cars allowed at each show.

During the noon show Saturday, concertgoers stuck close to their assigned territory with no mingling or group dancing in front of the stage like you might have seen before the pandemic. Some stayed in their cars, many set up chairs outside, a few stood and bopped to the music next to their cars.

In a couple of weeks, Hayward plans to add an outside dining restaurant following the rules laid out by the state under a tent to one side of the stage. People, especially singles who want to see the show but not pay for a full car ticket, can make a reservation and listen to the music over food and a few drinks.

As one of the first US venues to do drive-in concerts, Tupelo has earned national press including write-ups in Billboard and Rolling Stone. The attention has Hayward fielding calls from agents all over the country, he said. Tupelo has drive-in shows booked through July, including with Boston-area artists such as Livingston Taylor and Johnny A.

I am so stoked. Going to concerts is my favorite thing, said Lizzy Goldstein, as she sat on the hood of her cherry red Jeep Wrangler and waited for the noon show to start. She woke up early to drive four hours from Bayonne, N.J., to see the performance by singer-songwriter Kasim Sulton, a longtime member of the progressive rock band Utopia, and one of her favorite artists.

Ill go anywhere to see him," she said.

Christine Ulaky, one of the owners of the Canobie Lake Park amusement park in Salem, N.H., read about Tupelos new drive-in series in the local paper and had to check it out.

When I saw how innovative and courageous he was in coming up with a solution, to provide entertainment I thought it was genius," she said after watching the show from a white wicker chair she brought from her porch at home.

Her own business, which she hopes will be allowed to open soon, is closed on what would normally be a busy weekend.

In the meantime, Ive got to get out too, said Ulaky.

On the stage, the artist, dressed in black, alternated between guitar and keyboard. Sultons on-stage banter was one reminder that not everything was normal. At one point he asked during a song if anyone had gotten nasal swabbed recently.

Turns out he had.

It was very unpleasant but it was worth it, Sulton said, before plunging on with the song.

At another point, he turned reflective about the pandemic.

What it does for me is that it makes the songs that I do, they all have their own meaning, but the meaning becomes even, like, even more poignant, said Sulton, strumming his guitar as he introduced the next song, I Just Want to Touch You.

And, you know, I cant," he said. So Ill play the song.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, Kasim Sultons name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.

Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.

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Ben Platt: Singing with Bette Midler and Judith Light in The Politician new series was really special – WhatsOnStage.com

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It's a banner moment for Dear Evan Hansen Tony winner Ben Platt. Last week he debuted his concert film, Ben Platt Live From Radio City Music Hall. 19 June marks the release of season two of Netflix's The Politician, in which his politically inclined character will face off against Judith Light and Bette Midler. And Platt is still recording and releasing music while holed up in Los Angeles. Here, he tells us about all of his forthcoming projects.

What was going through your mind when you walked out on stage at Radio City Music Hall and saw the sold-out crowd?It felt like an arrival, like the culmination of a lot of things. So many different factors from over the ten or 12 years I've been working as an actor and a singer came together at once and it was a little overwhelming, especially at a space that I associate with the Tonys. It's such a sacred room. It felt like I was in the right place at the right time, and it's really where I really wanted to be. On top of that, it was kind of like a Bart Mitzvah, because my family and all of my friends from different walks of life Evan Hansen and high school and The Politician came together in that one show. I'm so grateful there's this fantastic home video of it now.

Was the idea of playing Radio City terrifying, or were you all in from the start?It was only terrifying in a good way. It never scared me to the point that I didn't want to do it, but it gave me the right kind of butterflies, the kind that make you want to chase after it. It felt like the right next challenge, because I had just done the tour, with stops at places like the Beacon, and each of those steps felt scary in a good way and really prepared me to take on this room. But certainly, the day of, it was very scary to walk into the theatre and think that I'm not here as part of some larger telecast, I'm here to play my own show.

How did you come to work with Alex Timbers as director of the concert film?I wanted him from the start. I love his work on stage and how he make things on stage work on camera. I love his David Byrne piece [American Utopia], I love his John Mulaney special [Kid Gorgeous], I love Moulin Rouge! He creates such great evenings and experiences. I knew I wanted someone who had that crossover of live theater and can make it feel intimate on camera. He was very enthusiastic and protected my vision and didn't want to mess with the live experience in any way. He just wanted to make sure it was filmed in the right way. He did a fantastic job.

Was the Radio City show very different from the tour before it?We upped the production a little bit to fit the space in the practical sense. It's a little bit bigger, and there are a few more lights. I got an extra string player. More so, it was having to earn our place in such an amazing venue and rise to the occasion of playing of Radio City that added a new energy to the show. It was very purposeful that we did the tour before this show, because we really honed the show and figured out exactly how it should flow and what stories I should tell. We had such a solid foundation that I was able to go out and fly, instead of having to worry about specifics.

Who was your choreographer and how were your dance moves developed?There actually was no choreographer. I knew that I wanted to dance in the way that I dance when I'm out with my friends. I wanted it to seem like we were all dancing together, so there was no plan for the choreographed moments. In rehearsals over time, the amazing backup vocalists and I found these moments where we all just naturally wanted to move together, so we leaned into those. I don't ever get to dance or move as myself, so I'm excited for people to get to see that aspect of it.

Your show The Politician comes back June 19. Were you affected by the Covid shutdown and what can we expect from this season?We shot it from October through about February, and luckily, we got in under the wire. There was one outstanding scene left to do, and that's been turned into a very Covid-like FaceTime scene that worked really, really well.

This season is all about going head to head with Judith Light's character in a senate race for New York. It's all about Manhattan, and the aesthetic of the show is much more East Coast. It's gotten more adult and sharper and focused, because the kids are in their twenties and it's a real political race.

On top of all that, Bette Midler and Judith Light are giving incredible performances. Judith is always spectacular, but it's really special to see Bette Midler give this all-in comedic performance on screen. It's been a minute since we've gotten to see her do that and she's every bit as good as she always has been. There is one musical moment in the show and both Bette and Judith are there. Singing with them present was really special.

You're still putting out new music. What is it like to write songs over Zoom and FaceTime?It's really tough. It took a while to get used to. There's so much that you miss in terms of the in-person energy and the vibing with people and hearing the nuances of the sound that people are making. I found I can't do it with new collaborators. I've tried a few times and it's too arduous. But if you have an existing dynamic with someone you're already comfortable with, it's not so difficult to translate that to FaceTime. It's a learning curve, for sure, but we adjust and hopefully music is one of the few things we can get done in this time.

I just put out a song that Finneas produced that we wrote over Zoom. Naturally, when we get on these sessions, we make something that speaks to the moment now. But I'm trying to write things that will live beyond this. As we all must have faith in, this is temporary and it will pass, so I'm trying to write songs that will live on.

This article was originally published on our lovely sister site TheaterMania.


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Startups invited to apply for $10k Lagos Urban Innovation Challenge – Disrupt Africa

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Nigerian startups have been invited to apply for the first Lagos Urban Innovation Challenge, which offers solutions to critical urban issues access to a virtual accelerator and support worth over US$10,000.

The Lagos Urban Innovation Challenge, which is being run by Utopia in partnership with Skoll Foundation, Lagos Innovates, Future Africa, the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, Business Insider and Rain Tree, aims to promote solutions that can help solve critical urban issues in Lagos.

Early-stage startups and social entrepreneurs with solutions that can shape the Lagos of the future are encouraged to apply by May 31, with winners gaining access to a virtual urban accelerator, over US$10,000 worth of resources, and access to a support network from the challenge partners.

The Lagos Urban Innovation Challenge is looking for ideas that can help solve critical urban issues in Lagos, under themes such as energy, food and water, gov-tech, mobility, infrastructure, and public health and safety.

Its almost inevitable that critical infrastructure will need to be built to support Africas urban future. We are super excited to be supporting the entrepreneurs putting in the work now to build the future Africa deserves, and putting us on the path to a new model of urban growth, said Emmanuel Adegboye, managing partner of Utopia Lagos.

Shaping Lagoss urban future will require innovative approaches and collaboration between government, citizens, innovators and corporates.

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Back to the office: Now, later … never – CBC.ca

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Erin Eagles says she doesn't miss the drive to her Saint John office and sees no rush to give up working from home.

After weeks of practice, she has figured out the best place to video conference with clients is a tidy corner of the basement playroom.

There, the lighting is fine and her family won't come looking for a snack.

However, she says, her eight-year-old can be a distraction.

"There's a constant little pull," said Eagles, a financial adviser with Sun Life.

"Mostly from my daughter because if she knows I'm here, she wants my attention."

People who make a living off commercial real estate, and those who study that market,are waiting to see what workers like Eagles will choose to do next.

She's one of thousands of New Brunswickers who have learned to work from home because of COVID-19.

She's had enough time to master the transition. She's seen the good and the bad.

Some predict the good will win out and that many will decide to abandon their commute at the expense of New Brunswick's downtowns.

Business development analyst Ben Champoux saidyou'll see a change in Moncton.

Normally, he said, some 20,000 people from nearby communities such as Riverview, Dieppe, Shediac and Bouctouche, drive into the city for their jobs.

Those 20,000 workers are the reason why the downtown bars and restaurants thrive.

But in the past two or three months, Champoux said, most of those people have had to stay home and some, who managed to work there, have discovered they like it.

"This is very anecdotal, but I talk to friends on a regular basis and they're all telling me that they're as efficient as they used to be.

"Frankly, they're even more productive because they don't have to spend so much time in a car every morning and night. They don't have to take an hour to find a restaurant and eat. They can eat very quickly at home.

"And now they're seriously wondering, 'Do I really need to be physically back downtown and driving half an hour in the morning and half an hour at night, or could I spend it with my spouse and my kids?'"

Champoux saidit's not a question of whether people will choose to stay home, but a question of how many.

Across the province, some big employers said they're taking a slow and cautious approach getting people back to work.

Assumption Life said 98 per cent of its downtown Moncton workforce was able to do their jobs from home by the end of the week of March 16.

The company said it was a seamless transition that took less than 48 hours to execute.

"This current situation is showing us that working from home could be an option, depending on the role and responsibilities of each employee," wrote Thomas Raffy, director of communications.

Raffy said the company is working with the building's management company to come up with a multi-stage plan to get workers back into the tower.

That plan, he said, will also consider the daily feedback from employees on "how they're doing at home, how they're balancing their work and their personal lives, and how they perceive their return to work."

J.D. Irving Ltd. said thatacross its operations in Canada and the U.S., it had 2,800 employees working from home while its mills and offices were being reconfigured to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Those preparations included the production of some 30,000 signs to guide people on where to sit and stand to maintain physical distance.

The company said nearly 3,000 face masks were provided to workers in the mills.

Bathrooms had to be changed and workstations have all been equipped with disinfectant wipes and sanitizer.

"The whole time, on the forest products side, from Lake Utopia to Irving Tissue in Moncton, not a single case of COVID, not a single layoff," said Mary Keith, vice-president of communications.

Now the company has mapped out its plan to bring them back.

"It's almost harder than sending them home," Keith said.

At 300 Union St., workers have started to reoccupy the 12-storey building, one floor at a time.

Much like Moncton, Saint John has been missing its commuters as many as 16,000 per day.

Full occupancy of the JDI headquarters puts 800 people in the city centre.

Jeff Yerxa has 90,000 square feet of office space soon to open in Fredericton's downtown and he said he's not worried he'll find takers for the third of the building that isn't yet leased.

He's the president and CEO Of Ross Ventures and once pitched his proposal for 140 Carleton as "Fredericton's sexiest building."

"It looks largely finished on the outside but the inside is still under a fair amount of construction," said Yerxa, who declined to say who is moving in.

"We don't anticipate the first tenants taking occupancy there until late summer, possibly early fall."

Yerxa said he's watching the impactof COVID-19 on workers, and he thinks their reaction to working from home is mixed.

"There's people who went home to work and loved working from home and there's people who went home to work and hated working from home.

"Then there's the other side of the equation, which is the employers. So there's employers who sent their staff home and found some of them very productive, possibly more productive working from home. And of course, the opposite is true, too.

"I don't think the need for office space is going to disappear."

Alexandra Allen thinks demand won't disappear, but she wouldn't be surprised to see it quickly soften.

As senior manager of the economic intelligence unit for Turner, Drake and Partners, she leads the team that runs the company's semi-annual survey on more than 38 million square feet of office and industrial space across Atlantic Canada.

She saidrecession drives change. Employers go looking for savings by reducing their footprints.

In the 90s, she says private offices were swapped out for cubicles.

Then the 2008 downturn drove the trend toward open and collaborative spaces, also known as "bullpens."

Allen said the post COVID recession will give some employers no choice. They'll have to keep their workers at home so they can save on rent.

"It will be a survival mechanism," she said.

She said tenants can't rush for the exits because they often sign multi-year leases.

However, early indicators of a weaker market would show up as added incentives offered by the landlords, such as cash inducements to get tenants to move in, Allen said.

"Then as vacancy creeps up, the next thing is that rental rates will have downward pressure on them. First, you'll see stagnation, then actual downward shifts."

Allen said she'll be looking for early downturn indicators in the next survey results due out in July.

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Authoritarian China will never tolerate a free Hong Kong – Reaction – Reaction

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In his 1998 book, An Introduction to the Hong Kong Legal System, Peter Wesley-Smith, the former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong, wrote:

At bottom, law is dependent upon politics. In one sense it is a rationalisation of a political event, a transformation of a state of affairs brought by force into a situation governed by law. The constitution reflects and sustains victory on the field of battle. It is, nevertheless, legitimate, for it is in fact obeyed and accepted as such by most of the Regimes inhabitants.

Wesley-Smith touched on something of fundamental importance to our political life in Hong Kong we, like the worlds liberal democracies, believe in government by the consent of the governed. When the organs of governance and law enforcement have lost their legitimacy and the trust among a significant proportion of the population, it becomes extremely difficult for them to implement even the simplest of policies not to mention a law which is seemingly against the values the population believe in.

Beijing knows that it will never command such legitimacy. That is why the Chinese government has finally decided to act on its own, without consent and without consultation. In a new draft law, whose extended title is on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security, Beijing is seeking to allow its own national security organs to set up agencies in Hong Kong.

It will also allow the Chinese government to legislate, unilaterally and bypassing Hong Kongs own legislature, to stop activities in four areas namely any acts deemed to split the country, subvert state power, organize and carry out terrorist activities and to interfere with Hong Kong affairs by foreign and external forces.

Under the new draft laws stipulations, the territorys Chief Executive must also report regularly to Beijing on matters relating to national security.

The global health crisis through which we are now living has disrupted the political landscape once again. The crucial effect of Covid-19 on the political situation is twofold. First, the pandemic prevents protesters in Hong Kong from gathering in huge masses although it is still likely that they will continue to take to the streets anyway. Second, Sino-US relations have sharply deteriorated Beijing is likely to benefit from being the first-mover, manoeuvring quickly to enact the national security law.

Words failed me when my friend asked me how I felt about this unprecedented move. These feelings never come together in just a single day or following a single event it made me look back and recount what my sentiments were at different milestones that shaped Hong Kong into what it is today.

We have been where we are now before. In 2003, the then Hong Kong government proposed the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill, one which would require the islands administration to fulfil the obligations set by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the territorys de facto constitution. The Article in the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to legislate on its own to ban any act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the Regime.

The word subversion was at first removed from the Article, but it was reintroduced following the Tiananmen protests of June 1989, during which some one million Hong Kong citizens went onto the streets to protest for democracy, the day after a major typhoon struck the city of Hong Kong. Ever since, this Article has proven to be a crucial flashpoint of controversy between those supporting democracy in Hong Kong and those promoting closer ties with Beijings authoritarian system. Subversion can be interpreted in many different ways.

The proposed security legislation in 2003 caused considerable controversy and triggered a massive demonstration, consisting of half a million people, in the city on July 1. Two months later, the Bill was withdrawn by the then Chief Executive.

Even as a kid, I was in awe at the power of the ordinary people of Hong Kong in unity, as showcased through peaceful, non-violent demonstrations. I have felt the same power on June 4 every year since, at Victoria Park, where hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers light up their candles and reaffirm their determination to bring democracy to China. What I didnt realise, at that time, was that Article 23 had always been there, and the matter had to be resolved sooner or later whether by deliberation or by coercion.

Just over ten years later, in 2014, Hong Kong once again impressed the world with peaceful civil disobedience against the proposed changes to the electoral system. This would have limited those capable of voting for representatives of the citys Chief Executive. The protest gained its name, the Umbrella Movement, from the use of umbrellas to protect oneself from the pepper sprays by the police. The use of teargas against the protesters was a direct provocation for many to go onto the major highways and begin an 80-day long occupation.

To me, the occupation area was a political utopia without the disturbance of power and the tides fortune which exist in real-world politics. Of course, the movement was short-lived, but through the protests we reaffirmed our beliefs in democracy, freedom and equality.

The introduction of the so-called Extradition Bill in 2019 has caused the gravest damage not only to the long-cherished values of our city and to the principle of One Country, Two Systems, but also to almost every aspect of the economy and society. It has also made Beijing even more determined to tackle unrest with whatever means possible, including new and ever more punitive legislation.

As a medical student, I find that the most appropriate analogy for the unrest since last June is an infection. The bill posed threats directly to the rule of law, the freedoms that citizens enjoy, and to economic activities by inciting fear much like the pathogen that directly damages different organ systems. The protesters resisted these threats with determination and with different degrees of violence like our immune system. The bill was then withdrawn following months of protests and clashes, but the failure of the government to respond to the demands from the protesters has led to persistent protests and clashes which themselves have mutilated all facets of the Hong Kong society much like the hyper-inflammatory status and the cytokine storm caused by our immune cells.

I am empathetic towards the protesters regardless of the violence they have used there were no other possible ways to change the governments mind. The government must be held accountable for introducing the Bill and the police for inappropriate use of force.

But who should be responsible for the damage to the public facilities and normal socioeconomic order, the desecration of the rule of law, the disrespect or even physical attacks towards people with diverse political stances (especially towards those from the mainland)? How can we count the cost for the harm done to every one of us psychologically, when violent clashes filled our TVs, newspapers and our smartphones every day? I cannot find an objective and impartial answer for myself and I was torn by these questions on a daily basis.

In any case, it is now certain that Chinas parliament will pass the draft security Bill into law on May 28. So, what am I concerned about?

In 2015, the world was shocked by the sudden disappearances of five employees of Causeway Bay Books, one of whom, Lee Bo, disappeared within Hong Kong itself. The bookshop was notable for selling political books that were deemed a threat to national security and hence were banned in China. Will disappearances like this become normal, once Beijings national security agency reaches Hong Kong? Will people be arrested on June 4 memorials, commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacres, simply because they call for an end to the Communist Party dictatorship?

The legislature in Beijing will be able to enact national security laws circumventing the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. The laws of mainland China are known for their ambiguity and room for (potentially very wide) interpretation. Without the scrutiny by the local legislature, the enacted law will most probably be much worse even than the bill proposed in 2003.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for Hong Kongs citizens themselves to demand the reversal of Beijings decision. The Umbrella Movement in 2014 terminated the electoral reform itself, certainly, but Beijings resolve that future reforms will come, by coercion if not by consultation, remains in force. It has always been a matter of if and not when.

What can we do about it then? During the anti-extradition protests last year, a worrying number of protesters had come up with the philosophy that goes if we burn, you burn with us much like a scorched-earth strategy, a guarantee of mutual destruction. Defending the freedoms and values of Hong Kong is not a stage for revolutionary heroism.

Perhaps the international community may press China with all possible means (especially economic) without causing harm to the lives of ordinary Hongkongers. Some have even suggested that Donald Trumps White House should remove the special socioeconomic status of Hong Kong established in the United StatesHong Kong Policy Act as a retaliation against the regime and to Chinas economy. But this is both myopic and, frankly, rather childish: Beijing must have considered such move as a worst-case scenario before going ahead; and it is the ordinary citizens in Hong Kong that will suffer the most if the US treats Hong Kong the same as the Mainland.

Sadly, most of the pressure placed on China from the international community is transient and remains at the verbal level, in part because Hong Kong is of decreasing importance as a middleman between China and the West in trade; and also because Hong Kong, along with its future, has long been a bargaining chip on the gaming table between the two superpowers.

What has happened since last June, and more recently last week, has caused me constant bewilderment what has gone wrong with Hong Kong? As my friend and I were sharing remorse and sighs, I started to recall what Lee Kuan Yew said in an interview when he visited Hong Kong in 1992:

[I]fdemocracy plus free market produces a prosperous Hong Kong, then that is a challenge to [Chinas] systemChina will not tolerate a Hong Kong which is made into a separate community or society from China. Once you have separate elections to identify separate group interests, you create a distinct identity separate from the mainland

Why have they agreed [to preserve Hong Kongs way of life for 50 years]? Because they think Hong Kong is a superior model? No. They have agreed because economically Hong Kong is of value to themPut it in another way, after 50 years, do you think the Chinese will allow Hong Kong to be different from Guangdong?

Much to my regret and sadness, Lee Kuan Yew was right.

The author is a former pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong and is now a medical student in the United States.

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Explained: What is Tianwen-1, Chinas Mars mission? – The Indian Express

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By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: May 27, 2020 1:57:18 pm The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, a launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). (Image: Aynur Zakirov/Pixabay)

Chinas space program is now slated to achieve a new milestone. In July, the country will launch its first Mars mission, the Tianwen-1, which is expected to land on the Red Planets surface in the first quarter of 2021. The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States.

Named after the ancient Chinese poem Questions to Heaven, the Tianwen-1, an all-in-one orbiter, lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among completing other objectives.

The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, a launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), from the Wenchang launch centre, and will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet. The missions launch in July was confirmed on Sunday by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which has been working on the project since 2016.

As per a report in the Air and Space Magazine, the Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution. Two candidate landing sites have been identified, one of them being Utopia Planitia, according to Space News.

Chinas previous Yinghuo-1 Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earths orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

The Chinese mission is expected to take off in late July, around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission the ambitious Perseverance which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them back to Earth in a two-part campaign.

Also in Explained: What InSight has told us about Mars so far

Previous Mars missions

The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing its Mars 3 lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing. The country made its second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.

The second country to reach Marss surface, the US, holds the record for the most number of Mars landings. Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the InSight in 2019 (launched in 2018).

India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Marss orbit. Indias Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

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Why Mars exploration

After the Moon, the most number of space missions in the Solar System have been to Mars. Despite being starkly different in many ways, the Red Planet has several Earth-like features such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.

For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life. In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.

This has made space explorers more curious about whether the planet can sustain life. Newer NASA missions have since transitioned from their earlier strategy of Follow the Water to Seek Signs of Life.

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