Posted Jul. 14, 2017 at 5:23 a.m.

Tech wrap: 70-year-old a YouTube hit; racial Airbnb case; Uber Russia woes; Afghan girls to US for robotics; new Zika risk

Published: 2017-07-14 05:23:35
Updated: 2017-07-14 05:23:35


Today's Bulldog wrapup of the latest high-tech and life science news from around the world:

  • 70-year-old YouTube hit redefining beauty in South Korea
  • Airbnb host who canceled reservation over race fined $5,000
  • Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up
  • Afghan girls will be allowed into US for robotics contest
  • Human Rights Watch says Brazil is risking new Zika surge

The details:

  • 70-year-old YouTube hit redefining beauty in South Korea

One of South Korea's hottest YouTube stars is a 70-year-old grandmother whose cool, undaunted style and hilarity are a breath of fresh air in a social media universe that exalts youth and perfect looks.

Park Makrye's videos are all about showing off her wrinkles and her elderly life in the raw. Young South Koreans find her so funny and adorable that big companies like Samsung Electronics and Lotte are banking on her popularity.

[ VIDEO: Watch Park Makrye at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzis0G6kyCk]

[Her channel: Check out more videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN8CPzwkYiDVLZlgD4JQgJQ ]]

Despite her new life as a celebrity, she still gets up before dawn to run her diner.

Serving kimchi while clad in a dotted pink top and short skirt with a kitchen hygiene hat on her head, Park isn't exactly the most stylish beauty icon.

Yet, South Koreans love watching her give make-up tutorials, reunite with an old friend or try pasta for the first time in her life in her "Grandma's Diary" YouTube videos

"She's real. She's not fake," said Lee Injae, a 31-year-old living in Seoul. "It's refreshing to see the world through the eyes of a grandmother."

Before YouTube, Park says, her life was "dead like rotten bean sprouts."

"We used to think, 'Since I'm over 70, my life is over,'" Park said in an interview with The Associated Press, sitting in the living room that she turns into her YouTube studio by taping a broad piece of paper on the wall.

  • Airbnb host who canceled reservation over race fined $5,000

An Airbnb host who cancelled a reservation and told the guest, "One word says it all. Asian," has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and attend a college course in Asian-American studies, officials with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Thursday.

The guest, Dyne Suh, had booked the home as part of a ski trip with her fiancé and friends in Big Bear in February. When she was close to the house, Suh messaged host Tami Barker through the Airbnb app, but the host cancelled the reservation after a dispute over additional guests.

Barker told Suh in a series of messages that she wouldn't rent to her if she were the last person on Earth.

"One word says it all. Asian," one of the messages said.

When Suh told Barker that she would complain to Airbnb, Barker wrote, "It's why we have Trump ... I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners."

Suh, who posted an emotional video about the incident on YouTube, has said she'd agreed to pay $250 per night to rent the home and later asked Barker if two other friends could also stay at the house, which Barker agreed to. Suh sent Barker screenshots of text messages where she agreed to the additional guests, but Barker cancelled the reservation.

As part of an agreement with state officials, Barker also agreed to personally apologize to Suh and perform community service at a civil rights organization.

  • Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up

Uber is ceding control of the Russian market by agreeing to merge its ride-hailing business in the country with Yandex, the Russian search-engine leader that also runs a popular taxi-booking app.

For Uber, the deal marks the exit from another big market after it sold its operations in China last year to local rival Didi Chuxing.

Yandex said in a statement on Thursday that Uber and Yandex Taxi would combine into a new company in Russia as well as in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Yandex will own 59 percent, Uber roughly 37 percent, and employees the rest. The CEO of Yandex Taxi, Tigran Khudaverdyan, will become the chief executive of the new combined company.

San Francisco-based Uber will invest $225 million in the new company and Yandex $100 million, putting its value at over $3.7 billion. The companies said that together they deliver over 35 million rides a month, with $130 million in gross bookings in June. Yandex is the bigger company, with roughly the twice the business Uber currently has in the region.

In both Russia and China, Uber was having trouble competing against larger ride services that have the advantages of being the hometown company and knowing cultural differences, said independent technology analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research in California. "It's like competing with Google in the U.S.," he said. "They just weren't really making headway against the local competitors."

  • Afghan girls will be allowed into US for robotics contest

U.S. officials will allow a group of Afghan girls into the country to participate in an international robotics competition after President Donald Trump intervened, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Wednesday, ending a saga that had sparked international backlash.

Homeland Security Department spokesman David Lapan said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved a State Department request for six girls from the war-torn country to be allowed in, along with their chaperone, so they can participate in the competition. The girls' applications for U.S. visas had been denied twice.

The non-profit organizing the competition celebrated the reversal in a jubilant statement Wednesday.

"I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences," said Joe Sestak, the president of First Global. He credited "the professional leadership of the U.S. State Department" for ensuring that all 163 teams from 157 countries, including a team of Syrian refugees, would be able to participate.

The U.S. State Department had declined to comment on why the Afghan team's visa applications were denied, saying that "all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law."

A senior administration official said that Trump raised the issue with his national security adviser, H.R. General McMaster, during his trip to Germany last week for the Group of 20 summit, and had asked for additional options. The State Department and Department of Homeland Security came up with several — with the idea of "paroling" the girls through the Department of Homeland Security ultimately chosen by the National Security Council. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

  • Human Rights Watch says Brazil is risking new Zika surge

Poor sanitation and water conditions that contributed to an outbreak of Zika persist in Brazil and leave the country vulnerable to a resurgence of the virus, a rights group said Thursday.

Brazil declared an end to the public health emergency over the mosquito-borne disease in May, 18 months after a surge in cases of the virus, which has been linked to birth defects. But Human Rights Watch is warning of the threat of a new outbreak, saying Brazil has done too little to help the millions who don't have a continuous water supply or access to adequate sanitation services.

The group's report notes that because more than one-third of Brazilians can't count on their water supply, they often store water in tanks, which can serve as mosquito breeding grounds if not covered or treated. Researchers with the group also described seeing raw sewage flowing into communities, where it sometimes creates dirty pools of water that also are ideal breeding grounds.

"Years of neglect contributed to the water and wastewater conditions that allowed the proliferation of the Aedes mosquito and the rapid spread of the virus," the report said. "Brazilian authorities should make long overdue investments in water and sanitation infrastructure to control mosquito breeding and improve public health."

The report also urges the government to decriminalize abortion and provide more support to children who are suffering from the effects of Zika. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape, danger to a mother's life or anencephaly, a birth defect involving the brain. Some research indicates that more women sought illegal abortions in Brazil during the Zika outbreak.

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