Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Monday-Tuesday Merger

I'm going to be slowing down my size and rate of posts in the near future, and yielding to other bloggers.

"Michigan’s new motor city: Ann Arbor as a driverless-car hub" by Neal E. Boudette New York Times   July 10, 2017

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As the world looks ahead to a future of interconnected, self-driving cars, this college town 40 miles west of Detroit has emerged as a one-of-a-kind, living laboratory for the technologies that will pave the way.

Here, it is not uncommon to see self-driving Ford Fusions or Lexus sedans winding their way through downtown streets and busy intersections, occupied by engineers with eyes focused more on laptops and test equipment than the roadway.

Soon students and staff members at the University of Michigan will be able to get around the engineering campus on fully automated, driverless shuttle buses provided by a French company drawn to Ann Arbor by the university’s autonomous-car test track, known as MCity.

And at any time of the day, some 1,500 cars — owned by university employees, businesses, and local residents, and wired up by university researchers — radio their speed and direction to one another and to equipment like traffic lights and crosswalk signals. It is all part of a vast pilot project run by the university to develop connected-car technologies that someday should ease congestion and make self-driving cars safe.

“This combination of research and testing in a controlled facility like MCity, and testing on the street in the real world, on this scale, doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” said James R. Sayer, director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Glenn Stevens can attest to that. An executive with a business organization that promotes the Detroit area’s autonomous vehicle activities, he recently met with groups from the Netherlands, Germany, and India, and Ann Arbor is not alone. Thanks to its long automotive history, Michigan is the site of a broad array of research efforts and development centers that are focusing on connected cars and autonomous vehicles. In addition, Michigan has passed laws clearing the way for extensive testing on public roads — even for self-driving vehicles that have no steering wheels — and has equipped more than 100 public highways with electronics to facilitate testing of connected cars and self-driving trucks.

That's where my print copy stalled.

The competition to lead in a new era of self-driving cars is fierce. Silicon Valley, the Phoenix area, and Pittsburgh are hotbeds, as are Singapore and Shanghai. In Europe, researchers have pushed ahead on tests of platoons of self-driving trucks.

“We are doing a lot of tests ourselves in the Netherlands on connected vehicles, and are looking at other places that have the same ambitions,” Bram Hendrix, a representative of a Dutch auto industry association, said during a pause in a tour of Ann Arbor and the surrounding region. “We are here to see and learn so we can collaborate with this region.”

One of the strongest draws to Ann Arbor is MCity, a 32-acre testing ground that opened in 2015. It features simulated city streets, intersections, and storefronts where carmakers and others can test self-driving vehicles in a confined but realistic setting. Dozens of companies, including General Motors, Toyota, Honda, BMW, and Intel, are conducting research there in collaboration with the university.

Last winter they were joined by Navya, a French startup that has developed a small, autonomous shuttle bus. Two will go into service at the university in September in one of the first trials of a driverless transit vehicle open to the public. By the end of the year, Navya plans to begin building its buses near Ann Arbor.

Henri Coron, Navya’s vice president for sales, said the decision to locate the assembly plant in Michigan was based on “the strength of support” from the university.

The university’s president, Mark Schlissel, said his institution was trying to ensure that Michigan remains a vibrant center of automotive innovation, even as Silicon Valley and other locations take prominent roles in developing self-driving cars.

“We want to provide the research underpinning for the state to succeed in competing in this future of mobility,” he said. “For the economic future of the state, it is critical that the leadership of automotive technology remains in southeastern Michigan.”

The university expects to expand the number of wired cars taking part in the trials to 2,500 by 2018.

How do I shut this thing off?

The Toyota development arm working on self-driving cars is in Ann Arbor. Other automakers have set up comparable operations elsewhere in the state. General Motors is assembling self-driving test vehicles, based on its Bolt electric car, in Orion Township. Fiat Chrysler has teamed up with Waymo, the division of Alphabet, Google’s parent, that is working on autonomous cars. Waymo itself has set up its own development center in Novi, northwest of Detroit.

A dozen of the state’s universities and colleges are also working on projects related to future modes of transportation.

Soon, two other test centers similar to MCity will open. Work is well underway on a much larger one 10 miles to the east in Ypsilanti, on the site of a factory that built bombers during World War II. Called the American Center for Mobility, it will cover 325 acres and allow testing of autonomous vehicles at highway speeds and in complex roadways like overpasses and exit ramps. A third testing ground is being built in Flint by GM and Kettering University.

“I think it’s totally cool to be a part of this,” Paul Dolan, an information technology executive, said of the University of Michigan program. Dolan volunteered in December to have his Ford Edge outfitted for the university’s pilot program. “There’s a lot of awareness that driverless cars are coming, but I don’t think people realize the extent of what U of M is doing.”



"Tesla provides first look at cheaper Model 3 sedan, a relatively low price car [that] will cost $35,000. A $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles would lower the cost to $27,500. The new model is at the low-end of the company’s projections, below previous projections....."

They have been $lowing down lately, so it's a good thing the price of gas is down a penny.

Penn Station’s ‘summer of hell’ shouldn’t affect Boston passengers much, Amtrak says

First day of Penn Station track repairs goes mostly smoothly for commuters

That's why there is a pending lawsuit.

Last stop, everybody out:

"ClubCorp Holdings Inc., owner and operator of golf and country clubs, has agreed to be acquired for about $1.1 billion by Apollo Global Management LLC in an all-cash transaction. Investors will receive $17.12 a share, the Dallas company said Sunday. The price represents a 31 percent premium over the closing stock price on Friday. ClubCorp said in January that it had hired Jefferies and Wells Fargo & Co. to evaluate options to enhance shareholder value, and in May added two new independent contractors in an agreement with activist shareholder FrontFour Capital Group. Last year, short-seller Kerrisdale Capital Management targeted ClubCorp, saying that participation in golf is shrinking, particularly among younger people, and that operating golf clubs is a capital-intensive business. The shares have declined about 25 percent since reaching a high this year on Feb. 21. Founded in 1957, the company owns or operates more than 200 private golf, country, and private clubs that serve 430,000 members."

"The deal follows a challenging stretch for the golf industry, which saw participation decline after a peak in 2003. Hundreds of courses have closed in recent years, and the slump rocked both retailers and equipment manufacturers. Golfsmith International, the biggest golf chain, filed for bankruptcy last year. And Nike Inc., which had hitched its golf fortunes to Tiger Woods’s career, stopped selling equipment for the sport, but golf’s core participants remain enthusiastic, and Apollo Global Management LLC is getting ClubCorp’s more than 430,000 members — an affluent and reliable set of customers....."


Dow and DuPont get US approval to merge


"DuPont to pay $50m over mercury-contaminated Virginia rivers" by Sarah Rankin Associated Press  December 16, 2016

RICHMOND — Chemical giant DuPont will pay more than $50 million but admit no fault under a proposed environmental settlement after releasing toxic mercury for decades that made its way into Shenandoah Valley waterways, authorities announced Thursday.

Good thing we have a law against that up here.

The deal would resolve alleged violations of civil environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, related to the pollution from a company factory in Waynesboro. It would amount to the largest environmental damage settlement in Virginia history and the eighth largest in the nation, officials said. The money would go to projects including wildlife habitat restoration, water quality enhancement, and improvements to recreational areas.

‘‘In bringing this settlement to a close, we are finally righting a wrong that has impacted the South River and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River for so many decades,’’ Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe said at a news conference announcing the settlement.

Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co. used mercury in its process of making synthetic fiber at the plant between 1929 and 1950, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Strict storage and disposal regulations weren’t in place at the time, and some of the mercury seeped into the South River and flowed downstream to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

DuPont discovered the mercury — which accumulates in fish and is especially dangerous to pregnant or breast-feeding women and young children — in the facility’s soil in 1976, officials say.

The pollution impacted more than 100 miles of river and thousands of acres of flood plain and riparian habitat, affecting fish, mussels, migratory birds, and amphibians, the Department of Justice said in a statement. The pollution also has limited some recreational fishing in Waynesboro, a city of about 20,000 in the Shenandoah Valley.

The terms of the settlement are outlined in a proposed consent decree that was filed in federal court in Harrisonburg on Thursday. It is subject to a 45-day public comment period and must be approved by the court.

The amount of money proposed is ‘‘quite impressive,’’ but mercury is very persistent in the environment and very difficult to remove, said Dr. Thomas Benzing, a professor of integrated science and technology at James Madison University who works with a team of researchers monitoring the mercury levels since 2001. 

Looks to me like a $lap on the wrist.

If the settlement goes forward, DuPont would pay slightly more than $42 million toward projects including streamside plantings and erosion control to improve water quality and fish habitat; mussel propagation and restoration; migratory songbird habitat restoration and protection; and recreational fishing access creation or improvement.

The company also will pay for renovations at the Front Royal Fish Hatchery to improve production of warm-water fish such as smallmouth bass, at an estimated cost of up to $10 million.

‘‘Every dollar is going to be used to clean up the land, the source issues, and the water to where it would have been’’ if not for the pollution, said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.

No one from DuPont — which is awaiting final regulatory approval for its merger with Dow Chemical in a deal to create DowDuPont, a $130 billion conglomerate — spoke at the announcement.

But Mike Liberati, South River project director for the DuPont Corporate Remediation Group, said in a statement that DuPont ‘‘is committed to a long-term presence in the Waynesboro area and to maintaining transparency with its citizens.’’

The first phase of remediation, involving part of the riverbank in Waynesboro’s Constitution Park could be complete in February. Soil there containing the highest concentrations of mercury is being excavated and hauled away and replaced by clean topsoil, Liberati said.

‘‘It’s going to be a long-term project. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,’’ Benzing said. 

And it's 40 years late.


Of course the real problem is.... yeah, right.

"Pesticide maker tries to kill risk study" by Michael Biesecker Associated Press  April 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Dow Chemical is pushing a Trump administration that’s open to scrapping regulations to ignore the findings of federal scientists who point to a family of widely used pesticides as harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.

Lawyers representing Dow, whose chief executive is a close adviser to President Trump, and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to the heads of three of Trump’s Cabinet agencies.

The companies asked them ‘‘to set aside’’ the results of studies the companies contend are fundamentally flawed.

Dow Chemical wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities, and its chairman and CEO, Andrew Liveris, heads a White House manufacturing working group.

The industry’s request comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced last month he was reversing an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children’s brains.


"An investigation is underway into an accidental poisoning involving a professional-grade pesticide that left four children dead and their mother in critical condition, police said Tuesday. Authorities are looking into why the family had pesticide pellets, called Weevil-cide, which are only meant to be used by people with professional licenses or certification. The product is used in rodent control in commercial transport of commodities and animal feed. The father told police he had spread the pellets under the family’s mobile home in Amarillo after getting them from a friend."

Texas like India?

In his prior job as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt often aligned himself in legal disputes with the interests of executives and corporations who supported his state campaigns. He filed more than a dozen lawsuits seeking to overturn some of the same regulations he is now charged with enforcing.

Pruitt declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday as he toured a polluted Superfund site in Indiana. The letters to Cabinet heads were dated April 13. As with the recent human studies of chlorpyrifos, Dow hired its own scientists who produced a lengthy rebuttal to the government studies.

Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled an official record running more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review — chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied.


Bees added to US endangered species list for the first time

It's ‘‘crunch time’’ so they better act fast.

"Officials say the bumblebee population has dropped as a result of the loss of habitat from increasing development, diseases and parasites, pesticides, and climate change, which impacts the flowers they live on. “Diseases and parasites brought by nonnative honeybees are acting in interrelated ways to the detriment of bumblebees,” said Mark McCollough, an endangered species specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Plans to bolster the bumblebees include planting more native flowers, curbing pesticides, and leaving grass and garden plants uncut after the summer to provide habitat for bees through the winter. “The loss of any species to human actions is a tragedy,” McCollough said....."

The cause is anything and everything EXCEPT GMOS!

Also seeTrump administration delays listing bumblebee as endangered

Hey, cheer up. You are the champs.

"The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit that aims to protect pollinators and other invertebrates, had pushed for yellow-faced bees to be recognized and protected. The group takes its name from the Xerces Blue butterfly, which it says is the first butterfly known to become extinct in North America as a result of human activities. According to the federal agency, yellow-faced bees have been threatened by non-native bees and other invasive animal species, as well as by human development....."

"Beekeepers are trying to determine the cause of an apparent contamination that has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of honeybees at a pair of Rehoboth hives. Wayne Andrews, vice president of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association, who was on hand to examine the hives shortly after the first reports of trouble, said Monday, “It’s the biggest [kill] I’ve ever seen. Quite frankly, I was taken aback.” Eric Pilotte, president of the Bristol County Beekeepers Association, said it wasn’t clear what caused the massive kill. He added, however, that in most similar cases it’s an issue related to pesticide contamination. The association, he said, is waiting to hear from the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources....."

So what would happen if bees disappeared?

I'm glad you didn't hear the buzz about the bats.

The office of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Natural Marine Fisheries Service, did not respond to e-mailed questions. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, referred questions back to EPA.

The EPA’s recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is ‘‘likely to adversely affect’’ 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds, and mammals. Similar results were shown for malathion and diazinon.

In a statement, the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos said its lawyers asked for the EPA’s biological assessment to be withdrawn because its ‘‘scientific basis was not reliable.’’

‘‘Dow AgroSciences is committed to the production and marketing of products that will help American farmers feed the world, and do so with full respect for human health and the environment, including endangered and threatened species,’’ it said. ‘‘These letters, and the detailed scientific analyses that support them, demonstrate that commitment.’’

FMC Corp., which sells malathion, said withdrawal of the EPA studies would allow the necessary time for the ‘‘best available’’ scientific data to be compiled.

Environmental advocates said criticism of the government’s scientists was unfounded. The methods used to conduct EPA’s biological evaluations were developed by the National Academy of Sciences.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Dow’s experts were trying to hold EPA scientists to an unrealistic standard of data collection.

Organophosphorus gas was originally developed as a chemical weapon by Nazi Germany. Dow has been selling Chlorpyrifos for spraying on citrus fruits, apples, cherries, and other crops since the 1960s. It is among the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States, with Dow selling about 5 million pounds domestically each year.

As a result, traces of the chemical are commonly found in sources of drinking water. A 2012 study at the University of California, Berkeley found that 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of chlorpyrifos.


After WWII ended, they took the war to agriculture.

"States sue over EPA’s decision to keep pesticide on market" by Michael Biesecker Associated Press  July 07, 2017

WASHINGTON — Several states, including Massachusetts, are seeking to join a legal challenge to a Trump administration decision to keep a widely used pesticide on the market despite studies showing it can harm children’s brains.

Led by New York, the coalition filed a motion Wednesday to intervene in a legal fight over the continued spraying of chlorpyrifos on food. Federal law requires EPA to ensure that pesticides used on food in the United States are safe for human consumption — especially by children, who studies show are typically far more sensitive to negative effects from pesticides.

Dow, which sells chlorpyrifos through its subsidiary Dow AgroSciences, did not comment Thursday. In the past, the company has said it helps American farmers feed the world ‘‘with full respect for human health and the environment.’’

Spending more than $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, Dow has long wielded substantial political power in Washington. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Trump and the company gave $1 million for Trump’s inaugural activities.

Similar to a chemical spray developed as a weapon prior to World War II, Dow has been selling chlorpyrifos for use on farms since the 1960s. It is now among the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States, with about 5 million pounds sold domestically each year.

As a result, traces of the chemical are commonly found in sources of drinking water. A 2012 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of chlorpyrifos.....

I'm sure it's soda you drank.


Please remember that these are the same people professing to protect you and keep you safe from all sorts of things.

"Poisonous CO gas may prove to be medicinal" by Wudan Yan, STAT  |  January 23, 2017

NEW YORK — Carbon monoxide is a poison. Could it also be a medicine?

Dr. Augustine Choi has spent two decades trying to figure that out. And he’s inching toward a surprising answer: yes.

Most of the research has been conducted in animals; a few early-stage clinical trials are underway in patients. But the data look promising enough that several companies are jumping into the field, developing ways to deliver small amounts of carbon monoxide to damaged tissues through pills, lotions, beverages, and inhalable gas.

It’s not an entirely new idea: Scientific papers dated as early as 1932 hinted that small doses of carbon monoxide — a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas — could have beneficial effects. But no one had actually done experiments. Not until Choi, who chairs the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, started thinking about why our lungs work so well despite daily bombardment from pollutants.

It was a somewhat crazy idea.... 

That's when I passed out.



"Swiss specialty chemicals maker Clariant and Texas’ Huntsman Corp. will attempt to join and create a company with a market value of $13.8 billion, the latest proposed deal in a chemicals industry that is seeking to consolidate rapidly. Clariant is led by Hariolf Kottmann (left in photo), and Huntsman is led by Peter R. Huntsman (right). The companies said Monday they plan to combine in through an all-stock transaction. The new firm will have global headquarters in Pratteln, Switzerland, and operational headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas, where Huntsman is based. The companies hope to complete the deal by the year’s end. The industrial gas and chemical sector has been rife with mergers the past couple of years as companies seek to streamline operations and increase profits. In December of 2015, chemical giants DuPont and Dow agreed on a proposed $62 billion merger, but have postponed the deal several times due to regulatory scrutiny both in the United States and abroad."

"US factories expanded at a robust pace in June, a likely sign of strength for the US economy as new orders, production, and employment each improved. The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that fifteen of 18 manufacturing industries surveyed posted growth in June, including the furniture, machinery, fabricated metals, and petroleum and coal sectors. One transportation equipment firm surveyed for the report said ‘‘demand is up 5 to 7 percent.’’ A chemical company said its business globally ‘‘continues to show improvement.’’

Also seeDow-DuPont deal wins conditional antitrust approval from EU


"European regulators gave Monsanto a boost Wednesday after determining that the main ingredient in the company’s flagship weed killer should not be classified as causing cancer. The decision was welcome for Monsanto, coming a day after unsealed records from a federal court in San Francisco raised questions about the safety of the weed killer, Roundup, and concerns about the company’s research practices. The European review was focused on the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. “Glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen, that is, as a substance causing cancer,” Tim Bowmer, chairman of the committee for risk assessment at the European Chemicals Agency, said at a news briefing. “This conclusion was based both on the human evidence and the weight of the evidence of all of the animal studies reviewed.” The safety of glyphosate has been a contentious topic since the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified the substance as a probable carcinogen two years ago."

No wonder I'm feeling sick.

Anyone got an aspirin?

"Bayer, Monsanto said to move closer to merger deal" by Jeffrey McCracken Bloomberg News  August 23, 2016

NEW YORK — Negotiations between Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. are advancing toward a merger deal after the companies made progress on issues including the purchase price and termination fee, people familiar with the matter said.

Bayer chief executive officer Werner Baumann and his US counterpart, Hugh Grant, have had a series of constructive meetings in recent weeks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

The companies, in talks to create the world’s largest producer of seeds and pesticides, could reach an agreement in the next two weeks, said the people, who cautioned that negotiations could still fall apart or be delayed.

Bayer, based in Leverkusen, Germany, has been examining Monsanto’s financial accounts as it weighs a new offer, people familiar with the matter have said.

Monsanto in July rejected Bayer’s improved $55 billion bid, describing the $125-a-share proposal as “financially inadequate.” Bayer made its initial offer in May.

Representatives for Bayer and St. Louis-based Monsanto declined to comment.

Shares of Monsanto closed at $107.10, up 2.49 percent, giving it a market value of about $47 billion. Bayer gained 0.81 percent to 96.67 euros in Frankfurt, valuing the company at about $91 billion.

The global agricultural industry is being reshaped as farmers, hurt by lower commodity prices, spend less, pushing seed and chemical makers to consolidate.

Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. announced a plan in December to merge and then break into three entities, including a Monsanto-sized agriculture company.

China National Chemical Corp. on Monday received approval from US security officials for its takeover of Swiss agrochemical and seeds company Syngenta AG, seen as the biggest regulatory hurdle that the $43 billion acquisition faces.

Approval for ChemChina’s purchase of Syngenta from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US has given fresh impetus to Bayer’s pursuit of Monsanto.

Given that all three agricultural deals will need antitrust approval, there’s an incentive not to be the last one seeking clearance as the market will already have been consolidated by the other deals.



"A series of big deals may leave just a few global players. China National Chemical Corp. agreed in February to acquire Syngenta AG, while DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. plan to merge and then carve out a new crop-science unit."

handful of corporations already control our food system, and that is the only thing keeping us all whole.

Also see:

Bayer, Monsanto to merge in mega-deal
Monsanto shareholders approve Bayer’s $57 billion takeover

"Climate Corp., the technology unit of seed giant Monsanto, plans to create what it says will be the first network of in-field sensors to relay data on crop conditions back to farmers. The San Francisco-based Monsanto subsidiary is one of the biggest players in an emerging industry known as precision agriculture, which aims to harness weather and crop data along with cloud computing to offer improved yield. Climate Corp.’s software is offered on mobile devices, allowing farmers to assess crop conditions in real time."

"Monsanto licenses CRISPR technology to modify crops — with key restrictions" by Sharon Begley, September 22, 2016

Agriculture giant Monsanto has licensed CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology from the Broad Institute for use in seed development, the company announced on Thursday, a step that will likely accelerate and simplify the creation of crops that are resistant to drought or have consumer-pleasing properties such as soybean oil with fats as healthy as those in olive oil.

But the deal comes with restrictions that speak to the startling power of CRISPR, as well as widespread public anxiety about genetically modified crops: Monsanto cannot use it for gene drive, the controversial technique that can spread a trait through an entire population, with unknown consequences.

Well, they still haven't mapped the whole genome and there could be hundreds of unintended mutations.

Since 2013 the Broad has issued more than a dozen licenses for commercial research using CRISPR-Cas9, including to Editas Medicine, GE Healthcare, and Evotec. This is the first for agricultural use. Genome-editing of crops offers the potential of increasing yields, reducing the use of chemical pesticides (a plant can be genetically modified to thwart insects), and making strains tolerant of the droughts that are becoming more frequent with global climate change.

But “just as in biomedicine, the use of genome editing in agriculture raises important ethical and safety concerns,” Issi Rozen, the Broad’s chief business officer, wrote in a blog post.

Leading the list of those concerns is gene drive, in which CRISPR-based genome editing alters normal inheritance in such a way that traits are always passed on to offspring. That could spread a new gene throughout an entire population in only a few generations. If the trait is, say, the ability to kill insects, then making that gene ubiquitous in a crop could pose unknown threats to ecosystems, a recent National Research Council report warned.

The Broad also stipulated that Monsanto not use CRISPR-Cas9 to create sterile (“terminator”) seeds. In this approach, genetically altered crops do not produce fertile seeds, so farmers must buy them every year, a financial burden to them but a boon for the seed companies. No such crops have been commercially deployed, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity recommended they not be developed.

The non-exclusive license also cannot be used for any R&D on tobacco that’s related to smoking. That might include making the plants tolerant to temperature extremes or pests, which could increase the yields that farmers get on their harmful product.

Monsanto, which agreed this month to be acquired by German drug and pesticide maker Bayer, has long been a leader in the controversial development of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Starting in the 1990s it introduced corn, soybean, canola, and other crops that are genetically modified to withstand its Roundup herbicide, for instance, allowing farmers to apply it without collateral damage and increase their yields. Because the safety of GMOs to ecosystems has not been proved to the satisfaction of many environmental groups, and because their presence in foods has until recently not required labeling, they have incited worldwide controversy for more than a decade.

Monsanto believes CRISPR will be much more powerful than the decades-old technique behind GMOs. That technology inserts foreign genes at random sites in a plant’s genome. The vast majority of those insertions don’t work as intended, said Tom Adams, who leads Monsanto’s biotechnology efforts, so changing a crop’s traits takes years.

“But with genome editing, you can target a trait where you want it to go, and you can link traits so they’re next to each other” and are reliably passed down together in future generations, he told STAT ahead of the licensing announcement.

In addition, he said, in GMOs “you still have the gene that was there originally,” which can act as a brake on the new trait. When CRISPR alters a gene into a form that makes a plant tolerant of stress, disease, or pests, however, the original non-tolerant gene is gone, like a corrected typo. Because of its precision and power, with CRISPR, “I think we’ll see an acceleration” on changing crops’ traits compared with the pace that traditional GMO-creation allowed, Adams said.

CRISPR is tantalizing to seed companies for another reason. The US Department of Agriculture has said that because the technique does not insert a foreign gene into plants, but either deletes or modifies an existing one, CRISPR’d crops (such as a mushroom that doesn’t turn brown when cut, or drought-tolerant corn being developed by DuPont Pioneer) do not need regulatory approval as GMOs do.

That has alarmed some traditional GMO foes. “We’re not happy with the current regulatory approach,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch. CRISPR’d crops might present “similar safety concerns” as GMOs do, she said: “Do we really understand what the proponents say we do — that genome editing is so precise there is nothing else it affects? That presumes a level of knowledge about intricate biochemical processes that I’m not sure we have.”

Adams said gene drive and terminator genes “are not things we wanted to do with the technology anyway. We agreed that gene drive is something better not brought forward at this time. We see that there is a lot of potential, so it’s really tempting to use,” but will not do so “until we know how to control it.”

Several other companies are hot in pursuit of genome-edited crops. The Calyxt subsidiary of Cellectis, based in Minnesota, is using a genome-editing technology that preceded CRISPR-Cas9, called TALEN, to make wheat that produces less gluten, soybeans whose oil resembles olive oil, and potatoes that, when fried, do not contain the carcinogen acrylamide. Calyxt has not yet partnered with any seed companies.

DuPont is collaborating with Caribou Biosciences to CRISPR corn and wheat for drought tolerance and other traits. A spokeswoman said the company is “unable to disclose” whether the DuPont agreement permits the use of CRISPR to develop gene drive in crops.

Caribou was cofounded by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, which has challenged the CRISPR patents issued to the Broad. Monsanto isn’t concerned.

“The IP [intellectual property] will be complicated for some time,” Adams said. “But it will all work itself out.”

Like when you poop?


"Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. promised Trump $8 billion of investment in the United States and thousands of new jobs should the companies’ planned merger, the biggest-ever in agriculture, clear regulatory approvals. Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann promised to add 3,000 jobs at Monsanto while keeping its headquarters in St. Louis after the deal is completed, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday. Both companies had previously announced their intention to keep the location of the Monsanto offices, but the commitment on jobs is new, and follows a visit last week by both Baumann and Monsanto chief executive Hugh Grant to Trump and his aides in New York. Also on Tuesday....."

That's worth any cancer or destruction of life and habitat.

So when is Congre$$ going to investigate those meetings?


"Tainted peanut butter leads to $11.2M penalty a decade later" by Russ Bynum Associated Press  December 15, 2016

ALBANY, Ga.— A decade after hundreds of Americans got sick from eating Peter Pan peanut butter contaminated with salmonella, the company that sold it made an embarrassing courtroom guilty plea and agreed to pay the largest criminal fine ever in a US food safety case.

The president of a ConAgra subsidiary entered a guilty plea on behalf of his company Tuesday to a single misdemeanor count of shipping adulterated food. A US District Court judge then approved a deal ConAgra reached with prosecutors to pay an $8 million fine plus $3.2 million in cash forfeitures.

‘‘Obviously, they’re able to absorb an $11 million penalty much more than a smaller company,’’ said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer who specializes in food safety cases. ‘‘But it still sends a pretty significant message.’’

The plea deal resolved a long criminal investigation into a nationwide salmonella outbreak blamed on tainted peanut butter that sickened at least 625 people in 47 states.

Disease detectives traced the salmonella to a plant in rural Georgia that produced peanut butter for ConAgra under the Peter Pan label and the Great Value brand sold at Walmart. In 2007, the company recalled all the peanut butter it had sold since 2004. By then, most of it had been eaten.

Leo Knowles, president of ConAgra Grocery Products, offered no testimony as he entered the misdemeanor plea on behalf of the Chicago-based corporation’s subsidiary.

‘‘It made a lot of people sick,’’ prosecutor Graham Thorpe said as he described ConAgra’s decision to continue shipments from the Georgia plant in late 2006 despite lab tests that had twice detected salmonella.

‘‘The industry has taken notice of this prosecution,’’ Thorpe said.

The fine represents just one 10th of 1 percent of ConAgra’s current $8 billion market capitalization. The company also will pay $3.2 million in cash forfeitures to the federal government.

We call that a kickback.

The case began in 2006, as doctors around the country reported severe gastrointestinal illnesses caused by salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials traced the common factor — peanut butter — to the plant in rural Georgia.

In February 2007, ConAgra recalled its previous three years of peanut butter production, and Peter Pan vanished from store shelves for about six months. Despite the widespread illnesses, no deaths were ever confirmed to be caused by the outbreak.

‘‘The company has behaved in a model way, as a model corporate citizen, ever since that time,’’ Douglas Fellman, a lawyer for ConAgra, told the judge. ‘‘Since that time, we have an unblemished record. Peter Pan peanut butter is wholesome, and it’s safe.’’

ConAgra said it didn’t know the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella before it was shipped. However, the plea agreement documents noted that ConAgra knew peanut butter made in Georgia had twice tested positive for salmonella in 2004.

ConAgra officials blamed moisture from a leaky roof and a malfunctioning sprinkler system for helping salmonella bacteria grow on raw peanuts. The company spent $275 million on upgrades and adopted new testing procedures to screen for contaminants....

And you just thought you bought the chunk style.


At least the CDC is keeping an eye on things:

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has temporarily suspended work at its most secure biosafety lab that handles dangerous pathogens because air hoses that are part of the required full-body protective suits worn by lab workers were not certified for breathable air, officials said Friday. There is no evidence that any of the employees were exposed to hazardous material from breathing air through the hoses, said Stephan Monroe, CDC’s associate director for laboratory science and safety. The problem was discovered during a routine inventory check Monday, and work at the labs was immediately suspended out of an abundance of caution, he said. The three affected labs are part of CDC’s highest-security biosafety lab complex, known as BSL-4....."

How would you like to bet on the lab down the street?

"Under planned fantasy sports merger, DraftKings would take the lead" by Andy Rosen Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

The documents laid out the basics of a system that it said both companies had agreed to as of May 15, before  US regulators moved this week to halt the deal.

The information obtained by The Boston Globe also provides a look into the decision-making that went on over a merger that is now on hold pending an antitrust lawsuit announced Monday by the Federal Trade Commission.

Though FanDuel games would have been moved to the DraftKings application and website, the document says the companies would keep both brands operating at least until after the upcoming National Football League season.

The goal of the transition, the document said, would be to “harness the power, cache, and loyalty from both brands.”

The two companies declined to comment Friday on what a merger operation might look like, should they to prevail in court over the FTC.

Once bitter rivals, DraftKings and FanDuel — based in New York — opted for a marriage of convenience as they fought together to win regulatory acceptance for an industry that has grown dramatically in a just few years and is dominated by the two firms.

If the deal falls apart or courts agree with the FTC’s contention that the merger would create a monopoly, the companies might again have to face off against each other — as they did during an expensive advertising battle in 2015.

They don't have the money to do that now.

Chris Grove, an industry analyst, noted that online poker companies often operate many brands under a single platform. “Ultimately, they were going to have to make a choice on the platform,” he said. “It would be redundant and destroy some of the cost advantages of the merger to keep running and keep iterating the platforms side by side.”


Would be better if you just called the game off.


"GE stock returning to earth after new-CEO bump" by Richard Clough Bloomberg News  July 06, 2017

So much for the new-CEO stock bump at General Electric Co.

Gone are the gains from last month’s announcement that Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt would step down, ending a 16-year tenure in which he failed to win over investors. Now JPMorgan Chase & Co. predicts the share slump could worsen as GE struggles with sluggish demand in markets from oil to health care.

“While we expect a fresh start, a positive, we don’t see a quick or easy fix to the current predicament,” Steve Tusa, an analyst at JPMorgan, said in a note to clients Thursday.

The report underscored the challenges for GE’s next CEO, John Flannery, as the company veteran prepares to take the reins in August. The company is already under pressure from shareholder Trian Fund Management amid weak earnings, cash-flow concerns, and a stock that has trailed the broader markets. Shares fell to their lowest since October 2015.

Not every analyst is down on the stock. Following a series of portfolio changes in recent years, GE has bet on industries such as aviation and energy while tilting away from the finance and consumer markets that once underpinned its operations.

Flannery may reset expectations and lower next year’s profit forecast, particularly after what could be a “relatively weak” second-quarter report, Tusa said. While the dividend isn’t likely to be cut, GE may trim the stock buyback effort to free up cash, the analyst said....



"GE could face fines of up to 1 percent of annual revenue. Based on GE’s 2016 revenues of $123 billion, that could mean up to $1.2 billion in fines....." 

Amazon says it will bring 900 jobs to Fort Point Amazon is not seeking any tax incentives from the city. GE received $25 million in city tax breaks and $120 million in state aid.

So how do the books read now?

"QVC to merge with home shopping network in $2.1 billion deal" by Chad Bray New York Times  July 07, 2017

QVC said Thursday that it would merge with its longtime rival, the Home Shopping Network, in an all-stock deal worth $2.1 billion.

John C. Malone’s Liberty Interactive Corp., which owns QVC, is buying the 62 percent of HSN Inc. that it does not already own. The transaction would combine two businesses that have focused on marketing electronics, jewelry, fashion, and other products via sales on their broadcast channels, but that also sell their wares online and through retail stores.

The merger also came as sales have weakened at many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, as more consumers turn to the Web for purchases.....

Yeah, sure they do!


All this cannibalizing at the top of corporate capitali$m is the death throes of it, just as Lenin predicted.


"Aggressive expansion plans are now under increased scrutiny in Beijing. Last month, a senior Chinese banking official warned that some of China’s largest and most indebted companies may pose a systemic risk to the country’s banks and to the health of the broader economy. The dealmaking ambitions have also been tempered by a backlash overseas, as politicians and policy makers express concerns about China’s influence. US lawmakers are pushing for regulators to keep a closer watch over money flowing into the United States from China. The combination of forces at home and abroad has put global dealmakers on the defensive....."


"Abercrombie & Fitch, the fashion retailer that was once a must-have among teenagers, said Monday that it would end talks to sell itself. The company, based in New Albany, Ohio, was in “preliminary discussions” with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, according to The Wall Street Journal. Abercrombie has struggled to reinvent the brand....."

"Wells Fargo has received preliminary approval to pay out $142 million to customers affected by the bank’s sales practices scandal. A federal judge gave preliminary approval Saturday to the deal that would settle claims over fraudulent accounts going back to 2002. The San Francisco-based bank and lawyers for customers reached the agreement earlier this year over accounts that Wells Fargo staff had opened without permission as they sought to meet unrealistic sales goals set by management. In September, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a combined $185 million fine to state and federal regulators. The biggest scandal in the bank’s history led to the abrupt retirement of its CEO, John Stumpf. Several other top executives have lost their jobs."

I'm Stumpfed!

"Another person has been killed in the United States by an exploding Takata air bag inflator, but this death wasn’t the result of a crash. It’s not clear why the air bag deployed, the company said. The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in US history involving up to 69 million inflators and 42 million vehicles. Honda was Takata’s biggest customer before the problems surfaced. Last month Takata filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the United States and most of its assets were bought by rival Key Safety Systems....."

Well that stinks.

Neither car nor boat nor bike is safe anymore, leaving only a plane.