Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sunday Night Links

  • And then came the most shocking revelation of all. We knew from the start that SARS-CoV-2 is the only SARS-like virus ever found – among hundreds – with a furin-cleavage site in its spike protein: an insertion of 12 letters of genetic code that makes the virus especially infectious, and is therefore the reason we had a pandemic and not just a localised outbreak. But in September 2021 a document was leaked to internet sleuths that showed the Wuhan laboratory was party to plans in 2018 to insert novel furin-cleavage sites into undefined SARS-like viruses in its possession. Yet the institute and its American collaborators had never bothered to tell the world about this plan, and they ignored the furin-cleavage site in their seminal 2020 paper about this virus in the journal Nature. [Matt Ridley]
  • Earlier today, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of premium cigars is arbitrary and capricious. The ruling came as part of the Cigar Association of America et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration et al. lawsuit that was originally filed in 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by three cigar trade groups: Cigar Association of America, Cigar Rights of America and the Premium Cigar Association. Today’s ruling is the largest win for the premium cigar industry in court as the next step of the process could very well be the deregulating of premium cigars. In his ruling, Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled that FDA did not properly adhere to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by simply ignoring the fact that there was data about premium cigar usage. [link]
  • Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer, it pays to remember as the agency sets out on what may prove a colossal policy error. Officially regarded as a drug, nicotine may be addictive like cocaine or heroin, and produce withdrawal symptoms in many who try to quit. But unlike other controlled substances, it’s anodyne in its effects. Nicotine doesn’t intoxicate. It doesn’t addle judgment. It’s mildly stimulating and calming at the same time, relieves anxiety and sadness, improves memory and motor performance in the short term, and may have benefits for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s and ulcerative colitis. [WSJ]
  • Fisher publicly spoke out against the 1950 study showing that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer, arguing that correlation does not imply causation. To quote his biographers Yates and Mather, "It has been suggested that the fact that Fisher was employed as consultant by the tobacco firms in this controversy casts doubt on the value of his arguments. This is to misjudge the man. He was not above accepting financial reward for his labours, but the reason for his interest was undoubtedly his dislike and mistrust of puritanical tendencies of all kinds; and perhaps also the personal solace he had always found in tobacco." Others, however, have suggested that his analysis was biased by professional conflicts and his own love of smoking.[Ronald Fisher]
  • CIM was founded in 1994, by Richard Ressler, an investment banker, and Avi Shemesh and Shaul Kuba, two Israeli immigrants whose landscaping company Ressler had employed. The firm raises money from individual and institutional investors, such as pension funds, and manages about thirty billion dollars in assets, focussing on what it calls “thriving and transitional urban communities” and “opportunity zones.” It is one of the largest property owners in Los Angeles, and a prominent commercial landlord in Oakland. Like many large real-estate companies, CIM is also a lender, providing the kinds of loans necessary for big development projects. CIM invested in Tartine’s café and bakery business. Coffee Manufactory planned to move into Jack London Square, a waterfront neighborhood in Oakland where CIM was pursuing redevelopment. For CIM, Coffee Manufactory was intended to be an anchor tenant—a business that could attract customers and other businesses, increasing the over-all value and cachet of the area. [New Yorker]
  • Canadian refineries don't have sufficient conversion capacity to process bitumen from the oil sands, so very little dilbit can be used in Canada. That's why dilbit prices trade at a significant discount to lighter oils in Canada (high supply and low demand), and also why they are the most affected by pipeline constraints. [Oil Sands Magazine]
  • The fact that Musk is working in such bad faith here — that he seems so unconcerned with law and the contract he signed — cuts both ways. On the one hand, it will certainly annoy a Delaware chancellor; Delaware likes to think of itself as a stable place for corporate deals, with predictable law and binding contracts, and Musk’s antics undermine that. On the other hand it might intimidate a Delaware chancellor: What if the court orders Musk to close the deal and he says no? They’re not gonna put him in Chancery jail. 6  The guy is pretty contemptuous of legal authority; he thinks he is above the law and he might be right. A showdown between Musk and a judge might undermine Delaware corporate law more than letting him weasel out of the deal would. [Matt Levine]

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