Why Xavier Mufraggi can’t wait for agents to start selling Club Med Le Massif This story originally ran in the November 9th, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here. TORONTO — For travel agents, who generate a solid majority of Club Med’s bookings, according to Club Med North America’s President and CEO, Xavier Mufraggi, the new $120 million Club Med Le Massif in Charlevoix, Quebec will be a boon to anyone looking to break into the ski market, or to maximize their earnings on existing ski clientele.The arrival of the Quebec resort will be a shot in the arm for Canada’s ski industry too, where growth has been relatively flat for several years.Just like at its beach resorts, Club Med, the all-inclusive pioneer, includes everything in its ski vacations in one commissionable price, from flights and accommodation to ski passes, transfers and even lessons.Club Med already has more than 20 all-inclusive mountain hotels and resorts, dominated by its Alps product in France, Italy and Switzerland and shored up with additional ski properties in Japan and China. Already Club Med’s ski resort room count exceeds 6,000 rooms. And that’s before the construction of the Quebec property, which will bring in another 300 rooms, including 4-Trident Club and Deluxe-level rooms with a 5-Trident luxury space. Shovels will be in the ground next year and the resort is expected to open by the end of 2020, says Mufraggi.Worldwide, between its beach and ski resorts, Club Med now operates more than 70 resorts. More than 40,000 Canadians stay at a Club Med resort every year, and most book through travel agents.Why Charlevoix, and why now? Club Med has had its eye on Canada for many years and was just waiting for the right opportunity, says Mufraggi.“One-third of our capacity is ski,” he said in an interview with Travelweek. “Our very first Club Med opened in 1950. Our first ski resort opened in 1957. We’ve been in the ski business for a very long time.”It turns out last week’s Club Med Le Massif announcement was one of many to come, and the company is very much focused on North America. Says Mufraggi: “We plan to open one to two ski resorts per year for the next few years. North America accounts for 22% of ski business worldwide. And we have zero ski resorts in North America. It didn’t make sense.”The Quebec ski resort, although a first in Canada for Club Med, represents a return to the North American ski market for the company, following on the heels of properties including Club Med Crested Butte in Colorado which was taken over by new owners in 2006.In searching for the right destination for its first ski resort in Canada, Club Med had its priorities: “We wanted great snow quality, we wanted a major airport nearby, and we wanted a place that wasn’t too well known yet.”More news: Apply now for AQSC’s agent cruise ratesClub Med, the all-inclusive trailblazer, likes to be the first in destinations too. Back in the early 1970s, Cancun, Mexico was just a blueprint on the drawing board. When the development was completed in 1974, Club Med was one of the first major hotel companies to hit the strip, opening Club Med Yucatan in 1976 (and the rest is history).The Quebec property is being positioned as a year-round resort, just about, open 300 or so days a year. “It’s one hour from Quebec City. It’s 40 minutes from some of the best whale-watching in the country. It’s not just a ski resort. It’s a Quebec experience resort.”Mufraggi adds that ski clients, especially the younger generation, want a mountain experience that may or may not include a whole lot of actual skiing, as it turns out. “They want to ski. But the reality is that they ski only about two hours a day” on ski holidays, he says. The European ski scene excels at extending the après-ski vibe around the clock and that’s something the Quebec development will be looking to emulate.Club Med’s sales out of the Canadian market, to all of its resorts worldwide, are up 40% over the past five years. Not only that, but the company’s ski business out of Canada (to its Alps resorts) is up 50% so far in 2017. “Our top three sellers out of Canada are first, Punta Cana, then Cancun, and then ski,” says Mufraggi.One of the biggest changes in the Canadian market is the growth in corporate and MICE bookings to Club Med resorts. “Our corporate and MICE business out of Canada has tripled in the last six years,” he says.Mufraggi says he expects the new Quebec resort will draw a 75:25 ratio of leisure guests to corporate guests, with a mix of 60% North Americans in the winter (and 40% international), and the reverse in the summer.Selling Club Med is an extremely attractive and valuable proposition for travel agents, he adds. “The loyalty [of Club Med clients] is extremely high,” he says. “Get them once and you get them forever.”Senior travel consultant Debbie Stellinga with The Travel Agent Next Door says Club Med Le Massif will interest her ski clients, saying that while ski vacations are a small percentage of her bookings, she’s seeing more interest year-over-year for destination ski trips. Price will be a big factor though. “I like the concept of the all-inclusive ski vacation and so do my clients,” says Stellinga. “Skiers tend to prep their own meals. Club Med takes the hassle out of prepping meals … no grocery shopping required. I think an all-inclusive resort in Quebec is a brilliant idea, however, I am interested to see if it will be priced right.”More news: Save the dates! Goway’s Africa Roadshow is backClub Med’s value proposition, besides the all-inclusive angle, includes the fact that guests ages 4 and younger are free, says Mufraggi. That’s true for its ski resorts as well as its beach resorts. “It’s an extremely attractive and valuable product and market for travel agents,” he says, adding the loyalty of Club Med clients is “extremely high. Get them once and you get them forever.”Merit Travel is also reporting a consistent year-over-year increase in its ski sales. Club Med Le Massif will bring a new and fresh concept to this market, says Allison Patriquin, Manager, Product Development and Marketing for Merit Golf & Ski Vacations. “This is a first for Canada. The ski all-inclusive is unknown here.”Canadians are travelling in their country like never before for a variety of reasons, says Patriquin. There’s the dollar, of course, plus safety, friendliness, “amazing powder mountains and exquisite resorts,” she says.Paul Marner, Merit’s Director, New Business Development, says Club Med’s strong brand identity and reputation for value will enhance this destination already recognized “for snow galore”.Paul Pinchbeck, President & CEO of the Canadian Ski Council, says Club Med Le Massif is a promising development for the Canadian ski industry, which counts some 18.4 million skier visits annually (only 4 million of those are international). After several years of flat growth, the Canadian ski scene has rebounded strongly, bouncing back from a few years of snow droughts.Club Med Le Massif will help energize the domestic product, says Pinchbeck. “We’re seeing a generation of skiers who demand more sophistication from their ski experience. And anything that elevates the Canadian ski experience to the world is a positive.”This story originally ran in the November 9th, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here. About Latest Posts Kathryn FolliottEditor at TravelweekKathryn is Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations. Latest posts by Kathryn Folliott (see all) “They need to go where the bucks are”: Agents on ACTA partnership – April 18, 2019 As the cost of doing business climbs, host agencies, retail groups say they have options – April 4, 2019 As of 2021 Europe-bound clients will need to apply online for a visa waiver and pay a fee – April 3, 2019 Tags: Club Med, Feature Story, Quebec, Ski Resorts Posted by Kathryn Folliott Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Friday, November 17, 2017
<< Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Europe, Storm, Weather, Winter Tuesday, January 8, 2019 BERLIN — Hundreds of people were snowed-in in Alpine regions and warned of a high risk of avalanches, parts of Scandinavia were left without electricity, and high winds caused flight delays and cancellations in the Netherlands as deadly winter weather continued to blast Europe on Tuesday.Several people have already been killed in weather-related incidents over the last week, and in Norway attempts to find the bodies of four skiers were again put on hold due to poor visibility and heavy snowfall. A 29-year Swedish woman and three Finns, aged 29, 32 and 36, were presumed dead after a 300-meter-wide (990-foot-wide) avalanche hit the Tamok valley, near the northern city of Tromsoe, last week.In Austria, hundreds of residents were stuck in their homes due to blocked roads, and some regions experienced power outages after snow-laden trees took down power lines.Schools in some Austrian regions remained closed for a second day and homeowners were advised to remove snow from their roofs after several buildings collapsed. A 78-year-old man was severely injured when he fell of the roof of his home in Turrach while shovelling snow, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported.On Monday night, 11 German hikers had to be rescued by mountaineers from a cabin near Salzburg, after having been snowed in without electricity and little food since Friday. Several people were killed by avalanches in recent days and authorities warned continuing snowfall is increasing the already high risk of more avalanches.More news: Apply now for AQSC’s agent cruise ratesIn southern and eastern Germany, people were also bracing for further snowfall, while in the northern coastal city of Hamburg residents were preparing for a storm flood caused by a winter gale, the German news agency dpa reported.In neighbouring Netherlands, Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol Airport warned of delays and cancellations. Dutch carrier KLM cancelled 159 flights to and from European destinations.In northwestern Dutch coastal regions expected to be hardest hit by strong winds and wild seas, local water authorities began checking dikes to make sure they were not damaged.The Noorderzijlvest water authority said it was monitoring dikes because of debris floating in the sea after nearly 300 containers tumbled off a cargo ship in a storm last week. Many of the containers are still at sea and some have broken open, spilling their contents.“A fridge or container that is rammed against a dike can cause damage,” the authority said on its website.Heavy snowfall and strong winds were reported Tuesday over central Scandinavia, hampering efforts to restore electricity after a hefty storm swept through northern Europe on Jan. 2.More news: Can you guess the top Instagrammed wedding locations in the world?Swedish media reported several fender-benders and stranded vehicles along roads but nothing unusual for the season in this part of Europe.Meanwhile in southeastern Europe, schools in the Greek capital and many surrounding areas remained shut due to weather conditions after snowfall blanketed Athens, with temperatures in some parts of the country plunging well below freezing.Courts in Athens were also to remain shut Tuesday, with only fast-track prosecutions being heard, the Justice Ministry said. Some rural roads, particularly those leading up to the mountains near the capital, were shut overnight and in the early morning.Greece has been experiencing a cold snap for the past few days, with heavy snowfall, particularly in the north of the country and in mountainous areas. Temperatures have reached minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of northern Greece, while many islands have also experienced snowfall. Share By: The Associated Press Winter storm blasts Europe, with avalanches, high winds
Bruce Arians and James Bettcher worked together on the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff from 2013-17 and over the past two offseasons brought several players from the desert to join them on their new teams.After one year of retirement, Arians is returning to the sidelines to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are five players on the roster who played for him on the Cardinals.Meanwhile, Bettcher is entering his second season as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. He now has six former Cardinals on his team. Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians (AP photo), left, and former Cardinals DC and current Giants DC James Bettcher (Getty Images), right. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Top Stories Linebacker Kareem MartinMartin only started 12 games but played in 45 of 48 under Bettcher with Arizona from 2015-17. He joined the Giants with Bettcher last season and started seven games, posting 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks.Running back Elijhaa PennyAfter joining the Cardinals in a reserve role in 2017, he stuck with Bettcher and joined him in New York last season.Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)Pierre started seven of the final eight games under Bettcher in 2017 and recorded 20 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and forced a fumble during that span. He only started one game in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve.Cornerback Ronald ZamortLook at Zamort’s Pro Football Reference page and you’ll see a lot of bouncing back and forth between waivers and the practice squad. He first joined the Cardinals in May 2016 but stuck with the organization through 2017. He was signed to the Giants’ practice squad in October 2018. Linebacker Kevin Minter(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)Like Bucannon, Minter was an important piece of Arizona’s dominant defensive units under Arians and Todd Bowles, and, later, Bettcher. He played every game from 2014-16 and was integral in the latter two years, recording a combined 166 tackles and 4.0 sacks.Offensive guard Earl WatfordEven during the Arians years, the Cardinals offensive lines were often plagued by injury. Watford was no exception. The backup played more than 10 games just once in the four years he saw any game time (15 games in 2016), but Arians liked him enough to bring him on board to Tampa.GiantsFree safety Antoine BetheaBethea produced well in his first season under Bettcher in 2017, leading the team with five interceptions and adding 57 tackles and a sack. He started all 16 games last season (under defensive coordinator Al Holcomb) and had 121 tackles.Defensive end Markus Golden(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)Assumed to be the future of the Cardinals’ line after recording 12.5 sacks in his second season as a pro, an ACL injury cost Golden all but four games in his third year, Bettcher’s final in the desert. Golden played in 11 games last year, recording 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks as he attempted to round into shape following ACL surgery. He and Bettcher reunite as Golden continues to return to form. The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Here’s a look at each player the coaches brought on with connections to their Arizona pasts.BuccaneersLinebacker Deone BucannonRelated LinksCardinals have the most defensive production to replace in NFLArizona Sports NFL Mock Draft Tracker: Who’s next for the Cards at No. 1?ASU receiver N’Keal Harry to meet with Arizona CardinalsBucannon established himself as an important part of Arians’ defense early in his career, playing all 32 games over his first two seasons and recording 109 tackles, 3.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown in his second year alone.But he fell off the depth chart under head coach Steve Wilks last year, playing limited time in the 13 games he appeared in. After recording only 36 tackles, by far a career-low, he returns to play under Arians, former Cardinals DC and current Bucs DC Todd Bowles and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, who both served under Arians during their times in Arizona.Running back Andre Ellington(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)Ellington was the primary running back for Arizona in 2014, a season in which he was a solid runner and proved himself as an effective pass catcher. Injuries e emergence of David Johnson changed his role, though, and he was waived in 2017 and did not play in the league last year.Quarterback Blaine GabbertHe and Arians’ time together in Arizona was limited, but he was the third-string quarterback for the majority of 2017. Injuries to quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton allowed him to play five games as the Cardinals evaluated him as a potential future quarterback. While they did not elect to re-sign him, Arians saw enough to feel comfortable with Gabbert on his Buccaneers team. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires 4 Comments Share
Last month, a group of Australian scientists published a warning to the citizens of the country and of the world who collectively gobble up some $34 billion annually of its agricultural exports. The warning concerned the safety of a new type of wheat. As Australia’s number-one export, a $6-billion annual industry, and the most-consumed grain locally, wheat is of the utmost importance to the country. A serious safety risk from wheat – a mad wheat disease of sorts – would have disastrous effects for the country and for its customers. Which is why the alarm bells are being rung over a new variety of wheat being ushered toward production by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia. In a sense, the crop is little different than the wide variety of modern genetically modified foods. A sequence of the plant’s genes has been turned off to change the wheat’s natural behavior a bit, to make it more commercially viable (hardier, higher yielding, slower decaying, etc.). Franken-Wheat? What’s really different this time – and what has Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, NZ, and Associate Professor Judy Carman, a biochemist at Flinders University in Australia, holding press conferences to garner attention to the subject – is the technique employed to effectuate the genetic change. It doesn’t modify the genes of the wheat plants in question; instead, a specialized gene blocker interferes with the natural action of the genes. The process at issue, dubbed RNA interference or RNAi for short, has been a hotbed of research activity ever since the Nobel Prize-winning 1997 research paper that described the process. It is one of a number of so-called “antisense” technologies that help suppress natural genetic expression and provide a mechanism for suppressing undesirable genetic behaviors. RNAi’s appeal is simple: it can potentially provide a temporary, reversible off switch for genes. Unlike most other genetic modification techniques, it doesn’t require making permanent changes to the underlying genome of the target. Instead, specialized siRNAs – chemical DNA blockers based on the same mechanism our own bodies use to temporarily turn genes on and off as needed – are delivered into the target organism and act to block the messages cells use to express a particular gene. When those messages meet with their chemical opposites, they turn inert. And when all of the siRNA is used up, the effect wears off. The new wheat is in early-stage field trials (i.e., it’s been planted to grow somewhere, but has not yet been tested for human consumption), part of a multi-year process on its way to potential approval and not unlike the rigorous process many drugs go through. The researchers responsible are using RNAi to turn down the production of glycogen. They are targeting the production of the wheat branching enzyme which, if suppressed, would result in a much lower starch level for the wheat. The result would be a grain with a lower glycemic index – i.e., healthier wheat. This is a noble goal. However, Professors Heinemann and Carman warn, there’s a risk that the gene silencing done to these plants might make its way into humans and wreak havoc on our bodies. In their press conference and subsequent papers, they describe the possibility that the siRNA molecules – which are pretty hardy little chemicals and not easily gotten rid of – could wind up interacting with our RNA. If their theories prove true, the results might be as bad as mimicking glycogen storage disease IV, a super-rare genetic disorder which almost always leads to early childhood death. “Franken-Wheat Causes Massive Deaths from Liver Failure!” Now that is potentially headline-grabbing stuff. Unfortunately, much of it is mere speculation at this point, albeit rooted in scientific expertise on the subject. What they’ve produced is a series of opinion papers – not scientific research nor empirical data to prove that what they suspect might happen, actually does. They point to the possibilities that could happen if a number of criteria are met: If the siRNAs remain in the wheat in transferrable form, in large quantities, when the grain makes it to your plate. And… If the siRNA molecules interfere with the somewhat different but largely similar human branching enzyme as well. Then the result might be symptoms similar to such a condition, on some scale or another, anywhere from completely unnoticeable to highly impactful. They further postulate that if the same effect is seen in animals, it could result in devastating ecological impact. Dead bugs and dead wild animals. Luckily for us, as potential consumers of these foods, all of these are easily testable theories. And this is precisely the type of data the lengthy approval process is meant to look at. Opinion papers like this – while not to be confused with conclusions resulting from solid research – are a critically important part of the scientific process, challenging researchers to provide hard data on areas that other experts suspect could be overlooked. Professors Carman and Heinemann provide a very important public good in challenging the strength of the due-diligence process for RNAi’s use in agriculture, an incomplete subject we continue to discover more about every day. However, we’ll have to wait until the data come back on this particular experiment – among thousands of similar ones being conducted at government labs, universities, and in the research facilities of commercial agribusinesses like Monsanto and Cargill – to know if this wheat variety would in fact result in a dietary apocalypse. That’s a notion many anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) pundits seem to have latched onto following the press conference the professors held. But if the history of modern agriculture can teach us anything, it’s that far more aggressive forms of GMO foods appear to have had a huge net positive effect on the global economy and our lives. Not only have they not killed us, in many ways GMO foods have been responsible for the massive increases in public health and quality of life around the world. The Roots of the GMO Food Debate The debate over genetically modified (GM) food is a heated one. Few contest that we are working in somewhat murky waters when it comes to genetically modified anything, human or plant alike. At issue, really, is the question of whether we are prepared to use the technologies we’ve discovered. In other words, are we the equivalent of a herd of monkeys armed with bazookas, unable to comprehend the sheer destructive power we possess yet perfectly capable of pulling the trigger? Or do we simply face the same type of daunting intellectual challenge as those who discovered fire, electricity, or even penicillin, at a time when the tools to fully understand how they worked had not yet been conceived of? In all of those cases, we were able to probe, study, and learn the mysteries of these incredible discoveries over time. Sure, there were certainly costly mistakes along the way. But we were also able to make great use of them to advance civilization long before we fully understood how they worked at a scientific level. Much is the same in the study and practical use of GM foods. While the fundamentals of DNA have been well understood for decades, we are still in the process of uncovering many of the inner workings of what is arguably the single most advanced form of programming humans have ever encountered. It is still very much a rapidly evolving science to this day. For example, in the 1990s, an idea known simply as “gene therapy” – really a generalized term for a host of new-at-the-time experimental techniques that share the simple characteristic of permanently modifying the genetic make-up of an organism – was all the rage in medical study. Two decades on, it’s hardly ever spoken of. That’s because the great majority of attempted disease therapies from genetic modification failed, with many resulting in terrible side effects and even death for the patients who underwent the treatments. Its use in the early days, of course, was limited almost exclusively to some of the world’s most debilitating, genetically rooted diseases. Still – whether in their zeal to use a fledgling tool to cure a dreadful malady or in selfish, hurried desire to be recognized among the pioneers of what they thought would be the very future of medicine – doctors chose to move forward at a dangerous pace with gene therapy. In one famous case, and somewhat typical of the times, University of Pennsylvania physicians enrolled a sick 18-year-old boy with a liver mutation into a trial for a gene therapy that was known to have resulted in the deaths of some of the monkeys it had just been tested on. The treatment resulted in the young man’s death a few days later, and the lengthy investigation that followed resulted in serious accusations of what can only be called “cowboy medicine.” Not one of science’s prouder moments, to be sure. But could GM foods be following the same dangerous path? After all, the first GM foods made their way to market during the same time period. The 1980s saw large-scale genetic-science research and experimentation from agricultural companies, producing everything from antibiotic-resistant tobacco to pesticide-hardy corn. After much debate and study, in 1994 the FDA gave approval to the first GM food to be sold in the United States: the ironically named Flavr Savr tomato, with its delayed ripening genes which made it an ideal candidate for sitting for days or weeks on grocery store shelves. Ever since, there has been a seeming rush of modified foods into the marketplace. Modern GM foods include soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and a number of squash and greens varieties, as well as products made from them. One of the most prevalent modifications is to make plants glyphosate-resistant, or in common terms, “Roundup Ready.” This yields varieties that are able to stand up to much heavier doses of the herbicide Roundup, which is used to keep weeds and other pest plants from damaging large monoculture fields, thereby reducing costs and lowering risks. In total it is estimated that modern GM crops have grown to become a $12 billion annual business since their commercialization in 1994, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Over 15 million farms around the world are reported to have grown GM crops, and their popularity increases every year. They’ve brought huge improvements in shelf life, pathogen and other stress resistance, and even added nutritional benefits. For instance, yellow rice – which was the first approved crop with an entirely new genetic pathway added artificially – provides beta-carotene to a large population of people around the world who otherwise struggle to find enough in their diets. However, the race for horticulturalists to the genetic table in the past few decades – what could be described accurately as the transgenic generation of research – has by no means been our first experiment with the genetic manipulation of food. In fact, if anything, it is a more deliberate, well studied, and careful advance than those that came before it. A VERY Brief History of Genetically Modified Food Some proponents of GMO foods are quick to point out that humans have been modifying foods at the genetic level since the dawn of agriculture itself. We crossbreed plants with each other to produce hybrids (can I interest you in a boysenberry?). And of course, we select our crops for breeding from those with the most desirable traits, effectively encouraging genetic mutations that would have otherwise resulted in natural failure, if not helped along by human hands. Corn as we know it, for example, would never have survived in nature without our help in breeding it. Using that as a justification for genetic meddling, however, is like saying we know that NASCAR drivers don’t need seatbelts because kids have been building soapbox racers without them for years. Nature, had the mix not been near ideal to begin with, would have prevented such crossbreeding. Despite Hollywood’s desires, one can’t simply crossbreed a human and a fly, or even a bee and a mosquito, for that matter – their genetics are too different to naturally mix. And even if it did somehow occur, if it did not make for a hardier result, then natural selection would have quickly kicked in. No, I am talking about real, scientific genetic mucking – the kind we imagined would result in the destruction of the world from giant killer tomatoes or man-eating cockroaches in our B-grade science-fiction films. Radiation mutants. Enterprising agrarians have been blasting plants with radiation of all sorts ever since we started messing around with atomic science at the dawn of the 20th century. In the 1920s, just when Einstein and Fermi were getting in their grooves, Dr. Lewis Stadler at the University of Missouri was busy blasting barley seeds with X-rays – research that would usher in a frenzy of mutation breeding to follow. With the advent of nuclear technology from the war effort, X-rays expanded into atomic radiation, with the use of gamma rays leading the pack. The United States even actively encouraged the practice for decades, through a program dubbed “Atoms for Peace” that proliferated nuclear technology throughout various parts of the private sector in a hope that it would improve the lives of many. And it did. Today, thousands of agricultural varieties we take for granted – including, according to a 2007 New York Times feature on the practice, “rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum” – are a direct result of mutation breeding. They would not be classified as GM foods, in the sense that we did not use modern transgenic techniques to make them, but they are genetically altered nonetheless, to the same or greater degree than most modern GMO strains. Unlike modern GM foods – which are often closely protected by patents and armies of lawyers to ensure the inventing companies reap maximum profits from their use – the overwhelming majority of the original generations of radiation-mutated plant varieties came out of academic and government sponsored research, and thus were provided free and clear for farmers to use without restriction. With the chemical revolution of the mid-20th century, radiation-based mutations were followed by the use of chemical agents like the methyl sulfate family of mutagens. And after that, the crudest forms of organic genetic manipulation came into use, such as the uses of transposons, highly repetitive strands of DNA discovered in 1948 that can be used like biological duct tape to cover whole sections the genome. These modified crops stood up better to pests, lessened famines, reduced reliance on pesticides, and most of all enabled farmers to increase their effective yields. Coupled with the development of commercial machinery like tractors and harvesters, the rise of mutagenic breeding resulted in an agricultural revolution of a magnitude few truly appreciate. In the late 1800s, the overwhelming majority of global populations lived in rural areas, and most people spent their lives in agrarian pursuits. From subsistence farmers to small commercial operations, the majority of the population of every country, the US included, was employed in agriculture. Today, less than 2% of the American population (legal and illegal combined) works in farming of any kind. Yet we have more than enough food to feed all of our people, and a surplus to export to more densely populated nations like China and India. The result is that a sizable percentage of the world’s plant crops today – the ones on top of which much of the modern-era GMO experiments are done – are already genetic mutants. Hence the slippery slope that serves as the foundation of the resistance from regulators over the labeling of GM food products. Where do you draw the line on what to label? And frankly, how do you even know for sure, following the Wild-West days of blasting everything that could grow with some form or another of radiation, what plants are truly virgin DNA? The world’s public is largely unaware that many of the foods they eat today – far more than those targeted by anti-GMO protestors and labeling advocates – are genetically modified. Yet we don’t seem to be dying off in large numbers, like the anti-RNAi researchers project will happen. In fact, global lifespans have increased dramatically across the board in the last century. The Rise of Careful The science of GM food has advanced considerably since the dark ages of the 1920s. Previous versions of mutation breeding were akin to trying to fix a pair of eyeglasses with a sledgehammer – messy and imprecise, with rare positive results. And the outputs of those experiments were often foisted upon a public without any knowledge or understanding of what they were consuming. Modern-day GM foods are produced with a much more precise toolset, which means less unintended collateral damage. Of course it also opens up a veritable Pandora’s box of new possibilities (glow-in-the-dark corn, anyone?) and with it a whole host of potential new risks. Like any sufficiently powerful technology, such as the radiation and harsh chemicals used in prior generations of mutation breeding, without careful control over its use, the results can be devastating. This fact is only outweighed by the massive improvements over the prior, messier generation of techniques. And thus, regulatory regimes from the FDA to CSIRO to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are taking increasing steps to ensure that GM foods are thoroughly tested long before they come to market. In many ways, the tests are far more rigorous than those that prescription drugs undergo, as the target population is not sick and in need of urgent care, and for which side effects can be tolerated. This is why a great many of the proposed GM foods of the last 20 years, including the controversial “suicide seeds” meant to protect the intellectual property of the large GM seed producers like Monsanto (which bought out Calgene, the inventor of that Flavr Savr tomato, and is now the 800-lb. gorilla of the GM food business), were never allowed to market. Still, with the 15 years from 1996 to 2011 seeing a 96-fold increase in the amount of land dedicated to growing GM crops and the incalculable success of the generations of pre-transgenic mutants before them, scientists and corporations are still in a mad sprint to find the next billion-dollar GM blockbuster. In doing so they are seeking tools that make the discovery of such breakthroughs faster and more reliable. With RNAi, they may just have found one such tool. If it holds true to its laboratory promises, its benefits will be obvious from all sides. Unlike previous generations of GMO, RNAi-treated crops do not need to be permanently modified. This means that mutations which outlive their usefulness, like resistance to a plague which is eradicated, do not need to live on forever. This allows companies to be more responsive, and potentially provides a big relief to consumers concerned about the implications of eating foods with permanent genetic modifications. The simple science of creating RNAi molecules is also attractive to people who develop these new agricultural products, as once a messenger RNA is identified, there is a precise formula to tell you exactly how to shut it off, potentially saving millions or even billions of dollars that would be spent in the research lab trying to figure out exactly how to affect a particular genetic process. And with the temporary nature of the technique, both the farmers and the Monsantos of the world can breathe easily over the huge intellectual-property questions of how to deal with genetically altered seeds. Not to mention the questions of natural spread of strains between farms who might not want GMO crops in their midst. Instead of needing to engineer in complex genetic functions to ensure progeny don’t pass down enhancements for free and that black markets in GMO seeds don’t flourish, the economic equation becomes as simple as fertilizer: use it or don’t. While RNAi is not a panacea for GMO scientists – it serves as an off switch, but cannot add new traits nor even turn on dormant ones – the dawn of antisense techniques is likely to mean an even further acceleration of the science of genetic meddling in agriculture. Its tools are more precise even than many of the most recent permanent genetic-modification methods. And the temporary nature of the technique – the ability to apply it selectively as needed versus breeding it directly into plants which may not benefit from the change decades on – is sure to please farmers, and maybe even consumers as well. That is, unless the scientists in Australia are proven correct, and the siRNAs used in experiments today make their way into humans and affect the same genetic functions in us as they do in the plants. The science behind their assertions still needs a great deal of testing. Much of their assertion defies the basic understanding of how siRNA molecules are delivered – an incredibly difficult and delicate process that has been the subject of hundreds of millions of dollars of research thus far, and still remains, thanks to our incredible immune systems, a daunting challenge in front of one of the most promising forms of medicine (and now of farming too). Still, their perspective is important food for thought… and likely fuel for much more debate to come. After all, even if you must label your products as containing GMO-derived ingredients, does that apply if you just treated an otherwise normal plant with a temporary, consumable, genetic on or off switch? In theory, the plant which ends up on your plate is once again genetically no different than the one which would have been on your plate had no siRNAs been used during its formative stages. One thing is sure: the GMO food train left the station nearly a century ago and is now a very big business that will continue to grow and to innovate, using RNAi and other techniques to come. The Casey Extraordinary Technology team has been tracking the leading lights of the RNAi medical industry for some time. Recently, one of our small biotech upstarts struck a potentially massive, exclusive deal with an agricultural giant to seed its own RNAi research program. Success could mean billions for both firms. If you’d like to know what company we believe will profit most from the next generation of GM food development, subscribe to CET. Bits & Bytes Last Chance for RIM? (CNN Money) Few companies have been written off as frequently as Research in Motion, whose Blackberry was once state of the art and which now finds itself fighting for its life. Its stock just soared 9% merely because it said release of the new Blackberry 10 is still on schedule for early next year. Whether the 10 will be able to put a dent into the Apple/Android monolith remains to be seen, but for RIM it could be the last, best hope. Giant Media Merger (LA Times) What do you get when you mate Han Solo with Minnie Mouse? We’re about to find out – fiscally, if not physically – with Tuesday’s announcement that Disney is acquiring Lucasfilm for a cool $4 billion. Disney is projecting it’ll get its money back within three years, while George is, well, retiring – as he is now well able to do. Google Settles Final AdWords Dispute (Ars Technica) Several companies have taken Google to court over AdWords, saying Google shouldn’t be allowed to key advertisements to their names, which are protected trademarks. The last and one of the most persistent has been Rosetta Stone, a language-software maker that sued Google in 2009, but lost in federal court. However, its case was revived on appeal, and yesterday it finally was settled on confidential terms. How Easy Is a Tablet to Use? (TechCrunch) Pretty damn easy, as it turns out. In a remarkable experiment, OLPC (One Laptop per Child) researchers in Ethiopia handed a Motorola Xoom tablet to each of a group of illiterate village children aged four to eight. Click the link to learn the amazing results.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a plea in April for more Americans to be prepared to administer naloxone, an opioid antidote, in case they or people close to them suffer an overdose.”The call to action is to recognize if you’re at risk,” Adams told NPR’s Rachel Martin. “And if you or a loved one are at risk, keep within reach, know how to use naloxone.”Nearly every state has made it easier for people to get naloxone by allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug without an individual prescription. Public health officials are able to write what are called standing orders, essentially prescriptions that cover everyone in their jurisdiction.Some states require training in how to use naloxone, typically given as a nasal spray called Narcan or with an EpiPen-like automatic injection, in order for someone to pick up naloxone. But the medicine is simple to use either way.After the surgeon general called for more people to be prepared with naloxone, we decided to ask Americans about their knowledge about the opioid antidote’s availability, attitudes toward using it and experience with the medicine in the latest NPR-IBM Watson Health Health Poll. The survey queried more than 3,000 households nationwide in May.We wondered how many people know about naloxone and the fact that someone doesn’t have to be a medical professional to administer it. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they were aware of the antidote and that it could be given by laypeople; 41 percent said they weren’t.We then asked people who knew about naloxone if they would need a prescription to get it. The answers were pretty evenly divided among three options: yes, no and not sure/no response.”Why, with all the attention we’ve had in the media, why don’t more Americans know about naloxone?” asks Dr. Anil Jain, vice president and chief health information officer for IBM Watson Health. “When people did know, why did people think they needed a prescription?” While the survey doesn’t get at the causes, Jain says, the findings underscore the need for greater public awareness.Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says the lack of knowledge among Americans at large isn’t all that surprising. “Policy alone is necessary but not sufficient,” she says. “People still don’t know to go to the pharmacy to get access to naloxone, especially individuals at the highest risk.”To change that, she says, “you have to have continued education and the delivery of services” where people need them.In Baltimore, the health department maps where overdoses are happening and sends outreach workers to the areas. But money is an issue, even at a negotiated cost of $75 per naloxone kit, Wen says. There isn’t enough naloxone to go around. “Every week we take stock of how many naloxone kits we have for the rest of fiscal year,” she says. “Who’s at most risk? Those are who we give the naloxone to.”The NPR-IBM Watson Health Poll asked people if they would be willing to use Narcan, the nasal spray form of naloxone, to help a person who had overdosed. Fifty-eight percent said they would and 29 percent said no. Thirteen precent weren’t sure or didn’t respond. Only 47 percent of people 65 and older said they would be willing to do it.When asked about the auto-injector option, 68 percent of respondents said they would be willing to administer naloxone that way and 22 percent of people said they wouldn’t be.Finally, we asked whether people had obtained naloxone, and 10 percent said they or someone in their household had. Among those people, 81 percent said the naloxone had been used, but the sample size for this question was small, making interpretation difficult.The nationwide poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. You can find the questions and full results here. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
cannabis, biotech and entrepreneurship reporter Add to Queue 3 min read Image credit: HighGradeRoots | Getty Images New Report: US Cannabis Market Could Hit $22.7B by 2023 Green Entrepreneur provides how-to guides, ideas and expert insights for entrepreneurs looking to start and grow a cannabis business. Get 1 Year of Green Entrepreneur for $19.99 A new report projects the cannabis market in the United States will reach $22.7 billion in sales by 2023. The estimates in the Brightfield Group report imply a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 percent over the next four years.The recreational market is expected to lead the charge, at least in 2019, delivering 33 percent growth, driven by a variety of factors including the stabilization of the market in California and new adult-use markets coming online. The Brightfield Group, a predictive market intelligence services provider for the CBD and cannabis industry, last year predicted the hemp-derived CBD market would hit sales of $22 billion by 2022.Related: Report: CBD Market To Hit $22 Billion By 2022New states, new leaders.Brightfield Group’s estimates assume the number of active adult-use states (meaning those currently selling products, versus those with laws in place but no real sales) will surge from seven in 2019 to 16 by 2023. The number of active medical markets is also anticipated to rise from 28 to 35. The report explains that as more states move to legalize adult-use cannabis through ballot initiatives, momentum for legalization should increase as well.“Major shifts in socio-political support for legalization have spurred momentum as progressive proposals have been put forth in states like Illinois, and other midwestern states, such as Ohio, open to medicinal usage.”According to the research firm, West Coast states which currently dominate the market in terms of sales, will soon lose their preeminence to East Coast and Midwestern states. Only California will remain a leader, followed by New York and Massachusetts, which will command 10 percent of the total market share each, Brightfield Group expects. The firm also envisions Midwestern states such as Illinois and Michigan will deliver stronger sales numbers than states with more established adult-use programs, like Colorado and Nevada.”Some of the country’s largest states have been bitten by the cannabis bug,” said Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group. “With states like Michigan, Illinois, New York and New Jersey expected to open recreational markets over the next five years, the landscape of the cannabis market will shift entirely from West to East. The first movers of four or five years ago — Colorado, Oregon, Washington — are slowing to single-digit growth rates, while these more populous markets will rapidly take their place.”Related: A University in Michigan Is Offering a Bachelor Degree for Marijuana EntrepreneursWhile sentiment toward the medical uses of cannabis changes nationwide, driving policy change as well, a convoluted picture on the federal level calls for more clarity in standardized legislation. This would provide “needed consistency, helping states model and craft legislation to fit their constituents and markets with proven models and in-market clarity.”Beyond the evolution of the market size and distribution of the pie, Brightfield Group’s report looks into the positive effects of the Farm Bill, as well as the potential passage of the STATES Act and the SAFE Banking Act on the future of the cannabis industry. They also predict a move toward market standardization, an explosion of multi-state operators, ongoing corporate consolidation and continued expansion of the CBD market. Subscribe Now Next Article Javier Hasse –shares Brought to you by Benzinga May 22, 2019 cannabis industry Legal marijuana will no longer be an exclusively West Coast phenomena as East Coast and Midwestern states legalize huge new markets. VIP Contributor
Mike Hogan November 1, 2007 Next Article Interesting new PC shapes and concepts promise to accelerate our drive toward virtual computing. They’re desktops, portables, even memory sticks with names like FlipStart, iMac, MojoPac and Zonbu. Invariably thin and light, they’re not meant to operate as lone computing devices. Rather, they rely on the web for much of their functionality.Meet your new PC–the endpoint. The net has finally become the PC, an idea some superrich somebodies had a decade ago and lost a bunch of money on. So? PC users didn’t live with one foot in the virtual world then, and web infrastructure and computer subsystems weren’t anything like they are today.Component miniaturization, free open source software and logarithmic growth in web services combine in new PCs like the paperback-size Zonbu. Relying on the web for its hard drive, the 5-pound brick fits in the palm of your hand. But mobility isn’t its primary goal; Zonbu’s creators wanted to build a PC that was both cheap and green. Add your own keyboard, display and mouse to the CPU-only Zonbu, which costs as little as $99 with a two-year online storage contract (as low as $13 a month for 25GB). Zonbu’s Linux OS is housed on a 4GB CompactFlash card, along with 20 open source applications like the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and a Firefox browser.Instead of the standard 200-watt gulps, Zonbu takes 9-watt sips of electricity and is religiously carbon-emission neutral. Ohhhhm. But even we major carbon consumers can appreciate Zonbu’s complete silence (no hard drive or fan) and reduced levels of Windows’ hassle emissions. There’s no system configuration, license management, drive defragmentation or constant updating of multiple layers of malware protection–no Windows Mega-Patch Tuesdays!Only Skin-DeepBut Zonbu is a squat little box. If it’s style you’re looking for–and you have $1,200 to spend–where else to turn but Apple Inc.? Its newest line of iMacs are the sleekest desktops ever and will run Windows software. A CPU, hard drive and more are somehow poured into a 20- or 24-inch display balanced on a wire-thin L stand. Add Apple’s new wireless keyboard and mouse, and you have a computer that barely casts a shadow on your desk.Want web access to go? New feather-weights like the OQO model 02 and FlipStart can keep you connected wherever you roam at speeds of up to 1.4Mbps and 3.1Mbps, respectively. Weighing in at a pound and some change, each squeezes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and even wide-area EV-DO into handhelds that measure less than 6 by 5 inches. They slide easily into a pocket or purse but include displays large enough for a full-size web browser. The heaviest part of either is the price tag: $1,299 and up.Still too much PC to carry? How about a USB 2.0 memory stick packing the new MojoPac virtual PC environment and a copy of your entire Windows desktop? Plug the MojoPac stick into any PC and compute from MojoPac’s secure environment without changing a single setting on the host. It’s very similar to the U3 environment with one critical difference: MojoPac works with the Microsoft Office Suite.Still too heavy for you? If you can lift a user ID and password, you can keep all your files on a virtual application site like Zoho. Log into its Microsoft Office-compatible suite from any broadband PC you can find.Traditional PCs aren’t going away– they’re just becoming terminals into that ultimate virtual PC in the sky: the web.Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur’s technology editor. Magazine Contributor This story appears in the November 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » PC functions are moving onto the web. Here are the tools you need to make the leap. Add to Queue The Web is the New PC Technology 3 min read –shares Free Webinar | July 31: Secrets to Running a Successful Family Business Learn how to successfully navigate family business dynamics and build businesses that excel. Register Now »
Nintendo has been on a winning streak, with its Switch console flying off the shelves since its launch last year © 2018 AFP Explore further Citation: Nintendo annual profits soar 36 percent to $1.27bn on Switch sales (2018, April 26) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-nintendo-annual-profits-soar-percent.html Nintendo on Thursday said its annual net profit soared 36.1 percent, thanks to the immense popularity of its Switch console, and announced it was appointing a new president. Nintendo ups profit forecast on strong Switch sales This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Shuntaro Furukawa, 46, who currently oversees marketing and other divisions at the Kyoto-based video game giant, will succeed 68-old-year Tatsumi Kimishima, who has headed up the firm since 2015.Nintendo has been on a winning streak, with its Switch console flying off the shelves since its launch last year.The company said its net profit for the year to March reached 139.6 billion yen ($1.27 billion), beating its own expectations despite repeatedly raised annual targets.Its operating profit saw a six-fold increase to 177.6 billion yen, and its sales more than doubled from the previous year, to 1.056 trillion yen.Nintendo projected further improvements during the ongoing year to March 2019, forecasting annual net profit would improve 18.2 percent to 165 billion yen and operating profit would reach 225 billion yen, a 26.7 percent rise. Annual sales are expected to reach 1.2 trillion yen, up 13.7 percent.”The results for this fiscal year show a very positive trend in global hardware sales for Nintendo Switch, which sold a total of 15.05 million units during this fiscal year,” the company said in a statement.”On the software end, Super Mario Odyssey has been a major hit with audiences worldwide, and sold 10.41 million units,” it said, adding that Switch software sales reached 63.51 million units this fiscal year.Nintendo 3DS hardware sales remained solid even after the launch of Nintendo Switch, with sales during this fiscal year reaching 6.40 million units, the company said.