Edinburgh’s Will Bosi has high hopes of representing Great Britain as climbing makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“After the World Championships this year, I finished 20th in the combined and, with 20 people qualifying for the Olympics next year, it puts me in a very good position if I can hold on to that,” the 19-year-old tells BBC Scotland’s Rhona McLeod.
Climbing, which has three disciplines, is making its debut in Tokyo along with surfing, skateboarding and karate.
In its third quarter earnings report on Tuesday, the company reported negative free cash flow of $859 million, the biggest figure in its history. Netflix continues to increase spending on original content as it seeks to compete with other players like Hulu, HBO and planned streaming services like the one Disney plans to launch next year. Netflix will reportedly spend at least $8 billion on content in 2018.
Investors continue to reward rather than punish Netflix for its free-spending ways, banking that spending to build a library of exclusive original content will help it fend off new contenders in streaming video. The company’s shares jumped about 6 percent early Wednesday following Netflix’s big earnings beat Tuesday.
Here’s a look at Netflix’s stock price and cash burn over the last few years.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that U.S.-China trade talks are on hiatus.
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“It appears as though we may be in something of a hiatus now,” Ross said during an interview on CNBC.
Ross noted that “in any negotiation there are ups and downs,” but suggested that talks had entered an inactive period.
“I don’t know that I would call it a continued impasse,” he said. “We are where we are.”
The U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have been engaged for months in a trade dispute. On Sunday, the president’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the relationship between the two countries “has not been positive lately.”
American and Chinese officials have suggested that the leaders of the two countries may be able to advance talks at the upcoming G-20 summit in Argentina. Asked about that possibility, Ross suggested it was unlikely that much would be accomplished there.
“Meetings of world leaders at the G-20 never get into huge amounts of detail,” Ross said.
“You can’t do a multi-thousand page trade agreement in an hour,” he added.
Malcolm Turnbull declined requests from the Liberal Party and former colleagues to make an explicit gesture of support for Dave Sharma ahead of Saturday’s Wentworth byelection, which the party fears it will lose.
The Australian Financial Review understands Mr Turnbull, who flew to New York a week after losing the leadership on August 24, left the United States on Wednesday to head home. But he is making his way back via Singapore where he will visit his son Alex, who has urged voters to snub the Liberal party on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Alex Turnbull doubled down by urging voters to support independent Kerryn Phelps.
“Realistically if it’s tight, and the preference flows are as they are, it’s better to vote for @drkerrynphelps if you want greater certainty of the Liberals not retaining the seat,” he tweeted.
Mr Turnbull is scheduled to be back in Sydney on Monday, after the byelection.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce warned agricultural trade to the Middle East and other Islamic countries, including Indonesia, would be jeopardised. Channel Seven reported Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Masudi told her Australia counterpart Marise Payne that relocating the Australia embassy to Jerusalem would be a “slap Indonesia’s face on the Palestine issue” and “will affect bilateral relations”.
Internal and external polling shows Mr Sharma will struggle to hold the seat against Dr Phelps, a result which would see the government lose its majority in the House of Representatives. One senior Liberal who has seen the numbers said the Carlton Football Club had a better chance of making the top six in the AFL next season year than the Liberals holding Wentworth. There is some exasperation that Mr Turnbull chose not to help.
Mr Turnbull expressed support for Mr Sharma ahead of the September 13 preselection contest but opted to stay away for the whole campaign so as to not provide a distraction.
Sources confirmed that the Liberal Party subsequently issued a formal request that Mr Turnbull, in the final weeks and days the campaign, lend his name to a letter of support for Mr Sharma which could be sent to voters. Former colleagues have also made informal requests, but he has declined.
Mr Turnbull held the seat by a massive 17 per cent margin, winning it in 2018 by 68 per cent to 32 per cent.
Reported internal Liberal party polling leaked to News Ltd showed Dr Phelps was ahead of Mr Sharma by 55 per cent to 45 cent. Mr Sharma’s primary vote was in the mid-30s. A separate Reachtel poll released Wednesday had Mr Sharma’s primary vote at 33 per cent, Dr Phelps on 26 per cent and Labor’s Tim Murray on 22 per cent.
Liberal strategists believe Mr Sharma must achieve a primary vote of at least 45 per cent if he is to fall over the line on preferences. The Greens are preferencing Labor and Labor is preferencing Dr Phelps.
Mr Morrison said he understood voters in Wentworth were upset with the dumping of Mr Turnbull but urged them to stick with the government.
“Labor Party’s vote has completely tanked in Wentworth and that means the Independent is running second and the electoral maths of Australia’s preferential system means that that is when you can see other candidates come over the top of the leading candidate which is Dave Sharma and win the election.
“There is no doubt that people in Wentworth, events of several months ago for many of them, they found that a very big issue and I understand that,” he said.
“But what I would urge them to do is look at Dave Sharma.”
If the government is reduced to 74 MPs on the floor of the House, it can either move Tony Smith out of the Speaker’s chair to restore its majority and offer the speakership to a crossbencher, or govern with the support of one of the conservative crossbenchers.
Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup was once marketed to farmers as “a herbicide that gets to the root of the problem”.
Lately it’s become clear that it could be causing as many problems as it fixes, with the World Health Organisation assessing that it “probably” causes cancer in humans, a claim dismissed by parent company Bayer. A California jury this summer awarded a man exposed to the chemical through his work $289m (£220m) in damages. Thousands more cases are pending.
This has left Monsanto – and Bayer, the German life sciences giant that paid $66bn to acquire the firm – with a big problem. Now, investigations by The Independent and Greenpeace have uncovered the controversial PR tactics used by agencies that Monsanto, and other manufacturers, hired to fix it.
Roundup is the brand name for weedkillers based on glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used agricultural chemicals. It is deployed by both giant agri-businesses and gardeners. It can readily be bought off the shelf from DIY chains, garden centres and other such outlets, in spray or bottle form, as a “fast action ready to use weedkiller”.
This comes despite the findings of the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 which placed the substance in category Group 2A. This means it is deemed to be “probably carcinogenic to humans”, the second most dangerous of the classifications. Also in 2A is DDT, a pesticide that became infamous for its negative environmental impact; hydrazine, a chemical used in rocket fuels; and inorganic lead compounds.
“This classification is still valid,” a WHO spokesperson told The Independent.
While the EU nonetheless relicensed the product late last year in the wake of a concerted lobbying effort, the French government of Emmanuel Macron made a campaign pledge to outlaw its use – although to date its promises have been frustrated by the National Assembly.
Against this backdrop came the US legal case, described as the “ultimate David and Goliath” struggle, in pitching terminally ill janitor Dewayne Johnson against a giant corporation. In August his slingshot hit home. But the battle is far from over and Monsanto may yet win a new trial after a Californian judge ruled that there might have been insufficient evidence to justify punitive damages.
Even if the decision is ultimately overturned there are, according to the Reuters news agency, 8,000 similar lawsuits in US state and federal courts. And as the tobacco industry can testify, it only takes one confirmed verdict in favour of a plaintiff to launch a landslide.
There have also been recent studies linking the chemical to the disturbing decline in the honey bee population, although here too Monsanto disputes the findings. As the battles over glyphosate use intensify, billions of dollars are at stake.
Neither Monsanto, nor Bayer, have ever detailed the exact contribution of Roundup, or the seeds for Roundup-resistant crops that are more important still, to the business. However, in an August call with analysts, Bayer said that glyphosate made up a “significant” portion of the revenues reported by Monsanto’s agricultural productivity division. It generated $3.7bn (£2.8bn) during the company’s 2017 financial year, despite the fact that the chemical, introduced in 1974, has been off patent for several years and is now also sold by several competitors.
The unit responsible for genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to glyphosate and other herbicides, meanwhile, generated $10.9bn over the same period.
The brand name features prominently in Monsanto’s results statements.
“Bayer beware”, was the Economist’s clever headline in the wake of the Johnson verdict. The German group’s bet on Monsanto is also a bet on glyphosate, and it had to dispose of several businesses as part of a protracted regulatory process to get its $66bn horse home.
Given these issues, it should come as no surprise that Monsanto, along with other manufacturers of glyphosate products, sought the help of reputation management specialists with skills in PR, lobbying and spin.
But the tactics employed by Dublin-based Red Flag Consulting and the Trump campaign-linked US-based Lincoln Strategy have proved to be highly controversial. Greenpeace, for one, has accused them of engaging in methods “straight out of the fossil fuel and tobacco lobbyists’ playbook”.
“Freedom to Farm” declares itself to be a “grassroots campaign” led by farmers fearful of the impact of a glyphosate ban on their livelihoods.
It has been a fixture at agricultural shows around Europe, with the name typically translated into the language of the host country.
In France, for example, it goes under the banner of “Agriculture et Liberté”. In Germany it is Raum für Landwirtschaft. The “Freedom to Farm” name is sometimes used in the show catalogues, which declare that it has been active in the “eight most important EU countries”.
The campaign has been particularly active in France, which should come as no surprise given the efforts of the Macron government to ditch the chemical. There, in addition to stands at agricultural shows, it has a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed, the latter pair of which post general news of interest to farmers in addition to pieces defending the use of glyphosates.
The website declares that French farming is “under threat!” It is sharply critical of the efforts to ban the substance, claiming it will harm agriculture and damage the interests of farmers.
It warns of “a lack of credible alternatives”, arguing that the consequences of a ban could include crop yields being reduced by up to 40 per cent, increasing costs for farmers, and lowering incomes to the extent that “survival of our agriculture” is threatened as a result.
It also says French farmers could be subject to “unfair competition” from rival countries where the chemical remains in use. Moving away from glyphosate, it examines tax issues as well as efforts to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. It’s not just the chemical, you see!
The site’s statements are said to be from “a group of French farmers who have united to protect our way of life and our livelihoods”.
It does declare that they are “supported by a coalition of users and manufacturers of agricultural products”. But it does not mention who those manufacturers might be. Nor do the names Red Flag or Lincoln Strategy appear anywhere on the site, in contrast to the Freedom to Farm materials produced in other European countries, where the former is typically listed as the administrator of this “grass roots led” but manufacturer-supported campaign.
A French media report of a 2018 Salon de l’Agriculture farming show in Paris highlighted the campaign’s stand there, reporting that it employed hostesses to explain to visitors that they worked for a group of farmers and wine makers who could not do without the herbicide.
Greenpeace’s investigation unit Unearthed also notes their appearance in “contemporaneous reviews” which talked of “hostesses working at (agricultural show) booths who said that their job involved distributing ‘truth clarification materials’ about glyphosate, gathering farmers’ contact information, and securing their signatures for petitions”.
The stands do not typically feature the name “Monsanto”. Its presence has, however, been found by stand visitors who have engaged in a little digging.
The journalist who wrote the piece for RTL reported that the stand manager explained to her that it was well funded by Monsanto and three other manufacturers. “The manufacturers had been away from the show for five years,” she wrote archly. “They came back. You just had to look for them a little.”
Well-funded is an apt description for the campaign. The EU’s Transparency register, which lists organisations representing various interests at EU level, states that Red Flag was paid between €100,000 and €199,000 by Monsanto for its work in this sphere in its most recent filing.
But is the campaign successful? France has thousands of farmers, but the “grass roots” campaign in that country has secured just 118 followers on Twitter, not all of whom are farmers. The Facebook page has done better, with just over 1,000 followers and 995 likes, but there wouldn’t seem to be grounds for concern about ports or roads being blockaded in defence of glyphosate any time soon.
It has also struggled to find an eloquent spokesperson from a French farming community that isn’t usually shy about venting its spleen about the issues it faces. In fact, the only person quoted in any media report concerning the campaign is one Daisy Odabasi, who is listed as a field operations manager for Lincoln. Her email address is included in the catalogues for the agricultural shows where the campaign has been represented.
The campaign’s lobbying activities, however, have proved more fruitful. Glyphosate was, after all, relicensed. And then there’s Red Flag’s marketing brochure, supplied to The Independent by Unearthed.
It boasts of its work on what is described as “the single biggest regulatory and public affairs campaign in the European Union” that used “strategic media and alliances of non-traditional allies in an effort to change the positions of identified targets in national governments in France, Germany, UK, Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Italy and Romania”.
It continued: “Red Flagleveraged these efforts on identified targets through media and direct engagement to ultimately change votes in a key committee in Brussels to bring about a win for our client.”
It does not state who that client was, or what the campaign was in aid of, even though some of its other “case studies” do that. However, it does seem to be Monsanto.
Greenpeace is highly critical of the work of Red Flag, set up by an Irish journalist turned political spin doctor for the conservative Fine Gael party – Karl Brophy, who also works for Lincoln. It has an even more colourful founder in the form of Nathan Sproul, a US conservative activist with links to the Trump campaign.
A Greenpeace spokesman said: “A jury in the US recently concluded that Monsanto knew all along (or should have known) about the dangers posed by their weedkiller and should have warned consumers about them.
“Sadly, European governments including the UK … extended the lifespan of glyphosate despite the WHO describing it as a probable carcinogen, and the EU’s own reports documenting environmental risks.”
When The Independent suggested to Red Flag that the campaign’s tactics looked like “astroturfing” – presenting an orchestrated marketing campaign as a grassroots movement and masking the sponsors – Mr Brophy said “we categorically reject your allegation”.
And it is true that the manufacturer’s interest is declared. Their names can be found, as the French journalist said, with a bit of digging.
In a lengthy statement, Mr Brophy said: “Red Flag is an agency with a number of clients in the food and agriculture sectors and a wide network of contacts in the agricultural community. We worked to bring a number of our clients and contacts together in order to help those people who would be most affected by a potential glyphosate ban – the farmers who produce Europe’s food – to come together, to understand what was happening and to make their voices heard.
“The group names to which you refer are simply the localised branding of the project by which we provided these people with relevant information, which they could then choose to use to make their own voices heard in debates in their own countries.”
Mr Brophy continued: “Ultimately, thousands of people – motivated by a genuine fear for their livelihoods, their families and Europe’s ability to produce food safely and sustainably into the future – signed up in person to hear more about what was happening, and we provided them with factual information about the science and the policy-making process around this issue.
“We are grateful to several clients for supporting the project. But it was the farmers who stood to lose most if an activist-led campaign to ban glyphosate – flying in the face of science, the position of all relevant EU regulatory agencies and the position of the European Commission – was successful. And it was the farmers who responded to the threat.”
Mr Brophy said any suggestion that the programme of “awareness-raising and education” was deceptive “is entirely unfounded”.
“We provided Red Flag’s name and contact details, including postal and email addresses, on various materials we used. This information was provided on every single form, and every single email that we sent to people who completed a form confirming that they wanted to receive more information from us.
“You will also note that the Agriculture et Liberté website clearly states that the project is supported by manufacturers of glyphosate products. In every instance, Red Flag has responded directly and transparently to the, very natural, questions which have arisen (whether from farmers, other members of the public, agricultural stakeholders or journalists) about the manufacturers who have supported this project.”
Mr Brophy said Lincoln was engaged as a supplier to “provide logistical support”.
Ms Odabasi, who did not respond to an email seeking comment, was, he stated “not a representative or spokesperson of Agriculture et Liberté”. He said she was “asked some questions by a journalist at a stand and answered them fully transparently, as we do at every opportunity”.
He added: “Last November, a very large majority of European Union countries voted to reauthorise glyphosate. They did so in the face of a well-funded professional activist campaign that cynically misrepresented science and tried to get European countries to overrule their own, world-leading regulatory agencies and the European Commission. One of the reasons these activists failed to get their blocking minority (of just 35 per cent of European countries by population) was because the people who produce the best food in the world, Europe’s farmers, made sure their voices were heard. We’re proud to have played a small part in providing the information that was used by many committed individuals to stand up for their livelihoods, their communities and for the future of Europe’s food supply.”
Christian Hartel, head of corporate media relations for Bayer, said: “The ‘Freedom to Farm’ project is managed by Red Flag and supported by a coalition of users and manufacturers of glyphosate and other plant protection products, including Monsanto. The effort is supported by thousands of farmers in different European countries, who have been making their voices heard in support of continued access to this vital tool for modern and sustainable agriculture.
“Regarding the future of this programme: the integration process of Monsanto within Bayer just started at the end of August 2018. In this context, all existing initiatives within Monsanto will be reviewed and assessed in the coming months, in the light of Bayer’s guiding principles of transparency and dialogue.”