business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the New York Times:

"The Biden administration, keeping a watchful eye on an outbreak of avian influenza that has led to the deaths of tens of millions of chickens and is driving up the cost of eggs — not to mention raising the frightening specter of a human pandemic — is contemplating a mass vaccination campaign for poultry, according to White House officials.

"The bird flu outbreak, which began early last year, is the biggest in the nation’s history, affecting more than 58 million farmed birds in 47 states, as well as birds in the wild. It has already spilled over into mammals, such as mink, foxes, raccoons and bears, raising fears that the virus that causes it, known as H5N1, could mutate and start spreading more easily among people.

"Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose focus is human health, say the risk of a pandemic is low. As a precaution, the agency has sent drug manufacturers flu virus samples that could form the basis of vaccines for people. The C.D.C. is also exploring whether commercial test manufacturers would be willing to develop tests for H5N1, similar to those used for the coronavirus."

The problem is that there is a cadre of birds out there lobbying against any sort of national vaccination program, saying that it is just an excuse to inject them with microchips that will allow the government or global elites like Bill Gates to track them.

•  The Hill reports that Costco "isn’t raising its membership fee now, but company officials are signaling a change could happen soon … Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti reiterated that a price hike for its Gold Star membership will happen, but said 'it’s a question of when, not if'."

The story notes that "Costco last raised its base membership fee in June 2017. Historically, the retailer has raised the Gold Star annual price every five years."

•  The New York Times reports that "Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday confirmed that his committee will hold a vote this week to open an investigation into federal labor law violations by major corporations and subpoena Howard Schultz, the billionaire chief executive of Starbucks, as the first witness.

"Mr. Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, last week announced his intent to try to compel Mr. Schultz to appear on Capitol Hill, stating that Starbucks had declined an invitation in February for him to testify about his violation of federal labor law and defied congressional oversight inquiries, including by refusing requests for meetings and documents."

When they schedule that haring, I plan to be prepared.  Gonna make popcorn.  Buy Twizzlers.  Grab myself a beer.  Put my feet up.  Turn on C-Span.  Watch fireworks.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"WW International Inc., known as WeightWatchers, is buying digital health company Sequence, marking the diet company’s move into the hot market for diabetes and obesity drugs including Ozempic and Wegovy.

"Sequence is a subscription service that offers telehealth visits with doctors who can prescribe the drugs. WeightWatchers, which has long promised to help customers lose weight through food-tracking and lifestyle changes, is moving to also offer customers a medical weight-loss solution."

Purchase price:  $106 million.

The story goes on:

"WW plans to promote Sequence’s telehealth services to WeightWatchers members. Gary Foster, WW’s chief scientific officer, says WeightWatchers plans to create programs geared to people who are using weight-loss drugs that would include an emphasis on strength training and consuming high-protein foods, since when people lose weight they often lose important muscle mass.

"Sequence members pay $99 a month for services that include telehealth appointments with doctors, who can prescribe Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and other weight-loss medications. Sequence’s program includes an app to track weight loss and meetings with dietitians and fitness coaches. Potential subscribers first take a quick quiz that asks for height, weight and about certain medical conditions."

•  From the New York Times:

"The Biden administration said on Monday that it would take initial steps toward challenging a ban that Mexico has placed on shipments of genetically modified corn from the United States, restrictions that have rankled farmers and threatened a profitable export.

"Mexico has planned to phase out the use of genetically modified corn, as well as an herbicide called glyphosate, by 2024. About 90 percent of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.

"Senior administration officials have expressed concerns to the Mexican government about the measures for more than a year in virtual and in-person meetings, saying they could disrupt millions of dollars of agricultural trade and cause serious harm to U.S. producers. Mexico is the second-largest market for U.S. corn, after China.

"On Monday, U.S. officials said that they were requesting consultations over the issue with their Mexican counterparts under the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which governs the terms of trade in North America. Biden officials said that parties to that agreement, which was signed in 2020, had committed to basing their regulation on scientific research, and that Mexico’s ban on genetically modified corn did not conform to those promises.

The consultations are the first step in a process that could lead to the United States bringing a formal dispute against Mexico. The parties must meet to discuss the issue within 30 days, and, if the talks are not successful, the United States could turn to a separate dispute settlement procedure under the trade agreement. That process could result in the United States placing tariffs on Mexican products, if no other resolution can be reached."

•  The BBC reports that as fresh produce shortages continue in the UK, residents have embraced an old-fashioned solution - gardening.

Yup.  If they can't buy the produce they want at the supermarket, they're just going to grow their own.

According to the story, "The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said seed sales across its retail outlets had risen 20% in February compared to the same month last year."