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Mutant Chickens Helping Humans Battle Cancer and Disease

Japanese researchers have genetically engineered hens whose eggs contain drugs that can fight some of our most serious diseases including cancer. The research team has been able to produce cells that were used to fertilize eggs and breed hens that inherited the genes. After a few rounds of cross-breeding, the team was able to yield chickens capable of laying eggs containing the disease-fighting drugs. If successful, the team hopes to cut the costs by up to 90% of ultra-expensive cancer treatments. The key element in the process is the production of Interferon-beta, which is a type of protein related to the immune system that is a powerful tool in treating of skin cancer and hepatitis. Scientists are hoping to safely produce the “interferon-beta”, which in turn will allow further research to seek the sought after reduced costs. I’m told that in late July at the company’s breeding facility in Otaru, Hokkaido, female chickens with modified genes laid eggs, which the researchers confirmed contained interferon beta in the whites of the eggs. Should the research continue to produce positive results, there is hope for patients who cannot afford the costs of the current treatment that run in excess of $150,000 a year. It’s worth noting that the high cost of cancer drugs prevents some treatments from ever reaching patients, while forcing a significant proportion of sufferers to give up treatment altogether. We know from research last year that one in five cancer patients will stop taking a life-saving drug due to an inability to pay for it. Meaning, many folks will be keeping their eye on the future of this body of work. The joint research teams in Japan plan to sell the drug to pharmaceutical companies as early as next year so they can then move the ball forward with further studies leading to future low-cost treatments. As I understand it, the Japanese regulatory system will probably keep any positive outcomes from getting to market for a few years, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I suspect that given time more of our genome editing advancements in medicine will become widely accepted, allowing future breakthroughs to get to those that need it more quickly. Many feel that cancer drugs should not be a luxury item that people have to choose whether or not to purchase. When successful treatments become available as they eventually will, we will see mortality rates drop and hopefully greater acceptance of modern techniques of research. (Source: Fastcompany, Newsweek)

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October 12, 2017 USDA WASDE Report

U.S. Production

Oct. Est. Avg. Trade Guess Trade Range USDA Sep.
Corn Production 14.280 14.204 14.060 – 14.355 14.184
Corn Yield 171.8 170.1 168.7 – 171.5 169.9
Corn

Harvested Acres

83.1 83.531 83.100 – 84.000 83.496
Soybean Production 4.431 4.447 4.335 – 4.490 4.431
Soybean Yield 49.5 50.0 49.1 – 52.1 49.9
Soybean Harvested Acres 89.5 89.017 88.500 – 89.820 88.731

U.S. Ending Stocks

Oct. Est. Avg. Trade Guess Trade Range USDA Sep.
Corn 2.340 2.289 2.168 – 2.450 2.335
Soybeans 0.430 0.447 0.375 – 0.500 0.475
Wheat 0.960 0.946 0.928 – 0.971 0.933

World Ending Stocks 2017/18

Oct. Est. Avg. Trade Guess Trade Range USDA Sep.
Corn 201.0 201.91 196.70 – 204.50 202.47
Soybeans 96.1 96.48 93.90 – 98.00 97.53
Wheat 268.1 262.80 258.00 – 265.40 263.14

 

Why Are We So Afraid Of “Friday The 13th”?

Today is Friday the 13th, a day often viewed as somewhat sinister and full of general evil. For many it’s a day they anticipate will be chock-full of bad luck. The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date. The technical term is “Paraskevidekatriaphobics”, meaning those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear ofFriday the 13th. So, how many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century actually suffer from this condition? According to Dossey, the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he’s right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition. Of course, the rational mind argues that this is just another day. So where does this sense of dread surrounding Friday the 13th stem from? Well, that’s not completely clear. No one can say for sure when and why human beings first associated the number 13 with misfortune, the superstition is assumed to be quite old, and there exist any number of theories purporting to trace its origins: Religious superstition around this day is thought to have come about during the Middle Ages and may have Biblical origins. Some historians have claimed it was the day on which Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on aFriday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; and, of course, Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified. It is therefore a day of penance for Christians. There is also a biblical reference to 13 being considered unlucky. Judas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus who later betrayed him, was supposedly the 13th guest to sit down at the last supper. Friday was also unlucky in medieval times because it was “hangman’s day”. The author of the “Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown, cites the 14th-century execution of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, which took place on Friday the 13th. He cursed the Pope and the King of France, and this spread misfortune down the ages. Interestingly the Chinese regarded the number as lucky, some commentators note, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs. Thirteen is said to have been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. Regardless of your belief, this is truly one of the most talked about and superstitious days in the entire calendar. (Sources: ThoughtCo , Wikipedia, National Geographic, Live Science, BBC)

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Liver Cancer Incidence Increasing At An Alarming Rate

More people are contracting liver cancer every year, with incidences increasing over some +75% between 1990 and 2015. It is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality, according to a new report from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015. In 2015, liver cancer was the sixth most common incident cancer worldwide and the fourth most common cause of cancer death. Globally, 854,000 incident cases of liver cancer and 810,000 deaths occurred. Overall, Hepatitis B (HBV) and alcohol were the most common causes of death from liver cancer in 2015, causing 33% and 30%, respectively, of global mortality from the disease. The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was blamed for about 21% of incidents. Alcohol, perhaps not surprisingly, made the smallest contribution to death from liver cancer in North Africa and the Middle East but was the greatest contributor to liver cancer death in Eastern Europe, where it caused over half of all deaths from the disease in 2015. Researchers are hoping the results of their study will be useful in reducing the number of people that suffer from liver cancer, as they point out most causes of liver cancer are preventable through vaccination, antiviral treatment, safe blood transfusion and injection practices, as well as interventions to reduce excessive alcohol use. HBV can be prevented via a simple vaccine that has proven to be about 95% effective. Treatments are available to slow the progression of a chronic HBV infection, but there is no cure. There are some treatments available for HCV that can cure the disease in up to 97% of cases. However, HCV infections have been rising at a disturbing rate, tripling between the years 2010 and 2015. In fact, it is considered an epidemic. It is suspected that there are, at present, more than 5 million people in the United States that are infected with Hepatitis C, and perhaps as many as 200 million around the world. This makes it one of the greatest public health threats faced in this century. About half of HCV infections can be traced to injection drug use. As with HIV, the sharing of contaminated needles and syringes increases the chance of infection dramatically. Injection drug use has seen a massive surge amid the U.S. opioid epidemic. The new infections are appearing most frequently among young people who transition from taking prescription pills to injecting heroin, which has become cheaper and more easily available. Baby Boomers, however, have the highest infection rate. People born between the 1960s and 1980s are five times more likely to have HCV than other adults. This is attributed to the fact that there was no HCV blood test available before 1992, meaning many victims contracted the disease via blood transfusions. However, virtually any source of blood or blood products seems to be capable of carrying the virus, even if the source is indirect – like a used razor, for example. Medical professionals aren’t clear on what the direct correlation is between Hepatitis infections and the increased risk for liver cancer. For the general population, screening for liver cancer hasn’t been proved to reduce the risk of dying of liver cancer, so it isn’t generally recommended. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends liver cancer screening for those thought to have a high risk. (Sources: MedScape, Mayo Clinic, Healio)

Perfect Storm Brewing For Wine… California Fires and Europe’s Worst Grape Harvest In Over Three Decades

Deadly fires are ravaging California’s wine country. From what I understand over +110,000 acres across California’s wine country has been torched. Firefighting crews are said to be currently fighting 17 wildfires. The winds have recently slowed down from the 50-60 mph gust that were being reported the past few days, which is giving the crews an opportunity to slow down the spreading fires. The pace of the burn took firefighters by surprise: The fires torched 20,000 acres in about 12 hours Monday, which Cal Fire’s Cox called “a phenomenal rate of growth.” Ten people from California’s wine country have been reported dead, hundreds are reported missing and thousands have had to evacuate. Nearly all of these fires are in the Sonoma and Napa counties, the heartland of the state’s renowned wine industry. Napa and Sonoma counties, the source of some of the country’s best wines, has more than 100,000 acres of wine grapes and are home to more than 650 wineries, according to the Wine Institute. The historic Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma County caught fire, according to Elizabeth Bunch-Mooney. She posted on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that the oldest California family owned winery in California has burned.” Paradise Ridge Winery in Sonoma burned down on Monday. Several reports claimed Kenwood winery Chateau St. Jean also burnt to the ground Monday. The Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County has claimed at least three wineries: Frey Vineyards; the small, family-owned Golden Vineyards and Oster Wine Cellars. I’ve also heard speculation the Atlas Peak, Soda Canyon and Stag’s Leap wine growing districts are in big trouble, perhaps also negatively impacting winery’s like Chimney Rock, E&J Gallo, William Hill, Signorello Vineyard and Rutherford Hill. Luckily the harvest has been underway and a majority of the crop might be out of harms way. Unfortunately, grape varieties ripen at different times, so there could certainly be some significant holes in supply. Many insiders say grapes that survive the fires could absorb a smokey flavor from the air and might not be able to be used. European wine prices may also see a hefty price hike as wine makers try to deal with the worst grape harvest in some 36 years. Experts in France have warned it could be the smallest harvest since the end of the Second World War. Vines were damaged by hail and frost in the spring, then ravaged by a summer drought. The French agriculture ministry said output was expected to total 37.2m hectolitres – 18% less than 2016 and 17% below the average over the past five years. They expect a -40% drop in output from the prime wine-growing region of Bordeaux, the country’s largest. Some losses are also anticipated in the Burgundy region, where vines have been repeatedly hit by hail in recent years. There was an equally gloomy picture in Italy, as well as Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Hungary. Frost damage is estimated to have dented harvest prospects by 30% to 60% in some areas. Italy’s prime wine regions suffered from this summer’s heatwave, which was so brutal and relentless it garnered the nickname “Lucifer”. Wine production is expected to drop up to 15% nationwide. Some parts of Italy also had vines destroyed by hailstorms in April. Philippe de Cantenac, a specialist writer for La Revue du Vin de France says many vineyard owners were ​already ​short of money after a series of poor harvests over the past few seasons. One measure winemakers are expected to adopt is raising prices, though wine experts say they will have to strike a delicate balance. Wine drinkers in countries such as Britain and the U.S. can easily turn to bottles from countries such as Chile or Argentina. There are also some regions in Europe where wine grape production is expected to be much better. Portugal, which has experienced drought conditions in some regions this year, is predicting a 10% increase from last year, while Austria, which also suffered frost damage last year, is expecting a 23% in 2017. One of the biggest increases in production is expected from Romania, which is expecting this year’s harvest to be +35% over the five-year average. All-in-all, consumers will still have plenty of options for affordable, quality wine. However, some of the upper-end European vintages​ and California favorites​ may be tough to come by and possibly worth tracking down for investment purposes once they begin rolling out this year’s production. (Sources: Daily Mail, Reuters)

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