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Crop Progress w/e 8/6/17

USDA further lower’s weekly corn crop-conditions, with 60% of the crop rated  “Good-to-Excellent”, down from 61% the previous week.  The USDA also reported 93% of the corn crop as “silking”  vs. the 5-year average of 94%. “Dough” was reported at 42% vs. the 5-year average of 44%. “Dented” was reported 7% vs. the 5-year average of 11%. Below are details regarding current corn crop-conditions and comparisons to last year.

States “IMPROVING” 

Pennsylvania raised by +4% to 92% vs 59% last year
Indiana raised by +3% to 52% vs 73% last year
Kentucky raised by +3% to 83% vs 76% last year
Missouri raised by +2% to 63% vs 75% last year
North Dakota raised by +1% to 40% vs 80% last year
Tennessee raised by +1% to 83% vs 66% last year 

States “UNCHANGED” 

Nebraska “unchanged” at 59% vs 76% last year
Ohio “unchanged” at 57% vs. 47% last year 
South Dakota “unchanged” at 29% vs 55% last year
Texas “unchanged” at 69% vs 57% last year
Wisconsin “unchanged” at 70% vs 88% last year

States “DETERIORATING”   

Colorado lowered by -8% to 58% vs 82% last year 
Illinois lowered by -5% to 58% vs 83% last year 
Kansas lowered by -3% to 54% vs 67% last year
North Carolina lowered by -2% to 74% vs 64% last year
Iowa lowered by -1% to 64% vs 83% last year
Michigan lowered by -1% at 68% vs 54% last year
Minnesota lowered by -1% to 80% vs 85% last year 

USDA lifted soybeans “Good-to-Excellent” rating by +1% to 60%. Interestingly, conditions in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas are reporting better conditions than last year. I should also note that conditions in both North and South Dakota improved by +3% on the week.

States “IMPROVING” 

North Carolina raised by +6% to 70% vs 68% last year
Indiana raised by +3% to 54% vs 74% last year 
Mississippi raised by +3% to 72% vs 67% last year
North Dakota raised by +3% to 37% vs 73% last year
Ohio raised by +3% to 53% vs 52% last year
South Dakota raised by +3% to 32% vs 57% last year
Tennessee raised by +3% to 75% vs 76% last year
Kansas raised by +2% to 53% vs. 61% last year 
Minnesota raised by +1% to 74% vs 80% last year
Wisconsin raised by +1% to 75% vs 88% last year 

States “UNCHANGED” 

Arkansas “unchanged” at 70% vs 60% last year

States “DETERIORATING”

Michigan lowered by -4% to 62% vs 57% last year
Louisiana lowered by -3% to 82% vs 78% last year 
Illinois lowered by -2% to 64% vs 79% last year 
Nebraska lowered by -2% to 58% vs 77% last year 
Iowa lowered by -1% to 59% vs 82% last year 
Kentucky lowered by -1% to 72% vs 73% last year
Missouri lowered by -1% to 64% vs 70% last year 

Human Embryos Have Officially Been Edited In The U.S.

A team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, has made the first known attempt in the U.S. to genetically modify human embryos. The aim of the effort was to prove that it is possible to safely and effectively correct defective genes that can cause inherited diseases. The research was led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University. Scientists used CRISPR gene-editing technology to change the DNA of one-cell embryos. The embryos were created using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations. They were allowed to develop for only a few days and the researchers claim they detected no unwanted effects. Chinese scientists have also reported editing DNA in embryos but they reported that CRISPR caused editing errors and that the desired DNA changes were not taken up by all the cells of an embryo, an effect known as mosaicism. That led many in the scientific community to argue that “germline editing” in humans would be unsafe. Germline editing is the modification of genes that can be passed down to future descendants. Opponents of modifying genomes also argue that it dangerous because there is now way to know all the ways it could affect the individual. Proponents of germline editing, have maintained that it could potentially decrease, or even eliminate, serious genetic diseases. MIT Technology Review explains that Mitlipov’s research is only “proof of principle” that germline gene editing can be done without the undesired effects other scientists have witnessed. They seem to have overcome those by injecting CRISPR into the eggs at the same time they were fertilized. That is a technique that another researcher had successfully used to edit the genes of mice. Tony Perry of Bath University changed their genetically predisposed fur color from brown to white. Perry’s use of gene editing brings up another highly controversial issue – designer babies. That is the modification of DNA to get desired traits or enhance abilities, like blue eyes or higher intelligence. In the U.S., any effort to turn an edited IVF embryo into a baby is illegal, but that is not the case in all countries. The revelation from this new research means that it may not be long before one of those countries introduces the world to the first CRISPR babies. (Sources: National Geographic, Technology Review)

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Looking For Unique Art?

Evans is a British artist who grew up on a farm in the mountains of Wales. He hand-etches leather hides by knife, removing less than a tenth of a millimeter of the leather surface. It’s a painstaking technique requiring incredible patience and extreme attention to detail. There is no room for error, as a slice too deep can not be undone. Mark’s medium is very unique in the art world and something he really stumbled upon by accident. When he was young, his grandfather gave him a knife and as Mark puts it, he fell in love. As a young man, he carved into the trees located around the farm. Soon he had secretly collected a sock drawer of knives and had acquired a delicate skill in their usage. In 2000, after a vain attempt to wash blood off a brand new leather jacket, he scratched the stain off with a knife, revealing the lighter shades of suede beneath. It was his “Eureka” moment. To save the jacket, he decided to turn that scratch into a portrait of Jimi Hendrix. When several people, including a buyer from Harrods, stopped him in the street to ask where he had bought the coat, it finally clicked – this was his art. He had recently graduated with a Fine Art degree but painting wasn’t getting him anywhere. Three years of experimentation followed before football stars and other celebrities began commissioning work. Then the financial crisis hit in 2007-08 and nearly ended his newfound career. A commission by multi-billionaire Russian businessman, Oleg Deripaska, was cancelled when the businessman lost $21 billion and cancelled the palace he was building in Moscow. Other commissions were lost too. The crash became inspiration though and he began exploring images symbolic of the financial meltdown. Dollar bills are parodied and a ferocious bull together with pigmy warriors sporting Rolex watches attack Wall Street. When a British entrepreneur agreed to pay Evans to produce up to 18 pieces for an exhibition depicting his vision of power and greed, hedge fund managers were among those who rushed to snap them up. Some of his amazing work is shown in the pictures below. You can see more at Mark Evans Art. Be sure to go to the “Film” section and watch “Kingdom Vs. Empire”, a short film showing the making of one of his pieces. The detail is just mind blowing.

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Bush’s New Role As “Artist-In-Chief”

Former President George W. Bush has been very busy in his new role as an artist. His painting “hobby” has turned into a full-fledged career that includes a best-selling book and, soon, a second art exhibition. The 43rd president’s portraits of world leaders are slated to go on display, for one day only, at a conservative conference in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on August 25. His “Art of Leadership” series will be on display for attendees of the Freedom Conference and Festival, which brings together conservative and libertarian thinkers. The collection features his portraits of world leaders that he met while in office, which includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even himself. The ten paintings from his “Art of Leadership” series will, unfortunately, not be accessible to the general public. Event coordinator Schubert Akin explains, “As much as I would have loved it, it would have added to the security costs, and we wouldn’t have known how many people were going to show up.” Earlier this year, Bush debuted a portrait series in a book, “Portraits of Courage,” which rose to No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list. The coffee-table book includes his oil paintings of American military veterans. Bush also wrote all of the accompanying stories, which explain how each featured veteran “dealt with setback and then mounted a recovery.” The full-color portraits are all of military members that have served our Nation since 9/11, and whom President Bush has come to know personally. Some of those paintings are actually on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, an exhibition that runs thru October 1. Bush’s hobby was revealed to the world back in 2013 when a hacker posted two unfinished self-portraits that he had allegedly emailed to his sister, Dorothy. Apparently, Bush took up painting after leaving office in 2009. He explained in an interview earlier this year that he was inspired by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who painted extensively, Bush told friends and family that he found painting relaxing and that he hoped it would inspire others to try new things. He worked with several art teachers, one of which he notably told that he wanted to discover his “inner Rembrandt.” At the exhibit opening at his Presidential Library, Bush told attendees, “You have to understand when you’re the president you are going at 100 miles per hour and the next day it’s zero. I had this anxiousness to keep moving and to learn something.” Check out the President’s book HERE.

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‘Charlotte’s Web’ Farm Is On The Market

A Maine farm that served as E.B. White’s inspiration for Charlotte’s Web is up for sale. The 1795 farmhouse was purchased by White and his wife in 1933 and he remained there until his death in 1985. The beloved children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, tells the tale of Wilbur the pig and his friendship with Charlotte the spider. Most of the story is set in the barn, which is still there, along with the now-famous rope swing. Yankee magazine recently toured the author’s property, which is located in North Brooklin and is being offered by its current owners, Robert and Mary Gallant, for $3.7 million. The below pictures were provided by the magazine.  (Sources: Yankee Magazine, New England Today)

1. The main house has 12 rooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. Children, writers and other fans of E.B. White often just show up at the house and sometimes ask for a tour. The Gallants say they always try to be open and polite to these unexpected tourists. Mary Gallant says she is hoping the next owners will be a family, and of course, E.B. White fans.

2. The rope swing made famous by the book really does hang in the barn doorway. Every year, the Gallants have allowed a Maine schoolteacher to bring a class to the farm. Mary Gallant told Yankee magazine how the children sit on bales of hay in the barn, listening to a recording of White reading from “Charlotte’s Web.”

3. The saltwater farm has 2,000 feet of ocean shore frontage. The realty group handling the sale says there has been plenty of interest in the house, from people all over the country. They have been diligent on pre-screening potential buyers as many calls have been from people that just want to see the house, not buy it. Showings apparently take about three hours, with a tour through the house, the guest house, barn, shore, dock and beach.

4. The dining room contains one of the home’s six fireplaces. The Gallants have tried to preserve as much of the home’s original features as possible. The only things they have updated are the kitchen and the hardwood floors. However, they did keep the original wood cookstove, which is still in perfect working order.

5. E.B. White did most of his writing in the boathouse. In it, he built a simple table and bench, with a barrel used as a wastebasket. Another of his famous novels, ‘Stuart Little’, was also crafted in the space. White also wrote for The New Yorker magazine for decades. Along with William Strunk, Jr., he co-authored ‘The Elements of Style’, a guide to writing that is considered one of the most influential books ever written.

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