Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old farmer from southwestern Indiana, thought he had figured out a cheap and legal way to use Monsanto’s genetically engineered soybeans.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled — unanimously — he had not.
The court said Bowman violated the biotechnology giant’s patent on soybeans by planting the offspring of those soybeans without permission.
“The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in a straightforward decision for the court. “We hold that he may not.”
The case was closely watched by the biotechnology industry because of the implications it could have on other self-replicating technologies.
“It confirmed, unanimously, that any product that’s capable of being replicated, either by planting by seed, or a bacterial cell line, or a preparation of DNA — that patent law applies, even if a product is replicable, in the same way it applies to widgets or cellphones,” said Hans Sauer, deputy general counsel for BIO, the biotechnology industry’s trade group. “If you want two, you have to buy two.”
Monsanto’s near-ubiquitous soybean technology allows plants to survive application of the herbicide glyphosate, which is sold under the Monsanto brand Roundup. Bowman, like the majority of American soybean growers, bought the soybeans every year from a dealer, thereby entering into a contract with Monsanto saying he agreed not to plant the offspring of those soybeans.
But Bowman, wanting to plant a second, late-season crop — a riskier crop — decided to try a cheaper route: He bought soybeans from a local grain elevator and planted those.
The soybeans sold at the grain elevator are only allowed to be sold for animal feed or food — not for re-planting — and don’t require the purchaser to enter into an agreement. But Bowman planted them, then sprayed glyphosate. The plants that survived, he knew, were glyphosate resistant, or Roundup Ready. In other words, they contained Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered traits. Bowman took those seeds and planted them the next year — and for the subsequent seven years.
Monsanto learned of this and sued in 2007, calling Bowman’s strategy an end run around its highly circumscribed patent. A district court ruled in the company’s favor, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals, upholding a judgment against Bowman for more than $84,000. Bowman then took the case upward.
The justices heard oral arguments in Bowman’s case in February, grilling his attorney in a manner that seemed to bode well for Monsanto. Dozens of briefs had been filed in Monsanto’s support, from universities to software companies, all concerned that a decision against Monsanto could have a chilling effect on innovation and research.
That the court’s decision was unanimous and clear cut suggested to some watching the case that, perhaps, the justices had a change of heart after reading the barrage of briefs in Monsanto’s favor.
“I think the court realized that they had no reason to grant review. They simply validated what the district court said,” explained Peter Carstensen, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin who filed a brief in Monsanto’s favor. “The only reason to take a case for review is if you think the federal circuit made a mistake. It takes four justices to get a case reviewed, and those four justices disappeared.”
So Monday’s decision did not come as much of a surprise for many. Still, it was a disappointment for Bowman’s supporters, including food advocacy, farming and antitrust watchdog groups that believe Monsanto’s rigorous patent enforcement has led to consolidation in the seed industry and to rising prices.
In a report issued earlier this year, the Center for Food Safety, a Bowman supporter in the Supreme Court case, said that three companies — Monsanto, Dow and DuPont — now control more than half of the global seed market. The report also said that soybean seed prices have risen more than 300 percent since genetically engineered soybeans first hit the market in 1996.
“The court protected Monsanto rather than farmers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the center. “It’s just not logical that they’d treat a plant as a machine.”
Existing patent law says that once someone buys a patented item, they can do whatever they want with that item — that the patent is “exhausted” once the item is sold. What was not clear, however, was how patent law extended to self-replicating technologies, particularly those that replicate naturally, like plants.
The court, in its Monday decision, said that in this particularly case, it was clear.
“The exhaustion doctrine does not enable Bowman to make additional patented soybeans without Monsanto’s permission (either express or implied),” Kagan wrote. “And that is precisely what Bowman did.”
The decision left some wiggle room — and some hope — for other related patent infringement matters that concern some farmers, particularly those worried about being sued by Monsanto for inadvertent planting of patented crops.
“The fact that the justices said this doesn’t have to do with accidental growth is a warning to Monsanto,” said Yvette Liebesman, a law professor at St. Louis University. “They won on this round.”
The biotechnology industry, meanwhile celebrated Monday’s decision.
“It’s a good thing for stability in the industry, which is what biotech needs,” Sauer said, adding, “An exception was being asked for and the court said: no exceptions.”
A fourth woman could be connected to the shocking Cleveland kidnapping case, the FBI confirms.
Ashley Summers was a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from the same area where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were abducted.
Those three women were rescued on Monday about 10 years after they disappeared in a case that send shock waves around the world.
Knight was abducted in 2002, Berry in 2003 and DeJesus in 2004.
Summers was last seen on July 9, 2007.
FBI spokesperson Vicki Anderson told the Toronto Star that the disappearance of Summers has “similarities” that the FBI is investigating.
However, she said the FBI has no proof that the cases are related.
“We continue to look for Ashley,” she said. “She was a young girl too who went missing and it was from the same area.”
However, she says the FBI is holding out hope that this sensational rescue on Monday will spark more tips to the FBI.
“As we go through this process, Ashley has been in all the investigators’ minds and they are keeping their minds open. Maybe this will generate some tips for us.”
The tips are being logged and the FBI is now looking at new leads.
“We’re asking for anything regarding Ashley,” she said no fax payday loans. “Our phones have been ringing quite a bit around here.”
Summers lived with her great-uncle, but she left after an argument, taking all her clothes with her.
However, she called her mother a month later and said she was OK and not to worry.
In November of that year, Ashley’s step-grandmother believes she saw Ashley in a car. Her hair had been cut and was dyed blond.
The car disappeared before the step-grandmother could turn the car she was driving around.
In October, 2009 the Oprah Winfrey Show featured the stories of the missing Cleveland girls, including Summers.
The FBI also hopes the three women rescued from the west Cleveland house may have some answers.
“They will be asked if they have any information on Ashley,” the FBI spokesperson said.
However, the FBI is going slow with the interview process.
Since the women were abducted as teens and held captive for about 10 years, it’s not known yet what condition their mental health is in.
EDMONTON—The union representing Alberta’s jail guards says the labour board has ruled that a strike by workers at some detention centres is illegal and has ordered them back to work.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees spokesman Bill Dechant says the ruling applies to guards at the Edmonton Remand Centre and a Fort Saskatchewan facility.
Dechant says the union will be asking its members if they want to comply with the order.
It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen at the other facilities involved in the job action. Josh Stewart, a spokesman for the province’s solicitor general, said the labour board would discuss the situation at those other facilities later Saturday.
Several hundred members of various unions gathered outside the labour board’s offices in downtown Edmonton as the board members deliberated. Many chanted, “Shame,” when they heard the ruling. Others called for a general strike.
“What happened in there is what we expected to happen. But that doesn’t make it any less shameful,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan told the crowd.
“These workers did the brave thing, they did the right thing, for demanding a safe workplace and for standing up for their fellow workers who were disciplined for having the audacity to demand a safe workplace.”
Workers at at least seven detention centres walked off the job in protest of the suspension of an employee at the Edmonton Remand Centre who complained about safety issues.
The Alberta government called the strike illegal and went to the labour board to order the employees back to work.
Inmates have been restricted to their cells and striking staff where either replaced by municipal police or RCMP officers along with correctional supervisors.
Stewart said there were no reports of incidents at any facilities overnight.
“There was no prisoner violence. They were in lockdown all night,” Stewart said.
The United Nurses of Alberta says a number of its members were ordered to remain inside the Edmonton Remand Centre overnight and that they feared for their safety. Heather Smith said that at 3 a.m. the nurses there were told by a supervisor to stay close to an escape route.
The labour board ruling also directed the guards’ union to tell its members to return to work.
The rules would take effect in 2017, and their full impact would be realized a decade later, according to the EPA. An EPA study said the new rule could save 2.000 lives a year and cut back on childhood asthma.
“We estimate the rule will reduce smog by 30%” when fully implemented, said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air quality control agencies around the country.
A big point of contention is how much the tougher rules would add to the price of gas.
Refinery and oil and gas industry groups have said such a move would force motorists to pay nearly 10 cents more per gallon, based on a study by energy consulting firm Baker & O’Brien.
The White House says the move would add less than a penny a gallon, based on an EPA study.
Representatives of the energy industry disagree.
“There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices,” said Bob Greco, a director at the American Petroleum Institute.
The rule targets sulfur, which occurs naturally in crude oil. The more sulfur, the less efficiently a car runs. The rule would force refineries to reduce sulfur content by more than 60% to 10 parts per million from 30 parts per million, the EPA said paydayloans.
The National Association of Clean Air Agencies estimates the rule would have the same effect as taking 33 million cars off the roads.
“We don’t know of another air pollution strategy as effective to clean up the air,” Becker said.
Refineries that serve California, the European Union and Japan must already meet the tougher sulfur rules.
The Sierra Club praised the plan, with executive director Michael Brune saying in a statement that it uses existing “technology to clean up our fuels and our cars.”
The rule was developed with advice from the refiners and car manufacturers, as well as state officials, according to an Obama administration official.
Of the 111 refineries to be covered by the rule, only 16 will have to make major investments in new equipment to abide by the rule, the official said.
“Today’s proposed standards — which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable — are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe in a statement.
— CNN’s Dan Lothian and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.
Is Kellwood selling Baby Phat?
Baby Phat is the urban lifestyle brand that was once synonymous with St. Louis native and fashion and media star Kimora Lee Simmons. The trendy clothing line, which has a cat in its logo and which is sold at Macy’s among other retailers, is aimed at young women.
The line was, at least as of a few years ago, still one of the Town and Country-based apparel company’s larger brands along with Vince and Sag Harbor.
But in a breach of contract lawsuit filed this week in federal court, a Singapore-based distributor and retailer said it stopped receiving shipments of Baby Phat in November.
And in February, Ossia International Limited says it was told by Kellwood that it had stopped production of Baby Phat in mid-January and did not intend to restart it.
“Kellwood has informed Ossia that it has ceased production entirely and is in the process of selling the Baby Phat brand to a new owner,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Ossia was told the new prospective owner, who Kellwood would not name, would not likely sell ladies’ apparel, but possibly just accessories such as handbags.
A Kellwood spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2004, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and his then-wife, Kimora, sold Phat Farm and Baby Phat to Kellwood for $140 million. She stayed on as president and creative director of the brand.
In 2010, Kellwood surprised many when it parted ways with Simmons, especially since she had been such a prominent spokeswoman for the brand.
At the time, Kellwood CEO Michael Kramer said Baby Phat was still a large and significant brand for the company.
“It is a brand that we’re very proud of and that we’ll continue to invest in,” he said in a 2010 interview with the Post-Dispatch. “We’re very excited about the future of Baby Phat.”
But times have changed. There’s now a new CEO at the helm of Kellwood. Jill Granoff, who came on board last year, has been charting a new strategic direction of the company.
VATICAN CITY—Amidst epic spectacle, there was also the intimacy of faith and the simplicity of grace.
Well, as simple and humble as the ritual-laden inauguration of a pontiff can be.
Pope Francis has made it clear he dislikes pomp, the “carnival’’ of religion. But the crowd, scores of thousands in St. Peter’s Square, extending all the way to the Tiber, would have been sorely disappointed by anything less than a papal lollapalooza for the formal inauguration of a new Supreme Leader. And the Roman Catholic Church is unsurpassed in mounting theatre.
More coverage of Pope Francis from Thestar.com
The 266th pope tried to bring events Tuesday morning down to human scale. He appeared first, just before 9 a.m., in simple cassock, riding aboard the Popemobile — actually the open-air version, with no protective glass, as a security detail loped alongside and helicopters thwacked noisily overhead — waving and blessing, accepting a wailing baby to kiss, dismounting to lay his hands on a severely disabled man. He is a tactile pontiff. He has a common touch. He is distinguishing himself with a radical humility.
For half an hour, Francis zigzagged slowly around the vast elliptical piazza, maneuvering through Bernini’s colonnade with its travertine columns soaring 16 metres high — “the embrace of St. Peter to the world’’ — surmounted by statues of saints and martyrs, past the Egyptian obelisk and the two ornate fountains, threading through an adoring throng, hundreds of national flags held aloft and flapping in the breeze, under a cerulean sky, bright sunshine on this day rather than the relentless rain that has chilled Rome over the past week.
In the audience were six foreign leaders — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (who famously knocked heads with the Archbishop of Buenos Aires over political policies), Canadian Governor-General David Johnson and, alas Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, circumventing a travel ban imposed by European countries in protest against his human rights record – American vice-president Joe Biden, six sovereigns, princes and dukes, dignitaries from 132 official designations, and top-hierarchy representatives of every faith on Earth, transforming Francis’ “enthronement’’ into a truly ecumenical gathering.
Franciscan plainness — in the manner of St. Francis of Assisi, from whom he took his papal name — is what this pope would have preferred. He’s made that evident enough in the five days since the former Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, as he was, was chosen by 114 fellow Cardinals on the fifth ballot of the conclave. Already, Francis has given his protectors conniptions by plunging into crowds for spontaneous walkabouts and gallivanting about Rome without prior announcement. Papa Francesco clearly wants to get close, closer. Yet there is apparent deliberateness in all these gestures as well; he is signaling something about the pontificate to unfold.
While St. Peter’s organ music boomed across the square and sweet voices were raised in song — the Sistine Chapel Choir, the Institute of Sacred Music entertained the patient audience — Francis disappeared to change into more ornate investments, reappearing in full brocade-trimmed regalia and carrying his croft.
The formal program began with a solemn descent into the Tomb of St. Peter, where Francis bowed his head in reflection before the saint’s remains and censed the reliquary. It was here, in Nero’s Circus, long before the Basilica was erected, that Peter and other early Christians were martyred. The tomb is, literally, the foundation of the Church and the foundation of the papacy.
There were ceremonial rites to be observed as 76-year-old Francis was bestowed with the symbols of papal authority.
He accepted the pallium, a cloak of lamb’s wool made by the Sisters of St. Agnes, symbolizing the lamb carried by a shepherd on his shoulders, evoking the “Good Shepherd’’ who carries the lost lamb on his shoulder, as the pope is shepherd of a flock that numbers 1.2 billion worldwide. Slipped onto his finger was the Fisherman’s Ring, depicting Peter holding keys — the keys to heaven. It is a recycled ring, actually, made of gold-plated silver from a wax cast. At the end of every papacy, the pope’s rink is smashed with a silver hammer.
The inauguration mass itself — held outdoors, in front of the Basilica’s magnificent fa
The U.S. trade deficit widened in January, reflecting a big jump in oil imports and a drop in exports.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that the deficit rose to $44.4 billion, an increase of 16.5 percent from December. U.S. exports dropped 1.2 percent to $184.5 billion, reflecting declines in sales to Europe, China, Japan and Brazil. Imports rose 1.8 percent to $228.9 billion as oil imports surged 12.3 percent.
Even with the wider deficit in January, economists say they think the deficit this year will narrow slightly, in part because of continued gains in U.S. energy exports. A narrower trade gap boosts growth because it means U.S. companies are earning more from overseas sales while U.S. consumers and businesses are spending less on foreign products.
The deficit for all of 2012 was revised down slightly to $539.5 billion, a drop of 3.6 percent from 2011. The January deficit was running at an annual rate of $533.4 billion.
U.S. exports had jumped to a near-record high in December, a surge that helped the economy grow slightly in the fourth quarter. The economy as measured by the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the October-December quarter, an upward revision from an initial estimate that it had shrunk at the same rate.
The December trade report had not been available when GDP for October-December was first reported.
Economists see the trade picture brightening further in 2013, helped in part by an energy production boom in the United States and by stronger growth in some major export markets. That forecast is also based on an assumption that the European debt crisis will continue to stabilize, helping boost exports to that region and that growth in Asia will rebound payday loan lenders.
For January, however, exports showed widespread declines. U.S. exports to the European Union dropped by 6.4 percent and were also down in China, Brazil and Japan
The politically sensitive trade deficit with China rose in January to $27.8 billion, up 13.6 percent from December. For all of 2012, the deficit with China increased to $315.1 billion, the largest imbalance ever recorded with a single country.
That could add pressure on the Obama administration to take a harder line on China’s trade practices. Some U.S. manufacturers contend that China keeps the value of its currency artificially low to make its exports to the U.S. cheaper.
Production of oil and natural gas has been rising in the United States because drillers have learned to tap once-inaccessible reserved trapped in shale formations. New techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have made this possible.
Increased production has lowered U.S. prices of crude oil and natural gas, which refiners use to make gasoline, diesel and other fuels. Crude in the U.S. has been selling for $20 per barrel cheaper than international crude. With lower input costs, U.S. refiners are making enormous amounts of petroleum-based fuels and selling them on the international market at a huge profit.
Apparently, full stomachs after Thanksgiving dinners get people in the mood for some real shopping.
Customers flocked in to early store openings on Thanksgiving day to scoop up “doorbuster” deals. A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites in the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday weekend this year, up 9% from 226 million last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation released Sunday.
Individual shoppers also shelled out more money — spending $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending over the four-day weekend reached a record $59.1 billion, a 13% increase from $52.4 billion last year, according to the NRF.
The survey found that retailers’ push to open stores earlier appealed to customers. Stores like , Fortune 500), Toys R Us, , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500), that ushered in customers just as Thanksgiving meals wrapped up, saw a boost. About 10% of this weekend’s shoppers were out at stores by 8 p.m. on Thursday and an estimated 28% of weekend shoppers were at the stores by midnight, compared to 24.4% last year.
“The only way to describe the Thanksgiving openings is to call them a huge win,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Thanksgiving shopping has really becoming an extension of the day’s activities. Whole families are going.”
Related: Black Friday shoppers out in full force
In a separate survey, ShopperTrak found that the number of people shopping in stores climbed 3.5% from last year to more than 307.67 million.
Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder, said that traffic hasn’t been this high since 2006 cash advance no fax. He said that the return to pre-recession levels indicates a real recovery in consumer behavior.
“We’ve seen that consumers are willing to shop a few extra stores,” Martin said. “This could translate into more impulse buying and stronger sales.”
But not everyone wanted to wait in line. Online sales soared more than 17% on the Thursday of Thanksgiving, followed by a nearly 21% increase on Friday over last year, according to IBM Benchmark. Sales made from mobile devices climbed by 16%, with more than 24% of consumers using mobile devices to visit a retailer’s website.
The NRF had predicted that looming fears over the “fiscal cliff” and the struggling jobs market could weigh on holiday spending. That’s why it estimated that holiday sales will rise by 4.1%, which is slower than the 5.6% increase last year.
Shay said that between 65% and 80% of shoppers factor overall economic conditions into holiday spending decisions. Its survey found that two thirds of shoppers will pay with cash or debit, highlighting people’s aversion to taking on too much debt in a still slow-recovering economy.
But retailers are hopeful that these strong Black Friday figures set a tone for a solid season of spending ahead. The Thanksgiving shopping tradition kicks off the holiday season sales blitz, wherein stores can make up to 40% of their annual sales in the November-December period.
“A single day doesn’t make up a holiday season, but if you don’t start off well on that day, you have trouble catching up,” Martin said.
It won’t happen without a fight — potentially a really ugly fight. And it may even push the country over the fiscal cliff for a time.
But now that President Obama has been re-elected, and Democrats have retained control of the Senate, there’s a far greater chance that high-income households will soon face higher tax bills.
Quiz: What the rich really pay in taxes
“It seems likely,” said Republican tax lobbyist Ken Kies of the Federal Policy Group. “I can’t imagine President Obama will agree to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone.”
Indeed, senior administration officials have said that the president would veto any package that extends them for high-income taxpayers. (Related: California OKs tax hikes)
But that doesn’t mean House Republicans will back down on their insistence that no one’s tax rates go up.
On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner held fast to the Republican line.
“We won’t solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight,” he said. “And we certainly won’t solve it by simply raising tax rates or taking a plunge off the fiscal cliff.”
Obama staked his re-election campaign and his first term on the issue of asking the rich to “pay their fair share.” And he has repeatedly called for the expiration of the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to households making more than $200,0000 ($250,000 if married).
But there may be more than one way to thread the needle on taxing the rich.
For instance, said Sean West, the U.S. policy director of the Eurasia Group, a potential compromise threshold for “rich” could be $1 million instead of $250,000.
Or lawmakers could agree to cap the value of some tax breaks on the rich. That may help clear a path to a short-term deal to avert the fiscal cliff and buy lawmakers time to work out a more comprehensive debt-reduction package that includes tax reform.
While higher taxes on the rich may be likely, “the question is how much more and what form it takes,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a GOP think tank.
In other words, a tax hike could come via higher tax rates (anathema to Republicans) or through base-broadening, which would limit tax breaks available to high-income households.
Since Obama overwhelmingly won the electoral vote but only narrowly captured the popular vote over Mitt Romney, the president and Boehner could engage in a “standoff of mandates,” Holtz-Eakin said.
And what will be needed is principled compromise.
One way to move in that direction, he said, is if the president sends a full-fledged bill to the Hill laying out his debt-reduction proposals in detail. That could help start the process.
“The Hill needs air cover to say we don’t want to do this but the president asked us,” Holtz-Eakin said. And once lawmakers put in their own modifications, those who need cover can say they “fixed” it.
Italy and Ireland have more incentive to quit the euro than Greece, while Germany may have limited room to prevent departures from the currency union, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Using cost-benefit analysis and game theory, BofA Merrill Lynch foreign exchange strategists David Woo and Athanasios Vamvakidis concluded in a July 10 report that investors
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