October 5, 2022

Botulism Threat Found in Infant Formula Ingredients

HONG KONG — One of the world’s leading suppliers of dairy products said Saturday that a type of bacteria that could cause botulism had been found in tests of ingredients the company sells for use in infant formula and sports drinks, leading New Zealand officials to urge a recall.

The company, Fonterra, is based in New Zealand and is the world’s fourth-largest dairy company. It sells its milk products to other companies that make infant formula and said those companies would be responsible for any recalls. The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries said that in addition to New Zealand, six countries were affected: Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Even tiny amounts of this toxin can lead to severe poisoning.

“We are acting quickly,” the company’s chief executive, Theo Spierings, said in a statement. “Our focus is to get information out about potentially affected product as fast as possible so that it can be taken off supermarket shelves and, where it has already been purchased, can be returned.”

Infant formula from New Zealand is in huge demand in China, largely because of concerns about the quality of domestic formula there, particularly since milk formula tainted with melamine led to the deaths of several babies and sickened thousands more in 2008. Fonterra owned part of one of the companies involved in that scandal, but that company, Sanlu, has since been shut down.

After Fonterra raised alarms about the bacteria found in its milk products, the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which polices food safety, ordered importers in China to recall any products that might carry the bacteria, the group said on its Web site. China is a major buyer of New Zealand’s food products, especially infant formula and other dairy goods. The agency said it “promptly contacted the New Zealand Embassy to China and demanded that New Zealand take immediate measures to prevent problem products harming the health of Chinese consumers.”

This year, Fonterra began preparing to sell its own infant formula in China, including building an ultrahigh-temperature milk manufacturing plant there, aiming to sell a quarter-billion gallons of milk in the country by 2018, company officials told Chinese state news media in April.

At a news conference on Saturday, Fonterra officials said that Mr. Spierings had been sent to China to deal with the issue.

Fonterra officials said the problem involved three batches of a whey protein concentrate produced at a New Zealand manufacturing site in May 2012.

Officials first noticed a quality-control problem in March. The company then conducted more intensive tests, and on Wednesday workers found signs of the presence of Clostridium botulinum in a sample. Investigators have tied the problem to unsterilized pipes, which officials said had since been cleaned.

While Fonterra did not name the companies that it had alerted to the problem, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries identified one product sold within the country: Nutricia Karicare follow-on formula products for children ages 6 months and older.

The ministry “has been advised that in the case of the Nutricia Karicare, five batches of follow-on formula were manufactured using the contaminated whey protein,” said Scott Gallacher, the ministry’s acting director, adding that parents using the product should instead “use infant formula for children aged 0-6 months, ready-made formulas or alternative brands.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/business/global/large-dairy-supplier-warns-of-botulism-threat.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Helps Allies Trying to Battle Iranian Hackers

The American officials would not say which countries in the Persian Gulf have signed up for help in countering Iran’s computer abilities. But the list, some officials say, includes the nations that have been the most active in tracking Iranian arms shipments, intercepting them in ports and providing intelligence to the United States about Iranian actions. The three most active in that arena are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

In Asia, the countries most worried about being struck by North Korean computer attacks are South Korea and Japan.

The Defense Department’s assertive new effort in the gulf and Asia is the latest example of how the Obama administration is increasingly tailoring its national security efforts for a new era of digital conflict, in this case assuring the defense of computer networks and, if necessary, striking back against assaults.

A directive signed by the president that surfaced Friday — the third in a series of leaked documents published by the newspapers The Guardian and The Washington Post — underscored how the Obama administration is trying to prepare itself and its allies. The leaks also revealed how the Obama administration has put in place a large Internet surveillance operation to identify terrorism threats.

The presidential directive included the declaration that the United States reserved the right to take “anticipatory action” against “imminent threats,” a reference, it seemed, to the kind of crippling infrastructure attacks that Iran appears to be working on against American and allied targets.

The new help for strengthening computer-network defenses for allies, which has not been publicly announced, closely parallels earlier efforts by the Obama administration in two volatile parts of the world. In recent years it has helped install advanced missile-defense systems and early-warning radars in Persian Gulf nations to counter Iran’s missile ability, and it has done something similar in Asia in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But deterring cyberattacks is a far more complex problem, and American officials concede that this effort, which will include providing computer hardware and software and training to allies, is an experiment. It has been propelled by two high-profile attacks in the past year. One was against Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s largest, state-run oil producer, and according to American officials it was carried out by Iran. That attack crippled 30,000 computers but did not succeed in halting production. The other, an attack on South Korea’s banking and media companies this spring, was later attributed to North Korea. It froze the ability of several banks to operate for days.

“The Iranian attack on the Saudis was a real wake-up call in the region,” said one senior administration official, who would not speak on the record about the American efforts to counter Iran. “It made everyone realize that while the Iranians might think twice about launching a missile attack in the region, they see cyber as a potent way to lash out in response to sanctions.”

The administration is capitalizing on the fear created by those attacks to build on the de facto alliance against Iran that it has constructed in the region. The Pentagon is drawing up proposals for providing advanced hardware and software for computer-network defense that could be sold throughout the Persian Gulf, much as American aircraft and missiles are sold to Arab allies. Training programs are being put together to teach computer security to military and law enforcement in the region, and to collaborate with private companies.

And, just as the Pentagon conducts naval exercises in the Persian Gulf to practice ways of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, officials say future joint war games would include simulated cyberattacks, similar to the one Iran conducted against Saudi Aramco.

The idea is to give American and allied forces practice carrying out their missions with their networks under duress, officials said.

The new interagency effort in Washington comes at a time when Israeli and American intelligence officials have been concerned by Iran’s swift advances in its computer weaponry, particularly its ability to disrupt existing infrastructure. As one former senior American military commander said recently, “They have startled everyone with the speed at which their capabilities have increased.”

But one continuing point of dispute is whether Iran and North Korea are working together on the development of cyberweapons, the way they have worked together for years on the development of missile technology.

A senior Israeli military official said Israel had evidence that Iran and North Korea were beginning to collaborate on developing cyberweapons. He declined to cite the specific evidence.

Although there is concern in Washington that cooperation between Iran and North Korea could spread to computer tools, American officials say there is no proof of such collaboration.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/world/middleeast/us-helps-allies-trying-to-battle-iranian-hackers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

C.E.O Denies That Apple Is Avoiding Taxes

“It’s important to tell our story, and I’d like people to hear directly from me,” Mr. Cook told a Senate panel during questioning by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. Apple, he said, pays “all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.”

Rather than taking unfair advantage of what Congressional investigators say are a host of tax code loopholes, Mr. Cook said his company was actually a victim of an outdated tax system.

“Unfortunately, the tax code has not kept up with the digital age,” Mr. Cook said. “The tax system handicaps American corporations in relation to our foreign competitors who don’t have such constraints on the free movement of capital.”

On Monday, Congressional investigators unveiled a detailed report showing how Apple subsidiaries based in Ireland but spanning other regions had helped the company pay as little as one-twentieth of 1 percent in taxes on billions of dollars in income.

Mr. Cook sought to draw a sharp distinction between sales in the United States and those abroad, arguing the company had complied with local laws everywhere.

“The way I look at this is that Apple pays 30.5 percent of its profits in taxes in the United States,” he said. “We do have a low tax rate outside the U.S., but this is for products we sell outside the U.S.”

Again and again, Mr. Cook said Apple was proud to be an American company, even if the majority of its sales took place outside the United States and were taxed at lower rates. “We are an American company, whether we are selling in China or Egypt or Saudi Arabia.”

Before Mr. Cook and two other top Apple executives testified, however, other witnesses suggested Apple had pushed to take advantage of the tax code.

J. Richard Harvey Jr., a professor at Villanova Law School, estimated that Apple’s legal maneuvering had saved the company $7.7 billion in potential American taxes in 2011.

“Apple is an iconic U.S. multinational corporation that has enjoyed extraordinary financial success,” he said. “In addition to demonstrating excellence in designing, building and selling consumer products, Apple has been very successful at minimizing its global income tax burden.”

For example, in 2011, 64 percent of Apple’s global pretax income was recorded in Ireland, where only 4 percent of its employees and 1 percent of its customers were located, Mr. Harvey said.

While Apple has repeatedly insisted it does not engage in “tax gimmicks,” Mr. Harvey was dubious. “Apple does not use tax gimmicks? I about fell off my chair when I read that,” he said.

While Mr. McCain, the panel’s top Republican, and Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, were critical of Apple, the company was not without its defenders on the panel.

“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in Apple executives,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. “What we need to do is apologize to Apple and compliment them for the job creation they’re doing.”

Instead of “bullying” Apple executives, Mr. Paul said, “we should have brought in a giant mirror to look at the reflection of Congress. If you want to assign blame, look in the mirror and see who created this mess.

“Apple hasn’t broken any laws, yet Apple is forced to sit through a show trial,” he said.

Mr. Paul’s comments drew a sharp response from Mr. Levin.

“Apple is a great company,” Mr. Levin said. “But they don’t have a right to decide in my book how much in taxes they are going to pay and to whom they are going to pay them.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/technology/ceo-denies-that-apple-is-avoiding-taxes.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

C.E.O. Denies That Apple Is Avoiding Taxes

“It’s important to tell our story, and I’d like people to hear directly from me,” Mr. Cook told a Senate panel during questioning by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. Apple, he said, pays “all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.”

Rather than taking unfair advantage of what Congressional investigators say are a host of tax code loopholes, Mr. Cook said his company was actually a victim of an outdated tax system.

“Unfortunately, the tax code has not kept up with the digital age,” Mr. Cook said. “The tax system handicaps American corporations in relation to our foreign competitors who don’t have such constraints on the free movement of capital.”

On Monday, Congressional investigators unveiled a detailed report showing how Apple subsidiaries based in Ireland but spanning other regions had helped the company pay as little as one-twentieth of 1 percent in taxes on billions of dollars in income.

Mr. Cook sought to draw a sharp distinction between sales in the United States and those abroad, arguing the company had complied with local laws everywhere.

“The way I look at this is that Apple pays 30.5 percent of its profits in taxes in the United States,” he said. “We do have a low tax rate outside the U.S., but this is for products we sell outside the U.S.”

Again and again, Mr. Cook said Apple was proud to be an American company, even if the majority of its sales took place outside the United States and were taxed at lower rates. “We are an American company, whether we are selling in China or Egypt or Saudi Arabia.”

Before Mr. Cook and two other top Apple executives testified, however, other witnesses suggested Apple had pushed to take advantage of the tax code.

J. Richard Harvey Jr., a professor at Villanova Law School, estimated that Apple’s legal maneuvering had saved the company $7.7 billion in potential American taxes in 2011.

“Apple is an iconic U.S. multinational corporation that has enjoyed extraordinary financial success,” he said. “In addition to demonstrating excellence in designing, building and selling consumer products, Apple has been very successful at minimizing its global income tax burden.”

For example, in 2011, 64 percent of Apple’s global pretax income was recorded in Ireland, where only 4 percent of its employees and 1 percent of its customers were located, Mr. Harvey said.

While Apple has repeatedly insisted it does not engage in “tax gimmicks,” Mr. Harvey was dubious. “Apple does not use tax gimmicks? I about fell off my chair when I read that,” he said.

While Mr. McCain, the panel’s top Republican, and Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, were critical of Apple, the company was not without its defenders on the panel.

“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in Apple executives,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. “What we need to do is apologize to Apple and compliment them for the job creation they’re doing.”

Instead of “bullying” Apple executives, Mr. Paul said, “we should have brought in a giant mirror to look at the reflection of Congress. If you want to assign blame, look in the mirror and see who created this mess.

“Apple hasn’t broken any laws, yet Apple is forced to sit through a show trial,” he said.

Mr. Paul’s comments drew a sharp response from Mr. Levin.

“Apple is a great company,” Mr. Levin said. “But they don’t have a right to decide in my book how much in taxes they are going to pay and to whom they are going to pay them.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/technology/ceo-denies-that-apple-is-avoiding-taxes.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

OPEC Agrees to Raise Its Production Target

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on Wednesday to increase its production target for the first time in three years, a move that appeared to signal that Saudi Arabia and Iran had put aside their recent differences on oil policy, at least temporarily.

The move should have little lasting effect on oil prices because the production target of 30 million barrels is closely in line with the current output by the organization, and targets were not set for individual countries. But the agreement had symbolic value coming six months after a meeting of OPEC ministers ended in disarray when they failed to reach a consensus to lift production.

“We have an agreement to maintain the market in balance,” said Rafael Ramirez, the energy minister of Venezuela, which had aligned with Iran at the last meeting to oppose a move advocated by Saudi Arabia to raise production targets to help the ailing global economy.

In recent years, OPEC’s 12 members have increasingly followed their own production and export policies. Saudi Arabia increased its production over the last 10 months when the outbreak of revolution in Libya halted 1.3 million barrels a day of exports, and a few other gulf producers with spare capacity followed suit. With Libya production quickly ramping back up over the last two months, the Saudis have signaled that they will ease production in the coming months regardless of the results of the OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Saudi Arabia, which accounts for about a third of OPEC’s total production, has been working hard behind the scenes to restore the organization’s credibility after the June meeting ended with no agreement.

Iranian representatives appeared to be in no mood to challenge the Saudis despite rising tensions between the two countries in recent months over the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain and allegations of an Iranian-backed plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Iran’s petroleum minister, Rostam Ghasemi, gave a conciliatory speech before OPEC ministers in which he appeared to agree with the Saudi position that OPEC should accommodate world markets with ample supplies to keep oil prices from rising too high.

“The big challenge facing the oil market at the present time is coming with the tremendous uncertainty affecting world economic growth,” Mr. Ghasemi said. “This uncertainty about economic growth translates into uncertainty about oil demand.”

The new quota replaces a previous target of 24.5 million barrels, which was set three years ago when the global economy and oil prices slumped badly but has been largely ignored by members who could produce more than their allotted quotas. But the total production target will include Iraq and Libya, two countries expected to expand production in coming months.

Iran, which held the rotating presidency of the OPEC this year, proposed that Iraq hold the seat next year. The ministers agreed, signaling that Iraq would again be a central player in the organization for the first time since the United States-led invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Benchmark oil prices fell by more than $3 a barrel on Wednesday, mostly because of concerns about the European economy and the declining value of the euro. Oil prices have been fluctuating in recent months, with most benchmarks ranging from $90 to $125 a barrel during the year. Most benchmark prices are now hovering around $100 a barrel, although the United States benchmark is several dollars lower, closing on Wednesday down $5.19, or 5.2 percent, to $94.95 a barrel.

Prices rose sharply in the early months of the year when turmoil spread across North Africa and the Middle East and then eased because of rising concerns about the slowing economies in Europe and the United States. Prices have firmed in recent weeks again as tensions grew between Iran and Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility that Europe would sharply curtail Iranian oil imports. Many oil analysts predict a similar price range for 2012, with a continuing tug between political instability in oil-producing countries and economic weakness among large consuming countries.

Petroleum demand has been especially soft in the United States in recent weeks. The Energy Department reported that demand last week of 18.4 million barrels a day was down by 1.8 million barrels compared with demand in the week a year earlier. The four-week annual demand was down 5.6 percent from last year because of a decline in consumption of gasoline, heating oil and other fuels.

Gasoline prices in the United States are dropping. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline on Wednesday was $3.26, down 15 cents from the average price a month ago. Still, the national average for a gallon of regular is 28 cents higher than it was a year ago.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=10020555778813f84d8867f09e88c6ec

Domestic Workers Convention May Be Landmark

Even countries that fail to ratify the pact will eventually be judged by its standards, they said, and the campaign to pass it had enlisted fresh allies, newly mindful of abuses from unpaid wages to rape.

Two days later, Saudi Arabia, a major destination for domestic workers, beheaded an Indonesian maid — at once highlighting the need for protections and the challenges of putting them in place.

The execution followed reports from maids who said their Saudi bosses had burned or beaten them, and the condemned woman, who killed her employer, said she had been abused. But when the Indonesian president protested, the Saudis stopped hiring Indonesians and pointedly turned to cheaper workers from countries less likely to complain.

The twin developments — accord in Geneva and maid wars in Riyadh — show opposing forces in a global campaign to protect domestic workers, an overlooked group of as many as 100 million people.

More broadly, that campaign tests the effort to raise work standards in a world of cheap and mobile labor. Many domestic workers are migrants, and the precedents could shape the treatment of other migrant groups. On Sept. 30, for example, Hong Kong’s High Court struck down a law that had excluded domestic workers from the residency rights offered to other foreign citizens, potentially allowing 100,000 maids to gain the right to stay.

The events show that “officials have not forgotten about migrant workers,” said Philip Martin, an economist at the University of California, Davis. “But they are also a reminder of the difficulties of extending effective protections to them.”

“The receiving countries can always say, ‘We will get workers somewhere else,’ ” he said.

While acknowledging such challenges, the treaty’s supporters say that it establishes vital new principles and that it will accelerate changes already under way. Before the pact was approved, Singapore, Jordan and New York State had passed new laws, and proposals are being considered in places as different as California and Kuwait. Even Saudi Arabia, a source of frequent abuse complaints, is considering changes that officials may feel more inclined to accept after voting for the pact.

“The treaty was a watershed event,” said Nisha Varia, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is now a global consensus that these women deserve the same rights as other workers. All the governments involved in this conversation will be under pressure to examine their labor laws.”

As a labor force composed mostly of women who work behind closed doors, domestic workers are hard to organize and vulnerable to attack. Many countries exclude them from labor laws, leaving no legal boundaries on their hours or pay.

In the United States, domestic workers are covered by minimum-wage laws, but they are excluded from federal statutes on occupational health, overtime and the right to organize.

As long ago as 1965, the International Labor Organization, a branch of the United Nations, saw an “urgent need” to protect domestic workers, whom it called “singularly subject to exploitation.” But interest in formal action waned, and women flooded the workplace, making nannies and maids a cornerstone of modern economies.

The export of domestic workers became big business in migration hubs like Indonesia and the Philippines, where more than half the migrants are women. Both countries celebrate the sums the women send home and simmer at the stories of mistreatment that percolate in the news media.

Saudi Arabia is a prime destination for both countries. In 2008, a study by Ms. Varia cited dozens of cases that amounted “to forced labor, trafficking, or slavery-like conditions.” While abuses occur everywhere, the report said, Saudi Arabia prosecuted few cases and sometimes allowed bosses to pursue retaliatory charges, like theft, against victims who complained.

A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington declined to comment. In the past, Saudi officials have accused critics of exaggerating isolated cases of abuse, and noted that legions of women still seek the jobs.

When the international labor group turned to domestic workers in 2010, Persian Gulf states, speaking as a bloc, called for nonbinding recommendations. In a reversal this year, they supported a binding treaty.

What is more, they strengthened it, with calls for stronger language on contract rights, overtime pay and access to courts during employer conflicts.

“It really made an impression,” said Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy in Manila. “When you think of abuses, you think of the gulf — yet here they are, standing up for domestic workers.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/world/domestic-workers-convention-may-be-landmark.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Saudi Arabia Defies OPEC and Raises Oil Output

The Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Friday that oil officials there had decided to increase production to 10 million barrels a day in July, from 9.3 million barrels, with most of the additional output going to China and other growing Asian economies.

Saudi oil officials did not comment on the report, but the fact that they did not deny an article that appeared in the tightly controlled Saudi press was taken by analysts as confirmation.

The price of a barrel of light sweet crude dropped by nearly $2.50 to below $99.43 a barrel in Friday trading, returning to the level that existed before the OPEC meeting in Vienna this week that ended in disarray, with delegates refusing to raise official production levels.

The Saudi move, which was not unexpected, shows that Saudi Arabia will try to counteract any shortages in the market arising from the turmoil sweeping through North Africa and Middle East.

The fighting in Libya has taken 1.3 million barrels off the world market, and the turmoil in Yemen and Syria has subtracted an additional 300,000 barrels.

“The Saudis are showing they can take unilateral action,” said Andrew Lipow, a former Amoco trader who is president of his own consulting firm. “It will show the markets that the Saudis are serious about tempering further increases in price.”

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest producer and exporter in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and is the only member that has considerable spare production capacity. That normally gives the country predominant power in OPEC.

But this year, tensions are running high between Saudi Arabia and Iran as they compete to influence political tides convulsing the region, particularly in Bahrain, where more than 1,000 Saudi troops are bolstering a Sunni monarchy against mostly Shiite protesters supported at least verbally by Iran.

Iran, which holds the revolving OPEC presidency this year, blocked Saudi efforts at the group’s meeting in Vienna to raise official production quotas. Since many countries including Iran already are exceeding the quotas, the failure to increase them was seen as largely a symbolic slap at Saudi Arabia.

Middle East and oil analysts viewed the Saudi decision Friday as a counterpunch directed at Iran, one that would ultimately show that Saudi Arabia remained the most powerful OPEC member whether it acted inside or outside the cartel.

“Saudi Arabia is meeting an Iranian challenge,” according to an article published online by the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news organization. “The kingdom signaled its intention to confront Iran and meet potential shortages in supply.”

But there is only so much Saudi Arabia can do to satisfy a tightening world market. The country has an estimated spare production capacity of 2.5 million to 3 million barrels a day, a thin cushion especially if violence spreads in the Middle East and with oil consumption growing through much of the developing world.

China alone imported 876,000 more barrels a day this May than in the same month last year, according to Barclays Capital.

In its monthly report, OPEC estimated on Friday that global demand would rise by 2.5 million barrels a day in the second half of the year. With demand growing and production rising by a mere 200,000 barrels a day among non-OPEC producers, the report predicted there would be “much higher demand for OPEC crude, reaching a level higher than current OPEC production and implying a draw in inventories.”

OPEC members are currently producing 28.8 million barrels a day, about 1 million barrels a day below what world markets will require in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Dietert, an oil analyst at Simmons Company International, an investment bank.

“This incremental supply will help keep oil prices from rising more sharply,” Mr. Dietert said of the Saudi move, but he added that prices would probably still go up.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6affdb927c1ac2f2db9b99dc19988e4e