Judge releases redacted lunar lander lawsuit from Bezos' Blue Origin against NASA-SpaceX contract

Technology

CNBC 22 September, 2021 - 10:13am 57 views

The U.S. Federal Court of Claims on Wednesday released a redacted version of the lawsuit by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin against NASA over the lucrative lunar lander contract awarded to Elon Musk's SpaceX earlier this year.

"Historically a staunch advocate for prioritizing safety, NASA inexplicably disregarded key flight safety requirements for only SpaceX, in order to select and make award to a SpaceX proposal that assessed as tremendously high risk and immensely complex, even before the waiver of safety requirements," Blue Origin said in the lawsuit filed in August.

Blue Origin's complaint came after the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied the company's protest, upholding NASA's decision.

The congressional watchdog's ruling backed the space agency's surprise announcement in April that NASA awarded SpaceX with a lunar lander contract worth about $2.9 billion. SpaceX was competing with Blue Origin and Dynetics for what was expected to be two contracts, before NASA awarded only a single contract due to a lower-than-expected allocation for the program from Congress.

Read the full copy of Blue Origin's redacted lawsuit below.

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Wall Street Opens Higher Ahead of Fed on China Relief; Dow up 200 Pts By Investing.com

POLITICO 22 September, 2021 - 08:33am

Investing.com -- U.S. stock markets opened higher on Wednesday but for most stocks it was a case of 'wait-and-see' while the Federal Reserve winds up its latest policy meeting. 

The Fed is expected by many to say when it will start reducing its monthly bond purchases, which have run at $120 billion since the first wave of the pandemic. The market's reaction is likely to be determined by when the Fed starts to 'taper' the purchases, and how long it wants the phasing-out period to be. Attention will also be on the Fed's so-called 'dot plot', to see whether policymakers have accelerated the timeline for future interest rate hikes.

Support came from China, where a vaguely-worded statement from real estate developer China Evergrande put off what many consider to be an unavoidable default by saying it had reached an agreement with holders of an onshore bond on which interest is due on Thursday. It made no mention of other upcoming debt repayments. 

There was also an indication of sustained strength in the housing market, with a 4.9% weekly rise in mortgage applications. Existing home sales data for August are due at 10 AM ET. 

By 9:35 AM ET (1335 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 201 points, or 0.6%, at 34,121 points. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.2%.

While the broader market movement was upward, the most notable single-stock movements were generally in the other direction, as earnings updates continued to feed a growing narrative of slowing growth and higher costs that will squeeze profitability. FedEx (NYSE:FDX) stock fell 7.5% after it warned of higher costs ahead, while Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) stock fell 4.6% after its quarterly update - while beating expectations, still pointed to a fading of the pandemic-driven growth impulse of the last year and a half. 

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stock fell 2.7% after a series of Wall Street Journal articles detailing its governance shortcomings continued to weigh on it. The stock has fallen nearly 7% since the first of the articles in the series. The company also repeated on Wednesday that changes to Apple's iOS system are hurting its advertising business. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock rose 0.5%.

DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG) stock fell another 1.2%, after dropping more than 7% on Tuesday to its lowest in a month on the back of an expensive-looking bid for U.K.-based Entain (OTC:GMVHY). Draftkings sweetened its initial offer, but Entain's board said overnight in London only that it would 'seriously consider' the bid.

On a more positive note, Stitch Fix (NASDAQ:SFIX) stock rose 16% as the company returned to profit in its fiscal fourth quarter, while Uber (NYSE:UBER) stock extended the gains it made on Tuesday after forecasting its first-ever adjusted EBITDA profit. The stock rose 3.9% to its highest in nearly two months. 

By Krystal Hu, Echo Wang and Niket Nishant -Enterprise software maker Freshworks Inc was valued at $12.2 billion in its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday after shares opened 21% above the...

By Lewis Krauskopf and Tom Wilson NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - A gauge of global stock markets trimmed gains in choppy trading on Wednesday and the U.S. dollar strengthened after...

By Anshuman Daga and Andrew Galbraith SINGAPORE/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China Evergrande agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond on Wednesday, while the Chinese central...

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Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology

CNN 22 September, 2021 - 07:07am

Last year’s successful race to develop vaccines in extraordinarily short order put companies like Moderna and Pfizer in a highly favorable spotlight. But now, with less than 10% of those in many poor nations fully vaccinated and a dearth of doses contributing to millions of deaths, health officials in the United States and abroad are pressing the companies to do more to address the global shortage.

The Biden administration has privately urged both Pfizer and Moderna to enter into joint ventures where they would license their technology to contract manufacturers with the aim of providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, according to a senior administration official.

Those talks led to an agreement with Pfizer, expected to be announced on Wednesday, to sell the United States an additional 500 million doses of its vaccine at a not-for-profit price — rather than license its technology — to donate overseas.

The discussions with Moderna have not been fruitful, said the official, who expressed deep frustration with the company but requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

A coalition of major drug and vaccine manufacturers in developing countries around the world is drafting an appeal to Biden asking him to press the companies more aggressively to share the formulations and processes used to make their vaccines.

The World Health Organization has also had trouble getting Moderna to the negotiating table, according to Dr. Martin Friede, a WHO official, and Charles Gore, who runs a United Nations-backed nonprofit organization, Medicines Patent Pool. Both are working with a WHO-backed technology transfer hub in South Africa to set up to teach manufacturers from developing countries how to make mRNA vaccines, a new type of vaccine technology used by both American companies.

“We would love to get a discussion with Moderna, about a license to their intellectual property. This would make life so much simpler, but for the moment all attempts have resulted in no reply,” Friede said.

At Wednesday’s virtual summit, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Biden will convene heads of state, drug company executives, philanthropic groups and nongovernmental organizations to encourage them to work together toward vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by this time next year, according to a draft document the White House sent to the summit participants.

Global health advocates say Moderna has a special obligation to share its technology because its vaccine relies in part on technology developed by the National Institutes of Health, and because the company accepted $2.5 billion from the federal government as part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s fast-track vaccine initiative.

A Moderna spokesperson, Colleen Hussey, said in an email message Tuesday night that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”

But advocates say the world needs Moderna’s know-how now — not after the pandemic is over.

While sharing the vaccine “recipe” is a vital first step, it is not in and of itself enough to allow for the swift and efficient setup of new mRNA manufacturing locations, said Alain Alsalhani, a vaccines expert with Doctors Without Borders’ access-to-medicines campaign.

“You need someone to share all the process, because it’s a new technology,” he said. “One of the problems we have is that the scientific literature about industrial-scale manufacturing of mRNA vaccines is so slim. This is why it’s not just about a recipe, it’s about an active and full tech transfer.”

Pfizer, in an emailed statement, noted that it and its partner, BioNTech, had signed a letter of intent, announced last month, with the South African biopharmaceutical company Biovac, which is part of the South African hub, to manufacture Pfizer’s vaccine for African nations. But Biovac will only bottle the vaccine, which does not necessitate sharing the formula. The actual “drug substance” will be made in Europe.

In the absence of voluntary cooperation from the companies, some legal experts and global health advocates say the Biden administration could attempt to force them to share their intellectual property, using the powers of the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the president broad power over American companies in emergency situations.

Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University, said Biden could declare the pandemic a national security threat, which would enable him to “require companies to sign technology transfer contracts in exchange for reasonable compensation,” from either the federal government or manufacturing partners.

“Moderna accepted substantial federal funding under Operation Warp Speed and both Pfizer and Moderna benefited from NIH dollars for the basic research over decade for mRNA technology,” Gostin said, adding that the companies “hold a special social and ethical responsibility to share that technology for the benefit of the world.”

Biden administration officials say that forcing the companies to act is not as simple as it sounds, and that an effort to compel them to share their technology would invariably lead to a drawn-out legal battle, which would be counterproductive.

Pfizer and Moderna executives have said that the mRNA production process is so complex, and that there are so few people with experience in it available, that setting up new operations in other parts of the world would not be feasible and could not happen quickly enough to be useful. They say that their combined manufacturing will produce more than enough vaccines to meet global need by the middle of next year and that the fastest way to address vaccine inequity would be through distribution of donated doses.

But some pharmaceutical manufacturing experts and drug-access advocates argue that the events of the past 18 months make it clear that manufacturing in developing countries is going to be crucial to ensuring equitable access.

Many of the donated doses bound for use in Africa, for example, were meant to come from the Serum Institute of India. But five months ago, the Indian government blocked the company from exporting any vaccines, ordering that the supply instead be directed to trying to stanch a raging second COVID wave in that country. (India now says it will allow exports to resume next month.)

“We keep hearing, ‘The vaccines are coming, the vaccines are coming,’ but 3 million people have died since the Pfizer vaccine was first authorized by the FDA,” said Zain Rizvi, an expert on access to medicines with the advocacy organization Public Citizen.

Moderna and Pfizer have a direct financial interest in keeping their technology to themselves and guarding a competitive advantage not just in the sale of COVID vaccines, which are on track to bring in more than $53 billion in revenue this year, but also other potentially lucrative mRNA vaccines in development. such as one for malaria, he said, adding, “They don’t want to stand up a future competitor.”

The coalition of drugmakers in developing countries that is drafting an appeal to Biden plans to ask the U.S. government to pressure companies for several things: a license for the intellectual property, a license for the technology involved in the manufacturing of the vaccines, the provision of items such as cell lines and assistance in acquiring vital but scarce equipment.

In exchange for sharing its process, Moderna would be compensated with a licensing fee, a percentage of each dose sold.

Even without Moderna’s cooperation, WHO says its tech transfer hub in South Africa will focus on trying to replicate as closely as possible the Moderna formula, as the gold standard against which to compare candidates from other biotechnology companies, and then teach any manufacturer who wants to make it how to do so at scale.

“If we had Moderna or BioNTech with us, we could get to an approved vaccine in 18 months, but without them we have to go through full development — so it’s 36 months if everything goes perfectly, but it could be longer,” said Friede, who heads the WHO’s Initiative for Vaccine Research.

Pfizer and Moderna are at a pivotal moment where they can decide what role they want to play in the process, he said. “I’ve made many successful vaccines; with me I have other people who have made successful vaccines,” he said. “What we are actually saying is: ‘We’re going to do this. So you can come in and try and maintain some control by actually producing vaccines locally, or we’re going to do it without you. And then you’ve lost control’.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

In chronic pain, Mary O’Donnell can’t get around much. At most, she manages to walk for a short time in her kitchen or garden before she has to sit down. “It’s just frustrating at this point,” said O’Donnell, 80, who lives in Aloha, Oregon. “I’m really depressed.” She had been preparing for back surgery scheduled for Aug. 31, hoping the five-hour procedure would allow her to be more active. But a day before the operation, at OHSU Health Hillsboro Medical Center, she learned it had been canceled.

President Biden promised Wednesday that his administration would buy half a billion doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, which it would then donate for distribution across the world.

When a coronavirus vaccine site in Humble, Texas, shut down at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29, Hasan Gokal began a race with the clock to distribute 10 leftover Moderna doses before the vial expired. The doctor, with permission from his supervisor, phoned elderly and at-risk patients who were eligible to receive the shot in the earliest phases of the nationwide vaccine rollout. He found 10 people with underlying health conditions who said they would take the vaccine doses. Over the next five hours, Gokal dro

The sides of the black truck cruising downtown Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday offered contrarian advice to NFL fans headed to the game between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints: "Don't get vaccinated." That's a message that might've resonated in a state where fewer than half of residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

If I am the only person wearing a mask in a store or other indoor location, am I really protected from infection? It is true that masks work best when everyone in the room is wearing one. That is because when an infected person wears a mask, a large percentage of their exhaled infectious particles are trapped, stopping viral spread at the source. And when fewer viral particles are floating around the room, the masks others are wearing would likely block those that have escaped. Sign up for The M

Netflix has acquired the works of Roald Dahl, the late British author of celebrated children's books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The video streaming giant said Wednesday that it acquired the Roald Dahl Story Co., which manages the rights to the author's characters and stories. No financial terms were disclosed.

In a high-stakes standoff over the U.S. debt ceiling, congressional Republicans believe they see a chance to scale back President Joe Biden's sweeping domestic agenda while boosting their odds of retaking Congress in 2022. The Republican gambit passed an initial political test on Tuesday, when the House of Representatives voted 220-211 along party lines https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-house-vote-tuesday-fund-govt-through-dec-3-raise-debt-limit-2021-09-21 to approve a measure to suspend the $28.4 trillion debt ceiling and fund the federal government beyond Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year ends. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that his caucus, which holds half the chamber's 100 seats, will block it, seeking to frame the vote as a referendum on a $3.5 trillion Biden domestic spending package the House and Senate will take up in coming weeks.

Global record high natural gas prices are pushing some energy-intensive companies to curtail production in a trend that is adding to disruptions to global supply chains in some sectors such as food and could result in higher costs being passed on to their customers. Some companies, including steel producers, fertiliser manufacturers and glass makers, have had to suspend or reduce production in Europe and Asia as a result of spiking energy prices. The UK on Tuesday said it agreed to provide state support to one of the companies to restart production of by-product carbon dioxide, which is used in food production, to avert a supply crunch.

Prominent Democratic lawmakers continue to push for student loan forgiveness amid the pandemic payment pause, and one lawmaker argued that "momentum" for broad-based action is building.

Covid is unlikely to mutate into a much deadlier variant because there “aren’t many places for the virus to go”, the lead scientist of the Oxford vaccine has said.

Former President George W. Bush will hold a fundraiser next month for embattled Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., whose criticisms of former President Donald Trump have put her political career in jeopardy. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Bush's first campaign event of the 2022 midterms will be in support of Cheney. Her father, Dick Cheney, served two terms as Bush’s vice president. The fundraiser will take place in Dallas on Oct. 18.

Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said Tuesday, undercutting the Biden administration's public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion. Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, according to one U.S. official with direct knowledge of operations. Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.

The House voted along party lines to pass a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown next week. The bill would fund the government through Dec. 3 and it also includes billions in emergency disaster relief and aid for Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

NEW YORK — They are small figures moving through a subway station on a Saturday in Manhattan — a mother and her son speaking softly to each other in Burmese. Than Than Htwe, 58, is a homebody, content to stay at her family’s Brooklyn apartment on the weekend meditating or simmering fish in a pot of lemon grass and ginger. But she scheduled a doctor’s appointment for this morning so it would not conflict with her job stitching custom aprons. By Htwe’s side is her only child, Kyaw Zaw Hein. At 22,

Two women hold mock pro-life signs in what they call an 'Abortrait room' at the Satanic Temple’s headquarters to protest abortion laws. Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty imagesTexas’s controversial anti-abortion law known as the “Heartbeat Bill” went into effect at midnight on Sept. 1, 2021. Less than 24 hours later, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it would not block the law. In response, The Satanic Temple, a nontheistic group that has been recognized by the IRS as a religion, announced that it w

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U.S. to donate millions more Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to poorer nations

CNBC 22 September, 2021 - 05:02am

Pfizer and BioNTech will provide an additional 500 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S. government to be donated to lower-income countries.

The move announced Wednesday represents an expansion of the companies' agreement with the U.S. government to provide extra doses at a not-for-profit price for less-advantaged nations, It brings the total number of doses to be supplied for donation to these countries to 1 billion.

In line with the initial agreement, the U.S. government will allocate doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the 55 member states of the African Union, Pfizer said Wednesday.

Deliveries of the initial 500 million doses began in August, and the 1 billion total under the expanded agreement are expected to be delivered by the end of next September, the company added.

The first doses allocated through this program arrived in Rwanda in mid-August. Since then, more than 30 million doses have been shipped to 22 countries.

Pfizer and BioNTech have an agreement in place to supply doses to the COVAX Facility, a mechanism established by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and World Health Organization that aims to provide poorer countries with early access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Read CNBC's latest global coverage of the Covid pandemic:

Developed nations like the U.S. and those in Europe have had plentiful supplies of Covid shots since vaccines were developed at breakneck speed and authorized for emergency use last year before being rolled out to their general populations in mass vaccination campaigns.

While a majority of adults in the U.S. and Europe are fully vaccinated, millions of people around the world do not have such ready access to Covid vaccines, which greatly reduce the risk of severe Covid infection, hospitalization and death.

In the U.S., 64.1% of the population above age 12 is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, while in the U.K., 81.9% of people over 16 are fully vaccinated, British government data shows. In the EU, 71.7% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Our World in Data figures note that while 43.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, only 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

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