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Baby Bibs And Blankets In Canada Contain Toxic Chemicals: Report

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OTTAWA — Baby bibs, mats and blankets tested by scientists with NAFTA’s environmental arm contain toxic chemicals linked to higher rates of cancer, infertility and suppressed immune systems — substances already banned from most other products in Canada.

Muhannad Malas, the toxics program manager at Environmental Defence, says the Commission for Environmental Co-operation study shows it’s time to do away with the federal exemptions that allow the use of such chemicals in clothes and other textiles.

And Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s ongoing review of Canada’s law that governs toxic chemical use offers a perfect opportunity to address concerns raised by the study, Malas said in an interview.

Chemicals were banned … but not in baby products

The chemicals, known broadly as PFAS, are synthetic substances created mostly in the 1950s for a number of purposes in consumer and industrial products, such as non-stick surfaces and stain, water and fire resistance.

The chemicals can leach into waterways and drinking water sources when products that contain them are washed or get wet outdoors, said Malas. They can also be ingested through contaminated water or absorbed through the skin or the mouth, he added.

Canada banned the use, manufacture and import of the chemicals in 2016 after research began linking them to increased incidence of cancer, infertility and immune system suppression. However, a number of products were exempted, including infant bibs and blankets, outerwear and sportswear, like cycling jackets and weightlifting gloves.

Results were “alarming”

Last summer, scientists with the Commission for Environmental Co-operation tested 137 different products in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to determine the prevalence of the substances, which are not routinely tested for in clothing items.

“The results are quite alarming,” said Malas.

Overall, the chemicals were found in 94 of the 137 products; of the 43 products that were purchased in Canada, 37 of them contained at least one PFAS.

All six Canadian baby bibs tested contained at least one form of the chemicals; one contained nine, which Malas said raises concerns that Canada’s existing laws don’t account for the potential cumulative impact of being exposed to multiple forms at the same time.

All four of the baby blankets and waterproof mats purchased in Canada contained at least one PFAS chemical, as did all 11 outdoor kids’ jackets, all 20 outdoor adult jackets, 10 of the 11 snowsuits and winter gloves, and all three cycling and weightlifting gloves.

The government is open to “meaningful changes”

Malas said he hopes the report will give McKenna ammunition to include the chemicals in next month’s review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which governs Canada’s laws for pollution and chemicals and comes up for review every five years.

Last June, the House of Commons environment committee made 87 recommendations to McKenna, some of which would address chemicals like PFAS by requiring better management and monitoring. The committee also recommended Environment Canada require an assessment of the cumulative impact of repeated, prolonged exposure.

A spokeswoman for McKenna said the government is “open to meaningful changes” to the act and the minister is considering every one of the recommendations made by the committee. A report detailing McKenna’s plans is due for release next month.

Products’ labelling makes them seem safer than they are

Most of the products were made in China, but several were made in Canada, the study found. “We’re not just talking about imported products where people usually think it’s harder to control toxic chemicals.”

Many of the products were labelled as being organic cotton, BPA-free or lead-free, making them seem safer to consumers than may actually be the case, Malas warned.

“This is the kind of information the public needs to know about,” he said. “They have a right to know.”

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OPEC threatens to turn on the spigots as oil price briefly hits highest point since 2014

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The price of the North American oil benchmark briefly touched $72 US a barrel late Tuesday despite the OPEC oil cartel publicly mulling boosting supply as soon as next month.

The price of West Texas Intermediate, the North American oil benchmark commonly known as WTI, was changing hands as high as $72.83 at one point on Tuesday. Although it slumped slightly lower on Wednesday, that was the highest level since November 2014.

Supply concerns in Venezuela and Iran have been overhanging the market for months, driving prices higher. 

Then late Tuesday the oil-producing cartel known as OPEC suggested it may soon turn on the spigots a little, after curbing its supply for the better part of the past year to boost prices.

The notoriously fractious cartel has been uncharacteristically collaborative of late, as OPEC and Russia had agreed to curb their collective output by about 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of 2018.

Last month, the cartel reported 166 per cent compliance to its own cut targets — meaning it has been pumping even less oil than it had planned to.

But speaking to a Reuters reporter on Tuesday, one unnamed OPEC source said the group is considering lifting those limits sooner than anticipated, in part because of the rising price of oil. 

While WTI was briefly at $72 US, Canadian oil companies have also seen their prices rise. The blend of oil from Alberta's oilsands is known as Western Canada Select and it, too, has risen to a more than three-year high, almost touching $58 U.S. on Tuesday.

Higher oil prices are doubly helpful for Canadian producers, because they are priced in U.S. dollars, while Canadian companies book most of their expenses in Canadian dollars.

In Canadian terms, WTI is currently trading as high as $91 a barrel, Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter noted on Tuesday.

"That's up 50 per cent  from just eight months ago."

In Canadian dollar terms, the price of WTI is now where it was, on average, during what Porter called the "go-go years for oil prices," between 2007 and 2014.

"The lack of a currency response means that Canadian consumers are feeling the full impact of higher oil prices," he said.

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Comcast prepares to top Disney's $50-billion offer for Fox

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Comcast Corp confirmed for the first time on Wednesday it was preparing a higher, all-cash offer for the businesses that Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Co.

While the U.S. cable operator said it was still considering its position, it said it was in advanced stages of readying an offer that would be “superior” and “at a premium” to Disney’s all stock offer.

“While no final decision has been made, at this point the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is well advanced,” Comcast said.

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Sources familiar with the deal told Reuters at the start of May that Comcast was preparing bridge financing for a cash offer for the Fox assets, but Wednesday’s statement is the first formal confirmation by the company it is ready to move.

The same sources said Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts will only proceed with a bid if a federal judge next month allows AT&T Inc’s planned $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc to proceed.

Disney in December offered stock then worth $52.4 billion to buy Fox’s film, television and international businesses as it bids to beef up its offering against streaming rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Disney shares have fallen nearly 3.3 percent since, reducing the value of the offer to just over $50 billion.

“It all depends on the AT&T and Time Warner deal,” said Brian Weiser, analyst at Pivotal Research. “If that goes through it is highly possible there will more than one bid for Fox.”

Fox and Disney were not immediately available for comment.

Comcast, owner of NBC and Universal Pictures, has also made a 22 billion pound ($30 billion) offer to acquire the 61 percent stake in European pay-TV group Sky Plc that Fox does not already own. In doing so, it topped an earlier offer for the entirety of Sky by Fox.

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A regulatory filing in April showed Comcast offered to acquire most of Fox’s assets in an all-stock deal valued at $34.41 per share, or $64 billion last November – just before Disney’s offer was agreed.

After a sale, Fox’s remaining assets will include Fox News, Fox Business Network and sports cable networks.

Comcast shares were down 2 percent at $31.83 while Disney was down 0.7 percent at $103.26 in premarket trading.

“I think Fox, or its controlling shareholder and Board of Directors, has already expressed their preference – Disney, even though Comcast allegedly offered a higher consideration already,” said Jeffrey Logsdon, an analyst with JBL Advisors in California.

“Comcast does seem intent on winning this one (and) rivalry can frequently drive prices to un-economic levels.”

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Comcast v. Disney: a fight for Twenty-First Century Fox

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PHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney.

Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it would be all cash and at a premium to the value of Disney’s current all-stock offer.

The Wall Street Journal and others reported earlier this month that Comcast had $60 billion to challenge Disney.

Disney’s $52.4 billion bid would go a long way in allowing it to better compete with technology companies in the entertainment business. Any tie-up would put in its stable more Marvel superheros, as well as the studios that produced the Avatar movies, “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family.” Disney would control Fox’s cable and international TV businesses as well.

Comcast said Wednesday that it’s in the “advanced stages” of preparing its bid. The Philadelphia company said the structure and terms of its offer would be at least as favourable as Disney’s.

A potential transaction with either Disney or Comcast would not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets.

Comcast’s stock fell 2 per cent in premarket trading, while shares of the Walt Disney Co., based in Burbank, California, dipped slightly.

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