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As museums begin to embrace NFTs, they face new opportunities — and risks –



Non-fungible tokens have the potential to be a new medium for artists to explore and monetize their work, just as art forms have shifted and changed throughout history, according to a Toronto-based curator.

NFTs are a type of digital asset and are typically used to buy and sell virtual artwork using cryptocurrency. Each NFT has a uniquely identifiable token, and its ownership can be traced through a ledger known as the blockchain.

Art from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection, which features 10,000 unique NFTs, has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Claudia Lala, curator and founder of LALAContemporary — a Toronto gallery that hosted its first NFT art show last year — says she sees them as a “new language” in the art world that shouldn’t be ignored.

“We respect [artists] once they’re gone or once, you know, the history legitimizes them,” she told CBC Radio’s Day 6.

“Art basically evolves because of the ideas that are being broken by the new artists and the new movements, and so I believe this is one.”

The cryptoassets have faced criticism, however, with some calling them a “scam.” Artists have accused collections of selling their artwork as NFTs without permission, and the cryptocurrency that powers them draw heavily on energy resources, so they have a significant environmental footprint.

Mark Bland’s digital artworks, pieces of which are available as NFTs, were shown at LALAContemporary last year as both prints and on digital displays. (LALAContemporary)

Still, a handful of galleries across Canada have embraced NFTs, showing off the digital artwork they contain. A dedicated NFT museum also opened in Seattle last month. 

Meanwhile, major institutions are also getting in on the trend.

In September, the British Museum began selling more than 200 NFT postcards featuring works by Japanese artist Hokusai, partnering with a platform called LaCollection.

Dorian Batycka, a freelance art journalist, says the shift is a welcome change of pace for the often-staid art industry.

“The art world is in dire need of a shake up,” said Batycka. “The art world tends to be very non-transparent based on cultural gatekeepers that have vested interests in maintaining a very opaque system in a very top-down, vertical, hierarchical way that seems impenetrable to many.”

“And I think this is where perhaps NFTs can make a contribution.”

Visitors look at digital artwork on display during the opening weekend of the Seattle NFT Museum. The digital artwork contained in NFTs can be displayed by screen, or in traditional mediums such as prints. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

But incorporating the art into collections hasn’t been without challenges. A recent NFT purchase by the Institute for Contemporary Art Miami remained stuck in escrow last month as professional appraisers struggled to determine its value.

And last year, Germany’s ZKM Centre for Art and Media lost access to two CryptoPunks — NFTs stored on the Ethereum blockchain — worth ETH 60 (currently more than $200,000) after a copy-and-paste error. 

Challenges for museums, institutions

Sean Stein Smith, assistant professor at Lehman College, part of the City University of New York, sees NFTs as a way to prevent forgeries and illegitimate copies that would dilute a work’s value while offering the flexibility to share originals. 

“NFTs are good for the art community and they are good for artists and the content creators, but do pose a few complications and questions for any institutions, art galleries, museums trying to leverage the increase in interest in NFTs,” said Stein Smith, who serves as a board member for the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance.

He says institutions should consider a couple key questions: Are they covered when it comes to buying and holding crypto assets? And do they have the staff and infrastructure to handle and store these works of art?

“Art collections, museums, galleries, curated collections are not always going to be the most innovative institutions — for good reasons,” Stein Smith said.

Digital artist Mark Bland showed his collection, Fractal Totems, as part of LALAContemporary’s first NFT show. Bland sells the works, which are animated, as NFTs as well as in limited edition prints. (Mark Bland)

It’s not unheard of for crypto assets to be hacked, either. In early February, a security exploit resulted in the loss of cryptocurrency worth more than $320 million US, according to blockchain news website Coindesk. Decentralized finance research firm Elliptic estimates $10.5 billion US in cryptoassets were lost in 2021.

New York-based Appraisal Bureau is a company providing appraisal and insurance coverage of NFTs for institutions. New York Magazine reports that the company has also partnered with Malca Amit, a security company, to store the digital assets. 

An executive with the company told the magazine assets will be stored on disconnected hard drives in vaults alongside gold bullion and diamonds.

Despite the challenges, Mark Bland, a digital artist in Toronto whose work was shown at LALAContemporary, says it’s hard to ignore the momentum behind NFTs in the art world right now.

“For a museum to get on board, it’s not surprising to me whether it’s just in a small way like postcards or eventually doing auctions or housing these pieces that become the historical elements of this time, this period,” he said. 

Bland’s solo show at LALAContemporary featured both prints of his collection, called Fractal Totems, as well as an immersive dark room experience of the animated work. He believes there’s room for both mediums in the digital art world.

Lala says her gallery is expected to reopen next month with a new show. She remains committed to sharing NFTs as part of what she describes as her art “platform.”

“We cannot be out of the idea of what is happening with the NFTs,” she said. “I had this gut feeling that this was something that there was a need to show.”

Written by Jason Vermes. Interview with Dorian Batycka produced by Glory Omotayo.

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Why You Can’t Just Order Baby Formula From Canada – Lifehacker



Image for article titled Why You Can’t Just Order Baby Formula From Canada
Photo: The Toidi (Shutterstock)

With baby formula continuing to be in short supply, parents of infants are looking for creative ways to get their hands on that precious Enfamil—but a simple, seemingly ingenious solution that’s going viral right now will not work as described. The suggestion that’s spreading on Facebook and Twitter advises parents to go to Amazon and change their account’s country from the U.S. to Canada.

The claim is that if you do this, you will be rewarded with all kinds of baby formula-purchasing options—because Canada doesn’t have a major formula shortage. The problem, however, comes when you want to get the formula (or anything else) actually delivered from Amazon Canada. The company will only ship products within Canada, so unless you have a friend in Manitoba, it’s not going to work.

Amazon’s shipping restrictions page says:

Certain restrictions prevent us from shipping certain products to all geographical locations. Restrictions for specific items may require the purchaser to provide additional information in order to ship the item.

You might be able to find a third-party formula shipper on Amazon, but this is expensive in terms of shipping costs, and it might not be legal, depending on the kind of formula being imported.

The FDA’s role in all this

The larger issue of why the U.S. as a nation doesn’t import more baby formula is more complicated than Amazon’s rules. Only about 2% of the U.S.’s formula comes from foreign sources. February’s recall from major manufacturer Abbott threw off our delicate national formula supply chain, and correcting the problem presents some serious challenges.

If it was some other commodity, maybe more could have been imported quickly, but we’re particular about our baby formula. Formula has to meet the FDA’s nutritional standards and other requirements to be sold here. While European brands of formula generally meet or exceed the FDA’s nutritional requirements, (so much so that there’s a black market for foreign formula) the packaging and other aspects of the products are a different story.

The recall and FDA approval is only part of the story—the rest is economics.

Tariffs and dairy protection

In order to protect the U.S. dairy farming industry and U.S. formula manufacturers, the tariff on importing baby formula is set at 17.5% for most kinds of infant formula. The recently revamped NAFTA agreement actually raised the cost of importing Canadian formula, discouraging anyone from building a new plant there, and making it costly to import any excess from Canadian factories.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

While there’s no way to change tariffs quickly, the government is taking other steps to try to end the crisis. The FDA this week announced plans to ease the shortage through loosening up some of its rules (but not the ones covering nutritional requirements), and Abbot today announced its facility should be back online, with new safety standards in place, in a couple weeks.

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NS gas prices jump by 9.5 cents – CTV News Atlantic



Tuesday was another record-breaking day for gas prices in Nova Scotia after they jumped by 9.5 cents overnight — just four days after they had reached $2 per litre in some parts of the province.

The minimum price of regular self-serve is now $2.08 per litre in the Halifax area, or Zone 1. The new maximum price is $2.10.

The biggest jump was in Cape Breton, or Zone 6, where the minimum price of regular self-serve gas is now $2.10 per litre. The maximum price is $2.12.

There were long lineups at some Nova Scotia gas stations Monday night after the Utility and Review Board announced that it would invoke its interrupter clause at midnight.

The price of diesel did not change Monday. However, the UARB said Tuesday that it would invoke the interrupter clause, and the price of diesel oil would be adjusted at midnight.

The price of gasoline won’t be affected by the adjustment.

The UARB said the price adjustments are “necessary due to significant shifts in the market price” of gasoline and diesel.

Gas prices are showing no signs of letting up as the average price in Canada tops $2 a litre for the first time.

Natural Resources Canada says the average price across the country for regular gasoline hit $2.06 per litre on Monday for an all-time high.

The average was a nine-cent jump from the $1.97 per litre record set last week, and is up about 30 cents a litre since mid-April.

Gas prices have been climbing steadily since late February when oil spiked to around US$100 a barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine. The price jumped to over US$110 per barrel last week.

Record-high gas prices fuel frustration

When Sam Vatcher saw the price at the pumps in Halifax this morning, she was shocked.

“I don’t know how anyone is going to drive anywhere,” said Vatcher.

The latest prices have SUV driver Bill Foster wondering how he will be able to afford fuel going forward.

“I’ve got to get kids to sports and I’ve got to get kids to school,” said Foster. “Other stuff is going to have to get cut out just to pay for gas.”

In addition to the conflict in Ukraine, gas analyst Patrick Dehaan says the high gas prices are also largely linked to the pandemic.

“Canadians and Americans’ global consumption plummeted along with oil prices,” said Dehaan. “To the degree that oil companies started shutting down production. That was the problem.”

Dehaan said, during the pandemic, oil production went offline. Then, as the economy reopened, Canadians started leaving their homes and travelling more.

“Global demand started going back up,” he explained. “But because of the shutdowns, we very quickly developed an imbalance between supply-and-demand that has grown over time.”

As a result, some feel Canadian consumers will move away from oil and gas in favour of electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle advocate Kurt Sampson says he tells his children every day, “when you are older, and when you grow up it will be the opposite. Everybody will be driving electric vehicles.”

Sampson has an app on his phone that tracks fuel savings. By switching to an electric vehicle and not purchasing gas, he is on pace to have yearly savings in the range of $8,000.

“Electric vehicles are cheaper to own and operate,” said Sampson. “If you do the long-term calculation, not just a sticker price, they will save you money. They are also better for the environment.”

Sampson said drivers are increasingly switching to electric vehicles, and with fuel prices continuing to climb, he expects the trend to increase even more in the coming years.

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Shortages of some baby formula in Quebec due to panic buying, U.S. supply issues



MONTREAL — When Catherine Labrecque-Baker went to purchase hypoallergenic baby formula in mid-April for her six-month-old baby, her Quebec City pharmacist told her there was none left.

In response, Labrecque-Baker travelled to another pharmacy in the city and bought five times the amount she normally does. Then she started to stress as she fed her baby and watched her stockpile slowly shrink.

Her son has an intolerance to cow’s milk protein and relies on Alimentum, a product by American formula maker Abbott, which voluntarily recalled its products in February after four illnesses were reported in babies who had consumed powdered formula from its Michigan plant.

“What am I supposed to do?” Labrecque-Baker asked Monday in an interview. “I cried an entire night, wondering what will I do when I won’t have any more formula.”

The disruptions at Abbott, the United States’ largest formula maker, are causing supply issues for specific hypoallergenic formulas across Canada, according to Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

But in Quebec, parents are noticing shortages of other formulas on the province’s pharmacy shelves — a result of panic buying, Wasylyshen said.

“There’s a ripple effect,” she said in an interview Monday, referring to parents like Labrecque-Baker who are scooping up more formula than normal because they fear it will go out of stock.

“We don’t want to see a return to panic buying — that approach doesn’t help anyone,” Wasylyshen said. “Some of our retailers have put limitations in place in terms of what customers can purchase, just to make sure there’s enough for everyone.”

Abbott’s decision to shut its Michigan plant exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves across much of the United States. The company is one of only a handful that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so Abbott’s product recall — involving brands Similac, Alimentum and EleCare — wiped out a large segment of the market intended for babies with allergies or intolerance to cow’s milk protein.

On Monday, Abbott said it has reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production at its Michigan factory, a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage.

Quebec is not facing the same kind of shortages as in the United States, but Wasylyshen said images of empty pharmacy shelves in the province started circulating online, causing anxiety.

The province’s Health Department on Monday said it’s working with Quebec’s association of pharmacy owners, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires, to minimize the shortage’s impact.

“We are looking as far away as Europe to counter this lack of supply,” department spokesperson Marjorie Larouche said, adding that shortages are being noticed across Canada.

Marilie Beaulieu-Gravel of the pharmacy owners association said that after Abbott’s Alimentum formula disappeared from shelves, parents rushed to purchase Nutragimen, another hypoallergenic formula, made by Mead Johnson & Company.

“There isn’t a production issue with this product, but rather a domino effect,” Beaulieu-Gravel said Monday in an interview. “The demands for the products increase sharply and unexpectedly on the market.”

While Nutragimen products are expected to be back on shelves by mid-June, Beaulieu-Gravel said her association isn’t expecting the supply of Alimentum to return before the end of summer.

Meanwhile, some parents, including Labrecque-Baker, are left searching for formula everywhere, even online.

“I looked on Facebook Marketplace, on Kijiji … friends have been looking for me or giving me what they can,” Labrecque-Baker said. “This week, I spent $200 because I can’t wait and risk it. The more I can stock, the more days I can feed my child.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 17, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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