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FDA says U.S. efforts should ease baby formula crisis in weeks

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Empty shelves show a shortage of baby formula at a CVS store in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

By Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. government efforts to help companies ramp up production and increase imports from abroad should dramatically ease the baby formula supply shortage within weeks, the head of the Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the FDA will announce plans next week detailing how manufacturers and suppliers abroad will be able to import their products into the United States, as well as creating flexibility for domestic companies.

The FDA is aiming for a streamlined process that will get more products on U.S. shelves while meeting safety, quality and labeling standards, he said. The $4 billion U.S. baby formula market is dominated by domestic producers, with imports subject to high tariffs.

“We believe these and other ongoing efforts will help dramatically improve the supply in the U.S. in a matter of weeks,” Califf said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). “Our data indicates that in stock rates in retail stores are stabilizing but we continue to work around the clock to further increase availability.”

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) in February recalled some baby formulas, including certain Similac products, made at the plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after complaints about bacterial infections in infants who had consumed the products.

Formula shortages have been compounded by supply-chain snags and historic inflation, leaving about 40% of baby formula products out of stock nationwide, according to data firm Datasembly.

Abbott said on Friday it has shipped millions of cans of infant formula powder into the United States from its Ireland facility amid a nationwide acute shortage.

The Biden administration has come under increasing pressure to address the problem.

President Joe Biden met on Thursday with executives from infant formula manufacturers and retailers, pressing them to do everything possible to get families access.

The retailers told Biden their top ask is more flexibility on the types of formula they can sell, while consumers need more flexibility on the types they can buy, particularly through the WIC program for low-income families, said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council.

The nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children is a federal assistance scheme administered by U.S. states.

Abbott said in a blog it has been focusing on infant formula production from the Ireland facility to serve consumers that use the WIC program for low-income families.

About half of infant formula nationwide is purchased by participants using WIC benefits, the White House said, and rules set by individual states have a big effect on the availability and distribution of infant formula.

The U.S. House Oversight Committee said on Friday it plans to investigate the four largest manufacturers of baby formula and seek answers on how to ramp up production amid a nationwide shortage.

The committee sent letters seeking information to Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo, ABC News reported.

Less than half of babies born in the United States were exclusively breast-fed through their first three months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card.

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Glass Lewis backs McDonald’s directors in boardroom fight with Carl Icahn

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign with the logo is on display near a McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow, Russia May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) – Proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis on Tuesday recommended McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:MCD) investors vote for the company’s directors, dealing a setback to billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s efforts to replace two directors.

“The Dissident (Icahn) has failed to make a sufficiently compelling case to warrant the boardroom changes it is seeking here,” Glass Lewis wrote in the report seen by Reuters.

A representative for Icahn did not immediately have a comment.

The report came one day after Institutional Shareholder Services, Glass Lewis’ larger rival, also recommended that shareholders back the company’s nominees. McDonald’s shareholders will meet on May 26.

Icahn nominated candidates to the fast-food restaurant’s board to hold the company accountable for pledges it made a decade ago on sourcing pork.

McDonald’s says it has worked to change its pork sourcing. But it is behind schedule on a plan to stop buying pork from suppliers that confine pigs in small crates during pregnancy. Both ISS and Glass Lewis say Icahn has raised awareness for animal rights.

“We acknowledge (Icahn’s) efforts to seek improvements to animal welfare conditions is a worthy and noble endeavor,” Glass Lewis wrote. But the advisory firm also criticized Icahn, saying he had taken a “decidedly simplistic and myopic view of ESG concerns, with no substantive regard given to the economics of the Company’s business nor to the creation of shareholder value.”

McDonald’s said Icahn’s two nominees lack the broader expertise needed to serve on the company’s board. Glass Lewis wrote that Icahn’s candidates “lack the requisite background, qualifications and experience for serving on the board of a large multinational firm” like McDonald’s.

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China Eastern crash probe eyes intentional action – sources

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Rescue workers work at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Investigators probing the crash of a China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:CEA) jet are examining whether it was due to intentional action taken on the flight deck, with no evidence so far of a technical malfunction, two people briefed on the matter said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Tuesday that flight data from one the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737-800’s black boxes indicated that someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane, citing people familiar with U.S. officials’ preliminary assessment.

Boeing Co , the maker of the jet, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment and referred questions to Chinese regulators.

The Boeing 737-800, en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, crashed on March 21 in the mountains of Guangxi, after a sudden plunge from cruising altitude, killing all 123 passengers and nine crew members aboard.

It was mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.

The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities have said.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on April 11 in response to rumours on the internet of a deliberate crash that the speculation had “gravely misled the public” and “interfered with the accident investigation work.”

China Eastern could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal said the airline had said in a statement that no evidence had emerged that could determine whether or not there were any problems with the accident aircraft. The Chinese Embassy declined to comment.

The 737-800 is a widely flown predecessor to Boeing’s 737 MAX but does not have the systems that have been linked to fatal 737-MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that led to a lengthy grounding of the MAX.

China Eastern grounded its entire fleet of 737-800 planes after the crash, but resumed flights in mid-April in a move widely seen at the time as ruling out any immediate new safety concern over Boeing’s previous and still most widely used model.

In a summary of an unpublished preliminary crash report last month, Chinese regulators did not point to any technical recommendations on the 737-800, which has been in service since 1997 with a strong safety record, according to experts.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a May 10 Reuters interview that board investigators and Boeing had traveled to China to assist the Chinese investigation. She noted that the investigation to date had not found any safety issues that would require any urgent actions.

Homendy said if the board has any safety concerns it will “issue urgent safety recommendations.”

The NTSB assisted Chinese investigators with the review of black boxes at its U.S. lab in Washington.

Shares of Boeing closed up 6.5%.

A final report into the causes could take two years or more to compile, Chinese officials have said. Analysts say most crashes are caused by a cocktail of human and technical factors.

Deliberate crashes are exceptionally rare. Experts noted the latest hypothesis left open whether the action stemmed from one pilot acting alone or the result of a struggle or intrusion but sources stressed nothing has been confirmed.

In March 2015, a Germanwings co-pilot deliberately flew an Airbus A320 into a French mountainside, killing all 150 on board.

French investigators found the 27-year-old was suffering from a suspected “psychotic depressive episode,” concealed from his employer. They later called for better mental health guidelines and stronger peer support groups for pilots.

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U.S. accuses casino tycoon Wynn of acting as Chinese agent

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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By Rami Ayyub

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday sued Steve Wynn, the former CEO of Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), to compel him to register as an agent of China and accused him of lobbying then-President Donald Trump at Beijing’s behest in 2017.

Wynn’s lawyers denied the allegations, saying he had never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and “had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act” (FARA).

From at least June through August 2017, Wynn contacted Trump and members of his administration to convey a Chinese request that Trump cancel the visa of a Chinese businessperson who had sought asylum in the United States, the department said.

The department’s civil suit alleges it had advised Wynn in 2018, 2021 and April 2022 to register as an agent of China under FARA but he declined to do so. Wynn stepped down as Wynn Resorts CEO in early 2018.

“Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know,” said Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It seeks a declaratory judgment that Wynn has an obligation to register under FARA.

Wynn’s lawyers, Reid Weingarten (NYSE:WRI) and Brian Heberlig, said they disagreed with the department’s legal interpretation of FARA and looked forward to proving their case in court.

In a statement, the Justice Department alleged that Wynn acted at Beijing’s request “out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau,” where Wynn Resorts operates a luxury hotel and casino.

Wynn conveyed the requests to cancel the businessperson’s visa to the Trump administration on behalf of Sun Lijun, a former vice minister in China’s Ministry of Public Security, the statement said.

It did not name the Chinese businessperson in question, but said the individual left China in 2014 and was later charged with corruption by Beijing.

Wynn conveyed Beijing’s request to Trump over dinner and by phone, and had multiple discussions with senior White House and National Security Council officials about organizing a meeting with Sun and other Chinese officials, the department said.

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