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Nestle pledges to make all its packaging recyclable by 2025



Nestle wants to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, the Swiss food giant said on Tuesday, becoming the latest food company to vow to reduce plastic waste.

Environmentalists criticized the plan as lacking substance.

European governments have stepped up efforts to reduce plastic waste littering land and sea, and companies across the food supply chain are following suit. UK supermarket chain Waitrose pledged on Tuesday to ban disposable coffee cups from its shops by this autumn.

“Plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach,” Nestle Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement.

The world’s biggest packaged food company said it would focus on eliminating non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.

“We are working on changing the colors used for our plastic packaging. Lighter colors are easier to recycle,” Nestle sustainability expert Duncan Pollard told reporters on a call.

Environmental group Greenpeace said Nestle had missed giving clear quantitative targets on the reduction of plastic waste, calling the announcement “greenwashing.”

“The company is one of the parties responsible for the serious plastic crisis in the oceans,” Greenpeace Switzerland spokesman Yves Zenger said in a statement, adding Nestle should ultimately completely renounce single-use plastic packaging.

Nestle’s Pollard said on the call the recycling of single-use plastics depended on there being a recycling infrastructure in place and particularly countries in South-East Asia, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, had to make improvements in this area.

Nestle rival Unilever said last week it had struck a partnership to pioneer a new technology which converts PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste back into virgin-grade material for use in food packaging. The company already committed last year to making all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Coffee chain Starbucks is doing its bit by offering customers a discount on their drink if they bring in their own tumbler or cup.

The British government announced plans last month to introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drink containers and EU regulators have said they want to increase recycling of plastic, after China banned imports of “foreign garbage” from the start of 2018.

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Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) earnings Q1 2021



Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Los Angeles, California. May 1, 2021.

Gerard Miller | CNBC

Berkshire Hathaway‘s operating earnings rebounded as the conglomerate’s businesses recovered from the pandemic hit. Chairman Warren Buffett kept buying back Berkshire shares aggressively in the first quarter, but at a slightly slower pace.

Berkshire reported operating income of $7.018 billion in the first quarter, up 20% from $5.871 billion in the same period a year ago. The conglomerate’s hodge-podge of businesses including insurance, transportation, utility, retail and manufacturing saw signs of a recovery amid the economy reopening.

During the first quarter, the company bought back $6.6 billion of Berkshire shares, after a record $24.7 billion in buybacks last year in lieu of deal-making. The conglomerate recorded $9 billion in share buybacks in the fourth quarter.

Berkshire Hathaway’s cash pile grew about 5% during the quarter to more than $145.4 billion. Just slightly below the record level seen at the end of the third quarter last year.

Buffett has been sitting on the sidelines as the deal-making environment becomes more competitive and market valuations turned lofty. The legendary investor said at last year’s annual meeting that he hasn’t seen anything attractive to pull the trigger on a sizable acquisition like he has in the past.

Berkshire’s equity investments also registered solid gains, increasing approximately $4.69 billion last quarter. However, Buffett has told shareholders to not focus on quarterly fluctuations in investing gains and losses.

“The amount of investment gains (losses) in any given quarter is usually meaningless and delivers figures for net earnings per share that can be extremely misleading to investors who have little or no knowledge of accounting rules,” Berkshire said in a statement.

Thanks to the buyback program and a recovery in its operating businesses, Berkshire’s “B” shares have rallied more than 18% in 2021 to a record high.

In total, Berkshire posted net earnings of $11.71 billion, or $7,638 per Class A share, in the first quarter. The conglomerate suffered a net loss of $49.75 billion, or $30,653 per Class A share, a year ago as the stock market’s pandemic plunge dramatically lowered the value of the company’s many equity investments.

The conglomerate’s total revenue came in at $64.6 billion last quarter, higher than the Street’s estimate of $63.66 billion, according to Refinitiv.

Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting will kick off Saturday at 1:30 pm ET in Los Angeles with both Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger present. The event will be held virtually without attendees for a second time.

Correction: Berkshire’s investment gains increased by $4.69 billion in the first quarter. A previous version of this story misstated the gains.

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SpaceX crew splashes back down to earth after record mission



A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon capsule, is launched carrying four astronauts on a NASA commercial crew mission to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 23, 2021.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

The four astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule have returned to earth, splashing down in a parachute landing in the Gulf of Mexico after a record-setting mission to the International Space Station. The astronauts spent five months in space, the longest-ever duration for a crew launched in an American-built spacecraft.

NASA’s Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi reached the space station via the Dragon capsule last November.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Neuralink cofounder Max Hodak leaves Elon Musk’s brain implant company



Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla, waves while arriving to a discussion at the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Neuralink President Max Hodak announced on Saturday, via Twitter, that he is no longer with the health tech venture he co-founded with Elon Musk, and has not been for a few weeks. He did not reveal the circumstances of his departure.

Fremont, California-based Neuralink is, “developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers,” according to the company’s self-description on LinkedIn.

Musk – who is also the CEO of electric car makers Tesla and the aerospace defense contractor SpaceX – has said, without showing evidence this is possible, that Neuralink’s devices could enable “superhuman cognition,” enable paralyzed people to operate smartphones or robotic limbs with their minds someday, and “solve” autism and schizophrenia.

Founded in 2016, with Musk investing tens of millions of his significant personal wealth, Neuralink is also developing surgical robotics to implant its devices, essentially sewing tiny wires about a quarter of the diameter of a human hair to connect the implants to the brain.

Skeptics abound.

Musk described the surgery to insert a Neuralink device as taking less than an hour.

Neuralink demo

After the August 2020 demo, MIT Technology Review deemed Neuralink “neuroscience theater,” in a scathing teardown of the presentation.

Musk does not have a background in neuroscience or medical devices but, according to a project director at Neuralink quoted by The New York Times in 2019, has been “active in trying to help solve the engineering challenges that Neuralink faces.”

In the medical news site StatNews, a neuro-ethicist and doctor named Anna Wexler wrote in an op-ed on April 7, 2021:

“In this new world of private neurotech development, company demos are live-streamed on YouTube and have the flavor of techno-optimism that involves proclamations about a future we have yet to see — but one that we are assured will come to pass. Data are sparse; rhetoric about making the world a better place is heavy.”

The next day, Musk wrote in a series of tweets, again without providing evidence:

“First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs

“Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again

The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal”

On Saturday, Hodak was not immediately available to comment.

For Musk, Saturday was a day undoubtedly requiring more focus on his aerospace venture, SpaceX. After 167 days in space, astronauts in crewed, SpaceX and NASA mission began their return flight home, with a “splashdown” expected around 2:57 a.m.

One of Hodak’s followers on Twitter asked him what’s next and he replied, “Not Jurassic Park.” The quip was a reference to a prior fantastical discussion on the micro-blogging platform in which Hodak mused: “We could probably build jurassic park if we wanted to. wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but . maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species.”

Neuralink is one of many medical tech companies working on a so-called “brain-machine interfaces.”

Competitors include those developing implants and non-invasive devices like headsets. Among them are Kernel, Synchron, Neurable and even Facebook in the U.S., CereGate in Germany and Mindmaze in Switzerland.

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