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by Bibiana Campos Seijo
November 30, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 47

The last couple of weeks have been very busy for us. The first reason for this is that in the U.S. we just celebrated Thanksgiving. Because this is a 2-day holiday it means we have a compressed week of three days to produce another issue of C&EN. None of us here has superpowers, but come close of business of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, there definitely is the feeling here in the C&EN office that we have achieved something of superhuman proportions.

The second reason is that the need to report on important events never stops regardless of our schedule. So on top of our usual items, last Monday saw us putting pen to paper (actually this did not happen, more like fingertips to keyboard) to announce what is one of the largest deals in the history of the pharmaceutical industry: the merger of Pfizer and Allergan (see page 3). “When Viagra met Botox” and “A historic mega deal” are some of the headlines that have described this $160 billion alliance, which will yield the most valuable health care company in the world. But the news was received with criticism by many in the community as it is also the largest tax inversion ever seen in the U.S. As we describe in our coverage on page 3, in a tax inversion, “a U.S. company purchases a smaller overseas firm and shifts its headquarters abroad to ease its tax burden.” Pfizer argues that this move gives it a “more competitive footing within our industry”—other pharma companies such as AstraZeneca, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline have headquarters in countries with lower tax rates than the U.S.—but is likely to be unpopular.

And while all of this was happening, members of C&EN’s staff were researching and preparing to cover the climate change talks in Paris. Cheryl Hogue, assistant managing editor for the Government & Policy group, will be attending the climate conference, which will take place between Nov. 30 and Dec. 11. You can read her curtain-raising piece “What To Expect From The Paris Climate Talks” on page 21 but I recommend that over the next couple of weeks you keep up-to-date with what is happening there on a daily basis at Here, in addition to daily reports from Hogue, who has been covering climate issues for decades, you’ll also find contributions by nine students who will be representing the American Chemical Society as observers of the Paris talks.

Of course, Paris is a city that is in mourning after the deadly attacks that killed approximately 130 people on Nov. 13. Security is heightened there—and all around Europe—but fortunately, the French government and the United Nations decided that the attacks will not deter the climate talks and these will proceed as scheduled but with improved security measures. Security was always going to be tight—there are around 120 heads of state in attendance including President Obama, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Chinese President Xi Jinping—but as a consequence of this decision, major marches that had been arranged to coincide with the talks will now not be allowed because the safety of marchers cannot be guaranteed.

To further complicate the security situation, last week it was also reported that a number of hazmat suits—the kind of protective hermetic overalls worn by, for example, medical staff dealing with Ebola—had been stolen from a locked room at a Paris hospital, and it is now feared that an attack using chemical or biological weapons may be next.

So Paris will continue to be in the spotlight for a bit longer while the climate negotiations take place. It is my hope that the recent events in the city double the resolve of the world leaders to reach consensus and lead to a pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions. That would really be a superhuman feat.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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