Saudi Aramco Is Said to Postpone Its Potentially Record-Breaking I.P.O.

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Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant has suspended its plans to go public, a decision that puts on hold what would have been by far the biggest initial offering on record — or perhaps signals its cancellation.

The company, Saudi Aramco, and its advisers are instead focusing on buying a stake in Sabic, a huge Saudi chemical producer, people briefed on the matter said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The shift in focus to a deal for Sabic, one of the people added, means the earliest that work could resume on a Saudi Aramco stock sale will be late next year.

The delay cast more doubt on the future of what is meant to be not just a landmark deal for financial markets but one of the biggest milestones in Saudi Arabia’s history.

The kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had hoped to use the billions of dollars the I.P.O. would raise to finance his Vision 2030 plan, an ambitious effort to wean his country off its dependence on oil. Among the plan’s expensive elements is the creation of a $500 billion city called Neom, meant to run entirely on clean energy and be serviced by robots.

An I.P.O. of Saudi Aramco — which would sell shares on its home Tadawul exchange and another major international stock market — would mean a gusher of fees for all the advisers involved, including the banks and law firms on retainer. Stock exchanges around the world, from New York to London to Tokyo, have sought the prestige of hosting what would be a seminal event for the financial markets. World leaders, including President Trump, have pitched their markets to Prince Mohammed.

But the plans to take the state-owned oil monopoly public have been bedeviled by the sheer complexity of the undertaking. Though Prince Mohammed had hoped for a $2 trillion market value for Saudi Aramco, oil industry experts called that too high. And legal advisers have grappled with potentially thorny issues, including the possible pitfalls that could arise from choosing a foreign exchange on which to offer shares.

A spokesman for Saudi Aramco, Abdulaziz Al-Shalfan, declined to comment on the plan to delay the I.P.O., which was reported earlier by Reuters.

Saudi Aramco is now focused on buying a major stake in the publicly traded Sabic, which is a giant in its own right. Last month, the oil producer confirmed that it was in talks with the Saudi government’s sovereign wealth fund, which owns a 70 percent stake in Sabic, to buy a “strategic interest” in the chemical company.

Buying a stake in Sabic could make Saudi Aramco a more valuable company while the petrochemical industry is growing around the world. That, in turn, could help the oil company draw even more interest in a public offering.

Sabic, which earned a net profit of nearly $5 billion in 2017, produced more than 70 million tons of petrochemicals and five million tons of steel last year, according to Middle East Petroleum and Economic Publications, which tracks the industry.

Saudi Aramco has been trying to move into the sector, which it believes could provide a hedge against an eventual decline in demand for oil as a fuel. This month, Saudi Aramco’s board approved $14 billion in petrochemical projects and project expansions, including a large refinery in Texas and a joint venture with the French giant Total in Saudi Arabia.

The two companies have grown closer recently, including by starting plans for a joint chemicals plant in 2025. And Sabic would give Saudi Aramco invaluable expertise in the petrochemicals sector.

“Saudi Aramco has been quite deliberate in adding refineries, terminals and, more recently, chemical plants,” said Osmar Abib, a managing director at Credit Suisse who has been closely following the proposed public offering. “It is all with the key objectives of securing more access to markets and enhancing overall returns.”

Saudi Aramco’s buying a stake in Sabic would have another benefit for the Saudi government. A deal would still fill the coffers of the country’s sovereign wealth fund with billions of dollars, allowing it to make some of the Vision 2030 investments it had planned to fund with a public offering.

But skeptics of a Sabic transaction worry that Saudi Aramco would be taking on a financial burden by paying tens of billions of dollars for a stake in the chemical company. And adding on a big petrochemical business might reduce the overall profitability of Aramco, which is believed to enjoy among the world’s lowest costs for extracting the oil it produces.

In any case, any eventual listing of Saudi Aramco shares will now have to wait until the Sabic acquisition is completed.

But the decision to pause planning for a public offering of Saudi Aramco — and the pivot toward the transaction with Sabic — prompted some analysts to suggest that a public listing may be doomed.

Jim Krane, an energy expert at Rice University, said he still suspected Prince Mohammed “dreams of a diversified Saudi economy.”

“Aramco is still likely to play a big role in this goal, but Aramco might not do this through an I.P.O.,” he said. “There are certainly other ways to raise capital.”

Stanley Reed contributed reporting.

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State of the Art: Can Facebook, or Anybody, Solve the Internet’s Misinformation Problem?

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“The work you see now from Facebook, Microsoft and others to be more proactive is a trend that is positive — it’s part of the solution, and I would want to see that trend continue,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank that has been working with Facebook on election-security issues.

But Mr. Brookie added: “Is this a solution? No, definitely not.”

A solution, he said, would involve a society-wide reckoning with the problem of the vulnerabilities that the internet has uncovered in democratic society. A solution would involve the federal government taking the lead in such an effort, which is not really happening at the moment. A solution would also involve citizens becoming far more vigilant about what they see online, how they respond to it, and the effect it has on their political lives.

And even with all that, we may not really get an actual solution. Instead, the best we might hope for is something like an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between good and bad actors online: a fight that never ends, but whose damage we can at least hope to reduce.

That’s the long game. The short game is rather more depressing.

Consider the most pressing question: How confident should you be that the coming midterm elections will be safe from hacking and propaganda operations online? The most likely answer: Nobody knows for sure, but probably not very confident.

Facebook and other tech companies are stepping up their efforts to police their sites before the midterms. But some of the threats they have spotted so far have little to do with the election. The Iranian operation, for example, has been going on for years, and to judge by some of the content posted by these Facebook pages, was not aimed squarely at American elections, but instead American policy.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Zuckerberg argued that Facebook has been making progress on keeping elections safe, having learned from several races around the world since 2016.

“There was the French election, the German election, the Alabama special election, the Mexican election — and in each of these elections, our systems have been able to find a lot of fake accounts that were attempting potentially to do bad things on the system,” he said.

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Blame Trump’s Tariffs and the Weather. New York’s Farmers Do.

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PENN YAN, N.Y. — For the first three weeks of July, Peter Martens prayed for rain. At the end of the month the rain finally arrived, but by then it was too late for some of his crops. For others, it was too much water, too quickly.

The lack of rain, Mr. Martens said, will reduce his corn yield by about 20 percent, but the late-summer deluges damaged the quality of his spelt, a type of wheat.

New York’s extreme weather this summer, which began with a drought followed by flash flooding, has been enough to make it a difficult season for the state’s farmers.

But farmers say President Trump’s trade war and his administration’s crackdown on immigration have made a bad summer far worse.

Red numbers are filling farmers’ balance sheets: Mr. Martens’s butternut squash is covered in weeds because he did not have enough workers, at the right time, to hoe the field and now his yield will be far less than he expected. He is also nervous about selling his red kidney beans because higher tariffs abroad threaten to drive down the price as international markets disappear.

“There was always something that did well,” Mr. Martens said about the variety of crops on his farm in Penn Yan, N.Y. “Now if nothing does well, what do you do?”

Farmers across the country are asking the same question, as they endure economic losses because of Mr. Trump’s trade policies. Initial estimates point to a roughly $3 billion loss in value for soybean and corn crops across the country since May, according to a report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The National Milk Producers Federation estimates that the tariffs will cost American dairy farmers $1.8 billion.

In New York, the combination of the administration’s policies and the weather is threatening to decimate the state’s $37 billion agriculture and food-processing industry.

“I’ve never had them all at one time,” said Dale Stein, a dairy farmer in Le Roy, N.Y.

“You’ll deal with a drought here. You’ll deal with a bad price year. You deal with a major labor issue,” he said. “But they’re all this year. It’s a compounded problem this year, and I think it’s got an awful lot of farmers saying ‘I’m done.’”

Pat McCormick, a seventh-generation dairy farmer in Java Center, N.Y., said that for the first time his family has discussed the possibility of selling the farm.

“We love working with the cows,” he said. “We love working in the field. But just with the way the financial picture is, do we really want to keep struggling like we are?”

One indicator of the crisis in New York is an increase in the number of farms on the market. Tom Hosking, who runs an agriculture auction service, said in a busy year he might help sell five farms in New York. This year he has already sold 20.

A Season of Extremes

Mr. Stein usually has to strain his neck to see the top of the stalks of corn that typically reach 12 feet. This year he is almost at eye level with the six-foot stalks. The drought deprived the crop of water, stunting its growth and reducing his yield of corn to feed his nearly 2,000 cows. As a result, Mr. Stein estimated he will spend between $15,000 and $20,000 a month to feed them — until next year’s harvest.

Arthur T. DeGaetano, an earth science professor at Cornell University who is also the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center, points to the changing climate to explain the more unpredictable weather that New York has been seeing recently: this year, a dry July followed by flooding in August.

“You don’t have these years where you can kick back and do what you normally do,” Professor DeGaetano said. “You have to worry about bringing water in. You have to worry about irrigating your crop. You have to worry about whether you can get into the field early enough to plant corn because it may be too wet to get equipment in there.”

For Dale Mattoon, the owner of Pine Hollow Dairy in Locke, N.Y., the extreme weather also tightens his farming schedule.

“It changes the way you go about your work because the weather windows are smaller, so you have to get more done in less time,” he said.

As a result, Mr. Mattoon said he has had to buy larger equipment that can do the work faster and more efficiently, purchases that strained the already-tight finances of a farm that has not made a profit selling dairy for the past three years.

‘Everything Collapsed’

In June, Ron Robbins, who owns North Harbor Dairy in Sackets Harbor, N.Y., finally saw a reason to be optimistic. After three years of low prices for his four main commodities — milk, soybeans, wheat and corn — the pricing forecasts for this season were positive.

“I was looking at being able to secure some prices that were finally going to put us at profitable levels,” he said.

Then the tariffs hit.

“So everything collapsed,” he said.

Mr. Robbins said he is losing more than $50,000 a month on milk production: It costs him $16.50 to produce 100 pounds of milk, but the price he got in July for three million pounds of milk was $14.78 per 100 pounds. He also expects a significantly lower profit on his soybeans.

As countries have levied retaliatory tariffs in response to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, American goods have become more difficult to sell in foreign markets, said Jennifer Ifft, an agricultural economist at Cornell University. Canada and Mexico are the biggest markets for the American dairy industry and both countries have raised tariffs on dairy products. Most soybeans are exported to China, which imposed a 25 percent tariff on the commodity that took effect in July.

“In most cases, a good share of growth in these markets has been through exports markets,” Ms. Ifft said.

“It’s just a very low margin environment right now, which is sort of normal for agriculture,” she added. “But when there are these repeated shocks, that’s when it gets hard for people.”

The Trump administration has tried to cushion the impact on farmers by announcing plans to extend up to $12 billion in aid to those hurt by the tariffs. The Department of Agriculture is expected to provide details of the plan, which would provide payments to support prices of commodities like soybeans, cotton and corn, as early as Friday.

But New York farmers are skeptical of the aid package.

“It’s offering a Band-Aid to buy some votes,” said Craig Yunker, who owns CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. “I think it’s thrown out there to try to mollify the farm belt ahead of the midterms.”

The steep losses have placed such an enormous strain that some farmers believe it has played a role in a rash of suicides on dairy farms in the state.

Mr. Stein, who is losing roughly $55,000 a month because of low dairy prices and a lackluster growing season, sold 23 extra cows in July to pay his bills.

“We’re scrambling to break even and that’s the issue,” he said.

A Shortage of Workers

Mr. Yunker planned to get a head start on growing onions this year so he sent his seeds to Arizona to start germinating. He would have had them back by April to plant but he canceled his order. He knew he was not going to have enough workers to tend to the labor-intensive crop.

“The labor market is very tight,” he said. “It’s hard to find qualified employees. The local papers are full of ads.”

Dairy farmers, in particular, require year-round workers to milk cows, but there are no visa programs for migrant dairy workers. As a result, experts estimate that undocumented immigrants make up a significant percentage of the labor force on New York dairy farms. But the Trump administration’s strict immigration measures are making it more difficult to fill job openings.

“That flow has really, really diminished since the new administration and the increased border security that has taken place,” said Richard E. Stup, an agricultural work force specialist at Cornell University.

A strong economy, both nationally and statewide, has also made it more challenging to find farm workers.

“There’s lots of jobs in the town nearby or other businesses nearby that’s just going to be very attractive for them to go somewhere else and not work on farms,” Mr. Stup said.

Mike McMahon, the owner of E-Z Acres dairy farm in Homer, N.Y., said that one of his most trusted employees who oversees the hospital and maternity barn recently told him that he was leaving to take a construction job that pays $20 an hour, $7 more than he makes on the farm.

“This business doesn’t pay,” Mr. McMahon said. “You don’t make that kind of money in this business.”

‘They Don’t Want It This Hard’

With a diversified business that includes interactive farm tours and a trucking business that transports agricultural products throughout the region, Mr. Robbins said he was confident that he would be able to ride out the difficult season. Still, he worries about the future of farming in the state.

“We are vulnerable for corporate takeover,” he said. “Farmers like ourselves could just become servants to those corporations.”

Nearly all of the 35,500 farms operating in New York are family-owned. From 2012 to 2017, about 17 percent of the state’s dairy farms closed, leaving 4,490 as of last year, according to the New York Farm Bureau.

Jeff Williams, the public policy director for the New York Farm Bureau, said farmers are dealing with the worst economic crisis he has witnessed in his roughly 20 years of working for the bureau, which lobbies on behalf of the state’s agriculture industry.

“It could be a watershed moment in New York,” Mr. Williams said.

Richard A. Ball, the state’s agriculture commissioner, was more optimistic, pointing to New York’s natural resources, including rich soil and an abundant supply of water. He also said some fruit crops, such as apples, had productive growing seasons.

“We have a dangerous situation, but there’s also an opportunity to rethink things and maybe realign ourselves and find ourselves in a good place long term,” Mr. Ball said.

But Mr. Stein, the dairy farmer in Le Roy, said this summer’s stresses have taken a toll on his children, who are taking over the family farm.

“I’m getting close to retirement and they’re just getting started,” Mr. Stein, 64, said. “It’s discouraging to them that the combination of everything is so bad. They’re worried about the long-term effects. They don’t want it this hard every year. It’s just not going to be worth doing.”

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Europe Worries as Facebook Fights Manipulation Worldwide

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LONDON — The picture was just like many of the other Facebook posts criticizing Britain’s decision to leave the European Union: a fake commemorative stamp showing a person preparing to shoot himself in the foot.

But on Tuesday, Facebook revealed that the unremarkable post was anything but. It originated from an Iranian-backed group aimed at Britain, in what the company said was the first known instance of a foreign influence campaign aimed at people outside the United States.

Facebook has spent the past two years trying to block foreign propaganda in the United States. But its disclosure of hundreds of fake accounts and pages, including the one tied to the Iranian-backed group, revealed that the foreign manipulation of elections through Facebook extends across the globe. Tactics used by Russia-linked groups ahead of the 2016 presidential election are being applied in Britain, the Middle East and Latin America.

Europe, where Facebook has more users than in the United States, is particularly worried. The company’s announcement exacerbated concerns that the region will be a regular target of foreign propaganda efforts — including ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections, which will help set the policy direction in Brussels for the next five years.

The discovery immediately added momentum in Europe to pass new laws to clamp down on social media platforms, including rules to remove terrorist content and to restrict how voters are targeted with political messages online. Vera Jourova, a European commissioner who has been involved in writing new election regulations for the entire region, said, “We need to do more to protect our elections and tackle the online challenges to elections head on.”

In a statement, Ms. Jourova promised election rules would be introduced in the next few months, ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.

“Facebook can be used for evil, that’s a fact,” said Claude Moraes, a British member of the European Parliament who leads a panel that has been investigating Facebook’s role in elections. “Facebook can be used to manipulate elections, that’s a fact.”

Russia has long viewed the European Union as an adversary, and influencing the parliamentary campaigns is a way to diminish its clout, said Mr. Moraes, who organized a recent series of hearings that featured testimony from Facebook executives.

“I have no doubt that Facebook will be a critical component” of Russia’s efforts to undermine the European Union, he said.

Facebook said on Tuesday it had removed the 652 fake accounts, pages and groups. The posts from those accounts played up emotional political issues, including immigration, the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Facebook shared only a limited number of examples of suspended posts, many of which were the kinds of internet memes that are common in newsfeeds on the platform, using humor to play on controversial political topics.

But unlike those targeted at Americans, the posts made public on Tuesday have a more international bent, including some written in Arabic and Farsi. And in identifying Iran for the first time, Facebook acknowledged that countries other than Russia, which the company said was also behind some of the newly uncovered accounts, are now trying to manipulate its platform to intensify political divisions abroad.

“The real concern here is this new evidence suggests that other regimes are learning from what Russia achieved,” said Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University studying the use of social media to spread misinformation. “The Iranian government saw what impact Russia had with its communications campaign and they are sinking resources into this as well.”

Over all, the posts show an attempt to exacerbate divisions that already exist. One featured a cartoon supporting Boris Johnson, a former member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, to replace her as prime minister, while another backed Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party. (A spokesman for Mr. Corbyn declined to comment.)

While the reaction in Britain was immediate and vocal, officials in the Middle East and Latin America, where similar propaganda efforts were made, were initially silent.

In the Middle East, Facebook is a key source of news and is frequently used as a platform for political discussions, but citizens are also more accustomed to navigating state-backed propaganda, potentially muting the impact of information campaigns in the region.

Facebook’s announcement made few waves in Israel or the Palestinian territories, where the social media system is already filled with nationalistic and political messaging. Some even downplayed the significance of the company’s moves, describing it as possibly part of an in-house public relations exercise.

“Facebook removes suspicious accounts all the time,” said Gabi Siboni, director of the cyber security program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. He said Facebook was playing a “game of cat and mouse.” As the company changes its policies, or adjusts its algorithm, outside groups adapt.

Many of the posts deleted by Facebook supported pro-Iran causes, or attacked Israel and promoted the Palestinian territories. Others included language critical of President Trump.

David Balson, a former official at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the country’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, said Facebook’s global platform made it an enticing place for government-backed groups to influence public debate. In effect, it offered a cheap and fast way to spread a message.

“In the Cold War, you needed to set up radio stations or print newspapers,” said Mr. Balson, who is now director of intelligence at Ripjar, a data analytics company. “Now all you need is a laptop and a credit card.”

He said Facebook had to find more sustainable solutions to fighting misinformation than suspending accounts, and argued that many groups would continue their work, but under new names. Each new disclosure, Mr. Balson said, made him wonder what other campaigns were being waged on the social network.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there,” he said.

Follow Adam Satariano on Twitter: @satariano.

Reporting was contributed by Irit Pazner Garshowitz in Jerusalem, Isabel Kershner in Tel Aviv, and Margaret Coker in Dubai.

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Immunotherapy Drugs Slow Skin Cancer That Has Spread to the Brain

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A new study offers a glint of hope to people in a desperate situation: Patients with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, that has spread to the brain.

A combination of two drugs that activate the immune system shrank brain tumors in many melanoma patients and prolonged life in a study of 94 people at 28 medical centers in the United States. The drugs were ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo), and they belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors.

Melanoma is more likely than most cancers to spread to the brain, and once it gets there, fewer than 20 percent of patients survive one year with traditional treatments, according to Dr. Hussein A. Tawbi, the first author of the study and an associate professor of melanoma medical oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

But in the study, 82 percent were still alive after a year.

“This is great news,” Dr. Tawbi said. “We can help a lot more melanoma patients, and hopefully we’ll be able to help a lot more patients in general with these results.”

About 91,270 new cases of melanoma are expected in the United States this year, along with 9,320 deaths from the disease.

Treating cancer that has spread to the brain is a new frontier for the type of drugs used in the study.

Checkpoint inhibitors enable the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, a treatment strategy called immunotherapy. They have led to long remissions from deadly forms of the disease, including melanoma and tumors in the lungs and kidneys. The drugs do not help everyone, but when they work the results can be remarkable.

The new findings should change the standard of care, Dr. Tawbi said: Melanoma patients like those in the study should be offered the drug combination as part of their initial treatment.

He said the drugs should also be tested in people with other types of cancer that have spread to the brain. He estimated that 200,000 people a year in the United States have brain tumors resulting from cancers in other parts of the body.

He emphasized that radiation would still be an important part of treatment for many of these patients.

The results do not apply to people with tumors that originate in the brain, like glioblastoma, the type of brain cancer that Senator John McCain is being treated for. So far, the kind of immunotherapy used in the study has not worked for such tumors, Dr. Tawbi said, but studies of drug combinations are underway to try to help those patients.

The study and an editorial about it were published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The editorial, by doctors in Britain who agreed with Dr. Tawbi’s recommendations, cautioned that the findings did not apply to all melanoma patients, only to those exactly like the ones in the study. Those patients had one or more brain tumors, detected by scans, that were not causing symptoms.

The drugs, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, are expensive, costing more than $100,000 a year. The company paid for the trial, and helped to design it and to collect and analyze the data. The company also paid for medical writing and editorial assistance in preparing the article for the journal.

The National Cancer Institute also helped pay for the study.

Dr. Jedd Wolchok, a melanoma expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said the findings had already been presented at a major cancer conference. “From the boots-on-the-ground point of view, this has changed the way I practice,” he said.

The study, Dr. Wolchok said, made it clear that immunotherapy that was working to treat melanoma in other parts of the body could also control disease that scans had picked up in the brain.

He said brain tumors in one of his patients had disappeared with the treatment. And he agreed that immunotherapy should also be tested in patients with some other types of cancer that had spread to the brain.

Image
Former President Jimmy Carter received a checkpoint inhibitor in 2015 when melanoma had spread to his brain and liver. His last scan, in June, showed no cancer, an aide said.CreditDustin Chambers for The New York Times

“The survival outcomes are very encouraging,” he said.

Dr. Wolchok’s hospital participated in the study, but he was not involved in it.

Until recently, patients with cancer that had spread to the brain were considered such hopeless cases that they were excluded from most clinical trials of new cancer drugs. They generally survived only weeks to months.

Radiation and surgery helped a bit, but the brain tumors generally came back. Patients deteriorated rapidly, and developed trouble thinking and moving around.

“The usual response from the oncologist and even the patient is nihilism,” Dr. Tawbi said.

Immunotherapy caused excitement in 2015 when former President Jimmy Carter said he had received it after melanoma had spread to his liver and brain. He underwent radiation treatment as well.

His most recent scan, in June, showed no cancer, his press secretary, Deanna Congileo, said in an email. Mr. Carter received pembrolizumab (brand name Keytruda), a checkpoint inhibitor that was not used in the new study.

The drugs have side effects that can be serious and even life-threatening. A little more than half of the patients in the study had significant side effects, and 20 percent quit treatment because of them.

Some suffered from headaches, two had brain swelling, and one died from heart inflammation thought to be caused by the treatment.

Most melanoma cases can be cured with surgery if found early. But 10 percent to 15 percent of new cases are advanced when diagnosed, meaning that the disease has already spread to another organ, like the lungs or liver. Of the advanced cases, more than a third also have tumors that have spread to the brain, and up to 75 percent of these patients have brain malignancies when they die.

Until recently, patients with cancer that had spread to the brain were left out of treatment studies, partly because few cancer drugs can get into the brain, which is protected by blood vessels lined with tightly packed cells that keep out many molecules.

Even though immunotherapy and other new treatments that target certain mutations have greatly improved survival in melanoma patients, patients whose disease had reached the brain were still excluded from those studies.

But checkpoint inhibitors work by enabling T-cells — a type of white blood cell — to attack cancer. And T-cells do get into the brain.

Dr. Tawbi’s study enrolled melanoma patients from February 2015 through June 2017. At first, only patients whose brain tumors did not cause neurologic symptoms were accepted.

Most had one or two brain tumors; 22 percent had three or more. Some had already been treated with other cancer drugs, and some had already had radiation for other brain tumors.

Partway through the study, patients with neurologic symptoms also were admitted to the study, but results on them are not yet available.

The study called for the patients to receive the drug combination at three-week intervals, four doses in all, and then to receive nivolumab alone every two weeks for a maximum of 24 months, or until the disease progressed, they had intolerable side effects, or they chose to quit.

About a third received all four combination doses, and 59 percent got nivolumab. The median number of nivolumab doses was 15. The overall median duration of treatment was 3.4 months.

With a median follow-up of 14 months, 57 percent of the patients were helped by the treatment: brain tumors disappeared in 26 percent and shrank in 30 percent. In another 2 percent, the tumors remained stable for at least six months.

In 56 percent, the treatment also worked against melanoma growths in other parts of the body. The estimated survival at one year was 81.5 percent.

Dr. Tawbi said the researchers now hope to determine the best way to use immunotherapy with radiation. “Instead of 57 or 58 percent, our goal is to reach 100 percent,” he said.

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5 Steps to Take if the Bull Market Run Has You Thinking of Unloading Stocks

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It may be time for a gut check.

On Wednesday, the decade-long bull market that keeps rolling became, by one measure, the longest such run in United States history.

For many investors, that raises a reasonable question: Should I be taking some money off the table?

The answer is the same as it always has been: If you have a well-constructed financial strategy, and your personal circumstances haven’t really changed since you put it in place, there is probably no reason to do anything at all.

If, however, you think you will be tempted to unload a chunk of your stocks should the market tumble sharply, then a new plan or tweaks to the one you already have could make sense.

“Many people feel that they only have two options: Invest or not invest,” said Nicholas Scheibner, a financial planner with Baron Financial Group. “However, you have a third option — adjust.”

There are some glaringly obvious facts that bear repeating. Your investment portfolio is not the stock market — at least it shouldn’t be, unless you’re 22, just starting out and have only 10 percent of your money allocated to a more stable investment category like bond funds. If the market plunges, your portfolio, if spread across a diversified mix of stocks and bonds, should not necessarily drop in tandem.

During its last big downturn, in 2008 and 2009, the stock market plummeted roughly 50 percent. An investment portfolio evenly divided between stocks and bonds would have lost nearly 29 percent of its value in that time, but it would have taken only about a year to recover, according to an analysis by Vanguard. A portfolio that was 100 percent stocks — and lost about 55 percent — would have taken about three years to recoup its losses.

Still, even the most rational investors among us — particularly those who need to tap into their portfolio within the next few years, for college tuition, buying a home or retirement — may feel a need to satisfy that itch to do something now that the market has reached such a lofty level.

But what? Here are five ideas:

Take the stomach-acid test

Your tolerance for risky investments, including stocks, should be built into your overall approach from the start. But circumstances and needs can shift over time. So it’s worth considering whether your tolerance has changed, not with respect to the perceived level of the market itself, but in terms of what sort of drop you could tolerate, regardless of current market conditions. How did you feel during the market plunge 10 years ago? How did you react?

“If a 30 percent drop in the stock market would cause a loss in a portfolio that the investor knows they cannot stomach, they have too much exposure to stocks,” said Doug Bellfy, a financial planner in South Glastonbury, Conn. “But this test is valid, regardless of where the experts think the market is at any given time or guess it will be in the near future — and it is a guess.”

Consider how much risk your plans require

Responsible financial advisers have a mantra: Don’t take on more risk than is necessary to reach your goals, whether it’s the amount of money you think you need for retirement or for your child’s tuition.

“For many who have invested wisely over the last 10 year bull market, they no longer need to be heavily invested in stocks,” said James Sweeney, a financial planner in Lehi, Utah. “Their portfolio has grown to the point that they can reduce the risk and still meet their retirement goals.”

That might mean slightly scaling back the slice of a portfolio allocated to stocks based on individual circumstances. The percentage won’t be the same for everyone, and it’s a delicate balance: You don’t, for example, want to become invested too conservatively as you approach retirement; your portfolio might need to last three decades or more. That means you’ll need enough stocks to help your money grow and keep pace with inflation.

Move to cash as needed

If you have an imminent need for cash but your money is tied up in stocks, now might be a good time to shift into something conservative, particularly if the need is likely to arise in five years or less. If you expect to buy a home in that time, you’ll need all that money at once. If you’re paying a tuition bill, you’ll probably only need a quarter of your savings a year over four years.

“The more concentrated the outflow, the more important it is not to have your money at risk to satisfy near-term goals,” Mr. Bellfy said.

Retirees and people on the cusp of retirement have the most to lose if the markets come tumbling down. In such circumstances, keeping a year’s worth of basic living expenses in cash may be helpful as a long-term strategy. It can keep retirees from locking in losses by having to sell investments when they are down.

Alex Doll, president of Anfield Wealth Management, said he suggests that retirees determine how much they need to cover expenses for the next six to nine months, and how much would come from their portfolio to augment other income, like Social Security or a pension. This usually amounts to about 2 percent of a portfolio, which Mr. Doll said is generally not enough to derail a larger retirement strategy.

“This helps clients mentally as they know that their spending for the next six to nine months is safe in cash no matter what happens to the market,” he said.

Protect the gains you’ve already made

If a financial professional or an automatic service isn’t already performing regular maintenance on your portfolio, now may be a good time to do it yourself. As markets rise and fall, the mix of investments you originally put into place can take a different shape. A portfolio that was supposed to be composed of 50 percent stocks may now have 55 percent.

To protect your gains, investors should consider selling investments that have ballooned beyond their initial target and reinvest the proceeds into the side of the portfolio that has shrunk, relatively speaking. Rebalancing is counterintuitive — selling winners, buying losers — but it helps rein in the amount of risk you are taking on.

Control what you can

Since most of us aren’t in a position to determine precisely when the mood of the markets will shift, it pays to focus on the things we can control: how much we spend, how much we save and what we pay for our investments, which is easier than ever to do.

“There’s a lot to be said for doing a ‘financial checkup,’” said Milo Benningfield, a financial planner in San Francisco, “both to uncover financial gaps and to rest easier knowing you’ve addressed everything in your control.”

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‘The Big Bang Theory,’ a Durable Hit for CBS, Will End in 2019

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“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS’s enormously successful sitcom, will finish its 12-season run in May, Warner Bros. announced on Wednesday.

The series will clock in at 279 episodes, a total that Warner Bros., which produces the show, said would make it the longest-running multicamera comedy in TV history. “Cheers” had 275 episodes when it ended its storied run on NBC in 1993.

The sitcom, created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and starring Jim Parsons as one of the socially awkward scientists navigating life at a university, debuted in September 2007. Consistently one of the most watched television shows, it has been nominated for 52 Emmy Awards, winning 10. Mr. Parsons, who plays Sheldon Cooper, a brilliant, abrasive and hopelessly dorky physicist, has won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy four times.

The loss of “The Big Bang Theory” will be a major blow to CBS. The show has long been an anchor for the network and is, by far, its highest-rated series in the prized 18-to-49-year-old demographic. With the network’s chief executive, Leslie Moonves, under an internal investigation for past workplace misconduct, the loss of a reliable viewer favorite will only add to the air of uncertainty at the network.

“‘The Big Bang Theory’ has been the defining comedy of its generation,” Kelly Kahl, the president of CBS Entertainment, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In the most recent TV season, the series was the No. 3-rated entertainment network show among adults under 50, behind only “This Is Us” and “Roseanne.”

The end-of-an-era feeling may be even more pronounced once “The Big Bang Theory” signs off. In recent years, few comedies have had the kind of blockbuster ratings success that the show has enjoyed, and many TV executives wonder if any show can ever come close to those heights again.

Newer comedy hits like FX’s “Atlanta” or NBC’s “The Good Place,” while critically lauded and loved by their viewers, draw a fraction of the audience of “The Big Bang Theory.” Last season, “The Big Bang Theory” averaged nearly 15 million viewers a week, compared with the 5.7 million who watched “The Good Place,” according to Nielsen’s delayed-viewing data.

CBS does air a successful spinoff, “Young Sheldon,” about a younger version of the character played by Mr. Parsons growing up in East Texas in the 1980s. “Young Sheldon” rated among the top 10 entertainment shows this season and drew more than 13 million viewers an episode, according to Nielsen’s delayed-viewing data.

But the end of “The Big Bang Theory” has been coming for some time. Shortly before “Young Sheldon” debuted last year, Mr. Parsons — who provides voice-over narration in the spinoff — said he was hopeful that the show would do well so he could keep Sheldon Cooper in his life.

“I know how hard it will be to end this job of playing this character, and this is going to be a nice way for me to deal with it,” Mr. Parsons told The New York Times last year. “Hopefully it won’t feel as much deathlike when that day comes.”

The final season of “The Big Bang Theory” will begin on Sept. 24, a Monday. The show will then take over its regular 8 p.m. slot on Thursdays.

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Even the Second Time Around, They’re Gaga for Gucci

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What’s moving in the secondhand luxury market? Gucci and fanny packs for men, says the consignment empire the RealReal.

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Gucci tops the list of searched-for brands at the RealReal. Here, looks from the spring 2018 show in Milan.CreditValerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Orso and Bosco are Boston terriers, a breed of dogs that generally weigh no more than 25 pounds. But Orso and Bosco, whose owner is Alessandro Michele, the bearded, oracular savant of a creative director at Gucci, may as well be juggernauts.

Their likenesses are stitched into Gucci garments — along with a menagerie of bees, ghosts and gnomic sentiments about blindness and love — and Gucci garments, according to a report issued this week by the RealReal, the online luxury consignment giant, is selling, selling, selling.

The RealReal is based in San Francisco, with bricks-and-mortar shops in New York and Los Angeles. It has authenticators and experts who accept consignments of luxury items (fashion, accessories, jewelry, home goods and art) and then offer them on its well-stocked website and in its stores. The company authenticates consignments, sets prices and handles photography and shipping; consignors receive a percentage of the sale.

The RealReal has moved millions of products, it says, so it has sizable data on what customers are searching and shopping for. Its top brands are not what you would call attainable for large swaths of the shopping population (even at secondhand discounts), but in the hush-hush world of luxury goods, tracking changes in search and spending habits is as reliable an indicator as any of the quicksilver fluctuations of heat and buzz.

The top 10 fashion brands being searched so far this year, according to the RealReal’s State of Luxury Resale report for midyear 2018, are many of the ones you would guess.

But even the mighty can fall. The most searched brand on the site is now Gucci, ousting Chanel from its top spot last year. (Louis Vuitton is the second-most searched; Christian Louboutin and Hermès round out the top five.)

Chanel can say this, at least: In terms of sales and consignments, it retains its top spot as the No. 1 brand for users identified as millennial women, a sought-after audience. But Gucci sales increased the most, up 62 percent across all age groups.

For millennial men, Rolex was the most purchased brand, followed by Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Hermès.

Supreme, the New York skate brand whose weekly product “drops” can occasion lines and immediate sellouts, and feed a flourishing resale market, appears to be moving more in one direction than the other. It is the No. 6 brand consigned by millennial men but did not crack the top 10 brands bought by millennial men.

Those millennial male eyes may be trained on loftier pursuits: Searches are up across the board for Hawaiian shirts (up 84 percent); “dad hats,” in which, to be fair, Supreme traffics (67 percent); and fanny packs (614 percent).

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Books of The Times: How the ‘Temp’ Economy Became the New Normal

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But then those permanent, full-time employees were expensive, and temps were comparatively cheap. There could be beauty in their contingency; you didn’t have to pay them benefits or overtime, and their numbers could be quietly shed in a downturn without announcing embarrassing layoffs. Eventually, “rather than protecting the core workers, Manpower enabled them to be fired.”

Hyman dates the beginning of this shift to the late 1960s, a time of stagnating profits. Cutting costs was easier than increasing revenues, and executives chose accordingly. Outsourcing certain functions to temporary or contract workers is now so commonplace it almost seems like part of the natural order, but back then, Hyman says, it was strange enough that it had to be learned.

For skittish executives, McKinsey consultants were there to help. Not only could consultants shoulder the blame when a corporation announced plans to restructure, but they also brought with them a worldview shaped by their own experiences as McKinsey “associates,” subject to the up-or-out policy of an “unforgiving meritocracy.”

As a former McKinsey consultant himself, Hyman likens associates to highly paid temps. They were indoctrinated to believe that “insecurity” was a goad for “excellence.” “A brutal lifestyle became a filter for becoming a successful consultant,” he writes, recalling colleagues who sacrificed their marriages and family lives in the process. “The people who reorganized corporations, by this filter, had little respect for stability.”

“Temp” also includes sections about American immigration law, towel-folding robots and undocumented women in Silicon Valley assembling circuitboards with their fingernails. Hyman is a lucid stylist who usually manages to write his way through the deluge, but sometimes the information can feel like too much all at once.

His ending, about the gig economy, is weirdly upbeat. He believes that it’s still possible for work to be rewarding — maybe even more possible, now that apps and online platforms offer the promise of cutting out corporate bosses and rent-seeking middlemen (leaving in place a few rent-seeking technocapitalist billionaires, of course). Individuals can sell their labor directly to one another. The only thing we need to do is to offer them the support they need — he cites health insurance and a basic income — because “a minimum safety net enables maximum risk taking.”

This sounds pretty fanciful, coming precisely at a time when Republicans in Congress seem determined to cut whatever threads of the safety net are left. I prefer Hyman when he gets out of wonk-mode and tells us what is really at stake: “The point is not to be better robots than robots, but to have more human work than our ancestors — creative, caring, curious.” This might sound fanciful too, but at least it’s an attempt to understand what work is and what it can be. Here, finally, is a book that encourages us to imagine a future that is inclusive and humane rather than sentimentalize a past that never truly was.

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Fed Minutes Suggest No Pause in Rate Hikes

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Federal Reserve officials are poised to ignore President Trump’s call for them to stop raising interest rates and plan to continue their gradual pace of increases unless Mr. Trump’s trade policies scramble their plans, according to minutes from the most recent Fed meeting.

The minutes, released on Wednesday, also reveal that Fed officials are wary of tariffs hurting the current economic recovery but are waiting to see evidence of widespread damage in economic data. In a more telling sign, Fed officials are increasingly worried that trouble is brewing in the home construction market.

Many officials also hint in the minutes that they are preparing to remove a hallmark phrase of the last decade in Fed support for the economy — “the stance of monetary policy remains accommodative” — from future Fed statements, as rates continue to rise toward a more historically normal level.

Federal Open Market Committee officials left rates unchanged after the meeting that ended Aug. 1 and laid the groundwork in their post-meeting statement to raise rates in September, for the third time this year. Since mid-July, Mr. Trump has used interviews and Twitter to pressure the Fed and its chairman, Jerome H. Powell, to pause the pace of increases, which have left the Fed’s target interest rate between 1.75 percent and 2 percent.

Minutes from the meeting revealed no willingness among Fed officials to grant Mr. Trump’s request. Officials “indicated that information gathered since the Committee met in June had not significantly altered their outlook for the U.S. economy,” the minutes reported. “Many participants suggested that if incoming data continued to support their current economic outlook, it would likely soon be appropriate to take another step in removing policy accommodation.”

That’s Fed-speak for “raise interest rates again” — and the minutes note that investors are overwhelmingly convinced another rate hike is coming next month.

While the economic recovery is strong, the Fed minutes show that officials are cognizant of the disparity between slow growth in nominal wages and the strength of the labor market, but they remain largely convinced those gains are about to accelerate.

Officials were united in their concerns over the potential of Mr. Trump’s trade policies, including tariffs levied on steel and aluminum from countries such as Japan, Mexico and Canada, and additional tariffs on other imported goods from China, to crimp economic growth.

“All participants pointed to ongoing trade disagreements and proposed trade measures as an important source of uncertainty and risk,” the minutes reported. A prolonged trade dispute, officials said, would likely bring “adverse effects on business sentiment, investment spending and employment. Moreover, wide-ranging tariff increases would also reduce the purchasing power of U.S. households,” while disrupting supply chains and reducing productivity.

But the officials noted that while companies are complaining about tariffs affecting them, “most businesses concerned about trade disputes had not yet cut back their capital expenditures or hiring but might do so if trade tensions were not resolved soon.”

Other than trade, officials’ largest worry about the economy wasn’t inflation but residential construction. Several officials noted that new home building has slowed, possibly reflecting “declining home affordability, higher mortgage rates, scarcity of available lots in certain cities and delays in building approvals.” Some of their business contacts, officials said, had also complained of labor shortages in the construction sector — and of tariff increases pushing up their cost of materials.

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