business news in context, analysis with attitude

Not sure if this is global warming, but there are signs that the end of the world may be at hand.

I spent yesterday in Portland, Oregon, where the weather was sunny and in the eighties. Today, I'm in Seattle, and the temperatures are expected to hit 90, and the sun to shine brightly in the Pacific Northwest sky. (On the news last night, amazingly, there was a story about all the people worried about the negative impact of such a gorgeous day.)

Back home in Connecticut, the weather has been generally lousy. I just checked the weather report, and for the next four of five days it is supposed to rain pretty consistently and never get out of the sixties. In other words, we're going to have Seattle weather.

Just another reason, I think, to move MorningNewsBeat World Headquarters to the Pacific Northwest, which I've always thought of as God's Country. It is just spectacular here, and I fall more in love with the region every time I visit.

There was a story recently on MNB about how Hannaford Bros. was saving money by shipping employees getting certain kinds of surgeries to Singapore, where the procedures could be done effectively at a fraction of the cost. Nobody was being forced to go; it was just an option being offered by the retailer, which like every other business is looking to save money on health care costs.

Well, in this context it was fascinating for me to read a piece in the May 2008 Fast Company that looked at how hospitals in Bangkok have developed an international reputation for excellence and high levels of patient care, and have become a destination for Americans "fleeing a system that is by far the most expensive in the world and growing more so by the hour, with diminishing returns in quality of care."

Fascinating piece, and I suggest you pick it up. At the very least, it suggests some of the possibilities that may exist out there, and of a different way of looking at the system.

While in Portland, I found myself sitting at the bar of a brand new brewpub (funny how this stuff just happens to me) called Deschutes. The company has been around for about 20 years, but this is a brand new location for them, and it is a wonderful place – big and open and with enormous glass walls that connect it with the surrounding community in the Pearl District. The beer and food are terrific – I had pulled pork sandwich for dinner washed down by a couple of a Cider Cone Red Ales, which had a rich, malty taste.

Great pub. If you're in Portland, I highly recommend it.

Reuter Health has an interesting story, saying that "a drink or two a day may make for stronger bones … but more than two drinks each day appears to increase the fracture risk." And the story said, "People who had one half to one drink daily had a significantly lower risk of hip fractures than abstainers, but people who consumed more than a couple of drinks daily were 39 percent more likely to fracture a hip than were the abstainers, the researchers found.

"They also found that compared with abstainers, moderate drinkers appeared to have a higher bone density, and that this relationship was linear. However, there was not enough evidence to determine the impact of alcohol on bone density in moderate drinkers compared with heavy drinkers."

However, buried down in the story is the following information. It isn’t just that too much alcohol may weaken the bones. It also is that too much alcohol makes you fall down more, which quite naturally makes you more susceptible to fractures.

And they needed how many scientists and researchers to come to this conclusion?

I did something last weekend that I don't often do. I went to a "comic book movie." Most of the time I avoid these because I'm just getting too old for them, but "Ironman" got such positive reviews that I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I can report that while it does not reach the sustained excellence of "Batman Begins," it is pretty good, sustained by terrific performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges, who invest a level of belief in their characters that is unusual for such flicks. It sort of falls apart at the end, but in general it is worth seeing.

And if you like "comic book movies," it'll sustain you until "The Dark Knight," the newest Batman movie, opens on July 18.

I have three wines to recommend to you this week, all of which I loved:

• the 2005 Wall Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Napa Valley;

• 2007 Charteau Peyrassol, Cotes de Provence from France;

• and the 2005 Basket Case Syrah from Washington State.

This latter wine, by the way, was recommended by Morgan – my favorite bartender in the country, who works at one of my favorite restaurants, Etta's Seafood, near Seattle's Pike Place Market.

There's nothing like flying 3,000 miles, dumping my stuff in a hotel room, walking a few blocks to Etta's, and hear my name called out as I walk through the door.

It's sort of like being Norm in "Cheers."

Well, that's it for this week. Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

KC's View: