business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about declining childhood obesity rates in the US, which led one MNB user to write:

It’s interesting to me that neither the item nor your comment mention that these numbers coincide with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program. For all the criticism and cries of “nanny State,” it seems feasible that her campaign may have (for the first time in recent memory – “Just Say No” was a useless concept and a giant money sinkhole and “No Child Left Behind” set up unachievable expectations and pejorative consequences for educators without actually helping kids) used taxpayer money to make an effective impact on the nation’s overall well-being and future.

I hope this news helps the cynics see that such programs can make a difference and helps quiet the persistent voices that seem above all else to prefer predicting and cataloging failure. It will be great if the “Let’s Move” program gets recognized and expanded. Even in affluent, foodie Portland it seems like half my friends’ kids live on mac ‘n’ cheese. Families with less money and fewer healthy choices close at hand deserve a LOT of credit for making small changes that translate to real, measurable positive effects on their children’s health.

Got the following email from MNB reader Mike Franklin, responding to Kate McMahon's column about the social media efforts driving the return of the Twinkie:

Why are so many companies and organizations afraid to put “GMO” on a label, when Twinkies puts “transfats, HFCS, gluten, artificial flavors & colors and rocket fuel” on their label and nothing happens but great sales?

Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable shortening – containing one or more of the following: partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, yellow No. 5, red #40.

Twinkie cream gets its slippery sheen from cotton cellulose, which serves the same purpose in rocket fuel.

I get your point. Though I have to admit that, while it probably has been 20 years since I've had a Twinkie, when I read that ingredient list I make a silent vow that a Twinkie will never, ever pass my lips. Yuck.

Which is, of course, why companies worry about the "contains GMO" label. I would argue that transparency requires such a label, and that companies should make the case for why they are important and/or necessary.

Companies that don't want to make such an argument are, in my view, intellectually lazy at the very least. Deceptive, at worst.

Regarding yesterday's story about how Musgrave is rebranding the iconic Superquinn chain Ireland as SuperValu, MNB reader Allison Baker wrote:

Since I moved to Ireland three years ago, I adopted Superquinn as my go-to market. They had the friendliest service, cleanest stores, and best selection of products of any competitor in the area. Many people here are shocked and sad at the loss of such a top-notch brand.  You might find this article very heartwarming. An ode to Superquinn from a local blog here:

Also, check out #feargalstories on Twitter. A tribute to your friend's amazing work.

Prompted by the stories about Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post, MNB user Bill MacDonald wrote:

Two factoids that opened my eyes:

1. Bezos paid cash, out of his own pocket and the $250 million was less than 1% of his wealth.
2. The Post could lose $100 million dollars a year for the rest of Bezos' expectant life span and he would still be worth $ 21 billion dollars.
With that in mind and his natural energy and enthusiasm he certainly has what he needs to make the Post a great media outlet. We can hope it becomes a great paper but whatever he does will be the blueprint for the other legendary papers out there.

But, from another reader:

I’m still not convinced that the Emperor has clothes on. I am convinced that Bezos is affable and brilliant, but… I am not convinced that Amazon is a sustainable business model.

I wrote the other day, in the wake of the MLB suspensions for steroid use, that there ought to be much tougher penalties - a minimum four year suspension on the first offense, and a lifetime ban on the second offense.

One MNB user wrote:

Your doping punishment suggestion of a 4 year ban and then lifetime is close to what Olympic athletes have, which is 2 years and then lifetime, which is under WADA (world anti-doping agency).

From another reader:

With all the indignation directed towards the players…where’s the indignation towards the owners and managers of baseball, who knowingly looked the other way for massive profits. And, if what Michael says above is true about hindsight…why do we continue to look the other way in any sport (football)…and when will we do something about High School PED users? I think we are all (sports fans, owners, players and parents of players) are being just a little disingenuous on this very serious issue.

I'm indignant about the owners, though I'm not sure what to do about it. And I'm fully supportive of any efforts to do a better job to monitor young athletes.

And another:

I agree that penalties for rules infractions need to get harsher, but don't feel that suspensions and bans are worthwhile.  The desire to use PED's stems from an athlete's desire to improve their performance to get a big paycheck.  By the time they are caught, suspended, come back and are eventually banned, they could still walk away from the game with a huge stack of cash and have no cares in the world.  If you want to hit them where it hurts, hit them in the wallet: For all players: All contracts must include a clause that invalidates guaranteed payments if drug use is confirmed.  Then, First Offense: Current contract (in its entirety) is invalidated, they are made ineligible for all performance bonuses for that season, pay is set at league minimum for that season and, if you've already been paid above that amount, all additional amounts must be paid back to the team.  Second Offense: Contract is again invalidated, with reduction to league minimum pay and ineligibility for performance bonuses being permanent for the balance of your career.  End of story. If there is no financial benefit to doping, there won't be an incentive to do it.

I can work with that.
KC's View: