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    Published on: September 23, 2004

    Maryland’s Montgomery County Council has joined with other municipalities and states in deciding that county benefits managers should purchase prescription drugs from Canada if their bids come in lower than those from US companies.

    Ironically, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has opposed the so-called reimportation of prescription medicines from Canada and other countries for safety reasons, is based in Montgomery County. Current law prohibits obtaining drugs from abroad, but Congress is considering legislation that would change the law, and the FDA has been reluctant to prosecute states and municipalities that pursue a reimportation policy.

    However, the FDA has said that if drugs obtained outside the US are harmful to a private citizen, the legislators who approve reimportation could be held culpable.

    The county currently spends about $70 million a year on prescription drugs, but believes that the savings from obtaining drugs from Canada could be as high as $16 million.
    KC's View:
    As always, the real issue is being ignored by the FDA. It isn’t whether Canadian drugs are safe, but why US health care costs are so high.

    If FDA is going to hold legislators responsible if someone is hurt by a Canadian drug, doesn’t it then make sense that FDA should be held responsible if someone gets sick or dies because American medicine is so expensive that the afflicted person can’t afford it?

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    USA Today reports that Atkins Nutritionals – the commercial arm of the low-carb diet empire – has formed an alliance with four major educational groups, including the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union. The goal of the initiative, according to Atkins management, isn’t specifically aimed at getting kids to embrace the Atkins Diet, but rather educate children to make better food choices.

    According to USA Today, “Atkins is helping pay for an NEA Web site for teachers and students. It's also working with school nurses in New York and underwriting a publication on childhood obesity for state education policymakers.”

    However, critics say that this is a questionable move by the educational groups, since the Atkins folks define “better food choices” as a low-carb lifestyle. In addition, there is criticism that schools essentially are being used as a marketing vehicle by Atkins Nutritionals, and that such an arrangement isn’t any more ethical than deals made with candy and soft drink companies.
    KC's View:
    There remain enough questions about the long-term impact of the Atkins Diet that we would have serious questions about it being taught to our children as a nutritional nirvana…especially because a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet – which emphasizes whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, olive oil, fruits, vegetables and potatoes, but not meat and dairy products – seems to be key to a long and healthy life.

    What really needs to be taught to kids, we think, is an intelligent approach to food is intelligent without draining the joy from it, and that stresses that consistent exercise is at least as important as a nutritious and varied diet.

    Besides, we have to be honest. Forced to choose between the Atkins Diet and a Mediterranean-style diet, we’re sticking with the Italians and the Greeks.

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    The New York Times reports that a new restaurant in Rome, Òbikà, advertises itself as the world’s first mozzarella cheese bar – and for the moment seems to be doing healthy business.

    Five different kinds of mozzarella cheese are shipped to the restaurant each day, and are used as the centerpiece in a variety of dishes.

    The NYT writes, “Òbikà's most popular dish is the buffalo mozzarella sampler, which consists of three softball-size portions. But there is also the burrata, a creamy, even buttery mozzarella served with cherry tomatoes and spicy Calabrian salami on the side. Also popular is a fiordilatte mozzarella, made from cows' milk, sliced and served on a platter next to sushi-style mixing bowls full of onion or fig marmalade. A sort of buffalo mozzarella wrap around salmon and arugala also has its fair share of fans.”
    KC's View:
    While some critics suggest that a mozzarella bar is the height of effete gastronomic pretension, from our perspective it passes one test: when we read the NYT description, we got hungry.

    Wish we’d known about Òbikà when we were in Rome a few months ago. Sounds like our kind of place…

    Published on: September 23, 2004


    • Wal-Mart has announced that it is increasing the presence of its in-store television network, installing more monitors, upgrading the technology and making them more accessible to consumers by installing them at eye-level.

      At the same time, Wal-Mart has begun selling advertising space on its network, noting that its programming reaches about 133 million viewers a month – which the Wall Street Journal writes “rivals the four major broadcast networks in audience reach.” In addition, there seems to be some evidence that products advertised on the Wal-Mart TV Network see a “discernible lift” in sales – not least because they are promoting products at a time when people already are shopping, and therefore more susceptible to ads and able to do something about it.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    The HJ Heinz company is releasing a series of limited edition collectible ketchup bottles that feature quotes about the condiment from soccer star Mia Hamm, “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, football star Terry Bradshaw and teen actress Lindsay Lohan.

    In exchange for the quotes, Heinz is donating money to charities endorsed by the celebrities.
    KC's View:
    Anyone who buys ketchup because Terry Bradshaw or Lindsay Lohan says so has bigger problems than we’re able to address here. But we’re sort of jaded on the subject of celebrity endorsements.

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    Interstate Bakeries, which manufactures products such as Wonder Bread and Twinkies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. The company said it had assets of $1.6 billion and liabilities of $1.3 billion, and plans to continue normal operations under the protection of the bankruptcy court.

    The company said it was suffering from liquidity problems resulting from declining sales and a high cost structure.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2004


    • Henry O. Armour has been named the new president and CEO of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Armour will succeed Kerley LeBoeuf, who will retire in July 2005 after 24 years as the president & CEO of the association.

      Armour has resigned from the NACS Board of Directors and will join NACS’ as a part-time consultant in October 2004 to ensure a smooth transition of leadership in July 2005.

      Armour is selling his c-store chain, West Star Corporation, in order to take the new position.


    • Wild Oats Markets, Inc. has named Andre Halston the company’s Vice President of Food Service and Corporate Executive Chef. Halston most recently was Chief Culinary Officer for LaMadeleine Restaurants, a 62-unit restaurant company based in Dallas, Texas.


    • Drugstore.com has named Dawn Lepore as the company’s chairman and CEO. She replaces former CEO Kal Raman, who resigned in June, and Peter Neupert, who has been serving as chairman.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    Yesterday, in a commentary included in the “Your Views” section, we referred to the “nut jobs” who several years ago accused Procter & Gamble of funneling nits profits to Satanic worshippers. The comment was made in connection to the ongoing story about P&G being targeted for a boycott by two groups upset with the company’s position on a statute related to gay and lesbian civil rights; the groups feel that P&G’s position is a de-facto endorsement of gay marriage, which the company denies.

    Now, according to press reports, one of the groups calling for the boycott also was connected to the accusations about Satanic worshippers.

    MNB received several emails yesterday accusing us of being unfair with our use of the phrase “nut jobs,” feeling that a disagreement over gay civil rights did not mean that we could or should demean the people with whom we disagree.

    We concur. People have a right to their own opinions, and we respect the fact that passionately held beliefs about gay-related issues bring people down on different sides of the issue – in fact, that’s why we’ve run so many emails on the subject.

    Just to be clear, we were referring only to people who accused P&G of funneling money back to Satanic cults as being “nut jobs”…and it seemed like a reasonable characterization. This was not a reference to the gay marriage issue.

    And, by the way, there are more than a few people who think we’re a nut job. (Some of them are in-laws.) And they certainly are entitled to have that opinion and express it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2004

    …will return.
    KC's View: