retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

Salon.com reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) "is proposing new nutritional rules that would apply to most foods sold in schools. The rule would apply to 'a la carte' lines in school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars and any other food sold regularly on campus ... Most every food sold in school would be subject to fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits. Snack foods would have to be under 200 calories and have some nutritional value. All drinks would be limited to 12 oz. portions in high schools and middle schools, and 8 oz. portions in elementary schools."

According to the story, the rules would not apply to "fundraisers, after-school concession stands, class parties or foods brought from home."

• The New York Times reports this morning that "the United States and Mexico have reached a tentative agreement on cross-border trade in tomatoes, narrowly averting a trade war that threatened to engulf a swath of American businesses. The agreement, reached late Saturday, raises the minimum sales price for Mexican tomatoes in the United States, aims to strengthen compliance and enforcement, and increases the types of tomatoes governed by the bilateral pact to four from one ... The agreement will be open for public comment until Feb. 11. The Commerce Department estimated it would take effect March 4."

Estimates are that half the tomatoes eaten in the US in any given year come from Mexico.

• The Detroit Free Press reports on how there are a number of legislative and regulatory proposals designed to restrict the sale of energy drinks. Among them: a 180-milligram cap on caffeine content in energy drinks that took effect in Canada last month; a ban on the sale and use of energy drinks in Manatee County, Florida, public schools; a proposal in Suffolk County, N.Y., that would ban the sale of energy drinks to people under 19 years of age; a Chicago proposal to "ban the sale of energy drinks that contain 180 milligrams of caffeine and two other substances"; and an ongoing probe by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into whether energy drinks were factors in a number of fatalities.

Energy drinks are an estimated $8.9 billion industry in the US.

Apparently the US Postal Service (USPS) not only does not want to be bound by the rules of free market economics, in which one actually has to have a service that people want, need and are willing to pay for, but also wants to be unfettered by things like traffic laws.

There are news reports about how lawyers for the USPS have sent a letter to the city of East Cleveland, Ohio, saying that while postal service drivers there have accumulated $700 in traffic tickets for speeding in school zones and running red lights, they ought not have to pay those fines because "the Postal Service enjoys federal immunity from state and local regulation."

According to Yahoo! News, George Hittner, an attorney for American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the company to which East Cleveland has outsourced its traffic enforcement duties, has responded to the USPS with a letter questioning the immunity claim: “By attempting to hide behind an immunity claim, you are aiding and abetting your drivers in their blatant disregard for the traffic laws in East Cleveland, which have endangered other drivers, pedestrians and school children," and he suggested that if the USPS is not willing to pay the tickets, it should make its drivers write the checks, and that the fines will continue to accumulate until checks are received.

In his letter, Hittner pointed out that USPS drivers aren't just speeding and running red lights. There also is the postal worker who was delivering mail while naked and "was arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior.” Which sort of gives the phrase "going postal" all new meaning.

They just raised the price of a stamp. They may have to do so again, just to cover the legal fees.

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