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    Published on: February 7, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    Much change is evolutionary. But sometimes, change happens fast, creating a kind of societal and cultural whiplash.

    That's what happened 50 years ago today,then the Beatles landed at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, to a chorus of screams that can even be heard, if you listen closely, today. It wasn't just that John, Paul, George and Ringo immediately became pop idols, but that they brought to the experience a level of musical innovation that changed the world.

    But here's what strikes me about this momentous event. It came just months after another one - the assassination of President John F. Kennedy which changed the national psyche forever, and resulted in screams of a different kind.

    With one event, we lost our innocence. With another, we were reminded that when it happened, not all hope and youthful exuberance were lost … though in many ways, the Beatles presaged with their hair and irreverence the revolution that was to come, affecting culture and politics and how the youth of the world viewed themselves and their elders.

    It is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    Politico reports that a coalition of food industry trade associations is joining together to lobby for federal GMO labeling laws, "calling for legislation that would require mandatory premarket approval of GMO food ingredients by FDA and grant authority to the agency to label products that raise safety concerns, set up a voluntary program for food companies to label foods that are GMO free, include GMO ingredients in a definition of 'natural' foods and preempt state labeling laws."

    Running point on the effort, dubbed the “Coalition for Safe Affordable Food," is the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which has spent millions to defeat state GMO labeling laws. Also involved in the effort are the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, National Corn Growers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Association, AACC International/American Phytopathological Society, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Corn Refiners Association, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association, Global Cold Chain Alliance, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Grain & Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation, North American Millers Association, Snack Food Association and the U.S. Beet Sugar Association.

    The Associated Press story notes that "the effort is an attempt to head off state-by-state efforts to require mandatory labeling. Recent ballot initiatives in California and Washington state failed, but several state legislatures are considering labeling requirements, and opponents of engineered ingredients are aggressively pushing for new laws in several states.

    "The move comes as consumers demand to know more about what's in their food. There's very little science that says genetically engineered foods are unsafe. But opponents say there's too much unknown about seeds that are altered in labs to have certain traits, and that consumers have a right to know if they are eating them. The seeds are engineered for a variety of reasons, many of them to resist herbicides or insects."

    Pamela Bailey, president/CEO of GMA, said yesterday that the FDA "up to now has said that GMOs are safe, but we also recognize that some consumers want more information and companies might want to include GMO information, so we are asking the FDA to outline labeling standards companies can use voluntarily."

    According to the Coalition, there is no specific legislation addressing the federal issue in the pipeline, but it is hoped that the breadth of its membership will be able to create some momentum. The recently passed Farm Bill did not address the GMO issue.
    KC's View:
    I don't particularly have a problem with a federal approach to GMO labeling, though I am considerably less persuaded that the backbones in Congress and at FDA will be able to withstand the lobbying barrage they are about to experience. I am very flexible about how legislation should be written, but I think that the interests of consumers need to be front and center if any of these efforts are to be successful. And if being able to label products with GMOs as being natural is the coalition's idea of a comprehensive approach to the issue, I remain dubious.

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    Reuters reports that the hackers who managed to access personal and financial data of tens of millions of Target customers did so by "first breaching a 'data connection' between the U.S. retailer and its heating and ventilation systems contractor … The data connection was used by the vendor, Fazio Mechanical Services, to bill Target and exchange contract and project management information with the retailer,"

    Fazio and Target are both cooperating with investigations being conducted by US Secret Service.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    There is a nice little piece in Fast Company about how personal and institutional transformation cannot be just a matter of reading a book about transformation … it requires "a capacity to act" that often runs into roadblocks.

    And so, the piece looks at seven obstacles that need to be dealt with …including "confusing opinions with learning," "the desire for instant gratification," and "the belief that change is private."

    The piece made me think. You can check it out here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    MyWebGrocer said yesterday that it has completed the acquisition of Buy4Now Limited, a private eCommerce software and services company based in Dublin, Ireland. This transaction builds upon MWG’s earlier acquisition of Buy4Now’s U.S. subsidiary in 2008, and, the company said, "provides MWG the technology platform, personnel, and client base to replicate its business model in Europe," where the company plans to accelerate its expansion.

    Financial terms were not disclosed.

    Full disclosure: MyWebGrocer is a longtime and values MNB sponsor, bringing you the MNB site and Wake up Call each day.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    • The National Retail Federation released its 2014 economic forecast today, "projecting retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will increase 4.1 percent, up from the preliminary 3.7 percent growth seen in 2013. NRF also announced today it expects online sales in 2014 to grow between 9 and 12 percent."
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    • Ahold USA said yesterday that Rick Herring, president of its Giant-Carlisle division and a 25-year company veteran, is retiring from the job, effective next Friday.

    The company said that Bhavdeep Singh, EVP of Operations, for Ahold USA, will president over the devision on an interim basis until the search for a replacement is completed.

    • Unified Grocers announced that Leon G. Bergmann has been named Senior Vice President, Sales, a new position, responsible for sales and service functions across all regions of the company. Bergmann.

    It was about a year ago that Supervalu reached a confidential settlement in its case against Bergmann, who was president of the company's independent business organization before resigning and subsequently taking a job with Unified Grocers. Supervalu had said that Bergmann was in violation of a non-compete clause in his contract.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Herb Ruetsch is retiring as CEO of Fairway Markets after 15 years with the company. He has been CEO for two years.

    According to the story, "Fairway's president, William Sanford, will serve as interim CEO. The company's board plans to begin a search for a successor. Fairway also promoted Kevin McDonnell to co-president and chief operating officer and Edward Arditte to co-president and chief financial officer."

    The company's chairman, Charles Santoro, said in a statement that "while our business faced a number of headwinds during the quarter including a tougher comparison over last year, the compressed holiday shopping season and a generally softer retail backdrop, we remain excited about our long-term growth prospects. We have also strengthened our senior leadership structure, and announced several important promotions to enhance operations and productivity initiatives as Fairway evolves to the next level of growth and scale."
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    • Ralph Kiner, the slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians whose prodigious on-field exploits became less impressive compared to his half-century as a broadcaster for the New York Mets, has passed away. He was 91.
    KC's View:
    Kiner was one of those great baseball voices for whom the total was more than the sum of the parts. He had great stories, but constantly mangled the English language. It didn't matter, because he was like the uncle who made watching a baseball game infinitely more entertaining and informative. (Albeit an uncle who, in fact, once dated Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh…) Between his play-by-play and post-game show, "Kiner's Korner," he forever will be inextricably linked to the Mets.

    And, one other thing. Almost 20 years ago, Kiner said that he'd been diagnosed with Bell's palsy, but he continued to work when he could, and maybe even endeared himself more to audiences.

    I love guys like that.

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    …will return next week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 7, 2014

    There's no point dancing around it. Dallas Buyers Club is one of the most remarkable movies of the year, and as far as I'm concerned, they should just hand Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor trophies right now. And that's in a year that has ended with a raft of great movies and fine performances.

    McConaughey inhabits the character of Ron Woodroof, a real-life rodeo rider, electrician and homophobe who in 1985, after years of drug abuse and unprotected sex, is diagnosed has having AIDS and given 30 days to live. After expressing outrage and denial, Woodroof demonstrates a high level of intelligence by doing significant research into what his medical options might be. After being met with limited options - he can be enrolled in a test of AZT, which is believed to prolong people's lives, but the odds are 50 percent he'll just be given a placebo - he decides to explore less conventional options.

    As Woodroof begins an odyssey of finding and importing non-approved drugs in from other countries, he begins out of a sense of personal desperation, which evolves quickly into a belief that there are enough people out there in the same situation to allow him to make a buck. He's assisted in his efforts by Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman, played by Leto with great delicacy and compassion, and a local doctor played by Jennifer Garner, who is frustrated by a medical infrastructure that seems more geared toward helping pharmaceutical companies than patients. And gradually, Woodroof begins to feel compassion towards the marginalized members of society that he finds himself helping, in part because he senses the extent to which they are disenfranchised.

    McConaughey is nothing less than astonishing. He lost some 40 pounds for the role, and seems almost feral as Woodroof … frail and yet ferocious, finding unsuspecting inner reserves and in doing so, finding himself physically diminished and emotional enriched. And as disreputable a character as Woodroof is, I think he teaches us some important business lessons - that almost every employee has unsuspected strengths (Woodroof may be a rough specimen, but he is amazingly intelligent and intuitive), and how important it is in any organization to have someone who will not take "no" for an answer. He may be high maintenance, but he's worth it … because suffice it to say that he lived longer than 30 days.

    Go see the movie, or rent it on iTunes. It is an amazing piece of work, with none of the trappings of an expensive Hollywood production and yet more heart and soul than most.

    I finished a novel and a short story this week, and would recommend both to you. "Suspect," by Robert Crais, is the story of a seriously wounded LA cop who tries to rebuild his life and injured body by working in the LAPD's K9 unit; he is paired with a former Army dog, Maggie, that lost her trainer in Afghanistan and who herself was wounded. Both the cop and the dog are dealing with emotional and physical impairments, and find strength in each other.

    Parts of "Suspect" are told through Maggie's eyes, which works a lot better than I might've expected. Crais, always a solid and engaging novelist (he writes the Elvis Cole series), does excellent work here. I liked it a lot, and not because I'm a dog guy.

    "Switchblade" is a short story by Michael Connelly, only available as an e-book. Connelly is a savvy marketer; it dovetails with a small scene in his recent novel, "The Gods of Guilt," as well as features LA Detective Harry Bosch, the protagonist about whom he has written in a number of novels, and who is featured in a new pilot for a TV series produced by Amazon. I'm not entirely sure that "Switchblade" will work for people new to the Bosch universe, but for those of us who gobble up each new Connelly work with great enthusiasm, it is a nice little snack while we wait for the next Bosch novel.

    As for the "Bosch" pilot on Amazon … I've watched it and was relieved to find that the producers did not try to cram an entire book into less than an hour. There are several plot lines running through "Bosch," and none of them are resolved … but that's okay, because it whets the appetite for more episodes, which is what Amazon wants. (Amazon asks viewers to vote on "Bosch" and other pilots to see which ones will go to series; it is entertainment democracy at its best.)

    Titus Welliver ("Lost," "Deadwood") stars as Bosch, and I must admit that he is completely different from how I've always envisioned the character. But he's very good an embodying Bosch's relentless desire to find justice for victims - that everybody matters, or nobody matters.

    Excellent work. My vote is cast.

    While in Chicago this week, I did what I always do when I'm there. I stopped at Bin 36, the downtown wine bar, to say hi to Jimmy, one of my favorite bartenders. As is our habit, we chatted for a bit and then Jimmy picked out something that he thought I'd like.

    As usual, he hit a home run - the 2011 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile's Montes Twins winery. It was big and juicy and perfect for sipping on a day when the temperature was cold and the snow was swirling.

    It's a good life. (Don't tell my wife. She thinks I'm working.)

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View: