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    Published on: November 26, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    It is with great anticipation that I watched the first trailer for Jurassic World, which is now available to watch online, and will reportedly get a lot of TV play during various football games over the Thanksgiving weekend.

    Jurassic World, in case you don't know, is a sequel of sort to the three Jurassic Park movies that came out in 1993, 1997 and 2001; it takes place two decades after the events portrayed in those films, at a time when the dinosaur park has finally opened for business, fulfilling the original dreams of the founder, John Hammond. (Steven Spielberg is not directing, but is executive producing.)

    Needless to say, things go wrong in Jurassic World. Horribly wrong.

    But as the trailer makes clear, the reason things go so badly is that the company running the park has genetically engineered a new breed of dinosaur. In other words, not satisfied with playing god by resurrecting long-extinct species, now they're going one step further, and the result is the world's biggest, hungriest, meanest GMO.

    Sounds like fun.

    Jurassic World looks like it could be a white-knuckle Eye-Opener.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    ABC News reports that the Oregon referendum that would have called for mandated labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has failed by just 809 votes, or by 0.06 percentage points, and will now go to an automatic recount. More than 1.5 million votes were cast on this ballot measure.

    The story notes that "at nearly $30 million, the battle over Measure 92 was by far the costliest campaign in Oregon history." Almost two-thirds of that money was spent by GMO labeling opponents.
    KC's View:
    An MNB user who is particularly passionate about this issue - in favor of GMO labeling - wrote to me yesterday to say that while he is not confident that the recount will change the results, he remains convinced that "the writing on the wall is becoming much clearer.  …The feds will not lead…so it is up to enlightened states to lead the way." I think this is a common belief - that those who fight against state-specific labeling laws by saying that a national approach would be better are being disingenuous … that they are equally opposed to federal standards.

    I think that the pro-labeling forces, even though defeated, would argue that the companies and trade associations fighting against GMO labeling need to acknowledge that they are risking the disenfranchising of a significant number of people who support the cause, and that they put their businesses at risk by doing so.

    For example, Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Consumers Union, which supported the labeling mandate, said, “Despite the millions of dollars from big food and agribusiness companies that poured in to oppose Measure 92, hundreds of thousands of Oregon voters made their voices heard loud and clear: they want to know if their foods are genetically engineered. The extreme closeness of this vote is a victory for consumers’ right to know what's in their food.”

    Maybe. But I'm always amused when people lose an election and then call it a victory. Because moral victories usually don't affect policy.

    But if the larger point is that even in victory, anti-labeling forces need to reconsider their approach … well, I think that's a legitimate view.

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "a new intentionality has taken hold of shopping. Many Americans have the money and the will to spend. But they are time-pressed and deal savvy, visiting stores only when they run out of items like cereal or toilet paper and after doing extensive research on purchases online and with friends. They buy what they came for—and then leave.

    "Those habits threaten more than just gum sales at checkout. Impulse is why stores offer deep discounts on loss leaders, why they put the milk in the back corner and why marketers spend heavily to pile up products in displays at the ends of the aisles. If shoppers just target the deals and don’t let their eyes wander, long cherished models for boosting sales fall apart."

    Joel Bines, a managing director at retail consultancy AlixPartners, puts it this way: “Consumers are now conditioned to shop for specific items and it’s not just affecting online consumer psyche but offline consumer psyche as well."

    You can read the entire story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    TechCrunch reports that "eBay Now, the same-day local delivery service from the online marketplace giant, was pulled from the App Store over the weekend, where previously it allowed mobile customers to shop from their phones in order to receive items from nearby retailers later that day for an additional $5 fee. The changes come about as eBay is rethinking how it wants to handle the high costs associated with running same-day delivery services."

    The company said that the goal is to make the service part of the company's main site, not a stand-alone application.

    The story notes that " number of big-name retailers had signed up to participate in eBay Now, including The Home Depot, Target, Macy’s, GNC, Walgreens, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, RadioShack and AutoZone, to name several. Though many of eBay Now’s biggest retailers also operate their own e-commerce sites, they’ve also felt the impacts of the shift to e-commerce and, specifically, the threat of Amazon which has been rolling out same-day delivery to select urban markets across the U.S., as well."
    KC's View:
    Same-day delivery is tough. But I think the evidence is that we're going to see a lot of companies trying to crack this particular nut as they try to figure out how to compete with Amazon.

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Pace Development Corp. described as a "Thai property developer," is acquiring Dean & DeLuca, the gourmet food company, for $140 million. The acquisition, from Dean & DeLuca Holdings, includes "the supply chain and operations of 11 outlets and two commissaries in the U.S., as well as licensing agreements covering 31 locations including those in Thailand, Japan, Singapore and South Korea."

    According to the story, Pace says that it plans to grow the chain from its current fleet to hundreds of new stores over the next few years, with operations in 15 countries instead of the current eight; it also says that Dean & DeLuca is an attractive asset because it "provides a revenue stream that is less cyclical than property development and less prone to external economic shocks."

    Current management is expected to remain in place.
    KC's View:
    Seems aggressive, but if you've got money, anything is possible. And it seems to me that the people that Dean & DeLuca is targeting have a lot of money and are making more all the time, if the financial pages are to be believed. (Just don't read the politics pages. They say the country is going to hell in a hand basket.)

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    AFP reports that a group of Tesco shareholders have declared their intention to sue the company, charging that management "new or were reckless" about its financial condition, allowing for the overstatement of profits that currently is the subject of a federal fraud investigation.


    • In the UK, the Guardian reports that Tim Smith, "the former head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), who went straight from his job as regulator to a lucrative role as technical director of Tesco, lobbied the government this summer about its plans to publish the official food poisoning contamination rates for supermarket chicken, the Guardian has been told."

    The problem, according to the story, is that when Smith was only allowed to go to work at Tesco in 2012 by Prime Minister David Cameron on condition that he not do any lobbying on behalf of Tesco for two years.

    The Guardian writes that "Smith is understood to have warned the Department of Health in June that FSA proposals for publishing results, which included naming and shaming individual supermarkets, could provoke a food scare and damage the industry."

    The story says that "the FSA has been fighting a decade-long campaign to get supermarkets and the poultry industry to clean up their meat … The policy of naming and shaming the dirtiest companies for their campylobacter rates has been a key part of the FSA’s strategy to deal with industry’s failure to tackle what is the commonest form of food poisoning in the UK – it kills around 100 people and makes an estimated 280,000 sick each year."
    KC's View:
    Somehow, it is reassuring that the UK has to deal with the same sort of lobbying and small-c governmental corruption that we have here in the US. Makes me feel less isolated.

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) yesterday issued a statement that "expressed disapproval of the sweeping new menu labeling regulations imposed on convenience stores and other food establishments including grocery stores, movie theaters, and vending machines by the Food and Drug Administration."

    “The FDA has clearly gone beyond congressional intent by expanding the types of businesses that fall under this law to include convenience stores,” said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president for government relations for NACS. “The one-size-fits-all approach that FDA announced today would treat convenience stores as though they are restaurants, when in fact they operate very differently. It is now up to the bipartisan, bicameral opponents of this regulatory overreach to enact legislation introduced in both houses of Congress that reasonably defines a restaurant as a business that derives at least 50% of revenue from prepared food.”

    Peter Larkin, president/CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), released a statement yesterday addressing the same issue:

    "The scope of the nutrition labeling provision as proposed by Congress was to provide a uniform standard for chain restaurant menu labeling, not grocery stores. Grocery stores are not chain restaurants, which is why Congress did not initially include them in the law. We are disappointed that the FDA's final rules will capture grocery stores, and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members. NGA will continue to work with Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to address this regulatory overreach."
    KC's View:
    I'd just sue the Obama administration. Or call for impeachment. What the hell. Everybody else is.

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    …will return in two weeks.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    …will return next week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    I mentioned last week that I'd made lamb and artichoke stew, and I got a number of requests for the recipe. I've actually posted it before, but one of the great things about the MNB community is that there always are new people signing up every day…so here it is.

    (To be honest,I've adapted the recipe from one in an aging copy of 'The Frugal Gourmet.")

    Ingredients:

    1/2 stick of butter
    2-3 pounds of boneless lamb, cubed
    3 large yellow onions
    Emeril’s Essence
    3 cloves of garlic
    6 ounces of tomato paste
    1 cup dry white wine
    3 cans of artichoke hearts, drained.

    In a large pot, melt the butter. Sauté the lamb until browned. Remove from the pot.

    Chop and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add Emeril’s Essence to taste.

    Add the meat back into the pot.

    Add the tomato paste and white wine.

    Stir. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, or until lamb is tender.

    Add artichokes.

    Cover. Simmer for another 90 minutes.

    Serve over rice pilaf, and with (IMHO) a terrific albarino.

    Enjoy.




    A suggestion for that wine: the Abada de San Campio 2013 Albarino, which is perfect with a meal like this. (You also can go with a heartier red … it all depends on your mood and preferences.)




    We went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 last weekend, and am sorry to report that it was an utter disappointment. (Mrs. Content Guy thought it was "awful." I didn't think it was quite that bad, but close.)

    One of the great things about the first two movies was watching Katniss Everdeen, played so memorably by Jennifer Lawrence, come into her own, evolving from an independent girl to a woman who understands her greater purpose, even if sometimes she is a little reluctant to be a symbol. The problem is that in this movie, she's all reluctance; she's almost more Hamlet than Katniss, and the result is a two-hour movie that seems entirely about being a set-up for Part 2, which will be out in November 2015.

    I don't mind a hero or heroine besieged by inner conflicts and even a little self-doubt, but it sums up the problems with this movie that Katniss fires exactly one arrow - one - during the entire film. Lawrence is great - she seems incapable of giving a bad performance - but it almost doesn't matter.




    I've written in this space before about how much I'm enjoying "Homeland" this season - they've really got their groove back, and the last few episodes have been nail-biters. But this morning I'd like to write about another Sunday show that I'm thoroughly involved with - "The Newsroom," on HBO.

    It is the third and last season of "The Newsroom," was was created by the great Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, "The West Wing") as a way of commenting on the state of the nation's politics and how cable news covers it. One of the more challenging elements of the series has been linking each episode to an actual news event - this season, for example, started with the fictional newsroom covering the Boston Marathon bombing.

    While I am loathe to suggest that I know more than Sorkin, I actually think that "The Newsroom" would have been better if he hadn't written himself into this specific corner each week - the reality of certain situations is jarring and hurts the drama. (I found the discussion about journalistic ethics and the relative importance of being first with a story fascinating, for example, but somehow it seemed less important when compared to actual people dying and getting injured in Boston.)

    That said, I love "The Newsroom" even with all its faults. The characters are endlessly self-involved, but they're also often considering big questions and bigger issues, and - since Sorkin does most of the writing - they do so with an eloquence and an irony that I find completely absorbing. I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to consider "The Newsroom" to be one of Sorkin's or HBO's greatest successes, but I'll miss it when it's gone, and I plan to savor the last three episodes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 26, 2014

    This is Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, which I always think is the best holiday of the year - just food and football and family. (And almost certainly movies at some point…)

    In keeping with tradition, MNB will be on hiatus for a four-day weekend.

    Have a great holiday ... a great weekend ... and I'll see you Monday, December 1.

    Slàinte!
    KC's View: