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    Published on: January 8, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    USA Today reports that in a speech yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Robert Kyncl, the chief business officer for YouTube, predicted that before the end of the decade, people will watch more digital video programming than they will traditional television.

    Kyncl said that he "based his prediction on trends of lower TV audiences yearly, coupled with the annual rise of mobile video viewing," and he cited mobile viewing, virtual reality and music programming as the drivers of the shift."

    That isn't just a consumer shift. It also is a business shift that has tremendous implications for major companies in the traditional end of the business, challenging how they bring in audiences, how they program for those audiences, and how they monetize their efforts through advertising.

    This isn't just an Eye-Opening metaphor for what can happen to any business at anytime. It is a very real wake up call about the pace of change, and how a technology-driven venue that didn't even exist all that long ago can throw an entire industry into turmoil.

    Eyes open, folks. It not only can happen to anyone, but it probably will.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    The New York Times this morning reports that Campbell Soup soon "will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and sugar beets in its products," a move that distinguishes it from many industry rivals.

    In addition, CEO Denise Morrison said that the company is breaking from its peers "by calling for federal action to make mandatory a uniform labeling system of foods that contain such ingredients."

    "We’re optimistic that a federal solution can be reached in a reasonable amount of time, but if that’s not the case, we’re preparing to label all our products across the portfolio," Morrison tells the Times, adding, "“We’ve always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. We know that 92 percent of Americans support G.M.O. labeling, and transparency is a critical part of our purpose.”

    The story notes that Campbell Soup "is taking the unusual step — and possibly risking sales by alienating consumers averse to genetically modified organisms — as big food corporations face increasing pressure to be more open about their use of such ingredients."

    The Times reports that about 75 percent of Campbell's portfolio "contained ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans or sugar beets, the four largest genetically engineered crops. The change in labeling is expected to take 12 to 18 months. The first example provided by the company, for a SpaghettiO’s label prepared for Vermont, is sparsely worded and does not specify which individual ingredients are genetically altered. It simply states at the bottom of the label: 'Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about G.M.O. ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com'."

    The story notes that food companies have already begun crafting and printing up labels for products sold in Vermont, which in July will become the first state in the union to mandate labels disclosing the presence of GMOs in products. This measure has been fought by GMO suppliers, major food companies and by their lobbying organization, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMO), which have pushed for national legislation that would supersede state rules and that would establish a federal standard that would not require GMO labeling.

    Morrison tells the Times that her company "will withdraw from any coalition that doesn’t support mandatory labeling."
    KC's View:
    Wow.

    That sound you hear may be heads exploding at GMA headquarters and in Monsanto's executive offices.

    The argument has always been that GMO labeling is too complicated and too expensive to do, and that it provides information that consumers don't want or need. And what Denise Morrison - who with this decision continues to define her tenure at Campbell Soup as transformational - is saying is that it can be done, and should be done ... and that responsible companies will figure out how to make it work.

    GMO labeling doesn't have to frighten consumers. Done right, it can educate them. People and companies afraid of the facts, and afraid of what happens when facts are made public, are deserving of very little sympathy.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Supervalu has filed plans with federal regulators that will allow it to spin off its Save-A-Lot discount store business into a separate public company.

    The move was expected. "Supervalu said last summer it was considering spinning off Save-A-Lot in a bid to help investors better understand and value the low-price, no-frills chain," the Journal writes. "In Thursday’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Supervalu said its shareholders would own at least 80% of the newly public Save-A-Lot company ... Save-A-Lot has been a rare bright spot for Supervalu as it attracted cost-conscious consumers while specialty chains led by Whole Foods Market Inc. have lured wealthier shoppers."

    The story notes that Supervalu has set no timetable for the move, and said that the decision is not set in stone.
    KC's View:
    I'm less interested in Save-A-Lot's ownership status than I am in how the company - under CEO Eric Claus, who I think is a very smart guy - will try to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded field. They've got to compete with other discounters such as Aldi and soon-to-arrive-in-the-US Lidl, as well as dollar stores and companies such as Walmart that do not want to give up their value proposition.

    Ownership won't matter if Save-A-Lot doesn't carve out a unique and compelling position in the marketplace.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday announced updated guidelines that urge all Americans to cut back on their sugar intake, and said that American males eat too much meat, chicken and eggs.

    The new update, coming five years after the past one, specifically calls on consumers "to limit added sugars to 10 percent of daily calories," and the New York Times notes that this recommendation could lead to changes in food labels. This summer, the Times writes, "the Food and Drug Administration proposed labels that would require food and beverage firms to disclose the amount of added sugar as a way to distinguish it from naturally-occurring sugar in foods. The advice to cut back on sugar echoes similar advice from the World Health Organization and other groups, which have cited evidence that lowering added sugar could reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer."

    The Times also notes that the recommendations about meat, chicken and eggs came as a surprise, calling for men and teenaged boys to “reduce their overall intake of protein foods" and consume more vegetables.

    The story says that "the guidelines were also notable for what they did not say. While draft recommendations had suggested all Americans adopt more environmentally-sustainable eating habits by cutting back on meat, that advice was dropped from the final guidelines. And longstanding limits on dietary cholesterol were also removed, a victory for the nation’s egg producers, which have long argued that cholesterol from eggs and seafood is not a major health concern."

    The new guidelines were applauded by a number of industry groups. For example, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) issued a statement from Kathy Means, vice president of industry relations, saying that PMA applauds the general recommendations and is "pleased the guidelines clearly convey that nutrients best come from foods rather than supplements and that healthy eating with fruits and vegetables can serve as a keystone habit to help with other recommendations such as limiting added sugars, reducing sodium and choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods."

    Mary Coppola, Senior Director, Marketing Communications, for the United Fresh Produce Association, agreed, saying that "for the first time, and to reinforce the significance of eating more vegetables and fruits, this recommendation tops the list of ways to improve eating habits and health. Decades of research indicates that a diet high in vegetables and fruit is consistently associated with positive health outcomes and a decreased risk of chronic disease.  Noting that three-fourths of the U.S. population consumes a diet that is low in vegetables and fruits, the new Dietary Guidelines recommends that individuals shift their eating habits to eat more fruits and vegetables every day."

    However, the Times story points out that there isn't unanimity about the new recommendations: "The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates a vegan diet, announced that they were filing a lawsuit against the government over its decision to drop the 300-milligram cholesterol limit from the guidelines. The group said that members of the dietary guidelines advisory committee had close ties to the egg industry and that they had relied too heavily on industry-funded studies.

    "Another advocacy group, the Nutrition Coalition, said that other than the new cap on added sugar, the guidelines mostly continued old advice to eat more whole grains, produce and vegetable oils while cutting back on foods that contain saturated fat such as butter, whole milk and red meat."

    And, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association "took issue with the suggestion that men and teenage boys were consuming too much protein."
    KC's View:
    One of the criticisms of the new guidelines is that they really aren't much of a change ... and at some level, I kind of have to agree with that. I sort of knew already that we're better off if we eat more veggies and seafood and less meat ... that less sugar and salt consumption makes sense ... and that eating in moderation and more exercise are the best way to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

    I keep looking, but somehow I can't find the passage about more beer and wine consumption being critical to a middle-aged man's diet. I'm not giving up, though. Got to be there somewhere.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Fast Company has an explanation for why there are so many products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that allow consumers to talk to them and issue instructions through vocal prompts.

    "In reality," Fast Company writes, "it’s a talkpocalypse. We’re reaching a critical threshold where every device maker wants in on the next big thing in UI: natural, spoken language. And they’re going to wage battle through a hundred different ears that constantly listen to your life—to dim the lights or rearrange your calendar or buy you new shoes—ever-eavesdropping with the goal of serving your needs before a competitor can.

    "But the reason why companies want their gadgets listening to us isn’t simply the quest for good design. It’s not just ease of use driving their decision to incorporate this technology. Rather, voice control is a means for hardware manufactures to create and control their own platforms, rather than ceding them to the traditional Silicon Valley titans—all while opening up new revenue streams that scrape small but significant profits from providing services to you."

    It is very simple. If Samsung, for example, doesn't create a proprietary vocal interface for its new smart refrigerator, people will just order groceries using Amazon's Echo. This becomes a way to try to regain some control over the transaction process ... and, not coincidentally, a way to dip their beaks and get a piece of the action.

    Good piece ... and you can read it in its entirely to get a sense of the trend here.
    KC's View:
    I got an email the other day about the new smart refrigerator that said...

    Yep, just what we need. One more piece of technology the increases the laziness of Americas and dumbs down society…Pretty soon Americans will be so lazy they won’t even have to drive their own cars. Probably a good thing. Without having to worry about driving their cars they can spend time on more important things like posting their thrilling lives to Facebook or texting their coffee orders to Starbucks.

    This strikes me as such an inaccurate, disrespectful and cynical reading of a tech-oriented generation ... and it doesn't even account for the possibility that a smart refrigerator will give people more time to read great books, go get exercise, cook great meals, play with their kids, enjoy fulfilling and even occasionally intimate relationships ... need I go on?

    Smart technology doesn't make people dumber. It allows them the opportunity to be smarter and more fulfilled, and to do things that matter and have consequence.

    Will everyone use smart technology this way? Of course not. But such generational cynicism, in my view, is far more poisonous to the culture than someone going on Facebook.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Reuters reports that Walmart is being sued in Pennsylvania by the families of three shooting victims who were killed, they say, by bullets illegally bought at a Walmart by "an underage, intoxicated customer."

    The shootings took place last July. The buyer, Robert Jourdain, is said to have bought the ammunition at the Walmart, where he was never asked for any sort of identification. He then gave the bullets to Todd West, who over the next hour murdered three people who were strangers to him.

    Recent court decisions, the story says, have made retailers liable for gun and ammunition sales that prove to be against the law.
    KC's View:
    As they should be.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Eater reports that "Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, the upscale burger chain that has staked its success on the willingness of fast food consumers to spend a few dollars more for higher quality ingredients and better-compensated workers, has made good on its promise to hike prices in 2016, raising menu items anywhere from a couple of pennies to a quarter. The increases will help the billion dollar company continue its policy of paying staffers above local minimum wages, which are rising to $10 and beyond throughout the country, and which are pushing up food and beverage prices at restaurants everywhere."

    The story notes that "these increases are modest by any standard, and the ShackBurger is still cheaper than some of its fast casual cousins (i.e. takeout spots that are more expensive than McDonald’s yet more affordable than sit-down restaurants). For example: The Five Guys cheeseburger, $7.99 in New York, is more than $2 pricier than its Shack counterpart, while Chipotle’s massive steak burrito, at $9.19 in NYC, is a over a dollar more than the double ShackBurger, at $8.09."
    KC's View:
    Great burgers. I'm happy to pay a little more so that the people who work at Shake Shack actually can survive.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Reuters reports that in the UK, Tesco has announced that it will begin charging a fee that is the equivalent of just under three dollars for click-and-collect orders of less than the equivalent of $43, saying that the move "will ensure the service remains sustainable." Larger click-and-collect orders will not have any additional charge.

    According to the story, "Britain's biggest department store group John Lewis became the country's first major retailer to charge for smaller 'click and collect' orders last July, prompting speculation that other shops could follow."
    KC's View:
    The story also notes that companies like Tesco are struggling to regain market share that has been nibbled away at by discounters like Aldi and Lidl. I'm not sure that charging for a service that used to be free is the best way to do that ... it sounds more like a decision made by bookkeepers than by marketers.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Newsday reports that iconic New York-area retailer Stew Leonard's will inaugurate its fifth store, and its first on Long Island, with an opening on January 20 in Farmingdale, NY.

    The 60,000 square foot store is the result of more than a dozen years by the company trying to find a suitable location. Stew Leonard's currently operates stores in Norwalk, Danbury and Newington, Connecticut, as well as in Yonkers, New York. It has been operating a wine shop across the street from his soon-to-be-opened food store for several years.


    CBS News reports that after almost 50 years of offering cole slaw on its menu, Chick-fil-A is replacing it with a kale said that it is calling "a “superfood side,” offering it with "a blend of kale and broccolini tossed in a maple vinaigrette dressing. It will be topped with sour cherries and roasted nuts."


    Advertising Age reports that McDonald's is about to introduce new packaging with "bright lettering and an updated take on its iconic Golden Arches" that is its first update in three years an part of an effort to make it appear to be a more modern company that is more contemporary and relevant.

    The story notes that "the updated packaging coincides with the 25th anniversary of McDonald's doing away with styrofoam 'clamshell' containers. It still aims for all of its fiber-based packaging to come from recycled or certified sustainable sources by 2020."

    Now, if they could just make burgers that don't taste like cardboard...
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    • California-based Raley's says that it has named Deirdre Zimmermann to be its new senior vice president, marketing, with responsibility for leading "advertising, marketing, and external communications teams to advance the company’s brand," which increasingly is focused on a vision of health and wellness. Zimmerman, the company notes, "has served as Vice President of Marketing for several specialty retailers, including Brookstone, and most recently White House Black Market."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Dallas Morning News report that a new law in Texas allowing "citizens with a permit to carry handguns openly in a holster" is creating headaches for some retailers.

    The new law, according to the story, "has put retailers in a quandary, forcing them to take sides in one of the nation’s most fraught debates ... Stuck in the middle are retailers loath to risk losing business from either side. Dozens of stores and restaurants across Texas, including San Antonio-based HEB Grocery Co., one of the state’s largest food retailers, have banned openly carried guns. That’s incurred the ire of activists who have vowed to shop elsewhere. Others, such as Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., have chosen not to ban firearms carried legally, inviting the scorn of gun-control advocates promising a boycott of their own."

    The Morning News wrote that "managers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Texas have a new task to add to their list of duties: asking customers if they have a permit to carry a handgun ... Cashiers or door greeters who see someone with a gun are to alert the highest- ranking employee, who is to approach the customer and ask to see the paperwork."

    I commented:

    I can't really comment on this story with any degree of objectivity or even understanding. I wasn't raised in a gun culture, and my comprehension of the Second Amendment is entirely academic, not emotional. When I think about the issue, I think about a school not to far away from where I live in Connecticut, where 20 kids and six staffers were killed by a guy with guns. But I also recognize that this is a complicated and emotional issue for a lot of people, and that my experience - or lack of it - should not be the determining factor in creating a national gun policy.

    That said, I feel really bad for those Walmart greeters who are going to be asking to see gun permits. Again, this may be my lack of experience speaking, but it just seems like a situation ripe for disaster.

    Maybe I'm wrong. And maybe I'll learn something from how this all plays out.


    I knew I was opening a can of worms. But what the hell.

    One MNB user responded:

    I just had to respond to the article on open carry of guns in stores.  Not only did I not grow up in a home with guns, I have some sort of aversion to them that makes me faint around them.  Three times in my life.  Once when I was being taught how to handle them safely (with police officers as guides), once when I came face to face with one that had been left out by a friend’s father and once when friends were in a safe environment doing some target practice.  I have no idea why.  It just happens.  Can’t even walk through the hunting sections of outdoor stores.  So, to say I cannot approach this subject without emotion is putting it lightly.

    However, I would be at least “okay” with people carrying guns around in public if I knew they had to pass one test in order to do so:  Go through a physical simulation of one of the more publicized mass shootings in recent history and come out “killing” the perpetrator and without “shooting” an innocent person.  I’m guessing paint guns with personalized colors could do the trick.  I want someone who is carrying a gun at a store, theater, etc. to PROVE that s/he has the training, mental ability and emotional strength to act effectively and responsibly.  The “perpetrators” will be wearing body armor.  They may release smoke bombs.  The lights might not be on.  Your “friends” will be running around, terrified, in many directions.  You cannot stop to help anyone who is “shot”—even little children.  There will be no warnings. Now . . . GO! 

    I believe a police officer was shot and killed in San Bernardino during that attack.  How much better could a civilian without day-to-day pressure to be ready to handle this situation be better equipped than an officer?  I seem to remember a guy trying to stop a shooting in a Walmart a year or two ago.  He was shot and killed by that shooter.  So, what good did that do?

    Honestly, there is so much about this issue that boggles my mind.  All I know is that I will finally be driven to become a full-on online shopper if I have to worry that folks will be walking around with guns out in the open.  I can work from home, too, I guess.  Maybe I’ll be safe on the road, in my own car, going from my house to the homes of my family and friends.  Heaven help me if folks are going to be coming to church with them, I’ll have to give that up, too.

    So much for my rights.


    MNB reader Gil Harmon wrote:

    Regarding the article on guns in retail stores or not, this is such an emotional issue.  On one hand, getting guns can be easier than perhaps they should which means criminals can (and will) obtain guns illegally.  On the other hand, legal conceal carry gun owners won’t carry unless they feel confident they can use that gun under extreme and necessary conditions.  I understand the debate very well and fall on both sides for specific reasons, but one thing seems clear, no untrained retail operations associate should ever try to enforce gun right laws in their store.  This falls into the category of common sense.  Walmart needs to get some.     

    For the record, the cowardly people that do decide to commit mass murder rarely pull off such a dishonorable deed in a place that allows firearms.  This is to inflict maximum harm and carnage.  That is a supposed reason James Holmes drove past closer movie theaters because the Cinemark theater did (does) ban them.  Also, mass murders do not advertise they are coming by strapping a side arm to their hip, because they also want the element of surprise.  I personally feel safer in a building that allows guns than do not, even though I would not carry myself.  If someone wants to create unimaginable havoc, they will find a way.  I would suspect, given their cowardly nature, they will try in a place that will  not allow others to shoot back.


    MNB user Scott M. Huff wrote:

    I think the Walmart greeters will find that the folks enjoying open carry in TX will be mostly happy to show their CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) upon being asked.  I know I would.  As more and more people choose to open carry in Texas, after this “breaking-in” period, it will likely become a non-issue.  Guaranteed crime will be reduced by people enjoying open carry as the criminals will be more aware that there are a lot of citizens who will are willing to fight back against crime.  I know this is a tough one to swallow for folks not used to guns carried by citizens (i.e. NE), but folks that are used to (legally owned) guns are typically very responsible with them.

    Once a few open-carry folks shoot a few bad guys, people will realize this makes more sense than is immediately intuitive.  It will be fascinating to see what this law does to diminish crime.  Has the potential to stand the political pandering around guns/second amendment on its head.  Thank God for Texas!


    From another reader:

    People not raised in the "gun culture," as you put it, tend to have a fear of guns I would imagine.  I was introduced to guns as a child by the Boy
    Scouts on Rifle and Shotgun overnights, which I remember fondly.  The Dads got out all their guns, we went to a range and had a blast so to speak
    shooting clays and targets and getting to know all different kinds of long
    guns.  My most memorable gun was a flint lock black powder gun I got to
    shoot.  For me it had a mystical connection harkening back to the days of
    Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone.  It was heavy, and hard to aim and the delay waiting for the powder to ignite was a surprise having shot other guns, it took forever to go off.  I loved it. Shooting guns in my view is the only true way of earning respect of them.  They are powerful tools that can do enormous damage.  As a kid having been around them I respected them was taught gun safety and proper handling, I knew what to do if I ever found one and was safer because of it.

    But if we examine that old flint lock a little further, what we find is that it was state of the art weaponry when the 2nd Amendment was written.
    And lest we forget, Revolution is what birthed this nation and the
    intention of the 2nd Amendment was the for the protection of the people
    from tyrannical government and that the tools of Revolution not be impeded.

    The 2nd Amendment was not about the protection of hunters and target
    shooters, but our very liberty.  So from that perspective, what guns we are
    allowed to own today come nowhere near the intention of the amendment. It also comes with consequences, but it's worth it in my view.

    And just as I feel safer in a bank seeing an armed guard I feel the same way seeing an armed neighbor in a grocery store.  Its the criminals I fear not law abiding gun owners proud enough to show all that they are willing to defend you should the need arise.  I think of it as nothing more than an extended police force and crime deterrent.  Guns are tools for protection, target shooting, hunting and even Revolution.  I think that context gets lost in the modern debate over gun laws.

    I don't openly or concealed carry but support those who do, and thank them for keeping watch just as I thank all police officers for their service.


    And another:

    We live in Texas and are advocates for the 2nd Amendment. We also believe that the tragedy near you may have been prevented or at least diminished if there was someone in the building who had a weapon. However, that being said, gun owners do have a responsibility to handle their guns appropriately. Meaning that there may not be a need to shop with your gun, especially if the store is already looking out for your safety. Some people are just afraid at the sight of a weapon. We respect and appreciate their fear. Meanwhile, Texas may have open carry laws in place...but that doesn't mean everyone is walking around with a gun on their hip... Seeing that is still a rare occurrence, so stores complaining of losing business due to this law is extremely exaggerated at best and more of a media ploy! HEB is as crowded as ever on the weekend.

    MNB user Mike Springer wrote:

    I must admit that I thought you might take more of an "anti-gun" stance on this one but was pleasantly surprised to see your "wait and see" response.  The truth is that this is not new to our country as Texas is only one of many (actually most) that already allows some form of "open carry" (not saying I agree or disagree with the current laws).

    As someone who works for a Texas retailer, it does put all of us in a no-win situation with our guests.  Some folks are adamant one way or the other, but I think the majority of us just want a safe environment in which to shop and common sense to prevail!


    Finally, MNB reader Gary Maxworthy wrote:

    Your take on this seems so unlike your take on just about every other issue you comment on.

    I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that, but I'm guessing that you - like Mike Springer - expected a more virulent and reflexive anti-gun response.

    I do hate to disappoint ... so let me be a little clearer about my feelings and opinions.

    First of all, I'm amazed how many states have open-carry laws. Even my state, Connecticut, does ... and I have no recollection of ever seeing any civilian walking around with a gun on his or her hip. (If I had, I would have called the cops.) So maybe this new Texas law actually is much ado about nothing. When I say wait-and-see, that's really what I'm referring to.

    I also think that employees at stores who are told to check on people carrying weapons to make sure they are licensed are being put in a horrible position. I figure this can go three ways. They are licensed and happy to show their credentials. They are licensed and resentful of being asked. Or they are not licensed and resentful ... and with this bunch, the potential for things going badly has to be a little higher than if the law did not exist and/or nobody asked. Again, let's wait-and-see ... though if things go badly, those words will ring hollow.

    If I seem less reflexively anti-gun than you expect, it is because I feel strongly that much of the debate in this country becomes uncivil because we refuse to even acknowledge that people with differing opinions from us might have a point, or at least a rationale for their opinions. Sometimes these differences are cultural, sometimes they are geographic, and sometimes they are demographic. It seems to me to be completely unreasonable and entirely unsophisticated to pretend these differences don't exist.

    But differences do exist. Which is why I also believe that the gun laws in places like Chicago and New York and Los Angeles ought to be different - and way tougher - than they are in more rural areas. I think a reasonable national discussion could lead us in that direction, but a reasonable national discussion on this issue seems unlikely ... just as we're unlikely to come to any sort of reasonable agreement about the Second Amendment, about which there are legitimate differences of opinion.

    I also think it is fair to suggest that political polarization has forced people on either side of these issues into even more diametrically opposition ... that it wasn't that long ago when there seemed to be more agreement among conservatives and liberals about what "reasonable" gun laws ought to look like. Also, in fairness, it seems to me that there probably are a lot of gun laws that probably aren't being enforced to the extent they should be.

    For the record, I've always felt that a reasonable change to federal law would be that if you are in possession of a gun during the commission of any crime, you get a 25 year mandatory sentence. If you fire the gun, it goes to 50 years. If the bullet wounds someone, it goes to 75 years. Kill someone, and you're in for life. No parole, no exceptions. (I'd include in this law the stipulation that it includes any civilian who shoots someone who he or she thinks is a bad guy, but isn't.) I'm flexible on the years, but not the draconian nature of how these sentences would be applied.

    I have to be be honest here. I am a lot less persuaded than some people that what we really need is lots of armed people who can shoot bad guys when the situation seems appropriate. That seems like a way-too-simplistic solution to me ... and I've met too many people in my life who think they have the knowledge, insight, temperament and ability to make such life-and-death decisions, and are, to my mind, utterly delusional. Not bad people, just not equipped to reach these conclusions in tough and dangerous circumstances. They think they're a Clint Eastwood character ... and they forget that Clint Eastwood was only Clint Eastwood in the movies.

    This all said, I have to recognize that we need to have a legitimate and reasoned political and cultural debate in this country about this issue ... it'd just be nice if everybody would be willing to give up a little in order to reach some agreement.

    But here's what really bothers me. At my wife's public elementary school, the teachers and kids have to walk by an armed guard when they go in and out of the building each day. That's a shame, and ultimately, it symbolizes a national failure, no matter what you think the solution should be.




    MNB took note of a story the other day about how Wegmans was removing all cosmetics and HBC products from its stores - including Johnson & Johnson’s RoC, Aveeno and Clean & Clear brands, P&G’s Olay and Crest toothpaste, and L’Oréal’s Garnier - that contain polyethylene microbead plastics, widely considered to be an environmental menace.

    MNB user Christine Neary responded:

    Definitely delighted to hear that Wegmans is moving in the right direction over plastic particle pollution, and is being so public about it.




    I was chagrined by predictions that canned wine will be the next big thing, leading MNB reader John J. Toner V to write:

    I for one LOVE canned wine, and I can’t use the word love too much.  If you are a yachtsman, or live in a condo, or do anything where you need to manage trash – cans are so much better the bottles – they take up much less space, and are lighter when disposing.  It’s like the box of wine, but you can manage/ration your intake better.  And when the waves are a rolling it is hard to pour a cup without making a mess out of a bottle or a box…




    Michael Sansolo's column the other day referred to the now-antiquated notion of paper calendars, which prompted MNB reader Steve Sullivan to write:

    Michael, Your comment made me feel old (-er). 

    You said, " – if anyone uses a calendar with pages anymore –" .  Yeah, I check the date on my iPhone, and I have my work calendar on our Outlook at work, but I have also received my traditional "Get Fuzzy" desk calendar from my son, my WWF Penguin wall calendar from my daughter, a recipe calendar from Food Lion, a pocket wall calendar shared with the wife and, this one I try to figure out why every year, a wall calendar from our local Duke Energy nuclear power plant.  So, yes, there are a lot of calendars with pages out there.





    We also continue to get email about the Chipotle mess.

    One MNB user wrote:

    My family and I have been big fans of Chipotle over time.  For us, it has not been due to the sourcing, the “food with integrity” proposition or any of that.  We simply liked the style of the food; it was flexible, tasty and seemed fresh.  The cost was good and we could all find something we liked.  A couple of weeks ago, however, two of my daughters and I were looking for lunch and came across a Chipotle.  I thought about it, and decided we needed to keep driving to find another place.  Too risky.

    Here’s the worst part - which represents the most dangerous prospect to a company like Chipotle:  I’m not going to be actively reading the news or listening for the company’s proclamation that “all is well” again.  We’re moving on, and we’re not nearly loyal enough to them to be waiting breathlessly for Chipotle to be back on their feet.  It might be years before we wind up in one again, if they survive that long...


    Michael Blackburn wrote:

    I’ve watched with interest the unfolding of the Chipotle story.  The food safety issues should continue to be a primary focus for all players throughout the food supply chain.  However, specific to this story, I’ve read with interest first the comments from readers of how the”natural food is better” proponents have egg on their face, and then the stories themselves taking the stance that somehow reducing your exposure to processed, artificial and antibiotic laden foods is foolhardy. 

    The Bloomberg story states there are about 48 million cases of food illness each year, and Chipotle has found about 500 cases since July related to its stores.  This number does not seem out of proportion given they operate nearly 2,000 sites out of nearly 620,000 restaurants throughout the country.  Still, the jury is out as to the culpability of Chipotle’s food handling practices in this mess.

    In my mind, the real question is why are we getting so many bacterial food illnesses in this country?  Let’s trace it back to the farms and ultimate source.  Could it be somehow related to the fact that 80% of all antibiotics distributed in this country are used by the agriculture industry (primarily to stimulate growth)?  Could this be the reason we are getting more aggressive strains of E. Coli and other bacteria, resistant to even our toughest antibiotics? Do a Google search, its only a matter of decades at best, before we find ourselves back in the dark ages as our current antibiotics become ineffective against these newer strains of bacteria.


    Also got an email about this from Chelsea Ware, who has contributed a few "Millennial Mind" columns to MNB in recent months:

    I read your piece on Chipotle this morning and the anticipation of their fate is killing me. As a broke college student, I used to always eat at Chipotle with my friends because they  are one of the only places on campus that is hip, fresh, and affordable. At noon on a weekday, the PSU Chipotle would have a line that wrapped around the restaurant.

    But now when I pass by them the place is  empty. It is depressing to look at actually. Students used to always be eating Chipotle's famous oversized burritos in class but now people just sit in their seats empty handed and stare at the professor like zombies with low blood sugar. 

    This whole thing has made me wonder why other chains haven't used this scandal to steal Chipotle's thunder. As mentioned above, much of Chipotle's success is due to the fact that they play upbeat music, give patrons an aesthetically pleasing place to sit, and offer affordable food that is served quickly. These attributes are affordable and easy to implement. Why are so few restaurants doing this?

    For the sake of my grumbling stomach, I  really hope that Chipotle recovers. But if they don't, then who is going to step in and take their place?





    I expressed a little frustration with smart home technology like the Nest, and this apparently resonated with a few readers. Nick Arlt wrote:

    You mentioned you have a Nest and couldn’t get it working. I used to have a Nest and didn’t have issues, but it’s been a number of years. About 8 months ago I installed an Ecobee 3 thermostat. It was simple to install (from a guy who isn’t handy at all) and is Home Kit Enabled, so it will work with Apple Products. A month ago I installed 3 smoke/carbon monoxide detectors that were all Home Kit Enabled and I also have a WeMo Outlet from Belkin, not Home Kit enabled, but “smart.”
     
    I’ve been very happy with the Home Kit smart products and feel comfortable knowing that they have to meet Apple’s strict security standards. That was part of the reason I went away from the Nest. The ability to monitor and control all the devices from my iPhone is great. I feel more secure knowing that if there is an issue at my house I’ll be alerted no matter where I am. I would recommend all of the above products.


    MNB reader Howard Tobin wrote:

    I had an issue installing my Nest and called their Toll Free Number and received excellent/helpful Customer Service.   Because of the quality of the product and their Customer Service I now have purchased Nest Smoke Detectors.
     
    Nest is like Apple, the cost is higher but the superior product and their Customer Service still make this a good value.





    We had a bit of a dust-up the other day when MNB reader Tom Kroupa said that Whole Foods' John Mackey is a libertarian and reflexively anti-government. Which led MNB reader Tom Herman to respond that "libertarians are not anti-government any more than liberals are anti-capitalism." And now, Tom Kroupa responds back:

    That is a distinction without a difference: Libertarians will always be perceived as anti-government. John Mackey wants the equivalent of sending the referees home so that the players and coaches can make the calls.

    Is being perceived as anti-government the same as actually being anti-government? I'm not sure.

    But here's what I would suggest ... that in some ways you're both right. Libertarians may not be anti-government in an absolutist sense, but they do tend to be anti any part of government that they see as infringing on their personal freedoms. That can be a really, really big pice of the governmental pie...




    On another issue, how "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes' next project is a serialized digital novel app, MNB reader Linda Reiring – Reta has a thought:

    Responding to your article on the upcoming serialized novel/app "Belgravia," I have to say that this type of novel delivery is by far the most annoying to any avid reader.  I have been using Kindle as my primary app for reading for many years, starting with the actual Kindle device when it was first launched.  There’s been a trend the last few years for authors to release novels in phases, thus making more money through the process.  For the most part they call it Book 1, Book 2, Book 3….with a “novella” in between.  What’s most annoying is some of these “books” are as little as 100 pages.  In the end, a five book series is really one long novel and an avid reader likes to read the novel, not in starts and stops but beginning to end.  Getting a chapter a week on one level is good because at least you don’t have to search for it and you know it’s coming.  On the other hand, I’m not going to curl up to a good chapter; that activity is reserved for books.




    The other day, in a piece about how Earth Fare is closing an Ohio store that wilted under severe competition, I suggested that Dorothy Lane Market's approach to competition probably made Earth Fare's store untenable. This prompted MNB reader Ellisa Stone to write:

    I have lived here for almost 15 years after relocating to Ohio for General Mills right out college.

    Dorothy Lane is truly a great store and a fierce competitor with a highly loyal high income base; the market is highly saturated with grocery options and is also home to 2 of Kroger's largest stores.

    As a base, we already had Dorothy Lane, Trader Joes, the masses like Walmart & Target, etc., value players such as Aldi & Dollar General, and clubs such as Sams.

    Within the last year, Kroger added their second major store, Fresh Thyme, Earthfare, and Whole Foods entered the market AND Costco built their first Dayton area club.

    Because Dayton is such a small concentrated market, I can access any of these stores with 5-15 minutes.

    While Earthfare was probably the weakest platform in the market in a lackluster location, I would not be surprised to see others struggle over the next year.


    And MNB reader Krag Swartz wrote:

    Great observation about Dorothy Lane Market.  Norman Mayne and his son Calvin and his entire team have thrived in all kinds of competition over the years.   The food and service and the shopping experience are huge differentiators for them.




    Regarding the really important stuff, MNB reader Tom Tomaselli wrote:

    Totally agree with you on Ken Griffey Jr going in with a Mariners hat as long as it’s backwards!  Even as a die-hard Yankees fan, it’s been a lot of fun to watch the career of a great ambassador to the game like Ken Griffey Jr who has one of the sweetest swings I have ever seen.  Not sure why some sports analysts are saying that the backwards hat was disrespectful or showed a lack of effort on his part and saying that he could have played harder, I don’t think that’s the case at all.  I think it was just part of his playful character and the big smile he wore prominently as an important face of baseball.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    It was revealed yesterday that when Ken Griffey Jr. goes into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he will be wearing a Seattle Mariners cap, and that when Mike Piazza is inducted at the same time, he'll be wearing a New York Mets cap.
    KC's View:
    For a brief moment, all seems right with the universe, and the baseball gods are satisfied.

    Published on: January 8, 2016

    The last edition of 'OffBeat" was written just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was opening, and I hadn't seen it yet. Now, just a few weeks later, it seems like most people have seen it at least once, and the film is an enormous hit. Writer/director JJ Abrams has hit yet another home run, resurrecting a franchise that had lost a lot of momentum even as fans held fond, often passionate memories of the originals.

    So what's left to say? Little, I'm afraid, that wouldn't be redundant. So let me just offer this brief opinion - that The Force Awakens is enormous fun, managing to be both respectful and evocative of the original films while finding some measure of its own voice. The people who questioned why there was a black Storm Trooper and a female as the main protagonist are idiots; John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are wonderful, and along with Oscar Isaac, they create a new trio that will drive the story forward in coming installments.

    There have been a few stories out there by people who say they've never seen any of the Star Wars films, and consider them a mindless waste of time. They can think what they want, but for the rest of us, Star Wars continues to create a modern mythology about good and evil that speaks to multiple generations.

    While I was watching it, I couldn't help but think of my old friend Shelley Broader, who we quote in our book, "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," as often referencing Star Wars. When employees are making bad decisions, Shelley told us, she'll just go over to them and say, "You're going over to the dark side," and most of the time, they'll instantly get the reference.

    There is, naturally, a business lesson to be learned from Star Wars: The Force Awakens - that there's always a dark side, and that even in the most advanced and progressive cultures, there always will be people who will appeal to others' worst instincts rather than their best. The Force Awakens reminds us that we have to be eternally vigilant, lest we go over to the dark side, too.

    Fun movie. Important lesson.

    I also saw several other movies during the break...

    Time Out Of Mind is an excellent depiction of a homeless, possibly mentally ill man trying to survive in New York City, played by Richard Gere in as strong and unselfconscious a performance as I've ever seen from him. The movie does't have a strong plot, but is a compelling depiction of how homeless people become virtually invisible to the rest of us, and how the system is not structured to help them find their way out of their desperate circumstances. It is a terrific piece of work.

    I finally caught up with Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, a documentary about how the country music star and his family deal with his Alzheimer's disease. After going public with the diagnosis, they decided to produce one final album and do one final tour, and the movie in an often unsparing look at the tensions and challenges as Campbell's condition grows worse. I found it to be an extremely touching, honest look at this dread disease and its impact ... and would recommend it without reservation.

    Youth is a fascinating film - essentially an impressionistic film by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, about a British composer and conductor (Michael Caine) vacationing at a Swiss spa. Caine's character is caught between the realities of his advancing age, a certain bitterness born out of certain experiences, and a still youthful spirit that emerges from time to time, often surprising even him. Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda add supporting talent and texture to what is a lovely meditation on aging.

    Daddy's Home is not fascinating,nor is it touching nor honest. This Will Ferrell-Wahlberg comedy is dumb pretty much from the beginning - funny at times, but never better than dumb. I laughed, but hated myself for it. The talents involved can and should do much better for themselves, and for us.




    Had a beer last night with my friend, novelist Bob Morris ... and it ended up being a Cigar City Guayabera Citra Pale Ale. I'm not big on fruity beers, but this one has just a hint of citrus ... and it went down very easily.

    Yum.




    I'm thinking today, as I always do on January 8, about my friend Vic Magnotta, who died 29 years ago today. I wrote about him here a few years ago, and for those of you who were not MNB readers then, I'd like to share it with you ... here. He taught me lessons that I've never forgotten, and I miss him.




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

    Slàinte!
    KC's View: