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    Published on: March 31, 2021

    A new Microsoft global survey says that  63 percent of bosses say that they're thriving.  The problem is, that's a lot higher number than for the people who are working for them.  KC suggests that this is a disconnect worth addressing.

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    The pandemic has forced many businesses to pivot.

    Including, it seems, a 20-year-old Irish college student who runs a sneaker cleaning business.

    The Irish Times has the story of "Dublin college student Kevin Owens … who started a sneaker cleaning business as a school transition year project, (and) says he has never been busier due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also as more people turn towards 'upcycling'.

    "The north Dublin student operates his business, Sneaker Cleaner, from an office space on Harcourt Street, with Grafton Cleaners on South William Street operating as a drop-off and pick-up location for the runners."

    The Times notes that when Owens started his business, he marketed it via Instagram, picked up sneakers during school and then would store them in his locker before taking them home to clean them.  It was all cash-and-carry.

    But the pandemic, which has hit Ireland hard, forced some changes.  He opened a workspace (unlike other people who started working from home), set up a website, established a pick-up hub, and started taking credit cards.

    Owens tells the Times, "The whole idea of sustainability has definitely taken off. We’re taking an old pair of shoes and making them brand new again. You see a lot of really beat-up Gucci shoes coming in and even Air Force 1’s, which are notorious for getting creases after a few wears … People can spend €35 and they’re like a brand new pair of shoes again. We box them up and put the paper on them. I think a lot of people want to support Irish now or support local, because it’s very hard to shop for shoes at the moment."

    If I were a retailer doing business in Ireland, I'd be reaching out to Kevin Owens, who seems to embody the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that can differentiate one business from another.  His gumption is an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    The Dallas Morning News reports that PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay subsidiary are partnering with a new coalition that "hopes to reverse the pandemic’s unequal impact on working moms and put hundreds back into the workforce over the next three years."

    According to the story, the coalition - which includes nonprofits United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and CitySquare and Dallas College - will endeavor "to train women in the skills necessary for jobs in hospitality, sales, marketing, manufacturing and logistics. They’ll also provide social services like housing assistance and child care … The program aims to train as many as 550 women in southern Dallas as part of the Southern Dallas Thrives initiative first announced in 2018."

    The News notes that "women were pushed out of the workforce at a higher rate than men over the course of 2020, accounting for considerably more than half of the jobs lost. Government restrictions, closed schools and fear of catching COVID-19 kept kids at home and renewed calls for enhanced investment in child care to keep women in jobs."

    PepsiCo's director of government affairs, Rebecca Acuna, tells the Times, “We see this investment as an investment in our community. We’ve also seen that when women thrive, families thrive."

    KC's View:

    A worthwhile initiative, and one that I hope that can find life in other parts of the country as well.

    That said, we have a long way to go.

    Axios has a story about the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for 2021, which concludes that "it will take women in North America approximately 61.5 years to have economic parity with men."  That's longer than Western Europe (52.1 years), but at least better than East Asia and the Pacific (165 years) and South Asia (195.4 years!).

    The report says that there only has been "marginal improvement" in terms of women moving into senior management roles, and points out that in the US on average, women's income is just 65.4 percent of men's income.

    Sure, there's been some movement;  the report says that "the U.S. has closed 76.3% of its gender gap and now ranks 30th in the world on women's issues, an improvement of 23 spots from last year."  But much-cited American exceptionalism apparently does not extend to gender parity and equality.

    All of which is a long way to get back to the original point - that the PepsiCo-backed Texas initiative is a good thing to do, but it is just addresses one specific problem that exists in an ocean of serious issues.

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    Yesterday, the New York Times reports, the counting of votes in a unionization effort at a Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon distribution center has begun.

    But, the Times writes, "the results of the union election, one of the most consequential in recent memory, may not be known until later this week or early next week because the vote can often involve a painstaking process that will be closely scrutinized by representatives from the union and Amazon.

    "The ballots, which were mailed out to workers in early February, must be signed and had to be received by the National Labor Relations Board at its Birmingham office by the end of Monday."

    First, an NLRB staffer will read the worker's name contained on an outer envelope, confirm eligibility against a master list, and give either side the opportunity to challenge.  Then, the NLRB will count the uncontested ballots, posting  the interim results with every group of 100 votes.

    According to the story, "A finding of more contested ballots than uncontested is likely to set off legal arguments by the Retail Warehouse and Department Store union, which has led the organizing drive, and Amazon over the eligibility of each contested ballot. Each side has about a week to make its case before N.L.R.B. certifies the vote.

    "Either side can contest whether the vote was conducted fairly. The union, for instance, could argue that the company took steps to improperly sway the vote, by potentially making workers fearful of reprisal if they supported organizing.

    "If the union prevails, workers fear that the company may shut down the warehouse. Amazon has backed away from locations that brought it headaches before."

    KC's View:

    The betting here is that however the vote goes, there will be legal challenges.  The whole thing is likely to devolve into the cluster-muck.

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    The Conference Board came out yesterday with its monthly consumer confidence index, saying that in March it rose to its highest level in a year, going back to the beginning of the pandemic.

    According to the announcement, "The Index now stands at 109.7 (1985=100), up from 90.4 in February. The Present Situation Index - based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions - climbed from 89.6 to 110.0. The Expectations Index - based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions - also improved, from 90.9 last month to 109.6 in March."

    Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said in a prepared statement that “consumers’ assessment of current conditions and their short-term outlook improved significantly, an indication that economic growth is likely to strengthen further in the coming months. Consumers’ renewed optimism boosted their purchasing intentions for homes, autos and several big-ticket items. However, concerns of inflation in the short-term rose, most likely due to rising prices at the pump, and may temper spending intentions in the months ahead."

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been a total of 31,097,154 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 564,138 deaths and 23,586,796 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 128,899,973 coronavirus cases, with 2,818,341 resultant fatalities, and 104,002,803 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  The Washington Post reports that "at least 96 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 50.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 189.5 million doses have been distributed.


    •  The Wall Street Journal this morning is reporting that "the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE safely protects kids 12 years and older, the companies said, results likely to lead to inoculating the children before the next school year.

    "The vaccine was 100% effective in protecting against symptomatic disease in a study of more than 2,200 children, the companies said Wednesday … Given the results, Pfizer said it would ask U.S. health regulators in the coming weeks to expand use of the shots to 12- to 15-year-olds.

    "The timetable for authorization in the U.S. could mean the children will be able to be vaccinated before the next school year begins in the fall."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were down from a day earlier, but deaths were up, as the debate over reopening raged on.

    "The U.S. reported more than 60,000 new cases for Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and published early Wednesday morning Eastern time. The data might update later in the morning. Tuesday’s figure was down from 69,419 a day earlier but up from 53,578 a week earlier … Deaths, a lagging indicator, had been trending downward since March 2, according to the Journal’s analysis. But on Monday, the seven-day average of 990 exceeded the 14-day average of 983 for the first time since then."


    •  The Wall Street Journal writes this morning that "pregnant women who get the coronavirus vaccine pass their antibodies on to their newborns, recent studies suggest, a promising sign that babies can acquire from their mothers some protection against Covid-19."

    There is said to be evidence that when pregnant women received vaccines, the antibodies from those inoculations ended up in their umbilical-cord blood and their breast milk.

    According to the Journal, "The studies didn’t look specifically at the safety of vaccinations, though in one of them, pregnant women who were vaccinated didn’t report more side effects than those who weren’t pregnant.

    "Pregnant women are at higher risk of a severe case of Covid-19 and of preterm delivery if they are infected. The studies’ findings, though preliminary, suggest women could safely protect themselves and their newborns by getting vaccinated."


    •  The New York Times reports that scientists in the UK are engaged in studies to see if vaccinations can be offered on a mix-and-match basis - allowing people, say, to get the first AstraZeneca vaccine and then following up with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

    "Mixing vaccines might do more than just help overcome supply bottlenecks," the Times writes.  "Some researchers suspect that a pair of different vaccines might work better than two doses of the same one."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports today that "sports leagues playing through the pandemic are settling on a strategy for vaccinating their employees: They won’t mandate shots, but they will promise a much better life for teams on which most people get them.

    "Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association are both now offering fully vaccinated players a reprieve from some of their pandemic protocols - and the chance for whole teams to relax once 85% of players, coaches and other team personnel have had their shots.

    "All of these rules are designed to incentivize vaccine acceptance in populations that have demonstrated some hesitancy … MLB and the MLB Players Association distributed a joint memo on Monday saying that players and staff 'are strongly encouraged' to receive a vaccine when eligible, and that fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to gather together in hotel rooms and other indoor spaces without face coverings or social distancing."


    •  And, speaking of sports …the Ad Council uses them in a new public service advertisement (PSA) designed to persuade people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.  Willie Nelson provides the soundtrack:

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that after already having lowered its market cap by more than a billion dollars, Deliveroo Holdings - a food delivery startup in which Amazon holds a minority stake - saw its initial share price drop by almost a third "amid concerns about profitability."

    The story says that "a surge in demand for online deliveries fueled by pandemic-induced lockdowns made Deliveroo’s IPO one of the most anticipated in Europe in 2021. However, investors’ expectations have cooled in recent days—with large institutions in the U.K. including Aviva Investors and Standard Life Aberdeen PLC, saying they wouldn’t buy shares—amid growing concerns about the company’s profit outlook.

    "Some investors fear the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines could speed a return to physical restaurants, undercutting demand for Deliveroo’s delivery services. Meanwhile, analysts say a recent U.K. court ruling that a group of Uber Technologies Inc. drivers were entitled to a minimum wage and other benefits, could set a precedent for other gig-economy workers, potentially raising Deliveroo’s costs."


    •  Modern Materials Handling reports that Asian-American specialty grocer H Mart is partnering with robotics technology company Auto Store "to introduce a fully automated micro-fulfillment center to support H Mart’s online grocery operations in Carlstadt, New Jersey."

    According to the story, "AutoStore’s robotics and WMS technologies combine to provide retailers with a complete MFC solution, increasing fulfillment efficiency for a broad range of grocery packaged goods along with fresh and frozen items. AutoStore states its MFC solution is flexible and scalable, and can even be installed at the back of a store. This enables retailers to reduce the average distance between an MFC and their customer, allowing for both in-store pickup and rapid home delivery."

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    •  Chipotle Mexican Grill has settled on a unique approach to celebrating National Burrito Day tomorrow.

    According to USA Today, "The fast-casual chain announced Tuesday it will give away $100,000 in free burritos and $100,000 in Bitcoin through an interactive game … Chipotle said in a news release that it is the first U.S. restaurant brand to offer a 'cryptocurrency giveaway to consumers' through the 'Burritos or Bitcoin' game, which starts Thursday at noon EST and ends at 9 p.m."

    The game has Chipotle "claiming to have lost the passcode to its digital wallet and is encouraging its fans to carry out a mock 'chiptocurrency' rescue mission.'   Each player gets 10 tries to guess a correct six-digit passcode for a chance to win a free burrito or up to $25,000 in Bitcoin."

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    •  IRI announced the appointment of Kirk Perry, Google’s President of Global Client & Agency Solutions, as President and CEO.  Perry succeeds Andrew Appel, who will remain an Advisor to the Company and member of the Board of Directors. 

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    G. Gordon Liddy, who at various times in his life was an FBI agent, radio talk-show host, author, actor, Congressional candidate and convicted felon - for his role in the 1972 Watergate break-in that helped lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon - has died.  He was 90.

    Liddy, the Washington Post notes, "was sentenced in March 1973 to a 20-year prison term for conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping. President Jimmy Carter commuted Liddy’s sentence in 1977 and he was released after 52 months behind bars."

    Published on: March 31, 2021

    Michael Sansolo referenced a cicada invasion in his commentary yesterday, and I suggested that maybe retailers could start selling cicada-infused foods - they are, after all, said to be edible.

    MNB reader Angie Criswell responded:

    In 1987, the Snappy Tomato Pizza company changed their special to Snappy Cicada Pizza….As a kid growing up in the Greater Cincinnati area in 1987, the Snappy Cicada Pizza Jingle would get stuck in your head.  While the cicadas were getting stuck in your feathered and aquanet-ed hair…I was never brave enough to try one, but it was a real thing…


    MNB reader George Denman (of MNB fave Graeter's Ice  Cream) wrote:

    Here are just a few recipes that I saw a few years back when  Cicadas came out here in Cincinnati. Don’t worry though,  Graeter’s is NOT working on a cicada flavored ice cream!!   


    Chocolate Covered Cicadas

    Source: "CICADA-LICIOUS: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas"

    Ingredients:
    8 squares of good-quality dark, white, or milk chocolate
    30 dry roasted cicadas

    Directions:
    1. Roast teneral cicadas for 15 minutes at 225F.
    2. Melt chocolate in a double-boiler over low heat. Dip insects in chocolate, place on wax paper and refrigerate until hardened.



    Crispy wok tossed cicadas

    Source: AndrewZimmern.com

    Ingredients:

    2 cups cicadas
    2 tablespoons peanut oil
    2 tablespoons minced ginger
    1 hot dried Asian chile
    4 tablespoons minced lemongrass
    1 cup chopped scallions
    1 clove minced garlic
    2 tablespoons sugar
    2 tablespoons Toban Djan (fermented bean paste with chiles)
    1 cup minced celery
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon corn starch
    3 tablespoons rice wine (or sake)

    1. Collect roughly 2 cups of cicadas, keep them in a bucket (with a lid) with an inch of water inside. Wet wings means they won't fly off! Dry on a towel, pluck wings and legs, and set aside.

    2. Preheat a large wok over high heat. Add the peanut oil, and swirl.

    3. Add the minced ginger, hot dried Asian chile (tsin-tsin work great), minced lemongrass, chopped scallions, minced garlic, sugar, Toban Djan (fermented bean paste with chiles, Lee Kum Kee brand is fine) and toss for 15 seconds. Add the cicadas. If you can't find fermented bean paste, use a few tablespoons of Chinese dried salted black beans instead.

    4. Toss for one minute to cook. Add the minced celery, toss. Mix the soy sauce, corn starch and rice wine together in a separate bowl, then add the mixture to the wok. Toss, cooking for another minute or so until sauce tightens.



    Cica-Delicious Pizza

    Source: "CICADA-LICIOUS: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas"

    Serves: 2-3

    Ingredients:
    3 cloves garlic, pressed
    3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
    2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
    2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
    4 cups chopped tomatoes, including juice and seeds
    1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped shiitake mushrooms
    3/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
    3/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
    1 1/2 cups blanched cicadas
    1 cup feta cheese
    1 cup mozzarella cheese
    1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough (for a 12" pizza)

    Directions:

    1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden.

    2. Add the herbs and cook for another minute, until wilted.

    3. Add the tomatoes and juice, turn the heat to low, and gently cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid had been absorbed and the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat.

    4. Meanwhile, prepare the dough by rolling it out to desired thickness and shaping it into a 12" circle. Using a shallow wooden spoon, spread the tomato sauce over the pizza dough to the desired thickness.

    5. Distribute the rest of the ingredients evenly over the top of the pizza.

    6. Place pizza in a 375F oven for 15 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.


     Who knew?  (Well, apparently George and Angie did…)