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    Published on: November 18, 2022

    Tomorrow, Saturday, is MNB’s 21st birthday … so I thought it made sense to record this video in a saloon, since I can finally take MNB out for a legal drink.  Y'know what's nice about this moment?  I'm looking forward to year 22 as much as I looked forward to year one.

    BTW … here is a glimpse at how MNB has appeared at various times over the past two decades…

    And, some memories...

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    by Kevin Coupe

    After 21 years of doing this, the following story seems like the perfect MNB Eye Opener…

    The New York Times reports on a German study in which scientists fed 10 cows industrial hemp with high levels of THC, and then observed that "compared with cows that received the usual diet of corn and hay, the hemp-fed Holsteins were more chilled out, salivated and yawned more often, and frequently engaged in whimsical tongue play, the study found. They also spent more time lounging around the barn as they chewed their cud and ruminated the universe.

    "They did not, however, exhibit a proclivity for binge eating."

    Still unknown - but definitely being studied - is whether milk from cows with such a diet will have the same impact on human beings who drink it.

    The story is pretty detailed, explaining how the impact of the THC-infused feed seemed to go away within a couple of days once the diet was changed back to more traditional fare.  In addition, the results of the German study are consistent with similar research done in the US into the impact of THC on sheep.

    There are all sorts of legal issues still in play.  The Times writes that "in the United States, Congress reversed the prohibition on hemp cultivation in 2018, which has fed the expanding market for CBD oil and myriad products containing it, but hemp cannot legally be fed to livestock."  There apparently is a lot of hemp out there that is called "unwanted biomass" for which farmers are trying to to find uses … and milk is one of them.

    More work needs to be done, but it seems to me that if we have cashew milk, oat milk, almond milk and all sorts of other kinds of milk, there seems to be no reason why - subject to medical studies - that there can't be THC-infused milk.

    There does seem to be on Eye-Opening truth about this, though … consumers who drink THC-infused milk are likely to find that Oreos never looked so good.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    In a memo to employees posted yesterday, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said that layoffs that started this week, and that could number as many as 10,000, are going to continue into the new year.

    Here's what Jassy wrote:

    (Note:  The "Beth" that he refers to is Beth Galetti, Amazon's SVP, People eXperience and Technology.)

    "Two weeks ago, Beth shared that S-team and I decided to pause new incremental hires in our corporate workforce. Today, I want to share some information about role eliminations.

    "We are in the middle of our annual operating planning review where we look at each of our businesses and make decisions about what we believe we should change. Leaders across the company are working with their teams and looking at their workforce levels, investments they want to make in the future, and prioritizing what matters most to customers and the long-term health of our businesses. This year’s review is more difficult due to the fact that the economy remains in a challenging spot and we’ve hired rapidly the last several years.

    "Yesterday, we communicated the difficult decision to eliminate a number of positions across our Devices and Books businesses, and also announced a voluntary reduction offer for some employees in our People, Experience, and Technology (PXT) organization. Our annual planning process extends into the new year, which means there will be more role reductions as leaders continue to make adjustments. Those decisions will be shared with impacted employees and organizations early in 2023. We haven’t concluded yet exactly how many other roles will be impacted (we know that there will be reductions in our Stores and PXT organizations), but each leader will communicate to their respective teams when we have the details nailed down. And, as has been the case this week, we will prioritize communicating directly with impacted employees before making broad public or internal announcements.

    "I’ve been in this role now for about a year and a half, and without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we’ve made during that time (and, we’ve had to make some very tough calls over the past couple of years, particularly during the heart of the pandemic). It’s not lost on me or any of the leaders who make these decisions that these aren’t just roles we’re eliminating, but rather, people with emotions, ambitions, and responsibilities whose lives will be impacted. We are working to support those who are affected and trying to help them find new roles on teams that have a need; and in cases where that’s not possible, we are offering packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, and external job placement support.

    "Amazon has weathered uncertainty and difficult economies in the past, and we will continue to do so. We have big opportunities ahead, both in our more established businesses like Stores, Advertising, and AWS, but also in our newer initiatives that we’ve been working on for a number of years and have conviction in pursuing (e.g. Prime Video, Alexa, Kuiper, Zoox, and Healthcare). The key will be to do what Amazon does best – obsess over customers and invent relentlessly on their behalf – and if we do that, we should all be very optimistic about Amazon’s future. I know I am.

    "I want to thank each of you for your continuing contributions during this challenging time and as we gear up to deliver for customers during the busy shopping season.



    KC's View:

    However this shakes out at Amazon, the company seems to be proceeding through a difficult time in a way that is measured, calculated and deliberate, with an eye on right-sizing the company for the future.  Which seems completely the opposite of the nonsense going on at Twitter, where the fellow in charge seems to be all IQ and absolutely no EQ, throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

    And again, I remind you:  Amazon has some 1.5 million employees globally, and Amazon increased its total labor headcount by five percent over the past year.  A 10,000-person layoff is considerable - and especially painful to those who are being cut - but it would be a mistake to think this is eviscerating Amazon's workforce.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    The Associated Press reports that "a coalition of consumer groups is asking grocery chains to rethink their digital-only coupons, saying the deals discriminate against people who don’t have smartphones or reliable internet access."

    According to the story, "Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts who runs the website Consumer World," as well as  Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, the Public Interest Research Group and the National Consumers League, "sent letters this week to Kroger, Albertsons, Stop & Shop and Smart & Final urging them to make sure deals are available in both digital and nondigital formats."

    The story goes on:

    "Dworsky said some stores offer refunds to customers who ask for the digital price, but that requires the customer to make an extra effort. He wants stores to ensure cashiers will honor digital deals upon request, or even go to the lengths of Texas-based H-E-B, which puts physical coupons in its stores next to advertised deals.

    "Dworsky said older adults are the most likely to lack smartphone or internet access or the technical savvy to figure out how digital-only coupons work.

    "Smartphone access varies widely by age group in the U.S., according to a 2021 study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The study found that 96% of people ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone, compared with 61% of those 65 and older. The same study found that 25% of people 65 or older don’t use the internet."

    The AP notes that "Albertsons said it offers digital deals as a way to reward customers in its loyalty program, who can download the deals into their apps. But the company said many of its stores also let customers present the weekly circular to cashiers so the discounts can be applied at the register.

    "Dworsky said that can be problematic, since customers and cashiers don’t always know that’s an option."

    KC's View:

    I must admit to being conflicted about this.  On the one hand, I get the consumer complaint … but I am a big fan of retailers offering their best deals to the most loyal customers.  I actually think that retailers ought to go granular on their digital data so they can offer the best deals to their best customers.  Reward the cherry buyers, not the cherry pickers.

    I understand that there is a gap between people who interact digitally with retailers and those who do not, but that gap is going to get smaller with every passing day.  

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has described Amazon-owned Whole Foods as "not a good partner, period" for its closure of a once highly touted store in the city's Englewood neighborhood.

    The store was originally opened six year ago, subsidized with $10.7 million in city money, and lauded for being part of Chicago's South Side, serving one of the city's most economically depressed areas.  The tribune noted this week that "the company closed five other stores across the country 'to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success' at the time, including a location near DePaul. It also opened an almost 66,000-square foot location in the Near North neighborhood the same week."

    In her comments, Lightfoot said that Whole Foods has "not collaborated. They have not come to the table. We know who they are."

    The Tribune writes that "the mayor made those comments ahead of a unanimous City Council vote to grant $13.5 million in tax-increment money to private developers to reopen a Save-A-Lot in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood and rehabilitate five other Save-A-Lots on the South and West sides.

    "Lightfoot decried the lack of grocery options on the South and West sides as a 'historic wrong.'

    "'The problem of food deserts in our city is real, and, unfortunately, it has persisted for far too long,' she said.

    "She then gave shoutouts to a variety of grocery stores that operate throughout Chicago’s disinvested neighborhoods … The city announced the $13.5 million grant to Yellow Banana this summer. The company, which is owned by Cleveland-based investment firm 127 Wall Holdings LLC, said it planned to use the money to reopen the Auburn Gresham location that has been closed since 2020. It also plans to acquire and upgrade the five other stores, which Yellow Banana has operated since 2021 but does not own.

    "The city funding awarded to Yellow Banana comes after a spate of grocery store closures on the South and West sides, frustrating residents and elected officials who say grocery companies are leaving residents without sufficient access to healthy and affordable foods."

    Lightfoot also used the moment to criticize Aldi, which "closed a store in Auburn Gresham in June … Lightfoot criticized the company this summer, saying Aldi should be 'ashamed.'

    "'Aldi’s, hear me loud and clear,' Lightfoot said. 'Come to the table and talk and work with us, or there are going to be major challenges for you in the city of Chicago'."

    KC's View:

    At some level, everybody is doing their jobs here.  Lightfoot's job is to find ways to bring food stores to Chicago's food deserts.  Whole Foods' job is to position the company for the highest levels of growth and profitability (and do so at the moment in an internal climate of cost cutting).

    It simply may be that Whole Foods was all wrong for a food desert, and that formats like Save-A-Lot are going to be more successful.

    I continue to think, though, that it may be a lost opportunity for Amazon/Whole Foods, which has enough resources to have been able to find a way to change the lives of people who need better food shopping options.

    As or threatening Aldi, I'm not sure that's helpful.  But, on the other hand, maybe that's just the Chicago way.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    The Boston Globe reports that "as Americans redesign their lives for the contours of a 'post-pandemic' existence, Thursday is enjoying a renaissance.

    "The once unremarkable day that historically predated the weekend has recently taken on a newfound importance, say bar and restaurant operators around Greater Boston. It’s busier than before COVID — sometimes so much so that owners have to hike up inventory or bring on extra staff to keep pace with the crowds. Data from Open Table shows that reservations through the service were up 30 percent the last Thursday in October, compared to the same day in 2019.

    "The hybrid workweek is at least partly responsible for the trend … Those working on a hybrid schedule now see Thursday as the unofficial end of the work week, before they head to their home office on Friday. Nationwide, 23 percent of employees can work from home part time, according to a June survey from McKinsey, and many local companies allow people to stay home select days of the week."

    The Globe writes that "newly formed fluctuations in priorities and social habits are playing a role, too … Some theorized that the pandemic highlighted the need for greater work-life balance. Friendship, after all, shouldn’t be reserved for two nights a week, said Mario LaPosta of Da LaPosta, an Italian restaurant in Newtonville … It may also be that New Englanders have started to escape for weekend trips earlier and want to eat before they leave. Or that locking down a weekend restaurant reservation has just become too difficult."

    KC's View:

    I don't think I've seen any data on this … but I wonder if these shifts in how and where people work have had any impact on when people grocery shop.  I'm a lousy barometer for this stuff - since I've worked for myself for almost 30 years, I don't have to account for my time or effort to anyone.  I can go to the grocery store, or take the dogs for a walk, or go to a movie pretty much anytime I want, as long as MNB gets done.

    Folks who are experiencing this kind of flexibility for the first time may find themselves undertaking these tasks and pleasures at non-traditional times.  And retailers may need to find ways to adjust.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    •  H-E-B announced that it has broken ground on a store in north Tarrant County, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that will "join two Central Market locations, which have served Tarrant Co. for more than two decades, and H-E-B Mansfield, a location announced earlier this year."

    The 117,000 square foot store "will include an H-E-B Wellness Primary Care clinic. The H-E-B Wellness Primary Care clinic will offer full service primary care for all individuals ages 12 and older, operating in coordination with registered dietitians with a food first philosophy rooted in science. Services will include primary care, physical therapy, health/nutrition coaching, clinical pharmacists, specialty referrals and labs to create a coordinated approach to healthcare under one roof."

    •  Orlando Weekly reports that "Publix is opening bars in several of its Florida locations.

    "Pours at Publix is the newest concept launched by the grocery chain which allows customers to buy wine and beer at the bar located right within the store.  If you aren't quite up to having a pint and a black and white, the newly added bars also offer coffee and tea.

    "Other items on the menu at Pours include on-tap kombucha and açaí bowls which you can enjoy while you shop around or eat right at the bar, according to Publix."

    Publix Pours also is available in all eight Publix GreenWise Markets.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    •  Dollar Tree announced what it called "a number of key leadership additions, with Jennifer Bohaty, Terence Goods, Jennifer Silberman and Kristin Tetreault joining the organization as Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Diversity Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Chief Communications Officer respectively."

    Bohaty formerly was Global Chief of Ethics and Compliance at LL Flooring;  Goods most recently served as Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits;  before Dollar Tree, Silberman was Vice President of ESG for YETI, where she established the company’s first ESG priorities;  and Tetreault joins Dollar Tree from Stanley Black & Decker, where she was Vice President of Enterprise & Executive Communications.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    MNB reader Janis Raye wanted to weigh in on our self-scanning conversation:

    Just a comment on self-scanning (which I only do if I have a very small number of groceries). I worked for Citibank way back in the day when ATMs were just being installed. Within the bank, it was acknowledged that they were intended to save on staffing costs for the bank — but the public line was that they were to make things quicker and easier for customers. They did both, obviously.

    Self-checkout seems exactly the same to me — it’s clearly a way for supermarkets to save money by reducing the number of cashiers hired, but it’s sold to customers as a way to improve their checkout experience. But while I use ATMs frequently to get cash, I tend to resent the self-checkout lanes every time I use them. I think that’s because the experience of using self-checkout isn’t really very good. I usually have to call over the helper for something that doesn’t work, whereas I never have to ask the bank teller for help with the ATM. 

    MNB reader Monte Stowell chimed in:

    The reason self checkout is up 38% is plain to see. Go into an Albertsons, Safeway, or a Fred Meyer here in Portland, Oregon and you will see 6-7-8 full service check stands not being manned, and maybe 2-4 with a cashier with people standing in line. The self checkout lines are generally quite busy with people standing in line to check themselves out. Why is this happening? One reason, the stores cannot find enough people to work in the stores. Second, a rare sight is seeing a store manager or an assistant manager working in the check stand. Fred Meyer has lots of store chiefs walking around and I do not see them in the check stands taking care of the customer. Too many empty check stands and not enough people to man them is not a good visual to the customer. Ditto issues at Walmart.  Again, Winco generally has enough people to staff their registers, and their self-checkout lines are busy as well. 

    Regarding Kroger's decision to emphasize discounts for Thanksgiving, one MNB reader wrote:

    Perhaps Kroger saw that some other retailers like Winco were far undercutting them on pricing on traditional Thanksgiving fare and didn't want to lose that business.  It's a long held idea that where ever you buy the turkey from, that's where you purchase nearly everything else.

    Reacting to another story from this week, MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

    I have to wonder, with the FMI's statement about being able to track various food products, they need to think, do they really want to end up on the wrong side of this argument.  I know right now the average consumer doesn't know about the FMI, but as we've seen with other organizations and people, that can change rapidly.  The point is to be careful what you think and what you say, it could come back to bite  you.

    And, responding to my public service announcement about giving blood, one MNB reader wrote:


    I’m actually donating platelets and plasma this afternoon!  Will be my 13th time this year.

    Good for you.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    In Thursday Night Football, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Green Bay Packers 27-17.

    Published on: November 18, 2022

    If there is an underlying message in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it is that the supremacy of white men in the Marvel universe is at an end - Wakanda Forever is powered almost completely by women of color, with only the villain of the piece being portrayed by a male.

    Wakanda Forever, as almost everybody knows, is the follow-up to the original Black Panther from 2018, which starred Chadwick Boseman as the titular superhero and that generated box office receipts well in excess of $1 billion.  It was seen as proof positive that a Black actor could carry a superhero film, and it was expected that Boseman's Black Panther - and the mythical African nation of Wakanda, which he ruled as King T'Challa - would be central to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) going forward.

    Those plans, of course, were derailed when Boseman passed away of colon cancer in 2020 at age 43, and Marvel, along with writer-director Ryan Coogler, were faced with decisions about whether to recast the role and, if not, how to move ther franchise forward.

    Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is the result of those deliberations, and if it is the product of corporate strategizing it also manages to be a deeply felt meditation on loss that transcends the traditional comic book movie construct.  The role has not been recast, and instead, from the opening frames until its final moments, Wakanda Forever manages to weave in an emotional story about how people (in this case, actors and the characters they play) grieve and cope.  

    The actors who return to the franchise - Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, and especially Angela Bassett - are terrific, bring unexpected layers to their roles.  Dominique Thorne is also wonderful in a new role (a brilliant college science student), and Tenoch Huerta is strong as Namor, who leads a race of  blue-skinned water-breathing mutants that come into conflict with the Wakandans.

    Okay, let's be clear - this is still a comic book movie.  (The phrase "blue-skinned water-breathing mutants" sort of gives that away.). I do think that a a percentage of the plot and action is just silly, and the 2 hour, 45 minute run time is at least 15-20 minutes too long.  And it was funny - before Wakanda Forever started, we saw a trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water, which also has a lot of blue-skinned blue people under water … maybe a statement in itself about creativity in Hollywood.

    That said, we really enjoyed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, especially the various ways in which it celebrates scientific knowledge and achievement as a superpower, and focuses on young women of color and their ability to exercise agency over their own destinies.  Under the circumstances, that's not too grandiose a description for the movie's goals, I think.  If you're going to make superhero movies, it might as well extol diversity as being a strength, not a weakness.

    Clearly, by the way, this is something that the MCU has on its mind;  in addition to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), there are a ton of women on the bench, including She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) and the new Black Widow (Florence Pugh).  I'm sure many of the movies and TV series in which this group is featured will be a silly as some of the projects that featured Iron-Man, Capital America, et. al.  But maybe that's when real diversity is achieved, when women and people of color have the ability to star in silly stuff just as much as white men.

    I have two terrific red wines to recommend to you this week.

    First, the 2019 Ashlynn Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley (that's what I am drinking in FaceTime, above).  It is balanced and smooth and everything that one expects from an terrific pinot noir - a perfect sipping wine as the weather gets colder and the fireplace gets warmed up.

    Second, there's a wonderful Syrah from France - the 2020 Maison Les Alexandrins Le Cabanon Rouge, which is 95 percent syrah and five percent viognier, and has a nice smoothness and spiciness that stands up to a heart meal.

    That's it for this week.

    Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday … as Year 22 of MorningNewsBeat begins.