business news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding yesterday's story about Coca-Cola considering a mid-calorie version of its Coke Classic soft drink, one MNB user wrote:

Take a successful soft drink, lower the calories. Good idea! Now, name it something mind-numbingly stupid like PEPSI XL! Do you really want to drink something that brings to mind the extra-large albatross going directly to your hips? That's a disaster on par with the Hindenburg and the CBS summer broadcast schedule.

Now, if Pepsi wanted to redeem themselves, they would do something about putting Pepsi One in vending machines and giving it more shelf space. I can't ever buy more than one or two cubes at my local grocer! Me without my Pepsi One...well, that's an ugly thought.

Good point about the name. Let's hope that Coca-Cola does better than, say, "Middlin' Coke."

Regarding our story and commentary yesterday about businesses linking up with financially strapped schools to provide educational field trips that offer a different view of the world of commerce, one MNB user wrote:

In Portland recently, quite a few (15-20, probably) local businesses participated in a program where reps worked with art classes in schools at all levels to designs ads for those companies. The ads then all ran in the local paper for one day in place of the regular professional types, including student names. Some, such as for department stores, were full pages. There were some complaints, but not many.

Another MNB user wrote:

For the last four years the Dominick's Finer Foods chain has had school tours. The children are taught about the different food groups and what are the requirements. One year it was FAST FOODS that are good for you. We do make stops at certain products, once it was Kraft macaroni & cheese, recipes were given. This promotes healthy eating and gives the children an inside look at the workings of a grocery store.

They meet the employees hear about their jobs, what they do and get samples along the way. This gives the stores a chance to give back to the schools in their community and shows that the company cares. I had children from 3 years up to high school attend the tours.

Each year there are more tours scheduled so it does seem to be working.

Hey, just ask Stew Leonard's how many school tours it hosts each year, and how many times a year it sends its people out into the schools to talk to kids about a wide variety of issues, including bringing animals from its petting zoo into classrooms. It is an exceedingly smart move.

MNB user Steve Panza added:

On your commentary on PetsMart sponsoring field trips - as a student in the 70s, we would go to certain businesses on field trips, including McDonalds. These field trips would tie into our curriculum (I can't remember what the McDonalds trip was about. I do remember getting a free cheeseburger, fries, and orange drink). The most memorable retail field trip was to the former Ed's Diary in Huntington Beach, CA (their cow pasture butted against the subdivision I lived in). We were shown the milking operation, feeding, etc., and got free ice cream and milk. That was fun (for a kid). Ed's Diary and the pasture were plowed over in the late 70's to make way for more houses.

Schools are strapped for cash when it comes to field trips. If a business can teach something that a kid will remember (instead of memorizing from a book), and it's entertaining (so it caught the kids' attention), so much the better. Textbooks are not the only way to teach something.

In fact, textbooks often can be the worst way to teach something.

Our latest tirade against the local school district is that they have too many teachers who teach the subject, and not enough teachers who teach the kids. They get locked into one way of doing things, and can't or won’t even notice if the kids are learning.

But don’t get us started…

On the subject of Martha Stewart's probably indictment, one MNB user was sympathetic::

Martha Stewart was a retail investor but has not been trained and certified on the laws governing retail investor trading.

Merrill Lynch was the custodian of the rules and are trained and licensed to know these rules.

Merrill Lynch, the certified "professional" is responsible for ensuring the rules were complied with.

It is apparently true that both knew something they should not have known.

It is clear this happens at least 1,000 times per day as evidenced by sudden drops or rises on stock prices in advance of any public news.

My decision:

Martha Stewart should receive a letter of reprimand. Her guilt is implied.

Merrill Lynch should be made to pay all investors who lost money during the period. Their guilt is 100% certain.

The SEC is going after the wrong party here.

Maybe. But isn’t Martha Stewart also the CEO of a multimillion dollar public company? And as such, doesn't she have at least a little more knowledge than the average investor, and need to be held to a higher standard?

On the subject of airlines beginning to sell food in their airport clubs, one MNB user wrote:

As a frequent flyer, and a semi-permanent resident of American Airlines Admirals Club I welcome the addition of food. Last week had a day trip in and out of Newark, and ended up with a 3 hour wait for my plane home. Rather than dealing with the Newark area, or the airport's fast food offerings the Italian Sandwich in the Admiral's club was more than satisfactory. That sandwich plus a Beck's Dark draft still came in significantly lower than the company's dinner reimbursement limit. Wireless computer access, quiet surroundings, clean bathrooms and a decent meal sure beats hanging around in the general airport. Well worth the expense.

Finally, we got several emails in reaction to yesterday's piece about fast food chains discovering the possibilities inherent in a gourmet sandwich program. We commented that we thought "these folks are onto something here, and that supermarkets ought to be pushing sandwich options more…especially because they have real appeal to time-constrained families that have a hard time sitting down together for dinner." We did say, however, that we prefer to make our own, "like a hot meatloaf sandwich with melted mozzarella and barbecue sauce on a nice thick crusty bread."

MNB user Richard Lowe was appalled:

Kevin, your sandwich will put you in line for a heart attack, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments. Remember now you are working on 60 years. Maybe you will get religion in the next ten years? Everyone is still way, way over in the sodium, fat, and sugar categories.

First of all, we're not working on 60. We're not even 50 yet…so let's not push it.

And with all due respect, if you can't enjoy an occasional meat loaf/mozzarella cheese/barbecue sauce sandwich -- not to mention cold beer, hot quesadillas, a great glass of red wine, shrimp risotto, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, bread pudding, banana cream pie, and all the other culinary indulgences that make life worth living and meals worth eating -- then we're not sure it's actually living. That's not to say that we eat them every day or even every week; we consume our fair share of salads and try to lay off desserts, and try to get as much exercise as we can.

There's a thin line between denial and discipline…and we think we'd prefer to stay on the side of the latter.

And, in what was one of our favorite emails in weeks, MNB user Susan Kemp wrote:

I look forward to the Morning News Beat every day. Your writing is informative, humorous and imaginative. I request that you post a warning label at least one paragraph before a tantalizing food reference is mentioned.

Like many people, I tend to skip breakfast and survive at work all morning with coffee (and of course, the adrenaline rush that comes from reading MNB!). Imagine my dismay this morning to read the following " a hot meatloaf sandwich with melted mozzarella and barbecue sauce on a nice thick crusty bread..." and know that it will be hours before I can leave the office in search of such a sandwich!

Sorry about that. We'll have to think about the labels…

But you made our week!
KC's View: