From China With Love

August 6, 2007

From China With DANGER
What can be done to protect American children from lead jewelry? The American government regulatory agencies are unable to prevent the unnecessary exposure of youngsters to the hazards of lead in their environment.

In 2005, 95 percent of all recalled toxic jewelry in the United States were products imported from China. Unlike the toxic pet food, tainted toothpaste, faulty tires and lead-painted toys from China that have been sucessfully recalled, getting the lead filled children’s jewelry and trinkets out the hands of children has not been resolved. And it isn’t only fly-by-night, mom and pop manufacturers who have been sending these hazardous trinkets into American nurseries; it is the big names like Mattel, Juicy Couture and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Purchasers are not safe from lead even when buying non metal toys. The 746,621 “bonus charms” in a Shirley Temple DVD were contaminated with lead. Last year a 4-year-old in Minneapolis, swallowed a “free” heart-shaped lead charm that had come with Reebok shoes. He died after suffering vomiting, seizures and respiratory arrest. The Minneapolis health official who investigated said: “It’s just outrageous. How can we be allowing products that are targeted and marketed to children that have such a potential to poison them?

Get the Lead Out!

Various enforcement standards specifying what percentage of lead is allowed in this imported product or that imported product have been announced, however the same governement agencies doing the “announcing” are unable to enforce the tauted standards. For whatever reason, considering an outright formal ban on lead in children’s jewelry, toys and clothing fasteners seems to be unacceptable to them.

Many letters have been sent to the product safety commission urging the immediacy of just such a ban. Only one letter has been found to oppose the ban and it is dated March 2007, from the government of China:

Jewelry with lead is not a danger, Guo LiSheng, a deputy director general at China’s General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, wrote in a March letter to the commission, as long as it is covered by a protective coating. The regulation, he argued, was unnecessary and would “increase the cost of producing and inspection of the manufacturers of children’s metal jewelry, and bring unnecessary obstacles to trade.

Heaven forbid, that we increase the cost of any children’s trinkets just to get the lead out. Since neither the government of the United States, nor the government of China are giving children’s safety much priority, American parents are on their own if they want to prevent the ingesting of toxic materials by their young charges. Stop buying these dangerous trinkets from abroad. Be more vigilent – buy fewer of the more expensive and safer toys for children. When it comes to kids, cheaper is not necessarily better.

New York Times: Bid to Root Out Lead Trinkets Falters in U.S.

Wild Oats Strewn

July 12, 2007

Who’s Who and What’s What at Whole Foods Market?

Would you buy your wild oats from a Yahoo named Rahodeb? What if he is a blogger named John Mackey, who also happens to be founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market?

According to “An Identity Crisis at Whole Foods Market“, as Rahodeb the anonymous Yahoo stock-market poster, he told the world that Whole Foods Is Hot, and Wild Oats is NOT. He did not tell the world that he, Rahodeb was the CEO of the Whole Foods Market that was hoping to purchase Wild Oats Market. His hopes recently came to fruition as the company of John Mackey, aka Rahodeb, recently agreed to buy Wild Oats for $565 million, or $18.50 a share.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Rahobed seems to have trolled the Internet with mischief in mind and corporate greed in his heart. In real life he was known as a Yogi and vegan Texas rancher. Are America’s consumers going to continue trusting their organic food purchases to someone who attempted to tarnish another food company’s good name and stock price? Are investors going to keep up the cash flow?

In January 2005, “Rahodeb” posted online “No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share. Would Whole Foods buy OATS? Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats would be sliding into bankruptcy or that its stock would fall below $5. A month later, he wrote that the Wild Oats management “doesn’t know what it is doing …. OATS has no value and no future.”

According to “Whole Foods Is Hot, Wild Oats a Dud — So Said ‘Rahodeb,’” for about eight years prior to the Whole Foods – Wild Oats agreement, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums using the pseudonym of Rahodeb, an anagram of his wife’s name. Rahodeb quickly became known as a cheerleader for Whole Foods stock. He was so anonymous, that he even spoke of himself in the third person. Expressing pride in the CEO’s work Rahodeb wrote in 2000, “While I’m not a ‘Mackey groupie, I do admire what the man has accomplished.” He cheered Whole Foods’ stock and bashed Wild Oats.

While praising his own company anonymously, Rahodeb socked it to the Wild Oats CEO, Perry Odak who had no idea who was behind the postings. “While Odak was trying to figure out the business and conducting expensive ‘research studies,’ to help him figure things out, Whole Foods was signing and opening large stores in OATS territories. Odak drove off most of the long-term OATS natural foods managers.

I admit to my bias. I love the company and I’m in for the long haul. I shop at Whole Foods. I own a great deal of its stock. I’m aligned with the mission and values of the company … Is there something wrong with this?” Perhaps the answer to Rahodeb’s question will be forthcoming as the Federal Trade Commission has initiated a lawsuit seeking to block the Wild Oats takeover on antitrust grounds.

One thing that seems to have resulted from John “Rahodeb” Mackey’s shenanigans is that stockholders and corporate boards across America are now forbidding their CEOs to go anywhere near the Internet. 😉

Indra of the ‘long’ Middle Finger

August 14, 2006

Indian-American corporate honcho Indra Nooyi” is how “Indians Abroad” describes the next CEO of US multinational PepsiCo. We non-hyphenated Americans just know her as one of the most powerful middle-fingered women in America.

It’s time; time to switch back to Coca-Cola, or else, with each swallow, be haunted by Indra Nooyi’s description of you, Mr. and Ms. American imbiber of her cola drink, as “the long middle finger.”

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S.–the long middle finger–must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand . . . not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S.–the middle finger–sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand–giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers–but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

It has been more than a year since Ms. Nooyi, in a carefully constructed speech, came up with the middle finger analogy to describe Americans. Soon afterwards, she and her husband were honored guests of the Bushes: Guess Who Came to Supper – At the White House? At that time an American military officer serving in Baghad was so offended that he wrote the following to PepsiCo:

I found Ms. Nooyi’s graduation comments offensive, not to mention off-base, because the central theme of her speech was that America is, in essence, “flipping off the world.”

In the meantime, I will stop consuming PepsiCo products and encourage others to do the same. Please remember, it is this country, and the brave men and women who defend it, that provided the free enterprise system that allowed your company to become a global corporate power. I would hope that Pepsi senior executives would show more respect for this great country. Perhaps the troops who enjoy your products would hope so as well. (The Weekly Standard)