By Walt Hickey
Few Times We’ve Been Around That Track
Bananas are by weight the most-consumed fruit in the U.S., with 28.5 pounds of bananas consumed per capita. The type of banana consumed today — the Cavendish — isn’t the first blockbuster banana, and what went down the first time is a bit of a cautionary tale. In 1916, when Americans consumed a laughable 20 pounds of bananas, the variety of choice was the Gros Michel, but the lack of genetic diversity meant that the breed was all but wiped out by a fungus by the 1960s. The Cavendish — collected in Saigon in 1927 — was tee’d up to replace the Gros Michel in the late 1950s. Bad news though, the TR4 fungus that long affected Asian plantations was found in Latin America in August, so I’m sure we will never make this mistake ever again.
Gallup has been running an annual survey about how Americans feel about various industries, and the pharmaceutical industry is not doing great. Overall, 58 percent of Americans view the drug industry negatively compared to just 27 percent positively for a net of -31 percentage points. Not to veer too deep into technical jargon but those are what researchers would call basically Lex Luthor numbers. Pharma does worse than lawyers, advertising, oil and gas, health care and the federal government. This is what happens when Big Pharma pushes higher prices, facilitates opiate addiction and, worst of all, deprives the American People of the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
The Emmy Awards are coming up, and this year television’s fourth or maybe fifth biggest night — let’s be real, the Oscars, Super Bowl, one of the NFL conference championship games, and sometimes the Bachelorette finale episode have it beat — is taking a page out of the film Academy’s book and going hostless. That may be tough news for a late night host who wanted the gig, but in reality, Americans are intrigued. Sure, a poll of Americans found that 54 percent of respondents prefer that award shows have hosts, compared to just 6 percent who are correct and prefer a telecast without a specific delegated master of ceremonies. That may seem like a lot of good news for the Jimmies of award show hosting, but in reality the overwhelming emotion felt for hosts is neither affection nor disdain but fully apathy, as 56 percent of respondents also said that the lack of a host made no difference whatsoever as to their decision to watch Rachel Brosnahan phone in an acceptance speech.
Cats and Dogs
Thanks to a combination of responsible pet ownership, a successful push for spaying and neutering, and a serious amount of work from shelters, the pet euthanasia rates in big cities have fallen more than 75 percent since 2009. An analysis tracking down stats from municipal shelters in large cities shows that things are going way better for impounded animals. For dogs and cats, Los Angeles County shelters saw their euthanasia rate fall from 51 percent in 2012 to 31 percent, Chicago’s fell from 40 percent to 7 percent, New York’s dropped 25 percent to just 8 percent and Detroit’s fell all the way from 86 percent to 31 percent.
Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Tide detergent, is going direct to consumer in a fairly unconventional fashion by straight-up launching Tide branded laundromats. P&G operates or franchises 174 dry cleaning locations out of about 33,000 dry cleaners in the U.S., charging franchisees a $20,000 fee and requiring them to invest anywhere from $660,000 to $1.6 million up front. They’re still a bit player, though — Huntington Co. is the largest U.S. dry cleaning franchiser, with over 700 locations. P&G accounts for about 2.5 percent of the dry cleaning industry’s annual sales, a figure which analysts put at $9.1 billion, but given the laundering business’ notorious and eponymous history with being difficult to consistently account, that’s just an estimate.
A blockbuster legal case against 18 producers of chicken alleges conspiracy and collusion to depress worker’s wages across the poultry processing industry. Americans will pay about $1.90 per pound for an average of 94.3 pounds of chicken each in 2019, cementing it as both the most popular and cheapest available protein. All that cheap meat has costs for workers, 72 percent of whom report serious occupational injuries or illnesses and who average about $11 per hour in wages. The lawsuit claims that poultry producers kept those wages so low by trading notes about compensation at annual meetings at a hotel in Florida, which is why even though poultry processing plants operate in fairly close proximity to one another, wages are stubbornly noncompetitive.
The management philosophy of Six Sigma, made most famous by General Electric and, for millennials, 30 Rock, has seen better days. Six Sigma’s adaptation of management processes designed to eliminate errors in manufacturing has been applied to all sorts of different models for better or for worse over the years. But as all management fashions must do, Six Sigma has slowly been supplanted by other skill sets: In 2019, just five out of every 10,000 LinkedIn users added it to their online resumes, compared to 15 per 10,000 for Agile, a competing management process that emanated from software development.
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