MICHAEL BLOOMBERG MUST BE LOVING THIS
The second-largest drugstore chain in the United States announced in February that it would cease sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products in its 7,600 pharmacies before the end of this year. CVS expects to lose $2 billion in annual sales as a result of its own private smoking ban, but says it will more than make up for it by increasing sales in other areas—namely the selling of things that keep you alive, like smoking-cessation products. (Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, called the move “unprecedented,” obviously unaware that most Canadian pharmacies dropped their smokes years ago.) It’s a bold gesture, and a positive one, but it’s unlikely CVS is doing it solely for the good of mankind. With health-care spending expected to reach 20% of GDP in the U.S. as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act, pharmacies like CVS are looking to get in on the action. Many plan to open in-store health clinics and offer basic services like flu shots and minor medical procedures. In other words, CVS can play the magnanimous anti-smoking card and get a piece of the Obamacare action. It’s not a win-win move, it’s a win-win-win move: even though CVS can now brag about putting the health of its customers first, it will still make plenty of coin from its not-so-healthy aisles of beer, soda, candy bars and junk food.
Still enjoy getting those DVDs in the mail?
Remember a couple of years ago when Reed Hastings wanted to spin off Netflix’s then-lucrative DVD rental business to focus on the still-burgeoning area of video streaming? Remember what a bad CEO we thought he was? Ahh…we were so young and naive back then. In retrospect Hastings was a genius who had his finger on the pulse of something we still weren’t convinced we wanted. Now, of course, streaming has eclipsed the physical rental business, and Hastings is reaping the rewards. Netflix recently released its fourth-quarter earnings, and they’re spectacular: a sixfold increase in revenues over the same period last year, to US$48 million. The company’s stock is up 18%, and Netflix is a bona fide entertainment heavyweight, having killed Blockbuster and put a dent in conventional TV’s hold on the Emmys. Who’s laughing now? (Answer: Hastings. And—we assume—Americans in general, who still enjoy a far superior catalogue of hilarious old sitcoms compared to what we get on Netflix in Canada.)
APPARENTLY THE BLUE ONES ARE 99.1% PURE (SUGAR)
Canadians with a poor knowledge of the global candy market may be confused to hear of the latest fad amongst U.S. children—snorting Smarties. Unlike the melt-in-your-hand hard-shelled chocolate pieces beloved by Canadians, Yankee Smarties are pill-shaped fruit-flavoured sugar pellets, known here as Rockets. Word on the playground is, snorting ground-up U.S. Smarties leads to a much more intense sugar high than could ever be achieved by popping them into your mouth and swallowing them like some square. But not only is it dangerous to get kids into the habit of snorting stuff, there are serious side effects, which include infections, chronic cough, asthma, internal bleeding and…death. Apparently the sugar dust can even attract maggots to your nasal passages. So stay in school kids—and chew your candy, don’t huff it. (Luckily Canadian kids are safe, as snorting chocolate Smarties is pretty much impossible.)
MAKING EXTRA SURE SEATS ARE IN UPRIGHT POSITION
Passengers hoping to fly the friendly skies in a Bombardier CSeries plane in 2014 are in for a disappointment. The aircraft manufacturer announced in January that the first of its anticipated new CS100 commercial jets likely won’t go into service until the second half of 2015—up to 15 months later than originally expected. Its larger CS300s will follow. The delay will cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars, and raise its break-even point to 800 planes. (Recent orders brought the total number sold to date to 200.) A spokesperson for the company said the delay is disappointing but necessary, to make sure the planes’ entry-to-service is “flawless”—which hopefully means a separate section for passengers travelling with small children.
British food purists
WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH OVALTINE?
The owner of a British food chain in Western Canada was ordered to stop selling U.K. formulations of such fine delicacies as Marmite, Irn-Bru and Ovaltine because they contain additives illegal in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency points out that “compliant formulations” of the popular British treats are legally available here, so there’s really no need to buy an overseas version of Irn-Bru, which contains colouring that leads to hyperactivity. That’s what we have Red Bull for.
THE PHANTOM OF THE POPERA LIVES!
The disgraced theatre mogul received a full parole in January for his 1998 fraud conviction, more or less dropping the curtain on a scandal that ran much longer than anyone expected, or even wanted. A two-hour interrogation by the Parole Board of Canada ended with one board member telling Drabinsky, “We’re satisfied your risk [of reoffending] is manageable.” Drabinsky told the parole board his actions will “haunt me for the rest of my life”—at which point he slowly turned his head toward the audience as a maniacal laugh echoed throughout the room, growing louder and louder before blackness momentarily enveloped those present, who were shocked to see Drabinsky had disappeared once the lights were restored. Or something like that.
A GUT DECISION
The cruise line’s Explorer of the Sea was forced to cut short a recent voyage after nearly 600 of its 3,000 passengers, and a number of crew members, developed gastrointestinal issues. Though many recovered during the ship’s 10 days at sea, Royal Caribbean opted to end the tour before things got any worse. (It’s still unknown what caused the outbreak.) So why is Royal Caribbean granted Winner status? For immediately quarantining the sick, sanitizing the ship, and being able to return to home base promptly. In other words, for not making a bad situation worse, the way Costa would.
THE QUEEN IS DEAD…BROKE
Keep an eye on your $20 bills—Queen Elizabeth might soon be desperate enough to try to lay claim on any currency bearing her image, now that her personal wealth is at a record low. The Queen’s financial advisers have overspent so much in the past decade that her personal reserves are now a mere £1 million, down from £35 million in 2001. To make matters worse, apparently none of that money was spent on upkeep. Both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are said to be in serious disrepair, with buckets set out to catch rainwater from leaking roofs. She was once the U.K.’s wealthiest woman, but the queen’s wealth as it currently stands has nothing on J. K. Rowling’s hundreds of millions. Royal flush? We think not.
Toronto Board of Trade
What with all the trouble surrounding Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor, it was no surprise the city’s Board of Trade rescinded Rob Ford’s invite to its annual gala dinner. Ford, of course, showed up anyway. Organizers found a seat for him but didn’t go so far as to ask the board’s president to alter a speech that was obviously a thinly veiled criticism of the mayor. Ford stormed out and threw a tantrum on Twitter later that evening. The Toronto Board of Trade is to be commended not only for its gracious handling of the affair, but also on the off chance it masterfully orchestrated the whole thing, knowing Ford would be unable to resist an opportunity to make himself look like a buffoon.