Thursday, January 28, 2016

Last Call For The Breakfast Club

After a bumpy start, McDonald's all-day breakfast menu is paying off big for the company as sales were up across the board.

McDonald's reported fourth-quarter revenues and earnings that easily topped analysts' forecasts, led by a 5.7% jump in same-store sales in the United States.
CEO Steve Easterbrook, who took over at McDonald's nearly a year ago, said the company's introduction of its all day breakfast menu in October was the main reason that U.S. sales did so well. 
Many McDonald's fans had been calling on the company for years to make Egg McMuffins, hash browns and other early morning treats available at lunch or dinner time. The menu change clearly has paid off for Mickey D's. 
Easterbrook also said that mild weather in the quarter helped. 
This was the second consecutive quarter of domestic same-store sales growth for the fast food giant. But McDonald's isn't just staging an impressive comeback in its home market. Same-store sales rose 5% worldwide. 
The company said there was broad strength across Asia and Europe -- and solid sales gains in emerging markets like Russia and China. 
Shares of McDonald's (MCD) were up more than 2% in early trading Monday to a new all-time high. McDonald's was one of the top stocks in the Dow last year and has held up well so far in what's been a volatile 2016.

After years of getting pounded by breakfast offerings from competitors like Taco Bell and Burger King buying out Canadian breakfast staple Tim Horton's, it looks like McDonalds finally figured out that people like Egg McMuffins after 10:30.  Go figure.

Of course seeing a stock like McD's hitting an all-time high in 2016 makes me think that the market for upscale fast food joints like Chipotle are starting to hit a wall.

We'll see.

The Challenger Of The Stars

It's interesting that Americans often define themselves in part by what disasters they were witness to, anyone in their twenties remembers where they were when 9/11 happened (and I do as well) but being older, my seminal disaster memory happened thirty years ago today, as CNET's Eric Mack accounts.

Thirty years ago Thursday, I watched in real time, along with millions of other schoolchildren, as my first real heroes died in an awful explosion over the Florida coastline. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster took the lives of seven astronauts on January 28, 1986, including a schoolteacher named Christa McAuliffe, who was meant to be the first civilian astronaut sent to space.

While I was in first grade thousands of miles away at the time, Challenger is the first news event I can actually recall experiencing on the day it unfolded. A few years ago, a survey found the Challenger disaster is the fourth most memorable moment in the history of television.

Even three decades later, it represents some sort of a beginning in my memory, a premature loss of a certain kind of innocence.

Two concepts are often introduced in the early school grades with the potential to exponentially expand young minds: space and dinosaurs. I'm now a father of an 8-year-old, so I can confirm this is still the case. Space and dinosaurs are literally otherworldly ideas that hint at the full span of time and the universe. They're the first indications that there's much more to life than cartoons and backyards and school and shopping with Mom.

Dinosaurs are long gone, of course, except for the bones and fuel. But space...that's something that can send a mind into orbit. In a thoroughly explored world, astronauts are like the modern equivalent of 15-century explorers, only possibly cooler. Part of that inherent coolness is that they're just like the adults from daily life, like a mom or a teacher. McAuliffe only served to drive that impression home.

Before Challenger, life was literally all just child's play for me. After Challenger, I was not only aware of the unthinkable breadth of the world and the universe, but also of how brutal and cruel it all can be. I still remember some of the hideous jokes kids and even some remarkably crass adults told in the wake of the tragedy. They're not worth repeating here, but they still make my stomach hurt.

I was among those grade-school kids watching the event on TV, as teachers across America tuned in to watch Christa McAuliffe go into space.  We knew that she was going to be teaching us lessons in science from space, for crying out loud, and that was the coolest thing possible that could happen at school for a young science nerd like myself.

And then it all went horrifically wrong as we watched.

I remember talking with ZandarDad about the incident.  He told me about the Apollo 1 fire that happened back in 1967 when he was a teenager, when Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee all died in a horrible fire that happened during the craft's launch test. When you jump, how high to you go, he asked me. A couple of feet into the air even with all your strength? Now remember that anything powerful enough to launch people into space can be lethal if something goes wrong, he told me.

I learned that day that science can be dangerous, and that the forces humanity are trying to master can be disastrous if uncontrolled.

Oh, yeah, and the jokes the kids told.  Ugh.  Let's just say they involved a particular brand of soda and the number of shuttle astronauts lost that day.

The Yabba Dabba D'ough

Looks like the Commonwealth lost its lawsuit to the Ark Park, and we Kentuckians get to fork over millions to a place where man rides dinosaurs and the earth is 6,000 years old.

The state of Kentucky must give millions of dollars in tax subsidies to a Noah’s Ark theme park owned by a creationist ministry, even though that ministry refuses to comply with the state’s request not to engage in hiring discrimination, according to an opinion by a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench. Under Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove’s opinion, the creationist group Answers in Genesis (AiG) stands to gain up to $18 million.

That's roughly $4 a person, so even if you refuse to visit, hey, you bought a ticket. But on appeal this may not hold.

Judge Van Tatenhove’s decision in favor of AiG is on much shakier ground, however, when he claims that AiG is entitled to the subsidy even if it wants to engage in employment discrimination. He roots this decision largely in a non-sequitur about what AiG’s obligations would be if they were sued by an employee alleging discrimination. As the judge notes, federal law exempts “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” from the federal ban on employment discrimination “with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.” Thus, a religious group like AiG typically has the right to hire only members of a particular faith without having to face a federal lawsuit. 
But the fact that federal law provides a particular exemption does not necessarily mean that Kentucky must also offer the same exemption. And it certainly does not mean that Kentucky must also provide tax subsidies to groups that engage in discrimination. In Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court rejected a school’s claim that it was entitled to federal tax subsidies, despite the fact that the government had denied such subsidies because the school prohibited interracial dating. More recently, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Court held that a student group that banned “unrepentant homosexual conduct” could be denied valuable benefits under a public law school’s anti-discrimination policies. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in her majority opinion, “our decisions have distinguished between policies that require action and those that withhold benefits.”
Judge Van Tatenhove’s opinion, in other words, rests on the extraordinary proposition that the state of Kentucky is required to subsidize discrimination. That is not what the Constitution provides.

Question is will Matt Bevin and AG Andy Beshear appeal the ruling?  I can certainly see Beshear doing it, as his father is the one who challenged Answers in Genesis in the first place.  But Bevin can order him not to, and then things get tricky.

We'll see.


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