NEWS DAY | Food prices: Falling or spinning? / Domestic violence kills / T-Paw’s money

FoodShelfGraphicFood prices and news spins Are food prices down? Sort of, according to AP, which reports that the Labor Department index for the price of food to be eaten at home has fallen by nine-tenths of one percent over the past year. Of course, that comes after food sellers raised their prices by 6.7 percent in the previous year. And despite the fact that “ingredient costs for major food makers, including Heinz, Kraft and Hormel, are down about 28 percent on average as of Sept. 1, from Sept. 1, 2008.”

“The consumer really is very much in charge of the effort,” said Herb Walter, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “They’re picking the price points they want and when they want it.”

Excuse me, but how does that make sense? If ingredient costs are down 28 percent, and the best the consumer can do is a not-quite-one-percent cost reduction, how is the consumer in charge of anything? Sounds more like the big business of food is in charge of not only keeping its profit margins but also successfully spinning the news reports.

Domestic violence kills With the shooting death of a police officer in North St. Paul, attention focused briefly on domestic violence. Officers were responding to a domestic violence call, the most dangerous for police officers, when North St. Paul officer Richard Crittenden was shot and killed as he tried to protect a woman under attack by her estranged husband.

WCCO reports:

According to St. Paul Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell, St. Paul responded to 3425 domestic-related calls for service in 2009 as of August 15. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2008, and an average of 15 domestic calls a day.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s 2009 Domestic Violence Report found that:

In 2007, three percent of women surveyed and one percent of men reported experiencing domestic violence. Based on
Minnesota’s adult population, this translates to about 57,000 women and 18,000 men experiencing domestic violence in 2007.

Overall, 27 percent of women surveyed and seven percent of men reported that they have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. …

On average, respondents who have been abused experienced three episodes of domestic violence in 2007, but reported less than one episode to police.

According to the Minnesota Coalition on Battered Women, at least 21 women and two men were killed in domestic violence in 2008. At least five family members or friends were killed in domestic violence, and seven children died from child abuse.

Pawlenty’s money Since T-Paw is not running for governor next time around, he has to dispose of his campaign war chest. (He can’t use this money in a presidential bid.) The Star Tribune reports that he gave slightly more money to private charities than to the Republican Party, which got $284,000. The biggest winner among the charities was Minnesota Teen Challenge. Minnesota Independent reports:

The most significant beneficiary: Minnesota Teen Challenge, which received roughly $85,000 from the governor. As previously reported by MnIndy, the organization has been criticized for purportedly using taxpayer funds to spread its Christian message.

Other recipients include Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund ($30,000), Minnesota Military Family Foundation ($30,000) and the Starkey Hearing Foundation ($25,000). The latter was started by Bill and Tani Austin, prominent GOP donors who two years ago hosted a fundraiser featuring President Bush at their home in Eden Prairie.

MPR has the complete list of charities, which also includes $20,000 donations to Minnesota Patriot Guard, Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Minnesota Chapter, Hope for the city, Helping Paws, and Feed My Starving Children.

MN Job Watch Sears will close stores in Richfield and Minnetonka, reports the Star Tribune. The two store closings will cost about 100 jobs. The stores are part of a group of 28 “underperforming” Sears and K-Mart stores being closed this fall.

The Richfield store will close on September 20 , and the Minnetonka store on November 15. Earlier this year, Sears closed 24 Sears and K-Mart stores.

Obama, health care and a visit to MN Tonight is the night for President Barack Obama’s national health care address to a joint session of Congress, and Minnesotans are gearing up for it with TV-watching parties, according to my email inbox. For the record, the speech will be at 7 p.m. CDT. For context, go back to Obama’s speech to the AMA in June. Or, if you are looking for myths and debunking thereof, check out Media Matters for a list of 18 myths and why they are false.

Widespread media speculation also puts Obama in town to talk about health care on Saturday. Most bets are on the Xcel Center, but some say the Target Center is a possible venue. Stay tuned – if this happens, you will be bombarded with approximately seven million media messages, analyzing why he picked MN (because our health care system is so good, because we vote for him), why the Xcel or Target Center, what he will say, and how the crowd will compare to the phenomenal showing during the presidential campaign.

More foreclosures That’s the forecast from the Washington Post, which points out that hundreds of thousands of option adjustable-rate mortgages (option ARMs) will reset by 2011 to significantly higher payments. Fitch Ratings says the average payment will increase by 63%.

Option ARMs, also called pick-a-pay loans, allow borrowers to choose how much to pay each month. Nearly all the borrowers who took out this type of loan from 2004 to 2007 chose to pay less than the interest due. Sometimes they paid as little as 1 percent interest. But the loans eventually require the borrowers to start paying the principal and full interest rate, so the payments shoot up.

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One response to “NEWS DAY | Food prices: Falling or spinning? / Domestic violence kills / T-Paw’s money

  1. Re: food costs. Yeah, that caught my eye too, Mary. Some of the major food companies, including Minnesota-based Hormel, launched a multi-million dollar PR blitz during the time when retail food costs rose sharply. The mission: blame ethanol.

    Well, their expenses are down significantly, and America is producing and using as much ethanol this year as last year. Yet the prices on the shelves has barely moved…hhmm.


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