Saturday, March 28, 2009

Junk not joke email

I knew it even before I opened the email - the telltale signs were all over the subject line .... "Between us".... Now I've won the Irish sweepstakes more times than I can count, been invited to share in the plundered oil wealth of a nation (which one? the emails never say), secret accounts of deceased dictators can be mine, steal the inheritance of those bearing my name, yes, I've seen it all. I especially appreciated the offers that cynically pose as dying religious folk begging to donate huge sums for charity - sure, there's a sucker born every minute, these say - steal from a dying woman, go ahead, you deserve it. They all go into the delete box with a chuckle.

But this one goes too far:
"Between us.... I am an investigative consultant with Holocaust Victims Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks). Between July 1997- July 2008, the Swiss Banker's Association published a list of dormant accounts originally opened by non-Swiss citizens. These accounts had been dormant since the end of World War II (May 9,1945). The continuing efforts of the Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT) have since resulted in the discovery of various accounts. The published lists contain all types of dormant accounts, including interest-bearing savings accounts,securities accounts,safe deposit boxes,custody accounts, and non-interest-bearing transaction accounts.Numbered accounts are also included. Interest is paid on accounts that were interest bearing when established.The Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT)handles processing of all claims on accounts due non-Swiss citizens. A dormant account of Aronson Rudolf, with a credit balance of 25,000,000 US dollar plus accumulated interest was discovered by me. The beneficiary left no WILL and no possible records for trace of heirs.As a top executive officer, I have all secret details and necessary contacts for claim of the funds without any hitch. Please verify using this website: All that is required from you is to indicate your interest to receive the funds into your norminated Bank account. Please Reach Me Through This email: Thanks Paul Warren"

Not funny. Indecent, in fact.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Premium, Natural, and Organic Supermarket shoppers, rejoice! Whole Foods has settled with the FTC. According to the FTC press release, "The consent order will restore competition in 17 geographic markets that were impacted by the acquisition. In addition to requiring the transfer or divestiture of all rights to 32 stores, Whole Foods also is required to divest related Wild Oats intellectual property, including unrestricted rights to the “Wild Oats” brand, which retains significant name recognition and loyalty among consumers." FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says, "As a result of this settlement, American consumers will see more choices and lower prices for organic foods." Sounds good to me, but is it true?

The settlement requires Whole Foods to divest itself of thirty-two stores, in seventeen geographic markets (In 2007, when the merger agreement was entered into, Whole Foods acquired seventy-four Wild Oats stores). Nineteen of these stores are already closed. Selling closed stores will not likely prove to be easy, and unlike the competition created by a Wild Oats-esque competitor, Whole Foods need not sell the designated stores to a single buyer. This means, the stores could potentially be sold to smaller-scale operations, which may not have the ability to effectively compete with the efficiencies of an operation the size of Whole Foods. A similar problem is seen with the IP rights. Whole Foods must sell its interest in the Wild Oats name, but if the buyer is not at least as big as Wild Oats, the value of the name could diminish greatly.

The settlement also means the Supreme Court won't have the chance to review the D.C. Circuit's opinion, issued last summer, which some have criticized as "a step backward" as it "runs counter to the strong trend in recent Supreme Court jurisprudence for economic rigor and clear standards to guide businesses and the agencies." Will this consent order truly "restore competition"? Only time will tell. All I can say for sure is that settlements are always a compromise.


Very cool, short video from the Feb 2009 TED conference.

UPDATE: Holy smokes, this video looks even cooler. Think Minority Report (in a good way) and holodeck.