Saturday, January 12, 2008

Short Takes

Was the New Hampshire vote stolen?

The Web is abuzz with allegations of fraud, and Dennis Kucinich is asking for a recount. The charges don’t hold water, but this problem is not going away.

Old Folks is retiring. No, that’s not a grammatical error; it’s the state song of Florida…for now.

No one will ever be offended by the ballad chosen to be the next state song of Florida.

Then again, no one is likely to recognize it either.

A song written by a music teacher from Pompano Beach could soon replace the current anthem — Old Folks At Home, also commonly known as Swanee River — written by the “father of American music” Stephen Foster in 1851.

Old Folks At Home is a familiar, catchy tune with one big problem: many consider it racist. Its lyrics evoke images of a pre-Civil War Florida, celebrate “de old plantation” life, and use the term “darkeys.” Legislators called for a statewide contest last year to find a replacement.

The winning ballad chosen Friday is decidedly more staid, decidedly more politically correct, and decidedly the favorite among more than 4,000 voters, who went online to give it their support. The song’s lyrics describe a modern Florida were “cultures rich, our native people share,” and “bridges span … to the Keys and rockets skyward run.”

You Don’t Want Fries with That. McDonald’s will try to compete with Starbucks for the fancy-shmancy coffee market.

No announcement has been made. But the fast-food giant says it expects to test, then roll out, “premium coffee” to its 13,000 U.S. stores later this year or in 2006. Premium coffee uses higher-quality beans — and is pricier.

“Coffee has increased in popularity beyond a breakfast beverage,” spokesman William Whitman says. “We see an opportunity to bring our customers a better-tasting product at a value price.”

Still undecided: what kind of premium coffee to sell; what to call it; what to charge for it; and when to roll it out. Never mind that. After testing specialty coffee with McCafe coffee shops, McDonald’s now is hankering to jump into the $8.9 billion market. The number of adults drinking it has nearly doubled in four years.

Premium coffee could bump up McDonald’s sales by 2%, says David Palmer, analyst at UBS Investment Research. And it could appeal to young mothers, a customer that McDonald’s covets.