Somebody should write a book on America's serial fixations with one type of dessert, and what each says about the periods of infatuation. The romance with frozen yogurt in the 1980s (think TCBY) gave way to a love affair with donuts in the 1990s (hello, Krispy Kreme), before the gourmet cupcakes in the 2000s. New York City's Magnolia Bakery is widely credited for firing up the last trend, thanks to a cameo in Sex and the City in the summer of 2000.
A year ago, The Wall Street Journal pronounced that "the gourmet-cupcake market is crashing," citing the financial travails of maybe the poster child of that market, Crumbs Bake Shop, another New York City-based purveyor of gourmet cupcakes that went public on the Nasdaq exchange in 2011. Like Krispy Kreme before it, Crumbs expanded too quickly, and its shares had fallen from $13 in mid-2011 to $1.70 by April 2013.
On Monday, Bloomberg Businessweek published what might be considered the gourmet cupcake market's obituary, focused on Crumbs. The high-end cupcakerie, which has closed 17 locations since last year, is now trying to reverse its fortunes by selling its high-priced cupcakes —which cost up to $4.50 a piece — and other baked goods in lowly supermarkets and club retailers like BJ's Wholesale.
What soured consumers on gourmet cupcakes? "It's a short-term trend and we're starting to see a real saturation," Chicago food industry analyst Darren Tristano told The Wall Street Journal a year ago. "Demand is flat. And quite frankly, people can bake cupcakes." (They can also brew their own coffee and make their own hamburgers, of course.) It seems that the high-end cupcake's moment has just come and gone. So what's the next craze?
The Cronut, obviously. And here's the epilogue: Crumbs is banking its future on a croissant-donut hybrid called the Crumbnut. The obvious knockoff of Dominique Ansel's fried croissant is "the last great thing that we put out there," Crumbs CEO Ed Slezak tells Businessweek. "We believe that trends in food can and should be enjoyed by all." Peter Weber
In a speech Thursday published on the Kremlin's website, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the arrests of FIFA officials in Zurich. Putin apparently believes the arrests are the U.S.' way of extending its power into other countries.
In the transcript of Putin's speech, he says the foreign arrest on U.S. charges represents "another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states."
Putin defended FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, before discussing former NSA agent Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. "Why have I recalled all this?" Putin said, about Snowden and Assange. "Unfortunately, our American partners use these methods to achieve their selfish goals and persecute people illegally. I don't rule out that this may be the same case with FIFA." Meghan DeMaria
Former New York governor George Pataki launched his longest of long-shot bids for the GOP presidential nomination on Thursday via 2015's de rigueur announcement method, a YouTube video. While he throws out some red meat — the video shows him buying a room full of veterans lunch and invoking 9/11 — Pataki mostly talks up his bona fides as a Republican governor in a blue state. In an increasingly crowded field of GOP candidates, can a moderate New York Republican who supports abortion rights win the nomination? Even Pataki himself concedes his candidacy is an "extreme long shot," The New York Times reports.
You can watch his announcement video below: —Nico Lauricella
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating a plan on Thursday proposing to subsidize high-speed internet access for low-income Americans. The federal government has been helping people pay for telephone service for 30 years, because phones are considered crucial to finding work, getting medical service, and climbing out of poverty. Wheeler's proposal to change the $1.7 billion subsidy program to include broadband reflects the FCC's recognition that high-speed internet service also is now essential. Read more at The New York Times. Harold Maass
The U.K.'s Methodist Church announced Thursday that investigations revealed 1,885 physical and sexual abuse cases, many of which involved children, within the church over more than 50 years. The church issued an apology for "failing to protect the victims," The Associated Press reports.
Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Conference, told AP that the abuse "is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame to the church."
The church published the report after three years of investigations into sexual, physical, emotional, and domestic abouse or neglect within the church since 1950. AP notes that in 26 percent of cases, church ministers or employees were the perpetrators of abuse. Six police investigations have been opened as a result of the church's report.
Atkins told AP that in the future, the Methodist Church, which includes about 200,000 members in Britain, will "do all in its power to improve its systems to protect children, young people, and adults from abuse within the life of the church and on church premises." Meghan DeMaria
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia is still arming pro-Moscow separatists in Eastern Ukraine, despite a cease-fire agreement, and had has its own forces in the country, too. "Russia is present in eastern Ukraine," he told The New York Times, citing "our own intelligence" as well as "open sources." Reuters reports that Russia appears to be preparing to send in a lot more troops and heavy arms, including tanks, missile launchers, and artillery.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 27, 2015
Reuters is basing its report on visual confirmation from one its reporters, who observed four trains loaded with Russian troops and armaments arriving in southern Russia's Rostov region, then traveling on to the Kuzminsky firing range, 30 miles from the Ukraine border, which has been transformed into a makeshift military base. Most of the troops were wearing no insignia, and the plates and other identifying marks were removed from the tanks, Reuters reports, adding that an advocate for the families of Russian troops says the base is being used as a staging ground for troops headed to Ukraine.
Such camps have been sprouting up along the Ukraine border, something "anyone with access to Google Earth or Google Maps" can see, according to a report released Thursday by the Atlantic Council. The report, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine," uses social media, satellite images, and other open sources of data to prove Russia's meddling inside Ukraine. A Western official told The New York Times that Russia has moved about nine battalions close to Ukraine's border, and five more could be coming, meaning more than 10,000 Russian troops could be in Ukraine within weeks. Peter Weber
Jonathan McComb, 36, and his family traveled from Corpus Christi, Texas, to scenic Wimberley to spend Memorial Day with friends at a house on the Blanco River. McComb is now in a San Antonio hospital, after a flash flood washed away that house Sunday night, but he has recovered enough to tell about the disaster that left his wife, two young children, and five family friends missing or, in the case of Michelle Charba, the 43-year-old daughter of the home's owners, confirmed dead.
The group knew a storm was coming, and moved their cars to higher ground to avoid water damage, but assumed they were safe because the house was on stilts, or pylons, McComb's father, Joe McComb, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. About 20 minutes later, "they got a flashlight and looked out, and all of a sudden the water was up to the top of the pylons, and they realized they were trapped," he said. "They knew they were in trouble."
The house held fast under the deluge for a while, and everyone was "in the room there holding on to pieces of furniture," hoping to outlast the flood, McComb said. "All of a sudden a big thud came. I don't know if it was a big tree got uprooted and floated down the river, but it hit the pylons, the stilts, and the house was displaced."
With the house floating downriver, Jonathan McComb's wife, Laura, got in a call to her sister in Austin, telling her family that she loves them, Joe McComb said, then "the house hit the bridge and it took the top part of the house off.... The house started just coming apart, washing people in all different directions. That's the last he saw anybody." Jonathan isn't the only known survivor — the family dog, Maggie, was found in a tree on Monday. You can read more details at the Los Angeles Times. Peter Weber
Early Wednesday, Swiss police quietly swooped in and arrested half a dozen high-ranking FIFA officials to face U.S. corruption charges. Jon Stewart had a number of ways of putting that in perspective, especially for a U.S. audience that doesn't religiously follow soccer. "FIFA is so bad, they got arrested by the Swiss," he began on Wednesday's Daily Show, "a country whose official policy on Nazi gold was, and I quote, 'We'll allow it.'"
Stewart walked through the charges — "please don't say their balls were under inflated" — and marveled at the 24-year scope of the alleged bribery and racketeering. "To put that in perspective, this FIFA corruption started Jennifer Lawrence ago. What took so long?" To illustrate the scope of the U.S. investigation, Stewart performed a brief one-man play, "FIFA: A 24 Year Sting Operation," replete with period details.
And then he brought it back to safe Daily Show territory: "What would have happened to these FIFA scoundrels if they were bankers?" The answer: A slap on the wrist, probably. But the U.S. has an open investigation on the bankers who facilitated the FIFA corruption, Stewart noted wryly. "With the Justice Department on the case, we might actually see some people going to jail — in 24 years." —Peter Weber