What’s Amazon up to?

Amazon slashed the prices of a handful of items at its just-acquired Whole Foods chain, a move that garnered loads of publicity but shed little light on the online retailing giant’s long-term supermarket plans.

Prices for organic butter, milk, bananas, eggs, almond butter, baby kale, apples, and responsibly farmed salmon all fell. The price cuts were substantial, but covered too few items to put an end to the chain’s “Whole Paycheck” nickname.

A very limited New York Times survey indicated prices on five items fell 14 percent between Thursday and Monday, when Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods was completed. A more comprehensive Bloomberg survey showed prices down between 13 percent (baby kale) and 43 percent (Fuji apples, organic, of course). A Tech Crunch price comparison between Whole Foods and Walmart on just the items marked down at Whole Foods showed Walmart still with the pricing edge.

Amazon’s long-range plans for Whole Foods probably don’t involve turning the high-end chain into a discount store. Instead, the purchase is a way for Amazon to reach a cadre of customers interested in quality and convenience and willing to pay for it —  but maybe not as much as they had been paying.

Derek Thompson, in his analysis of the Whole Foods acquisition for The Atlantic, said the deal gives Amazon an entree into food and access to more than 400 stores in prime urban locations that will become distribution centers for everything Amazon sells. More broadly, Thompson sees the deal as a way for Amazon to offer customers a “life bundle” of products and services that revolve around the merchandising of convenience. (Think bigger food discounts for Amazon Prime customers.)

Thompson also noted that Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is part of a back-to-the-future strategy that combines online and bricks-and-mortar retail. “Amazon is trying to become Walmart—not just an online megalith, but also a physical retail powerhouse with dynamic pricing and stocking strategies—faster than Walmart can become Amazon,” he wrote.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent is pushing legislation that would up the maximum sentence for being an accessory to a child’s murder to 20 years, a move prompted by the Bella Bond case. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Stoughton Town Clerk has certified petitions to recall three of the five members of the Board of Selectmen over their decision to remove the town manager and replace him with a former selectman. The three board members have five days to resign or face a recall election around the end of October. (The Enterprise)

Selectmen on Nantucket, where nearly two-thirds of voters approved last year’s ballot question to legalize marijuana, will place a proposal before Town Meeting in November to put a moratorium on retail pot shops on the island until the end of 2018. (Cape Cod Times)

The North Andover Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to send a letter to the community condemning the bigotry, racism, violence, and hate that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Eagle-Tribune)

Gloucester passes an ordinance bringing in-law apartments into the regulatory light. (Gloucester Times)

A study from the Fall River Redevelopment Authority says the city can support an increase in the number of liquor licenses. (Herald News)

The state’s Appellate Tax Board ordered Swansea officials to cease collecting the fire protection tax from residents who don’t draw on the town’s water supply and whose homes are closer to hydrants in Somerset than in Swansea. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

With the death toll rising to at least 15 people and two more feet of rain expected from a diminished Hurricane Harvey, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said residents should expect a long, slow recovery as more than 450,000 people are expected to seek federal aid. (New York Times)

President Trump defended his decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and said he actually timed the announcement as people were focusing on Hurricane Harvey to take advantage of the “highest” ratings. (U.S. News & World Report) A Herald editorial decries the pardon and, peering ahead, wonders if the move suggests obstruction of justice is in Trump’s future. The paper’s editorial page also has harsh words for Trump’s Friday night order regarding transgender military service members.

Jeffrey Herbst, the president and CEO of the Newseum in Washington, stepped down amid a full-blown review of the museum’s finances. (Washington Post)

Online message boards offer a good window on the thinking of Trump’s most fervent backers — and sometimes offer clues to what issue the president will grab onto next, no matter how shaky the facts supporting a claim. (Boston Globe)

State Sen. Eric Lesser says states are the place to build a progressive policy framework to combat Trump. (flippableblog) His argument takes a page from the principles of progressive federalism that Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken discusses in the current issue of CommonWealth.

ELECTIONS

Rep. Paul Mark of Peru is exploring a run for statewide office. (State House News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

As the rain falls in Texas, gas prices are heading up. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

With fewer young families moving into town and a rise in the number of older residents, Hull schools have seen a 30 percent decline in enrollment compared to 15 years ago, by far the highest in the state, despite high per pupil spending and high-achieving schools. (Patriot Ledger)

Worcester reaches a five-year deal with its unionized school bus drivers. (Telegram & Gazette)

Attorney General Maura Healey issues a report detailing bias and intolerance at Easthampton High School. (MassLive)

A drop in applications from European students to British colleges and universities because of the vote on Brexit has education officials in the United Kingdom worried. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Fatal opioid overdoses are down about 50 percent in Lowell. (Lowell Sun) Agencies that treat substance abuse are having trouble filling all their staff positions. (Boston Globe)

A new study shows when cigarette prices increase by $1, there is a 20 percent hike in the number of people who quit smoking and a reduction among heavy smokers. (New York Times)

A troubled Westwood psychiatric hospital was ordered to close by the state just weeks after declaring it safe. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Greyhound and Peter Pan Bus Lines are ending a 19-year partnership and Greyhound says it will run service between Springfield and Boston in competition against Peter Pan. (MassLive)

The MBTA has cancelled a $57 million contract with a Colorado firm to oversee the Green Line Extension because a corporate takeover connected to the firm could create a conflict of interest. (Boston Globe)

The MBTA has issued a request for proposals to solicit developers for a likely mixed-use project to replace the crumbling garage atop the Quincy Center Red Line station. (Patriot Ledger)

CRRC obtains the certificate of occupancy for its subway car assembly facility in Springfield, which is on schedule to start work early next year. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A regional official for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who led a team of inspectors that found safety and performance lacking at Pilgrim power plant will return to the beleaguered Plymouth facility to check on progress from the earlier scathing review. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

MGM Springfield remains on track for a Spring 2018 opening. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Blacks, who make up about 25 percent of Boston’s population, account for nearly 70 percent of those stopped for “field interrogations” by Boston police, a figure that some advocates say is troubling but police say is explicable. (Boston Globe)

Lori Ann Barron, the New Hampshire woman who ran a brothel in Lawrence because she thought it would go unnoticed amid all the crime, was sentenced to seven to nine years in prison after her trial on human trafficking. (Eagle-Tribune)

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson marvels at the story of a “stand-up guy” who, without warning, apparently strangled and tossed into Lake Quinsigamond a 7-year-old girl who miraculously survived.

District court judge Thomas Estes, who last year sentenced an Easthampton High School athlete to a two-year probationary continuance without a finding in a sexual assault case, has been removed by the Trial Court from hearing cases and assigned to administrative duties. (Boston Herald)

The state drops charges against four pipeline protesters who blocked access to Otis State Forest. (Berkshire Eagle)