Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry shocked the political establishment today by choosing world-champion competitive eater Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi as his running mate. Kobayashi, fresh off winning his unprecedented third-straight Nathan's Famous hot-dog eating contest, where he put down a world-record 53.5 dogs and buns in 12 minutes on Sunday, said through a translator, "This is completely unexpected. I thought you had to be a U.S. citizen. But I am honored and will eat wieners to change America."

Kerry told the Associated Press, "If we're going to be sticklers about the next in line to the presidency being an American, then I'll go with my second choice, John Edwards. But Kobayashi really brings something to the ticket. The little guy once ate 18 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes. That's the type of fortitude we need in a vice president."

Of course, Kerry could have avoided this controversy by taking a closer look at Fool favorite and Alexandria, Va., native Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, who put down 32 hot dogs -- more than any American and any other woman in the contest's history. Sonya, stop by our chili cook-off on Wednesday for a little competitive eating at Fool HQ.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Spidey's Swingin' Weekend


Seth Jayson

I've always wondered why run-of-the-mill news media people seem so excited about box office numbers. Everyone likes a winner, I guess. But as a Marvel Enterprises(NYSE: MVL) shareholder, I'm more than happy to listen to the talking heads hype the rapidly inflating gross take for Spider-Man 2.

The Sony(NYSE: SNE) joint took in $180 million as of Monday, setting several records in the process, including best July Fourth weekend, at $88 million; highest five-day gross, at $153 million; and best-ever Wednesday opening, with over $40 million.

Spider-Man 2 might have broken even more records had the web slinger's handlers not chosen to release the film just before the busy holiday weekend, when potential moviegoers tend to be caught up with outdoor and family activities. Because of the timing, the original Spider-Man remains atop the pile for highest opening weekends. But even so, only DreamWorks' Shrek 2, a few of Time Warner's(NYSE: TWX)Harry Potter flicks, and Matrix Reloaded have had better opening weekends.

From a shareholder's point of view, the astounding fact is that the enormous take still hasn't reached the reported $250 million that Spider-Man 2 cost to make and market. The upcoming overseas releases, plus domestic legs provided by rave reviews, should put the movie into the black within days.

Unfortunately, what that means for Marvel shareholders is not quite clear. The firm recently resolved its dispute with Sony over the Spider-Man franchise. Details of the deal were not released, but it's sure to bring bigger licensing revenues. Factor in Marvel's long pipeline of other movie projects, its risk-averse business model, and lucrative side deals with everyone from Kellogg(NYSE: K) to Activision(Nasdaq: ATVI) and Lions Gate Entertainment(AMEX: LGF), and you might wonder why the stock has been swooning lately.

Or maybe not. In the short term, the market is scary and irrational, like Doc Ock or Green Goblin. But in the end, good guys -- such as debt-free licensors with ample free cash flow -- prevail.

Fool contributor Seth Jayson owns shares of Marvel Enterprises, but has no position in any other company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Wanted: Foolish Writers

Do you read the Fool's content and say to yourself, "I could have written that!" Do you post thoughtful arguments on our discussion boards? Do you have an opinion on everything from to Wal-Mart? Then we're looking for you. We're seeking the best and brightest minds out there to contribute to We're taking applications for both full-time positions and freelance Fools. Visit and check out the listings under Editorial and Writing.

Veritas Vilified


Tim Beyers

Man, I love a good stock market train wreck. No, I'm not some bear market cheerleader. And I'm certainly no sadist. I'm just cheap. I want to buy $1 worth of earnings for $0.50. In the stock market, such bargains usually arise after panic selling on bad news.

That's what happened to Veritas(Nasdaq: VRTS) this morning. The storage software maker reported that it had a lackluster quarter and would miss earnings estimates. Instead of $0.21 to $0.23 a share on revenue of $490 million to $505 million for the second quarter, Veritas now says it will book $0.17 to $0.19 a stub on sales of $475 million to $485 million.

In a statement, Veritas executives attributed the shortfall to weaker-than-anticipated demand, resulting in lower license revenue. Investors took the news hard, sending the stock lower by more than 35% as of this writing.

They have good reason, of course. Software companies that don't grow license revenue tend to disappear eventually. And then there's Veritas' recent accounting troubles, which came to a head in March when the firm announced it would restate 2001 and 2002 results. No wonder investors are running for the exits.

But the story doesn't end there. Investing guru Benjamin Graham likened the stock market to a manic depressive who would buy and sell on seemingly random whims, occasionally creating bargains. Today looks like another of Mr. Market's famous mood swings. Not only has Veritas taken a beating, but so have dozens of other firms, many of which participate in fundamentally different businesses.

Just look at this list: Cisco Systems(Nasdaq: CSCO) down 3%, Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) down nearly 2%, Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) down more than 1.5%, and Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL) down more than 3%. Did any of these companies do something to deserve the sell-off? Sure. Like Veritas, they're all tech stocks.

How silly. Just because Veritas is having trouble doesn't mean others will. Ask yourself: Is EMC(NYSE: EMC) no longer a great, albeit pricey, business because of Veritas' problems? No. But that didn't prevent investors from giving EMC's shares a 6% haircut this morning.

Don't join them. Instead, think of today's market action as an extension of the holiday weekend. While it isn't like a few helpings of beer and brats, today's folly gives the patient Fool a rare chance to load up on bargains that will boost her fiscal standing over the long term. And isn't financial independence more satisfying anyway?

Fool contributor Tim Beyers loves beer and brats and hopes you were able to get your share at the barbecue line this past weekend. Tim owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.

Discussion Board of the Day: Walgreen vs. Rite Aid

Drugstore chain Rite Aid(NYSE: RAD) reported increased same-store sales today, though they lagged the heftier gains reported by industry heavyweight Walgreen(NYSE: WAG). Can Rite Aid pull ahead, or will it stay in Walgreen's shadow? Talk about the ongoing rivalries within the drugstore industry on the Walgreen and Rite Aid discussion boards.

United Natural Gets Slammed


Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Investors viewed United Natural Foods(Nasdaq: UNFI) as an unhealthy investment today, pushing the stock down as much as 19% after the organic food supplier warned it will come in shy of profit expectations. Has the outlook for soy soured, or have investors jumped the gun on a day when some negative sentiment haunts the stock market?

United Natural said it now anticipates earnings of $0.93 to $0.97 per share for fiscal year 2005, as compared to the previous expectation for earnings of $0.98 per share. Among other things, the shortfall is blamed on higher medical costs.

Meanwhile, though, revenues are still looking healthy, with the company expecting sales growth of 17% to 22%, to between $1.9 billion to $2.0 billion. Meanwhile, the company still insists it will bring about earnings growth of 25% to 26% from fiscal 2004. Despite the disappointment, that kind of earnings growth is enough to make any long-term investor proud.

The outlook doesn't change the overall business climate for United Natural Foods, at least not so far as we know at the moment. United Natural supplies goods to two "supernaturals," Wild Oats(Nasdaq: OATS) and Whole Foods Market(Nasdaq: WFMI). Last we heard, United Natural's renewed agreement with Wild Oats helped brighten its outlook.

Not so long ago, Fool contributor W.D. Crotty explored the idea that the natural and organic food industry is a healthy and growing one, a space investors might consider when taking into account the troubled times facing traditional, non-niche grocery retailers like Safeway(NYSE: SWY), Kroger(NYSE: KR), and Albertson's(NYSE: ABS).

In addition to the $0.02 per share earnings hit from medical costs, United Natural also mentioned upcoming costs and capital expenditures. On the downside, there was some degree of evasiveness as to how much "special items" might pare down its earnings outlook, including labor, moving, and other costs associated with expanding its distribution facilities.

On the other hand, for all intents and purposes, it sounds like the company is preparing for a wave of positive times for healthy and organic goods and taking the opportunity to expand. Between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2007, United Natural said it plans $100 million to $125 million in capital expenditures, with $35 million to $38 million planned in 2005. It said it plans to invest in people, facilities, equipment, and new technology.

When it comes to the earnings shortfall, it seems like investors doled out overly steep punishment at this time. At today's lowest point, it represented the lowest level the stock has seen since May. It's arguable that today's United Natural price tag represented an opportunity that hasn't been seen in quite some time.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

Quote of Note

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." -- Mark Twain

More on Today

Shannon Zimmerman explains how to build a perfect portfolio in The IAA Revolution.... In Retirement Tips From a Pro, Robert Brokamp chats with David and Tom Gardner about planning for the rest of your life.... In 5 Feel-Good Stocks, Fool contributor Paul Elliott remains bullish on socially responsible investing.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.