The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Accuses McDonald’s of Hiring Convicted Sex Offenders

The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (NFPCSA) is calling for a boycott of McDonald’s restaurants after Nashville station NewsChannel 5 WTVF uncovered that nationwide, McDonald’s restaurants have hired “dozens” of convicted sex offenders.

According to the WTVF report, “McDonald’s says it has a policy against hiring sex offenders at its 8,000 or so company owned stores. But at the 18,000 franchise stores that operate under the golden arches, they’re free to hire anyone they want.”

WTVF’s investigation revealed nine sex offenders in Delaware, thirteen in Indiana and sixteen in Louisiana working in McDonald’s restaurants. But, unfortunately:

“We can’t tell you how many other child molesters or other sex offenders are working at McDonald’s restaurants here in Tennessee or anywhere else. That’s because in most states, including Tennessee, sex offender registries don’t have information about employers. So the public can’t find out — until something bad happens.”

No response yet on McDonald’s Corporate site.

 


Adaptive Abilities More Important Than Detailed Contingency Plans

The May issue of Harvard Business Review has a special report containing thirteen articles about Preparing for a Pandemic that focus on different areas such as the science behind H5N1, the role of leaders, the importance of communication, and modeling, among others.

However, the article on organizations, Survival of the Adaptive by Nitin Nohria, the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, is particularly enlightening for PR and and other related professionals counseling clients on crisis management. Nohria writes:

“In the complex and uncertain environment of a sustained, evolving crisis, the most robust organizations will not be those that simply have plans in place but those that have continuous sensing and response capabilities…

We know from complexity theory that following a few basic crisis-response principles is more effective than having a detailed a priori plan in place….

The goal is not to create specific rules for responding to specific threats but to practice new ways of problem solving in an unpredictable and fast-changing environment.”

Nohria recommends that organizations have a global network of people in place that can help out as needed if internal communications systems break down, or as either human or physical resources are compromised.

He also compares the characteristics of organizations that will be less, and those that will be more, successful in surviving an outbreak:

  • Hierarchical vs. networked
  • Centralized leadership vs. distributed leadership
  • Tightly coupled (greater interdependence among parts) vs. loosely coupled (less interdependence)
  • Concentrated workforce vs. dispersed workforce
  • Specialists vs. cross-trained generalists
  • Policy and procedure driven vs. guided by simple yet flexible rules

 


Animal Legal Defense Fund Releases Ranking of State Animal Protection Laws

Earlier this year the Animal Legal Defense Fund released a 3-page report ranking all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia based on the strength and comprehensiveness of their state anti-cruelty laws.

Although ALDF makes it clear that all the states’ laws need to be strengthened, the states that ranked best were California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan and Oregon, while those that ranked worst were Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota and Utah.

The latter five states fell into the worst category because, among other things, they either did not have any felony anti-cruelty provisions or because, in the case of Kentucky, felony provisions applied only to select situations.

ALDF also provides a list of Jurisdictions with Felony Animal Abuse Provisions and the year of enactment.

By way of quick definition, a felony is “a crime sufficiently serious to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison… [or] a crime carrying a minimum term of one year or more in state prison,” [note: given the legal status of animals, whether wild or designated as “property,” the death penalty has never been, not is unlikely ever to be, imposed in any animal cruelty case], while a  misdemeanor is “a lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year… [and]are tried in the lowest local court such as municipal, police or justice courts.”


With Canada’s Seal Hunt Less Than Two Days Away, Rhetoric Is In Overdrive

As the countdown ticker on the Humane Society of the United States site shows, Canada’s infamous yearly seal hunt — this year permitting the killing of 325,000 young seals — is less that two days away (at the time of this writing, 1 day and 19 hours).

With both supporters and opponents of the hunt preparing for the international media attention this event attracts, rhetoric is in overdrive.

From the Fisheries and Oceans Canada site:

  • The Seal Hunt Management Plan’s objectives are to “ensure conservation and sustainability, long-term sustainable use, humane hunting practices, and encourage fullest use of hunted seals.”
  • “The commercial seal hunt in Atlantic Canada in 2005 was the source of more than $16.5 million in direct revenue from the sale of product – virtually the same as in 2004, and up from an estimated $13 million value in 2003.”
  • “The seal harvest in Atlantic Canada has been directed at beater pelt sales (independent harp seals between 25 days and 13 months of age).  The primary market is for beater pelts, which can fetch up to $70 each in strong markets.”
  • “The hunting methods presently used were studied by the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada and they found that the clubbing of seals, when properly performed is at least as humane as, and often more humane than, the killing methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, which are accepted by the majority of the public.”
  • “Methods used to kill seals in Canada were found to be generally more humane than the shooting of animals for sport. The Commission also found that no methods of killing which have come to their notice, other than clubbing or shooting, achieve acceptable standards of humaneness.”

Additional statements from a recent CBS News article:

  • “…the reality is that whitecoats can’t be hunted anymore. But it’s also true that young harp seals lose their white coats (and their protection) at about 12 to 14 days of age. After that, they’re fair game for hunters, although they’re usually about 25 days old before they’re hunted. Most harp seals taken are under the age of three months. Young yes, whitecoats no.”
  • “A 2002 report in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that ‘the large majority of seals taken during this hunt … are killed in an acceptably humane manner.’ This study found that 98 per cent of hunted seals it examined had been killed properly. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) cites this study among others as proof that the hunt opponents are wrong in their accusations of widespread cruelty. And regarding the ‘skinning alive’ charge, the DFO says appearances can be deceiving. ‘Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed,’ the DFO says. ‘However, seals have a swimming reflex that is active, even after death. This reflex falsely appears as though the animal is still alive when it is clearly dead – similar to the reflex in chickens.’ “
  • According to the DFO, “the club, or ‘hakapik,’ used by many sealers is ‘an efficient tool’ that kills ‘quickly and humanely.’ “
  • “The federal government acknowledges that it has laid more than 200 charges against sealers since 1996, but argues that shows it’s serious about enforcing its regulations.”

And finally, from the Humane Society of the United States, a video and slide show (scroll midway down page to find). Despite the pictures of whitecoats intended to pull at everyone’s heartstrings, these images speak volumes.



Resources for Blogging in Politically Repressive Environments

Here are two important blogging resources for anyone opposed to censorship and supportive of free speech … and, most importantly, for any blogger working within a politically repressive environment.

On a related note, there is currently much talk about credibility, accountability and accuracy within the blogosphere. I’ve often thought that limiting the anonymity of bloggers or those who comment on blog posts is one way of increasing accountability. Spirit of America has challenged my view on this (see entire argument on Anonymous Blogging Apologia):

“Most of the bloggers who have been arrested in the past two years were easy to find because they followed the advice of some purist critics of anonymous blogging: They used their real names and details of their lives. Considering the likelihood that the harrassment of bloggers will continue, we believe anonymous blogging should remain a valid option and comprehensive instructions on how to do so should be available.”


Legislation Seeks to Avoid a Repeat of Katrina’s Pet Failure

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, pet owners were either forced to abandon their pets or risk their own lives in trying to protect their animal companions. Some people decided to stay behind, others were heartbroken by the decision they felt forced to make.

While stories of happy reunions between owners and their pets provide a small feel-good element in an otherwise tragic series of government failures, there are still reports of animals who are barely alive and desperately waiting to be rescued.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of Katrina, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Chris Shays (R-CT) recently introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2005 (H.R. 3858) to require state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to “take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.” PETS currently has over 60 co-sponsors. As explained in Congressman Lantos’ introductory statements:

“This legislation … requires states to include how they plan to accommodate their incumbent pet population as well as people with disabilities that are aided by service animals. FEMA will require the jurisdictions to submit their emergency preparedness plans in order to be eligible for FEMA funding assistance in the event of a disaster.”

While the legislation doesn’t require any specific rescue efforts by state or local governments, it serves as a starting point for discussing the practical steps needed to rescue people and their pets. So are any non-profits or advocacy groups using this bill as an opportunity to educate their members and the public? Here’s a partial list of national organizations that are:

· The Humane Society of the United States (go here)

· The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (go here)

· Last Chance for Animals (scroll to bottom of page here)

· United Animal Nations (go here)

· Doris Day Animal League (go here)

At a time when the wounds of Katrina are still fresh and people around the country are wondering what they would so if disaster struck them, all animal advocacy groups, whether national or local, large or small, should be using this legislation to raise awareness and mobilize their audiences into action.


fMRI Use in Corporate Crisis Management

In the future, will public relations firms use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as part of their crisis management arsenal? Start-up Cephos Corporation no doubt must hope so.

According to a news release issued by the Medical University of South Carolina, which conducted the groundbreaking study “Detecting Deception Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” (abstract available from Biological Psychiatry here; full study available with free registration) in conjunction with Cephos and Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, researchers for the first time were able to distinguish truth-telling from deception within 61 individuals through the use of fMRI.  

In case you’re wondering why you should be interested, the study points out that:

“An accurate method to detect deception likely would have important implications for our society. Many legal, political, military, and industrial settings might benefit from an accurate method for detecting deception. Presently available technologies such as the polygraph and voice stress analysis lack rigorous scientific support.”

fMRI’s potential interest for attorneys is undeniable. The MUSC news release quotes criminal defense attorney extraordinaire Robert Shapiro as saying:

“I’d use it tomorrow in virtually every criminal and civil case on my desk. This technology will revolutionize how cases are handled by allowing the truth to prevail undeniably.”