By Tamsin McMahon - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
Despite big investments to spruce up stores and expand menus, once-thriving restaurant chains are suddenly struggling to get ahead
Analysts were understandably skeptical this month when Tim Hortons interim CEO Paul House blamed the company’s disappointing third-quarter financial results partly on “capacity issues” at some of its restaurants. Canada’s iconic coffee-and-doughnut chain reported that it’s on track to miss its annual growth target in part because lineups at some of its stores were simply too long. “In some ways, it is not good news, but in other ways, it is good news in the sense that . . . we’ve got lots of business,” House told a conference call last week.
It’s a remarkably positive spin on what has been an off year for the ubiquitous coffee chain. Sales growth at existing Tim Hortons stores has been below two per cent for the past two quarters, while growth of 2.3 per cent at U.S. stores fell well below its target of five per cent. What growth the company has seen has been from customers spending more at each visit, even as traffic to its stores declined. The report wasn’t all bad news. The chain did manage a $105.7-million profit for the quarter, up two per cent from a year ago. Continue…
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 8:50 AM - 0 Comments
Companies are turning to computer programs to decide who to hire, fire and promote
McDonald’s Canada held its national hiring day on April 11, and received more than 37,000 applications. The burger chain, which employs about 80,000 people across the country, hired 5,000 new workers, many of whom were needed to replace others who had quit or otherwise left the company.
Hiring and training new employees is expensive, and most corporations try to keep staff turnover, or “churn,” to a minimum. But it’s a particular challenge in the fast-food industry due to its heavy reliance on young part-time workers. While McDonald’s has largely accepted this as a fact of life—its hiring slogan is “for a year or a career”—sorting through all those applications still represents a supersize challenge for store managers trying to determine which workers, many with no previous experience, will be most likely to succeed. And so, in 2006, the burger giant turned to consulting firm Aon Hewitt in the hopes of making the whole process more scientific. They came up with a 15-minute survey, constructed by McDonald’s and Aon’s team of industrial psychologists, that’s administered to applicants and later analyzed by computers. The software suggests which applicants should be contacted for an interview and helps inform managers’ questions. The approach sounds cold and impersonal, but McDonald’s says it works. “It took a lot of the guesswork out and makes it a lot easier to identify those individuals that have the aptitude and willingness to learn,” says Len Jillard, the “chief people officer” for McDonald’s Canada. “Turnover has been reduced.”
McDonald’s is not the only company now outsourcing traditional HR functions to computers. And the machines are doing more than just helping managers decide who to hire. In a blog post, Josh Bersin, the president of consulting firm Bersin & Associates, described the trend as “Moneyball comes to human resources,” referring to the popular book and film about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his use of sophisticated statistical analysis to build a winning baseball club. Bersin cited firms as diverse as home improvement retailer Lowe’s, Credit Suisse and Accenture as among those that now employ analysts who spend all their time “analyzing data about their own people, to identify what precisely makes up a high-performer, and how to best replicate this performance in the workforce.”
It’s all part of a larger shift toward the use of data analytics, or “big data,” in the corporate world. While crunching massive databases in search of insights into consumer behaviour is fast becoming standard operating procedure (Amazon’s product recommendation engine is a good example), the notion of using the same tools to manage a company’s own employees is more controversial, mainly because it’s not an exact science—which, as baseball fans all know, was something Beane discovered when his stats-stacked team failed to win a championship.
The push to modernize HR departments in recent years has been accelerated by the turbulent global economy. In an era of high unemployment rates, many big companies now face a McDonald’s-like river of applications every time they post a job opening. “There are just so many people who are qualified, along with those that aren’t a good match but who are still applying for these positions,” says Paul Barsch, the director of marketing at Teradata, a data analytics company based in Ohio. “Companies need a system on the front end of this hiring process.”
Sensing an opportunity, firms that sell business-oriented software are bulking up on HR-oriented tools. Germany’s SAP bought SuccessFactors, an employee management company for US$3.4 billion in December. In February, Oracle bought Taleo, a human resources software company, for US$1.9 billion. And IBM paid US$1.3 billion for Kenexa, another talent management and HR software-maker, in August.
The potential market for such products is huge. A recent IBM survey of 1,700 chief executives found that 71 per cent said human capital was the most important factor in maintaining a competitive advantage. Still, despite the increasing popularity of big data in other areas of business, another IBM survey of CEOs found that only slightly more than one-third of respondents felt their companies were effectively using analytics to make strategic decisions about their workforces. Neil Crawford, a partner at Aon Hewitt, says the apparent disconnect results from the relatively low position HR departments have traditionally occupied on the corporate totem pole. “There’s not a lot of capital being spent on it,” he says. “Companies will tend to spend their money in other places, like product development and customer research.”
Julie McCarthy is an associate professor of management at the University of Toronto. She says most large corporations now use some form of data analytics to inform their personnel decisions. Why? Because managers don’t have a very good track record of picking the best applicant. “The research shows us that human beings, although we want to trust our instincts, are not good at predicting performance,” she says, adding that relying on human intuition when it comes to hiring effectively amounts to rolling the dice. “But if we use these structured and standardized measures, we can be much more accurate.”
This is what McDonald’s Canada discovered when it began using its hiring tool. Jillard says he heard from several store managers who went ahead and hired employees despite being waved off by the software (store managers still exercise considerable discretion), only to find many of those same workers didn’t pan out. “Time and time again, they came back and said the tool was right,” Jillard says.
Data analytics is also touted as a way for employers to better manage their existing workers. Many firms now routinely conduct internal surveys that are designed to measure employee “engagement,” which studies have suggested can be a key indicator of a company’s future financial performance. Lowe’s, for example, discovered that high levels of employee engagement—say, asking a customer about their renovation project—drove an average store transaction four per cent higher. Added up, the difference between the stores with the highest employee engagement and the lowest amounted to more than US$1 million in sales a year, according to one industry report.
Survey data and statistical models can also reveal which employees may be likely to leave the company and suggest the best way to keep them. Depending on the circumstances, studies have shown that perks like extra days off and more flexible work hours are effective tools when it comes to maintaining employee job satisfaction. Data crunching can also help determine which employees should be targeted for promotion or are more likely to succeed in a different job. “Sometimes people get paranoid about this information being collected and held on them,” says McCarthy. “But if a company is simply holding information to find out what the best career progression is for this particular employee, or if an employee is getting stressed out or overwhelmed, that sort of stuff is good.”
Skeptics remain, however. Barsch of Teradata, for one, says the flurry of excitement around big data raises new risks. “It’s a tool, and a very valuable one, but I think there’s a danger in saying, ‘Well, the machine picked it so the machine must be right,’ ” he says. He points to the U.S. housing crash, which was driven in part by automated systems that were supposed to be able to determine who qualified for mortgages. “You can check their incomes and credit scores, but, as we learned, it’s also important to get a feel of who you are going to be lending money to,” Barsch says. “And I think it’s the same thing in HR. You want some analytics to help sort through the data, but at the end of the day you are hiring a person and that person, in most instances, is going to be talking to a customer.”
There are also opportunities for employees to game the system. “People are starting to get smarter by packing their resumés with key words,” says Barsch. The website Psychometric-Success.com sells an ebook for $14 that promises to tell you “how a potential employer ‘sees’ your personality on paper and how you can ensure your answers create the best possible impression.”
But as testing programs become more sophisticated, efforts to deceive them are likely to do more harm than good. “You’re better off just being honest,” says McCarthy. “Besides, it’s not just about the company selecting you, but you selecting the company. You don’t want to end up some place where the culture isn’t a good fit for you.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
From the headlines of Aug. 30-Sept. 6, 2012
North Korea is reportedly making significant reforms to collective agriculture. Foreigners cannot visit rural areas in the cloistered republic, but defectors say co-operative farms are being subdivided into smaller units, and farmers are being allowed to keep more of their crops for consumption or sale. Agriculture is always a bellwether in centrally planned economies, and the changes might signal a reformist appetite in the circle of Western-educated Kim Jong Un. But they’re good news in themselves, either way.
New rules requiring TV commercials to be no louder than the surrounding programming came into effect Sept. 1, one year after being promulgated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Former chairman Konrad von Finckenstein’s 2011 call for comments was met by a deluge of support from viewers tired of “ear-splitting” ads. The new rules require broadcasters to abide by international ad-loudness standards, which are also being adopted by the U.S. this year.
By Angelina Chapin - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
Marketing to the late-night crowd, many of them inebriated males, is a delicate task for the family-oriented brand
At 1:45 on Sunday morning, three backpack-wearing young men are crowded around a drive-through speaker outside of a 24/7 McDonald’s in Ottawa. “We’re pretty drunk,” admits one, an 18-year-old Queen’s University engineering student. After playing a game of rugby earlier in the evening and then drinking at a house party, they’re craving Big Macs. McDonald’s is hoping the gang might soon be interested in another kind of meal at this hour: breakfast.
In early August the company launched a “Breakfast after midnight” menu, available in Denver, Boston and throughout Ohio between midnight and 5 a.m. The time period is known as the “final frontier” in the fast food business, and McDonald’s is competing with other brands to conquer the demographic most likely to be awake: young—sometimes inebriated—males. A survey by Taco Bell found nearly 45 per cent of its male customers between 18 and 29 years old eat later than 7 p.m. But the chain famous for its smiling clown has a unique challenge in reaching this audience: how to attract partygoers without offending its core audience—moms and families?
CBC host and marketing expert Terry O’Reilly recently dubbed the trend “stoner ads.” Taco Bell’s “fourth meal” campaign, which showcases its menu to a “late-night munchies” jingle has been around for several years, and more recently companies such as Jack in the Box and Denny’s have featured stoners in their commercials (in the latter case, a unicorn). This summer, Loud Mouth Burritos, an upstart U.S. company, said it would market to pot smokers, touting that each burrito has 420 calories—a number universally associated with cannabis culture.
By Mark Richardson - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 7:05 AM - 0 Comments
Kamloops, British Columbia – Day 50
Trans-Canada distance: 6,762 km
Actual distance driven: 14,272 …
Kamloops, British Columbia – Day 50
Trans-Canada distance: 6,762 km
Actual distance driven: 14,272 km
NOW: (Sicamous) Most of the Trans-Canada between Revelstoke and Sicamous is two lanes. Get stuck behind a truck – or more likely at this time of year, an RV – and you’ll be following it for a while. Traffic moves at the speed of the lowest common denominator. This encourages risky overtaking, but it also squeezes oncoming vehicles together.
Rob Young knows this, which is why he refuses to take his bicycle on that stretch of road. He’s on a cycling trip with his 14-year-old daughter Claire; they left their home in Nelson on Saturday and plan to return Friday. They’ve been cycling the mountain roads under their own power, but when I met them today they were looking for a sympathetic pickup truck driver.
“When you’re driving it, it’s just too narrow,” he said. “The shoulder’s dodgy and it’s too narrow for two vehicles to pass with bicycles on the side of the road. I don’t like to even drive it in a car, but I won’t take a bicycle on it.”
THEN: (Creston) Far south of the future Trans-Canada, and making much slower progress, Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney finally ran out of road again in 1912 at the railway town of Yahk. It was night time and as they had first discovered at North Bay, there were places where there just weren’t any paths or trails to follow.
But they didn’t give up – there was still an alternative, thanks to a pair of guides and the railroad.
“We were astride the glittering rails which were to lead us along the intense darkness of the Yahk Loop,” wrote Wilby in his book, A Motor Tour Through Canada.
“There was a gasp as one felt the first forward plunge of the car and the white path of acetylene light shot before us into the immense shadows of that forest wilderness. Four pairs of eyes strove to pierce the distance ahead and behind; and every nerve was strained in listening for a possible monster of steel and steam which might dash down upon us at any moment from around a curve, or catch us in its swift career from behind! Muscles were tense, ready for the leap to a precarious safety at the first sight of an approaching headlight…”
They didn’t realize in the dark that they were on the edge of a cliff with a 160 metre drop, descending at times so steeply that the car would roll under its own weight. They endured “incessant and infernal jiggling and jolting that shook the teeth and vibrated through the spine.” Sometimes, they got stuck between the ties and would have to jack up the car to roll forward again; their rear tires were ripped apart by the ties’ spikes. After they finally found a road again, it took another three hours to drive the 19 kilometres through the soft gravel of the narrow road through the Goat River Gorge, listening to the loosened stones bouncing down to the river 150 metres below.
They arrived in Creston at 3 a.m., exhausted, though Haney was still able to summarize the drive in his understated diary: “Had h__l of a time getting to Creston… Fourteen miles on ties, and up some fierce hills.”
SOMETHING DIFFERENT: (Craigellachie) For much of its route the Trans-Canada follows the rail line across the country, and here, 46 kilometres west of Revelstoke, is where the Last Spike was hammered home in 1885 to complete the original link across the country.
The caretaker of the site here, Lorne, located for us the actual spike on the track that was “the last spike,” right beside the monument, but pointed out that the original spike was removed immediately and replaced with another, slightly larger. He also pointed out that in the famous photo of the spike being hammered in by CPR director Sir Donald Smith, there seem to be a number of empty places on adjacent ties that are still waiting for spikes of their own, so perhaps it was not truly the final piece of the railroad.
And just for good measure, he mentioned that the track has been replaced seven times since 1885. It reminded me of the street sweeper who’s proud that he still uses the same broom after years of service, though the brush has been replaced 10 times and it’s on its ninth handle.
“There are a lot of stories here that never made it into the history books,” Lorne said, and told us about 26 Chinese workers who died of starvation in their construction camp later that winter of ’85. Apparently, the train driver was under orders not to stop for any reason between stations, and the out-of-work labourers were snowed in and couldn’t leave the camp. “You won’t find that story written anywhere,” he said. Well, true or not, I’m proving him wrong now…
SOMETHING FROM TRISTAN, 12 (Revelstoke) Today my dad left his keys on the counter for like the billionth time. It was on the counter of the McDonalds in Revelstoke.
At first we couldn’t find them so my dad was a bit concerned, as he should be because we don’t want anyone driving off with our only mode of transportation. Someone had turned them in but that was a close one. I can only imagine how bad it would be if we lost them.
Other than that our day was pretty much any other day of just driving and stopping and asking people questions. Tomorrow is a questionable day because we don’t know where we are going but hopefully it will be great regardless.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, June 11, 2012 at 9:54 AM - 0 Comments
This video was uploaded in 2010, but it is literally the most thought-provoking short documentary I’ve seen this year.
It would take a heart of stone not to find the Mast Brothers and their hand-made fleur-de-sel-dusted Brooklyn chocolate bars somewhat funny. The YouTube commenters have a laugh, seizing the opportunity to reach in and take the mickey out of a couple of enterprising, image-conscious hipsters. (“It would be much cooler if they had their cocoa beans delivered by bike powered zeppelins.” “it’s an obscure underground chocolate, you’ve probably never heard of it.”)
Indeed, the whole thing seems like it could conceivably be a sendup. It’s not. Continue…
By Gustavo Vieira - Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
The fast-food chain rolled out a new menu featuring salads, chicken wraps and fruit smoothies
After years of mostly targeting young men with its fat-filled Whoppers, Burger King has finally introduced healthier choices to its menu. Just weeks after learning that Wendy’s took its place as the second-largest hamburger chain in the U.S., Burger King rolled out one of its biggest menu redesigns, to offer salads, chicken wraps and fruit smoothies, much like the first-place fast-food chain McDonald’s has served up for years. To complete its makeover, after retiring its “King” mascot, Burger King launched a new advertising campaign starring mainstream celebrities like David Beckham, Jay Leno and Salma Hayek. Burger King still has lots of ground to make up: besides the loss to Wendy’s, both Subway and Starbucks passed Burger King in overall revenue in 2011. It’s now hoping the new menu will be appealing not just to customers, but to investors, too. Burger King also announced last week that it is going public again, just 18 months after the investment firm 3G Capital bought it and took it private.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8:05 AM - 0 Comments
The boneless pork creation is at the centre of McDonald’s latest campaign to win over ethically minded consumers
Though rarely on the menu, McDonald’s McRib sandwich has been the subject of much hand-wringing lately. The boneless pork creation, first introduced in 1982, is at the centre of McDonald’s latest campaign to win over ethically minded consumers. The fast-food giant recently called on U.S. pork producers, which also supply McDonald’s with bacon and sausages, to stop keeping pregnant sows in so-called gestation stalls, cramped cages that don’t allow the animals to turn around. “McDonald’s believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future,” the company said. “There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows.”
It’s yet another example of how McDonald’s—indeed all fast-food companies—is becoming more image-conscious in an age of “natural” and “locally grown” foods. Case in point: a recent ad by Chipotle that featured cute, 3D animated pigs, and depicted how the food industry has evolved from family farms to factory operations. What neither Chipotle nor McDonald’s explains is how an industry tasked with producing nearly 21 billion pounds of pork a year could ever be anything but a factory-like operation. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
Fast food restaurants are getting the farmers that grow their food to sell it too
Using the qualifier “natural” to sell food to a hungry public is nothing new. But mass-market food advertisers have recently taken the strategy to new heights by getting the people that actually grow the food to sell it, too. A new McDonald’s television ad, which opens with a farmer carrying a bushel of potatoes, drives home the idea that their fries are made with the same potatoes you mash at home. Wendy’s new TV ads show farmer Jim Carter eating the strawberries he grows that end up in the fast-food chain’s new salad. And the latest Lay’s ad campaign features the potato farmers who provide the produce for the company’s chips. (They also include a “chip tracker” on their website, where customers can enter a product code found on bags in order to find out exactly where the potatoes inside were harvested.) The underlying message seems to be, “Our food is made with food. And it’s grown by real farmers.” Continue…
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
McDonald’s is trimming french fry servings in Happy Meals and adding fruit
The Happy Meal, introduced by McDonald’s in 1979 and coveted by billions of tykes ever since, has seen jollier times. Under pressure from critics, the fast food chain says it will cut the calorie count in the meals by 20 per cent thanks to smaller french fry servings and the addition of yogourt and fruit (sans caramel). The changes have done little to quell critics who have blasted the company for putting a toy in each meal, which they say amounts to bribing kids. Of course, if parents are really worried about their kids getting fat, they could take the apparently radical step of saying “no” the next time Sally demands a Happy Meal. The critics blaming McDonald’s for overweight children have yet to answer the real question surrounding the obesity epidemic: why is it up to a clown what parents let their children eat?
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 12:25 PM - 1 Comment
In the competitive fast-food breakfast industry, chains are literally giving away their goods to win customers
By 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the breakfast sandwich assembly line at the Subway restaurant on Granville St. in downtown Vancouver was in overdrive—English muffin, pre-cooked egg, sliced ham and cheese, then into the oven. Brush away crumbs. Repeat. Despite the frantic pace, the lineup spilled out the door and down the street, drawn by that siren call of the tired and hungry morning consumer—a free breakfast and coffee.
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but when it comes to breakfast, fast-food chains are doling out meals and coffee to anyone who’ll take them. Last November, Burger King Canada gave away free coffees every Friday, having earlier handed out complimentary breakfast sandwiches. Subway’s one-day breakfast and coffee giveaway was its second in 10 months. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has blitzed the morning crowd with free coffees five times since 2009, with each event lasting between one to two weeks.
The goal is invariably the same each time—to get as many new people as possible to try their offerings with the hope that some moochers come back for more as paying regulars.
By Colin Campbell - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
McDonald’s in Europe might be used to help gauge the level of innovation in certain areas.
Economists have long looked to global restaurant behemoth McDonald’s as a useful tool to mine data. The Big Mac index, for instance, was invented to measure whether world currencies are over- or undervalued. A new study suggests that McDonald’s in Europe might also be used to help gauge the entrepreneurial level of certain areas.
McDonald’s has a varied customer base, hires immigrants and, at least in Europe, is seen as a symbol of “cosmopolitanism and a modern urban lifestyle,” note economists at the University of Amsterdam. So a large number of McDonald’s in a region “may be used as a proxy for the openness and international connectedness of the region.” Researchers used that location data to help prove there is a link between innovation (measured by the number of patents filed) and areas with diverse groups of immigrants from regions with high skill levels. In other words, if you want to set up shop in an idea-rich part of Europe, McDonald’s may have already identified the best locations.
By Jen Cutts - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3:10 PM - 0 Comments
China has detained its best-known artist, Ai Weiwei
China has detained its best-known artist, Ai Weiwei, the latest in a hardline crackdown on expression that human rights groups are warning is the most severe in more than a decade. Ai, an outspoken critic of the government, has not been heard from since Sunday, when he was seized at the Beijing airport. And last week, three pro-democracy activists were charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)—which is punishable by life imprisonment. At least 23 other dissidents are being held, and another dozen are missing and at risk of harm, says CHRD.
The show of force, according to the Hong Kong-based group, is in response to online chatter that began in mid-February calling for weekly “Jasmine revolution”-style protests, inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. The initial posts appeared on a website run by exiled Chinese activists; they encouraged citizens to gather in public spaces like Wangfujing, one of Beijing’s busiest shopping streets, for “strolling” demonstrations. Unlike in Tunisia, however, there has been limited participation by the Chinese, though police have been on hand in great numbers, ready to quash any act of dissent—including that of one man who tried to leave a white jasmine flower outside a McDonald’s.
By macleans.ca - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 11:02 AM - 0 Comments
Are the Vancouver Canucks the prohibitive Cup favourites?
A Canuck Cup fave?
The Vancouver Canucks captured the President’s Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top regular-season team, despite playing in the superior conference and suffering an unearthly skein of injuries to its defence corps. This marks the first time Vancouver has won the trophy, introduced in 1985. The Canucks dominated impressively in 2010-11, surrendering far fewer goals than any other team, running the best power play, and ranking second in overall scoring and penalty-killing.
Laurent Gbagbo, the strongman clinging to the presidency of Ivory Coast, faced a reckoning as UN and French armies intervened in support of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, recognized internationally as the winner of a 2010 election. Peacekeepers entered Ivorian borders and airspace after Gbagbo’s militia began targeting civilian Ouattara supporters. The capture of the capital, Abidjan, soon followed. Gbagbo, trapped within a small perimeter around a personal bunker, was said to be negotiating a surrender.
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landed safely at an airport in Yuma, Ariz., after a panel tore open and depressurized the cabin at 36,000 feet. Southwest, whose short-hop business model, say experts, is hard on airframes, inspected its fleet for metal fatigue after the mercifully inexpensive warning. Meanwhile, underwater robot vehicles operating off Brazil’s coast found wreckage from Air France Flight 447, promising new clues to a mysterious 2009 crash that killed 228 people.
Fries with that recovery?
In a gesture of faith in the U.S. economy, fast-food giant McDonald’s will hire 50,000 American personnel in a single day (April 19), expanding its U.S. workforce to 700,000. (McDonald’s Canada will add 4,000 workers the same day.) Of the 8.7 million jobs lost in the U.S. during the recession, only 1.5 million have been regained since 2009. “McJobs” is a byword for tenuous, low-paying work, but McDonald’s U.S.A. observes that half of its franchise owners and 75 per cent of managers started behind the counter.
Violence wracked Afghanistan after Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who backed down on threats to burn the Quran last year, followed through and immolated the holy book after a webcasted mock trial. Protesters stormed a UN facility in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing three staff and four Nepalese Gurkha guards; at least 17 more people, mostly Afghan civilians, died in further riots. The White House denounced Jones’s action as “un-American,” as did U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who says his forces now face “an additional serious security challenge.”
A referee’s regrets
South African judge Richard Goldstone, who led a UN investigation into the 2008-09 Israeli invasion of Gaza, added a postscript to his 2009 report criticizing Israel and Hamas for war crimes. In the Washington Post, Goldstone wrote that he had hoped his report would introduce “a new era of even-handedness” at the often anti-Zionist UN. But he found that only the Israeli side followed up the report and investigated its own conduct; Hamas, meanwhile, continued unlawful attacks on Israeli civilians.
A nurse in Dartmouth, N.S., was reprimanded for poor handwriting, sparking a national debate about hospital records. Wilfred Gordon’s illegible scrawls on charts had been a problem “for many years,” declared a disciplinary panel of the province’s College of Registered Nurses, but he “had not successfully addressed the issue.” Gordon was ordered to take a course in documentation and will face penmanship reviews by a manager.
It’s bad for your arteries, too
Another mess in Nova Scotia emerged when a sewer backup in a Bedford neighbourhood proved to have been caused, in part, by bacon grease. A Halifax Water investigation into flooded basements in the Ridgevale subdivision revealed that clogs of fat and oil, accumulating at levels “more often associated with commercially zoned areas,” played a role in damage to five homes. Local homeowners were sceptical, and a councillor noted that in at least one case, it was steamers used by sewer workers to melt the grease that sent sewage blasting upward into a Ridgevale domicile.
By Ken MacQueen, Colby Cosh and Maclean's staff - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
The Donald for prez in 2012?
Leave it to Bieber—or else
Surprise Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding discovered the downside to beating out a shoo-in at the Grammys. The jazz singer’s voluminous hair did little to endear her to vengeful Justin Bieber fans, who edited her Wikipedia page to paint a curious picture: her middle name is Justin—no, Quesadilla; she is (to paraphrase) mentally challenged, and she should die in a hole. The Bieb was more gracious, congratulating his rival warmly when he ran into her backstage. Still, Spalding may have more in common with a Canadian act that fared better that night: Arcade Fire. She sang at Barack Obama’s White House, while the Montreal indie darlings played shows for his presidential campaign.
Hair today, who knows tomorrow
Donald Trump electrified the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, speculating in a surprise appearance about a Republican run for the presidency. “We need a competitive person,” Trump told a divided audience. “If I run and if I win, this country will be respected again.” The real estate mogul laid out an anti-gun-control, anti-Obamacare stance, adding a pro-life element that has only recently become a feature of his political bloviations. He also provoked supporters of conservatives’ perennial favourite, libertarian congressman Ron Paul, by remarking that “Paul cannot get elected. Sorry.” Trump says he will make his final decision on whether to run in June.
You can’t go home
When former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf announced he was returning from a self-imposed exile to possibly run for office, he faced a Catch-22: he’d either suffer an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda or arrest for treason. Now there’s another obstacle: a warrant for his arrest in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. On Saturday, a Pakistani court said an investigation revealed Musharraf did not provide adequate protection for the former PM in 2007 as she campaigned against him for the presidency. Musharraf, who denies any involvement, allegedly knew of plans to kill her but failed to alert authorities. Bhutto, of course, was killed by al-Qaeda weeks after her own return following years in self-imposed exile.
By Tom Henheffer - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 3 Comments
Tofino, B.C.’s town council wants to keep fast-food franchises out
Tofino, B.C., is a tiny surfer town full of independent coffee shops, greasy spoons and eco-clothing boutiques, and its residents want to keep it that way. So, last week, the town council unanimously passed a motion asking city staff to come up with a way to keep large franchises— like Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s—out. “We want to be reflective of the environment in which we live, which is wild, untamed and thus different,” says Maureen Fraser, owner of the Common Loaf, a local bakery and hippie hangout. “There’s no sense of escape if you find the golden arches.”
Bob Long, the town’s chief administrative officer, is working on a proposal for council. He says he’ll likely recommend zoning bylaws restricting signage and regulations requiring restaurants to have table service. Other small towns have fought off chain stores with similar regulations. After a large video chain drove local rental places out of business, Port Townsend, Wash., instituted a “formula store ordinance” that restricts the locations of franchises and requires stores to tailor their signs to the town’s Victorian aesthetic. It hasn’t had another franchise open in the city since. Qualicum Beach, B.C., about 160 km east of Tofino, has also managed to keep fast-food chains out with a bylaw that restricts the sale of prepackaged produce.
But Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, says these towns are moving in the wrong direction. “It’s like shooting yourself in the foot,” he says. “A lot of people want the food and fun associated with [franchises].” Whyte thinks good planning is all that’s needed to keep independent stores in business. But those in Tofino don’t buy that. “You come here and get a unique cup of coffee,” says Long. “The more diversity we have, the better it will be.”
By Ezra Levant - Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 2:08 PM - 199 Comments
Exclusive excerpt: How McDonald’s hand-washing policy was overruled
If British Columbia sounds like the land that common sense forgot when it comes to human rights, there’s good reason. Many of the most ridiculous case studies discussed in this book originate in that province.
Take, for instance, the time the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal declared that a McDonald’s restaurant employee had the human right not to wash her hands, even when she worked in the kitchen, and instead should be accommodated by finding her another job in the organization where handwashing was not essential. In theory this makes sense; but in practice, McDonald’s, who ought to know, say that there aren’t any positions that don’t require handwashing.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 8:20 AM - 1 Comment
Hard times: The days of free ketchup and extra sauce are over
Fast-food joints just got cheaper—or rather, stingier. They’re charging for items that used to be free. A quarter for four pumps of extra sauce. Eleven cents for a packet of ketchup. “It’s not just condiments,” says John Stanton, professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “They now put one napkin in the bag instead of a bunch.”
There’s growing evidence that during this economic downturn even the most recession-proof businesses—quick-service chains such as McDonald’s that thrive on people’s desire for inexpensive food from familiar brands—are tightening their belts. Stanton first heard about it when he complained to a passenger next to him on a plane about airlines charging for snacks. “He said, ‘That’s nothing. Now you have to buy the extra sauce at restaurants!’ ” he recalls. Franchisees have to buy ketchup packets, but have traditionally doled them out for free. Not anymore.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 4:45 PM - 7 Comments
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question…
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question to 605 people who frequently do (at least once a week). Perhaps unsurprisingly, most reported eating fast food because it’s… fast. But some of the other answers are even more telling.