Why doesn’t Moore, Oklahoma have any public tornado shelters?

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First, my heart is with all the lives that have been lost in the tornado that has hit Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding area. At this moment, USA Today claims that at least 24 people were killed. CBS News‘ “KFOR meteorologist Mike Morgan called this ‘the worst tornado damage in the history of the world.’”

Photo courtesy of freebeacon

Photo courtesy of freebeacon

As I have been watching the destruction unfold on TV with my family (I am visiting California), I have been struck by the lack of tornado shelters in Moore, Oklahoma. The best shelter during a tornado is in a basement or underground facility. Yet according to an MSNBC reporter on All In With Chris Hayes, only around 1 in 10 homes have these facilities. Even more chilling, the City of Moore’s website says “The City of Moore has no community (or “public”) tornado shelters.” Why?

On All in With Chris Hayes, the reporter (whose name I cannot remember) it is prohibitively expensive for most people to build tornado shelters. Additionally, there’s a form of rock underneath most Moore residents’ homes that is very tough to build through.

Further, the City of Moore bluntly states that it cannot guarantee FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will cover the cost of building tornado shelters in individuals’ homes. In response to the question “Should I wait to build a safe room in the hopes that the FEMA grant program will be re-instituted?”, the City of Moore replies in the following manner:

No. If you’re concerned that you need a safe room, it is recommended that you build one. There is no guarantee that even if the rules are changed that we will be chosen for a grant; and if we are chosen, there is no guarantee that there will be enough funding to accommodate all residents who wish to participate. Your peace-ofmind will more than offset the cost of a shelter.

But if the cost is too expensive for individuals, why aren’t there public shelters? The City of Moore gives several reasons: “people face less risk by taking shelter in a reasonably-well constructed residence!” It seems strange to give a fact that few can afford the enthusiasm of an exclamation point.

That aside, the City of Moore encourages residents to shelter in the closest home with a reasonable facility. This is because “the average tornado warning time is generally only 10-15 minutes,” so if a shelter is constructed underneath one’s home, it is faster to reach that destination than to drive to a nearby shelter. Although the city has “2,210 registered saferooms” from individuals (the population is 55,081), there is no public listing of these rooms.

Regarding the possibility of public buildings with tornado shelters, the city’s website simply states “There is no public building in Moore which has a suitable location for a shelter.” Again, why?

Again, money. In response to the question “Why don’t we build a community storm shelter?”, this is the City of Moore‘s response:

  • How large of facility should we build? Our population is 55,081. To shelter that many people would require building something like an underground sports arena. (If we didn’t build for that many, then how do we determine who gets turned away when the facility was full?)
  • What would you use this large facility for the other 364 days of the year? The facility wouldn’t be financially feasible without other uses; but the other uses would have to accommodate unscheduled storms.
  • Security. If the other “intended uses” require equipment or supplies, how do those items remain secure when people arrive for sheltering? Security necessary to properly maintain order for 55,000 people exceeds are current capabilities.
  • Staffing. Sheltering thousands of persons also takes a lot of support staff, from ensuring someone has the keys and opens the doors, to custodial staff, to concessions, to maintenance.
  • What about multiple smaller facilities? You still have many of the same issues, just spread over more locations, therefore requiring as many or more resources.

This governmental response feels like the complete opposite of living in Israel. There are bomb shelters within blocks of every residence. 10-15 minutes feels like a luxury compared to the 15-90 seconds most Israelis get before a bomb drops. In Israel, you feel like the country is giving you peace of mind. Isn’t that the way it should be?

In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, let us prioritize funding governmental programs like FEMA over partisan politics. It is always worth the cost to save a life.

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

Link

Only an Accident” is a very well written New York Times op-ed by a former hose and conveyor belting seller, Bruce MacHart, who describes countless manual labor related accidents he has seen over the years. He then compares the media’s reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing, where four people died and around 200 were injured last Monday, to a “fertilizer plant explosion in a small town called West [that] left more than a dozen dead and around 200 injured” in Texas two days later:

In the first hours after the fertilizer plant explosion, many commenters had wondered about the likelihood of foul play or terrorism. But once it was deemed an industrial accident, the hysterical coverage tapered off. We had nothing to fear from West; we could stop paying attention.

We tend to discount that which is accidental as somehow less tragic, less interesting, less newsworthy than the mayhem of agency. Lives have been “lost” in Texas, but in Boston, by God — lives have been “taken.”

Boston Marathon: Photo from www.bagnewsnotes.com/

Texas fertilizer plant explosion: Photo from Christian Science Monitor

Earlier in the piece, he cryptically describes the sense of the word “lost” in labor-related accidents:

Then there was the grisly story of the debarking drum, which is effectively a giant, spinning, kilnlike pipe into which one puts logs to strip them of their bark. Imagine a machine violent enough to tumble logs clean. Now imagine that machine loaded with a grown man. Who knows how such mistakes are made, but, so the story goes, he was still inside when the machine turned on. He was lost.

I often came back to that word — lost. It implies a certain negligence, a certain culpability, but it also suggests that what is lost might be found again. In those days, I routinely called on manufacturing facilities and mines and sawmills and petrochemical plants, and on company marquees all over town was the following phrase: “___ days since the last L.T.A.” L.T.A. stands for “lost time accident,” meaning an accident that caused an injured employee to miss future “time” at work.

He concludes that the loss of human life, no matter how it was lost, should be valued equally:

But this distinction means nothing to the victims or, I imagine, to their families. In Boston, in West, whether by sinister design or by accident, whether on a television-ready stage or hidden away in a rural factory, when people are hurt, when lives are lost, the essential human cost shouldn’t be lost on the living.

I think this is a beautiful piece that shows the media’s bias towards terror-related violence. But one crucial aspect that I don’t think MacHart touches upon is why viewers can identify with terror-related accidents more than labor ones. Especially in the United States, fewer and fewer people are working in manufacturing jobs. However, everyone can be the victim of a terror attack. I think this plays into the fear, that anyone can be affected.

He highlights the media’s ability to diagnose “the mayhem of agency” and “sinister design” behind terrorism rather than “by accident,” and explains this as the reason behind the media’s increased coverage of the Boston Marathon in comparison to the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. On the other hand, I also believe the media does this because they know that viewers will identify with acts of terror more than accidents.

What do you think?

Rating: Shit is complicated.

Photos and social media

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I suppose this should come as no surprise, but images seem to be way more popular on social media than text. Whenever I post a photo of somewhere I’ve been, or just a photo of an article I’ve written, I get a whole lot more “likes” than my regular, text-oriented posts.

For example I posted this photo, and it got a whole bunch of likes. It was just three words: “Old City spice.” I saw this impressive castle of spices while walking through the old city in Jerusalem and took a photo of it:

2013-04-13 14.42.03

 

Photos help make a message shorter: as they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So photos greatly aid social media because people like messages that are easy to absorb within the status update itself. If someone can understand something and like something within one or two sentences, that’ll produce way more likes than a lengthier post, or a post that links to content the reader must consume. This is why social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have become so popular.

I’m going to admit that I’m not great with social media. Does anyone have tips for how to maximize social media’s impact, especially for those of us who are writers?

Help me redesign my website!

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Hi readers,

I decided to pay a little extra at WordPress to upgrade the blog. First, the domain now is laurarosbrow.com instead of laurarosbrow.wordpress.com. So that’ll be easier to remember.

The other big thing is that I can customize the appearance. I have been thinking for a while about creating a static front page instead of a “bloggy” front page with all my recent posts.

So, I’ll give two options. One is how the website looks currently:

Option 1: Bloggy front page

Laura Rosbrow's front page

Or a more static front page. Say, like my friend Gil Shefler‘s website:

Option 2: Static front page

Gil Shefler's home page

Which option do you prefer? I’d really appreciate your input!!

Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in Pictures

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As I’ve been scouring the news the last few days, eagerly anticipating Obama’s visit, I’ve been affected by the photos. They show how differently Obama is perceived in Israel in comparison to the West Bank.

Here are photos of Obama flags in Israel before the visit:

Photo from Your Jewish News

In Jerusalem: “Unbreakable Alliance, President Obama in Israel, 2013.” Photo from Your Jewish News

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

And here are the first photos of Obama in Israel. Around 1,000 people came to greet him at the airport, including a military band, politicians, and a whole lot of journalists:

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue ties! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

Meanwhile, this is what has been going on in the West Bank.

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Photo from AP

Photo from AP

Photo from EPA

Photo from EPA

Obviously, many Palestinians are not pleased with Obama coming.

Obama’s already done quite a charm offensive to Israel, saying some words in Hebrew and describing the Jewish people’s 3,000-year-old connection to the land.

What will Obama do when he meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? It’s hard to imagine Obama being able to sweet talk his way out of these hostilities. Honestly, I have no idea what that kind of charm offensive could look like.

Rating the news: ‘Drinking tea with the man who killed my father’ – Ynet Magazine

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This a moving story about Jo Berrya woman whose British MP father was killed by Pat Magee, a bomber from the IRA. When he was released from jail as part of final peace negotiations with Ireland, she sought to develop a dialogue with the man who killed her father. They have been in a dialogue ever since.

They both visited Israel and told Ynet their story. The piece is moving and thought provoking, and I personally doubt that I would have the fortitude to do something like Ms. Berry did. I wonder how many stories there would be like this if  peace were negotiated in Israel/Palestine?

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy/ Sh*t is complicated

Jo Berry and Pat Magee Photo: Ofer Amram

Jo Berry and Pat Magee. Photo: Ofer Amram, Ynet 

Rating the news: ‘Liberman: IDF should open fire at stone-throwers’ – The Jerusalem Post

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Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s second hand man and Yisrael Beytenu chairman (who is also on trial for corruption), wants to change IDF rules of engagement so that soldiers should open fire at stone throwers rather than use dispersal methods, such as tear gas. My first gut reaction to this article from The Jerusalem Postwas man, this is definitely stuff that makes me mad. It’s totally messed up to shoot Palestinians that are throwing stones. A gun seems like excessive force.

Rating: Stuff that makes me mad/ Sh*t is complicated

Sh*t is also complicated because of the context behind the comment. On Thursday, The Times of Israel reported that, “Six people were injured, one critically, after stones thrown by Palestinians caused a car to collide with a truck near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.” That one critically injured was a 3-year-old. She’s currently in a hospital, fighting for her life.

Additionally, violence in the West Bank has been on the rise. Here’s a good tally of attacks from The Jerusalem Post:

“A total of 139 attacks, including firebombings and the use of improvised explosives, took place in February, compared to 83 in January.
One hundred of February’s attacks took place in the West Bank – 84 of them firebombings – compared to 56 in the previous month.
In the capital, 38 attacks – 35 of them firebombings – were registered by the Shin Bet in February, compared to 27 in January.”

In general, I support a 2-state solution and hope for as little violence as possible. I don’t want soldiers to shoot at Palestinians throwing stones, but I also want stone throwing to recede.

Maybe President Obama can give his thoughts on the subject when he visits Israel this week. Although I doubt he will, considering he’s coming here on a “listening tour.”

What do you suggest?

ShowImage

Bus damaged by stones on Route 5 near Ariel, March 14 

Photo: Channel 10

Rating the news

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A lot of friends and readers have wanted to hear more of my opinions. For example, my most popular post on Facebook last year was a status I wrote right after Operation Pillar of Defense began.

“Several friends and family have been reading about the recent military conflict between Israel and Gaza and wanted to know if my friends and I are okay. Thankfully, so far, the answer is yes. I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. In the next day or so, I’m going to write as objective a post as I can write about the history of this conflict and what’s currently going on. Sending my love and hopes for peace.”

I unfortunately never got around to writing the post because I experienced so many things during the conflict that it was hard for me to articulate all of my thoughts in a timely enough manner. Sorry Facebook friends.

So, I’m trying to devise ways to share more of my opinions about current events without needing the time nor energy to create well-formulated posts. I’d also like to do this in a way that’s insightful for the reader versus just fluff.

Rating the news

Because I’m a journalist, I’m reading news ALL the time. I often have a gut reaction about a piece, whether that’s positive or negative.

Now, I’m going to post articles I read and categorize them in 1 of 3 ways:

1) Stuff that makes me mad

2) Stuff that makes me happy

3) Sh*t is complicated

Because news in Israel is often so complicated, I may end up double-categorizing many pieces. But still, I think this will help me share current issues that are important as well as my take on things.

If you have other suggestions for how I should rate news, let me know!

Last, a fun GIF to top things off, :).

thumbs up and down

 

So far this year, being a woman is more deadly than terror in Israel

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(This post was recently re-published onto the Jerusalem Post’s blog site.) I can’t count the number of terror related articles I have read in the last year about Israel. On the other hand, I’ve probably only read a few dozen articles over the same period of time about Israeli women facing domestic violence.

With this kind of media focus on conflict many Israeli women, myself included, are more afraid of terror than their intimate partners. However, the data reveals another story.

The Women’s International Zionist Organization just announced that the number of women that have been killed by partner violence in Israel so far this year is 19this is more than nine times the number of Israeli women that have been killed in terrorist related incidents in 2012, including Operation Pillar of Defense. Only two women have been killed in terror attacks so far this year. Furthermore, the number of people in general that have been killed in terror incidents in Israel in 2012 is 14: this is five people less than the total number of women that have been killed by their partners.

As a journalist and a woman, this gives me a lot to think about. Any thoughts from readers?

PHOTO: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST

Why aren’t you still doing stand up?

I was talking to a colleague at work who I often joke around with in English. He’s awkward, I’m awkward — At the minimum, we make each other laugh. He mentioned trying to do stand up comedy, to which I told him that I used to do stand up as a hobby. He said, “yeah? When can I see you?”

Well, I don’t really do stand up anymore, I replied. At least not in Israel. I haven’t been terribly inspired.

A large part of it is because I’m happier. Now I have Uri, my wonderful boyfriend. Before, many of my stand up ideas came from failed relationships and bad dates that ranged from uncomfortable to humiliating.

Actually a poster for a show in Palo Alto, CA by Dragon Productions Theatre Company…  so random.

At one of my lowest moments, I was on a date through an online dating site. And yes, that was only the beginning of the embarrassment.

He was mostly interested in me because I mentioned that I did stand up as a hobby. He showed this by only asking questions about my stand up. Whenever I tried to ask him about himself, he’d somehow manage to bring it up back to my stand up. Well, when you talk about stand up, you’re almost never very funny. And I wasn’t. And he didn’t think I was either: I eeked out only a few half laughs of the pitying variety. So I spent a date talking about my stand up, which is in-and-of-itself intimate, and I wasn’t even funny. What a fail.

However, the other key inspiration for my comedy writing was from politics. For example, I used to do a pretty good Sarah Palin impersonation (this also shows how long ago I was doing stand up). My twist was that I would imitate Sarah Palin trying to court black voters. It was some seriously politically incorrect, hilarious stuff.

I’m a journalist now, which means I’m more tuned into politics than ever. But I still don’t feel comfortable doing stand up here, I explained to my colleague. Again, he asked why?

One, my Hebrew’s not nearly good enough to do stand up. That requires a level of fluency that’ll take me years to get.

But more than that, I’m an immigrant. Part of why I loved doing stand up in the U.S. was because I felt like I understood the culture well enough to create jokes that would make most people laugh. I can’t do that here yet; I’m still a foreigner.

It’s sort of like the difference between being Fez, a first generation immigrant character that’s laughed at on That 70’s Show (Courtesy of Hot Rod Homepage)…

and Margaret Cho, a second generation immigrant who’s made a career out of making fun of her immigrant mother. (Courtesy of Greginhollywood)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So do jokes in English for other Anglo olim (new immigrants),” my colleague suggested. His assumption is accurate. I should at least feel like I have enough in common with new immigrants to make jokes that could resonate with that crowd.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. Many of the English-speaking immigrants that move here don’t have much in common with me. Many of them are perfectly nice, but are usually more religious and/or more right-wing. I get along with them circumstantially because we’re in the same boat. But when it comes to making jokes, I don’t feel like we have enough in common to be inspired to write stand up.

Jokes require the audience to relate to you. Here, frankly, I don’t feel all that relatable. Being a progressive, secular, Anglo-speaking, Jewish immigrant in Israel makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

In another conversation about bi-culturalism with my friend Leora, whose parents are Israeli but has lived most of her life in the U.S., I told her that I felt like I was in a no-man’s land. Culturally, I don’t really know where I fit anymore. In Israel, I am an immigrant without a community, and in the US, I’m an expat. This feeling of isolation has been one of the hardest parts about emigrating.

This is also why I haven’t had any impulse to write stand up since I moved here.

On the flip side, there have been many additions to my life since moving to Israel that would not have happened in the U.S. First, I fell in love with Uri. This fact is so powerful and amazingly, so simple, that there’s little I can say beyond how grateful I am that I found Uri.

Second, I entered journalism, my true calling. Likely, I may have never pursued journalism if I had stayed in the U.S. The complexities and richness of life in Israel inspired my career switch, and really, are much of what I love about living here.

With every change, there are benefits and sacrifices. I still joke around thankfully. I’d get bored with myself otherwise. For example, I wrote a post recently about mixing up the words for engagement and masturbation in Hebrew.

However, I see my stand up as a hobby that has been deferred. In truth, my stand up may have been lost in the move. Thankfully, online dating was also lost in the move. I think I can live with that.