Tok about some news… some more ch-ch-ch-changes

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As you may have noticed, I have not written here in a while. I dropped off the radar a bit because of a new job opportunity, in addition to the Post. I started working as a content editor for Tok Social News Network, a venture capital-backed start-up that facilitates online discussions in a more visual, networked, and intelligent manner.

The comments platform is really cool, one of these things you’re surprised wasn’t thought of years ago. Rather than looking through tons of annoying, vertical comments on an article, the platform easily shows you who’s “tokking” and how folks weigh in on a topic. Because people sign in using Facebook, the participants are also much more respectful than the nightmares of most online comment sections.

For example, this Tok question is embedded within a news article:

Tok

And this is Tok’s Facebook application, a go-to for hot button news discussions on a daily basis.

Tok FB

It feels like a new media job. Rather than writing 1,000-word features, or choosing the layout of a monthly or weekly magazine, I’m mulling through the biggest stories on the web on a daily basis. I have to write pithy 80-character social media questions and 160-character discussion starters that provoke the most discussion possible. One of the biggest challenges is choosing the voting buttons, which need to elegantly partition the audience into camps on any issue – rarely just yes and no. Politics, guns, abortion, religion, sex, drugs…I get to write about all the fun stuff.

Up until now, I’ve been trying to develop areas of journalistic expertise, such as reporting on Israeli start-ups, social issues, etc. But at Tok, I help choose the most interesting stories to write about on Facebook from everywhere in the world. It’s a breath of fresh air and nicely complements my longer form magazine work.

How does all this affect my blog, you might be wondering (probably not, but it’s about the best way I can transition into this paragraph, 🙂 )? For example, I may bring the whole “Rating the news” section of this blog back from the dead, especially now that I’m reading so much news all the time. We’ll see…now that the cat is out of the bag, you can expect to hear from me more. Take care for now!

The Israeli Palestinian peace talks spark a few glimmers of hope

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Photo courtesy of hromedia.com

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Jordan that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have “established a basis” for resuming direct peace negotiations. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Isaac Molho are expected to begin initial talks. They will meet with Kerry in Washington in the next week or so.

Most reports of this initial breakthrough focus on the expected challenges of these negotiations: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s political weakness; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition; the split between Hamas and the West Bank; the Israeli public’s increasing domestic concerns. Then, they focus on the longstanding grievances that hold up most peace talks: borders, settlements, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees.

Additionally, few believe that Abbas and Netanyahu can make real progress towards ending the Israeli Palestinian conflict. In a poll published earlier this month in The Jerusalem Post, “68% of Israelis and 69% of Palestinians view the chances of an independent Palestinian state’s formation in the next five years as low or nonexistent.”

Interestingly, although both groups are pessimistic that peace negotiations will succeed, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution. The poll states that “62% of Israelis and 53% of Palestinians” say they “support a two-state solution.”

Even though many analysts still claim the chances of the negotiations’ success are slim, there are several key distinctions in the beginning of these peace talks that may make them more feasible. First, The New York Times reports that Kerry won “concessions on the new framework, which American, Israeli and Palestinian officials said would allow Washington to declare the 1967 prewar borders as the basis for the talks — along with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — but allow Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to distance themselves from those terms.” (As of the last New York Times report, it is unclear whether the framework explicitly declares the 1967 prewar borders as the basis for talks.)

Kerry was partly able to separate Netanyahu and Abbas from these potentially controversial terms by commencing the talks with their negotiators instead of the two men themselves. This way, the leaders can’t be blamed at the outset, and the initial negotiations are more likely to stay behind closed doors. Kerry asserts that the best way to ensure the talks’ success is to “keep them private.” Ynet, the leading Israeli online news site, echoed this sentiment, with a top headline reading “Without them [Netanyahu and Abbas], talks have more of a chance” (article in Hebrew).

Additionally, both sides made concessions. Israel will free some Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture before talks. The Palestinian leadership gave up on previous demands for a settlement freeze before entering talks. NPR relays that Palestinian officials “wanted guarantees the 1967 lines would be the basis for talks, saying that if Israel accepts that, it would make most of the settlements illegitimate.” Although there is no public settlement freeze, The Times of Israel reports that Kerry promised Abbas there would be a de facto settlement freeze.

The Palestinian leadership may have felt more able to make such a public concession because of the Arab League’s support for Kerry’s talks, which was announced on Wednesday. This came after a substantial diplomatic breakthrough in late April, when the Arab League stated for the first time that it would back a peace plan that allows small land swaps based on the 1967 prewar borders. Previously they had only supported an agreement based on these borders, without land swaps. This change in policy would allow Israel to keep some of the largest settlement blocs in exchange for largely Arab-populated areas within Israel that would become part of a future Palestinian state.

Kerry’s intensive diplomacy, and more importantly, changes in the region likely influenced the Arab League to change their stance. Since the last peace talk attempts, which broke down in 2010 within three weeks, the Syrian civil war and Iranian threat have deeply concerned the 22-member Arab League. They may view a solution to the conflict as a strategy to gain needed backing from the United States for their security concerns.

Increasingly, European and Israeli top officials have criticized the intransigence of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This week, the EU released a harsh rebuke of Israel’s settlement policy, insisting that all future agreements with Israel exclude Jewish territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights, which were captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Furthermore, The Guardian reports that, “EU guidelines will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included.” Palestinians and their supporters applauded this move.

Also this week, Yuval Diskin, a former chief of the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), wrote a highly critical op-ed in The Jerusalem Post about Israelis’ complacence with the conflict. He declares in its opening paragraph, “We are approaching a point of no return regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it may be that we have already crossed it.” Earlier this year, six former Shin Bet chiefs profiled in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers profess that “the occupation is immoral and, perhaps more important, ineffective,” urging Israel to withdraw from the West Bank like it did in Gaza in 2005. In May, former prime minister Ehud Olmert revealed details of his peace plan with Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, putting pressure on Netanyahu to come back to the negotiating table.

One important question is how much Kerry will be able to influence negotiations moving forward. Many critics have been skeptical of how much Kerry can individually impact talks, including Barak Ravid, a leading columnist for Israeli paper Haaretz. Two months ago, Ravid wrote that Kerry was naive, “that instead of conducting himself as the United States’ chief diplomat, he is acting as a lone ranger who still thinks he’s a senator, propelled by messianic zeal and the belief he was sent by the gods to bring peace to the Middle East.” Now, he admits that, “Kerry deserves the applause… The U.S. secretary of state managed to end the impasse of more than three years in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy with the power of his will.”

Another important factor is if Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, who both led negotiation teams in 2008 between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, can produce better results this time around with Kerry. If they can stay at the negotiating table for at least six months, as has been agreed upon, that will be an improvement from 2010. Can they come up with a final status agreement? That answer is for more elusive.

The Atlantic story in photos

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The more I write, especially when using social media, the more I realize how much more people respond to pictures than text. For example this photo that I posted on Facebook, which shows my Atlantic article on the front page of the Atlantic’s global section, elicited more likes than when I simply linked people to the article:
36567_10102802308243633_917109672_n

It makes sense: the article’s super long, and folks can’t “like” the article without reading it first. Likes are easier to garner for statuses people can instantly support.

In any case, it’s been a nice last couple of days professionally (minus the horrible news of the Zimmerman trial). I want to thank you, my loyal readers, for being there for me. Many of you have helped me along the way, and are helping me get the word out about this article (hint hint: share, comment, and like away!). Your interest in my work means a lot to me.

To close things, here’s a sweet photo from my parents. They took a photo of their iPad, where my article ranked first in the global section yesterday:

View from iPad of Atlantic's global section, 7/13/13. My article's at the top!

View from iPad of Atlantic’s global section, 7/13/13.                                 My article’s at the top!

Debut feature in The Atlantic: ‘Does Waze Mark the Beginning of the End of Israel’s Brain Drain?’

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After months of work, I am very happy to announce my first piece in the Atlantic! The headline/subheadline pretty much sum up the article:

Does Waze Mark the Beginning of the End of Israel’s Brain Drain?

The country’s entrepreneurs are torn between opportunities abroad and at home.

As always, let me know what you think, and if you like the article, comment and share away!

Photo of Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze; Courtesy of Sithzu Photographers

Photo of Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze; Courtesy of Sithzu Photographers

 

Laurarosbrow.com was quoted in the BBC

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Two days after writing the post “Why doesn’t Moore, Oklahoma have any public tornado shelters?,” I was quoted in the BBC. (I refrained from posting at the time because 1) I was on vacation and 2) I didn’t want to sound too enthusiastic to the readers coming to the site from the BBC article). In Tara McKelvey’s piece “Why so few storm shelters in Tornado Alley hotspot?,” people in Tornado Alley explain why there are so few storm shelters. Towards the end of the article she quotes my blog post, the only international perspective in the piece:

One Israel-based blogger, Laura Rosbrow, says that she cannot understand why people in Oklahoma do not have more publicly-funded shelters.

In Israel, Rosbrow says, bomb shelters are located “within blocks of every residence”.

“In Israel, you feel like the country is giving you peace of mind,” writes Rosbrow on her blog. “Isn’t that the way it should be?”

From BBC article.

Thank you Tara McElvey, whose career I respect enormously.

And dear readers, now that I am back from vacation, expect more regular posts. Getting back into gear!

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

Cracking the Technion’s code

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I just published an in-depth article in The Jerusalem Post Metro section, titled “Cracking the Technion’s Code,” about why the Technion was ranked sixth in the world in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that evaluated entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education institutions. For anyone interested in understanding the start-up nature of Israel, this article provides a number of insights. Technion’s impact on the Israeli economy is pretty expansive: for example, two-thirds of the 72 Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange either were founded or are led by Technion graduates.

If you want to learn how Technion graduates have become so successful, you can see the full (non-pay-walled) article below. As always, I’d love your comments and suggestions.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Cracking the Technion’s code

With a degree for start-ups and a minor in entrepreneurship on offer, the university is in the business of encouraging innovations.

By LAURA ROSBROW

Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman offers a course in entrepreneurship
Photo by: LAURA ROSBROW

In an attempt to understand the impact of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the authors of the 2012 book Technion Nation: Technion’s Contribution to Israel and the World asked graduates of the institution a survey question that verged on the poetic: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote an entire story in only six words. It was ‘Baby shoes. Never used. For sale.’ Please describe your contribution to Israel and to humanity, in six words.”

Many responses touched on the diversity of Technion graduates’ technological accomplishments: “Provide poor countries with appropriate technology… Developed Intel’s 8087 microprocessor… Simulation software for unmanned drone aircraft.”

But one of the best and most straightforward answers was the following: “I came, I studied, I’m rich.”

The entrepreneurial spirit is so strong at the Technion that even MIT has noticed. In early April, the Technion ranked sixth in the world in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that evaluated entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education institutions. The only universities that beat the Technion were MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, London’s Imperial College, and Oxford – meaning that the Technion scored higher than Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, all of which have top-ranked business programs.

The Technion probably received this ranking in part because of its new partnership with New York’s Cornell University. In late 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a first-time bid to universities around the world to launch an applied sciences graduate school in his city. The Technion partnered with Cornell, and both won the competition. Now Cornell Tech, which is in and of itself an innovation at the university level, will start offering limited programming this fall. The Roosevelt Island campus where Cornell Tech will be based is expected to launch fully in 2017, serving approximately 2,500 graduate students.

Aside from that partnership, though, the Technion’s numbers speak for themselves: Two-thirds of the 72 Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange either were founded or are led by Technion graduates; graduates of the institute lead nine out of the country’s 10 leading exporting companies; and one quarter of the Technion’s 67,000 alumni have at one time initiated a business.

Technion graduates largely drive the annual output of the country’s electronics and software industry, which is approximately $20 billion – half of the country’s total annual exports.

A glass window at the Faculty of Computer Science reads "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them."

A glass window at the Faculty of Computer Science reads “I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.”

Long before Israel’s independence in 1948, graduates of the school – which was founded in 1912 – were helping to build the state. They developed much of the industry in the country’s early days, including roads, highways and desalination plants. More recently, they created technologies such as text messaging, drip irrigation, the disk on key, and the Arrow defense system. In the last eight years, three Technion faculty members have won Nobel Prizes.

While the Technion has greatly contributed to Israel’s becoming a “start-up nation,” the school is also a product of Israeli culture.

According to Prof. Miriam Erez, the associate dean of the Technion’s MBA programs and a recipient of the 2005 Israel Prize in management science, “entrepreneurial spirit is very Israeli. Israeli culture has all the ingredients necessary for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Photo of Professor Miriam Erez

Photo of Professor Miriam Erez

Erez – an organizational psychologist – is the Israeli coinvestigator of the GLOBE Study of Leadership, an international group of social scientists and management scholars from 62 countries that studies cross-cultural leadership. Out of the values that the study compares, she says, Israel ranks well in those pertaining to entrepreneurship and innovation. Significantly, though, it has a moderate ranking in the most important value, collectivism versus individualism.

“The common research says that individualism enhances innovation, and collectivism discourages innovation,” she explains. “Israel is in between – not very individualistic, but also not very collectivistic. I think in today’s global culture, because entrepreneurship is to a large extent based on your network, if you’re a pure individualist, what is the likelihood that you’ll get support for your project, even if you have great ideas? I personally think this moderate level is best, which is exactly what we found here.”

This conclusion helps affirm why collective Israeli experiences, such as the army and university, foster local entrepreneurs’ networks.

Along with strong communities, the Israelis’ individualist side plays out in a value called “power distance,” in which Israel ranks very low. Erez explains that power distance is about hierarchy in society, such as the power distance between managers and employees. In cultures where that distance is higher, employees do not feel they can express their opinions.

That is not the case in Israel.

“People feel very comfortable criticizing their own bosses,” she says, noting that although it can be difficult to manage these kinds of employees, “this is exactly what you need for entrepreneurship and innovation.

[You need] people who feel free to express their own ideas and criticize until they find the best solution.”

Sitting in Erez’s office, one can tell that she nurtures her relationships. Near one of her large windows sits a 30-by-90-cm. paper tree, with the photos of several young people adorning the ends of each white branch. When asked about the tree, she smiles and says her students made it for her last year.

OVER THE years, she has maintained good contact not only with students, but also with industry professionals.

Her interest in creativity and innovation led her to found the Knowledge Center for Innovation, which aims to enhance innovation in Israeli industry.

One of those contacts was Uzi de Haan. Both were PhD students at the Technion at the same time. While Erez went into academia, de Haan went into industry, having been trained as an aeronautical engineer. In his last position, he was the CEO of Philips in Israel, which grew to $350 million in revenues under his management. When he retired from Philips at a relatively young age in 2003, Erez saw it as an opportunity and invited him to become a professor at the Technion. He accepted, wanting to teach entrepreneurship.

Photo of Professor Uzi de Haan

Photo of Professor Uzi de Haan

In 2004, he helped start the institute’s first entrepreneurship center. The Bronica Entrepreneurship Center, which began with only one course, now offers 17. In the fall, Technion students will be able to select an entrepreneurship minor.

The Technion also offers an international MBA program in English, with a similar program focused specifically on start-ups beginning this fall.

Alongside courses, the center offers assistance to early-stage entrepreneurs in developing business ideas, including to Technion alumni.

According to Keren Rubin, the center’s director, “in the last six years, the center has assisted in establishing more than 40 companies. We help them in the very early stage with the transition to the ecosystem.”

Although the center is of a modest size, with a handful of employee desks and a small conference table, it feels well-placed to grow. The office is located on the top floor of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. From one of its many windows, there is a bird’s-eye view of the modern, blue-and-beige-paneled Technion, and the industrial yet beautiful Haifa Bay at the bottom of the hill.

Asked why he thinks the Technion received the No. 6 ranking from MIT, de Haan answers, “We’re very much part of the ecosystem. Half of Intel’s engineers [in Israel] are Technion graduates. All those guys in tech companies are Technion graduates. We’re like a main supplier for engineers and innovation in Israel.”

It is no coincidence that Google, Yahoo, Apple, IBM and Intel have offices in Haifa.

They did this largely so they could recruit graduates from the Technion. Many students at the institute also work in industry while they study, applying what they learn in the field to their studies and vice versa.

Photo of Technion courtyard

Photo of Technion courtyard

Tal Goldman, an undergraduate student in computer science, works at the Technion’s Student Union.

He says he gains skills in this position that he would not gain in hi-tech – though he is sure his grade point average would be higher if he did not need to work.

In contrast, Tehila Sabag, an industrial engineering student who works for the Bronica Center, asserts that her studies “were not hurt because of my work. On the contrary, I think that because of my work experience, I am now a better industrial engineer and manager with more of a business perspective, rather than just an engineering one.”

She also values taking entrepreneurship courses, such as a popular one that Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman offers.

“The entrepreneurial activity that takes place here is the flagship of the Technion,” she says.

Goldman, too, sees such activity as a major part of the school’s efforts.

“I see the Technion’s investment in entrepreneurship all the time,” he says. “There are advertisements everywhere, such as in emails, posters, and from lecturers, to take part in entrepreneurial projects.”

2013-04-24 15.50.27

THIS DEEP-ROOTED relationship between the Technion and industry is part of what makes the Bronica Center’s BizTEC competition so successful. Now in its eighth year, the student-run BizTEC is a national competition that selects the best student-led technology-based ventures. Winning the competition opens doors for many to connect with venture capitalists and interested funders from the center’s network of professionals.

Life Bond, one of BizTEC’s early winners, created biological sealants to seal bleeding tissue instantly. It has raised over $30 million.

More recently a start-up called Pixtr, which automatically corrects photos taken by mobile phones so that they look professional, accomplished several impressive early-stage goals thanks to the Bronica Center. In a select meeting between the center’s top start-up ventures and top industry mentors, a fairy-tale match was made: Uri Levine, the founder of Waze – which was voted Best Overall Mobile App in the Global Mobile Awards Competition in February – decided to become Pixtr’s mentor and chairman. He and the center helped Pixtr join Microsoft’s Azure Accelerator Program, which is aimed at early-stage start-ups. As part of the program, Microsoft provides office space, training, mentoring and other benefits.

“The most important thing about the center is the people,” says 30-year-old Pixtr cofounder Aviv Gadot, explaining what he feels has made the center a success.

“Uzi has so much experience and a great reputation within the industry, and Keren could move mountains. They are an amazing team.”

But for all the center’s success stories, there are many more start-ups that fail. Rubin asserts that the chances are “90% against you when you start.”

Still, asked if he thinks the start-up bubble has burst, as some leaders are saying, in light of the current budget deficit, de Haan quickly replies in the negative.

“Technology and economic growth are synonymous,” he says. “There’s an exponential growth in new technologies.

There’s no way big companies want to take on these new technologies. You need more and more start-ups to do this first innovation. Big companies don’t want to take the risk. They feel, ‘Why not outsource these crazy innovations to start-ups, and if they don’t fail, we’ll buy them.’” The problem, he notes, is how to fund those start-ups.

“But there are new mechanisms – crowd-sourcing, boutiques, venture capital, etc. There are ways to do it.”

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

Image

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?

Video of 2-minute siren across Israel on Israeli Memorial Day

Video

For those that don’t know, every year on Israeli Memorial Day there is a two-minute siren that goes off around the country. People stand in remembrance of those that died defending Israel.

Here is a clip of people standing across the country. (I shot a few seconds of people standing in Haifa, towards 1:20). I hope this video edited by Hadas ParushThe Jerusalem Post‘s video reporter – helps you feel like you were here today.