World News

Instantaneous-ness of news

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If you’re in my field you run across the advection-dispersion-reaction equation a lot. While I will not delve into the scientific aspect of the equation, what made me think of it is: News. Yes, news. Local news, world news. Whatever news. The instantaneous-ness (repeat this word three times if you can) of news [actually repeat the whole sentence three times if you can]. When the #Westgate attack happened, I knew about it immediately. We had just finished lunch and I opened twitter and was wondering why a lot of people in Kenya were talking about #Westgate. The first tweets coming in were of people who thought it was ‘just a robbery’. So naturally, I myself thought it was a robbery as well and I made the mistake of spreading that news to my immediate family [dispersion].

Following the news on twitter made me think of how at some point, getting the news to the public was the task of journalists in media houses. Now with the spread of social media, anybody who can type (even if they cannot spell) can go with the flow [advective term], become the source of news [ the reactive term] and spread the news [dispersion term]. Now what is happening is the big media houses ride on the social media wave and start believing and spreading without verifying their sources, like the time some big media houses (*C*ough*N*N*cough*) have fallen for fake twitter accounts. The dangerous cumulative result is that social media helps in building gossip centers, fanning the fire and one is left wondering who to trust anymore. And funny enough, sometimes we end up trusting bloggers with no official titles because of their work ethics and how accurate their ‘rumors’ turn out to be.

There’s no big conclusion that the scientific advection-dispersion-reaction equation can help with in this situation. It just describes the news situation as it currently is. But I guess Edgar Allan Poe was right when he said, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” Because nowadays, twitter handles have provided microphones for just about anybody to blabber anything they want. It can be a good thing for the creative community of course, but when it comes to spreading news and ‘facts’, people have to share responsibly.

So I guess that’s my message for tonight; whenever you share something on social media, share responsibly.

©iStockphoto.com/pressureUA

Syrian Children are Children Too

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When a gunman entered the school and shot dead 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, the breaking news was a heart-breaking news. We were all saddened by the story, parents of six year old children hugged them tighter, and people asked one question over and over again, “Why?” Why would anyone want to hurt six year old children? Innocent children who didn’t understand evil until the day they experienced it firsthand that day? To find six-year-olds with multiple shot wounds was so devastating, that the Medical Examiner commented,  “I’ve been at this for a third of a century … but this probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen,” he said.

But in Syria every news is heart-breaking news. Yesterday, dozens of people have been killed and many more wounded in a Syrian government air strike that hit a bakery where a crowd was queuing for bread. Many of the victims were women and children. Just because there aren’t reporters lurking all over Syria, taking interviews about the children’s favorite color, hobbies, or cartoon characters doesn’t make them any less important.  Their mothers suffered the back aches associated with carrying them around for nine months. Some of them watched their children say the first words, and curl their tiny fingers around an adult hand, and smile for no particular reason. And some of them watched their children die from gun wounds and disappear under the rubble of collapsed buildings, forever gone.

And it’s not just Syria.

19 November 2012: one of the top stories from Gaza was , “Four children killed in single Israeli air strike.”

17 December 2012: 10 Afghan children killed in bomb explosion in eastern province.

And that’s just the stuff that happened in the last one and a half month.

But the thing is , in in Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, th0se children are grouped into numbers to reduce airwaves and sound bytes, and any resulting shockwaves that could reverberate across the world. We don’t get to hear their names, and their favorite holiday events, whether they liked to color with crayons or preferred paint. Some of them lose their parents and siblings in the same attacks, and so their names would just remain on the birth and death certificates, if those even existed.

So Syrian children are children too. They are not collateral damage. Palestinian children are children too. They are not future terrorists. In other words, Muslim children are children too. They are not a threat to anybody, especially when they’re carrying their pacifiers. So let’s not forget them.

I wanted an image of a child from Syria and many of them showed dead bodies that were too disturbing. (Image from http://theglobaljournal.net/news/world/unicef-hundreds-of-children-killed-in-syria.html)
I wanted an image of a child from Syria and many of them showed dead bodies that were too disturbing. (Image from http://theglobaljournal.net/news/world/unicef-hundreds-of-children-killed-in-syria.html)