Week in Review

by by Belle Cushing, Mimi Dwyer & Erica Schwiegershausen

illustration by by Robert Sandler

Facebook Squahes "Third Palestinian Intifada"

After receiving numerous complaints and appeals, including a request from the Anti-Defamation League—a US-based Jewish advocacy group—and a letter to Mark Zuckerberg from Israeli Foreign Minister Yuli Edelstein, Facebook agreed to take down a page titled “Third Palestinian Intifada.” By the time the page was removed on March 29, it had been up for several weeks and had garnered over 350,000 followers. In addition to quotes and film clips advocating killing Jews and Israelis, the page called for Palestinians to take to the streets on May 15—Nabka Day, the date that Arabs mourn the establishment of Israel—and liberate Jerusalem and Palestine through violence.

Facebook said that despite the use of the word “intifada,” which translates to “holy war” and has been associated with violence in the past, the page began as a “peaceful protest.” It wasn’t until the page’s publicity grew that comments “deteriorated to direct calls for violence,” claims Facebook’s public policy communications manager Andrew Noyes. One such comment read, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.”

Initially, Facebook seemed hesitant to remove the page, citing the company’s belief that people should be free to express their opinions, stating that though “some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone… that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion.”
Such ethical dilemmas are not exclusive to Facebook; the page directed users to related content on Twitter, YouTube, and other websites. Facebook ultimately rationalized their decision to remove the page by citing existing content regulations that prohibit posting material that contains or promotes “hateful or violent content directed at an individual or group.”

Edelstein and the Anti-Defamation League have applauded Facebook’s decision to take down the page. But not everyone is so easily satisfied: American attorney Larry Klayman filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook last Thursday in response to the page. Klayman, who describes himself as an American citizen of Jewish origin, alleges that Facebook did not take down the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page soon enough, and willfully kept it up in order to further their reviews and the net worth of the company. A Facebook spokesman told the French news agency AFP that these claims were “without merit,” and that the social-networking site plans to fight the suit vigorously. But of course, we all know by now: you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. –ES

Cracked Out

First they stop serving peanuts, and then there’s a hole in the ceiling: the airline industry is having a tough time. On April 1, a Southwest flight between Phoenix and Sacramento was forced to make an unexpected pit stop when a crack in the fuselage erupted into a five-foot hole. While 34,000 feet above Arizona, the Boeing 737 experienced a sudden drop in pressure; passengers fumbled with oxygen masks, wishing they hadn’t tuned out the pre-flight seatbelt spiel so quickly. All 118 passengers landed unharmed in Yuma, AZ, with the exception of one valiant flight attendant who sustained a bloody nose during the debacle.

Southwest cancelled about 300 flights on Friday, leaving passengers stranded in airports across the country. Engineers conducted inspections on 79 other 737s, turning up five more planes with small fuselage cracks. When a flight costs only sixty bucks, it’s no wonder that these overworked planes aren’t getting the TLC they deserve.

It turns out, however, that Southwest’s aggressive cost-cutting program (RIP peanuts and personal TVs) may not be the only one to blame for the hole; the fault may actually lie with Boeing. On Tuesday, the company announced that many of its 737 planes would be susceptible to fatigue cracks sooner than expected. Originally, however, Boeing engineers boasted that the aircraft would not need to be inspected until they had completed 60,000 cycles (takeoffs and landings). Their guess was wrong: the tired 737 that split open on Friday had only completed about 40,000.

As per an emergency directive issued Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring inspections of all 737s over 30,000 cycles. But just because you and the plane you were on made it back from spring break all in one piece, don’t breathe easy yet. In the next twenty days allotted for inspections, it’s anyone’s guess how many more planes will turn up cracked. This is the third in a string of recent fatigue tears, following a similar incident with a Southwest jet in 2009, and another on an American Airlines 757 last October. After the first and second emergency landings, you’d think the FAA would have gotten the need for earlier and more thorough inspections. Third tear’s the charm? –BC

Pills for Popularity Ills

This week, the drug world figured out what consumers really need: “Fluent in Klingon?” reads a billboard along a highway outside Charleston, “Consider REACHEMOL.” Another: “Before REACHEMOL, I was just a tool. Now, I’m the whole shed.” Apparently, Reachemol (popularitus maximol) is a drug intended to treat Deficient Popularity Disorder, a disease not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The drug fits nicely into the pantheon of semi-homonym fad drugs—“Aciphex” for heartburn, “Lunesta” for sleep, “Viagra” for youth and a powerful flow). Reachemol, for its part, is prescribed to “increase popularity, boost self-esteem, become more attractive to the opposite sex, win elections, sway juries, and weasel your way back into the will.” As Milton Carrero writes in the Leigh Valley Health Blog, “When I saw the next one asking if my friends on Facebook are my only friends, I almost cried. ‘Oh my God,’ I thought, ‘I’m a patient.’”

The catch, as you’ve probably guessed, is that Reachemol isn’t real—and it isn’t a dark social commentary on overmedication, either. It’s a new nationwide billboard marketing campaign from Adams Outdoor intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of billboard advertising. You know, like the ones that read, YOU’RE READING THIS, AREN’T YOU? Of course, when the billboard is running next to countless nondescript lawfirm and casino ads, the point is probably moot. Plus, the people who are looking into Reachemol tend to be a little sensitive: as Carrero mourned after asking his doctor for the drug, “I was disappointed because I really want more friends who refuse to get Facebook accounts.” –MD