Rafael Marques de Morais: Changing the Status Quo in Africa

Rafael in coat and sweater sitting against white backdrop looking into camera

Angola’s premier investigative journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais, grew up far from Moscow, but in some ways he had a typically Soviet childhood. Born in 1971, Morais came of age in the last gasps of the Cold War, and his home country in the southwestern corner of Africa was one of its final battlefronts — a 27-year proxy war that pitted the Soviet-backed government against an American-funded rebel insurgency.

In some ways, Morais is still fighting the legacy of that period — going after corrupt government officials, exposing ill-gotten wealth and challenging authorities in ways that plainly hurt them.

Not all of the Soviet-era legacy is so bad. Morais remembers watching classical Russian music or Russian ballet programs during times of mourning for socialist heroes. “I can tell you all about Soviet cartoons, because that was all we consumed,” Morais laughs softly.

Other influences from that era are far less amusing.

Like decades of Soviet-style propaganda that help explain how the Angolan government has remained in power since 1979, Morais says, even while government leaders funnel billions in oil and other resource wealth into their own pockets. The kleptocracy itself is not the biggest problem, he believes. Rather, it’s the public’s acceptance of the status quo. As one of the country’s leading independent journalists, he hopes to change that, framing his work as a sort of civics lesson in government accountability. 

Angolan Economics

  • Angola ranks 153 out of 177 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index.
  • Freedom House rates Angola’s press as “not free.”
  • 36% of Angolans live below the poverty line, according to the African Development Bank.

“Only journalism can help that, because Angolans have been ruled by propaganda and the fear that comes with it,” he says with quiet conviction. Exposing the truth “makes people think and be critical.”

With that mission in mind, Morais started the website Maka Angola in 2008. It’s a platform to publish evidence he’s dug up implicating various parts of the government in corruption schemes and human rights abuses. Before that, he spent much of the last decade investigating Angola’s $1 billion-a-year diamond industry, exposing oppression of local people in the diamond-producing northeastern province of Lunda. Last year, he helped Forbes out Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of longtime President Eduardo dos Santos, as Africa’s only female billionaire. Her fortune came in large part through presidential decrees writing her into business deals, something Morais painstakingly documented.

The 43-year-old journalist has had less success digging into Angola’s booming oil industry, which is closing in on Nigeria as the biggest producer in sub-Saharan Africa. It accounts for roughly 80 percent of the government’s revenue.  Tracking the complex network of massive multinational energy corporations simply “requires more resources,” says Morais, who relies on $85,000 in grants from the U.S. Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy to keep his website up and running.

Still, one U.S. policymaker who works on African issues says that when it comes to Angola, Morais “understands what’s going on in terms of corruption better than anybody I know.”

Articulate and understated, Morais gives off the air of a scholar. Indeed, he obtained his master’s degree in African studies from Oxford in 2009, and he’s a far cry from the reckless rabble-rouser that the Angolan government has made him out to be.

This is a regime that has mastered the art of keeping society down … more through corruption than violence.

– Rafael Marques de Morais

Of course, he’s pugnacious in his own way. Challenging authority has been his habit from the get-go.

As a schoolboy, he refused to join in the civil-war-era anthem that classmates sang every day, promising to die for Angola “with the weapons of war in my hands.” He recalls thinking, “I’m a child — I don’t want to die.”

He thought once he might want to be a priest, but his mother’s habit of buying him the newspaper eventually rubbed off, piquing his interest in journalism.

Only journalism can help … because Angolans have been ruled by propaganda and the fear that comes with it.

– Rafael Marques de Morais

After a failed stint at Angola’s main, state-controlled newspaper in the 1990s — he proved miserable at toeing the government line — Morais began writing independent commentary. In 1999, his blunt critique of the ongoing civil war, and the government’s role in it, entitled “The Lipstick of the Dictatorship,” landed him in hot water with the dos Santos regime. He was charged with defamation and tossed into jail, but a domestic and international outcry pressured the government to release him after 40 days.

The dos Santos government, he surmises, needed to maintain its international legitimacy, reliant as the country is on foreign investment in the oil and mining sectors for the vast majority of its wealth.

And anyway, it no longer relies on old-fashioned police or military crackdowns to maintain order. 

“This is a regime that has mastered the art of keeping society down … more through corruption than violence,” Morais says.

Now he’s harrassed in different ways. Isabel dos Santos’ Portuguese PR firm launched a broadside against him after he co-authored the Forbes report. And he’s in the midst of a new legal battle against another set of government defamation charges, this time in response to allegations that Morais published, fingering seven Angolan military officials for abuses related to diamond mining.

man on left watching two men bending down in a river.

Along the river Kwango, thousands of garimpeiros search for diamonds through the river’s waters in the region of Luzamba, Angola.

Source Hulton Archive/Getty

Morais has no plans to leave this nation of 19 million people, even though he has little optimism that the climate there will improve anytime soon.

Some outside observers are quietly hoping the aging dos Santos’ days in power are dwindling, opening a pathway to democracy. But Morais says that dos Santos’ departure, whenever it comes, won’t alone prompt change. 

“He’s the head of a system, of a mindset that has ruled this country for nearly 40 years now, and that doesn’t go away with the departure of one person,” Morais says. “There will be no changes unless people change their attitudes and become more demanding in terms of accountability — I see no other way.”

Morais, obviously, has plenty of crusading investigations ahead to keep him busy. 

OZY on Global Courts

Gavel on top of legal books with globe.

Well-Intentioned International Law Ideas Doomed to Fail

International law enforcement is an enticing idea. There are real villains and real victims. But sometimes an international legal solution is worse than no solution. This is true of a number of popular proposals on the table today for supposedly bolstering our international legal order. Here’s what proponents of those ideas get wrong about international law when it comes to regulating abusive monetary and fiscal policies, a world human rights court, addressing corruption and punishing terrorism.

Key Cases to Watch in Global High Courts

For those of us who are U.S. Supreme Court watchers, last month served up another key decision on America’s campaign finance laws. But the highest appellate court in the states is not the only one that has been busy lately. Here’s a quick glance at some of the recent decisions and pending cases before some of the world’s other supreme courts involving decriminalizing prostitution, freedom of speech for terrorist-affiliated media and compensation for rape victims. Plus, protections for whistle-blowers, recognizing the third sex and more. 

Mario Joseph: A Hero in Haiti

Joseph, managing attorney at the NGO Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, is the best human rights lawyer in Haiti, a country where human rights are honored mostly in the breach. From dawn till dusk, clients gather on his office’s bougainvillea-laced terrace: brave women going after rapists, homeless Haitians evicted from post-quake tent camps, cholera victims seeking reparations. If fate had its way, Joseph would have been like the millions of Haitians who never attend school, never see a doctor and live on less than $2 per day. Instead, he’s fighting two of Haiti’s most compelling human rights battles and the behemoths behind them.

Julian Assange’s Consigliere: Jennifer Robinson

Roving human rights defender Jennifer Robinson has probably had more experience on WikiLeaks’ legal defense team than any other lawyer. She lives in London, where she visits with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy regularly. But her formative experience took place in West Papua in the early 2000s. It was there that Robinson started standing up for dissidents, whistle-blowers and activists who’ve suffered for challenging power. Robinson also works for the Bertha Foundation, where she meets with established human-rights lawyers around the world and connects them with ambitious potential protégés. At 32, Robinson has a long career ahead of her. Whatever happens, OZY thinks she might just be the new face of human rights law. 

The Fashion Contests Birthing the Next Michael Kors

A model walks the runway at the Thomas Tait Autumn Winter 2013 fashion show during London Fashion Week on February 16, 2013 in London, United Kingdom.

Young fashion designers enter the business with a dream, yet often with less money than they need to surmount the ivory gates of the industry. But some leaders in high fashion think that should end. Natural selection alone won’t guarantee a surging pipeline of fresh talent for years to come. So fashion has found a new way to nurture and protect its young: incubators and contests.

Just this week, luxury goods company LVMH announced the winner of its first annual Young Fashion Designer Prize. The lucky guy? A London-based designer named Thomas Tait; he has a few collections under his belt, but you probably haven’t heard of him. Now, with LVMH in his corner, that could change.

It’s clear this generation has not been excited about working for big corporations. There’s a global hunger for entrepreneurship.

black and white portrait of Karen Harvey

Karen Harvey, CEO of Karen Harvey Consulting Group.

Source Karen Harvey Consulting Group

And the French aren’t the only ones staging interventions on behalf of the youngsters. Later this month, Elle and Harvey Consulting Group (with offices in New York, London and Paris) will pick a winner for their new initiative called “The Founders of the Future” Challenge (with a prize of $50,000 plus mentorship). In hipster Williamsburg, a new Brooklyn incubator opens next fall. And the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) is weaning its third batch of designers who earned a spot in the CFDA Incubator.

What exactly is going on? The startup bug has reached fashionista land.

As an international consultant in luxury, fashion, retail and innovation, Karen Harvey is on the cutting edge of debates on how to foster talent. To her, contests and incubators make perfect sense — especially for millennials seeking a break: “When we think about millennials who are turning 30, it’s clear this generation has not been excited about working for big corporations,” she observed. “There’s a global hunger for entrepreneurship.

“It’s clear they don’t have the patience to be an assistant, then an account manager, then a vice president,” continued Harvey. “They want to be CEO, now.”

Getting extra support now that would encourage up-and-coming designers to stick around for a long time is one of the goals of the new Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator. When it opens this fall, it will help 30 new owners grow their businesses, said Debra Johnson, executive director for the Center for Sustainable Design Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, who spearheads the incubator, which launched in January.

It’s not a reality show. This is the real deal: a chance to build a sustainable business.

On a recent morning, Johnson checked out the open house hosted by the CFDA for its incubator designers, who share housing in the heart of New York’s grungy fashion district with rent subsidies, technical assistance, and exposure to some of fashion’s movers and shakers. 

The present batch of 14 designers includes rising stars like Sara Beltran, who creates earthy jewelry utilizing dramatic stones, and Kaelen Haworth, whose luxury clothing evokes avant-garde glamour. The group receives guidance and expertise to give them a firmer footing in the industry and sustain their businesses for the long haul. And, no, it’s not a reality show dreamed up by the likes of Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks. This is the real deal: a chance to build a sustainable business at a time when doing so has become increasingly difficult. 

Proof: Among the visitors that morning were editors from Glamour and Teen Vogue, a top stylist, a writer for a Japanese newspaper, and retailers from Houston and New York.

black & white portrait of Kaelen Haworth, with her hand by her chest.

Kaelen Haworth, member of the CFDA Fashion Incubator 3.0 Class.

Source CFDA

Small-scale independent designers need the assist these days — badly. In the past two decades, the fashion business has become large-scale and international. And with that growth has come complexity — from dealing with global markets to changing cultural standards. LVMH, a luxury conglomerate that controls several leading luxury fashion brands, is just one illustration of the changed landscape.

When competing as a small business is, to say the least, a major challenge, fashion incubators and contests offering generous prizes can radically lower the cost of entry and increase the odds of not just survival but also growth. 

And not all incubators are meant for the runways. Some are birthing commercial, everyday designs (a sign, if ever there was one, of entrepreneurship going mainstream). Take the Workshop at Macy’s, the retailer’s bootcamp for its would-be vendors, which gets promising designers up to speed on the intricacies of selling to a company with a store in almost every major American city. Attracting more than 1,000 applicants, the Workshop, conceived by Macy’s group vice president Shawn Outler, is highly competitive. If you’re lucky enough to win a spot, you are then put through an intense four-day program in New York that culminates in a critiqued presentation.

Lisa Moore, 33, from Dallas, made the cut this year. Five years ago she quit her job on Wall Street to launch Cover, which specializes in fashionable swimwear with sun protection. Having an accomplished entrepreneur father to lean on for advice is helpful, she says, but the Macy’s Workshop was the most “life-changing.” Cover has hit it big and has been featured in industry tastemakers like Elle and Vogue.

Fashion has long been an innovative and wildly creative industry. Now, with cleverly designed contests and incubators, it’s bringing that spirit of innovation to where it’s most needed: to nurture the Lisa Moores of today — and the Christian Diors of tomorrow.

Why Watering the Lawn Is Literally Moving Mountains in California

A dead pelican on the exposed dry lakebed at Big Bear lake which has lower than average water levels. 100 percent of California is now in the three worst stages of drought. It's the first time that has occurred since the inception of the Drought Monitor

California has a drinking problem. And it could be Earth-shattering. 

To be fair, it’s not just drinking water, but all H20 usage: watering plants, flushing toilets, irrigating farms — you name it. A dangerously severe drought has hit the entire state in what some say might be the worst ever. Farmers in this storied land of plenty could lose $1.7 billion this year. San Francisco has waged war and fines against residents who just won’t abide by watering bans.

But it’s not just the drought — it’s the severity. To find water, California, like many areas, uses aquifers and reservoirs (among other sources). Those bodies of water grow and shrink in a winter-to-summer cycle, and the water is used faster than it’s replaced. Winter rains fill them, but summer pumping parches them.

 

In the earthquake-prone area of Central California, that usage is moving mountains — and not in a good way. The cycle causes the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada to rise and fall by the thickness of a dime every year, says a new study recently published in the journal NatureIn the past 150 years, that’s amounted to a mountain of change:

The ranges have risen and fallen across a span of 

6 inches.

The mountains doing all this shifting lie near the notorious San Andreas Fault. 

Scientists haven’t yet linked any quakes to the movement, and California is still bracing for the big one (when it happens, we’ll all know). But geologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere who studied the moving mountains say that quakes have been triggered by less stress than this. Subtext: You probably don’t want mountains moving near a major fault like the San Andreas.

So, all you homeowners living under draconian water-use restrictions: Listen to your city hall. There’s a reason for the restrictions. And if merely conserving water isn’t enough to spur change, maybe the prospect of mountains moving might inspire more people to adapt — and to buy into more drastic and creative water-recycling efforts. 

The professors say more study is needed. But when findings make the quake experts shaky, maybe we should all be a little nervous. And maybe that brown spot on your lawn that you decide not to water isn’t a homeowner’s eyesore but a sign that you’re doing your part to keep the very ground beneath your feet intact, right where it is.

John Edmonstone: The Freed Slave Who Inspired Charles Darwin

Young Darwin learning taxidermy in Edinburgh from freed Guyanan slave, John Edmonstone. Illustration of man on left, John Edmonstone and man on right, Charles Darwin

Science geek or not, you might have at least seen coverage of the debate between bow-tied science communicator Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham pop up on your Facebook feed in February. Ham contended that life on Earth originated from acts of divine creation, while Nye supported the ideas outlined in Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859. Earlier this month, Nye made headlines again when he explained on the Skeptical Inquirer that he debated Ham to expose creationism as “bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind.”

Settled in a house a few doors down from Darwin, he earned his living stuffing birds…

For those who need a biology refresher: During an expedition to the Galapagos, Darwin noticed distinct differences among the finches on each island. Some had broad, deep beaks, some elongated, and others small and stout. Darwin proposed that the finches had adapted to each islands’ dietary offerings, in a process known as natural selection. For example, those on islands with lots of seeds stood a better chance of surviving and passing on their traits if they had broad beaks suited to cracking open their hard coating — thus they would become more common in that island’s finch population.

Illustration of man on left, John Edmonstone and man on right, Charles Darwin

Young Darwin learning taxidermy in Edinburgh from freed Guyanan slave, John Edmonstone

Source Getty

But Darwin might have never proposed his revolutionary ideas if not for John Edmonstone. A freed Guyanese slave, Edmonstone taught Darwin taxidermy at Edinburgh University. During his voyage around the world on the S.S. Beagle, Darwin collected and preserved the famed finches using the techniques Edmonstone taught him, allowing him to draw his pivotal conclusions. Edmonstone’s vivid accounts of Guyanese rainforests might have also inspired Darwin to study natural history instead of medicine.

Historians believe Edmonstone was probably born in Demerara, Guyana. While still a slave, he learned taxidermy from his master’s son-in-law, British naturalist Charles Waterton. Edmonstone later accompanied him on bird collecting expeditions, entrusted with the crucial task of stuffing captured birds on the spot, before they rotted.  

In 1807, Edmonstone’s master brought him to Edinburgh and freed him. Edmonstone settled in a house a few doors down from Darwin and his brother, Erasmus, earning his living stuffing birds at the Natural History Museum and teaching taxidermy to Edinburgh University students.

Edmonstone ‘was a very pleasant and intelligent man, and I spent many hours in conversation at his side.’

— Charles Darwin

Darwin came to Edinburgh in 1825 to study medicine, like his father and grandfather before him. But he soon realized that medicine wasn’t his calling. An outdoorsy type, he found his lectures boring and ran trembling from surgeries — which were still performed without anesthesia at the time.

But 17-year-old Darwin, though crestfallen, discovered a diversion: during his first winter at Edinburgh, he hired Edmonstone to teach him taxidermy for one guinea a week.

Darwin’s anti-slavery beliefs might have shaped his theory of evolution.

As Darwin perfected his taxidermy skills, Edmonstone regaled him with lively accounts of plantation life and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife. Meanwhile, Guyana had made headlines as the site of a slave rebellion that had been crushed there months earlier. And Waterton’s new book about his expeditions to Guyana, Wanderings in South America, was hugely popular. Edmonstone’s stories probably whetted Darwin’s appetite for exploration and discovery.

Throughout that frigid winter, Darwin came to consider his teacher “an intimate.” Edmonstone “was a very pleasant and intelligent man,” he wrote in his memoir. “I spent many hours in conversation at his side.” 

Enamored with natural history, Darwin dropped out of medical school. Soon afterward, he signed up as a “gentleman’s companion” to HMS Beagle Captain FitzRoy, and was responsible for conversing with him, collecting biological specimens and more. Darwin collected and preserved 15 Galapagos finches as Edmonstone had taught him.

He initially thought they were the same species as the ones he saw in neighboring South America. To make sure, he sent the specimens to British ornithologist John Gould — who concluded that they represented 12 distinct species. In 1845, Darwin proposed that they had all evolved from a common South American ancestor that had somehow reached the Galapagos and diversified into a variety of species adapted to each island.

Sketch of 4 types of bird beaks facing left

Finches with beaks adapted to different diets observed by Charles Darwin in Galapagos Islands.

Edmonstone might have influenced Darwin’s theories in another, subtler way. Darwin’s extended family, the Wedgwoods, staunchly opposed slavery, and the bloody aftermaths of the South American slave rebellions he saw horrified him. “How often, too, Darwin must have seen amiable John Edmonstone … in these oppressed peoples,” wrote Adrian Desmond and James Moore in Darwin’s Sacred Cause. They argue that Darwin’s anti-slavery beliefs may have shaped his theory, which traced all races and species to a common ancestor, challenging the popular notion that whites were a superior species to blacks.

Despite the little known about Edmonstone, Darwin arguably might have never embarked on the S.S. Beagle without his mentorship. The evolution versus creationism debate might have begun with Darwin, but Darwin the naturalist began with his teacher. 

Could Music Be the Next World Religion?

Woman playing violin

A for Ali Farka Touré, the late, great bluesman of Africa.

B for Baul Purna Das, who took Bengal’s spiritually charged baul music to Woodstock and the world.

Fast-forward to Z. That would be Zakir Hussain, the celebrated tabla player who believes rhythm originated in the drum of the Hindu god Shiva.

For each of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, there is an immensely popular, world-class performer of world music who’s anchored in a spiritual tradition. All of them are united in the idea that music could lead the way to transnational religious experience. And not quite in the way Lennon imagined.

That’s the power of music. It motivates us; it changes us; it makes us ready for change.

— Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists

Might that process be ecstatically underway? Is that A to Z of greats, with their big fan followings and bumper ticket sales, a sign the world is engaged in a collective karmic sway? Is music evolving into the language of a global shared experience of the sacred? Could music be the next world religion?

It seems to depend on whom you ask.

“I applaud the concept,” says Alain de Botton, the fervently nonbelieving British-Swiss philosopher whose book Religion for Atheists caused a stir in both secular and spiritual worlds two years ago.

“As an atheist, I certainly hope not,” adds Charles Capwell, University of Illinois professor of music, who studies spirituality in song.

“I’d say a partial yes to the question,” muses William Dalrymple, a British historian who lives in India. For decades, Dalrymple’s books have explored the spiritual joists and spaghetti junctions of divinity, development and decay in disparate cultures.

Dalrymple points out that religion has always recognized and used the power of music. In 1908, Theosophical Society president Annie Besant was saying almost exactly the same thing. In Madras, she said music was one of religion’s “strongest helpers” and offered as examples Christian Plainchant, Greek church cadences, and compositions from China and Hindu India. American examples abound, not least black gospel music and Shape note singing.

There will come a day when music and its philosophy will become the religion of humanity.

— Inayat Khan, Indian musician + founder of the first Sufi order in the West

But today, it’s spreading on a global, mega-moneymaking scale. Which is why English entrepreneur Robert Browning, who started bringing world music to New York from the mid-’70s, can now look back on 1,800 successful concerts. And it’s why in the last few weeks, Browning’s newest offerings included Amir Nojan’s mystical Persian music and a Turkish Sufi concert by Omar Faruk and Murat Tekbilek.

It’s thanks, in part, to the well-being industry — globally worth billions, according to London-based market-intelligence firm Euromonitor International, from the spiritual tunes in spas and healing clinics and yoga studios alike. The songs draw from a number of global roots, ranging from Bach to Buddhist chanting to beach waves, and from Tahuantinsuyo music via the Andes to the Tibetan flute. 

“There will come a day when music and its philosophy will become the religion of humanity,” predicted Inayat Khan, an Indian musician who founded the first Sufi order in the West in 1914, in a series of lectures and essays.

We may not be there yet. But it is at least now possible for a gaggle of nonbelievers in London to spiritedly sing Jerusalem, a poem of profoundly Christian importance for England. And for the devoutly faithless Alain de Botton to celebrate the moment. “After that,” he told them, “we can go anywhere, do anything. That’s the power of music. It motivates us; it changes us; it makes us ready for change.”

 

 

Kosher-Certified Food — Delivered to Your Door

Matzo ball soup in a white bowl with silver spoons and herbs on a placemat.

Your lifelong dream of being able to get gefilte fish delivered right to your front door has been fulfilled!

What? That’s not your dream? Weirdo. 

Kosher food buyers — this one’s for you. Morris Sued, 23, and his father Charles, have started GetKosher.com, a kosher food delivery service based in Brooklyn. It works similarly to Seamless or GrubHub: you go to the site and order your food by restaurant, selecting takeout or delivery. You can create an account and save your credit card information for easier purchasing, and the site offers rewards and discounts. The key difference from other delivery food sites: Morris guarantees you are only choosing from kosher food. 

“You don’t have to question yourself if it is really kosher or not,” he says, likening the experience to shopping at a specialty kosher store or an organic store. “It’s a very niche, untapped service.” 

Jewish or otherwise, kosher consumers have a high purchasing power. The kosher-certified food market pulled in more than $200 billion of the U.S.’ $500 billion in annual food sales in 2009, according to a Mintel report, and is expected to grow.Untapped, perhaps, but niche — not so much. More than 11.2 million Americans buy kosher food on a regular basis. And we aren’t just talking about conservative and Orthodox Jews. Only 15 percent of kosher consumers are buying the food to observe kosher laws. The rest do so to ensure food quality, healthiness, and food safety. Vegetarians or lactose-intolerant people often rely on the kosher symbols on products to know what is really in the food. One of kosher’s strict guidelines includes a total separation between dairy and meat products. Parve is a category of food that contains neither meat nor dairy ingredients. When parve, vegetarian and dairy products are all labeled clearly, people wishing to control their diets can trust what they are eating.

Morris Sued smiling  in orange checkered shirt and black sunglasses.

Morris Sued, Founder of GetKosher.com

Source Courtesy of Morris Sued

The Sued family is Orthodox Jewish, and they launched the site last summer to serve that community, focusing on areas heavily populated by Jews who keep kosher. They serve customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and a scattering of other cities in NYC and neighboring New Jersey.

The self-funded startup currently offers menus from 100 restaurants and reports that they have served more then 2,100 customers. For a handful of restaurants that don’t already offer delivery in the Brooklyn area, GetKosher.com has its own delivery service that adds about $5 to a customer’s order. This is the only added price for consumers; restaurants pay GetKosher.com a 15-20% commission on the subtotal of each order.

Morris says they are considering expanding to other places with Jewish communities including Florida, California and Pennsylvania. Right now, he says they are focusing on restaurants, but they may branch out to kosher grocery stores as well.

Yum. We can taste the kugel already. 

Beef brisket sandwich on rye with mustard.

Beef brisket on rye with mustard.

Source Linus Gelber/Getty

#YesAllWomen + Invisible Scars

A fearful young adult woman with bruises on her face looks lost and desperate as she hides in the shadow

Last week, if you had told me a hashtag would compel me to share a deeply private and painful story on the Internet, I would have laughed at you. #YesAllWomen took me by surprise.

I processed the effect #YesAllWomen had on me in stages. I read about the Santa Barbara campus murders and the misogyny underlying the killer’s motives. I heard about the hashtag and read numerous articles about it, realizing that misogyny had been rendered almost invisible because it was so deeply ingrained in my daily life.

Once we accept such behavior as normal, we allow it to go unchecked. I wanted to add my voice to the conversation, but I didn’t know if I had anything original enough to say.

This is why it was so easy to pretend it didn’t exist.

Then I read Rachel Sklar’s poignant and brave piece about her own abusive relationship. As I read Sklar’s account about gradually finding herself in an abusive relationship despite being a strong and intelligent woman, and the shame and secrecy that clings to keeping that internalized, the familiarity moved me to speak.

I, too, was once in a relationship with a man who verbally abused me. It has taken every ounce of willpower I have not to add the word “I think” to that last sentence. And therein lies the problem. Unlike Sklar’s ex, mine never hit me or threatened physical force. The most he ever did was slam a door in my face, grazing my nose. I don’t have any physical evidence of the abuse, nor did I ever. This is why it was so easy to pretend it didn’t exist.

If my ex read this, I think he would be shocked if he realized I was talking about him. He wasn’t someone who screams misogynist. In fact, he considers himself a feminist, the kind of person to march for women’s rights. When contemplating whether to write my story, I worried about his feelings if he were to read this. I mentioned my idea to write about our relationship to a few friends, and the first question from almost all of them was: Would I name him? Another red flag ingrained in our society — worrying about the abuser. The truth is, it is not about him. It’s my story to tell. 

I’ve often been referred to as “feisty,” and I am not one to shy away from heated debates. My relationship with my ex was full of this tension and energy, and at first, it was healthy. But at some point, I don’t know when, something shifted. Well after our break up, a friend of mine told me that, in the beginning, it was interesting to be around our passionate arguments. “But then, you just stopped fighting back.” My ex’s condescension toward me increased, and as we made different decisions in our social lives, I was constantly aware of how critical he was of my choices. The occasional cursing in arguments eventually became so frequent that being called a “stupid bitch” was the norm.

I looked up an old poem I wrote while we were together. “you’re breaking me,” it reads. “chipping away at me slowly / as if i am your ice scultpure / to be changed and molded / into someone more perfect / for you.” The entire poem is written with the “I” lowercased, and ends: “my insides scream so loud / i don’t understand how anyone can sleep through the noise.”

Eventually, we broke up. I wish I could say it was because I had had enough, because I stood up for myself. In fact, he broke up with me. We had been growing apart for some time, as people tend to do, and we were both to blame for a lot of it. I was deeply depressed and he told me depression was a choice, and he couldn’t be with someone who chose to be sad.

Verbally and emotionally abusive relationships make a person question whether they are imagining the abuse.

We stayed in touch. Distance, as it usually does, gave me perspective. I had moments of realization, like when I teased a friend at dinner, then cringed as we were walking home because I was waiting to be told all of the things I had done wrong while out in public. 

Then there was the final time I saw him, months after we broke up. He drove us drunk down the wrong side of the road, refusing to let me take the wheel and calling me a hypocritical bitch for visiting him without the intention of hooking up. “Do you want to know the last time someone called me a bitch?” I shouted back. (Apparently, even back then, I had a journalistic instinct for accuracy, so I added, “At least to my face?”) The last time had been when I’d last seen him. 

In the many years since then, I have moved on, and so has he. We left things on decent terms, and although it may sound difficult to believe, the emotional abuse did not define that relationship. I am happy now, and when I read my old poem, I barely recognize that person anymore. But here’s the worst part, the darkest part, the part that I have never shared with anyone: At the lowest point of our relationship, when he was screaming at me and telling me everything that he thought was wrong with me, I wished he would just hit me.

I know that sentence is an ugly and fucked up one to read. Trust me, it’s even uglier and more fucked up to feel. Time and space have given me the clarity to realize I was incredibly lucky to have never been physically attacked. I know there are so many women who have had so much worse happen to them, and many women who never escaped their abusive relationships that resulted in tragedy. At the time, I thought that if he would just hit me, that’s where I would draw the line and leave him — but how am I to know that is how I would have reacted? 

On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good.

The pain of verbally and emotionally abusive relationships is that it makes a person question whether they are imagining the abuse. Him hitting me wouldn’t have solved anything, it would have made things worse. At the time though, I thought that maybe if I had a physical mark I could point to, it would show him, show my friends, and most crucially, show me, that I was not inventing the abuse. That I was not exaggerating, overreacting and being a stereotypical, sensitive girl. The non-physical wounds make things all the more confusing when you look at your significant other and he’s making cookies with your little sister, his kindness putting concealer on your bruised insides, so you can’t see the wounds when you look at yourself in the mirror.

The few times I’ve mentioned my abusive relationship to others, I find that they become quickly dismissive of it when they realize he never physically attacked me. I can almost see the internal eyerolls. Rachel Sklar, Amanda Hess and the thousands of ladies of #YesAllWomen have formed a platform, inviting others to speak about all of the varied forms of abuse. Whether your story is original is not the point. Our stories are sadly all too similar. I stand with them in support, and hope my story allows others to do the same, until people can’t sleep because they hear the tremendous and powerful noise.

Erin McKean: The Dictionary Editor Who Wants You to Invent More Words

Erin in black printed dress on red door

Lexicographer Erin McKean’s all-time favorite word is erinaceous: pertaining to the hedgehog family. She also likes outrecuidance (presumption, arrogance, self-conceit) and waffogato (a waffle-shaped block of ice cream doused in maple syrup espresso).

But such words are more than ornaments for dazzling dinner-party guests. “They can be beautiful. But that’s not their purpose,” McKean says. “Words do things.”

And according to McKean, those who tack on the disclaimer “I know it’s not a real word” are “giving up one of their inalienable rights as English speakers: the right to create new words as they see fit.” McKean wants people to think of words as keys that can unlock troves of fascinating information.

It’s like a GPS device of the English language.

— Erin McKean

The problem is that paper dictionaries can contain only so much data — and as the Internet spawns the biggest boom in publishing since the invention of the printing press, dictionaries can’t keep pace with the oodles of new words entering the lexicon every day.

So in 2009, McKean created Wordnik, an online dictionary that evolves with language itself. Anyone can add new words and definitions, tag words with related meanings, view real-time search results for words from Twitter and Flickr and even discover the number of Scrabble points each word is worth — all on one page. Seeing words in multiple contexts and navigating how they relate to other words boosts understanding. “It’s like a GPS device of the English language,” McKean says.

worknik2

The joy of lexicography. TED Talk 2007

Like Google’s Web crawlers, Wordnik’s software constantly assimilates newly published digital content. New words and word associations get added to the Word Graph, building up the database that powers the site. Wordnik now has billions of words, including chillax, srsly, and bestie — words often dismissed as “not real.” To McKean, it’s a false distinction. ”If you love a word, use it. That makes it real.”

Four years after launching Wordnik, McKean used the Word Graph as the foundation of a news discovery app called Reverb. Reverb follows contextual clues in the words of an article to come up with recommendations for other stories that users might find interesting — with a high degree of accuracy. “If you know more about words than anyone else, when you look at a news article — a set of words — you should be able to make a better judgment of ‘aboutness,’” says McKean.

McKean, 42, sports horn-rimmed glasses and Bettie Page bangs, and speaks in a bright yet hushed librarian tone. A North Carolina native, she dreamed of working on dictionaries since she was 8, when she “read anything that came into the house,” including the Wall Street Journal issues her father brought home from his sales job.  

When you look at a news article — a set of words — you should be able to make a better judgment of ‘aboutness.’

One day, she read about how the Oxford English Dictionary would likely miss its publishing deadline by about 21 years. “I had never really thought that anybody made dictionaries,” she says. “The idea that there was a whole job devoted to finding cool words and collecting them seemed perfect.”

Years later, McKean got her start as a University of Chicago linguistics student working on the Oriental Institute’s Assyrian dictionary, underlining words in different-colored pencils, depending on what sources referenced them, like Babylonian cuneiform tablets.

McKean went on to create children’s dictionaries, using her basic coding-class skills to update the dictionary. “It was so fun,” she says. ”I realized that we were starting to have the tools to make dictionaries bigger, better, faster, stronger.”

If you love a word, use it. That makes it real.

— Erin McKean

Just a few years later, she became editor-in-chief of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. Meanwhile, people outside the dictionary publishing world kept asking her the same question: Why is one word in the dictionary and not another?

McKean voiced her frustration at a 2007 TED Talk, arguing that lexicographers should be less like traffic cops who decide which words to “let through,” and more like fishermen: “I want to throw my big net into the deep blue ocean of English and see what marvelous creatures I can drag up from the bottom.” She suggested a citizens’ science approach, allowing anyone to collect words and meanings.

”After her TED Talk, Roger McNamee, founding partner of venture capital firm Elevation Partners, invited McKean to lunch. “What would it take to make a giant online dictionary?” he asked. After nearly a year of brainstorming, they built a four-person staff and launched Wordnik.But building the world’s most extensive online dictionary wasn’t an end in itself. “If you truly believe the dictionary is a model of the English language, then you use that model to do things, to make predictions,” McKean says.

Her news app Reverb is sort of like Wordnik “turned inside out.” When you look up a word on Wordnik, the Word Graph pulls in related words and sorts them into different groups — such as synonyms, or words that rhyme with your word. But when you click on topics on Reverb, the Word Graph grabs articles containing words that fall under these topics. In both cases, the word becomes a discovery tool for locating more of what will interest you.

McKean is interested in seeing how the iPhone version of Reverb delivers relevant content during short “in-between” moments of the day.

Opening the Reverb app takes you to a wall of topics. McKean, co-founder of the company (based in San Mateo, California), says Reverb “learns” from the topics that users click on, listing the most personalized recommendations to the far left on the iPad version, or at the top on the iPhone. 

McKean knows she’s competing against more established news aggregator apps, like Flipboard and Paper. And like any new app, Reverb still has a few kinks to smooth out: Articles can show up multiple times on the article wall, and the formatting is sometimes distorted.

“Erin is a deeply creative businessperson,” says Sarah Milstein, CEO and co-founder of Lean Startup Productions. But “whether Reverb and Wordnik have positive futures is a matter of whether [her] team is able to experiment in a disciplined way to find customer value.”

McKean now lives in San Mateo, California, with her husband, who works in the nonprofit financial sector, and her 14-year-old son, an avid Minecraft player. On her downtime, she loves bumping hip-hop, especially Kanye West, Common and Schoolboy Q, among others. “People are surprised, even with all the figurative, inventive use of language,” she says. “You should be surprised when someone who loves words doesn’t love hip-hop.”

The wordsmith is also a seamstress, sewing flouncy 1950s-style dresses and writing her fashion blog, A Dress a Day. She started sewing when she was 12, and her novel, The Secret Lives of Dresses, is being made into a movie in Australia. 

McKean treats her dressmaking just like she does her lexicography, says Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large. ”That’s what I love about her: how seriously she takes her fun. She turns what gives her pleasure — patterns, design, words — but then just brings a joy to it. Calling it a hobby isn’t sufficient, but calling it professional makes it seem like it’s work. She doesn’t make anything seem like work. That’s a pretty good measure of a successful person. That’s a great model for everybody.”

No Matter What Screen You’re On, Politicians Will Find You

3 people at podium

Are you one of those “cord cutters”? That small but growing crop of Americans who’ve ditched their landline and cable TV for a smartphone and tablet?

If so, you probably think you’re pretty smart. For one thing, you’re saving money on your monthly bills. And come fall, while everyone else in the neighborhood is inundated by robocalls and darkly tinted TV ads intoning ominously against Candidate X or Y, you’ll be happily streaming your Scandal episodes, with nary a hint of that campaign nastiness.

Sounds pretty great. Well, unfortunately, the political campaign pros are on to you. And with the rise of digitized microtargeting, you’re less likely to escape their grasp than ever … at least if you’re in a desirable voter demographic. 

As the 2014 campaign season gears up in earnest (a dozen states held primary votes this month, and 21 more go to the polls in June), hundreds of candidates are going for voters through old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing, direct mail, phone calls and television ads. But this election will be different, too: with widespread adoption of online advertising and marketing developed over the last few election cycles. You’ll see more online content designed precisely for you — you 35- to 45-year-old mother living in the Philadelphia suburbs with 2.5 kids, a Prius and an affinity for Starbucks Frappuccinos — whether it’s a small text ad on the right rail of a Facebook feed or a video that runs on Hulu, before you binge-watch your favorite TV show.

What’s changed for campaigns in the last decade “is that marketing happened,” says Ben Coffey Clark, a partner at the digital media consulting firm Bully Pulpit Interactive (which was founded by President Obama’s lead digital marketing strategist).

What does that mean? It started with the microtargeting tactics pioneered by President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 and then-Senator Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — crunching mass consumer data to determine which specific voters they needed to win the election. Then in 2010 and 2012, campaigns began to experiment with Web 2.0, using popular online platforms not just to fundraise and organize, but to persuade.

Combining those two trends led to a powerful tool to connect with individuals and — campaigns hope — win their vote, no matter how they consume media content.

That’s a lot different than buying TV ad time on a show like Grey’s Anatomy to target women, but reaching an audience that’s just some majority female, notes Koster.Take the campaign that Josh Koster and his digital media firm, Chong and Koster (full disclosure: OZY has a contract with the company), ran in Florida in 2010, relying primarily on online media — no traditional TV advertising. They aimed to rally votes against a statewide ballot initiative that would have resulted in larger elementary school classes in Florida. The “No on 8” campaign used Facebook to find groups of voters in the age groups and locations that they most wanted to influence and then used different messages — depending on age, gender, listed interests – in ads on those people’s Facebook pages as well as on banner ads that popped up when they looked at other sites. 

TV ads are still the proven way to reach a large number of voters.According to a study conducted by Facebook afterward, in the two counties where the Facebook ads ran, “people with the most online ad exposure were 17 percent more likely to vote against the proposition than those with the least” exposure. The ballot measure lost by a 5-percentage-point vote margin that fall. And Chong and Koster won the industry’s “Pollie” award in 2011 for the “Best Use of New Technology” for “No on 8.”

At the time it was novel. Four years later, the notion of what Clark calls “buying people, not places” — paying a site for access to a certain set of eyeballs rather than a certain placement on its page — is spreading across the campaign world, as it has for private-sector marketers. Koster estimates that, for a growing number of campaign media budgets, digital media expenses have grown from zero to as much as 20 or even 25 percent in that time — what he calls “a seismic shift in politics.”

That upward trend is expected to continue as voters switch up their video diet. So if you’re creeped out that an ad for a pair of shoes you just looked at on Zappos is now following you around the Internet, well, get ready for similar phenomena on spending policy and Obamacare.

An annual survey conducted over the last four years by leading Republican and Democratic polling firms has found a slow but steady increase in the percentage of people viewing television in ways other than live TV, be that on a computer, tablet, smartphone or streaming service. In the most recent survey, this past January, less than half of voters said live television was their primary source of video. 

That doesn’t mean TV won’t remain king for the foreseeable future, even though it’s by far the most expensive form of campaign advertising, says Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican polling firm that helped produce the study. It’s still the proven way to reach a large number of voters.

But it does mean only running ads on broadcast or cable television is quickly becoming obsolete, Blizzard says.

The challenge for campaigns is to match the message and the person and the medium.

“For me to get your attention online, I have to deliver the message quicker and more dramatically,” says veteran GOP messaging guru Frank Luntz. A TV ad usually runs 30 seconds, while an online video is more like 15.

Campaigners know that digital tailored campaign messages get results. No way switching off the TV will stop them from trying to find you.