A massive hurricane is swirling toward the eastern seaboard of the U.S. leaving 29 million people under a Hurricane warning on Friday night. Currently a category 2 storm, Hurricane Irene is forecast to straddle the coast before making landfall near New York City. Here in Southern California we don’t have many hurricane threats but then again it had been a while since the East Coast experienced a strong earthquake before this week. But in 1939 the only tropical storm to make landfall in California killed dozens at sea before coming ashore in Long Beach. 45 deaths were reported as a result of the flooding. And in 1858 a hurricane is said to have nearly made landfall off the San Diego coast, causing the 2011 equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars before turning back out to sea.
But in the 19th and even the 20th centuries we did not have the advanced warning and communications systems that we have today. Without even grazing land, Hurricane Irene is making history — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that today was the first time in the city’s history that mandatory evacuations had been ordered. About a quarter-million residents, primarily on the low-lying edges of Manhattan were urged to abandon their homes. New York’s subway system will be shut down Saturday at noon due to the threat of flooding.
There were strange crack/rolling sounds from alternating sides of the building during the quake, which felt like a gentle swirling than anything else. The quake took place hundreds of miles away. Per Wikipedia:
The Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott hotel building, a part of the LA Live development in Los Angeles, California, is the first building in Los Angeles that uses an advanced steel plate shear wall system to resist the lateral loads of strong earthquakes and winds.
20 minutes later they came on the loudspeaker to say they were investigating any possibile structural damage to the building.
If you want to see a Twitter mob in its larval stage, just do a search on Zynga or Farmville and Haiti and you will see one emerging over a report that the social-gaming company kept 50 percent of the money that it raised in donations for the country in the wake of a devastating earthquake. The report originally appeared in a Brazilian magazine called Superinteressante, which did a feature on Zynga and Farmville and mentioned in the piece that it had only given 50 percent of what it raised to Haiti. That was in turn picked up by a leading Brazilian newspaper called Folha de Sao Paulo , which said that Zynga had admitted to only sending 50 percent of the money it raised for Haiti to that country.
That story got written about in several places around the Web, including at Social Media Today (in a post that has since been removed and replaced with a different one featuring an altered headline) as well as at the opinion site True/Slant, where Marcelo Ballve — a former Associated Press reporter in Brazil — summarized the Falho story about how Zynga had misled Farmville players into thinking 100 percent of their donations would be going to Haiti for earthquake relief (he has since posted an update). The story was also written up at Gawker, which also repeated the allegations.
The Folha story, however, blurs together two Farmville campaigns to raise money for Haiti: One was set up before the earthquake, and specifically said that only 50 percent of the money raised would be sent to Haiti (a screenshot is embedded below). The second, which involved the purchase within the game of special “white corn” for a user’s farm, said that 100 percent of the proceeds would be sent to earthquake relief. According to an emailed statement from a Zynga spokesperson that I’ve embedded below, this is exactly what happened (a similar statement has been posted at the bottom of both the True/Slant post and the Folha story, and referred to by Gawker, but not by Social Media Today, although the latter has since posted an update and apology). The initial campaign for Haiti raised $1.2-million for the country, and the subsequent “white corn” campaign raised an additional $1.5-million.
Meanwhile, dozens of Twitter messages are still being posted every minute (based on a recent survey of the social network) saying that Zynga “admits to keeping half the money it raised for Haiti,” despite the repeated efforts by Zynga CEO Mark Pincus to rebut such claims through his own Twitter account. The eagerness with which people seem to believe such claims could have something to do with the language barrier between the initial reports and those who have repeated them — but it could also be a result of some negative press that Zynga has received in the past, alleging “scammy” behavior related to lead-generation offers within its games.
Personally I was turned off by Zynga’s Haiti campaign before I finished reading the first paragraph of the Press Release that hit the wires 48 hours after the January 12th earthquake:
Starting tonight, Zynga (www.zynga.com) will run a special relief campaign in three of its top games that reach over 40 million users daily.
It seemed to me that this blatantly took advantage of PR Newswire and others’ waiving of distribution fees for Haiti earthquake-related news.
I was speculating but I’ve always been skeptical of such campaigns by hard-to-trust startups. I was impressed by Zynga’s earlier partnership with the World food Programme over the holidays but hadn’t seen any mention of its results.
You can’t be too transparent when acting in the wake of any disaster. While Zynga made no mistake in clearly mentioning it’s user base (both daily and monthly) the press release — especially if it was distributed gratis — should have elaborated on Zynga’s existing relationship with WFP to avoid any fingerpointing / confusion.
Late Thursday Radiohead announced that it would perform a charity show benefiting the survivors of the devastating January 12th earthquake in Haiti. The tickets were made available via a Ticketmaster auction which ended with a final minimum bid of $475 (meaning many secured their tickets for $450). Some went above and beyond as the proceeds were going 100% to Haiti via Oxfam America and the high bid was $2,000 per ticket (for either 2 or 4 tickets), according to the band.
All in all more than $572,000 was raised and it was an unforgettable, intimate gig for all at the 1,300-capacity theater. Here’s the setlist: