As authorities seek Boston Marathon bombing suspect, remember Richard Jewell; TX fertilizer plant explosion displaces Boston as top story (for now)
Media reports Wednesday afternoon indicated an arrest was imminent in the Boston Marathon bombings, or that a bombing suspect was already in custody. Then came a lot of backpedaling. (This is the inherent problem with the all-news cable networks, new media, and the 24-7 news cycle.) By the way, NBC News seems to have won the award for NOT reporting an imminent arrest.
Doubtless, authorities face mounting pressure to identify and arrest a bombing suspect.
But I thank the folks who comment on this blog upstate for reminding me of the case of Richard Jewell, who was unjustly accused in the Atlanta bombing. (Incidentally, he died in 2007 at the young age of 44; complications from severe heart disease, kidney disease, & diabetes; but one wonders if his very public tribulations wrecked his health).
BUSINESS INSIDER recollects the lessons from the Richard Jewell case...
Meanwhile, this Thursday morning the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas (near Waco) has momentarily displaced the Boston Marathon bombings as the top story in some newscasts.
I was struck when I heard a police spokesman indicate the area of the explosion would be treated as a crime scene - ATF agents had already arrived - until it was proven NOT to be a crime scene, but an accident. But, is the distinction really that clearcut? What if the company had cut corners with safety, for example, to maximize profits?
You can go to these Texas websites for reporting on the fertilizer plant explosion:
"An arrest has been made in the case..."based on an unidentified source who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to comment on the case."
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 8:22am
People on the Right who see a conspiracy in nearly EVERYTHING this Administration does are already accusing the President of being in cahoots with the Saudis:
First, President Obama holds an unscheduled meeting with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. Then, this young man is apparently deported.
Of course, conveniently forgetting the Bush--Saudi oil connections (although doubtless some of these people were mistrustful of the Bushes too).
I'm not necessarily saying the President and the Ambassador didn't talk about the Boston bombings, or the possibility that a Middle-Easterner or someone with roots to the Middle-East might be implicated.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 8:34am
I'm saying there's a lot of inaccurate reporting based on nameless sources "who cant be identified because they're not authorized to speak on the case." That's the type of 'source' that led to a false report of a suspect being arrested yesterday.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 8:50am
You're correct, teatime. Even the Associated Press - which often trails CNN, FOX, etc., in its reporting as it tries to get corroboration - carried stories about an identified suspect.
The problem: In the days of traditional (ABC, CBS, NBC) network, nighttime TV newscasts, network news organizations could spend the entire day checking and double-checking stories. EXCEPT when they went wall-to-wall with Presidential assassinations or assassination-attempts (or the assassination of Anwar Sadat and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, the beginnings of wars, etc.)
That era is long gone. As I said, cable news, the 24-7 news cycle, and new conservative/liberal websites and social media create a pressure-cooker environment.
Let me put this in another way: The first night of the Boston bombings, the PBS News Hour devoted nearly ten minutes to an interview about the patent case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In its own right, a fascinating issue. But even among public television devotees, one imagines many viewers switching from PBS to the commercial networks for more coverage of the Boston bombings.
That is the problem in a nutshell. During big breaking news, viewers/listeners come to the news networks and news stations in droves. (This is the one time the cable news networks beat conventional entertainment on the tube.)
Networks have to fill the time somehow. They regurgitate video, interview talking heads, and yes, report on the latest tidbits they're getting from "sources".
It doesn't help the cause of accuracy that you have multiple law enforcement agencies involved, and many "sources" may be new to the reporters covering, the reliability of those "sources" untested.
Members of the public should always treat any such "reporting" during these pressure-cooker conditions to be very preliminary, tentative, and potentially (or even often) unreliable.
It represents the precise opposite of reading a multi-sourced, investigative piece in a newspaper or magazine where the reporter had literally many hours, days, or weeks... to sort through material.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 8:52am
Friday is the anniversary (20th) of Waco and 18th of Oklahoma City. A fire breaks out at a fertilizer plant near Waco. Then an event as strong as a mini-hydrogen bomb occurs because of the fire. Sure sounds like a sad accident to me.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 9:02am
For the record, some of the regulars here already made the Richard Jewell's connection yesterday.
The media claim a First Amendment "right" to offer up unsubstantiated and anonymous gossip as "news" and then try to play press freedom "hero" by going to jail to keep their secrets. The media mantra seems to be "trust us," while about the only thing left and right agree on is not trusting the media. The media remain clueless as to why they lack credibility.
Three people died in Boston; others were injured. A tragedy for those involved, certainly. More people have died in a single traffic accident on a typical day. Yet, the media obsess about this. It's not just the BIG story, it's THE ONLY story. If the fertilizer plant hadn't blown, the media would be obsessing about Boston for days more because apparently they can only deal with one story at a time.
Also for the record, on the day of the Newtown shooting, those victims were in the minority of gunshot victims in the US that same day. We heard nothing about that vast majority. Meanwhile, the NRA gets its way in the Senate yet again. Money rules; not voters. And the pressure-cooker bomber did less damage than some geezer in Florida, who can't drive any more but refuses to give up his license and his "freedom," and drove into a crowd of people waiting for a bus. Nothing happened to him. And the AARP makes sure demented, half-blind geezers stay on the road. Again, money rules; not voters.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 9:06am
I intended to post something about guns later today.
Yes, that vote was absolutely overshadowed by Boston... although I did hear CBS Radio News lead with the Senate's gun vote late yesterday!
And Mr. Smith does a good job of putting all this into context.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 9:09am
Allan, I find it interesting that you write "People on the Right who see a conspiracy in nearly EVERYTHING this Administration does are already accusing the President of being in cahoots with the Saudis:" but then at the same time in your post throw out "What if the company had cut corners with safety, for example, to maximize profits?" Basically stating the left's conspiracy that all business is bad and cuts corners with little concern for life. I am sure you will rationalize it with "I was simply stating a question." but as lawyers do and are overruled in court for leading a witness, it's the same thing.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 9:20am
By definition, "conspiracy" implies several DIFFERENT parties conspiring together.
Not quite the same thing as a manager - facing budget constraints - delaying or ignoring potentially life-saving safety provisions. (Admittedly, it could also be a decision made by several people at the highest levels of a company!)
Of course, not all business is bad. But we've seen multiple examples over the years where Corporate America has cut corners. The costs of litigation and even damage awards have represented cold calculations of the cost of doing business. Can you deny that?
That said, we have absolutely no evidence that this company did anything wrong. (Although I haven't researched the company's reputation at this point.) But, it just struck me that not all "accidents" are true accidents.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:12am
West Fertilizer Company was fined by the EPA in 2006 for failing to have a risk management plan meeting federal standards. Such plans are intended to make sure safeguards are in place to prevent chemical accidents.
West Fertilizer Company also reported to the EPA that if had 540,000 pounds on anhydrous amonia on hand but this presented "no risk" - repeat "NO RISK" - of fire or explosion.
And the RMS Titanic was "unsinkable."
The phrase in law is "reckless disregard." Maybe this is a crime scene.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:26am
Thanks. Exactly my point!
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:28am
It was embarassing for CNN to report a suspect was arrested and then a few hours be told by authorities that wasn't true.
Again, the culprit is all this "anonymous" sources that reporters are using to piece together their stories. I say the media need at least two publicly-named sources verify a story before it is reported as fact.
No more of this "information was obtained from an anonymous source because he was not authorized to speak on the situation."
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:58am
If West Fertilizer Co. (Owner: Adair Grain Inc.) really did ignore all the safety precautions, then those in charge should be held criminally at fault and do some hard prison time...though we know they won't. (How many BP officials went to jail?...they too operated with reckless disregard.)
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:59am
Thank you billsmith. That does show a pretty gross negligence on the company's part. My point being with Allan throwing out that question, it immediately can cast doubt in the public's mind and steer a decision one way.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 11:46am
I was looking to see if there was any mention, but HB 35 is up in the Senate this afternoon down in Dover, and regards tightened background checks... It passed the state House, and appears to have enough votes in the Senate...
It would be great for Delaware and Governor Markell if it passes one day after the Senate passed its background check bill by a vote of 54-46....
Oops. My mistake. Under an archaic Senate Rule, invoked by the minority Republican Party, 60 votes were needed to win. It fell short, even though the vote was 54-46... Only in America, can the weaker team still win without goals, simply by bribing the referees who make the rules for each game... America loses while checks for campaign donations get written as thank you's....
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 12:16pm
kavips: Follow the money. The NRA and similar groups have dues-paying members. The bulk of their money comes from gun manufacturers. It's a good thing the tobacco lobby wasn't so effective.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 12:37pm
I think the background checks failed due to upcoming 2014 elections and politicians fearing for their jobs...so they will probably pass easily in Delaware.
Fri, Apr 19, 2013 2:25am
Looks like EarlGrey should spend some time betting the races.. His prognosis was correct...
The reasons the US Senate failed I think was accurately portrayed by Obama. The NRA fanned fears that were not true and the Senators of rural districts had to deal with the reality of those fears...
And it is always wise to remember that our population is not spread out evenly across our states, just as it is not even across Delaware's three counties.
There are quite a few states with very few people in them, who still have 2 Senators voting for them. For instance, California's two Senators, if spread out based on population, equal the number of constituents as 22 states of the lowest population. This would give the Senate an imbalance towards conservatism not represented in the popular vote... California's 2 Senators would represent 38 million people. Compared to 44 Senators representing the same number, 38 million people.... So, in the Senate, anything pertaining to rural America, gets a lot more power behind it, than it might in the House, which is staffed according to population... One third of America's population lies in just 4 states: California, Texas, New York and Florida. Nice trivia question btw, ranking the top states by population. (Allan, Illinois is fifth). Their number of delegates from just 4 states in the House makes up 32.87% of that body.
Which brings up an anomaly. The House is more backwards now than is the Senate...
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