Friday, September 8, 2006

The Lightning Round:
Locked And Unloaded

Let us begin with the biggest non-story of the week, coming to you from a remote high school on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? It had the makings of another Columbine or Beslan: a report from Ganado High School -- about 315 miles northeast of Phoenix -- that six people were holed up in the building, armed with guns and knives. We later found out the real story: the school was locked down after some student thought he saw somebody with weapons. Police never found any.

The initial, erroneous reports of a standoff moved over the Associated Press wire on both the national and Arizona circuits. TV stations in Albuquerque, Phoenix and Tucson ran them as breaking news while they scrambled to get reporters and a chopper up there until the story collapsed.

The FBI, which was involved in this case because it happened on tribal ground, blamed it on the phones and a game of Telephone. From the AP:
Authorities attributed earlier reports of a standoff to a misunderstanding that stemmed from poor cell phone coverage from the geographically remote area and people making assumptions based on limited information that was available on the lockdown.
However, KSAZ-TV in Phoenix quickly unravelled the truth after getting ahold of a teacher inside the building. That was a lot easier than hooking up with the Window Rock police officer who was said to be the contact person. I attempted at least three calls to him over the course of a half-hour to get the "real" story -- all with a busy signal.

KSAZ-TV reports:
George Hardeen, a spokesman for Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., said "it was a girl student" who told a school official about seeing the alleged weapons at 2:53 p.m., some seven minutes before school was to end for the day. "She alleged she was in the girl's room and was threatened by four boys and a girl. The initial story we heard was that the girls had knives and the boy had a gun," Hardeen said. "It's yet to be determined if this story is true or not." The school official notified tribal police and as many as 50 officers responded to the scene.
In all fairness, The Lightning Round reminds you Ganado -- and much of the Navajo Reservation -- is television no-man's-land. The nearest stations are in Phoenix and Flagstaff. Those stations don't have bureaus on the reservation, so stories have to be huge before reporters will even head that way given the driving time and logistical challenges -- mainly the need for a satellite truck. So in the interest of getting the video on for the 6 and 10 versus not at all, the instinct is to get what you know on air and get the pictures later.

The AP wire is a proven reliable source of information, but this was not one of its finer moments. We suspect the wire reporter got it the story from the police and went with official information.

UPDATE: The girl who reported the weapons now admits making it all up.

CIVIL UNREST. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is comparing Iraq's civil war to ours. She's also laying some historial guilt trips on war critics.

From the AP:
Rice, a former academic, said she spent the summer reading biographies of the Founding Fathers and said she was certain "there were people who thought the Declaration of Independence was a mistake" as well.
For the record, King George III refused to approve laws of necessity, repeatedly dissolved legislative bodies, forced soldiers into people's homes, bullied officials, stifled the press and cut off trade.

And we still don't know where the WMD is.

ANDERSON COOPER 007. I always thought CNN's news star looked a little spooky. Radar says that's more than suspicion.

SHOULDERING THE BURDEN. Defense Secretary Donald Rumfeld had shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff from an old wresling injury.

A spokesman says he's fine, but The Lightning Round has obtained a statement from Rummy himself: "You deal with the shoulder you have, not the one you would like it to be."

FRY BABIES. Used to be everything was bigger in Texas. Now it's just fried -- like Coca-Cola.

From the AP:
[Vendor Abel] Gonzales deep-fries Coca-Cola-flavored batter. He then drizzles Coke fountain syrup on it. The fried Coke is topped with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and a cherry. Gonzales said the fried Coke came about just from thinking aloud.
I remember seeing Coke fountain syrup sitting on the shelves of my dad's old pharmacy in Kansas City. Back then you could use it as stomach-comforting agent. Need I draw the irony any clearer?

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