FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 14, 2006
Terror plot brings new air travel fears
Some journalism critics say the news media occasionally go too far in terrorism reports and give details that help our enemies. Start a class discussion about whether coverage of the London plot was appropriate or revealed too much. What facts about these cases do students think newspapers should never print?
Tighter airport safeguards and travel delays have a wide impact, so newspapers combine local coverage with staff and wire service reports from around the nation and abroad – as they do daily on diverse subjects. Ask students to identify where foreign and national news mainly appears in the print or online newspaper (besides the front page). Initiate a discussion about why readers should be aware of events beyond their city, state and country.
Travel reports appear regularly in newspapers and typically aren’t about red alerts. Invite class members to check recent issues, especially from a Friday or Sunday, for articles about nearby and distant places to visit. Ask for comments on whether examples they find make a visit seem worthwhile and whether ways to learn more are given.
Just as summer vacations are wrapping up and many families squeeze in a final trip before the new school year, air travel is tougher and scarier. British authorities last week blocked a major terror plot that they and U.S. leaders say was aimed at nine flights from London to New York, Washington and California. In response, President Bush authorized a “red alert” terrorism warning -– the highest ever -- for commercial flights from Britain and raised security on all domestic and international flights. "You can't go overboard when you're trying to save lives," the president’s press secretary says.
Britain arrested 24 people accused of planning to blow up as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes with peroxide-based liquids and gels disguised as beverages or other common items in hand luggage. They reportedly would have been set off by portable camera flashes or detonators masquerading as electronic devices. “We’ve prevented an attempt to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” says London’s deputy police commander.
The U.S. raised its color-coded threat alert to the maximum level -- “severe risk of terrorist attacks” -- for incoming flights from Britain. “We cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted,” Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said. In addition, carry-on luggage is banned indefinitely on trans-Atlantic flights from Britain. Fliers there and here can’t bring any liquids into the cabin except baby formula or medicine.
President says: “This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11. . . . But obviously, we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in. . . . Travelers are going to be inconvenienced as a result of the steps we've taken. I urge their patience and ask them to be vigilant.”
Who’s behind the plot? “It was sophisticated, it had a lot of members and it was international in scope. It was in some respects suggestive of an al-Qaeda plot.” -- Michael Chertoff, U.S. secretary of Homeland Security
Another concern: Next month is the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., which causes fear about a symbolic new strike.
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