IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Reading with a pinch of salt
It’s Sunday morning and I am sitting at Gatwick Airport waiting for my onward flight to Amsterdam. It’s just past 7 o’clock, the sun is just peeking out and there is a mist that keeps rolling in and out.
I’ve got four hours before my flight so I grab a copy of every Sunday newspaper available in the British Airways business lounge and start to read.
Immediately two stories catch my attention and almost instantly I have questions. The first is about how much readers believe, or don’t believe, what they read in the newspaper. And I am asking this question while on my way to the World Publishing Expo 2014. The second is similar: how much do we believe what our Government says?
The first question came from a headline that stumped me in the Sunday Mirror. It read: My Prison Hell On Paradise Isle For A Crime I Didn’t Commit and spoke of one James Rumford, who came to Barbados for a wedding but 48 hours later allegedly went through hell.
From where I am, I can’t personally check his story, and I don’t know if it is what he said or what the writer wrote, but the whole article spelt “sceptical” for me.
He claims he flew to Barbados for a wedding and stayed at Sandy Lane Hotel. He said one night he had a drink and skateboarded into Town.
He said he was approached by someone offering him a boat trip and he thought he could trust the man. He said he was led down an alley and was immediately offered cocaine.
He said he refused and the man and two others, one a woman, tried to rob him.
He said he managed to escape and in the confusion, grabbed the attackers’ cellphone and fled . . . running all the way back to the hotel.
He said before he could pick up the phone to call the cops, they arrived at Sandy Lane and arrested him for stealing a phone.
He said he was handcuffed, held by the throat by cops during interrogation and thrown into a filthy cell.
He said while he was in the cell, cops were playing with knives and guns and drinking whisky.
He said the next day he was taken to court, where he was tricked by a useless attorney who only managed to upset the judge.
He said he was refused bail by the judge and sent to prison for four days. When he was returned to court, the case was dismissed, but he was still fined £1 200 (BDS$3 861), handed a lawyer’s bill of £3 000 (BDS$9 652) and then kicked out of the country.
Naturally, he has vowed never to return to Barbados.
Like I said, I can’t test the facts from here, but a supposedly well-off guy, staying at the most expensive hotel on the island, skateboarded all the way from the West Coast to Town, is offered drugs and mugged, runs all the way back to Sandy Lane, where the cops are just about waiting for him? Really? Bajan cops respond that quickly?
He sees a judge the next day, is sent to jail, case dismissed, but he is still fined.
Well, I’ve heard the old people say that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Maybe this is such a case. Or maybe it is just poor journalism.
Are we ready for Ebola?
The second question arose from stories and photos in The Mail and The Independent newspapers. They showed scenes of a simulation by authorities of their Ebola response machinery.
It shows health workers in full “battle” gear looking like they are headed to outer space. They gave a full breakdown of how the United Kingdom will handle any suspected cases of the deadly virus.
Then I thought instantly of the debate at home about just how ready we are. I could not help thinking we really are not ready.
Elsewhere in the world, authorities are preparing to be able to quarantine an entire Boeing 747 planeload if necessary and we are preparing a facility for three people. We can’t even isolate a LIAT flight!
Here’s more. The reports said the simulation was ordered by the British prime minister. The man at the top is taking charge and we can’t hear from our boss about chikungunya, far less Ebola.
We really think we are ready?
Anyway, I will keep my fingers crossed before they decide to prove just how ready they are by deciding to quarantine my tail when I step off the plane this weekend. ’Cause you know Roy ain’t got no luck.