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Stateside With Rosalea: Not a pretty story

Stateside With Rosalea

Not a pretty story

Monday night I'm standing in the JetBlue terminal at New York's JFK airport looking at the rack of travel mags and the words on one cover leap out at me - "Bali" it says in fluorescent orange, "still paradise?"

I can't recall where I first learned of the explosion. Was it the front page of a local paper in upstate New York, where I'd spent the weekend? I think it might have been. On the subway to Jamaica Station, where I caught the shuttle for the airport, someone was reading the 'New York Post', a tabloid that had just one image on the front, under the word "Cowards", and page references to the stories inside. The front page of 'USA Today' also featured a couple of photos and quite a lengthy story, and of course the news channels I was watching in-flight carried George Bush's reaction, and his linking the incident to what had happened in Kuwait and the Yemen in recent weeks.

Bullshit. You wanna jump to a conclusion, then here's some stuff you might like to mull on: 'USA Today' reported that the club was playing host to a whole lot of Aussie Rules football teams and that the management had banned locals from going there that night, supposedly because of pickpocketing. There was one small explosion, then the huge one. This morning on one of the network news shows a just-returned US surfer described the terrible scene inside, including a description of young girls with their hair on fire, screaming. He hastily added that they were 18. I think people would do well to wait for some forensic evidence before sounding off about terrorists. It's just as likely that a small explosion protesting the club's policies unfortunately set off a larger one because of the proximity of propane tanks that were there for a legitimate purpose.

The article in the travel magazine was about how much Bali has changed for the worse since the 1970s because of the influence of the tourist industry. The place sounds about as savoury as Thailand these days, which is a great pity because the Balinese are renowned for their gentleness, graciousness, and caring spirit. "I hold their souls in my hand and pray," was the gist of what one weeping local man said of the victims in the news this morning. And I pray that the truth, however ugly, will out, and that the innocent lives lost aren't desecrated and defiled in the service of an even uglier purpose - war.

It's not that I don't think there are terrorists; it's just that I admire people who hold out for the facts even while the media is slavering for a one-word headline on a front page story - people such as the law enforcement folks in the Washington DC area, who have repeatedly and steadfastly refused to say whether each new shooting was the work of a serial sniper until the forensic tests had been done on the bullet. Hey, maybe I'm naive and actually this is some kind of tactic to anger the sniper and force his or her hand, but it has proved that the public is perfectly comfortable with some degree of uncertainty instead of instant attribution to one person or cause.

You know, this was going to be a travel column about going to the East Coast to see the fall foliage, but I'll save that for later. However, do let me apologise for making a big boo-boo in my last elections column, as one reader so quickly pointed out. The Secretary of State in California, who was defeated in the Republican primary in March, is Bill JONES, not Bill Simon. My only excuse is that I was in a rush to finish the column so I could race back along 5th Ave and down 42nd Street to Grand Central Station to catch a train to Poughkeepsie (pron. puh-KEEP-see) - I made it with 30 seconds to spare.

Like I said, that's another story. A pretty one.

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