Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Rampages" Are Back

Post-Rita and Post-Katrina "Rampages"

As often occurs after a period in which there is a single media theme (such as the hurricane disasters lately), such a time is followed by a microburst of local news becoming national bulletins, and a spate of violent "rampages" appear to "happen."

As the 2005 school year began, a bizarre incident occurred (a potential "school shooting") that boomeranged on the shooter's family. The sad series of events unfolded on Tuesday, September 20, 2005, in Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Matthew Hackney, 17, a senior, was sent home from East Ridge High School for being intoxicated. Hackney allegedly was going to get a gun to return to school. At home, instead, he then shot to death his parents (Ivan Hackney, 47, and Shirley Hackney, 44) and grandmother (Wilma Hackney, 63). Hackney next told Christa Coleman, 18, that he'd killed his parents, and wanted to hide out at her house. She told him: "No way." Hackney died in a crash after police attempted to pull him over on a highway. Another driver also was killed.

On the next day, September 21, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Stephen M. Ressa, 27, of Rialto, California, drove a Buick stolen from his 54-year-old mother (whom he choked unconscious on Monday, September 19) into a crowd in front of the Bally casino. He allegedly killed two tourists and injured 12 others. Ressa told police the people appeared to be "like demons."

Perhaps in a copycat trigger, mentions author Michael Newton in an email to me, on January 29, 2005, former schoolteacher Priscilla Ford, 75, died in prison, and her death was noted in the media with retellings of her earlier crime. Ford drove her car onto a downtown Reno, Nevada sidewalk on Thanksgiving 1980, killing six people and injuring 20. During her trial for murder, her mental state--including an obsessive identification with Seventh-day Adventist figure Ellen White (to whom Ford bore a striking resemblance)--drew concern. She was found guilty and sentenced to death, but never executed.

The September 21 news was also "reminiscent of an April 2000 crash that killed a Wisconsin man and injured five other people in front of the Aladdin hotel-casino in Las Vegas....A Las Vegas stripper, Juanita Kim McDonald, was sentenced to five to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to driving under the influence in the 2000 crash," noted the Hollister Free Lance.

On Monday afternoon, September 26, Victor Piazza, 55, allegedly shot two co-owners and an office manager at Velma International, a nail polish factory in New Windsor, New York. He then killed himself. Piazza had been fired from the company 19 months earlier, after pornography was found on his company computer.

Update September 27, 2005
The most seriously wounded by Victor Piazza, who used a .38 pistol, is JoAnne Obrien, 48, the office manager of the New Windsor factory. She remained in very critical condition at St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital on the 27th.

Intriguingly, regarding the twilight language, the Verla International's office and plant location, in New Windsor, New York, is on Temple Hill Road.

Update September 30, 2005
JoAnne Obrien died on September 30th.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Another 9/11 Copycat

In a comment by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D., in the Global Politician on September 26, 2005, he writes "the September atrocities provoked a wave of copycats and renewed awareness of such risks."

Mentioning the January 2002-Tampa and April 2002-Milan incidents I wrote about in my "Planes into Buildings" chapter, Vaknin also notes one I've not heard about: "At the beginning of May 2002, an Indian air force jet crashed into a bank building in northwestern India. Eight died in the ensuing fire."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More Capital Hijackings?

Taking a plane trip to or from an international capital or similar city soon? Watch out! We are entering a time of increased hijackings. And a common factor is they concern global "capitals."

Are you aware that news services from Aljazeera to China's Xinhua today had a lot to say about a hijacking? Probably not, because it is not on the American media's radar yet.

But on Saturday, September 17, 2005, a man hijacked a plane in "New Zealand’s commercial capital and biggest city," in direct copycat of 9/11, which occurred in America's commerical, financial, and media "capital," New York City. The N.Z. hijacker said he was going to fly it into Auckland's tallest building, the Sky Tower. Instead, he crashed the plane into the sea Saturday night and was rescued and taken to a hospital. Not coincidentally, September 17th is New Zealand's General Election Day. The leaders of the parties were awaiting the election results in Auckland, not in N.Z.'s capital city, Wellington.

While Americans may have only vaguely heard about this news due to the constant Katrina media coverage in the US, around the world this event comes on the heels of other hijacking stories this week. And, of course, the media has been awash in 9/11 hijack docudramas and documentaries, due to the fourth anniversary on Sunday, September 11.

On Monday, September 12, a father in a "too large for the detectors" wheelchair dodged a checkpoint and smuggled grenades onto a plane. The father and son hijackers surrendered five hours after commandeering an Aires airliner around midday Monday after it departed from the southern city of Florencia on a flight headed to Colombia's capital, Bogota. All passengers and crew were eventually freed unharmed before the hijackers, 42-year-old Porfirio Ramirez and his 22-year-old son, Linsen Ramirez, gave up and were arrested.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 13, Adane Bayu Arage, an Israeli youth attempted to get a disassembled gun and 22 bullets, hidden inside a tool, onto a plane. He allegedly planned to hijack a passenger plane, Ethiopian Airlines Flight Number 424, in the capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The youth was born in Ethiopia and later immigrated to Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry questioned whether the suspect is Israeli.

Plane hijackings come in waves because they are one of the most likely events to be impacted by the copycat effect. In the 1970s, social scientists began talking about a "skyjack virus" transmitted through the media. Then in 1973, Dr. David Phillips published his first study on the importance of imitation in explaining hijackings. The rest is history, and some of it quite recent, of course.

If such events have become a frequent current topic of the international media, including such outlets as Aljazeera, don't be surprised to watch an upturn in hijackings.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Scotsman Drops Ball

A wave of suicides in a Scottish community is being recognized as the probable result of the copycat effect. But the media only goes halfway in preventing future copycats.

Edinburgh's Scotsman publishes an article on September 16, with the headline, "Third teenage death fuels fears of copycat suicides."

Discussing the third suicide in three months in Lothians' Livingston, the paper writes: "Ryan Hargan, 17, was found by his mother in the bathroom of his home on Wednesday evening. Ryan's death comes only a week after Liam Cosgrove, 15, was found hanging from a climbing frame of a playpark in the town. In June, Daniel Brockie, 16, was also found hanging in his home."

The paper extends the copycat effect by graphically detailing the local method of suicidal death. This is an unnecessary retelling of this means, easily available to youth, as a behavioral option and something "their peers" are doing.

Also, "in recent years, the Lothians has been rocked by a series of teenage suicides. Seven teenagers took their own lives in the Lothians in just six months. Three Lothian youths were believed to have taken their own lives in March 2002, bringing the total to seven since August 2001."

Why the use of the word "rocked"? The twilight meaning for youth is that "to rock" is a positive outcome.

The realization that the copycat effect may be involved is mentioned. "ChildLine Scotland director Anne Houston has warned about copycat suicides. Ms Houston said: 'Part of the concerning thing, according to people who work with suicide as an issue, is it can almost become infectious. It can have a copycat effect.'"

Awareness is the first step, but the newspaper's article unfortunately merely "reports" (somewhat too graphically) without going the next step. Despite mentioning that "Children's charities have today urged suicidal youngsters in the Lothians to come forward" to talk to someone about their feelings, the article does not give hotline or helpline numbers, or addresses or websites for youth thinking about killing themselves to visit for a lifeline.

This article dropped the ball.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Indian celebrity copycats

The influence of the celebrity copycat effect is worldwide.

During a World Suicide Prevention Day 2005 news conference, September 12, India reported that it's rate of suicide is extremely high, with Indians topping the list of the 2,555 suicide victims annually nationwide, followed by the Chinese and Malays. The report said that Indians died by suicide at a rate of 21.1 suicides per 100,000 Indians, compared to 8.6 per 100,000 Chinese and 2.6 per 100,000 Malays, among their country's population.

In a New Strait Times article, "Indians top suicide list," Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Shafie Ooyub.
urged "the media to play down stories on celebrity suicides which sometimes led to a copycat effect on some. He said some tended to think that the celebrity’s act was 'cool' and could be emulated. Dr Shafie was referring to the suicides of Hong Kong superstar Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing, who leapt off a 24th floor balcony, and that of South Korean actress Lee Eun-ju, who hanged herself earlier this year."

Shafie told the newspaper: "We urge the media to tone down on such reporting as there are people committing suicides because their favorite celebrity did so."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oswald and Atta

Katrina & 9/11

Allow me to randomly speak of recent and past events on a more personal level today, on how I am relating to these difficult few days and anniversaries.

Remembering the Unbelievable

Name the biggest stories of modern media? Pearl Harbor Day? No, too long ago for you? JFK's assassination? Of course, if you are a certain age. Post-Edward R. Murrow, our modern broadcast news (live, in the field, and on video, versus archival, in the studio, and on film) began on 11/22/63. (Remember when we use to not write dates all the way out?) Yes, November 22, 1963. Four straight days of television news. I couldn't believe what I was watching. As a mere kid myself, I saw a kid from New Orleans named Oswald killed, live, while I was sitting on the back of my family's couch in my living room. Live. Unbelievable.

Then 9/11 happened. We all saw that "live" too. I "heard" the news through an email, turned on my television, and saw, like millions of others, the second plane crash. Live. I flew into New York City a month later to film an interview for a documentary, and my plane banked exactly over Ground Zero, on my side of the plane. I looked straight into hell. And I watched on television how this all changed our view of America. All over again. Unbelievable.

Katrina. Almost two weeks later, and it's still on the television, every day, almost every moment. This one crept up on us, and yet has turned into one of the biggest and most sorrowful of cabe news' human tragedies. A natural disaster that has become worse as a manmade one. Television, the internet, radio. Katrina, day and night. New Orleans is a great city that I have visited a few times. There's always been an underground twilight language part of New Orleans, of course. I informally once, even created a walking tour of all of the locations (thanks to addresses from John Gooch) where Lee Harvey Oswald lived, worked, demonstrated, and interacted with the shadow side of government. I've stood on the streets with my sons and caught beads. I've enjoyed the music of the city. Now on television, America sees little of the life, history, or traditions of that city. No jazz, no Lafayette Square, no, not even any stories about the Voodoo Queen in Cemetery #1. It is all about floating bodies, the horror of the Convention Center, and an Arabian horse guy heading FEMA these days (but may not tomorrow). On a more subtle level, it is about the race war in America, and reflects, as I've mentioned in The Copycat Effect how "death sells" in the media. Unbelievable.


What the Katrina coverage does is expose an incredible vulnerable belly to the world. If you live in America, you know its truths. You realize that some whites are afraid of people of color, and some would rather think all blacks are going to loot that just be in need. You know that a rich guy's government will fly in troops within hours to Florida during hurricane disasters if your brother is the governor there, but if a black mayor and a Democratic governor are saying things to you about New Orleans, you just won't "get" it for a few days. We know that, on some level. Now it is being broadcast worldwide. We have to face this - what is being reported, that we have shown al Qaeda we are sometimes less than a super power, and that we are only human. And we are showing ourselves these things too.

Sure, sometimes is has not been the media's finest hour. We see the media stumbling around with words like "refugees" for days before they get it that these are American "survivors" or "evacuees." We still hear NPR's news department and PBS's nightly reports have "experts" debate "pre-planning," which actually, of course, means simply "planning." But from the brown water of New Orleans, the future comes forth. What of tomorrow?

The predictions have begun. It is almost 9/11 again, and we have some hard days ahead.

Take Tom Ritchford, New York author and Fortean thinker, for example. On an internet forum, he put out this list of predictions, including these:

-- al Qaeda clearly wishes to strike again at some point.
-- the resistance movement in Iraq is about ready for a "Tet
offensive" to cause serious damage to the (distracted by mutinies!) US
-- China wishes to take Taiwan and doesn't care about headlines.
-- there are many other evil forces that want to take on the United
States now that it has moved to the dark side.
and September 11 approaches.
If I were one of these parties and I had a nefarious scheme hatched,
I'd be racing to get it going just at the point where the US's
resources are most tied up with disaster recovery -- Sunday, September
11. I'd hit people at a vacation center or some similar relaxation
place -- they've already made people feel unsafe at work, why not make
them feel unsafe at play?
If I were bold I'd hit the Patriot Day parade in DC. (Did you know
9/11 is now called Patriot Day?)

Why Portland?

Can such things happen? Will al Qaeda see that if there was ever a time to strike again, a la' London's 7/7, it is now, because of how far stretched America is? Will they decide to hit a mall, like the Bloomington Mall in Minnesota, or all those targets people have been watching like the Sears Tower. How many people are guarding the malls versus how many are watching the Seattle airport? You do the math.

And speaking of math, what about the dates? This Bush administration's little known badly named Patriot Day (9/11) may or may not be that important to al Qaeda, as I think they have their own number, date, and name game agenda. They might wish to go for the real Patriots Day, in April, in Maine, or the Patriots Day in Massachusetts, at the Boston Marathon, for example. Thousands of people there. Of course, this is not an invitation, but we have to see that we might not see what they see. Maine, you ask? Why?

Well, then, truth be told, I live in Portland, Maine, where 9/11 all began for Mohammed Atta, who picked Flight 11, so needless to say, I'm not letting my guard down on 9/11/05. Or 11/9/05. Or 11/11 (Veteran's Day). Or on next April's Patriots Day 2006, 2007, 2008, and so forth. Atta, the leader of the operations wing of 9/11, historically, was tied into those elevens. Afterall, the first mastermind of the 1993 Twin Towers attack was Ramzi Yousef, and he used parts of Bonjinka, a plan to place bombs on 11 planes in the Phillippines, for the eventual 9/11 attacks. Yousef's test run for Bonjinka occurred on, you guessed it, another eleven, December 11, 1994. Sometime, look up the 1970 origins of the naming of the group "Black September," whose kidnapping of Israeli athletes attending the Munich Olympics (which was scheduled to end on September 11, 1972), ended in the death of 11 of those athletes. Certainly, 9/11 hits very close to home. And lives on. Mysteries remain that may be hidden in numbers and places.

For example, why did Atta pick Portland? A question that haunts my city. And it troubles me too.

Was that Arab man I exchanged glances with and a smile that wasn't returned, in the Portland International Jetport, a few months before 9/11/01, Atta? I was on my way to another speaking engagement. I would later remember him vividly because he seemed relatively out-of-place in Portland - and there was those piercing eyes. Maybe just a business man visiting to make a deal, I thought. Unlikely. Only later, when all the photos of Atta were published, did I join the ranks of those in Portland who think they saw Atta here months before 9/11/01. Was he practicing? Why Portland?

Oh yes, some things come full circle. Today, you can go on an informal driving tour of the spots where Atta stayed (Comfort Inn), went to the two ATMs (at a bank and a Mobil Station), ate (Pizza Hut), and shopped (Wal-Mart), just like those Lee Harvey Oswald places I've visited in New Orleans. Frighteningly unbelievable.

Why Portland?

Why New Orleans?

Where next?