Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ja' Makin' the Associated Press Confused

Deputy Police Superintendent Steve Brown

If Jamaica is fighting a war on crime, as DPS Brown says, then the Associated Press became a casualty of linguistic friendly fire when it reported yesterday that Jamaican police had "seized 3,300 missile warheads and a machine to make missiles and bullets" that they found concealed inside a barrel on the Kingston wharf.

Thousands of missile warheads? How large was that barrel they were concealed inside? And what exactly is a machine to make missiles?  

The WaPo published AP's report about thousands of warheads (here) with no explanation, as did all the other big news media outlets I checked today, with the exception of the New York Times. I can't tell whether the NYT took a pass on the AP's missile-making machine scoop out of journalistic integrity or, rather, from a lack of interest in Caribbean news.

Al Jazeera's website not only ran the AP story, it elaborated on it (here) by describing "a huge haul of advanced weaponry" and working in mentions of international organizations, WikiLeaks cables, and official complicity in transnational smuggling. Are they just confused, or has someone there been watching old James Bond movies?

Jamaica? Missiles? Smuggling?

After seeing the Al Jazeera version tweeted and re-tweeted today as if it were a Really Big Deal, I was disappointed when I read the Jamaican Gleaner's original story (here):

The police last night declared aid would be sought from international partners as a probe continues in relation to the seizure of a machine which can make ammunition as well as thousands of warheads.

Head of the Constabulary Communication Network, Deputy Superintendent of Police Steve Brown, said during an interview on CVM Television that a team comprising the police and Customs officials discovered 3,300 warheads and the machine in a barrel on the wharf yesterday.

Brown said the team also recovered items which can be used to make rounds of ammunition.

-- snip --

"(Gun) ranges have applied over the years to get machines like this but the government would never allow it. It can be dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands."

[TSB note: Jamaica strictly controls the possession of firearms, and regulates and records the sale of ammunition. Hence, ammo reloading equipment "can be dangerous" there.]

Brown said Customs agents were carrying out routine checks yesterday when they became suspicious of a barrel.

He said the police were called in, the barrel was then opened and the contraband found in it.

So the mysterious machine they seized in Jamaica was just a reloading press, a common piece of equipment that is used by sport shooters and gun ranges to make small arms ammunition inexpensively.

As for the strange mention of warheads, that was cleared up when the Jamaica Observer published a photo (here) of the seized items. 

Bullets, or Jamaican warheads

I see two boxes of what look like cooper-jacketed pistol bullets, three clear bags of what might be empty pistol brass, some blue printed bags and some boxes I can't identify (maybe primers for the cartridge cases and dies for resizing the used brass?), and some paper bulls eye targets. But no missile warheads.

Evidently, "warheads" is a charmingly lyrical Jamaican way of referring to ordinary rifle or pistol bullets.

Bullets are, indeed, launched from the 'missile' of a cartridge. That is one definition of missile: any object thrown with the intention of causing injury or damage. I suspect that usage is more common in British than in American English, and possibly it was confusion over the meaning of "missile" that led the folks at AP and Al Jazeera to think that three thousand pieces of some sort of military munitions had been discovered concealed inside a barrel on the wharf in Kingston.

Nothing to see here, you journalists. Move along. 


James said...

Quick, send Kerry before it's too late!

Anonymous said...

Great post TSB! And that is a fine picture of my brother in law's reloading operation. The James Bond connection is key to the impact of this post. Did they actually send an
FBI agent down there? That would have been a memorable gig. gwb

Anonymous said...

James: This is a job for Joe Biden! (cause he's a tough guy!)

TSB said...

Bob Marley? Well, now ... that makes me wonder whether all that empty brass was intended for reloading ammo or making bongs. The bongs would get you in much less trouble with the law in Jamaica.