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May 5, 2013
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Publisher’s Notebook: Trouble cooked up from the unlikeliest places

It may be a matter of time before a background check is required to purchase pressure cookers.

If you’re like me, you didn’t know what a pressure cooker was used for until two brothers used them to blow up a bunch of innocent people in Boston. I have one in my kitchen, but it looked too complicated to use until recently. Besides, I’ve never needed it for my macaroni and cheese.

And, before I forget, memo to the Boston brothers’ mother: Shut your Wicked-Witch-Of-The-West-Looking pie hole. Nobody but your fellow jihadists care what you think. If you hate this country so much, stay in Russia and give us back the welfare money and college tuition you and your family accepted.

She sounds almost as dumb as some of my fellow journalists, who thought it would be a good idea to publish a graphic with step-by-step instructions on how to turn a pressure cooker into your very own bomb. It was even published in color to make it easier to follow.

In fact, a newspaper out of Cape Cod published that step-by-step bomb building “info graphic” right next to an advertisement for … you guessed it … pressure cookers. They were on sale for just $59.99.

The paper apologized the next day, saying it was probably not a good idea to run the graphic so close to the pressure cooker ad. The advertiser promised to pull pressure cookers from the ad, which makes about as much sense as pulling axes from an ad the day after Lizzie Borden gave her father 41 whacks with one.

The Detroit Free Press did the same thing, taking it a step further by posting the “how to” graphic on its Facebook page under a headline that read: Building A Bomb.

“We regret the error,” the Free Press editor wrote the next day. “The graphic was far too detailed and we’ve unpublished it everywhere we can.”

They may as well have published a “Pressure Cooker Bombs For Dummies” handbook. If they’d just left it alone, the crazies would have had to do their own Web search to learn how to make a bomb from a cooking appliance. You can find pretty much anything you need on YouTube these days.

I can’t even imagine the process that went into that newsroom decision.

EDITOR: “What do we have for tomorrow’s paper?”

COPY EDITOR: “We have a nice detailed graphic on how to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker.”

EDITOR: “Is that for page one, or should we use it in the Food section?”

COPY EDITOR: “I think we should run it on page one.”

EDITOR: “Should we give the publisher a heads-up just in case he gets a few angry calls?”

COPY EDITOR: “He’s not my problem.”

EDITOR: “Ok. I’ll deal with him later. Let’s go for it.”

For the record, a pressure cooker is an airtight pot designed to cook food quickly with steam. I imagine some genius was cooking rice one day and blew it up, splattering Uncle Ben’s all over his ceiling. Rather than clean up the mess and start over, the nut-bag probably stopped and realized he might be onto something.

“If it blows up rice, I wonder what else it might blow up?” he whispered. He also guessed that it would be relatively easy to travel with a pot. Especially since most everyone would be looking for guns and explosives.

“What’s in the bag?”

“A pot.”

“What’s it for?”

“Making rice.”

“Where are you going with it?”

“To a picnic.”

With the latest focus on guns and ammunition — and if you haven’t noticed, ammunition is almost impossible to find these days — the bombers probably assumed their pressure cookers would be relatively inconspicuous.

All that will change soon, as we’ve learned from our airport security lessons. You could wear your shoes through the checkpoint until some other nut-bag stuck an explosive device between his toes. Thank goodness they didn’t find it in his boxer shorts.

“Please drop your pants and put your hands over your head.”

After 9/11 most Americans were perfectly willing to drop their pants and surrender a few rights in order to fight terrorism. The result was the Patriot Act and components of it still exist today, which is why the government has access to your library card data.

What the Boston bombings also taught us is that someone is always watching. There are cameras everywhere, which is a good thing when bad things happen, but kind of scary for the 99.9 percent of the population that just goes about its business each day hoping for a little privacy.

Unfortunately, there is no constitutional right to bear pressure cookers, so the folks in D.C. are probably penning a new bill as we speak. Or perhaps they will soon require warning labels on pressure cookers:

“DO NOT USE THIS POT TO CLEAN AMMUNITION.”

“NOT INTENDED FOR ANYTHING BUT FOOD.”

The tragic event in Boston reminds us how vulnerable we really are. Two brothers with pressure cookers in their backpacks managed to shut down an entire city. How do you stop something like that and how far are we willing to go to do it?

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated May 5, 2013 01:59PM Published May 5, 2013 12:04AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.