Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Friends of Israel: Apropos of a comment below, the Final Word mentions that Czech PM Stan Gross showed up to the (ahem) "scene of a bombing" wearing a Kenvelo T-shirt -- perhaps just to show that not all Isrealis are crooks.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Theo does some on-the-scene reporting on the 2004 Prague Grenade Toss. As I was on the "scene" with him later in the evening, I can vouch for his accuracy:

Other than five or six missing cobblestones (the little ones), you'd scarcely notice anything happened.
I'd only add that, if you're not familiar with Prague cobblestones -- the little ones -- we're talking about an area about 10 inches square. About eight hours after the blast, I was expecting to at least see some police tape, with the area cordoned off and a crowd of gawkers. None of that. I literally walked right over the hole without noticing it.

Well, this is going to do wonders for the reputation of Israelis amongst the Czechs. Police are considering this an assassination attempt on the casino's Israeli owner -- a rather uncooperative one, by the sound of things -- by rival Israeli mafia figures. The new PM says he's thinking of shutting the casino down.

Speaking of cops, the fuzz walked into Tulip the other day and started carding people. I kid you not. They were totally friendly, but it was pretty damn strange nonetheless.

But anyway. The grenade. It might be a bit more interesting to look at this as a case study on the spread of information. Early on Sunday afternoon the manager at Tulip, reading an SMS, told me that a bomb had gone off at the train station, killing some people. I was like, woah. Then she read the SMS again and said no, nobody was killed, just injured. I was like, well, but still. Bomb! At the train station! In Prague.

I didn't have time to investigate further, and later on I overheard a customer (a regular) asking his friend if she'd heard about the bomb that went off downtown last night. Apparently he received a cryptic SMS about it, too. Cryptic SMS's are basically the way news travels these days.

"I heard it was downtown and it happened last night. That's all I know," he said.

"I heard it was at the train station this morning," I said. "Hold on. I think this is how rumors get started. I'm going to go check the web."

So I did. And for a moment, Grenade In Prague was the top story on Google news. (Soon to be eclipsed by church bombings in Baghdad and a supermarket fire in Paraguay.) I read a Bloomberg article which, quoting AFP, said it was actually on Na Prikope. (This is actually a bit scarier than the train station, if only because only the ne'erest of the ne'er-do-wells hang out at Hlavni.)

I went back outside and related what I'd read. "Excuse me," interrupted one customer two tables over. "I was there today."

Apparently this customer was at the scene just minutes after the incident. He told of "about 20 ambulances" and a whole lot of cops trying to surmount the language barrier. (You're unlikely to find many Czech people on Prikope this time of year.) And he said he saw the hole in the sidewalk. He didn't mention it was a pot-hole; within hours, in my mind's eye the hole had grown into a large crater.

Later, I told another friend that a bomb had gone off and 17 people were hurt.

"117 people were killed???" she cried out in anguish.

Funniest was my friend Vladan's version of Czech TV's we-interrupt-our-program-to-bring-you-this-special-report (this is pure hearsay, but utterly beleivable):

Czech TV anchor: "And now our correspondent is reporting from the scene! Correspondent, what do you see? Can you see any destroyed buildings?"

Correspondent: "Well, I'm behind the police barrier, so I can't see anything...."

Czech TV anchor: "That's our correspodent reporting from the scene! And now to an interview with Officer So-and-So of the Czech Police. Officer, have you been to the scene?"

Officer: "No, I haven't been there yet, but I spoke to a somebody who has..."

And so on.