It was one of the crucial pieces of evidence the Warren Commission used to support the single gunman theory in the Kennedy assassination. The story went like this: “A three-centimeter-long copper-jacketed lead-core 6.5- millimeter rifle bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository passed through President Kennedy’s neck and Texas Governor John Connally’s chest and wrist and embedded itself in the Governor’s thigh. If so, this bullet traversed 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone.” (From Wikipedia.) This bullet, in rather pristine condition, was “found” on a gurney in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and was used as evidence for the single “magic” bullet theory advanced by Warren Commission staffer (and later, Pennsylvania Senator) Arlen Specter. (He wasn’t really a ballistics expert, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.)

So, why do I bring this up? It’s because our good friends at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have managed to shoot their own Magic Bullet. They released a trajectory model and report about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that stated there was a 61-80% chance that the Keys would be impacted in the coming weeks by “tarballs” or “streamers.” Unfortunately, they didn’t take into account the current conditions in the Gulf of Mexico that are all working to keep the oil away from us. Still, the damage has been done. NOAA has shot a Magic Bullet all right – shot themselves in the foot, while managing to hit our fragile economy right in the heart, all with the same shot.

NOAA’s trajectory model and report, even though based upon flawed and incomplete data, received national attention. It’s of no matter to media outlets that the nearest oil to the Keys is 450 miles away and not heading in this direction – and it’s of no matter to them if they try again to ruin our local economy. We all know how much effort it would take for a media outlet to admit it reported incorrect information and try to rectify its mistake.

Meanwhile, potential Keys visitors now have yet another reason to postpone making their travel plans. Poor Andy Newman, Monroe County’s PR consultant, has had his hands full trying to contain the damage. It’s just one more instance of how the Keys have suffered an incredible amount of bad press from a disaster that hasn’t impacted us at all, except economically.

NOAA’s latest monumental blunder is just one more example of how the federal government, in cooperation with BP, have so screwed up the initial incident and its continuing aftermath. In addition to still not having capped the gusher, skimmers that could have sucked up thousands of barrels from the Gulf are still not being used. BP and the federal government are complicit in their continuing media blackout, preventing disturbing images of oil-soaked sea life and contaminated shorelines from being seen.

This isn’t just conspiratorial rumor- mongering. Newsweek magazine and CNN’s Anderson Cooper have been leading the reporting of media restrictions. The Coast Guard has kept media away from contaminated areas, including a trip by Jean-Michel Cousteau to the barrier islands of Louisiana. Charter fishing captains in the affected areas are being told by BP not to talk to reporters. In May, a CBS News crew was threatened with arrest for attempting to film an oil-covered beach (the CBS video of this has since been deleted from YouTube and can’t be found on the CBS News website). Private aircraft are restricted from flying over areas of the Gulf and shorelines impacted by the oil.

BP, the Coast Guard, and local officials are working in concert to keep reporters from seeing or photographing affected areas and dead marine animals. A person with family members working in the area told me that dead animal carcasses are being rounded up by BP and burned so as to avoid image-damaging photos like the ones that came from the Exxon Valdez incident.

On July 1, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen announced that there is now a restricted “safety zone” that prevents civilians from being within 65 feet of oil spill response efforts. Right now, the restricted area only covers Southeast Louisiana, but the Coast Guard said it will probably be extended into Mississippi, Alabama and – you guessed it – Florida within a few days.

It would be great if the time, money, and effort spent in damage control were actually being used to control the real damage to the Gulf and its shorelines. It would also be great if the government didn’t have its head so far up BP’s posterior and weren’t so complicit in the ongoing cover-up. It would be great if the government would actually do its job and actually clean up the mess that they helped allow to happen. It would be great if the media were actually allowed to report on the real damage that is being done. And it would really be great if the media didn’t report misleading oil spill trajectories based upon false data disseminated by government officials… but who needs a healthy local economy, anyway?

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