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Explosions near Boston Marathon finish line (wcvb.com)
872 points by recoiledsnake on Apr 15, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 586 comments

The worst part for me (and I really am feeling bad about this) is that I should be concerned about the victims right now, but I can't stop thinking about what freedoms I'll be losing as a result of this.

I feel like everyone expects a reaction and increased security and such, but sometimes this type of reaction won't be fruitful. What could we learn from this -- check every trash can for a bomb at every big event? There are an unlimited number of places you could hide a bomb. If someone trying to blow people up saw the 'reaction' being checking every trash can, they would just learn not to hide their bomb in a trash can. There's just no chance we can prevent disasters like this with security increases alone.

I feel like at this point that we should be examining who did it, and what caused them to do it rather than how it could have been prevented with security measures. Get to the root of the problem and solve it there, rather than a surface-level patch. Was it a mental health thing? Was it spurred by our culture of violence and/or attention to violence? Was the attacker after a specific person? Certainly not easy to find out these answers, but would probably be effort better spent than checking trash cans.

I'm sure there will be some silly knee-jerk response that serves no good for the public and likely just inconveniences everyone. I'm also sure that people working in the government understand these short-term reactions are almost always useless. Why does it continue happening?

Is there some "silly knee-jerk" response to every such event? I don't remember the knee-jerk response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Or the Atlanta Olympics bombing. Or the first WTC bombing. Or the attempted 2010 Times Square bombing. The response to Sandy Hook is better described as "belabored" rather than "knee-jerk."

As for 9/11, that involved 3,000 people dead and the collapse of a major American icon. It killed more people than the Pearl Harbor bombing and involved direct costs and losses approaching $100 billion.[1] Jury's still out on whether it was a "silly knee-jerk" response or a reasonable wake-up to the threat of global islamic terrorism.

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57292565/cost-of-911-...

The response to even the most serious disasters can qualify as a "silly knee-jerk" if the response does little or nothing to ameliorate the disaster or prevent another one. 9/11 was bad, but that still doesn't justify security theater.

We did not have a knee jerk response to the Oklahoma City bombing? What would you call this rights-contracting law then:


AEDPA is designed to keep people from spamming the federal courts with frivolous habeas petitions, particularly in capital cases. It has 'anti-terrorism' in the name, but it's almost entirely about the 'effective death penalty' part.[1] Among other things it's heavily focused on forcing federal courts to give more deference to state court judgments and avoiding situations where prisoners invoke minor technical violations in order to argue that their detentions are "illegal." It doesn't limit habeas rights--it creates stricter procedures for invoking that right that are less susceptible to abuse.

[1] The "terrorism" part seems to come from using the example of people like McVeigh to argue for procedures to keep people from defeating a death sentence by filing endless habeas petitions.

Well, we're certainly going to disagree about whether the AEDPA is good law or not. I happen to think it abridges liberties, but that's beside the point. The point is that its passage was very much in response to the Oklahoma City Bombings, even if its legacy today has to do with habeas petitions.

See this:

"But within weeks of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Senate voted 91 to 8 to pass the Comprehensive Terrorism Protection Act of 1995, which cut back sharply on state death-row inmates’ access to federal court. This bill eventually morphed into the broader Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which President Clinton signed shortly after the first anniversary of the bombing. Standing on the south lawn of the White House, in the presence of family members of the victims of Oklahoma City and other recent terrorist incidents, the president declared that the new law “strikes a mighty blow” against terrorism." [1]

And also [2], which notes that a draft of the AEDPA also contained additional surveillance powers, among other things.

I'd definitely call the AEDPA a knee jerk reaction.

[1] http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/homegrown-hu...

[2] http://books.google.com/books?id=H_RrLyV9rDUC&lpg=PA31&#...

Just because a bill is motivated by an event does not make it a "knee-jerk" reaction. There has to be some element of "poorly thought out." AEDPA is a perfectly reasonable solution to the problem it addresses.

"It doesn't limit habeas rights--it creates stricter procedures for invoking that right"

Much like free speech zones don't limit free speech rights, they just create stricter procedures for exercising those rights.

AEDPA was not just about habeas corpus rights. It covers penalties for conspiracies that involve explosives and for hacking into government computers. It covers counterfeiting activities. It covers law enforcement training and assistance. It covers international terrorist funding and investigation.

It is like an embryonic version of the PATRIOT act.

Not every attempt to address security and terrorism can be deemed "rights-contracting." The other stuff in AEDPA doesn't contract any rights, just addresses particular kinds of crimes. The only thing that arguably contracts rights are the habeas portion, and that's more appropriately seen as improving habeas procedures rather than contracting rights.

"Not every attempt to address security and terrorism can be deemed "rights-contracting.""

Of course; only those that restrict our rights should be so labeled. That, unfortunately, is what the majority of attempts to address security concerns do.

"The other stuff in AEDPA doesn't contract any rights, just addresses particular kinds of crimes."

That is a tautology: take away the things that are bad, and you are left with something good. Ignore the sections that reduce, restrict, or eliminate our rights, and every knee-jerk reaction just addresses particular kinds of crimes (whether or not they do so in an effective way is another story).

"The only thing that arguably contracts rights are the habeas portion, and that's more appropriately seen as improving habeas procedures rather than contracting rights."

More appropriate according to you perhaps, and perhaps the right wing politicians who passed and signed the bill, but it is hard to say that we are "improving" civil rights by restricting them. Restricting habeas corpus is not an "improvement," it is a restriction on civil rights -- or alternatively, a contraction of our rights.

The entire argument for restricting habeas corpus in this manner was this: people facing the death penalty might try to avoid being executed by exhaustively testing every technical detail of their case in court. That does not sound like a bad thing to me, it sounds like people are making use of their rights in a life or death situation. Far too many innocent people have been executed to claim that there are too many ways for death row inmates to stave off their executions.

AEDPA was drafted by the kind of people who think The Ox-Bow Incident is a how-to manual on law enforcement. It is the mindset that sees a man like McVeigh challenging his execution and says, "How dare he! We are supposed to kill him, because he is GUILTY!" That is not how America is supposed to work. The criminal justice system in this country is meant to ensure that innocent people are not imprisoned or killed even if it means allowing guilty people to walk free and even if it means using tax dollars to pay for guilty people to challenge their conviction.

Thank you. I was literally about to post the same thing.

> I don't remember the knee-jerk response to the Oklahoma City bombing.

nor the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, which may almost mirror this in terms of venue, injuries, & deaths. But, I think the fear is that we're now in a post-9/11 world where knee-jerk reactions are far more common.

> What could we learn from this -- check every trash can for a bomb at every big event? There are an unlimited number of places you could hide a bomb.

France, in response to terrorist attacks in the 1995 mandated that all public locations have transparent bags held by posts [1] [2]. I don't think that's a unreasonable compromise, considering the alternatives.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_container#Media

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trash_bin_in_Paris.jpg

don't trust that your cell phone will work, the authorities are quite capable of disabling cell access in the area.

That is a very important item that many will overlook. To the person bemoaning what rights they will lose, well its not like your going to lose more, just be reminded of ones you lost and did not even realize, like that of a working cell phone.

how does that help? You could still stick a bomb in amongst the trash. Ok, it's no longer enclosed in a container that will make the blast worse but you could stick plenty of malice into a bomb the size of a football which would easily go into that bag.

You're right - it's not going to solve an inherently unsolvable engineering problem.

What it does do is solve a political problem: "What the hell did you do in response to terror attacks" in a way that does't compromise liberty much.

It does make it just that bit harder to stow a bomb, because now the bomber needs to have it packaged properly, and hope that the package doesn't a) ruin the bomb or detonating device and b) that the bomb doesn't slip out and become visible.

It also helps the police identify - they can just machete all trash bags and grab/dump the contents and sort - compared with opening up the can - which might in some areas be locked or difficult to open.

Compared with moves like the creation of the TSA, I prefer this kind of security theatre - at least there's some plot here. It's like locking out the pilot doors from the cabin.

totally agreed that this hardly helps with hiding a bomb, but still a really interesting response, upvote from me : )

Annoyingly the UK decided that the sanest solution to bombs-in-bins was to remove bins from places like airports and train-stations.

A real pain if you've got food and rubbish to dispose of.

This is missing the whole point of the parent post though.

The OP's point is that even if you can ensure 100% of the trashcans dont contain bombs for a reasonable cost, the terrorists will now just put them somewhere else.

> check every trash can for a bomb at every big event?

Actually, I think they already do that, with bomb-sniffing dogs. But they have dubious reliability, and don't catch someone who's willing to place the bomb shortly before it detonates, as may have been the case here.

Due to the sarin gas attacks in Japan in the early 90s Tokyo no longer has trash cans in public areas for the most part.

The attackers hid the canisters in trash cans in that instance as well.

When 9/11 hit my first thought was, "Travel is really going to suck now." When the Bali bombing hit, I thought, "I've been to that bar, holy sh*t!" This time around I'm thinking, "I know some people who were running."

Reaction to issues is tied to how much you can personally relate to the victims. It's also why 2 people dying in a stream in your neighborhood seems so much more relevant than 100,000 people dying in an earthquake halfway around the world.

If you are feeling bad, why are you saying it? This feels like you are standing on a soapbox and it's hard to think you are actually sorry for it when you are doing it intentionally.

I'm just a dude facing a big stab of mental dissonance right now. I'm not trying to push a political agenda. My brother ran in and finished the marathon last year. I didn't make it out to see him and I wish I had. So the first thing I feel is dread, it takes a moment to resolve that he wasn't there, and then I think will I ever be able to get close enough to reach out my hand to him as he comes down the final stretch again or did I miss that chance forever?

Will it be all police cars, dogs and jersey walls from here on out? This sucks.

> Will it be all police cars, dogs and jersey walls from here on out?

The video from the camera man on the ground at the finish line shows countless cops at the finish line. All that police presence did not prevent the detonation.

I felt the same way. My first thought was that I was glad there weren't any assault weapons involved, for which I was immediately ashamed. Immediately after that I was disgusted that Bloomberg.com wanted me to watch an ad for a new Mercedes before I could check on the well-being of my fellow humans.

I'm not proud of my thoughts, and I'm not proud of the hundred or so sarcastic remarks that I've thought of since I first heard the news either.

I am genuinely saddened that this happened, and my most sincere hope is that whomever did so is apprehended quickly and that nobody else is injured or killed while that happens. At the same time, the explosion looks (at least to me) like Tannerite, and I'm also thinking that perhaps Tannerite is going to get banned, or regulated, despite being, basically, iron oxide; which would make such a ban pretty futile.

" Immediately after that I was disgusted that Bloomberg.com wanted me to watch an ad"

Are you suggesting that they should have some automatic kill switch implemented in advance which they can hit to show sensitivity? [1] Networks also run commercials to make money it's part of how they can afford to do what they do. Of course I've seen cases where networks don't run commercials on rare occasions.

[1] And why do they need to do this? Are you willing to pay for access instead so they don't have to run any advertising?

I work for a large media organization and we have the ability to suspend advertising in response to crisis events. I'd assume other major outlets would have equivalent capabilities.

At the end of the day advertisers don't want to be associated with certain stories, and there's a public good imperative that drives rapid, open access in these tragic situations that overrides commercial interest even if that were of concern.

No, I'm not, and obviously they have every right to.

At just seemed crass at the moment. I admit that I was just having an overly emotional response at the time and do not fault them for it whatsoever.

They're not running commercials on TV right now, but I agree that it's unrealistic to expect websites to just switch into non-commercial mode on the fly.

What's interesting though is that events like this are in fact an advertisement for TV itself and a show of value which keep people needing to have TV access. So even if they don't run advertising they also might need to do (to keep their license at least the broadcast networks) a certain amount of public good.

So they build good will as the place to go when some major event has happened and you are looking for every morsel of information or discussion about it.

Tannerite ignition is dependent on the impact of a high speed projectile. How would a terrorist with a rifle get a clean shot of the explosive through the crowd? I think it is unlikely that Tannerite was used.

FPS Russia is getting investigated by the FBI over tannerite, I think.

It would be awfully convenient if it was. Never let a crisis go to waste and all that.

Feeling bad about having a legitimate stance in the face of a tragedy isn't cause for self censorship. It might be social pariahism, but it's not cause enough for one to bite their tongue.

Because guilt isn't an emotion that can always be trusted.

because he desperately needs attention and right now boston has it.

I know when I desperately need attention I come to hackernews. Sick logic.

The first thought on my mind was what mysterious 1000 page bill is going to show up and get rushed through congress because of all this?

My second thought is how weird it is that for the next couple of days the attention and focus of a 100s of millions of people's will be directed at the circumstances surrounding the deaths of perhaps 20 people of no particular notability. It's as if these are the only 20 people that died lately. The attention and focus of the public in this modern era of global communications is a strange thing.

Would you like Federal Information Security Amendments Act, Cybersecurity Enhancement Act or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)?

Problem, reaction, solution.

Sounds legit to me. Do you feel bad about the hundred of people murdered every day? I don't. Its just that they aren't on the news. I'd feel bad for the people i remotely know, or for the families if I were to meet them, but otherwise.. it's not any different. It's bad, but doesn't make one feel bad - and that's perfectly fine.

Speak for yourself.

what he says actually makes perfect sense. thousands of syrians are dying everyday, and I don't see much mentions about them on HN for example. yes you will feel bad, but you will quickly move on and forget about it as long as it doesn't relate directly to you.

Couldn't agree more so. What "precautions" and new reforms are we gonna see in the name of security?

Who knows. But after every crisis there should be a post mortem and we should learn from what went wrong. And why does every change in policy and approach have to be seen as a threat to anybody's freedoms? Not that many of the short-sighted response aren't just that, but this sort of knee jerk reaction seems just as unhealthy.

There's no way to prevent every crisis. Just because something bad happens doesn't mean that there is something that you could have done to stop it.

Sometimes people just need to realize that things happen and we don't have to pass new laws and regulations every time something bad happens.

Try saying that when you are directly affected by actions like this.

It is easy to stand back at 100ft and say this type of crap, but the fact is, crazy people are all around us, and we should try to be proactive instead of reactive.

We as a society owe it ourselves to reflect on events such as this, and see if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it. If the answer is yes, then we SHOULD act. Does that mean freedoms need to be restricted, laws to be enacted? No, it could mean better technology, maybe better security, maybe MORE security.

I hope no new laws come of something like this, but if it means reducing the chance that this happens again, I am all for it.

Our rights are absolute, but we also need to compromise. We can't let ourselves become 1984, but we can become safer, smarter, more efficient with regards to security.

"No, it could mean better technology, maybe better security, maybe MORE security."

Is it cold to point out that we are already living in an age of more security? There were paramilitary police teams at the marathon, ready to take on a small army -- but the attackers found a way to plant their bombs anyway.

When the TSA was established and billions of dollars were spent on securing our airlines, a tiny minority of people were saying that if another attack occurred it would not be on an airplane. Now we have seen another attack, it was not on an airplane nor anywhere near an airport. We do no need another massive security bureaucracy designed to prevent marathons or city streets from being attacked, because that will just push terrorists to attack something else. There are far too many ways to attack a country as large and developed as the United States to have a sprawling bureaucracy for all of them.

"I hope no new laws come of something like this, but if it means reducing the chance that this happens again, I am all for it."


"We can't let ourselves become 1984, but we can become safer, smarter, more efficient with regards to security."

Every time we become "more efficient" about domestic security, we sacrifice our rights. What makes you think this time will be different?

The problem is that there's always "something" more that could be done to prevent these types of incidents, but eventually the costs of additional preventative measures will outweigh the reduction in risk they provide, if they haven't already.

You're asking for a solution to the problem of people killing other people.

No, people will always kill other people, that is the unfortunate truth of human nature. That doesn't mean there aren't multiple problems here, and each one with multiple solutions.

Our lawmakers know just as well as we do, that more laws won't fix events like these, but better messaging ("See something say something"), better trained police officers, etc.. these are things that are controllable, changeable, and have a hugely positive impact on preventing horrible things like this from happening.

"See something say something" is still far too late in the process. As a society we need to do a better job of preventing people from being abused, neglected, and marginalized.

Agreed, I just was using it as an example. Taking action doesn't have to mean restricting our freedoms.

Please stop pretending to speak for everyone affected by this sort of tragedy. At least wait until the chaos is over to make such sweeping judgment.

Who said anything about the post-mortems necessitating new laws?

Use the powers we're given smarter, less broadly.

a security reseacher made a bomb from stuff he bought after going trough the costums at schiphol. so most of the security is just show off.

No doubt some "reforms" will be implemented that will funnel even more money into the pockets of lobbyist-using companies and big-time campaign donors.

"we gonna see in the name of security"

Watershed events always create these emotional knee jerk reactions. As opposed to "well we can save lives by driving 50 mph instead of 70 mph but since that's legacy we aren't likely to not consider the impact on society as a whole by lowering the speed limit."

No worries, you're simply thinking pragmatically, when everyone else is emotional. The killings are nothing but a mode of transport for destruction of freedom.

I'm not worried about me as much as I'm worried about the poor citizens of the country these people are from, if it's a foreign group.

The fact that this is the top comment for this thread makes me sad.

To be quite honest, me too. I expected it to just be background radiation: I too feel badly, conflicted and confused. I didn't expect this.

Sitting at the top like that it really does start to look like soap-boxing or attention whoring. Apologies all, I really didn't mean it that way.

I think you're being too hard on yourself. I live in Boston and have friends who were in very real danger, and I still had that same thought go through my head. On the merits of the the thought, we should not accord much weight to the "it's too soon!" line of thinking. Nor is the tragedy of a death proportional to its media coverage. So you aren't being monstrous.

But more importantly, having a thought you aren't proud of is no mortal sin, nor is publishing it honestly on the internet. You're supposed to feel conflicted and confused; something bad happened and we're all going to have a wide range emotionally-charged responses.

I didn't read it as attention whoring. I'd be inclined to think that the relatively few (but nevertheless very visible) harsh responses you've received are at least in part expected, valid, and understandable reactions to the possibility that you might just be right. After all, we don't want to believe that a tragic event like this might be used to tighten the noose of security around our collective necks. But what if it does?

Given recent history, there's little reason to feel that it won't and plenty to worry that it will.

Well stop agonizing about it and delete it then. I'm not saying that to be snarky, I'm pointing out that it's something useful you can do right now to get it off the top of the page.

That doesn't accomplish anything useful. A day or two from now, someone who hasn't yet seen the thread will wonder what the "deleted" part of the conversation was for.

The best thing to do if you disagree with the position of the OP's comment is to upvote other siblings. Personally, I think this discussion is interesting because it addresses in real time the implications of what this attack might be (if any).

Good news. Looks like someone upstairs noticed and knocked it to the bottom.

Thank you, moderators.

All's well that ends well,then. I understand you didn't expect it to become the top comment.

Why is this the top thread? I'm being serious here... I honestly don't understand how this got all the way up to the top where as others of much greater worth (IMHO) sit below...

I agree totally. I'd delete it if it would take it from the top instead of leaving the discussion there behind a curious "deleted".

I've scrolled down and up-voted as many of those more valuable comments as I could. I encourage everyone who reads this far to go and do the same.

As I said, I thought this would be a "one voice among many" kind of post, not become the lightning-rod of this thread. Parent is right. Go read the better stuff.

Because most people think violent attacks on high-profile innocents is more meaningful than, say, the merits of blogging without an audience.

Thousands die every day, but freedoms should persist.

Besides with a little luck this is North Korea and we don't have to loose any more freedoms (do we even have more to lose?)

Are you really asking whether we have more freedoms to lose in the same sentence that you mention North Korea? Really?

You seem to be implying that because North Korea is less free than us, we are completely free with nothing to lose. That's pretty faulty logic. Better to be aware of the freedoms we are losing (even though we still have many) than to risk ending up like North Korea.

> You seem to be implying that because North Korea is less free than us, we are completely free with nothing to lose. That's pretty faulty logic. Better to be aware of the freedoms we are losing (even though we still have many) than to risk ending up like North Korea.

Clearly my point completely flew over your head. I was only commenting on how ridiculous it was that tomjen3 claimed that we had already lost all our freedoms in the very same sentence that he mentioned a country that is far more oppressive than our own.

Good point. I misread tomjen3's original comment.

It'll probably kick-start an invasive drone surveillance bill and some unrelated oil-rich country being turned into dust. I wish this was hyperbole but based on previous US reactions this makes the most sense.

For what it's worth, I upvoted this question despite so many comments bemoaning its existence.

The facts will be fleshed out over time on the regular news, so I see less value in comments just parroting that. Rather, (if this is to be discussed on Hacker News at all), I'd prefer it to be about the ramifications of the event, and especially how it relates to technology, or laws/regulations that foster the development of technologies.

I'm a Bostonian (at work about a mile from the explosions), and I wish everyone would just cool their jets a bit until more is known about what's going on.

If anything a successful terrorist attack should be a condemnation of the freedom-sacrificing mechanisms that have been put in place like the PATRIOT Act. They just failed.

The most likely change to your freedoms is 'none whatsoever' -- tragedies on this scale don't threaten society as a whole and therefore are dealt with by existing laws.

9/11 didn't threaten society, either. Just a few nutcase cultists who got lucky with a single attack that they couldn't sustain.

Perhaps. That wasn't particularly evident at the time.

How is the scale of this disaster any different than that of Newtown's? That has obviously had a large political impact.

I doubt Newtown will have much of a legal impact.

I think it largely depends on who will be found as the culprit.

If it would be found that this is an Islamist terror attack the aftermath will be much more pronounced then a scenario where the blame will be on say some extreme right wing group.

Much of the lose of freedom we all suffer from is due to entrenched xenophobia becoming political agenda, it seems much harder to enact changes when the criminals are white Americans ala Timothy McVeigh or some horrific mass shooting

Culprit (Saudi national?) may have been found. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/authorities_under_susp...

This is a rumor BPD already shot down, after NY Post ran the story.

I remember when they found the 9/11 bombers in a Boston hotel, too.

While figuring out who did this will be very very important, right now it's not something the public should worry about.

You do realize you just linked to a NY Post article right?

Culprit? I think Patsy is a better word.

They're going to be searching peoples bags on the subway tomorrow, no mention of the 4th amendment given.

ah jesus. relax.

Another thing to focus on is the infrastructure. Telephone lines and data networks must be clogged, it just goes to show how much we need reliable networks and data infrastructures for such vital occurrences!

Of course, because you are spoiled, whining nerd, who has no idea about real suffering.

Fuck off. How much blood has the western world lost to achieve freedom, privacy, and a government by the people for the people? We cannot continue to allow the enemy to terrorize us into giving up our liberties.

Also, fuck off with the "whining nerd" shit.

Terrorists are exploiting our freedoms so security may make you wait for your latte...oh look those people died hope I don't have to wait.

If you're not for the third world then you have no idea at all about REAL suffering.

A bomb in a sports event? That's suffering people eat for breakfast around other parts of the world.

Seriously? Because you had so much more freedom in 1999?

Are you kidding? We're demonstrably less free today than 1999. The TSA springs to mind, the patriot act..

You haven't traveled much lately, have you?

At least I could take nail clippers on an airplane in 1999.

You still can today. That is a myth.


It is a myth that taking nailclippers is TSA policy. This has not stopped them from doing it anyway.

I have had nail clippers removed from my bag by the TSA recently.

wtf? The OP just (implicitly) agreed that this was the case, and that nail clippers had been taken anyway... who reads the TSA's blog?

People die and lose their limbs, and your first move is apparently crying about how the government takes away your nail clippers.

Harsh as it may be, the people dying and losing their limbs will have no direct impact on my life, or on most other people's lives. It's a tragedy for their friends and loved ones, but I'm not in that group, so it's a very abstract thing - I feel bad, but it won't affect me personally.

Losing freedom has the potential to affect me personally, so I'm more concerned about it.

And I don't necessarily agree it's too early to discus the consequences of this. The authorities on the scene are handling the immediate situation, and there's very little to be done from 2K miles away.

> And I don't necessarily agree it's too early to discus the consequences of this. The authorities on the scene are handling the immediate situation, and there's very little to be done from 2K miles away.

I agree. Chance are, the friends and family who are directly affected by this aren't going to be trawling through comments on HN--there are more pressing concerns.

The rest of us, and maybe this will sound equally harsh, need to divorce ourselves from the emotional impact if there's nothing we can do (or donate to the appropriate organizations if so inclined). Right now, there's little that can be done, and even less information still. That leaves the most objective option as what we're doing right now: That is to say the discussion of potential policy changes.

I'm not sure this event is significant enough to affect anything on a large scale (e.g. TSA on every street corner), but you do have to wonder what changes might be made to future marathons as a consequence. I don't necessarily think that's harsh as much as it is objective.

100's of people die and lose their limbs in an tragic, yet oddly sensational event, and your first move is to decry a person angry about how the government uses similarly sensational events to systematically impose restrictions of freedom on (more or less) the entire world.

Once bit twice shy. Muzzle your fkng dog.

People losing lives, in this case, will likely not be the end of the tragedy. I think it is legitimate to be concerned about how much worse it may get with political involvement and the resulting unreasoned "do something" responses.

Even moreso of a reason to not waste energy and thought on phantom evils. Spending nonstop conscious effort confiscating useless attack vectors leaves you less prepared for actual danger.

In the sturm und drang that has resulted from this tragedy, and the weeks to come of hand wringing about terrorists/crazyfolk/etc across the major news networks, I hope against hope that we can stow our reptilian brains for a brief while… In the 3 hours that have passed since the top comment was made, 205 people in the US have died from heart disease(1), an almost entirely preventable disease. This observation may be construed as heartless, insensitive to the victims, and "if it were your X then it would be different"… but I contend that each time we act like chimps and allow our attention to be drawn to the latest epidemiologically insignificant tragedy we lose as a species. A van distributing a year's supply of aspirin to the fleeing masses would have been more helpful than any ambulance..

(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm

I've never quite understood that argument. It's not about it being insensitive, just irrelevant. It seems to have an implicit but completely unsupported premise that every death is equal.

First, there's age: deaths from heart disease tend to happen at old age. In most cultures, death at old age is considered less tragic than the death of an infant or young adult. Also, there's the perceived "naturality" of death: death by natural causes is considered less tragic and less repugnant than murder. And finally there's the fear aspect: a specific murder of A by B for reason X is repugnant but it doesn't necessarily makes other people fear for their lives, while a bombing in a public setting makes people worry that they and their loved ones might be targets too.

Here's a more elaborate version of the same argument by Bruce Schneier https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5555939

I think they're very different arguments. uber is saying that this incident is relatively insignificant, since more people died of heart attack today. Schneier is saying that (i) we overstate the impact/probability of terrorist attacks. Note that this is not the same as merely comparing number of bombing deaths with deaths from natural causes; if this was happening every week, surely it would be considered a worrying development, even if the number of daily bombing deaths was still less than deaths by heart disease or car accidents. And (ii) that we should refuse to be terrorized as that gives power to terrorists.

I think (i) isn't a very solid argument since we can't estimate the probability of future terrorist attacks the same way we can calculate the probability of winning the lottery, or as we can estimate the probability of x deaths by heart attack in the next 5 years. For example, suppose we count the number of bombings against civilians in pre-2nd-intifada Israel. In 1999 there were 2 bombings. In 2000, when the intifada started, 5. In the following 2 years, 40 then 47. I haven't checked, but I suppose the same pattern would hold for pre- and post-invasion Iraq (note that this isn't an argument pro or anti the invasion).

I'm not saying that the same thing is likely to happen in the US, I'm just pointing out a weakness in the argument. Overall, though, I think Schneier has a point.

But still, considering the significance of this bombing, some people are reacting so emotionally, it's almost pathetic. Compared to 9/11, this is nothing, only 3 people died. Even if we ignore predictable deaths that you mentioned, there similarly tragic and unpredictable deaths happening all the time that get much smaller attention.


And when humans first landed on the Moon, think of all the other people (not to mention animals) that landed elsewhere that same day! But the sensationalist media only covered the Moon landing.

I think there is a small bit of difference between you choosing to live your life in such a way that heart disease will be your end, vs someone else deciding to blow your limbs off.

Now that is insensitive. People have died of heart disease at all ages. It's not a lifestyle choice FFS.

Well said.

"[R]andom acts of benevolence are a good reaction to random acts of violence."

I find some kind of beauty in that. It might just be the phrase "random acts of benevolence", which I've never seen before, but I intensely respect this position.


I agree. It seems like a good strategy to me, a good way to channel feelings of anger and helplessness into something productive.

So what if it's affiliated with YC? It's a charity that pg trusts to help people effectively, which is the point.

My first reaction was that pg's original tweet was really tasteless, but after mulling it over, I went and donated anyway. Perhaps at least a tiny bit of good can come from this.

Watsi's a nonprofit, so I'm pretty sure neither YC or PG are getting rich off of it.

I think it's a good reminder that serious shit isn't going down just in Boston right now, and that you can help people suffering right now, wherever they are.

What a jerk! Being inspired to donate to charity and whatnot!


I guess the problem is that PG phrased it like a robotic commercial advertisement.

Just a little too soon after, only a couple hours, combined with confusion over for-profit status makes it look tone deaf but it is really not. People are suffering - help suffering people.

I don't see how this is a bad thing - related to YC or not.

It's a practical way to have people go from feeling helpless to actually helping people who need it (whether they'll be covered by the lastest media cycle or not).

As pg tries to explain, it's not a YC company but a charity he supports (and therefore knows about) and it's also one that he thinks can help people get (afford) medical treatment.

It doesn't matter whether its a non-profit or for-profit, charity or business, or whether pg personally benefits from Watsi flourishing.

He's using the events in Boston as a way to promote a service that has nothing to do with the horror occurring in Boston.

I'm not saying Watsi isn't great -- it is. But this isn't the time or place to call attention to Watsi. It's tasteless and rude.

I think this is one of those things where utilitarianism can appear tasteless. If something like this dissuades someone from spending ten minutes creating another "pray for boston" twitter graphic in favor of learning about a service where someone can directly contribute to saving a life, then which ten minutes has a higher probability of leading to assistance in saving a life? But on the other hand, it looks like changing the subject when we all should be demonstratively supportive of Boston because something horrible happened and that's what we're supposed to do when something horrible happens.

I completely disagree, and I'd be interested in hearing a defense of your beliefs.

People are suffering the world over. Some suffering is less shocking and unique than other suffering (and therefore less newsworthy), but suffering is suffering just the same. Widely-covered events such as this one should serve as a reminder to us all of the constant suffering going on the world over that is not covered. For any moral person, the thought of living in a world in which less than 1% of human suffering garners more than 99% of the attention should be unbearable.

I have no idea how you can say that helping people in one area "has nothing to do with" helping people in another.

> I have no idea how you can say that helping people in one area "has nothing to do with" helping people in another.

That one's easy: what tangible benefit will people suffering from the events of the Boston Marathon get from a donation to Watsi? None? Then it has nothing to do with it.

People are indeed suffering the world over. Objectively it would be better if people who want to do something donated to Watsi instead of wringing their hands, praying/sending thoughts, and reloading cnn.com. But people are not objective and trying to steal this kind of attention for your own cause is highly insensitive.

Also, it comes off as crass and tasteless and generally won't work. Except on people who can keep their objectivity in this situation, which categorically aren't the ones pg is trying to reach. So this is crass, tasteless, highly insensitive, and ineffective.

> That one's easy: what tangible benefit will people suffering from the events of the Boston Marathon get from a donation to Watsi? None? Then it has nothing to do with it.

This is becoming pure wordplay now. Sure, if you take the vague phrase "something to do with" and redefine it more specifically as "provides tangible benefits to", then you'd be right. But who gives you the authority to redefine it so? PG made the relation clear in his tweet: "When terrible things happen to people I can't help, I ... help people I can." In other words, he uses tragedies as a reminder to donate to the less fortunate.

Seems pretty simple to me.

As for the rest of your post, it seems that your argument rests on the belief that PG's tweet didn't cause anyone to donate. If so, your argument fails, because some people did donate as a result of PG's tweet (or at least claimed to).

But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that, instead, your argument rests on the belief that getting a few people to donate is not worth causing offense to others. In that case, I would denounce your argument is immature, selfish, and immoral. I would gladly give offense to 10 or 20 people (and tell them to get over themselves) if it caused 1 person to donate to Watsi.

Lastly, you haven't provided any evidence why people should be offended. I completely disagree that anything PG did was crass, insensitive, or tasteless. Au contraire, I think you are the one mistaken for interpreting it that way. You've misappropriated an arbitrary societal rule for reasons you likely cannot defend.

My argument rests on the belief that attempting to exploit a tragedy to grab attention for your unrelated interests is socially offensive. I cannot conceive of how you gleaned the interpretation you did, but that you did suggests that actual meaningful conversation here is fundamentally impossible.

This has been pure wordplay for quite a while. My mistake was engaging the hive in defense mode.

> attempting to exploit a tragedy to grab attention for your unrelated interests

"exploit": False. PG does not benefit from people donating to Watsi. What he's doing is quite literally the opposite of exploitation: persuading people to give money to others.

"unrelated interests": I've already debunked this, as did PG in his tweet. A terrible event occurred. This has caused people to become abnormally empathetic toward their fellow man. PG is encouraging people to channel that empathy into a good cause however they can.

The belief your argument rests on consists entirely of falsehoods.

See, even more wordplay. You're picking the definitions of my words that make it easiest to argue with them, then knocking down the straw man you've constructed. That in any given response only a fraction of my statements are cited supports this.

Hurray, you've successfully countered an argument I wasn't making! I suppose congratulations are in order, though I'm at a loss as to why.

And you're intentionally keeping your arguments vague, which makes it impossible for me attack them, then refusing to clarify in your response. "Exploit" and "unrelated" are very common words, and the definitions I took were the most common ones. If you're going to use obscure definitions to prove your point, the onus is on you to clarify. Until you do, the fact the remains that PG was not "exploiting" the event, nor was his recommendation "unrelated", and you have no justifiable reason for taking offense.

Because people forget about the horrors occurring every day all around the world. People don't realize what is happening else where until it's in their own backyard, and even then, they will go back to sipping their lattes and living their lives in no time.

I find the fact that there is is an argument over this far more tasteless and rude.

I like the practicalness of the advice. It might actually lead to some good in this world.

It's times like this when people stop to think about other human beings and might actually act on something. Unfortunately during normal times we are really bad at that.

I also like the practicalness of the advice, but it feels rather crass coming from someone deeply involved in Watsi. Good intentions or not, using a horrible event to promote something else altogether while the event is still happening is in terribly bad taste.

Well, one is more likely to mention an organization they know something about than one they don't, right?

...the obvious conclusion being that it would be appropriate for me to tell people to stop talking about the boston marathon so we could discuss the Mariners game that happened on Sunday.

Its 'tasteless and rude' because those people aren't on CNN?

Orders of magnitude more people will die or be injured today from gun violence, car accidents or disease but 99.9% of them will not make the news, a reminder of this is anything but tasteless and rude.

He only called attention to those who were not directly involved with the event. Nobody injured or within range to have a traumatic experience from the event was reading pg's twitter feed and getting offended. Only you were.

Do not forget that live media organisations, which promise yet another update of the "event" in a few minutes, are effectively promoting themselves, and profiting from it.

The prices of the three treatments advertised on that site's front page seem a little odd:

https://watsi.org/profile/e86bdd4cc545-yai-min "... but they need help raising the $1500 needed to get him the surgery he needs to walk again"

https://watsi.org/profile/11d44c5c9f10-shwe-shwe "... help funding the $1500 surgery to remove the growth and restore functionality to Shwe Shwe’s eye"

https://watsi.org/profile/77babf5f7d6d-naw-hla-aye "A $1500 surgery can remove Naw Hla Aye’s kidney stones and give her back her health."

Why do all the medical treatments cost exactly $1500?

While this is buggy/not ready for release, here's a way to follow this on social media.


PS. Here's our launchrock page if anyone cares http://grasswire.com

I would like a way to filter out everything that includes the word "pray" in it unless it is from a respected news source. 90% of what any person ever says in response to everything that happens in america is "pray for it". It's sort of muddy to look at.

Actually it's just completely obnoxious. I like the site though.

You're absolutely right. "Pray for boston" is trending on Twitter and Instagram right now, so it really muddies up the feed. We'll get a way to put negative search terms in there.

"Favorites" is a morbid word to have on this page. Maybe consider "Highlights" instead.

Good call, thanks for the feedback!

Highlights is pretty bad too.

We used to call it "best of" then went to "favorites." It obviously won't be favorites anymore - didn't think of this use case.

How about "Notable"


as a general rule, avoid the word favorites altogether in any software, unless you are certain it will only be used in the US. We spell it favourites, and "favvOrrittez" as you seem to spell it, really grates. Esp in IE, whereas Net/moz always called them bookmarks. Fayvritz.

Perhaps just a star? You can call them "starred" posts. Seems somewhat more neutral.

JUST FYI: This is camping on a simple dev server, so I'm sorry it keeps going down. I'm doing my best to keep it online. Thanks!

Should be up now

This is incredible.. but at the same time you've exposed me to the multitudes of people that are just so hungry to make a "viral" image. I can't believe it.

One of the many:


Yeah, this is a problem, especially with Instagram. As a random aside, watching this has been a really interesting look into how viral marketing is done.

Love it! This is the future of news consumption: firehose.

You should really have linkbacks to the text/photos you're pulling in.

if it's yours: nice, but consider refresh rate of 'media' a bit lower. I can't read the captions before it's pushed down.

Would be great if mouseover froze the lane underneath. For bonus points you could continue to load new tweets but add them above the screen.

Will do. It is by no means ready for release, but you know...

This looks to be shaping up well. Might I suggest a new word for "Favorites" though. Maybe it is silly but it seems odd to me to Favorite gore pictures et. al. "Important" or "Impactful" or something else might be a better word when the content could be that of loss and suffering.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, it's gone... Shouldn't have told everyone about it. Clearly it's quality made it viral.

It's pretty good at holding traffic. Not so much when it comes to curious "stop by, see what's up, open a websocket, leave." But we're working on making it better, and it is back and running smooth now. Thanks for checking it out :)

Congrats. You have a hit!

cool, I get it. I see there is a lot of ux polishing ahead, but I like the overal concept.

an on/off button for auto-refresh may be a good idea.

signed up for the notification email.

I am interested in what this was as it sounds cool, but it is down at the moment. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Basically it searches and refreshes all of the social media networks in real time (twitter, youtube, instagram, flickr, wordpress, blogger) and shows them in three streams, allowing you to "favorite" the best stuff you see and separate it out.

But the really cool stuff is what we can do with data of what users have favorited.

How do you plan to get around the Twitter syndication rules and regulations once this site takes off?

This is a really good question, and should be referring to all apis and their limits. This was my approach: Create a parser that lives off of apis, just under posted limits. Although we had a few thousand visitors today, there was only one direct line to each data source. There's a viewer server that reaches for data every so often depending on your desired speed (I think it's set to somewhere between 1 and 2 seconds) and broadcasts it. So if the parser goes down, or tags change, or services get mad, you can fix and restart without requiring clients to refresh. I'm still not in love with the solution, but it worked nicely today. Thanks!

Thanks for the explanation. I worked for a one of the eleven companies that still had rights to access the Firehose after the debacle and I saw a lot of great projects stymied by the new rules.

This is fantastic. Truly!

Would you say that your site traffic is blowing up in response to this event?

EDIT: Sorry, sorry--in a weird headspace from the news. In all seriousness, did you actually just launch a product in this thread?

EDIT2: Just remember, when launching a product--it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

150 visitors on the site right now, so I guess it depends on your definition of "blowing up." We're getting visits from YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, etc. but I haven't dug into where exactly.

Proof: http://d.pr/i/LDao

And as to "launching" in a thread, I don't really consider this a full "launch." Our product is needed, so even though it isn't ready we pushed it live.

I checked it out, and it's a cool product. I agree with somebody elses's comment--this is a useful thing to have in this day and age.

Out of curiosity, how are you picking which things to feed? Your ticker rate for tweets seems fixed, so you are discarding some things, right?

Yeah, like I said the product is brand new. It discards everything with "RT" or "Retweet" as well as a few other things in it (if it weren't finals week it would discard everything with "pray," but we should be taking our exams right now). Soon it will split up different tweets and show them to different people.

I don't really think your "EDIT2" is called for.

Anyone ever see the movie "Four Lions"? Basically it's a dark comedy about a bunch of jihadist trying to bomb the London Marathon, but fail because they're incompetent.

Too bad life doesn't always imitate art.


I watched it this weekend. Very eery feeling right now. Sadly, although they "fail" in the movie, they do take out at least a few innocent citizens.

Actually weren't these bombers incompetent? How many people were running in this marathon? As far as I understand, if the bombs would have went off about 10 minutes earlier it would have been really bad.

Depends what their aim is. If the aim is to kill maximum people then yes, they were lousy bombers. If their aim was to cause fear and disruption by demonstrating the ability to detonate two explosive devices within seconds of each other, at a very busy location that's had some security screening, but with the advantage of not killing many people - then they succeeded.

I don't get that. Who ever did this is getting caught, so showing what they could do is pointless. They won't remain free long enough for a repeat performance. What other motivation could they have had then creating terror? Hundreds of dead is a lot more terror than three.

Slightly off topic, but is anyone else confused by the fact that several runners in this video[1] reacted to the explosion but did not turn and proceeded to keep running? These people weren't exactly leading the pack (at a 4+ hours finish time), so my guess is that they are just severely deprived of nutrients and aren't processing what's happening, but it's still a bit baffling to me why some didn't turn to see what was going on.

[1] https://vine.co/v/bFdt5uwg6JZ

*EDIT - thanks to those who confirmed. My confusion is now totally irrelevant after seeing the finish-line view of the same people[2]. It just took them a few seconds to register and they were just in a running flow.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=046MuD1pYJg

I've never run a marathon, but I've attended several supporting runners I knew. I spent my time at the finish line watching the runners come across.

Pretty much everyone who finishes is some level of fucked up. Their body chemistry is way-the-hell out of whack, with problems from dehydration, hyponatremia, glycogen depletion, and boosted or dampened immune system reactions. Usually there are people at the finish looking for trouble cases and shunting them directly to the medical tent. (Because the runner might not even recognize that how bad a state they are in.)

I've had hyponatremia once after an ill-advised hike, and I literally couldn't form sentences out loud.

It doesn't surprise me that people weren't reacting in a normal way, because they weren't in a normal state of being.

Most people simply don't know how to react in a situation like this. Is normal to do silly things when normal people is inmersed in an emergency. Some people take photos standing in the way to the exit, others flee away in the wrong direction creating a risk of stampede, most not trained people (and even some of the trained people) do exactly the type of things that you should not to do... is pretty habitual.

If you've ever run a marathon, you'd know. 4 hours is still a pretty decent time for 26 miles and, for most runners, the last leg up to finish line is usually a pretty exhausting/euphoric time. Aside from your own heartbeat and breathing, you really don't notice much else.

To me, it looks like they respond physically to the shockwave but are not mentally registering anything other than the finish line.

Agree, that close to the finish line I would have done the same. Especially as everyone would be pushing so hard because it's Boston.

I raced bicycles in college and I can say with confidence that after a 4-6 hour training ride I was wiped out physically and mentally. Had an explosion gone off when I was in that state and only a few blocks from home I would have made sure I was OK and kept pedaling for gatorade and a shower. I don't see their behavior as terribly puzzling given my fairly extensive experience with an exhausted state of mind.

I have a different experience with bikes.

I had done serious mountain biking and my worst injuries are not from doing extremely dangerous things like hard dropping from a 3 meter slippery stone, witch is something you prepare very well, but for really really stupid errors when being physically, and specially mentally exhausted.

I was 2centimeters away from losing an eye, with itching and hurting wounds in my face, some fractured bones.

On retrospect it was like part of my brain disconnected for most of the time when exhausted.

I could understand the man whose legs stop supporting him with the blast, hopefully he recovers.

To be totally honest, if you heard a huge explosion behind you, would YOU stop to see what happened? Personally I'd book it harder.

I thought it was a pretty wel known response that people under duress or stress fallback to their normal behaviour, as if nothing happened.

Yup, at that stage you are focusing on "the goal" and that is pretty much it.

Whenever I finish an event, my mind is offline for about 30 minutes. If this had happened to me, I would probably kept on running and not react.

I'm quite astonished by the disproportionate media attention and hysteria. For comparison 55 people died today in an Iraq bombing and about 80 people die every day on the U.S. roadways.

I tried explaining this to someone earlier... apparently it's not a numbers game because of assumed risk. There is little to no risk to watching a marathon, whereas living in Iraq or speeding on the highway there is implied risk.

I'm not trying to discredit what you're saying, just pointing out why people (my friend and probably a lot of others) go into hyper sensitive reactionary mode.

I would say it's surprise factor combined with sensitivity to terrorist attacks.

That and people aren't robots. A bombing in Boston means more to someone in New York than does one in Iraq, and purposeful taking of innocent life means more than accidental death.

Well, the innocent people being blown up in Iraq certainly weren't accidentally being blown up. And we had a much bigger role in creating the situation in Iraq than we did the situation in Boston...

A bombing in Boston hits home to people in New York, because people can relate to their countrymen better than they can to random people on the other side of the planet with a different culture and history. This is human nature.

Honestly, humans ought to be better than this outdated and questionable nature.

Right. That's why everyone here on HN cared as much about the black guys who get railroaded by overzealous prosecutors each year as they did about Aaron swartz and weev. Relating to people like yourself is a totally outmoded concept and doesn't serve any useful social purpose at all. That's why everyone is so happy that "world citizen" billionaires have overcome such trivialities like national loyalty and figured out how to export American prosperity all over the world. We totally love that.

> disproportionate media attention and hysteria.

What is disproportionate about it? Large bombs don't go off in US cities every day. Are you surprised that there are bombings in Iraq? Is that something you don't expect?

Disproportionate to how many people died. And calm down please.

When has the news ever covered stories solely in proportion to the number of people who died? I don't understand how you could be astonished by this...

Well, when I was reading it on HN I thought "There was a bomb in Boston and two people died, what's so intersting about this, why it's on HN and why are people in the comments so emotional?" I'm not from the US but even where I live this is top news. I felt similarly with the boring and overhyped Fukushima crisis.

Do you know how many people die in hospice care each day? Do you expect heavy coverage of them?

No, but I also don't expect 4 links on Hacker News about a bombing that killed 3 people.

Why wouldn't you? HN is hosted in the US. It's going to have US news occasionally. The bombing only killed 3 people because of all of the first responders. It could have easily been in the double-digits. There are 150 people injured by the blasts.

... And none about chemical weapon's first use in Siria "yesterday" with a lot of innocent people running with burned flesh in the streets, yes I can understand what you are trying to say. Sad times.

You do understand that HN is hosted in the US, right? If HN was hosted in Syria, it would most likely cover that.

Yes I do.

I'm understand also, as you should, that this is an international community of people. There is, probably, a lot of brilliant minds here from many coins of this small floating rock, so it is expected that we could talk freely about universal problems and achieve much more than just a local and restricted point of view (and maybe to talk about possible ways to avoid this tragedies again and again).

It's also getting widespread coverage everywhere, especially TV News. So this is entirely inappropriate for HN.

I should flag the submission.

But what happens if I do? Is my flagging affected by me using a flag on something with so many up votes?

Our behavior is interesting, given the post I just read on how news is so rarely worth reading and watching. I see a lot of people at work looking for the latest updates. Someone’s watching TV in the next room – they’re just repeating everything over and over, mixing in the new tiny details they learn.

I’m really sad about this, but where I know no one in Boston and can’t do anything about it, I’m just going to check back tomorrow when we know more rather than working myself up looking for the latest like I usually would.

> I know no one in Boston and can’t do anything about it, I’m just going to check back tomorrow when we know more rather than working myself up looking for the latest like I usually would.

To the best of my ability, I'll do the same.

There's nothing we can currently do. The news for the next 24 hours will be nothing but the newscasters making assumptions, bad connections, and conjecture. The rest of the time will be filled with interviews from people "on the ground." We'll gain nothing from watching it.

I feel like the smallest, tiniest "fuck you" I can muster to the person who did this is to spend this time working on something to make a slice of society marginally better, rather than spending the night passively absorbing all the negativity and sorrow he/she has caused.

We're in Boston and have successfully found people with this. Highly recommended if you can't get in touch with someone you know.

Holy shit... my cousin and his wife were supposed to be there, as his wife was running in the marathon this year. Still haven't managed to get in touch with them, but my cousin's sister heard from them... they were a block away when the first explosion happened. %@#%! I'm... shit... don't know what to say, other than being very happy they are still alive. But apparently there's been a bomb threat at the hotel across the street from theirs, so they're still kind of panicking.


If you know someone who was running the marathon and haven’t heard from them, you can see if they logged times here: http://raceday.baa.org/individual.html

Turns out my cousin's wife got injured in training and didn't run today. They were just there to cheer on some friends who were running. Last I heard they were OK, but, as you can guess, the flow of detailed information in and out of Boston is pretty patchy right now.

SMS seems to be working better than mobile voice.

SMS will probably not go through at the moment: "Cellphone Service Shut Down in Boston" http://bigstory.ap.org/article/official-cellphone-service-sh...

"A law enforcement official says cellphone service has been shut down in the Boston area to prevent any potential remote detonations of explosives."

I am in the greater Boston area (outside of the city itself). Cell service has been on and off but ok overall.

From the comments, "Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from Smithfield, R.I., had just finished the race when they put the heat blanket wrap on him and he heard the first blast.

"I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor," he said. "We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. ... At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing."

Read more: http://livewire.wcvb.com/Event/117th_Running_of_Boston_Marat...

The #s will probably get much worse than 2 and 23.

There is something extremely hellish about marathoners missing legs.

Whoever did this is getting their terror/propaganda effect - 30 people with lost limbs will have a much higher media impact than 300 dead in, say, an airliner bombing.

>Boston scanner: "EMS is reporting another device" in front of Mandarin Hotel


c'mon, people have smartphones. companies like facebook, twitter, foursquare, etc know your location and should be able to push notifications alerting people to stay away/at home.

EDIT: Thanks for the downvotes guys, here I was trying to show a real need. I've been calling friends in NY/Boston the past 30min asking to see if they are OK + stay at home.

Such a system already exists: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea

Alerts can be sent out to particular geographic areas by restricting the cell towers they are distributed through, and "many providers have chosen to transmit WEAs using a technology that is separate and different from voice calls and SMS text messages. This technology ensures that emergency alerts will not get stuck in highly congested areas, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services."

The bar an alert has to clear to go out over it is very high, however, to avoid people being desensitized by false alarms.

I can guess as to why you're being downvoted.

Capitalization. Nonsensical reference to corporations that has nothing to do with this event. Lack of domain knowledge regarding already existing FCC notification systems. Random mention of New York, which is neither geographically proximal to Boston nor affected by this event.

EDIT: I know there's a statement regarding NY being "on alert" but there is no indication they have any reason to do so, or are doing so in reaction to anything.

Strangely enough, iPhones do have an ability to receive geographic-targeted alerts like this. I've seen them used for severe weather warnings.

They look like this — http://i.imgur.com/gWrDXFD.jpg

Most current (~2012) cellphones do in the US, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_Mobile_Alert_System

(I'm unclear on how these are delivered within the network, seems to be SMS but I can't source that)

I was in Hawaii 2 weeks ago, and they were broadcasting these types of alerts to my girlfriend's phone (Android 4), to warn about a risk of flash floods. Android was even using text-to-speech to read the alert out loud, and automatically, which woke us up during the night!

Think how exactly the alerts happen is up to the OEM, beyond 'loud noise'. The iPhone uses something similar to the EBS tone in 1s bursts (it was 1AM when mine fired, so I can't say with certainty if it was the same tone or not). I've heard similar from other Android users, but I've shut off the alerts on all my phones since.

It's SMS-CB with some magic numbers to activate the Text To Speech and alarms https://android.googlesource.com/platform/frameworks/opt/tel...

I received an Amber Alert for a girl from Philadelphia a few months ago on this system (or a similar one). It was surreal being in a restaurant and hearing over a dozen phones go off almost simultaneously.

I did not get an amber alert, and I am in Boston. Maybe due to the cell signal jamming to stop any additional detonations. I had to call family from Google Voice on my laptop to get in touch. Pretty crazy

Just to clarify, Amber Alerts are a specific type of these emergency alerts and are used for missing children.

I haven't heard about whether emergency SMS were sent out for the Boston bombings.

I received one in Pittsburgh for that alert for Philadelphia.

I think they got all of PA, MD, NJ and the DC area as it was close to 3 hours after the incident that they sent it out.

All phones have the ability to get broadcast SMS messages based on the cell tower they're connected to.


I started getting them sometime within the last year. Weather warnings and amber alerts. I always assumed that I started getting these as a result of some change in the Android software, but maybe it was a change in policy somewhere?

Google Now also has emergency alerts

I wonder about the legal implications of providing a service like that. Lets say Facebook started an emergency alert system based on geographical data. What happens if they report a false emergency? What happens if they fail to report a real emergency? Would they be liable if they did not respond with their alerts in a timely manner?

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know, but if people came to rely on an emergency alert system that was not reliable... I would get nervous to say the least. Look at the bad press Google and Apple get whenever their maps lead someone into danger.

Emergency alert systems have been mandated by the federal government in one for or another (radio, TV, etc) for decades. With an increasing number of people no longer watching live TV or radio (due to DVRs and the Internet) it makes sense to mandate a new channel for emergency alerts in case of severe weather, etc., which is exactly what Congress does.

I don't think the objective is "perfect" targeting and delivery. The intent is to message as many people as possible within an affected area as quickly, as possible. IANAL, but I suspect it would be very difficult to hold companies liable if the service doesn't work properly - for one thing, it's not a service you're expressly paying them for, it's something they're doing as a public service.

Thanks for the downvotes guys, here I was trying to show a real need. I've been calling friends in NY/Boston the past 30min asking to see if they are OK + stay at home.

Even paid for Facebook's promote service to get the word out that other devices are being "detected" and that the issue can extent to NY.

NY on alert via Reuters: https://twitter.com/reuters > Paul Browne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner, tells Reuters that in response to #BostonMarathon, NY police stepping up security #breaking

And NY? Just curious, what makes you say that? Haven't seen that reported anywhere.

I'm following Reuters


>Paul Browne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner, tells Reuters that in response to #BostonMarathon, NY police stepping up security #breaking

Yeah, cell phones are useless in a disaster situation. The networks are totally overloaded.

That's one of the reasons I use Republic Wireless (I'm just a customer and not affilated in any way) - my cell phone can route calls over any open WiFi hotspot it can find.

cell phone networks are swamped in the area.

Reports that people in the area are being advised not to use cell phones as they may trigger other devices.

Who knows is it's really being advised or if it makes sense if it is, but it's being reported as if it is.

Boston cellular networks have been shut down to prevent remote bomb detonations according to an update on the OP news article.

When I lived in Washington DC I had this service.

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