May 25, 2009

Did the NYT Redo a Euro-Zone GDP Report Because of a BizzyBlog/NB Post?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:40 pm

NYTeuGDPHmPgHeadlAndCalc0509Well, if they didn’t, it’s sure one heck of a coincidence.

At about noon on May 15, I noted (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) that a New York Times report by Matthew Saltmarsh teased at its home page (pictured at right) reported Euro-Zone gross domestic product (GDP) contractions on a “from the previous quarter” basis (a longstanding EU custom), but presented the first quarter 2009 contraction in the U.S. as “annualized” (which is our custom).

This surely caused many less than careful Times readers, and even more of those who only saw the home-page headline, to conclude that the recession in Europe, where the overall “from the previous quarter” contraction was -2.5%, has not been nearly as severe as the recession in the U.S. That isn’t the case. The comparable “from the previous quarter” contraction in the U.S. during the first quarter was about 1.6% (-6.1% annualized). Given the paper’s troubled financial situation, I suggested that someone should spring for $3.49 calculators for both Saltmarsh and Times headline writers so they could do their jobs correctly.

It looks as if instead of buying new calculators, the Times brought in a new reporter.

For some reason, Carter Dougherty wrote a new article on the topic using the exact URL where Saltmarsh’s work had been.

Dougherty’s report is what appeared in the May 16 print edition.

You’ll note in the excerpt that Dougherty addressed my two principal complaints. The reporter annualized the Euro-Zone’s overall contraction for readers, and emphasized that Europe’s recession has been much worse than ours (bolds are mine):

In Europe, Major Economies Shrank in First Quarter
By CARTER DOUGHERTY
Published: May 15, 2009

FRANKFURT — European economies contracted sharply in the first quarter of 2009 as activity stalled across the region after convulsions in the global financial system last year, according to reports released Friday.

Europe went through an even steeper fall than the United States, probably representing the worst point in the economic cycle for the region, economists said. They added that the recession was likely to continue for at least several more months and that steep rises in unemployment were still likely.

The economy in every major European country has fallen this year.

For both the 27-nation European Union and its subset, the 16 countries that use the euro, gross domestic product shrank 2.5 percent in the first three months, a 10 percent annual rate, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office. Both areas shrank 1.4 percent in the last quarter of 2008.

….. The American economy, in recession since December 2007, contracted at an annual rate of 6.1 percent in the first quarter, the United States Commerce Department estimated.

The only remaining quibble I would have is that a 2.5% quarterly contraction, compounded, is really a -10.4% annualized decline.

Meanwhile, Matthew Saltmarsh’s work has totally disappeared, and he is not identified as a contributor to Dougherty’s report. This search at the Times on Saltmarsh’s last name shows no reference of any kind to his May 15 “Euro-Zone Economy Shrinks 2.5% in Quarter” original. Fortunately, that original can be found in full at AARP Bulletin Today and at this link (scroll to Page 3). Also, for the sake of posterity, not to mention your truly’s posterior, the full text of Saltmarsh’s article is now resting comfortably here at my web host.

Perhaps it isn’t that unusual for a reporter to completely take an article over from another reporter. But I haven’t seen it happen before at the Times or anywhere else. It seems more than a little likely that the Times, dissatisfied with Saltmarsh’s work after seeing or learning of the NewsBusters/BizzyBlog, tasked Dougherty with getting it right. Regardless of why it all happened, Dougherty’s mathematically superior report did a better job of informing readers, and we can at least be grateful for that.

Finally, for those who missed the full story the first time around, here is how 4Q08 and 1Q09 contractions in the Euro-Zone, selected countries, and the U.S., as originally reported by Saltmarsh, compare:

GDPsEUvUS4Q08and1Q09at0509

No, you’re not imagining things. According to the governments’ relevant reports, France’s economy has contracted less than ours during the past two quarters.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: John Paul II’s appeal saved future Korean president from death sentence

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:15 pm

Note: I have posted at NewsBusters on how this story, which is about a week old, has gone uncovered by all but a couple of Catholic publications.

________________________________

From Seoul, South Korea:

May 21, 2009 / 08:45 pm

A letter from Pope John Paul II asking for clemency helped save the life of a future South Korean president who was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1980, new information reveals.

Then-President Chun Doo-hwan had accused Thomas More Kim Dae-jung of inciting the pro-democracy Gwangju People’s Uprising on May 18, 1980, UCA News reports. The uprising was crushed by the military, resulting in an official toll of 191 dead and 852 injured. However, more than 1,000 may have actually died in the clashes. When Kim was sentenced to death on December 4, 1980, Pope John Paul II wrote to President Chun a week later seeking clemency.

Chun replied to the Pope on January 5, 1981, claiming that Kim had not been charged because of political issues but had committed “an anti-national crime including subversion.”

However, President Chun acknowledged the Pope’s appeal for clemency was “based on humanitarian consideration and compassion.”

Kim’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on January 23, 1981. In response, Pope John Paul II sent a February 1981 letter to President Chun saying “you courteously acknowledged the appeal I made on purely humanitarian grounds for an act of clemency in favor of Kim whose death sentence has recently been commuted.”

“I pray God to watch over the noble Korean people and to bestow his richest favors on you all,” the Pope wrote.

Kim’s sentence was reduced to 20 years and he was forced to go to the United States in 1982, UCA News reports. He later returned to Korea and was placed under house arrest, with his full legal rights being restored in 1987.

Kim won the December 1997 election and became president in February 1998, leaving office in 2003. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

Memorial Day 2009

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:44 am

Direct YouTube link:

Positivity: The History of Memorial Day

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:28 am

From About.com (more background is at this link at usmemorialday.org):

It was 1866 and the United States was recovering from the long and bloody Civil War between the North and the South. Surviving soldiers came home, some with missing limbs, and all with stories to tell. Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard the stories and had an idea. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades’ graves with flags. It was not a happy celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.

In Retired Major General Logan’s proclamation of Memorial Day, he declared:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

The two ceremonies were joined in 1868, and northern states commemorated the day on May 30. The southern states commemorated their war dead on different days. Children read poems and sang civil war songs and veterans came to school wearing their medals and uniforms to tell students about the Civil War. Then the veterans marched through their home towns followed by the townspeople to the cemetery. They decorated graves and took photographs of soldiers next to American flags. Rifles were shot in the air as a salute to the northern soldiers who had given their lives to keep the United States together.

In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and soldiers who had died in previous wars were honored as well. In the northern United States, it was designated a public holiday. In 1971, along with other holidays, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.

Cities all around the United States hold their own ceremonies on the last Monday in May to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country. …..

Read additional history at the About.com link.