Journalistic spin for the sake of disaster

The headline from this National Geographic story reads “Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells,” while the first sentence is designed to send chills up your spine:

Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano just took a deep “breath,” causing miles of ground to rise dramatically, scientists report.

From here, the next few paragraphs go on to talk about the wild rise of the giant caldara under Yellowstone National Park in recent years, and how past eruptions there were were among the most powerful volcanic explosions ever to occur. Obviously, from this introduction, the thing is about to blow and we better run for cover!

This story is unfortunately typical for much of today’s modern media: find a story with a hint of disaster in it and play up that disaster as much as possible, regardless of the facts. For example, the opening of this article completely misreports the substance of the Yellowstone geology research. Back on December 4, I read the paper and headlined its results as follows: “Yellowstone caldara rise has slowed.” What the scientists had actually found was that after a period of significant growth beginning in 2004, the rise of Yellowstone’s giant volcanic caldara had slowed significantly since 2006, and since 2008 had actually subsided somewhat.

While the significant rise from 2004 to 2006 was then news, suggesting the worrisome possibility that an eruption was imminent, the story now, revealed by this scientific research, was how that rise has stopped, and why.

Now, if you spend the time to read the rest of the National Geographic article above, you will find that the reporter does dig a bit deeper, and notes these facts in better detail. The trouble is that a quick scan of the headline and opening paragraphs will instead leave you with an entirely incorrect impression of the facts.

That this kind of fear-mongering by modern reporters is not unusual, especially when it comes to climate research and extreme weather events, illustrates the vital importance of maintaining as skeptical an eye to what we read as possible. Don’t assume what you read is true. Read it as carefully as possible. Try to check its sources. And compare every article’s conclusions with other reports to see if you can get a feel for the truth, hidden behind the different reports.

And that, by the way, applies as much to what you read here at behindtheblack as anywhere else!

The difficulties of doing business in the socialist state of Berkeley

The difficulties of doing business in the socialist state of Berkeley. Key quote:

When a planner working in design review looked at Dalrymple’s plans, she told her she didn’t think a black and white awning would fit in with the neighborhood, said Dalrymple. The planner didn’t give her any specific recommendations for a different color, but just nixed her idea. . . . “Rules aren’t written down anywhere,” said [Dan Marks, director of the Planning and Development Department]. “But the planner has worked in the neighborhood a long time and she knows what the neighborhood likes.” [emphasis mine]

Ship of fools

Iowahawk: Ship of Fools. Key quote:

As you may have read recently, a panel of 100 scientists is now warning that the state of California faces the risk of severe “superstorms” that could inflict more that $400 billion in economic damages to our state economy. According to these predictions, such storms could bring more than 120 inches of rain to the Central Valley, and last as long as 40 days. And, possibly, nights.

In anticipation of such a catastrophic event, I will soon begin seeking $75 billion in emergency supplementary appropriations from the California Assembly and federal sources for the construction of the California SuperArk, a state-of-the-art mass transportation vehicle which will help insure the sustainability of our state and its endangered species.

Read the whole thing.

The solar maximum keep shrinking

Solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center have once again revised downward their prediction for the intensity of the next solar maximum. Key quote:

Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 59 in June/July of 2013. We are currently two years into Cycle 24 and the predicted size continues to fall.

If this prediction holds, the upcoming solar maximum could be the lowest since the cycle came back to life in around 1715 following the Maunder Minimum.

the solar cycle

Congressman says that Congress has the right to force people to buy insurance

Behind the curtain, a dictator: Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) said yesterday that he not only thinks that Congress has the power to make people buy insurance according to the Constitution, it is his obligation to force them to do so. In his own words:

“I think people should be required to get health insurance. We require people to get insurance for their automobile state by state but the federal government has an obligation to encourage by law, moral persuasion, to get people to get health insurance,”

Climate change study had ‘significant error’: experts

Climate scientists admit that a climate change study which claimed the Earth would warm by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit in about a decade had “significant errors”. Key quote:

Scientist Scott Mandia forwarded to AFP an email he said he sent to Hisas ahead of publication explaining why her figures did not add up, and noting that it would take “quite a few decades” to reach a warming level of 2.4 degrees Celsius. “Even if we assume the higher end of the current warming rate, we should only be 0.2C warmer by 2020 than today,” Mandia wrote. “To get to +2.4C the current trend would have to immediately increase almost ten-fold.”

200 Economists Ask Lawmakers to Repeal Obamacare

I’m not the only one saying it: Two hundred economists ask lawmakers to repeal Obamacare. Key quote:

The letter from economists said the law is “fiscally dangerous at a moment when the United States is already facing a sea of red ink. It creates a massive new entitlement at a time when the budget is already buckling under the weight of existing entitlements. At a minimum, it will add $1 trillion to government spending over the next decade,” the letter stated. “Assertions that these costs are paid for are based on omitted costs, budgetary gimmicks, shifted premiums from other entitlements, and unsustainable spending cuts and revenue increases.

The state of Virgin Galactic

The state of Virgin Galactic. Key quote:

One of the great things about Galactic is that it’s still built on a non-government market — that is to say, the individual spacefarer market, the space tourist market, call it what you will. As you know, we’re now over 400 people [who have paid deposits for a spaceflight], and over $55 million dollars in deposits. None of that is based on a government program. I think that’s really encouraging. It’s a sign that there are markets outside the government, and that you can build a human spaceflight business around those markets.

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