Alchemy

This is either very clever, or evidence of serial incompetence.

The Associated Press (a noun used for lack of a name of one person) writes, “Maria has been placed in temporary care since last week after authorities raided a Roma settlement in central Greece and later discovered that girl was not the child of the couple she was living were not her parents.”

That confounding string of words that looks like a sentence is repeated by the Christian Science Monitor (10/25), Huffington Post (10/25, 10:16 AM), Los Angeles Times (7:53 AM), Time, Yahoo and countless other new outlets.

And Youtube.

Since no author is identified, here is the name of the “Senior Vice President – Executive Editor” of the AP: Kathleen Carroll. Perhaps she signed-off on the article.

The gobledygook is also on the website of the AP, itself (10:16 AM ET). It occurs on pages in the domain hosted2.ap.org, which have newspapers’ names at the top of each.

However, an item with some identical sentences as the first item, on hosted.ap.org, states: “Maria has been placed in temporary care since last week after authorities raided a Roma settlement in central Greece and later discovered that girl was not the child of a Greek Roma couple she was living with.” (10:40 AM EDT)

Astoundingly (as it comes after the nonsense in the first article) the next word string is “The couple has been arrested, and who have been charged for allegedly abducting Maria and document fraud.”

That story contains a by-line, and its gibberish is repeated by the Washington Post, Fox News, CBS and the Times of Mumbai. There are no corrections (or “correctives“) associated with those items on the AP’s correction page.

The news agency also maintains a story, dated June, 2012, that simultaneously identifies (impossibly so) both Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the U.S. Senate majority leader.

record of American history by the Senate indicates that only Senator Reid is Majority Leader of that body. The Onion identifies Senator McConnell as “Senate Minority Leader” (emphasis added).

Meanwhile, another inaccurate AP story, on Yahoo, falsely gives Senator McConnell the title, “Senate Majority Leader.” Unlike gibberish or a misspelled name, that is an error of fact.

Error on majority/minority 2013-07-26

Senator Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) is U.S. Senate Minority Leader, not Majority Leader. However: In an ironic twist, yesterday, a guy micro-blogged: “You are living on Planet Romney[:] Won the Election and Mitch McConnell is Majority Leader” while the publication he writes for, indeed, states:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said most Republicans would vote for the bill, even though it does not include riders that would cancel funding for controversial programs,

and

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the onus of compromise during next week’s lame-duck session on Democrats.

and

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the legislation had underperformed.

But, the publication–somewhat to its credit–appears to be engaged with its readers, having reacted to related comments (one of which gets the writer’s name wrong (twice) while correcting the writer) to another story with this thing you could call the Itty Bitty Majority Ditty.  For sure, a correction was made, but, more accurately speaking, the error just disappeared. Adding to the digital mush, yet another publication republished one of the errant stories (complete with goof).  And, yet another journal (while also mangling the writer’s name) quoted some of the one that was corrected, obviously before the correction.

Whew.

Back to the point:  A historically and completely false doozy from the Washington Post states, “Some Republicans, particularly Issa and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have argued that the administration was essentially bullying Obama’s opponents.”

That one is the winner in The McConnell Bind (a test with control and experimental groups) for this round, because da Post did da deed: It still states that employers use credit scores, and of course they do not.

The truth about what is not the truth is stranger than fiction.

County extension

If you’re lookng for one source of the urban legend that employers use credit scores, check with your county extension agent.

“Creditors, employers, landlords and others use your credit report and score to determine the interest rate you pay and whether or not you are offered a job, lease or credit.” – University of Missouri Extension

Inquiries about your credit score by employers or lenders without your knowledge or by yourself are not taken into account in the scoring process.” – University of Minnesota Extension

“Maintaining a high credit score will earn you the respect of bankers, mortgage lenders, landlords, and potential employers.” – Geary County, Kansas State University Research and Extension

“Lending agencies, insurance and utility companies, landlords, and prospective employers are just a few of the reasons that everyone needs to build and maintain a good credit score throughout their lifetime. Each of these groups uses credit scores to determine everything from the interest rate charged for a mortgage or car loan to whether someone will be able to live in a particular apartment.” – eXtension, Cooperative Extension System

“Your credit score can also affect how much money you pay for car or homeowners insurance, where you can rent an apartment or open a bank account, and could also affect your ability to be hired for some types of jobs.” – Hillsborough County Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

“Credit scores can also be used by:… Employers to determine eligibility for some jobs.” – Family and Consumer Sciences Department University of Florida – Sarasota County Extension (cites Hillsborough (see above) as source)

“Why does your credit score matter?  It affects SO many things:… Whether you will get hired for certain jobs.” – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

“A FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score is used nowadays to approve everything from auto and home loans to insurance policies and rental applications.  Employers even use them in the hiring process. And between you and me, rumor has it that scores are even being used at the pearly gates, as we speak! But I wouldn’t believe it, because I’m the one spreading the rumor.” – University of Idaho Extension

 

Daily Kos

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:36 PM
To: Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder and publisher, Daily Kos; Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder and publisher, Daily Kos (2); Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder and publisher, Daily Kos (3)
Subject: dating

See this message and your response at http://www.pagea2.com/daily-kos/.

You published, “Credit scores are important to know because of the many other life events they impact — getting loans for major purchases, getting hired at certain companies, etc.”

What are the names of two companies who use credit scores in hiring?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

 

Details relating to New York Times credit score dating story

The New York Times has not responded, so let’s break it down.

1997.  1996 amendments to the FCRA become effective.

2010.  An alleged incident that resulted in a crime.

July 1, 2011.  A woman gives a fantastical account of a life-changing event (the 2010 incident, above) “about a year ago.”  Regarding a date with a man, the woman states, “He asked me point blank what my credit score was and I told him I have no clue.”  Near the end of the piece, she writes, “FYI, he checked my credit score without my approval!”

He didn’t like her figure.

He ended it.  She mentions no crime.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act states, “Any person who knowingly and willfully obtains information on a consumer from a consumer reporting agency under false pretenses shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both” (1996 amendments to the FCRA).

December 25, 2012.  An article referring to the woman’s claim about her date, “Perfect 10? Never Mind That. Ask Her for Her Credit Score” appears on the New York Times website.  It states, inaccurately, “The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.”

Employers do not use credit scores.

December 26.  The article is published in at least two of the newspaper’s paper editions. The online version states that it appeared on page A1 of the Times’ New York edition, however, it also appeared on page A1 (the front page) of the National Edition.  The article refers to (conflicting with the account by the woman who went on the date) a dating experience that happened “this year.”

The writer of this website, Page A2 publishes “New York Times front page news, herding cats” on PageA2.com, and alerts the reporter via social media.

December 31.  The writer of this website publishes email to New York Times publisher.  Reporter and New York Times executive editor notified via public social media message.

Wikipedia’s circular reference regarding Daguerre Boulevard du Temple photograph

Despite an onerous set of failsafe measures, Wikipedia has it wrong again. This time, the topic is photography–a technology with a less-than two-hundred year history–and is still developing.

Heh, heh.

Here’s the picture.

The Hokumburg effect

For a time, there was a blog named The Hokumburg Goombah. Wikipedia links to one of its pages, but the page no longer exists. In fact, the blog, itself no longer exists; the home page says, “No posts.”

The hokum in Hokumburg could refer to an item about a very old photograph.  Making the Goombah famous, Robert Krulwich schmoozes

My admiration for Hokumburg jumped another notch when I discovered that on his own blog he’d come up with a city photo older than ours, which he claims may contain the “first photograph of a human being.” Wow! I didn’t check with the experts, but here’s his picture.

Of course, the quote above now links to a Hokumburg page that does not exist–a dead link.

Krulwich also finds Jonah Lehrer’s brilliance “riveting.” And if a subject isn’t riveting enough, Lehrer just makes something up about the person. Lehrer’s publisher gushes, “He graduated from Columbia University and attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.”

That Oxford thing is a big deal.

See how another public radio show was duped in another case.

Wikipedia’s failure

The dead link in Wikipedia was a footnote to a sentence in an article titled, “Boulevard du Temple.”

Previously, the article stated, “A photograph of this street, taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, is one of the earliest photographs known, and it is the oldest extant photograph showing a person.[1]

Today, it states, “A photograph of this street, taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, is one of the earliest Daguerreotypes known, and it is believed to be the first photograph showing a person,” and there is no footnote giving the source of that alleged fact.

Krulwich scored a link (for a time) in the article, too. Apparently, NPR is a reliable source. That link was titled (note the capitalization), “National Public Radio article on the First Photograph of a Human Ever,” but the title of the Krulwich piece contains a weasely question mark and has different wording: “First Photo Of A Human Being Ever?

Mais, est-ce vraiment le premier?

The copy of the photograph on Wikipedia was taken from the book “The Photography Book” which contains a short discussion of the photograph “Boulevard du Temple” (page 105).  However, the discussion makes no mention of it being the first or earliest anything. The book was first published in 1997 and makes a great conversation piece (as does this sentence) for a coffee table.

George Mason University’s scrappy History News Network contains this text, allegedly from Hokumburg: “But this anonymous shadowy man is the first human being to ever have his picture taken.”

A person identifying himself as Gig Thurmond, Editor, The Hokumburg Goombah,  complains about HNN’s record of another post regarding the photograph. Further, Thumond states, flippantly:

Here’s the secret: We found it on Wikipedia.

Or maybe we googled something like ‘old photographs,’ we can’t remember for sure.

But if it was Wikipedia, then that makes it a circular reference; i.e., Wikipedia cites Thumond while Thurmond cites Wikipedia. The phenomenon can be deadly for facts (search for the word proliferation). And if it was the second explanation, then there is no source. Thurmond used sarcasm, and subsequently–lest there be no misunderstanding–even used sarcasm to identify it as sarcasm. But now that serious descriptions (with superlatives no less) of “Boulevard” by Daguerre is de rigeur, claims of its greatness are fair game for scrutiny.

Talk about your anonymous shadowy figures!

Wikipedia’s constructs

Wikipedia has guidelines, rules, standards, policies, practices, proposals, procedures, principles and pillars, pal.  The Five Pillars fall under Principles.

Wikipedia’s Five Pillars:

  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.
  • Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view.
  • Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute.
  • Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner.
  • Wikipedia does not have firm rules.

So, those are the pillars (when this was written), at least until they are not the pillars. They used to be “unchangeable.” Only in the Wikipedia universe could a sentence like that exist.  Or this: “Wikipedia is not for things made up one day.”

You can’t make this up. And, Wikipedia says that you can’t change anything in Wikipedia, anyway. But don’t be surprised if the last sentence contains a dead link someday.

The first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.  The second rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about…

But, forget about all that. “Be bold,” brave Wikipedians [aka, potentially, the human race]!  According to Wikipedia, itself, “You do not need to read any rules before contributing to Wikipedia.”

Verifiability

Wikipedia’s rules are more specific than its Pillars regarding reliable sources and verifiability. Well, OK, they are now (see the fifth Pillar (as it stands today)).  If you find that something here does not square with Wikipedia’s description of itself, just log on (or, indeed, nevermind logging on, just surf) to Wikipedia and change it.

However, that could be seen as “gaming the system.” But, you can change that part, too, etc., etc.

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is not, rather than what it is. Of course everything is something. It’s just that, sometimes, those who create things can’t bring themselves to say what the things really are. So, they describe what they aren’t. And, of course (you guessed it), Wikipedia even has a list of what Wikipedia is not.

Listverse

Being first is important.  We want–we really, really want–to identify the first photograph of a person (and the first of anything). But, inventors have a lot on their minds, and preserving evidence of a historical moment may not be a priority. Even as important an artifact it was, the Wright brothers 1900 glider was abandoned. On the other hand, a successor to Daguerre’s machine recorded another significant Wright event.

Regarding the Daguerre, in one of its top-ten lists, Listverse states, “This is the first photograph ever taken that captures the image of a man.”

That is dated January, 2009, over a year before Hokumburg’s thing came along. There is no reference, of course.  But then again, there is this thing about Charlie Chaplain.

Unfortunately, Chaplain is not alive to protest.  Indeed, what would Louis Daguerre think about this?

848 credit score disclosure

Here is a message from a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who claims that the newspaper’s story about a person with an 848 credit score is accurate.  However, based on the message, the story appears to be inaccurate.

Twitter message:  848 credit score disclosure was from Bank of America

What you won't see on Twitter

The article states that a credit score disclosure–with nonsense about a person’s 848 credit score being higher than itself–was provided by a credit bureau.  But, the message above indicates that the disclosure came from a credit card issuer.

 

Zombie myths

In April, using his News Corporation Fox Business thingy, Rupert Murdoch published, “According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of employers check applicants’ credit scores for at least some of their job candidates as part of their hiring process.”

Fox Business website before correction

Fox Business website before correction

That is nonsense, of course, and somebody changed the Fox story.  The new sentence, substituting reports for scores, is “According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of employers check  applicants’ credit reports for at least some of their job candidates as part of their hiring process.”

[Rookie reporters and journalism students: Don’t be afraid to check original sources (Wouldn’t that be novel?).]

But, there is no acknowledgement on that story’s page (whose title uses a question mark) by Murdoch of the error and its correction.  That is not to say, however, that he always acts in such a clandestine manner.  Within another property in his empire, there was clear acknowledgement of the same error.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Question Mark
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Unfortunately, due to the syndicated error phenomena, the zombie myth lives.

It also lives in a certain Louisiana State University study, on a United States federal government server, no less, for U.S. citizens to read (and become misinformed).  The National Institutes of Health website states, “Many organizations use credit scores as an employment screening tool, but little is known about the legitimacy of such practices.”

And, here we go, again:

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 8:35 AM
To: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corporation (via Julie Henderson)
Cc: Tim Sullivan, writer, translator, yoga teacher and massage therapist, Money Blue Book
Subject: name your source; coining a term: CUR (credit-utilization ratio)

You published

When you close an account, especially a larger account, your credit-utilization ratio (CUR) will be affected and your score could go down. In addition, if the card you’re closing was the first credit card you ever got, it could shorten the length of your credit history, which can also hurt your score… Closing too many cards at once can cause your credit score to drop sharply from a snowball effect of the reasons mentioned above.

Who is your source regarding closing an account shortening a credit history?  Fair Isaac calls that a myth.

Also, where did you get the idea to use the initials CUR to refer to the so-called credit utilization ratio?  Why don’t you call it PBCL (proportion of balances to credit limits)?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

McClatchy’s syndicated error

(see “950” on the Associated Press website)

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Friday, September 28, 2012 10:49 AM
To: Bill Marimow, editor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Media Network Inc.; Reid Kanaley, columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer; Al Heavens, real estate columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer
Cc: Laura D. Adams, personal finance expert, Quick and Dirty Tips; Stacy Johnson, CPA, executive producer, publisher, president, journalist, Money Talks News; Jeff Gelles, columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer; Gail MarksJarvis, personal finance columnist, Chicago Tribune; Sam Zell, Tribune Company
Subject: RE: correction policy, Philadelphia Inquirer II

Now, you published: “The most common credit score issued is the FICO, named for Fair Isaac Co., which developed the mathematical formula. Rankings are from 300 to 950: The higher the number, the lower the loan-default risk.”

However, according to Fair Isaac, FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Please reply with a link to your correction.

Also, today, please answer the questions below from over a month ago, and make sure that Mr. Hall gets this message.


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

[previous message attached]

A portion of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Corrections Policy in 2008

Readers should never be forced to wonder what is being corrected. They shouldn’t be left guessing where the error occurred.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch Corrections Policy in 2008

[PREVIOUS CORRESPONDENCE]

From: Weagley, Robert O.
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2012 11:03 AM
To: ‘Greg Fisher’
Subject: RE: FW: El Dorado Springs Sun, footnote in testimony

Mr. Fisher – We publish our Financial Tip of the Week on Friday mornings. We will rewrite the piece you are concerned about with wording similar to what is highlighted below, when it is my turn again in the cycle. I don’t know what else we can do, nor do I fully understand what it is that you think we should do.

There is nothing wrong with employers looking at your credit score, if you give them permission.

– Rob Weagley


From: Greg Fisher, PageA2.com
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 11:08 AM
To: Gilbert Bailon, editor in chief, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jim Gallagher business reporter and columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Steve Giegerich, business reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Cc: Mary E. Junck, chairman, president and CEO; chairman, Executive Committee, Lee Enterprises; Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway (via M. Reilly, Omaha World-Herald); Kimball Long, owner, publisher, El Dorado Springs Sun; Nellie Lamers, family financial edcuation specialist, Taney County, Southwest Region, University of Missouri; Robert O. Weagley, associate professor and department chair, CFP program director, college of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri; Dan Iannicola, Jr.
Subject: RE: FW: El Dorado Springs Sun, vs. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Recently, I beat my head against a wall trying to get a straight answer from some wacky thing in your state called Mizzou.

Then, I remembered that, three years ago, I corresponded with your organization about a couple of your of items.  Subsequently, you made corrections (but you put them on internet pages—separate from the actual articles’ internet pages—where they hardly do any good).

Anyway, could you find out what is going on in Columbia?

What is your correction policy, by the way?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

[NEXT CORRESPONDENCE]