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Buildings Went Up

April 18, 2014 at 7:44 am

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A Times dispatch from Jerusalem reports:

Over the last decade, scores of cheap apartment buildings, many a dozen stories high, have sprung up in several Palestinian neighborhoods like Ras Khamis, lying just within the Jerusalem city limits but isolated by the barrier that Israel has built along or through parts of the West Bank with the stated purpose of keeping out suicide bombers. The buildings went up without planning permission, safety regulations or proper infrastructure.

The use of the language that the buildings "sprung up" or "went up" oddly omits the question of who built them. Arabs? Jews? The article doesn't say who the unscrupulous slumlords are, and it's almost as if the reporter is bending over backwards not to find out.

Thanks to reader-participant-community member-watchdog-content co-creator D.K. for sending the tip.


Dwight Garner Likens Religion to Masturbation

April 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

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Reviewing Barbara Ehrenreich's book Living With A Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search For The Truth About Everything, Times book critic Dwight Garner writes:

Kingsley Amis once said that religion and masturbation were alike in one regard. Feel free to practice them, that is, but no one really wants to hear you go on about it.

I don't necessarily feel that way about mystical experiences of the sort Ms. Ehrenreich describes. Like her, I am a nonbeliever, and like her, I do not doubt there are many things we don't understand about our universe. But right here and right now, I wish I could say "Living With a Wild God" didn't feel like such a meandering trip.

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Global Warming

April 9, 2014 at 8:52 am

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A Times op-ed today appears under the headline "Global Warming Scare Tactics" and says, "claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can't be supported by the science."

Someone might want to alert the Times news department to that. A 2012 article about Hurricane Sandy reported:

in interviews on Tuesday, several climate scientists made some initial points. A likely contributor to the intensity of Sandy, they said, was that surface temperatures in the western Atlantic Ocean were remarkably high just ahead of the storm — in places, about five degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal for this time of year. In fact, part of the ocean was warmer than it would normally be in September, when accumulated summer heat tends to peak.

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Doctor Lawrence

April 9, 2014 at 8:36 am

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A Times news article about the decision by Brandeis University to withdraw an offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali refers on second reference to the president of Brandeis, Fred Lawrence, as "Dr. Lawrence." Mr. Lawrence is a lawyer and has a J.D. degree, but the Times reserves the automatic "Dr." honorific for medical doctors and dentists. "Anyone else with an earned doctorate, like a Ph.D. degree, may request the title," the Times stylebook says. If the paper is going to let J.D.'s request to be called doctor, it seems like a pretty low bar and runs counter to common usage. And if the paper is calling President Lawrence "Dr. Lawrence" without his requesting it, it's misleading, because it suggests he requested it when he did not.


News Article or Opinion Piece?

April 8, 2014 at 9:28 am

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Today's New York Times features both a front-page news article and an op-ed page opinion piece about the threat posed by greedy, unlicensed tax preparers. Here's a quiz to see if you can tell the difference between the news article and the opinion piece:

Web headline: "Tax Preparers Targeting the Poor With High Fees"

That was the news article.

Passage from the text:

For millions of low-income Americans, tax season means the biggest one-time influx of money all year. It also means the annual sprouting of commercial tax preparers: some of them big-name franchises, some mom-and-pops and some, as 20-year-old Brittany Dixon discovered this year, shockingly expensive.

That was from the news article, too.

Another passage from the text:

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Graham Industries

April 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

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From a Dealbook article that runs under the headline "Former Kaplan Chief Assembling a Digital Learning Company":

(Kaplan is now part of Graham Industries, which changed its name last year from The Washington Post Company after it sold The Washington Post newspaper.)

The new name of the Washington Post-less Washington Post Company is not Graham Industries (which sells parts for steam engines) but Graham Holdings.

It's kind of a lame article anyway — the only person quoted in it by name is the former Kaplan chief, Jonathan Grayer. There's no response from Kaplan and no assessment from independent observers of Mr. Grayer's plans.



April 2, 2014 at 10:59 am

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From a dispatch from Paris about Marine Le Pen, "the charismatic and complicated leader of the National Front, the largest far-right party in France.":

As the rally in Perpignan ended, people thronged to the stage to greet Ms. Le Pen in person.

Matthieu, 25, an unemployed man wearing black jeans and a black jacket who declined to give his last name, looked at Ms. Le Pen admiringly as she held a baby in one arm.

"She's still so sincere — she's a person of conviction," he said. "We need to go back and revive national patriotism a bit."

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How To Help

April 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

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If you like the work we are doing at Smartertimes, please consider supporting the site financially by becoming a paying subscriber. Your membership will help to sustain the site's operations and growth. Thanks to those of you who have already pitched in without being asked. The link is here.


Caterpillar's Taxes

April 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm

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A Times business section article runs under the headline "Senate Report Says Caterpillar Used Swiss Subsidiary To Reduce Taxes." It begins:

Caterpillar, the big American maker of heavy construction and mining equipment, used a subsidiary in Switzerland to avoid paying $2.4 billion of income taxes over 13 years, according to a Senate investigative report released on Monday.

No mention at all in the Times article of the company's ties during that period with President Obama. As FutureOfCapitalism reported back in 2011:

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Public Editor Quotes Smartertimes

March 31, 2014 at 9:03 am

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The New York Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, links to and quotes Smartertimes in the second edition of her AnonyWatch column cracking down on the use of anonymous sources in the New York Times. You can read her column here.


The Michelle Obama Section

March 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

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Maybe the Times Thursday Styles section should be renamed the Michelle Obama section. Today's contains not one, not two, but three articles mentioning the first lady. Some might consider it overkill.

The main cover story about a businessman who invested in a move called "Fed Up" reports, "Michelle Obama, a noted advocate for better eating habits, declined to participate." This is an example of finding a way to insert Michelle Obama into an article even when she has nothing to do with the article.

Then there is a fashion article that reports in its opening paragraph, "Lane Bryant, the plus-size retailer, was presenting a collection designed by Isabel Toledo, a designer probably best known for the lemon-grass wool lace dress and matching coat Michelle Obama wore on the cold morning of the 2009 inauguration."

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Paul Krugman Turns Against Nate Silver

March 27, 2014 at 9:29 am

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Nate Silver's website FiveThirtyEight.com has a pretty funny analysis about how Paul Krugman's view of FiveThirtyEight has changed substantially in a negative direction since FiveThirtyEight left the New York Times.


Quality, Not Diversity

March 25, 2014 at 8:38 am

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"Festival Focus Is on Quality, Not Diversity," is the headline over a Times article about a film festival in New York. It reports:

These days, the programmers — Jytte Jensen, Dennis Lim, Marian Masone, Gavin Smith, Rajendra Roy and Joshua Siegel — are selecting titles that may not be to all tastes (a good thing) and that don't seem to have been primarily chosen for some mechanistic criteria, like national diversity. Here, the work is the thing.

It's a strange headline in that it suggests that quality and diversity are somehow conflicting goals rather than mutually reinforcing ones.


Last Year's News

March 23, 2014 at 11:37 pm

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An auto review in Sunday's Times (of a $238,180 Bentley Flying Spur) features the reviewer writing about driving the car in a snowstorm "the night after Christmas." If the Times is letting the copy age for three months before publishing, you'd think they'd be embarrassed enough about it to edit some of these dated time references away. What good does this do the guy who would have bought the Bentley back in January or February but was stuck with an inferior vehicle for two months until the Times saw fit to allow the review to see the light of day. Strange.


Herb Allen and Rand Paul

March 23, 2014 at 11:16 pm

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A front-page Sunday Times article about the political prospects of Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, includes this: "Nate Morris, a wunderkind fund-raiser for President George W. Bush in 2004, has linked Mr. Paul to such figures as the billionaire investor Herb Allen."

Could there be a more vague verb there than "linked"? Did Warren Buffett's pal Herb Allen donate to Rand Paul's campaign or political action committee? If so, how much? If there has been such a donation, it isn't yet disclosed in the Federal Election Commission's online database. The Times article carries no comment from Mr. Allen, nor any indication that there was an attempt to reach him for comment. For all we know, the Times may be getting Herb Allen mixed up with Paul Allen, or with Harold Allen of Mexican Manufacturers, Inc., in El Paso, Texas. Was there a meeting between Herb Allen and Rand Paul, arranged by Mr. Morris? Again, Times readers can't know from the sentence. Some more clarity would be appreciated by this reader.


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