Friday, July 18, 2014

Do members of the press need a tutorial in basic skills?

Oh, how the press struggles to do the very basic part of their job.  Let's help them out because it turns out that the definition of reporting as well as basic math skills continue to elude them.

So let's get started.  If US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki declared in yesterday's press briefing that the plan was for Secretary of State John Kerry to do a photo op this afternoon with a delegation of children visiting from Europe, we would not be reporting this morning if we said or typed: "Today John Kerry met with children from Europe."  Because it's Friday morning, not Friday afternoon.  The event, though planned and promoted, hadn't taken place yet.  We could say he was "scheduled" to meet with them or that he "planned" to or even that the State Dept "announced" that he would.

But we couldn't say that he'd met with them because reporting is about what took place.

No meeting had taken place yet.  Writing about it as though it had?  That would be predicting, not reporting.

With that basic understanding, is this reporting?  "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been in Germany for medical treatment since December 2012, will return home on Saturday, his party said in a statement."

It's bad reporting but making the qualifiers an aside ("his party said in a statement") does let AFP squeak by.  Without that qualifier -- and some have left it out -- the statement is "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been in Germany for medical treatment since December 2012, will return home on Saturday."  That wouldn't squeak by.  Because Jalal may or may not return on Saturday.

He's certainly -- and repeatedly -- been announced to be returning many times in the past.

Let's be kind and not note the outlets that didn't make it to reporting and instead focus on math.

Iran's Trend News Agency notes that Jalal's son has said he will return tomorrow -- July 19th.  That's good.


Their headline: "Iraq president to return after 18 months."

Let's recap.  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

December 20, 2012 to December 20, 2013?

One year.

December 20, 2013 to January 20, 2014?  One month.

Jan. 20 to Feb 20 (all months are 2014 from this point forward)?  Two months.

Feb. 20th to March 20th?  Three months.

March 20th to April 20th?  Four months.

April 20th to May 20th?  Five months.

May 20th to June 20th?  Six months.

June 20th to July 20th?  Seven months.

Jalal is said to be returning on the 19th.  If he does?

That's really seven months unless news outlets plan to count the actual days.

It's one day shy of one year and seven months.

It's safe to call that one year and seven months.

However, it is inaccurate to call it one year and six months.

Your choices are: "Talabani has been gone for 19 months," "Talabani has been gone for one year and seven months" and "Talabani has been gone for one year, six months and X days."

Since it's one day shy of seven months?

You can call it seven months.  You can even cheat if you don't have the math skills and call it "over six months" -- "Talabani is supposed to return Saturday after spending over a year and six months in Germany."

But you better have that over.

And, no, you can write off 29 days.  A president not being able to perform their duty or be in their home country for 29 days?  That's news and you can write it off.

Regardless, will he return?

At this point, no one knows.

It hasn't happened yet.

Why might he be returning?

The Kurds insist that they and they alone have claim to the office of  president of Iraq.

And the PUK wants to keep it for themselves -- and got especially upset earlier this month when the insurgent political party Goran made statements to the effect that Goran would be nominating someone for the office.

Jalal's announced return comes as the PUK tries to hold onto the post.  Rudaw reports:

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has officially submitted its candidate for Iraq’s presidency, as politicians desperately struggle to put together a government in the middle of a Sunni rebellion and militant control of a third of Iraq.
Sources told Rudaw that the PUK has chosen Fuad Massoum, who is from Halabja, as a compromise candidate. But that was not immediately confirmed. Massoum is a long-time associate of Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader and Iraqi president who has been in Germany since a stroke in December 2012.

In other news, UNAMI issued the following statement today:

BAGHDAD/GENEVA (18 July 2014) – A UN report released Friday documents a litany of serious human rights violations committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups between 5 June and 5 July, including some that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The report also documents violations committed by Iraqi security forces (ISF) and associated forces.

The report, compiled by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights office, is based on direct monitoring activities as well as a variety of sources, including civilian victims and witnesses.  It documents the “untold hardship and suffering” that has been imposed upon the civilian population, “with large-scale killings, injuries and destruction and damage of livelihoods and property.”  Where information has been cross-checked and verified, specific incidents are detailed in the report.
“ISIL and associated armed groups have…carried out many of these attacks in a systematic manner heedless of the impact on civilians, or have systematically targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure with the intention of killing and wounding as many civilians as possible,” the report states.  “Targets have included markets, restaurants, shops, cafes, playgrounds, schools, places of worship and other public spaces where civilians gather in large numbers.”
Among the systematic and egregious violations perpetrated by ISIL, the report lists:
·The direct, deliberate targeting of civilians in the conduct of military operations and disregard for the principles of distinction or proportionality in the context of military operations; 
·Killings, including executions, of civilians, captured ISF personnel, and individuals associated with the Government of Iraq; 
·Kidnapping of civilians, including of foreign nationals;
·Targeted killings of political, community and religious figures; 
·Killings, abductions and other crimes and human rights violations against members of ethnic, religious and other minorities;
·Killing and physical violence against children; the forced recruitment of children;
·Wanton destruction of civilian property; robbery and plunder of civilian property; targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure (including hospitals and schools); attacks on protected installations (such as dams); and attacks on places of cultural significance and places of religious worship.
The report also documents violations committed by the ISF and affiliated forces, including summary executions or extrajudicial killings of prisoners and detainees, which may also amount to war crimes.  The report casts doubt over adherence by the ISF and affiliated forces to the principle of distinction and proportionality and whether they undertook the necessary precautions to protect civilians during the conduct of hostilities.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, deplored the heavy toll the conflict is taking on Iraqi civilians.
"International law requires that both the Iraqi State and armed groups take all measures to minimize the impact of violence on civilians, respect the principles of distinction and proportionality when carrying out military operations, and take steps to ensure the safety and protection of civilians by enabling them to leave areas affected by violence in safety and dignity, and to access basic humanitarian assistance at all times,” he said. 
“The United Nations is fully engaged with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government and civil society organizations to provide basic humanitarian assistance to all civilians who have been displaced or who remain in areas affected by violence."
The report also notes that children have been disproportionately affected by the conflict.
“In all conflict-affected areas, child casualties due to indiscriminate or systematic attacks by armed groups and by Government shelling on populated areas have been on the rise,” it states.  “Credible information on recruitment and use of children as soldiers was also received.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she was particularly concerned about the protection and welfare of members of vulnerable groups who remain in areas affected by the armed conflict, especially women, female-headed households, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and members of minority groups.
“Every day we receive accounts of a terrible litany of human rights violations being committed in Iraq against ordinary Iraqi children, women and men, who have been deprived of their security, their livelihoods, their homes, education, healthcare and other basic services,” she said.
“The deliberate or indiscriminate targeting of civilians, the killing of civilians, the use of civilians as shields, the hindering of access for civilians to humanitarian assistance may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.  Parties to the conflict are required by international human rights law and international humanitarian law to prevent such violations and abuses from taking place.”
Pillay also stressed the obligation of the Government of Iraq to investigate serious violations and to hold the perpetrators to account.
Mladenov reiterated his call to the Iraqi political leadership to quickly move forward with the political process.
“Now that a Speaker of Parliament has been elected, it is vital that Iraqi leaders quickly move forward on the nomination of a new President and a new Government.  An inclusive political process, cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil as well as a nationally accepted security plan are important elements in restoring the rule of law and bringing the country back from the brink of chaos,” Mladenov stressed.
The report notes that in the month of June, at least 1,531 civilians were killed in Iraq and 1,763 were wounded.  Some 1.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced as a result of the violence – including over 600,000 since the beginning of June alone.
Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Non International Armed Conflict in Iraq: 5 June – 5 July 2014

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Jake Tapper,  the Guardian and --  updated:

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