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Why go to a CNN-report, when the original story is from the New York Times?

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/world/middleeast/29reconstruct.html:

\begin{[quote}

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit. So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.

But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.

The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, allow the government to function and business to flourish, and promote good will toward the United States.

“These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, said in an interview on Friday.

The conclusions will be summarized in the latest quarterly report by Mr. Bowen’s office on Monday. Individual reports on each of the projects were released on Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Bowen said that because he suspected that completed projects were not being maintained, he had ordered his inspectors to undertake a wider program of returning to examine projects that had been completed for at least six months, a phase known as sustainment.

Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.

The new reports provide some support for that position: a sophisticated system for distributing oxygen throughout the Erbil hospital had been ignored by medical staff members, who told inspectors that they distrusted the new equipment and had gone back to using tried-and-true oxygen tanks — which were stored unsafely throughout the building.

The Iraqis themselves appear to share responsibility for the latest problems, which cropped up after the United States turned the projects over to the Iraqi government. Still, the new findings show that the enormous American investment in the reconstruction program is at risk, Mr. Bowen said.
...
\end{quote}

The Spiegel article sounds like a somewhat unimaginative rewrite of the Times article and even overly Spiegel-ly. So what's your point?

Jörg

Jörg -

The point is that the Spiegel article categorically states that the projects do not meet specification, while the New York Times says that the projects have problems.

The difference is not moot: the New York Times reports on problems with a sample, while Spiegel reports that the sample universe has problems. Sort of like saying "we test-drove car x and had a flat tire" and saying "Car x has a problem with flat tires".

See the difference?

In the New York Times article, there is the clear statement in the last paragraph: the Iraqis themselves appear to share responsibility for the latest problems, which cropped up after the United States turned the projects over to the Iraqi government.

In the Spiegel article, the author dances around the causality of this relationship and the responsibility of the Iraqis for screwing things like this up. Instead:

Wer genau an der desolaten Lage der Bauprojekte schuld ist, bleibt unklar. Das Wiederaufbauprogramm ist aber in der Vergangenheit bereits dafür kritisiert worden, dass nicht genügend Geld in Ersatzteile, Ausbildung und widerstandsfähigere Bausubstanz investiert werde. Ein Beispiel für diese Vorwürfe findet sich in der Klinik in Erbil: Ein System zur Sauerstoffversorgung, das installiert worden war, wurde nicht genutzt - die Angestellten verließen sich stattdessen auf die ihnen bekannten Sauerstoffflaschen, die überall im Gebäude aufbewahrt wurden. Das Personal berichtete den Inspektoren, man traue der neuen Ausrüstung nicht.

It is unclear who is exactly responsible for this desolate status of the construction project. The reconstruction program has been criticized in the past for not spending enough on replacement parts, training and more resistant construction methods. An example for such a claim is in the clinic in Erbil: a system for distributing oxygen, which was installed, was not used - the employees used instead what they knew, which was oxygen tanks, which were stored throughout the building. The personnel told the inspectors that they didn't trust the new equipment.

See the difference? The Grey Lady at least points to who shares responsibility, Spiegel says it is unclear. NYT: causal relationships; Spiegel brings up a new and different argument - that not enough money is being spent!!!! - that doesn't adress the responsibility argument (which is unclear, after all: otherwise they couldn't say it! Further, the usage of "desolate" is unique to Spiegel and doesn't appear in the NYT.

Fundamentally, the NYT article points more to the fact that the Iraqis are not doing well with reconstruction and learning how to run a modern society and its infrastructure - like this is new???? - while the Spiegel article fails to cover this really at all.

See the difference?

"Fundamentally, the NYT article points more to the fact that the Iraqis are not doing well with reconstruction and learning how to run a modern society and its infrastructure - like this is new???? - while the Spiegel article fails to cover this really at all."

Is that so?

\begin{quote}

Viele der festgestellten Probleme sind augenscheinlich auf die Wartungsmüdigkeit der Iraker selbst zurückzuführen: Die Inspektoren fanden verstopfte Abwassersysteme, Elektroinstallationen, von denen Teile fehlten, eingestürzte Fußböden und andere Mängel. Sabotage spielte dagegen offenbar kaum eine Rolle.

\end{quote}

No, your claim seems not to hold water. So, again, what's the point? Again, it does look like an unimaginative rewrite of the NY-Times-article. Maybe that's to blame?

Jörg

@ Jorg:

The problem is that both CNN and NYT use qualifying statements and attempt to place the story into a larger context. SPIEGEL does not. For example, the NYT writes:

"So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program."

(...)

The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington."

And CNN writes:

"The objective of the review was to determine whether the buildings were operating at full capacity. Inspectors generally found that the facilities met the objectives of their mission, but they also noted signs of deterioration at most sites."

Again, the context that gives the story balance is omitted in the SPIEGEL piece, making the story on Iraq seem even worse than it actually is. That sort of bias has become a chronic pattern at SPON and it is frankly our job to point it out.

Vorzeigeprojekte - Unsummen - Murks - nagelneu - marode - gigantisches Gesamtprojekt - desolate Zustände - kriegerische Katastrophe

This is the flashy language of a tabloid (a paper that sells more copies on the street than it delivers to subscribers), which is clearly not present in the original story.

Maybe a better comparison would be New York Times <-> Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel <-> Newsweek, but I´m not an expert on print media and may get details wrong.

@Jörg:

mea culpa, overflew that one. But that is only ONE claim: the problem of sampling error doesn't change because of that.

But even then Spiegel qualifies it - "augenscheinlich", which can be translated as "superficial appearance" - and points to "Wartungsmüdigkeit", or being tired of maintaining something. That makes the Iraqis sound like they were handed a bum deal and are tired of maintaining something: sabotage isn't the problem.

The NYT makes it clear, I think, that the reality is that the Iraqis are, at this point in time very much like most Arab cultures, having a very hard time maintaining any sort of modern infrastructure.

See the difference with that?

John F. Opie:

"But even then Spiegel qualifies it - "augenscheinlich", which can be translated as "superficial appearance" - and points to "Wartungsmüdigkeit", or being tired of maintaining something. That makes the Iraqis sound like they were handed a bum deal and are tired of maintaining something: sabotage isn't the problem."

I refer you to LEO: www.leo.org/dict/

apparently adv. augenscheinlich
evidently adv. augenscheinlich
manifest adj. augenscheinlich
ocularly adv. augenscheinlich
ostensible adj. augenscheinlich
self-evident adj. augenscheinlich

Augenscheinlich does not at all translate as you assert. Augenscheinlich can be derived from: dem Augenschein nach, nach Inaugenscheinnahme, den verfügbaren, sichtbaren Beweisen nach.

Jörg

I'm one of the bilingual readers, and I do indeed notice the difference.
The CNN article gives credit where credit is due. The Spiegel article does not.

The CNN article makes clear that there are problems, but that the reconstructed sites are generally fulfilling their missions.
The Spiegel article contains nothing (read it again) that could prevent one from falsely interpreting that the reconstructed sites are generally failing to fulfill their purpose.

Given the previous sparse reporting of reconstruction, and the tone of the Spiegel article, I think that many readers of this article could erroneously conclude that the Iraq reconstruction has been almost a complete failure.

I have personally experienced the effect of this kind of "journalism".
My uncle Walther in Munich is a retired architect who reads the newspaper and watches the news almost every day, does not read tabloids, has many relatives in the US whom he has visited, and is intelligent and very reasonable.
I visit him every couple weeks or so, and we often have very good discussions (although usually more technical and scientific than political). Several months ago the subject of Iraq came up, and he said that it would be better if the US could finally start rebuilding in Iraq. Of course I told him that rebuilding had already started long ago, and that significant progress has already been made, but naturally he was skeptical, since, he said, he constantly heard about the violence, but couldn’t recall hearing anything about progress being made in reconstruction. So I promised to find some information for him, but I couldn't find anything factual in German, so I ended up emailing him a couple links to some reports in English. He said that he looked at them, but that his English wasn't good enough to understand them fully but apparently there was progress being made, so that apparently that wasn't the main problem after all.
So, I guess the point I am trying to make is that even Germans like my uncle Walther who are not anti-American and who might even be predisposed to being more favorable towards the US have negative misconceptions about the US because the German media has failed to provide balanced coverage.
The Spiegel article is just one more example of the kind of unbalanced coverage that allows such misperceptions to persist.

OK, I'm going to try translating some of it, and see how far I get.

Title:
Spiegel: "Model Projects in Iraq do not withstand any Test"
(in contrast CNN: "Inspectors: Reconstruction falters at some Iraqi sites")

Subtitle:
Spiegel: “The USA invested very large sums on the rebuilding of Iraq. Random inspections have now revealed much botching up. Huge sums were apparently put in the sand. Brand new buildings are dilapidated, expensive Technology remains unused.”
(in contrast CNN: “Lack of maintenance appears to be threaten usefulness of some facilities
Eight facilities reviewed, including police stations, military base, hospital
Hospital incinerator, police generator go unused due to lack of training”)

Text:
Spiegel: “The report of a group of US inspector speaks a clear language – even though the team examined only a few random samples out of the gigantic entire project that is supposed to make Iraq a functioning state. According to a report from the "New York Times", the inspectors from the agency of the reconstruction coordinator Stuart W. Bowen found desolate conditions: seven out of eight examined sites could no longer be operated as planned – because of defects in pipes and electrical installations, faulty maintenance and simple theft of materials. Specially acquired, expensive special equipment was not being used.
(in contrast CNN: “A severe lack of maintenance appears to be threatening the future usefulness of some of the facilities renovated during the effort to rebuild Iraq, says a new report from the U.S. inspector general monitoring reconstruction.
Inspectors reviewed eight facilities throughout the country, including police stations, a military base, a hospital and a recruiting center.
The objective of the review was to determine whether the buildings were operating at full capacity. Inspectors generally found that the facilities met the objectives of their mission, but they also noted signs of deterioration at most sites.”)

Sorry, that’s all I have time for at the moment.
To be continued……?

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