Archive for the ‘1’ category

Mistranslation 17. Reuters Agency Report misunderstood by Spanish News Agency

7 May 2010

As a minor link in a chain reaction of blogging, I am able to report that an important revelation by Spanish translation blogger “Malaprensa” [= bad press] has been brought to wider notice by an English language translation blogger with a very forthright name .

Blogger “f* translation” points out Malaprensa’s revelation of the following serious erroneous interpretation of a Reuters bulletin involving the spread of the recent Icelandic ash cloud.

“Ash cloud already in Asia, says the Spanish press. Malaprensa has from JMNoticias [] a stupendous English-Spanish cockup. Reuters put out a story in English explaining that the chaos caused in Europe by ash from Eyjafjallajökull was leading to knock-on problems for Asian airports forced to deal with thousands of stranded passengers.

“The Spanish news agency Europa Press mistranslated this as the ash cloud itself having arrived in Asia, and the story was adopted without question or reference to a map across the Spanish media.”

Obviously, these are 3 sites for translators to keep an eye on.

Translation 16. Some English-Spanish Translation Pitfalls. Part 1.

6 May 2010

Most words in formal and scientific English and Spanish are of Latin or Greek origin. Many therefore have predictable cognate forms in Spanish or English, which eases the process of learning one of these languages by speakers of the other. However, there are a significant number of cases where the corresponding English/Spanish forms show significant differences, often in their prefixes or suffixes. These irregular correspondences or “near-cognates” need to be learned separately, especially by translators and interpreters. In this blog and the following one, a selection of such potential translation pitfalls is presented.

English > Spanish

abnormal, anormal
abortion, aborto
absorptiometer, absorciómetro
absorption, absorción
acclimatization, aclimatación
acclimatize, aclimatar(se)
accomplice, cómplice
acidic, ácido
adrenal, suprarrenal
adsorption, adsorción
aeolian, eólico
agricultural expert, agrónomo, a
agriculturalist, agricultor, a
agriculturist, agricultor, a
agronomist, agrónomo, a
allele, alelo
allergenic, alergógeno
allogenic, alógeno
amebic (North American English), amebiano
ammonium, monio
amoeba, ameba
amoebic, amebiano
amoebic dysentery, disentería amebiana
amphetamine, anfetamina
amphibian, adj & n., anfibio
antacid, antiácido
anthropogenic factor, factor antropógeno
anticarcinogenic, anticancerígeno
anticline, anticlinal; anticlino
anti depressant, adj & n., antidepresivo
anti fungal, antifúngico
antihistamine, adj & n., antihistamínico
antimalarial, antimalárico
antiviral, antivírico
aquaponics, acuicultura
architectectural, arquitectónico
argillaceous, arcilloso
asepsis, asepsia
astatine, astato
astronomer, astrónomo
astrophysicist, astrofísico
astrophysics, astrofísica
atavistic, atávico
automation, automatización
autonomic, vegetativo
bacteria, bacterias
bacterial, bacteriano
barbiturate, sustancia barbitúrica
beneficial, beneficioso
benthic zone, zona bentónica
benzene, benceno
benzine, bencina
bilharzia, bilharziasis
bioassay, bioensayo
biocatalyst, biocatalizador
biocoenosis, biocenosis
biomimesis, biomimetismo
biphenyl, difenilo
botanist, botánico
bromine, bromo
bromide, bromuro
capable, capaz
capillary, capilar
carbolic acid, ácido fénico
carbon dioxide, gas carbónico; anhídrido carbónico
carcinogenic, cancerígeno
caustic soda, sosa cáustica
centrifugal, centrífugo
centripetal, centrípeto
cerebral palsy, parálisis cerebral
cetacean, cetáceo
chiropractic, quiropraxia
chloride, cloruro
chlorinate, clorar; tratar con cloro
chlorinating, cloración (química)
chlorination, cloración
chlorinator, clorador
chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs], clorofluorocarburos
choline, colina
chromosomal, cromosómico
chrysalis, crisálida
cinnabar, cinabrio
coercive, coercitivo
columbium, n., niobio; adj., nióbico
compaction (of soil), compactación (del suelo)
compulsory, obligatorio
cumulative dose, dosis acumulada/aditiva
concrete, hormigón
consistent, consecuente
consortium, consorcio
consumerism, consumismo
controversial, polémico; controvertido
correlate, correlacionar
counter intelligence, contraespionaje
credible, creíble
critical, crítico; crucial
criticism, crítica
cryogenic, criógeno; criogénico
cryogenics; criogenia
cryophilic, criófilo
cumulative dose, dosis acumulada/aditiva
cyanide, cianuro
cynicism, cinismo
data, datos
DC [=direct current], corriente continua
de [prefijo]: des (also: de-)
de jure, de derecho
deciduous, caducifolio
defective, defectuoso
deformed, deforme
dehydrate, deshidratar
dehydrated, deshidratado
demethylation, desmetilación
demonstration, manifestación; prueba
denature, desnaturalizar
denatured, desnaturalizado
denaturing, desnaturante
denitration, desnitrificación
depopulation, despoblamiento
desalination, desalinización
desalt, desalar; desalinizar
desalting, desalación
desecrate, profanar
desecration, profanación
desert, n., desierto; adj., desértico
desertification, desertificación; desertización
desperate, desesperado
destabilize, desestabilizar
deterioration, deterioro
detoxification, desintoxicación
detoxify, desintoxicar
diagnose, diagnosticar
diagnosis, diagnóstico; (also: diagnosis)
dietary, dietético
digitization. digitalización
digitize, digitalizar
dioxide, bióxido
disarmament, desarme
discoloration, decoloración
disqualification, inhabilitación
disqualify, inhabilitar
dissatisfaction, insatisfacción
dissatisfied, insatisfecho
dubious, dudoso; sospechoso
ecoguer(r)illa, ecoguerrillero
elementary, elemental; rudimentario
embryonic, embrionario
empiricism, empirismo
emulsified, emulsionado
emulsifier, emulsionante; emulgente
emulsify, emulsionar
energetic, enérgico; vigoroso
energy, n., energía; adj., energético
enthusiast, aficionado
eolian, eólico
epidemic, epidemia
equitable, equitativo
eradicate, erradicar
eradication, erradicación
erodibility, erosionabilidad
ethicist, ético
eugenic, adj., eugenista
eugenicist, n., eugenista
eugenics, eugenesia
eutrophicate, eutrofizar
eutrophication, eutrofización
evolutionary, evolutivo
evolve, evolucionar
exhaustible, agotable
exhibition, exposición
explain, explicar
explanation, explicación
expropriate, expropiar
expropriation, expropiación
extermination, exterminio
extraterrestrial, adj. & n., extraterrestre
feldspar, feldespato
feral, silvestre
fissile, fisible; (also: fisil)
fluoridate, fluorizar
fluoridation, fluorización
fluoride, fluoruro
fluorine, flúor
fluorocarbon, fluorocarburo; adj., fluorocarbúrico
fragrance, fragancia
fragrant, fragante
gallium arsenate, arseniato de galio
gargantuan, gigantesco; colosal
geneticist, genético
geodetic, geodésico
geosyncline, geosinclinal
geothermal (energy), geotérmico
geriatrician, geriatra
germicidal, adj., bactericida
germicide, bactericida
glacier, glaciar
global, mundial
global warming, recalentamiento mundial
gluc(o), [prefix]: glic(o) ; gluc(o) (‘dulce’)
glycogen, glucógeno; (also: glicógeno)
guerilla/guerrilla (as adj.), guerrillero
herbal, herbario
horticultural, hortícola
hybridisation, hibridación
hydrocarbons, hidrocarburos
hydrochloric acid, ácido clorhidrico
hydrocyanic, cianhídrico
hydrophyte, planta hidrófila
immune (system), as adj., (sistema) inmunitario
immunization, inmunización
immunodepressant, adj y n., inmunodepresor
incapacitate, imposibilitar
inconsistent, inconsecuente; incongruente
indefensible, indefendible
indemnify, indemnizar
individual, adj., individual; n., individuo
infertile, estéril; infecundo
inhabit, habitar
inhabitant, habitante
inherit, heredar
inhibit, cohibir; prohibir
inhibited, cohibido
insensitive, insensible
insulate, aislar
insulation, aislamiento; material aislante
inventory, inventario
invest, invertir
investment, inversión
investor, inversionista
iodide, yoduro
iodine, yodo
irrelevant, no pertinente
irreplaceable, insustituible
irresponsible, irresponsable
irreversible, irrevocable; irreversible
irrigate, (Agriculture) regar; (Med.) irrigar
irrigated land, (tierra de) regadío
irrigation, (Agriculture) riego; (Med.) irrigación
irreplaceable, insustituible
isoclinal, isoclina
isomeric, isómero
isomerism, isomeria
isotherm, isoterma
isothermal, isotermo
ketone, cetona
kinematics, cinemática
kinetic, cinético
kinetics, cinética
lactation, lactancia
laxative, laxante
legume, leguminosa
linear, lineal
lipotropic factor, factor lipotropo
liquefied (gas), licuado
liquefy, licuar
long, largo
malignant, maligno
microbial, microbiano
malignant, maligno
malnutrition, desnutrición
mammal, mamífero
matrix, matriz
microbial, microbiano
monoculture, monocultivo
monounsaturated, monoinsaturado
moratorium, moratoria
multicellular, pluricelular
multifaceted, multifacético
multilingual, plurilingüe
mutate, mudar
mutual, mutuo
(To be continued)

Global Warming Controversy. Part 3. The Wikipedia Labyrinth

6 April 2010


Notwithstanding Wikipedia’s superb usefulness as a source of instant factual information, the collective treatment of the articles on global warming and climate change by Wikipedians offers a very good example of two fundamental (congenital) shortcomings of Wikipedia as a reliable source of information:
1. its unbalanced treatment of many controversial subjects, especially those involving beliefs (religious, spiritual and political).
2. Wikipedia’s anti-encyclopedic encouragement of short articles (i.e. those occupying 32 KB of Hard Drive space – i.e. about 1,000 words, or 3 printed pages).

Evidence of the first flaw is to be seen in Wikipedia articles on Climate Change and Global Warming as well as in other hotly contested subjects like, for example, Scientology, Sun Myung Moon, Prem Rawat (aka in the 1970s as the divine Maharaji / Guru Mahara Ji), and Sathya Sai Baba. All of these Wikipedia articles are fiercely “protected” by determined devotees and followers who are willing to spend endless hours on their mission of excluding and deleting any inconvenient facts about the subject of their adoration.

The second flaw takes the shape of fragmentation of important topics over several or many different articles (which are not always adequately cross-referenced). This systematic fragmentation makes if difficult for readers to get a detailed and balanced view of the Wikipedia topics where it occurs. The preference for short articles also gives the small number of partisans and activists for sectarian points of view a golden opportunity to “hive off” potentially awkward aspects like Criticism of XYZ into separate articles. (Wikipedia even recommends this procedure!) Even basic (as opposed to Full) Bibliographies may be shunted off from their topic, which is especially attractive to activists and zealots if inconvenient books and articles are on such lists. Even when a direct link is offered to these separated segments of a Wikipedia topic, there is a high risk that net surfers will lazily avoid making that further vital click to balance the knowledge they are gleaning from the ‘cleansed’ version of the topic.
Global Warming, etc.

To deal with the wide ramifications and ongoing reverberations of (Anthropogenic) Global Warming and Climate Change, this Wikipedia facilitation of fragmentation has now spawned over 50 articles (including, in recent years, articles on the orthodox and sceptical protagonists and some of their book titles). For reader interest, a list is provided at the end of this article – a list not available on Wikipedia.)

For years now, as Lawrence Solomon, and other sceptics, have recently pointed out, here and here, many of the above Wikipedia articles
on global warming, etc. have been zealously patrolled and protected by indefatigable defenders of orthodox global warming science and of the IPCC. The most notable (and, for the past few years, notorious) of these Wiki-guardians is William M. Connolley, a founding member of the 2004 RealClimate website (see Part 2 of this blog series). “Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement” (L. Solomon). Solomon’s articles also narrate part of his personal experiences as a Wikipedian contributor (User) – facts he contributed were banished from the articles by the ever-vigilant “ warmist” activists, Connolley and his allies.

The Wikipedia article about this IPCC paladin gives succinct information on Connolley’s activities:
“Connolley was a member of the RealClimate website until 2007,[8][9] and he operates a website and blog that discuss climate issues.[10][11][12] […]”
“ His editing was also the subject of hearings by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee after a complaint was filed that he was pushing his own point of view in an article by removing material representing opposing viewpoints. A “one-revert-a-day” editing restriction was imposed on him, but later revoked. He told The New Yorker that Wikipedia “gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about.”[15] Connolley served as a Wikipedia sysop, a form of website administrator, until his status was removed by the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee in September 2009.[16][17][18]”
(from Wikipedia: William M. Connolley)

(Note: Connolley’s Wikipedia contributions have averaged over 6,000 per year since 2003. However, unlike the vast majority of Wikipedia registered Users, Connolley uses his real name, for which, whatever his reasons, he is to be commended.)

The extremes to which such Wikipedia zealots have gone on these topics will not come as a surprise to anyone who has also seen (or suffered from) the strenuous edit warring and filibustering that goes on, month after month and year after year, in other similarly controversial Wikipedia sites, where total editing time seems immaterial and where less determined contributors find their contributions deleted. (“Since I first tried to correct the distortions on this [Wikipedia] page, it has changed 28 times,” L.Solomon).

If you have not read his work before, I recommend to you Solomon’s excellent detective work on Connolley and other Wikipedia activists referenced above (plus this earlier one on the Wikipedia problem: 8 July 2008, Wikipropaganda. Anthony Watts’ recent contribution and readers’ comments on this topic are also of interest to all who value truth and balance in debate.

List of relevant Wikipedia articles (April 2010)

Climate change
Global warming
Global warming controversy
(Climate change controversy – directed to Global Warming Controversy)

and all of the following:

Action on climate change
Attribution of recent climate change
Avoiding dangerous climate change
Business action on climate change
Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy
Climate change consensus
Climate change response
(“Climategate” is directed to “Climatic Research Unit emails controversy”)
Climatic Research Unit
Climatic Research Unit documents
Climatic Research Unit emails controversy
Description of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in IPCC reports
Economics of climate change
Economics of global warming
Effects of global warming
Global warming conspiracy theory
Glossary of climate change
History of climate change science
Hockey stick controversy
Index of climate change articles
Individual and political action on climate change
Individual and political action on climate changeLow-carbon economy
List of authors from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis [= IPCC 2007]
List of climate scientists
List of scientists opposing the manistream scientific assessment of global warming
Mitigation of global warming
Politics of global warming
Religious action on climate change
Renewable energy commercialization
Scientific opinion on climate change
The Clean Tech Revolution
The Cool War

And central topics like:
Criticism of the IPCC AR4
Garnaut climate change review
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change

Plus many individual biographical sketches of scientists and other protagonists like:
Michael E. Mann, Stephen McIntyre, Anthony Watts, William M. Connolley, Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, Al Gore, Rajendra Pachauri, etc. And even separate articles on books dealing with scientific aspects or controversial topics:
The Real Global Warming Disaster
Heaven and Earth
The Hockey Stick Illusion

Other Wikipedia references to this vast area of knowledge are offered in the following Wikipedia CATEGORIES listed at the foot of each article (each giving multiple topic links).
Climate change assessment and attributions
Climate change: feedback and causes
Global warming (as a CATEGORY)
Economics and climate change
Energy economics
Environmental controversies
Environmental skepticism

Translation 15. A Few Links on Literary Translation

31 March 2010

Whereas the peak achievement for interpreters is seen as the very public and volatile arena of international (geo)politics, the most highly regarded area of the translation world is the domain of literary translators and their solitary craft; to them we owe our appreciation of and insights into the work of those who translate works of literary merit from foreign languages into our own.

On the rare occasions when the acknowledged best of these lonely translators attempt to explain their linguistic and artistic input into the translation, they offer invaluable insights into their generally misunderstood (or underestimated) contribution to the translated works, especially to those of us who do not speak the language from which they translate.

In the language area with which I am most familiar, Spanish to English translation, the following interviews are well worth reading or listening to by all lovers of literature.

Gregory Rabassa and Edith Grossman

2. Edith Grossman

In addition, Edith Grossman, who published a highly acclaimed new translation of Don Quijote a few years ago, has just published a book about her professional life:
Why Translation Matters, Yale University Press, March 2010.

A recent interview by Heidi Broadhead, an books editor, will further whet the reader’s appetite for the revelations of this accomplished writer.

The relationship between translators and the authors of the books translated is another area into which readers are occasionally allowed to peep. Among my cuttings are the following different reactions by J.M. Coetzee (the Nobel-Prize novelist and occasional translator from Dutch and Afrikaans), and Australian novelist Shane Maloney.

J.M. Coetzee, ‘Speaking in Tongues’, The Australian, Weekend Review, 28 January 2006, pp. 4-6. (No longer listed online as far as I can tell.) Later published in Meanjin (subscription needed) and, reportedly, as part of one of the essays in Identity as Change in the History of Culture, edited by Alexandra Lianeri and Vanda Zajko (Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780199288076). My yellowing cutting from The Australian of this lengthy and difficult-to-acquire article is summarised thus: “Drawing on his experiences with translators, Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee identifies some of the practical difficulties involved in the craft of translation.” (Try to locate a copy.)

Shane Maloney: ‘On being translated’ (also published in Australian Author, Vol 36, No. 3 on 3 December 2004 and in The Age, 24 December 2004, as ‘When language gets on your unicorn’s goat’).

For those contemplating the possibility of working in this area, the following two items offer practical advice on some of the the major problems facing the freelance literary translator.

1. A plea for fairer treatment and better remuneration by the European Council of Literary Translators’Associations” (December 2008)

2. The American Branch of International PEN’s Handbook for Literary Translators, Fourth Edition, 1999

“Prepared by the Translation Committee of PEN American Center
Copyright © 1971, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1995, 1999 by PEN American Center All rights reserved.
An earlier version of “The Responsibilities of Translation” was originally drawn up in cooperation with the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and The Translation Center (Columbia University).
“A Translator’s Model Contract” was prepared with the generous assistance of Peter Skolnik, literary agent; Jerry Simon Chasen, Esq.; and Leon Friedman, Esq.
PEN American Center, New York.”


A Brief Overview of the Global Warming Controversy. Part 1.

28 February 2010

For several years in the decade of the 2000s, relatively modest growth of sceptical expression about alleged man-made (or anthropogenic) global warming was discernible on the fringes of the mainstream media (msm) and, largely, outside the scientific establishment laboratories. In the years 2008 and 2009, leading up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference, scheduled for December 2009, there was a steady increase in expressions of disagreement over the validity of some of the findings and projections of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and opposition to the intense political and scientific campaigns to bring about strong and concerted international action to reduce alleged man-made global warming (especially by costly programmes for carbon trading: ETS (Emissions Trading System), CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), or Cap and Trade Systems). This increase in sceptical research and opinion on Internet websites and in a few newspapers and magazines attracted a much wider educated audience. In November 2009, the catalyst which finally attracted major mainstream media attention and more general debate over the questions raised by the sceptics was the spectacular case of the hacked and leaked Climate data emails (in excess of one thousand) at East Anglia University in UK. This took place just a month before the much publicised and heavily politicised beginning of the mega-carbon-producing international Copenhagen Climate Conference on proposals to tax and limit carbon production.

In the four months since 1 November 2009, the earlier sceptical independent scientific research and ongoing questioning of the IPCC global warming orthodoxy as well as a cascade of further inconvenient revelations have taken up much of the time of the spin doctors of political parties, the scientific establishment and increasing numbers of the mainstream media, including some of those publications which had studiously snubbed or dismissed the sceptics’ articles and books. In the initial flurries, many of the responses by IPCC partisans bore the hallmarks of the spin usually employed by religious and political bureaucrats to dismiss any breath of criticism of their orthodoxies, tactics like sweeping dismissals of the messages as valueless and of the messengers (including the scientific ‘apostates’) as biased representatives of unfriendly organisations and corporations (especially the oil companies and “big business”). With crude epithets like “Global Warming deniers” (conveying unpleasant associations with the pejorative term ‘Holocaust deniers’), pro-establishment spokespersons, journalists and commentators (including a small band of dedicated Wikipedia spin merchants who have made themselves notorious with their obstructionism), as well as leading scientists and politicians have continued to try to discredit the sceptical messengers.

A short sample of the genre:
Al Gore (referring to the leaked emails):
“The naysayers are in a sunset phase with a spectacular climax just before they subside from view. This is a race between commonsense and unreality.” (The Times)

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, UK, just before the Copenhagen Conference:
“With only days to go before Copenhagen we mustn’t be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-Earth climate sceptics. …We know the science. We know what we must do, We must now act and close the 5 billion-tonne gap. That will seal the deal.” (The Guardian, quoted in The Age, Melbourne, 6 February 2010)

Referring with great displeasure to The Australian’s enthusiastic welcome for Professor Ian Plimer’s now well-known book dealing with “The Missing Science” in Global Warming, Professor Robert Manne dismisses “the other camp” as “best described as pseudo-sceptics”. (The Australian, 25 April 2009)

In an article titled ‘Climate change deniers are anti-science and anti-reason — and they terrify me’, Hugo Rifkind, warns readers:
“It’s like your hairdresser diagnosing multiple sclerosis.” …
“Guys, … You’re actively going out and smashing up the fire engines. You’re terrifying us.” (The Spectator, 25 November 2009. The same magazine has also frequently published sceptical pieces on the topic.)

However, when the thousands of official carbon-producing attendees (114 from the Australian Government alone) jetted back round the world to their home bases in mid-December, they were accompanied not by media bouquets for their statesmanship but by headlines and comments on the virtual failure of the Copenhagen Conference. Many of the major politicians who had backed the IPCC 100% – notably the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Kevin Rudd) and his Minister for Climate Change (Ms Penny Wong), who had both been visibly hyperactive in the Conference deliberations and negotiations – fell silent for the following month or more while the Internet and media debate on the “science” and some of the personalities occupied acres of print and gigabytes of Internet real estate.

Thousands of critical comments and judgements were offered in the blogosphere and in the print media.

“Kevin Rudd has pledged allegiance to the near-theological belief that climate change is ‘the greatest long-term threat to us all’. He has, moreover, single-handedly transformed Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ into a climate change demon, warning darkly that his opponents are ‘alive in every major country, including Australia, constitute a powerful global force for inaction, and… are particularly entrenched in a range of conservative parties around the world’. The Prime Minister concludes it is ‘time to remove any polite veneer from this debate’.” (John Bolton, The Spectator, 12 December 2009)

By 2 February 2010, The Australian (from the same Rupert Murdoch empire as The Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Sunday Times, and a strong and consistent supporter of sceptical commentators and researchers) included this paragraph in an editorial, in clear condemnation of the Australian government’s ongoing campaign for a CPRS, which had unexpectedly been weakened by recent developments, including the dénouement of the Conference:
“Six weeks after Copenhagen, the IPCC report has been devalued by revelations of flimsy evidence and dodgy reporting. Many parts of the report contain solid science but that is not the point. It is increasingly impossible for governments to unquestioningly construct policy on a report now so compromised. A fresh look at scientific data on climate change is needed before politicians can ask taxpayers to embark on schemes that could lead to trillions of dollars of lost wealth around the globe in coming decades.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Iain Martin commented: “The shift since Copenhagen is palpable. The global warming movement shows clear signs of melting.” (4 February 2010)

Even the Chairman of the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, David Henderson, felt the need to call for an open review and evolutionary policies in “climate science” and went on to list eight types of “unprofessional conduct within the process, [already] identified before the recent revelations” (like “Over-reliance on in-group peer review procedures that do not serve as a guarantee of quality and do not ensure due disclosure”, and “Failure to take due note of comments from dissenting critics who took part in the AR4’s preparation”). Henderson further acknowledged that “Comprehensive exposure of these flaws has come from a number of independent commentators”, singling out as “outstanding” the crucial contributions of Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (on the “Hockey Stick” graph) from 2003 on. (The Australian, 16 February 2010)

The post-Copenhagen spate of new evidence and arguments from the growing chorus of sceptics (both scientists and non-scientists) on the Internet and in the media has produced a marked change in public opinion in many countries. The major points recently scored are those relating to the IPCC’s alarming forecast of the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers by 2035 (and the related question of careless fact-checking), and the revelations about and by the Chairman of the IPCC and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (with Al Gore), Rajendra Pachauri. The latter’s initial truculent response to the Himalayan Glacier criticism (“Glaciergate”) included the phrase “voodoo science” directed at an Indian scientific expert’s damning report which brought about the eventual admission, by Chairman Pachauri himself (unblushing), that the IPCC acknowledged and apologised for the (serious) error. So far Pachauri has survived the clamour for his resignation or dismissal. (Rajendra, I am told, means King of the Elephants in Hindi.)

In spite of the damaging revelations and admissions and their widely increased circulation, after hunkering down for what they may have thought to be the worst of the storm in their cosy bunkers, some of the official political and scientific spokespersons, and their media partisans, have just begun to pop their heads up in order to lob revisionist spin like the following:

On 18 February 2010, Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong reiterated her strong defence of the IPCC Report, publicly accusing its “detractors” of “peddling misinformation” and of issuing “breathless scandalised claims, implying we have all been hoodwinked by climate scientists” (Pia Akerman, The Australian, 19 February 2010).

Under the title ‘Climate wars give Science bad name’, Luke Slattery reports the following statements from three leading spokespersons for the scientific community. (The Australian, 24 February 2010, Higher Education Supplement, p. 23)

Professor Peter Coaldrake, Chairman of Universities Australia is worried by the “tabloid decimation of science”.

Anna-Maria Arabia, Executive Director of the Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies, complains that “unbalanced debates pitching peer-reviewed science against opinion, anecdotal evidence or the loud voice of cashed up lobby groups is not healthy.”

And Professor Ian Chubb, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, grumbles about “populists” denigrating science and “people … purporting to comment on the science and all they’re doing is seeking to turn themselves into celebrities.” (Chubb named no names, but Professors Plimer, Carter and Paltridge are Australian scientists who have advanced the sceptical “cause” with books and articles on anthropogenic global warming.)

(See Part 2.)

The Contribution of Science Communicator Joanne Nova to the Global Warming Debate

27 January 2010

Since before the Copenhagen fiasco, critical attention to the global warming controversy has been increasing at an exponential rate. Many bloggers and a handful of journalists have contributed to the final six months of activity leading up to the present media feeding frenzy. Much pioneering work by brave and persistent critics and investigators is now becoming better known (and less anathematised), as the findings of the few are reported by many other bloggers and media people. However, as the mainstream media now take up the reporting task that, with a few honourable exceptions, they should not have neglected for so long, it is becoming more difficult to keep up to date and to sort out the quality analyses (past and present) from the repetitive media chaff. For new readers whose attention the mainstream media are now attracting (and for others), the website of Joanne Nova, an energetic science communicator for many years, is highly recommended.

Particularly useful to serious readers in search of more scientific background to the controversy is her lengthy but selective list of links.

Her prolific output on this topic is also displayed in her two editions of The Skeptic’s Handbook, available, in several languages from her site:
“Over 220,000 copies of The Skeptics Handbook have been published, printed and distributed in the US, Australia, NZ and Sweden. It was done entirely pro bono, and volunteers have translated it into French, German (twice), Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Turkish, Japanese, Danish, Portuguese, and Balkan. Italian and Thai [and Spanish] versions are coming.”

It’s all there, waiting for your attention – especially those of you who write blogs and articles in other languages in which less critical attention has been paid to the debate about anthropogenic global warming.

The Climate Change Debate: a Third Way?

15 December 2009

In view of the current superheated and confusing political debates in Copenhagen on anthropogenic climate change, today’s op-ed article by veteran researcher and campaigner Bjorn Lomborg, published by The Australian, a News Corporation paper which, to its great credit and in contrast to other major English-language media like the BBC, the Guardian and the Australian ABC, has consistently welcomed and promoted ‘unorthodox’ opinions, is surely worthy of consideration by those whose minds are not yet closed on this issue.

Given the gravity of the situation on the eve of a political decision by the Copenhagen Summit, I take the liberty of reproducing Lomborg’s important appeal in its entirety, with due acknowledgement to the SOURCE .

Forget protocols, cut to the chase. Non-polluting energy sources are (the) key.

Thousands of politicians, bureaucrats and environmental activists have arrived in Copenhagen for the global climate summit with all the bravado and self-regard of a group of commandos convinced that they are about to save the world.
And although the political differences between them remain huge, delegates are nonetheless congratulating themselves for having the answers to global warming.

The blustery language and ostentatious self-confidence that fill the Bella Centre here remind me of a similar scene: Kyoto, 1997. There, world leaders actually signed a legally binding deal to cut carbon emissions, something that will elude the Copenhagen summit-goers. But what did the Kyoto Protocol accomplish? So far, at least, virtually nothing.

To be sure, Europe has made some progress towards reducing its carbon-dioxide emissions. But, of the 15 European Union countries represented at the Kyoto summit, 10 have still not met the targets agreed there. Neither will Japan nor Canada. And the US never even ratified the agreement. In all, we are likely to achieve barely 5 per cent of the promised Kyoto reduction.

To put it another way, let’s say we index 1990 global emissions at 100. If there were no Kyoto at all, the 2010 level would have been 142.7. With full Kyoto implementation, it would have been 133. In fact, the actual outcome of Kyoto is likely to be a 2010 level of 142.2 — virtually the same as if we had done nothing at all. Given 12 years of continuous talks and praise for Kyoto, this is not much of an accomplishment.

The Kyoto Protocol did not fail because any one nation let the rest of the world down. It failed because making quick, drastic cuts in carbon emissions is extremely expensive. Whether or not Copenhagen is declared a political victory, that inescapable fact of economic life will once again prevail and grand promises will once again go unfulfilled.

This is why I advocate abandoning the pointless strategy of trying to make governments promise to cut carbon emissions. Instead, the world should be focusing its efforts on making non-polluting energy sources cheaper than fossil fuels.

We should be negotiating an international agreement to increase radically spending on green-energy research and development to a total of 0.2 per cent of global GDP, or $US100 billion a year. Without this kind of concerted effort, alternative technologies simply will not be ready to take up the slack from fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, summit delegates seem to have little appetite for such realism. On the first day of the conference, UN climate change chief Yvo de Boer declared how optimistic he was about continuing the Kyoto approach: “Almost every day, countries announce new targets or plans of action to cut emissions,” he said.

Such statements ignore the fact that most of these promises are almost entirely empty. Either the targets are unachievable or the numbers are fudged. For example, Japan’s pledge of a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 sounds incredible because it is. There is no way the Japanese could actually deliver on such an ambitious promise.

China, meanwhile, drew plaudits just before the Copenhagen summit by promising to cut its carbon intensity (the amount of CO2 emitted for each dollar of GDP) over the next ten years to just 40-45 per cent of its level in 2005. Based on figures from the International Energy Agency, China was already expected to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 per cent without any new policies.

As its economy develops, China will inevitably shift to less carbon-intensive industries. In other words, China took what was universally expected to happen and, with some creative spin, dressed it up as a new, ambitious policy initiative. Then again, spin always trumps substance at gatherings such as this. Consider how quick the Copenhagen delegates were to dismiss the scandal now known as “Climategate” — the outcry over the release of thousands of disturbing emails and other documents hacked from the computers of a prestigious British climate-research centre.

It would be a mistake not to learn lessons from this mess. Climategate exposed a side of the scientific community most people never get to see. It was not a pretty picture. What the stolen emails revealed was a group of the world’s most influential climatologists arguing, brainstorming and plotting together to enforce what amounts to a party line on climate change. Data that didn’t support their assumptions about global warming was fudged. Experts who disagreed with their conclusions were denigrated as “idiots” and “garbage”. Peer-reviewed journals that dared to publish contrarian articles were threatened with boycotts. Dissent was stifled, facts were suppressed, scrutiny was blocked and the free flow of information was choked off.

Predictably, the text of the more than 3000 purloined emails have been seized on by sceptics of man-made climate change as “proof” that global warming is nothing more than a hoax cooked up by a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals. And this is the real tragedy of “Climategate.”

Global warming is not a hoax, but at a time when opinion polls reveal rising public scepticism about climate change, this unsavoury glimpse of scientists trying to cook the data could be just the excuse that too many people are waiting for to tune it all out.

What seems to have motivated the scientists involved in Climategate was the arrogant belief that the way to save the world was to conceal or misrepresent ambiguous and contradictory findings about global warming that might “confuse” the public. But substituting spin for scientific rigour is a terrible strategy.

So too is continuing to embrace a response to global warming that has failed for nearly two decades. Instead of papering over the flaws in the Kyoto approach and pretending that grand promises translate into real action, we need to acknowledge that saving the world requires a smarter strategy than the one being pursued so dogmatically in Copenhagen.

(Bjorn_Lomborg is the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and author of Cool It: The Sceptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming – Knopf. 2007. ISBN 9780307266927.)

Translating and Interpreting – 13. The Ultimate Sacrifice

13 December 2009

One or two previous blogs in this series have described some of the potential difficulties and disadvantages which may face interpreters (or translators), especially those who work in newsworthy national and international environments and occasionally find themselves being used as scapegoats to save the face of their prominent employers. Number 13 of the series deals briefly with the most negative consequence of this career choice: death on duty.

The conduct of the seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and their close (“in our face”) reporting by the international media – would have been impossible without the contingents of intrepid cameramen and local interpreters, translators and ‘fixers’ who have helped the American and allied forces and the battalions of foreign correspondents. A small proportion of these civilian interpreters (etc.) have paid the ultimate price for their work: death. (Others, as in other foreign wars, may well pay a similar price, when the coalition forces finally depart.)

On assignment in North Iraq in March 2003, Eric Campbell, a correspondent for Australian ABC TV was injured and his cameraman was killed in a terrorist attack (virtually on camera). When New York Times correspondent Stephen Farrell was taken hostage recently in Kunduz province, Afghanistan, he was freed in a subsequent commando raid but his “translator”, Sultan Munadi, was killed.

In an account of his own experiences in South Lebanon, another war correspondent, Sam Kiley, narrates the death of Abed Takoush, the fixer for the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen. Kiley also provides this background information on the unique job description of a fixer and an insight into the close bond between foreign correspondents (or the military) and their invaluable local assistants, referring also to the case of Sultan Manadi. (See The Spectator, 16 September 2009)

“Abed was a “fixer”, like Sultan Manadi, who was killed last week during a NATO operation to free the British journalist Stephen Farrell from Afghan kidnappers. ‘Fixer’ is an ignoble title. The word is sleazy and demeaning: it implies the local people hired by the foreign media are mere higglers. The reality is that without a worldwide network of local freelance drivers, translators, and general all-round fixers, there would be a lot of dead journalists, and pretty soon no foreign news at all.

Any nitwit, and I am living proof, can be a ‘war correspondent’ if they are lucky enough to come across a great fixer. These men and women usually earn no more than $100 a day. For that they provide introductions to gangsters, war lords, terrorists, politicians – as well as navigate, drive and give instant tutorials on Albanian politics, Somali clan rivalries and Balkan history. More important, they keep us alive. Behind our backs they apologise for our cultural insensitivity, anticipate our needs before we know that we’ve got them, and from time to time literally lead us through minefields.”
(The Spectator, 16 September 2009)

A happier ending: 30-year-old Australian SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson was recently awarded the Victoria Cross (Australia’s first for 30 years) for rescuing an Afghan interpreter under heavy fire in 2008. He was subsequently received by Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace.

Note: Sam Kiley is the author of Desperate Glory: At War in Helmand with Britain’s 16th Air Assault Brigade (London, Bloomsbury).

Bed and Breakfast in New Delhi. A Recommendation

17 November 2009

In the recent years of India’s economic boom, there has been an exponential increase in the numbers of businessmen and trade delegations travelling to India from overseas. One unfortunate result has been that hotel prices in the major cities have soared to stratospheric heights. In many people’s experience, the most expensive hotels are in Mumbai, especially in the Juhu Beach / Airport area (even 3-star ones). Consequently budget-conscious foreign tourists need to research the hotel market carefully to avoid a serious depletion of their funds when visiting the major cities of India.

For (non-business) Indian and foreign visitors to the capital, Delhi, a very welcome development, and an antidote to this severe budget problem has been the recent healthy increase in the number of small guesthouses, or B and B (bed and breakfast) establishments, run by modest Delhi entrepreneurs, usually at affordable prices. They are easily locatable on the Internet.

It was my good fortune to find one of the best of these establishments for a recent extended stay in the capital city: ‘On the House’, in the South Delhi middle-class, ultra-secure, gated community of Safdarjung Enclave.

In its seven rooms, ‘On the House’ offers not only tastefully decorated peaceful rooms but also 24 hour service by a staff of 3. Nothing is too much for them, from breakfast, which is free, to room service and dinner if required (vegetarian or non-veg.) – all at very modest prices (a cup of tea or coffee, for example, costs 50 cents.) Also available are cheap laundry services, a reliable taxi service to nearby shopping malls or to the centre of Delhi – at $10 for 4 HOURS, or short motor rickshaw rides for $1-$2 (for example to the nearby Hyatt Regency, for a splurge meal or to indulge in alcoholic beverages, especially wine, which is not easily obtainable). Other recommended local venues for taxi or rickshaw travel are Khan Market (with a money changer and an excellent bookshop), Ansal Plaza, Sarojini Market and, for Indian and Asian crafts at bargain prices, the extensive market at Dilli Haat.

At On the House, the level of personal service from Ashish and Roger is superb – and very friendly. No request fazes them, or the owner, Ms Aradhna Lanba, or ever-helpful Mr Nanda. Safe and well-priced excursions to Agra, hill stations like Mussoorie or Shimla, sacred Hindu sites like Rishikesh and Haridwar, or to Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh, can also be arranged with reliable travel agencies. If you have an extended stay in Delhi, Ms Lanba can even arrange Hindi lessons from professional teachers for you (but if you can afford this extra service, for the best results, consider learning some basic structures and vocabulary before going to India to make further linguistic progress).

The rooms, lounge and roof Gazebo of On the House are very tastefully decorated, giving an Indian and Asian environment. A further major advantage over those exorbitantly priced hotels is that you actually meet and converse with an interesting variety of fellow guests, Indian and foreign. A selection of books, DVDs, maps, and guidebooks is available to guests.

For the traveller, this is a very pleasant home from home, an oasis from the noise and dust and insecurity of the teeming streets of Delhi. The guestbook gives evidence that many visitors return to ‘On the House’ – or reside there for prolonged periods if working for a foreign company in Delhi. Advanced booking is therefore very necessary, and if you can afford the small extra charge, try to book the beautiful Gulmohar room or the Oak or Mulberry rooms. Details HERE.

Mistranslation and Misinterpretation, 12. Medical-legal Consequences

4 November 2009

In English-speaking countries like USA, Canada and Australia, where there is a long tradition of immigration from non-English-speaking countries, the existence of large numbers of immigrants from many countries has led to the setting up of extensive and expensive interpreting and translating services to assist them in their new country. Anecdotal evidence that the systems are subject to great pressure and do not always work well, as well as of the potentially serious consequences of not using interpreters in medical situations involving non-English-speaking citizens, is contained in excerpts from the following reports.

“Unfortunately, cases in which language barriers cause compromised quality of care and preventable medical errors may become increasingly common in the United States. Almost 50 million Americans speak a primary language other than English at home, and 22.3 million have limited English proficiency (LEP), defined as a self-rated English-speaking ability of less than “very well.” The last decade witnessed a 47% increase in the number of Americans speaking a non-English language at home and a 53% increase in the number of LEP Americans.”

“High-profile cases are accumulating of medical errors due to language barriers. Lack of an interpreter for a 3-year-old girl presenting to the emergency department with abdominal pain resulted in several hours’ delay in diagnosing appendicitis, which later perforated, resulting in peritonitis, a 30-day hospitalization, and two wound site infections. A resident’s misinterpretation of two Spanish words (se pegó misinterpreted as “a girl was hit by someone else” instead of “the girl hit herself” when she fell off her tricycle) resulted in a 2-year-old girl with a clavicular fracture and her sibling mistakenly being placed in child protective custody for suspected abuse for 48 hours.
Misinterpretation of a single Spanish word (intoxicado misinterpreted in this case to mean “intoxicated” instead of its intended meaning of “feeling sick to the stomach”) led to a $71 million dollar malpractice settlement associated with a potentially preventable case of quadriplegia.(15)”
(From Note: It is necessary to register with as a health practitioner or as “Consumer/Other” before accessing their professional articles.)

The brief mention of that latter case offers an example of the dangers of not using a qualified interpreter in medical situations. It also gives an insight into the idiosyncrasies of the American system of litigation. Further details are available here.

“Providing adequate translation is also a safety issue and a potential liability issue, Flores said, noting a successful $71 million Florida lawsuit in the case of a teenager who was left a quadriplegic.
“He was an 18-year-old who went to a sporting event at his high school, wasn’t feeling well and walked over to his girlfriend’s house. Just before he collapsed he said, ‘Me siento intoxicado.’ The paramedics came along, and the girlfriend didn’t speak a lot of English, and the mother of the girlfriend didn’t, either. They mentioned that word, and the paramedics said, “Oh, yeah, intoxicado, that means intoxicated. So they took him to the emergency room.
“He ended up going to the intensive-care unit because he had gone into a coma, and for 48 hours they were working him up for drug abuse. Then they finally did a CT scan, and it turned out he had actually had a brain aneurysm and that it burst, and he got a huge intracranial bleed,” Flores said.
Intoxicado, in fact, can mean nausea.
“That is one example of why, if you spent $30 for an interpreter, you wouldn’t have had to spend $71 million to settle a lawsuit,” he said.”