Thursday, 8 December 2016

WaPost distances itself from PropOrNot story

Washington Post Appends "Russian Propaganda Fake News" Story, Admits It May Be Fake

7 December, 2016

In the latest example why the "mainstream media" is facing a historic crisis of confidence among its readership, facing unprecedented blowback following Craig Timberg November 24 Washington Post story "Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say", on Wednesday a lengthy editor's note appeared on top of the original article in which the editor not only distances the WaPo from the "experts" quoted in the original article whose "work" served as the basis for the entire article (and which became the most read WaPo story the day it was published) but also admits the Post could not "vouch for the validity of PropOrNot's finding regarding any individual media outlet", in effect admitting the entire story may have been, drumroll "fake news" and conceding the Bezos-owned publication may have engaged in defamation by smearing numerous websites - Zero Hedge included - with patently false and unsubstantiated allegations.
It was the closest the Washington Post would come to formally retracting the story, which has now been thoroughly discredited not only by outside commentators, but by its own editor.
The apended note in question:
Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.
As The Washingtonian notes, the implicit concession follows intense and rising criticism of the article over the past two weeks. It was “rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations,” Intercept reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton wrote, noting that PropOrNot, one of the groups whose research was cited in Timberg’s piece, “anonymous cowards.” One of the sites PropOrNot cited as Russian-influenced was the Drudge Report.
The piece’s description of some sharers of bogus news as “useful idiots” could “theoretically include anyone on any social-media platform who shares news based on a click-bait headline,” Mathew Ingram wrote for Fortune.
But the biggest issue was PropOrNot itself. As Adrian Chen wrote for the New Yorker, its methods were themselves suspect, hinting at counter-Russian propaganda - ostensibly with Ukrainian origins - and verification of its work was nearly impossible. Chen wrote “the prospect of legitimate dissenting voices being labelled fake news or Russian propaganda by mysterious groups of ex-government employees, with the help of a national newspaper, is even scarier.”
Criticism culminated this week when the "Naked capitalism" blog threatened to sue the Washington Post, demanding a retraction. 
Now, at least, the "national newspaper" has taken some responsibility, however the key question remains: by admitting it never vetted its primary source, whose biased and conflicted "work" smeared hundreds of websites, this one included, just how is the Washington Post any different from the "fake news" it has been deriding on a daily basis ever since its endorsed presidential candidate lost the elections?

Now they're losing the terroristss want a ceasefire

With Assad On Verge Of Historic Victory, Syrian Rebels Request A Ceasefire

7 December, 2016

After nearly six years, Syria's civil war started under Hillary Clinton's watch in March 2011 during the Arab Spring protest, is finally coming to an end.

The battle for one of the most contested Syrian cities during the war, Aleppo - which was Syria's most populous city before the war - is almost over and the "rebel forces" who live in the city eastern part, realizing they are on the verge of losing, have finally come to the negotiating table but it is too late.
Recall that as we reported last week, the Syrian army had recaptured as much as as 40% of the militant held part of the city in an accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold. As of today, that number has nearly doubled. According to the Russian Reconciliation Center which is facilitating and overseeing the Syrian civil war, government forces have liberated 15 more eastern Aleppo neighborhoods in the last 24 hours, adding that the advance has allowed the Syrian Army to evacuate 1,200 residents of the city.  The Syrian authorities now “fully control 50 neighborhoods in the eastern part of [Aleppo] that account for 70 percent of the territory that was initially controlled by the militants.” 

So facing the imminent loss of their most important stronghold, the Syrian rebels in besieged eastern Aleppo called on Wednesday for an immediate five-day ceasefire and the evacuation of civilians and wounded, but gave no indication they were ready to withdraw as demanded by Damascus and Moscow.
In a statement calling for the truce, the rebels made no mention of evacuating the several thousand fighters who are defending an ever shrinking area of eastern Aleppo. However, Syria and Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have said they want rebels to leave Aleppo and will not consider a ceasefire unless that happens according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Assad's forces are piling on the pressure: "It's been a tragedy here for a long time, but I've never seen this kind of pressure on the city - you can't rest for even five minutes, the bombardment is constant," a resident said. "Any movement in the streets and there is bombardment (on that area) immediately," said the east Aleppo resident contacted by Reuters, who declined to be identified. Fear gripped the remaining residents as food and water supplies were cut off.
The rebels have suffered a series of staggering losses in Aleppo over the past 10 days or so as Assad’s Russian-backed forces have captured neighborhoods the opposition had controlled since 2012. Rebel-held areas of Aleppo have shrunk to about a third of their former size, the WSJ reports.

Syrian government troops patrolled a newly captured neighborhood in eastern 
Aleppo on Wednesday
In addition to being a critical catalyst in the war, one which would shift the balance of power toward Assad's regime, retaking Aleppo would also be a success for Vladimir Putin who intervened to save Moscow's ally in September 2015 with air strikes, and for Shi'ite Iran, whose elite Islamic Republic Guard Corps has suffered casualties fighting for Assad. As such, the Syrian government now appears closer to victory than at any point in the five years since protests against Assad evolved into an armed rebellion.
* * *
Tasting victory, outside of Aleppo the government and its allies are also putting severe pressure on remaining rebel redoubts. "The decision to liberate all of Syria is taken and Aleppo is part of it," Assad said in a newspaper interview, according to pro-Damascus television station al-Mayadeen. He described the city as the "last hope" of rebels and their backers.
The Syrian army now controls all of the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site including the Umayyad Mosque, which had been held by rebels, the Observatory said. Explosions and artillery fire could be heard on Syrian state television in districts around the citadel which overlooks the Old City as the army pressed its offensive. More neighborhoods were expected to fall but rebels were fighting ferociously. 
Rebels have lost control of about 75 percent of their territory in eastern Aleppo in under 10 days, Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, said. It is their desperation that brought the rebels to the negotiating table: the "humanitarian initiative" published by rebels called for the evacuation of around 500 critical medical cases.
Realizing it has all the leverage, the Kremlin has refused to comply with the proposed truce, however it said on Wednesday that a potential U.S.-Russia deal to allow Syrian rebels to leave Aleppo safely was still on the agenda. Damascus and Moscow have been calling on rebels to withdraw from the city, disarm and accept safe passage out, a procedure that has been carried out in other areas where rebels abandoned besieged territory in recent months.
To move the proposal forward, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in Hamburg on Wednesday at 8 p.m. local (1900 GMT). A U.S. official said they were likely to discuss safe passage for rebels out of Aleppo. However, as of a couple of days ago, moderate opposition groups with whom U.S. officials had been in contact were "less than inclined" to make any such deals, the official said, on condition of anonymity. Lavrov will also meet with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Russian agencies reported.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a week-long ceasefire. Moscow correctly said rebels used such pauses in the past to reinforce. The Syrian army's advance is a "strategic victory" that will prevent foreign intervention and alter the political process, Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar told reporters in Damascus.
"Those who believed in the Syrian triumph, know that (the rebels') morale is at its lowest and that these collapses that have begun are like domino tiles," he said. But perhaps most surprising, was that an official with an Aleppo rebel group, who declined to be named, told Reuters the United States appeared to have no position on the Syrian army assault on Aleppo, just weeks before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office. In other words, both Assad and Putin are taking advantage of the political power vacuum in the US to finally push the remaining rebels out of their hideout and end the war once and for all.
"The Russians want the fighters out and they (the Americans) are ready to coordinate over that", said the Turkey-based official, citing indirect contacts with U.S. officials.
* * *
There is one final factor which effectively assures an Assad victory: the weather. As winter sets in, siege conditions are increasingly desperate, exacerbated by increasing numbers of displaced residents and food and water shortages. A U.N. official said on Wednesday about 31,500 people from east Aleppo have been displaced around the entire city over the past week, with hundreds more seen on the move on Wednesday. 
Yet few rebels had quit Aleppo so far, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who as has often been the case, described those were left there as "terrorists" who were uniting around fighters from the group formerly known as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
Civilians wanting to leave east Aleppo should be evacuated to the northern Aleppo countryside, rather than Idlib province, the rebel document said. Idlib is dominated by Islamist groups including Fateh al-Sham, the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, and is facing intense bombardment by Russian warplanes. On the other hand, “Russia wants to move them to Idlib. The fighters have a choice: survive for an extra couple of weeks by going to Idlib or fight to the very end and die in Aleppo," one senior European diplomat, who declined to be named, said. "For the Russians it’s simple. Place them all in Idlib and then they have all their rotten eggs in one basket.”
On Russian-U.S. talks, the diplomat said: “The assumption is that the U.S. has influence on the ground. I don’t think that’s the case.” Which means that the US has essentially given up and has handed over victory in Syria's half-decaded long proxy war to Putin. He will be delighted to accept.

Syrian War Report – December 7, 2016: Washington Attempts To Save Militants From Total Collapse

Hypocrisy And Propaganda During UN Security Council Meeting On Syria

The US Seeks To Free Its Officers From The Death-Trap In Aleppo City?

The West is in panic over Aleppo

THE U.S IN PANIC MODE: Assad to pay a visit to Aleppo

December 7th, 2016 - Fort Russ News
Katehon - 
As of this morning, Syria time, (GMT +2) 85% of Aleppo has now been completely confirmed as liberated since last night. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated his desire to visit Aleppo.
The liberation of the city
Over the last day, a few more neighborhoods in Aleppo were liberated, while the total number of areas that have fallen under the control of the government now amount to 85%. During the night, thousands of terrorists surrendered to the authorities and they with their families are being sent to Idlib. According to the Russian ceasefire center, about 3,000 terrorists across the whole country have surrendered their weapons.
The West in panic
After the planned shelling of the Russian hospital, which was expected to mix up Russia’s plans in Syria, the Obama Administration has revoked recent proposals to resolve the situation in Syria. These proposals were earlier described by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov as “in line with the approach long since advocated by Russian experts in negotiations with the Americans.” The Obama Administration has now also announced its refusal to meet for consultations with Russia.
However, all of this has turned out to have an entirely different impact. Instead of announcing the end of the mission or at least a truce, which the West and NATO called on Russia to do yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has said that any and all terrorists who remain in the city will be completely destroyed. This has caused great panic among the terrorists and their patrons, who have begun to make contradictory statements and knee-jerk movements.
Despite the fact that the terrorists who wished to do so have already left the city, the Obama Administration is trying to achieve the withdrawal of all terrorists, some of whom may be, of course, American instructors whose presence was denied previously.
Agony and Anger

The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced the death of another Russian military officer, Russian Army Colonel Ruslan Galitsky, who was in Aleppo with a group of military advisers. He died in a hospital as a result of injuries sustained during a shelling of the city’s residential neighborhoods by the "armed opposition” terrorists.
Syrian calm
Syrian forces are continuing their offensive on all fronts. The Castello road in the north of Aleppo is now fully unblocked. Attacks by terrorists in the northern districts have been repulsed.
Despite the West’s information support for terrorists on social networks and in the media, the demoralization of fighters is reaching a devastating level.
In turn, government forces believe in a quick victory. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has already announced his decision to visit the city in the near future.
Most likely, in the near future, the terrorists and the West will take some painful actions. Washington and, possibly, some other Western and Arab countries, will try again to mix up the plans of Russia, Syria, and Iran. The terrorists, in turn, will try to attack coalition forces. Moreover, these attacks will be aimed not at troops, but at Syrian civilian neighborhoods and representatives of Russia’s humanitarian missions, non-combatants. The main purpose of such will be lifting the morale of terrorists and intimidating the world rather than achieving military objectives. As for combat operations, Damascus’ victory is undoubtable.

Victory in Aleppo

BREAKING: Aleppo’s Old City Now Fully Liberated by Syrian Army, Remaining Terrorists in Retreat


DAMASCUS – In a stunning development today, 21WIRE has received reports from on the ground in Syria that remaining ‘rebel’ militants have fled the Old City of Aleppo, even leaving behind a substantial amount of equipment and weapons – as the Syrian Arab Army advances into the remaining terrorist-held neighborhood in the eastern part of Syria’s largest city. 

The following video shows early celebrations in the narrow streets of the Old Citadel. Watch

SAA sources have confirmed that the ‘Old Citadel’ is now fully liberated, “with remaining pockets to be cleansed by tomorrow (Wednesday).”

21WIRE special contributor, Vanessa Beeley, is currently in Damascus, waiting to head to Aleppo.  She had this to say on the situation and the news coming in from Syrian TV channels and statements from the Syrian Arab Army:

Since I arrived in Damascus on Monday 5th December, there has been a simmering excitement from all members of society, a sense of impending victory in Aleppo. That anticipation seems to have been satiated tonight as news is coming in that the Syrian Arab Army is pushing home its advantage and sweeping clean, the remaining pockets of terrorist resistance against the SAA advances, supported by their allies from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.

I met with Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix today, in Damascus city centre to discuss her work supporting the Syrian State’s reconciliation projects which offer all manner of Amnesty and rehabilitation for armed mercenaries. During the meeting Mother Agnes made this statement:

Between Syrians there are only solutions…no conflict. The conflict comes from outside Syria”
Never has this been more clearly demonstrated than in the SAA liberation of East Aleppo from the NATO + Gulf state funded, multiple gangs of armed insurgents, mercenaries and terrorist groups under the command of Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda. This victory is not only a military victory. It is a victory against all forms of NATO and Gulf state terrorism – the crippling economic sanctions, the hostile media campaigns, the weaponized humanitarianism of Western “state” funded NGOs have all received a fatal blow with this liberation of Aleppo.”

After nearly 3 weeks of heavy fighting in a special offensive launched by the Syrian Army, government forces were said to have controlled at least 75% of the contested areas by the end of Monday. The momentum appears to have shifted completely in the SAA’s favor after another hard push throughout Tuesday.

This weekend, ‘rebel’ militants had mounted a counter-offensive at the districts of Karm Al-Qaterjy and Karm Al-Maysar, but their forces were neutralized, as the Syrian Army continued its progress by capturing both the Turbet Lala and Sha’ar districts of East Aleppo.

It is also believed that a collective decision to retreat has been made by remaining members of the armed militant and terrorist coalition occupying eastern Aleppo. 

Many militants are hoping to negotiate a safe exit via Turkey, but this would be contingent on a three-way negotiation held in Turkey between Russia, Syria and Turkey officials hoping to negotiate an orderly exit, and on what conditions exactly the Syrian Army will allow militants to leave north. It is also possible with some remaining Al Nusra, ISIS and other salafi militants had already begun making their own way over to terrorist enclaves in the east of the country, and also towards terrorist-occupied Idlib province.

It is not yet known whether violent terrorists groups like Al Nusra, Nour al-din al-Zenki, or Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham are included in the bilateral negotiations.
This report has just been updated by the Syrian Arab News Agency:

Provinces, SANA- The army is advancing further in Aleppo, as its units, in cooperation with the supporting forces, have established control over several new areas after inflicting heavy losses upon the terrorist organizations there.
Aleppo: Units of the Army and Armed Forces, in cooperation with the supporting forces, restored security and stability to the neighborhoods of Karm al-Dada, Karm al-Qatirji and al-Shaar in the city of Aleppo, SANA reporter announced.

In a relevant context, the reporter said members of the Internal Security Forces detonated a car bomb for the terrorist organizations before it managed to reach a military post in the surroundings of Jamiyet al-Zahra.

He noted that the car bomb attack was planned in an attempt to raise the deteriorating morale of the terrorists who had to flee under the army’s strikes in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city.

Later, a military source said that army units restored security and stability to al-Marjeh and al-Sheikh Lutfi neighborhoods in Aleppo, and are pursuing the remaining terrorists in the area.

The source also said that the army units established control over Tallet al-Shurta (hill) after conducting intensive operations against the terrorist organizations to the east of Aleppo city and eliminating their gatherings.”



A couple of hours ago there was a big fat nothing in western media. Here is the Guardian

Pro-government forces are closest they have ever been to seizing entire city as rebels beg for five day ceasefire to allow civilians to leave

Forces loyal to the Syrian regime have ousted rebel groups from Aleppo’s Old City as an increasingly battered opposition pleaded for a five day ceasefire to allow remaining civilians to be evacuated.

The advances were the most significant of the past week and edged the fighting in Syria’s second city towards a final showdown in neighbourhoods where it all began for the besieged rebel groups four and a half years ago. Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed heavily by militias that have been instrumental in shifting his fortunes in the war, are now the closest they have ever been to seizing the entirety of east Aleppo – a city central to the fate of the war.

The BBC gives grudging coverage of people returning to Aleppo. Often reporters on the ground can give a very different picture to the main organisation

Debunking the climate change deniers

While we’re still talking about trolls

Climate Deniers’ Top 3 Tactics

Climate deniers don’t just want to deny global warming and its danger. They want you to deny it too.

But man-made climate change is real, the danger is extreme, so they have to use guile to persuade you otherwise. There are three tried-and-false tactics they use often, and to great effect. Let’s take a close look at these misdirection methods, so you can arm yourself for defense against the dark arts.


Climate deniers don’t like what the data say. What they probably hate most is the temperature data — especially at Earth’s surface (where we live) — because it shows so plainly and obviously that the world is heating up. Here are the three best-known global-average surface temperature data records (yearly averages since 1880), from NASA, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and HadCRU (the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.):


They all tell pretty much the same story: Earth is heating up.

Pinning down global average temperature change is a complicated business. You have to gather data from around the world, including thermometer readings from thousands of surface stations for land areas and sea surface temperature measurements from ships and from satellites. You have to average them properly, in a way that doesn’t over-emphasize regions with lots of observations but underplay regions more sparsely observed (a process sometimes called “area-weighting”). You need to remove the seasonal cycle, because we’re not interested in whether summer is hotter than winter, we want to know whether the world as a whole is heating or cooling. You have to watch for things like station moves where temperature seems to change only because the station was moved to a hotter or colder location. Truly, it’s a complicated business.

The longer they’ve been doing it, the better they’ve gotten at it. In particular, they’ve learned to spot the signs of data problems and make adjustements to compensate. As a result, they’re a lot better at it now than they were just a few decades ago.

But because there are “adjustments” — whose only purpose is to make thing better by compensating for known problems — deniers have seized on that word to claim that the scientists doing it were perpetrating a fraud, that adjustments were only to introduce false warming into the record.

Richard Muller, a physicist at Berkeley University, thought that maybe they were right about that — he was highly suspicious of the surface temperature data. He decided to find out for himself, by organizing a team to go back to the original, unadjusted data, and use the most sophisticated and mathematically sound procedure for estimating a world-wide average, one which didn’t allow any way to make the results “lean” one way or the other to introduce a bias toward cooling or warming. The effort is called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project.
Climate deniers were thrilled — they waited in anticipation of genuine scientists, using the best available methods, finally showing that the existing records were wrong.

The admiration of climate deniers for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project didn’t last long. It vanished into thin air as soon as the results were announced. That’s when the climate denier community turned on Richard Muller like a pack of wolves, because the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, the fakeproof method, showed that the existing data sets got it right all along. Muller himself had this to say in a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
And how does the new Berkeley Earth data set compare to the others? Like this:


Climate deniers don’t just use this tactic on temperature records; when data disagree with their narrative they’ll attack the data. Far too often, they won’t just say the data are mistaken, they’ll accuse the scientists who put it together of fraud. It’s reprehensible.

Climate deniers like to call themselves “skeptics,” but they’re not. What’s the difference? I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best:

“A skeptic will question claims, then embrace the evidence. A denier will question claims, then reject the evidence.”


Almost all data is a combination of trend, which has persistence, and fluctuation, which doesn’t last. The trend reveals how climate is changing, but the fluctuations are weather, and just because climate changes, doesn’t mean we won’t still have weather. Fluctuations go up and down and down and up — they just won’t stop — but they never really get anywhere.

Climate scientists can tell you, it’s the trend that matters. Heat waves, flood, drought and the like are things we’ve always had to deal with, and they spell trouble. But when they get more frequent, and more severe, it can be disastrous. It costs money, it costs jobs, it costs lives.

Deniers don’t want you to know how the trend is going, so they go out of their way to shout about fluctuations that go the other way. Maybe the most infamous example is when Oklahoma senator James Inhofe carried a snowball onto the floor of the U.S. senate one day to try to ridicule global warming. He ended up ridiculing himself, because the idea that you can discredit global warming because you happened to find some cold weather — in winter, no less — is truly ridiculous. As in, worthy of ridicule.

Temperature is one of those things that fluctuates. It can show large swings from day to day, from month to month, even from year to year. But there’s also a trend, which is upward — it’s called global warming. Lately deniers have been taking temperature fluctuations that happen to go downward and braying about “global cooling.” Of course the fluctuations don’t last — but they still accomplish their goal of creating doubt in the minds of the scientifically naive.

Christopher Booker writes for the British newspaper The Telegraph. He recently included a comment about England’s meteorological office acquiring a new computer for their weather and climate simulations, in which he had this to say:

“Only gradually since 2007, when none of them predicted a temporary fall in global temperatures of 0.7 degrees, equal to their entire net rise in the 20th century, have they been prepared to concede that CO2 was not the real story.”
Christopher Booker, U.K. Telegraph, 22 October 2016.
It that true? Did global temperature actually fall far enough to negate the entire 20th-century rise? Here’s Earth’s average temperature change each month from 1880, according to NASA:


If we zoom in on the last 40 years or so, starting about 1975, we can easily see what it is Christopher Booker is talking about:


He’s talking about a couple of fluctuations. If you compare an especially high fluctuation to an especially low fluctuation, you might convince yourself that temperature is falling fast.

But a fluctuation is not a trend. Trends have some persistence; fluctuations don’t last. Climate scientists tell us that it’s the trend that matters — that’s why it’s what they talk about:


Another example: about a week ago David Rose had an article in the U.K. Daily Mail with its focus on a “sudden drop” in global temperature. Rose searched far and wide to find a data set he could use to make that claim, and the best he could come up with was satellite data for the lower atmosphere (not at the surface) over land areas only (excluding the 2/3 of the world covered by ocean). His story was repeated by others in the U.K. Spectator and the alt-right propoganda-driven Breitbart News.

What’s fascinating is what they chose to focus on: some fluctuations which they seemed to think were worth shouthing about, with no mention of the trend. Here, in blue, are the fluctuations they made such a fuss about, and in red is the trend they didn’t want to discuss:


Fluctuations will always be with us, they’re part of nature. But the rising trend of global temperature that we’ve been seeing is man-made. According to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, this trend spells trouble. And the reason? Mainly, it’s CO2.

We now come to the most common, most pernicious, and probably most effective climate denier tactic:


On April 15, 2013, Lawrence Solomon published a brief article in the Financial Post suggesting that sea ice in the Arctic wasn’t really declining, that there was no trend toward persistent long-term melting. He started with this:

Arctic sea ice back to 1989 levels
Yesterday, April 14th, the Arctic had more sea ice than it had on April 14,1989 – 14.511 million square kilometres vs 14.510 million square kilometres, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center of the United States, an official source.
His opening sentence is one of the most extreme examples of cherry-picking: showing or talking about some evidence that supports your claim, while ignoring or rejecting evidence that contradict you.

He went on to add a couple more cherry-picked “facts” for good measure. Then he ended with this:

“The only evident trend in the ice, as in the weather, is variability.”
It all sounds pretty convincing, doesn’t it? Arctic sea ice was no more extensive on that day than it was 24 years ago! Plus, he actually mentions the words “trend” and “variability” — how scientific.

The following day (April 16, 2013) I posted this graph showing all the available “sea ice extent anomaly” data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (yes, an official source):


In case you’re wondering what’s happened since then, it’s this:


The red line is an estimate the trend — the one that Lawrence Solomon said isn’t “evident.”

This particular example is also a case of tactic #2: distract from the trend by focus on fluctuation. It’s executed by the never-ending tactic of cherry-picking: discuss evidence that supports your claim while ignoring or concealing evidence that contradicts you.

The most frequent target of cherry-picking is temperature data. Here, for instance is senator Ted Cruz’s favorite temperature graph:

t certainly looks like there’s been no global warming! But remember that data is a combination of trend and fluctuation. Fluctuations sometimes go down, which can make an upward trend look downward, even when that trend — which we call global warming — hasn’t stopped or even slowed. What deniers do is cherry-pick — find a time span which starts with a large upward fluctuation, maybe even ends with a large downward fluctuation, to create the false impression of a downward trend.

In 1997-1998 we had a particularly strong el NiƱo, one of the factors that can cause an especially large upward fluctuation. That’s why climate deniers start so many temperature graphs with 1997-1998 — it’s the large upward fluctuation they need to give a false impression of trend.

But that’s not the only time span one can cherry-pick to show fluctuation and claim it’s a trend. There are many, which led to a now-famous animated graph from the website Skeptical Science:


No matter how temperatures change, as long as there are fluctuations deniers will be able to cherry-pick some time span to look like their false claim. And there will always be fluctuations.

What if we didn’t cherry-pick the time span? The data in Ted Cruz’s graph starts back in 1979, well before 1997, and we’ve got some more data since he showed it in his latest senate hearing. Here’s the whole story:

he red box shows the part included in Ted Cruz’s graph. The interesting part, that reveals the upward trend, is what Ted Cruz didn’t show.

Picking an outlier for your start and/or end points isn’t the only way to cherry-pick and hide the trend. Another is simply to pick a time span that’s way too brief for the trend to make itself clear.

Fluctuations can be large, especially for temperature data, and the trend can take years to accumulate enough warming to overcome them. That’s one of the reasons the typical time span to define climate instead of weather is 30 years. If all you show is a brief span of time, the trend doesn’t have long enough to “rise above the noise.” But it’s still there.

The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) features a temperature graph in their logo. The data are yearly average temperature according to the Hadley Center/Climate Research Unit in the U.K. (HadCRU). Here’s the HadCRU data itself:

The year 2016 isn’t complete yet, but will be soon, so I’ve shown the average for the year-so-far.
Here’s the graph GWPF includes in their logo:


Notice how it doesn’t start until 2001? Notice that it doesn’t include 2016’s year-so-far value? I wonder what they’ll do when 2016 is complete and it’s harder to hide the temperature rise? Notice how squeezed the data is into a small space, so the total variation looks small? If they showed what came before, or what came after, or even on a scale that helped see the changes better, you might notice how clear the upward trend is.

There are many ways to cherry-pick. Choose a time span selected to give the wrong impression (start with 1997-1998); choose the one data set that supports your claim but not any of the others; choose a single event which bucks the trend (my grandmother smoked cigarettes and lived to be 98 years old).

Climate deniers use these tactics because they work. When they suggest that the temperature data are a fraud, it raises your suspicions. When they point out a “sudden drop” in temperature data while concealing the trend, it can be persuasive. When you hear that Arctic sea ice is no more extensive than it was on this date 24 years ago, it sounds convincing. When you see temperature data on a graph starting in 1997-1998, it looks convincing.

Even the best of us, even the smartest of us, are all too easily fooled by misdirection (stage magicians can use that fact to make a very good living). There’s no shame in being fooled by a charlatan, we’ve all been taken in at one time or another. My hope is that now that you’ve seen some of their tricks, when you run into them the next time you’ll recognize them for what they are: tricks.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …