Do Fact Checkers Still Exist? (Updated)

I've never understood people - usually much more important than me - who have their research assistants draft their op-eds before they polish and print them.

But still when I saw this op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor the other day I couldn't believe that it had passed both RAND's and the CSM's internal reviews. The op-ed by Aidan Kirby Winn is about Guantanamo and, like much of what gets printed on the subject, is full of errors.

Much of the piece, I'll leave to others more qualified than I to comment, but the Yemen section is full of mistakes. Why if this subject is as important as most people think - and I agree - can't they take the time to do a simple Google search? (That really isn't rhetorical.)

Take for instance:

"Yemen has developed a rehabilitation program modeled on Saudi Arabia's, but so far it has yet to work as well. The escape of 13 Al Qaeda suspects from a Yemeni prison in 2006 undermines confidence in the country's ability to secure dangerous inmates if the US were to send them home.

Al Qaeda has a growing presence in Yemen, underscored by the attack last September on the US Embassy – an attack in which Shihri's involvement is suspected. A brutal murder of three foreign aid workers occurred just this month, bearing the hallmarks of Al Qaeda. An infusion of battle-tested jihadists back into that nation could further embolden the movement."

First of all, Saudi's program is modeled on Yemen's not the other way around - as the dates that the respective programs have been in existence would indicate. Also, 23 al-Qaeda suspects escaped from a Yemeni political security prison, not 13.

And finally, the only people who believe al-Shihri was involved in the September 2008 US Embassy attack are those that have a firm and unshakable belief in the magical realism of Rushdie or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Al-Shihri can't be in two places at once - he wasn't in Yemen - and he doesn't have a history of not taking credit for attacks that he was involved in - the recent kidnappings is still an open question in my mind.)

In all fairness, this last mistake is one that keeps getting reprinted in a variety of places so even a Google search wouldn't have helped, one would actually need to read the Arabic of some interviews in Saudi papers and Sada al-Malahim.

There is surely a lot of room for differing opinions on what to do with Guantanamo - and I differ strongly from Winn's that Saudi is the best place for the Yemeni detainees - but certainly all of us, no matter our opinions, must start from what is known. And in this case, certain facts are known, and we should be very careful to get them correct before reaching conclusions, instead of allowing conclusions to shape and shade our presentation of what is known.

Update: In retrospect, I may have come across as a bit harsh in this post - not my intention. I just meant to suggest that on this particular subject, which is particularly sensitive to mistaken facts and information, one should be particularly careful with what one writes. Especially when presenting it as fact. The subject of Yemen and Guantanamo is difficult enough without confusing rumor and suggestion with fact.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

15 surprising life lessons from a highly successful 80-year-old

You can use these to get ahead, no matter your age.

Personal Growth

Blackstone's Byron Wien, Vice Chairman of Private Wealth Solutions Group, gave a speech laying out the wisdom he learned during his 80 years. Here are 15 of Wien's best life lessons, which teach us about improving our productivity, sleep, burnout avoidance, and everything in between.

Keep reading Show less

Employees don't quit their job, they quit their boss

According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.

Photo credit: Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.

By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:

Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.

Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.

McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.

It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.

But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.

Read more at LinkedIn.

Radical theory says our universe sits on an inflating bubble in an extra dimension

Cosmologists propose a groundbreaking model of the universe using string theory.

Getty Images/Suvendu Giri
Surprising Science
  • A new paper uses string theory to propose a new model of the universe.
  • The researchers think our universe may be riding a bubble expanded by dark energy.
  • All matter in the universe may exist in strings that reach into another dimension.
Keep reading Show less