Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Video of a Staged Donation

After the snuffle at CCTV, another video of a donation drive in a high school in Guangdong is circulating the internet. In the video, school officials were seen to repeatedly taking out cash that was just dropped in the donation box and distributing them to students who then took turns to donate the same cash:

As outrage mounted, officials from the school quickly issued a statement. They explained that the actual donation had already happened a day earlier, without the presence of any camera. When local reporters learned about the donation drive, they requested a repeat performance so they could get some footage. Thus born the "recycling" donation.

It appears that such staged-for-camera events are pretty common among journalists in China.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The "Science" Behind Predicting Earthquake

After the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, many speculations were spreading over the internet. Was this earthquake predictable? Or more seriously, had predictions been ignored?

Erratic animal behavior has always been a mainstay in the earthquake-predicting folk-lore in China. This one is no exception. But it is even more than that. There is a claim that a paper, published in a scientific journal in 2006, had actually predicted an earthquake in Sichuan area in 2008!

The paper, titled Study on Earthquake Tendency in Sichuan-Yunnan Region Based on Commensurability, was published in the September, 2006, issue of the Journal of Catastrophology, can be downloaded here (in Chinese, with English translation of title and abstract at the end). It listed four authors, Long Xiaoxia(龙小霞), Yan Junping(延军平), Sun Hu(孙虎), and Wang Zuzheng(王祖正), all from the Shaanxi Normal University (陕西师范大学). Its abstract claimed that
Based on the data analysis of earthquake disasters in Sichuan-Yunnan region, the tendency of the next strong earthquake(s) is predicted by commensurability of ternary, quaternion and quintuple, for the purpose of disaster prevention and reduction.
It is a very short paper, consisted mainly the tabulation and listing of historical data. With much parameter fitting, it reached its conclusion that the year 2008 will be the most likely time an earthquake of 6.7 or higher would happen in the Sichuan-Yunnan region.

After the publicity, New Threads published a series of articles debunking the methodology of this prediction at here, here, here, and here. Most point out that the paper had engaged in simple regression and extrapolation with a selective use of data. For example, the paper only used the years in which earthquakes of ranking 6.7 or higher. There was no explanation why 6.7 was chosen. It also treated the calendar year as an atomic unit of datum, ignoring the fact that there might be multiple earthquakes within one year.

Most damning of all is that, one author found, should the authors of the paper did their research before 1993, their method would have predicted a strong earthquake there in the year 1993. There was none.

So much for this prediction of earthquake.

CCTV Apologizes for Its Video Snuffle

After showing footage of Olympic torch bearers donating money for earthquake effort but without any money being donated, CCTV owned up its snuffle and issued an apology. It explained that, after the actual donation, with money, had already finished, the torch bearers were called back by a camera man to do a double take for memorabilia. That tape, in which they had no money to donate, was inadvertently aired.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CCTV Stages Fake Donation

In a segment on CCTV, reporting Olympic torch bearers making donation for the earthquake disaster, it can be clearly seen that nobody made any actual donation:

It would be too cynical to think these people faking donation on their own. Most likely, it was a staged scene, very badly done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Victory for Supervision of Public Opinion?

Danwei reported that CCTV, the official television news station in China, has defeated a libel charge case filed by a towel manufacturing company. In its program, CCTV had exposed the towels being made there as of low quality and contained cancer-inducing chemicals. While the low quality part is true, "there was no evidence that the towels contained carcinogenic substances", according to an official test report.

The manufacturer filed libel suit in Beijing First Intermediate Court, demanding a public apology and damage. The Court "dismissed the charges, saying that 'manufacturers should tolerate sharp criticism from the public and the media.'", according to Danwei.

The Danwei article also cited editorials from several mainstream newspapers in China, hailing the verdict as "a victory for supervision of public opinion". Beijing Youth Daily compared the case with the New York Times Co. v Sullivan case in 1960, and framed the issue as a free speech one.

It's obvious that the court cases Fang Zhouzi has to face are very similar to this by CCTV. This is even more true to the most recent case involving the CEB Rice. Could this "victory" be extended and help on his cause? We could only hope. However, as Danwei also deftly pointed out:
Different from the United States, case law is not in China's law system, which means judges don't need to follow precedents. So even though CCTV won its case, it doesn't mean any other media will be immune from similar charges.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Teacher Calls For A Ban Of "Inbreeding" in College

An open letter anonymously signed as "Young College Teacher at Capital" is published at New Threads today, calling for a ban of what he/she called "inbreeding" in colleges in China.

Apparently it has become a common practice that teachers in a college in China can apply for and be admitted to the graduate schools of the same school (presumably within the same research area of his/her teaching). It is billed as a win-win convenience: the teacher can continue to teach in the school while pursuing and obtaining a higher degree.

Such "inbreeding" behavior, the open letter stated, is absolutely forbidden in the colleges of most other countries, as it could lead to academic corruptions worse than cheating and plagiarism. It could seriously damage the credibility of the graduate school program.

The open letter also cited a statistics that, on average, 60% of teachers in a college in China graduated from the same college they are now teaching in.