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- Great source for content
- Mikkel MÃ¸ldrup-Lakjer
August 26, 2005, 11:44 pm
Re: Great source for content
"Notoriously flawed" is what I wrote - meaning I don't necessarily have
documentation myself, see? That's what the word notorious means.
What _is_ true, at least among people whose opinion I respect, is that the
CIA "Fact" book has a reputation of low credibility. The Wikipedia article
confirms my impression that the CIA book has a bad reputation. That's what I
meant by "notoriously".
My personal experience with the book has been that much of its information
has been out of date and much less than accurate, so I wouldn't rely on it
myself. And no, I have not taken notes of the errors for you to read.
- Mikkel MÃ¸ldrup-Lakjer
August 27, 2005, 3:04 pm
Reliability of CIA World Factbook (Was: Re: Great source for content)
That goes without saying :-) - (if it were that the book had a chapter about
flying in space). It would be much more interesting to see what it would
write about the Soviet cosmonauts vs. the US astronauts.
However, the book deals mainly with "current facts" and does not like to
include much background. Probably because the editors believe a section with
historical background would make the book the object of discussion. Or their
omisson of embarrassing facts would be even more obvious than it is now. But
even so, the book is problematic. It may end up misrepresenting some of the
"facts" because of the deliberately left out context.
I probably wouldn't worry about using the numbers from statistics about
national economies or the uncontroversial parts of the demographic data from
the CIA Fact Book, provided they have been updated (an important condition:
in earlier editions I found that the information for my country, Denmark,
The book is really just a superficial collection of data with a few
comments. But what is left out is sometimes as telling as what is kept in.
This is not really what I meant what I talked about errors, but I will give
you some examples of the problematic nature of the "Fact Book". Let's look
at the entry for Guatemala. The introductory paragraph (labeled
"Background") of the current edition says:
"The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions
during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish
colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of
the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian
governments as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government
signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more
than 100,000 people dead and had created some 1 million refugees."
No mention of the fact that the CIA itself played a crucial role in
organising and equipping the invading force that overthrew the elected
president and installed the military dictatorship that formed the root the
guerilla war. No mention of Clinton's apology in 1999 where he accepted US
responsibility for supporting the subsequent Guatemalan military regimes
that committed massacres on its own people in the 1970's and 1980's.
In case you might think that it is unfair to ask for such information to be
included in an official report, because is too controversial, compare that
entry with the UK Foreign Office "country profile" for the same country:
Isn't the UK government page a more useful (desinterested?) source of
Let's look at the entry for Chile:
"A three-year-old Marxist government was overthrown in 1973 by a dictatorial
military regime led by Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected
president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained
consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady growth and have
helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative
government. Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international
leadership roles befitting its status as a stable, democratic nation."
Again, the CIA fails to mention its own role in the overthrow of the elected
government. (If you object that we cannot expect that an intelligence
service reveals information about its own role in operations, I totally
agree - and it proves my point). And then there is the allusion that
economic neoliberalism has been a precondition for democracy - a point of
view that I respect, though most Europeans would probably contradict it, and
certainly it is highly controversial in Latin America, but here it is stated
as a fact.
(Of course the entry for Venezuela does not mention the CIA support for the
coup d'etat against Chávez either, though this story is well-known in Europe
and Latinamerican countries).
Would you trust what the CIA writes about Iraq?
Re: Google's Dilemma
___/ On Thursday 25 August 2005 19:23, [Big Bill] wrote : \___
Good point. They have a dilemma because they can reduce the quality of their
results, but at the same time may get higher profits for it.
By referring the surfer to the .gov Factbook, they will get no money. Refer
the surfer to a Factbook mirror with AdSense and you give the surfer the
same content and increase your (Google's that is) profit. This is a
potential point for Google criticism and friction in the future. Call it
Roy S. Schestowitz Useless fact: ~70% of organisms are bacteria