“fudging” the truth to sell a book?

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It’s heady stuff to be published, but downright phenomenal when a writer’s book lays the proverbial “golden egg.” Greg Mortenson seems to be the goose whose Three Cups of Tea was the egg that got laid. And as it turns out, it might have been really worth a “goose egg,” pun intended.

On Sunday evening, I watched CBS60 Minutes where journalist Jon Krakauer was featured as the man who brought down Mortenson’s “house of cards.” An early believer in the author’s tale, Krakauer eventually learned from a former boardmember of Mortenson’s charity, that all was not right with how it was being run. Furthermore the book itself is suspect because not all the details are based upon fact, or if they are, they did not occur as he described.

Greg Mortenson in Afghanistan 3500ppx

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Three Cups of Tea tells how Mortenson lost his way in a mountain-climbing trip in Pakistan in 1993. He was with a companion who disputes the events as told in the book. According to the author, he was revived by the village people of Korphe. As a result of their compassionate efforts on his behalf, Mortenson decided to undertake the construction of schools for children in the area. He also tells of being kidnapped by the Taliban on a return trip. Photographs in the book show him in garb like the men who surround him. One picture even shows the author holding up a rifle. “Sixty Minutes” spoke with some of these supposed kidnappers, one being an Islamic intellectual who has himself penned many books. These men insist they are not Taliban, nor did they kidnap Mortenson. Rather they were enlisted to show him the surrounding countryside. It was his desire to build other schools for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While Krakauer does not detract from Mortenson’s initial humanitarian motives, the journalist takes issue with the author’s inability to justify the inaccuracies that have since surfaced. It seems Mortenson has used in excess of a million dollars of funds donated for his charity, the Central Asia Institute, to promote his book. Less than that amount has gone towards the Institute’s work. His accounting of the monies used is found lacking in specifics. Traveling from city to city for book-signings has sometimes occured via private jet. Meanwhile, the schools that were suppose to be built, have either not been constructed, or stand empty of any occupants. Others that are operating, have not received a penny from the charity in years.

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Sixty Minutes’ Steve Croft was unsuccessful in getting Mortenson to speak on camera. He refused. He continued to maintain his silence when Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal sent an email asking for a comment for his article “Publisher Plans to Vet Memoir With Author.” On his charity’s website, Mortenson states that he is due to have “heart surgery later this week and when he recovers he will ‘come out fighting for what is right and just, and be able to talk to the media.’ ”

Meanwhile Mortenson’s publisher, Viking, maintains their praise of the author’s philantrophic efforts, but have registered their concerns saying that ” ’60 Minutes’ is a serious news organization.” So there could be a recall of the work, or the addition of an author’s note to later editions of the book. Krakauer who had donated $75,000 to the Central Asia Institute in its initial heyday, has now written his own lengthy account of Mortenson’s book, entitled Three Cups of Deceipt: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way.

On Forbes.com, writer Michael Humphrey covers the ongoing debate as to the facts of Mortenson’s book. After reviewing Mortenson’s mumbo-jumbo about the discrepancies put forth in the “60 Minutes” documentary, Humphrey sides with Krakauer’s rational dilineation of what really took place.

Mortenson abandoned his attempt on K2. He trekked down from the mountain in the company of three companions: his American friend and climbing partner Scott Darsney; his Balti porter, Mouzafer; and Darsney’s porter, Yakub. According to each of  these companions, the four men walked together into Askole, whereupon they immediately hired a jeep to take them to the city of Skardu, the district capital. When they drove out of the mountains, Darsney assured me, Mortenson “didn’t know Korphe existed.”

Krakauer’s book then deftly explains how Mortenson came to learn of Korphe a year later, rescinded a promise to build a school in Askole, invented the story of his Taliban abduction, and went on to found an organization that one former board treasurer says Mortenson considers “a personal ATM.”

And so Humphrey states:

In yesterday’s post, I was generous with Mortenson, a well-intentioned man who I thought might have lost his way as a storyteller and organizer. I thought with a good rebuttal, there was a ray of hope for his organization. Krakauer’s book dispels that notion.

power of the written word…opium for some…hugmamma.

Greg Mortenson signing books at the American L...

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“anchors”…weighing in

 

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Not sure if you watch the evening news. I tend to tune in most nights. Kind of set my clock by world news’ broadcasts. There’s TV before Brian Williams, and then TV after he’s done his schpeel. My internal clock probably kicks into overdrive thinking “okay, now I’ve only got 5 or 6 hours” to accomplish what wasn’t done during the rest of the 18 or 19 hours, well maybe 12 or 13 hours, allowing for the time I was still in bed.

Now that you know which anchor I favor, I wondered who yours might be? Or have you no preferences? I’ll tell you my reasons for faithfully tuning in to hear Brian Williams recap the news of the day. First and foremost, he reminds me of Peter Jennings, former anchor of ABC’s evening news. Yes, Williams rode the coattails of Jennings in gaining my viewership after the more seasoned newsman died of lung cancer.

Peter Jennings

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Jennings was attractive, with a winning smile. He was easier on the eyes than Tom Brokaw and the other famous anchor whose name escapes me. I was just drawn to whiling away the news hour with Jennings. But the moment which locked in my devotion was his coverage of the hijacking of a TWA flight in the 80’s or 90’s. At the time I was working for the airline. Needless to say, we employees were never far from the television set, at work and at home.

For me, Jennings came to represent the Walter Cronkite of my adult years. I felt comforted knowing that Jennings was there  guiding us through the ups and downs of national and global affairs. If he looked alright; I felt alright. So it was with sadness that I learned of his passing, as if he’d been a distant relative.

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When Charlie Gibson assumed the vacant seat as evening anchor, I stayed tune. He was different, but likeable nonetheless. Gibson felt like a big brother to whom I could turn, knowing he always had my back. There was no celebrity aura about him. He seemed what he was: A husband, a father, in a highly visible job, trying to put the best spin on life, even when the news didn’t warrant it. So when he announced his retirement, I was again a little dazed.

Not a huge fan of Diane Sawyer‘s, although that wasn’t always the case, and unfamiliar with Katie Couric, I started watching Brian Williams. The more I saw of him, the more reminiscent he was of Peter Jennings, a younger version, still a little “green” by comparison, from what I remembered of the former anchor. But time aged Williams in appearance and delivery. I found him more and more trustworthy as the years have passed. I now look to him, as I once did to Jennings and Gibson. But since I’ve also aged, where I used to look up to Jennings as a Cronkite, Gibson as a brother, I have a warm spot for Williams as a mother does for a son, or an aunt has for a favorite nephew.

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What turned me away from Diane Sawyer? Many of you know that I’m an admirer of Michael Jackson as a phenomenal entertainer. I also believed in his ill-fated marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. While a short-lived, rocky relationship of 2 mega-famous individuals, I subscribe to their having truly cared for one another. Having watched Sawyer’s interview of the couple during their marriage, and then of Lisa Marie after their divorce, I felt the anchor’s demeanor very condescending. She treated both like children, with brow constantly furrowed and lips curled into a near snarl, Sawyer seemed to badger them about their answers. Other than living their own lives, I didn’t think either deserved the treatment they received.

I never really took note of Katie Couric. Actually I preferred ABC’s Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer, until the latter’s aforementioned interview. As with the rest of the country, Couric got my attention when she asked Sarah Palin what kind of literary material she read. Watching that interview play non-stop throughout much of the presidential campaign, had me noticing the anchor more and more.

Cropped headshot of Katie Couric

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Since Couric and Williams broadcast the evening news back-to-back, not simultaneously, I now watch both if I’m able. As I observed Couric’s handling of disastrous news, like the mid-east uprisings, and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, I found her serious, yet compassionate and calm. By contrast I found Sawyer’s presentations agitated and discomforting. Her facial expressions always seem to register acrimony. I don’t get that from Couric or Williams, nor did I get the same feeling from Cronkite or Jennings.

Well, there you have it. I’m sure we all have reasons for watching whomever it is we watch. I’m a people-person, so I tend to focus upon the connection I have with people, as to whether I put my faith and trust in them. I’ve been meaning to voice my opinion about Jennings and Williams for some time. So now I can cross this off my lengthy “to do” list.

any thoughts?…hugmamma.

wordpress “woes”

Seems our host site has had its share of problems, which might be the reason I have mine. Not sure, of course. But possible. They did make the situation known, although if you’re like me, you don’t read everything they make available. So thought I’d help them out by reposting what was said.

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Alexia Tsotsis Mar 3, 2011

You have no idea how hard it was to get this post up, as WordPress.com, our blog host, is currently under a denial of service attack. It’s been almost impossible to access the TechCrunch backend for the past 10 minutes (everything seems to be stable now) and users have been receiving a “Writes to the service have been disabled, we will be bringing everything back online ASAP” error message.

From the VIP blog post:

WordPress.com is currently being targeted by a extremely large Distributed Denial of Service attack which is affecting connectivity in some cases. The size of the attack is multiple Gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second.

We are working to mitigate the attack, but because of the extreme size, it is proving rather difficult. At this time, everything should be back to normal as the attack has subsided, but we are actively working with our upstream providers on measures to prevent such attacks from affecting connectivity going forward.

We will be making our VIP sites a priority in this endeavor, and as always, you can contact us via xxxxx@wordpress.com for the latest update. We will also update this post with more information as it becomes available

 

Matt Mullenweg during the conference WordCamp ...

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WordPress did not mention the origin of the attack (DDoS =! Anonymous) and I have contacted founder Matt Mullenweg for more information. WordPress.com currently serves 30 million publishers, including VIPs TED, CBS and TechCrunch, and is responsible for 10% of all websites in the world. WordPress.com itself sees about 300 million unique visits monthly. 

Update: Automattic and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg tells us that this is the largest attack WordPress.com has ever seen, and is likely to be politically motivated:

“There’s an ongoing DDoS attack that was large enough to impact all three of our datacenters in Chicago, San Antonio, and Dallas — it’s currently been neutralized but it’s possible it could flare up again later, which we’re taking proactive steps to implement.

This is the largest and most sustained attack we’ve seen in our 6 year history. We suspect it may have been politically motivated against one of our non-English blogs but we’re still investigating and have no definitive evidence yet.”

You can check here for the latest status updates.

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Update 2: Looks like everything’s back to normal.

  
  
Wow! And I thought I had problems. Think I’ll crawl back into my cave.
 
…let me know when the “all clear” siren sounds…hugmamma.