Monday, September 26, 2005

Oh no, we _always_ check our facts

I spotted an article at collision detection about a German scientist having to deny that he's invented a method of turning dead cats into automobile fuel. The article well covers the journalist idiocy here (I love the "too good to check" idea). What intrigues me, however, is CNN quietly covering its rear. At this very moment (26-Sep-2005 7:28 UTC+1), a Google news search for dead cats fuel gives, as its first result

Inventor fuels car with dead cats
CNN International - Sep 14, 2005
... But the president of the German Society for the Protection of Animals, Wolfgang Apel, said using dead cats for fuel was illegal. ...

But clicking on the link shows the story below. Note in particular that the title has changed and that the quote (indeed all reference to Wolfgang Apel) has dissappeared, but that the URL has not changed and that there are no clues at all that anything's changed. It is, I suppose, normal practice for news organisations to make small editorial tweaks after publishing a story, but for an outright retraction, mentioning the mistake is traditional. (Sadly, google's web search actually shows the updated version of the story and google news has no cache.)

Offbeat News

Inventor denies dead cat fuel story

Thursday, September 15, 2005 Posted: 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)

BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- A German inventor said he has developed a method to produce crude oil products from waste that he believes can be an answer to the soaring costs of fuel, but denied a German newspaper story implying he also used dead cats.

Christian Koch, an inventor and patent holder of the "KDV 500" that he said produces high quality fuel, said he can transform waste products such as paper, rubbish and plastic materials into fuel.

But Koch, 55, said there was no truth to stories published in Bild newspaper on Tuesday and Wednesday that suggested he used dead cats as part of the mix for his organic diesel fuel.

"I use paper, plastics, textiles and rubbish," Koch told Reuters.

"It's an alternative fuel that is friendly for the environment. But it's complete nonsense to suggest dead cats. I've never used cats and would never think of that. At most the odd toad may have jumped in."

Bild on Tuesday wrote a headline: "German inventor can turn cats into fuel -- for a tank he needs 20 cats." The paper on Wednesday followed up with a story entitled: "Can you really make fuel out of cats?"

A spokesman for Bild told Reuters the story was meant to show that cat remains could "in theory" be used to make fuel with Koch's patented method.

The author of the story said Koch had never told him directly that he had used dead cats as the story implied.

The Web site of Koch's firm, "Alphakat GmbH", says his patented "KDV 500" machine can produce what he calls the "bio-diesel" fuel at about 23 euro cents (30 cents) a liter, which is about one-fifth the price at petrol stations now.

"I drive my normal diesel-powered car with this mixture," Koch is quoted saying in Bild, next to a large picture of a kitten. "I have gone 170,000 km (106,000 miles) without a problem."