Friday, March 21, 2008

Avoid trap of misinformation

This first published March 20, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Like many of you, I have access to the Internet and an e-mail address — OK I have close to a dozen e-mail addresses. It’s a little much, I agree, but keep in mind I have developed them over many years. As a matter of organization, they all end up at one address.

So you could imagine just how much spam, the Internet version of junk mail, that I receive? Thank heaven for spam filters that block many of them by sending them to a “junk” folder.

Being an avid e-mailer lends itself to being put on multiple family and friends’ lists of favorites, which is a little tougher to regulate.

What bothers me more than anything is misinformation that is passed along as gospel on the information highway. There is no other space that has the amount of information the Internet does. However, there is no place or space that has more misinformation than the Internet, either, suggesting it could also be named the misinformation highway. May I suggest calling it the gauntlet, where you can try to figure good from bad.

Once in a while I will get an outrageous sack of bull that doesn’t seem to be logical, so much that I need to know the truth.

When this happens, I turn to a Web site called Snopes.com, the mother of all urban legend busters on the Web.

When I find something isn’t true, I send an e-mail back to the sender and everyone they sent to with the truth according to Snopes.com. Sometimes it’s a gentle message and other times it’s a full shame-on-you for passing bad information.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m receiving fewer e-mails that contain bad information from my friends and family. Occasionally, I will receive a message that is directed just to me asking if such and such is true or not.

You should be aware that most of that outrageous spam is designed to incite an emotional reaction by the reader to join in the mob mentality of hang ’em first and ask questions later. It is the hope of spammers that you will send it to all your friends.

What you may not know is the spammer has included hidden text that sends all those addresses back to them.

This week I received an e-mail that was titled “Allegedly” and it read:
“This is a new ship Wal-Mart had built to make 10-day cycles between China and the USA. It can load and refuel in less than one day. A ship’s beam is its width, if you are a landlubber.
“All I can say is if it ever sinks, Wal-Mart and a lot of U.S. consumers will be in trouble.
“This is how Wal-Mart gets all its stuff from China. Get a load of this ship! 15,000 containers and a 207-foot beam! And look at the crew size for a ship longer than a U.S. aircraft carrier, which has a complement of 5,000 men and officers.
“Think it’s big enough? Notice that 207-foot beam means it was NOT designed for the Panama or Suez Canal. It is strictly trans-Pacific. Check out the cruise speed: 31 knots means the goods arrive four days before the typical container ship (18-20 knots) on a China-to-California run. So this behemoth is hugely competitive carrying perishable goods.
“This ship was built in three or perhaps as many as five sections. The sections were floated together and then were welded. The ship is named Emma Maersk. The command bridge is higher than a 10-story building and has 11 crane rigs that can operate simultaneously.”

Sounds impressive, but not everything you read is factual, and there lies the problem.

The Emma Maersk is a real ship, but it wasn’t built by or specifically for Wal-Mart. It was built by Maersk Line, one of the largest shipping companies in the world. Wal-Mart does use Maersk Line.

After checking the Maersk Line Web site, I found the Emma Maersk sails an Asia-Europe trade lane of ports. There are no “10-day cycles between China and California.”

The actual width is 183 feet, allowing it to go through the Suez Canal to ports in Rotterdam, Holland. It can carry 11,000 (ETU) equivalent 20-foot units, not 15,000. The Emma does have 1,000 plugs for refrigerated containers, and therefore it could carry perishables, but not to U.S. consumers today.

I checked Snopes.com, but nothing came up. Maybe I should submit this item.

Last week I received a spam proclaiming the motto “In GOD We Trust” had been left off the new Presidential gold dollar coins in some kind of conspiracy. The photo was convincing, yet logic was telling me something was wrong with the claim.

After checking it out, I can assure you there is no conspiracy. The “In God We Trust” is located on the rim, or outside edge, of the new coins. Again, this is a good example of how spammers mess with our psyche to get us to respond.

If you are person of faith, you need to be just as cautious, because those sweet little prayer passages and stories that tingle your soul are designed to do just that. The sad thing is, there’s a little devil playing in the background trying get as many souls as possible to spam.

The next time you get one of those e-mails, check it out before you send it off to your friends and family. You might save yourself the aggravation of receiving spam and keeping the spread of misinformation to a minimum.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com.

14 comments:

Drew458 said...

Tim, someone sent me the same Emma Maersk email today. The 31 knot figure is also wrong. The ship can do about 31mph, which is about 28 knots.

I found your blog by trying to debunk the "this ship returns to China empty" part of the email: "Editorial Comment!
A recent documentary in late March on the History Channel, noted that most all of these containers are shipped back to China, EMPTY yes you heard it right. We send nothing back on most of these ships.
What does that tell you about the current Financial State of the USA?
AND the UK come to that!!"

This is the same ship that the UK press dubbed the SS Santa in late 2006 because it was sent to Europe loaded down with consumer good for the holiday. But when it was unloaded, the ship was sent back to China filled with trash. 170,000 tons of it!
The gist of the email is that we have such an awful trade imbalance with the Far East. I think if we could learn to be a bit less spoiled with possessions, and got away from our throw-away society, things could be in better balance.

It was very interesting to read that it shipping costs per container on this ship are lower than hooking the container up to a truck and driving it 100km. I can't prove that one either.

drew458 said...

Oh, and it does the Hong Kong to LA trip in just under 9 days, which is 4 days faster than a 20 knot ship. It really is an amazing ship.

Carrot said...

Good thing I searched for some extra information before booking a trip for Hong Kong! This really saved me a lot of potential hassles! Thank you.

nyc bride guide said...

Yeah... Spam messages are really annoying. Why do you have a lot of email address anyway?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I just got the email for the first time today, (dang these live for a long time!) and something didn't smell right. I went and checked the Maersk site as well, and it is still an Asia-Europe route for that ship.

Donald said...

This piece of dreck about the Emma Maersk is still circulating, someone sent it to me today. I checked it out on snopes.com and still nothing came up so I suppose you never submitted it. I think I shall.

Anonymous said...

Talk about misinformation. SNOPES is a biased left wing site run by a couple out of a garage in SoCal

Anonymous said...

Talk about misinformation. SNOPES is a biased left wing site run by a couple out of a garage in SoCal

Anonymous said...

The extremely liberal SNOPES won't address e-mails like this because they want you to believe it. as well, they avoid anything that makes ultra liberal candidates or causes look bad, and like to ensure that conservative candidates and causes are slammed. SNOPES is not the final say in anything except "urban legends".

carolinarnj said...

I received the same email today and decided to check it out on Snopes before I sent it out and am grateful I didn't sent it. Never could find any truth in the crap anywhere on Snopes, it wasn't even listed. Then I found your comments and am so grateful to you for keeping my integrity intact by my not sending this out and looking like a true 'dumbass'. Thanks Tim for the info.

Rose

maedeans said...

Received the email today. I'm always wary of such emails. Thanks for checking this out long before I received it. I thought the accompanying photos looked odd, but perhaps they were all real.

Anonymous said...

99% of these type of emails are an iritating mix of fact and outrageous fiction. I always check them out and if they are bullcrap I get great satisfaction in deleting them. One particular friend got shirty with me when I pointed out the misinformation in them, unfortunately she still sends me them, grrrr.

Anonymous said...

Got this story in an email from my Mom today, six years after you first reported it. Wow! The assertion that the ship crosses the Pacific in 4 days is what caught on my sceptic bone. 31 it

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