On Matters That Matter

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

Yes My Lord, it’s the Hindustan Times Again

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August 11, 2009

Not that I am missing it, but I haven’t got my copy of Mail Today for two days in a row now. My worried father even asked the vendor if the paper was still being published and got a reassuring reply that it was.

I don’t think I have anything to do with it but the swine flu story in the Hindustan Times is a reasonably well-written copy with some care. Panic, though, as the story says makes people do silly things. And that is what has happened with this story; so rather than a spelling or a punctuation error, the writer has got the whole story wrong. And let me tell you how.

“Since there is no published data for the common flu for India, HT extrapolated US numbers. Common flu causes 2.2 per cent of all US deaths. Use the same ratio on the estimated 95 lakh deaths in India each year and it appears evident that swine flu’s common cousin is much deadlier.

Globally, the common flu kills 5 lakh, says the World Health Organization (WHO), whose data puts the swine flu toll at less than 1,200 people this year.”

The health reporter has got the maths right; 2.2 per cent of the estimated 95 lakh deaths in India each year can be deducted to 2.2 % of 95 lakh divided by 365. Now this rightly gives you 572 a day, though I may have been tempted to round it off to 573; as the 0.60 would have a person as 60 per cent dead. I’ll rather have him completely dead.

Now I don’t think the writer thought about whether this estimation or this extrapolation stands the bare minimum standard of rationality as there is another end to it that needs to be clearly tied off. Especially since the end of the story the reporter talks about is completely based on fiction and the other end that has been ignored is based on the facts that the story has already established.

According to the story; there are just 7 swine flu deaths in India and there are 436 in the United States. So if I did not have this number of 7, then I could have used the same logic of extrapolating the US number and applying the same ratio to India and the number of swine flu deaths would have been in thousands. Do you get it?

Also you say that globally the common flu kills 5 lakh (WHO figure) and I suppose it is per year since you haven’t mentioned any timeframe. Now India accounts for 208780 (572 x 365). Is the remaining number 2.2 per cent of the total deaths in the World overall; excluding India? Or just check whether 2.2 per cent of the total deaths all over the world in a year are due to common flu?

This is a completely-fabricated bullshit story. Just because 50 Americans are having a hamburger right now in some part of the US that in no way means that I am sitting in McDonald’s and getting fried. Whatever the hell they are doing, I am going off to sleep.

And always remember that the best thing to do with any mistake is to carry a correction the next day and the worst is to carry a letter from a reader praising the daft story.

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Written by Deepan Joshi

December 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

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