Painting The Star's

Painting The Stars

Painting The Stars
Somewhere in the, USA
January 08
That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars, and I always dream a painting like that, with a group of lively figures of the pals." ~Vincent Van Gogh


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APRIL 19, 2011 7:49PM

FollowUp To Sensational “Railroad Reporting” of 60 Minutes

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Following my post on the 60 Minutes reporting of humanitarian Greg Mortenson’s philanthropic activities I was called on the carpet by Whirlwind, and fairly so, for not having actually watched the 60 Minutes segment on Mr. Mortenson and the CAI.  I did post the link to the segment for anyone who was interested enough to view for themselves. 

I have now watched the segment and walk away with no more information than I had before I posted my last piece.  So I will try to lay this out as I best see it at this point.  First I want to put this statement out there.  I am (still) a supporter of Greg Mortenson and the CAI and the work they have done and hopefully will continue to do. 

If you are inclined to discount what I have to say right off the bat due to the fact that I am a supporter then why bother to read me in the first place?  Now, having got that little issue off my chest, let’s move on, shall we?

There are questions about the validity of Mortenson’s claims in his book, Three Cups of Tea.  The first question pertains to his claim of becoming separated from his party while descending K2 and becoming lost and disoriented and subsequently stumbling into the Pakastani village of Korphe.  In Korphe, the people there took him in and nursed him back to health. 

While recovering there he found a group of children writing their school work with sticks in the dirt.  When a little girl named Chocho asked him to build them a school he promised to return and do so.  So the story goes.  It is a fact that he did in fact return and build a school in Korphe.  The part of the story in question is whether he did in fact stumble into Korphe in 1993 as he claims or if it was a year later. 

According to Jon Krakauer, a famed mountaineer and author of Into Thin Air, he spoke to one of his companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said Greg never heard of Korphe till a year later.”  As I will point out, this and many other questions fall into a “he said/they said” category with no solid proof on either side at this point in time.  Who is this “close friend”?  Have him step forward and tell us his side of the story.  What evidence is there that can be presented that he was nursed to health in Korphe in 1993 or that he never even heard of Korphe until 1994.  If he hadn’t even heard of Korphe till 1994, what moved him to actually build a school there? 

So the question here is not IF he built a school in Korphe as he claims and is agreed that he did, but rather the story of when and why Korphe. 

The next question in his book surrounds his claim of having been kidnapped in 1996 by Taliban members.  Mortenson claims to have been “detained” for 8 days by Taliban members who were not cruel to him and whom he won over in the end by requesting a Koran. 

60 Minutes shows a picture of the men alleged to have been the Taliban men who kidnapped/detained Mortenson and found four of these men and contacted them, though we only hear from one man. Mansur Khan Mahsud, who is the director of a “respected think tank in Islamabad and has produced scholarly articles published in the U.S.”.

Of course 60 Minutes did not mention that this man is a known con artist with a long history of thievery, extortion and counterfeiting and was previously sentenced for life a year or two before meeting Mortenson for kidnapping a little girl, but escaped from jail and is now a fugitive.  It is even known that this man did in fact at one time claimed to have kidnapped Mortenson although he had not and backed down on his story when his own family called his bluff. 

This is who 60 Minutes uses as their primary proof that Mortenson lied about having been kidnapped.  I suspect the claim may not be completely factual as told in the book, but also recognize that we may not be able to ever prove beyond a doubt that it is or is not true.  Again it comes down to "he said/they said" and frankly given the characters at play here, I will take Greg Mortenson’s word over their star witness.

Now as to the real issue here, the possible misuse of CAI funds and whether the money is going where it is intended or if it is just lining Mortensons pockets.  Obviously there are in fact schools being built and funded by CAI monies.  This is an established fact.  The actual number of schools is a question that may not be able to be fully answered for various reasons mostly pertaining to the fact they they are in Pakistan and Afghanistan and records and accounts coming from those countries are unreliable and sometimes non-existant. 

It has also been known for certain characters in Pakistan to lie and try to rearrange facts in order to gain control of the schools for their own use. 

Greg Mortenson has claimed right from the start in his Three Cups of Tea book that he is scatterbrained and not a budgetary genious, which is NOT an excuse for shoddy accounting.  That’s what hiring an accountant is for.  In it’s 14 years of operation, CAI has only ever submitted one audit which truly is not acceptable and it must be answered as to why they did not submit more and ALSO why more was never ASKED of them. 

It does seem to me that his speaking fees and traveling expenses DO need to be further investigated as to crossing lines between personal gain and legitimate non-profit expenses and corrected as needed.  These things obviously WILL be investigated now that they have been brought to light by 60 Minutes and in that, perhaps the report is a good thing. 

It is also VERY clear that Greg Mortenson and the CAI have built numerous schools and created very much good will and promoted learning especially among girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This is not in dispute.  Therefore it is my hope that the errors will be corrected and the good work will continue with better accountability and financial transparency and not scrapped all together because of the "he said/they said" allegations and shenanigans. 

It is my fear that because of legitimate mistakes made, whether knowingly and willingly or not, and the cynical desires of those who would rather promote scandal than get to the full truth, that a force for good works in this chaotic mixed up world will disappear. 

Once again I restate my position that I stand behind Greg Mortenson and the CAI until such time as real proof of deliberate and malicious lies and misconduct comes to light.  I hope you will consider this supporters views with as much weight as the views of the detractors.

For whatever reason, I have had mulitiple problems getting this post to publish and it won't let me embed this video

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You are right. Yet, as a rule of thumb, pure altruists are usually not favored by the media or the government. Follow the money. R
Thanks Seer. There are so many things to consider in the whole scheme of this. Perhaps his story is not 100% true and maybe it is. How will we ever know? What we do know is that he has gone in and built schools where others haven't even tried. He has accomplished good in this world. How sad it will be if we lose him to this cause.
Thoth, sad but true. Lately I have been feeling that the only thing the media is interested in is what dirt they can dish and if there isn't any, they'll make it up.
Thank you Kate! I am anxiously awaiting to hear what finding there will be.
I am completely puzzled as to why that Scott Darnsey quote got NO TRACTION in the media... It was immediately dismissed as "weak/soft" - almost characterized as a "cya" across the board. WOW! What's up with THAT? No one is "stringing together" the holes in this report to strengthen Mortenson's position.
Tory: I think people prefer the scandal and so far it seems like it has just faded off into the background. Perhaps in the end it will really be a non-issue due to lack of substance to sustain these accusations. That is certainly MY hope!

Maybe you're right... But since this affects schoolkids (P4P, embracing the larger message of the book, etc.), I am not so sure. If people think the whole TCOT issue has been "tainted"?... I think it may have been good that Greg has been removed from the fracas due to health. When he returns, people may be calmer and he can just show good his intentions and steady spirit... I am hoping.
Well, I do believe people like a scandal but I seriously do not think that is the whole story here. That was just my cynical side poking it's head out. I do believe it will be straightened out in due time and any inconsistencies will be made right. In the meantime these people have done enough damage to a good cause which is the ultimate sadness here. I reiterate what I said above: "I stand behind Greg Mortenson and the CAI until such time as real proof of deliberate and malicious lies and misconduct comes to light."
Kate, Thanks for the update! The more I look at things the more I believe that this does indeed stink! I don't understand what exactly Krakauers motive is though. If it inspires Greg and the CAI to have better records and accountability, that is a good thing, but why the smear campaign? 60 Minutes says they looked into this for months but it seems like all they've really done is listen to Jon Krakauer. Where is the independent research? So many questions.
Well put, Painting!!!!
I missed all of this story. I think I might have learned something today. Thanks, sis.
You're welcome, Major. The more I learn about this, the more I smell a skunk, by the name of Jon Krakauer.