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Thread: Debunking the Lancet Report

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    Debunking the Lancet Report

    This can't be true! Oh the humanity!!

    http://www.chicagoboyz.net/archives/002543.html

    Bogus Lancet Study

    Via The Command Post comes this study published in Lancet (free reg) which purports that 100,000 Iraqi have died from violence, most of it caused by Coalition air strikes, since the invasion of Iraq. Needless to say, this study will become an article of faith in certain circles but the study is obviously bogus on its face.

    First, even without reading the study, alarm bells should go off. The study purports to show civilian casualties 5 to 6 times higher than any other reputable source. Most other sources put total combined civilian and military deaths from all causes at between 15,000 to 20,000. The Lancet study is a degree of magnitude higher. Why the difference?

    Moreover, just rough calculations should call the figure into doubt. 100,000 deaths over roughly a year and a half equates to 183 deaths per day. Seen anything like that on the news? With that many people dying from air strikes every day we would expect to have at least one or two incidents where several hundred or even thousands of people died. Heard of anything like that? In fact, heard of any air strikes at all where more than a couple of dozen people died total?

    Where did this suspicious number come from? Bad methodology.

    From the summary:

    Mistake One:

    "A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004"

    It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical. Since all sources agree that violence in Iraq is highly geographically concentrated, this means a cluster sample has a very high chance of exaggerating the number of deaths. If one or two of your clusters just happen to fall in a contended area it will skew everything. In fact, the study inadvertently suggests that this happened when it points out later that:

    "Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters..."

    In fact, this suggest that violent deaths were not "widespread" as 18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths. if 54% of the clusters had no deaths then all the other deaths occurred in 46% of the clusters. If the deaths in those clusters followed a standard distribution most of the deaths would have occurred in less than 15% of the total clusters.

    And bingo we see that:

    "Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja"

    (They also used a secondary grouping system (page 2, paragraph 3) that would cause further skewing.)

    Mistake Two:

    "33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002."

    Self-reporting in third-world countries is notoriously unreliable. In the guts of the paper (page 3, paragraph 2) they say they tried to get death certificates for at least two deaths for each cluster but they never say how many of the deaths, if any, they actually verified. It is probable that many of the deaths, especially the oddly high number of a deaths of children by violence, never actually occurred.

    So we have a sampling method that fails for diverse distributions, at least one tremendously skewed cluster and unverified reports of deaths.

    Looking at the raw data they provide doesn't inspire any confidence whatsoever. Table 2 (page 4) shows the actual number of deaths reported. The study recorded 142 post-invasion deaths total with with 73 (51%) due to violence. Of those 73 deaths from violence, 52 occurred in Falluja. That means that all the other 21 deaths occurred in one of the 14 clusters were somebody died, or 1.5 deaths per cluster. Given what we know of the actual combat I am betting that most of the deaths occurred in three or four clusters and the rest had 1 death each. Given the low numbers of samples, one or two fabricated reports of deaths could seriously warp the entire study.

    At the very end of the paper (page 7, paragraph 1) they concede that:

    "We suspect that a random sample of 33 Iraqi locations is likely to encounter one or a couple of particularly devastated areas. Nonetheless, since 52 of 73 (71%) violent deaths and 53 of 142 (37%) deaths during the conflict occurred in one cluster, it is possible that by extraordinary chance, the survey mortality estimate has been skewed upward. "

    Gee, you think? It's almost as if military violence is not randomly distributed across the population of Iraq but is instead intelligently directed at specific areas, rendering a statistical extrapolation of deaths totally useless.

    In the next paragraph they admit:

    "Removing half the increase in infant deaths and the Falluja data still produces a 37% increase in estimated mortality."

    That puts their final numbers just above the high end of the range reported by other sources.

    This "peer reviewed study" is a piece of polemical garbage. Everybody is supposed to take away the bumper sticker summary, "Coalition kills 100,000 Iraqi civilians, half of them children," without reading the details. It tries to use crude epidemiological models like those used to study disease and applies them to the conscious infliction of violence by human beings. The result is statistical static.
    Last edited by smilingassassin; 01 Nov 04, at 02:03.

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    What no claims to the contrary? It seems no one has any real faith in the 100,000 civilian dead figure.

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    Update on the Lancet report

    Huge gaps between Iraq death estimates
    Analysis
    By Paul Reynolds
    World affairs correspondent, BBC News website



    Many Iraqis have lost relatives to violence
    The estimate that about 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion is such a large figure that it has led to two differing interpretations.

    Those who had faith in an earlier report from 2004 - also published in the medical journal The Lancet - are now able to say that this larger survey proves their point that Iraqi deaths have been far greater than publicly reported, and have now reached what the report calls "a humanitarian emergency".

    Those who thought that the 2004 survey was exaggerated - it estimated 98,000 additional deaths up until September 2004 - think this one is even more wide of the mark.

    Les Roberts, one of the report's authors said: "It may not be extremely precise, but it gets us into the ball park."


    Professor Gilbert Burnham, another of the report's authors and an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: "We're very confident with the results."

    And other epidemiologists supported that view. Ronald Waldman of Columbia University told the Washington Post that the survey used a method that was "tried and true" and that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."

    Update 19 October: there has been a lot of support for the report's methods among the statistical community. For example, stats.org at George Mason University has an online article by Rebecca Goldin who says: "While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study's methodology is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study."

    However there has been some criticism of the methodology.


    An article in the Wall Street Journal by Steven Moore, who worked as a pollster for the coalition authorities in Iraq, attacked the sampling: "The key to the validity of cluster sampling is to use enough cluster points. In their 2006 report... the Johns Hopkins team says it used 47 cluster points for their sample of 1,849 interviews. This is astonishing: I wouldn't survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points."

    And on 20 October, Science Magazine reported the queries of researchers at Oxford and Royal Holloway universities. One of them, Sean Gourley of the Physics department at Oxford, said their studies "have found fundamental flaws [in the Lancet report] that lead to an over-estimation of the number of deaths. "

    One aspect they questioned was the selection of sample households chosen for interviews. There could be "main street bias", they said, in that households on main streets were more likely to suffer casualties from car bombings. They want an inquiry into the methodology. "It's almost a crime to let it go unchallenged," said Neil Johnson of Oxford.

    It may not be extremely precise, but it gets us into the ball park

    Les Roberts
    report author


    And other groups that track deaths in Iraq dispute the findings. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, which tracks statistics in its Iraq Index, said: "I do not believe the new numbers. I think they're way off." The Brooking Index, relying on the UN (which gets figures from the Iraqi health ministry) and the Iraq Body Count (IBC), estimates the civilian death toll at about 62,000.

    The IBC, which counts the number of reported civilian deaths by violence, puts them between 43,850 and 48,693, though it adds that "our maximum refers to reported deaths - which can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media."

    (The IBC reaction to the Lancet report has now been published. See below after summary of Lancet report)


    One should note here the political nature of this debate, as well as the statistical. Some critics say that the report's authors and the editor of the Lancet Richard Horton have a political agenda in opposing the war in Iraq, and that therefore this should be taken into consideration when discussing this work. In turn of course some of these critics tend to be politically committed themselves.

    Report methodology

    First, though, to the report itself. Its strength, its authors argue, is in its tried and trusted method.

    It took a sample and then extrapolated broad results from that sample. This is a technique used in other areas of conflict, in public opinion polling and in marketing, for example, in assessing television audiences.

    In 2004, 33 clusters were chosen across the country with 30 households in each cluster. These households contained 7,868 people. This time, 47 clusters were chosen, with 12,801 people.


    Insurgents are now staging daily attacks in Baghdad
    The method was to question people about deaths in their household first in the "pre-invasion" period and then in the "post-invasion" period leading up to July 2006.

    The difference would constitute what the survey calls "excess deaths".

    The report says that there were 82 deaths pre-invasion and 547 post-invasion.

    It then multiplied these figures up in relation to the Iraqi population of 27,139,584, and came up with an estimated 654,956 "excess" deaths, 2.5 % of the population.

    Some statistical caveats are entered. The lowest estimate of deaths is put at 392,979 and the highest at 942,636. The lowest figure is still much bigger than the other counts.

    Of the "excess" deaths, 601,027 were attributed to the violence (mainly from gunfire and mainly among men aged 15-59), the rest coming largely from increased illness and disease.

    The report concludes: "Our estimate of excess deaths is far higher than those reported in Iraq through passive surveillance methods. This discrepancy is not unexpected. Data from passive surveillance are rarely complete, even in stable circumstances, and are even less complete during conflict."

    IBC response

    The Iraqi Body Count response is as follows. Its says the Lancet report implies that:


    On average a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every day in the first half of 2006, with "less than a tenth being noticed by any public surveillance mechanism."

    Of 800,000 wounded people in the past two years, "less than a tenth received any kind of hospital treatment."


    Over 7% of the male population has been killed; 10% in central region.


    Half a million death certificates were issued to families but not officially recorded.


    The Coalition has killed far more people in the last year than in the invasion and Falluja type-operations of earlier years.


    The IBC says that such assertions suggested incompetence/fraud on a massive scale by hospitals and ministries, self-destructive behaviour by the wounded, an utter failure by agencies to notice decimation of the male population and an abject media failure to observe the scale of events.


    The IBC concludes: "In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy."


    'Missing' dead

    One issue that arises is why, to speak crudely, the numbers of bodies being discovered do not match the Lancet figures.

    If it is assumed that there were 601,000 violent "excess" deaths between March 2003 and July 2006 (about 40 months), that should produce an average of about 500 violent deaths per day.

    This is not going to be so all the time, given the spikes of violence, but it is a rough criterion.

    The latest figures from the Iraqi health ministry (reported by the Associated Press news agency on 11 October) stated that 2,667 people were killed in Baghdad during September, 400 more than in August.

    This gives an average of about 86 per day in the capital.

    Baghdad is not the whole country of course, but AP reported the United Nations as saying that in July and August, 6,599 people were killed across the country, of which 5,106 were in Baghdad.

    This suggests that Baghdad has by far the highest number of actual and percentage dead.

    So, if the current rate in Baghdad is about 86 and the countrywide figure should be about 500 according to the Lancet report, where are the "missing" dead?


    Author's reply

    I put these points to author Les Roberts who replied: "There have to be ~300 deaths per day from natural cause even if Iraq was the healthiest 26 million people in the world. Where are those bodies? When the MOH [ministry of health] in Iraq is perhaps recording 10% of them, why should they be doing better with politically charged violent deaths. Yes, I think almost nothing is getting reported outside of Baghdad where things are worse."


    And he suggested that a way existed of checking his results.

    "There has rarely been a scientific report so easily verified or discarded. If someone went to 4 or 6 places picked at random in Iraq, and went to the grave yards for those villages, they could easily see if there are 3 or 4 times more bodies being brought in per week compared to 2002. Or, if someone could go to a couple villages or places, if we are correct, on average ~70 percent of the deaths occurring will be from violence.

    "This would take 2 reporters one day to decide if we are basically correct or in error!"

    The difficulty of course is that the international media is incapable of getting around safely to do something like that easily. The local media is a source but cannot be relied on by itself.

    We are left then with the estimate from this report and the various counts by other groups.

    The figures are now even more divergent than they were.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/mid...st/6045112.stmhttp://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/im...3606694919.pdf

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    This latest "study" published by Roberts et al is also not credible.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    This latest "study" published by Roberts et al is also not credible.
    Any particular reason why it is nor credible? Any failure in the method used you could find? Sample number to low etc.?

    Up to now I couldnt find any serious, scientific debunking of the statistical analysis done here or even an attempt of other organisations to do such an analysis. ( Iraq body count does only count the certified deaths reported in the media AFAIK and even they are reporting about 45000 civilian deaths through violence.

    So how do you estimate the number of people who died because of: Violence, missing medicine, food , water etc. because of the instability caused by this war?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sombra View Post
    Any particular reason why it is nor credible? Any failure in the method used you could find? Sample number to low etc.?

    Up to now I couldnt find any serious, scientific debunking of the statistical analysis done here or even an attempt of other organisations to do such an analysis. ( Iraq body count does only count the certified deaths reported in the media AFAIK and even they are reporting about 45000 civilian deaths through violence.

    So how do you estimate the number of people who died because of: Violence, missing medicine, food , water etc. because of the instability caused by this war?
    Sombra,

    The general methodology is fine. Because of the low number of clusters, their CI is huge (i.e. the results are very imprecise), but it is still significant. So, this is a point of criticism, but not a fatal flaw. However, when you start benchmarking their results, this is where it begins to unravel. Their estimation of pre-war mortality rates is significantly lower than benchmark results that are out there. Furthermore, when you benchmark their first study, you find that it doesn't benchmark close to other results that are out there. Finally, I find their benchmarking attempts both misleading and completely lacking IMO.

    Shek
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    I see your point regarding the low number of samples in the first report. Anyway I am asking for a discussion regarding the numbers because statisitcs of this group were used for a political agenda before.

    Still if you look at the report you will see that this time for a statistical analysis the sample number is even quite big.

    Polls and statistical analysis are quite advanced ( polls for elections) etc have a quite well defined saftey margin.

    Before debunking this attempt to establish the number of deaths I would like to see any other serious work to get the right number. As before Iraq body count does a valiant attempt even if they look only on the reportet violent deaths. Here they get all the additional deaths resulting of a higher mortality death rate due to the war whatever the causes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sombra View Post
    I see your point regarding the low number of samples in the first report. Anyway I am asking for a discussion regarding the numbers because statisitcs of this group were used for a political agenda before.

    Still if you look at the report you will see that this time for a statistical analysis the sample number is even quite big.

    Polls and statistical analysis are quite advanced ( polls for elections) etc have a quite well defined saftey margin.

    Before debunking this attempt to establish the number of deaths I would like to see any other serious work to get the right number. As before Iraq body count does a valiant attempt even if they look only on the reportet violent deaths. Here they get all the additional deaths resulting of a higher mortality death rate due to the war whatever the causes.
    Sombra,

    The Lancet report can be discredited on its own terms. However, that doesn't necessarily discredit the notion that OIF has created excess deaths.

    The problem is that most people don't understand the term "excess" deaths, and so too many arguments argue about apples and oranges. My thoughts are that OIF has created excess deaths by this point, with the unleashing of sectarian violence being the cause that has made the post war period more deadly. I'll post more later - got to go to work.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Sombra,
    Sorry that I haven't posted up any of my thoughts - I tried last week and my connection timed out, and so I lost it all. Instead of suffering through that again, I'll just paste the link to the thread where I've been discussing Roberts et al round 2 with someone:

    http://www.strategypage.com/military.../35-44228.aspx

    Cheers.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/6099020.stm Hi Shek,


    regarding the arguments exchanged in the thread you provided here are some ansers from the authors of the report:

    A recent report published in the medical journal The Lancet estimated that around 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion.
    This figure, which is far higher than those reported in Iraq, resulted in claims that the survey had been exaggerated.

    Les Roberts, one of the report's authors, answered some of your questions on the methodology and findings.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    How do you know that you are not reporting the same fatality multiple times? For example, if you were to ask people in the UK if they know anyone who has been involved in a traffic accident most would say they do. Applying your logic that means there are 60 million accidents every year.
    Andrew M, London, UK

    To be recorded as a death in a household, the decedent had to have spent most of the nights during the three months before their death "sleeping under the same roof" with the household that was being interviewed. This may have made us undercount some, but addressed your main concern that no two households could claim the same death event.

    It seems The Lancet has been overrun by left-wing sixth formers. The report has a flawed methodology and the counting process shows signs of deceit.
    Ian, Whitwick, UK

    This study was the standard approach for measuring mortality in times of war, it went through a rigorous peer-review process and it probably could have been accepted into any of the journals that cover war and public health.

    Can you explain, if your figures are correct, why 920 more people were dying each day than officially recorded by the Iraqi Ministry of Health - implying huge fraud and/or incompetence on their behalf?
    Dan, Scotland

    It is really difficult to collect death information in a war zone! In 2002, in Katana Health Zone in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) there was a terrible meningitis outbreak where the zone was supported by the Belgian Government, with perhaps the best disease surveillance network in the entire country. A survey by the NGO International Rescue Committee showed that only 7% of those meningitis deaths were recorded by the clinics and hospitals and government officials.

    You and your colleagues claim to have used the same method to estimate deaths in Iraq as is used to estimate deaths in natural disasters. Is there any evidence that the method is accurate?
    Rickard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden

    That is a good question. In 1999, again in Katana Health Zone in the Congo, I led a mortality survey where we walked a grid over the health zone and interviewed 41 clusters of five houses at 1km spacings. In that survey, we estimated that 1,600 children had died of measles in the preceding half year. A couple of weeks later we did a standard immunization coverage survey that asked about measles deaths and we found an identical result.

    Why is it so hard for people to believe The Lancet report? I am an Iraqi and can assure you that the figure given is nearer to the truth than any given before or since.
    S Kazwini, London, UK

    I think it is hard to accept these results for a couple of reasons. People do not see the bodies. Secondly, people feel that all those government officials and all those reporters must be detecting a big portion of the deaths. When in actuality during times of war, it is rare for even 20% to be detected.

    It seems to me that the timing of the publication of the 2004 and 2006 reports - in both cases shortly before a U.S. election - was a mistake.
    Mik Ado, London, UK

    Both were unfortunate timing. As I said at the time of the first study, I lived in fear that our Iraqi colleagues and interviewers would be killed if we had finished a survey in mid-September and it took two months for the results to get out. I think in Iraq, a post-election publication in 2004 would have been seen as my colleagues knowing something but keeping it hidden.

    Joe Emersberger from Canada, who follows this issue closely, collected some of the expert criticisms of the report and a selection was put to Mr Roberts.

    A research team have asserted in an article in Science that the second Lancet study is seriously flawed due to "main street bias."

    We worked hard in Iraq to have every street segment have an equal chance of being selected. We worked hard to have each separate house have an equal chance of being selected. Realize, there would have to be both a systematic selection of one kind of street by our process and a radically different rate of death on that kind of street in order to skew our results. We see no evidence of either.

    The second report found a pre-invasion death rate of 5.5/ per 1000 people per year. The UN has an estimate of 10. Isn't that evidence of inaccuracy in the study?

    The last census in Iraq was a decade ago and I suspect the UN number is somewhat outdated. The death rate in Jordan and Syria is about 5. Thus, I suspect that our number is valid.

    Madelyn Hicks, a psychiatrist and public health researcher at King's College London in the UK, says she "simply cannot believe" the paper's claim that 40 consecutive houses were surveyed in a single day.

    In Iraq in 2004, the surveys took about twice as long and it usually took a two-person team about three hours to interview a 30-house cluster. I remember one rural cluster that took about six hours and we got back after dark. Nonetheless, Dr. Hicks' concerns are not valid as many days one team interviewed two clusters in 2004.

    A UNDP survey, 13 months after the war, had a much higher sample size than both Lancet studies and found about one-third the number of deaths that your team has found. Given the much higher sample size, shouldn't we assume the UNDP study was more accurate and therefore your numbers are way too high?

    The UNDP study was much larger, it was led by the highly revered Jon Pederson in Norway, but was not focused on mortality. I suspect that Jon's mortality estimate was not complete. I think we got more complete reporting.

    This UNDP survey covered about 13 months after the invasion. Our first survey recorded almost twice as many violent deaths from the 13th to the 18th months after the invasion as it did during the first 12. The second survey found an excess rate of 2.6/1000/year over the same period corresponding to approximately 70,000 deaths by April of 2004. Thus, the rates of violent death recorded in the two survey groups are not so divergent.

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    Sombra,
    Thanks for the link. A few thoughts.

    1. First, I'm not an expert on DRC, but I'm not sure that it's a fair comparison to look at the rates of recorded vs. unrecorded deaths in the DRC to motivate why 9 out of 10 deaths would go unrecorded in Iraq. Does DRC have the same road and transportation infrastructure as Iraq? Do they have the same density of hospitals? morgues? Do they have the same administrative organization? How did the insurrection in DRC affect this capacity? I find his response very unegaging.

    2. Benchmarking Jordan and Syria to Iraq is somewhat ludicrous to me. To do so would require ignoring a decade plus of sanctions which prevented the rebuilding of infrastructure (as well as Saddam's intentional neglect of non-Sunni elements) and clearly contributed to malnutrition and deteriorating health services. A four year old estimate from Iraq is much more accurate than a current estimate from a much more advanced neighboring country.

    3. His response to the UN survey is weak. First, the UN survey includes April as well as some data from May. So, his response is off some there, and would lead to wrong comparison numbers. Next, he talks about how the UN survey isn't a comprehensive survey with regards to mortality - each household interview on average took 60 minutes, which is ten times the time that Roberts et al spent per house based on his responses in the link you cited. While the UN survey looked at numerous issues, I think that they had enough time to gather enough data to develop a credible number. Finally, his 70K number that he cites from the second survey is three times larger than the UN number. I'd still call that quite divergent, and in fact, it's the exact same result as what the question asks. LOL!

    4. He talks about how it is rare for even 20% of bodies to be found during war. However, he cites no evidence that would support this, other than his DRC example which doesn't motivate why it is a proper benchmark (not to mention that his statistics cover death by disease as opposed to death by violence - I'm sure that this has some bearing on how public officials in an overwhelmed country would handle the bodies - i.e. don't bring us your diseased bodies!).
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Debunking the Debunking

    The first argument is fallacious. Most other estimates are far lower than the one published in the Lancet, and therefore the Lancet study must be "bogus". This as fallacious on its face.

    Why the difference? Methodology, plain and simple. Take Iraq Body Count, presently estimated around a minimum of 48,755 civilian deaths. First of all IBC counts only civilian deaths. The "Lancet study" (the study was by the Jons Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Lancet) estimated total Iraqi deaths, civilian and combatant. IBC counts only deaths reported on in the news media, by at least three sources. Naturally, this means the IBC estimate is extremely conservative. The "Lancet study", on the other hand, used the standard methodology for estimating based on cluster samples, a far more scientific approach, and without question far more accurate.

    The low estimates use "bad methodology", not the "Lancet study".

    "It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical." It is not "bad practice" to use cluster samples. It's the standard, well-accepted, and widely used methodology for arriving at such estimates.

    "18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths". That is false.

    "Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja" This quote does not come from the report. The only mention of Falluja in the report notes that "Over half of excess deaths recorded in the 2004 study were from violent causes, and about half of the violent deaths occurred in Falluja." Falluja was excluded from the study on account of the high rate of mortality there.

    The rest of the "debunking" is follows along the lines if this fabrication, warranting no further response.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu View Post
    The first argument is fallacious. Most other estimates are far lower than the one published in the Lancet, and therefore the Lancet study must be "bogus". This as fallacious on its face.

    Why the difference? Methodology, plain and simple. Take Iraq Body Count, presently estimated around a minimum of 48,755 civilian deaths. First of all IBC counts only civilian deaths. The "Lancet study" (the study was by the Jons Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Lancet) estimated total Iraqi deaths, civilian and combatant. IBC counts only deaths reported on in the news media, by at least three sources. Naturally, this means the IBC estimate is extremely conservative. The "Lancet study", on the other hand, used the standard methodology for estimating based on cluster samples, a far more scientific approach, and without question far more accurate.

    The low estimates use "bad methodology", not the "Lancet study".
    Benchmarking is important. To argue otherwise is to ignore survey methodology. There is a degree of apples and oranges in the IBC/Roberts et al comparison; however, you'd have to argue that 9 out of every 10 deaths is not captured by IBC. Can you tell me where these nearly 550K dead bodies are?

    In terms of comparing the results to other available studies, their original study stacks up very poorly against the UNDP study which had a much, much greater degree of precision. Also, do you care to provide a benchmark that stacks up to scrutiny that will validate their pre-invasion #s?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu
    It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical."[/I] It is not "bad practice" to use cluster samples. It's the standard, well-accepted, and widely used methodology for arriving at such estimates.
    I wouldn't state that it's bad practice, but their precision in their estimates is horrible, and some of their methodology doesn't hold up to the required assumptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu
    "18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths". That is false.
    Read page one of the findings and the snippet that you quoted from. Read the way that you improperly edited, it would be false. Use the entire quote, and you are totally wrong. Was this deliberate editing or just a faulty reading?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu
    "Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja" This quote does not come from the report. The only mention of Falluja in the report notes that "Over half of excess deaths recorded in the 2004 study were from violent causes, and about half of the violent deaths occurred in Falluja." Falluja was excluded from the study on account of the high rate of mortality there.
    Read table 2 from Roberts et al's first study - 52/71 violent deaths occured in Fallujah. By my calculations, that's 73.2% of all violent deaths occured in Fallujah. If anything, you could make an argument that the authors of the one report could have claimed 3/4 of all violent deaths occured in the Fallujah cluster, but they instead stuck with the fully defensible 2/3 mark.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu
    The rest of the "debunking" is follows along the lines if this fabrication, warranting no further response.
    No it doesn't. I've provided many other things to look at. If you want to discuss my challenges to the study that invalidate their findings, then let's discuss. However, please read what I wrote and provide contextually correct quotations so we don't have to fight over misquotes or attempts at parsing to mislead.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yirmeyahu View Post
    The first argument is fallacious. Most other estimates are far lower than the one published in the Lancet, and therefore the Lancet study must be "bogus". This as fallacious on its face.

    Why the difference? Methodology, plain and simple. Take Iraq Body Count, presently estimated around a minimum of 48,755 civilian deaths. First of all IBC counts only civilian deaths. The "Lancet study" (the study was by the Jons Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Lancet) estimated total Iraqi deaths, civilian and combatant. IBC counts only deaths reported on in the news media, by at least three sources. Naturally, this means the IBC estimate is extremely conservative. The "Lancet study", on the other hand, used the standard methodology for estimating based on cluster samples, a far more scientific approach, and without question far more accurate.

    The low estimates use "bad methodology", not the "Lancet study".

    "It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical." It is not "bad practice" to use cluster samples. It's the standard, well-accepted, and widely used methodology for arriving at such estimates.

    "18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths". That is false.

    "Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja" This quote does not come from the report. The only mention of Falluja in the report notes that "Over half of excess deaths recorded in the 2004 study were from violent causes, and about half of the violent deaths occurred in Falluja." Falluja was excluded from the study on account of the high rate of mortality there.

    The rest of the "debunking" is follows along the lines if this fabrication, warranting no further response.
    Hi, Yirmy. And just who the hell might YOU be?

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    For those who want to look at the original Roberts et al study.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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