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Oops [Class M]

Wouldn't it be great if everyone was as good at admitting their mistakes?

Abstract: Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published. After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

Full mea culpa, and some unkind words for the authors and their allies in the denialosphere here. Here's a little more to pump you up:

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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Students Learn Science and Engineering Principles Best by ‘Doing!’ [USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog]

Elizabeth Parry Photo.jpgTo hook kids on the excitement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) you must not only engage them via meaningful hands-on classroom experiences, but engage them early and often, says noted outreach expert and engineering educator Elizabeth Parry.

With more than 15 years working in K-12 and higher education environments to inspire young learners in science and engineering, Elizabeth is coordinator of STEM Partnership Development at The Engineering Place in North Carolina State University's College of Engineering.

"If you really want students to learn STEM, teach them not with facts, figures and textbooks primarily but by doing," Elizabeth tells K-12 teachers. This hands-on, inquiry-based approach, she adds, gives kids the opportunity to experience learning outside traditional textbook methods by engaging their senses to look at, probe, touch, listen to, inquire, and even use their sense of smell during the discovery process. Plus, it's fun.

The key is to integrate the hands-on approach early, she says. Increasingly, children are deciding on those subjects that they like and dislike (and therefore what they will potentially do well in and not do well in) as early as elementary school. "And research suggests that females in particular -- although they may start out liking science and math and are quite skilled in these subjects -- lose interest in these subjects in mid-elementary school under traditional curriculum approaches," says Elizabeth. "Students simply want to understand "why" they are learning what they are, and how it can be used in the world. Integrated engineering provides that answer."

Can you suggest some hands-on classroom activities that would increase students' interest in STEM?

Read more about AT&T sponsored Nifty Fifty program speaker Elizabeth Parry here.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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The Wrong Problem by David Atkins

The Wrong Problem
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Howard Schneider at the WaPo asks the question the rest of the us have been asking for a long time now:

After more than a year of aggressive budget cutting by European governments, an economic slowdown on the continent is confronting policymakers from Madrid to Frankfurt with an uncomfortable question: Have they been addressing the wrong problem?

They're only asking themselves this question now?

With the euro-zone economy slowing and governments aggressively cutting, the ECB may need to concede its rate increases and tight money were a mistake, Peter Vanden Houte, an analyst at ING, wrote Wednesday in a research note. “Loose monetary policy seems to be the only medicine left to prevent a painful fall back into recession,” he said.

Recent statistics showed that the combined economy of euro-zone countries nearly stalled from April through July, with growth of just 0.2 percent. Germany’s economy, one of the main props of the region, grew just 0.1 percent. Analysts project Spain’s annual growth at about 0.7 percent for the year, far below prior government estimates of 2.3 percent. That may force a choice: further belt-tightening, or missing the deficit targets that international markets now expect.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde recently warned that government officials could be overreacting to the debt crisis.

Yes, we already know this. A group of idiots is in charge of worldwide economic policies based on fallacious assumptions about economics. So, finally someone is willing to step up to the plate and identify the real problem: the real estate bubble crash.

“Spain’s is not a fiscal problem,” said Gail Allard, a professor of economics at Spain’s IE Business School. Like many analysts in Spain, Allard noted that the country’s overall debt level remains below the average for euro-zone nations.

But the financial crisis, which started in 2007, and the subsequent recession hit Spain’s banking industry hard. Real estate tax receipts, a major source of government revenue, fell sharply, and annual budget surpluses turned to deficits in excess of 10 percent of annual economic output. The overall debt level, which had been considered reasonable, began to increase fast.


Great! So stabilize the housing market, defang the banks, and create public sector jobs to boost the economy until the private sector can get back on its feet. Finally some answers that make sense!

Or not:

But the immediate rush to trim deficits, some analysts now suggest, may be diverting attention from politically difficult structural decisions needed to clear the way for growth. These could include selling off public companies in Greece and consolidating Italy’s millions of small firms into more efficient enterprises. In Spain, it could mean curbing the power of trade unions...

Allard and other analysts agree that the government needed to take action. But they say the focus should have been on restoring growth by, for instance, revising labor policies that hamper investment and hiring, rather than on cutting deficits in an economy that was already reeling.

Investors were still comfortable lending money to Spain. So there was little reason, analysts say, for Spain to seek to reassure them by raising sales taxes — especially at a time when local demand was plummeting and unemployment was rising above 20 percent, the highest in the region. Investors may have respected the budget cuts, but they also would have taken note of pro-growth structural changes, these analysts say.

“Unless you start with some sort of labor market reform, it is not going to change anything fundamental about the Spanish economy,” Allard said.

Oh right. It's the fault of the labor unions. The same labor unions that have served the Spanish middle class very well for decades. They clearly had a lot to do with the real estate bubble.

Seems like no matter which door you peek behind, a neoliberal is behind it with a wrong answer. And when they're called on being wrong, there's another neoliberal waiting behind the next door with another wrong answer. In fact, there's an endless string of stupid and/or corrupt business school graduates waiting to tell us that the banking sector crisis is the fault of social security, labor unions, universal healthcare, strange swarthy Greeks, individual deadbeat homeowners, welfare queens driving Cadillacs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and anyone and anything else they care to dream up. Anyone, of course, but the banks, business school grads and Milton Friedman acolytes who drove this car straight in the ditch and refuse to take any responsibility for having been right behind the wheel the whole time.


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When is the Perfect Time to Redesign Your Website?

You might get a shock to read this at the start of this article, but let me tell you, there is no need to redesign your website. Very rarely will the people who visit your site return because of your website’s design. Their only priority is finding the content, information, or product they want and it’s important that your site has what your customer is looking for. This is the most important thing I will be addressing in this article and will explain why it is so important. To be frank, the most important issues you should have are fulfilling your customer needs and making sure that your branding message is reaching the right people, not the template design. So if you are trying to package an ineffective product in a beautiful way it’s not very likely that you’ll succeed, regardless of your website’s design.

I know some of you might have already started disagreeing with me and I accept that sometimes the visual design has an impact on your site visitors and I will discuss that later. First I want to help you focus on something more important than that. What creates a difference between two websites is actually the content in the first place. If that was not the case, no one would spend their morning reading a newspaper which is in such an ugly and classy design.

The thing that you should worry about is the conversion of your visitors into customers. For that purpose, rather first spend your money on your site’s Search Engine Optimization, build links with others, offer great stuff, offer great content, and improve your social connectivity. The part that design plays in this is the accessibility of your site. Always ensure that everyone can easily access your site. There are some techniques that will help convert visitors into customers such as:

  • Give your reader a reason to keep moving through your site. This will decrease your bounce rate as well as increase your site visitor’s interest in your site.
  • Make your site easy to use and navigate. The reader should be able to easily find what he has come to your site to read or research.
  • Always draw your visitor forward and make him dig deeper in your site. This is accomplished by offering him appealing information.
  • Image content plays a part in this too. As I said the way in which the content is presented does leave an impact on the reader and thus you should use some images to help reinforce or demonstrate what you are offering.

What makes a good looking site is a matter of personal taste, undoubtedly a well-presented and easily accessible content feels greater. Whenever we talk about an attractive design, its purpose is to inspire others and thus it seen more like art, we should change our perspective and realize that the purpose of design is to communicate and compel them to take action that benefits us.

So most of the time a redesign bears no fruit for there are some factors that we forget in the process. Whenever we change our site’s design, we don’t at all come to know of the factors that might bring up the change in our site’s performance after this. And not all of the factors bring improvement. This happens just because of some of the changes and because we don’t know which of them were successful and which detrimental. Here comes another perspective about designing, that a great designer designs your message and not your site. This is because it’s better to present a strong message poorly than a poor message skillfully.

So instead of detracting from the message you are offering, you should invest in some other key elements which are surely going to produce a positive return. These key points include a bit of research to better know your audience, what their goals are when they come to your site, and indeed how to reach the organic customers. Spend some time on your site’s SEO, as well as researching the keywords that will help your site rank better. Know the places where your ads perform better and also learn to blend them. At last do some research to help you always offer great content to your visitors.

Now in spite of everything I just told you if you have already given time to designing the way you offer the content, it might be time to invest in your site’s design, in order to give it a professional look. But let me first point out some reasons that might be compelling you to redesign your site.

An Outdated Website’s Design

outdated webdesign

picture credit

You might have an outdated design. The way a website looks is usually enough to give away its age. Broken images, distorted content and widgets are what makes a design outdated. This happens when a design doesn’t support a new version of a plugin and can make a visitor exit your site at first glance.

Visitors Bounce Back

bounce rate

picture credit

Your site has a high bounce rate and the average time per visit is really short. This happens because the visitors click away as soon as they reach your site. Your site might be lacking something in functionality and so the users get confused about where to find what they are looking for and subsequently go away. You should clearly state the purpose of your site, what content you are offering and should let the users access that easily. This is because the internet users are not bound to anything and they just want what they are there for on your site. Neither can they wait, nor can they search more into your site.

Lack of Traffic

There is no benefit to great content and a well designed website if you are not getting enough traffic. Even if your site is very functional, there is something you are lacking in the search engines field. The reason behind that can be the building of your site which might not attract the search engines. You have to make your site search engine friendly and optimized.

A Professional Look

You might be getting confused about why I saved this til last, giving your site a professional look might be the very last thing that can compel a reader to come back to your site. But it is of course one of the reasons to design your website when your company has grown to a level where you require a professional look. It helps you expand your business more.

Well, now as you already have thought and decided about redesigning your site, there are some factors that you should think about while doing so. Find out if your site being seen? Do you get a good amount of targeted traffic? You can research this by searching for something in your site and look if you can spot your site in the top 10 search results. If this is not the case, then you may want to spend some money on your site’s keyword research and SEO.

The story doesn’t end here as you need to do some more digging before the design. Who is using your site? What is it that your real visitors want? This is a very crucial point while designing a site. You should know who your audience is and if you don’t well then you should spend your time and money researching what brought them to your site.

After all this, if you still opt for the redesign. Try to compare your analytics of the new design with the old one to judge your decision. Because I still believe you don’t really need a redesign.

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The fixed mindset of the anti-vaccine activist [Respectful Insolence]

One of my interests in skepticism and critical thinking has been the similarity in the fallacious arguments, approach to data, and general behavior of those who are--to put it generously--not so skeptical or scientific in their approach to life. I'm talking about believers in the paranormal, quacks, anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theory mavens, Holocaust deniers, creationists, anthropogenic global warming denialists, and cranks of all stripes. Indeed, it is this similarity in mindset that led Mark Hoofnagle to coin the term "crank magnetism," a perfect description of how people who believe in one form of crankery often believe in other forms of crankery as well. Examples include Dr. Lorraine Day, who's a believer in cancer quackery (indeed, lots of other forms of quackery, too) and is a rabid Holocaust denier as well; Melanie Phillips, who is anti-vaccine and doesn't believe in AGW or evolution, either; Vox Day, who hits the crank trifecta of anti-vaccinationism, evolution denialism, and anthropogenic global warming (AGW) denialism; Nicholas Kollerstrom, who hits the different crank trifecta of Holocaust denial, astrology, and crop circles; and Mike Adams, whose crank magnetism encompasses virtually all forms of pseudoscience except for than AGW denialism.

But crank magnetism is not the only aspect of the believer in pseudoscience, and that's an extreme "us versus them" mentality. True, this is not a characteristic unique to cranks or even defining of cranks, but when you verbiage like this in combination with dubious science, chances are that you are dealing with a grade-A woo-meister, a crank par excellance:

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Family Decals

My decal set has no adults, just a sea of hundreds of the little girl figures closing in around a single cat.
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Keeping them contented with nothing

Keeping them contented with nothing

by digby

I knew about Emo-core and lately, Emo-prog (unfortunately.) But until today I didn't know about "Emo-porn" which is apparently wreaking havoc on decent Real Americans' relationships. Via Rightwing Watch, here's Focus on the Family blowing the lid off the latest threat to marriage:

Loneliness strikes at the heart of both husbands and wives, but tends to plunge deeper into the emotional expanse of women. This is one reason why wives are seduced by “emo-porn,” virtual infidelity that is more emotionally satisfying before it physically pleases. But like salt water, it creates a worsening thirst. With emo-porn, fantasy men perform stunningly between the sheets of conversation, emotional understanding, and emotional dexterity. Most mortal men cannot deliver such behavior, the way men do in soap operas and romance novels. Just as wives rightly complain when compared to the artificially created women of Internet porn, men should complain when compared to the artificial men of daytime television. Interesting, isn’t it, how they have such exciting jobs—no Joe The Plumbers. In the real world where real men burn through a lot of emotional battery life to make a real living, being expected to behave like men who don’t exist is more than wrong. It’s cruel.

Emo-porn creates caricatures in the minds and hearts of wives. Most men just aren’t and cannot be that attentive, especially in marriage where responsibilities to provide weigh heavy upon them. Husbands are quietly deemed unresponsive and uncaring when compared to emotionally dexterous hunks of daytime lore, chat rooms, celebrity rags, and romance novels. Thus a secretive and snowballing form of marital discontent is born and nurtured.


You can see the problem. Of course women enjoying stories about men who care what they have to say and think is bound to make them feel discontented with the selfish, domineering boors they're married to. It's telling, however, that this poor fellow seems completely unaware of the major fantasy these stories deliver: good sex. I'm imagining that it's because he doesn't recognize the sort of activities that please the ladies between the sheets --- and is confused by the sorts of things the ladies do to the gentlemen as well. (Not that any of it is beyond the straightest white bread sex by normal people's standards.) He just saw all that talk, talk, talk and assumed that it was a bunch of chicks dreaming about a fantasy man who knows how to do laundry, when they are actually getting off on a fantasy man who knows how to do them.

Poor girls. These men (and their church lady lieutenants) are so afraid of sexual equality, they won't even allow their women a People magazine or a Romance novel because it makes them feel inadequate and weakens the institution of marriage. But then Christian Right marriages must be very weak already. Just about everything threatens them.

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Starz ends renewal negotiations with Netflix, will pull movies from streaming in February

Starz has apparently decided it can live without the hundreds of millions of dollars a renewal of its content licensing deal with Netflix was expected to bring and announced an end to negotiations today. According to the Company Town blog, talks broke down over Starz's insistence that Netflix implement tiered pricing, and charge customers even more for access to its content. That means when the current deal expires on February 28, 2012, they will all go away, including a number of its newer release flicks from Sony (already pulled) and Disney that Starz has exclusive licenses to and Starz content like Camelot and Spartacus. To make matters worse, all of this is going down the same day as a price hike makes it more expensive to keep both disc and streaming services.

While Starz claims the move is a part of its strategy to "protect the premium nature of our brand by preserving the appropriate pricing and packaging of our exclusive and highly valuable content" as well as "evaluate new opportunities", Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey is quoted as saying it can redirect the Starz money to deals with other content providers to "maintain or even improve the Netflix experience." Beyond Starz, in the US Netflix also has access to newer movies from its deals with Epix and a few smaller distributors like Relativity Media. Check Starz's statement in full after the break, and let us know if this is changing your answer to yesterday's poll question.

Continue reading Starz ends renewal negotiations with Netflix, will pull movies from streaming in February

Starz ends renewal negotiations with Netflix, will pull movies from streaming in February originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 01 Sep 2011 21:24:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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What Markos Said by David Atkins

What Markos Said
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Markos over at dkos hits the nail right on the head over the speech scheduling stupidity:

Obama has two options:

1) Immediately say, "That's cool, we'll do it another day." The date, again, is inconsequential. Why get in a fight over this?

2) Go on the offensive. Make the argument that Obama chose the day because it was the first day Congress was back in session. What's more important to the American people than jobs? And anyway, the White House ran it by Boehner and he had no objections, so why is he freaking out now?

Either one would've been fine. But instead, we got a crazy hybrid—the White House initially went on the offensive, called Boehner a liar, started working reporters on a pushback campaign, and then, suddenly, collapsed to Boehner.

It was the worst of all worlds. Rather than look accommodating or strong, the White House came off looking indecisive and weak. All over the biggest non-story of the month. It was a great way to cap off a dismal August...

Obama's fiercest defenders rushed to rationalize yesterday's mess. "He looks like the grownup in the room!" Maybe. But no one gives a shit. Look at the numbers above. "Boehner came off looking childish!" Maybe, but so what? He's not running for national office. "Who cares, this doesn't matter!" Yup, it doesn't matter, other than the fact that we have a whole new slew of headlines making Obama look weak...

Bottom line, if Obama's approach to governing was proving popular, then there'd be little fault. If triangulating against liberals bolstered his numbers with independents, then that'd be cool! Heck, if slapping my first-born in the face bumped his numbers up with independents, I'd tolerate it. But it's not. His current approach isn't working. Capitulating to the GOP on matters big (and small) only reinforce the notion that he's weak. No one cares that he's the "grownup" in the room. No one cares that he's "reasonable" or "compromising" or "serious."

I disagree with Markos on the notion that bolstering Obama's numbers among independents is necessarily terribly important right now. Independents shift with the political winds, and improving poll numbers among malleable voters 15 months before the election is sort of pointless. To say nothing of the fact that the whole point of politics isn't to win elections, but to drive public policy in a particular direction. And, of course, many will take offense with Markos' characterization of the necessity of electing Obama and the silliness of encouraging a primary challenge--though I think Markos is right on both those counts.

But Markos' key critique of the Administration is well-taken. First, everything they do is almost designed to make them look craven and weak. Being accommodating is one thing; being constantly humiliated like Charlie Brown kicking a football is quite another.

And it's not even working to attract independents. It's terrible politics, in addition to being terrible policy.

Keep in mind that these are some of the top political professionals in the entire United States advising the Administration on these maneuvers. Which means that either they're utterly incompetent idiots as Digby and I have repeatedly argued, or they're paid-off corrupted tools of a grand global elitist conspiracy. Personally, I find the latter idea preposterous hogwash, a comforting opium for the sorts of people who want to believe that there are no solutions, or that the solutions are as as easy as grabbing pitchforks and guillotines and letting blood run in the streets. Yes, there's rampant criminality--in Wall Street's case, even an entire culture of criminality. And those criminals should be held to account. But that doesn't mean that the entire governmental and financial apparatus--or even most of it--is run either by elite criminals or their paid-off lackeys. It just doesn't work that way, as anyone who has actually dealt with the individual policy makers in question knows.

But there are a growing number of people in this country who incline to the sorts of Bircher fantasies espoused by the likes of Glenn Beck on the right, to the Alex Jones/Jesse Ventura brand of "both sides do it" crazy, and to various lefty conspiracy mongers as well.

And it's no surprise. It's just really hard--and frankly terrifying--for a lot of people to believe that we're really governed by incompetent morons. That's understandable. But if policy makers want to limit the growing number of conspiracy mavens out there, it might be advisable for them to try putting competent people in charge for a change. Otherwise, they'll get the paranoid public attitudes toward them that they deserve.

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Worthy of support

Worthy of support

by digby

I'm so sick politicians I could just scream. But Howie reminded me today that there are some good ones --- and good people are always making the truly patriotic sacrifice to run.

Blue America doesn't usually ask for contributions because of some phony Inside the Beltway "deadline"-- as if a $20 contribution is any more or any less crucial today or tomorrow or the next day. And yesterday we got a wretched plea from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, begging for money for the dreadful and unpopular incumbents whose voting records make it impossible for them to raise contributions from grassroots Democrats. "I need your help. We only have 6 hours left until our August FEC deadline, and we’re still $8,000 short of our goal. Eric Cantor outlined the Republican vision in a recent memo-- they will gut environmental regulations, repeal health care reform and attack workers. If Republicans outraise us and grab momentum, the Senate will be that much harder to defend. Must-win seats may be out of our reach. And this GOP vision could become reality."

He doesn't mention that some of these Democrats he's raising money for vote against the Democrats and with McConnell and DeMint. I mean who in their right mind is going to donate to conservative shills like Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin or Claire McCaskill? During his miserable Senate career Nelson has voted with the Republicans 56% of the time on the crucial votes and Both Machin and McCaskill are barely over 60%. They've alienated Democratic voters... and the lobbyists and Big Business interests they have normally counted on would rather replace them with Republicans. Good riddance!

On the other hand, Blue America is asking for help in sending a loud and clear a message to the DSCC and Beltway Democrats today (or tomorrow-- we don't care) by helping us support Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), two people who have fought long and hard for ordinary American families, not for the banksters and not for the corporate elites.

Unless this is the first time you've been on DWT you already know Bernie. You probably know Elizabeth Warren too. This is what she told the Boston Globe yesterday: “It’s about being willing to take a good idea and fight for it. It’s being willing to throw your body in front of a bus to block bad ideas... There are some things worth fighting for and right now it’s about fighting for the middle class."

She's running for Ted Kennedy's old seat, which is currently occupied by Wall Street's favorite senator, Scott Brown-- and that's what business-friendly Forbes called him... admiringly. One day Elizabeth may be the tellers' favorite senator, but she'll never be the banksters' or hedge fund managers'!
"I came out of a hard-working middle class family. I lived in an America that created opportunities for kids like me... I now see an America in which our government works for those who already have money and already have power... I would walk out of a senator’s office and the office would be completely jammed with lobbyists who were there to explain why the consumer agency was bad. There was not enough room for them to sit down.’’

Blue America has only endorsed 2 people for the Senate so far this cycle. It's hard to imagine any other incumbents and so far the only other challenger who looks worthwhile is Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, although she hasn't declared yet. So we're asking you to take a look at our Senate page and see if you can give us a hand with Bernie and Elizabeth... even if it is after the DSCC's midnight "deadline."



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