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On Monday, Senior White House Advisor Don Benton sent an email to all EPA employees regarding public scrutiny of the EPA transition. Benton, a retired Republican state senator from Vancouver, Washington, was chosen by the Donald Trump Administration to lead the EPA transition team on Jan. 23.
After explaining that transitions are a difficult time, Benton devotes considerable space—going so far as to bold a sentence—to warn staffers to be wary of what they read in the media. Although he admits in the memo, which was obtained by Popular Science, that he is unable “to validate or reject the statements made by these individuals [who are quoted by the media] since I am not directly working with them, and I have not seen many of the documents referenced in the stories.”
The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 under Republican President Richard Nixon as part of “a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man.” Today, the EPA is tasked with creating the regulations that underpin Congressional environmental laws, enforcing those laws, and conducting environmental science research.
Last week, news circulated that the EPA is under a gag order and that its scientists are barred from speaking publicly or even posting on social media. The EPA’s official Twitter handle has been inactive since January 19th—the day before the inauguration. Of the agency’s ten regional departments, six have twitter accounts. Of those six, three have not tweeted since the inauguration, nor has the EPA’s justice department @EPAJustice. @EPAregion3, which covers EPA region 3, has tweeted once, on January 21st—a retweet about the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird count. @EPARegion8 sent out a tweet on January 23rd about winter air pollution in the Salt Lake City area. @EPAregion2 has tweeted most recently—on January 27th, with a clarification over sponsorship. Prior to January 20th, many of these accounts tweeted several times a day.
Today, the President signed an executive order stating “that for every one new regulation issued [by the EPA and other regulatory agencies], at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” In order for the EPA to pass new regulations on fuel efficiency, for example, they must eliminate two existing laws. The longterm effects of this are unclear—it may simply mean eliminating laws that have remained beyond their expiration date, or it may mean having to cut important measures. The EPA could, in theory, have to decide which chemicals should be regulated in the water.
Benton closes the email by stating that, “no final decisions have been made with regard to the EPA,” but that, “changes will likely come.”
The full text of the email obtained by PopSci follows:
After one week on the job leading the transition team, I would like to say thank you to the many career professionals here at the EPA who have been working with me, White House Liason Charles Munoz, and the transition team. I have served many roles in my life in both the private sector and in the government. I want the EPA team to know that the people I have worked with here are among the best I have ever had the opportunity to work with.
We all know that political transitions are never easy. Carter to Reagan in 1981, Bush to Clinton in 1993, Clinton to Bush, and then Bush to Obama have all been unique and posessed their own challenges. We are now working our way through the transition from President Obama to President Trump.
Due to the important nature of the work that is done here at the EPA, we are falling under a greater media microscope than most agencies.
I, like many of you, am surprised each morning by what I read in the newspaper and see on TV news shows, because much of what we see is just not accurate.
In addition, many news outlets are quoting individuals who are no longer serving on the EPA transition team. I am not able to validate or reject the statements made by these individuals, since I am not directly working with them, and I have not seen many of the documents referenced in the stories.
I cannot tell you today what the final decisions from the White House, from our new Administrator, and from the Congress will be. I can tell you that despite what you read and see on TV, no final decisions have been made with regard to the EPA.
Changes will likely come, and when they do, we will work together to implement them.
One thing I am certain is that the transition team is committed to working with you to carry out the core mission of the EPA – To Protect Human Health and the Environment.
You're reading Leaked Epa Memo: Not Even The Epa Knows What’s Going On With The Epa
Lately I’ve had a thought burning in my mind – what’s the point of the title ‘SEO’. Obviously, it implies that we’re able to optimize sites for search engines, and (hopefully) gain clients’ sites visibility within search engines.
Why then, when we SEOs know Google still definitively uses links as a key metric for ranking, are we so afraid to touch them?
Shouldn’t this be a big concern for us? If we’re the professional optimizers, how can we not optimize such a key component? And yet, more and more, you see SEOs leaving behind the optimization portion and aim for more extended goals. Get traffic, build content, improve conversions, increase social, build brands.
Great goals, and certainly something that shouldn’t be ignored. But what happened to the optimization? Is it over? Is it dead? Or has search engine optimization, and link building especially, become harder?
I think there can be no doubt that as time has gone by Google has increasingly made it harder to build links. But building great links hasn’t gotten any harder. High quality, relevant, authoritative links have always been hard. Nothing new there – Google’s only yanked the rug out from under spammy link building tactics.
So is SEO itself worth still pursuing, or is it more important to focus on the marketing principles that more and more SEOs are flocking to?
Honestly, I don’t think the two should be mutually exclusive. I believe there’s a real need for both optimization and marketing. Things such as brand building, resource building, conversion optimization, and general marketing truly are important.
But true search engine optimization is just as vital for websites – and that most certainly includes pursuing link building.Link earning versus link building
Links continue to drive conversation within the SEO world. Google’s crack down on spammy links has caused the expected ripple throughout the community – and now link building is often discussed as ‘link earning’.
But let me ask you a serious question, before I go on. Take a moment and truly think about it. What is the difference between ‘link earning’ and ‘link building’?
Have it in your mind?
Link building implies manual action. Someone is taking purposeful action in order to acquire a link.
Link earning implies a link that has been acquired by creating something worth sharing.
I can see why link earning has become a popular term – it’s what Google promotes, and helps a site doubly; a valuable, sharable resource has been created for the website that will now receive shares, which will probably go beyond just links. Meanwhile, manually building a single link often only results in just the link.
So link earning is great, in an ideal world. Unfortunately we live in the real world, and have to face reality (or the internet version of it).
The sad fact is that 99% of websites don’t have the audience engagement necessary to ‘earn links’. Hell, make that 99.99999%
Real link building has always been based upon added value, and then manually pursuing optimized links for that piece of added value, whether it takes the form of a resource, a guide, a video, or even a product (yes products can add value).
If you’re not working to optimize (eh hem, SEO) your content, including link building, then odds are you’re missing out on serious opportunities. Odds are, your content isn’t faring as well as it should. And in reality, you’re not much of a marketer, because you’re leaving real opportunities on the table. Opportunities that start with optimization via link building.
I mean, even content marketing has marketing in the title. And if you’re not acquiring links in your online marketing, you’re not working effectively.Getting links takes work
Acquiring links takes work. This is twofold – first, creating something worthy of links, and second actually receiving the links.
First, an obligatory head nod to Rand’s “my publish button is my link building strategy” (that’s a paraphrase).
In reality, most websites don’t have any kind of following. And even if they do, it’s still hard to receive the links they should.
The SEO industry is probably one of the most equipped (and likely) industries to actually give editorial links.
Think about the process of acquiring a great link 100% naturally:
Create something really great worth sharing
Have a built up community that follows your content
Have the relevant audience that your content resonates with
Have a portion of that audience actually own websites
Have a portion of the audience that own websites be in control and managing that site, actively
Have a portion of the audience that owns and manages a site engaged enough to go to the effort of linking to your content
A portion of those will link in a manner that will have a strong SEO impact
Pretty simple, huh?
Or you could do the work required to actually required to build quality links. Work naturally suited to content creation such as:
Identify your target audience
Recognize a need
Clearly define the purpose and goals of your content/resource
Create a target list of link/promotional opportunities
Reach out to that list in a personable manner
Follow up as needed
And, while you’re at it, you could attempt to build a relationship and foster community engagement.
Building a relationship doesn’t mean you need to become best friends or even chat every week with anyone who responds positively to your outreach. In reality, just make sure you’re engaging in the community of your peers and targeted audience. That’s all.Do Links Still Matter?
It is my firm opinion that you’ll never get (build, earn, acquire, whatever you want to call it) links effectively without putting in the work.
There are, as always, a few exceptions to the rules. Websites that have managed to build a large cult following, and have a continually active and engaged audience. But for the average website—not to mention an ecommerce site—links don’t flow naturally.
So that leaves us with one question – do links still matter?
There can be no doubt they have in the past.
And, as Matt Cutts recently stated, links are still the best signal of authority and relevance Google has.
So to Google, they do. Should they to webmasters everywhere? Well, if those sites care about Google, I’d say it’s a safe bet.
Will social, authorship, citations, and the 200+ other signals Google has erode the effectiveness of links with time?
Perhaps, but it’s going to be quite a while before I would expect to see this be the case, and even then links will more than likely be a strong signal to Google.
Google is like the Titanic – they’re so large that even a slight course change can send waves through the entire web, not to mention the SEO community. But are they able to do a 180 degree turn with any speed? No.
Links are, and will continue to be, a very important factor into online visibility.
Links are after all the very foundation on which Google as a search engine was built.
With the help of technology and encouraged by curiosity, students learn about and connect with kids across the globe.
First and second graders sent comfort quilts to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and to sick children in Pakistan as part of one iEARN project.
Credit: Kristi Rennebohm Franz
When two children in classes half a world apart solved an art challenge in exactly the same way, they were delighted — and curious. How else are students in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Russia, alike? Who are the artists and how do they live? How are their approaches to drawing and the materials used similar and different?
“One of the most amazing gifts of doing this Global Art Project is the joy of seeing children unencumbered from expectations that there will be only differences or only similarities with people and places new to them,” says teacher Kristi Rennebohm Franz, who helped create the Global Art Project for the International Education and Resource Network — better known as iEARN. “The current issues of terrorism — that now all generations are facing, including the children — makes the iEARN global art experiences to build positive human understandings even more poignant and important.”
Starting with Primitive Technology
Rennebohm Franz, teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School, is an early pioneer of iEARN, a network of ninety-five countries and 400,000 students that sponsors a long list of collaborative projects designed to build global bridges, improve education, and make a difference in the world. She was so sold on iEARN’s goals and projects in 1993 — before the proliferation of wired schools — she convinced her principal to allow her to receive e-mail on the school’s one phone line.
Since then, the first- and second-grade students in her multiage class have made Comfort Quilts for victims of Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua, for pediatric patients in Pakistan, and, more recently, for those who lost loved ones in the tragic events of September 11, 2001. They have compared water quality with students as close as Seattle and as far away as Costa Rica, China, Russia, the Netherlands, and Argentina. They have learned about Belize from Peace Corps volunteers. They have connected math to their lives through essays, surveys, and quilt designs with students in Australia, Lithuania, and Puerto Rico. They exchange information, data, writing, and artwork in subjects as diverse as math, science, social studies, and language arts using technology ranging from simple e-mail to sophisticated movie editing software and videoconferencing.
Teacher Kristi Rennebohm Franz facilitates her students’ participation in a number of international, online projects.
Credit: Kristi Rennebohm Franz
In the assignment that resulted in the matching pictures, students were asked to draw and write on the theme, “A Sense of Family.” When the drawings arrived from Russia — first in an airmail packet and then over the Internet — one second grader was stunned to see a picture from Moscow that looked like his. He and his Russian counterpart had drawn a family of two adults and two children flanked by two trees — one deciduous and one evergreen — with clouds in the sky. Both children had solved the problem of white clouds on a white background by painting the clouds blue.
“When the children see these levels of commonality with children far away, they are very excited,” says Rennebohm Franz. And when they don’t find commonality, “I see them looking at differences as an opportunity to learn something new rather than seeing something strange or something to fear.”
Affirmation is a big part of the exchange process. When Sunnyside students received artwork from Belarus, they knew their job wasn’t just to ooh and ah over the colors and scenes. Their job was to ask thoughtful questions and cite elements of the drawings they liked, such as medium or materials.
“I just sat back and watched in amazement at their engagement and on-task incentive” to respond, recalls Rennebohm Franz. “One of the powerful pieces is that these children learn that once they’ve taken the time to learn something, it’s valued by someone else. … They have an innate sense of wanting to continue being a part of a community. They absolutely treasure the communication.”
A Sunnyside Elementary School student tests water quality as part of an iEARN project on pond habitats.
Credit: Kristi Rennebohm Franz
Incentives for Academic Success
Edwin Gragert, director of iEARN (and an Edutopia 2008 Daring Dozen honoree), says the Internet more than reinforces that sense of community. “The world is no longer defined for us from third-party eyes. … Students have the potential for defining it themselves by direct interaction with others anywhere in the world.” Global understanding, however, isn’t the only benefit of the projects. With collaborations that involve an outside audience, students “have a real-life purpose and accelerated motivation to develop their literacy skills,” says Rennebohm Franz.
Both writing and art go through structured processes that are enhanced by the immediacy of the Internet and the physical ease of using a keyboard and word processing software to edit. Students are willing to spend more time writing because they don’t have to hold a pencil; they work on meaning more, and they like editing. They also know they have to make their meaning clear for an audience of peers who may not speak English well.
Rennebohm Franz has developed the WRITE to Care Framework, a process for integrating reading, writing, and communication/technology “while participating in meaningful local to global telecommunications projects that make positive differences in their school, community, region, state, country, and the world.”
“On the computer you get to edit to make your writing better so other people can read your ideas,” explains one student. “It would be hard to write everything down by hand because your hands get all sweaty holding the pencil and you need lots of paper because you have to copy everything over. And with a pencil you have to erase, and sometimes the erasing doesn’t work very well, and the paper tears. When you have the computer, you can just delete and type again!”
Rennebohm Franz says technology “makes it possible to do collaborative projects across cultures and continents.” And unlike when she joined iEARN, her classes have all-the-time T1 Internet connections. Her classes also have access to other technology. Students publish Web sites and make movies, for which they do everything from digital videotaping, editing, ordering, and sequencing clips to titling and narration. They use PowerPoint ® presentations and digital slide shows. “So many children are visual learners, and the computer can help them,” says Rennebohm Franz.
A number of projects include sharing student artwork with students in classes around the world.
Credit: Sunnyside Elementary School
Next Step: International Videoconferences
The Washington Legislature has provided many schools across the state with access to videoconferencing, and Rennebohm Franz’s students are hoping to one day expand the live presentations about water habitat they have had with the John Stanford International School in Seattle to overseas schools. But even that intrastate relationship has deepened global understanding. If Seattle is real, and “we exchange our work with them, then places like Novosibirsk, Russia, and Uden, Netherlands, and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, become real,” she says.
Whether they’re e-mailing their stories and scanned drawings, sending and receiving videotapes of projects, talking on video conferences, or presenting their findings at city council meetings and education conferences, Rennebohm Franz’s students realize they’re an important part of a larger world. What they find and report makes a difference as they simultaneously learn from and teach children and adults about meaningful topics.
A second grader sums up her experiences: “I think all the children all over the world should have what they need to read and write like we have.” Then she added, “And thanks to all the teachers around the world.”
Sara Armstong is a former Edutopia staff member.
What’s Ahead for the Stock Market? CAS economist Laurence Kotlikoff predicts continuing drop
Last Thursday’s and Friday’s collapse in stock values likely began a long-term swoon in the market, BU economist Laurence Kotlikoff predicts. Photo by AP/Richard Drew
One year ago, BU economist Laurence Kotlikoff forecast a coming stock market crash, brought on, he said, by a president whose policies, including a threatened trade war, could spook investors.
Last week, President Trump imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Chinese imports—and Wall Street tanked. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 1,100 points on Thursday and Friday, closing at its lowest point since November, after setting a record high just this past January. That put the Dow officially in a correction, having lost at least 10 percent since that January record. The markets rebounded yesterday, with the Dow making up more than half the Thursday and Friday losses.
The other major stock indices—the tech-heavy NASDAQ and the broader S&P 500—also tumbled.
Kotlikoff, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and College of Arts & Sciences economics professor, who last year said he’d sold all of his stocks, seemed a contrarian then, as analysts forecast a bull market from Trump’s promised pro-business policies. Still, he had been named by The Economist as one of the globe’s most influential economics experts, and he operates an online investment planner (free for BU employees).
After last week’s stomach-churning stock fall, Kotlikoff says that older workers counting on the market for their golden years should take heed: “If you are in or near retirement, long-term Treasury Inflation-Indexed Securities (TIPS) are worth considering as investments. If you hold them to maturity, you’ll receive a one percent real (inflation-adjusted) return. That beats losing your shirt in the stock market.”
BU Today asked Kotlikoff for his take on what’s happening on Wall Street now.BU Today: Media reports blame last week’s plunge on Trump’s tariffs and fears of a trade war. Do you agree that’s the cause?
Kotlikoff: Absolutely. President Trump is plunging our country into a potentially massive trade war that would badly hurt our economy, threaten our jobs, and lower our living standards. If the president has a case that the rest of the world is trading unfairly with our country, he needs to present it to the World Trade Organization and let them adjudicate.
But unilaterally enacting tariffs on steel, aluminum, and now many Chinese products, and effectively calling our trading partners “cheaters and thieves” and egging them on with claims of “We can win a trade war,” is pouring fuel on the fire. There are no winners in trade wars when the opponents are evenly balanced. Our economy represents 15 percent of world GDP, but that’s far too small a share for us to dictate world terms of trade.You predicted a coming market crash a year ago, pre-tariffs, in part because the market seemed overvalued by historical standards. Might the market’s drop be a classic correction that would have happened anyway?
I predicted the market would drop, in part because it seemed historically overvalued, and in part, due to Trump’s likely imposition of tariffs. His declaration of trade war is likely the last straw to fall on this bull market’s back.Trump’s deregulation and corporate tax cuts were supposed to buoy the economy. Might those policies revive the Dow?
Those policies are already priced in the market. They won’t move the needle unless the economy’s response to those policies is stronger than expected.What should people who own stocks do now?
I think the market could fall 30 to 50 percent over the next year. Personally, I’d reduce my holdings of stocks significantly and do so quickly. Economists don’t usually make such recommendations. But our president is, frankly, acting like a Russian agent.If stocks continue tanking, will that have spillover effects elsewhere in the economy?
Yes, if stocks plunge enough, it will reduce consumer confidence, spending, and investment and usher in a recession.Following up on the previous question, if someone has been planning a major purchase—a home, say—should they hold off?
Yes. If the economy fails, they could lose their jobs and not be able to make their mortgage payments. Also, house prices would drop, making this a bad time to buy.If the market rallies this week, as it did yesterday, does that mean it’s out of the woods?
No. What’s happened has put a scare into the market, which will be there for a long time, setting it up for a major adjustment.
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Razer’s Huntsman Elite needs another pass, particularly the awkward media keys, but its RGB-enabled wrist rest is eye-catching and the new Opto-Mechanical switch holds promise.
Optical switches. I knew they were coming to mainstream keyboards sooner or later. I started seeing them crop up at PAX a year or two ago, courtesy of a brand called—I’m serious—Bloody. (The parent company has the much more boring name A4Tech.) It was only a matter of time.
And if nerdy discussions about switch tech don’t do it for you, an RGB-endabled wrist rest should catch your eye. Seriously. Let’s dig into what’s certainly Razer’s most innovative keyboard in years, though I’ll save the verdict for the end.
Note: This review is part of our best gaming keyboards roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.All of the lights
Razer doesn’t do brand-new designs often. I’ve honestly lost count of how many BlackWidow revisions I’ve looked at over the years. That makes the Huntsman a novelty of sorts—a break from tradition at the very least.
IDG / Hayden Dingman
But don’t expect too much change. In large part, the Huntsman resembles the BlackWidow X, with its exposed metal backplate and raised keycaps. It’s not the BlackWidow X, and the chassis is a different shape, but “minimalist black rectangle” doesn’t leave you a lot to work with. In other words, the layperson could be forgiven for mistaking the two at a glance.
A few details have changed though, mainly in the top-right corner block. On the BlackWidow, that’s where you’d find all the indicator lights. On the Huntsman Elite? Dedicated media keys. Yes, finally. I’ve knocked Razer for years now about double-mapping its media keys to the Function row, and the Huntsman Elite design finally fixes the issue.
Worse, the keys aren’t as functional as I’d like. There’s lighting underneath each key, but the actual controls aren’t backlit. It’s not that hard to intuit—Skip Back on the left, Play/Pause in the middle, Skip Forward on the right. Still, why not just illuminate them? No idea.
IDG / Hayden Dingman
It’s just awkward, and indicates Razer might need a few iterations before it catches up with companies like Corsair and Logitech, which have had standalone media keys for years and years now. Still, a huge step up from having to hold down the Fn key and streeetch to hit F1 to F7.
The most noteworthy design feature of the Huntsman Elite, however, is the wrist rest. Namely, the fact that it’s RGB-enabled. It looks similar to the wrist rest packaged with the BlackWidow V2, except the Huntsman Elite’s has a row of pins along the top edge. When connected to the Huntsman keyboard, the wrist rest continues a ribbon of light that rings the entire base of the keyboard (as seen below).
IDG / Hayden Dingman
Dumb? Maybe. But it’s fancy, matching the same “underglow” aesthetic found on Razer’s Hyperflux mousepad and other peripherals. If you’re an RGB fan, this is probably the prettiest keyboard you’ll see, besides the Corsair K95 Platinum. The only downside: In order to illuminate both keyboard and wrist rest, you need to plug in both USB cables. Not really surprising I guess, but perhaps a pain for those (like myself) who are running out of USB ports.
AI unicorns have started laying off workers in light of drastic macroeconomic conditions
After a year of hiring sprees for professionals, tech companies, large and small-scale, are pausing their hiring process. The global economic downturn continues to deepen, forcing technology companies to take drastic measures and reduce the effect of inflation. MajorGraphcore is all-set for the 2023 layoff season
Graphcore is one of the topBottom Line
After a year of hiring sprees for professionals, tech companies, large and small-scale, are pausing their hiring process. The global economic downturn continues to deepen, forcing technology companies to take drastic measures and reduce the effect of inflation. Major FAANG companies have announced lowering payroll costs, but eventually, the employment ecosystem continues to remain in a state of stand-still, with surveys revealing that even tech workers are equally worried about the current economic downturns. And with AI unicorns laying off thousands of employees, the present situation has become even more drastic. Google and Microsoft were some of the first tech companies that ordered a pause in the hiring spree, followed by Meta, Apple, and others. The situation actually got out of hand, when Google reportedly just sent a memo to its staff in July stating that the company would be “slowing down the pace of hiring for the rest of the year.” The tech hiring freeze certainly did not affect the existing job offers, but since no new offers are being extended into the job market, freshers and intermediate professionals are in a huge mess. Besides, since AI unicorns have also started laying off employees, the number of solutions for tech employees is reducing rapidly!Graphcore is one of the top AI unicorns that is proposing to cut jobs at multiple headquarters due to the deteriorating macroeconomic situation. One of the company’s spokespeople claimed that the company is undergoing a consultation process, but the management is not declaring the proportion of the workforce that is likely to be cut. Instead, the company claimed that the ongoing macroeconomic backdrop is extremely challenging, which means making hard choices was the only way to sustain growth and development in the upcoming year. The headcount will be reduced on a global basis and the management is already in consultation with the staff in other headquarters. Graphcore is basically one of the most successful European semiconductor startups in terms of the funds raised. Now, the dilemma among tech freshers is that when a successful AI unicorn plans to freeze the hiring process, it will for sure cause others to follow suit. Pursuing an AI career has become a priority for aspiring tech professionals. After the big tech layoffs started, artificial intelligence unicorns and startups became the last resort for emerging tech workers. Now, with Graphcore’s blessing, probably other AI unicorns and startups with start laying off employees and implement hiring chúng tôi present condition of the tech hiring landscape is quite uncertain, and not just for the plummeting economic landscape, but also due to the ongoing geopolitical and economic crises which is forcing most companies to experience their worst business cycles. Analysts are constantly running tallies as to how global companies are reacting to the ongoing inflation. It is challenge, not just for employers, but especially for the employees.
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