Robert Mueller Has the Trump Team Panicked, No Matter What the President Says

The special prosecutor has reportedly obtained thousands of campaign emails.

Donald Trump responded to questions on Sunday saying he had no intention to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But while Trump was making this statement, both his team inside and outside the White House and Republicans in Congress continued to beat the drums for Mueller’s dismissal.

The president’s comments came a day after a lawyer representing Trump’s transition team accused Mueller of wrongfully obtaining thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration — a legal and public relations maneuver seen as possibly laying the groundwork to oust the special counsel.

The revelation that Mueller has obtained a large number of emails issued during the transition period had clearly sent Trump’s team scrambling. It’s not just that Mueller had this material now, but that he seems to have obtained it weeks ago, meaning that recent questioning of everyone from Jared Kushner to Hope Hicks may have been responding to questions for which Mueller already had the answers in hand. Considering that half the people Mueller has already indicted were convicted for lying, that has to have everyone in the White House carefully reviewing their time with the special counsel.

The Republican play on Mueller’s acquisition of the emails is that it is “illegal”—a charge made without bothering to state just what law might have been broken. On Sunday, Trump joined in the vague grumbling.

Trump criticized Mueller for gaining access to those emails, telling reporters the situation was “not looking good.”

But the letter from Trump’s lawyer and additional charges of partisanship by Mueller’s team, was enough to generate a rare statement from Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”

Mueller’s gathering up the transition emails is giving Donald Trump a sad.

“It’s quite sad to see that,” Trump said. “My people were very upset about it.”

The potential for additional indictments over lying under oath gives Mueller even more leverage in his efforts to collect testimony directly concerning Trump … but Trump is maintaining an attitude of reduced concern.

Trump has spent much of his first year in office so enraged by the federal investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election that lawmakers who work with him tried to avoid the issue entirely and his friends worried that Trump might rashly fire the special counsel. But in recent weeks, Trump has privately seemed less frustrated about the investigation, according to multiple sources who have spoken with the President.

Trump has been telling people that he expects to soon be cleared “in writing,” and keeps insisting that Mueller’s investigation will soon be over.

“The President’s mantra is ‘All this Russia stuff, it’s all going to wrap up soon.’ He repeats it as fact,” said one source who speaks to Trump. “Part of me is like — ‘Are you serious? You believe this?'”

But there’s no indication that the special counsel is running out of either witnesses or information. Just eight months in, Mueller’s investigation is a less than a quarter of the length of the average special counsel or special prosecutor investigation, and less than a tenth of investigations like Iran/Contra or Whitewater. It could easily proceed through the length of Trump’s time in office—whether or not that time is shortened.

For the investigation to end anytime soon, as Trump indicates, it will likely be because Trump and the Republicans step in to halt the process before it can complete. But while others are working to tear down Mueller’s reputation and attack the integrity of the investigation, Trump himself seems to be spending time in fantasyland.

Three sources familiar with the President’s recent conversations about the investigation said Trump has become convinced that he will receive a letter of exoneration, which would be unusual. One source worried Trump would have a “meltdown” if that doesn’t happen.

Maybe he expects that letter to come with the signature of Jefferson Sessions. Or new special counsel Sean Hannity. And maybe they’ll also give him a gold star.

 

 

 

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How Data Science Has Changed Everyday Life for the Better

data science


Data science is the study of where information comes from, what it represents and how it can be turned into a valuable resource in the creation of business and IT strategies. Mining large amounts of structured and unstructured data to identify patterns can help an organization rein in costs, increase efficiencies, recognize new market opportunities and increase the organization’s competitive advantage. Some companies are hiring data scientists to help them turn raw data into information.
Data scientists must possess a combination of analytic, machine learning, data mining and statistical skills as well as experience with algorithms and coding.

Application of Data Science

Here’s how Data Science comes to our rescue in our everyday routine.

Recommender Systems

recommendation systems


Who can forget the suggestions about similar products on Amazon? They not only help you find relevant products from billions of products available with them, but also adds a lot to the user experience. The recommendations are made based on previous search results for a user.

Internet Search

internet search

Search engines make use of data science algorithms to provide the best search result for searched query in fraction of seconds. Considering the fact that, Google processes more than 20 petabytes of data everyday. Had there been no data science, Google wouldn’t have been the ‘Google’ we know today.

Healthcare

Today fitness trackers and apps already help people lead a life that is more active, eat healthier and control their weight – and this is only the beginning. Already such devices monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and other vital signs that can be interpreted to serve other healthcare purposes and provide a diagnosis. The best cure is prevention, and with big data science, everyone will be able to keep their health in check.

Logistics

Logistic companies like DHL, FedEx, UPS, Kuhne+Nagel have used data science to improve their operational efficiency. Using data science, these companies have discovered the best routes to ship, the best suited time to deliver, the best mode of transport to choose thus leading to cost efficiency, and many more to mention. Further more, the data that these companies generate using the GPS installed, provides them a lots of possibilities to explore using data science.
Airlines schedule flights, predict delays based on precise weather forecasts and estimate the number of seats they are going to need for each direction based on seasonal fluctuations, competitors’ actions, latest social trends or political events. There are also mechanisms that allow them to decide on the class of planes they will need to purchase in the future.

Image Recognition

Today face recognition is not that big a deal. It offers you to tag your friends on social media photos; it enables goofy masks in Snapchat, Instagram and webcam programs. Lots of fun and nothing substantially useful. However, this can be a powerful tool of law enforcement in the future. Already this feature is making its way into security systems – in flagship models of modern smartphone, you may choose face recognition to unlock your device. In future, it can be used to identify suspects and find missing persons.

Data science and Python

Why Python is usful for Data Science? Python is a powerful, flexible, open source language that is easy to learn, easy to use, and has powerful libraries for data manipulation and analysis. Its simple syntax is very accessible to programming novices, and will look familiar to anyone with experience in Matlab, C/C++, Java, or Visual Basic. Python has a unique combination of being both a capable general-purpose programming language as well as being easy to use for analytical and quantitative computing.
python and data science
Python is easy for analysts to learn and use, but powerful enough to tackle even the most difficult problems in virtually any domain. It integrates well with existing IT infrastructure, and is very platform independent. Among modern languages, its agility and the productivity of Python-based solutions is legendary. Companies of all sizes and in all areas — from the biggest investment banks to the smallest social/mobile web app startups — are using Python to run their business and manage their data.

Because of growing importance and scope of data science, many are opting for business analytics and data science certification courses. Data Science is changing the world, and if you are passionate about this fascinating discipline, then this is the time to enroll yourself in a data science course.

Want to learn Python Programming? 

Elemental Evil: Sessions 13 & 14

I just noticed that I am behind on my reporting on the Elemental Evil campaign. In the previous reported session the group had reached level 5 and was about to head for the Sacred Stone Monastery. Sessions 13 and 14 were about the adventures of the group in that monastery. However once again it has to be remarked that this particular group is mainly interested in the combat aspects of D&D, and less interested in the role-playing aspects. And the campaign has been chosen with this preference in mind, containing a lot of dungeon crawls. Nevertheless even in that campaign the group still managed to avoid most opportunities to find out more about the story, and spent those two sessions mostly in combat encounters.

The group entered the Sacred Stone Monastery via the garden and from there into the main hall. However that was exactly what the bad guys had planned for invaders, as the main hall contains a trap that drops the group down into the dungeon and into a cage with an Umber Hulk. Having beaten the Umber Hulk and then some orog and ogre guards, the group liberated a group of slaves used for mining work. That included members of the Mirabar delegation, which in the book is the official story hook. However the group showed absolutely no interest in asking them about what had happened to the delegation, and allowed the slaves to leave unescorted.

Next the group entered a part of the dungeon in which a Lich lives. A Lich is a challenge rating 21 monster and obviously not meant as a combat encounter for level 5 characters. But in spite of the Lich just being a bit grumpy and not immediately attacking, the group decided against getting information from him, and just fled. Having otherwise cleaned out the basement, the group found another staircase up, and found themselves in the middle of the monk’s quarters, where a big fight ensued. That included the boss of the place, a blind female monk with the name of Hellenrae. Just like in the previous two elemental keeps, the group killed the boss, looted the magical key part the bosses are carrying, and then legged it.

Then they returned to Red Larch to rest and recuperate. But the next morning at breakfast in the inn, they were attacked by four hell hounds. That was a bit annoying for the sorceress, who mainly had fire-based spells like scorching ray and fireball, to which the monsters were immune. But although they took heavy damage from fire breaths, the group prevailed and sent the dogs packing. They (correctly) concluded that the hell hounds had been sent by the one cult they hadn’t visited yet, the fire cult. As they had previously heard about druids planning a fire ritual at a location which corresponded to the location of the fourth elemental keep on their ancient map, they plan to go there in the next session.

It’s Ayn Rand’s America Now, Thanks to the GOP

Conservatism has turned itself into a civic religion and columnist Neal Gabler fears the damages wrought in the Trump era will be permanent and lasting.

Sad to say, this will be my last column for billmoyers.com, where I have written for the past two years. In recent months, in the process of trying to understand for myself the cataclysm of Nov. 8, 2016, I have tried to examine a number of forces — demographic, economic, cultural, media — that may help explain it. I am certain that the question of  “what happened” will plague us for decades and that Nov. 8, 2016, will join April 12, 1861; Oct. 28, 1929; Dec. 7, 1941; Nov. 22, 1963 and Sept. 11, 2001 as one of the most calamitous and tragic dates in our history.

Historians may determine that it was the date America’s second civil war began. By that perspective, just as the first Civil War was the last gasp of slavery, this second is very likely the last gasp of aging white Americans — their full-throated death rattle against an America that they detest for having changed so dramatically the traditions and power structures by which those whites had lived. Regressions are often like that. They are an angry attempt to prevent a threatening future from arriving. Republicans had long preyed upon these discontents, but did so tepidly — a wink-and-nod approach. Trump voiced them and validated them, making racism, nativism and sexism acceptable. It will be his primary legacy.

But I think the real lesson of 2016 lies not in politics, but in religion. We hear a great deal about tribalism as an explanation for the Trump phenomenon. We hear about how Americans have divided themselves into parochial groups that reinforce shared values and interests as well as grievances and hatreds. But if tribalism answers one question — why people seem to hold so firmly to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence and even moral opprobrium — it doesn’t answer another, more important question: Why did they join these tribes in the first place?

I believe religion rather than politics may provide that answer. One of the most important shifts in our culture has been the transformation of politics into a kind of civic religion. Religion has always provided a sense of identity — hence the tribalism — but it provided something else, too; something even more fundamental. In what historian Karen Armstrong describes as the Axial Age, from which modern religions grew, it pointed the way to a meaningful life with spiritual values. That was for nurturing the soul. And it provided a cosmology, a systematic way of thinking about and explaining the world and our place in it. That was for the mind.

I have written previously about how conservatism turned itself into a civic religion, which I think is one of the affinities between evangelicalism and conservatism — not just that they share some values, but that they share the very idea of orthodoxy. Armstrong describes in a religious context how the Axial Age lost its spiritualism to dogma. This is especially relevant in a complex, ever-churning world that seems to outrun our capacity to understand it. True religion, I believe, begins in doubt and continues in spiritual exploration. Debased religion begins in fear and terminates in certainty.

Modern conservatism, like debased religion, has an explanation for everything, and there is nothing mysterious or spiritual about it. Trump understood the desire for some all-encompassing answer, as demagogues always do. Demagogues assume the proportions of religious leaders, but without the moral instruction. Through a process of simplification, they purport to tell their followers what happened and who is responsible. In short, they provide cosmology, not for the purpose of enlightenment, but for the opposite — benightedness.

As religious observance has declined in America, as faith has declined and the religious cosmologies have weakened, political passions and political cosmologies have risen, and those old religious/conservative affinities have strengthened as religion tries to save itself by piggybacking on politics, rather than as some believe, the other way around. Roy Moore, the Republican senatorial candidate in Alabama, is the perfect example of religion’s surrender to politics. Many evangelicals embrace him despite credible allegations of child molestation, showing how morality has become so politicized that it no longer even makes sense. That is because politics is the new religion of America.

Other observers, many of them brilliant, have been less alarmist than I about the permanent effects of Trumpism. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote this past week that the Republican tax bill, which is like a nuclear bomb to the economy and to economic equality, will likely not have as severe consequences as many critics, myself included, fear. He says that politics change, Democrats sooner or later will take power, and they will revise the law just as Obama revised Bush’s tax cuts. Nothing is irrevocable.

But this assumes that politics is still politics, not religion. Religions are not easily reformed, doctrines are not easily changed, disciples are not easily converted. History is punctuated with religious warfare. This new civic religion has already put Republicans in the position of turning every election, every legislative squabble, into Armageddon. Ten years from now they may still be trying to repeal Obamacare. In the long run, perhaps, Leonhardt is right. Things change. They always change. But then again, according to the old saying, in the long run, we are all dead.

And that is why I don’t think the Trump moment will pass without serious and permanent damage to America. Trump isn’t just a politician with whom one may disagree. Indeed, Trump really has very little interest in politics, none in policy, and no respect whatsoever for the political process, which he ridicules at every turn as “rigged.” Instead, Trump, like other creators of a cult of personality, is a self-proclaimed savior, who promises his supporters redemption. In a certain sense, he is right. Trump’s is a cosmology of an America — a world, gone wrong — an America decayed by changing values purveyed by nonwhites, non-Christians and nonmales. He tells his supporters he will make it right. They believe him. And they will not be dissuaded. In Trump they trust.

So what to do? When liberal commentators discuss how Obama voters drifted to Trump and must be courted if Democrats are to win, I am deeply skeptical. I am skeptical of the data, which draws questionable conclusions about voting behavior, and I am even more skeptical of the effort to attract them. Thomas Edsall is as wise a columnist as we have, and he has been indispensable in trying to decipher this crisis in national sanity. But I think he too underestimates the forces that feed Trump and that Trump feeds. Last week’s column enjoined liberals to take their fingers out of their ears so they could hear the complaints of those Trump voters and win them back, even as he admits to the near impossibility of a liberal democracy, committed to freedom of expression, containing its more extreme elements.

I am not at all opposed to listening to Trump supporters. Quite the opposite. It is an imperative that they be heard and understood. I just don’t think there is much common cause between progressives and them. They are not all racists, nativists, sexists, homophobes and Islamophobes, but a healthy percentage are, and I think it’s probably a fool’s mission to attempt to change their minds. Just watch the people at Trump’s rallies. That is what makes the future so perilous. They are not going to convert.

Moreover, I am convinced that the worst is yet to come. Heading into the special election in Alabama, Moore seemed likely to win, confirming the utter depravity of the Republican Party. Thankfully — mercifully — that was not the case. Trump will issue blanket pardons in the Russia investigation and eventually fire Robert Mueller. The attacks on environmental protection, conservation, economic equality, the social safety net, a free press, voting rights, higher education and reason, diplomacy, women and morality itself will continue unabated with the full support of the Republicans. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. America is under siege, and this civil war has already taken a grave toll.

So I am not hopeful, but I don’t want to leave this space with a sense of hopelessness or futility. The resistance movement has already borne fruit, and there is a chance, albeit small, that Democrats will retake Congress next year and the counterattack will begin. I always remind myself, as you should remind yourself, that while the forces of hate are powerful, unshakable and mobilized, there are more of us than of them — Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, after all.

But just as I don’t think politics is the real engine for the Trump movement, I don’t think that politics is entirely the solution. Religion, which in its corrupted form is an engine, may be — by which I mean the moral and spiritual underpinnings of life. Rather than abandon our values or downplay them, as some suggest, I think we should double down on them. The religious historian Karen Armstrong, in describing those early religious principles of the Axial Age, wrote, “First, you must commit yourself to the ethical life,” and concluded that “religion was compassion.”

These are important things to remember. Let the conservatives continue to eschew ethics and compassion. Let them sow hatred. Let progressives hold firmly to ethics and compassion and to love. Morality, not moralism, is an almost ineluctable force. We talk a lot about grass-roots politics. We need to talk as well about grass-roots morality. Put simply: If you want to defeat Trump where it really counts, live ethically. The rest will follow. As Martin Luther King memorably said, paraphrasing Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Moreover, when it comes to cosmology, progressives need to provide an alternative narrative to Trump’s and the conservatives’ that will explain the world without distorting it. It should tell the story of economic inequality, and of plutocracy, and of the role of conservatives in enabling these things. It should also provide a positive vision of community and mutual assistance and global interdependence. It should promote compassion and empathy. It should be simple, powerful and affirmative, and it should be repeated endlessly the way Trump repeats his racist/nativist/sexist/phobic narrative. I am convinced that you don’t fight fire with fire, which is why I am dubious of Democratic efforts to out tough Trump. You fight fire with water.

Here is hope. Even if 40 percent of Americans have gone to the dark side, there are still so many people who are good and decent and self-sacrificing and who will continue to fight for a just society. It has been my privilege to share my ideas with them (and you among them) these past two years. I hope I will be able to engage them (and you) again. Yes, it is a sad, indescribably tragic time in America, and now that we know what we know about so many of our fellow citizens, about the Republican Party, and about the incapacity of our political system to deal with extremism, there is no going back. But in spite of all that, I think we must keep the faith, and we must take comfort that we have one another, not as fellow tribalists, but as fellow human beings searching for our best selves.

 

 

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At the Conservative Student Action Summit, Plenty of Old Names, Ideas

Selling old, increasingly discredited ideas to a youthful audience isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Thousands of student activists are headed to South Florida this week for the right-wing version of spring break. What’s being billed as the largest gathering of young conservatives in the country will feature a full roster of red-state crowd pleasers like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Donald Trump Jr, Dinesh D’Souza and Sebastian Gorka. Attendees will also get “first-class activism and leadership training,” not to mention the chance to hobnob with the likes of James O’Keefe.

Meet Turning Point USA

Turning Point USA is the organizer behind the Student Action Summit and purports to be “the largest and most powerful campus activist program in America.” It’s certainly the best funded. While TPUSA was founded by 24-year-old Charlie Kirk, and presents itself as a student-driven group, the real power behind it is considerably older, not to mention wealthier. A number of Republican mega-donors have given massive financial support to the organization in hopes TPUSA can produce the next generation of right-wingers, at a time when most millennials are rapidly shifting left.

Grooming conservative activists isn’t TPUSA’s only goal. The group claims it seeks to “effectively push back against intolerance and bias against conservatives in higher education.” But as a review of recent campus controversies reveals, the real goal is to undermine trust in higher education by framing colleges as enemies of conservatism

Conservative victims

Consider the explosive issue of free speech on campus. Free speech is typically put forward as one of the reasons colleges must give a platform to “controversial” speakers like Richard Spencer to advocate ethnic cleansing, Milo Yiannopolous to publicly insult a transgender student or Charles Murray to explain why black people are genetically inferior to white people. But what about free speech that includes making an obscene gesture to a member of TPUSA? Unacceptable, as Courtney Lawton, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska discovered.

After Lawton was documented making an obscene gesture toward a student in a TPUSA booth in August 2017, the University of Nebraska removed her from her teaching position. As a group of professors pointed out in a letter to Chancellor Ronnie D. Green, silencing a university employee for offending a group that purports to be about campus free speech seems contradictory. But for the University of Nebraska, the political blowback was only beginning.

Since Lawton was removed, Republican officials have proposed cuts to the university budget and called for an end to tenure, and demanded that the university turn over faculty members who have publicly criticized members of the state government.

An unequivocal threat

The events at the University of Nebraska demonstrate just how far some administrations are willing to go to protect conservative students when their feelings are hurt. But TPUSA still portrays universities as a whole as an unequivocal threat. At the University of Wisconsin, a TPUSA chapter is appealing a suspension imposed by the student government after the group violated funding policy. The TPUSA chapter’s GoFundMe page doesn’t mention the violation. Instead, they imply “leftist pushback” is what really motivated the student government’s actions.

Maybe that’s why TPUSA has “secretly funnel[ed] thousands of dollars into multiple college student government elections to elect conservatives.” After all, if the only students in positions of power are those approved by TPUSA, then TPUSA chapters like the one at the University of Wisconsin aren’t likely to have to worry about pesky funding policies.

TPUSA doesn’t just target students who don’t share their political ideology. The organization targets professors as well, specifically through the infamous Professor’s Watchlist, which uses unreliable, incomplete or downright false information to target professors suspected of espousing liberal ideas.

Even the clothing sold by TPUSA pushes an anti-higher education agenda. One of its shirts reads, “I survived college without becoming a liberal.” 

In Prager we trust

The anti-higher education sentiment pushed by TPUSA raises a thorny question. If the students who are being feted at the Student Action Summit can’t trust their colleges and their professors, from whom should they get their education?

Dennis Prager, the founder of Prager U, is happy to help.

Prager U and TPUSA are deeply connected.  (TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk sits on Prager U’s advisory board while Prager U is a sponsor of TPUSA. Dennis Prager is also a featured speaker at the Student Action Summit.) Then there is their ideologically symbiotic relationship. TPUSA seeks to sow a distrust of higher education in young people, encouraging them to embrace conservative alternatives like Prager U. At the same time, Prager U’s videos push the kind of us vs them mentality that drives young people toward groups like TPUSA.

So what kind of education does Prager U offer? First, it’s important to note that Prager U is not a university at all, despite presenting its videos as “courses” that can be watched for “credits.” This appropriation of the language of a university gives a neutral veneer to highly partisan, misleading and simplistic videos that are presented as facts, not arguments.

Consider the “course” on feminism featuring Tammy Bruce, who bemoans that female college students don’t list “wife and mother” as a career goal and complains that feminists believe that they are equal to men in the “sexual arena.” Women are meant to “civilize men,” says Bruce, warning that when women don’t civilize men, society apparently “descend[s] into chaos and the law of the jungle.” And what about the contributions of men to women’s liberation? (This analysis goes into meticulous detail about all the problems with the “course.”)

The video on capitalism, featuring Jared Meyer, is equally problematic. It begins with the speaker declaring, “You can’t stand big government. Really. You can’t,” and ends by reminding viewers that they enjoy capitalism, “you practice it every day” and it’s “time to preach it.”

How can you tell you hate big government? It’s easy. Meyer explains that “going to the Apple Store [is] so fun, but going to the DMV [is] so painful.” The speaker fails to discuss areas like the environment, healthcare and infrastructure where what benefits a corporation can conflict with the needs of human beings. He also fails to address how the government has had to bail out corporations because their recklessness endangered the entire economy.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Meyer, though. After all, all of Prager U’s “courses” are only about five minutes long.

Hard sell

Spend enough time watching Prager videos and clicking around the TPUSA website and you too may be convinced that there’s a burgeoning “student movement for free markets and limited government.” But selling old, increasingly discredited ideas to a youthful audience isn’t as easy as it sounds. Getting 15- to 25-year-olds to embrace extreme free-market policies requires convincing them to overlook the fact that these same policies have directly contributed to financial meltdowns, and as George Monbiot writes, “the offshoring of wealth and power…[and] the slow collapse of public health and education [and] ecosystems.” Not to mention absurd levels of economic inequality that threatens to choke the very generation TPUSA is trying to appeal to.

Which may be why the biggest names at this week’s Student Action Summit aren’t young activists but right-wing hacks and has-beens, in search of a new market for the same tired products they’ve been selling for decades.

John Kelly Reportedly Working Toward Bipartisan DREAMers Solution

He attended a meeting with senators from both parties.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was seen on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of the Trump administration’s push to reach a bipartisan solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

As Politico reports, Kelly attended a meeting with close to a dozen senators from both sides of the aisle and assured them that the White House “will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal” for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers.

“We couldn’t finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the senators working on the compromise, told Politico. “And that’s why this meeting was so important.”

Though senators who left the meeting said Kelly insisted the president’s terms may be released in a matter of days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the upper chamber would not vote on DACA before they break for the holidays this Friday.

“That’s a matter to be discussed next year,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News earlier on Tuesday.

 

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Do You know who is “Google PanDa” ?

Content quality comes up more and more in the SEO context. Focusing on content quality was the winning underutilised SEO tactic in our expert roundup, and low value content is one of the major causes of manual and algorithmic Google penalties, notably Google Panda.

Google Panda is a series of on-going algorithm updates and data refreshes for the Google search engine that the company rolls out to help refine its search algorithm to improve the value of search query results for users.

Panda is a special “filter” designed to de-rank low quality content, and since 2016, it’s a part of the search engine’s core ranking algorithm. This means that Panda updates are now rolled out faster and more frequently than ever before, with more sites affected by the update.

But the question is, what is “content quality”, exactly? How do you improve it, grow your rankings, and keep Panda away? Here are the 6 essential steps to audit your content against poor quality and fix the issues you find. But before we start.

How does Panda work?

The Panda algorithm (named after Google engineer Navneet Panda) is designed to help Google improve the quality of search results by down-ranking low quality content. The basic principle here is that Google assigns a particular quality score to each website in its index (the score is assigned site-wide, not to separate pages.)
Initially, Panda functioned as a filter applied to a pack of search results that Google considered relevant to a search query. The Panda score was re-ordering them, pushing down the low-scorers, and giving a boost to the highest scored content.
Now, as Panda signals are “baked” into Google’s core ranking algorithm, they no longer re-order the results, but form them together with Google’s other ranking signals.

How does Panda identify high quality content?

Sure thing, there’s no “gut feeling” that helps Panda identify real quality. Panda is only an algorithm that checks your website for a number of factors that Google assumes are features of a high quality website. Then, by applying some math, it gives the site a specific quality score based on the results of this check.

The good news is, if your site’s quality score is based on a number of separate factors, you can influence those factors to improve the score.

The bad news is… Google won’t disclose the exact quality factors it takes into account to calculate the score. So the list of Panda-prone issues below is an educated guess, based on what Google has said on site quality, and what trackable factors it can use to determine it.

6 steps to a Panda-proof content audit

So, we know that Panda is used to assign your website a particular score depending on its “quality” — now let’s think of the factors that may be involved in the assessment.

Step 1. Crawl your website to get a full list of its pages

Unsurprisingly, the first step in completing a content audit is to… find all your content.

And since the Panda score is assigned site-wide, it is not enough to audit just the most important pages — you need to check your entire site to make sure no low quality content is dragging your overall website quality score down.

How to check

  • Launch WebSite Auditor and create a new project for your website.
  • Enter your website’s URL and hit Next.
  • Now, give WebSite Auditor a couple of minutes (depending on the size of your website) to collect and list your site’s pages.
  • When the crawl is complete, switch to the Pages dashboard to view all your pages.

The optimal way to deal with problematic content largely depends on the size of your site.

  • For a small website (>100 pages), removing low quality content is something you can not afford. Your key strategy is to improve on every problematic page, rather than delete it.
  • For a medium-sized site (100-1000 pages), removing some of the low quality content is possible. But your main focus will be on improving content at least for the most important pages.
  • For a large website (>1000 pages), improving all problematic pages is a huge piece of work, so your focus would be to “weed out” and remove the unnecessary and low quality content.

Step 2. Check for thin content

Imagine you have a category page with only a few lines of meaningless text and hundreds of links to products. This is what’s generally called thin content. Google’s been focusing on combating thin content a lot lately, with both Panda and Fred.

Search engines use content to determine the relevancy of a page to a query. And if you barely provide any information that’s accessible to them, how are they to understand what the page is about?

How to check

1.In your WebSite Auditor workspace, locate the Word count column. If it’s not there, right-click on the header of any column to enter the workspace editing mode, and add the Word count column to your active columns.

2.Back to your WebSite Auditor workspace, sort the pages by their content length by clicking on the newly added Word count column.

Panda advice

Surely, quality is not all about word count, since there are cases when you can deliver value in a few hundred words. That is why there’s no “minimum word count” threshold that triggers a low Panda quality score. More to that, sometimes pages with a little over a hundred words do exceptionally well on Google and even get included into its rich answers.

But having too many thin content pages will very likely get you into trouble — so on average, word count under 250 words is a good indicator to locate problematic spots across your site.

Step 3. Check for duplicated/very similar content

Another factor that could be a signal of your site’s low quality is duplicated or very similar content across multiple pages.

How to check

1.In WebSite Auditor, switch to the Site Audit dashboard and locate the Duplicate titles and Duplicate meta descriptions factors under the On-page section.

2.If any of these have an Error status, click on the problematic factor to get a full list of pages where duplication occurs.

Panda advice

Very often, bigger sites have to deal with a huge amount of pages that need to be filled with content. And many of them resort to an easy way to fill out those gaps — by writing boilerplate text that’s the same on each page except for a few variables. This is what Google considers automated, low quality content.

So, besides weeding out the word-by-word duplicated content, pay attention to the similar-looking pieces (say, your page titles are absolutely identical in structure and differ only in a product name) that may be a sign of content automation.

Step 4. Check for aggregated content/plagiarism

What’s also synonymous with quality in Google’s eyes is the “uniqueness” of your content. As Google wants your content to add value and not simply repeat what’s already been said, having non-unique content on your website (e.g. plagiarized content, product descriptions duplicated in feeds used on other channels like Amazon, shopping comparison sites and eBay) is an easy way to get under Google’s Panda filter.

How to check

If you suspect that some of your pages may be duplicated externally on other online resources, a good idea would be to check them with Copyscape.

Copyscape gives some of its data for free (for instance, comparing two specific URLs), but for a comprehensive check you may need a paid Premium account.

Panda advice

Even though Google tries to identify the original source of content, experiments show that in many cases they are unable to tell the stolen content from the original.

So, to make sure content thieves don’t hurt your Panda quality score, take appropriate action if you notice someone’s using your content on their sites — either by contacting the webmaster to ask them to remove the copied content, or using this content removal form from Google.

Step 5. Check for proper keyword usage

Keywords and keyword targeting are the most basic and longest-running concepts in SEO. And if you’ve been in the search industry for quite some time, you may remember the days when SEO meant just having the right words in your meta keywords tag.

Sure, these times have passed: search engines now try to detect and punish websites deliberately using too many keywords in their content.

However, whether Google will admit it or not, their algorithms are still built upon keywords. And having a keyword in your title tag does improve your page’s rankings, meaning you simply can’t afford not optimizing pages for keywords.

So, the only ticklish question here is, “How many is too many?” And one of the ways to check this is by looking at top ranking competitors (because the sites that rank in top 10 are the sites that pass Google quality test with an A+.)

How to check

1. In your WebSite Auditor project, go to the Content Analysis module and select the page you’d like to analyze.

2. Enter the keywords you’ve been optimising this page for and let the tool analyse your page along with your top ranking competitors.

3. What you will see now is the average keyword usage stats, both on your page and competitors’ pages. Ideally, all content-related SEO factors should have a green Correct status. For any factors that don’t, click on them one by one and pay particular attention to the Keyword stuffing column.

4. If you’d like to go the extra mile and see how well your page is optimised for all topically relevant keywords (and not just the ones you specified), switch to the TF-IDF dashboard. Here, you’ll see the terms and phrases that your top ranking competitors commonly use in their content. Pay attention to the Recommendation column to find out which terms you may want to add or use less of.

5. Now switch to the Content Editor module to add or remove extra keywords and see your on-page stats recalculate for you as you type.

6. When you’re done, hit the Save button to save the optimized HTML to your computer, ready for upload to your site.

Panda advice

Remember the Hummingbird algorithm update? The one with which Google learned to recognize the meaning behind a search query and give a common answer to a number of “different-in-keywords” but “same-in-meaning” queries?

This update changed the way SEOs optimize pages — now we no longer think “single keyword optimization“, but try to make our pages comprehensive and relevant for a whole group of synonyms and related terms. So, utilizing synonyms and related terms will help you improve your pages’ relevance, rankings and avoid the keyword stuffing issues.

Step 6. Check for user engagement metrics

Though Google generally states that user experience signals are not included into their search ranking algorithm, real-life experiments show the opposite. And one of the metrics SEOs suspect Google to use is bounce rates.

Think about it — as Google tries to bring users the best search experience, it obviously wants them to find what they were looking for with the first search result they click on. The best search experience is one that immediately lands the searcher on a page that has all the information they need, so that they don’t hit the back button to return to the SERP and look for other alternatives.

Bouncing off pages quickly to return to the SERP and look for other results is called pogo-sticking, and it can be easily measured in terms of bounce rates.

How to check

1. In WebSite Auditor’s Pages dashboard, go the Traffic coming to pages tab.

2. Select all pages in this view, and hit Update Pages. From the list of factors to update, only select Page Traffic.

Panda advice

The thing to remember when analyzing your bounce rates is that “it’s all about user intent”. If the searcher is looking for a very quick answer (think “What’s the capital of Australia?”) — then, quite obviously, they will leave the page as soon as they get the information they need.

If the high-bounce pages you see on your site are of this kind — giving users the immediate answers they were looking for — then they are not something to worry about. In other cases, try to improve your content and user experience to lower the bounce rates.

Other Things To Consider:

1. Check for user-generated content issues.
User-generated content and how it affects Panda has been a hot topic recently, and it has gotten to the point where many SEOs are recommending to get rid of all user-generated content, claiming that Google sees it as a signal of poor site quality.

This is far from true, because we’re still seeing lots of websites based purely on user-generated content (think Quora) that are doing well on Google.

However, user-generated spam — for instance, irrelevant comments on your blog or poorly moderated forum pages — can put your site into trouble.

So if your website features user-generated content, make sure improving your moderation strategy is a priority.

2. Check for grammar mistakes.
Bad spelling and grammar can both impede user experience and lower the trustworthiness of your content in Google’s eyes, so don’t tempt the fate by leaving obvious grammar errors on your pages. You may want to use a specialized grammar tool like Grammarly, or simply copy your pages’ content and paste it into a word processor. This should highlight the spelling mistakes so you can update the content.

3. Check for intrusive ads.
Sure thing, Panda is not the reason to stop using ads on your site. As long as your ads don’t get obtrusive, that is. Not only do excessive and disruptive ads (pop-ups, above-the-fold ads, and so on) annoy visitors, they apparently get on Google’s nerves just as well. Remember, this kind of advertisements can also trigger the Fred update — another reason to say no to intrusive ads.

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Deal: Xiaomi discounts Mi MIX 2, Mi A1 Special Edition, Redmi Note 4 in “No. 1 Fan Sale”

Xiaomi is celebrating the end of a banner year in the Indian market with a “No. 1 Fan Sale” that applies some tasty discounts to its top phones from 2017. The deals begin to go live at 12:00 am IST and run until December 21st on Mi.com.

The headline deal coincides with the launch of the stunning red Xiaomi Mi A1 Special Edition, which is set to drop from Rs. 13,999 to Rs. 12,999. The offer goes live in just under six hours (at time of writing), but Reward Mi members can get in on the savings early. You can find out all you need to know about the Android One phone here.

On the flagship front, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 will enjoy a price drop from Rs. 35,999 to Rs. 32,999 (check here for a refresher on Xiaomi’s bezel-less beauty in our full review) . The Mi Max 2 phablet, meanwhile will come down to Rs. 12,999 from Rs. 14,999.

Xiaomi’s real success in India has come from mid-tier phones, so it’s not too surprising to see the Redmi 4, Redmi Y1 Lite, and the insanely popular Redmi Note 4 all receive price cuts too. Unfortunately, Xiaomi is being a little coy with the finer details on these deals – most only say “up to $1,000 off” – and it hasn’t confirmed which exact models are on offer. I imagine we’re looking at the standard base models, but we won’t know for sure until the sale goes live.

If you’re happy with your current phone but are looking for something on the side then you’re also in luck as Xiaomi’s “Fan Sale” covers accessories too. This includes offers on phone cases, up to 25% off a Mi Power Bank 2i, and the Mi Band – HRX Edition for Rs. 1,299 (was Rs. 1,799). There are also various deals on Xiaomi audio and smart home devices, while the Mi VR Play 2 drops from Rs. 1,499 to Rs. 1,299.

You can see all the deals for yourself by clicking the button below.

Xiaomi No.1 Fan Sale at Mi.com

Best GPS running watches (December 2017)

There are plenty of great fitness trackers on the market right now, each of which cater to different users with different needs. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin vívosport will suit your needs. Looking for something even cheaper than that? Garmin’s vívofit 3 or Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 might do the trick. But if you’re a more serious athlete that needs something a bit more powerful—something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features—what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.

Related: The best fitness trackers | Which Fitbit is right for you?

If you’re a serious runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has a big, easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and of course, a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are a bit pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Without any further delay, let’s get started!

Editor’s Note: We will update this list as more devices hit the market.

Best GPS running watch

Garmin fenix 5

Garmin’s fenix 5 lineup is finally here, and these are the best GPS running watches on the market right now.

All three fenix 5 models come with preloaded multisport functionality for running, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. They all feature Garmin’s impressive Elevate heart rate trackers, built-in GPS (of course), water resistance up to 100 meters, as well as navigation features with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.

They all also feature a variety of connected features that make these devices true smartwatches. Users can get call, text and email smartphone notifications. All Sapphire models are also Wi-Fi enabled, so users will be able to connect with their home network and upload statistics even if their smartphones aren’t around.

Not crazy about the regular fenix 5? The smaller fenix 5S might be for you. It has all the same specs as the fenix 5, though it’s built for people with smaller wrists and has a slightly smaller battery. Looking for something even more beefy than the fenix 5? The fenix 5X is much larger and comes with preloaded with TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other navigation features like Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride. The 5X will even display guidance cues for upcoming turns.

Read more

  • Garmin fenix 5 review
  • Wrists-on with Garmin’s new fenix 5 line at CES 2017
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Garmin

Runner-up

Garmin vívoactive 3

best fitness trackers

Garmin’s vívoactive 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor, the vívoactive HR.

For starters, the vívoactive 3 actually looks like a watch this time around, and it will look nice on your wrist whether you’re at the gym or the office. It’s comfortable too, and has a bright, colorful touchscreen display.

There are a total of 15 activity tracking profiles built in, so most athletes will be covered here. It also has a super accurate GPS and heart rate monitor, a battery that will last around five days on a single charge, and plenty of great smartwatch features built in.

If you don’t mind spending close to $249 on a GPS running watch, you should definitely consider the vívoactive 3.

Read more

  • Garmin vívoactive 3 review
Buy now from Amazon

Honorable mention

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music

TomTom’s Spark 3 Cardio + Music is a great option if you aren’t interested in the Garmin vívoactive HR.

It has everything you need in a GPS running watch – an accurate heart rate monitor, a built-in GPS (of course) and support for a ton of different running applications. Plus, this model comes with a Route Exploration feature that not only lets you track where you’ve run, but also lets you get routes from any website and upload them to your watch if you’re interested in trying out a new route.

It’s worth noting there are a few different models in the Spark 3 lineup: the TomTom Spark 3, Spark 3 Music, Spark 3 Cardio and our pick, the Spark 3 Cardio + Music. Though less expensive, the Spark 3 and Spark 3 Music unfortunately don’t offer a heart rate monitor. The Spark 3 Cardio certainly offers a lot for the money, though we believe the onboard music storage and pair of Bluetooth headphones that come with the Spark 3 Cardio + Music provide a better value overall. The Cardio + Music model only costs $60 more.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from TomTom

Also read: The dark side of fitness trackers: how to avoid common mistakes that could hurt your fitness goals

Best budget GPS running watch

Polar M200

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Polar M200.

This is a waterproof running watch with a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS that will track your speed, distance and route during a run, and will also keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, calories burned, sleep time and quality. This is also a sleek-looking device. In our opinion, it’s much better looking than its predecessor, the Polar M400.

Plus, this device also comes with Polar’s Running Index, which will show you how your running performance is improving overtime. In the Polar Flow app, you’ll get a Running Index score that’s automatically calculated after every run, based on your heart rate and speed data.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

Best smartwatch for running

Polar M600

See more Polar M600 photos

Polar’s M600 sport watch is by far the best GPS running smartwatch on the market.

With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed watch. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.

You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than the $300 asking price, but the M600 provides much more than other devices.

Read more

  • Polar M600 review
  • Polar M600 specs, price release date and everything else you should know
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

So there you have it – our list of the best GPS running watches on the market! Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Next: How to use your fitness tracker to actually get fit – a comprehensive guide

Web Analytics :- key to e-coMMerce BusineSS

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. However, Web analytics is not just a process for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a website. Web analytics provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views.

Importance of Web Analytics
We need Web Analytics to assess the success rate of a website and its associated business. Web analytics used to

  • Assess web content problems so that they can be rectified
  • Have a clear perspective of website trends
  • Monitor web traffic and user flow
  • Demonstrate goals acquisition
  • Figure out potential keywords
  • Identify segments for improvement
  • Find out referring sources

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. Google Analytics is offered also in two additional versions: the subscription-based Google Analytics 360, previously Google Analytics Premium, targeted at enterprise users, and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, an SDK that allows gathering usage data from iOS and Android Apps.

Google analytics helps you to track and measure visitors, traffic sources, goals, conversion, and other metrics (as shown in the above image). It basically generates reports on −

  • Audience Analysis: As the name suggests, audience analysis gives you an overview of the audience who visit your site along with their session history, page-views, bounce rate, etc.
  • Acquisition Analysis: Acquisition means ‘to acquire.’ Acquisition analysis is carried out to find out the sources from where your web traffic originates. Using acquisition analysis, you can Capture traffic from all channels, particular source/medium, and from referrals and also Trace traffic from AdWords (paid search).
  • Behavior Analysis: Behavior analysis monitors users’ activities on a website.
  • Conversion Analysis: Conversion is a transaction by a user on your website. For example, download, checkout, buy, etc. To track conversions in analytics, you need to define a goal and set a URL that is traceable.

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is a powerful web analytics tool that delivers key insights and user interaction on your website. It defines a clear picture of users’ activities on your website and collects acquisition data of every visitor.

KISSmetrics helps you identify the following −

  • Cart size
  • Landing page conversion rate
  • Customer activity on your portal
  • Customer bounce points
  • Cart abandoned products
  • Customer occurrence before making a purchase
  • Customer lifetime value, etc.

Best Features of KISSmetrics

  • Ability to track effective marketing channels.
  • Figure out how much time a user takes to convert.
  • Determine a degree of which user was engaged with your site.
  • A convenient dashboard. You do not need to run around searching for figures.
  • Installation
  • Just sign-up for an account and customize accordingly.

Tracking
Add a java snippet under tag of the source code of your website.

Event Setting
By default, KISSmetrics sets two events for you − visited site and search engine hit. To add more events, click on new event, add an attribute and record an event name.

Setting up Metrics
Click on create a new metric. Select your metric type from the list. Give metric name, description, and event. Save metric.

Measures

You need to find a few key metrics for your business. You have a website and it has a tracking code in it.

Audience

Pageviews − Pageviews is the number of views of a page. Multiple pageviews are possible in a single session. If pageviews is improved, it will directly influence AdSense revenue and average time on website.

Bounce rate − Bounce rate reflects the percentage of visitors returning back only after visiting one page of your website. It helps you to know how many visitors do so. If the bounce rate of a website increases, its webmaster should be worried.

Pages per session − Pages/session is the number of pages surfed in a single session. For example, a user landed on your website and surfed 3 pages, then the website pages/session is 3.

Demographic information − Demographic data shows Age and Gender. With the help of Demographic Info, you can find the percentage of Male/Female visitors coming to your website. Analyzing the ratio of this data, you can make a strategy according to genders. Age group data help you find what percentage of age group visiting your website. So, you can make a strategy for highest percentage of age group visitors.

Devices − This data shows the devices info. In devices info, you can easily find how many percentage of visitors come from mobile, how many come from desktop, how many come from tablets, etc. If mobile traffic is high, then you need to make your website responsive.

Acquisition

Traffic sources − In the acquisition, you have to check all your sources of the traffic. Major sources of the traffic are −

Organic traffic is the traffic coming through all search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing….)

Social traffic is the traffic coming through all social media platforms (like − Facebook, Twitter, Google+, …)

Referral traffic is the traffic coming through where your website is linked.

Direct traffic is the traffic coming directly to your website. For example, typing the url of your website, clicking on the link of your website given in emails, etc.

Traffic Sources

Source/Medium − This metrics gives you an idea of the sources from where you are getting traffic (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Direct, Facebook…).

Site Content

Landing pages − Landing pages are the pages where the visitors land first (normally, home pages of the websites are the landing pages). With the help of this metrics, you can find the top pages of the website. Using this metrics, you can analyze how many pages are getting 50% or more traffic of the website. So, you can easily find which type of content is working for you. Further, based on this analysis, you can plan the next content strategy.

Site speed − Site speed is the metrics used for checking page timing (average page load time). Using this metrics, you can find which page is taking more time to load, how many pages have high load time, etc.

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