30 March, 2019

Mistakes, we’ve drawn a few

At The Economist, we take data visualisation seriously. Every week we publish around 40 charts across print, the website and our apps. With every single one, we try our best to visualise the numbers accurately and in a way that best supports the story. But sometimes we get it wrong. We can do better in future if we learn from our mistakes — and other people may be able to learn from them, too.
After a deep dive into our archive, I found several instructive examples. I grouped our crimes against data visualisation into three categories: charts that are (1) misleading, (2) confusing and (3) failing to make a point. For each, I suggest an improved version that requires a similar amount of space — an important consideration when drawing charts to be published in print.
(A short disclaimer: Most of the “original” charts were published before our chart redesign. The improved charts are drawn to fit our new specs. The data are the same.)

28 March, 2019

How the UK lost Brexit battle

POLITICO has spoken to dozens of leading officials, diplomats and politicians in Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Belfast, London and Brussels — including in No. 10 Downing Street and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s team in the European Commission —  about the nearly three years of negotiations.
The story that emerges is of a process in which the EU moved inexorably forward as Westminster collapsed into political infighting, indecision and instability.
The only concession the EU would make regarding its core principles over the course of the talks was at the request of one of its members, the Republic of Ireland — and to the disadvantage of the U.K. The rules of the single market could be bent, but only for Northern Ireland — and only to help the Republic’s unique problem on the border. For the U.K., there would be no special deals. In the words of the EU’s negotiators, there would be “no cherry-picking.”

17 March, 2019

Jaimie Leigh on how people achieve unearned success

I’m gathering from my feed that this whole college admissions scandal is really shocking to a lot of people.
Well, sit down, babies, because I’m about to deal you a hard blow.
This is nothing.
I think a lot of people seriously have no idea how thoroughly the system is rigged. I spent several years as a for-hire writer who couldn’t afford to turn work away. This means I accepted a lot of jobs I feel icky about now, but it also means that I’ve seen firsthand how this all shakes out.

16 March, 2019

Online activists are silencing us, scientists say


Colin Barton, chairman of the Sussex and Kent CFS/ME Society – a patient group in southern England – said talking therapies and graded exercise helped him recover to the point that he can lead an almost normal life. He told Reuters that in his experience, patients who talk about having been helped by psychological or graded exercise therapies come in for abuse just like the researchers. They face accusations that they were never ill in the first place; that their condition was misdiagnosed; and that their recovery is therefore fake, he said. As a result, he said, many recovering or recovered CFS/ME patients feel forced to withdraw from the debate.

14 March, 2019

Woman who can't remember her past or imagine her future

 is the first person ever identified with a condition called severely deficient autobiographical memory. She knows plenty of facts about her life, but she lacks the ability to mentally relive any of it, the way you or I might meander back in our minds and evoke a particular afternoon. She has no episodic memories—none of those impressionistic recollections that feel a bit like scenes from a movie, always filmed from your perspective. To switch metaphors: Think of memory as a favorite book with pages that you return to again and again. Now imagine having access only to the index. Or the Wikipedia entry.

13 March, 2019

This woman stole children from the poor to give to the rich

Babies were snatched off the streets by strangers in passing cars. Or taken from day-care centers or church basements where they played. Or stolen from hospitals, right after birth, passed from doctor to nurse to a uniformed “social worker” — before vanishing in an instant.
Some were dropped into dismal orphanages; others were sent to a new family, their identities wiped, no questions asked. Most would never see their birth parents again.
While it sounds like something out of Dickens or the Brothers Grimm, this happened in the United States in the 20th century. Thousands of times.

10 March, 2019

reddit comment about reaching flat earthers

However, there’s something to be said for respectfully engaging with people in a positive way, especially in real life, because it shows them that the people with opposing arguments are operating in good faith, and opens their minds to accepting evidence from them. One of the biggest issues with conspiracy theorists in general is the tendency to ‘other’ people that they don’t know, and apply malicious motivations to them, which allows them to dismiss any evidence coming from them out of hand.
Spiros, from the film, has now gone on two hangouts with a group of Flat Earthers, and they’ve all been very friendly with each other, and we hear they may even do some experiments together. They see now that a high level scientist isn’t just a nameless enemy, but someone who respects them as people, and they’re open to listening to him.
So you’re probably not going to change a Flat Earther’s mind in a single argument online, but continued respectful engagement from people on ‘the other side’ will hopefully open their minds over time and make them more likely to accept the evidence.

reddit comment about the importance of identity, for people from unaffected groups

It’s not about the parades and the protesting and the identity politics. It’s about saying to that context and that climate that we are real people to whom these issues are real and important and that these things will not exclude us from a life of respect and dignity and happiness. And, yes, it demands that you recognize that on the grounds of we are who we are and that you know about it, because for too long we’ve had to assume and been told that all of that was conditional.
You may not have to worry about these things. They may not be something that for you is a particularly existential or serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to scoff at and look down on people who have that consideration forced upon them every single day.
You don’t have to identify with that or pretend you know what it’s like but you should recognize their ability to have an experience of things that is different from yours and respect their prerogative to articulate that.

06 March, 2019

Martha McSally Says She Is a Survivor of Sexual Assault in the Military

Ms. McSally, the first woman to command a fighter squadron, said she ultimately determined it would be best to remain in the Air Force.
“I decided to stay and continue to serve and fight and lead, to be a voice from within the ranks for women and then in the House and now the Senate,” said Ms. McSally, who retired from the Air Force after 26 years of service. “It’s personal from two perspectives — as a commander who led my airmen into combat and as a survivor of rape and betrayal.”
In an interview with CBS after the hearing, Ms. McSally said that she considered sexual assault in the military to be a national security threat, and that during the hearing, she had tried to offer a perspective as both a commander and a survivor, and to give hope to others.

04 March, 2019

Pro-Trump Conspiracy Peddler Jerome Corsi Apologizes to Seth Rich’s Family

WASHINGTON – The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder in 2016 spawned a wave of conspiracy theories, has notched another legal victory against the proponents of baseless theories about Rich.
On Monday, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi retracted a nearly year-old column published on the website Infowars, run by another notorious conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones, that promoted the unfounded claim that Rich and his brother participated in the hack of the DNC and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In addition to the retraction, Corsi apologized to the Rich family. Around midday Monday, Infowars formally retracted the column and published an apology that mirrored Corsi’s.

03 March, 2019

The Rise of Fake Sexperts

We have professional licensure laws in our country (and in most others around the world) to protect the public. Just because you call yourself a dentist, or a plumber, or a psychiatrist, doesn’t mean you have the skills to perform these sophisticated jobs safely, and effectively. Sendler had an apparent focus on working with sexual minorities such as persons with rare paraphilic disorders, with transgender people, with victims of sexual assault (he allegedly visited hospitals to offer clinical support to rape victims), to traumatized veterans, and to persons struggling with self-harm and suicidalideation. These are marginalized individuals and conditions, and represent incredibly vulnerable populations. The best clinicians and researchers in the world are constantly debating about the most effective ways to treat these issues. But Sendler appeared to have all the answers. Or, at least he said he did. Which led me to the recommendations I made, on how we can screen out quacks like Sendler in the future. None of these are foolproof. Sendler did manage to present at IASR in 2017. But these are at least a start