Social Control Monday

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A conservative news organization has been approved to partner with Facebook to fact-check false news, drawing criticisms that the social media company is caving to rightwing pressures and collaborating with a publication that has previously spread propaganda.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative opinion magazine, said it is joining a fact-checking initiative that Facebook launched last year aimed at debunking fake news on the site with the help of outside journalists. The Weekly Standard will be the first right-leaning news organization and explicitly partisan group to do fact-checks for Facebook, prompting backlash from progressive organizations, who have argued that the magazine has a history of publishing questionable content.
News of the Weekly Standard’s involvement comes as Facebook and other tech companies are continuing to face intense scrutiny over their role in disseminating false content and propaganda and aiding Russian efforts to interfere with US politics. Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Facebook responded to outrage about fake news by saying it would empower journalists from reputable outlets to flag false articles, which would then get a “disputed” tag to warn users.

@ TG

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Sun Dog Sunday

 

DIAMOND DUST SKI HALOS: Ski resorts are some of the best places to see sun halos–rings and pillars of light that surround the sun when ice crystals fill the air. The most sublime halos are caused by jewel-like crystals called “diamond dust.” On Dec. 7th, Kameron Barge was skiing in Whitefish, Montana, when he saw these specimens:

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“As we rode the chair down into the clouds today, we begin seeing all sorts of halos, and sundogs!” says Barge. “It was an unforgettable display.”

Ordinary sun halos are caused by ice crystals floating in high cirrus clouds. “Ski halos,” on the other hand, are formed by ice crystals near the ground, kicked into the air by the action of skis and snow-making machines. A close look at Barge’s picture shows specks of light in the air. Those are the glittering crystals of diamond dust which make these halos so beautiful.

Barge documented a rare variety of forms: a 22-degree halosundogssub-sundogs, a sub-sun, a lower sun pillar, an upper tangent arc, a 46-degree halo, a circumzenithal arc, and a partial parhelic circle–all sculpted from sunlight by floating diamond dust.

If you’re on the slopes this weekend, and the sun dips behind a cloud of ice, be alert for “ski halos.” They can make your day.

@ SPACEWEATHER

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Funny Money Saturday

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Bitcoin lost almost a fifth of its value in 10 hours on Friday, having surged more than 40 percent in the preceding 48 hours, sparking fears the market may be heading for a price collapse.

In a hectic day on Thursday, bitcoin leapt from below $16,000 to $19,500 in less than an hour on the U.S.-based GDAX, one of the biggest exchanges globally, while it was still changing hands at about $15,900 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp. Some market watchers attributed the lurch higher to the coming launch of bitcoin futures on major exchanges.

Having then climbed to $16,666 on Bitstamp at around 0200 GMT on Friday, it tumbled to $13,482 by around 1200 GMT – a slide of more than 19 percent. It was last down 8.2 percent at $15,232.32 on BitStamp.

@ REUTERS

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FREYEday funnEEZ

1aJeff Danziger cartoonJeff Danziger cartoon1dJeff Danziger cartoon1f1g1i

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Jackboot Thursday

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The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

North, who appears frequently on Trump’s favorite TV network, Fox News, was enlisted to help sell the effort to the administration. He was the “ideological leader” brought in to lend credibility, said the former senior intelligence official.

@ TI

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Paranoia is driving this scenario since he failed to get the Russian sanctions lifted, there is a target on his back.

Anytime is payback time despite the private army.

The Russians are not as stupid as rich boy is, I can here those knees knocking from here.

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Witless Wednesday

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Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on President Donald Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens.

Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.

“Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the lender said in a statement to Bloomberg Tuesday, declining to provide additional information.

Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president. Representative Maxine Waters of California and other Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. The bank previously rejected those demands, saying sharing client data would be illegal unless it received a formal request to do so. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

@ BLOOMBERG

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Microgrid Tuesday

Dragon Sculpture

Desert Heat Dragon

Borrego Springs, California, is a quaint town of about 3,400 people set against the Anza-Borrego Desert about 90 miles east of San Diego. Summers are hot—often north of 100 degrees—and because it lies at the far end of a San Diego Gas & Electric transmission line, the town has suffered frequent power outages. High winds, lightning strikes, forest fires and flash floods can bust up that line and kill the electricity.

“If you’re on the very end of a utility line, everything that happens, happens 10 times worse for you,” says Mike Gravely, team leader for energy systems integration at the California Energy Commission.

The town has a lot of senior citizens, who can be frail in the heat. “Without air conditioning,” says Linda Haddock, head of the local Chamber of Commerce, “people will die.”

But today, Borrego Springs has a failsafe against power outages: a microgrid.

Resiliency is one of the main reasons the market in microgrids is booming, with installed capacity in the United States projected to more than double between 2017 and 2022, according to a new report on microgrids from GTM Research.

@ ICN

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