As the world has begun to turn away from fossil fuels, the oligarchs who control those fuels, and see the trillions of dollars in still-buried hydrocarbons as their birthright, have unleashed a final play to lock down the global political and economic system, permanently, in service of their fortunes.

Ian Fleming would be envious.

New York Times:

Twitter executives first became aware of a possible plot to infiltrate user accounts at the end of 2015, when Western intelligence officials told them that the Saudis were grooming an employee, Ali Alzabarah, to spy on the accounts of dissidents and others, according to five people briefed on the matter. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Alzabarah had joined Twitter in 2013 and had risen through the ranks to an engineering position that gave him access to the personal information and account activity of Twitter’s users, including phone numbers and I.P. addresses, unique identifiers for devices connected to the internet.

The intelligence officials told the Twitter executives that Mr. Alzabarah had grown closer to Saudi intelligence operatives, who eventually persuaded him to peer into several user accounts, according to three of the people briefed on the matter.

Caught off guard by the government outreach, the Twitter executives placed Mr. Alzabarah on administrative leave, questioned him and conducted a forensic analysis to determine what information he may have accessed. They could not find evidence that he had handed over Twitter data to the Saudi government, but they nonetheless fired him in December 2015.

Mr. Alzabarah returned to Saudi Arabia shortly after, taking few possessions with him. He now works with the Saudi government, a person briefed on the matter said.

A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment. Mr. Alzabarah did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Saudi officials.

On Dec. 11, 2015, Twitter sent out safety notices to the owners of a few dozen accounts Mr. Alzabarah had accessed. Among them were security and privacy researchers, surveillance specialists, policy academics and journalists. A number of them worked for the Tor project, an organization that trains activists and reporters on how to protect their privacy. Citizens in countries with repressive governments have long used Tor to circumvent firewalls and evade government surveillance.

“As a precaution, we are alerting you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors,” the emails from Twitter said.

The Saudis’ sometimes ruthless image-making campaign is also a byproduct of the kingdom’s increasingly fragile position internationally. For decades, their coffers bursting from the world’s thirst for oil, Saudi leaders cared little about what other countries thought of the kingdom, its governance or its anachronistic restrictions on women.

But Saudi Arabia is confronting a more uncertain economic future as oil prices have fallen and competition among energy suppliers has grown, and Crown Prince Mohammed has tried relentlessly to attract foreign investment into the country — in part by portraying it as a vibrant, more socially progressive country than it once was.


New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Russians working for a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin are engaging in an elaborate campaign of “information warfare” to interfere with the American midterm elections next month, federal prosecutors said on Friday in unsealing charges against a woman whom they labeled the project’s “chief accountant.”

The woman, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, managed a multimillion-dollar budget for the effort to “sow division and discord” in the American political system, according to a criminal complaint. She bought internet domain names and Facebook and Instagram ads and spent money on building out Twitter accounts and paying to promote divisive posts on social media. Read the rest of this entry »


Brain Eater Update 2018

October 19, 2018


As always, I remain your source for Brain eating amoeba news.

I, for one, welcome our new brain eating Overlords….

Popular Science:

Nothing strikes fear and paranoia into the public’s heart like the phrase “brain-eating amoeba.” Those ominous words dominated headlines this weekend as news spread ofa 29-year-old man who contracted the disease and died after visiting a surf park in Waco, Texas.

Fabrizio Stabile began feeling unwell and developed a headache while mowing his lawn days after visiting the park, which is part of what’s so dangerous about this disease: it starts off seeming quite benign. Stabile eventually couldn’t get out of bed or form coherent speech, at which point he was rushed to the hospital. Doctors couldn’t save him. It’s a terrifying story, which is why it’s making headlines, but how scared should you be? Here’s what you need to know.

It’s a kind of meningitis

The particular kind of brain-eating amoeba in this story is called Naegleria fowleri. But let’s back up a bit and begin with what an amoeba actually is. Amoebas are single-celled organisms, but the word is also kind of a blanket term for an organism that has no defined shape and moves by squishing around its cytoplasm (that’s the gel-like stuff that fills cells). Not all of them cause disease, and in fact many of the other amoebas in the Naegleria genus don’t pose any threat to humans.

N. fowleri, however, can enter the human body through the nasal cavity, where it attaches to the olfactory nerves and migrates into the brain. There, it causes inflammation that you might know better as meningitis. The term “meningitis” just means inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal column. At some point you (hopefully) got a meningitis vaccine, but that only protects you against three types of bacterial meningitis. Viruses, parasites, fungi, and amoebas can also cause this inflammation.

Read the rest of this entry »

The intersection of Climate and Beer.

Key Takeaways: We have to mitigate climate warming as much as we can, but we must be ready to adapt to the changes that are already baked in.

Above, Budweiser commits to 100 percent renewable brewing.

Fast Company:

Last March, AB InBev announced every single bottle of beer it brews will be done with renewable energy by 2025. The company is making progress on that pledge and by this spring, every bottle of Budweiser brewed in the U.S. will be made with renewable electricity. This week the brand is unveiling a new symbol it will be putting on each bottle produced with 100% renewable energy.


AB InBev is using Budweiser, its flagship brand and the globe’s biggest international beer brand, to drive its renewable energy program, both internally and in its goal to encourage more companies to sign on to similar goals and adopt the new emblem. Every day around the world, 41 million Budweisers are sold, and the company says switching to renewable electricity in Bud brewing operations is the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road every year.


Research published this week predicting that beer prices could double as rising global temperatures and more volatile weather cause shortages of barley created a big splash. Twitter users and major news outlets widely circulated the dire headlines. But brewers and barley growers say you shouldn’t drown your sorrows just yet: They have a plan.

The paper, published Monday in the journal Nature Plants, warns of “serious supply disruptions” of barley. Analyzing several possible climate change scenarios, the authors find that global yields could drop 17 percent during severe droughts and heat waves in the future and that beer prices could spike calamitously.

However, some in the beer industry think the findings are overblown.

“While climate change is a cause for concern, this study isn’t a great indicator of what is going to happen in the real world,” says Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, a trade group based in Boulder, Colo. Watson believes the industry — especially the agricultural sector — will adapt as the planet’s climate changes, thereby avoiding such significant impacts.

Read the rest of this entry »

I interviewed climate researcher Peter Jacobs, from George Mason University, last spring, and asked him for a preview of the (then) coming storm season.

Now that we can review most of it (remember, Sandy made landfall at end of October..) –
How did he do?

I think pretty well.

Scientists don’t know everything, but that doesn’t mean they know nothing.

Dayum!…is all I could say, after watching House candidate Abigail Spanberger close out a debate – starting with a fiery defense of Climate science, the Paris Accord, and environmental protections.

More evidence that talking about climate is not just safe, it’s a rafter-rattling crowd pleaser.


Read the rest of this entry »

New Republic:

Global warming is an existential threat to human life, but most candidates aren’t talking about it. One of the few exceptions has been O’Rourke, the Democratic congressman from El Paso, who’s running a heavily covered campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

In the past, O’Rourke has focused on the potential for economic growth in fighting climate change. But in a televised debate against Cruz on Tuesday night, he tried out a new tactic: directly tying Cruz’s climate denial to negative consequences in voters’ lives. “I continue to wonder why Senator Cruz voted against more than $12 billion in FEMA preparedness knowing full well that we will see more Harveys going forward,” O’Rourke said, according to ThinkProgress. “Mind you, that was the third 500-year flood in just the last five years. We know that there will be more of these floods coming, and I want to make sure that the people of Texas, especially southeast Texas, are prepared for the next one.”

When Democrats do talk about climate change, they usually warn about the consequences in the future. O’Rourke’s attack is different. He’s framing climate change as a problem affecting voters right now. He’s also holding Cruz accountable for making the problem worse, since Texans would have been better prepared for Hurricane Harvey had Cruz and other climate-denying Republicans not ignored the scientific consensus. (Scientists found that Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking flooding was made 50 percent worse by global warming.)

It’s true that, right now, voters don’t prioritize climate change as a political issue. But who could blame them when global warming is constantly framed as a problem for the next generation? If Democrats change that false framing, they just might convince more Americans to vote based on the most critical issue of our time.

Washington Post:

It took a giant laurel oak puncturing her roof during Hurricane Florence last month for Margie White to consider that perhaps there was some truth to all the alarm bells over global warming.

“I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening,” said White, a 65-year-old Trump supporter, as she and her young grandson watched workers haul away downed trees and other debris lining the streets of her posh seaside neighborhood last week, just as Hurricane Michael made landfall 700 miles away in the Florida Panhandle.

Storms have grown more frequent — and more intense — over the 26 years she and her husband have lived in Wilmington, White said, each one chipping away at their skepticism. Climate change has even seeped into their morning conversations as they sip coffee — ever since the neighbor’s tree came crashing onto their home and property, coming to rest along nearly the entire length of their driveway.

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