Weather Vain

Weather Weapons, Space Lasers, and Knockin' on Kevin's Door

Did you hear that the Maui fires were caused by a “weather weapon” being tested by the Pentagon? You may have if you follow the right social media accounts, as that was some false messaging being pushed by AI-powered Chinese social media bots. While the China effort was a little too outlandish to be believed by anyone other than the Jewish Space Laser crowd, the Russians used the Maui tragedy to spread “posts that emphasized how much money the United States was spending on the war in Ukraine and that suggested the cash would be better spent at home for disaster relief.” NYT (Gift Article): China Sows Disinformation About Hawaii Fires Using New Techniques.

+ This a reminder of how new technologies will make us more vulnerable to misinformation and foreign interference. But our adversaries are also still using their traditional methods to great effect, and they’re finding receptive audiences in some very powerful places. Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic (Gift Article): What Russia Got by Scaring Elon Musk. “This is a cautionary tale about the arrogance of a billionaire who has come to play a mercurial role in U.S. foreign policy. But it’s also a story about fear, seeded and promoted by the Russians, deliberately designed to shape broader Western perceptions of this war. Musk is not alone: Many people in Washington, and in Berlin, Brussels, and other European capitals, including people who support Ukrainian sovereignty and who want Ukraine to win the war, have also been cowed by conversations with Russian ambassadors, by threats issued by Russian leaders, and by the pictures of nuclear explosions shown on Russian state television. Long before he spoke with any real Russians, Musk likely encountered that same propaganda in the Russian-influenced far-right echo chambers that he frequents.”

+ The mission in ongoing: Putin praises Musk and defends Trump.


Knockin’ on Kevin’s Door

“I am directing our House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers.” So said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, held hostage by Trump and the most extreme members of his party (who are threatening to remove him as Speaker), as he announced that the House would start an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. This was predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less troubling.

+ “These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption.” (Wait, I thought Trump’s enablers were in favor of those things?) AP: What’s ahead now that Republicans are opening an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.


Separation of Search and State

“Google’s contracts ensure that rivals cannot match the search quality ad monetization, especially on phones. Through this feedback loop, this wheel has been turning for more than 12 years. It always turns to Google’s advantage.” It’s hard to argue that point. But will it be enough to make for a successful antitrust case against Google? US claims Google pays more than $10 billion a year to maintain its search dominance. (Maybe the two sides should skip the trial and go to ChatGPT for mediation.)

+ “What’s at stake? Oh, nothing much — just the future of the internet. Or maybe the future of antitrust law in the US. Maybe both.” Vox: What Google’s trial means for the company — and your web browsing.


Achilles Last Stand

During his offseason process that would eventually lead to his joining the NY Jets, Aaron Rodgers famously went on a multiday darkness retreat. Jets fans, along with the rest of the NFL, are now the ones who find themselves engulfed by darkness. After months of breathless coverage and just four plays with his new team, Rodgers tore his achilles and is out for the entire season. Whether you viewed Rodgers as a hero or a heel, this is just brutal.


Extra, Extra

Dams Break: “At least 2,000 people have died and 10,000 are believed missing after Storm Daniel dumped so much rain on Libya’s northeast that two dams collapsed sending water flowing into already inundated areas.” Another terrible tragedy in a place ill-equipped to deal with it.

+ Child Support: “The increase in 2022 was likely connected to the end of pandemic-era benefits … After three consecutive years of the lowest poverty rates on record, the streak is now broken.” In a shift, more Americans fell below US poverty line in 2022. “Notably, the poverty rate for children in 2022 more than doubled from 2021.”

+ The Nose Knows: “The leading decongestant used by millions of Americans looking for relief from a stuffy nose is likely no better than a dummy pill, according to government experts who reviewed the latest research on the long-questioned drug ingredient.” Popular nasal decongestant doesn’t actually relieve congestion.

+ Swap Shop: “The Biden administration has cleared the way for the release of five American citizens detained in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions. In addition, as part of the deal, the administration has agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the United States.” The US moves to advance a prisoner swap deal with Iran.

+ The Fugitive: “The convicted killer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison nearly two weeks ago is still on the run and is considered “armed and extremely dangerous” after taking a rifle from a resident’s garage.” The latest on the manhunt for the escaped Pennsylvania killer.

+ Drew First Blood: Several daytime talk shows may be following the lead of Drew Barrymore in restarting production during dual labor strike. Strange move.

+ Cave Out: American researcher has been rescued from deep Turkish cave more than a week after he fell ill.

+ Love and Gov: As if you needed a reminder of how shallow and nonsensical American politics is, there’s this from WaPo: Tim Scott’s girlfriend. Meanwhile, a candidate in a high-stakes Virginia election performed sex acts with husband in live videos. (At least she wasn’t screwing her constituents…)


Bottom of the News

“It’s crazy to think that our collective bowel dysfunction problems have gotten so bad that we’re running out of stool softeners.” The US has such a love affair with laxatives that there is now a national shortage. This is not normal. (It’s not regular, either.)

+ “Former President George W. Bush on Sunday said he was shocked to discover that Yevgeny Prigozhin — the longtime Wagner Group leader — had served him dinner more than 17 years ago.” There’s even a photo.

+ Sony launches ‘foster care‘ program for its aging robot dogs.

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