Oil Prices Tumble

Oil had rallied above $53 a barrel after some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries voiced support for prolonging cuts past June, but rising U.S. output is undermining the effort to trim a global glut. Production from major shale plays in May is forecast to climb to the highest level since 2015, according to the EIA.

“The glaring rise in U.S. gasoline refined product inventories, in combination with persistent lower-48 production growth, keeps us cautious on oil prices,” said Chris Kettenmann, chief energy strategist at Macro Risk Advisors LLC in New York. “We would not buy the intraday dip.”

West Texas Intermediate for May delivery dropped $1.97, or 3.8 percent, to settle at $50.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the biggest decline since March 8 and the lowest close since April 3. Total volume traded was about 30 percent above the 100-day average. WTI settled below the 50-day and 100-day moving averages for the first time in two weeks.

Brent for June settlement fell $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $52.93 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was the lowest close since March 31. The global benchmark crude ended the session at a $2.08 premium to June WTI.

via Pence Visits Carrier as Questions Emerge Over Trump’s ‘Armada’ – Bloomberg

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Is Silicon-Based life possible?

Star Trek may have been right…


… researchers have long speculated that alien life could have a completely different chemical basis than life on Earth. For example, instead of relying on water as the solvent in which biological molecules operate, perhaps aliens might depend on ammonia or methane. And instead of relying on carbon to create the molecules of life, perhaps aliens could use silicon.

Carbon and silicon are chemically very similar in that silicon atoms can also each form bonds with up to four other atoms simultaneously. Moreover, silicon is one of the most common elements in the universe. For example, silicon makes up almost 30 percent of the mass of the Earth’s crust, and is roughly 150 times more abundant than carbon in the Earth’s crust.

Scientists have long known that life on Earth is capable of chemically manipulating silicon. For instance, microscopic particles of silicon dioxide called phytoliths can be found in grasses and other plants, and photosynthetic algae known as diatoms incorporate silicon dioxide into their skeletons. However, there are no known natural instances of life on Earth combining silicon and carbon together into molecules.

via The Possibility of Silicon-Based Life Grows

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Trusting Qatar


Hostage Qatari royals ‘used as leverage’ to end Syrian sieges | Middle East Eye

What happened here? As far as I can tell:

1. Qatar is a major source of funds for Sunni ‘militant’ groups like ISIS and al Qaeda

2. Hezbollah (one of the primary militant opponents of ISIS/AQ) captured a bunch of Qatari royals who think they’re so untouchable, they could traipse into a country they’re currently destroying to do some pheasant hunting. Why not, they do it in Europe and America all the time.

3. Hezb wanted to make a deal to get some Shia safely out of a town they were being held in, so they kidnapped the feckless Qatari Royals.

4. Qatar struck a deal and Hezb released the royals

5. Days later, and members of some sunni militant group rode up alongside the bus carrying the Shia and blew up the non-combatants.

We make deals with Qatar all the time. And we think we’re winning…

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Intelligence Networks

The U.S. intelligence community is officially made of 17 organizations, but there is even more to the story.

A groundbreaking investigation from the Washington Post found some rather daunting figures:

— 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies are working on intelligence, counterterrorism, or homeland security in the U.S.

— Just the NSA alone is contracting with more than 250 companies on intelligence work, including big names like Northrop Grumman and SAIC.

— Many intelligence agencies are doing redundant work, such as 51 federal and military organizations that track the flow of money in and out of terror networks.

— One reason why those intelligence budgets are classified: millions of dollars in so-called “ghost money” given to foreign governments.

via 17 Agencies of the US Intelligence Community – Business Insider

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Private and Government organizations funding ISIS

Qatar and Kuwait’s involvement with radical Islam, particularly in Syria, is neither new nor limited to these two kingdoms. Initially, these states were joined by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, funding the opposition to the Assad regime in Syria. During the early stages of the Syrian Civil War, this funding was supplied directly by the governments of these states in order to support Assad’s opposition. As the threat of radical Islam grew more imposing in Syria, this official funding was significantly scaled back, and harsh restrictions were placed on the funding of groups like ISIS. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been largely successful in restricting private as well as official funding for terrorist organizations, the Qatari and Kuwaiti financial systems remain much less regulated in this regard. This leaves private funds still open to ISIS and other organizations. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait’s financial systems do not have the same “red flags” that are raised for suspected interaction with terrorists. While the money does not directly go to ISIS or other groups, it can more easily run through back channels without the stringent oversight present in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. In 2013, Kuwait passed legislation aimed at limiting such transactions through the Financial Intelligence Unit. Such legislation made private funding of terrorist organizations a criminal offense, but the enforcement of this law has been inconsistent at best. In Qatar, support for private funding of terrorist organizations has been much more public, alienating many allies including the Saudis and Egyptians.

In the face of such diplomatic backlash, it is difficult to understand why the gulf monarchies remain lenient on private funding of ISIS and other organizations. Analysts point to both strategic and domestic concerns that drive this indirect support for terrorist organizations. First, Qatar and Kuwait share some limited strategic interests with terrorist groups including ISIS. The previously official funding that went to Syria aimed at toppling Assad, and these goals still motivate the private funding of terrorists in Syria. Furthermore, ISIS’s targeting of Shiite power in Iraq has garnered some support in Qatar and Kuwait (even to an extent in Saudi Arabia), encouraging further funding. Some in Qatar and Kuwait see funding of terrorist organizations as a way of keeping themselves from being targeted. By analyzing such interests, it becomes clear that the gulf monarchies do have something to gain by the limited successes of ISIS and others.

via The Gulf Monarchies and Private Funding of ISIS — SIR Journal

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Normalizing Women in Hijabs

Recent trends we have seen involve search terms like “immigration,” “migration,” and “global.” All of these have increased in popularity. Over the last year searches for “Muslim” and “Muslim woman” have skyrocketed. In fact, “Muslim woman” is up 83 percent. The concept of “community” is up 62 percent. We have seen the demand for body diversity and authenticity in depiction of women increase significantly: “differing abilities” is up 229 percent; “unfiltered” 219 percent; “real bodies” 147 percent; “body positivity” 144 percent; “gritty woman” 90 percent; and “menstruation” is up 142 percent. There’s more: “grungy woman” 105 percent; “heroine woman” 80 percent; and “edgy woman” 54 percent …

So we have data points, and these tell us if we’re going in the right direction, but we often start with our own observations. Maybe someone on the team sees a female Olympian wearing hijab, or maybe we hear that Dolce

via The Trend Forecaster Who Creates Your Sense of ‘Normal’

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Normalizing Trump

“Normal” means different things to different people. In the wake of this week’s election results, there has been a lot of talk about the ways in which dangerous things come to be viewed as just another part of everyday life. Often, this process happens in the places where you least expect political events to transpire. It’s on the late-night talk show, when the comedian giggles as he tousles Donald Trump’s hair, signalling that this madman can take a joke; it’s in the life-style magazine that works to humanize him and those around him, suggesting that people with furniture dipped in gold are just like us; it’s in the conversations where one person dampens another’s alarmism by wondering, Have you ever actually seen a Klansman?

There’s been a lot of soul-searching this week, particularly within the media, about how beholden we’ve all become to our preferred silos of self-identification. Implicit in this is a desire to understand and reckon with the overwhelmingly white voting base that delivered the Electoral College to Trump. Rather than disavowing those with whom we disagree, this line of reasoning goes, we must understand them, and see the humanity in their anxieties about the economy or immigration or Black Lives Matter or isis. But in the rush to be radically empathetic, and reckon with another’s disaffection, a different kind of normalization occurs: We validate an identity politics that is often rooted in denying other people’s right to the same.

via What Normalization Means – The New Yorker

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