NASA Rover Spots Unreal Mars ‘Flower’ Formation

Thelasko shares a report from CNET: NASA's Curiosity rover snapped a gorgeous, delicate formation on Mars that looks like it could be a branching piece of ocean coral. It's not coral, but it's worth contemplating how we see familiar Earth objects in random shapes on Mars. The miniscule Martian sculpture invites poetic comparisons. It resembles a water droplet captured at the moment of explosion against a surface, or the tendrils of an anemone in a tide pool. The image comes from Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (Mahli) instrument, which NASA describes as "the rover's version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field." So the formation in the image is quite small. Abigail Fraeman, a deputy project scientist for Curiosity, tweeted a helpful visual guide that compares the object with a US penny to give an approximate sense of the scale. Fraeman writes that the image "shows teeny, tiny delicate structures that formed by mineral precipitating from water."

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The War for Ukraine Update 6: As Dawn Breaks, Ukraine and Her Defenders Are Battered, But Holding

I’m going to keep this rather short tonight as I’m completely wiped from picking up large boxes, moving them, reorganizing the space they were in, and then moving them back.

As has been the case for the past several days, the Russians increase their operational attack tempo as dawn approaches.

And this just in!

The miles long column of Russian armor is also still slowly making its way towards Kyiv.

This convoy makes no sense. It is out in the open, moving slowly, and completely exposed. From what I understand from the reporting it has no real support behind it. And so far the Ukrainians are not just making bombing run after bombing run at it with their air force or bayraktar drones. I’m beginning to wonder if the Ukrainians have intelligence indicating that the convoy is partially intended as bait to draw their fighters out where the Russian Air Force assets that have not been used very much so far can just engage them. Whatever the reason for its movement and for the Ukrainians seeming to just leave it alone, it is slowly making its way towards Kyiv. Eventually it will have to be dealt with. And given how the Ukrainians have operated so far, I expect they have a plan for doing so.

Putin has now decided to saber rattle at every state that is supplying or resupplying Ukraine with weapons.

And, of course, he’s decided to just start indiscriminately hammer targets in Ukraine, which many, if not most of us, knew was coming. As a result, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced earlier today that he had enough probable cause to open an investigation into Russia for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine and that he was doing so.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN continues to kick ass!

Read the English transcript of that young Russian Soldiers last communication with his mother. The young Russian Soldiers killed or wounded in this war, many of them conscripts that had no idea this is what they were going to be ordered to do, are going to be victims just like untold number of Ukrainians.

And the feral Chechen fighters may be back. The Ukrainians have reported that after they blowed up the warlord that Kadyrov sent to lead them, as well as a good number of the Chechen fighters themselves, the rest fled back to Chechnya. Kadyrov has released this video indicating otherwise. Or maybe he’s sending more.

We have some clarity on the transfer of fighter jets from EU states to Ukraine:

Ukrainian pilots have arrived in Poland to start the process of taking control of fighter planes they expect to be donated by European countries, a Ukrainian government official told POLITICO.

It’s not clear just yet what countries are donating the jets, but European Union security chief Josep Borrell pledged over the weekend that the EU would fund the transfer the fighter planes from multiple countries.

Borrell walked that back slightly on Monday, acknowledging that any transfers wouldn’t come from the EU itself, but would instead be donated “bilaterally” by individual EU countries.

Representatives from the Polish and Slovakian governments did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov on Monday said he had rejected the request.

Poland and Slovakia still fly Russian-made planes similar to those used by the Ukrainian air force, meaning the pilots would not need much training if the planes were transferred.

In a move likely aimed at increasing pressure on Europe to act, the Ukrainian parliament on Monday tweeted that Europe was sending 70 fighter planes to Ukraine, including 28 MiG-29s from Poland, 12 from Slovakia and 16 from Bulgaria, along with 14 Su-25s from Bulgaria.

The fighter plane drama came on top of a flurry of announcements over the weekend that saw European leaders promise a flood of new weaponry for the Ukrainian military to assist in fighting off invading Russian troops, an overt and very public acknowledgment of Europe’s newfound will to inflict pain on the Kremlin for its military adventurism.

Everyone clear now? Good!

The White House has made it clear there won’t be a NATO no fly zone. I understand why. I understand why it is the right strategic decision. As you all know I disagree with it in principle, though recognize why the decision has to be made in practice. Frankly, this is one of those places where national values runs headlong into realpolitik and for the time being realpolitik has to win out.

A number of states, including some surprising ones, have joined the economic reprisals package against Russia. Japan, Singapore, Monaco, and Switzerland are among them. The latter two are the big surprises. Disney has indicated it isn’t going to release any movies in Russia while they are reinvading Ukraine and Netflix told the Russian media regulator to pound sand rather than agree to stream the Russian state tv channels as part of its Russia service that the regulator was requiring. The Russian economy is a mess and it has been announced that the Russian stock market will remain closed on Tuesday. Because that’ll keep it from crashing…

I want to draw everyone’s attention to two excellent threads. The first is the best political-military (pol-mil), defense enterprise/logistics, and socio-cultural analysis of what’s going on I’ve seen so far! And given that the former and the latter are both my professional bread and butter, that’s saying a lot. Just an excellent, exceedingly excellent, very excellent piece of analysis.

The second is a very thorough, in depth analysis of an article mistakenly run by RIA Novosti on 26 February that was supposed to be a self congratulatory victory lap. The thread provides a pretty interesting window into how what the Russians are doing is being presented if not perceived in Russia.

And to finish off a bit of levity:

You want the Tik-Tok video in the second tweet in the thread, not the Alex Jones meme in the first.

I think I’m in love!

Now here’s something you don’t normally see at bar and bat mitzvahs and Jewish weddings! Perhaps at a bris…

And if you’re looking for other ways to support Ukraine and Ukrainians, perhaps a little shopping?

There’s a full description of their operations at the site/storefront including their registration as a Canadian charity. I’ve emailed them to get sizing information as what they have on the site doesn’t make sense, I’ll report back what I find out. I want to order a couple of shirts, but I need to make sure that the XXLs are actually XXLs.

Depending on how things go tomorrow, I want to spend at least part of the update post talking about something I’m not seeing a lot of reporting on, but that I’m sure someone is planning: the need for a humanitarian assistance airlift of food, potable water, and other non-munition, non-weapon supplies into Ukraine. Think the Berlin Airlift, but sized way, way up!

ETA: I’ve removed the Andrew Feinberg tweet as it was inaccurate as to the source of the explosion and slightly revised the text regarding indiscriminate Russian targeting.


Open thread!

The post The War for Ukraine Update 6: As Dawn Breaks, Ukraine and Her Defenders Are Battered, But Holding appeared first on Balloon Juice.

UN Climate Report: ‘Atlas of Human Suffering’ Worse, Bigger

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Associated Press: Deadly with extreme weather now, climate change is about to get so much worse. It is likely going to make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer, gloomier and way more dangerous in the next 18 years with an "unavoidable" increase in risks, a new United Nations science report says. And after that watch out. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said Monday if human-caused global warming isn't limited to just another couple tenths of a degree, an Earth now struck regularly by deadly heat, fires, floods and drought in future decades will degrade in 127 ways with some being "potentially irreversible." Today's children who may still be alive in the year 2100 are going to experience four times more climate extremes than they do now even with only a few more tenths of a degree of warming over today's heat. But if temperatures increase nearly 2 more degrees Celsius from now (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) they would feel five times the floods, storms, drought and heat waves, according to the collection of scientists at the IPCC. Already at least 3.3 billion people's daily lives "are highly vulnerable to climate change" and 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather, the report says. Large numbers of people are being displaced by worsening weather extremes. And the world's poor are being hit by far the hardest, it says. More people are going to die each year from heat waves, diseases, extreme weather, air pollution and starvation because of global warming, the report says. Just how many people die depends on how much heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas gets spewed into the air and how the world adapts to an ever-hotter world, scientists say. The report lists mounting dangers to people, plants, animals, ecosystems and economies, with people at risk in the millions and billions and potential damages in the trillions of dollars. The report highlights people being displaced from homes, places becoming uninhabitable, the number of species dwindling, coral disappearing, ice shrinking and rising and increasingly oxygen-depleted and acidic oceans. Some of these risks can still be prevented or lessened with prompt action. "Today's IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change."

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Bad Sports Open Thread: Qatar’s World Cup

Back in 2013, I ran across a most informative & entertaining series by Dave Roth, explaining the genesis of Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup:

FIFA is FIFA, which is to say it’s this sort of smuggo mafia of puffy, predatory globo-elite males in suits, all of them dedicated to extracting some sort of rent from the world’s totally helpless and justified love for soccer. And FIFA being FIFA, it has all these wildly un-transparent internal processes — everything done by design in secret, endless dodgy handshake deals between men whose handshakes are mostly worthless — that seem almost to incent lawlessness

More recently, in 2020, questions were raised about whether the new miracle vaccines would be effective enough to prevent a global superspreader event.

And now — FIFA has been strongarmed into ‘suspending’ Russia, for the moment.

As a totally unqualified spectator, I have to assume that’s gonna screw up some of the already tight qualification scheduling between now & November, yes?


As head of the German soccer federation, Theo Zwanziger was among his sport’s most prominent critics of the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He publicly attacked the energy-rich Gulf nation’s human rights record. He questioned the wisdom of staging the world’s most popular sporting event in searing desert heat.

“The infinite wealth of this small country of Qatar spreads almost like a cancer through football and sport,” Zwanziger once said. A member of FIFA’s executive committee, he urged world soccer’s governing body to reverse its 2010 decision.

The Qatari government was so concerned by Zwanziger’s criticism that it took action. It paid more than $10 million to a company staffed by former CIA operatives for a multi-year covert influence operation codenamed “Project Riverbed,” according to internal company documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

The records indicate that the goal of the operation was to use spycraft to silence Zwanziger. It failed…

The Qatar World Cup, now scheduled to start in November, is the culmination of more than a dozen years of effort and untold billions spent to help propel the tiny desert nation onto the world stage.

The endeavor has long been dogged by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. U.S. prosecutors said in 2020 that bribes were paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

Documents reviewed by AP provide new details about Qatar’s efforts to win and hold onto the tournament, specifically the country’s work with former CIA officer Kevin Chalker and company, Global Risk Advisors. The documents build on AP’s previous reporting about Chalker’s work for Qatar.

Qatari officials did not respond to requests for comment…

The post Bad Sports Open Thread: Qatar’s World Cup appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Twitter To Label Tweets Linking To Russian State Media

wiredmikey writes: "Twitter will put warnings on tweets sharing links to Russian state-affiliated media, the platform said Monday, as Kremlin-tied outlets are accused of spreading misinformation on Moscow's invasion of Ukraine," reports SecurityWeek. The news comes as Russian troops have launched a major assault on Ukraine and while their forces battle in the physical world for control over various cities and regions, a battle is also taking place in cyberspace with attacks and misinformation campaigns. Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, says the platform is seeing more than 45,000 tweets per day that are sharing links to state-affiliated media outlets. "Our product should make it easy to understand who's behind the content you see, and what their motivations and intentions are," he added. In addition to adding labels that identify the sources of links, Roth said the platform is also "taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content on Twitter."

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Nvidia Allegedly Hacks Hackers Who Stole Company’s Data

According to Vx-underground on Twitter, Nvidia has reportedly retaliated against the hacker group that stole over 1TB of the company's data by sneaking back into the hacker's system and encrypting the stolen data. Tom's Hardware reports: LAPSU$, an extortion group in South America, had illegally tapped into Nvidia's mailing server and installed malware on the software distribution server. As a result, the hacker group purportedly extracted over 1TB of Nvidia's data. However, it's unknown what kind of data the hackers had stolen, whether Nvidia's or its clients' data. It would seem that Nvidia has identified the attackers. According to the Vx-underground's Twitter post and backed by screenshots, the chipmaker has infected the perpetrators' system with ransomware and encrypted the stolen data in response to the attack. The group claimed that it had a backup of the data, though.

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Satellite Outage Knocks Out Thousands of Enercon’s Wind Turbines

Germany's Enercon on Monday said a "massive disruption" of satellite connections in Europe was affecting the operations of 5,800 wind turbines in central Europe. MarketScreener reports: It said the satellite connections stopped working on Thursday, knocking out remote monitoring and control of the wind turbines, which have a total capacity of 11 gigawatt (GW). "The exact cause of the disruption is not yet known. The communication services failed almost simultaneously with the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine," Enercon said in a statement. Enercon has informed Germany's cybersecurity watchdog BSI and is working with the relevant providers of the satellite communication networks to resolve the disruption, which it said affected around 30,000 satellite terminals used by companies and organisations from various sectors across Europe. "However, no effects on power grid stability are currently expected due to redundant communication capabilities of the responsible grid operators. Further investigations into the cause are being carried out by the company concerned in close exchange with the responsible authorities," BSI said. There was no risk to the turbines as they continued to operate on "auto mode," the company said. The report also notes that Viasat was "investigating a suspected cyberattack that caused a partial outage in its residential broadband services in Ukraine and other European countries"

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Crypto Exchanges Consider Ukraine’s Call To Freeze Russians’ Bitcoin

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CoinTelegraph: As the West continues to impose more sanctions against Russian banks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, one Ukrainian official has called for sanctions on Russians' cryptocurrency holdings as well. Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, took to Twitter on Sunday to urge the global cryptocurrency exchanges to block addresses of Russian users. He emphasized that exchanges should freeze not only the addresses tied to Russia and Belarus officially but also to "sabotage ordinary users." Fedorov subsequently pointed out that some industry-related services have already moved to freeze assets from Russia and Belarus, including the nonfungible token platform DMarket. "Funds from these accounts could be donated to the war effort. Nowadays Robin Hoods. Bravo," Fedorov stated. He also cited the ongoing measures taken by the social media giant Meta regarding Russia's attack on Ukraine. Fedorov's appeals could potentially be catastrophic for the Russian cryptocurrency market, as Russians were estimated to hold more than $200 billion in crypto as of early February. Binance does not plan to freeze assets by Russians because this would contradict cryptocurrency's main principles of financial freedom, a spokesperson for the firm told Cointelegraph on Monday: "We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users' accounts. Crypto is meant to provide greater financial freedom for people across the globe." The representative added that the exchange is taking measures to ensure that sanctions are against sanctioned entities in Russia while "minimizing the impact to innocent users." "Should the international community widen those sanctions further, we will apply those aggressively as well," the spokesperson added. Some crypto executives believe that sanctions against Russia are eventually inevitable. However, they should target only select persons as the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control usually does. "We think that the sanctions will be inevitable by naming new sanctioned persons as US/OFAC has done in the past. However, banning all crypto companies from offering services to ordinary Russians would not make sense and would cause more harm for everyday people than good," LocalBitcoins chief marketing officer Jukka Blomberg told Cointelegraph. Kraken CEO Jesse Powell also said that the Kraken exchange will not be able to freeze the accounts of the exchange's Russian clients without a legal requirement. "Russians should be aware that such a requirement could be imminent," he added. Powell previously recommended Kraken users move their crypto assets out of the exchanges, referring to Canada's Emergency Act freezing the crypto of dissidents.

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The vast majority of Americans -- even Republicans -- oppose Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and support the notion of aiding the Ukrainians (that is, they support what the Biden administration is doing).
In the opening days of the war in Ukraine, the fractious American public is remarkably united in opposition to Russia’s invasion, with 74 percent saying the breach is not justified and 76 percent expressing an unfavorable opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll....

Three weeks ago, Americans were more likely to say the U.S. should remain neutral (49 percent) than side with Ukraine (46 percent); today, they’re more than twice as likely to want the U.S. to side with Ukraine (57 percent) as to stay out of it (25 percent). Republican opinion has shifted the most, from 8 points in favor of neutrality earlier this month to 34 points in favor of siding with Ukraine....

Americans also tend to agree on how the administration should be responding, with 56 percent saying they favor last week’s “major sanctions” designed to “cut off Russia’s government from Western banks and financial markets” — despite an explicit description that the sanctions were “imposed” by Biden. Unsurprisingly, 72 percent of Democrats favor Biden’s sanctions; just 6 percent oppose them. But the same sanctions also win the support of most Republicans (53 percent), with very little outright opposition (11 percent)....

A clear majority of Americans (56 percent) agree, too, with Biden’s vow “not to send U.S. troops into Ukraine”; only 15 percent disagree.
And yet:
... just 3 percent of 2020 Donald Trump voters are willing to say President Biden is “doing a better job leading his country” than Putin. Nearly half (47 percent) of Trump voters say Putin is doing a better job than Biden, even as Russia’s economy threatens to collapse under the weight of crippling global sanctions. A slightly smaller share of Trump voters (45 percent) say “neither” man is doing a better job than the other.

More Trump voters also express an unfavorable opinion of Biden (95 percent) than of Putin (78 percent) — with a full 87 percent saying they have a “very” unfavorable opinion of the U.S. president versus just 60 percent who say the same about his Russian counterpart.

... just a third of Americans (34 percent) say they approve of how Biden is handling “the situation with Russia and Ukraine.” Nearly half (48 percent) disapprove, and 17 percent are not sure.

... just 28 percent of Americans say Biden’s response to the situation with Russia and Ukraine has been “about right” — while more say his response has been “not tough enough” (39 percent).

... Nearly 9 in 10 Trump voters (89 percent) say they disapprove of how Biden is handling the Russia-Ukraine situation. More than two-thirds (67 percent) say his response has not been tough enough.
It's as if Republicans heard the question that said, "In response to Putin’s actions this week, President Joe Biden imposed major sanctions that cut off Russia’s government from Western banks and financial markets," and said, "Yes, excellent idea," but still they don't really believe Biden has done this, because if they believed it, they'd have to acknowledge that he's done something right, and that can't be possible, can it? And it's as if they support Ukraine even though they're 100% certain -- or at least they were a week ago -- that Ukraine is only relevant to them because it's one of those countries that gave that filthy Hunter Biden and his dementia-riddled (but evil genius) dad massive amounts of cash.

So even when Biden does what Americans want, he can't possibly be a good president. To Republicans (and most independents, and a not inconsiderable number of Democrats), "Biden is a bad president" is simply a fact now, like "the sun sets in the west" or "there are twenty-four hours in a day." It can't be called into quesion by any new information.

If Putin blinks as a result of what's being done now, Biden won't get any of the credit. The mainstream media rejected him after the Afghanistan withdrawal, and that made "Biden is a bad president" the across-the-board narrative of the entire media, and thus of the American people.

I don't know what can turn this around. Maybe Biden needs to do something swashbucklingly reckless, like entangling the U.S. military in this war, which poll respondents claim not to want but probably crave in their reptile brains. This will only work if it's a Hollywood war -- a few big booms, maybe a week or so of exciting combat with low casualties, and then Putin's defeat. That can't really happen, of course, but it's probably the only thing that would give Biden a poll bump. Poor bastard.

New Chinese Hacking Tool Found, Spurring US Warning To Allies

Security researchers with U.S. cybersecurity firm Symantec said they have discovered a "highly sophisticated" Chinese hacking tool that has been able to escape public attention for more than a decade. Reuters reports: The discovery was shared with the U.S. government in recent months, who have shared the information with foreign partners, said a U.S. official. Symantec, a division of chipmaker Broadcom, published its research about the tool, which it calls Daxin, on Monday. "It's something we haven't seen before," said Clayton Romans, associate director with the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). "This is the exact type of information we're hoping to receive." CISA highlighted Symantec's membership in a joint public-private cybersecurity information sharing partnership, known as the JCDC, alongside the new research paper. The JCDC, or Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, is a collective of government defense agencies, including the FBI and National Security Agency, and 22 U.S. technology companies that share intelligence about active cyberattacks with one another. Symantec's attribution to China is based on instances where components of Daxin were combined with other known, Chinese-linked computer hacker infrastructure or cyberattacks, said Vikram Thakur, a technical director with Symantec. [...] "Daxin can be controlled from anywhere in the world once a computer is actually infected," said Thakur. "That's what raises the bar from malware that we see coming out of groups operating from China."

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