Late Night Open Thread: The Qatar World Cup Draw

Best I can make out from the official site, picks will be made starting 7pm Friday Qatar time, which is noon EDT. Should I prepare to take dutiful notice of this, or is the asterisked Clash in Qatar being treated as one of those global embarrassments about which the less said, the better?

Per ESPN:

DOHA, Qatar — For Qatar, the World Cup draw Friday is the bell signaling the last lap of a race that began more than two decades ago. That’s when the Gulf state — poor in square miles, population and (back then) name recognition, but rich in per capita GDP and ambition — decided to make sports one of the central planks of its development.

Sports would raise the country’s profile, drive business opportunity, provide some sort of legacy for the day when, inevitably, the oil and natural gas run out. It was just one prong of the strategy — security (the U.S. military’s Gulf Central Command is in Doha), media (Al Jazeera) and education were also priorities — but in some ways, it was the most significant.

The most significant step in the journey was back on Dec. 2, 2010, when a vote by FIFA’s Executive Committee awarded them the 2022 World Cup. It would turn out to be a day of controversy — three of the 25 ExCo members were suspended for corruption before the vote even took place, another 11 who voted that day were subsequently banned, prosecuted or suspended, and longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter was ousted a few years later — but it meant Qatar was on its way and there was no turning back…

The draw Friday will determine how the 32 participating nations will line up in groups of four. Well, almost — real life, of course, has gotten in the way in the form of a pandemic and a war, which means three spots are still to be determined. Barring any further twists, one will be contested by Ukraine, Scotland and Wales, another by Australia, United Arab Emirates and Peru and the final one by Costa Rica vs. New Zealand. While most of FIFA’s 211 member nations had their World Cup dreams crushed a long time ago — and a few just in the past 10 days — fans in 37 countries can continue to hope, at least until June, when the final qualifiers are played….

The post Late Night Open Thread: The Qatar World Cup Draw appeared first on Balloon Juice.

First Complete Gap-Free Human Genome Sequence Published

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Guardian: More than two decades after the draft human genome was celebrated as a scientific milestone, scientists have finally finished the job. The first complete, gap-free sequence of a human genome has been published in an advance expected to pave the way for new insights into health and what makes our species unique. Until now, about 8% of the human genome was missing, including large stretches of highly repetitive sequences, sometimes described as "junk DNA." In reality though, these repeated sections were omitted due to technical difficulties in sequencing them, rather than pure lack of interest. Sequencing a genome is something like slicing up a book into snippets of text then trying to reconstruct the book by piecing them together again. Stretches of text that contain a lot of common or repeated words and phrases would be harder to put in their correct place than more unique pieces of text. New "long-read" sequencing techniques that decode big chunks of DNA at once -- enough to capture many repeats -- helped overcome this hurdle. Scientists were able to simplify the puzzle further by using an unusual cell type that only contains DNA inherited from the father (most cells in the body contain two genomes -- one from each parent). Together these two advances allowed them to decode the more than 3 billion letters that comprise the human genome. The science behind the sequencing effort and some initial analysis of the new genome regions are outlined in six papers published in the journal Science.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

War for Ukraine Update 37: The Ukrainian Air Force Has a Few Important Things It Would Like To Share

Let’s start tonight with President Zelenskyy’s video address he made earlier this evening in Kyiv. It has English subtitles.

The Ukrainian Air Force would like your attention for a few minutes. @KpsZSU is the twitter account name for the Ukrainian Air Force, so when you see @KpsZSU in the copied and pasted tweets read it as Ukrainian Air Force.

  • As we defend our country against Russian aggression, information is one of the most powerful weapons at our disposal. We ask journalists from all nations to take care to avoid supporting the Russian army by spreading inaccurate information. (2/16)
  • Myth: Ukraine’s successes on the ground will win the war. Truth: Air superiority is the deciding factor in this war. Air superiority has played a key role in all wars since WWII. (3/16)
  • Dominance in the air allows a combatant to quickly and effectively attack the enemy’s ground troops, supply chains, and other essential military objects. Air superiority also provides powerful protection for one’s own ground and naval forces. (4/16)
  • Myth: Ukraine’s air force is equipped to effectively defend the country against Russia. Truth: Russia’s air force is many times larger than Ukraine’s and has access to more advanced radar and missile technologies. (5/16)
  • Ukraine’s air force cannot close the sky over Ukraine or gain air superiority due to a large discrepancy in equipment and technologies. (6/16)
  • Due to this major imbalance between the Russians and Ukrainian air forces, @KpsZSU has been urgently requesting more modern fighter jets and air defense tools from its allies since the outset of the war. (7/16)
  • Over the past month, our air force has sustained losses; as equipment is destroyed by Russian forces or damaged in action, our need only grows more urgent. (8/16)
  • Myth: Stingers will make up for the @KpsZSU equipment shortfalls. Truth: Successful defense against Russian threats in the air (including cruise missiles, among others) requires fighter jets as well as medium- and long-range surface-based air defense systems. (9/16)
  • Stingers have a limited range and functionality; cannot compensate for a lack of modern fighter jets and medium- and long-range missile defense systems. Kamikaze drones are designed to destroy targets on the ground and also cannot defend against Russian aircraft and missiles. (10/16)
  • Myth: The US and @NATO are providing #Ukraine with needed weapons. Allies are doing everything possible, short of direct involvement in the war. Truth: To date, our allies have not answered our call for air defense support (fighter jets and SAM). (11/16)
  • We have not received the tools we need to defend our sky and achieve victory. In the sky, the greatest need is for fighter jets – F-15s and F-16s of the fourth generation or higher would be sufficient; Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly these with just 2-3 weeks of training. (12/16)
  • Unlike Soviet-era MiG-29s, these jets are equipped with the advanced technologies used by the enemy, including advanced radars and modern missiles. On the ground, air defense systems can prevent airstrikes and missile strikes. (13/16)
  • Russia has fired well over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles and dropped hundreds of tons of unguided bombs over the cities and towns of Ukraine. Most could have been intercepted if Ukrainian territory were covered by the required number of efficient air defense systems. (14/16)
  • Ukraine currently operates long-range S-300 (SA-10) missile systems and medium-range BUK-M1 missile systems. However, these are outdated, Soviet-era systems that are no match for Russian systems, such as the S-400 and others. (15/16)
  • To effectively protect Ukraine, the optimal solution would be Patriot systems from the United States or the cheaper, more mobile NASAMS systems from Norway. In addition, Ukraine could also use more Soviet-era S-300 and BUK-M1 systems, which are also currently effective against the enemy. (16/16)

To me the most interesting part of this thread is tweet #12, which states that Ukrainian pilots could get up to speed on F-15s and F-16s with only two or three weeks of training.

Much more after the jump.

As we’ve been discussing for several days now, the Ukrainian negotiating position that they would need the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Turkey to establish binding guarantees of Ukraine’s security were a non-starter. Yesterday I noted that Britain rejected the idea and Germany said something in diplospeak that sounded nice, but clearly wasn’t a yes. What I missed because I hadn’t seen it reported anywhere was that the US has also rejected the idea. That announcement came at yesterday’s White House press briefing.

Q Thank you, Kate. Earlier today, Germany said it is willing to act as a security guarantor for Ukraine as part of the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Is the U.S. willing to become a guarantor of Ukraine’s security or considering that option?

MS. BEDINGFIELD: So we are in constant discussion with Ukrainians about ways that we can help ensure that they are sovereign and secure. But there’s nothing specific about a security guarantee that I can speak to at this time.

My assessment is still that President Zelenskyy and his team know that the Russians are not negotiating in good faith. That the Russian demands are unreasonable and can and will shift on a dime. That it is a stalling tactic as Russia is weaponizing its diplomatic power to look like it is doing the right thing. As a result, the Ukrainians are going along to also look like they’re doing the right thing, but that nothing they’re proposing is really serious because they know it would be unacceptable to actual Ukrainians, the Russians will never agree to it, and/or it makes no actual strategic sense.

Here’s today’s British Ministry of Defense’s assessment:

Here’s the DOD’s background briefing for today:

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, good morning, everybody. We’ll get started.

Not a whole lot of updates today from yesterday. Day 36, we continue to observe some Russian forces begin to continue to observe them repositioning away from Kyiv, particularly from the north and northwest of Kyiv. I don’t have an update on quantity. We haven’t observed that much of a difference over the last 24 hours, so I’d still roughly leave it at about 20 percent or so. There hasn’t been and so it hasn’t been sort of, you know, wholesale movement, at least not at this point.

I would say that again, despite the rhetoric of de-escalations, we’re still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv. They’re still fighting to the north of Kyiv. As these forces begin to repositioning, the Ukrainians are moving against them. Still fighting around Chernihiv, and again, we believe that the Ukrainians still have lines of communication there in Chernihiv.

Obviously, and again, you guys know this – while Russian forces haven’t made any major gains, there’s fighting that continues in southern and eastern Ukraine, and that includes Kharkiv, Mariupol and Mykolaiv. We do continue to observe some Russian forces inside Mariupol, but obviously, the Ukrainians are fighting very, very tough inside the city.

The airspace remains contested; again, no changes to that. We’ve observed now no big, major muscle-movement changes in the missile launches; still observe more than 1,400 as of today. There’s nothing new in the maritime environment to speak to.

On Mykolaiv, no really major change to the battlespace around Mykolaiv. We still assess that the Ukrainians are still fighting for Kherson and the degree to which the Russians are sort of positioned, it’s sort of in between Kherson and Mykolaiv.

We have seen the Russians continue to increase their number of sorties, aircraft sorties, in last 24 hours, up over 300. And their strikes are focused on Kyiv, Chernihiv, Izyum, which we’ve talked about before, to the south of Kharkiv, and then that joint force operation area, basically, the Donbas.

Those are sort of the four areas where they’re conducting most of their strikes. So again, for all the talk of de-escalation and moving away, Kyiv is still very much under threat from airstrikes.

And think I’ll leave it at that. Again, not a whole lot of change from yesterday.

Bob?

Q: Thank you. I actually was a little bit unclear on your use of the 20 percent number. Are you referring to, in other words, 20 percent of what? Are you talking about forces that include not just those to the north and northwest of Kyiv, but also the Chernihiv area? And you also mentioned Sumy yesterday. I’m wondering what the ,you know, sort of the geographic area that is 20 percent of what, kind of thing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I was referring to the forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv specifically.

Q: Well, so do you consider that to include those in the northeast coming through Chernihiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I was counting — I was just talking about Kyiv, because that was the big, that was the big muscle movement. That’s what the Russians announced, was they were going to leave Kyiv alone. You know, we’ve seen some minor movements in other, in other places to the…around the northern part of the country, but largely it’s — it’s around Kyiv that we’re starting to see this repositioning. And so the I said it was less than 20 percent, that it was a rough estimate. We don’t have a perfect count, and what I was referring to was the force that Putin had arrayed against Kyiv. I wasn’t counting other places because frankly, we just haven’t seen that much coming out of other place.

Q: Okay. The other quick question on the same topic was when you made your introductory remarks, you said that the Ukrainians are moving against them. Now, are you referring to those forces that are repositioning, or just in general in the north of Kyiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, I guess it’s a good question. It’s both, but what I was referring to was — was that they are attacking some of the repositioning forces, that they’re moving against them as they begin to reposition. But they have consistently been going on the offensive around Kyiv even before the Russians made decisions to start to reposition, even when they were just in defensive positions and sort of stalled and not moving forward, the Ukrainians were working against them. So it’s a little bit of both, but I was specifically referring to them pressing their attacks against some of these units that are repositioning.

Q: All right.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, Howard Altman?

Q: Thank you. A couple of questions. The Ukrainians say they’re concerned about Chernobyl’s a number of things. One is the presence of a great deal of ammunition there that they are concerned about that could accidentally explode, the presence of rocket systems there that could be used to attack from there. And then if the Russians withdraw, their concern about a Russian missile strike on the facility. Does the Pentagon share any of those concerns? And can you confirm the presence of (continued ?) presence of Russian troops and those rocket systems there?

And then my second question is, can you talk about the — the explosion at the Belgrade Russian facility – ammunition facility and whether that was a strike by Ukraine? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: On the first question, you know, obviously, since the Russians moved into Chernobyl we said very clearly that we were concerned about their occupation of that defunct nuclear facility and our concerns over their lack of understanding or adherence to any kind of safety protocols. So that’s a long-standing concern.

I don’t have the level of detail you’re getting from the Ukrainians on rockets being left there, or how many Russians are there. We have seen them begin to reposition away from Chernobyl, but I couldn’t give you a nose count of how many are still there or what they might have left. So I can’t help you on that.

And on the Belgorad strike, the farthest I’m willing to go on that is, you know, we — we can’t — we can’t confirm exactly what happened there, what kind of munition was used or — or exactly from where it came. But we’re not in a position to refute the possibility that it could have come from the Ukrainian side. We just don’t have a whole lot more that we can say about it.

Tom Bowman?

Q: Yeah, any updates on Russian replacement troops heading in from Georgia, presumably to the Donbas?

And also, I was wondering if you can say anything more about Putin being misinformed or receiving little information from his generals?

Do you see him removing commanders, firing generals?

And also, it there a sense what the implications of this might be?

If he’s not getting the right information and maybe he’s suddenly realizing how bad things are, he could lash out even more. Is there any talk about that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, on your first question I don’t have any updates on reinforcements.

On the second question, we haven’t seen any tangible outcomes, based on our assessment, that Mr. Putin is being misinformed or is perhaps uninformed. So you know, no dots we can connect there that correlate to decisions that the Russians have made, or he has made, on the battlefield — other than — I mean, again, it doesn’t really answer the question, but, I mean, clearly, this repositioning that they’re doing around Kyiv and — and other places in the north, and this re-prioritization on the Donbas, clearly indicate that they know they have failed to take the capital city, that they know they have been under increased pressure elsewhere around the country. Because they are obviously making decisions to alter their goals and objectives.

Now, whether that itself is an outcome of Mr. Putin all of a sudden getting informed, we don’t know. So I can’t point to a specific decision point or a specific action that the Russians are taking and tell you that that’s evidence that, you know, Mr. Putin is now more informed than he was before.

And as I said — as the Pentagon briefer said yesterday, I mean, clearly, it’s cause for concern if he’s not being told the truth, if he’s not — if he’s being misinformed, I think, the gist of your question, because you don’t know how he’s going to react when he — when he does get fully informed. And you don’t know how that’s going to affect their legitimate, to the degree they could be legitimate, their negotiating tactics at the table.

So, yes, we’re concerned about the — the reports that he may not have the full information.

The rest of the Q&A at the link.

Here’s NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg’s assessment:

Kharkiv:

Mariupol:

Irpin:

From Ukrayinska Pravda:

Roman Petrenko – Wednesday, 30 March 2022, 16:19

Oleksandr Markushyn, the Mayor of Irpin, has reported that up to 300 civilians and 50 military personnel have been killed in Irpin, according to preliminary information.

According to Markushyn: “They [the Russian troops] simply shot the people that they didn’t like.

I will say this – maybe some people won’t like this, but it is true. They crushed the bodies of Ukrainians who had been killed, just flattened them into the asphalt. It was frightening to watch…

Unfortunately, 16 guys from our territorial defence died, 29 have been hospitalised. As for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, up to 50 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded.”

Details: Markushyn said that it is still impossible to determine the exact number of civilians who have been killed and added that during the periods of heavy fighting, people were being buried in courtyards and parks. Markushyn believes that up to 300 civilians were killed.

The Mayor also said that the local residents who were hiding in basements [during the Russian occupation of Irpin] told him that not only were some of them stripped naked there, but also that there have been instances of [sexual] assault on women.

Markushyn also said that the occupying troops separated the men from the women for prisoner exchange.

Trostyanets:

This is a very interesting explanation with maps and diagrams of how one individual doing open source geospatial intelligence was able to map the Russian artillery targeting of Mariupol based on another open source having been able to record the unencrypted communications between the Russian commander calling for the fires and the artillerist entering the grid coordinates.

“For all targets: Moscow time is 14:00”

Unencrypted Russian military radio transmissions reveal an artillery strike in Mariupol

Over a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, billions of people around the world know of Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and bloodthirsty move against his country’s neighbor. What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the incredibly shoddy state of Russian equipment. In particular, their communication systems.

It’s no surprise that strong communications are necessary to fighting and winning a war. Calling in reinforcements, evacuating casualties, maneuvering units, and virtually anything else soldiers need to do rely heavily on secure, fast, and interconnected communications systems.

However, the corrupt and kleptocratic Russian military has robbed their soldiers of even the most basic radios, forcing junior officers to procure off-the-shelf civilian models for use in combat.

Problem is, unencrypted traffic on Russian military frequencies can be picked up and heard by regular people operating what’s known as SDRs — software defined radios. These allow users from all over the world to tune into essentially a website and listen to radio frequencies of all types, from the BBC to music to pirate radio stations to, as we’ll see today, Russian artillery units.

“In five minutes, be ready to work on all fronts” “Understood”

@xateond is one of the folks who has been listening to and translating Russian military frequencies since the start of the war1. On March 3, they noticed, transcribed, and posted to Twitter a conversation between two Russian soldiers, with call signs Volk and Consul.

Based on the exchange, Consul appears to be a high-ish ranking officer, with the authority to order artillery strikes across a wide front. Volk, on the other hand, is either a battery commander or an artillery spotter responsible for delegating and correcting fire.

Their conversation essentially consists of two parts. The first part — late at night on March 3 — is real time, with Consul ordering batteries to fire at unidentified targets and Volk reporting the results in real time. The second part is Consul’s meticulous orders for an enormous artillery barrage the next day. He tells all batteries to be ready to fire at “14:00 Moscow time” on March 4 with what appears to be the coordinates for at least 27 different targets2.

My curiosity piqued, I transcribed the 27 coordinate sets recorded by @xateond into a grid, with the coordinates rounded to the nearest whole number and placed in their correct positions on X and Y axes. So, for instance, the numbers in the tweet above would get a mark in the box at the intersection of 82 (on the X axis) and 37 (on the Y axis).

The coordinates (if that’s indeed what they are) have a loosely diagonal orientation, from the southwest to the northeast. To confirm my theory that these 27 numerical combinations were coordinates, I turned to an unusual source: old Soviet maps.

I noticed these Soviet maps had similar numbers running along their X and Y axes. I spoke with John Davies of sovietmaps.com, who confirmed that the axes numbers on these maps are “Gauss-Kruger values”, which show how far a point on a map is from the equator and a reference meridian.

One map of Mariupol, then called Zhdanov, caught my eye because the axis numbers in the grid above and the numbers in a section of the map seemed to match up particularly well.

Much, much, much more at the links. Including all the maps and diagrams and targeting tables! Make sure to stay around to see Omnes’s take in the comments.

The Russians are claiming to have destroyed all 36 of Ukraine’s bayraktar TB2 drones. This would be quite a feet as Ukraine only took possession of a dozen of them before the war started and they’re still waiting for the rest to arrive. We do have confirmation that a couple have been shot down, but not all 12 and certainly not an additional 24 that Ukraine never had.

Speaking of Russian disinformation and agitprop, Trump asked and Putin delivered. What he delivered is just complete bullshit, but he did deliver.

Unfortunately this will be catnip to the Fox News et al crowd! And because the political reporters in the US have decided that despite debunking the Hunter Biden laptop-harddrive story and explaining why there are too many holes in the various parts of the story and the chain of custody of the laptop and/or hard drive to have any confidence in any of the material, they’re going to keep pushing that story until it becomes 2022’s, 2023’s, and 2024’s her emails.

This Tynan guy gets it!

Speaking of Russian cyber operations, the Russians have completely infiltrated Hungary’s Foreign Ministry’s systems. Starting in August 2012. And they had access through January 2022, including access to classified NATO material.

On December 30, 2021, in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pinned the Order of Friendship on the suit of his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó. Although the medal was presented by Lavrov, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin himself who decided to award it. Not coincidentally, the medal, which is in the form of a wreath of olive branches encircling a globe, includes the inscription “Peace and Friendship” in Cyrillic on the back, is the highest Russian state decoration that can be awarded to a foreigner.

Péter Szijjártó knew long ago that Russia’s intelligence services had attacked and hacked into the IT systems of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFA), which he headed. By the second half of 2021, it had become clear that the Russians had completely compromised the foreign ministry’s computer network and internal correspondence. Furthermore, they had also hacked into the encrypted network used to transmit “restricted” and “confidential” state secrets and diplomatic information, which can only be used under strict security measures.

According to an internal document we obtained, the foreign ministry was still under targeted attacks in January 2022. Details of the Russian hacking of the foreign ministry’s communications channels were shared with us by former state officials, among others, who learned of the incident from officials with direct knowledge of it.

According to former intelligence officials, the cyber attack trail suggests that hacker groups working for Russian intelligence are clearly behind the operations against Hungary’s foreign ministry. These hackers work for the Federal Security Service, FSB, which was previously headed by Putin, and for the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU. According to our sources, these hacker groups have been well known to the Hungarian state authorities for a long time, as they have been continuously attacking Hungarian government networks for at least a decade. Russian attacks against Hungary are most often related to hacks against other NATO countries, and members of the Western alliance regularly cooperate and share information to identify these offensive cyber operations.

Hungarian diplomacy has become practically an open book for Moscow through the hacking of the ministry’s networks. Russians are able to know in advance what the Hungarian foreign ministry is thinking and planning, and this is happening at a very sensitive time. Russian infiltration remained active before and partly after the invasion of Ukraine, during the current EU and NATO crisis summits. Meanwhile, there is no sign that the Hungarian government has publicly protested to Russia about the cyberespionage.

Direkt36 uncovered the Russian intelligence operations against the Hungarian foreign ministry and the inadequacy of Hungarian counter-intelligence measures, going back at least a decade, with the help of foreign ministry documents and more than thirty background interviews. For example, we spoke to former Hungarian intelligence and security officers who had worked on Russian intelligence-related fields and had concrete information on many of the cases described in this article. Sources familiar with the internal affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade shared information about the ministry’s handling of the cyberattack.

Much, much, much more at the link!

We’ll finish with this!

Open thread!

The post War for Ukraine Update 37: The Ukrainian Air Force Has a Few Important Things It Would Like To Share appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Chrome’s ‘Topics’ Advertising System Is Here, Whether You Want It Or Not

slack_justyb writes: After the failure of the Chrome user-tracking system that was called FLoC, Google's latest try at topic tracking to replace the 3rd party cookie (that Chrome is the only browser to still support) is FLEDGE and the most recent drop of Canary has this on full display for users and privacy advocates to dive deeper into. This recent release shows Google's hand that it views user tracking as a mandatory part of internet usage, especially given this system's eye-rolling name of "Privacy Sandbox" and the tightness in the coupling of this new API to the browser directly. The new API will allow the browser itself to build what it believes to be things that you are interested in, based on broad topics that Google creates. New topics and methods for how you are placed into those topics will be added to the browser's database and indexing software via updates from Google. The main point to take away here though is that the topic database is built using your CPU's time. At this time, opting out of the browser building this interest database is possible thus saving you a few cycles from being used for that purpose. In the future there may not be a way to stop the browser from using cycles to build the database; the only means may be to just constantly remove all interest from your personal database. At this time there doesn't seem to be any way to completely turn off the underlying API. A website that expects this API will always succeed in "some sort of response" so long as you are using Chrome. The response may be that you are interested in nothing, but a response none-the-less. Of course, sending a response of "interested in nothing" would more than likely require someone constantly, and timely, clearing out the interest database, especially if at some later time the option to turn off the building of the database is removed. With 82% of Google's empire based on ad revenue, this latest development in Chrome shows that Google is not keen on any moves to threaten their main money maker. Google continues to argue that it is mandatory that it builds a user tracking and advertising system into Chrome, and the company says it won't block third-party cookies until it accomplishes that -- no matter what the final solution may ultimately be. The upshot, if it can be called that, of the FLEDGE API over FLoC, is that abuse of FLEDGE looks to yield less valuable results. And attempting to use the API alone to pick out an individual user via fingerprinting or other methods employed elsewhere seems to be rather difficult to do. But only time will tell if that remains true or just Google idealizing this new API. As for the current timeline, here's what the company had to say in the latest Chromium Blog post: "Starting today, developers can begin testing globally the Topics, FLEDGE, and Attribution Reporting APIs in the Canary version of Chrome. We'll progress to a limited number of Chrome Beta users as soon as possible. Once things are working smoothly in Beta, we'll make API testing available in the stable version of Chrome to expand testing to more Chrome users."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nike Wants To ‘Destroy’ Unauthorized NFTs — How Will That Work?

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Decrypt: When a company like Nike finds someone using its brand without permission, it can ask the courts to order the unauthorized goods to be destroyed. Nike has done this in the past, but its latest trademark lawsuit comes with a twist -- the products it wants to "destroy" are NFTs, which are inscribed permanently on the Ethereum blockchain. The case in question involves Detroit-based StockX, a site that lets people buy and sell used brands, including Nike sneakers. [...] In a complaint filed last month in New York federal court, Nike accused StockX of ripping off its brand in order to cash in on a "gold rush market" for NFTs. As a remedy for StockX's alleged infringement of its trademarks, Nike wants the company to turn over its profits and stop the NFT sneaker sales. It also wants a judge to "order that StockX be required to deliver to Nike for destruction any and all Vault NFTs." According to Alexandra Roberts, a trademark law professor at the University of New Hampshire, it's fairly common for companies to ask to destroy goods that infringe their IP -- there's even a law that entitles them to do that. But whether a court will grant the order is likely to be informed by what the brand owner is looking to destroy. Where do NFTs fit into this? It's an open question since the courts have never had to address it before. And even if the New York court agrees to order the destruction of the StockX NFTs, there's the question of how exactly Nike would go about doing that. Records on the blockchain show that StockX has indeed inscribed the NFTs on Ethereum, which means they are indestructible except in the extremely unlikely event that developers agree to fork the blockchain to get rid of them. According to some, the most practical thing for Nike to do would be to send the NFTs to a so-called burner wallet. This wouldn't destroy them but still achieve the same purpose: "This means that the best outcome for a brand that is seeking to have NFTs destroyed may be to have them sent to a burn address, which still does not actually destroy them but renders them incapable of being transferred anymore," writes the Fashion Law Blog.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Samsung To Provide Smartphone Parts, Tools, and Repair Guides Starting This Summer

Starting this summer, Samsung says it will sell genuine parts and tools to customers needed to repair its Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 smartphones, along with its Galaxy Tab S7+ tablet. Fast Company reports: The company, which is partnering with device repair resource iFixit on the initiative, will also provide access to step-by-step repair guides, and it plans to support more devices and repairs over time. The program is similar to one that Apple announced last fall, allowing users to repair the display, battery, and camera on their iPhones. Samsung says it's launching the program to "promote a circular economy and minimize e-waste," though it's just as likely responding to regulatory pressure. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it would crack down on illegal repair restrictions, and iFixit expects dozens of states to introduce right-to-repair laws this year. [...] But while phone makers may now feel compelled to supply repair parts and guides to consumers, that doesn't mean the repairs themselves will be any easier. According to iFixit's Galaxy S21 teardown, some repairs involve work that's "unnecessarily sticky and complicated," requiring a heat gun to pry open the display panel and an isopropyl alcohol bath to loosen the "tar pit" around the battery. At least customers brave enough to make those repairs won't have any trouble getting the parts and tools they need.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russians Leaving Chernobyl After Radiation Exposure

According to the Associated Press, Russian troops have left the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after soldiers received "significant doses" of radiation from digging trenches around the closed plant. On February 24, Russians seized control of Chernobyl shortly after declaring their invasion of Ukraine. From the report: Russian forces seized the Chernobyl site in the opening stages of the Feb. 24 invasion, raising fears that they would cause damage or disruption that could spread radiation. The workforce at the site oversees the safe storage of spent fuel rods and the concrete-entombed ruins of the reactor that exploded in 1986. Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert with the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said it "seems unlikely" a large number of troops would develop severe radiation illness, but it was impossible to know for sure without more details. He said contaminated material was probably buried or covered with new topsoil during the cleanup of Chernobyl, and some soldiers may have been exposed to a "hot spot" of radiation while digging. Others may have assumed they were at risk too, he said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

IF FEAR OF THE LOSS OF WHITE DOMINANCE ISN’T ENOUGH, REPUBLICANS HAVE PLENTY OF OTHER WAYS TO STOKE YOUR RAGE

John Stoehr of The Editorial Board believes Republican politics is very simple:
Guns, abortion, immigration – what binds these “hot button” issues together in the Republican mind? Well, white supremacy, obviously.

I say “obviously” because there was a long period when I thought the defense of whiteness at society’s center, which is clear when you bother looking, couldn’t be right. It was just too simple.

But then I learned, thanks to effort, study and the influence of people who knew better, that white supremacy is no simple thing at all. It can’t be, as it’s the principle organizing the whole of our society.
I'm guessing that many of you agree with this. I'm not so sure. White supremacy might be the main component of GOP politics, but is it everything to Republicans? Don't Republicans hate a lot of other people in addition to non-whites?

Stoehr writes:
Guns

America’s first Black president was reelected more than a month before the Sandy Hook massacre during which 20 first-grade kids were shot to pieces down the road from where I live in New Haven.

The Republicans had a choice to make. They could turn away from a seditionary interpretation of the Second Amendment and toward good and sensible gun legislation to prevent other kids dying in cold blood.

Or they could lean into a seditionary interpretation of the Second Amendment on account of democracy having yielded another term for the first Black president who signaled the end of “our way of life.”

Do the right thing – let kids live? Do the wrong thing – let kids die? You know the answer. The Republicans and their white supporters would rather die, literally, than be replaced at the center of power. It was a fateful choice. The land is soaked by the blood of legions.

Dead kids were the price for protecting whiteness.
Really? The price for protecting whiteness was ... letting a mostly white group of very young children die?


You'll say, "Well, those kids were from Connecticut, which is liberal. Republicans didn't care if they died." Parkland, Florida, where there was another mass slaughter of mostly white young people, was also fairly liberal. But the right doesn't care even when there's a mass slaughter of churchgoing white Texans. Here's a tweet that was posted yesterday by wingnutty Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie:


Willeford did end this mass shooting, but only after 26 people died and 22 were wounded.

This group of victims was mostly white as well:


Wouldn't a party whose prime directive is taking care of white people want to keep people like this from dying? But I'd argue that the Republican Party isn't primarily concerned with taking care of white people. It's primarily concerned with stirring up any culture war outrage that will induce white people -- and non-white people, if possible -- to vote Republican so Republicans can continue winning elections and cutting taxes and regulations for rich people and giant corporations.

Very, very frequently, those culture war outrages have a racist component. But Republicans will use anything that works. They also like to make their voters hate advocates of gun control, whom they portray as either lily-livered, Prius-driving, soy-latte-swilling pajama boys or people of other gender identities who ally themselves with these half-men. Many of these demonized opponents of gun violence are white, but they're still the enemy to the GOP.

Stoehr moves on to abortion:
The Republicans are sacrificing the lives of children on the altar of whiteness while appearing oh-so-concerned about unborn children. But the pro-life movement doesn’t fear for all kids, just white ones.

Pro-life means pro-white.
Um ... I guess it is, although the GOP propaganda machine deploys people like Candace Owens to bewail the fact that Blacks can legally get abortions.


I know that this is meant to appeal to white people (See? Liberals are the real racists!), but Republicans also want to increase their share of the non-white vote (which they did in 2020).

And even if you buy Stoehr's notion that anger about abortion is anger about the loss of white babies -- rather than just another way to make GOP voters hate liberal Democrats, by painting them as depraved and evil -- why don't Republicans support any policies that actually help white people to raise children? Republicans supported aid to families during the first year of the pandemic when Donald Trump needed to dole out largesse in an election year, but they're very much opposed to such aid in general. They don't support paid family leave or universal health care. They support budgets that shift the tax burden from wealthy people to ordinary people, not the other way around. They talk a lot about "globalist" companies shippping jobs overseas, but they never want to punish them for doing so. They rail against undocumented immigrants, arguing that these workers hold down wages for native-born Americans, but they never crack down on the companies that hire these immigrants. You'd almost think they're lying when they refer to their party as the party of the working class.

I know that the obvious response to this is that Republicans don't want to support programs that benefit working-class whites because those programs will also aid Those People. But by definition, any such program will help more white people, simply because, in America, there are more white people. Other right-populist countries find ways to help the Volk -- in Hungary, for instance, some aid is expressly intended to improve the birthrate (though it's not working) -- but in America, when Republicans run the country, the message is "Let them eat the culture war." Republicans simply don't bother to aid their voters.

And just as Republicans tolerate the mass slaughter (of whites and others) that's the inevitable by-product of their gun culture, they also tolerate an approach to the COVID pandemic that now kills Republicans at a faster rate than Democrats -- and their voters are fine with that, because the ones who haven't died yet would rather be angry than safe.

Stoehr says that the Republican Party "has mainstreamed ‘the great replacement’" theory. He's right, but that doesn't mean the GOP actually wants to preserve the white race. It just wants to make enough people angry -- about increasing multiculturalism, but also about a hundred other alleged outrages -- to keep winning every election forever.

Wyze Cam Security Flaw Gave Hackers Access To Video; Went Unfixed For Almost Three Years

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: A major Wyze Cam security flaw easily allowed hackers to access stored video, and it went unfixed for almost three years after the company was alerted to it, says a new report today. Additionally, it appears that Wyze Cam v1 -- which went on sale back in 2017 -- will never be patched, so it will remain vulnerable for as long as it is used. Bleeping Computer reports: "A Wyze Cam internet camera vulnerability allows unauthenticated, remote access to videos and images stored on local memory cards and has remained unfixed for almost three years. The bug, which has not been assigned a CVE ID, allowed remote users to access the contents of the SD card in the camera via a webserver listening on port 80 without requiring authentication. Upon inserting an SD card on the Wyze Cam IoT, a symlink to it is automatically created in the www directory, which is served by the webserver but without any access restrictions." And as if that weren't bad enough, it gets worse. Many people re-use existing SD cards they have laying around, some of which still have private data on them, especially photos. The flaw gave access to all data on the card, not just files created by the camera. Finally, the AES encryption key is also stored on the card, potentially giving an attacker live access to the camera feed. Altogether, Bitdefender security researchers advised the company of three vulnerabilities. It took Wyze six months to fix one, 21 months to fix another, and just under two years to patch the SD card flaw. The v1 camera still hasn't been patched, and as the company announced last year that it has reached end-of-life status, so it appears it never will.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Boots On the Ground Fundraising: Promote the Vote 2022

Introducing our first political fundraising effort of 2022…

Boots On the Ground: Promote the Vote 2022

November is coming up fast!

Promote the Vote 2022 is a Michigan group working to make elections more fair, more secure, more convenient, and more accessible.  For everyone!

We already know from our Four Directions fundraising that we have a lot of connections to Michigan, and that became even more clear when BG put up a culture post related to Michigan.

Medium Cool with BGinCHI – Michigan!

We all know that Michigan is one of the key states in the 2022 election.  The threats in each key state are unique, and the response to those threats must be as well.

Promote the Vote is a Michigan-based coalition of organization and individuals fighting to protect the vote in that critical state.  Some of their early supporters include the ACLU, APIVote Michigan, League of Women Voters, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the NAACP, and Voters Not Politicians.

These organizations have a track-record of success.  In 2018, they worked together to pass one ballot initiative that provided equal access to absentee voting and Election Day registration and another ballot initiative that established Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Promote the Vote 2022 has carefully-drafted a new ballot initiative to amend the Michigan Constitution to ensure all voters in Michigan can make their voice heard and that their votes are counted.  They need enough signatures to qualify for the Ballot by July, and they need boots on the ground to promote the initiative in advance of the November election, assuming they get enough signatures to qualify.

If it passes, we can worry a lot less about election subversion in Michigan.  And the people in Michigan will have elections that are more fair, more secure, more convenient, and more accessible.  For everyone!

Here’s where we come in.

In keeping with our goal of supporting boots on the ground organizations – particularly those who direct their efforts to underserved communities – we want to raise $25,000 for an outreach project targeted toward underserved communities.

Promote the Vote 2022 will work with trusted messengers in key communities – across all the protected classes, including the Arab-American, LGBTQ, veteran, and disability communities – to recruit volunteers and hire fellows to gather signatures, and forge relationships going forward.

As they go door-to-door to gather signatures, they can also register people to vote if they aren’t registered already.  So that pays off directly in 2022, but we are looking further ahead than that.  After the signature-gathering step, we would like to keep those “fellows” on for the second step, which is working to get the ballot initiative passed in November 2022.

We talked about the possibility of “matching” funds, and once enough signatures have been collected to qualify, Promote the Vote 2022 will work to find matching funds for the second step of working toward getting the initiative passed.

The direct goal is, of course, more signatures.  But it is important that Promote the Vote 2022 continues to work with those critical communities that have been negatively affected by voter suppression across this country.  By engaging new and infrequent voters by way of this initiative, Promote the Vote 2022 will also foster greater civic participation in the midterms.  Plus, ballot initiatives across the country have historically served as a way to increase turnout during the mid-terms.  And the fellows and volunteers will continue their education efforts in critical communities after the initiative makes the ballot and through the election.

These people at Promote the Vote 2022 know what they’re doing.  They’ve already written and passed two constitutional amendments, and they know how to draft it to withstand challenge.  There’s a lot at stake; the time to act is now!

If successful, this Michigan effort can be a template for other states with a similar distribution of power and a mechanism for constitutional amendment by referendum.

For all those reasons, we think this can be not just win-win, but it has the potential to be win-win-win-win-win in the coming years.

Opportunities for Action, as well as Fundraising

They’ll be holding “days of action” and “weekends of action” for residents of Michigan and nearby states to help canvas in communities across Michigan (you don’t have to be a resident of Michigan to gather signatures – just registered to vote in your state).

Other opportunities for participation are enumerated on the Promote the Vote 2022 website.

To Learn More

We have scheduled two Balloon Juice events:

– Q & A post/thread with them for Monday 4/4 at 5:30 Eastern

– Zoom Q & A for Tuesday 4/5 at 7:00 Eastern.



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The post Boots On the Ground Fundraising: Promote the Vote 2022 appeared first on Balloon Juice.