SpaceX’s Rocket Caught Traveling At 8,221 Km/h During Second Launch In A Day!

SpaceX launched its second rocket late in the evening eastern time yesterday. The mission saw the Falcon 9 rocket launch the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites for the European connectivity firm SES S.A. The launch was SpaceX’s 19th mission of the year, and it took place a little over four hours after another Falcon 9 booster had launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Flordia with a batch of 51 Starlink satellites. However, unlike the Starlink mission, this placed the spacecraft in a higher orbit, with the satellite deployment occurring close to forty minutes post-launch.

SpaceX Launches 218th Mission To Date and Lands Falcon 9 For 180th Time

Yesterday’s SES launch was SpaceX’s ninth launch for SES, as it continued a historic partnership between the two companies. As SpaceX’s presenter, Kate Tice, pointed out during the launch live stream, SES was SpaceX’s first customer that entrusted the Falcon 9 with a precious commercial satellite that was launched to a synchronous orbit. It was also the first company to launch a satellite on a reused Falcon 9.

The Falcon 9 launched the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, as it lifted off right on time at 7:38 pm local time from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Since the launch took place in the evening, the background of the Falcon 9 rocket turned black as all of its nine Merlin 1D engines fired up for launch.

SpaceX’s latest launch for SES marked its ninth mission for the satellite firm. The new satellites launched today will cover the U.S. and provide users with fifth-generation (5G) internet connectivity. Out of these, the SES 18 is slated to start operations in June and replace an existing satellite in SES’s constellation.

SpaceX Falcon 9 SES launch March 2023

The other, SES 19, will be co-located with the SES 22 satellite launched at 135 degrees West meridian by SpaceX last year and was the firm’s previous launch for the European satellite company. In satellite communications, colocation refers to placing two satellites close together in orbit so that they appear as a single unit to the ground stations. Yesterday’s launch was the final SES launch to repurpose the C band spectrum in the U.S.

During the launch, as the rocket lifted off, on-ground cameras continued to track its flight. They captured the rocket traveling at whopping 8,221 kilometers per hour just as its main engines shut off and the first and second stages prepared to separate from each other. Then, both the stages were caught separating and racing away from each other at an altitude of more than 87 kilometers. Finally, some of the best visuals of the day came as the second stage’s fairings deployed.

These fairings, which measure 40 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter (when joined together), were visible as tiny dots in the sky alongside the first and the second stages. SpaceX used one of the halves for the third time and the other for the seventh time. The second stage landed close to the nine-minute mark, completing its sixth landing.

Resident Evil Village Builds on Resident Evil 4’s Legacy Better Than its Own Remake

The long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 4 finally launches next week, and there’s no denying it’s a technically-impressive update of a survival-horror classic that still holds up today (check out my review for Wccftech here). That said, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the scope and ambition of the remake. Capcom certainly treats RE4 respectfully, but they don’t reinvent and elevate the source material to the same degree they did with their remakes of Resident Evil or Resident Evil 2.

Another thing that colored my opinion of the new Resident Evil 4 is that Capcom is releasing it less than two years after Resident Evil Village, which itself was clearly meant to be an RE4 successor of sorts. The European backwater setting, the mobs of enemies, the heightened campy tone, the quest to rescue a damsel in distress – if Capcom had titled the game Resident Evil 4 Part 2 I doubt many would have batted an eye. In fact, in my opinion, Resident Evil Village carries on the legacy of the original Resident Evil 4 in more vital fashion than its own remake (I gave RE Village a 9, while the RE4 Remake got an 8.5). I realize I’m going out on a limb here and that not everyone will agree, but here’s why I thought Resident Evil Village was a more exciting Resident-Evil-4-style adventure than the actual RE4 Remake…

Warning: I’m avoiding Resident Evil 4 spoilers here, with the exception of some broad, general statements and descriptions. That said, this article will include Resident Evil Village spoilers.

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village plays better

Let’s start with the basics. While the Resident Evil 4 remake is largely the experience you remember, delivering over-the-shoulder shooting, dramatic spin kicks and more, the game actually has some issues on the control front. Aiming is a bit sluggish and movement can feel herky-jerky – Leon’s basic walking speed is very slow compared to his running speed, and there’s no middle ground between creeping around at a snail’s pace and charging around like a bull. While the controls aren’t bad, they do take some getting used to, and even quite late into the game I occasionally found myself frustrated by them.

By comparison, Resident Evil Village felt better in terms of basic playability to me. As is usually the case, its first-person shooting works better than the third-person gunplay found in RE4, and Village generally did a good job of designing its challenges around the perspective. Coming to terms with slightly wonky control schemes is a long RE tradition, but more than perhaps any previous game in the series, I felt like I could jump into Village and have fun without any undue learning curve.

Resident Evil Village

Village has better villains

Resident Evil 4 has a solid lineup of baddies, but they’re easily surpassed by Resident Evil Village’s wonderful rogues gallery of freaks. The stylish and intimidating (in a good way) Lady Dimitrescu, the ghostly Donna Beneviento, the rogue-ish wolfman Karl Heisenberg, and the grotesque swamp creature Salvatore Moreau – each a celebration of classic horror genres that could stand on their own as the main villain of a full RE game. Instead, Capcom gave us all of them at once, elevating Village to a Grand Guignol classic. The likes of Lord Saddler from RE4 pale in comparison (Ramon Salazar could stand with the best of Village’s weirdos though).

 Village has a better hero

This will likely be one of the more divisive points on this list. I know a lot of people like Leon Kennedy, but the guy is basically a block of wood with a nice haircut. What does Leon care about beyond not being eaten by zombies and “getting the job done”? After multiple games, we don’t really know! Meanwhile, even though he may not have face, we know what Ethan Winters cares about. He cares about his wife, he cares about his daughter. He’s got real human motivations beyond “the President told me to save you.” I actually care about what happened to Ethan. If Leon simply disappeared halfway through RE4 and was replaced by Chris Redfield or any one of Capcom’s other block-of-wood protagonists, I’d probably just roll with it.

Village is scarier

Okay, let’s be real, Resident Evil 4 may be a classic, but it ain’t scary. It’s tense at times, but that’s not really the same thing. Resident Evil Village goes in a lot of different directions during its campaign, but unlike RE4, it actually attempts real horror. Castle Dimitrescu delivers some gothic chills, but the real standout is House Beneviento, which serves up some of the thickest tension in Resident Evil history. I have nothing against the more action-y side of RE, but I prefer when the series doesn’t completely abandon scares.

Village is a celebration of the Resident Evil series as a whole

Continuing on from the last point, the fact that Resident Evil Village does go in so many different directions is what I like best about it. Some may accuse the game of being unfocused, but these directions weren’t chosen arbitrarily. Castle Dimitrescu is a celebration of classic Resident Evil, with its Metroidvania-style map, locked doors, and charmingly obtuse puzzles. House Beneviento is a return to the more intense, atmospheric horror of Resident Evil 7. Of course, the village hub and Heisenberg’s Factory are pure action RE. By comparison, Resident Evil 4 largely stays in its own singular lane, making only fleeting attempts to appeal to fans of different styles of RE games.

Resident Evil Village

Village carries on Resident Evil 4’s tradition of bold creativity

Arguably the key thing that really made Resident Evil 4 great was Capcom and director Shinji Mikami’s willingness to throw anything and everything at the wall. Seemingly, whatever wild set pieces the developers could dream up made it into the game, restraint be damned. Unfortunately, by its very nature, you don’t get that from the Resident Evil 4 remake. Capcom reimagines RE4’s iconic moments, but they don’t create a lot of new ones.

No, if you want a game that truly carries on the mad ethos of the original Resident Evil 4, you need to pick up Resident Evil Village. This is a game that, from moment to moment, will pit you against an 8-foot tall vampress and her sapphic brood, a haunted house full of evil dolls and a giant shrieking fetus, or a scrap metal monster you need to take down with a makeshift mech. If RE4 dialed it wildness up to 11, RE Village broke the knob clean off.

Village builds to the future

When you finish playing Resident Evil Village, you’re filled with anticipation about what might come next. This is the latest story in the Resident Evil mythos, one that wrap up the Ethan Winters arc, provides character development for the likes of Chris Redfield, and introduces a character who may well be the core of the next generation of RE heroes, Rose Winters (who stars in her own excellent RE Village DLC story campaign). By comparison, we know exactly where Resident Evil 4 leads – Resident Evil 5 and 6, two games that represent the nadir of the core RE continuity and almost certainly won’t be getting remakes.

Now if you haven’t jumped to the comments section to curse my name yet, I have to emphasize that I don’t think the Resident Evil 4 remake is a bad game. Again, I gave it an 8.5! But I think Capcom could have pushed harder with the new RE4. They could have made something truly surprising, something that felt groundbreaking all over again, even if it meant risking some fan backlash. As is, I feel like Resident Evil Village actually embodies the daring spirit of the RE4 better than the remake. But that’s just my opinion. Feel free to scroll on down and share yours.

Resident Evil Village can be played on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and Switch (via the cloud). Resident Evil 4 launches on PC, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 on March 24.

Putin Arrest Warrant Issued By International Criminal Court Over Alleged War Crimes

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another Russian official for the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children from Ukraine, amid an investigation by the organization and claims by global leaders—including the U.S.—that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Russian President Vladimir PutinSPUTNIK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

KEY FACTS

Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, are allegedly responsible for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children and the “unlawful transfer” of those children to Russia, according to the ICC.

The organization noted that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that both Putin and Lvova-Belova held responsibility for the war crimes “in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”

The New York Times reported earlier this week that the Hague-based court had opened war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with sources indicating that the organization would seek several other arrest warrants.

Though the court—working in cooperation with the United Nations—has issued arrest warrants, it relies on other countries to carry them out, which would require officials from another nation to detain Putin and Lvova-Belova for trial proceedings.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed comments by Vice President Kamala Harris last month by indicating the U.S. had determined Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, adding its findings “underlines [the] staggering extent of the human suffering inflicted by Moscow on the Ukrainian civilian population.”

CHIEF CRITIC

Following the New York Times report, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian government does not recognize the ICC and that it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction. The Russian Foreign Ministry previously suggested the court had failed to become an “independent and credible” body in 2016.

KEY BACKGROUND

Allegations that Russia has committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine over the last year have escalated in recent months. Harris, in an address to the Munich Security Council last month, said the Russian military had killed civilians during an attack on Mariupol and had carried out the mass deportations of Ukrainian children, among other claims. President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal” in April 2022 and called for him to go to trial. Other institutions, including the human rights organization Amnesty International, have also accused Russia of committing crimes against humanity.

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Culture’s Film of the Week: ‘Cocaine Bear’ vs ‘Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey’

It’s the battle of the bears – in cinemas now – ‘Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey’ vs ‘Cocaine Bear’ – FIGHT!   –  Copyright  Jagged Edge Productions – Universal Pictures

Two films released this month confirm the new cinematic dominance of the ursine: Cocaine Bear and Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey.

These aren’t your cuddly creatures symbolizing warmth, friendship or family. Gone are Baloo, Yogi and Paddington; 2023’s vintage are killer bears, out for guts in the same way Annihilation ’s mutant bear and The Revenant ’s pissed off mama bear were out to gouge. If only this year’s mammals measured up to these two, because spoiler alert: both Cocaine Bear and Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey are un-bear-able.

Cheap gag, but considering the level of Elizabeth Banks and Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s films, remorse is the last thing I feel. I had to sit through them.

It’s a real shame, as there’s something uniquely exciting and invigorating about going to see some self-conscious B-grade schlock. Not all films have to be awards-worthy or even that good – some just need to be delightfully camp and knowingly debased Friday night trash. These films can be a joy.

However, these two are just hot trash.

Let’s start with the one with the itchy nose.

Universal Pictures
The bear doesn’t just sh*t in the woods – he’s sh*t in the woodsUniversal Pictures

The year is 1985. A drug smuggler dumps 40 containers of Columbia’s finest from a crashing plane above Chattahoochee National Forest. This prompts an American black bear to ingest the copious amounts of Class A narcotics and go on a rampage.

What’s not to absolutely adore about this pitch? It’s Pablo Escobear vs the world! Plus, it’s based on a real-life incident which saw a 175-pound bear ingest 40 plastic containers of cocaine. (Spoiler: the poor thing died and did not go on a coke-fuelled murder spree.)

However, Elizabeth Banks and screenwriter Jimmy Warden have utterly messed it up and have curled out something that’s not scary, satirical or – heaven forfend – funny. They’ve somehow managed the impossible, considering the promisingly nuts elevator pitch: make Cocaine Bear a crushing bore. Instead of focusing on the bear, they’ve elected to dedicate a lunatic amount of its scant runtime (a taut 95-minutes) to an inane gallery of bland characters – two criminals (Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr.) sent by a trafficker (Ray Liotta, in his final role); two cops (Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Ayoola Smart); a single mum (Keri Russell) searching for her child and friend (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery) who have ditched school to stroll in the woods; a park ranger (Margo Martindale); and loads of others who I can’t even be bothered to namecheck at this point, because the movie is supposed to be “Bear Trips Balls On Nose Candy” – not “Sub-Coen Brothers Parodies Spout Sub-Tarantino Banter In The Woods”!

At no point does it matter that the bear is clearly a CG creation or that the gore is too short-lived. But the failure to embrace an unabashedly outrageous premise and not deliver some bonkers thrills is a crime against B-movies.

What the pitch “What if a bear did cocaine?” needed a sure grasp when it came to getting the tonal shifts from comic to gory right. No one needed it to be good – just not tame or unfunny. At the end of the day, this feels like a movie shamelessly designed to draw in audience members on the promise of being part of an internet-based cultural conversation about that film, only for the one decent joke to be: they made a film called Cocaine Bear. Never since the aforementioned Snakes on a Plane has a film failed to live up to its gonzo title so badly.

Or its poster.

Or its promising trailer.

And before you ask, no – it’s not so-bad-it’s-good and still worth a gander while intoxicated. Stay in school, kids.

Cocaine Bear | Official Trailer [HD]

Onto the other ursine… 

This one hasn’t been railing lines but has gone down the slasher route.

Universal Pictures
The bear doesn’t just sh*t in the woods – he’s sh*t in the woodsUniversal Pictures

When it was announced, I was initially excited at the thought of Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey. An anthropomorphic Winnie and Piglet go full Michael Myers in the woods after their friend Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) grows up and abandons them in the Hundred Acre Wood? Yes please. 

Not that I was expecting it to be any good – just cheap subversive fun.

After all, the copyright on A.A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh has expired, so why not stick it to Disney (who control much of the IP) and make a cheap, borderline punk horror movie? Now that’s subversion!

Sadly, this is a painfully generic wasted opportunity, the sort of incompetently made horror film which – like Cocaine Bear – commits the cardinal sin of wasting a damn fine premise and being no fun. It ticks off just about every horror trope going and does none of them justice; the rules aren’t kept to; Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s staggeringly inept script makes Tommy Wiseau seem misunderstood; and the unimaginative kills genuinely made me nod off at one point.

Again, like Cocaine Bear, this one is just a cynical headline-grabber because the slasher concept is so far removed from the wholesome original creation. Nothing more. The only thing going for it is a scene in which Winnie karate-chops one of his victim’s hands off. That was cool. But not enough to redeem this bear-minimum drivel that you can file under: ‘Oh (don’t) bother.’

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey Trailer

As you’ve probably guessed from my shorter review of this film, Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood & Honey is significantly worse than Cocaine Bear. If you feel compelled to watch one of the two, you’ll be less disappointed by the cocaine huffing ursine. 

But please don’t. 

Life is short, both are jokes without punchlines, and neither film comes close to heralding the return of camp horror to the screens.

Worse, giving these films any cash influx will give both Banks and Frake-Waterfield dipsh*t hopes for sequels. The latter has already expressed an interest in starting a fairy tale horror franchise, while the former has already spoken about how a Cocaine Bear follow-up could work.

Crush these dreams by staying out of the woods, safe in the knowledge that bears are not this year’s donkeys.

FIFA 25 Will Be The “Best EGame For Any Girl Or Boy”, Says FIFA President

We’re not sure what an “egame” is, and at this point we’re too afraid to ask.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised the next FIFA “egame” will be “the best,” leaving us all very confused as to what an “egame” is. At least it’ll be the best, possibly because it’ll be the only one.

The quote comes courtesy of Times reporter Martyn Ziegler (via Games Radar), who transcribed part of Infantino’s speech earlier today.

“The new FIFA game – the FIFA 25, 26, 27 and so on – will always be the best egame for any girl or boy, we will have news on this very soon,” said Infantino, mirroring statements he made last year after EA announced its plans to rebrand the longstanding FIFA game series as EA Sports FC.

After 28 years, FIFA and EA’s partnership collapsed last year after FIFA reportedly demanded $1 billion to extend its license. Balking at the billion-dollar price tag, EA instead dropped the FIFA branding and announced EA Sports FC, signing individual license agreements with smaller football leagues such as the UK’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Series A, and the MLS.

EA Sports FC is expected to get its first title sometime this year in place of FIFA 24. FIFA has yet to announce a new studio partnership, but given Infantino’s comments today, it seems the football league won’t have a new game ready until 2025 at the earliest.

As for the whole “egame” thing, we can only assume he meant to say “esports”, but really, who knows? This is the same guy who said “today I feel like a migrant worker” and “gay” when he responded to criticism of hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a country accused of numerous human rights abuses. He also made a bizarre comparison to Rwanda’s recovery from genocidal wars when he was re-elected to the FIFA presidency earlier this week.

Russia’s war in Ukraine

US believes Russia has recovered some small pieces of debris from downed drone, US official says

From CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann

The US believes Russia has recovered some debris in the Black Sea from the downed US surveillance drone, a US official familiar with the matter told CNN. The official described the recovered wreckage as pieces of fiberglass or small bits of the MQ-9 Reaper drone. 

CNN reported on Wednesday that Russia had reached the location where the US surveillance drone went down in the Black Sea, approximately 70-80 miles southwest of Crimea.

But the Biden administration downplayed the significance of the drone wreckage or the potential to glean any sensitive intelligence from the remains of the aircraft. 

“We made it impossible for them to be able to glean anything of intelligence value off the remnants of that drone, whatever remnants there might be on the surface of the water,” John Kirby, the National Security Council strategic communications coordinator, told CNN on Wednesday. 

After the collision between the US drone and the Russian fighter jets early Tuesday morning, the drone operators took steps to erase the sensitive software of the drone before it fell into the Black Sea, according to US officials.

“Whatever’s left … that’s floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing. Probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of terms of reengineering or anything like that,” Kirby said.

The drone landed in water that may be nearly a mile deep, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

“That’s US property and, and we’ll, we’ll leave it that at this point, but it probably broke up. There’s probably not a lot to recover, frankly,” he said.

She’s a pro soccer player and a pro esports athlete: Meet RB Leipzig’s Lena Güldenpfennig

There is a young German forward, playing in the Bundesliga, who scores hundreds of goals every week.

Before Bayern Munich begins preparing the paperwork for a bid, there is a small disclaimer – many of these goals are scored in the virtual arena of EA Sports’ FIFA video game series.

But such a caveat doesn’t make the daily balancing act of 20-year-old Lena Güldenpfennig, a striker for RB Leipzig by day and professional player for the club’s esports team RBLZ Gaming by night, any less impressive.

It’s a multitasking marvel made all the more remarkable by the fact that Güldenpfennig spends the first six hours of the day in school as part of her training to become a kindergarten teacher.

“This is just my daily routine,” Güldenpfennig explains.

“I have it every day and I enjoy it very much. I like doing all of this, which is why it works. If it’s fun, then you enjoy doing it, without stress.”

Lena Güldenpfennig plays for RB Leipzig's U23 women's side, but also plays professional esports with Leipzig's RBLZ Gaming.

Lena Güldenpfennig plays for RB Leipzig’s U23 women’s side, but also plays professional esports with Leipzig’s RBLZ Gaming.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

Having joined RB Leipzig’s footballing academy as a youngster, Güldenpfennig’s excellence on the virtual pitch was cultivated during her years at boarding school.

As is the case for many, her passion for gaming was forged by the desire to beat her friends – perhaps it was inevitable that, given her other life as a pro footballer, she was destined to take her competitiveness to the highest level.

READ: Arsenal’s virtual Thierry Henry on the inaugural ePremier League

When European football came to a standstill early last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, many footballers put up their feet and picked up their controllers to scratch their competitive itch, but Güldenpfennig had loftier aims.

Having had “a little” more time to spend with the game – last year’s edition of FIFA 21 – she entered a German Football Association (DFB) online tournament.

She ended up winning and her performance did not go unnoticed. The following day, she was contacted by RBLZ Gaming, who offered her a chance to join their team.

Güldenpfennig started to play more of FIFA the game during lockdown, eventually entering a DFB tournament and winning, catching the attention of RBLZ Gaming.

Güldenpfennig started to play more of FIFA the game during lockdown, eventually entering a DFB tournament and winning, catching the attention of RBLZ Gaming.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

Pioneer

One year on and she is already a history maker. In March, she became the first ever woman to play in the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL) – a league contested by esports sides representing 26 real life clubs across Germany’s top two divisions.

Playing two doubles matches in the South-East division of the club championship against TSG Hoffenheim and FC Nürnberg, Güldenpfenning fired home the first two goals of her VBL career, including a sweetly struck volley.

The goal itself was as impressive as it was poignant – a goal scored by a woman in professional FIFA esports remains a collectors item in a male-dominated landscape.

Güldenpfennig posing with a RBLZ Gaming banner with her name.

Güldenpfennig posing with a RBLZ Gaming banner with her name.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

A look at the VBL’s current squad rosters paints a pretty bleak picture as regards gender diversity. Of the 107 listed players across all 26 squads, just two women feature – Lena and Anna Klink of Bayer Leverkusen.

At the last FIFA eWorld Cup in 2019 – held at the O2 Arena in London with a $500,000 prize pot – all 32 finalists were male. Not that Güldenpfennig is deterred.

“I want to encourage women that more women have the courage to simply show, ‘Here, I can do this too,’” Güldenpfennig said.

“I would just advise them they shouldn’t hide and definitely don’t be afraid of the boys and men.

“I want to continue to show here, I have been the first woman – you can do this too.”

Güldenpfennig practicing some moves on the pitch with some of her RBLZ Gaming teammates.

Güldenpfennig practicing some moves on the pitch with some of her RBLZ Gaming teammates.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

Alongside a lack of representation, sexist abuse, be it via game chat or social media, has often made online gaming a toxic environment for women.

“There is the occasional message, which appears in my Instagram inbox,” Güldenpfennig admitted.

“But I didn’t take these to heart and no woman in esports should take these to heart either”.

‘FIFA is more stressful’

With her real-life football season underway and FIFA’s latest edition in the series – FIFA 22 – released last month, Güldenpfennig is firing on all cylinders. She has just under a month to get accustomed to the new game before the 2021-22 VBL season gets underway on November 10.

Though while many footballers turn to the virtual replica of their sport to wind down, Güldenpfennig actually finds the video game version more mentally taxing than the real thing.

“In fact, FIFA is more stressful,” Güldenpfennig said, a revelation that will strike a chord with those who annually sacrifice broken controllers to the notorious frustrations of competitive video games.

“You don’t think of it, but you have to be really present each second. If you switch off once, then this can lead to serious mistakes.

“What always annoys me is losing or conceding goals. There, I still switch off a little. Another annoying thing is goal cheering or time wasting – you shouldn’t do that, you don’t have to do that.”

Güldenpfennig thinks that esports is more mentally stressful than real life football.

Güldenpfennig thinks that esports is more mentally stressful than real life football.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

Fortunately, Güldenpfennig’s unique advantage – being able to call upon a lifetime of professional football insight – puts her in the best possible position to dribble around such frustrations.

“There’s a lot you can transfer into real-life football,” Güldenpfennig said.

“In terms of tactics, in terms of pressing situations – you can transfer the overview from FIFA into real-life football and the other way around too, so both are reflected in each other a little bit.”

It’s in the game

FIFA’s flagship mode – Ultimate Team – sees players work to build and compete with their own dream team of footballers past and present. Colloquially referred to as ‘cards’ – as per their trading card style design – in-game footballers can be bought and sold on an open market.

It’s no secret that pro footballers pay close attention to their in-game avatars. A nine-year-old tweet from Roma striker Tammy Abraham that recently resurfaced – “while your [sic] at home playing [FIFA] 12 I’m working hard to be featuring in FIFA 16” – wonderfully encapsulated this connection.

Güldenpfennig is no different, though given that only a limited number of real-life women’s players from a select set of national teams are in FIFA 22, she awaits the chance to truly bring her double life full-circle.

“It would be cool if I had my own card,” she laughs, “I think that’s a little dream that each FIFA player has. I don’t know if others would play me then!”

Based on Güldenpfennig’s answer to the question of her own statistics, her self-depreciation would likely be misplaced.

Güldenpfennig with her fellow RBLZ Gaming teammates.

Güldenpfennig with her fellow RBLZ Gaming teammates.Carsten Beier / Red Bull

Pace has long reigned supreme in FIFA – Kylian Mbappé, the fastest player in this year’s edition, is currently the most expensive player on Ultimate Team – and Güldenpfennig’s description of her potential avatar puts her in a similar bracket.

“I would give myself the highest [score] in shooting and in the techniques – so in dribbling and passing,” she said.

“Defending is not really my thing – I shoot the goals and prepare them. So the worst would really be physical and defending. But the rest – pace and shooting – would be okay.”

But whether its on the pitch or on the screen, it’s safe to say Güldenpfennig will still be excelling.

Vinícius Jr. is being racially abused during La Liga matches. Why is nobody being punished?

Vinícius Jr scored the goal that secured Real Madrid’s 14th European Cup last May, and this season his brilliance has continued to light up the team’s Champions League campaign.

The supremely talented 22-year-old – widely considered one of the world’s best players – has six goals in seven matches in Europe and another eighth in La Liga, but he has also become a repeated victim of “hate crimes” in Spain, according to a players’ union.

Ahead of the derby against Atlético Madrid in January, an effigy of Vinícius was hanged from a bridge in Madrid, while racist slurs have been caught on camera during Real’s matches at Osasuna, Mallorca, Real Valladolid and Atlético.

As of yet, there have been no punishments handed down by Spain’s leading football authority – the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – or any local prosecutors, but investigations into some cases are still ongoing.

Unlike in England, where the Premier League and English Football Association (FA) can punish clubs or fans for incidents of racist abuse, LaLiga – Spain’s top football division – tells CNN Sport that it does not have this authority.

Instead, LaLiga can only pass on any incidents of abuse to RFEF committees or regional prosecutors, who deal with them as legal cases before sporting punishments are handed out.

LaLiga says it gives out the ‘Fan’s Handbook,’ written in collaboration with the Club Supporters’ Federation, in stadiums before each season starts, highlighting which highlights practices that should “represent the values” of football.

It also sends a ‘Player’s Handbook’ to every player before the start of the season, encouraging them to be respectful and to report any racist or violent behavior they witness.

In a statement sent to CNN, the Spanish Players’ Union (AFE) – which helps to support victims of racist abuse in LaLiga – explains that Spain’s penal code considers these incidents to be hate crimes and punishable by law.

“So it is the State, the Justice and the Security Forces [police and Civil Guard] who must investigate and act immediately in the face of this type of event,” the AFE said. “Then, within the sports field, there is a disciplinary code that also contemplates possible sanctions for this type of conduct. We want to insist that what happened with Vinícius is a hate crime, which is criminally prosecuted.”

However, following an investigation into racist chants of “You are a monkey, Vinícius you are a monkey,” aimed at the Brazilian before and during Real’s match against Atlético on September 18, 2022, LaLiga told CNN that the local Madrid prosecutor didn’t pursue the case because the yells were within the context of other “unpleasant and disrespectful” chants during a “football match of maximum rivalry.”

Piara Powar, the executive director of the Fare Network, an organization set up to combat discrimination across European football, says football leagues and authorities in Spain are “washing their hands” of these incidents.

Then, either through disinterest or a lack of understanding of football and the gravity of these incidents, local prosecutors are not adequately dealing with the investigations, Powar says.

“In Spain, this structure has been allowed to develop over the years and it hasn’t been challenged,” he says. “You often have an individual judge, who is linked to a local authority or a regional authority, who then sits as a quasi-judicial figure instead of a disciplinary committee or regulatory commission, which is what happens in other countries.

“Often, the individuals taking them are then completely disconnected from football and completely disconnected from the implications of their decisions, and often apply a mixed standard of evidence to them based partly on a criminal standard and partly on a civil standard – and the two standards are very different.

“So you have these cases that are being constantly dismissed and when they are passing the judgment on them, the sanction is usually a minor fine that has no impact at all.”

Powar says the way football and legal authorities in Spain deal with incidents of racist abuse at matches has led to the “system falling apart” in the country.

“It’s not effective, it has never been effective and some people treat it as a joke, but nobody relies on it as a reliable intervention that’s going to create a change,” he adds.

“I think you genuinely have an FA [RFEF], who either through disinterest or just through not understanding what they need to do, who are not doing anything themselves.

“We now need to move to a centralized template to assist the way UEFA is looking at how FAs are conducting the disciplinary regulations, how they’re enforcing them and making sure that the processes are fit for purpose.”

CNN has contacted the RFEF for comment but is yet to receive a response.

‘Racist campaign against Vinícius’

Incidents of players being racially abused by fans have tarred numerous LaLiga matches this season.

In total, LaLiga detailed to CNN Sport – at the time of publication – 12 separate cases of racist abuse to Black footballers dating back to January 2020 that it has passed on to local authorities.

Instances of racist abuse directed at Vinícius make up eight of these cases and four – including three involving the Real star and one involving Nico Williams – have been archived without a punishment being handed out.

In addition to the local Madrid prosecutor choosing not to issue any punishments because they only “lasted for a few seconds,” other reasons from regional prosecutors for not trying cases include “could not identify the perpetrators,” “does not seem to be” covered by the penal code and “do not cross the line for a penal breach,” LaLiga said.

Most cases of racist abuse LaLiga has referred to local prosecutors have involved Vinícius.

Most cases of racist abuse LaLiga has referred to local prosecutors have involved Vinícius.Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

When asked to explain how it failed to identify the fans who racially abused Vinícius at FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium on October 24, 2021, the Barcelona prosecutor said they are not able to reveal details as the investigation is private.

“What is clear is that they analyzed all the evidence they had and did not identify, in this case, any perpetrator,” they told CNN in a statement.

“In other cases, the investigation has been successful, such as the racist insults to Iñaki Williams [in January 2020] where the prosecution, after the investigation was carried out, filed a complaint and described it as a hate crime. It is currently awaiting a trial date.”

Powar says for a football regulatory case to take three years, “particularly a very simple one,” proves how “the system is failing in Spain.”

“These hearings should be heard by a committee of the FA, independently appointed, and they should be heard within days, if not weeks,” he adds.

“That is how this system should operate and then the sanction that results is implemented during the season, very quickly and the principles of natural justice are respected, but as it is, the victims are being failed.”

The painstakingly slow process in Spain appears all the more convoluted when compared to a recent case in England, in which a local court handed down a three-year ban to a fan just three months after he had shouted a racist slur at Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling.

Esteban Ibarra, the president of the Movement Against Intolerance, a Spanish organization that aims to educate on discrimination and track incidents of racist abuse in football, called the archiving of the Vinícius case at the Camp Nou by local authorities “inconceivable.”

“We flatly deny that Spain is a racist country, but we affirm that there are numerous racist behaviors in our country,” Ibarra added in a statement on the organization’s website.

“We maintain that there are plenty of racist incidents, which have not been stopped when there is relevant legislation and sufficient law, policing and institutional capacity to put an end to this ignominious behavior.

“The racist campaign against Vinícius began a long time ago.”

Racist chants by Atletico Madrid fans were caught on camera ahead of the Madrid derby against Real.

Racist chants by Atletico Madrid fans were caught on camera ahead of the Madrid derby against Real.David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

The Spanish Penal Code says racist acts – relating to ethnicity, race or national origin – that “harm the dignity of people” through “contempt” or “humiliation” can carry a punishment of six months to two years in prison.

Spain reports its hate crimes to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), whose records show there were 1,802 hate crimes recorded by police in 2021 – the most recent data available – with 192 cases leading to prosecutions and 91 to sentences.

Compare that to England and Wales, where there were 155,841 hate crimes recorded by the police in the year ending March 2022, a 26% increase on the previous year.

Another case is that has been “provisionally archived” is that of Vinícius at Mallorca on March 14, 2022, in which the Mallorca prosecutor says it was unable to identify the perpetrator.

“In the event that new elements of investigation arise, those proceedings could be reopened in order to be able to make the appropriate decision on their criminal consideration or not,” he told CNN in a statement.

The prosecutor explains that while cases of racist abuse are “absolutely rejectable” and “typical of profane and despicable attitudes,” under Spanish law incidents “do not always inevitably entail a criminal response.”

However, the prosecutor pointed to two cases in 2023 – another involving Vinícius and one involving Villarreal’s Samu Chukwueze – in which they have successfully identified the offender and are currently in the “judicial investigation phase.”

“When this phase is completed, the existing incriminating elements will be evaluated and the existence or not of a possible crime of discrimination will be specified,” they said.

Last month, the National Sports Council of Spain proposed a €4,000 fine and a 12-month ban from entering football stadiums for the Mallorca fan identified for abusing Vinicius at the match on February 5 this year, but the punishment is yet to be handed out.

CNN has reached out to the Mallorca prosecutor regarding the proposed fine but hasn’t received a response.

CNN has also reached out to the regional prosecutors that handled the other archived cases in Madrid and Seville for comment but is yet to hear back.

The local prosecutor in Mallorca said it is investigating a number of cases of racist abuse at matches.

The local prosecutor in Mallorca said it is investigating a number of cases of racist abuse at matches.David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

“We understand that these types of events must be prosecuted and condemned,” the AFE said.

“We are in favor of penalizing this behavior. Society in general reproaches this type of behavior. The culprits must be found, brought to trial and sentenced.”

Individual clubs can take action against any supporters they believe to be guilty of directing abuse towards players, but these instances are rare.

This season, only Valladolid has taken such action, suspending the season tickets of a dozen members it identified with the help of the police.

In a statement, Valladolid said the events that occurred were “typified as racist and intolerant,” but the club still insisted that it “does not consider its fans to be racist.”

Vinícius has used his platform numerous times this season to call for more action to be taken by authorities, but his pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears.

“‘As long as skin color is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war.’” I have this sentence tattooed on my body,” Vinicius Jr posted on Instagram earlier this season in response to what he described as racist criticism from a TV pundit.

“You can’t even imagine. I was a victim of xenophobia and racism in a single statement. But none of this started yesterday.

“The script always ends with an apology and an ‘I’ve been misunderstood,’” he said. “But I’ll repeat it for you, racist[s]: I will not stop dancing. Whether it’s in the Sambadrome, in the Bernabéu or wherever.”

Media storm

Powar says he has noticed a theme in the Spanish media that intends to apportion part of the blame for the racist abuse to Vinicius himself, which often insinuates that the Brazilian “brings it upon himself” with the way he plays or celebrates goals.

Last September, Pedro Bravo – a leading agent and president of the Association of Spanish Agents – compared Vinícius to a monkey on a football program.

The Spanish media has impacted the narrative around the abuse directed at Vinícius, Powar says.

The Spanish media has impacted the narrative around the abuse directed at Vinícius, Powar says.Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

And earlier this month, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left dumbfounded when a reporter asked him if he thought Vinícius’ “provocative behavior” on the pitch had led to the racist abuse.

Still only 22, Vinícius has quickly developed into one of the world’s most talented players.

Known for his dazzling skill and flair, Vinícius’ dancing goal celebrations have also become famous in Spain and in his native Brazil.

It was after another one of these celebrations that Bravo said Vinícius should “stop playing the monkey.” In response, the Madrid superstar insisted he was “not going to stop” celebrating his goals with dancing.

“Part of the discourse – and I’ve seen that in editorials in Spanish newspapers in the last months – is that people say what’s happening is wrong, but he also has to carry some of the blame,” Powar says.

“That has fed itself and Vinícius is now getting racially abused very explicitly at every match.”

The AFE says racism should be viewed as a societal issue in Spain, rather than one that just concerns football, and last month held a meeting with the Movement Against Intolerance to begin forming a plan on how to tackle racist abuse at matches moving forward.

In a mission statement, the two organizations said they will begin working together on campaigns and training to educate and raise awareness about the “scourge” of racism in football.

Additionally, they will also appear jointly in criminal cases against incidents of racist abuse and report incidents that they believe should be investigated to the Hate Crimes Prosecutor.

Given the convoluted nature of the process in Spain and a system “riddled with a sense of issues being kicked into touch,” Powar says, it seems – for now at least – players will be left waiting for some time to receive justice. If it ever arrives.

GCHQ spy chiefs warn Microsoft’s ChatGPT and other AI chatbots pose a security risk – as City law firm bans workers from using it in case client data is leaked

Spy organisation GCHQ says Artificial Intelligence powered chatbots like ChatGPT are emerging security threats.

In a blog post yesterday the National Cyber Security Centre says companies operating the technology – like Microsoft and Google – are able to read questions typed into the chatbots.

The centre admits that with any emerging technology, there is always concern around how secure it is.

And it advises users not to include sensitive information in queries or anything that could lead to issues if everyone saw them.

The blog points out: ‘The query be visible to the organisation providing the LLM (so in the case of ChatGPT, to OpenAI).

‘Those queries are stored and will almost certainly be used for developing the LLM service or model at some point.

‘This could mean that the LLM provider (or its partners/contractors) are able to read queries, and may incorporate them in some way into future versions. As such, the terms of use and privacy policy need to be thoroughly understood before asking sensitive questions.’

The Telegraph reports City firm Mishcon de Reya has banned its lawyers from typing client data into ChatGPT over security fears, as has Accenture.

It was revealed on Monday that ChatGPT will soon be able to do much more than send human-like text messages.

In September, rival tech giant Meta unveiled its own AI system that generates videos from text prompts
'Make-A-Video' was trained on images with captions to help it learn about the world and how it is described, and unlabeled videos to determine how the world moves

In September, rival tech giant Meta unveiled its own AI system that generates videos from text prompts. ‘Make-A-Video’ was trained on images with captions to help it learn about the world and how it is described, and unlabeled videos to determine how the world moves

A Microsoft executive has revealed that the next version – set to be released this week – will be able to turn text prompts into unique videos.

The tech giant has invested heavily in ChatGPT, and has already unveiled a host of new products which incorporate it as an AI assistant, like search engine Bing.

But this updated version, dubbed GPT-4 and tipped to launch on Thursday, will have ‘multimodal models’, according to Microsoft Germany CTO Andreas Braun.

This means that it will be able to generate content in multiple formats, like audio clips, images and video clips, from a text prompt.

ChatGPT is a large language model that has been trained on a massive amount of text data, allowing it to generate human-like text responses to a given prompt.

Russian jet collides with US drone over Black Sea

A Russian fighter jet has collided with a US drone, causing the unmanned US aircraft to crash into the Black Sea, the American military says.

Reaper drones are full-size aircraft designed for high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance

It says the drone was on a routine mission in international airspace when two Russian jets tried to intercept it.

The US European Command said the crash on Tuesday was the result of an “unprofessional act by the Russians”.

US and allied forces will continue to operate in the area, it added. There is no word on the incident from Russia.

“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” the US statement said.

Several times before the collision the Su-27 fighter jets dumped fuel on the drone in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner”.

MQ-9 Reaper drones are large unmanned aircraft with a 20m (66ft) wingspan designed for high-altitude surveillance.

Shashank Joshi, defence editor for the Economist magazine, said the Russians may have been trying to intimidate the drone as it was hoovering up their communications.

White House spokesman John Kirby said Russian intercepts of US aircraft were not uncommon over the Black Sea, but it was the first time that one had resulted in a crash.

Tensions have risen in the region ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine the US and the UK have stepped up reconnaissance and surveillance flights, though always operating in international airspace.