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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.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.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.”
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.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.
Digital traces including social posts and search queries like “How many tank squadrons?” capture a population’s struggle to survive war.
PEOPLE TYPE THEIR most private fears and immediate needs into Google’s search box. For Ukrainians battered by more than a year of war, what they dread and desire at least as indicated by their searches has not changed much since the conflict began.
An “incredibly mysterious” gold Bronze Age penannular ring has been unearthed by a metal detectorist.
The tiny ring was discovered in September 2022.
The 14.5mm (0.5in) ring, which was found in north Norfolk, was made more than 3,000 years ago.
Finds liaison officer Helen Geake said an “amazing amount of workmanship” went into creating the ring, which is gold-plated over a metal core.
Norfolk Coroner’s Court has opened an inquest into the find and Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire it.
About 12 gold penannular rings have been found in the county since the Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up in 1997.
Dr Geake said they were “incredibly mysterious” and their exact use was not clear.
If they were created to decorate an ear or nose, it was not clear how they were attached, she added.
“All we know is having a lot of gold was important to Bronze Age people and they made the most of the tiniest bits, from sources such as natural gold nuggets,” she said.
A penannular ring is a ring with a small part of its circumference missing.
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Dr Geake said the Bronze Age produced the first people to work in metal and “we’ve got strong indication that the people who could do this were seen as almost wizards, as they could take something solid and use fire to change its nature”.
An “amazing amount of workmanship” was required to create the small ring, she said, adding: “First they had to find the gold, cast a bronze core and then put on the gold so flush and beautifully that it looks like solid gold.
“So if you could do this you could be very powerful – or useful to those in power.”
A mysterious exoplanet just 138 light-years from Earth could be in the process of transforming.
An analysis of an exoplanet named HD-207496b reveals that the world, clocking in at 6.1 and 2.25 times the mass and radius of Earth, respectively, either has a gaseous atmosphere, a global ocean, or a mixture of both – and it could be shrinking down to become a super-Earth.
This could help astronomers resolve a mystery in exoplanet detections, a gap between the masses of rocky planets bigger than Earth and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune. But it will take a closer look at the enigmatic exoplanet to characterize its atmosphere.
It’s a diverse galaxy out there, with many very different exoplanets. Astronomers have discovered and confirmed around 5,300 worlds outside the Solar System at the time of this writing, with nearly twice that many unconfirmed candidates.
With this information, scientists can conduct statistical analyses to figure out trends in planetary systems. And one interesting thing we’ve learned is that there is a glaring scarcity of exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the mass of Earth with orbits shorter than around 100 days.
This is known as the small planet radius valley. Below it, we generally find rocky worlds like Earth, Venus, and Mars; we call them super-Earths.
Above it, we find worlds with thick atmospheres, like miniature Neptunes, and we call them mini-Neptunes.
The reasons for the valley aren’t entirely clear, but a growing body of evidence is beginning to suggest that close proximity to the host star has something to do with it. It’s possible that below a certain critical threshold, an exoplanet just doesn’t have enough mass to keep a gravitational grip on its atmosphere (the gas is evaporated by the star’s radiation).
We’ve detected a few worlds that contain clues about this process, and scientists are looking for more, using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile, following up on candidates identified by NASA’s space-based exoplanet-hunting telescope TESS.
This is what brought an international team led by astrophysicist Susana Barros of the University of Porto in Portugal to HD-207496b.
TESS looks for exoplanets by staring at a patch of sky, its sensitive instruments tuned to the very faint dips in starlight that could be evidence of an orbiting exoplanet passing, or transiting, between us and the star.
If these transits occur with regularity, astronomers can easily infer the presence of an orbiting body and determine its period.
If the star’s brightness is known, the depth of the transit dips – how much starlight is blocked – allows astronomers to calculate the radius of the orbiting body.
HARPS detects another metric. As an exoplanet orbits with a star, it exerts a gravitational pull of its own. The exoplanet doesn’t, technically, orbit the star; rather, the two bodies orbit a mutual center of mass, known as the barycenter. Because stars are so much more massive than their worlds, they don’t move much, instead just wiggling about on the spot minutely.
This is what HARPS can measure. As the star wiggles towards and away from us, the wavelength of its light changes, compressing when the star moves closer and stretching as the star moves away. How much the star moves depends on the exoplanet’s mass, so astronomers can calculate that, too.
Once you know the mass and radius of an exoplanet, you can put them together to calculate its density. This is where it gets really interesting because density can be used to infer what the exoplanet is made of.
When TESS picked up an exoplanet close to the radius valley, with a radius 2.25 times that of Earth and an orbit of 6.44 days with an orange dwarf star named HD-207496, they took to HARPS for a closer look. The HARPS data revealed that HD-207496b has a mass about 6.1 times that of Earth.
That means the exoplanet’s density is around 3.27 grams per cubic centimeter. That’s considerably less dense than Earth’s 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter and implies that the composition of HD-207496b is not entirely rocky. So the researchers performed modeling to see what the world is made of.
“We find that HD-207496b has a density lower than Earth, and hence we expect that it has a significant amount of water and/or gas in its composition,” the researchers write in their paper. “From internal structure modeling of the planet, we conclude that the planet has either a water-rich envelope, a gas-rich envelope, or a mixture of both.”
Evaporation modeling reveals that if the exoplanet has a gas-rich atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, that state is temporary: The star will strip the exoplanet completely within 520 million years. It’s also possible that the atmosphere has already gone, and HD-207496b is already a bare ocean world.
“In general,” the researchers write, “we expect that the planet would have both water and a H/He envelope and be in between both these models.”
The star, HD-207496, is relatively young, around 520 million years old. That means it represents a rare opportunity to study the youth of one of these exoplanets before transformation to a bare super-Earth, if that is indeed in store for HD-207496b.
Follow-up studies to characterize the atmosphere, if there is one, should reveal the true nature – and ultimate fate – of this mysterious world.
The research has been accepted in Astronomy & Astrophysics and is available on arXiv.
It’s a bit late (due October 31st, 2022) but it is now in the public’s hands -at least the unclassified version is!
There are a few nuggets that are interesting but the report mostly details procedures going forward as to how to categorize UAP, methods to evaluate reports, and how multiple government agencies like Dod and NASA, and civilian organizations will interact. While not mentioned in the report, MUFON has been providing assessments to the new All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
The meat of the report for UFO researchers and enthusiasts is on page 5. The report suggests that a little less than half of the reports garnered in the last year remain unidentified! Page 5 reads in part as follows:
Since its establishment in July 2022, AARO has formulated and started to leverage a robust analytic process against identified UAP reporting. Once completed, AARO’s final analytic findings will be available in their quarterly reports to policymakers. AARO’s initial analysis and characterization of the 366 newly-identified reports, informed by a multi-agency process, judged more than half as exhibiting unremarkable characteristics: 26 characterized as Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or UAS-like entities; 163 characterized as balloon or balloon-like entities; and 6 attributed to clutter. Initial characterization does not mean positively resolved or unidentified. This initial characterization better enables AARO and ODNI to efficiently and effectively leverage resources against the remaining 171 uncharacterized and unattributed UAP reports. Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis.
Tiers will start at $500,000 a year for access to 0.3 percent of the company’s tweets. Researchers say that’s too much for too little data.
SINCE TWITTER LAUNCHED in 2006, the company has acted as a kind of heartbeat for social media conversation. That’s partly because it’s where media people go to talk about the media, but also because it’s been willing to open up its backend to researchers. Academics have used free access to Twitter’s API, or application programming interface, in order to access data on the kinds of conversations occurring on the platform, which helps them understand what the online world is talking about.
Twitter’s API is used by vast numbers of researchers. Since 2020, there have been more than 17,500 academic papers based on the platform’s data, giving strength to the argument that Twitter owner Elon Musk has long claimed, that the platform is the “de facto town square.”
But new charges, included in documentation seen by WIRED, suggest that most organizations that have relied on API access to conduct research will now be priced out of using Twitter.
It’s the end of a long, convoluted process. On February 2, Musk announced API access would go behind a paywall in a week. (Those producing “good” content would be exempted.) A week later, he delayed the decision to February 13. Unsurprisingly, that deadline also slipped by, as Twitter suffered a catastrophic outage.
The company is now offering three levels of Enterprise Packages to its developer platform, according to a document sent by a Twitter rep to would-be academic customers in early March and passed on to WIRED. The cheapest, Small Package, gives access to 50 million tweets for $42,000 a month. Higher tiers give researchers or businesses access to larger volumes of tweets—100 million and 200 million tweets respectively—and cost $125,000 and $210,000 a month. WIRED confirmed the figures with other existing free API users, who have received emails saying that the new pricing plans will take effect within months.
“I don’t know if there’s an academic on the planet who could afford $42,000 a month for Twitter,” says Jeremy Blackburn, assistant professor at Binghamton University in New York and a member of the iDRAMA Lab, which analyzes hate speech on social media—including on Twitter.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
For subscribers to the cheapest package, the number of rules through which they can filter data from the app’s Real Time PowerTrack API will be capped at 25,000, and the number of queries of the Full Archive Search API will be capped at 50,000. The number of Twitter handles they can analyze through the Account Activity API will also be limited to 5,000, and there will be a max of 20 requests per minute for the Engagement API Totals Endpoint, which allows researchers to see how well tweets are doing in terms of engagement.
While this sounds like a substantial dataset, it only accounts for around 0.3 percent of Twitter’s monthly output, meaning it is far from being a comprehensive snapshot of activity on the platform. Twitter’s free API access gave researchers access to 1 percent of all tweets.
FEATURED VIDEOStructural Engineer Answers City Questions From Twitter
Elissa M. Redmiles, a faculty member at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany, says the new prices are eye-watering. “It’s probably outside of any academic budget I’ve ever heard of,” she says, adding that the price would put off any long-term analysis of user sentiment. “One month of Twitter data isn’t really going to work for the purposes people have,” she says.
Kenneth Joseph, assistant professor at the University of Buffalo and one of the authors of a recent paper analyzing a day in the life of Twitter, says the new pricing effectively kills his career. “$42,000 is not something I can pay for a single month in any reasonable way,” says. “It totally destroys any opportunity to engage in research in this space, which I’ve in many respects built a career on.”
The pricing documents were provided to WIRED by a researcher who asked for anonymity, since they are still accessing Twitter data through an existing API agreement and worry it could be terminated if they were identified. They say the new costs were “not viable for the academic community.”
“No one can afford to pay that,” they say. “Even rich institutions can’t afford to pay half a million a year for a thimbleful of data.”
It’s not clear whom the new pricing model is targeted at. Nir Grinberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, used to work at a startup that used Twitter’s data.
“It seems like a really steep increase for a tiny amount of data. One percent of Twitter a few months ago was free. Now Twitter is offering 0.3 percent for half a million dollars [a year],” he says. “It’s just crazy. I honestly don’t know who could budget for this.”
Researchers say the damage won’t just be to academic discourse. Twitter is a vital dataset for understanding how the internet works and what conversations are being had in the notional global public square.
Joseph recognizes that there are other platforms he could research, but notes that Twitter’s potent combination of journalists, high-ranking politicians, and business decisionmakers makes it a vital area for research. “Twitter is a particularly special space for understanding elite discourse,” he says. “To rip that away from all of us trying to use the system to understand it is a tough pill to swallow.”
Blackburn, however, says researchers will continue to find a way to scrutinize what’s happening on Twitter. “We’ve been mostly cut off from Facebook for years and we’ve continued to make progress,” he says. “It’s not like science is going to be held hostage by a guy that played himself into burning $44 billion on a website that makes no money, just so he could force all its users to read his shitposts.”