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Crimean Parliament Seized, More Erdogan Audio, Planet Bonanza

The Russian flag over the Crimean Parliament in Ukraine
The Russian flag over the Crimean Parliament in Ukraine

An armed group seized parliament and another government building in Ukraine’s region of Crimea early this morning and raised the Russian flag, sending the Ukrainian security forces on alert. At least two people have died and some 30 people have been injured since pro-EU and pro-Russian protesters began clashing in Crimea Wednesday, Kyiv Post reports.

  • Interim President Turchynov warned Moscow that any movement of the Russian fleet stationed in the Black Sea would be interpreted as a “military aggression,” adding that Ukraine would “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Itar-Tass reports. For more about the historical importance of Crimea, read this interesting RT piece.

  • As the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev is gathering to name a new, pro-Western government, ousted president Viktor Yanukovych appeared in front of Russian media to tell Ukrainians that he’s still the president and that decisions by the Parliament are illegitimate, RT reports. Yanukovych, who is wanted for “mass murder” and had been missing since Sunday, asked Russia to ensure his personal safety “against the actions of extremists.” The Russian authorities have accepted his request.

The Syrian army killed more than 175 Islamist fighters in an ambush yesterday on the rebel-held outskirts of Damascus. According to state news agency Sana, fighters of Saudi, Qatari and Chechen nationalities were among the dead. According to Reuters, the ambush is “a significant advance for President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to cement his hold of the capital and surrounding roads.”

At least seven people were killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu after a car bomb exploded near a cafe popular among security and intelligence officials, The Daily Nationreports police sources as saying. Although nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shebaab has been involved in similar recent attacks around the capital.

In a report published today, Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes against Palestinian civilians, describing “mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank — and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators — suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” the organization writes. Read more here.

This comes amid AFP reports that the Palestinian chief negotiator announced this morning he rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s push for nine-month-long negotiations with Israel to continue after the April deadline, as long as Israel “continues to disregard international law.”

Signed copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf go up for auction today. Bidding is set to begin at $20,000.

A second damning audio recording of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, this time asking his son to hold out for more money on a business deal, was published Wednesday on YouTube. Read what he had to say.


NASA’s Kepler mission has found 715 new exoplanets that orbit around 305 different stars. Among them, four are in the “habitable zone” of their sun, raising hopes that a planet with liquid water can be found. Read more here.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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