Today's Liberal News

Mark Sumner

Daily Space: The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

It’s going to be hard to go very far with a regular series featuring objects in deep space without mentioning Charles Messier. Because between 1771 and 1784, Messier did something that keeps his name almost constantly on the lips of both backyard and professional astronomers today.

Messier was born in northern France in 1730, where his father held the totally important job of being a “court usher.

Daily Space: Galaxies, Clusters, and more (oh my)

A few weeks ago, I used the looser schedule created by a Monday holiday to post a review of my new telescope. The tiny and odd-looking Vaonis Vespera isn’t really designed to snag great pictures of the Moon or planets. It’s intended to deliver a self-contained tool for doing deep space astrophotography, eliminating a lot of the hassle such images usually require.

Included with that review were a couple of images taken with the scope at that point.

Ukraine update: Izyum may be a ‘distraction,’ but it’s one Russia can’t ignore

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kherson area is continuing, but as Ukrainian forces advances into positions that Russia has fortified and reinforced, they’re running into an issue. It’s not that need to send them 1,000 new artillery, a million more rocket launchers, and whatever else is being demanded on social media today. It’s the problem every army has: advancing into a prepared defensive position is extremely difficult.

In two sentences, Lindsey Graham explains the difference between Republicans and Democrats

There are few reasons to admire Sen. Lindsey Graham. Actually, that’s not quite right. There are no reasons to admire Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Still, every now and then, just by accident, Graham gets something exactly right, and at the “Faith and Freedom Coalition” meeting held this week in Nashville, Graham managed to do something that might even seem amazing. In just two sentences, Graham deftly defined the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Ukraine update: Reports of further progress around Kherson with new weapons on the scene

It has now been two full months since Russian forces completely withdrew from the areas around Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv. In the process, Russia left behind an amazing collection of ruined vehicles, a maddening series of ruined villages, and sickening evidence of massive war crimes. 

In the time since what the media had treated as Russia’s unstoppable “convoys” turned around and rolled back to Belarus, Russia has made significant gains in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine update: As Russia surges toward Slovyansk, Ukraine moves on Izyum

There’s no way around it. In spite of taking heavy losses. In spite of an artillery exchange that at the moment seems to seriously favor Ukraine. In spite of bad organization, bad logistics, bad leadership, bad training, and bad maintenance … Russia is still putting enough forces into place in eastern Ukraine to slowly grind their way toward the objective of capturing critical sites in Luhansk and Donetsk.

New cancer drug destroyed 100% of tumors in trial, but it’s not quite the miracle the media claims

On Monday, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a new treatment for a specific form of cancer. In that trial, all 12 patients that completed treatment with the new drug, called dostarlimab, had what was called a “100% response.” That is, every one of these patients saw their tumors completely eradicated.

Drug trails, especially early trials, often give murky results.

Ukraine update: Russia attempting to take remaining villages north of Siverskyi Donets River

On Tuesday, the situation in Severodonetsk continues to be volatile, but the latest reports have the city more or less split down the center. Ukrainian forces control the industrial area on the west, as well as outlying villages and the southern edge of the city near the bridge to Lysychansk. Russia is positioned in the northern area and fighting with Ukrainian forces in the east.

Ukraine update: 70% of Severodonetsk is back under the control of Ukraine, heavy fighting continues

At some points in the war, it’s been not only possible, but sensible, to doubt reports from either side, especially when they have sounded too rosy. Russia has repeatedly made claims or even shown videos that were absolutely at odds with the reports of those on the ground—that includes happy-happy-joy-joy videos showing smiling people in the areas occupied by Russia going about their day in cities unscarred by weeks of pounding artillery.

Ukraine update: Air strikes, intense fighting, and Ukraine is still kicking butt in Severodonetsk

With the concentration of forces—and attention—on the Battle of Severodonetsk, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the war to expel Russian invaders continues from Kharkiv to Kherson. Nathan Ruser has prepared a pair of images to show the movements across the entire face of Ukraine over the last month, and what those images show is not only very little overall change, but as many Ukrainian advances as Russian advances.

Ukraine update: No shortage of action on every front

As kos talked about this morning, after a couple of weeks in which Ukrainian troops seemed to be catching their breath, the Kharkiv counteroffensive is back in business. On Thursday, Ukrainian forces captured the town of Vesele, which had not only been a long-time hard point for the Russian line, but was also one of the sites from which Russia was firing artillery into the city of Kharkiv. 

Ukraine is once again whittling down the Russian-occupied area above Kharkiv.

Ukraine update: Fighting continues in Severodonetsk, and things are definitely not going as expected

A funny thing happened on the way to Russia’s capture of Severodonetsk. After reports from Ukrainian officials that Russia held about 80% of the city, and a full week after Chechen forces claimed to have taken the whole city (which never happened), Ukraine now appears to hold more of Severodonetsk than it did on Wednesday.

Some statements are now going as far as saying that Severodonetsk was a trap to lure in Russian soldiers.

Ukraine update: Russia is blockading Ukraine, but it’s blackmailing the world

On the ground, Ukraine’s military has been remarkably effective at halting Russian advances and extracting a price for every inch of ground surrendered. Oryx currently has Russia’s verified losses at over 4,000 pieces of equipment, including 715 tanks. By comparison, Ukraine’s documented losses are at just over 1,000 pieces of equipment and 177 tanks. Russia has been losing equipment at a rate that’s 4 times that of Ukraine. It still is.

Ukraine update: ‘They’re a little bit busy defending freedom and democracy’

Yesterday, Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine should trade land for peace, that everyone should be nicer to Russia, and that attempting to actually force Russia to surrender the territory it occupies within Ukraine would be “not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.” Even though none of that war would actually be in Russia.

Ukraine update: Russia captures another large town, but how much should we worry?

There are reports on Tuesday that Russian forces have occupied the town of Lyman after an extended period of heavy combat that saw the town attacked from three sides. Those on-the-ground reports appear to be confirmed by high-resolution satellite imagery and by the NASA FIRMS data which, after several days of rain in the area, cleared up over the last few days to show a pattern that seemed familiar from some other sites that have fallen.

Ukraine update: Cutting through the fog to get some sense of what’s happening at Staryi Saltiv

I’ve written before about the danger of basing any interpretation of what’s happening on the ground on the data from NASA’s FIRMS instruments. A collection of orbiting spectrographs and infrared sensors are not a substitute of any sort for reports on the ground. They can’t distinguish artillery from a forest fire, can’t tell what the source of any fire might be, and absolutely can’t fit all those little colored squares into any kind of narrative.

Ukraine update: Sometimes NATO doesn’t seem like much of an alliance

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his 84th daily update to the people of Ukraine. He also spoke on the phone with the president of the United Arab Emirates in an effort to get a new source of fuel, discussed a new assistance package with the president of the European Union, welcomed the U.S. embassy back to Kyiv, and dealt with the 1,001 items it takes to keep a nation afloat in the midst of a military invasion that represents a genuine existential crisis.

Ukraine update: Someone managed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, but it’s not Russia

The Siverskyi Donets River has already played an outsized role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. East of Izyum, Russian forces attempted to cross the river three times with disastrous consequences that kos has documented in detail. In the east, Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian stronghold on the east side of the river, may be forced to move back to the west bank of the river, using its natural protection to halt a Russian advance.

Ukraine update: Severodonetsk faces the storm

According to statements that Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have made on state-run media, there are three goals for the “special military action” in Ukraine.

One is to secure all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast and bring them into Russia. The idea that either will be an independent “people’s republic,” or that there might be some kind of referendum to determine their fate is now old hat. They’ll just be part of Russia. And like it.

Ukraine update: ‘Their objective was to cross the river and encircle Lysychansk. They failed.’

The fact that 24 hours later we’re still waiting for confirmation of Ukrainian forces at Ternova is certainly concerning, but then, it took at least that long to confirm that Ukraine had recaptured Staryi Saltiv. It’s almost as if the Ukrainian troops at the vanguard of assaults in the Kharkiv area have been told to not immediately send video clips and photographs—conveniently geolocated—of their every move.

Ukraine update: ‘Russian army has reportedly begun to withdraw from Kharkiv area across the border’

For days, it’s seemed every story about activity in Kharkiv has included the phrase “and we don’t actually know what’s happening on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River.” After racing up the river to surprise everyone by grabbing Staryi Saltiv, Ukrainian forces then began shelling the area surrounding the bridge near Rubiznhe. When that bridge was blown, shells began falling farther north near Starytsya.

Ukraine update: This ‘Victory Day’ comes without much in the way of victory for Russia

For those who gathered in Moscow for the May 9 parade, there was one big let down on the pomp-and-circumstances front: Reportedly, very few aircraft passed over the city, with none of the low altitude flyovers from fighters, bombers, and support aircraft that marked such occasions in years past. Many planes that were practicing about the city just two days earlier turned out to be no-shows on the day itself.

Maybe most notably — there was no flying ‘Z.