Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 24 March – Sunday 31 March:

On Sunday, Ukraine said it struck two Russian naval vessels, along with a communications center and several other facilities belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in a huge overnight attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The attack occurred overnight and means that more than 20 Russian naval vessels have now been disabled or destroyed, a third of the entire fleet. According to various open-source intelligence (OSINT) accounts on social media, three Storm Shadow missiles provided by Britain were allegedly used in these strikes. The Russian Pr.775 ROPUCHA Class landing ships, Yamal and Azov, were said to have sustained damage in the attack. However, satellite imagery analysts have not yet reached a consensus on the extent of the damage. Russia has not issued an official statement regarding the incident, although the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev acknowledged on his Telegram channel that it was the “most massive attack in recent times.”. One of the ships has a large scorch mark on its side and the other was seen being towed into a dry dock. While there were claims that the Russian intelligence ship Ivan Khurs was also damaged, satellite images have not provided evidence of this. Two days later, on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirmed this information adding that the “Kostyantyn Olshansky” landing ship was also damaged during the attack. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is now known for losing all its amphibious ships without ever conducting an amphibious operation. While the full extent of damage to the two Ropucha class LSTs hit in the recent attack remains uncertain, the issue of load and balance is crucial, especially for landing ships. Repairing these ships might not guarantee their long-term serviceability due to the sensitivity of this matter. If Sunday’s strikes on the Yamal and Azov are confirmed, it would likely mean Russia had only three working landing ships left in the Black Sea. Ukraine says Moscow began the full-scale invasion with 13 such vessels.

On Monday, Donald Trump received a pair of court rulings. One set the date for his criminal trial, with jury selection on April 15. The other allowed him to post a reduced $175 million bond after he appealed the $464 million New York civil fraud judgment against him. Trump told reporters he will cover the bond using cash as collateral. Trump will be happy as he has enough cash to cover the huge bond, especially with his net worth skyrocketing after the stock listing of Truth Social. Trump owns 78,750,000 shares of the company, according to regulatory filings, which were worth nearly $4.9 billion based on Trump Media’s Thursday closing price.

On Monday, after a UN vote on a ceasefire in Gaza – which the U.S. did not veto as Israel had expected – an Israeli delegation including the national security advisor and a close advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled their trip. Initially, the resolution text demanded a permanent ceasefire and did not mention negotiations to release hostages, and the U.S. was able to push for the text to change so that it referenced a lasting ceasefire and included language about the ongoing hostage release efforts according to American officials. Tensions between the two allies appear to be growing with the U.S. applying pressure to prevent the Israelis from advancing on Rafah in Gaza’s south. National Security spokesman John Kirby offered a fuller response to Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the delegation, saying the US was disappointed by the decision to cancel the trip. “We’re very disappointed that they will not be coming to Washington, DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” he said. It’s unclear how the U.S. expects Israel to defeat Hamas without an operation in Rafah and is quite a bizarre position that can only be explained by domestic American politics rather than sound military strategy. 

Early on Tuesday, the container ship Dali departed the Port of Baltimore in the United States, bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka,with a crew of 22and two pilots.Shortly after leaving the port, the ship lost power but was able to broadcast a mayday call.Soon afterwards, she collided with a support pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing the major part of the bridge to collapse, with one span falling onto the ship’s forecastle.None of the 24 onboard were seriously injured. All moving traffic had left the bridge, but six construction workers died.The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the data recorder and interviewing the crew. There are 56 containers on board with 764 tons of hazardous materials,among the total load of nearly 4,700 shipping containers. The container vessel is owned by Singapore’s Grace Ocean Pte Ltd, managed by Synergy Marine Group, and chartered by shipping company Maersk. Synergy Marine’s parent company, Unity Group Holdings International, an investment holding company, was founded in 2008 and is based in Hong Kong. The Chinese connection has caused quite the meltdown among the conspiracy-minded, with accusations that this was a Chinese “terrorist” attack on the United States. That line of thinking seems fanciful – the Dali previously crashed in the Port of Antwerp in Belgium. 

On Thursday, Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and con-man in chief of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought as much as 50 years, while Bankman-Fried’s legal team argued for no more than 6½ years. He was convicted on seven criminal counts in November and has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since. In a statement following Thursday’s sentencing, Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Bankman-Fried had orchestrated one of the largest frauds in financial history. “Today’s sentence will prevent the defendant from ever again committing fraud and is an important message to others who might be tempted to engage in financial crimes that justice will be swift, and the consequences will be severe,” he said. At his trial, prosecutors said Bankman-Fried robbed FTX customers of as much as $8 billion to fund a vast array of outside interests, including political initiatives, speculative investments and funding of FTX executives’ lifestyles. Bankman-Fried has been ordered to repay more than US$11 billion as part of his sentence for defrauding customers and investors in his failed crypto exchange FTX. “This forfeiture is designed to make certain that if SBF ever makes money, it goes not to him but to the government and the victims,” Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor. “He will never be able to accumulate funds in his life, and forfeiture cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy.”

On Friday it was reported that Microsoft and OpenAI are planning to build a supercomputer called Stargate, at a cost of at least 100 billion dollars. The project is expected to be complete by 2028. The US-based supercomputer, known as “Stargate,” would be the centrepiece of a five-phase plan focused on a series of supercomputer installations the companies plan to build in the next six years. Stargate, which would be phase 5 of the plan, could launch as soon as 2028 according to reports. Executives at both companies have already drawn up plans for the data center project, which would power OpenAI’s artificial intelligence, according to reports. 

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to enroll 150,000 conscripts into the military, a document posted on the Kremlin’s website showed. All men in Russia are required to serve one year of compulsory military service. The Defense Ministry had previously assured conscripts they would not be sent to the front in Ukraine as they cannot legally be deployed to fight outside Russia. However, on Sunday, the ministry also published a document releasing soldiers who had completed their basic training from service. These trained soldiers have the option to volunteer for service in Ukraine, but many feel pressured to sign up.

One thought on “The World That Was”
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