The guy who created Cloverfield and directed The Force Awakens wants everyone to know he’s trying really hard to not mess up the ending of the Star Wars saga as we know it. On Oct. 18, 2019, Entertainment Weekly reported that J.J. Abrams said outright that “we are not screwing around” when it comes to creating a legit ending for the nine-part “Skywalker saga” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Do we trust him? Do we have a choice?
According to EW, J.J. Abrams knew how hard it was going to be to write The Rise of Skywalker (along with Justice League writer Chris Terrio) because “Endings are the thing that scare me the most.” The director and co-writer of the movie also doesn’t really think The Rise of Skywalker is supposed to be the ending to the existing new trilogy which started in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but instead, he views it as the end of a nine-part story, which begins with The Phantom Menace and goes all way through the classic movies everyone loves.
“This is about bringing this thing to a close… if years from now, someone’s watching these movies, all nine of them, they’re watching a story that is as cohesive as possible.”
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Whether or not Abrams pulls that off remains to be seen, of course. If you were a fan of Lost, now is probably not the time to remind yourself that Abrams was involved with the ending of that series, too. Then again, maybe because Abrams has dealt with so many controversial endings of big pop-culture properties, that he’s the perfect guy to tackle the ending of Star Wars.
Or then again, maybe that’s wishful thinking. Let’s keep a little optimism here! Right?
In any case, we’ve now got J.J. Abrams’s promise: he’s not screwing around. Hopefully, the Force is listening.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Imagine going into the Emergency Room, bleeding from a car accident. The EMTs tell you it doesn’t have to be a serious injury as long as they can handle the blood loss. Imagine then being told they can’t actually handle the blood loss – even at the hospital.
That’s the reality the American Red Cross is facing today. It has only two days worth of Type-O blood left for the entire United States. Just six units for every 100,000 people.
An estimated seven percent of Americans have Type-O negative blood, but it can be transfused to any patient. So when the emergency department needs blood in a hurry and doesn’t have time to type a patient’s blood, a process that can take up to a half hour, they reach for the universal donor’s blood. But Type-O positive is also a critical blood type, being the most widely transfused type.
The Red Cross has tried a number of different gimmicks to try and get more people to donate, especially those with O-negative blood. The Red Cross in Arizona even offered a giveaway package to send a lucky donor to Los Angeles for the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
And that was back in February 2019. Nearly four months later, the show has ended, and the blood supply situation is critical and will only get worse. As the year turns to Spring and Summer, blood drives and school collections wind down, further shortening the supply.
With such a severe shortage, conditions that would normally be survivable could soon become more and more lethal. Transfusions are needed for much more than trauma from car accidents and the like. Blood is necessary for things we may even consider routine in our day and age, from cancer treatments to childbirth.
Iran says it is holding a U.S. Navy veteran, confirming media reports about a case that risks further escalating tensions with Washington.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 7, 2019, that Michael White, 46, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July 2018 on unspecified charges.
On Jan. 9, 2019, Iranian state news agency IRNA carried a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi that confirmed the arrest, but did not specify when it had happened or what crime he was accused of.
Qasemi was quoted as saying that Iran had informed the U.S. government about White’s arrest within days of when he was taken into custody in the city of Mashhad “some time ago.”
The spokesman added that White’s case was going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time.
The U.S. State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but did not provide further details, citing privacy considerations.
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White reportedly jailed in Iran
The New York Times has quoted White’s mother, Joanne, as saying she learned three weeks ago that her son was being held at an Iranian prison.
She said her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.
White’s incarceration was also reported on Jan. 7, 2019, by Iran Wire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates.
White’s imprisonment could further worsen relations between Washington and Tehran, longtime foes.
Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran in 2018.
At least five Americans have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.
Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student, who was given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Both Wang and the university deny the claims.
Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.
Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Tehran has said it has no information about his fate.
Most people set their sights on big ambitions as a kid. For those youngsters who dream of being in the military, it typically includes visions of becoming a fighter pilot, a ship commander or Navy SEAL.
But for one California resident, those lofty goals weren’t nearly enough.
Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted the Navy in 2002 and successfully made it through BUD/s and onto SEAL Team 3. During his service in the SEALs, Kim worked as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on two deployments.
Kim completed more than 100 combat missions during his time in the Middle East, earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V.”
During Kim’s first combat tour, he lost a fellow SEAL which helped steer him towards a career in the medical field.
“The moment I knew I wanted to go into medicine was during my first deployment to Ramadi which is when one of my best friends was shot,” Kim has said. “After doing everything I could for him, securing his airway, controlling his bleeding, there wasn’t much more I could do for him but watch the spectacular team of emergency medicine physicians save my friend’s life.”
Kim decided to complete one more deployment with the SEALs before heading off to college to pursue his medical career.
He attended the University of San Diego earning a degree in mathematics and then a Doctorate in Medicine at Harvard. According to NASA, Kim received an officer’s commission in the Medical Corps following his graduation.
Kim went on to perform his residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston for emergency medicine .
In June 2017, Kim received some incredible news — he’s one of 12 to be selected for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. The training will take up to two years before he could become a fully certified astronaut.
Soon, Dr. Kim could be wearing a space suit instead of his medical scrubs.
On Mar. 28, 2019, the Air Force Global Strike Command, that manages the U.S. bombers, ordered a “safety stand-down” of the Lancer fleet.
“During a routine inspection of the B-1B drogue chute system, potentially fleet-wide issues were identified with the rigging of the drogue chute. It appears to be a procedural issue and is unrelated to the previous problem with egress system components. As a precautionary measure, the commander directed a holistic inspection of the entire egress system. The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft. As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight,” said an official statement released by the Command on the very same day.
The drogue chute is part of the B-1B emergency egress system that relies on ACES II ejections seats, hatches in the upper side of the fuselage through those the seats are ejected from the aircraft and the drogue chutes, used to put the seat in the proper position before the main parachute deploys.
The safety stand-down was issued after the U.S. Air Force had already grounded its Lancer fleet in June last year, following an in-flight emergency on a Dyess Air Force Base’s B-1B with the 7th Bomb Wing, on May 1, 2018: the heavy bomber was on a training mission when a serious engine fire erupted near the right wing root. There were fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. All but one was extinguished by taking appropriate flight procedures, prompting the aircraft commander to heed technical orders and command a controlled manual ejection from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, arrives at Andersen AFB, Guam, Dec. 4, 2017
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
So, the 2018 incident has nothing to do with the current issue that still keeps the bomber fleet on the ground. However, as reported by Air Force Magazine, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Timothy Ray approved a recovery plan on Apr. 16, 2019: all the U.S. Air Force 66 B-1s will be inspected. It takes from 7 to 10 days to inspect the egress system and aircraft will be cleared to fly once the inspections are completed Ray said according to Air Force Magazine.
An incredible image showing five B-52s flying over Northern Europe during the recent deployment of B-52s to RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s and the B-2s remain operative as the B-1 fleet is grounded.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The safety stand-on was order as there no B-1s deployed across the world. The most recent deployments of U.S. strategic bombers involved the B-52: six “Buffs” belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing, deployed to the UK last month as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation in Europe (the largest Stratofortress deployment since Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when there were as many as 17x B-52s on the ramp at RAF Fairford); B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Pacific region.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
While we love the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger on the A-10 for the BRRRRRT it brings, we also know that it’s not exactly the biggest gun to ever take to the skies. In fact, several planes have packed bigger guns, like the XA-38 Grizzly armed with 75mm firepower or some versions of the B-25 Mitchell, which pack .50-caliber machine guns.
One of the biggest guns to ever be attached to a plane is the 105mm howitzer on the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Yeah, Warthog fans, I’ll say it: the AC-130’s biggest gun makes the GAU-8 look like a cute little pop gun. Here’s the scoop on this cannon that can really make life a living hell for bad guys on the ground.
The AC-130U packs two guns bigger than the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun, including a M102 howitzer!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
This gun is officially known as the M102 howitzer. It’s been around since 1964, when it was acquired by the Army for airborne and light infantry units, replacing the World War II-era M101 howitzer. The M102 has a top range of roughly nine and a third miles and can fire ten rounds per minute in a rapid-fire mode before settling down to a tamer three rounds per minute.
While the lightweight M119 has replaced the M102 in many of America’s light units since it entered service in 1989, the M102 is still active aboard the AC-130. The howitzer has been on AC-130s since 1971.
The M102 saw action in the Vietnam War, but has hung long enough to server during Operation Iraqi Freedom!
The M102 has seen action on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While many of these howitzers will never see active service on the ground again, many have a long life ahead on AC-130 gunships, both the AC-130U and the AC-130J. You can see a video of the M102 being tested in its ground-based mode by the Army in the video below!
It was one of America’s longest-running wars. U.S. involvement began in 1954 with a few hundred troops advising national and then Democratic forces in a civil war. U.S. involvement grew and, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized a massive increase in troop deployments to the country. 58,000 Americans would die before the U.S. left the conflict in 1973 and South Vietnam fell in 1975.
Here are 12 photos from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center that you won’t see in most textbooks and history papers:
Keenan Reynolds is living a double life. The breakout NFL wide receiver was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round in 2016 but eventually found himself in Seattle, taking passes from quarterback Russell Wilson. In his other life, however, he goes by the title Lieutenant Junior Grade Reynolds.
Reynolds is currently on the practice squad for the Seahawks, but the onetime Navy QB made his big league debut this year for Baltimore and later, Seattle. Except in the pros, he’s a wide receiver.
On the days when Reynolds isn’t wearing the Seahawks uniform, he’s decked out in another uniform: the U.S. Navy’s.
Right now, Keenan Reynolds’ Navy work is as a cryptological warfare officer. He’s not allowed to go into further detail.
“I can’t really give the details, to be honest with you,” the first-year wideout told the Seattle Times. “Just… we’ll just say cyber.”
His previous work with the Navy saw him as the starting quarterback for the Midshipmen in a stellar football career that saw him break the career rushing touchdown record, the NCAA touchdown record, and career total touchdowns along with the career passing yards records.
Most importantly, he was the only Navy QB to go 4-0 against Army.
U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was awarded the 86th AAU James E. Sullivan Award on April 10, 2016 at the New York Athletic Club. He shared the award with UConn women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart, who was not in attendance at the ceremony.
Reynolds was the last service academy football player to enter the NFL draft under Obama-era rules regarding academy exemptions. The Department of Defense used to offer elite athletes from its service academies a waiver to defer their active duty service and go into the ready reserve instead.
It allowed players like Keenan Reynold the chance to pursue NFL careers at a time when their chances are the best at being drafted. The rules granted these exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Those waivers were rescinded by the Trump Administration. Now, academy athletes will no longer have the option of a two-year service waiver.
Unfortunately for Reynolds, it was uncertainty about his service obligation that kept him from being invited to the 2016 NFL Combine.
Reynolds was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016.
“I’ve got eight years in the reserves,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I am two years in. So, basically, I owe a certain number of drills a year, and a certain number of active-duty days.”
He went on to say that he was humbled to know he was the last of his kind to be granted a service waiver to pursue his football dreams, but he knows that his fellow academy grads will never give up on their own dreams. They’ll just go for it as soon as they can.
Pakistan’s former sports-celebrity-turned politician, Imran Khan, in his televised election victory speech July 26, 2018, pledged to tackle poverty and endemic corruption through a revamped governance system in the country.
Khan delivered the speech as about 90 percent of the results from July 25, 2018’s parliamentary polls already had been compiled. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) party was well ahead of its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Almost all the main rival parties have alleged the polls were rigged and manipulated in favor of Khan, allegations the independent Election Commission of Pakistan rejected.
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza strongly defended the voting process as free and fair. “These elections were 100 percent transparent and fair … there is no stain,” Raza insisted while speaking to reporters early July 26, 2018.
The commission admitted that its electronic reporting system collapsed shortly after vote counting began late July 25, 2018, causing unprecedented delays in announcing results.
Khan also promised to provide any assistance required to investigate the rigging charges, though he declared the polls as “the fairest in Pakistan.”
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza
Analysts say partial election results suggest Khan’s party, with the help of smaller groups and independents, is poised to establish governments not only at the center but possibly in three of Pakistan’s four provinces.
Khan pledged in July 26, 2018’s speech to deliver on campaign promises, saying he would turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state.”
The would-be government, he said, would not use the palatial prime minister’s residence in Islamabad and would use the space for other priorities as it focuses on good governance and economic challenges facing the country.
“I would be ashamed to live in such a large house. That house will be converted into an educational institution or something of the sort,” he said. “Our state institutions will be stronger, everyone will be held accountable. First I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on.”
Khan acknowledged while speaking to VOA on the eve of the election that the economy is the biggest challenge facing Pakistan.
“The only way we can overcome this is by revamping the way we do governance in this country, strengthening institutions and then spending it on our human beings,” Khan noted. This is “the rock bottom” for Pakistan, he warned.
“Never have we fallen so low as we have right now in terms of human development, in terms of the cost of doing business, in terms of our economy going down the drain. So, the challenges are huge but they can only be done … if we change the way we do governance in this country.”
Sharif’s party has been for months accusing the military of covertly helping Khan’s election campaign, charges both Khan and the military have strongly denied.
The PML-N’s electoral chances also have been shaken by Sharif’s conviction in absentia earlier this month on corruption charges involving expensive properties he and his family held overseas.
Sharif, who immediately was placed in custody after returning from Britain nearly two weeks ago, has denounced the verdict as politically motivated. He accused a covert military-judiciary alliance of trying to keep him out of politics and undermining the integrity of his PML-N party.
Khan and his party were instrumental in leading street protests and fighting legal battles to win the conviction in corruption cases against Sharif.
In his brief speech, Khan also spoke about how his party intends to deal with foreign policy challenges facing Pakistan.
Years of wars in Afghanistan have inflicted unprecedented sufferings on Afghans and they need peace, he said. The new government will make all possible efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan to ensure peace in Pakistan, Khan vowed.
“I also want to build relations with Afghanistan to a point where we have open borders just like those within the European Union,” he added.
Khan said he would seek a mutually beneficial and balanced relationship with the United States.
“We want to improve our relations with India, if their leadership also wants it. This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one. If they take one step toward us, we will take two, but we at least need a start.”
The election is just Pakistan’s third peaceful transition of power. The military has ruled the Muslim-majority nation of more than 200 million people for nearly half of the country’s 71-year-history.
July 25, 2018’s vote was disrupted by militant attacks and incidents involving gunfire between political rivals.
The deadliest incident occurred in Quetta, capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, where a suicide blast ripped through a crowed of political activists, voters and security personnel, killing more than 30 people. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.
The campaign leading up to the July 25, 2018 vote had been marred by violence that left more than 170 people dead.
The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.
The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.
Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”
The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.
This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.
According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.
The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
It’s been four months since the kinda disappointing Game of Thrones finale, but HBO is trying to make it up to us with new shows set in the same universe. Filming on a pilot starring Naomi Watts has already wrapped, and now the network appears close to ordering another.
The as-yet-untitled series would take place 300 years before Thrones and focus on the origins of House Targaryen, that of the Mad King, the Mother of Dragons, and — outdated spoiler alert — Jon Snow himself.
The concept for the show was created by writer and producer Ryan Condal and George RR Martin. It’s based on Fire Blood, a series Martin created as a spin-off to the A Song of Ice and Fire and reportedly represents a new take on one of the five prequel scripts HBO commissioned in 2017.
The tagline of Fire Blood is “when dragons ruled Westeros,” which means instead of Daenerys’s three miracle dragons the spin-off should feature way more winged beasts and, we can only presume, a healthy dose of aerial combat.
To date, only the first volume of Martin’s series has been published, which makes us wonder if Martin could be in another situation where a TV series of his lurches ahead of the books it’s ostensibly based on.
Three hundred years is a long time in anyone’s family history, so don’t be surprised if there’s some complicated family tree math to be done connecting the characters in this show to those we meet in Game of Thrones, drawings not unlike those you’d find in the front of one of Martin’s books or on your mail-in DNA test results page.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
As the final season of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, a lot of questions about the show remain: Will Dany and Jon be able to find a way to defeat the White Walkers? Is Cersei really pregnant? Will Jamie finally apologize to Bran for pushing him out a window so he could keep his incestuous love affair a secret? But one thing is abundantly clear: A lot of people are going to die in the last six episodes. And in anticipation of the onslaught of death that millions of us will be witnessing, we decided to create a list of 11 characters that need to be dead by the time the final credits roll.
To be clear, this isn’t just a list of the characters we hate the most (though there are a few of those). Instead, it’s a look at whose deaths make the most sense in the scope of the larger story. So we are offering our perspective on which character deaths are the most appropriate narratively. With that in mind, here is our Arya-esque list of 11 characters who need to join Ned, Joffrey, and Ygritte in the great orgy in the sky.
This one is simple. From day one, Cersei has been nothing short of a monster and any hope she had of redeeming herself disappeared when she revealed she was going to leave Jon and Dany to fight the White Walkers without her help. It could be Jamie or Arya or literally anyone but for Game of Thrones to have an ending that feels satisfying, Cersei has to die.
Westeros’ last remaining gossip (RIP Littlefinger) doesn’t really have a role to play now that the never-ending game of thrones has been temporarily tossed aside in favor of fighting the White Walkers. He seems to mainly just look concerned while other people make decisions. Plus, Melisandre has already predicted his death and so it would be kind of weird if he lived.
3. The Moutain
It could be argued at this point that, technically, Gregor Clegane isn’t even really alive, as he seems to be more of some kind of Frankenstein’s monster than a human. But regardless, viewers have been clamoring for the Cleganebowl since Season 1 and hopefully, we finally get to see Sandor complete his redemption tour by murdering the shit out of his brother.
4. Theon Greyjoy
The disgraced ruler formerly known as Reek has experienced a lot of grief over seven seasons (to be fair, a good portion of it was caused by his own selfishness and disloyalty) but he has made some steps towards cleaning his filthy conscience and is now leading a mission to rescue his sister Yara. At this point, the best ending for Theon would involve him sacrificing himself to save Yara and perhaps even kill off his dickhead uncle Euron for good measure. Bittersweet? Absolutely but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for the guy.
Game of Thrones is filled with iconic villains but Euron has been mostly disappointing as a wrongdoer who seems to have been tossed into the mix to stir up chaos, to underwhelming results. At this point, if he doesn’t die in some grotesque fashion, then what has all of this been about?
This one hurts to write but hear me out. Our favorite quick-witted mercenary has always made a point of choosing survival over loyalty every time but it seems only fitting that at some point, he’s going to decide to turn on Cersei and join Jamie and Tyrion in the fight against the Whites. And knowing this show, he will probably be rewarded for this choice by getting viciously killed doing something heroic.
7. Bran Stark
One of the Starks has to die, right? Sansa and Jon seem like the most likely to live and while most people will put their money on Arya, I think Bran dying actually makes the most sense. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran clearly still has a large role to play in the final season. But once the war is over, what does an emotionless prophet like Bran do? Looking at his awkward reunion with his sisters, it’s pretty clear a return to normalcy isn’t an option. So is he going to hang out in a tree like his mentor? Sounds depressing so I think the best send-off would be him kicking the bucket while putting a plan in motion that will allow the remaining Westerosians to take down the Night King and his crew.
Game of Thrones 7×04 – Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran
Right now, these kissing cousins are blissfully residing in Bonetown but the idea of them both somehow surviving and then ruling Westeros together seems too good to be true for Game of Thrones, right? This is a show that delights in subverting happy endings so it feels like the bittersweet ending would be for one of them to die heroically in battle, leaving the other to rule on their own. My money is on Dany but don’t be surprised if Jon becomes the first person since Lazarus to die twice.
9. Jorah Mormont
The traitor turned Dany devotee has managed to avoid death over and over again, which naturally means death is going to catch up with him to collect at the end. It will make me sad but it feels right that he goes out in a blaze of glory, perhaps even saving his unrequited love.
10. A Dragon
A major theme of the last season is going to be the sacrifice it takes to achieve victory and while it will break all of our hearts, that tells me that a second dragon is going to have to die. Which one? Most people have predicted Rhaegal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show goes for the gut-punch and kills off Drogo, Dany’s favorite. Brutal? Absolutely but let’s not forget this is a show that turned a wedding into one of the most visceral bloodbaths in TV or movie history.
11. The Night King
Do I even need to explain this one? He’s the main villain and if he is alive at the end, that means every non-White Walker is probably dead. So this motherfucker’s gotta go.
Jon Snow vs The Night’s King – Game of Thrones 5×08 – Full HD
At first glance, Mr. Smith’s in the trendy Georgetown area of Washington, DC, may seem like a regular bar.
On any given day — at least before COVID-19 — you’d find a cross-section of Washington’s society there for the burgers and the beer. Drunk tourists, young Capitol Hill staffers, K Street lobbyists with money to burn, and cynical old Washingtonians sharing inside-the-Beltway gossip all gather there.
Like dozens of other sites in the city, however, the bar has a dark past. It was at this bar in 1985, then known as Chadwicks, that CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed his country by meeting with Victor Cherkashin, a KGB counterintelligence officer stationed at the Soviet embassy in Washington.
Over weeks and months of meetings at the bar — which proclaimed itself “casual dining at its best” — Ames revealed the identities of more than 100 CIA assets operating in the Soviet Union, many of whom promptly “vanished” or were executed. His reward? A total of $4.6 million. He was finally arrested in 1994 after the CIA began looking into his lavish lifestyle, which included a $540,000 house in nearby Arlington paid for in cash, a $50,000 Jaguar, and tailor-made suits that even his bosses couldn’t afford on a government salary.
Mr. Smith’s replaced Chadwicks in Georgetown, where CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed the US by meeting with a Soviet counterintelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Mr. Smith’s/Facebook.
Chadwicks is just one of dozens of sites across the Washington area that speak to its past, present, and future as a hub of foreign espionage activity and American efforts to stop it.
“DC is a hotspot of espionage activity, between all of the embassies that are located there that have their diplomatic attachés that sometimes work for their home country’s government or intelligence operations,” explained Francis Gary Powers Jr., the founder and operator of Spy Tour of Washington, DC. “There’s always some kind of intrigue going on in DC.”
For Powers, tales of Cold War espionage are a personal affair. His father, Francis Gary Powers Sr., was the pilot of a CIA U-2 spy plane that was famously shot down while flying a mission over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. Although the elder Powers successfully managed to bail out of the aircraft, he was quickly captured and remained in Soviet captivity until he was exchanged for a Soviet intelligence officer at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in February 1962.
These days, the younger Powers takes private groups on trips across the many drop points, safe houses, and other clandestine sites that make up Washington’s spy history dating back all the way to Rose Greenhow, a Washington socialite who spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a spy during the Civil War, with her youngest daughter and namesake, “Little” Rose, at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, DC, 1862. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
“We go by Aldrich Ames’ homes, [convicted spy] Alger Hiss’ home, and have briefings on FBI agent Robert Hanssen drop points,” he said. “Or we go by the Russian Embassy and talk about the underground tunnel that was dug out there. There’s a variety of places to see.”
Many of the publicly known spy locations in Washington revolve around “traditional” espionage tradecraft that was perfected over many decades. The innocent-looking Foxstone Park in Vienna, Virginia, for example, was where disgraced FBI agent Robert Hanssen left classified materials for his KGB handler — who, incidentally, was the same Victor Cherkashin who handled Aldrich Ames.
Long before mobile phones, the internet, communications technology, and the cloud changed the way government — and intelligence services — operated, many of these sites were in use. Spy agencies in both the US and around the world are now increasingly reliant on technology to communicate, intercept communications, conduct surveillance, and perform other day-to-day functions of intelligence.
Technology, however, is no replacement for tried-and-true methods.
“There is something to be said for ‘sticks and bricks.’ Going back to the old school is always there, even if it’s as a fail-safe,” explained Marc Polymeropoulos, who served 26 years in the CIA before retiring from the agency’s Senior Intelligence Service in June 2019.
The “Ellis” drop site — under a footbridge over Wolftrap Creek near Creek Crossing Road at Foxstone Park near Vienna, Virginia — where FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen clandestinely placed a package containing highly classified information for pickup by his Russian handlers. Photo courtesy of the FBI.
According to Polymeropoulos, who oversaw and took part in clandestine operations across Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, there is simply no replacement for meeting an asset face-to-face.
“That lets you really sit down and assess them and talk to them,” he said. “You need to be able to look someone in the eye and assess them, regardless of this new environment in which we live. […] We’ll always find a way.”
Meeting people in person, Polymeropoulos said, allows intelligence officers to judge a person’s motivation and trustworthiness in a way that a Zoom call, for example, never will.
“People do lie to you, all the time. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s also the sense of getting a feel of someone and their motivations,” he said. “It’s even things that just sound silly, like going over the details of stories with someone over and over. If they’re telling the truth, they might not slip up as much.”
“It’s like taking a graduate class in psychology. Ultimately, what you’re doing is assessing someone and their mental ability and motivations to betray their country,” Polymeropoulos added. “Doing so remotely is difficult. It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think you’re ever going to get as much.”
Marc Polymeropoulos. Photo courtesy of Twitter/@mpolymer.
Whether new tech-savvy techniques or old espionage methods are in play, there’s no doubt that Washington remains a hub of foreign intelligence activity.
“There are different intelligence operations going on all the time in DC and Northern Virginia,” Powers said. “There’s definitely espionage taking place every day.”
Polymeropoulos, for his part, is even more blunt in his assessment. In his view, current political tensions mean that foreign adversaries are perhaps even more active in the nation’s capital now than they were during even the tensest years of the Cold War.
“Washington is still a spy capital; it always has been. One of the troubling things that’s happening in the United States is that any country — as we would — is going to try to take advantage of political turmoil and chaos,” he said. “If I was looking at the United States, I’d be looking at people within the government that have secrets, who are dissatisfied. You have a lot of that now.”
Foreign intelligence services, he added, are likely assessing targets in both political parties and across government agencies in Washington.
“This has to do with people in government, staffers on the Hill. If you think about it, it’s such a target-rich environment for hostile intelligence organizations to target the United States right now, and ground zero is Washington,” he said.
“There’s a lot for our adversaries to work with right now, and that’s a huge concern and a huge counterintelligence worry.”