On Oct. 26, 2018, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.
Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Oct 25, 2018, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.
“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.
The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies’ involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.
Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, “I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking.”
Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it’s also seen as a strong contender for that contract.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After finishing off Avengers: Endgame with a definitive and decidedly sweet ending, the next big Marvel movie — Spider-Man: Far From Home — will return to Marvel’s diabolic plans to get you to sit through the credits for extra scenes. Are there post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home and do that matter? The answer is a big yes.
No spoilers ahead.
It’s hard to know which of these facts feels more surreal:
Tom Holland has been in five Marvel movies as Spider-Man at this point
It’s only been five years since Andrew Garfield was in his second Spider-Man movie; which also starred Jamie Foxx getting bitten by electric eels.
2019 marks twelve years since Tobey Maguire did his emo-Spider-Man dance routine in Spider-Man 3.
Feeling old yet? If so, there’s some very good news about Spider-Man: Far From Home. The post-credits scene is basically made for olds. If you remember seeing the first Tobey Maguire Spidey-flick like the same year you were able to legally buy alcohol for the first time (or maybe even before) then this post-credits scene is for you.
We aren’t going to spoil what it is exactly yet, but let’s just put it this way: There are two post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the first one is the one you’ve got to see. Technically, this is what the pros call a “mid-credits” scene because it happens pretty quickly after the movie “ends.” (These movies never end.)
Will this scene make everyone happy? Yes. Does it set-up great things for the next big phase of Marvel movies. Big yes.
So, word of warning, between now and July 2, 2019, avoid spoilers as much as you can. This might not as Endgame-level as some thought, but if you’re of a certain age, it’s going to be very, very cool.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters on July 2, 2019, which is, friendly reminder, a freaking Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
America often fights wars as the big, bad empire with all the fancy toys and weapons. But U.S. troops haven’t always enjoyed the technological advantage. So, sometimes military leaders have turned to guerrilla tactics to keep the enemy off balance until a more conventional force can pin them down and defeat them.
Here are seven of the American guerrilla leaders who took the fight to the enemy:
John Mosby started his military career as a young cavalryman and scout but he was quickly identified by J.E.B. Stuart and commissioned as an officer. He rose to the rank of major before taking command of “Mosby’s Rangers,” the force that would later make him famous.
They also rescued over 500 stranded airmen and provided intelligence for Allied forces in the area. The Kachins would feed important target information to the Army Air Forces, allowing the bombing campaigns in the area to be much more successful.
4. Peter J. Ortiz
Marine Corps Maj. Peter J. Ortiz parachuted into Nazi-occupied with a team of five Marines, but one was killed and another seriously injured during the jump. Ortiz and the other three survivors linked up with the Maquis resistance and helped lead them in operations against the Germans.
The Marine-backed resistance forces set ambushes and stole key equipment. German losses were so heavy that they thought an entire Allied battalion had jumped into Normandy. The Americans were eventually captured, but put up such a fight that the German commander accepted the surrender and expected a company of fighters to emerge. When only four men came out, he initially accused Ortiz of lying about his numbers.
During the Civil War, he led fighters in Kansas and raised a group of volunteers to guard the White House before the Union Army raised troops for the same purpose. After returning to Kansas, he raised 2,000 fighters that guarded Kansas against Confederate action. His controversy comes from an 1861 assault into Missouri where he led his men in the assault, looting, and burning of Osceola, Missouri.
Armed with his 17-pound, .50-cal. sniper rifle, the 57-year-old man killed the men involved in his sons’ executions. Then he sought out to break the Union Army, firing on Union soldiers on the Tennessee River and killing about 100 troops. In one case, a Union gunboat attempted to surrender after suffering several losses because they were convinced they were under attack by a superior Confederate force.
In the crucial months following the D-Day invasion, the clever foxes of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops repeatedly fooled the Nazis by deploying a Ghost Army; a phantom division of mocked-up tanks, vehicles, and artillery. The artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who made up the unit managed to deceive the Nazis on more than 20 occasions.
Now, more than seventy years later, a bipartisan congressional movement seeks to reward the tricksters for their efforts. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill called “The Ghost Army Gold Medal Act,” according to the Washington Times. “It is finally time that the American people recognize their ingenuity and selflessness which saved countless American and Allied lives,” Mr. King says. “The Ghost Army deserve their due.”
The bill has picked up over 30 co-sponsors in the House, with a companion bill being introduced in the Senate. There are currently surviving “Ghost vets” in 11 states and the District of Columbia. If the Ghost Army is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, they will be joining other specialized WWII units such as the Monuments Men, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Native American Code-talkers.
Though the 23rd was made up of only 1,000 men, they were often able to dupe the Nazi army into believing they numbered closer to 30,000. They did this by strategically placing dummy tanks, trucks, and artillery within enemy line of site, while blasting sound effects of heavily armed infantry on giant boom boxes, while could be heard from more than 20km away. This was often enough to distract the enemy long enough for the non-inflatable Allied Army to get into position on the crucial front lines of Normandy to the Rhine River. It’s estimated that these tactics saved tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives.
The ingenuity of the 23rd wasn’t limited to battlefield theatrics. Actors within the Ghost Army impersonated U.S. general and hi-ranking officers in European towns, brazenly discussing fake military plans over casks of wine and fooling German spies. Architects and set designers even constructed dummy camps and airfields, complete with tents and laundry drying on clotheslines, and fake convoys of empty trucks ferrying back and forth.
Hollywood has taken notice, as well, and a “Ghost Army” film is currently being developed by “American Sniper” actor Bradley Cooper and producer Todd Philips.
Dillon’s tweet is clearly in reference to the Pentagon’s claim that Russian airstrikes targeted the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led SDF in Deir Ezzor east of the Euphrates River.
“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Several SDF fighters were wounded.”
No U.S. advisers embedded with SDF were hit, but a U.S. official told CNN that U.S. special operators were only a couple miles away from the location where the Russian airstrikes hit. The U.S. is still exploring the possibility that the strike was merely an error by the Russians, as opposed to a deliberate attack.
Russia shot back Sunday denying the Pentagon’s claim, stating instead that Russia only targets Islamic State fighters.
Both the SDF and Syrian Army have been in a race to take back Deir Ezzor from ISIS. While SDF was working on retaking Raqqa, Russian airstrikes backed the Syrian Army in breaking ISIS’ three-year-long siege on Deir Ezzor. Following Syrian Army advancements on Deir Ezzor, SDF quickly moved 86 miles south-east to the city from Raqqa, announcing Saturday it was launching a new offensive from the north and east, just as the Syrian Army is making major strides from the west.
An ongoing petition on Change.org is seeking at least 15,000 signatures to convince Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley to name DDG 127, an as-yet unnamed destroyer, after Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary L. Rehm, Jr., who allegedly gave up his own life while attempting to rescue six sailors in a flooding compartment on the USS Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgerald was struck by the ACX Crystal, a Philippine container ship, on June 17. The much larger Crystal impacted the Fitzgerald almost squarely on the sleeping berths, causing massive damage to the area where a number of sailors were resting.
As the water rushed in, the rest of the crew was forced to close the hatches while Rehm was still inside.
DDG 127, the ship which petitioners hope will be named after Rehm, is an Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer like the Fitzgerald. The guided-missile destroyers can fire a variety of missiles against everything from land targets to aircraft to submarines to other ships and even missiles in flight.
The Fitzgerald is named for Lt. William C. Fitzgerald, an officer who began his career as an enlisted sailor before graduating from the Naval Academy. He later gave his life to cover the retreat of civilians and other sailors under attack by the Viet Cong on Aug. 7, 1967. The ship’s motto is “Protect Your People.”
Rehm’s actions, if proven during the Navy’s investigation, surely upheld the ship’s traditions and motto.
The other six sailors who died in the June 17 crash were Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25; Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23; and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24.
In a small county in Northern Alabama, there’s a town named for Major Payne. It’s not named after the hilarious, quotable 1995 movie starring Damon Wayans. It’s named for a little-known U.S. Army officer who was stationed in the area in the 1830s, during the administration of Martin Van Buren — and there’s very little that’s funny about the real Major Payne.
Then-Capt. John G. Payne took command of the area now known as Fort Payne, Alabama, in the 1880s. Fort Payne was the site of Willstown, a Cherokee settlement where the Cherokee language received its alphabet. The Cherokees were keen to assimilate into the population of the greater United States, but the U.S. would have none of it. Under President Andrew Jackson, the natives were ordered to relocate to Oklahoma — and John Payne was sent to take the first steps.
Today, the area is home of Fort Payne, Alabama, seat of Dekalb County.
In 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which was supposed to set the stage for a negotiated and voluntary movement of native tribes to areas West of the Mississippi River. Instead, in practice, the act stripped natives of any rights in their current locations and all Native nations were forcibly moved to Oklahoma. The five so-called “civilized” tribes of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole were most affected.
Those five tribes had homes, farms, schools, and in many cases, functional and effective self-governance. They were not eager to leave all that behind in favor of some unknown land they’ve never seen. But the United States wasn’t really giving them a choice — the U.S. Army would move them at gunpoint, with many in chains.
Martin Van Buren: Andrew Jackson’s third term.
By the time Martin Van Buren took office in Washington, the Army was ready to move. In 1838, General Winfield Scott led the Army into areas controlled by the Cherokee, including what is today Fort Payne, Alabama. Waiting for him was a stockade constructed by forces under Major John Payne that was designed as an internment camp for Cherokees waiting to be relocated westward.
Payne himself would go on to settle in Tennessee and Georgia after marrying a woman of Native American descent. By the time of the Civil War, Payne was no longer affiliated with the military, and was living in the south with his wife and five children.
All that remains of Payne’s stockade is a stone chimney in the middle of an overgrown wood, a monolith tribute to the thousands of Cherokee that were removed from their homes almost 200 years ago.
Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.
The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.
The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.
“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”
An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.
Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.
The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.
The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.
In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.
Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.
But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.
That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.
“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.
In the early days of Rome, the city collected its own taxes. They would assess an individual’s wealth, impose a 1% tax, and then place them into a property class. The higher your wealth class, the more you paid in taxes, which were then used to buy equipment for the military. In the event of an emergency, taxes were raised to 3%.
Later, the Empire relied more on trade and conquest for taxes than passing the expenses onto the individual. As new provinces were added to the Empire, new tax opportunities came with them. By 167 B.C., it was no longer necessary to impose a Wealth Tax on Italian mainland citizens — they still had to pay all the other taxes, though. The Romans engineered a civilization that was able to collect and distribute taxes without a central bank.
As is the case with every great force, the Roman legions needed supplies and payment. Here’s how the Empire was able to raise and move the funds needed to continue conquering.
My taxes paid for that horn!
(Matthew Jose Fisher)
A Roman sesterce, an ancient Roman coin, had the buying power of about id=”listicle-2625004137″.50 USD when adjusted for inflation. Keep this rough approximation in mind when evaluating the following breakdown of Roman taxation.
The government’s spending per year was an estimated 20 billion HS (sesterces). This large sum, mostly, went to supporting the standing army of 300,000 men, which accounted for 30 legions across the Empire.
The Romans exported millions sesterces, precious metals, and goods to Arabia, India, and China. Hundreds of merchant ships sailed across international waters to provide a return on investment worthy of Imperial Rome. The government imposed an import tax on these goods, netting enough return on investment to keep the troops on the war path. Towards the end of the empire, taxes on imports could be as high as 1/8th of the value of the cargo being transported.
International trade routes generated large, taxable income but any drastic change in foreign powers made these trade alliances vulnerable, and in turn, the Empire itself vulnerable. For example, when the Han dynasty fell in China, it caused irrevocable damage to trade routes to East Asia. The loss of trade partners due to foreign instability caused further strain on the ability to pay Rome’s armies.
Do you accept payment in war trophies?
Conquering provinces to increase taxable territories
Conquering provinces was so lucrative that a general would go bankrupt raising an army in hopes that his invasion would pay his debts with interest, which it usually did.
Soldiers were divided into squad-like elements, called contubernium, that consisted of 8 legionaries. Each contubernium had a baggage train of one or two mules to carry heavy equipment and two slaves. A legion would have 4,000 contuberniums that would consume 8,000lbs of food and 12,000 gallons of water per day.
Troops would routinely forage for fodder, firewood, and water, but would be vulnerable to ambushes when doing so. To reduce the risks of foraging and ease the burden of paying for supplies, generals would order troops to pillage towns or population centers while awaiting resupply.
Supply trains would go through a strategic base, through operational bases, and finally, arrive at tactical bases. Operational bases were re-purposed tactical bases that were left behind with a garrison. The new purpose of these bases was to provide security for future supply trains after the army pushed forward on a campaign. The tactical base is the end of the line, where salaries and supplies met soldiers.
Veterans of O.I.F. and O.E.F. will recognize the similarities to our logistics regarding Forward Operating Bases, Patrol Bases, and everything in between.
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
Sometimes, the best way to get troops where they need to be is to drop ’em out of the sky. When you think parachute insertion, you likely envision a massive cloud of paratroopers, like those seen in Band of Brothers. However, that approach may not be the best in all situations. In fact, sometimes, it can be deadly.
PJs from Air Force Special Operations Command carry out a High-Altitude Low-Opening jump in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
A risky ride down
As the song “Blood on the Risers” so graphically explains, the massive airborne jumps are usually conducted via use of a static line that automatically opens the parachute. The very real problem, though, is that the transport has to fly relatively low, rendering it vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. The paratroopers are vulnerable, too, as they make a slow descent.
Honduran Special Forces Operators from the 15th Fuerzas Especiales Battalion and Green Berets from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) maneuver under canopy in formation towards the drop zone after conducting a high altitude low opening parachute jump (HALO) at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven K. Young)
Getting into a defended area
So, what do you do when you need to get troops into a defended area, say to rescue some hostages held by your usual assortment of terrorists? Well, the good news is that your transport plane can fly over whatever air defenses the scumbags may have — usually heavy machine guns and man-portable, surface-to-air missiles, like the SA-7 Grail. That solves half the problem: the transport doesn’t get shot down.
Airman from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing carry out HALO training during a 2014 exercise.
(DOD photo by Bernie Kale, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs)
Nowto minimize the risk faced by the folks making the jump. When you drop using astatic line, it’ll open chutesat high altitude, which makes it hard to hit your mark on the ground and leaves youvulnerable during a descent.The answer, then, is abandon the static line in favor offree falling and opening the parachute at a lower altitude.
Also known as a high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) jump, the usual approach involvesexitingthe plane at around25,000 feet anddeploying a chutemanually at roughly 3,500 feet. This greatly reduces the risk of being targetedmid-air.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss the United States’ security concerns amid what he called “escalating” Iranian activity.
Pompeo’s May 7, 2019, visit to the Iraqi capital came after the United States earlier this week announced the deployment an aircraft carrier battle group to the Middle East, which U.S. official said was in response to threats to American forces and the country’s allies from Iran.
The U.S. intelligence was “very specific” about “attacks that were imminent,” Pompeo said in Baghdad, without providing details.
Tehran has dismissed the reported threat as “psychological warfare.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since President Donald Trump one year ago withdrew the United States from the 2015 between Iran and world powers and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.
After meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad, Pompeo told reporters: “We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019.
(State Department Photo)
He said the purpose of the meetings also was to inform Iraqi leaders about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively provide protection to U.S. forces.
Pompeo said he had assured Iraqi officials that the United States stands ready to “continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”
“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq,” he said.
Asked about the decision to deploy additional forces to the Middle East, Pompeo said: “The message that we’ve sent to the Iranians, I hope, puts us in a position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests.”
After his four-hour visit, Pompeo tweeted that his meetings in Baghdad were used “to reinforce our friendship to underline the need for Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities Coalition personnel.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said the sides discussed “bilateral ties, the latest security developments in the region, and anti-terrorism efforts.”
U.S. forces are deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.
Ahead of the visit, Pompeo said he would also discuss with the Iraqis pending business accords, including “big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy.”
Earlier, the U.S. secretary of state had attended a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland and abruptly canceled a planned visit to Germany due to what a spokesperson said were “pressing issues.”
White House national-security adviser John Bolton on May 5, 2019, said that the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and accompanying ships, along with a bomber task force, to waters near Iran was intended to send “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
The United States was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” Bolton said.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
The Pentagon said on May 7, 2019, that the U.S. bomber task force being sent would consist of long-range, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.
Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the USS Abraham Lincoln was already due in the Persian Gulf and dismissed the U.S. announcement as a “clumsy” attempt to recycle old news for “psychological warfare.”
“From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called ‘Iranian threats’,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region — blaming Iran won’t reverse that.”
The latest escalation between Washington and Tehran comes ahead of the May 8 anniversary of the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement with Iran that provided the country with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
It’s 1 a.m. again, and I’m wearily crawling into bed hours after my partner.
This is the effect of “Apex Legends” on my life — the latest major Battle Royale game to demand the attention of tens of millions of players. Since “Apex Legends” arrived in early February 2019, it’s become the standard background game in my life.
Unlike “Fortnite” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex Legends” has its hooks in me deep and I don’t foresee them letting go anytime soon. Here’s why:
There are ziplines in “Apex Legends” that defy the laws of physics in delightful ways.
1. “Apex Legends” feels better to play, from gunplay to movement to strategy, than any other Battle Royale game available.
Everything about the act of playing “Apex Legends” feels good, and the more I dig into the game, the more I find to love.
The simple act of moving around is so thoroughly, thoughtfully detailed that it bears praising.
Here’s a very basic overview: Every character moves at the same speed, whether walking or running. While running, you can push the crouch button to slide — this offers you a minor speed boost if you’re on flat or sloping ground. Every character can jump, and if you hold jump while leaping into a wall you’ll clamber up the wall.
It’s a very simple set of rules, but the way that “Apex Legends” makes all movement feel so fluid and smooth is remarkable. It’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Apex Legends”: The game simply feels good to move around in. The same can’t be said for any other Battle Royale game.
2. It’s a tremendously detailed game, despite being straightforward and accessible to anyone.
Allow me an example: For the first few weeks, I rarely used hip-fire (shooting without aiming down the sights). Why would I do that if I could aim more carefully by aiming with a sight?
It turns out there’s a massive benefit to using hip-fire shooting in “Apex Legends,” and blending your shooting between aimed shots and hip-fire is a crucial component to successful play. Due to the relatively accurate spread of fire, hip-firing is critical for winning close-quarter fights with most weapons in “Apex Legends.”
That’s one tiny detail of myriad tiny details that make every little thing you do in “Apex Legends” feel so good. It’s actually my favorite component of the game: I’m still learning finer nuances of each specific weapon, of how to move through the environment more swiftly, of how to reach a place I didn’t know I could.
It’s a game that still feels remarkably fresh to me even after dozens of hours played.
The full “Apex Legends” island.
(“Apex Legends”/Electronic Arts)
3. The way players can interact with the extremely detailed world in “Apex Legends” is a testament to its excellent world design.
On our way to the next circle, my friend pinged a location for me to see — a tiny little hole he’d discovered that could be used to sneakily get away in a desperate Skull Town fight.
It was the most recent discovery he’d made after over 100 hours spent running, sliding, and shooting through the single map in “Apex Legends.”
There are dozens of these little quirks to the map, and it’s clear that an absurd amount of attention was given to exactly how each area of the map was laid out. There are always more angles to take, or ways to flank enemies, or a carefully placed boulder that’ll have to serve as cover — the hands of the game’s development team are all over the map if you look close enough.
“Fortnite” recently added a bus that acts a lot like the Respawn Beacons in “Apex Legends.”
4. “Apex Legends” is the evolution of Battle Royale — every other game in the genre feels old by comparison.
Watching a video recently of a popular Twitch streamer playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” I was struck by how stiff it was. Movement had no sense of weight to it, and the sound of the player running made it look like they were tiptoe-running across a field.
Frankly, it looked outdated and unpolished compared to “Apex Legends.”
The closest any Battle Royale game gets, in terms of movement and gunplay and feel, is “Call of Duty: Blackout.” It’s quick, and has solid gunplay, and there are some interesting gameplay twists that make it unique. But it is inherently a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode, with all the baggage that comes with — movement isn’t very fluid, and guns mostly sound like toys.
And that’s before we start talking about the respawn system, or ziplines, or the pinging system, or dropships, or care packages, or the jumpmaster system, or any of the other dozen innovations that “Apex Legends” brings to the Battle Royale genre. It adds so much new stuff that it feels like a full step forward past every other game in the genre.
Level 1 Shield here!
5. The ping system!
It’s hard to overstate how impressive the ping system is in “Apex Legends.” It should be the number one takeaway for any game developer working on a new multiplayer shooter.
The idea is simple: See an enemy? Tap the right bumper on your gamepad, and your character will call out those enemies and even mark their last movement for your teammates. See ammo your teammate needs? Tap the right bumper! It’s a brilliant, robust system for “spotting” various things — from items to enemies.
Smarter still, that system is contextual. If you’re looking at a level-three helmet and “spot” it, your character shouts out, “Level-three helmet here!” and marks it for your teammates. It’s this system that enables teammates to communicate a wealth of information without having to literally speak to strangers.
The spotting system cannot be overstated in its importance — it’s such a smart innovation that I outright expect it to show up in most multiplayer shooters going forward. It better!
Even with a sight, shooting someone from this distance with an Alternator is a tricky proposition.
6. It’s the best shooter of any Battle Royale game — shooting specifically.
The team behind “Apex Legends” has a serious pedigree behind it, having created the “Call of Duty” series and the “Titanfall” series.
It’s no surprise, then, that the shooting in “Apex Legends” feels so good — it’s from developers who more or less set the standard in video-game shooting.
To this end, bullets fall appropriately over a distance. Gunshot sounds are directional. Headshots feel substantial, and submachine guns feel like high-powered BB guns.
The shooting looks, feels, and sounds as good or better than the best shooting games, from the latest “Call of Duty” to “Destiny 2.”
This may sound obvious but, in the most popular Battle Royale games, the shooting is pretty terrible. “Fortnite” has notoriously lackluster shooting mechanics. The only great Battle Royale shooter is “Call of Duty: Blackout,” and that shooting is held back by the relatively stiff movement of the game.
7. Since each Legend has their own abilities, learning how to mix those abilities with your friends is a blast.
In “Fortnite,” every character you play as has the same abilities. It’s a third-person shooter with building mechanics, and every avatar — visuals aside — is identical.
The same can be said for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and the Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”
But in “Apex Legends,” each player has unique abilities. There are various “classes” of characters — soldiers, tanks, healers, etc. — and various specialties within each class. In this way, “Apex Legends” is more similar to “Overwatch” than its direct competition.
And blending those characters into a team made up of complementary players is part of the delight of “Apex Legends.” Better yet: The game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, has already added one new character, Octane. And more are promised for the future.
So, what are these powers? They range from the ability to conjure a healing drone that can heal multiple teammates at once, to a grappling hook for reaching high places, to the ability to deploy noxious-gas containers. Using Bangalore’s smoke grenade combined with Gibraltar’s air strike ultimate is one combination I’ve been particularly enjoying.
Since it’s still early days for “Apex Legends,” many of the best ways to use various abilities are still shaking out. And that’s thrilling! There’s a “meta” to “Apex Legends” that is deeper and smarter than games like “Fortnite.” It feels like there are many ways to win, with a variety of different team setups, rather than a “best” way to win. And that leads to the kind of experimentation that keeps the game fresh.
Picking up wins with friends is absolutely delightful.
8. Playing with friends is critical, and makes the game so much more enjoyable.
I’ve had lots of good matches of “Apex Legends” with total strangers. I’ve won many games where my teammates and I never spoke a word, using only the in-game pinging system to communicate while moving from fight to fight. It is entirely possible to play this game with strangers and have a blast.
But nothing is better than playing with friends, using both your voice and the game’s pinging system to detail your words. Saying “Enemies right here” and pinging the location at the same time is a great way to immediately convey complex information to your teammates. Even better is the tactical planning you convey to each other afterward as you head into battle. “I’ll take left flank,” for instance, or “Getting height” — common refrains while sneaking up on an opposing squad.
Better still, you learn each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s chosen character. You laugh at each other’s faults and call out items you know friends are looking for — yes, I’m always looking for an R-301. Thank you for remembering!
It’s why I’ve been staying up way past my normal bedtime almost every day to play more “Apex Legends.” It’s the best game that’s come out this year by a longshot, and by far the best Battle Royale game available.