MIKA27

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5 hours ago, MIKA27 said:

Hmm.... Can someone find me a "good moderator" to report this nonsense to? :rolleyes:

@Fuzz who would honestly pay to watch a movie with Hawkgirl, Zatanna, Black Canary, Huntress, Mary Marvel?

None of the above would be good enough for a stand alone movie IMO.  Out of your selections, I'd love to see Zatanna somewhere in a movie no doubt though. ;)

And that is the problem with DC. Nobody cares about any characters outside of the big 3.

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16 hours ago, Fuzz said:

And that is the problem with DC. Nobody cares about any characters outside of the big 3.

I care about the others but.... on their own, meh.

What I think would be the best platform is a big budget mini series where these characters can play their parts and roles, not left on the scrap room floor as major cuts and edits which would lead to a lackluster movie only because studios limit movie run times.

Who wouldn't want to see Black Canary or hawk girl? But maybe in such a series where you got your BIG 3 along with the others.

If it can work for acclaimed series such as Game Of Thrones, AMC Walking Dead, and so many other successes, I think this is the ONLY WAY to tell the stories that do justice to them all, INCLUDING the top 3. I mean.... one can say BvS was crap (I still liked it), but the story they wanted to tell versus the story we got was massively convoluted, messy due to time limits. Even the theatrical release versus the extended edition.

Another example of this, and its purely IMO, people are already complaining about Marvels Avengers endgame being past the 3 hour mark. WTF?

I have no issue to sit and watch a great movie, I much prefer a long run time and great story versus a rushed job for a movie that deserved better. This is the issue I find with DC, they still haven't worked out Marvels formula, which is a real shame.

But be it Marvel, DC, whatever, I think if you have an ensemble of characters, one can not introduce them all in one movie. It should go down to a series.

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The Cautionary Tale Of An Idiot, A Mercedes C43 AMG, Bald Tires And 2,000 Miles Of Blizzard

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Source: Jalopnik

I should have known that things were off to a bad start when the airport check-in kiosk wouldn’t read my passport.

Sure, the woman behind the counter was cheerful when she told me I “mis-booked” my flight, and that I had to cough up $847 to get the flight I wanted in the first place.

But it didn’t help, and it later proved to be the first of several bad omens to come.

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The plan was to fly from my home in Minneapolis to pick up a car in California and drive back. I wanted to take U.S. Route 50 out of Sacramento through Lake Tahoe and continue on across Nevada, and from there I’d shoot up through Salt Lake City and across the Dakotas.
I hadn’t bought something and drove it this far in some years. The last time was a 1972 911 from Virginia. Or maybe that 321,869km 996 from South Carolina. Or the Yugo GV from North Dakota. It all runs together.

Anyway, this time my requirements were specific. I wanted a manual, from Europe, with rear-wheel drive, it had to be special, and under $14,122. Time on Bring a Trailer proved how unexpectedly difficult this has become; evidently I missed the boat on cheap E36 M3s, and every other M3 under $14,122 has had a hard life.

Interiors are destroyed, miles are high, and more often than not, there’s a salvage title in the glovebox. And to be honest, they’re underrated, but not that special.

What else was there? An E34? E30? E39? An older manual Mercedes 190E? A Porsche 944? I looked at everything. Facebook is useless for a buyer searching for in specific locations. Craigslist is still a crapshoot. Phone calls are frustrating. Most cars were sold, but the ads still lingered. I told one guy he was a little high on the car. He thought I meant actually “high” and hung up on me.

An imported E34 turned up, but after several days of back and forth it turned out the guy didn’t have a title. Another guy with an E30 ghosted me. And thanks to that aforementioned auction website, where a six-speed 540i with a manual and 241,402km commands obscene prices, every slightly unique toilet of a car is forged in gold, cast in the foundry that is Bring a Trailer.

I settled on a 190E, a cool car overshadowed by “God’s chariot,” dead reliable when maintained right and pretty comfortable. They made tons of them, and while most are totally pounded, the good ones are still cheap at around $5,649 to $8,473. The perfect one existed on Craigslist in Ohio, but the owner I contacted was out of town for a while.

Back to square one. But that took me where this journey ultimately led: the Mercedes C43 AMG. A 4.3-litre V8 with 300 horsepower in a tiny ’90s C-Class? Sign me up.

This car was a product of an era when Mercedes was kind of struggling to catch up to the stuff made by its German rivals at BMW’s M division. For much of the late ’80s through the late ’90s, Mercedes’ most badass cars were made by someone else—the AMG Hammer, or the 500E built by Porsche.

By stuffing a V8 into what used to be the six-cylinder C36, Mercedes — which took full control of AMG in 1999 — aimed to strike back. It was more expensive than the E36 M3, and despite having significantly more power, didn’t perform quite as well in many regards.

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Our first meeting.

I didn’t care. It was special.

Yet just like the E36 M3s, the early AMG stuff has been badly abused. The unfortunate thing is that production numbers were far lower, so finding a good one is thus considerably tougher. Only about 4,200 C43s were manufactured from 1997 to 2000 — and that’s globally. The AMG badge and its cheap initial cost make it the perfect choice for sketchy guys in striped track suits whose hobbies include carrying concealed weapons and referring to everything as “lit.”

The upkeep isn’t easy though. Unless you do the work yourself, just changing the spark plugs (it’s a twin plug engine) and wires is a $700 affair, and brakes can be over $1,400. Deferred maintenance has slid most C43s into the dustbin of history, or worse, they’re somehow kept limping along, as mere husks of their former selves. I found a black one with 241,402km before I found out in the fine print that it was actually in Puerto Rico. Another graced Bring a Trailer, but it had a salvage title.

Just before I gave up on getting a C43, returning to beige interior, beige dash, beige emotion E39s, I came across a white one in San Francisco. After a few pleasantries and more photos, a deposit was exchanged, and a flight was booked.

On the wrong day.

Upon meeting this car it proved cleaner than I’d expected, a rare occurrence. According to the owner it needed an alignment, and according to my fingers the rear summer tires were over half worn, but not to the bars.

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It drove exactly what a car made for hauling around suitcases full of track suits and MP5s should feel like. The 300 HP did its job and pressing your chest lightly into the seat. The shift at 100 feels the same as the rest. When it was new, 300 horses was a lot, and honestly, it feels like a lot in a small car like the C43. The cruise control worked just fine at 217km/h, and there was no problem getting to the electronically limited 155 if you wanted to, which I didn’t.

The steering was heavy, and pushed back nicely with no electric motors interfering with the conversation. The traction control, however, was pretty annoying—there’s no way to turn it off short of presumably unplugging the ABS module, so I was stuck with a triangle strobe light off the line or whenever I tried to re-enact my favourite scenes from Ronin.

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I was set to meet an editor from another car publication for breakfast the next day before starting my drive back to Minnesota. Just before taking off on my connecting flight I scheduled an alignment for that morning. On the test drive, the alignment felt ok, just a slight drift to the right. Manageable.

My budget had been stomped by the $847 plane ticket. I checked the weather for the route home. It seemed like it could snow, but I figured I could drive around it.

I cancelled the appointment. A late afternoon departure put me in Nevada at 9 PM. I’d drive through Lake Tahoe, and take highway 50 across Nevada. It would cost me an hour on paper, but I knew I could make up time on the desolate highway in the obviously Autobahn-engineered C43. Right?

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The climb up to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento started out well. It was about an hour out when I realised things were going poorly. Signs popped up warning of snow chains and impending hazardous road conditions. I’d checked the weather. How could this be happening?

The snow started to pile up imperceptibly on the side of Interstate 80. First a trace, then it was up to the armco barriers. I had to quit fiddling with my radio transmitter.

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The rain had turned to flurries, and slush was starting to pile up on the road. Deep ruts from tire chains had destroyed the right lane. The alignment went from “Yeah ok, this isn’t so bad, just a little pull to the right” to “Do I remember what my kids look like?”

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The car darted in and out of the ruts. The front toe was way out and the rear tires were worthless. Slush between the lanes yanked the car around. The giant yellow triangle in the middle of the speedometer blinked, warning me to not do whatever it was I was doing.

I reduced my speed to 50 mph, eventually settling on 56km/h. I crept just off center in the rutted right lane as more responsible motorists with good alignments and good tires passed by.

The snow was past the armco and my roof. It towered above the car, 10 to 4.57m from the ground. It was a white wall. I wondered what crashing into it would be like.

Nevada was a welcome sight. Lower elevation and drier air cleared the roads, and in turn, my speeds increased. I realised the wiper that was on the car was at the end of its life. The local small town parts store didn’t have a new one. It’s a mono wiper, moving like the guy throwing the advertisement in front of the “taxes for free” office.

Walking back out of the store, I noticed that the driver’s side headlight wiper was in the upright position. It seemed symbolic—and probably expensive.

I’d wanted to snag photos on Highway 50 as the sun fled into the distant mountains. The high desert of Nevada is alluring. Highway 50 is known as the “Loneliest Road in America.”

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It probably isn’t. Some of the routes through middle Nevada are far less travelled. It starts its cross-state run at Reno with the last town being Ely, over 515km. It used to be hundreds of miles between fill-ups, but towns have filled in.

The roads were clear to Austin, Nevada, 161km into Highway 50. The wind started to pick up after. I had no cell phone service. The light amount of snow that had fallen earlier was now blowing across the road. It lay on the pavement in stripes. The car lurched over each one, revealing the true nature of its alignment. I’d realised in Tahoe I needed tires and an alignment, but no one stocked the tire.

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In the middle of nowhere Nevada, the odds were stacked even further against me. I kept on. I was the only one on the road.

The sunset I was after never came. The clouds never gave respite. Darkness fell, and visibility came and went. Road conditions had varied until the halfway point, but there was no thinking “I’ll drive through this” any more after that. It had begun to snow, and the winds kept up.

In the distance two headlights were pointed off and down, illuminating the side of a berm. One headlight was askew. It was a semi pulling two separate trailers full of hay. The wheel on the driver side was pointed in a different direction, the tie rod obviously broken. Snow and dirt were shoveled up over the top of the bumper, about halfway up the grille. The driver must have dipped just one tire off.

I drove past, then stopped, then backed up. I hadn’t seen anyone on the road in over 30 minutes.

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The truck idled, the only thing other than my car making any noise for miles. “Hey, man do you need help?” I asked. The return was in Spanish. His voice was absurdly cheerful, and upbeat, given the situation. I tried to offer help but the communication barrier was too much to overcome. I hoped someone was coming to get him. I simplified the interaction with “You ok?

He said, “I OK.” I bid farewell with “buenos noches,” and rolled on.

It was dry again 145km from Ely. I was going to be late. The next town I came to was asleep. The gas station was closed with pay at the pump available. I filled up and fixed my misaligned headlight. It was an empty gesture and unlikely to help in the blowing snow.

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A forgettable green Ford Explorer pulled up, and a young woman with purple slippers hopped out. I wondered where she could be going alone at this time of night, in this place. She stood in the dirty slush, her heels and toes outside the fuzzy confines of her slippers. I quietly muttered “what are thooooose?” to myself. One hotel sat in the middle of town. There was one car in the lot.

The elevation jumped very slightly as I rolled by. The traction control light started up. It’s giant triangle not blinking for seconds, but minutes. It was relentless. The car was riding on pure ice.

The differential in the C43 offered itself up, somehow allowing both wheels to weakly attempt to move the car out of the town and up the next hill. I got about a half-mile out of town and could go no further.

I didn’t want my last words to be “what are thooooose?”

A brand new Cadillac Escalade pulled up next to me. I looked over at his tires. They were gnarly, with knobs out to the top sidewalls. The driver rolled down the passenger window.
I asked the guy inside if he wanted to trade vehicles. Clearly unimpressed at my attempt at humour, he declined and asked me if I had chains. I didn’t. He implored me to go back, as it only got worse. I would. He took off in a manner I could only dream of.

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Turning around on the steep incline wasn’t easy. I was on a curve. Any input on the accelerator pulled me backward and sideways towards the ditch. In fact, anything I did at all induced slipping. I would have to back up into a J turn.

I got about halfway through it when the car started to slide down the hill at a perpendicular angle to the road. I had no control. It was a tenuous, prolonged descent, angled slightly towards the ditch.

The tires caught the rumble strip at the side of the road and stopped. I put the car in reverse, muttering “so slow, so careful” as if I had to convince myself that getting stuck here would be an awful situation. I had AAA, but it would take all night for them to arrive. I’d have to walk back to my hotel, ashamed at all the choices I had made.

I wasn’t even sure decent tires would have helped at this point. I had less tread on my shoes than the tires did, and falling down over and over again all the way to the only hotel in town seemed pathetic.

Slowly, and carefully, I reversed horizontally across the road. Momentum and brakes took me the rest of the way back down the hill and into a town called, humorously, Eureka.

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I rang the doorbell at the desk of the Sundown Hotel. It was 11:30 or so. I heard some rustling above me, and a woman clomped down some stairs and fell on to the stool behind the desk. Seventy-nine dollars, she said. Fine.

She mentioned they usually took care of the roads by 7 AM, and that all of this weather was out really of season. It helped me feel less like an idiot, but not much.

It was cold in the room. The heat was off. Outside it was 25 degrees. Inside it wasn’t much better. I poked the bed. The blankets were thin, and the hotel should have sprung for a new mattress years ago. I turned the shower on hot, which wasn’t. I crawled into the shitty bed with the shitty blankets and thought about my shitty tires. I remembered the woman had told me she was going to bed, knowing there was nothing I could do short of sleeping in the car.

I feared dying from an exhaust leak in there, the world thinking I’d just had enough of this stupid used AMG and the snow. I was shivering. I checked the weather, wondering how far I’d be able to go the next day. There was a blizzard coming, and I-80, my route home, was closed. I hopped on DiscountTire.com and bought a set of tires and set them up to be delivered to a location in Salt Lake City.

I slept for 45 minutes.

I decided I’d head back the way I had come, where it had been dry, and then shoot straight north to I-80 via U.S. 276. The roads had deteriorated, but 276 was flat and it wasn’t snowing. Oncoming truck traffic was brutal. Each one pulled snow off the road surface and blinded me for a few moments. I couldn’t see the road, or anything out any of the other windows either.

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Upon seeing one, I pulled as far right as I could and slowed to 10 mph. Despite the dangers from the trucks, 276 was mostly unpopulated, just like 50. Other than the road, there were little signs of humanity. No power lines, no buildings, and no real roads. In the distance, mountains sat stoically on their bedrock. The snow thinly veiled their shape, smoothing out much of their rocky surface. It was stunning.

In all my travels in the western U.S., I’d never seen anything like it. The mountains stood in contrast to the usually arid, desaturated scene. It made the previous night’s problems seem like currency paid to see the view. With the car off there was near silence, the only sounds the wind whistling in and out of the rocks, brush, and drifts.

I-80 came, and with it, a sense of relief washed over me.

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I got my tires and an alignment, so by the early evening I was on the road again. I drove until I couldn’t, to Evanston, Wyoming. That hotel had heat and hot water, so things were looking up, until I learned the next morning that I-80 was still closed.

In the belief that I was going broke by not sleeping for free in my own bed, I decided I’d push on. The interstate was dreadful, even where it was open, it was covered in varying surfaces: hard packed ice, snow, small drifts, and slush. I pushed north around West Yellowstone, Montana near the northwestern-most point of Wyoming.

In Montana, I’d hook up with 12 or 94 and hope those interstates, which were also closed, would open. Just past West Yellowstone, I pulled over for a few photos. I observed the car would need spacers, because for some reason the rear wheels just didn’t fill out the fender wells as they should.

The snowpack was still deep, but the roads cleared up the farther north I went. Driveways had 4.57m or more of snow lined up. It was deep enough you couldn’t see the gas stations behind them.

At a gas station in Bozeman, Montana, I took a closer look at the stance. Through some of the sweepers on U.S. Highway 20 out of Yellowstone, I’d had some rubbing. The front tires had 245s on them, and so did the rear... at least on the passenger side. I stood up straight, not believing what I was about to discover. Indeed, the other side of the car had the 225s on it. Are you fucking kidding me?, I screamed inside my mind.

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My morale was low, the interstates were closed, and now I was going to be stuck in a tire shop getting the wheels swapped around. Discount Tire apologetically paid for the work at another company’s shop, and then some. Customer service, it turns out, is not dead.

Miles City, Montana sits at the Interstate 94/U.S. 12 split near the Dakotas. One goes into South Dakota, the other North. Either way is a wasteland of a drive, and both were 100 per cent closed. I pushed on towards Bismarck via I-94, where the closure occurred. With new tires (on the correct hub) and an alignment, the C43 finally felt like the car it was supposed to be. It ate up the miles.

For hours I violated the law on an absolutely barren stretch of interstate. There were no trucks and just a few cars. With no way through, people had elected to stay home, or just hole up. Truck stops were overflowing, far past their capacity. On ramps and off ramps were parking lots. Thus far the roads were dry and nearly perfect. About two hours short of Bismarck my radar detector lit up. I actually wasn’t even speeding.

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I made eye contact with the North Dakota State Trooper through my illegal tint. I laughed as I went by, elated that I wasn’t going to get pulled over. I realised it was the first time I’d laughed, or said much other than “checking in” in several days. Several minutes later he pulled me over. While I was drifting towards the rumble strip, I raised my hands in disgust, my emotion finally getting the best of me.

The trooper asked if I’d like to explain my frustration in his police car. He was nice enough. He had a K-9 too. I suspected this section of road to be a drug corridor. I apparently smelled fine and was sent on my way.

Bismarck came up fast, and eventually I-94 opened like a gated, private road just as I rolled into the city limits. I was alone, and the newly opened interstate was mine. The roads were still garbage; there was little that would shake my resolve. There were no more obstacles, and I was six hours from home. I was just an idiot in a C43, but I’d made it.

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So what do you take from this, if you want to buy an old car out of state and then drive it home? People do it all the time. I’ve certainly done it. A lot of preparation is needed, but in the end you never really know what’s going to happen.

In hindsight, I should have addressed the tires and alignment first. I should have pushed harder for the previous owner to drop the car at a tire shop at my expense before I got there. I could have made that a deal breaker, and I can’t imagine he would have balked. Following your own advice is often the hardest.

I was so enamoured with finally finding a car that didn’t suck I overlooked the exact thing I tell everyone to do: a pre-purchase inspection. A lot can go wrong in 3,219km. (It was 2,071, to be exact.)

Yet the solitude and ups and downs built a relationship with the car I wouldn’t have otherwise. Even though I was a lot poorer, I didn’t care. Driving isn’t always about attacking, performance, and lap times. Sometimes it’s just a way to experience things you never would have before, regardless of what road you’re on.

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47 minutes ago, MIKA27 said:

I care about the others but.... on their own, meh.

What I think would be the best platform is a big budget mini series where these characters can play their parts and roles, not left on the scrap room floor as major cuts and edits which would lead to a lackluster movie only because studios limit movie run times.

Who wouldn't want to see Black Canary or hawk girl? But maybe in such a series where you got your BIG 3 along with the others.

If it can work for acclaimed series such as Game Of Thrones, AMC Walking Dead, and so many other successes, I think this is the ONLY WAY to tell the stories that do justice to them all, INCLUDING the top 3. I mean.... one can say BvS was crap (I still liked it), but the story they wanted to tell versus the story we got was massively convoluted, messy due to time limits. Even the theatrical release versus the extended edition.

Another example of this, and its purely IMO, people are already complaining about Marvels Avengers endgame being past the 3 hour mark. WTF?

I have no issue to sit and watch a great movie, I much prefer a long run time and great story versus a rushed job for a movie that deserved better. This is the issue I find with DC, they still haven't worked out Marvels formula, which is a real shame.

But be it Marvel, DC, whatever, I think if you have an ensemble of characters, one can not introduce them all in one movie. It should go down to a series.

I disagree. Marvel managed to do an ensemble film with Guardians of the Galaxy. Prior to GOTG, all the characters had their own back stories, but none of that mattered in the MCU. Black Widow still hasn't been given her own film, but she is bankable (ScarJo may have helped a fair bit).

DC made a hash of Suicide Squad. BvS was horrendous. Justice League was ok, but that was because you already had the big 3 with their stand alone films. Do a Birds of Prey film to establish some of the minor characters (I say minor compared to WW, Supes and Batsy) of the Justice League. Hell, where's the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (RR version has been erased from my memory) or the Flash movies?

It's really odd. DC can do TV series, but kinda suck at films. Whereas Marvel is the other way around.

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4 minutes ago, Fuzz said:

I disagree. Marvel managed to do an ensemble film with Guardians of the Galaxy. Prior to GOTG, all the characters had their own back stories, but none of that mattered in the MCU. Black Widow still hasn't been given her own film, but she is bankable (ScarJo may have helped a fair bit).

DC made a hash of Suicide Squad. BvS was horrendous. Justice League was ok, but that was because you already had the big 3 with their stand alone films. Do a Birds of Prey film to establish some of the minor characters (I say minor compared to WW, Supes and Batsy) of the Justice League. Hell, where's the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (RR version has been erased from my memory) or the Flash movies?

It's really odd. DC can do TV series, but kinda suck at films. Whereas Marvel is the other way around.

without wanting to get into this debate, guardians was great fun. guardians 2 was one giant load of turgid rubbish. the second worst film kurt russell has done (he was awful), since whatever that monumental heap of steaming excrement he did for that one-trick-pony tarantino was. 

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1 hour ago, MIKA27 said:

The Cautionary Tale Of An Idiot, A Mercedes C43 AMG, Bald Tires And 2,000 Miles Of Blizzard

 

Geez. Pick a measurement system and stick to it. Hopping from miles to kms, and occasionally throwing in metres. When he wrote "25 degrees" I thought to myself, "That's a little warm for a hotel room", before my brain clicked it was Fahrenheit.

20 minutes ago, Ken Gargett said:

without wanting to get into this debate, guardians was great fun. guardians 2 was one giant load of turgid rubbish. the second worst film kurt russell has done (he was awful), since whatever that monumental heap of steaming excrement he did for that one-trick-pony tarantino was. 

Agree. For GOTG 2 they rushed it and came out with a lame reason for Star Lord's heritage. Kurt Russell was wasted on that role as Ego. It was a very weak story, and more of a gap filler for Infinity Wars.

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Rhino Poacher In South Africa Reportedly Killed By Elephant, Then Eaten By Lions

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A man suspected to have entered Kruger National Park in South Africa near the border with Mozambique on Monday with four compatriots to poach protected rhinos was reportedly killed by an elephant before becoming a meal to a pack of lions, according to a report in the Letaba Herald subsequently confirmed by other outlets.

Spokesman Isaac Phaahla told the paper that “According to the family of the deceased, they were called by his accomplices who notified them that their relative had been killed by an elephant while they were in the KNP to poach a rhino on Tuesday evening.” Kruger National Park Rangers along with South African Police Service officers from Komatipoort and Skukuza discovered the remains in the Crocodile Bridge section of the park during a search on April 4, the Herald wrote.

The Herald wrote that after the man was suddenly attacked by the elephant, lions devoured much of his body:

Quote

 

According to Phaala, indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants. Skukuza police were notified immediately and are currently busy with further investigations into the incident.

... “Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that. It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains,” [NKP Managing Executive Glenn Phillips] said.

 

According to CNN, three people suspected of participating in the hunt were arrested over the past week, resulting in seizures of firearms. They are being held on charges of “possessing firearms and ammunition without a licence, conspiracy to poach and trespassing,” and have been remanded to custody pending a formal bail application, CNN wrote. 

Kruger National Park, a highly protected zone guarded by everything from dogs to aircraft, says it is home to an estimated 349 to 465 of the critically endangered black rhino, which the IUCN Red List notes used to number in the hundreds of thousands of individuals. They now are believed to number at somewhere around 5,000, with almost all living in protected ranges in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

CNN wrote that the park also says it is home between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, which the IUCN Red List categorizes as Near Threatened and has a population of roughly 19,600 to 21,100 individuals concentrated in the same countries (though the northern subspecies is on the brink of extinction).

Both the black and white rhinoceroses are subject to poaching for ivory, which is sold on the international black market as both a bunk form of alternative medicine and as a status symbol. According to CNN, the South African Police Service made 680 poaching and trafficking arrests in 2016, some 417 of whom were “in and around” Kruger National Park. As the BBC noted, Hong Kong authorities recently made their biggest rhino horn bust in half a decade, seizing approximately $3 million worth of it.

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2 minutes ago, MIKA27 said:

Rhino Poacher In South Africa Reportedly Killed By Elephant, Then Eaten By Lions

h1rxr0ttlt0aieab2xse.jpg

A man suspected to have entered Kruger National Park in South Africa near the border with Mozambique on Monday with four compatriots to poach protected rhinos was reportedly killed by an elephant before becoming a meal to a pack of lions, according to a report in the Letaba Herald subsequently confirmed by other outlets.

Spokesman Isaac Phaahla told the paper that “According to the family of the deceased, they were called by his accomplices who notified them that their relative had been killed by an elephant while they were in the KNP to poach a rhino on Tuesday evening.” Kruger National Park Rangers along with South African Police Service officers from Komatipoort and Skukuza discovered the remains in the Crocodile Bridge section of the park during a search on April 4, the Herald wrote.

The Herald wrote that after the man was suddenly attacked by the elephant, lions devoured much of his body:

According to CNN, three people suspected of participating in the hunt were arrested over the past week, resulting in seizures of firearms. They are being held on charges of “possessing firearms and ammunition without a licence, conspiracy to poach and trespassing,” and have been remanded to custody pending a formal bail application, CNN wrote. 

Kruger National Park, a highly protected zone guarded by everything from dogs to aircraft, says it is home to an estimated 349 to 465 of the critically endangered black rhino, which the IUCN Red List notes used to number in the hundreds of thousands of individuals. They now are believed to number at somewhere around 5,000, with almost all living in protected ranges in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

CNN wrote that the park also says it is home between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, which the IUCN Red List categorizes as Near Threatened and has a population of roughly 19,600 to 21,100 individuals concentrated in the same countries (though the northern subspecies is on the brink of extinction).

Both the black and white rhinoceroses are subject to poaching for ivory, which is sold on the international black market as both a bunk form of alternative medicine and as a status symbol. According to CNN, the South African Police Service made 680 poaching and trafficking arrests in 2016, some 417 of whom were “in and around” Kruger National Park. As the BBC noted, Hong Kong authorities recently made their biggest rhino horn bust in half a decade, seizing approximately $3 million worth of it.

not that one would normally wish harm on others, and tragic for the family, but the only bad news in this is that the others didn't get eaten as well. 

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I hope those lions didn't get indigestion.

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5 hours ago, MIKA27 said:

Rhino Poacher In South Africa Reportedly Killed By Elephant, Then Eaten By Lions

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A man suspected to have entered Kruger National Park in South Africa near the border with Mozambique on Monday with four compatriots to poach protected rhinos was reportedly killed by an elephant before becoming a meal to a pack of lions, according to a report in the Letaba Herald subsequently confirmed by other outlets.

Spokesman Isaac Phaahla told the paper that “According to the family of the deceased, they were called by his accomplices who notified them that their relative had been killed by an elephant while they were in the KNP to poach a rhino on Tuesday evening.” Kruger National Park Rangers along with South African Police Service officers from Komatipoort and Skukuza discovered the remains in the Crocodile Bridge section of the park during a search on April 4, the Herald wrote.

The Herald wrote that after the man was suddenly attacked by the elephant, lions devoured much of his body:

According to CNN, three people suspected of participating in the hunt were arrested over the past week, resulting in seizures of firearms. They are being held on charges of “possessing firearms and ammunition without a licence, conspiracy to poach and trespassing,” and have been remanded to custody pending a formal bail application, CNN wrote. 

Kruger National Park, a highly protected zone guarded by everything from dogs to aircraft, says it is home to an estimated 349 to 465 of the critically endangered black rhino, which the IUCN Red List notes used to number in the hundreds of thousands of individuals. They now are believed to number at somewhere around 5,000, with almost all living in protected ranges in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

CNN wrote that the park also says it is home between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, which the IUCN Red List categorizes as Near Threatened and has a population of roughly 19,600 to 21,100 individuals concentrated in the same countries (though the northern subspecies is on the brink of extinction).

Both the black and white rhinoceroses are subject to poaching for ivory, which is sold on the international black market as both a bunk form of alternative medicine and as a status symbol. According to CNN, the South African Police Service made 680 poaching and trafficking arrests in 2016, some 417 of whom were “in and around” Kruger National Park. As the BBC noted, Hong Kong authorities recently made their biggest rhino horn bust in half a decade, seizing approximately $3 million worth of it.

Would this be a "Darwin award" ??

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On 4/8/2019 at 4:51 PM, Ken Gargett said:

not that one would normally wish harm on others, and tragic for the family, but the only bad news in this is that the others didn't get eaten as well. 

Completely agree mate :D

And @GrouchoMarx seems a Darwin award would be in order... if only one had a hand to forward that over to ;) 

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In The First Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Game Trailer, A New Jedi Hero Rises

At this year’s Star Wars Celebration the creative team behind Respawn’s upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order took to the stage to debut the game’s first trailer and discuss Star Wars’ newest Jedi: Cal Kestis.

In Fallen Order, a single-player, combat-focused game, you play as Cal Kestis (voiced by Gotham’s Cameron Monaghan) a Jedi-in-training who managed to escape Order 66 who is now on the run and working to keep his identity as a Force sensitive secret from a group of Purge Troopers—elite Storm Troopers specifically trained to fight Jedi—who are on the hunt for him. While Cal is initially able to fly under the rising Empire’s radar by keeping a low profile on the planet Bracca, when he accidentally exposes himself as being able to wield the Force, he becomes the target of one of the Empire’s most lethal killers: the Second Sister.

While Cal shows off a variety of Force abilities suggesting that he was rather far along in his studies of the Force, the game’s development team teased that the lightsaber seen in the trailer might not be his and, over the course of the story, it’s going to change and evolve.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hits stores in November.

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Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas 19 December 2019.

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Scientists Could Soon Resurrect The Woolly Mammoth - But Should They?

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Bringing an extinct species back to life was once firmly in the realm of science fiction, but as genetic engineering advances rapidly, the prospect of a woolly mammoth again breathing and walking on Earth seems almost within reach. Before fully resurrecting the mammoth, synthetic biologists at the Revive and Restore project are working to resuscitate pieces of ancient genomes with the goal of mixing them with the DNA of living species (Asian elephants—their closest living relatives) in an attempt to create “proxy species”—animals that display the traits of the ancient original.

The end goal, they say, is to populate the tundra region of Siberia known as the “mammoth steppe” with a herd of as-close-to-mammoth-as-possible animals, using them to bring the ecosystem back to its pre-extinction existence. This, naturally, has brought up some ethical dilemmas: Will science take this further and revive the entire woolly mammoth, not just portions of its genome? What is the motivation for doing any of this? And should we be doing it at all?

Woolly mammoths lived in Siberia (among other places) during Earth’s last ice age, also known as the Pleistocene Epoch. They were large mammals, essentially big furry elephants with very long tusks, and their population was quite large, which we know from the abundance of fossils that paleontologists have discovered. There are several theories about how they eventually went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Some scientists believe that humans may have hunted them to extinction, and other theories suggest that the end of the ice age and a warming climate actually caused them to die from heat and dehydration.

Reviving a dead species is a controversial idea. While the scientists undertaking the research see it as a way to restore a ruined ecosystem, detractors see the process as unnatural and even an unnecessary show of scientific hubris. Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary microbiologist at UC Santa Cruz and author of the book How To Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, told Gizmodo that the act of bringing back an extinct creature could be seen as an extension of humanity’s long history of altering other species for our own benefit. She didn’t see such an experiment as unnatural. Shapiro noted that humans have been domesticating and engineering plants and animals for tens of thousands of years; this is what we’re good at and it’s part of our nature, which means it’s a part of the nature of our planet as well.

However, “there is a strong argument to be made that once something is gone for a long time and the ecosystem has adapted to its absence, it’s hard to imagine everything’s going to return to whatever normal you’re describing,” she said. But, she said, the real and lasting benefit of developing these technologies will be to help species that are currently alive—but increasingly threatened by climate change—remain that way. “We have these big brains that have allowed us to make flint technology and 747s and now CRISPR. We can also use our big brains to think about consequences and think long-term. We have the capacity to plan for the future, so let’s do that.”

At a debate at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York City in January, some of the world’s leading experts on de-extinction gathered to discuss the pros and cons of fully reviving extinct species. The panel included George Church, a geneticist and molecular engineer who heads the the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival project; Stewart Brand, cofounder of the Revive and Restore project; Lynn Rothschild, an evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center; and Ross MacPhee, curator of the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History.

According to Brand, he and his colleagues see creating proxy species—using portions of extinct genomes in modern animals—and re-introducing them to their previous environments as simply the natural next step in the existing conservation movement. This is “basically bringing biotech to wildlife conservation,” Brand said at the debate. Once the species is developed, it’s a matter of following the same process that has already happened multiple times over in conservation, for animals like wolves in Yellowstone or condors in California. It’s simply “re-introduction of species in places where they haven’t been in a while, transportation of species from where they’ve gotten to now back to where they used to be, and even ecological replacement of one species for another, to serve the same ecological function.”

Brand also noted that the International Union for Conservation of Nature already has in place a series of guidelines specifically for safely creating proxies of extinct species, which, in theory, creates ethical boundaries for the practice.

Church made the case that resurrecting an animal could yield unexpected discoveries—with mammoth revival, specifically, he said scientists might figure out a way to treat the herpesvirus that is ravaging the already-endangered Asian elephant population. The virus strain, which is specific to elephants, has evaded scientists ability to culture in the lab. However, Church and his team, as part of their mammoth project, have sequenced the virus’ genome and are working on synthesizing the virus in hopes of finding a cure. “Is this just something that we’re doing as a stunt, or we’re feeling guilty for our ancestors having killed these things off? I think that’s almost irrelevant,” Church said. “The question is, do these species have something to offer us?”

But NASA’s Rothschild and AMNH’s MacPhee are more cautious. When it comes to full-on de-extinction, they warned of hubris and getting carried away by the desire to perform the science just because we can. The animals, MacPhee argued, have been extinct for so long they have no real connection with the current modern ecosystem. So introducing them back into nature could have a series of unintended consequences—they won’t be able to replicate their ancient microbiome, and they could displace existing species (because ecosystems naturally fill holes when animals go extinct).

“It is said that you can’t walk twice in the same stream. You don’t rejuvenate degraded environments by coming up with implausible jobs for genetically engineered animals whose connection with any real ecosystem either never existed or was severed thousands of years ago,” MacPhee said. “The real de-extinction agenda… is utilising the planet, its resources, asset-stripping it for our purposes. It’s not for repairing ecosystems that, in a sense, don’t need repairing anymore because we’re already 10,000 years down the pike from what they were.”

Rothschild pointed out that in order to revive a long-dead species, there needs to be a recognition that scientists would be working with living beings. And that means risking and impacting the lives of both the revived animals themselves and their modern-day mothers whose wombs would be needed to grow them to full term. (And, MacPhee said, it’s important to consider that these recreated animals would likely be commercialized for human uses, including hunting.)

Rothschild agreed with Church that we need to ask ourselves why we are really focused on bringing long-dead creatures back to life when there are plenty of modern-day animals that are alive and in need of conservation: “Are we making ourselves feel better because our ancestors way back years ago may have been involved in the extinction of this creature? Do we have the right to create individual suffering in order to assuage our guilt?” Humans, agreed MacPhee, are centering ourselves too much in the idea that these animals need to return to the planet. “The real problem, as usual, is us,” he said.

Despite the controversy at the center of de-extinction, the science, for now, is pressing on full steam ahead. The Mammoth Project has already successfully used CRISPR to add a few mammoth genes into Asian elephant DNA to produce what they call “increasingly mammoth-like cells.” Of course, there is a very long road to travel between a few cells and a full herd (or even a single animal). Meanwhile, Revive and Restore is also pursuing other projects, including reviving extinct passenger pigeons, with a goal of hatching the first eggs in 2025. And they’re also working on restoring the extinct heath hen (a species similar to prairie chickens) to Martha’s Vineyard. The goal across all these projects is the same: bring animals back to ecosystems they once played a key role in and learn something along the way. Whether or not the ecosystems will adapt to or benefit from their presence remains to be seen, but it appears that, like it or not, hybrid versions of extinct species will walk the Earth again one day.

MIKA: I believe it when I see it. I say this because I think I've posted on this several times over the years about how science will raise the Mammoth from the dead and still, no live species. This would be great to revive IMHO but also bring back species that are not so ancient.

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New Species Of Tiny, Extinct Human Discovered In Philippine Cave

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Scientists are reporting the discovery of a previously unknown species of ancient human that lived in the Philippines over 50,000 years ago.

Evidence suggests the new species, named Homo luzonensis, was exceptionally tiny — and possibly even smaller than the famous Hobbit species uncovered on the island of Flores in 2004.

The story of human evolution just got a hell of a lot messier—and considerably more fascinating — owing to the discovery of a previously unknown human species. Bits of teeth and bone pulled from Callao Cave on the Philippine island of Luzon point to the existence of a distinctly human species, one deserving of the Homo designation in terms of its genus.

At the same time, however, the fossils found in Callao Cave exhibit features unlike anything ever seen before, thus warranting the declaration of a completely new human species, Homo luzonensis.

The details of this astonishing discovery were published today in Nature.

Needless to say, this is a huge deal—new human species aren’t discovered very often, after all. The discovery of Homo luzonensis, with its curious set of physical characteristics, is telling us some surprising new things about human evolution and what happened to the pioneering hominins who left Africa so long ago.

This story begins in 2010 with the important discovery of a single human foot bone, dated at 67,000 years old, in Callao Cave.

The exact species could not be determined, but it was the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. We’ve since learned that hominins — the sub-group of primates that are more closely related to us than to chimpanzees and bonobos — were living in the Philippines as long as 709,000 years ago.

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A butchered animal bone found at the Kalinga site in Luzon, Philippines, showed hominins were active on the island as far back as 709,000 years ago. The newly discovered species, called Homo luzonensis, lived in the Philippines around 67,000 years ago. It’s not known if the two groups were related.

Indeed, the story of human evolution is getting increasingly complicated. Hominins first appeared in Africa some 6 million to 7 million years ago, with the first evidence of a hominid presence in Eurasia dating back about 1.8 million years, likely the archaic human known as Homo erectus.

Incredibly, this dispersal happened long before our species, Homo sapiens, emerged; we finally entered onto the scene 300,000 years ago, spilling into Eurasia about 100,000 years later. There, we joined two other human species, the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Most extinct hominins are not our direct ancestors, but they’re our very close relatives. Each species went on its own evolutionary journey, adapting to their new circumstances and environments in different ways. By around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, there were multiple human species living at the same time, doing their own thing at various locations in both Africa and Eurasia.

The scientists who found the human foot bone in the Philippines, a team led by Florent Détroit from the National Museum of Natural History in France and Armand Mijares from the University of the Philippines, kept working at Callao Cave in an effort to find more clues.

These ongoing excavations resulted in the discovery of 12 new hominin elements, including teeth, a partial thigh bone, and several hand and foot bones. These fossils belonged to three different individuals, two adults and one child. No genetic evidence could be extracted from the specimens, and sadly, no skulls were found.

These remains were pulled from the same stratigraphic layer as the foot bone found in 2010, dating these individuals to the same time period.

Analysis of the bones and teeth suggested a previously unknown species of human. Also, these hominins appear to have been exceptionally small. The authors of the new study suspect H. luzonensis was subject to an evolutionary process known as insular dwarfism, in which a species’ body size becomes significantly reduced over time on account of limited access to resources.

A similar thing likely happened to Homo floresiensis, an extinct human species popularly known as the Hobbit. The remains of these diminutive humans, who stood no taller than around 0.91m and 7 inches (109 centimeters), were discovered on the island of Flores in Southeast Asia back in 2004.

The discovery of Homo luzonensis, who  may have been shorter than the Hobbits, may signify the presence of yet another human species moulded by insular dwarfism—a rather astounding discovery, to say the least.

It’s important to point out, however, that insular dwarfism in H. luzonensis remains an unproven, possibility. As the authors noted in the study, “further discoveries and more definitive evidence are needed.”

The Hobbits and H. luzonensis bear striking similarities, and they lived at roughly the same time, but their evolutionary relationship is not known. It’s conceivable that both human species are descendents of H. erectus, and that both ended up isolated on their respective islands.

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Five upper teeth of the newly described human species, Homo luzonensis. 

In terms of the distinct physical characteristics observed in H. luzonensis, the most notable were seen in their teeth and foot bones. Their molars, in particular, were unlike anything ever seen before in a human species.

Writing in an accompanying News & Views article, anthropologist Matthew Tocheri from Lakehead University in Thunderbay, Ontario, described how their teeth exhibited both ancient and modern features.

Quote

When compared with the molars of other hominin species, H. luzonensis molars are astonishingly small, and the simplified surfaces of their crowns and their low number of cusps are features that look similar to the molar crowns and cusps of H. sapiens. Yet the shapes of H. luzonensis teeth share similarities with the teeth of H. erectus from Asia, and the size ratio of H. luzonensis premolars to molars is similar to that of Paranthropus, species of which are known for their massive jaws and teeth.

This is unbelievably fascinating, but the story gets even more intriguing—and potentially even more confusing.

The third metatarsal—the long bone in the middle toe — in H. luzonensis is exceptionally strange, bearing an uncanny resemblance to those seen in Australopithecus — an ancient human ancestor that lived in Africa some 3 million years ago and, to the best of our knowledge, never left Africa. H. luzonensis also featured hand bones similar to those of Australopithecus.

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The toe bone in question: The third metatarsal of H. luzonensis.

There are at least two possible explanations for this odd toe bone, neither of which seem wholly plausible.

Intriguing theory number one: Conventional thinking has it that Homo erectus was the only hominin species to have left Africa during the Early Pleistocene, the period between 2.58 million and 0.78 million years ago.

The evidence found in Callao Cave would seem to suggest that we’ve got it all wrong, and that other hominins, including groups more closely related to Australopithecus (or even Australopithecus itself!), made their way into Eurasia during this period. More evidence is needed to back this extraordinary possibility.

Wild theory number two: An intriguing aspect about the H. Luzonensis third metatarsal is that it allows for more curved toes. This is significant because curved toes are great for tree climbing and hanging from branches.

Australopithecus, a suspected tree climber, was equipped with this particular physical feature, and it would seem to suggest the same for H. luzonensis. But if H. Luzonensis is not closely related to Australopithecus, then why the curved toes and hands? It’s possible that some hominins retained their tree-climbing abilities for much longer than is conventionally appreciated.

Another possibility is convergent evolution, in which similar physical characteristics appear in unrelated species.

Should this be the case, if would mean that, after thousands of years of upright, bipedal locomotion, H. Luzonensis was returning to an arboreal existence, and evolving the requisite physical characteristics. It’s a mind-blowing theory, no doubt, but again, one in desperate need of further evidence.

“The discovery of H. luzonensis underscores the complexity of the evolution, dispersal and diversity of the genus Homo outside of Africa, and particularly in the islands of Southeast Asia, during the Pleistocene,” the authors appropriately conclude in the new study.

Paleontologist Adam Brunn, a researcher at Griffith University and an expert in the hominin colonization of southeast Asia, had been hearing rumours about the Luzon fossils for years, saying it’s “brilliant” to finally see the new findings published.

“It’s not every day a new human species is discovered. To describe one, to add a new relative to our family tree, is an enormous privilege — and a huge responsibility,” explained Brunn in an email to Gizmodo.

“The discovery team has done a very meticulous and commendable job describing these new fossils, and their naming of a new species, in my opinion, is valid. This is a truly sensational finding.”

Gerrit van den Bergh, a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Archaeological Science, said the researchers were “justified” in their decision to name the new species.

He said it’s fascinating that Luzon is now the second known island, after Flores, in which a distinct human species existed before the arrival of H. sapiens.

“These insular species may have evolved on each island in perfect isolation, and you could say that their evolutionary pathway has gone in a completely different direction as those of their counterparts on mainland Asia, for example Homo erectus or the Neanderthals,” van den Bergh, who wasn’t involved with the new study, wrote in an email to Gizmodo.

“Most notably they became very small bodied, which is what also happened to other large mammals that became stranded on islands, such as various fossil pygmy elephants that we know once inhabited many islands in the Mediterranean and Island Southeast Asia.”

Anthropologist Dean Falk from Florida State University took issue with one aspect of the new study that was beyond the researchers’ control: their inability to find a skull.

Despite this major limitation, he “became convinced that the authors have identified hominins with unique dental features combined with at least some features of hands and feet that resemble Australopithecus,” adding that these “specimens may, indeed, represent a previously unidentified species,” wrote Falk in an email to Gizmodo.

The small teeth of H. luzonensis, he added, suggests they had small bodies, but we can’t know for sure. That said, “insular dwarfism would not be at all surprising on the island.”

“You gotta love the curved hand and feet bones, and I don’t have a problem with speculating that their owners might have spent a good deal of time in trees,” Falk told Gizmodo. “Could it be that — at least some — hominins continued to sleep in tree nests until very recently, at least geologically speaking?”

Ultimately, however, the story of human evolution just got a lot more “bushier,” he said.

No kidding. And a lot more interesting, if that’s even possible. As this new paper beautifully illustrates, the unfolding human origin story is turning out to be absolutely incredible.

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Declassified U2 Spy Plane Photos Expose Hidden Archaeological Sites

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During the Cold War, the United States flew U2 spy planes over Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia in search of potential military targets. These missions inadvertently gathered historical information, which archaeologists are now using for scientific purposes.

New research published last month in the science journal Advances in Archaeological Practice describes the first archaeological use of declassified U2 spy plane images.

The authors of the new paper, Emily Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania and Jason Ur of Harvard University, used the historical images to identify prehistoric hunting traps, ancient irrigation canals, and old marsh villages.

Flying 5,181.60m above the ground, U2 spy planes captured thousands of images during the 1950s and 1960s. The photographs taken during this mission, code-named CHESS, were finally declassified by the United States in 1997, but the data wasn’t immediately indexed or scanned.

Inspired by a Chinese researcher who used the U2 images to view historical aerial imagery of his hometown, Hammer and Ur decided to take a stab at it themselves and see if the copious amounts of declassified data had any scientific worth. They had good reason to be optimistic; much of the landscape in Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia has changed since the Cold War, making these aerial records both historically and archaeologically important.

To make the data useable, however, Hammer and Ur had to systematically build an index of the U2 imagery. The researchers selected film rolls from the National Archives’ storage center in Kansas, which were then transported to the aerial film section in Maryland.

The selected film rolls included thousands of high- and low-resolution frames—literally hundreds of feet of film — which were unspooled and analysed over a light table. Hammer and Ur photographed the negatives using a 100-millimetre macro lens. The photos were then stitched together, adjusted, and geo-referenced using software.

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An ancient canal system as seen by the U2 spy planes (top), and how the same area appears today (bottom). 

“As you turn the spool of a film roll following the path of the U2 plane, you may not know exactly what you’ll see in unfamiliar places, so there’s often a sense of exploration and discovery,” said Hammer in a statement. “Other times, the pilots were flying over regions I knew by heart from travel and study, and I would almost hold my breath, hoping that the plane had veered just a little to the right or left.”

To which she added: “The photos provide a fascinating look at the Middle East several decades ago, showing, for example, historical Aleppo long before the massive destruction wrought in the ongoing civil war.”

The resulting index allowed the scientists to take an unprecedented look at desert kites in Eastern Jordan. Some 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, these stone-wall structures were used to trap gazelles and other animals. As Hammer and Ur pointed out in the new paper, these and other structures were in much better shape during the Cold War than they are today.

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The U2 images taken in southern Iraq show the layout, size, and environmental position of Marsh Arab communities in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many of which were wiped out after the construction of massive hydroelectric dams, and after the government of Saddam Hussein deliberately drained the marshes. 

“We were able to map many features that have been destroyed since 1960 and are no longer visible in modern imagery,” the authors wrote in the study. “This is particularly true for villages, corrals, and wheel structures, which are smaller than desert kites and more vulnerable to total erasure by modern agriculture and development.”

The researchers also analysed nearly 3,000-year-old canal systems built by the ancient Assyrians in what is now northern Iraq. This irrigation system “fed the royal capitals, made agricultural surplus production possible, and provided water to villages,” noted Hammer in the statement.

The index also also used to do some more recent history, namely a survey of Marsh Arab communities in southern Iraq dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. These communities disappeared after hydroelectric dams were built in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The new data allowed the researchers to visualise the layout, size, and environmental position of these historical places.

This work will now be put online and made available to other researchers, who can go through the frames and perform their own landscape and aerial archaeology. Which is very cool, especially given how much work was required to create this incredible — and highly useable — historical record.

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Civilian On Fly-Along Accidentally Ejected From Fighter Jet

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A civilian was reportedly injured late last month after his ride-along with the French Air Force took an unexpected turn. The man’s ejection seat somehow fired, sending him soaring into the sky. The French temporarily grounded their fleet of Rafale fighter jets pending an investigation.

Exactly why his ejection seat went off is a mystery.

The incident, according to Aerotime News, took place at Saint-Dizier air base in northern France. Saint-Dizier is a hub for Rafale-B fighters, the twin seat version of France’s Rafale fighter jet. Twin seat fighters in many air forces are used to take civilians on “observation flights,” including government officials, members of the media, and celebrities.

(While the American F-35 has many problems, accidentally ejecting civilians won’t be one of them—the Joint Strike Fighter is a single seat jet.)

The unknown civilian, identified in the press as a 64 year old man, was riding in a twin-seat Dassault Rafale-B fighter jet. As the jet was taking off the man’s ejection seat sequence was somehow triggered, sending him through the canopy. The pilot, whose hands were suffered minor cuts from the broken canopy, managed to land the aircraft safely.

The civilian on the other hand apparently parachuted to the runway below, injuring his back in the process. He was taken to a hospital for his injuries, where a spokesperson for the French Air Force said his health “is not a cause for concern.” The Rafale grounding was lifted a few days later.

This isn’t video from our poor French friend being ejected, but it is a video of what someone being ejected should look like: ;) 

It’s unclear exactly what happened, and the French issued a partial grounding for the Rafale out of caution. Most, if not all, fighters have a very deliberate process air crew have to go through to trigger an ejection. Typically the ejection seat trigger is between a pilot’s legs or above his or her head, and a quick pull will send the crew member rocketing out of dying aircraft. The Rafale-B uses the Martin Baker Mk. 16F ejection seat, and according to Martin Baker it has saved four lives.

In this case however the Rafale-B was operating perfectly normally. One possibility was that there was a problem with the ejection seat that caused it to go off. Another possibility is that the civilian triggered the ejection accidentally, perhaps holding onto exactly the wrong part of the aircraft while experiencing the thrill of takeoff. Or maybe he did it on purpose, thinking this was his one shot in life to shoot himself out of an aeroplane and he was going to take it.

If so, we applaud him.

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Meet The Man Keeping The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth Alive

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DERBY, ENGLAND — James Mwenda has a front row seat to the spectacle that is the human-driven extinction crisis. Day after day he checks on, feeds, cares for, and often just hangs out with, the last two remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.

The young conservationist has spent four and a half years with Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where he is the principal caretaker of Fatu, a 19-year-old northern white and Najin, her 29-year-old mother. Najin’s father was Sudan, the last remaining male of the subspecies, who Mwenda also cared for before the decision was made, just over a year ago, to euthanize him due to complications brought about by old age.

The passing of Sudan made headlines around the world, but the loss was very personal for Mwenda, who upon leaving high school was not able to attend university but has since achieved what he calls his childhood dream of working in conservation. Now, Mwenda is on a mission to be Sudan’s “voice around the world”, which is why he recently made a first-ever visit to the UK with the help of the international NGO Helping Rhinos.

It was a packed trip. When Earther met up with Mwenda earlier this week — in the lobby of a motel near Derbyshire’s cricket ground — he was preparing for a series of meetings and presentations.

The days before had involved educational appearances at schools as well as an appearance on national television, and the event was culminating Thursday night with a fund and awareness-raising talk at London’s prestigious Royal Geographical Society.

In many ways the experience was a different world for Mwenda, and perhaps even a little nerve-wracking. But it has nothing on the pressure of his day job.

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Sudan was one of four northern whites relocated to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya from a zoo in the Czech republic. it was hoped a more natural environment would encourage them to breed 

“It’s really hard work out there on the ground, protecting the animals, it’s more like a war,” Mwenda told Earther. The enemy in that war? The incessant demand for rhino horn, chiefly from Asia, that has eliminated the northern white from its native habitat in central Africa and while decimating black rhino populations and placing constant pressure on the southern white.

Fatu and Najin, along with the males Sudan and Suni (who died of natural causes in 2014) were relocated to their spacious home in Kenya from a Czech zoo in 2009.

Mwenda spends so much time with the two surviving females that he refers to as “his girls” and some people joke Fatu is actually his girlfriend. He feels a “great responsibility” in caring for them, he said.

That responsibility involves monitoring their health, feeding and washing them, and generally making sure they are safe. It may be hard to believe, with the species literally on its last eight legs, but around-the-clock armed guards are still needed as, given half a chance, people would still try and do them harm.

Mwenda is also one of a number of trained rangers monitoring and protecting rhinos across the wider Ol Pejeta reserve, which covers 90,000 acres and is home to the largest black rhino population in eastern Africa.

He believes Kenya has been doing “slightly better” in terms of the number of rhinos it has been losing to poachers compared with countries such as South Africa, where an around 2 rhinos a day may be lost (albeit with a larger number resident). He ascribes that to an improved awareness.

“We have not lost a rhino in more than 18 months to poaching,” he said. “But because we now have 120 rhinos [across the reserve], it is more of a threat than a success. Everyone knows there is a big concentration of rhinos there now, so we need to invest more in security and technology expertise. It’s about being vigilant, investing, community empowerment and raising awareness.”

The latest technology — the fruit of Helping Rhinos’ fundraising in the US and UK — is a mobile vet unit, that allows sick or injured animals to be treated speedily. In an ideal world the rhinos would be left to their own devices, but Mwenda says with such an endangered species that is not feasible.

“We make sure we spot a rhino every day, but we operate in a way that we are out in the ground monitoring what they are doing but causing minimal disturbance,” he said. “There is a whole ecosystem to protect, lions and elephants, so we try to avoid confrontations.”

The northern whites, meanwhile, are so close to the brink that direct intervention has been the only option for years. In fact, the idea with bringing two of the last males and females to Ol Pejeta was that a move to a more natural habitat would get the sexual mojo back and keep the species breeding.

But over the years, it has become clear neither female rhino would be capable of carrying a pregnancy through a full and arduous 16-month term and Mwenda, who looks after them daily, doesn’t think it would be fair to do so.

“It has been such a long time since Najin gave birth, there is no knowing if she could carry a pregnancy again and also has problems with her back legs meaning she has trouble walking,” Mwenda said. “The younger one Fatu has a problem with her uterus. The vet says it is correctable, but really how can you burden a single rhino with saving an entire subspecies?”

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Members of the Helping Rhinos team with rangers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The NGO is one of the parnters helping to raise funds to protect and care for the rhinos

Mwenda now hopes the northern whites can be saved by science. Scientists from Germany, the US, the Czech Republic and elsewhere are hoping to use harvested eggs and tissue cultures, as well as sperm frozen from a number of males, to revive the subspecies.

But this is a hugely expensive undertaking and one with no guarantees. It is estimated that a pure northern white calf born to a southern white surrogate mother could be the best part of a decade away.

Add in the slow breeding rate, the potential harm the invasive process of harvesting eggs from Fatu or Najin could exact, civil wars in places such as the DRC and South Sudan (their former range) and the simple fact rhinos are hypersensitive to their environment and it is likely to be generations, if at all, before northern whites are in sustainable numbers in their natural habitat again.

Mwenda believes the synthetic biology research currently underway to rescue the subspecies will be worthwhile no matter what happens, though. “It could be vital for rhinos at large, be it northern whites, Javan or Sumatran,” he said. “It’s really worth doing it in the long run and these animals deserve to exist.”

Meanwhile, he intends to keep Sudan’s memory alive. But after speaking to a full house in London Mwenda was keen to get home, as his girls would be missing him.

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James Mwenda has been at Ol Pejeta for nearly 5 years. He says its was a childhood dream to work in conservation.

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AIRLINE RESPONDS TO ‘NAUGHTY’ FIRST CLASS BEHAVIOUR IN THE CRUELLEST WAY POSSIBLE

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Take our money, but please—leave the $4,500 whisky out of it…

If Business Class is a gilded prison then First Class is a 5-star penitentiary. But despite the unending luxury on offer, over the years there have been a number of reports of First Class ‘ballers’ behaving as badly (and in some cases worse) than the cattle class passengers whose bare feet and bandaids they pay to avoid.

In July 2017, for example, Traveller reported that a crazed First Class passenger had to be subdued after he tried to open the emergency exit hatch, punching a flight attendant in the process.

This came after the infamous ‘nutgate’ incident of 2015, in which a female First Class passenger became enraged after she was served Macadamia nuts in a packet rather than on a plate, assaulting crew members and demanding that the plane be re-routed to get rid of the ‘offending’ flight attendant.

Then in October 2017, a New York Post article came out suggesting First Class passengers had been paying flight attendants for sex, with one crew member (allegedly) making a lot of money as a highly sought after “dominatrix”.

While this year’s incidents have been quite subdued by comparison, the response to them—for the whisky lovers and free pourers among us—has been quite cruel.

As the New Zealand Herald yesterday reported, Emirates have recently changed their drinks policy, and—if the Herald’s travel blog source, One Mile At A Time, are correct in their observations—this is in response to the ‘naughty’ behaviour of a few shameless First Class passengers.

But before your frontal cortex goes all Game Of Thrones—it has nothing to do with sex. No. This misdemeanour is all about money. Money and power.

So what went down? The headline (literally) is this: “Emirates Hides Expensive Bar Items To Stop First Class Passengers From Stealing Them.”

While the legally paranoid might panic at the lack of “allegedly” and “pre-emptively” from that statement, Emirates have indeed rethought their onboard displays.

The airline, which recently invested a cool $739 million in updating their alcohol collection, will no longer be putting their best bottles (the retail value of which are equivalent to an airfare) on show.

As One Mile At A Time reports, “As of this month, Emirates will no longer display Dom Perignon, Hennessy Paradis, Tessero, and the Emirates Vintage Collection at the first class bar. These items will continue to be available, and will instead just be in the first class bar cart.”

While One Mile At A Time reported that this new policy was introduced “to avoid high-value items being removed,” Emirates clarified to The New Zealand Herald that it is also a space-saving arrangement.

“The First Class display no longer features bottles as a fully stocked bar is already available at our iconic A380 onboard lounge,” the airline told Herald Travel.

Either way: you have until the end of April before you will have to rely on your charm and good looks to convince Emirates bar staff to pour you an extra measure of Hennessy.

And with some of the cringe-worthy behaviour we’ve seen creep into First Class this year, you really might need it…

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS COULD UNEARTH A 200-YEAR-OLD WHISKY STASH FROM THIS DISTILLERY RUIN

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We’ve spoken about old whisky in the past with price tags bigger than your life savings, but nothing like this. Archaeologists have just commenced excavation at one of Scotland’s earliest legal whisky distilleries which began production way back in 1823.

According to the BBC, Blackmiddens was one of the country’s earliest small-scale whisky farms to be granted a license to produce thanks to the Excise Act of 1823. Whilst archaeologists on the ground were a bit more reserved about their work on the Cabrach site – the dig hopes to explore the “character and extent” of the distillery and its relationship with an adjacent ruined farm steading – Anna Brennand, chief executive of the Cabrach Trust was a bit more excited and said that the area was a place of “many secrets”.

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“For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this.”

Brennand says that during its time of operation, Blackmiddens would have had a small 180 litre still, a significant difference to today’s whisky stills which can hold thousands of litres. History also indicates that whisky production on the farm ceased just after eight years from the year it commenced. After that the site fell to ruin and has been left in the hands of Mother Nature since.

“The hidden history of Blackmiddens is fascinating,” says Forestry and Land Scotland’s national environment advisor Matt Ritchie. “Illicit whisky stills can be found throughout the Highlands but they were particularly common in the Cabrach. They are difficult to spot, but once you know what you are looking for, you can find them tucked away next to burns in the hills.”

“When the Excise Act changed in 1823 and smaller distilleries became legal, the illicit distillers came down off the hills and set up in farmsteads like Blackmiddens.”

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Local resident Joan Harvey has ancestors who were part of this audacious group who smuggled illicit whisky to Aberdeen before the legal distillery was established. The 66-year-old says that “I was always told that my great, great uncle was the head of the gang at the time. Stories about their adventures were passed down my family.”

“Apparently my great, great grandfather had a white stallion and when the excisemen were billeted locally he would ride his white horse, alerting everyone that the excisemen were there so that the whisky smugglers could go to ground. I was also told that, one time, the excisemen were trying to catch the smugglers and had set up barricades all around Aberdeen.”

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“My great, great uncle hired a horse-drawn hearse and loaded the coffin with whisky. When he reached the excisemen, they all took off their hats as a mark of respect for the dead, and the whisky went through.”

The historical facts are rather intriguing but the one thing on everyone’s lips? Will there be 200-year-old buried or hidden whisky uncovered? Only time will tell but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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In The Unsettling First Trailer For The Perfection, A Musical Rivalry Turns Into Something Surreal And Horrifying

After an animated audience response at the 2018 Fantastic Fest, Netflix snapped up the rights to The Perfection, and now there’s a trailer for rest of us to see what all the fuss was about.

You might hear “cellist feud” and think, “how could a story like that give me nightmares?” Fair enough — but while we’re not entirely sure what’s going on in this trailer, we can confirm the movie looks creepy as hell.

It sure looks like Get Out’s Allison Williams is adding another preppy villain to her resumé, alongside Dear White People’s Logan Browning as her frenemy/rival/amputation victim?

The word on The Perfection — which is directed by Richard Shepard (The Matador, Dom Hemingway) and written by Shepard, Nicole Snyder, and Eric C. Charmelo — is the less you know going in, the better, in order to fully to experience the outrageous twists and turns the movie takes. It hits Netflix on May 24 in the U.S. No word as of yet for an AU release.

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What Palpatine Left Behind

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A cackle in the dark. That was all it took for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to deliver its biggest shock — a shock that not even a title, a Death Star, or a host of other reveals in its first trailer could compare to. Sheev Palpatine, Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine, call him what you want: He’s back. And it’s a moment that’s been planned for.

The resurrection of Emperor Palpatine after his trip down a reactor shaft—a shaft that was then promptly blown to bits—in Return of the Jedi might, at first, seem to come out of nowhere. On the surface, it might even seem like Star Wars is returning to its easiest impulses, the cyclical rhyming poetry in which the present constantly echoes the past that came before, a nostalgia the franchise forever struggles to move on from.

But the idea of a revived Palpatine been around for decades, in the context of the old Expanded Universe and in Lucasfilm’s plans for this sequel trilogy, stretching back to The Force Awakens’ development, something Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy acknowledged to press in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker’s reveal this past Friday. And the Star Wars universe we have right now has been slowly but quietly laying the groundwork for the return of a villain that has stalked the Skywalker Saga from the very beginning.

This is what Emperor Palpatine left behind — not just his plans and his hopes, but a Star Wars galaxy far more mystical and magical than we might have thought. One where the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise might be less of a legend, and more of a reality.

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The ruins of the Death Star II, as seen in The Rise of Skywalker.

The Second Death Star

The Second Death Star’s destruction was certainly explosive, but it wasn’t total—the Rebellion’s decisive attack on its core split the battle station into oceans of scrap, parts flinging around into the space above Endor and, judging by The Rise of Skywalker’s trailer, smacking right into other worlds around and beyond it.

Originally planned to appear in early forms of The Force Awakens, the ruins of the Death Star II — also partially sunk under oceans, as they appear to be in The Rise of Skywalker — would’ve been home to the sunken remnants of the Emperor’s tower, and within it the mystical map to Luke Skywalker that both the Resistance and First Order were chasing. It won’t be now, of course, but it establishes that Palpatine’s bases of operation were hiding artifacts and keys to places strong in the Force—an idea we’ll see has been picked up elsewhere in tie-in fiction.

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Palpatine posthumously delivers orders to activate Operation Cinder via Sentinel Droid in Battlefront II

Project Cinder

First introduced in the Marvel Comics miniseries Shattered Empire and then expounded upon in the story campaign for Battlefront II, if Palpatine’s other machinations were about rebirth, Project Cinder was very much about destruction.

Implemented as what initially seemed like a posthumous “screw you” to the Rebellion that upended him, Project Cinder was a plan delivered to high ranking Imperial admirals to activate satellites above key worlds in the Empire that would agitate the environments of those worlds to such an extreme degree that all life on them would be wiped out, Imperial and Rebel alike.

It was, at least to the surviving Imperials, the ultimate display of the Tarkin doctrine, a fear so profound that Imperial worlds that escaped its calamities would never dare to join the fledgling New Republic, and a reminder to would-be rebels of the Empire’s might, even without its ruler. But in actuality, Cinder was meant to help wipe the slate of the Imperial remnant off the map entirely—and hasten a destruction that Palpatine had planned for prior to his own death, one that would allow select survivors to flee and reforge a new and better Empire elsewhere.

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Luke Skywalker and Del Meeko explore the Pillio Observatory in Battlefront II. 

The Observatories

Another idea expounded upon in Battlefront 2, having appeared elsewhere in tie-ins like the Aftermath trilogy of novels, is that Palpatine housed dozens of collections of relics strong in the Force in mysterious Observatories across the galaxy far, far away.

They were connected to his research into the true source of the Dark Side’s power out in the beyond, and we know primarily of two already. Battlefront 2 introduced us to the Pillio Observatory, where Luke Skywalker found the compass that guided him to the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-To — and a reminder that Palpatine was interested in the Force across all of its spectrums, light and dark.

The second, covered in Aftermath: Life Debt and Aftermath: Empire’s End, was on none other than Jakku, and housed enough Force relics that Palpatine (or someone on his orders) could dump them into the planets core and tear the world apart, a contingency plan he demanded of Gallius Rax in an attempt to wipe out the Imperial Remnant and New Republic in one explosive swoop.

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The Executor, the Eclipse’s sister ship, was famously destroyed over Endor.

The Eclipse

In the years following the Emperor’s death, the Empire’s number of capital ships dwindled rapidly — the remnant went down from 13 Super Star Destroyers at the Empire’s height to just a single, the Ravager. But the most important of all, the Eclipse, wasn’t actually destroyed as had been assumed by what was left of the Empire. How does a Super Star Destroyer go missing though? By not really going missing. Because the Eclipse, Palpatine’s flagship, was deliberately given a mission that would outlast its master.

In Life Dept and Empire’s End, we learn Palpatine had spent years calculating coordinates that ultimately lead out into the Unknown Regions — tasking the Eclipse with travelling out there to uncover whatever Palpatine saw as this nexus of Force power. The Eclipse made it out there, but Palpatine didn’t, and it served as the base of origins for remaining elements of the Empire after the Battle of Jakku to re-establish themselves as the First Order. Given his propensity to do so elsewhere, it’s safe to assume that the Eclipse didn’t just hold military might to traffic into the Unknown Regions, but more artifacts of Force power, intended for Palpatine and his new Empire to capitalise on once it reached its destination.

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Palpatine attempts to reach out into the World Between Worlds.

The World Between Worlds

Everything we’ve covered so far has been, despite being awash with the mystique of the Force, material — objects, artifacts, raw material, manpower, all the elements to rebuild an Empire. But how can that help rebuild a single man? We don’t know the extent of the power of the relics in Palpatine’s vast collection of Force-sensitive items, but the Star Wars Rebels TV series introduced us to a wild concept that could perhaps more directly connect to Palpatine’s resurrection, or rather technically, his return: Force-assisted time travel.

Uncovered by the Empire on Palpatine’s behalf in the depths of the Jedi Temple on Lothal during Rebels’ final season, the World Between Worlds exists out of time and space in the galaxy far, far away, a nexus point of all moments that can’t just be witnessed, but accessed—and with enough strength in the Force, manipulated to save people from seemingly certain fate. Rebels also expounded the idea that in order to access the World Between Worlds, users had to be pure in how they wielded the Force — Palpatine tried, but couldn’t reach out in the way Ezra ultimately did to navigate it. Which is why he attempted to work through Ezra to access it, and why Ezra ultimately chooses to destroy the portal on Lothal.

But we’ve learned since that not only are there multiple ways to access the World Between Worlds (or something similar to it), it’s also not something that is indeed as strictly tied to the Light side as Rebels presented it to us.

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Momin resurrects himself on Mustafar in Darth Vader #23. 

The final arc of Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Darth Vader comic series delved into the creation of Darth Vader’s infamous castle, first glimpsed in Rogue One (but with a history that reaches far further back than that).

Built on a focal point of Dark Side energy on Mustafar by Vader with the help of the Force spirit of an ancient Sith named Momin—who had died untold years before the events of the Star Wars movies — the castle was designed in such a manner to specifically channel all that power into finding a way to resurrect Padmé Amidala.

Vader didn’t succeed in that regard at least, but most importantly here, the forces he and Momin tapped into worked. Momin betrayed Vader and managed to pull himself out from a time before his death centuries beforehand and into the present, even if Vader almost immediately killed the “revived” Sith and attempted to access whatever plane they had opened himself.

But it confirms at least one thing: the World Between Worlds, or something like it, exists in a way that acolytes of the Dark Side can access it, and exists in more than one place in the galaxy. If Palpatine ultimately found a place to do so—or perhaps even the source of power he sent the Eclipse to track was another way to access the World Between Worlds—and use time itself to dance around his death, it might be the answer to his return.

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Supreme Leader Snoke lead the First Order, but more so out of opportunity than some grand design.

A Fear of the Unknown (Regions)

But what was all this meticulous planning for, and how might it play into The Rise of Skywalker? Palpatine was scared, and intrigued by, some mysterious Dark Side power out in the galaxy beyond the one Star Wars inhabits—the Unknown Regions that the Chiss come from (like Thrawn, who was also aware of some existential threat coming that his own people were not prepared for), the place where much of the First Order as we know it was forged.

All these artifacts, all this tweaking, even the hastened self-immolation of his own Empire’s remnants, were all designed to push the birth of a new order out in those regions, built around the search for the power to control or confront whatever was hidden out there. Even with Palpatine’s death, those plans marched on—now, the groundwork it’s laid just needs a figurehead.

The last time the Star Wars universe revived Palpatine in Dark Empire, it did so through science—specifically, cloning, something that would become oddly prescient to the movie saga. But from what little we can figure of this latest attempt already (if it does indeed involve bringing Palpatine back as physical, returned person rather than merely the kind of Force spirit we’ve only seen manifested by light-side practitioners in the movies so far), Star Wars is perhaps laying the ground for a return much more mystical and magical.
One with an understanding of the Force as an entity more powerful — and much weirder — than we could have possibly imagined it being, in the hands of Jedi and Sith alike.

We’ll no doubt find out more as we get closer to December 20, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theatres to bring this nine-movie journey to a close.

 

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Bizarre, Bawdy and Brave: The Survivors’ Tales of Magellan’s Round the World Horror Story

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The 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe puts new light on the shocking testimonies of those who took part in the voyage that changed the world forever.

Madrid, you've probably never tried to eat a rat. Every now and then rodents, roasted or raw, turn up as gruesome cuisine in horror films, but they’ve never established themselves on modern menus. Five hundred years ago, however, survivors of the voyage of Fernando Magallanes, as we call him in Spain (Fernão de Magalhães in his native Portugal, Ferdinand Magellan in English) had to resort to eating rats to avoid the greater evil of eating each other, a practice with which they’d grown rather familiar on their travels.

Such was the very bitter end of the first circumnavigation of the globe.

Right now is a good time, with all the acts of quincentennial commemoration that have cropped up in Spain and Portugal, to look back on a what was, in truth, una aventura de locos. It’s also important to realize that Magellan’s expedition was the birth of what we now call “globalization.”

Let's see. April 2019. It took me less than 10 seconds to circle the world on Google Earth. If King Charles I of Spain had had such a tool in the year 1519 it would not have been necessary to charter five ships and subject 239 men to all kinds of misfortunes. But of course it was necessary. Spain needed to discover a way west to the Far East to facilitate its trade routes—if that could be done—and the world needed to know once and for all its true identity as a sphere.

In 1519 that fact still was far from clear. Christopher Columbus had tried to sail west to China 27 years earlier, but he didn’t get there. Not even close. As P.J. O’Rourke once put it, “Columbus discovered Caribbean vacations."

Magellan knew what the Far East really looked like. He had sailed previously around the tip of Africa on an eastward heading that took him to the Malay Peninsula. Now he intended to come at it from the other side if—a big if—the globe really was a globe.

Of the five ships and 239 men that sailed from Seville in southern Spain in 1519, only one ship and 18 men returned. They were 18 heroes, no doubt, but above all 18 witnesses.

A few months ago, crossing the waters of the Atlantic in a small boat and amazed by the spectacle of the dolphins playing in her wake, I could not stop thinking about the things those first explorers might have seen and experienced.

Once back on land, I gathered all the available direct documentation I could find. There was the detailed account in the diary of the Venetian Antonio Pigafetta, one of the survivors; there was the chronicle of the trip made by another of them, the pilot Francisco Albo; there was the letter to King Carlos from Juan Sebastián Elcano, who completed the voyage after Magellan himself was killed. I read the interview Maximilian Transyvanus conducted with the crew of the Victoria; the book of Ginés de María about the discovery of what’s now called the Strait of Magellan; and the General Archive of the Indies, which is a hugely valuable source for reconstructing the darker side of that history, because its accounts are hugely human.

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Death as Destiny

Reading the documents that are preserved, there is only one thing certain: those men were sailing toward death. Most knew it. Most were sure of it. Survival would be a miracle.

In this 21st century, that level of incalculable risk is hard to fathom. Today’s entrepreneurs gamble with their money not their lives. Half a millennium ago, the Spanish Crown played with its money, to be sure, but the heroes of the Magellan expedition gambled with their existence.

It was an expedition financed by the monarchy in Madrid but it was also an international enterprise: the two leaders were a Portuguese (Magellan) and a Spaniard (Juan Sebastián Elcano) while the crews of the five ships were made up of men from 10 different nationalities, including Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, French, and Greeks.

The vessels that originally set sail were Magelllan’s flagship, the Trinidad; the slightly larger San Antonio, the Concepción, the Victoria, and the Santiago.

Four months after leaving Spain they touched the Americas, specifically South America, where today we’d find Rio de Janeiro. There the Venetian, Pigafetta wrote in his diary of a place plagued by "an infinite number of parrots." The locals were fascinated by the steel axes and knives offered by the Europeans, technology they had never seen, and promised the adventurers "one and even two of their daughters" in exchange.

This led to some observations that were both bawdy and bizarre.

"The young women often came on board to offer themselves to the sailors in order to obtain some present: one day one of the prettiest also went up, undoubtedly with the same objective, but having seen a nail the size of a finger and believing that nobody was watching, she took it and very quickly placed it between the two lips of her sexual organs." The chronicler recalls that an anthropological debate was unleashed among the crew: Did the girl do it to try to hide it and steal it or simply to decorate herself in some fashion?

That would not be the last of Pigafetta’s sexual observations.

The Brazilian chiefs known as caciques allowed the adventurers to celebrate mass on land and many of the locals ended up converting to Christianity, which was as alien to them as the axes and the knives. More importantly, they heard about the the dignity of human life and the concept of mercy, both of which, according to the chroniclers, were scarce in those parts (and subsequently scarce as well under the regimes of the Iberian colonizers).

The first attempt to find entry to the South Sea failed. The passage was not really an open road: it turned out to be the estuary of the Río de la Plata, the silver river, which led to some considerable, and dangerous, frustration among the mariners.

In March 1520, near the southern tip of South America after eight months of navigation, when we now know they only needed a few days to reach Antarctica and pass through the strait there before bad weather would set in, Magellan decided to winter in the Bay of San Julián.

Food was growing scarce. The cold grew severe. Morale was bad and getting worse. Many of the crews in Magellan’s little armada were tired of the voyage, complaining about the distribution of food, but Magellan, who had decided to keep to his westward course or die trying, demanded that they show the courage needed to carry the expedition forward.

This was a delicate moment. Magellan had ordered that food be rationed as much as possible, but he gathered his men and harangued them, telling them they still had plenty on board. They had good fishing and good hunting, firewood, water, as well as supplies of “biscuits and wine.”

They didn’t trust him, didn’t believe him, and his speech did little to calm the mutinous atmosphere. At night, the cabals and conspiracies grew. The captains of all the ships except the Santiago, which was oblivious to what was happening, rose up against Magellan and demanded that he return to Spain.

The Portuguese admiral knew that on the flagship Victoria there were many crewmen on his side and decided to charge that ship, kill its mutinous captain, and recover the obedience of the crew. He condemned to death Quesada, the captain of the Concepción, and banished and abandoned Juan de Cartagena, who was in charge of the San Antonio, the epicenter of the uprising.

Magellan finally settled the matter by judging the mutineers in a court martial and pardoning some 50 of them.  This was less a matter of Christian mercy than maritime pragmatism. He needed them to continue the expedition successfully.

Days later, Magellan lost the ship Santiago, wrecked among the rocks at the mouth of what is now known as the Santacruz River near the southern tip of South America. The crew managed to save themselves but they stayed two months at the site of the wreck trying to collect the supplies that floated up.

Two castaways from the Santiago had made it back to the rest of the expedition to deliver news of the ship’s sad end. They walked for a week, eating wild plants and raw seafood and were in rough shape. "They arrived so disfigured by hunger and their travails that their friends did not recognize them," says Ortega. Expeditions were mounted taking food to the survivors of the Santiago, writes Pigafetta, but the trip was exhausting. Even though the distance was only about 100 miles, the path was full of thorns and weeds and they “had nothing to drink but ice.”

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Giants and Rats

In the middle of winter the Magellan expedition discovered on the coast "certain Indians” of "great stature."

“We saw a giant who was on the shore, quite naked, and who danced, leaped, and sang, and while he sang he threw sand and dust on his head,” writes Pigafetta. “Our captain sent one of his men toward him, charging him to leap and sing like the other in order to reassure him and show him friendship. Which he did.  Immediately the man of the ship, dancing, led this giant to a small island where the captain awaited him. And when he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist.”

The friendship with these Indians allowed the explorers to stock up on firewood and food—including the meat of the llama-like guanacos—and thus alleviate their suffering. These huge Indians were called Patagonians.

In October 1520, after wintering, Magellan ordered the ships San Antonio and Concepción to advance along a route "that looked like an arm of the sea." They had found the strait but they did not know it. Once again, despair and dissension set in. The San Antonio, the biggest ship in the fleet, left the expedition in secret.

Meanwhile, Magellan had sent a boat through the canal to discover if it had an outlet to the sea. It did. Euphoric, they baptized the point at which they entered the strait the Cape of 11,000 Virgins, after the legend of Saint Ursula and her martyred companions. Her feast day was October 21. The westernmost point of land they called the Cape of Desire. Then they set sail across the vast ocean they called “the peaceful sea,” the Pacific.

Now the true horrors set in. After sailing for "three months and 20 days without taking on board provisions or any other refreshments,” Pigafetta tells us, they “ate only old biscuit turned to powder, all full of worms and stinking of the urine which the rats had made on it, having eaten the good. And we drank water impure and yellow. We ate also ox hides which were very hard because of the sun, rain, and wind. And we left them four or five days in the sea, then laid them for a short time on embers, and so we ate them. And of the rats, which were sold for half an écu apiece, some of us could not get enough.”

A strange disease–scurvy–was spread among the crew: their gums swelled to the point of overwhelming the teeth in both jaws, preventing them from eating. A score of sailors died of the disease, as did a Patagonian giant who had joined them and was cared for by Pigafetta.

Such was the harshness of that part of the journey that the chronicler wrote, “I believe that nevermore will any man undertake to make such a voyage.”

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Death of Magellan

In the spring of 1521 the expedition landed on the island of Zubu (now Cebu) and reached an alliance with its king, who converted to Christianity and swore allegiance to the king of Spain. With that, all the inhabitants of the island were baptized, they demolished their idols and put an end to their "strange ceremonies."

Among those rituals, the Italian chronicler notes, when a chief died in Zubu, he was watched over at home accompanied by "the most respected women of the place." The main wife "sets her mouth, her hands and her feet to those of the dead man. And while the other woman is cutting off the hair, the latter one weeps. And when she has ceased cutting, the latter one sings.” The ritual lasted five days.

It also surprised the adventurers that the natives of these islands had their foreskins “closed with a small cylinder of gold” and “never remove this ornament, not even during intercourse.” As one of the chroniclers wrote with unusual humor, given the harsh circumstances: "Despite such a strange device, all women preferred us over their husbands ..."

Later in the voyage, Pigafetta listened to the many tales told by Moro pilots helping steer the Victoria through shallow seas. From them he learned that, “When the young men of Java are in love with any gentlewoman, they bind certain little bells with thread under their foreskin.” That is, between the penis and the foreskin. “They go beneath their loved ones’ window and, making pretense to urinate and shaking the member, they ring the little bells until their loved ones hear the sound. Then they come down immediately, and they take their pleasure, always with those little bells, for their women take great delight in hearing those bells ring within.”

But before they could leave Zubu, a new and devastating tragedy befell them.

Magellan wanted to seal the alliance with the king of Zubu by attacking the neighboring island of Mactan, whose king was an enemy of  Zubu and would not convert to Christianity.

Magellan led his men ashore, where they burned some 30 houses belonging to the locals, who vastly outnumbered them and who counter-attacked relentlessly. Forced back into the water, Magellan and his men continued fighting knee-deep in the sea, but the artillery on board their ships was out of range and useless. A poisoned arrow hit Magellan in the leg, then a spear caught him in the arm, then another spear, and he went down surrounded by the enemy, according to Pigafetta. “All at once rushed upon him with lances of iron and of bamboo and with these javelins, so that they slew our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.  While those people were striking him, he several times turned back to see whether we were all at the ships. Then, seeing him dead, as best we could we rescued the wounded men and put them into the boats which were already leaving.” On April 27, 1521, Magellan died at the age of 41, but his body was never recovered.

Afterward several more the men were lost when they were offered a friendly feast only to be betrayed and killed.

Having reduced the number of survivors, those who remained decided to reduce the number of ships to two, setting fire to the Concepción, sailing on aboard the Trinidad and the Victoria. On the way to the Moluccas, they chose Juan Sebastián Elcano as their leader.

In November 1521 they arrived at the spice islands, the Moluccas, which the Portuguese had reached earlier via the Indian Ocean, and which had been Magellan’s goal all along. They had sailed west, halfway around the world on uncharted seas, to reach them, and they received honors from King Almanzor.

The following month, with the ships loaded with cloves, they were preparing to return to Spain but the Trinidad began taking on water, and had to stay behind for repairs, eventually turning back east across the Pacific toward Panama. The Victoria continued west toward Africa and beyond, to Spain.

In the midst of strong winds, it took Victoria seven weeks to get past the Cape of Good Hope. Seven weeks in which a good part of the crew, sick and hungry, demanded Elcano land in Mozambique, where the Portuguese had established themselves. But despited Magellan’s nationality this was not a Portuguese expedition and Elcano was not about to let himself, his men and his hugely valuable cargo fall into their hands. He forced everyone to continue the route to the west.

After two months without seeing land and a score of deaths on board, they were forced to land on one of the Cape Verde islands, another Portuguese outpost, in search of water. Elcano sent 13 men to try to move the Portuguese governor by telling them of his extreme situation. They were arrested and the Portuguese tried to attack the Victoria. Elcano, who was following the negotiations, then ordered the anchor raised, abandoned the 13 men, and sailed on "with imponderable despair,” according to one of the chroniclers.

On September 6, 1522, emaciated, hungry, sick and exhausted from fatigue, after a voyage of almost three years, the Victoria with Elcano in command arrived back in Spain at the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with the 18 survivors on board.

They had completed the first circumnavigation of the globe in history, of that there was now no doubt. Only fools, fantasists or fanatics would deny it.

They did not disembark until the next day when they were towed up the Guadalquivir River to Seville. As crowds gathered to receive them, the 18 walked, "each carrying a candle in his hand," to the chapel of the Virgin in the old Cathedral of Seville to whom they had pledged their faith during the worst moments of the voyage.

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The Beginning of Globalization

That September of 1522 the world changed forever. The  expedition had established the dimensions of Earth, had discovered the Strait of Magellan, had crossed for the first time the largest ocean in the world, which they called Pacific because in its waters they did not suffer storms, had confirmed the spherical nature of the planet and discovered there were different zones of time, had found archipelagos of the Pacific large and small, including the Philippines, and had revealed that all the seas are connected to each other in a global world. They had broken the endurance record on the high seas, had traveled half the planet without stopping, and they had opened the way for communication on a planetary scale.

The fifth centenary of the adventure is a good time to remember the solemnity and transcendence with which Juan Sebastián Elcano wrote the day of his return in a letter addressed to the king who had funded the adventure, and who had become in the meantime Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V, the most powerful sovereign in Europe or, indeed, on Earth:

Your Majesty will know better than anyone that what we ought most to value and hold on to is that we have discovered and sailed the whole roundness of the world, that going to the West, we have returned from the East.”

Translated from the Spanish and edited by Christopher Dickey. Some of the quotations are extracted from R.A. Skelton's translation of Magellan's Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation, by Antonio Pigafetta.

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RENAULT EZ-TOURNÉE CONCEPT CAR

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For the most part, French automaker Renault is known for playing it safe. But lately, they’ve been kicking things up a notch with a number of bold concepts. Still, even they weren’t brave enough to take things to the next level, as digital designer Artyom Trofimenko did with his EZ-Tournée concept car.

Created with the brand’s signature style language in mind, this mind-boggling concept reaches into the far-flung future — with an appearance that looks more like it came out of a 1980s sci-fi movie than something you’d see on the road today. Of course, that also comes with some futuristic upgrades suited to such an environment, like an efficient all-electric drivetrain, 360-degree views thanks to transparent paneling throughout the car, and a two-person cabin with luxurious seats and plenty of room. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll never see this concept hit the road — but, in this case, that’s a pretty big shame.

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BELL & ROSS BR V2-94 BELLYTANKER BRONZE CHRONOGRAPH

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The “Bellytanker” was one of the century’s most iconic vehicles, braving excessive speeds as a flat-lake racer built inside the body of an aircraft fuel drop tank. These platforms were undeniably classic, and as an homage to their stardom, renowned watch brand Bell & Ross decided to name their very own heritage collection after them. Now, the company has channeled the peculiar design once again for the new BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze Chronograph.The 41mm watch stays true to the iconic design principles of the brand’s original Bellytanker line but deviates in regards to color and composition. A new bronze bezel and case join with Bell & Ross’ black aluminum insert and tachymeter scale, metal indexes, and Super-LumiNova hands to provide an exquisite variant that’s a well-built homage to the realm of vintage watchmaking. Furthermore, the BR V2-94’s ETA-based BR-CAL.301 automatic movement and 42-hour power reserve ensure an adequate representation of the time, regardless of the rigors through which you put it. The storied Bronze Bellytanker is currently available on the manufacturer’s site for just under $5,000. But if you want a chance at your own, you better be quick about it — only 999 units will ever be made. $5K

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