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Officials From the Trump administration will Testify over the Jan. 6 riot

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Officials From the Trump administration will Testify over the Jan. 6 riot

As two senior Trump administration officials present before Congress on Jan. 6, they prepare to justify their conduct during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller sticking behind the decision he took that day.

According to a copy of prepared remarks received by The Associated Press, Miller would inform the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday that he was worried before the insurgency that sending troops to the building would fuel concerns of a military takeover and lead to a replay of the deadly Kent State shootings.

His testimony, the first in a series of congressional hearings on the riot, is intended to counter widespread criticism that military troops were too sluggish to arrive even when pro-Trump rioters aggressively assaulted the building and rushed inside.

Miller will be represented by former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who will speak for the first time on the Justice Department’s involvement in the lead-up to the riot.

Miller would argue that he was adamant that the military’s presence be reduced, a stance coloured by disapproval of the violent reaction to the civil disturbances that roiled American cities months ago, as well as decades-old episodes that ended in bloodshed.

According to Miller’s prepared remarks, the Defense Department had a “highly bad record of helping domestic law enforcement,” both during civil rights and Vietnam War marches in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the deadly shooting of four students at Kent State University by Ohio National Guard members 51 years ago.

“I was determined not to replicate these scenarios,” he states.

Miller also denies any role in the Defense Department’s reaction by former President Donald Trump, who has been chastised for failing to strongly condemn the rioters.

Miller will be the most senior Pentagon official to attend the riot hearings. So far, the meetings also included finger-pointing over missing intelligence, insufficient planning, and an inadequate law enforcement response.

The Capitol Police have been chastised for being woefully understaffed, the FBI for failing to communicate information indicating a potential “war” at the Capitol in a timely manner, and the Defense Department for an hours-long pause in getting help to the complex amid the vicious, lethal confusion depicted on television.

“Our hearing will provide the American people with the first chance to hear from top Trump Administration leaders about the devastating intelligence and security shortcomings that allowed this horrific terrorist assault on our nation’s Capitol,” said committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Rosen, for his part, is likely to reassure congress that the Justice Department “took sufficient precautions” ahead of the riot by deploying tactical and other elite forces after local police estimates suggested that 10,000 to 30,000 protesters were expected at demonstrations and protests.

Miller’s testimony would be the first detailed explanation of Pentagon conduct in months, after months of complaints that the National Guard took hours to arrive.

In his prepared remarks, he defends his opposition to a strong military response as formed in part by media “hysteria” over the potential of a military takeover or fears that the military could be used to help reverse election results.

Fearful of exacerbating those fears, as well as the risk that a soldier could be provoked into violence in a manner that could be seen as an assault on First Amendment activities, he claims he decided in the days leading up to the insurgency to deploy troops only in places away from the Capitol.

“No such thing was going to happen under my watch,” Miller continues, “but these fears, and the hysteria surrounding them, nonetheless influenced my decisions about the reasonable and selective use of our Armed Forces to assist civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification.” “My duty to the nation was to avoid a constitutional crisis.”

While he believes the Defense Department should not take the lead in domestic law enforcement, he believes it is critical to begin preparation talks due to concerns about a lack of cooperation and information-sharing among other departments.

Democrats have said that they want to question Miller over why the National Guard took so long to arrive amid immediate preparations for assistance. Miller claims in his prepared testimony that such complaints are unfounded, but he admits that the Guard was not rushed to the scene, which he claims was on purpose.

“This isn’t a video game where you can switch forces with the flick of a thumb, or a film that glosses over the technical difficulties and time taken to organise and synchronise with the myriad of other bodies concerned, or with compliance with the important legal standards involved with the use of those forces,” he continues.

While the timeline Miller provides in his comments largely corresponds to that given by other high-ranking officials, he stands in stark contrast to William Walker, who testified as commanding general of the D.C. National Guard about unusual Pentagon limitations that hampered his reaction. He also identified a three-hour wait between the time assistance was required and when it was delivered.

Walker has since been named sergeant-at-arms of the House, in charge of the chamber’s security.

Walker was given “all the authority he needed to complete the task,” according to Miller, and had never voiced any doubt about the powers at his disposal prior to January 6. Miller claims he ordered the deployment of 340 National Guard troops, which is the total number Walker said will be needed.

Miller says he gave his approval for the Guard to be activated at 3 p.m. The assistance did not arrive at the Capitol complex until long after 5 p.m., owing to the time-consuming nature of scheduling and preparation, according to Miller.

Miller was a White House counterterrorism advisor under Trump before being named acting defence secretary in the final months of his presidency. He took over for Mark Esper, who was sacked as defence secretary after the election for being deemed insufficiently obedient by Trump.

Miller’s sudden hiring sparked fears that he was in position to serve as a Trump ally. Maloney hinted at a fixation on Trump during the hearing on Wednesday, saying his “racist rhetoric angered and incited the angry mob.”

Miller, on the other hand, says in his opening speech that he thinks Trump “encouraged the protesters,” but refuses to say if Trump is to blame. He recalls a meeting on Jan. 5 in which Trump, inspired by a crowd of supporters at a rally that day, told him 10,000 troops would be expected the next day.

“The call lasted less than thirty seconds, and I did not answer substantively or elaborate. “I interpreted his remark to suggest that a significant force will be required to restore order the next day,” Miller says.

Mahesh is leading digital marketing initiatives at RecentlyHeard, a NewsFeed platform that covers news from all sectors. He develops, manages, and executes digital strategies to increase online visibility, better reach target audiences, and create engaging experience across channels. With 7+ years of experience, He is skilled in search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and advertising, and analytics.

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Christie’s Is Now Accepting Ether in Exchange for Ethereum’s Earliest NFTs

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Christie’s Is Now Accepting Ether in Exchange for Ethereum’s Earliest NFTs
Ethereum cryptocurrency seen in Sulkowice, Poland on August 12, 2021. Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Recently, Christie’s announced that its October “Post-War to Present” auction will include the sale of 31 NFTs that are considered to be some of the oldest on the Ethereum blockchain; additionally, Christie’s will become the first leading auction house to actually accept Ether crypto tokens as payment. NFT collections like the CryptoPunks have quickly become highly desirable items on the auction market, but the NFTs that Christie’s is offering in the fall have distinct legacies of their own. They’re also estimated to sell for between 250 and 350 ETH, which shakes out to approximately between $870,000 and $1.3 million.

The NFTs Christie’s is selling are Curio Cards and they were made in May of 2017, which makes them older than both CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties. The NFTs consist of images of corporate logos, everyday objects and other, seemingly mundane everyday signifiers. However, the huge success of NFT sales has thus far proven that in many cases, the design or significance of the actual images used in the artwork is secondary to the novelty of the technology being used to make the artwork.

“A true full set of Curio Cards is one of the few holy grails as far as art projects on Ethereum go,” Noah Davis, head of digital art at Christie’s, told Coinbase. “It’s the first of its kind, predating Punks, even.” As for the Punks, they’ve also found new and bizarre success in realms other than the high-end art space, indicating that NFTs aren’t going anywhere.

Recently, the Larva Labs NFT CryptoPunks, Meebits and Autoglyphs reportedly signed with United Talent Agency, which more traditionally represents professionals in film, television, music and digital media. It’s clear that the sky’s the limit: NFTs could soon have their own TV shows, movies and musical acts to rival the famous cartoon band the Gorillaz.

Christie’s Is Now Accepting Ether in Exchange for Ethereum’s Earliest NFTs

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New Pokémon trading card game will allow trainers to battle each other online and on the go

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Pokémon announces digital card game

On Monday, the Pokémon Company officially announced a new free-to-play digital version of their trading card game set to be released on Android, iOS, Mac and PC.

Updated format: The new game called “Pokémon Trading Card Game Live” will allow its players to collect cards and battle with other people online in an updated format, the company said in its announcement, ComicBook reported.

  • “Pokémon Trading Card Game Live” will cater to those who prefer to play a more relaxed game with the “Casual Play” mode  and the more serious ones with the “Ranked Play” mode.  Collectors may also redeem the codes they find through physical “Pokémon” card booster packs to add to their digital collection.
  • The game will also come with a “Battle Pass” that will reward players with in-game cosmetics and booster packs as they level up. Aside from coins, which can be exchanged for other goods in the game, it will also allow players to earn “Crystals” that can be used to purchase promo cards, special bundles and a “Premium Pass.”
  • Pokémon TCG Live” will go hand in hand with the tabletop version that fans know and love,” Barry Sams, the Pokémon Company’s vice president who is in charge of the upcoming game said, Polygon reported. The new title “welcomes a new era of digital play where Trainers around the world can play together regardless of their preferred platform,” he added.
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game Live” is set to replace the old version the company released in 2011, which only runs on web browsers and tablets, Kotaku reported.

When is the release: Although there is no official word yet on the game’s release date, a soft launch is set to take place in Canada later this year for mobile device users. The company also announced a global open beta for Mac and Windows users through their website will be available later this year.

Featured Image via The Official Pokémon YouTube channel

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Patriots film review: Where is Mac Jones’ vaunted two-tight end offense?

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Patriots film review: Where is Mac Jones’ vaunted two-tight end offense?

Remember last week?

The Patriots, after dropping a coin-flip game to Miami by one point, were supposedly on the brink of disaster if they lost at the Jets and fell to 0-2. Because their Week 3 opponent, the vaunted Saints, would surely be favored heading into Foxboro after pounding Green Bay in their opener. Then, gulp, the reigning champion Bucs were next.

Good times.

Of course, the Pats shot down the putrid Jets and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson on Sunday, while New Orleans crashed to earth behind Jameis Winston, the ultimate boom-or-bust quarterback of the modern era. Now at 1-1, the Patriots are seen as standing on much firmer ground, which was never that shaky. This high-floor team is built to soar as far as Mac Jones can carry them, and the rookie did enough in New Jersey.

The Pats’ high floor can be traced back to free agency, when Bill Belichick refortified his defense and re-centered his offense around Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Except through two games, the NFL’s top tight end duo has been a footnote in the story of the Patriots’ season. Both players rank outside the team’s top three in targets and receiving yards, and neither seemingly has made a significant impact as a run blocker.

What happened to the highly anticipated two-tight end attack?

Here’s what else the film revealed about that package’s progress and everything else during the Patriots’ decisive win on Sunday:

Mac Jones

Adjusted completion percentage: 85.7%

Under pressure: 1-4, 10 yards (3 sacks, intentional grounding)

Against the blitz: 2-6, 17 yards (sack)

Behind the line: 7/7, 40 yards

0-10 yards: 12/15, 80 yards

10-19 yards: 2/4, 42 yards

20+ yards: 1/2, 24 yards

Notes: Jones was quick to throw. He was a tad too cautious. He was, in a word, fine.

Nothing about the rookie’s performance — save for a 24-yard slot fade throw to Jakobi Meyers — raised an eyebrow. The Jets timed their seven blitzes well, generating consistent pressure on him when they turned up the heat. They also streamed through the right side of the Pats offensive line in the first half, turning backup tackle Yasir Durant into a turnstile.

Jones’ longest completions were both first-down throws: the aforementioned Meyers completion and a 32-yarder to Hunter Henry. The Patriots need more of those. First-down passes generally face simpler, more defined coverages, and the Pats can basically choose their attack. Jones will not soar until those opportunities increase or he gets more aggressive.

As mentioned last week, he will go long soon. The first sign that Jones was gaining confidence in the Patriots’ system popped in the spring, when he began attacking the starting defense deep in minicamp practices, after starting conservatively in OTAs and posting a high completion percentage. That box, again, has been checked.

Studs

RB James White

White did it all Sunday, leading the Patriots in all-purpose yards with 65, plus a touchdown. He ran, caught and threw the ball, when he triggered a double-pass trick play in the first quarter. No one has caught more passes than White through two games, a reflection of Jones’ conservatism and the running back’s everlasting reliability.

When in doubt, call No. 28.

LB Matt Judon

The highest-paid defender in Patriots franchise history certainly earned his paycheck Sunday, posting a sack, three hurries, a quarterback hit and one drawn hold. Judon’s run defense has slightly underwhelmed through two games, but he’s risen to the occasion on critical passing downs, even in coverage.

CB J.C. Jackson

Jackson caught as many passes as Corey Davis, the Jets’ No. 1 wideout, did Sunday. That’s one hell of a day.

Duds

OL Yasir Durant

Durant’s second career start didn’t make it through halftime, as he allowed two sacks and was in the vicinity of a third takedown. Were it not for his struggles, the Pats could have put New York away earlier.

LT Isaiah Wynn

Less obvious, but equally problematic, were Wynn’s struggles at the opposite end of the Patriots’ line. He was flagged for holding and a false start around one quarterback hit allowed and a hurry. Wynn’s sole struggle used to be health, but that hardly seems to be the case in 2021.

DT Davon Godchaux

Lawrence Guy escapes here because of his goal-line stand he took with Ja’Whaun Bentley in the second quarter, but both Patriots run-stoppers disappointed Sunday. The Jets rushed for more than 150 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry between the tackles. Godchaux registered one hurry in the second half, but his job, as he’s said, is to plug the middle.

Offensive notes

  • Personnel breakdown: 50% in 11 personnel, 21.6% of snaps in 12 personnel, 20% in 21 personnel, 6.7% in jumbo personnel and 1.7% in 22 personnel.
  • Personnel production: 8.5 yards/play in 12 personnel, 3.3 yards/play in 11 personnel, 2.2 yards/play in 21 personnel, 2 yards/play in 22 personnel and -1 yard/play in jumbo personnel.
  • Pressure rate allowed: 21.2%
  • Play-action rate: 33%
  • Yards per carry: 4.2
  • First down splits: 54% pass (8.9 yards per play), 46% run (2.9 yards per play)
  • Third downs: 3-12
  • Red-zone efficiency: 1-3
  • Broken tackles: Damien Harris 7, James White 2, Kendrick Bourne 2.
  • Sacks allowed: Yasir Durant 2, Team 1.
  • QB hits allowed: Wynn
  • Hurries allowed: Justin Herron 2, Wynn, Team.
  • Run stuffs allowed: Team 4, Michael Onwenu.
  • Drops: Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne
  • Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a solid game, leaning heavily on misdirection to catch the aggressive Jets defense off-guard; something the Pats have done forever versus fast-flowing, zone-heavy defenses.
  • In doing so, McDaniels broke two tendencies from the season opener. First, he called five straight passes from 12 personnel (two tight ends, one running back), most of which were play-action designs. Against Miami, the Pats posted a 62% run rate from 12 personnel.
  • McDaniels took his misdirection to new heights with his sixth throw from that package, the 19-yard double-pass to Jonnu Smith that should have resulted in a deep touchdown to Nelson Agholor, but Jones hurried to make the safer throw.
  • The second broken tendency set up James White’s opening touchdown. The Pats had passed from shotgun on 94% of their snaps versus the Dolphins and 100% thus far at New York, before White ripped off back-to-back 7-yard rushes from shotgun late in the first quarter, the latter being his touchdown run.
  • The trouble was the Jets defended shotgun runs well after that, and standard misdirection basically all game. Five of the Pats’ seven screens gained three yards or less.
  • Unlike White’s touchdown, Damien Harris found the end zone with Mac Jones under center in a 12 personnel grouping.
  • The Pats’ two-tight end package was the only grouping to average more than four yards per play; an average boosted by Harris’ run, the double-pass and Hunter Henry’s 32-yard catch, the team’s longest gain of the day.
  • Henry took most of the Patriots’ tight end snaps in one-tight end personnel groupings, an indication Smith was truly limited by the hip injury he suffered days earlier in practice.
  • Despite fairly quiet individual performances from Henry and Smith, the Pats’ improved production in 12 personnel is critical considering that will be their base offense moving forward. It averaged just 4.2 yards per play versus Miami.
  • Overall, the Patriots’ inability to crank out explosive plays will haunt them against better defenses, particularly while they struggle in the red zone or take penalties. As mentioned, Jones either needs to get more aggressive, or McDaniels needs to take more early-down shots.
  • Offensive line report: David Andrews and Shaq Mason posted clean sheets, while Onwenu played the best game despite allowing a single run stuff.
  • The Patriots also aren’t good enough yet to overcome self-inflicted mistakes. On drives when they allowed a sack or committed a penalty or a drop, they scored just 33% of the time, compared to 60% on drives when they played clean football.

Defensive notes

  • Personnel breakdown: 39% three-cornerback nickel package, 38% three-safety nickel package, 19% dime package, 4% base package.
  • Pressure rate: 48.7%
  • Blitz rate: 25.6%
  • Blitz efficacy: 5.0 yards allowed per play, sack, interception.
  • Yards per carry allowed: 4.9
  • Third downs: 5-13
  • Red-zone efficiency: 0-2
  • Sacks: Josh Uche 2, Matt Judon, Carl Davis
  • QB hits: Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Joejuan Williams, Judon, Uche
  • Hurries: Judon 3, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Chase Winovich, Wise, Team
  • Run stuffs: Team 2
  • Interceptions: J.C. Jackson 2, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips
  • Pass deflections: Jonathan Jones, Bentley, Williams
  • Missed tackles: Bentley 2, Guy 2, Jalen Mills 2, Barmore, Jackson, Uche, Judon, Hightower
  • The Patriots opened primarily in three-safety nickel, before pivoting to three-corner over most of the second half when they led by double digits.
  • The majority of their snaps in dime personnel — with six defensive backs — were taken on the Jets’ final drive in garbage time.
  • Belichick hardly blitzed Zach Wilson, and even those pressures were tame. The Pats recognized Wilson’s aggression would eventually hurt him, and it did on all four picks.
  • Dont’a Hightower took a notable step Sunday, and it may have been tied to his usage. After playing 75% of his snaps at inside linebacker in the opener, he took more than half of his snaps Sunday on the edge, where he played fierce run defense.
  • On the flip side, Judon and Uche both got pancaked on separate run plays. Judon’s run defense will smooth out, but the opposite outside linebacker spot remains a question mark.
  • Tashawn Bower, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, played opposite Judon on the team’s rare snaps of base defense. The Pats played just three snaps of 3-4 defense and allowed inside runs of 17 and five yards.
  • In the middle Ja’Whaun Bentley played 97% of the defense’s snaps, one of the highest single-game marks of his career.
  • If/when Stephon Gilmore’s return, Bentley’s usage will bear watching, as the Patriots seem to prefer deploying him over a third cornerback. He’s been relaying signals from the sideline and making checks.
  • On both his interceptions, J.C. Jackson ran the route for his receiver, a theme throughout Sunday.
  • The Pats secondary may need to thank Kendrick Bourne, who played under the Jets’ offensive staff when they were in San Francisco and shared intel of the offense during preparation.

Statistics for passing depth, broken tackles and missed tackles courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

*12 personnel = one back, two tight ends; 11 personnel = one back; 21 personnel = two backs, one tight end; 22 personnel = two tight ends, two backs.

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‘Duluth, you ain’t got no Ubers’: Former Backstreet Boy AJ McLean has words after weekend wedding visit

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‘Duluth, you ain’t got no Ubers’: Former Backstreet Boy AJ McLean has words after weekend wedding visit

A former Backstreet Boy was seemingly part of another boy band of groomsmen last weekend in Duluth, the musician outing his location with an impromptu song lamenting the lack of Ubers.

“Damn Duluth,” AJ McLean sang in a quick hit post to to TikTok from maybe near the Fitger’s complex. “You ain’t got no Ubers. Damn, Duluth you ain’t got no cabs. Damn, Duluth. Trying to get to my buddies wedding. Damn, Duluth, where the (eff) you at.”

According to McLean’s tags on TikTok, it was Zaya Leavitt’s wedding — a Los Angeles-based music producer who, according to The Knot, married Nicole Veno, who graduated from Carlton High School, on Saturday at Clyde Iron Works.

Other videos from Duluth include on showing off the evening view of Lake Superior, “absolutely breathtaking,” he said. And another with members of the wedding party and fat cigars.

@ajmcleanofficial

I have never seen something so serene and beautiful in all my life and quiet a little taste of heaven before I go to bed. Big day tomorrow!

♬ original sound – AJ McLean

McLean joined the group that would become Backstreet Boys (“Everybody,” “Quit Playing Games with My Heart,” “I Want it That Way” and more) in the early 1990s alongside Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell. He has also had a solo career, and the Backstreet Boys have a tour planned for 2022.

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Apply to become a high school official

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Apply to become a high school official

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Celebrate Officials Appreciation Day by applying to become a high school official.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is looking for new high school officials as there is a shortage in many communities. According to NFHS, some communities are forced to postpone or even cancel games because of a lack of officials.

NFHS benefits of becoming a high school official:

  • You’ll be a role model for the youth in your community
  • It’s a great way to stay in good physical condition
  • Hours are flexible
  • You’ll earn extra income
  • You’ll expand your network of friends and have fun

To begin the application process, go to the NFHS website. There are currently 18 different sports you can apply for.

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Missouri woman convicted of killing husband in 2012

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Missouri woman convicted of killing husband in 2012

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Three years after a Florissant woman was swept away in the Meramec River and drowned in Castlewood State Park, her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Rose Shaw died in Aug. 2018 while trying to save her friend’s daughter, 12-year-old Deniya Johnson. According to our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Shaw and Johnson were wading in the river with three other people when they encountered a drop-off in the river and all five went under. Shaw was 35.

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Ben Simmons won’t report to 76ers’ training camp, AP source says

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Ben Simmons won’t report to 76ers’ training camp, AP source says

PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons will not report to Philadelphia 76ers’ training camp next week and prefers to continue his NBA career with another team, a person with direct knowledge of the player’s plans told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because discussions of Simmons’ plans with the franchise have been private. ESPN first reported that Simmons would not report.

Simmons, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft, is a three-time All-Star who had been paired with Joel Embiid as the franchise cornerstones as the Sixers chase their first NBA championship since 1983.

Simmons, though, took the brunt of the blame for the top-seeded Sixers’ second-round exit in last season’s playoffs. Simmons shot 34% from the free-throw line in the playoffs and was reluctant to attempt a shot from anywhere on the floor late in games. That led to him spending critical minutes on the bench.

Simmons just finished the first year of a $177 million max deal.

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Disney Delivers ‘Star Wars: Visions’ Just as Anime Pushes Further Into the Mainstream

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Disney Delivers ‘Star Wars: Visions’ Just as Anime Pushes Further Into the Mainstream
Star Wars: Visions is Lucasfilm’s first foray into anime. Lucasfilm Disney+

It only makes sense now that Disney would start producing anime based on Star Wars. 

The medium has become a pillar in the ongoing streaming wars, with Netflix (Disney’s biggest competitor) busy acquiring licenses, making exclusive deals, and producing their own original anime for years now. Last year, Netflix announced that over 100 million households watched at least one episode of anime (a 50% increase from 2019), with the genre ranking among the service’s top 10 most-watched programs in over 100 countries. Along with Netflix’s strides, HBO Max has brought the Studio Ghibli library to streaming for the first time, and Sony recently finalized its deal to acquire Crunchyroll. Even with so many beloved brands at their disposal, Disney finds itself in a position it’s not familiar with when it comes to anime: playing catch-up. 

Star Wars: Visions, the franchise’s first foray into anime, is a promising start. Disney has recruited seven anime studios, a promising lineup that features talent responsible for some of the most accomplished anime of the past 20 years, and tasked each of them to bring their unique visual style to one of the biggest properties in entertainment history. While Star Wars: Visions may not boast the same level of ambition as, say, the 2003 anthology The AniMatrix—another world-building expansion for a massively popular property—there is a selection of work here that should appease both Star Wars and anime fans (plus those who overlap). 

Visions opens strongly with “The Duel,” an outlier among the nine stories as it is a mix of CG and hand-drawn animation. Outside of the highly saturated color of the blasters and lightsabers, it is the only chapter delivered in black-and-white—an homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Seven Samurai. This story of a ronin who duels a female Sith warrior with a weaponized lightsaber umbrella (something I’ve truly never seen before) features some intense action, well designed characters and an incredibly looking world. However, the short does run into the same problem that plagues a lot of CG anime, and that is the overall impressions of the characters can be quite flat. There’s an argument to be made that it would have worked better in the latter part of the series as opposed to the opening episode.

After the instantly forgettable “Tatooine Rhapsody,” we come to one of the true highlights of the series. “The Twins” is mainly a battle between siblings on top of joined star destroyers. What makes this short so appealing, and justifies the worth of this experiment, is that director Hiroyuki Imaishi (Promare) and the staff at Trigger spend all 12 minutes of this story executing Star Wars: Trigger style. For every second of this shorts runtime, the now famous Trigger aesthetic is in full display: extreme colors, characters and locations both oozing with style, and featuring highly intense and absurdly energetic action sequences. For those of us who have followed Trigger for the past decade, it is more of the same in the best possible way. To those possibly experiencing Trigger for the first time, my advice is that it’s best if you try not to blink.  

By the end of “The Twins,” and in many of the shorts, the story doesn’t conclude with a clear resolution, but rather feels more like a set-up for a much wider story. In that way, Visions felt more like a pilot program for future series rather than an anthology of stand-alone episodes. If that is truly what’s going on, Disney and Lucasfilm should go all in on what the story with the most potential, Production I.G’s “The Ninth Jedi.”

Coming after “The Village Bride,” a decently produced but slight story, this wondrous short directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) takes place decades after the events of The Rise of Skywalker. It stars Kara, the daughter of a legendary lightsaber-smith—in a time where the iconic weapons of the Jedi and Sith have almost become lost to history—who races to deliver nine lightsabers to a group of warriors hoping to resurrect the Jedi Order after witnessing her father being captured by nefarious forces. 

Returning to hand-drawn animation for the first time in almost half a decade, Kamiyama is clearly the creator who best understood the assignment. “The Ninth Jedi” possesses the kind of charm that first drew in so many to the original trilogy. It presents us with a roster of interesting and singular-looking characters who I want to learn more about, especially Kara, who resembles both Leia in her fearlessness and Luke in his ambitions to find a greater purpose. The action is refreshing but still maintains the feel of the original films, and it contains one of the best reveals in ages, animation or otherwise. If you only see or recommend one of the nine shorts showcased here, let it be this one. 

The latter four that bookend Visions never come close to the high of “The Ninth Jedi,” but that doesn’t mean they were at all lacking in quality. The Elder, the second Trigger short and perhaps the last work directed by legend Masahiko Otsuka (Gurren Lagann), will be nowhere near the top of most lists when it comes to ranking each individual short. But the legendary Otsuka must be commended for developing a short so-anti Trigger in terms of style, pace, and dialogue. Akakiri, directed by Science Saru co-founder President and CEO Eunyoung Choi, has arguably the best ending of the bunch, and—concerning labor practices aside—I’m glad to see the studio pull off a rarity in anime and have a foreigner sit in their directors chair, animation director Abel Góngora, who’s sweet and intense T0-B1 resembles both Astro Boy and Masaaki Yuasa’s cult classic Kaiba. It would have been a treat to see what Yuasa himself would have done if given the chance to tell his own Star Wars story, but perhaps we will when he decides to return to anime. 

As anime is pushing itself further and further into the mainstream, it’s fair to wonder if this experiment will pay off for Disney. It’s unknown if the section of the audience who are mainly Star Wars fans will go along with watching nine anime stories, all focused on new characters. For the sake of variety, I certainly hope they do, because it would be refreshing to see Disney (not exactly known for taking big risks) continue to expand its storytelling purview. Seeking out some of anime’s most talented creators to bring their unique approach to their collection of expensive IP is a way to keep the brand fresh and exciting. Another season of Star Wars: Visions, or perhaps one for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, would be a worthwhile gamble. Anime will continue to grow as it increasingly moves beyond the niche periphery it once occupied. Don’t expect Disney to just ignore that.

Disney Delivers ‘Star Wars: Visions’ Just as Anime Pushes Further Into the Mainstream

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Singaporean scientists develop novel way to turn durian waste into superior antibacterial bandages

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durian gets turned into bandages

In a bid to address food waste in Singapore, local scientists have developed an essential medical use for discarded durian husks. 

More sustainable durian: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists developed a process that turns husks from the popular Southeast Asian fruit into antibacterial gel bandages, Reuters reported.

  • The fruit’s husks are sliced and dehydrated at a low temperature in a process called lyophilization
  • Cellulose powder extracted from the freeze-dried husks is then mixed with glycerol. When the mixture turns into a soft hydrogel, it is then cut into bandage strips.
  • The organic antimicrobial hydrogel bandages can keep affected areas cooler and moister, healing wounds faster than conventional bandages.
  • Because conventional bandages source their antimicrobial properties from costly metals, the hydrogel bandages are also cheaper to make.

Environmental threat: Durian husks, which get incinerated in Singapore, heavily contribute to environmental waste due to the sheer amount of durian the city-state consumes per year. 

  • “In Singapore, we consume about 12 million durians a year, so besides the flesh, we can’t do much about the husk and the seeds and this cause (sic) environmental pollution,” NTU’s Food Science and Technology Program Director William Chen explained. 
  • According to Chen, the process can also be applied to other food wastes. By turning leftovers such as soya beans and spent grains into organic hydrogel, food waste in Singapore can be significantly reduced.
  • Chen, who aims to improve future food production systems, has been looking into ways to upcycle food by-products.
  • In 2019, he led NTU scientists in developing a process that turns the gum found in durian seeds into a natural food stabilizer with probiotics. 

Featured Image via NTUsg (left), (right)

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Ambrose: Also ‘left behind’ in Afghanistan – a million starving children

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Ambrose: Also ‘left behind’ in Afghanistan – a million starving children

Is President Joe Biden killing a million children in Afghanistan? No, certainly not directly, but he and varied other officials set the stage in the overly quick, careless, incompetent U.S. withdrawal that put the Taliban in charge of the place.

The Taliban’s political leaders and terrorist troops then put poverty in charge of the people while also scrapping public services, according to Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. The consequences? There is precious little food, terrible malnutrition and the possible starvation deaths of millions, including those million children.

A drought in farm country played a role in this development, as did the previous corrupt government, we are told. But the Taliban is the key player that shows disregard for humanity every direction it looks, as in beating up people in Kabul for not wearing Taliban-approved clothing. They flogged a woman in the street for talking to a man. Women were becoming free at last under the previous regime but will now be denied any education or possibly even health care and be confined to their homes.

Protesters of such tyranny have confronted gunfire as a counter-argument, and people are terribly scared, as was dramatically demonstrated by those lethally clinging to the outside of airplanes to escape. It’s dangerous out there, few have cash and businesses are closing. The biggest job is finding one. Prices are unpayable, homelessness is rampant, cross-border trade has gone poof and farms are dust we learn in a New York Times story on the situation.

One means of assisting the Afghan people would be to expel the Taliban, which is not going to happen, obviously, although the U.S. did keep these dogmatists from running things for 20 years while avoiding more 9/11-style attacks. There were definitely dividends in the long war that was producing fewer and fewer American deaths. But look at it altogether and the deaths come to 2,500 U.S. servicemen, 3,846 U.S. contractors, 66,000 Afghan troops and cops, and 47,245 civilians. The war cost us about $300 million a day.

What’s most frightening and important now is the possible starvation of those million children and millions more adults and finding a way to prevent the worst without abetting evil.

The United Nations is trying to collect billions for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has promised $64 million. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) has said Taliban leaders in the past stole aid meant for charitable uses and he did not want to hand them money for foul deeds while having less for our own people in need. The Times reported on donors being wary of “brutality” and “human rights abuses.” The aim, however, is for the United Nations to be handling the humanitarian assistance, not the Taliban.

There are other aid issues, as in giving the Taliban help if it releases American hostages, something known as ransom, but there are ways both can happen without it being ransom. Shouldn’t we demand to get weapons back we essentially allowed the Taliban to take? They were pretty much made harmless, a military spokesman has said.

Partly because the United States shares responsibility for the starvation crisis, but also because we should be a humane, caring nation that reaches beyond itself in this world, we should continue to work to save these lives, millions of lives, as a meaningful national goal.


Jay Ambrose is a syndicated columnist.

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