For the first time in nearly 100 years, the shadow of a total solar eclipse is going to sweep across the United States.

The umbra — the darkest shadow cast by the moon blocking the sun — will appear in the Pacific Ocean and slice through 14 US states on Monday, August 21.

Starting around 10 a.m. PDT, parts of western Oregon will go dark in a condition called totality as the umbra travels east. The elliptical shadow will make its way to Idaho Falls by 11:33 MDT, hit Kansas City at 1 p.m. CDT, and begin to pass over Charleston, South Carolina, by about 2:45 p.m. EDT.

Although some eclipse fans spend years preparing for the event, totality lasts less than three minutes — so all it takes is one stray cloud to obscure the magic moment.

That’s why some people pay thousands of dollars to fly in chartered jets and pursue the moon’s shadow. In addition to beating the odds of bad weather, such hardcore “eclipse chasers” can extend their length of time in the umbra, sometimes by several minutes.

I was lucky enough to ride an eclipse-chasing flight on August 1, 2008. Here’s what the experience was like.

Total solar eclipses aren’t rare — they happen about once every 18 months — but most locations on Earth fall in one’s path roughly once every 375 years.

Total solar eclipses aren't rare — they happen about once every 18 months — but most locations on Earth fall in one's path roughly once every 375 years.

An illustration of a total solar eclipse.NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Source: Amber Porter/Clemson University

That’s because the umbra averages less than 100 miles wide near the equator — a fraction of a percent of Earth’s dayside surface area.

That's because the umbra averages less than 100 miles wide near the equator — a fraction of a percent of Earth's day-side surface area.

A US map of the total solar eclipse’s shadow on August 21, 2017. The umbral shadow will be about 60-70 miles wide, depending on the time and location. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Source: TimeAndDate.com

 

However, some hardcore eclipse chasers spend thousands of dollars to chase the moon’s shadow from the skies.

However, some hardcore eclipse chasers spend thousands of dollars to chase the moon's shadow from the skies.

An airplane flies in front of the crescent of a solar eclipse.Shutterstock

 

Totality ended after three minutes with the appearance of a second “diamond ring” on the opposite side of the moon. The eclipse phases then moved in reverse as the umbra sped eastward ahead of our jet.

 

After totality, two passengers — Joel Moskowitz and Craig Small — paraded a custom eclipse flag around the cabin. The two were the most devout eclipse chasers I’d ever met. “I have no intention of ever missing an eclipse for the rest of my life. I don’t care where it is, even in the remotest area of the Earth,” Small told me. “I have to be there, I will be there.”

After totality, two passengers — Joel Moskowitz and Craig Small — paraded a custom eclipse flag around the cabin. The two were the most devout eclipse chasers I'd ever met. "I have no intention of ever missing an eclipse for the rest of my life. I don't care where it is, even in the remotest area of the Earth," Small told me. "I have to be there, I will be there."

Joel Moskowitz (left) and Craig Small (right).Dave Mosher

 

“When you see one, you want to see more. You get hooked,” Moskowitz added. “Seeing the corona during totality is better than sex.”

The trip wasn’t over, though: The airplane banked hard and turned toward the North Pole. At the time, it looked like this — a bunch of fractured sea ice.

The only indication that we’d arrived at the Pole was an announcement over the intercom.

Back on the tarmac in Düsseldorf, the group snapped a celebratory photo, and then everyone began making their way home.

 

That evening I watched the sun set on the Rhine River and reflected on my experience. More than anything, I felt humbled.

There’s nothing like an epic astronomical alignment to make you feel like you’re riding a spaceship through an infinite void.

This animation shows the total solar eclipse of March 9, 2016, from the vantage of the NASA climate satellite DSCOVR.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2017.

Read next on Business Insider: Here’s what the solar eclipse will look like from different cities around the US

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/solar-eclipse-diehards-use-this-clever-trick-to-see-totality-longer-than-anyone-else/

The sectarian terror group wont be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place

The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.

The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an affront to justice when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing extensive support to the armed Syrian opposition.

That didnt only include the non-lethal assistance boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of arms on a massive scale. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a rat line of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But its only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesnt constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva convention.

But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where todays terrorists are tomorrows fighters against tyranny and allies are enemies often at the bewildering whim of a western policymakers conference call.

For the past year, US, British and other western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying the hyper-sectarian terror group Islamic State (formerly known as al-Qaida in Iraq). This was after Isis overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

The campaign isnt going well. Last month, Isis rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now nonexistent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra. Al-Qaidas official franchise, the Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.

Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes. Privately, officials say they dont want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Sunni allies in the Gulf.

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts and effectively welcomes the prospect of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria and states that western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey were supporting the oppositions efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality, the Pentagon report goes on, this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isnt a policy document. Its heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies werent only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of Islamic state despite the grave danger to Iraqs unity as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesnt mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.

The calculus changed when Isis started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf states are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. But this US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.

It was recalibrated during the occupation of Iraq, when US forces led by General Petraeus sponsored an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads to weaken the Iraqi resistance. And it was reprised in 2011 in the Nato-orchestrated war in Libya, where Isis last week took control of Gaddafis home town of Sirte.

In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule. American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against Isis in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabias military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.

Whats clear is that Isis and its monstrosities wont be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since. Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division. Its the people of the region who can cure this disease not those who incubated the virus.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

And I am biased, obviously and enormously: Im an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

So Im biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.

And Im here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.

And its that change, and that act of reading that Im here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What its good for.

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldnt read. And certainly couldnt read for pleasure.

Its not one to one: you cant say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, its a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if its hard, because someones in trouble and you have to know how its all going to end thats a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, youre on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

I dont think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of childrens books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. Ive seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.

Enid
No such thing as a bad writer… Enid Blytons Famous Five. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

Its tosh. Its snobbery and its foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isnt hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a childs love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian improving literature. Youll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen Kings Carrie, saying if you liked those youll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen Kings name is mentioned.)

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. Youre being someone else, and when you return to your own world, youre going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

Youre also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And its this:

The world doesnt have to be like this. Things can be different.

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

Its simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere youve never been. Once youve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

And while were on the subject, Id like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if its a bad thing. As if escapist fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldnt you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.

Tolkien's
Tolkiens illustration of Bilbos home, Bag End. Photograph: HarperCollins

Another way to destroy a childs love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays, and the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the childrens library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. And when I had finished reading the childrens library I began on the adult books.

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader nothing less or more which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, weve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. Thats about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.

A
Photograph: Alamy

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. Its a community space. Its a place of safety, a haven from the world. Its a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account.

Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce.

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us as readers, as writers, as citizens have obligations. I thought Id try and spell out some of these obligations here.

I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.

We writers and especially writers for children, but all writers have an obligation to our readers: its the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.

We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs.

We all adults and children, writers and readers have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. Im going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. Its this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.

We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world weve shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. If you want your children to be intelligent, he said, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

This is an edited version of Neil Gaimans lecture for the Reading Agency, delivered on Monday October 14 at the Barbican in London. The Reading Agencys annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

Daenerys will help the North if Jon bends the knee.
Image: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Warning: This article contains major spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happened in last night’s episode, then white walk away!

Since his arrival at Dragonstone, Jon Snow has been petitioning Daenerys for her help in the impending battle against the White Walkers. The queen has everything the North needs to have a fighting chance the army, the dragonglass, three fire-breathing dragons. The problem is that Dany and her council aren’t convinced that the legend of the White Walkers is real.

During last night’s episode, Jon showed Dany something that shook the queen and changed her mind about the army of the dead. Deep inside the dark caverns beneath Dragonstone were walls covered in pre-historic drawings of the First Men and the Children of the Forest fighting as one against their common enemy the White Walkers.

Image: youtube/Gameofthrones

While Dany seemed convinced of the legitimacy of the ancient drawings pledging her support to the North if Jon bended the knee some fans weren’t buying it.

One redditor called BrySighz dropped this hilarious illustration into the /r/GameofThrones subreddit with the caption: “This immediately popped in to my head after the cave scene so I drew it.”

It’s obviously a joke, but perhaps there’s something to this comical fan theory. After all, Jon and Ser Davos werethe only two people at the caves when Daenerys arrived on scene. And it’s pretty convenient that Jon happened to stumble upon these cave paintings that proved that the White Walkers were a threat.

Suspicious. Very suspicious.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/07/game-of-thrones-cave-paintings/

Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized the Communist Party’s control over the military as he prepares for a key leadership reshuffle later this year.

Speaking Tuesday at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xi said the military should “carry forward and implement the Party’s absolute leadership.”
“As comrade Mao Zedong once pointed out, our principle is to have the Party command the military, not the military command the Party,” Xi said.
    His words came after a major display of military force Sunday in a grand parade at a base in Inner Mongolia, on China’s northern border, in which 12,000 troops, and more than 100 planes took part.

      China steps up censorship on the internet

    Power play

    Analysts say Xi has taken advantage of the PLA anniversary to firmly establish his personal authority ahead of a Party Congress around November, during which the next Politburo Standing Committee — the most powerful governing body in China, headed by Xi — will be revealed. An exact date for the congress has not been announced.
    Speaking after the parade Sunday, Yvonne Chiu, an assistant politics professor at the University of Hong Kong, said Xi wanted to “remind the military that they pledge loyalty to the Party, not the country” and to send a message to the country “that the military is firmly onside with him, especially as they’re still pursuing the anti-corruption campaign, which continues to shake things up and cause uneasiness among the elite.”
    While the congress will almost certainly give the 64-year-old Xi another five years as China’s top leader, it has been rumored he will seek to buck an established norm that leaders retire after two terms.
    Xi was designated the Party’s “core leader” in October last year, a powerfully symbolic title that was not granted to his predecessor Hu Jintao, who relied on a more consensus-building governance style compared to the all-powerful Xi.
    “The importance of the Party’s control over the military is an oft-repeated phrase, but Xi has emphasized it heavily during his tenure,” said Tom Rafferty, China manager at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
    He added Xi has sought the backing of “a younger generation of military officers” for his reforms, even as former top generals have fallen foul of corruption investigations.
    At the same time, a wide-reaching and highly popular anti-corruption campaign has brought down many of Xi’s rivals or potential successors. Typically the next Chinese leader would be obvious by the time of the Party Congress, as Xi was in 2007.
    Last month however, Sun Zhengcai, widely seen as a rising star in the Party, was abruptly sacked as boss of Chongqing and placed under investigation for corruption. At 53, Sun was one of only a handful of senior Chinese officials capable of succeeding Xi under the current informal retirement age of 68.
    While some have predicted Xi will break with the age cap norm — upheld during the last three leadership turnovers — as to allow himself and his allies to stay on, Chinese leadership analyst Bo Zhiyue told CNN in April that attempting to serve a third term might be more difficult.
    “(Even if) he wants to be like Putin in Russia, to stay beyond his second term, we don’t know if this can be realized,” Bo said.

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    Border business

    While Tuesday’s speech was primarily focused on political matters — encouraging the PLA to root out corruption and follow Marxist military principles — Xi also referenced the army’s increasing role overseas.

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    “The People’s Army is an army with strong war capabilities,” he said, one that will “never allow any parties to separate any piece of land from China.”
    Beijing is currently embroiled in a territorial dispute with India along the countries’ border in the Himalayas, which has seen increased militarization on both sides and angry rhetorical salvos.
    Last week, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said the country will carry out further military drills in the border region and warned “it is easier to move a mountain than to shake the PLA.”
    On its southern border, China is also engaged in multiple arguments over territories in the 3.5 million square kilometer South China Sea — almost all of which is claimed by Beijing.
    Xi emphasized the importance of the PLA’s combat readiness, saying that ongoing reforms of the army are key to ensuring its “readiness to defend state sovereignty and maritime interests.”
    “(The PLA) has won wars on the borders many times and showed the might of the nation and the military, it must continue to safeguard the borders over the land and the sea,” he said.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/01/asia/xi-jinping-military/index.html