April 30, 2019

If you found yourself seriously questioning the tactics on display in Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell, experts feel the same way.

The show's long-awaited last stand against the Night King and his army of the dead was finally depicted in "The Long Night," but criticism of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen's plan went all the way to the top of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Marine Corps. Commandant Robert Neller offered his assessment of the episode, saying, "There was a lot of Jon Snow and Khaleesi flying around in the dark with a dragon, and you're like, 'Do something!'"

A National Guard officer agreed, writing for WIRED that the strategy was "a mess," criticizing everything from the Dothraki being sent "into an attack before the enemy situation is even known," to Jon and Daenerys using their dragons to "loiter" for "far too long" and missing opportunities to engage with the undead.

Slashfilm also spoke with a military officer who broke down some missteps, especially using the Dothraki that way rather than as mobile archers, as well as not having more effective barrier lines put in place or any discernible strategy within the castle. One strategist offered a more charitable view to Slate while still acknowledging key mistakes, noting, for example, that the "use of artillery was just plain bad." And Vox spoke with two military experts who shared much of these same criticisms.

Of course, the Night King ultimately ran into an unexpectedly pointed problem of his own. But the army of the living may still want to take this constructive criticism into account as the inevitable war with Cersei Lannister looms. Brendan Morrow

3:15 p.m.

More than 100 foreign policy experts — including former White House officials in Reagan, (both) Bush, Clinton, Obama, and Trump administrations — laid out six proposals for how the United States should alter its relationship with Russia in an open letter published by Politico on Tuesday.

The letter calls for squelching Russian interference in U.S. elections, while also engaging with Moscow about the matter through negotiations "out of the public square." Another top priority, the signatories believe, is for the White House and Congress to restore "normal diplomatic contacts" with Russia after several were shuttered following the Crimea invasion in 2014. "Too often we wrongly consider diplomatic contacts as a reward for good behavior, but they are about promoting our interests and delivering tough messages," the letter reads.

The other ideas include taking on a dual leadership role with Moscow in nuclear arms control, focusing on "three-way cooperation" between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, and emphasizing that even in areas of genuine disagreement between the countries — like Ukraine and Syria — "measured and phased steps" are key to improving the "overall relationship."

Finally, the letter argues that Washington's sanction strategy needs to change. While, the signatories agree sanctions should remain part of the U.S.'s Russia policy, they need to be more flexible so they can be "eased quickly" should Russia engage productively in negotiations. At the moment, Moscow lacks the incentive to change course even in the face of sanctions, the letter says, because it considers U.S. sanctions "permanent." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

3:08 p.m.

Facebook has finally gotten around to fact-checking President Trump's claims — except those that come up in his political ads.

In recent campaign ads on Facebook, Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed former Vice President Joe Biden wants to "defund the police." Facebook's own fact checkers have correctly flagged the ads as untrue, but because it's coming from a political figure, Facebook isn't doing anything about it, The Washington Post reports.

Facebook relies on a network of independent fact checking groups to determine whether to flag misinformation on its site, and among at least five fact checkers, there was no question Trump's ad was false. After all, Biden had explicitly said he does not support that movement. But more than 1,400 ads claiming Biden did want to defund the police, costing between $350,000 and $553,000, still went out to Facebook viewers and were seen at least 22.5 million times, the Post reports via Facebook's ad network. None of them had any indication that Trump's ad contained a false message because politicians aren't subject to Facebook's advertising rules about deception.

Facebook has always been resistant to fact checking anything on its platform, and only recently applied a misinformation warning to Trump's claims that mail-in voting will lead to fraudulent elections. It did remove one of Trump's ads in June as well, because it used a Nazi symbol and violated Facebook's "organized hate" guidelines. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:03 p.m.

There are a lot more emperor penguins in Antarctica than previously thought, a new study has found.

Using space technology to identify guano, or penguin poop stains on the sea ice, scientists discovered there are about 20 percent more emperor penguin colonies than were previously recorded. This represents a 5 to 10 percent increase in population, bringing the total to just above half a million.

The study, published in Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, relied on satellite imagery from the European Space Agency's Copernicus Mission's Sentinel2 sensor.

Many of the newly discovered colonies are breeding offshore, a surprising new behavior. But these locations aren't ideal with the way Earth's climate is shifting. They are in "areas likely to be highly vulnerable under business‐as‐usual greenhouse gas emissions scenarios," the study reports.

Phil Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at British Antarctic Survey, and one of the study's authors, notes that birds in offshore areas are likely to be "canaries in the coalmine," for climate change, and will need to be monitored carefully.

The study concludes that climate change is likely to affect the emperor penguins, and the newly discovered colonies are projected to become extinct or quasi‐extinct by the end of this century. "Our findings therefore suggest the possibility of an even greater proportion of the global population will be vulnerable to climate change, than previously considered." Taylor Watson

1:44 p.m.

The FBI has reportedly executed a search warrant at YouTuber Jake Paul's house.

Paul's home in Calabasas, California, was "the scene of an early morning FBI raid" on Wednesday, TMZ reported, and the FBI confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that it conducted a search warrant at a Calabasas home.

"The FBI is executing a federal search warrant at a residence in Calabasas in connection with an ongoing investigation," the FBI said, per the Times. "The affidavit in support of the search warrant has been sealed by a judge and I am, therefore, prohibited from commenting as to the nature of the investigation."

No further information was provided, although the FBI said "no arrests are planned." TMZ writes that a "small militia left his pad in armored trucks" and that the scene outside Paul's house resembled "a mini military parade" with "at least 20 people" there executing the warrant.

Paul in June was hit with charges of criminal trespass and unlawful assembly after being spotted at a mall while it was being looted, with authorities saying he "unlawfully entered and remained inside of the mall when it was closed." Paul said "neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism." He recently came under fire for hosting a big party at his house in July despite the coronavirus pandemic and was publicly blasted by the mayor of Calabasas.

"It's completely unacceptable to be interacting with people like that during this time," Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub said. "People need to be wearing masks and people need to be keeping their distance. You can't be having parties with over 100 people." Brendan Morrow

1:32 p.m.

The $600/week coronavirus pandemic-related unemployment benefits helped keep consumer spending alive during the ongoing twin health and economic crises. That figure expired at the end of July, however, and nothing has replaced it yet, as Democrats and Republicans remain divided over how much unemployed individuals should receive. If the benefits lapse or shrink it could have "a really dramatic effect on the macroeconomy," researchers at the University of Chicago and JP Morgan Chase Institute found, per The Wall Street Journal.

Letting the payments lapse completely — which neither party wants to happen — could cause aggregate spending to fall 4.3 percent in one month, which is greater than the decline seen during the entirety of the 2007-9 recession, the study found. Republicans want to bring the number down to $200/week, fearing the current benefits will discourage people from working, despite studies suggesting the contrary. Their proposal wouldn't have quite as drastic an effect on the economy, but the study still estimates a significant 2.3 one-month spending drop. Even reducing the payments to $400/week would lead to a 1.4 percent decline.

That would have ripple effect. If the $600/week payments aren't reinstated, the U.S. economy could lose 1.1 million jobs by the end of the year and reduce gross domestic product by 1.27 percent, while the $200/week plan would likely lead to 1 million job losses, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's analytics, estimates. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

1:08 p.m.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has one very direct question about President Trump's potential Republican National Convention speech venue.

After The Washington Post reported Trump might give his RNC nomination acceptance speech from the White House's South Lawn, Trump confirmed the idea to Fox News on Wednesday. And considering that would mean Trump was using government property for a political purpose, Thune pointedly asked Wednesday "Is that even legal?"

"I assume there's some Hatch Act issues or something," Thune continued while talking to reporters on Wednesday. "I don't know the answer to that but I haven't, and I haven't heard him say that. But I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic," Thune continued.

The Hatch Act bars federal employees from using government property to engage in political tasks, or from performing political tasks while on federal duty. The president and vice president aren't subject to the Hatch Act, though if his federal employees help make the RNC speech happen, they might fall under its purview. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:27 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden won't deliver his Democratic convention speech from Milwaukee after all.

Organizers of the Democratic National Convention announced on Wednesday that Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to accept the party's nomination for president and will instead give his speech from Delaware, his home state. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.

"After ongoing consultation with public health officials and experts — who underscored the worsening coronavirus pandemic — the Democratic National Convention Committee announced today speakers for the 2020 Democratic National Convention will no longer travel to Milwaukee," the Democratic National Convention Committee said in a statement, adding that Biden will speak from Delaware "in accordance with this guidance."

Most of the Democratic convention was perviously scheduled to be virtual due to the pandemic, and delegates were told in June they should prepare to "conduct their official convention business remotely." The New York Times reports that "much of the program is likely to be pretaped videos."

Meanwhile, it hasn't been announced where President Trump will give his convention speech after he canceled the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention last month, though in an interview on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, he said the White House is under consideration, and the Times recently reported that the Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, and a Gettysburg battlefield are also being eyed as potential spots.

The Democratic National Convention is set to begin on Aug. 17. Brendan Morrow

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