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MIAMI BEACH, Florida (Reuters) – With a police officer close behind, Israel Hernandez-Llach ducked into an apartment building and dashed down the hall. Bursting through a rear exit, he scrambled over an iron fence, landing hard on a parked car, and sprinted across the parking lot.


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Analysis: Can the U.S. defend itself against North Korea’s missile threat?

North Korea recently tested an intercontinental ballistic missile and said it was developing a plan to target Guam. President Donald Trump responded that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

What exactly does that mean? What kind of attack can North Korea actually launch? Here’s a look at what we know and whether the U.S. can defend itself against North Korea’s threats.

What did North Korea launch?

North Korea conducted a flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that it has designated the Hwasong-14. During the July 3 test, the Hwasong-14 traveled for around 40 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan, inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The missile was launched on a highly lofted trajectory to an altitude of about 2,800 kilometers and traveled some 930 kilometers in distance. Had the same motor’s thrust been put to a range-maximizing flight path, the Hwasong-14 could have traveled as far as 7,000 kilometers, enough to reach Alaska and well in range of Guam. If fired in an eastward direction to take advantage of the rotation of the earth, the Hwasong-14 could potentially reach up to 8,000 kilometers, putting Hawaii at risk. The missile appears to employ at least two stages and operates on liquid fuel.

How significant is this event?

This launch represents North Korea’s first-ever test of a true ICBM. An ICBM is classified as a ballistic missile that can deliver a warhead to a range of 5,500 kilometers or more. The definition was set during the Cold War, as 5,500 kilometers is approximately the minimum distance between contiguous Russian and U.S. territories.

For North Korea to cross the 5,500-kilometer threshold is partly a symbolic accomplishment, but to do so with a 7,000- to 8,000-kilometer-ranged missile is a major step forward. Pyongyang would still require a missile of over 8,000 kilometers to begin reaching the lower 48 states, and at least 10,000 kilometers to reach the U.S. East Coast. North Korean press statements claim the Hwasong-14 can strike “any part of the world.” This is untrue, but the Hwasong-14 is indeed the first North Korea–based missile able to reach mainland North America, if one excludes North Korea’s Unha rockets, which are ostensibly space-launch vehicles with limited military utility. The July 3 flight could have also included a test of a reentry vehicle, as the missile’s lofted trajectory would provide a steep and fast path back into the atmosphere approximating the reentry of a still longer-range ICBM.

Equally significant is North Korea’s continued and rapid missile activity over the last few years, including launches of the Musudan and Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles and the mobile, solid-fueled KN-15 medium-range missile.

These actions also bear considerable political significance for the Republic of Korea (ROK) and for U.S. alliance relations with both ROK and Japan. In recent weeks, ROK president Moon Jae-in suspended the deployment of additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense launchers on the Korean peninsula, to the deployment of which China has repeatedly objected. In the face of North Korea’s new missile technologies, it seems more likely that Japan and ROK will pursue more, rather than fewer, military capabilities, including missile defenses, strike capability, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

What is the immediate threat?

Both the Hwasong-12 and Hwasong-14 demonstrated new capabilities, but whether these will translate into near-term deployments remains unclear, at least for the time being. The configuration tested on July 3 represents a demonstration of rocket motors that could be used as part of a still-larger ICBM capable of ranging the continental United States. The Hwasong-14 appears to have been successful in its initial flight test, but this was preceded by several ground tests, as well as at least four tests of the Hwasong-12, which uses a similar engine. As such, the degree of confidence in the motors may be greater than this one flight test alone might suggest. We may expect to see more tests like this in the coming years to achieve increased range, capability, and reliability. Further development could include the addition of a third stage.

In addition to threatening Alaska and Hawaii, North Korea’s new missiles could also provide it with improved regional strike capabilities. The additional heft could be used to deliver a heavier payload at shorter ranges and do so on a more lofted trajectory with a faster reentry velocity, which might be comparatively more challenging to defeat.

Can the United States defend against an ICBM?

The United States operates the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system designed to defeat long-range missile threats to the homeland, such as those from North Korea. GMD is the only U.S. missile defense system currently devoted to defending the U.S. homeland from long-range ballistic missile attacks. First operationally fielded in 2004, GMD and its associated elements today span 15 time zones, including two Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) sites at Ft. Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg AFB, California; seven types of sensors; and various command and control systems. By the end of this year, a total of 44 GBIs will be deployed, with 40 at Ft. Greely and another 4 at Vandenberg. In the event of a crisis, these interceptors and the broader system would provide a measure of protection that helps preclude blackmail, assure allies, and support the overall U.S. deterrence and defense posture.

GMD has had a mixed but improving performance record over the course of two decades of testing, logging successful intercepts in 10 out of 18 attempts. The last two intercept tests have been successful, validating the fixes applied to address prior technical issues. In the most recent GMD test this May, a GBI destroyed an ICBM-class target for the first time. As a result, the Pentagon’s weapons tester upgraded its assessment of the system’s effectiveness, declaring that GMD has a “demonstrated capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures.”

Homeland missile defense is nonetheless in need of continued modernization of its interceptors, sensors, and ground systems. In a CSIS report published earlier this year, entitled Missile Defense 2020, we recommended the continuation or expansion of improvements to the system’s reliability, capability, and capacity. This includes continuing current interceptor modernization, such as the Redesigned Kill Vehicle and Multi-Object Kill Vehicle programs. Additional interceptors may also be in order in the near term, as may development of a space-based sensor layer to better track missiles in flight.

This backgrounder first appeared on July 6 on the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ website.

The post Analysis: Can the U.S. defend itself against North Korea’s missile threat? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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‘Will & Grace’ should be ashamed of itself for rewriting TV history

The producers of “Will & Grace” have now announced their plans for the much-hyped revival of their long-running NBC series. The reaction has been, for the most part, bewilderment. In 2006, the sitcom, about a nervous gay lawyer (Eric McCormack) and his high-strung best friend/roommate (Debra Messing), aired a two-hour series finale that moved the…
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Life Itself Movie CLIP – Ava DuVernay (2014) – Roger Ebert Documentary HD

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Life Itself Movie CLIP – Ava DuVernay (2014) – Roger Ebert Documentary HD

Acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and executive producers Martin Scorsese (The Departed) and Steven Zaillian (Moneyball) present LIFE ITSELF, a documentary film that recounts the inspiring and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert—a story that is by turns personal, funny, painful, and transcendent. Based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, LIFE ITSELF explores the legacy of Roger Ebert’s life, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times to becoming one of the most influential cultural voices in America.
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ReThink Review: Life Itself — On Roger Ebert and Why I Review Movies

For most movie critics living today, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert is their patron saint. While I rarely read his reviews, I know that he’s influenced me more than I even know, starting from when I was a little kid watching At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, which I still think is the perfect format for a movie review show and probably contributed to me wanting to be a critic in the first place. The new documentary Life Itself traces Ebert’s life and extraordinary career while also chronicling the final four months of his life before he died after a long battle with cancer which took his ability to speak but supercharged his compulsion to write. Watch the trailer for Life Itself below.

Based on Ebert’s book of the same name, Life Itself traces Ebert’s career as a born writer who eventually became a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times where, at the age of 25, he was made their full-time movie critic (then an unglamorous job) when the previous critic quit. But Ebert’s talent and intelligence quickly elevated the reviews, eventually earning him a Pulitzer, to the point that someone got the then-novel idea of starting a movie review TV show pairing Ebert with Chicago Tribune critic and rival Gene Siskel.

It’s this part of the film, detailing the evolution of the show and Ebert and Siskel’s relationship, that I found the most fascinating and fun since footage and interviews (including the first-ever interview with Siskel’s widow Marlene) reveal that the enmity and differences between Siskel and Ebert went even deeper than they appeared on a show famous for their testy exchanges. The two were an odd couple in every way, but their dynamic led to them becoming the most famous and powerful film critics in history and eventually the closest of friends — a journey that could make a great film on its own. And filmmakers, several of whom are interviewed, recognized Ebert not as a scourge or scold, but a lover of film who only wanted them to do their best work.

Throughout, Life Itself returns to 2013 as Ebert continues his work and convalesces from an injury, only to learn that his cancer has spread, giving him only months to live. As the end approaches, we’re given an intimate look at his relationships with Ebert’s beloved wife Chaz, her family, and the meaning they brought to his life.

Life Itself is directed by Hoop Dreams director Steve James, who attributes the success of his film to Siskel and Ebert’s early and repeated support. But Life Itself — at nearly two hours — is not a puff piece, examining both the celebrated and unflattering aspects of Ebert’s personality, from his intelligence and writing skills which were obvious at an early age to his reputation for being an arrogant, sometimes mean attention hog. It’s a terrific film about the man, loving movies, cancer, and the role of honest criticism that you don’t need to be a critic to enjoy, though it inevitably leads this critic to think about why I do what I do.

I don’t think of myself as a disciple of Ebert, but his influence on me is undeniable. When I was still a little kid, Ebert (I preferred him to Siskel) showed me that movies should be enjoyed in context for what they are, not in comparison to an alleged golden age or an idea of what movies are supposed to be, and that movies could not only be art, but art that could be enjoyed and understood by everyone — provided it was done well. He was intellectual yet not condescending, part of the populist streak that ran through all his work — something that I relate to and probably unconsciously emulate.

I see my reviews as not being about me knowing more about movies than you or telling you how to think, but simply as an attempt to explain clearly why I feel the way I do about a movie while being honest about my biases and shortcomings, which is why I never apologize for movies I haven’t seen. After all, I’m not a movie expert or someone trying to be what I think a critic is supposed to be, but simply a guy who loves movies and loves writing about them.

But above all else, I share a belief that Ebert states early in Life Itself: that “movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” Movies are the most powerful and accessible storytelling device that humans have created, possessing a unique power to educate and enlighten, whether it’s through presenting information, letting you into the lives of people different from you, or by putting a character you relate to in a situation you’ve shared or maybe never experienced. By doing this, movies can challenge your beliefs and preconceptions, make you feel less alone, or at least provide viewers with a shared experience that can spark a conversation based on each individual’s unique interpretation of it. And it’s only through empathy and discussion that we’ll be able to put aside our differences, emphasize what connects us, and make the world a better place.

These might be lofty ideas for a guy who runs his mouth about movies. But Roger Ebert showed that talking about movies can be a pretty wonderful thing. And if you don’t believe me, Life Itself will almost definitely change your mind.
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The Roger Ebert Documentary ‘Life Itself’ Shines At Sundance

As I write this fourth update, I have now seen 15 movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (I should add: I am very, very tired.) I’ve been sitting at my computer for the last 10 minutes trying to think of some fun anecdote to share, but, honestly, I can’t remember much of anything right now, so let’s just get to the movies. Movies that include one of the most special films at the festival, the Roger Ebert documentary, “Life Itself.”

“Life Itself”

life itself

“Life Itself,” a title that was taken from Roger Ebert’s autobiography, chronicles the life of the famed film critic – including the last few months of Ebert’s life in, at times, ghastly detail. It’s heartbreaking to see Ebert in such poor shape for those last few months, especially contrasted with the guy who used to be so full of life. But even in those final months, Ebert’s writing was still very much full of life.

I don’t want to paint “Life Itself” as a sad film. There’s a sequence where outtakes are shown of Ebert and Gene Siskel filming a television promo that are downright hilarious. Thankfully, a lot of time is spent on Siskel (who died in 1999) and the strange relationship the two shared. It was Siskel’s insistence on hiding the severity of his condition from Ebert -– Ebert had been hurt that he wasn’t in Siskel’s inner circle concerning his condition — that led Ebert to be as open as possible about his future medical conditions.

It’s a shame Ebert didn’t live to see this film released, but in an interview conducted for the film, he was fairly sure that he would never live to see the finished film. “Life Itself” will take you through the emotional gauntlet. No, Ebert wasn’t a saint and this documentary doesn’t sugarcoat that fact. But it does give us a look at this man who lived an extraordinary life and inspired so many. “Life Itself” is one of the best films at Sundance.

“Laggies”

laggies

When “Laggies” begins, it almost feels like a distant cousin to “Bridesmaids.” (Note: I am in no way comparing “Laggies” to “Bridesmaids,” just the first ten minutes.) There are some laughs! I laughed a few times! Keira Knightly plays Megan, a woman with an advanced degree, yet who is content doing not much of anything with her career. After her best friend’s wedding, during which her boyfriend (Mark Webber) unsuccessfully tries to propose, she’s asked by a high school student, Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), to buy Annika and her other underage friends some alcohol. Megan agrees, then moves in with Annika and falls in love with Annika’s dad (Sam Rockwell). Yes, the plot of this movie is as dumb as that sounds.

Again, there are some legitimately funny scenes, but “Laggies” suffers from way too many “Nobody in real life would ever make the decisions that these characters do” moments. Annika, a stranger, calls Megan and asks Megan to pose as her mother for a meeting at the principal’s office. With no hesitation, Megan agrees. Nobody would ever agree to that! Who are these people? You know what? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

“To Be Takei”

to be takei

I had no idea that George Takei had worked with John Wayne. “To Be Takei” is filled with enough footage and fun facts like that one to satisfy the weary popular culture connoisseur – and, yes, there’s a lot of “Star Trek” – but the film focuses mostly on Takei’s extraordinary post-“Trek” life, in which he’s become one of the leading voices in the LGBT movement.

If you’ve paid attention to Takei’s life, I’m not sure there’s a lot here that someone wouldn’t know – Takei has discussed his unfortunate time in a Japanese internment camp during World War II many times in the past – but Takei just emits joy. It’s impossible to watch Takei speak and not feel some sort of happiness. The film is sprinkled with interviews with the rest of the living “Star Trek” cast, including William Shatner who, honestly, comes off as an asshole. (I can see why when Takei told Shatner to “get off your high horse” at a celebrity roast, he states he wasn’t joking.)

Regardless, Takei has lived a fascinating life and makes for a great case study, even if you don’t know the difference between a Klingon and a Romulan.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
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