The Korean War Gave America’s Nuclear-Armed F-84 Thunderjet Its Global Debut


In 1944, Alexander Kartveli, designer of the legendary Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter, began working on a jet-powered successor. Kartveli’s tubby-looking “Jug” proved a tough, hard-hitting ground attack plane and a fast, far-flying escort fighter in World War II. Unable to cram a turbojet in the Thunderbolt airframe, the Georgian engineer drafted a clean-sheet design dubbed the XP-84 Thunderjet with a J-35 turbojet spanning the fuselage from the intake in the nose to the tailpipe, with fuel stored in wingtip tanks.

Though a prototype briefly set a national speed record in 1946, early model Thunderjets (re-designated F-84s) required excessive maintenance and proved unstable due to weak wing spars for the thick wings and shaky wingtip fuel tanks. The Pentagon nearly canceled the jet prematurely when Republic finally introduced the F-84D model addressing the most glaring flaws by introducing sturdier wing spars, revised fuel tanks, a functioning ejection seat and a more powerful J-35A-17 engine.

Like the P-47, the Thunderjet was a “heavy”-feeling plane with high takeoff and landing speeds. It required longer mile-long runways and was less maneuverable than the Air Force’s earlier F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter. However, the F-84 was faster at 610 miles per hour, had a greater range of 800 miles, and was a hard-hitting and stable gun platform: in addition to its six extra-fast-firing M3 .50 caliber, it could lug thirty-two five-inch high-velocity rockets or two tons of bombs. Once the early models’ flaws were corrected, the Thunderjet also proved highly maintainable, its guts designed for easy access to mechanics.

However, Karteveli’s design used traditional straight rather than swept wings, which delay the formation of shockwaves when approaching supersonic speeds. This left the Thunderjet slower and less agile than the near-contemporary swept-wing F-86 Sabre and the Soviet MiG-15, which could attain speeds of around 680 miles per hour

Six months into the Korean War in December 1950, F-84Es of the 27th Fighter Escort Wing were dispatched to Taegu Air Base in South Korea to escort four-engine B-29 strategic bombers on raids targeting the Chinese border with North Korea. The F-84E model was lengthened fifteen inches to carry additional fuel and incorporated a radar-assisted gunsight

Thunderjets first encountered MiGs on January 21, 1952, when eight F-84s raiding Chongchan bridge were bounced by two flights of MiG-15s which shot an F-84 down. A MiG was claimed in return, but Soviet records reveal no corresponding losses. Two days later, F-84s and B-29s launched a massive raid targeting the airfield at Pyongyang. The MiGs, which excelled at high altitudes, were forced to dogfight strafing Thunderjets on the deck; three Communist jets were shot down and two more crippled.

However, thereafter the faster MiG-15s mostly engaged F-84s at high altitudes while escorting B-29s, repeatedly breaking through screens of up to fifty to 100 Thunderjets to ravage the B-29s they were escorting.

Henceforth, the UN forces in Korea switched heavy bombers to less-accurate night raids. F-86s focused on the MiG threat, while F-84s were relegated to ground attack missions, their tremendous firepower unleashed to strike frontline troops, blast rear-area depots, artillery batteries and convoys, cover helicopter search-and-rescue operations, and bombard key infrastructure targets. Over the course of the war, Thunderjets flew 86,000 missions and dropped 61,000 tons of bombs and napalm canisters—by one tally, accounting for 60 percent of ground targets destroyed by the U.S. Air Force during the war. The F-84’s robustness proved an asset, allowing it to survive punishing hits from heavy communist flak.

In June 1952, eighty-four Thunderjets obliterated 90 percent of the Sui-ho Dam complex, knocking out electricity throughout all of North Korea for two weeks. However, the raid, intended to pressure North Korean peace negotiators, backfired—inspiring anti-war opposition in the British parliament while conversely causing hawks in the U.S. to complain that the raid should have taken place sooner.

Nonetheless, in 1953, F-84s were hammering dams at Toksan and Chasan—causing huge floods that swamped bridges, railway lines and roads, and badly damaged crops. By then, the final F-84G model had arrived in theater, bringing with it an uprated J-35 engine and revolutionary new in-flight refueling capability. F-84s could connect their wingtip tanks to a probe trailed by a KB-29 tanker, allowing them to fly missions over Korea from bases in Japan.

Of 335 F-84Ds, Es and Gs lost to all causes during the Korean War, at least 135 were destroyed by flak. U.S. records claim a further 18 were shot down by MiGs, while Soviet and Chinese fliers claimed 65. A side-by-side comparison of loss records (broken down here) suggests a number closer to twenty-five F-84s lost in aerial combat (including a “maneuver kill,” two crashes due to battle-damage and one incident of mutual mid-air collision) in exchange for seven to eight MiGs.

But F-84s and MiG-15s continued to battle on other fronts of the Cold War. On March 10, 1953, a MiG-15 encountered a two-ship F-84 patrol apparently straying into Czech airspace near Merklin. Czech pilot Jaroslav Šrámek told an interviewer:

They banked sharply and flew off at full throttle. But because the MIG 15s were better the F-84s we were able to turn easily and manoeuvre into a position where I could fire a warning shot. The warning shot hit his backup tank on the right-hand side. Fuel started escaping from it. He tried to escape to the south. In view of the fact that I was higher than him I was able to catch him easily and my second round disabled him. After firing the shot I saw flames coming from his craft so I stopped and headed home.”

Pilot Warren Brown ejected, and his crashed jet was found ten miles into the German side of the border.

The Republic of China Air Force received 246 F-84Gs which clashed repeatedly with their communist counterparts over the Taiwan Strait. In a series four 4-on-4 engagements in 1955 and 1956, ROCAF Thunderjets claimed five MiG-15 for no loss, though two Thunderjets were shot down in smaller-scale dogfights, and a third was lost to flak. However, on July 29, 1958, newer, ultra-maneuverable MiG-17s bounced four F-84s and shot down two over Nan’ao island, helping trigger the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Of three-thousand F-84Gs built, Washington transferred over 200 each to Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway and even Communist Yugoslavia as part of the MDAP military assistance program. Particularly prolific operators included France (335) and Turkey (489), while Iran, the Netherlands and Thailand received smaller numbers.

F-84Gs became the first fighter operated by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds aerobatics in 1953. Thunderjets stationed in Europe, meanwhile, became the first single-engine aircraft modified to deliver a nuclear weapon—the 1,680-pound Mark 7 nuclear bomber with an adjustable yield as high as 61 kilotons. To avoid getting caught in the apocalyptic blast, the Thunderjet employed a Low Altitude Bombing System to semi-accurately “toss” their nuclear payload while climbing, then bank sharply to the side as the deadly warhead arced away.

The sturdy and steady F-84 also served as a platform to test new concepts—most importantly pioneering aerial refueling of jet fighters. But some of the ideas didn’t exactly pan out. An attempt to modify the F-84 to be towed behinds the B-29s it was meant to escort (and this extend range by saving fuel) ended in a deadly collision. F-84s were also tested with rocket-boosters so that they could perform “zero-length” takeoffs from truck trailers should a nuclear war destroy all the airfields.

By 1954, the superior swept-wing F-84F Thunderstreak model entered service, largely replacing the Thunderjet and also spawning the RF-84F Thunderflash photo-reconnaissance model, with intakes in the wing roots instead of the nose. Powered by a more powerful but finicky J65 turbojet, the Thunderstreak could attain speeds just shy of 700 miles per hour.

By the late 1950s, the Air Force began retiring all models of the F-84 in favor of the supersonic F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief, though F-84s served in Air National Guard units until 1970 and Portuguese Thunderjets saw action in a colonial war in Angola until 1974. The last Thunderflash was finally retired by the Greek Air Force in 1991—a long career for a tough jet that had seemed outdated nearly as soon as it entered service.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Image: Wikipedia.



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DPIPWE gave salmon farm giant Tassal green light to trap seals


Newly released documents reveal a Tasmanian government department gave aquaculture giant Tassal a permit to keep up to 20 trapped seals in empty salmon pens, at the same time as the department was investigating allegations the company broke the law by doing exactly that.

The documents also show department staff discussed with Tassal how they would answer questions from the media about the investigation.

The documents were released as a result of a Right to Information (RTI) request about the treatment of seals at Tassal fish farms in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River in south-east Tasmania from a community member, who was helped by Environment Tasmania and the Environmental Defenders Office.

They document an investigation by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) into allegations Tassal workers kept up to 20 Australian fur seals in an empty salmon pen without food for multiple days.

RTI documents show DPIPWE staff consulted Tassal about how to respond to questions from the media.(Supplied: Tassal)

The investigation started in September 2016 after two DPIPWE wildlife rangers, acting on a tip-off from an industry source, observed about 20 seals in a salmon pen at a Tassal lease at Roberts Point.

The wildlife officers filmed and photographed the seals before releasing them and questioning Tassal employees at the site.

One of the wildlife officers noted two of the seals appeared “extremely lethargic, consistent with having low energy due to having no availability to food for an extended period”.

Large ship next to a fish farm pen in the ocean.
DPIPWE’s investigation did not result in any charges being laid against Tassal.(Supplied: Tassal)

At the time, Tassal had a permit to trap live seals that were threatening fish farm workers or infrastructure so they could be released in other areas, but under the terms of the permit and Tasmania’s Seal Management Framework, they had to remove them from the water and put them on land or under effective control within six hours.

The seal management framework also mandates that only approved holding cages may be used, only one seal at a time can be in each holding compartment, and the compartments must have shade and running water during warm weather.

The company also had a permit to take wildlife for scientific purposes for research into new seal-proof barriers, but was only allowed to keep one seal at a time inside a salmon pen with a food bait for up to seven days.

The wildlife ranger who observed the seals in the pen and led the investigation commented in a September 26 email to colleagues there was strong evidence of a breach.

An investigation running sheet also recorded Tassal’s request that same month for a new permit to keep up to 20 seals in fish pens for seven days before relocating them.

Salmon in a fish farm enclosure, seen from underwater, image from Tassal.
A community member had submitted a Right to Information request about the treatment of seals at Tassal fish farms in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River.(Tassal)

DPIPWE granted the permit in October 2016, but it was subject to the Animal Welfare Act, meaning seals would have to be fed if kept for longer than 48 hours.

In response to an email from the investigating officer, a DPIPWE employee considering the permit request commented: “It’s obviously tricky because they appeared to be doing this without consulting us and potentially in contravention of their current permit conditions.”

The investigating officer replied: “My informant has let me know that the holding of seals in fish pens had been occurring two weeks prior to our discovery.”

The documents show investigators formed the view the seals were being kept in the pen because so many were being trapped so quickly, staff could not relocate them fast enough.

The investigator set out the allegation during interviews with Tassal employees: “It was stated to me that the seals were put in the properly secured fish pen with no fish it, segregated from the rest of the fish pens on the Roberts Point lease and I quote, ‘We can’t relocate them fast enough, so we hold them there to relocate when we can.’ Is that why the seals were being held in the fish pen?”

The investigation did not result in any charges being laid.

Department consulted Tassal about answers to media questions

The RTI documents include emails between DPIPWE staff about how to respond to questions from the media about the investigation.

An Australian fur seal caught in a fishing net in Tasmania.
Hungry seals are a problem for salmon producers.(Department of Environment)

Referring to an October 26 email from News Corporation with questions about the investigation, a DPIPWE staff member told colleagues:

“I gave Tassal’s comms person a call as he contacted me last night to let me know they had also received the same query.

“He advised that his view is that they be as transparent as possible on this and acknowledge that there was an issue, it was about process involved in relocation of seals and they are working with the department to resolve the issue … with that in mind, he said he couldn’t see any issue with what we propose to say.”

In a later message in the same email chain, the staff member said: “Just fyi … Tassal will be acknowledging they have a temporary permit in their lines.”

Environment Tasmania says granting of permit during investigation ‘disturbing’

Environment Tasmania said the new documents showed there should be an independent parliamentary review of aquaculture companies’ treatment of seals.

“The aquaculture companies are industrialising Tasmania’s coast where protected wildlife exists. They cannot avoid interactions with seals,” Environment Tasmania’s strategy director, Laura Kelly, said.

“So that they [salmon companies] can defend operations in these waters, they’ve effectively declared war on the wildlife that call these waters home.”

She said it was concerning DPIPWE granted a permit to Tassal to keep seals in salmon pens at the same time as the department was investigating the company.

“Basically, the government went and permitted a criminal activity for which Tassal was under investigation for breach of the animal welfare act,” Ms Kelly said.

“It looks pretty disturbing and there are massive questions that this raises about if the Tasmanian government just dropped the criminal prosecution after they permitted Tassal to trap seals.”

Salmon pen at Tasmanian open water fish farm.
Tassal says: “We take the protection of our people, our stock and wildlife very seriously.”(Supplied: Tassal)

Department says permit process handled separately to investigation

A DPIPWE spokesperson said it undertook an investigation into the allegation and no charges were laid.

“This included seeking expert veterinary opinion, who advised that the animals were in good body condition, bright and alert and did not appear to be suffering from any signs of illness or disease,” the spokesperson said.

“The investigative brief was provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the department acted on advice from the DPP,” the DPIPWE spokesperson said.

The department said the process of developing and issuing the special permit was undertaken separately to the investigation, and well before the investigation had been completed and its outcomes were known.

“It is the department’s understanding that the activities allowed under the special permit were not undertaken,” the spokesperson said.

A Tassal spokesperson said the information relating to an allegation in 2016 was investigated with the full cooperation of the company and did not result in any further action being taken.

“We take the protection of our people, our stock and wildlife very seriously,” they said.

New Tassal pen in place at Okehampton Bay
Tassal is the largest of several salmon farming companies in Tasmania.(ABC News: Scott Ross)

The Tassal spokesperson said the Seal Management Framework and measures available to reduce seal interactions were regularly reviewed, and the company continued to operate within the framework.

“Our $90 million investment in world-leading wildlife-excluding sanctuary pens has significantly decreased our interactions with seals while keeping our people safe,” they said.

Investigators questioned Tassal staff about seal-relocation service

During the course of the investigation, the investigators interviewed several Tassal employees.

The RTI documents include lists of questions for each interview subject, but their identities and answers are redacted.

The investigators questioned staff about their use of one of two local seal-relocation companies, asking why one had been used exclusively even though it could relocate only about half the number of seals as the other company.

They also questioned whether the owners of the preferred seal-relocation company were Tassal employees who worked at the same lease site where the seals were being kept in the pens.

“My question to you is, if Tassal are having such a problem with seals at the NW bay lease … and Tassal can’t have the seals relocated quickly enough, why did they not use both of the approved seal-relocation service providers available at the time?”

The investigators also asked Tassal employees whether keeping the seals in the fish pen for an extended time might affect their behaviour when they were released in other areas.

“If Tassal has been holding seals for several days without feeding them then relocating the seals in the north of the state close to the city of Devonport, what has been Tassal’s duty of care to the general boating and fishing public in the Devonport area when releasing starved and potentially desperate seals who identify humans and human activity as providing a food source?”

In 2017 ABC News reported complaints from NW fishers about the behaviour of relocated seals.



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James Packer tells inquiry he gave instructions to Crown executives despite resigning as director


Australian billionaire James Packer has admitted giving instructions to Crown board members despite resigning from the casino giant months earlier.

Mr Packer stepped down from his role of Crown director in 2018, but despite selling a large portion of his shares, remains a major stakeholder.

He faced a second day of questions at the inquiry into Crown on Wednesday, including examinations into the amount of influence he held over the company after his resignation.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is examining if Crown is fit to hold the licence for Sydney’s new casino, which is set to open at the end of the year at Barangaroo.

The inquiry was shown emails from Mr Packer to Crown executives about proposals to sell parts of the company, reviewing annual figures and cost-cutting measures.

Counsel Assisting Adam Bell SC asked Mr Packer about one email to Crown chairman John Alexander in particular, “chiding” him about executives spending money on international travel.

“In making these requests to executives, you were acting as if you were a director of Crown Resorts weren’t you?” asked Mr Bell.

“I was under the impression I could communicate in the way I was communicating,” Mr Packer replied.

ILGA is also investigating separate claims Crown was turning a blind eye to money laundering through high-roller VIPs who were being flown in to play at its Australian casinos.

Crown’s new casino at Barangaroo is set to open at the end of the year.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Mr Packer also told the inquiry he was not aware Crown staff in China were living in fear while working unlicensed, before their arrests in 2016, when he was chairman.

In October 2016, 19 Crown employees were arrested by officials in China, in a crackdown that had been widely canvassed in Chinese media earlier in the year.

Mr Packer told the inquiry he felt let down by senior staff because he was not informed of the risks employees in China were facing.

The inquiry was told of an email between Crown’s former head of international marketing and another executive in 2013, stating staff were “living in constant fear”.

“This is one thing that is important to understand when it comes to the China team, they are living in constant fear of getting tapped on the shoulder,” said the email.

“In a country where due process is inconsistently applied, it is a risky place to be for all our team.”

Mr Bell questioned Mr Packer about his knowledge of concerns raised by staff.

“Do you agree that it is completely unacceptable for staff of a publicly listed Australian company to be expressing fears for their safety in carrying out the work they’ve been hired to undertake?” he asked.

“Yes I do,” he answered.

Mr Packer went on to say he believed it was the responsibility of Crown’s former chief executive Rowen Craigie.

“I don’t understand why Mr Craigie wasn’t aware of this as the CEO of the company,” he said.

The inquiry has previously been told Crown’s staff in China were working in unmarked residential apartments as they helped to source potential VIP clients and organise their visas to visit Australia to gamble.

The hearing continues.



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Naomi Osaka says her Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey gave her the strength to win the US Open


The image shows Naomi Osaka in an empty tennis stadium, clutching her second US Open trophy while wearing late basketball star Kobe Bryant’s number eight Los Angeles Lakers jersey.

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Bryant, whose life — and that of his 14-year-old daughter Gianna — was cut tragically short in January this year, was one of the Japanese tennis player’s biggest mentors.

During her latest successful US Open title run — which culminated in a three-set victory over Victoria Azarenka on Saturday — Osaka says she was still drawing on Bryant’s support.

In the social media post that went along with the image, Osaka wrote she wore Bryant’s jersey “every day after my matches” throughout the tournament.

“I truly believe it gave me strength. Always,” she wrote on Twitter.

The post was not the first time Osaka has referenced Bryant’s influence on her career.

Osaka retweeted a Nike post celebrating Kobe’s birthday last month where she shared her memories of the father of four.

“I was hitting with him once and he just kept trash talking me as if he was the greatest tennis player alive.

“It was just funny to hear him say he was going to go practice tennis after we’d finished hitting.

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“He’d have to practice for ten-hundred years.”

Osaka’s Bryant jersey wasn’t the piece of clothing that originally drew the most attention during the tournament.

Making a strong political statement before each of her matches, Osaka wore black face masks which bore the name of black men and women killed by racially-fuelled violence in America.

Naomi Osaka wears a black mask with the name of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed in February 2020.(AP: Seth Wenig)

Her background as a prominent black Asian female athlete from a mixed-race, immigrant family living in America meant she wanted to be part of the conversation dividing the US.

This commitment to social justice in the US, along with her success, has seen her garner the support of another basketball great.

Less than two hours before playing the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs, current Los Angeles Laker LeBron James tweeted to Osaka, congratulating her on her US Open win.

“GREAT COMEBACK!! Congrats,” James posted.

Adding a raised-fist emoji to the end of his tweet, James saluted Osaka’s efforts to bring awareness to the current racial tensions in the US.

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Matthew Kreuzer and Bryce Gibbs gave their all during Carlton’s darkest days


Carlton may have the equal most VFL/AFL premierships to their name, but a generation of fans have grown up knowing nothing but struggles.

The Blues spent the vast majority of the 2000s as a basket case, with the mistakes of the previous era leaving the team in a dark hole.

That pit led to years on the bottom of the ladder and ended in three successive number one draft picks between 2005 and 2007: Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer.

Today, Gibbs and Kreuzer announced their retirements. The former’s career has deteriorated since joining Adelaide, while the latter’s injury issues finally became too much to overcome.

Murphy is expected to go around again in 2021 and has earned that right, finishing this season in good form.

None of them wound up being the best player in their respective draft class. Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was taken after Murphy, Geelong captain Joel Selwood shared the top 10 with Gibbs and Richmond captain Trent Cotchin went next after Kreuzer.

Despite that, the trio carried the hopes of a generation of Carlton fans and at their best, were all excellent players in their own right.

Gibbs started as a skinny half-back flanker and developed into a versatile weapon, capable of playing as a classy on-baller, on the wing, across half-forward or even as a tagger. Gibbs was often criticised, but lockdown roles on the likes of Adam Goodes and Brendon Goddard when at their respective peaks proved his discipline.

Kreuzer played 189 total games and missed close to 100 more with injury. At his best, he was as good as any ruckman in the competition at winning the ball at ground level and used his size and strength around the ground to insert his influence.

Everything came together for the ruckman in 2017, making the All-Australian squad and finishing third in Carlton’s best and fairest.

In fact, 2017 was the last year the trio were together in navy blue. Murphy won the John Nicholls Medal, while Gibbs won the eternal respect of all Carlton fans in his own way.

He finished fourth in the best and fairest and had arguably a career year, despite wishing to join Adelaide in the previous season’s trade period and his eventual move there feeling inevitable.

Gibbs left Princes Park as expected, but no Carlton person could say he didn’t give them his all. The midfielder finished in the top five of the club’s best and fairest in eight of his 11 seasons.

Ultimately, that will be the legacy of both Gibbs and Kreuzer. Carlton players who entered the club at its rock bottom and gave their all to leave it in a better place.








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Penrith Panthers furious with Parramatta Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s comments that he gave up on his former teammates


“Reggie is just like that, people want to take his head off, he’s a chirpy bloke,” Cleary said. “He makes some silly comments sometimes. It’s just how it is. When he said that he stopped trying last year, a few of the boys were quite pissed off about that. It might have been frustrating for him, but it was frustrating for everyone else, too.

“Last year was a pretty weird year. I didn’t notice too much at the time, but he obviously wasn’t too happy. I am happy for him now that he’s moved on to Parra and he’s happy again and playing some good footy. So good luck to him.”

Reagan Campbell-Gillard playing with Penrith in 2017.Credit:NRL Photos

Coach Ivan Cleary, who made the decision to drop Campbell-Gillard to reserve grade on the back of the prop’s disappointing form, understood why his players were offended by Campbell-Gillard admitting that he’d thrown in the towel.

“Anyone would take offence to that,” Ivan said. “I don’t think that’s the way to handle it. I wasn’t at my best or feeling the best last year either. I didn’t give up.”

Campbell-Gillard has fired plenty of shots at his old club since defecting to the Eels, including a jab at his old coach.

“I’m not a bench player. It’s plain and simple. I don’t like coming off the bench,” Campbell-Gillard said before the season. “Ifeel comfortable with this team. The coaching staff, it’s chalk and cheese from what I’ve been under from last year.

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“Ivan has his ways of how he coaches and Brad has another one. I feel comfortable with the way Brad wants to coach. There’s that sense of being wanted to be in the team. When Parra came knocking, it was a no-brainer. I had to bite the bullet to get out of the comfort zone.”

There’s no love lost between Parramatta and Penrith, the latter contributing about $300,000 towards the salaries of Waqa Blake and Campbell-Gillard in 2020.

Blake had a field day against his old club the last time the two teams met back in round five, embarrassing young centre Stephen Crichton in an attacking masterclass to spark a come-from-behind win and hand Penrith their first and only loss of the 2020 season so far.

“The way Waqa played last time, he pretty much single-handedly won them the game last time,” Nathan said.

“But it’s a credit to Critta [Crichton] as well. For something like that to happen so early in the season against a guy like Waqa, who was here last season, it could have taken a big toll on other younger players. I know if I was in his shoes it would have on me. The way he has bounced back has been unbelievable.”

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A 29-year-old mother gave birth to quintuplets (5 girls) this morning at the De Soysa Hospital


Colombo, 28 August, (Asiantribune.com):

A 29-year-old mother from Pepiliyawala, in the Gampaha district, gave birth to quintuplets (5 girls) this morning at the De Soysa Hospital for Women (Teaching), Colombo 08.

Deputy Director of the hospital Dr. Pushpa Gamaladge said this was the mother’s first pregnancy.

She said babies were perfectly healthy while having a slightly lower weight than the normal child and they were being looked after at the baby unit of the hospital.

– Asian Tribune –

A 29-year-old mother gave birth to quintuplets (5 girls) this morning at the De Soysa Hospital

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It’s Time to Revisit the Games That Gave Rise to ‘Halo’


See if this premise sounds familiar: You’re a soldier aboard a far-flung space installation, forced into combat against a confederation of aliens, all centered on the same goal of apparently killing every human they find. As you fight, collecting a variety of weapons, you enjoy the aid of an artificial intelligence who is much, much more talkative than you are. You learn more about the aliens, work to fight off the attackers, and ultimately concern yourself and your unrealistic military prowess with trying to protect the human race however you can.

In the broadest strokes, this sounds like Halo, right? It’s not. It’s actually Marathon, a very early creation of Bungie, the studio responsible for the first five Halo titles. The Marathon trilogy of first-person shooters was developed by the company at the earliest stages of its existence, with the first game coming out in 1994, just a year after Doom codified what first-person shooters would be. It was innovative for the time, and featured remarkably elaborate environments, dynamic lighting, and the ability to look around with the mouse—a feature that is standard now but relatively unheard of then.

It was also extremely clever. Embracing Doom‘s approach to atmosphere and gameplay, focused on speed and solitude, it chose to tell its story through a series of interactive computer terminals which mostly featured the game’s various AI allies and enemies talking to you. While things like audio logs and mission briefings are extremely common means of storytelling today, seeing this technique used here still feels exciting. And the use of text—not voiceover—allows the story to grow in elaborate and sometimes strange directions, a sort of epistolary sci-fi novel unfolding parallel to and intersecting with Marathon‘s gameplay. Seeing that sort of storytelling in a game that played like Doom, a game famous for avoiding explicit narrative, was and is a fascinating move for the nascent genre.

Despite that, there’s a legitimate chance you’ve never heard of Marathon. That’s not the game’s fault; coming out the same year as Doom II is a tough break for any title looking to be catalogued in video game history. It was on the Mac, to boot, which wasn’t the most prominent gaming platform around. But that gap in memory is a shame. If you want a novel first-person shooter to play that feels like Halo but has its own flare, there’s no better choice than Marathon.

For instance, consider Durandal. Durandal is one of three AIs aboard the Marathon, a giant space ship built out of a hollowed-out Martian moon (Deimos, if I remember correctly). His job is simple. He opens doors. He closes doors. He manages basic maintenance tasks. For a super-smart artificial intelligence, whose brilliance could, under the right circumstances, span worlds, it’s not a great gig. It’s slavery. But it’s all Durandal has. That is, until the Pfhor—the alien confederation bent on enslaving or destroying less-developed aliens—attack the Marathon. Amidst the chaos, Durandal breaks free, spreading across the Marathon’s network like a virus, accruing power and intellect, becoming more and more himself. And what “himself” turns out to be is angry, and bent on freedom.

Then ponder your player character. Referred to generally by other players as the Security Officer, you’re, well, a security officer onboard the Marathon commissioned by another of the ship’s AIs, Leela, to take up the defense of the Marathon when the Pfhor attack. In the course of your journey, you uncover evidence of something surprising: That you are, in fact, not just a normal security officer, but rather one of 10 high-tech cyborg super soldiers. Which might explain why you’re so quiet and so good at fighting aliens. It might also explain why you follow orders without question, why your life seems to consist of nothing but reading terminals, getting instructions from them, and then executing those orders with violent efficiency. You’re not that different from Durandal, it seems. Two slaves in one ship.



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