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Looks Like Uncharted Is Hitting More Setbacks Due To Tom Holland’s Spider-Man Commitments

While he’s unquestionably best known for playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, naturally Tom Holland has his hands in various other cinematic endeavors, such as the now-released Spies in Disguise and upcoming movies like Dolittle, Onward and Cherry. Holland has also been attached for several years to star as Nathan Drake in the frequently-delayed Uncharted movie, and now it’s looking like we’ll have to wait even longer for this video game adaptation due to Holland’s commitments as the current live action Web-Slinger.

Because Tom Holland is lined up to shoot the Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel next, this means that Uncharted’s principal photography will need to be delayed. As a result, Deadline reports that only will Uncharted by pushed further back on Sony Pictures’ calendar (i.e. December 18, 2020 is off the table), but director Travis Knight is also expected to depart.

Known for his work at the stop-motion animated studio Laika and for helming the Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, Travis Knight was announced to be directing Uncharted back in September. Alas, he now joins the ranks of other directors who’ve left Uncharted, like Shawn Levy and Dan Trachtenberg, since it first entered into development more than a decade ago.

Despite yet another delay and the departure of another director, Sony is still looking to move forward with Uncharted, and is now looking for a new release date and for someone to take Travis Knight’s place. Tom Holland is still attached to bring Nathan Drake to life, as is Mark Wahlberg, who earlier in the decade was set to play Drake, but will now play the main character’s mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan.

So for all you Uncharted fans out there, this is yet another setback on the long-winding road to seeing Nathan Drake’s adventuring brought to the big screen. Despite Sony’s claim that it’s still keen on releasing Uncharted, with each setback that hits this project, I can’t help wondering if this movie will ever be made, or if it’ll go the way of The Crow remake, another project that rested at Sony.

But for the Spider-Man fans, Uncharted’s loss is your gain, as Tom Holland is set to shoot the next Spider-Man movie in summer 2020. Both of Holland’s Spider-Man movies have been critical and commercial winners, with this year’s Far From Home not only being the first Spidey movie to cross the $1 billion mark, but also becoming Sony’s highest-grossing movie ever, knocking Skyfall from the top spot.

No specific details for the third MCU-set Spider-Man movie have been revealed yet, though Far From Home definitely left Peter Parker in a complicated predicament when he was framed and unmasked by Mysterio through doctored footage of the Elemental incident in London. Zendaya will reprise her role as MJ, and Jon Watts is expected to return to direct.

The next Spider-Man movie will swing into theaters on July 16, 2021, and Tom Holland’s Spidey is also expected to appear in another MCU movie down the line. As for Uncharted, we here at CinemaBlend will keep you updated on its continuing development.

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The New Systems Won’t Solve Old Problems

The new generation of home systems comes out next year, bringing with them promises of a better video game future. Juxtapose this, however, with the current state of sports games. The titles from 2019 had their share of problems, but worse yet is the overall feeling that this isn’t just a case of a bum year, that that sports games as a whole have fundamental problems that won’t be solved simply by the release of new systems.

Like them or hate them, but fantasy card modes like EA’s Ultimate Team mode are here to stay. Even with the political scrutiny of their in-game marketing and flirtation with the specter of gambling, I believe these modes, loot boxes, and the ties to real money may be tweaked, but they are too lucrative for companies to just walk away from. I expect the industry to address the situation itself by making changes before it comes to the need to pass actual laws – which is what Congress likely wants in the first place.

Of course, the existence of these modes and the way it forces developers to allocate their time and resources towards them at the potential expense of other modes, is not related to, nor solved by, the mere existence of a new, more powerful console. If anything, the more connected and seamless our game experiences become, we should only expect microtransactions and the modes around them to become more in our faces. 

For example, the PlayStation 5’s updated home screen will automatically surface what’s going on in a game in real-time without having to actually boot up that game. Imagine this applying to showing you the latest mouth-watering pack pulls, marketplace prices and snipes, and weekend league matches. That’s great if they interest you, but not so much if they don’t.

As powerful as these upcoming systems are (Microsoft says the next Xbox will be four times more powerful than the Xbox One X), that won’t mean much if the developers making games for them can’t fix their bugs or get the gameplay balance correct before launch. It’s become a matter of course where a title ships seemingly unfinished due to the number of bugs and features that don’t work as planned. With all due respect to the developers who work hard on these titles and certainly don’t intend for these problems to occur, new systems might bring efficiencies, more power, and new features, but history amply shows us they can’t make the development process an error-free, spotless affair.

Similarly, any latency or lack of stability in the online realm isn’t the fault of the system per se, but more down to the game’s net code, users’ connections, and servers, among other factors. It’s going to take much more than a new system to eliminate the lag and any server downtime that occurs.

The one area we may see progress in due to the new home consoles is A.I., although, honestly, I’m not holding my breath. A.I. is an extremely important factor in sports games, from how your opponents and teammates act when they’re not being directly controlled to the behind-the-scenes calculations that govern your franchise mode – including everything from scores around the league, to who’s drafted and where, and much more.

The new systems will certainly have more horsepower at their disposal to deal with these functions, but this is another situation that depends more on the developers and how they allocate the system’s resources than the boxes themselves. History tells us that the consoles’ power will mainly be directed towards graphical improvements and faster data access, with improving A.I. behavior a much tougher nut to crack. I don’t envy developers on this front, as it’s not as easy as it sounds, and my guess is it’ll remain so for the foreseeable future.

The release of new systems should be a time of excitement and the birth of new possibilities. But the immediate transition isn’t always easy (remember, sports developers working in the traditional fall release timeframe may have to simultaneously work on titles for both the current and next generation), and sometimes promises simply can’t be fulfilled. Given how the past few years have gone for most sports titles, studios definitely have their work cut out for them in this new generation.

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Lakers ‘Trust Me to Play the Point and Run the Show’

LeBron James became just the ninth player in NBA history to hand out 9,000 assists in the Lakers’ 108-95 win Sunday night against the visiting Dallas Mavericks.

James, who is also celebrating his 35th birthday today, says passing has long been his favorite part of the game.

Bron’s playmaking has helped push Los Angeles atop the Western Conference standings at 26-7.

Per The LA Times

“The milestone of it is when you grow up in the inner city, around a lot of things you don’t want your kids to see, to be able to get to this point in age where the statistics are stacked up against you because of obvious reasons, that’s a blessing,” James, a native of Akron, Ohio, said Sunday in a reflective moment. “And it’s more of a blessing for me to be able to do what I love every day and be able to let my family reap the benefits of that and they allow me to be an inspiration to them.”

The fourth of his 13 assists in the Lakers’ 108-95 victory over Dallas on Sunday was the 9,000th assist of his career, making him the only player in NBA history to dish out 9,000 assists and pull down 9,000 rebounds.

James has no intention of settling. “My teammates and the coaching staff trust me to play the point and run the show. It’s my job to take care of the ball and just try to put guys in position to be successful, put the ball on time and on target for threes, for lobs, for dunks, for transition. Whatever the case may be,” he said. “Use my ability, my vision that I’ve had all my life, I just try to see the floor. And I’ve been able to do that the last few games.”

He got this far, to 9,000 assists, thanks to the encouragement of a youth coach named Frank Walker.

“It’s something that was instilled in me when I first picked up a basketball,” James said. “[Walker] always talked about it’s the greatest part of basketball, to be able to see the ball move from side to side, to be able to attract the defense and get your teammates open shots. I was a little kid and I was somewhat better than some of my teammates. He was like, ‘It’s much greater reward in seeing some of your teammates that can’t dribble or can’t score for themselves, for you to get them open looks.’ And that was instilled in me when I was 9 years old and I first started playing. We won the championship the first year, we won it the second year, I started winning and winning and winning. I just knew it was the way I want to play, so it’s been a part of my game.”

Related ‘I Do See it’: LeBron James Eyes NBA’s All-Time Scoring Record

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All The Merch You Need On Your Christmas List

What do you want under your tree on Christmas Day?

While, preferably, it’s Daniel Seavey with a bow, some new merch might just be second best. Luckily, some our favorite stars have us covered with the coolest (and stan-iest) hoodies, tees, and more! Ready to tell Santa what you really want?

We made a list, checked it twice, and now you can catch some of the best merch items out now:

1. Why Don’t We
Maybe the best part of a new single every month is having a new merch drop with it. “With You This Christmas” has brought with it a new hoodie that embodies a totally cute holiday spirit. It’s available for now and will be shipping just in time for Christmas.

2. Johnny Orlando
If you’re like us and can’t stop listening to “All These Parties”, then you’ll definitely need to ask Santa for a new hoodie or t-shirt this year. These new merch designs are so trendy and fun that we’ll be heading here to snag them ASAP.

Just in time for the holidays, the PRETTYMUCH boys gave us exactly what we’ve been dreaming of: brand new merch. It’s not just apparel either! This line includes some unique pieces like AirPod cases and hair clips. You’ll find everything you need in their online store.

4. Hayden Summerall
This purple and black merch collection is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! Not only do we love the color scheme, but Hayden’s given us the perfect thing to wear with his Taylorz sunglasses line. Be sure to scroll through the merch store right away.

5. JoJo Siwa
The bow queen herself has put out the perfect Christmas Eve pajamas, so we’ll need to be heading to Walmart before it’s too late to buy them. These pink, fun, and vibrant onesies are sure to be super comfy and snuggly, which is ideal for the chilly weather.

Let’s not forget what happens when fashion meets boy band. We get some pretty awesome merch lines to geek over! Check out how cute these Forever 21 exclusive pieces turned out and find some cool ways to incorporate them into your wardrobe.

If you’re not rocking EBEN merch then you’re seriously missing out. His designs are fire… in some cases quite literally! You can find all of his merch right here.

8. Indiana Massara
Cute, cropped, and comfy! The Sunset Strand collection has so many different styles that you’re bound to love. This charity-focused brand is everything that we love to see and it comes from Indiana herself, in collaboration with Hollywire. If Chance Perez is modeling for it then it must be good, so we’re sold! The line is live now!

9. Jacob Sartorius
Jacob has such a wide variety of merch! It’s not just the ROLF line that’s available, but plenty of past drops all #Sartorians are bound to love too. Of course, there are a few holidays and winter-specific choices that give us even more of a reason to place an order sooner rather than later!

10. kenzie
Between Stay Electric and Rose pieces, it’s nearly impossible to choose only one. But hey, maybe Santa’s feeling extra generous this year! Order a handful of these pieces and show off the triple threat’s bold designs.

11. Jenna Raine
Rep your favorite bops from Jenna by wearing these staple merch options. The “Be Like You” singer’s store is stocked with all of the necessities that you’ll, no doubt, need to be adding to your wishlist.

12. Asher Angel
Motion merch is a must-have this holiday season. Plus, this mix of hoodies and tees is available here. The line is uber-cute and we can’t wait to be repping Asher all day, every day!

13.Shawn Mendes
Facts: the “In My Blood” era gave us some of the most stunning merch designs. If you haven’t had the chance to get your hands on a hoodie or tee, the holidays may be the perfect opportunity. His new winter merch is just as pretty and has the best color palette. Not to mention there are some festive ornaments that would be perfect for your tree. See the store right here.

14. Anna Seavey
Seavey Style is full of totes, hoodies, phone cases, and more. Each and every design is flawless. We just can’t get enough of the unique look and feel of this line!

15. Christina Marie
Beautychickee is spoiling us with the new BITCHEE apparel. This empowering line is perfect for anyone who wants to help hype up other women or just needs to bring a little inspiration with them in their day to day life!

16. James Charles
Hey #Sisters! Be sure to add Sisters Apparel to that list or you’ll regret it. The holiday collection is available online now! These charming essentials are oh-so-perf and there’s even a portable charger available.

17. Emma Chamberlain
Emma has become quite the style icon, which means her merch has got to be on your list this year. There’s a holiday crewneck, plus a few other necessities that you can snag here.

18. Jayden Bartels
Join the #Muffin club by getting a new hoodie. What a perfect way to support this literal star. Jayden’s cute and playful style really comes to life in her line. Take a look at what all the hype is about!

19. Joshua Rush
He might just be one of the funniest guys online right now and his merch definitely reflects that. It’s not just all laughs, though. Josh’s “you’re no different” line is carries an important message. See exactly what we mean on his merch store.

20. 5 Seconds of Summer
The edgy and eccentric 5SOS pieces are always a fun way to spice up your wardrobe. We’re snagging some on their online store and can’t wait to try them on! Oh, and the best part? Every order comes with wrapping paper and a holiday card.

21. Lauren Orlando
Lauren’s merch is bursting at the seams with the cutest pastel looks! Not only can you snag the adorable merch on her site, but she even has a cute The Sister Diary crewneck. We’re obsessed!

22. In Real Life
Every #Lifeline needs to make sure this merch is on their wish…like now! Stop by the online shop and see what sort of apparel is available. TBH, the pop sockets are really tempting us!

23. New Hope Club
This British band’s merch is pretty different from everyone else’s — in the best way possible. The vintage look is so in right now! A variety of different apparel and merch items are available now, and we can’t resist!

24. HRVY
Cute color scheme and a variety of products? Yes, please! HRVY has some of the cutest merch items that you can snag online this holiday season. Everything is super stylish and definitely needs to be on your list.

Need some gift ideas for your family, too? There’s this guide that might be able to point you in the right direction.

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Funny Or Die’s Ultimate Parenting Guide

Taking care of tiny humans is hard.

Are they hungry? Are they tired? Should you give into their demands? How do cops handle hostage situations? Will they ever stop crying?? Are they actually crying or are your ears just constantly ringing? How do you know you’re doing the right thing?! How is ANYONE supposed to know?!

Well, that’s why we’re here.

We’ve gathered all of our best parenting videos and put them together to create a single ultimate guide that should answer all of your questions. Well… most of your questions. Okay fine, none of your questions, but we guarantee it’ll have you laughing, and sometimes that’s what a tough day of dirty diapers and toddler tantrums really calls for.

Sketches (in order of appearance):

  1. Hilary Duff’s Pregnancy Secrets
  2. Hot Dads
  3. Parent News
  4. New Parents Sleep Training Their Babies Go So Hard
  5. The Landlord

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9 Beauty And Wellness Trend Predictions For 2020 And Beyond

We are two days away from the next decade and the beauty and wellness industries seem to be better positioned for 2020 and beyond than many other business segments. According to a new report from retail analytics firm Edited, the beauty industry is valued at $532 billion and is on a rapid upward trajectory.

Research from the Global Wellness Research Institute backs this up citing the global health and wellness industry is growing at an historic rate nearly twice as fast as the global economy. Now worth $4.2 trillion with 12.8% growth between 2015 and 2017 representing 5.3% of total global economic output. Top growth segments include personal care, beauty and anti-aging products (as younger consumers establish better regimens at earlier ages and boomers are embracing longer life spans) to all areas of healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss to embracing the zen of fitness and mind-body. No wonder Oprah Winfrey has extended her partnership deal with Weight Watchers (WW) and startups like Noom, an app-based wellness company that raised $58 million in funding earlier this year, are taking off.

Beauty trend predictions that may fuel sales for 2020 and beyond include everything from Pantone announcing classic blue will be the Color of the Year to the return of the hair flip (and I admit I plan to try it possibly as soon as New Year’s Eve), statement braids, high eyeliner looks in a plethora of colors (another trend that I plan to embrace), euphoric makeup and gender fluid products. However, for the decade ahead, three industry leading beauty and wellness Founders and CEO’s shared their very diverse insights into key long term trends that represent growth opportunities worth pursuing. See if you agree.

Priscilla Tsia, Founder and CEO of cocokind, a clean, conscious, sustainable and accessible skincare brand, dedicated to providing high-quality, natural products predicts:

  • The discussion surrounding prebiotics and skin’s microbiome is only just ramping up with even more research and scientific data around these topics. This will likely lead to an increased proliferation of new products and improvements as the awareness of the intestinal and wight loss benefits of these products get even more mainstream.
  • Sustainability is a key factor in many businesses, not just in beauty, but come 2020, new brands — from corporate conglomerates to indie manufacturers — will be sourcing bioplastics, post-consumer recycled plastics and ocean-recycled materials to help reduce carbon footprints and emissions. Consumers are demanding this and the brands that don’t respond will be left behind.
  • We’ve seen this trend brewing for awhile. Tsai emphasizes that beyond 2020 and well into the new decade, beauty brands will begin or continue to be more authentic and transparent to their consumer community — and radically so. This is becoming an increasingly important element of every brand’s marketing, social and communications strategy. That old saying “honesty is the best policy” could be the decades mantra.

As we all become much more aware of how the products and items in our homes effect our well being, Allison Evans, Co-Founder of Branch Basics, is on mission to help people create healthy homes by removing harmful chemicals from everyone’s daily lives. This includes everything from basic human-safe and mineral based products to biodegradable and non-GMO products. With many consumers desperately seeking relief from sudden unexplained chronic pain and loss of motor skills from chemical exposure, which was actually the impetus for Evans and her partner Marilee Nelson to start Branch Basics, Evans predictions and solutions are centered on environmental issues that impact us all.

  • Consumers will develop an even greater obsession around air quality – both indoors and outdoors. The result will be an educational overhaul on what products really pollute our indoor environments. This will mean an overhaul for the packaging industry and brands driven by consumer demand. Brands that don’t respond may find out they are left behind.
  • We keep hearing this. Ditching plastic left and right. At home, in retail, and beyond. This is another major consumer demand. Take it seriously as consumers are looking to brands to bring real solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • This is a wellness and quality of life issue that’s really beginning to percolate. Evans envisions the trend of “limiting screen-time and an awakening to the impact of WiFi and EMFs on our bodies” coming into the forefront in the decade ahead.

Sara Panton, Co-Founder of Vitruvi, a premium essential oils company that creates products that help elevate the simple moments of your day, also envisions a continued focus on wellness as relates both to the environment and individual well being.

  • This seems to be a recurring theme. Panton continues to see more investment in air quality with consumers wanting to “better understand how we can improve our indoor air through alternative home fragrancing, diffusers, purifiers, pre + probiotics, and even adaptogens.” I am not sure these are related but perhaps part of the impetuous is around better sleep and relaxation goals that are front and center in the digital age.
  • As the latest wellness craze, Panton forecasts “the mushroom and adaptogen obsession will continue to spike, but we’ll see more sustainable sourcing.” Apparently packed with essential vitamins and minerals, adaptogenic, or medicinal, mushrooms supposedly have “incredible benefits for the health of our brain, hormones, and immune system along with powerful cancer-fighting properties that can actually help to reverse cancer symptoms. With preventive care booming, this may be a category to watch closely.
  • As luxury wellness centers and private clubs continue to thrive, expect to see “massage – and particularly lymphatic drainage massage as huge” growth offerings.

With wellness being more than a buzzword both on the corporate and home front, each of these predictions represent different aspects of how individuals are more focused than ever on their physical and mental health while managing stress. It will be interesting to see how each of these predictions nets out a year and a decade from now.

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Channel Islands National Park Offers Adventures Hiding in Plain Sight

Staggered 60 miles west of the Los Angeles megalopolis, yet worlds apart in terms of biodiversity, human history and adventure, exploring the Channel Islands National Park is like traveling through a time warp to an “old California,” 300 years prior.

The five isles that comprise the park include Santa Barbara, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. Together, they constitute one of the least visited national parks in North America. In fact, out of the 366,000 people who visited the park 2019, only 31 percent ventured inside the park boundaries. Most of those go ashore at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island, the largest isle off the coast, and, for the last 20 years, the main offshore hub of the park. The rest go no farther than the park visitor center inside the Ventura Harbor on the mainland.

The Channel Islands are also known as “the Galapagos Islands of the north” for their rich natural history such as the diminutive island fox, the largest pinniped colony in North America, the oldest human remains on the continent, and Columbian and pygmy mammoth remains scattered throughout its eroding canyons. However, kayaking its otherwise inaccessible coastlines, coves and numerous sea caves is the best way to immerse yourself in these volcanic isles.

World-class sea cave touring abounds for visitors willing to explore. Chuck Graham

Currently though, visitation is in a state of flux at Scorpion Anchorage. The current pier, temporary for the last 18 years, is being discarded and a new, elaborate pier is in the throes of construction. Therefore, Scorpion Anchorage, the busiest drop-off at the Channel Islands, is shut down beyond Summer 2020.

“The new Scorpion Anchorage pier will be a major improvement to the visitor experience and to critical park infrastructure on the islands,” said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Ethan McKinley. “We apologize for the temporary lack of access for both park visitors and partners and look forward to improved access due to this major infrastructure project.”

For Island Packers, the ferry concessionaire to the islands for the last 51 years and Channel Islands Adventure Company, the kayak concessionaire at Scorpion, it means trips outside the box. Islands Packers is shuttling visitors to nearby Prisoners Harbor, six miles west of Scorpion. Channel Islands Adventure Company has also relocated kayak tours to Prisoners. The region is breathtaking with cobble-strewn coves and native island flora clinging to its wave-battered cliffs. Profusions of bright orange garibaldi damselfish abound, as do cheeky harbor seals and reestablished bald eagles.

Island Packers, the national park’s ferry service concessionaire, is offering visitors new drop-offs this year on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. ChuckGraham

“We want to provide trips for the visitor as much as we can to the islands,” explained Cherryl Connally, part owner of Island Packers. “We are responsible to abide by the park contract as the concessionaire. We need to be positive and know when the pier is done, it will be really great. We have learned to manage and work with the changes. At least we have some places to go. The park service is doing the best they can.”

Fortunately, Prisoners isn’t the only stopgap for the two island concessions. There’s much to explore in this remote National Park. Island Packers will be transporting campers and day-trippers to neighboring Santa Rosa Island throughout the winter, a first for the long-time company. It will also ferry visitors to other parts of Santa Cruz Island, such as Willows and Cueva Valdez Anchorages and Frys Harbor.

As for Channel Islands Adventure Company, it is attempting to create additional kayaking trips by partnering with Island Packers and other boating companies in Ventura and Santa Barbara Harbors to various parts of Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands pock-marked with accessible sea grottos.

“Channel Islands Adventure Company is excited throughout the Scorpion Anchorage pier construction to be able to offer sea kayak tours at the more remote Prisoner’s Harbor,” said General Manager Kim Vawter. “We plan in the Spring and Summer of 2020 to offer additional Channel Islands National Park tour options to guests through partnership with Island Packers and other local businesses that offer transport to the islands. We recommend following our social media (@islandkayaking) for further updates.”

Resources: Island Packers (805)-642-1393 / Channel Islands Adventure Company (805) 884-9283

Emerald Cove Santa Cruz Island
Paddling the Emerald Cove on Santa Cruz Island. Chuck Graham

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US airstrikes take tensions with Iran to new level

Retaliatory U.S. airstrikes against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and Syria have injected a volatile new element into the already tense relations between Washington and Tehran.

The strikes were in response to a Friday rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that wounded several U.S. troops and killed an American contractor – the first U.S. casualties after months of such shellings in Iraq.

On Monday, Iran warned of “consequences” for the U.S. strikes — the targeted militia group said 25 people were killed — but Iran hawks in Congress cheered the Pentagon’s actions.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonElection security, ransomware dominate cyber concerns for 2020 Hillicon Valley: Election security funding gets mixed response | Facebook tests community fact checking | Lawmakers look to block Chinese pick for IP organization | Secret court judge rebukes FBI over surveillance warrants Bipartisan lawmakers urge Trump to oppose Chinese nominee to lead intellectual property body MORE (R-Ark.), who on Saturday called for “swift and severe consequences” against Iran, called Sunday’s strikes by the U.S. a “justified response.”

“Tehran must stop attacking Americans or else face even graver consequences,” Cotton tweeted.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Giuliani should share info he has with intel community to ensure ‘it’s not Russian propaganda’ Senate GOP wants speedy Trump acquittal Netanyahu promises U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements  MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted that he was “very glad” to see the U.S. response, adding that “the only language Iran understands is force.”

But others warned the situation could quickly spiral out of control.

“For months I have been deeply concerned about the seemingly increased risk of military escalation and tension in the region,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won’t be ‘raping, burning and pillaging’ after Trump pardons House passes defense bill to establish Space Force, paid family leave for federal workers Pentagon leaders: Trump clemencies won’t affect military order and discipline MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement Sunday night condemning the Iraqi militia’s rocket attack.

“Now, more than ever, I cannot overstate the importance of increased diplomatic engagement with Iran to deter future aggression and slow the cycle of escalating violence that further destabilizes the region,” Smith added.

The United States has about 5,000 troops in Iraq leading the international anti-ISIS coalition.

On Friday night, a U.S. defense contractor was killed and four service members were wounded in a barrage of more than 30 rockets targeting an Iraqi base in Kirkuk, according to the Pentagon.

That followed several similar attacks the United States has blamed on Iran-backed militias collectively known as Popular Mobilization Forces. A senior State Department official said Monday there have been 11 attacks on Iraqi bases housing coalition troops in the last two months.

The Iraqi government has worked to fold the Iran-backed militias into its security forces, but the United States views them as Iranian proxy forces.

Following early December attacks that injured Iraqi soldiers, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS launches airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Syria Trump escalates pressure campaign on Tehran with appeal to Iranians Putin’s next aggression MORE warned Iran that “any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

In response to Friday’s attack in Kirkuk, the Pentagon said Sunday that it had struck three Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) targets in Iraq and two KH targets in Syria. The targets included weapons depots and command-and-control locations the Pentagon said the militia used to plan its attacks.

“Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

In a brief statement to reporters at Mar-a-Lago alongside Pompeo and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperUS launches airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Syria Trump escalates pressure campaign on Tehran with appeal to Iranians Russia commissions intercontinental hypersonic weapon MORE called the retaliatory U.S. strikes “successful.”

The move was met with praise from other Iran hawks in the U.S., including former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonDemocrats worry impeachment acquittal will embolden Trump Putin’s next aggression Senate GOP wants speedy Trump acquittal MORE, who has been critical of the Trump administration in other policy areas since leaving in September. Bolton called the strikes “overdue” and “a good first step.”

“The ayatollahs must pay a steep price for their ongoing support for terrorism,” Bolton tweeted.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade The biggest political upsets of the decade Bipartisan consensus on Venezuela talks  MORE (R-Fla.) accused Iran of “playing a very dangerous game,” warning in a tweet that there is a “tense situation emerging in #Iraq with serious potential to escalate into a broader & dangerous conflict.”

The tit-for-tat attacks in Iraq come amid a face-off between Washington and Tehran that started last year when President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS launches airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Syria Trade, interest rates top finance fights for 2020 Five health care fights to watch in 2020 MORE withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran. Trump significantly tightened sanctions as a result, leading to Iran breaching key limits of the deal one by one.

The United States has also blamed Iran for several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region, accusations that Iran has denied. Tensions reached a fever pitch over the summer when Iran shot down a U.S. drone, leading Trump to come within minutes of launching a retaliatory strike on Iran.

Amid increased tensions, the United States has deployed an additional 14,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East since the summer.

With that backdrop, some are now warning of the potential for the weekend strikes to lead to greater conflict, particularly amid what critics describe as Trump’s inconsistent approach to the Middle East.

“I have concerns as to what the president’s policy is,” Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongressional leaders, 2020 hopefuls condemn anti-Semitic attack in New York Sunday shows – Tensions simmer during break in impeachment process Democratic senator seconds Cuomo on New York attack: ‘I think this is an act of domestic terrorism’ MORE (D-Md.) said Monday on CNN. “Clearly, Iran is a dangerous actor. They do things that are very much against our national security interest, we know that. They are acting in a way that destabilizes that region of the world. Our problem is, what is the U.S. policy.”

Benjamin Friedman, policy director at the libertarian-leaning Defense Priorities, said in a statement Sunday that “retaliatory strikes risk escalation to a broader regional war that would harm U.S. interests.”

On Monday, Pompeo stressed the retaliatory strikes were a “defensive action.”

“President Trump’s been pretty darn patient, and he’s made clear at the same time that when Americans’ lives were at risk we would respond, and that’s what the Department of Defense did yesterday,” Pompeo said on “Fox and Friends.”

A senior State Department official similarly stressed to reporters Monday the “defensive” intent of the strikes, but added that they were also “aimed at deterring Iran.”

“We are not looking for any conflict in the Middle East. These were defensive strikes. But we are not going to let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack American interests,” the official said.

Kata’ib Hezbollah warned Monday of retaliation.

“Our battle with America and its mercenaries is now open to all possibilities,” the militia group said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “We have no alternative today other than confrontation and there is nothing that will prevent us from responding to this crime.”

Meanwhile, in a statement carried by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said the United States has “openly shown its support to terrorism and shown its negligence to the independence and national sovereignty of countries.”

“It must accept responsibility of the consequences of the illegal attacks,” Mosavi added.

There’s also the potential that the recent strikes will prompt the Iraqi government to kick U.S. troops out of the country. Iraq has been rocked by anti-government protests in recent months, in part over concerns about Iran’s influence in the country. But there have also been frustrations in recent years over all foreign influence.

Iraq’s outgoing prime minister told Esper in a phone call Sunday not to carry out the strikes, the prime minister’s spokesman told Iraqi News Agency.

In a strongly worded statement Monday, the Iraqi government warned that the U.S. strikes endangered the “security and sovereignty” of its country by acting unilaterally without approval from Iraqi authorities. The government added it would “review the relationship” with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, saying the attack “violates the goals and principles” of the international anti-ISIS coalition.

Asked about Iraq’s response Monday, a senior State Department brushed off threats of consequences, telling reporters “we don’t have any fears in this regard.”

“We have warned the Iraqi government many times, and we’ve shared information with them, to try to work with them to carry out their responsibility to protect us as their invited guests,” the official added. “It’s their responsibility and duty to protect us, and they have not taken the appropriate steps to do so.”

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Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback? – NFL Nation

DENVER — Is Derek Carr, after a statistically impressive yet maddeningly frustrating season, the man to lead the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas next season?

The most polarizing figure in recent Raiders history seems to think so. In fact, Carr is planning on it.

“We’re on the same page when we go to Vegas,” Carr said after Sunday’s heartbreaking 16-15 loss to the Denver Broncos, which essentially ended with Carr’s potential game-winning 2-point conversion pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

“[But] if we don’t win more, it really doesn’t matter. I don’t care what stadium we play in … if the wins don’t improve, it really doesn’t matter. I think our players and our coaches, the core guys that we have leading our football team, do a really good job of not caring about what’s going on around us. I think we can all agree that there was a lot that went on around us, even from the beginning, and we just kind of kept our heads down and plugged away. It didn’t end how we wanted it to, but I promise you that this organization is in great hands.”

No, Carr was not referring to himself (we don’t think, anyway). He was likely referring to coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. But probably mostly about Gruden.

And it is Gruden’s opinion that matters most when it comes to Carr, who would cost the Raiders a relatively small $5 million salary-cap hit should the team decide to cut him.

But there has to be a plan. As in, who would Carr’s replacement be, and how well-versed could said replacement possibly be in Gruden’s offense?

Gruden likes athletic QBs, obviously, but DeShone Kizer was bumped back to third-string this week behind Mike Glennon and never took a snap this season while Nathan Peterman spent the season on injured reserve. Teddy Bridgewater might be available. Same with Cam Newton. Then there’s Colin Kaepernick. The Raiders also have five picks in the top 100 draft selections, including Nos. 12 and 19 overall.

But would any of them be an upgrade over Carr at this stage?

Carr’s stats improved dramatically this season, only the second time in his career that he played in the same scheme in consecutive seasons. And against the Broncos, he passed for a season-high 391 yards in completing 29 of 46 attempts. But Gruden is not shy to say that he wished Carr would use his legs to create plays more often. And if looks could kill, the Raiders would indeed be in the market for a new QB, what with the daggers Gruden shot Carr after he threw the ball away on a third-and-2 rather than attempt to run it in the third quarter.

Still …

Gruden gave Carr credit for staying in the game with a heavily-taped right ankle (the same ankle that was broken three years and five days earlier) on a fourth-quarter sack by Broncos linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, even as Carr’s lack of mobility from the injury limited Gruden’s playcalling.

“He had a couple nice drives at the end, and obviously the intentional grounding penalty hurt us on one drive,” Gruden said. “He moved the ball and made some really good plays.”

Carr set career highs in passing yards (4,054), completion percentage (70.4) and yards per attempt (7.9) and his eight interceptions were the second-fewest of his career. All without a viable No. 1 receiver after Antonio Brown‘s meltdown before the season started and the injury bug taking massive bites out of receivers Hunter Renfrow (ribs) and Tyrell Williams (feet) and running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder).

But Carr has also lost 55 games in his first six years in the NFL. The only QB with more losses in the same time frame? His older brother David, who lost 56 games.

So after finishing 7-9 and losing winnable games to the Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, Carr said the Raiders are on the come, but they are not there yet.

“But we are close,” he said. “For me, only being 28 years old, that’s really exciting. I think this is the first [time], if I’m being honest, in my career, where I can sit there and look at the future and be like, ‘We can really be good for eight to 10 years.’ That’s really exciting to me.”

Up to a decade? Yeah, Carr still has dibs on building that house next door to Gruden in Sin City. But does it matter?

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Football rules chief: VAR only intended for ‘clear and obvious’ errors

The general secretary of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) insists that video assistant referee (VAR) technology should not be used for “forensic” decisions.

“Clear and obvious still remains – it’s an important principle. There should not be a lot of time spent to find something marginal,” Lukas Brud told the PA news agency, per the Evening Standard.

“If you spend multiple minutes trying to identify whether it is offside or not, then it’s not clear and obvious and the original decision should stand.”

The issue was brought into focus during the Premier League’s festive fixture period, during which a series of close offside calls were made based on video review.

Norwich City, Sheffield United, Brighton, Wolves, and Crystal Palace all recently had goals overturned by VAR. In some cases, reviews displayed microscopic margins that drew criticism from players and pundits alike.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola called VAR “a big mess,” and Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder – who lost 2-0 at the Etihad after Lys Mousset‘s opener was denied by VAR – said “this is not a situation helping the game.”

“In theory, 1 millimeter offside is offside,” Brud said, “but if a decision is taken that a player is not offside and the VAR is trying to identify through looking at five, six, seven, 10, 12 cameras whether or not it was offside, then the original decision should stand.”

Brud added that the IFAB will reissue guidance on best practices for VAR, most likely after the annual general meeting at the end of February.

“We will be communicating to all competitions that are using VAR some updates in the coming weeks,” he said, “because we are observing some developments that are not particularly the way they should be.”

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