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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Los Angeles (AFP) – “Star Wars” fans finally have a date for their diary after filmmakers announced a long-awaited new instalment of the iconic sci-fi franchise will be released on December 18, 2015.

The announcement Thursday laid to rest reports suggesting that the film, announced last year for 2015, might be delayed after one of the new movie’s screenwriters was replaced last month.

“We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’,” said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, which bought “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’s company Lucasfilm for over $4 billion last year.

The new movie “will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season,” but the 2015 release date will “also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” he added.

“Star Wars for Christmas!!” wrote one fan on the Force.Net website

Lucas — who launched the epic space saga nearly four decades ago and directed four of the six films to date — will serve as a creative consultant for at least three new films, which are expected to come out every two to three years.

The new movie will be directed by J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Star Trek”) from a screenplay by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, whose credits include “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”

Veteran movie composer John Williams will provide the score, while Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Bryan Burk are listed as producers of the eagerly-awaited film.

Filming is due to begin next spring in Pinewood Studios outside London, added a Disney statement, adding that pre-production was “in full swing.”

All of the six previous “Star Wars” movies — which have had pre-summer release dates in the United States — have included production in British studios, including Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios.

Disney announced the new film was slated for 2015 when they bought Lucasfilm last year, but media reports have suggested Abrams had doubts he could meet that deadline.

Only last month filmmakers announced the departure of original Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt.

The return of Kasdan, the screenwriter behind 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back”, widely revered as the best of the “Star Wars’ films by franchise devotees, was greeted with excitement by expectant fans.

It is unclear whether all the original main cast members will return for the new movie.

Carrie Fisher confirmed she will reprise her turn as Princess Leia in a newspaper interview earlier this year, and Harrison Ford, who played grumpy space adventurer Han Solo, has made repeated hints. Reports also suggested that Mark Hamill will return as Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.

The first “Star Wars” movie came out in 1977, and there have been two trilogies — three films from 1977-1983 and three prequels from 1999-2005 — while the brand has expanded into theme parks and a huge merchandising arm.

The films have earned some $4.4 billion globally over the last 35 years, and offer “a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases,” Disney said when it bought Lucasfilm in October last year.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]