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Whatever Happened to U-2 Spy Gary Powers?

If you weren't alive when Francis Gary Powers got shot down over the Soviet Union, you probably heard about it in high school history. But just in case you slept through that class, here's a quick recap: Capt. Powers had been working for the CIA, carrying out aerial espionage missions from the cockpit of the U-2 spy plane. The Lockheed U-2, which could fly to 70,000 feet (out of the range of most Soviet weaponry), was equipped to fly over military targets and take hi-res photos for U.S. intelligence.

The public knew nothing of these spy missions until the Powers incident, but the Russians had known for years when they finally were able to take down the "Dragon Lady" on May 1, 1960. On August 17, Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years of jail & hard labor. After 21 months in prison, however, he and another American were traded for KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher, a.k.a. Rudolf Abel, captured in New York in 1957.

That's as far as the story typically goes "“ Powers' role in the escalating Cold War effectively ended there. So whatever happened to him?

Plenty of Critics Were Waiting Back Home

powers suitBetween Powers' capture and sentencing, the contents of his plane were salvaged from the crash site. To wit, they included a pack of Kent cigarettes, a .22 caliber pistol, money, and a poison suicide pill to be taken in case of disaster. Many at the time said Powers should have destroyed the plane's camera and then taken the pill before the Soviets could get to him.

It should be noted that the pilot tried and failed to activate the U-2's self-destruct mechanism before he parachuted out of the crashing plane. Following an investigation into the incident, the Senate Armed Services Committee vindicated Powers' actions, concluding that he had neither betrayed his country nor acted unprofessionally in the course of his capture.

(It's also widely believed that Powers had a Swiss Army Knife in his gear, which the Russians confiscated and put on public display as "CIA spy gear." However, I can't find any reputable sources to back up that claim, so take that story with a grain of salt).

Spy Exchange

The spy exchange that ultimately brought the pilot home happened just like something out of the movies. As Powers walked across a guarded bridge connecting East & West Berlin, Abel passed by, heading the opposite direction. Unlike most movie spies, though, the captain didn't emerge from the incident with oodles of hot Russian babes in tow. Nevertheless, Powers did soon find love, American-style, in that most romantic of places "“ back at the CIA.

An Office Romance & Life After the CIA

sue and garyClaudia "Sue" Edwards was administering tests for the CIA to Americans returning from overseas, "to make sure the agents hadn't been turned," according to Gary Powers, Jr. After Sue administered Gary's test, a hallway collision led to spilled coffee, which led to more coffee, which led to lunch, which led to dinner, which led to marriage in November 1962, nine months after Powers' return.

From 1963 on, he test-piloted planes for Lockheed, wrote a memoir of the incident, and became a traffic-copter pilot for a Los Angeles radio station. Powers died in 1977 when his helicopter crashed while on a routine trip. His son was 12 at the time. Gary Jr. would go on to found the Cold War Museum. Sue Powers died in 2004 at the age of 68.

It wasn't until 23 years after his death that Powers was awarded any military honors. On May 1, 2000, the 40th anniversary of the U-2 crash, his family was presented with a Department of Defense Prisoner-of-War Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the National Defense Service Medal.

And in case you're curious, we haven't found any hard evidence that U2 was named after the Lockheed plane, despite omnipresent rumors alleging as much. The rumors persist in part because Bono was born just a few days after Powers' capture. As best as I can tell, the Air Force also claims no responsibility for the lead singer's aviator goggles.

(Middle photo: Powers' flight suit, on display at the Atomic Test Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, taken by Craig Moran; bottom photo courtesy Gary Powers, Jr., and the Cold War Museum).

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
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Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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