Washington, Apr 30 (AP/UNB) — What does it take to kill the Night King?
Definitely not a pair of fire-exhaling dragons. The Night King turns out to be flame retardant.
Nor does the ability to loop through time and assume control of ravens' brains help much. Bran Stark pretty much sat helpless beneath the Weirwood tree, waiting to be rescued in a way that was no different than a damsel tied to train tracks in a silent film.
Past experience dueling the Night King provided to be of little help. Jon Snow — after multiple showdowns with the blue-ish personification of cold death — was pinned down far away from the action by the Night King's own "ice" dragon.
In the Associated Press' weekly "Wealth of Westeros" series, we're following the HBO fantasy show's latest plot twists and analyzing the economic and business forces driving the story. This week, Arya's triumphant assassination of the king ice zombie has prompted an appreciation among us for the role of skills, in economics as well as medieval Westeros.
Because — SPOILER ALERT — it took skills to kill the Night King.
Arya Stark stabbed the Night King into a shattered death. As he held her aloft in a choke hold, Arya deftly dropped a Valyrian steel knife into her free hand and plunged the blade into the Night King's surprisingly brittle chest.
Arya trained for this precise moment for almost the entire duration of the HBO series. It was the kind of outcome that few fans of the show foresaw, unless they internalized the lessons of the 18th Century philosopher Adam Smith, who is known as the "father of economics."
In his 1776 book "The Wealth of Nations," Smith theorized that the ability to specialize in a distinct set of skills will lead to stronger economic growth. Skilled blacksmiths, tailors, lawyers, doctors, bankers and software programmers not only work more quickly, but they produce a better product. Getting skills requires a combination of time, training and teachers.
This was Arya's advantage.
She took fencing lessons in King's Landing with Syrio Forel (RIP). Orphaned and alone after Ned Stark's death in the first season, she mastered the art of hiding in plain sight.
Arya then sailed east to study how to become an assassin under the tutelage of the faceless men at the House of Black and White. She trained on the long-staff against the cruel waif, learning how to fight while blind-folded.
Just before the battle of Winterfell, she commissioned a special staff with a detachable blade in order to compete against the Night King's army. And careful viewers saw her dagger move against the Night King before, when Arya was mock-fighting Brienne of Tarth in the seventh season.
Arya's time spent learning closely resembles what economists see as one of the best job training methods available: an apprenticeship. The benefits of apprenticeships — in which companies pay workers, typically younger ones, to learn highly-specific skills — have been touted by both the Trump and Obama administrations, a rare area of bipartisan agreement.
Roughly 90% of apprentices have jobs after completing their apprenticeships, with average starting pay of more than $50,000, according to a 2015 report by the Obama White House.
Naturally, the unemployment rate is lower for workers who are perceived as having more skills. Just 2% of college graduates are unemployed, almost half the rate of people with only a high school diploma.
But the United States isn't investing sufficiently in skills training, even though such a move is touted as conventional wisdom by business and political leaders. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that, out of 29 developed countries, the United States spent the second-least amount on training programs, as a percentage of its economy, ahead of only Mexico.
It wasn't always that way.
History also shows that, like Arya Stark, skills can help when circumstances get terrible. During the depths of the Great Depression, productivity increased and laid the foundation for an economy that could meet the demands of World War II and then boom afterward.
"The resilience of (productivity) growth in the 1930s reflected U.S. success in creating a strong 'national innovation system' based on world-leading investments in human capital and R&D," the economists Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts and Pieter Woltjer concluded in a 2016 paper.
It's the unique skills possessed by Arya and others that might make the difference in the battle to come over control with Westeros. Queen Cersei may have 20,000 mercenaries serving as fresh troops against the battered survivors of the Battle of Winterfell. But ... can any of them be stealth assassins?
New York, Apr 30 (AP/UNB) —Notable reaction to the death of "Boyz N the Hood" filmmaker John Singleton:
"Thank you John for being my friend, brother and mentor for 30 years. For believing in me when I was unsure of myself. Your passion for telling our stories from our point of view was more than an obsession, it was your mission in life. Your love for the black experience was contagious and I would never be the man I am without knowing you. On April 29, 1992 you were on TV warning the world what was to come. I'm sad today, cause on this April 29th who will warn the world what's to come. I love you and I miss you already brother." — "Boyz N the Hood" star and rapper Ice Cube, in a statement.
"You gave me my first movie role, my first Oscar nomination and so much more. Thank you for all you have given to the world through your work and all you have done for Black culture, women and young filmmakers. I will miss you John. Keeping your family in my prayers." — "Poetic Justice" star, pop star Janet Jackson, via Instagram.
"With His Passion, His Heart, The Way He Talked About His Love For Cinema And Black Folks I Could See John Would Make It Happen. And He Did. From Day One." — Spike Lee, via Instagram.
"So sad to hear about John. I met him way before he did 'Boys in the Hood.' He had more drive then anybody I've ever met." — Chris Rock, via Instagram.
"Thank you for all that you gave to the world the movies the messages the opportunities to so many people like myself to grace the big screen in a major role with major black actors you were and will allways be black excellence love you for life and beyond." — Snoop Dogg, via Instagram.
"Rest In Power, my friend. One of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you GOD for blessing us with this gift better known as John Singleton." — "Boyz N the Hood" actor Regina King, via Instagram.
"Mourning the loss of a collaborator & True Friend John Singleton. He blazed the trail for many young film makers, always remaining true to who he was & where he came from!!! RIP Brother. Gone Way Too Soon! — "Shaft" star Samuel L. Jackson, via Twitter.
"RIP John Singleton. So sad to hear. John was a brave artist and a true inspiration. His vision changed everything." — Jordan Peele via Twitter.
"The best life is when we leave a trail. We leave something on this earth bigger than us. John Singleton....you inspired a generation of Artists. We will shoulder on....'May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest". RIP" — Viola Davis, via Twitter.
"The youngest-ever Best Director nominee and an inspiration to us all. John Singleton, you will be greatly missed." — Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, via Twitter.
"This thing we call the cinema is over 100 years old and like most things it was a white man's world. Women weren't allowed into it. African Americans weren't allowed into it, other people of color. The working class, we don't go to film school, but people like John Singleton did. They forced their way in so that millions of Americans would have a voice, and he is a pioneer and one of the people responsible for that." — Filmmaker Michael Moore, at the 50th anniversary gala at Film at Lincoln Center.
"John is admired for putting a lot of people of color to work throughout his career. Our prayers are with his children and family members. He will be sorely missed." — Magic Johnson, via Twitter.
"The magnitude and world-wide impact that his ground-breaking film would have for society cannot be measured. Helping to bring awareness of what it takes to come to maturity as a black male in the 'Hood, or die trying..." — "Boyz N the Hood" actor Morris Chestnut, via Instagram.
"Today my heart breaks. #JohnSingleton was an innovator - he came to us with so much drive and clear creative vision in a time when people of color didn't have the visibility in cinema that we do today. He is and will always remain a beacon of light in our community, and today we celebrate the incredible legacy he left behind and the cultural contributions he has made. Rest well my friend, we've lost one of the good guys." — Halle Berry, via Instagram.
"Over the course of his illustrious career, John remained steadfast in telling stories that illuminate the daily challenges faced by African Americans, particularly those living in the inner city." — John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions, in a statement.
"Cruel. Not what I want to say right now. But certainly how I feel. Cruel. Just... so cruel." — Barry Jenkins, via Twitter.
"There aren't many of us out here doing this. It's a small tribe in the grand scheme of things. He was a giant among us. Kind. Committed. And immensely talented. His films broke ground. His films mattered. He will be missed. And long remembered. Thank you, John. #RunIntoHisArms" — Ava DuVernay, via Twitter.
"This one cuts deep. You'll never be forgotten. Cause your work will live on." — Writer-producer Lena Waithe, via Twitter.
"Rest up John Singleton. We never met, but Remember The Time literally changed my life. Thank you so much. God Bless you" — Chance The Rapper, via Twitter.
"I made one of the best decisions of my career in buying the script of Boyz n the Hood and hiring John to direct it. Since then, I have been honored to call him my friend. Over the years he has sent me first drafts of his scripts, from which I always learned something new about our place as Americans, and as human beings. I will miss his friendship, our conversations, and his contributions to our industry." — Frank Price, former chairman of Columbia Pictures and current chairman of the USC School of Cinematic Arts Board of Advisers, in a statement.
"There was a time when I was struggling to pay my bills in film school and not sure this town was for me. And one day, not long after Boyz N The Hood exploded on the scene, my phone rang. It was John Singleton. John did not know me at all. But someone at USC had told him I was talented and he was kindly calling to offer me some words of encouragement. He told me to keep writing. I never forgot it. Praying for him and for his family now." — Shonda Rhimes, via Instagram.
"#johnsingleton Needless to say we go way, way back... There are no words to convey the absolute loss and sadness I feel right now. John was there for his fellow filmmakers, always. All we had to do was look up and he would be there smiling and applauding our efforts." — Filmmaker Julie Dash, via Twitter.
"He was early in the game and he broke through and because of him a lot of good stuff is happening today." — Filmmaker John Waters, at the 50th anniversary gala of Film at Lincoln Center.
"It's very tragic. I feel a big loss. Somebody innovative, incredible energy. ... We need our energized people, filmmakers, artists, and he was an important one." — Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, at the 50th anniversary gala of Film at Lincoln Center.
New York (AP) — "Avengers: Endgame" is crushing the competition by setting multiple records at the box office a day after its release.
The Walt Disney Co. says domestically the film opened Friday with a record $156.7 million (including Thursday previews), besting "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($119 million in 2015, though it played on fewer screens) and "Avengers: Infinity War" ($106 million in 2018).
Outside the U.S., "Avengers: Endgame" broke another record by grossing an estimated $487 million at the end of Friday, surpassing "The Fate of the Furious" aka "Fast & Furious 8" ($443 million in 2017).
The Marvel Comics superhero film also broke the record for the highest opening weekend globally of all time with $644 million at the end of Friday. The previous record holder was "Infinity War" with $641 million.
Los Angeles, Apr 19 (AP/UNB) —Actor Jason Momoa on Wednesday released a video in which he shaved off his signature beard and mustache in order to promote recycling. He started by saying farewell to his "Game of Thrones" and DC characters Drogo and Arthur Curry.
Momoa said he thought he last shaved in 2012.
The 39-year-old says he wanted to do it to "bring awareness that plastics are killing our planet." He says aluminum is the one thing that can save it and he promoted his own line of sparkling water in aluminum cans.
Momoa says "there's a change coming and it's aluminum."
The Environmental Protection Agency's most current data from 2015 showed nearly 55 percent of aluminum beer and soft drink cans were recycled compared to 30% of plastic bottles.
Los Angeles, Apr 18 (AP/UNB) — Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are officially single, though more work is left before the terms of their divorce are final.
Los Angeles Superior Court documents show that Judge John W. Ouderkirk entered a judgment Friday, saying the couple is no longer married. Her name was also restored to just Jolie, not Jolie Pitt.
The couple's lawyers had asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single before all issues in the divorce are agreed upon.
It's not clear what issues remain unresolved in the divorce, but Jolie has filed papers saying Pitt wasn't paying sufficient child support, which his attorneys disputed.
The 43-year-old Jolie and the 55-year-old Pitt have six children. They were married in 2014, and Jolie filed for divorce in 2016.