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Officials Raise Health Concerns as Heatwave Intensifies Over Central, Eastern US

The National Weather Service warned that dangerously high temperatures and humidity in the United States over the weekend could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke, if precautions are not taken. The NWS advises people to check in on relatives and friends, especially the elderly.

Temperatures have been rising in cities from the Midwest to the East Coast because of a high pressure system that has trapped the  warm air.  City officials are allowing public pools to stay open longer and municipalities are issuing advisories to inform the public about how best to deal with the heat.   

Forecasters say temperatures in New York City will reach 33 degrees Celsius Saturday, but with the humidity, it will feel like 43 degrees Celsius.

Saturday in the nation’s capital will reach 38 degrees Celsius and Philadelphia will go up to 36 degrees Celsius.  

The World Meteorological Organization says June 2019 was the planet’s warmest month ever. In addition, both land and sea temperatures set record highs in June.  

June was also Europe’s hottest June on record, according to the WMO. Greenland, Alaska and parts of South America, Africa and Asia had temperatures substantially above normal in June, according to the WMO.  The organization said India and Pakistan experienced a severe heatwave in the early part of June, before the onset of the monsoon season.


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Millions Still Believe the 1969 Moon Landing Was a Hoax

Despite the huge amount of evidence, the dust and rock samples, the television footage, and the hundreds of thousands of people who made it happen, polls show as many as 6% of Americans believe the Apollo 11 astronauts never landed on the moon.

Conspiracy theorists continue to insist the entire mission 50 years ago was an elaborate hoax, produced at the Area 51 Air Force testing range in Nevada or on a Hollywood movie soundstage by legendary director Stanley Kubrick.

In Exclusive VOA Interviews, NASA Astronauts Reflect on Historic Moon Missions video player.

In Exclusive VOA Interviews, NASA Astronauts Reflect on Historic Moon Missions

The rumors first got traction just a year after the first moon landing, when the Vietnam War had led millions of Americans to question their government.

A July1970 poll found 30% of Americans declaring Apollo 11 to be a fake. That number remained relatively high throughout the ’70s, when several books were published and a 1978 film about a phony mission to Mars, Capricorn One, convinced many that a moon landing was also a scripted piece of high-technology bunk.

Art Harmon, a former legislative director for the U.S. House or Representatives, currently leads the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration.

He has two words for conspiracy theorists who say men never went to the moon – “absolute nuts.”

“They’re just troublemakers. There’s always people who will say ‘this never happened’ or ‘that never happened.’ They’re just trying to divide people. We went,” he said.

But those who insist the U.S. did not put astronauts on the moon have claimed their own “evidence” to a faked landing.

They question why the flag astronaut Neil Armstrong planted on the moon could not possibly be rippling, because there is no air on the moon. In reality, the astronauts bent the metal frame holding the flag, causing the ripples.

The conspiracy minded claim photos the astronauts took on the moon do not show any stars in the background. In reality, the cameras were unable to capture the faint light emitted by stars,

If the moon landing was real, they ask, why didn’t the lander scatter dust when it touched down? In reality, the lander was traveling horizontally much of the time and the thrusters that controlled its landing were not pointed down. Radiation from the sun also made the dust highly charged and it clung to the moon’s surface.

Every claim that no one went to the moon can be easily explained by science, physics or evidence brought back to Earth, Harmon said. He adds the conspiracy theories are “an insult to those 400,000 Americans who worked to get us to the moon and back.”

Those hundreds of thousands of people, including scientists, engineers and factory workers, were scattered around the world.

One astronaut who actually walked on the moon in 1969 has no tolerance for those who call it a massive hoax.

When one conspiracy theorist challenged Buzz Aldrin and called him a liar, Aldrin punched him in the face.

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Before Humans Walked on the Moon, Animals Rocketed into Space

Fifty years ago, two American astronauts became the first humans to walk on the Moon. But before humans had left Earth, animal astronauts had blazed a trail into space. VOA’s Kerry Hensley has more.

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The US Is Hot And Getting Hotter

A large portion of the United States is in the midst of a heat wave.

Temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest are already high and are expected to climb to record breaking numbers during the weekend.  People have been warned to stay hydrated.

Forecasters say more than 87 million Americans live in areas where record temperatures will likely be set Saturday.

The temperature in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, is expected to reach 43.3 degrees Celsius.  Meteorologists say for a short while, it will feel just as hot in Washington as Death Valley, California.

National Weather Service forecaster Greg Carbin said the heat wave will be “short and searing.”

Tourists take photos of the U.S. Capitol (not seen) from a tour boat-like bus on a hot day in Washington, DC. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)

The NWS warned: “Dangerous high temperatures and humidity could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke, if precautions are not taken.  The very young, the elderly, those without air conditioning, and those participating in strenuous outdoor activities will be the most susceptible.  Also, car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.”

A recent Environmental Protection Agency live air quality tracker reported “unhealthy” air for sensitive groups, including the elderly and young children, along the East Coast from Baltimore, Maryland to Bridgeport, Connecticut, a stretch that includes New York City.

“Daytime hours when the sun is out is clearly our highest risk periods,” Dr. Michael Kaufmann, EMS medical director with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, told the Associated Press.  “We’re not expecting the drops in temperature at night or the humidity that we often realize when the sun goes down.”

Pet owners have been cautioned to avoid walking their animals on paved or concrete areas because the temperature of the surfaces could rise high enough to burn paws.


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Puerto Rico Governor Resists Calls for Resignation

The governor of Puerto Rico is not backing down despite massive street protests in the capital, San Juan, demanding his resignation. Thousands of people have taken to the streets after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of leaked text messages in which Gov. Ricardo Rossello used homophobic and misogynistic language.  VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the governor said in a statement Thursday that his commitment to Puerto Rico is stronger than ever.

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Observers See Ominous Turn in Political Divide Over Race, Ideology

The weather in Washington has been hot, sticky and relentless this week. So has the politics.

In a period of a few days, the president of the United States told four members of Congress they could leave the country if they were unhappy and go back to the countries they came from, sparking passage of a House resolution that condemned some of his verbal and Twitter attacks as racist.

In the same week, Democrats again broached the subject of impeachment, only to see the effort fail when many Democrats joined Republicans in voting to table, or put off, the issue.

In sum, it has been a trying week for American democracy that has plunged the country into an angry debate over race, immigration and political ideology.

Washington Consumed by Growing Political Divide Over Race, Ideology video player.

WATCH: Washington Consumed by Growing Political Divide Over Race, Ideology

‘Send her back!’

During a re-election rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump left little doubt that his attacks on the freshmen Democratic congresswomen will be a staple of his campaign strategy for 2020.

“These left-wing ideologues see our nation as a force of evil. The way they speak so badly of our country. They want to demolish our Constitution, weaken our military and eliminate the values that built this magnificent country.”

When Trump specifically went after Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who emigrated years ago from Somalia, some in the crowd chanted, “Send her back!”

That moment seemed to trouble some Republicans on Thursday, and even Trump told reporters he “felt a little bit badly about it” and was “not happy” with the crowd chant.

Trump said he spoke quickly once the chant began, but video of the speech shows he paused for about 13 seconds as the chant grew from the crowd.

FILE – U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar participates in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019.

Omar told reporters Thursday she believes Trump is “fascist,” then added, “This is what this president and his supporters have turned the country into.”

The group of female lawmakers also includes House members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The president has been tweeting and criticizing them for days, and has urged them to leave the country if they are unhappy, even though all are U.S. citizens — three born in the United States.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Williams Arena, Greenville, N.C., July 17, 2019.

Divided Democrats

Trump’s combative appearance at the North Carolina rally came on the same day the House voted to set aside an effort by some Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

Earlier in the week, the House took the unusual step of condemning some of Trump’s attacks on the four lawmakers as racist.

All House Democrats supported the resolution, including civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia.

“I know racism when I see it.  I know racism when I feel it.  And at the highest level of government, there is no room for racism,” Lewis said.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 4, 2018.

Race and politics

Trump’s victory in 2016 was spurred by strong support from white working-class voters.

But many Democrats believe the president is now making a dangerous bid for support based on racial resentment.

“These words are not just words. They are like gasoline, like a spark to the gasoline of disturbed minds,” said New Jersey Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski.

Trump has denied he is a racist but has slammed the congresswomen as socialists, a line of attack that other Republicans have seized on, including Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy.

“This not China. This is not North Korea. This is America. And if you hate our country, you are free to leave anytime you want to,” Kennedy told reporters at the Capitol.

Many political strategists believe that Trump wants to elevate the congresswomen as the face of the Democratic Party, something White House counselor Kellyanne Conway hinted at in a testy exchange with reporters earlier in the week.

“He is tired. A lot of us are sick and tired in this country of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office.”

Risky strategy

Many Trump critics, and even a few Republicans, see a more ominous turn in the latest attacks.

Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips is worried that the president’s raw focus on racial and ideological strains is tearing at the fabric of the country.

“And if racism ever becomes a partisan issue in this country, we have done a woeful disservice to our founders. We have done a woeful disservice to our Constitution, and a woeful disservice to every single person that calls America home.”

The president’s narrow victory in 2016 and his relatively low approval rating, currently around 43%, leaves him vulnerable for re-election, and makes his strategy a risky one, according to University of Virginia analyst Kyle Kondik.

“The approval rating is the troubling thing for the president because if his approval rating is under 45%, then he is going to need a significant share of people who don’t approve of him to vote for him. And that is when it becomes really difficult.”

This week’s rhetorical fireworks likely serve as a preview for what could be an ugly presidential campaign next year, the latest snapshot of a country deeply enmeshed in polarized and volatile political warfare.

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Pompeo Latin American Trip to Focus on Immigration, Terrorism, Venezuela

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Latin America to meet face to face with leaders there, amid difficult negotiations with Mexico and Central American countries over how to best stem the flow of migrants to the southern U.S. border.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus gave an overview of the full agenda for the trip that begins at the end of the week.

“From July 19th to the 21st, the secretary will visit Buenos Aires, Argentina; Ecuador, Mexico City, San Salvador, where he will expand cooperation on security issues; reinforce U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy, particularly support for the people of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and their struggle for freedom; and to enhance economic partnerships and to expand economic opportunities for our citizens,” she said a the daily briefing.

Counterterrorism in Argentina

While in Argentina, Pompeo will participate in a counterterrorism conference with regional allies, timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, and has been linked to Hezbollah and Iran by Argentine prosecutors.

No one has ever been held accountable for the worst terrorist attack in Argentine history.

FILE – Members of the Border Patrol and U.S. military talk with migrants who illegally crossed the border between Mexico and the U.S. to request political asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 6, 2019.

Stemming migration

Migration is likely to be a major issue at his other stops. Some experts say the U.S. must address the root causes, or “push factors” that are compelling people to flee their homes.

“You have to look at the lack of opportunity, the gang activity, the weak institutions in this region, in Central America if you are ever going to stop people from making what is a difficult and dangerous journey to the United States. These people don’t leave taking the decision lightly,” Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center said.

He said there is broad consensus among most U.S. lawmakers that President Donald Trump should not have cut U.S. foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, while at the same time asking them to reduce the flow of migrants.

Other experts reject criticism of Trump for cutting aid to the so-called Northern Triangle countries.

“So I think the criticism of just, ‘Oh, the president is just making things worse.’ Well, honestly, really? Because how worse can things get?” asked James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation. “People are flooding north. It is obvious that money is not achieving anything.

“So if we’re going to give them money, I think we have to come up with programs that are actually going to have impact,” he added.

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido speaks during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, July 5, 2019.

Venezuelan crisis 

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela, where millions have fled to neighboring countries, is likely to be an important topic for Pompeo at every stop on his journey.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s leader.

Guaido contends President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election last year was invalid and wants early presidential elections. Maduro accuses the opposition of fomenting violence.

Pompeo will also stop in Guayaquil, Ecuador and San Salvador, El Salvador, to deepen the U.S. relationship with those countries, according to the State Department.

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US Removes Turkey From F-35 Fighter Jet Program

The United States has terminated Turkey’s participation in the F-35 joint strike fighter program. The decision announced Wednesday is in response to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system. The White House said in a statement that Turkey’s acceptance of the S-400 undermines its commitments to NATO. But officials also said that Turkey remains an important strategic partner and that security cooperation will continue. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Protesters Arrested Trying to Stop Giant Hawaii Telescope

Police have begun arresting protesters gathered at the base of Hawaii’s tallest volcano, Mauna Kea, to stop the construction of a giant telescope on what they say is their most sacred ground.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta told The Associated Press that police had arrested 30 elders, called kupuna in Hawaiian, on Wednesday.  

Some of the elders used canes and strollers to walk, while others were taken in wheelchairs to police vans. Those who could walk on their own were led away with their hands in zip ties.

The elders were among about 2,000 people blocking the road to the summit of Mauna Kea in an attempt to stop construction material and workers from reaching the top. 

The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope is expected to be one of the world’s most advanced. 

Opponents of the the telescope say it will desecrate sacred land. According to the University of Hawaii, ancient Hawaiians considered the location kapu, or forbidden. Only the highest-ranking chiefs and priests were allowed to make the long trek to Mauna Kea’s summit above the clouds.

Supporters of the telescope, however, say it will not only make important scientific discoveries but bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii. 

The company behind the telescope is made up of a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India and Japan.  

Astronomers hope the telescope will help them look back 13 billion years to the time, just after the Big Bang, and answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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Dodging a Bullet This Time: Louisianans Worry Another Katrina Would Doom Them

The ever-so-brief Hurricane Barry spared the southern U.S. city of New Orleans and the Louisiana coast of devastating floods. But with the 2019 hurricane season underway, a sense of anxiety has once again overcome a community that fears it will only be a matter of time before a storm as lethal as Hurricane Katrina tests its limits again. On the bayou, one fishing community worries for the future of their profession, while residents of New Orleans’ most vulnerable neighborhoods say the city’s infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle another crisis. VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports.


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‘Rocket City’ USA Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – It was only fitting that on the 50th anniversary of the 1969 rocket launch that ultimately landed a man on the moon, the “Rocket City” of the United States would attempt to set a rocket record.

“We are launching 5000 bottle rockets to break a Guinness World Record,” explained Randall Robinson.  He is the Director of Training at SpaceCamp, an immersive space and science experience geared towards youth, many of whom came to watch this special record launch attempt on the campus that SpaceCamp shares with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

“Us wanting to break this record is signifying, and putting, Huntsville back on the map, for the importance that it played in the Apollo program,” he told VOA, as a countdown clock ticked away the minutes to zero hour for the launch.

In the race to the moon in the 1960s, the development of a large rocket that could thrust spacecraft beyond earth’s atmosphere became a critical element that could make or break the Apollo moon program.

That critical element – the Saturn V rocket – was developed in Huntsville under the leadership of scientist Wernher von Braun at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  

Margrit von Braun was among honored guests and thousands of spectators who gathered in Huntsville for the 50th anniversary

No doubt

In an exclusive interview with Voice of America, Von Braun’s daughter Margrit said her father and his team never doubted their ability to deliver a powerful rocket design that would work.

“We just knew it was going to work.  We just grew up with this presumption of success and I think this is how the rocket team behaved.”

Margrit von Braun was among honored guests and thousands of spectators who gathered in Huntsville for the 50th anniversary celebrations that paid tribute to the many that made the lofty goal of landing a man on the moon a reality.

The launch of the first astronauts to set foot on the moon in 1969 was a mission Margrit von Braun experienced firsthand, alongside her father, considered today the “father of rocket science.”

“It was my first launch,” she fondly recalled.  “There really aren’t words to describe it.  That’s what most people say.  The noise and the power of the engine and seeing how slowly the rocket moves before it clears the tower is something I’ll never forget.”

12-year-old Lillian Duran had the distinct honor of pressing the bottle rocket launch button

Future astronaut?

“It’s a moment in history, a moment when we landed on the moon, and launched a rocket, and it’s important,” said 12-year-old Lillian Duran, who had the distinct honor of pressing the launch button that sent nearly five thousand bottle rockets soaring into the cloudy Alabama sky.  

Although she wasn’t alive the last time humans set foot on the moon, she’s hoping this year’s anniversary celebrations of the first lunar visit 50 years ago sparks further interest in the space program for a new generation.  

“We want to go further and explore,” she told VOA.

Homer Hickam, author of the popular book “Rocket Boys” which became the source material for the movie “October Sky”

Launchpad for the future

It’s an age-old desire that fueled the imaginations, and eventual careers, of many seasoned NASA astronauts and engineers, including Homer Hickam, author of the popular book “Rocket Boys” which became the source material for the movie October Sky.

“It’s something for us to commemorate, and also it kind of helps us I think give us a launchpad for the future,” Hickam explained to VOA.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where new rockets and technology are being tested for future missions to the moon, and Mars

While officials at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center wait for the smoke to clear for certification of their record rocket launch attempt from Guinness, not far away the future of manned space flight is taking shape at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where new rockets and technology are being tested for future missions to the moon, and eventually to Mars.


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‘Rocket City’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

In the race to the moon in the 1960s, the development of the large rockets that could thrust the spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere became a critical element in the success of the Apollo program. The place where the Saturn V rocket was developed — Huntsville, Alabama – is today known as “Rocket City.” As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the 50th anniversary of the mission to land on the moon puts a spotlight on the city’s historic role in the Apollo program, and beyond.

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