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Historic SpaceX Launch Postponed Because of Stormy Weather

The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit was called off with 16 minutes to go in the countdown Wednesday because of thunderclouds and the danger of lightning. Liftoff was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.The commercially designed, built and owned spacecraft was set to blast off in the afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade. But thunderstorms for much of the day threatened to force a postponement, and the word finally came down that the atmosphere was so electrically charged that the spacecraft with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard could get hit by a bolt of lightning.”No launch for today — safety for our crew members @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken is our top priority,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted, using a lightning emoji.The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.The two men were scheduled to ride into orbit aboard the SpaceX’s bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, taking off from the same launch pad used during the Apollo moon missions a half-century ago. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had arrived to watch.The flight — the long-held dream of SpaceX founder Elon Musk — would have marked the first time a private company sent humans into orbit.It would also have been the first time in nearly a decade that the United States launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.During the day, thunder could be heard as the astronauts made their way to the pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and a tornado warning was issued moments after they climbed into their capsule.The preparations took place in the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed an estimated 100,000 Americans.”We’re launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. We haven’t done this really since 2011, so this is a unique moment in time,” Bridenstine said.With this launch, he said, “everybody can look up and say, ‘Look, the future is so much brighter than the present.’ And I really hope that this is an inspiration to the world.”The mission would put Musk and SpaceX in the same league as only three spacefaring countries — Russia, the U.S. and China, all of which gave sent astronauts into orbit.”What today is about is reigniting the dream of space and getting people fired up about the future,” he said in a NASA interview before the flight was scrubbed.A solemn-sounding Musk said he felt his responsibilities most strongly when he saw the astronauts’ wives and sons just before launch. He said he told them: “We’ve done everything we can to make sure your dads come back OK.”President Donald Trump looks at an area on a piece of equipment to sign during tour of NASA facilities before viewing the SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 Launch at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.NASA pushed ahead with the launch despite the viral outbreak but kept the guest list at Kennedy extremely limited and asked spectators to stay at home. Still, beaches and parks along Florida’s Space Coast are open again, and hours before the launch, cars and RVs already were lining the causeway in Cape Canaveral.The space agency also estimated 1.7 million people were watching the launch preparations online during the afternoon.Among the sightseers was Erin Gatz, who came prepared for both rain and pandemic. 
Accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, she brought face masks and a small tent to protect against the elements. She said the children had faint memories of watching in person one of the last shuttle launches almost a decade ago when they were preschoolers. “I wanted them to see the flip side and get to see the next era of space travel,” said Gatz, who lives in Deltona, Florida. “It’s exciting and hopeful.”NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to transport astronauts to the space station in a new kind of public-private partnership. Development of SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner capsules took longer than expected, however. Boeing’s ship is not expected to fly astronauts into space until early 2021.”We’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before,” Bridenstine said. “We’re transforming how we do spaceflight in the future.”
 


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ДБР повідомила, що чекає Порошенка на два допити 29 травня

Напередодні, 26 травня, працівники ДБР увірвалися в Музей Івана Гончара, де було відкрито виставку картин родини Порошенків


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В ОБСЄ обговорили ситуацію в Азово-Чорноморському регіоні – МЗС України

Партнери України наголосили, що активізація військової діяльності НАТО в Чорному морі є прямим наслідком агресії Росії проти Грузії та України


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Australian Police End Probe of Journalist, Suspected Whistleblower 

Australian police said Wednesday they were dropping an investigation of a prominent journalist who obtained classified documents for a 2018 story on national security. The article by Annika Smethurst, which ran in the Australian-based News Corp newspapers, alleged the federal government was preparing to give intelligence agencies new powers that would allow it to spy on Australian citizens.  Police raided Smethurst’s Canberra home last June as part of an investigation into who may have leaked the documents that provided the basis for her story.  A day later, police raided the Sydney headquarters of Australian Broadcasting Corporation looking for evidence of the whistleblower who provided documents behind a 2017 report that Australian troops had committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Ian McCartney, the deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, said no charges will be brought against Smethurst or the whistleblower who leaked the documents.  But McCartney said Dan Oakes and Sam Clarke, the two ABC journalists who reported the Afghanistan story, were still under investigation. The police decision not to charge Smethurst comes just weeks after Australia’s High Court invalidated the search warrant used to search her home on a technicality. The separate raids angered Australia’s media organizations, who set aside their fierce competitive rivalry to issue a joint demand for greater press freedoms and legal protections for public-interest journalism.       


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Pre-Season Tropical Storm Bertha Hits Carolinas

With the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season days away, a tropical storm made landfall Wednesday on the coast of South Carolina and is expected to bring the threat of life-threatening floods as it tracks into North Carolina and Virginia, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Tropical Storm Bertha made landfall near Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, at 9:30 a.m. local time Wednesday, only an hour after forming off the coast. Bertha made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 80 kilometers per hour, said the NHC.  North Carolina and western Virginia are the next states in Bertha’s path as it tracks inland, bringing with it drenching rainfall and high winds. As it moves farther inland, it will weaken to a tropical depression and become a remnant low Wednesday night, predicted the NHC. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches for parts of central and eastern South Carolina, central North Carolina, and western Virginia, including the cities of Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, where the ground is already saturated by recent rainfall.  Heavy rains on soaked ground could produce dangerous flash flooding, aggravate and prolong ongoing river flooding, and produce sudden flooding of small rivers, according to the NHC. Bertha could also cause deadly rip currents along the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas, said the NHC. Tropical Storm Bertha is the second named tropical pre-season storm of 2020. Tropical Storm Arthur formed May 16 off the coast of Florida, continuing a six-year trend of named storms forming prior to the official June 1 start date of the Atlantic hurricane season.   This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an abnormally severe season, with between 13 and 19 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes.  
 


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South Korea Sees Biggest COVID-19 Spike in Weeks

South Korean health officials Wednesday reported the nation’s highest number of new coronavirus infections in seven weeks as the nation is easing its restrictions.In his daily briefing in Seoul, South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said that 37 of the 40 new cases are related to the recent outbreak from nightclubs in Itaewon, Seoul’s multicultural district. Kim said the remaining three are infections from abroad.All but four of the new cases were in densely populated areas in Seoul where officials are scrambling to stop transmissions linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and an e-commerce warehouse.Kim said authorities are keeping an eye on the warehouse, owned by local e-commerce company Coupang, after discovering dozens of coronavirus infections linked to workers there. Kim says they suspect the company was not enforcing basic workplace COVID-19 regulations, and they are testing the company’s 3,600 employees.South Korea has reported 269 deaths and 11,265 cases, after managing to contain a severe outbreak earlier.The spike comes as some two million students returned to school Wednesday.  


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US Priest Who Founded Knights of Columbus to be Beatified

The founder of the Knights of Colombus, the influential U.S.-based lay Catholic organization, is moving a step closer to possible sainthood.
Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Rev. Michael McGivney, a Connecticut priest who died at age 38 of pneumonia in 1890 during a pandemic similar to the current coronavirus outbreak.
He would be the first U.S. parish priest to be beatified, the first major step before canonization.
The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis had signed off on the miracle required. The Knights said it concerned the medically inexplicable cure of a baby with a life-threatening condition who was healed in utero in 2015 “after prayers by his family to Father McGivney.”
McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, to encourage greater, active participation of lay Catholics in their faith and to care for families when the breadwinner died. Today the Knights are one of the biggest Catholic organizations in the world, known for their charitable efforts and counting about 2 million members in the Americas, Caribbean, Asia and Europe.
The organization is also an insurer, boasting more than $100 billion in financial protection for members and their families.  
No date has been set for the beatification, which the Knights said would be held in Connecticut.


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Hypocrisy Gone Viral? Officials Set Bad COVID-19 Examples

“Do as I say, but not as I do” was the message many British saw in the behavior of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key aide, who traveled hundreds of miles with coronavirus symptoms during the country’s lockdown.
While  Dominic Cummings has faced calls for his firing  but support from his boss over his journey from London to the northern city of Durham in March, few countries seem immune to the perception that politicians and top officials are bending the rules that their own governments wrote during the pandemic.
From U.S. President Donald Trump to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, global decision-makers have frequently set bad examples, whether it’s refusing to wear masks or breaking confinement rules aimed at protecting their citizens from COVID-19.  
Some are punished when they’re caught, others publicly repent, while a few just shrug off the violations during a pandemic that has claimed more than 350,000 lives worldwide.
Here are some notable examples:New Zealand Health Minister Calls Himself An “Idiot”
In April, New Zealand’s health minister was stripped of some of his responsibilities after defying the country’s strict lockdown measures. David Clark drove 19 kilometers (12 miles) to the beach to take a walk with his family as the government was asking people to make historic sacrifices by staying at home.
“I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” Clark said. He also earlier acknowledged driving to a park near his home to go mountain biking.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said normally she would fire Clark but that the country couldn’t afford massive disruption in its health sector while it was fighting the virus. Instead, she stripped Clark of his role as associate finance minister and demoting him to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings.Mexico’s Leader Shakes Hands
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said it pained him not to embrace supporters during tours because of health risks, but he made a remarkable exception in March, shaking hands with the elderly mother of imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Asked about shaking her hand when the government was urging citizens to practice social distancing, López Obrador said it would have been disrespectful not to.  
“It’s very difficult humanly,” he said. “I’m not a robot.”  America’s Pandemic Politics
The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement in the U.S. It’s been stoked by Trump — who didn’t wear a mask during an appearance at a facility making them — and some other Republicans, who have questioned the value of masks. This month, pandemic politics shadowed Trump’s trip to Michigan as he toured a factory making lifesaving medical devices. He did not publicly wear a face covering despite a warning from the state’s top law enforcement officer that refusing to do so might lead to a ban on his return.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, wore a mask along with his wife, Jill, as they laid a wreath Monday at a Delaware veterans’ memorial — his first public appearance since mid-March. Trump later retweeted Fox News analyst Brit Hume’s criticism of Biden for wearing a mask in public.
Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for not wearing a mask  while on a visit to the Mayo Clinic.
Netanyahu’s Passover Holiday
While the rest of Israel was instructed not to gather with their extended families for traditional Passover Seder in April, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin hosted their adult children for the festive holiday meal, drawing fierce criticism on social media. Israeli television showed a photo of Avner Netanyahu, the premier’s younger son, attending the Seder at his father’s official residence.  
Benjamin Netanyahu later apologized in a televised address, saying he should have adhered more closely to the regulations.  The French Exception
French President Emmanuel Macron also has been inconsistent with masks, leaving the French public confused. Although Macron has sometimes appeared in a mask for visits at hospitals and schools, it’s a different story in the Elysee presidential palace and for speeches. During a visit to a Paris hospital on May 15, Macron initially wore a mask to chat with doctors but then removed it to talk with union workers.  
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also faced criticism this month for huddling with dozens of mask-makers in a factory for a photo where everyone removed their masks.  
Putin’s Different Approach
The only time Russian President Vladimir Putin wore protective gear in public was on March 24, when he visited a top coronavirus hospital in Moscow.  Before donning a hazmat suit, Putin shook hands with Dr. Denis Protsenko, the head of the hospital. Neither wore masks or gloves, and a week later, Protsenko tested positive for the virus. That raised questions about Putin’s health, but the Kremlin said he was fine.
Putin has since held at least seven face-to-face meetings, according to the Kremlin website. He and others didn’t wear masks during those meetings, and Putin also didn’t cover his face for events marking Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II.
When asked why Putin doesn’t wear a mask during public appearances, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin has a different approach to protecting the president’s health.
“When it comes to public events, we ask medical workers to test all the participants in advance,” Peskov told reporters.  Puerto Rico Official’s Inconsistent Message
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez was criticized for not always wearing a mask despite holding new conferences ordering people to cover their face outside their homes and inside businesses. A member of the opposition Popular Democratic Party also filed a police complaint last week against members of Vázquez’s New Progressive Party, alleging they violated a curfew by gathering to inaugurate the party’s new headquarters. Police are investigating the incident, which angered many Puerto Ricans.  Scottish Medical Official Takes The Low Road
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Catherine Calderwood, broke her own rules and traveled to her second home during lockdown in April. She faced blowback after photos emerged of her and her family visiting Earlsferry in Fife, which is more than an hour’s drive from her main home in Edinburgh. She apologized and resigned.
“I did not follow the advice I’m giving to others,” Calderwood said. “I am truly sorry for that. I’ve seen a lot of the comments from … people calling me a hypocrite.”  Japan’s Gambling Scandal
A top Japanese prosecutor was reprimanded and later resigned this month after defying a stay-at-home recommendation in a gambling scandal.
Hiromu Kurokawa, the country’s No. 2 prosecutor who headed the Tokyo High Prosecutors’ Office, acknowledged that he wasn’t social distancing when he played mahjong for money at a newspaper reporter’s home twice in May. Japan didn’t enforce a stay-at-home recommendation, but his case outraged the public because many were following social distancing measures.  Italian Press Conference Criticism
At a March news conference to open a COVID-19 field hospital in Milan’s old convention center, photographers and video journalists were pushed into corners that did not allow proper spacing. Only text reporters were given seating in line with regulations. The Codacons consumer protection group announced it would file a complaint with prosecutors in Milan.
“What should have been a moment of great happiness and pride for Lombardy and Italy was transformed into a surreal event, where in violation of the anti-gathering rules, groups of crowds formed,” Codacons said.  South Africa’s Rule-Breaking Dinner
In April, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave for two months and forced to apologize by President Cyril Ramaphosa after she violated stay-at-home regulations. Ramaphosa directed police to investigate after a photo emerged on social media of Ndabeni-Abrahams and several others having a meal at the home of former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana.Spanish Hospital Ceremony Investigated
Madrid’s regional and city officials sparked controversy when they gathered on May 1 for a ceremony shuttering a massive field hospital at a convention center. Eager to appear in the final photo of a facility credited with treating nearly 4,000 mild COVID-19 patients, dozens of officials didn’t follow social distancing rules. Spain’s restrictions banned more than 10 people at events like the one that honored nurses and doctors. The central government opened an investigation, and Madrid regional chief Isabel Díaz Ayuso apologized. She said officials “got carried away by the uniqueness of the moment.”
Former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also defied strict stay-at-home orders, with a television station filming him power walking around in northern Madrid. The Spanish prosecutor’s office is investigating whether Rajoy, who was premier from 2011 to 2018, should be fined.Indian Cricket Game Criticized
In India, a top leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party drew flak last weekend after playing a game of cricket. Manoj Tiwari, also a member of India’s parliament, said he followed social distancing rules during the game. Videos circulating on social media showed Tiwati without a mask. He was also seen taking selfies with people.  Leaders Who Follow The Rules
Some leaders are setting a good example, including Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Media jokingly called him the most relaxed politician in the world after he was photographed queuing at a supermarket this month, wearing a mask and following social distancing measures. The photo was widely shared on social media.  
Another rule-follower is Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who did not visit his ill 96-year-old mother in a nursing home during the last eight weeks of her life because of coronavirus restrictions. He only came to her bedside during her final hours this month.  
“The prime minister has respected all guidelines,” according to a statement read by a spokesman. “The guidelines allow for family to say goodbye to dying family members in the final stage. And as such the prime minister was with her during her last night.” 


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