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Scott Dixon Blazes to Indy 500 Pole in Record 234 Mph Run

Scott Dixon used a breathtaking run of more than 234 mph to post the fastest Indianapolis 500 pole run in history. The New Zealander will lead the field to green in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the fifth time in his career.

Considered the best driver of his generation, Dixon turned four laps Sunday at an average of 234.046 mph around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His average broke Scott Brayton’s pole-winning record set in 1996 of 233.718 mph.

Arie Luyendyk holds the four-lap qualifying record of 236.986 mph, also done in 1996, but not in a run for the pole. That means Dixon’s qualifying run was the second fastest in 106 runnings of the most prestigious race in the world.

Dixon’s first lap was an eye-popping 234.437 mph and drew a roar from the fans. His second lap was 234.162 and wife Emma bent over the pit wall in amazement, her hands covering her mouth. Dixon’s drop-off from there was minuscule: his fourth and final lap was 233.726 as his consistency gave Chip Ganassi Racing its seventh Indy 500 pole.

Dixon also started from the pole in 2008 when he scored his only Indy 500 win, as well as 2015, 2017 and last year.

“That’s what this place is about, the ups and downs that you have just in one day, it’s crazy,” said Dixon. His hands were shaking following his first run earlier Sunday.

Ganassi advanced all five of his drivers into the two-round qualifying shootout to determine the starting order for the first three rows for next week’s race. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson needed a massive save in the first turn of his first lap and didn’t advance out of the round of 12.

But Dixon did, along with his other three Honda-powered teammates. That made it Dixon, reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan in a head-to-head “Fast Six” shootout against Chevrolet-powered teammates Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay.

“This is what real competitors want, true competitors want this,” Ganassi said before the session. “This is a moment made for champions.”

VeeKay on Saturday had posted the third-fastest qualifying run in track history but didn’t have enough for Dixon’s big, big laps. Palou, who averaged 233.499, qualified second alongside his teammate and VeeKay was third at 233.385.

Carpenter was fourth and followed by Ericsson and Kanaan, who at 232.372 was the slowest of the final six shootout. But even the slowest cars were flying around Indy, which hasn’t seen speeds like these since 1996.

Kanaan’s lap would have been the eighth-fastest qualifying run in the record books written before the drivers rewrote history this weekend.


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Cannes: Transylvania-set ‘R.M.N.’ Probes a Ubiquitous Crisis

Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes Film Festival entry “R.M.N.” is set in an unnamed mountainous Transylvanian village in Romania, but the conflicts of ethnocentricity, racism and nationalism that permeate the multi-ethnic town could take place almost anywhere.

Of all the films competing for the top Palme d’Or prize at Cannes, none may be quite as of the moment as “R.M.N.” The movie, using a Romanian microcosm, captures the us-vs-them battles that have played out across Europe and beyond, wherever immigration and national identities have collided.

Mungiu, the celebrated Romanian filmmaker of the landmark 2007 abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” has long been accustomed to his films being written off as grim portraits of a faraway Eastern Europe. It’s a caricature he rejects, especially when it comes to “R.M.N.”

RMN is the Romanian abbreviation for an MRI, which, when scanning the brain, can reveal fascinating secrets of how human beings are wired, Mungiu told Agence France-Presse.

“Whenever journalists interpret that it’s yet again another somber painting of this country, well, it’s not about that country — or not only about that country,” Mungiu told reporters Sunday. “It’s good to check your own elections in your own countries.”

When a local bakery in need of workers — most of the town’s men have gone abroad to find work — hires a few men from Sri Lanka, a Romanian village’s already complicated mix of ethnicities — Romanian, Hungarian, German — turn increasingly volatile.

But “R.M.N.,” which features a powerhouse 17-minute single shot of a contentious town meeting, from the start teases at the question of who, exactly, is an outsider and who gets to define tradition. In the end, even the village’s local bears could be said to have their say.

“What is tradition? We do something because someone did this before. But why precisely do we do is this?” Mungiu said. “If you dig deep down, it’s a way of fighting back the fear you have of something. It’s a way of unleashing these violent impulses that you have.”

“I’m sorry to say this, but we are a very, very violent species of animal. And we need very, very little to identify an enemy as other,” added Mungiu. “You can see this today in the war in Ukraine.”

The Palme d’Or will be awarded May 28.


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Explainer: Why Will Russia’s Ukraine War Affect Wimbledon?

The usual trophies and prize money will be on the line for Novak Djokovic, Iga Swiatek and other top players at Wimbledon, but there is a significant change there this year: No one will earn ranking points, a valuable currency in tennis, when play begins June 27.

The women’s and men’s professional tours announced Friday they will not award those points at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament because of the All England Club’s decision to bar players from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.

Both the WTA and ATP said they were reacting to what they called “discrimination.”

Here is a look at how this unprecedented move came about and what it means:

What is happening in Ukraine?

Russia, with help from Belarus, launched an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. Russia’s bombardment and siege of the southern port city of Mariupol killed over 20,000 civilians, according to Ukraine, including strikes on a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians had taken shelter.

Why did Wimbledon bar Russians and Belarusians?

The All England Club, which runs the oldest Grand Slam tournament (Wimbledon was first held in 1877), announced in April it would not allow players from Russia or Belarus to enter the event in 2022. Chief Executive Sally Bolton defended the club’s move as following a directive from the British government, and she cited a “responsibility to play our part in limiting the possibility of Wimbledon being used to justify the harm being done to others by the Russian regime.”

Have other sports banned Russian athletes?

Yes, including in soccer, where the Russian men’s team was kicked out of qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup. Figure skating and track and field are among the other sports to have taken action against Russian and Belarusian athletes. In tennis, players from those countries have been allowed to compete — including at the French Open, the year’s second Grand Slam tournament, which begins Sunday in Paris — but as “neutral” athletes who are not being identified by their nationalities.

Who can’t play at Wimbledon?

The most prominent Russian tennis player at the moment is Daniil Medvedev, who won the U.S. Open in September and briefly reached No. 1 in the men’s rankings this year. Andrey Rublev, who is ranked No. 7 in the ATP, is another top male player. The WTA’s No. 7, Aryna Sabalenka, who was a semifinalist at Wimbledon a year ago, and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, are from Belarus.

Why cancel ranking points?

The WTA and ATP condemned the invasion of Ukraine, but said it was not fair for the All England Club to prevent certain players from playing because of the actions of their countries’ governments.

“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole,” the ATP said. “Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the tour.”

The International Tennis Federation also withdrew its ranking points from the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon.

Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked American man and seeded No. 13 at the French Open, said he thinks “most players agree” that athletes from Russia and Belarus should be allowed to play at Wimbledon. The ban, he said, “is a sign to show support for Ukraine, but you’re just kind of punishing people based off of where they were born … and they can’t really change that.”

How do ranking points work? Why do they matter?

The WTA and ATP official rankings date to the early 1970s and currently are based on each player’s best results over the preceding 52 weeks (women count their top 16 tournaments, men their top 19). Swiatek is the 28th woman to sit atop the WTA; Djokovic is one of 27 men to lead the ATP and has spent more weeks in that spot than anyone else. Wimbledon and the three other Grand Slam tournaments award 2,000 points apiece to the women’s and men’s singles champions, more than any other events. In addition to other measures such as trophies or prize money, rankings are a way for fans, sponsors and others — including the players themselves — to understand where athletes stand in the sport’s hierarchy. Technically, any tennis event that does not award ranking points is considered an exhibition.

Has this happened before?

Representatives of the ATP, WTA and ITF said they were unaware of any previous instances of ranking points being withheld from a tournament.

Will any players skip Wimbledon because there aren’t ranking points?

It’s too soon to know, but even without ranking points, Wimbledon still offers plenty of prestige and millions of dollars in payouts. “If you win it, I think you’d still be pretty happy,” said Jessica Pegula, an American seeded 11th at Roland Garros. “But I think it’s just up to each individual person — how they’re feeling, their motivation.”

What will happen at the US Open?

It is not yet known whether players from Russia or Belarus will be able to enter the U.S. Open, the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, which begins in New York Aug. 29. “We continue to monitor events,” U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier wrote in an email, “and are in active dialogue with the Ukraine and Russian/Belarusian players, the tours, the other Grand Slams, and other relevant parties.”


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Creator of ‘Star Wars’ X-Wing and Death Star Dies at 90

Colin Cantwell, the man who designed the spacecraft in the “Star Wars” films, has died. He was 90.

The Hollywood Reporter reported Sunday that Sierra Dall, Cantwell’s partner, confirmed that he died at his home in Colorado on Saturday.

Cantwell designed the prototypes for the X-wing Starfighter, TIE fighter and Death Star.

He also worked on films including “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “WarGames.”

Cantwell was born in San Francisco in 1932. Before working on Hollywood films, Cantwell attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he got a degree in animation. He also attended Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture.

In the 1960s, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA on educational programs about flights. Cantwell worked with NASA to feed Walter Cronkite updates during the 1969 moon landing.

Cantwell wrote two science fictions novels. He is survived by his partner of 24 years, Dall.


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California Church Leaders, Shooting Survivors Join in Prayer

When a gunman began shooting at a Taiwanese American church luncheon, Shoei Su said he froze.

The retired appraiser uses a walker and said he and many of the elderly congregants didn’t immediately know what was happening. He said the shooter said nothing before firing on churchgoers who were snapping photos after finishing lunch following last Sunday morning’s prayer service.

Nearly a week later, Su said he can’t sleep and is struggling to heal from the attack that killed one and wounded five in the close-knit congregation in the Southern California community of Laguna Woods, which is made up largely of retirees.

“At that time, we were not afraid,” he said. “Later, when we think about it, we’re afraid.”

His comments came as survivors, churchgoers and leaders from the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church joined in prayer Saturday and thanked community members for their support at an event on the campus of Geneva Presbyterian Church, where the Taiwanese congregation shares space.

Authorities say the gunman, David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, was motivated by hatred of Taiwan, where he was born and grew up after his family was forced from mainland China when Communists took control. He had no connection to the church but spent about an hour with attendees apparently to gain their trust so he could execute his plot, authorities said.

Authorities said Chou had two 9mm handguns and three bags containing four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and ammunition. They said he chained doors shut and glued locks before he began shooting.

Dr. John Cheng, the 52-year-old son of a congregant, charged him and was shot. He died at the scene, but his quick action disrupted the shooter, who was then hit by a chair thrown by the church’s former pastor, Billy Chang, and jumped on by several congregation members who used an extension cord to tie him up until police arrived.

Cheng was the only person killed. Five others were wounded, including four men aged 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman.

The community is still reeling from the attack. At Saturday’s event, churchgoers bowed their heads in prayer and several sobbed. Bouquets of sunflowers and roses were laid out with notes reading “RIP Dr. Cheng.”

Pastor Albany Lee, the congregation’s leader who was away last Sunday, said he remembers meeting with Cheng a few months ago while visiting the family after Cheng’s father died. He said Cheng, who didn’t usually attend the Taiwanese congregation but took his mother there last week, in his eyes is more than a hero but one of two angels who, along with Chang, saved the community.

On Sunday, his congregation will resume its weekly prayer service. Security will be tight and no media coverage allowed on the Geneva campus.

Lee said trauma specialists will be available to assist the community for the next few weeks and coming together for worship is critical, despite the pain many feel.

“I think this is the most important time that we need to come together as a faith community,” he said. “We can help each other.”


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African Union Chief Announces Visits to Moscow, Kyiv

Senegalese President Macky Sall said Sunday he would travel to Russia and Ukraine soon on behalf of the African Union, whose presidency he currently holds.

The trip had been due to take place on May 18 but didn’t go ahead due to scheduling issues and new dates have been put forward, Sall said at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

He had received a mandate from the African Union to undertake the trip, for which Russia had extended an invitation, he added.

“As soon as it’s set, I will go of course to Moscow and also to Kyiv and we have also accepted to get together all the heads of state of the African Union who want to with (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, who had expressed the need to communicate with the African heads of state,” he said. “That too will be done in the coming weeks.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has hit African economies hard due to rising cereal prices and fuel shortages, has met with a divided African response.

In early March, Senegal abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution — overwhelmingly adopted — that called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. 

However, a few weeks later it voted in favor of another resolution demanding Russia halt the war.

Nearly half of African nations abstained or did not vote in the two resolution votes.


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‘A Long Journey’: Volunteers From Belarus Fight for Ukraine

One is a restaurateur who fled Belarus when he learned he was about to be arrested for criticizing President Alexander Lukashenko. Another was given the choice of either denouncing fellow opposition activists or being jailed. And one is certain his brother was killed by the country’s security forces.

What united them is their determination to resist Lukashenko by fighting against Russian forces in Ukraine.

Belarusians are among those who have answered a call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for foreign fighters to go to Ukraine and join the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, given the high stakes in a conflict which many see as a battle pitting dictatorship against freedom.

For the Belarusians, who consider Ukrainians a brethren nation, the stakes feel especially high.

Russian troops used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine early in the war, and Lukashenko has publicly stood by longtime ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him as his “big brother.” Russia, for its part, has pumped billions of dollars into shoring up Lukashenko’s Soviet-style, state-controlled economy with cheap energy and loans.

Weakening Putin, the Belarusian volunteers believe, would also weaken Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, and create an opening to topple his oppressive government and bring democratic change to the nation of nearly 10 million.

For many of the Belarusians, their base is Poland, a country on NATO’s eastern flank that borders Belarus and Ukraine, and which has become a haven for pro-democracy Belarusian dissidents before becoming one for war refugees from Ukraine.

Some of the volunteer fighters are already in Poland, and some only pass through briefly on their way to Ukraine.

“We understand that it’s a long journey to free Belarus and the journey starts in Ukraine,” said Vadim Prokopiev, a 50-year-old business owner who used to run restaurants in Minsk. He fled the country after a rumor spread that he would be arrested for saying publicly that the government wasn’t doing enough for small businesses.

“When the Ukraine war will be eventually over, our war will just start. It is impossible to free the country of Belarus without driving Putin’s fascist troops out of Ukraine,” he said.

Prokopiev heads a unit called “Pahonia” that has been training recruits. The Associated Press interviewed him as he oversaw an exercise involving firing pistols and other weapons into old cars in simulations of war scenarios. They were being trained by a Polish ex-police officer who is now a private shooting instructor.

Prokopiev wants his men to gain critical battle experience, and he hopes that one day soon a window of opportunity will open for democratic change in Belarus. But he says it will require fighters like himself to be prepared, and for members of the security forces in Belarus to turn against Lukashenko.

The 2020 presidential election in Belarus was widely seen as fraudulent, but massive street protests against Lukashenko being awarded a sixth term were met with a brutal government crackdown, leading to Prokopiev’s belief that no “velvet revolution” can be expected in Belarus.

“Power from Lukashenko can only be taken by force,” he said.

 

On Saturday, men with another unit, Kastus Kalinouski, gathered in Warsaw in the Belarus House, where sleeping bags, mats and other Ukraine-bound equipment were piled high. They sat together, talking and snacking on chocolate and coffee as they prepared to deploy to Ukraine later in the day. Most didn’t want to be interviewed out of concerns for their security and that of family back home.

The regiment, formally part of Ukraine’s armed forces, was named after the leader of an anti-Russian insurrection in the 19th century who is viewed as a national hero in Belarus.

Lukashenko has called them “crazy Belarusian citizens,” and authorities have put 50 members of Kastus Kalinouski on a wanted list and initiated criminal cases against them.

One willing to describe his motivations was a 19-year-old, Ales, who has lived in Poland since last year. He fled Belarus after the country’s security service, which is still called the KGB, detained him and forced him to denounce an anti-Lukashenko resistance group in a video. He was told he would be jailed if he didn’t comply.

Dressed all in black from a hooded sweatshirt to his boots, he admitted to feeling nervous as the moment arrived to head into Ukraine. He had never received any military training but would get it once he arrived in Ukraine. But just how much, and where he would be deployed, he didn’t yet know.

He said he was going to fight not only to help Ukraine “but to make Belarus independent.” He said it was also important for him that people realize that the Belarusian people are very different from the Lukashenko government.

It is a dangerous mission. At least four volunteers from the Kastus Kalinouski unit have already died. A deputy commander, Aliaksiej Skoblia, was killed in a Russian ambush near Kyiv and was later recognized by Zelenskyy as a ‘Hero of Ukraine.’

Still, the fighting in Ukraine can feel less dangerous at times than seeking to resist Lukashenko at home, where many activists are in prison facing harsh conditions.

Organizing the Kastus Kalinouski recruits was Pavel Kukhta, a 24-year-old who already fought in Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2016, suffering burns and the loss of most of the hearing in one ear.

Kukhta said his half brother, Nikita Krivtsov, was found dead by hanging in a wooded area outside Minsk in 2020. Police said there was no evidence of foul play, but Kukhta says he and the rest of the family are certain Krivtsov was killed for joining the anti-Lukashenko protests.

He insists that his support for Ukraine is not about revenge, and only about fighting for democratic change.

“If Putin is defeated, Lukashenko will be defeated,” he said.


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Якщо полякам знадобиться допомога, Україна її надасть – Зеленський анонсував відповідний законопроєкт

Раніше Сейм Польщі ухвалив закон про допомогу громадянам України, які вимушено покинули свою країну через війну


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