Russian crew return to Earth after filming first movie in space

1 / 2
Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, Russian actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko rest in chairs after landing in a remote area outside Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Oct. 17, 2021. (Roscosmos via Reuters)
2 / 2
Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, center, actress Yulia Peresild, left, and film director Klim Shipenko walking to board the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft prior to its launch on Oct. 5, 2021. (Russian Space Agency Roscosmos via AFP)
Short Url
Updated 17 October 2021

Russian crew return to Earth after filming first movie in space

  • The filmmakers blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month

MOSCOW: A Russian actress and a film director returned to Earth Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting scenes for the first movie in orbit.
Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko landed as scheduled on Kazakhstan’s steppe at 0436 GMT, according to footage broadcast live by the Russian space agency.
They were ferried back to terra firma by cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who had been on the space station for the past six months.
“The descent vehicle of the crewed spacecraft Soyuz MS-18 is standing upright and is secure. The crew are feeling good!” Russian space agency Roscosmos tweeted.
The filmmakers had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month, traveling to the ISS with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to film scenes for “The Challenge.”
If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The movie’s plot, which has been mostly kept under wraps along with its budget, centers around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.
Shkaplerov, 49, along with the two Russian cosmonauts who were already aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.
The mission was not without small hitches.
As the film crew docked at the ISS earlier this month, Shkaplerov had to switch to manual control.
And when Russian flight controllers on Friday conducted a test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft the ship’s thruster fired unexpectedly and destabilized the ISS for 30 minutes, a NASA spokesman told the Russian news agency TASS.
But the spokesman confirmed their departure would go ahead as scheduled.
Their landing, which was documented by a film crew, will also feature in the movie, Konstantin Ernst, the head of the Kremlin-friendly Channel One TV network and a co-producer of “The Challenge,” said.
The mission will add to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.
The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.
But compared with the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate and its space industry is fighting to secure state funding with the Kremlin prioritising military spending.
Its space agency is still reliant on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches.
Russia is also falling behind in the global space race, facing tough competition from the United States and China, with Beijing showing growing ambitions in the industry.
Russia’s Roscosmos was also dealt a blow after SpaceX last year successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS, ending Moscow’s monopoly for journeys to the orbital station.
In a bid to spruce up its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space program revealed this year that it will be reviving its tourism plan to ferry fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.
After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists — including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.


Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Updated 22 January 2022

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

  • Ducey's lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19

PHOENIX: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday over its demand that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don’t have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix comes a week after the US Treasury Department demanded that Ducey either restructure the $163 million program to eliminate restrictions it says undermine public health recommendations or face a repayment demand.
The Treasury Department also wants changes to a $10 million program Ducey created that gives private school tuition money to parents if their children’s schools have mask mandates.
Ducey’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act on its own and without legal authority. It asks a court to declare that the Treasury Department’s rules are illegal and permanently block enforcement and any demands that it pay back the $173 million it is spending on the two programs.
“Nothing in that underlying statute authorizes Treasury to condition the use of (ARPA) monies on following measures that, in the view of Treasury, stop the spread of COVID-19,” the lawsuit says. “If Congress had truly intended to give Treasury the power to dictate public health edicts to the States, and recoup or withhold (monies) ... it would have spoken clearly on the matter. It did not.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“By discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote in last week’s letter.
The Treasury Department started demanding that Ducey change the programs in October. It was part of a concerted effort to force Arizona and some other Republican-led states that have opposed mask mandates or were using pandemic funding to advance their own agendas to end those practices.
Ducey rejected Treasury’s request the following month, and last week the Biden administration followed up with a formal demand that it cease using the money for the disputed programs or face either repayment demands or withholding of additional money it is set to receive under Biden’s COVID relief bill.
Friday’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department initially recognized that states have “broad latitude to choose whether and how to use the (money) to respond to and address the negative economic impact” of COVID-19. But then it changed course, and created the new rules, the suit said.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit.
At issue are two state programs the Republican governor created last summer meant to help schools and students.
Arizona’s Education Plus-Up Grant Program provides $163 million in funding to schools in higher-income areas that received less than $1,800 per student in federal virus aid. Districts that require face coverings or that have closed due to virus outbreaks are ineligible.
Another called the COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program provides for up to $7,000 for parents if their child’s school requires face coverings or quarantines after exposure. It lets parents use the money for private school tuition or other education costs and its design mirrors the state’s existing school voucher program.
In a letter sent last week, the Treasury Department warned that the state has 60 days to remove the anti-masking provisions before the federal government moves to recover the relief money, and it threatened to withhold the next tranche of aid as well.
Ducey created the programs in part to up the pressure on school districts that had mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions, saying they were hurting children and parents who had endured more than a year of school shutdowns, remote learning and other restrictions. Provisions in the state budget that barred school mask mandates statewide were later thrown out by the Arizona Supreme Court because they were improperly adopted, but Ducey did not change the programs.
“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in August. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
Arizona has received about half of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill, and the Treasury Department said it may withhold payments if Ducey failed to comply with its demands.


Search on for humpback whale entangled in debris off Hawaii

Updated 21 January 2022

Search on for humpback whale entangled in debris off Hawaii

  • First responders removed about 600 meters of heavy-gauge line from the animal over the weekend when it was off the island of Kauai
  • Officials plan to try to find the whale and clear more line from it as conditions permit

POIPU, Hawaii: A marine mammal rescue team is looking for an adult humpback whale entangled in debris off the coast of Hawaii.
First responders removed about 2,000 feet (600 meters) of heavy-gauge line from the animal over the weekend when it was off the island of Kauai, The Garden Island newspaper reported. Authorities detached most of the gear but weren’t able to get all of it off before the whale moved on.
Officials plan to try to find the whale and clear more line from it as conditions permit. They will study the removed gear to try to determine what it is and where it came from.
Large whales can become entangled in active or abandoned fishing gear or other ropes and lines in the ocean. The drag from debris can cause whales to use more energy to swim. It can also make it harder for them to feed, potentially leading to starvation. The debris can also injure the animals and trigger infections.
The entangled whale was emaciated, light-colored and rough-skinned, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. It had patches of rust-colored whale lice, indicating it was distressed.
Graham Talaber, who lives in the community of Koloa on Kauai, noticed rope and a dark spot in the water while filming green sea turtles from with a drone-mounted camera on Sunday. After 10 to 15 minutes of hovering over the area, his worries were confirmed when he saw a humpback at the end of a big net.
“It’s just right there, right in front of you, this massive, bus-size animal struggling for its life,” Talaber said. He asked his father to alert NOAA.
The responder team attached a satellite telemetry buoy to the whale, which will self-release in about a week. The buoy signaled when the whale returned to Kauai waters on Wednesday but the team could not spot the whale.


FIFA boss Infantino living in Doha before World Cup

Updated 20 January 2022

FIFA boss Infantino living in Doha before World Cup

  • Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Infantino was living in Doha, where he rents a house
  • Two of his four daughters attend school in the build-up to the World Cup

PARIS: FIFA president Gianni Infantino has moved to Doha on a temporary basis to oversee the build-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year, world football governing body confirmed on Thursday.
“As communicated in October 2021, the FIFA President informed the FIFA Council that he would divide his presence between Zurich, Doha and across the world, in order to deliver his presidential duties and be closer to the FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said in a statement.
“As he did during the FIFA Arab Cup, he will work alongside other FIFA staff in our office in Doha, when required, until the conclusion of the tournament. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr.Infantino has residency, and remains liable to pay taxes, in Switzerland.”
Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Infantino was living in Doha, where he rents a house and two of his four daughters attend school in the build-up to the World Cup which takes place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.
Meanwhile, Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter said it was “incomprehensible” that the 51-year-old should be based elsewhere than FIFA’s headquarters which have been in Zurich since 1932.
“The place of the president of Fifa is where the headquarters are and it’s in Zurich,” Blatter told French radio on Thursday.
“I cannot say that it is outrageous. But I can say that it is incomprehensible that he has gone to live there with his family. It leaves a bitter taste,” said Blatter.
“It’s an abandonment of responsibility, because he must stay where Fifa has its headquarters, especially at a time when we have internal problems.”
Blatter, 85, was FIFA president between 1998 and 2015 when he was forced to stand down and banned from football for eight years, reduced later to six, over ethics breaches.


Colombian author García Márquez had secret Mexican daughter

Updated 18 January 2022

Colombian author García Márquez had secret Mexican daughter

  • Márquez died in Mexico City in 2014, where thousands of his readers lined up to see his casket in a concert hall

BOGOTA, Colombia: For decades renowned Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez kept the public from knowing about an intimate aspect of his life: He had a daughter with a Mexican writer, with whom he had an extramarital affair in the early 1990s.
The closely guarded secret was published by Colombian newspaper El Universal on Sunday and confirmed to the Associated Press by two relatives of the Nobel Prize-winning author, who is famous for novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
Márquez died in Mexico City in 2014, where thousands of his readers lined up to see his casket in a concert hall. He was married for more than five decades to Mercedes Barcha and the couple had two children named Rodrigo and Gonzalo. They lived in Mexico City for much of their lives.
El Universal said that in the early 1990s Márquez had a daughter with Susana Cato, a writer and journalist who worked with Márquez on two movie scripts and who also interviewed him for a 1996 magazine story. Cato and Marquez named their daughter Indira: She is now in her early 30s and uses her mother’s surname.
Shani García Márquez, one of the writer’s nieces, told the AP that she had known for years about her cousin Indira, but had not mentioned her to the media because her parents always asked her to be discrete about her uncle’s personal life.
Gabriel Eligio Torres García, who is also a nephew of the Colombian writer, said he has been in touch with Indira Cato through social media, though he has never met her in person.
“My cousins Rodrigo and Gonzalo told me about her casually during a reunion,” he said.
Other members of García Márquez’s family, cited by El Universal, said they had not spoken about the writer’s daughter previously out of “respect” for Mercedes Barcha who died in August 2020. Torres García said that Indira Cato’s mother, Susana, had also been discrete about her daughter’s lineage, to keep her away from the media spotlight.
Indira Cato is now a documentary producer in Mexico City. She won several awards for a 2014 documentary on migrants passing through Mexico.
García Márquez’ family said they didn’t want to share her contact information because they were not authorized to do so, and the AP could not contact Indira Cato independently.
“She leads a very artistic lifestyle, like many people in this family,” said Shani García. “It makes us very happy that she has shined on her own.”

Related


Dog rescued from collapsed house 6 days after landslide

Updated 15 January 2022

Dog rescued from collapsed house 6 days after landslide

  • A person emerged from the house Thursday carrying her alert black Labrador named Sammy
  • The Seattle Fire Department said firefighters had responded to reports of a dog possibly trapped inside the wreckage of the house

SEATTLE: A dog that was trapped for six days inside a house that collapsed last week in a landslide has been rescued, officials said.
“My baby. My baby,” home owner Didi Fritts said when a person emerged from the house Thursday carrying her alert black Labrador named Sammy, KING-TV reported.
The Seattle Fire Department said on Twitter Thursday that firefighters had responded to reports of a dog possibly trapped inside the wreckage of the house.
Veterinarians at the scene examined the dog, who seemed alert and wagged her tail after seeing Fritts, video from the TV station showed. The fire department described Sammy’s condition as stable.
The landslide on Jan. 7 caused the house to slide off its foundation, leaving James Fritts trapped inside, while his wife Didi crawled to safety.
Their other dog Lilly died in the collapse, The Seattle Times reported. Family members said they had returned daily to their house, hoping to hear the missing dog.
Rescue workers heard the dog when they arrived, David Cuerpo, a spokesperson for the Seattle Fire Department, told the newspaper.
They used chainsaws to cut through the home’s walls and flooring to get to the dog, working cautiously amid worries that the unstable home could suffer another collapse.
Rescue workers proceeded cautiously on Thursday, worried the house might suffer another collapse.