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First person

The First Person to Be Cured of HIV Has Passed Away From Cancer – ScienceAlert

Timothy Ray Brown in 2012. (T. J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images via AFP)


PATRICK GALEY, AFP


1 OCTOBER 2020

The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown – known as the “Berlin Patient” – has died from cancer, the International AIDS Society (IAS) announced Wednesday. 

Brown made medical history and became a symbol of hope for the tens of millions of people living with the virus that causes AIDS when he was cured more than a decade ago.

He had been living with a recurrence of leukaemia for several months and received hospice care at his home in Palm Springs, California. 

“On behalf of all its members… the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim, and his family and friends,” said IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman. 

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hutter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”

Brown was diagnosed with HIV while he was studying in Berlin in 1995. A decade later, he was diagnosed with leukaemia, a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

To treat his leukaemia, his doctor at the Free University of Berlin used a stem cell transplant from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that gave him natural resistance to HIV, hoping it may wipe out both diseases.

It took two painful and dangerous procedures, but it was a success: in 2008 Brown was declared free of the two ailments, and was initially dubbed “the Berlin Patient” at a medical conference to preserve his anonymity.

Two years later, he decided to break his silence and went on to become a public figure, giving speeches and interviews and starting his own foundation.

“I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS,” he told AFP in 2012. “It’s very wonderful, being cured of HIV.”

‘Champion’

Ten years after Brown was cured, a second HIV patient – dubbed “the London Patient” – was revealed to be in remission 19 months after undergoing a similar procedure. 

The patient, Adam Castillejo, is currently HIV-free. In August a California woman was reported to have no traces of HIV despite not using anti-retroviral treatment. 

It is thought she may be the first person to be cured of HIV without undergoing the risky bone marrow treatment. 

Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS and director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, praised Brown as a “champion and advocate” of a cure for HIV.

“It is the hope of the scientific community that one day we can honour his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and cures using gene editing or techniques that boost immune control,” she said.

© Agence France-Presse

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Fact-checking First

Fact-checking the first presidential debate after a chaotic night in Cleveland – CBS This Morning


Fact-checking the first presidential debate after a chaotic night in Cleveland – YouTube













































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First operational

First operational Crew Dragon launch slips to Halloween – Spaceflight Now

The Crew-1 mission will include mission specialist Shannon Walker, vehicle pilot Victor Glover, commander Mike Hopkins and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. Credit: NASA

NASA announced Monday that the launch of the first operational crew rotation mission to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is set for the predawn hours of Halloween, eight days later than previously planned.

The Crew Dragon spaceship is scheduled to blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at around 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) on Oct. 31, the space agency said.

If the mission takes off as scheduled, the crew capsule will dock with the International Space Station around a day later, either late on Oct. 31 or early Nov. 1.

Commander Michael Hopkins will lead the four-person crew. He will be joined by pilot Victor Glover and mission specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi to kick off a six-month expedition on the space station.

The mission, known as Crew-1, was previously scheduled for launch Oct. 23. NASA said the delay to Oct. 31 will “deconflict” the Crew 1 launch and docking with the scheduled arrival Oct. 14 of a three-person Soyuz crew at the space station, and the departure and landing of an outgoing station crew Oct. 21.

“This additional time is needed to ensure closure of all open work, both on the ground and aboard the station, ahead of the Crew-1 arrival,” NASA said.

The delay will also give engineers more time to conduct additional testing to isolate a small air leak inside the space station’s pressurized cabin. Greg Dorth, NASA’s manager of the space station external integration office, said Monday that the leak is “very, very small.”

“The leak is not a safety of crew nor a safety of station issue,” Dorth said Monday. “It’s a very, very small leak. It’s an impact to our consumables, but we have planned for that. We can address the leak as we continue the investigation.”

The space station’s three residents spent three days isolated in the Russian segment of the complex in August, and the crew spent another weekend in the Russian section of the station last weekend in a bid to help ground teams isolate the location of the leak.

“As of this morning, there was no clear indication of where the leak is,” Dorth said Monday. “The teams are still looking at the data and evaluating it, and we will continue to search for this very, very small leak.”

NASA said SpaceX “continues to make progress on preparations of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, and the adjusted date allows the teams additional time for completing open work ahead of launch.”

Hopkins and his crewmates finished training on Crew Dragon systems last week at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. “We’ve got our license to fly!” Glover tweeted.

Crew-1 is complete with Dragon Rider training. We’ve got our license to fly! Thank you to all that made this possible. We hope to make you proud! pic.twitter.com/HA2AYz77Bj

— Victor Glover (@VicGlover) September 26, 2020

The Crew-1 mission follows a successful test flight known as Demo-2, in which NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to the space station on a two-month mission to wring out the human-rated capsule before officials clear it for regular missions.

Hurley and Behnken launched May 30 and returned to Earth on Aug. 2.

Beginning with Crew-1, SpaceX plans to launch multiple Crew Dragon missions per year with NASA astronauts, international crew members, and fare-paying private passengers. NASA is in the final stages of formally certifying the Crew Dragon for operational missions.

Noguchi also tweeted last week that the Crew-1 astronauts had completed their final underwater spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Astronauts train in a giant pool to mimic the weightless conditions in orbit.

#NASA #SpaceX #Crew1 final spacewalk underwater training is completed, with flying colors! Thanks all the divers and support operators at #NBL and instructors at #JSC! pic.twitter.com/CzJo9ZLeB5

— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡-(のぐち そういち) (@Astro_Soichi) September 25, 2020

NASA plans to host a series of press conferences Tuesday to preview the Crew-1 mission.

The four-person crew set for launch Oct. 31 will remain aboard the space station until around April 2021, when another Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to dock with a fresh four-person team of astronauts. Hopkins and his crewmates will then depart in their Crew Dragon capsule to head for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is one of two new U.S. spaceships designed to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. Developed under a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA, the commercial Crew Dragon capsule is also configured to carry private astronauts into low Earth orbit, beginning with a 10-day mission next October that is expected to include actor Tom Cruise.

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule is designed the same types of missions as the Crew Dragon. But the Starliner program has run into delays, an an unpiloted test flight of a Starliner spacecraft in December 2019 prematurely ended after a software error prevented it from docking with the space station.

NASA and Boeing have agreed to launch a second Starliner test flight without astronauts to ensure the software issues are resolved before the first Starliner demonstration mission with crew members.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are seen on pad 39A on May 27 ahead of the launch of the Demo-2 mission. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The second unpiloted Starliner test flight is currently scheduled for launch in January aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. If it goes well, Boeing could be ready to fly another Starliner to the space station with Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann no earlier than June 2021.

Then NASA could approve Boeing’s Starliner to begin regular trips to and from the space station. NASA’s contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each include provisions for six crew rotation missions to the space station through 2024.

While the new U.S. vehicles are coming online, Russian Soyuz missions will continue transporting space station crews in the coming years. Russian technicians at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are readying the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft for launch at 1:45 a.m. EDT (0545 GMT) Oct. 14 with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins for their own six-month stint on the space station.

Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins will dock with the space station around three hours after liftoff, joining station commander Chris Cassidy and his Russian crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner have been on the space station since April. They are due to depart the station and return to Earth in their Soyuz MS-16 capsule Oct. 21.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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cases First

First cases of flu hit Bay Area, marking start of a dangerous season ahead – San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area hospitals have reported their first cases of influenza, signaling the start of what could be a turbulent flu season with COVID-19 in the mix.

The flu season doesn’t typically begin in earnest until December or January in California, but doctors already are bracing for a worst-case scenario of widespread influenza on top of the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses that may be circulating.

Public health experts want as many people as possible to get vaccinated against influenza over the next couple of months to protect themselves and keep hospitals from being overrun. At the same time, health care providers need to expand testing for both the coronavirus and the flu in the coming weeks so they can quickly sort out who’s infected with either virus — or if people are sick with both.

It’s possible that the Bay Area may see a remarkably calm flu season if large numbers of people are vaccinated and if residents continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing to prevent spread of the coronavirus. The Southern Hemisphere had virtually no influenza over their winter months, suggesting that COVID-19 prevention can help stop the flu, too, according to a study released Thursday.

But if the coronavirus surges in the fall, as it did this summer, and if the coming flu season isn’t blunted by protective measures, that could be a public health nightmare, infectious disease experts warn. Hospitals could be overwhelmed, potentially leading to more serious illness and death from both diseases.

“Even a mild flu season is disastrous on top of what is already an uncontrolled pandemic,” said Dr. Charlies Chiu, head of UCSF’s infectious diseases division. “We’re not handling COVID-19 very well. A few thousand flu cases could be enough to overwhelm our hospital system.”

Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and other major providers began offering flu shot clinics this month and anticipate vaccinating 10% to 15% more people this year than usual. Most people are being advised to find a drive-through vaccination clinic near them, to avoid clustering in doctor offices or other indoor spaces where COVID-19 could spread.

Doctors want as many people vaccinated as possible to prevent the widespread illness that occurs in a normal flu season, and also to protect individuals from becoming co-infected with influenza and the coronavirus. There also is evidence that the flu vaccine may offer some protection against serious illness from the coronavirus, though more study is needed, said Dr. Jeffrey Silvers, medical director of infectious disease at Sutter Health in the Bay Area.

“The flu shot stimulates part of your immune system that is the same part stimulated for COVID,” Silvers said. “So you may get a second benefit from the flu shot this year. If you do get COVID, you may not get as severe disease.”

Damiel Amores administers a flu vaccine to Daniel Fitzpatrick at Kaiser Permanente medical center in Redwood City.

The UCSF emergency department this week reported its first case of Type A seasonal influenza, and the first Type B case was reported at an East Bay hospital last week, infectious disease experts said. The state public health department has not yet started issuing weekly flu reports as it does during the season.

Getting the vaccine

Anyone can find a flu vaccine location at vaccinefinder.org. Many pharmacies offer them at low cost or free.

Kaiser recommends that its members get vaccinated at one of its drive-through clinics. Appointments aren’t necessary, but members should make a reservation online before showing up. Clinic locations and reservations are at kp.org.

Sutter Health patients can book an appointment online at sutterhealth.org/flu.

Doctors say they typically see a handful of flu cases through the summer, so the recent reports are not cause for concern. In fact, flu reports have been lower than usual in recent months, partly because no one’s looking for it — testing resources have been diverted to the coronavirus.

Another explanation for the low numbers is that social distancing, though not effective enough to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases over the summer, quashed the small amount of influenza that circulates in the off-season. A study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that coronavirus containment efforts may have led to an early and abrupt end to the U.S. flu season in March. And flu reports during the typically slow summer months are at “historical lows,” according to the CDC.

More compelling evidence that COVID-19 control efforts can also stop the flu: Three Southern Hemisphere countries reported almost no influenza during their usual flu season, according to the CDC. Australia, Chile and South Africa, combined, reported only 51 flu cases out of 83,307 samples tested in April through July, a positive rate well below 1%. In the previous three years, the positive rate was about 14% for those three countries in that time frame.

That bodes well for California and the Bay Area, if people stick to social distancing in the fall and winter, infectious disease experts said.

“We’re really, really hopeful that universal masking will not only decrease transmission of COVID but also flu,” said Dr. Maria Raven, chief of emergency medicine at UCSF, in a panel discussion on the pandemic on Wednesday. “We’ve seen that in the Southern Hemisphere. We’re hopeful for that to happen here, but prepared for it to not happen.”

Over the next month or two testing for both influenza and the coronavirus will increase, as more respiratory illnesses begin to circulate and doctors face patients with symptoms like cough and fever that aren’t easily pinned to one disease or another.

Major providers like Kaiser are hoping to get a test soon that would let them screen for influenza and the coronavirus at the same time. The CDC developed such a test and it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July, but it has yet to be widely distributed.

This week, Kaiser sent out an advisory to members meant to help them distinguish between symptoms of COVID-19, influenza and common colds. But doctors noted that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 without a laboratory test.

Influenza and the coronavirus both can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath and body aches; the only distinguishing factor for COVID-19 is a loss of taste and smell, but not everyone experiences that symptom. Colds are a little easier to tell apart because they don’t usually include a fever and people don’t feel nearly as awful, but they could still be confused with a mild case of COVID-19.

Last spring, when the coronavirus first began circulating widely and testing resources were slim, public health officials told people to not bother getting tested unless they were seriously ill or had contact with a known COVID-19 case. But the guidance will be different this fall, health care providers said.

To control the pandemic, everyone who may have the coronavirus should be tested right away so that their cases can be investigated. Plus, doctors will want to know right away whether someone has influenza, which can be treated with antivirals, or COVID-19, which would require more aggressive isolation protocols.

“Definitely our philosophy during this fall and winter is going to be to test very heavily,” said Randy Bergen, clinical lead for Kaiser’s flu vaccination program in Northern California. “These conditions — influenza, COVID, colds and even respiratory difficulties from smoke and allergies — have a huge degree of overlap in symptoms. And in terms of distinguishing flu from COVID, that’s really difficult.”

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: eallday@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @erinallday

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First Trump

Trump to hold first entirely indoor rally in nearly three months – CNN

(CNN)President Donald Trump is expected to rally thousands of supporters indoors on Sunday for the first time in nearly three months.

The campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada — which will be held inside a facility of Xtreme Manufacturing — is expected to violate the state of Nevada’s restriction on gatherings of 50 people or more. It follows a stretch of outdoor events after Trump’s controversial indoor Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally in June saw underwhelming attendance.
The indoor event, which comes as US coronavirus deaths near 200,000, follows a turbulent week for the President as his campaign navigates the fall out of his Covid-19 response. Trump has long viewed rallies as an outlet where he can connect with his supporters in a way that he can’t when he’s in Washington, DC, and has blamed bad poll numbers on his absence from the campaign trail.
But his last entirely indoor rally in Tulsa brought considerable controversy after the city experienced a surge in coronavirus cases a little more than 2 weeks after the event and multiple campaign staffers along with Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus.
In the end, fewer than 6,200 people attended the rally that was meant to signal Trump’s return to the campaign trail. The low attendance was blamed on the intense backlash from the media and “radical protestors” about convening such a large crowd during the pandemic.
Henderson has already warned Xtreme Manufacturing that it will be violating the state regulations if the rally proceeds.
“The City of Henderson has issued a compliance letter and verbal warning to the event organizer that the event as planned would be in direct violation of the governor’s COVID-19 emergency directives. Specifically, gatherings of more than 50 people in a private or public setting is prohibited,” City of Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards told CNN in a statement.
“Large live events must be approved by the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Division of Industrial Relations and at this time, the City has not been notified that this event has been approved. The City may assess a fine of up to $500 per violation of the governor’s directives as well as suspend or revoke the business license.”
The Trump campaign is not estimating how many people may attend, but the event is expected to exceed the state limit.
The venue is not expected to enforce social distancing for the attendees who will be sitting in chairs lined up next to each other in rows, and few people attending any of the recent rallies have been wearing masks. CNN has asked the campaign why it is holding the rally completely inside.
When asked generally about the Nevada rallies and whether it would limit the amount of attendees, the Trump campaign on Saturday only offered vague explanations of the protocols it will follow.
“Every attendee will get a temperature check prior to admission, be provided a mask they’re encouraged to wear, and have access to plenty of hand sanitizers,” a campaign official told CNN.
Xtreme Manufacturing details on its website an even stricter policy for attendance levels than the state has put into place: “We have restricted meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people in large areas, and when possible, to attend meetings by telephone or video conferencing.”
A spokesman for the company has not returned numerous requests seeking comment about why it decided to host the rally.
Mike Gwin, a spokesman for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, said in a statement Sunday evening, “if Donald Trump cared at all about curbing this virus and protecting the safety of his supporters, he wouldn’t hold events like this, but Trump doesn’t and he won’t.”
“Every rally turned superspreader event Donald Trump decides to hold serves as another reminder to Americans that Trump still refuses to take this pandemic seriously and still doesn’t have a plan to stop it, even after nearly 200,000 deaths and untold economic damage,” he said.
That message was echoed by Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar who told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Sunday evening that she “literally can’t believe the President is doing this.”
Klobuchar, whose husband has recovered from coronavirus after contracting it in March, added, “what the President is doing is just unbelievable to me — that a leader of America would do something like this to the people of this country.”
The owner of Xtreme, Don Ahern, also owns a Las Vegas hotel which was fined after it hosted an August “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign event that exceeded the state limit and also violated some city health restrictions.
That hotel sued Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and a Las Vegas official after it was fined arguing the limit of 50 people shows “disparate treatment” of some businesses.
The original locations chosen by the campaign for their Nevada rallies, which were expected to be at airport hangars with mixture of the event being both in the open air enclosure and outside, pulled out because they were going to exceed the 50 person state limit.

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First trailer

First Dune trailer: Denis Villeneuve sci-fi saga promises to be beyond epic – CNET

dune-2src2src-remake-4

Welcome to Arrakis.


Chiabella James

A crusade is coming. A legend will be born. We now have the first trailer for Dune, an epic and star-studded new version of the classic sci-fi novel series.

The man in charge is Denis Villeneuve, Oscar-winning French-Canadian director who already proved his mastery of thoughtful and grandly spectacular sci-fi with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. The Dune trailer makes it clear he’s taking things up a notch in terms of scale, as this new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune books looks set to be an epic of epics. Seriously, get a load of this thing:

Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, scion of a dynasty of powerful space nobles up to their neck in space legends and space politics. Oscar Isaac is his space dad, staking his clan’s future on a desert planet where space witches, space baddies and absolutely enormous space worms clash amid the wind-whipped glittering sand. Also roaming the dunes is Emmy-nominated Zendaya, the beguiling figure from our young hero’s space dreams.

Entertain your brain with the coolest news from streaming to superheroes, memes to video games.

Playing out to the soaring strains of epic tune Eclipse, originally by Pink Floyd, the trailer also gives a few glimpses of the fittingly stellar cast. Charlotte RamplingDave BautistaJason MomoaJavier BardemJosh BrolinRebecca Ferguson and Stellan Skarsgård appear decked out in lavish costumes amid vast sets and sumptuous imagery, in a film that will clearly give Blade Runner 2049 a run for its money in terms of signature style.

And this is just the start: A sequel is already planned to complete the story, as well as a TV series, Dune: The Sisterhood with Villeneuve also involved.

Dune is scheduled to be released in theaters Dec. 18. Fingers crossed it’s as legendary as the trailer promises.

New movie calendar for 2020 and 2021 following coronavirus delays


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First Israeli

First Israeli commercial flight between Israel and UAE takes to the skies – CNN

Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN)The first Israeli commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took to the skies on Monday, after an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.

Several top Trump administration officials were on board the plane, escorting Israeli government officials from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi for talks with their Emirati counterparts, as part of the White House-brokered plan.
The Boeing 737 was given permission to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace, in a first for Israeli carrier El Al, its captain Tal Becker announced shortly before take-off.
The flight would have taken seven hours if it had not been allowed to use Saudi airspace, Becker said; instead it took just over three hours. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not share diplomatic relations.
President Donald Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and the Director of Israel’s National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat all spoke briefly to the media after arriving on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion airport on Monday morning.
“This is a historic flight and we hope that this would start a more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner said. “The future should not be determined by the past.”
Brian Hook, the outgoing US Special Representative for Iran, and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Avi Berkowitz, are escorting Israeli government experts in aviation, space, health and banking, according to a senior White House official.
The flight number — LY 971 — was specially chosen for the flight, as it is the dialing code for the UAE. The return flight will be LY 972 — Israel’s dialing code.
While members of the public were not able to purchase a ticket for the historic journey, it meets the Federal Aviation Administration’s criteria for a commercial flight because some of those on board will be paying for their tickets.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it the “first ever Israeli commercial flight” to the UAE, a characterization also used by the UAE’s Foreign Ministry.
Earlier this month, the White House released a lengthy joint statement between the US, UAE and Israel, calling the “full normalization of relations” between Israel and the UAE a “historic diplomatic breakthrough” and a positive development in efforts to reinforce solidarity against Iran.
Israel vowed to ​temporarily “suspend​” plans to annex the West Bank, and the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued a federal decree abolishing a law boycotting Israel.
It means individuals and companies in the UAE may enter into agreements with Israelis and carry out commercial and financial dealings in the country, as well as exchange, possess or trade Israeli goods and products in the UAE.
The flight comes as part of the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel. It also lays out a roadmap towards joint cooperation and bilateral relations by promoting economic growth and technological innovation.
It is the first scheduled El Al flight in many months — the carrier has effectively shut down its operations since the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The flight is not the first direct flight between Israel and the UAE, nor is it the first flight between the two countries by a commercial carrier on a special mission.
In May, an unmarked Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi landed at Ben-Gurion airport carrying medical supplies intended for Palestinians. A month later, another Etihad Airways flight made the same journey, this time in full livery with the UAE flag on the side. These flights overflew Kuwait, Iraq, and Turkey before landing in Israel.

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First Jeanette

NASA: Jeanette Epps could become first Black woman to join ISS crew – CNN

New York (CNN Business)Two years ago, NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps was slated to fly into orbit aboard a Russian spacecraft and become the first Black astronaut to serve as a crew member of the International Space Station.

At the last minute, Epps was removed from that assignment with no explanation.
Though more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, none has had the opportunity to live and work in space for an extended period, as the ISS has enabled more than 200 astronauts to do since 2000.
On Tuesday, after years of speculation about why NASA removed Epps from her assignment, she was finally reassigned. NASA said she will join astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on a 2021 mission aboard a Boeing-built Starliner spacecraft, a vehicle still under development that is expected to re-do a key test flight later this year.
Epps has a doctorate in aerospace engineering and served seven years as a technical intelligence officer at the CIA before joining the astronaut corps in 2009. NASA said in 2017 that Epps wouid make history by joining the crew of Expedition 56. During ISS expeditions, astronauts become residents of the space station and spend months conducting experiments and caring for the 20-year-old orbiting laboratory.
But even as more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space on NASA’s Space Shuttle, some of whom helped build the ISS, none of them served as expedition crew members.
NASA astronaut Victor Glover could be the first Black person to join the ISS crew as well. He’s assigned to a SpaceX Crew Dragon mission that is scheduled to take off later this year.
In 2018, NASA abruptly rescinded Epps’ assignment after she had completed her training, less than six months before Expedition 56 was slated to launch. She was replaced by Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Epps publicly expressed confusion about the decision. Astronauts typically are replaced only for medical or family-related matters, and Epps confirmed neither applied to her situation.
“It was a decision of my management, and it’s something that we’re going to try to continue to work through,” Epps said at a conference in Berlin in last year. She said that she didn’t know who made the decision or why, adding that she did not believe that the decision came from the cosmonauts she trained with.
“I think I was able to develop really good working relationships with everyone there,” she said, referring to her training at Russian space facilities.
When asked if she attributed the decision to sexism or racism, Epps replied: “There’s no time to really be concerned about sexism and racism and things like that because we have to perform. And if it comes into play, then you’re hindering the mission…Whether or not it’s a factor, I can’t specifically speculate on what people are thinking.”
Details about the decision still have not been made public, and the annoucement about Epps’ new assignment did not mention Expedition 56.
“A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” NASA said in a statement. “These decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”
Epps could not be immediately reached for comment.
The mission Epps is now assigned to, Starliner-1, will be the first fully operational flight of Boeing’s new spacecraft, which the company is developing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
But Boeing must still hit several milestones before then. Starliner must repeat an uncrewed orbital flight test after its first flight, in December 2019, proved the spacecraft was riddled with software errors. Boeing was forced to bring the spacecraft home days ahead of schedule and without completing its primary objective of docking with the ISS. A do-over of the mission is expected later this year.
After the uncrewed test flight is successfully completed, NASA astronauts Michael Fincke, Nicole Mann, and Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who now works for Boeing, will pilot Starliner on its first-ever crewed flight before the vehicle is certified as “operational.” That will pave the way for Epps’ mission.
Williams and Cassada, the astronauts previously already assigned to Starliner-1 mission, each posted videos on Twitter welcoming Epps to the crew.
Update: This story was updated to note that Victor Glover could become the first Black astronaut to live aboard the ISS.

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First world's

World’s first coronavirus reinfection case confirmed in Hong Kong, a university study reports – South China Morning Post


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First smartphone

Here’s your best look yet at ZTE’s first smartphone with an under-display camera – The Verge

ZTE has already announced that it plans to launch the first mass-produced 5G-enabled smartphone with an under-display camera in China next month, and now the company has shared new images that give us a better understanding of what that phone’s screen might actually look like (via Dutch website Tweakers).

In the render at the top of this post, you can see that the phone, which will be called the ZTE Axon 20 5G, has no visible camera up top — no hole punch, no notch. The render was shared by ZTE’s president of mobile devices Ni Fei on Chinese social media network Weibo.

And in this next render, also shared by Fei on Weibo, you can get an idea of what that no-camera screen might look like while it’s powered on. It looks pretty clean, if you ask me, even with that hint of bottom bezel. (There’s always the chance that one of the black dots representing other types of cameras could be an actual visible camera on the Axon 20 5G, but that seems unlikely given what ZTE has already claimed about the upcoming phone.)

Image: ZTE

ZTE isn’t the first to talk about an under-display camera — a number of phone manufacturers have been pursuing the technology, including Oppo and Xiaomi. But it’s still unclear if these cameras will work as well as what you might be used to on your iPhone or Pixel. Engadget said the under-screen selfie camera in an Oppo prototype had “room for improvement in terms of clarity and color accuracy” back in June 2019, and we don’t know yet if ZTE’s new camera will have similar issues.

ZTE also hasn’t said if the Axon 20 5G will launch anywhere outside China, so if an under-screen selfie camera is something you’ve been waiting for and you don’t live there, you might have to wait a bit longer to try one out.

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