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Hundreds hurt in rare Russian meteor strike

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A meteor strike in central Russia on Friday that left hundreds of people injured is the biggest known human toll from a space rock, a British expert said.

But the impact has no connection with a flyby by an asteroid later Friday, according to Robert Massey, deputy executive secretary of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

“I am scratching my head to think of anything in recorded history when that number of people have been indirectly injured by an object like this… it’s very, very rare to have human casualties.”

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Small space debris burns up harmlessly in the sky as it enters the atmosphere, appearing in streaks of light called meteors that can often be seen on a clear night, he said.

But, very rarely, larger objects survive the early stage of descent before exploding in the lower atmosphere, causing a shockwave, which is what happened on Friday, he said.

According to Russia’s ministry of emergencies, almost 500 people were injured by flying glass as the windows were blown in.

Very much bigger objects — such as the rock that notoriously ended the reign of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago — can smash into the Earth, delivering the energy of an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but these again are even rarer.

Massey, basing his estimate on news reports, said Friday’s object was in all probability less than 10 metres (30 feet) across before it collided with Earth.

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“It’s unprecedented to have something like this happen over an inhabited area and cause damage in this way,” he said in a phone interview from London.

“Events like this are not common — there were several large falls in the 20th century, at least two of which were over Siberia — but two-thirds of the Earth is ocean, so we tend to miss them.”

Massey said there was no need for alarm over the event.

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He stressed he saw “absolutely no connection” between the event in the Chelyabinsk region and asteroid 2012 DA 14, which was to skim the Earth on Friday at a distance of around 17,200 miles (27,700 kilometres), the closest known flyby by a space rock.

“It happened 12 hours earlier, and that amounts to half a million kilometres (300,000 miles) of travel, (and) it seems to have been travelling in a different direction — east-west, whereas the asteroid tonight will be travelling south to north,” said Massey.

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Watch video from Russia, embedded via YouTube, below.

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‘Aides to the president are not happy’ Gordon Sondland held the phone up in restaurant: CNN’s Jim Acosta

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CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta reported on Friday that White House aides are unhappy with Ambassador Gordon Sondland for holding up a call with Trump in a restaurant for multiple witnesses to listen.

The details were revealed in bombshell closed-door testimony before Congress on Friday.

Acosta noted the administration was trying to downplay the significance of the call.

"But I will tell you, that the aides of the president are not happy that Gordon Sondland apparently held the phone up so other aides could hear what was going on and the words of the source familiar with the conversations inside the White House, the president speaks loudly, Sondland should know that," Acosta reported.

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‘Rudy has got to be looking at handcuffs’: Ex-prosecutor says Giuliani will have a tough time in prison

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Another Donald Trump attorney is looking at serving prison time, a former federal prosecutor predicted on MSNBC on Friday.

MSNBC "Meet the Press Daily" host Chuck Todd asked former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner if prosecutors would be tougher on Giuliania because he had once been a prosecutor himself.

"It’s tough to figure out, first of all, how Rudy is going to play it because based on what we’ve seen and particularly if [Lev] Parnas flips, Rudy has got to be looking at handcuffs sometime soon," Kirschner replied.

"And Chuck, what does he do? As a former U.S. Attorney, does he want to run the risk of ending up in the bureau of prisons where he will not find a lot of friends in the inmate population," he explained.

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‘This is not about tweets!’ GOP lawmaker deflects wildly when asked about Trump’s attacks on Yovanovitch

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Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on Friday was not happy to be asked about President Donald Trump's tweets attacking former American ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

During a press conference that occurred after the day's impeachment hearings, Stefanik tried to make the case that nothing in Yovanovitch's testimony provided any reason to impeach the president.

She was thrown off her game, however, when a reporter asked her whether the president's tweet harmed her party's ability to send a consistent message.

"We're not here to talk about tweets but impeachable offenses!" she angrily replied. "Let me answer your question. These hearings are not about tweets. They are about impeachment of the president of United States. This is a constitutional matter."

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