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US astronaut Jeff Williams sets off on space mission that could break Scott Kelly’s record

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A Russian rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space base Friday, carrying three crew to the International Space Station, including a US grandfather who is poised to enter the record books.

The rocket took off in windy conditions from Russia’s space base in Kazakhstan at 2126 GMT, an AFP reporter saw.

The trio comprise Russians Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin, and US grandfather of three, Jeff Williams, a veteran of long-duration space missions.

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“The Soyuz rocket took off successfully,” the Russian space agency Roskosmos said in a statement, adding that the crewship was scheduled to dock with the orbital outpost at 0311 GMT on Saturday.

The craft is decorated with a portrait of the first man in space, Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, whose pioneering orbital flight was made nearly 55 years ago, on April 12 1961.

By the end of his half-year trip aboard the ISS, Williams “will become the American with the most cumulative days in space — 534,” NASA says.

The previous US record was set by astronaut Scott Kelly earlier this year.

Kelly, 52, spent nearly a year in space and returned to Earth earlier this month with a total of 520 days in space, as part of an experiment to test the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the body and mind ahead of a potential future mission to Mars.

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The all-time record for cumulative days spent in space is held by Russian cosmonaut Genny Padalka, who racked up 879 days over his career and wrapped up his final mission in September 2015.

Williams has so far notched up over 362 days in space, including three spacewalks.

His previous missions were flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in 2000, as well as a trip in 2006 when the station was far smaller — with only two modules and three crew members.

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In 2009 and 2010, Williams served as a flight engineer for three months and later commanded the ISS for the remainder of his half-year mission.

Williams, Skripochka and Ovchinin will join US astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and the European Space Agency’s British astronaut Tim Peake at the ISS to continue Expedition 47.

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The ISS has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres (17,400 miles) per hour since 1998 and has been continuously occupied since the first expedition in November 2000.

Space is one of few areas of cooperation between Moscow and the West that has not been disrupted by tensions connected to violence and separatism in Ukraine.

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2020 Election

Demand grows for Pete Buttigieg to come clean about his time at ‘corporate greed machine’ McKinsey

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"The political risk is not that his former employer, a multibillion-dollar corporate entity that promotes fraud across the globe, will be mad at him. It's what he would have to disclose."

Days after reports surfaced about the global consulting firm McKinsey's work advising the Trump administration on immigration policy, calls are growing louder for South Bend, Indiana mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to disclose details about the work he did for the company.

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Deutsche Bank busted in money-laundering scheme case

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Prosectors in Frankfurt have dropped their investigation into two Deutsche Bank employees who were accused of aiding tax evasion schemes in the Virgin Islands, due to "lack of suspicion." The institution has instead been fined for compliance lapses.

“With the closure of these proceedings it is clear that the prosecutors have not found any instances of criminal misconduct on the part of Deutsche Bank employees following the raid of our Frankfurt office in November 2018,” Deutsche Bank spokesman Joerg Eigendorf said in a statement.

“The investigation that has now been closed due to lack of sufficient suspicion had a heavy impact on Deutsche Bank last year,” he added. “It is true that the bank had weaknesses in its control environment in the past. We identified these weaknesses and we have addressed them in a disciplined manner.”

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North Carolina towns forced to cancel Christmas celebrations over fear of violence from right wing extremist groups

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Two North Carolina towns are canceling their annual Christmas celebration parades "amid fears of violence due to Confederate groups’ participation in the events," The Daily Beast reports.

Citing a “potential for violence,” for the first time in over 70 years the town of Wake Forest, North Carolina says it will have no Christmas parade. Garner, NC, has also canceled its Christmas parade.

The Daily Beast cites "reports that Garner had plans to include a float sponsored by a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans but said social-media posts led town officials to believe 'the event could be targeted for disruption.'"

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