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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA’s Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

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A NASA TV commentator hailed a “textbook launch” minutes after blastoff in “sweltering” weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

The blast coincides with the date that NASA’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon in 1969, marking a defining moment in the so-called “space race” with the Soviet Union.

Of the trio launching from the Kazakh steppe, only 53-year-old Skvortsov had been born at the time of the Moon landing.

A veteran of two ISS missions, Skvortsov is the flight commander for the six-hour journey from Baikonur to the ISS.

Morgan, 43, is flying for the first time.

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“The absolute hardest part: saying good-bye and watching them walk away,” wrote the father-of-four in a Saturday tweet featuring a picture of his wife and children.

Parmitano’s only previous stint at the ISS lasted 166 days and saw him become the first Italian to carry out a spacewalk.

“L-2 h 30 min: One more look at my planet… it’s time to climb aboard our rocket. Next stop @Space_Station,” the Italian tweeted.

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Skvortsov, Morgan and Parmitano all come from military backgrounds and posed together in uniform in the build up to the launch.

Speaking during a pre-launch press-conference on Friday Skvortsov joked that “two colonels will be taking orders from a colonel” when Parmitano becomes commander of the space station mid-way through his mission — a reference to the military rank the three share.

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The International Space Station — a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West — has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.


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AG Bill Barr will ‘try to interfere’ in the 2020 election to re-elect Trump: MSNBC national affairs analyst

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Attorney General William Barr will use the Department of Justice to "try to interfere" in the 2020 presidential election to re-elect Donald Trump, MSNBC's national affairs analyst predicted on Tuesday.

John Heilemann was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's "The Last Word."

"The attorney general, from the moment he walked into this job, has behaved in a -- as a ruthless, relentless political hack and a thug and who has behaved not as attorney general of the United States," Heilemann said.

"He made a travesty of the Mueller report and continues to lie on Donald Trump's behalf at every opportunity," he added.

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Trump welcomed Russia’s Sergey Lavrov to the White House — to humiliate us all

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Despite the fact that President Donald Trump still refuses to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington for an officials meeting — a topic at the center of the scandal driving Trump’s impeachment — the White House hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday.

And while Lavrov was honored with his second private Oval Office meeting (the first one was a cataclysmic disaster) and a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the foreign minister took his opportunity here to repeatedly humiliate the United States.

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United States, Mexico, Canada finalize Donald Trump’s USMCA trade deal

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The United States, Mexico and Canada signed a deal Tuesday to finalize their new trade agreement, paving the way to ratification after more than two years of arduous negotiations.

However, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the US Senate would likely delay Congressional ratification of the agreement until next year, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In reality, it is the second time the three countries have triumphantly announced the conclusion of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the deal meant to replace the 25-year-old NAFTA, which President Donald Trump complains has been "a disaster" for the US.

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