‘This is not SpaceX property — this is my property’: SpaceX looks to recast South Texas town as ‘Starbase’


San Antonio Express-News 24 April, 2021 - 11:00am 13 views

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When he’s in town, Elon Musk surely can’t miss neighbor Rosemarie Workman’s frayed “Come and Take It” flag whipping in the coastal breeze.

Workers tinker in the side yard of the SpaceX founder’s temporary home on Weems Street. Across the street, Workman stands on her porch, her gaze gliding past them — and the Teslas parked on the street — to focus on the South Bay and the bright afternoon sky.

Truck engines drown out the songs of the area’s many birds. A quarter mile down the street, a silver rocket nosecone marks the skyline, and behind the small ranch homes, massive tracking antennas aim skyward.

So goes another afternoon for the holdouts in the tiny community next to SpaceX’s Starship facility near Boca Chica Beach, about 25 miles east of Brownsville.

Many things merge in this part of Texas: land and sea, the Rio Grande and the Gulf, Mexico and the United States, big business and the federal government, and now the earth and space. The relationships are complicated, and so too is SpaceX’s with the Rio Grande Valley.

SpaceX has followers around the world who devour every scrap of news about the pioneering commercial space company and Musk. But not all of SpaceX’s South Texas neighbors are thrilled with a rocket factory and launch pad in their backyard.

Musk, who also founded electric-vehicle maker Tesla, is trying to incorporate Boca Chica and the surrounding area. He announced SpaceX’s plan on Twitter March 2: “Creating the city of Starbase, Texas” and “From thence to Mars, and hence the stars.”

He said the city will encompass “an area much larger than Boca Chica.”

According to property records, SpaceX and its affiliates — Dog Leg Park and the Flats at Mars Crossing — are gobbling up real estate throughout the area. The company hasn’t spoken publicly about its plans, but the Starbase name is taking hold among SpaceX fans.

The unincorporated area known as Boca Chica has roots in space exploration — at least in name. In the 1960s, as the Cold War space race played out, the area’s original developers called it Kennedy Shores, after President John F. Kennedy. In 1975, residents renamed it Kopernik Shores, after the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Hurricane Buelah flooded the 30-home community in 1967, and it hasn’t had running water since. Cameron County trucks water in monthly.

The villagers have lived with SpaceX since 2014, but the company’s operations have exploded — both literally and figuratively — since 2019.

On ExpressNews.com: SpaceX Starship chasers converge in South Texas

“We’ve been going through it for a long time, and we’ve got to live here,” said Workman. “You don’t want to say some of the words you’d like to use — they’re still neighbors, whether you like it or not.”

SpaceX has already bought out many of her neighbors. And in October, the company sent the dozen or so remaining property owners an e-mail “final offer” of three times their property’s appraised value — roughly $150,000.

“They say it’s the final offer in every offer,” Workman said.

SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment.

SpaceX and its shell companies own 25 of the 37 properties on the street, according to property records. The company has renovated the houses, painting the bricks black and trim white. They contrast sharply with the holdouts’ orange brick homes.

On this street, Boca Chica’s only residential thoroughfare, 1960s Americana meets the new space race.

The people who still live there, mostly retirees, want to be left alone. Only three or so residents — not counting SpaceX employees — stay in the village year around. The others are “snowbirds” from northern states who spend their winters in Boca Chica.

Some of the residents have an uneasy relationship with SpaceX.

Workman said someone on Musk’s security detail hassled her husband about using binoculars for bird watching in his front yard.

“We complained,” she said. “This is not SpaceX property — this is my property. Not everything out here is owned by SpaceX.”

In another incident, a reporter and photographer were speaking with a neighbor when a bodyguard told them they couldn’t take photos in the direction of Musk’s house.

A few doors down from Workman’s house, dozens of birds milled around Jim and Nancy Crawford’s lawn.

“This is one of their main flyways when they head back north,” said Jim, a retired sheriff of Osceola County, Michigan. “It’s real unique as far as wildlife goes.”

In his backyard, he pointed out hummingbirds, indigo buntings, orioles and summer tanagers.

On ExpressNews.com: Starbase, Texas? Really?

To her disappointment, Nancy said SpaceX hasn’t messed with the makeshift town sign, a cylinder that looks like a rusted propane tank with the words “Boca Chica Village Welcomes You” painted in white.

“I was kind of having hopes that they’d get rid of that big ugly thing and put in a proper sign,” said the retired Osceola County register of deeds. “But then they’d probably want Starbase, Texas, on it.”

Asked about the prospect of SpaceX turning the area into Starbase, she said, “It doesn’t matter to me as long as they leave us alone.”

The couple said communication between the company and residents has improved over the years. A couple young SpaceX employees, whom they call “the boys,” are their liaisons with the company.

“They’re nice and easy to talk with,” she said. “They’re like our grand kids.”

SpaceX employees hosted residents for an informal block party recently.

Residents can stay in the village during static engine tests of the Starship, a reusable spacecraft that Musk hopes will someday carry people and cargo anywhere on Earth and to the moon, Mars and beyond.

But they receive notices from SpaceX letting them know that a malfunction could break their windows. The company asks residents to go outside when a siren sounds as a safety precaution.

When a Starship launches, SpaceX evacuates the villagers and pay for them to stay at a hotel on South Padre Island, according to Jim.

“I don’t like what they do, but you don’t want to start a fight with them,” he said. “It really don’t matter anymore — they do what they want to do anyway.”

Nancy added: “Right now, we’ve been left alone since last October — and we really like it that way.”

About 5 miles from the Starship production facility, a wrecking ball painted yellow with a smiley face welcomes people to Massey’s Gun Shop and Range, the southern-most shooting range in Texas.

The compound lies at the end of a dirt road on the banks of the Rio Grande. It’s the closest people can get to the SpaceX when Highway 4 is closed for launches, and the business has capitalized on its proximity. It charges $20 per vehicle to park on their road for launches.

On ExpressNews.com: SpaceX to convert offshore oil platforms into spaceports

SpaceX employees, including Musk, “the big man himself,” as well as space tourists visit the range, said a volunteer at the facility who identified himself only as Z.

“SpaceX has brought a lot of business out here,” he said.

The range makes ammunition and rents many types of weapons, including machine guns and a 50-caliber rifle.

“When SpaceX came along, that’s a huge diversion, and now everyone just talks about it in town,” Z said. “There’s people who are coming from all over the world, and they come down here to the very tip of Texas.”

Another place space tourists gather is Rocket Ranch, a couple miles from Massey’s.

Teslas kick up dust from the washboard road leading into the space-centric campground near the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Palmito Ranch.

After battling crowds for the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy ship from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Rocket Ranch owner David Santilena thought there had to be a better way to watch blast-offs.

So the Kingwood, Texas, resident bought 10-and-a-half acres with a ranch house on the banks of the Rio Grande in January 2020. In less than a year, he created a campsite complete with vintage trailers for rent, a fishing dock, family-style meals, bonfires and a laid-back vibe.

The ranch house is now a community area. Its walls are adorned with space memorabilia, including chunks of ill-fated Starships.

“Everybody’s interested in Elon and SpaceX and everything, so the conversations are good, and there’s some super smart people that come through here,” Santilena said. “Scientists and people that have knowledge of all different things, you know, and everybody’s kind of an intellectual, and they want to talk about it.”

Guests can book a seat on the ranch’s pontoon boat for $350 to watch the launch from a special viewing area on the Rio Grande.

“Each launch is getting more and more popular, so this place is just kind of running away on its own,” he said.

On March 30, a Starship exploded and rained stainless steel and rocket parts across the Boca Chica marshes. About an hour after the blow-up, Musk tweeted that he was donating $30 million to Cameron County schools and the city of Brownsville.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio company working with military, SpaceX to move cargo anywhere in world in an hour or less

The announcement caught Brownsville mayor Trey Mendez off guard.

“I just heard about it at the same time everybody else did,” he said. “You know, Mr. Musk likes to move quickly, and he can be impulsive at times, and his tweets have worldwide effects.”

The city is working with the Elon Musk Foundation and developing a plan for the funds. Local school districts are already receiving checks.

Mendez sees SpaceX as a boost for his community, which has had a rough year with COVID-19and February’s winter storm. With a population of 423,000 as of 2019, Cameron County has had nearly 40,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,600 deaths from the disease.

SpaceX has “been a real positive when it comes to the economic impact they’ve had on our community,” he said.

Mendez also highlighted a real estate boom fueled in part by Musk’s March 30 tweet calling for people to move to the Brownsville area because SpaceX is hiring. Starbase will grow to “several thousand people over the next year or two,” he said.

“Home prices have been going up,” Mendez said. “I've met quite a few people that have moved down here lately.”

Despite the goodwill, a half-dozen community members spoke out against SpaceX at the Brownsville City Commission meeting on April 6.

“SpaceX wasn’t really on my radar until they started cranking up their operations and, you know, breaking rockets,” said Chris Sandoval, a high-school physics teacher, and one of those who spoke out. He’s concerned about environmental, economic and civic consequences of SpaceX development.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, debris from the late-March explosion traveled 1,000 meters into federally-managed land. Currently, huge pieces of the rocket remain lodged in a marsh as the Federal Aviation Administration continue to investigate the mishap.

And while the Starbase name itself doesn’t bother Sandoval, he sees it as an act of colonization that downplays the area’s native history.

“Not that Boca Chica was the original name of the area,” he said. The Carrizo Comecrudo people are indigenous to the region, and “they are absolutely not given the opportunity to offer their input for the original names of the places around the valley.”

Sandoval and other activists also say the company isn’t hiring many local workers — though Mendez said the majority of the facility’s 1,400 employees live in the area.

Another activist, Bekah Hinojosa, has distributed 50 yard signs and several hundred stickers challenging SpaceX, I.C.E., the planned border wall and liquid natural gas development.

“SpaceX colonization of Mars is starting to impact the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “It’s stripping away our access to our pristine beach, gentrifying our community and causing devastating explosions.”

The mayor has little patience for the smoldering opposition to SpaceX. He called the public comments at the commissioner’s meeting and ongoing criticism “just ridiculous.”

“I think it’s a bunch of people that are upset about certain things … but I don’t think they understand the big picture, and I don’t think they understand everything that’s happening and the real big impact that’s occurring,” he said.

“I certainly understand their concerns, and I don’t want to dismiss their concerns,” he said. “But I do think that some of them are misplaced.”

A few blocks from a house with some of Bekah Hinojosa’s yard signs, Alexandro Gonzalez-Hernandez was hard at work on a ladder spray-painting the finishing touches on a mural on the front wall of an old Brownsville building.

The words “Boca Chica to Mars” frame a portrait of a smiling Elon Musk. Mars hangs in the corner.

Gonzalez-Hernandez, who’s painted 60 murals across the Valley, joked that Musk is “my uncle.”

“I hope he sees it,” he said. “I want to inspire other artists and give them that little push.”

The mural is part of a pop-up exhibit featuring local photographers’ SpaceX and Starship art opening May 1.

Diane Milliken Garza, a nonprofit consultant directing the art exhibit, sees it as a critical step in revitalizing Brownsville’s downtown.

“It’s like a ghost town compared to what it normally is, and there’s a lot of people that are dedicated to bringing it back,” she said. “And I feel like if we don’t get up and do it — and right now with SpaceX and Elon Musk realizing the same thing — we’ll never get this chance again ever.”

In the afternoon light of April 19, a Brownsville family wrapped up their Boca Chica beach day celebration of 16-year-old Brianna Chavez’s birthday.

Jesus Chavez, Brianna’s father, manned the grill barbecuing beef fajitas and chicken. Cousins Andrea Gonzalez, 4, and Allison Chavez, 8 splashed in the surf.

“We come here every weekend and we barbecue, that’s what we do here in Brownsville,” he said. “Now we have to accommodate and check the time. We called the (county judge’s) office today to make sure that its open.”

In addition to closures for tests and launches, SpaceX often closes Highway 4 when moving equipment or rockets. Highway 4 is the only way to the beach, and SpaceX needs county permission to close the road.

Despite publishing expected closures, the schedules often change. Even after checking, the family got hung up in a 40-minute delay on Highway 4 as SpaceX moved a giant crane.

But the family didn’t let the delay dampen their party.

Boca Chica Beach is “a national treasure — there’s nothing like it,” said Emma Gonzelez.

“Before, we never had to wait. It was a just a straight shot from Brownsville,” she said. “I’m not for SpaceX, I’m sorry.”

As the family packed their vehicles and prepared to head home, the constant activity continued at the launch site. A sense of inevitability — like ocean waves or the onshore breeze — permeated the air.

Welders’ sparks flashed and heavy equipment rolled. A small group of visitors stood together across the highway from Starship SN15. They stared at the craft, snapped some photos and imagined it roaring toward the darkness.

A few miles down the road, in Boca Chica, Rosemarie Workman’s “Come and Take It” flag continued to fly.

Brandon Lingle writes for the Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. ReportforAmerica.org. brandon.lingle@express-news.net

Read full article at San Antonio Express-News

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Speaking to XPrize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis during a live stream Thursday announcing the $100 million Carbon Removal project, Mr Musk said going to Mars wasn't an "escape hatch for rich people".

XPrize describes itself as an organisation that uses “large-scale global incentive competitions to crowdsource solutions to the world’s grand challenges”.

The $100 million XPrize Carbon Removal competition is challenging people to develop projects that will put away and extract carbon dioxide in an effort to draw down the perilously high emissions currently being let out into the atmosphere.

Mr Musk cautioned during the interview that travelling to Mars will be "dangerous, it's uncomfortable, it's a long journey, you might not come back alive, but it's a glorious adventure and it'll be an amazing experience".

"And your name will go into history," Dr Diamandis interjected.

"You might not," Mr Musk responded. "It's going to be uncomfortable and you probably won't have good food, and all these things, you know."

"If an arduous and dangerous journey where you might not come back alive, but it's a glorious adventure, sounds appealing, Mars is the place. That's the ad for Mars," Mr Musk said.

"And you still have thousands of volunteers, if not millions of volunteers who would want to go," Dr Diamandis said.

"Honestly, a bunch of people probably will die in the beginning. It's tough sledging over there, you know," Mr Musk said.

"We don't make anyone go," he added. "It's volunteers only," a chuckling Mr Musk said.

A barefoot Mr Musk spoke with Dr Diamandis on Thursday in Cape Canaveral on Florida's eastern coast.

The challenge announced on the live stream is “aimed at tackling the biggest threat facing humanity - fighting climate change and rebalancing Earth’s carbon cycle,” the site for the competition says.

"This four-year global competition invites innovators and teams from anywhere on the planet to create and demonstrate solutions that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans, and sequester it durably and sustainably," the site states.

The competition is being funded by Mr Musk's philanthropic organisation . $100m will be the biggest amount of money that the foundation has ever handed out.

Mr Musk has donated $150m to various charities this year, a sum larger than every year previously combined. He's donating money so fast that he sometimes neglects to notify the beneficiary, Vox's Recode reported.

The outlet reported on Thursday that Mr Musk's philanthropic team has no full-time staff and is reaching out to others for advice on how to best donate money.

Mr Musk tweeted on 7 January: "Btw, critical feedback is always super appreciated, as well as ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems)."

Apart from the $100m for the carbon dioxide removal competition, Mr Musk has committed millions of dollars in the next three months to other causes. He has promised $30m to charities in southern Texas, $5m to online learning platform Khan Academy, $5m to coronavirus researchers in Boston, and $1m to food bank operator Feeding Texas.

A spokesperson for Khan Academy said the donation came as a "surprise," Recode reported.

The Musk Foundation was previously located in California but has been moved to Austin, Texas. Mr Musk confirmed in December that he has moved to Texas as well.

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David Lee/NetflixThis is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.This Week:Cher and her lonely elephant is all of us.Why aren’t you dummies watching the Oscar nominees?Nothing on TV is better than Top Chef.A TV moment I’ll never stop thinking about.Whoopi Goldberg, now presiding over my conscience.Why Are You Still Not Watching the Oscar Nominees? Sometimes, even a Pavlovian response can make you sound like an idiot.This year, like every year, it has been brought up in conversations with many people I know, people who follow me on social media, and just people in general that the Oscars are coming up—this Sunday, in fact. It’s a big deal! It’s the Oscars! Even now!And this year, like every year, these people have proudly—smugly even, like it’s something to brag about—interjected something along the lines of “Who cares? 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It’s on Hulu, and so is Andra Day’s Best Actress-nominated performance in The United States vs. Billie Holiday and the sensational Best International Feature and Best Director nominee Another Round.The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Hillbilly Elegy, and Pieces of a Woman, all up for a slew of Best Picture and acting prizes, are all on Netflix. But instead you’re all watching (pulls up Netflix’s current Top 10 list), a film I have never heard of called Synchronic and Melissa McCarthy’s least funny movie in years, Thunder Force.If you have Prime Video, free with your Amazon Prime account, you can watch multi-nominees Sound of Metal, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and One Night in Miami.And whereas some late-qualifying theatrical indie releases used to be impossible to see unless you lived in New York or Los Angeles, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Father, Minari, and Promising Young Woman are available to rent on Video on Demand from your own home. Sure, some people may not want to pay $19.99 to watch Anthony Hopkins in the throes of dementia, but the option is actually there! Handout I say this because, anecdotally, the same people who seem curious about this year’s Oscar nominees have still been reverting to the old scoff, “Well, I haven’t seen them…” It’s one thing to not be interested in watching these films—a totally fine and separate issue—and I’m not arguing one way or another on whether the Oscars still matter. (Though it certainly makes the case for the latter when the average American movie fan can watch every nominated movie from their home and still won’t do it.)This is the crankiest “Well, actually…” rant I’ve ever done about something I don’t really care that much about. But to all those who keep telling me you haven’t “been able” to watch this year’s Oscar nominees: “Well, actually,” you can.It’s a little disappointing, too. 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Shortly before he headed to a drugstore Friday to receive a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said he was confident that supplies sent by the United States were safe. “We have confirmed that the doses received from the United States a number of weeks ago are not, have not been subjected to the challenges that have come up currently in the Baltimore plant,” Trudeau said at a news conference. “There is absolutely no danger of that for Canadians.” In Mexico, a senior government official said AstraZeneca had provided documentation indicating that the doses had passed quality tests and were not affected by issues at the Emergent factory. “We are sure that the product that was applied to Mexican people was a safe, quality product,” Mexico’s coronavirus czar, Hugo López-Gatell, said at a briefing Friday night. The Biden administration’s acknowledgment that it had been unaware of the discarding of the lots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which The New York Times reported occurred between October and January, underscores concerns about the government’s oversight of a key contractor in the federal response to the pandemic. U.S. officials bet on Emergent to manufacture both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines even as a series of audits identified serious quality shortcomings at the plant. The FDA has still not cleared the Emergent plant to release doses of either vaccine in the United States and has not indicated when, or whether, it will do so. While AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not authorized for use in the United States, tens of millions of doses of it have been sitting idly at manufacturing plants. The White House said last month that the federal government, which committed last year to buying 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, intended to “loan” 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million doses to Canada. U.S. officials say the two countries were eager for the doses and have since expressed interest in getting more, especially because of a recent drop in supplies from India, another major supplier of vaccine. Canadian officials, however, said Friday that the nation’s own regulators were reviewing the recent FDA report on its inspection of the Baltimore facility, which “will inform whether additional measures are required to ensure the safety of future supply.” Emergent is a longtime government contractor that has virtually cornered a lucrative market in federal spending on biodefense. The Times reported last month that sales of its anthrax vaccines to the Strategic National Stockpile accounted for nearly half of the stockpile’s half-billion-dollar annual budget throughout most of the last decade, leaving the federal government with less money to buy supplies needed in a pandemic. The government awarded the company a $163 million contract in 2012 to ready the Baltimore facility to mass-produce vaccines in response to a pandemic. In June, the Trump administration awarded the company a $628 million contract, mostly to reserve space at the Baltimore plant. But The Times earlier this month documented a string of problems at the plant, many of which were known to federal officials. Shortly after the contract was awarded to Emergent in June, a top federal pandemic official warned that the Baltimore plant lacked enough trained staff members and had a record of problems with quality control. A copy of the official’s assessment cited “key risks” in relying on Emergent to handle the production of the vaccines. The Times also reported that Emergent had discarded AstraZeneca’s vaccine — five lots in all, each the equivalent of 2 million to 3 million doses — because of contamination or suspected contamination, according to internal logs, a government official and a former company supervisor. A senior federal health official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said Friday that the White House and senior leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services learned of the discarded AstraZeneca lots only after the Times report. Last month, the Times reported that workers at the Emergent plant in Baltimore had conflated ingredients of the two vaccines, ruining up to 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Federal officials ordered major changes to the plant after those revelations. The Biden administration ordered Emergent to stop making the AstraZeneca vaccine, and put Johnson & Johnson in charge of running the facility. In a statement late Thursday, AstraZeneca said that the doses delivered to Mexico and Canada “met the stringent requirements we are required to follow,” and that “required safety tests and quality control measures” were conducted at each step of the production process and before the batches were released. In the statement, which was reported earlier by CBS News, AstraZeneca said, “The quality information from the manufacturing plants involved was properly submitted to the relevant regulatory agencies in each country to support authorization and approval of shipments from this supply chain.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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BENOIT TESSIEREight private jets carrying India’s super wealthy—and potentially the coronavirus—landed in London ahead of the U.K.’s 4 a.m. ban on travel from India, according to the London Times. The U.K. added India to its “red list” of pandemic-stricken countries. As of Friday, any Britons returning from India must quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel. All non-British or non-Irish citizens will be banned entirely from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to cancel his own state visit to India scheduled for next week as a “precautionary measure.”The last of the luxury airliners to arrive, VistaJet Bombardier Global 6000, which left Dubai Thursday to collect passengers in Mumbai, landed at 3:15 a.m., just 44 minutes before the restrictions took place.The private jet passengers were fleeing unimaginable horror back home. At least 14 COVID-19 patients perished in a devastating fire that ripped through an ICU ward in one of India’s overcrowded hospitals about 70 miles outside Mumbai. The fire that broke out around 3 a.m. Friday morning was contained and extinguished, but not before 14 patients—many who were intubated and hard to evacuate—had died. “Around 90 patients were admitted to the hospital at the time of the incident,” Dilip Shah, the head of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital where it happened, said in a statement Friday. Black Market Hospital Beds and Price-Gouged COVID Drugs Selling on Indian TwitterOne eyewitness, Avinash Patil, told reporters outside the hospital that no doctors were present at the time. “I got a call at around 3 a.m. from a friend whose mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital,” he said. “As I reached the hospital, I saw fire engines outside. The ICU on the second floor was engulfed in smoke. Only two nurses were there, and I couldn’t see a doctor. It took firefighters about half an hour to put out the flames. We could see eight-10 bodies there.”Shah, the hospital chief, insisted all safety norms were followed and that “doctors were present,” according to local media reports. Earlier in the week, an oxygen leak in Maharashtra state, near where the fire broke out, resulted in the death of 24 COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators.To make terrible matters even worse, India reported its highest one-day number of cases, recording 332,730 new infections in a 24-hour period. In the same period, 2,263 people died with COVID-19.India has been overwhelmed by new cases coupled with a critical shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, and now ventilators. Many desperate families have been forced to turn to black-market price gougers who have been able to buy hospital space from corrupt administrators.The spike in cases comes as political rallies are still being held and after a month-long religious ceremony continues to bring millions of people to the Ganges River.India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for not calling a national lockdown to try to mitigate the spread and for hosting rallies ahead of elections in May. Government officials have said the previous lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic was economically devastating to many manual laborers who then traveled by foot from home cities to their villages, carrying the virus with them. The fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Virar is tragic. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover soon: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 23, 2021 Modi called the ICU fire “tragic” and offered condolences over Twitter. Many of the comments on his tweet begged him to call a national lockdown to try to save lives. In a shocking expose published in Time magazine, Indian journalist Rana Ayyub paints a horrific picture from the ground, writing about states essentially hijacking oxygen trucks and stealing supplies for their own hospitals, and disturbing allegations of underreporting deaths. Ayyub lays the blame for the debacle squarely on Modi’s shoulders, accusing him of ignoring the fact that his Trump-style rallies are super-spreader events, and for letting the ball drop on vaccines.“Why was India caught unprepared as the second wave ravaged a cross-section of Indian society?” Ayyub writes. “The responsibility lies with a strongman regime that has ignored all caution.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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A billboard outside of SpaceX headquarters targeted Elon Musk's plans for planet colonization on Earth Day: 'Mars sucks'

Yahoo News 23 April, 2021 - 04:06pm

The billboard was set up on Earth Day by LA-based creative agency Activista.

Elon Musk's plan to colonize Mars have led experts to debate whether resources could be better spent on Earth.

See more stories on Insider's business page.

A billboard outside of SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California criticized Elon Musk's mission to colonize Mars.

The billboard was set up by creative Los Angeles agency Activista for Earth Day and was live for 30 hours, the agency told Insider. The company's Twitter account took off on Thursday, targeting SpaceX for its plans to make Mars inhabitable for humans.

"What doesn't suck? #earth," the company tweeted on Thursday. "But the way we treat it frankly, sucks."

The statement against SpaceX has caught people's attention on social media, and references a topic that has been debated in recent years: whether or not the time and resources spent pursuing Mars colonization could be better spent focused on solving issues here on Earth. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is more interested in colonizing the moon with his space company, Blue Origin, but has said that Earth is "by far the best" option for humans. Experts have weighed in both for and against Mars colonization.

Musk does plan to make Mars inhabitable, but his end goal is not to abandon earth, but rather ensure an alternative exists as a backup. His other company, Tesla, is more Earth-focused than SpaceX, and has a stated mission to "accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy," primarily by making electric cars mainstream.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from Insider on the billboard.

Activista co-founders Beto Fernandez and Paco Conde told Insider the billboard was designed to create awareness around climate change and make people think more about what they could do to help address the issue.

"For many years people dreamt about Mars. But now we have access to real images of the red planet," Fernandez said in a press release. "So we decided to use these images as backgrounds for our social posts. Nothing like seeing the reality of this monotone, lifeless, boring and empty planet to emphasize the importance of us taking better care of the amazing planet we live in."

It's been a big week for SpaceX.

On Friday, the company launched one of its spacecrafts with four astronauts out of Florida, its first time reusing a spacecraft for a crewed mission. The spacecraft will spend six months at the International Space Station.

Last week, SpaceX was awarded an exclusive $2.9 billion contract to help NASA return to the moon.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided to keep an aircraft carrier in the Middle East to help provide protection for American and coalition troops during their planned withdrawal from Afghanistan in coming weeks, his spokesman said Friday. The spokesman, John Kirby, said Austin approved an extension of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower's deployment in the Middle East for “a period of time.” “It would be foolhardy and imprudent not to assume that there could be resistance and opposition to the drawdown by the Taliban, given their staunch rhetoric,” Kirby said.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station on Saturday morning. Saturday's docking marks the third time in a year a SpaceX vessel carried astronauts to the station, as well as the first time a previously flown SpaceX spacecraft was reused, CNN notes. The crew, consisting of NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet, and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan's JAXA space agency, has boarded the station, kicking off a six-month stay in space. Upon opening the hatch and crossing into the station, they were joyously greeted by several astronauts already on board the station, including members of the first team to reach the station via the Crew Dragon, who are headed home next week. Watch the moment of arrival below. "Endeavour arriving!" Welcome to the @Space_Station, Crew-2! Their arrival means there are now 11 humans aboard our orbiting laboratory, a number not seen since the space shuttle era. Hugs abound. pic.twitter.com/uSwW3JFl6K — NASA (@NASA) April 24, 2021 More stories from theweek.com5 brutally funny cartoons about COVID anti-vaxxers7 cartoons about Derek Chauvin being found guiltyMarjorie Taylor Greene mockingly impersonates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez while recounting her debate challenge

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New York congresswoman says at virtual town hall ‘I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Washington DC on 15 April. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saluted the Biden administration on Friday, saying the new president had exceeded progressives’ expectations in his first 100 days in the White House. “The Biden administration and President Biden have definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had,” the New York congresswoman, a star on the left of the Democratic party, told a virtual town hall meeting. “I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.” In March, Joe Biden scored a major victory when his $1.9tn Covid stimulus and rescue package passed into law without a single Republican vote. Progressives were disappointed, though, when a move to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was dropped from the package after a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian. Moderates in the upper chamber also opposed the move. The Senate is split 50-50 and controlled through the casting vote of the vice-president, Kamala Harris. Centrist Democrats such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are thus placed in powerful positions. Ocasio-Cortez, an ally of progressive senators such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said that “the majority of the tension within the Democratic party lies in the Senate”. Biden is looking to pass another large legislative package, the $2.25tn, infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. Republicans remain ranged against him, opposing progressive priorities featured in the package. Not all progressives are satisfied either. Ocasio-Cortez said: “I think the infrastructure bill is too small. I have real concerns that the actual dollars and cents, and programmatic allocations of the bill, don’t meet the ambition of that vision, of what’s being sold.” She also said that she would not be able to attend Biden’s first address to Congress next week, thanks to Covid capacity restrictions. But Ocasio-Cortez also said Biden – who was a senator for 36 years and vice-president for eight under Barack Obama – had been “very impressive” in his approach to negotiating with Congress, resulting in the passage of “progressive legislation”. “It’s been good so far,” she said.

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Musk will host the May 8th episode NBC surprised pretty much everyone on Saturday with its announcement that Elon Musk would be hosting the next episode of “Saturday Night Live” on May 8, a decision that was met with a resounding, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Musk, who is known as the founder and CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, will be the first non-actor or athlete to host the longrunning sketch comedy series since Donald Trump in the fall of 2016. At that time, Trump was still just a candidate for president and that decision was met with a lot of scrutiny. Musk, who has come under fire over the past year for seemingly downplaying the severity COVID-19 pandemic (and has a history of making controversial statements), is being met with a similar level of disdain. One Twitter user described the move as one of “desperation” and added, “Did NBC force Lorne Michaels to have Elon Musk host? Or threaten to replace SNL with ‘Apprentice’ reruns?” Also Read: Elon Musk to Make ‘SNL’ Host Debut Here’s a look at some of the reactions, most of which are negative. Though we should point out that not everyone was unhappy. Musk does have a pretty big following among the Bitcoin and Robinhood investor crowd. Desperation.Or did NBC force Lorne Michaels to have Elon Musk host? Or threaten to replace SNL with "Apprentice" reruns? https://t.co/v1P5FR70rW— Ivey McClelland 😷😷😷😷😷 (@iveyjanette_207) April 24, 2021 Mr. Lorne Michaels sir…. pic.twitter.com/hixQftk6rj— Ezra (@greenyad81) April 24, 2021 A movie in which 1976 Lorne Michaels meets 2021 Lorne Michaels and decides to forget this whole TV comedy thing and become a funeral director.— Dan (@cultureoflosing) April 24, 2021 Best decision Lorne Michaels ever made! pic.twitter.com/W2mfL1koZq— Plain Jane🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸Hold the Line (@plainjane5555) April 24, 2021 Society has surpassed the need for Lorne Michaels contributions to TV comedy, please get some new faces in charge— Brian (@dilfisland) April 24, 2021 RetireLorneMichaels— unstuck in time (@BillyPilgrim26) April 24, 2021 I thought Lorne Michaels had lost his touch for dark, absurdist comedy. I was so very wrong… https://t.co/yt2GieYYnE— Michael Karp (@d8d8_) April 24, 2021 Do we know Lorne Michaels whereabouts on January 6, 2021?— Dan (@cultureoflosing) April 24, 2021 No, no, no, no, no, no, no. https://t.co/LL3w67Zzsf— Eric Goldman (@TheEricGoldman) April 24, 2021 SNL is, I’m sure, regretting the choice to have Elon Musk host more and more with each and every tweet you guys are firing off.— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) April 24, 2021 SNL getting Elon Musk to host a show is bafflingly terrible. Just gross.— miss chatelaine's abs (@cinema_gay) April 24, 2021 Musk’s episode will have Miley Cyrus as the musical guest. This will be her sixth time in that capacity. It’s been a big year for first-time hosts. Along with Musk, “SNL’s” other rookie emcees include John Krasinski, Dan Levy, Regina King, Nick Jonas, Rege-Jean Page, Daniel Kaluuya and Carey Mulligan. Read original story Elon Musk’s Upcoming ‘SNL’ Hosting Gig Met With Scorn: ‘Bafflingly Terrible’ Idea At TheWrap

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Overwhelmed hospitals in India begged for oxygen supplies on Saturday as the country's coronavirus infections soared again overnight in a "tsunami" of disease, setting a new world record for cases for the third consecutive day. Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals in north India, tweeted that it had less than two hours of oxygen left while Fortis Healthcare, another big chain, said it was suspending new admissions in Delhi. "We are running on backup, waiting for supplies since morning," Fortis said.

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