Gov. Cuomo heads to Cuba on trade mission to help New York businesses, but critics say he has different agenda

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo heads to Cuba Monday on a trade mission that critics charge is aimed more at generating headlines than creating economic opportunities for New York. Cuomo will leave Monday morning and will spend just over a day on the island nation in what administration officials insist is an effort to open pathways for New York businesses. The taxpayer-funded trip is the first by a U.S. governor since President Obama decided in December to normalize relations with Cuba. “This trade mission, part of the broader Global NY initiative, will guarantee that New York businesses are first in line to take advantage of this new, emerging economic market,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa. Cuomo’s office has released sparse details on the mission — including his precise itinerary — but he is expected to travel with a delegation of about 20 business and government leaders, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). Critics argued Cuba has little to offer New York businesses and questioned Cuomo’s motives. “Let’s be honest, there is not a lot of money to be made in an impoverished place with little free enterprise,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “It’s political and it’s hypocritical,” added state GOP Chairman Ed Cox. Although the Obama administration has loosened travel and other restrictions, Cuba is still subject to sanctions and a trade embargo that can only be lifted by Congress. The President met with Cuban leader Raul Castro last week in Panama and both pledged to work towards better relations. John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a business group, said it would have been better to wait until the two nations were further along in establishing relations. “The potential outcomes would be better because the Continue Reading

Texas nurse plunges to death from helicopter during rescue mission

A rescue medic fell out of a helicopter and plummeted to her death Monday while she tried to save an injured hiker on a Texas trail, officials said. Kristin McLain, a 46-year-old Travis County emergency nurse, died after she fell from her team's helicopter while it was on a rescue mission in Austin, according to Travis County STAR Flight. A team from STAR Flight, Texas' aerial emergency medical transport, was called to rescue a woman who had fallen while walking through Austin's Barton Creek Greenbelt Monday night. They found the wounded hiker just before 10 p.m. and began hoisting her into the aircraft. As the team pulled the patient up, McLain fell from the helicopter's hoist, officials said. The seven-year STAR Flight veteran died at the scene. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Kristin's family and friends during this difficult time. She will be greatly missed," STAR Flight said in their statement. The wounded woman was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, NBC News reported. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Robot exploring Fukushima reactor stalls inside, collects some data for future mission

TOKYO — The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said Monday that the first robot sent inside one of the melted reactors stalled before finishing its work but collected data that indicates a path exists to send robots deeper into the reactor. That's good news for experts designing a robot for a future mission aimed at locating and investigating the residue of the nuclear fuel that melted in the 2011 disaster. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the robot stalled after completing about two-thirds of its planned mission Friday inside the Unit 1 containment vessel. TEPCO spokesman Teruaki Kobayashi said the robot collected temperature and radiation data and images from parts of the platform around the area known as the pedestal below the bottom of the reactor core before it became stuck and unrecoverable. The robot had been intended for only one use because of the high radiation levels. A second robot mission scheduled for Monday was postponed while engineers investigate the cause of the stalling. Kobayashi said the robot's treads may have become stuck on a grating or in a gap as it moved. The 60-centimeter (2-foot) -long, snake-shaped robot entered the containment chamber through a pipe and transformed into a U-shape crawler after it landed on the platform. A 2 1/2 minute edited compilation of images transmitted by the robot, released Monday by TEPCO, showed steam wafting from inside the dark container, lit by a lamp mounted on the robot, as it slowly maneuvered around debris that looked like small rocks and metal parts. The images contained numerous white dots believed to be caused by gamma rays. Kobayashi said the test also showed the robot tolerated radiation and that the levels were significantly lower than anticipated. That means robots can last longer and some wireless devices may even be usable, although the radiation levels were way too high for humans to enter the area, even wearing Continue Reading

Cuomo to take big hitters of NY business on Cuba trade mission

Gov. Cuomo will take a bevy of New York state big shots with him to Cuba. Cuomo’s trade mission to Havana, which departs Monday, will include senior executives from New York-based companies like JetBlue, MasterCard, Pfizer and Chobani. “The representatives in New York’s delegation will help ensure Empire State companies are at the front of the line as the door opens to a market that has been closed to U.S. enterprise for over half a century,” Cuomo said. The governor’s trip will be the first of its kind since President Obama said he would lift restrictions placed on the country beginning in 1960. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.  Continue Reading

ISIS bombs Moroccan embassy in Libya after gunmen attack South Korean mission

TRIPOLI —  A bomb exploded at the gate of the Moroccan embassy in the Libyan capital early on Monday, causing some damage but hurting nobody, a security official said, only hours after gunmen attacked South Korea's mission in Tripoli. Militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State said on twitter they were responsible for both attacks, the latest strikes against foreigners, embassies or oilfields in Libya. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the claims. Islamic State militants have exploited chaos in the North African country where two governments allied to a host of armed groups fight for control four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. The bomb damaged the gate and a residential building next to the Moroccan embassy located in the up market Ben Ashour district, a security official and Reuters reporter at the scene said. Nobody was hurt by the blast early on Monday, the official said. On Sunday, gunmen fired shots at the South Korean embassy in Tripoli killing two local security guards and wounding a third person, South Korean and Libyan officials said. A South Korean foreign ministry official in Seoul said there were no Korean casualties, adding that the embassy was staffed by two foreign service officials and one administrative staff member. He said the government was considering relocating, but did not elaborate. Libyan militants professing loyalty to Islamic State have claimed several high-profile attacks on foreigners in Libya this year, including an assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. They have also claimed several assaults on embassies such as those of Egypt and Algeria in Tripoli, attacking mostly empty buildings as most countries have pulled out diplomatic staff because of the security situation. Libya's internationally recognized government has been based in the east since a rival Continue Reading

Recovery mission underway at Watergate complex after structural collapse

The Watergate has sprung a leak. A search and rescue mission following a structural collapse at the infamous Washington, D.C. landmark’s parking garage has turned into a recovery mission, authorities said Friday. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said they fear some people may be missing after the three stories of a garage collapsed around 10 a.m., creating a sinkhole and gushing water into the complex. That followed a cadaver dog making a "possible hit" in the ruble," Bowser said, according to NBC Washington. In all, two workers were injured while two construction workers initially feared missing were later accounted for, the station reported. The rest of the building was also evacuated following the "pancake collapse," authorities said. The road outside the iconic building, made famous for the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters that brought about the downfall of former President Richard Nixon, was shut down as police and firefighters investigated. "We saw smoke coming from where the hotel is being built," resident Dave Lilling told WRC-TV. "...We saw the construction workers leave very quickly, and then the smoke dissipated. There was an announcement on the loudspeaker system which said, 'Hey, there's been a water main break and some building issues in B3.' They advised everybody not to go down there." The area impacted was a construction site above a parking garage. Photos from the scene showed debris fallen from the ceiling onto cars below. At least one vehicle was reported flattened as the roof rained down. "I was installing a panel," one worker, his voice still shaking, told WRC-TV. "I was looking out and I heard a rumble, and a 40-foot-by-40-foot section of earth just went down, hitting the floor below it, and then that floor went down. "One of our guys had just come up from that area, using one of the restrooms down Continue Reading

Enola Gay co-pilot’s flight logs, Hiroshima plans, WWII mission notes head to auction

ALBANY, N.Y. — Of the 12 men who flew aboard the Enola Gay the day the U.S. B-29 Superfortress dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima 70 years ago this summer, none knew the four-engine bomber better than Capt. Robert Lewis. On Wednesday, two of his wartime flight log books, Hiroshima bombing plans, mission notes and other items are up for sale during an auction of World War II material being held at Bonhams in Manhattan. The pre-sale estimate for the flight logs is $150,000 to $200,000. Lewis, a 27-year-old pilot from Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, logged a total of 36 flights aboard the Enola Gay, including the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing mission that changed the world. A meticulous record-keeper, Lewis' handwritten entry in his personal flight log for that historic day reads: "No#1 Atomic bomb a huge success." The flight logs covering Lewis' service in the Army Air Forces from 1942-46 are among an extensive archive of his documents handed down to his son, Steven Lewis. The younger Lewis said his father recorded details of every flight he took, including the three dozen he made aboard the Enola Gay. "He wrote down everything and he kept everything," said Steven Lewis, 57, of Hampton Township, New Jersey. "The Enola Gay was the most significant aircraft of World War Two," said Larry Starr, collections manager at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, New York. "Any records of that mission would be significant." As commander of the Hiroshima mission, Col. Paul Tibbets was also the pilot of the Enola Gay, relegating the lower-ranked Lewis to co-pilot. The move made Tibbets a household name after his crew completed the world's first atomic bombing mission, which destroyed much of the Japanese city and killed tens of thousands of its citizens. But Tibbets only flew the Enola Gay a couple of times, while Lewis had piloted the aircraft 16 times during test flights leading up to the Hiroshima mission. Continue Reading

Tom Cruise tells CinemaCon crowd: I was ‘scared s—-less’ filming ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ plane stunt

It was enough to strike fear in Maverick. Tom Cruise admits he was terrified as he personally performed the centerpiece stunt in the upcoming "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" flick that hits theaters on July 31. "I was scared s---less," the actor told an audience at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Tuesday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Cruise, 52, made the confession as he presented pulse-pounding footage of himself holding on to the outside of an airplane as it took off and eventually reached 5,000 feet. The actor was attached with only a rope, THR reported. "As always, I will do everything I can to entertain an audience and put as many people into your theaters," Cruise reportedly told the audience full of cineama owners. "Here we are at number five almost 20 years later, it's really a dream come true," Cruise said of the blockbuster franchise. "This movie has a tremendous amount of action of course, but also intrigue and mission twists." Cruise is known for pulling off most of his own death-defying stunts in the "Mission: Impossible" movies. He dangled off the top of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai for the last installment. For the airplane stunt, Cruise reportedly wore special lenses to protect his eyes but had no special gear under his clothes to help with the insane conditions. "I'm an aerobatic pilot, and I've always wanted to do that," he said. The Tuesday presentation marked Cruise's first public appearance since the highly critical Scientology documentary "Going Clear" aired on HBO. Cruise also is said to be enthusiastic about reprising his famous role as U.S. Navy pilot Maverick Mitchell in a sequel to the 1986 hit "Top Gun." "What Tom tells me is that no matter where he goes in the world, people refer to him as Maverick," producer Jerry Bruckheimer said in 2013. "It's something he is excited about, so as long as he keeps Continue Reading

United Arab Emirates reveals planned mission, ‘Hope,’ to study Mars in 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates’ planned 2020 mission to Mars will study the planet’s atmosphere and be appropriately named “Hope,” members of the project team revealed Wednesday. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced initial plans for the unmanned probe last year. It is the first Mars mission attempted anywhere in the Arab world. An invitation-only event Wednesday in Dubai was a chance for officials to unveil many of the finer details. And they did it with a good dose of Gulf flair — soaring music and computer animations projected onto a movie screen in a chandelier-filled beachside palace. One of the world’s largest yachts, Dubai, was berthed outside. “This mission to Mars is really for the hope of the Arab world and will send them a message to say you can be better, you can improve your country,” Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Emirates’ vice president and prime minister, told reporters after the event. Emirati scientists said they hope the probe, which will not land on the surface of the red planet, will provide a deeper understanding of the Martian atmosphere. That includes charting changes that happen over time and gathering data on how features such as volcanoes, deserts and canyons affect it. The plan is to launch the probe in the summer of 2020 — the year Dubai hosts the World Expo — on a journey of seven to nine months. Engineers expect it to remain in orbit until at least 2023. Some 75 engineers are working on the project, a number that is expected to double by 2020. The project is fully staffed by Emiratis — a rarity in a country where guest workers and other foreigners outnumber locals more than four to one. “This is an important project because of the legacy that this project leaves ... to develop Continue Reading

Tom Cruise surprises fans at CinemaCon with two new ‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’ clips

LAS VEGAS — Tom Cruise has made a surprise appearance at CinemaCon in Las Vegas to promote the fifth installment in his “Mission: Impossible” series. The actor said the film, titled “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” features action, intrigue and twists. He premiered two new clips from the film set to open July 31. The clips featured an impossible escape, martial arts fighting and a comedic car chase. Joined on stage by co-stars Rebecca Ferguson and Simon Pegg, Cruise spoke of the stunts in the film. He also told exhibitors at the annual conference that in his four decades in the industry he has always done everything he can to entertain audiences. Continue Reading