Naomi Judd, of Grammy-winning Duo The Judds, Dies at 76

Naomi Judd, the Kentucky-born singer of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd, has died. She was 76.

The daughters announced her death Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”

Naomi Judd died near Nashville, Tennessee, said a statement on behalf of her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland. It said no further details about her death would be released and asked for privacy as the family grieves.

The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday and they had just announced an arena tour to begin in the fall, their first tour together in over a decade. They also made a return to awards shows when they performed at the CMT Music Awards earlier this month.

“Honored to have witnessed ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ just a few short weeks ago,” singer Maren Morris posted on Twitter Saturday.

“This is heartbreaking news! Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known,” singer Travis Tritt posted on Twitter, noting that he had worked with Judd several times on screen and during performances.

The mother-daughter performers scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. After rising to the top of country music, they called it quits in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi Judd with hepatitis. Wynonna continued her solo career.

The Judds’ hits included “Love Can Build a Bridge” in 1990,”Mama He’s Crazy” in 1984, “Why Not Me” in 1984,”Turn It Loose” in 1988, “Girls Night Out” in 1985, “Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain” in 1986 and “Grandpa” in 1986.

Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, Naomi was working as a nurse in Nashville, when she and Wynonna started singing together professionally. Their unique harmonies, together with elements of acoustic music, bluegrass and blues, made them stand out in the genre at the time.

“We had a … such a stamp of originality on what we were trying to do,” Naomi Judd told The AP after it was announced that they would be joining the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Judds released six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They earned a total of five Grammy Awards together on hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love.”

The Judds sang about family, the belief in marriage and the virtue of fidelity. Because Naomi was so young looking, the two were mistaken for sisters early in their career.

They first got attention singing on Ralph Emery’s morning show in early 1980, where the host named them the “Soap Sisters” because Naomi said she used to make her own soap.

After the success of “Mama He’s Crazy,” they won the Horizon Award at the 1984 CMA Awards. Naomi started her speech by saying “Slap the dog and spit in the fire!”

Daughter Ashley Judd is an actor known for her roles in such movies as “Kiss the Girls,” “Double Jeopardy” and “Heat.”

Strickland, who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley, was married to Naomi Judd for 32 years.

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Muslim Students at Princeton University Break Ramadan Fast Together

For many students, living and studying at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States can be stressful and sometimes a little lonely. But some Muslim students at Princeton University can find comfort in their community during the month of Ramadan. VOA’s Nida Samir reports.

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Google Adds Ways to Keep Personal Info Private in Searches

Google has expanded options for keeping personal information private from online searches.

The company said Friday it will let people request that more types of content such as personal contact information like phone numbers, email and physical addresses be removed from search results.

The new policy also allows the removal of other information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials.

The company said in a statement that open access to information is vital, “but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private.”

“Privacy and online safety go hand in hand. And when you’re using the internet, it’s important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found,” it said.

Google Search earlier had permitted people to request that highly personal content that could cause direct harm be removed. That includes information removed due to doxxing and personal details like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for fraud.

But information increasing pops up in unexpected places and is used in new ways, so policies need to evolve, the company said.

Having personal contact information openly available online also can pose a threat and Google said it had received requests for the option to remove that content, too.

It said that when it receives such requests it will study all the content on the web page to avoid limiting availability of useful information or of content on the public record on government or other official websites.

“It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you’re comfortable doing so,” it said.

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Australian Musical Charts Family’s Escape from Nazis in Europe

A musical that depicts the remarkable escape from the Holocaust of a renowned Jewish sculptor and his family is about to open in Australia. Driftwood recounts the journey of Karl Duldig, his wife Slawa Horowitz-Duldig – inventor of the modern foldable umbrella – and their baby daughter, Eva. They fled the Nazis from Vienna in 1938, sought refuge in Singapore, but were deported to Australia in September 1940.

“Driftwood” is based on a 2017 memoir by Karl Duldig’s daughter, Eva. She was a child when the family arrived in Australia. It was during World War II, and the family were classified as enemy aliens. They were interned in an isolated camp in the state of Victoria until 1942, when Karl Duldig joined the Australian army.

Eva de Jong-Duldig, who became a talented tennis player and reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1961, says the musical is an epic story of survival.

“My parents were inspiration. I think what I admire most is their resilience after coming through such a terrible period in which they lost nearly all their family. They made new lives here in Australia and they became wonderful art teachers, and my dad became really very well recognized as a sculptor,” she noted.

They rebuilt their lives as artists in Melbourne in what is described as a “magical” family history of “creativity, perseverance and freedom.”

Their granddaughter, Tania De Jong, is one of the musical’s main performers. She told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., that Driftwood has become a story with a global appeal.

“Both of us just felt a really strong yearning to create a new Australian musical that was deep and substantial and told a very meaningful story. But we do also have an enormous amount of interest from international film producers to turn this epic story into a feature film as well,” she expressed.

Karl Duldig died in Melbourne in 1986. His wife, Slawa, died in 1975.

The show has had positive reviews from Australia’s Jewish community.

Hadassah Australia, an organization that supports programs that connect the Australian community with Israel, said it looked “forward to the success of the musical telling [of Eva de Jong-Duldig] parents’ story.”, an online publication, said “Driftwood” “features a fluid sense of time, as characters reconstruct past experiences, to make sense of history. It is an epic, ambitious theatrical piece and a truly original Australian story.”

The Australian Jewish News said it would be giving away free tickets to the show’s opening night.

The world premiere takes place at Monash University in Melbourne May 13.

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Turkey’s Soaring Inflation Mars Ramadan Celebrations

Muslim worshippers in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir say they are struggling to purchase essential groceries for Ramadan celebrations because of the country’s high inflation rate. VOA’s Xecican Farqin has details in this report narrated by Rikar Hussein. Camera: Xecican Farqin

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New Kenyan Fish Marketing App Aims to Reduce Sexual Exploitation of Women Fishmongers

An application developed in Kenya to improve the marketing of fish caught in Lake Victoria is helping women fishmongers fend off sex-for-fish exploitation by fishermen. The Aquarech app allows traders to buy fish without having to negotiate with fishermen – as Ruud Elmendorp reports from Kisumu, Kenya.
Videographer: Ruud Elmendorp Produced by: Henry Hernandez

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Hong Kong Actor Kenneth Tsang Dies in Quarantine Hotel 

Veteran Hong Kong actor Kenneth Tsang has died while in a COVID-19 quarantine hotel in the southern Chinese city, local media reported.

Tsang was best known internationally for his action roles in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day,'' John Woo'sThe Killer” in 1989, Rush Hour 2'' in 2001 starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and 1998'sThe Replacement Killers” alongside Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino.

Tsang had been undergoing seven days of quarantine after returning from Singapore on Monday and was found collapsed on the floor of his hotel room by staff on Wednesday, according to the South China Morning Post and other media.

The South China Morning Post said Tsang was 87 years old but other sources gave his age as 86.

No cause of death was given and the paper said he had tested negative for the virus and had no underlying medical conditions.

In all, Tsang had some 237 acting credits, mainly in Hong Kong film and television productions, and especially in detective and martial arts movies, according to his IMDb page.

Born in Shanghai, Tsang began acting after obtaining an architecture degree at the University of California, Berkeley, making his debut in 1955. In 1969 alone, he was credited in more than 20 movies and continued working up to the time of his death.

Tsang was married three times and had a son with his first wife, Lan Di, and a daughter with his second wife, Barbara Tang.

Hong Kong is dealing with a renewed outbreak in cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant and requires all inbound travelers to undergo quarantine for up to 14 days.

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Musk’s Twitter Ambitions Likely to Collide with Europe’s Tech Rules 

A hands-off approach to moderating content at Elon Musk’s Twitter could clash with ambitious new laws in Europe meant to protect users from disinformation, hate speech and other harmful material. 

Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” pledged to buy Twitter for $44 billion this week, with European Union officials and digital campaigners quick to say that any focus on free speech to the detriment of online safety would not fly after the 27-nation bloc solidified its status as a global leader in the effort to rein in the power of tech giants.

“If his approach will be ‘just stop moderating it,’ he will likely find himself in a lot of legal trouble in the EU,” said Jan Penfrat, senior policy adviser at digital rights group EDRi.

Musk will soon be confronted with Europe’s Digital Services Act, which will require big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta to police their platforms more strictly or face billions in fines.

Other crackdowns

Officials agreed just days ago on the landmark legislation, expected to take effect by 2024. It’s unclear how soon it could spark a similar crackdown elsewhere, with U.S. lawmakers divided on efforts to address competition, online privacy, disinformation and more.

That means the job of reining in a Musk-led Twitter could fall to Europe — something officials signaled they’re ready for.

“Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules — regardless of their shareholding,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, tweeted Tuesday. “Mr Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”

Musk’s plans for Twitter haven’t been fleshed out beyond a few ideas for new features, opening its algorithm to public inspection and defeating “bots” posing as real users.

France’s digital minister, Cedric O, said Musk has “interesting things” that he wants to push for Twitter, “but let’s remember that #DigitalServicesAct — and therefore the obligation to fight misinformation, online hate, etc. — will apply regardless of the ideology of its owner.” 

EU Green Party lawmaker Alexandra Geese, who was involved in negotiating the law, said, “Elon Musk’s idea of free speech without content moderation would exclude large parts of the population from public discourse,” such as women and people of color. 

Twitter declined to comment. Musk tweeted that “the extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.” He added that by free speech, he means “that which matches the law” and that he’s against censorship going “far beyond the law.” 

The United Kingdom also has an online safety law in the works that threatens senior managers at tech companies with prison if they don’t comply. Users would get more power to block anonymous trolls, and tech companies would be forced to proactively take down illegal content. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office stressed the need for Twitter to remain “responsible” and protect users. 

“Regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible,” Johnson spokesman Max Blain said Tuesday. 

Need seen for cleanup

Damian Collins, a British lawmaker who led a parliamentary committee working on the bill, said that if Musk really wants to make Twitter a free speech haven, “he will need to clean up the digital town square.” 

Collins said Twitter has become a place where users are drowned out by coordinated armies of “bot” accounts spreading disinformation and division and that users refrain from expressing themselves “because of the hate and abuse they will receive.” 

The laws in the U.K. and EU target such abuse. Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, tech companies must put in place systems so illegal content can be easily flagged for swift removal. 

Experts said Twitter will have to go beyond taking down clearly defined illegal content like hate speech, terrorism and child sexual abuse and grapple with material that falls into a gray zone. 

The law includes requirements for big tech platforms to carry out annual risk assessments to determine how much their products and design choices contribute to the spread of divisive material that can affect issues like health or public debate. 

“This is all about assessing to what extent your users are seeing, for example, Russian propaganda in the context of the Ukraine war,” online harassment or COVID-19 misinformation, said Mathias Vermeulen, public policy director at data rights agency AWO. 

Violations would incur fines of up to 6% of a company’s global annual revenue. Repeat offenders can be banned from the EU.

More openness 

The Digital Services Act also requires tech companies to be more transparent by giving regulators and researchers access to data on how their systems recommend content to users. 

Musk has similar thoughts, saying his plans include “making the algorithms open source to increase trust.” 

Penfrat said it’s a great idea that could pave the way to a new ecosystem of ranking and recommendation options. 

But he panned another Musk idea — “authenticating all humans” — saying that taking away anonymity or pseudonyms from people, including society’s most marginalized, was the dream of every autocrat.

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Elon Musk Quest to Scrap Deal Over 2018 Tweets is Rejected

Elon Musk’s request to scrap a settlement with securities regulators over 2018 tweets claiming he had the funding to take Tesla private was denied by a federal judge in New York.

Judge Lewis Liman on Wednesday also denied a motion to nullify subpoenas of Musk seeking information about possible violations of his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk had asked the court to throw out the settlement, which required that his tweets be approved by a Tesla attorney. The SEC is investigating whether the Tesla CEO violated the settlement with tweets last November asking Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock.

The whole dispute stems from an October 2018 agreement with the SEC in which Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines over Musk’s tweets about having the money to take Tesla private at $420 per share.

The funding was far from secured and the electric vehicle company remains public, but Tesla’s stock price jumped. The settlement specified governance changes, including Musk’s ouster as board chairman, as well as pre-approval of his tweets.

Musk attorney Alex Spiro contended in court motions that the SEC was trampling on Musk’s right to free speech.

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Google Investment to Help Solve Africa’s Tech Problems

California-based Google wants to get a bigger share of Africa’s growing online population, which is expected to top 800 million by 2030. 


The internet search giant announced this month it is setting up its first product development center on the continent, to be based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. It is scheduled to open next year and will employ more than 100 people. 

Charles Murito, head of government affairs and public policy for sub-Saharan Africa at Google, said the investment will create many opportunities within Africa’s tech sector.   

“The product development center is going to be one that works to create transformative products and services for people right here on the continent, as well as creating a product for the rest of the world,” he said. “So the announcement last week was really just a kick-off in terms of the hiring process for the people that are going to be working in this product development center for Africa. And that will include roles such as product managers, UX designers and researchers, and engineers, and this is really a starting point of the work we are going to be doing.” 

The multinational technology company said its mission is to make the world’s information universally accessible and create a product that works well for Africans. 


Bitange Ndemo, former principal secretary of Kenya’s information, communication, and technology ministry, said the government needs to train more of its youth to benefit from the Google center. 

“It’s a wonderful investment in the sense that it’s going to help reduce the problem of unemployment in this country, but what that tells the Kenyan government is they must begin to invest in skilling and reskilling young people so that they can meet the demand. Already the demand for such skills exceeds supply locally,” he said. 

Google has trained over 80,000 certified developers from Africa in the past few years. 


The firm is investing $1 billion in projects over the next five years to help with the development of Africa internet economy. 


Murito said the investment will transform Africa. 

“It’s the opportunity around creating products that work best for Africans at large and, therefore, whether you are thinking about products on financial inclusion or other sectors of the economy, we believe that by having a product development center right here on the continent, we will be able to know firsthand what challenges are and also be able to create products that will service and solve some of those challenges,” he said. 

Microsoft has also invested in Kenya, hiring hundreds of engineers from the East African nation. 


The continent comes with its own challenges for businesses because some countries lack good governance and the rule of law and that creates an uncertain environment for investments. Some nations have turned off the internet to silence their citizens. 


Murito said his organization works with African governments to encourage innovation and develop policies that will sustain innovation. 


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Flutists Worldwide Unite in Music to Show Support for Ukraine

Belarusian-American composer Eugene Magalif has organized an international musical event to honor and show support for Ukraine. Maxim Moskalkov has the story.
Videographer: Andrey Degtyarev

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US Laboratory Innovating Electronic Vehicle Technology 

Many of the technological advances in lithium ion batteries that now power many electric vehicles began in a laboratory just outside Chicago’s city limits decades ago.  VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on new innovations at Argonne National Laboratory preparing for the next-generation needs of drivers.
Camera: Kane Farabaugh, Mike Burke   
Produced by: Kane Farabaugh   

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Robotics Company Makes Sensor-Packed Filmmaking Equipment  

Sensor-packed robots are changing how movies and commercials are made. Deana Mitchell has the story.

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More Free Speech or More Misinformation? Reactions Mixed to Twitter Sale 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter Monday met mixed reactions as observers speculated how digital speech on the service might change under his leadership. 

Musk, a prolific Twitter user who has criticized Twitter’s management in tweets, said in the press release Monday announcing the deal that “Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”   

Musk’s takeover of Twitter was applauded by some U.S. conservatives who have alleged that internet firms — including Twitter — promote a liberal political agenda and suppress conservative voices. 

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, tweeted that it’s “amazing to watch the Left panic at the prospect of free speech on Twitter.”  


But others expressed concern that Musk’s takeover would mean less moderation of hate speech and misinformation on the site.   

Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel with Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, told VOA that Twitter doesn’t have a good track record of taking down hateful speech against Muslims. 

“We already face threats and regular harassment on Twitter, and a weaker content moderation system will just make that even worse,” she said.  


Twitter, with more than 400 million monthly active users, has a smaller audience than Facebook, with 3 billion users, and YouTube, with over 2 billion.   

Twitter is primarily used in the U.S. and Western Europe, where it is influential among journalists, political leaders, celebrities and other thought leaders. Because powerful people use Twitter, it has an outsized influence, observers say.  

Twitter allows people to post anonymously and is credited with helping marginalized voices around the world speak. Musk has talked recently of wanting to “authenticate all real humans” on the site, raising concerns among digital rights advocates that Twitter will require accounts to be tied to a person’s identity.  

Twitter under Musk 

Michael Posner, director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said that Musk’s statements about free speech “are not very well developed.”  

“We have to hope that once he gets into the driver’s seat, he understands that social media platforms need to be moderated by people who own them and run them,” he told VOA. “A site where content moderation is not taken seriously is going to yield spam, pornography, hate speech and disinformation, and all kinds of things that are not good for society.”  

Emerson Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, said Twitter will probably change under the new leadership.  

“Musk’s absolutist view of freedom of speech, his unfamiliarity with the challenges that many people face around the world in expressing their political points of view, these two things are going to clash,” he said in an interview with VOA. “And I expect that the Twitter of the future will look quite a bit different and quite a bit less inviting for many people.”   

Concentration of power 

Evan Greer, director of the digital rights organization Fight for the Future, said Musk’s acquisition exposes another issue: A handful of companies have a monopoly on “what can be seen, heard and done online,” she said. 

“If we want a future of free speech, it’s not a future where the richest person on Earth can purchase a platform that millions of people depend on and then change the rules to his liking,” she said in an interview with VOA.  

There’s been speculation that under Musk, former President Donald Trump, whom Twitter banned permanently in 2021, could return to the site. But Trump told Fox News prior to the announcement of the deal Monday that while he hoped that Musk would buy Twitter, he would not return to the service. Instead, he will join his own social media site, Truth Social, he said. 

For his part, Musk appeared to acknowledge the varied reactions about his new role, tweeting Monday: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.” 




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 Twitter CEO Says Company Direction Uncertain After Musk Deal 

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal told employees Monday that he is uncertain of the direction the company will go after Tesla CEO Elon Musk takes over.    

Musk reached an agreement Monday to buy Twitter for $44 billion, promising to make the platform more supportive of free speech. The move has raised questions about how far Twitter will go to relax restrictions on users’ speech and led critics to fear new policies would make it easier for people to spread disinformation and hate speech. 

Agrawal answered employee questions Monday in a town hall that was heard by Reuters.    

The news agency reported that Agrawal told employees, “Once the deal closes, we don’t know which direction the platform will go.” The CEO was answering a question about whether former President Donald Trump would be allowed to rejoin Twitter despite his permanent suspension.  

“I believe when we have an opportunity to speak with Elon, it’s a question we should address with him,” Agrawal said.  

Twitter banned Trump after the U.S. Capitol was stormed on January 6, 2021, citing a risk of more violence.  

Musk has proposed relaxing the type of content restrictions that led Twitter to suspend the former president’s account.     

Musk, who is also CEO of rocket developer SpaceX, has said Twitter needs to become a private company so that it can realize its potential for free speech. He has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist.”     

Reuters reported that Agrawal deferred many staff questions to Musk, who he said would join Twitter staff for a question-and-answer session at a later date. 

Agrawal also told employees there were no plans for layoffs. 

Musk said in a securities filing this month that he did not have confidence in Twitter’s management.  

He said in a statement Monday that “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”   

Some information in this report came from Reuters. 


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All-Private Astronaut Team Returns Safely From Landmark Space Station Visit

The first all-private astronaut team ever flown aboard the International Space Station (ISS) safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Monday, concluding a two-week science mission hailed as a landmark in commercialized human spaceflight.  

The SpaceX crew capsule carrying the four-man team, led by a retired NASA astronaut who is now vice president of the Texas company behind the mission, Axiom Space, parachuted into the sea after a 16-hour descent from orbit. 

The splashdown capped the latest, and most ambitious, in a recent series of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by private investment capital and wealthy passengers rather than taxpayer dollars six decades after the dawn of the space age. 

The mission’s crew was assembled, equipped and trained entirely at private expense by Axiom, a five-year-old venture based in Houston and headed by NASA’s former ISS program manager. Axiom also has contracted with NASA to build the first commercial addition to and ultimate replacement of the space station. 

SpaceX, the launch service founded by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, supplied the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule that carried Axiom’s team to and from orbit, controlled the flight and handled the splashdown recovery. 

NASA, which has encouraged the further commercialization of space travel, furnished the launch site at its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and assumed responsibility for the Axiom crew while they were aboard the space station. The U.S. space agency’s ISS crew members also pitched in to assist the private astronauts when needed. 

The multinational Axiom team was led by Spanish-born retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, 63, the company’s vice president for business development. His second-in-command was Larry Connor, 72, a technology entrepreneur and aerobatics aviator from Ohio designated the mission pilot. 

Joining them as “mission specialists” were investor-philanthropist and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, 64, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mark Pathy, 52.  

Connor, Stibbe and Pathy flew as customers of Axiom, which charges $50 million to $60 million per seat for such flights, according to Mo Islam, head of research for the investment firm Republic Capital, which holds stakes in both Axiom and SpaceX. 

Fiery reentry 

The splashdown, carried live by an Axiom-SpaceX webcast, was originally planned for last Wednesday, but the return flight was delayed, and the mission was extended to about a week due to windy weather. The potential costs of such an extension were factored into Axiom’s contracts with NASA and its customers, so none of the parties bore any additional charges, the company said. 

The return from orbit followed a reentry plunge through Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that sends temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 1,927 degrees Celsius. 

Applause was heard from the SpaceX flight control center in suburban Los Angeles as parachutes billowed open above the capsule in the final stage of its descent — slowing its fall to about 24 kilometers per hour — and again as the craft hit the water off the coast of Jacksonville. 

In less than an hour, the heat-scorched Crew Dragon was hoisted onto a recovery ship before the capsule’s side hatch was opened and the four astronauts, garbed in helmeted white-and-black spacesuits, were helped out one by one onto the deck. All were visibly unsteady on their feet from over two weeks spent in a weightless environment. 

Each received a quick onboard checkup before they were flown back to Florida for more thorough medical evaluations. 

“Everybody looks great and is doing reasonably well,” Axiom operations director Derek Hassmann told a post-splashdown news briefing, describing the astronauts as being “in great spirits.”  

‘Low-Earth orbit economy’ 

Axiom, SpaceX, and NASA have touted the occasion as a milestone in the expansion of privately funded space-based commerce, constituting what industry insiders call the “low-Earth orbit economy,” or “LEO economy” for short. 

“We proved that we can prepare the crew in a way that makes them effective and productive in orbit,” Hassmann said. “What it demonstrates to the world is that there is a new avenue to get to low-Earth orbit.” 

Launched on April 8, the Axiom team spent 17 days in orbit, 15 of those aboard the space station with the seven regular, government-paid ISS crew members: three American astronauts, a German astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts. 

The ISS has hosted several wealthy space tourists from time to time over the years. 

But the Axiom quartet was the first all-commercial team ever welcomed to the space station as working astronauts, bringing with them 25 science and biomedical experiments to conduct in orbit. The package included research on brain health, cardiac stem cells, cancer and aging, as well as a technology demonstration to produce optics using the surface tension of fluids in microgravity. 

It was the sixth human spaceflight for SpaceX in nearly two years, following four NASA astronaut missions to the ISS and the “Inspiration 4” flight in September that sent an all-private crew into Earth orbit for the first time, though not to the space station. 

SpaceX has been hired to fly three more Axiom astronaut missions to ISS over the next two years. 

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Elon Musk Reaches Agreement to Buy Twitter

Tesla CEO Elon Musk reached an agreement Monday to buy Twitter for $44 billion cash. 

The sale will transform the social media giant from a publicly traded company to a privately held one, owned solely by Musk, the world’s richest person. 

Discussions over the deal accelerated after Musk unveiled a financing package last week to back the acquisition.   

Twitter shares were up more than 5% in trading Monday afternoon.   

Musk, who is also CEO of rocket developer SpaceX, has said Twitter needs to become a private company so that it can realize its potential for free speech. He has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist.”  

The businessman, who is a prolific tweeter with more than 83 million followers, tweeted Monday, “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”  

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet Monday, “Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world.” 

“Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important,” he added. 

Musk has proposed relaxing Twitter’s content restrictions, which could include rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account.   

Earlier Monday, Republicans cheered news that Musk was close to reaching a deal with Twitter.  

“Hey, @elonmusk it’s a great week to free @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted the House Republican Conference.  

Twitter banned Trump’s account after the U.S. Capitol was stormed on Jan. 6, 2021, citing a risk of more violence. 

Musk is the world’s richest person according to Forbes magazine, with a nearly $279 billion fortune.  

Some information in this report comes from the Associated Pres and Reuters. 


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New Kenyan Play Targets Gender-Based Violence

Kenya saw a jump in cases of gender-based violence (GBV) during its COVID-19 lockdowns, which heightened social and financial stress.  To address the problem, Kenyan authorities are turning to the dramatic arts.

At the Kenya’s National Theatre in Nairobi, some 65 young people are putting their acting skills to use, as part of Kenya’s latest strategy to educate the public about the evils of gender-based violence.

Titled “A Little Girls Worth,” the one-hour play by Kenyan playwrights Derrick Waswa and Tommah Sheriff, is a new production co-sponsored by the Ministry for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. It tells a story of how despite their extraordinary contribution in society, women suffer disproportionately.

Derrick Waswa, the play’s director, said the goal is to sensitize the public on violence against women, which he said stems from cultural beliefs that a woman is part of a man’s possessions.

“Basically people are blaming the violence and not looking at the cause. What we are trying to explain is that the African cultural nature has made women to be submissive. From the bible, you are told to submit to your husband as it is to the Lord, and in this African set up where a man has to pay dowery for you, it means they are technically purchasing you,” he said.

A February 2022 report by the Kenya Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) shows that cases of gender-based violence rose sharply during the pandemic, to the point where they made up nearly half the cases reported to the federation.

Authorities attribute the rise in these cases to the pandemic and the economic losses it caused.

The play premiered this month with a three-night run to audiences of 350 at the National Theater.

Audience members like Samson Osoro expressed hope that the dramatic arts will help change men’s mindset.

“This play will go a long way to also sensitize especially the men, who may be so unwelcome or harsh to our ladies, to know that ladies are also very important as men are. As a father I would really wish for my daughter to be treated in a better way than during the time of our mother and grandmother,” he said.

Njeri Migwi is the founder of Usikimye, an organization working to end sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya.  The group’s name means “speak up” in Swahili.

Migwai told VOA that programs such as door to door campaigns will reach more people, but said the play is a step in the right direction.

“Art imitates life and so for the government to use that as a means of educating… one of the things that I have been very passionate about is calling the government to start educating people about the importance of them being aware of GBV and how to acknowledge one of the forms.  So the government putting up the effort to put out a play is amazing,” said Migwai.

No further dates are set, but youth affairs authorities are hoping to show the play in social halls across the country.

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Jon Stewart to Receive Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

A host of celebrities and comedy royalty will gather Sunday night at the Kennedy Center as comedian, talk show host and political influencer Jon Stewart receives the Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in humor. 

Stewart, the 23rd recipient of the prize, will be honored by testimonials and skits from fellow comedians and previous Mark Twain recipients. Stewart himself spoke during Dave Chappelle’s Mark Twain ceremony in 2019. 

The 59-year-old Stewart — born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz — rose to prominence as a standup comic and host of multiple failed talk shows before taking over  Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” in 1999. His 16-year run as “Daily Show” host turned him into a cultural and political force as Stewart trained his satirical eye on both politics and an increasingly polarized national media. 

In perhaps his most iconic moment, Stewart went on CNN’s popular “Crossfire” debate show in 2004 and challenged the show’s entire premise of left-wing versus right-wing debate. Stewart told co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala they had a “responsibility to the public discourse” that they were cheapening with insincere political role-playing. 

Stewart’s appearance rocketed him to new levels of prominence and political relevance and may have sealed the fate of “Crossfire,” which was canceled three months later. 

Since retiring from “The Daily Show” in 2015, Stewart has become a vocal proponent of a number of social causes and one of the most prominent voices in support of health care for Sept. 11 first responders in New York City. He recently returned to television as host of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+. 

When Stewart’s selection was announced in January, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter hailed his body of work as “equal parts entertainment and truth.” 

Rutter said Stewart’s career “demonstrates that we all can make a difference in this world through humor, humanity, and patriotism.” 

This will be the first Mark Twain ceremony since Chappelle’s in 2019. The award skipped 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from that two-year break, the prize has been presented annually since 1998, with Richard Pryor receiving the first honors. 

Other recipients include Carol Burnett (the oldest recipient at age 80), Tina Fey (the youngest at age 40), Eddie Murphy, Jonathan Winters, George Carlin and Lily Tomlin. 2009 recipient Bill Cosby had his prize rescinded in 2018 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault. 

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Despite Pandemic Easing, Ramadan Drive-Through Iftars Still Commonplace in US

During Ramadan, communal iftars, or breaking of fasts for Muslims in mosques, are the norm in the United States, but since the coronavirus pandemic began, drive-through food distributions have become popular. VOA’s Faiza Bukhari takes us behind the scenes at one of Virginia’s Islamic centers, where a daily drive-through iftar for roughly 800 people is organized. Camera and video editing by Qazafi Babar.

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