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Warmest winter in 120 years turns French ski resort into ghost town | World News

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A French ski resort has been forced to close its ski runs in mid-season as there has been “no snow” for a second year running. 

The daytime temperature at the Le Mourtis resort in the Pyrenees mountains was above 10C (50F) earlier this week – a likely effect of climate change.

It comes as the country’s national weather service, Meteo France, says the last time France experienced a January this mild was in 1900.

Local restaurateurs and hoteliers at Le Mourtis say they are already suffering from the impact of fewer visitors.

“Skiing? No one today can guarantee it,” said Francois Gillaizeau, who manages Tuc de l’Etang, a hotel and restaurant with a shop that rents out leisure gear.

Local businesses are suffering from the impact
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‘Skiing? No one today can guarantee it,’ says the resort’s manager

“If the snow is not there, we have to sell something else.”

Mr Gillaizeau said he expects revenue across his businesses to be down 10 to 15% this year and he has had to reduce the hours of some staff.

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The director of Le Mourtis ski resort, Christophe Esparseil, said it was not a hard decision to close the ski slopes.

“We made the decision to close because we couldn’t guarantee maximum safety for our clients to ski,” he said.

Many of the visitors to Le Mourtis have taken to hiking or renting out downhill scooters instead.

The ski resort has seen 'no snow' for the last two years
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The ski resort has seen ‘no snow’ for the last two years
Climate change is causing milder winters
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Climate change is causing milder winters

Laurent Morel, a visitor from Toulouse who was taking a walk on the mountainside, said: “It’s the second year in a row that we’ve had no snow. We love the mountains so we come anyway.”

Scientists’ predictions for the long-term effects of climate change paint a bleak picture for winter sports.

If the pattern of milder winters continues, ski resorts around 1,600m above sea level will be too warm to even spray artificial snow.

Racks of ski gear at Christophe Esparseil's shop
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Racks of ski gear at Francois Gillaizeau’s shop

Some Pyrenees resorts at higher altitudes have had a decent snow covering and are open for business, but the Le Mourtis resort sits at 1,350m.

Ms Robert said: “Depending on greenhouse gas emissions that we’ll see, there will be a big impact on mid-altitude ski resorts.

“If we manage to limit global warming to 2C, we’ll see something similar to what we have today on this first half of the 21st century.

“But if we get to the scenario with warming reaching 5 or 6C at the end of the century, the future for those mid-altitude resorts looks bleak.”

In 2018, Lapland visitors were left disappointed when no snow fell on the winter resort.

Unseasonably mild conditions meant there was no more than a couple of centimetres of snow in isolated patches, where there would usually be 20-30cm.

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Larry Kramer: Playwright, author and AIDS activist dies aged 84 | World News

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Playwright and author Larry Kramer, who was known for his AIDS activism from early on in the epidemic, has died aged 84.

Kramer, who co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the early 1980s and later the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – or ACT UP movement – died in a New York hospital with pneumonia on Wednesday, his close friend and literary executor Will Schwalbe said.

His death was not said to be related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The award-winning writer was known for his 1985 play The Normal Heart, depicting a writer’s battle with society to raise awareness of AIDS – the immunodeficiency disease from the HIV virus that Kramer had himself.

Larry Kramer
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Larry Kramer was known for his activism to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis
A TV adaptation of Kramer's play The Normal Heart won an Emmy for best movie
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A TV adaptation of Kramer’s play The Normal Heart won an Emmy for best movie

Described as an “angry but compelling indictment of a society as well as a subculture for failing to respond adequately to the tragedy,” by AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara, the revival of the play in 2011 earned it several Tony awards.

A TV movie adaptation in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts, won an Emmy Award for best movie.

Kramer was also nominated for an Academy Award for writing the screen adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love, for which actress Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar.

The 84-year-old was perhaps best known for his lifetime of advocacy work as a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights and securing medical treatment for those with AIDS.

Journalist Randy Shilts described an article Kramer had written for gay newspapers in the 1980s as “inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade” and credited it with “crystallizing the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community.”

In the 1983 article, Kramer had written about the epidemic: “Our continued existence as gay men upon the face of this earth is at stake…Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die.”

Larry Kramer (left) married his longtime partner David Webster (right) in 2013
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Larry Kramer (left) married his longtime partner David Webster (right) in 2013

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in June 1935, Laurence David Kramer went on to study at Yale University and served in the army.

He later worked at the William Morris Agency and for Columbia Pictures.

In 2001, he had a liver transplant due to hepatitis B.

Kramer married his long-time partner, architect David Webster, in 2013, with the couple making their vows while Kramer was recovering from a bowel obstruction surgery in an intensive care unit at hospital.

They had planned the wedding before he was forced to have surgery, but they didn’t let the health emergency stop them.



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Coronavirus: ‘She took her last breath in my arms’ – A personal tragedy as US COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000 | US News

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In a matter of months, 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.

America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.

Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.

Leilani Jordan
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Leilani Jordan was just 27 when she died

People have died in every state and from every walk of life.

Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.

Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.

“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”

Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.

“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”

Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back
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Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back

Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.

“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.

“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”

She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”

Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.

She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.

Zenobia was able to visit Leilani in hospital
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Ms Shepherd was able to visit Leilani in hospital

Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.

Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.

Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.

“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”

Leilani's younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery
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Leilani’s younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery

After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.

“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”

Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.

“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”

Leilani Jordan
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Leilani loved to help people, her mum says

As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.

Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.

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So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.

But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.

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Historic US space launch that would have been visible from UK aborted | Science & Tech News

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An historic US space flight that would have been visible from the UK was aborted shortly before launch due to bad weather.

NASA announced the decision on safety grounds just minutes before lift-off on Wednesday – with the flight now not happening until at least the weekend.

The mission had been planned in conjunction with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX – and it would have been the first private involvement in taking astronauts to the International Space Station.

The massive Vehicle Assembly Building is shrouded in fog as stormy weather greeted launch day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27, 2020. - A new era in space begins Wednesday with the launch by SpaceX of two NASA astronauts into space, a capability that for six decades symbolized the power of a handful of states, and which the United States itself had been deprived of for nine years.If the bad weather clears, at 4:33 pm (20:33 GMT) a SpaceX rocket with the new Crew Dragon capsule on
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Weather conditions forced NASA to postpone the SpaceX launch

The US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron had forecast between a 40% and 60% chance of favourable conditions at the launch site in Florida.

Throughout the day weather conditions became worse, with a tropical storm initially threatening the launch before a tornado warning was issued.

NASA has stringent rules about the conditions in which the Falcon 9 can fly, and said one of these rules was being violated just minutes before the launch.

The earliest the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft could now launch is this weekend, with potential windows available on both Saturday and Sunday.

Falcon 9 rockets are not allowed to launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad and flight path.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain praised the SpaceX and NASA teams for “making the tough call” to postpone the mission.

“We all wanted a launch, but keeping our friends safe while we do it is a no-fail mission,” Ms McClain said, adding: “See you again Saturday.”

President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch
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President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch

Although Donald Trump flew down to Florida to watch the launch, it being postponed means that the last president to be present at a NASA launch was Bill Clinton.

Barack Obama had flown to the Kennedy Space Centre for a space shuttle launch in 2010, but that launch was scrubbed due to a technical problem.

He didn’t return for the rescheduled launch a number of weeks later.

It isn’t clear whether Mr Trump will be back in Florida on Saturday.

There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen
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There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen

Just a few miles away from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre there is a Space Mirror Memorial.

It commemorates the 15 NASA astronauts who lost their lives while in service to the agency during a spaceflight.

No names will be added to that memorial due to decisions made today.

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