Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, and CNN’s Poppy Harlow get into a heated exchange over unemployment benefits.
Families in Beirut are still desperately seeking news of missing loved ones.
It’s been three days since a huge explosion killed more than 150 people and left thousands injured.
For one family, inaccurate reports on social media and news sites gave them false hope that their relative was still alive.
“As the data demonstrates, the gravity of this situation cannot be overstressed,” said Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest University School of Law and a co-author of the report. “Unless the federal government invests in eviction prevention, we are not only risking widespread eviction and homelessness, we are guaranteeing negative health outcomes, greater unemployment, educational decline, and long-term harm for renters, property owners and communities.”
Renters in the southern part of the country face the highest risk of eviction, with the highest percentage in Louisiana (56%), and Mississippi (58%). Up to 48% of renters in Alabama are at risk of eviction, with 45% of renters in Connecticut, Florida and Georgia.
(CNN) — The first powered plane flight, performed by the Wright Brothers over the windswept beach of North Carolina’s Kitty Hawk in 1903, covered 120 feet. That historic flight would fit entirely in the cargo hold of the Antonov AN-225 Mriya, the world’s biggest fully operational plane.
Powered by six turbofan engines and with a wingspan almost the length of a football field, this gentle giant of the skies can carry bigger and heavier cargo than any other plane, and is unique in the world of aviation, as just one was ever built.
A favorite of plane spotters around the world, the AN-225 attracts a crowd whenever it visits an airport during one of its rare — and often spectacular — heavy lift jobs.
Onlookers video the AN-225 Mriya from the viewing deck at Perth International airport.
Paul Kane/Getty Images
“It looks magnificent during takeoff and landing and it seems to slowly sail into the air, due to its huge size,” said Ilya Grinberg, a Soviet aviation expert and a professor of engineering at Buffalo State University. “It can be easily photographed with any type of camera and it looks very impressive from any angle. I think it is indeed an engineering marvel,” he said.
Recently, the plane has been used in the Covid-19 relief effort to transport record loads of protective equipment. But its original mission was very different: born out of the Cold War, the AN-225 was designed to be part of the Soviet space program.
A flying dream
The AN-225 was conceived to carry Soviet space shuttles.
GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images
A new era in space exploration began in April 1981, when the first Space Shuttle launched into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its large cargo bay was a design feature pushed by the Pentagon, which used the Shuttle in a handful of classified missions to send military satellites into orbit. The USSR perceived this capability as a threat, and wanted a vehicle that could do the same.
The result was the Buran (“Blizzard” in Russian), a Soviet Shuttle that looked remarkably like its American counterpart, down to the black and white paint job.
But whether it was a straight up clone or simply informed by the laws of aerodynamics, the Buran — along with its companion rocket, the Energiya — came with a logistical problem: how to transport the spacecraft from manufacturing facilities around Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, 1,300 miles away in today’s southern Kazakhstan, from which Soviet space missions departed.
The Soviet Union’s Buran shuttle looked similar to its US counterpart.
TASS / AFP via Getty Images
Rather than building a new freeway across rivers and mountains, Soviet engineers asked the Antonov Design Bureau in Kiev to create a new transporter plane capable of airlifting the shuttle and its rocket. It would also be used to haul the Buran back to Baikonur whenever it would land at a backup site rather than the Cosmodrome upon returning from orbit.
Antonov based it around an existing model, the AN-124 Ruslan, itself already a very large plane, bigger than the Boeing 747-400.
The overall size was increased significantly, with the goal of doubling the cargo capacity. Among the visible upgrades were an extra pair of engines, bringing the total to six, and a longer landing gear, which increased the wheel count to a whopping 32. A new twin tail with an oversize vertical stabilizer was also added to allow the plane to carry the Buran on its back.
The resulting behemoth, so large that it stuck out of its hangar during the inauguration ceremony, was christened the AN-225 Mriya.
“Mriya is the Ukrainian word for ‘dream.’ It was the first Soviet plane to be christened with a Ukrainian name,” said Grinberg.
The AN-225 carrying the Buran space shuttle was the star of the 1989 Paris air show.
The Antonov Design Bureau worked quickly to produce the finished plane in just three and a half years, but it still couldn’t keep up with the development of the Buran, so an interim solution was chosen: adapting a fleet of old 3M-T bombers to carry the spacecraft unassembled.
When the AN-225 was finally ready, it was history it couldn’t catch up with: both the Buran and the AN-225 first flew in late 1988, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which foreshadowed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
As a result, the Buran program was canceled after just one official mission, and the AN-225 ended up carrying the shuttle piggyback style in only about a dozen test flights.
The duo stole the show when it made an appearance at the 1989 Paris Air Show, but its primary mission had vanished. An outlandish proposal to transform it into a flying hotel, with suites and swimming pools and space for 1,500 guests never turned into reality, and the AN-225 ended up in a hangar where it was stripped for parts and rusted away for seven years.
A new life
How many wheels? The AN-225’s landing gear.
Paul Kane/Getty Images
In 2001, the AN-225 was dusted off, thoroughly upgraded with modern equipment and brought back into service.
In the same year it set 124 world records, according to Antonov, including those for carrying capacity, flight altitude with cargo, and lifting record cargo to an altitude.
“This happened on the day of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and therefore all these records went unnoticed,” said Grinberg. “That day, five battle tanks, each weighing 50 tons, served as the control cargo. And they drove into the cargo cabin themselves.”
The plane was resurrected because Antonov Airlines, a division of the Antonov company that operates around a dozen heavy transporter planes, was receiving orders on cargo deliveries that were beyond the capabilities of the AN-124, known as the AN-225’s “little brother.”
“We quickly understood that there was a growing demand for oversize or extremely heavy pieces of cargo,” said Vitaliy Shost, senior deputy director of Antonov Airlines. He says that the AN-225 is able to accommodate up to 950 cubic meters of cargo, compared to 750 for the AN-124 and 650 for a Boeing 747.
The AN-225 has set numerous world records.
Simon Cooper/PA Images/Getty Images
Such capacity would allow the AN-225 to carry up to 16 shipping containers or 80 family cars. The cargo hold also has a titanium floor for added strength and its own crane system to load cargo efficiently. The maximum payload is 250 tons — reached in 2001 when transporting the five battle tanks. The record for the heaviest single piece ever airlifted was achieved by the An-225 in 2009, when a generator was transported from Germany to Armenia. It weighed 187 tons.
The plane set other records such as the longest cargo item in the history of transportation — two wind turbines measuring 137 feet each, delivered from China to Denmark — and clinched a Guinness World Records entry by holding an art exhibition of 500 paintings by 120 Ukrainian artists at an altitude of 33,000 feet.
The AN-225 has also transported water turbines, nuclear fuel, construction vehicles, light aircraft and maglev trains. Electric generators are its most common type of cargo.
Crew members in protective suits stand inside an Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo aeroplane during a delivery of protective masks from China.
RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images
In April 2020, the AN-225 set yet another record by transporting 100 tons of Covid-19 protective equipment, medicines and tests from Tianjin, China, to Warsaw, Poland (with a refueling stop in Kazakhstan). The landing in Poland was livestreamed to an audience of 80,000, according to Antonov.
“We didn’t expect the plane to be involved in this business, because PPE packed in boxes is not the standard type of cargo for the An-225, but due to lack of transport availability our customers requested it,” said Shost. “Over two and half months we performed 10 flights from China to different points around the world.”
A second one
There’s a second, unfinished Antonov An-255 languishing in a Kiev factory.
Vladmir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The AN-225 flies sparingly. Its high operational cost — it uses over 20 tons of fuel per hour according to Shost, equal to $6,700 at current prices — limits it to the most demanding of jobs.
“Last year the plane performed about 20 flights. In 2020 we are already at 10 flights, and we expect 10 more through the end of the year,” Shost added.
The fact that the AN-225 is one of a kind, however, adds to its mystique.
“This airplane is our pride and joy, a business card for the Antonov company and Ukraine itself,” said Shost. “I first saw it when I was a schoolboy and I was so impressed with it, I couldn’t believe it could actually fly. Now I make sure it does.”
Antonov is constantly upgrading the AN-225 to keep up with international flight regulations and requirements, and the company says that the plane will be in service for at least another 25 years. That’s good news for aviation enthusiasts and plane spotters, who show up in droves at its every appearance.
“This aircraft ranks 10/10 on a spotter’s dream list, in my opinion,” said Casey Groulx, a Canadian plane spotter who photographed the An-225 when it landed in Toronto in late May to deliver Covid-19 relief equipment.
“It was an absolute dream come true as I had always wanted to see this incredible aircraft. There were a lot of other spotters. It felt very special, to have that feeling of having seen the world’s biggest plane.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced at a news conference on Friday that they had offered to “go down a trillion” from their top-line number of $3.4 trillion, if Republicans would go up $1 trillion from their initial offer of $1 trillion.
But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters shortly afterward that the request for GOP negotiators to increase their offer by $1 trillion, putting the top-line number at around $2 trillion, is “a non-starter.”
Asked by a reporter about Pelosi’s request and if it is in the cards, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said, “I don’t think so.”
“I don’t know that that’s a reduction, as much as she is just changing the time frames. I don’t think she’s come off with her number, other than just made a shorter time,” Meadows added.
Pelosi and Schumer suggested on Friday that they would not be open to a number lower than $2 trillion, arguing that such a plan would fail to win over a sufficient number of Democrats in both chambers.
“The House doesn’t have the votes to go south of $2 trillion, the Senate Democrats can’t go south of 2 trillion, so that’s what compromise is all about,” Schumer said. “Because there are 20 Republicans who don’t want to vote anything that doesn’t mean the whole thing should shift in their direction. You have to meet in the middle.”
Meanwhile, Senate GOP leaders do not think that anything above $2 trillion could pass the Senate.
On a private call with GOP senators earlier in the day on Friday, Mnuchin and Meadows said they believed that the Democrats’ demand for nearly $1 trillion for state and local government is the biggest sticking point over a deal, multiple sources told CNN.
They also argued Democrats have not moved off their positions or proposed things that the GOP could accept. For instance, the officials said, Democrats are pushing for permanent student loan forgiveness as part of the deal.
The divergence between the two sides on a top-line number has become a major obstacle in the talks along with other disagreements about a variety of policy issues that would make up an overall deal.
Democrats have argued that passing anything less than a large-scale package is a non-starter and have pushed back against the idea of passing anything piecemeal, while Republicans have accused them of holding up progress toward passing a smaller package that would deal with issues of common ground.
As the odds of a deal look increasingly slim, finger pointing has intensified on both sides.
“My frustration is that we could’ve passed a very skinny deal that dealt with some of the most pressing issues,” Meadows said Thursday evening.
Schumer was critical of Meadows on Friday, calling him “non-compromising.”
“His positions are quite hardened and non-compromising, more-so than Mnuchin,” Schumer said of Meadows when asked if he is negotiating in good faith.
CNN’s Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the plane that skidded off the runway at Kozhikode international airport landed in heavy rain around 7:40 p.m. ET local time.
After landing, it continued down the runway and fell down in the valley and broke into two, DGCA said in a statement to CNN News 18,
The Air India Express flight, a Boeing 737, had 174 passengers on board and six crew members, according to a statement sent to CNN from the ministry of aviation.
“Air India Express flight IX 1344 operated by B737 aircraft from Dubai to Calicut overshot runway at Kozhikode at 1941 hrs tonight. No fire reported at the time of landing. There are 174 passengers, 10 Infants , 2 Pilots and 5 cabin Crew on board the aircraft. As per the initial reports rescue operations are on and Passengers are being taken to hospital for medical care,” the statement read.
The incident happened at Kozhikode Calicut international airport, also known as Karipur Airport, in the state of Kerala.
Unlike many other establishments, Saint Pierre did not have a food delivery system in place. Its fine dining was designed to be experienced in house — with every plate delivered fresh from the kitchen and presented as a work of art, rather than on the back of a moped.
Meals are served in lacquered bento boxes and hand-delivered by a waiter dressed in black tie. Guests enter a virtual dining room through a video conferencing link and eat together with others in their party. During the meal, Stroobant pops up to introduce the carefully curated menu.
This way the communal experience of eating out is not lost, says Stroobant. “Virtual Saint Pierre is aimed to bring back people together,” he says. “We are social creatures and we want to be able to eat together.”
Even at home, this is an extravagant experience. At a minimum of 180 Singapore dollars ($130) per person, these are not typical takeaways.
“We try to avoid people having to re-cook or reheat food at home. We just deliver the box and we come back after to clear it for you. It’s really the same service you would have in the restaurant but at home,” says Stroobant.
Is virtual dining here to stay?
But Sherri Kimes, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and co-author of the report, says the impact has been particularly hard on fine dining restaurants as many have never previously offered delivery or takeaway.
“They basically had three choices: develop innovative ways in which to stay in business, temporarily close or just cease operations,” Kimes tells CNN Business.
“People still want to go out for dinner, but uneasiness with the safety of going out and restrictions on party size will still make virtual dining popular,” says Kimes.
She adds that though dine-in business is still allowed in Singapore there are capacity restraints, so many restaurants are developing their delivery and virtual offerings. They have “discovered new revenue streams that they hadn’t considered in the past,” she says.
Stroobant agrees. Without its virtual dining experience, Saint Pierre would have shut down and the staff would have lost their jobs, he says.
“We wanted to go and get out of this undamaged,” he adds.
Sturgis, South Dakota, Mayor Mark Carstensen talks with CNN’s John Berman about the city’s upcoming motorcycle rally that expects more than a quarter of a million people to show up, during the coronavirus pandemic.
The blast, which also leveled huge swaths of Beirut and displaced 300,000 people, couldn’t come at a worse moment.
“It’s an economic crisis, a financial crisis, a political crisis, a health crisis and now this horrible explosion,” said Tamara Alrifai, spokesperson at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
European and Gulf countries have sent aid to help Lebanon manage the fallout from the blast, and the country’s central bank instructed lenders to make zero-interest dollar loans to be repaid over the next five years so people and businesses can rebuild. But it’s expected to fall far short of what the country needs to pull back from the brink, and some donors may be deterred by widespread corruption and mismanagement.
“This aid, I guarantee it, won’t end up in corrupt hands,” he told Lebanese protesters, according to a spokesperson.
Macron told reporters later that France would help organize an international conference to raise funds for Lebanon. He promised “clear and transparent governance, whether it’s French or international” to ensure the money is “directly provided to the local population, the NGOs and teams on site that need it.”
Economy in free fall
The economic situation in Lebanon was grim before the explosion.
The International Monetary Fund last forecast that Lebanon’s economy — beset by soaring food prices, a collapsing currency and Covid-19 — would contract by 12% this year. That’s far worse than the 4.7% average drop in output forecast for the Middle East and central Asia.
The country defaulted on some of its debt in March. And last week, Moody’s cut Lebanon’s credit rating to its lowest rank. It’s now on par with Venezuela.
“The country is steeped in an economic, financial and social crisis, which very weak institutions … appear unable to address,” Moody’s said in a statement. The currency’s collapse and the related surge in inflation create a “highly unstable environment,” it continued.
Lebanon had been looking to secure a $10 billion loan from the IMF, but talks stalled last month.
On Thursday, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva called for “national unity” to address the country’s deep crisis, and she said the agency is “exploring all possible ways to support the people of Lebanon.”
“It is essential to overcome the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms and put in place a meaningful program to turn around the economy and build accountability and trust in the future of the country,” she added.
The explosion in Beirut, which has been declared a “disaster city,” will only pile more pressure on the economy.
“There is not one apartment in Beirut that wasn’t impacted, not one [business] that wasn’t impacted — whether the storefront [or] the goods,” Lebanon’s Economy Minister Raoul Nehme told CNBC Arabia on Wednesday.
The port where the blast occurred is the nation’s main maritime hub, and 60% of the country’s imports pass through it. Nehme said it has been “practically erased.”
Tourism accounted for nearly a fifth of Lebanon’s GDP in 2018, when two million people visited the country. That sector has suffered another huge hit.
“It’s a disaster for Lebanon,” said Pierre Achkar, head of the Lebanon Hotel Federation for Tourism. He said occupancy rates at the hotels still open had already slumped to 5% and 15% because of coronavirus and political issues.
Achkar told the state news agency NNA on Wednesday that the explosion damaged 90% of the hotels in Beirut.
— Chris Liakos, Nada AlThaher, Schams Elwazer, Barbara Wojazer and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this article.