SpaceX, U.S. Jobs, Jussie Smollet – 9 News Stories You Need to Know

1. U.S. Adds 20,000 Jobs


The U.S. economy added an unimpressive 20,000 new jobs in February, the smallest amount in 17 months. The paltry 20,000 jobs added signifies a slowdown in the U.S. economy as the number was far off the estimated amount of nearly 200,000 jobs that American businesses and employers would add. For the past year, the U.S. has added 200,000 jobs a month but hiring has slowed, especially in certain industries like construction and retail. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% from the previous 4% and wages are growing faster.


2. SpaceX


SpaceX marked another milestone in space exploration as the company’s Crew Dragon capsule made a safe landing in the Atlantic Ocean. This accomplishment marked the first time that a crew-capable spacecraft built by a private company completed a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch was intended to be a demonstration flight to showcase the capabilities and readiness of the Crew Dragon capsule in transporting astronauts to the ISS. The success of the mission provides SpaceX with additional validity it needs to compete in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program which will grant private companies the ability to carry humans into space. SpaceX’s competition in this endeavor is Boeing, who is set to launch a similar demo flight with its Starliner spacecraft next month.


3. Jussie Smollet


Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County, Illinois, grand jury. The indictment stems from a January incident in which Smollett alleged that he was attacked by two men in Chicago that was viewed as a possible hate crime. Police investigated the case and soon came to the conclusion that Smollett orchestrated the attack with the help of two paid acquaintances. His lawyer said Smollett continues to proclaim his innocence and condemned the indictment as “vindictive.” Smollett remains out on $100,000 bail until his arraignment next week.


4. Foreign Leaders Shower Trump in Gifts


Foreign leaders bestowed President Trump and his family with over $140,000 worth of gifts in 2017. According to the State Department that logs and reports the gifts, China and Saudi Arabia leaders gave the most expensive items with Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a $14,400 calligraphy display and an 85-piece dinnerware set featuring Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort valued at $16,250. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman gifted a ruby and emerald pendant necklace worth $6,400. Some of the most unusual gifts included a photo album with pictures of Trump and Trump Tower titled “President Donald J. Trump in New York” from Poland’s president and a half-length portrait of First Lady Melania Trump from president of Palestine. It is usual practice for foreign leaders to present U.S. presidents with lavish gifts when meeting, but these gifts are required by law to be turned over to the National Archives unless the president wants to purchase the items for their actual value. In comparison, President Obama received over $1.5 million in presents from world leaders in 2014.


5. U.S. Household Net Worth


The total U.S. household net worth saw the biggest decline in the fourth quarter of 2018 since the financial crisis. Household net worth fell to $104.3 trillion, a $3.73 trillion or 3.4% drop. Americans’ net worth has risen steadily since the 2009 recession, but the recent decrease is largely attributed to stock market prices that tumbled at the end of 2018.


6. Pentagon Considers Using Military Pay and Pension to Build the Border Wall


The Pentagon is planning to use $1 billion in leftover military pay and pensions to pay for the border wall that President Donald Trump and lawmakers have come to odds with. The revelations came from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who said that the Pentagon plans to collect the $1 billion using military pay and pensions that have become available because Army recruitment is flat and early retirement programs are not being fully used. It remains uncertain if the Pentagon will move forward on this plan but it is making the necessary preparations in case military funds will be used to fund border wall construction. Congress and the Trump administration remain in communication as they are working on finding a bipartisan solution for the project.


7. Chelsea Manning


Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who served nearly seven years in prison for disclosing classified military information to WikiLeaks in 2010, has been jailed again. A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, has held Manning in contempt for her refusal to testify in a case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange about classified military secrets she revealed to website. The judge stipulated that her release is contingent upon her testifying or when the grand jury concludes. Manning pleaded guilty in 2013 to 10 lesser charges and was subsequently convicted of 19 other charges, including counts that violated the Espionage Act. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, a sentence that was commuted by President Obama in 2017 after Manning served roughly seven years.


8. Senator Warren Targeting Amazon, Google, and Facebook


Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is currently running for president in the 2020 presidential election, announced a plan on Friday that would break up America’s biggest tech companies and reduce the concentration of power in Silicon Valley. First, the plan would implement legislation that prohibits companies who create a marketplace and from using their own marketplace to their advantage. This would prevent companies like Amazon from selling their own goods on the website or owning a stake in companies that would sell products on the platform. Second, the proposal would appoint regulators who would disentangle “illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers,” cracking down on the control and influence companies would have across the industry. Sen. Warren’s announcement is essentially designed to fuel competition in tech and prevent a concentration of power from being held by a small handful of companies. Warren emphasized that this would allow tech companies to make great strides in protecting user’s privacy due to increased competition that would force businesses to attract and appease customers/users.


9. Defense Department’s Lavish Spending


The Department of Defense spent $2.3 million on crab, another $2.3 million on lobster tail, and over $9,000 on a leather chair as the government’s fiscal year came to an end in September. As ridiculous as it seems, the end of year spending on luxury goods in the final month of the fiscal year isn’t all too uncommon ­– federal agencies tend to spend nearly all the funds left in their accounts to avoid the possibility of Congress cutting back their budgets for the next year. Of all the agencies, the Department of Defense spent the most, including $7.6 million on workout and ski equipment and $11,800 for a foosball table beyond the millions spent on crab and lobster tail.

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