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18-Year-Old To Become Youngest Person In Space Alongside Jeff Bezos On Blue Origin Trip 

Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has announced its first paying customer. Oliver Daemen is an 18-year-old Dutch teenager who is about to be the youngest person to ever travel to space. 

Daemen will be joining Jeff and his brother Mark Bezos, as well as pilot Wally Funk on July 20th.

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Funk will also be breaking the record for oldest individual to go to space at 82-years-old. Funk is famous for being a member of Mercury 13, a group of all female pilots who, in the 1960’s, underwent testing to determine whether women could handle space travel or not. Even though the group of women performed just as well as NASA’s Mercury 7, the male counterpart to Mercury 13, they were rejected for being women. 

Funk is breaking the age record previously set by astronaut and senator John Glenn who traveled to space in 1998 at the age of 77. Daemen will be breaking the record previously set by Ghermon Titov, who was just 25 when he went into space for a four month mission. 

The Federal Aviation Administration approved of the Blue Origin launch this Monday, just one say after billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space aboard his rocket-powered vehicle developed by Virgin Galactic. 

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Virgin Galactic, like Blue Origin, plans to start flying paying customers up to the edge of space. Daemen was able to secure his spot on Blue Origin after the individual who won an auction for a seat on the rocket had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts. The original individual paid $28 million for the oppurtunity. 

“We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard. This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said.

“I am super excited to be going to space and joining Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk on the first Blue Origin crewed flight.”

A Blue origin spokesperson told the media that Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” the spokesperson said.

MacKenzie Scott Donates $10 Million To National Latino Educational Nonprofit

Excelencia in Education is a prominent national nonprofit in America that measures how successful colleges and universities are in accepting, educating, and graduating Latino students. Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has made a historic donation to the nonprofit, giving them a $10 million grant. 

This grant marks the largest sum the organization has received since its founding 17 years ago. Deborah Santiago, the co-founder and CEO of Excelencia, spoke on this historic donation to the media this week. 

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“It was very powerful, after years of hard work, to see this validation in our community. That was powerful.” 

In the US, college enrollment among Latino students has actually been on the rise within the past decade. However, the issue lies in systemic issues that prevent this particular demographic from actually completing their education and receiving a college degree. 22% of all Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39% of the general population. 

Some of the specific barriers that Excelencia works to combat in the US’s educational system include high tuition costs, limited knowledge of college in general, and trying to balance work, family, and education all at once. 

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A number of colleges that Excelencia has worked closely with in the past have also received some funding from Scott, including  El Paso Community College, Florida International University, Long Beach City College, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Santiago said she was “not expecting a $10 million grant when I got an email on a late Friday afternoon asking when I was available to speak over the phone about something important. The donation is invigorating, we’re a small nonprofit and it is not easy to get resources, much less unrestricted resources,” Santiago said.

“To say, here’s $10 million, you pick what you want to do with it, no strings attached, no reports required, allows us to do many things we see our community wants and needs to be able to do that.”

Santiago said she hopes the $10 million “will bring attention to other potential funders — we really want to get the kind of investment that’s going to serve our community.”

Scott has recently made around $2.7 billion worth of charitable donations as a part of her philanthropic journey that she’s been on since divorcing the world’s richest man. Her current net worth is valued at $53 billion; $8 billion of which she’s already donated this year alone.

Abstract Outer Space

Bidder Pays $28 Million To Go To Space With Jeff Bezos 

Jeff Bezos made headlines last week when he announced that he would be going into space with his brother as a part of his space company’s first mission into the atmosphere. Now, one lucky bidder has paid their way to share a seat on the Blue Origin spacecraft set to launch into space on July 20th. 

The bidder, whose identity has not been announced, ended up paying $28 million for a seat on Blue Origin. Initially, 20 active bidders started fighting for the seat with an opening bid of $4.8 million, but bids didn’t really escalate until the final three minutes of the sale. 

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Around 7,600 people from 159 different countries initially registered to bid for the seat. The automated flight is set to be 11-minutes and will be the company’s 16th flight into space. This is, however, the first time the Blue Origin craft will be carrying humans. The capsule will carry up to 6 passengers and will lift off from Van Horn, Texas in July. 

It has not yet been revealed who else would be on the flight besides Bezos and his brother Mark. Bezos made the announcement that he would be entering into space after he steps down as Amazon’s chief executive officer.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

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Bezos has spent approximately $1 billion a year to fund Blue Origin, which initially was founded in 2000. This most recent development in travel marks the first step in what is likely to become a major sector of our economy for the world’s wealthiest in the future; space tourism. 

Bezos has been competing with the likes of Elon Musk and his company SpaceX who has also made it clear that he would like to bring humans to the moon within the next decade. 

In order to take flight on the Blue Origin flight. Passengers must be between 5 foot and 6 foot 4 inches tall, and must weigh between 110 – 223 pounds. They need to be able to climb seven flights of stairs at the launch tower within 90 seconds and be able to stay strapped in the vehicle for up to 90 minutes without access to a bathroom. 

Blue Origin announced that the $28 million bid will be donated to the company’s charity foundation, Club For The Future, which has a mission to “inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the help invent the future of life in space.”

Jeff Bezos Is Going To Space

Jeff Bezos announced this week that he would be joining the flight crew on their first mission using the New Shepard rocket ship from Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin, on a trip to space. The flight is currently scheduled for July 20th; 15 days after Bezos will resign as CEO of Amazon. 

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

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Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother, will be joining the flight, and if all goes to plan, Bezos will become the first billionaire tech space tycoons to experience a ride for themselves into space. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of him joining one of his crews into space.

British billionaire Richard Branson owns Virgin Galactic, another space company which is planning on conducting flights to suborbital space for wealthy billionaires who want to take a trip out into the atmosphere. 

The six-seater 59-foot-long rocket is set to launch 60 miles above the Earth in an 11-minute flight this July. The New Shepard rocket has been undergoing extensive and secretive testing for the past six years, and although Blue Origin hasn’t announced yet when it will begin selling tickets for future space trips, it’s already rumored that tickets will cost close to $3 million. 

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Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, just one year after Amazon as a platform was initially valued at one billion dollars. While Bezos is resigning from his executive chair role,. He will still be involved in the company’s inner workings. 

Blue Origin is also currently working on a rocket called New Glenn, which the company is hoping will be able to send US government and commercial satellites into orbit and make easy trips to deep space. 

Bezos has called Blue Origin “the most important work [he’s]doing.”

“I’m interested in space because I’m passionate about it. I’ve been studying it and thinking about it since I was a five year old boy — but that is not why I’m pursuing this work. I’m pursuing this work because I believe if we don’t, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis, which I find very demoralizing,” he explained. 

Blue Origin initially was hoping to be involved in NASA’s personal mission of returning humans to the moon by 2024, however, SpaceX beat them to it when they landed a contract to build a lunar lander recently. NASA has claimed Blue Origin is still eligible to work on future lunar missions, but their focus on bringing regular people to space has diminished their chance of working with the space organization directly on lunar missions. 

Group of Protestors

Millionaires Protest In Front Of Jeff Bezos’s Homes In Support Of Taxing The Rich 

A group of millionaires took to the streets this Monday to protest in front of properties owned by the richest man in the world, billionaire Jeff Bezos, in New York and Washington. 

The protest itself was organized by a group known as Patriotic Millionaires, which describe themselves as a “coalition of wealthy individuals who push for progressive policy changes.” The group planned to perform the protest on Tax Day (which was extended this year to land on May 17th) as a symbolic gesture, standing in solidarity with all the lower income Americans who filed and likely paid much more in taxes this year than Bezos and billionaires alike. 

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The group also emphasized their support of Joe Biden’s tax plan which would raise taxes for Americans making more than $400,000 a year. The tax hike would help pay for the president’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. 

Patriotic Millionaires, whose members earn incomes of more than $1 million or have assets worth more than $5 million, protested in front of Bezos’s homes with billboards reading “Cut the bullshit. Tax the rich.”

“We’re ending up with a few rich people and a lot of poor people and that doesn’t work. That’s not a way you can run a sustainable society.” 

Morris Pearl is the chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires board, who explained how while Besox himself said he supported raising corporate tax rates, Amazon has had a long history of avoiding taxes. In fact, according to calculations by the progressive Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, “in 2020 Amazon only paid a 9.4% federal income tax rate, less than half the statutory 21%.

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The Biden administration currently is proposing to increase corporate tax rates from 21% to 28%, which would also partially reverse cuts pushed by former president Donald Trump. Until Trump and Republicans in Congress passed tax cuts in 2017, the top US corporate tax rate was 35%. 

Biden’s infrastructure plan would aim to fund childcare and free universal pre-school education, as well as programs to help rebuild, and construct new, transport systems and public-sector housing. 

“It makes much more sense to require the people who have clearly benefited the most from our system to reinvest a huge percentage of their excess wealth back into that system,” Erica Payne, president of Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement.

Protests were also scheduled to take place in front of the Washington home of the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, the New York office of the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and others.

Money

Billionaires Add $1 Trillion To Their Net Worth As Millions Of Their Workers Struggle For Survival 

Throughout the timeline of the pandemic alone, billionaires in the US have collectively increased their net worth by more than $1 trillion. Many of these billionaire’s US workers, on the other hand, have been struggling to deal with unsafe working conditions that leave them susceptible to potential infection, and without hazard pay or any increase in compensation for working in a pandemic, many have been struggling for survival. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, added more than $70 billion to his new worth during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing his total net worth up to $185 billion. Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have spent a majority of the pandemic protesting against the unsafe working conditions they’re being forced to work in, and the endless pressures from management to keep up with the overwhelming demand. 

Several workers who have participated or led protests at Amazon over working conditions specifically have alleged that they were fired as a result of their efforts to receive basic level safety. Profits and stockholder shares for the company have increased by billions of dollars throughout 2020, however, Amazon only provided a small fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses for workers on the frontline actually risking their lives everyday to further fill Bezos’ pockets. 

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In fact, Amazon ended all hazard pay back in June 2020, and instead has provided workers with sporadic one-time bonuses. On average workers have seen about a 99 cent increase in their paycheck during the pandemic, for comparison, Bezos earns about $11.7 million every single hour. 

“It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”

An anonymous employee working for Amazon recently spoke with the media about the conditions, and chose to keep their identity a secret out of fear that they would be left unemployed and with no source of income. “What they considered hazard pay was just for show. We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family.”

Jessica Oneto was a Whole Foods employee in California who quit in October 2020 partially due to the working conditions management was forcing upon its employees throughout the pandemic. 

“They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”

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Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors, earned an additional $140 billion throughout the pandemic, making him the wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $195 billion. Workers for Tesla have been subject to multiple factory Covid outbreaks, and unsafe conditions brought on by Musk himself, who defied local shutdown orders by reopening his plants and resuming factory production. 

Musk even went as far as to threaten his employees if they didn’t also defy the state lockdown orders by sending out an email that implied they would lose unemployment benefits if they didn’t show up to work and risk infection. At least two workers were fired for not showing up due to the fact that they were immunocompromised and worried about getting sick. 

“While people in cubicles stay home to work, we can’t do that and we don’t get any hazard pay/ Nothing has changed. Musk can afford to do so much more and he doesn’t. I find it sickening to see how much Elon Musk’s wealth has grown while we take all the risks. All we get is a ‘thank you so much’ email,” said a Tesla employee at the Fremont plant who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. 

Another Fremont employee cited ongoing mistreatment toward Black workers at Tesla specifically: “Musk has not once addressed this issue in his workplace or supported Black Lives Matter. No hazard pay or bonus. They gave all regular workers their regular raise, but being that I’m maxed out at my position I didn’t get anything.”

As the old saying goes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and this global health crisis has truly exemplified that. The only positive that workers have seen come out of these obscene billionaire wealth increases is how much more it’s being discussed now. The power of social media has created a large conversation over how America specifically runs, and why it allows this handful of white men to hoard so much wealth while millions of Americans are on the brink of complete homelessness.

Amazon Building

20,000 Amazon Workers In The US Have Tested Positive For Covid-19

After activists have been demanding Amazon for months to disclose information regarding Covid-19 and their workers, the company revealed this week that almost 20,000 of its workers in the US have contracted the coronavirus. Throughout this pandemic, however, Amazon as a brand has been succeeding monumentally when compared to other online retail giants. 

Amazon has faced some major criticisms within the past six months of the pandemic in general. Labor campaigners and union leaders have alleged that the company is putting their employees in danger by keeping so many warehouses open despite individuals contracting the virus who’ve worked in some of these warehouses. 

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Amazon posted on their blog an analysis that showed the rate of infection among 1.4 million American workers was 42% lower than the expected rate of infection to come from a warehouse occupation. 

A breakdown of infection rates on a state-by-state level showed that the highest rate of infection of Amazon employees was in Minnesota where 3.2% of the workers were presumed to have gotten Covid-19 at their place of business; for reference that percentage is double the rate of infection for average individuals working from home in the same area. 

Athena is a coalition of US activist groups that work to campaign for large worker groups all across the country. Most recently they’ve been using their resources to focus on Amazon, and call upon the company to be immediately investigated for how strictly they’ve been abiding by health and safety protections for their workers. Dania Rajendra is the director of Athena who recently claimed the group also wants to ensure Amazon has been regularly reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19 as they’re legally required to do so. 

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 “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbors and friends.”

Amazon currently has a market value of $1.6 trillion with its founder and chief, Jeff Bezos, owning the most shares making him the world’s wealthiest individual. Bezos has claimed multiple times that Amazon has been investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” into its own covid-19 testing program as well as tracing efforts. The plan is projected to test 50,000 individuals a day at 650 sites all across the US starting in November. However, Rajendra and the team at Athena isn’t as convinced that Bezos will stick to his word based on his already detrimental decision-making and the fact that this multi-trillion dollar company is still paying its warehouse workers little to nothing to help them cope with the pandemics effects. 

“Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.” 

Within the blogpost Amazon claimed that they would be giving their employees comprehensive health insurance and paid time off for any worker who needs to be quarantined; a policy workers have been trying to get implemented for months now. The tech giant will also be implementing new cleaning regimes and other safety processes to reduce the spread of the virus, however, after dealing with this virus for over six months now, many individuals are quick to criticize Amazon for their lack of concern over employees previously, and believe these new policies are more of a way to appease the public and make up for the tens of thousands of workers that have already been impacted. 

 

Money

Billionaire Chuck Feeney Achieves Lifelong Goal Of Giving Away All Of His Money

After 38 years, Chuck Feeney’s philanthropic foundation has run out of the $8 billion fortune he started it on, and he was still alive to see the impact that money has made.

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Jeff Bezos Returns To Manage Day-To-Day Operations At Amazon During Pandemic

As one could imagine, orders for Amazon have reached some record highs during this quarantine, and as those order numbers are increasing, so is the amount of warehouse staff walkouts/strikes against the trillion-dollar company and it’s billionaire CEO.

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Amazon Threatened to Fire Employees who Spoke Out on Climate Change, Complaint Alleges

The activist group Amazon Employees For Climate Justice has alleged that the company has threatened to fire employees who are outspoken about climate change. According to a statement released by the group on Thursday, Amazon’s human resources and legal departments targeted four employees who spoke out about the issue. Two of these employees were threatened with firings via email, according to the group. In response, the group sharply criticized Amazon’s behavior, accusing the company of attempting to suppress activism related to environmental policy. Maren Costa, an Amazon employee, said that her employment was threatened after she spoke with The Washington Post about climate change, and in a statement remarked that “this is not the time to shoot the messengers … this is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.” Members of the activist group have pressured their employer to take a more meaningful stance against climate change, including urging the company’s leaders to cease working with the oil and gas industry. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020 by investing in reforestation efforts and electric delivery vehicles, the group nonetheless believes their employer is taking insufficient action on climate.

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In response to the complaint, Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, said that the company’s policy of prohibiting communications with external organizations is nothing new, and that employees should work within their teams and internally with the company to raise their concerns and suggest improvements. Employee activism within the tech sector has been on the rise in recent years, as several Google employees protested against the search giant’s cooperation with the Pentagon, and Microsoft employees complained that their company was cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even after news broke of migrants being detained in poor conditions. Last year, Amazon Employees For Climate Justice introduced a shareholder resolution, in a letter signed by thousands of employees, asking the company to release information about how it plans to mitigate its contribution to climate change. This suggestion was rejected by shareholders in May, but a few months later Bezos announced a climate plan that met many, but not all, of the protestors’ demands. Additionally, the company lessened restrictions on allowing employees to speak with the media after a planned employee strike in September, though employees now have to ask the company for permission before discussing Amazon in any public forum.

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Though it does not fully satisfy every employee, Amazon’s planned changes to its operations to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions are substantial, as the company intends to lead the world in the fight against climate change. The plan, called The Climate Pledge, aims to achieve the goals established at the 2016 Paris Climate Summit ten years early by encouraging other companies to match Amazon’s environmental efforts. Those who signed the pledge agree to regularly release reports on their own greenhouse gas emissions, implement “decarbonization strategies” to reduce carbon emissions, and invest in technologies to neutralize any remaining carbon emissions. The goal of the pledge is to create a carbon-neutral economy by 2040, which is an ambitious goal, but one that scientists agree is essential for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Bezos hopes that by leading the pack when it comes to climate change, he will encourage other companies to follow suit. In order to reach this goal, Bezos announced the company would spend $100 million on reforestation and order 100,000 electric vans to replace Amazon’s existing network of diesel vehicles. The company also intends to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030; currently, 40% of the energy Amazon uses comes from renewable sources.