Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir.
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While Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, "I have a dream," it was full of lofty ethical stuff like "justice for all" and ... well, it was so 1963.
We now live in a Facebook-Instagram-Google world of billionaire ethics and expectations, so dreams need to glitter with a 2021-ish grandiosity to go viral. So, who better to take us there than that visionary of instant gratification, Jeff Bezos? "Ever since I was five years old," says the megabillionaire boss man of Amazon, "I've dreamed of traveling to space." Now that's intriguing, in part because Jeff regularly acts like he is from outer space — so, is this a homeward-bound odyssey?
Bezos can certainly afford the ticket, for today's devastating global pandemic has delivered a financial windfall to him, increasing his personal wealth by $75 billion last year alone. Bear in mind that he didn't have to work harder or smarter to "earn" this bonanza. Indeed, he's retiring as Amazon CEO, but his haul keeps growing as the corporate stock price keeps bloating.
Meanwhile, he bought himself a rocket ship company, and in July, he intends to be Customer No. 1 on a tourist fling to the lower edge of space. He and five other high-flyers will take a short suborbital joy ride about 50 miles up in a fully pressurized cabin, then unbuckle and experience weightlessness for a few minutes before scooting back to terra firma.
Imagine how impressed MLK Jr. would've been by Jeff's commitment of his enormous wealth and potential to such a ... well, such a flighty dream. For his part, the gazillionaire predicts that the experience of his space-capade will make him a new man: "It changes your relationship ... with humanity," he says of `space travel.
Good, for his relationship heretofore has been one of inhumane worker exploitation, systemic tax cheating, and monopoly profiteering. So, go forth, Amazon-man — and please come back a better human.
The most thought-provoking bumper sticker I've seen recently says: "The system is fixed. We must break it."
This thought came into vivid focus recently when a news report by ProPublica revealed that a nest of preening multibillionaires — led by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg — have been playing America's rigged tax system to dodge paying their share of upkeep for the society that so lavishly enriches them. In a leak of actual IRS tax data, the 25 richest Americans were exposed for using tax tricks and loopholes created by their lobbyists, accountants, lawyers and lawmakers to pay barely three percent of their enormous riches to our public treasury — while ordinary working people shell out about 24 percent of their meager income.
Check out the manipulations by Amazon jefe Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man. Even as his corporate stock payouts skyrocketed by $120 billion from 2006 to 2018, he paid just one percent in taxes on that huge gain. One year, in which his wealth swelled by $18 billion, he even took a $4,000 tax credit from us for the care of his children.
The chief scam by these super-dodgers is that they've fixed tax laws so they can take out loans on the escalating value of their stock, mansions, yachts, etc., without paying taxes on the cash they get. In fact, they even get a tax deduction for the interest they pay on the loans. Thus, they get to spend the cash value of those assets without having to sell them. It's financial voodoo for the privileged few!
In response to the revelations in ProPublica's jaw-dropping report, congressional Republicans, Biden administration officials, and the IRS are all promising a thorough investigation and crackdown. Not on the sleazy billionaires, of course, but on ProPublica! Yes, some top public officials exclaim that they are outraged, not by the tax rigging, but by the fact that you and I have been told about it in specific, undeniable detail.
It's not cynical to call the system corrupt when the corruption is put right under our noses.
To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Having mastered fictional renderings of spaceflight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has turned his attention to a real space drama, with a series of Web-based documentaries about a Google-backed race to the moon.
Produced by Abrams and directed by documentary filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga), the series chronicles some of the 16 teams vying for $30 million in prizes for landing and operating a privately developed robotic spacecraft on the moon before Dec. 31, 2017.
“The teams… range from Silicon Valley tech experts, to hackers in Germany, to IT specialists in India, to a father and son (working) in a spare bedroom in Vancouver,” the X Prize Foundation, which organized the competition, said in a statement.
So far only the government-run space programs of the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.
Abrams’ nine-part series, called Moon Shot, offers an overview of the Google Lunar X Prize contest and follows individual members from several of the teams, according to X Prize spokesman Eric Desatnik.
Each film is seven minutes long. The entire series debuts on March 15 on Google Play and on March 17 on YouTube. In addition to his work on the latest Star Wars movie blockbuster, Abrams’ directing credits include the first two films in a reboot of the Star Trek big-screen franchise.
Google paid for the documentary project, a partnership of Abrams’ production company Bad Robot and Epic Digital. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Google Lunar X Prize is intended to spur commercial development of lunar exploration. It is one of 13 competitions sponsored by the California-based X Prize organization to stimulate technological developments that address a wide-range of environmental, social and medical challenges.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)
Photo: Director JJ Abrams arrives at the European Premiere of Star Wars, The Force Awakens in Leicester Square, London, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
NASA has reached a milestone in its development of the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever and may one day take astronauts to Mars.
After completing a critical design review, Boeing Co. has finalized a $2.8 billion contract with the space agency. The deal allows full production on the rocket to begin.
“Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS — the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” Virginia Barnes, Boeing’s Space Launch System vice president and program manager, said in a statement.
The last time NASA’s completed a critical design review of a deep-space human rocket was 1961, when the space agency assessed the mighty Saturn V, which ultimately took man to the moon.
Work on the 321-foot Space Launch System is spread throughout Southern California, including Boeing’s avionics team in Huntington Beach. The rocket’s core stage will get its power from four RS-25 engines for former space shuttle main engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park.
The rocket will carry the Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., which can carry up to four astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on long-duration, deep-space destinations including near-Earth asteroids, the moon, and ultimately Mars.
The rocket, which is designed to carry crew and cargo, is scheduled for its initial test flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2017.
The first mission will launch an empty Orion spacecraft. The second mission is targeted for 2021 and will launch Orion and a crew of up to four NASA astronauts.
The rocket’s initial flight-test configuration will provide a 77-ton lift capacity. The final evolved two-stage configuration will be able to lift more than 143 tons.
Photo: Luke Bryant via Flickr
By Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times
NASA scrubbed the launch of a Delta II rocket Tuesday, 46 seconds before it was to carry the agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite into orbit.
The space agency blamed a failure of the water suppression system of the liftoff pad at Vandenberg Air Force Station.
The launch has been tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday.
Five years ago, the first version of the satellite was destroyed after it failed to separate from its launch vehicle, an Orbital Taurus XL rocket, and burned up as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. The cost of that mission was $209 million, according to a NASA investigation.
The $465 million replacement set to launch Wednesday would measure and map carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth’s oceans, soils and forests absorb CO2, and whether that ability is changing, according to the space agency.
The satellite’s nickname, OCO, comes from the scientific annotation for a carbon dioxode molecule — two oxygen atoms flanking a carbon atom in linear fashion.
Photo: Luke Bryant via Flickr
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