Top News Stories for Today – February 28, 2017
SpaceX to send tourists to moon next year
SpaceX plans to launch two paying passengers on a tourist trip around the moon next year, the launch company announced on Monday. The launch is tentatively targeted for late 2018, Space Exploration Technologies Chief Executive Elon Musk told reporters on a conference call.
Musk declined to identify the customers or say how much they would pay to fly on the weeklong mission, except to say that it is “nobody from Hollywood.” He also said the two prospective space tourists, who know each other, have put down a “substantial” deposit and would undergo “extensive training before going on the mission.” Musk, also CEO of electric carmaker Tesla, said missions around the moon could provide practice for eventual human flights to Mars, the long-term goal of SpaceX. VOA
Trump to speech to Congress
President Trump will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern time, looking to refocus his presidency and rally support for his policies from Republicans in Congress and the public at large, amid historically low approval ratings.
Trump advisers say the president will tout what he has described as early success fulfilling his campaign promises, and discuss proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act and finance a big infrastructure-rebuilding initiative. Trump has been gathering ideas for his speech from talking with law enforcement officials, coal miners, and union representatives, his aides say, and he was still working on the speech Monday night. This is not a State of the Union Address, which presidents traditionally give starting after their first year in office. The Associated Press, White House, The Week
Prosecutors to indict Samsung’s De Facto chief
South Korean special prosecutors said they would indict Samsung’s de facto chief Tuesday on bribery, embezzlement and other charges linked to a political scandal that has toppled President Park Geun-hye. The indictment is a huge hit for the largest and most successful of the big businesses that dominate the South Korean economy. It also signals the still roiling state of South Korea’s political and economic circles after weeks of massive demonstrations that led to Park’s impeachment.
Prosecutors say the Samsung heir gave bribes worth $36 million to Park and her confidante to help win government support for a smooth leadership transfer from Lee’s ailing father to Lee. Lee also allegedly hid assets overseas, concealed proceeds from criminal activities and committed perjury. The 48-year-old billionaire was arrested Feb. 17. Samsung has denied wrongdoing. VOA
Senior Taliban leader killed
The United States military has confirmed Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban commander for Kunduz, along with four other enemy combatants were killed in Afghanistan’s troubled Northern Province of Kunduz. No civilians were hurt or killed in the action. The slain commander led insurgents to briefly capture the provincial capital of Kunduz in 2015, the first urban center the Taliban had overrun months after most of the US-led international forces withdrew from the country.
The Taliban confirmed on Monday that Salam was killed in a US drone strike in his native district of Dashti Archi in Kunduz and identified him as the governor of the province. VOA
Trump proposes $54 billion budget increase in defense
President Trump’s 2018 budget proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending, The Associated Press reported Monday, leveled out by cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid. Entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare would remain unchanged. “We will be substantially upgrading all of our military,” Trump promised the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.
“And hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s going to mess with us, folks. Nobody.” Trump’s proposal would be a 10 percent budget increase for the Pentagon, and the spending is planned specifically for defense, homeland security, intelligence, the Department of Justice, and law enforcement, an administration official told Politico. “Dollar for dollar cuts” are expected elsewhere. The proposed budget is set to be finalized and sent to Congress next month, and would go into effect Oct. 1. The Associated Press, The Week
3 dead after plane crashes into California home
A Cessna 310 aircraft with five people aboard crashed into two houses in Riverside, California, on Monday evening, not long after it took off from Riverside Municipal Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Three of the people died in the crash, including the pilot, and two survivors are in local hospitals, Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore said at a press conference Monday night.
There were no known victims in either house, he added, though fire and rescue workers will comb the wreckage again on Tuesday morning. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash as well. Moore had originally listed four fatalities, but reduced the death toll in a second news conference. He said the plane had been heading back to San Jose after a cheerleading competition at Disneyland. CNN
Bomb threats on Jewish schools
At least 20 Jewish community centers and day schools across the US reported receiving bomb threats Monday, the latest in a recent uptick of anti-Semitic acts. The threats extended across 12 states, including Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Alabama, and Rhode Island, NBC News reported.
The latest wave of threats comes just a day after dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were toppled, the second time a Jewish cemetery has been vandalized this month. Since the beginning of 2017, there have been 89 bomb threats at 72 Jewish community centers and schools in the US and Canada. The FBI and the Department of Justice have launched investigations, and President Trump has promised this “horrible” anti-Semitism is “going to stop.” Talking Points Memo, BuzzFeed News
Cambodia threatens media uses Trump as Justification
Cambodia’s government has threatened to expel several media outlets, including the Voice of America, and is using US President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the press as justification. In a Facebook post Saturday, Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia’s cabinet, threatened to “take action” against the media outlets, which he said are threatening the country’s peace and stability.
It appears to be the first time a foreign government has used Trump’s treatment of the media as justification for its own censorship activities — something press watchdog groups have warned could happen. VOA
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