Boeing and SpaceX will each build spacecraft for the US government. US space agency NASA will spend $6.4 billion on two contracts to replace the space shuttle and ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. US aerospace giant Boeing will earn $4.2 billion and entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be paid $2.6 billion to develop their respective spacecraft. The former company is considered “the least risky option” (paywall), but upstart SpaceX’s system is cheaper and doesn’t rely on imported Russian parts.
François Hollande’s government just about survives. The French president’s new cabinet narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament, 269 to 244. But with abstentions and no-shows putting the result 20 votes short of an absolute majority (paywall), Hollande now lacks support for his planned pro-business policies.
A volcano threatens the Philippines. Authorities are evacuating thousands of people in the danger zone (within a five-mile radius) of Mount Mayon as lava began to trickle out of the crater on Tuesday. The alert level has been raised to critical; scientists predict the volcano could violently erupt within weeks. Some 12,000 families are estimated to live in the danger zone.
Ukraine gives its rebels a longer leash. The country’s parliament has given the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions “special status,” with temporary self-rule for three years, and granted amnesty to some of the rebels. Ukraine also ratified a trade agreement (the same one that sparked the crisis in the region last year) that deepened its ties with the the European Union.
What currency trading scandal? In an attempt to pre-empt US and UK regulators’ probes into the alleged rigging of currency benchmarks, several big banks have cut off their foreign-exchange dealers’ access to customer orders and online chat rooms, Bloomberg reports. The aim is to make it tougher for dealers to collude, manipulate markets, and improperly use client information.
Ebola merits more US troops than ISIL. US president Barack Obama ordered 3,000 troops to West Africa in an effort to contain the outbreak. The US plan also includes building 17 new healthcare facilities with 100 beds in each, training up to 500 workers a week, and opening a joint command operation in Liberia’s capital to coordinate international efforts. China is also sending more medics to Sierra Leone to help with lab testing.
UK leaders woo Scotland. With polls showing the Scotland independence vote is too close to call, Conservative prime minister David Cameron, Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and Labour leader Ed Miliband promised more autonomy in a last-ditch effort to get Scotland to say “no.” The secession referendum takes place Sept. 18.
Russia’s biggest email provider buys its biggest social network. Mail.ru, Russia’s most popular provider of web-based email, said this morning that it had bought the 48% of VKontakte that it did not already own. The Mail.ru group already owns Russia’s second-most popular social network, Odnoklassniki. It is also looking to expand outside Russia, particularly in the US.
Samsung’s new “musicom.” The company is filming six hour-long sitcom episodes in a web-based series starring a fictional Samsung employee. The goal is to portray a “young Samsung” that helps attract younger job candidates. The series, called “Best Future,” will be part musical, part sitcom, and features lead characters whose names mean “best” and “future” in Korean.