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A Blue Origin booster coming in for a landing in 2019. Photo: Blue Origin

A letter signed by 21 current and former employees of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin accuses the company of mishandling harassment allegations and raises questions about its culture.

The big picture: Blue Origin is trying to compete with SpaceX and others for lucrative government contracts but it's facing employee attrition rates as high as 20%, according to a report from CNBC.

Driving the news: Blue Origin launched Bezos and three others to suborbital space in July.

  • The mission was a success, but the authors of the letter contend the company is "lucky" it hasn't experienced a major accident due to a culture of overwork at the company.
  • "That culture has also taken a toll on the mental health of many of the people who make Blue Origin’s operations possible," the letter says.
  • "Memos from senior leadership reveal a desire to push employees to their limits, stating that the company needs to 'get more out of our employees' and that the employees should consider it a 'privilege to be a part of history.'"

What to watch: The safety of private spaceflight companies is likely to come under more scrutiny from the FAA in the coming years, putting company culture under a microscope as well.

  • At the moment, companies like Blue Origin fly under a regime of "informed consent" where passengers are told of the risks when flying to space, but the FAA is not allowed to regulate for their safety.
  • That could change if Congress opts to allow the administration to start regulating the industry more heavily.
  • "I think what we've brought to light shows that the current voluntary framework is not being adhered to," Alexandra Abrams, former head of Blue Origin employee communications, and one of the authors of the letter told me.

What they're saying: “Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct," a company spokesperson told the Verge.

Go deeper: Blue Origin’s ideas to mimic SpaceX sound pretty brutal for employees (The Verge)

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

Big raises for CEOs of the big Blues plans

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The CEOs of several Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance companies received significant pay raises and bonuses in 2020, according to an analysis by AIS Health.

Why it matters: The not-for-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers keep executive compensation more hidden than publicly traded insurers. And the data show pay increased during the pandemic, as insurers retained higher profits due to people delaying care.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.