The Weekender: Spy Balloons & Valentine Costs


Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… where spy balloons over North America are coming out of the woodwork and getting shot down. Also, the United States (U.S.) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a safety review after a series of dangerous close calls. Plus, love came at a cost this year for many Americans celebrating Valentine’s Day. There’s a lot to discuss and even more to learn below in the latest edition of The Weekender.

Shot Through the ̶H̶e̶a̶r̶t̶  Spy Balloon, and  ̶Y̶o̶u̶’̶r̶e̶  We’re Not Sure Who to Blame

Last week, the U.S. Pentagon announced that a fleet of Chinese spy balloons had visited the U.S. undetected over the past few years. Since the U.S. military traditionally scans the sky for aircraft and missile-shaped objects, surveillance balloons could likely traverse our airspace discreetly. In response, the U.S. is adjusting its radar to locate and identify nontraditional objects. The result? A series of three unprecedented shootdowns of “mysterious objects” which, like spy balloons, are much smaller and produce a low radar cross-section. The U.S. military publicized it secured key sensors and pieces of technology from the Chinese spy balloon shot down over our county’s eastern coast. Meanwhile, U.S. Senators will be given a classified briefing about the other “unidentified floating objects” that American fighter jets intercepted in recent days. According to Time Magazine, the U.S. never shot down an airborne object in North American airspace before that had been deemed a threat until these recent events. While the Pentagon remains unsure of the nature of the three flying objects it shot down, the decision to destroy them is likely the offspring of increased military vigilance due to the Chinese spy balloon situation. Despite the potential for rampant imagination on the topic, U.S. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned, “There is no- again, no- indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.” One thing is for sure: the truth is out there. Read more in Bloomberg.

Congressional Criticism Against the FAA Takes Flight

Billy Nolen, acting administrator of the FAA, announced he will be convening an industry safety summit following a recent rise of commercial airline jets nearly colliding with one another. The most recent near miss involved a U.S. Boeing 777 crossing a runway at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu as a small Cessna attempted to land. This incident resembles two other close calls in Texas and New York in recent weeks. This summit follows increased Congressional optics on Mr. Nolen as the House Transportation Committee voiced concerns regarding the agency’s long-standing safety issues. On Wednesday, Mr. Nolen appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee to respond to questions about a systems failure that disrupted thousands of flights across the country. In a similar tone, Boeing’s aircraft orders and deliverables dropped in January of 2023 compared to December of 2022. The company delivered 38 jetliners in January, a little more than half of the 69 planes it shipped in December. Boeing mentioned it has been cautious about increasing its production given the instability in the supply chain. Despite Boeing focusing on prudent decision-making, Air India recently ordered 500 new planes from Boeing and its chief competitor, Airbus. This combined sale is the largest ever – reflecting a further recovery in the airline industry following COVID-19 travel concerns. Read more in The Washington Post.

Dollar Stretching: A New American Pastime as Inflation Cools Slightly

Rampant inflation forced American families to face the financial heat in 2022. While inflation has slowed, freshly released data demonstrates the forces pushing prices upward remain as stubborn as ever. The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased by 6.4% in the last month, which is greater than economists expected. Even if you remove the volatile food and fuel costs from consideration, the cost of everyday items has continued to rise monthly; everything from apparel, hotel rooms, groceries, and rent became significantly more expensive–putting an even heavier burden on American families. U.S. President Joe Biden, sensing inflation will continue to hurt the middle class, has made moves to quell the problem. He tapped U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard and White House economist Jared Bernstein to serve as his top advisors on everything economy. Although the likelihood of a recession has dropped significantly despite inflation remaining an issue, President Biden is preparing for serious fights over raising the debt ceiling with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Read more in The New York Times.

Turns Out, Love DOES Cost a Thing 

The price you pay for love has gone up–an estimated $25.9 billion, to be exact. That is the dollar amount that Americans who celebrated Valentine’s Day this year spent on their boos. About half of all consumers 18 and older spoiled their loved ones, with an average of $192.80 spent by each person. This budget also included gifts for friends, pets, and co-workers. Moreover, “Galentine’s Day” is also a popular holiday now, thanks to mainstream media and shows, including “Parks and Recreation.” While candy was the most popular gift choice, flowers weren’t far behind. However, this year, roses did not come cheap. The average price for a bouquet of roses in the U.S. was around $80, steep for people struggling to keep up with the unpredictability of inflation. Though, you can’t put a price on love. On top of higher prices, “romance scammers” may continue to try to cash in on your heart. In 2022, 70,000 people reported losses of a total of $1.3 billion. Most of these scammers use dating apps to gain one’s trust. If they aren’t willing to meet you in person and they are asking for money, they probably aren’t the one for you. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always turn out like your favorite Nora Ephron rom-com. Read more at NPR.

Super Bowl Sunday Getting Back in the Game

A Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday night resulted in an average of 113 million viewers on U.S. television and digital platforms. According to the Nielsen rating agency, this year was the second-highest audience in the history of the National Football League’s (NFL) championship game. Viewership rose roughly 11% from last year, with an audience of 101 million. Although, the most anticipated part of the Super Bowl was the halftime show. Six years after last performing a full set, Rihanna’s halftime performance reached an average of 119 million viewers. It was the most-watched halftime show since Katy Perry in 2015 and the second highest ever. It saw the largest audience in the program’s history, in terms of digital viewership, totaling seven million streams. The number of viewers who watched any part of the telecast was 183 million. Aside from the big game itself, the ads played a significant role in viewership. Super Bowl ads were mentioned on Twitter 312,000 times throughout the game. The ad talked about the most was Tubi’s “Interface Interruption” ad, which made it look like viewers’ TVs were changing channels away from the game. Tubi had up to 39,000 social media mentions, but The Farmer’s Dog “Forever” ad led the pack in sentiment with an average rating of 6.56. It was a big night for all involved. Read more in Reuters.


Hope Found in the Rubble

While the death toll from the earthquake surpassed 41,000 this week, hope is still being found within the rubble in Turkey and Syria. Over the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams joined thousands of international workers to dig throughout the area. Rescue teams found nine survivors more than a week after the earthquake hit. Some of those rescued include two brothers, ages 17 and 21 who were pulled from an apartment block, a Syrian man and young woman who were rescued after more than 200 hours in the rubble, and a 42-year-old woman rescued after almost 222 hours (nine days) trapped under the ruins in Turkey. These uplifting rescues might just be some of the last, as the chances of finding more survivors dim as days go on. Rescuers are beginning to refocus their aid efforts to help people now struggling without shelter or enough food in freezing conditions. The United Nations (U.N.) launched a $400 million funding appeal for Syria after nearly 9 million people were affected by the earthquake. In Turkey, more than 2.2 million people have left the worst-hit areas, and hundreds of thousands of buildings have become uninhabitable. Around 26 million people across both countries need humanitarian assistance. The needs are growing by the minute as concerns continue to rise. Read more in Reuters.



  • 61.7%: The percentage of Valentine’s Day reservations that are made the week of the holiday on Yelp and 19.2% of reservations are made on that day.
  • 30%: The percentage of high school girls in 2021 who said they seriously considered suicide–a 60% jump from a decade ago. Almost 70% of LGBTQIA+ students felt the same.
  • $12.4 billion: How much remote work per year costs Manhattan residents. The average worker is spending $4,661 less per year on meals, shopping, and entertainment near their office.
  • $16.4 billion: The amount the influencer marketing economy hit in 2022. This number could dwindle at the hands of the new “deinfluencing” trend that now has 155 million videos and growing on the hashtag page.
  • 60,000: The number of homes without power in New Zealand’s upper North Island as the approach of Cyclone Gabrielle brings strong winds, heavy rain, and huge swells to Auckland and nearby regions.
  • 640%: The percentage that Rihanna’s music streams spiked on Spotify after this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. Three of the songs in her discography increased in plays more than 1,000%, and one of her songs saw almost 3,000% in growth.
  • 50: The number of train cars carrying dangerous chemicals, which was derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio. The residents of the town were ordered to evacuate but have since returned, as authorities said the air and water levels are no longer a threat.
  • 127: The number of years a member of the U.S. Senate has read former President George Washington’s 7,640-word farewell address in a legislative session on or around Feb. 22, which is the late president’s birthday turned national holiday, now known as Presidents’ Day, which is celebrated this year on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.


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