National / International News
Floods in Oklahoma and Texas have claimed lives and destroyed numerous homes.
Rebuilding those homes and reimbursing homeowners will take months, if not a year or more. But some of those homeowners may not get all the help they will need, because they don't have flood insurance.
In Wimberley, a vacation town in between San Antonio and Austin which is situated on a river that rose 40 feet, flood waters washed away hundreds of homes and businesses.
"There are many people... that lived along the river, that did not have insurance," says Cathy Moreman, head of the Wimberley Valley Chamber of Commerce.
For some, price of premiums may have been a factor.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency underwrites homeowners' flood insurance through a fund set up for that purpose. That fund was $23 billion in debt as of 2014.
Tom Baker, who teaches insurance law at the University of Pennsylvania, says the reason is that flood insurance has historically been too cheap. "It hasn't reflected the real risk that people face," he says.
In recent years, though, premiums have been going up. FEMA also redrew flood danger maps, which caused premiums for some homeowners to go up because they were deemed to be in greater risk, while it also lowered premiums for others.
"Everyone is paying a great deal of attention to the affordability issue," says Howard Kunreuther, professor and co-director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Kunreuther is on a government panel studying how to make flood insurance more affordable for those who need financial assistance paying for it. Among the ideas, he says, is to offer a voucher to those who can't pay the full cost of flood insurance premiums.
But, he adds, that kind of financial help could be two years away. In the meantime, those with damaged or destroyed homes by the current floods would have few options if they don't have flood insurance.
Wednesday is the deadline for negotiators at the U.S. Postal Service to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents nearly 200,000 workers, including clerks, mechanics and vehicle drivers.
The talks are unfolding against a bleak financial backdrop. USPS’s financial losses have moderated a bit recently, but it’s still very much in the red. It reported a $1.5 billion net loss in the second quarter of the year, compared to a $1.9 billion loss in the period a year earlier.
Its troubles date back at least a decade. The internet chipped away at one of its biggest moneymakers: first class mail.
“That mail has dried up and will continue to dry up as more people migrate to electronic payments,” says Jerry Hempstead, president of the shipping logistics company Hempstead Consulting. Hempstead says USPS has managed to get the internet to work in its favor in other ways; it now ships a lot of the stuff we buy online. But Hempstead says that revenue is not enough to offset some big costs.
“The elephant in the room is the requirement to pre-fund retiree health,” he says.
A 2006 law required that USPS pre-fund 75 years' worth of future-retiree health benefits. That can cost as much as $5.8 billion a year.
“They can’t do it. They missed the last four payments,” says management professor James S. O'Rourke at the University of Notre Dame.
O’Rourke believes the solutions to the Postal Service’s problems include privatizing its pension and health care plans and closing more post offices.
“The union workers simply won't agree to any of that,” he says. “And the Congress won't agree to save them.”
O'Rourke fears those groups will only come together in a crisis, like USPS running out of money to meet payroll.
Consumer complaints against airlines are way up. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, March saw a whopping 55 percent increase in angry fliers.
But airlines and airports are promising a better flight experience — at least on the ground. To make it happen, they’re pouring billions of dollars into technology.
Sunsea Shaw isn’t sold. All she wants is an easy journey home to Indiana. So she checked in online and printed her boarding pass before leaving home for Atlanta’s international airport.
“I thought it would save me time, so that way I can get through the check-in process quickly and then go on to security and catch my flight,” she says.
“I’m standing in line,” she says, with zero amusement in her voice.
The baggage-drop line is long and chaotic, but not necessarily out of the ordinary. Long lines and frustrated passengers have become synonymous with flying.
But potentially, developing technology could enable airports where “there’s [sic] no lines. You’re able to move through the process without having to stop and queue for anything,” says Jim Peters with airport tech company SITA.
He says future airports could operate like today’s Apple Store. Employees armed with wearables—like an Apple Watch—will walk around checking you in, sorting out your baggage and generally keep things moving.
Wearable tech will also help to manage airport staff, he says, “so if you’ve got too long of lines at one spot, then you could automatically shift staff around.” Peters says wearable devices can instantly alert staffers where they need to be and what they need to be doing.
Another emerging airport technology involves transmitting personalized information via beacons. “Beacons are literally data packets that can be delivered to a mobile device,” explains Roosevelt Council, C.F.O of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Council says beacons allow direct connections with a passengers’ smartphones or watches, giving them instant updates on gate changes, flight delays, or even a coupon for a neck pillow.
And it’s not just airports employing beacon technology. Airlines are, too. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is using beacons at its main hub to allow passengers to track their luggage. “We avoid that real ... deal killer and buzz killer, which is the lost bag,” says Rhonda Crawford, VP of E-commerce at Delta.
That's the portion of smartphone users 13-34 who use Snapchat, watching 2 billion videos every day. The company built its user base on self-destructing photos and videos, but its financial future is in video ads. Bloomberg has a rare interview with Snapchat's 24-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel, who says most of the company's competitors aren't serving young people as well as they could.14 soccer officials
That's how many have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of federal corruption. Seven FIFA officials were arrested early Wednesday morning in Zurich, Switzerland, as the organization prepared for its annual meeting. The New York Times has a profile of those involved in the charges.$18 billion
That's the portion of packaged food sales that have shifted from large to small companies from 2009 to 2014, AdAge reported. As consumer sentiment strays from "Big Food" toward fresher, organic, authentic products — no matter how healthy they are — corporations are pivoting as fast as they can to to win customers back. They're increasingly retooling flagship products and scooping up smaller companies, with mixed results.$1.5 billion
That's the net loss for the U.S. Postal Service in the second quarter of the year. That's down from the $1.9 billion loss from last year, but it still puts the organization very much in the red. We take a look at the contentious negotiations between the USPS and the American Postal Workers Union, as funding for the organization comes up short.1,114
Speaking of food, that's how many of Washington's 14,000 or so lobbying groups represent food suppliers on Capitol Hill. Seven of them represent the interests of the rice industry, while 35 push for dairy. We went to lunch with an expert to see just how many lobbyists are at the table with us.$3.2 billion
That's the worth of the coffee-drinking market in Australia. With its building coffee culture, the country has seen its coffee industry grow significantly over the last five years. And according to Bloomberg, they now consume more fresh beans per person than any other country.
For the first time in a White House race, the candidates will need a game plan for cyber policy for Day 1 in the Oval Office and will have some tough choices to make.