Monthly Archives: September 2017

30Sep 2017

Adviser: Total Rewards packages must go beyond the obvious – Crain's Cleveland Business (blog)


Many small to midsize companies look at Total Rewards as the tail wagging the dog. And as a result, companies neglect to articulate a Total Rewards philosophy, a statement that identifies what a company wants to achieve with its Total Rewards program, which refers to the full combination of monetary and non-monetary investments companies make in their workforce to attract, retain and engage the people they need to operate their business successfully.

And if a company does not have a Total Rewards philosophy, it is nearly impossible to create any type of a human capital strategy, much less a modernized, robust and profit-yielding one.

First off, in order to create a Total Rewards philosophy, it’s important to obtain a baseline assessment of your current program.

Some companies use retention to measure Total Rewards satisfaction. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2016 Talent Management and Rewards Study and the 2016 Global Workforce Study, turnover can be an expensive opportunity cost if employees are not happy. For example, at the senior manager/executive level, the cost of turnover equals 74% of annual compensation. Given that 31% of senior level managers are at risk of turnover, the total value at risk due to senior managers’ turnover is 23% of the total annual compensation. This varies by job level and by organization, but it still represents a significant level of productivity and financial value at risk.

Other companies like to rely purely on benchmarking data to determine if their Total Rewards stack up. Companies want to know if the plan design matches that of their competitors or how much money their competitors contribute to premiums and is it more or less than they do. While this is an important exercise, there are always outliers and this method does not lend itself to creativity or innovation.

And lastly, there are some companies that measure the success of their Total Rewards by the level of employee engagement. Sustainable engagement matters and makes a difference to your organization’s performance. Companies with more highly engaged employees improve profitability at a faster rate than their sector peers, and those with more disengaged employees lag sector performance substantially. The study found that there is considerable room for improvement as only slightly more than a third (37%) of employees globally are highly engaged and a quarter of employees globally are disengaged. These various assessments will provide organizations with a sense of how well their programs are performing, which, in turn, will help inform their Total Rewards philosophy.

In order to craft a Total Rewards philosophy, your company must answer the following questions:

  • Is your company optimizing its Total Rewards investments to achieve the right cost, behavior and performance outcomes?
  • Does your company’s Total Rewards programs attract, retain and engage the talent you need across your business, at all levels?
  • What are the key cost/value trade-offs for your company in balancing cost management and workforce management objectives?
  • Is your company optimizing its cost/value for key reward programs and the Total Rewards portfolio overall?
  • Does your company’s Total Rewards programs reinforce the desired “deal” with employees (i.e., aligning employee behaviors with key business needs and direction of the company)?
  • Does your company’s employees understand and recognize the value of their Total Rewards portfolio?

The 2017 workforce is changing fast, which can make the development of any human capital strategy more difficult. According to the Willis Towers Watson studies, employees place a higher value on leadership, transparency and job security more than ever before. Employees don’t want or expect a “forever job” but rather the skills to remain relevant and employable throughout their career.

The thread through all of these findings is that Total Rewards, jobs, performance and individuals vary — one-size-fits-all approaches to programs may not fit everyone. However, a Total Rewards philosophy can have the breadth and latitude to appeal to all your employees from millennials to Medicare eligibles and can push forward a human capital strategy that will have a meaningful impact on your company.

Kate Hubben is a client advocate at Willis Towers Watson in Cleveland.

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30Sep 2017

Trump's health secretary resigns in travel flap – Lowell Sun


FILE – In this June 15, 2017, file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Price announced Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, he is resigning amid criticism of his travel on private planes. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File) (Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s health secretary resigned Friday, after his costly travel triggered investigations that overshadowed the administration’s agenda and angered his boss. Tom Price’s regrets and partial repayment couldn’t save his job.

The Health and Human Services secretary became the first member of the president’s Cabinet to be pushed out in a turbulent young administration that has seen several high-ranking White House aides ousted. A former GOP congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, Price served less than eight months.

Publicly, Trump had said he was “not happy” with Price for repeatedly using private charter aircraft for official trips on the taxpayer’s dime, when cheaper commercial flights would have done in many cases.

Privately, Trump has been telling associates in recent days that his health chief had become a distraction. Trump felt that Price was overshadowing his tax overhaul agenda and undermining his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, according to three people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Friday the president called Price a “very fine person,” but added, “I certainly don’t like the optics.” Price said in his resignation letter that he regretted that “recent events have created a distraction.”

The flap prompted scrutiny of other Cabinet members’ travel, as the House Oversight and Government Reform committee launched a governmentwide investigation of top political appointees.


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Other department heads have been scrambling to explain their own travel.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faced scrutiny over three charter flights while in office, including a $12,375 late-night trip from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June. On Friday, he dismissed the controversy over charter flights as “a little BS over travel,” but he said taxpayers do have the right to know official travel costs.

Price’s repayment of $51,887.31 for his own travel costs did not placate the White House. The total travel cost, including the secretary’s entourage, was unclear. It could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

Following Price’s resignation, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney informed Cabinet secretaries and agency heads in a memo that approval from chief of staff John Kelly will be required for any travel on government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft.

An orthopedic surgeon turned politician, Price rose to Budget Committee chairman in the House, where he was known as a fiscal conservative. When Price joined the administration, Trump touted him as a conservative policy expert who could write a new health care bill to replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

But Price became more of a supporting player in the GOP’s futile health care campaign, while Vice President Mike Pence took the lead, particularly with the Senate. The perception of Price jetting around while GOP lawmakers labored to repeal “Obamacare” -including a three-nation trip in May to Africa and Europe- raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Price flew on military aircraft overseas.

Although much of Trump’s ire over the health care failure has been aimed at the Republican-controlled Congress, associates of the president said he also assigns some blame to Price, who he believes did not do a good job of selling the GOP plan.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday that Price had worked hard to help that chamber pass its plan before the GOP effort reached an impasse in the Senate. “I will always be grateful for Tom’s service to this country,” he said.

Democrats were glad to see Price go. Some urged Trump to appoint an HHS secretary who would reach out to them.
“I hope President Trump learns from this mistake, and looks to appoint someone who can work in a bipartisan way to strengthen health care for all Americans,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

A Pence protege, Seema Verma, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Price. Verma already leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs health insurance programs that cover more than 130 million Americans.

Another possible HHS candidate: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who won some bipartisan support in his confirmation and is well known in policy, government and industry circles.

Trump named Don J. Wright, a deputy assistant secretary of health, to serve as acting secretary.

Price, 62, was seen in Congress as a foe of wasteful spending. As HHS secretary, he led a $1 trillion department whose future is the key to managing mounting federal budgetary deficits. As secretary, Price criticized the Medicaid health program for low-income people, saying it doesn’t deliver results commensurate with the hundreds of billions of dollars taxpayers spend on it. As a congressman, he favored Medicare privatization.

But Price’s image as a budget hawk took a hit when reports of his official travel started bubbling up. Price used private charter flights on 10 trips with multiple segments, when in many cases cheaper commercial flights were available. His charter travel was first reported by the news site Politico.

On a trip in June to Nashville, Tennessee, Price also had lunch with his son, who lives in that city, according to Politico. Another trip was from Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles.

The reports triggered a review by the HHS inspector general’s office, which is looking into whether Price’s travel violated federal travel regulations. Those rules generally require officials to minimize costs.

The controversy over Price was a catalyst for Congress launching a bipartisan probe of travel by political appointees across the administration. The House oversight committee has requested travel records from the White House and 24 federal departments and agencies.
Initially, Price’s office said the secretary’s busy scheduled forced him to use charters from time to time.

But later Price’s response changed, and he said he’d heard the criticism and concern, and taken it to heart.
___

Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

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30Sep 2017

7 Common Credit Card Myths – Motley Fool


Seventy-two percent of American consumers have at least one credit card, according to Federal Reserve data. Despite their popularity, there is quite a bit about credit cards that many Americans don’t fully understand. Here are seven common credit card myths, and the truth behind each one.

1. If you have poor credit, a debit or prepaid card is the best option

With a low credit score, it can be very difficult to get a credit card. Many consumers who cannot qualify for a traditional credit card simply rely on debit cards or prepaid credit card products for their electronic payment needs. However, this is not the best option.

Instead, a secured credit card is a far better choice. Essentially, a secured credit card works just like a standard credit card, except that you’ll have to put a security deposit down in order to open the card.

Image source: Getty Images.

Secured cards have a few key advantages over prepaid or debit cards. First off, they are accepted just like standard credit cards. Many businesses, such as car rental companies and hotels, either don’t accept prepaid/debit cards at all, or require large holds placed on the account. On the other hand, a secured credit card is indistinguishable from any other credit card in the eyes of the merchant, and can be used for these types of purchases with ease.

Most importantly, a secured credit card is reported to the credit bureaus and can help you build or rebuild your credit over time, while a prepaid/debit card has no positive effect on your credit whatsoever.

There are some pretty attractive secured credit cards available, so if you’re relying on prepaid or debit cards, it may be worth a look.

2. My interest rate is set in stone and can’t be reduced

Credit card interest rates tend to be rather high. The national average is about 15%, and rates of up to 30% are quite common.

One common myth is that you’re forced to accept whatever interest rate your credit card issuer feels like charging you. This is 100% false, especially if you have an established history of being a good customer. In many cases, getting a lower interest rate is as easy as asking for one.

In fact, a report by CreditCards.com found that 69% of cardholders who called and requested a lower interest rate got one.

3. My credit card’s annual fee is non-negotiable

Many credit cards have annual fees, which help the issuers to pay for the perks offered by the card. For example, my favorite travel credit card has perks like free checked bags, discounts on in-flight purchases and airport lounge access, and an annual buy-one-get-one round trip coach ticket. In exchange for all of these perks, the card charges a $199 annual fee.

However, it may come as a surprise to you that a card’s annual fee may not be as much of a fixed charge as you think. In fact, the same CreditCards.com report I mentioned earlier found that 82% of cardholders were successful in lowering or eliminating their annual fee. Thirty-one percent were able to negotiate a lower fee, while 51% got it waived entirely.

4. A credit limit increase should be avoided if you don’t need it

Credit card issuers will regularly offer customers a credit limit increase, especially after several years of on-time payments and responsible credit behavior. And it’s true that by doing so, they’re trying to tempt you into charging more purchases.

However, before you turn down an offer of a higher credit limit, you should be aware that a higher limit could potentially help your credit score all by itself.

Specifically, 30% of your FICO credit score comes from a category of information called “amounts owed,” and a big part of this is your credit utilization, or your credit card balances as a percentage of your available credit. By increasing your credit limit, you have more available credit, and your existing debts will represent less of your total credit line.

For example, if you owe $500 on a credit card with a $2,000 limit, you are using 25% of your available credit. On the other hand, if the limit is increased to $4,000, your utilization drops to just 12.5% without any change in your debt level.

5. People with high credit scores don’t carry credit card balances

It’s certainly true that high credit card balances can hurt your credit score. However, it’s a popular misconception that you need to pay your credit cards in full every single month in order to maximize your credit score.

According to data from FICO, the average consumer with a FICO score of 800 or higher uses 4% of their overall revolving credit limit with a high usage of 10% on a single account. To be clear, this is still a pretty low credit utilization – the average person in this group with $10,000 in credit limits would carry a $400 balance.

The point is, if you can’t maintain a zero balance, you can still achieve a great credit score. In fact, there are some experts who say that a small credit card balance could actually be better for your score than none at all.

6. Applying for a new credit card will hurt my credit score

This one is somewhat true, but consumers commonly overestimate how much it could hurt. Applying for new credit creates something known as a hard credit inquiry. And hard credit inquiries are factored into the FICO formula for one year.

Now, too many hard inquiries can certainly have a significant effect on your score, but a single inquiry is unlikely to drop your score by more than a few points. According to FICO, a single inquiry should cost the typical consumer less than five points from their score. And a responsible payment history on the new account can quickly offset the negative effect.

7. Closing an old credit card that I don’t use won’t affect my score

Many people who are just establishing credit obtain “starter cards” with low limits, high interest rates and annual fees, and little or no rewards. Then, as they build credit and start getting more attractive credit card offers, it can seem tempting to close these old accounts.

If you decide to close an older, unused credit account, be aware that doing so can have an adverse effect on your FICO score. This has to do with the concept of credit utilization I discussed earlier. By closing an account, you’re reducing your total available credit, and increasing your credit utilization represented by your outstanding debt. In addition, older and accounts are treated more favorably than newer ones in the FICO formula, so it could affect the “length of credit history” category as well.

Having said that, if you have an unused credit card for which you’re paying an annual, or even monthly fee, without utilizing any perks from the card, closing it can be worth the temporary hit to your credit. Just don’t be surprised to see a mild drop in your credit score.

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29Sep 2017

US Regulator: Cryptocurrencies May Pose Risks, Rewards for Credit Unions – CoinDesk


The US federal agency that oversees the country’s credit union industry included a remark on the possible risks and benefits of cryptocurrencies in a newly-released strategy plan.

Published yesterday, the 2018-2022 Draft Strategy Plan largely focuses on the economic trends that will shape US credit unions, as well as the policy implications that may come about as a result. The growing use of fintech means that “credit unions are likely to face a range of challenges” from companies that are advancing products and services in this area.

According to the text, the potential for the wider use of cryptocurrencies is cited as one of the technology factors that could drive change in the way that credit unions do business.

“The emergence and the increasing importance of digital currencies predicted by many analysts may pose both risks and opportunities to consumers, credit unions, banks and financial regulators,” the report’s authors state, adding later: “These trends are likely to continue, and even accelerate, through 2022.”

Though the draft doesn’t mention it, a number of credit unions in the US have already moved toward exploring how they can apply the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to their own operations.

Last year, a group of institutions unveiled the CU Ledger project, aimed at creating new services built on top of the tech. And just last month, the consortium of more than 50 credit unions revealed their plan to create a credit union service organization, or CUSO, and have since been seeking investors for the venture.

Image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

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29Sep 2017

Trump says Price's travel undermines 'drain the swamp' promise, sources say – Chicago Tribune


President Donald Trump has been telling associates that his health chief has become a distraction, overshadowing his agenda and undermining his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was trying to hang on to his job Friday amid continuing questions over his use of private charter flights on official business at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

Other cabinet secretaries scrambled to explain their own charter flights, and a House committee pressed ahead with a government-wide travel investigation.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke dismissed the controversy over charter flights as “a little BS over travel,” but he said taxpayers do have the right to know official travel costs.

Price had offered public regrets and a partial repayment Thursday, but that didn’t seem to calm the furor, particularly in the White House.

Trump is deeply frustrated with Price and has grown increasingly annoyed by the stream of reports about the health secretary’s expensive air travel, according to three people familiar with Trump’s private discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

He has also told people close to him that he believes Price’s run of bad headlines stepped on the administration’s launch of its tax plan. And he has told people he believes Price didn’t do enough to sell the ill-fated GOP plan to “repeal and replace” the Obama health law.

Trump has considered firing Price but has not yet committed to doing so, according to one of the people who have spoken to him in recent days. Trump often muses about dismissing underlings but does not always follow through.

Though Trump has told these people close to him that he believes he has found a winning issue in attacking NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, he’s angry over the latest Republican failure to overturn “Obamacare” and irritated that he felt pressured into backing the losing candidate in the Alabama Senate primary this week.

Much of Trump’s ire over the health care failure has been aimed at the Republican-controlled Congress, but he also assigns some blame to Price, who he believes did not do a good job of selling the GOP plan. He mused aloud in a speech to a gathering of Boy Scouts in July that he would fire Price if the health bill did not pass, a line that was largely taken as a joke at the time.

The perception of Price jetting around — including a three-nation trip in May to Africa and Europe — while GOP lawmakers labored to repeal “Obamacare” raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Price flew on military aircraft overseas.

The controversy was a catalyst for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to launch a government-wide travel investigation. The panel is seeking detailed records from the White House and 24 departments and agencies on the use of government planes as well as private charters.

Other cabinet secretaries were doing their own explaining:

—Interior’s Zinke said he’s taken three charter flights while in office, including a $12,375 late-night trip from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June. Zinke said no commercial flight was available at the time he planned to fly for a speech to Western governors. He also went on a military flight with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to view wildfires in Montana. All of his travel was approved in advance by Interior’s ethics officials “after extensive due diligence,” Zinke said.

—Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he has not used private aircraft for official business but has taken six trips on military aircraft. Information about his official travel will be posted on the department’s website, he said.

—At the Treasury Department, the inspector general is investigating all requests for and use of government aircraft, including those by Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who came under fire for requesting a government aircraft to use on his honeymoon. The request was later withdrawn.

—The EPA said four non-commercial flights taken by Administrator Scott Pruitt were pre-approved by ethics lawyers. The agency’s inspector general opened an inquiry last month into Pruitt’s frequent taxpayer-funded travel on commercial planes. The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Pruitt often spends weekends at his Tulsa home.

Price’s travels were first reported last week by Politico, which said cheaper commercial flights were a viable option in many cases. That prompted a review by the HHS inspector general’s office to see if federal travel regulations were followed.

A former congressman from Georgia regarded as a conservative policy expert, Price said his travel was approved by the department he heads. He said he’d write a personal check to reimburse taxpayers for his travel on charter flights taken on government business. And he pledged to fly commercial — “no exceptions.”

The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — covers only the secretary’s seat. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights, expected to be much higher.

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29Sep 2017

NerdWallet's Best Credit Card Tips for October 2017 – NerdWallet (blog)


With so many websites offering free financial tools, it can be hard to know whom to trust. At NerdWallet, we spend literally 1,000s of hours researching partner offers and following strict editorial integrity to match you with the perfect choice. We even share how we make money so you can enjoy our expert advice and researched recommendations with total clarity and confidence.

It’s only October, but some of us are already freezing — credit freezing, that is.

In the wake of a data breach at Equifax, which was revealed in September and could have repercussions for millions of consumers, several of the Nerds’ credit card tips this month focus on security and protecting yourself.

Respond to Equifax breach

Unless you were in a media blackout during September, you know that a breach at Equifax exposed the personal information — including Social Security numbers — of around 143 million consumers.

If you’re looking for ways to lock down your data, security experts say your options include monitoring your credit report, setting up fraud alerts with the credit bureaus and potentially freezing your credit.

Try a digital wallet

While you’re protecting your information, consider how you safeguard your physical credit cards. Do you carry only the cards you need when you go out? Or do you like to have all of them in your wallet so you can choose which one to use for each a purchase? If so, and your wallet is stolen, you’ll have to call each issuer and replace every card.

An easier and potentially safer solution is to use a digital wallet. Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay are all available for smartphones. You don’t have to carry the physical cards when you shop, and checkout is faster than waiting for an EMV chip reader to beep at you.

You get additional security because your phone is passcode-protected — you do lock your phone with a passcode, right? — and each purchase requires a passcode or a fingerprint. Behind the scenes, the purchase is tokenized, meaning it’s assigned a one-time number so your 16-digit credit card number is never disclosed, even to the store.

Protect that pricey iPhone X

Apple announced its iPhone X in September. The device will be available for preorder on Oct. 27 and begin shipping on Nov. 3. If you’re buying this $1,000 smartphone, you might benefit from a credit card that offers cell phone protection. The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card provides up to $600 of coverage for damage or theft — with a $25 deductible — if you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card.

If you’re a small-business owner who pays for your employees’ phones, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card also pays up to $600 per claim for damage or theft of employee cell phones when you pay your monthly bill with the card. Cardholders are restricted to a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period, and the deductible is $100 per claim.

And don’t forget that the payment networks — Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover — also offer purchase protection plans for theft and damage.

Opt in to 5% bonus categories

New 5% bonus categories begin this month for those with certain Discover cards or the Chase Freedom® — so make sure you activate them. You’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases.

Discover’s bonus categories for October through December 2017 are Amazon and Target — just what you need for holiday shopping. The Chase Freedom® also has shopping in mind: Its bonus categories for the final quarter of 2017 are Walmart and department stores.

If you have one of these rotating bonus category cards, why not let Halloween start scaring you up some cash back? Consider buying your costumes, candy, decorations and party supplies at Target, Amazon or Walmart. According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween-related spending is projected to hit $9.1 billion this year.

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29Sep 2017

New My Nintendo Rewards Include More Free 3DS And Wii U Games – GameSpot


Nintendo has added a handful of new rewards to the My Nintendo program. For the first time, the company is offering a selection of indie games for 3DS and Wii U as rewards, giving members with enough Gold points in their accounts a chance to snag them effectively for free.

For a limited time, four well-received indie games will be available to download from the program. 3DS owners can redeem their Gold points for Zen Pinball 3D and the platformer Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo. Those with a Wii U, meanwhile, can spend their points on Art of Balance and the acclaimed autorunner Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. You can find the cost of each reward and when it expires below.

  • Art of Balance (Wii U) — 70 Gold points (expires November 27)
  • Runner 2 (Wii U) — 90 Gold points (expires November 27)
  • Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo (3DS) — 60 Gold points (expires November 27)
  • Zen Pinball 3D (3DS) — 50 Gold points (expires December 27)

Prior to September, Nintendo added a handful of Pokemon rewards to the My Nintendo program to celebrate the release of Pokken Tournament DX on Switch and the classic Pokemon Gold and Silver versions on 3DS. Those are available until November 23 and consist of the following discounts:

My Nintendo members also still have time to redeem their points for discounts on a number other great Wii U and 3DS games, including The Wonderful 101, EarthBound Beginnings, and Star Fox 64 3D. You can find the full list of the rewards that are currently available here.

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29Sep 2017

Zinke used private, military planes for travel: report – The Hill


Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior Dept recommends reducing Bears Ears, other protected land: reportGive tribes real authority in Bears Ears National MonumentTrump moving toward energy exploration in Arctic wildlife refuge: reportMORE and his aides have taken multiple flights on private or military planes to go to events in his home state of Montana and between two Caribbean islands, Politico reports.

Among the flights, the Interior secretary and his staffers used a charter plane that cost $12,375 to fly from Las Vegas to Glacier Park International Airport in Montana in June. 

While in Montana, the secretary addressed the Western Governors Association and took part in other meetings.

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The department also chartered two flights for Zinke and his staff from St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend various events in March with island officials and the Danish prime minister. Zinke took a commercial flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told Politico that Zinke’s other flights were booked after the department was unable to find commercial flights corresponding with the secretary’s schedule and that they were all pre-cleared by ethics officials in the department. 

Department ethics official Melinda Loftin and Interior lawyer Edward Keable said that Zinke’s travel followed all rules and regulations.

“The Scheduling Office meets regularly with the Departmental Ethics Office and the Division of General Law to ensure that all travel is thoroughly reviewed and approved in advance and that it is fully compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” the pair said in a statement.

“Consistent with this process, the trip was reviewed and approved in advance by both the Departmental Ethics Office and the Division of General Law. In short, the trip – including the Secretary’s address to the hockey developmental squad – was completely compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

The two agencies said they plan to reimburse the Air Force, according to a USDA spokesperson. 

The report on Zinke’s flights comes amid increasing scrutiny of various travel on the part of several Cabinet officials, including those using taxpayer funds for non-commercial flights. 

It was revealed that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump adviser affirms intent to leave Paris deal | Officials report leaks at Superfund site after Harvey | Hurricane Maria now a major stormOvernight Regulation: Trump adviser affirms plans to leave climate deal | FDA to study new cigarette warning labels | DOJ investigating Equifax stock salesOfficials report potential spills at Texas Superfund site after Harvey: reportMORE as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceWork requirements exactly what Ohio needs to roll back the ObamaCare disasterPrice says working toward declaring opioid crisis national emergencyDeclare a true state of emergencyMORE all used non-commercial travel at some point during their tenure in the Trump administration. 

Price said Thursday that he would reimburse taxpayers more than $50,000, a portion of the cost of the more than $400,000 spent on the HHS chief’s private flights.

Swift said she could not to confirm to Politico whether Zinke would reimburse the government for the cost of his travel.

Updated: 10:49 p.m.

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29Sep 2017

Whole Foods latest to fall victim to credit card breach – New York Post


And the hacks just keep on coming.

Whole Foods, one of the country’s most popular grocery chains, is facing a credit card security breach involving its taprooms, restaurants and other in-store venues.

The company released a statement Thursday saying hackers had targeted “point of sale systems” — which are the machines that customers use to swipe or insert their cards — in the attempt to steal data.

“Whole Foods Market recently received information regarding unauthorized access of payment card information used at certain venues such as taprooms and full table-service restaurants located within some stores,” the statement said, explaining that those who shopped for groceries were likely not affected.

“When Whole Foods Market learned of this, the company launched an investigation, obtained the help of a leading cyber security forensics firm, contacted law enforcement, and is taking appropriate measures to address the issue.”

Thursday’s announcement makes Whole Foods, which was recently acquired by Amazon, the latest big name to suffer a cybersecurity breach this year — following hacks at Equifax, the SEC, Wendy’s and Chipotle, among others.

Just this week, the drive-in restaurant chain Sonic revealed that it, too, had been targeted by hackers in the very same way that Whole Foods was hit.

The cybersecurity blog, KrebsOnSecurity, reported potential breaches at several Sonic restaurants via point of sale systems, with millions of credit and debit card numbers possibly being stolen.

Wendy’s and Chipotle were both hacked in similar ways, as well, according to experts.

“The company’s investigation is ongoing and it will provide additional updates as it learns more,” Whole Foods said in its statement. “While most Whole Foods Market stores do not have these taprooms and restaurants, Whole Foods Market encourages its customers to closely monitor their payment card statements and report any unauthorized charges to the issuing bank. The Amazon.com systems do not connect to these systems at Whole Foods Market. Transactions on Amazon.com have not been impacted.”

While Whole Foods did not provide any details about the locations that were affected, there are more than 40 stores that sell beer on tap. It’s unclear, though, how many restaurants or other venues there are.

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28Sep 2017

Delta Changed Frequent Flyer Rules And No One's Happy – Uproxx – UPROXX


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Flying is, for many, a necessaryevil. But being in a frequent flyer program can make it a little more pleasant. Especially on Delta, where if you happened to spend $25,000 a year on your American Express card, you got Diamond Medallion status — the best frequent flyer status there is. Except now Delta’s ruined that party.

For background, Delta’s frequent flyer program works by, well, flying frequently and spending money on Delta flights. The more you fly, the more upgrades like priority boarding, first class seating, and other goodies you get. American Express users, though, could cut the line a bit if they spent heavily on their Delta-branded American Express card. Delta decided to close that loophole, however, by jacking the former $25,000 limit to $250,000, and frequent flyers are not happy, albeit some appear to… ahem… lack some perspective on the matter:

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