• Business
    TechCrunch

    Firms backed by Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Gates have funded an electric motor company that slashes energy consumption

    Arguably, one of the biggest contributors in the fight against climate change to date has been the switch to the humble LED light, which has slashed hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions simply by reducing energy consumption in buildings. It's not as flashy as an arc reactor, but like light bulbs, motors are a ubiquitous and wholly unglamorous technology that have been operating basically the same way since the nineteenth century.

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  • U.S.
    The Conversation

    How some people can end up living at airports for months – even years – at a time

    Mehran Karimi Nasseri sits among his belongings in a 2004 photograph taken at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he lived for nearly 18 years. Eric Fougere/VIP Images/Corbis via Getty ImagesIn January, local authorities arrested a 36-year-old man named Aditya Singh after he had spent three months living at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport. Since October, he had been staying in the secure side of the airport, relying on the kindness of strangers to buy him food, sleeping in the terminals and using the many bathroom facilities. It wasn’t until an airport employee asked to see his ID that the jig was up. Singh, however, is far from the first to pull off an extended stay. After more than two decades studying the history of airports, I’ve come across stories about individuals who have managed to take up residence in terminals for weeks, months and sometimes years. Interestingly, though, not all of those who find themselves living in an airport do so of their own accord. Blending in with the crowd Whether it’s in video games like “Airport City” or scholarship on topics like “airport urbanism,” I’ll often see the trope that airports are like “mini cities.” I can see how this idea germinates: Airports, after all, have places of worship, policing, hotels, fine dining, shopping and mass transit. But if airports are cities, they’re rather strange ones, in that those running the “cities” prefer that no one actually takes up residence there. Nonetheless, it is possible to live in airports because they do offer many of the basic amenities needed for survival: food, water, bathrooms and shelter. And while airport operations do not necessarily run 24/7, airport terminals often open very early in the morning and stay open until very late at night. Many of the facilities are so large that those determined to stay – such as the man at O'Hare – can find ways to avoid detection for quite some time. One of the ways would-be airport residents avoid detection is to simply blend in with the crowds. Before the pandemic, U.S. airports handled 1.5 million to 2.5 million passengers on any given day. Once the pandemic hit, the numbers dropped dramatically, falling below 100,000 during the early weeks of the crisis in the spring of 2020. Notably, the man who lived at O'Hare for a little over three months arrived in mid-October 2020 as passenger numbers were experiencing a rebound. He was discovered and apprehended only in late January 2021 – right when passenger numbers dropped considerably after the holiday travel peaks and during the resurgence of the coronavirus. Living in limbo Of course, not all of those who find themselves sleeping in a terminal necessarily want to be there. Travel by air enough and chances are that, at one time or another, you’ll find yourself in the category of involuntary short-term airport resident. While some people may book flights that will require them to stay overnight at the airport, others find themselves stranded at airports because of missed connections, canceled flights or bad weather. These circumstances seldom result in more than a day or two’s residency at an airport. It might not be the most comfortable bed, but at least it’s indoors. Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images Then there are those who unwittingly find themselves in an extended, indefinite stay. Perhaps the most famous involuntary long-term airport resident was Mehran Karimi Nasseri, whose story reportedly inspired the movie “The Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks. Nasseri, an Iranian refugee, was en route to England via Belgium and France in 1988 when he lost the papers that verified his refugee status. Without his papers, he could not board his plane for England. Nor was he permitted to leave the Paris airport and enter France. He soon became an international hot potato as his case bounced back and forth among officials in England, France and Belgium. At one point French authorities offered to allow him to reside in France, but Nasseri turned down the offer, reportedly because he wanted to get to his original destination, England. And so he stayed at Charles de Gaulle Airport for nearly 18 years. He left only in 2006, when his declining health required hospitalization. Other long-term airport residents include Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, who spent more than a month in a Russian airport in 2013 before receiving asylum. And then there is the saga of Sanjay Shah. Shah had traveled to England in May 2004 on a British overseas citizen passport. Immigration officials, however, refused him entry when it was clear he intended to immigrate to England, not merely stay there the few months his type of passport allowed. Sent back to Kenya, Shah feared leaving the airport, as he had already surrendered his Kenyan citizenship. He was finally able to leave after an airport residency of just over a year when British officials granted him full citizenship. More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has created new long-term involuntary airport residents. For example, an Estonian named Roman Trofimov arrived at Manila International Airport on a flight from Bangkok on March 20, 2020. By the time of his arrival, Philippine authorities had ceased issuing entry visas to limit the spread of COVID-19. Trofimov spent over 100 days in the Manila airport until personnel at the Estonian embassy were finally able to get him a seat on a repatriation flight. [You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.] The homeless find refuge While most involuntary airport residents long to leave their temporary home, there are some who have voluntarily attempted to make an airport their long-term abode. Major airports in both the United States and Europe have long functioned – though largely informally – as homeless shelters. Though homelessness and the homeless have a long history in the United States, many analysts see the 1980s as an important turning point in that history, as many factors, including federal budget cuts, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and gentrification, led to a sharp rise in the number of homeless. It is in that decade that you can find the earliest stories about the homeless living at U.S. airports. In 1986, for example, the Chicago Tribune wrote about Fred Dilsner, a 44-year-old former accountant who had been living at O'Hare in Chicago for a year. The article indicated that homeless individuals had first started showing up at the airport in 1984, following the completion of the Chicago Transit Authority train link, which provided easy and cheap access. The newspaper reported that 30 to 50 people were living at the airport, but that officials expected the number could climb to 200 as the winter weather set in. This issue has persisted into the 21st century. News stories from 2018 reported a rise in the number of homeless at several large U.S. airports over the previous few years, including at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The coronavirus pandemic has added an additional public health concern for this group of airport denizens. For the most part, airport officials have tried to provide aid to these voluntary residents. At Los Angeles International Airport, for example, officials have deployed crisis intervention teams to work to connect the homeless to housing and other services. But it’s also clear that most airport officials would prefer a solution where airports no longer operated as homeless shelters.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Janet Bednarek, University of Dayton. Read more:How the homeless create homesIn an iconic airport terminal, the last vestiges of a bygone era Janet Bednarek does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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  • News
    INSIDER Video

    A Brazilian entrepreneur is crafting bikinis out of tape to give customers perfect tan lines

    Erika Bronze is an unconventional tanning business in Brazil. People looking for the perfect tan flock to the rooftop spa to wear bikinis made from electrical tape. Founder Erika Martins pioneered the viral tanning method and has managed to keep the business going safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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  • Lifestyle
    MarketWatch

    My husband and his brother inherited a property. Our son lived there rent-free for 4 years. We paid $60K in taxes and repairs after a fire. Do we still split it 50/50?

    My husband and his brother inherited their family home. When they were able to take possession, our son and his family needed a place to live. Now comes my concern: If my husband and his brother had sold the house when they first inherited it, they would have split proceeds 50/50.

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  • Health
    Elle

    I Have the Same Cancer That Killed Beau Biden. It's Time for an 'Operation Warp Speed' to Cure Cancer

    I was diagnosed with the same aggressive cancer that killed Beau Biden. With this new President, it's time for the next 'Operation Warp Speed'—to push ahead on cancer research that's stalled out.

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  • U.S.
    National Review

    We Already Have an Alternative to Massive Student-Loan Cancellation

    The notion of student-loan cancellations has been capturing the attention of politicians and those in the realm of higher-education policy for well over a year now. Despite the popularity of this hugely regressive idea, it’s a terrible one. Thankfully, there’s a better, more moderate way to address federal student debt. And it’s hiding in plain sight. Income-driven repayment (IDR), an existing set of programs that function somewhat poorly, can be improved to ensure that not a single borrower will ever have to make an unaffordable payment on federal student loans. Under IDR, monthly payments are tied to a borrower’s income and unaffordable balances are ultimately forgiven. IDR accomplishes this in a way that minimizes moral hazard and delivers benefits in a true progressive manner — with more benefits going to people who invested in a college degree, and took on debt to do so, but didn’t see the return they were promised in the form of a high-paying job. IDR also makes college more accessible to children in low-income families, in effect enabling higher education to function as a mechanism for social mobility. The monthly payments of traditional loans are determined at the outset, with repayment of the principal and interest spread over a definite time period. In contrast, IDR allows borrowers to make monthly payments that are equal to a fixed percentage of their current disposable income. When income is high, they pay the full amount due, and when income is low, they can make a reduced payment without penalty. This ensures that monthly payments are affordable. The balance is forgiven once a borrower has made a requisite number of IDR payments. This takes between ten and 25 years depending on the student’s eligibility and choice of IDR program. Borrowers may not like having a balance hanging over their head for that long, but the reduced monthly payments (often reduced to zero) mean the process isn’t excessively burdensome. By reserving benefits for those who are truly in need, the IDR mechanism also reduces the perversion of incentives that often come with implementing safety nets. A less targeted relief program, like the student-loan forgiveness being proposed, would likely encourage future students to borrow more than they would have otherwise, attend more expensive schools, and make less of an effort to constrain living expenses (also paid with loans). It would also fuel hope for another politically supported round of loan forgiveness down the road. Taxpayers, who ultimately pay the price for these programs, are thereby saddled with even more costs. Colleges and universities would in turn raise prices to respond to the surge in demand, which would exacerbate the already out-of-control inflation in the higher-education industry. Some might wonder if a safety net for student borrowers is really necessary. But if we want more Americans to use our system of higher education, which includes both work-training and degree programs, we have to minimize the financial risk students face. While investment in higher education generally pays huge dividends, degrees don’t always lead to high earnings that would justify the cost. Students who start school but don’t finish are the worst off, as they end up with a significant loan balance to repay without access to earning levels that would make repayment affordable. Without a safety net, it is still not truly affordable for students from low-income families to attend college. Delivering relief through a safety net allows for a more efficient allocation of resources, because benefits needn’t be paid to those who invest in college and end up with a lucrative career. Despite the IDR system’s appropriateness for the policy challenge at hand, the system hasn’t been working well. The reason for this is largely that IDR is administered through a variety of programs each with different eligibility criteria and a range of program parameters. The amount borrowers are expected to pay is calculated differently across programs, as is the number of years before borrowers can qualify to have their balance forgiven. The result is a system that is excessively complex to navigate, with many borrowers unaware of the benefits that are available to them. While IDR is now universal for all federal student borrowers, it became that way only after a series of legislative and executive interventions, between 1992 and 2015, stitched together a patchwork of loosely related programs. Factual evidence about how IDR has been used is limited, but anecdotes about the challenges of navigating the system, even by financially savvy consumers, indicate systemic problems. This rickety policy framework desperately needs to be replaced with a single user-friendly, income-driven repayment plan that can be universally marketed and better understood. Reasonable people can disagree about how generous IDR should be. Moving the conversation away from mass loan forgiveness to reforming IDR would be a step in a fairer and more efficient direction.

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