Looking at almost two consecutive years of rising costs, the September 2018 IHS Markit PEG Engineering and Construction Cost Index report revealed an index reading of 62.1, up 3.2 points from August.
The survey’s creators expect overall costs to continue to rise over the next six months, reaching a reading of 79.8, the highest it’s been since 2012.
Contributing to rising costs is damage from hurricanes Florence and Michael, which are expected to put even more demand on construction services while materials and labor remain limited. Although the work will keep contractors busy, homeowners and businesses will have to be patient during the recovery process.
The 25 percent steel tariffs could have a significant impact on construction costs as well. In fact, a Northern Utah wastewater treatment plant saw its price tag increase by $25 million after the tariffs. With steel prices jumping by 31 percent since January, developers may rethink future large-scale projects.
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that romaine lettuce is, yet again, unsafe after at least 32 people in 11 states have gotten sick from the same strain of E.coli. The outbreak has also sickened Canadians, prompting the Canadian government to issue a public health alert as well.
While the outbreak hasn’t resulted in any deaths or official recalls, 13 people have been hospitalized, one of whom has kidney failure. The CDC is investigating the outbreak to determine a common source of the contaminated lettuce.
The good news is that this outbreak is a different strain of E.coli than the previous outbreak in the United States this year, which caused five deaths and over 200 illnesses.
What are the symptoms of E.coli?
Symptoms of E.coli can vary, but generally begin three to four days after ingesting contaminated food or drink. Common symptoms include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Most people are able to recover within a week, but severe cases can last longer. The CDC recommends contacting your doctor if you have symptoms of an E.coli infection.
How can you avoid getting sick?
To reduce your risk of getting an E.coli infection from romaine lettuce, throw out any store-bought romaine lettuce you may have at home, even if some of it was already eaten and no one has gotten sick.
The CDC warning includes all types of romaine lettuce, including heads, hearts, chopped and salad mixes. If you’re not sure if you have romaine lettuce or if your salad mix contains romaine lettuce, don’t risk it. Do not eat it, but throw it out. The CDC also recommends that you clean your refrigerator where your romaine lettuce was stored.
The CDC is currently investigating the outbreak and will work to determine its source. In the meantime, avoid eating romaine lettuce. To keep up with the outbreak, click here.
Congress and President Donald Trump recently approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), an overhaul of the federal government’s approach to disaster preparation and risk reduction. The new law gives businesses, federal agencies and state governments more flexibility when requesting and using federal grants.
Before now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had strict regulations about how it distributed funds during a recovery process. Grants were usually used to help replace lost property, but didn’t account for improvements to help prevent future disasters. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) is over budget and in need of reform is that it’s common for a single property to flood frequently and make multiple insurance claims.
The DRRA has new provisions in place to emphasize planning and help streamline how funds are given out:
- 6 percent of the federal disaster budget will be put into a pre-disaster mitigation account every year. State governments, businesses and communities can apply for grants to fund risk mitigation activities.
- Rebuilding that uses federal funds will use strengthened building code requirements to protect against future incidents. Improving public utilities will also be a priority in order to ensure access to clean water and electricity.
- The president will be able to reimburse up to 75 percent of a state or local government’s disaster mitigation efforts to ease the strain on federal agencies.
According to FEMA, every $1 put into planning for disasters can help save $6 during the recovery process. Contact us today at 831-661-5697 for toolkits, articles and other resources your company can use to prepare for various disasters and ensure the continuity of your business.
Representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada recently reached an agreement to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new trade deal, referred to as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), includes a number of changes to support North American businesses, increase labor regulations and overhaul intellectual property (IP) protections.
Although the USMCA has many similarities to NAFTA, some important changes will likely affect businesses:
- North American auto industry—Starting in 2020, vehicles will only avoid tariffs if at least 75 percent of their parts are made in North America (up from the current 62.5 percent requirement). Also, at least 30 percent of the work done during the manufacturing process must be done by employees with hourly wages of $16 or more. Although these changes should help to discourage overseas imports, some believe that they could significantly increase the price of vehicles.
- Better IP protections—The new deal has stricter regulations to protect trademarks, copyrights and other strategic plans. The USMCA also extends copyright protections to 70 years beyond the life of the author.
- Disputes and reviews—One of the USMCA’s provisions allows for a special dispute process that’s handled by a panel of representatives instead of one of the three country’s court systems. An automatic review process will take place six years after the three countries ratify the deal, and it will automatically dissolve after 16 years.
NAFTA will remain in effect until all three countries approve the USMCA, which is likely to occur sometime in early 2019.
Recently, Facebook announced that nearly 50 million user accounts were compromised in a data breach. The breach, which can be traced back to July 2017, is one of the largest in the company’s 14-year history.
While investigations are ongoing, the company said hackers exploited a software vulnerability in Facebook’s "View As" feature to steal access tokens and gain control of user accounts. Access tokens are effectively digital keys to specific accounts, and stealing them allows attackers to view private posts or compose status updates without the knowledge of the affected user.
In addition, the attack allowed the hackers to see anything that users can see on their own profile, including the names and birthdates of friends and family members. Such information could be used in future phishing attacks.
In response to the attack, Facebook reset 90 million logins automatically, fixed the software vulnerability and informed law enforcement officials. While the company says that users do not need to change their passwords, individuals experiencing login issues should navigate to Facebook’s Help Center.
As a safety precaution, users are encouraged to log in and out of all of their accounts on every device. Users can see all of the devices they’re currently signed into here.
To learn more about the breach, read Facebook’s official blog post.
Several big names in food retail—like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart—are pulling millions of pounds of premade products off their shelves following a massive nationwide recall due to possible listeria and salmonella contamination.
Major food manufacturers, including Bakkavor Foods and Ruiz Food Products, issued the recalls after notifying the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service on Oct. 17 that their products may include possibly tainted corn, onions and other vegetables sourced from McCain Foods.
The recall has been classified as a Class I recall, meaning there is a "reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death." This means that if you’ve purchased any of the contaminated products, you should throw them away immediately and not consume them.
What products are recalled?
The list of products being recalled is vast, but popular products that were pulled off the shelves include Whole Foods’ Santa Fe Style Salad with chicken and Trader Joe’s BBQ flavored chicken salad. Click here to see a full list of recalled products as detailed per manufacturer.
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes intestinal illness. If you experience the following symptoms, seek medical attention for possible salmonella infection:
- Diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps
- Symptoms beginning 12 to 72 hours after suspected ingestion
- Symptoms lasting four to seven days
What is listeria?
Listeria is a bacteria that causes listeriosis, a serious bacterial infection that primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with weakened immune systems. The most common symptoms of listeriosis are fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. If you experience flu-like symptoms within two months of eating contaminated food, contact your doctor right away so you can be properly treated.
What can I do?
To protect yourself, you’re urged to review the massive list of recalled products to ensure you don’t consume the possibly contaminated ingredients. If you exhibit any symptoms of either a salmonella infection or listeriosis, contact your doctor immediately.