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First responders work outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Federal and state officials investigate Amazon building collapse

Federal and state officials said Monday that they will investigate the collapse of an Amazon delivery depot in Edwardsville, Illinois, that was struck by a tornado Friday, killing six people.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois said a state investigation into whether the building was constructed according to building codes was ongoing, while federal workplace safety regulators said they had opened an investigation after the collapse.

Company officials have defended their safety procedures.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company believed the building was constructed properly, despite the catastrophic damage. "Obviously we want to go back and look at every aspect of this," she said.

Pritzker said he was already speaking with lawmakers about whether the state's building codes should be updated, "based upon the climate change we are seeing all around us." He added, "That is something we are deeply concerned about, to make sure code is where it ought to be."

 

Wyden urges cut in Medicare premium increase

The head of a Senate panel that oversees Medicare says the Biden administration should use its legal authority to cut back a hefty premium increase soon hitting millions of enrollees as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers call for action amid worries over rising inflation.

Last month, Medicare announced one of the largest increases ever in its "Part B" monthly premium for outpatient care, nearly $22, from $148.50 currently to $170.10 starting in January. The agency attributed roughly half the hike, about $11 a month, to the need for a contingency fund to cover Aduhelm, a new $56,000 Alzheimer's drug from Biogen whose benefits have been widely questioned.

For most Medicare enrollees, the premium is deducted from their Social Security checks. Without further action, it would swallow up a significant chunk of seniors' 5.9% cost of living increase.

"Rather than assessing the current $21.60 per month ... premium increase in full, I urge you to reduce the amount," Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote health secretary Xavier Becerra.

 

California may cut rooftop solar aid

California's 26-year-old program to get more people to put solar panels on their homes has been wildly successful, but state regulators may reduce the incentives for people to go solar in a bid to reduce electricity bills for the rest of residents in the most populous U.S. state.

Current incentives allow residential solar customers to sell whatever energy they don't use back to power companies at the retail rate for power, usually resulting in a big discount on their energy bills. But power companies say the savings are now so great that solar customers no longer pay their fair share for the operation of the overall energy grid.

The future of the program, known as "net energy metering," has prompted a fierce debate between the state's major utilities and the solar industry.

Regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the state's major utilities and the rates they can set, are expected to soon issue proposed reforms.

California's net metering program launched in 1995 with the goal of boosting solar adoption in the famously sunny state. California now has more than 1.3 million residential solar installations, more than any other state, according to the solar industry.

 

Delta invests again in international carriers

Delta Air Lines is re-upping its investments in its international partner carriers that have filed for bankruptcy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The value of Delta's billions of dollars in investments in the three carriers were zeroed out due to those foreign carriers' bankruptcy filings.

Now Atlanta-based Delta is investing another combined $1.2 billion in its partners Virgin Atlantic, Aeromexico and LATAM as they emerge from bankruptcy restructurings.

Delta said Monday its investment will maintain its 49 percent equity stake in U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic and that it aims to have a 20 percent stake in Mexico's Aeromexico and 10 percent in Chile-based LATAM. Some creditors in Aeromexico's bankruptcy case have criticized the airline's restructuring proposal, according to news reports.

Delta spent $360 million for its 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic in 2012. It had owned about half of Aeromexico and took a $770 million charge on the investment after Aeromexico's bankruptcy filing. It previously had a 20 percent stake in LATAM that it acquired for $1.9 billion in 2019.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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