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East coast braces for Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Earl closed in on North Carolina early Thursday evening, pelting the eastern part of the state with bands of rain and powerful blasts of wind as communities and seaside towns across the eastern seaboard braced for the storm’s devastating force.

Thousands of tourists were evacuated from the Outer Banks in North Carolina — which was already feeling the impact of the storm’s steady march — and at seaside inns in Long Island and the Jersey Shore, owners began pulling down their canvas awnings, pulling in their patio furniture and handing out flashlights to guests who had come to revel in an extended Labor Day weekend.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and asked residents near the coast to consider relocating.

Euro’s slide gives Germany an edge on Japanese rivals

FRANKFUT, Germany — There was a touch of gloating in the most recent earnings report issued by Kuka, a company based in the Bavarian city of Augsburg whose orange industrial robots are a common site on auto assembly lines.

Kuka said last month that its sales had more than bounced back to levels predating the financial crisis. By contrast, sales at its Japanese rivals were still one-third below where they had stood in early 2008, before the global downturn slammed the machinery industry.

A surge in orders from European carmakers has helped Kuka’s rebound. But it also does not hurt that the euro has plunged in value compared with the yen, which has given Kuka a price advantage against Japanese competitors that it did not have a year ago.

“Price is not the sole criteria, but it’s an important criteria,” Kuka’s chief executive, Till Reuter, said in an interview. “The weaker euro is to our advantage.”

Employers pushed higher health insurance costs onto workers

As health care costs continue their relentless climb, companies are increasingly passing on higher premium costs to workers. The shift is occurring, policy analysts and others say, as employers feel more pressure from the weak economy and the threat of even more expensive coverage under the new health care law.

In contrast to past practices of absorbing higher prices, companies chose this year to keep their costs the same by passing the entire increase in premiums for family coverage onto their workers, according to a survey released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group. Workers’ share of the cost of a family policy jumped an average of 14 percent, an increase of about $500 a year. The cost of a policy rose just 3 percent, to an average of $13,770.

Workers are now paying nearly $4,000 for family coverage, according to the survey, and their costs have increased much faster than those of employers.