December 1, 2022

The Morning Meeting with Al Tompkins is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas worth considering and other timely context for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

The real headline here may be that for the second time in a week, Democrats and Republicans are working together to pass significant legislation. First, it was the Respect for Marriage Act that brought both sides together, and now, both the House and Senate are working toward blocking a national railroad strike. Tuesday, the House passed a resolution 209-137 that would force unions to accept a tentative agreement reached earlier this year between railroad managers and their workers.  

CNBC reported how the House vote unfolded:

The House voted 290 to 137 — with 79 Republicans joining 211 Democrats — to pass the legislation, which approves new contracts providing railroad workers with 24% pay increases over five years from 2020 through 2024, immediate payouts averaging $11,000 upon ratification, and an extra paid day off.

Eight Democrats and 129 Republicans voted against the legislation. 

In a separate 221 to 207 vote, the House also approved a resolution to provide seven days of paid sick leave in the contract instead of one, which is rail workers’ main disagreement with the current deal. As it stands rail workers don’t have guaranteed paid sick leave.

The vote comes after President Joe Biden called on Congress to intervene in the stalled talks between railroads and some of the industry’s major unions. He met with the four House and Senate leaders Tuesday in an effort to avoid the economic impacts of a rail strike, which the industry forecasts could cost the U.S. economy $2 billion per day.

“This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country. The Senate must now act urgently,” President Biden said in a statement.

The Senate is also likely to vote along the same lines as the House but it is not all a foregone conclusion.


Will 2022 be a ‘donor downer’ for charities?

I am seeing reports all over the U.S. and Canada that charities are worried that donations of money, food and toys will drop this year because of inflation.

(Wall Street Journal)

In the Bay Area around San Francisco, food charities say donations have dropped 20% and demand is increasing. It is a similar story unfolding in Columbus, Ohio. NBC4 reports:

“We’re seeing a decline in donations across the board both from our food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director Ohio Association of Foodbanks. She said the organization, which oversees 12 Ohio foodbanks, will request $50 million in emergency funding from the state to keep pantries stocked.

A spokesperson with the Mid-Ohio Food Collective said that demand has increased by 25% in 2022, with many people seeking food assistance for the first time.

The Star Tribune says there may be another explanation for a decline in charitable donations:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, donations to Minnesota nonprofits surged amid unprecedented generosity. But some donors may be struggling financially amid global high inflation, while other donors are returning to pre-pandemic spending on travel and dining out, shifting their dollars away from philanthropy.

And around this time of year when people get busy with other things, blood donations often drop off. It is a gift you can give that will cost you nothing and they will give you a cookie on the way out the door. This is something I highly recommend. Soon I will complete donating my ninth gallon!

Apartment companies running DNA tests to identify dog owners who do not pick up after pet

J Retinger, CEO of BioPet Laboratories Inc. and Poo Prints, says “business is booming.” The company runs DNA tests of dog dung to identify the people who do not pick up after their pets. The Rental Housing Journal says:

“One of the most recent studies to come out of multifamily recently was conducted by PetScreening and J. Turner Research. It found that 84 percent of respondents ranked pet waste as their No. 1 pet-related concern. We launched a mobile app to aid in dog registrations and waste collections, and it’s been a huge tech development,” (BioPet sales operation manager McKenzie) Towns said.

Here is how it works: Tenants swab the inside of their dog’s mouth and provide you that sample DNA for you to send to a company in Knoxville, Tennessee, called Poo Prints. When you find poop in the yard that a tenant failed to pick up, you can send a sample to the company and they will identify the offending dog so you can then take it up with the tenant.

The company says it makes it more difficult for people to deny responsibility, and it also helps avoid the neighbor vs. neighbor accusations about whose dog was responsible. Inside Edition tested the system and the test found the perp. 

Delta makes it a lot more expensive to enter Sky Clubs

The largest airline in America is limiting membership to its lounge clubs and dramatically increasing the cost of those memberships.

Frequent travelers depend on airline lounges for food, quiet and internet connections between flights, and in the crazy pandemic travel years, they have been lifelines to stay productive between flight delays.

Delta is raising membership costs by $150 (From $545 to $695), and if you want to bring a guest, that level of membership is going to be more expensive than if you just bought two memberships. If you are flying basic economy, you cannot enter the club lounge even if you are a member. You can only buy a club membership if you are a medallion level flier. However, if you want to pay $250 for an AMEX-Delta credit card, you can get club access for another $50. 

Delta says it lounges are too crowded, and it is trying to thin the herd. (My words, not theirs.) But there is more to this than just that. The airline says it is willing to pack the lounges if people will just pony up for an American Express credit card. 

Paxex.Aero, which covers the airline passenger experience, says co-branded credit card loyalty programs have become a central revenue source for airlines. In the third quarter of 2022, Delta says its connection with AMEX brought in $1.4 billion. Again, that is ONE QUARTER. It’s squeezing its loyal customers (like me) to encourage credit card applications. 

If you get their credit card, you get a lounge seat and soup. That’s airline loyalty in 2022. 

What3Words — the app that makes it easier to find where you want to go

It takes a little explaining to understand the wonder if the What3Words app, but once you get it this is a pretty cool trick. The app has been around for years, but it is getting much wider use now.

The app allows you to select a 3 meters x 3 meters square anywhere on the globe and the app creates a random three-word phrase associated with the area. I mean that is a location about the size of a car. Then you can store or share that location. The app breaks the whole globe into 57 trillion squares.

Let’s imagine you are trying to meet somebody in a big shopping mall. You can map your What3Words location, send it to the person who is trying to find you and they navigate to you.  You might ask why you need this if you use Google maps. That is a good question if you are navigating somewhere on a street or highway. But how often have you tried to find someplace that is not clear on a map? 

Let’s try it out. Download the What3Words free app for iOS and Android. There is also an online map if you do not like apps. 

Then enter ///headset.going.retrain and see where it takes you.

Now, let’s imagine I am not in that building, but instead my bike broke down on the Pinellas bike trail. If I gave you the phrase ///, you could come pick me up. Likewise, if you were in a broken-down boat on a lake, it would allow you to give an exact location.

What3Words developers explain that billions of people around the globe have no mappable address. The platform turns GPS coordinates into much easier-to-manage words.

 The important uses of this might include finding people stranded in disasters. Or maybe helping hurricane victims find food, insurance processing tents and loved ones from whom they’ve been separated. 

Around the world, taxis and other transportation services are starting to use this app.  

Police in Waterloo, Ontario, urge people to download the app because it would help rescuers find them faster if they need help. Recently, police in Gwinnett County, Georgia, also urged people to download the app. And Officials in Joplin, Missouri, said the app is a good idea, especially for hunters who might get lost or injured out in the woods. The What3Words website has a list of instances where the app led to rescues all over the county and world.

But in British Columbia, emergency workers do not want people to use what3words. The Summerland Review reported:

Dwight Yochim, Senior Manager with BC Search and Rescue Association says that the app is a solution for a problem they’ve never had.

“There are tools we use to locate a subject with their cell phone which are far more effective,” Yochim explained. “You need cell service to use the What3Words app. If you have cell service, we can pinpoint your location using your cell phone within one meter.”

Yochim pointed to an article by Cybergibbons that explains the potential issues with the app.

The article mentions easily confused words such as collard and collared or beat and beet. What3Words acknowledges this aspect on its website, stating that when they “select the words to be used in each language, we do our best to remove homophones and spelling variations.”

The article offers a list of potentially problematic words and mentions a “broken algorithm,” stating the potential for 3,268 locations to get confused within a 20-kilometer radius.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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