Archive for Dominick Reuter

Wind turbine techs get paid $27 per hour to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the economy – and the profession is growing fast

Rope access technicians carry out maintenance service on wind turbine blades
  • Wind-turbine technicians are the workers who service the very top of towering wind farms.
  • The median wage is $27 per hour, and most jobs don't require a four-year degree.
  • Employment is projected to increase 68% from 2020 to 2030 - significantly faster than other sectors.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

There are more than 65,000 land-based wind turbines across the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and more are coming online each year.

Each of the wind turbines that dots the landscape of a wind farm is generally made of a tower, blades, and a central unit called a nacelle. All three elements require specialists to install and maintain them throughout the life of a turbine.

The nacelles have the most going on, since that is the housing for the generator, gearbox, brakes, and circuitry that convert the mechanical energy into electricity to send down to the power grid.

A technician stands in the turbine nacelle of a wind turbine

In order to make repairs, wind techs typically have to climb as high as 300 feet up the narrow tube of the tower to the nacelle while hauling up all the tools, computers, and safety gear needed to get the job done. While some tasks require climbing outside the nacelle, most routine work is done within the enclosure.

Other crews are used to inspect, repair, or clean the fiberglass blades, which requires workers to rappel down from the nacelle to complete the job while dangling hundreds of feet above the ground.

The median wage for wind techs is $27 per hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which works out to about $56,000 per year - about 33% higher than the national median earnings of $42,000.

A community college or technical degree is typically enough to qualify for the job, and many employers provide a year or more of on-the-job training. Most techs will need to understand electrical, hydraulic, braking, mechanical, and computers systems, as well as have first aid and rescue training.

A rope access technician carries out maintenance service on a wind turbine blade

With 6,900 workers in 2020, the field is small but one of the fastest growing in the entire economy, with BLS projections expecting a 68% increase in new jobs by 2030. That's nearly nine times faster than the projection for all other occupations tracked by the agency.

Beyond claustrophobia and acrophobia, a few things might dissuade someone from racing to find a wind-tech job.

For one thing, the schedule can be grueling. Most wind farms are located in remote areas, so travel times to job sites can take a long time. Plus, bad weather or other unpredictable events can knock out a turbine at any time of the day or night, and repairs need to happen as quickly as possible.

A rope access technicians stands on top of a wind turbine

More importantly, the Labor Department says wind techs have one of the highest rates of injury and illness of all occupations. In particular, a 2017 study found that falls in the energy sector are quite common (though just a few are fatal) as are strains, sprains, and overexertion.

As the world shifts from carbon to renewable power sources, it will increasingly rely on workers like wind techs to do the high-risk jobs that keep the modern economy moving.

If you are a wind tech or a worker who has a job you consider high risk, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.

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Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are among the 156 billionaires on the Forbes 400 who have given less than 1% of their wealth to charity

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
  • Billionaires including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk reached new record levels of wealth last year.
  • Billionaires are also less generous than ever in terms of share of wealth they've given away.
  • Of the Forbes 400, a record 156 - including Bezos and Musk - have given less than 1%.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

While Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk feud over who is wealthier and who is more litigious, the business titans are among a group of billionaires in the running for an even less desirable title: World's Stingiest Billionaire.

Although the pandemic era's surging stock market has ballooned the fortunes of billionaires to new heights, the wealthiest people in the world have chosen not to keep pace with their charitable giving, according to the Forbes Philanthropy Score.

The team at Forbes adds up all of the lifetime "out-the-door" giving a person has made, and divides that number by the sum of their total current wealth and the total giving amount. The results are categorized into five tiers: less than 1%; between 1% and 5%; between 5% and 10%; between 10% and 20%; and 20% or more.

Private foundations and donor-advised funds don't count for the Forbes measure, since those "donations" effectively remain under the control of the donor, and also come with generous benefits that enable wealthy people to avoid paying taxes.

If the median American household gave $1,200 to charity across their entire lives based on a present net worth of about $120,000, Forbes would consider that more generous than Bezos and Musk based on this metric.

Of the 400 billionaires on this year's list, just 19 have given away 10% or more of their wealth, while a record high 156 have given less than 1%. While Bezos and Musk have yet to crack out of the 1%, MacKenzie Scott has left them in the dust by giving away 13% of her fortune. Even with her pace of giving, Scott is wealthier now than she was last year.

Bezos did make headlines this summer with $400 million gifts to the Smithsonian, Van Jones, and Jose Andres, and has given $865 million from his pledge to fight climate change. But his actual gifts are a tiny fraction of the $22 billion gain he made this year alone, to bring his total net worth to $201 billion.

Warren Buffet continued as the list's most generous giver, having parted with $4.1 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock in June to bring his lifetime total to $44 billion. He's now halfway through his pledge to give away all his Berkshire shares.

The most prolific giver in the Forbes ranking was George Soros, whose $16.8 billion of giving has outsized his $8.6 billion net worth. Former president Donald Trump was not ranked, since he fell $400 million shy of making the top 400 list.

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The NYC subway is so desperate for more train operators that it’s reportedly offering retired conductors up to $35,000 for 90 days of work

mta new york city subway conductor
The MTA is pushing for another round of emergency federal aid to fund its subways, buses, and commuter trains.
  • The New York subway system is suffering from a severe shortage of train operators.
  • More than one in 10 rush hour trains were cancelled in August - the worst rate since at least 2015.
  • Transit officials are offering retirees up to $35,000 to work for three months, per the NY Daily News.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Part of the US labor market's difficulties can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic motivating older workers to retire earlier than planned.

At the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which employs more than 66,000 people, that rush to the exits has left the agency with about 5,000 fewer workers since the start of the pandemic, the New York Daily News reported.

Of those 5,000 retirees, about one in five were in subway services, and that has led to severe complications for the transit system. In August more than 10% of rush-hour trains were cancelled, the worst performance since at least 2015.

Now transit officials are offering a sizable pay package to attract retired train operators who have left the MTA in the last three years, according to a letter obtained by the Daily News.

In January 2019, there were 3,598 train operators, according to data reported by TheCity.nyc, but that figure had dropped 11.5% to 3,182 as of February 2021.

"New York City Transit has a critical and urgent need for fully trained and qualified train operators," an MTA human resources officer wrote in the letter. "If you choose to apply and are accepted, you will be temporarily appointed by NYC Transit for a period not exceeding 90 days and your gross earnings, which are not pensionable, may not exceed $35,000."

The average NYC Transit worker earned annual compensation of $75,891 in 2015, according to a report from the city's budget office.

An additional challenge facing the system is an upcoming deadline for employees to prove their vaccination status or submit to weekly testing in order to continue working.

The Daily News previously reported that 58% of MTA workers have gotten at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, but union representatives say that many unvaccinated members would quit their jobs instead of get inoculated. At least 171 workers have died of COVID-19.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last
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‘Ghosting coasting’ is the latest labor challenge for employers, where under-qualified hires disappear before they can be fired

A "help wanted" sign in a restaurant window
A Help Wanted sign hangs in the window of a restaurant in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
  • US employers are desperate for workers, sometimes hiring employees without a full vetting.
  • Recently, some new hires are showing up just long enough to get paid before disappearing.
  • One source called the practice "ghosting coasting," according to the Federal Reserve of Atlanta.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Vanished. Left on read. Stood up. Ghosted.

It has become a fact of modern social life that someone will - at some point - leave you hanging without any explanation. Odds are you've done the same to someone else.

Now, that social disappearing act has arrived in the workplace in a new way as US employers scramble to find staff - sometimes hiring candidates without a full vetting of their qualifications.

Ghosting has become such an issue for employers that none other than the Federal Reserve of Atlanta made mention of it in the Fed's latest roundup of economic trends from across its 12 districts.

"Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms," the Atlanta Fed reported. "Restauranteurs noted concerns over 'ghosting coasting,' where a new hire works for a few days and moves on to the next restaurant without notice before they are let go due to lack of skills."

The trend can be even more costly when employers offer up-front bonuses and incentives like free food and discounts to simply apply or accept a job.

Disruptive as the trend may be for employers, Adrienne Slack, the regional executive for the New Orleans Branch of the Atlanta Fed, would give workers the benefit of the doubt here.

"The restaurant industry in particular, it can be a tough place to work," she told NPR's Robert Smith and Adrian Ma on the "Planet Money" podcast. "It's very demanding. And as individuals that haven't necessarily worked in that industry before realize that, they realize they may not want to work in that particular job for very long."

"I'm hearing this from multiple contacts," she added, "not just in the restaurant industry, but I hear it in manufacturing as well."

Turnover and retention rates have long been a significant fact of life in the fast-food business especially. Two years ago, the average monthly turnover rate in the industry was 135%, which basically meant that four people were hired each month for every three who remained on staff. This summer, the turnover rate ticked up to 144%.

Additionally, US Labor Department data show restaurant workers are quitting their jobs at the highest rate in two decades. Within the accommodation and food services sector, the quit rate was 5.7% in June 2021, more than double the national average quit rate of 2.7%.

"What that has the restaurants and the manufacturers thinking about is, how do we make our industries more attractive for the workforce? How do we address the reasons behind this ghosting coasting? So it's really about retention," Slack said.

If you are a worker who has ghosted an employer, or an employer who has been ghosted, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.

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If you work at a large company, Biden’s action plan requires your boss pays you for your time spent getting vaccinated and recovering from possible side effects

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House on July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.
  • The White House unveiled a sweeping action plan to increase the vaccination rate in the US.
  • Employers with 100 or more workers would be required to provide paid time off for vaccinations.
  • Many unvaccinated workers previously expressed concerns that they could not afford to miss work.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

In a move that will impact more than 80 million workers, a new COVID-19 plan from the Biden administration would require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing, or else be subject to $14,000 fines.

In addition, the plan will require those same employers to offer paid time off for workers to get the vaccine and recover from any possible side effects.

Last April, Biden announced a tax credit for small businesses offering to compensate employers with 500 or fewer workers for covering an employee's time off to get the shot and recover from it.

The rule will be developed and enforced by the Labor Department's Occupational Health and Safety Administration "to ensure that no worker loses a dollar of pay because they get vaccinated."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is typical for patients to experience side effects including fever, chills, tiredness, headache, nausea, and muscle pain for up to three days following a vaccination. The CDC also says those reactions are more common with mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

In its guidance for employers, the CDC recommends staggering vaccination appointments so that a single department or business unit isn't overly impacted in the event of adverse reactions.

A June survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation of 1,888 adults found that about two out of 10 unvaccinated employees said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if their employer gave them paid time off.

Zachary Livingston, who manages a Subway near Denver, told The Washington Post he hasn't had the time or mental space to get the vaccine after working 60-hour weeks for months on end.

"By the time I'm out of work, it's time to go to bed," Livingston said.

John Jameson, who leads an advocacy group that is trying to reach vaccine-hesitant people in Colorado, told the Post that paid time off would be a game-changer, especially for low-wage workers.

"There's no question that if people had the opportunity to just take time off from work, it would be easier to get them to take the vaccine," he said. "If you're in a minimum wage job and you're worried you're going to miss two days of work, that's enough disincentive to keep some folks showing up for their second shot."

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The US Surgeon General says we’re thinking about the end of the pandemic in the wrong way: ‘Success does not equal no cases’

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
  • The US has likely missed its chance to rid itself of COVID-19, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said.
  • "Success does not equal no cases," Murthy told Politico, as ICUs across the country run low on beds.
  • Vaccination continues to be the best way to keep people alive and out of the hospital, he said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

COVID-19 is unlikely to be going away completely, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an interview with Politico.

Although the US has missed the opportunity to totally eradicate the disease, he said people can still take steps to keep the situation from getting worse.

"It is really important that we convey that success does not equal no cases," Murthy said. "Success looks like very few people in the hospital and very few dying."

Murthy's remarks come as many hospitals across the US report having zero ICU bed capacity remaining, with several treating nearly twice as many ICU patients as they have room for.

The continued increase in COVID-19 cases over Labor Day weekend forced many Americans to change or cancel plans, bringing what began as an optimistic summer to an end on a decidedly somber note.

"This is obviously a very difficult part of the pandemic," Murthy said.

Murthy also pointed out that the situation is particularly dire in areas of the country that have lower vaccination rates and compliance with mask-wearing guidance.

"This is the dichotomy developing," he said. "It's almost like living in two different Americas."

Murthy also said that vaccinated people tend to overestimate the danger posed by the coronavirus Delta variant, and that unvaccinated people tend to underestimate the risk.

Guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control says that unvaccinated patients with the Delta variant are more likely to be hospitalized than with earlier strains, while vaccinated patients with breakthrough cases have been far less likely to require hospitalization.

Simply put: vaccines work, Murthy said.

Over the weekend, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that hospitals in some areas are "perilously close" to having to choose who gets potentially lifesaving medical treatment.

The public health agency in Austin, Texas, said the 11 counties around that city have run out of ICU beds as Delta variant cases surge there.

"We have vaccines that are safe and effective in protecting people who are fully vaccinated from severe illness and death," the agency said in a statement. "Each of us has the responsibility to keep our community safe."

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Fauci says US is ‘perilously close’ to doctors having to prioritize people for ICU beds

Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said some US hospitals are dangerously close to having to choose who gets care.
  • ICUs in several states have zero remaining capacity as COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
  • Fauci also reiterated his call for local mandates for vaccines and masks: "We know masks work."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Hospitals in some US states are on the verge of having to choose who gets potentially lifesaving medical treatment, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

"We are perilously close in certain areas of the country of getting so close to having full occupancy that you're going to be in a situation where you're going to have to make some tough choices," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

When asked by CNN's Jim Acosta whether a patient's vaccination status would be a factor in determining who gets an ICU bed, Fauci said he doubted the prospect, but said, "There's talk of that."

Fauci's remarks come as hospitals across the country deal with the continued rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with many hospitals reporting zero ICU beds available and several treating twice as many ICU patients as they have capacity for.

Nearly 79% of all ICU beds in the US are full, while more than three out of ten ICU beds are currently occupied by patients with COVID-19, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"The thing to do right now is to pull out all the stops on everything we can do to prevent new infections which will ultimately lead to hospitalization," Fauci said. "Vaccination is the number one."

The coronavirus Delta variant has led to more severe infections among unvaccinated patients than earlier strains, increasing the likelihood that hospitalization will be required, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. At the same time, vaccinated patients with breakthrough cases have been far less likely to require hospitalization.

Fauci once again called for local requirements for vaccinations and mask wearing, as both have been shown to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

"We've got to make sure that masking is implemented," he said. "There should be mask mandates, because we know masks work."

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Sonic’s new wine-flavored, alcohol-free slushies are the latest summer drinks to leave us scratching our heads

Sonic Drive-in's Uncorked wine-flavored slushes
  • Sonic Drive-In just announced a new line of "Uncorked Slushes" that taste like wine, with no booze.
  • The frozen flavors include a peach white wine, a berry sangria, and a strawberry rosé.
  • Other brands have been adding alcohol to flavors like seltzer, iced tea, or Mountain Dew.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Sonic, the drive-in burger chain, just unveiled a new line of wine-flavored frozen drinks that will be available for a limited time, starting Monday, August 30, and ending on September 26.

In its announcement of the "Uncorked Slushes," the company promises "a booze-less buzz in three craveable Slush flavors." Here's what Sonic had to say about its new offerings:

  • Strawberry Frosé: real strawberries and refreshing notes of authentic rosé wine flavor.
  • Red Berry Sangria: invigorating notes of red berry sangria wine flavor with real strawberries.
  • Peach Bellini: notes of crisp white wine infused with sweet peach flavor.

Read more: Why Hard Seltzer Like White Claw Is Faltering As the Pandemic Eases

"Our culinary team is always looking for flavors that pair perfectly with the season, and the Uncorked Slushes will allow our guests to soak up every last moment of summer with each relaxing sip," said Scott Uehlein, Sonic's vice president of product innovation and development, in a statement.

Sonic's move bucks a trend among beverage brands racing to booze up all manner of other flavors, from sparkling water, to iced tea, to Mountain Dew.

Speaking of the Dew, PepsiCo just launched a drinkable version of its Flamin' Hot Cheeto's, because... well, why not?

So, as summer "wines down" (Sonic's words) and you feel like taking a little escape from the daily grind, know that you can stop by Sonic and pretend for a moment that your desk lunch is actually brunch.

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The FAA wants to fine a passenger $45,000 for throwing luggage and putting his head up a flight attendant’s skirt

flight attendant
  • The Federal Aviation Administration announced $531,545 in civil penalties against unruly passengers.
  • One passenger was fined $45,000 for throwing luggage and sticking his head up an attendant's skirt.
  • The latest penalties bring the total for 2021 to more than $1 million, with 4 months remaining.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Shortly after departure from New York on May 24, a JetBlue passenger allegedly threw his carry-on luggage, lay down in the aisle refusing to get up, then grabbed a flight attendant by the ankles and stuck his head up her skirt.

After the crew was able to restrain him with zip-ties, the plane made an emergency landing in Richmond, Virginia, where he was removed.

He may be fined $45,000, according to the latest announcement of proposed civil penalties released today from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Read more: A drone CEO says the FAA could finally clear the way for drone deliveries to your front door in the next 12 months

The JetBlue passenger was just one of 34 against whom the FAA proposed fines against on Thursday for a combined total of $531,545, bringing the total for 2021 to more than $1 million.

The FAA report is a litany of the antisocial behavior that flight crews across the country have been tasked with managing during an already difficult year.

Another JetBlue passenger on a cross-country flight allegedly refused to comply with the mask mandate, assaulted several passengers, and snorted "what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag" before the flight was diverted to Minneapolis where he was removed by local law enforcement. He received a $42,000 fine.

While the vast majority of incidents were with male passengers, some women behaved badly too. One intentionally bumped into a seated passenger, then punched the passenger in the face when they protested.

Another woman allegedly threw corn nuts at passengers and crew and shoved her middle fingers in the faces of crew members who asked her to stop.

Several passengers received $13,000 fines for incidents that included their refusal to stop drinking alcohol that the airline did not serve them.

On an Alaskan Airlines flight, one man is alleged to have harassed the crew and "acted as though his hand was a gun and made a 'pew, pew' noise as if he was shooting a fellow passenger." He was kicked off the flight and received a $10,000 fine.

Interfering with aircraft crew, is against Federal law, as is physically assaulting or threatening assault crew or anyone else on an aircraft, and penalties can include fines and prison time if found guilty. Passengers have 30 days to respond after the agency notifies them of an enforcement decision.

The FAA says it has received nearly 4,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including nearly 3,000 passengers refusing to properly wear a mask.

Flight attendants from several major US carriers previously told Insider's Allana Akhtar they have experienced increased levels of aggression from passengers this year. Others report having been punched, groped, spat at, and verbally abused by passengers for simply doing their jobs.

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Two senators are calling on the FTC to investigate Tesla’s ‘deceptive and unfair’ claims about Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software

FILE PHOTO - New Autopilot features are demonstrated in a Tesla Model S during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
New Autopilot features are demonstrated in a Tesla Model S during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California
  • Sens. Blumenthal and Markey have asked the FTC to investigate Tesla over its Autopilot claims.
  • The company's self-driving technology has been involved in numerous accidents and fatalities.
  • Musk's statements "demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road," they said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Two US senators have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for "potentially deceptive and unfair practices" in its marketing of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems.

In a letter to Chair Lina Kahn on Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, democrats who serve on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called Tesla's marketing "misleading" and requested enforcement action to protect public safety.

The letter comes a week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced an investigation into Tesla's automation systems that regulators say were involved in 11 crashes with vehicles at first-responder sites in recent years.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: A Tesla manufacturing chief turned VC reveals what he looks for in self-driving and mobility startups and founders

No vehicles currently on the market offer fully autonomous driving, and the NHTSA projects there won't be until at least 2025, but the lawmakers note that Tesla's marketing language "fails to provide additional information about the true capabilities of the vehicle."

"Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves - with potentially deadly consequences," they wrote.

A lawsuit in California names Tesla as a defendant in the matter of a 2019 crash that killed a 15-year-old boy after his father's truck was struck by a Tesla operating in Autopilot mode.

Data from the crash showed the Tesla had its Autopilot feature enabled when it struck the victim's car, ejecting the boy from the vehicle. The data also showed that in the seconds before the crash, the Tesla briefly accelerated before braking.

A website tracking Tesla-involved fatalities attributes at least nine deaths to Teslas operating with Autopilot engaged. Last month, the company released the latest beta version of its Full Self-Driving software, which falls far short of the Level Five standard for full autonomy accepted by the industry.

Videos of Tesla drivers testing the system show the system struggles with basic driving tasks, like staying in a lane or recognizing large stationary objects.

Musk has defended Tesla's use of the names, saying in 2020 that the idea of changing the name - as critics have asked - is ridiculous.

"The people who misuse Autopilot, it's not because they're new to it and don't understand it," he told Automotive News. "The people who first use Autopilot are extremely paranoid about it. It's not like, 'If you just introduced a different name, I would have really treated it differently.' If something goes wrong with Autopilot, it's because someone is misusing it and using it directly contrary to how we've said it should be used."

Still, the lawmakers say it puts the public at real risk.

"Tesla and Mr. Musk's repeated overstatements of their vehicle's capabilities - despite clear and frequent warnings - demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road and require real accountability," Blumenthal and Markey wrote. "Their claims put Tesla drivers - and all of the travelling public - at risk of serious injury or death."

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