By JENNIFER WILLIAMS
We're serving you our weekly bite-sized roundup of the stories you need to know. This week, read about how the Virgin Islands could pay for part of your next vacation to the islands and how some New Yorkers could might soon qualify for free college tuition.
U.S. Virgin Islands could pay for part of your next vacation to the islands. Yes, really. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Denmark selling the Virgin Islands to the U.S., the territory is offering a $300 spending credit to travelers. There are some stipulations, though. To qualify, travelers must book their flights by October 1, 2017 through the Virgin Islands' tourism website using a promo code, and spend at least three days in a participating hotel on the islands of St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix in 2017. The spending credit can be used toward tours and activities.
US auto sales broke records in 2016. According to data from Automotive News, car sales rose for the seventh year in a row. Why? According to analysts, it's partly because carmakers offered generous incentives, cars on the road were getting old (11 years old on average) and gas prices were low across the U.S. Since cars are some of the most expensive household items, their sales are considered to be a good indicator of consumer spending.
In 2016, natural disasters caused $175 billion in damages globally. Alarmingly, according to German reinsurance firm Munich RE, only 30 percent of the overall damages were insured. North America alone experienced 160 disasters, the highest number since 1980. The costliest disasters took place in Japan, which suffered two earthquakes totaling $31 billion in damages, and in China, with floods that caused $20 billion worth of losses. According to the head of Munich RE's Geo Risks Research Unit, these disasters may show the potential side effects of climate change, which is believed to cause some of these catastrophes.
Amid struggling global currencies, Bitcoin value has jumped. The virtual currency, which can be exchanged person-to-person without intermediaries such as banks, is increasingly popular in countries like Venezuela, where local currency is losing its value, and India, which has removed its largest bills in an effort to thwart the black market. And the most Bitcoin transactions take place in China, where citizens use the currency to work around the country's strict regulations on moving money across country borders.
New York Governor wants college to be free for New York students of low- and middle-income families. Similar to the plan proposed by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during their presidential primary campaigns, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a proposal to make public college free for New York students whose families make less than $125,000 a year. According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income in New York City is $53,373. The program is projected to cost about $163 million and could apply to nearly one million families, says Cuomo's office, but if the proposal is approved students would still need to cover the cost of room and board on their own.
And that's the scoop this week -- see you next week for more.
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