Sunday, January 20, 2013

Airlines' Revenues Soar

From the very informed Web site today, domestic airlines are reporting record revenues as fares and fee revenues steadily rise:

"By the end of this week,  LLC is projecting the seven largest US airlines will have collectively reported $152 million in profits from $33.3 billion in revenue for the 4th quarter. This will be record industry revenue for any 4th quarter and the 3rd consecutive year of 4th quarter profits after 10 years of losses. American and United were the only two airlines to report a loss and not have record revenue for the 4th quarter.

For full year 2012, LLC projects these seven airlines will collectively report $3.7 billion in profits from a record $140 billion in revenues. For the first time since the 1990’s, excluding American, every airline will have annual profits for at least three consecutive years. American has not reported an annual profit since 2007.
For the year, every airline will report record revenues with four of the seven also reporting record annual profits. Unfortunately for the industry, these records come with a paltry 2.6% profit margin which is 50% less than industry margins were in the later 1990’s.
Since 2001 –year of the tragic 911 attacks-- in spite of the last three years of record revenues and profits, the industry has accumulated a staggering $23 billion in net losses! This compares to $23 billion in accumulated net profits for the six years prior to 2001.  

Individual airline projections for fourth quarter 2012-
Projections exclude special items and one-time charges
  • United (UAL) -                      $146 million loss from $8.8 billion revenue
  • Delta (DAL) -                        $239 million profit from $8.7 billion revenue**
  • American (AAMRQ) -          $  88 million loss from $5.9 billion revenue*
  • Southwest LUV) -                $  46 million profit from $4.2 billion revenue**
  • US Airways (LCC) -            $  38 million profit from $3.3 billion revenue**
  • JetBlue (JBLU) -                  $    5 million profit from $1.2 billion revenue**
  • Alaska (ALK) -                     $  58 million profit from $1.2 billion revenue**
* Reported last week
** Record revenue for fourth quarter
Individual airline projections for full year 2012-
Projections exclude special items and one-time charges
  • United (UAL) -                      $647 million profit from $37.2 billion revenue
  • Delta (DAL) -                        $ 1.7 billion profit from $36.8 billion revenue**
  • American (AAMRQ) -          $130 million loss from $24.9 billion revenue*
  • Southwest LUV) -                $400 million profit from $17.1 billion revenue
  • US Airways (LCC) -            $528 million profit from $13.8 billion revenue**
  • JetBlue (JBLU) -                  $137 million profit from $5.0 billion revenue**
  • Alaska (ALK) -                     $352 million profit from $4.7 billion revenue**
* Reported last week
** Record profit for year


Another Mass Shooting: Gunman Kills 5, Including 3 Children, in Albuquerque

As the gun crowd jammed gun shows and celebrated Guns Across America rallies around the country, and assault rifles were hot sellers while supplies lasted, still another homicidal lunatic with an assault rifle shot five people to death Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M. The murdered children were ages 9, 5 and 2. The boy charged in the murders is 15.

[UPDATED JAN. 21) -- The victims were identified today as Greg Griego, 51, his wife Sara Griego, 40, and three of their children: a 9-year-old boy, Zephania Griego, and daughters Jael Griego, 5, and Angelina Griego, 2. The shooter was identified as Nehemiah Griego, 15, who has been charged in the murders.]

[The church Web site has removed recent information on the Griego family, but past church bulletins described Greg Griego as a member of the "pastoral staff," not as the pastor. He is also described as the head of the church's prison outreach ministry.]

[According to the Albuquerque Journal on Monday, "Griego had converted his backyard barn into a halfway house for released prisoners, according to neighbors. He also held services at the county jail’s “God Pod,” where he gave inmates spiritual advice."]

A local TV station, KRQE, had this initial report on Sunday:

"ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) -- Police are investigating multiple murders after they say a teen fatally shot two adults and three young children in southwest Albuquerque.

Deputies responded to a home on 2806 Long Lane in southwest Albuquerque after reports of a 
possible homicide a little after 9 o'clock Saturday night. When they arrived, deputies say the found several victims and weapons inside the home. [Including an assault rifle that was used in the shooting]

An adult man, an adult woman and three children around elementary age were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds."

[Greg Griego, identified as the dead clergyman, appeared in a 2003 news report as the chaplain at the county Detention Center. He was at the center of a neighborhood controversy over  his plan to open a halfway house on Long Lane. It is not clear if that is the same Long Lane address as the site of last night's shooting. As chaplain at the detention center, Griego was described in a 2003 news account as the overseer of  the prison ministry for Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque.]

Meanwhile, the NBC affiliate, KOB, reports today that "Police believe the teenager used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the shooting."


Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Day at the Gun Show

Speaking of gun shows, here are some snapshots I took earlier this month at a gun show on a weekend day at the Pima County Fairgrounds just outside Tucson.

As at gun shows across the country, crowds were bigger than usual, ammunition and magazines were selling out, and the hottest items on many lips were the Bushmaster AR 15 rifle. You know, the same kind of semiautomatic assault weapon that that homicidal maniac borrowed from his gun-nut mother to massacre 20 little children and six teachers a month ago at that grade-school in Connecticut, after he murdered his mother at home.

The rifle is so popular that the boys from the NRA, manning their usual booth near the entrance to the gun show to drum up membership (which is flagging), were promoting one as first prize in a raffle, $10 a ticket. Gun owners told me that the AR 15s are almost impossible to find now. All sold out.   A used one that used to go for $800 is now in the $1,800 range, one said.

By the way, gun dealers I talked to said they love those well-intentioned "gun buy-back" programs that are increasingly popular as a reaction against gun violence. "You can get at least $50 for any old piece of crap in Grandpa's closet," one said. 

I occasionally go to the local gun shows to check out the doings. Most noticeable to me on this one was the unusual number of people who brought the kiddies along, including some in strollers in which a rifle was also being carried.  Alas, no photos allowed inside the sacred hall. So these from outside will have to do.

Sign in an SUV parked in Tucson gun-show lot

Gun Control Evidently Needed At Gun Shows

People attending gun shows around the country on Saturday were wounded by accidentally discharged firearms in three separate incidents.

In Raleigh, N.C., three people were wounded by gunshots at a crowded gun show when a gun was fired accidentally after a security guard asked the owner to open his bag for inspection.

The shotgun’s owner brought the weapon to the quarterly Dixie Gun & Knife Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds to sell it privately. The show closed early because of the shooting but will resume tomorrow.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper: "The shooting took place the same day as gun-rights supporters held a Gun Appreciation Day event in downtown Raleigh."

Also, in Indianapolis today, there was another gun-show gunshot wounding. A man loading a gun outside the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show at the State Fairgrounds was accidentally shot when his .45 caliber semi-automatic discharged Saturday afternoon around 4.15 p.m., according to WISH-TV, a local station. The man, Emory L. Cozee, 54, was walking back to his car and loading his .45 when he accidentally shot himself in the hand.

Meanwhile, in Medina, Ohio, a man was wounded in an accidental shooting Saturday afternoon at a gun show at the Medina Fair Grounds. Police said a gun dealer was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had just bought when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The gun was loaded, it seems. The round hit the floor and struck a man standing nearby in the leg and arm.

Quazy, huh?


Friday, January 18, 2013

In Retreat, TSA Pulling 'Backscatter' Naked-Image Scanners from Airports

The roughly 200 of the 800 or so whole-body images being used at 200 U.S. airports -- the backscatter ones made by a company called Rapiscan -- will be removed by the TSA, which lost a battle with Congress over the issue of the naked images the machines record.

This today from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which has led the fight against the machines on the ground of privacy intrusion:


Latest News - January 18, 2013

TSA to Pull Naked Body Scanners Out of US Airports

The US Transportation Security Administration will end the contract for backscatter x-ray devices. As a consequence, all devices that produce a detailed naked image of air travelers will be removed from US airports. Beginning in 2005, EPIC and then a coalition of privacy advocates, scientists, legal experts and lawmakers urged the TSA not to deploy the devices. The groups petitioned DHS Secretary Napolitano to suspend the program pending a thorough review. The agency went forward and EPIC sued. In EPIC v. DHS, the DC Circuit held that the devices could be used as long as passengers were able to opt-out. The federal appeals court also ordered the agency to "promptly" begin a public rulemaking. That process will likely begin in March 2013. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS and EPIC: Body Scanners.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Much-Hyped Boeing 787 Dreamliners Grounded by FAA

All that hype written by breathless reporters who got taken for a ride on the initial flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes was fascinating, but ...

The FAA has temporarily grounded the planes in the U.S. after a series of mishaps and malfunctions.

The FAA action applies effectively only to United Airlines, which is the sole domestic carrier currently flying the new airplanes. But other aviation authorities around the world may take similiar actions, per a recommendation by the FAA. There are a total of 50 Dreamliners, Boeing's newest airplane, in active fleets globally.

Here's Boeing's statement on the FAA action:

Boeing Statement on Federal Aviation Administration 787 Action
CHICAGO, Jan. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney issued the following statement today after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency airworthiness directive that requires U.S. 787 operators to temporarily cease operations and recommends other regulatory agencies to follow suit: 
"The safety of passengers and crew members who fly aboard Boeing airplanes is our highest priority.
"Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist.
"We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity.  We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.
"Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers."


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Packing For the Airport (Continued)

Gun concealed in a book
Gun concealed in a stuffed animal
A year ago, here and elsewhere, I started calling attention to the shocking numbers of guns, most of them loaded, that our fellow citizens were carrying with them to the airport.

The TSA keeps a weekly tally. For all of 2012, 1,542 firearms were found by TSA screeners in carry-on bags at checkpoints -- 1,215 of them (78.7 percent) loaded. In 2011, by comparison, fewer than 1,200 firearms were found in carry-on bags, so the number is definitely rising.

Some people caught with guns at airport checkpoints are clearly planning to take them onto airplanes, and have made a deliberate effort to try to conceal the weapon from screeners. By and large, these appear to be stone idiots who have no terrorist or criminal intent but think they have a god-given right to carry a concealed weapon anywhere they go.

But most people caught packing guns at the checkpoints claim that they simply forgot they had them, which is by any estimation (including that of responsible gun owners) a definition of knucklehead. Gunsmanship 101: You should always know where your weapon is. Duh.

When TSA screeners find a gun, they call the local cops. What happens after that is up to local law enforcement and local law. In most cases, the sanction (if any) is light. In many cases, cops tell gun-toting passengers to simply take the weapon back out to their cars and then return to the checkpoint unarmed. Above is the TSA's chart showing which airports draw (so to speak) the largest number of knuckleheads who evidently forget they're packing heat. The chart is for all of 2012.

And of course, the fact that 1,500-plus guns are found, some of them carefully concealed, at checkpoints indicates that an unknown number of guns slip through and are carried onto planes routinely.

Here's a link to the TSA's year-end report on guns and other weapons found at checkpoints in 2012.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Shame in Westchester (Cont'd)

The media love a familiar Narrative, and are developing one in the plight of the employees at the Gannett-owned Journal News newspaper in Westchester County, N.Y.  You know, the newspaper that decided it needed to "shame" its neighbors who happened to hold legal handgun permits and so published a story with an online searchable database showing the names and home addresses of about 40,000 handgun-permit owners in Westchester and Rockland counties. 

That Narrative seems to be: Brave Newspaper Under Siege. And yes, the Journal News is kind of under siege now for publishing public information.

But as I have argued, publishing it was a cheap stunt -- cheap in every sense of the word. To me, it was clearly motivated by a misguided (misguided in every sense of the word) impulse to gain marketing points by shaming legal handgun-permit owners, and directly pandering to the waves of revulsion about guns that followed the horrific massacre of schoolchildren and teachers in Connecticut on Dec. 14.

The newspaper has exhibited no sign that it is truly interested in reporting on genuine gun issues, such as the proliferation of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, or the disturbing gun culture, like the gun culture that included the Connecticut homicidal maniac's gun-nut mother (whom he also killed), who encouraged his interest in guns and from whom the murderer obtained the assault rifle that he used in the massacre. Actual reporting takes effort and costs money, you see.

Instead, in its timing, the newspaper sanctimoniously sought to implicitly tie legal handgun-permit holders to the Connecticut horror and to all too many similar horrors. The newspaper's pious position was that providing the searchable database was a matter of serving public safety. It clearly was no such thing. It was an impulse to shame.

To me, the immediate ramification caused by this stunt was that it helped to change the public conversation -- from welcome outrage over the gun culture and the voracious marketing of assault weapons, to the affront to the rights of legal handgun-permit holders and the concurrent gross invasion of their privacy. As a few sensible critics in the media pointed out, just because you can publish something doesn't mean you should.

But sure enough, the media narrative now seems to have settled comfortably on the sharp and sometimes ugly negative reaction to the newspaper's stunt. That reaction -- with threats being made to the newspaper's employees -- came from  the usual suspects in the gun-nut culture. But let's not overlook the fact that there was also sharply negative reaction from progressive-minded citizens who thought, as I do, that the newspaper had engaged in a spectacle of grossly bad journalism, for the worst of reasons: marketing and scolding (as misguided as that turned out to be for the publisher and editors).

So because the gun-nut culture now has the newspaper in its rhetorical sights (while the newspaper has hired ... um... armed guards in reaction), we now are encouraged to shift our sympathies to a perhaps beleaguered Journal News, bastion of journalistic courage?

Well yes, I do sympathize, but not with the courage part.  Stirring up the gun nuts can be a very clarifying learning experience, and let's hope the Journal News does what any responsible news organization should do now -- which is, reporting out the story honestly and thoroughly. And yes, alas, they need to be careful, because the gun nuts are armed and dangerous when roused to action.

This cheap stunt had unfortunate consequences, but among them was a derailing of the gun-control issue and a reinvigorating of the gun-nut lobby, which always traffics in the politics of grievance and paranoia -- right at the time when we had the bastards on the run.

Here via New York Magazine is a sensible editorial on the damage that publishing the permit-holder database arguably did to the growing gun-control movement -- here.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

USEless Travel News?

The perennially derided USA Today, with much of its circulation distributed free to people at hotels or in other places where they are traveling,  used to be a contender in travel news. And if you wrote about travel, and especially airlines or hotels, you needed to pay attention to what USA Today was up to.

What the heck happened?

Any look at the USA Today travel coverage these days is baffling, and I'm truly sympathetic toward the excellent USA Today travel reporters who used to cover news and solid features. But look at today's typical USA Today travel offering online. It's nearly all lame-brained "rankings," that is, lists of things that somebody somewhere has decided to rank, based on some criteria unknown. Here's what you get today: "Nine Ways to Lose Weight on Vacation" ... "Best Hotel Bathrooms in Las Vegas" ... "Coziest Hotel Fireplaces Across USA..." Et cetera.

That sort of "news" is driven by marketing people alone, and it's ginned up to generate online clicks, not to inform readers in any cogent way. My opinion: Within  a year, USA Today will finally admit that the game has finally ended, and will drop its anemic print edition that now basically litters hotel corridors, and go entirely online. And that's just sad.


Friday, January 04, 2013

American Airlines, US Airways One Step Closer to a Merger

Well, the media are going to insist on calling it a merger, but we all know that US Airways is planning to acquire American Airlines once American's parent company AMR emerges from bankruptcy.

This announcement today from US Airways -- issued as a "joint statement" between US Air and American -- indicates that the train is on schedule (to mix metaphors):

TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 4, 2013 — US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE: LCC) today issued the following statement:

"American Airlines and US Airways, with participation of committee counsel for the Unsecured Creditors Committee, are pleased that they have completed discussions with the Allied Pilots Association and US Airline Pilots Association intended to develop a framework for the terms of employment for pilots, as well as a process for pilot integration, in the event of a merger between AA and US during restructuring.  This memorandum of understanding was approved by the Allied Pilots Association’s Board of Directors and by USAPA’s Board of Pilot Representatives.  This memorandum of understanding will assist all of the stakeholders, including the Boards of AMR and US Airways, in making an informed decision as to whether a merger should ultimately be pursued.  The MOU is one of several elements to be considered before a decision on a merger can be made.  Details regarding the MOU are still covered by the terms of a non-disclosure agreement so they cannot be further disclosed at this time."


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Heads-Up Zipsters: Avis Buying Zipcar for $500 Million

Not sure what this means for the very popular Zipcar car-sharing network, but here goes, from the press release today:

"Avis Budget Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:CAR) and Zipcar, Inc. (Nasdaq:ZIP), the world's leading car sharing network, today announced that Avis Budget Group has agreed to acquire Zipcar for $12.25 per share in cash, a 49% premium over the closing price on December 31, 2012, representing a total transaction value of approximately $500 million. ... The Boards of Directors of both companies unanimously approved the transaction, and Zipcar shareholders representing approximately 32% of the outstanding common stock have agreed to vote their shares in support of the transaction.

Car- sharing has grown to be a nearly $400 million business in the United States and is expanding rapidly in major cities around the world. Zipcar has led this industry, leading in innovation and world-class service. Zipcar now has more than 760,000 members, known as Zipsters, with a market-leading presence in 20 major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada and Europe, and fleet positioned at over 300 college and university campuses."

Here's a link to the full announcement.

For anyone asking, what the heck is Zipcar, here's some background.


First Wonderful Irony of 2013

News about the Gannett newspaper in Westchester County, N.Y., that chose to publish a detailed searchable database list of the names and home addresses of thousands of legal handgun-permit holders in Westchester County and neighboring Rockland County. (While neglecting to do any actual reporting on illegal weapons or the proliferation of assault weapons). 

The paper, the Gannett-owned Journal News, has hired armed guards for its headquarters in Nyack and a suburban office in Rockland County  because of "negative" reader e-mail and phone calls. 

From Politico:

"The Journal News of West Nyack, N.Y., has hired armed security guards to defend its offices after receiving a torrent of phone calls and emails responding to the paper's publication of the names and addresses of area residents with pistol permits.
"RGA Investigations, a private security company, "is doing private security on location at the Journal News as a result of the negative response to the article," according to a police report first obtained by the Rockland County Times (Nanuet, N.Y.) and shared with POLITICO. The guards "are armed and will be on site during business hours through at least January 2, 2013." 

The report from the weekly Rockland County Times report is headlined, "The Journal News Is Armed and Dangerous." It says:  

"A Clarkstown police report issued on December 28, 2012, confirmed that the Journal News has hired armed security guards from New City-based RGA Investigations and that they are manning the newspaper's Rockland County headquarters at 1 Crosfield Ave., West Nyack, through at least tomorrow, Wednesday, January 2, 2013.
"According to police reports on public record, Journal News Rockland Editor Caryn A. McBride was alarmed by the volume of 'negative correspondence,' namely an avalanche of phone calls and emails to the Journal News office, following the newspaper's publishing of a map of all pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester."

(By the way, there is an interesting and overlooked good story in journalism these days, and that's the growing energy of some weekly papers in markets where the daily is a big fat lazy corporate slug. An example I can think of offhand is the weekly Nogales (Arizona) International and its singularly aggressive reporting on border issues in southern Arizona (as well as other local issues). The only daily that has indicated any real interest in digging at these critically important border stories stories is, weirdly enough, the Los Angeles Times, based 450 miles away but increasingly smart about the overlooked important news in southern Arizona.)

Anyway, back to Westchester County: The publisher and the editor of the Journal News had been piously defending the decision to publicly shame their neighbors (and readers) who have gun permits, the clear implication being that these legal permit-holders somehow are linked to the horror of the shootings of schoolchildren and teachers in Connecticut last month by a homicidal maniac using an assault weapon that he borrowed from his gun-nut mother (who he also murdered).

But now the Journal News is itself packing heat because of ... some negative reader e mail?

According to the Rockland County Times (quoting the Clarkstown police report),  the newspaper hired RGA Investigations (run by one Richard Ayoob) after its Rockland County editor, one Caryn A. McBride, filed two police reports about "perceived threats." One of those reports said that McBride became alarmed by a reader-mail in which the writer wondered (according to the police report) "what McBride would get in her mail now."  The editor told the police there was other "negative correspondence" in reaction to the Journal News publishing the public database of names and addresses of gun-permit holders.

Police said the e-mail that so alarmed Editor McBride  did not constitute an offense and did not contain an "actual threat," the Rockland County Times noted.

But still, it's probably best not to write a negative letter to the editor of the Journal News till the heat goes away.

After all, they know where you live -- and they have guns.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Seasick On the Queen Mary

I've never taken a cruise, and you couldn't get me on one with a gun to my head. One reason, among hundreds of others, is that waaaaaay too often, we see reports like this of infectious illnesses on cruise ships:

The cruise liner Queen Mary 2 has been sidetracked by an outbreak of what appears to have been norovirus contagion that sickened over 200 passengers and crew during a 12-day Christmas cruise in the Caribbean that was to have ended on Thursday. According to the latest update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 201 of the ship's 2,613 passengers have become ill and 14 of the 1,255 crew, and the main symptoms of the illness -- which the CDC  lists as still "unknown" in origin -- are vomiting and diarrhea.

Norovirus, the common culprit in cruise ship contagion outbreaks, is one of those awful illnesses that is spread from person to person and caused by contaminated food or water.

The CDC says that two of its environmental health officers and an epidemiologist will board the Queen Mary 2 on its expected arrival in Brooklyn on Thursday to conduct an assessment.

The Queen Mary 2 operates under the Cunard Line brand of the Carnival cruise giant. In June of 2011, the Queen Mary 2 flunked a Vessel Sanitation Program health-inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Inspection. According to, CDC inspectors found dozens of violations, including some involving ice machines. "The word 'filthy' is used in the report five times," says the item. Oddly, the excellent Cruisecritic.com -- which I found on a few occasions in the past to have exhibited some interest in critical cruise news -- seems to be slow on the uptake on this story. I'm guessing holiday schedules are why.

The Queen Mary 2 is currently "at sea" and steaming toward New York, according to the Cunard Web site.

This -- from a passenger on board the ship -- is interesting via the message board on the Queen Mary 2 that is on

"I don't understand how the number of crew members reported ill is so disproportionately low when compared to the number of passengers reported ill. ...  I just don't know how it is possible that the crew escaped infection to the same extent that passengers were affected, especially considering the crews exposure. We know that not all passengers report being ill, for various reasons. ... Perhaps crew members also have reasons for not reporting to sick bay?


Here's a link to the CDC situation report on the current crisis.

Here is a link to the CDC report on the failed inspection in June 2011.