Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rising costs reshaping air travel

As jet fuel and fares soar, many are likely to be priced out of flying
By Marilyn Adams and Dan Reed

Record-high oil prices are threatening to ground millions of travelers who have grown accustomed to flying for fun and business during the past 30 years.

Air travel in the USA has grown at a rate five times faster than the population since 1978, when deregulation first allowed airlines to compete by setting their own prices and routes without government approval. Last year, 769 million passengers boarded U.S. airline flights.

But with today's unprecedented jet fuel prices, airline executives and aviation analysts are warning that only extreme fare increases and dramatic cutbacks in flights will enable the industry to cover a 2008 jet fuel bill the airlines' trade group projects will be 44% higher than last year's.

By this time next year, there could be as many as 20% fewer seats available if carriers respond to oil prices well above $100 a barrel by cutting as many flights as securities analysts such as JPMorgan's Jamie Baker are suggesting.

That would be like shutting down a carrier the size of American Airlines, (AMR) the world's largest, which, with its regional carriers, operates 4,000 flights daily. That alone would sharply increase demand and prices for plane tickets.

See: Rising costs reshaping air travel across the USA -

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Xcel disconnects 600-650 customers daily

Unpaid utility bills soar as economy sags
By Judy Keen

CHICAGO - Hundreds of thousands of utility customers are at risk of disconnections as the sagging economy drives up the number of past-due home heating bills and the amounts owed, utility companies in cold-weather states say.

Xcel Energy says 17%-19% of its 1.1 million Minnesota customers and its 280,000 Wisconsin customers are in arrears. That's about the same as a year ago, but balances owed are up 10% in Minnesota and up 20% in Wisconsin, says Pat Boland, Xcel's credit policy manager.

Xcel disconnects 600-650 customers daily, he says. "Obviously the economy is playing a very big role in the disposable income that folks have," Boland says. Another factor: Cold weather added 7%-8% to this year's bills.The extent of the problem is becoming apparent now because most states in the Midwest and Northeast have moratoriums on disconnecting utilities in winter months. Those restrictions typically end March 31 or April 15.

Companies try to work out payment plans before curtailing service, and aid is available for some low-income customers.A record $40 million was owed by 226,670 delinquent customers of rate-regulated utilities statewide in March, says Jerry McKim of Iowa's Bureau of Energy Assistance. "What we have is a crisis that never goes away," and more federal and state assistance is needed, he says.


Mass Shut-offs Looming

More people in US need help with utility bills
By Jason Hidalgo

The nation is on pace for a record number of unpaid utility bills this year, with state agencies facing shortages to maintain assistance programs. In Northern Nevada, many residents said they have been shocked after opening their electric bills in the past few months. Lauren Williams, a clerk for a textile company in Reno, recently got a 10-day notice for a $121 bill. "I have no idea on how to pay this bill. I will be calling and making arrangements like I have the last couple of times.

"The rise in the number of people falling behind on their utility bills is the result of a slowing economy marked by rising fuel prices and a struggling housing market, said the Washington, D.C.-based National Energy Assistance Directors' Association. In its latest report, the association of directors who oversee state energy assistance programs also found an increase in the number of families receiving energy assistance nationwide.

"With the way things are, I have to choose between paying my rent, which is the No. 1 choice, then food and then the power," Williams said.

Lisa Jordan had her power cut off recently after also experiencing problems with her payment plan. The plan required Jordan to pay $100 installments."I had received some overtime, and so instead of paying the $100 I owed, I paid $300," Jordan said. "They shut me off the following Friday because I didn't send them another $100 that week. The power company is very hard to work with and does not take making payment arrangements very well. I had to come up with money I did not have just because I made a larger payment the week before."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Breastfeeding makes children smarter

Study provides the strongest evidence to date that breastfeeding makes kids smarter
By Roger Highfield
Science Editor

Breastfeeding makes children smarter, concludes the biggest study of its kind.

There have been a number of studies which have suggested a link between breast feeding and IQ but this has been treated with scepticism because they had studied children whose mothers chose to breastfeed and compared with those whose mothers chose not to, and there were always fears that the link could say more about social factors than breast milk itself.

Now these confounding factors have been swept away in the largest scientifically designed study of breastfeeding ever conducted which concludes that breastfeeding raises children's IQs and improves their academic performance.

"Our study provides the strongest evidence to date that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding makes kids smarter," says Prof Michael Kramer at McGill University, lead investigator, who believes the findings will be a boon for efforts "to promote, protect and support breastfeeding."

See: Breastfeeding makes children smarter - Telegraph

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cyclone death tolls 15,000

At least 15,000 people were killed in the Myanmar cyclone and the toll was likely to rise
By Aung Hla Tun
Reuters News Service

YANGON (Reuters) - At least 15,000 people were killed in the Myanmar cyclone and the toll was likely to rise as officials made contact with the worst-hit areas, the military government's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Nyan Win said on state television that 10,000 people had died in just one town, Bogalay, as he gave the first detailed account of what is emerging as the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 people were killed in Bangladesh.

"In Irrawaddy Division the death toll amounts to more than 10,000," he said in a state television broadcast, in which he also said the military government welcomed outside assistance, an unprecedented green light to governments and aid agencies who want to help with the recovery.

"The missing is about 3,000. In Bogalay, the death toll is about 10,000," the minister said in the broadcast monitored outside of the Southeast Asian country.

See: Cyclone kills 10,000 in just one Myanmar town

Credit Card Ticks to Avoid

Top 5 Sneaky Credit Card Tricks
AOL Money & Finance

Credit-card companies are quite inventive when it comes to charging fees or finding new reasons to jack up your interest rate. After all, it's how they make money.

In 2005 alone (the latest year available), consumers paid nearly $88 billion in interest charges and penalty fees, according to Cards & Payments, an industry magazine. That's an increase of nearly 10% over 2004.

But with some vigilance, you can avoid getting burned. Here are five of the latest credit-card tricks to watch out for.

Click Here: Top 5ive Sneaky Credit Card Tricks -- Intro - AOL Money & Finance