Saturday, January 16, 2010

Obama, Bush, Clinton stand 'united' for Haiti

By coming together in this way, these leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti
Yahoo News

President Barack Obama on Saturday brought together his White House predecessors, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, for a joint appeal for victims of Haiti's devastating earthquake.

"By coming together in this way, these two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and to the people of the world," Obama said in the Rose Garden, flanked by the two former leaders.

"In these difficult hours, America stands united. We stand united with the people of Haiti who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild."

The United States was launching "one of the largest relief efforts in our history" to bring aid to Haiti following Tuesday's devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the heart of the poorest nation in the Americas.

Bush, who congratulated Obama for his "swift and timely response to the disaster," said he was pleased to work with Clinton "to mobilize the compassion of the American people."

The challenges in Haiti "are immense, but there's a lot of devoted people leading the relief effort," he said.

"The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground who will be able to effectively spend it.

"I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash," added Bush.

Clinton, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, said the priority for now is to ship food, medicine and water to Haiti.

"But when we start the rebuilding effort... we want there to be a place where people can know their money will be well spent, where we will ensure the ongoing integrity of the process. And we want to stay with this over the long run," he said.

Obama and the ex-presidents directed people to the website to make donations.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti earthquake relief arrives; thousands of survivors suffer without medical treatment, water

Hundreds of thousands of people feared dead in Haiti
By Brian Kates
Daily News Staff Writer

With possibly hundreds of thousands of people feared dead in Haiti, aid groups from around the world were fighting against time to save the living.

"There's no water," said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctor's assistant at a makeshift triage center in a hotel parking lot. "There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."

Bodies - their faces contorted in grimaces, half covered by plastic tarps or white cotton sheets covered with blood and dust - were strewn about the streets. Survivors used sledgehammers and clawed through rubble with their bare hands to try to find victims.

They turned pickup trucks into ambulances and doors into stretchers to rush victims to makeshift triage centers in the capital.

As ambulances and U.N. trucks raced toward Port-au-Prince, refugees fled to the countryside, where the devastation was less severe, balancing suitcases and belongings on their heads.

See: Haiti earthquake relief arrives; thousands of survivors suffer without medical ...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Delta, Continental Raise Fees For Checked Bags

The new fees apply to flights within and between the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Puerto Rico
By Christopher Hinton
Wall Street Journal

Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Continental Airlines (CAL) will begin charging customers the highest fees in the industry this week for checked bags, tempting other legacy carriers to follow suit.

The new fees apply to flights within and between the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Excluded are premium-class fliers, frequent fliers and active U.S. military members.

With a recovery in passenger revenue growth projected for later this year, the airlines appear to be taking no chances with coming up short with the cash they need to turn a profit. Ancillary fees, such as those for check-on luggage, have become an important driver for revenue growth.

Putting pressure on the industry is a recent jump in benchmark crude prices, which hit a 15-month high earlier this week.

"We have a real focus on growing the ancillary revenues in our business to act as a temper against the volatility of the business," said Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson, during an investor meeting last month.

Anderson reckons total ancillary revenue, which include baggage fees, administrative fees, the frequent flier program, global services and ground handling businesses, will be in excess of $4 billion this year.

For 2010, analysts polled by FactSet Research predict Delta will swing to a profit of $1.13 a share on sales of $30.9 billion, on average, up from an estimated $28 billion in 2009.

Continental is expected to swing to a profit of $1.36 a share on sales of $14 billion, up from an estimated $12.7 billion last year.

Altogether, the global airline industry faces a $5.6 billion loss in 2010, an improvement from the estimated $11 billion loss last year, according to data provided by the International Air Transport Association.

Delta Air Lines raised its checked-on luggage fees to $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, from $15 and $20, respectively. Continental said it later matched them.

The carriers offer a small discount for passengers that check their luggage on line, but they are still the highest in the industry. Delta and Continental have been trail blazers in past when raising their checked-on fees, with United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways (LCC) raising their fees soon afterwards.

Last year, domestic airlines raked in more than $700 million from checked-bag fees during the third quarter, up 111% from last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

For Delta, the new rules apply to standard economy-class tickets purchased on or after Jan. 5 for flights beginning Tuesday. Continental's rules apply for tickets purchased on or after Jan. 9 for travel beginning Saturday.

Legacy carriers have the biggest check-on baggage fees in the industry in part because they focus more on the premium-paying business traveler and not the budget-conscious holiday traveler. Vacationers are often able to get discounted tickets when the airlines scramble to fill vacant seats, but airlines try to make up for the cheaper fare through extra charges such as the check-on baggage fees.

That's why budget carriers, who rely more heavily on leisure travel, often have the lowest check-on bag fees. And carriers such as Southwest Airlines (LUV) and JetBlue Airways (JBLU), avoid the extra charges altogether, at least for the first bag.

The airlines also don't offer discounts for checking bags online because most leisure travelers book their tickets through the carriers' websites, rather through a global distribution system such as Sabre or Amadeus, which are popular among corporate travel offices.

American and United are units of AMR Corp. (AMR) and UAL Corp. (UAUA), respectively.