George and two buddies from Pennsylvania are visiting an exchange student pal and his family in Turkey, and getting a great tour. This is the rock formation in Cappadocia, with its ancient catacombs and eerie wind-blasted towers, which George pronounced as "Martian -- beautiful and slightly spooky." We told him we had stayed in the hilltop hotel in our epic visit in 2012, On Wednesday he was at Topkapi and Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. We expect a full update when he gets back.
The shame of the airline industry continues with yet another money grab.
The airlines are now pushing a separate $59 fee for aisle and window seats, forcing poorer families to be separated to middle seats throughout the planes.
This blatant appeal to the affluent, this slap in the face to the less fortunate, was criticized by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York on Sunday. Good for Schumer, a family man who can see the injustice of this latest fee.
Admittedly, the airlines are coping with the cost of fuel. But their response has been to give up all amenities. Many of my friends are turned off by flying, saying, “It’s nothing like it used to be.”
Unable to balance their budgets, the CEOs – with their gigantic salaries and payoffs when they fail – have come up with a system of fees.
This same class of lavishly-rewarded CEOs -- in the banking industry -- has come up with unadvertised $25 fees for services that had previously been part of banking. This is why I do not fret about Jamie Dimon’s little multi-billion-dollar shortfall at JP Morgan Chase. Dimon will keep his salary and his bonus and his pension when he finally goes – partially because you will be contributing hidden fees to his going-away present.
In fact, it is probably costing you a $25 banking fee just for having read the past paragraph.
Airlines have the fee disease, too. In recent years they got the smart idea of charging a $25 fee for each piece of checked luggage. This of course encourages passengers to carry their life belongings onto the plane.
I sympathize with people trying to save $25. But how much does it cost the airline in fuel and surcharges when the pilot misses his slot on the runway because somebody is still trying to cram a steamer trunk into a space designed to hold pillows?
Now the airlines are perpetuating class warfare by offering prime seats for $59 extra. The social implications are that a family of four may not have multiples of $59 to shell out for each good seat.
If the affluent can upgrade to aisle seats, airline agents are sure to cold-heartedly force families to split up on the flight. Children – and sometimes the elderly – need companionship even for an hour or two on shorter flights.
Goodness knows, a lot of people have $59 to spend for their comfort and status. But I say, let them stay in posh hotels and patronize chi-chi restaurants.
However, one thing might discourage the executives’ scheme to separate families. This possibility was pointed out by a lady with whom I travel on occasion: the yuppie in designer clothing who just paid $59 for an aisle seat gets to sit next to a squirming child many rows away from family supervision.
Inconvenience – plus, let’s say, a bout of projectile vomiting -- could hamper corporate avarice more than corporate shame ever will.
Your comments on airline greed?
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.