A Selection Of Articles That Caught My Eye

Here is a random sample of things I enjoyed reading today and selected sections

Your Very Own Personal Air Fare

Published: August 9, 2005

“When Jim Jacobs hears a “ding” coming from his desktop computer, he thinks about discount air fares like the $122 ticket he recently bought for a flight from Tampa to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines.

Several times a day, Southwest sends Mr. Jacobs and hundreds of thousands of other computer users discounts through a new application called Ding, a free program that links the airline directly to passengers in a novel way.

“If I move quickly,” said Mr. Jacobs, a corporate telecommunications salesman who lives in Tampa, “I can usually save a lot of money.” The fare to Baltimore underbid the airline’s own Web site by $36, he says.

When Brent Bowen hears a ding, though, it does not make him think of bargains. Quite the contrary, it sets Mr. Bowen, the director of the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an airline industry watchdog, to contemplating the beginning of a shift in the way airlines set fares.

If matchmaking programs like Ding catch on, industry analysts say, some passengers will find a deal on their airline tickets. But many others – most of them business travelers – might pay more than they have in the past. At least two other airlines, sensing an opportunity to raise profits, are pursuing similar custom air fare systems.

Southwest is promoting Ding, which is available at www.southwest.com/ding, as a tool to help travelers save money. And it does that. Bob Cowen, publisher of InternetTravelTips.com, has been tracking prices on Ding since it was introduced in February, estimated that fares on Ding were lower than those for comparable flights on other carriers by 17 percent, or about $50 a ticket.

But analysts fear it could just as easily go the other way. “Right now, Southwest may be sending cheap fares through Ding,” Mr. Bowen said. “That doesn’t mean it will always do that.”

How could a seemingly innocuous program like Ding herald a realignment of pricing power? At the moment, airlines separate passengers into a dozen or more fare categories, rewarding those who book early with inexpensive rates and raising fares for last-minute travelers.

But as the industry struggles to recover from a cumulative loss of $30 billion since 2000, it is clear that the current reservations and fare-pricing systems are not working as they should. One reason is that customers have learned to manipulate these categories to their advantage.

For example, business travelers, who are the airlines’ most profitable customers, can easily secure a cheaper airline ticket by behaving like leisure travelers – either staying over a Saturday night or booking tickets a week before flying.

Custom fares would give the airline industry a lift by allowing it to find the passengers to fill unsold seats more quickly and efficiently. At the moment, carriers try to predict demand for tickets using computer models and then sell them through third-party reservations systems that charge the airlines a fee for each transaction.

A Ding-style system allows the airline to not only communicate directly with customers, bypassing the reservations systems, but also to know much more about those passengers – and to predict with greater accuracy whether they are likely to buy a ticket or not. But a custom fare system also allows an airline to identify customers who are willing to pay more for a ticket, and then send them an offer for a more expensive fare. (Ding does not do that yet, but experts say that is where the real money would be.)”

The next one that caught my eye:

Jennifer Lopez says fame hurt her career.

“In the beginning, I was a blank slate. I got to work with all these great directors because I was just a girl who came in there and did well in the audition,” Lopez says, reports World Entertainment News Network. “Then when I became famous, I was being offered movies that I could star in but that’s all I was being offered. When I think I should be seeing the big directors, they don’t even consider me. They see me as a sexy singer and too much in the media.”

She should just shut her mouth and be grateful for what she has because she has done exceptionally well.

More evidence that people are losing their minds:

Radio Station to Stop Slapping Contest

“ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A New York City radio station has agreed to stop its “Smackfest” promotion, in which women slap each other for prizes, under a $240,000 settlement announced Monday, said state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

WQHT Hot 97’s parent company, Emmis Communications, agreed to pay a settlement equal to the maximum fine it faced, Spitzer said.

Spitzer and the state Athletic Commission stated that the hip-hop and rhythm and blues station held 24 “Smackfest” contests from April 2004 to January 2005. Young women took turns “violently slapping” each other for concert tickets and as much as $5,000 in cash, Spitzer said. Images of the slapping then ran on the station’s Web site.

“This agreement should be a wake up call to all those in the entertainment industry who think outrageousness is a clever marketing strategy,” Spitzer said. “The law establishes set boundaries that cannot be crossed to protect our community’s health and safety.”

Spitzer investigated the case as a potential violation of state law regarding the promotion of a combative sport.

“Despite the fact that the contestants voluntarily participated in what was supposed to be harmless entertainment, it was not our finest hour, and New York City deserves better,” the Indianapolis-based Emmis Radio said in a prepared statement. “We have listened to the concerns and worked closely with the Attorney General’s office to come to an agreement that will benefit and educate the community.”

The case began following a complaint by some city council members.

The station has “broken the public trust by profiting from hate and violence,” said Councilman John C. Liu.

The station agreed to pay $60,000 of the settlement to Safe Horizons, a nonprofit group in New York City that promotes awareness of domestic violence and dispute resolution. The station will also promote Safe Horizons on its Web site and on its publicity vehicles for five months and broadcast prime-time anti-violence public service announcements. The station will also sponsor special anti-violence presentations in October during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Spitzer said.”

And this one just makes me angry all over again because if it is true it is another example of red tape and feudal pissing contests g creating huge unnecessary problems:

Congressman: Defense Knew 9/11 Hijackers

“WASHINGTON – The Sept. 11 commission will investigate a claim that U.S. defense intelligence officials identified ringleader Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as a likely part of an al-Qaida cell more than a year before the hijackings but didn’t forward the information to law enforcement.”

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