"Evet" (yes) to You Tube in Turkey

Officials in Turkey have removed the three-month ban on You Tube and it’s gradually reappearing on computer screens over the past 24 hours and it could take up to 72 hours to be fully accessible.

According to the left-wing 1960s-era British daily, The Guardian, “A court in Turkey has lifted a ban on YouTube, the video sharing website, after hundreds of sites voluntarily blocked themselves in protest at growing internet censorship.”

The Republic of Turkey banned You Tube three months ago for allowing videos that were allegedly critical of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Any criticism of Ataturk is considered against the law.

Turkey was one of four countries to block access to the Web site; Thailand, China and Pakistan continue to impose similar bans. YouTube has been banned in Turkey five times since March 2007.

It’s about time. Censorship accomplishes nothing.

Sounds Across America

There is enormous interest in the forthcoming presidential elections even though, one could be circumspect watching the cable news-talk channels and wonder how much of it they’re manufacturing the keep their ratings up and take advantage of that on the ad sales side.

I was asked by a colleague overseas, who listens a great deal to American radio stations via the Internet about alternative sources to NPR, which is considered to be the quality radio network for news and information. There really isn’t another national radio station or network in America. The other national services, as we know, are the 4 minute network newscasts on ABC, CBS and FOX, and the mostly syndicated conservative mud wrestling shows.

So, for those of you, in the US and abroad, seeking a local station’s view of the news, along with the local traffic and weather, here’s a list, not in any certain order or preference.

NEW YORK CITY

WINS is one of the best programmed stations in the US, if not the best. Sticks to its format created 43 years ago. An always reliable headline service.

www.1010wins.com

The other all-news New York station is: WCBS 880am. www.wcbs880.com
They’re pretty good, but used to be a lot better.

News talk: WABC Radio
www.wabcradio.com

This is the new flagship for Don Imus “Imus in the Morning” (6-10am ET). It’s also the flagship for Rush Limbaugh.

Talk stations generally program syndicated conservative talk during the day leaving AM and PM drive sometimes to local hosts or news-chat combo.

Washington DC:

All news
WTOP www.wtopnews.com
Well programmed especially in drive times.

News talk: WMAL. Owned by Citadel-Disney/abc
www.wmal.com

Boston:

WBZ

www.wbz.com

Now owned by CBS, as a result of the merger with group w westinghouse, this is the oldest commercial station in the nation not that it means much today.

Los Angeles – all-news:

KNX www.knx1070.com

KFWB is the other all-news station. www.kfwb.com.

Both are now co-owned by CBS like WINS and WCBS. KNX has the traditional CBS newsradio format, which started in 1968 at WCBS. It does break up the format with biz talk late morning/midday. KFWB, the original Group W Westinghouse format (22 minute wheel) ‘You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world’ pioneered in 1965.

News talk:

KFI

www.kfi640.com

Very well programmed. Especially their news. Great use of sounders and jingles. Syndie fare much of the day.

KABC

www.kabc.com

Owned by Citadel-Disney/abc

San Francisco:

All news – KCBS. www.kcbs.com

Talk: KGO www.kgo.com

Owned by Citadel-Disney/abc. A funny historical factoid about their sister tv station, KGO-TV. From the late 1960s until early 1990s, they programmed a very tabloid, downscale newscast, but it was very popular, but ridiculed because it effectively, like the other ABC O&Os, lightened up the news presentation, and gave local TV the reputation that News was just a game, a format, and not serious. KGO was very graphic and risque’. In addition to using the fabulous “Cool Hand Luke” music, created by Lalo Schifrin, which was adopted by all the ABC owned stations, the station didn’t appear to take news seriously. Many in the industry used to refer to the call letters as, “Kicker, Guts, Orgasm.”

http://www.newsmusicnow.com/laloschifrin/coolhandluke/coolhandlukeeyewitnessnews.mp3

Chicago

All news:

WBBM www.wbbm780.com CBS-owned

News talk:

WLS www.wls.com

This should keep you busy through the Election 2012 season.

The airlines did it to themselves

News item:

“NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — As oil prices continue to break records, the nation’s six leading airlines have announced capacity cuts for 2008, trimming flights in major hubs and cutting off service to dozens of discount destinations.

“All told, the industry will cut capacity by 9% in 2008, according to James Higgins, analyst for Soleil-Solebury Research.”

The continued rise of oil prices along with other, which have contributed to the recession we may or may not be in (but, it sure feels like it), has hit major industries deeply from mine (broadcasting), real estate, retail and most notably the airlines.

Never has an industry done so little for so many. So, naturally, the rising crude oil prices, which hit $140 per barrel yesterday (a new record), and the ridiculously rising gasoline costs (as the big oil companies enjoy big profits) have given the airline sector another whack.

Long before we would have thought that there would have been a sub-prime banking-real estate crisis, the airlines have treated us, the paying passenger, like one of those chocolates that Lucille Ball & VIvian Vance as Lucy and Ethel were stuffing in little boxes on a fast-moving assembly line in that classic “I Love Lucy” episode. But, unlike those chocolates, which looked wonderful, there is nothing wonderful about air travel today. It is bad. It’s beyond bad.

Not one U.S. airline has been profitable for years, with the exception of Southwest as their business model continues to dwarf the competition, and they have a now-famous way to hedge fuel, when they lock in prices at present day figures, purchasing volume for years, hence controlling their costs. It was easier when crude oil prices were 80% less, or even 50% less than its closing number as the markets finished for the week. But, SW, which is a basic no-frills carrier, in fact, the most-successful in the industry, has something else that no American carrier possesses: Customer service. While I haven’t travelled on SW in 30 years, I have many friends who do so regularly, and never has there been a major complaint.

The airline industry was deregulated 30 years ago by then President Carter. This brought on a wave of increased competition and lower prices. But, it also brought to America something that we wanted used to: crappy customer service.

The airlines just don’t care about us. They have a disdain for the customer. They have continually found opportunities to make life utter hell for us. Yet, there are so many loyal passengers that stayed with you, others have moved from the so-called legacy carriers to Southwest, jetBlue and Virgin America. Overseas travelers, who don’t travel in upper class, take the cheapest route.

We’re now being charged for luggage, unless we’re lucky enough to be elite members of their frequent flier programs, which used to allow us an opportunity to redeem miles for “free” travel. So, passengers are discriminated against if they haven’t accrue enough miles in a year to get that oh-so beautiful silver or gold card.

Item: “US Airways announces it will no longer offer free non-alcoholic beverages or snacks on its flights.”

So, here we are reading daily how airlines are piling on the costs to the passengers in the name of rising petrol prices, which, to be fair, is not their doing. And they continue to take away any semblance of customer service or as some like to call it customer ‘care’.

As a good friend put it in one of his blogs, “you have turned us into packages moving through your system.”

We aren’t alone. Employees of the airlines, once the shining stars of the airline industry have been treated unfairly and there’s certainly no job security for them either. Remember those Pan Am flights, during their heyday? If you’re not that old, check out the videos on the web with the wonderful commercials highlighting what air travel used to be until the 1980s. Now that was air travel. But, Pan Am is gone, too.

At the end of the day, we’ll begin to hear about further consolidation, which will certainly continue to raise ticket prices, or we’ll be reading about possible airline closures, which seems to be more likely today than at any other time.

I don’t like to see people lose their jobs nor companies suffer.

But, the airline industry has brought much of their plight on themselves. I won’t be losing a night’s sleep for the situation they find themselves in today.

Tim Russert

The news of Tim Russert’s untimely death made its way around the world in seconds. Just off a plane in Istanbul Friday night, I received a SMS on my BlackBerry from a friend in New York City with the shocking news, even before the e-letter bulletins started to flood my Berry from the usual variety of news sources.

It’s incomprehensible to absorb and understand the passing of someone so young in his or her prime. Tim seemed to be that superman of sorts, who reportedly enjoyed the best of everything: growing up in a western New York city, a mirror of Middle America, hardworking parents, a great childhood, family, learning under political giants Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo, and then onto television journalism, while raising a son with his wife, who shared a great family life with their son Luke, and their interest in journalism.

The news must be tragic for Russert’s wife, Maureen, son Luke, whom he proudly discussed often, his father “Big Russ,” a seemingly modest blue-collar World War II veteran, who was clearly idolized by Russert, before sharing him with readers in his two best-selling books. And, then, there are those who worked with him in the media business, not generally known for being the kindest of lots, but certainly human nonetheless. Tributes from politicos, journalists, both his colleagues at NBC News and competition have been in abundance.

Russert’s story is a perfect portrait of America. A country of promise, of aspiring for great achievements and giving back. This is the America I remember growing up in New Orleans. This was country that my father fought to come to, escaping what would be the horrors of the Holocaust in Germany, and my maternal grandparents, who arrived years earlier, also at Ellis Island from Czarist Russia. Immigrants, it has been often said, appreciate America more than those of us, who were born and raised there. Tom Brokaw, the former NBC Nightly News anchor, and author of best-selling books said it well in what could probably become a classic American story about our nation’s Greatest Generation.

Tim Russert’s father was part of that generation, as was my father, mother, uncles and aunts. So many of that generation, who grew up in the 1930s Depression, worked harder and lived tougher lives than we will know. with so little, so we would have a better life and country.

Russert adored his family we are told. He shared his love of his father, his hometown of Buffalo, where I once lived, as this industrial town remains a true representation of the values our country, which is sorely missing today.

While Tim has been praised for helping re-invent the Sunday political chat shows, reviving the iconic “Meet the Press”, and shepherding the all-important news bureau in Washington, D.C,, he will and should also be remembered for showcasing with love, not just his father (and mother), but parents everywhere, who sometimes get very little in return once their children are raised.

It is sad, but almost fitting that Russert collapsed in the DC bureau, preparing for two of the many major events in his life: The Sunday broadcast of “Meet the Press’, which is taped live at 9:00, and Father’s Day.

If we are to remember his legacy, not only as a lawyer-turned-political aide-turned-broadcaster, a devout believer in faith, charitable contributor, and mentoring tomorrow’s generation, we would be remiss for not thanking him for praising our fathers (and mothers) and the generation that has sacrificed much to give us a better life than their own.

They’re not ‘friendly skies’ anymore

The airline industry is in a crisis. Never before in our times have we seen an industry continue to trip from one mess into another. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Western Pennsylvania, the airline industry sought for relief. Much of the problems they maintained were caused as a result of those attacks. That could be debated.

Nearly seven years on, as one airline after another files for bankruptcy protection or shuts down, what’s left of the big boys are crying, again. So, what do they do? Instead of catering to those millions of passengers, they charge more and they’re seeking mergers faster than gasoline prices can rise at the pumps. Oh, yes, the oil companies are enjoying greater profits at the same time.

So, when we last left off, we had multi airline collapses. Several airlines cancelled flights due to faults in the way they maintain or don’t maintain their equipment (AKA aircraft). If one continues to outsource to El Salvador, then what do you expect?

The airlines cut capacity reducing the size of the aircrafts on most routes. United and American charge $2.00 per bag to check in at the curb. Nice. They are all united (no pun intended) by charging us to check through a second bag, thinking that will remedy their problems. The already strapped American consumer has no choice. While Southwest Airlines, the darling of the industry, continues to transport more Americans, and inflict less pain on the traveling public, the older carriers just throw more gasoline on the fire. How much pain can the traveling public endure?

Earlier today, a friend sent me some links to old airline commercials now housed in the great repository on the web, You Tube. There I saw old Pan Am and Eastern Airlines spots. Frank Borman, former head of Eastern standing in front of crew members (or actors) on the tarmac, tellings us how much they cared. Eastern is now gone. And, then there was a very nice Pan Am spot, circa 1958, showcasing the new luxury jetliner, with all the fine amenities the international traveler covets.

It seems that Delta, Northwest, United, American, Continental and US Airways are all lining up to merge with anyone they can. Delta and Northwest are starting down that dangerous road. United was rebuffed by Continental, so it’s going to try, once again, with US Airways, the rubbish of the airline industry. It wasn’t too long ago that America West and US Airways ‘merged.’ We’re still feeling the after shocks. Anyone traveling the ‘new’ US Airways continues to feel the pain. American is trying to rope Continental in with British Airways, once the darling of the international airline business and now the most-disliked, in a Bermuda-triangle alliance, if the regulators allow it, BA gets AA and CO’s gateways – significant for CO, they get more access to London Heathrow, the armpit of airports these days.

The current head of Delta, of course, promises better service, and will improve their seats, which his predecessor previously promised, but, we’re reading about ‘building value’ and surviving. The magic year is 2010. That’s a long way off and a lot of pain to inflict on us until those newer and better seats, which most international carriers have had in their fleet for years!

But, the airlines have failed in the customer service category. AA’s recent debacle, now being blamed on the FAA, is a perfect example. If they don’t have a disaster recovery plan, then the customer is not safe. And, on US airlines, I don’t feel safe.

Not even the extra $25 for the second bag will rectify that.

This is what happens when an airline doesn’t care

US Airways, the dysfunctional result of a bad acquisition by an equally horrible airline, America West, can’t seem to get it right.

Both airlines were deeply in the red. They probably didn’t deserve to stay alive. They did. And we’re paying for it.

News item from KGET in Bakersfield, CA: A wheelchair-bound woman flying out of Bakersfield was left on a cold Las Vegas tarmac while on a connecting flight en route to Florida. (Please click on the link for the complete story including video.)

It seems that the passenger, Jeanne Grettum, who finally arrived in Florida with tearful greetings of her family 12 hours behind schedule was forgotten by the airline when the USAirways flight touched down in Las Vegas.

Airline staff got her a wheelchair, wheeled her out of the plane, and parked her on the tarmac. And she sat, and sat and sat.

US Airways said a communication breakdown likely occured because the plane was delayed getting to the gate in Vegas.

US Airways is a disaster. It’s what happens when mergers or take-overs, in this case, go bad. And most do.

The airlines are so busy cutting costs, they really don’t care about the customer. We’re just numbers and if we don’t fill the seats, the airlines drop the rates to fill them. Or they replace larger aircraft with smaller ones. Then, they convince the media that they’re filled to capacity.

United Airlines is still recovering from last weekend’s Midwest snow storm, cancelling flights at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. However, market leader Southwest Airlines cancelled one at Chicago Midway. Why is it Southwest Airlines always gets it right?

My friend, Geoff, aptly stated:

“US Air understands, no one is flying them because they want to! So you’re there because there’s no one else. Screw the customer.”

It doesn’t clean its airlines. Actually, none of the US carriers do, either.

The CEO, Doug Parker, appears to be totally incapable of running the airline. It took almost two years to merge the airline systems.

The airline loses bags faster than the Chicago Cubs loses baseball games. And when they can’t find it, try calling them on the phone to get an answer.

Recently, Parker went on a PR offensive. Articles appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” and “USA Today,” regarding how Parker is trying to get closer to his disgruntled employees. And Parker brought in his old Northwest Airlines pal, Robert Osom, an “operations specialist” to help turn around US Air. A guy from Northwest Airlines? Another trophy American carrier.

All this as the larger carriers are battling to see which one can improve their upper class cabins faster, as international airlines like British Airways and Singapore Airlines, are on their third or fourth modernization in-cabin program since 1996 when BA launched the First Class bed.

One of these days, the US carriers might get it right. But, they need capable managers and CEO’s, who guide airlines and innovate and not immitate. And then and only then, will passengers not be left on the tarmac.

MaxJet R.I.P. & Open Skies

MaxJet, one of four*, all-business class international carriers flying over the Atlantic Ocean died yesterday. It was two years old. The cause of death was attributed to the continued rise in fuel costs, excessive competition by larger airlines,(including lucrative frequent flier plans) and excessive discounting.

I never flew MaxJet. I have a few friends who did. They generally liked the airline. One of the primary reasons was the cost factor. It was less expensive than British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and American Airlines, the three carriers that continue to fly from New York to London Heathrow; Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines, who fly from Newark or JFK to London Gatwick.

United Airlines gave up its slots to London (from NYC) due to competition. Delta took its slots from JFK, but, on March 30, 2008, when the “Open Skies” agreement begins between Europe and the U.S., that may change. That’s when carriers such as Lufthansa, BA, Virgin and other European carriers can fly directly to the U.S. from any airport in Europe. That means more competition, and lower prices in Economy class. Perhaps in the upper classes, as well. (For more on “Open Skies”, please click on the header, “MaxJet R.I.P and Open Skies”.)

One of the problems businesses have with excessive discounting, while great for the consumer, is that businesses rarely make a profit. Unless there are other businesses that can make up the shortfall, companies that discount as a matter of routine, generally fail.

Discount airlines are not new. There are only a handful that appear to be successful. The Dallas-based Southwest has been around for 36 years covering the U.S. domestic market and giving most of the older airlines heartburn. There have been some copycats, but, SW continues to thrive. The reasons are simple. They don’t promise anything more than they give the passenger. A seat. Peanuts and drinks. It’s not pretty, nor is it roomy, but the larger airlines, charge passengers more, and give out nothing, but aggravation.

It’s a shame that MaxJet had failed. That means higher prices for consumers with less competition on the most lucrative route — New York – London.

When “Open Skies” begins, hopefully that will change. The larger, “legacy” airlines are reportedly nervous about the agreement. They should be.

* Eos and Silverjet fly from New York/Newark and London. l’Avion flies from Newark to Paris Orly.

Tx msgs r 15 yrs old

R top story 4 2day, Txt msgs r 15 yrs old

That was the headline in Wednesday, November 5th’s International Herald Tribune, top of the fold, upper left hand corner of the front page.

We were living overseas in 1992 when SMS (Short Message Service), also known as text messaging began.

When I would fly home to the States, people would stare at me as I typed with my thumbs on the Nokia or Ericsson cell phones I had. I was struck at the immediacy of sending quick messages and getting instant responses.

As mobile phones quickly became part of our changing culture, SMS became routine.

And now, half of this posting is being sent via my BlackBerry as I watch our 10pm Puls Raport newscast, I can’t imagine how we lived without SMS communications.

Americans are beginning to catch on, albeit not as rapidly as Asians and Europeans.

It’s not cheap, but given the costs of voice calling overseas and in the States, it’s reasonable and quick. TTYL.

Munich International Airport

Flughafen München Franz Josef Strauß (Munich International Airport) is becoming my new favorite European airport. Other than Zurich’s Kloten Airport, Munich’s sparkles,and is easy to transfer and spacious. There is simply no comparison to any other European airport. There was a time that Amsterdam’s Schipol and London Heathrow made travel easier, but, London has become a stress test, only added by the absurd one carry-on bag limitation.

Although I had more than 2-1/2 hours to connect from my LAX-MUC flight to the MUC-WAW flight, I had made it to the security in less than 15 minutes. I then went to the Lufthansa lounge to chill for a while. While the airport was relatively busy, it didn’t feel as if I was being attacked by other travellers, a frequent experience at Heathrow or Frankfurt.

In the air

This is my first trip back to the States since early June. A few days in NYC for the International Emmys and related activities, and home in the Palm Springs area for three days. As we were flying out to LAX from JFK, I was perusing the United Airlines magazine. A funny thing struck me as an United executive was explaining in his column, that they and other US carriers haven’t gotten it right when it comes to airline comfort and service. This used to be a hallmark of international travel, but, that and many things that were once important in the American workplace, have gone away.

UAL is now excited that it’s going to catch up with the likes of Virgin Atlantic, BA, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and other international carriers and seriously cater to the business class traveller. Lufthansa, my preferred carrier is so far superior to UAL and its American counterparts, that one wonders whether the US carriers have purposely put travellers through the ringer even though the discount carriers like SouthWest continue to take signficiant market share from the old, “legacy” carriers.

So, many years after British Airways created a truly wonderful experience in business travel, one US carrier has awakened to the fact that perhaps it’s time to concentrate on service and comfort, again. Maybe they’ll get it right this time. I kind of doubt it.