Man on the spot #19: Shrinking plane seats, NSA invasions and food stamps
By JON OSTROWER and DANIEL MICHAELS CONNECT
Airlines’ push to lure high-paying fliers with flatbed business seats and premium economy loungers is leaving economy-class passengers with less space. A push over the past decade by carriers to expand higher-fare sections has shrunk the area devoted to coach on many big jetliners. But airlines don’t want to drop passengers. So first airlines slimmed seats to add more rows. Now, big carriers including AMR Corp.’s AAMRQ -1.35% American Airlines, Air Canada, AC.B.T +8.18% Air France-KLM SA AF.FR -0.29% and Dubai’s Emirates Airline are cutting shoulder space by wedging an extra seat into each coach row. That shift is bringing the short-haul standard to long-haul flying. “With food and TV,” said Mr. Clark at Emirates, “people are mesmerized.”
By Nicholas Kristof, New York Times – November 3, 2013
The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council this year ranked the United States health care system last or near last in several categories among 17 countries studied. The Commonwealth Fund put the United States dead last of seven industrialized countries in health care performance. And Bloomberg journalists ranked the United States health care system No. 46 in efficiency worldwide, behind Romania and Iran.
The reason is simple: While some Americans get superb care, tens of millions without insurance get marginal care. That’s one reason life expectancy is relatively low in America, and child mortality is twice as high as in some European countries. Now that’s a scandal.
Yet about half the states are refusing to expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured people — because they don’t trust Obamacare and want it to fail.
Worse, whenever you’d visit China or Singapore, it was always the people there who used to be on the defensive when discussing democracy. Now, as an American, you’re the one who wants to steer away from that subject. After all, how much should we be bragging about a system where it takes $20 million to be elected to the Senate; or where a majority of our members of Congress choose their voters through gerrymandering rather than voters choosing them; or where voting rights laws are being weakened;
To the Editor:
With its magnificent trees taking in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, Central Park is often referred to as the “lungs” of New York City. As developers continue to fill valuable sky space at the south end of the park with ever taller steel and glass towers, an unhealthy spot in the form of a permanent shadow has appeared on the lungs of New York. That shadow is now threatening to expand.
By JOHN A. CASSARA
Watchdog groups like the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Global Financial Integrity and Global Witness say that anonymous companies registered in the United States have become the vehicle of choice for drug dealers, organized criminals and corrupt politicians to evade taxes and launder illicit funds. A study by researchers at Brigham Young University, the University of Texas and Griffith University in Australia concluded that America was the second easiest country, after Kenya, in which to incorporate a shell company.
John A. Cassara, a former special agent for the Treasury Department, is the author, most recently, of a novel, “Demons of Gadara.”
Nadezhda L. Shvetsova, 27, a flight attendant in training for Aeroflot, described the lessons she received as “teaching people to be happy, to enjoy what they are doing and to have a positive outlook” — the thousand years of famine, invasion and misfortune that shaped the Russian mind-set notwithstanding.
By SCOTT SHANE
The C.I.A. dispatches undercover officers overseas to gather intelligence today roughly the same way spies operated in biblical times. But the N.S.A., born when the long-distance call was a bit exotic, has seen its potential targets explode in number with the advent of personal computers, the Internet and cellphones. Today’s N.S.A. is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore. It sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe.
These arguments are made on the grounds of both compassion and the fragility of the recovery. Measures that grant more spending power to lower-income people generally have strong effects throughout the economy because the money is spent immediately and then re-spent. Moody’s Analytics has estimated that every additional dollar spent on food stamps generates about $1.74 in economic activity.
Food stamps are likely to be cut more in the coming years if Congress can agree on a new farm bill, which House and Senate negotiators began tackling this week. The Republican-controlled House has approved cutting as much as $40 billion from the program over 10 years by making it harder to qualify. The Democratic-controlled Senate is suggesting a $4 billion cut by making administrative changes.
To poor families trying to stretch a couple hundred dollars into a month’s worth of groceries, all the talk about stimulus packages, farm subsidies and congressional politics means little. It is all about daily survival at the grocery store.
By RON NIXON
WASHINGTON — The federal government paid $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1995 to 2012 to 50 billionaires or businesses in which they have some form of ownership, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research organization.
“The irony is that farm subsidies are going to billionaires at the same time that there are proposals to kick three to five million people off of food stamps,” said Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “This clearly highlights the need for reform to our farm programs.”
By DAVID KEEN
Over the past 25 years, there has been a lot of lesson-learning in the humanitarian community, but we seem to have a knack for learning the wrong lessons. Today, apparently mesmerized by the specter of international terrorism (and neglecting the cross-border relief that was eventually adopted in Sudan), we are again depriving civilians in rebel-held areas of vital humanitarian assistance.
David Keen, a professor of conflict studies at the London School of Economics, is the author of “Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them.”
Buildings for Billionaires: A new crop of ultra-luxurious New York high rises are vying to be the next hot “it” building and are attracting billionaires from nearby as well as abroad.
This new crop of super-luxurious New York high rises — skyscrapers so tall they needed approval from the Federal Aviation Administration — are attracting Wall Street moneymen, company executives and foreigners alike. Analysts estimate the percentage of foreign buyers in Manhattan real estate has jumped to about 30 or 40 percent of total sales, or double long-running averages.
The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton and her financier husband have signed a contract for a marvelous 4-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom apartment in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. The 4,967-square-foot condo ….Looks like the 33-year-old Clinton and her husband snagged the top-floor unit, which was listed for $10.5 million and includes access to a private elevator and keys to a resident-only gym.