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The [Wednesday] Papers

"What have you searched for today? This week? This year? Some law enforcement agency somewhere may love to know," ArsTechnica reports.

"On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it had filed a formal request (PDF) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asking various federal judicial agencies what 'policies, procedures, and practices [are] followed to obtain search queries from search engine operators for law enforcement purposes.' The ACLU also asked if a warrant or another legal process is required to make requests and if requests can be intercepted in real time.

"Specifically, the FOIA request applies to a number of federal agencies, including the United States Department of Justice, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of Legal Counsel, and the executive offices of a number of United States Attorneys, including those in California, Massachusetts, Texas, and other places."

*

Meanwhile:

"ProPublica [filed a motion Tuesday] in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking the release of various court opinions that provide the judicial rationale for the federal government's secret collection of telephone metadata," the news organization announced. "The Electronic Frontier Foundation is acting as ProPublica's pro bono counsel in this matter.

"The motion follows ProPublica's extensive reporting on the National Security Agency's collection of phone and web records and its efforts to undermine the encryption that protects the privacy of everyday Internet communications.

"It's critical for the court to publicly provide the rationale that allows this unprecedented government secrecy," said ProPublica President Richard Tofel. "The public has a First Amendment right to see and understand its opinions, and we hope this motion will persuade the court to release more of them."

"The national ACLU, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School filed a similar motion last week, but Jane E. Kirtley, formerly executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said ProPublica's motion might be more effective on this particular issue.

"'Federal judges routinely find that news media entities have standing to assert the public's First Amendment right of access to court records and proceedings,' said Kirtley, now the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

"'The FISC therefore may be more likely to find standing on the part of a news organization to seek disclosure in such situations. And it may give an extra level of consideration to reach the First Amendment issues if a news organization is among the requesters.'"

Coming Soon: Obamacare Rate Shock Pt. 2
"Media reports about the Affordable Care Act have been dominated by two themes lately: The ongoing glitches with Healthcare.gov and the 'rate shock' that some consumers now face after insurance companies canceled their policies," Charles Ornstein reports for ProPublica.

"But come January, a second rate shock may hit and could produce more bad news for Obamacare. That's when millions of Americans who select health insurance plans on the new marketplaces may realize that their new insurance plans don't pay the bills right away. They come with high deductibles and co-pays.

"In recent weeks, many people have focused on the monthly cost of buying a health insurance plan in the insurance marketplace. What I'm talking about is different: The out-of-pocket costs they may face when they go to use that new policy."

All-American Airlines
"American Airlines and US Airways struck a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department that will allow the airlines to complete a $17 billion merger and create the world's largest carrier, the airlines announced Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

The Justice Department had opposed the merger because it would further consolidation in the airlines industry, which would be bad news for consumers because of less competition, resulting in higher fares and fees.

Under terms of the settlement, however, the new super-airline will actually give up gates at airports around the country, opening up opportunities for new, upstart airlines to get slots that were previously reserved for American or US Airways. In other words, a merger creating the world's largest airline would actually result in more competition.

Or so the theory goes.

"The deal, which heads off a trial planned later this month, calls for the combined airline to give up some takeoff-and-landing slots and some airport gates, including two American Airlines gates at Chicago O'Hare International Airport."

Two? Two lousy gates?

"Although the combined airline will lose two gates in concourse L at O'Hare, airline officials are optimistic they will be able to reconfigure existing gates to gain back a gate or two, said Andrew Nocella, US Airways senior vice president of marketing and planning."

So, essentially, the new super-airline is giving up nothing. Nice negotiating, Justice!

"It's not going to have a material impact on our ability to fly what we were intending to fly," said Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways and incoming CEO of the combined airline.

Once again, I invite the Obama administration to my place this Friday night for poker. I'll even spring for the beer.

*

"[The deal] also requires the combined airline to maintain Chicago and other airports as hubs for at least three years, something executives said they intended to do anyway and will keep long past three years."

The deal also requires the combined airline to continue using wings on its planes for at least three years, which the Justice Department counted as a major victory.

*

Four airlines will now control 80 percent of the market, according to the Justice Department.

Yet, U.S. assistant attorney Bill Baer called the deal a "game-changer" that will likely drive down airfares.

"It will disrupt today's cozy relationships among the incumbent legacy carriers," he said.

Except what will now be the coziest relationship among incumbent legacy carriers ever - the merger of American and US Airways!

"[It will] provide consumers with more choices and more competitive airfares," he said.

Two big airlines into one hardly provides consumers with more choices; the slot give-backs might go to a low-fare carrier or two, but that will hardly dent the market.

The only ones getting more choices will be American and USAir executives, who will now have to decide whether to buy new mansions or knock down and rebuild the ones they already have.

*

"There is no doubt that in markets where a merger reduces two competing airlines to one monopoly, fares increase," the Wall Street Journal reported in August.

"In April, the Middle Seat crunched data to show that some big-city routes saw price increases of 40% to 50% or more after mergers reduced competition.

"Between Chicago and Houston, the home bases of United and Continental, the average fare in the third quarter last year was 57% higher than the same period three years earlier, before those airlines merged. Over the same period, United's average domestic fare was up 16%."

Name That Merger
"Two realty brokerages with deep roots in the Chicago area's housing market - Koenig & Strey and Prudential Rubloff - are merging and adopting a name with an international reputation, that of Berkshire Hathaway," the Tribune reports.

"Next spring, the combined entity will be renamed Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group."

Will that even fit on a business card?

*

"Good morning, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group, may I help you?"

*

Strey is pissed. With all that, there wasn't room for his name?

*

"This is very much about the brand," Nancy Nagy, who will be CEO of the new entity, told the Trib.

Which one? I count at least four.

For branding purposes, as well as sanity and common sense, Koenig Rubloff would've been just fine. Rolls off the tongue. Berkshire Koenig Rubloff if you had to. BKR.

"The addition of the Berkshire Hathaway name is very powerful," Nagy said.

Well, if that's the thinking, why not Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group? Powered by Apple.

*

Buffett, by the way, isn't a fan of airlines investing.

"At the recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Buffett responded negatively when asked a question about airline investing," Ted Reed reported for Forbes last May.

"Investors have poured their money into airlines and airline manufacturers for 100 years with terrible results," Buffett said, according to TheStreet. "It's been a death trap for investors," he said of the airline industry, after he was asked whether airline consolidation has altered his long-standing view that investors should stay away from airlines.

Buffett invested in US Airways in 1989 and, according to Reed, eventually broke even at the least. Still, it was not a pleasant experience and Buffett has spent the last 20 years decrying the industry.

But veteran airline analyst Bob McAdoo of Imperial Capital told Reed that Buffett needs to update his view.

"The airline industry has changed since 1989," McAdoo said."It has consolidated and is more oligopolistic."

Today, even more so.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Powered by you.



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Posted on November 13, 2013


MUSIC - Blues Fest 2017.
TV - 'The Worst FCC I've Ever Seen.'
POLITICS - Minimum Wage Hikes Work.
SPORTS - On Joe Louis, Race And Sports Heroes.

BOOKS - The Blood Of Emmett Till.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Artist As Alchemist.


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