Saturday, April 25, 2009

Congo conflict minerals

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, scene of the deadliest conflict since World War II, remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or girl. In part, this danger comes from the demand created by you and me for electronic products that requires minerals found in the eastern Congo. While Congo is a complex crisis, including tensions over land, rights, identity, regional power struggles and the fundamental weaknesses of Congo as a state, the trade in conflict minerals is a key driver of the conflict.

To find out more, go here

To do something, go here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Travel news

Within the travel industry's economic damage, airlines face substantial overcapacity. Two of the large US flag carriers will have to merge to avoid the bankruptcy of another American airline. United Airlines (UAUA), American (AMR) and US Air (LCC) are the weakest airlines. The stocks of all three are down more than 40% so far this year as concerns mount that passenger traffic declines will accelerate as the recession gets worse.

The sales loses are being partially offset by a drop in fuel prices and cuts in routes and airplanes, but the benefit of those reductions has already mostly occurred. When the economy or fuel prices are bad for a prolonged period, airlines turn to the two behaviors which have been their modes operandi in the past: mergers and bankruptcy.

If the revenue problems worsen, a stronger carrier such as Continental (CAL) is almost certain takeover one of its weakened peers. Not only are the numbers of passengers dropping, but as BusinessWeek pointed out two weeks ago, airlines are cutting ticket charges sharply because “there are relatively strong indications that bookings for the spring and summer — especially for business-class tickets — may be far softer than carriers had expected.”

In the fourth quarter of last year, United generated negative $989 million in operating cash flow and negative $1.1 billion of free cash flow, defined as operating cash flow less capital expenditures. The quarter that just ended will not be as good as Wall Street hoped. United cut a deal with its largest credit card processor for enough cash to maintain its business. The card company gets a security interest in some United aircraft in exchange. The deal extends until January of next year.

United needs a way out of all this trouble. since it has already been through a bankrupcty, a merger is now a more likely alternative.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thoreau on lives lived

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, April 16, 2009

US commitment to Americas

The White House says that its policy in the Americas would henceforth be guided by a simple test: whether it improves the lives of those living in favelas and barrios. Read more here

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Blackwater security firm changing

The notoriously controversial private security firm Blackwater is changing its name, its products and its chief. The new name is Xe; the new products are drastically scaled down; the new CEO is unnamed at this time. I wonder if there will also be a new level of responsible reporting and accountability. To read more: