The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas on July 8, 1999 · Page 6
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July 8, 1999

The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas · Page 6

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Galveston, Texas
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Thursday, July 8, 1999
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Page 6
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A6 l)\in \i\\s THURSDAY, JULY 8, 1999 GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS More airline passengers get bumped The Associated Press WASHINGTON - Airline passengers buy their tickets with the expectation they're assured seats on the flights they want, but, more and more, airlines are "bumping" them because of overbooking. In the first three months of this year, Delta Air Lines led the way, with 8,144 passengers knocked off theirexpected flight — nearly as many as the other nine major carriers combined, according to new Transportation Department statistics. Southwest Airlines had the second highest total, with 1,938 passengers bumped. During the same period in 1998, Delta again had the worst record, but with only 2,736 passengers involuntarily bumped. Involuntary bumpings occur when an airline oversells seats on a flight to guard against passengers who don't show up, but then can't find enough volunteers to give up their seats and take a later flight. Airlines contend the longstanding practice benefits the consumer, because overbooking House GOP bill would cut top tax on capital gains The Associated Press WASHINGTON - With stock ownership at an all-time high, House Republicans proposed Wednesday to cut the top tax rate on capital gains from 20 percent to 15 percent. The White House immediately criticized the idea as a favor for wealthy investors, but GOP leaders point to recent research estimating that 84 million people now own stock or participate in mutual funds — an increase of 170 percent from 1970. "Capital gains are no longer just for Wall Street brokers and high rollers," said Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Today, a stake in America's private sector often pays for college or a more secure retirement." The GOP proposal would slash the top individual capital- gains rate on stocks and most other investments held longer than one year from 20 percent to 15 percent, effective retroactively to July 1. For people who pay income taxes in the 15 percent rate, the capital-gains tax would drop from 10 percent to 7.5 percent, also retroactive to Julyl. Stock ownership in America is rising. Using the most recent New York Stock Exchange data, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported that in 1995, 26 percent of the U.S. population either owned shares directly or through a mutual fund or pension plan. That's up from 20 percent in 1985 and 12 percent in 1975. Yet there is a vast difference in the value of these investments based on income. Internal Revenue Service statistics show that people earning below $50,000 a year in 1997 reported $31.2 billion in combined capital gains, compared with $276.2 billion for people earning $100,000 or more. This is a risky, costly scheme and the benefits would be skewed away from the average taxpayer and toward the wealthiest in our society," said White House spokesman Barry Toiv. Cost of the cuts over 10 years is unofficially estimated at $50 billion. They will be part of an $850 billion tax package. The bill also is likely to include broad-based cuts in income taxes, relief from the "marriage penalty" paid by millions of twr>income couples and breaks for health care and education and cuts in inheritance iaxeti. Getting bumped More and more air travelers are finding themselves "bumped," or involuntarily denied a reserved spot on overcrowded planes. Not suprisingly, passenger service complaints are also on the rise. • Januaiy-March 1999 » January-March 1998 • May 1999 * May 1998 Number of people bumped Number of complaints per 100,000 passengers United • 2,736 1 2,142 1,124 TWA U8Alrw*y« American 1,409 p 1,198 f 352 • 848 • 713 Northwest Alaska I 439 1 250 i 518 Source: Air Travel Consumer Reports allows them to keep flights full and airfares down. An average of 10-15 percent of the passengers holding a ticket for a flight never show up at the gate. AP/Wm. J. Castello On occasions when most everyone does, passengers often volunteer to get off because carriers offer inducements such as a first-class upgrade on another flight or a voucher for free travel in the future. "The overbooking allows us to utilize and offer seats that would otherwise be perishable," said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, which has one of the lowest rates of involuntary bumpings. "Once that seat leaves the gate empty, it can never be sold again." Delta acknowledged Wednesday that it has had problems correctly forecasting its passenger loads. The airline has put a high-level management team on the issue. It has also ordered new passenger forecasting software and created a team to identify problematic flights each day. "We fully intend to significantly reduce involuntary bookings to an acceptable level. That is a corporate goal," said airline spokesman John Kennedy. According to Transportation Department policy, airlines can't deny a passenger a seat without first asking for volunteers to get off a flight that is overbooked. The department also outlines a compensation plan for those who end up being involuntarily bumped. U.S. wants mercury-containing preservative out of vaccines The Associated Press WASHINGTON - The government is about to ask manufacturers to remove from vaccines a type of mercury used as a preservative since the 1940s, citing concern that small infants now need so many immunizations that they may get too much of the chemical, The Associated Press has learned. Parents should not worry because the move concerning the preservative thimerosal is strictly a precaution, vaccine experts said. "While our immunization practices to date are safe, we have the opportunity to increase that margin of safety," said Louis Z. Cooper, a Columbia University professor and member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is essential that children continue to receive all vaccines according to currently recommended schedules," added Surgeon General David Satcher. "The risk of devastating childhood diseases from failure to vaccinate far outweighs the minimal, if any risk, risk of exposure to cumulative levels of thimerosal in vaccines." Thimerosal is an organic form of mercury also commonly found in eyedrops and contact-lens solutions — not the same type of mercury that causes poisonings during in* dustrial accidents. Thimerosal is effective at preventing bacterial contamination of certain vaccines. It isn't needed in all vaccines, including those made of.live viruses, but it is present in vaccines against hepatitis B, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and bacterial meningitis. The thimerosal levels in any one shot are tiny. But ensuring those levels stay low is important because very high amounts of mercury may cause brain damage. IT ONLY HAPPENS ONCE A YEAR! AND IT STARTS TOMORROW SPIRIT S 58.99 YOUR CHOICE Available now In store*. 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