NWA slashes 2,500 jobs, pumps up ticket, bag fees

Our hometown airline is cutting expenses, reducing flights and raising passenger fees in a desperate struggle to curb losses from record oil prices. Haven't we heard this before? The days of cheap air travel are over -- or they should be, if large U.S. airlines expect to survive. With oil at $140 a barrel, the old business model is broken.

US Airways cutting entertainment systems

The airline will remove in-flight entertainment systems, saving $10 million a year in fuel and other costs. Fuel? A heavier plane costs more to fly. Will thinner flight attendants be next?

Core cities find that populations are on the rise

Minneapolis and St. Paul are growing again. For the first time this decade, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting modest population gains in the two cities and in our first-ring suburbs. "Four-dollar gas may go a long ways toward slowing movement to the suburbs,'' a Brookings Institution demographer says. If there's an upside to all of this, it might be healthier central cities.

Rybak to [Met Council]: Higher transit fares a mistake

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is right: Proposed metro transit increases would be "a step in the wrong direction.'' But by law the transit system can't run a deficit, and higher fuel costs and declining revenues from taxes on new vehicle sales are wreaking havoc on Metro Transit's budget. This is a funding problem that needs to be fixed, but there's no easy overnight solution.

Survey: Small business senses recession

Here's a sobering number from the economy's front lines: A U.S. Bancorp survey found that 74 percent of Minnesota's small businesses believe we're in a recession. Eighty-five percent of the business owners surveyed said high gas prices have hurt their firms, and two-thirds said prices had a "very negative'' effect on business. Why is this so troubling? Companies with fewer than 100 employees make up 97 percent of Minnesota's businesses and generate most of the new jobs.

Good idea, bad time

Ford unveils the 2009 Flex, a giant wagon rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway. It seemed like a smart alternative to the minivan when Ford started development. But you'd guess the automaker would take a mulligan on this one if it could.

Toyota engineer, 45, died from overwork

A 45-year-old Toyota Motor Corp. engineer averaged more than 80 hours of overtime in each of the two months before his death. The Japanese labor bureau cited the severe stress the engineer was under while working on a new hybrid version of Toyota's Camry line. No further comment is necessary or appropriate.

It's the story of the year, and Thursday it was the theme of the day. Beyond the headlines, a thorough reading of one issue of this newspaper reveals how higher fuel costs are changing our lives. Consider: