Have you followed the latest ups and downs with Delta Air Lines and Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport?

Delta executives came to town to lobby support for the proposed merger with Northwest Airlines. The Delta hub at CVG will stay, they promised. It might even grow.

That was sweet music to the ears of select companies that get the Delta routes they want — and with discounted fares. You could almost hear the cooing of the business leaders and politicians who are worried to death about losing that treasured hub.

Meanwhile, under the weight of crushing fuel prices, Delta posted a first-quarter loss of $6.39 billion. And those same executives plan to drop domestic flights in favor of more lucrative international routes, cut more jobs and raise fares.

So, at some point Delta’s operations here could shrink anyway, becoming a “hub” in name only.

A new flight to Amsterdam won’t sooth our Joe and Jane road warriors, the ones having to routinely drive roundtrips to other airports because their smaller businesses cannot afford Delta’s CVG sky-high fares to U.S. destinations.

Glen Hauenstein, a Delta executive vice president, was quoted as saying we can choose between having discount airlines (with fewer routes and flights), or preserve the global service that attracts major corporations — and pay higher fares across the board for that privilege.

We don’t fault Delta for sounding so arrogant about dictating our choices. But the leadership of our airport seems to be still asleep at the wheel, lulled into inaction by whatever tune the airline plays.


HOSPITAL GOTCHA

What the federal government is doing to Christ Hospital and the Ohio Heart & Vascular Center should send shudders through all hospitals and physicians groups.

You may have seen or heard scary news that Christ — a nationally recognized and respected nonprofit enterprise — could lose $400 million in fines, not to mention damage to its reputation as words such as “fraud” and “kickback” are tossed about.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Five years after a disgruntled cardiologist filed a whistleblower lawsuit, the Justice Department is now charging in to join the action. The feds claim the way Christ assigns cardiologists to check test results at its outpatient “Heart Station” favored doctors from Ohio Heart over other cardiologists, and that constitutes illegal kickbacks. Why? Because patients who didn’t have a heart specialist might choose one from Ohio Heart — one of the largest cardiology groups in Greater Cincinnati.

• There’s no reported evidence that Christ Hospital, the Health Alliance (which the hospital was part of until their recent breakup) or Ohio Heart did anything other than follow existing government rules for Medicare and Medicaid.

• The way Christ schedules those physician assignments is common practice in hospitals across the nation. This is the first time the feds have interpreted the rules this way and made such allegations.

• The Justice Department doesn’t allege that any treatment or test was improperly ordered, performed or billed, or that patient care was adversely affected.

• Legally, Christ could have entered into an exclusive contract with Ohio Heart, excluding all other cardiologists from the Heart Station.

• Regulators never gave the hospital any notice they were changing the rules in midstream, according to Kenneth Seibel, the attorney representing Ohio Heart. “This all could have been avoided with a 41 cent stamp,” he concludes.

Here’s how an assistant U.S. Attorney put it: “It potentially puts physicians in a position where they could compromise the medical welfare of a patient because of a potential financial gain.”

Translated: We’re not saying wrongdoing was committed. It could be committed.

We predict Christ Hospital, the Health Alliance and Ohio Heart will prevail in court. They would be entitled to recover from the U.S. government what Seibel admits will be huge legal fees. That means taxpayers might get stuck paying for this misbegotten “gotcha” suit.


INVESTMENT UPTICK

Cloudy economy got you down? Check out this news in our Economic Digest (page 89): The Greater Cincinnati region had 184 investments in new businesses or business expansions in 2007, representing $2.71 billion in capital investment. That meant creating or saving nearly 21,000 jobs.

Our annual Manny Awards in May recognized the importance of manufacturing industries in our Tristate economy. This growth report is another reminder: Manufacturing led local business growth with 38 percent of total investment.