Why flying is even more of a headache now than pre-pandemic – National & International News – WED 23Jun2021

Air travelers are in for a rough summer as one of the country's leading carriers announces 100s of cancellations.

Air travel headaches abound this summer. Senate GOP refuses to even debate voting rights bill. Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper to shut down.

NATIONAL NEWS

Air travel headaches abound this summer

Anyone who has taken the opportunity to travel by air recently will have seen that air travel is now even more of an ordeal than it was pre-pandemic. Every major airport and airline is suffering massive personnel and equipment shortages. This has led to longer than usual lines at check-in and security, flight delays and cancellations.

Tempers have also been running high over mask requirements on airplanes. Airlines have had to take action against hundreds of unruly passengers in recent months. One female passenger even punched an air hostess over a mask dispute, knocking out two of her teeth.

American Airlines to cancel 100s of flights

Blaming “unprecedented weather”, American Airlines cancelled 188 flights, and delayed 760 on Sunday. On Monday, the airline canceled 162 flights and delayed nearly 800. And the picture will not improve much over the rest of the summer. American Airlines has said it will be canceling about 1% (or 50 to 80) of its daily flights until the middle of July.

American has blamed the changes on staffing and maintenance issues. But Capt. Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and spokesman for the its pilots union, says the reality is very different. Tajer says that, despite receiving $billions in federal COVID bailouts to prop up the airline, American has failed to maintain pilot readiness. Furthermore, the airline rushed to get its booking numbers back to pre-pandemic levels and thus overpromised its customers.

To save money during the shutdown, American gave about 1000 pilots early retirement packages, and furloughed another 1600. Many of the furloughed pilots have been grounded for months. Without the opportunity keep in practice or to even train on flight simulators, their certifications have lapsed. Tajer says it will take months for American to recertify a sufficient number of pilots and hire and train new pilots to replace those that have retired or resigned.

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Senate GOP refuses to even debate voting rights bill

Republican Senators refused to even open debate on the For the People Act, a sweeping reform of election rules championed by Democrats. While all 50 Democrats voted in favor of beginning debate, not one GOP Senator supported it. Democratic Senators must overcome Republicans’ 60-vote filibuster to start debate or pass legislation. Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) claimed that Republicans refused to even debate the bill, “because they’re so afraid of what that debate will show”.

Both the White House and Congressional Democrats have signaled that new voting rights legislation is a top legislative priority. The urgency is rising as state after state passes restrictions which voter rights advocates say are calculated to make it more difficult for poor people, people of color and young people to vote. All of these are typically Democrat-voting demographics.

What’s next for filibuster?

With Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV) refusing to support an end to the filibuster, Democrats’ options are limited. Progressives have gone on the offensive, targeting Sinema in her home state with a $1 million ad buy. The ads refer to the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic”, which now being used to limit the voting rights of minorities.

Other procedural options to modify the filibuster may be feasible. While Sinema and Manchin oppose doing away with the filibuster, both have said they would not oppose changing it. One option is to require that 41 opposition Senators be present to invoke the filibuster. Another is to bring back “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”- style talking filibusters.

Lastly, Democrats could introduce narrow exemptions to the filibuster, in this case for legislation related to elections and voting. This is something even Republicans have done in the past, having eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations under Trump.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper to shut down

In yet another blow to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the island’s largest pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily has announced it will be shutting down indefinitely. Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government has already jailed the paper’s owner, billionaire Jimmy Lai on numerous anti-sedition charges. Supports fear that Lai will be in prison for at least a decade.

Last week, local security forces raided the newspaper’s offices, claiming that it had published content that breached the controversial national security law. Following that raid, the paper’s chief editor and five of its executives were detained and the company’s assets were frozen.

Now, the newspaper’s management has announced that “in view of staff members’ safety”, the paper would “cease operation immediately after midnight”. Thursday’s publication will be the final edition.

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