PolWorld, Author at POLSKA УКРАЇНА

US Airlines Await Critical Aid Deal

Losses are mounting for the U.S. airline industry as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy and hope dims for an immediate government aid package.  Karl Moore, associate professor at Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, says, “We’re looking at flights being down in the area of 90% less in March and April than they were the year before. So, it’s a time of enormous crisis. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who work in the airline industry.” For now, combined third-quarter losses for American, United, Delta, Southwest and Alaska Air have exceeded $11.5 billion. The industry’s downturn dwarfs previous crises such as SARS and the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001, Moore says.WATCH: US Airlines Await Critical Aid DealSorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 10 MB480p | 14 MB540p | 19 MB720p | 33 MB1080p | 69 MBOriginal | 94 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioEarlier this year, U.S. airline companies received billions from Congress through the CARES Act in the form of cash and loans that helped keep them afloat. The hope was that the virus would have subsided by now. It hasn’t.   “What we’ve seen is domestic travel in the U.S. has gone up some, but international travel is down horrifically, and even domestic travel is not anywhere near what it was last year. So, we have the ongoing crisis. We have maybe a second wave — certainly a lot more people getting sick than we had hoped at this time of year. So, it’s a thing where the industry’s troubles have not yet gone beyond six or seven months and it will go on for some months and perhaps a couple of years to come,” says Moore. Nearly 5 million air transport jobs globally are at risk, according to estimates by the Air Transport Action Group. Mask wearing is mandatoryTo bring passengers back, airlines have made mask wearing mandatory. They’ve also stepped up their cleaning of plane cabins. Some leave middle seats open to put more space between passengers.Negotiations between Congress and the White House on a new aid package continue with few signs that an agreement will be reached soon.   This has led airlines to cut jobs, offer early retirement and take other cost-cutting measures. But some experts note that with airlines raking in profits over the past decade, they could have made better decisions.Even though they could not foresee the pandemic and the fallout from COVID-19, Israel Shaked, a finance and economics professor at Boston University Questrom School of Business, says airlines’ own choices left them with little cash.Shaked is also the managing director of the Michel Shaked group, a consulting firm based in Boston. In a recent article, he argues that decisions made in the past few years by the airlines were short-sighted and that they could have saved for a so-called rainy day.    “If you take a look at 2019, for example, this industry paid itself, and I am only talking about American, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue … and Delta. … They paid out dividends of $1.7 billion and the stock repurchase of $7.4 billion. If you combine these two, you’re talking about almost like a 7, 8, 9 billion dollars in one year going out of the company … and it was similar the year before.” Minimum of 80% capacity neededHe points out that airlines need minimum 80% capacity utilization to survive because they have huge fixed costs.He says he supports government aid in the short term, but authorities need to put some limits in what the airlines can do with that money.This month the number of people screened at U.S. airports is down 65%, compared with last October, but that’s better than the 68% decline in September, the 71% drop in August and the 96% plunge in mid-April.  

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Roads Blocked in Nigeria in Defiance of President’s Call for Calm

Major roads in Lagos, Nigeria were blocked Friday by groups of people armed with knives and sticks, many of whom were angered by the president’s speech that appealed for calm but failed to denounce the police killing of peaceful protesters demanding an end to police brutality.In his first public comments Thursday on the unrest gripping the West African country, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged youth involved in the protests to end demonstrations and begin a dialogue with the government.In this photo released by the Nigeria State House, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, addresses the nation on a live televised broadcast, Oct. 22, 2020.However, Buhari did not mention the police shooting of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll plaza earlier this week that resulted in the deaths of at least 12 protesters. Nigeria’s military has denied responsibility for that shooting.On Friday, the president’s office acknowledged that “many lives have been lost” in the unrest but still did not disclose the death toll. The office said Buhari made the comment in a meeting with former heads of state on how to address some of the country’s most intense violence in years.Also on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Nigerian authorities must “not abuse force when dealing with demonstrations” and that he received assurances from Buhari.“I heard from the president his strong commitment to do everything possible to avoid these kinds of incidents and I hope it will be the case in the future,” Guterres said.On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the police brutality in Lagos and called for an investigation.“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Amnesty International on Wednesday reported that a total of 38 people died in protest-related incidents on Tuesday. Amnesty International also said at least 56 people have been killed over the past two weeks in protests directed at the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, which the international rights group accused of torture and murders. The government disbanded SARS last week, but that has not tempered the outrage.Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaks during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.Congressional Black Caucus member Sheila Jackson Lee, along with caucus members Barbara Lee and Frederica Wilson, sent a letter to the Nigerian president demanding an end to the violence, the release of those who have been arrested and an investigation into the shootings at the toll plaza.Lee told VOA she and her colleagues also wrote to the U.N. Security Council “to ask for an investigation because this is a violation of human rights and the violation of human rights should not be tolerated by the United Nations.”Alister, a protester who says his brother Emeka died from a stray bullet from the Army, reacts while speaking to Associated Press near Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 20, 2020.U.S. Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa also condemned the police brutality and called for “an immediate end to the violent crackdown on peaceful protestors.”“That security forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protestors demonstrating against police brutality is especially alarming. We urge security forces to act with restraint and for Nigerian authorities to de-escalate the situation and hold perpetrators of violence to account,” Senators Chris Coons, Cory Booker, Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy said in a statement.Lagos authorities have not been able to fully enforce a curfew as anger continued to escalate. The Lagos government said Friday the curfew would be eased on Saturday, remaining in effect from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. local time.VOA’s Salem Solomon contributed to this report.
 

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White House Halloween Event Tweaked for Coronavirus

Ghosts, goblins and other costumed kids are welcome to trick or treat at the White House on Sunday during a Halloween event that has been rejiggered to include coronavirus precautions.
The gates to the South Lawn will be opened to children from military families, frontline workers and others, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Melania Trump announced Friday.
Extra precautions have been added to the spooky celebration.
President Donald Trump and the first lady — both recently recovered from COVID-19, the disease brought on by the coronavirus — will welcome guests at some point during the event.
Guests older than 2 are required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The same goes for all White House personnel working the event, while any staff handing out candy will also wear gloves.
Hand sanitizer will be available along the route and social distancing measures will be in place.
Participating federal departments will use a “no-touch” approach.
NASA will display space-related items, including an inflatable rocket. Costumed-clad kids can wave to the Agriculture Department’s Smokey Bear and pick up Junior Ranger badges from the Interior Department’s station.
The Education and Labor departments will offer photo opportunities, and the Transportation department will provide paper airplanes for children to take home.
The South Portico of the White House will be decorated with bright-colored leaves in various shades of autumn, chrysanthemums and pumpkins.

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NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins Casts Ballot From Space

With her work taking her away from home on Election Day, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins cast a unique early ballot Thursday, voting aboard the International Space Station (ISS), more than 200 miles above Earth. From her NASA Astronauts Twitter account, Rubins posted a picture of herself smiling broadly and pointed to a hand-written sign saying, “ISS Voting Booth.”   Rubins is among several NASA astronauts who are registered in Texas, home of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Texas law allows them to vote from space using a secure electronic ballot, which is relayed to their respective county clerks by mission control. Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space, is currently aboard the International Space Station for a six-month stay. She plans to work on cardiovascular experiment and conduct research using the space station’s Cold Atom Lab. She’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence on the space station and welcome members of the second SpaceX commercial crew mission, who are expected to arrive in late October. 
 

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China Reports Spike in US Surveillance Flights

A reported spike in U.S. military flights over the seas near China reflects Washington’s drive to understand and deter Chinese expansion in contested waters, analysts say.U.S. military surveillance planes flew off China’s coast 60 times in September, more than in July or August, according to Chinese state-backed research organization South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative’s website.When contacted by VOA, U.S. Army Maj. Randy Ready, a spokesperson for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, would say only that flight frequency near China has been consistent over time.Most sorties flew over the South China Sea, the organization’s website says. Beijing contests sovereignty over that resource-rich, 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea with five other Asian governments, and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in July that Washington would help other states resist Chinese expansion.U.S. air activity would back up Pompeo’s directive, said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York.Pompeo had called China’s actions at sea illegal, and any increase in flights this year “can be considered commensurate with the U.S. State Department’s July policy statement that specific PRC South China Sea claims are unlawful,” King said.American pilots probably feel an increased U.S. government concern about Chinese activity in the air and underwater, said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.Pilots can track any Chinese submarines and “familiarize” themselves with the sea, Huang said. A particular point of interest, he said, would be the Luzon Strait, between Taiwan and the Philippines’ Luzon Island, because U.S. allies aren’t as strong at that South China Sea entry point as they are in the East China Sea, he said.’Exploitation, corruption and coercion’China alarmed other countries as it expanded in the sea from about 2010 through 2017 by landfilling tiny islets for military, civilian and resource exploitation purposes. It has more firepower than the other maritime claimants, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.Pompeo accused China’s governing Communist Party earlier this month of “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in its treatment of other countries. Beijing points to historic usage records as support for its claim to about 90% of the South China Sea.Of the U.S. flights that the Chinese research organization says passed offshore in September, it reports that two-thirds went to the South China Sea. Some planes were disguised as Malaysian or Philippine aircraft, the organization’s October 12 report online says. The report says the U.S. planes were sent to “spy” on China.Ready did not comment on the number of September flights or their motive beyond saying that flight frequency had been consistent.China is paying attention to U.S. missions because it wants the United States to think it couldn’t win an air war with China, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. The United States has an advantage in combat and deployment experience, plus backup, if needed, from allies including Japan, South Korea and Australia, he said.Washington has to show its air power, Nagy said, because “I think China has tried to create the narrative that it can make any conflict with China extremely expensive for the United States.”American planes fly anywhere that it’s legal and continue their flights in Asia, Ready said.“While the scope of our operations varies based on the current operating environment, the U.S. has a persistent military presence and routinely operates throughout the Indo-Pacific, including the waters and airspace surrounding the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” he said.He called the air movement “a continued demonstration of our commitment to the region and our willingness to defend the freedoms enshrined in international law.”The command’s Twitter feed said in August that an MV-22B Tiltrotor aircraft was preparing to land on the USS New Orleans amphibious transport vessel. The mission promoted “interoperability with allies and partners” to “defend peace and stability” in a tract of ocean that includes the South China Sea.The U.S Navy’s P-8A Poseidon patrol planes, one type mentioned by the Chinese research organization, plays a “key role” in Asia, particularly on joint missions with other countries, the U.S. Naval Institute website said in 2018.Naval EP-3E Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System II surveillance planes, another kind of aircraft cited by the Chinese organization, are the same type as one that China forced to land in 2001 as it flew just 130 kilometers offshore.Officials in Washington may see the September flights as routine, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.“What China would consider unusual might not be felt the same from the U.S. side,” he said.Southeast Asian countries that dispute China’s maritime claims “welcome” any increase in U.S. air movement, Oh added.Beijing will take no “actual action” against the U.S. surveillance planes aside from making statements, King forecast.

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Trump, Biden Engage in Spirited Last Debate Before Election

U.S. Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, engaged in a spirited debate Thursday night just ahead of the Nov. 3 national presidential election, presenting the nation with sharply divergent views of where they would take the country over the next four years.For 90 minutes, they traded barbs. They attacked each other’s positions on controlling the coronavirus and curbing the continual advance of the country’s world-leading death toll of more than 222,000. They argued over health care, wages for low-income workers, crime, race relations in the U.S., climate change and leadership in the White House.In the end, Trump said he deserved a second term in the White House because “success is going to bring us together. We had the best economy” before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in early 2020 and that he would restore the world’s biggest economy.But he claimed that if Biden wins, “You’ll have a depression like no one’s seen.”Biden, a fixture on the American political scene for nearly a half century as a senator and second in command to former President Barack Obama, repeatedly assailed Trump’s presidency as misguided, uncaring and chaotic — while vowing to reunite the country.“We’re going to have science over fiction, and hope over fear,” Biden said, “This election is about decency, honor, respect and treating people with dignity. You haven’t gotten that for the last four years.”While both candidates scored important points in their final meeting, neither appeared to have gotten the upper hand or delivered a telling blow that might immediately alter the course of the campaign.More civil, less rancorousEven with pointed attacks on each other, their second and last debate 12 days before the election was more civil and less rancorous than the first time they faced each other on a debate stage in late September. The debate moderator, NBC News’ White House correspondent Kristen Welker, kept the discussion under control.The two candidates, both in their 70s, interrupted each other Thursday night but not as much as three weeks ago, partly because the independent Commission on Presidential Debates alternately turned off their microphones for two minutes apiece as they began discussions of each of six new issues to allow each to answer without being interrupted by the other.The commission imposed the microphone regimen on the premise that American voters – at least the relatively few who claim they are still undecided on how they will vote – might get a clearer view of where each candidate might take the country when one of them is inaugurated Jan. 20 if each could deliver a statement uninterrupted.Millions of Americans have made up their minds about the election, with more than 47 million people having cast early ballots by mail or in person. Many have said that during the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. they wanted to avoid coming face to face with other voters in the expected long lines at polling stations on Election Day.Biden laid into Trump’s handling of the coronavirus in his opening remarks, saying, “He says we’re rounding the corner” in dealing with the pandemic. “Anyone responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president. This is the same fella who told you it would be gone by Easter.”Trump accused Biden of wanting to shut down the country to end the spread of the virus if he becomes president.“He’ll close down the country if one person in our massive bureaucracy says shut it down,” Trump said.“We have to open our country,” Trump said. “We can’t close up our nation or we won’t have a nation. … People are learning to live with it (COVID).”“Live with it? No, people are learning to die with it,” Biden shot back.Health care, minimum wage and moreOn health care, Trump accused Biden of fostering a plan for “socialized medicine” in the country, but Biden said he wants to improve the Affordable Care Act adopted under Obama in 2010 while Trump has offered no replacement plan despite repeated promises to do so while seeking a legal ruling by the Supreme Court to end the health care program for millions of Americans amid the pandemic.Biden said a national minimum wage of $15 hour an hour for workers was necessary to help low-income wage earners. But Trump said it should only be an option on a state-by-state basis because otherwise small businesses in some communities would be bankrupted by having to pay the higher wages beyond the current base wage of $7.25 an hour.Biden claimed U.S. race relations have deteriorated under Trump. The president retorted, as he often has, that no U.S. leader, possibly other than Abraham Lincoln who freed slaves in the 19th century, has done more for black people than he has.Trump attacked Biden for passage of a 1994 anti-crime bill that incarcerated far too many minorities for drug offenses. Biden acknowledged that the law was a mistake that over time he has worked to repair.He said that drug users ought to be enrolled in health care treatment programs, not jailed.“Nobody should be going to jail because they have a drug problem,” Biden said.At another point, Trump claimed that Biden and his family had received millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments including China, Russia, and Ukraine, without offering proof.“They’re like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up millions,” Trump claimed.Biden responded, “The only guy making money (from foreign sources) is him,” gesturing at the president.As Trump repeatedly attempted to reroute the debate focus back to the business deals of Biden’s son Hunter, the former vice president looked directly into the camera at the millions of voters watching the debate and said the election “is not about his family or my family. It’s about your family. We should be talking about your concerns.”Thursday’s debate may have been the last, best chance for Trump, a real estate entrepreneur and reality television show host-turned-politician, to cut into Biden’s persistent lead in national and statewide polls. Biden holds an 8-to-10-percentage-point lead over Trump in national polls, but a lead of about half that in battleground states that will likely decide the overall outcome.

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Trump Supreme Court Nominee Advances to Confirmation Vote Next Week

U.S. Senate Judiciary Republicans on Thursday approved President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, despite protests by Democrats the vote is too close to Election Day. VOA congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson looks ahead to the Senate confirmation vote next week.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum    Producers: Katherine Gypson, Emma Morris, Victoria Sneeden, Michael Rummel

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