Wednesday June 19, 2019
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U.S. Shutdown Can Lead to More Flight Delays

Airports Council International-North America, which represents U.S. airports, urged Trump and congressional leaders in a letter to quickly reopen the government.

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Air passengers heading to their departure gates enter TSA precheck before going through security screening at Orlando International Airport, June 21, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (VOA)

U.S. airport security workers and air traffic controllers working without pay warned that security and safety could be compromised if a government shutdown continues beyond Friday, when some workers will miss their first paychecks.

On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by a dispute over funding President Donald Trump wants for a border wall, the president stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders, complaining the meeting was “a total waste of time.”

As the effects of the shutdown began to ripple out, the Trump administration insisted that air travel staffing was adequate and travelers had not faced unusual delays.

TSA workers quitting

But union officials said some Transport Security Administration (TSA) officers, who carry out security screening in airports, had quit because of the shutdown and others were considering quitting.

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The Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum is seen shuttered during the partial government shutdown, Jan. 4, 2019, in Washington. VOA

“The loss of (TSA) officers, while we’re already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires,” American Federation of Government Employees TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas said.

“If this keeps up there are problems that will arise — least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”

Aviation unions, airport and airline officials and lawmakers will hold a rally Thursday outside Congress urging an end to the shutdown.

TSA says delays within reason

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the organization was hiring officers and working on contingency plans in case the shutdown lasted beyond Friday, when officers would miss their first paycheck since the shutdown began Dec. 22.

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Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday morning, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

 

“There has been no degradation in security effectiveness and average wait times are well within TSA standards,” he said.

He added that there had been no spike in employees quitting and that Tuesday 5 percent of officers took unscheduled leave, up just slightly from 3.9 percent the same day last year.

It screened 1.73 million passengers and 99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes, the TSA said.

But U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, questioned how long adequate staffing at airports could continue.

“TSA officers are among the lowest paid federal employees, with many living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Thompson wrote. “It is only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts, since no employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay.”

Bill and Theresa Striffler talk to a reporter at their home in Brick, N.J., Jan. 9, 2019. Bill Striffler, an air traffic controller and the president of the Newark Airport National Air Traffic Controllers Association, is facing his first pay day without a pay check. (VOA)

Airports urge end to shutdown

Airports Council International-North America, which represents U.S. airports, urged Trump and congressional leaders in a letter to quickly reopen the government.

“TSA staffing shortages brought on by this shutdown are likely to further increase checkpoint wait times and may even lead to the complete closure of some checkpoints,” the group said.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) noted that the number of controllers was already at a 30-year low, with 18 percent of controllers eligible to retire.

If a significant number of controllers missed work, the Federal Aviation Administration could be forced to extend the amount of time between takeoffs and landings, which could delay travel, it said.

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NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said controllers often must work overtime and six-day weeks at short-staffed locations.

“If the staffing shortage gets worse, we will see reduced capacity in the National Airspace System, meaning more flight delays,” Rinaldi said. (VOA)

Next Story

Donald Trump Trolled on Twitter after He Says Moon is a Part Of Mars

As soon as Trump tweeted, people from around the world started trolling him with witty one-liners, jokes and memes

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Trump's remarks came a day after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told USA Today that US astronauts would not be able to make a lunar landing . VOA

US President Donald Trump has left people astonished with his knowledge of space and the universe and has become a laughing stock yet again after he claimed that the moon is a part of Mars.

In a tweet on Friday, he said: “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defence and Science.”

Trump’s remarks came a day after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told USA Today that US astronauts would not be able to make a lunar landing by 2024 unless Trump administration’s $1.6 billion budget increase request is not approved by the US Congress.

As soon as Trump tweeted, people from around the world started trolling him with witty one-liners, jokes and memes.

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US President Donald Trump has left people astonished with his knowledge of space . VOA

“Sigh! His dad must have paid his way through astronomy class too!” wrote American long-distance runner Ryan Hill.

“Trump’s knowledge on this matter is one small step for man, one giant leap backwards for mankind,” said Emmy-nominated filmmaker Jeremy Newberger.

“Based on the President’s track record here on Earth, I don’t think NASA needs his input on how to handle space,” tweeted Sam Vinograd, national security analyst at CNN.

Earlier in May, Trump, who is infamous for making controversial statements, war threats and spelling errors on his Twitter handle, confessed that he uses Twitter as a “typewriter”.

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Later, Twitter Co-founder, Ev Williams called Trump “master” of the platform, arguing the potential negative effects of the President’s tweets on the country’s political discourse are “trivial compared to the effect of the broader media”.

Mars has two moons – Phobos and Deimos – however, the Moon which orbits the Earth is not a part of the Red Planet. (IANS)