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US House Approves Aid Money For Helping Carolinas

At least 47 deaths have been attributed to the storm. The lawmakers described the damage in a letter to Ryan and Pelosi.

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A sign stands near the Carter's Crossroads community in Georgetown County, a road adjacent to Boser Swamp is flooded over, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Georgetown County, S.C. This is one of many lowlying areas in this and other nearby farming communities where roads are blocked off days after the rains of Florence have stopped. VOA

The lawmakers in the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would provide $1.7 billion to help residents of the Carolinas and elsewhere recover from recent natural disasters.

The aid was added to legislation to keep Federal Aviation Administration programs running beyond month’s end. The bill passed 398-23.

Lawmakers describe the disaster aid as a down payment. They say billions more will be needed in the months ahead to help communities devastated by Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

Help for flying public

Lawmakers are working to extend the FAA’s programs for five years while tackling other priorities such as disaster relief. Lawmakers sought to address several concerns of the flying public in the bill. For example, it requires the FAA to set minimum requirements for seat width and legroom on airplanes to ensure that passengers could evacuate a plane quickly in an emergency. Lawmakers were also responding to complaints about cramped seating with the directive.

“Safety should not take a back seat, especially a shrunken seat, to airline profits,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who sponsored the seat legislation.

Involuntary bumping of passengers

Another provision would prohibit the involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded a plane, a response to the public outrage over a passenger who was dragged off a United Express flight last year when he refused to leave.

Lawmakers declined to include in the final bill a provision from Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to ensure that fees airlines increasingly charge passengers are “reasonable and proportional to the costs of the services provided.”

Airlines raised about $7.4 billion in fees last year, mostly through baggage fees and fees for changing their flight.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers
Floodwaters were rising near businesses in LaGrange, N.C., as Tropical Storm Florence pounded the area. VOA

Markey said the consolidation among major airlines has reduced competition, and that has allowed the airlines to increasingly rely on fees to boost their profits without fear of losing customers.

“We know that when choice goes down, fees go up. And these sky-high fees bear almost no resemblance to the cost of the services being provided,” Markey said.

Help for FBI, Homeland Security

Lawmakers also added to the legislation a bill giving the FBI and Homeland Security officials the authority to track and down drones deemed a “credible threat” to people or federal facilities. That’s something Attorney General Jeff Sessions had sought. Sessions said drones promise to strengthen the U.S. economically but “can also be used to wreak havoc by criminals, terrorists and other bad actors.”

Privacy advocates criticized the provision. Neema Singh Guliani, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said it gives the government new power to spy on Americans without a warrant and to interfere with press freedom by restricting coverage using drones. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and a press-photographers group also oppose the measure.

The Senate must also pass the bill before it can be signed into law by the president. Lawmakers are racing to address a range of issues before the end of the fiscal year. If the Senate doesn’t pass the bill before then, it will need to pass a short-term measure that would keep FAA programs going.

The bill also makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency programs by putting more money into such things as rebuilding levees and building seawalls before hurricanes hit so that the damage won’t be as severe.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers
Members of a combined New Bern/Greenville swift water rescue team Brad Johnson, left, and Steve Williams rest after searching for people stranded by floodwaters caused by the tropical storm Florence in New Bern, N.C. VOA

‘Will save lives, save money’

“This will save lives, save money, and bend the cost curve of disasters,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Lawmakers from South Carolina and North Carolina had urged Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to provide some quick relief for the states as officials assess the full scope of the damage that has occurred.

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At least 47 deaths have been attributed to the storm. The lawmakers described the damage in a letter to Ryan and Pelosi. They said entire communities have been isolated because of flooding that was worse than any previous natural disaster in those states. (VOA)

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Starting With The 2024 Hurricane Season, U.S. Meteorologists Replaces Hurricane Names Florence, Michael

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization maintains six lists with 21 names each that are organized alphabetically and alternate between male and female names.

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Hurricane
A hog farm is inundated with floodwaters from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018. VOA

Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused widespread death and destruction in the United States last year, have earned the dubious distinction of having their names retired.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the two names will be replaced with Francine and Milton, starting with the 2024 hurricane season.

Damage caused by Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 16, 2018.
Damage caused by Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 16, 2018. VOA

The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization maintains six lists with 21 names each that are organized alphabetically and alternate between male and female names.

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Names are retired when meteorologists determine that a hurricane has been so destructive that reusing its name would be insensitive. Pixabay

Each list is used once every six years. The current group goes from 2018 to 2023, with the cycle restarting in 2024.

Also Read:  Cardiovascular Events Cause 58% Deaths Among Diabetics

Names are retired when meteorologists determine that a hurricane has been so destructive that reusing its name would be insensitive.

The first hurricane name to be retired was Carol, in 1954. So far, 88 names have been dropped from the list. (VOA)