Wednesday January 29, 2020
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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)

Next Story

Pentagon Blocks Commerce Department-Backed Ban on Sales By Tech Giant Huawei

Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely

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Huawei
The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the "entity list" in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant. Wikimedia Commons

In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker, the media has reported.

The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the “entity list” in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The Commerce Department’s efforts to tighten the noose on Huawei Technologies Co. is facing a formidable obstacle: the Pentagon. Commerce officials have withdrawn proposed regulations that would make it harder for US companies to sell to Huawei from their overseas facilities following objections from the Defense Department as well as the Treasury Department, people familiar with the matter said, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The Commerce Department has subsequently issued temporary licenses to delay that designation, but companies have already begun finding ways to continue selling equipment to Huawei without falling afoul of Commerce penalties.

Meanwhile, Huawei’s latest smartphone Mate 30 Pro, unveiled in September, doesn’t contain American components. The flagship smartphone competes with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 11, which was also unveiled in September.

Huawei
In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker. Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of the US ban, Huawei is sourcing audio amplifiers from the Netherlands’ NXP rather than Texas-based Cirrus Logic, and relying entirely on its own HiSilicon semiconductor division for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips rather than Broadcom. It’s using other firms, like Japan’s Murata and Taiwan’s MediaTek, for other parts previously supplied by US manufacturers, The Verge had reported in December.

However, Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely.

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The company said it had been stockpiling components in anticipation of sanctions and separate teardowns revealed that some new devices were still reliant on American parts, the report added. (IANS)