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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.

Also Read: Video- USA Gears Up For Its Midterm Elections

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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World Leaders Prepare for G7 Summit Even As Fears Over Global Economy Increases

The economic fears are rooted in the trade war between the United States and China

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G7 Summit
Security concerns will also be high on the agenda. North Korea has resumed its ballistic missile tests. Pixabay

The G-7 host, Emmanuel Macron,  has made fighting inequality the theme for the annual meeting of the seven industrialized nations, which opens Saturday in the French seaside resort of Biarritz with the leaders of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada in attendance.

The French president has invited leaders from several other countries, including six African nations, to take part in the annual discussion of major global challenges. But analysts say any grand ambitions for the summit will likely be stymied by pressing economic concerns.

Most worrisome are recent indicators from both sides of the Atlantic of slowing economic growth and a possible global recession.

Earlier this month, government bond yields in both the United States and Germany were briefly higher for two-year than 10-year bonds, a sign that investors see significant risks ahead, says economist Jasper Lawler of the London Capital Group.

“Particularly in the U.S., it’s actually been a very reliable signal to point towards a recession.”

Adding the investors’ fears, the usual fiscal tools to tackle a recession might not be available.

“We don’t have that usual fallback from central banks of cutting interest rates because they already have, and they are already at rock bottom levels,” says Lawler.

G7 Summit
Summit host France is determined to not let economics overshadow its own agenda. Pixabay

The economic fears are rooted in the trade war between the United States and China, which has resulted in both countries imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of imports. Europe is suffering additional headwinds, says economist Lawler.

“The trade war, but also just the auto sector, the transition from using diesel cars to electronic vehicles. It’s a period of uncertainty that’s unduly affecting Europe.”

Summit host France is determined to not let economics overshadow its own agenda — and top of the list is climate change, says John Kirton of the G-7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

“It’s driven by the scary science which is unfolding every day, but more importantly by the historic heat waves that have afflicted Europe, including France.”

U.S. President Donald Trump left last year’s G-7 summit in Canada early, before the leaders had discussed climate change, and later disavowed the final communiqué. This year France is determined to keep the United States on board, says Kirton.

“President Macron I think has structured his agenda to allow Donald Trump to be at his best. Gender equality — the president has been very good at that, it’s at the top of the French list. Education — yes, and also health. It’s the president of the United States that’s been pushing the G-7 to try to get it to deal with the opioid crisis.”

G7 Summit
U.S. President Donald Trump left last year’s G-7 summit in Canada early, before the leaders had discussed climate change, and later disavowed the final communiqué. Pixabay

Security concerns will also be high on the agenda. North Korea has resumed its ballistic missile tests.

Meanwhile the standoff between Iran and the West has escalated over the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, which followed the detention of an Iranian vessel in Gibraltar.

Burgeoning anti-government protests in Russia and Hong Kong also pose questions for the G-7, says Kirton.

Also Read: Purchase Rights for Huawei Extended By US

“Have we seen the tide [change], where authoritarian leaders in various degrees are no longer in control? It may not be the way of the future. In fact, if that’s the case, then how can the G-7 activate its distinctive foundational issue: to promote democracy?” Kirton asked.

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Trump at the G-7 for the first time in his new role. Both leaders are hoping for a rapid trade deal amid signs of a steep economic downturn in Britain as it edges closer to crashing out of the European Union with no deal at the end of October. (VOA)