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US shutdown stokes air safety fears

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WASHINGTON: The partial shutdown of the US government could have serious consequences for air safety, according to unions representing aviation workers, which are calling for an immediate resolution to the budgetary stalemate.

Some 800,000 federal employees, including those from the Department of Transport and the Department of Homeland Security which handles air safety and oversees screening at airport checkpoints, have been affected since December 22 when the impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand for a southern border wall opposed by Democrats in Congress began.

Those deemed non-essential have been placed on unpaid leave, while others have been forced to continue working without pay.

“This is a matter of safety, security, and economic concern,” said the Association of Flight Attendants, which held a protest in the capital Washington on Thursday along with other aviation sector unions, to demand the resumption of normal services.

“Our members and the traveling public are flying within a system that is less safe and secure as long as the shutdown continues,” added the letter to Congress from the union, which represents some 50,000 professionals.

“We know all too well the economic hardship that can result from any loophole in our security and any means for inflicting harm by those who view the United States and its citizens as the enemy,” it added in a reference to the September 11 2001 attacks.

The association noted the airline industry contributes over 5 percent of the national GDP and supports 11 million jobs, warning: “As the shutdown continues the entire industry will begin to unravel.

“Airlines cannot receive delivery of aircraft causing route cancellations, attrition of air traffic controllers reduces flow of aircraft in the air, and as transportation security officers reduce in numbers we will experience long, slowed security lines.”

 

 

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Trumps delays speech until government shutdown ends

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump backed down late Wednesday in a spat with Democrats over his State of the Union address, agreeing to delay it until a government shutdown ends, although the more than month-long impasse dragged on.

The US Senate prepared meanwhile Thursday to hold two showdown votes on measures to reopen the shuttered federal agencies, but Trump’s toxic sparring with House speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially assured no solution was at hand.

An intensifying war of words between the president and Pelosi came to a head Wednesday with the top Democrat effectively blocking Trump from delivering his annual address in Congress until the partial government shutdown, now in its 34th day, is brought to an end.

But in a tweet sent after 11:00 pm, Trump wrote, “As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed.”

“She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”

As acrimony in Washington grew, lawmakers across the political spectrum were left searching in vain for an exit strategy for the longest-ever halt to federal operations, as furloughed government employees and contractors vented their fury on Capitol Hill.

The prospects for Trump getting to deliver his national address in Congress next Tuesday as planned were dim, with the Senate votes — one on Trump’s proposal that includes money for his border wall and changes to immigration policy, the other by Democrats seeking to reopen government before negotiating border security — bound to fail.

Traditionally the president’s annual speech is delivered before a joint session of Congress in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives.

 

 

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Volvo recalls 219,000 cars to check for fuel leaks

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STOCKHOLM: Volvo Cars, owned by the Chinese group Geely, has recalled 219,000 diesel-engine cars to fix potential fuel leaks in the engine compartment, a spokesman said Wednesday.

“Volvo preventatively recalls the cars to avert any possible future problems,” the spokesman told media.

“There are no reports alleging injuries or damages related to this issue.”

The action concerns 11 models, including the upscale XC60 and XC90, that were sold in 2015 and 2016, he added.

Around 37,000 vehicles are to be recalled in Sweden, 31,000 in Great Britain and 26,000 in Germany, the group’s three biggest European markets.

“Some vehicles may have small cracks inside one of the fuel lines in the engine department.

This, in combination with a pressurised fuel system may over time lead to fuel leakage in the engine compartment,” the spokesman explained.

The Swedish car company, which has now begun to focus on autonomous vehicles and those powered by electric or hybrid motors, is to release 2018 results on February 7.

 

 

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Kenya to use smartphones to conduct 2019 census

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NAIROBI: Kenya plans to use smartphones to conduct the 2019 national population and housing census, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Henry Rotich, cabinet secretary in the National Treasury, told journalists in Nairobi that the government plans to acquire approximately 165,000 mobile devices for use by the census enumerators for the exercise that will take place in August.

“We are going to use mobile technology which will enhance quality of the data as it has in built checks and can correct inconsistent responses as well as cross validate data with other records,” Rotich said.

He said that Kenya seeks to follow in the steps of other African countries such as Egypt, Senegal and Ethiopia which have conducted paperless census.

He noted that the last census which was conducted on 2009 indicated that the east African country had a population of slightly less than 39 million people.

He said that the census will provide statistical information on the size, distribution and the characteristics of the Kenya population that will be used to describe and assess the socio-economic and demographic status of the country.

 

 

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