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Trump lays out plan to privatize air traffic control system

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U.S. President Donald Trump (C) signs the air traffic control initiative at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump outlined a plan on Monday to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system to modernize outdated systems and lower the cost of flying, but the proposal faced immediate criticism from Democrats.

Trump’s White House East Room announcement on air traffic control is part of a week-long push to publicize his plans to overhaul the country’s aging infrastructure as the White House confronts a growing probe into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia.

Trump described his plan as representing an “air travel revolution”, urging the U.S. Congress to separate it from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency and far fewer delays. Our plan will get you where you need to go quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time,” he said.

REFILE CORRECTING BYLINE U.S. President Donald Trump announces his initiative on air traffic control in the United States from the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Executives from United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines [HAII.UL], American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which are all represented by Airlines for America, attended the Trump speech. The group praised the Trump plan.

The proposal to privatize the air traffic control system will encounter major hurdles in Congress where Democrats and some Republicans oppose it. Trump has frequently said that ongoing modernization efforts were already obsolete.

In a summary document released by the White House, the Trump administration proposes a three-year transition period to shift oversight of air traffic control.

The proposal says a board made up of airline, union and airport officials would oversee the non-profit entity. The new entity should honor existing labor agreements but controllers would no longer be federal employees.

The Federal Aviation Administration spends nearly $10 billion a year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel.

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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Trump was recycling “a tired Republican plan that both sides of the aisle have rejected” and would “hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines.”

“Today we are taking the first important step to clearing the runway for more jobs, lower prices and much, much, much better transportation,” Trump said.

On Wednesday, Trump will travel to Cincinnati to talk about improvements to the 12,000 miles (19,300 km) of inland waterways, dams, locks and ports critical for shipping farm products, and will deliver a speech about his vision for infrastructure.

The infrastructure push comes as the White House seeks to refocus attention on core promises to boost jobs and the economy made by Trump last year during his campaign for office.

Those pledges have been eclipsed by the political furor over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. That drama will come to a head on Thursday when former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia probe until Trump fired him, testifies before a U.S. Senate panel.

Trump has denied any collusion between Russia and his campaign. He has struggled to keep the spotlight on plans that could give him a political boost.

The infrastructure events this week were in the works before Comey’s hearing was scheduled. They will give Trump the opportunity to provide some counterprogramming to the drumbeat of Russia news.

Privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic control into a non-government entity would allow for a more efficient system and rapid, cost-effective improvements of technology, in part by avoiding the government procurement process.

Opponents, including Delta Air Lines, say the U.S. system is so large that privatization would not save money, and would drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk. There also are concerns that airlines would dominate the private-company board and limit access to airports by business jets. Most airlines back the plan.

The administration’s formal budget proposal unveiled in May that included plans to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system would boost the budget deficit by about $45 billion over 10 years.

 

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Iran warns OPEC against raising oil output

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Tehran, July 17 Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Monday that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would suffer if its members do not adhere to their commitment regarding the oil output.

The decision made at the 174th OPEC Conference did not grant the member states the right to exceed their production level above the allocated quota, or the right to redistribute the production cut quota among the members, said Zanganeh in a letter to OPEC President Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Xinhua reported.

However, according to the OPEC’s latest monthly report, some member countries’ production level in June 2018 was far above the agreed production level allocated to them, Zanganeh said.

This is a violation of their commitment, he said, adding that “we are concerned that this violation may continue in the remaining months and in contradiction with the agreement adopted at the OPEC conference.”

The US State Department announced in June that the United States had been pushing its allies to stop oil imports from Iran by November 4.

US President Donald Trump asked Saudi Arabia to increase its oil exports to compensate for the shortage in the market demand in case Iran’s crude exports drop.

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Lava bomb hits Hawaii tour boat, 23 injured

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Lava Bomb Kilauea volcano
Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanos and one of five on the island.

Honolulu, July 17: At least 23 people were injured when a lava bomb hit a tour boat in Hawaii, according to fire officials.

The lava bomb or a flying chunk of molten rock, punctured the boat’s roof on Monday after which it returned to Wailoa Harbour, CNN quoted the Hawaii County Fire Department as saying.

Of the injured, one woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a fractured femur.

It was unclear exactly where or when the incident occurred. But from where lava from the Kilauea volcano is hitting the ocean to the harbour is about an hour’s boat ride, depending on waves.

Kilauea erupted in early May, sending a smouldering flow of lava into residential areas on the Big Island.

Kilauea was still erupting lava as of Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Meanwhile, the lava has also created a tiny new island off the coast of Hawaii.

The island is part of the lava flow that extends underwater away from the coastline, according to the USGS.

If the lava flow stays active, the island will probably connect to the coastline. If not, it might erode away because of wave action.

The agency said the island is just a few metres offshore, and about 20 to 30 feet in diameter.

IANS

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US challenges five WTO members for imposing retaliatory trade tariffs

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Washington, July 17: The US on Monday launched a dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging five WTO member countries for applying trade tariffs in retaliation for US President Trump’s recent actions on the aluminum and steel trade.

According to a US Department of Commerce statement, the US has launched separate disputes at the WTO against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey, challenging the alleged “illegal” tariffs each of these WTO members imposed in response to President Trump’s actions on trade in aluminum and steel in order to protect US “national security” interests, Efe reported.

“The actions taken by the President are wholly legitimate and fully justified as a matter of US law and international trade rules,” said the statement quoting US secretary of Commerce, Robert Lighthizer.

In recent months, Donald Trump has increased tensions among traditional US partners and allied trading blocs such as the EU, Canada, and Mexico, with a focus on trade issues.

Last June, the US administration decided to terminate its steel and aluminum tariff waivers on imports from the EU, Canada, and Mexico. Said action was responded with similar retaliatory moves by these WTO members.

Washington’s move on Monday coincided with another formal challenge issued hours before by Beijing against the US, after President Trump decided to impose, earlier this year, $ 200 Billion in additional tariffs on a list of Chinese products.

These new US trade tariffs will be more comprehensive than those already in effect, to the tune of $ 34 Billion, that drove China to issue on July 6 a WTO complaint.

“The US will take all necessary actions to protect our interests, and we urge our trading partners to work constructively with us on the problems created by massive and persistent excess capacity in the steel and aluminum sectors,” US Secretary of Commerce Lighthizer concluded.

IANS

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