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Air travel fears mount as US government shutdown drags on

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U.S. airport security workers and air traffic controllers working without pay warned that security and safety could be compromised if a government shutdown continues beyond Friday, when some workers will miss their first paychecks.

On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by a dispute over funding President Donald Trump wants for a border wall, the president stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders, complaining the meeting was “a total waste of time.”

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As the effects of the shutdown began to ripple out, the Trump administration insisted that air travel staffing was adequate and travelers had not faced unusual delays.

But union officials said some Transport Security Administration (TSA) officers, who carry out security screening in airports, had already quit because of the shutdown and others were considering quitting.

“The loss of (TSA) officers, while we’re already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires,” American Federation of Government Employees TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas said. “If this keeps up there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”

Aviation unions, airport and airline officials and lawmakers will hold a rally on Thursday outside Congress urging an end to the shutdown.

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TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the organization was hiring officers and working on contingency plans in case the shutdown lasted beyond Friday, when officers would miss their first paycheck since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.

“There has been no degradation in security effectiveness and average wait times are well within TSA standards,” he said.

He added that there had been no spike in employees quitting and that on Tuesday 5 percent of officers took unscheduled leave, up just slightly from 3.9 percent the same day last year. It screened 1.73 million passengers and 99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes, the TSA said.

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But U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, questioned how long adequate staffing at airports could continue.

“TSA officers are among the lowest paid federal employees, with many living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Thompson wrote. “It is only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts, since no employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay.”

Airports Council International-North America, which represents U.S. airports, urged Trump and congressional leaders in a letter to quickly reopen the government.

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“TSA staffing shortages brought on by this shutdown are likely to further increase checkpoint wait times and may even lead to the complete closure of some checkpoints,” the group said.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) noted that the number of controllers was already at a 30-year low, with 18 percent of controllers eligible to retire.

If a significant number of controllers missed work, the Federal Aviation Administration could be forced to extend the amount of time between takeoffs and landings, which could delay travel, it said.

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NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said controllers often must work overtime and six-day weeks at short-staffed locations. “If the staffing shortage gets worse, we will see reduced capacity in the National Airspace System, meaning more flight delays,” Rinaldi said.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Diane Craft and Rosalba O’Brien


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MSNBC conservative goes down in flames trying to separate Trump’s incompetence from his corruption

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MSNBC conservative Noah Rothman met furious pushback when he dismissed poll numbers as insignificant showing a growing majority of Americans support the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The "Morning Joe" contributor argued that those numbers reflected the president's approval rating and would not exert any pressure on congressional Republicans, but instead place greater pressure on Democrats to make their case for impeachment.

"It's incumbent on Democrats to make this case," Rothman said. "Right now they are presenting a united front because it's still primary season. Once we get into the general (election campaign) there will be more pressure on them to explain their position, but it's incumbent on Democrats to make the case."

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The Trump murder video is no joke: It’s an encouragement to ramp up the violence

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Donald Trump is not a “friendly fascist.” Unlike Ronald Reagan, the prototype for that concept, Trump does not pretend to be harmless. He does not offer up fake smiles and a cheerful nature, or display empathy and human concern for others, feigned or otherwise.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Donald Trump is direct, obvious and public in his threats against democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law. Trump and his movement are working to destroy America’s multiracial democracy through appeals to a mythic past that will “Make America Great Again.” In practice this means undoing all the social progress and democratic reforms of the last century or more and returning to a society where white people — rich white male Christians, in particular — are fully in control over all aspects of American society for all time.

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Fox & Friends hosts deflated after legal analyst shoots down latest GOP impeachment talking point

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The hosts of "Fox & Friends" on Thursday appeared disappointed when legal analyst Andrew Napolitano gave them unfortunate news about the White House's latest objections to House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Specifically, Napolitano addressed the letter sent to Congress by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, which claimed that the executive branch did not have to comply with any subpoenas of documents until the House formally voted to open an impeachment inquiry.

"The Republicans changed the rules when John Boehner was the Speaker of the House allowing each individual committee to issue subpoenas without a House-wide vote," he explained. "So those subpoenas are valid, and those people who resist them, ignore them, who put them in a drawer, do so at your peril."

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