US government shutdown compromises Miami airport operations

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In this file photo taken on June 2, 2016, travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport. (AFP)
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This image shows the passenger area of the Miami International airport Terminal G on January 11, 2018 one day before it closes. (AFP)
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This image shows the passenger area of the Miami International airport Terminal G on January 11, 2018 one day before it closes. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

US government shutdown compromises Miami airport operations

  • There is no sign of a compromise to end the shutdown so far: Trump is insisting on funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, but opposition Democrats are not budging

MIAMI: The international airport in Miami has been forced to shut down one of its terminals early for three days due to a shortage of security agents sparked by the partial US government shutdown now in its 21st day.
From Saturday through Monday, Terminal G — one of six at the airport — will close at 1:00 p.m. (1800 GMT).
“Flights that were previously scheduled to depart from Concourse G this Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be relocated either to Concourse F or Concourse H,” airport spokesman Greg Chin told AFP.
At issue is a lack of agents from the US Transportation Security Administration, who are seen as “essential” federal workers and hence are still on the job — but without pay until the shutdown ends.
Agents are reportedly staging “sickouts” — calling in sick in a silent protest at their situation. According to The Miami Herald, absenteeism among the Miami airport agents has more than doubled since the shutdown began.
“Right now, there’s approximately some 40 employees that are calling in sick from TSA,” meaning that “this terminal doesn’t have the manpower to accommodate all the passengers,” airport spokesman Jack Varela told AFP.
“The airport, the airlines, TSA, customs we are all doing everything possible to make the passengers happy,” Varela said.
Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson, the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the TSA chief in a letter this week that it was “only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts.”
“No employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay,” Thompson said.
With the shutdown soon to drag into its fourth week, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the administration of US President Donald Trump, alleging that members have been “unlawfully” deprived of their wages.
There is no sign of a compromise to end the shutdown so far: Trump is insisting on funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, but opposition Democrats are not budging.


Jailed Wikileaks founder Assange no longer in solitary, health improving

Updated 19 February 2020

Jailed Wikileaks founder Assange no longer in solitary, health improving

  • Assange was moved from solitary confinement in the medical wing to a different part of the prison with 40 other inmates
  • WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson: He has improved thanks to the pressure from his legal team, the general public, and amazingly, actually from other inmates

LONDON: Jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no longer being kept in solitary confinement and his health is improving, his spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters on Tuesday.
Assange, 48, is in Belmarsh high-security prison in London, fighting an extradition request from the United States where he faces 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.
His supporters had expressed concern about the state of his health after he appeared confused during a court hearing in October, struggling to recall his age and name and saying he was unable to think properly.
Assange was moved from solitary confinement in the medical wing to a different part of the prison with 40 other inmates after his legal team and prisoners complained that his treatment was unfair, Hrafnsson said.
“I saw him about 10 days ago — he has improved thanks to the pressure from his legal team, the general public, and amazingly, actually from other inmates in Belmarsh Prison to get him out of isolation,” Hrafnsson said ahead of an extradition hearing that starts next week.
Australian-born Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.
WikiLeaks later angered the United States by publishing caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.
Assange has consistently presented himself as a champion of free speech being persecuted for exposing abuses of power. But his critics paint him as a dangerous figure complicit in Russian efforts to undermine the West.
He fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning about allegations of sex crimes which have since been dropped. He spent seven years holed up in the embassy until Ecuador decided to stop giving him refuge and he was dragged out last May.
Earlier, a group of doctors representing 117 physicians and psychologists from 18 nations called in a letter for an end to what they described as “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.”
His father, John Shipton, said Assange’s long confinement indoors had damaged his health and feared that sending his son to the US would be akin to a “death sentence.”
“His situation is dire, he has had nine years of ceaseless psychological torture where false accusations are constantly being made,” he told reporters.