FROM Scott McCartney
Holiday Air Travel: Exposed Junk and Hidden Fees Transportation Security Administration officials were gritting their teeth over the prospect of " National Opt-Out Day " on the busiest travel day of the year. Passengers are reporting large numbers of TSA workers at airports around the country, helping lines to keep moving. Will complaining about scanners and pat-downs do any good? Scott McCartney is travel editor at the Wall Street Journal where he writes a weekly column called "The Middle Seat ."
Turbulent Times for America's Airlines Since deregulation, America's airlines have expanded by a factor of ten and there has not been a major crash since 2001. But the recent grounding of thousands of flights, which stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers, and evidence that the Federal Aviation Administration is too cozy with the companies it regulates have raised concerns about safety. Whistle-blowing FAA inspectors told Congress that Southwest Airlines had been allowed to skip inspections for fuselage cracks for as long as nine months. Southwest was fined $10 million, and the FAA began an "industry-wide audit." Meantime, smaller airlines have gone under or filed for bankruptcy, and big ones are talking about mergers. Is the agency trying to reassert itself and reassure the flying public that all is well? Were passengers really at risk? With airlines folding, going bankrupt and looking at mergers, are the industry and its passengers in for a troubled future?
Air Travel in the United States: Is Anybody in Charge? In a study of America's airline industry, the General Accountability Office of Congress—the GAO—reports no collisions on airport runways since 1990. But in Los Angeles last August, two planes came within 37 feet of each other. There were 369 other near misses—"incursions" they're called--during last year alone. The GAO concludes there's "a high risk of a catastrophic runway collision." Meantime, air controllers are tired and flight delays are at their highest level in history; more and more luggage is just getting lost. After 13 hours and 17 minutes on a plane from San Francisco to Dallas, one unhappy business woman wants a " Passengers' Bill of Rights ." But a veteran writer calls this "the Golden Age of Travel," "as comfortable and reasonable today as it's ever been."
Mixed Messages from US diplomats on the new hard line on Syria Since President Trump's surprise retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has used the same airport to launch conventional attacks on his own people. It's not clear what the US, its allies — or Vladimir Putin's Russia -- plan to do now.
GOP 'Nukes' the Senate filibuster on SCOTUS nominees Senate Democrats today blocked Judge Neil Gorsuch's appointment to the US Supreme Court… but just for the moment. The Republican majority has changed the rules to force a likely confirmation as soon as tomorrow.
Why Don't Facts Matter? "Fake News" may have a long history, but social media and 21st Century politics have brought it front and center. One reason for its appeal and its power is the tendency of so many people to cling to their beliefs — even when confronted with contradictory evidence. Today, another look at the Emotional States of America.
Nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula slowly coming to a head North Korea did not conduct a nuclear test this weekend, but it did show apparent progress in developing a missile that that could strike the United States. The Trump Administration says it has lost its "strategic patience." We hear what that might -- or might not -- mean for North Korea, China and the prospects for diplomacy.