(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
El Al on Friday cancelled a flight to San Francisco and several others to a number of European cities amid a global drop in travel over fears about the new coronavirus, with a senior company official calling it “an unprecedented crisis.”
Flights that left for San Francisco Friday morning were combined, according to El Al, due to the low number of passengers on each plane.
In Europe, the Israeli airline was cancelling some flights to Berlin, Barcelona and Zurich. All three cities are located in countries which Israel began restricting the entry of non-nationals to on Friday as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“This is an unprecedented crisis,” a senior El Al official told the Ynet news site.
“The consequences of this crisis are huge and we are trying to do everything we can [to handle it],” he said.
El Al was also expected to cancel flights on Sunday to Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bucharest, Vienna and Marseille.
The official at the airline told the website that El Al was working to combine flights and use smaller planes.
On Wednesday, El Al fired some 600 permanent workers as it grapples with ongoing financial losses caused by the virus outbreak.
Other employees in high paying roles are likely to have their salaries cut.
The airline also axed hundreds of temporary workers, who are employed by the company for under five years. The fired staff include air crews, flight attendants, ground crews and others.
The company appears to be one of the hardest hit in Israel by the virus. On Wednesday, the Bank of Israel said the country’s economy was weathering the crisis, but was ready to step in to help if necessary.
On Tuesday El Al cut salaries of its senior staff by 20 percent. The salary reduction includes the company’s board of directors and chairman, and retroactively takes effect from March 1, Channel 12 reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the head of the union, Sharon Ben Itzhak, that he had assigned a ministerial committee to help El Al and other Israeli airlines.
Besides cutting back flights, El Al has also suspended flights to Italy and Thailand and and said it would delay its planned launch of direct flights to Tokyo until April. The airline extended its halt of flights to Beijing and Hong Kong until May.
Despite the damage to the aviation industry, the Tourism Ministry said Wednesday that the usual number of tourists entered Israel in February, with some 344,000 arrivals and an estimated tourist revenue of $486 million.
Israel has thus far taken far-reaching measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, forcing thousands of Israelis into self-quarantine, barring foreigners from countries hit hard by the virus, banning large gatherings, and advising against personal contact and travel abroad.
It was the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected over 100,000 in about 85 nations and claimed nearly 3,400 lives, almost all of them in China.
There have been 19 confirmed cases of the virus in Israel and no deaths.
Luke Tress contributed to this report.
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(TEHRAN, Iran) — A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader died Monday after falling sick from the new coronavirus, state radio reported, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness that is affecting members of the Islamic Republic’s leadership.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as settles disputes between the supreme leader and parliament.
His death comes as other top officials have contracted the virus in Iran, which has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Those sick included include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as “Sister Mary,” the English-speaking spokeswoman for the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis, state media reported. Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus with 54 deaths from the illness it causes, called COVID-19. Across the wider Mideast, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts worry Iran’s percentage of deaths to infections, around 5.5%, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show.
Trying to stem the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Iran on Monday held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi opened the online news conference addressing the outbreak, dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Iran and the U.S. have seen some of the worst tensions since its 1979 Islamic Revolution in recent months, culminating in the American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad and a subsequent Iranian ballistic missile counterattack against U.S. forces.
“We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help,” Mousavi said. He added Iran has always been “suspicious” about America’s intentions and accused the U.S. government of trying to weaken Iranians’ spirits over the outbreak.
The British Embassy meanwhile has begun evacuations over the virus.
“Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” the British Foreign Office said. “In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British nationals from within Iran may be limited.”
While Iran has closed schools and universities to stop the spread of the virus, major Shiite shrines have remained open despite civilian authorities calling for them to be closed. The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both home to shrines, have been hard-hit by the virus. Shiites often touch and kiss shrines as a sign of their faith. Authorities have been cleaning the shrines with disinfectants.
Police have arrested one man who posted a video showing himself licking the metal enclosing the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the most-important Shiite saint buried in the country, according to reports by semiofficial news agencies. In the video, the man said he licked the metal to “allow others to visit the shrine with peace of mind.”
Meanwhile Monday, the virus outbreak saw itself dragged into the yearslong boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations over a political dispute.
A prominent columnist at Dubai’s government-owned Al-Bayan newspaper on Twitter falsely described the virus as being a plot by Qatar to hurt the upcoming Expo 2020 world’s fair in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Noura al-Moteari later described the tweet as “satire” to The Associated Press after it gained widespread attention.
The Dubai Media Office similarly described the tweet as being written in a “cynical style” while distancing the Arabic-language daily from al-Moteari.
“Noura is a freelance writer and is not an employee of Al-Bayan nor does she represent the publication’s views,” it told the AP. “That being said, this has no relevance to any social media policy being practiced by the publication nor the state.”
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak – ousted by the military in 2011 – has died in Cairo at the age of 91.
Mubarak spent three decades in office before a popular uprising swept Egypt.
He was found guilty of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolution. That conviction was overturned and was freed in March 2017.
His death was confirmed by Egyptian state news on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the Al-Watan website reported that he died at a military hospital.
Mubarak underwent surgery in late January and was photographed with his grandson as he recovered.
On Saturday, however, Mubarak’s son Alaa said that the former president remained in intensive care.
Born in 1928, Mubarak entered the air force as a teenager and went on to play a key role in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
He became president less than a decade later, following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, and played a key role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
But despite the billions of dollars in military aid Egypt received during his time in office, unemployment, poverty and corruption continued to grow.
Discontent boiled over in January 2011, after similar protests in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the president there. Mubarak was forced to step down 18 days later.
Just over a year after Mubarak’s overthrow, Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist politician, won Egypt’s first democratic presidential election.
The new president lasted less than a year in office. Amid mass protests, he was ousted in a military coup led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Gen Sisi went on to win two presidential elections. Morsi died in prison in 2019.
In 2012, Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment over the deaths of some of the 900 protesters who were killed by security forces during the uprising a year earlier.
Both he and his two sons were also convicted of corruption.
But the more serious charges against Mubarak were later overturned and he was released in 2017.
Border wall construction last month up a mountain in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post via Getty Images file
Government And Greed – The Slow Death Of America
Friends, as we all know we have a lot of problems that we the people must address here in our country, that is if we wish to continue to have a country. Most of the problems we are not addressing at all, this tends to make these problems worse not better. I am going to try to address some of these problems here tonight and I would like your feedback on these issues if you have the time to do so. Poverty is the first thing on my agenda tonight. I know that almost no issue has only one side to it or one cause of it and certainly poverty is a worldwide curse which afflicts at least a couple billion people worldwide, but I am only going to try to address the U.S. problem here tonight.
A lot of our countries problems are generated because of poverty, what I am saying is that if we had no poverty here in our country a lot of other issues would for the most part disappear. The federal government says that the official unemployment rate is hanging out at about 4.2%, but most everyone I would think knows that this is simply a government generated farce. If you dig into the real numbers you find that the long-term unemployed (the people who have been unemployed longer than their unemployment checks) are not counted. Another outlier in the government’s figures is that if a person is able to find a part-time job the government counts them as being employed. These people are the folks usually referred to as the real unemployed and the underemployed. By what I hear from many of the “talking heads” on the radio I believe that the real unemployed/underemployed figure should be at least 10%. Of course some markets are better than others, some places may be 4% while others are 20%. Some people say that if you are in one of the bad areas just move to a better market. There is a problem with that line of thought though, what are these people suppose to use to move on, their good looks? Gas, rent, cars, deposits, these are things that most people in these situations simply do not have. As most everyone knows poverty causes many other problems besides major depression. People are going to need a roof over their head if they have any possibility to obtain employment, somehow people need to be able to pay their rent and utilities. Food, now that is an issue for humans even if they live under a bridge. People need jobs that will at least pay the minimum bills such as rent, utilities, and food. For most good jobs, (those that haven’t already left the country), people need real job skill training.
For about 30 years I was a commercial cross-country truck driver, in this job you get to see the reality people around our country are having to live in that you would never get to see if you were working in an office or a factory. Out here you see 60+ year old women with obvious physical ailments working at fast food joints, jobs that the politicians seem to think only high school kids are doing. You see one-armed men working at guard gates checking in trucks and cleaning toilets in truck stops. Adults are doing these type jobs because it is all they can get and a lot of these jobs are just part-time so that the companies (just like at your local Wal-Mart) won’t have to pay any benefits. You know, people aren’t doing jobs like these because it is their life long ambition to work and live like this. Also, these type jobs are almost always paying at or very near the minimum wage. I know some folks will say that I am lying about seeing adults with these physical problems working like this because they could just file for social security and live on that. Have you ever tried to collect social security? If you are very lucky you will get your turn down notice within 12 months, then you can go get an attorney (they will work pro-bono) and refile, hopefully within 6-9 months you will get your next turn down. You and your attorney can then go before a judge (who is paid by social security), hopefully it will only take you about three months to see the judge then usually another couple of months before you get his decision. You see the problem most everyone has is that they don’t have anyway to survive while all this is going on, no food, no housing, nothing. If you are in that spot, what are you suppose to do? What would you do if it was you? Hopefully you have a wealthy family that will be willing to keep you and your family alive while you are trying to get your disability checks, very few are that fortunate. Some folks will say, well, they could get government housing. Even if you are lucky enough to live in a low crime area like where we live there is this thing called, a waiting list, I checked here, the waiting list is 42 months.
People all over our country are hurting badly even though the media doesn’t say much about it when one of their beloved far left democrats is setting in the White House, and no, I am not a republican. It is very common to see a three bedroom apartment being rented by three adults, or maybe three couples, this is not because people wish to live communal, it is so they have three paychecks to help split the rent (remember the comedy program Three’s Company)? So often I see adults in different fast food uniforms walking to their jobs. It’s not for the exercise for most folks, it’s because they can’t afford a car. With minimum wage jobs you have no extra money to spend on anything, cars, gas, insurance, or food and rent. If you are lucky enough to be in a position where you think I am blowing smoke up your behind, look in your local news paper for the cost of rent, now take a minimum wage paycheck after taxes and see how well you are going to be able to live, folks, it isn’t pretty.
As you travel around the country and you go through the cities you see things that will make you sick at heart. You see all the poverty and the slums, the graffiti, the trash. You also see all the bars on business windows and on the homes, you see homeless people wandering the streets along with the working girls and guys with so many strung out on one habit or another. You see people congregating under bridges as well as boarded up burnt out homes where the lucky homeless can find shelter as long as they are not one of the many crack houses. You know, many in politics want to get away from having any blame for any of our people s problems, but I believe that out government is the biggest problem that all of us Americans have. I am setting here in our living room watching the Presidents State of the Union Address, so much BS on both sides of the aisle. We here in America are a ship without a rudder, I wish we as a country had actual leaders who cared about the Constitution and our freedom more than their bank accounts. I guess I’m just dreaming.
Two people have been killed after a high-speed train derailed near the northern Italian city of Lodi, emergency services say.
Both of the dead are drivers. Two others, one of them a cleaner on the train, had significant but not life-threatening injuries.
The train was travelling from Milan to the southern city of Salerno.
All services on the Milan-Bologna high-speed route have been suspended and diverted via conventional lines.
The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Rome says that while there have been occasional crashes on Italy’s regional trains, this is the first such incident on its high-speed Frecciarossa – or Red Arrow – network, the country’s transport pride.
The trains run at 300 km/h (186 mph) and are generally efficient, punctual and safe.
The engine left the tracks some 40 km (25 miles) from Milan at around 05:30 local time (04:30 GMT), the railway company said.
It apparently hit a freight wagon on a parallel track before running into a building and was separated from the rest of the train. Both it and the first carriage turned on their sides.
“I thought I was dead,” a survivor told local newspaper Liberta. “I closed my eyes and prayed.
“The train was going very fast… suddenly, I felt a violent blow. A really loud roar.”
The survivor added that he and a friend were stuck on the train for 15 minutes before escaping through a hole.
The causes of the accident are being investigated.
Ansa news agency said maintenance work was being carried out on the track where the accident happened.
There were 28 passengers on the train, Ansa said, a number of whom received minor injuries.
Lodi Prefect Marcello Cardona said the accident “could have been carnage” but there were relatively few passengers at the time, and no more fatalities were expected.
Fire services are at the scene.
Istanbul, Turkey (CNN)Three people have died after a passenger plane skidded off the runway and broke apart while landing at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday.
JACKSON, Miss. – Two inmates were killed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman on Monday night, the Mississippi Department of Corrections announced Tuesday, bringing the death toll at Mississippi prisons up to nine in less than a month.
The most recent deaths appear to be “an isolated incident – not a continuation of the recent retaliatory killings,” the department said in a tweet that provided scant information.
On Dec. 29, corrections department officials announced a statewide prison lockdown following a fight at South Mississippi Correctional Institution that left one inmate dead and two others injured. In the following days, riots and fights continued despite the lockdown, leading to four more killings across the state. Some of the violence, officials have said, is gang-related.
The lockdown has since been lifted on all prisons except Parchman, where much of the violence has taken place. Seven men incarcerated at Parchman have died this month, including three who were killed by other inmates, one who died at a hospital of natural causes and one who was found hanging in his cell over the weekend, according to Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) did not release the names of the men who died Monday and said Parchman’s chaplain has reached out to next of kin.
No additional details were provided. MDOC said the agency is investigating and will share more information later.
Burton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Activists say gangs alone are not to blame for the recent surge of violence. Systemic issues related to repeated budget cuts and chronic understaffing have created an environment for violence to thrive, they say.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson and nearly a dozen civil rights and social justice organizations had requested the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Mississippi prisons, charging that state leaders have known about the understaffing and “horrific conditions,” yet have repeatedly failed to take action.
Parchman inmates are suing former MDOC commissioner Pelicia Hall and the prison’s superintendent Marshal Turner, alleging they have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights by subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment. The incarcerated men are being represented by attorneys working with hip-hop stars Jay-Z and Yo Gotti.
The lawsuit describes unsanitary conditions inside Parchman, including flooding, black mold and a rat infestation. Units go without running water and electricity for days at a time, it alleges.
Follow reporter Alissa Zhu on Twitter @AlissaZhu.
Kansas City shooting:Security guard ‘definitely saved lives’ by killing shooter at bar, police say
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