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New year brings more canceled flights for air travelers

For air travelers, the new year picked up where the old one left off – with lots of frustration.

By late morning Saturday on the East Coast, more than 2,400 US flights and nearly 4,200 worldwide had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.

That is the highest single-day toll yet since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews. More than 12,000 US flights have been canceled since Dec. 24.

Saturday’s disruptions weren’t just due to the virus, however. Wintry weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport. Forecasts called for nine inches of snow. Denver, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, were hit with at least 100 cancellations each.

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Southwest Airlines, which has major operations at Chicago Midway and Denver, canceled more than 450 flights nationwide, or 13 percent of its schedule, by midmorning. American, Delta, United and JetBlue scrubbed more than 100 flights apiece.

SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 400 flights, or 21 percent of its schedule.

Among international carriers, China Eastern scrubbed more than 500 flights, or about one-fourth of its total, and Air China canceled more than 200 flights, one-fifth of its schedule, according to FlightAware.

Airlines say they are taking steps to reduce cancellations. United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual wages for picking up open flights through mid-January. Southwest and others have also raised premium pay for some workers.

When winter weather hit the Pacific Northwest earlier this week, Alaska Airlines urged customers to delay any “non-essential” trips that were planned through this weekend. With full flights over the New Year's holiday, the airline said it wasn't sure it could rebook stranded passengers for at least three days.

Travelers who stuck to the roads instead of the skies faced challenges, too. Transportation officials in the Midwest warned motorists that a mix of rain and snow could make roads slippery and reduce visibility, leading to hazardous driving conditions.

Read more:

Hundreds more flights canceled because of staff shortages due to COVID-19

More than 100 Japan flights canceled due to heavy snow

Lufthansa, Delta, United cancel dozens of Christmas flights amid COVID-19 surge

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UK politicians caught in sting for lucrative second jobs


A senior British minister on Sunday defended former cabinet colleagues after they were shown negotiating top-dollar rates to work on the side for a fake South Korean consultancy.

The sting operation by the anti-Brexit group Led By Donkeys, which targeted former finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng among others, exposed nothing illegal.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

But the issue of Conservative MPs taking lucrative second jobs with companies has been provoking fresh controversy as Britons endure the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

Kwarteng’s involvement in particular focussed anger, after he and short-lived prime minister Liz Truss triggered a crash on financial markets that drove up borrowing costs for millions last year.

He and former health secretary Matt Hancock were shown separately negotiating a daily rate of £10,000 ($12,000) to advise a sham consultancy purportedly based in Seoul that was set up by Led By Donkeys.

“On this occasion, I think it is pretty clear that things that were offered and considered were within the rules,” cabinet member Michael Gove told Sky News.

Gove said it was “absolutely vital that we know who is paying” MPs for second jobs, “and that is what the register (of MPs’ interests) is there for”.

“And ultimately, the really important thing is, is an MP delivering for their constituents, is a member of parliament doing everything they can to put public service first?”

Led By Donkeys showed a clip on social media in which Kwarteng said he “wouldn’t do anything less than for about 10,000 dollars a month.”

Prompted by a recruiter representing the fictious “Hanseong Consulting”, he switched the currency to pounds, which are worth more than dollars, and the rate to daily.

Hancock had already drawn controversy for taking an unauthorised break from his work as an MP to take part in a reality television show, in which he ate animal genitalia among other challenges.

He was forced to resign as health secretary for breaking his own pandemic rules on social distancing, when it was exposed that he was having an extra-marital affair with a senior advisor.

A spokesman said Hancock had “acted entirely properly and within the rules” regarding the apparent job offer from South Korea.
Kwarteng has yet to comment.

The sting threatens embarrassment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who replaced Truss in October with a vow to restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability” after her term and that of her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Senior opposition Labour member Lucy Powell told Sky News that she was “pretty appalled and sickened,” reiterating her party’s call to ban MPs from holding second jobs.

🚨MPs FOR HIRE: a Led By Donkeys undercover investigation🚨
Watch the trailer… pic.twitter.com/TOPxuhmbr9

— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) March 25, 2023

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Burhan says Sudan’s army will be under leadership of civilian government


Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Sunday that the country’s army will be brought under the leadership of a new civilian government.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Speaking before a session for security and army reforms in Khartoum Burhan said his country will build a military force that will not intervene in politics and will be trusted by the Sudanese people in building a modern and democratic state.

More than a year after the military took power in a coup, the military and its former civilian partners and other political forces have agreed on a framework to form a new transitional government and write a new constitution to be announced next month.

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India summons Canadian diplomat over Sikh protests outside diplomatic mission


Indian authorities said on Sunday they had summoned Canada’s top diplomat in New Delhi after Sikh protesters gathered outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.

According to Canadian media reports, hundreds of people gathered outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over India’s hunt for fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Indian foreign ministry said it summoned Canada’s high commissioner on Saturday “to convey our strong concern about the actions of separatist and extremist elements against our diplomatic Mission and Consulates in Canada this week.”

“It is expected that the Canadian government will take steps to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

A manhunt for Singh, a radical Sikh preacher, has lasted more than a week, with mobile internet cut and gatherings of more than four people banned in parts of the northern state of Punjab. Around 100 people have been arrested.

Singh rose to prominence in recent months demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, and with his
hardline interpretation of Sikhism at rallies in rural pockets of Punjab.

Twitter has blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticized the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, reportedly following Indian government requests.

The Twitter accounts of several Punjab-based journalists and prominent members of the Sikh community have also been
withheld, according to media reports.

India also summoned the most senior British diplomat last week after some Singh supporters entered and vandalized the Indian High Commission in London.

India also registered a “strong protest” with the US State Department, as well as the US embassy in New Delhi, after men smashed doors and windows at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Punjab — which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu — was rocked by a violent separatist movement for Khalistan in the 1980s and early 1990s in which thousands of people died.

India has often complained to foreign governments about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency with a massive financial push.

Read more: India police continue hunt for Sikh leader, arrest separatist supporters

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