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US airlines bumping from overbooked flights is at 22-year low

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US airlines have reported a sharp downturn in the share of passengers they force on to other flights because of overbooking.The so-called bumping rate for the first half of the year is now the lowest it has been since 1995, the US Department of Transportation says.The decline comes after widespread outcry over viral videos of passenger ejections earlier this year.The backlash led airline leaders to pledge improvement.

Overall, more than 213,000 people had to take different flights because of overbooking in the first six months of the year, down from 2016 despite an uptick in total travellers, according to the report.That figure includes flyers who agreed to give up their seats in exchange for compensation and people bumped involuntarily, whether they received compensation or not.

Why do airlines overbook?

The improvement was driven by a fall in passengers forced off their flight involuntarily, a group that is a much smaller subset of the total – 17,330 people in the first half of the year.

Pressure to improve

About one in every 19,100 passengers was denied boarding involuntarily in the first six months of the year, compared to one in every 16,000 in 2016, according to the report. That’s the lowest rate since 1995. Delta Air Lines had the lowest rate of involuntary bumping of the 12 airlines tracked in the report, while budget carrier Spirit Airlines had the worst record.There were more than 332 million travelers in the first half of the year, up almost 3% from 2016. Scrutiny of overbooking and involuntary bumping increased after Dr David Dao was injured while being physically removed from a United Airlines flight in April. He later settled with the airline.After video of his incident went viral, experiences on other airlines also drew attention.

US politicians called airline executives to a hearing, warning they would consider regulatory action if the companies did not improve.Some airlines changed their policies after the incidents, for example, by boosting the amount of money staff can offer to persuade people to give up their seats.

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From USSR To Middle-East & Now China: Asia Emerges As The Next Big Battle Ground For The US

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In the midst Chinese aggressive posture in the South China Sea and on the Indian border, the US is ready to deploy thousands of soldiers, currently stationed in Germany, to American bases in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and Australia.

During the Cold War, US defence tacticians thought it imperative to maintain an extensive ground force in Europe to keep the USSR at bay. In the 2000s, the focus was essentially on the Middle East as the US conducted “war on terrorism.” Now, the focus has changed to China.

To challenge the might of China and Russia, “US forces must be deployed abroad in a more forward and expeditionary manner than they have been in recent years,” wrote Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s national security adviser in a WSJ.

Toward this end, the US will decrease its soldiers permanently deployed in Germany from 34,500 troops to 25,000. The remaining troops are expected to be reassigned elsewhere in Europe, redeployed to the Indo-Pacific region, or sent back to the US.

On the Indo-Pacific, O’Brien wrote: “In that theatre, Americans and allies face the most significant geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War.”

Critics see three trends in the US army’s global missions. One is the geographical shift from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. Second is the shift from land-based combat to an “Air-Sea Battle” notion. The third, and perhaps most unique to Donald Trump, is the urge to cut down the defence spendings.

O’Brien’s redeployment proposal touches on all three aspects. Geographically, the shift away from the Middle East has been driven by the shale gas discovery. US’ enthusiasm in the Middle East has waned as its dependence on the oil-rich region for energy has dramatically shrivelled.

In 2011, the US government under Barrack Obama started a policy of rebalancing based on the assertion that a focus on the Middle East had created the Asia-Pacific vacuum that facilitated China’s ascent.

In terms of strategy, the US has been moving its focus and resources to the Navy and Air Force, especially since the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Europe has gone down. The Air-Sea Battle idea declared in 2010 intends to incapacitate China’s defences using long-range bombers and submarines.

In a possible clash with China, it will be the amphibious Marines as well as maritime and aviation capacity that will prove vital. This is because the battleground will be in the waters of the South China Sea or other maritime fronts.

Costs are the third trend. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly communicated his unease over the massive financial implications of deploying US soldiers abroad and has pressed other nations to shoulder the financial burden.

Trump has been unusually vocal about Germany, which he asserts is not keeping its obligation to contribute 2% of its GDP on its own defence. Germany has “been delinquent for years,” Trump said in mid-June, explicitly linking this to the troop drawdown. “And they owe NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay it. So we’re protecting Germany, and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense.”

The Trump administration is currently engaged in extended discussions with South Korea over its support and will hold similar talks with Japan. For Japan, which recently halted the deployment of the Aegis Ashore air defence system due to cost concerns, pressure from the US to increase host-nation support may lead to a rethink of its defence strategy.

Originally Written By Team Nikkei Asian Review. Edited By Tim Edwards

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Americas

China & Russia Block US’s Arms Embargo Against Iran At UNSC

China and Russia are the permanent members of the UNSC who rejected the motion. The other permanent members of the UNSC – the UK and France – also failed to support the extension of the embargo against Iran.

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The US’s demand to extend the arms embargo against Iran, due to expire in four months, has been rejected by the members of the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) including China and Russia.

Dominican Republic Goes To Poll; Results Will Decide The Fate Of US, China

China and Russia are the permanent members of the UNSC who rejected the motion. The other permanent members of the UNSC – the UK and France – also failed to support the extension of the embargo against Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that lifting the ban on the trade of conventional weapons would turn Iran into a “rogue weapons dealer,” supplying advanced weapons to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and fueling conflicts in Venezuela, Syria and Afghanistan.

“Iran will hold a sword of Damocles over the economic stability of the Middle East, endangering nations like Russia and China that rely on stable energy prices,” said Pompeo to the members via videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The arms embargo prohibits Iran from importing or exporting any kind of weapon. Pompeo characterised Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime” and said that it would develop and export weapons that would threaten the Middle East and European capitals.

“Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group if the restrictions are lifted,” he said.

The embargo is part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the nuclear deal with Iran signed in 2015. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in its facilities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and started reimposing sanctions. However, the Trump administration is now threatening to “snap back” U.N. sanctions if the embargo is not extended. “Having quit the JCPOA, the U.S. is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger a snapback at the Security Council,” said China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia also criticised the strategy saying that the task is to achieve regime change or create a situation where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe. “This is like putting a knee to one’s neck”, referring to the killing of George Floyd after a police officer knelt on his neck.

Even the Europen Union allies of the US that supported extending the embargo said that they do not support the reimposition of new sanctions on Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed that expiration of the arms embargo was an integral part of the 2015 nuclear deal and demanded the US to compensate Iran for the damage its sanctions have inflicted on the economy.

“The international community in general — and the U.N. Security Council in particular — are facing an important decision,” he said. “Do we maintain respect for the rule of law, or do we return to the law of the jungle by surrendering to the whims of an outlaw bully?”

In the latest move to disrupt ties, the US is seeking to seize the four tankers sailing towards Venezuela with gasoline supplied by Iran. In May, defying the US sanctions, Iranian vessels successfully shipped gasoline to South American country, Venezuela.

Mojtaba Zonnour, representative of Qom in the Iran Parliament celebrated then, saying that the arrival of Iranian tanker, carrying gasoline, to Venezuela showed the message of authority and dignity of the Iranian nation to the world.

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Dominican Republic Goes To Poll; Results Will Decide The Fate Of US, China

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On Sunday, the Dominican Republic will hold elections as the Central American nation looks to elect their next President and renew the totality of senate (32) and deputy (190) seats.

Iran Hints At Cyber Attacks By Israel or US at Natanz Nuclear Facility; Vows Retaliation

Elections were originally scheduled to take place on May 17 but had to be postponed due to an upsurge in coronavirus cases. Domestically, the election could lead to a change in government and end the decade long run of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

Internationally, the winner of the Presidential election decides the future of the Dominican Republic foreign relations with regards to the United States and China.

The Candidates

To win the election, a candidate must get 50%+ 1% of the total votes. If none of the contestants is able to win a clear majority, a second-round runoff is held between the two candidates with the highest votes on the first round.

While a total of 6 candidates are hoping to serve as the next the President, according to experts, the outcome of the election will be determined by the three leading candidates from the PLD, Force of the People party (FP) and Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM).

The PLD has occupied the presidency for 20 of the past 24 years. Incumbent President Danilo Medina will not seek a third consecutive term ( his decision to do so was met by domestic resistance) and instead, Gonzalo Castillo, the former minister of public works and communications, will be contesting for the PLD.

Elections in the Dominican Republic will be monitored by 80 observers from the Organization of American States (OAS). Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, Dominican authorities ensure that all necessary precautions have been taken care of. Image source: Facebook

Those including to oust PLD include Leonel Fernández and Luis Abinader of the FP and PRM respectively. Fernandez, a three-time President of the Dominican Republic, quit the PLD after losing the PLD primary run-off against Castillo in 2019. Displeased with the defeat, Fernandez formed his own party and announced his decision to seek election for the fourth time.

A businessman by profession, Luis Abinader has no previous experience in public office. Abinader was a close associate of former President Hipólito Mejía. When Mejia quit the PRD in 2014, Abinader decided to join him at the newly formed PRM. According to poll predictions, Abinader is either close to or will outright win in the first-round election. Much of the rise can be credited to the rift between Medina (PLD) and Fernández (FP).

Even if Abinader does not win the election, he and Fernández have agreed to a deal for the run-off election. In November 2019, both formed an electoral alliance, agreeing that whoever between them captured the most votes in the presidential election would, in turn, receive the other’s political backing in the event of a runoff election. They also agreed to nominate joint candidates for mayor and Congress in 24 of the 32 provinces.

US-China to Closely Follow Elections

The Presidential elections in the Dominican Republic are being closely monitored by both the United States and China. In 2018, much to the shock of US an Taiwan, Danilo Medina broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established ties with China instead.

This was followed by Medina travelling to Beijing and inking 18 bilateral agreements including on agriculture, culture and tourism. Experts predict Chinese investment in the Caribbean nation will reach US$10 billion in the coming years.

For China, PLD remaining in power is essential for Sino-Dominican relations. Although PLD presidential candidate Castillo’s foreign policy platform makes abstract reference to the need to “deepen, diversify, and expand bilateral and multilateral relations,” one presumes he would maintain diplomatic and commercial relations with China.

Fernández and the Abinader, on the other hand, understand the importance of the US as an ally and will likely scale down ties with Beijing. Both candidates even declined invitations from the Chinese government to visit.

For the US, Abinader winning the election would be the perfect scenario. The 52-year-old is keen on strengthening strategic relations with the US, recognizing that it is the Dominican Republic’s main commercial partner, were about two million Dominicans or those of Dominican origin reside and were about 40 per cent of tourists who visit the Dominican Republic come from.

Regardless of who wins, the elections in the Dominican Republic will be interesting to watch. Elections in the middle of a global pandemic is a challenge in itself and the people of the Dominican Republic will surely be excited to see new faces in the country’s politics.

Written by- Armaan Srivastava. Views Personnel

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