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US Senator blasts American Airlines for packing the middle seats on his flight – CNN

(CNN)A United States Senator said he would introduce a bill to ban the sale of middle seats during this coronavirus pandemic, one day after he criticized American Airlines for selling the middle seats of a flight he had boarded, calling it “incredibly irresponsible” and warning it was contributing to the spread of the disease.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, tweeted an image showing his packed flight on Thursday. Most of the passengers in the photo were blurred out, but it’s clear some were wearing masks and many of them were in the middle seat.
“@AmericanAir: how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly irresponsible,” he tweeted. “People eat & drink on planes & must take off masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating spread of COVID infections.”
On Friday he followed up: “A lot of folks reacted to my tweet yesterday about the irresponsible sale of middle seats on planes saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the Senate did something about it?’ They’re right.”
“I will introduce a bill to ban the sale of middle seats through this pandemic. And I’ll work with colleagues to include it in a package of airline accountability reforms they are crafting,” he tweeted.
American Airlines said in a statement Friday, “We are unwavering in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our customers and team members. We have multiple layers of protection in place for those who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning procedures, and a pre-flight COVID-19 symptom checklist — and we’re providing additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans, as well.”
It added, “We know our customers are placing their trust in us to make every aspect of their journey safe, and we are committed to doing just that.”
American didn’t directly respond to Merkley’s initial tweet, but it did reply to a Twitter user who retweeted it and said, “The very reason I didn’t fly my family from Texas to Maine. @AmericanAir. this is shameful. I’ve flown with you for years. I will never again.”
“We’ve implemented many layers of protection including enhanced cleaning and requiring face coverings,” the airline replied, linking to a press release that detailed its “clean commitment.”
Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, said they would continue to limit seating to enable some social distancing.
United Airlines said Wednesday it does not believe that simply leaving middle seats empty will protect passengers from the coronavirus.
“When it comes to blocking middle seats, that’s a PR strategy, that’s not a safety strategy,” Josh Earnest, the airline’s top spokesman, told reporters.
But Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week that “there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines” when the air carrier announced it would stop limiting seat sales. 
Speaking at a Covid-19-related Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Redfield said safety on airplanes and mass transportation is a “critical area.” 
“I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, obviously there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines,” Redfield said. “I can say this is under critical review right now by us at CDC. We don’t think it’s the right message.”
The CDC has said that “although illness may occur as a direct result of air travel, it is uncommon.” Most viruses don’t spread easily on airplanes, the agency has said, because of how the air circulates and is filtered. Modern commercial jets recirculate 10-50% of the air in the cabin, mixed with outside air.

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GOP senator: Proposal to remove Confederate names from military bases ‘picks on South unfairly’ – CNN

(CNN)A Senate amendment to remove the names of Confederate leaders on military property “picks on the South unfairly,” a GOP senator said Tuesday, the latest sign that President Donald Trump’s opposition to the plan has opened up an uncomfortable election-year debate within the party.

Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican whose state has military installations named after leaders of the Confederacy, sharply criticized the amendment, offered by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and said he planned to offer his own measure “to rename every military installation in the country after a medal of honor winner.”
“I think history will show that in the 18th century, in the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, there were many non-Confederate generals, soldiers and others, in both the South and the North who practiced racial discrimination, anti-Semitism and misogyny,” Kennedy told reporters. “I don’t think we ought to just pick on the South.”
Kennedy added: “Sen. Warren’s amendment, in my opinion, picks on the South unfairly.”
Kennedy’s comments come amid an election-year debate that has forced Republicans to stake out their positions as protests over racial injustice are taking place across the country. A number of Republicans have little appetite to be seen as defending the Confederacy, despite Trump’s call for GOP senators to fall in line and kill the Warren amendment, which was added to a bipartisan defense policy bill with the support of senators from both parties.
The amendment, which would call for the removal of Confederate names from military assets, whether it’s a base, a plane or a piece of equipment, establishes a commission to come up with a detailed plan to change the names within three years.
Trump last week tweeted his strong opposition to the plan, saying the names on the bases have “become part of a Great American Heritage” and adding: “Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with.” He added: “Hopefully, our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this.”
But Republican leaders acknowledged Tuesday that the language will likely survive in the bill, given that it would take 60 votes to strip it out on the floor and there are a sizable number of Republicans who likely will join the 47 Democrats to keep the provisions in tact. That means Trump lacks the votes to remove the language, increasing the likelihood that the annual defense measure will land on his desk with the provisions — even as the White House has threatened to veto the plan over it.
“I am not wedded to the idea that those names on those military installations are eternal,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota, told reporters Tuesday. “I think you can reevaluate, considering timing and circumstances, and where we are in the country, who we want to revere by naming military installations or other national monuments. So, I think periodically you have to take a look at that and in this case, it’s perhaps time to do it. “
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also signaled Tuesday that he has no objection to the measure becoming law, saying: “Whatever is ultimately decided, I don’t have a problem with.”
McConnell noted that his father, a World War II veteran, worked for a couple years at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, and that “none of us knew who Gordon was,” referring to the base being named after a Confederate leader.
“And I can only speak for myself on this issue: If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m personally OK with that,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “And I am a descendant of a Confederate veteran myself.”
Indeed, few Senate Republicans have embraced Trump’s rhetoric, with many declining to comment and others sidestepping the issue altogether. Republicans in difficult races are split as well, with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst backing the plan, while Georgia Sen. David Perdue and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis signaling their opposition to it.
Asked if Ft. Bragg should be renamed in his home state of North Carolina, GOP Sen. Richard Burr said: “Why don’t we wait for the debate to happen,” declining further comment.
In his tweets, Trump has sharply attacked Warren for criticism over the matter.
“Donald Trump does everything he can to stir up hatred and divide this country,” Warren told CNN when asked about Trump’s opposition to the plan.
The issue has spilled out to the campaign trail as well. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is battling in a GOP runoff to get his old Alabama Senate seat back, attacked Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for backing the Warren amendment. Sessions tweeted that the plan “betrays the character and decency of every soldier who fought for the South in that bloody and monumental war.”
Sessions says that opposing the amendment doesn’t mean it’s an “affirmation of slavery” because the “slavery question had been settled by the war.”
Asked about the criticism, Jones told CNN: “Does that surprise anybody that Jeff would defend the Confederacy and would go after somebody who will be on the right side of history?”

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Oklahoma senator

Oklahoma senator explains change in date of Trump rally – POLITICO

“Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out … of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents,” Trump posted on Twitter. “I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”

The rally is set to take place in Tulsa, Okla., site of one of the most brutal race massacres in U.S. history.

Lankford told host Jake Tapper there were several people who talked to the president about the rally “just to be able to raise the issue.”

He also acknowledged it’s been 99 years since the massacre, “where a white mob ransacked through the Greenwood district, what was called at that time the Black Wall Street and killed up to 300 people and burned that part of the city to the ground,” Lankford said. (Some historians place the death toll higher.)

“There are special sensitivities there in Tulsa. But Juneteenth is a very significant day,” Lankford said. “So my encouragement to the president was to be able to pick a day around it.”

“Actually interestingly enough when I talked to him, I called him on a different reason, he raised it to me and said, ‘What do you think about this? I’m thinking about it, other people have asked me about it.,'” he added. “I suggested, yes, I think that’d be a great idea and it’d be very, very respectful to the community. His immediate response was I don’t want to do anything to be able to disrespect the black community.”

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