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Flying…It’s Rough Up There

Thursday, May 11, 2017

By Veronica Mackey


Fight and flight. Trouble on the tarmac.  Pick any clever-sounding phrase you like to describe the recent rash of airline passenger altercations, and it could very well apply.


There was once a time, back in the day, when folks actually dressed up to travel on a plane.  It really was that big of a deal.  Now, comfort is king.  And rightfully so, because you could be literally waiting at an airport for hours—not to catch your flight—but because the airline decided to overbook you .  Or you may have to run and get out of the way of angry passengers—disgruntled employees—or both.  Worse yet, this may happen while you’re on the plane.


It pays to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.  But don’t dress too casually, though.  Three teenage girls found that out the hard way when they were denied seats on a United Airlines flight because they wore leggings—apparently  a big “no-no.” There is a double standard here. The girls were flying on a pass, which makes them less valuable to the airline company. The “no-leggings” rule doesn’t apply to full fare customers.  


And of course, there is that viral video of the Chinese man, Dr. Dao, being dragged off a United flight by security officials—bloody face and all--because he refused to give up his paid-for seat.  Ironically, he was asked to give up his seat for a United employee who worked in customer service and needed to travel to another airport.  


Officials say Dao was randomly selected, but I say “hogwash.”  The bullies took one look at the older, non-American, small-framed man and thought they found an easy prey. An unnamed source said the good doctor has agreed to an undisclosed settlement of around $10 million.


United is not the only airline with “unfriendly skies” lately.  An American Airlines pilot was grounded when he threatened passengers over a baby stroller. A man reported that a ticket agent cancelled his flight from San Francisco to New Orleans over a baggage fee.


On Sunday, an airport in Ft. Lauderdale was the scene of a near-riot, when Spirit Airlines canceled 11 flights. Officials blamed the melee on a work dispute with pilots.  Tempers flared and customers began fighting with pilots and each other.


Also on Sunday, a couple of passengers went at it aboard a Southwest fight that had just landed in Burbank.   A flight attendant who tried to stop it, ended up at the bottom of the dog pile, as one man punched another man who was on top of her. It wasn’t clear what caused the brawl, but one man of the men was arrested.


Air travel sure ain’t what it used to be.  And on top of that, airlines are now planning on reducing leg space.  As if we aren’t cramped enough.  That said, if you plan on traveling this summer, be ready.  Gather your mental faculties, learn the airline rules, and bring a pair of boxing gloves.  I don’t know if they’re allowed, but you may want to at least invest in martial arts.  I’m just sayin’…


Chibok girls released after 3 years in captivity.


Chibok school girls recently freed from Boko Haram captivity are seen in Abuja, Nigeria, Sunday, May 7, 2017.  (AP Photo/ Olamikan Gbemiga)


It’s been 3 long, grueling years of not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive, but Nigerian activists kept applying pressure to their government to find and bring their girls back.  And last week, it finally happened.  Nigerian officials reported that 83 women kidnapped from the all-girl Chibok School were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders.  The Nigerian extremist group has been tied to the Islamic State group and were responsible for the 2014 abduction of 276 girls.


Families rushed to greet the girls who were flown by military helicopters from northeastern Nigeria to Abuja, the capital, where they were expected to meet the president.


"They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram," said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.


Authorities say 113 of the 276 schoolgirls remain missing.  Some girls escaped, some died from illness, and others—according to the freed girls—did not want to come home because they'd been radicalized by their captors. 


Last year in October, 21 other Chibok girls were liberated, and they have been undergoing counseling for months. It was not immediately clear whether the newest girls freed Saturday would join them. 


Those girls are still in government care in Abuja for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation, according to the government. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok.


The newly freed schoolgirls should be quickly released to their families and not be subjected to lengthy government detention, Amnesty International's Nigeria office said, adding that they don't deserve to be put through a "publicity stunt" and deserve privacy. 


The failure of Nigeria's former government to act quickly to free the girls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement; U.S. first lady Michelle Obama posted a photo with its logo on social media.


The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government mediated negotiations between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram.


Looking at the myriad of political news that hits us everyday, one could lose sight that we are still living in the United States of America.  With so much bickering and partisanship going on between Republicans and Democrats, red states vs. blue states, and the left vs. the right, it feels more like the Divided States.


On Monday, a voice of reason spoke up for the millions of us who are tired of all the games of one-upmanship.  Jimmy Kimmel set comedy aside to talk about something we can all agree on—being able to afford quality, life=saving healthcare.


The very emotional comedian talked about his newborn son Billy, who was born with congenial heart disease.


 “Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a preexisting condition,” Kimmel said.


He continued nearly in tears:  


“If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something now, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right? … Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other.”


At the end of the day, we all want the same things—to be healthy, live in a decent home, pay our bills, educate our kids and enjoy our work.  We want to feel safe where we live and—especially for people of color—we want to trust that we can go where we want and not be the target of unnecessary harassment and violence by police, those sworn to protect us.


Living in a country of such tremendous wealth, founded on the principles of freedom and the right to pursue happiness, there is no good reason to expect anything less. These are basic human rights which anyone living in this country should rightfully enjoy.


Thank you, Jimmy for saying in such a poignant way what we are all feeling and thinking.  To have a handful of people at the top—those with excellent health care, who won’t be personally affected by the outcome—decide what’s best for the rest of us—is literally putting our health in their hands.


This is why it’s so important to vote and to know who you are voting for.  This is why it’s critical to get information on how candidates have voted in the past. To the lawmakers in Washington, still struggling to scale back Obamacare’s preexisting condition clause, you need to do the right thing and leave it alone.  Consider Kimmel’s plea and the image shown of his helpless newborn, covered with tubes.  


We cannot allow politicians to play with our healthcare and to reverse the progress we’ve made.  Fix whatever needs to be fixed, but to even consider rolling back the preexisting condition is  cruel and heartless.  Like Jimmy said, Americans need to take care of each other and that begins with taking action.  Contact your representatives and tell them you want to keep the pre-existing condition clause in place.



Bidding for naming rights at the new Rams stadium has begun, and word is that no less than $30 million a year for a minimum 20-year deal will do.  The forthcoming $2.6 billion stadium, currently being built in Inglewood will eventually house the Rams and the Chargers.  Both teams have relocated respectively from St. Louis and San Diego.


The price is hefty, for sure, but still comes in less than the deal signed with Metropolitan Life Insurance for the MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets.  That deal averages an annual value of $17-$20 million over 25 years for a total value of $425-$625 million. 


So far, AT&T is the only known company seriously considering the offer, although it already has naming rights to the home arenas of the San Antonio Spurs, San Francisco Giants and Dallas Cowboys, and a top-level sponsorship at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  


The telecommunications leader is apparently motivated by hyper competitiveness within the mobile service industry, and the fact that it is considering relocating to El Segundo.  This would put their offices within 5 miles of the new Inglewood stadium.


The Inglewood stadium will seat 80,000 sports fans, and is part of a 300-acre mixed-used complex, scheduled to open for the 2019 NFL season and serve as host for Super Bowl LV in 2021.


The $600 million minimum price tag as the title sponsor is not entirely unreasonable, insiders say because, like New York, Inglewood will have two teams playing at the same venue.  This ensures a home game every week of the NFL season.  


Since the Rams own the stadium, privately financed by owner Stan Kroenke, the Chargers won’t be getting any of the revenue from the stadium naming rights.  Actually, the former San Diego team will be leasing the stadium from the Rams for their home games.



On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to charge two white Baton Rouge police officers in the shooting death Alton Sterling.  That same day, former North Charleston police officer, Michael Slager, also white, plead guilty to violating the civil rights of Walter Scott, the unarmed motorist he fatally shot. 


It was justice for one family, injustice for another.  The men, both black, were black were killed within 15 months of each other by police. Both high profile cases were caught on cellphone videos and ignited massive protests.


Acquittals for Salamoni and Lake, Guilty Plea for Slager



On July 15, 2016, video showed Sterling pinned to the ground by police, face down and unable to move while one officer shot him point blank.  According to Baton Rouge police, Sterling was initially jolted with a stun gun after he didn’t comply with the officers’ commands to put his hands on the hood of a car. He was initially approached by police after a complaint that he had threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience where he sold homemade CDs.


The store’s owner has said Sterling wasn’t holding a gun during the shooting, but he saw officers remove one from his pocket afterward.  Officers said they saw Sterling try to reach for it before he was shot.


Justin Bamberg, an attorney for some of Sterling’s relatives, has said the family wanted an indictment.  Bamberg also represents relatives of Walter Scott, a 50 year-old, unarmed motorist who was stopped for a busted tail light, then shot in the back multiple times after getting out of his car and running away.  Michael Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, falsely claimed Scott tried to harm him and he shot in self-defense.  Cellphone video contradicts his statements.


Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges five months after a jury deadlocked on state murder charges against him.  According to The Post & Courier, a federal judge will now determine whether Slager committed murder or a lesser crime in a separate trial date that will be scheduled in the next coming weeks.


With regard to Sterling, the Justice Department’s decision doesn’t preclude state authorities from conducting their own investigation, and pursuing their own criminal charges.  



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