Archive | April 23, 2013

Federal budget cuts spark cascading travel delays along the East Coast

It was a tough start to the week for many air travelers as federal budget cuts led to cascading delays along the East Coast Monday morning.

Some flights out of New York and Washington were delayed by more than two hours as the Federal Aviation Administration kept planes on the ground. The federal agency has said furloughs of air traffic controllers could lead to delays if there weren’t enough people to monitor busy air corridors.

RELATED: FAA: EXPECT FLIGHT DELAYS THIS SUMMER

For instance, the 8 a.m. US Airways shuttle pushed back from the gate at Reagan National Airport six minutes early but didn’t take off until 9:58 a.m. The plane landed at 10:48 a.m. — more than two and a half hours later than its scheduled time.

If travelers instead took Amtrak’s 8 a.m. Acela Express train from Washington, they arrived in New York at 10:42 a.m. — 4 minutes early.

RELATED: OBAMA TO RETURN 5% OF SALARY IN SUPPORT OF FURLOUGHED WORKERS

Government budget cuts that kicked in last month are forcing the FAA and other agencies to cut their spending. FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.

Skies were mostly calm along the East Coast, with the exception of a few wind gusts in New York. The delays seen were much more severe than what would normally be seen on a comparable day with full staffing.

RELATED: FAA TO CLOSE 149 AIR TRAFFIC TOWERS UNDER CUTS

Delta Air Lines said it was “disappointed” in the furloughs and warned travelers Monday to expect delays in the following cities: New York, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The flight tracking service FlightAware says flights heading to Florida are seeing delays of up to an hour.

Raymond Adams, president of the air traffic controllers union at New Jersey’s Newark airport, said on Twitter than a few flights out of Newark to the south got sent back to Newark because the Washington area air traffic control system was overwhelmed.

Some groups are warning that the slowdown could hurt the economy.

“Our nation’s economy and businesses will pay a very steep price that significantly outstrips savings produced by furloughs,” the Global Business Travel Association warned the FAA in a letter Friday. “If these disruptions unfold as predicted, business travelers will stay home, severely impacting not only the travel industry but the economy overall.”

 

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An American In Mali Teaching The Country’s Sounds

Numbers are down at the American International School in Bamako, the capital of Mali.

In just over a year, the country has witnessed a rebellion, a military coup and the occupation by Islamist fighters of the desert northern region, recently largely liberated in a counteroffensive by French-led forces. Despite the troubles, the school is open and classes continue.

Teacher Paul Chandler is taking his combined class of 6th- and 7th-graders through their early paces, learning the Malian music they’ll be performing at the annual school concert.

Teacher Paul Chandler (left) and musician Siaka Doumbia play djembe drums during music class. Enlarge image i

Teacher Paul Chandler (left) and musician Siaka Doumbia play djembe drums during music class.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton /NPR

Teacher Paul Chandler (left) and musician Siaka Doumbia play djembe drums during music class.

Teacher Paul Chandler (left) and musician Siaka Doumbia play djembe drums during music class.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton /NPR

“We’re teaching Malian music but specifically Maninka music,” Chandler says. “And we’re using heptatonic balafons. A balafon is a wooden xylophone, pretty much. It’s an African xylophone, but it’s wooden, it’s hand-carved.”

Fousseiny Diallo, 14, has been studying with Chandler for three years.

“The first time I played balafon was in the school, so I like it,” Fousseiny says. “I don’t feel lonely when I see my friends playing balafon.”

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Baba Salah: A Malian Musician Speaks To His Nation’s Displaced

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Chandler says the wealth of Malian culture makes it a real pleasure to teach his young students. He invites professional Malian musicians — guitarist, arranger and composer Lamine Soumano and drummer Siaka Doumbia — into the classroom to help with lessons.

“Each semester, we focus on music from different regions of Mali — music from the different ethnic groups of Mali,” Chandler says. “But we’re also going to do a medley or a fusion piece with music from the North, Tamashek music from the Tuareg.”

With the current problems that have shaken Mali to its roots, Chandler says, the idea of mixing the music has added poignancy.

“We always like to experiment with the different musical traditions in Mali,” he says. “But you know, this semester it seemed even more relevant that we should really fuse music from the North and from the South, and kind of put that together and focus on the similarities.”

It’s been a decade since Minnesota-born Chandler, who was raised in Nebraska, left the U.S. and headed to Mali to study music.

“It’s interesting. The longer I stay here, I realize that, well, Nebraska is quite similar to Mali in lots of ways, actually,” Chandler says. “The river here is the Niger River. I grew up next to the Platte River — mostly agriculture. And around Bamako, it’s mostly agriculture. And even though from the outside Mali seems very different, I think what’s important is that people are the same everywhere.”