×

NATION/WORLD

On the road again: Travelers emerge in time for Thanksgiving

DALLAS (AP) — Determined to reclaim Thanksgiving traditions that were put on pause last year by the pandemic, millions of Americans will be loading up their cars or piling onto planes to gather again with friends and family.

The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million over last year despite sharply higher gasoline prices.

Many feel emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. But it also means brushing aside concerns about a resurgent virus at a time when the U.S. is now averaging nearly 100,000 new infections a day and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.

The seven-day daily average of new reported cases up nearly 30% in the last two weeks through Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people should not travel, although it is unclear whether that recommendation is having any effect.

More than 2.2 million travelers streamed through airport checkpoints last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic devastated travel early last year. From Friday through Tuesday, the number of people flying in the U.S. was more than double the same days last year and less than 9% lower than the same days in 2019.

Houston highway project sparks debate over racial equity

HOUSTON (AP) — A $9 billion highway widening project being proposed in the Houston area could become an important test of the Biden administration’s commitment to addressing what it has said is a history of racial inequity with infrastructure projects in the U.S.

The project’s critics, including community groups and some residents, say it won’t improve the area’s traffic woes and would subject mostly Black and Latino residents to increased pollution, displacement and flooding while not improving public transportation options.

Its supporters counter the proposed 10-year construction project that would remake 24 miles along Interstate 45 and several other roadways would enhance driver safety, help reduce traffic congestion and address flood mitigation and disaster evacuation needs.

The project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, has remained on hold since March as the Federal Highway Administration reviews civil rights and environmental justice concerns raised about the proposal. Harris County, where Houston is located, has also filed a federal lawsuit alleging state officials ignored the project’s impacts on neighborhoods.

The dispute over the project comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged to make racial equity a top priority at his department.

Consumer spending rebounds despite rising October inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer spending rebounded by a solid 1.3% in October despite inflation that over the past year has accelerated faster than it has at any point in more than three decades.

The jump in consumer spending last month was double the 0.6% gain in September, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

At the same time, consumer prices rose 5% compared with the same period last year, the fastest 12-month gain since the same stretch ending in November 1990. The surge in prices this year did contribute to the 1.3% rise in spending in October, yet adjusting for inflation, spending was still up a solid 0.7% after a 0.3% inflation-adjusted gain in September.

Personal incomes, which provide the fuel for future spending increases, rose 0.5% in October after having fallen 1% in September, a reflection of a drop in government support payments.

Pay for Americans has been on the rise with companies desperate for workers, and government stimulus checks earlier this year further padded their bank accounts. That bodes well for a strong holiday season and major U.S. retailers say they’re ready after some companies, like Walmart and Target, went to extreme lengths to make sure that their shelves are full despite widespread shortages.

Scholz seals deal to crown career as German chancellor

BERLIN (AP) — Olaf Scholz is set to become post-World War II Germany’s ninth chancellor, crowning a career that has seen him serve in a string of top government posts, after leading his party to an election comeback that appeared hugely unlikely just a few months ago.

The 63-year-old on Wednesday sealed a deal for his center-left Social Democrats to lead Germany’s next government in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The agreement followed relatively quick talks that were disciplined and discreet, qualities that reflect Scholz’s own image.

Scholz has a terse, no-nonsense approach typical of his home city of Hamburg, where he once worked as a lawyer — an even more sober style than that of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel. He joined the Social Democratic Party at 17 and was first elected to parliament in 1998.

He is unflappable and unshakably self-confident, but no master of rhetoric. During a turbulent stint as the Social Democrats’ general secretary in the early 2000s, he earned the nickname “Scholzomat” for what critics said was a habit of constantly repeating the same phrases in support of then-Chancellor Gehard Schroeder’s welfare-state trims and economic reforms, which faced dissent within the party.

Scholz’s experience, attention to detail and sometimes technocratic image became an asset during this year’s election campaign, in which he led the long-struggling Social Democrats from third place in polls to a narrow win in the Sept. 26 election.

Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel; at least 31 dead

CALAIS, France (AP) — At least 31 migrants bound for Britain died Wednesday when their boat sank in the English Channel, in what France’s interior minister called the biggest migration tragedy on the dangerous crossing to date.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people were believed to have been on the boat. Authorities found 31 bodies — including those of five women and a young girl — and two survivors, he said. One person appeared to still be missing. The nationalities of the travelers was not immediately known.

Ever-increasing numbers of people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea or elsewhere are risking the perilous journey in small, unseaworthy craft from France, hoping to win asylum or find better opportunities in Britain. The crossings have tripled this year compared to 2020, and another 106 migrants were rescued in French waters on Wednesday alone.

A joint French-British search operation for survivors of the sinking was called off late Wednesday. Both countries cooperate to stem migration across the Channel but also accuse each other of not doing enough — and the issue is often used by politicians on both sides pushing an anti-migration agenda.

Four suspected traffickers were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, Darmanin told reporters in the French port city of Calais. He said two of the suspects later appeared in court.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

Starting at $4.50/week.

Subscribe Today