Reference Library – USA – Washington
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which was first introduced in 2015, received support from 55 co-sponsors on Thursday, only five votes short of the needed number to advance the legislation. If passed, the bill would shore up travel numbers, which airlines say have lagged since they were allowed to open routes to Cuban cities last year. The chief sponsors of the bill, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), have said that lifting the travel ban would benefit both the American and Cuban people by giving the entrepreneurial and private sectors room to flourish.
Lagging travel numbers
While the number of U.S. visitors to Cuba rose by 74% last year, experts say that many consumers are foregoing travel to the country because of restrictions and economic factors that still make the trip difficult. Currently, travelers need to fit into one of a number of categories that qualifies them for a visit to Cuba, since tourism to the island is still banned under a 54-year-old U.S. embargo. And for those who do manage to make the trip, the prospect of carrying around large amounts of cash isn t all that appealing, since no debit or credit cards work in the country because of the embargo.
President of the Washington-based Engage Cuba group James Williams commended the leaders of the bill, saying that he applauded the senators leadership in supporting the American and Cuban people by eliminating archaic, outdated policy.”
Strong opposition remains
While the bill has gained traction over time, some lawmakers still heavily oppose any ending of isolationist policies towards Cuba. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) say travel to Cuba should not be made easier until the country has made a concerted effort to move towards democracy. President Trump has also expressed reservations about opening relations with Cuba. After his 2016 election campaign, he said that he would scrap normalization efforts unless the U.S. gets a better deal. At this time, there has been no indication that Republican leaders would allow the proposal to come up for a vote.
The Warthog is sitting pretty. Once on the brink of forced retirement, the A-10 attack plane with the ungainly shape and odd nickname has been given new life, spared by Air Force leaders who have reversed the Obama administration’s view of the plane as an unaffordable extra in what had been a time of tight budgets. In the 2018 Pentagon budget plan sent to Congress this week, the Air Force proposed to keep all 283 A-10s flying for the foreseeable future.
Three years ago, the Pentagon proposed scrapping the fleet for what it estimated would be $3.5 billion in savings over five years. Congress said no. The following year, the military tried again but said the retirement would not be final until 2019. Congress again said no. Last year, officials backed away a bit further, indicating retirement was still the best option but that it could be put off until 2022.
Now the retirement push is over, and the Warthog’s future appears secure.
“The world has changed,” said Maj. Gen. James F. Martin Jr., the Air Force budget deputy, in explaining decisions to keep aircraft once deemed expendable. The Air Force has similarly dropped plans to retire the iconic U-2 spy plane amid prospects for bigger budgets under President Donald Trump. It also reflects the relentless pace of operations for combat aircraft and surveillance and reconnaissance planes that feed intelligence data to war commanders. The service had complained for years that its inventory of aircraft was getting dangerously small and old. Gen. Mark Welsh, who retired as the top Air Force officer last year, was fond of describing the service as having 12 fleets of aircraft that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia.
The A-10 is a special case. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona who flew the A-10 in combat and commanded a squadron in Afghanistan, speaks of it with obvious affection.
“The A-10 is this badass airplane with a big gun on it,” she said she told Trump in a recent conversation, explaining why the Warthog is unlike any other attack aircraft. The “big gun” to which she refers is a seven-barrel Gatling gun that is nine feet long and fires 30mm armor-piercing shells at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. Also armed with Maverick missiles, the A-10 is effective not only in a conventional battle against tanks and other armored vehicles. It also provides close-air support for Iraqi and other U.S. partner forces taking on Islamic State fighters in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. A number of A-10s fly missions in Syria from Incirlik air base in Turkey.
McSally is among members of Congress for whom elimination of the Warthog carried political risks back home. Sen. John McCain, a fellow Arizona Republican, joined her in strenuously arguing against the plane’s early retirement. Arizona’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to an A-10 unit; retirement of the aircraft might have made Davis-Monthan more vulnerable to closure. A veteran of combat in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and beyond, the plane entered service in 1976. It is among Cold War-era icons like the venerable B-52 bomber that have exceeded expected lifespans and are likely to remain central to U.S. air campaigns for years to come.
Specially designed for the Cold War mission of attacking armor on the front lines of a potential European war with the Soviet Union, the A-10’s air crews considered it so ugly they called it the Warthog. Its official nickname is Thunderbolt II. The plane has been out of production since 1984 but has received many upgrades over the years, most recently with new electronics.
The Braves didn t let this injustice stand. According to ESPN, the Braves gave the young boy a baseball autographed by star first baseman Freddie Freeman and tickets to another game next month. This isn t the first time a Braves security guard got overzealous with a fan. Last season a fan fell onto the field trying to get a foul ball and the security guard slammed him to the wall.