Pruitt and Aides Rack Up $90,000 in Taxpayer-Funded Travel in June Alone

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first or business class flights while his aides generally fly coach, according to the Washington Post. Pruitt has also used military jets to travel back and forth to events.

During a two-week stretch in June—around the same time President Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement—the EPA boss and his top aides racked up at least $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel to help tout Trump’s agenda, the newspaper reported, citing EPA receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through Freedom of Information Act requests.

One of Pruitt’s short domestic trips from Washington, DC to New York was booked first class for $1,600—six times the amount spent on the two media aides who came along and sat in coach. Another $36,000 was spent on a military flight from Cincinnati to New York.

Previous EPA administrators usually refrained from such premium bookings. The Hill pointed out that federal regulations call for government travelers to “consider the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs” but can use first class for security or medical reasons.

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’The suburbanization of skid row’: A new exploration of how today’s other half lives

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Image: NBC News

Five years after the depth of the Great Recession, at a time when the wealth gap in America is at extremes – a new analysis finds it at its widest point since the Roaring 20s – journalist Sasha Abramsky has a new portrait of one end of that great divide.

Abramsky traveled across this country, and interviewed hundreds of people, both the newly poor and the long-term poor, for his book, The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives. Abramsky’s project comes 50 years after Michael Harrington’s groundbreaking 1962 report on poverty, The Other America. Like Harrington, Abramsky wants to grab America by the throat and say, “look!,” and also, “do something!”

Abramsky lays out his own blueprint for action; he wants a new “war on poverty:” what he calls a public works fund to protect against mass unemployment; an educational opportunity fund to expand access to and affordability of higher education; a poverty-mitigation fund; and money to stabilize Social Security and reduce the deficit, made possible by higher taxes on the wealthy.

Abramsky spoke with NBC News.

NBC News: Over 50 years ago, Michael Harrington warned that unless attention was paid, and something was done, somebody in a future generation would write another book about “the other America,” and it would be the same story, or worse. Are you that somebody Harrington was talking about, and is it indeed the same story, or worse?

Abramsky: Certainly Harrington was the inspiration for what I was doing.  It’s the same in some ways, it’s different in other ways. One of the things the war on poverty was most successful at was massively reducing the poverty of the elderly. And that’s still the case. A far lower percentage of America’s elderly today are poor [as a result]. We’ve done a less good job eliminating child poverty. A lot of the conditions for kids I talked to would be very familiar to Harrington. And the geographic areas he wrote about – inner city slums, Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta – those areas still are very poor.

On the other hand, one of the things Harrington wouldn’t have found that anybody writing about poverty today does find is suburban poverty, people who on the surface have it all – they have these big houses, these big cars, swimming pools – but it’s a charade, because they’re under water on their mortgages, a lot of them are out of work, their economic security has disappeared, they’ve got huge amounts of debt, and a lot of them end up on food lines. Harrington wouldn’t have seen the suburbanization of skid row.

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President Obama’s trip to Africa

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Image: AP

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Bill to end airport delays headed for House vote

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Legislation to end furloughs of air traffic controllers and delays for millions of travelers is headed to a House vote after a dark-of-night vote in the Senate that took place after most lawmakers had left the Capitol for a weeklong vacation.

Image: AP

The bill passed late Thursday without even a roll call vote, and House officials indicated it likely would be brought up for quick approval there.

Under the legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration would gain authority to transfer up to $253 million from accounts that are flush into other programs, to “prevent reduced operations and staffing” through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

In addition to restoring full staffing by controllers, Senate officials said the available funds should be ample enough to prevent the closure of small airport towers around the country. The FAA has said it will shut the facilities as it makes its share of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts — known as the sequester — that took effect last month at numerous government agencies.

The Senate acted as the FAA said there had been at least 863 flights delayed on Wednesday “attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough.”

More from David Espo, AP Special Correspondent via

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Smaller seats, fuller planes have passengers grumpier

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Airline passengers are getting grumpier, and it’s little wonder.

Airlines keep shrinking the size of seats to stuff more people onto planes, those empty middle seats that once provided a little more room are now occupied and more people with tickets are being turned away because flights are overbooked.

Private researchers who analyzed federal data on airline performance also said in a report being released Monday that consumer complaints to the Department of Transportation surged by one-fifth last year even though other measures such as on-time arrivals and mishandled baggage show airlines are doing a better job.

Image: New York Times

“The way airlines have taken 130-seat airplanes and expanded them to 150 seats to squeeze out more revenue I think is finally catching up with them,” said Dean Headley, a business professor at Wichita State University who has co-written the annual report for 23 years.

“People are saying, ‘Look, I don’t fit here. Do something about this.’ At some point airlines can’t keep shrinking seats to put more people into the same tube,” he said.

More from AP via NBC News(Travel)

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Mitt Romney seeks to play down London 2012 comments

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Image: AP

Following an hour-long meeting with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, in which he saw the Prime Minister’s view of the Olympic Volleyball court, Mr Romney said: “I expect the Games to be highly successful.

“I am very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I have seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organisation.

The two men are said to have got on well during their talks, despite the barbed rebuke Mr Cameron delivered beforehand when to comment on Mr Romney’s concerns about the capital’s preparedness for the Games.

He point out that the 2012 Olympics were taking place in a busy city rather than “the middle of nowhere” – a remark was widely seen as a reference to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, which Mr Romney was in charge of organising.

By Rosa Prince, The Telegraph

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A Journey to the 70 California State Parks in Danger of Closing

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When they got the news that budget cuts would put 70 California parks out of commission, three documentary filmmakers decided to pile into a converted airport shuttle bus and visit all of them — in 120 days.

From the

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