Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NATION [Derived Headline]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NATION [Derived Headline]

Article excerpt

RECORD NUMBER OF FLIGHTS CANCELED

NEW YORK - The relentless snow and ice storms this winter have led to the highest number of flight cancellations in more than 25 years, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

U.S. airlines have canceled more than 75,000 domestic flights since Dec. 1, including roughly 14,000 this week. That's 5.5 percent of the 1.35 million flights scheduled during that period, according to AP calculations based on information provided by flight tracking site FlightAware.

It's the highest total number and highest percent of cancellations since at least the winter of 1987-1988, when the Department of Transportation first started collecting cancellation data.

Mother Nature isn't entirely to blame. A mix of cost-cutting measures and new government regulations has made airlines more likely to cancel flights and leave fliers scrambling to get to their destination.

On Thursday, more than 70 percent of flights were canceled in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. thanks to a winter storm that paralyzed most air traffic along the East Coast. Ice storms this winter have caused major headaches in typically warm cities like Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

OBAMA PROVIDING DROUGHT ASSISTANCE

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will announce millions of dollars in federal drought assistance today when he flies to California and tours fields and orchards ravaged by the deepening water crisis, aides said.

The president wants farmers to know he is paying close attention to the drought and has instructed federal agencies to expedite help, Tom Vilsack, the secretary of Agriculture, said Thursday.

"The federal government will do all it can to alleviate the stress associated with this drought," Mr. Vilsack said.

Mr. Obama will visit a farm in Fresno, aides said, to talk with farmers about the impact of one of the state's worst droughts and the response of the federal government. He will unveil several initiatives intended to help California producers.

Among other directives, aides said, Mr. Obama is asking the Agriculture Department to open sign-ups for 2014 livestock disaster assistance within 60 days and to allow producers to request aid not only for this year but for losses over the last two years.

OBAMA DROPS AFGHAN DEADLINE

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has quietly stopped demanding that Afghan President Hamid Karzai finalize a stalled security pact within weeks, opening up the possibility that a decision on keeping U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan after this year might not be made until after Mr. Karzai's successor is elected this spring.

While U.S. officials say they still strongly prefer that the agreement be signed quickly, they did not rule out the possibility of waiting to see if a new Afghan leader might be easier to work with. …

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