It’s Tuesday, October 12th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Mystery Surrounds Southwest Airlines’ Flight Cancellations
The Topline: This weekend, mass flight cancelations from Southwest Airlines left thousands of travelers scrambling to get home at airports around the country.
On Saturday, Southwest Airlines canceled 808 flights – around 25% of all their flights for the day nationwide. Another 34% of their flights were delayed. On Sunday, they canceled another 1,018 flights, or 30% of their total flights for the day.
The reason for the cancelations and delays remains largely unknown, as Southwest Airlines’ explanation appears to contradict reality on the ground. The airline claimed the flights were cancelled due to bad weather, staffing issues, and air traffic control problems, but other airlines weren’t affected by weather.
Key Point: Other airlines only canceled 1-2% of their flights over the weekend.
The Federal Aviation Administration also publicly refuted Southwest, saying they had no issues on Saturday and Sunday. They issued a statement saying “Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”
Vaccine Mandate Speculation
There was speculation among many that the cancellations were the result of Southwest’s vaccine mandate.
The airline announced last week they’d be requiring all employees be vaccinated by December 8th in order to comply with President Joe Biden’s vaccine order.
On Friday, the same day the cancellations started, the union for Southwest Pilots challenged the mandate in court, calling it unlawful.
The Southwest pilots union issued a statement saying they’re aware of the cancellations, but “can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”
Possible Explanation: Under the Railway Labor Act, airline employees aren’t allowed to go on strike without first entering mediation with the airlines itself. Some speculated that this could be an unofficial strike that the union can’t address or condone for legal reasons.
Moving forward, the airline said they’re offering increased overtime to address worker shortages, and expect things to straighten out by the end of the week.
2) Merck Seeks FDA Authorization For COVID-19 Drug
The Topline: On Monday, pharmaceutical giant Merck announced they are seeking FDA authorization for a new oral medication shown to drastically reduce both hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
Dr. Namandjé Bumpus, professor and director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, joined Morning Wire to discuss the news.
Last week, Merck announced that its new COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, seemed to have a high rate of success in treating COVID-19 patients.
The new oral medication has been shown to slash hospitalization rates by 50% and deaths by even more.
Dr. Bumpus said there’s enthusiasm for people to have another option, including something given orally instead of by injection.
The hope is for the drug to be in use by the end of this year and early 2022.
3) Tensions Worsen Between China And Taiwan
The Topline: In recent weeks, tensions have worsened in Asia, with Chinese military aggression being directed toward Taiwan.
Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to achieve “reunification” with Taiwan. He did so while speaking in what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) call the “Great Hall of the People” to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, saying, “Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and seek to split the country will come to no good.”
Taiwan’s president spoke out against Xi’s call for reunification, saying the island would not bow to pressure.
She said Taiwan would continue to build up its defensive capabilities to stop China from imposing a path which “offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
Yesterday, China’s military claimed it had carried out beach landing and assault drills in the province directly across the sea from Taiwan. However, video of the drills showed calm weather, while a tropical storm is currently moving through the area, casting doubt about when the video was filmed.
Earlier this month, the U.S. warned China that provocative military activity would undermine any regional peace and stability, but it seems the warning was essentially ignored, made worse by the fact that the U.S military presence in Asia has been eroding over time, all while the Chinese military has grown at dangerous rates.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
On Monday, Sydney, Australia began lifting some of its strict lockdown measures, at least for fully vaccinated residents. Sydney is now allowing vaccinated customers back into cafes, gyms and restaurants after they were shut out due to its “zero covid” policy, a policy the country is now rethinking. In response to the reopenings Monday, Australians celebrated the so-called “freedom day.”
New York parole officers are voicing concern in response to a new bill signed by governor Kathy Hochul, which would allow for the immediate release of over 160 people currently being held at Rikers on non-violent charges. While inmate advocates are cheering the law, parole officers argue the legislation removes accountability for individuals still completing their sentences, and will ultimately lead to more crime.