William Barr proved himself to be Donald Trump’s lawyer, Not America’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

(Yesterday the Attorney General William Barr Proved to the American people that he, Our Nation’s Top Cop is totally bought and paid for as well as proving himself to be an habitual liar, just like his boss. The DOJ needs to change its call letters to DONJ, STANDS FOR DEPARTMENT OF NO JUSTICE, but of course it could mean Donald, as in Teflon Don’s Justice) (oldpoet56)

William Barr proved himself to be Donald Trump’s lawyer, not America’s: Today’s talker

‘Barr was now fully invested in portraying Trump as its innocent victim,’ says Brian Dickerson.

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Attorney General William Barr was a no-show on Thursday, skipping a second congressional hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Barr writes his obituary — and it’s not flattering

By Brian Dickerson

Attorney General William Barr snookered me.

Back in January, testifying before senators considering whether to confirm him as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Barr was at pains to dispel suspicions that he would use his office to undercut the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, then nearing the conclusion of his investigation.

Senators who opposed Barr’s confirmation had ample reason to question his bona fides as an honest broker. Half a year before his nomination as attorney general, in a 19-page memo mailed to Department of Justice leaders, Barr had asserted that Mueller’s inquiry into the allegations that the president had broken the law by obstructing DOJ investigators was “fatally misconceived” because the president’s authority over the department was absolute.

Talker: How the far-right’s sexual assault hoax against Pete Buttigieg hurts conservatives

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But at his confirmation hearing, Barr insisted the memo was merely a summary of his disinterested legal judgment, not a veiled pledge of unquestioning loyalty to the president who had nominated him. He had already served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he reminded senators; he wanted to restore confidence in the DOJ, not use it as a shield for presidential misconduct.

The prospect that Barr had misled senators about his independence emerged on March 24, when he released a four-page summary of Mueller’s report that eerily echoed the language of the White House propaganda machine. Barr confirmed his critics’ worst suspicions on April 18, when he preempted the release of the redacted report with a news conference in which he portrayed White House efforts to derail the investigation as the reasonable reaction of a president “frustrated and angered” about the allegations against him.

Along with his assertion that the FBI had spied after obtaining a warrant to monitor the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian agents, Barr made it clear that contrary to his promise to defend Mueller’s investigation, he was now fully invested in portraying Trump as its innocent victim.

Mueller made plain his dismay at Barr’s metamorphosis from attorney general to chief defense counsel in a March 27 letter, made public just before the attorney general’s testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which the special counsel protested that Barr had distorted “the context, substance and nature” of his investigators’ work and threatened to undermine public confidence in their findings.

In his Senate testimony, Barr dismissed Mueller’s circumspect letter as “snitty,” brushed off previous sworn testimony in which the AG denied any inkling of the special counsel’s displeasure, and insisted, with the Trump White House’s characteristic disdain for candor, that he had meant to telegraph “no negative connotations” with his insinuations about FBI “spying.”

Yet it is impossible to imagine that Mueller, his investigators, or the FBI agents and DOJ lawyers working on the 14 criminal investigations Mueller’s team referred to other U.S. attorneys came away from Wednesday’s hearing with the confidence that Barr has their backs.

Contrast that with the almost reverent appreciation Justice Department officials expressed for Barr’s predecessors, the late Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, when they resigned rather than enlist in President Richard Nixon’s campaign to co-opt the Justice Department.

Barr won’t lose any sleep over my own disappointment, and he won’t be around to see how historians remember the cause for which he sacrificed, in a few short months, his reputation for integrity.

But he is quickly rewriting the obituary that might have appeared if he had demurred when Trump enlisted him as the White House’s principal propagandist. The updated version is unlikely to be one he or his children will take much pride in.

Brian Dickerson is the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, where the full version of this column first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter: @BRIANDDICKERSON.

What others are saying

James Comey, The New York Times: “Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. … More often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Attorney General William Barr and former acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive President Donald Trump, and that adds up to something they will never recover from.”

The Wall Street Journal,  editorial: “This trashing of Bill Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe. He was supposed to be their fast track to impeachment. Now they’re left trying to gin up an obstruction tale, but the probe wasn’t obstructed and there was no underlying crime. So they’re shouting and pounding the table against Bill Barr for acting like a real attorney general.”

Dana Milbank, The Washington Post: “Barr continued undermining Mueller on Wednesday, calling Mueller’s letter to him ‘a bit snitty’ and saying Mueller should have ended the investigation if he didn’t think it in his purview to say whether Trump committed a crime. And Barr eagerly played Trump’s defense lawyer. … Repeatedly, Barr said it didn’t matter that Trump had deceived the public. ‘I’m not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people,’ he said. But now Barr, by misrepresenting his dealings with Mueller, has gotten himself into the business of lying to the American people.”

What our readers are saying

Attorney General William Barr is not America’s lawyer, he’s President Donald Trump’s private counsel hired to lie to Congress and Americans. Barr lied to Congress on Wednesday regarding former special counsel Robert Mueller’s letter and said it was probably written by a subordinate. He has no shame and will do anything to protect our “dictator.”

— Russell E. Glass

I’m glad Barr told them to stick it on a second congressional hearing. Barr was ready to testify until the House Judiciary Committee agreed to add an hour of questions by staff lawyers — a nonsensical demand. Democrats just wanted another day of theatrics.

— Gerd Eysser

So many people don’t understand the true danger in this administration and their lawlessness. It sets the dangerous precedent that money and power mean you are above the law, and their total disregard for the Constitution and our laws is deplorable and putting us all at risk.

— Eileen Carlson Sierra

The Mueller report is done. There was no collusion! Liberals need to get over themselves and quit spending all this money.

— Pamela Hyder Lewis

To join the conversations about topics on USA TODAY or provide feedback to this newsletter, email [email protected], comment on Facebook, or use #tellusatoday on Twitter.

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FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 safety certification

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 Max 8 safety certification in wake of crashes

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The FBI has joined the widening criminal probe into how Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets were deemed as safe in the months before two of them crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, leading to a worldwide grounding of the vaunted planes amid scrutiny of U.S. certification standards.

A person familiar with the inquiry told USA TODAY on Wednesday that the FBI is assisting federal transportation authorities in their investigation into the jet’s certification process, which has come under criticism for possible cozy relationships between Boeing and FAA inspectors.

The two crashes killed more than 300 people since October. Transportation Department officials are leading the investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration approval of the passenger jet, while the FBI is providing needed resources, said the person, who is not authorized to comment publicly.

The FBI’s role in the inquiry was first reported by the Seattle Times.

It’s the latest revelation in the Boeing case, with a federal grand jury also looking into safety approvals for the planes and a key congressional panel scheduled next Wednesday to delve into the Max 8 and aviation safety in general.

“In light of the recent tragedy in Ethiopia and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, this hearing will examine challenges to the state of commercial aviation safety, including any specific concerns highlighted by recent accidents,” according to a statement from the committee, to be chaired by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. “The committee will hear from a panel of government witnesses on ways to improve the safety of the commercial air transportation system”

News of the FBI’s involvement also comes after Wednesday’s  decision by Europe and Canada to break with U.S. air-safety regulators. The Europeans and Canadians vow to conduct their own reviews of Boeing’s changes to a key flight-control system, not to simply take the Federal Aviation Administration’s word that the alterations are safe.

Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA’s reputation around the world. It could also mean a likely delay in the resumption of Max 8 flights around the globe. Hundreds of Max 8s are ground and production of more than 4,000 others have been halted amid safety concerns.

Boeing hopes by Monday to finish its update to critical software that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid an aerodynamic stall, according to two people briefed on FAA presentations to congressional committees.

The FAA expects to certify Boeing’s modifications and plans for pilot training in April or May, one of the people told the Associated Press. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the briefings.

But there are doubts about meeting that timetable. Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1 and suspend some routes that it flew with the plane before it was grounded around the world last week.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, which are slightly less dependent on the Max than Air Canada, are juggling their fleets to fill in for grounded planes, but have still canceled some flights.

By international agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built. Regulators around the world have almost always accepted that country’s decision.

As a result, European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and U.S. airlines operate Airbus jets without a separate, lengthy certification process by the FAA.

That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA’s certification of the Max. Critics question whether the FAA relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.

CONTRIBUTING: Ledyard King, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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Father denied visa for slain daughter’s funeral

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

Father denied visa for slain daughter’s funeral as suspect charged with rape, murder

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A 34-year-old man is facing murder, forcible rape, kidnapping and other charges in connection with the disappearance of 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar from Lumberton, North Carolina. The news comes as Aguilar’s father, a Guatemalan citizen, was denied a U.S. visa and missed his daughter’s Saturday funeral.

The charges against suspect Michael Ray McLellan were released by the FBI on Saturday. Prior to his arrest, McLellan was being held in custody on unrelated charges, according to the FBI.

Despite tens of thousands of signatures on a Change.org petition calling on U.S. agencies to allow Hania Aguilar’s father  to attend his daughter’s funeral, Noé Aguilar was not granted a visa, Naimeh Salem, a Texas immigration lawyer, confirmed to USA TODAY in a Saturday email.

Noé Aguilar was denied requests for a second interview and humanitarian parole, Salem said in a written statement.

Hania Aguilar’s funeral was Saturday at Lumberton High School, ABC11 WTVD reports. A video of the event shows purple balloons and bows decorating the venue as a large crowd gathered for a bilingual service.

Hania was abducted Nov. 5 after going outside to start an SUV for a relative who was going to drive her to the school bus. A neighbor said she heard screams, then saw a man force Hania into the SUV and drive away.

The FBI joined local and state police in a massive search. The vehicle was found three days later in a wooded area several miles from Hania Aguilar’s home.  In late November, a body tentatively identified as Hania Aguilar’s was found in North Carolina.

Salem told the New York Times that Noé Aguilar’s visa was denied by American officials because they believed he might not return to his native country.

“To tell you the truth, with past administrations, we never had a problem like this,” Salem is quoted by the Times. “With this administration, most everything that is discretionary is getting denied.”

Suspect McLellan faces 10 state charges filed by the Lumberton Police Department, but more may be filed as the investigation continues, an FBI statement says.

Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press; WCNC-TV, Charlotte, wcnc.com

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Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan Prisoners Has Been Found

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan prisoners, is found for the first time

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Greek archaeologists discovered for the first time remnants of the long-lost ancient city of Tenea, Greece’s culture ministry said this week.

Having been previously documented only in ancient texts, Tenea was excavated in the southern region of Peloponnese, and the dig uncovered “proof of the existence of the ancient city,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Tenea is believed to have been a city settled by Trojan prisoners permitted to build their own city after the Trojan War. Past digs have found clues near the city, but the most recent excavation uncovered the “city’s urban fabric,” including floors, walls and door openings, the culture ministry said.

Taking place from September to early October, the excavation found remnants of residences, pottery, coins and tombs, among other discoveries.

“It is significant that the remnants of the city, the paved roads, the architectural structure, came to light,” lead archaeologist Elena Korka told CNN. “We’ve found evidence of life and death … and all this is just a small part of the history of the place.”

More: Archaeologists opened a mysterious Egyptian sarcophagus. Here’s what they found

More: Strange ancient animal fossil is the oldest on record, scientists say

Korka also told CNN that her team found child burials, a key clue to determining they had uncovered residences because only children were buried in buildings during Roman times.

Korka and her team had been digging in the area since 2013, but only in nearby cemeteries, she told the Associated Press.

This recent excavation also indicated that the city experienced economic prosperity under Roman rule. The city had been believed to survive Rome’s invasion of nearby Corinth.

Specifically, coins discovered in the dig dated to the era of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211, indicating economic success, the ministry said.

“The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” Korka told the Associated Press.

More: Oldest weapons discovered in North America tell us more about first Americans, researchers say

More: Extinct gibbon discovered in an ancient tomb. It might have been a pet.

However, archaeologists determined that the city was likely damaged by Visigoths between 396 and 397 and abandoned some 200 years later during Slavic raids, the ministry said.

Korka and her team plan to continue their excavation work moving forward to uncover more of the city’s history.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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Mob Boss Whitey Bulger Found Dead In Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, notorious Boston gangster, found dead in prison, reports say

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James “Whitey’’ Bulger, the Boston gangster who eluded authorities for 16 years before being captured and convicted of participating in 11 murders in 2013, has died at a prison in West Virginia, according to media reports.

Bulger, who was 89, was found dead Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe and NBC News.

Bulger was the head of a violent South Boston crime ring known as the Winter Hill Gang from the 1970’s into the 1990s. In 1995, Bulger was tipped off about his imminent indictment by an FBI agent and escaped, remaining on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list until getting apprehended in 2011 in Santa Monica, California.

His life of crime was the subject of several movies, including “The Departed,’’ which won an Oscar for the Best Picture of 2006.

Bulger, who was serving a life sentence, had been recently moved from a federal prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City before being relocated to the Hazelton Penitentiary. He had been in ill health for some time.

Among the slayings linked to Bulger was that of Roger Wheeler, who was gunned down outside his country club in Tulsa in 1981. Bulger was also convicted for his role in murders in several states and for racketeering.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Facebook Lies: Says 7,182 Students Killed In Schools Since 2012: Fact Total of People Killed In Schools =138

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘PUNDITFACT’)

 

Facebook post incorrectly says 7,182 students were killed in U.S. schools since 2012

A demonstrator holds a sign saying “Stop Spilling Our Blood” during a protest against guns in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., three days after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. (Associated Press)

Thousands of pairs of shoes dotted the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this week, prompting photos and media coverage about what it meant.

Global activist group Avaaz set up the demonstration of 7,000 pairs of shoes on March 13 to represent child deaths from gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. Many major news outlets including CNN and USA Today shared striking images of the shoes, but some Internet bloggers were confused about what the shoes really symbolized.

Take, for example, Equality House, one of many blogs that shared this post on their Facebook page:

The image says that shoes on the Capitol lawn represent 7,182 students “killed in U.S. schools since 2012.” (The image offers a comparison to deaths from overseas wars since 2001, which is a safer estimate.)

But that’s the wrong interpretation.

It’s been more than five years since Sandy Hook, so the display featured 7,000 pairs of shoes. That total includes children who are killed at home, in neighborhoods, and by suicide.

Far fewer children have been killed in schools.

The estimate for 7,000 child gun deaths traces back to a June 2017 study by Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal. It found that 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds every year. The study looked at children from birth to 17 years of age.

The Avaaz news release stated that the shoes symbolize the children who have been killed by all gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting, not children killed in U.S. schools.

There isn’t one uniform way of tracking school shootings and deaths, but no matter which what you look at it, the 7,000-figure isn’t accurate.

The New York Times published an analysis of the number of people who have been shot in school shootings on Feb. 15, the day after the Parkland school shootings.

Using data from the Gun Violence Archive, the Times found that 138 people have been killed in school shootings since Sandy Hook. That total includes school personnel who are not students, so the number of students would be even smaller.

The Gun Violence Archive defines a school shooting as an incident that occurs on the property of an elementary, secondary or college campus and only included incidents in which people were injured or killed.

So, even if you count all of the other instances of a student being killed on a school campus (for which there is no official count) it’s likely it would not come anywhere near 7,182.

Equality House, for its part, noted the difference between the image and the way Avaaz described it in the caption of its post. But the group still circulated the flawed information and did not delete it.

Our ruling

Bloggers said shoes on the Capitol lawn this week represented 7,182 students killed in U.S. schools since 2012.

That’s not accurate. The pairs of shoes symbolized more than 7,000 children who had been killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting. The number of children killed in school violence, while fluid, is certainly smaller than that total.

We rate this claim False.

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Says shoes on the Capitol lawn represent 7,182 students who were killed in U.S. schools since 2012.

Huckabee quits country music board amid backlash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Huckabee quits country music board amid backlash

(CNN)Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee resigned Thursday from the Country Music Association Foundation board of directors — less than one day after his appointment — after backlash over his anti-gay rights record.

“I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained,” Huckabee wrote in his letter of resignation.
Huckabee didn’t mention the controversy over his stance on gay rights in his letter. But he wrote, “If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it.”
A message left by CNN with the foundation seeking comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.
Huckabee, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, compared legalizing same-sex marriage to incest and polygamy in 2010. He also compared same-sex adoption to experimentation, saying that “children are not puppies.”
Jason Owen, the co-president of Monument Records who is in a same-sex marriage and has a son, told the association’s CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns that neither his companies nor those they represent would support the foundation due to Huckabee’s appointment.
“Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country,” Owen wrote in an email obtained by MusicRow. “Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
Whitney Pastorek, a manager of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and a CMA member, also expressed concern in an email to CMA executives, casting Huckabee as someone who “engages in language of racism, sexism, and bigotry,” The Tennessean newspaper reported.
CMA board member Joe Galante told USA Today in a statement that Huckabee was elected to the board because he “led an impressive administration while serving the state of Arkansas and his policy experience with education reform is something we are fortunate to be able to learn from.”
Politically, many country music fans tend to lean conservative, and the issue of gay rights is seldom pressed in the industry.
The CMA Foundation is the association’s philanthropic arm and supports music education programs across the country.

Amtrak train derailed on track that had automatic-braking technology — but it wasn’t switched on

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Amtrak train derailed on track that had automatic-braking technology — but it wasn’t switched on

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The fatal Amtrak crash south of Seattle occurred on track where equipment for automatic braking, which Congress has required on all railroads by the end of 2018, was installed but was still being tested.

Train 501 was going 80 mph Monday in a curve posted for 30 mph when several cars derailed and dangled off a bridge above Interstate 5, according to Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board that is investigating.

At least three people died and dozens were injured when 13 train cars jumped the tracks during the train’s inaugural run along a new bypass route. The train carried 85 passengers and crew members.

 The board will spend months determining what role speed and any other factors played in the accident before making recommendations about how to avoid future accidents.

Congress set the deadline for railroads to install automatic braking after a collision in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008 between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people. Safety advocates contend the technology could have prevented the accident.

The technology collectively known as “Positive Train Control” provides signals between tracks, trains and dispatch centers to slow down speeding trains or to stop them at the appropriate signals if the engineer isn’t responding. Railroads are installing the technology piecemeal across the country at a cost of billions of dollars.

“The Positive Train Control equipment has been installed and is now still in testing, which is why the system has not been activated,” Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said of the track owned by a Seattle-area transit company where the accident occurred.

Sound Transit owns the tracks south from Tacoma to Dupont, where the accident occurred, providing its own transit service as far south as Lakewood, according to spokesman Geoff Patrick.

But the state Department of Transportation upgraded the tracks with federal funding so Amtrak could travel farther south along the tracks, while avoiding freight tracks that run along the shore of Puget Sound.

“We own the tracks, but we do not operate on them,” Patrick said of the accident location.

Sound Transit has installed Positive Train Control equipment along the railroad right-of-way, which will communicate with trains and network control centers, Patrick said. But the system hasn’t yet been linked together or certified as operational, he said.

“We are well ahead of the December 2018 deadline and on schedule for implementing in the second quarter of 2018,” Patrick said. “We’re pleased to be well ahead of the deadline.”

More:

Amtrak: Modern braking system coming to N.E. Corridor by year’s end

NTSB: Amtrak’s systemic safety lapses, lack of equipment caused fatal train crash in Pa.

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said Amtrak is behind the new technology. “As far as Positive Train Control goes, we are huge supporters of Positive Train Control at Amtrak,” Anderson said.

Keith Millhouse, rail-safety consultant and a former board chairman of Metrolink at the time of the Chatsworth collision, has advocated for Positive Train Control because rail accidents often result from human errors such as distraction that could be avoided with automatic braking.

“The big tragedy here is that if indeed it was over-speed, positive train control would have prevented this accident,” Millhouse said.

He said the accident was “eerily similar” to the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia in May 2015, which killed eight people and injured hundreds.

The NTSB ruled that the engineer lost awareness of where he was on his route and headed into a 50-mph curve at more than 100 mph. Positive Train Control hadn’t been installed on that part of track by the time of the accident, but Amtrak completed it along its portion of the Northeast Corridor in December 2015.

Benedict Morelli, a New York lawyer who represented passengers in the crash, said Congress should have hastened the requirement for railroads to adopt the technology before the latest accident.

“I worry when I get on an airplane. Before I represented these people, I didn’t get on an Amtrak train and think, ‘God, I hope I don’t derail,’” Morelli said. “Now it’s happening and happening and happening.  It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Even when completed, the system is not foolproof.

An Amtrak train struck a backhoe at 99 mph outside Philadelphia in April 2016, killing two people and injuring 36 — despite automatic braking being installed along the track.

In a safety lapse between work shifts, the board found a night foreman lifted a closure on the track, which the day foreman didn’t resume, even though the backhoe remained on the track.

Anderson refused to speculate about what caused Monday’s crash. But he said Amtrak listens to NTSB  guidance and is making investments based on recommendations from previous accidents.

“We take those very seriously and continue to make the investments recommended by the NTSB,” Anderson said. “Safety is the highest priority of the Amtrak board.”

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Celebrating Hanukkah In The Holy Land

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

JERUSALEM (RNS) – Yael Horovitz, who immigrated to Israel from Australia, always loved the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but the emphasis there on Christmas made her feel a little left out.

“In Australia, for two months out of the year I couldn’t escape Christmas carols,” said Horovitz, who is Jewish. “Being forced to listen to them in supermarkets, shopping centers, on the radio and TV bothered me.”

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over their Greek-Syrian oppressors in 167 B.C., as well as the re-dedication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, was barely acknowledged by most Australians, Horovitz said.

But Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Tuesday, is an altogether different experience for her now.

Ten years ago Horovitz moved to Israel, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population. Here, the holiday season “feels so right,” she said. “This is my religion, these are my songs, my decorations, my kids being educated to love their heritage, and being embraced by it from all sides.”

Hanukkah in the Holy Land gives Horovitz and other Jews who have immigrated to Israel from Western countries a sense of belonging they don’t feel anywhere else. In Israel, though Hanukkah is not a national holiday, most of the nation celebrates it.

That’s a big contrast to the way many American Jews feel at Christmastime, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.

“Christmas is the one day of the year when many American Jews experience a sense that they are outsiders in America” because Christmas, a religious holiday, is also a national holiday, Sarna said.

Although Hanukkah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, Sarna said, more than a century ago American Jews elevated the holiday “as a way to ensure that they were not left out of the holiday spirit.”

Their goal, Sarna said, was to ensure that Jewish children would be happy and proud of their own winter holiday and not want to celebrate the holiday of another religion.

Even so, if you live in the U.S., “it is impossible to avoid Santa and Christmas music and holiday lights. It’s the time of year when the differences between Jews and their neighbors seem most stark.”

That’s not the case in Israel, Sarna said, where Hanukkah and not Christmas is the dominant December holiday. Just 2.1 percent of Israelis are Christian; 17 percent are Muslim; 1.7 percent are Druze. The remaining 4 percent belong to other religious minorities or have no religion.

Although Hanukkah in Israel remains far less commercialized than it is in the U.S., with shopping malls hanging nary a holiday decoration, it has more recently taken on some of its American trappings.

This week, Osher Ad, a large Jerusalem supermarket, had two aisles’ worth of Hanukkah-related products, from elaborate faux-silver menorahs to imported paper Hanukkah plates and napkins and dreidel-shaped containers filled with chocolate candies.

And rather than sell only simple jelly doughnuts, a traditional Hanukkah treat, now bakeries around the country create fancy and expensive Western-style doughnuts.

Jewish children are on school break the week of Hanukkah, so movie theaters time their new releases to the vacation. Festigal, a live music and dance show for children, is an annual tradition.

Compared with the holiday season in the U.S., however, Hanukkah in Israel is low-key. Families gather to light the menorah – some have a separate one for each child – and eat doughnuts or potato pancakes fried in oil. (Oily foods are eaten on Hanukkah to commemorate the “miracle” of the holiday, when enough oil to light a lamp for just one night lasted for eight.)

Some parents give their children presents – though almost never more than a couple — or Hanukkah “gelt” – both money and chocolate coins.

Orthodox families like to light their menorahs outside, in glass containers, so everyone who passes can soak up their light.

Tsipi Amiri, whose family lived in the U.S. until she was 10, said she doesn’t miss the “commercialization” of the holiday season or the pressure to celebrate Hanukkah with lots of fanfare and gifts.

“There was this competition within the American Jewish community about who got what,” Amiri said. “Thankfully, I don’t see that here.”

More: When is Hanukkah and what does it celebrate?

Netanya Carmi said the first thing she noticed during her first Israeli Hanukkah 20 years ago was that many stores close early every night and evening classes at universities are canceled so all can go home and light candles with their families.

“Here in Israel, Hanukkah is all about tradition and family,” Carmi said.

Super Volcano Is Melting Antarctic Ice Sheet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

Mantle plume’ nearly as hot as Yellowstone supervolcano is melting Antarctic ice sheet

  

A satellite observation specialist posted a photo to Twitter of the Pine Island Glacier, starting to make a break for it. Buzz60

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Antarctica is getting a little hot under the collar.

Just under the frozen wasteland of the world’s coldest continent are some seriously hot rocks, which are helping to melt its ice sheet and create lakes and rivers, a study found.

How hot? Try 1,800 degrees. The heat produced by the scorching hot rocks — officially known as a mantle plume — was measured at 150 milliwatts per square meter. That’s not far from the heat produced under Yellowstone National Park, which is measured at about 200 milliwatts per square meter.

The study is among the first to say that a mantle plume exists under Marie Byrd Land, a portion of West Antarctica. Study lead author Helene Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory thought it was “crazy” that it would be there: “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” she said.

The goal of the study was to figure out how the ice sheet was able to stay frozen with such a warm mantle plume underneath and to determine the amount of heat provided by the plume to the base of the ice sheet.

Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it could help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly some 11,000 years ago and why it’s so unstable today, Seroussi said.

Additionally, understanding the sources and future of the meltwater under West Antarctica is important for estimating the rate at which ice may be lost to the ocean in the future, she added.

This study is not linked to the recent iceberg calving event in Larsen C or the change in Antarctic sea ice, Seroussi said.

The mantle plume has been present in this region for over 50 million years, so it existed before the onset of the Antarctic ice sheet. “However, the presence of the plume is important, as it suggests the ice is more vulnerable in this area: this additional heat warms the ice, which suggests greater weakness in the face of future and past changes in the environment,” she added.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

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