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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Make Railroads Safer After East Palestine Train Derailment

A new bill would go a long way in trying to prevent another disaster like the one in Ohio.

The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 14

Don’t miss it—Congress might actually be doing something to hold railroads accountable and make workers and the broader public safer.

On Wednesday, a group of bipartisan senators (Sherrod Brown, J.D. Vance, Bob Casey, Marco Rubio, John Fetterman, and Josh Hawley) introduced the “Railway Safety Act of 2023” to address some of the concerns about rail safety that resurfaced after the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The bill calls for stronger safety standards for all trains carrying hazardous materials and also expands those standards to trains not currently subject to high-hazard flammable train, or HHFT, regulations (like the train in East Palestine).

It also mandates a freight train be operated by at least two-person crews, which rail workers have been demanding for some time, and increases penalties for companies that violate any rail safety standards.

Enforcement for many of the bill’s provisions will be key, however, says Railroad Workers United Co-Chair Ross Grooters. “It appears to be a step in the right direction, but we need to pay attention to the details,” Grooters told TNR. “Often railroads are reactionary. They tend to do the minimum and create unintended consequences within the law. Ensuring we have strong enforcement and no loopholes is key.”

The Senate legislation, similar to a House bill introduced Tuesday, directs rail carriers to proactively communicate with local, state, and tribal emergency response commissions when hazardous materials are being transported.

The bill also calls on the transportation secretary to carry out numerous provisions and enact further regulation. So, to Grooters’s point, the execution will still depend on agency will.

Under the legislation, the transportation secretary is responsible for creating new safety standard procedures on an array of items, including how big trains can be and how fast they can go, how frequently trains should be inspected, and to direct audits of the inspection programs themselves.

The bill also directs the transportation secretary to issue new regulations on the equipment used to monitor trains carrying hazardous materials. This measure comes as the National Transportation Safety Board deemed that an overheated wheel bearing was part of what led to the Norfolk Southern train derailing in East Palestine. The bill mandates that trains carrying hazardous materials be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles and that the detectors be equipped to alert rail operators effectively.

The legislation further calls to collect funds from rail operators in order to carry out additional emergency response training. And the bill appropriates $22 million for research and development into detectors and $5 million for developing safer tank cars.

There are some differences between the Senate bill and the separate rail safety bill introduced in the House, including on what gets classified as a high-hazard flammable train.

Of note is that the bill also did not include any specific guidance or directive surrounding the revival of the Obama-era rule to mandate updated braking systems at least for trains carrying hazardous materials.

Nevertheless, it is unmistakably a great step forward for Congress to be pushing the slate of measures, particularly in a bipartisan manner. The words are now officially on paper, and anyone looking to oppose or water down the bill should be put on notice—especially since there’s still much more to be done.

Who is Julie Su, Biden’s New Pick for Labor Secretary?

President Joe Biden has officially nominated Julie Su to serve as labor secretary. Here’s what her record looks like.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Julie Su

Julie Su is on track to become the first Asian American person to serve as a Cabinet secretary under the current administration.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he was nominating Su, currently the deputy labor secretary, to head the entire Department of Labor.

“Julie knows in her bones … that people who get up every morning and go to work and bust their necks just to make an honest living deserve something, someone to fight at their side to give them an even shot,” Biden said in an official announcement ceremony Wednesday. “Julie has spent her life fighting for that vision.”

He also highlighted Su’s upbringing as the daughter of Chinese immigrants in Wisconsin. “Julie is the American dream,” Biden said.

Su, 54, first made a name for herself almost three decades ago as a young lawyer in California. When she was just 26, she led a legal team representing a group of more than 70 enslaved Thai garment workers in El Monte, near Los Angeles. The workers were undocumented and forced to live and work in an apartment complex that functioned as a sweatshop in order to “earn” their freedom. Many had been trapped there for seven years before the operation was discovered in a police raid.

Su and her team sued the workers’ captors, as well as the manufacturers and retailers of the clothes produced in the sweatshop. The case, which was one of the worst instances of labor exploitation and human rights violation in the United States, helped spur a change in California’s legislation to increase worker protections.

Since then, Su has served as the head of California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and as the state’s labor secretary. In February 2021, Biden nominated her as deputy secretary for the Labor Department. She was seen as a younger, more progressive voice, and her nomination was welcomed by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which has called on Biden from the start to nominate more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to his Cabinet.

Su’s nomination for deputy passed the Senate 50–47 along party lines. Although Democrats control the Senate, Su may be up for a bit of a fight. Many party members, such as Nancy Pelosi, have backed former New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney—the man who cost his party several key seats during the 2022 midterms—for labor secretary.

Su could also be unpopular for her role in helping avert a national rail strike in December, which culminated with Biden signing a bill that imposed a contract with no paid sick leave on 115,000 rail workers, the majority of whom had opposed the contract.

Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have hailed Su’s nomination, with Warren calling her “terrific.” Sanders, who is chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he thought Su was an “excellent” choice and looked forward to working with her to “protect workers’ rights and build the trade union movement.”

In Fake Culture War, House Republicans Vote to Ban Retirement Plans From Considering ESG Investments

Republicans are targeting a Labor Department rule that allows (but does not require) retirement plans to take into account environmental, social, and corporate governance.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday blocking the Labor Department from implementing a rule that encourages retirement plans to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance, in Republicans’ latest manufactured culture war.

Representatives voted 216–204 for the measure, mostly along party lines. Only one Democrat, Maine Representative Jared Golden, voted for the measure, which now goes to the Senate. President Joe Biden has said he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

Environmental, social, and corporate governance, or ESG, is a framework that helps investors understand how an organization—in this case, retirement savings plan managers—manages risks and opportunities regarding sustainability. Issues of sustainability include environmental protection, impact on society, and aligning corporate leadership goals with stakeholder ones.

The Labor Department rule makes it easier for retirement plan managers to consider ESG factors such as climate change when making investments or voting on behalf of shareholders. It does not actually require the plans to include these considerations, making it clear Tuesday’s vote was just another Republican attempt to fearmonger over something that’s really not bad.

Republicans have slammed the rule as another facet of “woke capitalism.” The GOP has declared war on “wokeness,” meaning anything that has to do with social equity or change. Last week, Vivek Ramaswamy, a prominent critic of ESG investing, announced he is running for president in 2024. Florida Governor Ron Desantis, another likely Republican presidential candidate, also proposed banning ESG investment in the state earlier this month.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the House bill would make sure retirement plan managers only consider financial returns on investments, instead of “extraneous factors” such as climate change and employment policies.

“Democrats want to let money managers make these unrelated ideological goals a higher priority than getting their clients—ordinary American workers—the best returns for their own retirements,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I’ll be proud to support this commonsense measure later this week.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote, where all Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin support it. The measure needs only a simple majority to pass, and with Senator John Fetterman out getting treated for depression, it is likely to get through.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have introduced a competing bill called the Freedom to Invest in a Sustainable Future Act. The bill would codify retirement plan managers’ right to consider ESG factors when making decisions. It is unlikely to get the support it needs to pass the Republican-controlled House.

After Weeks of Fake Outrage Over East Palestine, Republicans Push to Weaken Water Protection

The Ohio train derailment story is also a story about water pollution.

Michael Swensen/Getty Images
Olivia Holley, 22, and Taylor Gulish, 22, test the pH and the total dissolved solids of the water from Leslie Run creek on February 25 in East Palestine, Ohio.

Republicans have spent weeks criticizing the response to the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, lobbing attacks at any target close enough for something to stick. Seldom have they directly confronted the clear-as-day culprit: corporate-bought deregulation. The charade has now hit another milestone, as Republicans line up behind a party-wide push to deregulate water protection in the United States.

On Tuesday, the Republican-led House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to reverse a Biden administration rule on water protection—which could affect communities contaminated by disasters like the one in East Palestine.

In 2015, the Obama administration announced a rule that expanded the definition of what kinds of bodies of water can be covered under the Clean Water Act, the now 50-year-old law tasked with overseeing water pollution and protecting the integrity of the country’s waterways.

In 2020, the Trump administration rolled back Obama’s changes, letting polluters off the hook and leaving regulators with less jurisdiction over protecting waterways. The approach limited federal protection to cover only “permanent” bodies of water and not other smaller but still impactful waterways, like streams of water that flow only part of the year. As a result, Trump’s rule deferred to states to determine what would and wouldn’t be protected by the Clean Water Act. In a case like Ohio, where the local government has been slow to respond to the contamination of water, such limits could make communities worse off.

In January, the Biden administration issued a rule overturning former President Trump’s limited scope of water protection, instead moving toward Obama’s more inclusive framework. Biden’s rule would allow waterways or wetlands that display a significant connection to more established waterways to be regulated. Biden’s water rule also aims to set a “durable” standard that more concretely defines when a waterway in question “significantly affects the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of other already-established protected waters.

In East Palestine, the train derailment implicated numerous scales of waterways—some that interlink with adjacent smaller streams and wetlands. Contaminated local stream Sulfur Run flows into nearby stream Leslie Run, which flows into the nearby Bull Creek, which flows into the North Fork Little Beaver Creek, which flows into Little Beaver Creek, which empties, finally, into the Ohio River.

Still, scores of Republicans—lawmakers in Congress, state attorneys general, and Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices—are threatening to make it harder for the federal government to protect waterways.

On February 2, just one day before the East Palestine derailment that polluted numerous community waterways, all 49 Senate Republicans and 152 House Republicans signed on to a challenge against Biden’s rule, clamoring to deregulate water protection. And on February 16, 24 Republican attorneys general—including Ohio’s—announced a lawsuit against the EPA, complaining about federal overreach as the world witnessed Ohio bungling the protection of its own community’s waters and stubbornly refusing to accept federal help.

While Republicans push for the resolution over the coming weeks, they just need to win a simple majority vote. Biden will have the ability to veto the bill, and likely would not face a two-thirds overruling from Congress blocking his veto power. Republicans just aim to dare him to veto it, if they can pass it at all.

Meanwhile, Sackett v. EPA, a concurrent Supreme Court case, deals with the question of assessing waterways’ significance; the case was heard in October 2022 and the opinion is now pending. So the case of water protection is subject to both a conservative-stacked court and a broader Republican Party committed to dulling the government’s ability to act on behalf of its people.

Of note is that Biden’s rule is a self-proclaimed effort to achieve a “middle ground” between the Obama and Trump rules, and in fact mirrors much of the degree of regulatory jurisdiction settled before Obama’s updates. Nevertheless, Republicans still cannot stop themselves from hollowly railing against “federal overreach,” even while their counterparts are operating in a fairly conciliatory manner.

And still, Republicans pretending to care about the people of East Palestine and their waterways have signed on to a party-wide effort to roll back water protections. Their guiding mission to deregulate the economy trumps all sense, welfare of people or the environment be damned. All while companies like Norfolk Southern funnel millions into lobbying and buying favor from politicians, leading to as few as four Republicans collecting almost half a million dollars in less than two presidential election cycles.

The interconnectedness and fluidity of the flow of our water necessitates a granular and careful water protection, not a flippant and relaxed one; Republicans are working yet again to maintain the latter.

The Republicans Who Like Talking About Ohio but Not How Much Money They Received From Rail Companies

Quite a few Republican lawmakers who are suddenly vocal about the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, received a lot of money from the rail industry.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Since the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, Republicans have continued their campaign of pretending to care about working people, environmental damage, infrastructure, and community welfare generally. But a select group of them—Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Ron Johnson—have consistently raked in cash from the top four American railroad companies. Since the 2016 cycle, these four Republicans alone have collected at least $472,000 from rail giants BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern.

The rail companies have contributed to other Republicans of course, and to Democrats as well. But Senators Rubio, Cruz, Johnson, and Hawley have gone above and beyond in pretending to care about rail workers and the people of East Palestine.

Rubio, Hawley, and Cruz were among a handful of Republicans last December who signed on to Bernie Sanders’s bill that would have added seven days of paid sick leave to the rail workers’ contract. The bill fell short, which may explain the famously anti-labor Republican senators’ willingness to support it.

Since the East Palestine train derailment, Rubio has spent a significant amount of time calling for Pete Buttiegieg’s resignation. But since 2016, Rubio himself received at least $54,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received at least $107,000.

Cruz has said he hopes that after Ohio, policymakers will “address the derailment’s root causes rather than simply advance narrow political interests.” (He issued this statement one day after posting a Twitter video celebrating low regulation.) But you don’t have to look far to determine which Cruz is which: Since 2016, Cruz has received at least $32,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received nearly $100,000 from them.

And Cruz has done his best to earn the corporate cash. In 2021, he co-sponsored legislation narrowing the amount of time agencies have to complete environmental reviews of proposed federal action, and assigning penalties to agencies that don’t comply with those timelines. Cruz also pushed a bill in the same Congress, alongside Senators John Kennedy and Kevin Cramer, to prohibit the Department of Transportation from issuing any regulation to limit the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail.

Nearly two weeks after the East Palestine train derailment, Hawley sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing his supposed concern for “the health, safety, and well-being” of those affected. He has since complained about corporations, the EPA, and Buttigieg. Meanwhile, his Fighting for Missouri PAC received $3,000 from the aptly named Norfolk Southern Corporation Good Government Fund and $10,000 from BNSF before the 2020 election. Hawley also received a personal $2,000 donation from Norfolk Southern board member Thomas D. Bell Jr., during the 2018 cycle. As Missouri attorney general, Hawley was among the Republican officials who helped weaken Obama-era water protections.

Johnson has sent out multiple fundraising emails about the East Palestine derailment, feigning concern for the community before shamelessly asking voters to pay off his campaign debts. And again, since 2016, Johnson received at least $53,500 from the big four companies, while his PAC pulled in $114,000 from them.

One of the few rail-related bills Johnson co-sponsored was backed by the Association of American Railroads and sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments.

Again, these Republicans aren’t alone. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who has still refused to declare a statewide emergency or disaster, has received at least $29,000 from Norfolk Southern since 2018, as well as another $2,000 from CSX.

And as TNR has reported, rail corporations’ influence is also cross-partisan. Hakeem Jeffries, the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition’s PAC, Joe Manchin, Jim Clyburn, and Sean Patrick Maloney were among the many 2022 election recipients of funds from Norfolk Southern’s “Good Government Fund.”

But Republicans’ guilt is particular, insofar as their purported concern for the derailment lies in direct opposition to their fundamental ideology of cutting regulation. While corporate greed pervades both parties, conservative regulation-cutting ideology is much more foundational to the Republican political project.

Accordingly, if Democratic leadership wants to genuinely present the party as an alternative to Republicans beset by the ills of regulatory capture, they ought to prove which party is more interested in carrying out governance.

And the contrast is already on display. Representatives Ro Khanna and Chris Deluzio have introduced legislation to expand the definition of “high-hazard flammable trains” and ensure reforms like Obama-era braking updates would apply to trains like the derailed one in East Palestine. Meanwhile, conservatives are by and large offering no solutions beyond lip service to the people, and favors to the corporations lining their pockets.

Tennessee Governor, Who Wore Drag in High School, Will Sign Bill Banning Drag Shows

Bill Lee says he will sign the anti-drag bill, and was angry when asked about his high school yearbook photo.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is seated on stage and smiles. The words CPAC appear behind him.
Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says he plans to sign a law banning drag performances, just days after a photo of him dressed as a woman in high school was shared online, leading many to call him a hypocrite.

Tennessee lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on drag shows last week, one of more than 20 similar bills working through state legislatures. The bill, which if signed will go into effect on April 1, bans “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” meaning of a sexual nature, either in public or if there is a minor present. The language is vague and makes no distinction between drag performers and transgender people.

Strip clubs, which also provide “entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” are still legal in the state.

Lee told reporters Monday that he plans to sign the drag ban into law, as well as another bill that would prohibit gender-affirming care for minors. A reporter then asked him about the photo, which was posted to Reddit Saturday night.

The photo shows a young man wearing a wig and a cheerleader’s uniform. It is captioned “Hard Luck Woman.” The original poster said it appears to be Lee. A spokesperson for Lee’s high school told NBC that the photo is from the 1977 yearbook and “appears to be Bill Lee,” but there’s no other information to confirm it.

Governor Bill Lee is believed to be standing second to left in this 1977 yearbook photo.
Franklin High School/

Lee was livid when asked about the picture. “What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is. Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children,” he said.

Some drag performers in Tennessee have called Lee’s decision to sign the ban into law hypocritical. “He’s saying, ‘It’s OK for straight people to do it, but not the gay community,’” Denise Sadler, who has been a drag performer in Nashville for more than 20 years, told NBC.

Like any performance, drag can be tailored to be appropriate for any audience. Seeing drag performances can actually be beneficial to the young people Lee claims he wants to protect, especially younger LGBTQ people, because it shows them that they are not alone. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s bill is part of a major backlash against the increasing visibility of the LGBTQ community. Drag performers have become a particular target for Republicans and right-wing extremist groups, who accuse them of being pedophiles.

“Discriminating against drag performances based on the content of their expression is a direct contradiction of a fundamental principle of our democracy: our First Amendment right to express ourselves on and off the stage,” the ACLU of Tennessee said, the day the drag ban passed. “So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”

A New Texas Bill Seeks to Ban Abortion Pill Websites Statewide

The legislation, which also targets abortion funds, seems to be a new front in the attack on abortion.

A hand with nail polish holds a smartphone with the Plan C website
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A Texas Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would compel internet providers in the state to block websites that sell or provide information on how to obtain abortion pills.

The Women and Child Safety Act, which was introduced late last week, would require that websites such as Plan C and Aid Access be cut off. It would also allow individuals to bring civil lawsuits against the people who maintain such sites. Abortion funds and their staffers could face criminal penalties for helping someone get an abortion even if they travel out of state, as could individuals who manufacture and distribute abortion pills in Texas or who provide information on how to get the drugs.

Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener noted that this bill appears to be the first in the United States to go after online abortion pill providers, which are considered a crucial resource in maintaining widespread access to safe abortions.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Texas has banned abortion after six weeks, before many people know they are pregnant. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and only a few to save the life of the pregnant person. Individuals are also allowed to sue anyone who provides abortion care or helps someone get an abortion, in what’s known as the state’s chilling vigilante law.

Medication abortions, which consist of taking the two drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, make up more than half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Taking away access to the pills would have a severe negative impact on people’s health and ability to get care.

Texas has been a front-runner in cracking down on abortion rights and access, even before the nationwide right to the procedure was rolled back. The increasingly restrictive laws run counter to what most state residents actually want too: A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 57 percent of Texans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

It’s deeply ironic that Texas’s latest bill is called the Women and Child Safety Act, considering that decreasing abortion access is actually detrimental to people’s health. This and other bills being introduced in state legislatures will only serve to hurt the people they claim to want to protect.

Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are all considering bills that would classify abortion as homicide, while South Carolina representatives introduced a bill that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty.

Queen of Civility Marjorie Taylor Greene Complains About Lack of “Respect” After Being Yelled at in Restaurant

The Georgia representative has bullied a school shooting survivor and suggesting executing Democrats.

Marjorie Taylor Greene booing Joe Biden at the State of the Union
Marjorie Taylor Greene booing Joe Biden at the State of the Union

Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for always acting appropriately and civilly, decried the loss of “respect” for others with different political views after being yelled at in a restaurant.

The Georgia representative wrote on Twitter Monday night that two people screamed at her and her staff while they were out to dinner. She did not say what the people were screaming about nor what restaurant it was.

“People used to respect others even if they had different views,” Greene tweeted. “But not anymore. Our country is gone.”

Greene, of course, does not really have a leg to stand on when it comes to lecturing others on respect. She heckled President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address to the point that even her new ally Kevin McCarthy appeared to shush her.

Before she was elected to Congress, Greene came to Washington, D.C., and harassed gun control advocate and school shooting survivor David Hogg in 2019, peppering him with conspiracy theories and taunts. The year before, she began repeatedly suggesting executing prominent Democratic lawmakers.

Greene doesn’t just hold “different” political views, but views that actively seek to suppress human rights. Just Monday night, she was one of two representatives to vote against a resolution mourning the loss of life in Turkey and Syria due to the recent earthquakes and condemning the Assad regime in Syria for exploiting the disaster to evade accountability.

She has spread conspiracy theories and antisemitic, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric. Last week, she called for a “national divorce,” by which she really meant installing a white supremacist, single-party authoritarian government.

Republicans have become notorious for not being able to handle what they dish out. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was livid when comedian Michelle Wolf said at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner that the then-White House press secretary “burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye.” Sanders was also upset that same year when she went to dinner at a restaurant in Virginia called The Red Hen and the owner asked her to leave.

Faced with the prospect of serving a fine meal to a person whose actions in the service of our country we felt violated basic standards of humanity, we balked. We couldn’t do it,” the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, said in a 2019 op-ed in The Washington Post. Wilkinson said her request was discreet and polite, and Sanders responded in kind. But the next day, Sanders called the restaurant out by name on Twitter.

Civility, of course, swings both ways. After Sanders tweet, Wilkinson said that she and her staff had their personal information published online and were inundated with hate mail. The restaurant phone line was hacked, the Yelp profile was flooded with fake bad reviews, and people made reservations and never showed up.

Another restaurant called Red Hen, an unaffiliated business in Washington, D.C., also became the target of similar vitriol after Sanders supporters mixed up the two establishments. Sanders is now the governor of Arkansas.

Progressive Democrats Introduce First Bill to Tighten Rail Safety Regulations Since Ohio Disaster

The bill, introduced by Ro Khanna and Chris Deluzio, would expand the definition of what is considered a “high-hazard flammable train.”

US Environmental Protection Agency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Officials in East Palestine, Ohio, inspect the area on February 17 after the train derailment.

Progressive Democratic Representatives Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania and Ro Khanna of California have challenged the rest of Congress to put their actions where their words are. On Tuesday, the duo introduced the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act to tighten rail safety regulations by expanding the definition of what classifies as a “high-hazard flammable train,” or HHFT.

“For too long, railroads have prioritized profit ahead of public safety and their workers,” Deluzio said in a statement. “And it is time to regulate the railroads.”

The bill would deem trains carrying so-called Class 2 flammable gases, such as vinyl chloride, to qualify for HHFT classification, and would give the transportation secretary the authority to designate other materials warranting classification as well. The Department of Transportation currently considers an HHFT to be a train carrying hazardous materials in at least 20 consecutive cars, or 35 cars total. The bill would lower that threshold to at least one railcar carrying a Class 3 flammable liquid or Class 2 flammable gas, or again, any other material the secretary may deem especially hazardous.

The first bill on the matter introduced this Congress is also the first of Deluzio’s career.

In expanding the definition of what qualifies as a high-hazard flammable train, Congress would also expand which trains warrant higher safety standards. After the disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month, there has been a lot of focus on former President Donald Trump’s decision to overturn an Obama-era rule that mandated updated electronic braking systems for trains carrying hazardous materials. In reality, however, the Obama-era rule would not have applied to the train in East Palestine, as Obama regulators acquiesced to lobbying interests that sought to limit the definition of HHFTs. Had the East Palestine train had updated brakes, it might have been able to stop much quicker and cause less damage.

With Deluzio and Khanna’s bill, those errors would be remedied; the bill would ensure trains like the one in East Palestine would be held to higher safety standards and qualify for changes like updated rail cars and braking equipment, as well as stronger audits and cargo reporting. It would be an essential foundation before any of the necessary reforms to hopefully follow. The bill also pushes for stronger information-sharing, requiring carriers to report to the National Response Center and state, local, and tribal officials within 24 hours after a train carrying toxic chemicals derails.

Members of both parties have expressed concern for the train derailment; while they rightly call on the federal government to act, they now also have the chance to take action themselves. Deluzio and Khanna’s bill holds necessary provisions for an actually coherent regulatory framework to oversee the rail industry. So if Congress is going to do anything, it starts with this bill.

“This is a moment where we need political leaders from all parties and from across the country to speak out loudly for better safety regulations and to acknowledge what so many Americans are going through,” said Khanna.

Rupert Murdoch Admits Under Oath That Fox News Hosts Were Lying About the Stolen Election

Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition that Fox News hosts were “endorsing” the false notion of a stolen election.

Rupert Murdoch close-up

Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch admitted he knew his organization was spreading lies about the 2020 election results in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems made public Monday.

Dominion sued Fox News Networks and parent company Fox Corp in 2021 for $1.6 billion for defamation. The electronic voting system company accused the television network of spreading lies that Dominion machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

Court documents released Monday revealed that not only did Murdoch know his network was spreading falsehoods, but he also continued to allow the hosts and guest speakers to appear on screen.

Murdoch acknowledged that multiple popular Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro were “endorsing” the conspiracy that the election had been stolen.

He also said he knew regular guests such as Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell were spreading the election lies, but he continued to allow them on air. His reason, as he explained in Lindell’s case, was that “it is not red or blue, it is green.” What is democracy compared to dollars, apparently?

On January 5, 2021, Murdoch considered releasing a joint statement with Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham saying some variation of “The election is over, and Joe Biden won.” They didn’t, and the next day, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of votes and potentially to capture and kill lawmakers.

Fox News has long been accused of peddling Trump’s falsehoods and toadying to the former president. Hannity and Carlson have appeared at Trump rallies and acted as unofficial advisers. In further proof that Fox and Trump were unethical bedfellows, Murdoch also said that he gave Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser, private access to supposedly confidential information about Biden’s campaign ads before it was published.

This isn’t the first bombshell Dominion has dropped regarding its lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial in April. Earlier this month, the company released a trove of messages and deposition excerpts from Fox News hosts, including Carlson and Ingraham, in which they admitted they knew the election conspiracies were false and the Trumpist lawyers spouting them weren’t credible. But they continued to have these guests on their shows anyway.

Fox has gone mum about the Dominion lawsuit since that initial court document release, even prohibiting its media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, from covering the case.

Fox has argued that its post-2020 election coverage was newsworthy and thus protected by the First Amendment. But Murdoch’s deposition just further drives home the fact that they knew what they were doing, and it wasn’t journalism.