The death toll from Tuesday’s Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia is now at seven and is expected to rise. About a dozen passengers are still missing. Authorities now say the train was traveling at about 106 miles per hour, more than double the speed limit, as it headed into a steep curve. National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said the accident would have been preventable if Amtrak had installed positive train control technology on that section of track. Just hours after the crash, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee rejected a Democratic amendment to offer $825 million to speed up positive train control implementation. In addition, the committee voted to cut Amtrak’s budget by $250 million. We speak to Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which represents two million transportation workers, including the vast majority of Amtrak workers, and David Sirota, senior writer at the International Business Times. His recent piece is headlined "Lawmakers Moved to Delay Rail Safety Rule Weeks Before Philadelphia Derailment."
The Obama administration has tentatively approved Shell’s plans to begin oil extraction off the Alaskan coast this summer. Federal scientists estimate the Arctic region contains up to 15 billion barrels of oil, and Shell has long fought to drill in the icy waters of the Chukchi Sea. Environmentalists warn Arctic drilling will pose a risk to local wildlife and exacerbate climate change. They fear that a drilling accident in the icy Arctic Ocean waters could prove far more devastating than the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill since any rescue operations could be delayed for months by harsh weather conditions. We speak to Subhankar Banerjee. He is a renowned photographer, writer and activist who has spent the past 15 years working for the conservation of the Arctic and raising awareness about indigenous human rights and climate change. He is editor of the anthology, "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point."
The Port of Seattle has voted to seek the blockade of rigs used by the oil giant Shell for its planned drilling in the Arctic this summer. Shell has signed a lease to station its rigs in the Puget Sound while it drills for oil in pristine and highly remote waters in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. The Port of Seattle’s board called for a legal review of Shell’s plans and a temporary postponement of its docking. The move came after a wave of activism in Seattle challenging Shell’s effort. On Tuesday, activists set up a tripod to block work at the site of a fuel transfer station. Meanwhile, thousands of kayakers will try to block the arrival of a Shell rig on Saturday, the start of a three-day Festival of Resistance.
We turn now from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling has resumed near the site of the BP-operated offshore oil rig that exploded five years ago in the worst industrial environmental disaster in U.S. history. On Wednesday, Harper’s Magazine revealed a Louisiana-based oil company purchased the area from BP and is now drilling into the Macondo reservoir. The report also looks at the ongoing impact of the 2010 spill. We speak to reporter Antonia Juhasz, who spent two weeks on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a scientific research mission exploring the impacts of the BP Gulf oil spill. She participated in a dive in the Alvin submarine nearly a mile below the ocean surface, getting closer to the site of the blowout than anyone had ever been.
Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.
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