Secure Rail 2016: A recap

CSX’s Skip Elliott described a soon–to–be–launhed Web app that will list the hazardous materials the Class I moves in a certain state.


Issues and trends surrounding both physical and cyber security in the North American rail industry were heavily discussed at Progressive Railroading’s second annual Secure Rail conference.

Held Feb. 9 and 10 in Orlando, Fla., the event attracted more than 100 representatives from a cross-section of the industry, including Class Is, short lines, transit and government agencies, suppliers and service providers.

The conference featured 20 presentations on freight- and transit-rail topics, ranging from emerging security technologies and trends to Internet security to the role of railroad police departments. Secure Rail also featured several networking opportunities and a product showcase that highlighted the rail security products, services and technologies offered by eight event sponsors.

Sessions on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) national strategy, the current and future applications of unmanned aerial vehicles, and policing and securing railroads in Los Angeles drew some of the largest crowds.

During his lead-off presentation Feb. 9 on the TSA’s national strategy for surface transportation security, Manager of Freight Rail Security Scott Gorton described how the administration is striving to safeguard the free movement of people and goods. Improvised explosive device attacks are the most likely threat to surface modes, while public transportation systems are more susceptible to attacks involving standoff weapons, small arms or biological agents, said Gorton.

How much is too much?

Later that morning, CSX Vice President of Public Safety, Health and Environment Skip Elliott said the Class I planned to launch a Web application early in the second quarter that would enable the public to learn which hazardous materials the railroad was moving through a particular state. However, there is an increased risk to homeland security if a railroad provides the general public too many details about haz-mat movements, he said.

The event’s second day on Feb. 10 included equally eventful presentations. A morning session helmed by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Officer for Security and Law Enforcement Alex Wiggins and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Transit Policing Bureau Chief Ronene Anda provided info on a Transit Watch application available to riders using an iPhone or Android smartphone. The app features the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) eight signs of terrorism related to transit.

Human trafficking vs. smuggling

In the afternoon, the event closed with a presentation on the DHS’ human trafficking awareness program — the Blue Campaign — that the agency has partnered with Amtrak, among others, to disseminate. Scott Santoro, the senior training adviser for DHS’ Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, described how human trafficking differs from human smuggling. Sex or labor trafficking involves a crime against a person via involuntary exploitation, he said.

Meanwhile, through its own awareness program, Amtrak has trained all police officers, train and onboard service workers, station managers and about 8,000 frontline employees on human trafficking, said Amtrak Police Department Lead Communications Specialist James Lewis.




I Feel a Political Revolution Coming


our years ago, if you had asked me who I would vote for in this presidential election, I would have said Hillary Clinton. However, in the last four years, my views of Hillary have changed and as I dig into her past and notice inconsistencies. She has been flip-flopping her whole life, and while changing opinions isn’t a crime, someone who is running for the presidency should have unwavering consistency in backing up campaign promises.

When it comes to lifelong proof that one’s words matches his intentions, it’s evident that Bernie Sanders is the best choice to serve as the next president of the United States — especially for African Americans. I think, when given the facts and the political histories of the Democratic candidates, that every activist in this new modern day civil rights movement — whether Black Lives Matter or otherwise — will feel the same amount of passion I have for Bernie Sanders.

The past couple of years have been horrible on this whole nation, particularly as it relates to race. Tragedy after tragedy, death after death. My dad (Eric Garner) in Staten Island, Mike Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Raynette Turner in Mount Vernon — the list grows daily. However, these conditions are nothing new. People like Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Marcus Garvey put their bodies and lives on the line to stand up and send a message that we are human beings, and should be respected as such. And it was Sanders — not Clinton — who put his body on the line with us.

The media often would like us to believe that Sanders’ promises to continue his quest for equality are too lofty and unrealistic, and even impossible. Is it really impossible to treat Black people like humans instead of just votes? Is it really so impossible to make an investment in our students instead of the $17 billion the Clintons invested in police, military grade weapons and prisons? Is it really impossible to invest in the healthcare of the American people instead of the $26 billion wasted training foreign armies under Clinton as Secretary of State? Is it really impossible to demand transparency from our police departments and our criminal justice system in an effort to bring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to fruition once and for all? Is it really impossible to take the necessary steps to get more teachers and counselors in our schools instead of labeling them super predators and putting them on the school to prison pipeline?

Furthermore, the media seem to pigeonhole him as being a one-issue candidate when in reality he has stood up against war, climate change, government corruption, equal inadequate housing, poor healthcare AND Wall Street. Just because he stands with Black people doesn’t mean he won’t help everyone. There has never been a time in this country when life improved for Black folks and didn’t dramatically improve for everyone else. As he has said himself, “I am human. When you hurt, I hurt.”

I decided to stand with Senator Sanders not because someone told me to do it. I did it because he listened to me and he is consistent. First I decided to read, research, and ask questions about Sander’s platform and political track record. After all, it’s not like my teachers in NYC excellent public-school system taught me about how government works.

Since my endorsement of Bernie Sanders, I’ve noticed a lot of people started paying attention to him, and my hope is that more Black Americans will recognize that he has done more for our cause than any other candidate. He isn’t telling us to shut up or that you deserve to be escorted out of events because you have a voice and want to use it, as is Trump.

During my time in South Carolina, I was anonymously volunteering, making phone calls, and knocking on doors and in the process, I came across many Black women between the ages of 60 and 85 who were Hillary supporters. When I asked them what the most important issue is to them, almost all responded with healthcare and social security, which led me to ask they why they supported Clinton. Needless to say, I didn’t get many real answers.

I also took part in roundtable discussions at local colleges, free from cameras and microphones. Without the media present, I told my story and answering questions from real people, questions which have never been asked by the media. Even though I was campaigning for Bernie, I was also reaching out to my peers – not on a political level but more in the sense of having conversations. For example, when I visited the University of South Carolina I walked into the lunch room and introduced myself, telling the group of students and staff the story of my journey. There were hundreds of people there, and after we had this awakening talk, they continued the discussion well into their lunch hour, something invaluable that they could never “learn” in a classroom.

I think the people are behind Bernie is because he represents us, the average working people. He describes a dream in which our future isn’t a place of so much greed, endless cover-ups and conspiracy. He is reminding us working people that we have a voice, and that nobody has the right to silence us. He strongly believes in giving the government back to the people and changing business as usual.

Recently, Hillary has said she “is the only candidate that can get things done.” If she really is the best candidate that could get things done — then I would like for her to tell us how she plans to execute the do the things that she is promising Black folks. How does she plan to eliminate institutional racism? I’d also like to hear her explain why she had to wait for a White House run to talk about these issues? I also think she should release the transcripts so that we can verify that she isn’t telling us one thing and them something else. It’s a shame the Clinton campaign, including Hillary herself, said my father deserved to be punished for a crime he didn’t commit. But my decision to not support Clinton goes far beyond my own personal experiences.

There is an awakening of consciousness happening in our country today, an awakening assisted by general conditions and enhanced by the reality that Donald Trump is more than likely going to be the Republican nominee. However, that reality can be more strongly counteracted with a Bernie Sanders nomination than a Hillary Clinton nomination. We all know why Trump is winning — looks who’s backing him; white supremacists affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and other narrow-minded bigots. But if we as Black people stand up and vote for change like we did with Obama in 2008 and 2012, we can do it again in 2016.

As I reflect on what’s been taking place in the presidential race within the context of my experiences in South Carolina recently, some questions I’d like to ask my people come to mind. Do you know why Senator Sanders deserves our votes? Because he represents change. People are starting to wake up, they recognize that we cannot afford more of the same. It isn’t America versus Iraq. It’s the rich folks subjugating everyone else, by the way the Clintons are solidly rich. Ask yourselves this: how can a whole race of people become nearly extinct and essentially erased from the history taught in the schools that receive our tax dollars? Sanders is the best positioned candidate to relate Black voters, 85% of whom live on $50,000 or less — and all oppressed and marginalized groups in the United States.

It’s time for people — Black and minority people — to wake up, young or old. Anytime someone tries to stand with any Black man, woman or child, that person will be taken down by the media and the systemic racism that the American political establishment is charged to maintain. People are quick to say that Bernie Sanders just appeared out of thin air, but that is nonsense. He was a young protestor in 1960s Chicago, standing with Black people for equal housing rights. Yes, he is a White man, but he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

I’m still on the Bernie Sanders campaign trail and I will continue to knock on doors and shake hands and hear people’s voices. This isn’t a Bernie Sanders movement. It’s a continuation of the struggle that we have been involved with for centuries, but there is no better ally for us of the current list of prospective nominees. I’m tired of my father’s name, face and pictures being exploited ever since his death. My family had to continue to bare witness to what we saw as a flat-out murder over and over while watching as people on the television screen tried desperately to convince the world that it wasn’t a murder.

Our Black establishment elected officials try and erase Bernie’s history when they are supposed to be our leaders. One thing about this movement is that it’s led by people who are awake, not one person following the other but different ideas coming together to make one. We have no leader and we don’t like to be pandered to, but Sanders is elevating our voices.

I feel a political revolution coming…

By Erica Garner, Reader Supported News

Tri-Rail finalizes plans for downtown Miami station

The operators of Tri-Rail overcame some obstacles at the state level and finalized their plans for a downtown Miami passenger rail station.

The passenger line, which currently runs from near West Palm Beach to Miami International Airport, would share the downtown Miami station of the All Aboard Florida/Brightline passenger rail starting in 2017. Right now, Tri-Rail passengers must transfer to the Metrorail line in Hialeah to reach downtown.

“I would like to thank the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) Board for their unanimous approval of a plan to allow for the completion of the commuter rail platforms at the All Aboard Miami Central station, which is a major component of this Tri-Rail project,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “This collaborative partnership with the SFRTA, the City of Miami, the Downtown Development Authority and others, will also serve as a model for increasing mobility and transportation options for Miami-Dade’s 2.7 million residents and millions of visitors.”

The $68.9 million needed to build a Tri-Rail platform at the AAF station already under construction was pledged by Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Overtown Park/West CRA and the SFRTA. Since it wasn’t able to secure state funds or legal immunity against rail accidents on the tracks this year, SFRTA agreed to borrow $20 million to make up the different and to set aside money in case of lawsuits.

Creating a link between the Tri-Rail’s CSX tracks and the Florida East Coast Railway line that Brightline will utilize opens up the possibly of extending Tri-Rail service up the FEC line – the Coastal Line plan long promoted by SFRTA. That would require additional funding and new stations to be constructed along the FEC line.

By 2017, the Brightline train will carry passengers between downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Eventually, Orlando will be added to that service.

Is Hillary Clinton ‘Honest’?

Hillary Clinton’s defenders object to the widespread public view that she is a liar by noting she scores reasonably well on the accuracy of her policy statements, but that is missing the point, says Robert Parry.


ew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has offered a curious defense of Hillary Clinton’s “honesty,” refuting the public’s widespread view that she is a liar by narrowly defining what it means to be “honest” and arguing that she is less dishonest than she is a calculating and corner-cutting politician.

Kristof writes, “as we head toward the general election showdown, by all means denounce Hillary Clinton’s judgment and policy positions, but let’s focus on the real issues. She’s not a saint but a politician, and to me this notion that she’s fundamentally dishonest is a bogus narrative.”

Kristof cites, for instance, that half of her campaign statements, as evaluated by PolitiFact, were rated either true or mostly true, comparable to how the group assessed statements by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Ted Cruz and much better than Donald Trump’s 22 percent. Leaving aside the “conventional wisdom” bias of this mainstream media organization, Kristof does seem to have a point. In a narrow definition of “honesty,” former Secretary of State Clinton may be “truthful” or kind of truthful half the time.

But Kristof misses the larger point that the American people are making when 56 percent of them rate her negatively and many call “crooked” and “dishonest.” They seem to be commenting on her lack of authenticity and perhaps her resistance to sincerely acknowledging major errors in judgment. She only grudgingly apologized for her pro-Iraq War vote and still insists that her bloody “regime change” scheme for Libya was a good idea, even as the once-prosperous North African nation slides into anarchy and deprivation – with the chief beneficiary the head-choppers of the Islamic State.

A Nixonian Quality

Many Americans sense that there is a Nixonian quality to Hillary Clinton – her excessive secrecy, her defensiveness, her rigidity, her unwillingness to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. Even when she is forced into admitting a “mistake,” such as her violation of State Department rules when she maintained a private email server for official correspondence, she acts as if she’s just “apologizing” to close off further debate or examination. As with Richard Nixon, there’s a feeling that Clinton’s apologies and rationales are self-serving, not forthcoming.

Yet, while it’s true that Nixon was a deceitful character – his most famous lie being when he declared “I am not a crook” – I would argue that he had some clear advantages over Clinton as President. He was a much more strategic thinker than she is – and sometimes went against the grain of expectations as encapsulated in the phrase “Nixon goes to China,” meaning that Nixon could open up to communist China precisely because he was viewed as such a hardliner who would never do such a thing but who finally judged that the move was in America’s interests.

While it’s impossible to say whether Clinton would seize unexpected openings as President, she showed none of that creativity, subtlety and courage as Secretary of State. She marched down a straightforward neocon line, doing precisely what Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted in the Middle East.

Clinton tried to sabotage President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran and favored military solutions to Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. She also followed a rightist approach in backing the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted an elected progressive president who had offended some of the Honduran oligarchs and outside corporate interests.

Lack of Self-Criticism

In addition, Clinton appears to have learned nothing from her support for the catastrophic Iraq War and has argued against “conflating” her Iraq decision with her Libya decision. But that suggests that she is incapable of learning a lesson from one mistake and applying it to a similar situation, an almost disqualifying characteristic for someone who hopes to become President.

Being a successful President requires extracting painful lessons from one mistake and making sure you don’t make the same mistake again. But Clinton’s personal arrogance or defensiveness (it’s hard to figure out which is dominant) prevents her from that sort of self-criticism.

Indeed, her ritualistic (and politically timed) apology for her Iraq War vote in 2006 came across less as an honest recognition that she had done something horribly wrong than that she had to say something to appease a furious Democratic electorate as she mounted her first run for President against anti-Iraq War candidate Obama.

After losing to Obama and becoming his Secretary of State, she privately hedged her Iraq War apology by saying privately that she thought that President George W. Bush’s “surge” in Iraq was successful and admitting that she had only opposed it in 2007 for political reasons, according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his memoir, Duty.

On Oct. 26, 2009, as Gates — a holdover from the Bush administration — and Clinton joined forces to pressure Obama into approving a similar “surge” for Afghanistan, Gates recalled a meeting in which Clinton made what he regarded as a stunning admission, writing:

“The exchange that followed was remarkable. In strongly supporting the surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary [in 2008]. She went on to say, ‘The Iraq surge worked.’

“The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.” (Obama’s aides disputed Gates’s suggestion that the President indicated that his opposition to the Iraq “surge” was political, noting that he had always opposed the Iraq War. The Clinton team has not challenged Gates’s account.)

But the exchange, as recounted by Gates, indicates that Clinton not only let her political needs dictate her position on an important national security issue, but that she accepts as true the superficial conventional wisdom about the “successful surge” in Iraq, which claimed the lives of about 1,000 American soldiers and a much larger number of Iraqis but failed its principal mission of buying time for the Iraqis to resolve their sectarian differences.

So, when one considers Hillary Clinton’s “honesty” more should be in play than simply whether she accurately describes her policy positions half the time. Honesty, as most people would perceive it, relates to a person’s fundamental integrity, strength of character, readiness to acknowledge mistakes and ability to learn from them. On that measure, the American people seem to have sized up Hillary Clinton pretty well.

Robert Parry, Consortium News

Science & Religion…İlim & Din…


s semras


“Science gave man the telegraph, electricity, diagnosis and cure for some diseases. Religion gave individuals spiritual tranquility and moral balance.

Science and religion are two real keys that we use to open the treasures of the universe. Man benefits from science but he lives with religion.”

(William James)

“Every formula that expresses a law of nature is a hymn that praises God.”

(Maria Mitchell)

“Everybody who is involved in science seriously, no matter in which branch, will read this writing on the door of the temple of science: “Believe!” Belief is a quality that a scientist cannot give up.”

(Max Planck)

“Belief in the Creator of the Universe is the strongest and noblest stimulating power of the scientific research.”

(Albert Einstein)

“The light of the conscience is religious sciences. The light of the mind is modern sciences. Reality manifests by the combination of the two. With those two wings, the…

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Hadar Noiberg Trio: Live at JazzAhead! 2016

Jazz You Too

It’s not easy to stop posting all these wonderful concerts with such good music – JazzAhead! showcases are absolutely precious. Hadar Noiberg plays the flute, and there we go, carried by this great young talented trio. Surprisingly fresh music!

Line-up: Hadar Noiberg (fl), Tal Mashiach (db), Ofri Nehemya (dr)


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Forwarders report zero freight on wretched Asia-Europe trade

Forwarders are reporting a growing number of enquiries for zero freight rates on container shipments from Asia to North Europe, even as spot rates on the trade and on Asia-Mediterranean this week matched the lowest levels ever recorded.

Asia-Europe rates hit $205 per TEU, a level it fell to on June 19, and spot rates to the Med dropped to $195 per 20-foot container, the level it hit on Oct. 16 last year, according to the the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index.

Even though March is the slack season, the year-over-year comparisons are ugly. Asia-North Europe is almost 70 percent down on the same week last year, and Asia-Med is down 76 percent. The comparisons can be found on‘s Market Data Hub, along with rates and volumes from all major east-west trades. contacted several forwarders, carriers and shippers about the zero freight reports and no one was prepared to go on the record because of the sensitivities around talking freight prices. However, there was widespread concern about falling rates.

A forwarder with offices in Hong Kong and China said two customers shipping about 100 containers a year to Europe out of three cities in the mainland said they had received a quote for zero freight and wanted him to match it.

“It is absolutely ridiculous. I still don’t know if a carrier actually offered this rate, but if zero freight gets into the market, that would be a disaster,” he said.

The head of ocean freight for a top 10 global logistics provider confirmed the trend of customers asking about zero rates and he warned the market was currently so unstable it was heading for a meltdown.

“Something dramatic is going to happen. The question is not if, but when, and it will hit everyone like a ton of bricks with service disruptions as carriers merge or go out of business,” the Shanghai-based logistics executive said.

The Asia-Pacific head of a European forwarder said he was seeing requests for spot and long term rates of between $50 and $100 per container. “We are not taking up this business, but today average rates offered by shipping lines are around $75-100 per TEU and 150 per 40-foot container,” he said.

“We have no intention to go below cost and we still sell with a profit in most cases, but indeed the margins are very much under pressure.” The forwarder said it was clear from meetings with carriers that they are ready to do whatever it takes to raise rates. “They cannot survive at today’s levels.”

With carrier profitability at such precarious levels, he said bankruptcies were becoming a very real possibility. “Imagine what happens to a sailing schedule if one of your alliance partners suddenly becomes insolvent. Looking the situation today, there is a real possibility of this happening. It is not a desirable situation for anyone,” he said.

For forwarders to quote zero freight rates, it would have to either be offered by container shipping lines, or the rate would be low enough to enable forwarders to offer zero freight and recover the difference through excessive haulage and delivery charges. However, it is worth bearing in mind that in China, the Ministry of Transport forbids the offering of freight rates of below $50 per TEU, with the Shanghai Shipping Exchange monitoring tarrifs and deals on behalf of the MOT.

The three major container carriers contacted by said they had no hard evidence of lines offering rates at such give-away levels. An executive from an Asian shipping line said there were rumors in the market that zero freight was being quoted, but he said such a trend, if real, would not be sustainable and would result in problems for the shipping industry.

“Carriers would be better off laying up ships and shippers would not be in a position to maintain a smooth operation in their supply chain,” he said.

Another carrier executive agreed that rate levels have now reached the point where laying up vessels has become financially attractive. “It is getting quite ugly, but as long as we have carriers going for market share and others are subsidized by their governments, things will not necessarily improve,” he said.

The continued operation of loss-making carriers was also questioned by a major Asia-North Europe shipper, who pointed to new rumors of debt-wracked Hyundai Merchant Marine being merged with loss-making Hanjin Shipping.

“I just don’t understand the reasoning behind that. Why merge a loss with a loss in the hope that it becomes a positive?” he said, expressing frustration with the extreme volatility that has consumed the market in the past two years.

“We contract 70 percent of our cargo for the year and every week the rate drops. That means me, and everyone else in the business, has to continually explain our position and defend the contracts. These days we don’t even know where the vessel will be next week — it could be idled, or cancelled, or even scrapped.”

Contact Greg Knowler at and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.

Circus Trains Have Changed A LOT!

Circus Trains have changed a lot since the picture above from our Circus Trains WebSite.

The circus part has changed and so has the railroad part.

Thanks to Bill Bunge for a great video.

As Bill says: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Blue Train, NS 047, 14MAR16, NS Lurgan Branch LG 35.5, in the wind and rain. I was holding my hat over the camera to keep it dry while I tried not to slip off of the muddy hill.