CBS News fires political director over allegations of ‘inappropriate behavior’

The political director of CBS News was fired after the company received allegations that he engaged in “inappropriate behavior” in the past.

Steve Chaggaris was canned by the network after they investigated allegations that recently came to their attention, the company said on Wednesday night.

“In the last two weeks, accounts of inappropriate behavior by Steve Chaggaris were brought to our attention and were immediately investigated,” read a statement from a CBS spokesperson.

“As a result, CBS News has severed ties with Mr. Chaggaris for violating company policy, effective immediately.”

It was not clear Wednesday night what the specifics of the allegations were.

Watch out President Trump!!!!!

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Will U.S. hyperloop dreams be left behind because of old-fashioned regulations?

Freightwaves

THE CHINA AEROSPACE SCIENCE AND INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION (CASIC) HAS BEGUN DEVELOPMENT OF A SUPERSONIC TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY, WHICH WOULD SHATTER MUSK’S INITIALLY PROPOSED 745 MPH DESIGN SHOULD IT COME TO FRUITION. ADVANTAGE CHINA.

First, let’s get something straight: it doesn’t matter whether the hyperloop or the “flying train” can reach Transonic speeds and not Supersonic speeds. How about 500 mph if that transcends the antiquated regulatory approval process? That’s about as fast as any freight or passenger plane flies. In case you’re wondering, the Concorde reached 1,354 mph, but hasn’t been in action since 2003 when rising maintenance costs finally put them to rest after 27 years of service.

But this is about China and America and hyperloops and the T Flight “flying train,” which purports to eventually zoom upwards of 2,300 mph. Yes, the China Aerospace Science and Industrial Corporation (CASIC) has begun development of a Supersonic transportation technology, which would shatter Musk’s initially proposed 745 mph design should it come to fruition.

Advantage China. CASIC has enormous resources, netting nearly $1.5 billion last year, and a state-run system, employing 150,000 workers. The proposal is part of a massive $3 trillion Chinese global infrastructure proposal known as One Belt, One Road. Essentially, it’s a modern-day Silk Road, a collection of ancient trade routes dating back 2,000 years that are credited with promoting the exchange of goods and intellectual ideas throughout China, Korea, Japan, India, Persia, Arabia, Africa, and Europe!

The speed comparisons sounds like the stuff of elementary schoolyard brawls: “My dad can beat up your dad.” They may be the stuff of headlines and bravado, but what’s the fundamental issue for seeing them in action? We may never see the hyperloop in action, but it’s not because we don’t have the technology. That’s the frustrating and all too real part, at least for Americans, where the technology was first conceived.

Exhibit A: America still doesn’t have high-speed rail, and that technology has existed in Japan since 1961, and has been implemented in France since the early ‘70s. Ouch.

So, don’t believe the hipster hyperloop naysayers, the haters who want to grab a headline and say ‘don’t believe the hype’. The potential is real, not hype.

According to CASIC, T Flight would use the same magnetic levitation (maglev) model as Musk’s designs, but will seat 16 people and be propelled down a 7-by-7-foot tunnel. It will also feature a turntable to launch capsules on a prospective route every 3 to 4 minutes.

CASIC aims to complete research for T Flight by 2020, and has already registered around 200 patents for the technology. The company is aiming to partner with 20 companies to develop and implement the technology in Wuhan, China.

What will lead us to get left behind is the same thing that has always left America behind along infrastructure lines, regulation policies, byzantine governmental red tape, and also privately held land and corporations who either want a slice for themselves or fear the competition. To this day, the sad reality is that America doesn’t have high speed rail anywhere.

To be fair, CASIC isn’t claiming to “launch” with a 2,300 mph flying train. The company is taking things one step at a time. The first stage of T Flight would transport around 8 million people around the region at speeds ranging from 370 to 620 mph. Only after their goal of connecting major inter and intracontinental cities would they make the jump to the 2,300 mph goal.

They’re also reaching deals with other countries. Teslerati recently reported that HTT reached an agreement with the Indian government to build its infrastructure in India between Vijaywada and Amaravati.

In addition to sponsoring hyperloop development competitions, Musk is doing what he can to promote his vision, not the least of which was the announcement of his desire to develop a hyperloop between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Unfortunately, that’s also connected to Musk sending his infamous quote about getting informal governmental approval, which was immediately shot down by corrective policymakers.

This may be a stretch, but if Spread Networks can quietly build an 827-mile cable line that cuts straight through mountains and rivers from Chicago to New Jersey with the sole goal of reducing the transmission time for data from 17 to 13 milliseconds for high-speed trading in a matter of months, can’t the United States figure out a way to get The Boring Company to do their job and bore some tunnels? Yes, it’s expensive to bore tunnels beneath the ground, but if there’s a company on the bleeding edge and proactively seeking solutions, it would be them. Why else use tunnels? As they tell us on their website:

“There is no practical limit to how many layers of tunnels can be built, so any level of traffic can be addressed. Tunnels are weatherproof. Tunnel construction and operation are silent and invisible to anyone on the surface. Tunnels don’t divide communities with lanes and barriers.”

It’s not just Elon Musk’s (or Richard Branson’s) hyperloop companies that are bringing on the new transportation realities, it’s becoming an actual industry, with rival Arrivio putting together a system of its own.

Yet, rather than seeking solutions ahead of time, the United States seems to be positioning itself in a wait-and-see attitude, standing on the sidelines and smirking at Elon Musk’s every Tweet. People are already theorizing on what it will mean for urban communities and real estate, depending on where the pod stations are located. Others say it’ll work for freight but not for commuters – or maybe not even for freight. Still others just don’t believe “the hype.”

Trump Administration Kills Gateway Tunnel Deal

California Rail News

Feds declare agreement to share massive project’s costs with NY and NJ “nonexistent”

President Donald Trump dropped his own New Year’s ball—in the form of a wrecking ball—with a late Friday afternoon announcement that effectively wipes out plans for perhaps the nation’s most crucial infrastructure project.

The president officially scrapped his predecessor’s proposal to have the federal government underwrite half the cost of a multibillion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the U.S. The lone existing tunnel is rapidly deteriorating, threatening to sever Amtrak’s popular Northeast Corridor route and to divert tens of thousands of New Jerseyans from their daily Manhattan commutes via NJ Transit.

The administration released the news on the cusp of a holiday weekend in a letter from a top Federal Transit Administration official to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie, who had agreed with the Obama administration to split the project’s costs 50-50.

President Barack Obama’s Department of Transportation, which encompasses the FTA, had consented to that framework with Christie, Cuomo, now-Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker in 2015.

Friday’s letter, in response to an updated proposal by the two states to fund their half of the plan with federal loans, declared the deal null and void.

“Your letter also references a nonexistent ’50-50′ agreement between USDOT, New York and New Jersey. There is no such agreement,” wrote FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “We consider it unhelpful to reference a nonexistent ‘agreement’ rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where nine out of 10 passengers are local transit riders.”

When Crain’s inquired if that meant DOT regards the 2015 plan as not having standing, a spokesperson replied, simply, “correct.”

The news left advocates for Gateway apoplectic.

“Let’s not be surprised by the timing of this letter,” said Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association. “Today is the last day to slip this in with no one noticing. The Trump administration is content to kick the can down the road on Gateway.”

The letter marks the latest blow to the project, which includes the new tube under the Hudson River, repairs to the atrophied existing dual-tunnel conduit and the reconstruction of New Jersey’s troubled Portal Bridge. The Trump administration undermined the endeavor earlier this month by mocking the New York–New Jersey proposal to have the Gateway Development Corp. borrow money through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program, even though the states would repay the loan.

Williams’ letter Friday echoed USDOT’s earlier assertion that this proposal has Washington funding the majority of the project—a declaration that stunned many observers, who noted that states frequently finance major infrastructure undertakings by borrowing money from the federal government.

Sources have previously suggested to Crain’s that the president’s handling of the project has political overtones, as its greatest champion has been Schumer, the most powerful Democrat in Washington.

Trump has repeatedly hyped an infrastructure plan that he has promised to release in the New Year. Such a plan would require a large number of votes from Schumer’s conference in order to pass the Senate. Folding Gateway into a Trump infrastructure bill would pressure Schumer to deliver those votes. Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which could increase the White House’s leverage.

“The best-case scenario now is that discreet pieces of the project move forward individually, like the remaining portion of the tunnel box under the Hudson Yards and the new Portal Bridge,” Wright said. “And meanwhile, commuting under the Hudson River will continue to become more difficult and that will increase the pressure on Congress to act.”

A spokesman for the multi-agency development corporation formed to execute the project downplayed Friday’s letter.

“There is no more urgent infrastructure project than Gateway, and posturing aside, we are confident that the Trump administration will engage with us as the president turns to infrastructure in 2018,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Although the Trump administration has taken to calling Gateway a “local” project, it is considered integral to the future of a regional economy that provides a hefty chunk of the nation’s gross domestic product and sends hundreds of billions of tax dollars to Washington each year.

New York business leaders have emphasized the project’s importance, but the dismissive federal response has underscored just how little sway they have with the Trump administration.

Ironically, the area of strongest agreement between Democrats and Trump has been the need for infrastructure improvements, and the president has touted a forthcoming $1 trillion plan. However, he is counting on nonfederal sources including private investors to contribute 80% of the money. That is likely to be a source of tension with Democrats.

Public-private partnerships have built transportation projects around the world but not on a large scale in the U.S. They typically rely on user fees to repay investors.

An earlier effort to build a second train tunnel under the Hudson River, known as the ARC project, was terminated in 2010 by Christie, who now finds himself on the receiving end of such a rejection. Federal funds set aside for ARC were then redirected to projects in other states.

Update:

On Saturday a senior administration official told Crain’s that the Department of Transportation regards the framework deal between the Obama administration and the states as a nonbinding, politically motivated public relations maneuver by then–Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The official asserted that the federal government had no right to announce its commitment to any financing plan because the states had not submitted a formal application for funding. The official said the department recognizes the project’s importance and is open to an arrangement for underwriting it that does not count a federal loan repaid by the states toward the local contribution.

The official also highlighted such multibillion-dollar projects now underway as the Honolulu Light Rail and the Maryland Purple Line, for which federal loans made up only a small proportion of the capital investment.

Those projects, however, do not serve regions as integral to the U.S. economy as the Hudson River tunnel. Nor do they serve more than one state. And the $9.5 billion Honolulu undertaking, which as of August had received $800 million of a $1.5 billion federal funding package, has run into serious problems including a nearly $3 billion deficit. Experts question the benefit it would have for Honolulu, let alone the nation, should Hawaii manage to finish it.

Maryland’s $2.4 billion Purple Line, for which a $900 million federal grant was approved, is a state project and much smaller than Gateway, which could end up costing 10 times as much. The Maryland project also received an $875 million federal loan.

3 cars on Amtrak train with 311 passengers derail, none hurt

Associated Press via YAHOO

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3 cars on Amtrak train with 311 passengers derail, none hurt
Associated Press Associated Press 23 minutes ago
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An Amtrak passenger train sits in New York City's Pennsylvania Station, U.S. April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Three cars on an Amtrak train carrying more than 300 passengers on a route from Miami to New York derailed in snow-covered Savannah after a fierce winter storm, but no injuries were reported.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said Silver Meteor train 98 was backing slowly into the Savannah station about 10 p.m. Wednesday — hours after the storm clobbered the Southeast coast — when two sleeper cars and a baggage car derailed.

“All three cars — a baggage car and two sleeper cars — are fully upright,” Abrams said in an email statement early Thursday to The Associated Press.

He said there were 311 passengers on board, in addition to crew, but he had no reports of anyone hurt.

Abrams’ statement said the main train was to continue its journey north though some of the sleeping car passengers had to be put aboard a different train.

He didn’t say what caused the derailment, and the statement also gave no immediate indication whether the storm that coated Savannah with a rare snowfall on Wednesday was a factor.

The National Weather Service said Savannah’s first measurable snowfall since February 2010 was recorded Wednesday in the normally balmy Southern City at 1.2 inches (3 centimeters). It was the first snow in Savannah that exceeded an inch (2.5 centimeters) in 28 years. The fast-intensifying storm on Thursday had moved further up the East Coast.

News footage from the site showed police and other emergency vehicles with flashing lights crunching over snow and ice and converging near tracks where the derailment occurred.

Passenger Joel Potischman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he boarded the train early in the day in Delray Beach, Fla., to head home to Brooklyn, New York. He said the train was en route north amid winter scenes of snow and ice.

Another passenger, Mike Zevon, told the newspaper that it was the last three cars that derailed.

Abrams’ statement didn’t elaborate on how many cars were in the formation and conditions with the weather or the tracks at the time.