Republican response to deadly Amtrak crash? Cut their budget!


Click to enlargeAssociated Press/Patrick Semansky

House Republicans voted Wednesday to chop about a fifth of Amtrak’s budget, less than a day after a deadly train crash that Democrats pointed to as a prime example of the dangers of shortchanging the nation’s transportation needs.

They also rebuffed Democrats’ attempts to provide money for an advanced speed-control technology that federal investigators later said would have prevented the crash.

“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters Wednesday evening. Sumwalt, who is leading the crash probe, spoke hours after the House Appropriations Committee voted down a Democratic amendment that would have offered $825 million for the technology known as positive train control.

The amendment was part of hours of action on a GOP-backed $55 billion transportation and housing bill that Democrats attacked as an example of badly misplaced priorities. New York Rep. Steve Israel directly tied the crash to Congress’ spending decisions, saying people expect lawmakers to look out for their safety — and “last night, we failed them.”

“It’s not just our trains,” Israel said during a contentious markup Wednesday, which occurred as the wreckage from the seven-fatality derailment in Philadelphia was dominating the news channels. “It is our bridges that are failing. It is our highways that are congested and riddled with potholes. It is our runways, our airports. … We are divesting from America.”…

Senator Menendez said in a floor speech Wednesday that the U.S. needs to “stop relying on patchwork upgrades to old, rusted 19th-century rail lines.”

“We in Congress are … failing to recognize the real world impacts,” he said. “We have a passenger rail bill that expired. We have a Highway Trust Fund on the brink of insolvency with no plans, no plans, to fix it sustainably. We have a crowded and outdated aviation system that we refuse to adequately fund. We have failed to upgrade with presently available technologies that can reduce the number of failures. We have appropriations bills aiming to cut already low funding levels of Amtrak in particular to meet an arbitrary budget cap. I can’t understand it…”

There is little vision and no leadership allowed in Congress. The Republican Party decided as a matter of policy to block any and all legislation starting with the first day of a non-white president of these United States.

Today’s Republican Party feels they owe nothing to the population of a nation that refuses to back up their bigotry, economics of myth and hubris, political policies that disown responsibility. The only tactic that feeds the emptiness where a heart belongs is to erect roadblocks to anything that might aid ordinary men and women.

They are beneath contempt.

Key findings about the changing U.S. religious landscape

FSM
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Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, the first since our 2007 study, draws on a massive sample size of more than 35,000 Americans to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults. The size of the sample enables us to explore relatively small religious groups (including specific Christian denominations) as well as state- and metropolitan area-level data.

In addition to the full report, the findings of the study can be explored at a new interactive website. Here are a few of the key findings:

Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%. Accounting for overall population growth in that period, that means there are roughly 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, down from about 178 million in 2007.

Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics

The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation…People who self-identify as atheists or agnostics (about 7% of all U.S. adults), as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007…

There are clear differences between certain demographic groups when it comes to religious affiliation

The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly

You’ll find the whole report online over here. An interesting read especially if you find philosophy, personal and sociological, of interest. As I do.

Yes, we’re still about a half-century or more behind the rest of the industrial West when it comes to re-examining the beliefs we inherit from our less-educated forebears. Not much we can do about it except continue to encourage education. Folks can come to progressive conclusions on their own; but, it does help to have an extended opportunity to see what the whole world is learning and talking about. Ain’t many folks getting that from cable TV or this year’s hot social media.

A consensus on coffee’s benefits

Coffee has long had a reputation as being unhealthy. But in almost every single respect that reputation is backward. The potential health benefits are surprisingly large…

Just last year, a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies looking at long-term consumption of coffee and the risk of cardiovascular disease was published. The researchers found 36 studies involving more than 1,270,000 participants. The combined data showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee, about three to five cups a day, were at the lowest risk for problems. Those who consumed five or more cups a day had no higher risk than those who consumed none.

Of course, everything I’m saying here concerns coffee — black coffee. I am not talking about the mostly milk and sugar coffee-based beverages that lots of people consume. These could include, but aren’t limited to, things like a McDonald’s large mocha (500 calories, 17 grams of fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates), a Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (580 calories, 22 grams of fat, 79 grams of carbs), and a Large Dunkin’ Donuts frozen caramel coffee Coolatta (670 calories, 8 grams of fat, 144 grams of carbs).

…Years earlier, a meta-analysis — a study of studies, in which data are pooled and analyzed together — was published looking at how coffee consumption might be associated with stroke. Eleven studies were found, including almost 480,000 participants. As with the prior studies, consumption of two to six cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of disease, compared with those who drank none. Another meta-analysis published a year later confirmed these findings.

Rounding out concerns about the effect of coffee on your heart, another meta-analysis examined how drinking coffee might be associated with heart failure. Again, moderate consumption was associated with a lower risk, with the lowest risk among those who consumed four servings a day. Consumption had to get up to about 10 cups a day before any bad associations were seen.

No one is suggesting you drink more coffee for your health. But drinking moderate amounts of coffee is linked to lower rates of pretty much all cardiovascular disease, contrary to what many might have heard about the dangers of coffee or caffeine. Even consumers on the very high end of the spectrum appear to have minimal, if any, ill effects.

But let’s not cherry-pick. There are outcomes outside of heart health that matter. Many believe that coffee might be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Certainly, individual studies have found that to be the case, and these are sometimes highlighted by the news media. But in the aggregate, most of these negative outcomes disappear.

Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. He blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist. He carries forward from this point in his article to broaden his search for understanding of the effects of coffee drinking – usually in moderation – on your health.

I suggest you RTFA. It’s even written in human being-English.