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  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Names Members to the National Watermelon Promotion Board

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Names Members to the National Watermelon Promotion Board


    Washington, DC - - (November 14, 2018) - - Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the appointment of sixteen members to serve on the National Watermelon Promotion Board. The appointees will serve three-year terms from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021.

    Members appointed are:
    • Mr. Dalton Willis Borders, Edinburg, Texas
    • Mr. Cody Buckley, San Antonio, Texas
    • Ms. Jordan Carter, Cordele, Ga.
    • Mr. Richard Chastain, Alva, Fla.
    • Mr. John Gee, Temecula, Calif.
    • Mr. Jose F. Gomez Ph.D., El Paso, Texas
    • Mr. W. Rodney Jackson, Autryville, N.C.
    • Mr. Michael J. Marks, Capron, Va.
    • Mr. Rod Rosales, Kingsburg, Calif.
    • Mr. James Sharp, Sims, N.C.
    • Mr. Matt Solana, Louisburg, N.C.
    • Mr. Carlos Vickers, Nashville, Ga.
    • Mr. Darren K. Wiggins, Center, Texas
    Members re-appointed include:
    • Mr. Luke B. Brown, Center, Texas
    • Mr. Rob Greene, Arabi, Ga.
    • Mr. Jesse James Wiggins, Center, Texas
    “The 1,500 growers, shippers and importers of watermelon in the United States will be well served by these board members who will provide key direction to help the watermelon industry meet consumer demand,” Perdue said.

    The 41-member Board is composed of 14 producers, 14 handlers, 12 importers and one public member. One-third of the Board members are appointed each year.

    More information about the National Watermelon Promotion Board, including a roster of members, is available on AMS’ National Watermelon Promotion Board webpage and at the National Watermelon Promotion Board website.

    Since 1966, Congress has authorized 22 industry-funded research and promotion boards to provide a framework for agricultural industries to pool their resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets and conduct important research and promotion activities. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, which helps ensure fiscal accountability and program integrity.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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  • U.S. Secretary of Labor Acosta Announces Start of National Apprenticeship Week

    U.S. Secretary of Labor Acosta Announces Start of National Apprenticeship Week


    Washington, DC - - (November 12, 2018) - - U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today announced the start of National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). This year’s theme – Apprenticeships: Creating Tomorrow – celebrates the impact apprenticeship programs have in helping Americans learn skills for jobs in growing industries. NAW will continue through November 18.

    “President Trump’s Administration is committed to expanding apprenticeships and workforce investment across all industries. Apprenticeship is a proven way to help Americans learn the skills they need for good, safe, family-sustaining jobs,” said Secretary Acosta. “National Apprenticeship Week provides an opportunity to showcase how businesses, labor, educational institutions, trade and industry groups, and public officials across the nation are expanding apprenticeships to develop a skilled, dedicated workforce.”

    There are currently more than 7 million open jobs in the United States, and available jobs have exceeded job seekers for seven straight months. Many of these vacancies remain unfilled because job creators cannot find job seekers with the in-demand skills. Apprenticeships provide paid, relevant workplace experiences and opportunities to develop skills job creators demand. The Administration is working to create more opportunities across all industries, including occupations that have not typically used apprenticeships, such as information technology, advanced manufacturing, banking and finance, and healthcare.

    In 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America. Following the President’s Executive Order, Secretary Acosta convened the President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, which included leaders from business, labor, trade and industry groups, educational institutions, and public officials. Earlier this year, the Task Force submitted a report to the President providing a strategy, including specific recommendations, to create more apprenticeships in the United States through the new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship program model.

    This summer, the Department announced a grant program to accelerate the expansion of apprenticeships to new industry sectors, and to increase apprenticeship opportunities for all Americans. Additionally, the Department launched a new digital platform: www.Apprenticeship.gov . This innovative web portal features an Apprenticeship Finder tool that offers career seekers a platform to search for apprenticeships by city, state, and occupation, and connects job seekers to high-skilled, high paying careers.

    NAW events and activities can include apprenticeship program open houses for career seekers, skills competitions, community forums, apprentice graduations, business open houses, high school or college career fairs, apprenticeship signing days, industry roundtable events, and more. To explore NAW resources and to include your event in a national listing of NAW events, please visit: www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/NAW .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Labor
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  • Lessons Learned from 41 Maritime Accidents Detailed in National Transportation Safety Board's Safer Seas Digest 2017

    Lessons Learned from 41 Maritime Accidents Detailed in National Transportation Safety Board's Safer Seas Digest 2017





    Washington, DC - - (November 8, 2018) - - Maritime accident investigation reports for collisions, explosions, capsizings and allisions and the lessons learned within those reports are detailed in the National Transportation Safety Board’s Safer Seas Digest 2017, released online Thursday.

    The publication is a compendium of 41 marine accident reports for accidents involving fishing, offshore supply, cargo, passenger, tanker, towing and government vessels. Reports in the digest were adopted or issued by the NTSB during calendar year 2017.

    The Safer Seas Digest is a publication designed with mariners in mind, providing them with links from the digest’s summaries to the full investigative reports and related documents on the NTSB’s website. The digest contains information that can help mariners at the deckplate level prevent future accidents, and, can help maritime industry C-suites build and sustain a culture of safety at sea.

    The lessons learned are highlighted in 11 categories including watertight integrity, heavy-weather operations, fatigue, bridge resource management, distraction, anchoring, preventive maintenance, safety management systems, monitoring rudder order response, vessel abandonment and VHF reception. The accident investigations associated with each lesson learned are listed for easy reference.

    “I hope that Safer Seas Digest 2017 provides the marine industry with essential and actionable information to address the safety issues confronting it,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “With every investigation we conduct, the lessons learned can prevent such losses in the future – when marine stakeholders at all levels of the industry apply these lessons.”




    (In this table, pulled from the NTSB's Safer Seas Digest 2017, vessels involved in the accidents detailed in the digest are listed by vessel group along with the name, vessel type and accident type)





    The 2017 completion of the investigation into the October 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro was a watershed moment for marine safety, and the Safer Seas Digest 2017 includes a section about El Faro featuring infographics and information pulled from the NTSB’s 16-page, illustrated digest, “Sinking of the US Cargo Vessel El Faro.”

    The Safer Seas Digest 2017 is publicly available online at http://go.usa.gov/xPv4t – a print version will be distributed to industry stakeholders. The online version of the Safer Seas Digest gives mariners access to the complete body of work of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety. This is the fifth year the NTSB has published the Safer Seas Digest.

    The NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety investigates major marine casualties upon the navigable waters of the U.S. and accidents involving U.S. flagged vessels worldwide.


















    Better view


    (In this table, pulled from the NTSB's Safer Seas Digest 2017, vessels involved in the accidents detailed in the digest are listed by vessel group along with the name, vessel type and accident type)


    Credit: National Transportation Safety Board...
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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Urges Motorists to Drive Safely Near School Zones and Bus Stops

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Urges Motorists to Drive Safely Near School Zones and Bus Stops





    Washington, DC - - (November 2, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging motorists to exercise caution and follow State laws when approaching a school bus or school crossing. Following a string of recent tragedies in Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, NHTSA is calling on the public and media to help educate communities on ways to reduce incidents of stop-arm violations and ensure all students arrive to and from school safely.

    NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King today issued a video message addressing recent accidents at school bus stops and urging motorists to do their part to keep children safe.













    Tips for Motorists:
    • Be alert and slow down when driving in neighborhoods with school zones.
    • Watch for children walking, playing or assembling near bus stops. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
    • Obey the school bus laws in your State, as well as the flashing light signal systems used on school buses.
      • Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
      • Flashing red lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.


    (Photo credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Facebook)





    Tips for Caregivers and Students:
    • Arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb. The bus stop is not a place to run or play.
    • When the school bus arrives, wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Use the handrails to avoid falling.
    • Never walk behind a school bus. Walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street. Cross the street in front of the bus with at least five giant steps (10 feet) between the front of the bus and you. Make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see you.
    • If you drop something near the school bus, like a ball or book, tell the bus driver right away. Do not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see you.






    Credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Administration Scientists Elected as National Academy of Medicine Members for Outstanding Professional Achievement, Commitment to Service

    U.S. Depart of Veterans Administration Scientists Elected as National Academy of Medicine Members for Outstanding Professional Achievement, Commitment to Service



    Washington, DC - - (November 7, 2018) - - Four senior U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers were recently elected as new members of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

    VA Drs. Ann McKee, Albert Siu, Lucila Ohno-Machado and Rachel Werner were selected on Oct. 15 by current NAM members for their contributions to medical sciences, health care and public health.

    “VA is extremely proud to have Drs. McKee, Siu, Ohno-Machado and Werner on our health care team,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Their accomplishments and the tremendous work they do each day to improve the health and lives of our Veterans exemplifies the level of excellence we aspire to achieve as an agency.”

    McKee, chief of Neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University School of Medicine, was elected for her groundbreaking work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Alzheimer’s disease, aging, and vascular neuropathology. Her research in those areas has revolutionized medicine’s understanding of the clinicopathological and molecular features of CTE in athletes and Veterans exposed to neurotrauma or blast injury, and changed the public dialogue on sports-related risks.

    Siu, who directs the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York, is a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. He was elected for his seminal contributions to evidence-based practice in health-services research and in pioneering programs that intersect geriatrics and palliative care.

    Ohno-Machado, a research scientist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and chair of biomedical informatics at UC San Diego Health, was elected for creating an algorithm that allows sharing access to clinical data while respecting the privacy of individuals and institutions.

    Werner, a core investigator at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, is a professor of medicine and director of Health Policy and Outcomes Research at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She was elected for advancing the understanding of how health care provider performance measurement and incentives often bring unintended and undesired equity consequences that compete with efficiency goals.

    For more information on VA Research, visit www.research.va.gov .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month

    U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month



    (November 7, 2018) - - U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on President Trump’s Proclamation of November as National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month:

    “Americans rely on secure and resilient infrastructure to provide access to safe food, reliable electricity and transportation, clean water, and instant communication. These physical and cyber systems—and others across all 16 critical infrastructure sectors—provide the essential services that support and underpin American society.

    “As the Secretary of Homeland Security, I am committed to strengthening our efforts to protect and secure the infrastructure on which Americans rely, in close partnership with other federal agencies, state, local, territorial and tribal governments, and the private sector. Only by working together can we help ensure the nation’s critical infrastructure is secure and resilient, and be ready to respond to any cyber or physical threats we might face.

    “The threat to our critical systems is continuous and outpacing our defenses. We have already seen attempts by countries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia to use their power in cyberspace to compromise and disrupt our infrastructure, and advance their own interests.

    “I commend President Trump for recognizing the important work we do to ensure secure and resilient infrastructure, and for pushing his entire Administration to combat these threats head on.

    “I also want to commend the countless employees of the Department of Homeland Security, and all our partners in government and the private sector who work day-in and day-out to make our infrastructure more secure. Our collective success depends on your continued dedication.”





    Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
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  • National Transportation Safety Board Set to Hold Investigative Hearing on Engine Failure

    National Transportation Safety Board Set to Hold Investigative Hearing on Engine Failure


    Concerning CFM International engine failure on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 in April of 2018


    Washington, DC - - (November 6, 2018) - - The National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to hold an investigative hearing, that is open to the public, Wednesday, Nov. 14, beginning at 9 a.m. (EST), in the NTSB’s Board Room and Conference Center.

    As part of the agency’s ongoing investigation of the fatal, April 17, 2018, CFM International engine failure on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, the one-day hearing will focus on CFM International CFM56-7 series engine fan blade design and development history, CFM International CFM56-7 series engine fan blade inspection methods and procedures, and engine fan blade containment design and certification criteria.

    Parties participating in the investigative hearing and the full agenda, including a list of witnesses will be announced prior to the hearing.

    NTSB previously issued an investigative update about the ongoing investigation.

    The hearing may be viewed via webcast. A link for the webcast will be available at http://ntsb.windrosemedia.com shortly before the start of the hearing.





    Credit: National Transportation Safety Board
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  • Statement From Attorney General Sessions on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment

    Statement From Attorney General Sessions on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment



    (November 2, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Justice published (today) the following statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

    Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released its 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, a comprehensive, strategic assessment of the illicit drug threats facing the United States. Attorney General Sessions made the following statement about the report:

    “This new report from the DEA confirms that transnational drug cartels and foreign drug labs, working with street gangs, are flooding our communities with drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines,” Attorney General Sessions said. “But under the Trump Administration, we are hammering these groups. I have restored commonsense criminal charging and sentencing policies with our prosecutors, surged resources to jurisdictions facing some of the highest levels of violence and drug abuse, and targeted enforcement against the most violent offenders and organizations. Last year, the average federal sentence for drug trafficking rose, and we are already seeing encouraging results. Preliminary data from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths actually began to decline in late 2017 and opioid prescriptions fell significantly. We also saw an actual decline in homicides and violent crimes in 2017 after increases in 2015 and 2016. Law enforcement is crime prevention—and that's what we're doing every day across America. The Department of Justice will continue to focus resolutely on drug traffickers and protect the American people.”

    Background:

    According to the report’s summary: “Illicit drugs, as well as the transnational and domestic criminal organizations who traffic them, continue to represent significant threats to public health, law enforcement, and national security in the United States. Drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States; they are currently at their highest ever recorded level and, every year since 2011, have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide. In 2016, approximately 174 people died every day from drug poisoning.”

    As the report also notes:

    “National and neighborhood-based street gangs and prison gangs continue to dominate the market for the street-sales and distribution of illicit drugs in their respective territories throughout the country. Struggle for control of these lucrative drug trafficking territories continues to be the largest factor fueling the street-gang violence facing local communities. . . . Gangs’ desire to secure the largest share of the profits and the most lucrative territories for themselves drives violent turf wars that often result in the murder or attempted murder of rival gang members and drug dealers. Firearm-related violence will likely continue to be associated with the illicit drug trade due to the constant turf wars between gangs vying for control of territory. . . . Street gangs are increasingly distributing fentanyl and fentanyl-laced products as the drugs continue to flow into the United States. The monies involved with its street sale, and the demand for fentanyl by the consumers of illicit drugs, encourages gangs to become more involved with selling fentanyl.”





    Credit: U.S. Department of Justice
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  • National Transportation Safety Board says Highway Deaths Account for 95 Percent of all Transportation Fatalities in 2017

    Highway Deaths Account for 95 Percent of all Transportation Fatalities in 2017



    (November 1, 2018) - - Highway crashes claimed the lives of 37,133 people in 2017, accounting for 95 percent of the 38,958 who died in transportation related accidents that year, according to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

    The data indicate 712 fewer people died in transportation accidents in 2017, compared to the 39,670 who died in 2016. Aviation, marine and highway deaths decreased while rail and pipeline fatalities increased. Rail experienced the largest increase with 58 more deaths in 2017 than the 703 fatalities in 2016.

    While 673 fewer people died in highway crashes in 2017 compared to 2016, highway fatalities continued to represent 95 percent of all transportation fatalities.








    “Highway crashes are completely preventable,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Implementation of the 369 open NTSB highway safety recommendations, including the 22 recommendations related to speeding, have the potential to prevent crashes, save lives, and significantly reduce the carnage on our nation’s roads.”

    National transportation fatality statistics for calendar year 2017 also revealed:
    • Aviation deaths decreased from 412 in 2016 to 350 in 2017. While general aviation showed the largest decrease with 56 fewer deaths, general aviation again accounted for 94 percent of all aviation fatalities.
    • Recreational boating accidents killed 43 fewer people in 2017 than in 2016, but 27 mariners died in commercial fishing in 2017, compared to 17 in 2016. Overall, there were 39 fewer deaths in marine transportation compared to the 733 fatalities in 2016.
    • Highway fatalities decreased from 37,806 in 2016 to 37,133 in 2017, and crashes involving passenger cars, light trucks and vans, pedestrians, motorcycles, pedalcycles, and buses resulted in fewer deaths, but deaths associated with crashes involving medium and heavy trucks increased to 841 in 2017 compared to 725 in 2016.
    • Four more people died in pipeline accidents in 2017 compared to the 16 who died in 2016.
    Preliminary aviation accident statistics also released Thursday show a slight decrease in the number of US civil aviation accidents, with 1,316 in 2017 compared to 1,335 in 2016. There were 10 fewer fatal general aviation accidents in 2017 than in 2016, and the fatal accident rate remained below one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for a second consecutive year.


    The approaching Thanksgiving holiday weekend is typically the busiest travel weekend of the year in the United States and marks the start of the holiday travel season. The NTSB reminds travelers that speed, distracted, impaired and drowsy driving are key factors in highway fatalities.

    When traveling by bus, train or plane, stay buckled up (just as if you were in your car), know where your nearest safety exit is and how to use it, and if directed to evacuate, leave your carry-ons behind!

    The preliminary aviation accident statistics are tracked and compiled by the NTSB. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides marine statistics, and the U.S. Department of Transportation provides statistics for all other modes. A link to the data tables for transportation fatalities for all modes may be found online at https://go.usa.gov/xPySY.




    Better Views

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    Credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board...
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  • U.S. Small Business Administration Kicks off National Veterans Small Business Week Nov. 5-9

    U.S. Small Business Administration Kicks off National Veterans Small Business Week Nov. 5-9


    Washington, DC - - (October 29, 2018) - - The U.S. Small Business Administration will celebrate the accomplishments of veteran, service member and military spouse small business owners nationwide during National Veterans Small Business Week, Nov. 5-9.

    “National Veterans Small Business Week is another opportunity for us not only to highlight the success of our nation’s 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses, but also to recognize the areas where there is still work to be done,” SBA Administrator Linda McMahon said. “Entrepreneurship is not a solo mission. I’m proud to be a part of a network that serves the needs of our veteran and military business owners.”

    SBA district offices and resource partners nationwide, as well as local organizations, will be hosting National Veterans Small Business Week events. This year’s theme, Our #VetBiz Community, shines a spotlight on various aspects of the veteran business community, ranging from aspiring to current veteran and military business owners, as well as the organizations that provide entrepreneurial training.

    The SBA encourages veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses to join the online conversation and share what their veteran business communities look like by using the hashtag #VetBiz.

    For more information about National Veterans Small Business Week, including events and ways to get involved, visit www.sba.gov/vetbiz . For more information on the resources available for veteran entrepreneurs, visit www.sba.gov/veterans .




    Credit: U.S. Small Business Administration
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  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Celebrates National Family Caregivers Month

    U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Celebrates National Family Caregivers Month



    Washington, DC - - (November 1, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is commemorating National Family Caregivers Month this November by honoring the service of 5.5 million family members and friends who have dedicated their lives to providing much-needed care for chronically ill, injured or disabled Veterans.

    “Caregivers make tremendous sacrifices to address the daily needs of Veterans who served our nation,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These mothers, wives, fathers, husbands and other loved ones deserve our recognition and support for all they do to care for Veterans.”

    Caregivers provide a valuable service to Veterans by assisting them beyond the walls of VA medical facilities with much-needed support, such as accessing the health care system, providing emotional and physical support and enabling many injured Veterans to stay in their homes, rather than living their lives in an institutional setting.

    The recent passage of the VA MISSION Act of 2018 will expand eligibility for VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to Veterans of all eras of service — fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to help Veterans and their families live healthy and fulfilling lives.

    The expansion will occur in two phases, starting with eligible Veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, with further expansion to follow.

    Currently, VA is developing an implementation plan for the MISSION Act and encourages all caregivers and Veterans to learn about the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, as well as the many additional resources already available to all caregivers by visiting http://www.caregiver.va.gov or by calling the Caregiver Support Line toll free at 855-260-3274.





    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • National Transportation Safety Board says Derailment Demonstrates Need for Use of Safer Rail Tank Cars

    National Transportation Safety Board says Derailment Demonstrates Need for Use of Safer Rail Tank Cars



    Washington, DC - - (October 30, 2018) - - A broken rail, inadequate track maintenance and inspection, and inadequate federal oversight led to the March 10, 2017, derailment of a Union Pacific Railroad ethanol train near Graettinger, Iowa, according to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report released Tuesday.

    The agency also said in its report the continued use of US Department of Transportation Specification 111 tank rail tank cars in ethanol service, instead of the more robust DOT-117 tank cars, contributed to the severity of the accident in which about 322,000 gallons of undenatured ethanol was released, fueling a post-accident fire that burned for more than 36 hours. No one was injured in the accident that forced the evacuation of three nearby homes and caused an estimated $4 million in damage including the destruction of 400-feet of railroad track and a 152-foot railroad bridge.

    The train consisted of three locomotives, 98 loaded tank cars and two buffer cars filled with sand. Twenty of the 98 loaded tank cars derailed, 14 of the 20 derailed tank cars released their cargo of ethanol. Of these 14, 10 were breached from mechanical damage, four tank cars with shell damage released ethanol from bottom outlets or top fittings and thermal damage. The report states the use of DOT-117 cars, instead of the DOT-111 tank rail cars involved in the accident, would have mitigated or prevented the release of ethanol most of the derailed cars.




    (An aerial photograph of the site of the March 10, 2017, Union Pacific Railroad train derailment near Graettinger, Iowa. The train consisted of 98 tank cars loaded with ethanol, three locomotives and two buffer cars filled with sand. Twenty of the 98 tank cars derailed, 14 of the 20 released about 322,000 gallons of undenatured ethanol, fueling a post-accident fire that burned for more than 36 hours. NTSB photo)


    NTSB investigators concluded the Union Pacific Railroad was not maintaining the track structure on the Estherville Subdivision (a region of rail that includes the accident location) in accordance with Federal Railroad Administration minimum track safety standards or its own track maintenance standards. The NTSB also determined FRA inspectors did not report all defective crosstie conditions observed in the Estherville Subdivision. Additionally, investigators said in the report FRA inspectors were not using all available enforcement options to gain Union Pacific compliance with minimum track safety standards.

    The report states alcohol or drug use, and cell phone use were not factors in the accident nor was the mechanical condition of the train, the performance of the train crew or the emergency response.

    The NTSB issued three new safety recommendations and reiterated one safety recommendation. The recommendations, issued to the FRA, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Union Pacific, address training on safety standards and available enforcement options for federal track inspectors, the need for research to determine if safety would be improved by transporting ethanol in an undenatured state, and the need for Union Pacific to reexamine track maintenance and inspection program standards on all routed carrying high hazardous flammable materials.

    The abstract of the final report for the investigation may be found online at http://go.usa.gov/xPm73 . The final report will publish on the NTSB’s website within a few weeks.



    Credit: National Transportation Safety Board...
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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues Statement about New Car Assessment Program's Highest Rating

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues Statement about New Car Assessment Program's Highest Rating




    Washington, DC - - (October 9, 2018) - - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) – known as the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program – provides consumers with information about the crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by Federal law. NCAP conducts a total of three crash tests on new vehicles: one frontal and two side crash tests, as well as a rollover resistance assessment – a driving maneuver test that assesses a vehicle’s susceptibility to tipping up and a measurement of how top-heavy a vehicle is. Results from these three crash tests and the rollover resistance assessments are weighted and combined into an overall safety rating. A 5-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve. NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating, thus there is no "safest" vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings.

    Vehicle safety ratings are on NHTSA’s website at www.nhtsa.gov/ratings .



    Credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...
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  • U. S. Department of Agriculture Announces Receipt of 136 Expressions of Interest in Hosting Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

    U. S. Department of Agriculture Announces Receipt of 136 Expressions of Interest in Hosting Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture




    (Washington, D.C. - - (October 22, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has received 136 expressions of interest from parties in 35 states interested in becoming the new homes of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). In August, Perdue announced that most ERS and NIFA personnel would be moving to outside the National Capital Region by the end of 2019 and invited interested parties to submit proposals, with a deadline which had been extended to October 15, 2018. USDA intends to select the new location or locations by January 2019 and will retain a consultant with expertise in relocations.

    “The interest from across the country has been overwhelming as localities, universities, private entities, and elected officials realize the potential for their communities in become the new home for these two agencies,” Perdue said. “It is an old saying that not all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C., but it is gratifying to see so many folks step forward wanting to prove that to be the case. We look forward to working with Ernst & Young in examining all of the proposals and selecting the new locations.”

    States represented in the expressions of interest are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

    The entities expressing interest in hosting ERS and NIFA include educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, state development agencies, county development agencies, municipalities, and for-profit entities. USDA has also received letters of support from a number of governors, members of Congress, farm-related organizations, and state and local officials. It is possible that ERS and NIFA will be co-located when their new homes are found. A yet-to-be-determined amount of staff from the two agencies will remain in the National Capital Region.

    USDA is undertaking the relocations for a variety of reasons. The move will place important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the Washington, D.C. area. Additionally, taxpayers will realize significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets. Finally, the plan will improve USDA’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.

    Under the plan, no ERS or NIFA employees will be involuntarily separated. Every employee who wants to continue working will have an opportunity to do so, although that will mean moving to a new location for most. Employees will be offered relocation assistance and will receive the same base pay as before, and the locality pay for the new location. For those who are interested, USDA is seeking approval from the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget for both Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments.

    Perdue also noted that 91 percent of USDA’s approximately 108,000 employees currently work outside of the Washington, D.C. region.

    As part of the changes, ERS will be aligned with the Office of the Chief Economist under the Office of the Secretary. This represents a return to its previous positioning when ERS was aligned under the Assistant Secretary for Economics within the Office of the Secretary.

    Perdue previously announced other significant reorganizations at USDA. In May 2017, USDA created the first-ever Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and reconstituted and renamed the new Farm Production and Conservation mission area, among other realignments. In addition, in September 2017, Perdue realigned a number of offices to improve customer service and maximize efficiency. Those actions involved innovation, consolidation, and the rearrangement of certain offices into more logical organizational reporting structures.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture...
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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Directs Driverless Shuttle to Stop Transporting School Children in Florida

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Directs Driverless Shuttle to Stop Transporting School Children in Florida




    Washington, DC - - (October 19, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a letter directing Transdev North America to immediately stop transporting school children in the Babcock Ranch community in Southwest Florida on the EZ10 Generation II driverless shuttle. Transdev’s use of the driverless shuttle to transport school children is unlawful and in violation of the company’s temporary importation authorization. NHTSA’s action aligns with the Department’s guidance related to automated vehicles, as most recently outlined in Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation .

    "Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety," said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. "Using a non-compliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate, and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev’s approved test project,"

    In March 2018, NHTSA granted Transdev permission to temporarily import the driverless shuttle for testing and demonstration purposes. Transdev requested permission to use the shuttle for a specific demonstration project, not as a school bus. Transdev failed to disclose or receive approval for this use. School buses are subject to rigorous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that take into account their unique purpose of transporting children, a vulnerable population.

    NHTSA notified Transdev that failure to take appropriate action may result in a civil penalty action, the voiding of the temporary importation authorization, and/or the exportation of the vehicle. Transdev has informed NHTSA that it will stop unapproved operations.




    Credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...
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