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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Bob Geiger: " Rail Security Act Comes To Senate Floor"

Rail security - don't leave home without it

Thanks to Bob Geiger, who has contributed this timely cross-post on Senate hearings being held today regarding rail security - THANKS BOB!

Legislation to enhance the security of America's rail system will come to the Senate floor today in the form of the Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007. Proposed by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and cosponsored by Ted Stevens (R-AK) -- Inouye is the chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Stevens is the ranking member -- the bill has bipartisan support and an excellent chance of passing.

(Showing yet more legacy of the Republican, do-nothing Congress, the legislation, which is cosponsored by 22 Senators, was never championed by Stevens when the Alaska Republican ran the Commerce Committee over the last two years.)

Inouye's legislation (S. 184) will provide more than $1 billion for nationwide rail security improvements, including security upgrades for Amtrak, new freight and passenger rail security grants and specific stipulations for a program to re-route dangerous toxic inhalation or poisonous cargo around areas with large populations. The bill also includes $84 million for security enhancements to other surface transportation systems including truck, intercity bus and hazardous materials carriers.

"We have all seen the possible consequences of an attack on critical surface transportation systems in Madrid and London. We have all heard about possible threats and foiled plots aimed at our rail tunnels and stations here at home," said Inouye in introducing his legislation last month. "The time has come for us to address these vulnerabilities and risks in a comprehensive and coordinated way that ensures that in the rush to protect one mode of transportation we don't shift vulnerability towards other, less secure, transportation modes."

The Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act specifically provides $400 million for security improvements at rail tunnels in the New York City metropolitan area, a subject of huge concern to New York residents since the 9/11 attacks. The money provided by the bill will be used in part to provide for greater passenger egress and smoke ventilation in the event of an emergency.

"This is a major step forward for our region and for the millions of commuters who rely on commuter rail everyday," said Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), one of the bill's cosponsors.

"I am very pleased that this critical bill has been approved by the Commerce Committee," said Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), also a cosponsor of the measure. "This is a very positive forward step in our long campaign to increase security for New York and the nation's transportation systems. Our transportation systems remain vulnerable to attack. It is past time that we address this major infrastructure and economic risk."

Debate on the full set of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, which passed the House of Representatives last month, is expected to come next on the Senate floor.

- posted by Bob Geiger

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