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tv   Weekend News  Al Jazeera  May 16, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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>> techknow's team of experts show you how the miracles of science... >> i'm standing in a tropical wind storm. >> can affect and surprise us. >> wow! some of these are amazing. >> "techknow", where technology meets humanity. monday, 6:30 eastern. only on al jazeera america. this is al jazeera america. i'm bisi onile-ere in new york. here are today's top stories. the united states tribes a blow against i.s.i.l., the top commander killed during a special raid in syria and they fight back against forces in the anbar provinces secretary of state john kerry meets with chinese officials over the growing tensions of the beijing claims in the south china sea and hep to compete in the
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global airline market officials order amtrak to take immediate action to make the north-west corridor safe. that's part of our special report "derailed - how safe are american trains." at this hour there's a threat of more severe weather in the country's mid section. now you are looking at elk city, oklahoma, where we are told there may be an unconfirmed touchdown tornado. kevin corriveau is here with more. >> if you look at the video now, you can see how much rain is in the area. it's difficult to see if there's a tornado behind the rain cloud. all the indications are suggesting that we are looking at basically a tornado in that particular area. we do have tornado warnings in that area as we speak, right
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now. take a look at the radar, we are looking at a lot of activity pushing through oklahoma. closer in what you can see is the showers developing and intensifying over the last hour. and where you see the line of red in western oklahoma that's what we'll watch carefully. on the warning and watches, the lighter reds indicate the warnings, that expanded over the last hour. the video is coming out of those areas, extending from the west all the way down to parts of texas. much of the region kansas so nebraska, we are looking at the threat. this will continue for the rest of the evening. flooding is a major problem in the area. we have been dealing with this for the last week and a half. thunder storms are pounding in this area.
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we have seen a lot of tornados in texas, and we see more as it comes through parts of oklahoma. back to you now to the paddle against i.s.i.l. two major developments. fighting to gain control of the anbar province but first the take down of abu say av a leader shot trying to escape friday night. a dozen fighters were killed some during hand to hand contact. sayyaf was the chief financial officer. and documents from some of his communications equipment was captured in the operation. an 18-year-old yazidi woman, held as a slave was freed in the raid. the mission, approved by president obama took place overnight. all u.s. troops involved in the raid returned. >> here is what we know about
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the commander. he was known as abu mohammed el-araky and abu say of. and was in control of oil deals which is how i.s.i.l. was funded selling oil on the black market. he was known to be married to a woman captured, a woman who also was a key player in i.s.i.l. and was also captured. >> what do whe -- we know about how it unfolded. >> this was a delta force raid that the president signed off an. ash carter the secretary, watched it unfold and he put out a statement saying:
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yazidi was the religious group persecuted surrounded on a mountain, and u.s. air strikes were used to liberate them - successful - but some were in capture, enslaved at least by this one particular individual abu sayyaf and his wife. u.s. officials described a firefight. they wanted to take him alive. they were unable to do so. this was a residential area. it was a rare raid, rare for its success. there was a raid to liberate james foley, which was unsuccess: and a raid to liberate luke summers. he was unfortunately killed during the raid. there has been others that met limited success, and other
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individuals who have been killed - americans and foreign nationals, a sore point among some american allies. this is a success that the u.s. government is pointing to as it unfolded in the past 24-48 hours. >> what kind of reaction are you getting from capitol hill? >> well, of course leaders from congress are applauding what the military and the president has done, saying they are proud of the actions of the special forces. this is the kind of activity they encourage for some time. they point out that the coalition, while making gains, saw dramatic defeats, particularly over the course of the last few days. john boehner, the speaker of the house, pout out a statement that reads in part: of course, iraqi forces and the
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irregular forces, the shia militias took back the city of tikrit, there's an offensive to take been mosul taken in a charge across syria and iraq last summer so far, we understand that is supposed to happen in the spring. preparations are under way. no indication of when that will begin. >> where does operation inherent resolve go from here? >> that's right. we are talking about that in the last few days precipitating a phone call from vice president joe biden to the iraqi prime minister pledging american armament to be rushed to the theatre. ramadi is a city where there has been difficulty through the world war ii and anbar province, and i.s.i.l. forces are overrunning the town. there's the vital oil refinery
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both close to baghdad. close to baiji, a desperate fight. there has been a back and forth as iraqi forces initially took back that facility. large again. large oil refining facility outside the town. a lot of back and forth, questions about where this offensive - where the operation against i.s.i.l. stands militarily. >> thank you, mike the u.s. and coalition forces also conducted air strikes on i.s.i.l. targets in other parts of syria and iraq. there were more than 20 air strikes in the past 36 hours. operation inherent result has made progress. here is a look at the strongholds in the region. as mike viqueira mentioned it's about control of iraq. more from zeina khodr.
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>> reporter: the iraqi military says it's fighting back in ramadi, and released a video of aerial attacks on islamic state of iraq and levant positions. the government promised a tough response and promised to recapture lost territory in the provincial capital. on the ground there is not much evidence that security forces are on the offensive. many say it will not be a clear fight unless there is strategy. >> they have to be serious to do what they have to do for long time. we know everyone, that since one month i.s.i.l. attack every day. the reaction of the government was very weak on friday i.s.i.l.'s message was one of defiance. fighters used weapons and car bombers in a complex attack to penetrate a compound in ramadi. the u.s. which leads the coalition against i.s.i.l. plays down the significance against
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i.s.i.l.'s gains. it says the armed group is inflating successes, saying the coalition strategy is working, but there are those that disagree. >> we need to give the weapons to the tribes. the sunni tribes are able to defeat i.s.i.l. the government should approve a plan local people joining the security force, and they can fight with the iraqi army. >> earlier this month it was said that hundreds would fight along side the security forces. anbar's influential tribes were not among the men. they want to fight alone and want the army to give them weapons. anbar was the greatest challenge in iraq and lost is lot of men. sunni leaders believe it will fail again if the iraqi
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government does not bring the people to its side. until then the human suffering is getting worse with many trying to escape. for years there has been no peace between anbar and the shia led government in baghdad. many say restoring confidence and trust should be part of any military strategy if i.s.i.l. should be detailed ousted egyptian leader mohamed mursi has been sentenced to death. an egyptian judge handed down the judgment for a 2011 matter. sentence will be handed to a grand mufti. he will ratify it or dismiss it. it's up to the judge whether to accept the recommendation. 16 muslim brotherhood members were also sentenced to death on charges of spying. the muslim brotherhood condemns it and called for an escalation
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of protests. mass convictions and sentences have been common since the take over in egypt. and humans rights says since 2013 as many as 41,000 have been gaoled, most in short trial and mass sentences. amnesty international says that kind of sentencing violates people's rights. human rights watch says many people have been convicted in mass trials without established individual guilt. in april and may, more than 1200 people were sentenced. most were given the death penalty the retrial of two al jazeera journalists is due to return june 1st. egypt accusing mohamed fadel fahmy and mohammed badr of promoting the outlawed muslim brotherhood. the journalists and al jazeera reject the charges, the two have been free on bail february fierce clashes erupted in yemen near the end of a 5-day
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humanitarian truce. civilians dodged bullets and mortar shells dozens killed across south yemen, the fighting set to derail a ceasefire meant to bring food, water and medicine to the country, and that truce will expire sunday. the parties are expected to met in saudi arabia's capital on sunday, to help end the violence between rebels and pro-government forces more protests in burundi in the aftermath of a failed coup. some of the coup plotters faced state prosecutors a day after loyalist soldiers defeated the attempt to overthrow the president. the government warned demonstrators to end weeks of protests against the president's controversial and unconstitutional bid to seek a third term in office. malcolm webb walked with the demonstrators in the capital
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bujumbura on saturday. [ singing ] >> reporter: these protesters are undeterred by the violence of last few days. they are determined to continue protesting against the bid for a third term. many of these people cheered when the coup on wednesday happened but they say they want to carry on until the president withdraws his bid to run in the election. >> translation: they have closed down the radios because they want to kill us without people knowing. if they want, they want to kill us all. they won't stop until they accept they cannot run for a third term. >> the president said the protests must stop so the election can be peaceful. and said those involved in the coup attempt would stand trial. the outcomes of the coup seem to benefit the ruling party and the
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supporters of the president. the independent radio and tv - activists are fleeing and going into hiding. but still the protesters continue and the song they sing is a familiar sound on the streets over the last few weeks and the lyrics are "it's time for change it's time for change." in the wake of this week's deadly amtrak derailment in philadelphia, federal officials told amtrak to knof speed -- impose speed restrictions, they are ordered to increase signage about maximum speeds and in effect the north west. they are also to have automatic controls, letting the engineer know if the train is speeding. and applying the brakes.
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our special report coming up ahead - why the united states is concerned about the islands being constructed in the south china sea. and you are u.s. airline fizzing unfair competition from overseas -- facing unfair competition from overseas competition. o and tomorrow, an interview you won't want to miss. valerie payne talks about the threat of the nuclear proliferation. hear what the former c.i.a. officer has to say.
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secretary of state john kerry is in beijing, meeting with top officials about china's activity in the south china sea. china has been claiming reefs and islands off the philippines and vietnam, and he shared concerns with the chinese premier. >> i urged china through the prime minister wen jiabao to take actions with everyone to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution the pentagon denies reports that it's considering sending ships and aircraft to the region. al jazeera national correspondent jamie mcintyre has
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more from the pentagon. >> reporter: the source of the tension is a series of islands china has basically built on top of submerged reefs in some of the world's busiest shipping leaps in the south china sea. for example, here is the fiery cross reef as it appeared in a satellite photo last august. by march of this year it was built up enough to support an air spripstrip airstrip and work to build another. it is said that china is violating a dispute of a treaty settling ownership of the islands in the south china sea. >> china's landreclamition could have a raping of implications. these could include developing long-range radars deeper draft shifts developing air fields for carrier based aircraft. >> china's rapid reclamation
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around seven reefs alarmed the philippines and vietnam, that has territorial claims on other islands. the u.s. is concerned the ports, airstrips and storage will allow beijing to reflect power deeper into asia. it is kerbing china's structure to manmade bases. last month president obama told a town hall event in al jazeera america, the u.s. thinks china is using its size to muscle aside philippines and vietnam in contravention of international law. >> we don't have a particular view on the territorial disputes, the maritime disputes. our attitude is let's use the mechanisms in place internationally to resolve them. >> china's ambassador to the
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interference of united states and blaming washington for making the tensions worse. >> translation: the cold war mentality, which is propose to the use of force is outdated. >> reporter: he denounced outdated cold war mentality. the u.s. might send ships to pass within 12 nautical miles to assert the right of freedom of navigation. >> china accuses the united states of having a double standard saying the u.s. doesn't blame other countries building on reefs owned by china. they stress that the u.s. wants to see the issue resolved diplomatically u.s. former relations will be a topic of debate tomorrow on al jazeera's new programme "the third rail", joining us is the host. welcome. what can we expect on the programme tomorrow. >> you talk about u.s. foreign relations, the p5+1 negotiations with iran.
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the united states driving that. many feel that president obama is destroying a long-standing relations, and relationships in the middle east as the price to pay for a participation dool with iran. we -- deal with iran. we discuss some of that with our panel, and we have spicy debate some fascinating stuff from professor alan durchowitz legal rock star. he wasn't too happy with the prospect of a deal. here is a taste on that. >> he managed to succeed in alienating every country in the middle east. the palestine yooens like him. the egyptians, the jordanians no one likes him in the middle east except the iranians. >> but they don't like each other. is that because... [ all talking at once ] >> they like france better. >> i think it's an age of
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disorder we have to accept there'll we disorder in the middle east. there's always been a volatile region, they haven't had democratic religions for decades. the idea that they'll flip a switch is naive. >> it's 2011. >> is that not what president obama is saying, flip a switch. >> i don't think it's fair. i think what he's trying to do is make this deal. now, it's obvious that some of the united states allies disagree that this is a good deal. >> heated debate. >> that's right. a lot of people talking over each other. a lot of disagreement. we have thaisa patel. and others all disagree with the professor, invoking the nazis. and i said that's bringing up godwin's law. he wasn't happy.
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there's energy and passion debating these issues in the panel part of the programme, which is one half of "the third rail." >> i'll look forward to watching that. i'll certainly be watching. join us for the premier of "the third rail", 6:00p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. pacific. the three top u.s. airlines are asking the government to intervene in the battle for business in the sky. delta claims subsidy from an open sky agreement is giving airlines based in the arab knofl an unfair advantage and calls on this issue to be addressed. >> this is not protectionism. this is about enforcing trade policy. this is about what our nation stands for in the yates, which is fair competition, free of distortion. particularly subsidised
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distortion. >> having c.e.o.s stand up and argue against a free market is almost shameful. the economic center of the world has shifted. fastest growing classes are in southern asia and south africa. guess where the gulf carriers are, right in the middle. >> the airline trade war puts the u.s. in a tight spot. airways are owned by government considered key u.s. allies. >> a group of asian americans failed a complaint against harvard university. the group claims they engaged in racial discriminations in harvard and other ivy league institutions that they say should stop using racial quotas and balancing. >> i'm bisi onile-ere, next - philadelphia one of several
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railroad accidents in the u.s. our special report "derailed - how safe are american trains."
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>> on al jazeera america >> technology...it's a vital part of who we are... >>they had some dynamic fire behavior... >> and what we do... don't try this at home! >> tech know where technology meets humanity... only on al jazeera america
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out of control in philadelphia. >> we rolled and rolled. next thing i knew we were pushing out the emergency exit. we were outside. people were screaming and bleeding. >> reporter: was it mechanical, human error or something else. what does it say about the country rails? deadly accidents and crossings, yil exports. from money to technology, what will it take to reduce the risks. tonight - the facts you need. our special report "derailed - how safer america's trains"?
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good evening, i'm john seigenthaler. what happened in philadelphia tsks tragic for many it was a wake-up call. they connect us, as we know they can fail us without warn with deadly consequences. the forwards go beyond passenger trains, especially with oil tankers. the questions point to power, money and accountability. we'll look at the issues the special report. we begin with an amtrak crash, how a routine trip turned horrific in seconds. >> the darkness lead to horror flashlights led rescuers to screams. >> there's people stuck in there, they can't get out. >> reporter: inside the mangled cars, passengers relied on each other. >> i got you. keep crawling. >> reporter: a son helped pull his mother. >> i kept hearing "mum, mum, let's get you out of here."
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>> reporter: officers carried out victims by hand. >> we pushed out the emergency exit. >> reporter: there was kindness and a gift from one passenger. >> someone told me i was delirious, they carried me. my choose, you are shoes are not my shoes, somewhere i lost my shoes. a lady gave me hear shoes. >> 243 people on board. so many hurt buses were needed. >> did you see some of the victims and survivors? >> i did. several trains were delayed on their side. windows were facing up. the firearm - they were up on top of the train cars, and they were pulling people out of the windows. >> flashes on surveillance cameras as the train whept twice the limit. all the cars derailed one shredded. unrecognizable.
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as rescuers worked. pleas for the miss g. >> i'm mark pleas help me find my dad. >> reporter: sadly he would be found last an eighth person killed, a businessman travelling for work. like many on board, looking forward to going home the n.t.s.b. says the engineer is cooperating, as they try to learn why the train was going fast. for now the shock led to grief and a lot of questions. >> thank you. the disaster had put rail safety back in the national spotlight. lisa stark reports from washington. >> this week's amtrak accident underscores how deadly train crashes can be. accidents are the exception. few rail passengers lose their lives in derailments or collisions with trains. rail safety experts say safety is not where it should be. >> despite the horrible human toll from the amtrak wreck in
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philadelphia, riding the rails in the united states is by and large, safe. >> the rail system has improved safety wise over the years. back in the early '70s, it was a horror story. today there's not been many major fatalities in the u.s. >> reporter: between 2006 and last year the number of accidents dropped 34%. in that time five passengers died. 389 were injured. amtrak's c.e.o. defended the railroad safety record this week. >> 28 years ago was the last time there was a derailment on the north-east corridor. 28 years. and 300 million people have ridden amtrak since then. no derailment no loss of life. >> reporter: there are also nearly two dozen commuter rail
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lines in the u.s. handing half a billion trips last year. their accident numbers are down too. a 42% drop since 2006. in that time 32 passenger deaths. 699 injuries. attorney lawrence mann who drafted the federal rail roads safety act says despite improvement israel -- u.s. rail trains many. >> let's take japan, 1964 - they haven't had a death on their system same with france by the end of this year positive train control is required, which automatically slows trains going too fast to prevent derailments and stops trains crashing into one another. amtrak promises to met the federal deadline on the
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north-east corridor. commuter rails are further behind. the system is a game change are as crash -- game-changer. as crash investigators made plain. >> i can say positive train control would have stopped the dent a train that smashed into a truck in february had cars designed to withstand the crash. there were injuries no one died. they are recorded only on certain pie speed trains such as amtrak. the biggest hazard on america's rails, 250 grade crossings, places where roads crossed the tracks. hundreds people in cars and trucks hit by trains die in crossing accidents every year. eliminating grade crossings, installing safety equipment. upgrading tracks and cars takes money. amtrak and the commuter rails are chronically underfunded
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would you get on an amtrak train, i do take amtrak to new york frequently. i sit in the middle car. >> reporter: that's his little precaution, the middle car, a spot that is safer, is something gogs wrong. lawrence man believes one way to improve safety is to put two people in every cab, not just one, a second set of eyes. that is standard procedure on major freight lines. thank you. richard beale is a former train engineer and a counter rail operations and safety advisor, he is in miami. you are a big proponent of having two people in the locomotive cabin. tell me why? >> i am. i've been in the industry for 45 years. it's important to have a second set of eyes looking out the windshield to see what is going on.
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if something happens to the engineer he's there to make sure that the proper steps take place. someone warn the engineer put the brake on or he has a brake on his side as well. >> that's twice as much costing twice as much in the locomotive cabin, is the money words it? >> sure it's worth it. they had it since railroad time began. it wasn't until the last 20-plus years this they tried to phase it out. my question is why they try to phase it out before putting in positive train control. >> you are suggesting guts in amtrak made the trains less safe. >> yes, and the reason that we have someone on the head end is there's no cab uses any more. so it's almost always that there's someone in the cab. >> we hear a lot about pilot fatigue in airplanes.
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what about engineers on the trains? >> even more so. they work a lot of hours, get little rest and make a multiple run during the day. it's too much. >> talk to me about the oil trains. we have heard so much about the danger of oil trains. what do you think, and how big a problem is it? >> well, it's a major problem in the fact that these things are interlaced with other cars on all trains. it would be better if they could work it out where they placed all the cars what i consider hazmat cars on to one train. instead of having the trounce run a speed, where there's a derailment, there's a hazmat car or multiple that those trains would do a slower speed, like 25 miles per hour. it would take them longer to get there. in the event of a derailment or something happening. it would be less of a catastrophe and not all the
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rupturing of tank cars and penetration from other cars hitting them. >> good to have you on the programme. thank you for joining us. >> amtrak and other rail roads struggled to implement safety systems designed to prevent rail tragedies, more on how they work and why more trains don't have them. jacob ward has more. >> reporter: in 2008 a commuter train crashed outside los angeles, killed 24 people. the crash prompted congress to mandate by the end of 2015 a positive cell system must be in place on the 70,000 miles of track that carries passengers or chemicals toxic to inhale. think of positive control of a system that can take control of trains. positive control ends g.p.s. satellites, censors on the transaction and a system that can slow or stop a train when it senses trouble ahead or excessive speed.
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in this case it would have stopped the train exceeding the speed limit. >> we have called for positive train control for many, many years. it's on the most-wanted list. based on what we i don't, we feel had such a system been installed on this section of track, this accident would not an occurred. >> the light rail system is manually operated while the train is above grouped. letting the driver make app adjustment. once they go below ground a pi control system snaps into action and monitors the dressers make sure they are not distracted or incapacitated. if they are, the system can slow or stop the trains. considering that most commuter rail systems operate at a loss the cost an estimated 9-13 billion slowed deployment. it's hard to make it work across multiple carriers. in march congress voted to
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extend the deadline to 2020. at this point. only one-third to one half of the required equipment has been installed along the tracks and 60% of required loko motives are equipped with technology. >> further up the line from where train 188 derailed control systems are in pleas, but it wouldn't have matter. this train did not carry equipment. in this place, as is true on most rails. trains operate as they have now technology could bring safer trains but the costs are high. and the people writing the checks are left to balance progress against price. libby casey is in washington with that part of the story. libby. >> john, fighting over funding for america's rail lines goes back decades. it takes on heightened meaning and new concerns in light of amtrak derailment.
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americans take close to 600 million trips a year on rail roads, which supporters say are essential arteries for the nation's economies, and rail lines lack basic things - long- long-range budgeting to plan forward years in advance. amtrak has a $52 billion backlog. safety, maintenance and planning for the future go hand in hand. >> we are a growing country with a growing economy. we need to invest in the infrastructure that keeps us that way, and not just when something bad happiness, like a bridge collapse or a train derailment, all the time. >> less than 24 hours after amtrak's crash. a republican left panel agreed to decrease amtrak's budget. it was bristled at that republicans are short-changing
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trains. >> are you really going to ask? that's a stupid question. listen, they started this yesterday. it's all about funding. obviously it's not about funding. the train was going twice the speed limit. adequate funds were there. no money has been cut from rail safety, and the house passed a bill this spring to reauthorized amtrak and authorise a lot of programs. >> reporter: amtrak was created in the 1970s, from what was left of failing commercial companies. robert from the brookings institute said amtrak has not been considered part of the transportation industry. unlike the nations highways and ports, trains and amtrak in particular take money, but on the parts of it. like the north-east corridor ever do. they called for collaboration with state to share costs.
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while he said commercial industry can be involved he dismisses suggestions of making amtrak go prit. >> we shouldn't expect the private sector to come and rescue intercity rail in rural parts of the country. there's no incident if to do so. >> supporters are wondering who will system in to make sure america's trains run, and do so safely into the future. >> the house passed a bill which speaker boehner mentioned that amtrak takes the money it makes and keep it there for reinvestment. there were concerns it would leave other parts of the country more vulnerable with less money. that bill has not passed. we'll watch and see what happens. >> still ahead - trains in america. >> every day trains like this come rumbling across the tracks. often they are carries dozens of
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cars with very volatile crude oil on them. putting people in this part of the community at risks allowing the trade line the energy boom putting more tankers on the rails, the added risks and plans on how to deal with it. plus dangerous crossings, dangerous for rail passengers and for drivers.
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like many american cities philadelphia has seen an increase in the number of oil trains on its tracks. the amtrak train that derailed tuesday came to a stop near several parked oil tanker cars. the companies have not said if they were empty or full. new safety procedures for oil safety trains have been announced. critics say they full short of the mark. >> reporter: this is the nightmare scenario with cities asking what if. this latest oil train derailment was in north dakota.
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in february is train erupted into a fireball in west virgin. a similar explosion followed in illinois. no one was hurt, it's the kind of accidents prompting environmental activists to sound the alarm. his wake-up call came in 2014, when tankers derailed over the river. no one was hurt no oil was spilled. >> it made me realise what a near risk it was, because of a densely populated neighbour needs. every day trains like this come rumbling across the tracks. often they carry dozens of cars with crude oil on them putting people in the park and community at rick, and along the train -- at risk and along the train line. >> reporter: it's statement several hundred thousands live within half a mile from evacuation zones.
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city officials dispute the number saying it represents a worse case scenario. a number not in dispute - between 31 and 65 trains like this pass through philadelphia each week. the reason there has been an increase in oil trains is oil is headed to refineries like this on the east coast, and the refineries saw an economic revival in the last couple of years. >> it's a result of the back-in i will boom causing a 17% jump in rail in the past 14 years. in cities like philadelphia the spike in traffic heightened concerns not only because they run to crowded areas, but rely on infrastructure like this bia duct built in the late 1920s. pressure has turned up on officials. >> i get the question "why
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aren't you sam phillips re-routing the trains?" i don't have the authority, the mayor of philadelphia doesn't have the authority. these are federally routed rail lines. >> reporter: re-routing trains is not among the measures announced by the transportation secretary or his counterpart. in philadelphia there's tensions over sharing information over merm si responses. emergency responses. >> they should have pubic input on the response plans and sharing them with the public so they can share them. >> we live in a biprofessional world, they don't want to release a plan that could be used to further enhance some sort of attack or put our first responders at risk. >> reporter: a risk that is clear is the nation's energy boom has created a new reality
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for american's cities. >> reporter: wherever rails met roads, there's dangers of a collision. that happened in february in a new york suburb. a commuter train slammed into an s.u.v. killing the driver and five on the train. paul beban was at the scene of the crash and is here to tell us more. >> you recall that accident happened when the train hit the s.u.v. it was stopped on the track between the two gates as they came down. that crossing had been upgraded not too long ago - it had brighter lights and a sign warning drives not to stop on the tracks. the having found all the safety devices were working. the train's horn was on, lights flashing facts analysts say more work needs to be done to make the crossings safer. >> reporter: like the horrific accident in new york half of all collisions involving train and vehicles occur at railroad crossings outfitted with
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warnings devices - flashing lights and gates. it's often the fault of the driver who is confused, distracted or tries to beat the train. that happened in this colleagues the driver tried to slip around the gate an amtrak train ploughed into the car killing all five inside. there are more man 200,000 crossings in the u.s., locations where vehicles and trains can come together. safety campaigns made a huge difference. in 1978 there were more than 13,000 accidents at grade crossings. in 2013 that dropped to 2,000, only 85% decrease and a number of deaths that dropped from a high of 1,115 to 251 in 2013. that's a 77% decline. still, about every three hours in the u.s. a person or vehicle
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is hit by a train. here on the mta video, you can see commuters testing their luck running across the rails to catch their train. operation life-safer a group working to promote safety runs campaigns like one targetting distracted drivers. >> near train tracks, stay focussed stay alive. >> drivers misjudge the speed of the train, and how long it will take them to stop. >> a freight train afghanistan 55 men's can take a mile or more to stop. once the engineer pulls the brake, that's 18 football peelds. the federal government has 250 million to improve safety. 60% of all crossings has warning lights and gates. federal investigators require the light to switch on, and bells to sound before a train comes by.
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youtube is full of videos where drivers don't always heed the warnings. this driver got out in time more often, these accidents are deadly. the only safe graded crossing is an underpass, eliminating the chance of a collision. worse case scenario, if you are in a car on the tracks. you need to get out and move in the direction the train is coming, not if it's travelling. if it hits the vehicle it will throw the vehicle forward. >> thank you. gregor is the former head of transportation safety at the u.s. department of transportation. he's c.e.o. of alliance for innovation and infrastructure. he's in phoenix. what do you think is the state of the rail system? >> the state of the rail system is good. it can be better. like our roads and bridges, we
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are middle aged. we have a lot of upgrades, and as you point out on your show. all of that is expensive. >> is the system too big to be fixed. >> i don't think it's too big to be fixed. when you look at it in one bite it appears that way. what we need to be doing is setting aside funding on a yearly basis to tackle it, in smaller bite-sized pieces. we talk about btc, it's been done. regulators policy makers and politicians need help. >> should you and i have the same conversation, will we finally see changes? >> well i hope we see changes. and even today, already. the senator out at pennsylvania changed his tune on ptc. he wanted a delay. he needed to get on with it. that is the key can we stay focussed on the issue, will we move on to something else.
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i hope everyone listening will be focussed on the issue, and demand that we get this done. other than ptc, what would be addressed first in. >> well we need to upgrade rail infrastructure and, you know half of all the accidents are caused by failure of the infrastructure. a quarter, sorry. and another quarter by human error. that is half of all the sents. there are censors that can be deployed. others that can tell us if we have a track or wheel problem. it's time to get after that. ptc has been around in europe. this is not new technology. we need to stop acting like it's too difficult to do passenger safety upgrades or upgrading the rail system. >> we need to do both. we need to upgrade the rail system. if we prevent the accident we
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don't have to worry about mitigation. it's cause and effect. the effect is passenger safety. there are things that we can do inside to help out the passengers as well. you know we can put cards in the seat back pockets. it shows you where the safety exits are how to operate the door. better signage. it doesn't cost a tonne of money, it's simple stuff that we could be seeing. >> great to see you. thank you. >> we began the report with philadelphia, that's where we close with the tribute to those that died in the crash. the lives that came to a sudden end.
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this is al jazeera america, i'm erica pitzi in new york with a look at the top stories. an outbreak of weather in the nation's midsection with at least 14 tornado on the ground tonight. a raid by u.s. special forces results in the death of a top i.s.i.l. commander in syria new speed rules for amtrak less than a week after a commuter train travelling twice the speed limit derails in

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