Sasha Wall: The Eighth Transgender Woman Murdered This Year

A black transgender woman was found dead on Easter in the sandhills of South Carolina, making her the eighth transgender person killed in 2018.

Motorists found Sasha Wall, 29, slumped over her cars steering wheel on a rural road in Chesterfield County on Sunday, according to local law enforcement.

Walls Toyota was parked in the middle of the road, according to Jay Brooks, the countys sheriff. He also said several people passed by the car on the way to morning church services before someone pulled over, noticed the car was still running, and tapped on the tinted window. The motorist called 911 when they found Wall unresponsive.

Whoever killed her, they were furious, Brooks surmised. He also revealed Walls body had several bullet wounds and that investigators believe the shooter may have been sitting in the passenger seat. The local sheriffs office has launched an investigation into the homicide, joined by state law-enforcement officials.

Brooks told The Daily Beast that authorities do not yet have sufficient evidence to determine if Walls death was the result of a hate crime.

Family members told authorities that Wall had problems with past boyfriendsnotable in a state that was ranked fifth in the nation for its rate of women killed by men in domestic-violence incidents. And the possibility that her death was related to her gender identity is all too real.

Six of the eight trans women murdered since January were women of color, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has tracked violence against trans people and non-binary people since 2013. Last year was the deadliest year for trans women on record.

In South Carolina, 23 hate crimes were reported to the FBI in 2016, the lowest for the state since the agency started tracking in 1996, the Charleston Post & Courier reported. But the Palmetto State is one of only five states that does not have a hate-crime lawa fact pointed out by multiple outlets after Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston three years ago.

Additionally, trans victims face indecency in local media coverage. In Walls case, WCNC-TV ran a headline Sunday that misgendered her as a man found dead inside car. Fox 46 wrote about a Man found shot to death in driver's seat.

No one should be forced to fight to be respected in life only to be disrespected in death, Sarah McBride, National Press Secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, told The Daily Beast. The heartbreak of these murders is only intensified for family, friends, and the broader trans community when trans victims are misgendered in reporting by law enforcement and coverage by the media.

McBride added: The misgendering serves to reinforces some of the most harmful prejudices and misconceptions people have about trans identities, and in so doing, can feed frequently fatal violence.

In January 2017, the South Carolina House of Representatives introduced a hate-crime bill. But it never progressed.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/sasha-wall-the-eighth-transgender-woman-murdered-this-year

The White House Finally Hits Russia Back for Online Chaos

In its first 14 months, the Trump administration has earned a reputation for being soft on the Kremlin, even as the extent of the chaos Russia's hackers and trolls have inflicted online becomes increasingly clear. But more recently, the White House's rhetoric towards Russia has begun to shift. And now the executive branch has not only called out the Kremlin for a broad collection of rogue actions online, but finally meted out a concrete financial punishment.

On Thursday, the US Treasury announced new sanctions against a list of Russian citizens, officials and entire agencies, including 19 individuals and five organizations. The list comprises more than a dozen members of the so-called Internet Research Agency, whose broad social-media trolling campaign to influence the 2016 election was outlined in an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller weeks ago. It also includes several agents of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency believed to be responsible for both the hacking of the election-related targets like the Democratic National Committee and the creation of the malware known as NotPetya, whose outbreak last summer the White House has called the most cost cyberattack in history. And if that weren't enough, the White House also threw in a warning about ongoing Russian probes of the US power grid and other industrial control systems, which the cybersecurity industry has warned about since late summer of last year.

"Hard as it may be to believe, it looks like the White House attitude towards Russia is hardening," says James Lewis, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Technology and Public Policy Program. "The Russians have really gone overboard in doing bad things, and there’s a general consensus now in the US intelligence and military that we need to push back. Sanctions are a preferred method because it’s not a use of force, but the Russians hate them."

'Sanctions are a preferred method because it’s not a use of force, but the Russians hate them.'

James Lewis, Center for Strategic and International Studies

The GRU officials and the IRA-connected individuals will be banned from doing business with any US companies or traveling to the US. The sanctions also hit the IRA itself and two linked companies, Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering. The earlier indictment of IRA staff had included allegations two Russians travelled to the US as part of their disinformation campaign and paid for politically focused ads on Facebook—two elements of the group's work that will be significantly harder to achieve with the new sanctions in place. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wrote in a statement to reporters, promising more to come. "Treasury intends to impose additional…sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the US financial system.”

The financial ban, according to CSIS's Lewis, represents more than a slap on the wrist. "It makes you sort of an outcast on Wall Street," Lewis says. "You’re going to take a vacation to Hungary and present them with a Russian credit card? What’s a Russian credit card? You’re cutting these people off from the American economy, and that has a global effect."

The sanctions notably address not just election meddling, but Russia's broader destabilizing cyberattacks. In a press call with reporters, one senior official emphasized that the GRU sanctions came in response to the NotPetya malware attack, a data-destroying worm that rippled out from targets in Ukraine to cripple companies and organizations around the world last summer, including business giants like Merck, Maersk, and FedEx. "We have an additional expectation that tools like NotPetya not be used in a reckless fashion, causing $10 billion in damage or more across the globe," said one senior intelligence official, naming a new estimate yet of NotPetya's damage, the highest number yet that officials have named. "We’ve made clear the rule, we’ve started to make clear the penalty associated with that rule."

Piled on top of the sanctions announcement was a distinct, disturbing warning from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, providing the first public statement yet tying Russia to a series of attacks on US infrastructure targets that first came to light last summer. Those attacks, which the industry has pinned on a hacker group known as Dragonfly 2.0 or Palmetto Fusion, gained direct access to the industrial control system interfaces of US power grid targets, including nuclear facilities, potentially giving hackers the opportunity to start flipping switches at will.

The new alert from the FBI and DHS confirms that deep intrusion, even including a screenshot of a control panel the hackers accessed, as well as pointing the finger at the Russian government for the first time as the source of the attacks. In their report, the two agencies describe the attacks as a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors who targeted small commercial facilities’ networks where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks. After obtaining access, the Russian government cyber actors conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally, and collected information pertaining to Industrial Control Systems (ICS)."

One of the industrial control system panels the DHS determined that the Russian hackers accessed.
US CERT

Taken with the sanctions, the grid-hacking warning represents a serious message from the Trump administration to Russia that its multifaceted internet mischief will no longer be ignored, says John Hultquist, a director of research at the security intelligence firm FireEye who has closely followed Russia’s state-sponsored hacking campaigns. “This seems like a coordinated action between multiple departments to expose multiple Russian activities,” Hultquist says. “They’ve created some repercussions for those actions. It’s a pretty strong statement.”

The sanctions add to a mounting backlash against Russia’s provocations, both digital and physical. They follow an indictment last month from the special counsel Robert Mueller that described Russia’s online trolling and disinformation in new detail, with charges against 13 individuals involved. They also follow new sanctions from the UK against the Kremlin for its use of a nerve agent to attack a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter in the city of Salisbury last week.

“This is a bad day for the Russians. They’ve been smacked by the UK and now by the US,” CSIS’s Lewis said. “I can’t think of a better candidate for being smacked.”

Sanction City

Additional reporting by Issie Lapowsky.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/russia-sanctions-ira-gru-white-house/

How do gun background checks work? A look at the current system

In the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this month, President Trump is seemingly open to strengthening federal background checks for gun purchases.

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday, adding that the president has spoken to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn about a bill to “improve federal compliance with criminal background check legislation.”

On Twitter Tuesday, Trump said Republicans and Democrats “must now focus on strengthening” federal background checks. 

Here’s a look at how the federal background check works, and what activists and experts have to say about it.

What happens when you want to purchase a gun?

In order to purchase a gun from a federal firearms licensed dealer (FFL), a consumer must provide identification and pass a federal background check using the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ 4473 form.

The first page of the document requires basic information, including the buyer’s full name, address, sex, birthday and ethnicity. A Social Security number is encouraged, but not required.

The form also asks the buyer about criminal background, immigration status and mental health — information that could result in a consumer being denied. Those questions include:

  • Have you ever been convicted in any court of a felony, or any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?
  • Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?
  • Have you been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions?
  • Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?

Lying on the federal form is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, an ATF spokesperson confirmed to Fox News. That penalty is also listed at the top of the form.

Once the form is completed, the dealer will submit it to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) online or by phone. Then, almost immediately, the licensed seller will know how to continue with the sale:

  • Proceed: If NICS indicates the seller can proceed, then the sale can continue.
  • Canceled or Denied: Should NICS mark the form as “canceled” or “denied,” the seller cannot legally sell the firearm to the buyer. Michael Smith, the vice president of marketing and media for Upstate Armory Group, a firearm dealer in Simpsonville, S.C., told Fox News he generally provides the customer with contact information for a local lawyer who handles restoration of firearm rights in case the failed background check is erroneous. There have been times police have arrived at the gun shop to arrest the customer who legally cannot purchase a gun, Smith said.
  • Delayed: If the background check elicits a “delayed” response from NICS, the seller cannot complete the transaction for at least three business days. Unless a specific “denied” designation is issued, the seller will be able to complete the transaction with the customer after that period elapses, under federal law.

Even before a 4473 form is filled out, Robbie Wheaton, vice president of the Wheaton Arms Inc. gun shop in Piedmont, S.C., said he takes note of the customer. If a customer seems to be intoxicated or “shady” – talking, for instance, about a cheating spouse – dealers don’t have to sell that person a gun.

“A shop has a final right to say ‘no’ based on a person’s behavior whether they will sell a firearm to them or not.”

– Robbie Wheaton, vice president of Wheaton Arms Inc. in South Carolina

“As a federal firearms licensee, we have the right to be able to refuse the transfer of firearms to someone,” Wheaton told Fox News. “A shop has a final right to say ‘no’ based on a person’s behavior whether they will sell a firearm to them or not.”

Smith praised the background check system, as it can flag other discrepancies for sellers, such as an age issue.

South Carolina law, for example, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from purchasing a long gun (such as an AR-15) and anyone under 21 from buying a pistol, handgun or other firearm, he said. The background check can prevent sellers, particularly at hectic gun shows, from accidentally selling a firearm to someone who isn’t of age, Smith said.

Why do I have to complete the background check?

Thanks to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, the FBI created the NICS in 1998. The system is supposed to instantaneously let a firearms dealer know whether a buyer is legally allowed to purchase the gun.

According to the FBI, more than 230 million checks have been made by cashiers prior to a purchase and more than 1.3 million denials have been issued since the system was put in place.

Is this process the same in every state?

No.

In South Carolina, for example, consumers who already have a concealed weapons permit do not need to go through a background check in order to purchase a firearm in the state, multiple dealers in the Palmetto State told Fox News.

Also, state laws may be superseded by federal law. The 4473 form asks consumers about marijuana use. Those who use the drug, in states where recreational or medicinal use is legal, will be denied a firearm, Wheaton said.

In Hawaii, after the first legal medicinal marijuana dispensary opened in the state in 2017, local law enforcement agencies asked users who are also gun owners to turn in their firearms within 30 days, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Is this system strong enough?

It depends on who you ask.

Jonas Oransky, the deputy legal director of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for stronger gun control, praised the background check system but said it has “significant gaps.”

Specifically, Oransky’s organization points to a “private sale loophole.” Federal law requires licensed dealers to complete background checks, but people can also purchase guns from a private seller – such as a friend or through online classifieds websites like ArmsList.com. (ArmsList.com prompts users to “accept” a terms of use document, which acknowledges the website doesn’t certify or investigate transactions and instructs users not to use the site for “illegal purposes.”)

“It doesn’t matter necessarily if people are selling at scale,” Oransky told Fox News. “It’s not that all sellers are dangerous or devious, but buyers who know that they can skip the background check can look for an unlicensed seller.”

Wheaton, who has been in the firearms business full time since 2007, said he and other licensed sellers try to persuade customers to transfer guns through a licensed dealer so a background check can be conducted.

Oransky also pointed to the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows dealers to sell guns to a customer before a background check is completed – when NICS marks a document “delayed” but does not approve or deny it within three business days. He said a disproportionate number of buyers who obtain a gun before a background check is completed are domestic abusers, citing complex records and restraining orders that investigators need additional time to read through or discuss with the appropriate local law enforcement agency.

“The FBI should have the time they need to complete a background check. It’s more important than expediting sales to people who shouldn’t have a gun,” he said.

On the other hand, Second Amendment advocates argue that the background check system already does too much.

“We don’t think it’s proper for people to have to prove their innocence to the government in order to exercise their God-given right,” Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, a Virginia-based gun rights nonprofit, told Fox News.

“Our rights are listed in the Bill of Rights for a reason,” he continued. “People’s rights are being infringed upon and it’s resulting – in some cases – in death and in other cases extreme inconvenience in being able to purchase firearms.”

Pratt also said the background check system doesn’t do its job, as several of the more recent mass shooters in the U.S., including the suspect in the fatal shooting of 17 people in Parkland, Fla., were able to pass background checks.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/21/how-do-gun-background-checks-work-look-at-current-system.html

Amtrak Train Derails After Collision In South Carolina; At Least 2 Dead

An Amtrak train appears to have been running on the wrong track when it collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina early Sunday morning, killing two Amtrak crew members and leaving more than 100 others injured, officials said.

The train carrying around 147 people was running along CSX-owned and -operated tracks from New York to Miami when a switch on the rails caused it to turn onto a parallel track where the unoccupied freight train was parked, Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a press conference.

It’s not yet known why that switch ― which had been padlocked to keep it in place, as part of protocol ― had been left in that position, Sumwalt said. 

“Our goal is to find out not only what happened but why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again,” he said.

As part of the NTSB’s investigation, Sumwalt said the board will be interviewing Amtrak and CSX workers, as well as reviewing video recovered from the Amtrak train that recorded its outward-facing path. The investigating agency also hopes to review data recorders belonging to both trains, which have not yet been recovered. The operators’ cellphone records and drug tests will also be examined.

Killed on the Amtrak train were engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 34, of Orange Park, Florida, the Lexington County Coroner’s Office said at an afternoon press conference. Both were in the front of the locomotive, which Sumwalt described as “not recognizable at all” following the high-speed crash.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), at an earlier press conference, said 116 people were sent to local hospitals after the Amtrak train slammed into the freight train after appearing to have ended up “on the wrong track” around 2:30 a.m.

Bob Leverone via Getty Images
Emergency responders are at the scene after an Amtrak passenger train collided with a freight train in Cayce, South Carolina, early Sunday.

“The CSX was on the track it was supposed to be on,” he said.

“It’s a horrible thing to see, to understand what force was involved,” McMaster said. “The first engine of the freight train was torn up, and the single engine of the passenger train is barely recognizable.”

Of the more than 100 people injured, officials at local Palmetto Health hospitals said they received 62 patients, who were transported there by county buses and ambulances. Three of the patients were children.

The most significant injuries include broken bones and injuries to the head and organs. Most patients suffered minor bumps, bruises and lacerations, Dr. Eric Brown, physician executive at Palmetto Health Richland, which is a level I trauma center, said at an afternoon press conference.

As of Sunday afternoon, six people remain hospitalized at Palmetto Health facilities, he said. WISTV reported that at least two patients are continuing to receive treatment at another area hospital.

In a statement, Amtrak said eight crew members and about 139 customers were aboard the passenger vehicle when it collided with the freight train at around 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, a community about four miles south of the South Carolina capital of Columbia.

The company noted CSX’s ownership and maintenance of the tracks where the collision took place.

“CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control the access to sidings and yards,” it said. 

Amtrak said that it is cooperating fully with the NTSB.

A CSX spokesperson, in a statement to HuffPost, expressed their condolences to the victims and their families and said that they “remain focused on providing assistance and support to those impacted by today’s incident.”

“CSX hosts more passenger trains on its network than any other major railroad in the United States, and passenger rail remains one of the safest ways to travel. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into this incident and CSX will continue working with the investigating team,” the company said.

Amtrak passengers recalled being violently thrown about the train during impact.

Matthew Cheeseman told Columbia station WIS-TV that he was traveling with his wife and 9-year-old daughter from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, when they were thrown from their seats.

“That thing threw us across the room like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got rug burn on my back, it was that bad,” he said.

That thing threw us across the room like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got rug burn on my back, it was that bad.”

Fellow passenger Derek Pettaway, who was also heading to Orlando, told CNN that he was asleep at the time of the impact and was briefly hospitalized for minor whiplash. He said it didn’t take long for responding officials to evacuate the train.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said.

Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said that about 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the accident. He said hazardous materials teams had secured “two leaks of fuel from the trains.” At a press conference, he stressed that there was “no threat to the public at this time.” 

The NTSB said that it was launching an investigation into the accident. Robert Sumwalt, the board’s chairman, told CNN that the probe should take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Amtrak has encouraged people with questions regarding passengers on the train or information about the crash to contact them at 1-800-523-9101.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) has expressed his condolences to the crash victims on Twitter.

President Donald Trump, who is in Florida hosting a Super Bowl party at his Palm Beach golf club, was briefed on the train accident. He tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims” involved in the crash.

News of the crash comes just days after a fatal accident involving an Amtrak train and a garbage truck outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

A man on the truck was pronounced dead after the train, which was carrying Republican lawmakers and their families to an annual retreat, collided with the vehicle on the tracks on Wednesday. Six other people were injured in the crash.

In December, an Amtrak train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing 3 people and injuring dozens. According to investigators, the train had been traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when the derailment occurred.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.                    

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/amtrak-train-derail-collision-south-carolina_us_5a76e01be4b06ee97af35b33

Amtrak, CSX train collision in South Carolina leaves 2 dead, over 100 injured, officials say

Two Amtrak personnel were killed and over 100 others were injured when an Amtrak passenger train collided with a parked CSX freight train early Sunday just outside the capital of South Carolina, officials said.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said Amtrak 91 was traveling from New York to Miami when it collided with the CSX train in Pine Ridge around 2:35 a.m.

“It appears to me that the CSX train was on the track it was supposed to be on,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference. “It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track. That’s what it appears to me.”

Amtrak said in a statement the train’s lead engine derailed, as did some passenger cars that was carrying eight crew members and approximately 139 passengers on board. TV footage from the crash scene showed the aftermath of the collision, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled.

Derailed Amtrak cars after a train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.  (FOX News)

McMaster said the two people killed in the crash were Amtrak personnel and 116 people were taken to area hospitals. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher identified the two victims of Amtrak crash as engineer Michael Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Cella, 36. Fisher said that several people remain in critical condition.

“We have anywhere from scratches and bumps to more severe broken bones,” Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill told reporters.

“It appears to me that the CSX train was on the track it was supposed to be on. It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track. That’s what it appears to me.”

– South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster

McMaster said the first engine of the freight train was “torn up,” while the engine on the Amtrak train is “barely recognizable.” The governor added that no one was on the CSX train at the time of the crash, and the Amtrak train was estimated to be going 59 mph. 

“Two trains, that’s as forceful as can get,” he said, adding that “I would ask this is a Sunday, everyone go to church and say a prayer for these people involved.”

Lexington County emergency officials responding to the scene where an Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce, South Carolina early Sunday morning.  (FOX News)

In its statement, Amtrak it is cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation. 

“CSX owns and controls the Columbia Subdivision where the accident occurred,” Amtrak said. “CSX maintains all of the tracks and signal systems. CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control the access to sidings and yards.”

Hospital officials told Fox News they have received nearly 90 patients from the crash, but most of which have been discharged already. Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said the facility received 27 patients from the crash, all of which had “minor injuries” and since been discharged.

Derailed Amtrak cars after a train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.  (FOX News)

A spokesperson from Palmetto Health said they received 62 patients as a result of the crash at three of their facilities. The health care network said there are two patients that are expected to be admitted, but most are expected to be released after they are evaluated and treated.

“The thoughts of all our team members are with the family and friends of those injured in this accident,” Palmetto Health spokesperson Tammie Epps said. “Palmetto Health is coordinating with local authorities, Amtrak and the American Red Cross to assist these families in any way possible.”

No immediate information was available about the CSX train, but SCMED Public Information Officer Derrec Becker told reporters that officials are working to secure a fuel leak that resulted from the spill.

AMTRAK’S DEADLIEST CRASHES IN RECENT YEARS

As of now, 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled and crews are trying to secure the leak, according to Becker.

The Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce, located just outside Columbia.  (FOX News)

“There is no danger to anyone in the nearby area of Lexington County,” Becker told “FOX & friends Weekend.”

Amtrak officials gathered up luggage and other belongings and within hours put passengers aboard buses to their destinations. Before being sent on their way, those who were not hurt were taken to a shelter, and local businesses provided coffee and breakfast.

Amtrak said that anyone with questions regarding passengers on the train can contact them at 1-800-523-9101.

South Carolina’s Red Cross chapter tweeted that emergency responders were at the scene. The people who weren’t hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, Lexington County Sheriff’s spokesman Adam Myrick said.

“We know they are shaken up quite a bit. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather – get them to a warm place,” Myrick said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching a “Go Team” to investigate the deadly crash and plans a press conference for later in the day.

President Trump tweeted about the crash on Sunday, saying “my thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina. Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!”

Trump was briefed on the train accident and is receiving regular updates, according to Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters. 

This is the third Amtrak crash since December. On Dec. 18, an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state, killing three people and injuring dozens more. Just last week, one person in a truck died when an Amtrak crash carrying Republican members of Congress struck the vehicle at a crossing. Two other people in the vehicle were severely injured.

Fox News’  Bryan Llenas, Lucas Tomlinson, Terace Garnier, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/02/04/amtrak-csx-train-collision-in-south-carolina-leaves-2-dead-over-100-injured-officials-say.html

South Carolina bill would require schools to display ‘In God We Trust’ posters

It’s on our money, our license plates, and the president even used it in the State of the Union.

“In God We Trust.”

And now, our nation’s motto is stirring up controversy in South Carolina.

State Rep. Mike Burns’ bill would require schools to prominently display posters, saying “In God We Trust,” as well as the state motto, “Dum Spiro Spero” and its English translation, “While I breathe, I hope.”

The Republican lawmaker mirrored the bill on a law enacted last year in Arkansas that required the national motto, paired with the American flag, to be hung in schools and public buildings, if funding allows. 

Arkansas Rep. Jim Dotson shows off new “In God We Trust” posters that will be hung in schools.  (Rep. Jim Dotson)

Burns says the proposal would produce minimal costs, which would come out of the Palmetto State’s operating budget. If passed, the Board of Education would design the posters.

He warned that our country is on a “slippery slope by pushing God out of the public square.” With this bill, he wants to educate students on the phrase that has lined coins for more than one and a half centuries.

“We’re not teaching those types of things [anymore,]” he said. “It’s not putting religion on someone to use the word God and say the word God in the public square.”

But some are questioning whether the proposed law is constitutional.

Education Committee member Robert Brown said he’s not sure how he’ll vote, but he is worried this bill violates the separation of church and state.

“If it flies in the face of the Constitution, I will not be in favor of it,” Brown said. “If we don’t have the money to support it, I will not be in favor of it.”

“It doesn’t matter if everyone wants this. What matters is: Does it comply with the Constitution?”

– Derek W. Black, law professor at University of South Carolina

Burns said, however, that he is not concerned about the votes. He said his biggest force of opposition is time, and there are other more pressing issues, such as budget discussions, that will take priority in South Carolina’s legislature.

The bill could reach the state’s House Education and Public Works Committee as early as March, but even if it passes, federal courts could intervene.

Legal experts say the proposed legislation may have a difficult time standing up in court.

“Here, the purpose seems to be a religious purpose, and anytime there’s a religious purpose in passing legislation, the courts are going to strike it down,” said Derek W. Black, a law professor at the University of South Carolina.

Black acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in favor of “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency but says the defense of “ceremonial deism” – in other words, the motto’s longstanding nature – makes it more about tradition than religion and will not protect new developments incorporating the phrase. 

“When someone comes forward and says: ‘We want to do something new, we want to put it in a new place,’ they’re not doing it out of ceremony,” Black said.

Both Burns and Brown said if the proposal is enacted, negative reaction from their constituents would be limited due to the state’s largely Christian population. However, Black says federal courts rule regardless of popularity.

“It doesn’t matter if everyone wants this,” Black told Fox News. “What matters is: Does it comply with the Constitution? Does it protect the people who are losing at the ballot box?”

At least 11 states allow or require the national motto to be displayed in schools and public buildings, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures and Freedom From Religion Foundation. State Rep. Jim Dotson introduced Arkansas’ bill and said there haven’t been any cases filed in reference to its institution.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes atheism and nontheism and is against any bill it considers a violation of church and state, said it would oppose any effort to pass the bill.

“We should have a national motto that we can put up in the school without imposing religion on a captive audience of school kids,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the organization. “It miseducates students. We live under a godless and secular Constitution.”

Emilie Ikeda is a multimedia reporter based in Atlanta. 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/01/south-carolina-bill-would-require-schools-to-display-in-god-trust-posters.html

Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

A crash between an Amtrak passenger train and a CSX freight train in South Carolina on Sunday killed two people and injured about 70 others, authorities said.

The Amtrak train was heading from New York to Miami with about 139 passengers on board when the crash happened around 2.45am near Cayce, authorities said.

The injuries ranged from cuts and scratches to broken bones, Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said the two people killed were traveling on the Amtrak train.

The lead engine and several passenger of Amtrak Train 91, which was operating from New York to Miami, derailed after coming in contact with the freight train, Amtrak said in an emailed statement. There were eight crew members and approximately 140 passengers on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying investigators to the scene.

The crash happened near a stretch of tracks by a rail yard about 10 miles south of Columbia, where several track spurs split off for freight cars to be unloaded. Authorities said they had not determined if both trains were moving or if the Amtrak train was diverted on to a side track.

Location of the train crash

TV footage from the scene showed the aftermath of the crash, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled. People who were not hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, Lexington County sheriffs spokesman Adam Myrick said.

We know they are shaken up quite a bit, Myrick said. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather get them to a warm place.

Palmetto Health spokeswoman Tammie Epps said 62 passengers were seen at three of its hospitals. Two of those passengers were admitted. The others appeared to have minor injuries that would not require hospitalization.

Amtrak set up a passenger information line at 1-800-523-9101.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/04/dead-injured-south-carolina-train-crash

Heres How the 20 Contenders for Amazon HQ2 Stack Up

Now that Amazon.com Inc. has whittled down the list of cities it’s considering for its second North American headquarters, it’s time for a new round of everyone’s favorite parlor game: arguing about which city would suit the technology giant best.

After the e-commerce company said it was seeking a second HQ to relieve pressure on its Seattle home base, it received proposals from 238 locations, full of rich economic incentives and goofy marketing gimmicks.

Now it has narrowed the field to 20 places, including three bids from the Washington D.C., area, where Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has put down roots, as well as proposals from smaller Midwestern cities (Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis) and major population centers (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Dallas).

Economic incentives aside — and there are plenty — here are some pros and cons of the places on Amazon’s very long shortlist.

Atlanta

Pros: A major airline hub and home to big corporations, such as UPS, Coca-Cola and Delta. A recent focus on redevelopment projects like the BeltLine — a series of parks built on an old railroad spur that runs through the city — may add to the city’s appeal.

Cons: It’s still not that cool. Amazon prides itself on its urban Seattle locations being walkable and bikable, and a more suburban city like Atlanta may contradict that spirit. Terrible traffic, too.

Austin

Pros: Close to the distribution and business hub of Dallas but much hipper. No Texas income tax, an established tech industry and home to Whole Foods, which Amazon recently acquired.

Cons: Small airport. Despite surging population, still doesn’t feel like a major U.S. city. 

Boston

Pros: Proximity to Harvard, MIT and a wealth of other colleges and universities, an airport with nonstop flights to Seattle and Washington, D.C., and a track record for providing rich relocation benefits, like the incentives the city offered GE in 2015.

Cons: Has some of the same drawbacks as New York—high cost of living, tight residential and commercial real estate markets—without the same cultural amenities and depth of talent. 

Chicago

Pros: A heavy concentration of operations, marketing, finance and sales employees to poach from other industries. Good public transit, walkable neighborhoods and a variety of housing choices, from downtown apartments to traditional suburbs. 

Cons: Shootings in the city have become national news, and the state is still emerging from dire financial straits. Digging its government out of debt could require tax hikes and cuts to public services. 

Columbus

Pros: A major research university in Ohio State, a fast-growing economy and cheap housing.

Cons: The housing is cheap for a reason.

Dallas

Pros: Has been a magnet for corporate relocations in the last two decades, offering high quality of life and access to a deep pool of workers. There’s no state income tax, and unlike Austin, it’s a major city and an airline hub.

Cons: Dallas suburbs may seem pretty stodgy to Amazon employees used to the cultural amenities in downtown Seattle. 

Denver

Pros: Denver is already popular with tech companies. Colorado boasts strong engineering schools and trounces the other finalists when it comes to close proximity to fresh powder. Fresh, and legal, pot, too, for those who partake.

Cons: The exodus of workers to Denver’s burgeoning tech hub has already stretched the local housing market. Doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.

Indianapolis

Pros: Tech company salaries would go far in the heartland, and choosing Indianapolis would make Amazon arguably the most important employer in middle America.

Cons: The sheer of size of the Amazon HQ could swamp the city’s residential and commercial real estate markets. As in Columbus, the cheap housing here isn’t a mystery. 

Los Angeles

Pros: The tech giant’s Amazon Studios division—quickly becoming a force in Hollywood, with original streaming TV series such as “Transparent” and “Man in the High Castle”—is based in Santa Monica.

Cons: It’s an expensive place to live, a hard place to build in and, like Denver, it doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.

Miami

Pros: The Seattle workforce could use a little sun. Bezos, currently the richest man in the world, attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

Cons: Lacks an existing tech ecosystem, has high housing costs and might be under water at some point.

Montgomery County

Pros: This Maryland county is one of three bids in or near the District of Columbia to land on the shortlist. Bezos has put down roots in the area with his acquisitions of the Washington Post and the city’s largest private home.

Cons: Commercial real estate is probably more available here than in the U.S. capital, but the trade-off is asking the company’s workforce to work in the ’burbs.

Nashville

Pros: Good universities, no Tennessee income tax and fame as the country music capital of the world have already made the city popular with major employers.

Cons: Like Austin and Denver, the city has already succeeded in convincing companies to relocate, and the local housing market has struggled to keep up with the flood of new workers.

Newark

Pros: Proximity to New York without the Big Apple’s staggering home prices. In October, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pledged to back the city’s bid to lure Amazon with as much as $7 billion in tax breaks. 

Cons: The city might be a tough sell for workers over San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York.

New York

Pros: Locating in New York would give Amazon access to the world’s top pool of finance and media talent and a growing tech scene.

Cons: Housing prices are already high, one of the reasons locals in Seattle are pushing back against the company’s expansion there. There’s also limited space for new office construction.

Northern Virginia

Pros: Like Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Northern Virginia offers an educated workforce and proximity to both the federal government and the Washington Post. Commercial real estate is easier to come by than in the District of Columbia.

Cons: The area isn’t as strong on urban appeal as some of the other contenders.

Philadelphia

Pros: Good transit, large population, and it’s close to New York and Washington, with much lower housing costs.

Cons: Amazon would have to convince workers in those two cities that giving up cultural amenities for cheaper housing is a trade worth making.

Pittsburgh

Pros: Home to top AI and robotics university Carnegie Mellon, which have already drawn top tech companies like Google and Uber. Close to major distribution hubs in the middle of the country.

Cons: It’s far from other major cities and tech hubs.

Raleigh

Pros: Part of an existing tech hub; offers cheap housing, good quality of life and the chance for Amazon to put its stamp on a city in a way that it couldn’t in more established metros.

Cons: Clashes over gender identity and other hot political issues suggest North Carolina is still struggling over its own identity.

Toronto

Pros: A major financial and technology hub and a population that would put it among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas. Potentially easier to hire people from abroad because of a more open tone on immigration from the government than in the U.S.

Cons: Housing prices are high compared to cities like Atlanta. The city also doesn’t have much space for housing and commercial development required for HQ2 in the downtown core. Moving integral operations north of the border holds political risks in dealing with the Trump administration.

Washington, D.C.

Pros: A strong technology workforce and proximity to lawmakers and regulators. Bezos put down roots in the area with his 2013 acquisition of the Washington Post.

Cons: Lack of space and zoning restrictions could make it hard to find enough office space. Sticking the headquarters in the ’burbs would make it easier to find land but harder to appeal to workers. And you don’t get a U.S. senator to fight for you on the Hill.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/amazon-ignites-fight-for-hq2-here-s-how-20-contenders-stack-up

    #2020Vision: Shutdown politics; Harris vs. Booker in a clash of styles; Biden gets good polling news

    Washington (CNN)Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race, from Eric Bradner, Greg Krieg and Caroline Kenny:

    A government shutdown is looming — and the Democratic senators seen as 2020 contenders all seem comfortable with it.
    California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and others all said they’ll oppose a funding measure that does not settle the fate of those who could face deportation after President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
      “Republicans control the House, Senate and White House,” Sanders said. “They have to pass an annual budget, not more one-month continuing resolutions.”
      “Why are we kicking the can down the road?” Booker said.
      Worth remembering: Harris has the most on the line. She was the first Senate Democrat to publicly declare she’d oppose any government funding bill unless Congress took action on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a position now held by the vast majority of Democrats. It’s made her a hero among immigration activists, and it’s smart politics with both California voters and the 2020 primary electorate — but it could also make her a target for blame if a protracted shutdown hurts Democrats politically.

      News and notes:

      BIDEN’S TRAVEL SCHEDULE: Former Vice President Joe Biden is headed January 29 to Miami. He’ll appear at a fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is up for re-election and waiting to see whether Republican Gov. Rick Scott will get in the race against him.
      — Biden also booked a trip to Montana. He’ll keynote the Montana Democratic Party’s annual Mansfield-Metcalfe Dinner in Helena on March 10. It’s a major event for the state party — and a clear stop on the 2020 trail. Last year’s speaker was Cory Booker. (The “Mansfield” here is Mike Mansfield, who was Senate majority leader when Biden first took office in 1973. For a glimpse at their relationship, these comments from Biden on how Mansfield taught him to get over his animosity for Jesse Helms are really worth a read.)
      — Biden also lent his name to a fundraising email from James Smith, a Democrat running for South Carolina governor. Smith’s primary opponent, Phil Noble, just picked up an endorsement from the Biden-backed new Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.
      HARRIS VS. BOOKER: The contrasting styles of California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker — who were just recently appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee — were on display as the two questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen in a hearing this week. US News’ Dave Catanese points out that Harris, the former California attorney general, asked 23 probing questions in her 10 minutes, forcing Nielsen into some uncomfortable admissions. Booker, meanwhile, asked just two questions but delivered impassioned remarks, saying he had “tears of rage” when he heard about President Donald Trump’s remarks insulting African countries.
      — Harris is making a trip to Michigan in April. She’ll be the state Democratic Party’s guest speaker at its Legacy Dinner on April 14 — an event focused this year on women in politics. Viewed through the lens of 2020, this line from the state party’s release, from executive director Lavora Barnes, is interesting: “No longer is it the sole priority of women in positions of power to blaze a trail for the next generation. It is also our responsibility to expect, seek, and demand the power of these positions by running, winning, and leading according to no tradition or expectation other than our own.”
      — With all the buzz about Harris as a 2020 prospect, African-American Democrats aren’t sure what to do with the latest speculation about Oprah Winfrey. Per BuzzFeed’s Darren Sands, some African-American Democratic groups had already been pitching Harris to donors as the African-American female candidate to watch — so bringing Oprah into the equation throws them for a loop. As one Democratic strategist told BuzzFeed, “They don’t want to step on Kamala’s toes.”
      SANDERS GROUP PICKS A HORSE IN IOWA: Iowa Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Cathy Glasson has spent the better part of her campaign courting the Sanders loyalists in her state. On Thursday, it paid off. Our Revolution, the political organization spun out of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, endorsed Glasson in the hotly contested Hawkeye State Democratic primary.
      The decision wasn’t much of a surprise. Glasson is an Iowa City-based nurse and Service Employees International Union Local 199 president. The union, which backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, is now on board with Sanders, and has donated $1.8 million to Glasson’s campaign, most of it coming in December 2017. Her campaign also revealed that it was hitting the Des Moines TV market this week with a six-figure buy.
      To watch: Primary candidates need 35% to win outright, no given in a tight, seven-person race like this one. If no one crosses the bar, the nominee would be decided at the state convention — setting the stage for a nasty fight for the right to challenge GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds.
      GARCETTI TO THE PALMETTO STATE: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will head to Columbia, South Carolina, next month, according to The Sacramento Bee’s Christopher Cadelago. His visit to the capital city of the early primary state will be for his nonprofit organization focused with other mayors and business leaders on “innovation investments.” Garcetti’s nonprofit, called Accelerator for America, held its first meeting in South Bend, Indiana — home of Pete Buttigieg — in November. Garcetti has already visited other early primary states including New Hampshire and Nevada in recent months.
      WARREN TO CO-CHAIR WOMEN’S MARCH EVENT: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will serve as an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March “Power to the Polls” campaign alongside civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The campaign is launching in Las Vegas this weekend on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Women’s March. The goal of the initiative will be to register 1 million voters. Warren will not be in attendance but will be featured in a video message that will be played during the event.
      Kamala Harris will attend the Women’s March in Los Angeles. She’ll also speak at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Breakfast.
      HEY, JOE! NEW POLL NUMBERS BUMP BIDEN: Quinnipiac put out a new poll this week with some telling takeaways on Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, former Vice President Joe Biden — and Oprah! Here are four quick takeaways:
      — All four are well above water on the favorable-unfavorable front: Sanders is at 76-11 with Democrats and 48-38 with all voters; Gillibrand is at 25-5 with Democrats and 14-11 with all voters; Oprah Winfrey is at 69-13 with Democrats, 47-33 with all voters; Biden leads the pack with a 78-6 spread among Democrats and and is 53-29 with all voters.
      — Only Biden scores well with a key part of Trump’s base — whites without college degrees: Sanders is at 35-51; Gillibrand is at 8-12; Biden just barely makes the grade, at 42-39.
      — But would you be “inclined” to vote for them? That was a separate question. And for good reason, apparently, because it yielded one weird stat: Among Democrats, it’s a YES for Biden (75-16) and Sanders (66-27). The numbers there track pretty closely with overall approval. But that does not hold for Gillibrand. She gets a NO (24-37) from her own party’s voters.
      — Black voters undecided: Biden (73-6) actually scores better on the favorability scale with black voters than Winfrey (70-15). And Sanders (70-10), breaking against the narrative about his supporters, receives similarly high marks from black voters. Gillibrand (13-8) is working from solid ground, but again, is still mostly an unknown on the national scene.

      View from the right:

      TRUMP’S TAKE ON 2020: According to a new dispatch from Politico’s Annie Karni, President Donald Trump is both unworried about his re-election prospects — and constantly talking about who’s going to run against him. From Karni’s report: “He’s always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’ ” said the Republican who heard the president’s assessment in December. Despite a bumpy first year and historically low approval ratings, this Trump ally said: ‘I don’t think he sees anyone, right now, being a serious competitor.’ ”
      Additional takes: Trump thinks Bernie Sanders, at 76, is going to decide he’s too old to run. Trump thinks Elizabeth Warren would be “easy to beat.” Trump does not think Cory Booker will get in the race. Trump doesn’t seem to know who Kamala Harris is … yet.
      The word from “Trumpworld” is more colorful. Here’s the money quote from a “former White House staffer”: “What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge. I hope CNN has Kirsten Gillibrand on every minute of every day. Love it. Bring it. She’s easy to destroy. If you’re the president, or the RNC, you’re more worried about someone who looks like Biden — someone who has more mainstream appeal, who blue-collar workers could identify with.”

      Before you go:

      Anxiety is high in California — now a Super Tuesday primary state — over the immigration politics on Capitol Hill. … New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s re-election war chest is stocked with an eye-popping $30 million. … NJ.com sees seven signs Cory Booker is thinking about running for president in 2020.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/19/politics/2020-vision-shutdown-politics/index.html

      Coastal Republicans Say States, Not Trump, Should Get Say On Offshore Drilling

      WASHINGTON ― Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn’t the only East Coast Republican who wants a say on whether vast new stretches of federal waters should be open to oil and gas drilling. GOP lawmakers from other states that have shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean ― even some who support offshore drilling ― say the decision ultimately ought to be made by local officials.

      The Trump administration last week said it intended to open nearly all U.S. waters, including huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration. The announcement drew immediate outrage from both Democrats and Republicans, who expressed concern about possible environmental damage, like oil spills, and the potential harm to tourism.

      But then, after Scott lobbied against the move, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Tuesday he was removing Florida’s coastal waters from consideration for future offshore oil drilling. The state, Zinke said, is “unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

      Tom Williams via Getty Images
      Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

      Democrats, among others, immediately speculated that the exemption was approved in to help get Scott elected to the Senate. Although the term-limited governor has not yet announced whether he will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in 2018, he is expected to jump into the race.

      “This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career,” Nelson said Tuesday. “We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of Florida.”

      Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida from the administration’s offshore drilling plan also raised questions as to why other states with unique coastlines and a reliance on tourism ― like California or South Carolina, for example ― don’t deserve the same treatment.

      Sensing an opening, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Wednesday requested the same consideration from the Trump administration, noting that his state relied on a $20 billion tourism industry that spanned hundreds of miles on marsh coast.

      “We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty, and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” McMaster said Wednesday.

      Though both Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) support drilling in waters off the state’s coast, they suggested that local officials ought to be involved in the final decision.

      “I don’t mind opening up drilling if states can opt out,” Graham said Wednesday, adding that he would “follow [McMaster’s] lead” on the matter.

      Scott said he wanted communities in coastal parts of his state “engaged more in the process” before proceeding.

      “I have said I’m willing to wait until we get more buy in from our coastal folks,” he told HuffPost.

      There has already been significant pushback among those communities, however. The city of Charleston and other coastal areas in the Palmetto State might sue the government if any permits are issued for oil and gas exploration off South Carolina’s coast, The Post and Courier newspaper reported.

      Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said he wanted to explore the possibility of drilling off the coast of North Carolina as long as local communities received a portion of revenue and oil rigs were positioned far enough so as to not be visible. But he, too, said the federal government should defer to local officials.

      “I think it’s up to the states to decide,” Tillis said. “I think it’s perfectly alright for the states to say [to the] federal government, ‘I don’t want to do it.’”

      Other GOP senators like Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), disagreed. The oil drilling advocate said he was “disappointed” with the Trump administration’s decision to exempt the state of Florida from the offshore drilling plan.

      “These rigs will not impact tourism. I mean, you can’t see them from the shore,” Kennedy told HuffPost on Wednesday. “The decision is the decision, but in my personal opinion, all waters in the outer continental shelf, both deep water and shallow, should be subject to drilling.”

      The Trump administration’s plans to boost offshore drilling also came up several times during a Wednesday hearing on a bill that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permits to incidentally harm and kill marine mammals.

      During the hearing, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) accused Democrats of being entirely opposed to domestic oil and gas production. “If that’s their position then they should be honest and ban the internal combustion engine, or return our country to dependence on third-world dictatorships,” he said.

      Oil drilling has been banned within 125 miles of Florida’s gulf coast since 2006. The moratorium, which Nelson helped champion, is set to expire in 2022.

      As the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrated, a ban off one particular state won’t necessarily prevent spilled oil from another region reaching its shores. In all, the oil that spewed from the Deepwater rig, located some 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, was found along 1,313 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, scientists detailed in a study published last year. By the end of 2013, cleanup crews had collected more than 106,000 tons of oily material from along the Gulf Coast.

      In a post to Twitter on Tuesday, Zinke wrote that “local voices matter.” But by moving forward with a new offshore leasing proposal, the administration is seemingly sidelining the concerns of those who spoke out against offshore drilling as part of the current five-year plan.

      The Obama administration instituted temporary bans on drilling in both the Atlantic and the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas through 2022, thereby limiting offshore drilling to the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. And in the final weeks of his presidency, Obama used his executive authority to put in place permanent protections — a move Trump acted swiftly to reverse.

      Sierra Weaver, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center ― which led the charge to have Atlantic waters removed from the current five-year plan ― said Tuesday that state and local leaders in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have also rejected offshore drilling. And if Zinke’s decision wasn’t political he would have also removed those coastal waters from the plan, she added.

      “The fact is that an oil spill doesn’t know or care where one state ends and another begins ― and Florida remains at risk, just like all states in the Mid- and South Atlantic,” Weaver said in a statement.

      Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/offshore-drilling-republicans_us_5a5686e8e4b03bc4d03dc035