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Truck hit by train carrying GOP lawmakers was in crossing after warning, NTSB says

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The train carrying members of Congress to a Republican retreat in West Virginia last month struck a garbage truck that had entered a railroad crossing after safety gates had come down, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report that witnesses told investigators the truck drove onto the crossing after the warning gates had lowered.

The train, which was operated by Amtrak, also had a forward-facing camera, which showed as the crossing came into view, “the gates were down and the refuse truck was on the grade crossing.”

One trash company employee was killed in the Jan. 31 crash, while the truck driver, another employee and several others on the train were injured.

The wreckage of a garbage truck lies beside an Amtrak passenger train after a collision in Crozet, Virginia, U.S. January 31, 2018.  REUTERS/Drone Base - RC170B81C380

The wreckage of a garbage truck lies beside an Amtrak passenger train

 (REUTERS/Drone)

The NTSB said the crash happened around 11:16 a.m., as the Congressional Special Amtrak Train 923 approached the crossing in Crozet, Va. at about 61 miles per hour when “the engineer applied emergency braking.”

After striking the truck, an axle on the front locomotive on the train derailed but remained upright, according to the NTSB.

TRAIN CARRYING GOP LAWMAKERS TO RETREAT HITS TRUCK ON TRACKS, 1 KILLED

Several people who live near the railroad crossing told The Associated Press that the safety gates, which are designed to come down to warn drivers of approaching trains, were known to frequently malfunction, sometimes staying down for extended periods of time even when no trains were coming.

“The track and operational characteristics of the crossing signals were also examined and documented,” the NTSB said in its report. “NTSB investigators continue to examine issues related to the highway–railroad grade crossing.”

The agency said the probable cause of the accident hasn’t yet been determined.

Congressional members were on the chartered train to the Greenbrier resort, where the party traditionally gathers to discuss its agenda and goals for the coming year.

“It was a very high-speed collision,” Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who was on board, told Fox News at the time. “There was no braking that was felt. We hit an immediate impact and went from 70 to zero very quickly.”

Truck GOP Train

The wreckage of a truck after it was struck at a crossing by a train carrying Republican members of Congress in Virginia.

 (NTSB Drone)

The train — which had a functional engine on the other end — was able to run in reverse back to Charlottesville, where members took buses to West Virginia.

TRAIN WRECK SHATTERS ANOTHER DECEIVINGLY NORMAL DAY FOR CONGRESS

The crash was the latest tragedy to affect congressional Republicans, who were targeted in a shooting last summer at a baseball practice in northern Virginia. The lawmaker most seriously injured in that attack, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was not on the train during the crash.

Fox News’ Judson Berger, Chad Pergram, and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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



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Biden’s CIA pick tells Senate confronting China will be his top priority

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden‘s pick to become the next CIA director told senators Wednesday that confronting the threat from China will be his top priority, underscoring a bipartisan consensus that China has become a top national security focus.

If confirmed by the Senate, as seems likely, former Amb. William Burns would be the first career diplomat to lead the CIA, an agency with a paramilitary arm that has often butted heads with the State Department. But the CIA also cooperates regularly with State, and Burns worked closely with agency operators when he served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday, Burns drew praise from both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

“I can’t think of anybody that has the breadth of experience that you’ve had in the world,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, arguably the panel’s most liberal member, said the session risked becoming “a full-fledged bouquet tossing contest,” before praising Burns for his focus on human rights.

Burns was introduced to the committee by two foreign policy luminaries, former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, and former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta, a Democrat. Both men urged his confirmation.

After four years in which the Trump administration was accused of seeking to politicize intelligence, Burns pledged to present unvarnished, unbiased findings to the president and other top policymakers.

“I’ve known President Biden for almost a quarter of a century,” Burns said. “When he told me…He expected me and CIA to deliver intelligence to him straight, I know that he meant it.”

He later added that, as a longtime consumer of intelligence from the CIA, “what mattered most to me was that I get their honest judgment on issues, even when it might be inconvenient or unwelcome in some ways.”

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta speaks via video conference on behalf of William Burns at his confirmation hearing for CIA director on Feb. 24, 2021.Tom Brenner / Pool via Getty Images

On policy matters, Burns called China “the biggest geopolitical challenge that we face.”

In that, he agreed with the ranking Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said that “no challenge we face rivals the holistic threat posed by China, and more specifically the Chinese Communist Party. As we look to shift our emphasis from counterterrorism to threats from ascendant authoritarian nation states, the threat from China is the most existential to the United States.”

Burns pledged to get to the bottom of a series of mysterious brain injuries suffered by American spies and diplomats overseas, dubbed “Havana Syndrome,” because they were first noted in Cuba.

As NBC News was first to report, the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine concluded in December that the symptoms experienced by the American victims are consistent with the effects of directed microwave energy, and that Russia had done the most research on that technology. Previously, American officials told NBC News that Russia is the leading suspect in what they believed were attacks, but that hard evidence was scant.

“I do commit to you I will make it an extra high priority to get the bottom of who is responsibility for the attacks that you just described,” Burns told Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, ” and to insure that colleagues get the care that they deserve.”

Burns, who speaks Arabic and Russian, said he did not believe Iran should ever be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. On the issue of the CIA’s past treatment of al Qaeda detainees, he said he believed water boarding was torture and was illegal. But he also promised not to take administrative action against or impede the promotion of any CIA officer who participate in the interrogation program because it was sanctioned as legal at the time by since-repudiated Justice Department guidance.

Asked about his approach to Russia, Burns said, “There’s no substitute for firmness and consistency in dealing with Putin’s Russia.”

As long Putin is in charge, Burns said, the U.S.-Russia relationship will range from “the very sharply competitive to the very nastily adversarial.”



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Brexiteer John Redwood issues warning to Rishi Sunak: ‘Tax rises will backfire horribly’

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RISHI Sunak has been warned tax increases could “backfire horribly” – and jeopardise the UK’s ability to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Biden admin sending 25M masks to community centers, food pantries in bid to help the poor

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WASHINGTON — The White House announced Wednesday that the Biden administration will deliver more than 25 million cloth masks to communities around the country in an effort to provide protection from the coronavirus to low-income Americans.

The masks will be available starting in March at more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens. The free masks will be available in children and and adult sizes and can be washed for reuse.

“Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly; not all Americans have access; and not all masks are equal,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients said at a press conference.

“With this action we are helping to level the playing field — giving vulnerable populations quality, well-fitting masks,” he said.

Studies have shown that face masks greatly reduce the spread of Covid-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said that double-masking can provide even more protection.

Zients said the masks, which cost $86 million and were American-made, would not have an impact on the supply for health care workers.

“We really believe that this policy makes a lot of sense in that it allows people who are not able in some situations to find or afford a mask to get a mask, and it is part of our equity strategy,” Zients said.

Still, the White House’s action does not include a plan to address resistance from some communities to wear a mask, even when one is available.

The White House had initially considered sending a mask to all Americans. Zients said that would have been helpful “months ago,” but that the Biden administration ultimately felt a more targeted approach to lower-income communities was a better step at this point in the pandemic.

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