WBEZ | congress http://www.wbez.org/tags/congress Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Senators Want Moratorium on Dismissing Soldiers During Investigation http://www.wbez.org/programs/all-things-considered/2016-02-01/senators-want-moratorium-dismissing-soldiers-during <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/morrison-edit_custom-1c52a64c3259d5d3348a9acdceda04d47704ab63-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Four U.S. senators are calling on the Army to stop kicking out soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and have been diagnosed with mental health problems or traumatic brain injuries &ndash; effective immediately.</p><p>The senators say they&#39;re motivated by an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/10/28/451146230/missed-treatment-soldiers-with-mental-health-issues-dismissed-for-misconduct">investigation</a>&nbsp;by NPR and Colorado Public Radio that revealed the Army has continued to discharge troubled troops for misconduct, even though the Army&#39;s then- Acting Secretary Eric Fanning&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/04/458458063/army-says-it-will-review-cases-of-dismissed-soldiers-with-mental-health-problems">promised late last year</a>&nbsp;to investigate whether the practice is unfair.</p><p>We found that since 2009, the Army has kicked out more than 22,000 mentally-wounded combat troops on the grounds of misconduct, and taken away their benefits, instead of helping them. As a result of that report, 12 Democrat senators&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/04/454675053/lawmakers-call-for-army-to-investigate-misconduct-discharges-of-service-members">sent a letter</a>to Fanning and the general who run the Army, demanding an investigation.</p><p>Developments since then raise questions about the Army&#39;s investigation. For instance, Fanning appointed Debra Wada, the Army&#39;s assistant secretary in charge of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to lead the review.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s puzzling and troubling,&quot; says David Sonenshine, a former military prosecutor who now works with the National Veterans Legal Services Program.Two weeks after she was named, Wada signed a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/documents/2016/feb/Morrison-Final-Order.pdf">document ordering commanders to dismiss Larry Morrison</a>, a highly-decorated combat soldier who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was one of the soldiers profiled in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cpr.org/news/story/investigation-army-kicked-out-thousands-soldiers-brain-injuries-mental-health-issues">original report</a>&nbsp;by NPR an CPR.</p><p>He says because &quot;the person who&#39;s in charge of the investigation is also the same person who ultimately reviews some of these administrative separations, [it] creates the picture that there&#39;s just something unfair or unobjective about the process.&quot;</p><p>Morrison&#39;s Army records suggest he&#39;s the kind of soldier that senators say the Army should help, not punish. He&#39;s a 20-year veteran. He fought four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Army awarded him a Bronze Star.</p><p>After Morrison came home to Fort Carson, in Colorado, he was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. He pleaded guilty to drunken and reckless driving. Commanders at Fort Carson also alleged he belonged to a &quot;criminal&quot; motorcycle gang &mdash; which Morrison denies. They asked top Army officials for clearance to kick him out for misconduct.</p><p>Now that Wada has signed the order, Morrison won&#39;t be able to receive a combat soldier&#39;s usual benefits, including free health care.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve given them all of my youthful years, I&#39;m 42 years old,&quot; Morrison says. &quot;And now they want to put me out with no benefits. They want to give me an &#39;other than honorable&#39; discharge, so I can&#39;t get a job, I can&#39;t go to school, and [they&#39;re going to] take my 20-year retirement away. So they want to put me on the streets with nothing.&quot;</p><p>Four senators tell NPR and CPR they want the Army to stop dismissing soldiers diagnosed with mental health problems until the Army finishes its investigation.</p><p>&quot;The Army needs to halt the discharge process,&quot; says Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. &quot;What it does, it stops any kind of wrongdoing from going forward.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It seems to me to be common sense that the Army would impose a moratorium on taking disciplinary actions against soldiers while they undergo this review,&quot; says Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.</p><p>&quot;If something is concerning enough to investigate, common sense says that you wait until the results of that investigation, before you take further action,&quot; says Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. &quot;And I think that&#39;s just garden variety fairness.&quot;</p><p>Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also tells NPR and CPR that she wants the Army to impose a temporary moratorium on discharging combat troops for misconduct if they&#39;ve been diagnosed with mental health problems or brain injuries.</p><p>Army officials declined to say whether they&#39;ll comply with the senators&#39; requests for a moratorium. They also declined our requests for an interview.</p><p>&quot;The review is ongoing, so it would be premature for us to comment on any aspect of it at this time,&quot; Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokesperson, tells NPR in a written statement.</p><p>Meanwhile, Morrison just got his final orders. The Army will kick him out Thursday, Feb. 4.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/02/01/464907342/senators-want-moratorium-on-dismissing-soldiers-during-investigation?ft=nprml&amp;f=464907342"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 16:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/all-things-considered/2016-02-01/senators-want-moratorium-dismissing-soldiers-during Is School Food Too Healthful? http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 <p><p>If you&rsquo;re tuned into the fights in Washington over school food these days, you might think students are eating nothing but lentils and kale.</p><p>Last week, the Senate agricultural committee voted to ease 2010 standards (limiting salt and requiring more whole grains) backed by Michelle Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s Move&rdquo; campaign. And later this year, the House of Representatives is expected to propose similar changes.</p><p>So that got me wondering: Have the new rules really changed school food that much?&nbsp; And what do the most popular entrees look like here in Obama&rsquo;s home district?</p><p>Despite six months of requests, Chicago Public Schools officials have refused to let me see a cafeteria. But I&rsquo;ve talked to lots of students about what they&rsquo;re eating, and then I went the official route with a Freedom of Information Act request to CPS for the top entreés it serves.</p><p>Turns out both efforts got the same answer. The top three dishes served in the district are--by far--highly processed, heat and serve chicken patties, cheeseburgers, and pizza.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s under the nutrition rules considered overly strict by a lot of Washington lawmakers.&nbsp;</p><p>I also FOIAd ingredients for each item. They didn&rsquo;t look overly strict and healthful to me, but I wanted to be sure. So I took them to Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician and author.&nbsp; Blatner said she was impressed by the partial use of whole grain flour in the buns and chicken patty. She also approved of the fat grams in the burger and chicken dish. But that&rsquo;s pretty much where her admiration ended. Blatner didn&#39;t like the meat fillers (soy protein concentrate) in the &quot;chicken&quot; and &quot;beef.&quot; And, generally, she said the foods violated a rule she calls &ldquo;cut the CRAP.&rdquo;</p><p>CRAP&rsquo;s an acronym for Chemicals you don&rsquo;t cook with at home, Refined sugars, Artificial flavors and sweeteners and Preservatives.</p><p>&ldquo;So do I see CRAP in all of this?&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Absolutely. Those are, to me, red flags that this is processed foods and definitely not something that should be an everyday occasion for anybody of any age.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Yet most of those entrees are being served every day to high schoolers and several times a week to grade school kids.</p><p>Chicago chef Sam Kass led the First Lady&rsquo;s Let&rsquo;s Move health and nutrition campaign that championed the 2010 rules.<br /><br />I asked if Chicago&rsquo;s Top 3 list of chicken patties, pizza and cheeseburgers surprise him:</p><p>&ldquo;No that doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp; &ldquo;I think what we know about that cheese pizza is that the crust is whole grain and the same with the bun of the burger. There is a lot less sodium and fat in the cheese and pizza.&rdquo;<br /><br />Still, these aren&rsquo;t the dishes Kass was dreaming of when he pushed for the rules six&nbsp; years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously the goal is to get our kids foods that are minimally processed and that are really healthy for them. So yes would I love to see just a chicken breast as opposed to a highly processed patty with lots of stuff in it. Of course. And a lot of districts are already doing it.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />These other districts are in places like Washington DC,&nbsp; New York and Oakland, Cal.,&nbsp; where pilot programs are helping kids swap processed meals for freshly cooked food.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s worth noting that Chicago schools also do some fresh cooking. Local cooks make things like broccoli and other vegetables. But, as part of a weird district rule, they&rsquo;re forbidden from ever using even a crystal of salt on that food. Intentionally or not, this ends up leaving a lot more room for salt in the processed foods--without blowing the federal limits on sodium per meal.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />I asked Kass if he thought this was a bad use of salt overall?<br /><br />&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;For the love of God, salt the broccoli! I think this shows what can come when we do more of the cooking ourselves&hellip; We can dramatically reduce the amount of salt in the burger patty and make sure that broccoli tastes good.&rdquo;</p><p>But moving from processed foods to more scratch cooking isn&rsquo;t easy. Most school food watchers agree it requires, at least, three important elements: school kitchens outfitted with the right equipment, a staff of trained cooks and a strong directive from the top to make the change. In a cash-strapped district like CPS, scratch cooking advocates are unlikely to find those elements.&nbsp;</p><p>While there is some federal funding available for kitchen equipment--including loans and grants specified in the Senate proposal--most agree it&rsquo;s not enough. National funds designated for 2016 school kitchen improvements add up to a mere $30 million. A recent Pew study estimated that it would take $200 million to outfit kitchens for healthier cooking in Illinois alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sodium.jpg" style="height: 367px; width: 620px;" title="Buried in Chicago Public School’s 900 page contract with Aramark is this provision that forbids the use of salt in any meal preparation. Some believe this puts the salt-free vegetables at a disadvantage against the salty highly processed foods that dominate the menu. It also allows the processed food to be served without exceeding federal salt limits for the whole meal. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" /></div><p>While rural districts are often able to pull off freshly cooked meals, Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association says it&rsquo;s tougher in city schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Quite often--especially in urban areas where the cost of labor is high and infrastructure can be old--schools simply don&rsquo;t have the labor or equipment to scratch prepare,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So they are required to serve pre-prepared items.&rdquo;</p><p>Heavner&rsquo;s group is leading the charge against current rules. The SNA represents school food service managers and is sponsored by big food companies, which she says are there to help.</p><p>&ldquo;Food companies are really working to try to develop cleaner label items and to help schools meet these standards,&rdquo; she said noting that many of the items the companies develop to meet school food rules end up in grocery stores. These include the &ldquo;better for you&rdquo; whole grain, reduced fat Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />Where Congress will eventually come down on salt levels, whole grain percentages and vegetable frequency remains unclear. But what does seem clear is that the current debates are unlikely to get processed foods off the center of the plate in Chicago Public Schools any time soon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food reporter. Email her at meng@wbez.org Follower her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 Eight Things Congress Actually Did This Year http://www.wbez.org/news/eight-things-congress-actually-did-year-114330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/15134065586_b33f572da9_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res461411616"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Senate and House Democrats hold a news conference with first responders in November to announce their support for the permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/29/gettyimages-497527294-1--0937ac36081a678608b0eab86b6b177b6fe79c60-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Senate and House Democrats hold a news conference with first responders in November to announce their support for the permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>When Republicans took over both chambers of Congress in January, party leaders vowed they would prove to the country that Republicans could govern. They promised to stop with the self-made crises, such as government shutdowns, and rack up legislative accomplishments.</p><p>So in the first year of a GOP-controlled Congress in nearly a decade, how well did Republicans prove they can govern?</p></div></div></div><p>First, there were no government shutdowns or defaults on the national debt.Immediately after the midterm election in 2014, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner promised there wouldn&#39;t be any shutdowns or defaults on their watch. Turns out they made good on that promise this year.</p><p>But Democrats aren&#39;t exactly congratulating them for it. &quot;That&#39;s like saying, &#39;You know, they didn&#39;t blow the top off the Capitol, so clearly Republican leadership is in touch with America.&#39; No, it takes more than that,&quot; said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.</p><p>Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the widely held assumption Congress gets nothing done doesn&#39;t exactly fit this year. There was an uptick in bipartisan activity in this Republican-controlled Congress in 2015, but if you ask Democrats why that was, they&#39;ll say it&#39;s because they were a more cooperative minority than Republicans were when Democrats controlled the Senate &mdash; and that they cooperated on legislation that bolstered Democratic goals.</p><p>Whether or not keeping the government open counts as an accomplishment, here are eight legislative matters Congress did address in 2015 &mdash; and some issues that remain unresolved:</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:20px;">Bipartisan Legislative Accomplishments</span></strong></p><p><strong>Trillion-Dollar Government Funding Bill:</strong>&nbsp;Right before they split for the holidays, lawmakers passed a trillion-dollar spending bill that will keep the government open until the end of next September. The measure also beefed up cybersecurity and renewed a health care program for Sept. 11 first responders. It also made changes to the visa waiver program so people who have traveled to Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan in the past five years will face greater scrutiny if they wish to enter the U.S.</p><p><strong>Tax Extenders:</strong>&nbsp;Paired with the government spending bill was a measure containing hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks. Year after year, Congress has had to extend dozens of tax breaks that expire. In this measure, lawmakers made permanent the most popular tax breaks, such as the $1,000 child tax credit, the earned income tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers, and the research and development tax credit.</p><p><strong>Two-Year Budget Agreement:&nbsp;</strong>Right before Boehner left office, he managed to reach a two-year budget deal with the White House and other congressional leaders. The agreement suspends the debt ceiling through March 2017 and increases spending by $80 billion over the next two years &mdash; an increase that&#39;s split evenly between defense and domestic programs.</p><p><strong>No Child Left Behind Rewrite:&nbsp;</strong>Congress easily passed legislation to rewrite the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Federally mandated math and reading tests will continue, but the new law cedes greater authority to states, rather than the federal government, to figure out how to use the test results in evaluating schools.</p><p><strong>Five-Year Transportation Bill:&nbsp;</strong>Congress passed its first long-term bill in a decade to fund roads, bridges, and mass transit systems. The measure does not raise the gas tax, currently at 18.4 cents per gallon, but found other sources of funding &mdash; such as changing customs fees and dipping into funds from the Federal Reserve.</p><p><strong>Ended The NSA&#39;s Bulk Surveillance Program:</strong>&nbsp;Lawmakers passed the USA Freedom Act, which ended the government&#39;s bulk collection of phone records. Passage of the measure came after Republican senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky forced a two-day shutdown of the bulk collection program.</p><p><strong>Trade Promotion Authority</strong>:&nbsp;Congress approved a measure to give the president expedited authority to enter a trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Attention now turns to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which Congress is expected to consider next year &mdash; possibly after the election is over.</p><p><strong>Medicare Reform</strong>:&nbsp;Known as the &quot;Doc Fix&quot; bill, this measure permanently ended automatic Medicare payment cuts to physicians. Under a law from the late 1990s, Medicare payments to doctors would be cut to keep the program&#39;s budget in check. Since then, Congress had failed every year to figure out a long-term solution to the problem.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:20px;">Unresolved Issues</span></strong></p><p>Still, so many issues remain unresolved &mdash; not because lawmakers think they&#39;re unimportant but because partisan divisions on these ideological issues are so deep, they can&#39;t find common ground. Congress seems happy to take these issues to the voters in 2016.</p><p><strong>Guns</strong>:&nbsp;After a spate of gun-related tragedies in 2015, Democrats vowed to push for gun control legislation, such as measures to expand background checks and prohibit individuals whose names are on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms. Both measures failed in the Senate in 2015, as in past years.</p><p><strong>Immigration</strong>:&nbsp;The Senate managed to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul package in 2013, but attempts to move the legislation through the House failed. Efforts to resurrect immigration legislation have since languished.</p><p><strong>Tax Reform:&nbsp;</strong>After the midterm election, corporate tax reform was seen as a possible area Republicans and Democrats could work together on. But at his year-end news conference, McConnell expressed pessimism about getting any tax reform accomplished with a Democrat in the White House, saying that any tax changes need to be revenue-neutral and he doubted the president would go for that.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/30/461388614/8-things-congress-actually-did-this-year?ft=nprml&amp;f=461388614"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 31 Dec 2015 10:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/eight-things-congress-actually-did-year-114330 Congress Wants NASA to Build a Space Habitat http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-12-31/congress-wants-nasa-build-space-habitat-114332 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ISS-Derived_Deep_Space_Habitat.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res461421056" previewtitle="When former Gov. Jeb Bush announced his candidacy in June 2015, he was talked about as the likely front-runner for the GOP nomination."><div data-crop-type="">&nbsp;</div></div><div><div id="file-296235"><img alt="" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/styles/primary-image-766x447/public/ISS-Derived_Deep_Space_Habitat.jpg?itok=UeCn5cjA" style="height: 362px; width: 620px;" title="NASA's concept for a deep space habitat. (NASA/Creative Commons)" typeof="foaf:Image" /><div><div><div><p>Buried in the latest omnibus spending bill from Congress:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.popsci.com/congress-wants-nasa-to-get-working-on-deep-space-habitat" target="_blank">plans to build a deep-space habitat</a>.</p></div></div></div></div></div><div><div id="story-content"><div><div><div><p>One that might help NASA get a crew to Mars one day.</p><p>Congress set aside $55 million for the space-worthy living quarters. It wants an update from NASA by the middle of next year and is pushing to have something ready to go by 2018.</p><p>SpaceNews reports NASA could be testing the habitat in the 2020s and actually using it to get to Mars in the 2030s.</p><p>Which, as future-y as it sounds, isn&#39;t all that far away.&nbsp;</p></div></div></div></div></div><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/2015/12/29/life/final-note/final-note" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 29 Dec 2015 11:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-12-31/congress-wants-nasa-build-space-habitat-114332 Republicans Push More than $600B in Tax Cuts through House http://www.wbez.org/news/republicans-push-more-600b-tax-cuts-through-house-114205 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_657173099307.jpg" style="height: 396px; width: 620px;" title="House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during an end-of-the-year news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, as the Congress moves toward passage of a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)" /></div><p>WASHINGTON (AP) &mdash; Republicans whipped more than $600 billion in compromise tax breaks for businesses, investors and families through the House on Thursday, as Congress&nbsp;tried capping 2015 with a flurry of accomplishments before the partisan collisions certain to dominate the coming election year.</p><p>The House voted 318-109 to approve the measure, which is part of a bipartisan pact that includes a $1.1 trillion bill financing government agencies in 2016.</p><p>Some uncertainty arose Thursday over the separate spending measure as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested there might not be enough Democratic votes to push it through the chamber. Congressional leaders hope to ship both bills, a 2,200-page legislative bundle, to President Barack Obama on Friday for his promised signature and adjourn for the year.</p><p>The tax bill would mostly renew scores of existing breaks that have lapsed or are about to, but its scope was impressive, with victories for both parties. Tax breaks for companies that buy equipment and invest in research would be made permanent, as would credits for millions of families with lower incomes, children or college students.</p><p>&quot;This is a pro-growth bill,&quot; said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. &quot;This permanent tax relief will make it easier for employers to plan ahead, hire new workers, grow their businesses.&quot;</p><p>Most Democrats opposed the tax package, complaining that it would worsen federal deficits and make it harder to find money for the domestic programs they favor. They also said it was imbalanced, with 60 percent of its permanent reductions going to business and just 40 percent to families.</p><p>&quot;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-12-10/most-americans-are-no-longer-middle-class-114128">Middle-class wages are stagnant or in decline</a>,&quot; said Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., an argument that Democrats are sure to press in the 2016 campaigns. &quot;We need to do whatever we can to support working people.&quot;</p><p>Tax credits for college expenses, child costs and lower-earning families are set to become permanent, as would cuts for companies that do research or buy equipment. The measure would make permanent or at least extend reductions for some charitable contributions, builders of energy-efficient homes, producers of Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands rum and owners of auto race tracks.</p><p>Coupled with tax provisions that House leaders stuffed into the spending bill to attract votes, the legislation would cost the government an estimated $680 billion over the next decade. That would pump federal deficits over that period, already projected to total an astronomical $7 trillion, even higher.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a significant tax relief measure and of course you know how Republicans like to cut taxes,&quot; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told The Associated Press.</p><p>As if they needed more encouragement, Republicans said the tax bill would make revamping tax laws next year easier by clearing away those extensions now. GOP leaders hope to produce tax and health care overhaul measures next year, fully expecting vetoes from a Democratic president but savoring the campaign-season opportunity to fire up conservative voters.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_185994103789.jpg" style="height: 220px; width: 310px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. updates reporters on Democratic reaction to the bipartisan .1 trillion omnibus spending bill, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Upset with GOP efforts in lifting a ban on U.S. oil exports, Pelosi suggested there might not be enough Democratic votes to push it through the chamber. Congressional leaders hope to ship both bills, a 2,200-page legislative bundle, to President Barack Obama on Friday for his promised signature and adjourn for the year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)" /></p><p>Though Pelosi opposed the tax measure, Democrats were divided over the overall budget deal.</p><p>Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the budget agreement was &quot;a good compromise.&quot; The White House, in a letter expressing support, said the deal would &quot;help to grow the economy and build middle-class economic security.&quot;</p><p>Tucked into the two bills were provisions trimming some of the taxes that help pay for Obama&#39;s prized 2010 health care overhaul. The White House opposed the rollbacks, but Republicans and many Democrats savored them. A tax on medical devices would be suspended for two years, a levy on health insurers would stop for one year and, in a victory for unions, a tax on higher-cost insurance policies would be postponed two years until 2020.</p><p>Democrats failed to block GOP language restricting federal reimbursements to insurers losing money on federal and state exchanges where people buy coverage. Many say that&#39;s helped destabilize some markets.</p><p>Republicans won an end of the four-decade ban on U.S. crude oil exports. The industry said lifting that prohibition would create jobs and lower gasoline prices &mdash; outcomes that opponents said were flat-out wrong.</p><p>In exchange, Democrats secured extensions of tax breaks for alternative power sources such as solar and wind energy.</p><p>The tax bill also takes a shot at the Internal Revenue Service, which Republicans have not forgiven following its admission that it subjected conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to unfairly tough investigations. The measure would make it easier for people to get information from the IRS about their cases and for groups to appeal agency decisions against them.</p><p><em>AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner and Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 17 Dec 2015 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/republicans-push-more-600b-tax-cuts-through-house-114205 Congresswoman Robin Kelly continues fight against guns http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-12-15/congresswoman-robin-kelly-continues-fight-against-guns-114166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/robin kelly.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/RepRobinKelly?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Rep. Robin Kelly</a> has been a very outspoken advocate for gun control measures. Last week during Morning Shift&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-12-04/how-prayer-fits-politics-114051">segment after the San Bernardino shootings </a>she called in to say that she no longer observes moments of silence in Congress after mass shootings. Kelly says that elected officials need to do more than offer prayers and consolation.</p><p>We talk to Congresswoman Kelly about what measures she&rsquo;s supporting, and also get her take on police involved shootings.</p></p> Tue, 15 Dec 2015 10:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-12-15/congresswoman-robin-kelly-continues-fight-against-guns-114166 No Child Left Behind: An Obituary http://www.wbez.org/news/no-child-left-behind-obituary-114103 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/nclb.JPG" alt="" /><p><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A funeral party" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/08/funeral-party_slide-3c6f8b69c0677b1ae404fae9b829400c59e4945f-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="A funeral party. (LA Johnson/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div>The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as soon as tomorrow on replacing the nation&#39;s big education law, known since 2001 as No Child Left Behind.</div><p>And President Obama is expected to sign the new version, ending an era marked by bitter fights between the federal government, states and schools.</p><p>So as it dies, we thought an obituary was in order.</p><p>Yup, an obituary. Because the law&#39;s critics and defenders all agree on one thing: that No Child Left Behind took on a life of its own.</p><p>Actually, they agree on one other thing, too: &quot;If No Child Left Behind was a person, he or she should have died a long time ago.&quot; That&#39;s how the outgoing U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, puts it. &quot;It&#39;s about time to finish it off and to bury it. And to do something much better.&quot;</p><p>NCLB was expected to expire of old age back in 2007, but Congress couldn&#39;t find a replacement. So the law hung on.</p><p>While most folks are now happy to see it go, NCLB wasn&#39;t always this reviled.</p><p>Here&#39;s a No Child Left Behind eulogy from Kathryn Matayoshi, the state schools superintendent in Hawaii: &quot;Worked very, very hard. Was often misunderstood. Wanted to do the right thing, but in the end, really didn&#39;t get where he wanted to go.&quot;</p><p>Let&#39;s break that down. First, what NCLB got right.</p><p><img alt="A sad rabbit" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/08/funeral-bunny_custom-b087c9800a5a1310bb361264708ca2f09183981b-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 351px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="A sad rabbit. (LA Johnson/NPR)" /></p><p>Arne Duncan points out that, before the law required states to test students annually and report the results, &quot;Our nation didn&#39;t talk about, you know, how black children were doing versus white children. How Latino children were doing. It didn&#39;t talk about achievement gaps. It hid behind averages.&quot;</p><p>NCLB came in and told schools: No more hiding. You now have to break down your student test scores &mdash; to give an honest picture of whether you&#39;re serving&nbsp;all&nbsp;kids. And, sure enough, many weren&#39;t.<br /><br />Sonja Santelises is the former chief academic officer for the Baltimore schools and now works for The Education Trust, an advocacy group. She says NCLB reminds her of someone many of us will spend time with at the dinner table this holiday season: &quot;You know, the aunt that says all of the hidden stuff that no one else wants to say at the table. And got in our face about it.&quot;</p><p>That may be uncomfortable, she says, but it was good. So, where did NCLB go bad?</p><p>&quot;But that same aunt is just overly simplistic,&quot; Santelises explains, &quot;and makes these broad generalizations.&quot;</p><p>Some of NCLB&#39;s mandates were unrealistic: that all kids should be proficient by the year 2014 and that all schools can be fixed using the same small box of tools.&nbsp;<br /><br />Rick Hess studies education at the American Enterprise Institute and says that, when you&#39;re trying to help people run really complicated human organizations like schools, &quot;you probably shouldn&#39;t try to do it via memos and red tape from 3,000 miles away in Washington.&quot;</p><p>And so here we are to say goodbye.</p><p>Its next of kin, the Every Student Succeeds Act &mdash; or ESSA &mdash; is ready to take over. The new kid will still be a truth-teller &mdash; the testing and student data requirements have survived.</p><p>The big difference is that much of the actual work of fixing schools will revert back to states. Does that make ESSA better than NCLB? &quot;Yeah,&quot; says Hess, &quot;I think ESSA&#39;s the kid who&#39;s had a chance to see his old man&#39;s failings up close.&quot;</p><p>NCLB won&#39;t be laid to rest until the Senate votes and President Obama makes it official. Then the clock will start on ESSA, to see if its good intentions actually make good policy.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/12/08/458844737/no-child-left-behind-an-obituary?ft=nprml&amp;f=458844737" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 08 Dec 2015 15:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/no-child-left-behind-obituary-114103 Why Congress is Moving to Tighten Restrictions on Refugees, but Leaves the Visa Waiver Program Untouched http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restrictions-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/11779461853_39c1b20bca_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><header><div><figure><div id="file-93891"><div><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_main/public/story/images/congress.jpg?itok=kMu8cqAV" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The dome of the US Capitol is seen as a man walks past flags flying at half-staff at the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington November 16, 2015. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)" typeof="foaf:Image" /><div><header><figure><div id="file-93891">&nbsp;</div></figure></header></div></div></div></figure></div></header><div><div><article about="/stories/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restricts-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver-program" typeof="sioc:Item foaf:Document"><div><p dir="ltr">Of the various ways of getting into the United States, applying for political refugee status is hardly the easiest.</p></div><p>Since 2012, there have been 1,854 Syrian refugees admitted to the US. President Barack Obama has said that we will take in an additional 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, likely now with increased vetting and background checks after more than 30 governors have said they would reject refugees in their states. &nbsp;</p><p>While the refugee debate continues both in Washington and at the state level, 20 million people traveled to the US in fiscal year 2013 under the Visa Waiver Program &mdash;&nbsp;a program that allows citizens of 38 approved countries, mostly Western allies and Japan, to travel here for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.</p><p>The Belgian and French citizens who were involved in the Paris attacks could have, in theory, been able to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. &nbsp;</p><p>The Congressional reaction gives a clue into how Washington works in crisis mode.</p><p>&quot;I mean, there was just overwhelming outcry from my district,&rdquo; said GOP Rep.&nbsp;Dave Brat. &ldquo;The folks want action now.&rdquo;</p><p>And action is what they got. On the House floor Thursday,&nbsp;representatives passed a bill that would suspend the Syrian refugee program. It passed 289-137, with the support of 242 Republicans and 47 Democrats.</p><p>That prompted protests from Democrats, including President Obama, who said refugees were being vilified, and that they already undergo checks that take up to two years.</p><p>Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee who introduced the House bill to halt the refugee program, stressed that speed is critical and that lawmakers wanted to pass a bill before going home for Thanksgiving.</p><p>&quot;The threat&#39;s real,&rdquo; said McCaul. &ldquo;ISIS has said they want to exploit it to infiltrate the West. It&#39;s not a threat I&#39;m making up. It&#39;s a threat the administration&rsquo;s own officials have warned us about.&quot;</p><p>There is indeed speculation that at least one of the ISIS terrorists in Paris entered Europe posing as a refugee. But even before McCaul introduced the bill earlier this week, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle admitted they didn&#39;t really think the refugee program posed a major national security threat.</p><p>Senator Richard Burr, GOP chairman of the Intelligence Committee, also supports pausing the refugee program. But from a threat standpoint, Burr says that the Visa Waiver Program deserves more scrutiny.</p><p>&ldquo;Were I in Europe already and I wanted to go to the United States, and I was not on a watch list or a no-fly list, the likelihood is that I would use the Visa Waiver Program before I would try to pawn myself off as a refugee and try to enter under false documents,&quot; he says.</p><p>Compared to the 10,000 proposed to be admitted by the refugee program, the tens of millions of people entering the US from Europe with the Visa Waiver Program is a flood.&nbsp;And that&rsquo;s largely by design. Ease of travel is vital to business and tourism &mdash; commerce worth billions of dollars a year to the economy.</p><p>Republicans like McCaul say they&#39;re also in favor of tightening up visa waivers. There&#39;s momentum building for possible reforms in early December. But the program is complex, with powerful stakeholders.</p><p>So going at the refugee program is a way to bring frightened and demanding voters results. More than half of all all respondents in a Bloomberg poll this week said they support halting the refugee program.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s also how the bill works that tells you a lot.</p><p>McCaul&#39;s bill is rather straightforward. It requires the FBI and other top security chiefs to ramp up vetting of refugees headed for the US. But it doesn&#39;t tell the agencies how to increase security, nor does it give them more money.</p><p>The bill essentially only does one important thing: It says that it is entirely up to the intelligence chiefs to personally certify that each and every refugee cleared for entry is not a threat. The result is that politicians will have effectively put the responsibility entirely on the intelligence community.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s why it&#39;s important that we have all three, one representing intel community, one FBI, the other Homeland Security signing off,&rdquo; said McCaul, &ldquo;Assuring the Congress and the American people that they do not poet a threat to the United States.&quot;</p><p>Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is one of the people who would have to personally certify each refugee &mdash;&nbsp;30 per day, at least.</p><p>&quot;To personally certify, with respect to 30 people a day,&rdquo; Jeh said, &ldquo;that certain requirements have been met is hugely cumbersome and I don&#39;t think the American people will think that is the best and wisest use for the Secretary of Homeland Security to be spending his time.&quot;</p><p>McCaul was clear: he&rsquo;s not out to waste Johnson&rsquo;s time.</p><p>Instead, he wants to give him, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, direct political responsibility for the refugees, and clear culpability if anything goes wrong.</p><p>McCaul continued, &quot;Because they will own it, and if they make a mistake it&#39;s their mistake.&rdquo;</p></article></div></div><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restricts-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver-program" target="_blank"><em> via The Takeaway</em></a></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 09:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restrictions-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver Is a national policy on school milk boosting lunchtime waste? http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">One day this fall, first grader Russell Muchow brought his usual bagged lunch from home to Kellogg Elementary School in the far Southwest Side Beverly neighborhood. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">When it came time for lunch, he wanted to have a cold milk. But when he asked for a carton in the lunch line, his mom Molly Muchow says Russell was told, &ldquo;in order to take the milk (he) had to take the lunch.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20151103_122235_resized.jpg" style="height: 500px; width: 281px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Inside school garbage can. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But the 6-year-old already had a lunch and if he took a second one, he&rsquo;d just have to throw it away. It didn&rsquo;t make sense to him. So when he got home, Molly Muchow says, &ldquo;he was distraught&rdquo; over being told he had to take food he couldn&#39;t eat. &ldquo;That is not what we teach them at home. We don&rsquo;t throw out food. That is unacceptable.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Muchow says she called up the Kellogg school &nbsp;lunch director (Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to WBEZ requests to interview the lunch director.) and basically got the same message: kids can&rsquo;t take free milk unless they take the whole meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;So I said I&rsquo;d just pay for the milk extra,&rdquo; Muchow recalled. &ldquo;And [the lunch director] told me it would actually be better for me to have him take the lunch even if he was going to throw it out, for budget reasons, and numbers and for them.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">This may sound outrageous from a food waste perspective, but from a school money angle, it&rsquo;s true.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That&rsquo;s because for each child who takes the full meal &mdash; which includes an entree with milk and a side of fruits or vegetables</span>&nbsp;&mdash; the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays CPS $3.15, which it shares with the food service company Aramark.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But if a child just takes a milk, the district and Aramark get nothing from the feds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The situation recently dominated a Kellogg Local School Council meeting, but it&rsquo;s an issue that&rsquo;s rooted in federal policy.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;In order for it to be a reimbursable meal by USDA the lunch needs to include all the meal components,&quot; explained USDA regional administrator Tim English. &quot;And that would be a grain, vegetable or fruit, milk and meat or meat alternate. The idea is that we want to provide kids who are taking school lunch with a well-rounded meal.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8546053033_e95eaad450_k.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Students and parents at a Chicago public school say that when kids just want a single part of a meal--like a milk to go with a home lunch--they are pushed to take an entire free lunch. The full meal triggers payment from the federal government. Some think this could be generating a lot of food waste in schools. (flickr/USDA)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But it means kids who just want an egg or banana at breakfast, for instance, must take the rest of the meal, even if it&rsquo;s tossed in the garbage.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Starting last school year, most &nbsp;districts across the country like Chicago&rsquo;s, with a lot of low-income students, adopted the Community Eligibility Provision. That&rsquo;s a USDA program that &nbsp;makes all meals free to all students in the school or district regardless of income. This reduces mountains of free lunch application paperwork and the need to collect money in the lunchroom.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Students still have the ability to pay 45 cents for milk out of pocket each day. But Northwestern University economist and professor of social policy Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the policy doesn&#39;t make that likely.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;Under these circumstances, if you&rsquo;re getting the same thing and you can choose to pay for it or you can choose to get it for free the vast majority of people will choose to get the same item for free instead of paying for it,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;The incentives here are certainly for kids to take what&rsquo;s free and then wastefully dispose of it,&rdquo; she continued, &ldquo;so it seems like there&rsquo;s room for a policy improvement so that kids can get just the milk for free instead of taking the whole meal and then throw part of it away.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That policy change would require an act of Congress &mdash; which happens to be reviewing the rules around school lunch right now, albeit at a slow pace.</span></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/nutritionists-raise-glass-whole-milk-new-dietary-guidelines-113390" target="_blank"><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8542429717_dfe01d4a07_k.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have teamed up to revise the country’s dietary guidelines, as they have every five years since 1980. They aim to drop the longstanding limit on total fat consumption, which could clear the way for whole milk in school meal programs. (flickr/USDA)" /><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></a></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">There is, however, a window for a quicker fix. CPS could choose to pick up the 45 cent tab when a student wants just a milk, making the less wasteful option an easy option (We found at least one district in Ohio where the superintendent says he decided to start doing this two months ago in response to food waste).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Still, CPS rejects the idea, saying it would just cost too much. And, to be fair, this appears to be the stance of most districts across the nation, according to Tim English, the USDA director for the Midwest.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">So if free milk won&rsquo;t be an option in the district, how are the existing choices presented to students? Are kids told they can bring money to buy a milk? Are they encouraged to take more than they want? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We asked CPS to explain exactly how lunch staff are told to present the options, but officials would not talk to us about it. The district also would not give us permission to talk to the Kellogg lunch staff about the procedure they follow on the matter.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg parent Jill Zayauskas says she pretty clear about the way the options are handled at her school, and it makes her mad.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son was five when he first saw this and if a five-year-old knows wasting food is wrong then the people who plan this program should know that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand why children are forced to throw away a complete lunch to get chocolate milk and actually encouraged to do that so someone can make their quota. It&rsquo;s all about money&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">About half of the money for each meal goes to food service company Aramark, which receives $1.31 for each lunch taken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg mom Emily Lambert says students are getting mixed messages, right when they&rsquo;re in the middle of a food drive.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son is coming home every day asking to take food to school to give food to people who don&rsquo;t have it, while in the lunchroom they&#39;re throwing it away,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They understand that it&rsquo;s wrong to throw away food that you have and you aren&rsquo;t going to eat.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The USDA is also in the middle of its own campaign to reduce food waste by 50 percent in 15 years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Contact her at </span><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 Railroads want a new deadline for a safety system http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-13/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system-113329 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/3494454701_636ae2bfb4_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" id="1" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/styles/primary-image-766x447/public/GettyImages-461032977.jpg?itok=GsxAeOTa" style="height: 362px; width: 620px;" title="A pair of CSX Transportation-owned C40-8 General Electric locomotives in Worthville, Kentucky, in 2014. (Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><div><div>CSX, which reports earnings Tuesday, is one of several major railroads asking Congress to extend a deadline to install a new safety system.</div></div></div><p>The system, called Positive Train Control, uses GPS to track where trains are and prevent&nbsp;<a href="http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/Query/AccidentByRegionStateCounty.aspx" target="_blank" title="Railroad accidents">collisions and derailments</a>.</p><p>Rail carriers that transport passengers or hazardous materials have until the end of the year to install it. Larry Mann, a rail safety attorney, said the railroads have been dragging their feet.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s a matter of the railroads willing to put the assets into building it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The freight rail industry will have already spent about $6 billion on the system by year&rsquo;s end, according to the Association of American Railroads.</p><p>Larry Gross, a consultant with FTR Transportation Intelligence, said installing the system, which he calls an unfunded mandate, has been complex. He doubts railroads will get a return on their investments.</p><p>&ldquo;In other words, it doesn&#39;t pencil out as a net economic benefit,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Gross said the costs associated with the system are a drag on railroads&rsquo; finances. Still, he acknowledged the bigger issue for freight carriers has to do with the commodities marketplace and lower demand for transporting coal.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 13 Oct 2015 17:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-13/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system-113329