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Choo! Choo! Disaster Looms?

Plus McCollum leads calls for Gaza ceasefire, St. Paul's historic City Council, and two 'local' music makers talk memory in today's Flyover news roundup.

By Dan Loran on Unsplash

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Trouble on the Tracks

Earlier this year, following a number of high-profile train derailments around the U.S., Racket talked to railroad workers in Minnesota to learn just how freaked out we should be about the possibility of one happening in our communities. Less than a week later, a train carrying ethanol derailed and burst into flames in the small town of Raymond, Minnesota. But surely, the folks charged with making the rail safer both here and around the country have since stepped up to fix those ongoing safety problems, right? Ha ha, no.

Propublica has a story today titled “'Do Your Job.' How the Railroad Industry Intimidates Employees Into Putting Speed Before Safety." In a five-byline investigation, its reporters found that while statistics from the rail industry show a decrease in "major accidents," those same statistics "present a knowingly incomplete picture of rail safety. They don’t count the often-harrowing near misses, the trains that break apart, slip off the tracks or roll away from their crews with no one aboard—the accumulation of incidents that portend deeper safety risks." In addition, railroads penalize supervisors who do take the time to fix safety hazards, effectively... well, railroading them into silence.

It's a longread, and worth your time, but we'll share some of Propublica's locally angled findings here, likely courtesy of local reporter Jessica Lussenhop:

In Minnesota, a BNSF track inspector named Don Sanders recorded his manager, Keith Jones, berating him for writing up defects that reflected poorly on Jones. “I’m about to lose my job, my family’s welfare,” Jones, a division engineer, said in one recording. He would later testify that his annual bonus was tied to his year-end evaluation, which factored in the sort of defects flagged by Sanders. But Jones’ supervisors heaped on praise after he helped fire Sanders. His review: “Your team is injury-free, slow orders are at an all time low, relationships are good. Don Sanders is no longer working for BNSF.”

McCollum, AOC Urge Biden to Call for Ceasefire

“We write to you to express deep concern about the intensifying war in Gaza, particularly grave violations against children, and our fear that without an immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a robust bilateral ceasefire, this war will lead to a further loss of civilian life and risk dragging the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East. Further, we write urging clarity on your strategic objectives for achieving de-escalation and stability in the region.”

So begins a letter addressed to President Joe Biden today, according to The Guardian, which is signed by 24 U.S. House representatives led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and Minnesota's own Betty McCollum. The letter clarifies the signees' “unequivocal condemnation” of the October 7 attack by Hamas, as that is something everyone addressing the conflict must do, but also raises “dire concerns” about Israel's brutal ongoing response, which so far has resulted in the deaths of a reported 11,078 Palestinians, at least 4,500 of whom were children.

“We are profoundly shocked by the grave violations of children’s rights in the context of armed conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the reps write. “International norms require that all parties to an armed conflict protect children and prevent the commission of grave violations against them, including killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment and use of children, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access.” Amen.

Meet St. Paul's Historic City Council

The results were officially certified this morning: St. Paul's City Council is made up of seven women for the first time in history. That's pretty outstanding on its own! But also, all seven of them are under the age of 40—and also also, six out of the seven are women of color. The winners—Anika Bowie, Rebecca Noecker, Saura Jost, Mitra Jalali, Cheniqua Johnson, Nelsie Yang, and Hwa Jeong Kim— make up a coalition of young, progressive, female council members that MPR News host Tom Crann calls a "historic shift for St. Paul" and "likely a first nationally." Crann sat down with Jost, the Ward 3 winner who will be the first woman and person of color representing the Highland Park and Mac-Groveland neighborhoods. “It speaks to what people in St. Paul really want to see in terms of the type of leadership we have,” she says. A W for Jost, and an apparent W for the capitol city.

Craig Finn x Peter Jesperson

We can debate the Minnesota-ness of the Hold Steady all day long, but one thing is for certain: Frontman Craig Finn is at the very least From Here (Edina, specifically, though via Boston). He's not a local man these days, of course, which could help explain why just this morning I learned about the existence of his Brooklyn-based podcast That's How I Remember It. The podcast explores the connection between memory and creativity, and today's episode piqued my interest because it features a conversation with another one-time local: Peter Jesperson, the Twin/Tone founder and Replacements discover-er whose brand-new book is called Euphoric Recall. Sounds made for a podcast about memory and creativity, no? In case you missed it, we ran a lengthy excerpt from Jesperson's new book yesterday, and you can listen to the very fun, deeply Minnesotan episode here.

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