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The nation in brief :W. Virginia rock slide derails coal train

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | March 9, 2023 at 4:50 a.m.
Smoke fills the sky after an empty CSX coal train hit a rockslide along tracks, causing a fiery derailment on Wednesday in a remote area just south of Sandstone, W.Va. (AP/The Register-Herald/Jenny Harnish)

W. Virginia rock slide derails coal train

SANDSTONE, W.Va. -- An empty coal train hit a rock slide along tracks in West Virginia on Wednesday, causing a fiery derailment that injured three crew members, CSX Transportation said.

Four locomotives and 22 empty cars derailed in Summers County near the New River, CSX said. The lead locomotive, which carried a conductor, an engineer and an engineer trainee, caught fire and the crew members were being evaluated and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, the company said.

CSX said an unoccupied locomotive was partially in the waterway where an unknown amount of diesel fuel and oil spilled. Environmental teams were deploying containment measures.

The derailment occurred in a remote area just south of Sandstone in the New River National Park and Preserve, according to the West Virginia Emergency Management Division. Several state agencies are monitoring the situation and said public water systems downstream have been notified and are monitoring for any potential public health impacts.

No hazardous materials were being transported and there was no danger to the public, CSX said.

Covid testing for China arrivals to ease

WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration is preparing to relax covid-19 testing restrictions for travelers from China as soon as Friday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The people, who were not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration has decided to roll back the testing requirements as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in China and the U.S. has gathered better information about the surge.

The restrictions were put in place Dec. 28 and took effect Jan. 5 amid a surge of infections in China after it sharply eased pandemic restrictions and as U.S. health officials expressed concerns that their Chinese counterparts were not being truthful to the world about the true number of infections and deaths.

As part of its response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded genomic surveillance at several U.S. airports, collecting voluntary samples from passengers aboard hundreds of weekly flights from China, and the testing of wastewater aboard airplanes. The Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance Program will continue to monitor travelers from China and more than 30 other countries.

Jan. 6 Pelosi office intruder pleads guilty

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Republican activist and Capitol riot defendant Jorge Aaron Riley pleaded guilty to a single felony count of obstructing an official proceeding.

Riley, 45, had faced a five-count indictment that charged him with disorderly conduct, entering a restricted area and demonstrating in a Capitol building, stemming from his actions during the riot when he allegedly entered then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday set sentencing for Sept. 6.

"Obstruction of an official proceeding carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as potential financial penalties," the Justice Department said. "A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors."

Riley was arrested Jan. 19, 2021, in Sacramento after returning home following the riot. He had entered the Capitol along with other rioters, then bragged about his actions in a video interview later posted online, according to an FBI affidavit.

"We breached over there I think," the affidavit quotes him as saying. "We broke windows, we went into the door, we pushed our way in, and then we just kept going further and further. ... We went into, there was like a corridor building.

"We pushed our way to Nancy Pelosi's office ... and then we were sitting in there yelling 'f*** you, Nancy Pelosi."

The FBI says Riley posted more than 150 photographs, videos and written posts online between Jan. 6 and Jan. 8, 2021, including one stating, "Hey We're storming the Capitol. ... What are you doing?"

Feinstein at home for shingles recovery

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she is at home recuperating after a brief stay in a San Francisco hospital where she was treated for a case of shingles.

"I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and the hospital staff for providing excellent care," Feinstein said in a tweet. "I'm recovering at home now while I continue receiving treatment and look forward to returning to the Senate as soon as possible."

The 89-year-old has missed votes for more than a week, complicating matters for Senate Democrats who control the chamber with just a one-vote majority. Another Democratic senator, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, also is away while receiving care for clinical depression.

Feinstein, the Senate's oldest member and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, announced last month that she would not seek reelection.

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