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NEWSFLASH: Need-to-Know Stories 12/1-12/7

This past Sunday, a Metro-North Railroad train derailed and killed four passengers while injuring 70 others. The cause is being investigated as the fault of the train’s engineer, and the Metropolitan Transportation Association is looking into implementing automatic technology into more trains to avoid such incidences. On Thursday, Nelson Mandela passed away at age 95. Global leaders and icons have been mourning his death and celebrating his accomplishments through many forms of media and service throughout the week. Finally, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused of raping a woman a year ago, will not be facing charges despite DNA evidence. The Heisman Trophy front-runner avoided questions pertaining to the incident and the complainant has not filed further charges.

Welcome back to NEWSFLASH!, giving you the week’s biggest stories!

Metro-North Railroad Train Derailed, Kills 4, Injures 70

On Sunday, a Metro-North Railroad train derailed traveling 82 mph. The crash killed four people and injured more than 70 passengers north of Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx and was the deadliest New York City train derailment in more than twenty years. According to CNN, the lead car came to a stop on its side inches from the water at the intersection of the Hudson and Harlem rivers.

When the train crashed, it was rounding a bend that has a maximum allowable speed of 30mph. On the path’s straightaway, the maximum speed allowed is 70 mph. According to the New York Times, the engineer, William Rockefeller, may have fallen asleep, been using his cell phone, or was otherwise distracted.  Rockefeller told investigators that he was “in a daze,” and that he didn’t “know what happened.”

University of Dayton professor and expert on railway operations, Steven Harrod, said, “”I think we’re really looking at a sad, really basic kind of inattentiveness. Nothing fancy: No alcohol, no drugs, maybe not even a cell phone. Just plain vanilla inattentiveness.”

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Earl Weener made a statement on Tuesday explaining that if positive train control (PTC), an automatic system for monitoring and controlling train movements, had been used, the accident would not have happened: “For more than 20 years the NTSB has recommended the implementation of PTC technology. These systems provide a safety redundancy by slowing or stopping the train that isn’t being operated in accordance to signals, speed limits or other operating rules. PTC is proven technology that can prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments and incursions into work zones.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson, Salvatore Arena, explained that the Metro-North railway system began work to install PTC but that their budgeting fell too short to complete the project. The MTA budgeted $600 million for PTC installation, however full implementation is estimated at $900 million. “The MTA will continue its efforts to install PTC as quickly as possible and will continue to make all prudent and necessary investments to keep its network safe,” Arena said.

Whether charges will be filed against Rockefeller is still being decided.


Nelson Mandela, Revolutionary Leader, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa (1994-1999), anti-apartheid revolutionary and philanthropist died on Thursday at the age of 95. He is remembered as a leader and an icon, as demonstrated by newspapers across the world that dubbed him “Tata” — or “father” — in South Africa, “icon of icons” in Ireland, a “colossus” in Britain and a “hero” in Brazil.

World leaders, politicians, celebrities, and friends mourned his death. Current and former United States presidents were among the many to respond. “He achieved more than could be expected of any man,” President Obama said, visibly emotional. “Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us,” he added, referring to Mandela by his affectionately used clan name.

President George W. Bush, said Mandela was “one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time,” who “bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example.”  

“I will never forget my friend Madiba,” former President Bill Clinton tweeted. President George H. W. Bush said in a statement that the revered South African icon “was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country.” President Jimmy Carter echoed those feelings in a statement: “His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide.”

His memorial service was held on Sunday December 8 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Attendees described the service as a celebration. The mood was “mixed celebration and grief, there were moments when joyful music rose and people swayed in rhythmic unison, remembering their idol,” described by the assistant parish priest Sebastian J. Roussow as “a light in the darkness.”

For more information on Mandela’s accomplishments, see the Nelson Mandela Foundation website.


Heisman Trophy Front Runner Dismissed of Sexual Assault Charges

State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that Jameis Winston, Florida State quarterback, will not be charged with sexually assaulted a woman who accused him of rape a year ago.

According to Meggs, the woman’s memory lapses of the events last December were problematic and there was not enough evidence to win a conviction. The woman told police she had been drinking at a bar with friends before the alleged assault took place at an off-campus apartment.

Detective Steve Angulo warned the accuser’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, that “Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.” The accuser also says Angulo “specifically refused to collect Winston’s DNA or interview Winston’s roommate who witnessed the attack,” because he was worried the story would blow up.

The charges against Winston did not become public until a year after the accusation. Recently retired Tallahassee police chief, Dennis M. Jones, told CNN he never knew there was an allegation against Winston. The complaint, which does not mention Winston’s name, was sent to the office of State Attorney William N. Meggs last week. “I’d like to know why it didn’t make it to me,” Jones stated.

The statute of limitations for the charge will not expire until 2017 and therefore Winston could still face sexual battery charges in the future. The complainant in this case can choose to take several legal actions from this point.

Winston is a front-runner for the The Heisman Trophy, an award given annually to the most outstanding played in college football. Its mission statement reads, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”

The official 2013 Heisman finalists will be announced to the media on Monday, December 9th at approximately 6:00PM via ESPN and the Heisman website.

I am a junior and a Campus Correspondent for Connecticut College! I am majoring in American Studies and a PICA scholar. I was a High School Ambassador for HerCampus in 2010-2011 and a contibuting writer 2011-2012. I love writing, editing, and social media. This fall, I am a Student Coordinator for the Women's Center, a photographer for College Relations, and am also a member of SafetyNet. When I'm not writing, I love being outside and enjoy many many different types of music. I also enjoy shopping at the Container Store, sharpie markers, thunderstorms, onesies, Gilmore Girls, The Newsroom, New Girl, 60 Minutes, and The West Wing.