National briefs: Senators push train cameras

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NEW YORK -- A week after four people died in a New York commuter train derailment, two federal lawmakers proposed Sunday that trains nationwide be outfitted with cameras pointed at engineers and at the tracks.

"I know you're going to hear from Metro-North that there are costs, but the costs of these audio and visual recorders is minuscule, in fact negligible, compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that this tragic incident will cost Metro-North in the end," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut who joined New York Sen. Charles Schumer for a news conference at Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal.

On Dec. 1, a Metro-North Railroad train approached a curve on the tracks just north of Manhattan going at 82 mph instead of the speed limit of 30 mph. Rail cars careened off the tracks, with the front car ending up inches from the water where the Hudson River meets the Harlem River.

A lawyer and union leader for the derailed train's engineer, William Rockefeller, have said the train's hypnotic motion may have caused him to experience a "nod" or a "daze" at the controls.

The National Transportation Safety Board first recommended installation of the audio and video recording cameras in locomotives and operating railway cabs five years ago.

Surge of Cuban migrants

MIAMI -- Cuban migrant arrivals in South Florida have now subsided. But at least 44,000 arrived in the United States in fiscal year 2013, which ended Sept. 30. It was the highest total since the 1994 "Rafter Crisis" -- during which 35,000 migrants took to homemade boats -- and 10 percent higher than the estimated 40,000 arrivals in fiscal year 2012.

Several factors contributed to the increase: More U.S. visas issued to Cubans; rumors that U.S. benefits for Cuban migrants might be cut; Spain's economic crisis; Cuba's easing of its migration rules on Jan. 14; and a crackdown on Cubans living in Ecuador.

The number of tourist visas issued since 1994 more than doubled, from 14,362 to 29,927, according to U.S. government figures. U.S. officials say that on average, 20 percent of tourist visa recipients remained to live in the United States in recent years, suggesting that about 6,000 of the 29,927 visitors will become migrants.

The second-largest group of Cuban migrants came over the border with Mexico, without U.S. visas but under "dry-foot, wet-foot," the policy that allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. land to stay but returns most of those intercepted at sea.

U.S. gasoline rises

HOUSTON -- The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps rose 2.73 cents in the past two weeks to $3.2790 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the period ended Friday and is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company.

The average, which reached a year-to-date peak in the survey of $3.795 on Feb. 22, is about 9.61 cents below a year earlier.

More dead whales discovered

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Eleven whales were found dead Sunday afternoon on a remote island in the Florida Keys, likely from among the pod of 51 stranded whales that had been the focus of an intense rescue effort last week, officials said.

No live whales could be found over the weekend, despite flights by Coast Guard helicopters and searches by boats. The last time live whales were seen, three groups with a total of 20 whales were heading south Friday, toward where the dead whales were discovered Sunday.

No cause has been determined for the strandings, which can take place for a variety of reasons, both natural and man-made. Blair Mase, stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, the main federal marine conservation agency, said officials will look into whether a virus spreading among dolphins and whales in the Atlantic could have been involved.


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