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A red-blue divide made transit money contentious in the infrastructure bill

WASHINGTON — A battle over highways and public transportation nearly derailed the Senate infrastructure deal. And while negotiators reached a compromise to move the bipartisan package forward, the fight is just beginning.

Democrats say the $39 billion for transit in the Senate bill is not nearly enough, and are eying a separate multitrillion-dollar package as an opportunity to build more electric buses and rails, which they see as important in reducing America’s carbon footprint and combating climate change.

“We want to give people an alternative to the most heavily polluting thing in America and to get sustainable, renewable sources for transportation,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in an interview. “Exhibit A is transit offered in the city of Chicago — keeps cars off the streets and pollution out of the air.”

Durbin said Democrats can do more for public transit “in many respects, but not in every respect,” in the $3.5 trillion bill they expect to pass without Republican support. He noted that specific provisions of the Senate agreement cannot be renegotiated, which means Democrats will have to get creative.

“There’s a line that’s been drawn by the White House in negotiating that we have to respect,” he said.

The clash mirrors a growing divide between blue and red America. On one side are big cities that are represented by Democrats — including, increasingly, their suburbs — that are demanding green public transit. On the other side are vast swaths of rural America dominated by Republicans and where public transit barely exists and cars are the only way to get around.

“Transit is always going to be a bigger issue for Democrats,” said a GOP strategist who has worked on Capitol Hill and campaigns. “In most places in the U.S., where there are large numbers of people using mass transit, they are represented by Democrats.”

A political realignment

A recent political realignment has widened that divide. Many suburban areas that benefit from public transit into big cities have flipped from Republican to Democratic, giving the GOP less of an incentive to spend money on clean buses and trains.

“That shift accelerated in the Trump era,” said the GOP strategist, who requested anonymity to bluntly explain the party’s mentality on transit. The strategist added that while numerous Republican senators hail from states that include cities with public transit, those areas tend to vote for Democrats.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said that the Democrats’ offer was “way too rich” on transit and that Republicans weren’t willing to go that high.

“It’s still a very generous increase in funding for transit. It’s just not hugely disproportionate compared to roads and bridges,” Portman said, calling the final outcome a “true compromise.”

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said money for roads is more important to his state.

“I’m from Tennessee. Of course it is,” he said. “We’re a highway state.”

Public transit exists in the form of rail in cities like Nashville and Memphis, Hagerty said, but roads and the interstate highway system matter more to his state.

“There’s the trucking industry,” he said. “The logistics industry in Tennessee is a very big part of our state’s competitive advantage — and it’s highways.”

In an evenly divided Senate, Republicans who disproportionately represent sparse and rural states flexed their muscle to secure large sums of money for roads, while limiting the ambitions of Democrats who tend to represent more populated states that want to beef up their public transportation.

‘Bold climate provisions’

Past debates involving climate change have tended to make many voters fear for their electricity bills and potentially their jobs. Unlike in prior years, Democrats are hoping to minimize concerns by taking an approach that funds clean energy without taxing or regulating fossil fuels.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chair of the House Transportation Committee, lit into the Senate framework after key details emerged last week.

“From what I know, this bill will not deal with climate change,” he said. “And that’s a travesty — at this point in time to lock in highway-centric failed policies of the last century, and ignore the largest single contributor to fossil-fuel pollution in the United States of America, which is transportation.”

DeFazio said he plans to advance his climate goals in the separate Democrats-only package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she won’t allow a vote on one bill without the other.

Climate activists fault the bipartisan group for leaving provisions on electric buses and electric vehicle charging stations on the cutting room floor.

“These negative developments make it all the more important we get bold climate provisions in the reconciliation bill that invests heavily in transit and electric vehicles,” said Jamal Raad, a former Senate Democratic aide who is now executive director of the group Evergreen Action.

Democrats wanted a split of 80 percent for highways and 20 percent for transit. In the end, they got 19 percent for transit, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, calling it an improvement from recent years.

He said there were important victories tucked into the bill.

“The real number that people aren’t really focused on is intercity passenger rail,” Carper said in an interview. “The numbers there are off the charts — in investments, not just in the Northeast Corridor, but across Amtrak’s national plan.”

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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