Maya Angelou did it all

If renaissance is the appropriate adjective to describe someone who has played many roles in life, then it fits Maya Angelou, the poet, memoirist, dancer, singer, actor, magazine editor, rape victim, single mother, civil rights activist, and one of America?s brightest lights, who died Wednesday at age 86.

Angelou first burst into this nation's consciousness with the publication of her 1969 autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which described what it was like to grow up poor and female in the Jim Crow South of her youth.

She captivated a national audience in reciting her inspirational poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the 1993 swearing-in of President Bill Clinton, which urged humankind to:

Lift up your hearts

Each new hour holds new chances

For new beginnings.

Angelou, who became a familiar face on film and television, will be missed. But the wisdom she presented in prose and poetry will forever be present.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 29

 

Make all U.S. oil railcars safer

Trains laden with crude oil that have derailed and exploded in towns across the country are an urgent warning that federal regulators need to get a move on to guard against potential disaster.

The Department of Transportation issued an emergency order this month requiring railroads to notify state officials when trains carrying a large amount of crude oil will travel through their states. That heads-up is important for emergency responders. But the DOT should quickly complete tougher regulations for tank cars and speed the replacement or retrofitting of outdated cars prone to rupture in accidents.

The amount of oil moved by rail has soared because of technological advances that make it profitable to extract crude from shale in the Bakken region of North Dakota. Some of the oil is transported by train to East Coast refineries. And much of that goes through the Port of Albany and then south, by barge on the Hudson River or by rail alongside it, skirting New York City en route to New Jersey.

Safety concerns were ignited in July when a train carrying crude derailed and burned in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. After that, a train derailed and exploded in Casselton, N.D., in December, one month after a similar accident in rural Alabama. A train derailed in Lynchburg, Va., last month. No one was injured in those incidents, but areas in Casselton and Lynchburg were evacuated amid flames and billowing black smoke.

Nudged by federal transportation officials, private industry is voluntarily upgrading tank cars by improving valves and fittings and strengthening tanker walls. About half the cars in use by the end of 2015 will be new or retrofitted, according to the Railway Supply Institute, the trade association. But Canada mandated last month that all outdated tank cars there must be replaced or retrofitted within three years. Federal officials here should put the industry on the clock, too.

—Newsday, May 28