David Schaper

Updated at 11:59 p.m. ET

Federal investigators say a track switch locked in the wrong position appears to have led to Sunday's deadly Amtrak collision with an idle CSX freight train, and they are hesitant to say this latest wreck — the fourth fatal Amtrak incident in seven weeks — is part of a broader problem with what some have called a "lax safety culture" at Amtrak.

We all need a little emotional support or comforting every now and then. And for many of us, our animals can provide it. Some of us with severe anxiety, phobias, PTSD or other disabilities cannot travel without them.

But one woman took the notion of needing a comfort animal a little too far when trying to bring her rather large peacock, Dexter, onboard a United Airlines flight at Newark's Liberty Airport Sunday. United said no.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are looking into whether the engineer of the Amtrak train that derailed south of Seattle Monday morning may have been distracted by a second Amtrak employee in the cab of the locomotive.

Investigators also are trying to determine why no brakes were activated by the engineer. The emergency brake activated automatically only as part of the train began to go off the rails.

How much would you pay to avoid traffic jams on your daily commute? $10? $20? How about $40?

That's how much a tollway in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., charged for a short time last week. Outraged commuters call it highway robbery.

But transportation officials say the high-priced toll is less about money and more about changing commuter behavior and reducing congestion, and commuters all across the country might soon see more tolls in the future.

Updated on Dec. 4 at 6:29 p.m. ET

Some of the nation's 3.5 million truck drivers staged protests with their big rigs at truck stops and a few state capitols around the country on Monday, in hopes of derailing a new safety regulation that is set to take effect later this month.

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As fire fighters in California's wine country worked frantically to contain and put out devastating wildfires that killed at least 42 people in recent weeks, and while his officers were still evacuating residents and searching through the burned ruins of homes for missing persons, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano had another problem to address.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


The winds in northern California remained mostly calm over the weekend, allowing firefighters to finally get the upper hand in the battle against at least 15 wildfires. Here is Cal Fire Incident Commander Bret Gouvea.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


As some residents of South Texas begin to dry out their homes and belongings, significant challenges lie ahead as the city of Houston and others in the affected area look to recover and rebuild.

Congress is fast-tracking billions of dollars in recovery funding. But just because that down payment on Harvey recovery is on the way, that doesn't mean the rebuilding of Houston and other areas hammered by the storm's high winds and historic rains will go quickly or smoothly.

Here are five challenges ahead for the Harvey recovery:

One of the nation's most influential judges and legal writers, Richard Posner, is retiring as of Saturday from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Posner has written more than 3,300 opinions in nearly 36 years on the bench, along with scores of books. He is known for a sharp wit, clear writing and opinions that could be equally biting and humorous, with occasional references to his cats.

There isn't a city in the United States, and there are probably very few anywhere in the world, that could have handled Hurricane Harvey's 50 inches of rain without significant flooding.

But Harvey was Houston's third flood in three years to surpass the "100 year flood" mark. Urban planners and civil engineers say a combination of natural and man-made factors has created a chronic drainage problem that left the city especially vulnerable to Harvey's torrential rains.