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    Senate Democrats on Amtrak Funding

    Senate Democrats representing states along Amtrak’s Northeast corridor held a news conference. The called on Congress to fully fund the rail service’s fiscal year 2016 funding request following the May 12, 2015, derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured more than 200.

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    U.S.-Cuba Relations

    State Department officials Roberta Jacobson and Thomas Shannon testified at a hearing on U.S.-Cuba relations. Topics included policy objectives, human rights, Cuban economic reforms, and what demands the U.S. expected to make of Cuba to return to normal foreign relations. Assistant Secretary Jacobson said having an Ambassador and full diplomatic relations would allow for a bilateral relationship, and help take care of an increasing number of American travelers expected to visit Cuba.

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    Air Traffic Control Modernization

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta was among a panel of witnesses who testified on his agency’s efforts to modernize the air traffic control system, and the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiative. Senators also asked questions on questionable pricing practices for fliers, and potential privatization of air traffic control systems and management. Senators from more rural states expressed concern for the implications of privatization on rural airports and air traffic.

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    Technology and Border Security

    Witnesses testified at a hearing on the impact of technology on U.S. border security efforts. Topics included the use of aircraft, drones, and surveillance tools, as well as evaluations of border security efforts and recommendations for improving infrastructure and technology.

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    U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation

    Foreign affairs and nuclear policy officials testified at a hearing on a the commercial, political, and security implications of a bilateral civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and China that would replace an expiring agreement from 1985. Before U.S. companies can export certain nuclear materials and reactor components to nations, U.S. law requires other nations to join bilateral agreements, called Section 123 Agreements.

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    Social Media and Terrorism

    Witnesses testified at a hearing on the role of social media in recruiting for terrorist organizations. The witnesses outlined the online tactics and capabilities of ISIS* and other terror groups, and made suggestions for the best strategies the U.S. government should adopt to counter online terror messaging. 

    * The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

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    Trade Legislation Markup

    The Senate Finance Committee marked up legislation relating to pending trade-related measures. Those measures included trade promotion authority that would give the president broad fast-track authority when negotiating trade agreements and require Congress to consider treaties without an amendment process. Other bills included extending the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA) that provides federal job training to workers adversely affected by foreign trade, extending trade preferences to sub-Saharan African nations and other developing countries, and reauthorizing and overseeing trade enforcement activities including those of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

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    U.S. Northern Border Security

    Homeland Security, Justice Department, and Customs and Border Protection officials testified on threats to the U.S. border with Canada. The witnesses assessed their agencies operations in response to those threats. Topics included unaccompanied minors and illegal immigrant crossings, human and drug trafficking, domestic terrorism threats, and U.S.-Canada intelligence sharing.

    There are audio issues in the hearing room at the beginning of the program.

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    Trade Policy

    Thomas Donohue and Richard Trumka testified at a hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bill, and pending trade agreements. The TPP would give the president authority to negotiate a trade deal that Congress can approve or disapprove but not amend or filibuster.

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    Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act Markup Hearing

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to mark up S. 615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The bill requires that Congress review and approve any agreements relating to Iran’s nuclear program. The committee voted unanimously for the bill,