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FROM THIS EPISODE

America's highways and railroads were once the envy of the rest of the world, but they've become decidedly second rate. Meantime, Congress is deadlocked — not just over funding the transportation system but what its goals should be.

Also, President Obama and his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, meet in Washington. On today's Talking Point, this week's oil spill off Santa Barbara, California is evoking memories of the disaster that started America’s environmental movement back in 1969.

Photo: Emergency workers and Amtrak personnel inspect a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Producers:
Sasa Woodruff
Benjamin Gottlieb
Jenny Hamel

Obama and Tunisia's Essebsi Meet in Washington 6 MIN, 7 SEC

The so-called "Arab Spring" began in Tunisia, where "democracy and pluralism are taking root." That's according to President Obama and his newly elected counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, writing in today's Washington Post. The US has now designated Tunisia as a "major non-NATO ally." Tamara Wittes is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. She's now Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Guests:
Tamara Wittes, Brookings Institution (@tcwittes)

Highways and Railroads: Detours and Delays 32 MIN, 8 SEC

As Memorial Day kicks off another travel season, millions of Americans will find that transportation infrastructure is on the decline. Roads and bridges are crumbing, while Congress, mired in long-running disagreements over funding for the Highway Trust Fund and railroad safety, passes short-term funding that delays long-term repairs and construction. New technology to increase the safety of passenger trains is likely to be postponed, despite last week's deadly derailment. As the US falls behind the rest of the world, conservatives blame government incompetence, while progressives insist there's just not enough money.

Guests:
Fawn Johnson, National Journal (@fawnjohnson)
Adie Tomer, Brookings Institution (@adietomer)
Chris Edwards, Cato Institute (@CatoInstitute)
Casey Dinges, American Society of Civil Engineers (@ASCETweets)

Santa Barbara Oil Spill 11 MIN, 3 SEC

Tuesday's oil spill is being called "a worst nightmare scenario" by officials in Santa Barbara, California. It's giving us images of dead birds, clean-up crews and over nine miles of California Coast covered in 105,000 gallons of thick black oil. For Southern California, these images also bring echoes of the much larger 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill – which dumped three million gallons of crude oil. That spill spurred the modern environmental movement and motivated some activists to run for higher office.

Photo: Clean-up efforts underway in Santa Barbara after Tuesday's oil spill (Saul Gonzalez)

Guests:
Paul Relis, environmentalist and author (@http://www.paulrelis.com/bio/)
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity (@endangeredocean)

More:
'Which Way, LA' on the oil spill, conversation with Congresswoman Lois Capps
Center for Biological Diversity on Plains Pipeline's 175 spill incidents since 2006

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