National News

At The NRA Meeting: Come For The Guns, Stay For The Camaraderie

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 10:57

Upwards of 70,000 people are attending the NRA's annual convention this weekend. They're hearing from plenty of politicians, but for most it's a social confab and a chance to try out new weapons.

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Afghan Election Heads Toward Runoff; Women Cast 36 Percent Of Votes

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 08:35

Preliminary results show Afghanistan's former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah leading the field in a presidential election that saw a relatively high turnout among women voters.

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Letter Written Aboard Titanic On Fateful Last Day Sells For $200,000

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 07:48

"The sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now," reads the letter from a passenger to her mother. It was sold at auction in England Saturday.

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What Russia Might Gain From A Decentralized Ukraine

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 07:22

Moscow is demanding that Kiev's new constitution give so much autonomy to its diverse regions — particularly the Russian-speaking ones — that they could even conduct their own foreign policy.

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African Food With A Twist: Dakar Pop-Up Restaurant Raises The Bar

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 05:50

Three chefs in Senegal are helping put West Africa on the culinary map. They move their monthly pop-up restaurant around Dakar, introducing diners to new takes on familiar ingredients like the peanut.

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Rep. Michael Grimm To Face Criminal Charges, Lawyer Says

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 05:38

The exact charges haven't been announced. The Staten Island lawmaker and former FBI agent, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, has been under investigation for campaign finance and fraud.

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Ukraine: International Observers Arrested, More Sanctions Approved

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 04:37

The world's largest economies are poised to punish Russia over its role in Ukraine's crisis with a new round of sanctions. In eastern Ukraine, a team of European monitors was arrested by separatists.

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Come Dance With Me

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 04:03

One song, danced two totally different ways. First, two dancers who sculpt the giddiness, the beats, onto their rhyming bodies. Then a second version, this time, a crazy story. Vive la difference!

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Family Celebrates The Return Of Missing WWII Soldier's Remains

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

The remains of William T. Carneal were found on the coastline of Saipan last year. After 70 years, Pfc. Carneal was remembered in a ceremony in his hometown of Paducah, Ky.

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Fear Of Addiction Means Chronic Pain Goes Untreated

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

The FDA's decision to approve a new painkiller has met with fierce opposition. Judy Foreman, author of A Nation in Pain, tells NPR's Scott Simon why pain relief is such a highly polarized subject.

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Syrian Composer-Turned-Activist Asks Americans For Support

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

Syrian composer Malek Jandali's parents were beaten after he criticized the Assad regime in a performance abroad. Now Jandali is asking American and European audiences to donate to Syrians in need.

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Obama: May Be Time For A Pause In Mideast Peace Talks

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

After a breakdown in talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, President Obama said it may be time to take a step back from peace talks. An agreement now seems very far off.

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Egypt's Activists Battle Anti-Protest Law — And Protest Fatigue

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

Thousands have been jailed in Egypt since a crackdown on dissent last November. But most Egyptians are unwilling to risk jail for reform; most wish things would finally quiet down.

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China's Rising Influence Looms Over Obama's Asia Trip

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 03:50

President Obama wrapped up a two-day visit to South Korea, warning Pyongyang that pursuing nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation. Correspondent Anthony Kuhn talks with NPR's Scott Simon.

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Tech Week: Look At The Cloud, Aereo In Court, Net Neutrality

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 01:28

Where's your digital stuff? These days, probably in the cloud. We explored just what the cloud is and the implications of its growth. Also in the news: arguments over the future of TV and Web traffic.

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Syria Gives Up Chemical Weapons ... But A War Rages On

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 01:27

Syria appears likely to meet Sunday's deadline for handing over its chemical arsenal. But President Bashar Assad hasn't been weakened. His forces currently have the upper hand in the civil war.

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Syria Gives Up Chemical Weapons ... But A War Rages On

NPR News - Sat, 2014-04-26 01:27

Syria appears likely to meet Sunday's deadline for handing over its chemical arsenal. But President Bashar Assad hasn't been weakened. His forces currently have the upper hand in the civil war.

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G-7 Nations Agree To More Sanctions On Russia

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 21:33

The United States and other nations in the Group of Seven agreed Friday to "move swiftly" to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.

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Detroit Retiree Panel Reaches Deal With The City On Pension

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 16:56

Individual retirees still have to approve the plan, but the deal marks an important step in the resolution of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

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Coal ash = environmental win (when you recycle it)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 14:12
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 16:21 Dan Weissmann

Steve Fleming, technical director for the Chicago-area concrete manufacturer Prairie Materials, stands in front of the concrete-mixing plant at the firm's home office. Prairie Materials uses about 100,000 tons of coal fly ash in its concrete every year.

Coal ash jumped into the headlines this year when a pond maintained by Duke Energy spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina. It fouled the water supply, and brought national scrutiny to what sounded like a huge, and largely unregulated source of toxic waste.

The same week, to much less fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it endorsed the practice of using coal ash to make concrete. As it turns out, environmentalists largely agree. 

Engineers tend to be advocates. Steve Fleming is technical director for Chicago-based Prairie Materials, a large concrete supplier. And he is a fan of coal ash.

"We add it to our concrete to help with its performance," he says. "Both in its plastic state"— that is, when it’s wet, since coal ash makes concrete easier to work with — "and most important from my point of view, it helps the long-term performance of the concrete as well. It actually increases the strength, and makes the concrete last longer."

As an engineer, Fleming has long appreciated coal ash’s benefits. It took customers longer.

"When I first started, 18-19 years ago, I had a lot of customers who thought that fly-ash was not good," he says. "They said, 'It’s a waste product, and why are you putting it in my concrete?' Now, we have contractors who are requesting fly ash. If we ship them a straight cement mix, they’ll complain."

There are environmental advantages, too. Coal ash has toxins in it: arsenic, lead, mercury. Locking that stuff up in concrete seems safer than letting it sit in landfills or ponds that can contaminate groundwater.

The EPA endorsed using coal ash in concrete after comparing it to the toxins in Portland cement. Turns out, Portland cement is more toxic.

Portland cement is also much worse for the environment. "Portland cement production is one of the major greenhouse-gas sources  worldwide," says Craig Benson, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

He explains: Making Portland cement involves applying heat to limestone — which is made of calcium, oxygen and carbon — to get lime: calcium and oxygen.

"That process liberates a lot of carbon dioxide," he says. "That goes right up in the atmosphere."

There are more benefits: Using coal ash means not using resources to dig up limestone. Or burning fuel to heat it up. And because fly ash makes concrete last longer, it also means not replacing the concrete as often.

All of which also means saving money. Benson did a study on that. "It was really remarkable," he says. "Just the economic impact is about $5 billion to our economy."

Lisa Evans, a lawyer for Earthjustice, is reluctant to declare herself a fan of using coal ash for concrete. She’d rather we stop burning coal. Failing that, however, she thinks concrete is a good idea.

"I think characterizing it as a 'win' would be accurate," she says. "If you’re going to make coal ash in the first place, locking it up in concrete is preferable to a lot of the other ways we use or dispose of coal ash."  

But the consensus isn’t perfect. The EPA is currently deciding between two alternatives for regulating coal ash. Evans favors one that would regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, except for designated "beneficial re-uses" like concrete.  

That proposal worries John Ward, a spokesman for the coal-ash recycling industry, who runs a group called Citizens for Recycling First. He thinks the exception would just cause confusion. "How can you call something hazardous on the property of the people who made it," he says, "and expect you to want to use it in your house?"

He thinks that potential confusion could make utilities reluctant to allow recyclers to take coal ash at all.  

Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by Dan WeissmannPodcast Title Coal ash = environmental win (when you recycle it)Story Type FeatureSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
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