National News

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Alabama

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

Correction: A previous headline misidentified the state where the Arrowhead landfill is located. The text has been corrected. 

Mixed feelings for landfill run deep in Tennessee

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Back in 2008, an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash was released into the Emory River in Tennessee when a dam breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant. It was the biggest coal ash spill in the nation. Much of that coal ash was hauled to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Residents of the poor, mostly African-American county have filed a lawsuit saying they're suffering as a result of the coal ash. But the landfill is also a vital part of the local economy.

William Gipson lives across the street from the Arrowhead landfill, just off a two-way country road in Perry County, Alabama, about 30 minutes outside of Selma. Sometimes, he says, it smells like rotten eggs. Garbage is one thing, he says. "I'm fine with that. But why would they put a contaminated landfill here in this neighborhood, right here at my front door?

The contamination Gipson is referring to arrived six years ago: 4 million tons of coal ash, hauled in after the dam breach in Tennessee. Several residents have filed a Civil Rights Complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the landfill is lowering property values, causing illness and letting toxic chemicals flow into nearby creeks.

Gipson says runoff from the landfill heads into a ditch and ultimately trickles into a creek.

"It just comes under the road and runs right through there."

He says water at his house used to run clear from the tap. Now, he says, there's a white film around his pots and pans. He says he just can't tell what's in the water, and he's worried.

Perry County Commissioner Tim Sanderson says he doesn't buy any claims that he landfill is unsafe. "I've always been a firm believer in 'show me some proof',' " he says. "You can make allegations all day long."

Fact is, Perry County needs this landfill. People have been leaving in droves; the unemployment rate is among the highest in the state. Schools are closing. So are restaurants and shops.

"Jobs are not here," Sanderson says. "So people are going where the jobs are because of gas prices and other reasons."

Perry County's median household income is $28,000. For every ton of waste collected at Arrowhead, the county gets a dollar. Four million tons of coal ash meant $4 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and savings on the county's own dumping fees.

Sanderson says people who complain about a landfill in Perry County aren't being realistic.

"Everybody was saying, 'Oh we're killing the kids, we're causing all these problems,' " he says. " 'Let's carry it to Mississippi and kill all their kids and cause problems over there.' That's not the good Christian way."

Mike Smith, attorney for Green Group Holdings, which owns the landfill, says an elaborate liner system protects the groundwater, and he says the water is tested regularly.

"It's not nearly as bad a water as you would think it would [be], or as other people have led the residents to believe it is," he says.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead and boron, and environmentalists fear these chemicals can cause health problems.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected the landfill for drainage problems last month. The results: certain areas need to be "stabilized" with vegetation, and inspectors noted cloudy water leaving the landfill property where it shouldn't be.

Smith acknowledges some of the issues noted in the report, and he says they'll be addressed. He also points out that the $4 million the coal ash deal brought Perry County was a windfall, some of which went to the schools.

"But for that," Smith says, "they would've had a severe cutback in their services."

Arrowhead has also tried to win over residents by cleaning up parks and buying the high school a new PA system. But this month Arrowhead started aggressively marketing itself as the place to dump coal ash. New EPA regulations require utilities to comply with strict standards, and as a landfill, Arrowhead isn't subject to the new EPA rules.

"Now we're getting to the area now where our partial closure's been conducted," Smith says, "and that's the area where the coal ash has been....

Smith points out the area where the last load of ash is buried.

"It is safely stored away," he says.

If Arrowhead gets its wish, there will be lots more coal ash coming to Perry County.

 

Cleveland looks to firms to help fund police reform

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

The U.S. Department of Justice started investigating the Cleveland Police Department in 2013, concluding in a report last December that the department used unreasonable and sometimes unnecessary force.

Cleveland has reached an agreement with the DOJ that avoids a long, expensive court fight. But, “Everything has to be paid for," says Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.  

By everything, he means requirements in the agreement for things like training officers to deal better with minorities and people who are mentally ill and equipment, like computers in patrol cars.

“Officers in their cars should connect up with all the data that we collect on people that they’re arresting and the dangers that they’re facing every day,” Dettelbach says.

Mayor Frank Jackson says the cost will be in the millions, and he’ll be looking for what he calls "external help."

That help could come from people like Michael Stanek, owner of Cleveland Cycle Tours and chief financial officer of Hunt Imaging, which makes toner. 

“If there were some training programs they were looking to implement, I think it would be very appropriate for me as a small businessman to help out,” Stanek says.

How much help would he give?

“A thousand maybe,” Stanek says, but he the money would have to be earmarked for a specific program— he won't write a blank check.

Cleveland’s business community has dipped into its pockets before. It helped fund an education reform program a few years ago.

“The community realizes this is going to need to be a public-private partnership," says Joe Roman, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the city’s chamber of commerce. "And I think everybody is all in, trying to figure out what the right role is that they can play.”

And how much it’ll cost.

Taco Bell to go au naturale

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 13:00

Common sense wins a rare victory over corporate America.

Taco Bell, as you may have heard, has decided to take artificial flavors and colors out of its offerings.

For the detail-oriented among you, the company's going to switch from using artificial black pepper to, and this is a quote, "natural black pepper flavor."

Which does raise this very hair-splitting question, I grant you: is there a problem with, you know, actual black pepper?

Football, brought to you by Goldman Sachs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:54

About 15 years ago, investment banker Greg Carey helped the New England Patriots secure the money for a stadium. He soon took his talents to Goldman Sachs.

Over a decade later, Goldman Sachs has become a leader in stadium finance, securing money for the 49ers’ Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and the new Yankee Stadium in New York. Goldman Sachs doesn’t just provide the money however, it also helps make stadiums as profitable as possible.

“They’ve been the ones who have come up with all the new innovations in this business,” the Los Angeles Times’ Tim Logan tells Kai Ryssdal. Among the innovations: securing low interest loans, personal seat licenses (PSLs), and turning multi-billion-dollar stadiums into tax-free public entities.

The city of Carson recently announced that Goldman Sachs would bankroll a new stadium that could potentially be shared by the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. If it succeeds, it will be one of the most expensive stadiums ever built.

Logan says most of the money will come from PSLs, and they’re expecting to sell a ton of them: about $800 million worth. “If they can raise $800 million with PSLs and they can sell it through a public entity that owns a public stadium, that money is not taxed,” Logan explains. “[They’ll] see all that money [go] into the stadium deal.”

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

The scanners are standard equipment for police, but what's not settled is what happens to all the data collected. That data can link people to certain addresses and flag unusual activity.

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Women Fight Their Way Through Army's Grueling Ranger School

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

Two years after the Defense Department lifted the ban on women serving in combat units, the Army is allowing women to go through the training program for soldiers who aspire to be infantry leaders.

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A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:33

Many of the students at Mount Sinai's medical school in New York majored in English or history, and never took the MCAT. The school sees that diversity among its students as a great strength.

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Iowa Group Divorces Itself From Controversial Marriage Pledge

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 12:25

An anti-same-sex-marriage pledge from a social-conservative group included a lot more than that in 2012. Looking to avoid the backlash it created in the last presidential election, the group nixed it.

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In This Test Kitchen, The Secret To A Great Cookbook Is Try, Try Again

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 11:46

Yotam Ottolenghi and his partner have a thriving food empire that includes wildly successful cookbooks. We go inside their London test kitchen as recipes are put through their paces.

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Giving every kid a computer and a connection

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 11:13

When VIDA Middle School in Vista, California, received a grant to hand every one of its 680 students an iPad with a free 4G connection, parents were excited.

.new-float-left { float: left; margin-right: 24px; } .new-float-left em, .new-float-right em { display:block;font-size:.825em; color:#999; } .new-float-right { float: right; margin-left: 24px; } @media screen and (max-width:480px) { .new-float-left, .new-float-right { float:none;} } VIDA Principal Eric Chagala They were also a little nervous.

"We have a large population of students who walk," says Principal Eric Chagala. "The fear was, you are putting a $700 or $800 device in my 11-year-old's hand, and they have to get home."

So, Chagala hit the streets of the working class neighborhood around the school. He talked to local police. He dropped in on area pawn shops, to ask them to call the school if people started showing up with iPads to sell.

VIDA, or the Vista Innovation & Design Academy, is a year-old magnet school that replaced the struggling Washington Middle School.

The long rows of classrooms and outdoor hallways now have a fresh coat of paint and regular appearances by the new mascot, a shark.

The VIDA community chose the shark as a mascot because of how it serves as an example of biomimicry, which fits the school's themes of design and innovation.

The old teacher's lounge has been turned into a maker's space, where sixth-graders recently worked to build models of carnival attractions with wood blocks, cardboard and plastic containers. They used their iPads to design the models earlier in the week.

One group of kids is building a haunted house using CDs to create broken glass. Another team is working on an ambitious spinning ride — it has sprinklers, a concession stand and sharks. It's happy chaos.

Traditional classes here have also been transformed by the technology.

VIDA teacher William Olive "We now have students who look at historical dilemmas and be problem solvers," says William Olive, a history teacher with 27 years of experience.

He no longer drills students on facts. He says his job now is to help students use the tech to explore and create. Many of his students didn't have that kind of access before at home or at school. One-third of the students in the upper grades at the school are homeless.

"I teach a junior Model United Nations club, and 13 of the 19 students didn't have a computer or printer at home," Olive says. "For them to have access to an iPad is revolutionary."

At school, students use their tablets for research and to create presentations. Olive says they have a whole new set of questions about the world, from the South China Sea to the Sudan.

"It gives a more of a level playing field, it also helps their families," he says. "Now their families have access to technology and are starting to understand it."

But students are also under a new kind of pressure to take care of their devices. They can't lose it or misuse it. They, and their parents, are anxious about the costs of replacing it if things do go wrong.

Chagala feels a new responsibility too, one with a bigger price tag: keeping up this level of access.

"Our richest kid and our poorest kid, there is no difference in access and opportunity for learning for them at this point," he says.

Students at VIDA middle school use their iPad tablets in class for assignments, but also to complete homework and email teachers.

The current grant from Digital Promise and Verizon lasts two years. After that, the school gets to keep the iPads, but they lose the free 4G connectivity.

"I'm scared to death," Chagala says. "It's been such a blessing. I don't think our kids could imagine not having access."

District and city officials are working on a plan to keep the kids connected and expand access to even more students.

Photos by Millie Jefferson for Marketplace As more schools hand more kids laptops and tablets all sorts of things can happen — many of them unexpected, and pretty funny, too. In this humorous, animated look at the digital classroom, Marketplace explores what happens when you give a give a kid a laptop.

brightcove.createExperiences();

Giving every kid a computer and a connection

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-05-27 11:13
When VIDA Middle School in Vista, California, received a grant to hand every one of its 680 students an iPad with a free 4G connection, parents were excited.

They were also a little nervous.

.new-float-left { float: left; margin-right: 24px; } .new-float-left em, .new-float-right em { display:block;font-size:.825em; color:#999; } .new-float-right { float: right; margin-left: 24px; } @media screen and (max-width:480px) { .new-float-left, .new-float-right { float:none;} } VIDA Principal Eric Chagala "We have a large population of students who walk," says Principal Eric Chagala. "The fear was, you are putting a $700 or $800 device in my 11-year-old's hand, and they have to get home."

So, Chagala hit the streets of the working class neighborhood around the school. He talked to local police. He dropped in on area pawn shops, to ask them to call the school if people started showing up with iPads to sell.

VIDA, or theVista Innovation & Design Academy, is a year-old magnet school that replaced a struggling school called Washington Middle.

The school's long rows of classrooms and outdoor hallways now have a fresh coat of paint, and regular appearances by the new mascot, a shark.

The VIDA community chose the shark as a mascot because of how it serves as an example of biomimicry, which fits the school's themes of design and innovation.

The old teacher's lounge has been turned into a maker's space, where sixth-graders recently worked to build models of carnival attractions with wood blocks, cardboard and plastic containers. They used their iPads to design the models earlier in the week.

One group of kids is building a haunted house using CDs to create broken glass. Another team is working on an ambitious spinning ride — it has sprinklers, a concession stand and sharks. Very much a work in progress.

It's happy chaos.

Traditional classes here have also been transformed by the technology.

VIDA teacher William Olive "We now have students who look at historical dilemmas and be problem solvers," says William Olive, a history teacher with 27 years of experience.

He no longer drills students on facts. He says his job now is to help students use the tech to explore and create. Many of his students didn't have that kind of access before, not at home or at school. One-third of the students in the upper grades at the school are homeless.

"I teach a junior Model United Nations club, and 13 of the 19 students didn't have a computer or printer at home," he says. "For them to have access to an iPad is revolutionary."

At school, the students use their tablets for research and to create presentations. Olive says they have a whole new set of questions about the world, from the South China Sea to the Sudan.

"It gives a more of a level playing field, it also helps their families," he says. "Now their families have access to technology and are starting to understand it."

But students are also under a new kind of pressure to take care of their devices. They can't lose it, or misuse it. They, and their parents, are anxious about the costs of replacing it if things do go wrong.

Principal Chagala feels a new responsibility too, one with a bigger price tag: keeping up this level of access.

"Our richest kid and our poorest kid, there is no difference in access and opportunity for learning for them at this point," he says.

Students at VIDA middle school use their iPad tablets in class for assignments, but also to complete homework and email teachers.

The current grant, from a group called Digital Promise and Verizon, lasts two years. After that, the school gets to keep the iPads, but they lose the free 4G connectivity.

"I'm scared to death," Chagala says. "It's been such a blessing. I don't think our kids could imagine not having access."

Now, district and city officials are working on a plan to keep the kids connected, and expand the access to even more students.

Is it time to hand every K-12 student a laptop or tablet and let 'em have at it? Teachers, administrators and parents across the country are grappling with the new digital classroom. In a play on the popular children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," Marketplace explores the ever-expanding reach of education technology.
brightcove.createExperiences();

Research Chimps Get Their Day In Court In New York

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 11:11

But neither Hercules nor Leo, who are at the center of a legal battle over whether chimpanzees should have the same legal rights as people, were physically present in the Manhattan courtroom today.

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U.S. Finalizes Rules To Protect Rivers, Streams From Pollution

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 10:04

The regulations are intended to clarify recent court decisions on which bodies of water are protected, but many farmers and congressional Republicans oppose what they call an EPA "land grab."

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Supreme Court Says Locals Can Make Pill-Makers Pay For Drug Disposal

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 09:40

The court decision means companies are on the hook for helping at least some consumers in California safely dispose of leftover pills and other medicine. Similar measures are in the works elsewhere.

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Scott Walker Says Ultrasounds Are 'Just A Cool Thing'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 08:55

Speaking about his state's law that requires an ultrasound before an abortion, the Wisconsin governor said he meets people all the time who are excited to show him ultrasounds of their grandkids.

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Nebraska Governor's Veto Of Death Penalty Repeal Sets Up Override Vote

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 08:44

Thirty votes are needed in the state's unicameral Legislature to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto. The vote is expected to be close.

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Paralyzed By Doubt? Here's A Guide For The Worrier In Us All

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 07:16

You might think that anxiety disorder is no laughing matter, but illustrator Gemma Correll respectfully disagrees. She sees the humor in the mental condition that she deals with every day.

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More Severe Storms Possible For Flood-Hit Texas

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 07:00

At least 17 people have died as a result of severe storms and flooding in Texas and Oklahoma.

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Federal Appeals Court Blocks Arkansas Ban On Abortion At 12 Weeks

NPR News - Wed, 2015-05-27 06:34

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has blocked an Arkansas law that bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The case was filed by two doctors on their own and their patients' behalf.

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