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Lots of good stories this morning. We can begin with NPR’s continuing coverage of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. Howard Berkes reports that it was common practice at the Massey Energy mine to disable monitors that would detect dangerous levels of explosive methane gas. A methane gas explosion at the mine killed 29 miners. Methane monitors shut off mining machinery (above) if they detect dangerous levels of the gas. The monitors are disabled so that coal production can continue or that machinery can be moved.

Speaking of National Public Radio, the network had a good story yesterday about the emotional problems experienced by those in the middle of a natural disaster, such as the Gulf oil spill. We found it interesting that litigation stemming from these disasters can cause as much personal and community turmoil as the initial event.

Last week we noted a Wall Street Journal article saying that financial reform legislation (passed yesterday) “casts (a) long shadow” on rural America. The Nebraska Farmers Union begs to differ. Yesterday the NFU’s president, John Hansen, wrote that “rural America got hammered by gyrating input costs that nearly doubled within a two-year period thanks to unregulated speculative trading of derivatives.” That will be corrected by the new bill, Hansen wrote: “Congress has taken a stand with rural America to rein in the abuses of Wall Street banks and investment firms. It is about time.”

Finally, the EPA trumpeted what it called a “national dialogue” on rules to regulate the handling and disposal of toxic coal ash. The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. noticed, however, that none of this dialoguing was set to take place anywhere near actual collections of coal ash. Instead of having hearings in Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio or Tennessee (where a collapse coal ash waste impoundment collapsed), the EPA was going to Dallas, Denver and all the way to Arlington, Virginia. Once Ward raised the issue, the EPA announced that it was revising its plans.

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