Until well into the 19th century, if you lived in the U.S. and wanted to heat your house, fire your forge, or whatever, you did what people had done for thousands of years: You chopped down a tree and burned it.
It wasn't until the rise of the railroads in the mid 19th-century that coal became a significant energy source in this country. As industrialization continued in the second half of the century, the use of coal continued to rise, powering heavy industry (think U.S. Steel), heating urban homes, and generating electric power.
Former El Paso Independent School District Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia is escorted by his attorneys into a Texas courthouse. He was found guilty of fiddling with El Paso schools' test scores for his own financial gain.
Lorenzo Garcia, the former superintendent of schools in El Paso, Texas, has been sitting in a federal prison since last year. He's the nation's first superintendent convicted of fraud and reporting bogus test scores for financial gain.
On a normal day, Kansas City, Mo., processes more than 70 million gallons of raw sewage. This sewage used to be a nuisance, but Kansas City, and a lot of municipalities around the country, are now turning it into a resource for city farmers hard up for fertilizer.
After the sewage has been processed at a treatment plant, it's piped out to Birmingham Farm on the north side of the Missouri River.
Drivers travel on Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway, near Tysons Corner in Fairfax County, Va., in November, just days before the opening of four new express lanes. Virginia is among 19 states that have approved or are considering legislation to increase transportation funding, according to Transportation for America.
Credit Cliff Owen / AP
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks to the media at the state Capitol in Richmond in February.
It's no secret that many of the nation's roads are in pretty bad shape. In the latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the condition of America's highways rated a grade of D.
Congestion is a big problem, and so is upkeep. Most states rely on gas taxes to raise the money for repairs and new construction, but that funding source is not the stream it used to be, says James Corless of Transportation for America.
Turns out that Saturday first-class mail service isn't going anywhere. The Postal Service today backtracked on its decision to reduce deliveries in an effort to save money. But it says that's only because language in the bill funding the federal government currently bars such a change. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, this means the service will be running even deeper in the red.
Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 5:19 pm
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In Mexico, people are rushing to see a new film that pokes fun at the country's rich. The movie has been breaking box office records. It's the first feature for the director who comes from Mexico's elite.
But as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City, he says he learned humbling life lessons during his time at an American film school.
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has launched a million-dollar media blitz to support new gun legislation. One TV ad features Neil Heslin, whose son, Jesse Lewis, was among those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
NEIL HESLIN: Oh, I feel it's something I owe to my son, Jesse, to speak up and I'm his voice. And I feel if I didn't, I would be letting Jesse down.
A U.S. District court judge is wrestling with punishment for a sports memorabilia dealer. William Mastro is accused of altering a rare baseball card before selling it. The 1909 Honus Wagner card demands upwards of $2 million at auction. Melissa Block talks with memorabilia magnate Ken Goldin about the case and the card.
Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 11:14 am
I first met Thao Nguyen in 2008, in the earliest days of the Tiny Desk Concert series. I was a big fan of her witty, catchy songs. After she finished playing the Tiny Desk, Thao said something that has endeared me to her forever. Walking toward the elevators on her way out of NPR, she said, "That was intimate and awkward ... a lot like my last boyfriend!"
Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Valencia, Venezuela, on Tuesday. The country's voters go to the polls this weekend to choose a successor to longtime leader Hugo Chavez, who died last month.
Credit AFP/Getty Images
Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's acting president and Chavez's hand-picked successor, raises his fist during a presidential election campaign rally in Catia La Mar, Venezuela, on Tuesday.
For the first time in 14 years, Hugo Chavez is not on the ballot for a presidential election in Venezuela. The firebrand leftist died last month at 58 after a long fight with cancer.
Pollsters say the sympathy vote and the state's huge resources will translate into a big victory in Sunday's election for Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver turned government minister who had been a Chavez loyalist for 20 years.
Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 2:26 pm
Rand Paul going to one of the top historically black colleges in the U.S. and trying to school students on who founded the NAACP?
Rand Paul going to one of the top historically black colleges in the U.S. and trying to make a case for his Republican Party as a historic and continuing defender of the civil rights of African-Americans?
And, judging from the reaction the Kentucky senator received Wednesday at Washington's Howard University, less than persuasive.
Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 3:17 pm
A judge has rejected a plea agreement from the former head of a sports memorabilia auction house who admitted to using shill bidders to drive up prices and to altering the most valuable baseball card ever sold.
William Mastro of Mastro Auctions admitted to doctoring the 1909 Honus Wagner cigarette card that was once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky. The card sold for $2.8 million in 2007.
The man whose research led to the world's first test-tube baby more than three decades ago, has died at age 87.
Robert Edwards, who later won the Nobel Prize, began experimenting with in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in the late 1960s. His work, controversial at the time, eventually led to the birth of the world's first "test tube baby," Louise Brown, on July 25, 1978.
Since then, IVF has resulted in about 5 million babies worldwide, according to the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 2:37 pm
Roasted fish on a stick is OK, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to cook up some fish soup?
That's what might have crossed the minds of hunter-gatherers who made the world's first cooking pots. A new analysis of pottery made 15,000 years ago in what's now Japan reveals that it was used to cook seafood, probably salmon.
Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 12:23 pm
NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Robin Kelly's in in Chicago, Anthony Weiner wants back in in New York, and Mitch McConnell claims somebody broke in and bugged his campaign office. It's Wednesday and time for...
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Nixonian...
CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?
Names are possessions that we carry with us all our lives. But we seldom think about what goes into picking the right one. Some choose to change their first names in adulthood, because of family history or pure disdain for a moniker. For Silas Hansen, the reason was that he's transgender.
Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 7:04 am
The patent medicines sold in days gone by may, contrary to the name, not have had real government patents. But that didn't stop their makers from claiming the concoctions could cure ailments ranging from indigestion to jaundice and fever.
Now, researchers have put some of these old elixirs and pills in the Henry Ford Museum's large collection of patent medicines to a modern test. They found a mix of potentially harmful metals like lead and mercury along with benign ingredients, including calcium and iron.