Howard Berkes http://wkar.org en The Turkish Mine Disaster: How Could It Happen? http://wkar.org/post/turkish-mine-disaster-how-could-it-happen Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has enraged families of the victims of the Soma mine disaster by characterizing mining accidents as "ordinary things."<p>In fact, <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/05/15/312694185/turkish-mine-explosion-angry-protests-as-death-toll-rises">the disaster</a> appears to have ordinary causes familiar to mining experts, who note that well-known precautions exist to prevent the kind of explosion that killed so many in Turkey.<p>"The risk is constant," says Tom Hethmon, a professor of mine safety at the University of Utah and a consultant to Thu, 15 May 2014 19:11:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 53742 at http://wkar.org The Turkish Mine Disaster: How Could It Happen? Regulators Couldn't Close U.S. Mine Despite Poor Safety Record http://wkar.org/post/regulators-couldnt-close-us-mine-despite-poor-safety-record The West Virginia mine where two workers were fatally injured on Monday consistently violated federal mine safety laws, but federal regulators say they were unable to shut it down completely.<p>The Mine Safety and Health Administration confirmed that two workers were killed on May 12 when coal and rocks burst from mine walls at Patriot Coal's Brody No. 1 mine in Boone County, W.Va.<p>MSHA says one victim was operating a mining machine and the other was drilling bolts into the roof of the mine, a process that prevents rockfalls. Wed, 14 May 2014 23:05:00 +0000 Howard Berkes & Anna Boiko-Weyrauch 53701 at http://wkar.org 2 Die In W.Va. Mine With Troubled Safety Record http://wkar.org/post/2-die-wva-mine-troubled-safety-record Two coal miners died in a mine accident in Boone County, W.Va., Monday night, in a mine with a troubled safety record.<p>The accident occurred at the Brody Mine No.1, which is owned by Patriot Coal. In a statement, the company says the deaths were caused by "a severe coal burst as the mine was conducting retreat mining operations."<p>A burst occurs when the downward pressure of the earth sitting above the mine forces coal or rock to shoot out from the rock walls.<p>"Retreat mining" is a dangerous practice that follows the completion of mining of the main coal seam. Tue, 13 May 2014 21:27:00 +0000 Howard Berkes & Anna Boiko-Weyrauch 53646 at http://wkar.org U.S. Olympic Committee Plans To Examine Speedskating's Woes http://wkar.org/post/us-olympic-committee-plans-examine-speedskatings-woes For American speedskaters, this Winter Olympics has been defined by controversy over racing suits and disappointment over a lack of podium finishes. Now comes word that the U.S. Tue, 18 Feb 2014 21:53:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 49550 at http://wkar.org U.S. Olympic Committee Plans To Examine Speedskating's Woes More Blame Congress Than Obama For Park Woes During Shutdown http://wkar.org/post/more-blame-congress-obama-park-woes-during-shutdown It may seem like a distant memory, but the images are indelible: grizzled veterans <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/13/233334336/barriers-breached-at-world-war-ii-memorial-on-mall">tearing down barricades</a> at the National World War II Memorial; armed rangers <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/03/228719015/national-parks-close-as-other-public-lands-stay-open">blocking national park entrance roads</a> with massive signs and government SUVs; and county officials in Utah <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/09/231086726/county-in-utah-threatens-takeover-of-n Mon, 18 Nov 2013 13:30:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 45461 at http://wkar.org More Blame Congress Than Obama For Park Woes During Shutdown 2 Summer Olympic Cities Are Chasing The 2022 Winter Games http://wkar.org/post/2-summer-olympic-cities-are-chasing-2022-winter-games With the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/10/29/241642365/100-days-to-the-sochi-olympics-some-key-things-to-know">upcoming Winter Olympics</a> set in a subtropical, palm tree-lined resort city on Russia's Black Sea, it's no surprise that two former Summer Olympics hosts are now seeking the 2022 Winter Games.<p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/07/10/156368611/chinas-post-olympic-woe-how-to-fill-an-empty-nest">Beijing</a>, host of the 2008 Summer Games, must miss the Olympic glow — or polluting murky mist, as it turned out to be, given its formal bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Fri, 15 Nov 2013 19:00:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 45372 at http://wkar.org 2 Summer Olympic Cities Are Chasing The 2022 Winter Games House Lawmakers Seek Federal Probe Of Black Lung Program http://wkar.org/post/house-lawmakers-seek-federal-probe-black-lung-program Two Democratic congressmen have <a href="http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/sites/democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/files/documents/Miller%20and%20Courtney%20Letter%20to%20Labor%20OIG%20RE%20Black%20Lung.pdf">formally asked the Labor Department's Inspector General</a> to investigate "allegations of misconduct by doctors and lawyers working on behalf of the coal industry" and their roles in the denials of benefits for coal miners stricken with black lung disease.<p>In their letter, Rep. Fri, 08 Nov 2013 19:14:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 45031 at http://wkar.org Johns Hopkins Halts, Reviews Black Lung Program http://wkar.org/post/johns-hopkins-halts-reviews-black-lung-program <a href="http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/abc_news_report_b-reads_pneumoconiosis_statement.html">Johns Hopkins Medicine</a> says it will suspend and review its black lung program, following joint investigative reports last week from the <a href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/environment/breathless-and-burdened">Center for Public Integrity</a> and <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/investigation-johns-hopkins-tough-questions-black-lung-money/story?id=20721430">ABC News</a> that found the program "helped coal companies thwart efforts by ailing mine workers to receive disability benefits. Mon, 04 Nov 2013 19:32:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 44791 at http://wkar.org Report Details Industry's 'Cutthroat' Fight Of Miners' Claims http://wkar.org/post/report-details-industrys-cutthroat-fight-miners-claims My investigative reporting colleague Chris Hamby at the Center for Public Integrity has a compelling and troubling follow-up to our <a href="http://www.npr.org/series/156453033/black-lung-returns-to-coal-country">jointly-reported series last year</a> on the resurgence of the deadly coal miners' disease black lung.<p>Hamby has spent the last year investigating the system that awards compensation to miners stricken with the disease. Tue, 29 Oct 2013 21:06:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 44507 at http://wkar.org Theme Park Called 'Insensitive' For 'Miner's Revenge' Attraction http://wkar.org/post/theme-park-called-insensitive-miners-revenge-attraction <strong>Update at 8:45 p.m. ET: Mon, 28 Oct 2013 23:03:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 44455 at http://wkar.org Boy Scouts Eject Leaders Who Toppled Ancient Rock http://wkar.org/post/boy-scouts-eject-leaders-who-toppled-ancient-rock <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYFD18BwmJ4</p> Mon, 21 Oct 2013 22:05:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 44106 at http://wkar.org Boy Scouts Eject Leaders Who Toppled Ancient Rock Some States Allowed To Reopen National Parks — And Foot The Bill http://wkar.org/post/utah-allowed-reopen-national-parks-and-foot-bill "This is a godsend!" exclaimed Utah Gov. Gary Herbert late Thursday night, as he signed an agreement with the Department of the Interior to use state funds to reopen eight national park areas in his state for at least 10 days.<p>The Republican governor wasted no time in wiring $1.67 million to Washington overnight so that some of the areas can open as early as today. Fri, 11 Oct 2013 16:56:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43652 at http://wkar.org Some States Allowed To Reopen National Parks — And Foot The Bill Feds To Consider State Funding To Reopen National Parks http://wkar.org/post/feds-consider-state-funding-reopen-national-parks With <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/10/231440270/report-parks-shutdown-saps-750-million-in-visitor-spending">economic impacts mounting</a> and one Utah county <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/09/231086726/county-in-utah-threatens-takeover-of-national-park-areas">threatening to take over national parks</a>, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she will "consider agreements with governors" to allow state funding of national parks so that some can reopen to visitors.<p>Details are sketchy, but the agency "will begin conversations about how to proceed as e Thu, 10 Oct 2013 20:53:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43612 at http://wkar.org Feds To Consider State Funding To Reopen National Parks Report: Parks Shutdown Saps $750 Million In Visitor Spending http://wkar.org/post/report-parks-shutdown-saps-750-million-visitor-spending An estimated 7 million people have been shut out at 12 of the busiest and biggest U.S. Thu, 10 Oct 2013 17:00:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43601 at http://wkar.org Report: Parks Shutdown Saps $750 Million In Visitor Spending Shutdown Prompts Emergency Declarations In Utah http://wkar.org/post/shutdown-prompts-emergency-declarations-utah Fed-up with declining tourism spending and tax revenue during the <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=134144512">government shutdown</a>, four Utah counties dependent on National Park and public lands visitors have declared states of emergency.<p>And Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has responded with a plea to President Obama to reopen the region's National Park areas with state, local and private funding.<p>"These closures must end immediately," Herbert wrote in a formal request to the President. Tue, 08 Oct 2013 22:26:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43498 at http://wkar.org Shutdown Prompts Emergency Declarations In Utah NSA Says It Has 'Mitigated' Meltdowns At Utah Data Farm http://wkar.org/post/nsa-says-it-has-mitigated-meltdowns-utah-data-farm This was supposed to be the month the National Security Agency cranked up its <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/09/23/225381596/booting-up-new-nsa-data-farm-takes-root-in-utah">biggest data farm yet</a>, in a Salt Lake City suburb.<p>The $1.2 billion complex covers 1.5 million square feet, and includes 100,000 square feet devoted solely to computers and servers.<p>But some of that equipment has fried in 10 "meltdowns" and "power surges" in the past 13 months, according to sources and documents quoted in <em><a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304441404 Tue, 08 Oct 2013 21:56:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43500 at http://wkar.org NSA Says It Has 'Mitigated' Meltdowns At Utah Data Farm National Parks Close As Other Public Lands Stay Open http://wkar.org/post/national-parks-close-other-public-lands-stay-open From Acadia in Maine to Zion in Utah to the North Cascades in Washington, America's 401 national park areas have gates blocking entrance roads.<p>The last remaining campers and hotel guests in the parks must leave Thursday, and park rangers will patrol to keep others out.<p>The national parks "belong to the American people, and the American people should have the right to come in," says National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. Thu, 03 Oct 2013 08:14:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 43244 at http://wkar.org National Parks Close As Other Public Lands Stay Open Jailed Massey Mine Boss Claims He Was Company's Sacrificial Lamb http://wkar.org/post/jailed-massey-mine-boss-claims-he-was-companys-sacrificial-lamb A jailed, former superintendent of Massey Energy's <a href="http://www.npr.org/series/131960177/massey-mine-investigation">Upper Big Branch coal mine</a> claims his attorney colluded with attorneys for the company and its executives to avoid testimony about complicity in his crimes.<p>Gary May is serving a 21-month federal prison sentence after <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/03/29/149639345/massey-mine-boss-pleads-guilty-as-feds-target-execs">pleading guilty to conspiracy</a> to thwart federal mine safety law by warning miners underground when inspectors arrived on the surfa Tue, 24 Sep 2013 21:00:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 42808 at http://wkar.org Booting Up: New NSA Data Farm Takes Root In Utah http://wkar.org/post/booting-new-nsa-data-farm-takes-root-utah The National Security Agency won't say exactly when it will fully rev up its <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/06/10/190160772/amid-data-controversy-nsa-builds-its-biggest-data-farm" target="_blank">newest and biggest data farm</a> in the Salt Lake City suburb of Bluffdale, Utah. Mon, 23 Sep 2013 21:54:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 42758 at http://wkar.org Booting Up: New NSA Data Farm Takes Root In Utah Sabotage Prompts Two-Year Bans For Olympic Skater And Coach http://wkar.org/post/sabotage-prompts-two-year-bans-olympic-skater-and-coach "Obnoxious...disruptive...and...unsportsmanlike."<p>That's how a disciplinary panel at the International Skating Union (ISU) describes the behavior of former U.S. Olympic short track speedskating coach Jae Su Chun during a contentious international meet in Poland in 2011.<p>American Olympic medalist <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/10/05/162310493/u-s-speedskater-admits-to-sabotaging-rivals-skates">Simon Cho confessed last Fall</a> to sabotaging the skate of a Canadian rival at that meet. Mon, 26 Aug 2013 18:38:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 41327 at http://wkar.org Sabotage Prompts Two-Year Bans For Olympic Skater And Coach Wildfire Forces Kick Into Highest Gear http://wkar.org/post/wildfire-forces-kick-highest-gear The <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/15/212291317/2013-wildfire-season-proving-to-be-more-mild-than-wild">2013 wildfire season</a> hit a milestone Tuesday: Preparedness Level 5, an officious way of saying resources are stretched thin and it could quickly get worse.<p>Preparedness Level 5 is the highest on the national wildfire preparedness scale, which the National Interagency Fire Center uses to chart wildfire activity, the deployment and availability of firefighters and equipment and the likelihood that more big fires are coming.<p>"The decision to move to Preparedness Le Tue, 20 Aug 2013 22:05:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 41056 at http://wkar.org 2013 Wildfire Season Proving To Be More Mild Than Wild http://wkar.org/post/2013-wildfire-season-proving-be-more-mild-wild With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... Thu, 15 Aug 2013 17:28:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 40841 at http://wkar.org 2013 Wildfire Season Proving To Be More Mild Than Wild Brawl Puts 'Bad' Back Into Badminton http://wkar.org/post/brawl-puts-bad-back-badminton A year after an embarrassing <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/08/01/157740009/badminton-players-kicked-out-for-losing-on-purpose">match-fixing scandal at the London Olympics</a>, badminton is back in the news for being unexpectedly badass.<p>As the <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Former+Thai+Olympic+partners+trade+blows+Richmond+badminton/8689495/story.html"><em>Vancouver Sun</em> reports</a>, former Olympic doubles partners Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit of Thailand got into a racket-swinging, fist-pounding, shirt-ripping brawl Sunday during the final men's doubles match a Mon, 22 Jul 2013 22:51:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 39559 at http://wkar.org Brawl Puts 'Bad' Back Into Badminton Talk Of Boycotting Russian Olympics Stirs Emotions http://wkar.org/post/talk-boycotting-russian-olympics-stirs-emotions Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent a shudder through the Olympic world Wednesday when he told American Olympic network NBC that the United States should consider boycotting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics if Russia grants the asylum request of "NSA leaker" <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=190293264" target="_blank">Edward Snowden</a>.<p>"I love the Olympics but I hate what the Russian government is doing throughout the world," <a href="http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/17/19510080-graham-us-should-consider-olympic-boycott-over-possible-snowden-asyl Wed, 17 Jul 2013 22:55:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 39314 at http://wkar.org Talk Of Boycotting Russian Olympics Stirs Emotions Wildfire Season So Far: Tragic, Destructive And Below Average http://wkar.org/post/wildfire-season-so-far-tragic-destructive-and-below-average It may seem like wildfire Armageddon out there, given the tragic deaths of 24 wildland firefighters this year, more than 800 homes and businesses burned to the ground, nearly 1.6 million acres scorched and over 23,000 blazes requiring suppression.<p>But as dramatic as it's been, the 2013 wildfire season has yet to kick into high gear.<p>"We have seen, overall, less fire activity so far this year," says Randy Eardley, a spokesman at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.<p>In fact, the number of fires and the amount of acreage burned are each down about 40 percent from the 10-yea Tue, 02 Jul 2013 23:56:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 38543 at http://wkar.org Teen Who Served Time For Bomb Plot Wants Your Vote For Mayor http://wkar.org/post/teen-who-served-time-bomb-plot-wants-your-vote-mayor Joshua Kyler Hoggan of Roy, Utah, probably wasn't thinking this far ahead when he conspired to blow up his high school last year.<p>Hoggan, now 18 and a student at Weber State University, has declared his candidacy for mayor of Roy, challenging two-term incumbent Joe Ritchie and City Council member Willard Cragun, <a href="http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/06/20/bomb-plotter-runs-mayor-joshua-hoggan-candidacy-will-mean-primary-election-roy-se">according to the Ogden Standard-Examiner</a>.<p>Roy is a suburban community about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.<p>"I feel that my past with the R Fri, 21 Jun 2013 23:30:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 38010 at http://wkar.org Amid Turmoil, U.S. Speedskating Chief Resigns http://wkar.org/post/amid-turmoil-us-speedskating-chief-resigns Already on thin ice after months of turmoil and scandal, the executive director of U.S. Thu, 20 Jun 2013 18:28:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 37934 at http://wkar.org U.S. Olympic Skater's Sabotage Gets Day In 'Court' http://wkar.org/post/us-olympic-skaters-sabotage-gets-day-court Months of claims and counterclaims come to a head in a hotel conference room in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, when the International Skating Union considers the deliberate sabotage of a speed skate involving an American Olympic medalist and, allegedly, his former coach.<p>The ISU's disciplinary commission is scheduled to hear testimony behind closed doors from Simon Cho, a Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist in short track speedskating, former American short track coach Jae Su Chun, and at least two witnesses.<p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/10/05/162310493/u-s-speedskater-admits-to-sabotagin Wed, 12 Jun 2013 22:53:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 37485 at http://wkar.org U.S. Olympic Skater's Sabotage Gets Day In 'Court' Federal Defender Wants Out Of Terrorism Case Due To Budget Cuts http://wkar.org/post/federal-defender-wants-out-terrorism-case-due-budget-cuts A federal public defender in Idaho wants a judge to find another lawyer for an <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/05/16/184584180/federal-prosecutors-arrest-uzbekistan-national-on-terrorism-charges">Uzbek national charged with aiding a terrorist group</a> and training others in how to build and use a weapon of mass destruction.<p>The reason? Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:09:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 37465 at http://wkar.org Federal Defender Wants Out Of Terrorism Case Due To Budget Cuts Hands-Free Gadgets Don't Mean Risk-Free Driving http://wkar.org/post/hands-free-gadgets-car-dont-mean-driving-risk-free If you've felt smug and safe using built-in, voice-controlled technology for text messages, email and phone calls while driving, forget it. There are some sobering findings about the risk of distraction from the American Automobile Association and the University of Utah.<p>The proliferation of hands-free technology "is a looming public safety crisis," AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet says. Wed, 12 Jun 2013 13:48:00 +0000 Howard Berkes 37435 at http://wkar.org Hands-Free Gadgets Don't Mean Risk-Free Driving