Analysis Finds Serious Flaws in Bridges Used by More Than 29 Million Drivers a Day

Records show 7,795 U.S. bridges that are in bad shape and vulnerable. An Associated Press analysis of spans in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory found that the 7,795 bridges, which carry more than 29 million drivers a day, are classified both as “structurally deficient” and  “fracture critical.” A bridge is fracture critical when it is at risk of collapse if a single vital component fails. A bridge is structurally deficient when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component has advanced deterioration or other problems that lead inspectors to deem its condition poor or worse. Officials say bridges that are structurally deficient or fracture critical are not about to collapse. But some of the more prominent bridge collapses in recent history involved spans classified as fracture critical. The Associated Press (overview story), The Associated Press (sidebar)

Study finds that young people are exercising slightly more and reducing their TV viewing. Using surveys conducted in middle and high schools, researchers also found increases over the last decade in how often youths are eating fruits and vegetables and having breafast. The trends have corresponded to a leveling off in obesity rates. “I would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an effect,” said one of the co-authors. The findings were based on a nationally representative sample of 35,000 kids ages 11 to 16, with information collected in 2001, 2005 and 2009. Reuters, USA Today

Vietnamese Americans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War aren’t collecting disability benefits. That is in contrast to other American veterans, who have received billions of dollars in disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For the most part, Vietnamese Americans, especially former South Vietnamese veterans, have not demanded redress for harm caused by herbicides, even though there’s evidence they are suffering from higher rates of some cancers tied to Agent Orange exposure. By blaming American military action for their community’s illnesses, many feel, they would be siding with a Vietnamese Communist government they disdain over their new country, the U.S. Bay Area News Group

Coal industry attacks Obama nomination of a renewable electricity advocate to head power line agency. The Senate Energy Committee is expected to hold a hearing Tuesday on the nomination of Ronald J. Binz to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Binz headed the Colorado Public Utility Commission from 2007 to 2011, and was known for promoting renewable energy and for helping draft a law that encouraged closing some old coal plants and cleaning newer ones. The nomination fight has been unusually public for a job at an obscure agency. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said James Hoecker, a former commission chairman. The coal industry says Binz’s nomination is part of a strategy to further cut coal use. The New York Times

Truckers push California officials to crack down on competitors that flout pending diesel exhaust rules. Many are calling for the state’s Air Resources Board to enforce the rules for trucks more aggressively before a Jan. 1 deadline. Truckers are also the No.1 tipsters, placing anonymous calls and sending emails to finger competitors they say aren’t taking steps to capture harmful diesel particulates before they are released into the air. Diesel exhaust contains smog-forming nitrogen oxides and fine particles, or soot, that lodge deep in the lungs and are linked to lung and heart disease, asthma and cancer. By Jan. 1, about 50,000 more heavy diesel trucks are supposed to install diesel particulate filters or upgrade to cleaner engines. Los Angeles Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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