Ira Leifer, next to an RV he has outfitted with methane sensors and other equipment to sniff the air.
Credit Courtesy of Ira Leifer and Paige Farrell, et. al. / Published in Atmospheric Environment
This map shows methane measurements Ira Leifer took as he drove in his RV around the Los Angeles basin. Notice the pronounced spike in levels of methane around the La Brea Tar Pits in the center of the image. Geological faults here allow "natural" methane to escape. The redder the color, the more methane was detected.
Credit Richard Harris / NPR
Ira Leifer, at his garage-turned-lab in Santa Barbara, has been studying the levels of methane in the atmosphere.
Credit Richard Harris / NPR
Leifer stands atop his roving chemistry lab. He and his team took 6,600 methane readings on the cross-country drive from Florida to California.
If you're driving down the road someday and you come across a camper with a 50-foot periscope sticking up into the sky, you just might have crossed paths with Ira Leifer. His quirky vehicle is on a serious mission. It's sniffing the air for methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.
Leifer is an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But you'll more often find him off campus, in a garage, next to a string of auto body shops near the airport.
Six years ago, the FBI took on a challenge: To review what it called cold-case killings from the civil rights era. The investigation into 112 cases from the 1950s and 1960s is winding down, and civil rights activists are weighing the FBI's efforts.
The review comes with word this week of the death of a man who'd been named, by a newspaper investigation, as a possible suspect in one notorious case.
It's been a long slog already for the bipartisan immigration overhaul proposed by the Senate's Gang of Eight.
The legislation has been the target of more than 300 amendments during days of debate and votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But while the bill has largely held its own so far, its prospects for getting through Congress remain uncertain.
In Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's view, the immigration overhaul is "moving very well."
"It's moving a lot faster than people said it would," says Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.
An Afghan worker helps excavate part of the mountaintop copper works above the ancient city at Mes Aynak in February. Afghanistan is believed to be sitting on massive mineral and metal deposits. But many obstacles have prevented large-scale mining from getting underway.
Credit Musadeq Sadeq / AP
A journalist walks by an exhibit of minerals on the way to a news conference by the Afghan minister of mines, in Kabul in 2010.
For years, reports have suggested that Afghanistan is sitting on massive deposits of copper, gold, iron and rare earth minerals valued up to $3 trillion. This provides hope for a future economy that would not have to rely so heavily on foreign donations.
But with an uncertain political, regulatory and security environment, international investors are hesitant. And it could be many years before Afghanistan begins extracting its mineral wealth.
You can legally drink and drive in the United States, but there's a limit. In every state, drivers can't get behind the wheel if their blood alcohol content is .08 or higher, but the National Transportation Safety Board wants the states to lower the legal limit to .05 or even lower. Now, that would bring the United States into agreement with much of the rest of the world.
This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. There are three simultaneous controversies rattling the Obama administration this week: the IRS, the phone records of the AP reporters, and Benghazi. NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro joins us. Ari, thanks for being with us.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Pair of unrelated stories this week, both involving the news media, served to remind a lot of Americans of how little information that we may assume to be private, really is private. One story involves the U.S. Justice Department's efforts to find out who reporters are talking to; the other, reporters secretly monitoring their sources' activities.
We're joined now by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, from New York. David, thanks for being with us.
In the seven years since her last album, Audra McDonald has kept busy. She spent several years in Hollywood, filming the television series Private Practice. She's gotten divorced and remarried, absorbed the shock of losing her father in a plane crash and watched her daughter, Zoe, grow up from a kindergartener to a middle-schooler.
France is officially the 14th country to legalize gay marriage. Saturday, President Francois Hollande signed a bill that Parliament had passed in April, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt.
BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR news quiz. I'm legendary anchorman Bill Kurtis, filling in for Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Tom Bodett, Kyrie O'Connor and Bobcat Goldthwait. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
Two Metro-North Railroad trains have collided on a stretch of track near Fairfield, Conn., causing a "major derailment" and "preliminary reports of injuries," according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
[Update at 8:55 p.m. ET: The Associated Press quotes Connecticut officials as saying about 50 people have been hurt, four of them seriously.]
The British Foreign Office is happy to assist its citizens, but officials want to make clear that there are some requests they won't fulfill.
Such as supplying Olympic tickets or doing a background check on that Swedish woman you met online.
Those are just a few of the "often good natured" but distracting requests that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) says it received over the past year, according to a press release issued Thursday.
It's Cinderella plus Jackie Robinson times two. When Venus and Serena Williams burst onto the lily-white world of tennis, they changed the game and made history: They were sisters. From a poor neighborhood. Who brought unprecedented power to the game. And both reached No. 1.
Their journey is the subject of a new documentary called Venus and Serena, showing in select theaters around the country.
When the American Psychiatric Association releases its new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-- DSM-5 -- this weekend, lots of journalists and commentators will refer to it as "psychiatry's bible."
That's a term that makes the manual's authors and other mental experts cringe.
America's Cup, the oldest and most prestigious sailing competition, has hit some choppy water.
The death last week of British sailor and gold medal Olympian Andrew "Bart" Simpson when the boat he was crewing capsized and broke up during a practice run off San Francisco, has prompted tough questions about safety.
Gerry Leone was the district attorney for Middlesex County in Massachusetts when three people were murdered in a house in the Boston suburb of Waltham. He told reporters that police suspected the assailants and the victims knew each other.
An unsolved triple murder in the Boston suburbs is getting a closer look in the wake of the marathon bombings. One of the victims may have been a friend of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. That's prompting authorities to revisit the 2011 case.
The murders took place in Waltham, Mass. On Sept. 12, 2011, police responded to a house in the leafy suburb a few miles west of Boston.
President Obama's commencement speeches seem to be his real State of the Union addresses. On May 5, he told Ohio State students that they were graduating into a "healing" economy.
Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
But last year, he reminded Air Force Academy graduates that they were the first class in nearly a decade to graduate with "no Americans fighting in Iraq."
Credit Charles Dharapak / AP
Throughout all his graduation speeches, Obama sounds themes of shared responsibility, as when he told University of Michigan students in 2010 that "government is us."
Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP
President Obama's commencement speeches often seem more about the big-picture state of the union than do his State of the Union addresses. On May 5, he told Ohio State students that they were graduating into a "healing" economy.
President Obama checks to see if it's still raining as a Marine holds an umbrella for him during a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House on Thursday.
President Obama's first term was free from the kind of scandal that consumes every ounce of political oxygen in Washington. Now, in light of a trio of controversies, his supporters find themselves in the uncomfortable and unaccustomed position of having to defend some hard-to-defend events.
Democrats have offered up a range of responses. They view the issues — Benghazi, the IRS and the Justice Department snooping on The Associated Press — as separate issues that shouldn't be lumped together.
The PBF Energy refinery in Paulsboro, N.J., uses toxic chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid. Rather than using "inherently safer" design methods, the industry says, other safety measures are taken to prevent accidents like the one in West, Texas.
Credit Raveendran / AFP/Getty Images
In this photograph from 2009, children play in front of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. Twenty-five years prior, in 1984, it was the site of a deadly gas leak that killed thousands of people.
Credit Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
The West Fertilizer Co., shown from the air, lies in ruins after an explosion that killed 15 people, injured more than 150 and damaged houses and buildings for blocks in every direction.
You might think that everything would have changed for the chemicals industry on April 16, 1947. That was the day of the Texas City Disaster, the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. A ship loaded with ammonium nitrate — the same chemical that appears to have caused the disaster last month in West, Texas — exploded. The ship sparked a chain reaction of blasts at chemical facilities onshore, creating what a newsreel at the time called "a holocaust that baffles description."
Heritage Action, the political activist offshoot of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has some advice for House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor: focus on the scandals plaguing the Obama administration and stay away from legislation that could "highlight major schisms" within the House Republican Conference.
When the diagnosis is cancer, the expenses can pile up in a hurry.
Even people with insurance can face steep copayments for drugs, a sizable share of hospital bills and significant incidentals. These side effects of cancer care are sometimes even called "financial toxicity."
So wouldn't it make sense for doctors and patients to talk over the financial strain that cancer treatment might bring and what might be done to manage it?
Back in 2009, Katie Shelly was craving an eggplant Parmesan. Small problem: She'd never made it before. But she remembered that a college roommate used to make it, so she called her up and asked for the recipe.
The friend told her she needed to start with three bowls — one for breadcrumbs, one for egg and one for flour, salt and pepper. "In that moment, it was totally natural for me to just draw the three bowls instead of writing all that out in words," says Shelly, whose day job is as a visual designer.