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The most dangerous part of being a coal miner is breathing coal dust. Deaths from black lung —the disease caused by inhaling coal dust — have stayed stubbornly high and little has been done in the past few years to reduce miners’ exposure. As a result, the incidence of black lung has been increasing in recent years.

The Obama administration announced new rules to reduce place lung. Ken Ward Jr. has the details here. 

• While we’re in coal country, we can turn to the Los Angeles Times, which reported this morning that the West Virginia Senate race has become key to the Republican Party’s efforts to regain control of Congress. 

Gov. Joe Manchin is facing Republican John Raese, who the Times describes as a “self-confident West Virginia millionaire.” The race is tight.

“A Republican win in West Virginia would be one indication of a ‘wave’ election,” said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst for the Cook Political Report, which handicaps races. “I’d also put in Wisconsin, Washington and California in the category.”

• The Federal Communications Commission proposed Thursday to set up a fund of up to $300 million to deploy 3G (and eventually 4G) in rural areas. The money would come from the Universal Service Fund.

Poor students do better if they attend school with middle class classmates. Schools segregated by income, according to a new study, fail because those institutions filled with poor students aren’t as good as those schools filled with economically mixed pupils. 

“Today, 95 percent of education reform is about trying to make high-poverty schools work,” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank based in New York that published the report. “This research suggests there is a much more effective way to help close the achievement gap. And that is to give low-income students a chance to attend middle-class schools.”

• The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that it approved E15 ethanol — gasoline with 15% ethanol rather than the 10% allowed now. The EPA’s approved E15 only for cars built after 2007.

The 2007 caveat provoked mixed reactions among ethanol promoters, some saying the new regulation would now do little to expand ethanol’s use. “This administration’s continued failure to stand up for domestic, renewable fuels and American farmers,” said Sen.  Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican.

Democrats from farms states said the would continue to press EPA to approve E15 for all vehicles. 

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