The Brattleboro Reformer has many colleagues around the country producing news for our "sister" papers. The Daily DFM is a "top picks" of today's national news. Consider it a collection of "things you should know, today."

1. Terrifying footage of the high-speed train derailment in Spain (VIDEO)

By Julie Westfall - Digital First Media

Security footage shows the moment when a high-speed train derailed in northwestern Spain, killing more than 70 and injuring more than 130 people. The train carried 218 passengers and four crew members.

This is video of the terrifying train crash that's being called Spain's worst rail accident in decades.

Image of the train derailing in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

This image taken from security camera video shows a train derailing in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on Thursday July 25, 2013. Spanish investigators tried to determine Thursday why a passenger train jumped the tracks and sent eight cars crashing into each other just before arriving in this northwestern shrine city on the eve of a major Christian religious festival, killing at least 77 people and injuring more than 140. ((AP Photo))

2. Marketing Obamacare shaping up as a big challenge

By Carla K. Johnson, AP Medical Writer

Martin Upshaw is one of several real people that will be used in a campaign designed by the Chicago-based Jayne Agency, one of the firms crafting messages to reach the uninsured. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

CHICAGO - It will make you stronger. It will give you peace of mind and make you feel like a winner. Health insurance is what the whole country has been talking about, so don't be left out.

Sound like a sales pitch? Get ready for a lot more. As President Barack Obama's health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage.

The campaign won't come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources.

This print advertisement provided by Connect for Health Colorado shows part of the campaign to promote Colorado's new health insurance marketplace. Colorado is one of many states launching campaigns this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new health insurance benefits begins Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Connect for Health Colorado)

About 16 percent of Americans are uninsured, but despite years of political debate and media attention, more than three-quarters of them still know little about the law known as "Obamacare," according to The Obama administration and many states are launching campaigns this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new benefits begins in October.

The targets are mostly the working poor, young people who are disengaged, or those who gave up their insurance because of the cost. Three-quarters are white. Eighty-six percent have a high school education or less. Together they make up a blind spot in the nation's health care system.

"They've been shut out. It's too expensive and it's incredibly confusing," said David Smith of the advertising agency GMMB, pitching the health law's benefits in Washington and Vermont.

show more

3. Wrigley Field upgrades one step away from realization

By Don Babwin, Associated Press

FILE -This file photo shows an artist rendering provided May 1, 2013 by the Chicago Cubs showing planned renovations at Wrigley Field. On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Chicago City Council aldermen are set to vote on proposed renovations at the historic ballpark. Under the deal, the Chicago Cubs agreed not to erect outfield signs in addition to a Jumbotron in left field and another sign in right. (Chicago Cubs)

CHICAGO-The Chicago Cubs, who have clung to the past the way ivy clings to Wrigley Field's outfield walls, won final approval Wednesday for a $500 million renovation project at the 99-year-old ballpark-including a massive Jumbotron like the ones towering over every other major league stadium.

A voice vote in the City Council gave the team permission to move forward with plans that will dramatically change the ballpark experience on Chicago's north side. The most notable alteration is the 5,700-square-foot video scoreboard in left field-roughly three times the size of the iconic manual one in center, which will remain in operation as well.

The team also will be able to erect a large advertising sign in right.

In this May 17, 2013 photo, Crane Kenney, the Chicago Cubs' president of business operations, looks out over Wrigley Field during batting practice before a Cubs baseball game in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press)

field, double the size of the cramped clubhouse, improve player training facilities in the bowels of the ballpark and build a 175-room hotel across the street.

Some fans say the upgrades are almost as overdue as a Cubs World Series championship (which last happened in 1908-eight years before the team moved into Wrigley).

"Why would you not want any of the improvements that have come over the last 60-70 years?" asked Dutchie Caray, the widow of the famed announcer Harry Caray, whose leading the fans in 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' helped turn Wrigley into the huge attraction it is today. "Would you ask someone not to have television because they didn't have television in the old days (or) want to travel by horse and buggy to the West Coast?"

Besides, she said of the Jumbotron, "I kind of like the idea of being able to see where a guy (umpire) blew a call."

Collectively, the changes-some of which could be completed as early as next season-represent the most dramatic additions since at least 1988, when the Cubs became the last team in the majors to install lights. That change sparked a battle even more fierce than the one over the Jumbotron.

In the decades since Wrigley became the Cubs' home, the park has not always aged gracefully; the team once even installed nets to catch concrete falling from the upper deck.

show more

4. Senate approves deal to reverse student loan rate hike

By Elvina Nawaguna, Reuters

Students walk through campus between classes at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica

Students walk through campus between classes at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California April 4, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan deal to reverse a recent spike in interest rates on millions of new federal student loans.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, which is hoping to approve the deal before lawmakers leave Washington for a recess in early August.

The Senate voted 81-18 in favor of the deal.

The bill has the support of President Barack Obama, who was involved in negotiating a compromise, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan who said on Tuesday that the deal would be a win for students.

However, in a speech at the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday, Obama said that it was not enough to just lower the cost of student loans, and he promised to lay out a list of "aggressive" ideas by the fall to rein in college costs. "If college costs keep on going up, then there's never going to be enough money," Obama said.

Interest rates on new federal Stafford student loans automatically doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 after lawmakers, trapped in partisan wrangling, failed to reach an alternative deal on time.

Congress has since sought a retroactive fix that would keep new borrowers from paying the higher rate.

After extensive negotiations last week, senators including Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina and Independent Angus King of Maine agreed to a plan to switch loans for the coming school year to a market-based rate.

The rate would roughly work out to 3.86 percent this year for undergraduates.

show more

5. Officials say I-91 bridge work won't cause traffic havoc

By MIKE FAHER / Reformer Staff

Interstate 91 bridge over the West River and Route 30 in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- Officials say Route 30 likely will not be shut for more than a day at a time during the Interstate 91 bridge project in Brattleboro, though they cannot completely rule out longer closures.

Traffic disruption was one of the primary topics at a Tuesday public meeting where representatives of the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the new I-91 bridge design/construction team answered questions about the $60 million project.

In spite of the fact that crews will be demolishing and building a massive highway bridge overhead, project administrators are pledging that neither Route 30 nor Upper Dummerston Road -- where a smaller I-91 bridge is being replaced as part of the same contract -- will be affected much by the work.

"We are striving to limit the restrictions as much as possible. We continue to use the words, 'short duration,'" said Caleb Linn of PCL Civil Constructors Inc., which is building the new bridges. "And we do not envision multiple-day closures at this point."

The effort to replace the aging I-91 bridge over the West River and Route 30 -- two spans that have been deemed structurally deficient and outdated -- is scheduled to begin later this year and will extend into 2016.

VTrans, after consultation with a local aesthetic committee, selected PCL and bridge designer FIGG Bridge Engineers to handle the project. All told, four interstate spans -- two over Route 30 and two over Upper Dummerston Road -- will be replaced with two new structures.

One-way traffic is expected to begin on I-91 later this year and will continue throughout the project.

Locally, however, there is more concern about impacts on Route 30 and Upper Dummerston Road underneath the interstate bridges. For those areas, project administrators have said they expect "alternating one-way flow under flagger control or brief full closures during activities that require construction overhead."

Linn on Tuesday elaborated on what the companies mean by "brief" closures. In most or even all cases, he said, that may mean hours -- not days.

Also, crews will attempt to limit traffic restrictions on Route 30 to night or off-peak hours.

"We're allowed, by contract, up to seven-day closures. And the goal of the design/build team, with (VTrans), has been to limit that as much as possible," Linn said.

He said local feedback ensured that the project's design and construction team knew that free-flowing traffic on Route 30 was a priority.

"We've tried to come in and listen to the community and understand what the hot buttons are. And we've heard from day one that the public is very concerned about closure durations," Linn said.

"So that's been something that we keyed in on early, and we're trying to design our construction means and methods to accommodate that. We'll do everything in our power to make that happen."

show more