April 28, 2006
war in Iraq' campaign message resonating in rural Virginia
"From a cocktail party of liberal contributors
in Baltimore to the ball-cap-wearing crowd in a conservative
town in southwest Virginia, wherever Democratic loyalists
gather, there are five words sure to prompt applause
for a Senate candidate: End the war in Iraq," reports
The Washington Post's Robert Barnes,
in a look at how the issue is affecting U.S. Senate
races in Maryland and Virginia.
"You heard it in Gate City," Democratic candidate
James Webb, whose roots are nearby, reminded Barnes,
who accompanied him on a cross-state campaign tour that
started there Tuesday. Webb, Navy secretary in the Regan
administration and a decorated Vietnam veteran, "explained
-- very carefully -- his opposition to the war to a
group of supporters and family members, pointing to
a 2002 op-ed article he wrote for the Post advising
against the invasion," Barnes reports.
"My objection to the war is not aimed at my country
but at the administration that has chosen to wage this
war, an administration that has muddied the truth, made
mistake after mistake and refused to accept responsibility,"
said Webb, wears combat boots to show support for troops
-- including his son, who followed him into the Marines
and "is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq this summer,"
Webb won applause in Gate City, Norfolk, Richmond and
Arlington by saying, "We have a lot of cleaning
up to do: Number One is to end the war in Iraq."
However, "The sound bites of some candidates get
less crisp when they are discussing how to end the war
and when," Barnes writes. "Webb said he is
reluctant to endorse a specific exit strategy 'from
the third row of the spectator seats.' He said the first
step should be stating that the United States has no
long-term interest in staying in Iraq and working to
get the countries in the region to take a more active
role. He believes U.S. troops could be out in a couple
of years, but he remains cautious. 'We got in precipitously,'
he said. 'We have to get out carefully.'"
struggle to use health technology sans broadband
"When it comes to using health information technology,
rural communities face many difficulties, including
common ones such as figuring out how to pay for the
systems and how to set up patient information exchanges.
But some rural areas have another tough problem. They
can’t get affordable high-speed communications
services," writes Nancy Ferris of Government
Health IT, a guide to public policy and its
applications in health information technology.
When using only dial-up connections, doctors, hospital
workers and clinicians spend minutes to send files containing
reports or photographs that broadband can transmit in
seconds. While medical records are not always large
files, most still take up considerable time. Many rural
health care providers cannot even consider sending radiological
images and other graphic files over the Internet, writes
A 2005 Institute of Medicine report
noted the lack of broadband: “This aspect of the
digital divide is one of the greatest challenges for
rural telehealth, as well as other rural commerce."
Rural health care providers can get connection help
from the federal government’s Universal Service
Fund, which gave out $44 million last year. One area
where rural health is thriving is in telemedicine, with
states such as Alaska, Maine and Nebraska using new
technology to provide health services to people who
might otherwise go without, writes Ferris. (Read
bill to give tax credits to broadband providers in rural
Wisconsin legislators have passed a bill that will
give tax credits to companies providing broadband Internet
service in rural areas.
The bill creates a pool of tax credits for Internet
equipment used to provide broadband "in areas of
the state that are not served" or only have one
provider. About $7.5 million in tax credits are available,
but providers must make about $150 million in equipment
investments to fully collect the franchise and corporate
income-tax credits, writes Tom Still, president of the
Wisconsin Technology Council.
Dial-up Internet access is used in many rural areas,
"and it's the equivalent of a two-lane road rather
than an 'information superhighway,'" notes Still.
In an age when businesses rely on the Internet, companies
without broadband often operate at a disadvantage. An
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
study shows that broadband penetration in the U.S. was
less than 17 percent of businesses and households in
2005, and Wisconsin's penetration is about 15 percent.
museum in Va. exploring benefits of wireless technology
"One of the oldest and smallest state parks in
the country, Berkeley Springs State Park is
now the first to be a wireless hot spot throughout the
entire park," reports The Morgan Messenger,
a weekly newspaper in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
The Museum of the Berkeley Springs,
in collaboration with the Washington Heritage
Trail, got a grant that will help make the
museum a free wireless hot spot. The wi-fi connection
will be a benefit added to its virtual museum plan,
which includes computer access inside the museum and
a museum Web site
Jeanne Mozier, who will manage the wi-fi setup, told
the newspaper, "You can send email from George
Washington's Bathtub, and surf the Web from the gazebo."
religion in public schools may invite some unexpected
As states debate and pass laws on Bible-based instruction
and the proper place for "intelligent design"
in the classroom, a school board's action in Shallotte,
N.C., shows that opening doors to religion in our pluralistic
society can let in visitors who may not have been expected.
"Brunswick County school board members have received
letters from religious groups interested in handing
out literature to high school students as well as protests
from parents and other county residents since the board
adopted a first reading of a materials distribution
policy," reports Sarah Shew Wilson of the Brunswick
The school board recently decided that "All religious
faiths shall be allowed to provide books and literature,
with the exception of works which defame other religious
faiths or a person's race or ethnic origin," to
be distributed to local students. School employees are
prohibited from commenting on the literature, or to
encourage students to take it, Wilson reports. The board
chairman so far has received letters from the local
Unitarian Universalist church and a Buddhist who both
want to distribute literature about their faiths. The
principal has been contacted by Jehovah's
Witnesses concerning literature.
Rev. David Stratton of Brunswick Islands Baptist
Church opposed the measure. "I believe
the Bible is God's written word, and I would certainly
support any and all efforts to put the Scriptures in
the hands of people who need them, especially young
people. I am very uncomfortable with a policy that would
allow, beyond parental control, the distribution of
materials of non-Christian groups and cults."
Sue Graffius, religious education director for the
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship,
has two children in Brunswick County Schools and wants
to share her faith with other students. "It's mostly
just pamphlets about our church," Graffius said
this week. "About the philosophy and what we believe."
As to whether the policy is appropriate, she added,
"I don't think that high schools are the place
for this, but I welcome an opportunity to introduce
my faith to others." (Read
Observer illuminates shadowy lives of illegal immigrants
An ongoing Charlotte Observer series
that started in February is revealing startling insights
about illegal immigrants' presence in the U.S. and is
shining new light on legal problems. This newspaper's
investigative approach can serve as an example for all
journalists, even those at small newspapers in rural
areas where minority immigrant populations have been
The most recent installment of the Observer's "Hiding
in plain sight: Illegal immigration in the Carolinas"
exposes a problem that may exist in many areas. "Federal
immigration agents say they arrest a document counterfeiter
every few weeks in the Charlotte area. Assistant Secretary
for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers
called the buying and selling of counterfeit documents
'an epidemic' that has turned into a multimillion-dollar
criminal industry," writes Franco Ordonez. (Read
By pursuing the rise in illegal immigration and not
turning a blind eye to the story, Editor Rick Thames
wrote in a column, the newspaper was sure it "had
uncovered the classic news exclusive -- clear, decisive
and complete. There were a few loose threads, however.
So we pulled. And pulled. And pulled." (Read
In part one, Liz Chandler and Danica Coto wrote about
the tragic stories that exist in many communities populated
with illegals: "Their rising numbers bring rising
tension: An immigrant driving drunk kills a schoolteacher;
Hispanic gangs clash in shootouts; and public schools
and health departments struggle to accommodate the newest
Coto spent part of her time in a van packed with illegal
immigrants hoping to cross the border. As she describes
in part one, those attempts can sometimes be deadly:
"Nearly 1,000 of them have died in the Arizona
desert since 2000 from dehydration, injuries and illness
and clashes with authorities, smugglers and thieves.
The death toll is dwarfed, though, by the hundreds of
thousands who make it." (Read
In part two, Chandler and Coto explored the debate
about how to handle immigrants. (Read
more) Part three took a look at illegal immigrants
who return to their homelands for visits (Read
more). Part four began the examination of the market
in illegal Social Security numbers: "In fact, several
million immigrants here illegally have likely hijacked
Americans' numbers. But don't count on the Social Security
Administration to alert you if you become a victim,"
wrote Tim Funk, Liz Chandler and Stella M. Hopkins.
offers index to ethanol as starting point for journalists
Readers of The Rural Blog have seen many items about
ethanol, which is boosting the economies of many rural
areas. Journalists who want to do stories on the subject
can take some guidance from Al Tompkins of The
In today's Morning Meeting, Tompkins
offers an "index to ethanol" with legislative
news, explanations of terms, stock and investment information
and details about building "your own ethanol still."
With President Bush urging the nation to become less
energy-dependent, all of this information proves timely.
A certain percentage of all fuel sold must be ethanol-based
in Washington, Minnesota, Montana and Hawaii, and several
other states are considering similar requirements. Is
your state one of them? Journalists should take up the
here to read Tompkins' column at Poynter
Mine survivor tells victims' families four air masks
When the Sago Mine disaster claimed 12 lives in West
Virginia, at least four air masks failed to work, according
to a letter written by the sole survivor.
"The first thing we did was activate our rescuers,
as we had been trained," wrote miner Randal McCloy
Jr. in a letter addressing the victims' families. "At
least four of the rescuers did not function. There were
not enough rescuers to go around." The two-page
typed letter provides the first insider account to what
happened on Jan. 2 at Sago and the mine's owner, International
Coal Group Inc., is refusing to comment, writes
Ian Urbina of The New York Times. (Read
The Times story provides an excerpt from McCloy's letter
and video clips, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
provides the full letter. (Read
more). Also, to read "Gripping letter tells
of Sago miners' final acts" by Dan Majors of the
here. To read "McCloy: Sago miners hit gas
pocket 3 weeks before blast" by Ken Ward Jr. of
the Charleston Gazette, click
of Kentucky lecturer chronicled death of a 'Lost Mountain'
Erik Reece is both a University of Kentucky
English lecturer and the leading spokesman from academia
in favor of the abolition of mountaintop removal mining.
The latest story about him is by Sean Rose of The
Kentucky Kernel, the university's independent
student daily. Rose starts off:
"Erik Reece never wanted to write about coal.
Which is a little odd, considering the year the UK English
instructor spent visiting Perry County, Ky., weaving
through briars and underbrush, ducking between boulders
and hiding from miners to chronicle a mountain crumbling
because of the coal below its surface."
"An assignment from Harper's Magazine
took Reece to Lost Mountain in 2003," continues
Rose. "What he saw evolved into a book depicting
the destruction radical strip mining wreaks on the environment
and the people of the region, as well as the corrupt
practices that seem to find footholds in many coal businesses.
The book, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing
Wilderness, was scaled down for the Harper's article
that ran last April, and was released in January 2006."
"I think one thing a writer has to do is take
responsibility for injustices that they perceive,"
Reece told Rose. "I did start to feel a responsibility.
Obviously, the land can't speak for itself, so you have
to speak for the land. And I'm not trying to speak for
the people of Appalachia, but I am trying to let them
tell their stories through me." (Read
April 27, 2006
dying due to 70 mph speed limit on rural interstates
A 70-mile-per-hour speed limit on rural freeways is
causing more people to die on the roads in Iowa, state
safety officials say. The Hawkeye State "had 47
traffic deaths on rural interstate highways last year,
the most since 1973. More than half of those fatalities
occurred after the speed limit was raised" on July
1, 2005, reports William Petroski of The Des
The figures are even more striking when the first half-year
with higher speeds is compared with the same period
the year before: "In the first six months with
faster speeds, 25 people died in rural interstate crashes,
compared with 12 people who died on Iowa's interstates
from July through December 2004." However, 2004
had the lowest number of traffic fatalities in any year
since World War II.
Still, there is no doubt that the higher speed is causing
more deaths, Scott Falb, a safety planner for the Iowa
Department of Transportation, told Petroski:
"Every time we have increased the speed limit,
we get an increase in traffic crashes and fatalities.
So certainly there is a correlation."
The department has found that traffic fatalities"have
increased in all of Iowa's neighboring states after
speed limits were raised above 65 mph," Patroski
writes. "This includes more traffic fatalities
in Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota. At
the same time, traffic deaths declined over the same
period in neighboring states that didn't raise speed
limits, including Illinois and Wisconsin." (Read
more) Kentucky legislators debated raising the interstate
speed limit to 70 this year, but the bill did not pass.
focuses on youth in 15-year strategic plan for rural
"In cities, people and their homes and businesses
bump up against each other. In small towns and in rural
areas, ideals and ambitions bump up against each other.
Cities typically have a plan. Outside them, it too often
can be a chaotic free-for-all, increasingly tense,"
opines Dale Moss, Southern Indiana columnist for The
Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman is initiating a 15-year
plan called the "Rural Indiana Strategy for Excellence:
A 2020 Vision for the Indiana Countryside." Moss
reports, "She asked leaders in rural areas both
to ponder the future and to help improve it. About 150
people convened. They have talked and now they listen
to the public, in an ongoing series of stops. Helpful
laws, really helpful money? Neither ultimately is assured.
At the least, ideas are being exchanged and contacts
are being made."
The plan singles out young people as the key to progress.
"Engage young people. Give them reasons to stay
locally or to return to their small hometowns. Don't
just talk about them. Talk to them. Encourage people
with wealth -- and they exist in rural areas as they
do in cities -- to invest more in their communities.
Recognize diversity, too -- urge both help for all and
involvement by all," writes Moss. (Read
The Rural Blog reported April 21 that residents' top
concerns are broadband Internet and economic development.
here for the archive that includes the story. To
read a draft of the plan, click
political forums well can require investment of time,
With primary elections in at least 10 states next month,
it's the season for political forums. All too often,
news coverage of these events fails to fulfill the intent
of the forum and the reason for covering them -- to
help citizens make an informed decision about who will
lead them. Sometimes, it's because there are too many
candidates and too little time at the forum. Or perhaps
there's not enough time on the news broadcast, or enough
space in the newspaper.
The State Journal of Frankfort, Ky.,
made plenty of space this week for coverage of a forum
among candidates for countywide offices in Franklin
County, which has 50,000 people, many of them rural.
One story by Paul Glasser, with a picture and index,
directed readers inside -- where they found individual
stories and photos about the debates in each race, and
a listing of the candidates who attended and those who
did not. The inside coverage took up more than a page.
The newspaper's co-sponsorship of the forum could have
had something to with its extensive coverage, but its
role could be one to emulate. So could its 20-page tabloid
guide to the candidates, published yesterday and titled
"Civics 101." In addition to candidates' answers
to questions and a sample ballot, the section included
seven pages with short profiles of current officeholders,
elected and appointed. It appeared to be financed with
lots of political ads, but they took up less than half
the space in the section.
how you'd report a public meeting held partly in Spanish
The latest question to the hotline of the International
Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors comes from
Elliott Freireich, publisher of the West Valley
View in Litchfield Park, Ariz.:
"Our reporter was covering the Tolleson City Council
meeting last night. Two zoning cases came up where the
business owners appeared to not speak English. The entire
council and city manager are fluent in Spanish so those
hearings took place in Spanish. (Our reporter doesn't
speak Spanish.) We can and will get the mayor and city
manager to give us the info about these hearings, but
the question is, do we report that those took place
Freireich gives essential background: "Tolleson
is predominantly Hispanic. Many residents are Spanish
speakers. But there is a large minority of the city
who don't speak Spanish and in our coverage area are
a large number of people I consider rednecks who think
'those people' don't belong here. Reporting this would
probably lead to more of an outcry from them. . . .
The city is being responsive to these business owners,
but there were other members of the public at the meeting
who quite possibly did not understand. Should we mention
the fact that part of this meeting took place in Spanish?"
Here's the reply from ISWNE member Al Cross, director
of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues: "I think the paper should certainly
mention that the discussion took place in Spanish, because
the reporter does not speak the language and is thus
unable to give a truly authoritative account, even if
the conversation were taped and translated. It also
gives a significant slice of life in Tolleson, and should
not be suppressed because of a possible outcry from
rednecks. I cringe when I hear that any newspaper is
reluctant to print something just because someone might
What's your view? Click
here to reply to Cross. Click
here to reply to the ISWNE list, through Executive
Director Chad Stebbins of Missouri Southern
hopes for local owners to buy back papers from corporations
With newspapers “losing their luster in the financial
world, big changes [in ownership structure] are likely,”
some good, some bad, former daily editor John Carroll
said in a speech to the American Society of
Newspaper Editors meeting in Seattle yesterday,
according to a release from the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation, which is funding
Carroll's job as visiting lecturer at Harvard
Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times,
Baltimore Sun and Lexington
Herald-Leader, said one good change is a growing
interest by people in each of those cities buying back
their local newspapers from corporate owners. “I’ve
spoken with several of them,” he said. “These
are serious people – sophisticated people with
real money. Perhaps this is a trend.”
Such potential owners, Carroll said, “talk about
the importance of the paper to the community. They talk
about restoring its pride. … They see the newspaper
as a fallen angel, and they say they’d be willing
to accept a lower financial return, which would allow
the paper to breathe again. . . . Yes, it seems too
much to hope for.” He said such hope is needed
because newspapers remain relevant and necessary to
a vibrant democracy. “Newspapers dig up the news,”
he said. “Others repackage it.”
A word for small towns: Here's
another part of Carroll's speech we liked, ending with
lines that relate to every newspaper of any size: “If,
at some point in America’s newspaper-free future,
the police decide that the guilt or innocence of murder
suspects can be determined perfectly well by beating
them until somebody confesses, who will sound the alarm,
as the Philadelphia Inquirer did in
1977? . . . Or, if some future president secretly decides
to nullify the law and spy on American citizens without
warrants, who – if the New York Times
falls by the wayside – will sound the warning?
More routinely, who will make the checks at City Hall?
Who, in cities and towns across America, will go down
to the courthouse every day, or to the police station?
Who will inspect the tens of thousands of politicians
who seek to govern? Who – amid America’s
great din of flackery and cant -- will tell us in plain
language what’s actually going on?”
Here are some of the tougher lines in the speech, which
sum up the challenge of market forces in newsrooms:
"How long has it been since an editor was so rash
as to cite public service in justifying a budget? You
might as well ask to be branded with a scarlet N, for
naive. Our corporate superiors regard our beliefs as
quaint, wasteful and increasingly tiresome. Even outside
the corporation we have lost stature. We might see ourselves
as public servants, but does the public see us that
For the full text of Carroll’s speech, go to
the site of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the
Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.
look at enforcing disclosure rules on video news releases
Joe Flint, TV columnist for The Wall Street
Journal, wrote yesterday (as The Rural Blog
did) about the Center for Media and Democracy's
study showing that many TV stations run video news releases
without attribution, allowing the public-relations devices
to masquerade as straight news. "If they feel so
uneasy about airing VNR footage, then they shouldn't
put them on the air," he writes. "And if they
are comfortable, then play it straight with the audience
and let viewers decide if they are being spun or not."
The Federal Communications Commission
requires stations to be told "if anyone was compensated
in the production or preparation of a VNR," then
to disclose that on the air, Flint reports. "An
FCC spokesman couldn't recall any stations being penalized
for not following the rules on VNRs. That may change.
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said last year he
wants the commission to 'enforce our rules vigorously.'
In an interview last week, he expressed concerns about
the use of VNRs." Adelstein told Flint, "I
don't how this doesn't damage that trust" that
broadcasters have with their audience.
The Radio-Television News Directors Association
opposes further regulation. It said last year that the
public "has a right to expect truthfulness, accuracy
and fairness in newscasts," but "determining
the content of a newscast including when and how to
identify sources … must remain far removed from
government involvement or supervision."
Flint spanks stations that violate the rule: "While
there is nothing inherently wrong with reporting a story
based on a press release, many television stations are
using the VNRs alone in lieu of original reporting.
What's more alarming, these stations are airing these
videos without revealing the origin of the footage to
viewers," Flint wrote. "Although television
stations and big broadcasters all say they have rules
in place that prohibit using VNRs without disclosure,
it appears that many outlets only pay lip service to
"I was astonished how promotional these are,"
Diane Farsetta, a co-author of the study, told Flint.
"The stations leave in all the promotional aspects
and didn't even fact-check the claims being made."
To read the Center's report, go to www.prwatch.org.
California governors seek funding for joint energy project
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger are teaming up to generate new electricity
for California in the form of a coal gasification plant
"We will jointly focus on the (coal gasification
pilot) facility that is authorized under the National
Energy Act, to see that located in Wyoming," Freudenthal
said. "As you recall that act authorizes but does
not fund. Hopefully, we will get to funding.”
The act mandates that a combined cycle electric generation
facility be built at an elevation of 4,000-plus feet,
writes Deborah Holder of the Douglas
Freudenthal explained that the two states will work
together to secure federal funding, then hire a private
company for the construction, writes Holder. “This
agreement is for us to jointly work to see that located
in Wyoming," he told the Wyoming weekly. (Read
April 26, 2006
plan cuts profits for thousands of pharmacies nationwide
The new Medicare prescription-drug benefit is putting
a financial strain on thousands of rural pharmacies
nationwide, even forcing some to close shop.
The new benefit saves customers money on drug costs,
but the loss of profits from prescriptions is responsible
for putting pharmacies in a financial bind, reports
The Associated Press. In Minnesota,
where more than 100 pharmacies have closed in the last
decade, University of Minnesota researchers
say 37 more are at risk of closing in the coming years.
Todd Sorensen, an assistant professor at the university's
College of Pharmacy, is working with his colleagues
on using an $84,000 federal grant to try to find ways
to keep the pharmacies afloat -- perhaps through networks
or purchasing groups. (Read
To combat this national threat to rural America, pharmacists
in Minnesota are finding innovative options, reports
Anne Polta of the West Central Tribune.
Some pharmacists are choosing to lease space in medical
centers, and others are using a telepharmacy system
to spread their sales to neighboring communities. A
regional initiative is currently in place to find more
options for dealing with the pharmacy shortage. (Read
quickly expanding specialized food businesses
Jack Schultz writes in his Boomtown
USA blog, "One of the major trends
that I’m observing as I travel around the country
is the number of entrepreneurial companies that are
being started up in the food business. Many of these
companies are small, but are in niches that could have
Some trends noticed by Schultz, who travels the country
helping small towns modernize their economies, include
food incubators, which "allow small, local entrepreneurs
to have the advantages of big companies in producing
their product;" a boom in organic food, which "is
starting to spread from the coasts into the heartland,"
combined with another trend, "local and sustainable
production;" bison, "the new health food for
carnivores," ethnic foods to meet the needs of
growing markets, such as goat meat for Muslims; and
production of specialized, niche products, "whether
it is lavender in Sequim, Wash., pistachios in Wilcox,
Ariz., blueberries in Urbana, Ohio, or olive oil in
On the final point, Schultz writes, "I’m
seeing America’s farmers finding unique products
to grow and market. There is a much bigger future in
these specialized crops for most farmers, rather than
trying to be the low-cost commodity producer. Check
out the Agricultural
Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State
University, which is developing various economic
models for these niche producers."
use of video releases masquerading as straight news
When television news departments use of video news
releases without saying where they came from, they are
irresponsible and misleading, and are opening themselves
to increased regulation, the Society of Professional
Journalists warned yesterday.
“As we begin national Ethics
in Journalism Week, it’s regrettable that
far too many television stations continue to forget
that their primary obligations are to the public and
to truth,” said David Carlson, SPJ’s national
president. “They aren’t doing what they
are ethically and professionally obligated to do –
check out their sources, confirm the veracity of the
report, and disclose where the information came
Press releases in the format of a TV story, produced
to advance a company’s products or an agency’s
agenda, "came to public attention more than two
years ago when the Bush administration produced news
reports to promote changes in the Medicare program,"
SPJ noted. "In many cases, these reports were aired
without attributing the source, giving the appearance
of a legitimate news story."
A report this month by the Center for Media
and Democracy documented TV stations' widespread
use of video from corporate news releases without any
indication that the images and audio "are lifted
wholesale from the sources and aren’t the product
of the stations’ own reporting," SPJ said.
The 10-month study examined 36 releases and identified
77 stations, reaching more than half the U.S. population,
that used them at least once. There were many multiple
In 98 instances, there was no disclosure of the source.
"Stations didn’t balance or supplement the
messages with independent fact-finding; sometimes they
made it look like their own reporting, and more than
a third ran VNRs intact," the SPJ release said.
But SPJ stopped short of endorsing the center’s
proposed solution -- an investigation by the Federal
Communications Commission, clarification of
corporate identification rules and penalties for “all
stations that air fake news.”
“It’s never a good idea when government
tells journalists what they can and cannot do in the
content of their news reports,” said Brown, a
Sunday Denver Post columnist and former
SPJ national president. “We would oppose any expansion
of the FCC rule. Instead, we would call on television
to clean up its own act.”
columns boost connection with readers, ASNE president
We've long thought highly of David Zeeck, executive
editor of The News Tribune in Tacoma,
Wash., and incoming president of the American
Society of Newspaper Editors, and he has some
advice that we believe applies to all editors -- not
just those at large daily newspapers, from which ASNE
draws most of its membership, but at smaller dailies
and even weeklies.
“Every editor in America ought to be writing
a weekly column telling what the paper is about,”
Zeeck, who began doing so six years ago, told Joe Strupp
of Editor & Publisher. Zeeck said
his column “has gotten phenomenal reaction from
the community. It takes me about four hours a week to
compile and write, but it is the best four hours I spend.”
here to read Zeeck's latest column.
On issues facing the newspaper industry, Zeeck said,
“We need to turn around the belief that newspapers
are going away. Because everything else has gotten so
fragmented, newspapers remain the only mass medium left.
That franchise on local news is still owned by newspapers.”
He cited a statistic that more people read newspapers
on Super Bowl Sunday than watched the game on television.
bids adieu to columnist who did the same to him, prematurely
are few who pass through this earthly experience who
have a chance to read their own death notice printed
in a newspaper," writes Dayton Daily News
columnist Dale Huffman. "In January
of 1993, a copy of the Cynthiana Democrat
in Kentucky was sent to me. The paper carried a very
kindly worded announcement of my death. It was
written by a columnist for the newspaper, Anna Mae Florence,
who then was 78, and wrote one of those wonderful homespun
Anna Mae Florence died this month, and Huffman took
the opportunity to convey his respect for her and relate
the tale of how he corrected her. "In the next
issue of the Cynthiana Democrat there was a large front-
page article with the headline 'I'm alive. Pass
it on.' It included a reprint of a column I wrote
and an apology from Anna Mae who ended the piece with
the words, 'I regret the error and may I add, I enjoyed
the nice telephone call from Mr. Huffman and I wish
him well in the future.'"
Huffman, who has relatives in the area, concluded,
"I did call authorities in Kentucky to verify that
indeed she has passed away. Just to be sure." Click
here to read his column; click
here to read Florence's obit.
April 25, 2006
giants battle rural phone companies over Internet-based
Many rural phone companies are trying to stop cable
television providers from selling the cheap Internet-based
phone service known as Voice over Internet Protocol,
which uses an adapter to connect a regular phone to
a high-speed Internet line.
In South Carolina, Time Warner Cable
wants to offer its VoIP service, but it needs connections
with rural carriers so VoIP users and rural-phone customers
can exchange calls. Six rural carriers say they are
not required to provide the services. The carriers argue
that VoIP would not be a "telecommunications service,"
and the FCC has hinted that it will label VoIP an "information
service." Time Warner says the difference is irrelevant,
reports Paul Davidson of USA Today.
"Nebraska regulators backed Southeast
Nebraska Telephone in a similar battle against
Time Warner and Sprint," writes Davidson. "Standoffs
between Time Warner and rural carriers in Texas and
New York are before state regulators or the courts."
To settle any rule disputes, Time Warner asked the
FCC last month to rule that rural companies must allow
for the new competition. The FCC's decision could impact
millions of rural residents. In Congress, a House telecom
bill would force rural carriers to work with VoIP rivals,
notes Davidson. (Read
would eliminate local oversight of cable TV, opines
"A GOP-led effort on behalf of the telephone lobby
(principally Verizon and AT&T),
also backed by many Democrats, is about to toss in the
dustbin the longstanding policy enabling cities or counties
to negotiate a 'franchise' agreement with companies
that provide cable TV service," opines Jeff Chester
of The Nation, a liberal magazine.
A House committee is considering legislation that would
limit communities say in how phone and cable networks
operate. "As Verizon and AT&T roll out their
broadband Internet and video services, they wish to
remove any obstacle to securing lucrative revenues from
signing up customers from the wealthiest parts of the
country. The phone giants complain that current law
requires them to negotiate with each town (as cable
TV currently does) to develop a unique deal that benefits
the community, and that giving local officials the authority
to have an oversight role is slowing down their business
plans," writes Chester.
"Local oversight is to be replaced by a 'national
franchise' that will permit the most powerful communications
giants in the Internet era . . . to operate without
regard for local concerns. Under the bill, phone companies
could engage in a form of economic redlining, serving
only the most affluent parts of town; the current local
franchise system prevents such discrimination."
members say churches broke law by supporting candidate
A group of 56 Ohio clergy members contend that two
Columbus-area churches overstepped boundaries on ethics
and fairness to support a Republican candidate for governor.
Two complaints filed with the Internal Revenue
Service claim the churches violated their tax-exempt
status by supporting Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell,
the favored candidate of Ohio's religious right. The
56 complainants say the churches improperly held political
activities and allowed Republican groups to use their
buildings, reports Peter Slevin of The Washington
"The January complaint seeking an IRS investigation
-- signed by 31 Christian and Jewish clergy members
-- charged that the churches and their affiliates improperly
allowed Republican organizations to use their facilities
and illegally promoted the candidacy of Blackwell, who
won considerable backing from Ohio conservatives while
leading a 2004 effort to ban same-sex marriage,"
writes Slevin. "An April complaint, signed by 56
clergy members, said that Blackwell appeared more than
two dozen times at meetings and rallies held by the
churches, their leaders or affiliates." (Read
Joe Hallett of The Columbus Dispatch
is keeping tabs on the churches' activities. He reported
last week that one of the pastors targeted by the complaints
distributed an e-mail promoting Blackwell, but also
that independent experts said the e-mail was worded
to avoid getting the church or its pastor in more legal
trouble. He quoted Donald Tobin, an associate professor
of law at Ohio State University and
an expert on tax-exempt organizations, and John W. Whitehead,
president and founder of The Rutherford Institute,
a national organization providing legal services in
defense of religious and civil liberties.
"It’s fine to personally endorse a candidate,
but you cannot use your church resources to do it,"
Whitehead told Hallett. "You can write a letter
to your friends." (Read
operators say new accident-notice rules too rigid, maybe
Coal-industry officials say that emergency rules imposed
after 14 miners died in West Virginia are too rigid
and could put miners in additional danger.
During a hearing Monday in Lakewood, Colo., the officials
told a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration
panel that requiring notification of an accident within
15 minutes could be impractical or dangerous. They argued
that miners would face either rescuing someone or having
to call in the accident, reports The Associated
Press. The temporary standards went into effect
March 9 and public comments are being accepted through
Additional meetings are planned in Kentucky, Virginia
and West Virginia. According to this
chart on MSHA's Web site, 32 miners — 26 in
coal mines and six in other types of mines — have
died so this year, compared to 13 mining fatalities
this time last year, notes AP. (Read
worry about new National Animal Identification System
At a recent question-and-answer meeting about the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's new National Animal
Identification System, farmers in Wythe County, Virginia,
learned that the government can make them comply. Such
meetings are being held, or will be held, all over the
A USDA clause permits the government to mandate the
entire system. "However, the government agency
is counting on market forces, which already are pushing
for age and source verification, to compel farmers to
participate," writes Mary Beth Jackson of the weekly
Bland County Messenger.
Proponents say the identification system requiring
that animals be tagged and all movements be monitored
will protect the nation's food supply from disease and
bioterrorism. Opponents say the system is redundant
and invasive. Also, there is confusion about how to
comply with the requirements, reports Jackson. Farmers
want to know where to buy tags, how information will
be stored and what public access to that information
might exist. (Read
fights land purchase needed to honor Flight 93 victims
A congressman from rural western North Carolina is
blocking a rural memorial to United Airlines
Flight 93 because he dislikes federal purchases
of rural property.
Republican Rep. Charles H. Taylor opposes a $10 million
request to buy land in Shanksville, Pa., for a permanent
memorial honoring the 40 people who died there in the
crash of Flight 93. With a film about the crash, United
93, set to hit movie screens tonight, victims'
families are ready to fight for the money, reports Jonathan
Weisman of The Washington Post. "We
need to build a memorial for these people," said
Rep. William Shuster, a Republican whose district includes
Shanksville. "These 40 people were the first counterattack
of the war on terror, and they were victorious."
Taylor counters that the federal government is already
the nation's largest landowner, that no additional tax
dollars should be spent on memorials, and that the taxpayers
may be left holding the bag if the families don't raise
half the cost of the memorial, as they have said they
would. Universal Pictures has promised
to donate 10 percent of the gross receipts from United
93 to the memorial.
"House Republicans worry that Taylor is not doing
himself any favors, standing against the memorial fund
in the midst of a tough re-election campaign against
former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler,"
the Post reports. (Read
April 24, 2006
prices force rural residents, farmers to rethink travel
Rising gasoline prices are forcing people in rural
America to cut back on consumption and travel, though
long commutes are a part of many daily lives.
Jim Magagna, the executive vice president of the Wyoming
Stock Growers Association, said managing crops
and livestock requires large amounts of fuel, which
makes it especially difficult for farmers to cut back.
Still, ranchers are reducing their dependency on gas
by using all-terrain vehicles instead of pickup trucks
to move around their land, reports The Associated
The effect produced by gas prices is far-reaching,
said Carol Clements, chair of the National Fuels
Fund Network, a group that helps poor families
pay their electricity or home-heating bills, notes AP.
"All of these energy costs are having a compounding
effect," she said. "We're seeing more people
bumped from middle and working class to low-income and
poverty situations." (Read
communities partner to overcome economic struggles
A new trend is occurring in rural America and it is
not limited to one state or one socioeconomic class.
Rural schools and communities are partnering to offer
new programs and helps students achieve success.
The latest issue of Rural Policy Matters,
a monthly newsletter of the Rural School and
Community Trust explores, describes three different
areas where such partnerships are working: Rappahannock
County, Virginia is a moderate-income area feeling the
squeeze of urban sprawl; Wakefield, Neb., is a low-
to moderate-income area where farming is rapidly changing;
East Feliciana Parish, La., is a low-income area with
few economic opportunities.
Several ideas bind these school-community partnerships
together including collaboration, communication, and
flexibility. Success in one area seems to have a rollover
effect, and as confidence grows, "the school is
seen as a great investment by local residents and by
outside funders," writes the Rural School and Community
access status gives rural hospitals new life, but cuts
A rural health program gives hospitals critical access
status, which has saved about one in five of the 6,000
hospitals nationwide. Now proposed federal funding cuts
could threaten the successful program.
The critical access hospitals are now facing President
Bush's proposal to cut $133 million in rural health
funds. Congress created the program in 1997 to give
hospitals the ability to receive Medicare reimbursements
at about full cost, unlike other hospitals that accept
whatever Medicare decides to pay, reports Allison Barker
of The Associated Press.
The only states without hospitals in the program include
Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and
Maryland. Hospitals in those states either fail to meet
eligibility requirements or chose not to participate.
To qualify, a hospital must have 25 or fewer acute-care
beds, keep patients no more than 96 hours and be located
35 miles from another hospital -- or 15 miles in mountainous
farmers focus on bird-flu prevention, detection, surveillance
If you're planning to write about poultry farmers dealiung
with bird flu, and also need to explain threat clearly,
a good example to follow would be the story by business
reporter Wayne Tompkins in today's Courier-Journal,
with some material from The Associated Press.
"Most of America's chickens come from commercial
farms that keep birds indoors and are well-protected
against the spread of disease. But flocks in people's
backyards -- officials are unsure how many -- and free-range
flocks could mix with wild birds or their droppings.
Officials encourage those producers to bring flocks
inside and watch for signs of flu," Tompkins writes.
State, federal and wildlife officials are increasing
surveillance of wild waterfowl and domestic poultry
in order to prevent any outbreak of bird flu, Tompkins
reports for the Louisville newspaper. If bird flu arrives,
"quick detection will be key to quickly containing
it and eradicating it," Ron DeHaven, head of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the paper.
Commercial producers are developing their own programs
of tests and safeguard measures. Small producers are
required by the National Poultry Improvement Plan to
have their flocks inspected once a year, notes Tompkins.
Bleach baths and other "biosecurity" measures
will play a crucial role in protecting the nation's
multi-billion dollar poultry industry. (Read
man is lone American to win grass-roots environmental
Craig Williams of Berea, Ky., is the only American
winner of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize, the
world's most generous monetary honor for grass-roots
environmentalists. It comes with $125,000.
"Williams is being recognized for the work he
has done to convince the Pentagon to stop plans to incinerate
old chemical weapons stockpiled at the Blue Grass Army
Depot and around the United States. He has worked to
create a nationwide grassroots coalition (the Chemical
Weapons Working Group) to lobby for safe disposal
solutions," reports Ronica Shannon of the Richmond
Williams told The Courier-Journal
that a meeting with Defense Department officials in
1984 spurred his push for the safe destruction of chemical
weapons around the world. "I remember telling the
powers that be that their approach to this thing, of
waltzing in here and telling people what they're going
to do, that has the potential to impact all of these
people in this audience and my family -- without engaging
the community in the decision-making process -- is not
going to work," he said. (Read
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports,
"There's no one else quite like Craig Williams,
a blustery former New Yorker with a fondness for casual
dress and unprintable jokes. As director of the Berea-based
Chemical Weapons Working Group, he has become an expert
on chemical weapons and how things work on Capitol Hill."
more) For information about this year's other winners,
divide exists in government spending on AIDS patients
As some of the highest rates of AIDS cases shift from
California and the Northeast to the Southern states,
some health groups are arguing that a federal spending
law needs to keep up with the times.
"By some measures, AIDS patients in California
and the Northeast get more money per capita than those
in the South, where activists are lobbying for a bigger
share. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake,
Congress is attempting for the first time since 2000
to amend the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990. It is named
for the Indiana teenager who died that year after contracting
AIDS from treatments for hemophilia," reports The
Kathie Hiers, head of the non-profit AIDS Alabama,
says people suffer based on location. But Phil Curtis
of the AIDS Project Los Angeles counters
that the urban-rural spending differences are exaggerated.
The federal government spends $2 billion each year to
give more than 500,000 people health care, drugs and
other aid in cases where patients are uninsured or cannot
survive with just Medicaid or private insurance, notes
Depending on what Congress decides about redistributing
aid, California and New York could lose up to $20 million
each and Southern states could net millions more, reports
natural gas industry tries to replace aging workforce
West Virginia's oil and gas industry says it needs
workers. Like the coal industry, the average age of
someone working in the natural gas industry is over
"Many West Virginians may not realize coal is
not the only extractive industry thriving in the Mountain
State. . . . According to a 2005 study prepared by the
Marshall University Center for Business
and Economic Research, half of West Virginia's homes
are heated by natural gas. West Virginia is the third-largest
producer of natural gas east of the Mississippi River,
and the industry is poised for steady growth for at
least the next 20 years," writes Juliet A. Terry
of the weekly State Journal in Charleston.
Natural gas prices are more than four times as high
than in 1988, reports Terry. The biggest challenge facing
the state's burgeoning industry is repopulating the
workforce, said Nicholas DeMarco, executive director
of the West Virginia Oil and Gas Association.
"Because of the boom in the energy industry, this
can be a career job rather than cyclical like it was
20 to 30 years ago," he said. (Read
county making up textile loss with suburban sprawl?
In Lancaster County, South Carolina's northern panhandle,
farms and woods are being replaced by urban development
creeping in from nearby Charlotte, but that could also
be saving an area damaged by the departure of the textile
industry, formerly its economic backbone.
"Once home to the world's largest cotton mill,
the Springs Lancaster plant, the county lost nearly
2,500 manufacturing jobs in six years from 1997 to 2005,"
writes Henry Eichel of the Charlotte Observer.
Now both proponents of development and its critics are
coming to terms with the idea that development could
save the county's economic future.
County Administrator Chap Hurst wants to attract high-end
development. "If you look at economic development
across the nation, there's not a lot of manufacturing
moving around," Hurst told Eichel. "This isn't
10 or 20 years ago; the day of manufacturing is pretty
much gone. But there are corporate headquarters moving
around. . . . Money attracts money. When you make this
environment safe and as pretty as you can make it, you're
going to bring in those high-priced investments."
April 21, 2006
outbreak could create crisis for nation's poultry industry
A possible bird flu outbreak could greatly impact the
nation's poultry industry and affect the countries that
rely on chicken, turkey and other poultry from the U.S.
In Virginia, boiler chickens and eggs rack up annual
sales of $450 million per year, or 21 percent of the
state's agricultural commodity production, according
to the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
There is a large poultry presence with 880 farms that
raise chickens or produce eggs, and four companies operating
processing plants, reports Ray Reed of The Roanoke
About 16 percent of the boiler chickens raised in Virginia
are then sent to Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong
and the Caribbean, writes Reed. (Read
An in-depth story on Agriculture Online
explains the process of how bird flu can infect chickens
and eggs: "Highly pathogenic viruses, such as the
H5N1 strain [that contains bird flu], spread to virtually
all parts of an infected bird, including meat. . . .
Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus can be found
inside and on the surface of eggs laid by infected birds."
reflections: Loss of forest threatens rural areas, writers
"Our forests are the heart of our environmental
support system. And yet, in the 36 years that have passed
since the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, we have
lost more than one billion acres of forest, with no
end in sight," opine Don Melnick and Mary Pearl
in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.
"The people most vulnerable to the disappearance
of forests are the poor: nearly three-quarters of the
1.2 billion people defined as extremely poor live in
rural areas, where they rely most directly on forests
for food, fuel, fiber and building materials. But those
of us in the developed world are hardly immune. Smaller
forests mean fewer predators keeping insects and rodents
in check in the Northeastern United States, a phenomenon
linked to the spread of Lyme disease and West Nile virus,
among others," they continue.
Four keys to preserving forests include: connecting
local, informal foresters to better markets; recognizing
the importance of forests in maintaining water and soil;
seeking a global trade agreement that promotes legally,
sustainability harvested timber; and protecting the
role forests play in mitigating global warming, conclude
Melnick, a conservation biology professor at Columbia
University, and Pearl, the president of Wildlife
Trust, a group that helps scientists protect
nature and safeguard ecosystems. (Read
here for the U.S. Government Web site for Earth Day.
along 'endangered' rivers report on group's designation
Flooding, mining and development concerns are the reasons
some rivers made an annual list of the nation's 10 most-endangered
rivers compiled by American Rivers,
first listed in The Rural Blog yesterday.
Kevin Home of the Monterey (Calif.)
Herald writes about the Pajaro River (No. 1
on the list): "American Rivers contends that the
Army Corps of Engineers' flood control
plan is outdated, will destroy habitat and increase
the danger of catastrophic flooding along the river.
The Boise River (No. 6) is situated near a mine proposed
by the Atlanta Gold Corp. of America.
The company said it will keep mining pollution out of
the river, but aside from cyanide, the mine could release
millions of gallons of water laden with arsenic, John
Robison, who monitors mining for the Idaho Conservation
League, told Rocky Barker of the Idaho
Statesman. If the company passes overcomes
regulatory hurdles, then it must received a permit under
the 1872 federal mining law. (Read
American Rivers, an environmental group, wants
Arizona residents to speak out for the preservation
of the Verde River (No. 10). A $200 million, 30-mile
pipeline that is part of an area water-resources plan
could dry up 24 miles of the river, states the group's
report. "The group said citizens need to demand
that planners don't allow development where water isn't
safely available," reports Shaun McKinnon of The
Arizona Republic. (Read
residents call broadband, economic development rural
Residents across Indiana are participating in 16 public
meetings geared toward developing a 15-year plan for
the state's rural areas.
Elizabeth Mallers, of the Office of Community
and Rural Affairs, said that the goal of Rural
Indiana Strategy for Excellence: A 2020 Vision for the
Indiana Countryside, known as RISE 2020, is to create
a strategy for improving Indiana's countryside. Residents'
top concerns have been broadband Internet and economic
development, but the plan will not provide a “cookie
cutter” solution to those issues, she told Becky
Manley of The Journal Gazette in Fort
Wayne, Ind. (Read
“The reality of today’s rural Indiana is
far different from the past,” states a draft of
the report, which was developed from input from about
150 rural residents and service providers. The report
states that “agriculture, while still important,
is just one piece of today’s Indiana rural economy."
Public input will be used in the final RISE 2020 plan,
which is slated for release in June. Click
here for a draft of the report.
becomes first state to sanction Bible classes in high
Georgia is believed to be the first state to offer
government-sanctioned elective Bible classes, after
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law Thursday.
The Bible is already used in classes in Georgia and
other states, and some school districts have classes
devoted solely to the Bible. Georgia's new law permits
elective Bible classes at high schools, but leaves it
up to districts to decide whether to offer them, reports
Shannon McCaffrey of The Associated Press.
Perdue also signed a bill allowing Ten Commandments
displays at courthouses, which critics attacked as a
blurring of the line between church and state, writes
McCaffrey. National civil rights groups are monitoring
how the laws are implemented before deciding on possible
court challenges. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court
declared Ten Commandments displays constitutional if
their primary purpose was to honor legal traditions
and not to promote one religion over another. (Read
won't be able to resist charging for wi-fi, opines columnist
Free wireless Internet is an idea being considered
by cities small and large, but one columnist does not
foresee them being cost-free to the public forever.
"I personally think this idea is great, but I
also know there is no way that any cash-strapped city
-- a category that appears to comprise all of them --
will not succumb to the financial benefit of pulling
the plug on this free service, if it's ever implemented
in the first place. So if you get free municipal Wi-Fi,
use it and enjoy it while you can," opines John
C. Dvorak in his "Second Opinion" column for
"It's simple economics, and there is no such thing
as a free lunch (cliché alert). Even restaurants,
coffee shops and airports that have free Wi-Fi do it
only as an inducement to keep people in their facilities.
And often those initiatives are undone by a slick salesperson
who can show the business how to 'monetize' their Wi-Fi,"
"If I were to hazard a guess as to the future
of free Wi-Fi anywhere in the U.S., it would end up
pretty much where it started -- at small coffee houses
scattered here and there. Municipal Wi-Fi will go the
way of free parking. There is no free parking,"
concludes Dvorak. (Read
in N.C. overhauls news operation for more online focus
In Cleveland County, North Carolina, "The
Shelby Star has blown up its
newsroom – figuratively. The paper's newsroom
no longer operates like a traditional newsroom and the
newspaper doesn't read like a traditional newspaper.
It’s more local. Easier to read. Easier to digest.
More interactive. And it fuses with the paper's Web
site," reports the Southern Newspaper
Via a six-month effort known as the "Innovation
Project," the Star (circulation 16,000) has linked
its print and online products by having reporters enhance
stories with online content. Reporters along with staff
photographers take video cameras with them, and readers
are being encouraged to submit their own comments, photos
and videos. The results have paid off in the past three
months, with Web traffic jumping by 47 percent to more
than 1.7 million page views per month.
With the new version of its paper, The Star opted to
eliminate story jumps, break in-depth pieces into smaller
articles, and convert traditional “paragraph-form
copy” into a “who, what, when, where”
format. “For many newspaper consumers, the paragraph
is a dinosaur,” said Editor Skip Foster. (Read
April 20, 2006
and mining plans put rivers on group's endangered list
Rivers that are feeling the squeeze of rural development
dominate the annual list of the nation's 10 most-endangered
rivers compiled by the environmental group American
The rivers, in order, are the Pajaro
River, which flows into California's Monterey Bay
and is the focus of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control
plan; the Upper
Yellowstone River in Montana, where construction
is altering riverbanks; the Willamette
River, which has state-authorized “toxic mixing
zones;” the Salmon
Trout River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, site
of a proposed nickel and copper mine; the Shenandoah
River, which American Rivers says is "facing
an onslaught of development;" the Boise
River in Idaho, the headwaters of which a Canadian
firm wants to mine; the Caloosahatchee
River in south Florida, polluted by agricultural-related
outflows from from Lake Okeechobee; Alaska's Bristol
Bay watershed, a system of lakes, streams and rivers
that is the source of the single largest salmon run
on earth, on the Kvichak River, and also the site of
a proposed mine; the San
Jacinto River in southeast Texas, site of sand mining;
and the Verde
River, under increasing demand for water from fast-growing
Arizona. (Click on a river to read the detailed description
here to read a summary.)
The Washington Post focuses on No.
5, Virginia's Shenandoah River, which supplies 13 percent
of the water in the Potomac River -- which provides
90 percent of the drinking water for the Washington
area. American Rivers' report on the Shenandoah focuses
on the six mostly rural counties, many of which are
attracting national builders and the demands of thousands
for new houses. "County governments along the Shenandoah
have a rapidly-closing window to get a handle on runaway
development before it changes the character of the river
and valley forever," the environmental group says.
"Development's not the whole story -- everyone
that lives in the valley is guilty in one way or other,"
Meryl Christiansen, a Warren County, Virginia, resident
who lobbied to get the Shenandoah on the list, told
Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen"Homeowners who
put a lot of fertilizer on their lawns, farmers that
don't protect the soil, poultry processors that dump
stuff in the river."
Environmentalists want counties to pass ordinances
aimed at controlling development, such as ones that
encourage clustering houses and leaving open space,
reports McCrummen. They also want legislation protecting
areas around creeks and encouraging homeowners and farmers
there to preserve natural land buffers. (Read
tire shortage creates problem for global mining industry
"The worldwide thirst for stuff from the ground
— materials as diverse as copper and coal, gold
and oil — has set off a stunning boom in just
about every commodity market. But there is one item
that lately has dealers in the global mining industry
really scrambling: the supersize tire," reports
The New York Times.
There is a shortage of the giant tires used on large
dump trucks and other heavy equipment, which is creating
problems for everyone from Canadian tar sands to coal
mines in the U.S. and China. Prices for the tires have
now surpassed $40,000. Demand is being pushed by the
military for Iraq and Afghanistan, and by construction
firms rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Mining firms and tire
makers blame the shortage on rapid industrialization
of China, India and other countries, which is eating
up basic commodities, reporter Simon Romero writes.
(Photo from Wyoming by Matthew Staver)
"In many ways, the tire shortage both reflects
the soaring commodities prices and contributes to it.
. . . In an attempt to cash in on the commodities rally,
mining companies have been reactivating old mines and
expanding existing operations," Romero reports.
"But time and again, these firms have been stymied
by a lack of available tires." Mining companies
are now trying everything possible to extend the life
of their tires, which usually last from 4,000 to 7,000
aim to protect farm history from development
"Maryland's oldest places have survived fires,
floods and the ravages of time. With the U.S. Census
predicting 1.2 million new residents in the state in
20 years, preservationists say they need to mobilize,"
report Mary Otto and Nelson Hernandez of The
Preservationists are worried that farmlands, canals
and the weathered tobacco barns in Southern Maryland
might not survive progress, or as painter Vicki Michael
said, "what people think is progress." State
officials are trying to find suitable locations for
new housing, schools, utilities and roads, but preservationists
do not want them to touch old houses, historic farms
or the plush landscape, write Otto and Hernandez.
Development is getting closer to tobacco barns that
play an important role in Maryland's agricultural history.
Preservation efforts may be paying off, because the
tobacco barns were named endangered in 2004 by the National
Trust for Historic Preservation, the Post notes. (Read
drug ODs rise in New Mexico; mainly rural problem?
Accidental prescription drug overdose deaths in New
Mexico are increasing at a higher rate than those caused
by illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine, reports
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reports in a new study that unintentional prescription
drug overdoses accounted for 1.9 deaths out of 100,000
deaths at the beginning of the 10-year study in 1994,
rising to 5.3 overdose deaths out of 100,000 deaths
in 2003. This represented a 179-percent increase during
the 10-year period.
Sidney Schnoll, clinical professor of internal medicine
and psychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia,
cautioned the public about applying these findings to
the entire state. “New Mexico is a relatively
rural state, and one of the things we know about prescription
drug abuse, particularly prescription opioid abuse,
is that it is more of a problem of rural areas than
urban areas,” Schnoll said. (Read
makes all the difference in rural Oregon schools, report
"Students in small and rural Oregon districts
that get the most tax money outperform those in similar
districts that receive less, a new study shows,"
reports The Associated Press.
The report from the Rural
School and Community Trust concluded that
efforts to equalize spending on education are not completely
working. “The state funding mechanism is intended
to level the playing field, but it does not do so among
all rural Oregon school districts,” it said. The
report covered 132 districts, about two-thirds of the
districts and slightly more than a third of the students
in the state, and it studied four factors in comparing
rural schools: financial resources, teacher quality,
poverty, and community education levels, notes AP.
Districts that scored well on state assessments in
mathematics and language skills were also among those
that put the most local money into education. The report
also noted that the best performing districts boasted
the most qualified teachers, based on the number of
teachers with provisional or emergency certificates,
reports AP. (Read
students not pursuing higher education, Pa. report shows
More Pennsylvania students are going to college, but
that is not always the case in rural areas, according
to a new report on higher education in the Keystone
“A Rising Tide: The Current State of Higher Education
in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” reports
that rural students are less prone to attending college
because they are more likely to attend lower-performing
high schools, college is not part of their family's
their tradition, and no colleges exist nearby, writes
Robyn Meadows of the Lancaster New
Era. Anywhere from 76.4 to 89.5 percent of
high school grads in metro areas planned to enroll in
postsecondary education, compared to as low as 50 percent
in some rural areas.
The report, sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership
Center and The Learning Alliance for Higher Education
at the University of Pennsylvania, is
based on a survey of 519 high school graduates and Census
data from 1990 and 2000. It shows that 4 to 8 percent
of young adults — mostly from rural communities
or of African American or Hispanic American backgrounds
— pass on college because of price. Click
here to read the report.
Many students are not four-year college material, but
they should consider two-year technical programs that
can lead to high-paying jobs, said Scott Sheely, executive
director of Workforce Investment Board,
a group that promotes getting a college education. He
said the big problem is that almost half of the students
drop out of college. “The concern that I have
is for them to go off and study English when they could
be very successful in a technical situation,”
he told Meadows. (Read
weekly shows value of independence, community focus
The Smithfield Times of Virginia won
the small-paper category of the Virginia Press
Association's annual award for Journalistic
Integrity and Community Service, the group's highest
honor. The paper also won the award in 2003.
The Times, circulation 6,219, beat out many other papers
in the category, for those with less than 30,000 circulation
-- a threshold that we think best defines the upper
limit for "community journalism." "The
quality of coverage underscores what several other entries
in this size class demonstrate as well: You don't have
to be a big-city newspaper to serve readers with strong,
vigorous citizen-based journalism that initiates and
facilitates community discussion of important issues
and helps citizens find solutions to community problems,"
the judges wrote.
Its winning formula was a combination of "event
coverage and enterprise reporting, backed up with editorial-page
campaigning that offered citizens choices and ways of
taking action as well as a forum for their own viewpoints,
The Times undertook and encouraged strident discussion
of issues ranging from the newest developments--not
all call them advances--of agriculture, the symbiosis
of public and private organizations for the public good,
and the performance and responsibility of governmental
agencies designed to help citizens but not always able--or
willing--to fulfill their missions," the judges
The Times began 80 years ago covering the Isle of Wight
and Surry counties in southeastern Virginia. John and
Anne Edwards bought it in 1986 from Thomas Phillips.
to see the paper's Web site.
in Ky. should stop publishing DUI photos, opines writer
Eight years ago, the weekly Anderson News
in Lawrenceburg, Ky., gained national attention when
it started publishing mug shots of people convicted
of driving under the influence, in an effort to cut
down on DUIs in the county just south of Frankfort.
Now, one reader thinks it is time to stop.
"One of the consequences of publishing the mug
shots is the effect on offenders' relatives and friends.
While many of us peruse the court news, children, as
a rule, do not. They do seem drawn to the photos though,
and they like to use them as ammunition against other
children. Is that your mama's picture in the paper?"
opines Jerry Shaw in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Shaw criticizes Publisher Don White's rationale. "If
White's ultimate goal is to curb DUIs in Anderson County,
there is little evidence that he is succeeding,"
he writes. "The DUI numbers are all over the place.
Anderson County Jailer Joani Clark says she cannot determine
whether the paper's mug shot policy has made any difference."
As The Rural Blog reported last week, reported "White
is leaving the publisher's chair for semi-retirement,
and the paper will hire his replacement soon,"
Shaw concludes. "I hope whoever takes over will
take a long, hard look at the mug shot policy. It is
time to change it." (Read
more) Shaw is an instructor in English as a second
language, General Educational Development and extended
services in Anderson County.
April 19, 2006
of class offerings don't affect reading, math test scores
"There is no relationship between
the number of high school credits offered and the proficiency
levels of 11th grade students on Iowa's state-mandated
tests in reading and math," reports the Rural
School and Community Trust. "These findings
refute assertions by some policy leaders in Iowa that
small high schools cannot offer a broad enough curriculum
for students to achieve at high levels and should, therefore,
be consolidated." To read the trust's report on
its study, click
The study was cited in a story this week
by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
on the Janesville school district, which has only 80
students in its high school. "Conventional wisdom
suggests the district would likely do best by the young
people to become one with a neighboring school system.
More students would translate into more state funding,
which would provide more courses and the means for high
achievement," writes Brian Spannagel, citing recent
school consolidations in northeast Iowa.
But the study, analyzing scores on the
Iowa Test of Educational Development, found no difference
in math and reading proficiency between schools with
fewer than 200 students and those with more. Janesville
has 380 students. State education department spokeswoman
Kathi Slaughter told Spannagel, "We argue for no
forced consolidation. We agree that good schools can
be small schools." (Read
checks can increase cancer screening rates, study says
Researchers have found that telephone calls delivered
by trained personnel help women overcome barriers to
screening and improved screening rates for breast, cervical
and colorectal cancer, reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service.
“This study represents a promising step toward
addressing the clear-cut disparity in cancer screening
rates and death rates for certain low-income and minority
groups,” said lead author Dr. Allen Dietrich,
a community and family medicine professor at Dartmouth
Medical School. “Our team found that telephone
support can increase the historically low cancer screening
rates for minority women. We are hopeful that this model
can be transferred to other populations who could benefit
from this type of outreach.”
Checking by phone offers hope for rural areas, where
residents are often unaware of how to get a screening
or experience problems communicating with physicians.
This study shows that such barriers can be overcome.
“Since sixty percent of the patients were Spanish
speaking and several are recent immigrants the to U.S.,
the ability for them to speak with someone who could
communicate across cultural boundaries and help navigate
the system was especially important,” noted Dietrich.
of cattle rustling in Missouri leads to more old-fashioned
In Missouri, which has more cattle than
any state except Texas, ranchers have been rushing to
register new cattle brands, spurred by an outbreak of
"cattle rustling," mainly in the southwestern
part of the state, reports Todd Frankel of the St.
Brands are registered with the state Division
of Animal Health, and longtime brand recorder
Sheri Berendzen "has seen applications go from
perhaps three a week to 15 or 20," Frankel writes.
"More than 400 new brands have poured in since
November, boosting the number ... in the state past
Frankel calls branding "a crude,
ancient and controversial practice that is still considered
the best way to identify livestock, even in this age
of GPS tracking and radio-frequency tags. Branding has
its own traditions and language: letters that are lazy
and symbols imbued with hidden meaning. A good brand
can become a Wild West version of the family crest.
Some brands are auctioned off or fought over in divorce
cases. And some are obtained just for prestige, never
making it onto an animal."
"But only a small minority of cattle
in Missouri, estimated at less than 5 percent, are branded;
the work is time-consuming, and some worry that it lowers
the value of the hide," Frankel reports. "More
than 29 states register brands, mostly west of the Mississippi
River. Texas lists almost 100,000 different ones. North
Dakota has nearly 20,000. At the other end, Illinois
has just 432."
"Branding is expected to continue
despite growing calls at the federal level for a national
animal identification program," Frankel predicts.
"The program would assign numbers to every cow
in the nation to deal with mounting concern about animal
disease outbreaks. But the program is expected to use
radio-frequency ear tags, which can be easily removed
by cattle rustlers."
Frankel's story has a vivid description
of the branding process. To read it, click
of J-Lab's latest New Voices projects for citizen media
J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism,
has announced 10 "New Voices" grants
for citizen media projects, half of which will serve
"This year's winners, selected from 185 applicants,
will each receive up to $17,000 for their projects,"
J-Lab said in a release. "The grant recipients
will receive $12,000 in the first year to start up their
projects. They will be eligible for $5,000 follow-up
grants next year if they successfully launch their projects
and supply matching funding." Among the winners
• "Federation of Community Correspondents,"
from WMMT, the community radio station of Appalshop,
the long-established media arts and education
center in Whitesburg, Ky. It will "train citizens
from Central Appalachia in radio news production and
story gathering for broadcast on radio and the Web,"
J-Lab says. "Appalshop will develop the project
with a basic curriculum and workshop model that will
cover production technology and techniques and provide
instruction in basic community journalism."
• "Western Breeze: Montana's Rural News
Network," proposed by the University of
Montana School of Journalism. "The network
will recruit and train residents of three rural Montana
towns to report on news and information for rural Web
sites and plans to locate a computer kiosk in each community
to ensure access and the ability to contribute to the
news," J-Lab says.
• "One Sky Radio South Central Magazine,"
from Alaska Educational Radio System,
which plans regional call-in and magazine programs with
caller participation via phone and Voice Over Internet
Protocol telephony using Skype software," J-Lab
reports. "Volunteers and paid stringers will be
encouraged to produce news and feature segments for
the show. The program will be distributed via streaming
audio to other stations in the state."
• "Monroe County Radio Project," from
West Virginia University. The project
will create a news department at WHFI-FM, a radio station
owned by the school board in Monroe County, at the southeastern
tip of the state, 220 miles and three and a half hours
from the Morgantown university. J-Lab reports, "Journalism
students and faculty will train student and adult volunteer
reporters to report and produce local news stories for
a 15-minute daily newscast, regular monthly public affairs
programming and a Web site with news and streaming audio."
• "Route 7 Report," from the E.W. Scripps
School of Journalism at Ohio University.
The school will train citizens in three rural villages
and surrounding townships in the hills near the Ohio
River in southeastern Ohio to create a Web site and
monthly newsletter on local government, schools, organizations
and business. The villages of Coolville, Tuppers Plains
and Chester are connected by a 15-mile stretch of Ohio
Route 7, and are caught between the coverage areas of
the region's newspapers. They have a diverse and largely
self-sufficient mix of businesses and services, being
about 20 miles in all directions from major commercial
centers such as Athens, site of the university.
The coordinators of the West Virginia and Ohio projects,
respectively, are Maryanne Reed and Bill Reader. Both
are academic partners of the Institute for Rural
Journalism and Community Issues. Congratulations
to them on being selected. To read about the other grants,
Montana suffers from hit-and-miss cell coverage, but
help is coming
Rural Montana's sparsely-populated landscape of mountains
and coulees is making it difficult for cell phone companies
and their customers.
"While residents of such Montana metropolises
as Great Falls and Billings enjoy service on par with
cities such as Seattle, they're often back on the rugged
cell phone frontier once they leave the city limits,"
writes Karen Ogden of the Great Falls
Tribune. "Like favorite fishing
holes, Montanans know the best places to stop and catch
a signal — perhaps high on Rogers Pass, or in
the little flat spot east of Clearwater Junction. Those
intrepid enough to do business on the road need a good
measure of patience."
Several cellular companies are planning to install
millions of dollars worth of new towers and other improvements
in the state this year, reports Ogden. That means some
rural communities will get cellular service for the
first time, and others will see an end to patchy service.
Small, local providers are setting their sights on rural
locations. Also, consumer advocates have been encouraging
rural areas to petition the cell phone providers for
in Iowa finds big bucks in donations for massive projects
Jack Schultz makes his living by helping small towns
develop their economies, and gets his kicks by writing
about their success stories. His most recent story on
USA blog is about the town of Wall Lake,
Iowa, population 841, about 70 miles east of Sioux City.
It has many successes to brag about, including an 18,000
square foot, $1.2 million community center built with
City Manager Tom Schroeder told Schultz, “My
uncle Gus Schroeder, who was mayor for 10 years, and
his wife Lil started off the campaign with a $250,000
donation but we got funds from just about everybody
in town. Even Andy Williams, who was born and raised
here, gave $25,000 in memory of his mom and dad. In
all we raised $800,000 in donations, got $200,000 from
the state and still have a note for $200,000 on the
building.” Schultz adds that Chicago would have
to raise over $1 billion in donations to match Wall
Lake's proportionate generosity.
Schroeder also showed Schultz other projects made possible
by investors, such as a $50 million biodiesel plant,
a 220-acre lake with 125 new housing units, a 70-bed
nursing home, and a 660-megawatt wind turbine. "When
300 people showed up that night to hear me talk, I was
really impressed," Schultz writes. "I couldn’t
even come close to doing a calc of how many people in
Chicago would have to come hear me talk to get to the
ratio of people interested in their town and how they
could make it better."
profiled by Post's Kurtz, stays grounded in rural Hume,
The most viewed article on The Washington Post's
Web site today is about television journalist Brit Hume,
who in 30-plus years in Washington years in has gone
"from garden-variety liberal to committed conservative,"
as media writer Howard Kurtz sums up the journey.
"As a senior Fox News executive
and anchor who landed the only interview with Vice President
Cheney after his hunting accident, Hume has traveled
light-years since his early days as a dogged investigator,"
Kurtz reports. "He has become an acerbic critic
of his chosen profession," accusing other journalists
of liberal bias that he says is "unconscious,"
not deliberate. Kurtz cites studies concluding that
the reporting on Hume's "Special Report" show
"Hume is no partisan brawler in the mold of some
of Fox's high-decibel hosts," Kurtz writes. "By
virtue of his investigative background, his understated
style and his management role, he represents a hybrid
strain: conservatives who believe in news, not bloviation,
but news that passes through a different lens, filtered
through a different set of assumptions." He told
Kurtz, "Sure, I'm a conservative, no doubt about
it. But I would ask people to look at the work."
Hume rejects the social whirl inside the Beltway. He
and his wife "abandon Washington every Thursday
night for their country home in Fauquier County -- in
the tiny town of Hume, Va., named for one of his relatives
in a clan that emigrated from Scotland in 1721,"
Kurtz reveals. (Read
April 18, 2006
coal industry folks hash out communication, trust issues
Journalists, coal-company officials and
business associates of the coal industry -- more than
a dozen in each category -- gathered yesterday in the
booming coal town of Pikeville, Ky., to talk about the
difficulties they have with each other and try to forge
a more mutually beneficial relationship.
The Coal-Media Roundtable was sponsored
by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues and the Appalachian
News-Express, the Pikeville newspaper that
became a daily today. News-Express Publisher Marty Backus
and Institute Director Al Cross called the meeting a
success, and said it might be repeated, as often as
"For years, the relationship between
the coal industry and the media has been rocky at best,"
Neil Middleton, news anchor for WYMT-TV
in Hazard, said in introducing the station's report
on the meeting. Middleton and co-anchor Danielle Morgan
attended the roundtable. "A journalist's job is
to provide information for the public. A coal miner's
job is to provide energy for the nation, but when those
paths cross, it isn't always a pretty meeting,"
Morgan told viewers, introducing a video clip of her
interview with Mike Browning, editor of The
Logan Banner in West Virginia.
"When we called to get information
on one disaster, we were hung up on six times,"
Browning said, expanding on an episode he had related
at the roundtable. Coal executives said that happens,
and calls aren't returned to certain journalists, because
of inaccurate or biased reporting. "When you give
them a statement, it will be edited for content, taken
out of context," said Paul Matney of TECO
Energy, which mines in southeastern Kentucky.
Cross urged coal companies to give every journalist
at least one break, and discuss problems they have with
stories, not cut off communication.
The day ended with better feelings on
both sides. "I think this is a good first step,"
said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky
Coal Association. He called for more such meetings,
and tours of mines by journalists. Just sitting around
the same table and talking helps, said David Gooch,
executive director of Pikeville-based Coal Operators
and Associates. "It's a matter of trust,"
he told the roundtable. "Trust comes from association."
To see WYMT's full report, click
here, then click on the story in the Video list.
A more detailed report on the meeting will be posted
in the Reports section
of the Institute's Web site.
plan will make part-timers eligible for health care
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a major economic
force in rural areas, is going to relax health insurance
eligibility requirements for part-time employees, paving
the way for 150,000 workers to gain coverage.
The previous requirements had employees work for two
years to qualify for employer-sponsored insurance, but
that will become one year starting next month. The most
used version of the company's health plan will be available
for $23 a month, and workers' children would be included
for an additional $15, reports The Associated
Wal-Mart has come under fire by unions and others that
say its health benefits are inadequate. Even the new
requirements are seen as unaffordable by Chris Kofinis,
spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com,
a group funded by the United Food and Commercial
Workers union. He told AP the plan requires
the worker to pick up the first $1,000 in medical expenses,
and that amount could jump to $3,000 for families.
take Civil War items during 'safari' digs across Virginia
So-called "relic hunters" are engaging in
a new breed of organized digs throughout the history-filled
hills of Virginia with the aim being to unearth Civil
Critics say such "safari" digs, many of which
take place in rural areas, destroy the past by removing
artifacts that could teach the public about the state's
Civil War heritage, writes Brigid Schulte of The
Washington Post. "These digs are like
reading a book, ripping the pages out as you read and
setting them on fire," said Kathleen Kilpatrick,
director of the state's Department of Historic Resources.
The Council of Virginia Archaeologists
have complained to state legislators and contacted landowners
about stopping the digs. Many relic hunters counter
that they just have a passion for history. Some write
books on their findings, and others donate time to help
archaeologists track down previously overlooked sites,
reports Schulte. (Read
hits 75 percent of Chesapeake Bay's rockfish; market
"In a frenzied rite of spring, thousands of Maryland
anglers churned onto the bay yesterday for the first
day of trophy season,' the start of the recreational
season for rockfish, or striped bass. But some on the
hunt felt the day was dampened, not by an early-morning
rain, but by bad news about Maryland's state fish,"
writes Elizabeth Williamson of The Washington
The wasting disease mycobacteriosis is affecting nearly
three-quarters of the Chesapeake Bay's rockfish, from
bacteria that can produce a severe skin infection in
humans. Wearing gloves can protect humans, though, and
no evidence exists that eating rockfish causes the disease.
However, it is threatening a $300 million industry,
especially with supermarkets and restaurants yanking
the rockfish, reports Williamson.
After a Washington Post story about a month ago, the
heavy-bellied bass starting selling for much less on
the commercial market, which prompted the state Department
of Natural Resources to launch a rockfish rehabilitation
campaign, writes Williamson. (Read
county edges closer to smoking ban in public workplaces
Pike County, Kentucky's legislative body passed a smoking
ban on first reading Monday night and now it just needs
a second reading to become law.
The ban would affect the Hall of Justice and courthouse,
and it has garnered support from the county's teen-age
population, reports WYMT Mountain News.
"You don't actually have to be smoking to get the
damage from it, and it makes people realize it's a big
problem, and it's something that needs to be taken care
of," said Ashley May, a member of the Pike County
Youth Leadership Council.
If approved next month, the ordinance will go into
effect July 15, and it will join several other smoking
bands in Kentucky. A smoking ban for all public buildings
passed last week in Letcher County, and a similar ordinance
went into effect last weekend in Prestonsburg, notes
TV lumps city in with 'Third World,' ignores facts,
"Much of the outside world has a view of Appalachia
that has changed very little over the past half-century,
which is illustrated every so often by big-city reporters
who come to the mountains to take a look for themselves.
When the story isn't quite what they imagined, the reporters
sometimes prefer the legend over the truth," opines
John Henson of the Harlan (Ky.) Daily
"The latest example was a report on poverty in
Lynch by Nashville television station WSMV
earlier this year. The one-sided view of Lynch drew
quite a bit of controversy during a recent city council
meeting where council members discussed filing a complaint
with the FCC. The report was full of
errors and exaggerations, even before it actually started.
No one at WSMV bothered to find Lynch on a map, placing
it in Tennessee, even though it's at least 70 miles
away," continues Henson.
Henson cites the introduction by WSMV anchor Dan Miller,
who said, “We want to show you a disaster in our
own back yard, people living in Third World conditions
right here in Tennessee.” Reporter Mark Stewart
went on to say, “In some places, plumbing, heat
and telephones are all a luxury and food is often scarce,”
later adding that “education is a challenge. Many
here never finish school.”
To counter this news report, Henson simply presents
Census Bureau facts: "Lynch has
0.0 occupied homes without heat. If you have problems
with statistics, that means zero or none, whichever
you prefer. Nashville, by comparison, has no heat in
0.4 percent of its occupied homes, or 799 homes total.
According to the statistics, Lynch has two homes without
complete plumbing facilities (0.5 percent) and 28 without
telephone service (6.7 percent). Nashville has 1,059
homes (0.5 percent) without complete plumbing facilities
and 4,054 without telephone service (1.8 percent). The
percent of high school graduates in Lynch is 69.9 percent,
compared to 80.4 percent for Nashville." (Read
Earth Day, promotes environmental stewardship
"I’ve lived long enough to know that life
is not simple and straightforward. Each day brings decisions
on how to live within the context of nature and the
earth, and yet it seems unnaturally easy in this day
and age to break all the rules," writes Sylvia
L. Lovely, president of the NewCities Institute
and author of New Cities in America: The Little
Blue Book of Big Ideas, in a column about Earth
Day on April 22.
"A fundamental tenet of environmental stewardship
is to recognize our linkage in the chain of life. It
is also important that stewardship involve the proper
use of the environment. Nothing that we do is done in
a vacuum. It matters deeply just how well we use the
materials that we need to survive and thrive, and that
nature provides us," continues Lovely.
"I optimistically observe that the sentiment for
stewardship is growing. While it is our helpmate in
many ways, technology is increasingly viewed as a foe
as much as a friend if we rely exclusive on it to connect
with each other and with the natural world," she
here to read this entire column in our Reports section.
April 17, 2006
elderly poverty rate drops, but rural America's outlook
"Forty years ago, a third of the nation's elderly
lived below the poverty line. Now, just one in 10 seniors
is considered poor. That plunge in the elderly poverty
rate is credited to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
and other assistance programs," reports Howard
Berkes of National Public Radio.
That progress is on shaky ground, though, in rural
areas like Harrison County, Ohio, where 16,000 people
live on 400 square miles of Appalachian foothills. The
county's economy once boomed with farming, mining and
milling, but declines in those areas and young people
leaving home have created a smaller tax base for funding
programs. Many residents who remain are women, and elderly
women are twice as likely as elderly men to live in
poverty, according to the Census Bureau. About 80 percent
of those served by the county's senior center are women,
Many people entering retirement in rural communities
are hopeful that the economy will improve, thus fueling
important services with much-needed funding. Harrison
County Economic Development Director Chris Copeland
cites a $73 million ethanol plant slated for the county
as one positive sign. Still, money issues could shut
down a food program long before that plant is built,
which makes it hard for the county's elderly to share
in that optimism, NPR reports. (Read
man takes lead in providing broadband for rural community
"When C.J. Vadnais founded the Southwestern
Vermont Broadband Cooperative last September,
he was doing far more than giving high-speed Internet
to the 30 households within the broadcast radius: He
was helping this tiny mountain town of 900 people take
a leap into the 21st century not often seen in towns
five times its size," writes Matt Tuthill of the
Vadnais wants to expand the co-op from servicing 30
homes to 60 or more, which is significant because many
rural communities lack any broadband service, reports
Tuthill. Stamford is one of only a dozen rural communities
in the U.S. to have successfully founded a broadband
co-op, the Banner reports.
Prior to broadband, Stamford residents accessed the
Internet with a dial-up modem, and people sent large
files via a satellite Internet service provider. Vadnais
said that telephone or cable companies probably would
not want to expand broadband service to Stamford. "It's
such a small market up here. I don't know how it would
be worth it ... but it could always happen. And you
know with telephone and cable companies -- you're at
their mercy," he told Tuthill. (Read
districts opt for four-day weeks in Idaho, Colorado
Several rural Idaho school districts are already operating
on four-day schedules to save money, and more counties
may follow suit.
State law requires students attend schools a set number
of hours per year, but reducing the number of days can
create heating, salary and transportation savings, reports
Anne Wallace Allen of The Associated Press.
Don Bartling, superintendent in Boundary County, said
his district expects to save $108,000 this year, and
the Bear Lake County School District will save about
$200,000 this year.
Idaho state Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, opposes
the shortened weeks and says they are proof that the
state neglects education funding. The shortened week
isn't unusual in some other Western states, including
Colorado, where about 50 of the state's 178 school districts
use it, writes Allen. (Read
district considers year-round schedule to combat costs
Schools in Wake County, North Carolina may go to some
form of a year-round calendar to combat rising construction
costs, report T. Keung Hui and Todd Silberman of The
News & Observer in Raleigh.
The proposal is part of a plan to spend $994 million
on facilities through 2010. In order to keep the building
plan under $1 billion, summer vacation would have to
be reduced for more than 100,000 of Wake's 120,504 students,
and all students would begin the school year in July.
If the school board OKs the proposal, Wake would be
a rarity among the nation's large districts, write Hui
The proposed changes would take effect in 2007. (Read
group to take statewide role in Arkansas funding fight
In Little Rock, Ark., "an organization created
to protect one rural high school announced Friday it
would take a statewide role," changing its name
from the Paron Education Preservation Alliance
to the Rural Education Preservation Alliance,
writes Aaron Sadler of the Arkansas News Bureau.
Group spokesman Ron Crawford said the alliance wants
to stop a growing movement to shut down rural schools.
"We recognize that some schools should be consolidated
if they are failing either academically or financially,"
Crawford told Sadler. "But it has become clear
from the last special session of the Legislature that
a small band of insiders are intent on closing schools
in our state regardless of their merit."
The alliance plans to meet with state officials soon
about funding issues currently being considered by legislators,
writes Sadler. (Read
oppose farm identification proposal in Vermont
Small and backyard farmers in Vermont are speaking
out against a proposal for mandatory farm identification
rules aimed to prevent an outbreak of animal diseases.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture proposes
that all farms and other sites with livestock register
with the state so mad-cow disease or avian flu could
be stopped in its tracks. Opponents say identification
could lead to government intrusion that might hurt small
farmers, and they want the Legislature to research the
issue further or make the program voluntary, reports
Lisa Rathke of The Associated Press.
Many farmers with larger flocks or herds support the
proposal and say the state is simply trying to protect
animals, notes AP. (Read
cause mad-cow-like disease stay potent in soil, study
Scientists have confirmed that prions, proteins thought
to cause chronic wasting disease in deer, latch on to
minerals in soil and stay infectious. That is significant
since most proteins that bind to soil lose their power.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
are suggesting that certain soil types serve as natural
prion repositories. "As animals regularly consume
soil to meet their mineral needs, it's possible that
prion-laden soil particles contribute to the transmission
of prion disease such as CWD among animals," reports
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
CWD is a fatal, incurable condition that belongs to
the same family as mad-cow disease.
"Our results suggest that reducing the number
of infected animals -- as has been done in the recent
outbreak of CWD in Wisconsin -- could limit the potential
for further (disease) spread," says lead author
Christopher Johnson, a UW-Madison doctoral student in
animal health and biomedical sciences. "These results
also suggest that other species that share ranges with
CWD-infected deer may be exposed to soil-bound prions,
increasing the potential of CWD transferring to other
Gazette wins SDX award from SPJ for mental-health series
A Charleston Gazette staff series
on mental health has won a Sigma Delta Chi Award in
Public Service ,for newspapers with less than 100,000
circulation, from the Society of Professional
The annual Sigma Delta Chi Awards honor radio, magazines,
newspapers, television and other outlets for excellence
in journalism. The Charleston Gazette series, titled
“Brothers Keeper: West Virginia’s Mental
Health Crisis," attempted to answer the question
"Is the state failing the estimated 50,000 West
Virginians with severe mental illness?" To read
the stories from January and February 2005, click
The Sigma Delta Chi Awards will be presented July 14
at the National Press Club in Washington,
D.C. For a complete list of the award winners, click
here. This year's Pulitzer Prize winners are slated
to be announced Monday afternoon.
April 14, 2006
church' focuses on youth, culture, creating small communities
Is your community home to an "emerging church?"
Community-minded Protestants are getting behind the
movement, which focuses on youth, a preference for small
communities, making Christianity relevant and embracing
local culture, according to ReligionLink.org,
the site of the Religion Newswriters
"Few of these young congregations call themselves
churches. Leaders say they turned to emerging ideas
out of frustration with churches’ lack of emphasis
on evangelism, lack of outreach to society’s poor
and neglected, and divisive denominational politics.
Among emerging churches, many hold fast to conservative
roots while others are willing to question traditional
Christian teachings," the site says.
This movement has relevance, especially since Barna
Research found in 2003 that just three out
of 10 twentysomethings and four out of 10 thirtysomethings
attend church weekly. Director George Barna told Pennsylvania's
Allentown Morning Call that he expects
traditional churches to lose half their "market
share" by 2025, with alternatives like the "emerging
church" gaining followers. (Read
Although this movement is for those who prefer small
communities, that does not limit it to rural areas.
Cities such as Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Los Angeles
and New York are home to small groups that are part
of the "emerging church." A "Dallas-based
church consulting firm, says about 1,000 congregations
are part of the movement," writes Suzanne Sataline
of The Wall Street Journal. (Read
about bird flu? Check Harvard Medical School report
"Is a bird flu pandemic 'inevitable,' as so many
health experts believe? Is there a way to protect yourself
and your family from this deadly virus? A new report
from Harvard Medical School answers
these and other urgent questions," reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service.
The report, "Bird Flu: How to understand your
risk and protect your health," provides the information
needed to answer such questions based on the latest
scientific research and practical advice of Harvard
doctors. The report was written by Drs. Anthony L. Komaroff,
editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publications
and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School,
and Raphael Dolin, an influenza specialist and the dean
for academic and clinical programs and Maxwell Finland
Professor of Medicine at Harvard. (Read
more) The 44-page report costs $16, and it is available
ag extension agent says next terrorist attack could
"South Georgians could face terror threats from
their dinner table rather than falling victim to a hijacking
or 'dirty bomb,'" writes Wayne Hardy of the weekly
Blackshear Times in Georgia.
Agricultural terrorism is a rural concern because a
sick cow or an extra box of vegetables on a delivery
truck can serve as red flags to that the food supply
is being threatened. Pierce County Extension Agent John
Ed Smith says farmers are the eyes for even the most
subtle sign of terrorist threats. “Every farmer
in this county is aware of the potential threat of agriterrorism,”
Smith told Hardy. “Something like the dumping
of any type of fruit or vegetable can be a sign of an
exotic disease being introduced.”
Smith notes there are security holes at livestock farms
nationwide that could allow for an attack. Foot-and-mouth
disease, a viral disease that cripples cows, swine,
goats, sheep and deer, has been absent in the U.S. since
1929, but could re-emerge via livestock. An animal disease
can spread easily, but that can be combated by farmers
who are aware and ready to act, Smith told Hardy.
This story is a good example of the local extension
agent working with the local paper to convey information
useful to all readers, not just people in agriculture.
acres of rural land succumbs to development in Colorado
"Agricultural land is vanishing from Colorado
and the Rocky Mountain West at a jolting rate, according
to two recent studies," reports Pam Zubeck of The
Gazette in Colorado Springs.
Environment Colorado’s Research
and Policy Center reports that development consumed
more than 2.5 million acres of agricultural land from
1987 to 2002. Colorado College’s
State of the Rockies Report Card states that nearly
a quarter of the West’s ranches have given way
to other uses in the past 30 years and 24 million more
acres will disappear by 2020.
Rural land is being hurt by growing populations, livestock
industry consolidation, conservation ranchers who preserve
land without producing on it, a federal grazing permit
shortage and government subsidies, according to the
Colorado College report. Both reports said that converting
rural land into homes and businesses further drains
public services. "It also could harm tourism, which
relies on pristine open space to lure urban dwellers,"
writes Zubeck. (Read
To read the Colorado College State of the Rockies Report
here. The other report is not online.
may expand to Blue Ridge in Southern Virginia
Less than a year after Highland County, Virginia, high
in the Southern Alleghenies, approved the construction
of 400-foot wind turbines on ridges, a company has approached
Patrick County, in the Blue Ridge, with the idea of
constructing about 20 of the electricity-generating
The project needs approval from state and federal agencies.
On Monday, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted
3-2 to pass an emergency ordinance that would prohibit
the construction of any structure more than 100 feet
in height. The ordinance will last 60 days, and supervisor
intend to research the wind turbines and hold a public
hearing on the matter, writes Mason Adams of The
Opponents of the turbines are concerned that the project
would pollute the area and damage local tourism, the
county's rural character and values of nearby property,
reports Adams. (Read
attempt to protect Arizona plants from development
Arizona is booming with development of rural areas,
and second only to Nevada in population growth, so the
Cactus Rescue Crew is out to save plants being wiped
out by human activity.
"The group was organized six years ago by the
Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society.
Since then, it has rescued over 27,000 cactuses and
other native plants from road widenings, subdivisions,
golf courses and shopping malls," writes Patricia
Leigh Brown of The New York Times.
"It has inspired kindred groups in Phoenix and
Lake Havasu City. Tucson, mandated by the state to curtail
water use, now plants rescued cactuses rather than wetland
plants in highway medians."
Most newcomers to Arizona "care about the human
impact on the environment, but they still want golf
courses," said Rita Maguire, president of ThinkAZ,
a public policy research institute in Phoenix. Two years
ago, concerns about development in Pima County spurred
the passage of a $174 million bond issue to buy open
land for conservation and to a plan to concentrate development
in areas where environmental impact is minimal, reports
holds on to his mountain land by selling Christmas trees
Jim Henson is determined to keep his 250-acre parcel
of mountain land in Valle Crucis, N.C.; he grows Christmas
trees on his land and tries out other crops to whet
his scientific urge.
Henson grows commercial-size trees to sell wholesale,
and he leases several fields in the Blue Ridge Mountains
of western North Carolina. "Henson starts at a
much smaller tree than his competitors. He starts Fraser
fir seeds collected from high-elevation natural stands
on Roan Mountain and Mount Rogers. After three years,
the resulting seedlings are moved out of starting beds
and planted in rows, where they will spend another two
years before they are ready for transplanting into the
field," writes Scott Nicholson of the weekly Watauga
Democrat in Boone, N.C.
Henson works as a hospital pharmacist four days a month,
but he’d rather be planting trees. In fact, Henson
enjoys living on the mountainside so much that he placed
139 acres in a conservation easement just to protect
his land from logging or development, reports Nicholson.
telephone cooperative may merge with Ky. co-op
Because $12 million in debt, the Yorkville
Telephone Cooperative board has approved a
request that the Tennessee firm's 3,400 members vote
to sell its assets to the West Kentucky Rural
Telephone Cooperative Corp., based in Mayfield.
West Kentucky CEO Trevor Bonstetter, a 22-year veteran
of rural telephone cooperatives, said the merger will
allow both firms to take advantage of economies of scale
to add customers and deploy new technologies. A mix
of debt service, quickly-changing technology, equipment
troubles, the move from analog to digital systems, and
customer and financial losses, put Yorkville in trouble,
reports Chris Rimel of the State Gazette
in Dyersburg, Tenn.
West Kentucky currently operates landline and cellular
telephone services in eight counties in western parts
of Kentucky and Tennessee. A vote on the consolidation
is slated for April 27. (Read
Exchange to give CNHI one newspaper in trade for three
Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.
and Triple Crown Media Inc. are exchanging
newspapers in Georgia and Indiana.
"TCMI, which owns the Rockdale
and Newton Citizen newspapers, the
Gwinnett Daily Post and Albany
Herald, will acquire the Clayton News
Daily in Jonesboro, the Henry Daily
Herald in McDonough and the Jackson
Progress-Argus, a weekly in Jackson. All newspapers
acquired by TCMI are located in Georgia. In return,
CNHI will receive The Goshen News of
Goshen, Ind.," reports the Southern Newspaper
Publishers Association. (Read
CNHI, based in Birmingham, Ala., currently owns 90
daily newspapers and 210 non-daily publications in 200-plus
communities. After this transaction, Triple Crown Media
will own six dailies and one weekly.
weekly publisher resigns, plans to pursue career as
A long-time editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper
in Anderson County, Kentucky, announced his resignation
last month to fulfill a dream of writing a statewide
column for weeklies.
Don White of The Anderson News in
Lawrenceburg is leaving after 28 years to pursue his
lifelong ambition. He will write under a penname, "Ken,"
who will be accompanied in his columns by a dog, "Tucky."
“It will be a challenge each week to come up
with material of reasonable statewide interest, but
I'm confident that Tucky and I can build readership
over time,” White said in the News. He wants to
blend writing, photography, and traveling, into a weekly
column. "Today, there are still some really outstanding
writers and photographers throughout Kentucky, but most
weekly newspapers can be hard-pressed to attract and
retain columnists capable of both writing and shooting
Under White's management, the Anderson News routinely
won awards in general excellence from the state press
association. White has also been a reporter and editor
for the Commonwealth Journal in Somerset,
Ky., and editor/general manager of the Casey
County News in Liberty, Ky. (Read
April 13, 2006
passes smoking ban; one of most rural states with measure
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a wide-ranging statewide
smoking ban into law last Friday, and the state is one
of the most rurally populated to do so.
The act takes effect in 90 days and prohibits smoking
in most public places, including all workplaces with
three or more employees. Establishments catering only
to people 21 and over are exempt, reports Aaron Sadler
of the Arkansas News Bureau, a service
of the Stephens Media Group. (Read
Arkansas is the 17th state to pass such a ban, writes
Sadler. Tobacco is not grown in Arkansas. Compared to
the 15 states with bans listed on the Americans
for NonSmokers' Rights Web
site, Arkansas has the fourth highest percentage
of residents living in rural areas with 47 percent.
The top three are Vermont (62 percent), Maine (60 percent)
and South Dakota (48 percent).
county in Appalachian Kentucky passes a smoking ban
Letcher County, Kentucky, on the Virginia border in
the heart of Appalachia, became the fourth and most
rural jurisdiction in the tobacco-growing state to go
smoke-free after the county legislative body passed
an ordinance banning smoking in buildings that are open
to the public.
William Farley of The Mountain Eagle in
Whitesburg (not available online) reported that public
opinion at the meeting of the county Fiscal Court was
sharply split. Charles Turner, a Vietnam veteran, said
he sees the effects of cigarettes every time he visits
a VA hospital. "Now when I go to the VA, how many
of them are coughing their lungs out?" he asked
The magistrates and County Judge-Executive Carroll
Smith, a ban supporter, deadlocked on the issue last
fall, but Magistrate Trey Narramore, who faces a tough
race in the May 16 primary election, changed his mind
and the ordinance passed 4-2. One dissenter called the
issue a matter of civil rights, not public health. A
former smoker, Magistrate Wayne Fleming said it should
be up to each business to decide whether to prohibit
Georgetown was the most recent Kentucky city to ban
indoor smoking, following the lead of nearby Lexington.
Louisville has passed a more limited ban. Other municipalites
in tobacco states, such as Montreat, N.C., and several
cities in Georgia, have also passed some sort of ban.
For a list from the American Nonsmokers' Rights
Alone' manual tells adults how to protect rural gay
Thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered
youth grow up and sometimes spend their entire lives
in rural areas, but the programs to help them find acceptance
often only exist in metropolitan areas.
A resource manual titled No Longer Alone
addresses these concerns for adults who want to protect
rural gay youth. The writer, Christopher J. Stapel,
is an openly gay high school math teacher who attended
rural schools and is about to enter a Ph.D. program
in sociology at the University of Kentucky.
He explains why this lack of gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgender (GBLT) programs in rural areas puts
many teens at a variety of risks, and what adults can
do to make the environment safer for these teens.
"While larger communities have visible and active
gay and lesbian communities, gay and lesbian students
in rural places lack gay role models and are disconnected
from the larger gay community. But rural gay kids are
not alone," Stapel writes. "Rural gay students
can take comfort in knowing that there are other kids
like them, although maybe not visible, in their own
Stapel cites the following statistics from a National
School Climate survey as evidence for the unsafe
environment for rural gay youths: 80 percent of gay
youth have been verbally harassed and have teachers
who rarely intervene when overhearing homophobic comments;
two-thirds of gay youths feel unsafe at school; rural
gays are less likely to find GLBT resources or GLBT-friendly
staff members; and gay youth are also at higher risk
for suicide, depression, and drug abuse.
The manual has suggestions for gay youths, but its
mainly geared toward adult role models, including teachers
and social service providers. Stapel tells teachers
to use "gender-neutral language, don't assume heterosexuality,
make GLBT-friendly literature available, discuss current
events that involve GLBT people, and familiarize yourself
with resources for GLBT youth in your area." To
read the manual, click
needs work to serve the public good, writes columnist
Ways of defining rural America vary from generation
to generation, but one columnist used a road trip to
inspire his own version.
"At a pit stop on a long drive home last week,
I even came up with one of my own: Rural is where gas
station squeegees all have long handles so little old
ladies can reach the bugs in the center of the 4x4 windshield.
The beauty of that definition — if I do say so
myself — lies in the fact that it hits on three
of the dominant factors of rural life: trucks, driving
and the elderly," writes Thomas D. Rowley, a fellow
at the Rural Policy Research Institute.
"The abundance of definitions, however, does not
mean that rural America is well defined or well served.
Indeed, it is neither. As University of Illinois
professor Andrew Isserman points out in the October
2005 issue of International Regional Science
Review, researchers and policymakers alike
stumble when it comes to defining rural America. We
have, says Isserman, no satisfactory way to measure
"rural." Instead, rural is defined in 'two
different overlapping and often contradictory ways,
always defined by what it is not—not urban, not
metropolitan.' Consequently, we misunderstand rural
conditions, misdirect programs and funds and confuse
everyone in earshot," continues Rowley.
Rowley references the way federal data systems define
rural America, one classifying it as an area with less
than 2,500 people and the other using counties to designate
metro and non-urban areas. "Insulting as it is
for rural people and places to be regarded merely as
a residual and defined primarily by what we’re
not, the real damage comes from the huge undercounting
of rural people — undercounting that minimizes
rural political clout, results in rural people and places
being ineligible for rural programs and leads to all
sorts of confusion about the actual needs and conditions
of rural America," he writes.
Rowley stresses the importance of coming up with a
rural definition that can be used to make sure federal
programs serve the right people. "We’ve been
getting rural wrong for decades; it’s time to
get it right. It’s time for a better, more accurate,
more realistic definition of rural America," he
shock suburbanites in Virginia; 'animal police' stay
"In Loudoun (County, Va.), when the bulldozers
come and the houses go up, the deer, beaver and rabbit
politely move aside – no picketing, petitioning
or protesting. But, according to the staff at the county's
Department of Animal Care and Control, many humans moving
into new houses are surprised to share their new neighborhood
with furry – or scaly – neighbors,"
reports the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
Loudoun’s Chief Animal Control Officer Kim Miller
told reporter Anne Keisman the number of calls about
pesky animals has increased drastically during the past
five years. Before the urban sprawl, Miller said people
first called their neighbors for help, but now they
phone the “animal police.”
Animal Control staff report that one of the most surprising
things is how callers have such a sense of urgency and
how they panic about the presence of animals. “People
are devastated about living with animals. And the scary
thing is that a lot of children are being raised absolutely
afraid of animals,” Joy Wilson, a dispatcher at
animal control, told Keisman. (Read
county investigates ad promising 'free plowing' for
"In far Southwest Virginia, where votes allegedly
can be bought with beer, cigarettes and pork rinds,
authorities are hearing complaints about a new form
of election fraud: plowing for votes," writes Laurence
Hammack of The Roanoke Times.
Washington County residents complained to local officials
and law enforcement about a classified advertisement
that offers "free plowing" in exchange for
votes in the Glade Spring mayoral race next month. However,
the advertisement may be one big joke. The elected official
whose phone number appears in the ad claims someone
pulled a hoax on him and the mayoral candidate he supports,
Sheriff Fred Newman said the complainants have compared
the case to a voting scandal in Appalachia, where residents
claim they were offered beer, cigarettes and even pork
rinds in exchange for their votes, notes Hammack. Despite
the comparison between Appalachia, Va., scene of a big
vote-buying case, and Washington County, and their relative
proximity, the two are quite different with the the
former having coal and the other not. (Read
Kentucky newspaper announces plan to expand to daily
Residents in Pike County, Kentuckym will have a daily
newspaper for the first time in 50 years when the multi-weekly
Appalachian News-Express expands next
Editor Rachel Stanley writes that the newspaper will
begin publishing Tuesday through Sunday, starting April
18. The paper has been published Wednesday, Friday
and Sunday. "For years I've always had the dream
of making the Appalachian News-Express a daily newspaper,"
said Publisher Marty Backus. He said going daily will
satisfy readers' need for more local news coverage.
Backus said a recent survey revealed a big demand for
the paper to go daily. The newsstand cost of the paper
will not change. "There are 12 comparably sized
daily papers in Kentucky now, and the 13th will be the
News-Express, Backus said. The Pikeville Daily
News, which ran from 1949 through 1954, was
the first and only daily paper in Pike County until
now," writes Stanley.
April 12, 2006
ag-bio defense labs in rural areas spark residents'
Proposals to replace an aging agro-bio defense lab
are drawing opposition at some of the 14 places where
it could be located for Department of Homeland
The new lab would replace an old one on Long Island.
Residents near the new, suggested sites fear that the
proposed 500,000-square-foot facility would make the
area at risk for terrorists' attention.
Near Columbia, Mo., the University of Missouri
wants to build the $400 million facility near an elementary
school and a retirement home, writes Alan Scher Zagier
of The Associated Press. Lisa Patterson,
a mother of three who lives nearby, told Zagier the
old lab "was built with isolation in mind for a
specific reason. We understand the highest levels of
security would take place, but we also know mistakes
"Preliminary plans call for a 30-acre containment
site surrounded by a 250-foot buffer encircled by a
security fence, and a second fence along the project's
outer perimeter," Zagier writes. The site can be
expanded by another 70 acres if necessary, and a series
of wooded ravines serve as natural buffers, the proposal
While there is sizable competition for the new anti-terror
lab, that doesn't mean the residents in those areas
are any more willing to welcome a research lab. Sharon
Dodson of The Commonwealth Journal of
Somerset, Ky., recently reported that almost 2,800 people
delivered a petition opposing construction of the facility
on a rural site northeast of town.
"We are concerned about potential dangers and
disruption of our quiet farming community. We feel it
poses a genuine threat to the health and way of life
of our community and surrounding counties,” said
the residents in the petition. David Taylor, a dairy
farmer who lives near the proposed site, was more concise.
“I don’t want to be a guinea pig,”
he told Dodson. (Read
When a rural
hospital closes, a community suffers economically, too
Hospitals can be important economic engines in rural
communities, offering many professional, good-paying
jobs and keeping locals from going elsewhere to get
health care and spend money. A new study backs that
up, finding that closure of a rural community's only
hospital has a measurable economic effect. It found
that in the three years after closure, local per capita
income dropped 4 percent and the unemployment rate rose
by 1.6 percentage points.
The study, conducted by the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, is titled "The
Effect of Rural Hospital Closures on Community Economic
Health." It tracked 140 counties where a hospital
closed between 1992 and 1998. "Researchers found
that, in general, a county that lost a hospital experienced
a decrease of approximately 1 percent in per capita
income in the county for the first three years following
the closure. If there were other hospitals in the county,
the income of the community returned to pre-closure
levels within three years," reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service. "However, if the
closed hospital was the only one in the county, then
per capita income fell by 4 percent (or roughly $703)
and did not return to pre-closure levels, the research
team reported." (Read
The research is believed to be the first study to separate
the economic contribution of the hospital as a major
employer from the importance a hospital brings to the
economic development possibilities of a community. It
was funded by the federal Office of Rural Health
Policy and appears in the April issue of the
"Our findings suggest that in certain situations,
it may be in a community’s long-term interest
to directly support a hospital in order to ensure its
long-term survival," said Dr. Mark Holmes, co-author
of the report and a senior research fellow for health
economics at UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center
for Health Services Research. "A county
losing its only hospital experiences a larger decline
in its average income. This suggests that private business
values the existence of a local hospital. Anecdotally,
we hear from local economic developers that recruiting
is more difficult without a hospital to serve the community."
co-ops battle propane dealers; can affect broadband
When Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a bill to
allow rural electric cooperatives to continue providing
propane gas and Internet service in addition to electricity,
it ended the latest chapter in a multi-state battle
between the co-ops and propane dealers -- one that has
implications for future energy supplies.
The new law negates a decision by the Supreme Court
of Kentucky that said electric co-ops could not provide
non-electric services. The ruling came in a lawsuit
filed by propane dealers, against whom the co-ops recently
began competing. The battle is being, or has been, waged
in other states such as Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi,
North Carolina and Texas, and can affect some co-ops
ability to offer broadband Internet service.
the short term, the co-ops want to be seen as energy
companies, not just electric utilities. Most of them
are now organize their marketing under the "Touchstone
Energy Cooperative" umbrella. For the long term,
co-ops are interested in propane because the fuel and
natural gas are the source of energy for fuel cells,
which can generate electricity. The technology is not
commercially viable, but could become so in several
years, creating the first real competition for the electric
For more information from the Kentucky Association
of Electric Cooperatives,
of N.C. migrant farmworkers living in substandard conditions
Many Hispanic farmworker families suffer from inadequate
housing, putting them at risks of disease and the psychological
effects of overcrowding, according to research done
in North Carolina by Dr. Thomas Arcury of the Wake
Forest University School of Medicine.
Previous research found housing to be an important
factor for good health, because severe crowding and
inadequate sanitation brings a higher risk of exposure
to disease, and overcrowding has an affect on psychological
well-being, reports Newswise, a research-reporting
Subjects of the study came from households with at
least one adult farmworker and at least one young child,
with the majority of the subjects originally from Mexico.
The researchers looked at the characteristics of the
dwelling and the household, and the behavior of the
household. Most subjects (54 percent to 71 percent)
lived in mobile homes, compared to 7 percent of the
U.S. population and 15 percent of the rural population.
Many dwellings were near agricultural fields, with increased
exposure to pesticides.
“It is important to improve these conditions
because of the vital role they play in the state farm
economy and therefore, the state economy of North Carolina,”
Arcury said. Data came from four surveys of North Carolina
farmworker communities conducted in 2001 and 2003, and
the results are published in the April issue of the
Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.
establishes a loan program to help beginning farmers
The Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corp.
announced Tuesday that it will implement a $2 million
loan program for "beginning farmers" to help
them create business plans, find expertise and get funds
to prepare their farming operations for the future.
It will be administered through lenders with Kentucky
offices, according to a press release from the Governor's
Office of Agricultural Policy.
Other states have loan programs for beginning farmers,
but make direct loans. The Kentucky loans will be originated
and serviced by lending institutions. Criteria for loans
will include a five-year commitment by a main lender,
and a mentor to advise on recordkeeping and business
Borrowers cannot own more than 30 percent of the average
farm/ranch size in the county where the operation is
located, and must have a net worth of less than $250,000
and an off-farm income less than $50,000 per year, with
a total household income less than $75,000 annually.
The loans will have a 2 percent fixed interest rate
with a 1 percent service fee, with a maximum loan term
not to exceed 10 years, and no penalty for early payment.
All loans will be secured with fixed assets and personal
guaranty. Most other states' loan programs for beginning
farmers charge interest near market rates, according
to Kentucky officials.
Mass., citizens vote to ban chain stores from downtown
Citizens of the island town of Nantucket, Mass., voted
at their annual Town Meeting last week to ban chain
and franchise stores from their core downtown shopping
district, joining other rural, touristy places such
as Carmel, Calif.; Bristol, R.I.; and Port Townsend,
The town of 9,520, south of Cape Cod and east of Martha's
Vineyard, "already had strict rules forbidding
neon signs and vinyl siding on its downtown shops,"
The New York Times reports. Now it
"limits stores and restaurants in downtown to companies
with fewer than 14 identical outlets and fewer than
three standardized features among items like trademarks,
menus or employee uniforms."
Stacey Stowe writes, "Perhaps surprisingly, it
was not the prospect of a Wal-Mart or
a Dunkin' Donuts on this island —
where madras shorts and Range Rovers are summer staples
— that prompted Ms. Hudson's proposal, but rather
the arrival last year of the impeccably preppy retailer
Ralph Lauren in a store on Main Street."
That store will stay, because the law cannot be retroactive.
The Times and Nantucket's newspaper, The Inquirer
and Mirror, report that the chain-store ban
got no debate. "Town Meeting voters spent more
time debating the merits of an $84,000 snow-making machine,
which was eventually shot down, than the municipal operating
budget or the town's soaring solid waste expenses,"
the I&M reports. (Click
here to read more; subscription
required for full text)
present in awards from business journalists' society
Stories on rural topics were among award winners in
the Society of American Business Editors and
Writers contest, announced recently.
The Lexington Herald-Leader, at 140,000
circulation considered a "small" paper by
SABEW, won recognition for two pieces. The first, "Wrong
Side of the Track," by Janet Patton, exposed the
lack of workers' compensation in the horse industry,
which draws heavily on migrant workers. The second,
"Win, Lose or Draw: Gambling for Jobs" by
John Stamper, Bill Estep and Linda Blackford, looked
at lack of accountability for Kentucky's incentives
for job creation, a key tool for rural economic development.
A Des Moines Register piece, "On
New Ground," by Philip Brasher, Jennifer Dukes
Lee, Anne Fitzgerald and Lee Rood, investigated a new
trend in farm ownership with over half of Iowa's farmlands
owned by residents over the age of 65. Because of this
trend, massive transfer of ownership when the current
owners pass is looming over the state economy.
The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., produced
"Tiny Town a Roost to Big Bamboozles," a story
about Champlain, N.Y., pop. 5,967, along Lake Champlain
in the northeastern corner of the state. Because of
its proximity to Canada and its remoteness, the town
has become a breeding ground for scams run by Canadian
companies. These companies like the town's easy access
to the border and a U.S. post office box, which they
think gives them more credibility, the paper reported.
For more, click
among new Kentucky Journalism Hall of Famers
Six journalists were inducted yesterday to the Kentucky
Journalism Hall of Fame, including the
owner of a small-town radio station who for 48 years
has not only brought local news to his rural community
but offered a regular diet of regional, state and national
guests on a morning call-in show.
"I try to provide a wide variety of opinions and
points of view on our show so people can make better
and wiser decisions about lots of things," Don
Neagle, co-owner and news director of WRUS in
Russellville, Ky., told the luncheon crowd in Lexington.
He said he is "just an old radio guy" who
wanted to be a disc jockey, not a journalist. Now, despite
never taking a journalism class, "I am
a legitimate journalist, and I've got the dadgum plaque
to prove it!"
Neagle bemoaned the fate of last year's radio honoree,
Lee Denney, who last week lost his job at WOMI
in Owensboro when Regent Communications
largely dismantled the station's news operation.
"It's a sad and troubling story," he said.
At WRUS, "We bought the station three years ago
in order to keep it local."
Two other broadcasters were honored yesterday -- Ferrell
Wellman, who was a state political reporter for Louisville's
WAVE-TV before becoming a journalism
professor at Eastern Kentucky University,
and Claude Sullivan, a masterful broadcaster who did
University of Kentucky basketball and
football games, horse racing and Cincinnati Reds games
before dying of throat cancer in 1967 at the age of
42. Audio clips of his calls were played for the audience,
bringing back fond memories. Wellman, who grew up listening
to Sullivan in Ashland and Lexington, called the recognition
for Sullivan "long overdue."
Other honorees were sportswriter Bob White and photographer
Larry Spitzer, both retired from The Courier-Journal;
and David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky
Press Association since 1983. White, known
as "Mr. Kentucky High School Sports," told
the crowd, "All I ever tried to do was the best
I could with the ability I had." Spitzer quipped,
"I'm especially happy that it's not being done
posthumously. It means so much more when you're here
Thompson is one of the longest-tenured executive directors
of a state press association, and one of the most successful.
For years, all newspapers in Kentucky, now numbering
150, have been KPA
members. He said many of his counterparts have left
press-association jobs because of "contentious
relationships" with members, but he said that has
not been his experience -- even though he has a 27-member
board, the second largest of any state, and has worked
with as many as 250 board members.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the University of
Kentucky Journalism Alumni Association and
the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications.
April 11, 2006
for immigrant-friendly reform held in rural America,
As many as 3,000 southwest Kansas residents, including
several children and teen-agers, rallied for immigrant
rights Monday morning at Stevens Park in Garden City.
Andrea Hernandez, 33, told Kursten Phelps of the Garden
City Telegram she has lived with her husband
for five years illegally in the U.S., but their two
children are native-born citizens. "There are many
people like us, who come here to work, to try to give
our children a better life than we've had," Hernandez
said. "We work, we follow the laws, we stay out
of trouble. There are citizens who break more laws than
we do. All we want is a chance." (Read
The Rev. Juan Guerra of Dodge City's Office of Hispanic
Ministry told the crowd to fight H.R. 4437, the House-passed
bill that would make it a felony to be in the country
illegally. The bill, which doesn't include guestworker
plans, calls for local law enforcement to enforce immigration
laws. Guerra told the crowd. "... We've come here
today for one reason: justice for all and especially
justice for immigrants."
Garden City may not have been the only rural place
taking part in Monday's rallies. "Across the United
States, in the nation's largest cities and some of its
smaller towns, hundreds of thousands of immigrants and
children of immigrants, labor unions and civic associations
took to the streets in an immigrant 'Day of Action,'"
write Sonya Geis and Michael Powell of The Washington
Mexico' comes to rural life; that can be a good thing,
"The immigration debate has heated up, although
it actually has been going on for quite some time in
the quieter circles of small and mid-sized towns, particularly
those in rural settings. It is only now that Congress
has caught up and is engaging in law and policy making
in its wake," writes Sylvia L. Lovely, president
of the NewCities Institute and author
of New Cities in America: The Little Blue Book of
"Just two years ago at a National League
of Cities seminar, I faced a roomful of mayors
and council members who hijacked my intended topic and
turned it into 'What do we do about migrants?'"
she writes. "The solutions people tossed out were
all over the map from the hardnosed 'Make 'em learn
English and conform' to descriptions of celebrations
and embracing what they had to offer the native population.
"One thing is for sure. Many of the smaller places
have done what smaller cities and towns where the rubber
hits the road and there isn't time for lengthy debate
often do. They come up with solutions. Some are better
than others, but they make them without a lot of guidance
from anywhere else. The fact is that communities will
increasingly face the demographic juggernaut that is
new and different people. Those who embrace this with
positive programming and open arms will likely do better
than those who don't."
to read this entire column in our Reports section.
union to announce first national contract for guest
The country's largest union of farmworkers planned
to announce today that it had signed the first nationwide
contract in an effort to keep guest workers in agriculture.
"The union, the United Farm Workers,
and Global Horizons, a labor contractor
based in Los Angeles, have signed an agreement that
provides employer-paid medical care, a seniority system
and a grievance procedure to help ensure that farms
comply with state and federal laws. Global Horizons,
one of the nation's largest suppliers of agricultural
guest workers, has nearly 1,000 in the country now,
but plans to have 3,000 to 5,000 by peak harvest season
this summer," reports The New York Times.
Global Horizons has workers in more than a dozen states
and it wants to improve its image after Washington State
revoked its license to do business because of alleged
violations. The state said the company did not pay guest
workers their promised wages, put them in poor housing,
did not pay enough unemployment insurance taxes and
improperly withheld state income taxes, writes Steven
Mordechai Orian, the president of Global Horizons,
said the contract would combat complaints that guest
worker programs treated employees badly. In a climate
where workers are hard to come by for fruit and vegetable
growers, Orian told Greenhouse the contract might help
keep workers in agriculture instead of seeing them enter
other industries. (Read
pledges not to open bank branches; critics still worry
Despite its previous plans, Wal-Mart Stores
promises to never open bank branches, in light of protests
and the first public hearing in the Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation's 73-year history.
"At times, the hearing felt more like a referendum
on Wal-Mart's integrity than the wisdom of allowing
it to open a bank, with friends and foes of the retailer
marshaling character witnesses. Testimony touched on
Wal-Mart's role in port security, its efforts to recover
missing children, the generosity of its health insurance
plan and the cost of a shovel at its stores. The FDIC
. . . is reviewing Wal-Mart's application to open a
bank that would process credit card transactions,"
writes Michael Barbaro of The New York Times.
Many bankers voiced concerns about the company opening
traditional consumer banks that take deposits and grant
loans. The chief concern is that such a move could put
other banks out of business, based on Wal-Mart's economic
strength and its ability to get a stranglehold on markets.
Even without branches, critics say a Wal-Mart bank would
give even more power to a company, "whose sales
— more than $300 billion in 2005 — make
it three times as large as the nation's next-biggest
retailer," reports Barbaro.
The company's supporters counter that criticism of
Wal-Mart's original idea was a "thinly veiled effort
to prevent a new and nimble competitor from entering
the industry," writes Barbaro. (Read
study shows brain’s reaction to meth affected
A government-funded study at Johns Hopkins
University reports what could be the first
evidence that amphetamines have a greater effect on
men’s brains than women’s, which could have
implications for methamphetamine investigation and treatment.
"The study, led by Gary S. Wand, M.D., a professor
of endocrinology in the Department of Medicine at Johns
Hopkins School of Medicine, found that men’s brains
showed evidence of up to three times the amount of chemical
dopamine as women’s when exposed to amphetamines,"
reports Newswise, a news and public
relations service for higher-education and research
firms. Dopamine acts as a hormone that can increase
heart rate and blood pressure.
“These appear to be the first clinical studies
whose results may help explain why we see a greater
number of men abusing amphetamines than women,”
Wand stated. According to the Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),
6 percent of American males and 3.8 percent of females,
12 and older, illegally used amphetamines in 2004. (Read
may create flooding danger by cutting stream gauges
Some 7,400 stream gauges exist nationwide to measure
water levels and provide flood warnings, but budget
crunches have led to some being deactivated.
"In 1994, federal budget cuts led to the loss
of a gauge on the Licking River at McKinneysburg (Ky.).
Three years later, a flash flood on the Licking inundated
the town of Falmouth, six miles northwest, and killed
four people. The furor over the incident led to more
gauges and increased federal financing. But in the past
few years, budget pressures have built up once more,"
reports The New York Times.
Each device costs on average $13,500 to run, writes
John Schwartz. The national network, which has other
costs as well, takes some $120 million each year to
run about 7,400 gauges, down from 8,221 in 1968. The
program's support comes from the U.S. Geological Survey,
and the Bush administration has requested an additional
$2 million be added to the $14 million contribution
from the Geological Survey.
"In the case of the Licking River, there is still
debate over whether the deactivated stream gauge might
have provided a crucial alert if it had still been in
operation. Robert Hirsch, the associate director for
water at the Geological Survey, said he believed that
it would have," writes Schwartz. Falmouth has yet
to fully recover from the 1997 flood. (Read
Students say mountaintop removal crushes culture
Five Middle Tennessee State University
students went to the Southeast Student Mountaintop Removal
Convergence near Whitesville, W.Va., in March to learn
about destructive mining practices. "What they
discovered was that mountaintop removal mining is to
strip mining as blowing up a cherry bomb is to lighting
a sparkler-it's all a matter of scale," reports
Casey Phillips in the student newspaper Sidelines.
"Just like with people, first impressions, not
second-hand accounts, usually have the strongest impact
when it comes to understanding environmental destruction.
As the members of (Students for Environmental Action)
stood on [Larry] Gibson's 50-acre property, which is
now surrounded on all sides by 3,000 acres of land owned
and mined by Massey [Energy], their
collective impression was pretty strong," he writes.
The SEA members realized that the problems caused by
mountaintop removal mining do not just consist of flattening
the landscape. "As far as [colonial] Americans,
I think the Appalachian traditions are the only rich
cultural traditions that we have, and that entire tradition
is being crushed," Charlee Tidrick, an MTSU graduate
and SEA member, told Phillips. "[These companies]
are not just crushing people, they're crushing a culture."
lawmakers pass phone-deregulation bill; could raise
A bill that would deregulate local phone service for
many Kentuckians is on the way to Gov. Ernie Fletcher
after being passed by legislators last night as they
neared the end of the 2006 General Assembly.
The bill's supporters say that state regulations hurt
traditional phone companies who are in competition with
all-in-one communications packages being provided by
cable companies. However, the bill's opponents counter
that deregulating the service will create higher prices
for rural customers, where competition is rare, writes
John Stamper of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"HB 337 is unquestionably the most irresponsible,
anti-consumer bill that I have seen enacted into law
in 28 years - it allows the telecom giants to deregulate
without accountability, and will likely result in lower
costs in competitive markets at the expenses of rural
and more vulnerable customers," said Tom FitzGerald,
director of the Kentucky Resources Council,
an environmental and consumer group.
The bill eliminates state pricing regulation for everyone
except people who use only a basic phone line. Such
customers can purchase features such as call waiting
but not as part of a package. Rates for customers who
opt for a phone company's package service would not
be regulated, which currently applies to more than half
the customers, reports Stamper. (Read
April 10, 2006
people in U.S. now live in counties next to metro areas
The population of rural America is increasingly in
places like Spencer County, Kentucky -- where "farmers
run cattle, cultivate burley tobacco and raise alfalfa,
hay and soybeans" within sight of subdivisions
built to attract urbanites who hunger for a rural environment,
reports The Courier-Journal.
Business reporter Marcus Green's story focuses mainly
on the county, the 17th fastest growing in the United
States, according to census estimates. But in writing
about what is fast becoming a bedroom community for
Louisville, Green puts it in a national context:
"Much of the United States is seeing people move
to neighboring counties from major cities in search
of affordable housing and a less urban lifestyle, said
Cynthia "Mil" Duncan, director of the University
of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. She estimates
that as much as two-thirds of the nation's rural population
lives in counties that are adjacent to metropolitan
Green cites a report the Carsey Institute
issued last month -- "Demographic Trends in Rural
and Small Town America," which he says "highlights
the challenges rural communities face. Rapid growth
can increase demand for emergency services, schools,
roads and sewers -- possibly overwhelming their pocketbooks.
That's been the case in Spencer County." (Read
One of the challenges of such development is balancing
it with commercial and industrial developments, which
usually pay more in property taxes than they received
in services. “For every $1 in property taxes paid,
industrial and commercial businesses receive $0.27 in
services. In comparison, for every $1 in property taxes
received, residential properties receive $1.17 in services,”
writes Jack Schultz in his Boomtown
USA blog. “This is why purely 'bedroom'
communities have a difficult time prospering and the
reason that most cities and townships seek a balanced
mix between residential and business uses.”
states vie for bio-agro lab; billions in economic impact
"Public and private institutions in at least 14
states have applied to the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) to build and operate
its proposed $451 million National Bio-and Agro-Defense
Facility (NBAF), the replacement for the department’s
aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) near
Long Island, New York," reports John Miller of
The Scientist, a magazine that covers
developments in research, technology and business.
The applicants are located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa,
Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, California and
Colorado. Many if not most of the sites are in rural
areas, such as the one proposed northeast of Somerset,
Ky., in a joint application by Kentucky and Tennessee.
The 500,000-square-foot lab will be used to conduct
research on vaccines and drugs to fight human diseases,
foreign animal diseases, and animal diseases humans
can catch. It will house researchers from DHS, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, reports
"Wherever the new lab is located, it will have
an enormous local economic impact, experts say. According
to a study by the University of Georgia’s
Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the NBAF will bring
in between $3.5 billion and $6 billion over 20 years.
Salaries alone will reach up to $2.5 billion, the report
says," writes Miller. (Read
Montana for requiring gas companies to clean up water
Federal energy officials are fighting Montana's new
rules requiring companies that extract methane gas from
underground coal beds to clean up the water pollution
caused by drilling.
The new rules came after a Montana consulting firm
obtained a copy of an unreleased 2003 Environmental
Protection Agency report that says cleanup
costs are relatively inexpensive. The report said requiring
companies to hold the contaminated water in storage
ponds "would not have a major impact on production
or any of the financial parameters measured by the economic
model of any of the geographic regions investigated
[Wyoming, Montana or Indian Country]." A more expensive
method would be cleaning the water via reverse osmosis,
reports Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.
"The debate centers on how best to mitigate the
environmental impact of coalbed methane extraction,
which provides 9 percent of the nation's natural gas
supply and requires pumping water from underground to
release the methane," she writes. "At the
end of the process, drilling companies are left with
water high in salinity and sodium that is often dumped
into nearby streams, where it can damage soil, crops
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) said the restrictions
are vital. "The place where people are developing
coalbed methane is the place where people make a living
irrigating," he told Eilperin. "The coalbed
methane company is going to come and go in 10 years.
But that rancher and his family have been there for
150 years. Who's going to take care of that rancher's
grandchildren when there's no water?" (Read
Women rarely get hired in underground coal mines
"Unlike you, perhaps, Brenda Horn Schoonover wears
a dark blue uniform to work that is decorated with rows
of yellow reflective tape. She puts on her father's
old black hard hat, carries his rust-flecked coffee
thermos and a dinner bucket decorated with a heart and
a message in a little-kid scrawl: 'Have a safe day at
work, Mom. I love you.' Schoonover, 38, is nearly the
last of her breed: A female underground coal miner,"
writes Lee Mueller of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
During the 1970s and 1980s, victories in federal sex
discrimination lawsuits helped possibly hundreds of
Kentucky women get coal mining jobs. "By 1985,
nearly 4,000 women held 1 percent of the nation's mining
jobs. But the boom went bust. Betty Jean Hall, who was
executive director of a Tennessee-based activist group
called the Coal Employment Project, told the Herald-Leader
in 1986 that female miners were hardest hit by the industry's
layoffs because they were 'the last hired and the first
fired' -- a labor dictum that no one challenged.
Today, "There are thought to be only two in Eastern
Kentucky, and perhaps half a dozen more in Western Kentucky,"
Mueller writes, despite the fact that coal mining is
booming, especially in Kentucky where the work force
went from about 12,000 in 2002 to about 16,000 at present.
State figures report 800 of them are women, but that
statistic includes clerical and maintenance workers,
support staff and managers.
State Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, a former miner, wants
to know whether coal companies are actively recruiting
and hiring women. "If there's a shortage, as everybody
claims, maybe we ought to look at our women before we
start bringing in non-English-speaking miners, to be
politically apropos," she told Mueller, referring
to one company's recent proposal to the state mining
not? A crossroad for youth in a rural Mississippi community
Young people in Meridian, Miss., have never shied away
from military duty. At least until now.
"When President Bush calls for sacrifice in Iraq,
this is a place that listens," writes Anne Hull
of The Washington Post. But when a
group of new recruits gathers in Meridian, Clarkdale
sports star Blake Johnson does not show despite pressure
to enlist. "Now, that's a Marine," says Staff
Sgt. Jay Wyatt, describing his first encounter with
Johnson. "Just how he walked into the office. He
has the basic leadership qualities we are looking for.
He's a quarterback, pitcher and third baseman. These
are leadership positions. He is a very determined individual.
His scores would qualify him for any job he wants."
"Johnson won't be enlisting," Hull writes.
"The decision doesn't come in a lightening-bolt
moment. It occurs gradually, seeping in." Some
of that process involves thinking about another Meridian
who lost his life in the war. Hull concludes, "Johnson's
tone is reverent. His own path will be different. Instead
of boot camp after graduation, he'll try to find a job
-- 'anything I reckon' -- and start community college
in the fall." (Read
deal would kill proposed wind farm near Cape Cod
In another twist on opposition to wind farms, a U.S.
Senate-House conference committee report would effectively
kill a proposal for the nation's first large offshore
wind farm, proposed for Nantucket Sound south of Cape
The amendment to a Coast Guard budget bill gives the
governor of "the adjacent state," Massachusetts,
veto power over any wind farm in the sound. Gov. Mitt
Romney, a Republican, opposes the wind farm, and most
of the candidates running for his post this fall are
against it. The full Congress will take up the budget
bill next, reports Cornelia Dean of The New
York Times. The issue of using wind farms is
growing in some rural areas.
The New England wind farm would include 130 turbines
in an area that would cover 24 square miles. Each tower
of turbines and blades would soar 420 feet above the
water. Cape Wind Associates, the private
company that proposed the wind farm, said the project
would produce three-quarters of the electricity now
used on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, notes
"The proposal won the support of many environmental
groups and lawmakers," writes Dean. "But many
Massachusetts politicians of both parties have long
objected to the proposal, saying Nantucket Sound, a
major attraction for the region's tourism-based economy,
is a poor site for so large an industrial installation."
PSC approves power line that would cross national forest
The Kentucky Public Service Commission
reversed itself Friday and approved a power line near
Morehead that has been attacked by environmentalists
because it would cross the Daniel Boone National
Forest and the Sheltowee Trace hiking trail.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative got
clearance to build a 6.9-mile, $4.9 million line that
requires clearing a 100-foot-wide right of way. East
Kentucky Power says the line is needed to improve service
in 10 northeastern Kentucky counties. "The PSC
rejected the proposal in August because it said East
Kentucky Power had not adequately considered other strategies,
such as sharing a nearby Kentucky Utilities
right-of-way," writes Todd Van Campen of the Lexington
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth opposed
the line since 4.8 miles of it would cross the forest
and the trail. The group, concerned that the line will
affect grouse and deer hunting, said it should instead
follow existing rights of way that mostly avoid public
land, reports Van Campen. (Read
The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing
the PSC's order and will then decide whether to grant
East Kentucky Power a special use permit. For more details
about the proposal, click
here. The Rural Blog wrote on Dec.
13, 2005 about the cooperative resubmitting its proposal.
here for the archives)
Project: Rural Iowans' stories told in photographs,
Peter Feldstein photographed 670 people "in 1984
as part of the Oxford Project, an effort to document
small-town Iowa life through the images and words of
its people. At the time, Oxford, a town in eastern Iowa,
had 676 residents. Last year, Mr. Feldstein picked up
his camera again, beginning a new series of portraits
of the same people — or, at least, those who had
not died or moved away," writes Nina Siegal for
The New York Times.
Stephen Bloom, an author and journalism professor at
the University of Iowa, has conducted
interviews with some of the portrait subjects in Oxford
(pop. 725) and written short prose poems based on their
comments. Without question, the Oxford Project has brought
to light several personal histories in a close-knit
town where new faces and new automobiles stand out like
a sore thumb, reports Siegal.
Bloom said he hoped the photographs will speak for
rural residents. "So many people call this flyover
country," he told Siegal. "No one listens
to rural America. They are the ignored. My hope is that
this project will be able to show that there's great
rural poetry and rural wisdom." Feldstein will
display some of the photos and poetry next February
at the Des Moines Arts Center.
Ben Stoker, 21, was just a few weeks old when Feldstein
first took his picture. "A lot of people don't
like small towns because they're so tight knit,"
he told Siegal. "But that's what makes the place
so great. You know who's sleeping with whom, but when
your mother dies you know there will be 28 people at
your door with casseroles." (Read
April 9, 2006
Famer last year, out of a job this year: That's local
Lee Denney, the voice of news in Owensboro, Ky., and
a 2005 inductee to the Kentucky
Journalism Hall of Fame, is out of a job because
"Regent Communications has decided
to cut back on its local news commitment to Owensboro,"
Denney told the local daily newspaper. "That is
their prerogative. It's unfortunate for me personally,
but it is a trend in the industry."
Denney, 65, was news director for Regent's WOMI-AM
and WBKR-FM and anchored "Afternoon
News Drive," a program that is now canceled. The
company also abolished the job of its local promotions
director, reports Ryan Garrett of The Messenger-Inquirer.
Mark Thomas, vice president and general manager for
Regent's Owensboro-Evansville region, told Garrett that
the elimination of the news director's job was a business
decision and not based on Denney's performance. Garrett
writes, "The programming is becoming more music
intensive, he said. The stations will continue to air
morning news segments and break in for major stories,
Denney told Garrett that he does not plan to stay in
broadcasting but has not ruled it out. Last year, as
he prepared to be inducted to the Hall of Fame, he told
the paper that he was nearing retirement age but had
no plans to retire. "I intend to keep working,"
he said. "It's still fun." Denney worked in
radio and TV in Bowling Green before working in TV news
in Louisville, Evansville, Jacksonville, Dayton and
San Diego. He settled in Owensboro in 1985. "I've
been honored by the response of the community to my
efforts to report the news in a fair and accurate manner
for more than two decades," he told the newspaper.
coal operator illustrates weakness in fine-collection
Harold K. Simpson of Ewing, Va., paid only $50,352
of more than $1.1 million in fines that the U.S.
Mine Safety and Health Administration levied
against him in the last 10 years, according to an MSHA
database, making him the agency's worst scofflaw during
"He is not alone in having unpaid fines, but his
case raises a question: How could a coal operator rack
up such a staggering penalty debt, yet still keep mining?
The answer is that, scofflaw or not, Simpson is an example
of serious weaknesses in the government's system for
collecting fines," writes Bill Estep in the Lexington
"Companies can escape fines by going out of business.
And the law does not allow MSHA to shut down a mine
because of unpaid fines for safety violations, no matter
how large the amount. That is in contrast to surface
mining rules, under which the government can bar permits
for operators if they haven't paid fines for environmental
violations." Kentucky Coal Association
President Bill Caylor told Estep that if a company willfully
fails to pay, it should "be barred from getting
a future license, or ... put out of business."
Estep's story traces Simpson's life and his boom-and-bust
history in the Central Appalachian coal industry, including
his company's guilty plea and payment of a $20,000 fine
for serious safety violations at his mines in southeastern
Kentucky -- and his purchase of hundreds of thousands
of dollars worth of real estate in Kentucky, Tennessee
and Virginia. (Read
more) Similar stories could be told about similar
scofflaws, and we urge smaller newspapers serving the
coalfield to tell them.
of vanishing towns in northwestern North Dakota
Richard Rubin writes in The New York Times
Magazine today about the decline and death
of tiny towns in northwestern North Dakota, and the
struggle of some to survive. It's worth reading. Many
counties in the Great Plains are losing population,
but Rubin notes, "Of the 25 counties nationwide
that lost the largest portions of their populations
in the 1990's, 12 were in North Dakota."
Some places in the Plains are giving away land to entice
homesteaders, employers and families, a notion that
has garnered considerable publicity but not much proven
a Web site that lists 86 places in North Dakota, some
of them ghost towns, gets about 20 "good"
inquiries by e-mail per week, says its founder, Steve
Slocum, marketing director for a bank in Williston,
at 12,000 the region's largest town. But Rubin writes,
"It is tough to say, exactly, how many families
have actually picked up and moved to northwest North
Dakota since all this began. There are no statistics,
only anecdotes, and very few of those. Steve Slocum
can list a few families, but even he gets a little fuzzy
on whether all of them have actually moved to the area
or merely intend to at some point."
One couple, Shawn and Esther Oehlke, moved to Crosby,
pop. 1,050, to "start a company, SEO Precision,
that would design and build electro-optic mechanisms,
primarily for military applications," Rubin reports.
Esther told him, "We're probably the only ones
from out of state who've come here to try and prove
the experiment." And now they say some of the promises
that brought them -- money from local banks, tax credits
and variances from local officials. In November, Esther
wrote a letter to the local weekly newspaper, The
Journal, complaining. She said the response
was mostly positive.
The Oehlkes, Rubin writes, "have exposed the paradox
at the heart of this transaction. On the one hand, what
towns like Crosby are actually selling — really,
all they have to sell — is atmosphere, an idyllic
image of a place and a way of life most Americans believe
is already gone. On the other hand, if these places
are truly successful in attracting new people, that
atmosphere will, necessarily, change."
Steve Andrist, third-generation publisher of The Journal,
told Rubin, "I'm acutely aware that there are people
who are an impediment to progress. I think they're in
a minority. If I thought they were a majority, I'd leave
myself." He did for 20 years, to work as a journalist,
mainly in Minnesota, "which seems to draw a lot
of people from North Dakota," Rubin writes. "He
returned in 1991 with a different perspective and a
wife who grew up elsewhere in the Midwest. This last
fact is perhaps what enables him to understand why so
many non-Crosbyites see the place as isolated (it's
6 miles from the Canadian border, 70 from the nearest
American McDonald's or Wal-Mart, 120 from the nearest
shopping mall), insular and clannish. Asked if his wife
is now regarded by natives as a Crosbyite, he replies,
candidly: 'I think she is to the people who are important
to her. And I think she'd have a hard time fitting in
with other people.'"
Still, Rubin writes, "While there is no scientific
apparatus for measuring such a thing, northwest North
Dakotans might just be the friendliest people in America.
It is rare, very rare, to pass someone on the road without
receiving at least a finger wave, regardless of whether
or not they have ever seen you or your car before. A
stranger walking down the street of a small town will
not only be smiled at but also approached and actually
engaged in genuine conversation. And a stranger stopping
into a small-town bar will be hailed instantly as an
honored guest, even after he explains that he only came
in to use the restroom." (Read
April 7, 2006
convene for economic development seminar in Kentucky
"Smaller towns used to attract jobs — particularly
manufacturing jobs — with their lower land prices
and taxes. These workers were skilled enough to get
the job done but could be offered less than big-city
folks. Al Cross, the director of the University
of Kentucky-based Institute for Rural
Journalism and Community Issues, said the scenario
has hanged: Globalization has erased the need for a
cheaper local workforce. Plus broadband technology can
be harder to come by in the country," writes Kristin
Taylor of the Murray Ledger & Times
(in an article not available online).
How to overcome challenges and how companies deal with
economic development are two topics on tap today at
“Covering and Guiding Rural Economic Development,”
a conference for rural journalists. The seminar is being
presented by the Institute for Rural Journalism and
Community Issues at Murray State University’s
Curris Center at the West Kentucky Press Association's
Murray-Calloway County Economic Development
Corp. President Mark Manning works with newspapers
on a regular basis and said they can play an integral
role in attracting businesses. “Most companies,
if not all companies, will subscribe to a local paper
before they make a decision, before they even visit,
and if they don’t subscribe, they will often check
it out online. When they do so, what they are really
doing is checking the soul of the community,”
Manning told Taylor. “I think newspapers, particularly
in rural communities, do reflect the soul of what’s
explains weekly's decision not to publish advertisement
The Door County Advocate, a weekly
newspaper in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., explained to its readers
why it refused to publish an advertisement from an advocacy
group and, in a brief editorial, described several central
tenets of journalism ethics -- the need for accuracy
and fair presentation, and respect for context.
Door County Residents for Fair Enterprises,
which opposes location of a Wal-Mart in
an area proposed for annexation, wanted
to place an ad in the paper with accusations that "could
not be supported," said Editor Warren Bluhm, so
the ad was rejected. The group stuck back at the Advocate,
calling the paper an "enemy of free speech"
and saying that the ad was refused with no reason given.
The editorial said, "The Advocate simply did not
have the time or the human resources available to investigate
the claims of the ad and assess its accuracy by Saturday."
The paper did point out some interesting developments
from the ad controversy, including "the city's
possible use of closed sessions to discuss aspects of
the Hopf annexation that were already matters of public
record, and the disturbing fact that an agreement signed
by the mayor March 10 obligates the city to extend utilities
to the development site whether the annexation is approved
or not." The editorial said the ad may have been
inaccurate or misleading, and had "hysteria"
in its text. (Read
town gets boost from immigrants; are they illegals?
A hog processing plant in Worthington, Minn., is attracting
immigrants in droves, but some city officials believe
many of the newcomers are illegals.
"The workers, now mostly from Central America
rather than Mexico, purchase fake documents that get
them into the workplace," writes Jim Ragsdale of
the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "They
are 'hot-bedded' into crowded, fire-trap apartments.
They wire millions of dollars home. They drive without
real licenses, live in fear of deportation and have
been known to hide in snowbanks after fender-benders."
At the 18,000-hog-a-day Swift & Co.
plant, a previously single-breadwinner's job has become
a lower-wage position filled by an immigrant. Some Worthington
officials welcome the influx, despite concerns about
illegals. "They have seen their population rise
at a time of rural declines. They welcome the new workers,
new businesses, new homeowners and, eventually they
hope, new citizens," writes Ragsdale.
"We're not against immigrants whatsoever,"
Police Chief Mike Cumiskey told Ragsdale. "We're
against criminals. We're against the fact that the federal
government doesn't allow us to ID people. If we can
solve that problem, every other problem gets better
for us." (Read
communities opt for mergers in light of population declines
City and county leaders in parts of western Kansas
are taking a novel approach to combat declining rural
populations: combining governments.
Tribune, a small town near the Colorado border, is
considering combining with Greeley County's government.
"There is a frontier mind-set -- a survival, tough,
entrepreneurial mind-set. I would credit that spirit
as being a part of what has caused them to say, 'Hey,
we have to be smarter and do it better,'" Terry
Woodbury, president of Kansas Communities LLC,
which specializes in county and city development, told
Dave Skretta of The Associated Press.
Tribune's population is now 758, down from 918 in 1990,
and Greeley is the state's most sparsely populated county,
according to U.S. Census data. While several school
districts along the Nebraska and Kansas border plan
to merge this summer, rural communities have rarely
tried to merge to stave off declining populations. "I
believe they've discovered that of all the consolidations
in the United States, there is no other rural example"
like theirs, Woodbury told Skretta.
A bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature to ease
the merger process was passed in the House but is stalled
in the Senate, notes Skretta. Negotiators are trying
to merge the House bill with a broader Senate bill that
limits state oversight in many government consolidations.
from three Virginia counties oppose sale of national
Officials in the Virginia counties of Giles, Montgomery
and Roanoke are speaking out against the Bush administration's
plan to sell up 309,000 acres of national forest land
to fund rural roads and schools.
More than 5,700 of the acres marked for sale are in
Virginia. Giles County has one 205-acre tract; and Montgomery
County has 390 acres, reports Tim Thornton of The
Roanoke Times. "They're not making any
more land," Giles Supervisor Barbara Hobbs said.
"Once it's gone, it's gone."
"The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination
Act has been funded since 2000 without selling land.
But Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture, said last
month that federal law requires the program have a dedicated
funding source before it is renewed," writes Thornton.
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, said Rey is wrong, and
the Bush administration simply chose to rewrite the
meth lab raids cut in half; reduction coincides with
Since Kentucky instituted a new law restricting cold
medicine sales last July, state police have noticed
methamphetamine lab raids drop by almost 50 percent,
reports WKYT-27 in Lexington, Ky.
In the first two months of this year, police report
that 77 meth labs were raided, compared to 151 during
the same time last year.
Since cold medicines are an ingredient in meth, people
must now present a photo ID and sign a log to obtain
them. Meth addicts are now turning to mom and pop stores
who sell cold medicines illegally, according to state
police. Those store owners could face penalties, but
police are more concerned with the more elaborate meth
labs that are replacing smaller ones, reports WKYT.
April 6, 2006
says ad test in rural papers didn't pay off, so no more
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which many rural
newspapers say has made life hard for them, has decided
not to expand its local newspaper advertising after
an experiment in Missouri and Oklahoma "showed
the expense is not justified" the company said
yesterday, reports The Associated Press.
The test "had been closely watched by publishers
who complained publicly last year that Wal-Mart sought
free publicity from their newspapers but refused to
buy ads . . . while driving out local businesses that
had been mainstays," AP wrote. (Read
more, via Editor & Publisher)
After complaints from the National Newspaper
Association, a group dominated by weekly papers,
"Wal-Mart agreed to run a test in the holiday shopping
season," placing a full-page, four-color ad for
electronic items in 336 papers, AP wrote. "It did
increase product sales, but our margins are so thin
that we didn't even come close to offsetting the cost
of the ads," spokeswoman Mona Williams told AP.
Mike Buffington, immediate past president of NNA, said
Wal-Mart told him likewise.
Buffington pressed Wal-Mart on the issue as president,
in the year ending Oct. 1, and remained point man with
the company. Buffington, co-publisher of Jefferson,
Ga.-based MainStreet Newspapers Inc.,
told AP "A one-time test is probably not a true
way to evaluate community newspapers. In fact, we understand
they had quite a bump in sales. But the advertising
itself, the full-page color ads, were expensive and
they were advertising loss-leader type items."
UPDATE: Wal-Mart wouldn't say
how much the ads cost, but a report in the E-Bulletin
of the California Newspaper Publishers Association said
it was $73 million.
An NNA survey of member papers last spring found that
87 percent had a Wal-Mart in their coverage area,
and 67 percent said the presence of the company had
a negative impact on their paper. For a detailed report
on the face-offs between spokeswoman Williams and rural
publishers at last year's NNA Convention, click
rejects Democratic 'buildout' plan for telecom services
"As a House of Representatives subcommittee moved
toward passage of a telecommunications overhaul bill
prior to the forthcoming Easter congressional recess,
it rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment that would
have required the regional Bell operating companies
to 'build out' services to all customers within given
geographic areas," reports Drew Clark of National
Journal's Insider Update.
Bell companies AT&T, BellSouth,
Qwest and Verizon Communications
-- as well as rival companies and rural phone companies
-- want national franchises without buildout rules.
"Cable operators already have franchises on the
local level, and their agreements generally require
them to build out to all geographic areas," writes
Buildout would not have started for another five years,
but then a new national franchise holder would have
been required to extend service to an additional 20
percent of area households within three years. Rural
areas would have been exempt, reports Clark. Telecommunications
and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.,
said the amendment would "force them to provide
service where it doesn't make economic sense to do so."
bill divides evangelicals; stalemate in Senate weakens
More than 50 evangelical Christian leaders spoke out
Wednesday in favor of an immigration bill that would
allow illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens without
going back to their native countries.
U.S. senators have debated the bill for two weeks and
are split down party lines. The bill has also caused
division among evangelicals. Many of the nation's most
influential evangelical organizations either support
other measures to strengthen border control and deportation,
or are staying mum on the issue, reports Alan Cooperman
of The Washington Post.
The leaders did not hold back, notes Cooperman. "Evangelicals
are a lot more sensitive to the plight of immigrants
than outside observers might think," said the Rev.
Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals'
vice president for governmental affairs. "When
you put together the biblical mandate to care for the
alien and the receptivity of the Latino community to
the evangel, to the gospel, you have a sensitivity factor
that almost outweighs the traditional evangelical concern
for law and order." (Read
Jonathan Weisman of the Post reports that Senate Republicans
reached on agreement last night on a compromise to "allow
undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and
citizenship if they could prove -- through work stubs,
utility bills or other documents -- that they have been
in the country for five years. To attain citizenship,
those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty,
back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background
check and remain working for 11 years." (Read
NBC probes for anti-Muslim reactions at Va. NASCAR race
NASCAR calls it "outrageous"
that Dateline NBC targeted one of its
racetracks for a possible report on anti-Muslim sentiment
in the United States.
NASCAR said NBC confirmed the presence of Muslim-looking
men with a camera crew at one track. The network crew
was "apparently on site in Martinsville, Va., walked
around and no one bothered them," NASCAR spokesman
Ramsey Poston told The Associated Press.
Martinsville is one of the more rural sites for NASCAR.
"It is outrageous that a news organization of NBC's
stature would stoop to the level of going out to create
news instead of reporting news," Poston said.
NBC released this statement in its defense: "We
were intrigued by the results of a recent Washington
Post/ABC News poll and other
articles regarding increasing anti-Muslim sentiments
in the United States. . . . It's very early on in our
newsgathering process, but be assured we will be visiting
a number of locations across the country and are confident
that our reporting team is pursuing this story in a
NASCAR and NBC Sports are in the final
year of a broadcast agreement, notes AP. (Read
restricts scientists from speaking on global warming
Scientists doing climate research for the federal government
say the Bush administration has hurt their ability to
speak freely about global warming, and that Americans
are being left in the dark. Is this a rural journalism
story? You betcha. All journalists ought to care when
the government restricts scientists' ability to discuss
science, and climate change affects everyone.
and contractors working for the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, along with
a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA
lab, said administration officials have criticized them
for speaking on policy, removed global warming references
from documents, investigated news leaks, and urged them
to quit speaking with media, reports Juliet Eilperin
of The Washington Post.
"These scientists -- working nationwide in research
centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder,
Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests
with administration officials, something they did not
have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point
climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice
or State departments, which have long-standing policies
restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free
to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight,"
writes Eilperin. (Read
improve cancer treatment for rural residents in seven
A $3.9 million grant will help the Huntsman
Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City detect and
treat rural American Indians who might have cancer.
The 51-month project is funded by the Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and five
other sites received money to serve ethnic populations.
Rural residents often struggle to medical care for cancer,
but that problem is worse in frontier areas, defined
as having six or fewer people per square mile, reports
Lois M. Collins of the Deseret Morning News.
"How do we help people who have basically lacked
access, based on partly geographical issues, navigate
through the system?" said Dr. Randall Rupper, an
investigator for HCI and the VA's Salt Lake
Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center
and co-principal investigator. The project hopes to
answer that question by making sure residents in rural
and frontier communities get screened for breast, cervical,
colorectal and prostate cancer, reports Collins. (Read
In all, the six demonstration sites will enroll 13,000
members of minority populations, and HCI hopes to enroll
1,800 American Indians. "Other demonstration sites
include Molokai General Hospital in
Hawaii (Pacific Islander and Asian American patients),
University of Texas (Hispanic-Mexican
American), New Jersey Medical School
(Hispanic-Puerto Rican), Johns Hopkins University
in Maryland (African American) and Josephine
Ford Cancer Center in Michigan (African American),"
taste of Vegas with casino; some profit to aid development
In the midst of cornfields and old mills, a new casino
is set to open its doors in Northwood, Iowa.
The Worth County Diamond Jo Casino
will open April 6. "A large wagon wheel adorns
the casino's exterior -- which looks more like a giant
Iowa farmhouse than anything on the Strip in Vegas,"
writes Joseph Marks of the Austin Daily Herald.
"Inside the casino 511 slot machines cover the
floor. Some machines are complete and pristine except
for a layer of wood dust from surrounding construction.
Others are screenless with their wiry guts hanging out
the front and patient technicians calibrating their
“It seems like a contrast to have a casino in
a rural area,” Carrie Tedore, director of public
relations for Diamond Jo's Dubuque and Northwood locations,
told Marks. “We tried to preserve the grist mill
in the design of the new casino but inside it has all
the excitement you expect when you're out for a night
Farmer's Feast, the casino's restaurant,
will honor the area's agricultural heritage, and 6 percent
of all casino profits will go toward community development
opportunities. The Worth County Development Authority,
the non-profit handling that money, anticipates bringing
in between $1.5 million and $2.1 million this first
year, notes Marks. (Read
April 5, 2006
weekly spotlights local problems with No Child Left
We've written a good bit about the impact on rural
schools of the No Child Left Behind Act, but there's
nothing like an object example to put the issue in clear
focus. The weekly Payson Roundup in
central Arizona did that with a story and editorial
in Tuesday's edition, and the situation it covered will
almost surely be repeated in hundreds of school districts
across the nation in the next couple of months.
Roundup's story by Max Foster reported hat six special-education
teachers at the local high school would not be rehired
"because none met the No Child Left Behind mandate
that requires all teachers must be 'highly qualified'
in their subject areas by June 30, 2006. The teachers
. . . are qualified and certified in their core areas
but not in Special Education."
The six could be rehired if the district cannot find
"highly qualified" teachers to replace them,
but recruitment could be difficult for local officials
because they must compete with salaries in the Phoenix
metropolitan area, about 50 miles away, and "they
must find instructors who have bachelor's degrees or
college majors in each core teaching area plus Special
Education," Foster reports. "In other words,
certification mandates are doubled, sometimes tripled,
for teachers of Special Education students."
The situation prompted an
editorial which began, "Few of us can imagine
the nightmare of watching a lifelong career disappear
in an instant with the passage of sweeping federal legislation."
It went on to say, "NCLB is an awkward fit for
small towns, and we are feeling the squeeze as a new
portion of the legislation goes into effect in June
of this year."
The editorial said the certification requirement "is
logical in the classrooms of Chicago and New York City
where the hiring pool is deep and the wages are competitive,
(but) destroys the very system that has kept rural schools
running since the beginning of public education. In
small towns across the country, 'pitching in' is the
tradition. Teachers often teach numerous subjects and
multiple grade levels."
The Roundup's Web
site says it was judged best in the nation last
year by the National Newspaper Association.
The paper's latest edition indicates that it doesn't
just have a good site, it has excellent content in print
and online. Its
lead story, by Felicia Megdal, does a good job of
localizing an important story -- "Arizona's rate
of underage alcohol, drug and tobacco use ranks among
the highest in the nation, according to the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration."
two bills to open federal courts to radio, TV
Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee passed two
bills to open federal courts to radio and TV coverage.
The bill was written by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and
is now in front of the full Senate for consideration,
reports the National Press Photographer's Association.
It would require the Supreme Court to permit cameras
and microphones in open sessions “unless it decides
by a vote of the majority of Justices that allowing
such coverage in a particular case would violate the
due process rights of one or more of the parties involved
in the matter.”
The second bill, called the Sunshine in the Courtroom
Act of 2005, will create a three-year pilot program
that gives federal judges discretion on permitting radio
and TV coverage on a case-by-case basis.
Radio Television News Directors Association
President Barbara Cochran told committees, “Television
and radio coverage would make the federal judicial system
accessible to more citizens, enhance understanding of
the judiciary, and foster greater trust.” She
added, “RTNDA members have covered hundreds if
not thousands of proceedings at the state level and
the presence of a camera has never resulted in a verdict
being overturned.” (Read
Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence
Thomas, however, told the Senate committee that the
bill raised security concerns as well as constitutional
questions, reports Linda Greenhouse of the New
York Times. "It's not for the court to
tell Congress how to conduct its proceedings,"
said Justice Kennedy. "We feel very strongly that
we have intimate knowledge of the dynamics and the mood
of the court, and we think that proposals mandating
and directing television in our court are inconsistent
with the deference and etiquette that should apply between
the branches." (Read
seeks partners in rural areas for help in hurricane
Hurricane season starts June 1 and the American
Red Cross has a plan for avoiding the kind
of criticism that came after Katrina, reports Howard
Berkes of National Public Radio in
a Web-exclusive story.
The group's new readiness plan wants to establish the
following by July 1: training and funding for partner
organizations in minority, low-income and rural communities;
adequate six-day supply of food and shelter for 500,000
people, including 1 million meals a day; "client
services" for 2 million families; upgraded computer
systems for up to 2 million clients; expanded call centers
able to field 100,000 cases a day; 1 million emergency
financial-assistance debit cards; more warehouse capacity
in high-risk states; more pre-positioned communications
equipment in high-risk states; increase the 800-RED-CROSS
hotline capacity by one-third; and more Red Cross presence
at state emergency operations centers.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross was criticized
for the following: "little or no relief effort
in some rural, minority and low-income communities;
long lines at some relief centers, which turned many
hurricane victims away; overwhelmed call centers leaving
hurricane victims on hold or dialing for hours and days;
shortages of food, supplies and emergency financial-assistance
debit cards; alleged fraud and waste, keeping relief
supplies from people who needed them most; and shoddy
treatment of whistleblowers who tried to call attention
to mismanagement and alleged criminal wrongdoing,"
The plan calls for better logistics and technology
to handle the tracking, deployment and flow of relief
supplies, funds and information. Although the improvements
will not be completely implemented by July 1, the Red
Cross aims to have most of them up for this hurricane
season. It is also readying a more thorough system for
checking volunteers' backgrounds, reports Berkes. (Read
offering help to businesses in urban areas it has targeted
Wal-Mart Stores, which got its start
in rural areas, is moving strongly into urban America
-- and offering help to other businesses, something
that has not been part of its history in rural America,
where it has reshaped many retail landscapes and the
advertising bases of rural newspapers.
Under mounting criticism of its labor and pricing policies,
especially in urban areas where it is trying to expans,
the company announced a new effort to support small
businesses near its urban stores by offering financial
grants, training on how to survive with Wal-Mart, and
free advertising, reports Michael Barbaro of The
New York Times. The help will be offered around
10 of the 50 stores Wal-Mart wants to open in cities
in the next two years, says The Wall Street
An internal Wal-Mart report from 2004 found that 2
percent to 8 percent of consumers stopped shopping there
because of the company's bad press, Barbaro reports.
Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for Wake-Up Wal-Mart,
a union-backed group that wants Wal-Mart to improve
wages and benefits, said the new efforts were "bitterly
ironic" because they were "asking Wal-Mart
to help solve the problems it created." It also
does not address major issues wages, which amount to
less than $20,000 a year. "What this is, is another
PR stunt in a litany of PR stunts." (Read
inspector pay tribute to Bill Hayes, strip-mine regulator
"These days, it's accepted practice to plant industry
veterans in the federal bureaucracy to ensure that special
interests are pampered and their political contributions
guaranteed. It was not always thus," writes David
Hawpe, editorial director of The Courier-Journal.
"Last weekend, a memorial service was held in the
chapel at Pine Mountain Settlement School for my all-time
favorite bureaucrat, William Hayes, who once imposed
regulatory integrity on a strip mine industry that relentlessly
After recounting Hayes' early career, which overlapped
with his at the Louisville paper's now-closed Hazard
bureau, Hayes writes, "In 1976, during the term
of Gov. Julian Carroll, Hayes was reorganized out of
the coal industry's way and resigned to protest,"
saying, "This big money has blinded the people
in Frankfort to get the kind of reclamation we need
and to help preserve the natural resources we've got."
Soon afterward, the federal strip-mine law was passed,
and "the feds needed a man with impeccable credentials
to head their new Office of Surface Mining and
Reclamation field operation in Hazard,"
Hawpe writes. "Hayes was the obvious choice."
On the facing page, The C-J carries a story from OSM
inspector Patrick Angel about the first time the agency
issued a cessation order -- directing a coal company
to stop mining because its violation of the law was
causing imminent harm to the environment or public safety.
full article is worth reading, because it gives
a vivid description of the literal and figurative obstacles
faced by strip-mine inspectors.
Not included Angel's article, but in Hawpe's column,
are these lines from Angel about Hayes' order, to protect
the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River in Harlan County:
"That epitomized the work he did, helping a much
younger group of inspectors start off on the right foot.
He propelled the badly needed federal enforcement program
with some courageous actions. Bill bravely did what
he and only he could do, because of his senior status
and his reputation in the agency. He issued that first
cessation order when we were in fact under orders not
to do so. There was a legal challenge at that time.
But if we had walked away from the landslide we were
on that first week, word would have gotten around the
crumbling after rural traffic increases 27 percent nationwide
Farmers in rural California say the roads in the nation's
No. 1 agricultural region are crumbling, and communities
simply don't have the money to fix them.
"People drive on the side because it's actually
better than the actual road," farmer Augie Scoto
said of the road along his land outside Merced, Calif.
The Road Information Program reported
a 27 percent increase in rural traffic nationwide between
1990 and 2002, mainly due to urban sprawl, reports Olivia
Munoz of the Associated Press. About
60 million people lived in rural areas in 2005, twice
as many as 1990, according to TRIP. California was also
one of the top states in the nation for rural growth.
Accidents on rural roads occur 2.5 times more often
than other roads, but only carry 28 percent of traffic,
the TRIP study said.
DeAnn Baker, a lobbyist for the California
State Association of Counties, told Munoz that
roads should be paved every 20 years, but many in the
Central Valley are paved about every 80 years.
causing 'political crisis' in rural area of Blacksburg,
Residents of Blacksburg, Va., pop. 39,212, have an
interesting twist on next month's election, and it's
creating a real 'dam' problem for some councilmen, reports
The Roanoke Times in an entertaining
story by Tonia Moxley.
As predicted by Virginia Tech wildlife
expert Jim Parkhurst, new beavers have moved into "Blacksburg's
most rural area", Heritage Community Park and Natural
Area, Moxley reports. This comes just two months after
a pair of the riverine rodents were eradicated amid
concern that their dams would flood residential property
and damage gardens. The council could have built fences
or left them alone, but because of the concern for damages
and the budget, it chose eradication.
And now the beavers appear vengeful, arriving just
in time to become an issue in the upcoming election
for three council members and a mayor. The beavers are
a real pest for Councilman Don Langrehr, who is running
for mayor, because many of his supporters are environmentalists.
Langrehr led several tours of the park this winter,
after the first beaver eradication, to show constituents
the beaver's damage and to explain why he voted for
their eradication. He called the episode "my political
to Barry Bingham Jr. and Fred Paxton keep coming in,
so this edition of The Rural Blog includes updates on
yesterday's items about the two publishers.
Jr. was a publisher who cared about rural readers
Bingham Jr., publisher of The Courier-Journal
from 1971 until his father sold the
Louisville newspapers in 1986, died yesterday at his
home in Glenview after a long series of health problems.
He was 72.
Like his father, Barry Jr. followed the policy established
by his grandfather, who said "I have always regarded
the newspapers owned by me to be a public trust, and
have endeavored so to conduct them as to render the
greatest public service." For the Binghams, that
meant all of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, not just
metropolitan Louisville. They posted reporters and dug
up stories and circulated newspapers in the far corners
of Kentucky, and supported libraries, bookmobiles and
student contests. They were a distant but bright beacon,
offering enlightenment and hope to rural people. (Photo
by David R. Lutman)
“He loved the state and treasured the newspaper’s
role as one of the few things that brought Kentucky
together,” Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent
for Newsweek and a C-J reporter from
1973 to 1980, told the newspaper's Andrew Wolfson, who
wrote its front-page obituary. Last year, the paper
closed its rural bureaus, and this month began charging
more for single copies outside the metro area.
Unlike his father, Barry Jr. remained at arm's length
from political leaders. "One of Barry's contributions
was to divorce the administration of the paper from
any private or personal relationship with people running
the state," Kentucky journalist Al Smith told Beverly
Fortune of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
He made the C-J and The Louisville Times known for high
ethical standards, and "raised the standards of
everybody in the business," Smith said. (Read
more) Wolfson wrote, "He refused to use the
newspapers to do anyone favors, according to those who
worked for him, and severed ties with friends when they
ran for office, to avoid even the appearance of a conflict."
more from C-J)
Paul Janensch, who was executive editor of the Bingham
papers when they were sold, writes in The C-J, "Barry
Bingham Jr. was the best boss I ever had," because
"He expected the best," and "set the
example." Janensch, now a professor at Quinnipiac
University in Hamden, Conn., also writes, "He
was a visionary. Long before the Internet was a well-known
term, he predicted that newspapers someday would be
delivered to video screens in the home. . . . He was
right. Among the most looked-at Internet sites today
are those maintained by newspapers. Some think it won't
be long before online newspapers will replace the ink-and-paper
versions tossed on our driveways -- or in our rose bushes."
Bingham is survived by his wife, Edith S. Bingham;
his children, Emily S. Bingham and Mary C. "Molly"
Bingham of Washington; his stepchildren, Charles Bingham
of Louisville and Philip Franchini of Los Angeles; and
his sisters, Eleanor B. Miller of Louisville and Sallie
Bingham of Santa Fe, N.M. Visitation will be at Bingham's
home at 4309 Glenview Ave. from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Christ Church
Cathedral in Louisville.
head of large, family-owned newspaper chain, dies at
Fred Paxton, 73, chairman of Paxton Media Group,
died Sunday in Paducah, Ky., of pancreatic cancer. The
firm publishes the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun,
the Messenger-Inquirer of
Owensboro, Ky., its flagship, The Paducah Sun,
and and 26 other daily newspapers in Kentucky,
Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana,
Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina, plus weeklies.
It owns WPSD-TV, the NBC affiliate
in the Paducah market, which includes southeast Missouri
and southern Illinois.
Paxton oversaw the family-owned company's expansion
into one of the nation's largest privately held newspaper
chains in the 1990s, and became chairman in 2000. In
the 1980s, the Paducah Sun-Democrat dropped the political
word from its name and Paxton became an adviser to U.S.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, who saw Western Kentucky as the
key to Republican success in the state.
"I don't think there was a single civic or governmental
issue that affected far Western Kentucky that I didn't
start with Fred to gather information," McConnell
told the Sun. Former Gov. Brereton Jones, a Republican-turned-Democrat,
told the paper he often asked Paxton's advice. "Fred
was the epitome of honesty, decency, basic goodness
and plain-old common sense," Jones said. (Read
more) For more on Paxton Media, from University
of Kentucky journalism student Laura Clemmons,
Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute
paid tribute to Paxton in his Morning Meeting column:
"Mr. Paxton hired me as a producer more than 25
years ago. The station had big visions for a medium
market. Even though he owned the TV station and the
newspaper in Paducah, he encouraged us to be competitive
with each other so nobody could say we were running
a monopoly. . . . Fred let me take a trip to cover a
story and told me to stop by the accounting office to
get an expense check. When I returned home, I delivered
an envelope with money left over from the trip. The
accounting office was mystified. 'What's this?' Betty,
the accountant, asked. I explained that I had not spent
all of the money. 'Look,' she told me, 'Mr. Paxton approved
that money and expected you to spend it.' I loved working
for Fred Paxton. What a completely decent man."
Paxton is survived by Peggy Sabel Paxton and their
four children: Jim, David, Nancy and Richard. His three
sons are all active in the family business. His funeral
will be held tomorrow at 1 p.m. at St. Thomas More Catholic
Church. A reception will be held in the parish hall
today from 5 to 8 p.m. Milner & Orr Funeral
Home of Paducah is in charge of arrangements.
April 4, 2006
may end rural phone subsidies; would mean higher bills
Rural telephone subscribers may have to pay more for
phone service or go without it, if a federal user-fee
system is overhauled or removed.
"Known as the Universal Service Fund and part
of national telecommunications policy since at least
1934, it was meant, among other things, to subsidize
the high cost of providing phone service to far-flung
customers," writes Dennis Camire of the Gannett
News Service. "The fees, which appear
on consumers' long-distance phone bills, have been increasing,
in part because users of newer communication services
such as Internet phone calls can avoid paying them.
One problem with the fees, now 11 percent of a typical
long-distance bill, is that they are beginning to draw
complaints from consumers as they continue to climb,
industry officials said."
"Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he
would end the fees and the rural phone company subsidies
if he could and would try to find a way to reduce size
of the total program. On the other side of the Capitol,
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is seeking ways to enhance
the program and spread its cost among a variety of communications
services. Other options include capping the subsidy
at current levels, expanding it to cover basic high-speed
Internet in rural areas, tightening rules on who can
receive the subsidies and providing subsidies only to
low-income people," reports Camire.
Last year, $3.8 billion was paid in federal subsidies,
up from $1.9 billion in 2000, to about 1,700 rural carriers
that deal with high service costs. If the subsidies
disappeared, some industry experts have estimated that
customer's phone bills would increase by five to six
times the amount they currently pay, writes Camire.
Internet is a key to rural economic trends, analyst
Jack Schultz of Agracel, Inc. of
Effingham, Ill., which helps small towns recruit high-tech
and manufacturing jobs, cites entrepreneurs and the
the Internet as two trends driving the economic development
of rural communities in 2006.
"This medium is finally having the impact that
was predicted of it in the late 1990s," Schultz
writes on his Boomtown
USA blog. "Virtually every town that
I visit has one success story emerging of a business
that is booming based upon the Internet. A recent study
showed that 750,000 Americans are making their livings
on eBay, an industry that didn’t
even exist a decade ago." Broadband Internet service
is the key to "homesourcing," Schultz's word
for "setting up call centers and outsourcing work
to rural households."
Of entrepreneurs, Schultz writes, "You can’t
have enough of them. There are some interesting ones
doing some incredible things in the agurbs®,"
his term for "a prospering rural town with a tie
to agriculture" outside a metropolitan area.
Other key trends in Schultz's Top 10 include incentives
for attracting artists, revitalizing downtowns, recreational
land, encouraging talented expatriates to return to
their hometowns, regional cooperation in job recruitment,
and clustering of industries in regions. (Read
must collaborate, innovate for success, columnist writes
"If we can no longer spend billions on commodity
payments to farmers, perhaps some of that money could
be used to help the vast majority of rural Americans
who don't farm, as well as the farmers, many of whom
depend on the non-farm rural economy for jobs and benefits,"
opines Thomas D. Rowley in his latest column for the
Rural Policy Research Institute.
Rowley provides many ideas on how rural Americans can
achieve success in the future, from the traditional
idea of working together to the modern approach of embracing
new technology. Above all else, he writes, rural residents
must strive to start thinking globally and seeing the
big picture for economic success.
"All of that innovation requires, of course, innovators
(or, if you prefer, entrepreneurs). We need people who
see what isn't and ask 'why not?' People who identify
opportunities and create ways to seize them, in both
the private and public sectors," opines Rowley.
Rowley suggests rural areas take a systematic approach:
"For starters, regions themselves must take the
lead, but they need assistance in forming. Where I live,
city and county officials duke it out over things like
funding EMS and the public library. Incentives for communities
to work together would help. Second, regions need money
for planning -- for bringing together partners, identifying
assets, targeting markets and crafting strategies. Third,
federal funds need to be flexible, letting communities
pay for what needs to be done rather than simply for
what programs will allow." (Read
children risk being overweight by watching TV, study
A new study reports that allowing preschool-age children
to watch too much TV – even shows like Sesame
Street or Disney DVDs – could
make them at risk for being overweight.
"In a study exploring the relationship between
excessive TV exposure and overweight risk for preschool-age
children, researchers at the University of Michigan
Health System found that 3-year-old children exposed
to two or more hours of TV a day were nearly three times
more likely to be overweight than children who either
watched or were in a room with a TV on for fewer than
two hours a day, regardless of the child’s environment
at home," reports Krista Hopson of Newswise,
a news and public relations service for higher-education
and research firms.
The study reports that one in four 3-year-old children
watch five or more hours per day. The American Academy
of Pediatrics’ recommends children ages 2 and
older be limited to less than two hours a day, writes
Hopson. In the average home, the TV is on more than
seven hours a day, and high exposure could be connected
to preschoolers chances of being overweight, says study
lead author Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., assistant research
scientist at the University of Michigan Center for Human
Growth and Development.
The release indicated that there was no difference
in rural and urban areas, because it said the study
sample was representative of both populations. The total
sample was 1,016 children total between the ages of
3 and 4 1/2. (Read
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania released
a study last year showing that more rural students in
the state qualified as "obese" -- 20 percent,
compared to 16 percent of urban students. During the
survey, the number of obese students in rural school
districts rose about 5 percent, more than twice the
increase among urban students. For more from St.
Mary's Medical Center of Huntington, W. Va.,
Monday, April 3, 2006
proposes to relax limits for arsenic in small, rural
Rural journalists need to ask their local water systems
about this: The Environmental Protection Agency
is proposing to allow higher levels of metals such as
arsenic in smaller drinking-water systems, primarily
in rural areas, as a way to alleviate the cost struggle
for communities that are struggling to meet recently
enacted water-quality standards.
"The proposal would roll back a rule that went
into effect earlier this year and make it permissible
for water systems serving 10,000 or fewer residents
to have three times the level of contaminants allowed
under that regulation. About 50 million people live
in communities that would be affected by the proposed
change. In the case of arsenic, the most recent EPA
data suggest as many as 10 million Americans are drinking
water that does not meet the new federal standards,"
writes Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.
The rule is subject to public comment until May 1.
It would allow drinking water to have arsenic levels
of as much as 30 parts per billion in some areas, rather
than the national standard of 10 parts per billion.
Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for EPA's
Office of Water, said Congress instructed the agency
in 1996 to take into account that it costs rural systems
proportionately more to meet federal water standards.
But Erik Olson, a lawyer for the Natural Resources
Defense Council, said the proposal threatens
public health. "It could have serious impacts on
people's health, not just in small-town America. It
is like overturning the whole apple cart on this program,"
Olson told Eilperin. (Read
want to avoid selling forest land; comment period extended
The Bush administration has extended through April
30 the period for public comment on its plan to sell
300,000 acres of national-forest land to finance a program
for schools and roads in forest areas. Comments may
be sent by e-mail to SRS_Land_Sales@fs.fed.us.
Democratic Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Ron Wyden
of Oregon have proposed another way to finance the program,
closing a loophole they say lets some government contractors
avoid tax obligations. Baucus and Wyden's proposal goes
after a current law that does not allow the federal
government to withhold taxes owed by federal contractors.
The Democratic plan would withhold 3 percent of federal
payments for goods and services delivered by private
contractors, reports Matthew Daly of The Associated
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have criticized
the Bush plan, saying it is not worth the loss of land
and it would not raise enough money. For more background
on this story, read
"Schools could get a boost at land's expense"
by Kevin Murphy of The Kansas City Star.
sell more land for conservation; conservationists want
Two more big forest-preservation deals were announced
last week, after International Paper Co.'s
sales in 10 Southeastern states, but conservationists
noted that the million or so acres preserved in the
last two years "represent barely 2 percent of timber
company lands that are coming on the market in the East,"
The New York Times reports. "And
in many places like parts of North and South Carolina,
conservation groups are competing for the land with
developers who seem more determined than ever."
International Paper is transferring 217,000 acres in
the Southeast and 69,000 acres in Wisconsin, and the
Plum Creek Timber Co. of Maine will
give up to 400,000 acres to The Nature Conservancy
and two other conservation groups, Felicity Barringer
reports for the Times.
Derb Carter, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental
Law Center, told the Times that conservation
groups have a golden opportunity to preserve Eastern
forests, but their funds -- even if augmented by state
money, as in South Carolina -- "is dwarfed by the
amounts that can be offered by developers of residential
communities, golf courses and hunting clubs," Barringer
wrote, quoting Carter: "The federal government
is, for practical purposes, out of the conservation
land acquisition business."
"An analysis of federal budget data by the Wilderness
Society shows conservation financing —
money available for conservation purchases either directly
or through grants to states — has shrunk to about
$140 million annually from more than $500 million in
2001," Barringer reports. (Read
New Mexico residents left in cold by telephone companies
Cellular phones and e-mail messages are the only avenues
for quick communication for the 5.7 percent of homes
in New Mexico without telephone service, many of which
are located in rural areas. The only state with a higher
percentage is Mississippi (6.5 percent), according to
U.S. Census Bureau figures.
The national average for homes without phone service
is 2.4 percent, according to the bureau, which doesn't
distinguish between people who cannot afford it or who
cannot get it. "In McKinley County, 31.6 percent
of households reported they didn't have phone service.
Six counties in New Mexico reported percentages higher
than 10 percent, and nobody in Huerfano, near Bloomfield,
has a landline. According to a 2003 census survey, 44.8
percent of New Mexicans have Internet access at home
-- the fourth lowest percentage in the country. The
national average is 54.7 percent," reports The
Public Regulation Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy said McKinley,
Rio Arriba and San Juan counties are among the poorest
in the state. Often times, telephone companies do not
want to invest in rural areas, she told AP. "It's
not fair and equitable, and that's a problem,"
she said. (Read
labs bring agriculture home to Maryland school children
Relatively new Maryland license plates bear the message
"Our Farms, Our Future," and the intent is
too educate young people about the origins of products
they use daily. For instance, milk is not made at the
grocery store, as many kids assume, writes Ted Shelsby
in "On the Farm" for the Baltimore
"I've heard it many, many times," said George
Mayo, executive director of the Maryland Agricultural
Education Foundation, a nonprofit group established
in 1989 to educate citizens about the role agriculture
plays in their lives. "Kids across the state don't
relate milk to cows or farms. They don't make the connection
between agriculture and the clothes they wear, their
shoes and the food they eat."
Revenue from tag sales is helping to convert trailers
into mobile science labs for use at 70 to 80 schools
each year. The labs generally stay in one spot for a
week, and most schools see that about 150 students participate
per day. "Students have made butter from cream.
They have used soybeans to make crayons. They make cheese
from milk. They are taught the importance of water quality
and why it is harmful to put oil or other chemicals
into the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries," writes
man develops way to turn cheese waste into energy
A "cheesehead" from Wisconsin have tested
technology that turns cheese waste into energy
"With the help of a ag-development and diversification
grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture,
Trade and Consumer Protection, Joe Van Groll
of Stratford says he has developed a process than can
convert whey permeate into ethanol. He says the process
also creates two valuable byproducts, a probiotic cattle
feed supplement and salt. The process could save cheese
makers millions of dollars in disposal costs, somewhere
in the neighborhood of 22 cents for every 100 pounds
of milk processed," reports Bob Meyer of the Brownfield
Network, an agriculture news service.
Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen said,
“This technology is an excellent example of the
no-waste, bio-based economy. It promises to boost cheese
profits, preserve the environment and reduce dependence
on foreign oil.” Plans are ongoing to take the
technology to the market place. (Read
agriculture secretary wants to expand farmers' markets
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell says expanding
the state's farmers' markets would help small farmers
Bell, the former longtime president and chief executive
of Riceland Foods Inc., told Cristal
Cody of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
that he wants to encourage small farmers. “We’ve
got to try to get more funding and help to grow markets,”
he said. “If we don’t do something to increase
the balance between small and big farms, we’re
just going to have three or four big farms in eastern
Bell is also exploring ways to increase the state's
number of small exporters. Many of the state's crops,
such as soybeans, are exported. About 45 percent of
the country’s soybean crops are exported, compared
to 80 percent of Arkansas’ soybeans, Bell told
can take online quiz to see how they affect environment
A new online quiz aims to help farmers assess their
operations' impact on the environment.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service
quiz presents an overview of common operational issues
that affect the eco-system, reports Tyne Morgan of the
Brownfield Network, an agriculture
news service. From livestock exclusion to erosion control,
the assessment provides an overview of many issues that
farmers face across the country. The quiz is designed
to help guide producers on ways to make their operations
more environmentally friendly. (Read
Producers anywhere can take the quiz at the extension