The Rural Blog
Issues, trends, events, ideas and journalism from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Monday, Feb. 28,
Journalists challenged to help
improve health in Central Appalachia
More than 50 journalists, health-care professionals
and interested citizens from Appalachian states shared ideas
about the region's health, and how to cover and improve it,
on Friday in Hazard, Ky., at a conference sponsored by the
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
The institute's director and the health professionals
challenged the region's news outlets to devote more attention
to medical issues in one of the least healthy regions of the
nation. "The news media in Appalachia could play a key
role in improving the region's health. But all too often,
most of the health care information some outlets carry is
advertising from providers looking for patients," interim
director Al Cross said.
The University of Kentucky Center
for Rural Health hosted the gathering. Its
director, Judy Jones Owens, told the audience, "Rural
communities are very dependent on the local news media to
act as their advocates. It's imperative in this age that someone
provide a voice for people living in these rural communities.
Reporters really should be that voice."
Roger Alford of The Associated Press
Cross and Pat Lay, publisher of the Harlan (Ky.) Daily
Enterprise, which had a reporter at the conference.
Lay told Alford that newspapers in the region recognize the
importance of educating the public about health issues, and
that some devote sections to health and medical news. She
said her newspaper routinely runs columns on health issues
written by physicians. Lay said schools also play a key role
in educating children about healthy lifestyles, and that health
care organizations also need to step up their efforts to reach
adults. Lay said, "I think we're a partner in helping
educate residents, but we are only one of many partners."
Wayne Myers, former head of the U.S.
Office of Rural Health Policy, told the conference
that poverty crosses all racial and ethnic bounds in central
Appalachia and is at the root of its health problems. He said
the region's health care is no worse than anywhere else, but
he and others noted that its cancer-death rates among people
35 to 64 are disproportionately higher, reflecting a shortage
of screening -- which Cross said could be addressed by feature
stories about cancer victims who survived because they were
Cross also suggested that newspapers play up
health-oriented news, citing a front-page story and editorial
from the Greenup County (Ky.)
News-Times about an anti-obesity grant to the local schools. He also
suggested that newspapers could use their ability to "sample
copy" every household in their counties to reach non-subscribers
with health information, and cover the cost with ads from
A more detailed report on the conference appears here.
Bill Gates urges restructuring
high schools; governors seek tougher standards
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill
Gates told the nation's governors and leaders of the educational
community that U. S. high schools are obsolete and need radical
restructuring to raise graduation rates, prepare students
for college and train a workforce that faces growing competition
in the global economy. Governors of states with more than
one-third of the nation's students said they are forming a
coalition to improve high schools by adopting higher standards,
more rigorous courses and tougher examinations.
Gates said, "Our high schools were designed
50 years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design
them to meet the needs of this century, we will keep limiting,
even ruining, the lives of millions of Americans every year,"
Dan Balz of The Washington Post. Gates was
the keynoter for a two-day education summit linked to the
National Governors Association meeting in
Washington. It highlighted the problem of dropout rates among
high school students and the schools' failure to give students
adequate preparation for college, and to developing an agenda
for action in the states.
Gates put his money where his mouth was. He
offered $15 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation -- which already helps hundreds of high
schools -- to help states improve high schools. Five other
foundations made offers, for a total of $23 million. Gates
and others cited alarming statistics to back up their argument
that high schools are failing students, particularly low-income
or minority children.
The U.S. is16th among 20 developed nations in
the percentage of students who complete high school and 14th
among the top 20 in college graduation rates, writes Balz.
Just 18 of 100 students entering high school go on to complete
their college degree within six years, and the nation has
slipped from first to fifth internationally in the percentage
of young people who hold a college degree. Math and science
education poses a particular challenge, with most American
students gradually slipping behind the rest of the world.
The message sent by the governors was that "Unless
the nation takes drastic measures on high schools, the United
States will lose its competitive position in the world economy,"
Robert Pear of The New York Times. The 13
states in the coalition to improve high schools are are Arkansas,
Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan,
New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.
Other states are expected to join in the next few weeks.
law spurring conflict with anti-sprawl forces
Oregon’s new property-rights law, approved
as Measure 37 by voters last fall, is creating a paradox for
the state as it sets out on the cutting edge of controlling
urban sprawl, reports The Washington Post.
The law says the government must pay cash to
longtime property owners when land-use restrictions reduce
their property value, writes
Blaine Harden. If the government can’t pay, the owners
are allowed to develop their property as they wish. But there
is little or no money to pay landowners, so the law collides
with smart-growth laws that have defined living patterns,
land prices, and protected the state’s open spaces.
Dale Riddle, vice president for legal affairs
at Seneca Jones Timber Co., the largest donor
to the campaign for Measure 37, told the paper, "If you
are going to restrict what someone can do with his land, then
you have to pay for it.”
Land-use restrictions triggered a nationwide
backlash in the early 1990s when Florida, Texas, Louisiana
and Mississippi passed property-rights laws to protect owners
from monetary losses from zoning. A nearly identical bill
to the Oregon law has been introduced in the Montana legislature,
and Washington is working to put a similar initiative on its
Mountain goes to Muhammad?
No, Mt. Sinai goes to the Supreme Court
The deeply contentious debate over government-sponsored
displays of The Ten Commandments, which Exodus says were given
to Moses on Mount Sinai millennia ago, reaches the summit
of the nation’s legal system this week – The
U. S. Supreme Court.
In cases to be argued on Wednesday, involving
two rural counties in Kentucky and the Texas state government,
the basic question for the justices will be: What does it
mean for the government to display a copy of the Ten Commandments?
Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, adding:
"To those who seek removal of the displays
-- a six-foot red granite monument that has sat since 1961
on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, and framed copies of
the Ten Commandments that were hung five years ago on the
walls of two Kentucky courthouses - the meaning is as obvious
as it is impermissibly sectarian."
Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke University
Law School wrote in his brief for Thomas Van Orden,
an Austin resident who has so far been unsuccessful in his
challenge to the Texas monument, "There is no secular
purpose in placing on government property a monument declaring
'I am the Lord thy God.' " The Texas display is one of
thousands placed around the country in the 1950's and 1960's
by the Fraternal Order of Eagles with the
support of Cecil B. DeMille, the director the movie, "The
Douglas Laycock, a professor and associate dean
at the University of Texas School of Law,
said in a discussion of the cases Thursday sponsored by the
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, "The
government is not supposed to be for religion or against religion.
You don't put up a sign you disagree with, and the government
doesn't disagree with these," she writes.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American
Center for Law and Justice, a law firm established
by the Rev. Pat Robertson, said the Ten Commandments have
acquired secular as well as religious meaning, and have come
to be "uniquely symbolic of law." Sekulow noted
the marble frieze in the courtroom of the Supreme Court building
depicts Moses, holding the tablets, in a procession of "great
lawgivers of history." (The 17 other figures in the frieze
include Hammurabi, Confucius, Justinian, Napoleon, Chief Justice
John Marshall and Muhammad, who holds the Koran.) Sekulow
said, "Does the Supreme Court now issue an opinion that
requires a sandblaster to come in? I think not," Greenhouse
NFU says ag-market concentration
keeps rising, calls for more competition
The National Farmers Union
reported that concentration in agricultural markets has continued
to rise, according to a study the NFU commissioned from Mary
Hendrickson and William Heffernan from the University
of Missouri Department of Rural Sociology. The NFU
the results at its 103rd anniversary convention in Lexington,
“The study showed the top four beef packers
now dominate 83.5 percent of the market, four pork packers
control 64 percent of that market, and the top four poultry
companies process 56 percent of the broilers in the United
States,” said the organization. NFU President Dave Frederickson
said that ethanol production was the only sector where concentration
has steadily decreased, saying it was a direct relationship
to the high number of farmer-owned ethanol cooperatives in
Frederickson also said the results were more
proof that Congress needs to immediately pass legislation
to restore competition for U.S. farmers and ranchers. “Independent
producers cannot succeed in the absence of protection from
unfair and anti-competitive practices,” he said. “We
need comprehensive agricultural competition and concentration
policies to restore balance in the marketplace.”
Some Southern Kentucky
tobacco farmers not up to speed on buyout
Tobacco farmers in many Kentucky counties don’t
understand the nature of the federal tobacco buyout or how
to get buyout payments, reports the Bowling Green
(Ky.) Daily News.
Sign-up for the money runs March 14 through
June 17, writes
Greg Wells. Prior to the sign-up period, quota holders
and producers should get a letter explaining the program and
including Farm Service Agency records of
poundage for the past years, Wells writes.
Karen Evans of the Butler County FSA office,
told Wells, “It’s really sad, we have people coming
into the office still wanting to lease their tobacco bases
this year. I’m really concerned that some of the elderly
quota owners or the out-of-town property owners may not get
signed up.” Logan County farmers also have questions,
said Winston Woodward, that county’s FSA director. “We’re
getting quite a lot of questions and can’t tell them
yet how it’s going to operate,” he said. “We’ve
also had to explain to quite a few that there are no tobacco
leases anymore.” The FSA is sending direct mailings
in Warren and Edmonson counties to tell what days producers
can come to register, Wells writes.
All of the questions are a result of the passage
of last year’s Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act,
which ended the tobacco marketing quota and price support
programs. Quota holders will be eligible for payments if they
owned a farm on Oct. 22, to which a quota was assigned. Producers
will receive payments per pound, based on production for crops
from 2002, 2003 or 2004.
hard times turn to hope; ‘diamond in the rust,’
With such a bleak history, it might seem as
if Johnstown, Pa. had nothing left but to become another old,
depressed steel town, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But, says the newspaper, the city that was built on the backs
of laborers from 23 countries has become known as a high-tech
"With its biomedical research, information
technology and military subcontractors leading the new-job
revolution, Johnstown developers are bringing in more needed
manufacturing jobs," writes
Paula Reed. "Nestled in the heart of the Laurel Mountains,
Johnstown rightly earned itself a reputation as the heart
of the American industrial revolution." With coal mining
and steelmaking, the city hit its peak in the 1950s, when
more than 40,000 people worked daily in those industries.
But, Reed says the bottom fell out in the early 1980s, when
interest rates climbed to 21 percent and unemployment hit
levels seen only during the Great Depression. A population
that once stood at 63,000 plummeted to 28,000.
Now, writes Reed, the city has embraced diversification
in economic development. "It may be a catchword these
days, but for the Johnstown region, diversification means
everything. Economic leaders rely on it to help stimulate
their economy, and to keep existing jobs in place,”
Linda R. Thomson, president of Johnstown
Area Regional Industries, a local economic development
agency, brags about recent announcements. Gamesa,
a windmill manufacturing facility, is coming in. Conemaugh
Health System is planning to turn a brownfield into
a high-tech park. In a few months, International Steel
Group is expected to announce a coke plant that could
produce up to 800 jobs between mining and the plant. Over
the next two years, Reed notes, the Johnstown area will need
2,000 people to fill new positions. Thomson tells her, "I
think that's the most positive thing we've seen."
Influx of black bears
leads to calls for hunting season in Kentucky
Bunches of black bears are pawing at porches,
rooting through garbage and menacing pets in Central Appalachia,
reports The Associated Press. Enough black
bears have migrated into the hills of Eastern Kentucky that
some think it's time to start hunting them down again.
"Outdoor enthusiasts believe the move would
be good for hunters and would give the bears a fear of humans
that would keep the animals away from homes, writes
Roger Alford. Ronnie Wells, president of the Kentucky
League of Sportsmen told AP, "It would make
them stay wild. That's the philosophy behind it. They've been
coming right down into people's porches and yards."
As recently as a century ago, bears thrived
in Kentucky's mountain region, before overhunting led to their
disappearance, Alford writes. But over the past 20 years,
they've been venturing back through the forest of Virginia
and West Virginia, once again giving Eastern Kentucky a self-sustaining
bear population that has been increasingly butting up against
A Whitesburg resident was ordered to pay a $250
fine for shooting a 270-pound bear that was eating from his
garbage cans and frightening his dogs and horse. Neighboring
Virginia and West Virginia have had bear hunts for years,
but Kentucky officials say it would be premature for them
to restart one because they don't yet know how many black
bears live in the state.
Wild horses in the West
run risk of slaughter; advocates rally to revive ban
After more than 30 years of roaming federal
lands free of any threat of the slaughterhouse, wild mustangs,
can now be sold and butchered for meat if the Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) cannot sell them, reports
The Washington Post.
"In December, Congress repealed a 34-year
prohibition on the slaughter of wild horses, which have become
synonymous with the spirit and heart of the American West,
and required the government to sell the unwanted ones. Many
ranchers complain that the horses are eating up forage needed
for their cattle," writes
More than 37,000 burros and wild horses, whose
ancestors once sped Pony Express riders to their destinations,
roam federal lands in 10 Western states. Arguing that the
wild mustangs would starve on crowded federal lands or languish
in cramped pens after being captured in government roundups
aimed at thinning the population, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)
attached an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill signed
by President Bush in December, she writes.
Under the Burns amendment, BLM, must sell animals
older than 10 and those that have been unsuccessfully offered
for adoption at least three times. About 8,400 animals would
be for sale. Betty Kelly, co-founder of the advocacy group
Wild Horse Spirit in Virginia City, Nev.
Told Edds, "It's an atrocity. They really don't care
about these horses. They just want them off public lands."
Road builder seems to
lead ‘tangled alliance’
for Kentucky truck bill
Before the Kentucky House voted to legalize
overweight gravel trucks on the state's roads, joining the
overweight coal trucks already allowed, lawmakers heard again
dire warnings of the death of the coal and trucking industries
if the higher loads are not allowed reports the Lexington
“The legislature must pass a bill to broaden
the exemption in the 40-ton weight limit so it covers not
only coal, but all other natural resources, such as gravel,
sand, oil and natural gas,” writes
John Cheves. But, because of a Pike County lawsuit filed by
a jealous gravel trucker, Cheves notes, a judge is ready to
kill the weight exemption for coal trucks.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg,
said, "They can't make a living at 80,000 pounds! Shut
down the coal industry, and we'll shut the state down!"
Trade groups representing the coal and trucking industries
don't support Cornett's bill. Some non-coal truckers shudder
at the idea of driving through the Appalachian Mountains at
60 tons, he writes. Roy Bruner, a trucker in London, said
"Putting an 'overweight' decal on your windshield won't
help you brake any faster with that kind of load."
Backing the fight for heavier trucks on both
fronts is Leonard Lawson of Mountain Enterprises,
the politically connected road builder who depends on gravel,
and Terry McBrayer, lobbyist and former chairman of the Kentucky
Democratic Party, writes Cheves The gravel-trucking firm that
sued the state over the coal exemption, D.R.T. Trucking,
hauls for Lawson's various road-paving companies. It's represented
in court by McBrayer's Lexington law firm.
reach to Kansas farmer and wife; from figs came fame
Hollywood’s plumage was in full bloom
last night as it picked from its crop those to be anointed
with ‘Oscar” accolades, but its world famous film-empire
name might be for naught if it weren’t for the choice
of a fig farmer from the Sunflower State and more importantly
his wife's fancy for names.
“No star exists for (that fig farmer )
H.H. Wilcox (nor for his wife) on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
In Topeka, where he began his fortune, no plaque bears his
name. No statue bears his image,” writes
Eric Adler in The Kansas City Star. Don Chubb,
a leader of the Shawnee County Historical Society,
told Adler, “I'd say you'd be lucky to find 10 people
in the entire town who have ever heard of him,” said.
“I thought I knew a lot about local history. I didn't
know anything about him.”
In the shadow of the 77th Academy Awards ceremony,
Adler writes, "Here is what there is to know: In 1883,
51-year-old Harvey Henderson Wilcox — a crippled Kansan
who had made a bundle in Topeka rental property — set
out for California. There, in 1886, he bought a fig orchard
and 120 acres of undeveloped farmland with the idea of creating
his own God-fearing community. It was his wife, Daeida, who
gave the place a name: Hollywood.” (Your
bloggers note that Hollywood is criticized for not giving
'a fig' for the aforementioned principle upon which the farm
Feb. 26, 2005
Publishers of The Mountain
Eagle receive award named for them
Tom and Pat Gish, publishers
of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky.,
accepted on Friday the first Gish Award, which the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues will give to rural
journalists who demonstrate courage, tenacity and integrity
often needed to render public service through journalism.
The award was presented at the
Institute's first conference for journalists, on covering
health care and health in Central Appalachia, at the University
of Kentucky's Center for Rural Health in
Hazard, Ky. (A report on the conference will appear later
in The Rural Blog and remain on the Institute Web site.)
The following article is adapted
from the tribute to the Gishes at the presentation of the
Tom and Pat Gish spoke in October at an
event announcing the establishment of the award.
By Rudy Abramson, Advisory
Board Chairman, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
On November 22, 1956, The Mountain Eagle
carried a front page story reporting that W. P. Nolan and
his wife Martha had sold the newspaper they had published
since 1938 to Tom and Pat Gish.
Tom was a Whitesburg boy who had made good.
Ever since graduating from journalism school at the University
of Kentucky he had worked for the old United Press,
mostly covering the state capital of Frankfort. Pat, a Paris,
Ky., girl, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UK and a former editor
of the Kentucky Kernel, had been a reporter
for the old Lexington Leader, covering a variety of beats
for eight years.
The Mountain Eagle purchased by the Gishes was
an unremarkable, fairly typical weekly paper. Its masthead
accurately proclaimed it “A Friendly Non-Partisan Weekly
Newspaper Published Every Thursday.” To give you its
flavor, I will read you the lead from its story at the top
of Page 1 not long before Tom and Pat bought it:
“On Thursday, March 4, the Kiwanis Club
of Jenkins has the pleasure of presenting Mr. P.L. McElroy,
vice president of Consolidation Coal Company,
Pittsburgh, Pa., who will deliver a lecture entitled, ‘The
Future of Coal.’ . . . Mr. McElroy is well versed on
all phases of the coal industry and is thoroughly qualified
to speak on all aspects of our most abundant natural resource.”
There was no reason for folks
in Whitesburg to expect that new ownership at the Eagle portended
great change. But that’s exactly what was in store.
The Gishes had put out just two issues of their
paper when Whitesburg, Hazard, and other communities were
devastated by the worst flooding in a generation. Their coverage
was fantastic. It equaled that of the Lexington and Louisville
papers and it followed up on the story long after the city
papers had forgotten it.
But notwithstanding the natural disaster, there
was not a lot of obvious breaking news in Whitesburg and Letcher
County in the late 1950s, and the so the Gishes turned to
seriously covering the business of public agencies. They had
not bought the Eagle with a strategy of launching crusades,
but they quickly found themselves in an inevitable role of
In those days in Whitesburg, as in many if not
most small towns of Appalachia and elsewhere, public business
was conducted with little public knowledge. Tom and Pat surprised
city and county officials by showing up for their meetings.
They surprised them even more when they began to report what
was said and done, and this went against the grain of a lot
The county school board, for instance, was the
biggest public employer in the county. It had its meetings
in a little room with seating space only for its members.
Citizens who had business with the board were called in one
at a time. Often they were dismissed with their issue left
to be addressed by the board in private. No doubt to the astonishment
of board members, Pat Gish began standing in a corner through
these meetings and reporting the proceedings in the Eagle.
It didn’t take long for the board to adopt
a resolution saying press coverage of its meeting was not
permitted, and it didn’t take long for other public
agencies to follow suit.
But this outrage was only the beginning. There
followed, as most of you know, efforts to drive the Gishes
out of business with advertising boycotts, competition, and
eventually even arson.
The doctor who delivered Tom Gish into the
world was the school board chairman and the political boss
of Letcher County, and he put out word that school board employees
were not to buy the Mountain Eagle. Along Main Street in Whitesburg,
word was spread that Tom was a Communist. The Eagle lost for
all time its major advertiser, an automobile dealer, which
had been largely responsible for keeping the paper’s
books in the black.
All of this took place at an extraordinary
time. Appalachia’s wartime and post-war coal boom had
collapsed. Throughout the fifties, families left Whitesburg
and Letcher County in droves. The population had fallen by
half, and thriving communities, such as Seco where Tom Gish
grew up, withered away.
Mechanization of the mines not only threw tens
of thousands of miners out of work, it brought environmental
havoc to the mountains.
The Gishes’ Mountain Eagle, having replaced
its “Friendly Bipartisan Newspaper” label with
the defiant slogan, “It Screams,” became perhaps
the country’s most defiant, most consistent, and most
compelling voice against strip and auger mining in Appalachia.
The Eagle pulled no punches.
In 1960, its editorial leveled scathing criticism
at Bert Combs, a mountain neighbor who would long be regarded
as one of Kentucky’s most progressive governors, for
failing to take a stronger stand against strip mining and
for doing too little to address the economic distress of the
There were times when anarchy and insurrection
loomed. The National Guard had to be sent in to prevent violence
in the coal fields; The Eagle reported meetings in which citizens
seriously suggested withdrawing from the state.
One Mountain Eagle editorial opined, “If
five or ten thousand Letcher county residents went to Frankfort
and pitched tents on the governor’s lawn and stayed
until he put in an appearance, Combs might pay some attention
to us.” Perhaps anyone who presumes
to teach journalism in Appalachia ought to require a reading
of editorials in The Mountain Eagle during the bad old days
of the Sixties.
It quickly became one of the first news organizations
to charge the federal government itself — specifically,
the Tennessee Valley Authority — with
being one of the major causes of strip mining.
With the publication of Harry Caudill’s
Night Comes to the Cumberlands in
1963, the ravages of strip mining, mountain poverty, and the
condition of schools became national news stories, and Whitesburg
became a frequent destination for magazine and newspaper reporters
and television crews.
Readers of the Mountain Eagle were already familiar
with places such as Beefhide Creek, which Caudill made famous.
They already knew about TVA coal contracts that accelerated
the spread of strip mining across Appalachia. They already
knew about the deplorable condition of schools. Letcher County
had nearly 70 one and two room schools when the Gishes began
writing about the system, and The Eagle called most of them
unfit for human habitation. Tom bitingly observed that Albert
Einstein would have lacked qualification to teach algebra
at Whitesburg High School.
In November 1963, shortly after the publication
of Caudill’s book, Pulitzer Prize-winning New
York Times reporter Homer Bigart traveled the hollows
and mountain roads of Eastern Kentucky and wrote that Christmas
would find many citizens facing serious hunger. His article
brought an outpouring of food and clothing from across the
country and became a landmark as the federal government considered
an economic aid program for Appalachia. Interestingly, four
years before Bigart’s article, a piece in the Mountain
Eagle had begun with almost the same sentence: “ Many
Letcher County homes will miss a visit from Santa Claus this
year unless some of Santa’s helpers get to work immediately.
Some may even do without a Christmas Day.”
As the national press, the White House, and
Congress discovered Appalachian poverty, Tom Gish and Harry
Caudill became the most prominent spokesmen for the region.
Caudill’s law office and the Gishes’ newspaper
office became the places outside reporters went first for
tips, for information, and for quotes.
Bill Bishop, a 1970s Mountain Eagle reporter
who now writes for the Austin American Statesman,
remembers the day after the 1976 Scotia mine disaster when
a New York Times reporter arrived in Whitesburg on deadline.
The pages for the next day’s Mountain Eagle were already
made up and were about to be loaded into Tom’s car and
taken to the press. The Timesman grabbed and phone and dictated
a story directly from the article written for the next day’s
Not surprisingly, a great many local people
deeply resented the national spotlight, and some blamed Gish
and Caudill for negative portrayals. One local official threatened
a BBC film crew filming citizens lined up to receive government
food handouts. Later, a producer for a Canadian television
crew was shot to death.
Through it all the Gishes remained stubbornly
undaunted. Jim Branscome, who was the point man in pressuring
TVA to open its board meetings when he was a young stringer
in Knoxville for the Eagle, still recalls arriving in Whitesburg
the day after an arsonist hired by a Whitesburg policeman
had torched the newspaper’s offices. He went to the
Gishes’ house and there sat Tom on the porch hunched
over a typewriter, composing a story for the next issue. The
issue appeared on schedule, with a famously altered motto
on its masthead: "It still screams."
“Here he was not far away from his heart
attack, having quit a five pack a day habit,” Branscome
recalled recently. “And here he was determined to get
out a few pages, just to let all the bastards know the Eagle
was still screaming. Was it an incredible act of courage,
commitment, or just plain mountain stubbornness? I still haven’t
figured out the proportions of these three things, but I am
leaning toward the last one as explaining a lot.”
It should also be said that The Mountain Eagle
has done much more than fight for open access, expose strip
mining, and expose corruption.
Every reporter and editor who came to work
at the paper was instructed that the community columns by
Siller Brown, Mabel Kiser and the other columnists who reported
the illnesses, doings, and deaths from Millstone, Neon, and
elsewhere around the county were not to be touched. Community
columns continue to be an Eagle mainstay even though Mabel
and others who first worked for the Gishes have gone to their
It’s very hard to sum up Tom and Pat.
I have not even touched upon the things they’ve done
outside the Eagle, the fine family they have reared, or their
contributions such as Tom’s work on behalf of education
in Kentucky, including a term on the state school board.
Others who presented awards to them have talked
of many of the same things I have mentioned here. But the
most cogent statement I have seen was sent to me last week
by Tom Bethell, another fine editor and journalist who worked
at the Eagle during the turbulent sixties, and I would like
to quote him:
“They have produced week after week, nearly
3,000 times so far, a living, breathing, working definition
of what good rural journalism is all about. They have always
paid close attention to what could be described, wrongly,
as the small stuff. In the pages of the Eagle you can count
on knowing when the redbuds are blossoming and how the mist
looks on Pine Mountain, who has come home for the holidays,
who owes back taxes, and who has died.”
Recalling how the Eagle covered TVA, the War
on Poverty, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate caper, Bethell
went on: “One of the many reasons why Tom and Pat are
great journalists is that they have always understood that
there is almost no such thing as a strictly local story, and
they have been willing to follow the story wherever it takes
them. That, surely, should be a model and a mantra for rural
journalists wherever they are.”
Over the past several years, the Gish team
has received awards from professional associations, universities,
civic organizations, and other publications, and national
honors named for people from Helen Thomas to Elijah Lovejoy.
Now, the fledgling Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues institutes an award — maybe we should call it
a Prize — named for the Gishes.
From time to time, it will be bestowed upon
a person or persons considered to have demonstrated the courage
and tenacity that have made Tom and Pat icons of community
journalism, and that are often necessary to render public
service through journalism in rural America.
Frankly, I think this overlooks an even more
important Gish trait — integrity. It has been their
personal integrity that has made their courage, commitment,
and tenacity so meaningful.
And so, I am honored to present the first Tom
and Pat Gish Award to its namesakes — two great journalists,
two fine people, and two sterling citizens of Appalachia and
the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
Panel backs case directed
at tobacco firms; wants youth education reinstated
A group of former high-ranking public health
officials who served presidents of both major parties stepped
into the government's racketeering case against the tobacco
industry yesterday, asking the judge to reinstate an education
program that cigarette companies once financed, reports The
New York Times.
“The request came from the Citizens'
Commission to Protect the Truth, a group of 21 former
surgeons general, secretaries of health and human services
and directors of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention dating to the Johnson administration,"
Michael Janofsky. The group was formed last year to protect
antismoking educational programs that had been required under
a 1998 settlement that ended litigation between the companies
and 46 states over health-care costs from smoking.
Commission chairman Joseph A. Califano Jr.,
who served as heath secretary under President Jimmy Carter,
old The Times the commission's request satisfied a recent
appeals-court decision. The court blocked the government's
request for $280 billion from the companies, calling it a
"backward looking" remedy that was not permitted
under civil statutes of the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The ruling said
that if the government did prevail in the case, any other
remedy should "prevent and restrain" future illegal
acts, not punish the companies for acts in the past.
Califano told the newspaper, "If you want
to focus on future conduct, this is one thing the industry
can do." Under the 1998 settlement, the four leading
American tobacco companies - Philip Morris,
Lorillard, R. J. Reynolds
and Brown & Williamson - were required
to pay for education programs for five years.
Tobacco tradition is
bid farewell, but officials say auction is not the last
Tobacco warehouse officials in Somerset, Kentucky,
protested that yesterday’s tobacco auction was not the
town’s last, reports The Commonwealth Journal.
Co-owner and manager of Peoples Tobacco
Warehouse, William Shotwell, told the paper, "We'll
be open next season, we'll have buyers, we'll sell tobacco."
A warehouse partner, Glenn Martin, also objects to reports
that this is the final season for the auctions. He pointed
out that the Tobacco buyout bill only ends the price support
system, writes Bill Mardis, the editor emeritus of the Commonwealth
Journal. The bill, which was signed into law last October,
also removes restrictions on growing the crop. Any grower
can produce as much tobacco as he wants, but must also find
a buyer, the paper explains.
Big tobacco companies have been contracting
with farmers to buy the crop, drastically reducing the amount
sold at auctions. The executive director of the Farm
Service Agency, Lewis Colver, said that prior to
yesterday’s sale, 1,817, 493 pounds of burley were sold
this season at Peoples Tobacco Warehouse and Farmers
Tobacco Warehouse. Growers made an average of $195.86
per hundredweight, Mardis writes. Figures on the sales from
yesterday’s auction were not available at presstime,
the Journal writes.
In a separate editorial, Mardis talked about
what the price support system meant to tobacco farmers: “If
a basket of tobacco fails to bring a penny more than the support
price for that particular grade the basket goes to the 'pool.'
In other words, the support price makes sure growers get a
fair pay for their leaf.”
That system and the money it brought farmers
were essential to Somerset, Mardis writes, saying, “It
made the mortgage payment on the farm. The money bought Christmas
presents for the family. Golden burley was the chief cash
crop in Pulaski County and across the Burley Belt.”
And while the sales may continue, Mardis says, the tradition
surrounding it “is a thing of the past.”
Smokers forced outdoors,
toxic cigarette butts pile up, befoul environment
As bans on smoking in public places proliferate,
laws are passed and more smokers are forced outdoors to light
up, questions about the growing problem of cigarette butts
piling up outside those establishments and their environmental
and health impact are being asked by The Herald-Dispatch
in a special report.
“Cigarette butts roll off smokers’
fingers, down roads and drains ...They’re scattered
over parking lots at shopping centers. They line walking paths,”write
Jim Waymer of Florida Today and Crystal Quarles
of the Huntington, W.Va. newspaper. And there may be even
more of them because of bans on smoking in restaurants, many
workplaces and public places. It’s the unintended environmental
fallout of those defiant acts that has scientists worried,
Waymer and Quarles write. Kathleen Register, an adjunct professor
of environmental sciences at Longwood University
in Virginia told the two reporters, "It’s growing
in visibility as more and more people are outdoors smoking.
I think people are angry that they need to go out and smoke,
so it’s almost a defiant act to litter."
The full effect is poorly understood, especially
at the base of the food chain. The more visible consequences
higher up the chain are obvious when field biologists witness
them. Wildlife rehabilitators, for example, routinely find
cigarette butts in the intestines of dead sea turtles or see
them on X-rays of sick ones, write Waymer and Quarles. The
cigarette butts absorb the chemicals that burnt tobacco emits,
including high concentrations of nicotine and nitrogen. Some
biologists suspect even trace amounts of those chemicals,
especially nicotine -- a natural pesticide -- may have harmful
effects. The toxins can accumulate in higher concentrations
in larger animals as they move up the food chain, they write.
FedEx halts East Kentucky
drug deliveries; addicts try to skirt restrictions
FedEx has stopped delivering
packages from online pharmacies to portions of Eastern Kentucky
where prescription drug abuse has become widespread, and where
addicts have been using the service to skirt restrictions
and regulation, reports The Associated Press.
"Drug dealers and abusers have increasingly
turned to ordering prescriptions from unlicensed Internet
pharmacies since law enforcement agencies began cracking down
on local doctors, sending some to prison for prescribing pills
without legitimate medical reasons," writes
The problem has become so pervasive that state
legislators are pushing a bill aimed at regulating online
sales of prescription drugs. Attorney General Greg Stumbo
called prescription drug abuse a cancer in Kentucky, he writes.
The legislation would make it a felony, punishable by up to
10 years in prison, to distribute drugs shipped into Kentucky
by unlicensed Internet pharmacies, and would allow authorities
to seize prescriptions ordered from unlicensed online pharmacies.
FedEx spokesman Ryan Furby told AP he doesn't
know when the company will resume drug deliveries. He said
the deliveries were stopped "because of the sensitivities
of where they're originating and the possible contents of
the packages." People who order drugs online must now
get them at a FedEx station.
Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb told AP drivers
for companies like FedEx and UPS could have
dangerous jobs in parts of Eastern Kentucky if addicts think
they're hauling drugs from online pharmacies. "I've had
reports of at least 10 people gathered around a UPS truck
picking up their packages. If a driver goes up one of these
hollows and comes up on six or eight people who know he has
drugs on there, they may decide to take them," he said.
has bill to clean up after meth labs, study health effects
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall, Tenn.,
is pushing legislation to require the Environmental
Protection Agency to formulate regulations to safeguard
residents from environmental and health hazards created by
the production of illegal methamphetamine, reports
The Tullahoma News.
Davis, whose Middle Tennessee district is one
of the antion's most rural, is a co-sponsor of a bill that
calls for the development of health-based guidelines in cleaning
up meth labs, which have become an epidemic in rural areas
nationwide. The Methamphetamine Remediation Act would require
EPA to set up the health-based guidelines,
fund field-test kits to help law enforcement detect labs,
and fund a study on long-term health effects from the labs
on children and law enforcement officers, the paper reports.
In a recent meth-lab bust in Smyrna, Ga., federal
agents told nearby residents to not eat apples from trees
in their yards because of poisonous run-off from the lab,
raising considerable health and environmental concerns. In
2004, Tennessee accounted for 75 percent of meth lab seizures
in the Southeast.
Man tries to hide arrest
for meth, buys up local newspapers, paper prints more
Jack William Pacheco of Chowchilla, Calif.,
was arrested for meth possession on Feb. 17. The next morning,
he decided the best way to keep it secret was to buy up every
copy of The Chowchilla News.
He estimated he bought 500-600 copies of the
paper. By that afternoon, the circulation department reports
there were no copies available anywhere in town, but 500 additional
copies were printed that night, reports
the News. The weekly paper costs 50 cents a copy. Pacheco
denied the meth-possession charge, saying it was an embarrassment
to him and to his family.
UMW head arrested near
Massey plant protesting pensions, health, jobs loss
Ten United Mine Workers union
members, including UMW President Cecil Roberts, were arrested
yesterday after a peaceful sit-in near a Massey Energy
cleaning plant in Smithers, W. Va.
“Another 200 miners and supporters lined
both sides of the road as the 10 men sat in the cold rain
near an entrance to the old Cannelton Coal cleaning plant
on the Kanawha River. When the 10 moved onto the main road,
dozens of other protestors stood near them until Kanawha County
sheriff’s deputies arrived to arrest them,” writes
Paul J. Nyden of The Charleston Gazette..
Some held signs that said, “Why Won’t Massey Hire
Union Miners?” Those arrested also included William
“Bolts” Willis, president of Cannelton UMW Local
8843; Donnie Samms, deputy director of UMW Region II in Charleston;
and Bob Phalen, former UMW District 17 president, writes Nyden.
Each person arrested faces a misdemeanor charge of impeding
the flow of traffic. All were arraigned in Kanawha County
Magistrate Court and released.
Roberts told the newspaper, “We chose
to rally at the Cannelton cleaning plant because of what happened
to UMWA members at this operation last year is a perfect example
of the harmful economic impact America’s federal bankruptcy
laws can have on good, honest, hard-working people.”
Massey Energy bought the Cannelton mining complex
from bankrupt Horizon Natural Resources last
summer. They bought it after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William
Howard nullified the UMW contract at the mine, ending health-care
benefits the contract promised miners for the rest of their
lives. More than 1,000 miners, as well as 4,000 retired miners
and spouses, lost their health benefits when Howard issued
his ruling. The UMW is also upset that Massey reopened the
mine as a non-union operation.
Cost analysis of 'No
Child' law backed; Va. study aims toward withdrawal
Virginia lawmakers want to know how much the
state is paying to implement the No Child Left Behind education
law, and how much Virginia would lose in federal funds if
it left the law behind, reports The Washington
Post, a law that has strapped many smaller rural
school districts with costly requirements.
"They need the information, they said,
before they can consider the dramatic step of withdrawing
from the federal program next year. It also signals of how
seriously they take the state Board of Education's effort
to win more flexibility on the law from the federal government,"
Rosaline S. Helderman.
Del. James H. Dillard II, R-Fairfax, chairman
of the Virginia House's Education Committee and one of the
assembly's most vocal critics of the law told Helderman, "It's
going to cost us a whole lot more to stay in then to get out."
The Board of Education voted last month to seek waivers from
10 detailed requirements of No Child Left Behind, citing a
provision of the law that allows the U.S. education secretary
to exempt states from any of its strictures. State Superintendent
Jo Lynne DeMary told the newspaper there has been a meeting
with federal regulators since that vote but that they have
yet to comment on the their request.
Dillard told Helderman, "We have to stand
up and assert our rightful prerogative to control education
in the state." Negotiations now occur against a backdrop
of escalating rhetoric about the law's impact on education,
nationally and in Virginia, she writes.
Minnesota bill asks more
flexibility on 'No Child Left Behind' testing
Minnesota should be granted the flexibility
to reach the goals of the No Child Left Behind law the way
it sees fit or it will opt out of the federal program, leaving
federal public school funding behind as well, under a proposal
introduced yesterday by a state senator, reports the Pioneer
State Senator Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, “also
wants the (Minnesota) legislature to pass a resolution asking
Congress to amend the No Child Left Behind law by adopting
the recommendations of the National Conference of
State Legislatures' task force,”
writes Toni Coleman of the Minneapolis – St. Paul,
Kelley, chairman of the Senate Education Committee,
told the newspaper, "I personally believe it's a moral
and economic imperative to close the achievement gap. But
we also believe that states and local districts know best
how to accomplish the goal set out in No Child Left Behind
and that the federal government has gone too far in prescribing
the methods by which states and schools would achieve those
Bill Walsh, Minnesota Department of
Education spokesman, told the newspaper, "We
certainly agree that No Child Left Behind needs some tweaking.
We're working every day to get more flexibility out of the
federal government and we're having success." Unless
the federal Education Department agrees to
changes in the implementation of the federal education law
by July 1, 2006, the state would opt out and forgo up to $250
million a year in federal funding, under Kelley's proposal,
Democratic strategists still fussing
about how to appeal to rural voters
than a few Democrats are suggesting that, just as the party
informally decided to downplay the gun issue after their 2000
loss, Dems should now do the same with abortion (because)
it might help them win downscale, small-town and rural voters
who have been defecting from the party with increasing frequency,"
nonpartisan political analyst Charles Cook writes in his latest
National Journal column.
"Others warn that the abortion/choice issue has become
so ingrained in the Democratic Party doctrine that to suddenly
clam up would be seen as politically craven and actually counterproductive."
lays out the debate among Democratic pollsters, beginning
with Brad Bannon, who says the party should "emphasize
an agenda of economic populism over social issues," because
while conservatives outnumber liberals, "There are more
populists than elitists." He notes that John Kerry won
by only 1 percentage point among voters with annual household
incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, showing that "the
traditional Democratic message of economic populism just didn't
penetrate with this struggling group of voters, whom he describes
as 'barely middle class' and who make up just over a fifth
of the electorate," Cook writes. Our guess is that a
disproportionate share of those voters are rural.
the other side is Kerry pollster Mark Mellman, who argued
in a memo to a women's group that supports abortion rights
that the issue "played little role in the election, though
to the extent that the issue was engaged, it appears to have
been a net positive for Democrats," Cook says. Mellman
also argues that "moral values" were not a key factor
in the race, "that this conventional wisdom is an incorrect
interpretation of flawed wording in an exit-poll question,"
and that a majority of Americans support some abortion rights.
intriguing," Cook continues, "Mellman suggests that
'the country is moving from a class-based political alignment
to an alignment based on culture' . . . that the lines are
increasingly drawn between those who have a more traditional
cultural stance (who are aligning more with Republicans),
and those who are more progressive in terms of cultural values
(who are siding with Democrats)." Mellman's memo says
"cultural progressives tend to be pro-choice, while traditionalists
are often anti-choice," but "there is no evidence
that the issue of choice itself caused the cultural alignment
or that changing positions on choice would undo the current
Mark Blumenthal tells Cook that abortion is a "double-edged
sword," because "there were certainly gains (for
Democrats) during the 1990's in non-southern, upscale suburbs"
and "long-term losses in rural areas." Another pollster
who "preferred to go unnamed" told Cook that "a
party should not have a position on abortion -- it is a personal
decision and when a candidate has a personal conviction, our
party should not have a litmus test for support. This pollster
said "many urban and suburban voters lean pro-choice,
but not militantly," and "abhor extremism in politics
from either side, but they are more concerned with privacy
than rural voters" Most voters, he says, don't want to
talk about the issue.
fifth pollster, also anonymous, told Cook that "a cluster
of social issues" such as abortion, gay rights and gun
control have mobilized liberal Democratic activists "and,
along with opposition to the Iraq War, define "progressive"
politics." This pollster says Sen. Hillary Clinton has
the perfect position for a "pro-choice" Democrat:
"Stay pro-choice but speak to those in the middle who
want abortion to remain legal as it is now, but have strong
debate has taken a breather, reports Minnesota newspaper
The national debate over gun rights, for decades
among the most searing and divisive of political issues, appears
to be all but over in Congress, reports Matt Stearns of The
Kansas City Star.
That means that the assault weapons ban, a signature
achievement of gun control advocates that expired last year,
probably will not resurface anytime soon. Conversely, congressional
leaders and the Bush administration haven't put a priority
on efforts to expand gun rights, Stears writes
Saul Cornell, a historian who is director of
the Second Amendment Research Center at The Ohio State
University, told Stearns, “There's a perception
that Washington is not the place to take the debate at this
moment.” Cornell said politicians on both sides see
little advantage in pressing the issue. Stearns notes that
“Democrats, desperate to regain their appeal to middle
America, are moving away from the party's long identification
with gun control, much to the relief of many beleaguered Democrats
in states like Missouri.”
Missouri Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton said of
the issue, “It's a loser. Many in the Democratic leadership
know that small-town and rural America is very pro-gun. It's
part of our rural society, and people have to respect that.
I think Democratic leadership is understanding that and reflecting
that obligation to respect rural values,” he told Stearns.
Republicans, however, have become wary of boasting
about their long and profitable alliance with the National
Rifle Association, the nation's leading gun rights
group, he writes. In the 2004 election cycle, the NRA's political
action committee spent more than $12 million, mostly to aid
Republicans. Included was $1.2 million backing President Bush
and more than $1.5 million against Democratic nominee John
Untaxed cell towers multiply;
county fails to collect property levies on structures
Richland County, S.C., has a problem that many
other rural counties might share. It could be missing out
on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue because
property taxes haven’t been collected on dozens of cell
phone towers, reports The State newspaper
“County officials know of 105 existing
or planned cell phone towers in unincorporated Richland County.
But only about 40 are being taxed, said Harry Huntley, Richland
County auditor. There could be even more untaxed towers, county
officials acknowledge,” writes
Because the county doesn’t know for sure
how many towers are untaxed, it’s not clear how much
money — revenue that could go to schools, libraries,
the Sheriff’s Department and other county agencies —
has been lost, she writes. An $84,000 tower, which Huntley
cited as a typical example, would bring the county $3,200
in personal property taxes annually. Towers can cost between
$75,000 and $300,000 to build.
Jonathon Yates, a Charleston attorney who represents
Cingular Wireless, told the newspaper he
was surprised to hear the county hadn’t taxed some towers.
Yates told Smith it would be hard for a company to skirt the
county’s process. He said Cingular is being taxed.
Virginia community newspaper
group switches editors for 'fresh perspectives'
Three of the six editors at Community
Newspapers of Southwest Virginia will be moving on
to other roles, announced the newspaper group this week, as
part of its plan to better utilize the editors’ strengths
and freshen the papers' outlook, reports
the Smyth County News & Messenger.
The editor of the Wytheville Enterprise,
Stephanie Porter-Nichols; the editor of the News & Messenger,
Dan Kegley; and the editor of the Washington County
News, Mark Sage, will take on new roles, said the
newspaper group’s publisher, Samuel Cooper. Porter-Nichols
will become editor of the News & Messenger, Kegley will
become general manager and editor of the County News, and
Sage will take over editorial responsibilities at the Enterprise,
Cooper said the changes are to allow "fresh
perspectives and approaches," to make a news product
that is more responsive to its readers. “Every few years
an organization needs to rethink how it does business and
then reinvent itself in a way that will show progress. We
think this is what we’ve done,” Cooper said.
Porter-Nichols told the paper, “Words
can’t express how much I will miss working with the
people of Wythe County. I have come to believe that its community
members are all part of my extended family ... I’ve
had the chance to observe many exciting opportunities that
Smyth County is pursuing and I look forward to learning more
about those and getting to know the people that make it a
Thursday, Feb. 24,
Bank regulators propose
new requirements for community lending
A little over six months ago, The Rural Blog
published its first story, about a proposed change in federal
rules that would exempt most banks from strict requirements
that they support their communities through local lending
and direct financial support of local causes. This week, the
two big bank regulators offered a new Community Reinvestment
Act (CRA) plan that affordable-housing advocates found more
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
(FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
that the threshhold for a "small bank," the type
that have less stringent regulations, would be raised to $1
billion from $250 million. In some states, most of them rural,
that would apply to all or almost all banks. Banks getting
this break would have a new "community development test"
allowing them to "allocate their resources for CRA purposes
among community development loans, investments and services
based on the needs of their community," the two agencies'
joint press release said.
"The proposal would also expand the definition
of community development to include activities such as affordable
housing in underserved rural areas and designated disaster
areas." the release continued. "The agencies seek
comment on the best way to identify 'underserved' rural areas
to ensure that CRA activities are targeted to the rural communities
and persons in those communities most in need of community
development and affordable housing."
“Small” banks are examined only
for their record of making loans in the areas that they serve,
while “large” banks undergo a stricter, more complex
test of their patterns of providing service and investment
in those areas. Banks say the current rules are too costly
and thus inhibit investment.
The National Association of Affordable
Housing Lenders, which was critical of various regulators'
plan to raise the small-bank threshhold to $1 billion, said
the new plan "is a much-improved proposal and an important
first step toward updating CRA regulations." It said
the Federal Reserve Board, which regulates
national banks and had expressed concern about the original
plan's effect on rural areas, is expected to follow suit,
and called on the Office of Thrift Supervision,
which regulates savings banks, to do likewise. OTS raised
its small-bank threshhold to $1 billion last summer withour
adding a new test.
The Independent Community Bankers of
America contains banks of all sizes and charter types,
dedicated to the interests of community banking, the group
says. The ICBA President and CEO, Camden R. Fine, issued a
statement praising the FDIC/OCC CRA small
"Relieving larger community banks of unnecessarily burdensome
data collection, and expanding the definition of community
development to foster needed rural economic and infrastructure
development, will allow community banks to refocus their efforts
on meeting local needs." For more see ICBA website.
Broad, bipartsan group
of state officials seek change in No Child Left Behind
A bipartisan group representing 50 state legislatures
has called for major changes in President Bush's landmark
education initiative which it lambasted as "unconstitutional
and impractical," reports The Washington Post.
Many smaller rural communities find themselves especially
hard-pressed to meet the 'No Child Left Behind' requirement
to have a qualified teacher in the subject in every classroom.
"The ... report from the National
Conference on State Legislatures "reflected
widespread local unhappiness with the ... law, which sets
out federal requirements designed to ensure every student
is proficient in reading and math by 2014," writes
Michael Dobbs. The report also said states should be given
much greater latitude in interpreting the law and opting out
of provisions that undermine local initiatives. Republican
state Sen. Steve Saland of New York, who co-chaired a task
force that took 10 months to review implementation of the
intiative, said the law imposes an impractical "one size
fits all" education accountability system across the
country that stifles local initiatives, Dobbs writes.
The report complained the federal government
provides less than 8 percent of the nation's education funds
and seeks to impose an "unworkable accountability system
in return." The task force said the federal government's
role has become "excessively intrusive" in an areas
states have traditionally controlled. The report contends
the law leads to lower academic standards, has increased segregation,
and has driven away top teachers from needy schools. It alleges
the government is violating the Constitution by coercing state
The Washington Times reports
the Utah Legislature is poised to repudiate the law and spurn
$116 million in federal aid tied to it because state policy-makers
are fed up with federal control of education and dictates.
State Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican and mother of 12
who has led the rebellion to make Utah the first state to
opt out of the law, told writer George Archibald, "This
is not a partisan issue; this is a states' rights issue. We
share the same passion President Bush has for quality education,
but there is not one opponent [to opting out] in the entire
Legislature, which is 2-to-1 Republican." Her bill and
another giving primacy to state education standards, won unanimous
House approval last week.
Subsidy debate reveals
a truth: Much farming is a government enterprise
big political and economic questions about President Bush's
proposal to cut farm subsidies continue to get much attention
in major mainstream media. Adam Nossiter of The
Associated Press writes:
there is a more loyal group of Bush supporters than Louisiana's
cotton farmers, it is unknown. Perhaps to a man, they supported
him in the recent election, say those who know," and
their votes were "in line with the President's overwhelming
rural vote across the nation. That's why news that Bush
is seeking the most radical cuts in payments to farmers
in years is provoking not only anguish across Louisiana's
cotton and rice belts. You can hear the hurt as well."
"None use the word betrayal," Nossiter continues.
"And all proclaim patriotic willingness to do their
bit for deficit reduction, suck it up, and 'take the hit,'
as one farmer put it. . . . But the pain is real. These
farmers feel that, collectively, they have become a convenient
whipping-boy, sacrificed for a public that doesn't understand
and politicians looking to score points.
"I'm not happy," farmer John Rife told Nossiter. "I
voted for George Bush. I know the Red States got him in
there." Rife says "I'm a broke son-of-a-bitch," and
says he's not alone. " Like others, he is irked by
the popular notion that farmers like himself sit back taking
government checks, getting rich all the while," Nossiter
writes. "It goes against the grain, apart from being
wrong. A study three years ago found 37,000 Louisiana farms
received $590 million a year from the government -- most
of them small operations getting less than $50,000, but
three took in more than $1 million."
"Cotton is the king of subsidy-dependent American agribusiness,"
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working
Group, told Tim Egan for a story
in The New York Times. EWG " advocates
an overhaul of the farm subsidy system and publishes
a list of every payment in every county."
writing from California, the No. 1 agriculture state, takes
a broader, national look: "Why the federal government
rewards one grower and ignores the other has long been one
of the more contentious arguments in rural America. But
now that Mr. Bush has proposed a curb on billions of dollars
in subsidy payments for crops like cotton and rice over
the next decade, the question has roiled the industry, setting
off a lobbying struggle in Washington and threatening to
pit one type of farmer against the other."
point of departure is fruit grower Joan Lundquist, an example
of those "who grow fruits, nuts and vegetables -- nearly
half of all American crops -- (and) generally get little
or nothing from the government, because they have been viewed
as self-sustaining. But growers of wheat, corn, cotton,
rice, soybeans -- the big commodity crops in the world market
-- received the bulk of more than $130 billion given to
farmers in the last nine years, a record. The rationale
for the payments has been to keep domestic agriculture,
or at least one segment of it, stable and competitive."
such as EWG say that sustains megafarms "at the expense
of the family farm. The administration has now proposed
a cap of $250,000 a year per farmer on government payments,
and wants to close loopholes that let hundreds of individual
farmers get more than a million dollars a year in subsidies
while claiming ownership in multiple operations. In response,
some of the big growers are threatening to enter the unsubsidized
segment, possibly driving down prices for those farmers."
says the outcry "points up an unacknowledged truth:
American farming is essentially a government enterprise.
Of course that runs counter to the mythic notion of farmer
as rugged individualist. . . . But other societies have
decided that protecting national agriculture is a cultural
necessity. You can easily find villages in rural France
that would be depopulated shells if the state had not, for
practical purposes, taken over the farming sector. An entire
economy and way of life has been preserved, thanks to the
taxpayers. That country would be much the poorer without
it. American farmers say no different in defending their
government checks (though they rarely make the connection
From catfish and shrimp to grass
seed, tobacco alternatives yield mixed results
A number of Kentucky tobacco farmers have been preparing
for years for the end of the tobacco price support program,
but are finding their efforts somewhat offset by market
forces they could not predict and over which they have little
control, reports The Courier-Journal.
The Louisville newspaper’s Jim Malone profiles several
farmers who have put their economic eggs into new production
baskets; alternative crops for cash and co-ops for market
safety in numbers. Some have found how frail family farming
is in world competition, while others are finding modest
"Joey Green believes fish will play a big role in
the future of his family's tobacco farm, but netting a profit
has proved elusive so far. The Graves County grower and
other tobacco farmers in far Western Kentucky dug ponds
and established the Purchase Area Aquaculture Cooperative
five years ago to fatten, harvest and market catfish,"
Malone writes. Green told
Malone, "There have been days when I ask myself, 'Why
did I do it -- and how can I get out of it?' " Green
has spent about $34,000 to dig and equip his pond, bought
26,000 young fish for $3,640, and this year he will use
15 tons of feed costing $4,800.
Dan Bonk, a marketing manager, told Malone a consultant
has recommended drastic changes in the way his catfish co-op
does business, including doubling pond acreage, obtaining
$4 million to $5 million in additional financing and overhauling
the board of directors. But the recommendation to dig more
ponds comes at a time when the state, demanding more stringent
budget and financial controls, has balked at pumping in
more money," writes Malone. So the catfish farmers
are in a holding pattern.
Another farmer told Malone he will raise about 25 acres
of tobacco this year, but has made money on some vegetable
crops nearly every year, investing about $25,000 to $50,000
to buy equipment, build an irrigation pond and upgrade housing
for migrant workers who harvest the crops. He told the newspaper
he has recovered his investment and overall has made a profit,
enough to keep going and expand this year.
State officials told the C-J the 36 members of the Roundstone
Native Seed LLC co-op in Upton have made money
by growing and marketing grass seed native to Kentucky.
Randy Seymour, 62, told Malone, "Our co-op has been
profitable from day one." Seymour told Malone the co-op
had about $1.25 million in sales last year, and is the largest
native seed producer in the Southeast.
N.C. Senate leader
wants oyster hatcheries at aquariums to boost fishing trade
The leader of the North Carolina Senate has
said he would support a program to build hatcheries at one
of the state's three aquariums to help revive the flagging
oyster population, a move experts say would boost the state's
entire fishing industry, reports The Associated
"A century ago, 1.8 million bushels of
oysters each year were harvested from North Carolina's waters.
By 1988, the harvest had fallen to 138,000 bushels. In more
recent years, the harvest has measured about 40,000 bushels,
AP. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said during an oyster summit
in Raleigh, "The Carolina oyster needs a comeback.
The aquariums have the expertise, and it would mean that
the people could see it." Marine biologists believe
that a healthy oyster population encourages the health of
other fish species and improves water quality. More oysters
would also improve the economy of some coastal communities.
Nevada town sets up its own department
store when a national chain leaves
When J.C. Penney closed its store in Ely, Nev., a town
of 5,000 pretty much in the middle of nowhere, folks in
the area were "faced with the prospect of a vacant
storefront on Main Street, a hole in the local economy,
and a 200-mile drive to buy socks and underwear," so
they got busy, Tom Rowley writes in his latest column
for the Rural Policy Research Institute.
"When big chain retailers said the market was just
too small, they decided to set up their own shop. With help
from a similar effort in Powell, Wyoming, citizens formed
a community-owned corporation, sold shares in it at $500
a pop, raised the $400,000 start-up capital needed, and
opened their own store--Garnet Mercantile," and hired
the former Penney's manager to run it, Rowley writes.
"The Mercantile employs eight people, keeps shopping
dollars in the community, helps other local businesses by
bringing shoppers past their doors, and generates much-needed
tax revenues. On top of all that, the mere presence of the
store makes Ely a more attractive place to live and work,"
Rowley says. Oh, yes, the store is making money, and investors
are still buying shares.
Dan Leoni, the manager, told Rowley that a big reason Penney’s
left was that the company made too many decisions at headquarters,
leading to a “cookie-cutter approach” that doesn't
fit small, rural stores -- "a situation thrust on small
rural towns time and time again by governments and corporations
far removed from local reality," Rowley contends. "As
a result, his little Ely location was forced to buy too
much inventory and then sell the excess at huge discounts
just to get rid of it."
Kentucky town sees
little change after four years of alcohol in restaurants
"Little has changed," read the headline
in the Georgetown News-Graphic, over stories
about the Kentucky town's experience with alcohol sales
limited to restaurants, under a state law passed in 2000.
"Like modern-day Chicken Littles,"
both sides forecast "monumental changes" in the
town just north of Lexington, reporter Kevin Hall wrote.
"Supporters of alcohol sales in restaurants foretold
a boom in the food industry," but only two restaurant
openings "can be directly traced to the vote"
of residents to allow alcohol sales in establishments that
seat at least 100 and get at least half their income from
Likewise, forecasts of more drunken driving
do not seem to have panned out, Erica Osborne wrote.
There was a spike in DUI arrests in 2001, but they have
declined each year since, and last year were at their lowest
level in at least eight years. "The statistics also
reflect harsher DUI penalties," Osborne reports.
The package, which dominated the top half
of Sunday's front page, was accompanied by a color photograph
of fraternity brothers from Georgetown College, a Baptist
institution, drinking beer at Applebee's, one of the restaurants
that came to town as a result of the partial lifting of
About 60 Kentucky localities have voted on
limited alcohol sales at restaurants, golf courses and wineries
since the legislature authorized such referenda in 2000,
and about 40 have voted for sales. "Before the law
changed in 2000, most votes on alcohol sales had to include
entire cities or counties, and the question residents faced
was whether to allow allow a full range of sales, including
package stores and taverns. That was a tough sell in many
places," Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader
Complaint filed against
Social Security for failure to comply with FOIA
An ethics group has filed a complaint against the Social
Security Administration for failing to comply with
Freedom of Information Act requests, which asked for any
records related to contracts between SSA and public relations
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics
in Washington filed a request in January after learning
that the Department of Education had paid
Armstrong Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.
CREW wants to know if SSA has hired any other public relations
firms to help promote social security reform. So far CREW
has filed requests with 22 agencies for copies of contracts
with PR firms, including Fleischman-Hillard. For a complete
copy of the complaint, click here.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said
“although we know that the Social Security Administration
has been actively promoting the idea that Social Security
is facing a crisis and we know that SSA has paid Fleischman-Hillard
nearly $1.8 million since September 2003, we don’t
know what role, if any, Fleischman-Hillard has played in
manufacturing that crisis. This is what we first tried to
learn by filing the FOIA request and what we are now trying
to learn by filing a lawsuit.”
Wednesday, Feb. 23,
Series on rural growth
from new sewer devices wins Tenn. paper big award
Harville's stories for The Lebanon Democrat on
impact of decentralized sewer service in rural areas of fast-growing
Middle Tennessee won
him and his newspaper the award for small-circulation papers
in the American Planning Association’s
Journalism Awards Competition. “Little
Pink Houses,” a three-day series in December, focused
on Wilson, Williamson and Rutherford counties, the paper reports.
The series began,
"Across Tennessee's three grand divisions, a silent housing
boom is dotting the countryside with thousands of new rooftops,
shifting the population growth from urbanized areas to outlying
rural lands once thought unsuitable for widespread residential
development. Newfound methods for treating residential wastewater
known as decentralized or “on-site” sewer systems
are enabling much of the explosion in rural development. .
. . The decentralized systems are replacing the traditional
use of septic tanks, serving in some instances more than 1,000
homes on one free-standing, on-site system."
the systems are approved at the state level, "The on-site
sewer phenomenon may hold an unwelcome irony for taxpayers
in still rural counties," Harville wrote. "A small
amount of federal and state funding for the fledgling decentralized
sewer industry is at least in part driving a residential growth
boom that may eventually bring tax increases and other revenue
measures to pay for infrastructure to support the new rural
said the systems are "prone to catastrophic failures."
listed the main players in the industry, led by one family.
local statistics, click
here. For other stories in the series, about turf battles
and other political infighting caused by the phenomenon, click
was picked up by The Associated Press and
ran in newspapers across Tennessee. Harville thanked and gave
credit to others who worked on the series, such as Night News
Editor J.K. Devine, Chief Photographer Bill Cook and Managing
Editor Clint Brewer. Other
winners in the APA contest, which is in its 45th year, were
the Green Bay Press-Gazette, which APA said
exposed "myths about downtown development," and
the Rocky Mountain News, which examined Colorado
The end of a 65-year era: The
last tobacco auction in Maysville, Ky.
As the federal program of price
supports and quotas for tobacco is ending, so is the economically
and culturally significant phenomenon of selling tobacco at
a warehouse. Betty Coutant of The Ledger Independent
in Maysville, Ky., a big tobacco town, chronicles the end
of the era in
decline in burley tobacco has been on the horizon for at least
seven years," Coutant writes. "For the last five
you could clearly see it coming. Two years ago it became a
shell of what it once was, and Tuesday, in Maysville anyway,
tobacco auction sales ended in less than a fizzle. There was
no fanfare. There were no speeches. There were precious few
growers and the buyers didn't even show. Not one. No politicians
or busybodies. No tradesmen hoping to be paid accounts owed
by burley growers."
but there was a journalist who knows her community and what
tobacco has meant to it: "Cigarette makers insisted the
plan was not to break the system of government price supports
when they announced intentions to leave the auction system,
but that's how it ended anyway. Every ounce of tobacco sold
in Maysville Tuesday went to the pool," which has been
used for 65 years to stabilize tobacco prices.
should have ended with something more, the small group at
the warehouse thought. A eulogy of some sort, but the 15-minute
sale was quiet and without fanfare," Coutant concluded,
quoting sales supervisor Bette Phillips: "It's just over.
I'm going to miss it."
There was one bright note in the coverage, a picture from
photographer Brian Hitch, with this cutline: "Billy
Ratliff with the USDA grading office holds the last official
grading ticket from the Maysville tobacco market Tuesday morning.
Ratliff said the tobacco on he last ticket graded the highest
grade you can get."
Today may mark the last of the
auctions, in Danville, Harrodsburg, Lexington and Somerset,
Ky. Peoples Tobacco Warehouse in Somerset
is supposed to have the last sale, starting around 1 p.m.
The Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association
may have one more in mid-March if there is demand.
hospital's new owners drop Health Wagon that served rural
new owners of a hospital in rural southwest Virginia will
drop a 25-year-old "Health Wagon" service that has
been delivering health care to local people who can't afford
to pay for it.
nun who helped establish the Health Wagon, "Sister Bernadette Kenny, got the news
Friday in a meeting with hospital decision-makers, exactly
18 days after the for-profit Health Management Associates
group assumed official ownership of the former St.
Mary's Hospital," now called Mountain
View Regional Medical Center, Coalfield
Progress Editor and Publisher Jenay Tate reports.
wagon serves about 7,000 patients a year, mainly in Dickenson
and Wise counties, plus parts of Buchanan and Russell counties.
Kenny and the Health Wagon won the Virginia Rural
Health Association's Best Practices Award
in 2004. ""I
thought that institutions were directed to consumers. I was
naive," she told the Coalfield Progress. The new owners "are
directed to the money," she said.
new owners "will
provide funding for the health wagon through April 30 and
pledged a $20,000 donation on May 1 to a new organization
that will continue to operate it, according to Teresa Gardner,
a nurse practitioner who has worked with the health wagon
for 12 years,"
the newspaper reported.
is deadline to register for conference on covering health
National leaders in rural health care will join
university experts and Appalachian journalists at a free conference,
Covering Health Care and Health in Mid-Appalachia, this Friday
at the University of Kentucky’s Center
for Rural Health in Hazard, Ky.
This conference is offered at no cost
to participants, but advance registration is required
by today . To sign up, send an e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-257-3744. For the full program,
The conference is the first sponsored by the
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues,
which publishes The Rural Blog. "The news media in Appalachia
could play a key role in improving the region’s health,
but all too often most of the health-care information some
outlets carry is advertising from providers looking for patients,"
said Al Cross, interim director of the Institute. "We
want to help their readers, listeners and viewers live healthier
lives, and make more informed choices about their health care."
The middle part of Appalachia – Eastern
Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and the mountain counties
of Virginia and Tennessee – is one of the least healthy
areas of the nation. Rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity
and smoking are among the nation’s highest. Meanwhile,
the nation’s health-care system is becoming more complex
and harder to navigate, and that task is more difficult in
a region that ranks low in income, education and certain health-care
providers. At the same time, the need for health care in the
region, and its relative lack of other economic opportunities,
has made health care a major employer.
This day-long conference will explore the condition
of the region’s health, the reasons for it, the many
institutions and agencies that try to improve it, their economic
impact, and ways that journalists in the region can cover
all these subjects – including asking tough questions
like, “Why is health care so expensive, and why is it
so ineffective in Central Appalachia?”
Major presenters will include Wayne Myers, former
head of the federal Office of Rural Health Policy;
Bruce Behringer, assistant vice president for rural health
at East Tennessee State University and former
president of the National Rural Health Association;
Rice Leach, former Kentucky state health commissioner; Judy
Jones, director of the Center for Rural Health and a former
reporter for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
and the Lexington Herald-Leader; Daniel Mongiardo,
Hazard physician, state senator and 2004 nominee for the U.S.
Senate; Eric Scorsone, University of Kentucky economist; and
Bonnie Tanner of UK’s Health Education through Extension
Leadership program, which works county by county to improve
The conference luncheon will feature presentation
of the first Tom and Pat Gish Award to the Gishes themselves,
in recognition of the tenacity and courage they have shown
as publishers of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg,
Ky., for the last 47 years. The Institute for Rural Journalism
and Community Issues, which announced the award in October,
will continue to make it in honor of the Gishes.
stations take issue with study faulting their political coverage
Some television news directors are disputing
the methodology and findings of a study, which was the top
item in The Rural Blog last Wednesday, that faulted their
political coverage. Their complaints have been featured this
week in Al's
Morning Meeting, published by Al Tompkins of The
Poynter Institute for Media Studies,
who says the study now seems to have "some pretty serious
The news directors complained that the study
failed to pick up much of their political coverage because
it was limited to broadcasts between 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
"The decision to exclude Sunday daytime arbitrarily excludes
a time period where viewers expect to see politics,"
Peter O'Connell, executive director of special projects at
KING-TV in Seattle. "\We do a weekly
political show that airs at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays, just ahead
of the local news. The show also airs at 10:30 p.m. on our
duopoly station, right after the top rated 10 p.m. newscast
in the market, which was also excluded from the study. In
October, this political show featured a debate for Congress,
a debate for state attorney general, an Ad Watch special,
and a special examining the issues in the most significant
state and local races."
O'Connell said the study also failed to pick
up other coverage and free time it gave to candidates during
newscasts, and mischaracterized some coverage. For example,
he said the study called "horse-race" coverage a
story that dealt overwhelmingly with substantive issues discussed
by candidates in a debate. Other news directors made similar
complaints. The study looked at 11 major TV markets.
The report was prepared by researchers from
the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern
California's Annenberg School for Communications;
the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and
Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Martin
Kaplan, director of the Lear Center, told O'Connell in a letter
published by Tompkins that any mistakes in the data would
be corrected. He said the time frame for the study was dictated
by limited resources and was a standard used by the TV news
Cattle raisers mount
efforts to stop reopening of U.S. to Canadian beef
Two groups of cattle farmers
have redoubled their efforts to stop the planned March 7 reopening
of the United States to Canadian beef from cattle less than
30 months old.
The Organization for
Competitive Markets, which opposes packer ownership
of livestock, asked
Congress to overrule the Department of Agriculture’s
plan, quoting "industry experts" who say the move
could drop cattle prices by as much as $20 per hundredweight,
or an average of $240 per head.
he expert cited was
"Schwieterman Marketing LLC, a firm specializing in risk
management and cash grain and livestock marketing plans,"
The firm " estimates that a minimum of 100,000 cattle per month will
pour over U.S. borders if USDA’s rule is implemented,
increasing weekly slaughter by four to five percent. In typically
normal livestock markets, a one percent change in supply results
in a two percent change in price. With Asian export markets
still closed, the firm is forecasting a 10 percent break in August live cattle prices that could easily
grow to 20 percent unless export markets are opened."
Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF
USA) is asking consumers "to tell their grocery store
managers, butchers, mayors, governors, members of Congress
and local health officials" to "Keep U.S. Beef Safe."
The group cites concerns over four Canadian cases of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease. USDA and the
Meat Institute say Canada is taking sufficient
precautions to prevent the disease.
House panel wants to let officials meet away from home territories
Local government bodies in Kentucky
could meet outside their jurisdictions once a year, under
a bill that a state House committee approved yesterday.
House Bill 418 "is
intended to permit yearly retreats, its sponsor, Rep. Arnold
Simpson, D-Covington, told the State Government Committee,"
The Associated Press reported.
"Such meetings could
be for any reason, however. They'd be open to the public and
no final action could be taken at them, said Simpson. They
must be in-state and not last more than two days."
The Kentucky Press Association
and the new Kentucky Citizens for Open Government
are fighting the bill. KPA Executive Director David Thompson
said the committee "just about turned the Open Meetings
Law on its head." He cited a Northern Kentucky court
ruling which said the law is intended to make meetings "convenient
to the public, and holding those meetings outside of the jurisdictional
area of the agency is not necessarily a convenience for the
Thompson called on KCOG members to ask their
legislators to vote against the bill, and asked Kentucky newspapers
to editorialize against it. Al Cross, interim director of
the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based
at the University of Kentucky, seconded the
motion. "This legislation would work a special hardship
on rural news outlets that would find it difficult to pay
travel expenses for staff members to cover such meetings,"
said Cross, a former editor and manager of weekly newspapers.
Rural areas would be hardest
hit by pending health-care cuts in Tennessee
If and when Tennessee cuts 323,000
people from TennCare, its version of the
Medicaid program, "Rural West Tennessee, the Cumberland
Plateau and upper East Tennessee are the areas likely to be
most severely affected," the Governor’s Task Force
on Health Care Safety Net said yesterday.
"Gov. Phil Bredesen installed the new task force at the
end of last month to study ways in which the state could strengthen
its health care safety net," Judith Tackett of
Nashville City Paper reports
today. Bredesen says the progress of the state depends on
reducing costs of the program, which has extended health coverage
to hundreds of thousands of the working poor.
“This information shows that we have some major challenges
in some regions and some great opportunities for targeted
expansion in others,” said the task force chairman,
Health Commissioner Kenneth Robinson. “Clearly, all
regions of the state will feel the impact of this disenrollment,
but some are better-equipped to deal with it than others.”
Tuesday, Feb. 22,
Treatment for narcotic addiction needs stricter dose control, weekly suggests
A controversial treatment for narcotic withdrawal symptoms has gained popularity over recent years, but it doesn’t have solid dosage supervision and patients can overdose, reports the Princeton Times, a weekly newspaper in Mercer County in southern West Virginia.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy says the drug has been used for over 30 years and when taken once a day, it can reduce narcotic cravings without extreme highs. Methadone clinics were designed to supervise addicts, who report regularly to the clinics to obtain their dose. Over time, writes Tammie Toler, the clients may be allowed to take several doses home.
Princeton Police Detective T.A. Bailey told Toler that clients were often required to bring the medicine bottles back before receiving more doses, but a local under-cover officer says that doesn’t keep the doses secure. "We've been buying quite a bit on the street," he said. "I know they're not taking those bottles back, because I've got them."
The clinics need much more regulation, said Baily, who is also a member of the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. "If they were capable of taking the doses like they were supposed to, they wouldn't need the methadone clinic anyway," he said. "They're not reliable people."
West Virginia ambulances facing problems with transporting obese patients
Emergency services in West Virginia are dealing with a unique strain on their equipment: the state leads the nation in obesity, and their ambulances cannot accommodate some over-sized patients.
Bonnie Hitt, administrator for Holbrook on the Hill, asked the Upshur County Commission to purchase equipment and/or ambulances to serve obese patients in the five counties covered by Holbrook, reports Paul Fallon of The Record Delta, a weekly in Buckhannon. She related a story about a 31-year-old male patient, who needed to be transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital but the ambulance could not move him.
"It was a horrible experience to go through," she said. "In emergency situations, we don't want somebody to lose their life or have employees get hurt because of lack of equipment."
Mississippi farmers say cuts in subsidies could put them out of business
President Bush’s proposed budget would dramatically change farm subsidies determined by the Farm Bill of 2002, and some Mississippi farmers say the changes could put them out of business.
Nolen Canon owns a 7,000-acre farm, which has received $4.3 million in subsides from 1995-2003, writes Arnold Linsday of The Clarion-Ledger. Canon said that without the money, production would be nearly impossible. "Subsidies are important. If you took away the farm support in the Farm Bill, you would have a depression of the '30s style in rural America," Canon said. "They're not just numbers drawn out of the air. These farm programs are developed after hours and days of debate and analysis by economists."
The Environmental Working Group, which maintains a database of farm subsidies, said Mississippi farmers got $4.3 billion in subsidies in 1995-2003, Lindsay writes. The money helps farmers stay in business during price fluctuations. Bush proposes trimming $5.7 billion from the bill over the next decade, and eliminating what farmers call “the three entity rule,” which farmers can use to get the maximum payment under one program if they use their name and two partial payments from other programs.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will try to reach a compromise with Bush. "I think the Senate will work with the President to control the deficit, but we will insist that reductions in farm programs be fair to all producers,” he said in a prepared statement.
FFA Week is still news to a daily paper and its readers in Mason County, Ky.
Fifty-five years after it was formed, the Future Farmers of America is still an integral and productive part of rural agrarian-based towns and cities nationwide, but nowhere more so than Maysville, Ky., reports The Ledger Independent in a feature on National FFA week.
As part of National FFA week, Mason County High School senior Landon Garrison is driving his farm tractor to school, writes Danetta Barker. Garrison told Barker, “I like my shop class. We build and work on different pieces of equipment like calf feeders and wagon flats." Garrison lives and works on the family farm in Minerva. He plans to own his own farm in the future.
"A member of Garrison's shop class, Nathan Applegate, also drove a tractor to school Monday, "from their farm on Pole Cat Pike," writes Barker. Like Garrison, Applegate plans to be a farmer one day. He told Barker, "I like farming. I like working outside with my dad." Mike Ross teaches the shop class where Garrison and Applegate learn about building and maintaining farming equipment. FFA also offers accounting, planting, animal husbandry and much more, she writes.
Ross told Barker, "A farmer is a jack of all trades. He has to know how to plant (crops) and manage the books and work on equipment. . . . I teach grades nine through 12. It is fascinating to watch the kids come in as freshman and see how they really do change by the time they make it to their senior year.".
FFA operates on local, state and national levels and its agricultural education program provides students with "a well-rounded, practical approach to learning through classroom education," Barker writes. Nationally, there are some 444,497 members ranging from the ages of 12-21. FFA helps students develop their leadership skills by participating in public speaking, skill contests, chapter meetings, award and recognition programs, committees and community projects.
Bird flu may turn into human pandemic, head of disease-control center warns
A federal health official yesterday warned of a worldwide epidemic from a bird flu virus, which could mutate to become as deadly and infectious as viruses that killed millions during three influenza pandemics of the 20th century, reports The Associated Press.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, said at a national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that scientists expect a flu virus, which swept through chickens and other poultry in Asia, will genetically change into a flu that can be transmitted from person to person, writes Paul Recer. The genes of the avian flu change rapidly, she said, and experts think it is likely the virus will evolve into a pathogen deadly for humans.
In Asia, there have already been a number of deaths among people who caught the flu from chickens or ducks. The mortality rate is high -- about 72 percent of identified patients, said Gerberding. There also have been documented cases of this strain of flu being transferred from person to person, but the outbreak was not sustained, she said. "We are expecting more human cases over the next few weeks because this is high season for avian influenza in that part of the world," said Gerberding. Although cases of human-to-human transmission have been rare, "our assessment is that this is a very high threat."
The avian flu now spreading in Asia is part of what is called the H1 family of flu viruses. It is a pathogen that is notorious in human history. "Each time we see a new H1 antigen emerge, we experience a pandemic of influenza," said Gerberding.
Meth lab's residue casts pall; Georgia neighbors fear possible contamination
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have removed methamphetamine confiscated in a recent bust, along with manufacturing supplies and meth ingredients, but there is still plenty to do for cleanup — and uncertainty remains high among neighbors in Smyrna, Ga., says The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Tests of soil samples are incomplete, and the homeowner could be forced to remove the soil, if it's contaminated, as well as anything else, such as plumbing fixtures and pipes used to dispose of the toxic waste. If the homeowner fails to clean it up, the job would fall to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which then would bill the property owner,” writes Don Plummer. “That could take years. In the meantime, neighbors are left to wonder — and worry,” he writes.
Federal officials say they have notified the owner of the house and the Cobb County Health Department, and a warning to potential purchasers will be placed on property records. Tammy Atwood, who lives in her mother's house adjacent to the lab site, told Plummer she was visited by federal agents shortly after the bust. "They told my brother we shouldn't eat the apples from our tree this spring. It's scary. You wonder what else might be over there." The U.S. attorney for northern Georgia, David Nahmias, told the newspaper he is concerned that the lab was found in a residential neighborhood.
DEA officials said that, in addition to pseudoephedrine, the meth process requires toxic materials that include acetone, ethyl alcohol, freon, ammonia, iodine and acids. Many of those substances can cause cancer and, in combination, may cause respiratory problems and birth defects. Large meth labs also pose huge risks when they are being operated. When the highly flammable materials explode, they explode big.
Winn-Dixie, a big advertiser, files for protection under bankruptcy laws
Winn-Dixie Stores, which "long had a lock on the South, announced early Tuesday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection," but would keep its remaining 920 stores in eight states and the Bahamas open, Constance Hays of The New York Times reports this morning.
"The filing came after a long struggle to stay even with competitors like Wal-Mart. Over the last decade, Wal-Mart blanketed crucial Winn-Dixie markets, like Florida, with its supercenters which include full-line supermarkets as well as general merchandise," the Times notes. "Wal-Mart's reputation for low prices drove other chains to stake out their own territory with shoppers. Initially, Winn-Dixie fought back on price but then tried to make its stores more upscale, along the lines of Publix, another grocery chain based in the Southeast. In both cases, it was struggling against nimbler, more experienced foes."
Winn-Dixie said in release that it would use the reorganization to move ahead with new sales and merchandising initiatives, while looking at the additional sale of assets and ways to reduce expenses. The company's chief executive, Peter Lynch, said the chain will improve its offerings of perishable goods.
"The seeds for Wal-Mart's domination of Winn-Dixie were sown in the 1980's, when Sam Walton, the Wal-Mart founder, won a seat on Winn-Dixie's board. He served for five years, from 1981 to 1986, and shortly after he stepped down Wal-Mart opened its first-ever supercenter," Hays wrote. "In the 1980's, both Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie had a fair amount in common. Both were founded and closely controlled by families, and both professed a folksiness that appealed to shoppers in their home regions. But as Wal-Mart expanded, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie all but shriveled. Since 1998, the chain has closed more than 200 stores and sales have dropped to $12 billion from $2 billion."
Federal appeals court rejects plan to improve national parks' air quality
A federal appeals court has rejected a government-approved program used by five Western states to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. Siding with an industry coalition, the court said the program used by the states was based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methods that the court previously had found to be "inconsistent with the Clean Air Act," reports The Associated Press..
The decision deals with efforts by Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming to cut sulfur dioxide pollution, which contributes to regional haze, particularly at the Grand Canyon. Secretary of health and human services and formerly administrator of the environmental agency Michael O. Leavitt, had helped lead those efforts as governor of Utah, AP writes.
The United States Court of Appeals said the similarity between methods previously rejected by the court and adopted for the haze program "fatally taints E.P.A.'s rule." The panel's decision came in a challenge from the Center for Energy and Economic Development, a coalition of coal, utility, rail and other companies, based in Alexandria, Va.
EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman told AP, "We are disappointed. We will continue to work with the ...states that seek to use such trading programs to achieve these goals." A lawyer for Environmental Defense,Vickie Patton, called the court's decision "another chapter in the coal industries' efforts both in the courts and in the Congress to weaken clean air protections for our national parks."
New group to preserve region's rich history of Appalachia's blacks
A newly formed organization, African Americans of Appalachia and Blount County, is in the earlystages of trying to find profiles, interviews, artifacts and more from the area to preserve them for future generations, reports The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
The heritage of blacks in Southern Appalachia is a rich field just ready for cultivation, says Shirley Carr Clowney. Clowney is a native of Alcoa, writes Robert Wilson. Clowney and her husband, Cato, formerly lived in New Jersey, where she taught "basic life skills" to high school juniors and seniors. She told Wilson those skills help students "understand who they are, how to get a job, buy a home" and more.
The Clowneys retired and moved to Blount County in 1991 where their interest in art, history, culture and black heritage have put them in touch with a growing network of people. Their efforts have drawn attention from Maryville College and Berea College in Kentucky. Students at Berea, Clowney told Wilson, are examining census records, and Maryville College students are conducting interviews. Those involved with the organization’s endeavor are professors, librarians, ministers, teachers and community activists. The hope is to publish a book on the subject, though no timetable has been set nor a writer identified, he writes.
New River Gorge development proposal violates land plan, report says
A report by the National Park Service indicates a proposal to build a 2,200-home development along the New River Gorge near Charleston,W. Va. violates the county’s long-term land management plans, reports The Charleston Gazette.
The Park Service report says the 4,300-acre proposal “is not consistent with” the county’s comprehensive plan or its land use management plan. Under those plans, large-scale housing development is only allowed in “development service districts” along U.S. 19 and U.S. 60. “Atlanta-based Land Resource Cos. wants to build its Roaring River development along a 10-miles stretch of the New River Gorge National River between Thurmond and Kaymoor,” writes Ken Ward Jr.
“The Roaring River land is not in, nor even near, a Development Service District,” the park service report found. Today, Fayette County officials will hold the first of two public meetings on a zoning change requested by the developers. Land Resource wants a zoning change aimed at allowing construction on parcels of less than 2 acres.
County zoning officer Tim Richardson told Ward about 3,800 acres of the project area is zoned as “private land conservation.” This limits construction to lots of no less than 3 acres. Developers want the area rezoned as “planned unit development.” If the county approves that change, developers can build on smaller lots and on a total area of more than 50 acres. But, the Park Service report says, West Virginia law requires zoning changes to be “consistent with” a county’s comprehensive land-use plans, writes Ward.
Virginia's cabinet-level agriculture secretary wants marketing boost for farmers
Virginia’s first secretary of agriculture, Robert S. Bloxom, has promised farmers he will try to boost sales of their products by increasing state marketing efforts, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Speaking at the Virginia Agriculture Summit, Bloxom said, "We expect to be able to expand our outreach and identify new opportunities for the sale of products. These are exciting and encouraging times for those of us involved in agriculture." Despite Virginia's increasingly urban look, agriculture is still the state's top industry, contributing about $47 billion to its economy every year, writes Rex Bowman.
Until December, though, when Bloxom was appointed, farmers had no one at the cabinet level to bend Gov. Mark Warner's ear on agricultural issues, writes Bowman He told farmers the state is committed to keeping farmers in business by attending to research, education, farmland preservation and marketing. His position, Bloxom said, will allow the state to tout its advantages -- easy access to its products via ports, for example -- as it tries to find more buyers for both its traditional and specialty products.
Virginia Farm Bureau spokesman Greg Hicks said farmers would welcome any increased marketing activity by the state, and are happy they now have an agriculture secretary "to put agriculture issues on the table." The Dean of Virginia Tech's agriculture department, Sharron Quisenberry, told attendees that, in addition to needing more innovation and entrepreneurship, the farm industry could benefit from better marketing strategies that speak to consumer behavior. Other sponsors of the summit were the state and federal agriculture departments, the Cooperative Extension Service and Virginia State University.
Mississippi college student to continue studies while hiking Appalachian Trail
Five million steps, five months and the most innovative academic experience he's ever had are among challenges facing a Mississippi State University sophomore as he prepares later this month to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, while continuing his university honors studies, reports The Clarion-Ledger.
"Alan D. Lovett of Brandon, a mechanical engineering major, embarks later this month to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. The 19-year-old has been preparing for months for the more than 2,000-mile journey from Springer, Ga., to Katahdin Mountain, Maine," reports the Jackson newspaper. To maintain his academic standing he will take along course assignments. Lovett is in the University Honors Program. UHP director Nancy McCarley told the newspaper, "He's proposed an innovative way to integrate his academic and personal goals." The former Boy Scout acknowledged "nothing about this will be easy," but he added, "If it were easy, I wouldn't want to do it."
Lovett spends at least two hours daily running between 8 and 16 miles to prepare for the trip. He also rides 20-30 miles on a road bike, and he has built a climbing wall at his Rankin County home. He has already hiked 400 miles of the trail. "I started in the eighth grade and did 50 miles," he told the newspaper. While trekking, McCarley said Lovett will complete a demanding range of assigned essays culminating in what she describes as "one of the rarest of term papers."
Lovett also is working through MSU's kinesiology department to document all aspects of the trip — from the weather to his daily physical condition.
Monday, Feb. 21,
Bills in two states
would keep secret names of farms with diseased animals
Bills moving through the Maryland and Utah legislatures
would allow the names of farms with confirmed cases of animal
disease to remain secret, reports
The Associated Press. The Maryland House
of Delegates unanimously passed a bill to withold the names
of such farms, and Utah’s House likewise approved a
bill to make records secret on livestock populations and tracking
Utah's Department of Agriculture
said that making the farms' names public invites trespassers,
mainly reporters and photographers, and in turn risks spreading
the disease. When agriculture officials discovered they couldn’t
keep the farm names secret, they moved to tighten the reporting
other neighbors and the community need to know if there
was an infected farm near them?” asks Al Tompkins of
the Poynter Institute for
Media Studies, whose Morning
Meeting today carried a link
to the First Amendment Center’s posting of the AP story.
The Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia
Press Association lobbied against the Maryland bill,
saying the information needs to be available to the public.
Former Executive Director and Government Affairs Coordinator
Jim Donahue said, "This may be a legitimate problem,
but is that the best way to deal with it, to keep it all secret?”
Free conference Friday
for journalists on health in Central Appalachia
National leaders in rural health care will join
university experts and Appalachian journalists at a free conference,
Covering Health Care and Health in Mid-Appalachia, this Friday,
Feb. 25, at the University of Kentucky’s
Center for Rural Health in Hazard, Ky.
The conference is the first sponsored by the
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues,
which publishes The Rural Blog. "The news media in Appalachia
could play a key role in improving the region’s health,
but all too often most of the health-care information some
outlets carry is advertising from providers looking for patients,"
said Al Cross, interim director of the Institute. "We
want to help their readers, listeners and viewers live healthier
lives, and make more informed choices about their health care."
The middle part of Appalachia – Eastern
Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and the mountain counties
of Virginia and Tennessee – is one of the least healthy
areas of the nation. Rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity
and smoking are among the nation’s highest. Meanwhile,
the nation’s health-care system is becoming more complex
and harder to navigate, and that task is more difficult in
a region that ranks low in income, education and certain health-care
providers. At the same time, the need for health care in the
region, and its relative lack of other economic opportunities,
has made health care a major employer.
This day-long conference will explore the condition
of the region’s health, the reasons for it, the many
institutions and agencies that try to improve it, their economic
impact, and ways that journalists in the region can cover
all these subjects – including asking tough questions
like, “Why is health care so expensive, and why is it
so ineffective in Central Appalachia?”
Major presenters will include Wayne Myers, former
head of the federal Office of Rural Health Policy;
Bruce Behringer, assistant vice president for rural health
at East Tennessee State University and former
president of the National Rural Health Association;
Rice Leach, former Kentucky state health commissioner; Judy
Jones, director of the Center for Rural Health and a former
reporter for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
and the Lexington Herald-Leader; Daniel Mongiardo,
Hazard physician, state senator and 2004 nominee for the U.S.
Senate; Eric Scorsone, University of Kentucky economist; and
Denise Rennekamp, project coordinator of UK’s Health
Education through Extension Leadership program, which works
county by county to improve individuals’ health.
The conference luncheon will feature presentation
of the first Tom and Pat Gish Award to the Gishes themselves,
in recognition of the tenacity and courage they have shown
as publishers of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg,
Ky., for the last 47 years. The Institute for Rural Journalism
and Community Issues, which announced the award in October,
will continue to make it in honor of the Gishes.
This conference is offered at no cost
to participants, but advance registration is required.
To sign up, send an e-mai to
email@example.com or call 859-257-3744. For the full program,
Labor Dept. inspector general
to probe agency's heads-up deal with Wal-Mart
"The inspector general of the Labor Department
has decided to investigate its agreement to give Wal-Mart
Stores 15 days' notice before investigating any stores facing
complaints of child labor violations, according to department
officials," Steven Greenhouse reports
in this morning's New York Times.
"The inspector general's decision comes
after lawmakers and children's advocacy groups criticized
the department's settlement of child labor complaints against
24 Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Arkansas,"
Greenhouse writes. "Without admitting any wrongdoing,
Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,540 to settle complaints involving
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the ranking minority
member on the House Committee on Education and the
Workforce, asked for the probe, "saying that
the department was wrong to give Wal-Mart advance notice before
investigating complaints," the Times says. "Noting
that Wal-Mart executives had contributed heavily to President
Bush's re-election, Mr. Miller said that Wal-Mart had received
special treatment and that the department had acted suspiciously
in not making the settlement public for more than a month."
Greenhouse wrote that he spoke with "several
investigators for the Labor Department's Wage and
Hour Division who insisted on anonymity for fear
of retaliation" and told him that the 15-day notice would
delay invetsigations of young people using hazardous machinery.
Top Labor Department lawyer Howard M. Radzely
told the Times that the notice would help ensure fast correction
of child-labor violations at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart spokesman
Gus Whitcomb said the company "was focused on full compliance
with child labor laws," Greenhouse wrote.
Commandments on trial:
High court to hear case March 2 on public displays
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments
March 2 in what some attorneys and constitutional experts
consider the most important religious liberty case of our
time, reports The Des Moines Register.
"The high court will take up the constitutionality
of Ten Commandments displays on government property, an issue
that has caused divisions among the public and with the lower
courts for years," writes
Jennifer Dukes Lee. The cases involve displays in Texas and
two rural counties in Kentucky, "but the court's decision
could clarify similar cases in lower courts across the nation,
observers predict," Lee writes.
Mathew Staver, who will argue the case for Liberty
Counsel, a conservative law group, told Lee, "Either
America will be able to acknowledge God, or it won't. Our
heritage and future are riding on this case." Some scholars
and civil-liberties advocates contend that Staver is exaggerating,
writes Lee. Lake Lambert, an associate professor of religion
at Wartburg College, told the newspaper,
"I don't think our civilization will collapse if the
Ten Commandments are removed." R. Ben Stone, executive
director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union,
told The Register, "That is nothing but pure fear-mongering
by religious-right extremists."
Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa
Family Policy Center in Pleasant Hill, helped place
a Ten Commandments display in the state Capitol. He told Lee,
"It's disingenuous not to acknowledge our Judeo-Christian
legal principles." Staver said the case could set the
course for interpretation on matters ranging from the Pledge
of Allegiance, the national "In God We Trust" motto,
and thousands of religious symbols in city halls, cemeteries
and courthouses nationwide.
Homeless lawyer with
suspended license takes on religious display in Texas
A Ten Commandments monument outside the Texas
state Capitol violates the constitutional ban on the establishment
of religion, according to plaintiff Thomas Van Orden, who
is homeless, destitute and his law license is suspended, reports
The Washington Post.
"Surely one of the most unusual plaintiffs
to get a case to the highest court in the land, Van Orden,
sued the state and argued the case himself," writes
Sylvia Moreno. What is important, Van Orden tells Moreno,
is "I wrote myself to the Supreme Court." That he
did, she writes, and with a case that involves an issue that
has divided liberals and conservatives as well as lower federal
courts for decades: the display of a Ten Commandments monument
on government property, she writes.
Van Orden's case will be argued by constitutional
law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke University.
Van Orden called Chemerinsky shortly after the 5th Circuit
Court of Appeals ruled against him in late 2003, and Chemerinsky
agreed to take the case at no charge. Last October, the court
announced it would hear the Texas and Kentucky cases together.
Army strains to meet
recruiting goals; fewer in pipeline, rushed into service
The active-duty Army, which draws disproportionately
from the nation’s rural areas, is in danger of failing
to meet its recruiting goals, and is beginning to suffer from
manpower strains like those that have dropped the National
Guard and Reserves below full strength, reports The
Washington Post. Army officials tell The Post they're
seeing growing reluctance to join the service because of Iraq
”For the first time since 2001, the Army
began the fiscal year in October with only 18.4 percent of
the year's target of 80,000 active-duty recruits already in
the pipeline. That amounts to less than half of last year's
figure and falls well below the Army's goal of 25 percent,”
Ann Scott Tyson. The Army has cut by 50 percent the average
number of days between the time a recruit signs up and enters
boot camp. It is adding more than 800 active-duty recruiters,
Driving the manpower crunch, The Post reports,
is the Army's goal of boosting the number of combat brigades
needed to rotate into Iraq and handle other commitments worldwide.
Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief,
told the newspaper, "Very frankly, in a couple of places
our recruiting pool is getting soft. For the active duty for
'05 it's going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we
can. I think the telling year for us is going to be '06."
The military plans to keep about 120,000 troops
in Iraq through 2006. Col. Joseph Anderson, who until this
month served as chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division
at Fort Campbell, Ky., told Tyson, "The priority fill
goes to deploying units to make sure they are at full strength
before they go overseas."
Military base closings
expected to hit Georgia; equal to past four altogether
A chilling warning is about to go out to communities
that are home to Georgia's 13 military installations: Prepare
for your base to be closed, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“State officials responsible for monitoring
this year's round of base closings are confident the Pentagon
will not deal a devastating blow to an industry worth $20
billion annually to Georgia," writes
Ron Martz, but the 2005 closure list is expected to equal
the total of the previous four rounds combined. Army Brigadier
Gen. Phil Browning Jr., executive director of the state Military
Affairs Coordinating Committee told the newspaper
it is unlikely the state will avoid the chopping block this
At least one and possibly two Georgia facilities
could be shuttered, Browning told Martz. Georgia did not lose
a single facility through the first four rounds of cuts that
began in 1988 as the Cold War wound down and the military
was down-sized. In fact, most have added missions and personnel.
Foremost among those are the Army's Fort Benning in Columbus
and Fort Stewart in Hinesville.
ATVs take record toll
on Kentucky children; advocates call for safety measures
Thirteen children died in ATV crashes in Kentucky
last year, the most in any year since officials began keeping
records two decades ago, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
A review by Kentucky Youth Advocates,
"Children and ATVs: Riding in Harm's Way," being
released today, also says 105 Kentucky children have died
in all-terrain vehicle crashes, writes
Andy Mead. "That's nearly a third of the 326 people who
have died in ATV-related incidents in the state since 1984.
And the rate of deaths is increasing -- 41 children have died
in just the last five years," he writes.
No one keeps official statistics on the number
of children injured on ATVs, writes Mead, but the report says
there probably have been thousands over 20 years and Kentucky
Youth Advocates say the state needs to toughen restrictions
on riders younger than 18.
Lacey McNary, a policy analyst for the group,
told Mead, "We're not against using ATVs. We just want
to make sure children are safe and don't get hurt or killed."
The children who died last year ranged in age from 4 to 16.
The advocacy group said children most often get into trouble
for not wearing helmets, riding double, or trying to handle
machines designed for adults.
Mike Cavanah, of the state Department
for Public Health, told Meade, "In all, 36 people
died in ATV crashes last year. In 2003, six of the 39 killed
were children. In 2002, it was seven of 40. Cavanah said,
"People who are interested in ATVs thought we were seeing
a fall in the number of pediatric fatalities, then it seems
like all of a sudden this last year, we've had a big jump."
The Center for Rural Emergency Medicine at West Virginia University has studied the safety issues surrounding ATVs, which it says kill an average of 20 people per year in that state. It says, "For the last seven years, the West Virginia state legislature has reviewed plans for ATV legislation, but questions about enforcement and regulation have spawned heated debate and hindered full consideration by either chamber. West Virginia still remains one of only six states without ATV safety legislation."
Tennessee alcohol abuse,
pot use down, lowest in nation; meth problem persists
Tennesseans had the lowest rates in the nation
for both alcohol abuse and marijuana use, according to a new
two-year federal study, but production of illegal methanphetamine
still plagues the state, reports the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
“The U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services study showed about 6 percent of
Tennessee residents 12 and older had abused alcohol in the
past year, and about 7.4 percent had used marijuana in the
same period. North Dakota had the highest alcohol abuse rate,
10.8 percent, and Alaska the highest percentage (16.6) using
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, an East Tennessee Republican,
told the News-Sentinel, "values, morals, religious convictions
and upbringing of children have a whole lot to do with these
outcomes." Wamp said he quit drinking 21 years ago to
improve his health, he writes.
Despite the good news for Tennessee in the survey,
Wamp noted that methamphetamine remains a big illegal drug
problem hurting users and their families. "It's clearly
on the increase." He told the newspaper Congress must
better address prevention of methamphetamine use.
The federal statisticians, who obtained the
results from about 125,000 representative home interviews
in 2002 and 2003, did not offer reasons why Tennessee and
other states had the lowest alcohol and marijuana-use rankings.
Dr. Stephanie Perry, of the state's Department of
Health, told the newspaper, "We try to target
what is needed most in each community,” emphasizing
after-school programs to address teen issues, including self-esteem,
team building and family focus.
Leah Young, a spokesperson for the federal Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
which conducted the two-year survey, told Powelson the lowest
alcohol and marijuana use rates in states could be a reflection
of a state's prevention and treatment programs. "Our
data ... will enable states to try and figure out why."
Navajo reservation has
new legal tool to fight meth, but lacks jail space
Authorities say the optimism generated by the
Navajo Nation Tribal Council's vote to criminalize
the sale, possession and manufacture of methamphetamine on
their reservation in Arizona may be tempered by a lack of
jail space to handle the expected increase in arrests, reports
The New York Times.
Hope MacDonald-LoneTree, the chairwoman of the
council's Public Safety Committee and sponsor of the methamphetamine
writer Joseph Kolb data showed that 40 percent to 90 percent
of violent crime on the 25,000-square-mile Navajo Reservation
involved the drug. "We've seen users as young as 9 years
old using meth."
Authorities said gangs from Phoenix and the
West Coast have organized the distribution of drugs on the
reservation. Armed with the new law, officials said they expected
an increase in arrests, which would further strain an overwhelmed
justice system. The tribal police force of 192 officiers patrols
an area about the size of West Virginia. The reservation has
seven jails, with a total capacity of 103 spaces.
Greg Adair, a Navajo police criminal investigator
from Tuba City, a community that has fallen deeply into the
grasp of the methamphetamine problem, told Kolb, "This
is probably one of the most important laws enacted by the
tribe in years. This is now a tool for every officer to fight
this problem on the tribal level."
Before the approval of the legislation, the
sale, possession and manufacture of methamphetamine on the
reservation was still illegal under federal law. When tribal
officers discovered the drug on a suspect, they would have
to decide whether the amount justified detaining the person,
then contact the United States attorney and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, and travel to the Magistrate Court in Flagstaff
to seek an indictment.
The law sets the penalty for a conviction at
up to one year in prison; or a fine of up to $5,000, the maximum
allowed by tribal law; or both. The council would still have
to consult with the United States attorney in Phoenix to determine
penalties for various amounts of the drug.
Opposition mounts to
alcohol inhalers; Iowa bill would prohibit them
An Iowa lawmaker is among those nationwide looking
to ban a device that allows people to inhale alcohol instead
of drinking it, reports The Des Moines Register.
Rep. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat and lawyer
who has drafted but not yet introduced the legislation to
ban the device,
told Lynn Campbell, "I'm trying to assess whether
it's a passing fad or something that has the potential to
hit Iowa. My instinct is that we ought to prohibit it until
it's been shown not to cause . . . problems." Legislation
introduced this year in at least 13 states would make vaporized
alcohol illegal, and a similar bill was introduced earlier
this month in Congress.
The device -- billed as "the ultimate party
toy" by promoter Spirit Partners Inc.
of North Carolina -- arrived at a Clive, Iowa bar in mid-November.
Miss Kitty's Dance Hall & Cyber Saloon was set to become
the first in Iowa to let people inhale alcohol instead of
drinking it. But owner J. Michael McKoy said he shipped the
machine back to the manufacturer before anyone could try it.
Alcohol Without Liquid mixes oxygen with alcohol
to produce a mist that's inhaled with a hand-held vaporizer.
Promoters tout it as a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate way to
consume alcohol without a hangover. Opponents say it's 10
times more potent than drinking the same amount of alcohol
and can cause a person to get drunk faster, creating greater
potential for addiction and overdose.
'Gonzo journalist' and
rural Coloradan Hunter S. Thompson dead at 67
"Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture
writer who personified 'gonzo journalism,' died of a self-inflicted
gunshot wound at his home in Woody Creek on Sunday night.
He was 67," the Aspen Daily News reported
this morning, calling him "one of the most legendary
writers of the 20th Century."
In "gonzo journalism,"The
Associated Press reported, "the writer makes
himself an essential component of the story,” writes
Catherine Tsai. Thompson said in a 2003 interview, "Fiction
is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist. You
have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have
to know the material you're writing about before you alter
Thompson was honored in his hometown of Louisville
in 1996 on the 25th anniversary of his book, Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas. The book used an alter ego of
Raoul Duke, which was the source of nomenclature for Garry
Trudeau's balding "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip
"Hunter was not only a national treasure, but
the conscience of this little village," Aspen lawyer and family
friend Gerry Goldstein told the Daily News. "He kept us all
honest. It didn't matter who you were, whether you were his
friend or someone he didn't even know. He didn't mind grading
your paper. He was righteous. He was part of a literary nobility."
Thompson's first book was Hell's Angels.
Also from the Daily News story by Troy Hooper
(who also was the lead writer for The Denver Post's
story, with contributions to the Daily News article from Lynn
Burton): "Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris,
who moved to Carbondale in the late 1980s after living in
Woody Creek, called Thompson a fine neighbor despite the fact
it was common for her to hear gunfire from his property. As
much as he was a defender of the First Amendment, he was also
a champion of the Second Amendment. Firearms were abundant
at Owl Farm, where he had his own shooting range."
Footnote: We've always thought the Aspen Daily
News has a motto that's hard to beat: "If you don't
want it printed, don't let it happen."
Sunday Special, Feb.
Local officials, media
picking up on rural impact of proposed federal budget
Rural law-enforcement agencies "would have
a harder time fighting an escalating methamphetamine problem
and dealing with other emergencies under proposed federal
budget cuts," Colorado sheriffs are telling The
Associated Press and The Durango Herald.
"La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard
said he could understand the reasoning behind the proposed
cuts, but his department likely will miss out on funding for
equipment," Herald reporter Dominic Weilminster wrote,
adding a local angle to the AP story. "In terms of homeland
security, it seems to be the mood of things that most funds
be focused on more populated areas," Schirard told Weilminster.
"Bush's 2006 budget proposal calls for
eliminating or reducing 154 programs seen as inefficient,
duplicated or failed. He recommended an overall 6.8 percent
increase for the Homeland Security Department
but a reduction of 11 percent -- or $420 million -- in state
and local coordination efforts," the
"This really kind of cuts them off at the
knees," former Boulder County sheriff George Epp, who
heads the County Sheriffs of Colorado, told
AP's Judith Kohler.
Looming problem in rural
America: Who will care for the cows?
That was the headline in the Detroit
Free Press Saturday over an Associated Press
datelined Bear Creek Township, Michigan. "In northern
Michigan and many rural areas across the nation, the availability
of veterinarians willing to treat large farm animals is increasingly
uncertain," the story said.
"As older practitioners retire, younger
vets show less interest in large-animal care, creating what
some in the profession describe as a growing shortage. Farm
organizations are worried, and agriculture experts say the
problem could affect the nation's ability to handle outbreaks
of catastrophic animal diseases."
"We do see a trend and it's quite alarming,"
Ray Stock, a lobbyist for the American Veterinary Medical
Association, told AP's John Flesher. The AVMA and other groups
are sponsoring a Kansas State University
study to see how bad the problem really is. The group says
22 percent of its members treated large farm animals such
as cattle, pigs and sheep last year, down from more than 45
percent in 1986.
"In part, the shortfall reflects the decline
of the traditional rural lifestyle. As the number of farms
shrinks, so does the pool of veterinarians who grew up in
the country around cows and pigs," AP reported, quoting
Janver Krehbiel, a senior associate dean at the vet school
at Michigan State University, as saying most
veterinary students now come from urban areas.
In 2003, Congress passed a law to forgive college
loans for "newer veterinarians and students willing to
work in underserved areas and disciplines such as large animal
care," the story said, "but the program hasn't been
funded -- and President Bush included no money for it in his
recently released 2006 budget."
Post looks at efforts
by daily papers, including a small one, for readership
It's not news to newpaper people, but The
Washington Post reports
today, "The venerable newspaper is in trouble.
Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet,
all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little
time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake
The long story by Frank Ahrens focuses on large
dailies, but does cite one example of a small, rural daily
trying to keep and attract readers: "Several papers have
launched special sections that are driven not by news but
by a hope of capturing advertisers and certain groups of readers.
Hoping to attract female readers, the Shawnee
(Okla.) News-Star, for instance, prints
a magazine featuring articles about Oklahoma women 10 times
a year. It has a snappy title: She's OK!"
Ahrens also explores a question vexing editors
and publishers of papers of all sizes, how much of their content
to offer free on the Internet: "General-interest papers
such as The Post and The New York Times are playing a sort
of game of chicken with each other: None wants to be the first
to charge to use the Web site, fearing that users will refuse
and simply migrate to a competitor whose site still is free.
Papers, however, have begun using their Web sites to provide
Internet-only content that gives in-depth information on everything
from football to politics beyond what is available in the
newspaper. In future scenarios, such content may require a
paid subscription. A potential model is ESPN's
Web site, which includes
a great deal of free content but charges $6.95 a month for
its premium 'Insider' reports."
Pikeville hopes for
better result from call center of Appalachian-oriented firm
Five years ago, after an announcement by President
Clinton, $4 million in state funding and a property-tax break,
a center to handle service calls opened in Pikeville, Ky.,
offering hope for diversification of jobs in a poverty-plagued
region long dominated by the coal industry, which keeps mining
about as much coal with fewer and fewer people. The center
and one in Hazard closed last year, just before the tax break
Now another center is coming to the same building,
to answer service calls from customers of a wireless service
provider, and attracting applications from some of the people
who worked at the first one, reports
Alan Maimon in today's Courier-Journal. "It's
the best kind of job around here," Donna Halsey, 24, told
Maimon, the Louisville paper's Eastern Kentucky reporter.
Pike County Judge-Executive Bill Deskins told
the paper that he has more faith in the new company, Affiliated
Computer Services, than in Tampa-based Sykes
Enterprises, which had the first center. "I think
they're for real," Deskins said. "Sykes disappointed me, but
I have no fears about this company." Maimon writes, "The
state has given the company a $3 million state income-tax
credit over 10 years, and Deskins said the county plans to
apply for a state grant to offer more economic incentives."
ACS, a successor to the old Applachian
Computer Services, is a Dallas-based Fortune 500
firm with 10 other call centers in Kentucky, in the Appalachian
towns of Beattyville, Liberty, London, Monticello and Richmond,
as well as Lexington and Louisville. They have about 1,600
employees; the Pikeville center is to employ about 700. East
Kentucky Corp., an economic-development agency, told
Maimon it has recruited eight call centers, and seven remain
in business, employing about 1,500.
Extending coal-haul limits
to other heavy loads worries some in Kentucky
builders and other companies that haul heavy cargo in Kentucky
are pushing hard behind the scenes in Frankfort for legislation
that would let them use trucks with 50-percent larger payloads,"
John Cheves and Brandon Ortiz report in today's Lexington
A special limit of 60 tons for
coal was passed in 1986 at the behest of that industry. House
Bill 8 would extend it to "similar
trucks carrying other natural resources, including sand, gravel,
rock, oil and natural gas," the paper reports. "Politically
powerful road builders, who give hundreds of thousands of
dollars in campaign donations, are leading the charge. They
win huge state contracts to repair the roads damaged by, among
other things, legally overweight trucks. They also carry tons
of gravel in their own trucks."
Cheves and Ortiz
also report that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Howard Cornett,
R-Whitesburg. "took the fight into the traditionally
off-limits and non-partisan offices of the legislature's research
staff. Faced with a potentially
fatal staff analysis of his measure," Cornett challenged
its original estumate, "a
deal-killing $385 million in the first year. Three days later,
that quietly dropped to a much more palatable $15 million
a year." Cornett denied applying undue pressure, and
said his bill is about fairness to the entire mineral industry.
The state got about $725,000 in fees for higher-weight
permits last year, but that fell about $10 million short of
the estimated cost of repairing road damaged by heavy trucks,
the Herald-Leader reports. Opponenst also cite the himan and
financial cost of wrecks involving such trucks.
New land-use restrictions
in Seattle's county prompt rural secession movement
A new ordiannce "that imposes strict clearing
limits, wider stream buffers and other environmental regulations"
has sparked a movement among rural residents of King County,
Washington, for their own county, reports
Steve Maynard of The News Tribune of Tacoma,
which is in the county with Seattle.
The council member who wrote the final version
of the ordinance “says the county has done a poor job
communicating the land-use limits,” Maynard writes.
Dow Constantine tells him that failure has allowed “a
small group of property-rights ideologues to scare the heck
out of people.”
But Maynard reports, "Rural rage has been
building for years. It started with clashes over strict enforcement
of county codes. Now the anger is boiling over into action,"
with rural landowners asking the state Supreme Court to make
the ordinance subject to a referendum. Failing that, they
want the legislature to authorize a new Cascade County, named
for the mountains that run through eastern King County.
"An effort to form a new government, called
Cedar County, failed in 1998 when the state Supreme Court
ruled the Legislature can’t be forced to create a new
county," The News-Tribune reports. Opponents say Cascade
County wouldn't have the tax base needed to support necessary
services. "About 120,000 of King County’s 1.8 million
residents live in unincorporated rural areas," Maynard
notes. Secession would be “like cutting off your rich
uncle,” state Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, told
Friday, Feb. 18,
Cost oversight ‘spotty’
on rail-crossing safety projects; costs reduce number
A review of railroad spending of government
money to install warning signals at grade crossings, conducted
by Missouri, found more than a few problems, reports The
New York Times. The audit found significant overcharges
that drive up construction costs and reduce the number of
”According to audit reports, Kansas
City Southern had submitted overcharges of nearly
100 percent, or almost $60,000, on one project. Another, Burlington
Northern Santa Fe, also had an overcharge of nearly
100 percent,” write
Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg.
BNSF overcharged on more than a dozen other
signal projects. In 2000, Missouri asked BNSF to repay$670,000
in overcharges on 43 earlier signal projects, all financed
mostly by the Federal Highway Administration,
the Times reports:"When it comes to catching sizable
overcharges in the federally financed lights-and-gates program,
Missouri stands out. Other states audit only a few signal
projects or none. These construction contracts are almost
always awarded to railroads without competitive bids."
"Rail safety advocates say (as a result)
signals often cost more than they should, which means fewer
of these life-saving warning devices are installed,"
they write. Safety experts say warning lights and gates are
a major reason why crossing deaths declined in recent years,
though they jumped in 2004. 150,000 rail crossings on public
roads, many in rural areas, have no lights or gates.
Nearly 900 people have died at crossings that
lack lights or gates since 2000. Just this week, separate
fatal accidents occurred at two crossings with no lights or
gates in Louisiana killing six people. But while up to 700
crossings in Louisiana need warning lights and gates, Mark
Lambert, a state transportation official, told the newspaper
there is not enough federal money to pay for them. Last year,
however, Louisiana auditors found possible overcharges of
more than 10 percent, about $1.1 million.
Steven L. Schooner, co-director of the Government
Procurement Law Program at George Washington University
Law School told Bogdanich and Nordbert, "If
you are spending the public's money, you would rather see
a competitive situation." The Federa l Highway Administration
agrees, but only up to a point. When building a road, the
agency calls competitive bidding "a basic fundamental
principle of federal procurement law." But that does
not hold for the lights-and-gates program, where federal highway
officials have spent $1.7 billion since 1973 to make grade
D.C. ban on hazardous
trains could heighten risks in nearby states, railroads say
Railroad officials say a newly passed ordinance
barring rail shipments of hazardous materials through the
District of Columbia raises the risk of a catastrophic accident
or terrorist attack in Maryland and other nearby states as
the dangerous cargo is rerouted around the nation's capital.
CSX Corp., the train operator
most affected by the law, said it would likely cause backups
and bunching of chemical tank cars carrying hazardous cargo
at its rail yards in Baltimore, Cumberland, Philadelphia and
Richmond, Va., writes David Dishneau of The Associated
CSX warned in its petition to the federal Surface
Transportation Board, "Such an aggregation of
standing tank cars may very well present a greater security
risk." The emergency ordinance bans "ultra-hazardous
shipments" within 2.2 miles of the Capitol for at least
90 days. The Association of American Railroads and the National
Industrial Transportation League concurred with CSX
and added the eed for emergency preparedness would increase
in small cities along hundreds of miles of alternate, less
suitable rail lines, writes Dishneau
The Association of American Railroads
said "These consequences of forcing traffic over alternate
routes are likely to actually increase exposure and therefore
reduce safety and security."
Tennessee governor tells
press: Call me if you can’t get records
Locked in a records lawsuit with the big paper
in the state capital, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen told members
of the Tennessee Press Association last night
that if they have problems getting records from his administration,
they should call him personally.
Bredesen, a Democrat who plans to seek re-election
next year and has been mentioned as a potential candidate
for president in 2008, spoke hours after state officials testified
in a lawsuit by The Tennessean that they
have not answered the Nashville newspaper’s request
for records on TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program,
because the paper is seeking data that cannot be generated
without writing expensive computer programs.
At the conclusion of his speech to the TPA convention
banquet, Bredesen said the Tennessean and other organizations
“absolutely (have) . . . the right to use the courts
to enforce openness and accountability in government, and
I have no hard feelings about this. But I do want each of
you to know that I value my relationship with you, and if
you are having difficulty in any area of accessing information
– this is a big government – you also have the
option of contacting me directly.” At that point, Bredesen
departed from his prepared text and said he would return a
call from anyone in the room.
Bredesen’s remarks were “disingenuous,”
said Everett J. Mitchell III, vice president of news and editor
of The Tennessean, who was at the banquet. He told his reporter,
Sheila Burke, ”The governor is fully aware of our request.
And we still don't have the records,” and added that
any citizen “should be able to get these records. I
shouldn't have to call and work it out with the governor.”
The Tennessean also reported,
“After his speech, Bredesen indicated that some of the
problems related to the TennCare records could have been an
overworked staff that allowed ‘this stuff to get pushed
to the back of the pile.’” To view Bresden's speech
EPA may require states to reduce pollution
from coal-fired power plants
The government has agreed to decide by this
summer whether it should force coal-fired power plants in
13 states to reduce unhealthy air pollution that also is blamed
for obscuring views of the Smoky Mountains. The EPA ruling
could effect Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Virginia and West Virginia, reports The Associated
North Carolina's attorney general, Roy Cooper,
asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
to find that pollution coming from outside North Carolina
was preventing the state from meeting federal health-based
standards for smog and soot in metropolitan areas, writes
John Heilprin.The EPA reached a settlement with Cooper and
the New York-based Environmental Defense.
The state and the environmental group contend
that pollution from the out-of-state plants is affecting North
Carolina by harming people's health, damaging farmers' crops
and detracting from mountain views that are part of its $12.6
billion-a-year tourist industry, Heilprin writes. Cooper told
AP, "This is a win for all of us who want to stop these
out-of-state polluters from damaging the air we breathe. North
Carolina is working hard to clean up our own air, but those
efforts alone won't stop the dirty air we inherit from other
The court must approve the proposed timetable,
under which the EPA would make a preliminary decision by August
and a final ruling by March 2006. If the EPA agrees with North
Carolina, coal-burning power plants upwind would have three
years to cut pollution. But agency spokeswoman, Cynthia Bergman,
said "it's an absolute certainty" that the case
will drag on for years because some party probably will challenge
the EPA's decision, Heilprin writes.
Are free papers enough
like paid papers to join the club? Tennessee ponders
The growing presence of free-circulation newspapers
was felt in Nashville this week at the convention of the Tennessee
Press Association, where directors and members vigorously
debated a proposal to admit such newspapers to the association
as non-voting members.
“We are in a world of great change right
now,” Gregg Jones, co-publisher of the Greeneville
Sun and chairman of the Newspaper Association
of America, told his colleagues. Alluding to recent
admissions of circulation overstatements by major dailies,
he said the proposal “is a very strong recognition of
the fact that the world increasingly cares less and less about
whether your circulation or readership is paid or unpaid.
It cares terribly about whether it is real.” Jones said
he would probably vote for the proposal.
The proposal would require a free-circulation
paper to provide an audit from “an official circulation
auditing firm,” a valid bulk-mailing statement or a
notarized statement from the printer. It was tabled and sent
back to committee after several speakers said it should require
audited circulation numbers. Approval of the proposal requires
a two-thirds vote by TPA’s 15 directors and a two-thirds
vote by the membership.
Advocates of the proposal, which has been debated
in the association for many years and would follow the lead
of adjoining states, said TPA needs free-circulation members
to increase its influence with legislators and other policymakers.
“Free newspapers have a lot of the same goals, a lot
of the same issues that our paid newspapers have,” said
Jay Albrecht, publisher of the Covington Leader
and vice president of Albrecht Newspapers. He
was chairman of the committee that submitted the proposal.
Opponents of the proposal said no one knows
who really reads free newspapers, and one referred to “a
shopper rag in my county.” The proposal would require
papers to have at least 25 percent annual editorial content,
to be published at least weekly, and for at least three consecutive
years before being admitted.
“We have three of these things in our
county,” said Clint Brewer, managing editor of The
Lebanon Democrat, just east of Nashville. “Of
course, we print two of them.” After the laughter subsided,
Brewer said, “We need to think about embracing this
part of the journalism industry, because it’s not going
Iowa newspaper editor
resigns after publisher fires controversial columnist
The Pella Chronicle’s
editor has resigned in protest of the new publisher’s
order to fire a controversial liberal columnist, reports
columnist Rekha Basu of The Des Moines Register.
Hal Hatfield, formerly with the Iowa newspaper,
said that publisher Sandy Selvy is trying to sway conservative
advertising but Selvy denied that, Basu writes. Instead, claimed
Selvy, the move was made because she felt the Chronicle needed
more local content and increased circulation. She also said,
"no one cares about what [columnist Mike Corum] thinks
about Bush and what's going on in the war."
Selvy said about two of the 500 people she’s
heard from like Corum's columns. Corum said he logs all private
conversations about his columns and 62 people like his opinions
but refrain from saying so because they are unpopular views.
Hatfield said some readers canceled subscriptions over the
column but others love it and complain when it’s not
in the paper, one such reader is the mayor, Basu writes.
Hatfield has been an editor of the Chronicle
and the Knoxville Journal-Express. Selvy
is publisher of those papers along with the Marion
County Reminder. When Selvy first came to the paper
as publisher, she asked for feedback from readers and announced
she wanted to continue the paper’s tradition, reported
the Chronicle."Marion County has a newspaper tradition
that dates back for 150 years," Selvy said. "The
newspapers have a great past. They have a great future. I
want to be part of it,” she said.
Developer may back off
part of New River Gorge plan, not build within park
An Atlanta company may drop a controversial
part of its plan to build a 2,200-acre housing development
along the rim of the New River Gorge National River in West
Virginia, reports the Charleston Gazette.
Officials from Land Resource Cos. may back
off their proposal to put 613 acres of their development within
the boundary of the river’s national park, writes
Ken Ward Jr. Land Resource officials told National
Park Service representatives that they were looking
at eliminating that part of their project.
New River park superintendent Cal Hite told
Ward, “They have talked about the possibility of not
developing the 613 acres, and selling that property to the
park service.” Hite said that Land Resource officials
did not make any promises, but asked to meet again with park
officials about the subject.
Hite told the newspaper, “There’s
nothing in writing. It was just their verbal statement that
that was something they were thinking about doing.”
If Land Resource dropped the portion of their project within
park boundaries, it might help them avoid a fight with state
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, writes Ward.
W. Va. Senate okays ethics
bill corrections; gag order subdued in new version
An expedited bill intended to correct two problems
in a newly passed law toughening the West Virignia ethics
act has passed the state Senate. The measure now goes to the
House of Delegates, reports the Charleston Gazette.
"The Manchin administration introduced
the new bill after an outcry over a so-called gag order in
the ethics law passed during the January special session,"
Phil Kabler. That provision prevents persons who file complaints
with the Ethics Commission from publicly disclosing the complaint
or commenting on it. The “gag order” would be
in effect from the time the complaint is filed until a newly
created three-person Review Board determines whether there
is probable cause to send the complaint to the full commission.
The new bill gives the Ethics Commission authority
to impose the same confidentiality provisions if there is
reason to believe publicity surrounding the complaint would
“interfere with a fair hearing or otherwise prejudice
the due administration of justice.” In both versions,
violators could be fined up to $5,000, and have their complaints
summarily dismissed, Kabler writes.
Davidson College in
N.C. reverses policy banning non-Christians as trustees
North Carolina’s Davidson College has
agreed to allow non-Christians to serve as trustees for the
first time in its nearly 170-year history, reports The
“The college's governing board made the
decision earlier this month, after a debate that has simmered
for more than a decade at the liberal arts institution about
20 miles north of Charlotte,” writes
the wire service.
Davidson President Bobby Vagt compared the decision
to admitting the first blacks and women in the 1960s and '70s.
The trustees rejected a similar move in 1996. This time more
than 80 percent of trustees voted to remove a requirement
in the bylaws that all trustees be "active members of
a Christian church."
Trustee Tom Ross told AP, "There are times
in the history of an institution when you make a decision
because it's the right thing to do," said. "We felt
this was the right thing for Davidson." The new bylaws
say at least 80 percent of the 45 voting trustees for the
Presbyterian-founded school must be Christian.
S.C. commission votes
to give Native Americans tribes formal recognition
A state commission moved to formally recognize
the Waccamaws as a Native American tribe in South Carolina,
reports The State newspaper in the state
capital of Columbia.
"As the members of the Commission for Minority
Affairs voted one by one, tears spread throughout the audience.
The last “yes” vote prompted a raucous cheer and
hugs all around. Dozens of people who legally... had been
denied their birthright suddenly had reclaimed it," writes
One of those whose tears streamed down was Linda
Hatcher Atkinson. She told Holleman after the meeting, “It
means, in a sense, freedom. I’m 59 years old. It was
so hard to claim what I was growing up. We were called a negative
name, and we weren’t allowed to say we were Indians.”
Now they legally can label their work as Native American art
and can apply for some grants targeted for Native Americans.
Spiritually, it means even more, writes Holleman.
Will Goins, chief executive officer of the Eastern
Cherokee, Southern Iroquois and United Tribes of S.C.
told him, “It is the most significant thing South Carolina
has done for Native American Indian people in 300 years. For
the first time, this state is going to embrace their people
who happen to be Indian.”
ACLU says bill to protect
trademarks will water down free speech guarantees
The American Civil Liberties Union
has expressed concerns over a bill that would make it easier
for trademark holders to prove trademark violations, which
the ACLU fears
could clutter free speech.
ACLU legislative counsel Marvin Johnson told
the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet,
and Intellectual Property that critical commentary which incorporates
trademarks and logos generates public awareness about certain
issues, which the First Amendment protects. The bill, The
Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2005, could seriously water
down these protections, Johnson said. "Our country’s
commitment to open ideas and open criticism demands that those
freedoms be protected," Johnson said.
One example he gave is the lawsuit by the Farmers
Group insurance giant against a man named Guerrero,
who developed a Web site critical of the group. He used the
logo and name of the group on the site so people would know
they were the target of his criticism, but the Farmers Group
is now suing for "dilution of the trademark and service
mark," the ACLU said.
Pols stumped by TV pop
quiz; S.C.’s top farm product? Don’t ask the guv!
A‘pop-quiz’ of sorts on a national
political talk show that aired this week stumped governors
from two states when asked questions about their top agricultural
products. One of those stumped was the governor of South Carolina,
reports The State.
"It could have been South Carolina’s
version of the popular television quiz show “Jeopardy,”
writes Lee Bandy. The host was Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s
“Hardball.” The contestants were Govs. Mark Sanford,
R-S.C., and Ed Rendell, D-Pa. The topic: agricultural products.
“What’s your biggest agricultural
product in South Carolina, governor?” Matthews asked.
“Uh ... timber is the biggest one,” Sanford responded.
Wrong, writes Bandy. The correct answer, she writes, is Tomatoes.
"Sanford is not alone," Bandy notes, serving up
questions to other South Carolina politicians the following
day. “Legislators questioned Tuesday didn’t know,
either,” she writes. "South Carolina House Agriculture
Committee chairman William Witherspoon said it was, “Vegetables.”
Rep. Robert “Skipper” Perry, R-Aiken, insisted
it is tobacco. No one gave the correct answer, notes Bandy.
Becky Walton of the S.C. Agriculture
Department told the newspaper, “Tobacco ranks
fourth ...while the state is the nation’s No. 1 producer
of tomatoes, (although, she said, tomatoes) are not much of
a cash crop.” And what about timber, asked Bandy. “It’s
not an agricultural product,” Walton said. “It’s
a forest product.” (Your bloggers note, sometimes
it’s hard to see the tomatoes for the forest.)
Thursday, Feb. 17,
Bush supporters angry over budget; hits reds harder than blues
'Red-state' America is a bit red-in-the-face
over President Bush's new budget, reports The Washington
Post. ”Within a few hours of the release of
the president's proposal last week, Rep. John E. Peterson
(R-Pa.), co-chairman of the Congressional Rural Caucus,
fired off a statement criticizing the president he typically
Peterson told the newspaper, "We expected
to fight cuts to rural programs under the Clinton administration.
But those who are currently advocating these draconian cuts
would not be in office today if it weren't for rural America."
The Pennsylvania Republican has a 91 percent lifetime rating
from the American Conservative Union, writes
Milbank. But, he realized quickly the budget Bush proposed
would hit hardest some of (Bush's) most loyal supporters,
the red states that tipped the election balance.
Under the Bush budget, reports The Post, agricultural
programs would be cut 17 percent by 2010. Cuts in farm subsidies
would hit solidly Republican southern states that produce
cotton and rice. Veterans' programs would be cut 16 percent.
Help for rural airports would be cut in half. Money for first
responders would shift to urban areas, Milbank writes.
Bush states would experience cuts in federal
grants in 2006 equal to 2.33 percent of their budgets on average.
But "blue" states, won by John Kerry, would lose
federal grant money equal to only 1.74 percent of their budgets
on average. These averages were compiled using an analysis
of Bush's budget proposal by the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group.
Iraq war exerts potent
pull and toll on rural Hispanic youths in Colorado
With its twin pull of patriotism and gainful
employment, military service has been a tradition ever since
the Spanish-settled San Luis Valley near Denver, Colorado
became part of the United States, a tradition that is drawing
Hispanic recruits disporportionately for service Iraq, reports
the Rocky Mountain News.
"The all-volunteer Army of the past few
decades draws heavily from such rural areas, according to
a study by University of Texas sociologist
Robert Cushing," writes
Gwen Florio.Cushing, who also works as a consultant for the
Austin American-Statesman, told Florio 20
percent of the Valley's 46,000 residents are poor, more than
double the statewide rate, (so) the military offers a way
up and out.
Cushing said, "What we're hearing from
people is that some of (the enthusiasm for the military) is
they're just more patriotic, but you have to ask what do these
rural kids have in common with inner-city blacks and (inner-city)
Hispanics? . . . Limited opportunities."
Elsewhere, the unexpectedly long and bloody
conflict in Iraq has caused a drop in military recruitments.
That's not happening with Hispanics in rural Colorado, writes
Florio. Guidance Counselor Elden Ruybal told the newspaper
at least two or three students from Antonito High School in
the San Luis Valley community of Conejos enlist each year.
"(The) senior classes average fewer than 30 students,"
Sociologist Cushing's survey found rural members
of the military die in disproportionate numbers. Small-town
residents make up 19 percent of the military, but 30 percent
of its casualties. "It's a hell of a way to get an education,
particularly if you come back (home) in a body bag,"
Has train safety gone
far enough? Charlotte newspaper probes 'lax oversight'
A handful of deadly railroad accidents throughout
the United States has focused attention on hazardous cargos
and is fueling a cross-country push to improve safety and
security in an industry where, critics say, safety has been
largely overlooked, reports The Charlotte
“A(recent) federal audit said despite
increased fines against railroads, ‘significant safety
problems persist’ that raise questions about regulators'
Scott Dodd, Bruce Henderson and Heather Vogell in a special
report focusing on rail traffic in the Charlotte area. Richard
Falkenrath, a former White House homeland security adviser,
told Congress last month "I'm sorry to say, since 9-11
we have essentially done nothing in this area."
An Observer analysis found in the Charlotte
region alone, nearly 800,000 people live within a mile of
a major rail line. That's 90,000 more than a decade ago. The
study says, at the same time, rail shipments of gases, including
chlorine, jumped 63 percent nationwide during a five year
period, write Dodd, Henderson and Vogell. Scott Bullard with
the state emergency management agency told the newspaper,
N.C. manufacturing is "just inundated" with chlorine
and ammonia, two deadly chemicals shipped by rail.
Yet emergency planners don't know how much hazardous
material passes daily through Charlotte and the region's small
towns. Federal, state and local agencies told the Observer
they don't keep track, and the railroads won't provide that
information for security reasons, they write.
Edd Hauser, who studies transportation and homeland
security at the University of North Carolina- Charlotte,
told the Observer, "We don't know on any given route,
at any given time of the day, what's on those trains.”
The railroads, citing security risks and practical difficulties,
have fought proposals that would require them to tell local
officials when, where and what kinds of toxic chemicals move
through their communities, and to reroute the most hazardous
shipments around major cities, they write.
Virginia eyes stricter
drinking limits on hunters; gun enthusiasts object
The Virginia General Assembly is considering
a bill to impose stricter blood alcohol limits on hunters,
angering gun enthusiasts who say the legislation unjustly
targets their right to bear arms, reports The Washington
”It is illegal in Virginia to "hunt
with firearms" when under the influence of alcohol or
Chris L. Jenkins. But under a senate bill, a hunter who had
a blood alcohol content of .02 would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
That's tougher than the state's drunken driving standard,
which is .08.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, and
is scheduled to be heard by a House committee this week. Sen.
Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, the bill's sponsor and
an avid hunter, told the Post, "Obviously everyone wants
those who hunt to be safe at all times . . . That's really
the only purpose of this bill."
Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, successfully
proposed the lower level. Norment said there should be a "zero
tolerance" alcohol level for hunting. State officials
at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
requested the legislation because the code regarding alcohol
and hunting is vague.
The right to hunt is guaranteed by the Virginia
constitution, and some lawmakers said the state cannot impose
such "implied consent" on hunters in the same way
it is applied to drivers and boaters to take a breathalyzer
test. Delegate David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), who sits on the
committee scheduled to review the bill, told the newspaper,
"It could be a problem if the bill says that by merely
hunting you're consenting to be searched. Philosophically,
that would be tough for me to overcome."
Journalists and political
groups support better Freedom of Information Act
Groups spanning the political spectrum have
joined forces behind the proposed Open Government Act, introduced
by two U.S. senators, which would expand the accessibility
of federal government records under the Freedom of Information
Act and other statutes.
The Society for Professional Journalists
summarized the proposal
by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
The bill has received support from the Newspaper Association
of America, the Radio-Television News Directors
Association, and the American Civil Liberties
The act would close FOIA loopholes and prevent
new ones, restore deadlines to act on FOIA requests, create
a FOIA obmudsman to make it easier for the public to access
government information, create FOIA hotlines and tracking
systems for requests, said
the NAA. The act would also review the new exemption for critical
infrastructure information in the Homeland Security Act, said
the ACLU. The ACLU obtained through the FOIA documents detailing
abuses in Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan.
NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm said, “Since
passage of the Freedom of Information Act nearly 40 years
ago, newspapers have carried the mantle for keeping the public
informed of important news and information about government
actions that otherwise would go unnoticed.”
In letters to the bill’s sponsors, RTNDA
president Barbara Cochran said,
“RTNDA has long worked to preserve the free flow of
information and open access that is essential to government
accountability. We believe The Open Government Act will strengthen
the Freedom of Information Act and will renew focus on one
of the bedrock principles of our democracy—an informed
News organizations fight
to have Utah counties group open its records
Several news organizations
have mounted a legal effort to force the Utah Association
of Counties to open its records. The lawsuit argues that since
the UAC is funded with taxpayer money and conducts public
business, it is a "government entity" under the state's open
records law, The Associated Press reports.
The Society of
Professional Journalists, that group's Utah Headliners
Chapter, the Utah Press Association, the
AP and the Deseret Morning News have asked
to become co-plaintiffs with the Salt Lake Tribune,
which sued after the association
refused to give the Tribune its operating budget.
Utah law requires that
a "public association," one that gets money from the government
and is made up mainly of public officials, to reveal its finances.
"UAC is funded almost entirely
with taxpayer money, but officials have balked at discussing
its member rolls," AP reports. The association argues
that it is not a "governmental
entity," which Utah law defines as one that is "funded
or established by the government to carry out the public's
business." AP says, "There
are at least 14 state laws that give UAC considerable influence
to affect public policy, primarily
through the power to appoint people to state committees."
West Virginia local merger
laws may build boom; some fear identity loss
If some state legislators get their wish, West
Virginia’s governor will sign into law in the next month
three bills outlining how governments in the state can merge,
reports The Herald-Dispatch.
“This comes as welcome news for some residents
who say they want their areas to attract more business. Others
are concerned about possible loss of identity for the state’s
small towns,” writes
Scott Wartman of the Huntington newspaper. The bills outline
the process for multiple cities and counties to merge and
for city and county governments to combine and form one large
These bills come after a year when leaders of
business and politics rallied across the state to promote
regionalism and cooperative efforts between West Virginia
communities, writes Wartman. Many legislators are optimistic
of the bills’ passage, but say convincing communities
to actually merge will be a tough sale.
Wal-Mart zoning reversed;
Civil War soldiers’ graves believed on site
Often rural communities, caught in the crunch
between preservation and economic development, give in to
the lure of Wal-Mart “super-stores.”
But, a circuit judge in West Virginia has reversed a decision
that rezoned about 60 acres in the town of Fayetteville, land
rezoned to help bring a Wal-Mart to town, reports the Charleston
“Raleigh Circuit Judge Robert A. Burnside
Jr. said the public never got a chance to review a completed
rezoning application, and did not have a chance to adequately
prepare a response to the Wal-Mart project. He sent the rezoning
back to the town,” writes
Many people believe that at least 24 soldiers
who fought in the Civil War are buried on the rezoned property.
Joe Paramore, president of Paramount Development Corp.,
of South Carolina had said he would place a buffer around
the graves and provide public access to them. Fayetteville
officials rezoned the property at the request of the corporation,
which wants to build a shopping center on the property. After
several public hearings, the town’s zoning board voted
unanimously for the rezoning, writes Williams.
A woman who owns a home next to the rezoned
property, filed a lawsuit against the town's rezoning. She
said the shopping center would adversely affect her property.
Her attorney also alleged the zoning application process was
Kentucky to host Rural
Telecommunications Congress; broadband on agenda
Kentucky has been selected to
host the 2005 Rural Telecommunications Congress,
from October 9th - 12th in Lexington, in a conference to highlight
the latest efforts to bring faster internet service to rural
communities, PRNewswire reports.
A news release from ConnectKentucky
states, “The ...congress convenes hundreds
of small and rural business owners, officials from local,
state, and federal agencies, as well as professionals from
the fields of tele-health, distance learning, community economic
development, e-government and public policy.” ConnectKentucky
is described as, "Kentucky's technology-based economic
Gov. Ernie Fletcher said, in
the release, "This conference will bring international
technology experts to Kentucky to exchange ideas ...for broadband
and technology development." The congress works to help
rural communities have access to advanced telecommunications
services, particularly broadband digital communications, for
community and economic development.
Additional information on the
conference may be obtained by clicking here,
or by calling 1-877-781-4320. Click
here for more information regarding the Rural Telecommunications
Amorous amphibians rendezvous
for romantic rite of spring; crowds watch
The calendar might say winter, but the biological
clocks of some belly-crawling 'squishy' creatures in Virginia
say it's spring. And, that means it's time for the annual
march of the 'South Side salamanders,' reports the Richmond
“On rainy nights between mid-February
and mid-March, cigar-sized amphibians called spotted salamanders
emerge from underground and migrate up to half a mile to small
ponds to breed,” writes
Rex Springston. Despite cars, dogs and other perils, a tiny
population of salamanders clings to life in South Richmond.
For the past three years, Ralph White, manager of Richmond's
James River Park system, has closed part of a nearby road
to allow the animals to get to their pool without being run
White asks of Springston, "Isn't it a wonderful
thing for a city to regulate traffic around the needs of a
squishy little animal? How many cities in Virginia do this?"
The salamander migration has become an annual event. Dozens
of adults and children turn out to watch the animals perform
their sensuous courtship dance in the pool, which is basically
a roadside ditch, he writes.
Wednesday, Feb. 16,
Local politics garners
less TV coverage; stations don't want to spend money
Researchers say in the month leading up to last Election Day,
just 8 percent of the local evening newscasts in 11 of the
nation's largest TV markets devoted time to local races and
issues, reports USA Today.
The study found, "Over the same period,
55 percent of the newscasts included reports about the presidential
race." And, "eight times more coverage went to stories
about accidental injuries" than to local races and issues,
Mark Memmott. Al Tompkins, group leader of the broadcast/online
unit at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies
in St. Petersburg, Fla., told USA Today the findings highlight
"a really serious issue."
Other studies show that most people —
about 60 percent — get more of their news from local
TV than from any other single source. But, Tompkins told Memmott,
"If local news doesn't include much coverage of local
political issues, then the electorate is obviously trying
to make decisions about things it just doesn't have enough
information about." The report was prepared by researchers
from the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern
California's Annenberg School for Communications;
the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and
Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Tompkins
says local stations have scaled back coverage of local politics
because they're trying to save money by using fewer reporters.
from blogger Bill Griffin: As a veteran of 22 years
in television reporting working in Florida, West Virginia,
Indiana, Texas, North Carolina and Kentucky covering politics,
it has been my experience -- and I've also seen considerable
anecdotal evidence -- that this trend of less political coverage
is pervasive beyond the major television markets and in some
instances began as early as the late 1980s. But, I'm not certain
whether it leads or follows a national problem.
Television news departments, like it or not,
make content and coverage decisions based on what interests
and stimulates viewers. They have cut back on politics because
it doesn't sizzle with enough of their audience. I don't know
which is the chicken and which is the egg -- less knowledge
of politics leads to less coverage, or less coverage leads
to less knowledge. I do know from my own experience that more
and more people seem to know less and care less about government
and our politcal system. If knowledge and interest went up,
I'm certain stations would respond, likewise.
declares a loss, mainly from decline of good will
Group Inc., which was involved in several journalism
controversies last year, "reported a fourth-quarter loss
that it attributed to a $44.1 million write-down of goodwill,"
The Associated Press reported. " The
Baltimore-based television broadcast company on Feb. 10 said
it lost $2.59 million, or 6 cents a share, on revenue of $188.1
million in the fourth quarter, Dow Jones reported."
Analysts had expected Sinclair
to earn 11 cents a share. For the entire year, it
earned $24 million, or 16 cents a share, on revenue of $708.3
million, about the same as in 2003. That year was nowhere
near as controversial for the Baltimore-based company, which
has a strong rural viewership, as was 2004.
"The company refused
to air an episode of the ABC News show 'Nightline'
because anchorman Ted Koppel planned to read the names of
U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq," AP reported. "Sinclair
also created a furor when it announced plans to show a special
devoted to allegations against presidential candidate and
Vietnam veteran John Kerry from . . . Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth. Also, Sinclair joined other station owners
in refusing to air the movie 'Saving Private Ryan,' explaining
that a few swearwords in the Oscar-winning film might get
it in trouble with the Federal Communications Commission."
Two on FCC seek open-meetings exemption so
a quorum can talk in secret
of the five-member Federal Communications Commission
say Congress should allow more than two FCC members to discuss
issues in private "in appropriate circumstances."
Departing Chairman Michael
Powell, a Republican, and Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat,
"said the law hinders communication between individuals"
on the FCC because only two "can talk face-to-face outside
the confines of a commission meeting," The Associated
Press reported. "Otherwise,
commissioners must communicate via their staffers, or through
letters and e-mails."
"These indirect methods
of communicating clearly do not foster frank, open discussion,
and they are less efficient than in-person interchange among
three or more commissioners would be," Powell and Copps told
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska,
in a letter early this month.
and free speech advocates bristled at the request and said
it would lead to less transparency," AP reported. "It
is inconvenient to operate in the public eye, but it is a
good thing. Inconvenience isn't a good reason," said
Steve Sidlo, managing editor of the Dayton (Ohio)
Daily News, and chair of the First Amendment Committee
for the Associated Press Managing Editors.
Virginia Senate panel
trims eminent-domain bill; farmers object to weakening
Two bills to put more bite into protections
for landowners faced with loss of their property for the public
good came out of a Virginia Senate subcommittee yesterday
missing some teeth, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"In a meeting room overflowing with local-government
and utility lobbyists and sprinkled with a few land-owning
residents, the ...subcommittee ...pulled key provisions from
both bills after hours of discussion," writes
Susan Rubin, a lobbyist for the Virginia
Farm Bureau Federation, told the newspaper "[Lawmakers]
had an opportunity to strengthen the rights of property owners
and fell far short." The bills had the support of the
Farm Bureau and the Virginia Property Rights Coalition,
a group that has been working for several years to make eminent-domain
laws more landowner-friendly. Representatives for local governments,
utilities and the Virginia Department of Transportation
opposed the legislation. Their big concern: Requirements in
both bills for paying landowners' court costs would prompt
(them) to reject damage settlements and purchase offers and
go to court more often, wrties Edwards.
But Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia
Beach, told the newspaper, "The whole idea is to encourage
settlements and discussion before the legal fees heat up,"
adding, the bills aim to protect landowners who get offers
that are too low. Eminent-domain lawyer Joseph Waldo said
farmers have had tires and harvesting equipment damaged after
survey crews placed metal survey stakes on their cropland
without proper notice. The crews have damaged crops and refused
to pay, writes Edwards.
Kentucky bill could require
$100,000 bond for appeals of cases on zoning
who want to appeal a circuit court decision in a land-use
planning case could have to obtain bonds of $25,000 to $100,000
to take the case to the state Court of Appeals, under a bill
pending in the state Senate. The
requirement would not apply to owners of the property, including
"The chilling effect
on meritorious appeals is apparent, since the bill creates
a financial barrier to seeking appellate review regardless
of the strength of the appeal," Tom FitzGerald of the
Kentucky Resources Council said in an e-mail
message asking his allies to call senators and oppose the
bill. FitzGerald also said the bill
could lower the
standard for an award of costs to the appellee -- the winner
in circuit court -- if the appeal fails.
Currently, a judge can award costs only by ruling the appeal
was frivolous or in bad faith.
said the bill "presupposes that appellants seeking review
of a trial court decision upholding the proposed rezoning
are presumptively or more likely to be frivolous and that
there is a need to constrain the right to seek review for
all appellants, regardless of the strength of or merits of
the appeal. KRC rejects
this premise as unfounded and unfair."
bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, did not
return a call seeking comment.
legislature split on cold-drug sales restrictions in war on
Key members of the Iowa legislature have agreed
most cold and allergy medicines should be sold through pharmacies
to foil illegal makers of methamphetamine. But, reports The
Des Moines Register, they remain divided over whether
grocery stores and gas stations should continue selling even
"The Senate judiciary committee voted unanimously
to put products made with higher doses of pseudoephedrine
- meth's main ingredient - in pharmacies. Under the proposal,
stores could sell up to two packages of smaller-dose products,
provided they track inventory and lock up the medicines or
keep them behind store counters," writes
A house committee has decided against acting
on similar legislation, as large numbers of Democrats and
some Republicans balk at any sales outside of pharmacies,
insisting they could better restrict sales, he writes. Kevin
McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat, told Rood, "From my
perspective, there will be no way that bill (the Senate's)
will come out of the House. But I am not in control of the
Another committee may press for a pharmacy-only
approach or to go with a compromise that would allow other
stores to sell one, 240-milligram package of products containing
pseudoephedrine per day to consumers. Sen. Keith Kreiman,
a Democrat who co-wrote the Senate legislation, told the newspaper,
"If we pass the bill ...we will have a dramatic decline
in the labs that we have because of the meth scourge."
In the past year, roughly two dozen Iowa cities
and counties have moved toward strict controls on pseudoephedrine
products in retail outlets. Iowa lawmakers hope to pass a
measure that would supersede those ordinances to make the
Rigorous school program
could help N.C. meet court order, opines judge
A Wake County, North Carolina, judge says expanding a program
that helps struggling students prepare for college could help
the state meet its court-ordered obligation to improve educational
North Carolina is under a court order to increase
the share of education money spent on the poorest school districts.
Poor districts sued the state in 1994, saying urban school
systems were getting too big a share of the state's education
Steve Hartsoe of The Associated Press..
A Superior Court judge has ruled all North Carolina
students have the right to a "sound basic education."
The state Supreme Court has affirmed nearly all of the ruling
and sent the case back to the judge so he could oversee a
reform plan. The special program, which started in California
in 1980 and is now used in about 30 states, began in North
Carolina about eight years ago.
school consolidation plan; fear larger unified schools
Two Harlan County, Kentucky communities are
pushing for independent school districts because they don't
want their children attending a large consolidated high school,
WYMT-TV of Hazard: "Local residents
. . . have been circulating petitions, which nearly 2,000
people signed in just four days.” State education officials
doubt the proposals for independent districts could succeed
because it would require an act of the state legislature.
Kentucky Department of Education spokesperson
Lisa Gross says no new districts have formed in Kentucky in
recent history. And, she says there are lots of statutes that
apply to existing school districts, but none are set up for
new school districts. Local education leaders are moving ahead
with plans to build the consolidated school despite the opposition,
the station reports.
Campaign launched to
preserve Tennessee's Civil War battlefields
The Tennessee Civil War Preservation
Association kicks off a campaign today to raise money
to save Civil War battlefields across the state, reports The
State Rep. Steve McDaniel, who is also president
of the group, told the wire service, "Tennessee is pretty
far behind . . . Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia in battlefield
preservation. (It) is second to Virginia in the number of
Civil War battle sites." There are more than 1,500 Civil
War battle sites in Tennessee.
Mary Ann Peckham, executive director of the association,
told Gary Tanner fund-raising efforts begin at 5:30 p.m.
at the Tennessee State Museum with an invitation-only reception,
including legislators, members of the Tennessee Press
Association and people from across the state that
are interested in historic preservation. Rep. McDaniel told
AP whatever money is raised will also be used to help other
preservation groups across the state. Peckham told Tanner,
"It's the first statewide drive to further those efforts."
Farming magazine names
top 'progressive' places to live in rural America
The Progressive Farmer, a magazine
devoted to farm and country living, released its first best-places
list this month, ranking
the 100 best places to live in rural America.
Number one was Fauquier County, Virginia, which
the issue said “has something to suit almost everyone’s
tastes,” with more than 238,000 agricultural areas and
$45 million in farm production, reports Donnie Johnston of
The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Va
. The county has wineries, a dairy and beef cattle industry,
corn and horses, Johnston writes. The county also tries to
maintain its agricultural heritage. For example, it offered
a program for landowners to sell development rights to the
county for $20,000 for each potential lot. The magazine looked
at these ideas when considering its rankings.
Numbers two through five were Oconee County,
Georgia; McPherson County, Kansas; Callaway County, Missouri;
and Grafton County, New Hampshire. “Grafton’s
87,000 inhabitants have access to good schools, superior health
care facilities and the cultural influences of Dartmouth College.
On top of that, that county has a very low crime rate, clean
air and water and no overdevelopment,” said Stephen
Taylor, commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department
of Agriculture, Markets & Food.
Dog nicknamed 'Veeta’
brings home the big cheese; Coonhound glorified!
“Clover Creek Velvet Touch,” a 3-year-old
female black and tan coonhound owned by Karen Winn, of Lexington,
Ky., took "Best of Opposite Sex" in breed judging
yesterday at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog
Show, the nation's most prestigious canine showcase, reports
the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The champion dog is known affectionately as
'Veeta.” The owner had put 'Veeta on a diet of one cup
of dog food a day to "get her into bathing-suit shape
for the competition," writes
Amy Wilson. Winn, on the phone from the show floor in New
York's Madison Square Garden, told the newspaper,
"(Veeta) looked really good, and she handled very well.
I was proud because it is so chaotic here."
Veeta and Winn are to return home today "swathed
in dog glory" and toting "a big red and white ribbon
and a medal." 'Veeta also was generously rewarded with
fistfuls of summer sausage, her favorite treat, writes Wilson.
(Your bloggers note the connection between the name Velvet
and the nickname Veeta… but obviously there’s
nothing cheesy about this dog.)
Nationally known veteran
Iowa radio news director dies; on air four decades
Several broadcasting veterans
who are frequent readers of the Rural Blog have brought to
our attention the passing in January of a veteran Iowa
radio news director, the widely respected Dick Petrik.We provide
part of the following obituary written
by Elwin Huffman of KOEL-AM, Oelwein.
"A legendary northeast Iowa radio broadcaster
has died. Dick Petrik, who spent his entire 41-year career
at KOEL-AM, died after a long illness. Petrik took the job
as KOEL's first news director in April of 1952, nearly two
years after the station went on the air. He held the record
for longest tenure of any news director in the nation. In
1972, he was the first recipient of the Jack Shelley Award,
the highest honor given annually by the Iowa Broadcast
The IBNA later named another award in Petrik's
honor. The Dick Petrik Outstanding Student Award is given
annually to a college student whose work shows outstanding
potential for a career in electronic media journalism. Petrik
retired in 1992, but stayed with the station part-time another
year. Petrik, who was 76, is survived by his wife and five
children. He became known to many broadcasters nationwide
for his work with and for the Radio and Television
News Directors Association (RTNDA).
Tuesday, Feb. 15,
Vt. paper publishes data
showing rural states have greater share of Iraq deaths
The Valley News of White River
Junction, Vt., is the latest newspaper to do a story
about rural states bearing a greater burden of American military
deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has done it in a way that
makes the story easy for other papers to delve into the subject.
Vermont, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, South
Dakota and Arkansas lead the nation in Iraq deaths, and Vermont's
was more than three times the national average, the newspaper
reported. It also has made available on its Web site charts
showing the number of service personnel deployed from each
state, the number
killed and the death rate; each state's death
rates per capita, as opposed to the number deployed; and percentage
of each state's population in the National Guard,
40 percent of forces in Iraq.
"Lt. Col. Joe Richard, the Pentagon spokesman
who provided deployment figures used in the analysis, said
parsing out deaths in a state-by-state breakdown did not adequately
account for statistical variables and amounted to saying 'one
state is sacrificing more than another state. It's not an
accurate depiction, and it does a disservice. To place it
in some kind of geographical context doesn't serve anything',"
the News said.
The prevalence of Guard troops could be responsible
for widely varying rates from state to state. "While
a traditional Army or Marine combat unit might draw on men
and women from around the nation, a National Guard unit draws
heavily from one geographic region," reporter Jodie Tillman
wrote."When a unit sees multiple deaths during a particular
mission, that state's rate soars."
A word of caution to journalists exploring this
subject, from a National Journal story by
Sydney Freedberg Jr. in May 2004: "The only readily available
data on origins is 'home of record,' which is not only imprecise
-- identifying a town rather than a demographically definable
neighborhood -- but also potentially inaccurate. Young people
often move away from home before enlisting, for example, and
long-serving reservists often settle somewhere entirely different
from where they lived at first enlistment. In a National Journal
spot check of newspaper and wire-service obituaries for dead
troops from seven states, 13 percent were found as having
grown up somewhere other than in their official . . . home
New education secretary
seems more flexible on No Child Left Behind Act
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has begun
her tenure by displaying "a willingness to work with
state and local officials on what they consider to be some
of the toughest requirements of President Bush's signature
education law, No Child Left Behind," Sam Dillon of The
New York Times reported yesterday, picking up on
a story and interview by Education Week last
Dillon reports that Spellings ended disputes
with New York and North Dakota, in the latter case "approving
the qualifications of 4,000 teachers who believed federal
officials had previously declared them insufficiently qualified."
She told the Times the dispute was based on a misunderstanding,
but "She appears to be striking a more conciliatory tone
than did her predecessor, Rod Paige, whose rigid interpretation
of the law led 31 state legislatures last year to offer an
array of challenges to it," Dillon wrote.
The North Dakota case could have implications
for many rural school districts that have difficulty meeting
the law's requirement for a "highly qualified" teacher
in every classroom. "Under the law, teachers already
in the classroom can demonstrate that they are highly qualified
either by having a major or passing a test in their subject,
or by meeting alternative standards developed by each state
based on broad federal guidelines. Studies have shown those
standards vary widely across states," Education Week
Spellings and North Dakota officials "agreed
that veteran elementary teachers in that state" will
meet the requirement "if they have an elementary education
major and are fully licensed," EW reported, noting that
state officials established that elementary-education majors
take more than 40 hours of courses in core academic subjects,
"sufficient to demonstrate subject-matter competency."
Spellings also noted to EW that the state had put in place
a process to evaluate elemenatry-school teachers. "I
think where we started out, as I understand it, is they wanted
to basically grandfather each and every teacher that was currently
in the classroom," she said.
Education Week reported
that Spellings expressed no desire to amend the law, as many
in Congress would like to do. "I hope that the Department
of Education will be the first place that people seek a solution,"
she told Senior Editor Lynn Olson and Assistant Editor Erik
W. Robelen. To read their full interview with Spellings, click
here. (Free registration required.)
Meth, Part 1: Feds in
Georgia raid meth 'super lab,' say such labs spreading
Federal Drug Officials have discovered a methamphetamine
laboratory in a Smyrna home, Georgia's first illegal "super
lab," reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Sherri Strange, a Drug Enforcement Administration
agent, told the newspaper a super lab is one capable
of producing more than 10 pounds of meth a day, writes
Law enforcement agents confiscated more than
39 pounds of meth and 11 pounds of its highly refined crystal
form, with a combined street value of $2.8 million. About
250 gallons of the drug in other forms also were confiscated.
Three illegal Mexican immigrants were arrested. Each is charged
with manufacturing and distributing meth. Strange said, “The
evolution from stove-top meth cooks, mostly addicts scrounging
to feed their own habit, to high-tech, well-funded labs illustrates
the growing demand for meth in Georgia.”
Meth, Part 2: N.C. joins
parade of states sequestering meth ingredients
Common cold medicines might move behind the
counter in N.C. stores as part of Attorney General Roy Cooper's
push to shut down methamphetamine labs in that state, reports
The Charlotte Observer. Cooper says he'll
ask lawmakers to regulate the sale of pseudoephedrine -- a
key ingredient in meth that's found in nasal decongestants,
such as Sudafed.
“The attorney general's stance could put
him at odds with grocery and convenience store owners and
other retailers for the first time in his yearlong push to
control meth's spread,” writes
Sharif Durhams, of the Observer’s Raleigh Bureau. Durhams
reports that Cooper hasn't sketched out exactly what restrictions
he wants, but has looked to an Oklahoma law passed last year.
Prosecutors there say the law has cut meth lab busts by 81
percent. Oklahoma also limits the amount customers can purchase
each month. Cooper told the newspaper, "I'd like to see
as strict a limit as we can get. We're in the infancy of this
problem in North Carolina," adding he wants to stop the
problem before it grows.
So far, the state and shop owners have worked
together. State agents have trained salespeople to report
anyone buying large quantities of pseudoephedrine and other
meth ingredients, such as charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline,
kerosene and paint thinner. Fran Preston, president of the
N.C. Retail Merchants Association, questioned
whether the restrictions would help, noting there's a black
market for the drug, telling Durhams, "You can get all
you want on (the online auction site) eBay."
Meth, Part 3: Kentucky
students, lawmakers join to support ingredients bill
A leading member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
vowed swift passage of a bill to tighten access to methamphetamine
ingredients during an anti-drug rally yesterday in Frankfort
attended by about 1,000 people, reports The Courier-Journal.
House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins told those at the rally
House leaders plan to "immediately" start moving
the bill. Adkins said, "We're going to do everything
we can to eradicate this terrible problem." After the
event, Adkins told reporters he expects to pass similar legislation
by early next month.
The bill "would make it easier to convict
alleged makers of the drug and curb access to a key ingredient,”
Elisabeth J. Beardsley of the Louisville newspaper. It would
restrict the sale of many cold and allergy medicines with
pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth. The bill also requires
buyers to show a photo ID and sign a log. Anyone caught with
at least two meth ingredients or pieces of equipment to make
it, and a demonstrated intent to make the drug, could face
a meth-manufacturing conviction. Current law requires all
items necessary for the drug's manufacture to be present.
For the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues' report on coveing meth, click
Rural Sourcing keeping
outsourced jobs down home in rural America
Factories and call centers across America are
emptying, with much of the exodus of jobs going to off-shore
outsourcing. But companies like Rural Sourcing
are trying to move these jobs into rural America, as reported
in previous editions of The Rural Blog.
Rural Affairs Correspondent Howard Berkes of
National Public Radio went in-depth and on
location to delve
into the phenomenon. Rural Sourcing is the brainchild of Kathy
Brittain White, who grew up in Oxford, Ark., population 642.
The former chief information officer for Cardinal Health started
Rural Sourcing to get large corporations to keep their job
outsourcing in the U.S.. Her firm targets small towns and
universities and now has a handful of clients, 24 employees
and four offices in two states, Berkes reports. The company’s
goal is to have 2,500 workers in 50 offices in 30 states.
White knows she won’t stop off-shore outsourcing, but
she hopes it will help areas adapt to larger economic shifts,
Rural Sourcing may offer hope to areas that
have been or remain dependent on agriculture, mining and manufacturing,
Drabenstott of the
Center for the Study of Rural America told Berkes:
"In a global marketplace those commodities operate with
ever thinner margins,
the real challenge for most rural areas is how do we go from
a commodity economy to a knowledge-driven
Terry Stinson, business dean at
Southern Arkansas University, told Berkes, "Many jobs could fit that model. And
we’re, we’re starting with the ones that were
the best fit. The technology area was the best place to
start, but I don’t think there’s any
limit to what we can do." Then Berkes noted this caveat from Drabenstott:
" The marketplace doesn’t rest for
anyone, and no niche is guaranteed forever."
Prison spending doubles
in W.Va.; money better spent on early intervention?
In the last decade, West Virginia saw its prison
population and budget double without seeing an increase in
crime or population, and now advocates say the money for corrections
can be better spent, reports The Charleston Gazette.
Three advocacy groups are to release a report today that says
the state can cap its prison population, limit its spending
on prisons, and spend the savings on higher education and
social services without putting citizens at risk, writes
Si Kahn of Grassroots Leadership,
a Charlotte, N.C., group that produced the report with the
Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University
and the West Virginia Council of Churches,
told Coleman, “What we’re trying to say is you’ve
got a system that’s just not working and it is costing
the state an arm and leg. Put that money into early-childhood
programs, put it into social services, put it into early childhood
development, put it into business development.”
The groups are the latest to call for a change
in the way the state puts people in prison, Coleman writes.
Recently, policymakers, judges and corrections officials have
become concerned about the growth of the state’s prisons.
In the last decade, the state's prison system has been the
fastest-growing in the South.
Virginia public schools'
Bible lessons stay; board acknowledges concerns
Staunton, Va., school-board members have voted
to keep school-day Bible lessons for elementary students intact
while improving instruction for children who don't participate.
“Chairman James Harrington said the School
Board seemed to take seriously concerns some parents raised
about the loss of instruction time and possible harassment
of students who choose not to attend the Weekday Religious
Education program,” writes
Calvin R. Trice of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Harrington said before the vote, "We're not going to
fall asleep at the switch if we pass this."
Board member Edward Scott, the lone dissenting
vote, told Trice, "We are not responsible for religious
education." He said the board's action "fails to
deal adequately with the education needs of the children who
are left behind." Staunton is one of 20 public school
districts, mainly in western and southwestern Virginia, where
children receive Bible instruction off school grounds for
a half-hour each week.
The Staunton board began re-evaluating the longstanding
program after some parents proposed ending it or turning it
into an after-school activity. The program takes away from
instruction time while schools are under increased demands
to meet standardized testing goals, opponents say. Supporters
of the program said its emphasis on character and dealing
with adversity need to be part of the regular school day.
Activists say TVA land
swap bad idea; island rich in Native American history
American Indian activists contend a proposed
trade of Tennessee Valley Authority land
is a bad deal, no matter what a hired archaeologists finds
on an island a developer wants to swap.
Archaeologist Lawrence Alexander said his research
on privately owned Burns Island in Marion County, Tennessee,
will show as rich a heritage as Moccasin Bend,
which is in a national park. A Chattanooga developer, who
is paying for Alexander's research, has proposed exchanging
the island and two other properties for TVA-owned riverfront
land adjacent to Little Cedar Mountain, reports
The Associated Press. Thornton wants to build
a $250 million resort and residential development on the land.
The TVA board is tentatively scheduled to decide
on Thornton's proposal at its May meeting. Preliminary archaeological
surveys of Burns Island turned up artifacts dating back 2,400
years. Records show 19 significant sites on the island. ''The
archaeology of Burns Island deserves further protection from
cultivation, erosion and unauthorized excavation,'' Alexander
wrote in a previous report.
Becky Gregory, a Shawnee American Indian, said
the island may be rich in history but says that doesn't justify
desecrating the land, which she said exudes a special feeling.
''You feel a spirit, a difference when you're there. There
is a peace and comfort there.''
Judge rules libel suit
against Durham Herald-Sun may go to trial
A Durham, N.C., judge has ruled a former county
commissioner’s libel lawsuit against The Herald-Sun
may go to trial, reports the newspaper that is the subject
of the lawsuit.
The former commissioner, Joe Bowser, “sued
the newspaper last summer saying a May 21, 2004, article was
false and defamatory,”
writes Mark Schultz. The suit alleges the newspaper acted
recklessly when it reported a letter from an assistant county
health director claimed that Bowser had tried to pressure
her into helping a friend of his, a county employee who alleged
mistreatment by the county manager. The article appeared before
the newspaper was purchased by Paxton Media Group
of Paducah, Ky.
“The Herald-Sun was seeking a summary judgment
. . . that would have dismissed the case. But Judge Michael
Rivers Morgan rejected the motion, sending the case to trial,”
Schultz writes. John Bussian, attorney for The Herald-Sun,
said the judge's ruling did not suggest any opinion about
the merits of the case, just about who should decide them.
He said the article accurately reported what the letter said.
Bussian is also First Amendment counsel for
the North Carolina Press Association. "If
the press were unable to translate what politicians are really
saying and doing, then there would be precious little freedom
in reporting on official proceedings," he said. Herald-Sun
Editor Bob Ashley said the newspaper is "disappointed
the court didn't see the merit in dismissing the case at this
Is environmentalism dead?
Is some evangelicals' term, 'Creation care,' better?
While traditionally liberal environmentalists
are debating the direction of their movement, some evangelical
Christians, often liberals' nemeses, have begun to express
their concerns for the environment, according to separate
articles last week in The New York Times
and The Washington Post.
The Times' Felicity Barringer reports
that two little-known but apparently well-credentialed young
environmentalists have written a 12,000-word treatise declaring
"the death of environmentalism." To support their
claims, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus offer the evidence
that while a significant amount of Americans support some
vague concern for the environment, most Americans voted for
President Bush, "whose support for oil drilling and logging,
and opposition to regulating greenhouse gases have made him
anathema to environmental groups," Barringer writes.
Shellenberger and Nordhaus advocate few tactical
steps to revive environmentalism. Rather, the duo suggest
a shift in strategic re-thinking of the movement to "release
the power of progressivism" and to change the focus from
"environmentalism" to "conservation,"
a term that the American electorate appears to be more favorably
Meanwhile, some evangelical Christians are embracing
environmentalism and new terminology for it, reports
the Post's Blaine Harden. He says they have begun to "view
stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated
by God in the Bible." Evangelicals prefer the term "creation
care" to "environmentalism" or even "conservation."
Rev. Leroy Hedman, who coined the term, told Harden he says
"creation care" because "It does not annoy
conservative Christians, for whom the word 'environmentalism'
connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats."
While it is encouraging to see both honest debate
and support from unexpected sources on an issue as integral
to rurality as the environment, a more cooperative approach
between these two traditionally antagonistic groups would
be even more beneficial to a rural constituency. However,
as Rev. Hedman explains, "as creation care spreads, evangelicals
will demand different behavior from politicians. The Republicans
should not take us for granted." Environmentalists, dead
or not, are quite likely to prefer this changed behavior from
politicians to the alternative. --Josh Tucker, graduate
assistant, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Monday, Feb. 14, 2005
'Culture of suicide,'
social isolation, guns spur high number of rural deaths
Death by gunfire is typically thought of as
an urban plague, fueled by crime, poverty and drugs, but rural
America also has much the same affliction, reports The
New York Times.
Fox Butterfield’s point of departure is three examples
in the rural Montana community of Stevensville, where guns
ended lives, both young and old. “All three died of
a single gunshot wound to the head in this valley below the
snow-covered Bitterroot Mountains. All three pulled the trigger
Charles Branas, an assistant professor of epidemiology
at the University of Pennsylvania, told The
Times, "Americans in small towns and rural areas are
just as likely to die from gunfire as Americans in major cities.
The difference is in who does the shooting." No matter
the method, suicides occur at a higher rate in rural areas
than in cities or suburbs, with the rate rising steadily the
more rural the community.
Data from the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention found the risk of dying by
gunshot was the same in rural and urban areas from 1989 to
1999. In the most rural counties, the incidence of suicide
with guns is greater than the incidence of murder with guns
in major cities, he writes. People who see themselves as rugged
frontiersmen are often reluctant to reach out for help. If
they do, they may see a physician instead of a psychiatrist
or another trained mental health expert.
Dr. Alex Crosby, an epidemiologist in the National
Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers
for Disease Control, told The Times suicide risk factors are,
of course, prevalent in urban areas. But they are heightened
in rural areas by social isolation, lack of mental health
care and the easy availability of guns. Nels Sanddal, a psychologist
in Bozeman, Mont., and president of the Critical Illness
and Trauma Foundation, which works to prevent suicides,
told Butterfield, "People say, 'How could people living
in such beautiful places commit suicide?' We have a culture
Bush budget hits rural
programs hard, advocacy group tells Iowa newspaper
A rural research group says President Bush's
proposed fiscal year 2006 budget is being balanced on the
backs of rural Americans, reports
the Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Jon Bailey, director of the Rural Research and
Analysis Program at the Center for Rural Affairs,
a nonprofit rural advocacy group located in Nebraska told
reporter Tom McMahon, "The president's budget would doom
many rural Americans and many rural communities to permanent
status as members of America's underclass."
Bailey told the newspaper that the two agencies
taking the largest hits in the president's budget are the
Department of Agriculture (proposed 10 percent
cut) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development
(11.5 percent cut), both of which focus much of their work
in rural America. "Probably the biggest concern is doing
away with the Community Development Block Grant program,"
he said. "That program is administered by the states,
and money is often used for infrastructure and economic development
in rural areas."
The varioius CDBG programs would be consolidated
with others into a proposed new program in the Department
of Commerce. Other programs to be combined include
the Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, Rural Business
Opportunity Grant Program, Enterprise Zone/Enterprise Community
Program and Rural Housing and Economic Development Program.
The change would weaken rural communities, said
Bailey: "It would kill worthwhile programs and remove
a third of the funding they provide for economic and community
development. . . . Drastic cuts to programs that encourage
the development of small businesses and rural housing will
not allow low- and moderate-income rural Americans to become
part of President Bush's Ownership Society."
Kentucky tobacco farmers
heading warily into uncertain free-market era
Kentucky tobacco farmers are
moving warily into a free-market system controlled by tobacco
companies, replacing the bought-out federal system of quotas
and price supports, reports The Associated Press.
The buyout will pay about $10
billion to the nation's tobacco farmers to give up their production
Steven Hinton, a tobacco farmer in Breckinridge County, predicts
more burley will be grown this year in his county than any
time since the late 1990s, which marked the start of big production
cuts that contributed to the demise of the Depression-era
federal tobacco program, writes
But Gary Carter, agricultural
extension agent in Harrison County, another prime tobacco
area, told Schreiner that when he asked a group of farmers
redently how many planned to grow more tobacco, the response
was tepid at best. "There were only three hands that
went up," said Carter. The response was similar a week
ago, at a meeting in Richmond for farmers from Madison and
Estill counties, reports IRJCI Director Al Cross, who attended
the meeting with his University of Kentucky Rural
UK tobacco economist Will Snell
told Schreiner an uncertainty among some growers will show
up in production totals across Kentucky, the nation's leading
burley producer. "I think we'll be challenged to produce
as much tobacco as we have this past year," Snell said.
"Farmers are in a transition mode."
Tobacco companies are signing
contracts with growers to guarantee adequate supplies of burley
needed for cigarette production. As expected, contract prices
offered by tobacco companies for the 2005 crop have dropped
sharply from recent years, when prices hovered around $2 per
pound, writes Schreiner. Prices appear to be $1.50 to $1.55
a pound, putting a premium on quality and per-acre yield.
Japan, U.S. agree on
cattle-age verification; could reopen beef exports
A Japanese government panel studying mad cow
disease has accepted a U.S. proposal on verifying the age
of cattle, a move that could end Japan's near 14-month ban
on U.S. beef, reports Reuters.
The panel, composed of scientists and officials
from the farm and health ministries, said in a report that
a method drawn up by the U.S. government provided an acceptable
How to determine the age of U.S. cattle is a
crucial issue in ending the import ban that Japan imposed
after the United States reported its first case of mad cow,
writes Hodo. In January, U.S. experts visited Japan to submit
a new system of specifying the age of an animal. The U.S.
experts offered data and statistics to show that exports mainly
from cattle aged 12-17 months, should be free of mad cow disease.
According to Reuters, the panel said in a report
that based on evidence provided by the U.S. government, the
A40 grading method could be used as a standard to prove an
animal was 20 month old or younger.
But it said further monitoring and study were required to
ensure the method was safe enough.
One member told Hodo more study and evidence
were required to prove the U.S. program was good enough. "We
would need a reliable surveillance system at the same time,
if beef imports from the United States were to actually start
under the system." The panel will now submit a report
to the government, which has yet to finalize its own domestic
policy on mad cow.
Progress in accessing
Tennessee public records; officials asking how to obey law
After a survey showed about one-third of government
agencies denied access to public records, some officials are
now asking how to obey Tennessee's open-records law, reports
The Associated Press.
"That interest ... signals progress in
the eyes of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.
The media coalition was organized two years ago and is dedicated
to preserving the public's right to access government documents,"
AP's Bill Poovey.
Coalition Director Frank Gibson told the wire
service a law enforcement association and a group affiliated
with government employees have contacted him "expressing
an interest in us training them." The groups had not
yet committed to the training sessions and might not want
to be identified.
Gibson, who cut his editing work at The
Tennessean to part-time when he took the coalition
job, said the board of the nonprofit group decided to provide
such training for public employee associations. In early November,
when more than 90 reporters, college students and volunteers
conducted an audit of access to public records in Tennessee,
there were 117 denials out of 356 records requested, writes
Dr. Dorothy Bowles, a journalism professor at
the University of Tennessee, and Kent Flanagan,
former Tennessee bureau chief for the AP, co-chaired the project.
Gibson said the "poor compliance was caused by people
not understanding the law and the fact that the law is vague."
One of the first things we may have to tackle is agreeing
on certain things being public or not public record."
The coalition president, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Publisher and Executive Editor Tom Griscom, told AP the audit
raised awareness that the open-records law is "in place
to make sure that people who have the public trust have to
keep the public aware of their actions.
say Georgia GOP legislation ignores public; some fear too
When Republicans ascended to power in Georgia,
no one was surprised to see an emphasis on stronger ties with
the South's business community, but some GOP legislators are
seeking to slow down a legislative express fearing too much
secrecy, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Legislation began flowing that emphasized
economic development and public-private partnerships —
for tollways, the construction of schools, even Internet access.
But critics say something is missing from this relationship
with corporate Georgia: A significant role for the public,”
Sen. Dan Moody, R-Alpharetta, the author of
a bill that would revolutionize the government bidding process
across the state, told Galloway, "How is the public reassured
that things aren't moving so fast that they end up feeling
their future is being railroaded?" Moody noted he hasn't
found an answer.
The bill is now stalled in committeee after
public outcry. Moody admits his legislation may lack protections
that would allow the public to watch what's happening and
give it time to weigh in. "This is the kind of conversation
a whole lot of people should have had before we [introduced
the bill]," Moody admitted. The conflict pits the Republican
fervor to haul down barriers to business against an equally
conservative distrust of government, writes Galloway.
Rick Moore, a Cartersville veterinarian and
community activist, told the newspaper, "It seems apparent
to me — that having been a Republican and believed in
the story of less government, less taxes, less intrusion into
our personal lives — that maybe the Republicans are
as bad as the Democrats. All I see is legislation coming out
to intrude even more on people's rights."
Georgia smoking ban measure
on move; next stop, full Senate
Georgia may soon be a smoke-free state, at least
in public places, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A far-reaching measure to ban smoking in virtually
all public, indoor areas has unanimously passed the Senate
Health and Human Services Committee with little opposition
from the public or business interests, writes
Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, introduced the bill,
which would prohibit lighting up in restaurants, bars, shopping
malls, sports arenas — even within 25 feet of the main
doorway to public buildings. The committee approved a few
minor amendments, including one that would bar residents of
nursing homes and long-term facilities from smoking in their
rooms but allow them to smoke in designated areas. Thomas
told Jacobs, "It's a strong bill. It's a much needed
The bill's next stop is the full Senate, for
consideration before it can move to the House. Several groups
have spoken in support of the measure, from anti-smoking organizations
such as the American Lung Association and
the American Cancer Association to business
groups such as the Georgia Restaurant Association.
Several Georgia counties and municipalities already have laws
restricting smoking in some way, writes Jacobs.
West Virginia considers
limiting the hunting of antlerless deer
West Virginia’s Division of Natural
Resources has proposed big changes to the state’s
antlerless-deer hunting season. If approved by the Natural
Resources Commission, the changes would close the
2005 antlerless-deer hunting season in all or part of 13 counties,
reports The Charleston Gazette.
In six other counties, the season would be limited
to 18 days, with restricted numbers of lottery-drawn permits.
In 10 other counties, the season would be restricted to the
same number of days with a one-deer bag limit. In 2004 the
state allowed 22 days of unrestricted, high bag-limit antlerless-deer
hunting in 47 counties, writes
The plan is based on the area’s overall
deer population, which is used to determine how much antlerless-deer
hunting is allowable, said Curtis Taylor, the DNR’s
chief of wildlife. “A lot of people are going to want
to believe that we were pressured into making these changes
by hunters’ complaints of too few deer,” said
Taylor. “That’s not the case. We’re only
doing what our deer management plan tells us to do.”
Hot topics in Virginia’s
General Assembly cast shadow over big budget
Virginia's Republican-controlled General Assembly
has tackled many issues regarding public values, including
a possible ban on displaying underwear, outlawing same-sex
marriage, allowing prayer in school, prohibiting gays from
adoption and tightening the regulation of abortion clinics.
That’s not all the Assembly is facing, but it’s
what’s getting the most ink, writes
Pamela Stallsmith of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The state is also tackling its $63 billion budget,
but values have become a hot topic in the legislature, especially
after the 2004 presidential race, Stallsmith reports. Chris
Freund, spokesman for the Family Foundation, told Stallsmith,
the results of the election have sparked a public discussion
of values. "It isn't frowned upon as much right now because
of what happened in the election. Elected officials are responding
to what people are talking about," he said.
Aimee Perron Siebert of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Virginia says she’s seen more of a range of
issues this year than in previous ones. "To me, one of
the things you hear all the time about Republicans is they're
the party of small government, or that they favor keeping
government out of our individual space," she said. "It's
a fascinating juxtaposition."
New North Carolina agriculture
commissioner promises to promote farm causes
North Carolina’s new Agriculture Commissioner,
Steve Troxler, has farmed soil in Guilford County his entire
adult life. It’s the first year since college that he
won’t plant any tobacco but he’ll continue with
wheat and soybeans, reports
Kristin Collins of The News & Observer.
As North Carolina’s first Republican head
of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,
he vows to push for farm causes, such as when he protested
a ban on smoking in public buildings in 1992, or when he rode
his tractor around the Capitol to demand money for farmers.
His campaign has been rocky, Collins writes. His obstacles
have included losing in 2000 to Meg Scott Phipps, who was
taken to a prison for illegal campaign contributions a few
years later, and his controversial campaign this year dropped
over 4,000 votes. His opponent conceded on Feb. 4, ending
a new statewide election, Collins writes.
"This is just an extension of everything
I did before," Troxler said. "I've always believed
that one person could make a difference."
fined in child-labor cases but wins advance notice of future
Stores, the nation's largest retailer, has agreed
to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it violated
child labor laws in Connecticut, Arkansas and New Hampshire,
reports The New York Times.
Department officials said most of the 24 violations
involved workers under age 18 operating dangerous machinery,
including cardboard balers and chain saws. In the agreement,
Wal-Mart denied any wrongdoing, and
the department promised to give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before
investigating any other "wage and hour" accusations, like
failure to pay minimum wage or overtime, Steven Greenhouse
the United Food and Commercial Workers International
Union charges the retail giant plans to shutter its
store in Jonquiere, Quebec rather than work with its employees and
their certified representative, the UFCW.
President Joe Hanson has announced a "major grass-roots mobilization"
targeting Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to take action in support
of Wal-Mart employees, according to a union news release.
The union is calling on the retail giant to "abandon plans
to close its Jonqueiere store, and to "live up to the responsibilities
that come with being the worlds largest corporation. Those
responsibilities begin with respecting workers, consumers
paper that backed Kerry recoups losses with out-of-town subscribers
The editor of the newspaper in Crawford, Tex.,
where President Bush has a ranch, says the paper has more
than recovered from circulation losses it suffered as a result
of its endorsement of Sen. John Kerry in last fall’s
election. W. Leon Smith said the circulation of the Lone
Star Iconoclast has risen to 2,600 from 900,
because publicity about the endorsement brought in many subscriptions
from out of town.
However, reports of the paper’s circulation
have varied widely; Melanie Milbradt, marketing director of
the Clifton Record, which Smith also publishes, in the town
where he is mayor, told the Institute for Rural Journalism
and Community Issues in September that the circulation was
only 425, about evenly divided between mail subscriptions
and newsstand sales.
“We were swamped with people canceling
subscriptions and canceling ads in our paper, and for a while,
you know, it was pretty severe. But gradually we started gaining
subscriptions as the editorial became known across the country.
. . . The thing that bothers me the most, though, is that
there are individuals that want to advertise in my paper,
and they’re afraid to, because if they do they will
be boycotted,” Smith told Chris Hume, who is on a “Red
State Road Trip” for Truthout,
a liberal news service.
goats and lots of them; sixth largest producer in nation
Kentucky's goat population has climbed to 68,412,
making it the sixth largest goat producer in the nation, reports
the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"The goat industry is one of the fastest-growing
segments of Kentucky agriculture," said Agriculture Commissioner
Richie Farmer said in announcing the great goat gain, writes
business editor Jim Jordan. Why the increase? Goat meat is
nutritious and popular among Hispanic and Muslim immigrants,
Ray Bowman, president of the Kentucky
Goat Producers Association told Jordan, "Eighty
percent of the world's population eats goat ...probably the
healthiest meat you can eat, even better than chicken."
Jordan notes: "Before you chow down, read that sentence
again. He didn't say it tastes like chicken." Your
rural bloggers suggest alternative state marketing slogans
for Kentucky license plates; “We’ve got your goat!
or 'Your should get our goats!" State marketing
song; “Ain’t no mountain high enough”
Roses don’t come
from Ecuador to your table in a straight line, you know…
Those dozen red roses this Valentine’s
Day may have had a short trip from the shop to your desk,
but the journey to the florist is one filled with worries
of bad weather, break downs, and overzealous U.S. Customs
agents, reports Andrew Kantor of The Roanoke Times.
About 90 percent of Valentine’s Days roses
are imported, many from South America, according to The
Society of American Florists, Kantor writes.
The life of your roses ended their life on Wednesday, perhaps
in Ecuador or Columbia, separated into groups of about 150,
dry-packed into climate-controlled trucks and then taken to
the airport. They were loaded into a cargo plane on Thursday
where they unloaded from the plane on Friday in Miami, said
Wayne Dunman, owner of Dunman Floral Supply, one of the largest
florists in Virginia. “It’s a lot more than just
roses,” he told Kantor.
Your friendly bloggers
would like to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Friday, Feb. 11, 2005
Coal, Part 1:
Tougher Virginia safety
law prompted by child's boulder death
Six months after a half-ton boulder loosened
by a strip mining operation tumbled down a hill, crashed through
a house and crushed a 3-year-old as he slept, Virginia has
toughened its mine safety regulations, reports The
As the victim's family looked on, Gov. Mark
R. Warner signed the tougher legislation inspired by Jeremy
Kyle Davidson's death, writes Kristen Gelineau. The governor
said, "There's nothing that can bring Jeremy back, but
what happened was a horrible tragedy. What I hope and pray
is this ...legislation will prevent this kind of tragedy from
ever happening again."
The bill was expedited as an emergency measure
and won unanimous passage. It requires mining companies to
develop plans to protect people in any area that may be affected
by "falling, sliding or other uncontrolled movement of
mined material." The measure also increases the maximum
civil penalty for violations resulting in injury or death
from $5,000 to $70,000, writes Gelineau.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals
and Energy sought tougher regulations and bigger
fines after Jeremy's Aug. 20 death. The agency found A&G
Coal Corp. "demonstrated gross negligence"
and fined the company $15,000. Jeremy's family is suing A&G
for $26.5 million, and a special prosecutor opened an investigation
into whether the coal company should face criminal charges.
Coal, Part 2:
Plan streamlines strip
permits; critics say EPA authority eroded
The Bush administration has announced a plan
to allow states to streamline the way coal operators obtain
new strip mine permits, a move critics say gives government
too much power while weakening the authority of the Environmental
Protection Agency, reports The Charleston
“Under the plan, state mining regulators
and the Army Corps of Engineers could adopt
plans for a single permit application to replace the myriad
documents companies must currently submit," writes
Ken Ward. Critics said it would give states and the Office
of Surface Mining more power and erode the authority
of EPA, which has been more critical of mountaintop-removal
mining because of its effect on streams. Bush administration
officials said the plan would help not only the coal industry,
but also the public and citizens.
OSM Director Jeff Jarrett told the Gazette,
“Our intent is to create a collaborative review process
with early, close coordination among the agencies. We want
to improve the timeliness and clarity of the permitting process
and to enhance communication among all involved.” OSM,
EPA, the corps and the Fish and Wildlife Service
announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which
allows the streamlined permit process, Ward writes.
Joan Mulhern, a lawyer with Earthjustice,
a Washington-based environmental group, told the newspaper,
“They are taking an action before they finish their
study. It’s jumping the gun.” Currently, coal
operators must obtain several permits from regulators, who
enforce the federal strip mine law, and the corps, which handles
fill permits under the Clean Water Act.
Coal, Part 3:
Illinois governor says
$2 billion power plant proposal is 'rebirth'
Illinois Gov. Rod Blogajevich "packed the
house" in a recent appearance at a high school gymnasium
to tout a proposed $2 billion clean-coal power plant for Southern
Illinois that could mean 450 "much needed" permanent
jobs and a "rebirth" of the state's coal industry,
reports The Southern Illinoisan.
“The power plant will be built in Washington
County, near Marissa,” writes
Jim Muir. The proposed project calls for the construction
of a 1,500-megawatt electric plant that would be fueled by
6 million tons of coal each year produced from an adjacent
Blagojevich said, "As America searches
for secure, affordable energy sources to reduce our reliance
on foreign energy suppliers, the search ends right here in
our backyard." He said the project will provide a boon
to the area's declining coal industry along with a major economic
boost to all of Southern Illinois, writes Muir. Illinois
Coal Association Director Phil Gonet said
the project would be the biggest of its kind in the Midwest
and one of the largest overall nationwide. "Most of the
power plants that have been constructed in the last 10 years
are running on natural gas," Gonet said. "This is
a huge project for Southern Illinois in terms of jobs for
coal miners and people who are going to run the power plant."
The project could inject nearly $100 million
annually into the Illinois economy, create approximately 2,500
jobs at peak construction in addition to the permanent jobs.
"This public-private partnership represents a milestone
in our vision to create good jobs and rebuild the coal mining
regions of Illinois," said Blogajevich. "Illinois
coal is experiencing a rebirth," he added.
Task force makes recommendations
on how to spread wireless access
The Wireless Broadband Task Force
has made recommendations
to the Federal Communications Commission,
regarding the deployment of wireless broadband service, a
growing issue in rural areas.
Chairman Michael Powel created the task force
in 2004 to examine wireless broadband developments, survey
its applications, and review FCC broadband policies. Local
area networks, which offer access points for fixed wireless
broadband service, some in rural areas, have grown to somewhere
between 4,000 and 8,000, according to an overview
of the report.
Powell summarized the task force’s findings
in a separate statement.
“The Report makes several recommendations that build
upon the strong foundation the commission has already established
over the last few years; including, expanding the availability
of wireless broadband services offered in licensed spectrum;
enhancing the success of wireless broadband via license-exempt
devices and equipment; maintaining a hands off regulatory
approach to IP-based services; and improving the commission’s
existing outreach efforts,” he said. The FCC should
be proactive in identifying new technologies and in creating
innovative policies to regulate those technologies, the report
Droopy-drawers bill takes
a hike; panel kills legislation on breeches of etiquette
A Virginia Senate committee has decided the
state's dignity is more important than exposed underwear,
reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In a
hastily called meeting, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee
voted unanimously to kill a measure that had made Virginia
the butt of worldwide ridicule, writes
The measure, introduced by Delegate Algie T.
Howell, D-Norfolk, sought a $50 fine for people who display
their underpants in "a lewd or indecent manner."
He said he was reacting to a fashion trend in which youngsters
allow their pants to droop, so their boxers, briefs or thongs
show, Whitley writes.
The bill has attracted media attention in Great
Britain, Germany, France and Australia. ABC News
did a feature on it, as did the BBC. The
London Guardian had a front-page story on the bill,
and a group of Virginia senators gathered to read the story
just before killing the measure. One key senator said "the
international exposure -- no pun intended" had left the
impression Virginia is preoccupied with low-rider pants, just
as it is trying to attract visitors for the 400th anniversary
of the Jamestown settlement in 2007.
Iowa 'under-30 no-tax
proposal' falters; idea caught national attention
A Republican proposal to abolish Iowa state
income taxes for people under age 30, touted as a way to stave
off a “brain drain” of young people, is likely
to die young, reports The Des Moines Register.
Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson told
writer Tim Higgins, "I would say the under-30 proposal
won't pass. (But) It has sparked discussions - that's the
The idea made headlines across the country,
from The New York Times to the Los
Angeles Times, and started tongues wagging, Higgins
writes. But, The Register reports, much of the attention was
less than flattering. A column by Times rural columnist Verlyn
Klinkenborg, an Iowa native, was headlined: "Keeping
Iowa's Young Folks at Home After They've Seen Minnesota,"
and noted, "This proposal was front-page news in California,
where most of Iowa moved in the 1960s."
A poll conducted last week for Republicans asked
500 Iowa voters to choose among proposals they thought would
best encourage economic development and keep people in Iowa.
Poll results showed only 6 percent supported the under-30
tax exemption. Eight percent preferred a proposal to borrow
$800 million to create a program for business incentives,
Mountain Eagle mavens
are ‘soaring’ examples of open-government advocacy
Tom and Pat Gish bought The Mountain
Eagle newspaper in Whitesburg, Ky., 47 years ago
and immediately began fighting to make local government more
open. They also helped push for freedom of information statewide,
the latest installment of a four-day report on Kentucky's
open-records law, being published by newspapers and other
news outlets around the state.
The Gishes, who seem to have experienced every
extreme possible for news stalwarts, from community ostracism
to out-and-out violence against their building, are the point
of departure for the article by IRJCI Interim Director Al
Cross. The story highlights them as iron-willed examples of
local journalism at its best.
Also in today's installment of the series are:
on a Bowling Green man's persistence in his pursuit of payments
by the city. An article
on how sometimes lawsuits are needed to pry information loose.
on a sampling of open records requests showing varied interests
of filers. A warning
that E-mail open records pleas may go unanswered. And another
on how a wealth of information is available.
North Carolina AG rules
police's electronic accident reports are public records
A ruling by the North Carolina attorney general
says local police must create an accident report that's available
to the public before they send that report electronically
to the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson G. Kelley
told DMV officials the accident report created by police is
a public record at the time it is prepared and should be available
to the public, The Associated Press reports..
Kelley wrote in his letter to DMV Commissioner George Tatum,
"Law enforcement agencies should fully comply with the
Public Records Act in responding to an accident report request."
Police departments cited a federal law and refused
to publicly release copies of the accident reports. The Driver's
Privacy Protection Act regulates how motor vehicle bureaus
release motorist records and how the recipients of the records
share them. The law limits release of personal information
from DMV records made public. Kelley said, however, police
have a different responsibility (to the public), AP reports..
Estimated number of uninsured
children in Tennessee hit five-year high in '04
estimate of uninsured children in Tennessee
reached a five-year high in 2004, even before the impact of
impending cuts to the state's health insurance program fully
The Associated Press.
A University of Tennessee Center
for Business and Economic Research survey found 67,772 young
people in the state did not have health insurance - nearly
5 percent. The survey showed that was a 3 percent increase
from the previous year. Statistics suggest a even larger jump
among children of the working poor. Children without insurance
in those families rose 9 percent, writes AP.
In Memphis, visits to the Church Health
Center by uninsured children almost doubled between
2003 and 2004. Dr. Scott Morris, the center's founder and
executive director, said many were children who once qualified
for state assistance, the wire service reports. Adults are
even less likely to have health insurance in the state, where
about 400,000, ( or 7 percent) are uninsured. Nationally 15
percent are without insurance.
West Virginia lawmaker
re-introduces prohibition on tongue-splitting
A bill to outlaw tongue-splitting,
unless done by a physician, has been introduced in the West
Virginia legislature, reports
The Charleston Gazette.
House Majority Leader Rick Staton
introduced the bill about halfway through last year’s
legislative session, only to see it pass the House of Delegates
and quickly die in the Senate, writes Tom Searls. Staton told
Searls, “Last year, everybody made light of it and now
it’s a trend that’s swept the country.”
The bill became the first of
the current session to be recommended by the House Judiciary
Committee. The proposal is modeled after laws in Illinois,
Michigan and Kentucky, where only a licensed physician can
split tongues. Staton readily admits he knows of no one with
a split tongue in West Virginia, or of anyone performing such
surgery. Your bloggers can't resist saying his efforts
have tongues wagging.
Thursday, Feb. 10,
Rural electrics say budget
would raise their rates; farm objections continue
President Bush's fiscal 2006 budget, sent to
Congress Monday, would be costly to rural Montanans because
of provisions affecting wholesale power rates and farm subsidies,
reports the Billings Gazette.
Terry Holzer, general manager of Yellowstone
Valley Electric Cooperative, told
Jim Gransbery, "It would increase our rates 35 to 40
percent. It would double the price of our wholesale power
at a minimum." The co-op serves more than 10,000 customers,
many of whom use electricity for irrigation pumps. Its concerns
reflect those of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association, which said in a press
release that the plan would be "a back-door tax on
millions of Americans who happen to live in the 33 states
served by the 1,180 consumer-owned electric utilities that
receive all or some of their power supply from hydropower
produced at federally owned dams."
On another topic, Keith Schott, a wheat and
barley grower, told the Montana newspaper that the budget
would also require a 5 percent reduction across the board
in price supports for crops. "It is pretty vague right
now as to exact details." Schott said reductions in farm
programs are better left to the next Farm Bill to be written
in 2007. The current farm law covers crop years 2003 through
2007, writes Gransbery.
Schott also said changes in the crop-insurance
program would hurt, requiring higher costs for minimum coverage,
and crop insurance would be mandatory for a farmer to receive
any direct payments for price supports. The budget plan also
seeks to end ad-hoc disaster payments to farmers and ranchers.
Rural Democrats form
working group, weigh in against Bush budget
The resonant rumble of rural influence that
worked against them in the November election, now amplified
with the proposed budget, continues to drive congressional
Democrats as they try to display solidarity with and empathy
for rural views and issues through their recently formed Democratic
Rural Working Group. In a parade of quotes from rural
representatives the group focused its political fire on the
Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., said,
"Unfortunately, priorities for South Dakota and rural
America are not represented in this budget. Rural America
takes a multi-front hit, including cuts to farm programs,
economic development, essential infrastructure and rural health
care. These dramatic cuts will have a substantial impact on
families and communities throughout South Dakota. At a time
when spending is tight, this budget places rural America at
the bottom of the list." For more views from the Rural
Democratic Working Group, contact Burns
Strider of the House Democratic leadership staff.
Iowa solons meet secretly
on meth proposals; federal cuts may hurt efforts
After promising openness, Iowa legislative leaders
considering counter-measures to curb illegal methanphetamine
production planned to meet in secret today to begin writing
the bill, and meanwhile, the president's proposed budget may
hamper the state’s war on meth, reports The
Des Moines Register.
State Rep. Clel Baudler, who had said the issue
would be discussed in "full view of the public,"
told reporter Lee Rood that the private meeting would encourage
frank discussion. "People will not be honest and open
with their opinions if it's public," he said.
“Baudler's bipartisan group and another
in the Senate ... would place tighter restrictions on retail
sales of pseudoephedrine, the widely available decongestant
often used in illegal labs to make methamphetamine,”
writes Rood. Iowa officials have learned federal money for
state drug task forces will dry up in 2007 under Bush's new
budget plan. Dale Woolery of the Iowa Office of Drug
Control Policy told Rood the cuts would mean the
loss of nearly $7.3 million and about 110 jobs, most from
local drug enforcement.
Ken Carter, chief of Iowa's narcotics bureau,
told The Register the cuts would be "absolutely devastating,"
particularly in uncovering illegal meth production. Drug enforcement
officials presently have to absorb a 45 percent federal aid
cut during the 2005-06 fiscal years.
Midwest towns trying
unusual strategies to stop hemorrhage of population
The Plains states are trying something new to
bring people and businesses back to rural America. Some are
giving away lots of land, some offer tax breaks to new businesses,
and some are reaching out to high school students to encourage
them to return home after college, reports
John Ritter of USA Today.
The states hope this economic development strategy
will reverse population loss, expand the tax base and keep
schools open. About 30 towns in the Midwest have embraced
this “hometown competitiveness” strategy developed
by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
in Lincoln, Neb., he says.
In Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Dakotas,
89% of the cities and towns have less than 3,000 residents.
North Dakota lost 1.2% percent of its residents in the past
few years, he writes.
Railroads have systemic
safety problems, Transportation Dept. audit says
"America's four biggest railroads suffer
from substantial and systemic safety problems, according to
a new federal audit that raises questions about how well federal
regulators are overseeing the rail industry," Walt Bogdanich
of The New York Times reports
in his latest effort to hold railroads' feet to the fire..
The audit is from the U.S. Department
of Transportation's inspector general, who cited
a recent string of of serious accidents and said "He
was concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration's approach
to regulation, which stresses 'partnership' over punishment,
might be failing to fix the most persistent safety problems,"
Bogdanich wrote. "He asked the agency to prepare a comprehensive
plan to improve its inspection of railroads and enforcement
of federal safety rules," particularly important in rural
Bogdanich adds, "The report also criticized
the railroad agency's former acting chief, Betty Monro, saying
she had failed to recognize the ethical problem of vacationing
on four occasions with a Union Pacific lobbyist. The inspector
general, Kenneth M. Mead, said in the report, dated Dec. 10
and obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act,
that it was wrong for Ms. Monro to have shared a house on
Nantucket, Mass., with the Union Pacific lobbyist 'at the
same time the agency you represent is, among other things,
proposing and settling millions of dollars in fines against
that railroad.' Mr. Mead said he found no evidence that Ms.
Monro, a longtime friend of the lobbyist, showed any favoritism
toward Union Pacific." But he noted that Union Pacific
had the highest average number of accidents from 1998 through
2003, yet it was inspected "proportionally less, ranking third."
Bush again names controversial
Iowa farmer to oversee rural development
President Bush has again submitted the name
of Thomas Dorr, an Iowa farmer, to be undersecretary for rural
development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Senate Democrats blocked Dorr from the post in Bush’s
first term, reports
Andrew Martin of the Chicago Tribune.
He is a controversial choice, Martin writes,
because he supports large-scale agriculture and suggested
that Iowa counties have prospered because most residents are
white. He was also accused of lying to the government to skirt
limits on subsidy payments. Such limits are an important part
of the budget that Bush proposed on Monday, Martin notes.
President of the National Family Farm
Coalition, George Naylor, told Martin, “I absolutely
see no qualifications in his background for this job.”
But, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, supported Bush’s
choice, saying, “Tom Dorr has repeatedly demonstrated
his value to the Department of Agriculture over the past four
years, and I'm glad the president has re-nominated.”
would deny college to illegal residents in Kentucky
Illegal residents of Kentucky, which has had
an influx of Hispanics in rural and urban areas, would be
barred from receiving state funds for scholarships under a
bill filed by a Lexington lawmaker.
Rep. Stan Lee, a outspokenly conservative Republican,
Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader
he introduced his bill in reaction to an effort by Lexington
Community College, as well as a private scholarship
fund started by officials from LCC, the University
of Kentucky and the Lexington Hispanic Association,
to help undocumented students pay for higher education.
Lee has also filed a resolution to study the
costs of educating children of undocumented workers in Kentucky's
public schools. "I just think we need to know how much
all of this is costing us," he said. He told Blackford,
"It used to be that colleges had open enrollment, but
now it's limited, so if that slot goes to someone who's not
in the country legally, then someone else doesn't get that
slot. It doesn't seem fair."
Federal law protects undocumented immigrants'
rights to education, but that doesn't extend to higher education,
writes Blackford. Joshua Santana, chair of the Lexington Hispanic
Association, called both measures "thinly veiled attempts
to discriminate. "You want these people to be here, and
. . . be as productive as they can, but this would most hurt
children who have no control over their circumstances."
audit finds cities best, jails worst at disclosure
Agencies that most often deal with public requests
for information had the best compliance rates in the state's
first public records audit. The continuing series of reports
on compliance appears in newspapers statewide with contributions
from Jim Hannah of The Kentucky Enquirer,
Gregory A. Hall of The Courier-Journal, Herb
Brock of The Advocate-Messenger and Bill
Estep and Lee Mueller, both of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
For the summary lead story in the C-J click here.
“Those who handle city budgets were the
quickest to respond to auditors' requests for copies of that
document. Travel expense records of county judge-executives
were easy to get in most cases, and public school superintendents,
while a slightly suspicious lot, mostly offered up their contracts
for inspection,” the story said. But one agency denied
requests almost three quarters of the time. Guarding records
as closely as prisoners, jailers in Kentucky turned down requests
to see a list of inmates seven out of 10 times.
The Oct. 21 audit was organized by the Kentucky
Press Association, The Associated Press,
various newspaper and professional groups and university student
programs. John Nelson, immediate past president of the KPA
and managing editor at The Advocate-Messenger newspaper in
Danville, said names of people who have been arrested and
are in jail are clearly a public record. Nelson told the newspaper,
"In this country we don't arrest people or put them in
The press association undertook the audit to
find out how officials in different government agencies would
respond to citizen requests for copies of various public documents.
For the report on compliance by jails, click here.
For the story on top county officials' expenses, click here.
For review of compliance on city budgets, click here,
and on school superintendents' contracts click here.
Finally, click here
for a look at the procedure for inspecting a public record.
Indiana Senate panel
OKs elevating gay-marriage ban to state constitution
A constitutional amendment banning same-sex
marriage has cleared its first legislative hurdle in the Indiana
General Assembly, following lengthy passionate testimony from
pastors, organizations and residents representing both sides
of the issue, reports The Courier-Journal.
“The proposed amendment was approved along
party lines... Democrats voted against the amendment-- over
concern that it would preclude them from providing future
rights to same-sex couples,” writes
Lesley Stedman Weidenbener. The amendment's author, Republican
Sen. Brandt Hershman, told Weidenbener, "With malice
intended toward none, our effort is to protect the way (marriage)
has always been throughout the course of Indiana history,
U.S. history, world history and indeed the history of our
Democrats and a number of amendment's proponents
said the language could actually prevent lawmakers from someday
granting same-sex couples some rights that are inherent in
marriage. Indiana already has a law defining marriage as the
union of a man and a woman. A proposal last year to put that
definition in the constitution passed the Senate but died
in the House. Republicans now hold a majority in the House,
some benefitting from voter interest in the issue, she writes.
Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, said the amendment
would allow same-sex couples to be granted some rights but
would prohibit so-called civil unions that are simply "marriages
by another name." But, he said, would not clarify how
far would be too far in granting rights to same-sex couples.
That, he said, would likely be for the courts to determine,
something advocates of the amendment are trying in part to
Wednesday, Feb. 9,
audit says: Records open most times, sometimes not
A statewide survey of Kentucky public agencies
to determine whether they are allowing citizens to view government
documents showed most are obeying the state's Open Records
Act, but compliance is not uniform, according to the first
installment of a four-day report than began today in many
“The first audit of compliance with Kentucky's Open
Records Act in 114 of the state's 120 counties drew responses
that ranged from hostility and suspicion to cooperation and
Mark Chellgren of The Associated Press. “A
request to inspect the city budget in Greensburg was met with
a smile, a free copy and a piece of candy,” he writes.
But, an inquiry about a list of prisoners at the Montgomery
County Jail brought a less friendly response … a demand
for identification and intimidation by jail employees."
That was the greeting for a University of Kentucky
student of Middle Eastern descent.
Records sought for the survey were a city budget,
a county judge-executive's expense report, a school superintendent's
contract and a jail log -- documents that can affect daily
lives. The survey was organized by the Kentucky Press
Association, AP, various newspaper and professional
groups, and several university journalism programs. More than
100 students, volunteers and newspaper employees visited four
local government offices on Oct. 21 seeking specific public
records. They were told to act as any ordinary citizen when
making their requests.
John Nelson, immediate past president of the
KPA and managing editor of The Advocate-Messenger
in Danville, told Chellgren, "Our hope is that this collective
effort will enlighten the public, the legislature and custodians
of public records across our state, and that public access
to government will be strengthened." The open records
law is supposed to be the window through which Kentuckians
can take a hard look at how their government works -- or doesn't
work, writes Chellgren. For information about the open records
law click here.
To read how the audit was conducted click here.
here to view project participants.
making more money than men in 15 rural counties, NPR finds
Men on average make 25 percent more money than
women, except in 15 rural counties in America where women
are surpassing men in pay, reports National Public
Most of those counties are in the Western United
States, including King County, Texas, where the gap is widest,
Howard Berkes. An average woman makes 30 percent more money
than a man. One reason for the gap is what traditionally is
called “men’s work,” including punching
cattle. Women, however, work in courthouses and schools, where
the pay is usually better and they get more benefits.
However, that does not change the traditional
gender roles. A woman may own the biggest ranch in the county,
but men manage it, Berkes reports. Men still make decisions
in the courthouse and a man is still school superintendent.
Transportation and food-industry
groups sound off on Bush budget
Two special-interest groups have resoundingly
criticized aspects of President Bush’s proposed budget--transportation
funding called insufficient and a “food safety tax"--
which officials said will have negative impacts on rural areas.
The Administration's highway funding proposal
falls short of the American Association of Highway
and Transportation Officials’ goal of at least
$245 billion by $10 billion, and the transit funding proposal,
falls $6 billion short of AASHTO's $55 billion transit goal.
AASHTO says other transportation programs are
on the chopping block, including passenger rail, where funding
drops from $1.2 billion to $360 million. "It is also
hard to believe that the American public will tolerate the
proposed federal abandonment of the Amtrak rail service which
served 240 million passengers last year, and which also provides
the only transportation linkage to many rural communities,”
said the association’s president Jack Lettiere.
The American Meat Institute
also took a shot
at the budget. It said the funding plan’s term "user
fees," to be levied on meat and poultry inspections,
is actually a “food safety tax.” This additional
tax proposal, says AMI, comes while farmers, producers and
processors are still feeling the impact of rising production
costs and unpredictable export markets. Further, the group
claims, meat and poultry products would be subject to a competitive
disadvantage, compared with other food products that would
not be taxed.
Ky. Democrats say GOP
governor's proposed cigarette tax increase too high
Democrats in the Kentucky House of Representatives
will offer a counterproposal to Governor Ernie Fletcher's
tax plan that will likely include a lower cigarette tax jole
than Fletcher proposed, according to a key budget committee
member, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Rep. Harry Moberly, budget committee chairman,
says his committee will be analyzing and rewriting a Republican-sponsored
bill containing Fletcher's proposal over the next two weeks,
Ryan Alessi. Moberly said many members have balked at the
governor's cigarette tax proposal, which would increase the
tax on a pack from 3 cents to 34 cents in 2006, to 41 cents
in 2007 and to 53 cents in 2008. "I think there probably
is not the votes in the House to support that high a level,”
he told Alessi.
Moberly voiced concerns over the governor’s
related plan to reduce the state’s income tax -- which
tends to grow as the economy expands, and replacing that with
increased cigarette-related revenues -- because tobacco sales
are on the wane, writes Alessi. Instead, Moberly told him,
"We'll be doing some personal income tax reductions,
but it's just a matter of how you balance out the plan and
the level of what you do.”
House Speaker Jody Richards has requested an
analysis of Fletcher's plan from a group of six professors
at the Georgia State University's Andrew
Young School of Policy Studies. David Sjoquist, director of
the Fiscal Research Center, told Alessi he hopes to send the
report to Kentucky today or Thursday.
West Virginia lawmakers
reject plans for poultry water-pollution permits
West Virginia lawmakers have tossed out the
Department of Environmental Protection’s
effort to force large poultry farms in the state to obtain
water pollution permits, reports The Charleston Gazette.
“DEP officials had proposed to amend state
law to require the permits and bring state rules into compliance
with new federal regulations. But lobbyists for the West
Virginia Farm Bureau and the West Virginia
Poultry Association objected,” writes
Ken Ward Jr.
The Farm Bureau’s executive director,
Bob Williams, told Ward the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s new rules have been challenged in
court and farmers believe the new EPA permit requirements
are too stringent. Environmentalists also have sued, he said,
saying the EPA regulations are too weak. Marc Harman, a lobbyist
for the poultry group told The Gazette, “This entire
issue is in limbo. Our suggestion is not to deal with this
now. Let’s wait and see what the courts do.”
Deputy DEP Director Bill Brannon, told Ward
state officials wanted to get rules in place to match EPA’s
regulations before the permit requirements kick in next year.
Under the new rules, larger farming operations would be required
to obtain actual Clean Water Act water discharge permits.
Currently, most agriculture operations are not required to
have permits and operate only under voluntary best management
Virginia Senate ‘all
but kills’ church-property bill sparked by gay-clergy
The Virginia Senate has effectively killed a
bill that opponents said would put the state in the middle
of a dispute over the consecration of gay clergy in the Episcopal
Church, reports The Washington Post.
The bill would have allowed local church congregations
that vote to leave their denominations to keep their buildings
and property, unless a legally binding document specified
Rosalind S. Helderman. "Most mainline denominations now
prohibit dissenting congregations from leaving the fold and
taking their property -- an arrangement that has been upheld
by the Supreme Court in all but a few extraordinary cases,"
Opponents said the measure would have allowed
congregations roiled over gay clergy and gay marriage to more
easily break away. They contended it targeted the Episcopal
Church, which has been especially rent over the issues since
clergy voted to consecrate a gay bishop in New Hampshire in
2003. Because of existing treatment of property, however,
few discontented congregations have actually left the Episcopal
Church USA but instead have formed a network of dissenting
churches within the denomination.
The Senate voted unanimously to send the bill
back to the general laws committee for further study. The
vote almost certainly ends the bill's prospects for the year,
writes Helderman. The bill's sponsor, a lawyer who specializes
in church law, requested the vote on sending his measure back
to committee. He told colleagues the short legislative session
made the senate "incapable of handling legislation that
is either exceptionally complex or about which there has been
exceptional confusion." But, he said the matter will
be revisited next year to avoid finding current law struck
down by courts.
pass measure against ‘lewd’ low-riders
Wayward youths wearing boxer shorts in full
‘low-rider’ view, or possibly even ladies with
visible ‘thong’ underwear …beware in Virginia.
A new law could levy a fine against such ‘lewd behavior,”
reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“The bill has a slim chance in the Senate,"
Tammie Smith. The measure would fine people up to $50 for
“intentionally exposing their underwear in a way that
is ‘lewd or indecent’ in public,” she writes.
The bill has attracted attention from supporters all over
the country who dislike the low-riding baggy-pants style favored
by some rap-music entertainers and copied by youths everywhere,
writes Smith. It was even mentioned on ABC's "Good Morning
Lawyers contracted by the House, legislators
who are also lawyers, and American Civil Liberties
Union of Virginia representatives have said the measure
is unconstitutional. Gov. Mark R. Warner would have to sign
the measure for it to become law.
Some legislators have said privately the bill
is ridiculous and would have been labeled racist if a white
House member had introduced it. Sponsor Algie Howell is black.
One legislator told the Times-Dispatch the measure could lead
to racial profiling, and he said the fashion trend is popular
with young black males. "This is a foolish bill,"
charged one critic, who said in some cases the underwear,
usually boxer shorts, comes already made into the pants. "This
is going to be a bill that targets blacks.”
Court drops intimidation
charge against Kentucky newspaper reporter
A Fleming County, Kentucky, newspaper reporter
no longer faces a charge of intimidating a participant in
a legal proceeding, reports The Ledger-Independent
of nearby Maysville.
Nicholas Circuit Court Judge Robert McGinnis
dismissed the charge against Charles E. Mattox, 37, writes
Danetta Barker. The charge was filed after Mattox, a reporter
with the Flemingsburg Gazette, one of three
papers in the county, was earlier served a summons for criminal
trespassing. Mattox's lawyer argued in court the charge required
a "threat of physical harm" and she contended no
such threat occured.
The charge stems from Mattox's walking into
a home, apparently without permission, to seek information
in the death of his ex-brother-in-law. The owner of the home,
Betty Morford, filed the charges. She had thtreatened to take
legal aciton against Mattox.
Durham area land rescue
in peril; misfortunes rattle preservation plan
There is more bad news for a coalition of 19
suburban neighborhoods near Durham, N.C., working to prevent
a tract of land from being filled with as many as 49 "executive"
homes worth up to $650,000.
“First they thought the wooded tract was
part of Duke Forest, which is protected from
development. It isn't. Then, they thought the 42.8-acre site
that straddles the Durham-Orange county line couldn't be developed
because it had been identified as a priority preservation
site in a greenway plan. It wasn't, writes
Janell Ross of The News & Observer of
Raleigh. Now a report has determined four governmental entities
likely will not be able to divert the $1.5 million it will
take to purchase and preserve the property.
Of those four, Chapel Hill has offered $100,000
to the project. Durham County's entire land preservation budget
for the year is about $200,000. The city of Durham and Orange
County have said they cannot make financial contributions
because they have committed to other preservation projects,
Wendy Jacobs of the Erwin Area Neighborhood
Group, which is working to preserve the property,
told Ross, "I don't think that the report has a can-do,
creative attitude." County Manager Mike Ruffin said the
price of the property is the problem. A private group has
an option to buy the land for $1.05 million.
Jeff Fisher, a professional land conservationist,
found the report lacking. He told the newspaper that government
bodies typically commit to preserving a piece of land, then
seek grant money. So it's misleading, he said, for the report
to imply grant money can't help because it will not be available
when the county's stay against developing the property expires.
Wisconsin store chain
cards all ages; Elderly not exempt from ID requirement
Identification checks at a large food chain's
stores in Wisconsin are part of a new policy requiring cashiers
to check the age of everyone buying cigarettes or alcohol
- regardless of whether they look 21 or 91, writes
Juliet Williams of The Associated Press.
Betty Ann Fisher, who at the age of 71 was carded
before buying a bottle of wine, told AP, "The first time
it was a sweet young man, and I laughed because I thought
he was trying to pay me a sweet compliment. But then he said,
'No, I'm serious.' I thought he was just joshing with me."
The stores parent company, Roundy's Inc., told
Williams it started its "We Card Because We Care"
program at all of its stores in Wisconsin to prevent underage
drinking and tobacco use and to help local law enforcement.
The company has a total of 77 stores in the state.
The National Association of Beverage
Retailers spokesman John Bodnovich told AP, does
not know of another major chain with a similar companywide
policy. The NABR represents some 20,000 bar and liquor store
owners in 34 states. The spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, the country's
largest grocer, Sharon Weber told the wire service their stores
card anyone buying tobacco or alcohol who looks under age
27. Wall Mart set that age after consultation with attorneys
general in several states. Walgreens drugstores rescinded
in 2002 a short-lived policy of asking all tobacco buyers
for ID after elderly customers complained. The company now
checks IDs of anyone who looks under 40.
funds okayed; development planned along proposed lines
Federal taxpayers will pay $199 million of the cost of building
Charlotte, N.C.'s first light-rail line, a deal expected for
two years but made official Tuesday that will also boost development
along its proposed lines linking the city to suburbs, reports
The Charlotte Observer. “Charlotte
was one of four cities named to receive the highly competitive
federal contract, along with New York, Phoenix and Pittsburgh.
The money will pay 47 percent of the Charlotte line's $427
million cost,” writes
Federal officials told the newspaper that plans
for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area needed more work.
Charlotte riders should be able to board the electric-powered
trains in just over two years, in April 2007. Trains will
run 20 hours a day and arrive every 7 1/2 minutes during rush
Charlotte Area Transit System
sees the light-rail line as not only transportation but also
a way to strengthen the area's tax base by concentrating growth
around the stations and uptown, writes Whitacre. Federal Transit
Administrator Jenna Dorn praised the project,
saying the city is a national leader in encouraging private
development. "We are seeing more and more people want
to live near transit lines."
Developers have built condos, apartments and
shops around the line's future stations, and transit chief
Ron Tober told Whitacre he expects others will soon announce
plans for new projects. Tober said, "This will give people
the confidence that this thing will happen, and they can talk
to their financing entities. I don't expect a landslide of
development proposals, but there are a couple brewing."
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2005
Experts say budget cuts,
especially in rural-related programs, may be unrealistic
President Bush has delivered Congress a tall order with his
2006 budget, which some are calling “unrealistic”
in its cuts and freezes to control the deficit, The
Washington Post reports today.
“Under the president's proposal, lawmakers
would have to scrap much of the farm law they passed in 2002
in order to realize the $8.2 billion in cuts Bush expects
from farm subsidies over 10 years,” writes
Jonathan Weisman, a Post economic reporter. Bush's other proposed
cuts include rural health programs and Community Development
Block Grants, which often support rural housing and infrastructure.
In an online discussion this morning, Weisman
indicated that he doesn't expect Bush to push hard for many
of his proposed cuts. "I get the distinct feeling that
the administration has put forward its budget and now wants
to return to its previously scheduled program, Social Security,"
Weisman said. "The White House simply cannot have Congress
reopen the farm bill, change the Medicaid system, overhaul
the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp, etc., etc., and oh by
the way, deliver the most significant change to Social Security
since its inception. There simply isn't enough time, let alone
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad
Cochran, R-Miss. and an influential member of the Agriculture
Committee, has declared he would never go along with the president's
agriculture proposals, which he said unfairly target cotton
and rice growers in the Southeast. Congress passed the last
major revision of the federal farm support system in 2002,
after considerable contentious debate, and lawmakers are not
about to reopen the issue before they have to, Cochran said.
He told The Post, "Frankly, I don't think anyone in the
administration really thought Congress would go along with
Similar resistance has emerged to the administration's
plan to consolidate community development programs at the
departments of the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development,
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Commerce, all under
the Commerce Department's roof. Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo.,
who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds HUD,
said the proposal "makes no sense."
The National Rural Health Association
says it is "dismayed" by the president's
budget, calling his plan a "Super Bowl fumble."
The NRHA cites specifically cuts to or elimination of Rural
Health Flexibility Grants, the Small Hospital Improvement
Program, the Community Access Program and Rural Health Network
and Outreach Grants. For more from the NRHA click here.
Officials push Appalachian
hospitals on promise to put HQ in mountains
Local leaders and state legislators from Eastern
Kentucky want a major health-care entity to make good on a
promise to relocate its headquarters to the mountains in exchange
for financial assistance, including a free building offered
by the city of Hazard, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“Mountain legislators rounded up $5.3
million in coal-tax revenues for Appalachian Regional
Healthcare Inc., a large, . . . Lexington-based hospital
chain. The money . . . was to help ARH move its headquarters
to Eastern Kentucky, where most of its nine hospitals are
ARH president and CEO Stephen C. Hanson said
at the time, in June 2000, "It's safe to say, over time,
our headquarters would actually be in Eastern Kentucky."
Patience in Perry County, which put up most of the coal revenues,
appears to be wearing thin. County Judge-Executive Denny Ray
Noble, indicating the county might want its money back, told
Mueller, "I think it'll come to that point, but we're
not there yet."
A top ARH official said the agreement for the
$5.3 million state grant commits the hospital chain only to
expanding professional employment in Eastern Kentucky. Larry
Meador, ARH's new board chairman, told the newspaper it had
fulfilled its commitment by creating 92.5 new jobs in Hazard
and other area locations. Seven of the nine ARH hospitals
are in Kentucky: West Liberty, South Williamson, McDowell,
Hazard, Middlesboro, Harlan and Whitesburg. Two are in West
Virginia, at Beckley and Hinton.
'Small-town writers getting
it right,' Quill magazine writing columnists say
At "small to mid-sized newspapers
throughout the country . . . small groups of reporters are
challenging the existing culture that too often says the only
way to tell a story is with an inverted pyramid and nut graph
that must appear as close to the top as possible," narrative-writing
coaches say in the latest Quill magazine.
"In those newsrooms, reporters are growing
and pushing themselves to improve, often with too little support.
As much as we look to award-winning journalists as role models,
it's also important to hear -- and learn from -- writers who
operate under the radar," write
Kathleen Gorman and Tom Hallman Jr., an assistant team leader
and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Oregonian.
The hero of their piece in the January-February
issue of Quill, published by the Society of Professional
Journalists, is Jenny Jones, 23, a reporter for the
Courier, who planned to write a standard feature
about a guitar maker, "but as she talked with him, she
realized that the story was really about a man finding his
passion late in life. The best narrative stories touch on
Here is the opening of her story: "Clint
Bear looks around his workshop, his eyes shining with pride
as he scans the dust-control duct system, the large woodworking
machinery and the newly erected walls that occupy the space
that was once a garage. At 55 years old, Bear has finally
found his life's passion -- hand-crafting guitars -- and he
has gone to great lengths to convert his garage and his home
in ways to accommodate his desire to be a luthier. He just
wishes he would have found his passion 30 years earlier."
Jones's ending takes the reader back
to the opening scene and her theme: "This is where his
passions are freed, and this is where eras of his life come
together for the future. ' I didn't know what I wanted to
do till I was 50 years old,' said Bear, who still works as
a rural route carrier. 'I found it.'"
can learn from one another, says South Dakota newspaper
Ben Franklin once said in mustering Revolutionary
War fervor, “If we do not hang together, we shall certainly
hang separately.” Some 250 years later, rural communities
around the nation are apparently learning a similar lesson
in their own survival, reports the Press & Dakotan
of Yankton, S.D.
“There is no quick fix for dying small
towns, but there are lessons towns can learn from each other
when it comes to community and economic development; one being
to take pride in your hometown,” writes
Rita Brhel. Mark Kasten, economic development coordinator
for the community of Parker, told her, "The secret is
getting the community involved. People tend to want to give
more, or at least be part of a town more, if they have more
pride for it. More community support equals more community
Kasten also told the newspaper he can't remember
when residents weren't working toward something better. Parker,
with a population of 1,031, is building a 72-lot housing development
to accommodate newcomers. "This is an unlikely situation,"
writes Brhel. “A small town not only surviving but thriving
in the face . . . of the changing appearance of rural America.
While communities across the area struggle with declining
and aging populations, high poverty rates and unemployment,
and a loss of youth, Yankton and Vermillion … seem like
islands in a sea of despair.” Some towns, she writes,
"have become meccas for young, educated professionals
and their families who seek out the quality of life not found
in larger cities."
The newspaper also cites Hartington, S.D. Chris
Miller, president of the city's Economic Development Corp.,
told the Press & Dakotan his small Cedar County seat has
depended upon a group of mostly business people since the
1970s for its successful development. "We have a lot
of good volunteers willing to sacrifice their time and talents
to keep the community alive and thriving," he said. "These
volunteers are aggressive, forward-thinking, broad-minded
Debbie Redmon, city administrator for the community
of Bloomfield, told Brhel, “In addition to community
involvement and leadership, (her town’s) secret of success
lies in supporting its existing businesses, as well as encouraging
entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.”
North Carolina proposes
restaurant smoking ban; one of few in the nation
Lawmakers in North Carolina, the top tobacco-producing
state, have proposed a measure that would clear the cigarette
smell from all eateries statewide, reports The Charlotte
“A bill introduced by Rep. Hugh Holliman
would require restaurant managers to ask patrons not to smoke.
Customers could face a $50 fine if they refuse,” writes
Sharif Durhams of the Observer’s Raleigh Bureau. If
North Carolina's ban passes, the state would become one of
only a few, including California, Florida and Massachusetts,
with such wide-ranging restrictions, he writes.
John Singleton, a spokesman for RJR
Tobacco told the newspaper, "Certainly, there
is a trend across the board." Singleton said it's hard
to measure whether the bans in other states have hurt tobacco
sales. RJR plans to oppose the ban, saying restaurant and
bar owners can best determine what their customers want.
Philip Morris has stayed mute
on the bill and is not as critical of other states' bans.
Spokeswoman Jamie Drogin told Durhams, "The concerns
of public health officials do warrant a degree of regulation
in public places." She said states can address the health
concerns without an outright ban. North Carolina's cigarette
foes seem to be making headway toward boosting the cigarette
tax, reports The Observer. The state now charges 5 cents a
pack -- the second lowest rate in the nation, and lowest if
Kentucky raises its 3-cent tax.
Student comes home to
N.C. to film story about drugs in rural America
A California film student will be returning
home to rural North Carolina to film his thesis, a piece about
drugs in the modern rural South.
Jarvis Rooker is a 25-year-old student from
Chapman University, writes
Glenn Craven of The Daily Dispatch. Rooker
brought his team of 20 people to North Carolina to film “The
Feudalists,” a piece about character Buck Hutson, who
is driven by his circumstances to kill. The film is set in
today’s rural South, where many have turned to making
methamphetamine to escape poverty. Some scenes will be filmed
in Kentucky, Craven reported.
The film is his thesis project and combines
a “contemporary Western” with “American
gangster genre,” Rooker told Craven. "The film
is about drugs in rural America," Rooker said, "and
how people - as they have throughout history - will still
kill for land."
Kentucky meth law moves toward approval;
limits sale of key ingredient
A bill aimed at curbing the spread
of methamphetamine by making it harder to get a key ingredient
and toughening prosecutions is on its way to the Kentucky
Senate floor, reports The Courier-Journal.
“Despite objections from
representatives of the Kentucky Retail Federation,
the Senate Judiciary Committee last night unanimously passed
Senate Bill 63, which would restrict the sale of cold and
allergy medicine that can be used to make the illegal drug,”
Deborah Yetter of the Louisville newspaper.
The bill also would strengthen
a law used to prosecute meth manufacturers, make it illegal
to expose children to meth labs, and hold meth makers liable
for cleaning up the toxic chemical waste they leave behind.
Sen. Robert Stivers, the committee's chairman and the bill's
sponsor said, "The destructive nature of this drug is
just unbelievable. When you've seen it firsthand, as I have,
in the criminal justice system, it is just unbelievable."
Stivers expects the Senate to pass the bill later this week
and move it to the House.
Department of Public
Advocacy head Ernie Lewis told the newspaper his
agency -- which represents poor people charged with crimes
-- has some questions about specific provisions in the bill
related to the requirements for a conviction for manufacturing
meth, but supports the intent. "There's
no question that there's a real serious problem with meth.
Our caseloads reflect that. Our clients are ravaged by it."
Gay marriage ban passes
Va. Senate; House passage expected, then referendum
The Virginia Senate has approved a measure that
would elevate its ban on same-sex marriages from the laws
books to the state constitution, reports the Richmond
Critics recalled the Holocaust and Virginia's
past support of segregation. Sen. Mamie Locke said Virginia
would be stigmatizing gays, just as Hitler stigmatized Jews
in Germany. "It is xenophobia that led to the rise of
Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy. It is homophobia that
brings us to this place in time today."
Proponents argued the protection of traditional
marriage needs "to be enshrined in the Virginia Constitution"
to put the "full faith and credit" of the state
behind a possible legal challenge, writes Whitley. Sen. Stephen
D. Newman said during debate, "This is not about a particular
Virginia has a law banning same-sex civil unions,
passed after the Massachusetts Supreme Court struck down a
ban on same-sex marriages there. Amending the Virginia Constitution
must be approved by two legislative sessions with an intervening
election for the House before being put before voters in a
referendum. The earliest such a referendum could be scheduled
is November 2006, writes Whitley.
Bee parasite destroying
colonies, putting California almond crops at great risk
Beekeepers across the country are catching a
bug: the Varroa destructor mite, which has become resistant
to poisons and is ravishing honeybee colonies.
Almond growers in California are at extreme
risk. They depend on bees to pollinate their fields of the
nuts, which bring the state $1.6 billion, reports
Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute. California
almond farmers provide 100 percent of the nation’s almonds
and 80 percent of the entire world’s supply.
The parasite attaches to the backs of bees and
sucks out the insects' innards. That’s how it destroyed
many of the bee colonies of Alan Mikolich, who raises bees
near San Diego. He had managed over 1,000 colonies but now
has 350, Tompkins writes. "I might as well have not treated
the hives given the losses I've incurred,'' Mikolich said.
An extension apiculturist, Eric Mussen, with
the University of California-Davis extension
said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is
developing a natural powdered fungus that hurts the mites,
but not the bees. However, bees are known for being tidy,
and have pushed the powered fungus out of the hives.
shareholders sue to scuttle Pulitzer Inc. sale to Lee Enterprises
Two Pulitzer Inc. shareholders
are suing the St. Louis-based publishing company, seeking
to unhinge its planned buyout by Lee Enterprises Inc.
on claims the $1.46 billion deal is unfair to Pulitzer stockholders,
reports The Associated Press.
Pulitzer, publisher of the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star,
disclosed the Delaware lawsuits in a filing with the Securities
and Exchange Commission last week, three days after
announcement of the deal unanimously approved by the boards
of both companies, writes
Iowa-based Lee said it will pay $64 per share
in cash for Pulitzer, which also owns 12 other dailies and
more than 100 weekly newspapers, shoppers, and niche publications.
Both companies said they expect to complete the deal, which
also includes Lee assuming $306 million of Pulitzer debt.
The deal also effectively scuttled a bid by
six Post-Dispatch employees who -- worried about prospects
of an outside suitor -- had launched an effort to buy the
company through an Employee Stock Ownership Program, under
which all workers could share ownership. Pulitzer's SEC filing
said both lawsuits purport to be class-action cases and ask
a judge to permanently bar the sale the plaintiffs argue does
not maximize shareholder value. The lawsuits seek unspecified
Monday, Feb. 7, 2005
Bush's proposed budget
would cut rural health, scores of other programs
efforts would be among about 150 of the programs to be ended
or "radically cut back to help meet Bush's goal of shaving
the budget deficit in half by 2009," under today's federal
budget proposal from President Bush, The Washington
"The budget proposal
would cut $94 million in grants for the Healthy Communities
Access Program and phase out rural health grants," Mike
Allen and Peter Baker write. But they also say, "Bush
hopes to spend $304 million to build more community health
centers, particularly in rural areas."
Bush's budget calls for discretionary
spending, other than defense and homeland security, to fall
nearly 1 percent, "the first time in many years that
funding for the major part of the budget controlled by Congress
would actually go down in real terms," the Post reports.
big cuts would come in Medicaid, the federal-state medical-assistance
program for the poor and disabled; and $100 million
in grants for land and water conservation.
As previously reportedby the Post and The Rural Blog, 18 community-development
block grant programs would be consolidated into one Commerce
Department program for a savings of $1.8 billion.
proposal faces tough sledding, the Post says: "One lawmaker
involved in the negotiations said that House and Senate leaders
have told the White House that no more than two dozen of the
150 proposals are likely to be accepted, although Congress
might agree to reductions in some programs."
American Farm Bureau
Federation and 'broad coalition' oppose farm cuts
The American Farm Bureau Federation
and "a diverse coalition of more than 100 organizations"
has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns voicing
concern over possible farm spending reductions in the Bush
administration's budget, reports the Southwest Nebraska
“According to the coalition letter, reductions
or restructurings of the 2002 Farm Bill would 'seriously undermine
many nutrition, conservation, crop insurance and farm programs
that are important to all Americans," writes
the on-line newspaper. “Many of these programs already
have sustained budget reductions in recent years," the
letter continued, citing cuts in funding for many discretionary
agriculture programs, and the trimming of $4 billion in mandatory
"A budget that requires further cuts or
structural weakening in these important programs will put
at risk the promising environmental benefits of the bill,
and the nutritional health of some of the poorest populations
in our country," said the coalition. The coalition added:
"Farm Bill costs through the past three years were more
than $15 billion less than initially projected when Congress
passed the 2002 bill."
Edwards creates poverty
center at UNC, discusses issues in New Hampshire
Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who passed up
a re-election bid to run for president then became the Democratic
vice-presidential nominee, has established a Center on Poverty,
Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina
law school and is talking about the issue as he plots his
“We don't pretend to have all the answers,
but I can promise you this: We will ask the hard questions,”
Edwards said Saturday night in a well-received speech to a
New Hampshire Democratic Party fund-raiser. He said Democrats
“know when something's right. And we know when something's
wrong. It's wrong when our neighbors work full time and they
still live in poverty.”
“The setting of the speech was as notable
as its content. A visit to New Hampshire, the site of the
first presidential primary, is often the first public sign
that someone is considering a White House bid,” wrote
Ron Fournier, chief political correspondent for The
Associated Press. Edwards told Fournier that he had
not decided whether to run for president in 2008, citing his
wife’s effort to overcome breast cancer.
Edwards told Fournier, "It may seem like
an impossible goal to end poverty, but that's what the skeptics
said about all of our other great challenges. If we can put
a man on the moon, conquer polio and put libraries of information
on a chip, then we can end poverty for those who want to work
for a better life.”
Dan Balz, chief political writer for The
Washington Post, also interviewed Edwards beforehand,
“He resisted looking back at the reasons he and Sen.
John F. Kerry, D-Mass., lost the election but quibbled with
those who have said the Democrats face a values deficit or
that Democrats cannot compete in the South and in rural areas.”
He told Balz, “We didn't run a campaign in the South.
In the future, it's important for us to compete everywhere
in the country.”
use on Navajo land brings call for tribal action
With no law on tribal books to criminalize the
sale, possession or manufacture of methamphetamine, Arizona
and federal law enforcement officials are fearing an explosion
of the drug's use on the largest Navajo reservation in the
country, reports The New York Times.
Greg Adair, a 26-year officer with the Navajo
Nation, police told Times writer
Joseph J. Kolb, "We've seen more than a 100 percent increase
in meth on the reservation in the past five years." The
Navajo Nation Tribal Council raised the issue
of criminalizing methamphetamine during its summer meeting
last year, writes Kolb, but the session ended without the
measure being passed. Council delegate and a co-sponsor of
the legislation to criminalize the drug, Larry Anders, told
the Times a special session would be planned to address the
The bill would bring tribal laws in line with
state and federal statutes, making the possession or sale
of a controlled substance, including methamphetamine, punishable
with up to a year in tribal jail and a $5,000 fine. Greg Secatero,
with the Navajo Nation police told Kolb, "Right now we
don't have anything to charge the person we find with meth
unless we go to the feds."
U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton told the newspaper
that when a tribal law-enforcement officer finds a small amount
of meth, the drug is confiscated and an FBI agent from Flagstaff
is called. The substance is sent to a crime laboratory for
identification, a process that can take a month. If tests
show it is methamphetamine, the F.B.I. will issue an arrest
warrant. As a result, Officer Adair told Kolb, kids and young
adults simply say, 'Hey, I can get away with this,' and the
drugs spread through the communities like wildfire.
For the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues' special report on meth coverage, click
Iowans want deer herd
thinned: Road safety key for more hunting, poll shows
A vast majority of Iowans the state to allow
more deer hunting to reduce the number of them bounding onto
the state's roads and into back yards, according to a poll
conducted by The Des Moines Register.
Diana Fontaine, who was seriously injured in
a deer-vehicle wreck, is among the 85 percent of adults who
would support more deer hunting to thin the herd,
writes Juli Probasco-Sowers. Support for more hunting
reached across rural and urban lines, as well as people of
varied incomes, gender and political parties. Fontaine said,
“I used to be totally against hunting. Now I believe
in it as a conservation tool."
Fifty-seven percent surveyed reported someone
in their household had either been in an accident with a deer
in the past two years or had a near miss. Statistics show
10 fatal crashes in 2003 related to the deer population. Hunters,
on the other hand, are fearful of reducing the herds too much
and they don't want to compete for hunting grounds with people
from out of state. Iowa senators are working to create a bill
that will assist in reducing Iowa's deer population, yet protect
the natural resource.
Some are worried legislators might get carried
away. Brandon McKissic, 25, of Ames, told the Register, "I
don't think they should hunt deer for the sport of the game
or to stop population growth." McKissic suggested deer
be placed in a large holding facility where they could roam
free without hurting anyone.
or VoIP, cheaper than land lines, going mainstream
Internet phone calling has leaped to mainstream.
Thanks to technological innovations and low prices, Internet
dialing has surged in popularity over the past two years,
reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Yankee Group, a market research
firm, reports nearly 1 million people have signed up for Internet
calling, and the number is growing quickly writes
Reggie Beehner. By the end of 2005, the number of subscribers
is-expected to reach 3 million. "The rapid rise ...is
attributable in large part to the underlying-technology --
Voice over-Internet Protocol, known as VoIP." Early-Internet
phone companies -- particularly Vonage, with
more than 400,000-subscribers -- have cable companies and
phone-giants taking notice.
Verizon and AT&T
have launched their own-Internet calling services. Cablevision
already has signed up nearly 300,000 subscribers to its Internet
phone plan. Kate Griffin, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group,
told Beehner, "The whole communications industry is transforming.
Everybody's encroaching onto everyone else's space."
"VoIP calls are analog voice signals converted
into packets of digital data, which are then compressed, routed
through the Internet, and reassembled before arriving at the
receiving phone," writes Beehner. One customer, who was
dissatisfied with his local phone service, Richard Day, tunred
to VoIP. "It gives you just about every cool feature,
...and the voice quality is pretty much comparable to a regular
Gary Morgenstern, a spokes-man for AT&T,
told Beehner the technology is more efficient and more cost-effective
than traditional phone networks. As a result, he expects most
of the major phone companies to-convert to VoIP-based networks
over the next few years. "It's not a question of whether
VoIP is going to-dominate the telephone calling industry,"
Morgenstern said. "The question really is when."
Dog thefts may be tied
to fight rings, say law enforcement agencies
A number of Kentucky counties have growing concerns
a recent increase in the number of missing dogs could be connected
with dog-fighting rings, reports The Courier-Journal.
”Police in Hopkins and Webster counties
in Western Kentucky say they are looking into tips that some
of the dogs reported missing may have been stolen for use
as "bait dogs" in illegal dog-fighting rings involving
pit bulls,” writes
Byron Crawford, Kentucky columnist for the Louisville newspaper.
Maj. Keith Stine of the Providence Police
Department in Webster County told Crawford, "It's
a very, very cruel thing they do. If they're training a pit
bull, they'll agitate the fighting dog and throw an animal
in the ring with it, and they'll let the fighting dog actually
just chew this other dog up to give them that taste of blood
and success. It would be like putting me in the ring with
Mike Tyson." Stine says some 40 and 50 dogs have recently
been stolen in the Webster County community of Clay, and his
department is investigating leads that some of the animals
are being used as bait dogs, writes Crawford.
Julie Siegel of the Scott County Humane
Society believes most of the dogs being stolen in
Kentucky are used either in breeding operations known as "puppy
mills" or in fighting rings. "It seems like in this
state it moves from area to area," she told Crawford.
"There's quite a network to move these animals around.
If they're over in Pike County picking up dogs, the fighting
ring could be in Arkansas for all we know."
Increases in the number of missing or stolen
dogs have also been reported in the Henry and Trimble county
area. Grant County Sheriff Randy Middleton told the newspaper
he believes some of the few hundred dogs stolen in his county
over the past three years wound up in Ohio for dog fighting
'Podcasting' brings radio
productions to masses, choice to listeners
Less than a year old, a new phenomenon called
“podcasting” is enabling anyone with a PC to become
a broadcaster, reports The Associated Press.
“It has the potential to do to the radio
business what Web logs (or Blogs) have done to print journalism,”
Matthew Fordahl. “By bringing the cost of broadcasting
to nearly nothing, it's enabling more voices and messages
to be heard than ever before.” “After getting
a taste of the radio business in college, Craig Patchett never
lost his interest in broadcasting. But without a job in radio,
it seemed likely to remain one of those unfulfilled passions
until .. "podcasting" came along,” he writes.
Patchett, 43, is among a growing number of people
getting into podcasting, which is quickly becoming another
of the Internet's equalizing technologies. He creates shows
and sends them out to the masses over the Internet, from his
personal computer. Listeners download his shows to their digital
Patchett's podcasts focus on Christian and family
programming, but Podcasting offers a diverse menu of programs,
which can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime, writes Fordahl. Shows
can paused, rewound or fast-forwarded. Listeners don’t
need to be near a PC, unlike most forms of Internet radio.
AP reports the number of regular podcasts is over 800 and
growing daily. Many focus on gadgets, technology and podcasting
itself. Others highlight new bands and music or discuss politics,
movies and sports.
Fordahl writes that productions can range from
stream-of-consciousness rants to highly professional shows
complete with sound effects and music. Unlike radio, there's
no time limit, deadlines or government oversight. Adam Curry,
a former MTV personality and a driving force
behind podcasting told Fordahl, "There are going to be
podcast stars who are just entertaining to listen to. And,
there will be Howard Sterns who can use the seven dirty words
on their shows."
Dairy association opposes
milk income subsidy, says program is ineffective
The Milk Income Loss Subsidy was started a few
years ago to help dairy producers, but has led to lower milk
prices and has cost taxpayers over $2 billion, said
the International Dairy Food Association.
That’s why the association says it is
urging Congress to reject legislation to double the subsidy..
The program was layered on other programs without first investigating
how the programs would work together, for example, the program
is at odds with the Dairy Price Support Program. As a result,
its lowered prices for dairy products, the release said.
Originally the Congressional Budget
Office said the program would cost less than $1 billion,
but the cost is now double that, the IDFA said. IDFA Senior
Vice President Chip Kunde said the legislation will not solve
the problem. "Congress should examine this failed program
in the light of day. Pushing forward an expensive and market-distorting
government subsidy without a thorough review by Congress would
be fiscally irresponsible,” he said.
New Ag secretary keeps
pushing for reopening of Canadian, Asian beef trade
New Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns addressed
the National Cattle Convention this Friday to outline his
plan for the country’s agriculture. The budget and reopening
beef trade with Asia and Canada were the focus of his address,
Gene Johnston of Successful Farming.
His first task, Johnston writes, is reopening
the beef trade with Japan and Korea. "Total exports of
ruminant products was $7 billion before our one BSE case,"
Johanns said. " We lost 64% of that, and have since recovered
about a third of that. Japan is about half of what is left
to recover, and we have to continue the strong effort there.”
As for the Canadian border re-opening, he didn’t set
the March 7 due date but he’s pushing for it and he
asked cattlemen to support it, Johnston writes.
He also wants a $596 million increase for the
food and agriculture defense intitative; a $37 million increase
for conservation programs to livestock farmers develop plans
for nutrient management; a $34 million increase for the health
forests intitative; and a $10 million increase for land restoration.
Future of Coal Conference
set for March, submissions due this month
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee’s Future of Coal Conference will
be March 10 from 2 p.m. to 5 pm. Submissions are due by 5
p.m. Feb. 16, and must be sent electronically.
The should cover one or more of the following
topics, in the order given: coal consumption; environmental
challenges; financial and technological improvements; and
transportation. If you want to discuss a topic not listed,
add it to the end of the list as a separate Word document.
The response should be no more than 5 single-spaces pages
per topic, in 12-point Times New Roman font. Submit your response
to each question as a separate Word document and include your
name and association on each page. Also write a one-page executive
summary of your submission as a separate Word document and
include your name and association, contact, email and phone
number on the summary. For more information, visit this site.
Friday, Feb. 4, 2005
Farmers, seniors blast Bush plan; Web site maps Social Security recipients
Farmers are asking Congress not to forget their needs, after President Bush’s request for major Social Security reforms. Farmers are more dependent on Social Security benefits than other retirees, said the National Farmers Organization, because their incomes are less likely to rise with inflation.
Young farm families may be strained by the necessity of placing retirement funds in a private account.
T he farm's need for cash reserves, along with Social Security payments due on earned income may be particularly difficult when faced with cash flow requirements and equity building, said the NFO release.
The AARP also supports reforms, but without required private accounts, CEO William D. Novelli said in a statement on the organization’s web site. Such accounts drain money from the program and cut its benefits. AARP, which seeks members as young as 50 and has abandoned its original name of teh American Association for Retired Persons, supports options for investments in addition to Social Security.
Mark Schaver, computer-assisted reporting director for The Courier-Journal, provides a site that gives the percent of voters for each congressional district who get Social Security. The number of beneficiaries includes a count of the disabled and retirees, widowers, and married couples with children who receive social security. A map on the site shows where recipients are concentrated, such as in Eastern Kentucky.
Japan, boycotting U.S. and Canadian beef, has first human mad-cow death
Japan has confirmed its first death from the human variant of mad-cow disease, a fatal brain disease thought to be contracted by eating infected beef, reports Reuters.
The Japan Health Ministry said a countryman died from the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), apparently contracting the fatal illness during a month-long stay in Britain in 1989. Tetsuyuki Kitamoto, a Tohoku University professor and head of the ministry panel, downplayed the incident. "I know this will make many people worry, but we must take note of the fact that his stay was only one month."
Japan has reported 14 cases of BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and began testing all its cattle after the first case in September 2001. Japan banned imports of Canadian and U.S. beef in 2003, after two reported cases of mad-cow disease. It is currently in drawn-out talks on when to lift the bans.
Reuters reports, more than 160 people, most of them Britons, have died worldwide from definitive or probable vCJD after eating meat contaminated with BSE. Britain has been the worst hit by BSE, which is thought to be transmitted among animals via feed containing infected bovine brains or spinal cord. About 7 million animals had been slaughtered in Britain by the end of June 2004 to prevent the spread of infection.
W.Va. legislative panel wants coal-cleanup tax extended; fund shortfall found
A legislative advisory panel has recommended extending for at least a year a special state tax funding the cleanup of abandoned coal mines in West Virginia, and to cover a cleanup fund deficit, reports The Charleston Gazette.
Members of the Special Reclamation Fund Advisory Council voted to urge lawmakers to extend the 14-cent-per-ton tax when the (legislative) session starts next week, writes Ken Ward. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, was the only council member to vote against the recommendation. The tax is scheduled to be reduced to 7 cents per ton starting in April. An actuary hired by the state has found that the reclamation fund has an unfunded liability of at least $35 million.
The fund’s real financial shortfall, though, is probably much greater, reports the newspaper. The actuary told Ward the estimate does not include money needed for long-term treatment of acid mine drainage. Kentucky mining engineer John Morgan, who represents environmental groups on the reclamation fund advisory panel told Ward, “We are woefully under-funded.”
Most industry experts agree water treatment costs make up the bulk of the reclamation fund’s liabilities. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining found water treatment will cost the state between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion over the next 50 years. The actuary has not yet included in an analysis the costs of reclaiming any abandoned mines that were permitted before 1994.
N.C. Senator’s Bible eviction raises hackles; chapel items returned
A key state North Carolina senator ordered Bibles and other religious items removed from the Legislative Building's nondenominational chapel, but was overruled when his decision threatened to spark a religious, cultural and political spat, reports the News & Observer.
“State Sen. Tony Rand had staffers box up the religious material because . . . legislators complained the chapel's Christian emphasis was inappropriate in a public building used by people of different faiths,” writes Rob Christensen of the Raleigh newspaper. (site requires free registration)
Rand is Senate Rules Committee chairman and shares oversight of the building. Senate leader Marc Basnight, also a Democrat, reversed Rand's order after complaints from Republican lawmakers and inquiries from a reporter. Norma Mills, Basnight's chief of staff, told Christensen, "The cross and the Bible are going back in the chapel... (Basnight) felt those were appropriate items."
The chapel, in the Legislative Building's rotunda, is near the House and Senate chambers. Lawmakers and others use it for prayer or reflection, writes Christensen. At one time, it had a brass cross and a Star of David. Both disappeared several years ago. In recent years, lawmakers began holding weekly services and brought privately donated Bibles, hymnals, and a cross and had left them.
Some lawmakers felt uncomfortable using the chapel surrounded by so many Christian symbols. Rand noted there are lawmakers who are Christian, Jewish and Muslim. He told the newspaper that worshippers could hold Christian services in the chapel, but they have to bring their own religious material and take it away. ""It should retain its nondenominational character. It's not a church. It's a public place for whoever wants to communicate with one's maker."
Georgia school board refuses group's assistance in evolution case
The Cobb County School Board says it will not accept an offer of assistance from a powerful Christian legal group as it appeals a federal court ruling banning the school system’s textbook disclaimers about evolution, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“The Alliance Defense Fund, founded 11 years ago by leaders of nationally known ministries such as Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ, made the offer . . . .in a letter to Cobb school board attorney Linwood Gunn,” writes Kristina Torres.
Board Chairwoman Kathie Johnstone also received a letter offering assistance two days before the board voted to appeal, but she told the newspaper the offer was not a consideration in the board's decision and that the board had no plans to accept it or any other offers of help. Johnstone told the newspaper, "We haven't solicited or accepted any outside help of any kind from anyone.There is no secret sugar daddy." The board may have to reimburse more than $100,000 in legal fees. The Journal-Constitution obtained, through the Georgia Open Records Act, copies of the letters making the offers.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that Cobb's disclaimers, which call evolution "a theory, not a fact," were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and ordered them removed from textbooks. The board has since requested the order be put on hold as it appeals the ruling, writes Torres.
The disclaimers stem from a petition drive begun by a self-discribed creationist who believes the Bible's book of Genesis is factual. She collected 2,300 signatures, prompting the board to print the disclaimers and place them in science books used in middle and high schools. The decision brought national attention.
Virginia adoption bill barring gays, weakened, passes first committee
A House bill initially written so that gays and lesbians would be barred from adopting children was considerably weakened before clearing a committee, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Adoption advocates and gay-rights supporters say they still don't like the bill. Delegate Richard H. Black, who introduced the measure, told the newspaper, "This bill is not intended to restrict anyone's rights." He said his legislation preserves the tradition of husbands and wives as preferred adoptive couples.
“The compromise bill that cleared the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee stated that social-services agencies may take into account sexual orientation and whether a couple is living together but not married in deciding if a home is suitable for a child,” writes Tamme Smith.
Claire Guthrie Gastaga, lobbyist for Equality Virginia, the state's leading gay-rights organization, told the newspaper, "Fundamentally, this bill is a solution in search of a problem.” She said the social-services agencies and the courts already consider a variety of factors, including morality and behavior, in deciding whether to recommend or approve an adoption.
West Virginia governor says he’ll sign ethics bill with ‘gag order,’ fix later
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin says he will sign an ethics bill passed by the state legislature containing a controversial ‘gag order’on ethics complaints but is working with legislative leaders to remove that provision from the new law, reports The Charleston Gazette
Manchin told staff writer Phil Kabler if he vetoed the bill, measures that will strengthen the state ethics law would be in jeopardy, including those that let the Ethics Commission initiate investigations and expand financial disclosure requirements for lobbyists, writes Kabler. Manchin added, “We’ll go back in and fix it. We’re not going to destroy the bill to do it.” For The Associated Press story, click here.
Machin told the newspaper “oversensitive” legislators went overboard to come up with a way to discourage political foes from filing unfounded complaints against them, and added “If you’re falsely accused, there should be some repercussions.”
The bill, attacked by West Virginians Want to Know, imposes a gag order after a complaint is filed until a review board determines if there is probable cause for a full investigation. Under the 'gag order,' complainants could not acknowledge filing a complaint or comment during the review process. Failure to abide could bring a fine of up to $5,000, and the complaint could be summarily dismissed. Violators could also face misdemeanor criminal charges.
Iowa youth tax-exemption, stop brain-drain idea, makes worldwide waves
Iowa has landed in the worldwide media spotlight, thanks to a controversial proposal to exempt residents younger than 30 from paying state income taxes, reports The Des Moines Register.
“Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Reuters news service and other major media outlets have reported on the tax break, offered by Senate Republicans as a way to stem the 'brain drain' of young, educated adults who leave Iowa. The proposal even got a mention in an Australian newspaper," writes Jonathan Roos. (And in the Rural Blog, the day the Register reported it.)
The Time headline on the exemption article is "Ah, to Be Young and in Iowa." Roos quotes from the article, which is accompanied by a cartoon with a sign saying, "Thank you for not leaving IOWA."
The Time acticle cites a 2000 Census study in which states attract the most young, single college grads where Iowa ranked 49th. Time writes, "Hawkeye [State] Republicans . . . have come up with a more effective inducement for young college grads: exempting residents under the age of 30 from state income taxes. An economic plan unveiled by GOP state senators to do just that would reduce state coffers by an estimated $200 million a year while saving the average 25-year-old about $600."
Senate Republican Co-President Jeff Lamberti was scheduled to be interviewed about the tax break by Neil Cavuto of Fox News this afternoon. Lamberti told the Register, "(The propsal) sent a buzz out there that we're serious about the issue." Meanwhile, Democrats aren't impressed with all the publicity. Sen. Bill Dotzler said, "I think the Republicans are being perceived as people who are throwing the spaghetti against the wall and seeing if it's going to stick. And so far their proposals have all slid off, but (the tax proposal) fostered a discussion by young people about what they really want."
Newspaper photographer ‘Bubba’ Warner dies; succumbs to injuries
Bobby James “Bubba” Warner, chief photographer of The Ledger-Independent of Maysville, died Wednesday of complications from injuries sustained in an automobile crash in August. He was 49.
Warner had returned home last week after months of hospitalization and rehabilitation after the crash in Eau Claire, Wis. He was injured during a trip with his wife and son to Seattle, where a stepson serves in the Navy. The wreck left Warner paralyzed. Warner was taken to the hospital Monday, apparently suffering from a virus, and died at University Hospital in Cincinnati. For the Maysville Ledger-Independent article click here. For The Associated Press article, click here.
Thursday, Feb. 3,
Senate wants tougher
oversight of railroad crossings; deadly rural danger
Two U. S. senators, a Republican and a Democrat,
joined forces yesterday to introduce legislation to toughen
federal oversight of the rail industry following a number
of deadly collisions at rail crossings, many of them in rural
areas, reports The New York Times.
“The bill is one of several legislative
efforts after a string of derailments and grade-crossing accidents
in the last year...(prompting) public officials to question
how well the federal government is regulating rail safety,”
write Walt Bogdanich and James Dao.
The bipartisan Senate bill would require the
Federal Railroad Administration to investigate
each fatal crossing accident. Federal officials now fully
investigate only a handful of the hundreds of fatal accidents
each year. The bill also requires railroads to file accident
reports quicker. It also increases the number of inspectors
focusing specifically on grade crossings and hazardous materials,
and raises fines for railroads that violate safety rules,
write Bogdanich and Dao.
Railroad administration spokesman Steven W.
Kulm told The Times, that in some cases, railroads wait up
to a month before filing fatal accident reports. The current
maximum fine per violation is $11,000.Under the new bill,
railroads that knowingly violate grade crossing safety rules,
resulting in a fatal accident, could be fined up to $20 million
if "gross negligence" is involved.
One of the sponsors, Democratic Senator Charles
Schumer of New York, told the newspaper, "There are lots
of rules and regulations ...not enforced and when they are
...the penalties have the strength of a wet noodle."
Schumer and co-sponsor, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
of South Carolina, represent states where high-profile grade-crossing
accidents occurred in the last year. A recent collision and
resulting poisonous gas leak in South Carolina, occurred near
a crossing where a train rammed a car, killing five.
Kentucky wants stronger
law in war on meth; restrict key drug ingredients
Joining the growing number of states beefing
up their legal weapons in the war on meth, Kentucky officials
are filing legislation to restrict sales of cold and allergy
medicines that can be used to make the illegal drug methanphetamine,
reports The Courier-Journal.
“The bill seeks to strengthen a law used
to prosecute meth manufacturers, create a law making it illegal
to make meth in the presence of children, and hold meth makers
liable for the cost of cleaning up labs,” writes
Deborah Yetter. Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, also the Secretary of
the Justice Cabinet, said, "This fits
in with the governor's vision to ...address the growing drug
problem in this state." Under the bill, customers buying
such medicine as Sudafed would have to show a government photo
ID, and sign a log.
Pharmacists and drug retailers would have to
keep such drugs behind the counter and sales would be restricted
to the equivalent of 300 30-milligram Sudafed pills. Those
medicines contain pseudoephedrine, used for making meth, writes
Yetter. Several self-avowed meth users attended the announcement
in support of the administration's efforts but said meth is
such an addictive drug -- and so cheap and easy to make --
it will be hard to eradicate, reports the C-J.
The bill could go before the Senate Judiciary
Committee today said Committee chairman, Sen. Robert Stivers,
R-Manchester, a sponsor of the measure. Kentucky Retail
Federation official Jan Gould, told Yetter he thinks
the bill's restrictions go too far restricting access to legitimate
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Gross
Lindsay, D-Henderson, told the newspaper he believes lawmakers
are anxious to address the problem. "I think any legislation
that will facilitate stopping the spread of meth has a good
chance." The Kentucky bill is modeled on Oklahoma law
detailed several weeks ago in your Rural Blog.
New tobacco buyout bucks
for Kentucky farmers; ag funds to cover payments
Moving to assuage fears of Kentucky tobacco
farmers who feel they could lose out, state legislators want
to tap a special agricultural fund to assure them the $114
million that was to come from cigarette companies last December,
reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“About 163,000 Kentucky tobacco farmers
are eligible for the Phase 2 payments under a landmark 1997
lawsuit settlement that compensates states for smoking-related
health costs,” writes
Ryan Alessi. But, the companies refused to pay their last
installment after Congress approved a $10 billion buyout program
last fall. A North Carolina judge ruled in favor of the companies.
A Kentucky law requires the state to pick up the tab anytime
the payments fall below $114 million.
The House bill would take $16 million from the
Agricultural Development Board and another
$11 million after April 15, to fund those checks. The board
helps farmers diversify their operations and gets its money
from a different section of the 1997 settlement. The board
doesn't have all $114 million on hand. The bill would require
it to borrow $86.6 million through 20-year bonds.
The governor and many others oppose using the
Agriculture Development Board money to cover the payments.
Republican Floor Leader Dan Kelly of Springfield told Alessi,
"There's a lot of concern about robbing the Ag Development
funds." Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said interest
on the bonds the Agriculture Board would have to sell could
drive the state's total cost of the payout above $200 million.
Iowa group seeks crackdown
on gun shows; bill requires background checks
An Iowa group fighting gun violence is supporting
a bill requiring criminal background checks at gun shows at
the Iowa State Fairgrounds and all other
state property, reports The Des Moines Register.
Two years ago, a bill ordering checks at all
gun shows was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but
failed to get to the floor for a vote, writes
Frank Santiago. John Johnson, director of Iowans for
the Prevention of Gun Violence, told him, "For
the life of me, I don't see how any lawmakers could be opposed
to this unless they are for providing criminals easy access
Group spokeswoman Leah Woodward, told reporters
she wasn't asked for identification when she bought a Russian-made
semiautomatic assault rifle for $250 at a fairgrounds. Holding
the disarmed rifle over her head, Woodward said, "All
I had to do was to give him cash and he said he'd give me
Last year, the organization asked the State
Fair board to voluntarily require the checks, but the board
declined. The new bill makes it a felony for anyone to sell
a gun at a show to someone legally barred from having a gun,
such as a felon. The charge carries a five-year prison sentence
and a fine up to $7,500.
Federal statistics show 90 percent of guns used
in crimes were obtained from gun shows, estates, newspaper
ads and friends. The group claims it was easy to buy a gun
at any of the six annual gun shows at the fairgrounds without
anyone knowing who was buying the gun, writes Santiago.
Virginia move to alter
church property rules prompted by gay issues
A bill before the Virginia Senate on church
property rights has alarmed the Episcopal Church and other
mainline Protestant denominations deeply torn over the ordination
of gay ministers and the blessing of same-sex marriages, reports
The Washington Post.
“Several major church groups have urged
lawmakers to reject the bill, because they feel the measure
would give local congregations unprecedented powers to break
away from their denominations and entangle state government
in church law and politics,” write
Rosaline S. Helderman and Alan Cooperman.
The bill would allow congregants to vote to
leave their denominations and keep church buildings and land,
unless a legally binding document specified otherwise. Many
denominations have long had rules that prevent dissenting
congregations from leaving the parent church and taking their
land, buildings and other property with them, write Helderman
and Cooperman. The U.S. Supreme Court and
numerous other courts have upheld those rules in all but a
Relatively few of the Episcopal congregations
in Virginia and other states that opposed consecration of
a gay bishop in New Hampshire have left the Episcopal
Church USA, reports The Post. Most of those have
formed a network of disenchanted parishes and have tried to
pressure the U.S. Episcopal hierarchy from the worldwide Anglican
Communion. Opponents of the Virginia bill said it would be
an illegal intrusion of the government into that dispute.
Sen. Martin E. Williams (R-Newport News), who
said he plans to vote against the bill, told The Post, "It
puts us in the middle of that argument, and I think it's very
inappropriate that we be there." Sen. William C. Mims
(R-Loudoun), the bills sponsor and a lawyer whose practice
includes settling real estate matters for church groups, said
his bill is designed to distance government from church disputes,
otherwise courts are forced to look to church doctrine to
resolve arguments over congregational property.
Virginia aims to clean
up Chesapeake Bay tributaries; federal deadline 2010
Virginia officials have released a comprehensive
plan for cleaning up the state’s rivers and streams
that drain into the Chesapeake Bay that’s
long on ambition but short on details, reports the Richmond
The specifics on how the action will be taken -- river-by-river
and stream-by-stream -- are still pending, writes
Lawrence Latane III. Assistant Secretary of Virginia
Natural Resources Russ Baxter told the newspaper,
"That will be more of a detail of the business of government
when we go out and work with the local governments and the
local Soil and Water Conservation Districts."
Total cost of the cleanup is estimated at $9.9
billion. The plan comes just as lawmakers in the General Assembly
have begun looking for ways to pay for the cleanup, writes
Latane. Both parties introduced bills to raise $160 million
a year through taxes on sewer connections and earmarked income
from sales taxes.
Virginia committed four years ago to the cleanup
as part of an agreement with Maryland and Pennsylvania to
restore the polluted Chesapeake Bay. Nitrogen and phosphorus
nutrients from sewage treatment plants and farmland are the
top threat that foul the bay and cause harmful algae blooms.
Next are sediments from storm drains and construction sites,
fouling streams and smothering aquatic animals and plants.
A court agreement gives the state only until
2010 to remove the bay and its tributaries from a federal
list of polluted waterways. The Environmental Protection
Agency has threatened to take over statewide pollution
control if the deadline is not met.
Rural education lobbyists
charges task force has not revealed members
The U.S. Department of Education’s
rural education task force has accomplished little, claims
Alan Richard of Education Week. The group’s
membership is also a mystery, he said.
The task force was announced in 2003 by then-Secretary
of Education Rod Paige, Richard writes. Bob Mooneyham, executive
director of the National Rural Education Association,
alleged the task force has yet to reveal its members. Education
Department Spokesperson Susan Aspey explained in an email
the task force is an internal group and doesn’t provide
a member roster, Richard writes.
Mary Kusler, a rural education lobbyist, said
"We are disappointed that the department has not been
more proactive in trying to reach out to rural America,”
FOI group spreading sunshine
in growing darkness; rally set for March 13
A rally to increase public awareness about the
right to access government information,
Sunshine Sunday and
Sunshine Week, will start March 13, 2005. The rally will
focus on stories built on public records to drive dialogue
about why everyone needs open records laws, not just journalists.
Sunshine Sunday was started in 2002 in Florida,
by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.
The society says after the three Sunshine Sundays, some 300
exemptions to open government laws were defeated in the legislature.
“This is not just an issue for the press.
It’s an issue for the public,” said Andy Alexander,
the chair of ASNE Freedom of Information.
“An alarming amount of public information is being kept
secret from citizens and the problem is increasing by the
month. Not only do citizens have a right to know, they have
a need to know.”
This year’s efforts are spearheaded by
the American Society of Newspaper Editors
with grants from the John.S and James L. Knight Foundation.
The Radio Television News Directors Association
also got a grant from Knight. For more information, contact
your regional/state coordinator. You can also contact Debra
Gersh Hernandez, or call her at (703) 807-2100, ext. 130.
Arizona governor to boost
state tourism; highlighting ‘overlooked rural gems’
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano hopes her
upcoming tour of smaller rural attractions around her state
will get more people to visit those places, reports The
Future itineraries are still being finalized
but are expected to include stops at the likes of Goldfield
Ghost Town and Casa Grande Ruins National
Gubernatorial spokesperson Pati Urias told Stearns,
"The main focus is to get out and promote little spots
that (the governor) wouldn't normally get to." Napolitano
told the newspaper she wants to shed attention on "little
nooks and crannies" that not everyone necessarily knows
about but are "points of pride,” adding, “Everybody
knows about the Grand Canyon.”
The "Arizona Treasures: Governor Janet
Napolitano's 2005 Tour" is being coordinated with the
Arizona Office of Tourism to boost the state's
$30 billion annual tourism industry. The Tourism Office hopes
the governor helps raise awareness of the locations and motivates
Arizonans (and possible others) to explore.
Wednesday, Feb. 2,
Program finalized for
health-coverage conference; free registration required
National leaders in rural health
care will explore ways that journalists can cover the problems
of health care and health in Central Appalachia at a free
conference in Hazard, Ky., on Friday, Feb. 25.
The conference will be held at
the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health,
which is co-sponsoring the meeting with the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. The national
health-care leaders will be joined by local health-care providers
and others interested in improving the region's health.
For details of the conference,
click here for the News and
Events page of the IRJCI Web site.
While the conference is free,
registration is required. To sign up, e-mail IRJCI Director
Al Cross or one of his
part-time assistants, Krista
Kimmel. If you have questions, you can call 859-257-3744.
Northern Kentucky farmers
receive settlement payments reassurances
Hundreds of northern Kentucky tobacco farmers,
concerned about the economic impact of a court decision on
their share of tobacco settlement money, rallied in Maysville
Monday to hear from state officials about efforts to assure
they’ll not lose out, reports The Ledger-Independent.
“More than 700 tobacco farmers and others
involved in the local burley trade crowded into the Calvert
Center at Maysville Community and Technical College
...to discuss the latest ...(about) the federal tobacco buy-out
and Phase 2 settlement money,” writes
Justice Story of the Maysville newspaper.
Meeting moderator and Mason County Extension
agent Bill Peterson said the gathering was to relay information
to local farmers and agribusinesses about the buy-out money,
writes Story. Rep. Mike Denham spoke about a bill he filed
last month that seeks to use funds from the Master Tobacco
Settlement to pay farmers 91 percent of what (the farmers)
expected to get in the 2004 Phase 2 disbursement.
Denham said his bill would pay $114 million
to Kentucky farmers using Phase 1 funds the state has received,
with half of the money paid upon the bill's passage and the
remainder to be paid later in the year. Kentucky invests 50
percent of its Phase 1 dollars in agricultural development,
25 percent in early childhood development and 25 percent in
smoking cessation and other health related programs.
Reached in Frankfort yesterday, Denham told
The Ledger-Independent the Agriculture and Small Business
Committee, which he co-chairs, spent much of the day reviewing
the bill, and it will be presented to the House Appropriations
and Revenue Committee this morning.
Government wins mining ruling ;
possible property rights precedent
An appeals court has overturned a ruling that would have
forced the federal government to pay millions of dollars
to a Kentucky company, which argued that a 1977 law illegally
stripped it of the right to mine coal under the Daniel
Boone National Forest, reports
”If left unchallenged, …(the) decision by a
federal court ...would establish a national precedent in
property rights cases, safeguarding the government's ability
to enforce environmental rules,” writes James Bruggers
of the Lousvillle newspaper. For the Lexington Herald-Leader
story, click here.
The decision, “…might bring to a close a 25-year
legal battle involving Robert Gable, a former head of the
Republican Party in Kentucky and a two-time candidate for
governor," writes Bruggers. Gable is chief executive
officer of the Stearns Co., which won a 2002 ruling of $5
million, plus 20 years of interest and attorney fees. Gable
estimated the total owed him under the original ruling to
be about $80 million, and said he's not sure he'll appeal.
"Stearns is deeply disappointed with the … decision,"
said Gable's Frankfort attorney, Bruce Clark. "We are
reviewing our options."
Justice Department lawyers could not be reached for comment.
But officials at the National Forest are pleased, said forest
geologist Corey Miller. He said the forest has not banned
underground mining, but seeks to minimize damage to water
and other natural resources, writes Bruggers. Two environmental
lawyers involved in or watching the case, called the ruling
a significant victory in the national battle overproperty
rights, and were not surprised because it "upholds
well-established legal tenets from earlier cases, and said
it could have been devastating had the ruling gone the other
way." he writes.
John D. Echeverria, who had filed a friend of the court
brief in the case for the Kentucky Resources Council,
an environmental group, told the Louisville newspaper if
the lower-court ruling had been upheld, "the surface
mining law would have been gutted, and rendered unenforceable."
Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky group told Bruggers
such a ruling would have "dramatically impacted the
ability of state, local and federal governments to protect
Hybrid corn, primo for ethanol,
could boost economy for Iowa farmers
Northeast Iowa is experiencing a boom in the ethanol industry
that could give farmers who raise a special hybrid corn
crop a more powerful economic ride, reports the Waterloo-Cedar
“Raising corn that's highly fermentable and loaded
with starch can be financially beneficial to farmers and
ethanol plants,” writes
Matthew Wilde. Hawkeye Renewables has opened
a 45-million gallon ethanol plant and is building a larger
facility. Pine Lake Corn Processors is
expected to start producing 20 million gallons a year of
the corn-based fuel additive in March. The three plants
will consume about 54 million bushels of corn a year, about
two-thirds of the total corn production of the three counties,
where the plants are located, writes Wilde.
These buyers are expected to greatly increase competition
and purchasing prices. Ethanol producers say farmers can
benefit best by planting the right kind of corn."Plants
may be willing to pay premiums for corn that maximizes ethanol
production ...hybrids with a high starch content, the primary
ingredient of ethanol ...highly fermentable ---is also a
plus," he writes.
Producers don't yet know how much extra they may pay for
ethanol-friendly corn compared to conventional varieties,
but say that's what they're seeking. Bruce Rastetter, CEO
of Hawkeye Renewables told Wilde, "Our goal to is reward
people who provide value to the plant. We're encouraging
farmers to plant those varieties."
Companies are using a machine supplied by Monsanto
to analyze the ethanol output of different types of corn
to confirm which hybrids are best for their facilities.
Producers may start offering incentive-based corn delivery
contracts next fall. To guide farmers, major seed companies
like Monsanto and Pioneer have conducted
research in the area and have compiled lists of the corn
varieties most compatible for ethanol, which emphasizes
gallons per bushel and high yields.
Reid, new Senate Democratic
leader, protects his state's mining interests
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid "has
become a master at balancing the interests of Nevada's exploding
population, which is increasingly concerned about environmental
degradation; of Nevada's mining and gaming companies; and
of socially liberal Democratic colleagues in the Senate
whose votes have been essential to his rise in the party
leadership," The Washington Post reports.
"His close alliance with two major home-state industries
that carry political liabilities could have hobbled a less
astute politician. The mining industry has repeatedly battled
pro-Democratic environmental groups, and the gambling industry
has been a lightning rod for criticism by church groups
and advocates for the poor in the national culture wars."
Veteran political writer Tom Edsall began
his story this way: "Last August, Democratic presidential
candidate John F. Kerry pledged to boost funding for the
national park system by $600 million a year by raising fees
on mining companies. The National Mining Association
immediately denounced the proposal, saying it would cost
Nevada, a key battleground state, 44,000 jobs. But
that was before . . . Reid went to work. Two months later,
Kerry pledged to steer clear of any program that would threaten
mining jobs: "Let me just say clearly to Nevada while I'm
here: that [the NMA] is wrong. . . . As president I'm going
to work with Harry Reid and with your miners to keep mining
jobs, to keep people working."
Edsall notes that while Reid has defended the mining
industry, he has been a loyal supporter of environmentalists
on other issues -- "especially in opposing the use
of Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste disposal
site." Reid lives in rural Searchlight, on US 95
near Nevada's southern tip.
Wind and sun to save the earth,
say northeast Iowans living “off the grid”
Ten Northeast Iowa families who have harnessed the wind
and sun to make power say they are reducing pollution and
conserving energy, reports The Associated Press
One resident, Steve McCargar, 57 told
AP, "We want to live in harmony with nature."
McCargar started building his energy self-sufficient home
in 1983. Dennis Pottratz, proprietor of Go Solar!
told the wire service McCargar lives in a rural area with
Iowa's highest concentration of non-Amish homes not connected
to the power grid. Pottratz’s firm sells and installs
alternative energy equipment. He told AP "environmental
awareness appears to be flourishing in the Upper Iowa River's
Another resident of the off-the-grid community, Perry-O
Sliwa, 66, told the wire service, "Our goal is to live
as sustainably as we can." The Sliwas designed their
home to maximize passive solar input The house has well-insulated
walls and windows which provide "75-degree comfort
on sunny winter days --- even without a fire in the wood-burning
stove," AP reports.
They built their home with recycled materials. Two windmills
--- one for pumping water, the other for generating electricity
--- tower over an array of solar panels in the yard. "I
get a real sense of peace living in this house," said
Perry-O Sliwa. "We do depend on others. We just don't
depend on utility companies." Iowa has no statistics
on people living off the grid. About 5 percent of the 400
members of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association
live off the grid, but about half say they would like to,
said Michelle Kenyon Brown, the group's membership coordinator.
New River Gorge housing proposed;
environmental impact questions raised
An Atlanta company wants to build a 2,200-home development
along a 10-mile stretch of scenic New River Gorge
near Charleston, West Virginia, to the concern of National
Park Service officials, reports the Charleston
“Parts of the development could be visible from popular
overlooks on the east side of the gorge, including Diamond
Point and Babcock State Park,”
Ken Ward. "More than 600 acres of the Land
Resource Company's project would be within park
boundaries, but on land that has not yet been purchased
by the National Park Service. Already, though, officials
from the park service are raising concerns about the project’s
potential effects on the river and surrounding area. Park
Superintendent Cal Hite told Ward, “The scenic value
that we are charged to protect is going to be compromised.”
The Roaring River development would boast twice as many
housing units as a nearby community. Only Oak Hill, with
3,300 occupied homes, would have more, according to the
U.S. Census Bureau, the newspaper reports.
Land Resource is seeking a major change in zoning for 4,300
acres on the west side of the gorge. Members of the Fayette
County Planning Commission will consider the proposal
at a public meeting Feb. 22. A second hearing, before the
Fayette County Commission, is set for Feb.
Tennessee governor's State of the
State addresses plans for war on meth
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has detailed his $7 million
plan to fight the illegal production of methamphetamine,
a plan that includes more money to jail offenders and keeping
pseudophedrine—a key ingredient in cold medicines
and in meth—behind store shelves.
The plan would require $2.95 million in recurring costs,
Leon Alligood and Natalia Mielczarek of The Tennessean.
Bredesen outlined his plan for spending those recurring
costs in his State of the State address: $2.4 million to
increase prison sentences for offenders; $500,000 for Child
Advocacy Centers in problem areas; and $50,000 to promote
substance-abuse awareness in schools.
Utah senator proposes changes to
gay marriage ban, legislators reject
The Utah Senate rejected a bill that would have eased restrictions
imposed by the state’s gay marriage ban, voters approved
by 66 percent last November. Utah is heavily rural, Mormon
The bill, proposed by Republican Sen. Greg Bell, would
have allowed domestic-partner registry for unmarried couples,
regardless of sexual orientation, to have property, health-care
rights, and burial rights, reports
The Associated Press. The ban, as written,
could deny hospital visitation and survivor’s property
rights to heterosexual families, such as children living
with grandparents or siblings living together, says AP.
"It addresses the need of persons who may have some
relationship, other than marriage, to delegate responsibilities
to each other," said Bell.
This just in: North Carolina pig
challenges authority; forecasts early spring!
Updating our Rural Blog story from last week about a Lexington,
North Carolina 'porcine prognosticator' named "Lil
Bit," pressed in to forecasting spring's advent by
town promoters; the pig 'skewered' the accepted authority
to the north...can spring be far behind?
"On a day that belongs most famously to a rodent up
North, this southern barbecue town turned to (L'il Bit)
for its weather forecast,"
reports William L. Homes of The Associated Press.
Lil' Bit forecast an early spring for a crowd of about 500
pork-munching people who came to watch her debut as a seasonal
seer," he writes. The city of Lexington used the pig
and the occasion to promote its "famed barbecue"
to national attention, going aganist convention with a pig
predictor instead of a ground-hog guru.
The wire service reports, "Her (Lil Bit's) forecast
was at odds with that of Pennsylvania's legendary groundhog
Punxsutawney Phil, who forecast another six weeks of wintry
weather."About 500 people crowded into 'Barbecue Alley'
- an alleyway behind City Hall where local history says
barbecue first was sold in tents before the town's signature
business became more established - to see the pig's performance.
(The question now is: Will those betting on the pig, bring
home the bacon? Only spring will tell.)
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2005
West Virginia Ethics
bill's gag order illegal, law professor says
A “gag order” provision in an ethics
bill recently passed by the West Virginia legislature and
possibly aimed at an activist group, is unconstitutional and
violates the right to free speech, says West Virginia
University law Professor Bob Bastress.
“The bill would prevent people who file
ethics complaints from telling anyone about them. If they
did, they could face up to $5,000 in fines and have their
complaint dismissed,” writes
Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette.
Bastress, who teaches constitutional law, told
Eyre, “It’s blatantly unconstitutional. You can’t
have the person making the accusation being gagged, for heaven’s
sake. They have First Amendment rights.”
The bill also would prohibit anyone else, including the news
media, who has “knowledge that the [Ethics] Commission
is undertaking an investigation” from revealing any
facts about the investigation, writes Eyre. The bill does
not spell out specific penalties for reporters, witnesses
and others who did not file a complaint but who violate the
Wanda Carney, co-director of the watchdog group
West Virginia Wants to Know, said legislators
were targeting her organization after it filed ethics complaints
against a former House Education Chairman and his wife. Carney
told Eyre, “If this isn’t protecting the good
old boys, I don’t know what is.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores defended
the bill. He told Eyre the gag order protects the integrity
of investigations. “Finding out whether the allegations
are true or not is what’s most important. The fact [that
an ethics complaint] is being trumpeted about doesn’t
help the integrity of the process.”
$50 million annual proposed
in 'a priority' fight to cleanup Chesapeake Bay
Republican leaders of the Virginia House
of Delegates are proposing $50 million a year to
help clean-up the troubled Chesapeake Bay.
Environmentalists were pleased, saying "the
proposal would provide the first steady source of state money
for the bay," reports
Rex Springston of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said at a Capitol news
conference yesterday "House Republicans are making the
Chesapeake Bay a priority." Jeff Corbin, deputy director
of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia
office told Springston, "Without a doubt, this is a huge
step forward." Howell said the bay, “a provider
of seafood and a playground for boaters, suffers from pollution
that flows from sewage plants and runs off farms and yards."
The money would be allocated each year for at least the next
10 years, Springston writes.
Howell said the General Assembly could not commit
future legislatures, but could establish the bay as a funding
priority. Gov. Mark R. Warner favors spending more than the
$100 million that the proposal could provide in the current
two-year budget. Gubernatorial spokeswoman Ellen Qualls told
Springston, beyond ten years, "Warner does not want to
commit to an amount because needs and revenues can change."
Georgia joins war on
meth; legislators move to ban some cold medicines
Many over-the-counter cold medicines would be
pulled from store shelves in Georgia and customers would have
to show a photo ID and sign to buy them under legislation
before the state House and Senate.
“The bills are among the latest efforts
by lawmakers to thwart the makers of the illegal drug methamphetamine,
a potent stimulant that abusers cook up in dangerous makeshift
labs in kitchens, trailers and sheds,” writes
Jill Young Miller of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Over-the-counter medicines such as Sudafed contain
pseudoephedrine, used to manufacture methamphetamine. Many
cold and allergy medications contain the key ingredient used
to make the drug: the stimulant ephedrine, or a derivative
drug called pseudoephedrine. Senate and House bills require
stores to put cold and allergy medicines containing those
ingredients behind the counter or in locked cases and keep
logs of transactions for one year, writes Miller. Another,
more restrictive bill, says only licensed pharmacists or pharmacy
technicians could sell the medicines.
A sponsor of one of the senate measures, Bill
Hamrick (R-Carrollton) told Miller, "I'm not saying it's
a perfect solution,” But he hopes his bill will be "a
stimulus for the Legislature to get to thinking about how
to solve the problem." Georgia Food Industry
Association President Kathy Kuzava, who represents
grocery stores, said Hamrick's legislation and companion pieces
are too far reaching, and would require stores to remove from
shelves some medicines that aren't used in manufacturing meth.
hike; 54 cents likely in future, says Kentucky legislator
Kentucky legislators, briefed yesterday, say
Gov. Ernie Fletcher is expected to ask for a 31-cent hike
in the state’s three-cent-per-pack cigarette tax, with
a provision to raise it to more than 50 cents in the future,
The cigarette tax increase is part of an extensive
tax overhaul plan the governor is to unveil, reports Tom Loftus
of the Louisville newspaper. Kentucky currently has the lowest
cigarette tax in the nation after Virginia recently raised
it’s tax by about 20 cents. For the Lexington
Herald-Leader article click here.
Fletcher is scheduled to explain the details
of his tax and budget plans tonight during his State of the
Commonwealth address. His tax overhaul proposal last year
was met with political rancor, legislative gridlock and a
state budget stalemate that has yet to be fully resolved
“Fletcher (has) said he was considering
raising the current ...tax to between 34 and 40 cents. Yesterday
he told lawmakers he wants a 31-cent boost,” writes
Loftus. Senate Democratic leader Ed Worley told the newspaper
the tax rate could rise in the future. "It's a sophisticated
formula tied to rates in neighboring states and other factors
...the rate could be as high as 54 cents a pack in a few years."
House Democratic whip Joe Barrows told Loftus
the plan would keep the tax below the average of those in
surrounding states. "It could be bumped up to the low
40s in the second year and as much as the low 50s in the third
year." Kentucky Budget Director Brad Cowgill told lawmakers
the new plan would retain a provision in last year's plan
to impose a new excise tax on other tobacco products.
North Carolina quarantines
cattle statewide after Buncombe rabies deaths
The deaths of two cows
in Buncombe County, North Carolina, reportedly killed by rabies,
has prompted a statewide quarantine, reports the Asheville
“Peggy Felmet has seen plenty of diseases
and other problems crop up with the animals. But she had never
seen a cow with rabies — until last week. Two of the
brood cows she cares for became sick and died, just a few
days after showing symptoms. A state lab has confirmed the
cows had rabies,” writes
While rabies is fairly common in the mountains,
it’s unusual for it to appear in cattle, writes Boyle.
State records since 1960 showed only two cases of rabies in
cows in Buncombe County. In 2004, North Carolina recorded
four cases of rabies in cattle.
Steve Duckett, a livestock specialist with the
local office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service
told Boyle, “It’s probably been 20 years
or more since we’ve had a case in cattle.” Duckett
also said most farmers don’t vaccinate cattle for rabies
because it’s expensive and the disease is relative rare
Officials suspect the cattle most likely were bitten by a
rabid wild animal.
Dr. Carl Williams, a public health veterinarian
with the state's Occupational and Environment Epidemiology
division, told the newspaper rabies in cattle is “actually
not that uncommon,” mainly because the viral disease
has become endemic in the state’s raccoon population.
“You’re going to get spillover,” Williams
said, adding that cattle producers are not required by law
to vaccinate cows.
Man gets 3 months, fine
for donkey dragging; story catches national attention
A 78-year-old Cabell County, W.Va. man has been
sentenced to three months in jail and fined $1,000 after being
found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty for “draggin”
a donkey along a rural road, reports
Bob Withers of The Herald-Dispatch.
Hurston Gue was sentenced Monday but will remain
free on $50,000 bail until a Cabell County Circuit Court judge
decides whether to hear a planned appeal of the case, which
has drawn national attention, writes Withers. The Huntington
newspaper reports, “A jenny -- female donkey -- belonging
to Gue suffered massive injuries to her haunches … according
to one witness, she was dragged more than four-tenths of a
mile by a Honda four-wheeler.”
Cabell County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael
Dale Adkins said in court he was dispatched to the area where
Gue told him he had tethered a donkey behind his four-wheeler
and the donkey had fallen. "He told me the animal wouldn’t
or couldn’t get up, so he went a little piece around
a curve to get the animal out of the roadway so it wouldn’t
get hit. He told me he was leading the animal because it wouldn’t
follow." The incident occured last summer. The donkey
had to be euthanized.
Punxsutawney Phil, Groundhog
Day icon, owes fame to a newspaper editor
Tomorrow is "Groundhog Day"
and "Punxatawney Phil" will again forecast the remains
of winter to national attention. But, the famed furry over-sized
rodent might be hunkered down in anomymity and the mid-winter
tradition might never have occured if it weren't for the civic
mindedness of a small town newspaper editor, reports
According to several web sources,
divined by stalwart blogger Bill Griffin, "It all began
on February 2, 1886, with a terse paragraph in The
Punxsutawney Spirit (The Local Newspaper): 'Today
is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the
beast has not seen its shadow," wrote city editor Clymer
Freas. The legendary first trek to Gobbler's Knob was reportedly
made the following year, and the rest is colorful history.
Freas recalled the Pennsylvania
Dutch legend of the groundhog as a weather prophet and, "claimed
for the Punxsutawney Groundhog all weather rights." The
tradition also has roots (no pun intended) in Roman times
and a purification rite on "Candelmas Day." In more
modern times, the legend and ceremony became the focus of
Hollywood with the now famous film "Groundhog Day,"
starring Bill Murray.
The legend has grown and "Phil"
has garnered considerable competition, including Ohio's "Buckeye
Chuck," New York's "Dunkirk Dave," Georgia's
"General Beauregard Lee," Virginia's "Rebel
Robert," Mississippi's "Dixie Dan," and Indiana's
"Hilary the Hedgehog." Wintry Canada has its own
national prognosticator "Wiarton Willy." Clymer
Freas didn't know what he had started. Fame went everywhere,
and we at The Rural Blog think Freas is due some credit.
Coal-mine deaths may
give false impression of record lows last year
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
may have adjusted its records of coal-mine deaths from last
year, after many newspapers reported the year’s deaths
at a record low.
MSHA removed one death from its Dec. 30 list
and added 3, reports
a Lexington Herald-Leader editorial by
Wes Addington, an attorney at the Mine Safety Project
in Prestonsburg and an Equal Justice Works Fellow.
Two of the deaths weren’t originally added because MSHA
would not call them “mining-related.” They involved
timber-clearing, Addington said, which in the past was considered
MSHA’s accident investigation policy says
the responsibility for charging mining deaths is that of the
agency officials, who are not normally present at the site
of the accident. There were officially 28 coal-mine deaths
nationwide and six were in Kentucky. While neither is a record
low, the timing gave such an appearance, Addington writes.
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