May 31, 2006
Radio: Coal baron's maid fights for unemployment pay
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship
has received great notoriety in West Virginia for his
recent roles in political campaigns and public quarrels
with Gov. Joe Manchin. Now he is getting a more personal
kind of publicity. His former maid, Deborah May, filed
a lawsuit for unemployment pay, reports Anna Sale of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
May worked for Blankenship for $8.86 an hour, after
one 30-cent raise, for four years. She quit in November
because of stress and poor treatment, she says. May
described one incident from last July when Blankenship
got upset because he couldn't find an empty coat hanger.
He tore out part of the closet and had her repair it.
May also alleges that he grabbed her twice. Blankenship
declined to comment.
May's lawsuit is against Matecreek Security,
which provides personal services to Massey employees.
Johnny Fullen, Matecreek's human relations representative,
said May is not entitled to unemployment because she
resigned, but May's lawyer says she is entitled to the
benefits if they can determine that she quit after a
significant change in work conditions. For a transcript
of this story, click
one-room schools survive in small numbers, mainly in
An ongoing National Public Radio series
is examining one-room schools in the U.S.: "They've
dwindled from 190,000 in 1919 to fewer than 400 today.
The bulk of them are in isolated Western towns. But
there are schools sprinkled across the United States,"
writes Neenah Ellis.
One recent story profiled a school in Croydon, N.H.,
a small town located 30 miles northwest of Concord.
Croydon's school was built in 1780 and unlike the low
enrollment closing many of the nation's one-room landmarks,
this school might actually close because of unprecedented
growth, reports Ellis.
"Croydon's population varied only a little for
many years, hovering for a long time between 600 and
700. Now a lack of housing in nearby towns and cities
is bringing people here. Two new subdivisions have broken
ground. Last spring, there were 18 students at the school,
and most agree that's near the upper limit. If more
come, the residents of Croydon will have hard choices
before them: renovate the old, historic school, build
a new school, or send more kids down the road to the
next town," writes Ellis. Click
here to read more and listen to the report.
For the series main page, click
here. To listen to the latest report on a school
in Death Valley, click
lack of staff for paperwork lead to closure of Red Cross
In the latest example of the American Red Cross'
abandonment of small towns, the Waynesboro, Pa., chapter
will shut down June 30 because of new regulations issued
by the regional headquarters and a lack of finances
and volunteers, reports Denise Bonura of The
Record Herald in Waynesboro.
"Smaller Red Cross chapters are closing all across
the country because they cannot afford to keep up with
the fees, the new regulations and the diminishing number
of volunteers," writes Bonura. "There are
only 825 chapters remaining in the U.S., compared to
the 1,763 that existed in the late 1900s." The
closings leave 40 million-plus people without the Red
New requirements call for Red Cross workers to write
detailed local chapter policies on handling disaster
relief, the bird flu threat and a possible attack involving
weapons of mass destruction. The Waynesboro chapter
includes one full-time and one part-time employee and
about 50 volunteers, and new requirements hold every
chapter accountable for all reports, regardless of staffing
numbers, notes Bonura. (Read
Thanks to Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute
for alerting us to this story.
laws shut down charcoal producers, make for cleaner
Tighter regulations are forcing small-time charcoal
producers out of the business in Missouri, "where
an estimated 60 percent to 75 percent of the nation's
charcoal supply flows from kilns to backyard cookouts
and barbecues," writes Todd C. Frankel of the St.
While new rules on smoke have helped make the state's
charcoal kilns, which are concrete or metal buildings
shaped like small airplane hangars, more environmentally
friendly, they have also made it virtually impossible
for smaller operators to continue. In the state's Ozarks'
hardwood forests, residents depend on using wood waste
for charcoal as a way to combat poverty, reports Frankel.
Make no mistake: The demand for charcoal is high, but
pollution laws limit how much small companies can produce.
That coupled with the expense of removing soot from
the kiln's exhaust have reduced the state's number of
charcoal kilns to 87, down from 280 in 1998. However,
before the new laws, "white smoke poured over the
land. At other plants the smoke got so bad it obscured
highways and led to thousands of complaints," writes
sues USDA over loan program for rural Internet
Mediacom Communications is suing the
U.S. Department of Agriculture over
a low-interest loan program designed to provide rural
areas with high-speed Internet access.
"The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Des Moines federal
court, alleges that the loans are unfairly subsidizing
competitors to companies such as Mediacom, Iowa's leading
cable television provider. The lawsuit seeks to force
the Agriculture Department to rewrite its regulations
for the program and to block a loan granted last fall
to a company in Fairfield. The rival, Local
Internet Service Co., was awarded $9.5 million
to provide fiber-optic service to Fairfield," reports
the Des Moines Register.
At the same time it is being sued for making Internet
loans, USDA is considering calls for looser rules on
the program. Critics have argued its requirements for
applicants are too narrow and automatically eliminate
some of the communities most in need of an Internet
boost. One rule change being considered would ease a
requirement that borrowers have enough cash to cover
20 percent of the requested loan, reports Philip Brasher
of the Register's Washington bureau..
The lending program was modeled after the federal program
that extended electric service to rural America in the
1930s and 1940s. "The Agriculture Department has
approved 57 loans nationwide, including four in Iowa,
totaling $872 million," writes Brasher. "A
recent report by the Iowa Utilities Board found
that 95 percent of Iowa's rural communities had access
to high-speed Internet. But the analysts noted that
just because there is service in a town doesn't mean
that every business or home can get it." (Read
governor signs farm co-op bill to boost technology
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed economic development
legislation Tuesday that will help farm cooperatives
raise additional money and pursue large facilities designed
to house the latest technology
"By supporting Wisconsin farmers we are growing
the rural economy of our state," Doyle said. "Our
farming industry is a top priority of my administration.
Wisconsin agriculture is on the cutting edge and now
is the critical time to move forward with innovation
and investment opportunities.
"From new refining facilities for ethanol and
biodiesel to innovative cooperative housing developments,
this legislation will foster development of cooperative
high-tech business ventures in the bio-tech and bio-medical
arena," reports the Wisconsin Ag Connection.
should pool resources to combat poverty, says writer
The inaugural issue of Rural Realities,
a publication of the Rural Sociological Society,
examines social and economic efforts to provide hope
for poor people living in rural America.
"Hurricane Katrina exposed the poverty that lay
in our midst, and although the images served to remind
the country of its enduring inequality, the picture
was one of urban poverty," writes Leif Jensen.
"What the images failed to expose is the rural
face of poverty, which in the South — and especially
in the Delta — is the face of poverty. About one-third
of the area hit by Katrina is rural, and the rate of
poverty in the rural South stands at nearly 18 percent,
the highest of any region in the country. What is too
often overlooked is that poverty rates nationwide are
consistently higher in rural than in urban areas (as
a percentage of the population), and poverty is far
more persistent in rural localities."
Limited economic diversity and sparse populations contribute
to the problem of poverty in rural areas, and Jensen
suggests that communities "pool resources and knowledge
and build regional alliances that support innovative
economic development activities." Child care and
transportation are two areas cited as in need of major
Members of the new publication's editorial board are
Walt Armbruster of the Farm Foundation,
Frank Boteler of Economic and Community Systems in the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alisha
Coleman of Penn State University, Tadlock
Cowan of the Congressional Research Service,
Al Cross of the Institute for Rural Journalism
and Community Issues, Brian Dabson of the Rural
Policy Research Institute, Robert Gibbs of
USDA's Economic Research Service, Steve
Murdock of the University of Texas- San
Antonio, Jim Richardson of the National Rural
Funders Collaborative, Louis Swanson of Colorado
State University, Rachel Tompkins of the Rural
School and Community Trust, and Michelle Worosz
of Michigan State University.
May 30, 2006
still lag in broadband use, but aren't as far behind
Rural areas' use of high-speed Internet service is
growing virtually as fast as the nation overall -- about
40 percent per year -- but only a fourth of rural adults
have broadband at home, according to the latest surbey
from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
However, rural users account for a larger share of those
who post content, illustrating the Internet's utility
for overcoming the isolation that defines "rural."
A national survey in the first quarter of 2006 found
that 45 percent of adults in cities and suburbs said
they had broadband at home, nearly double the 25 percent
rate in rural areas. All those figures were about 40
percent higher than in a survey taken in the first quarter
There was much less geographic difference among Internet
users who say they have posted content online -- shared
something they created themselves, including their own
Web page or blog. The survey found that 27 percent of
rural users had posted content, not far behind the suburbs'
34 percent and cities' 39 percent.
Absence of broadband service from telecommunications
companies has been cited as the main reason for the
broadband deficit in rural America, but the project's
latest report suggests that relatively high prices charged
by sole-source providers is also a factor.
"Rural areas are the places with the highest incidence
of having one high-speed service available to them,"
the report says. "Among rural respondents, 35 percent
said they did not have more than one high-speed provider
available to them, versus 24 percent of non-rural respondents
who said this." Those with more than one provider
available "said they paid $36 monthly for service.
Those who said they did not have more than one provider
reported a monthly bill of $38." Satellite broadband
service is even more expensive, generally starting at
around $50 a month for a relatively slow link. Click
here to read the report.
of Web being threatened by tiered-pricing idea, writer
"The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass
medium there has ever been. Freedom of the press, as
the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one.
Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough
to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected
computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions,"
opines Adam Cohen for The New York Times.
"Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist
who invented the Web in 1989, envisioned a platform
on which everyone in the world could communicate on
an equal basis. But his vision is being threatened by
telecommunications and cable companies, and other Internet
service providers, that want to impose a new system
of fees that could create a hierarchy of Web sites.
Major corporate sites would be able to pay the new fees,
while little-guy sites could be shut out," continues
"Sir Tim, who keeps a low profile, has begun speaking
out in favor of 'net neutrality,' rules requiring that
all Web sites remain equal on the Web. Corporations
that stand to make billions if they can push tiered
pricing through have put together a slick lobbying and
marketing campaign. But Sir Tim and other supporters
of net neutrality are inspiring growing support from
Internet users across the political spectrum who are
demanding that Congress preserve the Web in its current
Cohen concludes, "The companies fighting net neutrality
have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan
'hands off the Internet,' that tries to look like a
grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current
form. What they actually favor is stopping the government
from protecting the Internet, so they can get their
own hands on it. But the other side of the debate has
some large corporate backers, too, like Google
and Microsoft, which could be hit by
access fees since they depend on the Internet service
providers to put their sites on the Web." (Read
families may be barred from inquiry into Ky. mining
"Kentucky investigators have subpoenaed about
two dozen witnesses to appear for interviews, beginning
Wednesday, on the May 20 explosion in Harlan County
that killed five underground coal miners. But representatives
of the miners’ relatives will not be allowed to
attend the interviews unless Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s
administration intervenes," writes R.G. Dunlop
of The Courier-Journal.
The families have no legal right to attend the interviews,
but they put in their requests shortly after the explosion
at Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1. At least once in the past
year, the state permitted a family to participate in
interviews after a mining fatality, reports Dunlop.
Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration
officials will also not be present for the
interviews, which suggests some division between the
typically close federal and state investigators. "MSHA
investigators last week refused to enter the mine, saying
it would not be safe until the operator repaired walled-off
areas that hold back potentially dangerous gases. But
state investigators did explore the mine at length last
week, writes Dunlop. (Read
coal-mine safety again being written with the blood
It's an old, sad story: Coal miners die en masse,
and mine-safety laws are strengthened. Now, again.
Bill Estep and Linda Blackford of the Lexington
Herald-Leader note the old saying, "Safety
laws are written with the blood of miners." Although
deaths declined in recent years, this year's national
toll sits at 33, the worst in decades. A January disaster
at the Sago mine in West Virginia sparked this year's
first round of mine-safety debate, which is an issue
that has now reached U.S. House and Senate chambers.
"There is a familiar ring, however, to some of
the changes adopted and issues being discussed, such
as increased air supplies to help trapped underground
miners survive until help arrives, quicker mine-rescue
response, and the use of certain materials to seal off
unused parts of mines. . . . The United Mine
Workers of America and others have long pushed
for improvements in emergency oxygen supplies available
to miners," report Estep and Blackford.
The big question is what will actually be accomplished
by the current ongoing safety talks. A previous call
for caches of oxygen in mines and other measures got
killed by the Bush administration in September 2001,
because of budget restraints and changing priorities,
note Estep and Blackford. After the Sago explosion,
though, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Adminstration
issued emergency rules requiring that miners have access
to two hours of air, plus extra supplies. The U.S. Senate
has approved a bill mandating additional oxygen supplies,
but that measure is currently stalled in the House.
promises closer records check of mine-license applicants
Kentucky officials did not check their records or others
to find that a part owner of Kentucky mine where a deadly
accident occurred April 20 had a long record of safety
violations and federal fines.
"Charles Robert Stump's involvement with Tri
Star Coal LLC in Pike County came to light
only after a massive slab of rock broke free from the
mine roof and crushed 28-year-old David Chad Bolen.
State inspectors have concluded that several illegal
mining practices caused the fatality at Tri Star, where
Stump was a 50 percent owner and identified himself
in federal records as being 'in charge of health and
safety,'" write R.G. Dunlop and James R. Carroll
of The Courier-Journal.
Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental
Protection Cabinet officials are now pledging
to review matters more closely when granting mine licenses.
New regulations are being drafted that will take into
account a licensed company's or operator's "compliance
history" with the state. Noncompliance could be
punished with revocation or suspension of a mine license,
reports The C-J. (Read
wants clean-coal plants; big coal company disagrees
"Coal, the nation's favorite fuel in much of the
19th century and early 20th century, could become so
again in the 21st. The United States has enough to last
at least two centuries at current use rates —
reserves far greater than those of oil or natural gas.
And for all the public interest in alternatives like
wind and solar power, or ethanol from the heartland,
coal will play a far bigger role," reports The
New York Times.
That means dealing with the fact that burning coal
is one of the largest man-made sources of carbon dioxide
and gases responsible for global warming. Coal executives
are at odds over how to satisfy energy needs and protect
the environment at the same time. Michael G. Morris,
who runs American Electric Power, the
nation's largest coal burner, embraces technology that
heat traps carbon dioxide emissions, but such plants
cost 15 to 20 percent more to build. Others are not
sold on the technology or cost structure, and "no
more than a dozen of the 140 new coal-fired power plants
planned in the United States expect to use the new approach,"
writes Simon Romero.
Morris remains unaffected by such doubts and said,
"Leave the science alone for a minute. The politics
around climate issues are very real. That's why we need
to move on this now." Most industry officials "are
not making that bet," writes Romero. (Read
entices burley tobacco growers to increase production
When Congress repealed production and price controls
on tobacco in 2004, and set aside $10.1 billion to compensate
growers for loss of their quotas, tobacco production
was expected to decline, and has. But now the leading
cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris USA,
is offering incentives to farmers to increase production
of burley tobacco, prevalent mainly in Kentucky and
"Agricultural forecasters in March projected burley
acreage would drop to 58,000 acres, but that was before
[Philip Morris] came out with price incentives to entice
its contract leaf growers to boost burley production.
The pricing strategy seems to have changed some minds
and some predict the incentives have spurred some production,"
reports Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press.
Philip Morris' incentives include 3 cents a pound for
signing contracts by mid-April and an additional 6 cents
once growers deliver the products they promised. Farmers
who increase production by 25 percent over last year's
contracted pounds will get an additional 30 cents a
pound on the additional leaf, but the incentives stop
once a farmer reaches 125 percent of last year's contracted
on illegal immigrants could hurt rural firefighters'
Immigrants comprise almost half of the roughly 5,000
private firefighters contracted by state and federal
governments to fight fires in the largely rural Pacific
Northwest, and many may be working illegally.
"A recent report by the inspector general for
the U.S. Forest Service said illegal
immigrants had been fighting fires for several years.
The Forest Service said in response that it would work
with immigration and customs enforcement officers and
the Social Security Administration to improve the process
of identifying violators," writes Kirk Johnson
of The New York Times. Oregon now requires
that crew leaders have a working command of English.
Some Hispanic contractors say state and federal changes
could deter many immigrants, even those working legally,
from vying for such jobs. Some forestry workers claim
firefighter jobs are vital, and that cracking down on
illegals would make it hard to fill positions, reports
Johnson. Some fire company owners estimate that illegals
account for 10 percent of the firefighting crews. (Read
Lynch says newspapers taking a 'deep, depressing dive'
A new report from Merrill Lynch's
Lauren Rich Fine, titled "Deep, Depressing Dive,"
shows that the newspaper industry's decline may be moving
faster than anyone suspected. The two main culprits
are the changing media consumption and the migration
of classified ads to the web.
Merrill Lynch analyzed classifieds with an estimate
of a five-year impact from the shift of the category
from print to online. The study states that many ads
are moving from print to newspaper Web sites, but it
also wonders how many have drifted to competitor sites,
writes Jennifer Saba of Editor & Publisher.
Fine sees a $9 billion gap in what the industry brought
in from print classified revenue over a 10-year period,
and she used the Newspaper Association of America's
estimate that newspapers picked up $2 billion in online
advertising revenue, reports Saba. She concluded the
remaining $7 billion in unaccounted revenue "must
then represent loss of share to competitors." Merrill
Lynch suggests that maybe newspapers charge too much
for online classified ads. (Read
Fine says newspapers are "a stinker of an industry,
but [we] believe management skill and cash flow reinvestment
will prove the distinguishing qualities."
May 26, 2006
bill stalls in House over attempts to make it stronger
"As Kentucky investigators began to map the site
of a fatal blast in a Harlan County mine, the U.S. House
failed yesterday to follow the Senate by quickly passing
a mine-safety bill. Negotiations broke down over the
details of the legislation, including the amount of
oxygen supplies for miners and the speed of deployment
of communications gear underground," reports James
R. Carroll of The Courier-Journal.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., tried to strengthen the
bill by requiring two days' oxygen supply instead of
two hours and "put communication and tracking devices
in mines within 15 months, instead of no later than
three years," but Republicans objected, Carroll
reports. Miller was "putting politics ahead of
the safety of our miners," claimed Rep. Harold
"Hal" Rogers, R-Ky., whose district includes
the mine where five miners died Saturday. Miller said
his measures "are all easily done if people have
the will to do them."
Miller's amendment also would have required the Mine
Safety and Health Administration to inspect
breathing devices used by miners, the reliability of
which were questioned in the explosion that killed 12
miners in West Virginia in January. The United
Mine Workers threatened yesterday to sue to
force such inspections, but said it opposed Miller's
amendment because the House had "a rare opportunity"
to pass a major mine-safety bill quickly, without going
through the committee process. (Read
A New York Times editorial, apparently
written before the House failed to act, said, "Mandates
for such obvious necessities as extra oxygen supplies
for trapped miners languished after an initial burst
of concern over the disaster in January that killed
12 miners in Sago, W.Va. . . . The sad truth is that
safety equipment and rescue procedures have been scandalously
neglected for years under company-friendly regulations
that have been laxly enforced by government agencies
stocked with political appointees who have come from
the coal industry. . . . The Senate bill only begins
to repair the problem. But it is preferable to pro-industry
proposals in the House to require drug testing for miners
— as if the victims, not government and industry,
were to blame for miners' highest death rate in 20 years."
Electric utilities worry coal supply short for cooling
Summertime is coming soon, if not already here, and
electric utilities are dealing with whether there will
be enough coal on hand to handle high power use -- putting
more pressure on coal mines to produce.
"With at least a few utilities unable to get enough
coal shipped by rail, some are resorting to extreme
measures -- even importing it. . . . It's more than
a little ironic: Even though the U.S. guzzles imported
oil by the tanker load, it is often called the 'Saudi
Arabia of coal,' with enough domestic reserves to last
centuries. But getting America's abundant coal to where
it is most needed is a growing challenge for power companies
-- and the railroads that supply them," reports
The Christian Science Monitor.
Not only have rising natural-gas prices caused companies
to burn cheaper coal faster than expected, but derailments
and other railroad problems have created small coal
stockpiles throughout the Midwest and South, writes
Mark Clayton. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee will discuss such concerns at a hearing Thursday.
cell phones leave rural folks with poorer reception
The Federal Communications Commission
gave cell-phone companies a December 2005 deadline to
switch 95 percent of their customers to digital phones
to help emergency dispatchers locate callers, but rural
Montanans are failing to see the improvement because
of poor reception and a lack of 9-1-1 dispatch centers
with the right equipment.
"In Great Falls and other cities there are enough
digital towers to blanket most areas. But rural Montana's
reception is still far behind that in metropolitan areas,
where market forces are driving the digital conversion
independent of the FCC's mandate," writes Karen
Ogden of the Great Falls Tribune. In
the analog days, reliable service stretched up to 30
to 45 miles from a cell phone tower, which is now reduced
to 12 to 14 miles with digital phones. Cell phone companies
shy away from building new towers at a price of $250,000
because of the lack of rural customers.
In metro locations, the switch from analog to digital
phones is clearly beneficial to residents, Ogden reports.
In cities with several cell phone towers, a digital
phone connects with just a few towers, whereas analog
phones connected with many and used valuable network
space. Digital phones also support wireless Internet
that analog phones did not. This story may be purchased
in the newspaper's archives section by clicking
States should prohibit cell phone use among drivers
Rural America is increasingly populated by commuters,
many of which brandish cell phones, and a new survey
indicates most people would support states banning people
from talking while driving.
"Two-thirds of the respondents (65 percent) said
state governments should pass laws banning driving and
cell phone use, and 29 percent said they did not want
such a law. In addition, 88 percent said that a police
officer should write on an incident report if a driver
used a cell phone when an accident occurred," reports
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
The findings, released this month by the University
of Michigan, are in a report that examined
public attitudes toward cell phones and other information
technology tools in the U.S. The survey was funded by
a grant from the Constance F. and Arnold C. Pohs Endowment
at Michigan. (Read
to hit 80 mph in 10 rural counties; highest limit in
"Yeehaw! Texans who brag they do things bigger
and better are about to go faster too. State transportation
officials on Thursday boosted speed limits on two stretches
of rural highway from 75 mph to 80, leaving wandering
armadillos and feral hogs a split-second less time to
avoid becoming roadkill. It will be the highest posted
speed limit in the country," reports The
Safety and energy conservation advocates are concerned
about the new speed limit causing more traffic fatalities
and draining drivers' wallets during an age of high
gas prices. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that
gas mileage decreases quickly after 60 mph, and its
estimates that every 5 mph over 60 costs drivers an
extra 20 cents per gallon, reports AP.
The new speed will affect 10 mostly rural counties
in West Texas: a 432-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between
El Paso and Kerrville, and 89 miles of Interstate 20
between Monahans and the I-10 interchange near the Jeff
Davis Mountains. Congress set a national 55 mph speed
limit in the 1970s but later abolished it in 1995. Thirteen
states currently have roads with speed limits of 75
or higher, notes AP. (Read
deaths continue in small towns where regulations lacking
Car racing officials are knee deep in efforts to improve
the sport's safety, but deaths continue to occur in
small towns where tracks do not require drivers to wear
life-saving head-and-neck restraints.
"That safety effort hasn't trickled down in all
racing organizations to protect the thousands of drivers
and fans at racing's lower levels. The racing industry
is broken up into dozens of governing bodies besides
NASCAR, as well as track owners who
operate independently," write David Scott and Gary
Schwab of the Charlotte Observer. "In
most of the weekly racing divisions that run weekend
nights in small towns across the country, safety standards
are left to individual track owners. Major changes sometimes
happen only after a fatal accident."
Last year, 21 people died at race tracks including
16 drivers, two spectators, a navigator in a car, a
crew member and a flagman, which comes in under the
average of 23 deaths a year since 1990. When 40 deaths
occurred in 2001, an Observer investigation showed fatalities
are not isolated or rare as the industry believed. This
year, five people have died at race tracks, up from
two at this time a year ago, report Scott and Schwab.
meeting 'highly qualified' teacher rule of No Child
No state is expected to meet the original deadline
for putting a “highly qualified” teacher
in every core-subject classroom, federal officials announced
"Nine states, along with Puerto Rico and the District
of Columbia, face losing federal money because of foot-dragging,
the officials said. But those jurisdictions could also
get off with agreeing to changes in the way they have
been defining or tallying teachers’ status under
the No Child Left Behind Act. The states are Alaska,
Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska,
North Carolina, and Washington," writes Bess Keller
of Education Week. Many rural states
struggle to attract teachers with the same qualifications
as those in urban areas, because they lack the money
to make salaries competitive.
The federal education law set the 100 percent goal
for the end of this school year, but states are now
being asked to plan to reach that goal by the end of
the 2006-2007 school year. Thus far, 29 states have
made adequate progress complying with the law’s
procedures and do not face penalties, the federal officials
said. The remaining 12 states are still being assessed,
Federal officials wants states to have "at least
as many effective teachers in schools serving poor and
minority students as in wealthier schools, which tend
to draw better-prepared and more-experienced teachers,"
writes Keller. (Read
Carolina county asks farmers to preserve land for 10
A rural county southeast of Asheville, N.C., is a prime
example of a how a local farm economy is trying to co-exist
with a wave of tourism-induced residential growth.
In Polk County, a rich agriculture history is colliding
with the pressures created by residential growth. "Each
year the area is a little less rural and a little more
suburban, and owners of farmland are faced with the
choice of hanging on to their land or selling for a
potentially large sum to a developer," writes Chris
Dailey of the Tyron Daily Bulletin
-- "The world's smallest daily," printed on
Since farmland is typically sold to developers, Polk
County officials are taking steps to preserve the remaining
farmland with a new farmland preservation ordinance.
Farmers have to sign up to preserve their farms for
a minimum of 10 years. Proponents of the ordinance argue
that farmland boosts the economy by demanding many agriculture
services, such as fertilizer and fencing, and it requires
little government services. Some county officials say
more precautionary measures may be needed, though, because
the constant influx of new residents represents a threat
that will not disappear, reports Dailey.
Gerald Harbinson, who works closely with area farmers
as the district conservationist for the state Division
of Soil and Water Conservation, described what
attracts people to the county: “Most people come
here because it’s rural and pretty and has low
taxes. But the problem is that the more people who come
here the more impact it has on the land and the more
property taxes are going to go up.”
Some residents oppose creating zoning requirements
to preserve the county's rural landscape. Polk County
High School agriculture teacher Chauncey Barber, who
has spearheaded the creation of an educational farm
at the school, says "it’s better to have
conservation easements on land than to rely on agriculture
zoning districts. He says he’s seen how in some
metropolitan areas the agriculture zoning district is
quickly scrapped as soon as a developer shows up with
big plans," writes Dailey. (Read
petition to block ethanol plant in rural South Dakota
Many ethanol plants are being built with bundles of
small investments from farmers and others in small,
ural communities, but now a grassroots effort is taking
shape in rural Aberdeen, S.D., to fight the construction
of a proposed ethanol plant.
Glacial Lakes Energy, based in Watertown,
S.D., wants to build a $140 million plant, but neighbors
are collecting signatures to appeal a planning commission's
decision to recommend that land be rezoned from agricultural
to heavy industrial. The Brown County Commission will
have to make a final decision on whether to grant the
change, writes Jackie Burke of American News
The neighbors in the city 100 miles southeast of Bismarck,
N.D., plan to submit the application of appeal to the
commission on Tuesday, and organizers say they would
like a vote held on the matter, reports Burke. (Read
use John Deere's colors as their class colors in rural
High school graduates in Rocklake, N.D., took their
love of John Deere products to a new
level by voting to use the company's green and yellow
as its class colors.
"This is farming country. We went full-fledged
on the farming theme. Pretty much everyone voted for
it," senior class president Casie Martin told The
Associated Press, adding six of the 10 graduates
are girls. "Most of the girls are big John Deere
fans. . . . Four of the six girls had class pictures
taken with a John Deere tractor."
Some seniors created graduation announcements with
the phrase "Got-R-Done," a play on the Blue
Collar Comedy Tour co-founder Larry the Cable Guy's
catch phrase "Get-R-Done," notes AP. (Read
FCC to investigate
video press releases masquerading as news
Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin
ordered a probe of dozens of television stations after
a report found they aired advertisements as if they
were news reports, people familiar with the inquiry
said," Neil Roland of Bloomberg News
reports. Martin, a Republican, responded to a request
from Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein in the
wake of recent research.
The Center for Media and Democracy, based
in Madison, Wis., said in April that it found "at
least 77 stations, including seven each owned by Sinclair
Broadcast Group Inc. and Tribune Co.,
ignored an FCC warning to disclose sponsors," Roland
writes. Each violation carries a maximum fine of $32,500,
up to a maximum of $325,000 if violations occur for
10 or more days. Sinclair, which has many rural viewers,
said its policy is to disclose sources of such promotional
material; Tribune declined immediate comment.
"The FCC warned TV stations in April 2005 they
may be fined for airing news stories provided by the
government and companies without disclosing who made
them. The agency had received complaints about the use
of videos provided by the Bush administration about
topics including military success in Iraq," Roland
reports. "Since then, 69 stations have aired video
news releases and eight showed satellite media tours,
which involve a scripted interview with an author or
expert promoting a product such as a book."
Diane Farsetta, a researcher for the Center, said TV
stations are using video news releases because they
are under pressure to keep up with cable-TV networks
but lack the staff to do their own stories. "Station
managers have said they are turning to provided media
because they can't afford to do all the news on their
own," Farsetta told Bloomberg News. (Read
companies confront the future with Web sites, niche
As the newspaper industry wades through murky waters,
some companies are seeing Web sites and niche publications
as keys to overcoming circulation woes. However, not
all are ready to embrace that future.
"For years, newspapers have treated innovation
like a trip to the dentist — a torture to be endured,
not encouraged. True, newspapers finally got around
to adding color. They shrank stories, hoping that pithier,
flashier fare would help attract young people who don't
like to read. They spruced up the front page by sprinkling
uplifting, maudlin or otherwise titillating features
amid the news. But bold new thinking about the newspaper
and a world of opportunities beyond it? Please. Tell
the dentist to add a veneer and leave the rotting core
alone," writes Rachel Smolkin of American
"Now that's all changing, of necessity. Circulation
is falling; newsprint costs are rising; retail, auto
and movie advertising is slumping; classified advertising
is available free on craigslist and other online venues.
. . . An emerging weltanschauung sees newspapers as
the engine driving a myriad of products — from
Web sites to free commuter tabloids to Spanish-language
publications — that can lure additional audience
(those folks we used to call readers) and reinvigorate
listless advertising," continues Smolkin. Last
September, the American Press Institute
started a yearlong initiative called Newspaper Next,
which aims to offer industry leaders guidance. (Read
May 25, 2006
expert sees dark pattern; Senate responds to disasters
Last Saturday's Kentucky mine disaster is just one
step in an "ominous" pattern that must be
stopped before it gets larger, said a former mine safety
chief who is also leading the inquiry into the Sago
"You've had three explosions in three separate
mines," said J. Davitt McAteer, who ran the U.S.
Mine Safety and Health Administration for seven
years during the Clinton administration and is now a
vice president at Wheeling Jesuit University
in West Virginia. "One explosion does not make
a pattern, but three does. This is not an academic exercise
-- you're talking about real people." The Jan.
2 explosion at Sago killed 12 men, the Jan. 19 fire
at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine in Melville, W.Va., killed
two miners, and Saturday's blast in Harlan County, Kentucky,
killed five, write Linda Blackford and Lee Mueller of
the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Read
The string of fatalaties seems to be prompting action
by Congress. The Senate voted yesterday to toughen mine-safety
laws. "The bill gives Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
the power to: Shut down mines that ignore safety
orders; boost penalties for safety violations to a maximum
of $250,000; and require additional oxygen supplies
for miners underground," writes James R. Carroll
of The Courier-Journal's Washington
bureau, who is following the issue closely. (Read
The Harlan Daily Enterprise took a
local angle with this investigation story by writing
about and picturing Ronnie Hampton, supervisor of the
Harlan division of the Kentucky Office of Mine
Safety and Licensing. His rescue team worked
to recover the five men killed in the Darby Mine No.
1 explosion, writes Jennifer McDaniels, who
also took this photo of Hampton for the Enterprise.
hold anti-mountaintop removal meetings, call for abolition
After years of scattered protests, followed by a year
or so of national publicity, Appalachian residents and
activists are gathering to devise strategies on how
to fight "mountaintop removal and steep-slope mining"
in cities and counties throughout the Virginia coalfields,
reports The Coalfield Progress of Norton,
One meeting in Stephens, Va., included such complaints
as the Glamorgan Coal Resources’
Unity surface mine, preparation plant and loadout is
saturating the community with mud, dust and noise. Bill
McCabe, a Tennessee-based organizer for the Sierra
Club, told the concerned residents that surface
mining practices “simply not acceptable. They
are not the way to treat the earth. We need to come
together to protect the families and protect the homes
Coal is found in a small areaof Virginia, along the
borders with Kentucky and southern West Virginia, Residents
from all areas of the Old Dominion are being urged to
send Gov. Tim Kaine’s office pre-printed yellow
postcards that include three demands: Change surface
mine laws to prohibit blasting within at least 1,500
feet of any structure, instead of the current 300 feet;
prohibit strip mining or coal traffic between 10 p.m.
and 6 a.m.; and abolish mountaintop removal and all
other forms of steep-slope strip mining, writes Jeff
Lester of the Progress. (Read
fifth-graders plant chestnuts on land hurt by surface
One-hundred fifth-graders from Johns Creek
Elementary School recently traveled to the
top of Bent Mountain in Pikeville, Ky., to reclaim land
leveled by surface mining and to plant 300 American
chestnut trees, according to a press release from the
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Blight all but erased the tree from the mountains in
the early 1900s, but research and breeding led to a
blight-resistant variety. “There was a saying
that the chestnut was so much a part of the Appalachian
culture that they used it from the cradle to the grave,”
said Rex Mann, president of the Kentucky Chapter of
the American Chestnut Foundation. “When
we lost that tree we lost a part of our culture. Now
we have the knowledge and the science to restore that
tree and that’s a great thing for eastern Kentucky.”
Don Graves, a professor in the UK forestry department,
said he hopes that the fifth-graders learned that they
played an important part in reclaiming Kentucky’s
strip mines. “Surface mines furnish 50 percent
of all of the power in the United States and about 80
or 90 percent in the state of Kentucky. This is their
lights. This is their computers. This is everything
that they deal with on a daily basis and it’s
not necessarily bad to do. We can put it back in a way
that will be suitable for all of the people living there
from now on.”
ban on local broadband criticized by study, paper, candidate
Local governments were recently barred from offering
broadband Internet service in Nebraska, but a new study
says the state should lift the ban to help residents
saddled with slow, dial-up connections
"The report from the Brennan Center for Justice
at the New York University law school
said the Legislature should allow local governments
and public utilities to offer broadband service. The
2006 Legislature enacted a measure, signed by Governor
Dave Heineman, that bars all cities, towns, public utilities,
and other public entities in Nebraska from providing
retail telecommunications services of any kind, including
broadband Internet access," reports the Nebraska
The Lincoln Journal Star recently
championed broadband in an editorial: "The quickest
way to make that vital service available to businesses
and consumers in rural areas of the state is to allow
publicly owned utilities and locally owned governments
to provide it. . . . The phone company’s main
argument — that government should not compete
with the private sector — has undeniable appeal.
The trouble with their argument is that strict reliance
on the private sector means Nebraska businesses and
consumers are on the outside looking in, condemned to
slow, dial-up Internet access. The private sector is
not providing broadband. Because government and publicly
owned utilities have been blocked by legislation, that
means that that no one is providing the service."
Democratic candidate for governor David Hahn wants
the ban lifted, reports Southwest Nebraska News.
"The widespread provision of Internet technology
is vital to support our education and health care systems,
and that we need to obtain significant, prosperous,
and wide-spread growth in the years ahead," he
said. "We should develop a broadband information
infrastructure that will support Nebraska's urban and
rural economy and that we will be proud to hand off
to future generations." (Read
To read additional coverage of the new report by Nancy
Hicks of the Lincoln Journal Star, click
finish last in new report on broadband penetration
A recently-released report confirms a long-standing
and often-reported problem: rural states are lagging
behind in the race for broadband Internet access.
According to Broadband Across the US, a recent report
from the Leichtman Research Group,
the bottom five states in residential broadband penetration
were Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kentucky
and Montana. The top five were Connecticut, New Jersey,
Hawaii, Massachusetts and California. The full report
may be posted at this Web
can no longer get some 'local' TV via satellite, says
"A federal appeals court late Tuesday dealt a
setback to EchoStar Communications
in its fight with network-affiliated stations over whose
signals the second-largest U.S. satellite-television
provider can carry. The court ordered EchoStar to stop
providing signals from distant network affiliate stations
to customers who can receive over-the-air broadcasts
from nearby sister affiliates," reports TVWeek.com.
This ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in Atlanta has implications for rural areas near the
borders of the officially defined TV markets. For example,
Leslie and Letcher counties in the Eastern Kentucky
mountains are officially in the Tri-Cities market but
lots of satellite viewers there would like to get (and
may be getting from EchoStar) Lexington stations.
"In a series of lawsuits over the past several
years, the broadcasters have alleged that EchoStar was
violating a copyright law that bars satellite TV companies
from providing distant affiliates' signals that would
compete with local affiliates' over-the-air transmissions.
The affiliates claimed that EchoStar had been delivering
distant network signals to hundreds of thousands of
ineligible homes," writes Doug Halonen. (Read
more) For The Associated Press
shines as potential alternative for ethanol production
"Centuries ago the prairies of the USA were covered
with native grasses such as bluestem, buffalograss,
Indiangrass and switchgrass. With the advent of intensive
agriculture virtually all of these native grasses became
very scarce. They revived in the late 1980s with the
introduction of the Conservation Reserve Program
which took millions of acres of marginal farmland
and converted it back into a more natural setting,"
opines Jack Schultz in his Boomtown
"Recently switchgrass has been discussed as a
potential alternative for the production of ethanol.
The biomass created from the very tall grass is viewed
as being more similar to the production of alcohol,
made from sugarcane, which has allowed Brazil to become
self sufficient in energy production," continues
Schultz. "[A recent] test produced almost 20 million
kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to run 1,850 average
homes for a year. It also set a world record for electricity
production from switchgrass."
"You’re going to be hearing a lot more about
switchgrass in the future. One recent study showed that
SD had enough biomass potential to produce 1/3 of the
energy that is produced in Saudi Arabia," concludes
Schultz, a consultant to small-town economic developers.
you call ’em morel ’shrooms or ‘dry
land fish,’ hunters want ’em
Mushroom hunters are moving fast to snatch up morels,
which many rural folks call "dry land fish"
-- probably because morels are often breaded and fried
just like fish.
In his latest Morning Meeting column for the Poynter
Institute, Western Kentucky native Al Tompkins
describes this craze: "I have heard of people who
hunted for mushrooms -- but now I hear that those folks
are actually eating (not smoking) the things. Last week,
during the Reporting for Public Radio seminar I led
here at Poynter, I listed to a wonderful story about
whole groups of people who spend the weekends looking
Beth Gauper of the St. Paul Pioneer Press
has perhaps provided the most descriptive narrative
about this hunting phenomenon: "Deep down, every
morel hunter believes in divine providence. There's
nothing so providential as baskets overflowing with
morels, and the taste is so divine hunters dream about
it all winter. In spring, they offer a fervent prayer
to the mushroom gods: May the fungus be among us. Morels
do taste heavenly. But it's the hunt that's so addictive,
not the mushroom itself. For one thing, it's fun to
find something for free that's so expensive in stores
and restaurants, and it's fun to beat the odds by finding
something so notoriously elusive." (Read
here for a story on this obsession for some by National
Public Radio. Also, for all the information
you ever wanted on this subject, visit the National
Morel Mushroom Hunters Association.
regulations would ignore call for organic management
A proposal for new federal organic livestock regulations
does not close loopholes that allow some factory-scale
dairy farms in western states to bring into their milk
herd new animals raised with antibiotics, hormones,
and genetically engineered feed produced with toxic
pesticides, according to an eMedia Wire
report used by the New
Hampshire Agriculture Department in its Weekly
The proposal ignores recommendations endorsed by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's own
expert advisory panel, the National Organic Standards
Board (NOSB). That board passed recommendations in 2002
and 2003 that all animals being brought into such farms
had to be under organic management at least for the
last three months of pregnancy. The industry’s
dominant milk marketer, Dean Foods, and the Organic
Trade Association, an industry lobby group, have tried
to delay the implementation of such recommendations,
reports eMedia Wire. To contact the Weekly Market Bulletin,
orchestra of lawyers, teachers creates musical mecca
A musical mecca is shining in the rural community of
Marshall, Mo., with nearby doctors, lawyers, teachers,
housewives, retirees or third-shift workers flocking
to the city of 12,000 residents to be part of the Marshall
The philharmonic just finished its 43rd year, such
outfits actually date back to 1871, and residents have
paid a one-tenth of a cent "band tax" to support
community music for the last 72 years, reports Alan
Scher Zagier of the Columbia, Mo., bureau of The
Associated Press. Performances once took place
in participants' living rooms before moving to a middle-school
"A half-dozen times each year, the symphony entertains
locals with selections by Bach, Mozart and the like,
or in the case of its late April finale, a pops program
featuring the works of Jerome Kern, Stephen Sondheim,
Rodgers and Hammerstein and other American composers,"
writes Zagier. (Read
May 24, 2006
and local weeklies in West Virginia agree to share news
The State Journal, a statewide weekly
based in Charleston, W. Va., will share news with two
local weeklies, the Parsons Advocate
in Tucker County and the Moorefield Examiner
in Hardy County.
In an e-mail interview, Parsons Advocate Editor Chris
Stadelman explained the agreement: "Essentially,
we have permission to use any stories or columns from
The State Journal, and they have the same right with
any of our stories. Theirs are available from their
site, and they let me know if they see anything
they would like to pick up, and I e-mail it to them.
I also e-mail them stories I think they might be interested
Dan Page, the editor and publisher of The State Journal,
is a long-time acquaintance of Stadelman and approached
him with the idea for a non-exclusive agreement, meaning
the Parsons Advocate can still share information and
run stories from other newspapers. The news-sharing
agreement benefits the Parsons Advocate in a big way.
"From our perspective, they're able to do reporting
that we just don't have the time and staff to do,"
wrote Stadelman, a former employee of The Associated
Press and former managing editor of the Charleston
told investigators breathing device worked, sources
Contrary to earlier reports, the sole survivor of Saturday's
mine disaster in Eastern Kentucky has told investigators
that his self-rescue device gave him oxygen "throughout
his ordeal," James R. Carroll of The (Louisville)
Courier-Journal reports this morning,
citing unnamed "sources close to the investigation."
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
officials said likewise on Monday, but yesterday
"would not comment on Ledford's account,"
Carroll writes. (Read
more) Miner Paul Ledford's brother had told reporters
over the weekend that his brother's self-rescuer "had
failed after approximately five minutes. The units are
designed to supply oxygen for one hour," writes
Brandon Goins in the Harlan Daily Enterprise.
more) Reports of the brother's account raised concerns
among miners and their families.
Also yesterday, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher said the
primary explosion that led to the deaths of five miners
appeared to have been caused by methane, not coal dust.
"Some have speculated that coal dust was the problem
because of the explosion's force, which traveled out
to the mine's entry," note Linda Blackford and
Bill Estep in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"But a methane explosion puts more suspicion on
alternative seals used to block off unused parts of
mines to prevent gases like methane from moving into
active areas," the Herald-Leader reports. "Fletcher,
who arrived in Evarts yesterday afternoon to meet with
the miners' families, said three of these foam seals
were blown out in Kentucky Darby No. 1 mine." (Read
Star tells human story of demise of Alabama textile
Metropolitan daily newspapers give regular coverage
to the human effects of shriveling industries, but such
stories can be well told in rural and community newspapers,
as a feature story in the Anniston (Ala.)
Star, circulation 25,000, shows.
Alabama, the heart of cotton country, is losing its
textile industry. A recent announcement that Avondale
Mills will close July 25 means about 2,000
of Alabama’s remaining textile workers must find
new work. This comes 11 years after the Standard
Coosa Thatcher mill closed in Piedmont and
took with it 700 jobs from a once-flourishing textile
industry in the state, reports Crystal Jarvis of the
"Textile industries once were emblematic as a
way of life for the South. They were a boon for rural
towns that had few job opportunities, which gave the
mills the chance to orchestrate their employees’
lives. The factories provided homes to rent in mill
villages, activities including church and baseball,
and company stores where employees could buy groceries,"
When such plants close, rural residents are left with
few options for work, reports Jarvis. “Over the
past 10 years (Alabama) lost close to 60,000 jobs and
Georgia lost 100,000 jobs,” said Ahmad Ijaz, economist
for The Center for Business and Economic Research at
the University of Alabama. “That’s
one problem — the plants are located in rural
areas and they don’t have that many job opportunities
available.” Access to this newspaper's site is
limited, but you can get a free trial by clicking
for agriculture conservation and value-added grants
U.S. House appropriators approved $104 million in agricultural
funding cuts last week for fiscal year 2007, and the
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee plans
to act on the issue after Memorial Day.
Agriculture programs facing cuts include the Conservation
Security Program, which will receive $280 million, a
reduction of $92 million from the amount in the 2002
Farm Bill; and the Value-Added Producer Grants program,
which will get $28 million, a cut of $12 million. The
two cuts were cited in an e-mail aler from the Center
for Rural Affairs, an advocacy group asking
people to contact their legislators.
The Conservation Security Program provides financial
and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers
implement conservation systems and practices to improve
soil, water, and ecosystem health. The Value Added Producer
Grant program provides money to groups of farmers and
ranchers for farm and food-related businesses that will
bolster incomes, create jobs, and increase rural economic
exurb exerts a 'Herculean' effort to keep out a Wal-Mart
The Supreme Court said last year that governments could
condemn private property for private use, raising hackles
across the ideological spectrum. Now, the Hercules,
Calif., City Council is using eminent domain to block
a Wal-Mart development in the community
25 miles northeast of San Francisco.
"Tuesday's council action raises the specter that
a small-town government, bolstered by a grass-roots
residents' campaign, could run the world's largest retailer
out of town. That potential spectacle galvanized first
regional, then national media organizations in the days
preceding Tuesday's meeting," writes Tom Lochner
of the Contra Costa Times.
Wal-Mart announced on April 1 a proposal for a 99,000-square-foot
store with a grocery located within the 171/4-acre future
Bayside Marketplace. That conflicts with a 2003 development
agreement with previous owner, the Lewis Group,
for a neighborhood shopping center with a maximum
store size of 64,000 square feet, reports Lochner.
A Wal-Mart attorney told the council it would be "wrong"
to use "government's most awesome power."
Lochner writes, "A possible takeover of Wal-Mart's
property by Hercules throws the traditional eminent-domain
dynamic on its head. The popular view of eminent domain,
accurate or not, is one of a city dispossessing small
homeowners, often on behalf of a large corporation.
But in Hercules, it would be small-town residents and
their council dispossessing the corporation." (Read
Ky. high school ordered not to sponsor prayer at graduation
No formal prayer will occur during the graduation ceremony
at Shelby County High School in Kentucky,
following the second student complaint filed in one
week over such practices in the state.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky
wrote a letter on behalf of a Muslim student
demanding the prayer not take place because it would
violate the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion,
and the school has also agreed not to hold traditional
prayers at a banquet and an awards ceremony, reports
Peter Smith of The Courier-Journal.
The Supreme Court has ruled that student-led prayers
at football games and clergy-led prayers at graduations
are unconstitutional. (Read
"But whether that decision means there will be
no prayer is another question. Last Friday at Russell
County High School, after a court ordered a
student who had been designated to pray not to do so,
students rose on their own and recited the Lord's Prayer
during the principal's remarks. And the student who'd
been designated to lead the prayer included religious
messages in her remarks," writes Smith.
CBS to sell
30-plus small-market radio stations, one-fifth of its
CBS is planning to sell 32 to 35 radio
stations in smaller markets, representing about 20 percent
of its 179-station portfolio, and says it does not plan
to purchase new media properties. Instead, CBS will
give money from the sales to its investors, which means
purchasing open-market shares of CBS to bolster outstanding
shares of the company, reports Wayne Friedman of MediaDailyNews.
The report did not specify the markets where stations
would be sold. Also, contrary to industry rumors, CBS
said it will not try to purchase the growing Spanish-language
broadcaster Univision. (Read
May 23, 2006
gives voice to residents' cry for high-speed Internet
Residents of Wilson County, Texas, want high-speed
Internet, but they must rely on Verizon, a
telephone company that does not wish to invest in such
equipment just 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. And
the weekly Wilson County News is writing
about it, in a kind of story usually found in metro
dailies but of increasing interest in rural areas.
Many residents in Wilson County opt for satellite Internet
providers, which are more expensive than Verizon's service.
What troubles many residents is that rural communities
near big cities sometimes get left in the cold by big
companies. "While many residents in the area may
feel like they are between a rock and a hard place,
others who have plans to move to the area are a bit
wary," writes Holly Mutz.
In addition to no high-speed Internet, residents tell
Mutz that Verizon's phone service is also lacking. "The
problem is not just with Verizon not providing DSL service
to the county," Eagle Creek resident Jeff Quillin.
"We were having problems with our home phone and
the Verizon technician that came out said the existing
lines in the Eagle Creek area were overloaded and causing
some problems." (Read
demand creates profit for corn farmers, but risky stock
Ethanol, a byproduct of corn, is being lauded as a
key alternative fuel, which is benefiting farmers and
encouraging investors to play the risky game of stocks.
Shares of Pacific Ethanol Inc., a
California-based company, rose from $10 in January to
$40 per share by May. Shares of Ohio-based Andersons
Inc., jumped from $40 to $120 during the same
period. However, potential shareholders should take
note, because both companies' stocks have fallen in
recent weeks. "U.S. ethanol production is heavily
subsidized, which exposes undiversified firms to huge
risk if the subsidies are removed, analysts say. These
are relatively small, almost one-product companies that
carry a lot of risk for investors," writes Will
Deener of The Dallas Morning News.
At the same time, farm companies are flourishing because
of the big demand for ethanol. John Deere Co.
stocks are up 40 percent to 50 percent based on the
fact that the rising demand for ethanol will push corn
prices higher. Farmers will benefit because 2.2 billion
bushels will be used this year to make ethanol, up 34
percent from 2005. Also, the price of corn per bushel
is $2.50, up from a $1.95 last year, reports Deener.
plants shut down due to rising diesel costs, lay off
Rising oil and diesel-fuel prices are shutting down
many of the nation’s coal “synfuel”
plants that took a low-tech advantage of a tax break
designed for a higher-tech industry. As a result, hundreds
of workers are without jobs in rural Alabama, Kentucky
and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Congress debates whether
to continue the tax credits that have "put billions
of dollars ... in the hands of a few companies,"
writes Paul Nyden of The Charleston Gazette.
The 1980 credits were designed to encourage gasification
and liquefaction of coal, and development of expensive
energy sources such as oil shale. Those getting the
credit must make “chemical changes” to an
original source of energy, but all most synfuel plants
do is spray coal with diesel fuel or pine-tar emulsion,
Nyden notes. The tax credits decline as oil prices rise.
"In recently filed reports to investors and reports
filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, the three companies cited rising
diesel fuel costs as the reason for suspending operation
of their once-profitable synfuel plants," Nyden
"Today, there are 55 synfuel facilities around
the nation," Nyden writes. "Most large synfuel
operations are owned by electric utilities, including
Progress Energy, DTE Energy
Co. and TECO Energy Inc. Other
companies, including Marriott International,
have also benefited from the tax credits related to
synthetic fuel production." Progress Energy,
based in Raleigh, N.C., has stopped synfuel production
at five plants, which will affect 120 to 130 employees
in the West Virginia cities of Cyrus, Ceredo and Quincy
and along the Big Sandy River in Eastern Kentucky. Last
week, DTE Energy, based in Detroit,
announced it was closing nine synfuel plants in West
Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama. Those plants employed
150 workers, Nyden reports. "Synfuel Solutions
Operating LLC, which operates three synfuel
plants, shut down its facility near the Warrior Mine
Complex in Hopkins County, Ky. on April 23. SSO might
also close coal synfuel plants near Virginia Electric
and Power Company’s Mount Storm power plant in
Garrett County, Md., and its facility near the Gibson
County Coal Complex in Gibson County, Ind., according
to a recent SEC filing." (Read
listens to Ky. residents, decides against 390-acre fill
When residents of Letcher County, Kentucky, spoke out
against a proposed 390-acre fill area for a mountaintop-removal
coal mine, the local newspaper took notice, the citizens'
voices were heard, and the coal company changed its
Last night, Thurman Holcomb, general manager of Cumberland
River Coal Co., said his company will file
a revised permit request that no longer calls for the
fill. The announcement came before a packed house during
a special meeting of the Fiscal Court, the county legislative
body, reports William Farley of The Mountain
Eagle of Whitesburg, Ky.
Holcomb told the court his company wants to be a good
neighbor, and will haul mined rock and dirt from to
another hollowfill approximately 8,000 feet away. The
new mining plan will also put off mining near the Franks
Creek site for about two years, reports Farley. Judge/Executive
Carroll Smith said the meeting was a "good exercise
in democracy." (This article is not available
gets bad rap because of water, traffic myths, says writer
"With the explosion of growth dramatically reshaping
Northern Colorado, residents often are mistaken about
how it actually affects them. Often, people have the
impression that the urban areas eat up all the resources,
cause the traffic jams and bring about general community
ills. But that is not always the case," writes
Alicia Beard of The Daily Reporter
Beard proceeds to debunk three myths: apartment complexes,
or high-density housing, create more traffic jams than
single-family residences; residential developments are
the biggest drains on the state's water supply; and
high-density housing and commercial developments lower
property values. For the first myth, Beard writes, "Actually,
neighborhoods with houses cause more traffic on a unit-to-unit
basis than apartments or condos do." A 2003 Institute
of Transportation Engineers report stated houses
produce 1.05 traffic trips during the weekday drive
home, but an apartment creates only 0.62 trips.
As for water supplies, Beard reports that irrigated
cropland actually uses more water than urban sprawl.
Also, any drain on property values will more than likely
come from aesthetic appearances rather than the presence
of apartments or businesses. (Read
CEO nabs North Dakota's 'Rough Rider' award
Forum Communications President and
CEO Bill Marcil is the latest recipient of North Dakota's
highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.
Marcil, publisher of the Fargo Forum
(circ. 51,000), is the 35th recipient of the Rough Rider
Award. Past recipients include big band conductor Lawrence
Welk and famed baseball player Roger Maris. Marcil,
who became the Forum's publisher in 1969, transformed
the family-owned chain into a strong regional chain
that owns newspapers, radio and television stations,
commercial printing plants, and online ventures in North
Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, notes
Editor & Publisher. (Read
resigns after ethics investigation; third exit in three
Managing Editor Richard Luna has left the Ventura
County Star less than two years after arriving,
and just days after parent company E.W. Scripps
Co. concluded an investigation into his violation
of the company's ethics code.
Publisher Tim Gallagher said the investigation by Mary
E. Minser, Scripps' director of employee relations,
"found no further violations of Scripps ethical
policy." Star officials said Luna had been disciplined
for pressuring a sports reporter for credentials to
attend the NCAA championship basketball game in Indianapolis
in April. "Luna did not cover the game, and, according
to the paper, sought credentials for other games that,
in the end, he did not attend," writes Mark Fitzgerald
of Editor & Publisher.
This is the third time Luna has left a newspaper abruptly,
following a departure from the metro editor position
at the Detroit News in 2004, and an
exit from the managing editor position at the Indianapolis
Star the previous year, reports Fitzgerald.
more) The Rural Blog last reported on this investigation
May 2. Click
here for the archived item.
May 22, 2006
raises questions about oxygen, coal dust, pressure to
of the five Harlan County miners killed in an explosion
early Saturday probably survived the blast but died
later of carbon monoxide poisoning, preliminary autopsy
reports showed yesterday. Angry relatives of the dead
men called for miners' oxygen supplies to be improved,"
reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Last week, a U.S. Senate committee approved legislation
to "require mining companies to increase oxygen
supplies inside mines, improve tracking systems and
rewrite rescue rules," the Post noted. The Kentucky
legislature passed such a bill this year, but it does
not take effect until July 12. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher,
shown conferring with other officials at the site on
Saturday, said the new law might have helped. (Photo
by Brandon Goins, Harlan Daily Enterprise)
"Early evidence suggests that coal dust contributed
to the blast that killed five miners on Saturday in
Harlan County, some safety experts said," reported
James R. Carroll and R.G. Dunlop of The Courier-Journal.
"Federal regulators had cited the mine's
operator, Kentucky Darby LLC, three times this month
for not cleaning up coal dust and other combustible
materials, according to federal records. Also yesterday,
a Kentucky legislator called for statewide hearings
on what's wrong in coal mines." (Read
"The accident occurred at a time of heightened
sensitivity to the dangers of coal mining -- prompted
by the deaths in January of a dozen miners in an explosion
at the Sago Mine in West Virginia," wrote Amy Goldstein
of The Washington Post. "Yesterday,
it was the residents of the small community of mountainous
Harlan County -- the scene of famous, violent labor
unrest over mining conditions during the 1930s -- who
were devastated. ... Nationally, the 31 coal mining
deaths this year are the most in any year since 2001,
when 42 coal miners were killed," according to
Mine Safety and Health Administration Administrator
Ray McKinney told the Post that coal prices, the highest
in about 20 years, is leading to mine fatalities."People
want to produce more," he said. Also, companies
are struggling to find experienced miners "because
a generation of miners has retired and not been replaced
by as many younger ones," Goldstein wrote, citing
The blast's only survivor, Paul Ledford, "began
to lead the other two miners toward the mine entrance
by finding an electrical supply line and following it
out, but the two other miners couldn't breathe through
the smoke and turned back," reported Brandon Goins
of the Harlan Daily Enterprise. (Read
more) Ledford gave details through his brother,
mainly to Lee Mueller of the Herald-Leader. (Read
mayor tell stories of W. Va. losing people, cultural
"Ranked behind South Dakota as having the second
smallest population growth of any state, according to
2005 Census Bureau estimates, West Virginia has struggled
to hold on to residents since the early 1950's, when
layoffs in the coal industry sent people elsewhere looking
for work," reports The New York Times.
Ian Urbina's story documents the economic pressures
that force many Appalachians to leave home, and virtually
everything he writes about is also true of Eastern Kentucky.
What makes this story unique is a multimedia show featuring
novelist Denise Giardina talking about the depopulation
of rural areas and Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber, who's
been back only five years, talking about small towns.
"The mines closed down. Back then people didn't
own their own houses, so basically people had to leave
and they tore down the houses," said Giardina,
describing such areas in Southern West Virginia as war
zones with big buildings being shells "like somebody
dropped a bomb on them." Giardina tried returning
to her hometown of Bluefield, W.Va., but she left after
Baber decided to take a lead role in Richwood's future
about two years ago, when he became mayor. "Richwood
is a struggling Appalachian town in a struggling state,"
he said. "There are 40 Richwoods in West Virginia,
all of whom have lost enormous amounts of their population
over the years." He attributes those loses to the
decline in coal-mining employment brought about by mechanization.
here for more.
trump federal judge, principal with prayer at graduation
A federal judge's order did not prevent students from
praying or a graduating senior from delivering a religious
message during commencement Friday night at Russell
County High School in Kentucky.
"Judge Joseph H. McKinley of the U.S. District
Court in Bowling Green had ruled earlier in the day
in favor of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous graduating
senior who said he was offended by graduation prayers.
. . . About 200 seniors responded at the event by standing
during the principal's opening remarks and reciting
the Lord's Prayer. That prompted a standing ovation
from the standing-room-only crowd in the school gymnasium,"
writes Peter Smith of The Courier-Journal.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky,
which represents the anyonymous student, said the prayer
would have violated the constitutional ban on government-sponsored
religion. Senior Megan Chapman, elected by her classmates
to open the ceremony, "had planned to include a
prayer as had been the practice at commencement for
decades. Instead, she talked of her faith and God's
love," reports Bill Estep of the Lexington
Herald-Leader. Many of the rural county's residents
opposed the order, Estep reported. (Read
An ACLU press release noted that the Supreme Court
"has struck down the inclusion of clergy-led prayer
at public school graduations and student-led prayer
at school sporting events," and quoted from a 1992
decision; "The Constitution forbids the state to
exact religious conformity from a student as the price
of attending her own high school graduation."
Lili S. Lutgens, staff attorney at the ACLU of Kentucky,
who is representing the student, said in the release,
"This case is not about whether people can or should
pray; it's about families and individuals deciding for
themselves whether, when, and how to pray. Our founders
intended that these religious decisions be made by individuals
and families, not the government."
companies bring jobs to towns in rural Oregon, Washington
"Potato country becoming high-tech country? Quincy,
Wash., (population 5,044), 160 miles east of Seattle
and 12 miles north of George, Wash.(get it?),
is going through a boom as a server center. The relative
proximity to Seattle, low-cost real estate, stable weather
and geographic activity make it a desired spot for data
centers," opines Jack Schultz in his Boomtown
"Microsoft has purchased 74 acres
of land for six buildings, totaling 1.4 million square
feet. Yahoo has an agreement on 50
acres for a similar facility after doing a data center
in nearby Wenatchee. Google bought
34 acres with an option on 80 more in The Dalles, Ore.
All of these facilities have several similarities. They
are all rural, are bricks and mortar in nature and are
close to low cost hydroelectric power," he writes.
"The projects promise to transform the rural towns
in which they are located, adding high tech jobs and
potentially doubling the tax base for the towns. The
longer term benefit could be the suppliers that locate
in Quincy, Wenatchee and The Dalles and the entrepreneurial
companies that are offshoots of this new cluster in
high tech. Do you have the potential to become the site
for one of these high tech, capital-intensive data centers?"
asks Schultz, a consultant to small-town economic developers.
candidate provides scholarships to 100 high school grads
Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards gave $300,000 in one-year
college scholarships to 100 graduates at Greene
Central High School in Snow Hill, N.C., as
part of his "College for Everyone" program.
The program, which will continue next year, fulfills
a promise Edwards made to the seniors during two previous
visits, reports Jimmy Ryals of The Daily Reflector
in Greenville, N.C. Scholarship candidates pledged to
avoid drugs and alcohol, graduate from a college-prep
curriculum and commit to 10 weekly hours of work or
community service as freshmen in college.
Edwards' program is one of several Greene County initiatives.
This year's seniors were the first to take part in the
College Access program that preps students for college
starting in seventh grade. Seventy percent of this year's
graduates will attend college, up from an average of
25 percent, writes Ryals. (Read
affects smaller papers less because of local news monopolies
daily newspapers "have taken a big paid circulation
hit from the Internet, where news can be had for free,"
but an analysis by research-and-consulting group Outsell
Inc. shows that smaller dailies have been less
affected because they enjoy virtual monopolies on local
news, reports Online Media Daily.
analyst Ken Doctor notes that rural areas have less
high-speed broadband access. "If they're spending
less time online, then print has less competition from
the Internet," Doctor told OMD reporter Erik Sass.
"Over time, some of these differences between
large urban areas and small areas will disappear, and
some will diminish," he said but small-town papers
may still have monopolies.
"In these areas there isn't much alternative to
the local newspaper for local news, and the news aggregators
--Yahoo Local or MSN Local, for example -- really need
to have a local news partner to have an effective local
news offering," Doctor said. He added that such
papers are "likely to retain their advertising
relationships and their monopoly on classified listings
-- one of the key areas where Internet services like
Craigslist are eating into the revenue
of big regional dailies," Sass writes. (Read
May 19, 2006
finds many violations in open-records audit of schools
Many state press associations and other media groups
have conducted open-records audits in most states, but
it's unusual if not unprecedented for an individual
reporter to focus one on a particular type of public
agency in a region. Keith Plocek of the alternative
Houston Press offers an example to
Ploeck writes, "In February and March, I drove
1,683 miles in Harris and its surrounding seven counties,
visiting 63 school districts to test for compliance
with the Texas Public Information Act, which is designed
not just for reporters like me but for everyone."
Houston is in Harris County.
His findings included: "44 percent of districts
violated the part of the public information act that
prohibits them from inquiring why the information is
being requested; 30 percent of districts incorrectly
said they had ten business days to fulfill the request.
The public information act does mention ten days, but
requests should be fulfilled 'promptly'; and 10 percent
of districts did not respond at all." As for being
asked why he wanted the records, Plocek writes, "Many
of these violations were just the product of small-town
curiosity." To read an extensive account of his
shield law proposal raises concerns about judges' powers
A bill introduced in the Senate yesterday is the latest
attempt to create a federal shield law for journalists.
The "Free Flow of Information Act of 2006"
was proposed by a bipartisan group of senators that
include Republicans Richard Lugar of Indiana and Arlen
Specter of Pennsylvania, as well as Democrats Christopher
Dodd of Connecticut and New York's Charles Schumer.
It is similar to a House proposal introduced last year
that would have protected reporters from revealing sources.
Thirty-two states have such laws, while most others
have some form of protection, writes Joe Strupp of Editor
Supporters argue that the Senate proposal could net
big support in the wake of several subpoenas issued
to reporters in the past year. Concerns over a unique
provision in this bill that lets judges demand source
details "in cases where the guilt or innocence
of a criminal is in question, in cases where a reporter
was an eye witness to a crime, and in cases where the
information is critical to prevent death or bodily harm,"
Lugar's office reported. Judges may also override the
law in cases involving national security or classified
information, reports Strupp. (Read
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Strupp
the bill needs to be stronger, but her group is supporting
it out of “political reality. I think this is
probably as much as we are going to get out of this
Congress.” Society of Professional Journalists
President David Carlson said, “This is
important legislation that all Americans should support.
It’s not just about journalists or journalism.
It’s about checks and balances in a democratic
society.” For more from SPJ, click
doubt nation is well prepared for terrorist attacks,
"A national survey conducted by Western
Carolina University’s Institute for the
Economy and the Future reveals that America’s
state officials remain doubtful about federal security
and preparedness in several critical areas in the wake
of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the response
to Hurricane Katrina," reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service.
WCU’s Institute for the Economy and the
Future found the following: Seven out of 10
officials report that the responsibilities, strategies
and mission of the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security are not clearly defined; two-thirds
are not confident or not sure that federal homeland-security
directives are effectively implemented and properly
supported; and more than 90 percent of the state officials
surveyed said public and private schools are not properly
prepared for national emergencies.
"Rural role in emergencies apparent: More than
90 percent of state officials say rural areas could
be vital to supporting the critical infrastructure needs
of urban areas during times of national emergency, but
more than half of those officials agree with the current
distribution of federal resources primarily to non-rural
areas," reports Newswise. (Read
The survey was conducted by the Research, Rapid
Survey and Polling Center, recently created
by the university in the Great Smoky Mountains. For
a copy of the report, click
correspondent, 96, dies two days after final column
Myrtle Shoupe, the community correspondent in Hima,
Ky., for the Manchester Enterprise,
has died after 52 years of writing -- almost to her
death -- and some measure of fame.
Shoupe "had one of the longest-running and quirkiest
newspaper columns in the country," writes Andy
Mead of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"In her last years, her Hima News was available
anywhere in the world with a few taps on a computer
keyboard, and her Web site, www.myrtle.org,
sometimes drew as many as 3,000 hits a week."
What made Myrtle famous was her (to put it kindly)
freewheeling style, spelling and grammar. "What
should have been several sentences often were strung
together without commas or periods," Mead writes."Her
grammar would make an English teacher cry." (Photo
from Lexington Herald-Leader)
When editors at the weekly Enterprise started editing
and correcting the column in the early 1960s, "Her
readers complained loudly. Even the mayor of Manchester
joined the outcry," Mead reports. "After that,
she was on a plateau few writers ever reach -- her copy
was untouched by editors, and carried a disclaimer that
it was 'Printed as Written.'"
Shoupe's readers had no trouble understanding her,
and she often wrote bluntly -- up to the end. In her
final column, headlined "Myrtle says this column
could be her last," she wrote, "I will be
97 years old if I live to see my Birthday and everyone
is welcome to my last birthday." That would
have been July 11. The column appeared in the May 11
Enterprise. Shoupe died May 13.
lawmakers OK rule that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol
"In a bid to juice the economy of rural Missouri
and boost prices for corn growers, state lawmakers approved
a requirement that most gasoline sold in Missouri contain
10 percent ethanol," writes Kit Wagar of The
Kansas City Star.
The requirement starts Jan. 1, 2008, and motorists
are already scrambling for information about how well
their cars might handle the mix. Cars made in the last
decade handle the mix fine. Ethanol-blended fuels caused
created problems for cars in the late 1980s when the
alcohol attacked engine seals and metal parts, but automakers
have since made adjustments, reports Wagar. As for prices,
ethanol usually rises and falls with gasoline prices,
but tends to be somewhat higher. (Read
The Rural Blog last reported on states requiring an
ethanol blend on April 28. To read about efforts in
Washington, Minnesota, Montana and Hawaii, click
here for the archived item.
may be first state with comprehensive regs on fish farming
"California will become the first state in the
nation to adopt comprehensive controls on future fish
farming in its coastal waters, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
signs a tough set of environmental standards that state
legislators have approved," writes Jane Kay of
the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Sustainable Oceans Act's regulations would apply
to the farming of fish in the ocean and not in fresh
water. It contains provisions for aquaculture businesses
that produce finfish -- such as halibut, bass or tuna
-- to be sold on the open market. About 100 such businesses
operate in California, but none of the farms raise finfish.
The has banned farm-raising salmon or genetically engineered
fish, reports Kay.
The act aims to prevent fish farms from interfering
with wildlife and marine habitats or with commercial
fishing. Farms would have to limit the use of fish meal
and fish oil obtained from the ocean, and prevent diseases
from spread or fish entering the environment. Regional
water-quality boards would provide businesses with permits
and regulate against pollution discharges, writes Kay.
yard sale may bring 30,000-plus visitors to five states
An annual event known as the US11 Antique Alley sale
stretches 502 miles, lasts four days and brings more
than 30,000 visitors to five different states.
The "yard sale" started yesterday, but will
launch into full swing today with Bristol, Va., serving
as the starting point or ending location for participants.
In addition to buying items, travelers can see "Doors
Open," a Heritage Alliance event
which provides free admission tomorrow to historic sites
in northeast Tennessee, including Rocky Mount in Piney
Flats, the Exchange Place in Kingsport, the Blountville
Historic District, and the E.W. King house in Bristol,
reports J.H. Osborne of the Kingsport Times-News.
From Bristol, Va., the route goes to Knoxville, then
across the northwest corner of Georgia, across Alabama
and into Mississippi. Whether people want to sell goods
or just purchase some, participation is free, writes
more) For more information, including a map of the
May 18, 2006
get flexibility in measuring students under No Child
U.S. Department of Education officials
are granting Tennessee and North Carolina more flexibility
for measuring student progress under the No Child Left
Behind Act, which could save school districts money.
The two states will be allowed to track how individual
students progress each year in reading and math, compared
to the current system of measuring success on whether
a larger share of students are passing state exams.
The measurement system is critical for schools with
mostly poor students that fail to show adequate yearly
gains on tests. Failing schools can be forced to pay
for tutoring, to allow students to transfer and possibly
to shut down, reports Diana Jean Schemo of The
New York Times. (Read
"Tennessee and North Carolina will be allowed
to count students as meeting the goals of the law if
the students are judged to be on a trajectory toward
proficiency in reading and math in three or four years.
Other states must show that students are actually reaching
proficiency," writes Schemo. Sixteen states submitted
requests for the flexibility, and the department encouraged
Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Oregon
to reapply after making recommended changes to their
For The Washington Post version of
this story, click
Left Behind closes door on rural teachers, opines paper
Education reform is pushing out some of the nation's
most experienced, respected teachers, because the No
Child Left Behind Act uses a system that labels some
rural teachers as "not highly qualified,"
opines the Salt Lake Tribune in an
"The requirements that all teachers have a college
degree or take extra college training, largely at their
own expense, in order to pass a rigorous test in every
core subject they teach by the end of the 2006-'07 school
year puts an overwhelming burden on teachers in Utah's
small rural schools," writes the newspaper.
"At the very least, the federal education department
should create a separate category for schools that face
unique circumstances and challenges, such as those in
tiny Utah communities where only a handful of teachers
provide instruction in all the core subjects. We're
not advocating lowering teaching standards; any teacher
who fails to help students learn should find other work.
But we believe that some gifted teachers can communicate
information in a way students understand, even without
a degree in that particular subject," continues
the newspaper. (Read
county hires ombudsman to hear rural residents' concerns
King County, Wash., which has both highly urbanized
and very rural areas, is now using an ombudsman to protect
the interests of people living in the small communities
outside Seattle, and the man chosen for the job is an
expert on land-use disputes.
"Probably no other county in the state faces a
sharper divide between urban and rural interests. Sharp
political divides fall along that line as well. The
county's controversial Critical Areas Ordinance is a
painful example. Few issues strike as many legal, constitutional
and emotional chords as property rights. As the competing
pressures of population growth and environmental protection
increase, all sides can benefit from a levelheaded,
knowledgeable mediator" opines the Seattle
In a Tuesday article, the paper's Neil Modie wrote
about David Spohr, the deputy property rights ombudsman
for the state of Utah, being hired: "The County
Council voted last year to add the position to the county
ombudsman's office to give residents of outlying areas
an impartial channel to investigate and mediate property-related
complaints. . . . Spohr holds one of only a few rural
ombudsman positions in state and local governments across
the country. From his Salt Lake City office he investigates,
mediates and arbitrates land-use disputes between property
owners and government agencies." (Read
may use eminent domain to take rural land for center
Retail giant Wal-Mart refuses to let
a few reluctant land owners prevent it from constructing
a massive distribution center in Florida, which means
some rural residents may be forced to give up their
Wal-Mart have informed landowners they will ask Putnam
County to use its powers of eminent domain because several
families refuse to sell their properties. The company
needs about a half-dozen parcels to widen an access
road to a proposed 800,000-square-foot distribution
center located in neighboring Volusia County, where
officials are currently trying to block the development
in court, reports Etan Horowitz of the Orlando
Gov. Jeb Bush recently signed a bill curbing the "use
of eminent domain to benefit private businesses. But
the bill, which was in response to a U.S. Supreme
Court decision that allowed a Connecticut city
to condemn an entire coastal neighborhood for a developer,
does not apply in this case because the road is public,
said a legal expert who helped craft the legislation,"
writes Horowitz. (Read
to place veterinary students in rural areas for one
A bill signed by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is designed
to serve the livestock industry by establishing the
Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas at Kansas
State University's veterinary
Up to five students may enroll in the program each
year, starting in their first year of college, and they
can each get $20,000 a year for up to four years for
tuition and training expenses. The students will practice
veterinary medicine full time only in counties with
populations of 35,000 or less. The amount of loan forgiveness
is set by the amount of assistance received. For each
$20,000 a student receives, one year of work in a rural
community is required, reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service.
Kansas is believed to be the first state to establish
such a program, and several industry reports have identified
shortages of large animal veterinarians in rural communities.
"Over the last several decades, the demand for
companion animal care has increased dramatically. Many
graduates would like to practice in a rural setting,
however, they often say that the main reason for not
pursuing rural practice is an inability to earn an adequate
income and service their educational debt," reports
volunteers for rural ambulances; young people in short
North Dakota's rural ambulance services are in urgent
need of volunteers because of young people choosing
to leave small towns and the burnout feeling experienced
by existing workers.
"In the past year, three ambulance services have
shuttered in a state where about 90 percent of EMTs
are volunteers, said Tim Meyer, director of the state
Division of Emergency Services. About
one-third of the state's 141 ambulance services are
at risk of the same fate, he said. EMTs and officials
worry the shortage could hurt the quality of health
care, forcing people to wait longer before an ambulance
arrives," reports Jenny Michael of The
Volunteer shortages are occurring in most states, and
one main issue is people getting older and retiring
from their work. The average age of an emergency medical
technician in North Dakota is 46, and about 20 percent
of volunteers are older than 60. Some EMT squads are
recruiting high school juniors, and others are consolidating
ambulance squads into countywide services, reports Michael.
May 17, 2006
families to get annual benefit of less than $50 in new
Most rural families will receive less than $50 annually
in a tax bill slated to be signed today by President
Bush, according to a press release from the National
Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.
The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act
of 2005 (H.R. 4297) is projected to provide a total
of $70 billion in tax cuts to America’s taxpayers.
"Based upon an analysis by the Tax Policy
Center, the primary beneficiaries of the legislation
are higher income households and those who invest in
the stock market. Median household income is twenty-five
percent lower for non-metro families than for metro
families (USDA Economic Research Service) and fewer
rural residents than urban residents participate in
a retirement plan (Bureau of Labor Statistics,
March 2005)," states the release.
According to the Tax Policy Center, the annual average
savings include: $0 for income less than $10,000; $3
for $10,000-20,000; $10 for $20,000-30,000; $17 for
$30,000-40,000; $47 for $40,000-50,000; $112 for $50,000-75,000;
$406 for $75,000-100,000; $1,395 for $100,000-200,000;
$4,527 for $200,000-500,000; $5,656 for $500,000-1,000,000;
and $42,766 for more than $1 million.
face long bus rides; Arkansas parents sue over trips
Long bus rides are common for students in rural school
districts, and there are rarely time limits for how
long children can spend going back and forth, transportation
directors nationwide said Tuesday.
Patrons of Paron High School in rural
Salie County, Arkansas, contend there should be in a
lawsuit against the state Board of Education that also
seeks to prevent the school's closing. The board voted
last week to close grades 6-12. "Some students
in grades 6-12 face three-hour round-trip bus rides
to Bryant schools next fall, and plaintiffs in the lawsuit
argue that excessive time on a bus would violate some
students' right to equal educational opportunities under
the state constitution," writes Aaron Sadler of
the Arkansas News Bureau. (Read
Michael Martin, the director of the National
Association for Pupil Transportation, said
bus rides should be kept to one hour tops. West Virginia
asks districts to limit bus rides for elementary students
to 30 minutes and high schoolers to one hour. Kansas
tries to limit them to less than an hour. Until 1993,
South Carolina required rides of no longer than one
hour and 15 minutes, but that no longer exists. Texas
and Oklahoma officials said several of their bus routes
take longer than 90 minutes, reports Sadler.
target religious conservatives in Social Security debate
House Democrats are turning to radio stations to remind
those Christians and conservatives who traditionally
vote Republican of that party's plan to add private
investment accounts to Social Security.
Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois,
chairman of the House campaign organization, and other
Democrats say they chose Social Security because polls
suggest that many Christian dislike the private investment
account idea. The one-week ads were slated to start
running today on radio stations catering to Christians
in five House districts in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and
Virginia, many of which are predominantly rural. The
five incumbents who are the targets of the advertisements
include Representatives Geoff Davis of Kentucky, John
Hostettler of Indiana, Michael E. Sodrel of Indiana,
Steve Chabot of Ohio and Thelma D. Drake of Virginia.
The ads suggest that Bush's plan could add $2 trillion
in federal debt, reports Carl Hulse of The New
The ads might simply add to feelings already possessed
by conservative voters. "The rise in the debt limit
and criticism of the growth in federal spending bills
is adding to unrest among conservatives that is contributing
to low public support for Congress. Even if the party
is unable to convert conservatives, the advertisements
could help hold down Republican support in districts
where races could be tight," writes Hulse. (Read
mayors often dismiss rural voters in governor bids,
"If Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley prevails in
this fall's Maryland Democratic primary for governor,
he'll likely have a decent shot of ousting incumbent
Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), thanks to the state's strong Democratic
tilt. But in another sense, O'Malley will be fighting
against the historical tides. Big-city mayors don't
run for statewide office as much as one would expect.
When they do, they often lose. And those who do win
seem to be disproportionately Republican," opines
Louis Jacobson of Roll Call in his
latest "Out There" column.
Jacobson opines that big-city mayors are dismissive
of rural voters: "Truth be told, big-city mayors
haven't always been the most diplomatic ambassadors
to outlying areas of their states. (Former Portland
Mayor Neil) Goldschmidt, though he ultimately won the
governorship, saw his standing dip significantly when
he declined an invitation to debate in Bend, the biggest
city in Oregon east of the Cascades, grousing that it
was 'in the middle of nowhere.' And (former New York
Mayor Ed) Koch offended countless potential supporters
by declaring in Playboy magazine that
Albany -- where he wanted the voters to send him --
was 'small-town life at its worst' and that living upstate
was 'wasting time in a pickup truck when you have to
drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or a Sears and
"So what are the keys to victory? The biggest
seems to be political moderation -- less, perhaps, for
the purpose of appealing to rural voters (since they
may be a lost cause for a big-city mayor anyway) than
to build support among suburban swing voters who know
of the mayor but who may not have strong views about
them. Indeed, a glance through the list of mayors who
later won statewide office uncovers many more middle-of-the-roaders
than either staunch liberals or conservatives,"
concludes Jacobson. A subscription is required to
read this column.
crews work to patrol, protect Western U.S. landmarks
In Southwest Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National
Monument, one federal ranger patrols 256 square miles,
roughly four times the area of Washington, D.C. That
is not an isolated incident, though, as many rangers
find themselves all alone in our nation's historical
Small staffs are being asked to patrol large land masses
throughout cultural and historical sites across the
western United States that are managed by the Bureau
of Land Management, according to a study titled
"Cultural Resources on the Bureau of Land Management
Public Lands," issued Tuesday by the National
Trust for Historic Preservation. Richard Moe,
president of the preservation group, says many of the
sites are "in real danger of being destroyed"
because of inadequate staffing and funding, reports
T.R. Reid of The Washington Post.
The bureau oversees about 262 million acres of federally
owned land. Since there are few prospects for increased
public spending for historic preservation on public
lands, other funding sources should be explored, the
study says. One possibility is higher user fees for
drillers and miners extracting minerals and for hikers,
bikers and tourists, writes Reid. (Read
here for the study.
to get training for alternative fuel jobs in Montana
U.S. and Montana officials announced Tuesday that a
new project will train rural workers for jobs in alternative-fuels
development and production, with the target area being
communities and colleges in central and Eastern Montana.
Called WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic
Development), the three-year project is supported by
a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department
of Labor. Keith Kelly, director of the Montana
Department of Labor and Industry, said the
project will involve working with tribal community colleges
and existing industries that are using vegetable oils
for biofuels. Much of the work will be on-the-job training,
reports Jim Gransbery of The Billings Gazette.
"The WIRED initiative focuses on labor market
areas affected by global trade and natural disasters,
or those reliant on a single industry. The program will
grant $195 million to 13 successful applicants around
the country," writes Gransbery. (Read
barred from Calif. weekly for three years; can still
"Dave Mitchell, longtime editor and owner of the
tiny Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light,
must stay away from the current owner and editor for
three years, after a temporary restraining order granted
on Feb. 17 was made permanent last week," reports
the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
New owner Robert Plotkin had charged that Mitchell
grabbed him by the neck and then tried to run over him
with an automobile during an argument. Despite the restraining
order, Mitchell will still write his "Sparsely,
Sage and Timely" column for the weekly and stay
on part-time as a consultant with the status of emeritus
editor and publisher, notes the CNPA. (Read
The Rural Blog last reported on this feud in its May
10 edition. Click
here for the archived item.
May 16, 2006
pay more for health care than urban dwellers
Americans who live in rural areas or work for small
businesses are not getting the same level of health
care for their money spent as are their urban counterparts.
"In a first state-by-state look at the 'generosity'
of employer-based health insurance, researchers found
that people in largely rural states often paid more
for the benefits they got than their urban-area counterparts
did. The researchers gauged insurance plans' generosity
by calculating their actuarial value -- the percentage
of an employee's medical expenses that the plan covers.
When average premiums were adjusted for actuarial value,
people in states such as Maine, West Virginia, Wisconsin
and Wyoming got the least value for their money,"
writes Ann Norton of Reuters.
Predominantly urban states such as California, New
York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, usually got more
service for their dollar. The study, conducted by the
Center for Studying Health System Change,
also shows that people working at small businesses usually
paid 18 percent more than workers at large corporations,
based on insurance premiums adjusted for generosity,
reports Norton. (Read
OKs businesses tax incentives, often key in rural areas
Corporate tax incentives help urban and rural areas
lure new businesses, and the U.S. Supreme Court preserved
the tool with a unanimous decision on Monday.
The Court protected a $281 million tax-break package
that an automaker received to rebuild a Jeep
factory in Toledo, Ohio. "Governors and other state
officials watched the case closely after the Cincinnati-based
6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the Toledo
incentives. Governors warned that more than 40 states
would be in jeopardy if the decision were allowed to
stand," writes Daniel C. Vock of Stateline.org.
In overturning the 6th Circuit’s decision, the
Court ruled that the plaintiffs possessed no legal standing
to sue. The dispute will return to Ohio state courts.
Similar suits have occurred in Minnesota, Nebraska,
Wisconsin and North Carolina, where a judge dismissed
a lawsuit last week over a $279 million package offered
to Dell to build a plant in Winston-Salem,
reports Vock. (Read
tax break rewards property owners who preserve land
In the face of urban sprawl, record numbers of Virginia
property owners are protecting their land with a little-known
tax credit that makes the state a national leader of
private land conservation.
Six years after state legislators passed a tax credit
for landowners who place their property under conservation
easements, a review of the number of those easements
reveals a massive increase. In 1995, landowners gave
fewer than 6,000 acres, but that number totaled 35,000
last year, reports Amy Gardner of The Washington
"The credit can be claimed over six years, and,
as of 2002, it is transferable, meaning people can sell
it if their income isn't sufficient to claim its full
value. Few other states allow the credit to be sold
-- and that probably explains the explosion of easements
in Virginia, conservation officials say. The
Maryland Environmental Trust, by comparison,
accepted slightly more than 2,000 acres in donations
last year," writes Gardner. Since 2000, property
owners have qualified for nearly $382 million in credits,
according to the Virginia Department of Taxation.
To see a year-by-year breakdown of the number of acres
donated by private landowners in conservation easements,
City runs stings, files suits vs. illegal gun sales
in rural areas
In an effort to crack down on illegal gun sales that
supply firearms to its jurisdiction, New York City had
private investigators pose as gun buyers in five states.
The approach paid off, as authorities nabbed 15 dealers
making illegal sales, several in rural areas.
"In the two-month sting operation, which city
officials and gun control advocates said was the first
of such wide scope, teams of operatives wearing hidden
cameras traveled to Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South
Carolina and Virginia to make what are known as straw
purchases, a violation of federal law in which one individual
submits to the required federal background check for
a gun that is clearly to be used by someone else,"
writes Diane Cardwell of The New York Times.
All 15 dealers, who are linked to 500-plus crimes in
New York City from 1994 to 2001, improperly sold firearms
to private investigators. A lawsuit filed against the
dealers yesterday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn
seeks monetary damages and the appointment of a special
master to monitor the dealers' sales, reports Cardwell.
demand rises: Californians opt for grease or vegetable
Some California residents are bypassing gas pumps in
favor of using vegetable oil, the cheap, clean-burning
fuel to fill up their diesel-powered automobiles.
Such automobiles can run on refined biodiesel from
the pump, cooking oil from a grocery store or used frying
grease from a restaurant. This is a prime example of
the increasing demand for biodiesel, and all travelers
need is a biodiesel conversion kit that can be installed
for about $700, reports Mike Cassidy of the Mercury
News in San Jose.
"Fringe fuels are moving mainstream as gas prices
soar. Think biodiesel. Willie Nelson is selling it.
Daryl Hannah is drinking it. And manufacturers are producing
it -- 75 million gallons sold in 2005 compared with
25 million the year before," writes Cassidy. Many
restaurants will give away used grease, and jugs of
soybean oil can be bought at $2.40 a gallon, compared
with $3.18 for regular at the pump outside or $3.40
for petroleum diesel elsewhere. (Read
Bill Strode, of rural roots and rural subjects, dies
Strode, who came from rural Southern Kentucky to become
national photographer of the year before age 30, died
yesterday. He was 69.
The former photographer for The
Courier-Journal shared two of the paper's Pulitzer
Prizes, after joining the staff full time in 1960. Strode
had worked two summers at the paper while attending
Western Kentucky University in Bowling
Green, near his home town of Glasgow. In 1966, the National
Press Photographers Association named him Photographer
of the Year, and he served as the group's president
in 1974, reports Paula Burba of the Louisville newspaper.
While working on a strip-mining project that led to
a Pulitzer, Strode was arrested in Knott County, along
with Ollie Combs, known as "the Widow Combs"
who stood up to bulldozers. Strode later wrote: "The
sheriff asked who I was. I told him. He produced a handful
of 'John Doe' warrants and said he had a warrant for
my arrest. He reached for one of the two cameras I carried
and we fought for it. The strap broke and the camera
skidded away in the loose dirt. I got to it first and
kept it. I had 3½ hours in jail before I was
released, so I took pictures through the bars of Mrs.
Combs, who was being held in a police car outside --
and of myself."
Strode left the C-J in 1976 and freelanced for National
Geographic, Life, Time,
Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian,
Esquire, The New York Times
and The Washington Post, reports Burba.
Stride died of cancer at a hospice in Versailles, Ky.
Funeral arrangements are pending. (Read
May 15, 2006
spent to computerize student records; many states still
Almost every state is working to computerize its school
records, but rising costs are putting many of the projects
behind schedule and making it hard to report all the
student progress data required under the No Child Left
Behind Act of 2002, reports Sam Dillon of The
New York Times.
North Carolina's effort, called NC Wise, is now nicknamed
"NC Stupid" because it is years behind schedule
and estimated to cost $250 million. California built
a system with $60 million, which is how much it will
cost to connect schools. Such efforts are costing taxpayers
billions nationwide, and the U.S. Department
of Education gave $52.8 million in grants to
14 states last November. The money is for "longitudinal"
computer systems for monitoring individual student records
from year to year.
The National Center for Educational Accountability,
affiliated with the University of Texas,
surveyed states' educational technology plans last year
and found that 48 were building longitudinal systems.
The most advanced systems appeared in Florida, Georgia,
Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Thirty-six
states have given a statewide number to every student,
a prerequisite for monitoring year to year and school
to school data, writes Dillon. (Read
here for the center's survey.
county says 'cowboy church' fails to meet public safety
Have you heard of "cowboy" churches? They
"appeal to farmers, horse enthusiasts and other
people who might be busy on Sundays, but want to attend
a service on a weeknight. People come in jeans, boots
or other attire," write Pamela J. Podger and Beth
Jones of The Roanoke Times, in the
only story we were able to find on what appears to be
a new phenomenon.
The peg for the story is the fight by a southwest Virginia
barn owner to let the Rev.Raymond Bell keep holding
church services in the barn. Bedford County officials
say the location does not meet safety standards for
a public facility. "I just wonder what would Jesus
do about this? Would he say 'Get out' because the zoning
is not right?" barn owner Garland Simmons asked.
"I could understand the complaint if we had a dance
hall or a drinking joint. [But] there is no wine or
beer. It is nothing but the word of God and nothing
but good country Christian singing."
The barn, in an area zoned for agricultural or residential
use, needs lighted exit signs, emergency lighting, adequate
exits and plumbing, according to a violations notice
issued April 28. Simmons is appealing the notice. Bell
has teamed up with the Liberty Counsel,
which is affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell's ministries
in nearby Lynchburg, to combat a ban that they claim
violates religious freedom and right of assembly.(Read
method to funnel money to poor district prompts probe
U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, the Appropriations Committee
Democrat who has represented northern West Virginia
since 1983, "chose an unusual way to funnel federal
funds into his poverty-ridden district," writes
Jeff Birnbaum of The Washington Post.
"He set up a network of nonprofit organizations
to administer the millions of dollars he directed to
such public endeavors as high-tech research and historic
preservation. Over the same period, Mollohan's personal
Post reports that in 2000-04, Mollohan's assets "grew
from no more than $565,000 to at least $6.3 million.
The partners in his rapidly expanding real estate empire
included the head of one of these nonprofit groups and
the owner of a local company for which he arranged substantial
federal aid. ... Mollohan denies that he raked off any
of the federal funds that went to his state ... He said
his newfound wealth is due primarily to the run-up in
value of his family's ownership of 27 condos in a Foggy
Bottom high-rise. By leveraging that asset, he said,
he has been able to buy other properties, usually with
the help of loans, in North Carolina and West Virginia.
... One of the five nonprofit groups to which Mollohan
steered more than $150 million "is headed by a
former aide with whom Mollohan bought $2 million worth
of property on Bald Head Island, N.C." (Photo
of Mollohan by Jason Deprospero, Wash. Post)
Here's the immediate news peg in Birnbaum's story:
"Controversy over this blending of commerce and
legislation has triggered a federal probe, cost Mollohan
his position on the House ethics committee and undermined
the Democrats' effort to portray the GOP as the party
of corruption because of the Jack Abramoff scandal.
As early as today, the 12-term congressman will admit
that he misstated some transactions in his congressional
filings, according to Mollohan staffers."
Birnbaum looks at the reaction of Mollohan's district:
"During a trip home last week to northern West
Virginia, Mollohan was questioned at length by a radio
interviewer from Weirton about his business connections.
But everywhere else, Mollohan -- the son of a longtime
congressman and a cousin of a former senator -- was
welcomed as a patron of the state." (Birnbaum doesn't
name the interviewer.)
In an interview with Birnbaum, "Mollohan said
he is unapologetic and proud of the thousands of jobs
he has brought to West Virginia and that, legally speaking,
everything he has done to secure them is 'squeaky clean.'
But he acknowledged that his actions might look incriminating
and that he may have had an ethical 'blind spot' that
prevented him from questioning whether he, as a government
official and vice chairman of the ethics panel, should
have invested with such close associates."
county uses brochure to welcome (warn?) new residents
Accomack County, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,
is the Old Dominion's top producer of corn, soybeans,
wheat and tomatoes, and the No. 2 poultry-producing
county -- and the scene of a residential boom that is
attracting newcomers who are unaware of its agricultural
The Accomack County Farm Bureau wants
to give people a clear picture of the county before
they buy homes and move in, which is where a new brochure
comes into play. Author Jim Belote, Accomack’s
extension agent for agriculture and natural resources,
identifies crops grown in the county and the amount
of work required to harvest them, reports the Virginia
Farm Bureau Federation.
David Hickman, an Accomack grain, soybean and vegetable
grower, sees the brochure as a great introduction: “So
many people are moving to the Eastern Shore from Baltimore
and D.C. and New Jersey that are not familiar with agricultural
practices, and we want them to know that, when they
come here, part of the joy of country living is tractors
running at night, diesel engines running all night long,
dust in the summertime, the odor of manure a few months
of the year." (Read
farmers jump on agritourism bandwagon with pets, pumpkins
Agritourism is cropping up on farms in rural counties
near Athens, Ga., with activities for visitors including
"pick your own fruit" areas, find and grab
pumpkin patches and of course, plenty of petting zoos.
Whether they offer hay rides or carve out corn corn
mazes, farms are taking advantage of an opportunity
to bring in extra money from school groups and tourists
of all ages, reports The Associated Press.
In some counties, public meetings are being held to
discuss ways to enhance farm tourism, and some participants
are considering having features that go beyond recreational
interests and actually educate tourists about the importance
of agriculture. (Read
Near Crawford, Ga., University of Georgia
professor Robert Rhoades runs the Agrarian Connections
Farm, which uses restored log cabins to teach college
students about the tools and techniques used by pioneers
in the 1800s. Rhoades aims to make the farm a living
history museum for tourists, reports AP.
county considers tougher manure spreading rules, fines
Farmers in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, may face tougher
manure management regulations, on the heels of two large
manure spills at area dairies being referred to the
Wisconsin Justice Department.
"The spills, last year at Maple Leaf Dairy
near Cleveland and in 2004 at Sunnyside Dairy
Farm near Valders, allegedly caused liquid
manure to flow into Fisher Creek and Point Creek, which
lead to Lake Michigan. While the specific damage has
yet to be quantified, the spills have created an image
problem for area farmers, who say the public perception
that they are unconcerned about the environment is untrue,"
writes Kristopher Wenn of the Herald Times.
The county is drafting a referendum for the November
election that increases fines for violating county manure
spreading regulations, and requires that farmers incorporate
manure into the soil if it is spread near a sinkhole.
"The stakes are high. A little over 13 percent
of the county workforce is employed on farms, while
agriculture accounts for almost 10 percent of the county's
total economic income," reported Wenn, citing extension
data. He did not specify the fine increase. (Read
offers resources, seminars on how to cover immigration
As the nation's media continues its coverage of the
ongoing immigration debate, the Knight New Media
Center is attempting to help reporters cover
the story by offering an array of articles and sources.
"You will find valuable and credible sources and
articles from many points of view as well as videos
from previous seminars on immigration issues. In the
future, we will continue to visit the issue as well
as others related to the changing faces and voices of
our communities. Please sign
up for our emailing list to be notified of future
seminars," according to the center, launched in
April. The Center gives fellowships for seminars on
professional growth, critical thinking and topic training.
The Knight New Media Center is a partnership of the
Annenberg School for Communication at the University
of Southern California in Los Angeles and the
University of California at Berkeley
Graduate School of Journalism. The Center is funded
by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight
here for the Center's resources database.
May 14, 2006
efforts for rural district delay transport-worker ID
A powerful Kentucky congressman's efforts to steer
federal work to his poor district, one of the nation's
most rural, has delayed the creation of a tamperproof
identification card for airport, rail and maritime workers,
Eric Lipton of The New York Times reported
today in a 2,276-word story.
"The Department of Homeland Security has
invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours
of labor over the last four years on a seemingly simple
task," Lipton writes. "Yet nearly two years
past a planned deadline, production of the card, known
as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential,
has yet to begin. Instead, the road to delivering this
critical antiterrorism tool has taken detours to locations,
companies and groups often linked to Representative
Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who is the powerful
chairman of the House subcommittee that controls the
Homeland Security budget."
Rogers "inserted language into appropriations
bills that effectively pushed the government to use
the same patented green card technology and to produce
this new card in Corbin," a town of 8,000 that
Rogers had helped get into the ID-making business during
the Clinton administration. However, the department
"had already identified a more flexible and secure
technology" than the one used by the Corbin plant.
Other Kentucky companies "turned up in each phase
of the early tests of the identification cards,"
known as smart cards -- including one that employs Rogers'
son and has contributed to the congressman's political
action committee. John Rogers told the Times that the
contract "has nothing to do with who my father
is," and that he has worked in data management
and technology for 13 years. "In all, about $100,000
in contributions have come to Mr. Rogers from parties
with at least some ties to the identification card effort,
records show," the Times reports.
"When tests on a smart card prototype identification
card finally got under way in November 2004, the program
again ran into an obstacle. To try to speed up the work,
contractors decided initially to produce the prototype
cards in Pennsylvania. But Homeland Security demanded
that the work be moved," citing Rogers' mandates,
the Times reports. "The smart card printing equipment
was picked up and sent to Corbin, adding to the expense
and causing another delay. Interventions by Mr. Rogers
were far from the only reason for delays. Homeland Security
repeatedly revised plans for the identification card,
related to matters like the method for collecting and
storing personal information."
told the Times in a prepared statement that he imposed
mandates to speed up the process. "I have been
extremely frustrated with the slow, wandering pace of
the program," he said.
Meanwhile, "A separate fight involving Mr. Rogers
was playing out," Lipton writes. "Starting
in 2004, his staff repeatedly pressed the Transportation
Security Administration to hire ... the American
Association of Airport Executives to help handle
background checks that transportation workers had to
undergo to get identification cards." Last year,
Rogers inserted language requiring that the association
be hired for the work, noting that it already helps
with background check for airport workers.
(Hal Rogers photo by Doug Mills, New York Times)
The lobbying group "has paid for trips by Mr.
Rogers and his wife worth more than $75,000, including
the six visits to Hawaii, four to California and one
to Ireland" since 2000, the Times reports. He ranked
seventh of the 535 members of Congress in travel gifts
accepted in the last five years, according to Political
Money Line, which was cited by the Times.
When the trade group created a for-profit subsidiary
and sought investors of up to $25 million, watchdog
groups barked."This is really a perversion of every
part of the contracting process," Danielle Brian,
executive director for the Project on Government
Oversight, told The Times. Lipton writes, "Executives
in the intensely competitive biometrics industry protested,"
and quoted Walter Hamilton, chairman of the International
Biometric Industry Association, as saying,
""It is a sleazy arrangement."
The airport executives' group and its would-be partner,
Daon, "had sponsored . . . a July
2005 conference and golf outing that the congressman
attended in Dublin, where Daon is based," the Times
reports. The company's board includes former homeland
security secretary Tom Ridge. Under pressure, Rogers
and Homeland Security backed off last week. "The
no-bid contract for the airport executives would be
killed. This would mean another delay, because the advertisement
for the bidding would have to start over again,"
Lipton writes. "No one has yet moved to reverse
the Congressional directive mandating where the cards
are produced." (Read
May 12, 2006
pushes those in trucks to buckle up, cut rural fatalities
Only one-fifth of Americans reside in rural areas,
but fatalities in those locations made for 58 percent
of the nation's total in 2004. To reduce the rate of
rural fatalities, often involving trucks, state and
federal officials will join forces next week in a "Click
It or Ticket" campaign to persuade pickup truck
drivers and their passengers to "buckle up in your
"Americans driving or riding on rural roadways
face a much greater risk of being injured or killed
in traffic crashes than do those in urban or suburban
areas, according to the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration. Safety belt use in the
nation's rural areas consistently trails the national
average. Nationally, in 2005, only 79 percent of rural
drivers and their passengers were observed wearing their
safety belts compared to 81 percent for urban motorists
and 83 percent among suburban motorists," reports
George Jones of the weekly Sand Mountain Reporter
in Albertville, Ala.
"The motor vehicle crash fatality rate per 100
million vehicle miles traveled in rural areas is almost
double the fatality rate in urban areas. Part of the
danger to rural drivers comes from delayed recovery
and emergency response along isolated roadways,"
writes Jones. (Read
for mailing newspapers in same county could go up 25%
"Postal rates in May 2007 could rise nearly 25
percent for in-county newspapers if the United
States Postal Service has its way, and annual
increases are in store for the foreseeable future,"
reports the National Newspaper Association,
the national lobbying group for weeklies, which rely
on the mail.
USPS announced yesterday that it wants "a larger
rate hike for local newspapers than for virtually any
other mail class," NNA says on its Web
site. "The proposed increase is the highest
in more than a decade. The announcement came with the
filing of proposed rate increases for all mail, including
a 42 cent first-class stamp. Rates would be expected
to go into effect around May 2007." The postal
service said the increases are needed to cover rising
costs, including fuel and retiree health care for retirees
and higher fuel costs, but also wanted to push mailers
"to change their mail to shapes and containers
that were more efficient for USPS to handle," NNA
NNA President Jerry Reppert said, ""This
has to be one of the saddest days in the history of
community newspapers and the Postal Service, which has
always been one of our strongest partners. USPS seems
to be saying our mail is no longer desirable because
newspapers are shaped like newspapers and have to be
transported in containers that the Postal Service no
longer wants to use."
Reppert, publisher of the Anna (Ill.)
Gazette-Democrat, said newspapers have
few if any choices for pleasing the Postal Service.
"Newspapers cannot be mailed on pallets, as a rule.
We must use sacks or trays for transporting bundles
through the mail system. And short of throwing out our
printing presses and putting newspapers on tidy little
sheets of typing paper, or dispensing with mail delivery
altogether, we are limited in what responses we can
make to these price signals."
NNA Postal Committee Chairman Max Heath, vice president
of Landmark Community Newspapers Inc.,
said, "I have to believe that the planners for
this rate case do not fully appreciate the damage they
will inflict upon community newspapers, and therefore
upon local communities, if they continue in the direction
they seem to be headed." NNA will intervene in
the rate proceeding of the Postal Rate Commission.
power plants proposed in Va., Ky.; one draws a lawsuit
The Richmond-based electric company Dominion
Power wants to construct an $800 million plant
in mountainous Wise County. Some say it could be the
biggest economic burst in Southwest Virginia's history.
In the Western Kentucky Coal Field, promoters are touting
another plant that would use clean-coal technology,
but environmentalists filed suit yesterday to stop it.
Government agencies will review the Virginia project's
potential effects on air quality, nearby streams, roads
and other potential issues. The plant first hit the
radar of environmentalists in 2004 when state Sen. William
Wampler, R-Bristol, successfully proposed a bill to
let Dominion find a location for a coal-fired plant
in the region. Dominion plans to use a circulating fluidized
bed burner that uses waste coal, wood and other fuels
in a way that cuts back emissions, reports Ray Reed
of The Roanoke Times. (Read
In Kentucky, the state Environmental and Public
Protection Cabinet "ordered further cuts
in the Muhlenberg County project's allowable emissions
of mercury and nitrogen oxides [but] the reductions
did not satisfy environmentalists," who filed suit
in Franklin Circuit Court, writes James Bruggers of
The Courier-Journal. Officials of Peabody
Energy, which wants to build the plant known
as Thoroughbred, say the plant would be one of the cleanest
coal-fired power plants in existence. (Read
judge upholds 'valid existing rights' rule limiting
A federal judge has rejected a challenge by the National
Mining Association to the Office of
Surface Mining's 1999 rule limiting the "valid
existing rights" that coal companies had to mine
sensitive areas when the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation
Act took effect and protected them in 1977.
The law prohibited mining near homes, churches and
cemeteries, and on public lands, unless companies had
"valid existing rights" to mine. The Reagan
administration interpreted that broadly, but the courts
and Congress rejected that approach as overbroad. In
1999, the Clinton administration narrowly defined the
exception, requiring that in order to be allowed to
mine in protected areas, a company had to show that
it had made a "good faith" effort to obtain
"all permits needed" for mining at the time
the law took effect.
The Kentucky Resources Council, the
Citizens Coal Council and other groups
intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Clinton-era
definition. In his opinion upholding it, U.S. District
Judge Richard Roberts said a broader standard would
have led to the mining of 2,855 to 3,000 more acres
of protected lands between 1995 and 2015. The opinion,
in the case of National Mining Association v. Scarlett,
Civil Action No. 2000-0283, is available from the
U.S. District Court for the the District of Columbia
The ruling will not change the status quo in 20 of
the 24 states where state agencies enforce the federal
law, because they have adopted the current federal standard,
KRC Director Tom FitzGerald said. "We anticipate
the industry will appeal, since they have litigated
nearly every regulation under that law since 1978,"
FitzGerald said. "We look forward to aggressively
defending a well-reasoned District Court decision, a
sound agency rule, and the public and private lands
the rule and Congress sought to protect."
Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal
Association, called the current definition
"a cruel hoax on property owners, since it tells
them after the fact that the only way their property
rights would be protected is if they had applied for
a permit before August 3, 1977. Industry isn't interested
in actual mining near homes, churches and cemeteries,
but we do sometimes need access near these properties
to gain access to mining property. Being barred from
simply crossing a public land will in some cases preclude
a person from developing his private property."
Virginians lack health insurance, see no end in sight
Many middle-aged people in West Virginia, a predominantly
rural state, are struggling without health insurance.
As they wait to qualify for Medicare, they are working
long hours just to pay for medical care.
As many as 400,000 of the Mountain State's 1.8 million
residents will have no insurance for all or part of
2006, but about half of them do have jobs. Every year,
tens of thousands lose or are forced to drop their health
insurance. "Some lost insurance when they were
laid off. Others became uninsured when their spouse
died. Others got divorced or had to file bankruptcy.
Or the insurance company raised the premium so high,
they could no longer afford it. Or their employer dropped
health insurance. Others became disabled," writes
Kate Long of the Charleston Gazette.
Long's story focused on research done by Gail Bellamy
of the West Virginia University Institute
for Health Policy Research, who interviewed uninsured
aged 50-64 and was shaken by their stories.
“It was one of the most emotional experiences
I ever had,” Bellamy, 54, told Long. “This
is my age group. It’s a case of ‘There but
for fortune.’ Today I have health insurance. Tomorrow,
I could just as easily not have. . . . I was stunned
by the terror with which they spoke of life without
health insurance ... the certainty that health insurance
is what stands between you and financial disaster, between
you and being on the street. This age group is very
much at risk in our health care system. They are more
likely to have chronic health problems, but they’re
still years away from Medicare.”
Family doctors often help patients who cannot pay,
but some uninsured cannot find private physicians who
will treat them. That leaves some people with few options:
a community health center or Health Right clinic. The
outlook is bleak when uninsured people walk into such
environments. "Many were dismayed to find that
medical staff treated them with less respect after they
became uninsured," reports Long.
Insurance costs and rising medical bills may prevent
people from improving their situations, especially with
the cost of insurance rising 73 percent in the last
five years. "The average West Virginia hospital
bill was $12,544 in 2004, according to the state Health
Care Authority. Insured people might owe $500
of that bill. Uninsured people face the entire bill.
On top of that, they owe doctors' bills," writes
and learning help promote diversity in rural La.
A cultural tourism initiative is bringing together
different races in the rural community of Lake Providence,
La., with the help of "soul food" and heritage
The East Carroll Cultural Tourism Initiative
also sees "that developing tourism, economic development
and creating racial harmony is more than fun and games.
Partnering with the local institutions of higher learning,
Southern University of Baton Rouge
and Louisiana State University, has
brought additional resources and methods of implementing
the organization's goals," according to the Routes
of Change newsletter published by the W.K. Kellogg
The project is one of 12 community-partner grantees
of Kellogg’s Mid
South Delta Initiative, which aims to help
55 contiguous counties and parishes along the Mississippi
River in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi build
communities based on a shared vision of all races, classes,
and ages. (Read
residents may mail in votes to reduce election costs
Rural residents in Utah may be required to vote by
mail using absentee ballots, because counties want to
limit the expense and problems involved in training
poll workers for the state's first electronic election.
Millard County is requiring mail-only voting in 11
precincts and both Emery and Clawson counties may follow
suit. Utah's election law allows counties with 500 or
fewer voters to adopt vote-by-mail regulations, but
it is unclear just how many areas will follow through
with the option. The opposite is occurring in Salt Lake
County, as new electronic machines will allow about
3,000 residents to return to the polls from previously
mail-only precincts, reports The Associated
enjoy free wi-fi networks in High Country, N.C.
Residents in rural High Country, N.C. are jumping on
the World Wide Web for free via high-speed wireless
hotspots that are becoming more prominent at coffee
shops and restaurants.
In addition to residents and travelers enjoying the
convenient hook-ups, local business owners are reaping
the benefits of providing free wireless service. "For
those not wanting to buy coffee, there are public Wi-Fi
hotspots which offer a bit more seclusion. The Watauga
and Ashe County libraries as well as 30 buildings on
the campus of Appalachian State University
are such examples. . . . Approximately, 30 buildings
have wireless access which extend several hundred feet
beyond the exterior and into many parking areas,"
writes Marie Freeman of the weekly Mountain
Times in Boone, N.C. (Read
May 11, 2006
2,000 cases of public corruption, gets help from press
Here's a reminder that journalists everywhere need
to be on the lookout for wrongdoing by local officials,
and by state legislators, who are locally elected: The
FBI says it is finding a lot of corruption
in local and state governments.
"Bureau officials believe that the investment
in corruption cases is easily worth the cost. In 2004
and 2005, more than 1,060 government employees were
convicted of corrupt activities, including 177 federal
officials, 158 state officials, 360 local officials
and 365 police officers, according to F.B.I. statistics.
The number of convictions rose 27 percent from 2004
to 2005," reports The New York Times.
"Almost every one of the F.B.I.'s cases has been
the subject of widespread news reports by local news
organizations, and Time magazine has
reported on the national scope of the effort. In some
instances, . . . reporters appear to have been the first
to uncover some aspects of possible wrongdoing. Agents
regard such articles as tips for which they can claim
success if they succeed in bringing a case," writes
David Johnston. (Read
People can provide the F.B.I. with tips on corruption
at this Web
site. The tips cannot be anonymous.
coverage declines, but CNHI puts reporters in capitals
Coverage of state politics and regulation continues
to decline, to the point where newspapers and their
owners should be ashamed, two expert speakers said Monday
at the Center for First Amendment Rights' annual Milton
Sorokin Symposium at the University of Connecticut
School of Law.
"One of the things we should really be worried
about is the way our state capitals are covered,"
said David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette."It's a disgrace."
"Miles Rapoport, former Connecticut secretary
of the state and now president of a liberal group called
Demos USA, agreed," reported Tom Breen of the Journal
Inquirer of Manchester, Conn. "When he
first won state office in 1974, he said, Connecticut's
largest newspaper [the Hartford Courant]
had seven reporters in its Capitol bureau, a number
that has shrunk to two today." (Read
The trend is national, according to surveys by the
Project on the State of the American Newspaper, reported
Journalism Review. But in a few states, state-government
coverage is being buttressed by smaller papers. One
example is Community
Newspaper Holdings' assignments of Ronnie
Ellis and James S. Tyree to the capitals of Frankfort,
Ky., and Oklahoma City. Ellis, formerly at CNHI's Glasgow
Daily Times, reports for an overwhelmingly
rural and Appalachian audience -- dailies in the towns
of Glasgow, Somerset, Corbin, Richmond and Ashland,
multi-weeklies in London and Morehead, and weeklies
in Monticello, Whitley City, Grayson and Olive Hill.
left, Davis Holland, Will Holloway, Stephanie Reitz
and Haley Wester pose in Croatan National Forest.
by Jacquelyn Martin for The New York Times
protesting national-forest sales get visit from federal
A top U.S. agriculture official decided a letter from
sixth-graders protesting the sale of national forest
land deserved a personal visit at their school in Newport,
The letter, written by Haley Wester at Broad
Creek Middle School, began, "What is the
deal with cutting down the Croatan National Forest?
How would you like it if we cut down some trees around
your house?" That forest is part of 10,000 acres
of North Carolina land included in under secretary of
agriculture Mark Rey's proposal to sell 309,000 acres
of national forest space across the country, writes
Felicity Barringer of The New York Times.
"(Rey) told a dubious young audience sitting cross-legged
on the floor that the sale was designed to help raise
$500 million to $1 billion to pay for rural schools
in heavily forested counties like theirs. But he said
the amount of land likely to be actually sold to raise
the needed money would be cut to nearly half, or 175,000
acres. He said his proposal was designed to meet an
obligation that dates back 98 years. When the national
forests were carved out by President Theodore Roosevelt,
the government promised to repay the counties most affected
by the loss of their tax base," reports Barringer.
Makeover: Home Edition' might make for extreme taxes
Families who get new homes from the ABC
television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
could face large tax bills if audited, according to
a nonbinding ruling issued by the Internal Revenue
In apparently breaking this story, The Roanoke
Times reports that Blacksburg, Va., resident
Carol Crawford Smith might owe on an additional $122,400
in income, and her tax liability could increase by at
least $20,000 because of her participation on the show.
This news came when the Internal Revenue Service released
an "information letter" March 31 that contradicts
what the show's producers advise participants on how
to avoid paying federal income taxes on the new homes.
The show focuses on helping needy families by demolishing
their old homes and building replacements in fewer than
seven days. "Participants lease their homes to
the show for the duration of the shooting, which ABC
says will help the families avoid taxes," reports
Tonia Moxley. ABC claims it consulted with tax experts,
but the IRS counters that the houses are prizes in the
same category as lottery winnings. As of yet, there
are no court cases pending in this matter. (Read
should watch Medicaid closely, urges health group
The National Rural Health Association
wants residents and leaders in rural communities to
closely monitor Medicaid changes because of the critical
role it plays in ensuring access to care.
The call for monitoring is based on a new report by
the Rural Policy Research Institute
called "Medicaid and Its Importance to Rural Health."
That report talks about how rural physicians rely on
Medicaid to stay in business, which in turn impacts
There is also a higher percentage of rural residents
using Medicaid, 14.2 percent, compared to 11.2 percent
of urban residents. An NRHA press release states, "The
reasons for this higher enrollment are numerous: rural
communities have higher rates of disability, a higher
proportion of elderly residents, higher poverty levels,
and lower availability of employer-sponsored insurance."
here for the report.
program partners immigrants with U.S. mentors in rural
Immigrants hoping to farm are getting help from a mentoring
program sponsored by the National Immigrant
Farming Initiative that connects them with
U.S. farmers for training.
Twenty-five immigrant families living in Florida and
Georgia recently met in Douglasville, Ga., to learn
from new mentors. "The Farmer Field School was
structured to not just draw out mentor farmer knowledge,
but to create a two-way exchange so the aspiring immigrant
farmers also shared their knowledge. The training sought
to encourage interactive problem-solving with the mentor
farmers and to help the aspiring farmers adapt their
existing agricultural practices and incorporate new
knowledge to create successful small farms," according
to the Routes of Change newsletter published by the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a funder of
the program. (Read
The National Immigrant Farming Initiative aims to provide
training, information sharing, networking opportunities,
and positive exposure for immigrants wishing to work
in communities. The initiative is supported by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management
Agency and Heifer International. For
more information, visit this Web
county takes Internet into its own hands with free network
Leaders in Bland County, Virginia, grew tired of waiting
on private companies to provide Internet service, so
they built their own free, wireless network for downtown
residents and businesses.
Bland is one of Virginia's most rural counties, and
leaders hope to expand the network to cover everyone,
reports WDBJ 7 in Roanoke. The people
behind this wireless initiative hope it spurs other
community development and improvement projects. (Read
more) A previous WDBJ report highlighted the problem
of rural areas being neglected in the push for high-speed
Bland County's effort received praise from The
Roanoke Times in a May 4 editorial: "Today
Bland County strides into the digital world as its free,
public, wireless Internet system goes live. They get
it in Bland. 'It,' of course, is that this is a wireless
world. People expect to be connected to their data almost
everywhere. If business leaders and tourists visiting
a town like Bland cannot surf the Web on their laptops,
they'll go elsewhere." (Read
May 10, 2006
teachers quit in first five years; bad news for rural
A National Education Association study
reports that half of new U.S. teachers are likely to
quit within the first five years because of low pay
and poor conditions -- bad news for rural schools.
The study described the average teacher as a married,
43-year-old white woman who is religious, reports Lisa
Lambert of Reuters. Since younger teachers
are dropping out, the number of job openings should
continue to rise during the next 10 years, according
to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, rural schools often have trouble attracting
teachers, and this phenomenon constricts the available
Other demographics in the study include: the proportion
of teachers holding master's degrees is 50 percent,
up from 23 percent in the early 1960s; 6 percent of
teachers are African American, and 5 percent are Hispanic,
Asian or come from other ethnic groups; and men represent
a quarter of the field, the lowest amount in 40 years.
more) The study is not available online.
S.C. school district closes today for Confederate Memorial
All but one of South Carolina's 85 school districts
will hold classes today on Confederate Memorial Day,
though all state agencies, the Senate and some county
offices are shutting down.
The only district closed today is Berkeley County,
which is located just north of Charleston and includes
some of its suburbs. The district first took the day
off in 2001, after receiving requests from the Sons
of Confederate Veterans, former school board
Chairwoman Frances Brewer told Seanna Adcox of The
Associated Press. The county's population is
68 percent white and 27 percent black. Twenty percent
of the residents are veterans, much higher than the
national average of 12.7 percent, reflecting military
installations in the Charleston area.
South Carolina is one of several Southern states to
designate a state holiday to honor Confederate soldiers.
Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi mark the anniversary
of April 26, 1865, when Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston
surrendered the last organized Confederate unit, and
Texas honors General Robert E. Lee's birthday, Jan.
19, as Confederate Heroes Day. (Read
interests again fighting to save federal appropriations
"In a depressing but not surprising rerun of last
year's budgetary drama, President Bush has once again
cut programs that provide health care to millions of
rural Americans -- this time by 83 percent. Among the
programs on the chopping block are those that help hospitals,
clinics and other providers work together to reach underserved
people and provide higher quality care to all,"
opines Thomas D. Rowley, a fellow at the Rural
Policy Research Institute.
"The Senate has already voted in its budget resolution
to fully fund all rural health programs. The plotline
in the House isn't so straightforward. Though not yet
passed, the House budget resolution toes the President's
hard fiscal line. What really counts, however, are the
spending bills that will come later this year (appropriations
subcommittees start work this week). That's when we'll
know whether and by how much funding that ensures that
rural Americans have access to affordable, quality health
care will be cut or restored," continues Rowley.
"In cutting other programs, the Administration
has cited poor performance as measured by the Office
of Management and Budget's Program Assessment
and Rating Tool, PART for short. The problem here is
that the rural health programs are, in fact, judged
to be performing adequately," concludes Rowley.
involved in making decisions for rural communities
Many rural communities leave out young people in local
decision making, but a few South Texas communities decided
to change that. They can now serve as examples for the
rest of rural America.
"The Llano Grande Center in Edcouch
is leading a project to involve youth into local decision-making
in this community. Some 95 percent of the 20,000 residents
living there are of Hispanic heritage; most are under
the age of 50, many are migrant workers, and the majority
of the people are low income. The Center organized the
Tomorrow’s Leaders Today youth group four years
ago, and are equipping and encouraging the youth to
become involved in their community. An important side
benefit of the program is that as the youth become involved,
so do their parents," according to the Routes of
Change newsletter published by the W.K. Kellogg
"The work of Llano Grande began informally in
the early 1990’s through a process to show Edcouch-Elsa
High School students that not only was college an option
for them, but that it was necessary, and that they could
go to any college they wanted. . . . The work of college
preparation became more focused on transforming students
into community-minded leaders who would be ready for
higher education. This was achieved through various
community-based projects developed and implemented by
students and teachers with support from the Kellogg
Foundation’s Managing Information with Rural America
broke law in fighting union effort at N.C. plant, court
The Smithfield Packing Co. repeatedly
broke the law nine years ago in its efforts to stave
off a union drive at its pork-processing plant in Tar
Heel, N.C., according to a federal appeals court ruling.
"In a decision released on Monday, the United
States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit upheld a broad cease-and-desist order that the
National Labor Relations Board issued against Smithfield
in 2004 in response to complaints by the United
Food and Commercial Workers. The union accused
Smithfield of illegally skewing a 1997 election by intimidating
and firing workers," writes Steven Greenhouse of
The New York Times.
Concluding that Smithfield engaged in "intense
and widespread coercion," the court upheld the
labor board's ruling that one worker was improperly
coerced by being ordered to put a "Vote No"
stamp on hogs. The appeals court ordered Smithfield
to reinstate four fired workers, and the plant's 5,500
employees make it the world's largest pork-processing
facility. The union is continuing its organizing drive
at the plant, notes Greenhouse. (Read
crisis shuts down emergency medical services in rural
Emergency ambulance services in rural Oklahoma are
in such a state of financial crisis that callers to
911 may soon be providing basic care and transporting
patients to hospitals.
"In the Enid area, where several rural ambulance
services have shut down, response time to Garber, an
area now being covered by Life EMS in Enid, is between
18 to 20 minutes. A state task force report indicates
lives already are being jeopardized because lack of
funds, and manpower shortages have slowed response times.
Initial findings of the report were released to the
state Board of Health. A final report is due Oct. 1,"
according to a combined Enid News and
Associated Press report. (Read
Ten rural ambulance services recently closed, and several
others towns have lost the services. Some of Oklahoma's
160 ambulance services are hospital-based, while others
are taxpayer-subsidized or are private, for-profit businesses.
Reasons for the financial problems include Medicare
cuts for emergency care, uninsured patients, an aging
population and budget shortfalls, according to the story.
past, current paper owners pits 'folk singer' vs. 'James
When David V. Mitchell sold his Pulitzer Prize-winning
weekly newspaper last year to Robert I. Plotkin, some
residents in Point Reyes Station, Calif., correctly
predicted a rather rough transition.
The two men will appear in court May 12 for a review
of a temporary restraining order Plotkin obtained in
February against Mitchell, requiring that he stay away
from Plotkin and the weekly Point Reyes Light
office, after the two came to blows over a pending story.
"The nasty public feud between the past and present
owners of the Light — Mr. Mitchell, a gangly,
corncob-pipe-smoking 62-year-old who looks like an aging
folk singer and won a Pulitzer Prize, and Mr. Plotkin,
a 36-year-old onetime prosecutor with a GQ fashion sense
who describes himself as 'a man of action, like James
Bond' — has captivated the 14 far-flung villages
here on the western tilt of Marin County," writes
Patricia Leigh Brown of The New York Times.
"Along with oysters, pristine coastal scenery
and mildly pungent organic cheeses, idiosyncrasy is
part of the culture here. It has been this way since
the early 1970's, when an oil spill cleanup first drew
environmentally minded hippies, artists and opinionated
Berkeley eggheads, who turned this area a short drive
northwest of San Francisco into a spirited bastion of
the rural left. It is a place where local news can just
as easily run to skinny-dippers' rights as agricultural
land conservation," continues Brown. (Read
The Rural Blog previously reported on this feud in
its March 22 edition. Click
here for the archived item, which includes a link
to a story giving localized details.
Bee wins Taylor Family Award for newspaper fairness
in The Sacramento Bee about the misuse
and abuse of Latino immigrants who work in America's
forest industry has won the 2006 Taylor Family Award
for Fairness in Newspapers. The award, which carries
a $10,000 prize, was established through gifts for an
endowment by members of the Taylor family, which published
The Boston Globe from 1872 to 1999.
Judges praised The Bee's series, "The Pineros:
Men of the Pines," for including "all the
groups affected by this timely issue and for the way
the pictures and stories gave a voice to people who
are rarely heard." The contest is administered
by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard
University. --California Newspaper Publishers
Newspaper Association to discontinue hard-copy newsletter
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association's
weekly Bulletin is about to go completely electronic.
Other state newspaper associations already publish electronic-only
newsletters. Will more follow suit, and is it a harbinger
of the future for newspapers themselves? Starting June
7, the Bulletin will be available only on the World
Wide Web, where 165 subscribers already receive the
weekly reports on Wisconsin's papers and on valuable
reporting resources. WNA Executive Director Peter Fox
attributed the move to the $50,000 spent on printing
and mailing the newsletter.
May 9, 2006
perform good deeds, but can they with fewer members?
When news about civic clubs appears in local newspapers,
it's usually about their good works. But those works
may be fewer in many places these days, because many
clubs' membership is declining. So in your town, it
might be time for a story like the one done by the Florence
TimesDaily, which took a look at the clubs
in northwestern Alabama.
"According to 'Bowling Alone: The Collapse and
Revival of American Community' by Robert D. Putnam,
58 percent fewer Americans attended club meetings in
2000 than they did in 1975. Those trends are troubling
for local civic clubs that depend on members to help
improve the community. To compensate for the trend,
local clubs are ramping up efforts to attract new members.
Most civic groups around the Shoals are finding is that
potential club members have little time," writes
During civic group's big years, employers often encouraged
their workers to get involved, but nowadays that rarely
happens due to time constraints. So, civic groups are
starting to see their futures in other groups that include
young people. Joining a civic group can be intimidating
at first, said Will Heaps, a young man who recently
joined the new Shoals Young Professionals Association,
a networking and community service group. "Maybe
hanging out with your peers might lead into getting
involved in those other organizations," he told
advocate gets stirred up by tonight's bird-flu thriller
When a chicken-industry lobbyist learned that ABC
Television planned to broadcast a disaster
thriller, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America,"
tonight at 8, part of a key month for TV ratings, one
might say he started running around like a chicken with
its head cut off.
Richard Lobb of the National
Chicken Council, which represents almost
all chicken producers and processors in the U.S., demanded
that the network change the word "bird" to
"pandemic" in the title. He also wants the
movie to carry disclaimers such as "This movie
is fiction" and "Eating poultry is safe."
Lobb also posted a video on his trade group's Web site
featuring healthy chickens and points about how hard
it is to contract avian flu, reports Jane Zhang of The
Wall Street Journal. (Read
"With all the talk of avian flu, 53-year-old Mr.
Lobb is the ultimate anti-Chicken Little. His job is
to convince the public that the sky isn't falling, despite
scary TV movies, disturbing media reports and government
warnings that the flu is headed to the U.S. . . . To
counter the scary stories, Mr. Lobb pointedly calls
the disease the 'Asian bird flu,' with the emphasis
on Asian. He notes that the government is testing tens
of thousands of wild birds to try to get an early warning
of the virus's arrival," writes Zhang.
urges grant-giving foundations to help rural America
Sen. Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance
Committee, says rural America is often shortchanged
and he wants foundations to double their grants to those
areas in the next five years.
During a presentation Monday, Baucus cited statistics
showing that 10 rural states received $35 per resident
in foundation grants in 2005, compared to the national
average of $104 per resident. That disparity hurts a
part of America that already suffers from poverty, he
said. A press release from the National Rural
Funders Collaborative expands on that poverty:
"Rural communities and regions are home to nearly
20 percent of the U.S. population -- 55 million Americans
-- and 80 percent of the nation's land. Poverty is disproportionate
in rural areas compared to urban areas -- 16 percent
of the rural population is poor, while 12 percent of
those living in urban areas are poor."
Baucus "said the states that receive the least
money from foundations — Alaska, Maine, Mississippi,
Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota,
West Virginia, Vermont, and Wyoming — have created
wealth in other states by providing coal, timber, food,
and other resources. But they all lack big cities, which
have 'a wealth of people, expertise, and money' that
can benefit rural areas," writes Suzanne Perry
of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Some foundations must restrict their giving to metro
areas, but others should give 5 percent to 10 percent
of their grants to rural America within five years,
Baucus told the foundations in Pittsburgh. (Read
for broadband leads AT&T to provide satellite service
If you live in a rural area, chances are good that
you are among the 72 percent of American households
that either dial up to use the Internet or have no access
at all. Now the nation's largest telephone company is
entering the market for the expensive way to get high-speed
broadband -- satellite service.
AT&T Inc. announced Monday it
is partnering with WildBlue Communications Inc.
to offer the service, targeting rural areas.
The service costs much more than a digitial subscriber
line (DSL), starting at $49.95 a month for a download
speed of 512 kilobits per second. A speed of 1.5 megabits
costs $79.95 a month. Click
here to read a story from news services, compiled
by the Detroit Free Press.
"Twenty-eight percent of American households subscribed
to broadband service in 2005, about 30 million homes.
Of the rest, 30 percent subscribe to dial-up Internet
service, and 41 percent have no home access. Among broadband
subscribers, distribution between cable modem and DSL
was almost evenly split. DSL is less likely to serve
rural residents; service is only available within a
three-mile radius of a central office," writes
Enid Burns of the ClickZ Network.
"Certain household factors make residents more
or less likely to subscribe to broadband services. Households
with high incomes are 39 percent more likely to subscribe
to broadband than lower-income households. College-educated
heads of households are 12 percent more likely to adopt
broadband than households headed by someone without
a college degree," continues Burns. (Read
have little effect on economies, including energy sector
Andrew Kantor of the Roanoke Times
follows up yesterday's story about a proposed wind farm
with some basic truths about the industry -- it has
little effect on economies where the turbines are located:
"Putting 54 wind turbines on Bent and Poor mountains
might change the view, and it could well stir environmental
resistance. The proposed project would likely have little
effect on the economy. Its prospects for bringing job
growth, economic stimulation or cheap power to local
residents are minimal."
In a question-and-answer format, Kantor's article tackles
the basic facts about such wind farms. One such question
is whether a local market really exists for "home-blown
electricity." (Nice turn of phrase there.) "Probably
not," reports Kantor. "In reality, Invenergy,
the company studying the mountains as a possible location
for those turbines, likely wouldn't sell the electricity
to a local utility. Although produced locally, the electricity
isn't priced more economically to customers in the area."
Another key question addressed by Kantor is the new
Roanoke-area turbines would actually offset rising local
electric prices. "Not likely," he writes.
"The electricity generated by wind is a mere one-tenth
of 1 percent of U.S. production." (Read
counts in 18-resident Md. town that 'flies in the face
"Mathematically, democracy in Port Tobacco approaches
perfection: Two-thirds of all households have members
who sit on the governing body and have a direct voice
in municipal affairs," writes Joshua Partlow of
The Washington Post.
Mortician John T.E. Hyde is the mayor and lone Democrat
in Maryland's smallest municipality (population 18).
"The budget last year had six times as much revenue
as expenditures. And there has been nary a scandal since
the courthouse mysteriously burned down 114 years ago,"
reports Partlow. Hyde certainly does not stress about
his duties. "Before I became mayor, I wasn't paying
attention" to the town, he said. "I'm hardly
paying attention now."
But in a 60-acre town with eight homes and one-room
schoolhouse, the same question keeps popping up: Can
a small town be too small? "It kind of flies in
the face of logic to even have an incorporated town
of less than 20 people," said resident James L.
Barbour, 81, who first wanted the government abolished
in 1989, when Port Tobacco housed 36 residents. Every
time the issue comes up, though, the town votes to retain
itself, notes Partlow. (Read
May 8, 2006
pay more for drugs than urbanites, study shows
The new Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is producing
mixed results in rural areas, and a study reveals an
insurance equity gap between rural and urban residents.
"Rural persons do apparently like these stand-alone
prescription plans because 21 percent of them have signed
up, as compared to 13 percent of urban persons,"
said Tim McBride, one of the authors of Medicare
Part D: Early Findings on Enrollment and Choices for
Rural Beneficiaries. "However, rural persons
may be enrolling in these plans because they don’t
have as many other options as urban persons do for prescription
The new study by the Center for Rural Health
Policy Analysis of the Rural Policy
Research Institute reports several key findings:
59 percent of rural beneficiaries and 67 percent of
urban beneficiaries have creditable drug coverage; 3
percent of rural beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare
Advantage prescription drug (MA-PD) plans, compared
to 16 percent of urban beneficiaries; and average monthly
premiums for MA-PD plans vary from $6 in urban New Hampshire
to $53 in rural Hawaii. Click
here to read the report.
mining booms give rural states best per-capita income
Americans with the most per-capita income growth since
2000 reside in five states that are major suppliers
of oil, natural gas or coal, according to a USA
Today analysis of federal data.
"Wyoming topped the list: Personal income rose
an inflation-adjusted 13.9% from 2000 to 2005. The state
was well-positioned to take advantage of higher energy
prices. It ranks No. 1 in coal production, No. 4 in
natural gas and No. 7 in oil — but No. 50 in population.
Not far behind the energy states were Virginia and Maryland,
which experienced explosive growth in their Washington,
D.C., suburbs," writes Dennis Cauchon of USA Today.
Rounding out the top five were Montana (13 percent),
North Dakota (10.3%), New Mexico (10.1%) and West Virginia
(9.6%). With each state, the USA Today analysis credited
high energy prices for boosting the per-capita incomes.
For a chart on state-by-state incomes and to see how
those figures have changed across the country from 2000
to 2005, click
costs force rural Alaskans to decide whether to eat
Rising heat costs are forcing Alaskan villages to ration
electricity by going dark on the weekends, reports Johanna
Eurich of KDLG (Dillingham, Alaska)
for National Public Radio's "All
Across rural Alaska, village residents have seen fuel
prices double during the last two years. Many villages
do not even have the option of rationing electricity,
because they lack enough fuel to run their generators,
notes Eurich. Some residents are having to choose between
purchasing food or paying for heat.
"Residents all over rural Alaska worry about the
latest wave of price increases in the lower 48. As long
as the rivers remain frozen and the fuel purchased back
in the fall holds out, they'll continue to pay last
fall's fuel prices. But when the ice breaks loose and
the spring barge heads up the river, it will leave behind
a wave of even higher fuel prices. Many wonder if they
can afford to continue living in these places they call
home," reports Eurich. Click
here to listen to the report.
Child Left Behind targets poor districts, but is funding
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002,
aims to provide more resources to school districts with
high concentrations of poor children, but critics say
federal support is lacking.
"In response, federal officials have pointed to
increases in Title I spending and new money to pay for
testing as evidence of the government’s financial
commitment to the law. They have also charged that the
states have not taken full advantage of the federal
funds available to them. Others have added that the
accountability measures prescribed by No Child Left
Behind Act may themselves help ensure that education
resources are used more efficiently," reports Education
A survey of the states conducted for Quality
Counts 2004 further highlights the concern
about whether states will be able to help all the districts
not meeting federal progress targets. The survey reported
that in the 2003-04 school year, 36 states planned to
provide assistance to such schools, and 22 states planned
to punish low performers, according to Education Week.
kids create Holocaust memorial, break many stereotypes
Students at Whitwell Middle School
in southeast Tennessee took a unique approach to learning
about the Holocaust -- they collected six million paper
clips to illustrate the scope of the Nazi campaign,
in "a lesson in social tolerance, diversity and
stereotypes," and it "grew into a children's
So writes Bill Poovey of The Associated Press
in the latest report on an inspiring project in what
some might think is an unlikely place -- a coal-mining
town of 1,660 in the Sequatchie River valley, a wide
gash in the Cumberland Plateau 15 miles northwest of
Chattanooga. The latest news peg was a Friday visit
by a group of Jewish bikers, another example of broken
When the school began teaching students about the Holocaust,
teachers realized the need for something to illustrate
its magnitude. Someone suggested they collect six million
pieces of some kind of object, and a student suggested
paper clips because Norwegians wore the clips on their
lapels to protest deportation of Jews from the German-occupied
country. The project was supposed to last three years,
but has been continued indefinitely, with the addition
of a rail car used to transport Jews to a Nazi concentration
"It's an amazing story," Sam Blumenstein,
a Jewish biker from Melbourne, Australia, told Poovey.
"My mother, Sylvia, was in one of those cattle
cars. That's why I'm here." Assistant Principal
David Smith, who with English teacher Sandy Roberts
started the project, told Poovey that the bikers' visit
also struck at the stereotype of "Southern, redneck
people" and "conservative fundamentalist Christians.
. . . We are saying you should be tolerant and learn
to respect cultural diversity." (Read
try to redefine Appalachia and dispel its stereotypes
Appalachia is often stereotyped as backward, uncultured
and poor, but two new books may change those long-standing
perceptions, reports Howard Berkes of National
The United States of Appalachia, by Jeff Biggers,
and The Encyclopedia of Appalachia, co-edited
by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, highlight the region's
historical and cultural achievements.
Abramson described to NPR the different definitions
of Appalachia that exist today: "The Appalachia
at large that people generally talk about now, which
extends from Mississippi to New York, is a political
definition that was created in the mid-1960s. . . .
Then you have another definition of it which is basically
the definition of landforms, the mountains themselves,
which extend from down into Alabama all the way up off
the coast of Newfoundland."
The Encyclopedia opens with a 1900 New York
Journal article's description of the "hill-billie"
as "a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama,
who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses
as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when
he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy
The United States of Appalachia looks to completely
debunk that image. "It is not a definitive history
of the region; instead, it is a portrait of a hidden
Appalachia on the cutting edge, full of revolutionaries
and pioneering stalwarts, abolitionists, laborers, journalists,
writers, activists, and artists overlooked among the
lineup of conventional Appalachian suspects," writes
here to listen to the NPR report.
rural areas hope to attract high-tech businesses from
While Northern Virginia benefits from high-tech jobs,
state leaders want to start bringing businesses to the
rural areas and they plan to do that by working with
Washington, D.C.-based companies.
"In two months, the Virginia Economic
Development Partnership will throw its weight
behind another such effort, asking companies in the
Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to 'offshore' some
of their functions to an area that might as well be
overseas to some because it's perceived as so remote:
the western area of Virginia," reports Angela Manese-Lee
of The Roanoke Times.
The Distributed Services Initiative will promote the
communities of Blacksburg, Lynchburg, Danville and Harrisonburg
as ideal places for businesses looking to move back-office
operations to lower-cost areas, writes Manese-Lee. (Read
town uses Web site to bring back its young people
Winthrop, Wash., population 349, is already succeeding
at recruiting entrepreneurs from Seattle, 200 miles
by road across the Cascade Mountains, but now it hopes
to bring back its young people with the Web site www.bringbackthekids.com,
recently featured on Jack Schultz's Boomtown
The site is under construction, but already contains
descriptive passages about rural America: "Unfortunately,
our culture is slipping away. As more and more kids
grow up and leave this place, a social vacuum is created.
An influx of new people bring new values and ideas,
many of which are good and welcome. But . . . we are
always a community at odds with itself; a community
unaware of it’s past. Only the continuity of generations
can preserve this tribal knowledge that any healthy
The town's mission statement is simple: "Bring
Back the Kids. Bring back tomorrow’s community
leaders. Bring back the power, the personality, the
passion we bred into these people. We invest too much
in them to let them slip through our fingers. The price
to retain them is low, the cost of losing them is great.
All we need offer them is a place to work, a place to
contribute, a place to succeed."
company eyes Virginia mountains as spots for wind farms
"Long based in the West, the wind energy industry
is rapidly expanding into the Appalachians and other
Eastern sites as the United States looks for more renewable
energy sources," writes John Cramer of The
Roanoke Times, covering Chicago-based Invenergy
Wind LLC's plan to build wind turbines atop
the Bent and Poor mountains in Roanoke County, Virginia.
"Details about the potential project -- including
the number and location of turbines -- have not been
determined," Cramer reports. "But Eastern
wind farms typically use 400-foot-high turbines, and
81 megawatts would require more than 50 turbines covering
several miles, making it a large facility for the Appalachian
Mountains, officials said."
Wind turbines produce cleaner energy than coal, oil
and other sources, but they threaten animals and natural
resources. The potential Bent Mountain project "serves
to illustrate the big problem with Appalachian wind
farms in general -- for the most part, the only areas
with sufficient wind for commercial wind projects are
the ecologically special areas that represent the best
of what remains of our wild landscape," Rick Webb,
a University of Virginia environmental
scientist, told Cramer. (Read
Newspaper Holdings eyes paper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.,
a Birmingham, Ala.-based chain with almost 300 newspapers
in 21 states, is interested in buying the Times
Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., from the McClatchy
Co. when the company buys the newspaper from
CNHI owns 89 daily and more than 200 non-daily newspapers.
"Some analysts think the Times Leader doesn’t
fit into the CNHI chain, which is comprised of small-circulation
newspapers in non-competitive markets," writes
Renita Fennick of the Times Leader. The newspaper's
daily circulation is 41,334. That would make it the
second-largest paper in CNHI, if the chain buys it.
The Times Leader is one of eight Knight Ridder newspapers
being sold by McClatchy, which announced its purchase
of the 32-newspaper chain in March. (Read
May 5, 2006
pregnancy increases risk of rural children living in
Rural children are becoming more likely to live in
poverty for a number of reasons including the fact that
only 420 counties were considered agriculturally-dependent
in 2000, down from 2,000 counties in 1950, according
to the latest Center for Rural Affairs
Another reason includes the decline of family structure:
"While urban and rural areas experience similar
divorce rates, it is clear that poverty rates for children
are higher in rural areas. Single female parent households
in rural areas account for up to 48 percent of children
considered in poverty. This compares with 34 percent
in urban areas."
The newsletter also cites teenage pregnancy rates:
"Unwed teenage mothers with less than a high school
education have a 78 percent poverty rate. Mothers who
are married, over 20, with at least a high school education
experience only a 6 percent poverty rate. According
to USDA statistics, unwed mothers in
rural areas have children earlier than those in urban
areas, impacting their educational attainment."
help build communities just as ancestors did, opines
"Rural America would be best served by a balanced
approach to immigration. It should be managed to limit
the work force to levels that allow working people to
earn decent wages. But we should embrace the immigrants
who are here and enable them to become full and contributing
members of our communities," opines Chuck Hassebrook
of the Center for Rural Affairs.
Hassebrook writes that as U.S. lawmakers strengthen
immigration laws and work on ways to better enforce
them, it is important "to recognize the benefits
of immigration managed at reasonable levels and the
importance of assimilating new Americans into our communities.
New families can help build our communities, as did
our own immigrant ancestors.
"For their part, new immigrants should embrace
the responsibilities, as well as the rights, of becoming
part of America. That includes taking steps to citizenship,
learning the language, joining in community life, voting,
and contributing their time and talents to the betterment
of America and its communities," Hassebrook concludes.
economic development cited as keys in 2007 Farm Bill
Two keys to the 2007 Farm Bill will be economic development
in rural areas and asset-building strategies for residents
in those communities, according to the latest Center
for Rural Affairs newsletter.
"Entrepreneurship is now recognized by many as
the alternative model to traditional industrial and
business recruitment. Federal rural development policy
must begin to recognize its importance. Asset and wealth-building
strategies are equally important. And agriculturally-based
entrepreneurship and innovation must also continue to
play a vital role in rural development policy,"
notes the newsletter.
The newsletter also contains a feature article with
more specifics about the proposals. (Read
protection: Rural areas might be billed for police for
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is proposing that rural
municipalities start paying for State Police protection,
even though that service is provided in some big cities
"An analysis on the Department of Law and Public
Safety, released for yesterday's Senate Budget Committee
hearing, shows the proposal would cost 73 rural towns
$24 million for full- or part-time State Police patrols.
This would range from $9,520 for Walpack in Sussex County
to $1.3 million for Southampton Township in Burlington
County," writes Rick Hepp of The Star-Ledger.
Attorney General Zulima Farber informed lawmakers that
the state currently spends about $80 million a year
to provide police coverage for rural areas. She suggested
towns team up with neighboring communities for use of
their local police departments. Neither her suggestion
or the governor's proposal is going over well with many
rural leaders, reports Hepp.
In Sussex County, half of the 24 towns depend on state
police protection "Oh, my God, I don't believe
this. This will kill towns," Lafayette Township
Commit teeman John D'Angeli, whose town would owe $223,720
for coverage, told Hepp. "I just hope it doesn't
get approved by the Legislature." (Read
governor removes 'rural' from the Rural JobZ Act
When Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle cut the word "rural"
from the Rural JobZ Act, some politicians say he eliminated
a tool for economic development in those non-urban areas.
"Metro areas already have tools for economic development.
We wanted something for rural areas," said Rep.
Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson. The Rural JobZ Act would have
created up to 10 economic development zones for rural
areas not larger than 50,000 acres. Doyle also his line-item
veto option to reduce the size of economic development
zones from 50,000 acres to 50 acres, reports Brady Bautch
in the River Falls Journal. Bautch
is the Internet publisher for the RiverTown
Dan Leistikow, Doyle's communications director, said,
"The bill would have been open to an urban area
like Green Bay, but not Madison or Milwaukee. There's
no reason it should not have benefited the entire state."
Doyle recently signed a bill to give tax credits to
broadband development in rural areas, which could lure
companies into providing Internet service, writes Bautch.
Board of Regents to gain two rural county representatives
Rural residents will fill two spots on the Arizona
Board of Regents, after Gov. Janet Napolitano signed
a bill into law Thursday.
The two regents will be appointed for eight-year terms
beginning in 2008, marking the first time for rural
representation on the board since January 2004. One
regent must come from Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave,
Navajo or Yavapai county and the second must come from
Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pinal, Santa Cruz
or Yuma county, reports The Associated Press.
"Supporters of the bill said having two regents
from rural counties would provide a voice for those
counties' concerns, particularly desires for increased
opportunities for four-year degrees," reports AP.
Kentucky editor gets in local hall of fame, posthumously
Guy Hatfield, who died last year at 54, has been in
Journalism Hall of Fame for five years but only
last night entered the Hall of Honor of the Estill
Development Alliance, his home county's hall
of fame. It might be because he "got people's noses
out of joint ... part of the job description of a journalist,"
said Al Cross, director of the Institute for
Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
"A prophet is not without honor, except in his
own country. That’s what the carpenter’s
son told his fellow Galileans when he returned to his
home country, performing mighty works and getting their
noses out of joint," Cross told the audience. "On
the wall of the School of Journalism at the University
of Kentucky, there is a plaque certifying to
a man who performed mighty works in his home country
– and also got some people’s noses out of
That plaque says, in part: “Publisher of three
strong weekly newspapers . . . Kentucky’s youngest
publisher . . . the youngest president of the Kentucky
Weekly Newspaper Association, and the only person to
head that organization three times . . . as president
of the Kentucky Press Association, visited
every newspaper in the state . . . most valuable member
of KPA . . . winner of 542 awards [some from the National
Newspaper Association] . . . staunch defender
of the First Amendment . . . uncovered many stories
of corruption in government and schools.”
Cross said a former Hatfield employee reminded him
that "When one of his biggest advertisers got into
some big legal trouble, Guy didn't shy away from printing
the story. That business still doesn't advertise with
the Citizen Voice and Times, but Guy
knew that was the price you sometimes had to pay for
maintaining your integrity as a journalist. Doing those
essential journalistic things is more difficult in a
small community like this one, where today’s neighbor
is tomorrow’s story subject. But people in smaller
communities should have the same right to journalism
that fulfills the promise of the First Amendment. That
means you have to make some tough calls that get people's
noses out of joint, and sometimes those calls are wrong,
or they have repercussions you don't expect. But a good
editor is like a watchdog -- you have to out up with
a little extraneous barking if the watchdog is doing
a good job. Guy Hatfield was committed to the idea of
watchdog journalism, and it’s what made him not
only a great public servant for Estill County, but a
great example for other rural journalists to follow."
Whoops, there he goes, still getting those noses out
of joint. But Guy had the courage, talent, tenacity
and integrity it took to tell the people what they needed
to know to be fully informed citizens. To read Cross's
May 4, 2006
says at hearing he may have caused Sago miscommunication
A state mine inspector testified Wednesday that he
may have been the source of the misinformation that
12 miners survived the January explosion at the Sago
Mine. "I don't recall the exact words I used,''
said Bill Tucker, an assistant inspector at large for
the state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training.
"I was just screaming out for help," reports
The Associated Press. (Read
That testimony came in hearings with federal, state
and company officials in Buckhannon, W.Va. "I started
screaming for help, saying 'They're over here, they're
over here!'" Tucker said. "I think I said
they're alive and that might have been part of the communications
mistake. In my mind, I knew most of them were dead,"
report Dennis B. Roddy and Steve Twedt of the Pittsburgh
For more coverage on Wednesday's hearings by Ken Ward
Jr. in the Charleston Gazette, click
bird flu plan calls for urban-rural assistance strategy
A new Bush administration plan for dealing with pandemic
flu calls for a strategy to make sure assistance is
given to both urban and rural areas throughout the world.
The plan, presented Wednesday, is the administration's
latest effort to detail how federal, state and local
agencies would handle a flu epidemic. It also calls
for the U.S. to work with the international community
to develop a plan on how to distribute pandemic influenza
assistance to urban, rural, and remote populations.
To read the 233-page Implementation Plan for the National
Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, click
Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the preventive medicine
department at Vanderbilt University,
called the plan "realistic" by it not suggesting
borders be closed and said that cities and states need
to prepare, reports Gardiner Harria of The New
York Times. "Localities cannot rely on
the feds to be the cavalry that rides over the hill
to rescue every U.S. town and city from pandemic influenza,"
he said. (Read
use wireless Internet to boost economies, end digital
A rural technology grant from the American
Distance Education Consortium is helping residents
of Chesterhill, Ohio, gain access to wireless Internet
and that is just one example of communities charging
into the technology future.
"Local governments across the country are getting
into the wireless Internet business. Communities left
behind by the high-technology revolution of the last
two decades view municipal networks as an affordable
means of renewing their economic competitiveness and
a way to bridge the digital divide between technology
haves and have-nots," writes Tim Gnatek of The
New York Times.
The industry Weblog muniwireless.com
reports that more than 120 such networks are up and
running around the country. Nearly 60 other cities have
requested proposals from vendors or started the process
of creating their own networks, reports Gnatek. Several
telecommunication companies have criticized the municipal
efforts, saying they instead are better suited to meet
consumers' needs. (Read
bill causes farmers to worry about losing workers
If a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives
becomes law, farmers that employ illegal immigrants
would be charged with a crime and face thousands of
dollars in fines.
"In recent weeks, thousands of immigrant rights
supporters have rallied to oppose some of the proposals,
expressing concern about stiff criminal penalties and
calling illegal immigrants important to the economy.
Chief among the concerns of most growers is the loss
of much-needed labor. They say that without migrant
workers, they would face bankruptcy and the cost of
food would soar," reports Mark Johnson of The
A U.S. Department of Labor survey
conducted in 2001 and 2002 shows that 78 percent of
the nation's 1.8 million crop workers are immigrants,
mainly from Mexico, and 53 percent are not here legally.
The legislation passed by the U.S. House would also
order a fence along stretches of the U.S.-Mexican border
to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country,
reports AP. (Read
elects anti-immigration slate; new paper aided campaign
An election in Herndon, Va., on Tuesday saw three pro-immigration
officials get the boot because of their support for
a job center, and this may just be the beginning of
a national backlash against immigrants.
Voters unseated Mayor Michael L. O'Reilly and two Town
Council members who supported a day labor center created
to help immigrant workers find jobs. Their replacements
hope to bar the use of taxpayer money for the facility
and limit access to legal immigrants. "Immigrant
rights organizations called it a small election in a
small town, carrying no larger message," write
Bill Turque and Karin Brulliard of The Washington
Post. This story is just one example of how
immigration might influence political campaigns.
"In the last weeks of the campaign, at least two
editions of a new newspaper, the Herndon Compass,
were widely distributed in residential neighborhoods.
The masthead and bylines include the names of prominent
opponents of the labor center, including Susan Powell,
a signatory to the lawsuit brought against the town
by conservative group Judicial Watch.
One story, under the headline 'Herndon Serious Crime
Up 45% -- Or More,' was called inaccurate by Herndon
police," write Turque and Brulliard. (Read
May 3, 2006
says at hearing he may have caused Sago miscommunication
A state mine inspector testified today that he may
have been the source of the misinformation that 12 miners
survived the January explosion at the Sago Mine. "I
don't recall the exact words I used,'' said Bill Tucker,
an assistant inspector at large for the state Office
of Miners' Health Safety and Training. "I was just
screaming out for help," reports The Associated
The hearings involve federal, state and company officials
in Buckhannon, W.Va, and allow relatives of the 12 coal
miners who died to demand answers about the explosion.
"The hearings are intended to give the families
a chance to ask questions directly of the officials
involved. By turns plaintive, skeptical and mocking,
they challenged government regulators and officials
of the International Coal Group, the
mine owner, to provide more information," writes
Christopher Maag of The New York Times.
"I think I may have said 'They're alive.''' Tucker
said today. Then he said he realized that the first
miner did not have a pulse. Further checking revealed
only Randal McCloy Jr. had survived. "I picked
up the radio and I hollered over the radio that we only
have one (alive)," Tucker testified. (Read
The miners carried self-rescuer devices with an hour's
worth of oxygen, and tests showed that all of them were
functional. However, in a letter to victims' families,
McCloy wrote that four of the canisters malfunctioned
during the disaster. Officials have questioned whether
the miners were adequately trained on the devices, reports
Maag. "They donned their respirators and barricaded
themselves as they were trained," said Christopher
Toler, the son of the late Martin Toler Jr. (Read
For additional coverage on the hearings by Ken Ward
Jr. in the Charleston Gazette, click
here. For coverage by Dennis Roddy and Steve Twedt
in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, click
religious conservatives wins Ohio gubernatorial nomination
Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell,
an African American with strong ties to religious conservatives
who are largely white, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted
Strickland of southeastern Ohio, an ordained Methodist
minister whose allies call him a "Golden Rule Democrat,"
won the primaries for governor of Ohio last night, setting
up a fall fight that will be closely watched nationally.
Blackwell, who had the tougher primary, immediately
focused his sights on his new opponent in his victory
speech: "Message to Brother Strickland: You can
run, but you can't hide. We represent change. We represent
the future. There is no retreat in our bones."
"Strickland signaled that Blackwell's proposed
Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL) proposal, a constitutional
amendment on the November ballot to limit government
spending, will be a key issue in the campaign, contending
that it will cause more problems than it solves,"
reported Joe Hallett and Mark Niquette and Catherine
Candisky of The Columbus Dispatch.
They wrote, "Some observers said yesterday's primary
represents a fundamental shift in the state GOP away
from more traditional fiscal Republicans to social and
religious conservatives." William C. Binning, chairman
of the political science department at Youngstown
State University and a veteran Republican activist,
told the Dispatch, "It's a redefinition of the
Ohio Republican Party." (Read
Blackwell would be "perhaps the most openly theocratic
governor since John Winthrop ruled the Massachusetts
Bay Colony as the right hand of God," opines The
Revealer, a daily online review of religion
and the press, published by the Center for Religion
and Media at New York University. The
Revealer says the best reporting on "Blackwell's
possibly illegal relationship with two major Ohio megachurches"
has been done by local news outlets and "Now"
on PBS. Their report on it "is
just straight-up TV reporting -- which, compared to
a national press which still considers religion mostly
a private matter -- is extraordinary," The Revealer
says. "Watch it and take notes -- this race matters."
research leads to pardons for Montanans convicted of
In Montana, a largely rural state, 78 people convicted
of sedition 88 years ago will be pardoned today by Gov.
Brian Schweitzer, as the result of research performed
by college professors and students.
Shortly after Clemens P. Work, director of graduate
studies at the University of Montana
School of Journalism, wrote a book called "Darkest
Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American
West," Jeffrey Renz, a law professor at the University
of Montana, had his students research the sedition issue
as part of a criminal law clinic. Students spoke with
family members of the 78 people, all now deceased, and
others researched the law, ultimately leading to a petition
for the pardon being granted today, reports Jim Robbins
of The New York Times.
Montana's sedition law made it a crime to say or publish
anything "disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous,
contemptuous or abusive" about the government,
soldiers or the American flag. It passed by legislators
in February 1918 and expired when World War I concluded,
notes Robbins. (Read
A Billings Gazette editorial applauds
the pardons: "Wartime heightens suspicions of those
who are different and intensifies the tendency to find
a group to blame. Tests of patriotism are devised or
implied when the nation's highest officials insist that
their critics are endangering national security. Much
as Montanans may want to think that those days are gone
in which a citizen was imprisoned for refusing to buy
government bonds or for making an opinionated remark,
the truth is that our society cannot take freedom of
speech for granted now or ever." (Read
farming changes, the more it stays the same in Calif.
The Ventura County Star confronted
the past, present and future of farming in Southern
California with a new series called "Farming on
In the first story, "A future in doubt,"
reporter John Krist describes the series' mission: "Each
month for the remainder of the year, this series will
take you into local fields, pastures and orchards for
a behind-the-scenes look at farming in Southern California's
last great agriculture landscape."
In the second half of part one, "Story of agriculture
is repeating itself," Krist writes, "The long
history of agriculture in this region reflects a continuous
pattern of evolution as growers have confronted successive
challenges to their profitability -- from isolation
and aridity to global competition and sprawling urbanization
-- by adopting the products of research and experimentation.
Yet despite 200 years of continuous change, agriculture
in Ventura County still displays some features of its
earliest days. To name two: imported water and imported
labor. And a third: vulnerability to foreign competition."
here to read more of the stories, view maps and
watch videos. (Scroll down the left side of the page
and click on the series' pop-up window.)
grants to boost computer literacy in Appalachian communities
Regional Commission and Microsoft
Corp. are partnering to provide software grants
to non-profit organizations serving Appalachian communities.
"If your organization provides education, training
or other kinds of computer access in rural or other
underserved areas then Microsoft and ARC want to help.
Grants are generally awarded for programs that provide
services like computer literacy training, worker training,
community education (youth/adult/elder), or business
development training and support. However, this program
is designed to be very flexible in helping to meet the
needs of each community organization, so if you have
a question about whether your program qualifies, please
ask so we can help," writes David Glasgow, special
assistant to the ARC's federal co-chair.
A typical grant will provide software valued between
$5,000 to 15,000 per facility/program. For details about
an application or for other questions about this program,
contact Glasgow at 202-884-7663 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
editor tells community papers to embrace the Web
Newspaper Web sites can and should be more than just
the online presentation of the newspaper, with many
possibilities for increasing readership and expanding
the news product, writes Charlotte Atkins, editor of
the Rome News-Tribune, a 20,000-circulation
daily in Rome, Ga.
She targets her column in the Alabama Press
Association newsletter AlaPressa
to all sizes of community papers, many of which hesitate
to publish much online. She writes that her paper has
gone from a daily to an "hourly" via the Web,
and its site is getting 1 million hits a month.
"Instead of sticking a toe in the online waters,
it's time for community newspapers to plunge in and
recognize that in this news-on-demand world that a dynamic
Web site is an opportunity to give our readers news
as it happens throughout the day in an interactive and
compelling way," Atkins writes. "Newspaper
readers and online users seek experiences, not just
information, with their news."
Readers still like to read the morning paper with their
coffee, as always, but now check online for updated
coverage throughout the day, she writes. Other readers
rely on the site to keep them informed about what happens
in the community. To drawn these users in, the paper
has expanded its online offerings with a photo gallery,
blogs, news alert e-mail, online calendars and streaming
Associated Press news. They have also
added a Spanish section to target the growing Hispanic
community. And because of their efforts, the paper has
been able to offer usual readers more services and has
targeted a lagging demographic, the 18-34 age group.
"We are an hourly news organization that has a
morning print edition and dynamic electronic edition
that is updated as news unfolds throughout the day,"
Atkins writes. "Some newsrooms are finding this
demand for immediacy challening, but I believe it's
more about changing newsroom culture than introducing
May 2, 2006
boycott, protests add steam to issue for rural America
As more than a million mostly Hispanic immigrants boycotted
work Monday to protest a reform package being debated
in Congress, one rural town anxiously awaited a Supreme
In Calhoun, Ga., population 13,000, nearly one-sixth
of the population hails from another country, writes
Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune:
"Some whites see immigrants, legal or not, as unfair
contenders in the competition for coveted jobs they
have held for generations at the carpet mills. For the
most part, they have accepted the changing demographics
with apprehension, much as they reluctantly took to
forced integration with African-Americans in the 1960s."
Located in the Southern Appalachians between Atlanta
and Chattanooga, Tenn., the town was involved in a case
heard by the Supreme Court last week -- a class-action
lawsuit by one current and three former workers at Calhoun's
largest employer, carpetmaker Mohawk Industries.
The suit claims the company kept wages for
its more than 4,000 local workers low by recruiting
illegal immigrants. The court must decide whether a
company thought to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants
can be sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act of 1970, originally designed to target
organized crime and eventually expanded to include immigration
violations, reports Glanton. (Read
Yesterday's boycott produced little effect on Calhoun.
The Calhoun Times reported that local
businesses had already scaled back work shifts because
of slow business, thus minimizing the boycott's effects.
Many area businesses' staffs are less than 10 percent
Hispanic, according to the staff report. (Read
The Washington Post wrote about the
day's impact on various job sectors: "The agriculture
industry saw some impact in California's Central Valley,
where growers are harvesting lettuce and thinning fruit
trees. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of fieldworkers
elected not to go to work Monday, said Manuel Cunha,
president of the Nisei Farmers League." (Read
more) A Reuters story described
the agriculture-immigration connection: "Agribusiness
is warning Americans that the $12 trillion U.S. economy
could be forced to go on an expensive diet if immigrant
workers are restricted." (Read
will lead the way as industry adapts, exec says
As the newspaper industry grapples with great challenges,
the best ideas will come from smaller papers, Charles
Pittman, senior vice president of Schurz Communications,
based in South Bend, Ind., told editors of smaller papers
at last week's American Society of Newspaper
Editors convention in Seattle.
"I know we are not in the last days of
our business; we are simply at the frontier of a new
era," Pittman said. "And, you, the representatives
of smaller newspapers are the ones who will be the innovators.
You will discover better ways to run your business.
And, then we will all steal from each other.
I’m not psychic; I’m simply aware that Steve
Jobs started Apple Computer in a garage and Bill Gates
once had to borrow money. Great things have always
come from things that were once small. You are small
and able to adapt more quickly to the realities of the
market. You look to the future because you hear something
coming down the tracks and you refuse to let it knock
you off course."
Pittman advised editors to "be relentlessly local,
be people-centered, vary your writing, use breakouts
as much as humanly possible, provide news your readers
like, provide features they enjoy, offer motivators
for your readers, explain more fully what articles mean,
do everything possible to keep readers coming back by
being respectful of their time, promote your own projects
within an inch of their lives, embrace the web and increase
reader interaction with your paper."
And he warned them to be wary of influential neighbors.
"All the spinmeisters aren’t on Wall Street
or K Street. They’re also on the Main Streets
of Decatur, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, and Loveland,
Ohio," he said. "You know them; you go to
the same parties as they do. But, you have to recognize
that sometimes their jobs are to disseminate half-truths.
Half-truths are easy to put out into the public consciousness
and very difficult to erase. But, they can be
erased." To read the full speech, click
the trash: Rural county revolts over sludge from Los
"It's a typical day at Green Acres: Rippling fields
of wheat await harvest, a cat scampers after field mice
and workers unload 750 tons of processed human waste
from Los Angeles, fertilizing a quiet revolt in rural
Kern County. Fearful of deteriorating air and water
quality, many folks in the New Jersey-size county have
about had it with the daily parade of trucks dumping
sewage sludge onto their fields," writes Steve
Chawkins of the Los Angeles Times.
On June 6, Kern County residents will vote on a ban
of the use of sewage sludge on farm fields. Los Angeles
bought the 4,688-acre Green Acres farm in 2000 and believes
a sludge ban would illegally restrict the use of its
property. The county takes in one-third of the state's
sludge, and such a ban could lead to similar actions
in other parts of the San Joaquin Valley, Carol Whiteside,
director of the Great Valley Center, a
research organization in Modesto, told Chawkins.
Just the prospect of the "Keep Kern Clean"
initiative has delayed a Missouri company's plan to
build a landfill to hold millions of tons of Los Angeles
garbage in the county. In the meantime, Los Angeles
officials are talking to Arizona farmers about taking
on the sludge, which would increase the cost to taxpayers
from $7 million a year to as much as $21 million a year,
reports Chawkins. (Read
House OKs college scholarships to help staff rural schools
Aspiring nurses and teachers in underserved parts of
Missouri, many of which include rural areas, may soon
get an all-expenses paid college education.
The state House passed a bill Monday that would provide
a scholarship for Missouri high school graduates wishing
to attend a state college or university, up to a maximum
of 100 students annually. Several legislators said the
bill is warranted because many of the state's rural
and urban teachers lack adequate nursing and teaching
numbers, reports Chris Blank of The Associated
The program would be handled by the Department
of Elementary and Secondary Education, and
would let college graduates pay off one year of schooling
with two years of work in a school with a more than
average "at-risk" student base. If a teacher
does not work long enough to pay off the scholarship,
then it would become a loan with 9.5 percent interest.
The state Senate will consider the bill next.
gas prices lead to increased costs in many areas for
Farmers across the U.S. are witnessing a jump in how
much it costs to buy seeds and fertilizer, in addition
to the already high gasoline prices.
"Fuel costs are a big deal, but it's not so much
about what we put in the tractor, it's the cost of fertilizer,
the cost of seed, the cost of transportation and everything
that comes with high fuel prices," Westport, S.D.
farmer Darren Engelhardt told The Associated
Press. "The cost of everything has probably
gone up 30 percent from last year to this year."
Allan May, an Extension agricultural economist, said
high gas prices are starting to have a rollover effect
into other farming areas: "It stretches beyond
just the fuel farmers use. Farmers and others in the
agriculture industry are going to start paying, if they
aren't already, more for all the goods and services."
expands in Maryland as state's signature type dwindles
Southern Maryland, once known in the tobacco industry
for its delicate, fine-burning Type 32 leaf, now raises
more of another kind of tobacco -- burley, the main
type raised in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Production of Type 32 this year will more than likely
top out at 300,000 pounds, down from 1.9 million last
year and more than 10 million a decade ago. Burley production
in Maryland is estimated to be between 600,000 and 700,000
pounds this year. "My impression is that this crop
was quite acceptable considering it was their first
time growing the type," said David Conrad, Maryland
extension tobacco specialist, told Chris Bickers of
the Southeast Farm Press.
The death of Type 32 tobacco would end its nearly 400-year
under fire after pressuring reporter for Final Four
Richard Luna, editor of the daily Ventura County
Star in California, has been disciplined for
pressuring a sports reporter to get him passes for the
recent NCAA Final Four basketball games and is under
investigation by E.W. Scripps Co. for
other possible breaches of ethics.
The violation also prompted "a mass meeting with
the publisher," Tim Gallagher, who told Editor
& Publisher, "An appropriate disciplinary
action has been taken." He wouldn't be specific,
saying he was "trying to protect privacy,"
reports E&P's Mark Fitzgerald.
"Gallagher said in addition to investigating other
rumored ethical violations, Mary E. Minser, Scripps’
director of employee relations, will look at how top
management handled the investigation and discipline
of Luna," Fitzgerald reports. He writes that newsroom
employees told him "They have been frustrated by
what they say has been a lack of transparency in the
process. Nothing has been published about the ethical
breaches in the paper, and Luna and top management have
not detailed how the managing editor was disciplined."
Gallagher told E&P that no coverage was called for
because the violations did not directly affect readers.
That call is up to Editor Joe Howry, who told E&P,
“My inclination right now is full disclosure,”
after the investigation is over.
"Luna has met with newsroom staff individually
about the incidents. According to one reporter who met
with him, Luna read from a prepared statement that he
did not elaborate upon. Luna did not return a phone
message from E&P seeking comment," Fitzgerald
writes. "Luna joined the paper as managing editor
in August 2004, about five months after he abruptly
left the Detroit News, where he was
metro editor. Press reports at the time noted that the
year before he had also suddenly left his position as
managing editor of the Indianapolis Star."
Both those papers are owned by Gannett Co. Inc.
Monday, May 1, 2006
crimes almost as common in rural America as elsewhere
The rate of certain violent crimes in rural America
rival those in urban America, contrary to a long-standing
perception that smaller communities are immune from
crimes like rape and assault.
"Rural psychologist Pamela Mulder says people
might be surprised to learn the percentage of completed
rapes, domestic violence and assaults are just as high
here as in bigger cities . . . due in part to the isolation
of rural living," reports Jodi Juhl of WOWK-TV
13 in Huntington/Charleston. Most rural
upbringings teach people they can trust their neighbors
and not have to worry about crime, Mulder said.
In 2003, the rate of reported rapes in in rural areas,
was 0.6 per 1,000 persons 12 and above; in urban areas
it was 0.8 per 1,000. The rate of assault in rural areas
was 16.4; in suburbs it was 18.1, and in central cities
it was 23.8. To see a table from the Department
of Justice, click
It appears now that younger rural residents are taking
a different perspective on safety and they are learning
more about protecting themselves, reports Juhl. A rape
aggression defense class is attracting droves of students
at Marshall University, who are being
encouraged to be more aware of their surroundings. (Read
county calls for boycott of Exxon Mobil starting today
Officials in Bee County, Texas, on the plain between
Corpus Christi and San Antonio, are taking a stand against
rising gasoline prices, becoming possibly the first
in the country to pass a resolution asking motorists
to boycott Exxon Mobil fuel pumps starting
The resolution is coming as gas prices surpass $3 in
some states, nine cents above the national average.
The boycott call is targeted only at Exxon Mobil gasoline
until retailers lower prices to $1.30 a gallon. "We've
been conditioned to think that we can't do anything,"
Bee County Judge Jimmy Martinez told Jeorge Zarazua
of the San Antonio Express-News. "We're
beyond that now. Somebody needs to bring it up at the
grass-roots level, to light the fire here so it can
County officials said they targeted Exxon Mobil because
its the nation's largest oil company and they hoped
competitors might enter a price war and in turn drive
down fuel costs. Both the National Association
of Convenience Stores and the American
Petroleum Institute said the county's efforts
were misguided. API spokeswoman Jane Van Ryan told Zarazua
that major oil corporations own fewer than 10 percent,
or about 16,000, of the nation's convenience stores,
and the price of fuel is dependant on how much crude
oil costs. (Read
This is not the first time county officials have taken
a stance on gasoline. The call for a boycott follows
a June 2004 resolution that asked county drivers to
not exceed 60 mph to reduce gas consumption, reports
Fanny S. Chirinos of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
reduces regulations for broadband over power lines
Cable and phone lines already connect people to the
Internet, and now California regulators are making the
way for electrical lines to do the same.
Broadband over power lines sends data over wires without
interfering with electricity flows. However, because
of the legal issues brought on by BPL being an electrical
and a communications service, companies have been reluctant
to get involved. So, the California Public Utilities
Commission voted Thursday to ease the regulatory hurdles
companies have to clear, reports Jessie Seyfer of the
Mercury News in San Jose.
The rules adopted Thursday require less PUC oversight
for agreements that BPL companies strike with utilities
to access their power lines. Despite that move, BPL
will most likely not lead to broadband in rural communities
that lack DSL or cable-modem service, writes Seyfer.
To provide BPL areas, companies would have to install
a significant amount of equipment on the lines. (Read
no deal? Indiana farmers face pressure to sell for big
An unnamed manufacturing firm is offering Greensburg,
Ind., farmers millions of dollars to buy their land
for a factory that would cost at least $200 million
and employ at least 750 people. Some city officials
see it as a golden opportunity, but view it as the loss
"Indiana lost 93,000 acres of farmland a year
from 1997 through 2002, accelerating a decline stretching
back 60 years. And wrenching decisions about the fate
of family homesteads are increasingly becoming part
of the Hoosier experience. The unnamed manufacturing
firm looking to buy Doles' and others' farms along I-74
in southeastern Indiana marks the latest chapter in
the story," report Norm Heikens and J.K. Wall of
The Indianapolis Star.
The mystery firm has indicated in legal letters that
it wants to buy options on about 1,800 acres at each
of three different sites. As for the secrecy surrounding
the project, the company's lawyers say they represent
a "household name," and some people have speculated
the large pieces of land could be needed for a Toyota
engine plant, a major auto parts plant, a steel mini-mill
or a casting plant, write Heikens and Wall.
All the talk surrounding development has spurred a
campaign called "Stop the Lake." Darby Simpson
of Morgan County, Indiana, runs the Web site, stopthelake.com,
which focuses on keeping residents informed about development.
"People shouldn't ever be forced to sell their
property," Simpson told the Star. "To me,
it's more important to pass on the family heritage."
struggle to find affordable, licensed child care in
An estimated 17,000 North Dakota families rely on paid
child care, but people in rural areas are struggling
to find affordable, licensed facilities.
"There's a huge shortage, especially as we see
rural North Dakota starting to blossom," Tara Holt,
director of the state's Rural Development Council,
told The Associated Press. "If
we don't have child care available in rural areas, or
any part of the state, businesses cannot grow. Employees
need to know their children have a healthy place to
spend the day."
Rural residents often earn low incomes, which makes
it difficult to pay for child care and to arrange for
transportation. Three North Dakota counties -- Billings,
Slope and Steele - had no licensed child care providers
last year, reports AP. (Read
businesses shun rainbow sticker; town called homophobic
A tourism booster sticker in Kanab, Utah (pop. 3,528)
reads "Everyone Welcome Here." No problem,
right? Wrong. Little rainbow-colored people beneath
the text have some businesses in the southern town believing
the stickers represent gays and so they refuse to use
the tourism tools.
So, the Kanab Chamber of Commerce
intends to have new stickers, with its logo replacing
the little people. The sticker situation began after
the City Council voted in January to support "the
natural family" concept, which includes a mother,
father and "a full quiver of children." The
council's resolution created concerns that people around
the country might see themselves as "unnatural"
and avoid the city. The stickers were supposed to be
welcoming, reports Kirk Johnson of The New York
The controversial resolution has attracted criticism
from residents all over Kane County (pop. 6,178), many
of whom chose to write letters to the weekly Southern
Utah News (only front page is online). Nationally-syndicated
travel columnist Arthur Frommer labeled the Kanab resolution
"homophobic" in a March article and called
for a boycott of the town. Click
here to read that column.
play focuses on gay man facing issues in rural America
"It's simplest to describe 'Farm Boys' as being
about the perils of growing up gay in a Midwestern farm
town. But that's not completely accurate. The new play
at the Great American History Theatre
toils in the fields of tolerance and acceptance, of
self-knowledge, of the city-country dichotomy and of
the difficulty in finding one's way home," writes
Dominic P. Papatola of the St. Paul Pioneer
The play begins with a farmer named Lyle leaving his
40-acre estate in Wisconsin to his ex-boyfriend John.
Play authors Dean Gray and Amy Fox then tell the story
of John coming home from New York and facing tough times
in Wisconsin."The play is based on a collection
of interviews with gay men who came of age in rural
communities," reports Papatola. "Farm Boys"
runs through May 28 at the theatre in St. Paul, Minn.
Tickets are $22 to $32. For more information, call 651-292-4323.
reporter, accused of plagiarizing from Pittsburgh, resigns
Don Plummer, a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
for 14 years, has resigned after the paper found he
used unattributed passages from the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette in a story.
AJC Editor Julia Wallace announced the resignation
in a letter to readers Friday, saying the March 3 story
"included extensive passages that replicated, verbatim
and without attribution, passages in a similar article
published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 24.".
"The articles in both papers reported on federal
investigations into businesses operated by a suspended
chiropractor from Pittsburgh who was convicted of cocaine
possession in Cobb County [Ga.] in 1993," The
Associated Press reported. "A Journal-Constitution
editor discovered the similarity as a follow-up story
was being discussed."
Plummer, 58, told AP a mixup between himself and an
editor led to inadvertent publication of the story.
"It was not complete and it was still in process,"
he said. "The part in this whole thing that I regret
is not raising an alarm early and getting this thing