Monday, Nov. 28, 2005
Energy mogul claims stake in
West Virginia's future from a Kentucky office
Massey Energy Co. head Don Blankenship
says he possesses a perspective of "living in the
middle" of the Central Appalachian coalfields,
mining mainly in West Virginia for a Virginia-based
company, all while working from an office in Belfry,
Ky., near the state's eastern tip.
Blankenship is active in West Virginia's political
races, having spent $3.5 million to unseat a Democrat
on the state's Supreme Court and already targeting another
for ouster in 2008. Blankenship told reporter Erik Schelzig
of The Associated Press he just wants
to improve West Virginia, his home state:"I just
have my view of what it would take to make the economy
better and have more jobs and have a more normal place
to live. Whoever supports that view, I'm in favor of.
Anybody who doesn't have that view, I'm against."
His company is the nation's fourth-largest coal producer
and owns one-third of all coal reserves in Central Appalachia.
Massey expects to get half its production from surface
mining next year, much of it from removing mountaintops,
Blankenship's friends cite his often-quiet donations
to charity, but a longtime foe, United Mine
Workers of America President Cecil Roberts,
told Schelzig, "Don has decided that he needs to
be able to run the state like he runs his coal company
and have control over everybody. He's trying to become
the king of West Virginia." (Read
Out of reach: Location,
loan requirements keep rural residents off Internet
Rural residents in Iowa and Illinois want high-speed
Internet access, and their location is only one reason
they cannot get the service.
After getting turned down by a federal loan program
meant to bring high-speed access to rural areas in 2004,
Prairie iNet could only use limited
private funds to expand service to small businesses
in the Des Moines suburbs. That left farmers and other
rural dwellers out in the cold, where they may remain
indefinitely, reports Vikas Bajaj of The New
"Across rural America, entrepreneurs, lawmakers
and Internet company executives say they are frustrated
with a loan program created by Congress in 2002 to help
extend high-speed Internet service to rural areas. Run
by the Rural Utilities Service, an
arm of the Department of Agriculture, the program has
been allocated nearly $3 billion but the agency has
lent less than half that. As of Sept. 30, the end of
the 2005 fiscal year, the utilities service had rejected
87 loan applications totaling $1.1 billion and approved
48 loans totaling $770 million," writes Bajaj.
Critics say the federal loan program's standards are
so tough that some applicants are rejected if they do
not have enough cash to cover a full year's operating
expenses. "Department officials acknowledge that
the program has had a slow start and agree that some
of the financial restrictions may need to be revised.
But the rules, those officials say, were meant to ensure
that borrowers were financially stable and that the
loans would be repaid in full." (Read
Do the math: Hydropower-backed
senator kills center that saves salmon
A U.S. senator from Idaho, who is supported
by the hydroelectric industry, has killed funding for
a center that wanted to send less water through power
turbines in order to save salmon in the Columbia River.
"Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has
eliminated a little-known agency that counts endangered
fish in the Columbia River. The Fish Passage
Center, with just 12 employees and a budget
of $1.3 million, has been killed because it did not
count fish in a way that suited Craig," writes
Blaine Harden of The Washington Post.
The Fish Passage Center has documented how the Columbia-Snake
hydroelectric system kills salmon, and its analyses
suggest one way to increase salmon survival is to spill
more water over dams, rather than feed it through electrical
turbines, writes Harden.
Harden notes, "The mathematics of protecting salmon
swimming in the nation's largest hydroelectric system
can hurt your pocketbook -- particularly in the Northwest,
where dams supply power to four out of five homes."
Craig received more money from electric utilities than
from any other industry and was named "legislator
of the year" by the National Hydropower
Growing pains: Virginia county
seeks development czar to tackle challenges
County is looking for a director of community development
to help manage the large locality's range of growth
issues. The county has a population of about 60,000
residents and 754 square miles of land, and it has been
one of the largest and fastest growing localities outside
of Northern Virginia for years," writes Jay Conley
of The Roanoke Times. According to
U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the
county, where the population rose 5.7 percent between
2000 and 2004, was the only area in western Virginia
whose population increased more than the state average
of 5.4 percent.
Located between the region's two largest cities --
Roanoke and Lynchburg -- Bedford County faces two key
challenges. One is balancing the increasing demand homes
in the suburbs and preserving the county's rural scenery.
The other challenge is attracting economic development
to help pay the increasing costs for public services,
notes Conley. (Read
According to the job description, the director of community
development will oversee work in the county's planning,
zoning, natural resources and Geographic Information
Systems departments. "What we're hoping to accomplish
with this position is systematic coordination of the
various departments that affect or play a role in community
development," Frank Rogers, the county's assistant
county administrator, told Conley.
Kentucky wants to rid self of
No Child Left Behind standards, avoid penalties
Kentucky public schools are asking for help in meeting
No Child Left Behind's reading and math standards and
"The request would effectively replace a strict
federal standard that requires all schools to hit the
same annual testing goals with the state's more generous
Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS,
which rewards schools that show improvement. If approved,
the changes could lead to a major reduction in the number
of Kentucky schools deemed failing under No Child Left
Behind. Last year, more than 800 of the state's 1,249
public schools failed to meet the federal standard --
but only 48 missed the state's goals," writes Nancy
C. Rodriguez of The Courier-Journal.
Some parents have applauded the request, but critics
say schools just want the easy way out. It's unknown
when the U.S. Department of Education
will rule on Kentucky's request, reports the Louisville
Desire for home heating energy
leads consumers to seek out corn stoves
Biofuels are seen by experts as a means of lessening
dependency on oil nationwide, from powering cars to
heating homes in the dead of winter. Now, consumers
are viewing corn as a heating source.
"Fearing that budget-busting heating bills are
ahead, area residents are scrambling to find cheaper
ways to keep warm this winter. Fearing that budget-busting
heating bills are ahead, area residents are scrambling
to find cheaper ways to keep warm this winter. With
natural gas prices predicted to soar more, they’re
turning to wood, and even corn, to keep cozy. But demand
also is straining supplies of some alternative heating
systems," writes Charles Slat of Michigan's Monroe
Keith LaLonde, who sells corn burners, told Slat, "I
was doing fantastic for a couple of weeks, then the
manufacturer got swamped with orders." The systems
are now back-ordered by a couple of months. "I
get calls from all over Michigan and Ohio from people
trying to find a dealer that’s got a stash of
the stoves," said LaLonde. (Read
soda machines compared to cigarette dispensers by anti-tobacco
Fresh from doing battle with big tobacco, some of the
same attorneys are planning lawsuits against the soft-drink
industry with claims that it hooks and hurts the health
of school children.
Massachusetts law professor Richard Daynard, who worked
as a consultant on class actions against tobacco companies,
is working with private attorneys and non-profit groups
to sue soft-drink companies for selling high-calorie
drinks in schools, writes Caroline Wilbert of the Cox
News Service. Attorneys expect to file their
first suit as soon as next month.
Daynard likened the presence of soft drinks in school
to "having a cigarette machine in a school,"
reports Wilbert. The plan is to file first in Massachusetts
and then to use that case as a model in other states.
Daynard is associate dean at Northeastern University
School of Law, and has been president of the
Tobacco Control Resource Center and
chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project.
He is also chairman of the Obesity and Law Project at
the Public Health Advocacy Institute.
Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage
Association, told Wilbert the plaintiffs' attorneys
are "trying to paint a bull's-eye on a particular
product and pass it off as a meaningful solution to
a complicated problem." (Read
Big demand for fresh farm produce
fuels boost for farmers markets
Farmers markets are popping up like mushrooms after
a spring rain thanks to urban dwellers who want fresh
produce, reports the Cincinnati Post.
This year's 98 markets in Kentucky mark an 8 percent
jump for that state compared to last year. Janet Eaton,
marketing specialist for the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture, told reporter Stephenie Steitzer
about 60 percent of tobacco growers are finding ways
to replace their income through avenues such as the
markets. Eaton called the increased popularity of farmers'
markets "a customer-driven phenomenon." One
farmers' market couple said on a good day, they could
make $100 to $200, depending on what produce they were
The Boone County Agricultural Extension District
is building a $1.1 million, environmentally friendly
lot and indoor facility for demonstrations at its farmers'
market. Covington officials are looking for money to
develop a $32.5 million regional public market that
will be open year around and include retail shops, restaurants,
loft apartments, an outdoor amphitheater and a park.
Kentucky hunters bag 100,000
deer in big-bucks industry for the state
Foul weather may have reduced the number of deer killed
in Kentucky this fall, a blow to the state's multi-million
dollar hunting industry.
"The official count from the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources shows
100,359 deer had been killed as of Tuesday morning.
That's despite a series of severe storms that brought
high winds and tornados to parts of the state over the
past month, the height of the fall hunting season,"
writes Roger Alford of The Associated Press.
Tina Brunjes, big game coordinator for the state wildlife
agency, told Alford that Bow hunters and muzzleloaders
still have opportunities to get deer, but the total
harvest is expected to fall short of last year's 124,752.
A total of 258,379 licensed hunters killed more than
10 percent of the state's total deer population, which
is estimated at 900,000. Wildlife biologists say thinning
the herds is necessary to keep the animals from becoming
State records show hunters have killed more than 100,000
deer during each of the past five years in Kentucky,
where hunting of all types netted more than $21 million
in sales of licenses this year.
Lynn Garrison, public policy director for the state
wildlife agency, said biologists take their job of managing
deer herds seriously because of the economic benefits
to Kentucky. He said direct sales of hunting equipment,
lodging, clothing, ammunition and other items associated
with deer hunting total more than $202 million a year
in Kentucky. (Read
The bread run:
Students give back to humanity at one West Virginia
At Wheeling Jesuit University,
membership in one national honor society entails feeding
the hungry every day. Alpha Sigma Nu members gather
leftover bread and deli items from two area grocery
stores for delivery through Catholic Charities
to area needy.
"Membership in the National Jesuit Honor
Society, Alpha Sigma Nu, differs slightly at
each of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the
nation. At Wheeling Jesuit University, it entails feeding
the hungry--every day," reports Newswise,
which reports on research and other work at universities.
Rev. Michael F. Steltenkamp launched the project in
2001. “Father Mike” asked Richard Riesbeck,
a 2003 alum of the university and president and CEO
of Riesbeck Foods Inc., if Alpha Sigma
Nu students could pick up clearance items from his stores
and deliver them to Catholic Charities, now known as
the daily “bread run,” notes Newswise.
The honor society continues the project with campus
volunteers, and assistance has come from diverse niches
of the campus community. University President Rev. Joseph
R. Hacala does the bread run. A number of Jesuit Fathers
were joined this year by the Physics Club, members of
WJU's athletic teams, members of its sponsored programs
and its librarian, reports Newswise. (Read
journalism succumbing to the blogger generation?
"Chattering oracles are telling us that newspapers
will die soon, as the Internet takes over. That may
well be and the Internet does carry wondrous potential
for improving life (as well as voluminous drivel that
used to be written on the walls of public toilets).
But the puzzlement is, where will the new digital providers
of information get their fresh news?" asks Sydney
H. Schanberg of the Village Voice.
"It is fresh news daily, or at least weekly news,
that keeps citizens feeling connected to the decisions
and events that alter their lives. And it is newspapers,
and a handful of probing magazines, that provide most
of the in-depth journalism that uncovers and analyzes
those fast-moving decisions and events. Blogsters, please
don't jump out of your pajamas;lots of you are doing
valuable and admirable work keeping mainstream journalism
on its toes. But serious journalism is labor-intensive
and time-consuming and therefore requires large amounts
of money and health benefits and pensions. The blogosphere
has plenty of time, but as yet none of the other items,"
"So if and when newspapers fade into darkness,
as the all-seeing oracles foretell, what will happen?
Perhaps, in a future time of airborne pigs, altruism
will suddenly infuse our culture, and money will descend,
like manna, on the Internet to pay for the reporters
to do the intensive journalism needed as a check on
abusive power. And if altruism or labor-friendly corporate
ideologies don't magically appear? The oracles are mostly
silent on that eventuality. Maybe they think samizdat
is the answer. Maybe many of them don't care,"
concludes Schanberg. (Read
USDA proposes to
OK China poultry exports to U.S. despite bird flu fears
First, the Bush administration announced
a $7.1 billion strategy to ward off an avian flu pandemic.
Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
to add the People's Republic of China, considered the
principal source of bird flu, to the list of countries
eligible to export poultry to the United States.
The announcement by the USDA comes on
the heels of two new human deaths from bird flu in China.
For the Reuters report on those deaths,
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service is inviting comments on the proposal.
Mail, including floppy disks or CD-ROM's, and hand-or
courier-delivered items should be sent to Docket Clerk,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection
Service, 300 12th Street SW, Cotton Annex 102, Washington
DC 20250. Send e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the latest on bird flu in and around China: Study:
Poultry vaccine stops flu spread from CNN,
here, Poultry culling ends in Inner Mongolia
bird flu-hit city from China View.net,
here, Thailand says only one bird flu outbreak
left from AFP via Yahoo, click
here, and Singapore, US boost cooperation against
bird flu, other diseases from AFP via Yahoo,
BellSouth to improve
online access for predominately rural, poor areas
The BellSouth Foundation, the charitable
arm of the Atlanta-based communications company, is
planning a $20 million effort to improve access to online
learning for underserved areas in the South.
The campaign will cover Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina,
South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida
and Tennessee, and it will help fund state-led virtual
learning programs while seeking to expand computer access
to children in poor areas, reports The Associated
Foundation President Mary Boehm said, "We wanted
to be sure all kids, not just the privileged, could
be part of the virtual learning movement." In addition
to helping bankroll and coordinate state virtual schools,
the foundation will target low-income neighborhoods.
In Atlanta's Carver community, a pilot site for the
effort, volunteers will help create a school of technology
and work with middle and high school students on job
shadowing and an online algebra course, AP reports.
journalists need computers, other aid from U.S. counterparts
Pakistan journalists, who work in an atmosphere of
fear and intimidation, are starting a Web site for stories
on freedom of the press "as a basic human right."
"The Rural Media Network of Pakistan
is announcing the publication of the freedom-of-expression
newsletter Sadiq News. The newsletter
educates rural journalists about freedom of expression
as a fundamental human right, and helps to provide them
with the necessary skills to cope more effectively.
The Nawa-i-Ahmedpur Sharqia newspaper will publish and
distribute it freely to rural press clubs, journalists
and educational institutions," reports the International
The Sadiq News monitors press freedom violations and
defends free expression in rural Pakistan. The publication
also plans to share this information with international
press freedom groups to help coordinate protests to
government leaders and the media. For that purpose,
the Rural Media Network wants to establish a Sadiq News
Web site in both Urdu and English.
The project lacks the necessary computer equipment.
American journalists can help by donating equipment.
For more information, contact Ehsan Ahmed Sehar at email@example.com
or write to this postal address: Ehsan Ahmed Sehar,
Press Chambers, Opposite Canal Rest House, Katchery
Road, Ahmedpur East, District Bagalwalpur, Pakistan.
limits broadband access for small firms in rural Ireland
After its transformation from being an agriculturally
based economy into a tech-savvy country, Ireland is
encountering the same broadband access issues that exist
in rural U.S. communities.
"Three out of 10 small and medium sized companies
in Ireland have been unable to upgrade to broadband
mainly due to lack of availability in their areas, according
to a survey of 601 small and medium sized enterprises
published by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.
The e-business survey also showed 29 percent of companies
access the internet via broadband with 33 percent still
using dial up," writes Deirdre McArdle of ElectricNews.Net.
Broadband enables companies to access the Internet
at greater speeds. The survey results showed "a
regional divide," writes McArdle with 66 percent
of Dublin-based companies having broadband while 41
percent have high-speed internet access in the Midlands
and 44 percent in the Border region.
Researcher Sean Murphy said, "We must continue
to invest in the promotion of broadband and re-position
ourselves as a leader in the e-enabled and e-user league
tables." The survey also found a direct link between
broadband connections and increased usage of all e-business
applications. Murphy told McArdle broadband is the key
to the creation of a real digital marketplace. (Read
University of Washington to explore culturally based
"For thousands of years, Native Americans have
believed that their culturally-based traditional methods
of healing have helped them live healthier lifestyles,"
writes Tiffany Royal of the weekly North Kitsap
Herald. In partnership with the University
of Washington, the Suquamish Tribe at the Port
Madison Reservation hopes to prove its ways
can help Native Americans.
For the next three years, the partners will sponsor
a project called "Healing of the Canoe," which
will involve gathering information about the culturally-based
traditions. Earlier this year, the National
Institutes of Health awarded the university
$1.4 million for the project, reports Royal.
The project's goals include implementing a community-based
intervention or prevention program rooted in tribal
values and traditions, and evaluating the program to
see if it actually promotes wellness while reducing
health problems. "The tribal canoe journey is the
metaphor for the project, as it is an event that some
Suquamish members have participated in and found to
be helpful in getting their lives back on track after
certain life struggles. It teaches members traditional
protocol and helps members learn about themselves physically
and spiritually and how to lead a clean and sober lifestyle,"
"It's been very healing for our people,"
said Chuck Wagner, the tribe's lead administrator for
the behavioral health portion of the tribe's wellness
program. The canoe journey has "worked for tens
of thousands of years but no one ever wrote it down,"
Wagner told Royal. (Read
North Carolina burley growers
continue auctions despite end of price supports
A long tradition of tobacco auctions is
continuing in western North Carolina despite the dominance
of direct contracting with cigarette companies and the
end of federal quotas and price supports.
"Asheville has been home to burley
tobacco auction warehouses for more than a century.
But with the upheaval in the industry caused by last
year’s $10.1 billion buyout of tobacco producers,
the tradition looked like it might end. For people like
Yancey County grower Wendell Wilson, that would’ve
truly been the end of an era," writes John Boyle
of the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Wilson told Boyle, "I’m 44 and I started
coming down here when I was 7 years old. I’m tickled
to death the Owen family kept it open." The auction
will run through Dec. 15. On the first day of sales,
four tobacco companies sold about 170,000 pounds of
leaf — about half of last year’s first-day
sales. The average price was $1.56 a pound, considerably
less than last year’s average, which hovered around
The 11 westernmost counties of North Carolina had about
3,500 tobacco growers in 2004. At the Asheville warehouses,
sales traditionally generate between $8 million and
$10 million annually, writes Boyle. (Read
Virginia agriculture secretary
backs program to preserve farmland
Virginia's secretary of agriculture and forestry wants
the state to commit to agricultural preservation by
supporting programs that will make sure farmland stays
farmland. "Robert Bloxom spoke at the Virginia
Farm Bureau Federation's 80th annual convention
in Norfolk, where he received a task force's recommendations
to provide state funds for local programs that pay farmers
in exchange for giving up the right to develop their
property," writes Sonja Barisic of The
Such "purchases of development rights" programs
guarantee the land will remain farmland, forest or open
space, instead of housing developments, malls, etc.,
notes Barisic. About a half dozen Virginia cities and
counties have PDR programs, but they are locally funded.
Bloxom told Barisic, "Now it's the state's turn
to join in ... to help the localities in this battle
to preserve our farmland and our forest land."
The Virginia Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services' Farmland Preservation
Task Force report the state lost 23,360 acres
of farmland and more than 22,000 acres of forest to
development each year between 1992 and 1997. (Read
Drug crimes triple
female inmate population in rural New Mexico county
One rural New Mexico county is seeing
more female inmates because of an increase in drug crimes,
according to an in-depth look at increased crime, illegal
drug traffic and the space crunch in area jails.
"There were 26 female inmates housed
in one pod of the Curry County Adult Detention
Center on a recent late-November afternoon.
Located about 20 miles away, the Roosevelt County
Detention Center housed 12 female inmates.
Those numbers fluctuate daily, but a larger trend remains.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
the number of women in jail nearly tripled from 1985
to 1996. Local jail officials also report a sharp incline
in women prisoners," writes Marlena Hartz for the
A decade ago, the Curry County jail housed an average
of less than 10 women; Roosevelt County, less than eight,
according to jail officials. Now, women in bright, orange
jail uniforms are common jail residents, accounting
for about 10 percent of the population in Roosevelt
and Curry County jails. (Read
Curry County assistant administrator Larry Sanders
told Hartz, "It all boils down to drugs."
Sanders said nearly 80 percent of the women are in on
drug-related charges; about 60 percent are repeat offenders.
Federal grant to help rural
Alaska deal with high criminal case load
A $2 million federal grant over three years will give
rural Alaska two new prosecutors.
"The new prosecutors will operate out of Anchorage
and assist 84 prosecutors in the state's 13 rural offices,
handling everything from murder to minors consuming
alcohol, said Susan Parkes of the state Department of
Law's criminal division. "It is going to have a
significant impact just to have that release valve,"
she said. Alaska's district attorneys are struggling
with high case loads. In Kotzebue, one prosecutor handled
166 felony cases in 2003 and 212 last year, Parkes told
The Associated Press.
Prosecutors have to rank cases and they lack the hours
to prepare and go to trial on every case. "We try
not to let caseload be a consideration when we look
at high-priority cases - sexual assaults and violent
crimes - but certainly when you look at property crimes
or misdemeanors, it is really the only control you have
as a prosecutor over your caseload," Parkes told
AP. "Sometimes caseloads influence dealing a case."
Copies of high school newspaper
seized in Tennessee over birth-control story
"Administrators at Oak Ridge High School went
into teachers' classrooms, desks and mailboxes to retrieve
all 1,800 copies of the newspaper Tuesday, said teacher
Wanda Grooms, who advises the staff, and Brittany Thomas,
the student editor," reports The Associated
The Oak Leaf's birth-control article listed success
rates for different methods and said contraceptives
were available from doctors and the local health department.
Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to
be edited so it would be acceptable for the entire school.
The edition also contained a photo of an
unidentified student's tattoo, and the student had not
told her parents about the tattoo. Bailey told reporters,
"I have a problem with the idea of putting something
in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something
from the parents."
Bailey said the paper can be reprinted if changes are
made. Thomas wasn't sure about making changes. "I'm
not completely OK with reprinting the paper," she
Rural youth still
flock to the military; database available for local
The Detroit News is the
latest metropolitan newspaper to localize a continuing
national story, about disproportionate numbers of rural
Americans joining the military, often as a path out
of poverty. Now reporters anywhere can get access to
a database to do their own, localized stories.
"Military records show that Michigan's
military recruits come disproportionately from the state's
most rural areas, where young people enlist at a rate
double that in the most populous parts of the state.
Last year, the slab of land around North Branch sent
30 people into the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy,"
write the newspaper's Brad Heath and Norman Sinclair.
In Michigan's 45 most rural counties about seven of
every 1,000 young people ages 18-24 enlisted last year,
compared to about four of every 1,000 young adults in
the state's most populous counties.
Anita Bancs, research director for the National
Priorities Project, told Heath and Sinclair,
"I think it tells us that young people with limited
opportunities are more likely to join the armed forces.
If we're going to engage in war, we ought to know who
the people are who volunteer, who are serving in the
armed forces and who put themselves at risk."
Heath and Sinclair profile 18-year-old Eagle Scout
Steven Letts who wants to join the Marines when he finishes
high school. He will take his first entrance test today.
Letts said his parents "are supportive, but they
don't like the thought of me going to war." School
counselor Carolyn Medford told Health and Sinclair,
"There aren't a lot of careers here. A lot of people
have relatives who've gone into the service already;
they see (the military) as a viable way to start a career."
The American Friends Service Committee
sued the Department Of Defense to get
a listing of all recruits and their hometowns, a valuable
tool for newspapers to do sophisticated analysis for
their readers. Click
here for that resource. For a report on a Henryville,
Ind., Silver Star recipient, the nation's third highest
award for valor, by Larry Thomas of the CNHI
News Service, click
reported between state, U.S. student-achievement tests
The New York Times has disclosed apparent
major discrepancies between the results of national
achievement tests and what many states are reporting
from their standardized tests, raising questions and
accusations about alleged attempts to skirt the No Child
Left Behind law.
"After Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students
in math this year, state officials at a jubilant news
conference called the results a 'cause for celebration.'
Eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above
the proficiency level. But when the federal government
made public the findings of its own tests last month,
the results were startlingly different: only 21 percent
of Tennessee's eighth graders were considered proficient
in math," writes the Times' Sam Dillon.
The national debate over testing and accountability
has been intensified by the apparent discrepancies,
notes Dillon. Some educators are charging states have
created easy exams to avoid sanctions imposed on consistently
low-scoring schools by No Child Left Behind.
In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed
at or above proficiency on state reading tests, while
only 18 percent of fourth graders demonstrated proficiency
on the federal test. Oklahoma, North Carolina, Alabama,
Georgia, Alaska, Texas and more than a dozen other states
all showed students doing far better on their own reading
and math tests than on the National Assessment of Education
Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president of the Thomas
B. Fordham Foundation, which generally supports
the federal law, told Dillon, "Under No Child Left
Behind, the states get to set the proficiency bar wherever
they like, and unfortunately most are setting it quite
low. They're telling the public in their states that
huge numbers of students are proficient, but the NAEP
results show that's not the case." (Read
Stories on oil-and-gas boom
offer lots of opportunities for local follow-ups
With oil prices high, the Kentucky
Division of Oil and Gas expects to issue as
many as 1,700 drilling permits this year, up almost
30 percent from last year. "It's the most activity
in Kentucky in 20 years — and while it's profitable
for the state, critics complain there's not enough oversight
to ensure that the land is protected or people kept
safe," The Courier-Journal reported
The three-story package by Jim Bruggers, the Louisville
paper's environmental writer, reported that state and
federal regulations may be "too lax . . . to adequately
address the environmental destruction caused by well
drilling and construction of roads to the wells, including
the pollution of waterways from erosion and contamination
of water wells." For the main story, click
Well contamination is often caused by abandonment of
wells that are no longer commercial producers but continue
to leak oil, salt water and other contaminants into
water-bearing strata. The series included a map showing
the number of abandoned wells in each county with more
than 100 such wells, providing a good story idea for
local media in such counties. For that story, click
here. For the map, click
For county information, go to www.dmm.ky.gov/oandg/Oil+and+Gas+Maps+and+Manuals.htm
and click on the link to "view
a list of Abandoned Wells as of October 2005"
in an Excel spreadhseet. The Kentucky Geological
Survey has much oil and gas data on its Web
site, including interactive maps of wells in specific
areas, which can be accessed at http://kgsmap.uky.edu/website/kgsog/viewer.htm.
Anti-depressant reduces meth
cravings, may provide first drug treatment
A common antidepressant, bupropion, can cut methamphetamine
cravings, which could mean there is finally a drug treatment
for the addiction spreading across America, according
to a new study.
"Dr. Thomas F. Newton, a psychiatrist at the University
of California-Los Angeles, who led the study,
found that subjects who were given bupropion reported
a lesser high after treatment, as well as a less-intense
craving after watching a video of actors favorably portraying
meth use," writes Alex Raksin of the Los
The four-week study involved only 20 patients, but
it could provide the first known drug treatment for
meth addiction. Bupropion, sold under the trade name
Wellbutrin, is used to help people stop smoking, notes
Farming's future: Tapping into
bio-diesel, hog production might spur success
"Drive less than 20 minutes from almost any crossroads
in Indiana and you'll come across a feature of the Midwest
landscape that we take for granted: namely, farm land.
The vast open space that still exists in abundance between
our state's urban areas remains dominated by the industry
that once employed more people than any other -- agriculture.
And while the sights of barns, crop land and animals
grazing in pastures are familiar to us all, we should
remember that looks can be deceiving," opines Pat
Barkey, director of economic and policy studies at Ball
State University, for the Marion Chronicle
"Many of us who are waking up to the realization
that durable goods manufacturing can't be depended on
to propel future growth in the state think that the
heyday of farming as an economic driver is long past.
In a narrow sense, that's right -- we're not an agriculture
based economy today, and we probably never will be again.
But there's a lot more to food production than farming.
And, besides, there's more uses for crops nowadays that
just food. With so much healthy and productive farm
land all around us, shouldn't we be thinking about ways
that we capitalize on that proximity and take a bigger
role in exploiting those opportunities?" asks Barkey.
"It's a question more Indiana communities are
beginning to ask. The potential for higher value-added
ag-related production processes - ranging from bio-diesel
plants to hog production facilities - adding to the
local economic base are nothing to sneeze at for the
smaller towns and rural regions who have been standing
on the sidelines watching larger cities grow,"
concludes Barkey. (Read
Florida farmworkers still awaiting
aid more than a month after hurricane
"They are among thousands of Florida's uninsured
farmworkers still awaiting help since Wilma thrashed
South Florida on Oct. 24, in the nation's worst hurricane
season on record. Wilma killed 35 people in the state,
destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes, and
caused widespread power outages across South Florida,"
reports Laura Wides-Munoz of The Associated
Farmworker advocates say Wilma has underscored a larger
problem: the state's failure to respond to the needs
of the mostly Mexican and Central American workers who
have reshaped Florida's agricultural communities, replacing
many of the native black and Jamaican workers who once
dominated the sector. Communication is a key factor,
because in many parts of central and northern Florida,
few public officials or staff speak Spanish, reports
Palm Beach County has an estimated 190,000 Hispanics,
15 percent of the total county, up from about 140,000
in 2000, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau. "The language can cause
big problems for those most in need even if they are
here legally," said Francisco Garza, an organizer
with the Farmworker Association of Florida,
an advocacy group with 6,000-plus members, notes AP.
Work on mountain-protection
rules continues in Georgia, creates controversy
White County soon may become the first in Georgia to
pass a mountain-protection ordinance, which bothers
some builders, real estate agents and landowners, who
say restrictions are too stiff.
"We want mountain protection. The problem is the
way the document is written up. It's going to kill construction
in this county," Sandy Hanes, a realtor with ReMax,
told Debbie Gilbert of The Gainesville Times.
The White County Commission is slated to meet Tuesday
night for a second reading of the ordinance.
Commissioners started work on the ordinance about two
years ago in order to comply with the 1989 Georgia Planning
Act's rules for environmental protection. Counties in
the Appalachian foothills are supposed to have a mountain
ordinance, but many counties have delayed adoption of
any such measure, reports Gilbert. (Read
Ohioans in Appalachia struggle
with poverty, few dental-care options
"Few dentists in the impoverished southeastern
region of Ohio will accept new Medicaid patients. If
they do, they often have months-long waiting lists,"
reports The Associated Press.
There is a statewide Safety Nets network for low income
patients. The state budgeted $1.5 million this year
for the state and federally funded network of free clinics.
But the two-year budget reduced dental care funding
for adult Medicaid recipients. Such clinics are rare
in the state's Appalachian region, where medical care
is scarce and tobacco chewing occurs more often than
elsewhere in the state, according to the Ohio
Three clinics serve 14 counties in the region. Such
clinics struggle with trying to balance care for new
patients and emergency walk-ins with education for children
and parents about dental hygiene, notes AP.
Also, dentists who treat Medicaid patients often take
a financial hit because the aid doesn't provide the
same payouts as regular insurance. Local health departments
and nonprofit groups that operate clinics kick in money.
"When Medicaid is your best payer, and a lot of
your other patients are on a sliding scale that is not
coming close to paying the bills, that's where we help,"
Dr. Mark Siegal, director of the state Health
Department's oral health services, told AP.
Mountain mirror? One in four
children in British Columbia lives in poverty
An advocacy group reports that one in four British
Columbia children lives in poverty, the highest rate
in any Canadaian province.
"The report, by anti-poverty group Campaign 2000,
paints B.C. as the worst offender in a country where
the gap between rich and poor families is growing and
where children of aboriginals and recent immigrants
are hardest hit," writes Jonathan Woodward of the
Globe and Mail . Campaign 2000 coordinator
Laurel Rothman said the report was timed for the anniversary
of a 1989 unanimous vote by the House of Commons to
eliminate child poverty by 2000.
Michael Goldberg, a B.C. advocate who worked on the
report, told Woodward the government has to increase
the minimum wage, eliminate the controversial $6-an-hour
training wage, and end restrictions on welfare rolls
that he said have pushed people to low-paying jobs.
British Columbia's child-poverty rate is more than
double that of Prince Edward Island, which had the lowest
poverty rate, at 11.3 percent. And, the British Columbia
rate jumped from 20 percent in 2001 to about 24 percent
in 2002 and 2003. Rothman told Woodward that nearly
half of the children of recent immigrants are poor,
while 40 percent of aboriginal children and 33 percent
of children in visible minorities live in poverty. (Read
U.S. Senate bill aims to increase
ATV safety with mandatory standards
Major manufacturers of all-terrain vehicles are looking
at safety legislation proposed by Minnesota's senators
as a boon to the industry and consumers. Republican
Norm Coleman and Democrat Mark Dayton introduced the
proposal, which would for the first time regulate all
ATVs sold in the U.S. by establishing mandatory standards,
reports Aaron Blake of McClatchy News Service.
Dayton says the idea is a "trifecta" of safety,
fairness and benefits for Minnesota's economy. Critics
counter that the proposal would push an emerging import
industry out of the market, notes Blake.
"As ATV sales have taken off in recent years,
so have the numbers of injuries and deaths associated
with the vehicles. The Consumer Product Safety
Commission reports that an average of about
500 people died using ATVs each of the past five years,
more than a quarter of them 15 or younger. The number
of riders requiring emergency room care has climbed
to more than 100,000 per year, about a third of them
under 16," writes Blake. (Read
Does an East Tennessee cabin
date to the 1760s? Answer may lie in artifact
A newfound page in the storied past of Blountville's
Appalachian Caverns is creating a stir
in the area, reports Rain Smith of the Kingsport
While excavating a cabin last week, researcher William
Milhorn and site curator Roger Hartley may have found
evidence that will show a colonial presence on the land
as far back as the 1760s. "Everybody's been saying
(the cabin) dates to about 1830," Milhorn told
Smith. "Well, everybody's full of baloney. That
cabin is a lot older."
The key artifact is a small metal button shank engraved
with a crown and featuring the initials V and R. "If
it's Virginia Regiment then it's a very, very, very
important piece because there's not another one known
of in the world," Milhorn told Smith. "I'm
not saying that's what it is, but if it is, how did
it get here?"
Milhorn said, "This place is the most historic
caverns in East Tennessee, with more documented history
and a documented presence than any hole in the ground
between here and Memphis." (Read
Museum of Appalachia, Norris,
Tenn., offers 'Christmas in Old Appalachia'
"Christmas in Old Appalachia" at the Museum
of Appalachia, just a mile off Interstate 75 at exit
122, near Norris, Tenn., opened Sunday.
"Seasonal decorations will brighten the old-time
cabins and other structures lovingly transplanted by
museum founder John Rice Irwin to a 65-acre Tennessee
hillside. Music will greet Old Appalachia visitors daily
throughout December, except on Christmas Day, the only
day of the year the museum is closed, " writes
Jane Durrell, a contributing writer for the Cincinnati
Durrell notes that the museum's collections are Irwin's
life work. There are more than 35 structures -- cabins,
blacksmith shop, sawmill, schoolhouse, loom house, and
and other artifacts -- on view in the Display Barn.
Memorabilia of "notable, historic, famous, interesting,
colorful and unusual folk from the surrounding region"
are housed in the Appalachian Hall of Fame, writes Durrell.
Nov. 30: Community Involved
in Sustaining Agriculture, Amherst, Mass.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture's (CISA)
12th Annual Meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov.
30 at The Red Barn at Hampshire College in Amherst,
Mass. There will be a potluck supper and a keynote address.
For more information visit www.buylocalfood.com/events.html.
Nov. 27, 2005
Cash, son of rural
Arkansas, journeyed through the other side of virtue
Johnny Cash was a lot more
than the character in the new movie "Walk the Line,"
and Nicholas Kulish reminds us of that today in an op-ed
piece in The New York Times.
Cash wasn't all that handsome, sometimes
sang off-key and knew few chords, Kulish writes, but
"If performers could be weighed and measured like
prizefighters, Cash might have left the oddsmakers in
stitches. Yet there is a power and honesty to his music
that few recording artists can match. In his most affecting
songs, the gravelly, toxic rumble you hear is Johnny
Cash locking horns with his dark side. It's one man's
fight for his own soul, a timeless struggle to a rockabilly
Kulish adds later, "If all Johnny Cash brought
to the stage were his demons, we wouldn't need to remember
him. . . . It is the angel on Johnny Cash's other shoulder
that gives his music its depth and profundity. . . .
Johnny Cash merges our seemingly contradictory American
traditions of outlaws prone to wild gunplay and pious
Christians singing hymns, without stopping to explain
how you can be both at once.
" . . . In a world increasingly reduced to good
and evil, to us versus them, Johnny Cash was a man unafraid
to admit that he was both. We've somehow lost sight
of the truth that there can be no redemption without
sin. It's this kind of reductive thinking that makes
it easy to reduce swaths of the country to color codes
and political parties; to lock millions away in jails
and prisons, then toss the keys without guilt.
"Johnny Cash sang that he wore black "for
the poor and beaten down, livin' on the hopeless, hungry
side of town." With hundreds of thousands displaced
by Hurricane Katrina, layoff announcements dangling
over the heads of 98,000 American auto workers, and
2.1 million men and women in prisons and jails across
the country, we still need him.
"Cash's life was an American story that can never
be repeated, one that began in the Depression-era cotton
fields of Arkansas and continued through an auto assembly
line in Michigan to occupied Germany with the United
States Air Force. He then joined legends of rock 'n'
roll like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun and
on the road. He stayed with us until the end, touring
as long as he could and recording almost until his death.
'The way we did it was honest,' he wrote. 'We played
it and sang it the way we felt it, and there's a whole
lot to be said for that.'" (Click
here to read more)
strongest in rural areas, AP reports in start of an
"Things are indeed changing in the
South. So is the notion of what it means to be Southern,"
writes Allen Breed, southeastern regional reporter for
The Associated Press, in a series on
the South and Southern identity, beginning today in
many newspapers and tomorrow or Sunday in others.
"We've had the Solid South, the Old South and
the New South. But are we heading toward a "No
South"? Breed asks. "In this most maligned
and mused-upon of American regions, the term conjures
a variety of images. Magnolias, front porch swings and
sweet tea for some; football, stock cars and fried chicken
for others; lynchings, burning crosses and civil rights
marches for still others."
Projected to comprise 40 percent of the nation's population
by 2030, the South has become more like the rest of
America, Breed notes: "The South is now the nation's
most industrialized region; though traditional textile
employment and the like has largely moved offshore,
the region has attracted high-profile employers such
as automakers. About three-quarters of Southerners now
live in metropolitan areas."
But that's still less than in the rest of the country,
and a poll conducted for the series "found that
people who live in rural areas are much more likely
than their urban and suburban counterparts to consider
themselves Southern," Breed reports.
Cassandra King, a novelist who grew up on a peanut
farm in southern Alabama, told Breed that the South
will always be "the agrarian South of the hardworking,
reddened-neck farm family. . . . Southern identity comes
from the red clay or white sand or black dirt which
produces our peanuts and corn and okra and field peas
and sweet potatoes."
Rural areas are more likely to be poor, and Breed points
out that the South "is still set apart by its poverty,
and some old stereotypes hold water. Eight of the top
10 states with the highest percentages of mobile homes
are in the South, as are nine of the states with the
highest rates of adult toothlessness."
In urban areas, Southern identity is less, and the
poll founnd that in the region as a whole, "the
percentage of people in the region identifying themselves
as Southerners is shrinking." Conducted in October
by Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs, the poll
"found 63 percent of people living in the region
identified themselves as Southerners," Breed reports.
"That mirrors a trend from a University
of North Carolina analysis of polling data
that found a decline of 7 percentage points on the same
Southern identity question between 1991 to 2001, to
The South has become "sort of like a lifestyle,
rather than an identity anymore," James Cobb, author
of the newly published Away Down South: A History
of Southern Identity, told Breed. "The things
now we would base Southern distinctiveness on are so
see displacement and redevelopment, not recovery
In a long, sad story in today's Washington
Post, Michael Powell reports that recovery
is a distant dream for many victims of Hurricane Katrina
-- many of whom may be permanently displaced, or worse.
"The personal shock of it all hasn't subsided,"
Powell writes. "Locals say it's not uncommon to
hear perfectly rational people talk of suicide."
This is an important story, worth more space here than
Powell's story deals mainly with the Mississippi
coast, but he also reports from the rural, inland town
of Pearlington: "There are twin devastations in
Mississippi, and it would take Solomon to pick the worse
of the two. There are the coastal cities and there are
such places as tiny Pearlington, deep in the woods and
marshlands along the Louisiana border. Here a 35-foot-high
storm surge roared up the Pearl River."
"The local school remains shredded,
its roof a spaghetti of metal beams. Everyone lost cars
and trucks, and there's no money for replacements. Many
people sleep in tents or shacks that have been roughly
thrown together. The county's only supermarket is gone.
Six shrimp boats still sit on the river bottom. There's
a good bit of drug smuggling, but that isn't really
a sustaining industry."
Powell's Pearlington narrative focuses
on the Rev. James O'Bryan, a Catholic priest whose church
the Diocese of Biloxi will
not rebuild. He told Powell, ""The bishop
tells me we were insured for [Hurricane] Camille but
not for Katrina. I remember going for a walk just before
the storm and saying to myself, 'Lord, you aren't going
to take my little kingdom from me, are you?' I realized
now that he was."
"Many people here harbor anger that
the federal government has fallen short and that the
nation's attention has turned away. At least 200,000
Mississippians remain displaced, and the Federal
Emergency Management Agency is short at least
13,000 trailers to house them. 50,000 homeowners lack
federal flood insurance and cannot rebuild," Powell
writes. "Some officials are talking about surrendering
[town] charters and becoming wards of the state."
"The response of the federal government is bewildering
and deplorable," Bruce Katz, director of metropolitan
policy at the Brookings Institution
and author of two studies of the Katrina response, told
Powell. Roy Necaise, a regional housing official, told
the reporter, "Washington has totally let us down,
and it's a disgrace." The story includes no comment
"The hurricane pushed tens of thousands
of coastal residents north and west, spreading over
four states. The longer it takes to rebuild houses and
businesses, the more officials worry that the dispossessed,
particularly the working class, may never return,"
Powell reports, and notes they they sometimes are chased
away by local officials.
"This politically conservative state
has a threadbare safety net," Powell writes. "Two
weeks ago, county officials lifted an informal moratorium
on evictions. Tenants cannot claim rent breaks for water-damaged
apartments. One can sit now in housing courts in Gulfport
and Biloxi and watch judges order the evictions of hundreds
of tenants, often with a speed that startles the tenants."
At the same time, developers are offering
big money for devasated property and forecasting a boom
in upscale development. "If that kind of rebirth
happens, it will be on the backs of the lives of a lot
of Biloxians. It's like talking bad about somebody at
their funeral," Keith Burton, editor of the online
Coast News, told Powell. This morning,
Gulf Coast News sums it up: "The Coast is still
in relief mode, not recovery, nearly three months after
Kentucky high court
says rural electric cooperatives are limited to electricity
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that rural
electric cooperatives, "which were created to bring
power to secluded areas during the Depression, are still
restricted to generating, distributing and selling that
electricity," reports The Associated Press.
"The divided court ruling overturns an earlier
victory for the Jackson Energy Cooperative Corp."
of McKee, formerly the Jackson County Rural Electric
Cooperative Corp., "which wanted to sell propane
gas and offer an array of other services, including
such things as tree-trimming," AP reports, noting
that the years-old case "has been closely watched
in the utility industry."
"The statute authorizes only activities that are
consistent with the operation of an electric cooperative,"
Justice Donald Wintersheimer of Covington wrote for
the 4-2 majority. "The language which describes
the purpose of the cooperative is abundantly clear,
there is no ambiguity."
The court's newest justices dissented. Justice John
Roach of Lexington (who is running to keep his seat
and attended the recent annual banquet of the Kentucky
Association of Electric Cooperatives) said
a 1974 change in co-op laws "opened the door for
other services that could include the sale of propane,"
AP wrote. Justice Will T. Scott of Pikeville said the
majority ignored the wishes of the utility's 46,000
customers, as determined by a 1998 survey and limited
competition with "a cold winter comin'."
In state where tobacco industry
began, tobacco is no longer the No. 1 crop
Soybeans generated $124.3 million in cash receipts
for Virgina farmers in 2004, ranking the crop first
in the state. "The Virginia Agricultural
Statistics Service says tobacco dropped to
No. 2, with $112.9 million," The Associated
"The toppling of tobacco," which was planted
by settlers as early as 1619, was not a surprise,"
because Virginia acreage used for tobacco acreage has
declined for decades, AP writes. "Production has
spiraled downward in recent years for several reasons,
including lower U.S. smoking rates, the federal tobacco-quota
buyout and cheaper leaf from countries like Brazil and
Africa." Note to AP: Africa's a continent,
not a country.
Texas town that
took a promotional name dishes out news; others do too
"A small-town effort to avoid annexation
by a voracious neighbor exploded into a row over dumpsters,
a water hose and vote rigging. When the dust cleared,
the mayor was bounced, the town changed its name, and
media from around the world were calling to ask about
a satellite-TV company that had agreed to provide the
whole city with free service." That's the lede
of Steve LeVine's story in today's Wall Street
Journal about Dish, Tex.
The Denton County municipality -- "town"
doesn't fit a place with no gas station or convenience
store -- was created to block annexation by Fort Worth
and was originally named Clark, after its main founder
and first mayor. When Clark made Mitch Merritt, owner
of a trailer park with most of Clark's population, "shut
down an unsightly dumpster site [and] bury a water line,"
Levine writes, Merritt got citizens to call a referendum
to take his property out of Clark, and his proposal
passed. Then his son ran a write-in campaign for mayor
and beat Clark, 40-39. Clark alleged vote fraud in both
New Mayor Bill Merritt heard that Echostar
Communications Corp., of Denver "was running
a contest in which the winning city would receive free
satellite-TV service for a decade for changing its name
to Dish, the company's brand," Levine writes. "Mr.
Merritt entered the contest, seeing it as a creative
way to realize his immediate goal of discarding the
detested Mr. Clark's name. Earlier this month, Echostar
announced that Clark was the winner, and the switch
was made last week. Mr. Merritt decided to make it all
capitals to differentiate the town a bit."
The Journal followed the all-caps style
for the town's name, but The Associated Press
did not, and The Rural Blog abhors such typographical
tyaranny. We also note -- or should we say "we
also dish"? -- that there was already a Clark,
Tex., a wide place in TX 146 in Liberty County, between
Houston and Lufkin.
AP's Matt Slagle notes other name promotions:
"Back in the 1950s, Hot Springs, N.M., was renamed
Truth or Consequences, N.M., after a popular quiz show.
During the dot-com boom of 2000, Halfway, Ore., agreed
to become Half.com for a year. In September,
the tiny [Western Kentucky] town of Sharer ... was offered
$100,000 to change its name to PokerShare.com.
. . . And in 2003, residents of Biggs, Calif.,
overwhelmingly rejected a California Milk Processor
Board proposal to rename the city of 1,800
Got Milk? in exchange for a milk museum
and money for the school." (Read
AP also reports that the water commisisoners
of Santa, Idaho, "have voted to change the town's
name for a year to SecretSanta.com at the request of
a Philadelphia marketer. In return, the cash-starved
water and sewer district — Santa's only official
entity — will get at least $20,000 between now
and next December. The town has to erect two signs,
one at each end of town, bearing its new name. . . .
The change is mostly symbolic; the post office will
keep the name Santa." The town has about 100 people.
deplete the wealth of rural America, says scholar
"The phrase 'rural wealth' sounds like an oxymoron.
Rural incomes are lower than urban. Rural poverty rates
are higher — by 25 percent. And 450 of the nation’s
500 poorest counties are rural. Adding insult to injury,
federal policies make things worse. According to the
2001 Consolidated Federal Funds Report (the latest available),
$6,131 in per capita federal spending goes to urban
areas; $6,020 goes to rural. That totals nearly $6 billion
a year of rural disadvantage," opines Thomas D.
Rowley of the Rural Research Policy Institute.
Of federal funds going to rural areas, 71 percent are
transfer payments, such as Medicare, Social Security
and farm subsidies, "rather than money that builds
infrastructure, improves capacity and helps communities
grow stronger. By contrast, only 48 percent of funds
to urban areas are transfer payments," Rowley writes.
The federal government spent two to five times more
per capita on community development in urban areas than
in rural from 1994 to 2001. Rowley also points an accusatory
finger at philanthropists. A May 2004 report by the
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
reports U.S. foundations gave out some $30 billion a
year, with $100.5 million of that committed to rural
Rowley notes that 184 out of 65,000 active grant-making
foundations in the U.S. gave to rural development. Two
of those from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation
and the Ford Foundation were responsible
for 42 percent of the money to rural. (Read
Ky. extension offices
helping seniors through Medicare Part D confusion
The University of Kentucky Cooperative
Extension Service is coordinating a statewide effort
senior citizens clear up confusion about Medicare's
new prescription drug coverage plan.
"The effort ... centers on helping county extension
agents answer questions about the plan, known as Part
D, and to help eligible Medicare participants locate
local resources, including offices of the Kentucky
State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which
provides information, counseling and assistance to seniors
and other Medicare participants," writes Terri
McLean of the UK College of Agriculture communications
Deborah Murray, associate director of the Health
Education through Extension Leadership extension
program, told McLean that a look at the number of eligible
Kentuckians and the size of the task at hand made extension
leaders conclude that the service, with its offices
in every county, "had a responsibility to help
get the information out there." (Read
Enrollment in the new plan opened Nov. 15, coverage
begins Jan. 1 and enrollment ends May 15, 2006.
Our daily bread: NPR takes a
Thanksgiving look at hunger in America
As thousands of Americans rush to celebrate
with family and feast in commemoration of this nation's
founding, millions of others will have little or nothing
National Public Radio,
in a special multi-part program, reports that 38 million
Americans are "food insecure" -- they have
trouble finding the money to keep food on the table.
page) NPR profiles families who have faced hunger
in three different settings: rural, suburban and urban
Yesterday, The Rural Blog reported on
the first part, Rural Struggle to Keep the Family
Fed, by Howard Berkes. (Click
here to listen) The next part, The Causes Behind
Hunger in America, is by economic geographer Amy
Glasmeier of Penn State. (Click
to listen) Rachel Jones reports on Hunger Hidden
but Real in America's Suburbs. (Click
to listen) Elaine Korry reports on Housing Costs
Play Role in Urban Hunger. (Click
Midsize farms can
survive with whole foods, seed money, opines writer
A column in The New York Times by
Dan Barber, creative director of the Stone Barns
Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester
County, N.Y., explores the idea that shopping at farmers'
markets can preserve farmland. Are people who buy into
that idea truly out of touch with agriculture today?
"These people are right. And they're also wrong.
The bitter truth is that American agriculture -- its
land and its immensely complex distribution system --
is no longer in the hands of the small farmer. Small
farmers and farmers' markets, as much as we want them
to, are simply not in the position right now to save
American agriculture. Giant farms won't either, of course.
For the most part, these are the farms that grow a single
crop or raise large numbers of animals in close confinement.
To sustain their unnatural existence, these megafarms,
whether they're raising crops or animals, require enormous
quantities of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics
simply to survive," opines Barber, who is also
Barber considers the idea that a farm needs to get
ever larger and more specialized to survive. The number
of farms with annual sales of $500,000-plus has increased
23 percent from 1997 to 2002. Midsize farms, with sales
of $50,000 to $500,000, have declined in number by 14
percent from 1997 to 2002, or about 65,000 farms. Now,
the country's 350,000 midsize farmers, who are too big
to sell greenmarkets but too small to compete with the
giants, comprise two-fifths of our farmland, notes Barber.
Thomas Dorr, an Iowan who is undersecretary of agriculture
for rural affairs, predicts 250,000-acre giants will
rule the future, but Barber says midsize farms can thrive
too. "After all, there's a large, existing market
-- school systems, hospitals, local grocery chains,
food service distributors -- for varied, healthier foods.
These institutions, because of their size, cannot shop
at the farmers' market. Even if they could, there would
never be enough volume or consistency to meet their
needs. Midsize farms can meet those needs."
"How do we do this?" Barber asks. "By
shifting the money. Our government now subsidizes the
commodity production of grain - mostly corn and soybeans.
We need to pull farmers out of the commodity trap and
help them make the transition to growing the kinds of
whole foods - fruits and vegetables - that would benefit
us all. This is not another subsidy, and it's not welfare.
It's seed money for a new frontier (actually, an old
frontier) in agriculture." (Read
no to 'traditional' coal power from Wyoming, wants it
Energy officials eager to connect California consumers
with cheap coal power from Wyoming may need to rethink
their approach, reports Dustin Bleizeffer of the Jackson
"The California Energy Commission
[has] unanimously approved [a report] which includes
... new greenhouse gas performance standards beyond
the reach of traditional coal-fired power plants. Top
energy officials in Wyoming regard it as a major setback
to an effort to add several thousand traditional coal-fired
megawatts here and a major new transmission line to
power California," writes Bleizeffer.
Steve Waddington, executive director of the Wyoming
Infrastructure Authority, told Bleizeffer,
"The policy could preclude coal-fired generation
from Wyoming, in a timely way, to meet the power supply
needs of California." The authority told the California
commission it may consider a legal challenge.
The Wyoming Conservation Voters Education
Fund said investors may be compelled to finance zero-emission
coal technologies, which could catapult Wyoming into
a "next generation" coal economy with a longer
and perhaps more profitable future, writes Bleizeffer.
Jason Marsden, executive director of Wyoming Conservation
Voters, said "Investors should think twice before
risking their money on new coal-combustion power plants
that can't capture global warming pollutants, since
California, the biggest potential electricity customer,
is no longer interested in buying dirty, coal-fired
California's new policy restricts purchases of out-of-state
coal-based power to facilities working to reduce global
warming pollution. "Any new coal plant that wishes
to sell electricity to California must be as clean as
the most efficient natural-gas fired power plant,"
Bleizeffer writes. (Read
Tomato fight: Florida
farm workers pitching for more from McDonald's
"The Coalition of Immokalee Workers
[has] urged consumers to pressure McDonald's Corp. to
support a campaign to boost wages for more than 3,000
Florida pickers, who growers say provide about 90 percent
of the nation's domestic fresh winter tomatoes,"
writes Laura Wides-Munoz of The Associated Press.
The campaign comes less than a year after the workers
reached an agreement with Taco Bell's parent company,
Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc., which
said it would pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes.
Gerardo Reyes, an Immokalee farm worker, told Wides-Munoz,
"We are hoping McDonald's takes responsibility,
the same way Taco Bell and Yum Brands did, and that
it uses its power to demand a just treatment and decent
pay for farm workers." Coalition organizer Julia
Perkins said most tomato pickers receive roughly the
same wage they did in 1978 -- 40 to 45 cents for every
32-pound bucket of tomatoes.
British man diagnosed with mad-cow
disease marks second case in U.S.
The federal Centers for Disease Control has
announced a British man has been diagnosed with the
human form of mad-cow disease -- the second such case
documented in the U.S.
"Health officials say the man most likely contracted
variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United Kingdom.
However, he began to show symptoms while living in Houston,
so he will be listed as a U.S. case," writes Yvonne
Lee of All Headline News based on a
report from The Associated Press.
CDC medical epidemiologist Lawrence B. Schonberger
told reporters, "This case represents a continuation
of the outbreak that is going on in the United Kingdom."
After living in Houston for four years, the man returned
to the UK earlier this year, and is receiving medical
treatment there, notes Lee.
The disease is contracted by eating the brain or other
nervous system tissue of an infected animal. The first
documented U.S. case was a British woman living in Florida
who was also believed to have contracted the disease
in Britain. She died last year, writes Lee. (Read
association takes devil by the horns in anti-drug rally
Ministers in Powell County, Ky., are campaigning against
drugs with revival-style fervor. "The crowd of
about 700 passed up a University of Kentucky
basketball game to pack [a] middle school's gymnasium.
They were joined by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, dozens of
other elected officials and law officers, and Powell's
district and circuit judges," writes Peter Matthews
of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Rev. Bill Boldt of Stanton Baptist Church,
backed by 30 other ministers, outlined a plan to create
five 12-person task forces to deal with drugs in the
hilly county, which is flanked by the Bluegrass Region
and the Cumberland Plateau.
The ministers want to bring the federally funded anti-drug
law enforcement organization, Operation UNITE,
or something similar to Powell County. Two of the organization's
leaders told the crowd how it had helped turn around
the drug problem in Manchester, notes Matthews. UNITE
operates only in the 5th Congressional District, which
includes most of the Kentucky section of the plateau
but not Powell County.
Joe Farmer of UNITE told Matthews, "We need some
people with some backbone" to tell drug dealers
"it is no longer acceptable to sell drugs to our
children." Local law enforcement officials say
nearly every crime they see involves drugs. Stanton
Police Chief Kevin Neal said his force, recently cut
from 10 officers to eight, no longer has the personnel
for much investigative work. (Read
Wireless expands in rural Kansas;
broadband over power lines studied
For the quiet and serene country life, residents often
have to give up or forgo the latest in telecommunications,
but one company has begun to change that for parts of
Nex-Tech Wireless, based in Hays,
Kan., recently installed upgraded wireless operations
technology and billing software that will help make
it more cost-effective to expand operations in the state's
rural areas, reports Susan J. Campbell of TMCnet.com
News. Telecoms often avoid less densely populated
areas because of the high per customer cost of installing
and maintaining a system.
The company operates 18 outlets throughout Kansas with
109 cell sites, and it plans to install cell sites in
most towns with 300 or more people, with 14 towns getting
sites by the end of 2005. Nex-Tech Wireless is a subsidiary
of Rural Telephone, Golden
Belt Telephone and Mutual Telephone,
and serves 27 counties of central and western Kansas,
writes Campbell. (Read
In a related story, Broadband Over Power Lines:
Ready For A Big Breakthrough?, Phil Britt of Information
Week reports, "Pilots and tests abound,
and firms, including Google, are pouring money into
the new technology." (Read
Corporations step up requests
that divorce records be sealed to protect secrets
The nation's courts are getting hit with
a growing number of requests to seal divorce records,
which often provide newsworthy information, but the
requests to close these documents are not coming from
squabbling couples, writes Tresa Baldas of The
National Law Journal.
"Divorce lawyers say corporations -- along with
the rich and powerful -- are increasingly asking judges
to seal the divorce records of top executives to protect
trade secrets or crucial financial information from
leaking out, or simply to avoid embarrassment,"
The courts have long protected children by sealing
divorce records and are now doing the same for companies,
"treating trade secrets, assets, stock values and
executive salaries as valuable, sensitive information
that needs special protection," notes Baldas. And
with records now available on the Internet in 30 states,
data theft or data leaks could be at an all-time high
James Feldman of Chicago's Jenner & Block,
told Baldas, "This year alone I've represented
several key executives in divorce cases where a protective
order or a confidentiality agreement had to be obtained
in order to prevent information from getting out."
Feldman noted that companies fighting disclosure of
financial data in divorce cases has become more popular
[and] judges have become more sensitive to corporate
concerns, especially "if you can show that disclosure
will harm the business."
Meanwhile, Baldas writes, "attempts to restrict
or limit access to divorce records have kept divorce
lawyers and corporate counsel busy in the courtroom."
Clarion-Ledger reporter gets
Chancellor award for civil-rights coverage
Investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson,
Miss. Clarion-Ledger has been named
the 2005 winner of the John Chancellor Award for Excellence
in Journalism from Columbia University School
of Journalism for his 16-year effort to bring murderous
Ku Klux Klan members to justice.
Mitchell, 46, is the youngest recipient of the $25,000
annual award, which recognizes a journalist's courage,
integrity, curiosity and intelligence, and epitomizes
the role of journalism in a free society. Mitchell will
receive the honor Nov. 29.
Mitchell uncovered evidence in the unsolved killings
of civil rights activists in Mississippi. His reporting
led to the conviction of four Klan members, beginning
with the 1994 conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for
the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers. Edgar Ray Killen
was found guilty in June for orchestrating the 1964
slayings of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael
Schwerner and Andrew Goodman in Neshoba County.
Clarion-Ledger Managing Editor Don Hudson said, "Jerry
Mitchell is deserving of this award because of his dogged
pursuit of the truth. He has done strong, hard-nosed
journalism throughout his career at the newspaper. Jerry
has played a key role in putting a lot of criminals
away." Mitchell said, "This award ... belongs
to those who never gave up hope and never gave up their
belief in justice. It belongs to those who work with
me and all those who have made Mississippi a better
The John Chancellor Award, established in 1995, honors
the legacy of the television correspondent and longtime
anchor for NBC News. (Read
Nov. 30: Community
Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Amherst, Mass.
The Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture's
12th annual meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov.
30 at The Red Barn, Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.
There will be a potluck supper and a keynote address.
For more information, visit www.buylocalfood.com/events.html.
Dec. 4: Fields
of Plenty author to appear at Kentucky family farm
Writer, photographer and farmer Michael Ableman, widely
known for his work in sustainable agriculture, will
be the featured guest at the Partners for Family
Farms' statewide gathering Dec. 4. at Woodford
Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky.
The event, from 4 to 6 p.m., is open to the public.
It is sponsored by the University of Kentucky
College of Agriculture, Brown-Forman/Woodford
Reserve and radio station WUKY,
writes Terry McLean of the U. K. College of Agriculture
Tickets are $25 for members of Partners for Family
Farms and $45 for nonmembers. All ticket purchases are
tax-deductible. Nonmember tickets include 2006 membership
in PFF, a private, nonprofit organization
dedicated to sustaining farm life and farm land. To
reserve tickets, call (859) 233-3056 or write P.O. Box
22259, Lexington, Ky., 40522. (Read
Study finds little
link between achievement, total classroom spending
"As states consider a proposal to require school
districts to spend at least 65 cents of every dollar
on classroom instruction, a new analysis by Standard
& Poor's has found a lack of empirical
evidence linking higher student achievement with higher
proportional spending levels. The report suggests that
the specific ways that schools use their instructional
dollars may have as much, if not more, to do with student
achievement as the percentage of dollars spent on the
classroom," says a news release from S&P.
The 65 Percent Solution is being promoted by Washington,
D.C.-based First Class Education. The
idea, proposed or is expected to be proposed in Arizona,
Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio,
Minnesota, Texas and Washington, seeks to have states
require districts to spend at least that much of their
budgets on classroom instruction, as defined by the
National Center for Education Statistics.
"Governors, legislators, superintendents, and
school boards all across the country are seeking ways
to minimize inefficiencies and optimize the effectiveness
of each dollar spent in their schools," said Thomas
Sheridan, vice president of Standard & Poor's School
Evaluation Services. "Leveraging data
and analysis to identify and replicate the specific
classroom practices that are producing the best results
will be a key to achieving that goal." Standard
& Poor's concluded that "no minimum spending
allocation is a 'silver bullet' solution for raising
student achievement." (Read
RESOURCE FOR REPORTERS: SchoolMatters,
a service of Standard & Poor's, also provides a
with information on every state's performance, spending
and demographic information. "SchoolMatters analyzes
student achievement measures, including national and
state test results, as well as participation, attendance,
graduation, and dropout-promotion rates," according
to the site.
Education Department shows leniency
on No Child Left Behind rules
administration has begun to ease some key rules for
the controversial No Child Left Behind law, opening
the door to a new way to rate schools, granting a few
urban systems permission to provide federally subsidized
tutoring and allowing certain states more time to meet
teacher-quality requirements," The Washington
Post reports today.
Nick Anderson writes, "These actions amount to
a major response to critics who have called No Child
Left Behind rigid and unworkable." On Oct. 21,
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said she would
give a one-year waiver to states that fail to meet the
law's requirement to have highly qualified teachers
in all core academic classes by the end of the current
school year, if they make a good-faith effort. "Such
teachers have at least a bachelor's degree, full state
certification and demonstrated knowledge of their academic
subjects," Anderson explains. The rule has been
especially burdensome to small rural schools.
The latest change would allow up to 10 states to experiment
with "growth models" for determining whether
schools make adequate yearly progress, a key requirement
of the law. "Such models could enable states to
credit schools for the academic growth of individual
students even if their test scores fall short of state
standards," Anderson writes. (Read
holiday traffic rush report says rural roads most deadly
The Thanksgiving holiday period traditionally brings
some of the heaviest driving of the year and highway
safety data released last month indicates motorists
involved in a crash on a rural road are twice as likely
to be killed as drivers who have accidents in urban
"Six out of 10 fatal auto accidents occur on rural
roads, according to the safety agency's 2004 study on
crash fatalities. In more than half of the incidents,
those killed were not wearing seat belts," writes
Lorene Yue of the Chicago Tribune.
Don McNamara with the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration told Yue unrestrained
drivers have a higher death rate than speeders or drunk
Yue reports roughly half of Illinois' traffic fatalities
in 2004 occurred in rural areas, a slight improvement
from from 2003, when 51 percent were in rural areas.
McNamara told her rural roads are usually less congested
and have higher posted speed limits. Other factors that
may contribute, according to the data, include a lack
of immediate medical care.
The Tribune reports state police throughout the Midwest
plan to crack down on seatbelt usage this weekend. Drivers
and front-seat passengers caught unrestrained will be
Food for thought at Thanksgiving:
15 percent of rural families 'food insecure'
A survey of 50,000 people conducted last year for the
Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture says 87 percent of Americans
are considered "food secure." That leaves
38 million people classified as "food insecure"
by the government, and 15 percent of rural people surveyed
said they were uncertain about getting enough food.
"(The survey) shows that many people have difficult
choices to make if they and their families want to eat.
Some 45 percent said they had to choose between eating
and paying utility bills, at times. More than a third
had to choose between food and rent or mortgage payments.
Thirty percent faced a trade-off between food and medicine
or medical care," reports Howard Berkes of National
The "food insecure" in rural places face
special challenges. High gas prices make the hunt for
cheap or free food expensive. Some rural people, especially
the disabled and elderly, don't have cars, or cars that
run reliably. And grocery stores and food pantries are
fewer and farther between, notes Berkes. (Click
here to read more or listen to the broadcast)
Efforts to escape, lessons next door, need for action
Stories about persistent poverty are never
pleasant and ever present, and efforts to eliminate
it seem legion. A recent sampling found dozens of articles
worldwide, including U.S. newspapers reporting on lifting
poor people out of their quagmire, lessons learned when
it "moves in next door," and commentary on
congress leaving the nation's capital while many find
little for which to be thankful.
"U.S. Census Bureau
[figures] shows that over the last 25 years, about 10
percent of Utahans fell under the poverty line. Last
year the percentage of Utah living in poverty ranked
38th in the nation at 9.9 percent, down nine spots from
15 years ago when the poverty rate was 8 percent,"
reports the Brigham Young University Newsnet
in Provo. The BYU newsnet reports, "Despite this
fall, Utah consistently has one of the lowest rates
for poverty. But officials from anti-poverty agencies
in the state said this seemingly small number still
presents a big problem," they report. (Read
The Morning Call in Allentown,
Pa., berates Congress in an editorial for "work
undone" in addressing poverty, focusing specifically
on congressional spending and tax cuts. Using area community
action calculations, the paper writes, "[A total
of] 1.02 million Pennsylvanians qualified for food stamps
in March, [up] about 87,000 people over the previous
year. About 85,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for ...
cash assistance in 2003, an increase of 6.7 percent
over the previous year. In July, Pennsylvania lost 2,800
jobs ... 1,600 ... in manufacturing. Since 2001, the
state has lost 160,000 manufacturing jobs." (Read
Low yields, marketing changes
mean many will lose money on tobacco
A few dozen sellers and nine buyers showed up at the
Farmers Tobacco Warehouse yesterday
in Danville, Ky., but without the Depression-era federal
program that set price and production controls on U.S.
tobacco, reports Bobbie Curd of the Advocate-Messenger.
A little more than 100,000 pounds of leaf brought an
average price of $1.56 a pound compared to an average
of nearly $2 a pound when the support program was still
in effect. In all, nine warehouses in eight Kentucky
cities will open for auctions this season, down from
96 warehouses just six years ago, reports The
Associated Press. (Read
Lincoln County grower Fred Short got about $1.55 a
pound on average for his 8,000-pound burley crop, about
a nickel less than he had hoped, but told reporters
he was willing to take a chance at auction rather than
contract with a company. "I just didn't want to
be tied to a price. I'm willing to take the chance --
possibly get more, possibly get less," he said.
The number of tobacco growers in Kentucky dropped by
half this year and is likely to drop again, said Will
Snell, tobacco economist with the University
of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Production
likely will also move to the central and midwestern
regions of the state and potentially to other lower
cost regions outside Kentucky," writes Laura Skillman
of the college's communications staff.
With bad weather and no price supports, Snell said
"a significant number" of Kentucky growers
will lose money this year, something virtually unheard
of in the six-plus decades of the federal program. "This
year has also been a difficult growing season with yields
expected to be about 1,800 pounds per acre below the
2,300-pound yields many were hoping to achieve,"
Employers start penalizing smokers
to lower soaring insurance costs
Employers straining to hold down soaring health care
costs have turned to penalizing workers who smoke.
"A few employers — including Northwest
Airlines, Northwestern Mutual Life
Insurance Co. and the state of Georgia —
have started levying surcharges for employees who smoke.
Gannett Co. Inc., which publishes The
Des Moines Register and has 1,150 employees
in Iowa, will add a $50 monthly surcharge starting in
January for smokers who use its insurance plans,"
writes the Register's S.P. Dinner.
Companies cite federal government studies showing that
a smoker costs an employer $5,606 extra per year because
of higher medical expenses and absenteeism, notes Dinner.
Some benefits and civil rights experts are concerned
overweight people or bad drivers could be singled out
Health care costs in Iowa and elsewhere are rising
at double-digit rates "and the smoker surcharge
is just one example of how employers are passing costs
to their employees. Benefits consultants say employers
must take a balanced carrot-and-stick approach,"
writes Dinner Jennifer Browne, president of Benefit
Source Inc., said "As health care costs continue
to increase, these are going to be huge issues."
Browne's company works with employers on health care
plans, and offers incentives to those with healthier
Benefits consultants told the newspaper employers searching
to cut insurance costs are running out of options. Employers'
insurance costs increased 12.4 percent between 2004
and 2005, according to a survey of 720 Iowa companies
with 10 or more employees. (Read
Minnesota farming town launches
grassroots newspaper with local focus
"While charges of U.S.-sanctioned torture and riots
in Paris led newspapers around the country during the
second week of November, folks in Atwater were reading
about a $450 school levy hike and a friendly reminder
about winter street parking regulations. Small potatoes,
maybe -- but a refreshing change after a decade with
no local newspaper," Patrick Condon of The
Associated Press reports from Minnesota.
A group of Atwater residents are responsible for starting
a nonprofit newspaper staffed mostly with volunteers.
The Atwater Sunfish Gazette (the name
was picked in a contest) first arrived in mailboxes
Oct. 12 with two biweekly issues since. It's mailed
free to the town's 1,100 residents, notes Condon.
The town's last paper, the Atwater Herald,
shut down its presses in the mid-'90s. The closest daily,
Willmar's West Central Tribune, is
15 miles away in west-central Minnesota, but it rarely
covers events in the farming community of Atwater. The
origins of the Sunfish Gazette date back to the fall
of 1994 when residents identified a community paper
as one of their biggest needs, reports AP
The only paid employee is editor Sandy Grussing, hired
in September. She had edited weeklies in nearby Renville
and Olivia. "I had always wanted to start my own
newspaper, but I wasn't financially equipped,"
Grussing told Condon. "This was the chance of a
Rick Edmonds, a newspaper business analyst at the Poynter
Institute, said small weekly newspapers have
been financially healthy in recent years despite not
carrying much investigative or in-depth reporting. "I
suppose you might say a paper without hard-hitting news
is better than no paper at all," Edmonds told AP.
plan would put stronger building codes in La. rural
New building regulations in Louisiana aimed at helping
some hurricane victims, may prove burdensome to others,
and are also causing concerns among some communities
about losing local control.
"Louisianans north of the most ferocious hurricane
gusts won't have to spend money on hurricane-resistant
provisions when constructing their dream homes, under
a proposed new statewide building code, some rural local
governments that have no existing codes will grapple
with finding ways to pay for mandated inspectors,"
writes Greg Hilburn for Gannett Co. newspapers
Alexandria, Lafayette, Opelousas, Monroe, West Monroe,
Shreveport and Bossier City are located above the 110-mile
wind zone where hurricane-resistant provisions would
be required. Each of those cities also has an existing
code that may be tweaked, but not overhauled. But in
Bossier Parish, officials want to keep their more stringent
codes. Under the legislation passed by the state Senate,
a statewide code would supersede all local codes, including
Bossier's, notes Hilburn.
Parish attorney Patrick Jackson told Hilburn, "We're
all for statewide minimums, but we're worried about
losing control. Our code is stronger that the IRC."
Referring to a 19-person state board that would oversee
the new code, Jackson said, "I don't think an appointed
board in Baton Rouge knows what's best for Bossier City."
State Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie, emphasized his bill
would help with insurance availability and affordability.
Morris Anderson of State Farm, which
insures about one-third of Louisiana's homeowners ,
told Hilburn, "It would certainly be a factor in
encouraging those companies already here to keep writing
business and perhaps encourage new companies to come
to the state." (Read
not translating into comprehensive story, review says
News media coverage of the "ubiquitous behemoth"
known as Wal-Mart tends to be piecemeal
rather than comprehensive, says an analysis by Columbia
"Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has received a lot of
press ... stories about a ubiquitous behemoth that has
the power to move the economies of entire nations and
has come to symbolize all that is both right and wrong
with globalization and the modern economy ... Journalists
often [reduce] complex stories to easily digested morsels
... Wal-Mart tale(s) are no exception. Only the Los
Angeles Times, which won a Pulitzer for a 2004
series on the company, has attempted to present a comprehensive,
inside account of the way Wal-Mart conducts business,"
writes CJR's Paul McLeary.
McLeary says recent coverage focused on a leak of an
internal company memo that "proposes numerous ways
to hold down spending on health care and other benefits
while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation.
Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time
workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working
at Wal-Mart," according to the New York
There were "outcries against the machinations
of heartless corporate giants, and conversely, the defense
of Wal-Mart's policies by proponents of a more laissez
faire approach to business. But The New York Times'
interesting tidbit failed to translate into a truly
comprehensive story -- either in the Times or elsewhere,"
McLeary concludes. (Read
Conspicuously absent journalists
noted for conspicuous bravery in reporting
Amid the talk of implosion at metropolitan
newspapers and the concern over staff-squeezing at all
levels, American journalists need to cherish the freedoms
they enjoy -- and remember that many journalists in
other nations are not so lucky, and suffer when they
try to be more like us.
A Washington Post editorial
today notes, "Four winners of this year's International
Press Freedom Awards couldn't make it to New York City
to pick up their prizes [last night.} The Committee
to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in choosing this
year's honorees, not only highlighted the almost unimaginable
bravery of reporters and their advocates seeking to
work in repressive environments; it also demonstrated
that, in too many of those environments, the repressors
are winning, at least for now."
"Shi Tao, 37, [is] a Chinese journalist serving
a 10-year sentence. Lcio Flvio Pinto, 56, a newspaper
editor in Brazil's Amazon region [where] the corrupt
businessmen and local officials he writes about have
filed so many harassing lawsuits against him that he
dare not leave his home. And, Zimbabwe lawyer Beatrice
Mtetwa, 47, has gone to court on behalf of independent
newspapers and journalists, even as dictator Robert
Mugabe has closed the papers one by one and forced the
journalists into exile," writes The Post.
And, the Post concludes, "[Despite] dictators
from Burma to Belarus ... [repressive governments in]
China, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan, brave reporters and
editors either inside the countries or in exile keep
trying to do their work. As the CPJ will note tonight,
they deserve the respect and support of everyone lucky
enough to take press freedoms for granted." (Read
First Amendment seminar nets
support from Georgia's former governor
Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes will headline a seminar
on the First Amendment and freedom of information issues
at the Georgia Press Association's
Editorial Conference on Jan. 20 in Macon.
Barnes previously picked up the Charles L. Weltner
Freedom of Information award and he continues to speak
out in favor of the press. "What politicians don't
realize is when they fight transparency and openness,
they are writing their own defeat. . . . The Open Records
Act is the greatest tool that the press has for finding
the truth," Barnes told Sean Ireland of the Georgia
Other speakers at the conference will include Georgia
Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan,
the state's First Amendment Foundation
Executive Director Hollie Manheimer, Rome News-Tribune
Editor Charlotte Atkins and Hartwell Sun
Editor Judy Salter, reports Ireland. The seminar will
cost $50 and registration details are forthcoming at
Barnes, a Democrat, was ousted by voters in 2002. How
many other former governors would lead a seminar on
the First Amendment and freedom-of-information issues?
College lecturer wins award
for story on mountaintop-removal mining
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports
today that a "University of Kentucky
lecturer in English and writing has won a $5,000 national
prize for outstanding environmental journalism. Erik
Reece was one of two winners of the 2005 John B. Oakes
Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism."
Reece won for "Lost Mountain," his April
2005 Harper's article about mountaintop-removal
coal mining in Eastern Kentucky, part of a book to be
published next summer. The Columbia University
Graduate School of Journalism administers the
Oakes Awards. (Read
Coal boom's big
players will be west of Appalachia, consultant predicts
Coal-industry consultant Alan Stagg said Friday that
"The big producers and the big players" in
the booming U.S. coal market will be in the low-BTU
lignite fields of Texas, North Dakota and Montana; the
sub-bituminous fields of the Powder River Basin of Wyoming;
and the Illinois Basin, which reaches into Southern
Indiana and Western Kentucky.
Illinois Basin coals are high in sulfur, but use of
scrubbers and newer technology at power plants is spurring
development there, Stagg said at "Covering Coal,"
a seminar held at the Marshall University Graduate
College in South Charleston by the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues,
based at the University of Kentucky. West Virginia
University and Virginia Tech assisted
with the conference for Appalachian journalists.
"There hasn’t been a coal boom like this
since 1974," and this one has already lasted longer
than that one, Stagg said. But he said depletion of
reserves in southern West Virginia has created a situation
he has never seen before – production falling
while prices and demand rise. Farther south, coal from
Venezuela is being brought into Alabama because U.S.
prices are so high, he said. Other problems in Appalachia
include lack of railroad capacity and a shortage of
miners. The industry "lost a generation of miners"
in the last two decades, and many of the few young people
willing to work in the mines can’t pass drug tests,
The current spike in coal prices, and companies’
plans to expand production, is an opportunity for the
industry to show it can mine responsibly, said J. Davitt
McAteer, director of the coal impoundment project at
Wheeling Jesuit University and former
assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
The conference dealt with such topics as mountaintop-removal
mining and news coverage of the controversial practice;
underground mine health and safety, reclamation and
reforestation. For a fuller report of the conference
with several stories, click
Boom-ready Montana governor
proposes coal-to-fuel plants in small towns
If there's a coal boom in Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer
is ready. "If the vast, empty plain of eastern
Montana is the Saudi Arabia of coal, then ... a prairie
populist with a bolo tie and an advanced degree in soil
science, may be its [T.E.] Lawrence. Rarely a day goes
by that he does not lash out against the 'sheiks, dictators,
rats and crooks' who control the world oil supply or
the people he calls their political handmaidens, 'the
best Congress that Big Oil can buy,'" writes Timothy
Egan of The New York Times.
Schweitzer is promoting a synthetic fuel based on a
coal-to-fuel conversion that has existed for 80-plus
years. New technology removes and stores the pollutants
during and after the making of synthetic fuel, which
can either be gasoline or diesel. Montana's coal reserves
of about 120 billion tons comprise one-third of the
nation's total and a tenth of the global amount. Most
of it is in the scarcely-populated ranch country of
eastern Montana, reports Egan.
Schweitzer wants to plant coal-to-fuel factories in
small towns. While this idea might not eliminate the
need for imported oil altogether, he wants to demonstrate
an alternative. "This country has no energy plan,
no vision for the future," Schweitzer, who spent
seven years in Saudi Arabia on irrigation projects,
told Egan. "We give more tax breaks and money for
oil, and what do we get? Three-dollar gas and wars in
the Middle East. If you want to control the destiny
of this country, it's going to be with synthetic fuels."
Several energy companies have expressed interest in
building coal-to-fuel plants, but no sites have been
chosen or projects announced, notes Egan. (Read
Shortage of miners producing
perks, no-compete clauses from companies
Strong demand and an ongoing labor shortage have prompted
some coal producers to offer pay hikes, improved benefits
and bonuses in an effort to attract new miners and keep
existing employees. Bill Rainey, president of the West
Virginia Coal Association, told Erik Schelzig
of The Associated Press, "Companies
are almost bidding for the experienced miner right now.
There's a lot of innovations that are being developed
in the industry."
Electricians who sign a non-compete clause can earn
$25,000 in bonuses over three years from Central Appalachia's
largest coal operator, Massey
Energy Co., based in Richmond, Va., writes
Massey has increased its work force by 1,100 to about
5,600 since the beginning of 2003. It has also developed
zero-premium health insurance; a purpose-built heath
center closer to where most of its miners work; and
discounted auto and home insurance policies to hire
and keep more miners. Still, Schelzig notes more than
half of their new employees are leaving before their
first year on the job, half of them taking jobs with
more) For more information, from the National
Mining Association, click
Coal to liquids: Byrd initiative
crucial to West Virginia, opines newspaper
The U.S. Senate has approved a measure by U.S. Sen.
Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., to spur development of a national
coal-to-liquid fuels production, and a newspaper in
the heart of Appalachian coal country says, "It
could be a very important development in shaping the
future of West Virginia."
"The Byrd legislation brings the National
Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown
[W. Va.] and Pittsburgh, Pa., into the process of advancing
a coal-to-liquids initiative. The legislation also would
allow the Department of Defense to
examine potential uses for these new fuels within its
system," reports the Bluefield
Daily Telegraph in a recent editorial.
The editors note, "The [military] has previously
recognized the important role coal-to-liquids could
play and has expressed a strong interest in transforming
alternative resources into transportation fuels."
And they conclude, "Reliable, sustainable and
cost-effective energy should be at the tips of our fingers
in West Virginia and only with the prodding and pushing
of elected officials like Sen. Byrd and Gov. Manchin
can it come without our grasp. It could do wonders for
West Virginia." (Read
Bush nominates five to the expanded
Tennessee Valley Authority board
President Bush has nominated three people from Tennessee,
one from Kentucky and one from Alabama, to join the
Tennessee Valley Authority board of
directors, overseeing the nation's biggest public utility.
Nominees include: Howard A. Thrailkill, a Huntsville,
Ala., businessman; Susan Richardson Williams, a Knoxville
public relations expert; William B. Sansom, a Knoxville
businessman; Dennis Bottorff, a Nashville banker; and
Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, a banker from Inez,
Ky. Duncan is general counsel to the Republican National
Committee and is on the advisory board of the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
None has utility experience, but all have either worked
for Republican administrations or been donors to GOP
campaigns, reports Duncan Mansfield of The Associated
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., championed
the restructuring of the TVA board, which changes from
three full-time members with daily hands-on oversight
to nine part-time members who will name a full-time
chief operating officer to handle daily control of the
agency. TVA, with headquarters in Knoxville, provides
electricity to 158 distributors serving 8.5 million
people in Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, Alabama,
Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, notes
Critics say bill allowing purchase
of federal land could spur development
Private interests could buy large tracts of federal
land under a spending bill passed by a two-vote margin
in the House of Representatives, a measure some fear
would allow a wave of new development.
"Lawyers who have parsed [the bill's] language
say the real beneficiaries could be real estate developers,
whose business has become a more potent economic engine
in the West than mining. Under the existing law, a mining
claim is the vehicle that allows for the extraction
of so-called hard-rock metals like gold or silver,"
write Kirk Johnson and Felicity Barringer of The
New York Times.
The bill would allow individuals or companies to file
and expand claims even if the land has already been
stripped of its minerals or could never support a profitable
mine. The measure would also lift an 11-year moratorium
on the passing of claims into full ownership, write
Johnson and Barringer.
The provisions have struck fear through resort areas
like Aspen and Vail, Colo., and Park City in Utah. Critics
say it could open the door for developers to use the
claims for projects like houses, hotels, ski resorts,
spas or retirement communities, note Johnson and Barringer.
And, some experts say energy companies could use the
provision to buy land in the energy-rich fields of Wyoming
and Montana on the pretext of mining, but then drill
for oil and gas.
Former Interior Department senior
lawyer John D. Leshy told Johnson and Barringer, "They
are called mining claims, but you can locate them where
there are no minerals." He added the legislation
"doesn't have much to do with mining at all. It
has to do with real-estate transfer for economic development."
Supporters argue that allowing more mine-claim lands
to be purchased would boost rural communities that often
struggle in the boom and bust cycle of mining. (Read
Nation's tobacco farmers prep
for first post-buyout sales with short crop
In light of difficult weather and growing conditions,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates
the average tobacco yield will be 1,800 pounds an acre
this year. When federal price supports ended, so did
the quota system that limited how much farmers could
grow. However, instead of planting more tobacco, many
farmers planted less.
Many growers quit the trade "after Congress passed
the long-awaited buyout that promises to pay former
growers and quota holders billions over the next decade,"
writes Janet Patton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Tobacco farmers who want to keep growing without contracting
with cogarette companies, as the great majority are
doing, may have a difficult time. Without a federal
price support, they have no idea what their tobacco
will bring on the open market. Less than 10 percent
of the crop is expected to sell at auction this year.
Kentucky's co-op and the warehouse association are fighting
to keep auctions to support farmers. Only 15 of the
state's warehouses will hold auctions this year, notes
Farmers who sell directly to the cigarette makers have
been reporting prices around $1.50 a pound, down about
25 percent from last year's guaranteed price. (Read
more) However, because large-scale growers no longer
have to lease the right to grow and sell tobacco, which
cost some as much as 90 cents a pound, they are ahead
of the game even with lower prices and have increased
production, writes Philip Stith of last spring's rural
journalism class at the University of Kentucky.
Southwest states seeing influx
of high-grade meth from Mexico, California
As more states restrict colds medicine sales to dry-up
home-cooked methamphetamine, authorities in the Southwest
are seeing imports of refined meth from south of the
border and labs in California.
"When it comes to methamphetamine, the problem
is local, but more and more often, the supply is imported.
Area drug enforcement authorities report seeing a shift
from home laboratories, where meth addicts create small
amounts of the illicit substance for mostly personal
use, to a purer form of meth presumed to be manufactured
primarily by Mexican drug cartels," writes Kartharhynn
Heidelberg of the Montrose Daily
Press in Colorado.
Delta/Montrose Drug Task Force agent Jack Haynes said,
"Most meth now is high-quality. Mexican drug cartels
... are primarily responsible for the distribution,
not only of meth, but other drugs." Haynes said
that Mexican-produced meth (a.k.a. "ice")
is transported load vehicle and typically enters through
Arizona or California. It then moves via a "complex
and sophisticated distribution network," writes
The National Drug Intelligence Center’s
National Drug Threat Assessment summary
report for 2005 said “ice” availability
has increased. The national use rate for meth is lower
than for other drugs because it isn’t widely available
in the Northeast, notes Heidelberg. But, the report
states meth is increasing "in the Northeast due
to a significant increase in distribution by Mexican
criminal groups." (Read
Maryland hunters start squirrel
revival, teach kids about killing varmints
"Once upon a time, the 1964 Joy of Cooking
offered readers a three-sketch illustration on
how to skin a squirrel and prepare it for roasting,
braising or stewing. One of the steps showed a lace-up
boot stepping on the squirrel's tail and gloved hands
pulling the animal out of its skin. Those same sketches
appear as recently as 1988, but in current editions,
the index doesn't even include 'squirrel,'" writes
Darragh Johnson of The Washington Post,
in a feature about squirrel hunters keeping up their
For Maryland resident Steve Lanham, the taste for squirrels
is one acquired over decades of harvesting the varmints.
Now 52, Lanham grew up on a cattle and hog farm where
he could get up early and take his gun to the wooded
edges of the pasture. "I could kill six of 'em,"
he told Johnson, "and be ready for school at 8."
He's now teaching kids about squirrel hunting, calling
it a "good starting point for deer hunting."
Lanham is in a dwindling group of hunters. In 1991,
Maryland's Department of Natural Resources sold
about 99,000 "resident consolidated" hunting
licenses, compared with about 12,000 fewer such licenses
last year. Devotees like Lanham are no longer being
followed by younger hunters -- a decline that helps
explain why DNR moved the squirrel-hunting season from
October to September last year, hoping to get more kids
involved, notes Johnson. (Read
Movin' to the country: North
Dakota Farm Bureau provides how-to guide
A North Dakota Farm Bureau booklet
helps urbanites who are thinking about a rural relocation.
"So You Want to Move to the Country" is being
distributed across the state.
"We certainly don't want to discourage anyone
from moving to the country, because it is a great place
to live and to raise kids," said Farm Bureau President
Eric Aasmundstad. "But because each generation
gets further removed from agriculture, we thought it
would be helpful to give people who aren't familiar
with agriculture a more realistic picture," reports
The Associated Press.
The booklet discusses some city amenities that might
not be found in rural areas such as paved roads and
convenient government services, notes AP. (Read
Poultry industry launches avian
flu Web site to counter pandemic fears
As human cases of and deaths from Avian flu are reported
in China, and more fowl are inoculated against the influenza
in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, the poultry industry
has launched a Web site to spread information to counter
growing fears of a global pandemic.
The site is a joint project of the National
Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation,
and the Egg Safety Center. The site
explains that bird flu is not transmitted by eating
poultry, a key concern as Thanksgiving approaches and
Americans traditionally have turkey at the center of
Ex-editors join Knight Ridder
debate; want journalist board candidates
A former Lexington Herald-Leader
editor has joined dozens of other former Knight
Ridder editors in the fray surrounding the
possible sale of the company's newspapers. "Pam
Luecke, editor at the Lexington paper from December
1996 to June 2001, was among 60 journalists who signed
an open letter to Knight Ridder that said the group
is prepared to nominate its own candidates to the board
that runs the company," writes the Herald-Leader's
"We have watched mostly in silent dismay as short-term
profit demands have diminished long-term capacity of
newsrooms in Knight Ridder and other public media companies,"
the letter stated. "We are silent no more. We will
support and counsel only corporate leadership that restores
to Knight Ridder newspapers the resources to do excellent
Knight Ridder owns 32 daily newspapers, including the
Herald-Leader. The company has cut jobs and sold off
assets to mitigate declines in circulation, revenue
and stock prices and rising paper costs. Knight Ridder
spokesman Polk Laffoon called the letter "a fine
gesture," but said, "The thought that a group
of well-meaning alumni could put up their own slate
and beat the institutions is not practical in the world
we live in," reports Editor & Publisher.
Those who signed the letter said they think it's possible
to run a profitable business and produce good journalism
at the same time, writes Ward. (Read
Friday, Nov. 18, 2005
keeps making more information harder to get
In a "continuing rollback of public
information," the Mine Safety and Health
Administration "is hiding timely information
about mine injuries in the name of personal privacy.
Yet most details withheld are not personal identifiers,
and the agency publishes similar details later,"
Safety and Health News.
"About a year ago, MSHA started excising key facts
when releasing single-page preliminary reports on accidents
that injure miners non-fatally," but many of the
withheld items show up later on the agency's Web site,
the newsletter reports. "The agency's contradictory
practice makes it harder to obtain timely accident details
that can help members of the mining community learn
from serious injuries, identify safety trends, and determine
whether the government is responding appropriately."
MSHA cited privacy reasons, but it also
deleted information about victims' mining experience,
their activity at the time of the accident, and words
or phrases that appeared to indicate the victim's injuries.
Mine Safety and Health News plans to appeal the partial
denial of its FOIA request.
Rebecca Dougherty of the Reporters' Committee
for Freedom of the Press said MSHA's new assertion
of the personal privacy claim represents part of a larger
trend that concerns others: "With no identifying
details the government is now withholding all sorts
of information. The government continues to expand its
definition of privacy, keeping important information
from the public."
"Earlier this year, MSHA reversed
another new practice of withholding similar details
from preliminary reports of fatal incidents," the
newsletter reports, saying that a FOIA request it filed
"prompted the agency to go back to its traditional
policy of generally releasing these fatality reports
in their entirety." However, it has "rolled
back public information in other areas . . . notably
resisting release of inspectors' notes recorded during
mine inspections and investigations."
Responses to FOIA requests vary
significantly, reports government watchdog
Responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
vary greatly from government agency to government agency,
according to an analysis by a highly respected national
newspaper that devotes its entire coverage to Congress.
"Congress is weighing changes to FOIA because
some agencies are slow to respond and provide incomplete
information. This move to reform the law comes years
after the Bush administration adopted a stricter interpretation
of FOIA, raising criticism from government watchdog
groups," writes Kipp Lanham of The Hill.
The Hill asked more than 100 government agencies to
provide a list of the FOIA requests they have received
over a series of months, including the names of the
requestors, their affiliations and the
nature of the documents they were seeking. Some agencies,
including "the embattled Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) replied promptly with
all the data requested," writes Lanham.
Others took months to respond, and when they did provided
information that was often scant or incomplete. Those
agencies included the Department of Labor Employment
Standards Administration, the Department
of Transportation, the Federal Maritime
Commission and The Centers for Medicare,
Medicaid Services and the Social Security
reporter held in contempt in lawsuit for not revealing
In a case that sends more shudders throughout the journalism
world, a federal judge has slapped a Washington
Post report with a contempt charge for keeping
secret his sources on a major story.
The reporter was held in contempt for not saying who
gave him information about an investigation of nuclear
scientist Wen Ho Lee, writes Charles Lane of the Post.
"U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled
that Lee is entitled to know who reporter Walter Pincus'
sources are because his lawsuit against the government
for alleged violations of federal privacy law cannot
go forward otherwise, and because he has exhausted all
other possibilities for getting the information. Collyer's
order carried no threat of jail time," writes Lane.
The judge fined Pincus $500 a day until he agrees to
testify, but suspended the penalty for at least 30 days
pending an appeal.
The judge also gave Pincus 48 hours to seek his sources'
permission to reveal their names, "in order,"
she wrote, "to avoid a repetition of the Judith
Miller imbroglio." (Read
AAA reports families
flock to rural destinations for Thanksgiving weekend
American Automobile Association reports
higher travel expenses, including gasoline, will slow
America's travel plans but the greatest number of travelers
will be headed, it appears, to grandma's house.
"Small towns and rural areas top the list of preferred
destinations, with 37 percent of the travel volume.
Cities are the destination for 34 percent of travelers,
followed by oceans and beaches, 10 percent; mountains,
10 percent; lakes, 3 percent; state/national parks,
2 percent; and theme/amusement parks, 1 percent. Another
3 percent responded with other," reports the automotive
and travel agency.
The AAA also reports, "The greatest number of
Thanksgiving auto travelers will originate in the Southeast
with 8.81 million; followed by the West, 7.05 million;
Midwest, 6.58 million; Great Lakes, 6.06 million; and
Northeast, 2.34 million. The Southeast also is expected
to produce the largest number of air travelers, with
1.27 million, followed by the West with 1.24 million,
Midwest with 760,000; Northeast with 750,000 and Great
Lakes with 620,000."
Of the total Thanksgiving travelers, 55 percent said
they will stay with friends or relatives and another
28 percent expect to stay at a hotel or motel. The figures
are based on a national telephone survey of 1,383 adults
by the Travel Industry Association of America.
Turkeys not like
ones at Plymouth Rock, but okay to eat amid flu fears
The modern Thanksgiving turkey "is
most definitely not the turkey our forefathers hunted
in the wild," reports Newswise.org,
a research-reporting service, relaying an expert's view
that turkeys are susceptible to bird flu but safe to
"Turkeys in the days of the Pilgrims
were similar to the wild turkeys ... abundant in most
states. They have dark plumage and can fly," says
Nickolas Zimmermann, an associate professor in the University
of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural
Resources. "Modern turkeys have been bred to have
large breast muscles, desired by consumers [and] bred
to have white feathers, so that pigment from dark feathers
does not blemish the skin."
Zimmerman said, "All animals are subject to getting
the flu, including turkeys, [but] this has not happened,
it may never happen or it could happen today. The key
point is that our poultry supply is safe and wholesome
to eat." (Read
more) For Zimmerman's full report, Give Thanks
for the Modern Turkey Expert's List, click
here. For additional information, click
Mad-cow disease cause may be
found in milk products, research suggests
New research into the infectious agents prions that
cause mad-cow-like diseases has found them in the mammary
glands of some sheep, raising questions as to whether
milk and milk products from infected animals could transmit
the pathogens, reports Helen Branswell of the Canadian
Experts insist, however, the current risk to human
health is low, but suggested the findings are a warning
that if "prion diseases" in livestock aren't
rigorously hunted for and rooted out, milk and products
like cheeses and yogurt could be a potential route of
transmission of prions to humans, writes Branswell.
Dr. Neil Cashman, Canada's leading expert on the issue,
told Branswell, "I think the public health implications
of this are profound . . . (and) need further investigation.”
The findings were reported by a team of scientists led
by Dr. Adriano Aguzzi, one of the world's leading prion
researchers. Aguzzi is based at the Institute
of Neuropathology at University Hospital in
Zurich, Switzerland. (Read
Rural schools in Washington
state want more advanced-placement courses
Rural school districts in Washington state may use
federal money to challenge students academically with
more advanced-placement courses, reports The
Supt. Gary Wargo of the LaCrosse School District
in Whitman County, which has only 140 students
and 17 teachers, said he attended a recent conference
because "We're trying to learn from other small
schools what they are doing, how they are handling the
challenge of scheduling those classes and preparing
kids who want to take AP classes."
More than 30 rural school districts attended the conference
to discuss ways to get more AP courses into their high
schools and middle schools, and to learn about a federal
money that can be used to help rural districts train
teachers and set up advanced-placement courses. The
Bellevue district is "known nationally for its
commitment to offering AP courses and for offering AP
training," the Times reports.
"AP is a national program that offers rigorous
classes in various subjects," Rachel Tuinstra writes.
"Students who complete AP courses can take an exam
and earn college credit. The courses are quickly becoming
an important element on students' transcripts to get
into college, but rural districts often are limited
in their ability to offer the courses because of limited
staff and money." Students who take AP signal to
college admissions officers that they have "taken
a high level of courses and can do a high level of work,"
aid Gaston Caperton, president of The College
Board, which oversees the AP program.
"At least one rural school district believes it
has shown that AP courses can be successfully offered,
even with limited staffing," Tuinstra reports.
"In 2001, Blaine School District began
building its AP courses and now offers 10. "It's
really changed the culture of the high school,"
assistant high-school principal Scott Ellis told Tuinstra.
"It changed the rigor, and now more students are
looking for AP."
Phone taxes may increase by
$383 million for 16 million vulnerable households
A coalition of consumer groups says the Federal
Communications Commission should stick with
the current "pro-consumer alternative fair share
plan" rather than increasing customers' phone fees.
Keep USF Fair Coalition writes that the FCC's plan
would result in higher federal phone taxes of as much
as $707 million for 43 million households that use little
long distance. The coalition claims 16 million primarily
low-income and elderly households, who already have
trouble paying for long-distance calls, would have to
pay up to $383 million in higher taxes. The Universal
Service Fee would be replaced with a regressive, flat
fee of $1, $2 or more per phone line, regardless of
the long-distance call volume.
They coalition claims that for a consumer who now
dials only a handful of long-distance calls per year
and pays correspondingly low USF taxes, the effective
tax rate would soar by 1,000-plus percent annually.
The coalition cautions "against balancing USF
finances on the backs of the very consumers who use
long-distance the least and are unable to afford phone
bills that would rise under 'numbers' simply in order
to subsidize high-income, high-volume callers."
more) To hear a related telenews event, click
for battle on Maryland bill; measure binds lobbying
Wal-Mart, gearing up for a fight in
the Maryland legislature with organized labor, has deployed
at least a dozen lobbyists and is making overtures to
black lawmakers, including a $10,000 donation to help
them pay for a recent conference. "The retail giant
hopes to derail legislation that would effectively force
the company to boost spending on employee health benefits,"
writes John Wagner of The Washington Post.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) told
Wagner, "They've hired the largest cadre of lobbyists
in recent history ... to try to influence this legislation.
It really comes down to whether the legislature is going
to succumb to the money and the special interests."
Wagner writes that Wal-Mart wants to "not only
to stamp out legislation the retailer considers 'really
just an attack on the company' but also to curb a trend
toward state involvement in its business. After years
of fighting -- and often winning -- at the local level,
Wal-Mart now faces battles in several state legislatures
following Maryland's lead."
Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst told Wagner the donation
to the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland was part
of the company's continuing community outreach designed
to inform lawmakers about the bill. The General Assembly
passed the landmark bill in April. It was vetoed by
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who called the measure
an unwarranted intrusion by government. Lawmakers will
seek to override his veto in January.
West Virginia bans grain-alcohol
sales, citing student binge drinking concerns
West Virginia's Alcohol Beverage Control Administration
no longer stocks 190-proof grain alcohol at its warehouse,
which provides all the liquor sold in the state.
"Although it announced the ban Wednesday, it asked
liquor retailers more than a month ago to pull the potent
product from their shelves," writes Lawrence Messina
of The Associated Press. Agency officials
say they are responding to concerns by college officials,
law enforcement agencies and community groups about
the alcohol, which at 95 percent pure is significantly
more potent than other distilled spirits.
Carla Lapelle, associate dean of student affairs at
Marshall University, told Messina,
"[Grain alcohol] has traditionally been purchased
by groups of people, often college students, who are
intent on getting very drunk and who suffer serious
consequences from a severe hangover to falling victim
to sexual assault or even a car crash."
West Virginia University spokeswoman
Becky Lofstead applauded the agency's efforts, but could
not recall any specific drinking offenses blamed on
grain alcohol abuse. At least a dozen other states ban
or limit the sale of 190-proof grain alcohol. Pennsylvania
and Virginia sell grain alcohol only for medicinal or
commercial use, and require a permit for its purchase,
writes Messina. (Read
Five weeklies in one Wisconsin
county all make journalism a family affair
"Each of the five (Barren County) newspapers,
the Barron News-Shield, The
Chetek Alert, the Cumberland Advocate,
the Rice Lake Chronotype, and The
Times in Turtle Lake, is operated by at least
second-generation owners. It's a phenomenal record considering
the recent trend of national newspaper moguls gobbling
up community papers," writes Shane Samuels of The
Chetek Alert, in an unusual look in a five-way mirror.
When Jim Bell became the publisher of the Barron News-Shield
(circ. 4,300) in 1979, he represented the fifth generation
of his family to helm a newspaper. Bell cites community
awareness as the key to a small-town paper's survival.
"A good community newspaper should stick its neck
out once in a while to stir the pot and get people to
do some serious thinking about current events and politics,"
he told Samuels.
Paul Bucher purchased the Cumberland Advocate (circ.
3,213) from his parents, Craig and Sharon, last winter.
In order for small newspapers to remain free of the
national chains, Bucher said they must be willing to
adapt. David Slack, a third-generation publisher of
The Times (circ. 1,137) in Turtle Lake, echoed that
sentiment. "The addition of computers, Internet,
fax machines and digital cameras has made things a bit
easier for our small newspaper," Slack told Samuels.
The Rice Lake Chronotype (circ. 9,305) was established
in 1874 and brothers Warren, Jim and Bob Dorrance are
third-generation owners, reports Samuels. Jim Dorrance's
keys to success are customer service, reporting integrity,
and taking pride in the business. "We believe the
role of any community newspaper is to keep the readers
informed by providing unbiased information on local
area news, sports and community events," Dorrance
Melodee Eckerman has owned The Chetek Alert (circ.
3,422) for 20-plus years, and her parents, Lynn and
Ida Mason, purchased The Alert in 1945. Eckerman says
a community newspaper's longevity depends on its staff.
"They have a definite feel for the community and
its people - a necessity in the newspaper world,"
she told Samuels. (Read
readers with insight into Medicare drug benefit
As an example of how a weekly newspaper
can tackle a subject traditionally handled only by wire
services and large dailies, the Watauga Democrat
in Boone, N.C., has provided its readers with a down-home
and detailed story on the highly complicated Medicare
Part D plan, which covers prescription drugs. Weeklies
that provide this type of coverage to reduce confusion
also provide a vital source for their readers, because
most Americans don't read a daily newspaper -- but do
read a weekly paper.
"Changes to Medicare enrollment [began]
Nov. 15 and Medicare recipients will be able to choose
from a number of plans. While some of the plans can
seem complex, the North Carolina Department
of Insurance is available to offer advice.
The department’s Seniors’ Health
Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is the
lead agency in offering enrollment assistance in the
state," writes Scott Nicholson.
The state SHIIP office has received an average of
400 to 500 calls per week about the Medicare changes,
which take effect in January, said Shery Harmon, the
Project on Aging coordinator. Project on Aging is the
local contact for SHIIP, Nicholson notes. Roberta Hamby,
SHIIP’s education coordinator, told Nicholson
volunteers have been trained to help people understand
the changes and procedures because there is so much
confusion among recipients.
Hamby told Nicholson, "The principal concerns
[in choosing a plan] are the prescriptions the person
is currently taking and if they are covered by that
plan," she said. "There’s also the cost
factor, and whether you want a standard deductible or
Stateline.Org provided a detailed
in March that forecasted problems expected with the
new plan in
Medicare drug plan a headache for states by
Pamela M. Prah.
Internet pioneer attacks regulation
changes, promotes broadband access
An Internet expert says updating telecommunications
regulations would change the Web as we know it. Vinton
Cerf, "the father of the Internet," offered
that warning to Congress, which is considering a proposal
to update the 1996 Telecommunications Act, writes Cooper
for The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif.
Cooper, a research director for the Consumer
Federation of America, notes, "Broadband
Internet connections have fast become indispensable
in our daily lives." "There are those who
would, for anti-competitive reasons, undermine the very
principles that give it potency: decentralization and
open access," Cooper writes, before adding, "A
narrow interest group may soon have the power to mandate
which vendors we purchase our goods from, which news
sources we use, which hardware we use to access these
services, and what opinions we, the people, may or may
not express in the blogosphere."
And, he concludes, "Congress must significantly
strengthen consumer protections and specifically define
robust legal and administrative procedures to counter
occurrences of the phone and cable monopolies' blocking
access to competitors or Internet applications they
don't control. To do otherwise would threaten innovation,
limit access to information and services and stifle
For details about the introduction of wireless Internet
access for a central business district in Lexington,
Ky., read a story
by Scott Sloan of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Energy demand spurs coal development,
plans for new power plants
The coal boom, ignited by energy demands, has sparked
growth and development at a rate not seen in decades,
but some environmental groups are watching this rising
tide with a wary eye.
"[Coal] companies ... have seen surging profits
and record-high stock prices. Expansion plans are in
the works, from new coal mines to coal-fired power plants.
In Washington, a new energy bill has lessened the fear
of regulatory hurdles for future coal burning,"
writes Christopher Leonard of The Associated
Fred Freme, a coal industry researcher with the U.S.
Energy Information Administration, told Leonard,
"[Coal is] not in the forefront of people's minds
when they think about energy, but without it, half the
lights in the country would go out." But, Mark
Reichman, an analyst with A.G. Edwards &
Sons Inc., said coal is now in the limelight
since increased demand and tight supply have pushed
The price of a futures contract for a ton of coal in
the western U.S. rose from about $9 in June to $19.50
in October. The nation's largest coal company, Peabody
Energy Corp., has reported a 141 percent increase
in profits for the third quarter; Arch Coal
Inc. has reported a 75 percent increase, AP
In Kentucky and elsewhere, Peabody has faced stiff
opposition from the Sierra Club. The
group asked authorities to review Peabody's plans to
build a new power plant, stalling a regulatory process.
Sierra spokesman Brendan Bell told Leonard they have
health and pollution concerns. "If even a fraction
of these [power] plants get built, we will be stuck
with [them] for 30 or 40 years," he said. (Read
Seeds of discontent: Farmers
struggle over preserving land, selling out
It's sadly an all-too-common story. A farm family with
deep roots faces the choice of preserving and working
their land, or selling out under pressure from competition
and growing expenses.
Jennifer Surface of the Howard County Times
in Dayton, Md., between Baltimore and Washington, adds
to the growing tapestry of those tales with a story
about the Mullinix brothers, Mike, Mark and Steve. They
are considering taking their farm out of the state's
agricultural preservation program.
The brothers might find themselves in a battle with
county and state officials over the future of their
500-acre farm, one of the county's largest and most
successful. With farming becoming difficult in Howard
County, the brothers are mulling over whether to sell
out. They must first remove their farm from a state
agricultural preservation program they entered nearly
25 years ago. They are not alone. "Between now
and 2009, 27 county farms - totaling 3,440 acres - will
become eligible to petition to leave the state program,
which buys development rights to the farms," writes
Howard County Farmland Preservation Manager Joy Levy
told Surface, "It's not going to be easy to get
out. [The state contract the Mullinixes signed] was
intended to be perpetual." Mike Mullinix replied,
"If they make it difficult to opt out, ... they're
going to lose their farmland and their farmers."
On a related subject, click
here for an opinion by John Schlageck of the Kansas
Farm Bureau, International trade still
critical to success of U.S. agriculture, in the
Hillsboro Free Press.
Canada forming new agency to
serve needs of rural landowners
"Ottawa's frustrated rural residents could soon
have a bureaucracy all their own. City politicians are
considering creating an agriculture-and-rural-affairs
department to serve the needs of farmers and other landowners
from Ottawa's rural areas," reports the Canada
A number of groups and officials told Ottawa's Rural
Summit recently the City of Ottawa doesn't understand
the unique needs and problems of rural landowners. The
chair of the agriculture and rural affairs committee,
Rob Jellet, says it won't cost more to form the new
agency. He told the CBC that staff would be "redeployed"
from other offices.
Jellet said the new department would mean quicker action
for farmers, who would no longer have to wait months
for help with problems. Jellet also told the news agency
the new department could be up and running within months.
Acid drainage kills fish in
35 Kentucky streams; expected to increase
Runoff from mining and road construction has pushed
acid levels beyond acceptable levels in portions of
at least 35 streams across Kentucky, killing fish and
Kentucky Division of Water, which is trying
to prevent the acid drainage so the streams might once
again support aquatic life, released the findings from
a report showing the widespread damage, writes Roger
Alford of The Associated Press.
Andrea M. Fredenburg, environmental control supervisor
in the Division of Water, said acid drainage is most
critical in areas where coal and shale have been unearthed.
She told Alford, "When those layers are exposed
to water, we get the problem."
Most of the streams with high acid levels are in the
coalfields. Seven streams in McCreary County in southeastern
Kentucky and five streams in Muhlenberg County, both
heavy coal areas, made the list, which is expected to
grow when the division tests acid levels in the Big
Sandy River watershed through the heart of Eastern Kentucky
coalfields. Bell, Clay, Hancock, Harlan, Hopkins, Knox,
Letcher, Marion, McLean, Ohio and Pulaski counties also
made the list.
Division of Water spokesperson Maleeva Chamberlain
told Alford the list of streams is part of a water quality
report sent to Congress every two years, as required
by the federal Clean Water Act. (Read
U.S. seeks lift of mad-cow restrictions;
hunters warned of deer version
The U.S. Agriculture Department plans
to propose that the federal government lift the last
remaining mad cow-related restrictions on Canadian cattle
Department spokesman Ron DeHaven told reporters that
officials hope to lift a ban on imports of Canadian
cows older than 30 months, reports the Canada
Broadcasting Corporation. Canadian beef was
banned in 2003 after mad cow was confirmed in an Alberta
Meanwhile, authorities in the Northeast have made it
illegal for hunters to transport deer into Connecticut
from New York due to a deer version of mad-cow disease,
reports The Associated Press.
The illness -- called chronic wasting disease -- was
discovered in a herd near Utica earlier this year. Health
officials don't know if deer can pass the disease to
humans, but that question is now under study. (Read
Meth conference fires up crowd,
inspires efforts to combat drug's spread
Last weekend, just before a two-day western Kentucky
conference on the destructive nature of methamphetamine,
the news was replete with reports of meth mayhem. After
the conference, organizers and attendees are inspired
to continue their fight.
"Attending the two-day meeting at the University
of Kentucky Research and Education Center in
Princeton were more than 100 public health workers,
school system staff, social workers, extension personnel
and other interested people. The first day of training
focused on family and community alliances, treatment
resources and methamphetamine legislation. The second
day's focus was on environmental impacts on farm and
family, including the standards for cleanup and remediation,"
writes Laura Skillman of the UK College of Agriculture's
Torey Earle, chairman of the University of Kentucky
Cooperative Extension Service’s Western
Regional Drug Awareness Quick Response Team,
said the training received at the seminar was to increase
awareness, educate people on the resources available
to families and, ultimately, to curb the use and manufacture
of the drug in western Kentucky. "Unless the general
public gets involved, knows what to look for and when
to look for it, until that happens it is not going to
go away," Earle said. Most of the speakers were
armed with tales of meth destruction to illustrate and
underscore the need for expanded and more educated countermeasures.
Nov. 30: Crop-protection
conference set to start at College Station, Tex.
Farmers, extension agents, agribusiness representatives,
crop consultants and others involved in crop production
are invited to attend the Texas Plant Protection
Association's 2005 Conference.
Target Agriculture is the theme for this year's conference,
scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 at the Hilton Inn and
Conference Center in College Station, reports the Navasota
The conference's general session will target many of
the issues impacting Texas agriculture such as bioterrorism,
future technology, the Texas transportation corridor
and farm policies. For more details or to register,
call TPPA Executive Director Bob Sasser at 936-539-2349
or email TPPA@consolidated.net.
Nation seeks solution to meth
epidemic; more women use it than cocaine
"As methamphetamine moves from the rural Heartland
into American cities, police, experts and health officials
sort through their toolbox for ways to fight the epidemic,"
reports Luke Engan of the Community Newspaper
Holdings Inc. News Service
in an extensive article about the plague.
"More than 12 million people in the United States
have used meth at least once, estimated a U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services survey. More women
now use meth than cocaine. Despite its spread, methamphetamine
remains a rural drug in much of the country," writes
Engan. The article details the growing list of states
removing colds medicines from store shelves in an effort
to stave-off the scourge.
Engan cites Kansas, where anti-meth coalitions between
local governments and community groups are trained and
funded by Prevention and Recovery Services,
a Topeka-based nonprofit. Coordinator Cristi Cain said
the program "really has to be a comprehensive approach.
Just doing one thing probably wouldn't have much effect.”
Engan also explores legal remedies to the
problem and the growing caseloads. The story concludes
with a link to a blog for readers to engage in discussion.
Demand for advanced Internet
services expected to drive high-speed growth
In a trend that could have significant ramifications
for rural areas, fiber-optic advocates say the demand
for Internet applications such as distance learning
and telemedicine will spur high-speed network growth.
"Speaking to Capitol Hill staffers, officials
from the Alliance for Public Technology and
the Fiber-to-the-Home Council urged
Congress to update its telecommunications policies to
reflect a national goal for universal access to advanced
broadband networks," writes Danielle Belopotosky
of Technology Daily.
Dan Phythyon, policy director at the Alliance for Public
Technology, said in addition to private investments,
"we need the right policies in place" to achieve
universal access, and he urged the Senate and House
committees of jurisdiction to "get about the business
of putting in place updated telecom policies."
Council President Len Ray told Belopotosky 2.7 million
Americans have access to fiber-optic service but subscriptions
remain low. Access could reach 3.5 million by the end
of the year. Official figures show 45.3 million people
subscribe to broadband nationwide, while only 350,000
homes connect via fiber optics. The U.S. lags behind
Asia, Australia and Europe in broadband development.
Asia and Australia claim 3.8 million subscribers, while
600,000 Europeans subscribe. (Read
Court refuses to delay 911 call
service guidelines for Internet providers
A federal court has refused to delay new Federal
Communications Commission guidelines that require
Internet telephone companies to provide reliable 911
emergency call service.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
denied a motion by a group of Internet companies who
argued the regulations were unreasonable. The regulations
call for providers of Internet-based phone calls, who
use a technology called Voice Over Internet Protocol,
to certify that customers will reach an emergency dispatcher
when they call 911. Dispatchers must be able to identify
the caller's location and phone number, reports David
Twiddy of The Associated Press.
Companies had to comply by Nov. 28, but the FCC said
failing to meet that deadline will not result customers
being disconnected. However, companies will have to
stop marketing their services on taking on new customers
until they provide the 911 service. The guidelines came
after several incidents in which Internet phone users
did not connect with a live operator when calling 911,
notes Twiddy. (Read
still possess the power to attract rural Christians,
For many rural Christians, a truly religious
experience involves a visceral transcendency into comfort,
assurance and renewal. Old-time revivals provide cathartic
experiences and they do not seem to be losing their
attraction, according to an award-winning weekly newspaper
in Western Kentucky that realized there was a story
to be told.
Amie Powers of the McLean County
News (which has no Web site) recently detailed
this bullwark of rural Christian life, writing, "A
revival is exactly what the name says it is - a renewal
or reactivation of faith or religious interest. But
according to religious leaders, it is also more than
Rev. Charles "Butch" Love,
evangelist for the Worthington Chapel United Methodist
Church at a revival conducted shortly before Powers'
article, told her, "I think revival's about remembering
where we're supposed to be as a church." Love,
a 1994 graduate of McLean County High School, lives
in Louisville. He told Powers he was very happy to be
back in the community of Island for the revival.
Worthington Chapel Pastor Ken Vincent
told Powers that revivals and church services should
be similar. "Inside a revival there's expectation,"
said Vincent, adding, "At the very least something
new is going to be started; it always has an expectation
about it that regular church doesn't always have."
Texas coal supply
might attract energy project; Colorado mine may shut
Geologists say Texas has enough coal to provide the
U.S. with a 250-year supply, which has lawmakers and
industry leaders hopeful the state might host a government
project to turn coal into energy.
"The Department of Defense is looking for a location
for FutureGen, a $1 billion project
to operate a 275-megawatt energy facility that produces
electricity and hydrogen from coal with near-zero emissions.
The project will also be partially funded through private
industry," reports Marilyn Tennissen of the Port
Arthur News. Texas coal has
relatively low energy levels, discouraging traditional
FutureGen Texas representatives are
visiting regional councils throughout the state to help
create a proposal to bring the facility to Texas. Jay
Kipper of the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology
told a group of officials, "The United States is
the 'Saudi Arabia of Coal,' but it is often thought
of as a dirty fuel. But energy needs are growing daily,
and this technology would allow us to burn coal in a
FutureGen Texas plans to continue lobbying for the
project. The Department of Energy is expected to put
out a request for proposals by early Jan. 2006 and award
the project in late summer or early fall next year,
writes Tennissen. (Read
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Business Journal reports
that Arch Coal expects a longer shutdown
at its West Elk mine in Colorado and doesn't expect
to restart production for at least six weeks. The company
shut down the mine in late October after it detected
elevated methane levels. (Read
physician named director of Center for Rural Health
An Eastern Kentucky doctor will head the University
of Kentucky Center for Rural Health..
"Dr. Baretta R. Casey practiced family medicine
in Pikeville before joining the Center for Rural Health
in 2002 as the head of the East Kentucky Family Practice
Residency Program. UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Jay
Perman announced her appointment as director of the
Center for Rural Health," reports The Associated
Press. Perman told reporters, "I look
forward to working with her in making the university's
rural health initiatives even more meaningful than they
Casey replaces Judy Jones Owens, an attorney and former
journalist who had served as director of the center
in Hazard since 2002 and was reassigned as a consultant.
"I'm happy to see the center looking at its statewide
mission in an effort to expand our health and research
programs to all rural Kentuckians," said Casey,
who also is a professor at the UK College of Medicine.
The Center for Rural Health was established in 1990
by the Kentucky General Assembly. It has about 150 faculty
and staff and provides health care services in 98 Kentucky
delayed on Appalachian Power substation in western Virginia
The Franklin County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors
has postponed until December a hearing on Appalachian
Power's request to build an electrical substation.
It was originally set for last night.
The board set the new hearing for 6 p.m. Dec. 20, with
a hearing on the company's request that Franklin County
determine whether "a new power line that would
supply electricity to the substation conforms with the
county's comprehensive plan," writes Mason Adams
of The Roanoke Times. Click
here for Adams' story about controversy over the
proposed line's path along the Blackwater River.
Appalachian Power's $28-million proposed project includes
building a 138,000-volt power line and a substation
to meet the growing demand for electricity in the Smith
Mountain Lake area. (Read
Army depot in Kentucky found
safe enough to destroy chemical weapons
An independent study says 523 tons of chemical weapons
can be safely destroyed at Kentucky's Blue Grass Army
"But unexpected start-up problems could occur,
given that some steps that would be used to destroy
the plant's stockpile of aging chemical weapons haven't
been tried with other steps in the process, said the
study released by the National Research Council,
a private, nonprofit group that is part of the National
Academy of Sciences," writes James R.
Carroll of The Courier-Journal.
In 2008, the Richmond, Ky., facility is scheduled to
start neutralizing sarin and mustard gas by mixing them
with water or caustic chemicals or water, and then converting
them into carbon dioxide, water and various salts. The
study said the neutralized material will corrode some
of the plant's walls, which could affect equipment,
reports the Louisville newspaper. (Read
multi-state scam shows faults in crop-insurance program
Tomato farmers from Georgia, to Iowa, West Texas to
the Tennessee-North Carolina border, in eight states
altogether, conspired to bilk insurance companies out
of million of dollars with what authorities charge were
false weather damage claims, reports John Burnett of
National Public Radio.
"The felons are a small group of
farmers who falsely claim that weather ruined their
crops so they can collect the insurance. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture says they cheated
the U.S. Treasury and insurance companies
out of $160 million last year. An NPR investigation
reveals this crime is growing in size and complexity,
while some insurance companies look the other way,"
reports NPR's John Burnett.
It's being called "the largest case of crop insurance
fraud ever uncovered," notes Burnett. U.S. attorney
for the western district of North Carolina, Gretchen
Shappert, told Burnett said, "The ... investigation
is literally the mother of all crop fraud investigations.
It was a result of a perfect storm of individuals who
were involved in fraud." Click
here to listen to or read the full story; click
here to read the GAO report.
governor's role keys to getting city water to rural
Virginia is getting water to folks who need it by using
"volunteer labor to install pipe, handle traffic
control, operate small equipment and carry out other
chores," Paul Dellinger of The Roanoke
Times notes in a report on outgoing Gov. Mark
Warner third participation in a "Self -Help Virginia"
project, this one in Giles County.
"The first was in Wise County, when he was campaigning
for governor, and he said it was an eye-opener for him,"
writes Paul Dellinger of the Times' New River
Current. "I didn't realize how many thousands
of Virginians lacked daily access to clean drinking
water," Warner said. "It drove home the point,
when you had to think twice before you washed your dishes."
Jimmy Wallace of The Virginia
Department of Housing and Community Development
reports his agency provides funding for such projects
through Community Development Block Grants and Appalachian
Regional Commission programs, Dellinger writes.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports
a drought has nearly depleted Big Stone Gap, Va.'s primary
water source and leaving the town of nearly 6,000 about
26 inches below normal rainfall. Officials said it will
take months to refill a 600 million gallon reservoir.
Industry magazine says Bush
trip likely to reopen beef exports to Japan
A special assistant to the president says there is
a "90 percent" chance beef exports to Japan
will resume by December, reports a beef industry trade
Joe Roybal of Beef
Magazine reports that Michael Sommers,
special assistant for agriculture, trade and food assistance,
told the magazine's Cow-Calf Weekly
that "major commitments [could] come out of a planned
meeting next week in Kyoto between President Bush and
Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi." Sommers made
the statement at a meeting this week of the Minnesota
Agri-Growth Council in St. Paul.
Roybal also cites a Kyodo News report
that quoted a Japan agriculture official saying: "We
hope to manage to give a Christmas present to the U.S."
say plastic bags 'wreck havoc' on cotton fields
Cotton farmers in the "boot heel"
of Missouri are dealing with a pest that poses a threat
to their crops. Its not boll weevils, or any other bitty
critters that eat up the bottom line. It's plastic bags.
"They will wreak havoc," cotton farmer Chuck
Provance told Todd C. Frankel of the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch. "Plastic bags are more
than just an eyesore in the Cotton Belt. A single plastic
bag that ends up in the picked cotton can ruin thousands
of yards of finished fabric. The cotton industry estimates
that so-called lint contamination, which comes from
a variety of sources, causes $200 million in losses
each year worldwide," writes Frankel, who attended
a rural journalism seminar in June at the University
of Maryland organized by the Institute for
Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
Cotton consultant Bobby Phipps told Frankel, "You
want the shirt to be in the bag instead of the bag being
in the shirt." Provance added, "We avoid what
we can, but some we can't because everybody's Wal-Mart
bags are blowing all over the fields."
Dunklin County, where Provance's 2,400 acre farm is
located about 200 miles south of St. Louis, is one of
the nation's top 10 cotton producers. (Read
demands better news coverage of bird flu in her country
A Chinese journalist is
taking a rare stance in a country not known for free
discussion, by chastising her comrades for a lack of
news coverage of the avian influenza that ignited global
"The editor-in-chief is Hu Shuli,
whom The Economist once called 'the
most dangerous woman in China.' She has written the
critical editorial in the current issue of Caijing,"
writes Xiao Qiang of China Digital News.
Caijing magazine is considered China's best business
magazine and has a reputation for independence and investigative
reporting, notes Qiang.
Qiang cites two excerpts: "News about
the virus often takes a detour ... it is first covered
by foreign media, and then picked up by domestic press.
Journalists ... say that local officials have not been
cooperative enough ... Clearly, we still have a ways
to go ... to create completely transparent mechanisms
for media scrutiny and the release of information to
the public ... the latest round of bad news about avian
flu ... may prove to be a blessing in disguise. It calls
attention to our inadequacies," writes Qiang. (Read
Sunshine in Federal
courts? House votes to OK cameras; justices debate idea
One day after the house
voted to allow cameras in federal courts, three U. S.
Supreme Court justices had an unusual open discussion
about the matter.
Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony
M. Kennedy and Stephen Breyer appeared at an American
Bar Association event. Justices have traditionally
opposed courtroom cameras, but the discussion was spurred
by the Nov. 9 House vote to give federal judges the
power to admit cameras.
"I don't think in
this country there is a total consensus as yet on having
cameras in all courts," O'Connor said, pointing
to the trial "involving a prominent sports figure."
Speaking about O. J. Simpson, she said: "I thought
it was pretty sad. I was very uncomfortable with it."
Kennedy interjected that "some might say that if
the system is flawed then people ought to know it."
O'Connor replied, "Well, we saw it there."
Breyer said the most serious
concerns involve cameras in criminal trials. "I
do think about the O. J. Simpson case," Breyer
said. "I think I'm not certain I would vote in
favor of having them in every criminal trial in the
country." He said there needs to be public input,
The Associated Press reported.
For a story about the House
bill from the Reporters Committee for Freedom
of the Press, click
Kansas coal mining resumes on
small scale; officials hope for resurrection
Thanks to the nation's energy demands, coal mining
is resurfacing in Southeast Kansas. "Phoenix
Mining Co. began mining coal last year from
its surface mine at Garland, in Bourbon County. It removes
about 20,000 tons of coal each month, selling it to
Empire District Electric Co.,"
writes Roger McKinney of The Joplin
Clay Hartley, an official with Phoenix Mining, which
employs 25 people at its Kansas site, told McKinney,
“I think there’s a great potential for more
coal mining. Westar is looking at the reserves in Kansas.
That could be 800,000 tons of coal a year.”
Westar Energy Inc., based in Topeka, plans
to build an 800-megawatt, coal-fired plant by 2013.
A number of counties are lobbying the utility for the
plant. Westar has hired a company to conduct a site-selection
study, writes McKinney. (Read
Southeast Ohio health officials
seek ways to provide dentistry to poor
Southeastern Ohio residents living in poverty most
often can't afford dental care, but several area health
agencies are combining forces in an attempt to reverse
this age-old Appalachian dilemma.
"The Organization for Health Improvement
in Appalachia (OHIA) is a coalition of health
professionals who meet every other month to discuss
local health-care issues ... and last week talked about
the problems area residents living in poverty experience
receiving proper dental care," writes Nick Claussen
of The Athens News
One proposal was to create a dental clinic in Athens.
Gary Neiman, dean of the Ohio University College
of Health and Human Services, serves as president
of the OHIA, which was set up to help health-care organizations
in the county coordinate their efforts. Neiman told
Claussen, "Many people think [dental care] is a
major health issue in Athens County," but said
he is not sure how OU can help,since the university
does not have a dental program.
Nick Huston of the Friends of Appalachia
organization told Claussen his group sets up low-income
dental clinics in the region and hopes to set up one
in Athens. "Our goal is to help the underserved,"
Huston said. Huston told Claussen they hope to set up
a clinic in O'Bleness Memorial Hospital
or in another central location, so low-income area residents
can receive dental care. (Read
moves to take grizzlies off endangered species list
The Bush is taking steps starting today
to remove grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park
from the nation's endangered species list.
"The proposal to delist grizzly bears in the area
surrounding Yellowstone National Park, a plan that has
alarmed some environmentalists, highlights contrasting
views of the 32-year-old Endangered Species Act. Proponents
of the government's move say the grizzly's recovery
marks a rare victory for the controversial law; others
say the decision may undermine protections for a still-vulnerable
group of animals," writes Juliet Eilperin of The
If the administration drops the bears' current "threatened"
status, officials in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming could
allow limited hunting of grizzlies and would not have
to protect the grizzlies' habitat as stringently as
currently required. Craig Manson at the Interior
Department, told Eilperin that federal biologists
report that "adequate habitat and adequate habitat
protections are in place" for the bears. Yellowstone's
grizzly population has rebounded to 600-plus from about
200 in 1982.
But Louisa Wilcox, who directs the Natural
Resources Defense Council's wild bears project,
said one-third of the bears' current habitat could be
opened to drilling, logging and human development under
the agency's plan. "If you want to protect bears
for future generations, you have to protect the habitat
they need. This plan doesn't do it," Wilcox told
votes 'No' to free circulation newspapers as associate
The Tennessee Press Association Board
of Directors, meeting recently in Knoxville, received
a report showing the full membership voted down a proposal
to create an associate class of membership for free
circulation newspapers. The board requested the full
membership vote at its June 23, 2005 regularly scheduled
meeting, reports Robyn Gentile, membership services
manager of the TPA.
Sixty-six percent of the membership responded. Of the
86 fully completed ballots received, 39 voted in favor
and 47 voted against, which falls short of the two-thirds
majority vote of the full membership required. Observers
said it will likely take more than one vote for this
issue to pass. (Read
The Rural Blog reported on June 24 that TPA Executive
Director Greg Sherill said "as far as I can determine,"
TPA is the only state press associated without a class
of free papers -- except Wyoming, which has no such
papers, and Texas and Wisconsin, where paid and free
papers have separate groups. Tennessee does not have
a law requiring legal notices to be run in paid-circulation
papers. Pauline Sherrer of the Crossville Chronicle
said she feared admission of free papers, which
have a growing place in the business, would lead to
loss of legal advertising, costing her thousands of
When The Rural Blog first reported about this issue
on Feb. 18, Gregg Jones, co-publisher of the Greenville
Sun and chairman of the Newspaper Association
of America, voiced his support. Alluding to
recent admissions of circulation overstatements by major
dailies, he said the proposal was "a very strong
recognition of the fact that the world increasingly
cares less and less about whether your circulation or
readership is paid or unpaid. It cares terribly about
whether it is real."
Woolsey named to head Times-Georgian
and Georgia group of Paxton Media
Leonard Woolsey has been named publisher of the Times-Georgian
of Carrollton, Ga., and president of the Georgia Group
of Paxton Media Group. He succeeds
Tom Overton, who retired.
Woolsey was general manager of the Times-Georgian and
the Georgia Group in 1997-98. As group president, Woolsey
will oversee the Times-Georgian as well as daily newspapers
in Douglasville and Griffin, in addition to seven weeklies,
ranging from the 11,000-circulation Paulding
County Sentinel in Douglasville to The
Villa Rican, circulation 2,250.
He left the Times-Georgian in 1998 to become publisher
of The Daily Corinthian in Corinth,
Miss., and was publisher of the The News-Dispatch
in Michigan city, Ind., for the past five years. Woolsey's
column, "In Plain View," has appeared in the
Times-Georgian Sunday edition the past three years.
He is also author of the book In Plain View: A Journey
of Discovering Life Through Others. Woolsey worked
in the newspaper industry in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and
Kansas city, Mo., before becoming general manger of
the Douglas County Sentinel in Douglasville
Paxton Media Group, which owns 29 dailies and 31 weeklies
in the South and Midwest, is a family-owned company
based in Paducah, Ky.
Nov. 17 - Rural
farm future, development symposium in Montgomery, Ala.
The Alfalfa Farmers Federation Farm
News reports a symposium on the future of rural Alabama
has been set for this Thursday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m., in
the State Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery.
Sen. Lowell Barron, president pro tempore of the Alabama
Senate, and Rep. Seth Hammett, speaker of the Alabama
House of Representatives, will co-host the symposium.
"A Call to Action for Rural Alabama: Where Do We
Go From Here?' is sponsored by the Alabama Farmers
Federation, the Association of County
Commissions of Alabama and the Alabama
League of Municipalities. The media contact
is Darryal Ray at (334) 613-4187. Click
here for more information.
Speakers include: Dr. Don Bogie, director of the Center
for Demographic Research at Auburn University-Montgomery;
Cecil Williamson, Demopolis mayor; T.C. Coley, Tallapoosa
County Commission; Margaret Megginson, a retired apparel
worker from Sweetwater; and Bobby Gierisch, director
of state policy programs at the Rural Policy
Research Institute, University of Missouri.
Monday, Nov. 14, 2005
Rural men misuse condoms, says
study; FDA proposes new warning label
"Men who live in rural areas often use condoms
incorrectly, according to a study out this week that
Indiana University researchers say underscores the shortcomings
of sex education in Hoosier public schools," writes
Staci Hupp of the Indianapolis Star.
The study was paid for by the university's Rural
Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.
Almost half of the 75 men who answered a survey about
their latest sexual encounters with women said they
waited too long to use a condom or took it off too soon.
Researchers say the study stands apart from other condom
research because it examines how they are used instead
of how frequently. The focus on rural men was an effort
to track AIDS prevention efforts in those areas, notes
William Yarber, a researcher at IU's Kinsey
Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction,
said the study shows condom use should be taught in
schools. That idea drew criticism from supporters of
programs that encourage abstinence until marriage reports
The Food and Drug Administration is pushing for condom
packages to warn users that condoms are less effective
at stopping some sexually transmitted diseases, such
as herpes and human papilloma virus, than others. The
agency also wants to get the word out that people at
risk of getting HIV should not use condoms with a common
While this FDA proposal does not mandate that condom
manufacturers use a specific statement, it would require
the information appear in some form. The proposal is
part of an ongoing FDA effort to educate the public
about condom use. According to the National
Institutes of Health condoms break or slip
off 1 to 2 percent of the time, and about 12 million
Americans each year contract an STD, reports John J.
Lumpkin of The Associated Press. (Read
Closed door policy: New federal
act to restrict public's access to vital records
City and town clerks across the country
are preparing for the federal Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevent Act that will restrict public access
to birth and death records.
"The new regulations could close
70 years of Vermont's traditionally open records to
genealogists, journalists and other researchers; mandate
closely renovations to heighten security at government
offices; initiate background checks on municipal employees;
and push the state to create a central database of all
births and deaths," writes Adam Silverman of Vermont's
Burlington Free Press.
President Bush signed the bill in December
and its supporters say it will stop terrorists who could
use vital records to steal identities, according to
a Congressional Research Service report. The law requires
the Health and Human Services Department to draft regulations
to secure the documents and the information they contain.
The first draft is due to be released within a month,
reports Silverman. (Read
Bustle in Russell: Rural Virginia
county uses broadband to bring jobs
A streak of economic development in
and around Lebanon, Tenn. is the result of planting
technological seeds, mainly broadband access. Some 1,500
jobs have been added in recent months.
"Gov. Mark Warner came to town
two weeks ago to announce that software development
company CGI-AMS Inc. plans to move
in, bringing 300 jobs with salaries averaging $51,000
a year," writes Kathy Still of the Bristol
Herald Courier. Warner is set to return today,
and has said he's bringing even more good news, she
"Lebanon has emerged as a bustling
business center ... not only in Russell County but also
in Buchanan, Dickenson and Tazewell counties. Cumberland
Plateau got a $1.6 million grant and $700,000 in matching
money from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification
and Community Revitalization Commission to
bring broadband to the region, but the federal agency
had some concerns," writes still.
Andrew Cafin, executive director of
Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission,
and his deputy director, Larry Carr, work every day
in the shadow of the new companies. Cumberland Plateau
patnered with municipal provider Bistol Virginia
Utilities to create the system. Nearly 60 business
customers have signed on, and plans call for it to expand
to households soon, notes Still.
the system runs from Abingdon, through
Lebanon and to Richlands. Future phases would take it
to Bluefield, Grundy and various spots in Dickenson
County. A joint venture with the neighboring Lenowisco
Planning District will bring the broadband system to
the full Southwest Virginia loop, writes Still. some
critics complain the system gives an unfair advantage
to the public sector. (Read
Evolution vs. intelligent design
debate draws attention from politicians
As school boards consider evolution
vs. intelligent design, politicians are jockeying for
position in a debate with possible political ramifications.
In Dover, Pa., last week, all eight
Republican school board members who had voted to require
the teaching of intelligent design -- the belief that
a supernatural hand guided the development of life --
were voted out. The same day, the Kansas Board of Education
voted 6-to-4 to require students to study doubts about
evolution, reports Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis
Polls show strong support nationwide for teaching a
biblical version of the origins of life. A CNN/USA
Today/Gallup poll taken nationwide in September
showed that 53 percent of Americans believe humans were
created "exactly as the Bible describes,"
Some scholars are calling the intelligent design debate
"another battle in the culture wars." State
Rep. Ed Mahern, D-Indianapolis, thinks this is the latest
in a series of "wedge" issues Republicans
have used to ignite their base. "This is their
Pledge of Allegiance or Ten Commandments issue for 2006,"
he told Schneider. (Read
gets tangled up over major recreational attraction
A proposed power line, part of a $28 million proposal
by Appalachian Power to get electricity
to rural communities in West and Southwest Virginia,
has hit a snag. It criss-crosses what is considered
a major recreational attraction, the Blackwater River.
The project is intended to bring more power to some
of the fastest growing areas in the 11 states supplied
by Appalachian Power's corporate parent, American
Electric Power. The territory averages about
2 percent growth a year; the lake region has grown 17
percent in the past three years, writes Mason Adams
of The Roanoke Times.
The proposed substation, which requires a special-use
permit has drawn opposition from neighbors, and Franklin
County must still rule that it complies with its comprehensive
plan. The county planning commission previously voted
4-3 that the line did not conform to the plan. Appalachian
Power has appealed. The county supervisors will hear
the matter after a public hearing in December, writes
Project manager Jay Johnson told Adams the line's
path was chosen because it affects the least number
of houses but added, "When I realized how many
times it crossed the Blackwater ... that disturbed me
more than anything else. We'd accepted the fact the
power line was coming and there's nothing we can do
about it. But there're issues there that are more important
than our land or anyone else's land." (Read
Meth cooking: Lab disasters
leave victims burned, response crews strained
"Victims of meth-related mishaps are increasingly
overloading burn units in Kentucky, Tennessee and other
states that have seen meth use explode in recent years.
As patients battle with recovery and disfigurement,
hospitals and burn units say they are in a war of their
own: trying to treat meth-related burn patients who
often don't have insurance or money to pay bills that
can reach or exceed $1 million," writes Cassondra
Kirby of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"Burn units are a scarce commodity and are becoming
more scarce as time goes on," said John Howser,
a spokesman for Vanderbilt Hospital, where as many as
a third of the past year's burn cases have been meth-related.
"If we continue to take on this large burden of
care, I don't know if we will have a burn unit 10 years
from now." Cooking methamphetamine requires using
explosive chemicals such as brake fluid, lantern fluid
and paint thinner, over heat, notes Kirby.
Howser, the Vanderbilt spokesman, said most of Vanderbilt's
patients are from Kentucky and Tennessee, and the majority
can't pay. Along with insurance issues, meth burn patients
usually have a longer hospital stay than other burn
patients, according to a University of Louisville study
released this year. The study examined 397 adult burn
victims and found that meth burn patients had "higher
incidents of inhalation injury and needed more intense
respiratory care and longer ventilator usage" (33
days versus 17 days) because of chemical-related inhalation
injuries, reports Kirby.
Since meth burn patients also experience withdrawal
they tend to require extra care, the study said, which
creates medical costs of about $4,000 more per patient
than the general burn population. Doctors won't refuse
patients, though. "If they come to us with medical
problems, we take care of them," Dr. Henry Vasconez,
director of University of Kentucky Hospital's burn unit,
told Kirby. (Read
more) Also, for a story Meth addicts come from
all walks of life by WVEC in Norfolk, Va., click
New York eyes 2 million acres
of farmland for use in ethanol production
Two million acres of former farmland in New York could
be used to boost the state's rural economy while reducing
the country's dependence on foreign oil.
"Nathan Rudgers, head of the state Department
of Agriculture and Markets, said the land, particularly
in struggling areas like northern New York and the Southern
Tier, could be used to grow crops to make ethanol. Typically,
ethanol is made from corn, but scientists have been
exploring the use of other crops, as well as grasses
and trees," reports Mark Johnson of The
Rudgers hails ethanol as the "the most exciting
future opportunity" for New York farmers. "If
you take the troubled combination of a pretty big rural
land base here that has a lot of marginal farm land,
crops that might be grown there that aren't being grown
now, and a ready market for the end product of that
crop production, that's a compelling case," Rudgers
About 500 of the 180,000 fuel stations in the United
States currently offer a blend of ethanol and gasoline,
notes Johnson. (Read
Farmers turn to llamas to protect
their livestock from roaming predators
"Llamas aren't usually marketed as ferocious animals.
The long-necked members of the camel family may make
fun pets or great pack animals for long, arduous trips
on foot. But imagine the woolly beasts rising up on
hind legs to fight preying dogs or coyotes," writes
Jenny Kincaid of The Roanoke Times.
Farmers in Roanoke Valley, Va., are using llamas as
guards for their hordes of sheep, goats and calves.
In some places across the country, llamas are standing
in for dogs, which have have been the traditional defenders
against creatures that attack and kill farmers' animals,
Three years ago, a pack of wild dogs killed Virginia
farmer Thomy Poindexter's 4-week-old calves. The farmer
eventually purchased a llama, because he heard about
their protection skills. Since then, Poindexter told
Kincaid no dogs or other creatures have killed his calves.
"No training is required for guard llamas, because
they are born with protective instincts that they learn
from watching over their babies, known as cria, Poindexter
said. In the pasture, though they roam side-by-side
with cattle, the llamas maintain a rather stuck-up demeanor,
largely ignoring their charges," writes Kincaid.
Bill would open livestock markets,
set base price to help small ranchers
A proposed bill attempts to change the way livestock
is bought and sold, as a way to help level the playing
field for family ranchers, according to co-sponsor Rep.
Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.
Pomeroy said in a news release that cattle ranchers
and farmers too often "are held hostage to the
large packers who control the way livestock is bought
and sold." He states that the Captive Supply Reform
Bill would help prevent price discrimination or manipulation,
plus undue preferences, reports Mike Brue of the Grand
The bill by Pomeroy and Herseth would require a fixed
base price in formula contracts and also require that
contracts be traded in open, public markets, notes Brue.
The National Meat Association, a nonprofit
trade group of meat packers and processors, argues that
the bill could hurt smaller packers. "The problem,"
Jeremy Russell, the NMA's director of communications,
told Brue, "is it restricts markets and trade,
so the people who are going to get hurt by it are the
ones who can't survive such restrictions ... . It's
going to make it harder for the smaller packers to be
competitive, and therefore drive concentration or consolidation."
Bush delays mandatory meat labeling;
Montana senators fight back
President Bush signed into law Thursday an agriculture
spending bill that will postpone until 2008 mandatory
country-of-origin labeling on red meat, sparking vows
by Montana senators to sponsor legislation repealing
The delay of the labeling, part of the $100 billion
food and farm spending package, marks the latest in
a series of delays for the mandatory measure. It was
originally required by law to be effective by Sept.
30, 2004, writes Noelle Straub of The Billings
Labeling supporters say it would better inform consumers
and allow them to choose American beef. Meatpackers
and supermarkets oppose the measure, saying the law
signed by Bush in 2002 would be overly burdensome and
costly, notes Straub. (Read
Is the Cumberland Plateau the
next big thing in Tennessee? That's the plan
Cumberland Plateau . . . spans the state from north
to south between Nashville and Knoxville, is one of
the wildest, poorest, prettiest and most ecologically
diverse locales in Tennessee. The Plateau is also, if
some are correct, the state's next 'big thing,'"
writes Leon Alligood of the Tennessean
(from which the map above was taken).
In the next 20 to 30 years, "the Plateau is going
to be discovered," said Charles Brockett, political
science professor at the University of the South.
Expected newcomers include tourists attracted to the
region's nearly half-million acres of public lands and
retiring Baby Boomers looking for new homes. More arrivals
might be telecommuters, who work anywhere with the aid
of high-speed Internet access, reports Alligood.
"It's inevitable that it will be discovered. The
question is: How can the region grow and accommodate
new people and its resources be used without changing
the area's core environmental qualities that will make
it so popular?" Brockett said yesterday at the
final meeting of landowners, county leaders and state
Environmental groups often want to protect the rich
biodiversity of the region's forests and the quality
of its streams and rivers. Many speakers said it is
time for a new approach, reports Alligood. "We
can't put up gates at the state line,'' Franklin County
Mayor Monty Adams said. "We've got to be ready
for the growth. We've got to find a way to work together
and do it without Draconian bonds that some would put
into place. We've got to find a balance if we're going
The new approach could include educational and marketing
campaigns to shed "hillbilly" images of the
region, new bike trails and greenways connecting communities
and landscaping regulations, notes Alligood. "I
think the main thing that is important here is the dialogue.
People need to be talking about their future in a way
that they haven't before. And while the government needs
to be listening, a lot of the talking should come from
residents," said Katherine Medlock, executive director
of the non-profit Alliance for the Cumberlands.
Kentucky looking to West Virginia
as a model for ATV trail design
Using West Virginia as a model, the Kentucky Mountain
Trails Development Coalition wants to attract all-terrain
vehicle enthusiasts to the eastern and southeastern
regions of the state.
Coalition member Chris Harris said, "On about
any weekend, you can drive U.S. 119 (Appalachian Corridor
G) through Mingo, Logan, Lincoln, and Boone counties
in West Virginia and see dozens of trucks hauling ATVs
from one trail to another or individuals bringing their
equipment to get on trails. You can also see vehicles
parked in lots beside roads leading to trailheads or
in motel and restaurant parking spots," reports
Chuck Ferguson of the Appalachian News-Express.
Harris wants to jump on an opportunity to possibly
turn Eastern Kentucky into a haven for for adventure
sports tourism in the state, writes Ferguson.
"Initially, the West Virginia project started
as a three-state venture and was sold to Congress for
funding on that basis. It grew from that into what it
is today, and I think it's a picture of success,”
Harris told Ferguson. “I'd like to see future
Kentucky trails adjoin the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in southern
West Virginia. That would make a really great system
to draw large numbers of people." (Read
Crime victims in rural Alaska
face harsh reality; isolation hinders recovery
Some crime victims in rural Alaska are struggling with
law enforcement, lack of anonymity in small communities
and little chance of escaping isolation, reports Jeannette
J. Lee of The Associated Press.
"About 80 percent of Alaska’s 655,000 residents
live in or near the state’s three largest cities
— Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The rest live
in villages or tiny cities scattered over an area more
than twice the size of Texas. Dangerous weather and
the lack of a road network in rural Alaska can leave
crime victims marooned for days. Most villages can be
reached only by air or sometimes boat or snowmobile,"
“There’s nothing comparable to that in
the Lower 48” states, said Susan Lewis of the
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
in Enola, Pa. “It’s one thing to say rural,
but the word more often used for Alaska communities
is remote.” The result is that many crime victims
are now traveling hundreds of miles to reach safe houses
or treatment centers, notes AP. (Read
Today and tomorrow:
Kentucky communities fight meth epidemic workshop
Methamphetamine production and abuse are growing problems,
with roots firmly planted in rural areas and ravaging
families and communities nationwide. The University
of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service plans
a two-day workshop Nov. 14-15 to help communities combat
Participants may attend the program for one or two
days. The cost is $15 for one day or $25 for both. Lunch,
beverage breaks and an informational CD are included
in the fee. Registration forms and more information
about the workshop are available at county offices of
the UK Cooperative Extension Service.
Tomorrow: Signup deadline for
journalism ethics seminar in Oklahoma
The deadline to sign-up for the
Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation
sponsored and the Ethics and Excellence
in Journalism Foundation funded "Ethics:
New Threats, New Frontiers" seminar
Dec. 1 - 2 in Oklahoma City, Okla. is tomorrow.
The event will be held at the Waterford
Marriott Hotel. Participation is limited
to thirty journalists, and there is no registration
fee to attend. Participants pay their own travel costs,
which will necessitate one night’s hotel stay
($159). To apply, complete a registration form and fax
to SNPA Foundation Executive Director Edward VanHorn
at 404.252.9135 by Tuesday, Nov. 15. Questions?
Call the SNPA Foundation office at 404.256.0444. Click
here for a PDF version of the faxable registration
Tomorrow through Thursday:
Series on mountaintop-removal coal mining
Morehead State University's Appalachian
Heritage Program will present a three-day series focusing
on the debate surrounding mountaintop removal mining.
It will kick off 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Kentucky Folk
Art Center with Mountain Justice Summer organizer Dave
Cooper's Mountaintop Removal Roadshow, a slide show
depicting mountaintop removal sites and the social and
environmental effects of this mining practice on mountain
communities. A discussion will follow.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth will present a series
of documentary films at MSU on the political economy
of coal and sustainable economic development. A public
forum organized by MSU sociologist Sue Tallichet, Kentuckians
for the Commonwealth and business community members
will be held Nov. 17. The Kentucky Folk Art Center is
at 102 West First Street in Morehead. Call (606) 783-2204.
Wednesday and Thursday: Southeast
Wireless Symposium in Asheville
The e-NC Authority, the designated
state authority charged with Internet planning and using
the Internet as a platform for technology-based economic
development will conduct a "Southeast Wireless
Symposium 2005" beginning at 5 p.m. Wed., Nov.
16 through Thurs. Nov. 17. at 1 p.m. at the Renaissance
Hotel, One Thomas Wolfe Plaza, Asheville, N.C.
The seminar is for community, government and business
representatives faced with the economic and logistical
challenges of implementing high-speed Internet, as well
as Internet Service Providers, members of the media,
general members of the community, and educators interested
in wireless broadband.
The registration cost is $50. To register, visit http://www.e-nc.org
or call 1-866-NCRURAL ROOMS. To reserve your room,
please call: Asheville Renaissance Hotel: 828-252-8211.
The media contact is: Jennifer Munday Guthrie (919)
250-4314 x.272 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
newspapers thrive through change, study finds
"Community newspapers across America are growing,
changing and adapting to meet the challenges and opportunities
in their markets," reports Belden Associates
of Dallas, Texas, based on a survey of members of the
National Newspaper Association.
"While only about half of the small newspapers
in the country have Web sites to complement their print
newspaper, two-thirds of those without web sites say
they plan to create a companion Web site," Belden
reports. "That suggests that as many as one third
of America's 7,000 community newspapers are considering
launching a web site in the next 18 months."
The study noted an expanding publication schedule among
community papers, especially on weekends, a time traditionally
the province of metropolitan dailies. "While most
community newspapers (69 percent) publish weekly, the
number that publish twice weekly has grown six-fold
between 2001 and 2005. The number of community papers
that publish on weekends has doubled since 2001. Weekend
publication coincides with the growth of weekend-targeted
advertising inserts and the increased reading time available
to readers on those days," Belden said.
The study was less conclusive about ownership trends
among community papers. It found that 70 percent of
those in the survey remain family-owned, but that number
is much higher than a 2003 survey by Rita Colista, a
graduate student at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, based on data from
Editor and Publisher, which found that
only 42 percent of weekly papers were not owned by corporations.
Perhaps NNA members are less likely to be corporate-owned.
The association has about 2,500 members, only 13 percent
of them dailies. Many of the groups that own NNA member
newspapers "are still privately held, not publicly
traded shareholder-owned groups," Belden reports.
In a separate but related study, NNA records indicate
the numbers of community newspapers and readers have
continued to grow during the past 45 years. "New
newspapers are started every year, and community newspaper
readership has nearly tripled," the press association
here to read more, from the Web site of the Illinois
Today is reduced-price registration
deadline for Covering Coal conference
The deadline for the reduced-price to register for
the "Covering Coal" conference, scheduled
for Nov. 18 in South Charleston, W.Va., has been extended
To help Appalachian journalists cover the coal business
that is so important to the region, the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and
its partners at other schools are presenting the intensive
seminar at the Graduate College of Marshall
University. Attendees will hear from people
in the coal business, the bureaucrats who regulate them,
environmentalists and other citizens who point out the
others’ shortcomings, and veteran journalists
who will offer useful advice.
You may register by e-mail to email@example.com
and call 859-257-3744 if you have questions. The
conference fee, mainly to cover lunch and refreshments,
is $25 (after Nov. 10, $35). Because space is limited,
attendance will be limited to the first 25 paid registrations.
Details appear on
this page of our Web site. To download a .pdf copy
of the conference schedule and registration form, click
Proposed law change puts national
park land under mining microscope
Twenty million acres of public land could be sold under
a proposed change to a 19th century mining law.
At present, a congressional ban prevents patents from
being granted to companies and individuals that want
to buy public land with mineral deposits at cheap prices.
"If this provision became law, it could literally
lead to the privatization of millions of acres of public
land, including national park and national forest land,"
said Dave Alberswerth, public lands director for The
Wilderness Society. A vote is slated for next
week, reports John Heilprin of The Associated
Under existing law, companies have to prove the land
has valuable minerals and can be mined for profit. Companies
typically spend about $10,000 to $15,000 per acre trying
to document that. Once a patent is granted, the law
does not let the government challenge a company if it
drops its plan to mine at a site and resells the property
as real estate. The Congressional Budget Office estimates
the change would raise up to $100 million for mining
cleanups and training schools. Luke Popovich, a spokesman
for the National Mining Association,
said it would boost rural Western economies by drawing
investment, notes AP.
Six million acres of public lands, where 300,000 active
mining claims are staked now, would be opened up by
this proposal. There are 900 preexisting mining claims
on national parks alone, mostly in California and Alaska.
Interior Department Bureau of Land Management officials
estimate total land freed up could be 15-20 million
acres, including unstaked land with unknown mining prospects,
reports Heilprin. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said the
mining provision "would result in a blazing fire
sale of federal lands" to U.S. and international
Enviros seek study of mining
impact in Tennessee watershed; 'wasteland' feared
Environmental groups say the federal Office of Surface
Mining needs to study mining's harmful effects on the
Cumberland Plateau, in the watershed of the Big South
The National Parks Conservation Association
and the Warioto Chapter of the National Audubon
Society filed the petition to force a federal
study of the groups' allegations. "We are asking
the Office of Surface Mining to be reasonably cautious,
to look before it leaps, before it issues so many mining
permits that this area becomes a wasteland," Vanessa
Morel of the National Parks Conservation Association
said in a statement, reports The Associated
The petition covers a 284,000-acre area that includes
parts of Scott, Campbell, Anderson and Morgan counties.
Mining in the area is hindering streams, hurting wildlife
habitat and harming the area's scenic beauty, stated
the Southern Environmental Law Center,
which represents the groups. The petition refers to
a 25-acre landslide earlier this year at a reclaimed
strip mine in Scott County, which threatened a stream's
aquatic life and caused pollution, notes AP. (Read
County struggles to stave off
sprawl, preserve farms, save rural character
Reflecting a national struggle, a Maryland country
is trying to preserve farmland, not lose its rural character
to suburban sprawl and keep revenue generated by a state
agricultural transfer tax.
"In August, county planning director Marsha McLaughlin
formed a committee of farmers, developers, attorneys,
residents and environmental activists to discuss ways
to save the county's working farms. The group disbanded
Oct. 11, leaving McLaughlin empty-handed for the most
part," writes Jennifer Surface of the Howard
County Times in Columbia.
The panel was charged with making suggestions about
ways to amend zoning regulations in the county's rural
west to encourage more farmers to preserve their land
rather than sell it to developers, notes Surface. McLaughlin
told the newspaper the outcome of the committee's meeting
fell short of what she anticipated. She told Surface,
"I was hopeful the interest in preserving farmland
would have created more momentum."
The county and the state operate separate but similar
farm preservation programs. In each, government officials
buy development rights to farms and ban residential
or commercial development. Joy Levy, the county administrator
of farmland preservation programs, told Surface, the
programs must compete with developers, many of whom
can offer to pay farmers twice what the government can.
Canada, major telecom firms
launch rural-broadband research project
Two major Canada telecommunications companies, Bell
Canada and Nortel Networks,
have launched a study to research and evaluate "the
social and economic impact of advanced telecommunications
on such rural and dispersed communities in the country,"
The study is centered in Chapleau, Ontario, population
3,000. The two companies are working on high-speed networking
and applications in the northern Ontario community "with
a mix of next generation wireless mesh systems, an upgraded
optical network, multimedia communications services,
enterprise solutions, distance learning and telemedicine
healthcare delivery," notes TelecomWeb. The effort
also includes opening a center where residents can access
and learn about new technologies, and connect virtually
with Bell-Nortel's counterpart in Ottawa.
Chapleau Mayor Earle Freeborn told TelecomWeb the project
is meeting "a critical need to create an economic
recovery plan" for the community. "Broadband
access, including one of the first rural wireless mesh
networks in Canada, will enable Chapleau to connect,
and compete, with other communities throughout the world,
positioning us as a center for innovation and change,"
Over the next 14 months, the two companies and researchers
will study broadband's impact on the community, including
efforts by the school board and teaching personnel in
the town to broaden the local curriculum and handle
online educational initiatives, TelecomWeb reports.
Expert tells satellite-fed forum
system to address rural needs needs fixing
"Sixty-five million Americans live in places with
populations of 50,000 or less. But the closest thing
to a federal budget for rural citizens is the $3 billion
slice that rural development currently gets from the
approximately $190 billion allocated to the farm bill,"
which is something that needs fixing if rural areas
are to survive, writes Art Hovey of the Lincoln
Richard Foster, speaking for the Michigan-based W.K.
Kellogg Foundation at a recent Rural Policy
and Leadership Forum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
asked a studio and television audience, “Why would
we bury rural economic development, rural infrastructure,
rural care and maintenance in the farm bill?" Foster
said there should be "a parallel rural agenda"
that addresses such issues as rural education, health
care and telecommunications. He added it should be a
high-profile one that "sees the light of day."
Foster and others spoke at the Thomas C. Sorensen Forum
for Political Leadership, co-sponsored by the University
of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the UNL College
of Arts & Sciences. The forum brought together Foster
and fellow panelist Sandy Scofield, director of the
Nebraska Rural Initiative, in Lincoln,
and paired them, via satellite, with state Sen. Ray
Aguilar and Doug Kristensen, chancellor of the University
of Nebraska at Kearney. (Read
New biomedical agency may be
exempt from Freedom of Information Act
A new Biomedical Advanced Research and Development
Agency (BARDA) would be the first agency categorically
exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information
FOIA exemptions have always protected specific categories
of information, but Senate
Bill 1873 creates a whole new level of secrecy,
opines the Society of Professional Journalists.
“Information that relates to the activities, working
groups, and advisory boards of the BARDA shall not be
subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5,
United States Code [i.e. the FOIA], unless the Secretary
or Director determines that such disclosure would pose
no threat to national security,” the bill states.
The new agency would be charged with the task of helping
private industry develop and manufacture medical countermeasures
for bioterrorism agents and natural outbreaks such as
a possible avian flu pandemic. The bill appropriates
$1 billion in 2006 to fund BARDA – "and no
one, save for the agency, will provide accountability,"
writes SPJ in a news release. (Read
The bill also exempts the issue of releasing information
from judicial review. "While S 1873 is intended
to protect public health and safety, it guts the public
safety benefit that flows from citizen participation
in government. The key to public health is the public,
which cannot avoid transmission of epidemic or pandemic
disease unless it has knowledge of the disease, and
understanding of how to treat it," notes SPJ.
Nebraska program is a terrorism-response
model for other states
A Rural health care program at a medical
center in Nebraska that can speed responses to a variety
of needs, from the flu to a terrorist attack, may provide
a model for the nation.
"Other states are looking closely at the University
of Nebraska Medical Center initiative, as is
the federal Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. They
are drawn by the information compiled by the school’s
Professions Tracking Center," writes
Chuck Brown of The Associated Press.
Edward Salsberg, director of the Center for Workforce
Studies at the Association of American Medical
Colleges in Washington, told Brown, “I
think [they] are in the forefront ... definitely a model
for the other states.” Salsberg explained the
the center’s database sets it apart from others.
It tracks about 35,000 health care professionals in
Nebraska and is updated almost constantly. Information
includes where medical professionals live, work and
what they specialize in, where they went to school and
even what languages they speak.
Kolene Kohll, architect and director of the center,
was asked in 1995 to set up a database tracking Nebraska’s
doctors. A registered nurse, she added physicians assistants,
nurses, dentists, mental health professionals, pharmacists
and even veterinarians to the list. The database is
linked with a broadcast system operated by the Nebraska
Department of Health and Human Services
that can contact the state’s medical workers quickly
in an emergency.
In the event of an outbreak or attack, the database
would generate a list of professionals capable of handling
it. Then, through the HHS broadcast system, these medical
workers would be contacted almost instantly, Brown writes.
Appalachian Regional Commission
funding restored; 13 states depend on money
The House has voted to restore funding for a commission
that distributes money to Appalachian communities in
13 states to improve the region's roads, sanitation,
telecommunications and tourism.
"Wednesday's 399-17 vote gives the Appalachian
Regional Commission $66 million for 2006, which is what
President Bush had requested and matches the agency's
funding for 2005. The funding proposal still must be
approved by the Senate and the president. The House
had originally ignored Bush's request and proposed spending
$38.5 million on the Appalachian commission," writes
David Hammer of The Associated Press.
The region covers all of West Virginia and parts of
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New
York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Tennessee and Virginia. (Read
California center opens door
for rural health care access, specialty medicine
The opening of a special regional medical facility
in Eureka, Calif., ushers in a new era of access to
specialty medical care for rural residents in six counties,
say center officials.
The Open Door Telemedicine and Visiting Specialist
Center "is designed to be the primary
telemedicine provider for a region that covers all or
parts of six counties. The limited population bases
make it hard to attract specialty providers to the county.
The rural nature makes it harder yet for those with
medical needs to gain access to the care they need,"
writes Carol Harrison of the Eureka
Harrison notes the rural health care problem has been
compounded by the high number of uninsured patients
and the social problems associated with low-income,
homeless and mentally ill patients, all of which have
made some specialists reluctant to provide services
or relocate to rural settings.
The opening of the center is the completion of an eight-year
dream for Herrmann Spatzler, the chief executive officer
of Open Door Community Health Centers.
The Eureka site will be the area hub, with branch connections
to eight other communities. (Read
radio show for inmates expands to Tennessee
The 36-year-old regional media arts center
Appalshop has begun working with urban
prisoners and their families and media artists and their
friends to expand their program, "Holler to the
Hood," which is tailored for a growing prisoner
population at an increasing number of maximum security
prisons in Appalachia.
Tucker Wilson on the Tennessee
Independent Media Center, writes the "Holler
to the Hood" program was "started in 1999
by two young media artists to confront the social impact
of moving hundreds of thousands of inner-city, minority
offenders to prisons in rural Virginia. Using a variety
of mediums and forms [the program] provides the means
for all those effected by the prison system to tell
their story in their own voice." (Read
This year, Wilson notes, an expanded version of the
program will be heard on 100 radio stations across the
U.S. for a holiday special, providing the only real-time
way for many inmates to receive holiday wishes and prayers
from family and friends.
The program will be recorded on Dec. 12 from 7 to 11
p.m. EST and a toll-free line will be open at 888-396-1208
to take holiday greetings for prisoners from and to
all over the country. A one-hour version of the program
will be offered free to stations across the country
for rebroadcast. Stations that will be carrying the
program are listed on the Appalshop Web
The face of homelessness: Higher
energy costs may increase number of needy
Homelessness, already on the increase in the heart
of Appalachia, may be driven up this winter by higher
energy costs, writes a Charleston, W.Va., weekly newspaper
reporting on a program to help state leaders better
understand the plight of this growing population.
Michael Stoopes, acting executive director of the National
Coalition for the Homeless, told Beth
Gorczyca of the State Journal, "Homelessness
is the most extreme form of poverty, and it is on the
rise in West Virginia, just like everywhere else. West
Virginia cannot deny it has a problem."
Gorczyca writes, "Elected officials from Kanawha,
Boone, Clay and Putnam counties will see the face of
homelessness in person. A new month-long program in
the four counties called Walk A Mile will link public
officials with people who for whatever reason are either
homeless or teetering on the brink of being homeless."
The program coordinators hope it "will open lawmakers'
eyes, ears and hearts to the all-too-real faces of the
homeless suggests that West Virginia has more than 1,600
homeless people," she writes.
One homeless facility in Charleston helped 1,277 men
at the 60-bed facility in just the past fiscal year.
The facility also provided 25,000 meals and provided
250,000 shelter nights in the same time frame, notes
Gorczyca. She also says the state Department of Health
and Human services to not have full numbers on homelessness
in the state. (Read
Thrill seekers: Deer hunters
get 'buck fever,' face several medical risks
It's cold, your heart's racing and a buck busts loose.
This can be a deadly combination for hunters.
Two Kentucky deer hunters died of heart attacks in
the field last year, but that can be prevented during
the 2005 season that tips off Saturday. Instead of using
the season as their only workout of the year, hunters
should be active all 12 months, said Dr. Steve Steinhubl,
cardiovascular education and clinical research director
at the University of Kentucky Medical
Center. "All year they look forward to hunting
season, and the macho aspect is that they have to keep
up with the guys. They push themselves like they've
never done before," Steinhubl told Mary Meehan
of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Several conditions can increase the threat of heart
attacks, Steinhubl said. Cold weather strains the body,
as does the overheating that comes with the act of dragging
a dead deer. If hunters smoke or drink alcohol while
hunting, the risk of a heart attack increases, writes
Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Oakwood, Mich.,
studied hunters to get information about what they call
"buck fever." Those researchers and Steinhubl
offer the following tips for hunters: Don't drink or
smoke the day before or during hunting; don't eat a
heavy meal before hunting; people with heart disease
should not drag deer; people with high blood pressure,
high cholesterol or other risk factors should consult
a doctor before hunting; get medical help if you experience
dizziness, chest pain, or heart palpitations; dress
in layers; take occasional breaks; and ask for help
in hauling deer. (Read
Gray's grave, piece
of headstone are solemn tribute, reminder on Veterans
The rediscovery of a Revolutionary War
veteran's grave in Boyle County, Ky., near Danville
prompted a Veterans Day article in today's Lexington
Herald-Leader, a reminder of the many first
veterans who fought to found this nation many of whom
are buried in western parts of what was then Virginia.
"Veterans Day has special meaning
for Conley and JoAnn Wilkerson of Boyle County this
year. They recently discovered that a long-lost and
long-forgotten veteran of the American Revolution is
buried on their farm between Perryville and Mitchellsburg,"
writes the Herald-Leader's Jennifer Hewlett.
Hewlett notes that "Robert Gray,
who died in 1825, served with Gen. George Washington
at Valley Forge and was in the 1778 Battle of Monmouth,
the longest battle of the American Revolution. Gray
once owned the farm where the Wilkersons live. There
is a Gray family cemetery on the land.
Conley Wilkerson, 79, told Hewlett, "I found a
piece of a tombstone that I'm pretty sure was his ...
but we know that he is buried there from wills and court
orders that we've been able to locate." JoAnn Wilkerson,
75, told Hewlett, "We have every possible proof
that he's there." (Read
The piece of Gray's headstone is a piece of our nation's
foundation. He was likely one of many revolutionary
soldiers who took advantage of Washington's promise
of land to those who wanted to taste real freedom. Gray
was probably a teenager when he fought with Washington.
There were no illusions. They began as a rag-tag, ill-equipped,
poorly trained force up against the greatest army in
the world, and they won. The cause was right, clear
and justified. Abraham Lincoln would say at Gettysburg,
some four-score and seven years after 1776, "We
cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we cannot hallow
this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled
here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power
to add or detract." We think most veterans would
feel the same of Gray's grave, and those of his fallen
comrades' near the homes they settled following the
birth of a nation. --Chief Blogger Bill Griffin.
P. S. Yesterday was the 230th birthday of the U.
S. Marine Corps. Happy birthday, and Semper Fi!
deadline tomorrow for 'Covering Coal' conference
The deadline for the reduced-price to
register for the "Covering Coal" conference,
scheduled for Nov. 18 in South Charleston, W.Va., has
been extended from today to tomorrow.
To help Appalachian journalists cover the coal business
that is so important to the region, the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and
its partners at other schools are presenting the intensive
seminar at the Graduate College of Marshall
University. Attendees will hear from people
in the coal business, the bureaucrats who regulate them,
environmentalists and other citizens who point out the
others’ shortcomings, and veteran journalists
who will offer useful advice.
The fee, mainly to cover lunch and refreshments, is
$25 (after Nov. 10, $35). Because space is limited,
attendance will be limited to the first 25 paid registrations.
Details appear on
this page of our Web site. To download a .pdf copy
of the conference schedule and registration form, click
Disparate group seeks clean-coal
technology, energy, pollution solutions
In the mode of "Necessity is the mother of invention,"
and "We either hang together or we'll all hang
separately," a diverse group is seeking clean-coal
solutions to the nation's energy crisis.
"Several big, coal-fired power plants are proposed
for construction over the next decade in the Upper Midwest,
and an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, utilities
and regulators is quietly working toward a
'clean-coal' future," , writes Neal St. Anthony
of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The
group's goal is to find a way to burn coal without "vexing
greenhouse gases that are the bane of coal-fired plants,"
Xcel Energy Inc. manager Betsy Engelking
told St. Anthony, "as we look at our energy future
-- the price of gas going up and the risks around foreign
oil imports -- we've got a great group that's willing
to come together and talk instead of fighting it out
in a courtroom over a plant."
St. Anthony notes "there's an estimated 300 years'
worth of coal sitting under the Powder River Basin of
Wyoming and Montana," writing that it's a cheaper,
more secure source of energy than the oil and natural-gas
fields of the Middle East. (Read
The Coal Gasification Work Group was put together by
Plains Institute of North Dakota and Minneapolis.
Spokesman Brad Crabtree told St. Anthony, "We can
be a worldwide pioneer, a regional project that can
help solve a national issue. If we get this right, the
market for clean coal will come to us."
Coal firm, locals want rail
line opened in East Tennessee; truck hassles cited
National Coal Corp. wants to buy and
reopen a 42-mile railroad branch line to haul coal in
East Tennessee, and federal Surface Transportation Board
records indicate the Knoxville-based company and Norfolk
Southern have until Dec. 15 to complete their
National Coal wants to buy the line from Oneida in
Scott County through a small portion of Campbell County
to Devonia in Anderson County, reports Bob Fowler of
the Knoxville News-Sentinel. The company's
senior vice president, Charles Kite, told Fowler, "It's
something that's probably in the region's best interest.''
Norfolk Southern's petitions to abandon the line have
been put on hold, pending the outcome of talks. The
county's three mayors have been urging the railroad
to reopen the line for transporting coal by rail because
of coal truck damage to their highways and roads. National
Coal hauls 40,000 tons of coal a month from the region
by truck from a coal preparation plant at Smoky Junction,
just inside Scott County. Kite also said the reopened
rail line could also be used for sightseeing excursions.
Ohio State University researchers
get grant to test clean-coal lab results
A research team at Ohio State University
has received a $790,185 grant from the Ohio
Air Quality Development Authority to help develop
a method to remove pollutants from coal smoke.
The authority said the researchers have already tested
their process in the laboratory, but need additional
funding for a small-scale test, which has a total cost
of $2.1 million. The authority is a state agency that
helps companies undertake voluntary environmental projects,
reports Columbus Business First.
"The method, developed by the researchers, works
while the smoke is still hot, while conventional methods
must cool the smoke before scrubbing it. Eliminating
the cooling step would make coal scrubbing less complex
and more economical, the Ohio State team believes,"
the journal reports. Columbus-based American
Electric Power Company Inc. is among six partners
providing technical advice and helping evaluate the
test, reports Business First. (Read
Coal mining near lake approved
after company promises to block sediment
Over the objections of environmentalists, Kentucky
officials have approved an Eastern Kentucky company
proposal to mine coal from 1,144 acres of land near
a scenic lake that is a major tourist attraction.
Kentucky Division of Mine Permits Director Paul Ehret
told Roger Alford of The Associated Press
that Leslie Resources Inc. "will
take steps to stop sediment from getting into [Buckhorn
Lake]," including ponds to collect runoff and compacting
the dislodged soil and rock into a hollow," Alford
Plans for the coal mine began when the U.S.
Forest Service traded 91 acres of land near
the lake to the coal company in exchange for 98 acres
of land in Owsley County. Perrin de Jong, head of the
environmental group Kentucky Heartwood,
told Alford, "This project would add hundreds of
tons of sediment to the lake," a popular fishing,
boating and swimming destination. "It's going to
have significant impacts on the ... the lake and the
recreation economy," added de Jong.
Kentucky Heartwood and three other environmental groups
tried to stop the land swap. U.S. District Judge Karen
Caldwell refused to block the trade. (Read
County weekly holds
its own as school shootings grab major media attention
With national and regional news media several days
ahead covering a shocking school shooting in Tennessee,
north of Knoxville, the local weekly has weighed in
with noteworthy coverage of its own.
"The teenager accused of shooting one school official
and wounding two others will be tried as an adult, according
to the attorney general’s office," writes
Susan Sharp of the LaFollette Press.
District Attorney General Paul Phillips told reporters,
“Based upon his age and the charges, it would
be appropriate that he be tried as an adult. He has
been charged with a number of delinquent acts that include
first degree murder,” writes Sharp. The prosecutor
said other charges were included but could not disclose
them under Tennessee juvenile law, she notes.
The Press reports the accused, 15-year-old Kenny Bartley
Jr., will first appear before a special juvenile court
judge for a transfer hearing. Officials speculated Judge
Patricia Hess of Anderson County may be appointed in
the matter, notes Sharp. Authorities released few details
surrounding the incident but did tell reporters school
administrators “had specific information and were
acting on it” regarding Bartley having a .22 caliber
handgun at school, writes Sharp.
Phillips said authorities had been talking to the student
suspect prior to the shooting and warned reporters not
to assume that Assistant Principal Jim Pierce wrestled
the gun away from the assailant. Sharp notes an unarmed
school resource officer responded after hearing the
shots. Phillips said law enforcement “knew of
the situation in the sense that the SRO knew,"
and said, "This investigation has entered a new
"Phillips thanked the media for their help ...
in disseminating information, [but] said restrictions
would be placed on information being released,"
Sharp writes. (Read
more) For today's Knoxville News-Sentinel
report, "Tears for Mr. Bruce," click
explore agriculture issues in field trip prep for session
A group of Georgia legislators recently decided the
best way to gauge the impact of their actions on the
state's agriculture industry is to go down on the farm
to get a first-hand look.
The "Georgia lawmakers visited Tifton in south
Georgia to get a close-hand look at agricultural issues
they might face during the next General Assembly. Local
legislators who want to make the agricultural agenda
a priority in the upcoming session," reports J.
D. Sumner of The Tifton Gazette.
Republican state Sen. John Bulloch, chairman of the
Senate Agriculture Committee, told Sumner, "Energy
is certainly a problem that farmers are facing. Farmers
need some kind of break to help them cut their overall
cost so that they can make a living."
Bulloch told the Sumner legislators have discussed
a tax structure more beneficial to farmers, creating
easier transportation systems and better handling of
migrant labor. "We need to help these farmers find
good, legal labor," he added, writes Sumner. The
delegation also toured the University of Georgia's
National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture
Flaws found, processing 'too
slow' in mad-cow disease testing, say investigators
Testing is too slow at times to prevent cattle from
eating possibly contaminated feed; just one flaw cited
by government investigators in a program to help stop
mad cow disease from spreading.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who sought the report the
Government Accountability Office released yesterday,
told reporters, "Feed safeguards are the most important
firewall against mad cow disease. If the [Food
and Drug Administration's] testing program
is not catching violations, and catching them in time,
that needs to be corrected immediately," reports
USA Today and The Associated
The FDA disputed the findings, arguing that the report
unfairly focused on a small component of broad government
efforts to stop the disease The only way mad cow disease
is known to spread is through feed containing certain
tissue from infected animals, AP reports.
The FDA feed testing program is a small part of the
government's efforts to to keep mad cow disease out
of the food chain for animals and people. The GAO, the
investigative arm of Congress, said in half the feed
samples analyzed, the FDA took more than a month to
determine whether banned cattle protein was present.
The agency explained that cattle feed is consumed quickly
after it's manufactured, and may have been eaten before
tests were finished. The report examined 989 samples
analyzed from August 2003 through June of this year.
Oklahoma legislation would allow
buyouts of tribal tobacco-tax deals
An Oklahoma state senator has filed a bill to allow
Gov. Brad Henry to buy out tribal tobacco-tax compacts
that have given some tribal tobacco shops an advantage
over others, eroding revenue produced by a recent increase
in the state tax on cigarettes.
Sen. Jim Wilson told Michael McNutt of The
Oklahoman his measure would allow the governor
to buy out the compacts. The bill would allow the governor
to determine the amount of the buyout and sign new compacts,
reports the Oklahoma City newspaper.
McNutt notes that many tribal tobacco stores are selling
cigarettes using a 6-cent tax stamp, while most tribes
with new compacts are required to collect 86 cents tax
on each pack. Regular stores must charge $1.03 for each
pack of cigarettes, he writes.
State officials told McNutt that tobacco stores licensed
by the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations are using
the wrong, cheaper stamps and the treasurer's office
reports the state is losing about $2.5 million a month
because of the practice. A tax increase was supposed
to generate about $200 million annually for health care
C-J: Kentucky's tobacco roots
hurt state by hindering limits on smoking
The largest newspaper in a state steeped in tobacco
tradition and having the highest lung-cancer rate in
the nation has again taken community and state leaders
to task for being behind the times in caring for those
suffering from use of Kentucky's once-premier product.
"While our legislators pass laws to guarantee
that smoking is allowed in state buildings, and while
Louisville's Metro Council members hem and haw over
the confusing partial smoking ban they finally passed,
other states are racing in the other direction,"
said an editorial in The Courier-Journal.
This newspaper cites Washington state's strong approval
this week of a statewide smoking ban for all public
places. "Washington voters -- and the other eight
states with comprehensive bans -- saw something that
has escaped Kentuckians: that given the health damage
created by secondhand smoke, it's hard to argue against
comprehensive smoking bans," the editors write.
The editors quote a University of Washington
political scientist saying, "I think people got
convinced about secondhand smoke hurting you, it being
offensive and there being no reason to put up with that."
An American Cancer Society spokesman
told the newspaper, "We don't believe that risking
cancer should be part of a job requirement." The
paper added, for those seeking employment, "It
also shouldn't be a requirement for going out on the
town." The Courier-Journal, noting current state
Department of Public Health hearings
seeking ideas to reduce smoking, concluded, "Our
public health bills are unnecessarily high. Generally,
roots help living things grow and flourish. In Kentucky,
however, our tobacco roots are killing us." (Read
Electric generating co-op backs
off plan for new lines in headquarters county
East Kentucky Power Cooperative of
Winchester has virtually abandoned its plan to build
18 miles of power lines across eastern Clark County
"to include less than one mile of line cutting
through new locations," reports Mike Wynn of The
"EKPC plans to rebuild 17 miles of existing line,"
Wynn reports. "While the decision may please some
landowners, EKPC also plans to broaden easements and
increase the size of existing poles in the right of
way. Currently, 55-foot poles hoist power lines in 100-foot-wide
easements. The new line will require an H-frame steel
structure, about 110 feet tall and about 55 feet wide.
EKPC will increase the width of the easements by 25
feet on each side to a total of 150 feet. Landowners
will receive compensation for the expanded easements
and be allowed to use the land for crops and other purposes,
officials said, but landowners will be prohibited from
building new structures in the easements."
Wynn noted, "Since EKPC announced plans to construct
a new 278-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Smith Station,
some property owners have expressed concern about the
above-ground lines detracting from the rural properties
through the region." (Read
The co-op, which serves a wide swath of Eastern, Central
and Southern Kentucky, has its headquartyers in Clark
County. Its application for a new line running through
the Daniel Boone National Forest near
Morehead was recently rejected by the Kentucky Public
Service Commission, which reaffirmed the decision
The Rural Calendar
Nov. 15-17: Series focuses on
mountaintop-removal coal mining debate
Morehead State University's Appalachian
Heritage Program will present a three-day series focusing
on the debate surrounding mountaintop removal mining.
It will kick off 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Kentucky Folk
Art Center with Mountain Justice Summer organizer Dave
Cooper's Mountaintop Removal Roadshow, a slide show
depicting mountaintop removal sites and the social and
environmental effects of this mining practice on mountain
communities. A discussion will follow.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth will present a series
of documentary films at MSU on the political economy
of coal and sustainable economic development. A public
forum organized by MSU sociologist Sue Tallichet, Kentuckians
for the Commonwealth members Doug Doerrfield and Teri
Blanton, and business community members will be held
The Kentucky Folk Art Center is at 102 West First Street
in Morehead. Call (606) 783-2204.
Nov. 16 -17: Southeast
Wireless Symposium in Asheville
The e-NC Authority has scheduled the
2005 Southeast Wireless Symposium for Nov. 16, 8:00
a.m. - 5:00 p.m. through Nov. 17, 7:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
at the Renaissance Hotel, One Thomas Wolfe Plaza, Asheville,
The e-NC Authority is the state authority charged with
planning and using the Internet for technology-based
economic development The conference is mainly for "community,
government and business representatives faced with the
economic and logistical challenges of implementing high-speed
Internet, as well as Internet Service Providers, members
of the media, general members of the community, and
educators interested in wireless broadband," organizers
The cost is $50. To register, visit http:http://www.e-nc.org
or call 1-866-NCRURAL To reserve your room, call:
Asheville Renaissance Hotel: 828-252-8211 The media
contact is Jennifer Munday Guthrie (919) 250-4314 x.272
implicated in rural North Carolina's high suicide rate
"Sustained elevation of the suicide rate in a
North Carolina county may be linked to releases of hydrogen
sulfide and other airborne chemicals from a nearby paper
mill and possibly other industrial sites, a new study
led by a University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill psychiatrist indicates," reports
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
Based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, the study reports that
the suicide rate in rural Haywood County, in the Great
Smoky Mountains west of Asheville, increased from an
age-adjusted rate of 11.8 per 100,000 residents in 1990-1996
to about 21.1 per 100,000 residents in 1997-2002. In
contrast, the average age-adjusted suicide rate for
North Carolina for 1997-2001 was about 11.4 per 100,000
residents per year.
"The Haywood County mill has reported releases
of many chemicals, including more than 93,000 pounds
of hydrogen sulfide in 2003. Studies of industries such
as asphalt plants, paper mills and sewage treatment
plants have shown that exposure to occupational levels
of hydrogen sulfide (10 parts per million for a 10-minute
ceiling) can result in nervousness, mania, dementia
and violence," reports Newswise.
This is the second study to propose a possible link
between increased suicide rates in North Carolina and
chemical exposures. Many of the study's authors previously
posed a possible link between the high suicide rate
in the town of Salisbury, east of Raleighm with exposure
to chemicals released from asphalt plants and petroleum
remediation sites. From 1994 through 2003, the suicide
rate in two neighborhoods was 38.4 per 100,000 individuals
a year, three times the statewide average. (Click
here to read more) To see Science Blog's
report, Suicide spate linked to paper mill, click
Bigger bucks: Subsidies,
corn surplus give farmers money, strain government
A national farm-subsidy program is busting at the seams
with more corn than we need and federal payments to
farmers reaching high levels.
This year's corn crop is an estimated 10.9 billion
bushels. The paradox: America's farmers are being encouraged
to grow more corn than the country can use, which in
turn depresses prices and raises subsidy payments. In
essence, because the government is trying to help farmers,
it is actually paying them for the corn surplus and
for the low prices, writes Alexei Barrioneuvo of The
New York Times.
The Agriculture Department is projecting
that payments to farmers will total $22.7 billion this
year, up from $13.3 billion in 2004. As a way to cut
costs, the Bush administration has said the U.S. is
prepared to cut its most trade-distorting farm subsidies
by 60 percent over five years, reports Barrionuevo.
"For critics of the American subsidy system, the
record corn production highlights the tenuous assumptions
underlying the program. Farmers are encouraged to produce
as much as they can with the idea that greater exports
will soak up the excess production. More recently, there
are high hopes for using corn to produce ethanol for
gasoline, but the infrastructure to produce large amounts
of ethanol will take time," writes Barrionuevo.
Democrat Kaine wins Virginia
governorship; seen as rebuke to Bush
In a result widely seen as a rebuke to
President Bush, Democratic Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine
was elected governor yesterday, defeating former Lt.
Gov. Jerry Kilgore, who had counted on heavy support
from his native southwest Virginia to overcome Kaine's
more urban support and the four-year record of popular
Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, who could not run. Kaine
got 52 percent of the vote.
"Kaine won despite an intensive effort
by Republicans -- including a White House desperate
to reverse President Bush's plunging job approval --
to win," wrote Bob Lewis of The Associated
Press. "National GOP organizations poured
millions into Kilgore's race. President Bush sought
to give Kilgore a last-minute boost with an election-eve
fly-in rally thousands of Republicans attended at a
corporate jet hangar at Richmond International Airport
on Monday. The president "praised Mr. Kilgore as
a son of rural Virginia, a man who 'doesn't have a lot
of fancy airs' and who is a guardian of conservative
values," James Dao of The New York Times
notes this morning. "Kaine, son-in-law of former
Republican Gov. Linwood Holton, presented himself as
the heir to Warner ... a presidential prospect in 2008,"
"There's no way to spin this than
anything other than a major defeat for Republicans and
for President Bush," University of Virginia
political scientist Larry Sabato told AP National
Writer Robert Tanner."This is a red state, he came
in on Election Eve and he had no discernible effect,"
Sabato said of Bush. "If anything, he may have
cost Kilgore some votes." Republicans said state
issues made the difference, but with last night's result
they are worried Bush and his low poll numbers could
be a liability in the 2006 elections, ABC News
Political Director Mark Halperin said on "Nightline."
The death penalty was a key issue. "Kaine,
a Roman Catholic, acknowledged a faith-based objection
to the death penalty, but promised to enforce [it],"
Lewis wrote. "Kilgore, who served three years as
attorney general before resigning early this year to
run for office full time, hit Kaine particularly hard
on the death penalty. In October, Kilgore televised
an ad in which the grieving father of a murder victim
said Kaine would spare even Adolf Hitler the noose.
Subsequent polls indicated the ad -- clearly the most
visceral of a mean-spirited race by both men -- backfired
on Kilgore by angering voters." (Read
Kilgore "ran the dirtiest, filthiest
campaign in the history of Virginia politics,"
independent Republican Russell Potts of Winchester,
a state legislator who got about 2 percent of the vote,
told Tyler Whitley of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Potts said he hoped his campaign would move the GOP
back to the center, "away from the free lunch bunch
and the people who obsess on social issues. I didn't
win the battle, but eventually I will win the war."
Whitley reported, "A late Kilgore mail piece and
telephone recording that appeared to come from Potts
and seemed aimed at taking votes away from Kaine."
Pa. voters oust
school-board members who promoted 'intelligent design'
Dover, Pa., school board members who ordered
that biology students be told about the theory of intelligent
design lost their seats in yesterday's election. The
voters replaced the eight Republicans with Democrats
who want the idea taken out of the curriculum.
"The election unfolded amid a landmark federal
trial involving the Dover public schools and the question
of whether intelligent design promotes the Bible's view
of creation. Eight Dover families sued, saying it violates
the constitutional separation of church and state,"
CBS News and The Associated
Press reported. A ruling in the case is expected
in January; the new board members will take office Dec.
5. One of the new board members is a plaintiff in the
case, reports Michelle Starr of the York Daily
Believers in intelligent design think the universe
is so complex that it was created by some kind of higher
intelligence. The statement read to students says Charles
Darwin's theory of evolution is "not a fact"
and has "gaps" that remain unexplained. Critics
say intelligent design is merely camouflaged Scripture
that has no place in a science class.
"Residents of the small school district -- about
20,000 in the borough, Dover and Washington townships
-- found themselves in the spotlight as journalists
interviewed them on their porches for stories that went
around the world," writes T. W. Burger of The
Patriot-News of nearby Harrisburg. "Some
of the challengers said they aren't opposed to intelligent
design being taught in the classroom. They suggest that
it be taught in elective courses on American culture
or social studies, not science."
sets summit to address rural education needs
A Sacramento, Calif., assemblyman has
announced the fifth in a series of Rural Education Summits
to address schools' needs. Forty members of the state's
rural legislative caucus are expected to attend.
Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, said, “The
goal ... is to bring attention to these needs and explore
... solutions [to] ensure a quality education for all
students, regardless of where they live or go to school,"
reports the American Chronicle of Beverly
Hills in a staff report based on a news release.
The two-day summit will be held in Fish
Camp near Yosemite and will feature panel discussions
on closing the achievement gap between rural and urban
students, after school programs and “No Child
Left Behind.” Legislators attending the summit
will hold a hearing to explore additional problems facing
rural schools, including budget shortfalls, transportation
issues, and college preparation, reports the Chronicle.
Tuolumne County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Silva
said, “There are challenges in rural communities
educators just don’t face in urban areas. The
[summit] is an opportunity ... to share [these] issues
with [other] state legislators," the Chronicle
Native-born, outsiders finding
harmony in 'country roads, take me home'
U.S. Census Bureau statistics
show that while West Virginia is still losing more young
people than it is gaining, some cities -- particularly
Charleston -- are doing the reverse, with a surprising
number of native-born Mountaineers returning and many
outsiders making a home in and around the state's capital.
The Charleston area "saw a net migration of 358
college-educated people between the ages of 25 and 39
from 1995 to 2000, according to the Census Bureau,"
writes Beth Gorczyca of the State Journal,
a Charleston weekly published by West Virginia
Per-capita, Charleston has a better migration rate
than some other cities in the region considered attractive
to the "brightest and best," notes Gorczyca.
"The Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area, for example,
lost 122 of its young, college-educated residents during
the same five-year-period. Pittsburgh lost 7,444 young
people, according to the Census Bureau," she writes.
Jim Clinton, executive director of the Southern
Growth Policies Board, told Gorczyca, "West
Virginia, generally speaking, was part of the old economy
with a lot of its economy based on mining and manufacturing,
and it was slower than a lot of places to make a change
from that. But now, if you look around, a turn is definitely
starting to happen, and people are noticing." (Read
Pennsylvania tops list of states
with most automobile-deer collisions
A new survey
by State Farm Insurance ranked
Pennsylvania first among the 10 worst states for vehicle-deer
collisions, reports CNN.
State Farm said Pennsylvania drivers experienced more
collisions than any other state between July 1, 2004
and June 30, 2005. State Farm estimates that 1.5 million
of these collisions occur annually in the U.S., resulting
in 150 motorists deaths and vehicle damages totaling
$1.1 billion. With deer migrating and mating season
between October and December, State Farm says this is
the prime time for collisions.
Second through fourth included Michigan, Illinois,
Ohio and Georgia. Minnesota and Virginia ranked sixth
and seventh respectively, while Indiana, Texas and Wisconsin
rounded out the top 10. (Read
U.S. television powerhouse plans
to sell 12 stations with 800-plus employees
Media Inc. plans to sell 12 network-affiliated
TV stations to focus on its core group in the Southeast
and Midwest, reports The Associated Press.
Raycom President and CEO Paul McTear said the stations,
with 800-plus workers, would likely be valued in excess
of $600 million. The company agreed to purchase 15 stations
from Liberty Corp. of Greenville, S.C.,
in August, and two of those stations, KGBT-TV
of Harlingen-McAllen-Brownsville, Texas, and WWAY-TV
of Wilmington, N.C., are included in the upcoming sale.
Ten other stations to be sold include: WFXL,
Albany, Ga.; KASA, Albuquerque-Santa
Fe, N.M.; KXRM-KXTU, Colorado Springs,
Colo.; WACH, Columbia, S.C.; KTVO,
Ottumwa, Iowa-Kirksville, Mo.; WLUC,
Marquette, Mich.; WSTM-WSTQ, Syracuse,
NY; WNWO, Toledo, Ohio; WPBN-WTOM,
Traverse City-Cadillac, Mich.; KWWL,
Waterloo-Cedar Rapids-Iowa City-Dubuque, Iowa.
Raycom, based in Montgomery, Ala., operates 37 network-affiliated
television stations in 20 states. Its stations cover
more than 10 percent of U.S. television households and
employ 2,500 people.
Weekly in Point Reyes, Calif.,
sold to former prosecutor; paper won Pulitzer
"The Point Reyes Light, a weekly
that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1979, has been sold to
a former Monterey County prosecutor, the paper's editor
and publisher announced," reports The Associated
Dave Mitchell, who bought the paper in 1975, said Nov.
2 he sold the 4,000-circulation newspaper to Robert
Plotkin. Mitchell will continue to work at the paper
part-time. The newspaper, founded in 1948, won the Pulitzer
for Meritorious Public Service for its coverage of the
Synanon drug rehabilitation group that turned into a
This week, Mitchell aptly titled his Sparsely, Sage
and Timely column "Giving up my desk." "I
feel like an old quarterback who’s had a string
of good seasons but now needs to make way for younger
talent. The Light’s won more than 100 state and
national awards while I’ve been here, but the
relentless reporting that led to some of those awards
is what I most fondly remember. Editorially, I’ve
tried to make sure the 'little guy' isn’t crushed
by the powers that be," writes Mitchell. (Read
"Mitchell and the Plotkins have invited the public
to join them for a changeover party in The Light at
noon Friday, Nov. 4, when Mitchell will present Plotkin
with a golden muckrake. A muckrake is a symbol of investigative
reporting, for which The Light is known," announces
the newspaper on its main
here to read the newspaper's story about the ownership
getting REDI for rural development initiative
Oklahoma panhandle economic development is getting
a push from the Rural Economic Development Initiative,
a cooperative effort of Oklahoma State University
and Rural Enterprises Inc.
REDI coordinator and former congressman Wes Watkins
said, “Extension educators are contacting business
operators and entrepreneurs and bringing them together
for the purpose of administering a short action questionnaire,"
writes Arleen James, an extension educator, in Oklahoma's
Guymon Daily Herald.
The questionnaire will identify development assistance
needs, then allow for follow-up work. (Read
The REDI process starts at noon or 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday,
Nov. 15 at the Texas County OSU Extension Office in
Guymon. For additional information about the Nov. 15
meeting contact Arleen James, extension educator and
CED at the Texas County Extension Office, in Guymon
or by calling (580) 338-7300 or by writing Watkins at
514 Ag Hall, Oklahoma State University,
Stillwater, OK 74078.
Nov. 11: Kentucky
Voices features authors, music on Book Fair eve
The Kentucky Conservation Committee invites
you to attend Kentucky Voices, an evening with
Kentucky authors and music on the eve of the Kentucky
Book Fair, on Friday, November 11.
Gwyn Hyman Rubio will share a selection
from "The Woodsman's Daughter," which was
selected as an American Booksellers Association
Book Sense Pick and a Book Club Pick of the Week by
Barnes and Noble. Rubio's first novel,
"Icy Spark," was featured by the Oprah Book
Club. The author lives with her husband in Versailles.
Kentucky Voices will begin at 7:00 p.m. in
the Parish Hall of the Church of the Ascension, 311
Washington Street in downtown Frankfort. Donations benefit
the Conserve Kentucky initiative of the Kentucky Conservation
Committee to increase state funding for the protection
of natural areas and agricultural lands. The suggested
donation is $10 for adults and $5 for students.
U.S. Forest Service
plan to restrict off-road vehicles draws sharp criticism
Environmentalists and recreationists say a new U.
S. Forest Service plan to restrict off-road
vehicles would legitimize hundreds of illegal trails
carved out by off-road enthusiasts. The Forest Service,
however, claims the policy will halt increased traffic
by dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.
"The new policy would require all 155 national
forests and 20 grasslands to designate roads and trails
that are open to motor-vehicle use. But for the first
time, heavily traveled 'renegade routes' created illegally
by off-road drivers could be designated for legal use,"
writes Matthew Daly of The Associated Press.
Jason Kiely, director of the Montana-based Natural
Trails and Water Coalition, told Daly, "The
practical effect is that you are going to have to take
out rogue routes created by off-roaders one at a time."
The agency said it could take four years to designate
roads and trails on 193 million acres of public lands.
In West Virginia, ATVs and motorcycles are allowed
on all forest roads open to passenger vehicle traffic
in the 919,000-acre Monongahela National Forest,
but there are no specially designated trails for off-highway
vehicles. The George Washington and Jefferson national
forests in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky have
60 miles of trail set aside for ATV and off-road motorcycle
use, writes Daly. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth
said, "It’s my belief that most users want
to do the right thing." (Read
Deadline looms for comment on
Monongahela National Forest plan
The Forest Service is accepting public comment on its
new plan for the Monongahela National Forest in the
central Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia through
During the last revision in 1986, 20,000 comments were
received. The Forest Service is seeking comments that
include the desired alternative, and an explanation.
"It's helpful to base your comments on personal
experiences as well as why you think your alternative
is good for the public," writes Elizabeth Byers
Forum, an interest group.
Letters can be sent to: Monongahela National Forest,
Attn: Forest Plan Revision, 200 Sycamore Street , Elkins,
W.Va. 26241 or via Email.
The West Virginia Wilderness Coalition
has sample talking points,
click here. The Forest Plan can be downloaded
here. For more on the forum, go to this site.
To learn more about the Monongahela National
Forest, go to this site.
Forest mining ruling not influenced
by campaign money, claims coal lawyer
A coal company's attorney said a suggestion that political
contributions by the company's owner influenced a ruling
on a proposal in southeastern Ohio is "outrageous,"
reports Jim Phillips of the Athens News.
Mike Gardner, associate general counsel for Ohio
Valley Coal Co., told Phillips, "To suggest
there's influence going on here is untrue." The
Buckeye Forest Council, an Athens-based
forest advocacy group, is fighting the company's plan
to expand coal-mining under Dysart Woods, an old-growth
forest owned by Ohio University and
located in Belmont County.
BFC Executive Coordinator Susan Heitker expressed
hopes the case will "finally have an opportunity
for a fair and honest hearing." The council also
alleged company owner Robert Murray was the second-biggest
individual campaign contributor to the 2002 re-election
campaign of Gov. Robert Taft, with a donation of $7,500.
Phillips reports Murray gave a total of $7,500 to Taft
for his 2002 and 1998 campaigns, but gave to other politicians
as well. The BFC release reported Murray, members of
his family, and his coal companies gave almost $29,000
Noting that the seven-member reclamation commission
is appointed by the governor, Heitker said, "I
don't think any reasonable person could expect impartiality
and objectivity there," Phillips writes. (Read
Peabody purchase signals resurgent
coal industry in Western Kentucky
Peabody Energy has purchased more
than 100 million tons of coal reserves and facilities
in Western Kentucky from Alcoa Fuels Inc.,
reports The Gleaner of Henderson. "The
announcement is the latest evidence of a resurgent coal
industry in Western Kentucky," Business Editor
Chuck Stinnett writes.
The reserves are for the planned Dyson Creek Mine,
which would "produce up to four million tons of
high-Btu Kentucky No. 9 coal per year," Stinnett
reports. "Coal reserves in that section of Union
and Webster counties have long been known to be 'gassy,'
leaking explosive methane gas into mines. Ten miners
were killed in a methane explosion in 1989 in the William
Station No. 9 mine when the reserves were being mined
by the former Pyro Mining Co. Such
issues will be addressed as a mining plan is developed,
[company spokeswoman Beth] Sutton said." (Read
Gregory Boyce, president and chief executive of Peabody,
said the deal is for "one of the best-remaining
blocks of high-Btu Illinois Basin coal with access to
barge and rail transportation. ... We're seeing strong
demand for Illinois Basin coal thanks to investments
in clean coal technologies." The company said development
of the mine will depend on market conditions.
North Carolina food banks report
crisis as food-stamp funding declines
Federal cuts in food stamps have prompted crisis conditions
in food banks across North Carolina, reports Tim Boyum
of News 14 Carolina, a cable-TV service.
Brenda Glass, a victim of Hurricane Katrina, is one
of a growing number living in poverty in the Tar Heel
State. She said, "I came down here to visit a cousin,
stayed in Durham and he left so I got stranded here."
At present, North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation
for food insecurity, with 1 million-plus people at risk
for hunger, reports Boyum. Lindsey Graham, a representative
of the state's food banks, said 1.2 million people live
below the poverty line. The state's food banks provide
63 million pounds of food every year.
Graham told the network, "Often times they're
people in our community who need assistance and don't
want to go to a food shelter but that's still we've
set a standard that we accept them and there are different
ways to get assistance." Boyum notes that last
week the federal government cut food stamp funding by
$844 million. Nationwide more than 25 million people
get help from places like the food bank. It's estimated
more than 35 million are living in poverty. (Read
circulation slides; more papers forsaking far-flung
Weekday newspaper circulation fell 2.6 percent during
the six month-period ending in September, according
to the Audit Bureau of Circulations'
report, analyzed by the Newspaper Association
of America. Sunday circulation fell 3.1 percent.
For a table from Editor and Publisher,
"The declines show an acceleration of a years-long
trend of falling circulation at daily newspapers as
more people, especially young adults, turn to the Internet
for news and as newspapers cut back on less profitable
circulation," reports Seth Sutel of The
Associated Press. (Read
more) For a story from The New York Times,
where circulation rose 0.5 percent, click
here. For a good look at challenges papers face
in an electronic age, from The Wall Street Journal,
which lost 1.1 percent,
'Newsosaur' Alan Mutter says on his
blog that the losses may be a resilt of newspapers
focusing on their core audiences in metropolitan areas,
such as the San Francisco Chronicle,
which dropped 16.6 percent after cutting off "several
of the more remote reaches of Northern California."
Many other papers have done likewise in recent years,
and that is part of the rationale for the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues --
helping smaller papers take up the slack in coverage
of rural areas. The Chronicle also cut "less profitable,
heavily discounted and giveaway circulation subsidized
by advertisers," AP says.
"Shrinking circulation isn't necessarily
a bad thing," Mutter writes, as long as it stops
real soon." Hurdles facing the newspaper
industry include higher prices for newsprint, concern
among investors, lagging growth in advertising, and
tougher rules on telemarketing, which make it difficult
to sign up new readers, states Sutel. Currently, the
second-largest U.S. newspaper publisher, Knight
Ridder Inc., is in the middle of a conflict
with two top shareholders, who want the company to be
Middle East-born journalist
recalls details of terrorizing trip to New York
A Chicago Tribune editorial
assistant learned a harsh lesson about the "new
America" from a trip to New York City four years
ago at the height of terrorism fears after the destruction
of the World Trade Center. This story might not seem
relevant to rural areas, but consider this: Are your
readers, viewers and listeners burdened with some of
the same stereotypes and fears shown below. What are
you doing about it?
In a Sunday article, Ahmad A. Ahmad, 22,
who has been living in the U.S. for 12 years, recounted
his 2001 train trip to visit his sister in New York,
reports Editor & Publisher. Ahmad
was stranded in upstate New York after a train derailed
and called his father. As Ahmad spoke in Arabic, he
noticed a white man nearby whispering something in his
girlfriend's ear. Soon sirens could be heard and police
arrived. "We all stepped out to see what happened.
There was the stranger, pointing to me, "He is
going to blow up the Amtrak!" Ahmad recalled.
"The man told police he understood Arabic and
had overheard my conversation. He thought I was talking
to some terrorist cell when I was chatting with my mother,"
explained Ahmad. After three hours of questioning, police
found Ahmad was not a threat. They realized the man
who had made the call couldn't speak Arabic. "They
knew the allegations were baseless, and that he was
a wacko, hell-bent on deporting every Muslim back to
the Middle East," Ahmad explained in the Tribune
"I know people say Americans are living in a new
America ... For the majority of Muslims, who are peaceful,
law-abiding citizens, we, too, are living in a new America.
This is our reality." concluded Ahmad.
Marshall journalism school gets
new home, with converged newsroom
"The W. Page Pitt School of Journalism
and Mass Communications (SOJMC) is moving with
the times. Literally," reports Adam Brown of the
Huntington, W.Va. Herald-Dispatch.
The school, formerly located on the third floor of
Smith Hall, which is just north of the landmark Main
Building, has moved its offices and student media outlets
to the Communications Building. The grand opening will
be 4:30 p.m. today. "This is a positive step forward
for the school. It puts our student media closer together
and makes us change based on the changing face of the
working world," Corley Dennison, dean of the SOJMC,
Marshall's student newspaper, the Parthenon,
and the university's student newscast, MU Report,
once had separate production spaces but now share a
common newsroom, writes Brown. "It's a great idea
because it allows for media convergence within the university
and allows students involved in both mediums to be connected
to one another," said Michael Hupp, managing editor
of the Parthenon.
Dennison said the common newsroom fits the faculty's
vision of the way journalism should be taught at Marshall.
"We want our students to stop thinking 'I'm a newspaper
reporter,' or 'I'm a broadcast reporter.'" The
grand opening and a special dedication are open to the
Nov. 13: R-CALF United Stockgrowers
meeting in Louisville; first in East
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action
Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is inviting
cattle producers to participate in the organization’s
first regional meeting east of the Mississippi. The
theme for the event is “Building a Strong National
Voice for Independent Cattle Producers.”
The meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. EST, Sunday, Nov. 13,
in the King William Room at the Executive West
Hotel, 830 Phillips Lane, located across the
street from the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center
in Louisville. Region VIII Director Gene Barber along
with volunteer Dave Hutchins, of West Mansfield, Ohio,
will host the event.
The media contact is Shae Dodson, communications coordinator,
who can be reached at 406-672-8969 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
R-CALF USA is a national, non-profit organization. For
more information, visit http://www.r-calfusa.com
or call 406-252-2516.
Pennsylvania judge rules township
can keep corporations out of farming
A Pennsylvania township can regulate corporate farming,
despite objections from agribusiness groups.
John R. Walker, president judge of the Franklin/Fulton
County Court of Common Pleas, has upheld Belfast
Township's authority to prohibit corporate
involvement in farming. Agribusiness interests had sought
a ruling that the township's law was "void as a
matter of law." They argued that a number of older
codes and laws prohibited the new measure, writes Jim
Hook of the Chambersburg Public Opinion.
Belfast Township adopted the ordinance in July 2000.
It says corporations may not engage in farming, either
by owning farmland or by contracting for production.
It did, however, exempt family corporations and family
partnerships. The ordinance sprung out of residents'
concerns about the economic, cultural and environmental
damage caused by corporate factory farms, reports Hook.
Tobacco states' use of tobacco
money highlighted in ABC News report
As part of ABC News'
"Quit to Live" series on lung cancer, investigative
reporter Brian Ross took a look Friday night at how
states have spent their $250 billion settlement with
cigarette companies. Ross said only 3 percent of the
money has gone to anti-smoking campaigns, which states
originally touted as a use for the money, and several
of his examples of other types of spending were from
"In Virginia, a large portion of
the tobacco money has been used to improve an auto speedway
while in New York, it was invested in a golf course
sprinkler system," Ross said. "New tobacco
warehouses were built with the money in North Carolina,
and in Lincoln, Neb., officials used the money to enforce
the poop er-scooper law. In Kentucky, cattle farmers
received the money through farm subsidies." That
datum came from the Health Policy Tracking Service's
on settlement spending through 2004; in that year, $267,212,000
went to tobacco-use prevention and $294,685,000 went
to tobacco farmers.
North Carolina and Kentucky allocated
half of their tobacco-settlement money to agriculture,
but North Carolina is investing its money and spending
only the earnings. Kentucky, the No. 2 state in tobacco
production but No. 1 in number of tobacco growers, recently
decided against using settlement money for a program
for growers, as North carolina has done. Virginia, the
No. 3 tobacco state, set up a special fund for its tobacco-growing
regions, one of which includes the speedway.
Ross reported that Florida, which started
out spending $70 million a year on successful campaigns
against tobacco use, has cut such spending to $1 million
a year. Without giving details, Ross also reported,
"Last year, the states gave more money to tobacco
farmers than to tobacco control." (Read
many problems in Kentucky's job-incentive programs
Companies that get incentives to create
jobs in Kentucky commonly fail to meet their obligations.
A tax-incentive program for high-unemployment counties
has had little effect in many of the neediest places.
Corporate subsidies are sometimes loosely monitored
and questionably invested. And, "Unlike those in
some other states, Kentucky's incentive programs are
shrouded in secrecy."
Those are the major findings of an investigation
by Lexington Herald-Leader reporters
John Stamper and Bill Estep -- natives, respectively,
of rural Wayne and Pulaski counties in Southern Kentucky.
Stamper is a business reporter and Estep is a projects
reporter; both are graduates of Western Kentucky University.
Next Sunday the paper will take a particular look at
incentives in rural Kentucky.
The series has lessons for states and
rural areas trying to recruit jobs. A Stamper story
called "Masters of the bluff" tells how officials
of Affiliated Computer Services "told
Kentucky officials they would like to bring 400 new
jobs to Lexington, but only if the state offered a $5
million tax incentive. Otherwise, the jobs would go
to Oregon or Utah. ACS got the tax break, but the company
was bluffing." ACS spokesman Burt Wolder told the
Herald-Leader, "We're making the same investment
in all three places."
The problem is not limited to Kentucky.
Citing "economists, business executives and economic-development
insiders," Stamper reports that "at least
$50 billion a year nationally is diverted from public
services as companies get paid to go where they would
have gone anyway." (Read
by the Mountain
Association for Community Economic Development
says the state has no system to track the $800 million
or so it spends annually to generate jobs and investment.
MACED, which makes loans to small businesses, wants
the state to spend more on such businesses, entrepreneurs,
high-tech industries and education.
Dental care for rural children
'woefully lacking,' rural New York doctor says
The executive director of a rural New York hospital
says it sees almost 100 children with impacted teeth
in its emergency room annually because the kids lack
access to preventive dental care.
Jim Kennedy, the executive director of the Cayuga
Community Health Network, told Tamarisk Elliott-Engle
of the Auburn Citizen,
“Many of these issues find their roots, no pun
intended, in the lack of health care." Kathleen
Cuddy, deputy director of the Cayuga County
Health Department's health-services division,
told Elliott-Engle that Auburn Memorial Hospital
emergency room trips are only one example of
problems of dental health access in the county.
A survey of nurses in the county found approximately
25 percent of their time is spent dealing with poor
dental care. Poor dental health is the most common chronic
disease in children and can impact
overall health, growth, oral function, etc. Dental pain
impedes school performance, sleep, attention and social
skill development, writes Elliott-Engle. In 2004, it
was estimated that 25 to 30 percent of local children
had no regular dental care, according to the assessment.
Cuddy finds that area dentists accommodate their current
patients who lose insurance or have to move to Medicaid
coverage, but there are few in-county locations for
new Medicaid or uninsured patients.
Cuddy and Kennedy told the newspaper fluoridation of
the county's water might help county residents' dental
health, but the shortage of dentists in the county isn't
likely to change soon. Bridget Walsh, a senior policy
associate with the Schuyler Center for Analysis
and Advocacy, a not-for-profit working
improve health and human services for state residents
told Elliott-Eng le a total of 320 new dentists is needed
in the state to meet the demand. (Read
Got jelly? Rural health clinics
in North Dakota take food for payment
About a dozen rural health clinics have been closed
in North Dakota in the past two years by hospitals in
Bismarck and Fargo. A population decline made it too
expensive to keep the clinics open. When many of the
clinics were closed two years ago, Bismarck-based Medcenter
One Health Systems said the health care system was losing
$675,000 per year on satellite clinics because of low
Medicare reimbursements and rising health care costs,
reports James MacPherson of The Associated Press.
Milt Grube, 89, a member of the New Salem clinic board,
said his town's clinic remains open with a no-cost doctor.
Grube compared doctor Tom Kaspari's practice of accepting
jars of jelly for payment to the methods used by an
"old Dr. Gaebe," who once served the community.
"People used to pay him with a half-dozen chickens
or a pig," Grube told MacPherson.
Grube said a big chunk of New Salem's population of
about 800 is elderly. "The clinic is an asset to
our community," Grube said. "We have to have
it to survive." A few towns, including New Salem
have joined a network of community health centers that
get federal money. The clinics share personnel and other
costs while getting reimbursement on a patient's ability
to pay, notes MacPherson. (Read
Keeping teachers proves difficult
in Montana; pay, pension fears linger
Montana, a heavily rural state, is having trouble keeping
its teachers in the aftermath of a court order that
mandated the reformulating of the state's funding system.
"Montana's system of funding education was declared
inadequate and unconstitutional by the state Supreme
Court in November 2004. A legislative committee is working
on a new system, but educators aren't confident they
will come up with a workable solution," reports
the Billings Gazette.
Dave Puyear, director of the Montana Rural
Education Association, told reporter Lorna
Thackeray, "My phone rings constantly. I get the
sense people are calling me as they are packing their
bags. People are just enormously discouraged."
Puyear said many districts started negotiating teacher
contracts in the fall, but they have no idea how much
money they can offer. "I think it's just going
to be a powder keg for recruiting new teachers and administrators,"
Budgeting uncertainty combined with problems in the
state's Teachers' Retirement System is affecting the
schools' ability to recruit and retain staff. Montana's
employee pension systems have a potential unfunded liability
of more than $1 billion. Retirement worries here make
out-of-state school districts more alluring, said Eric
Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the union representing
most school employees.
Recently, Puyear attended the biggest job fair west
of the Mississippi, in Missoula, and saw that most of
the activity surrounded out-of-state recruiters. Puyear
told Thackeray, "We had a California school with
a great big sign advertising a base salary of $45,000,"
he said. "That's what they start at." Thirty
Montana school districts were in Missoula trying to
fill job vacancies. Out-of-state recruiters represented
115 districts from nearly every state in the West, as
well as Alaska, Kansas and North Carolina. "Most
of the Montana tables were completely empty," Puyear
said. "It was really discouraging." (Read
Rural North Carolina
towns get economic boost to combat layoffs, poverty
North Carolina's rural communities are getting $10.5
million for economic revitalization projects. The state
has about 500 towns with fewer than 10,000 people, and
many of them have suffered because of "layoffs,
business closings and persistent poverty," said
Billy Ray Hall, president of The Rural Center,
which is running the Small Towns Initiative,
reports Estes Thompson of The Association Press.
"As part of the program, the center will help
towns - especially those with fewer than 5,000 people
- to develop strategies for reusing vacant buildings.
The grants of up to $400,000 require that a job be created
for each $10,000 in grant money and that local government
match the money. Also, 20 towns will be selected for
three-year pilot development projects and a council
has been established to advocate policies that could
help small towns," writes Thompson.
The initiative's funding will be $5 million a year
from the Legislature's $20 million annual appropriation
to the center. State Rep. Howard Hunter, D-Hertford,
said the program couldn't come soon enough. "Bring
it on. Small town North Carolina is really, really ready.
It's rough out there. We need the jobs. We need the
housing," Hunter told Thompson. (Read
Illinois forms rural task force
to tackle health care access, expand opportunities
Southern Illinois University and the
Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
have helped launch a task force dedicated to rural health
care. The Joint Task Force on Rural Health,
made up of several legislators, will address issues
surrounding health care access in rural areas and in
inner-city Chicago, reports Caleb Hale of The
Some items up for discussion include expanding opportunities
for minority and disadvantaged students to enter the
medical field, creating local allied health professionals,
eliminating regulations that hurt access to medicine,
establishing transportation to and from medical facilities,
exploring school-based clinics and starting a funding
tool for telemedicine, writes Hale. (Read
Bird watching with
a mission: Early-warning sentries look for signs of
As most of the country nervously waits for the arrival
of avian flu, catching wild birds has become more than
a hobby. It is now part of a national early detection
effort to give officials as much time as possible to
launch a national medical counterattack.
Grace Y. Lee, a researcher at the University
of California, is "one of hundreds of
ornithologists, veterinarians, amateur bird-watchers,
park rangers and others being recruited by the National
Wildlife Health Center to join a surveillance
effort along the major American migratory flyways. They
will test wild birds caught in nets; birds shot by hunters
on public lands, who must check in with game wardens;
and corpses from large bird die-offs in public parks
or on beaches," reports The New York Times.
On Nov. 1, President Bush announced a $7.1 billion
plan to guard against a flu pandemic. Because of the
threat of avian flu, veterinarians and doctors, as well
as the agencies overseeing them, are joining forces,
writes Donald G. McNeil Jr. of the Times. (Read
Dr. William B. Afresh, head of the field veterinary
program at the Wildlife Conservation Society,
told McNeil, "Human medicine and veterinary medicine
have advanced beautifully in the last 30 years, but
they were not [previously] linked [and are now because]
diseases don't care which way they flow -- there is
a whole world of bacteria, viruses and fungi that move
between wild animals, domestic animals and humans."
A deadly, global pandemic of flu is inevitable, and
if the world is not ready, suffering will be "incalculable,"
Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health
Organization, told a meeting in Geneva of 600 health
officials and planners who are trying to develop a strategy
to deal with bird-flu transmission among humans, The
Associated Press reported today.
Fundamentalists join environmentalists'
earthly efforts against global warming
Environmentalists have a new ally in efforts to prompt
Congress to pass legislation on global warming -- fundamentalist
Christian groups, which cite the Bible and usually align
with Republican policies that usually choose business
interests over environmental interests, The
New York Times reports.
The evangelical groups "are campaigning for laws
that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists
have linked with global warming. In the latest effort,
the National Association of Evangelicals,
a nonprofit organization that includes 45,000 churches
serving 30 million people across the country, is circulating
among its leaders the draft of a policy statement that
would encourage lawmakers to pass legislation creating
mandatory controls for carbon emissions," Michael
Environmentalists rely on science while for many evangelicals
it is a values issue based on Biblical teachings which
ask "humans to be good stewards of the earth,"
notes Janis Richard Cirri, the association's vice president
for governmental affairs, told Janis, "Working
the land and caring for it go hand in hand. That's why
I think, and say unapologetically, that we ought to
be able to bring to the debate a new voice."
By themselves, environmental groups have made scant
progress on global warming legislation in Congress,
beyond a non-binding Senate resolution last summer that
recommends a program of mandatory controls on gases
that cause global warming. Officials with the Sierra
Club and the Natural Resources Defense
Council said they welcomed the added muscle
evangelicals could bring to their cause, but said it
remains uncertain how much difference that muscle could
Tennessee Valley Authority adds
oxygen to rivers, sees increase in wildlife
"Once desolate riverbeds below Tennessee
Valley Authority dams in Tennessee, North Carolina
and Georgia are brimming with wildlife thanks to the
federal agency's pioneering efforts to keep oxygen-rich
water flowing," reports Duncan Mansfield of The
The improvements have been seen on the Clinch, Holston,
Hiwassee, Elk and Duck rivers, among others. TVA studies
are finding that fish and key insect populations have
doubled. "It went from being a very rare thing
to see a great blue heron to frequently seeing two or
three. And there are otters, mink, weasels and, of course,
deer and wild turkey. It is a great place for critters,"
Steve Brown, president of the State Council
for Trout Unlimited, told Mansfield.
TVA, which provides electricity for 8.5 million people
in seven southeastern states, began damming the Tennessee
River and its tributaries in the 1930s. In 1991, the
agency adopted a policy of minimum water flows through
the dams and it developed ways to add life-sustaining
oxygen. Since then, TVA estimates it has increased dissolved
oxygen concentrations in 300-plus miles of rivers and
improved water flow in 180 plus miles, notes Mansfield.
Enviros move to stop coal companies
from dumping refuse; hearing today
Oral arguments are set for today in a lawsuit filed
by three Kentucky environmental groups in U.S. District
Court seeking to overturn a 2002 permit that allows
coal companies to discharge coal refuse into valley
fills or impoundments associated with their surface
"The action also seeks to stop discharges of mining
waste into Kentucky waterways. Specifically mentioned
are waterways in Breathitt County. Oral arguments in
the case will be heard in U.S. District Court in Pikeville
at 1 p.m.," writes Chuck Ferguson of the Appalachian
News Express in Pikeville.
Plaintiffs are Kentucky Riverkeeper, Inc.,
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Inc.,
and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Inc. Defendants
are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials
in Louisville, Huntington, W.Va., Nashville, Tenn.,
and Washington, D.C. Each office regulates different
watersheds in Kentucky but the Louisville agency is
the lead Corps district in Kentucky, notes Ferguson.
Kentucky Riverkeeper says its purpose is "the
protection and restoration of the Kentucky River and
its adjacent communities. The plaintiffs claim past
and future suffering and injuries to aesthetic, recreational,
environmental and/or economic interests," writes
Upside of high
energy prices: More exploration, which can benefit landowners
Citing new drilling for natural gas in Western Kentucky,
The Paducah Sun said in an editorial
yesterday that "there is a silver lining to the
dark cloud of high natural gas prices. With the upsurge
in prices, companies have an extra incentive to explore
for natural gas. Exploration requires a significant
investment — an investment that carries risks,
given the possibility the wells will not produce sufficient
amounts of natural gas — but in an environment
of tight supplies and high prices, the risks are worth
If test wells being drilled by Vintage Petroleum
are successful, the Oklahoma-based company
could expand its program. "This is good news for
farmers in the economically struggling counties,"
the Sun said. "Companies are paying about $10 an
acre for natural gas rights and the landowners will
receive one-eighth of the revenue from any natural gas
extracted from the wells."
In the longer term, "It’s good news for
people who heat their homes with natural gas, too,"
because "if market is allowed to work the global
push to find more oil and natural gas will bring gasoline
prices and the cost of home heating to more comfortable
more; subscription required)
A Lewis & Clark
anniversary: Today's Northern Plains live off their
Blaine Harden of The
Washington Post marks the 200th anniversary
of the "ocean in view" journal entry of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition by telling readers what has
happened since then to the Columbia River, now a series
of lakes, and the Northern Great Plains, perhaps America's
greatest swath of rurality.
The plains, "the part
of the West that the explorers praised as the most fertile,
the most suitable for settlement and the most visually
enchanting -- are now the least populated stretch of
the United States and getting emptier," Harden
writes. "There are fewer human beings living
now in the Missouri River valley around Fort Mandan,
where the Corps of Discovery wintered ... than there
were in 1803-04, according to David Borlaug, president
of the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation
in Washburn, N.D. Then there were about 5,000
Indians, Borlaug said, now there are about 2,500 North
North Dakota, eastern Montana and much
of the Northern Plains have been losing population for
almost 100 years, ever since "a freakish spell
of above-average rainfall" ended, leaving many
settlers, high, dry and hungry. "One of the few
bright spots in the long, dismal depopulation of the
region has been a boomlet of tourism triggered by the
200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition,"
Harden reports, quoting Borlaug: "For generations
North Dakota hasn't really been on anyone's screen.
Now we are one of the last best places that people can't
wait to get to. The heart and soul of tourism in North
Dakota is heritage travel, with Lewis and Clark at the
Dayton Duncan, author of books about Lewis
and Clark and the writer and producer of a Ken Burns
documentary on the expedition, told Harden, "Two
hundred years later, the main hope of these places for
the present and for the future is capitalizing on memory
of the past." (Read
Rural areas' share of military
recruits is double their share of the population
New Pentagon data shows that in order to sustain combat
in Iraq, the military is recruiting heavily from economically
depressed, rural areas where job needs may outweigh
the risks of going to war, reports Ann Scott Tyson of
The Washington Post.
Pentagon figures show more than 44 percent of recruits
come from rural areas, which have 22 percent of the
nation's population. "In contrast, 14 percent come
from major cities," Tyson writes. "Youths
living in the most sparsely populated ZIP codes are
22 percent more likely to join the Army, with an opposite
trend in cities. Regionally, most enlistees come from
the South (40 percent) and West (24 percent)."
The data indicate half of today's recruits come from
lower middle-class and poor households. Nearly two-thirds
of Army recruits last year came from counties where
the median household income is below the U.S. median,
writes Tyson. This year, the Army recruited its least
qualified group in a decade, as measured by educational
level and test results. Military sociologists believe
more young people who would have joined for economic
reasons are being discouraged by the prolonged combat.
Tyson writes of recruiting in southern Virginia, around
Martinsville, where "jobs ... are scarce as NASCAR
fans are plentiful," and which "is typical
of the lower-income rural communities across the nation
that constitute the U.S. military's richest recruiting
grounds." Data shows unemployment in Martinsville
was 12.1 percent in 2004. The median income is $27,000
and the poverty rate is 17.5 percent. (Read
Double-edged sword: Cold-medicine
laws cut meth lab busts, create smuggling
States are seeing mixed results after enacting laws
to restrict sells of cold medicines with the methamphetamine
Kentucky police reported 12 meth lab busts in September,
compared to 41 during the same month last year. However,
Lt. Gov. Steve Pence cautioned that while the new law
may be affecting meth labs, it is likely to drive dealers
and users to import pseudoephedrine or the drug itself.
No data was available on what smuggling has occurred
in recent months, writes Michael Lindenberger of The
Gale Cook, a prosecutor in Kentucky's Calloway County,
has seen a rise in the amount of crystal meth, a purer
form of the drug usually produced in other states or
in Mexico. People are also buying cole medicines with
pseudoephedrine in neighboring states without similar
restrictions, Cook told the Louisville newspaper. (Read
Missouri has seen a decline in meth lab busts since
passing its cold medicine law in July. The state's amount
of meth lab busts in August was half that in August
last year. However, pseudoephedrine is being imported
from Illinois, the only state bordering Missouri without
a pseudoephedrine law. Arkansas has such a bill pending,
writes Julia Metelski of the Southeast Missourian.
Ken Carter, director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics
Enforcement, said his state's lab busts are down and
imports are the problem, which means more resources
are now devoted to stopping the latter. "Instead
of spending 80 percent of our time on 20 percent of
the problem, now we can spend 80 percent of our time
on 80 percent of the problem," he said. Iowa's
new meth law took effect in May and 668 meth labs have
been busted this year, compared to 1,243 at the same
time last year, writes Dan Gearino of the Sioux
City Journal. (Read
The Rural Blog has recently reported on another meth
trend, the disruption caused in families. To read a
new Associated Press story, Meth
crisis strains social service network, click
here. To read a story by Lorna Thackeray of the
Billings Gazette, Meth epidemic
fuels rise in 'parentless' families, click
Congress approves horse-slaughter
ban; permanent ban possible, says supporter
The U.S. Senate has given gave final approval to the
fiscal 2006 agriculture appropriations bill, which includes
a ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption.
"President Bush is expected to sign the measure,
which would close the only three horse slaughterhouses
in the country. They killed an estimated 65,000 horses
last year for the dinner tables of Europe and Asia.
They would have four months to close from the day Bush
signs the bill," writes James R. Carroll of the
Washington bureau of The Courier-Journal.
Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky's 1st District
told the newspaper, "There's no reason for us to
be paying these inspection fees for foreign-owned companies
exporting this meat for human consumption to Europe."
The ban will last until Sept. 30, 2006. Whitfield and
his allies want to make the ban permanent and said strong
bipartisan support indicates that might be possible.
Nancy Perry, vice president of government relations
for the Humane Society of the United States,
said horse slaughter "has been a very convenient
solution" for unwanted animals. "Those horses
will find their way to another purpose or a more humane
end," she said. Jay Truitt, vice president of government
affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association,
told Carroll the ban is "a shortsighted approach"
and the slaughter of horses "is a process that
is well-regulated -- a lot of people are keeping an
eye on it."
FCC moving to accelerate broadband
deployment; citizens group applauds effort
The Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) has proposed rules that seek to promote broadband
deployment by ensuring local franchise laws do not hamper
the rollout of new technologies that allow new cable
providers to enter the market.
Wayne Brough, chief economist and vice president for
research with the less government advocacy group
FreedomWorks, said, "With this rulemaking,
the FCC has the opportunity to ensure that unreasonable
barriers to entry do not deter competition in the provision
of cable services," writes Christ Kinnan of Freedom
Works in a press release on U.
Brough adds, "Technologies exist today that can
bring innovative products and new services to households
across the country. Unfortunately outdated laws that
were designed to regulate yesterday's technologies are
keeping these developments out of the hands of the consumer.
The existing franchising process can make it difficult
to deploy broadband networks, leaving consumers with
fewer choices and limited technologies." (Read
Georgia lawsuit over school
funding moves ahead; rural schools pushing it
Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Elizabeth
Long has give the green light to a lawsuit challenging
the state school financing system's reliance on local
property taxes. The suit was filed by parents and educators
in mostly rural districts with low tax bases.
"The state had asked the court to dismiss the
case, arguing that court intervention would usurp the
Legislature's authority. Long rejected that argument.
The school districts bringing the suit — 51 systems,
mostly in rural Georgia — contend that the state's
system of funding schools fails to provide all children
with an adequate education," writes Patti Ghezzi
of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
William Hunter, president of the Consortium
for Adequate School Funding in Georgia, told
Ghezzi, "We do not believe adequacy means spending
the same in every county We think the floor should be
adequacy." State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox
told reporters, "We're disappointed in [the] ruling
and will continue to defend our current funding formula."
Rural schools in Kentucky and other states have won
similar lawsuits and restructured their funding systems.
Is intelligent design 'bad science,
religion' or balanced teaching?
A literary essayist writing in The Revealer,
a daily review of religion and the press, contends that
"intelligent design" is more than bad science,
it is arrogant human presumption bordering on blasphemy.
In Malevolent Design, pegged to the lawsuit
that was submitted to a judge today, J. M. Tyree writes:
"America's new Scopes trial pits the Dover, Pennsylvania,
School Board and ... the Intelligent Design movement
against the established body of science. But in a nation
where 65 percent of the population thinks evolution
and creationism should be taught side-by-side, and where
only 26 percent believe that all life descended from
a single ancestor, the media spectacle would appear
to benefit the creationists. For them, victory would
be more publicity, the generation of a fake controversy
in which there are two sides with competing theories
-- the fair and balanced approach to scientific knowledge.
If there is a controversy over Intelligent Design ...
then the scientists have already lost." (Read
American Civil Liberties Union attorney
T. Jeremy Gunn likens intelligent design to religion
masked as science. "The most active proponents
will say it is a science, not religion," Gunn told
Peter Smith of The Courier-Journal.
Among lay people, Gunn said, "the overwhelming
number of supporters of intelligent design support it
because it's religious." The ACLU represents parents
challenging the Dover school board's decision to present
intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. (Read
On the other side of the debate, Stephen Burnett of
Sentinel-News in Shelbyville, Ky., envisions
teaching both intelligent design and evolution as the
best approach. "The ID movement is very different
from belief in biblical creation, and many people, on
either side of the debate, ignorantly equate ID with
creationism," Burnett wrote in a column Wednesday.
"Talking about a designer only won't directly lead
people to the Christian faith; it only opens the possibility
to further conversation about biblical creation. You'll
find plenty of people willing to do that," he concludes.
King of the hill? A West Virginia
mogul influences politics, attracts critics
West Virginia native Don Blankenship is president and
CEO of Massey Energy, the state's main
coal priducer, and is using his money to support political
candidates and initiatives. Is Blankenship a "king
maker or kingdom breaker?" asks the West
Virginia Public Broadcasting program Outlook.
The program explores Blankenship's methods and offers
opinions from his supporters and critics.
"If Don Blankenship didn't have millions of dollars,
he would be the person you'd avoid in the grocery store,"
says Cecil Roberts, president of the United
Mine Workers. "But because he brings millions
of dollars to the table, people have to listen because
he'll sue you. If he doesn't sue you, he'll run some
ads that make you look bad or he'll run ads that change
people's opinion. That's the reality of the situation."
"Don Blankenship isn't pulling any punches and
isn't being secretive about that," says state House
Delegate Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson). "He says
it up front. 'If you vote this way, you're voting against
what the people of West Virginia want. We think we have
a better way to do it and we're going to find a candidate
and utilize that against you.' That's the way it works.
That's the way it should work."
The Blankenship program will be shown at noon Sunday
on West Virginia PBS. West
Virginia Public Radio will air the program
twice on Monday at 3:30 p.m. and at 9 p.m. (click
here for a preview)
Montana farmers hope to mimic
Canadian irrigation system, revitalize crops
"Taber (Alberta) calls itself a 'Great Place to
Grow;' Chester is the 'Heart of the Hi-Line' on Montana's
northern farm belt. Yet since homesteaders settled the
plains, the two communities have fallen on dramatically
different fortunes. What makes Taber tick, while Chester
struggles to survive? In a word, irrigation," writes
Karen Ogden of the Great Falls Tribune.
Chester farmers are hoping to mimic an irrigation project
that 87 miles away turned southern Alberta's semidesert
into a profitable land full of crops. Taber (pop. 7,700)
is home to a booming food-processing industry and is
having a hard time finding people to can all its produce.
On the other hand, Chester (pop. 871) is no stranger
to people leaving town, the tax base eroding and crops
dwindling. In an effort to fix problems, the 45-member
strong Chester Irrigation Project secured a $100,000
Renewable Resource Grant through the Montana Department
of Natural Resources and Conservation to fund a feasibility
study on pumping water from Tiber Reservoir to 20,000
to 40,000 acres in the Chester area. The reservoir is
13 miles southwest of town, but the project could run
$48 million, notes Ogden.
In turn, Chester farmers could avoid the kind of scenario
that occurred during a 2001 drought, when work virtually
ceased to exist. Since producers had little or no fertilizer
or fuel to mitigate the drought's effects, they relied
on insurance to help cover their losses. Taber's irrigation
system prevents the failure of one crop from destroying
the entire economy. Also, irrigation creates processing
jobs that both fuel and diversity the economy, reports
Chester's biggest challenge may be paying for electricity.
"The initial plan calls for pumping the water up
more than 250 feet to a hilltop from where a gravity-fed
system would deliver it to the farms in the district.
To buy electricity at the local rate, the farmers would
pay roughly $100 an acre, which is prohibitively expensive.
An alternative is to become a 100 percent federally
funded project, which would qualify the district for
significantly reduced power," writes Ogden. (Read
more; subscription required)
New Hampshire farm interests
want feds to keep supporting extension, research
A gathering of some 42 agriculture experts
from across New Hampshire last week produced consider
grist for the Congressional mill as it considers the
2007 Farm Bill, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve
Taylor reports in his weekly Market Bulletin.
"At the top of the list [of recommendations]
was providing adequate federal support for Cooperative
Extension, land grand agricultural experiment stations
and research, a them that ran through comments of a
majority of presenters," Taylor reports. "Maintaining
a strong land grant extension structure was termed critical
to keeping ... producers competitive in the marketplace,
and in developing the next generation of successful
farmers. "It was also identified as important to
forest industry, which relies on education and research
to assure sound woodland management and supporting a
variety of other concerns." For Taylor's column,
go to this Web
site and click on "Commissioner's Column."
first statewide initiative in U.S. to combat rural poverty
The Alaska Federation of Natives and
the Denali Commission have launched
an initiative to spur economic development in rural
Alaska by soliciting creative ideas from entrepreneurs
across the state.
The initiative is modeled after a successful
rural development project designed for developing countries
- the Development Marketplace, founded in 1998 by the
World Bank. The program has invested
more than $34 million in more than 800 projects around
the globe in the last seven years.
Federation President Julie Kitka said the competition
"is based on a model used in countries around the
world facing similar poverty and unemployment challenges,"
reports Sitnews of Ketchikan. (Read
Competition is open to all Alaskans. Organizers are
seeking creative ideas designed to stimulate economic
growth in rural areas. Proposals are due Dec. 15. The
theme is "Culture and Development," and includes
everything from cultural tourism to the use of technology
in rural Alaska. Applicants will compete for a share
of $200,000 in seed money, entrepreneurial training
and business plan coaching. AWeb
site has details. Partnership forms and applications
can be downloaded from the site.
Rural policy scholar decries
House cuts in anti-poverty programs
It might be called economic piling-on for anti-poverty
programs when budget cuts greater than needed follow
war, storms, and tax-breaks, according to a Rural
Policy Research Institute fellow.
"Scrambling to pay for tax cuts, wars and hurricanes,
the House and Senate agricultural committees last week
cut funding for several programs important to rural
and urban America. The actions came as part of the budget
reconciliation process, which forces Congress to trim
$3 billion from agricultural and related
spending over the next five years. Sadly, both Committees
rejected a better way," writes Thomas D. Rowley
in his latest column. He then itemizes the programs
and the proposed cuts, including $1.07 billion from
commodity programs; $760 million from conservation programs;
$446 million from rural development programs and $844
million from food stamps.
"Why the House committee members felt the need
to cut more than the required $3 billion is anybody's
guess, but in doing so they clearly gored more oxen,"
Rowley writes. "The hungry, better energy sources,
and future be damned."
Rowley cites National Coalition for Food and
Agricultural Research Executive Director Tom
Van Arsdall who said, "They're taking away our
ability to meet future challenges. This is not the right
way to lay the groundwork for the future. We're living
off our past investments. If that dries up, we'll pay
in much bigger ways. I'm not sure who they're counting
on to take care of us. Our competitors?" (Read
WiMax gives rural areas hope;
broadband subsidies in New Mexico, England
Access to the Internet is the way for rural areas worldwide,
some with government backing, to move from the mire
of poverty, according to news reports from Georgia,
New Mexico and Great Britain.
A Georgia conference yesterday heard about WiMax, "a
new wireless technology [that] promises to revolutionize
rural America the way rural electrification did during
the 1930s," reports Elliott Minor of The
Associated Press. "Everything that's happening
in Tier 1 cities will happen in rural America,"
said Matt Stone, co-founder of Civitium of
Alpharetta, Ga., which is working on a public wireless
network in Philadelphia. Minor writes, "With the
advent of WiMax, which has a longer range and transmits
more data than Wi-Fi, it should now be possible to unwire
rural America, Stone said." (Read
Mike Tumolillo of The Albuquerque Tribune
writes, that a New Mexico agency raised telecom bills
to subsidize rural service (read
more), and a British agency issued a contract for
a government-subsidized rural broadband system."
The European Commission said the British subsidy "was
not likely to cause undue distortion of competition
within the Single Market [of Europe] and was therefore
compatible with EC Treaty state aid rules," writes
Tim Richardson of The Register, of
Great Britain. EC Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes
said the "rural nature and geographical remoteness
of the concerned areas make them an unattractive goal
for investment by broadband service providers."
Wal-Mart to sponsor
debate tomorrow on company's economic impact
Rebounding from a barrage of criticism that the world's
largest retailer is bad for the American economy, Wal-Mart
Stores Inc. has organized a debate about itself.
"In an unusual move, Wal-Mart is sponsoring a
gathering of noted economists who will debate the company's
impact on the economy and individual communities. The
session, to be held Friday [tomorrow] in Washington,
is Wal-Mart's latest step in a campaign to appear more
open and repair its reputation among investors, politicians,
employees and consumers," writes Anne D'Innocenzio,
a business writer for The Associated Press.
The economic conference, to be attended by about 80
people from the press and academia, is considered a
risky strategy, writes D'Innocenzio. She notes that
"some unflattering assessments of Wal-Mart are
expected to be presented, according to papers obtained
by The Associated Press." Jerry Hausman, economics
professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, told D'Innocenzio, "some of
Wal-Mart's labor practices are questionable." A
study by Hausman found Wal-Mart's entry into the food
business has forced supermarkets to lower their prices
by 5 percent more than planned, straining their profitability,
Critics have argued Wal-Mart's low-cost model costs
the economy by driving down pay and benefits at other
companies that try to compete. "The retailer's
low benefits have also forced employees to rely on Medicaid
as a safety net, squeezing state coffers, they say.
Opponents also believe that Wal-Mart destroys communities
and creates retail sprawl," writes D'Innocenzio.
on natural gas needs with Illinois coal-to-gas plant
The nation's biggest coal company plans to build a
plant in Illinois that transforms coal into natural
Peabody Energy Corp. has formed a
partnership with ArcLight Capital Partners LLC.
ArcLight would not say how much it is investing in the
project. Peabody said the plant is in the early stages
of development and declined further comment, writes
Christopher Leonard of The Associated Press.
Rich Bonskowski, a geologist with the U.S.
Energy Information Administration, told Leonard
that turning coal into natural gas has been gaining
interest among investors as natural gas and oil prices
climb. About 90 percent of all U. S. coal is sold to
utility companies to generate electricity.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation in
June that removes regulatory obstacles to build such
plants. Power Holdings of Illinois LLC
told AP it plans to begin construction in 2007 on a
$1 billion, privately financed gasification site southwest
of Mount Vernon, Ill. (Read
to ease backup in grain transport on Mississippi River
The government has stepped-up efforts to unload hundreds
of Mississippi River barges carrying crops damaged by
"The Agriculture Department plans to spend $7.6
million for private contractors to get 175 barges back
in circulation and reduce the backlog on grain shipments
following the storm," writes Sam Hananel of The
Associated Press. Agriculture Secretary Mike
Johanns said, "It is critically important to have
barges available during peak grain harvest season and
our goal is to quickly unload barges so they can be
reloaded with newly harvested grains."
Farmers are feeling the effects of fewer barges available
to move their corn; higher shipping costs and lower
prices for farm commodities, Hananel notes. Gulf Coast
ports are operating at about two-thirds capacity, slowed
by a shortage of labor to unload barges and turn them
around. About 60 percent of the nation's grain is transported
on the Mississippi River. The USDA has already spent
$10.7 million on private contractors to unload more
than 100 barges over the past two months. (Read
Seven decades dry, Ohio town's
alcohol referendum shows growing pressures
Challenges to so-called "dry laws" are increasing
throughout Appalachian communities and an increasing
number of the ordinances are falling to economic forces,
reports West Virginia Public Radio.
"Even before Prohibition in 1920, several counties
and even some states prohibited the sale of alcohol.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, many communities passed
dry laws that remain today, but there are increasing
efforts to overturn some of these laws," reports
WVPR's Keri Brown.
Brown's point of departure, in a comprehensive review
of a number of communities facing this dilemma, focuses
on Belpre, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Parkersburg,
W.Va. Belpre "has been dry for more than 70 years,
but an effort is underway to change that," she
notes. "On Nov. 8, Belpre voters will decide whether
or not alcohol is to be sold in one section of town.
It’s a controversial issue that has many business
owners up against the mayor," Brown reports, talking
with pro and con forces caught in the crunch between
long standing social morays and increasing economic
more / hear report)
sales, end of federal program turning tobacco warehouses'
"His customers have dwindled and his profits have
disappeared, yet Jerry Rankin will open his tobacco
auction warehouse this month, as his family has done
for decades. The 64-year-old burley warehouse owner
is among the few survivors in a business that's been
bypassed by major tobacco companies that now purchase
leaf directly from farmers. And many growers have gotten
out of tobacco entirely, thanks to a $10.1 billion buyout
of the Depression-era federal tobacco price support
program, writes Bruce Schreiner of The Associated
Press bureau in Louisville.
Schreiner reports that as the fall sales season comes,
"nine auction warehouses plan to open in Kentucky,
down from 96 six years ago. Three burley warehouses
were also slated to open in Tennessee, and one each
in North Carolina and Virginia." Most leaf is now
grown under contract with such major tobacco companies
and many growers have gotten out of tobacco following
a $10.1 billion buyout of the federal tobacco price
support program. The buyout also meant the end of federal
price supports that virtually guaranteed growers a profit,
but now contracts with companies are a crop's only guarantee.
But Rankin believes his Farmers Tobacco Warehouse
in Danville, Ky., gives growers an option for selling
their leaf, telling Schreiner, "It's much better
to have two choices than one." During the peak
days of auction sales, more than 8 million pounds of
leaf sold at his warehouse. This year, he estimated
it might be 2.5 million pounds. Government forecasters
set burley production at 135 million pounds in Kentucky
as of Oct. 1, down 35 percent from last year. This burley
harvest this year will cover about 75,000 acres statewide,
compared to 106,000 acres last year. (Read
tobacco money talked as Women in Agriculture meet
The sixth annual Kentucky Women in Agriculture
conference kicked off yesterday in Owensboro
with workshops on agritourism, drawing tourist dollars
to the state's farming industries, and making the most
out of tobacco buyout money.
One attendee, Bonnie Sigmon of Rockcastle County, drove
more than 270 miles to attend this year's event. Her
family owns 300 acres that produce goats, hogs, cattle,
pumpkins and row crops. The diversified operation features
a corn maze and fall festival as well, reports Renée
Beasley Jones of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
Annette Heisdorffer, Daviess County extension agent
for horticulture and a committee member for the agritourism
workshop, told Jones, "[Small businesses on the
farm] allow women the opportunity to raise families
but add income to the family farm." The annual
event rotates among Louisville, Lexington and a city
in western Kentucky. (Read
Students to learn about investing;
eight schools win grants to play reality game
The Kentucky Council on Economic Education
has awarded eight schools grants for a program in which
students invest simulated dollars in order to learn
how investing and the free-market economy work.
The schools have qualified to play The Stock Market
Game at no cost. The council awarded each school a grant
to enroll 100 or more students in the market simulation.
The winning schools are: Butler Traditional High School
and Iroquois High School of Jefferson County, Bath County
Middle School, Graves County Middle School, Warren Central
High School, West Hardin Middle School, McKell Middle
School in Greenup County and T.K. Stone Middle School
Each school will schedule an event. "The events
will offer parents, administrators and the business
community the opportunity to observe student accomplishments,"
wrote the council. The program is underwritten by J.J.B
Hilliard, W.L. Lyons inc., a Louisville-based brokerage
firm. For more information, visit the council's Web
site. The council is a nonprofit affiliate of the
National Council on Economic Education.
For more, visit their Web
site or call 1-(800)-I-DO-ECON.
Nov. 7-8: Home-based business
workshop starts Monday at Natural Bridge Park
A two-day home-based business seminar at Natural Bridge
State Park in Slade, Ky., for those wishing to start
or to expand their business, is set for next Monday
and Tuesday - Nov. 7-8. The event will focus on home-based
craft, basketry, tourism and heritage skills businesses.
The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
Service and the Southern and Eastern
Kentucky Tourism Development Association along
with the Barnhart Fund for Excellence
will present a "Home-Based Business Workshop."
Registration begins at 9 a.m. on Nov. 7, and the workshop
will conclude at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 8.
For more information contact your local Extension Service
office. The cost is $15 per person. Discounted room
rates are available by contacting Natural Bridge State
Resort Park at (800) 325-1710. Be sure to mention that
you are attending the workshop.
Experts tell farmers future
is now; 'unwired' high-tech at root of success
Experts speaking at the University of Georgia's
Unwired 2005 Conference say a technological revolution
is about to occur in U.S. agriculture, allowing farmers
to complete chores from laptop computers in their homes
David Bridges, assistant dean of the University of
Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences told the gathering "wireless
is the technology of the present," and, he added,
"If we don't bring technology to rural areas, they
The conference focused on wireless technology to improve
farm efficiency and high-speed wireless connectivity
to enhance the lives of rural residents, with most limited
to slow-speed dial-up internet connections, reports
The Associated Press.
John Helm, director of a Spokane, Wash., company that
makes high-powered wireless equipment, said, "We
all like the convenience of our mobility. It's an amenity
that's required. In our culture, we realize how much
more we can do when we're connected." The conference
attracted about 100 wireless experts from around the
Iowa city to vote on municipal
Internet; broadband option being considered
"Communities from San Francisco to Manassas, Va.,
are vying for answers to a question: How should our
citizens gain access to broadband Internet?" writes
R.C. Balaban of the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.
The Federal Communications Commission
reports that high-speed Internet service lines increased
by 34 percent to 37.9 million lines in 2004. Alan Shark,
executive director of the Public Technology
Institute in Washington, D.C., said Internet
access now plays a key role in where businesses locate.
"Businesses are now saying they would rather have
good connectivity than an educated, available work force,"
Shark told Balaban. (Read
On Tuesday, voters in Waterloo, Iowa, will vote on
the establishment of a municipal utility. Members of
Opportunity Waterloo, a group that
supports the referendum, contend that the available
high-speed Internet connections are inadequate, but
the group's exact solution is still up for debate, reports
Broadband over power lines provides Internet access
by using existing utility lines. "There certainly
is a possibility there, but there are some drawbacks
as well," Ross Christensen, with Opportunity Waterloo,
said. The biggest drawback is that broadband must be
provided by utilities with access to the power lines.
Broadband is seen as a viable option for rural communities
with limited Internet access, writes Balaban.
Tax dilemma 'alarming' for telecommuter
living in Tennessee, columnist writes
Thomas Huckaby works for a New York firm via the Internet,
but he lives in Tennessee. New York wants to tax him
because he's paid by bosses in New York. Now the nation's
highest court's refusal to hear the case has opened
the door to increased telecommuter taxation, says a
"Just as high commuting prices and the flu season
are making telecommuting more attractive, the U.S. Supreme
Court [has thrown] millions of 'telecommuters' into
a tax tizzy," writes Al Tompkins in his Al's
Morning Meeting column. Tompkins cites the The
Wall Street Journal, which explained,
"Some 9.9 million people work at home full- or
part-time for employers other than themselves, according
to the Telework Advisory Group at WorldatWork,
an association for human-resources professionals. ...
Tax issues may arise over which state or states can
tax a worker's income." (Read
New York's highest court ruled Huckaby owed taxes on
all of his New York income. He had spent only about
25 percent of his time in New York and the other 75
percent in Tennessee. Nicole Belson Goluboff, a telecommuting
law expert, told Tompkins, "Any state might find
this attractive and go ahead and start taxing nonresidents."
Other states, including Pennsylvania and Nebraska, already
have similar rules.
U.S. educators: Reduce the number
of high school dropouts or lose money
"The United States could recoup nearly $200 billion
a year in economic losses and secure its place as the
world’s future economic and educational leader
by raising the quality of schooling, investing more
money and other resources in education, and lowering
dropout rates, scholars argued (in New York) last week,"
writes Alan Richard of Education Week.
The nation’s future health-care, crime, and welfare
costs could be astronomical without making education
improvements, reports Richard. “If we take that
long to make the grade… the United States may
be a colony of China by that time,” said Michael
A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign
for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia
University, which sponsored the conference.
Princeton University Professor Cecilia
E. Rouse said that by high school dropouts posting lower
earnings, the United States could lose about $158 billion
in potential earnings. She said about half the dropouts
keep regular jobs, compared with 69 percent of high
school graduates and 74 percent of college graduates,
While reducing the number of dropouts might require
additional programs and additional funds, Rouse argued
that the nation would pay more in the long run by not
fixing the problems. “We might not be able to
afford not to” spend more on education, she said,
reports Richard. (Read
more; subscription required)
Modern farming: Is it time to
leave exports, use surplus crops for biofuels?
Maybe the United States should ditch the commodity-export
business and shift surplus corn and soybeans into biofuels
production. That idea was one of many presented during
the "21st Century Farm Policy" summit on Monday
in Fargo, N.D. The summit was sponsored by North
Dakota State University and Sen. Kent Conrad,
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a member of the House
Agriculture Committee, said the country's current farm
program is "missing a permanent disaster component"
that he wants to install. Peterson favors a disaster
assistance system that would kick in the moment a county
gets a disaster declaration. "They would have the
account set aside where people would have the authority,
and could make a payment and people would not have to
wonder whether Congress would pass something or not,"
said Peterson, writes Mikkel Pates of the Grand
Peterson also said exports haven't exactly been a "nirvana"
for farmers. "Maybe we ought to take all of the
corn and soybeans we now export, and maybe our goal
ought to be that instead of exporting those bushels
we should make them into fuel," Peterson suggested,
Economists countered Peterson's views. David Orden,
a senior research fellow with the International
Food Policy Research Institute and a professor
at Virginia Tech, called for a farm
program "buyout," similar to the buyouts for
peanuts in 2002 and tobacco in 2004. Orden told reporters
that a buyout would be better for farmers and eliminate
the government's role. (Read
Black farmer charges racism
in foreclosure; brother buys his home, small farm
After going $748,000 in debt, a Kentucky farmer was
evicted from his land. The man's brother recently purchased
some of the land in an auction to help pay off the debts,
but the farmer is crying foul.
Charles Young Sr. paid $35,000 for one of 78-year-old
Harry Young's pieces of property. Protesters chanted,
"Don't sell his home." "The Department
of Agriculture sold nearly 280 acres of farmland
in Ohio and Daviess counties (Kentucky), which once
belonged to Harry Young, for $543,750 during the auction
in the parking lot at Jack's Barn," writes Ryan
Garrett of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
The Farm Service Agency held the auction
to end 13 years of legal wrangling. Four courts ruled
that the department had given Young enough time to repay
$453,000 in loans, reports Garrett. Farm Service Agency
Director Jeff Hall said, "That'll be all we'll
be able to recover at this point." Harry Young
alleges racism and says he never received the FSA loans
credited to him in 1979 and 1980.
John Boyd, president of the National Black
Farmers Association, told more than 100 protestors
and bidders, "Harry Young is your neighbor. If
you care about Harry Young, you'll get in your pickup
truck and go home." Harry Young told reporters,
"There's still some human beings in the world but
you've sure got some ornery people." The head of
the Louisville-based Justice Resource Center,
the Rev. Louis Coleman, told Garrett, "This seizure
of African-American farmers' property has to stop."
Hall said civil rights reviews revealed "no indication
that anything that has taken place has been improper."
Winds of change: Mills may arrive
soon for energy-obsessed U.S., says editor
As natural disasters strike the world this year and
the spotlight and concerns crop up over relying on oil
for energy, calls for utilizing renewable energy sources
are getting louder. One rural newspaper editor foresees
a future of giant wind mills dotting the landscape.
"Clearly, the clean, endless power of the wind
will become a major factor in production of electricity
in the future. That's not to say there aren't issues.
Environmentalists are concerned about the relationship
between flocks of migratory birds and giant wind blades,
and many people don't relish the eye pollution of fields
of giant machines dominating the landscape for miles
around," writes Pete Graham of the Missouri
Valley (Iowa) Times-News.
The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is
offering an online wind energy assessment tool to aid
farmers, and Minnesota public law requires that utilities
offer customers "green power" that includes
"Wind energy is clean in the sense that it doesn't
pollute the atmosphere or ground water and it is quiet
and uses no finite energy sources to do its job. Presumably,
the mills themselves consume petro-based energy during
their manufacture, and it may be years before that cost
is offset by the energy they produce. But, the expansion
of wind power fields is rapid, so the pay-off will come
sooner than many thought less than a decade ago,"
concludes Graham. (Read
Any decline in coal prices would
spell closings, staff losses, say industry officials
A boom in coal demand created increased production
and capacity, but companies are now bracing for a period
of possible mine closings.
When coal prices slope downward, higher-cost mines
are likely to shutdown almost immediately, said Michael
J. Quillen, president and CEO of Alpha Natural
Resources Inc. Coal fuels more than half of
the country's electric production in the United States,
but a growing economy and high natural gas prices are
decreasing coal demand and prices. "Rising diesel,
explosives and labor expenses contribute to increased
costs for coal mines, and a decrease in coal prices
could quickly make some of them unprofitable,"
writes The Associated Press.
"If prices come down by x-amount, the higher-cost
mines are going to be closed immediately," Quillen
told reporters. "This is going to happen much sooner
than it did in the past."
Coal producers may soon start losing personnel, reports
AP. Central Appalachia's largest producer, Richmond,
Va.-based Massey Energy, reports that
more than two out of three first-year miners don't return
for a second year. The key for the coal industry will
be natural gas prices, said Keith Barnett, a managing
director for forecasting at American Electric
Power Co., the leading coal consumer in the
Health officials say bird flu
outbreak unlikely but precautions needed
A possible avian flu pandemic has prompted myriad news
reports, and consumers have stocked flu medicines. Yet,
no outbreak has occurred in the U.S. and health officials
say one may never happen.
Kraig Humbaugh, state epidemiologist for the Kentucky
Department of Public Health, told Nancy C.
Rodriguez of The [Louisville) Courier-Journal,
"We are concerned and we need to prepare for it,
but it's not something we anticipate happening this
President Bush says the government will spend more
than $6 billion to buy, stockpile and develop vaccines
and anti-viral drugs to combat strains of the virus.
Health officials fear residents might wrongly think
seasonal flu vaccines offered by physicians, health
departments and clinics work against avian flu.
Dr. Peter Krause at Baptist Urgent Care
told Rodriguez, "I think there is an overwhelming
fear. There's not a lot of answers coming from the government
about what to do, and (patients) are reading horror
stories about the possibility of millions of people
dying." The bird flu has infected about 120 people
worldwide, causing at least 62 deaths, all confined
to Southeast Asia. (Read
St. Louis Post-Dispatch sheds
10 percent of team, including many senior staffers
One-hundred thirty employees, or about 10 percent of
Louis Post-Dispatch work force, have accepted
early retirement. That includes 40 jobs in the newsroom.
"Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises
Inc. purchased the newspaper in June from Pulitzer
Inc. Publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger said more
employees than anticipated accepted the offer. The newspaper
employs about 1,300 people," reports The
Associated Press. The newsroom of 351 employees
will lose about 12 percent of its workers through the
early retirement plan. Lee Enterprises publishes 52
dailies and has a joint interest in six others. It also
operates an online business and more than 300 weekly
newspapers and specialty publications in 23 states.
Webster University adjunct professor
Ed Bishop, an editor of the St. Louis Journalism
Review, said in losing older workers, the newsroom
risks losing much of its institutional memory. "I
think a young reporter needs to be able to go to an
older reporter and say 'What happened in the school
district 20 years ago that puts today's decision in
some sort of context?'"
Lee officials expect this move to save up to $7 million
a year. The plan will cost Lee about $7 million in cash
payments to the early retirees and about $10 million
in pension enhancements and other post-retirement benefits.
more) Lee stock rose 10 cents to $39.31 on the New
York Stock Exchange.
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005
Rural school registry aims to
connect hurricane victims with humanitarians
The Rural School and Community Trust is
trying to help rural teachers, students and families
hurt by the Gulf Coast hurricanes -- nearly 200,000
students that attend 400-plus rural schools
this Web site, you can identify rural schools, learn
about their losses and needs, and then respond. Rural
areas hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been largely
invisible through the national media. More than two
weeks after Rita hit rural Texas, 100,000 children were
still unable to attend schools. In rural Mississippi
and Louisiana, several schools are operating with with
tarpaulin roofs and no textbooks, teaching supplies,
The Trust site provides these services: If your school
or district has supplies, surplus furniture, or other
items you can donate, you can directly contact a school
in this registry and make an in-kind donation; your
school or community club, church, or civic organization
can hold fund raisers, and direct your donation with
a letter to a specific school; and you, personally,
can make a credit card donation online and direct it
to a specific school, or if you prefer, tell us to send
it where it is needed most.
Schools in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas that want
to be added to the registry should email Page.McCullough@ruraledu.org.
Newspaper columnist says number
of chicken houses 'a national secret'
An Oklahoma newspaper columnist wanting the number
of chicken houses in his area's watershed, a possible
pollution concern, ran into a government wall that appears
to place chicken production in the closely guarded,
and veiled realm of national security.
Dick Mayo of the Sequoyah
County Times in Sallisaw, Okla., after
finding a phone number that was not listed, asked the
National Resource Conservation Service
(NCRS) how many commercial chicken houses are located
in the Big Sallisaw Creek watershed. Audra Fenton of
the NCRS told him she didn't know and would have to
get back to him. Mayo waited three or four days, called
Fenton again and was asked, "What do you want this
information for?" Mayo said he was speechless.
Fenton provided the number of producers in the area,
five, but as for the number of houses each had, she
told Mayo, "I can't tell you that; that would be
an invasion of their privacy."
Mayo was informed he needed to file a Freedom of Information
Act (FOI) request for any additional information. "Indicating
to me," writes Mayo, "that chicken houses
are a national secret." "Then I wondered:
How does the USDA, one of the government's biggest statisticians,
compile and print their numbers when they can't even
release a count on commercial chicken houses in a small
area of Sequoyah County, Okla.?" Mayo concluded.
We are inspired to reclassify the old joke "Why
did the chicken cross the road?" because if we
tell you the answer, we might have to kill you. And,
it makes you wonder if Chicken Little was a spy.
New Hampshire residents' revolt against 'view tax' spreading
David Bischoff's cabin in rural New Hampshire doesn't
have electricity, running water, phone service or a
driveway -- but it does have a wonderful view of distant
mountains, making it seven times more valuable than
if it had no view, with his property taxes shooting
up accordingly, writes Katharine Webster of The
Bischoff and other Orford residents are calling it
a "view tax," and they are leading a revolt
against it which has spread to many rural towns in New
Hampshire after Orford's latest town-wide property assessment.
One reason the residents are so upset is because housing
prices are shooting up in New England due to an influx
of vacation-home buyers and retirees wanting the town's
"At a packed legislative hearing, Orford timberland
owner Tom Thomson warned that unless the state acts,
rising property taxes will force family farmers to sell
to developers, permanently altering New Hampshire's
rural character," Webster reports. "We're
going to drive the people off the land who have been
living on it and working it for generations," Thomson
said. "It's going to destroy our No. 1 industry:
tourism." Home appraisals in all states are supposed
to reflect the property's market value, which takes
into consideration the view and other aesthetic considerations,
Webster reports. (Read
Kentucky coal costs
cause anxiety; U.N. official surveys region's poverty
As a United Nations envoy wagged his
finger at the U.S. for persistent poverty in Appalachia,
one of the region's leading newspapers is reporting
the problems created by high costs of the region's main
"Kentucky had more than 12,000 coal-heated households
in 2000, ranking second to Pennsylvania. Now, as if
shoveling coal in the age of electricity isn't bad enough,
there is another problem: The cost of coal in a five-county
region of Eastern Kentucky has increased to an average
of $100 a ton, from $60 a ton five years ago, including
delivery," writes Alan Maimon of The Courier-Journal.
Howard North, owner of Kentucky Mountain Coal,
told the Louisville newspaper he sympathizes with people
who depend on coal for heat. "Their fixed income
doesn't go up, but the price of coal does," North
said. "It's going to be a sad situation this year."
Arjun K. Sengupta, who works for the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights, toured Appalachia on Monday
and said, "This is one country where there should
be no poverty. It's a problem that can be solved."
Sengupta says "social exclusion" keeps some
Americans trapped in poverty. "Racism is one part
of it," but whites in Appalachia also suffer from
it, he added. Lexington Herald-Leader
writer Frank E. Lockwood is covering the envoy's trip.
Wal-Mart creates 'war room;'
gets 'unprecedented favor' from Labor Dept.
Besieged mega-retailer Wal-Mart,
after receiving volleys of criticism from all corners,
has flexed its corporate muscle and hired major forces
to staff a "war room" to help it counterattack
critics. With today being "D" day -- documentary
day -- this could possibly be the greatest test of this
Maginot line strategy.
"Wal-Mart ... has quietly recruited
former presidential advisers, including Michael K. Deaver,
who was Ronald Reagan's image-meister, and Leslie Dach,
one of Bill Clinton's media consultants, to set up a
rapid-response public relations team in Arkansas,"
writes Michael Barbaro of The New York Times.
Barbaro notes the first big challenge for the company's
new strategy comes today with the premiere of Wal-Mart:
The High Cost of Low Price. Director Robert Greenwald
wants the movie shown in thousands of homes and churches
over the next month. (Read
A new U.S. Department of Labor inspector
general report says Wal-Mart received "significant
concessions" from the wage and hour division with
a settlement agreement last year over child labor violations,
reports Amy Joyce of The Washington Post. Wal-Mart
paid $135,540 for violations in which 85 minors ran
hazardous equipment at stores in Connecticut, New Hampshire
and Arkansas. (Read
N. Carolina professor promotes
hemp as alternative cash crop in documentary
Appalachian State University communications
professor Kevin Balling fed off his agriculture interest
to produce the documentary Hemp and The Rule of
Balling's fascination with using hemp as an alternative
to growing tobacco came after he filmed farmers harvesting
hay and tobacco. A group of farmers later sued the federal
government for the right to grow hemp as a commercial
crop. "I wanted to do a piece on rural America
and on agriculture. I like to shoot farming activities,
and tobacco farmers were looking for an alternative
crop. Right about that time, I was reading about tobacco
farmers in Kentucky who were suing the federal government
for the right to grow hemp. Right then, I knew I had
a story," Balling told Scott Nicholson of the weekly
Although there have been efforts to legalize hemp at
the state level, Balling said he feels the fight will
not succeed until federal legislation is passed. Balling
said legalization of hemp would just be the first step,
because then farmers would have have to learn how to
cultivate the crop, and industries would have to recognize
its value. Balling foresees small mills located near
fields to reduce transportation costs, and farmers converting
fiber into paper and other usable goods. "It's
a model of revitalizing rural America," Balling
told the Boone, N.C., newspaper.
Hemp and The Rule of Law is currently being
shown on the Dish Network's Free
Speech TV and will air at 11 p.m. Nov. 5 on
Tree lovers hope new chestnut
seeds resist fungus, restore species
The American Chestnut Foundation hopes
to turn back time and return a long-lost tree to the
American chestnut seedlings thought to be resistant
to a fungus that destroyed the species in the early
20th century are growing at the foundation's research
farms. The seeds for a new generation of chestnuts could
be ready for planting in three or four years. "This
is potentially the greatest restoration program this
country has ever seen and it's being done by science,"
Rex Mann, president of the foundation's Kentucky chapter,
told Jim Jordan of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Should the chestnut be restored to Appalachian forests,
that could lead to other threatened species being saved,
Mann told foundation members from 13 states at the group's
22nd annual meeting. Kentucky boasts a large number
of survivors from the chestnut crisis that started in
1904 and destroyed many of the trees by 1950. Mann said
the survivors provided genetic material that researchers
used to create a fungus resistant tree, reports Jordan.
Chestnuts once covered the landscape from Maine to
Mississippi and reached amazing elevations in the Appalachian
Mountains. Many grew to 10 feet in diameter and 100
feet tall. "Researchers estimate that chestnuts
made up 25 percent of Eastern forests before the blight
struck them down," writes Jordan. (Read
more) For more information on the foundation and
its work, visit its Web
Green is good, say advocates;
W.Va. home buyers seek energy-efficient dwellings
West Virginians seeking new homes appear to be buying
into the argument that "green construction"
-- energy-efficient homes -- can save them big money,
and they are finding more to choose from.
"Cheaper to heat and cool and healthier to live
in, homes built according to green principles are drawing
interest. More than 60,000 homes have been built in
the United States under local green building programs
since 1990, according to the National Association
of Home Builders -- 14,000 of them in 2004
alone. Green is becoming an option for West Virginia
home buyers, too," writes Pam Kasey of the State
Journal, a Charleston weekly.
Ken Auvil of the Green Building Network"encourages
buyers and builders to be more educated and selective
about building options," writes Kasey. Auvil said,
"Unless you ask your builder to build [energy saving]
items in, he may or may not do it. If we build this
house here and save these customers $30 a month, should
builders not have a responsibility to help their customers
achieve that?" (Read
Free expression advocate? U.S.
Supreme Court nominee could fit the bill
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel
A. Alito Jr. boasts 15 years experience on the 3rd U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals and a relatively strong record
of defending the First Amendment.
"A preliminary examination of his First Amendment
opinions suggests that Alito is: (1) quite protective
of several categories of expression, including religious
and commercial expression; (2) far less protective of
First Amendment claims raised by prisoners; (3) guardedly
protective of First Amendment rights in defamation cases,
and (4) generally concerned about prior restraints on
expression," write Ronald K.L. Collins and David
L. Hudson Jr. of the First Amendment Center.
Based on a review of Alito's record as a judge, he
could provide the Supreme Court with a rare voice. "The
Court, of late, has not been very speech protective,"
note Collins and Hudson. (Read
Kentucky Women in Agriculture
Conference opens tomorrow in Owensboro
Women are taking on more leadership roles in agriculture
and some of them should be on hand this week for a conference
in Owensboro, Ky. "I think women are gaining more
acceptance as time goes on," Terry Gilbert, president
of Kentucky Women in Agriculture, told
James Mayse of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
"The (agricultural) census shows there are more
women who are sole owners or operators than there were
10 years ago."
The Kentucky Women in Agriculture annual conference
starts Wednesday and ends Friday at the Executive Inn
Rivermont. Seminar topics include business management,
new and alternative farm products, federal programs
and resources available to women farmers, working with
legislators and government officials, marketing and
other topics. Registration was due Oct. 20. More event
details are available at http://www.kywomeninag.com/.