Oct. 31, 2006
accelerating circulation decline partly due to rural
abandonment; smallest dailies, many of them rural, show
best circulation performance
Some of what Editor & Publisher's
Jennifer Saba calls "bloodcurdling circulation
drops" at metropolitan newspapers are voluntary,
writes Alan Mutter of Tapit Partners
in his Confessions of a Newsosaur blog,
which is subtitled "Musings and (occasional urgent
warnings) of a veteran media executive, who fears our
news-gathering companies are stumbling to extinction."
(The chart below comes from his site.)
increasingly are deciding to stop schlepping papers
to thinly penetrated locations far from their core markets,"
Mutter writes." Beyond being an expensive indulgence,
vanity circulation is little prized by most advertisers.
It makes perfect sense to say bye-bye to the boonies."
Saba writes, "Newspaper companies are also refocusing
their efforts on tighter geographic targets. Many big
metros, like The Dallas Morning News,
cut circulation outside their core area." E&P
said daily circulation declined 2.8 percent in the last
six months and Sunday circulation dropped 3.4 percent.
Generally, the larger the papers, the larger the declines.
The best performance was in dailies of less than 25,000
circulation, many of them rural. Among the 419 papers
in that category, the overall decline was 2.1 percent
and one-fourth of them (105) reported higher circulation.
Newspapers are increasingly pointing to their total
audience, including Web site visitors. The Newspaper
Association of America, the dailies'
trade group, reported that a record 58 million people,
"more than one in three active Internet users,
visited a newspaper Web site" during the period,
Saba writes. "There’s no question that newspapers
are making great strides in driving online readership,
especially as online revenue is growing like gangbusters.
What remains to be seen is if they get the credit."
buys six papers from Dow Jones, names Bill Ketter VP
Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., one
of the largest owners of rural newspapers in the U.S.,
is buying six papers from Dow Jones & Co.,
which says it is trying to diversify from print. The
papers are: the News-Times of Danbury,
Conn., circulation 29,336; the Traverse
City (Mich.) Record-Eagle, 28,235;
the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel,
25,305; The Daily Item of
Sunbury, Pa., 24,226;the Press-Republican of
Plattsburgh, N.Y., 20,386; and The Daily Star
of Oneonta, N.Y., 17,114.
"Dow Jones' Local Media Group
will continue to publish eight daily and 15 weekly newspapers
and their community Internet sites in seven U.S. states
with combined daily print circulation of 282,000, Sunday
print circulation of 316,000 and online average daily
unique visitors of 119,000," the
company release said.
CNHI posted no release on the sale, but the purchase
appears to continue the Birmingham-based firm's strategy
of buying larger community dailies. Four of the new
purchases will be among CNHI's top 10 in circulation,
and the others will rank 14th and 21st among a total
of 83 dailies. It has 73 weeklies.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist Bill Ketter is CNHI's
new vice president of news, leaving his post as editor
and vice president of news for CNHI's Eagle-Tribune
Publishing Group of four dailies and four weeklies,
based in North Andover, Mass. The Eagle-Tribune won
the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news in 2003, and Ketter
served on the Pulitzer board a few years earlier.
"Ketter's experience includes that of reporter,
editor and vice president with UPI.
He is a former Boston Globe vice president
[and] former chairman of the Boston University
Journalism School," reports the Southern
Newspaper Publishers Association in its latest
eBulletin. "Ketter, who will remain
in North Andover, is replacing Brad Dennison, who has
accepted a position in the Chicago area. (Read
Ketter is "chairman of the New England
Academy of Journalists, and a former president
of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
. . . He has spoken on the value of a free press and
American journalism in more than 25 countries,"
according to his profile
on Boston University's Web site. He is also a director
of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of
the Society of Professional Journalists.
take innovative approaches to overcoming education hurdles
"Students from remote, rural regions confront
many obstacles in their pursuit of higher education
— including difficulties just getting to classes
and a lack of preparation for college-level work. Those
challenges, while often similar for rural students throughout
America, can play out in different ways depending on
the region in which the students live," reports
The Chronicle of Higher Education.
"Rural students in Appalachia, for instance, generally
come from different racial and cultural backgrounds,
and can have different problems and needs, from those
of rural students in Montana. The economic conditions
that influence students in rural Alaska are not the
same as those in the Southwest." The publication's
latest forum examines the conditions for rural students
in those regions and states, as well as Arizona, through
the words of education leaders.
"Poor students who live in remote areas face many
disadvantages," writes Gordon Davies, director
of the National Collaborative for Postsecondary
Education Policy and former head of the postsecondary
education councils in Kentucky and Virginia. "For
starters, many jobs in rural areas have disappeared,
sometimes overseas and sometimes because a natural resource
has been depleted. The tobacco, timber, and textile
industries, for example, no longer support the population
of many counties in southern Virginia. Thus, the family
earnings of poor rural students have fallen or stagnated
while tuition at most colleges has continued to climb.
Such students simply can't afford college, and financial-aid
programs don't fill the gap."
Obstacles include transportation costs, teacher shortages,
and a lack of communication, computation, and other
academic skills necessary for college success. However,
all of these regions are using innovative steps to overcome
hurdles, and one example is Blackfeet Community
College in Montana. "For example, we are
working to provide new student housing within walking
distance from the campus to ameliorate transportation
needs," writes college President John E. Salois.
"We have obtained several federal grants to purchase
land and create the infrastructure for construction.
We are exploring options like tax credits to help pay
to build the housing and like wind energy to make it
more affordable for tenants." (Read
lands change hands, development threatens Appalachian
The Appalachian Trail provides escape for hikers and
homeowners from Maine to Georgia, but some locals worry
about the effects of housing developments and highway
expansions on their scenery and the trail.
"From New England to the Deep South, the AT is
threatened by subdivisions, road-building, power lines
and other development under construction or consideration
along the 2,175-mile footpath, according to the National
Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy,
the nonprofit group that manages the AT," writes
John Cramer of The Roanoke Times. in
the paper's latest example of offering readers a regional
story of national importance.
The National Association of Home Builders
and the Competitive Enterprise Institute,
a Washington, D.C., advocate of a free-market approach
to environmental policy, counter that people should
have the ability to live anywhere without loads of government
rules that only complicate the issues of urban sprawl,
pollution, traffic, home prices and energy costs, reports
Some Virginians are signing conservation easements
to get federal and state tax breaks in trade for limiting
or prohibiting development on their land. The Appalachian
Trail is an example of how landowners hold the future
of rural property in their hands. (Read
Oops: For us, the most intriguing
part of Cramer's story was this line: "Nationwide,
70 percent of rural lands are expected to change ownership
in the next decade as aging family farmers face tougher
markets, rising costs, their children leaving for the
city and developers looking for retirement and vacation
home sites for millions of baby boomers." Cramer
did not give a source for that figure, but we looked
around and found a story in the Oct. 23 issue of The
News and Advance of nearby Lynchburg, which
quotes Roger Holnback, executive director of the nonprofit
Western Virginia Land Trust, saying
“In the next decade, 70 percent of the rural lands
in Virginia will change hands.” (Emphasis
added.) Holnback told us that the estimate came from
a 2001 Virginia Department of Agriculture report.
add endangered species at less than one-sixth Clinton's
A Bush appointee at the Department of the Interior
is prone to rejecting staff scientists' recommendations
to protect imperiled animals and plants such as the
white-tailed prairie dog and the Gunnison sage grouse
under the Endangered Species Act, according to documents
revealed by The Washington Post.
There is a federal inquiry underway into the role of
Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary of the interior
for fish and wildlife and parks, and her decisions to
reject reports with proposals to identify species as
either threatened or endangered. "Overall, President
Bush's appointees have added far fewer species to the
protected list than did the administrations of either
Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush, according to the advocacy
group Center for Biological Diversity,"
writes the Post's Juliet Eilperin.
The Bush administration has listed 56 species, compared
to 512 species during Clinton's two terms and 234 during
George H.W. Bush's one term. Government officials and
outside scientists have accused the Bush administration
of overriding or disregarding findings that go against
its plans for global warming. Bush officials counter
that the reason for fewer species is being listed is
that there are several lawsuits over existing listings,
and that the focus is on ensuring their recovery not
adding new ones, reports Eilperin.
"Since the act's inception in 1973, the government
has identified 1,337 domestic species as threatened
or endangered, of which 1,311 remain on the list. At
any given time the government is evaluating hundreds
of candidate species: Officials and scientists review
all the available scientific literature on a plant or
animal before awarding it protection. The process can
take several years, even though under law it should
take no more than two years and three months,"
writes Eilperin. (Read
to cut global warming pays farmers for keeping land
Farmers may profit by planting crops and letting them
flourish as part of the Chicago Climate Exchange,
the country's first and only legally binding greenhouse-gas
reduction and trading system.
"Landowners who agree to maintain tracts of woodlands
and grasslands are assigned 'carbon credits' by the
exchange based on plants' ability through photosynthesis
to pull carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it
in their tissue. Those credits earn farmers income once
exchange member corporations purchase them to offset
their carbon dioxide emissions to meet voluntary reduction
targets," reports Rick Callahan of The
The system's enrollment totals about 1,700 farms, many
of which go through groups such as the Iowa
Farm Bureau and the North Dakota Farmers
Union that pool carbon credits for sale. The
National Farmers Union, which which
represents about 250,000 family farms and ranches, started
an effort earlier this month to encourage farmers to
enroll in the exchange, notes AP.
"The Chicago exchange was set up for American
companies that want to voluntarily curb their greenhouse
gas releases. Separately, several Northeastern states
have formed an initiative to cut carbon dioxide emissions,
and California is moving in the same direction. A coalition
of 19 environmental groups eager for the federal government
to set greenhouse gas caps - which the Bush administration
opposes - issued an open letter in August urging states
and municipalities not to join the Chicago exchange's
trading system," reports Callahan. (Read
get work done by using their hands instead of fossil
Farming free of fossil fuels is creating a buzz in
Iowa with people picking corn the old way -- by hand
-- and with farmers using horses to perform work typically
reserved for gas-guzzling machines.
Farmers are not ditching tractors altogether, but many
are using combinations of small motorized equipment
and horses -- some of which eat the corn while picking.
This style of farming comes with drawbacks because "hauling
manure with horses in the winter doesn't provide the
same creature comforts of a modern cab tractor with
heat and an air-ride seat," writes Matthew Wilde
of The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier.
However, what some seasoned farmers hope to do is show
aspiring farmers that 1,000 acres and expensive equipment
are not needed to survive in agriculture. The nation's
agriculture industry is saddled with an aging population
and many cite today's high cost of farming as one reason
for the shortage of rookies. However, fossil fuel-free
farmers accomplish two things -- "They're helping
the environment by not using man made chemicals, saving
energy and providing wholesome food for the community.
And, they're making money doing it," reports Wilde.
Oct. 30, 2006
interface' home to most new homes, now big fires
A fire in the San Jacinto Mountains burned 63 structures
and 63 square miles last week in California, in an example
of how housing developments in rural America pose new
concerns for firefighters.
As more people flock from the city to the country,
the problem of fires caused by arson or other means
continues to increase. The new rural homeowners are
moving to "a zone known to experts and firefighters
as the wildlands-urban interface -- the space where
houses intermingle with wilderness, a space where millions
of Americans long to live," writes John Pomfret
of The Washington Post. "In the
1990s, . . . of the 13 million homes built in the United
States, 9 million, or 69 percent, were constructed in
California's big fire is just the latest in its string
of 7,757 wildfires this year, and that state contains
the most homes in wildlands-urban interface zones and
the most homes lost to wildfires. "The development
boom in forests and chaparral and along riverbeds has
led some experts to question whether society can afford
to have firefighters risk their lives to protect this
lifestyle and whether federal, state and local governments
should not limit development," writes Pomfret.
That idea enrages some Americans who live by the philosophy
that all land should be open for their taking. In California
alone, thousands of homeowners have picked land in the
woods, along earthquake lines and in flood plains. Up
for debate is the role firefighters play in the frequency
and intensity of wildfires.(Read
fight suburb-like housing developments in Washington
In western Washington state, cluster housing, the practice
of placing large houses close together on a small area
of land, has drawn opposition from residents who want
to keep the rural character of their community.
Opposed to Rural Cluster Housing say they
want to preserve the wildlife, natural beauty and rural
lifestyle of Snohomish County, a mostly forested region
which has begun to experience high growth. "We
don't want to live in subdivisions, so please don't
bring the subdivisions out to us," Deborah Biebel-Tinius
of Snohomish told the Daily Herald
in Everett, Wash.
“County policies require officials to monitor
rural developments to make sure patterns of urban development
don't emerge, with reports due annually. Snohomish County
was sued in 1995 over its growth plans. The county later
changed its policies to restrict rural housing to one
house per five acres except when cluster developments
are built,” writes Jeff Switzer of the Herald.
Since 1993 more houses have been allowed to be built
on smaller tracts as long as a portion of the land is
left undeveloped. Proponents say it preserves trees
and creates more open space. However, there is now about
one house per 2.8 acres in the county. Maxine Tuerk,
co-sponsor of People Opposed to Rural Cluster Housing,
said that it’s like an urban sprawl. The county
expects about 51,000 people to move into its rural areas
in the next 20 years. (Read
End of daylight
saving time increases chances of deer-vehicle collisions
When daylight saving time concluded Sunday morning,
the chances of deer-vehicle collisions increased.
Prior to Sunday morning, when people got off work,
the sun still shined and deer stayed hidden away. Now,
“as soon as the sun goes down, deer come out and
that’s going to put them on the same roads as
the people going home from work and that’s a collision
waiting to happen. Our deer-related accidents really
go up after October.” Lee County, Mississippi
Sheriff Jim Johnson told reporter Danza Johnson of the
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Understanding deer patterns may prevent collisions,
according to a biologist with the Mississippi
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
“Deer move about two hours before sunrise and
two hours after sunset,” Scott Edwards told Johnson.
“During those four hours you’ll see more
deer activity than any other time. Now sunset falls
at 7 o’clock when most people are already home
from work and settled in. When the sun starts setting
at 5:30 p.m. after daylight-saving time, people will
still be on their way home from work, and this puts
them on the same roads with the deer." (Read
Thanks to Al's Morining Meeting from the Poynter
Institute for leading us to this story.
Christian groups in Appalachia oppose mountaintop removal
In Appalachia, some Christian groups are taking a stand
against mountaintop-removal strip mining for coal, and
are giving mountain tours to raise awareness among the
public. "They are part of an awakening among religious
people to environmental issues, said Paul Gorman, executive
director of the National Religious Partnership
for the Environment, an interreligious alliance.
Increasingly, religious people across denominations
are organizing around local issues, like preventing
a landfill, preserving wetlands and changing mining,"
writes Neela Banerjee of The New York Times.
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia
has lead hiking tours across southeastern Kentucky and
southwest Virginia since 1994 and the Mennonite
Central Committee Appalachia has begun this
month, reports Banerjee. A new group, Christians
for the Mountains, encourages religious people
to take mountaintop removal as a spiritual issue and
has distributed a DVD throughout churches. However,
Appalachian residents may hesitate to oppose mountaintop
removal because many work in the coal industry and are
afraid of pressure from their employers. Recently, the
Kentucky Council of Churches came out
against mountaintop removal.
Coal-industry leaders say mountaintop removal is safer
for miners and creates jobs. Luke Popovich, a spokesman
for the National Mining Association,
told The Times that opponents of the practice face a
dilemma, “because they’re expressing support
for those who purport to protect nature, and, at the
same time, that activism carries implications for the
human side of the natural equation. Human welfare depends
on the rational exploitation of nature.” (Read
commits $5 million to economic program in rural Iowa
Rural economic development is getting a $5 million
boost in Iowa thanks to a commitment from health insurer
Wellmark Inc. to the state Farm Bureau's
program called Renew Rural Iowa.
"Wellmark is the first outside investor in Renew
Rural Iowa since Iowa Farm Bureau launched
the program last month. Iowa Farm Bureau, a West Des
Moines-based farm advocacy group, already has pledged
$5 million of its own and is seeking an additional $10
million to $20 million in venture capital by year end,"
reports The Des Moines Register. (Read
The program supplies entrepreneurs with training, mentoring,
and business guidance, and entrepreneurs must go through
the program in order to gain some of the venture capital.
Renew Rural Iowa is scheduling seminars across the state,
and anyone seeking information should visit this Web
Mason sees the poison industry on the rise in Kentucky
When The New York Times.asked four
writers around the country to write about developments
in their local economies, rural, Kentucky-born writer
Bobbie Ann Mason reported that her state is shifting
from agriculture to weapons of mass destruction.
"In rural Kentucky, where the health of the land
once meant plowing manure under the soil each spring,
the future is not in cows and corn. We’re now
poised to take on the burden of the world’s poisons,"
Mason writes, noting two hazardous-material sites and
a proposal for a lab to fight bioterrorism.
The Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond,
a city of about 30,000 in Central Kentucky, has held
a stockpile of about 523 tons of chemical weapons since
World War II. The weapons contain materials such as
sarin and mustard gas and there are possibilities of
leaks. Kentucky will be getting a $2 billion test plant
to attempt to dispose of the weapons, but it is a pilot
project with uncertain results. A ceremony to mark start
of constuction was held Saturday, the Lexington
Herald-Leader reports. (Read
Paducah (pop. 26,000) in Western Kentucky has a uranium-enrichment
plant that has been disposing of its own radioactive
materials but may decide to open a recycling plant for
nuclear waste shipped in from worldwide, said Mason.
The proposed plant would create up to 6,000 jobs for
the areas but it poses health and safety concerns. Kentucky
politicians have also proposed a $451 million lab to
study possible biological weapons such as anthrax and
the ebola virus. Mason colcludes, "Y’all
spending on the rise, big business in small Kentucky
Halloween Express, based in Owenton,
Ky., population 1,387, is the No. 2 Halloween store
in the nation. It started in South Carolina but moved
to Kentucky to collaborate with a factory producing
Halloween goods. Curtis Sigretto's business is franchised
to 135 stores in more than 30 states, generating between
$40 million and $50 million a year. A typical store,
although only open from early September to early November,
might generate $350,000 in that span of time, reports
the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"Consumer spending on Halloween is expected to
rise significantly this year. In a report issued last
month, the National Retail Federation
estimated consumers will spend close to $5 billion,
up from $3.3 billion last year, according to a survey
it commissioned," writes Scott Sloan. "The
big increase is attributed to more consumers expecting
to celebrate the event, up to 63.8 percent from 52.5
percent last year. Still, the federation ranked Halloween
as only the sixth-largest spending holiday behind the
winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa), Mother's
Day, Valentine's Day, Easter and Father's Day, largely
because gifts are not exchanged at Halloween."
Oct. 28, 2006
key districts, states shows rural voters moving to Democrats
Democratic candidates in closely contested House races
now have a clear overall advantage among rural voters
in the latest version of a bipartisan poll, after being
tied with Republicans last month.
"Fifty-two per cent of the respondents indicate
they'll vote for Democratic congressional candidates;
39 percent say they'll support Republicans," Howard
Berkes of National Public Radio reports.
Seven percent were undecided, 2 percent refused to answer
and 1 percent said they would vote for a canddiate of
another party. The error margin was plus or minus 5.7
The poll found Democrats more enthusiastic about supporting
their candidates, and "rural voters more strongly
committed to Republican ideals are unenthusiastic about
voting Republican now." It also found a shift toward
Democrats in Senate races in states with signiifcant
rural populations, from +4 Republican to +4 Democratic,
but those results remained within the error margin of
5.5 points for the Senate sample.
The poll was conducted for the Center for Rural
Strategies, a Kentucky-based group that tries
to focus public attention on rural issues. "In
past elections, we’ve seen the numbers in rural
areas break toward the Republicans at the end and now
it’s breaking toward the Democrats,” CRS
President Dee Davis told David Yepsen of the Des
Moines Register. "He said a similar pattern
was seen in the elections of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton,"
The poll was supervised and analyzed by Republican
consultant Bill Greener and conducted by Democratic
pollster Anna Greenberg. "Rural voters tend to
be a core electorate for Republicans and they need their
base voters to turn out and turn out big," Greenberg
told Berkes. But Davis told Yepsen, “The rural
vote is not a permanent fixture of the GOP. Events matter,
and policies matter, and right now there’s a dissatisfaction
with Congress.” (Read
A month of bad news from Iraq may have made much of
the difference. "Sixty percent of the respondents
supported a statement calling for return of American
troops next year," Berkes reports. "Thirty-eight
percent named the Iraq war as one of their top issues,
an increase of 10 per cent in the last month."
He offered one hope for Republicans: "Half of those
surveyed didn't blame the nation's problems on their
incumbent member of congress. And most of the districts
surveyed have Republican incumbents." (Read
Districts surveyed included AZ-08, CA-11, CO-03, CO-04,
CT-02, CT-05, FL-13, FL-16, IL-17, IN-09, IN-08, IN-02,
IA-08, KY-02, KY-04, LA-03, MN-01, NV-02, NH-02, NH-01,
NY-19, NY-20, NY-24, NY-25, NY-29, NC-11, OH-02, OH-06,
OH-18, PA-06, MN-06, PA-10, SC-05, TX-17, TX-23, WV-01,
WI-08, WA-02, WA-08, and the entire-state House districts
of Vermont and Wyoming. States surveyed for Senate races
included Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
growing online revenue, but still not as fast as online
Daily newspapers reported 24 percent more online visits
in the thrid quarter than a year ago, and their owners'
quarterly earnings reports show that their online revenue
is also growing fast. "The bad news is that online
revenue doesn't seem to be keeping pace with online
readership," writes Wendy Davis in the Just
an Online Minute blog from MediaPost
David notes that online revenue accounts for 6 to 7
percent of total daily newspaper revenue, according
to estimates by Merrill Lynch. "Even
if the rapid growth continues for the next few years,
we don't see online representing over 50 percent of
newspaper ad revenues for at least a couple of decades,
suggesting that industry profit could stay flat for
the foreseeable future," Merrill Lynch said in
a report cited by Davis. "Many newspaper stocks
are pricing in flat to negative perpetual growth in
free cash flow."
Davis also cites a report from the research company
Outsell, which estimated that the top
10 news companies get only 5 percent of revenue from
their online services. "Growth is heavily dependent
on narrowing that gap between the percentage of audience
online and how much company revenue is derived from
online," the Outsell report said.
The key, Davis argues, is "newspapers' willingness
to experiment. . . . But any experiments likely will
have to occur at Internet speed -- much faster than
newspapers are accustomed to. Consider the $1.65 billion
deal between Google and YouTube
reportedly came together in just one week."
Dave Morgan of MediaPost's OnlineSpin
blog writes that newspapers "know that their chance
to dominate local online advertising as they have dominated
local offline advertising is looking slimmer and slimmer.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all lining up to take
a piece of the $100+ billion local ad market as much
of it shifts online."
Morgan has four recommendations for papers: Separate
their online and print divisions to attract and keep
online talent, reinvent their pages for the Web, embrace
user-generated content, and create local ad networks
"to aggregate every site and every page and every
blog with any local connection ... to create the kind
of massive scale that advertisers want. This is already
done on the national level." (Read
Oct. 27, 2006
a big issue in rural areas, resurfaces as elections
The hot-button issue of gay marriage, so helpful to
Republican candidates in 2004, especially in rural areas,
is back. Yesterday, "President Bush and Republicans
across the country tried to use a court ruling in New
Jersey to rally dispirited conservatives to the polls,"
reports Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York
Times. "This will play among those rural,
social-conservative voters, Rich Lowry of National
Review said tonight on PBS's NewsHour.
The New Jersey Supreme Court's ruling that legislators
should give gays "the same legal rights and financial
benefits as heterosexual couples had immediate ripple
effects, especially in Senate races in some of the eight
states where voters are considering constitutional amendments
to ban gay marriage," Stolberg reports -- especially
Tennessee and Virginia, where Democratic wins could
give the party control of the Senate.
Virginia Sen. George Allen showed up yesterday at a
Roanoke rally for the amendment, and used it as he campaigned
elsewhere, reports Mason Adams of The Roanoke
more) Also along the Interstate 81 corridor, Democratic
challenger James Webb, rebutted an Allen radio ad "that
suggests he supports gay marriage," the Times reports.
Webb opposes the amendment, "agreeing with other
prominent Democrats that the proposal reaches beyond
marriage to affect other legal relationships between
unmarried individuals," specifically civil unions,
reports the Roanoke paper's Michael Sluss. (Read
Republican strategist Charles Black told the New York
Times, “You’ve got about 20 House races
and probably half a dozen Senate races that are either
dead even or very, very close. So if it motivates voters
in one or two to go vote, it could make a difference.”
Democrats said that the debate would not, as reporter
Stolberg put it, "dramatically alter the national
conversation in an election that has been dominated
by the war in Iraq and corruption and scandal in Washington.
But across the country, Republicans quickly embraced
the New Jersey ruling as a reason for voters to send
them to Capitol Hill." (Read
paper tries to build bridges between natives, refugees
In rural Denmark, the newspaper Nordjyske Stiftstidende
is trying to integrate Muslim refugees with native Danes
with a series called “Kontakt.” Reporter
Lars Hofmeister came up with the idea after another
Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten,
raised international controversy last September by publishing
editorial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Inger Lise
Kobber-Jønsson, assistant managing editor of
Nordjyske Stiftstidende, told the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues that
the series is designed partly to help dispel negative
images of Denmark and Danes that the cartoons may have
To foster understanding between “new Danes”
and “old Danes,” the paper ran a story last
month inviting a native family to have dinner with a
family of Afghan immigrants. The Afghans were refugees
from the country's civil war before getting permanent-residence
permits in Denmark. Hofmeister's story describes their
dinner with a family in the town of Sæby (population
18,000), the food they ate, their conversations and
how the children played. It occupied a two-page spread
with six color photographs. The story talked little
of politics, and focused on the interactions between
the families and their new friendship.
Nordjyske Stiftstidende is a daily with a circulation
of about 70,000, with six local editions. We think this
series is an excellent example of how rural newspapers
anywhere can become engaged in their communities, to
interact with the public and build bridges across cultures.
To read the article, click
here. (Article in Danish, and for subscribers
only; for a translation, contact the Institute for Rural
Journalism and Community Issues, address below.)
To visit Nordjyske Stiftstidende’s home page,
database compares access, affordability by state
Access to affordable health insurance is an issue in
many rural areas, partly because of differences in state
regulation. How does your state match up with those
near it and like it? You can find out with the State
Health Insurance Index, compiled by the Council
for Affordable Health Insurance.
"The index considers six important measures of
state health insurance viability, including the regulatory
environment, the number of health-insurance mandates,
the uninsured, access to a high-risk pool and the average
premiums in the individual and small group markets,"
CAHI said in a news release.
CAHI defines itself as "a research and advocacy
association of insurance carriers active in the individual,
small group, HSA and senior markets" that lobbies
for "market-oriented solutions to the problems
in America's health care system. It includes insurance
companies, small businesses, providers, nonprofit associations,
actuaries, insurance brokers and individuals."
requires New York public records to be available via
“All state and local government agencies with
Internet capabilities in New York are now required to
accept public records requests and transmit responsive
documents by e-mail, due to a change in the state's
Freedom of Information Law that became effective Tuesday,”
writes Loren Cochran of the Reporters Committee
for Freedom of the Press.
New York is the only state that requires public agencies
to make fulfill open-records requests by e-mail, reports
Cochran. To us, this sounds like an example that other
states should follow.
Robert Freeman, executive director of New York's Committee
on Open Government, believes the law will benefit
both the government and people seeking information.
He said e-mail will save agencies time and money through
sending fewer paper copies and requesters won’t
have to pay to get records. “Freeman said the
new law also streamlines the process by providing requesters
with a standardized public records request form and
requiring uniform agency responses, moves he anticipates
will improve responses from government,” writes
Laboratories safety sticker still not available for
The spread of 85 percent ethanol fuel, E85, could be
slowed because the leading product-safety testing group
has "no timetable for approving E85 systems for
filling stations," reports the Detroit
"The lack of the UL seal for fuel pumps carrying
E85 means most of the roughly 1,000 stations that carry
ethanol likely violate fire codes, and stations that
want to install E85 systems in most states would need
waivers from local or state fire marshals," writes
Justin Hyde of the paper's Washington Bureau.
Two E85 stations near Columbus, Ohio were closed because
of a lack of a UL listing, "no safety problems
with E85 stations ever have been reported," Hyde
reports. "UL seals show up on thousands of products
from toasters to turbines, and a UL listing is a requirement
for filling stations under most fire codes. But on Oct.
5, UL announced it was suspending its listings for any
fuel system that handled E85."
UL told Hyde it had certified some parts of a fueling
system for alternative fuels, but had not focused on
E85 "until May, when a supplier applied for a UL
listing for an entire dispenser -- the pump and nozzle,"
Hyde explains. "As UL began to examine the system,
it realized it needed more information about how ethanol
reacted over long periods of time with parts made from
certain metals." (Read
group launching tool to monitor hiring of political
The Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog
group for open government, is launching a project that
will provide information on U.S. House members whose
spouses are paid by their campaigns. A searchable database
will show which members have spouses on the payroll,
what they are paid, and what work they do.
"Some members of Congress, by hiring their spouses,
in effect use their campaign treasury to supplement
their own bank accounts," writes Bill Allison of
the Sunlight Foundation. "The practice is legal,
disclosed in obscure corners of campaign finance reports,
and rarely mentioned by those who cover campaigns. And
now citizen journalists can investigate it!"
The Sunlight Foundation plans to add a Senate spouse
project, another for children of politicians working
for political campaigns, as well as a project to disclose
relatives in political action committees and those registered
to lobby Congress. To read the Sunlight Foundation’s
Oct. 26, 2006
community trumps technology for rural business opportunity
Collaboration of communities is more important to rural
economic growth than access to technology, a leading
rural sociologist said this week at the national rural
“It’s not about the technology. It’s
about people, the social nature of the community and
whether its organizations are prepared to do what needs
to be done,” Kenneth E. Pigg of the University
of Missouri at Columbia said Monday at the
10th annual RuralTeleCon in Little
Pigg said rural areas must come together as a whole
to identify and develop their economic strengths. He
added that until rural America learns to promote its
distinct features and qualities, economic development
opportunities will be few and far between, reports Bill
W. Hornaday of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Hornaday writes, "In a reversal of recent trends
that sent millions of American jobs abroad, unstable
economies and political unrest have many companies looking
to rural America for new manufacturing plants and satellite
facilities, said Greg Smith, chairman of the Rural
Telecommunication Congress, which sponsors
the annual conference. Some high-tech
businesses already are making the move, citing lower
cost of living, a 'reduced hassle' lifestyle, improved
labor force, recreation opportunities, and lower taxes
and business costs, he said." (Read
water consumption may threaten ethanol's expansion
Excessive water consumption could limit the spreading
use of ethanol as a fuel, according to a paper by the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Water is evaporated and expelled as waste in a cooling
process used to make ethanol, and the typical plant
needs about 500 gallons of water per minute.
"Most ethanol plants in the U.S. are based in
the Midwest because of their proximity to corn, their
primary feedstock," said an IATP release. "Parts
of the Midwest are experiencing significant water supply
concerns, particularly in the western portion of the
region. Rural industries, mainly livestock production,
consume considerable water. Crop irrigation, while not
widespread east of the Missouri River, is necessary
in Great Plains states." (Read
Dennis Keeney and Mark Muller, the authors of the paper,
recommended strengthening regulation of ethanol plant
sites, cooperative water recycling with wastewater and
livestock facilities, placing more value on water and
making water consumption records available to the public.
up shop in rural towns, straining small police departments
Gunslingers once roamed the streets in Dodge City,
Kan., and now gangsters cause the violence. It's just
one example of how guns and methamphetamine are becoming
a growing problem in rural America, creating concerns
for residents and straining the abilities of smaller
police and sheriff's departments.
Youth Gang Survey conducted by the U.S.
Department of Justice reported that 14 percent
of rural counties dealt with active youth gangs. The
gangs were more transitory when they first emerged in
the 1980s, and now many are planting permanent seeds
of violence in rural areas, reports The Associated
Press. Many rural gangs are becoming more locally
grown than urban gangs, said Arlen Egley Jr., senior
research associate at the National
Youth Gang Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
Dodge City Police Chief John Ball estimates the town
of 25,000 houses 300-plus gang members, most of whom
are Hispanic. "Dodge City is one of the few western
Kansas towns that has been growing, largely due to the
influx of Latinos drawn to the meatpacking industry
in southwest Kansas," reports AP.
schools, immigration covered in new U.S. Census fact
The U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 State
and Metropolitan Area Data Book features more than 1,500
data items for metropolitan areas, counties, states
and the nation. Topics include agriculture, health,
finance, natural resources, immigration and education.
Information comes from federal agencies, health, trade
and educational associations, philanthropic foundations
and private sources.
The book can be accessed for free online at this Web
site. Printed copies cost $47.00. To see more information
about the book, click
population forecast shows many drops in rural, big jump
Rural-to-urban migration occurred throughout the U.S.
during the 20th century, but the number of people moving
from small towns to big cities might grow substantially
in Texas, according to estimates released this week
by the Texas State Data Center.
"What it probably calls attention to in a broad
sense is that there's really some rural development
issues that are pretty clear for West Texas, or they'll
have some severe population loss in some areas,"
said State Demographer Steve Murdock of the University
of Texas at San Antonio. "Where rural
Texas would decline, the Houston area would burst at
the seams. Steady growth at the pace set from 2000 to
2004 would put Harris County at 6.6 million residents
by 2040, nearly doubling since the 2000 census,"
writes Mark Babineck of The Houston Chronicle.
However, if current population trends hold true, 116
of Texas' 254 counties stand to keep losing people.
"The 2000-2004 projections thus show an increased
concentration of growth in suburban areas and an increasing
number of counties in West Texas and the Panhandle that
are showing declines," according to a Murdock's
The state's population is projected to double to 43.6
million by 2040, with the majority becoming Hispanic
in the mid-2020s, notes Babineck. (Read
ordinance produces better indoor air for E. Kentucky
Indoor air quality significantly improved in the first
three months after Letcher County in Eastern Kentucky
implemented a smoke-free ordinance, according to a University
of Kentucky study released last week.
Air samples taken from nine public places in Letcher
County revealed a 75 percent drop in indoor air pollution
during the past three months, reports Sally Barto of
The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg. "Prior
to the law, there were 67 micrograms per cubic meter,
the particles that are measured in the air. It was 67
prior to the law and it got down to 17," said Ellen
Napier, community liaison for University of
Kentucky's Center for Rural Health and staff
associate of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free
The center conducted the study with UK's colleges of
nursing and public health. "Overall, the findings
from the study demonstrate that this smoke-free ordinance
is working," Napier told Barto. "The
consumers and the workers in the compliant venues have
better air quality. Letcher County has made a stride
towards becoming 100 percent smoke free." Eagle
is not online; click
here to read a scanned copy of the article.
family considers selling nation's largest radio empire
"The Mays Family, which built Clear Channel
Communications into the country’s largest
network of radio stations through decades of acquisitions,
is in negotiations to be taken private by a consortium
of investors for more than $18.5 billion, people involved
in the talks said yesterday," report Ken Belson
and Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times.
The investors include Providence Equity Partners,
the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg
Kravis Roberts & Company. Clear Channel
issued a statement yesterday saying that it was “evaluating
various strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder
value.” The company is seeking more potential
buyers, which could include any number of big media
companies, the Times reports.
Clear Channel’s shares have declined in the last
five years, as many radio listeners have turned to iPods,
Web sites, e-mail messages and satellite radio. "More
than nine out of 10 Americans still listen to traditional
radio stations, but the amount of time people tune in
has slid 14 percent over the last decade, according
to Arbitron ratings," write Belson
The company's rise to empirehood hit high gear after
the Federal Communications Commission
loosened rules on radio-station ownership in 1992. The
company owns about 1,150 radio stations and has a big
outdoor-advertising portfolio. "As Clear Channel
has grown, it has come under attack for homogenizing
radio entertainment by standardizing playlists, playing
too many commercials and not running enough local news.
This in part spurred the growth of satellite-based subscription
services like XM Radio," the Times notes. (Read
Oct. 25, 2006
spending on transportation leaves less for instruction
Rural school districts again encountered higher transportation
costs than urban ones in 2003-2004, which meant less
money went toward instruction, according to an analysis
of data on 7,856 rural districts from the National
Center for Education Statistics.
"For every dollar rural districts spend on transportation,
they are able to spend just $11.71 on instruction. By
contrast, non-rural districts are able to spend $15.43
on instruction for every dollar they spend on transportation,"
reports The Rural School and Community Trust
in its latest edition of Rural Policy Matters.
"The disparity reflects (1) the higher cost of
transportation in rural school districts due to larger
geographic enrollment areas and more challenging travel
conditions than non-rural districts; and (2) the generally
lower level of revenue available to rural school districts."
Since such a disparity exists, rural districts are
struggling with fewer resources overall and constantly
diverting funds away from the classroom. Several states
are sponsoring policies to consolidate smaller schools
and districts, which The Trust says will make the problem
power to boost nation's electricity supply, provide
A record addition of 2,750 megawatts of wind-power
capacity by year's end will boost the nation's amount
of available electricity and provide added security
for the future, according to an American Wind
Energy Association press release.
One megawatt of wind power produces enough electricity
on a typical day to serve 250 to 300 homes, and industry
officials hail wind energy as a safe, domestic form
of unlimited power. AWEA Executive Director Randall
Swisher is calling for the extension of a tax credit
for wind-energy production that expires in December
2007, arguing that the credit is key to the ongoing
wind energy push.
The AWEA is also pushing the U.S. Department
of Energy to take steps to unlock more of the
wind resources across rural America. “Every megawatt-hour
of domestic, inexhaustible wind energy from our heartland
is a megawatt-hour that doesn’t burn fuel and
that strengthens our energy security, protects our environment,
and creates good jobs," said Swisher. (Read
Most states have wind-energy projects. The major exception
is the Southeast, though the Tennessee Valley
Authority has an installation on Buffalo Mountain,
part of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. For a state-by-state
listing of active and proposed projects, click
takeover of House or Senate might boost net-neutrality
Proponents of network neutrality see the prospect of
Democrats reclaiming the U.S. Senate or House as a potential
boost in the fight to keep telecommunications companies
from playing favorites with how much they charge Internet
"The issue pits those companies -- including AT&T
Inc. and Comcast Corp. --
against a well-organized grass roots campaign that is
joined by some of the nation's biggest Internet success
stories, such as Google and eBay.
Net neutrality advocates say the 'Internet's First Amendment'
is at stake. They argue that if those who run the network
are allowed to discriminate against Web traffic based
on which sites pay them the most, it will strangle the
Internet's freewheeling, democratic nature," reports
The Associated Press.
Democrats have traditionally voiced more support for
net neutrality than Republicans, which is cause for
advocates to hope for a takeover in the House. "On
the Senate side, while a Democratic takeover is less
likely, a Democratic pickup of one or two seats may
still be significant," notes AP. "Regardless
of the election's outcome, network neutrality legislation
would still have to be signed by President Bush -- something
that both sides acknowledge is unlikely to happen."
could tip the balance in Tennessee and control of Senate
Most analysts agree that control of the U.S. Senate
could be decided by two or three races, including the
one in Tennessee between Republican Chattanooga Mayor
Bob Corker and Democratic U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.,
who would be the first African American senator from
the South since Reconstruction. And the pivot point
in Tennessee -- the place that has made Ford competitive
and could bring him victory -- is the rural 4th Congressional
District that runs through the hilly middle of the state
and is only 4.5 percent black.
"Ford has tethered himself to Rep. Lincoln Davis,
a popular two-term Democrat from a rural, white central
Tennessee district and the chairman of Ford's campaign,"
reports Shailagh Murray of The Washington Post.
"Davis said he polled his district in
July and found Ford trailing 49 percent to 35 percent.
. . . New numbers came back a few weeks ago showing
Ford ahead 49 percent to 39 percent." Davis, of
Pall Mall, told the Post, "If he wins my district,
he's the next senator from Tennessee."
Murray's dateline is Coalmont, "a struggling mountain
town," actually on the rugged Cumberland Plateau,
which covers most of Davis's district. (Click
here for a map.) She reports that Corker "often
appears to be tiptoeing through a rhetorical minefield,
eager to discredit his Democratic opponent with the
sharpest weapons he can find but wary about accusations
of playing racial politics." Corker said in an
interview, "Our life experiences could not be more
different. For him, politics is a way of life."
Does the race factor influence his campaign decisions?
"I understand the point of your question,"
Corker replied, "then he shook his head and looked
away," Murray writes. (Read
attorney general restricts release of criminal information
Reporters covering crime in California will have more
difficulty getting information about criminal defendants,
such as records on prior offenses and parole or probation
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued an opinion
Sept. 20 that says giving out that information violates
defendents' privacy rights, and he advised prosecutors
not to release lists of cases where witnesses have testified
or names of defendents charged with a specific kind
of crime over several years, The Associated
Press reports today. The opinion follows a
California Supreme Court ruling that restricted disclosure
of police disciplinary records.
Thomas W. Nexton, general counsel for the California
Newspaper Publishers Association, argued that
the public's interest outweighs the privacy issue. "A
typical situation is you've got a person who is arrested
and accused of a violent crime," he said. "The
public wants to know who is this person. Part of who
that person is, is what that person has or has not done
in the past. The public wants and needs to know just
who they're dealing with." (Read
tobacco farmers attempt to tap burley market for income
Some tobacco farmers in southern Virginia are switching
from flue-cured leaf to burley to combat rising fuel
costs and boost income, now that their federal quotas
have been bought out and price supports abolished.
"Burley tobacco is a slightly different plant
variety that is harvested once a year and hung out to
dry in large, drafty barns for up to four months. Under
the federal quota program, burley tobacco was grown
only in certain geographic areas, such as in far southwest
Virginia, but those boundaries were lifted during the
2004 buyout, leaving behind an untapped market for tobacco
growers in other parts of Virginia. Seeing a new opportunity
emerge for competitive tobacco markets, a handful of
Southside tobacco farmers are now are sinking thousands
of dollars into building barns for curing burley tobacco
and reshuffling the regional boundaries of Virginia's
tobacco industry," writes Christina Rogers of The
The 2004 abolition of quotas and price supports was
coupled with a $10 billion buyout for growers, but the
change forced growers to adapt to a freer market, controlled
by cigarette companies that contract with farmers for
most production. "Because most burley tobacco farms
were small, family-owned operations, the elimination
of this federal program was an excuse for some tobacco
growers to either retire or quit the business, said
Danny Peek, a Virginia Cooperative Extension
agent and regional burley tobacco specialist for Southwest
Virginia," writes Rogers. (Read
Oct. 24, 2006
failed to boost test scores for poor, minorities, study
Only six states can claim moderate success at boosting
reading, math or science scores for poor or minority
students during the last 15 years and many rural states
are lagging in efforts, according to a new study from
the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an
education, research and advocacy organization.
The six states with moderate success include California,
Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. "Many
state officials have claimed credit for gains in student
achievement," said Chester E. Finn, Jr., the Foundation's
president, in a press release. "But this study
casts doubt on many such claims. In reality, no state
has made the kind of progress that's required to close
America's vexing achievement gaps and help all children
prepare for life in the 21st Century." (Read
Iowa is called the "land of corn and complacency"
in the report. "Iowa officials argue that the report
only looks at certain factors, such as charter schools
and statewide standards, instead of a more complete
picture. Other indicators of improvement, they say,
include strides in preschool, teacher quality and cultural
competency training for educators so they can better
reach students in need. The Fordham report is based
on data from the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, which has higher standards than the locally
based Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in identifying whether
students are proficient in subject matter," writes
Megan Hawkins of The Des Moines Register.
Another predominantly rural state showing little improvement
is West Virginia. “West Virginia clearly has huge
challenges, and obviously the challenge of rural poverty
is considerable,” said Michael J. Petrilli, Fordham’s
vice president for national programs and policy, in
an Associated Press story. “But
the state could be doing much, much more including things
that don’t cost a lot of money. Setting clear
and rigorous academic standards is the first and most
important step." (Read
AP reports on Alabama's part in the study, which was
titled "Rumbling, Bumbling and Stumbling Toward
the Goal Line." The study includes references to
legendary University of Alabama football
coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and suggests the
state needs a leader like him. (Read
The report, titled "How Well Are States Educating
Our Neediest Children?" scored states in three
categories: student achievement for low-income, African-American,
and Hispanic students; achievement trends for those
groups during the last 10-15 years; and track records
in implementing education reforms. For the entire report,
including a map with links to each state, click
tests in schools come under fire from candidates, parents
Here's a national story that could lead to a local
story almost anywhere: What do local parents and others
who care about schools think about the high-stakes testing
systems mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind
Act and some states?
In a story from Lauderhill, Fla., The Washington
Post reports that the backlash against state
and federal tests is growing and becoming a political
force. "The role of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment
Test, or FCAT, has become central to the race to succeed
Gov. Jeb Bush (R), with polls showing a growing discontent
over the exams, which he has championed and which are
used to determine many aspects of the school system,
including teacher pay, budgets and who flunks third
grade," writes Peter Whoriskey.
Republican candidate Charlie Crist wants to continue
the testing regime, but Democrat candidate Jim Davis
condemns the exams for turning schools into pressure
cookers. "This election season may be the first
in which the growing use of high-stakes school testing,
embodied in the No Child Left Behind legislation, has
reached this level of political prominence. A similar
exam revolt has become a key issue in the race for governor
in Texas, another state in the vanguard of the testing
movement, and the issue has roiled the Ohio gubernatorial
contest as well," reports Whoriskey.
Testing advocates claim that pressure produces significant
improvements in student performance, and states such
as Florida and Texas are showing positive results. However,
teachers unions and some parents groups argue that the
tests transform education into routine drills, place
more stress on elementary students, and that reported
performance improvements are often short-lived, notes
to go: It's time to check on voter guides, similar material
"Election Day is near, and religious organizations
are busy distributing voter guides to inform the faithful
about issues and candidates," notes ReligionLink.org,
produced weekly by the educational arm of the Religion
"The Internal Revenue Service is
closely monitoring politicking by churches and when
high-profile public policy issues are entwined with
religious values. This year, religious groups with more
liberal political orientations are producing guides,
which have long been used by conservative Christians.
And all groups are benefiting from the Internet, where
guides are posted for downloading by groups and individuals."
Some voter guides are evenhanded, but others advance
a political agenda. The latter event may violate a federal
law that prohibits tax-exempt group from supporting
a particular candidate or party. "Experts say most
groups seem to have learned from past mistakes, however,
and now produce carefully crafted guides that communicate
their message without crossing legal boundaries,"
ReligionLink.org reports. However, that does not mean
such guides are not biased, and if you're a journalist
who knows of biased guides or similar material being
widely distributed in your area, we think you have an
obligation to set the facts straight.
For a ReligionLink reporter's guide to voter guides,
Senate race illustrates Democrats' growing appeal in
Democrat Jon Tester, the favorite in the Senate race
in Montana, has a lot going for him. His Republican
opponent, Sen. Conrad Burns, "is one of the least
popular U.S. senators," reports The Weekly
Standard. "Burns has been unable to label
Tester, a farmer, as an out-of-touch liberal. Instead,
Tester, like fellow Senate challengers Sherrod Brown
in Ohio and Jim Webb in Virginia, is an antiwar populist
who talks about economic inequality and the damage done
to America by the president's foreign policy."
Tester's candidacy may be something more, writes the
conservative Standard's Matthew Continetti. "The
strength of his candidacy is one more sign that the
Democratic Party is growing in the West. The Interior
West -- which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana,
Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming -- is slowly embracing
Democratic politicians and Democratic policies. And
the roster of Western Democratic pols is impressive.
In Arizona, there is Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is cruising
to reelection. In Colorado, there is Democratic Sen.
Ken Salazar and his brother John, who represents the
state's 3rd Congressional District. In Montana, in addition
to Tester, there is Gov. Brian Schweitzer. In New Mexico,
there is Gov. Bill Richardson, a potential 2008 Democratic
presidential candidate and the current chairman of the
Democratic Governors Association. And in Wyoming, there
is Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who is also likely to be reelected.
. . . In Colorado, Democrat Bill Ritter is leading Republican
congressman Bob Beauprez in the race to succeed Republican
Gov. Bill Owens."
And in Idaho, there is a competitive race for an open
House seat, "perhaps, the political equivalent
of hell freezing over in the interior West," writes
Blaine Harden of The Washington Post.
For that story, click
here. Kirk Johnson of The New York Times reports,
"Of the seven states with the fastest-growing proportion
of independent or third-party voters from 2000 to 2004,
four are clustered in the Southwest — Arizona,
California, Nevada, and New Mexico, according to Election
Data Services, a nonpartisan consulting company
that tracks election information." (Arizona, Johnson's
focus, ranked first, followed by New Hampshire, Florida
and Maryland.) For the Times story, click
Democratic blogger Markos Moulitsas of The
Daily Kos "believes Tester and other
Western Democrats represent the beginning of a new political
animal -- what he calls the Libertarian Democrat,"
Continetti writes. "Traditional libertarians err
in seeing the government as the greatest threat to individual
freedom. Corporations also threaten personal liberty.
... A Libertarian Democrat uses government power to
limit the freedom-inhibiting tendencies of global capitalism
while also guarding against abuses of government power."
Tester illustrates how successful politicians combine
big ideas with a confident self-image and a gift of
gab. During a discussion with doctors about malpractice
lawsuits, "Someone asked Tester what should be
done. He clearly had no idea what to say, so he opened
the floor to suggestions," Continetti reports.
"After a little more discussion he asked, 'So what's
the solution?'" When a doctor replied, "You
tell us," Tester said, "You guys are in the
field. I know how to grease a combine, okay?" "Everyone
laughed and smiled," Continetti writes, "but
Tester's smile was the widest of them all." (Read
chief wants broadband revolution, especially in rural
As Congress and lobbying interests continue to spend
time debating net neutrality -- the issue of equal pricing
for content creators -- a former Federal Communications
Commission chairman says the more important
Internet issue is broadband access for rural America.
"Any serious discussion of the future of the Internet
should start with a basic fact: broadband is transforming
every facet of communications, from entertainment and
telephone services to delivery of vital services like
health care. But this also means that the digital divide,
once defined as the chasm separating those who had access
to narrowband dial-up Internet and those who didn’t,
has become a broadband digital divide," opines
William E. Kennard of The New York Times.
"The nation should have a full-scale policy debate
about the direction of the broadband Internet, especially
about how to make sure that all Americans get access
to broadband connections. Unfortunately, the current
debate in Washington is over 'net neutrality' —
that is, should network providers be able to charge
some companies special fees for faster bandwidth,"
"As chairman of the FCC, I put into place many
policies to bridge the narrowband digital divide. The
broadband revolution poses similar challenges for policymakers,"
writes Kennard. "Studies by the federal government
conclude that our rural and low-income areas trail urban
and high-income areas in the rate of broadband use.
Indeed, this year the Government Accountability
Office found that 42 percent of households
have either no computer or a computer with no Internet
Kennard concludes, "To ensure that broadband
reaches into rural, low income and other underserved
communities, Congress should reform the Universal Service
Fund, the federal subsidy paid to companies that provide
telephone service to rural areas. For decades, the fund
has been financed by a federal fee or surcharge that
consumers pay on interstate phone calls. But the fund
in its current form is not an effective way to support
expanded broadband access. It is not fair to expect
telephone consumers to bear the sole burden of the subsidy,
and the decline in revenue from traditional long-distance
calling is shrinking the base for contributions to the
fund. We must find a new source of revenue for the fund
that does not exclusively tax users of the phone network."
to slow U.S. store expansion, focus primarily on urban
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has about
half its stores in rural areas, announced plans Monday
to slow its U.S. expansion in an effort to boost returns
on investments, which means delays in opening new stores
close to existing ones and plans to build smaller and
Retail analyst Richard Hastings said the move is a
sign that Wal-Mart wants to focus more on major urban
areas. "They've run out of the kinds of rural and
suburban inexpensive lease locations that they enjoyed
for so many years," Hastings said. Out of the more
than 600 news stores slated for next year, about half
are destined for spots outside the U.S., reports the
Reuters news service.
"Despite tighter cost controls, the retailer said
it was pressing on with efforts to remodel some 1,800
stores, or about half the U.S. chain, but acknowledged
that the store disruption was hurting sales in the short
term," notes Reuters. (Read
Oct. 23, 2006
tackles broadband, digital-divide issues that affect
The latest episode of the "Moyers on America"
series on PBS, Friday night, covered
several media issues that affect rural residents, including
the digital divide, net neutrality, big media and communities
working together for broadband Internet. The episode
was titled "The Net At Risk" but its content
was much broader, and it remains available online.
On net neutrality, Bill Moyers' show reported about
the Federal Communications Commission
allowing differential pricing for Internet content creators,
which critics say would make the Internet a "toll
road." The segment on digital divide talked about
the lack of rural access to broadband as just one part
of America's declining status in the global arena of
Internet access. The big-media segment was about the
decline in the number of companies owning a controlling
interest in America's media, from 50 in 1984 to six
The segment on community connections covers one of
the most contentious technology issues in rural America
-- whether communities should take a lead role in providing
broadband Internet access. "There are hundreds
of community internet and municipal broadband projects
underway or in the planning stages in the U.S. But there
are also 14 states that either prohibit cities and towns
from building their own networks or have passed laws
that make it more difficult," according to the
"Moyers on America" Web site.
With the series, the program began "Citizens
Class," which its Web site calls "an extensive,
interactive curriculum designed to encourage and facilitate
public discourse on the issues raised in the series.
The workshop features multimedia discussions, reference
materials on the key perspectives presented in the program,
and questions for further reflection-all designed to
stimulate deep and thoughtful community dialogue,"
according to the show's Web
site, which includes information about each of the
keep cutting rural circulation; Grit, still alive, seeks
Metropolitan daily newspapers continue to reduce their
coverage and circulation in rural areas, and the trend
may be accelerating because of financial pressures.
Several are expected to post declining circulation figures
for the last three months, and at least one company
blames the loss on cutbacks in serving rural areas.
"In a press release for 3Q results, Belo
Corp. reported The Dallas Morning
News showed steep declines for the six-month
period ending September 2006. Daily circulation dropped
13 percent while Sunday slipped 12%. The company attributes
the losses to a cut in statewide circulation and in
third-party advertiser sponsored copies," writes
Jennifer Saba of Editor & Publisher.
In some areas of rural Texas, the newspaper abruptly
dropped service to the residents. (Read
Meanwhile, the Reuters news service
reports that Grit,
a 124-year-old based newspaper called with
big rural readership, is changing to a magazine format
to attract residents in exurbs, or communities just
beyond the suburbs of major U.S. cities. "The change
comes after years of losses at Grit and a decades-long
exodus out of the rural areas where the newspaper was
once devoured by news-starved readers," writes
James B. Kelleher. "Founded in 1882 as a Saturday
supplement for a Pennsylvania newspaper, Grit became
an independent Sunday paper two years later and quickly
expanded outside the state."
"But during the 1970s and 1980s, as farming communities
lost people and jobs, Grit's circulation plummeted by
95 percent and the newspaper churned through several
owners. . . . Now, it's become a magazine, sent by mail
every two months to Grit's remaining 80,000 subscribers
and targeting the wealthy ex-urbanites who are moving
to rural areas in search of a slower pace of life and
cheaper housing." (Read
more) Grit, once based in Williamsport, Pa., is
now based in Topeka, Kan.
vows to help Republicans take majority in West Virginia
Don L. Blankenship, chief executive of West Virginia's
largest coal producer, Massey Energy,
is a powerful financial contributor to the Republican
Party and a figure of controversy in coal-miner deunionization,
mountaintop-removal strip mining and other sources of
Blankenship earned about $34 million last year, and
is investing much of that in political causes, reports
Ian Urbina of The New York Times. "In
a state where candidates who win typically spend less
than $20,000, Blankenship has poured more than $6 million
into political initiatives and local races over the
past three years. Blankenship has spent at least $700,000
in his current effort to oust Democrats, and the state
is awash with lawn signs, highway billboards, radio
advertisements and field organizers paid for by him."
Blankenship said he would spend “whatever it takes”
to get a Republican majority in the legislature.
"Union leaders say Blankenship, 56, is the main
reason that less than a quarter of the state’s
coal miners are now organized, down from about 95 percent
just three decades ago," writes Urbina. "And
environmentalists describe him as the biggest force
behind a highly destructive form of mining called mountaintop
removal," which fills in the heads of hollows --
sometimes with dams for coal waste. By a wide margin,
Massey has the worst record for waste spills in the
state, with 4,268 citations; the next closest has fewer
The West Virginia Democratic Party has given out bumper
stickers saying, “Don, WV is not for sale,”
created a Web site with Blankenship's controversial
comments and urged Republican candidates to return Blankenship’s
contributions. "Last year, in response to Blankenship’s
impact on the Supreme Court race in 2004, lawmakers
passed a campaign-finance law capping at $1,000 how
much an individual can give to so-called 527 groups
like the one Blankenship used to influence that race,"
writes Urbina. "However, individuals still can
spend unlimited sums of their own money on campaign
advertisements, and that is just what Blankenship has
said he plans to do." (Read
group gets rural residents involved in education policies
Arkansas is providing a model for rural residents wishing
to get involved in education policy making and school
improvement through Advocates for Community
and Rural Education, which bridges racial and
regional divides to promote citizen responsibility for
high quality schools.
ACRE's tries to show rural residents that they possess
the abilities to affect change and that they have opportunities
to make their voices heard, according to Rural
Policy Matters, a newsletter of the The
Rural School and Community Trust. The organization
has chapters across the state and it organizes meetings
that foster democracy and ideas for sustainable school
"This year, ACRE created the Quality Education
Initiative, a tool that helps communities assess and
improve their schools. ACRE also provides education
materials that explain how bills are passed and how
citizens can become involved in the legislative process.
It offers its rural constituency regular legislative
updates, research on education issues, and information
on how state policies are being implemented in rural
schools," reports The Trust. (Read
churches aim to bridge divide with unity revival in
The most segregated hour in America is 11 a.m. Sunday
when blacks and whites attend separate churches, and
that appears to be especially true in rural areas.
In Boyle County, Kentucky, "Unity in the Community,"
a week-long revival series designed to integrate black
and white churches, will take place next month. "The
series will feature pastors of predominantly black churches
delivering sermons in the pulpits of the predominantly
white churches, and vice versa, during evening services
on Nov. 12-16," writes Herb Brock of the Advocate-Messenger
in Danville, Ky. A culminating service will be held
on Nov. 19 at a local high school.
"The church should be a leader in bringing different
races together because 'in Christ' there is no racism.
We love our brothers and sisters of different races
equally," said Rev. M. Tom Lane, pastor of Cornerstone
Assembly of God. Participants hope the revival builds
new friendships among churches, reports Brock. The group
would like to increase participation as well as make
the revival a regular event. (Read
geologist: We won't run out of oil, we'll just pay more
The world will never run out of oil, says Eric Cheney,
a University of Washington economic
geologist. "It might be a heck of a lot more expensive
than it is now, but there will always be some oil available
at a price, perhaps $10 to $100 a gallon." He notes
that after considering inflation, current gas prices
are about the same as they were in the early 20th century.
This, he says, today's prices are not high, but the
prices of eight years ago were low, reports Newswise,
a research-reporting service.
"Changing economics, technological advances and
efforts such as recycling and substitution make the
world's mineral resources virtually infinite, said Cheney,
a UW professor emeritus of earth and space sciences.
For instance, oil deposits unreachable 40 years ago
can be tapped today using improved technology, and oil
once too costly to extract from tar sands, organic matter
or coal is now worth manufacturing," writes Newswise.
Most oil production occurs in rural areas.
Cheney, who spoke yesterday in Spokane, Wash., says
he wants to dispel myths such as the idea that oil production
is always damaging to the environment and oil companies
make excessive profits, reports Newswise. However he
says that the use of fossil fuel is still a serious
issue, particularly in regard to pollution. He said
that we will not run out of fossil fuels but they need
to be managed better. (Read
Oct. 21, 2006
churches call for end to mountaintop removal, factory
Mountaintop-removal strip mining, "inhumane"
factory farms and other practices that cause environmental
danage are jeopardizing the character of Kentucky’s
rural areas and should be abolished, the Kentucky
Council of Churches said yesterday at its meeting
The council of 11 generally moderate to liberal denominations
also called yesterday for “broad-based legalization”
of illegal immigrants, “a higher cigarette tax,
stricter regulations on environmental waste and a curb
in the use of gases linked to global warming,”
reports Peter Smith of The Courier-Journal.
One of three resolutions approved by the council “focused
on environmental concerns and voiced alarm at rural
trends,” Smith writes. “The council said
changes in rural areas affect not only smaller communities
but urban ones as well, which become the destination
of people displaced from traditional rural communities.”
The council said, “Our country has been built
on a strong belief in a Creator-God and on the moral
and ethical values inherent in a system of family farms,
such as honesty, self-sufficiency yet interdependence,
mutual trust, hard work, and neighborliness. The destruction
of this system also jeopardizes the base on which our
urban centers are built.”
The council called for buying locally produced food,
stronger anti-pollution regulations and opposing “the
raising of domestic animals where the animals are not
provided humane living conditions, including sufficient
space to move, and to nurture their young and with access
to clean air and water.”
The council is the African Methodist Episcopal
Church, the AME Zion Church,
the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ), the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
the Cumberland Presbyterian Church,
Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America, the Presbyterian Church (USA),
the Roman Catholic Church, the United
Church of Christ and the United Methodist
Oct. 20, 2006
against Senate to make industry veteran head of mine
Yesterday President Bush dodged the Senate to re-nominate
Richard Stickler for assistant secretary of labor in
charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Bush waited until the Senate had recessed for next month's
election to make the appointment. Stickler's nomination
failed twice this year because of opposition from mine-safety
advocates and an increase in coal-mining deaths. Stickler
will likely be able to keep his post until the end of
2007; Bush made the appointment under an archaic provision
that lets presidential appointees named during congressional
recesses -- which used to be much longer -- stay in
office until the end of the next session of Congress.
Stickler takes the place of David G. Dye, who had been
a controversial figure because he had spent his entire
career in the coal industry, notes Ken Ward Jr. of The
Charleston Gazette. Stickler worked in the
industry for 30 years, mostly at Bethlehem Steel's
coal arm as a mine manager. Data from MSHA showed that
injuries on his watch were twice the national average.
He became chief of Pennsylvania’s Bureau
of Deep Mine Safety in spite of opposition
by the United Mine Workers.
"So far this year, 40 coal miners have died in
workplace accidents nationwide — including 12
at the Sago Mine disaster — the most in any single
year since 2001, Bush’s first year in office,"
writes Ward. "Stickler told reporters that his
first priorities are to complete investigations of the
Sago and Kentucky Darby Mine disasters and the Aracoma
Mine fire, implement new safety legislation signed by
Bush earlier this year, and hire new inspectors to fill
jobs sliced because of previous Bush budget cuts."
Idaho, wind power bringing green energy, money to farmers
Wind power is growing in rural Idaho, producing greener
energy and helping local economies. "Idaho's wind
power potential is significant. A Northwest
Sustainable Energy for Economic Development
study estimates it at 1,800 megawatts. The state ranks
13th among states in potential wind power, according
to the American Wind Energy Association,"
writes Tim Woodward of the Casper Star Tribune
in Wyoming. Forty-three wind turbines exist in southeastern
Idaho and with more than 40 others planned.
"Wind farms are built primarily in rural areas,
bringing jobs and tax revenues with them," writes
Woodward. "Wind can also be a source of income
for local ranchers and farmers on whose land wind turbines
are erected. Depending on the amount of power produced,
they typically receive $4,000 to $7,000 per year per
turbine. The turbines' effect on crops and livestock
Wind power is renewable, does not create pollution
and has no fuel costs, notes Woodward. A study at Boise
State University found that 59 percent of respondents
thought wind power was the most desirable source of
energy. However, opponents say it is inefficient and
clutters the landscape. The wind is not always blowing,
so utilities need backup sources of power in case turbines
do not meet demands. Also, the transfer of power to
utility grids can be expensive, creating a relatively
low profit margin. (Read
expands $4 drug plan; PR stunt, community pharmacists
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced yesterday
that it is expanding its discount-drug program three
months earlier than planned. Started in Florida last
month, the program sells 30-day supplies of 314 different
generic prescriptions for $4 each. It will spread to
1,264 stores in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware,
Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New
York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Vermont, a company
"Since we began the program in September, we've
been committed to bringing it to other states as soon
as possible," said Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee
Scott. "Customers have told us again and again
how valuable the $4 generic prescription program is.
So we're thrilled that we can respond in a way that
cuts costs out of the system and brings more affordable
medicines to our customers." For the release click
The National Community Pharmacists Association
called Wal-Mart’s expansion a "PR stunt,"
saying it will not have as much benefit to consumers
as it seems. NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce
Roberts said that only about one percent of drugs would
be included in the $4 plan. “The question people
should be asking Wal-Mart is, ‘What will you be
charging for the other 99 percent of the medications
that people need?’” The NPCA said Wal-Mart's
list includes older medications and those with side
effects that other drugs don't have. It also expressed
concern that patients would not get adequate counseling
from Wal-Mart pharmacists and that Wal-Mart may drive
community pharmacists out of business through aggressive
pricing. To read the press release click
Hometown Publishing buys Albrecht Newspapers in Tenn.
Albrecht Newspapers, a small group
known for quality journalism and leadership in the industry,
has sold to American Hometown Publishing,
a firm that says it wants to stress quality rather than
quantity in community newspapers. The Albrecht papers
are The Covington Leader, the Brownsville
States-Graphic and the Chester County
Independent of Henderson, all weeklies in West
President Joe Albrecht is retiring after 50 years in
community journalism. Following American Hometown's
approach, his son Jay will continue as publisher of
the Leader, circulation 7,300, and group manager of
the other papers, about 5,000 each. Corporate bookeeping
will remain in Cookeville, in Middle Tennessee, under
the direction of Connie Albrecht, wife and mother to
Joe and Jay.
“For me, selling to and being a part of American
Hometown Publishing is about the future,” Jay
Albrecht said in American Hometown's release. “It’s
been my family’s dream for years to establish
a quality group of community newspapers in Tennessee.
While we had a great start in Brownsville, Covington
and Henderson, joining American Hometown Publishing
makes realizing my overall dreams even more likely.
It was a very difficult decision to sell our newspapers,
but the American Hometown Publishing philosophy made
deciding who to sell to very easy. I’m delighted
and excited to be part of the American Hometown Publishing
team and look forward to what the future will bring.”
To read the full release, click
American Hometown's CEO is L. Daniel Hammond, who started
Publishing Group of America and American
Profile, a weekly magazine that began in 2000
and is targeted to small dailies and large weeklies.
American Hometown, started late last year, says it “acquires
and manages community newspapers of 25,000 circulation
or less by forming partnerships with local publishers
and growing their newspapers through proven revenue
and market expansion efforts.” The company's operations
vice president is Ron Fryar, who recently managed the
Morris Newspapers in Tennessee.
The company, based in Nashville, says it is "funded
by a group of investors led by The Solidus Co.
(Townes Duncan, president); including Petra
Capital Partners (Michael W. Blackburn, partner);
the Burch Investment group and others.
The company's Web site doesn't say how many papers it
owns, but its press releases refer only to the purchases
of the Blackwell Journal-Tribune (circulation
2,690) and the Guthrie News Leader
(2,750) in Oklahoma and The Coalfield Progress
(7,180), The Dickenson Star and
The Post (4,500) of Big Stone Gap,
all in southwest Virgina.
Newspaper Holdings sells papers to Heartland Publications
Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.
is selling the daily Logan Banner (circulation
9,579) and the weekly (Madison) Coal Valley
News (circulation 5,600) to Heartland
Publications LLC. Both are West Virginia publications.
CNHI owns 89 dailies, 49 non-dailies and several specialty
publications in 21 states. In 2004 the company sold
six of its Kentucky newspapers to Heartland, which currently
operates 31 paid daily and weekly papers in seven states,
Inlander, a publication of the Inlander
groups clash over FCC rules of consolidation and cross-ownership
Yesterday the Media Institute urged
the Federal Communications Commission
to ease restrictions to allow more consolidation of
local radio ownership, and to lift the cross-ownership
ban between newspapers and broadcast. The Institute
said current rules are outdated and place traditional
media at a disadvantage with new media and technology.
To read the press release from the institute, which
is supported by large media companies interested in
cross-ownership, click here.
The Media and Democracy Coalition
countered that there is already too much consolidation
in the news media and dominant groups have too much
influence on public opinion. It said that many cities
already exceed the standards for "excessive concentration"
set by the Justice Department, reports
Ira Teinowitz of TV Week. (Read
"The perspectives are part of the battle surrounding
the rewriting of key ownership restrictions by the FCC,
which is not expected to reach any conclusions until
next year. A federal court rejected the agency’s
earlier bid to ease rules," writes Todd Shields
of Media Week. (Read
newspaper did not break campaign laws with coverage
A California judge ruled last week that the Mission
City News did not break campaign laws when
its 2002 mayoral election issue contained an article
and an advertisement targeting Santa Clara mayoral candidate
John McLemore and included another ad paid for by his
opponent, Mayor Patricia Mahan.
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Neal Cabrinha said
there was no proof that publisher Chris Stampolis rejected
ads from candidates with whom he disagreed. "Last
year, the district attorney's office charged Stampolis
with disguising a political mailer as a newspaper and
failing to report the expense on campaign disclosure
forms," writes Julie Patel of the San Jose
Mercury News. Stampolis called the ruling a
victory for community newspapers, who he said should
be allowed to publish such ads as long as every candidate
is offered the same opportunity.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Julius Finkelstein
said distinguishing between a mailer or a newspaper
is key since readers assume newspapers try to balance
election coverage and a mailer clearly supports someone.
"After the Watergate scandal, California -- like
most states and the federal government -- learned that
one of the ways to prevent abuses in political campaigns
is to shed light on who's supporting who financially
in campaigns," he told Patel.
As Mahan, who won the 2002 election, and McLemore square
off again this year, Stampolis is not endorsing a candidate,
reports Patel. (Read
more) To read the newspaper's 2002 election issue,
Oct. 19, 2006
on Religion in Appalachia goes silent after 41 years
A group started 41 years ago as a voice for justice
in the mountains is no more, as the Commission
on Religion in Appalachia officially gave
its last will and testament Oct. 13 in Ripley, W. Va.
"Their slogan came from Amos 5:23-24, 'Let justice
roll down like waters,' and their mission was 'to express
God's love through the empowerment of the people of
Appalachia by working for justice.' As progressives
today try to 'find religion,' they would do well to
study the history of groups like CORA, who acted on
the natural connection they saw between their progressive
values and their beliefs of faith. They rooted and nurtured
the connection between their faith and political beliefs
not through abstract 'values debates,' but in the day-to-day
work of addressing the concerns of ordinary people,
from failing schools to mountaintop removal and dangerous
working conditions," opines Chris Kromm on The
Institute for Southern Studies' blog, Facing
"The realities of a lack of funding from partners
necessitated this action by the Commissioners,"
according to a press release. "In recent years
United Methodist [Church] funding decreased, and for
the past couple of years no grant-making funds were
provided. Administrative funding ... from the General
Board of Global Ministries Town and Country Office
was cut when GBGM reorganized and then faced financial
problems. Some [regional Methodist] Annual Conferences
continued to provide administrative support to CORA.
Recent changes in other major denominational partners'
structures and financial positions have resulted in
lack of support for grant-making and limited administrative
support. CORA's archives will be housed at the University
CORA wrote a Last Will and Testament during its final
meeting that almost reads as a mission statement for
rural America. Kromm excerpts most of that statement
on Facing South. (Read
ranks lobbying-interest contributions to congressional
Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy
group founded by Ralph Nader, released a report yesterday
showing how much money each member of Congress received
in campaign contributions from lobbying interests. The
report, titled "Under the Influence: Special Interest
Money and Members of Congress," listed the amounts
of contributions from lobbyists, political action committees
and other donors to all 435 House members and 100 senators.
"Lawmakers are ranked in each category, from who
takes the most amount of each kind of money to who takes
the least, as well as who takes the most special interest
money in all categories combined Public Citizen also
tallied which states – through their lawmakers
– are most and least reliant on special interest
funding," said Public Citizen. Using interactive
charts, you can see how individual lawmakers in each
state rank in receipt of money from lobbying interests.
here to reach the site.
“This information should be in the public domain
and easily accessible to every citizen, which is why
we created the Web site,” Laura MacCleery, director
of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said.
“Our campaign system is drowning in special interest
dollars. The public has a right to know whether members
of Congress will answer first to them or to the wealthy
benefactors of campaigns.” (Read
the news release)
go Democrat, newspaper swings left as election looms
Republican officials are switching political parties
in Kansas, and one newspaper that reaches 100,000 readers
is endorsing almost the entire Democratic ticket for
the first time in its history. As Bob Dylan once sang,
the times they are a-changin', and not just in Kansas.
Kansans voted nearly 2-1 for President Bush in 2004,
but in the Sunflower State "nine former Republicans
will be on the November ballot as Democrats," writes
Peter Slevin of The Washington Post.
"The Kansas developments coincide with efforts
by Democrats across the country to capture moderate
Republican and independent voters dismayed with partisan
bickering from both parties, particularly from the Republican
right. The spirit of the attempted Democratic comeback
in Kansas . . . is a search for the workable political
Even The Johnson County Sun of Overland
Park, a Kansas City suburb, plans to endorse virtually
the entire Democratic ticket, after endorsing fewer
than a dozen Democrats since it started publishing in
1950. In a recent column, Publisher Steve Rose wrote,
"So what in the world has happened? The Republican
Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.
You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican
candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or
in Kansas anymore." (Read
The Sun is a free weekly publication with 10 editions.
The paper is owned by American Community Newspapers,
and is providing thorough coverage of state House races.
here to read those stories.
into video news releases prompts top offender to stop
A television station named as the biggest offender
of airing video news releases without disclosing the
source is swearing off the practice, as a Federal
Communications Commission investigation continues
The Center for Media and Democracy
published a study in April titled “Fake TV News:
Widespread and Undisclosed,” which reported that
77 stations aired video news releases without properly
disclosing the source. The study identified KOKH
in Oklahoma City as the nation’s “top repeat
offender," and now John Rossi, the station’s
general manager, said KOKH will avoid using the videos
“as much as possible, if not altogether,"
reports Brent Battle of The Daily O'Collegian
at Oklahoma State University.
The station head said public relations firms should
identify videos better to prevent stations from unknowingly
airing VNRs. “The reality is it was a mechanical
error,” Rossi told Battle. “There was nothing
implicit about what we did. I knew that’s what
you guys were trying to find, but that’s not what
is a comprehensive follow-up to recent reports about
the Radio-Television News Directors Association
urging the FCC to drop its investigation. The Rural
Blog reported on the RTNDA's petition Oct. 9. Click
here for that archived item. To read the center's
study and see video footage, click
bats are in decline, threatening crops that need pollination
"Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate
North American plant life are losing population, according
to a study released yesterday by the National
Research Council. This 'demonstrably downward'
trend could damage dozens of commercially important
crops, scientists warned, since three-quarters of all
flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization,"
writes Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.
In the last 20 years the population of American honeybees
has dropped by 30 percent due to introduced parasites
and pesticides, reports Eilperin. Bees are important
to crops such as California almonds, which require 1.4
million to pollinate them all. North American farmers
have imported bees from Europe and elsewhere to make
up for the shortage but it carries the risk of introducing
new parasites and diseases in addition to those already
affecting the bee problem.
National Research Council called upon scientists and
the government to devote more study to pollinator populations,
reports Eilperin. The U.S. Postal Service
created four new stamps to help raise awareness. Gene
E. Robinson, an entomologist at the University
of Illinois, said that most people don't really
understand how important pollinators are to food production.
activists spread concerns, seek help in rural Virginia
Wise County, Virginia, is a hotbed for mining and area
residents are letting their environmental concerns be
known even when public meetings include nothing on the
agenda, such as the case at the Wise County Board of
Supervisors’ Oct. 12 meeting.
"About 15 activists filled the audience of the
meeting. Some who spoke warned of the perils of 'mountaintop
removal' and other surface mining, and faulty reclamation
being performed in the area. Others called for a county-wide
noise ordinance, while still others questioned tax breaks
for a proposed coal-fired power plant in the Virginia
City area near St. Paul. But all wanted the same thing
from supervisors — some kind of action, including
consideration of a noise ordinance, stiffer reclamation
laws, reconsideration of tax breaks for the proposed
power plant or tougher regulations on surface mining
operations in the county," writes Jodi Deal of
The Coalfield Progress in Norton.
“You are our only chance for help,” said
Pete Ramey, of Big Stone Gap, who spoke about mountaintop
removal operations and the risks of coal-fired power
plants. “We do not have to hide behind federal
legislation to help the people. Please help. You are
our chance to protect Wise County from what is really
happening out there. We do not have to sacrifice our
health and safety for our economy.”
Kathy Selvage, a Stephens resident seeking a noise
ordinance, spoke to the board about the effects of strip
mining: “When we do this, we change the Appalachian
culture. As a byproduct of that, some people just give
up and leave. It also affects the others who refuse
to just give up.” Supervisors did not respond
to the comments other than promising that they are doing
their best, reports Deal. (Read
Oct. 18, 2006
FDA may OK meat, milk sales; consumer groups opposed
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
is closer to approving the sale of food from cloned
animals and their offspring, a move pleasing companies
that supply farmers with livestock made with superior
Consumer advocates oppose such sales, and food producers
are worried about shoppers' reactions, reports Philip
Brasher of The Des Moines Register.
However, a draft risk assessment from the FDA shows
that "meat and milk from cattle clones and their
offspring are as safe as that from conventionally bred
animals," Stephen Sundlof, chief of FDA's Center
for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement.
The FDA does not prohibit the sale of food from clones,
but it did ask companies to voluntarily refrain from
sales during this safety evaluation period. The administration
is expected to release a plan for meat and milk sales
by the end of the year. "The Center for
Food Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group
critical of the use of biotechnology in farming, recently
petitioned the FDA to regulate cloned products as animal
drugs, which require extensive review before being allowed
on the market," writes Brasher. (Read
race features writer, sculptor arguing over pot heads
Aspen, Colo., houses wealthy residents and attracts
celebrities year-round, but now two men vying for sheriff
of all of Pitkin County, 975 square miles, are making
national headlines. The incumbent is writing a book
on his friend Hunter S. Thompson and the challenger
is an artist. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
"On Nov. 7, voters in this posh mountain town
will choose between five-time incumbent Sheriff Bob
Braudis, 61, and Rick Magnuson, a police officer who
is 20 years his junior and whose main issue is that
the sheriff is too easy on drug users. Braudis, who
stands 6-foot-6 and looks like a Hollywood version of
a Western sheriff, might be vulnerable on this. Though
he promises to enforce drug laws, he is eager to tell
anyone that tough penalties for drug use are not helping
anyone and that addiction is a matter for health-care
professionals, not jailers," writes Judith Crosson
of The Washington Post. Magnuson
is on the left and Braudis on the right in a photo by
Zach Ornitz of the Aspen Daily News.
"Braudis, who has been sheriff of Pitkin County
for 20 years, said he follows a zero-tolerance policy
when it comes to teenagers using drugs or alcohol, though
he is dead set against using undercover police to investigate
illegal drugs," reports Crosson. Magnuson favors
undercover officers, but also says Aspen is a bit unique.
"This is a party town," Magnuson, who has
done sculpture and performance art, told Crosson. "We
do not want a heavy-handed police force. We don't want
to look into someone's window to see if he is smoking
a joint." (Read
Daily News is taking a less narrative approach
with its coverage, reporting that the latest development
to rile up Braudis came when Magnuson cited criminal
statistics to argue that Pitkin County "badly lags"
neighboring counties in solving crimes. Magnuson's information
came from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation,
but even that Web
site "cautions against making correlations
between the number of crimes reported and the number
of arrests -- as Magnuson did -- because they're not
always directly related," writes Christine Benedetti.
election coverage averages 36 seconds per broadcast
in five states
Wisconsin broadcasters are fired up over a study that
suggested that Midwest television stations are neglecting
their responsibilities to serve viewers by shortchanging
voters on election coverage.
"The study conducted by the University
of Wisconsin-Madison's NewsLab, in conjunction
with the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation,
found that television stations in nine media markets
averaged 36 seconds per broadcast in the amount of airtime
devoted to election coverage. The findings brought sharp
criticism from Joyce Foundation vice president Lawrence
Hansen, who said broadcasters are failing 'by any standard
of measurement' to deliver what voters need to make
informed decisions," writes Karen Lincoln Michel
of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
"Local television news, in particular, has a special
responsibility due to its reach, influence and statutory
obligations to inform viewers at election time about
the background, experiences, qualifications and policy
views of candidates for public office," said Hansen,
referring to regulations mandated by the Federal
Communications Commission. "The failure
of local television news to foster and encourage informed
citizen participation in the political process is near
Journal Broadcast Group owns an NBC
affiliate in Green Bay and Appleton, and issued
a statement arguing that "By limiting the scope,
the authors of the study have made a choice to exclude
potential election coverage included in more than 30
hours of news programming each week in Wisconsin's two
largest television markets." The study examined
early and late-evening news broadcasts from Sept. 7
through Oct. 5 and captured local news on the ABC,
CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates
in five states: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio
and Wisconsin, reports Michel. (Read
more) For the study's initial findings, click
provides details into who owns local media outlets
"Who controls what you read in the newspaper,
what you see or hear on television or radio, and the
bits of data that flow over cable and telecommunications
wires? You can find out simply by typing your ZIP code
into the Media Tracker," writes Drew Clark of the
Center for Public Integrity.
As part of the center's "Well Connected"
project, the Media Tracker is a free, searchable online
database relaunched Tuesday that provides details about
U.S. media and telecommunications companies. Users submit
a zip code or city and state to retrieve a file of information
about the television stations, radio stations, cable
systems and newspapers serving that area, reports Clark.
"The Media Tracker database scans more than 5
million pieces of information from governmental sources,
corporate disclosure documents and original research.
The raw data on broadcast licensees and cable television
systems comes from the Federal Communication
Commission," writes Clark. "With
the FCC just beginning a process of re-examining the
rules governing media ownership, the Media Tracker is
a resource that can provide policy-makers, journalists,
academics and average citizens with the information
they need to evaluate how ownership decisions have affected
The Center for Public Integrity also sought to display
information about broadband providers by ZIP code, but
the FCC denied a Freedom of Information Act request
for access to its database of broadband providers, reports
charge readers too much for too little, journalist opines
A former newspaper editor and publisher just canceled
her newspaper subscription, after 37 years of faithful
reading, and among the reasons cited for her "divorce"
are the higher subscription costs, the lack of local
news and the emergence of online updates.
"But one reason I let my subscription lapse is
the fee, which seems out of proportion these days to
how much of the paper I actually look at," opines
Mariane Matera for The Hook, a weekly
in Charlottesville, Va. "Newspaper publishers claim
they are dealing with the change in lifestyles and the
competing information sources, but they're not dealing
with them fast enough. They promise more local news,
but they don't deliver any more than they used to. The
newspaper sections are still predetermined by advertising
inches. On the other hand, the free weeklies are usually
nothing but local news, and they're free. . . . Dailies
have to cater to too many demographics and end up giving
too little to any of them."
"After college, I desperately wanted to be a newspaper
reporter, but the editors wanted experience, master
degrees, credentials, connections... it was always something
keeping me out and my voice silent. Now that has changed.
Anyone can get a blog, and just about every freelance
writer in town who used to compete with me for jobs
is now self-publishing. Some have become award-winning
investigative journalists all on their own, with no
advertising departments or timid executive editors to
tie their hands. And I can read their work for free,"
continues Matera, a former editor of the Mechanicsville
Local and editor-publisher of the Richmond
Music Journal, who lives in Richmond.
"Other than that, my long romance with newspapers
is creaking to a 21st-century conclusion. . . . Newspapers
were my passion for so long, that like the lovers in
Brokeback Mountain, I didn't know how to quit
them. But the romance is over now. It's time for a divorce,"
concludes Matera. (Read
more) Just in the last month, some industry watchers
have argued in support of a price increase,
citing daily newspapers where the amount of content,
local and otherwise, is expanding for readers.
publisher elected president of National Newspaper Assn.
Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the twice-weekly Hood
County News in Granbury, Tex., became president
of the National Newspaper Association at
the group’s convention in Oklahoma City last week.
The Messenger of the Texas
Press Association reports, "Tidwell majored
in management and graduated from Texas Christian University
in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
After graduation, he worked for four years as an industrial
engineer in Fort Worth. He began his newspaper career
in 1970 as advertising manager of the Andrews
County News. He transferred to the Seminole
Sentinel where he was advertising manager for
three years. In 1976 he was named publisher of the Lamb
County News in Littlefield, and in 1979 became
publisher of the Hood
County News." (Read
NNA was founded in 1885 and has 2,700 member newspapers,
mainly weeklies. Its membership, and membership among
dailies, has risen in the last three years. For more
information, go to www.nna.org.
workshop sessions are now posted on Web site
Sessions from "Covering the Big Ballot and Beyond,"
a one-day workshop on covering this fall's elections
in Kentucky, are now posted in digital video on the
World Wide Web. Though the event was for Kentucky reporters
and editors, presenters discussed various election-coverage
principles and ideas that could be useful to political
reporters in any state.
The workshop was presented at Kentucky Educational
Television by the Institute for Rural Journalism and
Community Issues, part of the University of Kentucky's
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, and the
Citizen Kentucky Project of the school's First Amendment
Center. Here's the directory of the Web files, with
starting times to indicate the length of each session:
9:00am Welcome (Al Cross and Buck Ryan, UK) http://18.104.22.168/9amwelcome.mpg
9:15am Overview of the November 2006 Ballot (Ryan Alessi,
Lexington Herald-Leader; Bill Bryant, WKYT-TV, Lexington)
10:00am Judicial elections (Cross; also at start of
the next file) http://22.214.171.124/judicialelections.mpg
10:30am Issues in the 2006 elections (Ronnie Ellis,
Community Newspaper Holdings capital bureau; Jamie Lucke,
Herald-Leader; Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal) http://126.96.36.199/issuesinthisyears.mpg
11:15am Sources for information on issues (all panelists)
12:15pm Campaign finance (Cross, Loftus) http://188.8.131.52/campaignfinances.mpg
2:45pm Editorials and commentary (Cross, Lucke) http://184.108.40.206/editorialsandcommentary.mpg
3:30pm The 2007 governor's race (Cross, Bryant, Alessi,
Oct. 17, 2006
mine-safety overhaul draws sharp criticism from industry
A Bush administration effort to raise fines for mine
safety and health violations is drawing criticism from
mine operators, company safety officers, and a slew
of industry lawyers and lobbyists.
“Increased regulation is not the answer to increased
miner safety,” Mark A. Wilson, vice president
of safety for Greer Industries, the
West Virginia limestone company owned by Republican
U.S. Senate nominee John Raese, wrote the U.S.
Mine Safety and Health Administration. MSHA
officials are holding the second to last in a series
of public hearings over a proposed safety overhaul today
in Charleston, W. Va., with the final one slated for
Thursday in Pittsburgh.
"In early September, MSHA proposed the changes
to increase fines and to implement enforcement changes
mandated by Congress in the wake of this year’s
increase in mining deaths," writes Ken Ward Jr.
of The Charleston Gazette. The proposal
contains language "ordered by Congress to set a
maximum penalty of $220,000 — up from $60,000
— for flagrant safety violations. It also includes
a minimum penalty of $2,000 for violations cited by
inspectors as 'unwarrantable failures' to comply with
“This updated civil penalty structure provides
increased incentive to mine operators to comply with
federal safety laws to protect the safety of America’s
miners,” said David Dye, acting assistant labor
secretary in charge of MSHA. “We anticipate that
these stronger penalties will induce mine operators
to improve their safety and health programs, which prevent
hazards from endangering the safety of America’s
miners in the first place.” (Read
protect nation's food supply from terrorists gets Tennessee
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
picked the University of Tennessee's
College of Veterinary Medicine as the lead force in
an effort to increase the ability of farmers and communities
to protect the nation's food supply from terrorists.
"Funded with a $2 million grant announced Monday,
the program, through UT's new Center for Agriculture
and Food Security and Preparedness, will reach
across the agricultural spectrum, from crops to dairies
to meat processors," reports Duncan Mansfield of
The Associated Press. "The first
classes will be tried out this year in sessions in Tennessee,
New Mexico and California. The program will roll out
nationally next year. Some 34 sessions will be offered
around the country, free to participants."
"We will be training industry folks, in particular,
to assess their own facilities for vulnerability to
someone coming in and intentionally contaminating their
product," said Dr. Sharon Thompson, center director.
"Then we take it to the next step - what they can
do to harden those targets and actually move into a
prevention perspective." (Read
publishers predict end to rising print prices; good
sign for all
Several newspaper publishers are predicting an end
to the rising prices for newsprint, which have jumped
more than 50 percent in the last four years, and say
those prices may even roll back.
"As spiraling newsprint costs have eaten into
newspapers' already thinning margins, any savings are
welcome news to newspapers and their beleaguered investors,"
writes Shira Ovide of Dow Jones Newswires,
adding that publishers are gaining more power. "One
sign of the downward pressure is paper companies' difficulty
in pushing through a recent price increase -- the 10th
Many newspapers are forced into staff cuts by increased
operating expenses, which jump when advertising revenue
stalls and newsprint prices rise. If newsprint prices
stop rising and even decrease a bit, both community
and urban newspapers may find some relief.
"Paper producers planned in August to hike newsprint
by $40 to above $650 a metric ton, or 2,200 pounds,
of newsprint. . . . But under pressure from publishers,
market leader Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.
cut the price hike in half, and others abandoned it
completely. As in airline fees, price hikes don't stick
if all companies don't go along," reports Ovide.
Massachusetts' rural areas lack even one dentist, study
One-fifth of Massachusetts cities and towns lack even
one dentist, and the poor and the rural disproportionately
bear the burden of the state's dental care imbalance,
according to a first-of-its-kind report for the area.
The report from the Oral Health Collaborative
of Massachusetts, a consortium of dental educators,
medical associations, and health advocates, identified
several consequences of the absence of rural dentists.
People unnecessarily loss teeth, and the bacteria responsible
for tooth disease can also affect the heart and pregnant
women, reports Stephen Smith of The Boston Globe.
Multiple reasons exist for the lack of or absence of
dentists in 69 Massachusetts towns, said the deans of
the dental schools at Harvard and Tufts
universities, notes Smith. "High tuitions
and resulting indebtedness are factors that drive people
to practice in areas where payment is good," said
Dr. Bruce Donoff, dean of the Harvard School of Dental
Medicine. Many dentists "stay away from the rural
areas, where the economic conditions may not be as good."
town becomes host for effort to turn manure into electricity
Nick Carey of Reuters writes from
Reynolds, Ind.: "Like many rural communities across
the Midwest, Reynolds – surrounded by hog farms
and corn and soy fields – has seen its fortunes
decline in the past few decades, as residents drifted
to cities in search of jobs. Now local officials see
hope in a project aimed at providing power using renewable
resources – primarily millions of gallons of pig
The state of Indiana picked Reynolds, population 547,
last year as the site of a project called BioTown, and
the initial phase involved promoting E85 – 85
percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline. The town's lone
gas station installed such a pump last month, and the
next phase involves taking the town off the conventional
power grid, notes Reuters.
A pig can produce seven gallons of waste a day, notes
Jody Snodgrass of Rose Energy Discovery Inc.,
and law requires farmers keep 520 days' worth of waste
storage since the weather is rarely good for spreading
it on fields. The stink might be accepted, though. “These
buildings sit on colossal tanks full of manure,”
Snodgrass said. “If we can turn it into power,
these farmers won't need so much storage space.”
"Rose Energy, based in Advance, Ind., is investing
$7 million on three types of technology to turn pig
manure into power in Reynolds. The main one is anaerobic
digestion, where pig manure is mixed with waste like
leftover food and straw. As it decomposes it produces
methane, which is burned to generate electricity. Rose
Energy will begin construction work on the digester
in 2007 and it will go into operation in mid-2008,"
reports Reuters. (Read
more) The Rural Blog wrote on BioTown June 5. Click
here for that archived item.
opera tells how the uninsured deal with serious illnesses
In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, readings
of “The Way Home,” a spoken opera by playwright
Constance Alexander, are being presented across the
nation. This week's will include a performance by the
Artists Collaborative Theatre Thursday-Sunday,
Oct. 19-22 in Pikeville, Ky.
The 45-minute production examines the plight of cancer
and related issues, including how uninsured people deal
with serious illnesses, according to director Stephanie
Richards, the fine arts extension agent for the Pike
County office of the University of Kentucky
Cooperative Extension Service. (Richards was
the first fine-arts extension agent in the country and
may still be the only one. Kentucky extemnsion officials
are looking to fill a second such position.)
“The Way Home,” inspired by an award-winning
civic journalism project that Alexander undertook with
WKMS-FM, a National Public Radio member
station in Murray from 2000 to 2003, is being presented
in Kentucky and throughout the U.S. during October,
writes Terri McLean of UK's College of Agriculture.
The showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, 20 and 21, and
3 p.m. on Oct. 22. Tickets are $10 per person and Pikeville
College’s Booth Auditorium will host
the play. (Read
Alexander is on the national Advisory Board of the
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
Oct. 16, 2006
of vote fraud provides example of problem in Appalachia
A vote-fraud trial in Appalachia, Va., ended last Thursday
with a guilty verdict for a man charged with stealing
mail so others could steal votes. This case is one example
of a practice that remains prevalent in many low-income
areas, especially Central Appalachia -- the region,
not its namesake town. And it should prompt journalists
in such areas to probe the issue, asking such questions
as: How many votes are cast by absentee? How does that
compare with the statewide figure? Which voters repeatedly
vote by absentee?
Laurence Hammack of The Roanoke Times
writes, "A former letter carrier in the town of
Appalachia, [Don Houston] Estridge diverted blank absentee
ballots intended for voters on his mail route to corrupt
candidates and their supporters, who forged the documents
to vote themselves onto the town council, according
to testimony. Estridge was the first of 14 people indicted
in March to be convicted in a small-town scam that has
been called the state's biggest case of election fraud
in recent history. All but one of the remaining defendants
have agreed to cooperate with authorities."
Cases such as this one illustrate the number of ways
votes are bought. "Ballot theft was just part of
the Election Day graft in Appalachia two years ago.
Testimony also showed that some voters were offered
beer, cigarettes and snacks in exchange for their votes,
then rounded up and taken to the polls by the vanload,"
reports Hammack. (Read
more) To read an earlier story from Hammack with
background on the fraud schemes, click
Bonnie Shortt of The Coalfield Progress
in Wise County, where the town of Appalachia is located,
also provided thorough reporting. In a case where no
one actually saw the defendant steal any mail, prosecutors
relied on circumstantial evidence to convince jurors
that fraud occurred. To read the prosecution's side,
here. To read the defense arguments, click
This Virginia trial is not the first such vote-fraud
case in the Appalachian region and it certainly won't
be the last. Former Kentucky state Sen. John Hays was
convicted on mail fraud and acquitted on vote-fraud
charges in 2004 in relation to a 2002 judicial race.
A federal appeals court recently dropped the mail-fraud
conviction. For more on the case, click
here for a story by Lee Mueller of the Lexington
marriage issue in 2004 may not have directly impacted
Ohio's re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 may not
have been driven by votes from evangelicals and conservatives
in response to Issue 1 — a same-sex marriage ban
— as much as initially believed. In Ohio, the
measure passed 62 percent to 38 percent but it might
not have been a major factor in turnout. "Rather,
the ballot measure worked in a much more indirect way,
influencing smaller — and, apparently, non-evangelical
— segments of Ohio’s electorate to think
about the issues in ways that drove them into the Bush
camp," writes Louis Jacobson of Roll Call,
a Capitol Hill newspaper.
Ohio counties were divided on candidates, with Bush
receiving more support from rural areas, reports Jacobson.
According to a study by Daniel Smith, a political scientist
of the University of Florida, Bush's
county-by-county support in Ohio was essentially the
same in 2004 as it was in 2000. These findings are consistent
with studies in 11 other states.
"Nationally, 32 percent of voters said that gay
marriage was a very important factor in making their
presidential decision," writes Jacobson. "But
non-evangelical Christians in the initiative states
were 9 points more likely than their demographically
similar peers in non-initiative states to place the
same level of importance on gay marriage." Their
attitudes "sent a signal to non evangelicals —
not to evangelicals — that gay marriage was an
important issue," Smith told Roll Call.
“In Appalachia[n Ohio], the voting goes back
and forth between the parties because their economic
lot never improves. Between 1996 and 2000, 16 of those
counties went from Clinton to Bush. Bush kept those
counties in 2004 and increased his vote there, even
though unemployment rates were higher in 2004 than they
were in 2000. Those are culturally conservative areas,
and I can’t figure out why they stayed with President
Bush. I think one thing may have been guns, and the
other thing was gay marriage,” Joe Hallett of
the Columbus Dispatch told Roll Call.
class at Indiana U. covering local elections in several
Students in Carol Polsgrove's Public Affairs Reporting
at Indiana University in Bloomington
are getting out of the classroom to cover this fall's
elections and news in largely rural southern Indiana.
The stories have been sent to local newspapers, and
at least one has been published.
The first package of stories, on the elections, is
available on the class blog, Southern Indiana
News. Students talked to candidates and officials
in several counties, including Dubois, Jackson, Owen,
Greene and Lawrence, to cover election issues and races.
here to read the stories.
Student Benjamin Weller wrote, "Dubois County,
with towns like Jasper and Huntingburg, is by all accounts
a deeply conservative community. A large German Catholic
population, rural industries like farming and furniture
manufacture, and scores of churches make up the backbone
of the county. Pro-life billboards dot the countryside,
and the county consistently votes for Republican presidential
candidates. Most of the local elected officials, however,
are Democrats, with several running in uncontested races.
This contradiction reveals a more dynamic electorate
than partisans on either side would care to admit."
Students also just returned from one of what will be
several visits to Orange County in preparation for the
semester's centerpiece project -- reports on the changes
in West Baden and French Lick as those towns prepare
for the opening of a new casino and renovated hotels.
Polsgrove is the newest academic partner of the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Before
starting the course, she consulted Director Al Cross,
who gave her copies of stories his students at the University
of Kentucky did on judicial elections in a
Special Topics course last spring. Next semester, Cross's
students will cover the primary elections for governor
has money to build communities with digital media
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
is offering $5 million in the "Knight Brothers
21st Century News Challenge" contest, the first
part of a planned $25 million investment over the next
five years in "community news projects."
The contest wants ideas that combine new media with
news values to help connect and build communities: "Newspapers
have long defined the communities we live in. They shape
how we think about community and how we understand what’s
happening on our block or around the world. But as digital
media increasingly becomes the way we receive and share
news, who will perform this community function? Who
will do in the 21st century what our founders, the Knight
brothers, did with their newspapers in the last century?"
The Challenge's Web site, with an online application
form, is at www.newschallenge.org.
The competition will accept applications through Dec.
31, and expects to begin announcing winners in the spring
of 2007. "Anybody, anywhere around the world can
enter. Just as long as you’ve got an innovative
idea that uses the digital world to connect people in
the real world. That’s the only rule," according
to a Knight press release.
The Rural Blog reported on the foundation's $25 million
plan on Sept. 19. Click
here for that archived item.
spent on farmers double-paid by disaster aid and crop
"After a searing drought in the Plains, farm-state
legislators are pushing for billions more in aid,"
but because Congress has doubled up on farm-disaster
programs, "farmers often get paid twice by the
government for the same disaster, once in subsidized
insurance and then again in disaster assistance, a legal
but controversial form of double-dipping," The
Washington Post reported yesterday.
In 2000, Congress passed the Agricultural Risk
Protection Act to use $8 billion to help farmers
buy crop insurance and end the cost of giving them disaster
payments, reports the Post. However, lawmakers continued
to pass farm disaster bills which have totaled almost
$24 billion since that year.
"Congressional sponsors of disaster legislation
offer a variety of reasons for their bills," write
Gilbert M. Gaul, Dan Morgan and Sarah Cohen. "They
say federally subsidized insurance doesn't cover all
of a farmer's losses, and disaster aid fills the gaps.
It helps to stabilize rural economies, which don't have
many other options. And it offsets rising fuel and production
costs while securing cheap food for Americans."
"The money is blown all over the country, from
New York to Nebraska to California, usually at election
time, fanned by farm-state legislators," reports
the Post. "A major share of the money goes to parched
and flood-prone areas where farming is tenuous at best
and 'disasters' seem to happen every year, a review
of thousands of records and interviews with dozens of
farmers, economists, insurers and government regulators
have found." (Read
more) The series continues today with "Crop
Insurers Piling Up Record Profits."
India, cell phones economically empower farmers and
In India, cell phones are giving connectivity and economic
power to farmers and poor, rural laborers. The nation
is the fastest-growing cell-phone market in the world,
with 125 million users, a number expected to reach nearly
half its 1.1 billion people within four years. Cell-phone
coverage is growing most quickly in rural areas and
is driven by young people and rural residents who had
been neglected, the director general of the Cellular
Operators Association of India, T. V. Ramachandran,
told The Washington Post.
"For less than a penny a minute -- the world's
cheapest cell-phone call rates -- farmers in remote
areas can check prices for their produce," writes
the Post's Kevin Sullivan. "They call around to
local markets to find the best deal. They also track
global trends using cellphone-based Internet services
that show the price of pumpkins or bananas in London
"Indian farmers use camera-phones to snap pictures
of crop pests, then send the photos by cell phone to
biologists who can identify the bug and suggest ways
to combat it. In cities, painters, carpenters and plumbers
who once begged for work door-to-door say they now have
all the work they can handle because customers can reach
them instantly by cell phone." (Read
school funding changes in Tennessee worry rural, urban
Possible changes to Tennessee's education funding formula
are leaving both rural and urban educators fearing a
substantial loss of state dollars and possibly critical
"Under the current model, school districts' state
funding is based on the ability of the county where
they are located to raise money for schools. The new
model would distribute state funds based on individual
school systems' ability to raise money," writes
Beverly A. Carroll of the The Chattanooga Times-Free
Press. "For example, the Oak Ridge school
district, which is considered relatively wealthy, is
located in Anderson County, which is considered a relatively
poor county. Under a system-level model, Anderson County's
state funding would increase by $2.4 million, and Oak
Ridge Schools' would drop by $1.4 million."
Urban schools are arguing that such a system does not
take into account the costs of educating at-risk students
that are more prevalent in their areas. Rural school
districts are fighting to make sure they do not lose
money just because urban districts need more, reports
Carroll. Story not available online.
Oct. 13, 2006
mark of 300 million signals changes in much of rural
As one new person arrives every 11 seconds, the U.S.
population will surpass 300 million on Tuesday, says
the Census Bureau. About 40 percent
of current growth comes from immigrants and their children.
They are also responsible for increasing or stabilizing
population in many rural areas, and growth in general
raises questions about the future of rural America.
“Three hundred million is also a discomfiting
reminder of a nation that, on its east and west coasts,
at least, is running noticeably low on elbow room. More
humanity is stirring up more traffic, more sprawl, more
rules against growth, more protests against anti-growth
rules, and more of the greenhouse gas emissions that
cause global warming,” writes Blaine Harden of
The Washington Post. “The relative
presence of immigrants, about 12 percent of the total
population, is more than double what it was when the
population topped 200 million. Immigrants are also more
visible than ever, having fanned out from gateway cities
such as New York and Los Angeles to parts of the rural
South and Midwest where they had not been seen in substantial
numbers before.” (Read
“This kind of continuing development tied to
U.S. population growth worries many environmentalists,
as well as those concerned about the loss of farmland,”
writes Brad Knickerbocker of The Christian Science
Monitor. “Concern about a growing populace
and decreasing resources is likely to push governments
toward conservation and more sustainable development,
experts say. (Read
more) Nearly 3,000 acres of farmland is erased by
development daily, and developers used farmland at a
rate 30 percent faster than other rural land in the
past two decades, according to a study from the Center
for Environment and Population. Click
here for that study.
The ongoing increase is population means development's
effect on rural America will continue. Numbers
USA, a public policy group cited by Al
Tompkins of the Poynter
Institute, says “The rate of rural
land lost to development in the 1990s was about 2.2
million acres per year. If this rate continues to the
year 2050 -- when today's toddlers are middle-aged --
the United States will have lost an additional 110 million
acres of rural countryside. That's about equal to the
combined areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode
Island, Vermont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New
Jersey and Virginia.”
adding calcium nitrate to anhydrous ammonia to fight
Gov. Tom Vilsack and other Iowa officials unveiled
this week a new additive to anhydrous ammonia that renders
the fertilizer useless to methamphetamine makers.
"Retailers expect the practice of injecting calcium
nitrate into anhydrous ammonia tanks will gain wide
acceptance," wrote Deborah Eby of the Quad-City
Times. "Vilsack said the discovery will
reduce the theft of the fertilizer and cut the amount
of meth produced in the state. Iowa State University
researchers George Kraus and John Verkade,
both chemistry professors, tried dozens of combinations
before finding that calcium nitrate was effective."
The program is voluntary. Retailers who participate
will get a supply of calcium nitrate and “Stop
Meth” signs for anhydrous-ammonia tanks. (Read
theft driving a crime wave among U.S. farms, Monitor
Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor
writes about "a growing problem for America's farm
belt: rural commodity theft, or 'plaid-collar crime.'
From lush Hawaii to the Carolina plains, artichoke absconders,
nut nappers, tree thieves, and even cattle rustlers
are plucking, picking, hauling, and siphoning commodities
from diesel to mangosteens at impressive rates. Loss
is a familiar concept to a farmer. But such audacious
heists have prompted many to go on the offensive to
police America's wide-open spaces."
"The vulnerability of farms is legendary,"
Bill Yoshimoto, attorney for a rural-crime task force
in California, told Jonsson. "They're just wide-
open places for crooks to come. And crooks are going
to go where the pickings are easy and where the prices
Jonsson reports, "Several commodities are particularly
in demand because their prices are increasing. Almond
prices jumped 70 cents a pound this summer, and beef
prices remain high. Prices for high-grade lumber continue
to climb. And rural backwoods areas have been hit by
the copper theft epidemic across the country after prices
peaked at $2.80 a pound this summer.
He continues, "These days it's relatively easy
to steal commodities without getting caught, Mr. Yoshimoto
says. For one, farms are bumping up against suburbs,
shortening the time it takes potential crooks to get
their hands on freestanding tanks of diesel, barrels
of expensive fungicides, and rolls of copper wire. Oftentimes,
thieves can operate in plain view since the heavy equipment
and tractor-trailers they use to carry out their crimes
are common in these parts. Internet trading has also
cut down on paperwork, making scofflaws tougher to track
Midland sees ethanol coming from more than corn
The chief executive of the largest U.S. ethanol producer,
Archer Daniels Midland Co., said this
week that while corn and soybeans will remain staples
for biofuel manufacturing, "corn husks and other
cellulosic material will help meet the world's growing
appetite for both food and fuel," Reuters
"We believe that corn ethanol and vegetable oil
biodiesel will continue to account for a significant
percentage of biofuels for years to come," ADM
CEO Patricia Woertz said on Wednesday in St. Louis,
at the Advancing Renewable Energy conference.
"For that reason, ADM is venturing into making
cellulosic ethanol from corn husks," Reuters reports.
"Cellulosic ethanol is also made from grasses,
wood chips or other fermentable material."
"We believe this process will boost our production
of ethanol by 15 percent without adding an additional
ear of corn," Woertz said. (Read
papers dig deep to pass repeal of state estate tax
Owners of several family newspaper companies in Washington
state -- The Wenatchee World, Pioneer Newspapers,
The (Vancouver) Columbian and
The Seattle Times -- have contributed
financially to a campaign to repeal the state's tax
on estates, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"The papers' involvement in the campaign has raised
eyebrows, with critics saying the publications can't
be objective in their coverage if owners and publishers
get involved in political campaigns," Amy Rolph
writes. "Others complain that the papers aren't
doing enough to let readers know of their contributions."
Voters will decide Nov. 7 whether to keep or repeal
a law "which makes it possible for the government
to tax large estates, though the first $2 million in
value is exempt," Rolph explains. "David Lord,
the president of Pioneer Newspapers, said he doesn't
believe his company's donation affects its newsrooms.
... Pioneer owns the Skagit Valley Herald and
the Ellensburg Daily Record, as well
as other papers in Washington and throughout the Northwest."
It gave $25,000, as did The Wenatchee World.
World Publisher Rufus Woods "said this is the
first time he has written a large check to a political
campaign, but abolishing the estate tax is a personal
passion of his family's," Rolph wrote. "But
it's the basic principle of objectivity that worries
Kaushik, who canceled a meeting with the editorial board
at The Wenatchee World because he didn't see the point
of going. He said he also decided to forgo a meeting
with The Seattle Times for the same reason." A
Times vice president is consulting the repeal campaign.
"Though some newspapers have addressed the issue
of their donations through blogs and columns, Kaushik
thinks they should do more to disclose their 'hidden
interests,' right down to accompanying editorials with
a note," Rolph reports. "But those who are
on the receiving end of the donations don't see a problem.
"The bottom line is, these are family-owned businesses,
and they have a stake in the matter," Amber Carter,
a spokeswoman for the repeal campaign, told the Post-Intelligencer,
a Hearst paper. (Read
reports lower ad revenue; may reflect a trend for daily
Gannett Co., the largest media company
in the nation -- and the publisher of more weekly newspapers
than any other U.S. firm -- experienced a 12 percent
drop in earnings in the third quarter of 2006, attributed
to a weaker market for advertising. “Overall,
Gannett's newspaper ad revenue rose 1.2 percent, driven
largely by new acquisitions--but the company said that
without the purchases, national ad revenue fell 3.4
percent and classified revenue fell 2.3 percent,”
writes Erik Sass of Media Post Publications.
“The dip in Gannett's classified-ad revenue is
another piece of bad news for newspapers overall, which
derive a large part of their revenue from it,”
writes Sass. “Although real-estate revenue continued
to climb with an 8.2 percent jump, employment classifieds
fell 6.2 percent and automotive tumbled 9.5 percent.
The latter development is in keeping with auto advertisers'
long-term flight from print.”
Paul Ginocchio, an analyst with Deutsche Bank,
predicted that real-estate and help-wanted classified
would decline because of the slowing economy, reports
Sass. Lauren Rich Fine of Merrill Lynch
estimates a drop in earnings-per-share of 11.5 points
for the entire newspaper industry. In addition to Gannett,
top newspapers such as The New York Times
and The Wall Street Journal have reported
decreases in ad revenue. (Read
Oct. 12, 2006
watchdog group launches budget-tracking Web site
On Tuesday, the watchdog group OMB Watch
launched FedSpending.org, an online
tool that allows the public to see how its tax dollars
The Web site opened shortly after President Bush signed
the Federal Accountability and Transparency Act into
law. The law requires the Office of Management
and Budget to disclose its spending on its
own Web site and it will provide much of the information
for FedSpending.org. To read the bill, click
"For the first time, itemized information on the
more than $12 trillion that the federal government has
disbursed between 2000 and 2005 will be available to
the public in a useful format. Users can search contract
and grant information by agency, congressional district,
and recipient, for example," said an OMB Watch
press release. "FedSpending.org will function not
only as a tool for the public and journalists to find
out about government spending, but also as a prototype
against which to measure the success of OMB's endeavor."
Republican ads mislead on Democrats' immigration votes
From one end of the country and many places in rural
America, voters are seeing political commercials that
accuse Democratic candidates of voting to "give
Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants."
That charge is "a mischaracterization," reports
FactCheck.org, a non-partisan group
run by former CNN political reporter
Brooks Jackson, who has been picking TV ads apart for
more than a decade and calls them fairly. He says FactCheck.org,
part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
at the Universiy of Pennsylvania, has
counted 29 Republican ads "attacking Democrats
with various versions if this misleading claim."
"The charge is a mischaracterization of an amendment
offered during debate of the immigration bill that passed
the Senate last May with a healthy bi-partisan majority,
62-36," says FactCheck.org. "The amendment
would change current law to prevent immigrants from
getting credit toward future Social Security benefits
from taxes paid before they have legal permission to
Other mischaracterizations include a claim that a Senate
bill "pays foreign workers more than Americans,"
reports FactCheck.org. The provision would require guest
workers to be paid the same as citizens, not more, and
they could only be hired if no American accepted the
job. Another ad said that $50 billion would be spent
to "give illegal aliens amnesty" but did not
mention that the sum would be spent over 10 years. Further,
the Congressional Budget Office said the figure was
due to a mistake and would be more like $4 billion.
depts. give $17.5 million for research of renewable
Nearly $17.5 million will fund 17 biomass research
and development projects in an attempt to reduce the
nation's dependence on oil, as part of the Advanced
Energy Initiative. The announcement was made yesterday
by Secretary Mike Johanns of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture and Secretary Samuel Bodman
of the U.S. Department of Energy at
the conference, "Advancing Renewable Energy: An
American Rural Renaissance."
"Grants announced [yesterday] are intended to
develop technologies necessary to help make bio-based
fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial
market. The projects selected will carry out research,
development and demonstrations on biobased products,
bioenergy, biofuels, and biopower," said a joint
press release from the USDA and the DOE. Click
here to read the full release.
Johanns said that in the last six years, the U.S. has
gone from 10 biodiesel plants to 86 plants. A cost-sharing
program will provide $160 million to build as many as
three more in the next three years. Ethanol is expected
to be another practical alternative. "Johanns said
ethanol will still be competitive when gas is $2.00/gallon
and will continue to be so as long as oil remains above
$30 a barrel and the DOE said that prices will level
out in the long run at a per barrel price of over $50,"
writes Karl Heilman of Resource Investor.
cypress forests endangers Gulf Coast areas, critic writes
"It’s been estimated that every 2.7 square
miles of wetlands reduces storm surge by a foot, and
yet over the last century Louisiana has stripped away
1,900 square miles of swamp, an area the size of Delaware.
Evidence shows that such improper land management, reducing
the cypress-tupelo swamps to a small fraction of their
original grandeur, worsened flooding in New Orleans
during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Steve Fleischli,
the executive director of Waterkeeper
Alliance, writes in The New York
"Yet at a time when the nation should be investing
billions to restore the Gulf Coast’s wetlands
for protection against future storms, these cypress
swamps continue to face many challenges, including development,
saltwater flowing in and rising water levels. The most
dangerous threat of all, however, may be garden mulch
— the stuff that gardeners usually use to protect
their plants. As they exhaust the cypress forests along
Florida’s coast, mulch companies are moving into
Louisiana with shady operators among them grinding up
entire cypress forests, 70 percent to 80 percent of
which will never grow back. This is hurricane protection
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
is requiring permits for logging in southern Louisiana,
but the clear-cutting of cypress forests continues.
A potential problem for preservation efforts is a U.S.
Supreme Court ruling this summer ordering government
agencies and lower courts to analyze waterways, giving
federal protection to only those with special significance,
"Already, several Florida municipalities, after
witnessing the destruction of their wetlands, have banned
the use of cypress mulches. In Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen
Blanco is exploring her authority to carry out a broader
moratorium. Consumers need to remember that their mulch
purchases may be leaving New Orleans and other coastal
communities vulnerable. Every bag of cypress mulch for
you could mean another sandbag for someone else,"
concludes Fleischli. (Read
boom poses risks for farmers on tractors in rural Va.,
Residential development in some rural Virginia counties
is making it hard for farmers to navigate roads on their
tractors and some are opting to abandon their fields.
"Life in the slow lane can sometimes feel like
an obstacle course for strawberry farmer J.D. Scott
as he bobs and weaves his way around fast-moving traffic
on a dusty red-and-white tractor," writes Christina
Rogers of The Roanoke Times. "As
he discusses the perils lurking on these narrow back
roads, a maroon Corvette zips toward him in the opposite
lane. Without slowing down, the sports car's driver
drops its right tires onto the gravel shoulder, swerves
around and whips past Scott's tractor -- loudly punctuating
the farmer's point."
Farmers in Botetourt, Bedford and Franklin counties
need to haul heavy machinery to and from fields, but
newcomers that do not wish to wait in traffic, reports
Rogers. "If you look at the pure demographics of
the issue, approximately 1.8 percent of the population
is associated with agriculture nationally," said
Bruce Stone, a safety manager with the Virginia
Farm Bureau. "If you simply do the math,
98.2 percent don't understand agriculture and don't
have to. So when people get behind a tractor running
25 mph, they get impatient and then they take a chance
The Virginia Farm Bureau records the number of tractor-vehicle
collisions from news clippings and insurance claims,
which includes five fatalities and 21 injuries since
2002. North Carolina labor officials conducted a 2003
survey of farmers where only 22 percent of respondents
in their state said they felt safe on rural roads, notes
looking to improve operations should visit new Web site
A new Web site is aiming to create a collaborative
effort among small farmers looking to improve their
yields and efficiency, and the site hopes to accomplish
that by bringing farmers together to plan, track, analyze,
and improve operations.
is encouraging farmers to jump online, log into the
site, and then share their different strategies and
experiences. The site provides displays of different
farming data, and then helps farmers see how their methods
compare to others in their area and across the country.
The site relies primarily on the data submitted by farmers,
so its services depend on the amount of Web traffic.
Oct. 11, 2006
a growing national problem with small sense of hope
"As the Bush administration promotes a widely
praised multibillion-dollar effort to end chronic homelessness
in cities like Washington and San Francisco, a growing
outcry is rising from rural areas that worsening problems
far away from urban centers are being overlooked,"
reports The New York Times.
Many studies have previously estimated that homeless
people in small towns account for 9 percent of the nation's
600,000 homeless, but many rural communities claim the
percentage is higher because of closing plants, failing
farms, rising housing costs and other circumstances.
Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S.
Interagency Council on Homelessness, told Times
reporter Randal Archibold the problem is hard to assess
because rural communities usually lack the data-heavy
planning documents the Department of Housing
and Urban Development and other federal agencies
"This year, the federal government has increased
direct spending on homeless programs to about $4 billion,
up from $2.9 billion and double the spending of five
years ago," writes Archibold. However, rural homeless
advocates continue to lack hope because they do not
possess the same grant-writing experience and knowledge
of federal regulations typically found in metro areas.
Small towns also struggle without the network of nonprofit
organizations and corporations that typically underwrite
A story in today's Columbus Dispatch
mentions rural homelessness in the state's central and
southeastern counties. State leaders are reviewing what
assistance efforts are currently underway in those counties
to come up with a Rural Homeless Initiative plan, report
Encarnacion Pyle and Tom Sheehan. (Read
get mental health care via video; what about the quality?
Rural areas often lack psychiatrists, but now some
residents are getting help via video in a move that
represents the latest step in telemedicine -- and that
may raise questions about quality.
"Video medical treatment increasingly is filling
the gap in regions of the country where specialists
are in short supply. And mental health appointments
work especially well over video, enabling therapists
to reach many patients who otherwise might not get help,
experts say," reports Jamie Stengle of The
Associated Press. States using the technology
for mental health include Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania
Doubts about the service include whether patients can
get help in emergencies and what happens when the personal
touch of face-to-face interaction is lost. Dr. Myron
Weiner, who works at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center, told AP that assessing
someone's mood from a video screen is troublesome because
facial expressions and gestures get lost in the mix.
farmers missed out on millions given by USDA, study
Only 5 percent of $500 million spent on four agriculture
research and grant programs went to farmers with small-
to medium-sized operations or beginning farmers in 2001
and 2002, says a study released Tuesday by the Nebraska-based
Center for Rural Affairs.
Many projects that received funds from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture "were essentially
research and development initiatives for large food
companies," the report concluded. The USDA counters
that two of the programs did not deal specifically with
small farmers. "And in one program, $1.5 million
was set aside for smaller producers this year, the department
said. The agency also created a $1.47 million grant
program for small minority producers," reports
Libby Quaid of The Associated Press.
What is undisputable is the decline of mid-sized farms
in some states and the rising age of farmers nationwide.
For instance, in Iowa the number of farms classified
as mid-sized, or those boasting sales between $100,000
and $499,999, slid 19 percent from 1997 to 2002, according
to the report. "Given the demographics of agriculture
in America ... the inability of major USDA research
and grant programs to address the topic of beginning
farmers and ranchers is disappointing," said the
center's Kim Leval, an author of the report.
The report asks the government to target family farmers
and rural communities when awarding such money in the
future. The four programs studies included the Rural
Business Enterprise Grant program, the National Research
Initiative, the Initiative for Future Agriculture and
Food Systems and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program,
notes AP. (Read
more) For the full report, click
eye rural areas as the key to taking back control of
Many Democratic candidates who once ignored rural areas
are now campaigning hard for votes that helped build
the Republican stronghold running Congress, and some
see small-town U.S.A. as holding the key to the nation's
Democrats are fighting to get control of the Senate.
"To gain the majority, Democrats must win at least
four, and maybe more, GOP-held seats in red states such
as Missouri. Recent polls have buoyed their hopes. Democrats
are running about even with or slightly ahead of Republicans
in each of the hotly contested red-state Senate races
except Arizona's," writes Ronald Brownstein of
The Los Angeles Times.
"In all but one of the key red-state Senate races,
rural voters constitute a larger share of the population
than they do nationally (Arizona is the exception).
And that means that to gain Senate seats, Democrats
need to minimize the GOP edge among culturally conservative
exurban and rural voters," Brownstein writes from
Missouri, where state Auditor Claire McCaskill is challenging
Republican Sen. Jim Talent and admits she didn't spend
enough time in rural areas when she lost the governor's
race in 2004.
Besides Arizona and Missouri, the other races in red
states (those carried by President Bush in both his
elections) are Ohio, Montana, Virgina and Tennessee.
dope main cause of drug deaths in N.E. Calif., rural
Prescription drug deaths are more common in rural northeastern
California and rural Nevada than in those states' urban
areas, says an alcohol-and-drug counselor with experience
in both the city and the country.
"Alcohol and drug counselor Lyle Dornon said while
working in treatment programs in the Los Angeles area,
the typical client deaths were related to heroin addiction.
However, in his experience working in northeastern California
and Nevada rural communities, client related deaths
are prescription drugs addicts," writes Ruth Ellis
of the Lassen News
in northeastern California.
Dornon said heroin is less available to rural residents,
so oxycontin and methadone are the drugs of choice,
and parents are being strongly urged to keep medications
locked up. "The largest portion of clients the
Lassen County Alcohol and Drug Department serves are
alcohol and marijuana users and approximately 20 percent
are prescription drug addicts," reports Ellis.
county confronted bleak future with new spirit, business
Valley County is in many ways the heart of Nebraska
and the heart of America because it tells a story all
too common in rural areas. Business closings and a declining
population left the county with little hope five years
ago. "In the last five years, though, something
utterly unexpected has happened," writes David
Leonhardt of The New York Times.
"The decline has stopped. More people are moving
to Ord, the county seat, than leaving, and the county’s
population is likely to show its first increase this
decade since the 1920’s. The economics of rural
America have not really changed. If anything, the advantages
that Chicago, Dallas, New York and other big cities
have over Nebraska have only continued to grow. But
Ord has finally figured out how to fight back."
Leonhardt says Ord "has hired a 'business coach'
to help teach local stores how to sell their goods over
the Internet and to match up retiring shop owners with
aspiring ones. Schoolchildren learn how to start their
own little businesses — like the sixth-grade girl
who made a video of the town’s history and sells
it at school reunions — so they will not grow
up to think the only job opportunities are at big companies
in Omaha or St. Louis. Graduates of Ord High School
who have moved elsewhere receive mailings telling them
about job opportunities back in town."
More rural stories like Ord's may start to appear,
though, because a culture of philanthropy is emerging
among Midwestern states. Such philanthropy is not taking
place along the coasts and in the Southwest, but maybe
those areas could take a lesson from rural America.
"New York could become a little more like Ord and,
in the process, blunt some of the rough edges of inequality
that have come with prosperity," writes Leonhardt.
remove plumbing from homes, topple utility poles in
"Thieves planning to make a quick buck selling
stolen copper wires and pipes for scrap are becoming
more brazen. No longer content with swiping used metals
from construction scrap bins, thieves are now taking
copper plumbing out of homes," including those
in rural areas, writes Jeff Reinitz of the Waterloo-Cedar
Falls Courier in Iowa.
As copper prices have increased during the last year,
several reports have circulated about the metal being
stolen from farms. Now residents are coming home to
find no hot water, and the culprits are burglars grabbing
pipes. In some cases, the resulting increased water
pressure from the closed line builds up, bursts fittings
on the cold water line, and leaves residents with no
water, reports Reinitz.
"Last month, bandits in Waterloo risked their
lives to topple a utility pole and break open a transformer
in a plan to steal the copper wiring inside. The newer
transformer, which had a light current running through
it, had only aluminum wires," writes Reinitz, adding
that the copper thieves are taking more chances like
this across the country. (Read
Oct. 10, 2006
financial disclosures from 43 states now available online
Journalists covering elections know that candidates
have to disclose their campaign finances, but they often
don't realize that most states require candidates to
make certain disclosures of their personal finances,
so that possible conflicts of interest can be exposed.
However, about half the states don't post the reports
online. The Center for Public Integrity
has filled much of the gap by posting legislators' reports
on its site.
The center does not have reports filed by legislative
non-incumbents, which typically are required in all
but four states that require legislative incumbents
to disclose their personal finances. Those reports are
typically not available from state agency Web sites,
but are available on request from the agency.
Legislators in 47 states are required to make such
disclosures, which list information such as private
employment, major investments, major debts and board
positions. The Center for Public Integrity is posting
reports of legislators from all but four of the 47 states
-- Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Delaware,
which are still collecting current information. Personal
financial disclosures are not required in Idaho, Michigan
and Vermont. Click
here to read the center's release.
To check on your legislators, select from the list
Web site. The center says it started collecting
the records in 2000, and has kept up with more than
six thousand filings each year.
squeezes local TV, democracy pays price, TV journalist
"Wall Street is undermining democracy in America.
It is doing this by demanding ever higher profit margins
from local television stations that have little more
to give. The result is that more Americans are getting
less news," writes Valerie Hyman, program director
for the Carole
Kneeland Project for Responsible Television Journalism
and former television reporter, for the weekly CBS
News feature Outside Voices.
"In the process, Wall Street also diminishes the
democratic vision of journalism. Now, in addition to
gathering and presenting news, stations must be on the
lookout for ways to get more advertising money out of
their newscasts. The Ford Foundation
and the Radio Television News Directors Foundation
just released a study
that shows that two-thirds of Americans choose local
television as their top source of news compared to any
other traditional or new media. No matter how dismissive
you may be of local TV news, most of your neighbors
rely on it. Like it or not, this is a story that concerns
Stations prosper during election years from advertising
dollars brought in via candidates. However, in following
years, Wall Street demands more money than it got during
election year, writes Hyman.
"This desperate game of catch-up is unfolding
as the Internet gnaws at television's revenue base.
It's a small nibble now. It will get bigger. Meanwhile,
TV stations get a smaller piece of that advertising
pie with each passing year," concludes Hyman. "When
local television stations are squeezed, so are citizens
who rely on them for the information they need to make
decisions in a democracy. We need to tell Wall Street,
and the CEOs of the media companies that are slaves
to stock prices, to look for something else to squeeze.
Democracy demands it." (Read
bill to cut health care disparities; problem plagues
On his way out of the Senate for a presidential campaign,
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., recently
introduced legislation aimed at reducing health care
disparities, which are a major issue in rural America.
The bill received support from two very prominent Democrats.
"The bill authorizes roughly $500 million to reduce
disease rates among racial and ethnic minorities and
some poor rural whites. The other sponsors are Democratic
Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Barack Obama
of Illinois and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico," reports
Nancy Zuckerbrod of The Associated Press.
She suggests that the bill cold be considered when Congress
reconvenes for a "lame duck" session after
the Nov. 7 elections.
"The legislation calls for research into why some
groups have higher rates of disease than others and
attempts to eliminate such disparities," AP reports.
It would restore funding to some programs, such as those
for minority enrollment in medical schools; establishing
new programs, including one for hospitals to conduct
research on health disparities; create a Food
and Drug Administration panel to make recommendations
related to racial and ethnic minorities; and require
hospitals to collect more data on patients' race, ethnicity,
geographic location and income. (Read
more) For more information on health-care disparities,
rural and otherwise, check with the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.
newspapers trashing what candidates bill as 'press releases'
Newspapers often get flooded with press releases from
candidates, and Oklahoma newspapers are an example of
how papers should approach running such material, writes
Roger Bailey, executive director of the North
Dakota Newspaper Association, in Publishers'
Bailey cites David Stringer, publisher of The
Norman Transcript and president of the Oklahoma
Press Association, who wrote the following
in his column The Oklahoma Publisher:
"I'm glad to see and hear newspapers are becoming
a little more 'evangelistic' related to politics and
trashing what candidates would like us to believe are
press releases. We've created the monster ourselves,
running a lot of that garbage in the past, but I've
had more than a few publishers and editors tell me how
offensive they find it to get a 'press release' about
a candidate's new schedule of TV commercials, or about
the $50 'donation' fundraisers they're having.
"They hope we'll run this garbage, spend all of
their money on TV and direct mail, then tell you how
important you are to them, asking for your editorial
endorsement. I'm glad to see newspapers are catching
on to the scam. What they're really saying is 'You're
important if it's free. But you're not worth our money.'
Fine. Newspapers are still the best defense of democracy
and the only media that hasn't become more entertainment
"Folks still rely on us more than anyone for a
fair reporting of the facts. I'm glad to see us getting
a little more militant about that part of our business.
In most cases, they know newspaper readers are more
intelligent and more likely to vote than the general
public. And the truth is a lot of those campaign handlers
are afraid of that," concluded Stringer in his
column, not available online.
Bailey writes, "North Dakotans, it has been generally
agreed upon, are usually 'followers.' We hope that Oklahoma
attitude someday prevails here. But for now, it's readily
apparent that most newspaper people in North Dakota
would rather be friends with the politicians by giving
them all the space they want -- in exchange for the
golden dollar which the politicians will 'fight for'
and bring to their state. Newspapers which prostitute
themselves in this manner aren't any better than the
politicians, are they?" (Read
counties lag in national effort to reduce chronic homelessness
"Three years into a 10-year plan to end chronic
homelessness, housing officials are struggling to get
rural Utah to catch the vision. Fewer than half of the
10 regional homeless committees have launched pilot
projects," writes Kirsten Stewart of The
Salt Lake Tribune.
The effort is part of a Bush administration initiative
aimed at getting the chronically homeless into permanent
housing accompanied by medical and financial supports.
However, in some rural Utah counties, that fact that
some teachers and police cannot afford homes makes it
hard to sell such a program. Also, in areas experiencing
growing pains due to oil and has exploration, city and
county leaders are slow to make this program a priority,
"Metropolitan areas have long complained of shouldering
the state's homeless burden. The chronically homeless
cluster there, because that's where they can find shelter,
food and transportation," writes Stewart, adding
that the chronically homeless are people without a home
for more than a year, or who go homeless four times
during a three-year period. (Read
school board agrees to hang no more religious portraits
A portrait of Jesus Christ will never hang again at
Bridgeport High School in West Virginia, after the Harrison
County Board of Education decided Friday to settle a
lawsuit filed by Americans United For Separation
of Church and State and the American
Civil Liberties Union.
"The portrait, Warner Sallman’s Head of
Christ, had been hanging at Bridgeport High for at least
35 years. In June, the two groups sued the school board,
county superintendent and the school’s principal,
claiming the art infringed on students’ constitutional
rights to religious freedom," writes Anna L. Mallory
of The Charleston Gazette. No images,
items or objects with religious content can be displayed
at the school near Clarksburg. (Read
"The dispute triggered local controversy and attracted
national attention. The ACLU and Americans United sued
on behalf of two Bridgeport residents, charging that
the portrait's presence in a public school was unconstitutional,
offensive and an endorsement of Christianity over other
faiths in an increasingly diverse community," writes
Cindi Lash of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“This is a victory for the children of Bridgeport,”
said Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard
B. Katskee in a press release. “We have avoided
a lengthy and expensive lawsuit that would have been
detrimental to the community and school system. This
means that school funds can be put toward education,
not litigation.” Click
here to read the full release.
Virginia weekly closely covering plan for coal-fired
Plans for a coal-fired power plant are progressing
in St. Paul, Va., and The Coalfield Progress
in Norton is doing a good job covering all the details,
including the company's guarantees about air pollution
in the scenic valleys of the upper Clinch and Powell
In the first of two stories in the latest edition,
Jodi Deal writes, "Dominion Virginia Power
officials say construction of an electric power plant
near St. Paul will likely go forward regardless of whether
the State Corporation Commission provides
Dominion with the preliminary investment assurances
it has asked for. The nagging question for officials
is how long it will take to build the plant if Dominion
doesn’t learn more about the return on equity
for cost of building the plant." (Read
In the second story, Deal reports, "Of course
residents near a coal-fired power plant proposed for
the St. Paul area will notice some air emissions if
the plant is built, a Dominion Virginia Power representative
said Thursday. But, according to Jim Browder, an environmental
consultant with Dominion, the key to meeting state and
federal regulations is to choose technologies that will
insure that the emissions won’t 'significantly
deteriorate air quality.'" (Read
Oct. 9, 2006
provide community papers with new life, new set of challenges
Election Day is a month from tomorrow, and election
coverage can provide community newspapers with challenges
in terms of how of coverage and with new life from an
influx of new content, writes Jim Pumarlo in Publishers'
Quarterly of the North Dakota Newspaper
One source of new life comes from letters to the editor,
which spur an exchange of ideas on pages typically reserved
for staff-written copy or syndicated columns. "Election
letters demand extra attention due to the preponderance
of orchestrated campaigns. Editors will navigate the
election season best by establishing guidelines early
and publicizing them often. In a nutshell, newspapers
should emphasize letters by local residents on local
issues," opines Pumarlo, author of Bad News
and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive
Issues in a Small-Town Newspaper.
Most smaller newspapers do not endorse candidates,
especially in local races, but Pumarlo says papers "have
a responsibility, even an obligation, to weigh in on
who they believe will best advance the interests of
their communities. Editorials are most balanced, and
more readily accepted by readers, when they identify
the strengths and weaknesses of all candidates, and
then recommend someone on the basis of the information
While a voter guide often serves as a newspaper's one-stop
shop for readers, "these special editions are one
slice – albeit an important one – of overall
coverage. It’s unrealistic to believe that months-long
campaigns can be whittled down and presented in a single
package. At minimum, voter guides should provide a glossary
of all races and questions that will be on the ballot,"
concludes Pumarlo. (Read
may be abused; farmers want to break loopholes for large
Last year $23 billion was spent on farm subsidies,
and there is debate over whether the government is overspending
and whether the money goes to those who need it.
Critics say that subsidies encourage farmers to milk
the system rather than concentrate on production and
profit, and are also prone to fraud. Subsidies may be
benefitting those who don't need assistance, including
large farms and institutions. Last year $10.5 billion
in subsidies went to just 5 percent of those eligible.
Universities and large companies who own farmland recieve
subsidies, although they may not farm the land themselves,
report Dan Chapman, Ken Foskett and Megan Clarke of
the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Supporters say that subsidies are a safety net for
the farm industry to protect against bad years and natural
disasters. They say funds aid rural economies and help
prevent rural diaspora. "Subsidy proponents also
argue that payments are crucial in maintaining a safe
and affordable supply of food and fiber. Without them,
they say, the United States wouldn't grow enough cotton
or staple foods, and the country would be at the whim
of foreign growers," write Chapman, Foskett and
A poll sponsored by the Farm Foundation
found that farmers are strongly in favor of abolishing
the three entity rule. "The three entity rule is
used by mega farms to subdivide into several corporations
and thereby avoid farm program payment limitations,"
says the Center for Rural Affairs.
The farmers polled said they wanted funds to be allocated
to small and beginning farmers and to create jobs in
rural areas. (Read
subsidized rural airports are under-used; critics say
More than 100 airports get a total of $110 million
in federal subsidies to facilitate rural air travel,
but some locales have only three to five passengers
a day. The Essential Air Service program has been criticized
as expensive and unecessary, and some see it as a relic
of the past, reports The New York Times.
After Sept. 11, 2001, many airlines withdrew from less
profitable ventures and cut their fleets by about 20
percent. Because of the Essential Air Service program,
in place since 1978, the near-empty rural flights continue.
"The idea was to help travelers in smaller cities
adjust to the new competitive era of air travel,"
writes Jeff Bailey. "The intention was for the
service to go away after 10 years, but it was renewed
for a second decade — and then made permanent."
"To qualify for Essential Air Service, towns must
have had scheduled commercial air service in October
1978 when deregulation occurred; be at least 70 miles
from a large or medium hub airport; and be able to attract
service from a regional airline with a one-way per passenger
subsidy of no more than $200," writes Bailey. "For
towns more than 210 miles from a large or medium hub,
however, there is no cap on the subsidy per passenger."
"The Bush administration now wants to cut funding
to $50 million," writes Bailey. "So, the Transportation
Department is proposing changes to reduce the program
costs. Towns more than 100 miles away from a large or
medium hub would have to chip in on the subsidy. Towns
closer than 100 miles would get a partial subsidy —
for bus service to a hub." (Read
increases as proposed ban languishes in Senate
A House-passed bill to stop horse slaughter is expected
to die in the Senate, but the Humane Society
of the United States says the bill is causing
the foreign-owned industry to increase slaughter rates.
"In a rush to kill as many horses as possible
before a ban is imposed, the foreign-owned horse slaughter
industry in the United States has reached new decade-highs
for the number of horses butchered in a single week
– 2,463 during the week ending Sept. 16, the latest
week available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and just a week after the U.S. House of Representatives
voted to outlaw horse slaughter for human consumption,"
the organization said in a press release.
The USDA reported 9,163 horses were slaughtered in
the four weeks ending mid-September, ranking as the
highest four-week total in the U.S. since November 1994.
here to read the full release. The Rural Blog last
reported on horse slaughter on Sept. 8. Click
here for that archived item.
get government breaks on development in rural, other
Churches are gaining a leg up on development by getting
friendly government exemptions from land-use rules,
but some rural communities are starting to fight back.
The first part of a four-part New York Times
series called "In God's Name" explores a trend
in which religion outweighs regulation. "Laws passed
since 1989 show ... more than 200 special arrangements,
protections or exemptions for religious groups or their
adherents were tucked into congressional legislation,
covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration
to land use," writes Diana Henriques. "Law
gives religious congregations unique tools to challenge
government restrictions on the way they use their land."
Land-use restrictions put in place to conserve open
space or preserve historic sites are being threatened
in some areas by churches' development plans. In Boulder
County, Colo., the growing Rocky Mountain Christian
Church "sits on 55 acres in an agricultural buffer
zone around the small town of Niwot. It is holding multiple
services to handle the overflow congregation, but its
Sunday school space is full, with some classes spilling
out into hallways and temporary buildings set up in
a parking lot. The church wants to almost double the
size of its facilities so it can accommodate up to 4,500
people," writes Henriques.
The county’s land-use plan and zoning rules for
the agricultural buffer zone limit construction on the
site to a single residential building. The church sought
special approval to build from the Boulder County commission,
which turned down the request in February. "The
church has sued the county under a federal land-use
law enacted by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in
2000 to protect religious organizations from capricious
or discriminatory zoning restrictions by local governments,"
reports Henriques. (Read
Part two of this series examines how employees of religious
groups have few labor rights. (Read
partisan shift for evangelicals; could be same for values
Evangelical Christians' support of the Republican Party
is in decline, according to polls -- possibly an indicator
of a political shift for "values voters."
This may be due partially to congressional scandals,
but has also been attributed to voters taking a moral
stance on issues besides those traditionally contested
by conservatives, reports Alan Cooperman of The
"Some influential ministers, such as the Rev.
Rick Warren, author of the bestselling The Purpose-Driven
Life, are urging evangelicals to fight poverty,
safeguard the environment and oppose torture on Biblical
grounds," writes Cooperman. "To the extent
that evangelicals now view these issues as 'matters
of conscience' alongside abortion and same-sex marriage,
they could shift some votes into the Democratic column,
said Ron Sider, head of the group Evangelicals
for Social Action."
"In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians
made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent
of them voted Republican, according to exit polls,"
writes Cooperman. "But some pollsters believe that
evangelical support for the GOP peaked two years ago
and that what has been called the "God gap"
in politics is shrinking." In a study released
last Thursday by the Pew Research Center,
57 percent of white evangelicals said they would vote
Republican in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop.
series documents division among evangelicals over global
Wednesday's episode of the PBS series
"Moyers on America" will explore a growing
fight between conservative evangelicals pushing for
a stop to global warming and traditionalists downplaying
On "Is God Green?," host Bill Moyers will
shine light on the transition some evangelicals are
making from considering protecting the environment a
moral commitment to now considering it a biblical imperative.
"The political stakes are high: Three out of every
four white evangelical voters chose George W. Bush in
2004. 'Is God Green?' explores how a serious split among
conservative evangelicals over the environment and global
warming could reshape American politics," according
to the PBS Web site. (Read
The national broadcast is scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday,
but local stations' schedules vary. In Kentucky, air
times include 9 p.m. Wednesday and at 2 and 5 a.m. Friday
on KET2, and at 10 p.m. Friday on KET1. Click
here for more information on broadcast times in
group demands FCC stop 'intrusion' into video news releases
The Radio-Television News Directors Association
is asking the Federal Communications Commission
to end its investigation into local TV stations' use
of video news releases, calling the probe "an unprecedented
intrusion into newsroom operations."
In a statement
released Friday, demanded that the FCC rescind letters
of inquiry mailed to 77 stations in August. "In
a statement, the RTNDA questioned the accuracy and objectivity
of a study
conducted by the Center for Media and Democracy
of VNR use, and noted that even the FCC said sponsor
identification is not an issue when there is no pay-for-play
or other consideration," writes Michele Greppi
Video news releases are distributed by companies to
local TV and radio stations, which have been criticized
for broadcasting the releases without identifying their
origin. The RTNDA argues that the First Amendment prohibits
governmental constraints on the policing of newsroom
practices, reports Greppi. (Read
more) The Rural Blog last reported on the FCC investigation
in its May 26 edition. Click
here for that archived item.
Oct. 7, 2006
congressional districts are in play, New York Times
U.S. House seats in 11 rural districts are up for grabs
in the Nov. 7 election, according to the latest survey
by The New York Times. Six are rated
as leaning Democratic and three as leaning Republican;
20 are called safe Democratic and 26 safe Republican.
Only two of the districts, those represented by Reps.
Don Sherwood of northeastern Pennsylvania and retiring
Bob Ney of Ohio, are rated as toss-ups.
“I would think the Ney seat is more of a problem
[than some other toss-ups in urban and suburban disticts]
because of another round of ethics problems,”
Stu Rothenberg, an independent analyst of congressional
races, told reporter Adam Nagourney. Click
here to read the overall, national story.
Ney dropped out of the race in eastern and southeastern
Ohio's 18th District when he was implicated in the Jack
Abramoff scandal. The GOP nominee is state Sen. Joy
Padgett; the Democrat is Dover city Law Director Zack
Space. "Ms. Padgett has front-runner status, but
has come under fire for personal and professional financial
troubles. Ms. Padgett filed for bankruptcy with her
husband on June 15 and defaulted on a Small
Business Administration loan," Kristen
Lee writes in the Times' online
summary of the race.
In Pennsylvania's 10th District, Sherwood is vulnerable
because he settled a lawsuit with a woman who said he
assaulted her. He denied the allegation but admitted
they had an affair. "The possibility that Mr. Sherwood’s
Republican base, particularly social conservatives,
might turn against him was highlighted when a little-known
challenger, Kathy Scott, captured 44 percent of the
vote in the primary contest after spending just $5,000
on the race," Lee writes in the paper's online
Democratic challenger Christopher Carney "has
strong military and homeland security credentials, which
could work to his favor," Lee writes. "Carney,
an associate professor of political science at Pennsylvania
State University and a lieutenant commander
in the Naval Reserve, served as an adviser to the Pentagon
on intelligence and counterterrorism issues after the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
The three districts rated leaning Republican are Kentucky's
2nd District, Minnesota's 1st and New Hampshire's 2nd.
The six rated as leaning Democratic are Colorado's 3rd,
North Carolina's 11th, South Carolina's 5th, West Virginia's
1st and the statewide seats in South Dakota and Vermont.
Many other districts in play, such as the 2nd,
and 9th in Indiana, have large rural populations.
Overall, 57 of the 435 districts are rated in play --
23 leaning Republican, 17 toss-up and 17 leaning Democratic.
The Rural Blog was not updated on Friday, Oct.
Oct. 5, 2006
ask candidates about open government in fall campaigns
Journalists should not forget the issues of secrecy
of records and meetings as they cover candidates in
the next month. The issues aren't just the federal questions
that make national headlines; they are state and local.
This week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
and the Iowa Newspaper Association gave
examples of ways journalists can go about shining
some light on how candidates view open government.
"Secrecy as a state issue: You won't
hear Republican state legislative candidates talk about
it, but if the GOP retains control of the House and
Senate in November, look for a renewed effort to gut
Georgia's sunshine laws in the name of economic development,"
warns Mike King of the Journal-Constitution, noting
a recent legislative battle. "The measure, among
other things, would have allowed unelected boards to
provide incentives for companies to build incinerators,
waste disposal sites or other job-creating businesses
without having to disclose them publicly until after
the deal had been negotiated."
When it comes to secrecy as a local issue
in Georgia, King writes about a school board in Gwinnett
County that carries the unspoken belief of "If
voters don't like what they do they can say so in the
next election." However, voters will encounter
two candidates running unopposed in next month's election
for two board seats. King describes a kind of secrecy
that might occur in other growing school districts:
"Gwinnett's school board, for instance, envelops
the whole land-buying process in total secrecy —
no word of a school's location or land price is disclosed
until the deal is closed." (Read
The latest Iowa
Newspaper Association Bulletin urges reporters to
ask candidates about the state and local Freedom of
Information Acts: "In the coming weeks, candidates
for governor and for other state and local offices will
be visiting with citizens and media outlets, seeking
support. These visits are the perfect opportunity to
prod candidates to publicly acknowledge the importance
of open government." Examples of secrecy mentioned
in this article including the Des Moines School Board
holding much of the hiring process for a new superintendent
in secrecy, and people having to pay $15 an hour to
have the governor's records screened first before they
could gain access to them. (Article not available
causing a big stir, but may not sway rural 'values voters'
The scandal over former Rep. Mark Foley will have little
impact on rural 'values voters' in congressional elections,
predicts National Public Radio's Howard
Berkes: "The Republicans and independents we contacted
don't connect this Washington scandal with the congressional
candidates back home."
Tom Clark, a 46-year-old construction manager in Muddy
Pond, Tenn., told NPR, "Every congressman in this
country is crooked, no good and sucks. Except for mine.
Mine's a good guy. That's the mentality in this country
and it's always been that way."
Heather Brownewell of Owatohnna, Minn., told NPR she
is "very much pro-life and very much conservative
and that's two of the main things that the party stands
for. And so that's why even though it's sad that he
wrote those e-mails and did something that I consider
y'know morally wrong, I'm still a Republican and I would
still vote that way." To listen to the story, click
mine-safety agency for not investigating complaints
American coal miners may have faced "prolonged
hazardous conditions" since the nation's coal mine-safety
agency delayed investigating complaints of life-threatening
conditions, according to the inspector general of the
Department of Labor, parent agency
of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
"Between Jan. 1, 2005, and March 30, 2006, the
inspector general found, in 56 of the 410 hazardous
condition complaints, it took at least two days before
the district office was notified. The complaints could
cover such unsafe conditions as significant levels of
methane or unstable roof supports," writes Steve
Twedt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"The majority of the delays occurred because the
complaint was received on a weekend or holiday. But
for 12 of the complaints, it took longer than three
days -- and as many as 11 days -- as the mines continued
operating. The report also says it sometimes took an
additional three days or more for an inspection to start,
although the majority began within a day of notification."
"The inspector general launched its probe of the
complaint process in part because of this year’s
increase in mining deaths," writes Ken Ward Jr.
of The Charleston Gazette. "So
far, 38 coal miners have died in on the job nationwide,
including the 12 who were killed in the Jan. 2 Sago
Mine disaster." (Read
A statement from MSHA said it "responds immediately
to any report of hazards that pose imminent danger to
miners." "But MSHA officials, who may fine
mine operators up to $60,000 if they don't notify them
within 15 minutes of a life-threatening incident, told
investigators they did not want a specific time limit
for evaluating complaints," reports Twedt. (Read
To read the audit, click
here. For a report on this by The Associated
around national forests call for renewal of funding
The National Forest School and County Coalition,
including 200 local politicians from 23 states, has
petitioned Congress for a one-year extension of the
Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination
Act of 2000, which expired last week. The act mandated
that 25 percent of revenue brought in by national forests
go to the counties where the money originated.
"In 2000, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools
and Communities Determination Act to provide a safety
net for these communities. Over the past six years,
this Act has provided billions of critical dollars to
support rural education, search and rescue organizations,
road maintenance and the development of community fire
plans for 800 rural counties and 4,400 rural school
districts," reports The Clark Fork Chronicle
in Western Montana.
Bob Douglas, President of the National Forest School
and County Coalition, told the Clark Fork Chronicle,
“We are edging closer to a solution for a one-year
extension as well as laying the foundation for a multi-year
reauthorization." Commissioner Judy Stang of Mineral
County, Montana, said she thought resuming logging in
the national forests would be the best long-term solution.
of Washington trains docs to send them home to rural
The University of Washington's regional
medical-school program trains primary-care doctors from
the Northwest to send them to rural areas and small
towns in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho,
which the program gives the acronym WWAMI. "Since
it began in 1972, the program has graduated more than
6,500 doctors. About 750 to 775 WWAMI medical students
are enrolled in the four-year program at any one time,"
writes Donna Gordon Blankinship of The Associated
Students are given incentives to join the program including
in-state tuition but may be required to go back to their
home states, reports Blankinship. Forty to 42 percent
of medical school graduates nationwide return, but 50
percent return to Alaska and 83 percent return to Wyoming
because of WWAMI requirements.
"But the students who go off to Seattle and never
return fuel efforts in Idaho, Montana and Eastern Washington
to advocate for their own medical schools — even
though the cost of opening a new medical school is many
times the cost of paying out-of-state tuition at the
UW," writes Blankinship.
Ronald McCune, Idaho State University's
vice president of medical education, told AP, "We
have the issue of access to doctors, but we also have
160 students vying for 26 seats. This state really needs
to address these shortages at both ends of the spectrum."
farm-to-restaurant program serves homegrown food
Restaurants in New Hampshire are starting to provide
patrons with menu titles such as "Growers' Breakfast,"
and all the meals contain food grown right in the state
as part of a farm-to-restaurant program.
During the past three years, that initiative built
"connections between producers and chefs to boost
markets for high quality locally grown foods,"
writes Commissioner Stephen H. Taylor in the Weekly
Market Bulletin, a publication of the New
Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food.
"Grower dinners have been a key initiative of the
Farm to Restaurant program, with the number increasing
each of the past three years. Venues have ranged from
popular family restaurants to grand hotels."
"This year the program achieved a breakthrough
in dealing with a chronic problem for growers trying
to supply restaurants. A deal was negotiated with UPS
for favorable rates on overnight delivery of farm products
to New Hampshire restaurant kitchens. Next steps include
publication of an expanded directory of growers seeking
restaurant business and a survey of chefs to identify
new sales opportunities for local farms," concludes
Taylor. (Article not available online.)
Oct. 4, 2006
fly in the face of low risk for violence in rural America
Three school shootings occurred in rural areas in the
last week, putting the spotlight on school safety in
those areas -- despite statistics showing that rural
people are four times less likely to suffer violent
Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern
University said big crimes occur in small places,
and that most school shootings in the 1990s occurred
in such areas. Typically, white kids copy the behavior
of other white kids with whom they can identify, Fox
says, but cautions that school shootings are rare and
that the odds of dying at school are one in two million,
reports Howard Berkes of National Public Radio.
In his book about school shooters, author Jared Lewis
concluded that rural children also "suffer more
when they don’t fit in at school," reports
Berkes. Also, Lewis writes that urban schools usually
have tighter security and more experience dealing with
violent crime than rural schools. Lewis is the director
Gangs, a training program that aims to
help schools reduce violence and cut the risk of school
here to listen to Berkes' report.
The Christian Science Monitor highlights
the prevalence of girls as targets in school shootings.
"The predominant pattern in school shootings of
the past three decades is that girls are the victims,"
said Katherine Newman, a Princeton University
sociologist, who wrote a book exploring shootings in
rural schools. Newman has researched 21 shootings since
the 1970s and she said it's impossible to conclude whether
the girls were randomly chosen, report Gail Russell
Chaddock and Mark Clayton. (Read
For a complete directory of school-violence resources,
here for the National Youth Violence Prevention
loans hurt minorities, poor residents in rural U.S.,
Predatory mortgage loans are hurting rural homeowners
and their communities, and minorities and low-income
people are more likely to fall victim to higher-cost
loans, according to a report from the Carsey
Institute, a rural-policy center at the University
of New Hampshire.
"Predatory lending, which encompasses a range
of financial practices that are often targeted at low-income
individuals and threaten their income and assets, is
becoming increasingly prevalent in rural communities,"
says the report, adding that examples include check-cashing
outlets for payday loans, car title loans, refund anticipation
loans and rent-a-center loans.
"Using targeted marketing and promises of 'easy
credit' and 'quick cash,' predatory lenders can trap
borrowers in a cycle of high interest payments, abusive
fees and terms that can lead to home foreclosures, and
ultimately devastate borrowers’ financial futures,"
Carsey reports. "The use of these products appears
to be growing in rural areas, where there are fewer
commercial financial banking firms serving rural borrowers
than in urban counties."
The report examines high annual-percentage-rate loans
or “HALs” and data showing that HALs comprised
17 percent of 555,941 rural mortgage loans in 2004.
"This was slightly higher than the national and
metro rates. Further analysis of these data also shows
that HALs are concentrated in rural areas with chronic
poverty, and, often, a high proportion of minorities.
. . . Concentrations of HALs can be found across the
Mississippi Delta region, in counties with Native American
reservations and poor Hispanic-American communities,
and in some Appalachian communities." (Read
traffic deaths rose after N.M. began Sunday liquor sales
The issue of alcohol sales on Sunday tends to be an
issue in small towns and rural areas, and now we have
what appears to be the first study examining what can
happen on the highways after a Sunday ban is lifted.
A five-year period after repeal of a ban on Sunday
sales of packaged alcoholic beverages in New Mexico
showed a 29 percent jump in alcohol-related crashes
and a 42 percent rise in alcohol-related crash fatalities
on Sundays, or 543 alcohol-related crashes and 42 alcohol-related
crash deaths, according to a study published in the
American Journal of Public Health.
Since 1998, statewide bans have been lifted in Delaware,
Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, and
many localities in other states. Many of the 15 states
with bans are considering lifting them to relieve pressure
from the alcohol industry and to boost state tax revenues,
according to the study.
Opponents of the bans argue that lifting them would
reduce alcohol-related crashes and fatalities by diverting
alcohol consumption from bars to homes. Opponents counter
that increasing the alcohol's availability presents
more opportunities for drinking and driving -- Sunday
driving, especially, it seems.
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research
Program. To read the study, "Legalized Sunday packaged
alcohol sales and alcohol-related traffic crashes and
crash fatalities in New Mexico," click
to national parks decline; shorter vacations, video
National Park Service officials report
there are 20 percent fewer campers than 10 years ago,
and scientists studying the drop say more people are
opting for long weekends instead of two-week vacations.
"The Park Service reported that overnight stays
in national parks fell by 13.8 million, or 20 percent,
between 1995 and 2005 and have fallen an additional
4.3 percent in the first eight months of this year.
The Park Service said tent camping dropped 23 percent,
backcountry camping 24 percent and RV camping 31 percent
in the 10-year period. Visits to 'gem parks' in the
intermountain region, which include Yellowstone, Grand
Canyon and Rocky Mountain, dipped between 2 percent
and 15 percent during that time," reports The
Associated Press. (Read
"Federal officials are seeing a 5 percent decline
in national park visitors nationwide since 1998,"
reports The Courier-Journal. "A
University of Illinois researcher recently
found that per capita visitation to national parks has
been falling for nearly 20 years. The study blames competition
from electronic media, such as video games and computers.
National Park Service officials also point to fewer
international visitors since the 2001 terrorist attacks,
difficulties that dual-income parents have coordinating
vacations, higher travel costs, shortened summer vacations
for children and increased extracurricular activities."
"The kids have day-planners now," Mike Adams,
who oversees visitor services at Mammoth Cave National
Park in Kentucky, told James Bruggers of the Louisville
newspaper. Adams is concerned about a possible future
where the public possesses a "theoretical appreciation
for nature and not the love, respect and knowledge that
comes through personal experiences," Bruggers writes.
labor board exempts nurses from unions with 'supervisor'
"In a decision condemned by unions but praised
by business, the National Labor Relations Board
issued a ruling yesterday that will exempt
registered nurses — and many other workers —
from union membership if they have certain kinds of
supervisory duties. Some labor experts predicted that
the ruling could affect more than eight million workers
who might also be deemed supervisors, including teachers
who oversee aides," writes Steven Greenhouse of
The New York Times.
In rural areas, much labor organizing involves health-care
workers, and one case from Eastern Kentucky led to yesterday's
ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2001 decision in NLRB
v. Kentucky River Community Care opened
the door for a redefinition of who is a supervisor.
The Court ruled that registered nurses used independent
judgment through oversight of co-workers' labor, which
should give them the occupational status of supervisors
under federal labor law. The NLRB provided a broad definition
of that role with yesterday's decision, reports Greenhouse.
The new definition includes "workers who assigned
others to a location, shift or significant tasks, like
a nurse overseeing a shift who might assign another
nurse to a particular patient. The majority ruled that
workers should generally be deemed supervisors, exempt
from union membership, if they oversaw another employee
and could be held accountable if that subordinate performed
poorly. The majority also ruled that workers could be
deemed supervisors if they were assigned supervisory
duties just 10 percent to 15 percent of their total
work time," writes Greenhouse. (Read
To read a press release from the AFL-CIO,
here. To read one from the Service Employees
International Union, click
here. For opposing views, from the National
Right to Work Committee, click
here. The Oakwood decision can be found at this
should take to airwaves when radio stations sold, says
When a local radio station is sold, new owners sometimes
see a lack of crime news and opt to cut staff. What
if the community's newspaper seized an opportunity and
took the news to the airwaves?
"The question is the state of news in the small
town," writes Ray Laakaniemi, a retired journalism
professor at Tiffin University
in northern Ohio, in the latest issue of Publishers'
Auxiliary from the National Newspaper
Association. "With weeklies providing
the best coverage they can, is that enough in a fast-paced
world, especially with small staffs on the weekly? What
happens in emergencies when the community needs to be
notified and there is no newsman?"
"But what happens when the five people left on
the station do try to cover the news? They can turn
to the local paper, rip and read. In this sense, news
is a value-added commodity, requiring hours of preparation
and costly production, and papers have successfully
sued stations for breaking laws while ripping and reading,"
Laakaniemi concludes with a serious of questions: "If
this is happening, is there another answer? Can the
local paper sell (there is that word again) news to
the radio station? Could the paper and the station,
although owned by different entities (perhaps), work
together? In an emergency, could the reporter get on
the radio and give warnings, which would at best be
late news when the paper comes out in several days?"
(Article not available online.)
Oct. 3, 2006
highlight rural schools' vulnerability; are guards down?
"Are rural schools more vulnerable" than
urban and subirban ones to shootings like yesterday's?
That's the question Katie Couric asked school-safety
expert Dennis McCarthy on the CBS Evening News
last night, and his answer was, in a word, yes -- mainly
because shootings aren't expected at rural schools.
"Monday's rampage at an Amish school in Pennsylvania
was another in a series of attacks in which four non-urban
schools were targeted in the past several weeks by intruders
committing murder, mayhem and sexual assaults,"
reports The Seattle Times, from news
services. The story provides a list of deadly shootings
at U.S. schools during the past several years. The story
points out that rural schools rarely have metal detectors
or other security measures typically found in urban
Today's Baltimore Sun includes a great
first-person account of covering the Columbine shootings
and how people wondered how such crime could occur in
a rural school. "The answer, of course, is that
evil can erupt anywhere - even, as we learned yesterday,
in Amish country. The difference may be that, in a small
town, a school looms as a particularly attractive target
for someone seeking to truly hurt an entire community,
says Katherine S. Newman, a sociologist at Princeton
who has researched school shootings," writes Jean
One issue journalists should explore is what security
measures already exist at schools. A Columbus
Dispatch story explores the effectiveness of
lockdown drills and a new Ohio law requiring them. "If
schools weren’t doing lockdown drills before,
they will now. Even if the recent shootings didn’t
change school officials’ minds, a state law that
went into effect last week requires at least one drill
during the school year," write Charlie Roduta and
Jennifer Smith Richards. William Lassiter, manager of
for the Prevention of School Violence in
Raleigh, N.C., told them that school violence seems
more likely to occur in in rural and suburban schools,
because "we let our guards down." (Read
Hispanic populations present new fears, challenges for
A story in The New York Times today
uses Atkinson County in South Georgia as an example
of a community where a growing Hispanic population now
outnumbers a large African-American population, but
it really tells a national story of two minorities in
conflict and struggling to find common ground.
The article shows two Pentecostal ministers, one black
and one Hispanic, praying together as "men of faith
who say they believe that blacks and Hispanics should
be allies in the struggle to overcome discrimination
and economic adversity, even though they acknowledge
that interethnic unity is often hard to come by."
Rachel L. Swarns writes from Willacoochee, Ga., "In
this immigrant boomtown . . . about 45 miles north of
the Florida border, the ministers have forged a rare
friendship that transcends the deep divide between blacks
and Hispanics here. For centuries, the South has been
defined by the color line and the struggle for accommodation
between blacks and whites. But the arrival of hundreds
of thousands of Hispanic immigrants over the past decade
is quietly changing the dynamics of race relations in
many Southern towns."
Blacks and Hispanics often live and work in close proximity
to each other, but problems arise when there is competition
for working-class jobs and government resources. Labor
statistics show the jobless rate for black men in Georgia
nearly triples that of Hispanic men, and many of the
latter argue that blacks are now mistreating them out
of jealousy, reports Swarns. Blacks counter that employers
favor immigrants since they are willing to work for
Heads up: If you're a journalist
in a place where the racial or ethnic makeup of the
population has changed greatly, you need to be reporting
on it and writing about it. That can help your community
face the issues that the changes raise, and help reduce
the fear that comes from ignorance of "the others."
eminent-domain limits might hurt land-use planning in
Four states voting this fall on whether to limit local
governments' use of eminent domain could threaten the
whole idea of land-use planning, primarily zoning. Worried
parties include environmental organizations, smart-growth
advocates and budget-watchdog groups who fear tax increases.
Those groups argue that voters in Idaho, Arizona, California
and Washington are being lured into voting for a measure
to derail land-use regulation, masked as an effort to
prevent local governments from taking eminent domain
too far, report Blaine Harden and Juliet Eilperin of
The Washington Post. Voters in those
four states will decide Nov. 7 on whether to compel
state and local governments to pay cash to land owners
when regulations reduce property values. (Read
"The backlash against eminent domain stems from
the Supreme Court’s July 2005 decision in Kelo
v. City of New London, which allowed a local government
to seize homes to make way for a development and the
increased tax revenue it would generate," writes
Pauline Vu of Stateling.org.
"Arizona, California and Idaho would go a step
beyond rolling back Kelo, limiting eminent domain and
regulatory takings on the same measure, while Washington
state’s initiative is a takings measure only,"
reports Vu. "Should the new takings measures pass,
it could mean in the future that a county interested
in protecting wetlands could not ban a farmer from draining
his land unless it were willing to pay him the difference
of what his land would be worth if drained. If a new
city zoning regulation limited a developer to building
two houses on a plot where he planned to build four,
he would be able to sue the government for the money
the two additional houses would have generated."
Louisiana voters decided Saturday to prohibit expanding
eminent domain, and residents in 12 other states will
vote Nov. 7 on whether local governments can seize private
property for redevelopment. The states are Arizona,
California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada,
New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina
and Washington. (Read
high fuel prices linger for farmers; federal aid demanded
Now that the second warmest summer since 1895 is over,
American farmers are hoping federal drought relief might
come soon for help in combating the financial and psychological
effects of a rough period.
Charlie Griffin, director of the Kansas Rural
Family Help Line, is fielding many calls from
farmers who do not know where to turn for help. The
NOAA National Climatic Data Center
confirmed this summer ranks as the second warmest in
documented history, and about 40 percent of the country
continues to battle drought conditions, reports The
Associated Press. What that means for farmers
is less crops, less money and more problems staying
"Farm lobbyists continue to ask Congress for drought
disaster assistance. They recently told members of the
Senate and House agriculture committees that farmers
are facing a two-prong disaster: the drought and high
fuel and fertilizer prices," notes AP. (Read
nixes open-records appeals to California attorney general
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill
last week that would have allowed appeals to the state
attorney general in open-records cases, a provision
that already exists in various forms in many states.
The bill also proposed allowing courts to fine agencies
that do not comply with open-records laws, and it aimed
to improve Internet access to state agencies, reports
the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that the attorney
general's office would have a conflict of interest because
it represents state agencies. Noting the public “voted
overwhelmingly to make access to public records a fundamental
right," the "Governator" noted he had
issued an executive order requiring state agencies to
post public-records procedures and train staff accordingly.
"These efforts address the problem this bill is
attempting to fix," he wrote. Click
here to read more about this in the latest CNPA
ban threatens English rural pubs; some are community
A village official in Telford, England, told the Shropshire
Star yesterday that many rural pubs that have
been used as community meeting halls are likely to close
when a national ban on smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants,
agreed on by Labour Party ministers last week, takes
effect in four years. The Star reports that "landlords
of three village drinking holes [including The Tally
Ho at Bouldon, shown here in a photo from the Star]
have put forward plans this summer to convert the pubs
into houses." Pubs not cooking food would be exempt
from the ban.
“When the smoking ban comes along, a lot of those
rural licensees, if they had been borderline before,
are going to have to go for development,” Village
President Eddie Main told Star reporter Alys Cummings.“This
is national, it is not just a problem for Shropshire,
it is a sad reflection of the industry today. Rural
pubs will be the first to go and most pubs that I know
were community pubs. They were like community centres,
and when those go it is very sad.”
A village official in Shrewsbury, who also owns a pub,
told the Star that weekday pub traffic has declined.
“Unless they’ve got darts and dominoes teams
or real locals to keep them going during the week, there
isn’t really anyone, he said, “People just
haven’t got the money with interest rising and
mortgages going up.” He said Fridays right after
paydays are busy, but “At other times it is quieter
and you know it is because people don’t have the
more) For a BBC story on the smoking
Oct. 2, 2006
says 'no' to expanded eminent domain; 12 more states
Louisiana voters decided Saturday to prohibit expanding
eminent domain, and residents in 12 other states will
vote Nov. 7 on whether local governments can seize private
property for redevelopment.
The 12 states are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia,
Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota,
Oregon, South Carolina and Washington."The backlash
against eminent domain stems from the Supreme Court’s
July 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London,
which allowed a local government to seize homes to make
way for a development and the increased tax revenue
it would generate," writes Pauline Vu of Stateline.org.
"Since the Kelo decision, 46 states have
considered legislation to rein in local governments’
eminent domain powers and 30 passed bills to do so,
according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures."
For an Associated Press story on Louisiana
voters approving a measure prohibiting governments from
expanding eminent domain for economic development purposes,
Stateline.org’s Elections Guide breaks down the
ballot questions up for a vote in each state this year,
which includes 36 states looking to certify 200-plus
measures. To read more about the guide and how property
rights' popularity stacks up next to same-sex marriage
bans and minimum-wage increases, click
concert helps farming by replacing hot dogs with organic
Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and others conceived
Farm Aid in 1985 as a way to help struggling
family farmers. "the mission now includes promoting
the kind of wholesome products they produce," writes
Jay Lustig of the Newark Star-Ledger,
reporting on Saturday's concert in Camden, N.J.
"Normal concert food offerings such as cheeseburgers
and french fries were sold at the venue's food stands.
But patrons could also sample organic mozzarella sticks,
for free, or buy organic yogurt parfaits (with strawberry
compote and granola), organic carrots with organic ranch
dressing, or portobello hoagies (with balsamic roasted
onions and heirloom tomatoes)," Lustig reports.
The concert had $1.1 million in ticket sales, adding
to the more than $28 million brought in over the years
by the series. "Organizers say 85 percent of that
money has been spent on programs for family farms, such
as credit counseling, disaster assistance, and advocacy
for fair pricing," writes Daniel Rubin of The
Philadelphia Inquirer. (Read
Roger Allison of Patchwork Family Farms
came to the concert to sell pork chops. "What most
Americans don't know -- those who live in towns -- is
that the problem is one of policies," he told Rubin.
"This country could have any kind of agricultural
system that it wants. But now policies benefit the biggest
of the big, and have driven family farmers off their
land. We need policies that will ensure that our kids
and grandkids will have access to good, wholesome food.
And that they'll be able to afford to eat it."
farmer resists corporate takeover, wonders about his
Randall Warner is not about to stop growing wheat and
cattle in Kansas, where he looks like a dying breed
to The New York Times' Charlie LeDuff:
"Large corporate farmers are taking over. Warner
doesn’t understand the ins and outs of the international
trade policies and government subsidies that are changing
the landscape, only that to make it nowadays,"
he tells LeDuff, "You work harder -- sunup past
Warner wants politicians to stop the corporate takeover
of farm country, and maybe give his college-bound son
Travis a reason to return to Lebanon. "The nearest
pretty girl is 20 miles away," writes LeDuff, without
attributing that fact to anyone. If his son doesn't
return, Warner tells LeDuff, he will hire an old farm
hand from down the road. But if it doesn't work out
he will have to start selling pieces of his farm to
a larger operation. “I told my dad he could retire
and cash-rent the land to the big farmer, but then what’s
he going to do with his time? This is all he knows.
Come out here and work daylight to dark," Travis
“My whole life is wrapped up in this,”
the elder Warner told LeDuff. “To tell you the
truth, it can get a little monotonous. I’ve had
four vacations my whole life.” But he adds that
it's a good life,“The best kind of life there
district suspends teacher after fifth-graders see nude
In Frisco, Tex., fifth-grade art teacher Sydney McGee
can no longer teach after a field trip to the Dallas
Museum of Art ended with a parent complaining
about nudes. McGee came under fire, though four other
teachers and 12 parents attended the principal-approved
trip, reports The New York Times.
"McGee has stated that she received her first
negative performance review right after the field trip,
and that the school attempted to place her on a 'growth
plan,' which she believed would lead to her eventual
dismissal," writes Kevin Bowen of The Frisco
Enterprise, a newspaper that honored McGee
with one of its monthly teacher awards in 2004. (Read
Students often visit the museum and there have been
no prior problems, the Times reports. "A representative
of the Texas State Teachers Association,
which has sprung to McGee’s defense, calls it
'the first "nudity-in-a-museum case" we have
seen,'" writes Ralph Blumenthal. McGee said she
didn't find anything offensive about the art and several
parents have agreed.
The district refused to transfer McGee to another
school, said her contract will not be renewed and the
school is seeking her replacement. Officials say she
was not suspended because of the nude art but for performance
reasons. In a memorandum to McGee, Principal Nancy Lawson
criticized her for not displaying enough student art,
for wearing flip-flops to work and for not using time
wisely during the trip, writes Blumenthal. (Read
oral histories to tell story of drugs in southeast Kentucky
A theatrical production is providing a unique take
on the prescription-drug abuse afflicting Eastern Kentucky,
with stories taken from more than 200 oral histories
in Harlan County.
The drama "Higher Ground" incorporates song
and dance into its message that communities must work
cooperatively to combat drugs' effects. Playwright Jo
Carson used the oral histories mainly collected by Southeast
Kentucky Community and Technical College students
to produce a script that shows drug abuse transcending
race, class, gender and age. Funding then came from
the Rockefeller Foundation and the
Appalachian Regional Commission, reports
Candace Chaney for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"The collected tales of 'Higher Ground' range
from inspirational to tragic to comical. A father teaches
his son a valuable lesson by buying him a car that doesn't
work, and the father and son work on rebuilding it together.
A wife must wrestle with her husband's escalating addiction
to OxyContin, which ends in tragic violence. An elderly
man is faced with the moral and economic dilemma of
selling his pain medicine for a high profit -- which
does he need more, the pain relief or the money?"
The play opened yesterday. Other performances will
be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 and 7, and 3 p.m. Oct. 8 at the
community college's Godbey Appalachian Center
in Cumberland, Ky. Tickets are $5 for adults
and $3 for students and children. For more information,
call 606-589-3136 or 606-589-3132. (Read
OKs a better FOIA, but it's unlikely to pass this year
A House panel approved a Freedom of Information Act
bill last week that said agencies should not withhold
information that might threaten national security, but
the measure looks unlikely to pass this year.
"H.R. 867, approved unanimously by a House Government
Reform subcommittee, would penalize federal agencies
that fail to respond to FOIA requests in a reasonable
period of time," reports The Associated
Press. The House version contained the amendment
pertaining to national security, which is not found
in the version still awaiting action from the full Senate.
The House version needs action by the full committee,
but legislators are starting recess and may not consider
the bill during a week-long session before Thanksgiving.
The House amendment added by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.,
would represent a significant departure from the Bush
administration's post-9/11 stance of emphasizing “institutional,
commercial and personal privacy interests” when
dealing with FOIA requests. The administration told
agencies to safeguard national security information,
and removed thousands of documents from public access,
according to government watchdog groups and federal
special, Oct. 1, 2006
new road ending rural life, so she lets someone else
The long-planned and long-delayed construction of the
last, lagging leg of the Appalachian Development Highway
System has spurred a real-estate boom in eastern West
Virginia, and a story on it in the real-estate section
of today's New York Times. But Diane
Hypes, news editor of the weekly Moorefield
Examiner, is "opposed to the four-lane,
$2 billion Corridor
H project and has recused herself from writing any
articles about it in the newspaper, instead hiring a
correspondent to cover the topic," Elsa Brenner
“This is a really, really pretty area, one of
the few untouched areas we have left, and it’s
going to be ruined just like the rest of the country,”
Hypes told the Times. She "lives on 80 mountaintop
acres in Hardy County that she bought 18 years ago for
$46,000," Brenner writes. "She said she was
recently offered $250,000 for the property, but refused
to sell it." Lawsuits have failed to stop the road.
For photos, click
As the map below indicates, the road will not connect
to Interstates 81 and 66 in Virginia, because that state
has not supported traversing Allegheny Mountain, which
is the Eastern Continental Divide and the border of
the two states in that region. Opponents call it "a
road to nowhere" and a threat to the area's environment.
But the local House of Delegates member, Harold Michael,
told Brenner the road is taking dangerous truck traffic
off winding roads in Hardy, Grant and Tucker counties.