The Rural Blog Archive Sept. 2005

Issues, trends, events, ideas and journalism from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues


Friday, Sept. 30, 2005

D.C. radio host tackles 'rural-urban divide,' says small-town stories 'unknown'

Rural America deals with issues of poverty, unemployment and substandard housing on a daily basis. Often times, those issues receive little if any national coverage until a natural disaster strikes.

"Scores of residents in the smaller towns from Texas to Alabama are dealing with the one-two punch of Rita and Katrina, yet their stories are largely unknown. Some observers say that's no surprise. They argue that the rural U.S. is rarely seen and more rarely understood my many urban dwellers. Yet rural America is home to 55 million people and makes up most of our land mass. So is rural America being forgotten by policy makers and the public, and if so, is there a fundamental rural-urban divide in the U.S.?" asked WAMU-FM host Kojo Nnamdi on Wednesday during his Washington, D.C.-based show.

"All too often what we're seeing in our studies is that these newsrooms in Manhattan, these newsrooms in Washington, D.C., if it doesn't happen in those urban areas, it barely happens," said Matthew Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs. "It's like Mars and Venus just don't known how to talk to each other. Rural and urban America just don't know how to explain each other."

"The irony is that if you look at the New Deal or some of the major political movements in history, you see that rural and urban have found ways to work together. What we have now is this enormous chasm between the two and no immediate prospects of bridging it," said Dee Davis, president of The Center for Rural Strategies. (Click here for a link to the broadcast)

Post-hurricane rebuilding efforts should include rural America, says writer

As Gulf Coast cities start the post-hurricane rebuilding process, resource-depleted rural communities must be included, writes Thomas D. Rowley in his latest column for the Rural Policy Research Institute.

"According to a recent Associated Press story, Vidor, Texas — a town of 11,000 east of Beaumont — is unraveling decades of bigotry by welcoming and caring for black evacuees of Katrina. A town that was once a hub of Ku Klux Klan activity and routinely chased African-American people away is opening its arms," states Rowley. (Click here for AP story)

"Vidor is taking the opportunity to remake itself. And while that may be one tiny example, it’s an example well worth following. Remaking the Gulf Coast is strewn with obstacles just as the coast itself is now strewn with debris. It will require a monumental commitment of time, money and effort and no small amount of sacrifice from all Americans. Now, however, is the time," opines Rowley. (Read more)

Wal-Mart VP 'smacked around' by community newspapers at convention

After a day in public and private with publishers and editors of community newspapers, Wal-Mart's vice president for corporate communications said she couldn't promise they would get more advertising from the company, notorious among some in the industry for its scant spending with newspapers. But she suggested that new marketing strategies and tactics are in the offing as the company re-examines itself and tries to get over "an awful lot of bumps" that have hurt its reputation, revenue and stock price.

"You guys are really a big bump right now, because you're angry with us and you feel we're not good citizens in your community," Mona Williams told this morning's general session of the National Newspaper Association's 119th annual convention in Milwaukee. Earlier, she said of her session with NNA leaders the day before, "You guys smacked me around a little bit yesterday."

NNA President Mike Buffington said in introducing Williams yesterday that 67 percent of newspapers responding to an NNA survey this spring said Wal-Mart had had a negative impact on them, and that 28 percent rated their communication with the company negatively while 10 percent rated it positively.

Williams said when local store managers seek coverage of their hirings or charitable contributions but say they have no advertising budget, "You grit your teeth at that. That was the half of the story we simply weren't aware of." Many in the audience groaned. Williams said the company's headquarters last year spent $55 million on ad inserts in 900 newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or less.

While she wouldn't promise more, Williams said, "Clearly, we need to be doing a lot of things differently. ... That's why we're reaching out to all sorts of groups outside the Wal-Mart bubble to give us advice," including environmental and anti-sweatshop organizations. "Our challenge right now is to be the right kind of citizen, whether it's in factories around the world or in small communities . . . how can we do the right thing for communities while still building a vital, growing, stable business?"

A more detailed report on this morning's session, including questions by NNA members and answers from Williams, will appear in a later edition of The Rural Blog.

Middletown, N.Y., newspaper offers good example of policing preparedness

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle told the National Newspaper Association convention yesterday that "fair, open and probing media" are needed to check on national, state and local preparedness in the wake of the responses to Hurricane Katrina. A good example of what Doyle describes comes from The Times Herald-Record (circ. 80,000) of Middletown, N.Y., serving the Hudson Valley.

The newspaper's Greg Bruno writes, "If disaster struck [in the paper's circulation area], three-quarters of the communities would be unprepared. The majority of municipal plans for protecting the public from ... disasters are outdated, incomplete and vague. Of the 75 communities that provided their plans for review, only 25 percent are updated or specific enough to be useful in a catastrophe."

The newspaper found that "55 percent [of those with plans] haven't included the most basic emergency planning information. Some haven't studied possible disaster scenarios, considered the No. 1 measure of preparation by the state Emergency Management Office. At least 20 of the provided plans are fill-in-the-blank or generic documents that offer few community-specific details. Of the 12 communities in the region with more than 15,000 people, seven are either 'unprepared,' or didn't make their plans available. Only 16 communities are in the process of reviewing and revising their plans. At least one said the federal government's failure to respond quickly to Hurricane Katrina pushed them to act."

"Four years after 9/11 and months after some of the region's worst flooding in decades, municipalities appear to have taken a hands-off approach to emergency planning," writes Bruno. (Read more) The Times Herald-Record's reporting caught the attention of Poynter Online's Al's Morning Meeting. (Click here)

Habitat land may return to farming; feds say move will help rural communities

The Bush administration has announced changes in a major conservation program that affects nearly 36 million acres of land nationwide used as habitat for diverse wildlife.

The protected areas in question are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, where farmers, since the 1980s, have been paid to keep fragile land out of production. "The program is credited with producing huge increases in habitat for pheasants, ducks and other wildlife, but critics say it has hurt rural communities where farming had fueled the economy," writes Philip Brasher of The Des Moines Register's Washington Bureau. The administration said only 20 percent of that land will be enrolled for new 10- to 15-year contracts. Contracts on most of the land will be expiring during the next several years.

Owners of the rest of the conservation program's acreage will be offered extensions of two to five years which means 3.2 million acres of the 16 million acres due to come out of the program in 2007 will be eligible for long-term contracts. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said millions of acres of environmentally sensitive land could return to farming, "but, we'll have to wait and see." Environmental groups want the government to ensure the land under contract is the most beneficial in providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and preventing erosion, Brasher writes. (Read more)

Kansas and Missouri crimping meth labs; both show major decline in busts

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has said the state's new anti-methamphetamine law was largely responsible for a 55 percent drop in the number of meth labs shut down in August.

"In Kansas, raids are down nearly 64 percent from June through August, compared with the same period last year. This year there were 49 labs discovered in that period, down from 135 last year," reports Laura Bauer of the Kansas City Star. (Read more)

Both states have put pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, ingredients used to make meth, behind pharmacy counters. Kyle Smith, spokesman for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which released the seizure numbers, told Bauer, “We’re not doing complete cartwheels at this point, but we are doing handstands.”

Pennsylvania to be site of first U.S. plant to turn coal into no-sulfur diesel, oil

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania plans to subsidize a proposed plant that converts waste coal into zero-sulfur diesel fuel and home-heating oil.

"Waste Management and Processors Inc. in Gilberton is to begin the $612 million project next spring ... about 50 miles northeast of Harrisburg," writes Peter Jackson of The Associated Press. Pennsylvania has an estimated 258 million tons of waste coal piled on more than 8,500 acres. Gov. Ed Rendell said the waste coal "produces nothing but environmental problems for us."

The state has agreed to buy 15 million gallons a year of diesel over the next 10 years to fuel its vehicles and oil to heat its buildings. "Most of the rest is expected to be bought by other consortium members, which include Worley & Obetz Inc., a heating-oil company, the Keystone Alliance, a fuel-purchasing group for the trucking industry, and other businesses," writes Jackson. (Read more)

Navajo president wants coal-mine reclamation law extended to clean up his land

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. wants Congress to reauthorize coal mining reclamation laws enabling his tribe to clean up contamination left from mining operations.

Shirley urged the reauthorization of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and the Abandoned Mine Land Reform Act of 2005, reports The Associated Press. Shirley told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that mining companies left more than 1,300 abandoned mines on Navajo land, and the laws have allowed the tribe to clean up the environmental and physical hazards.

"Mining companies have reaped the benefits of Navajo coal for decades but have given so little back to the communities which have been affected by their activities," Shirley said, adding, "They have polluted our water, soil and air and have not rectified the communities or the sites they have disturbed when they leave."

The Navajo Nation has contributed about $186 million to the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund. However; while the tribe is entitled to use an estimated $93 million from the fund, it has received only $62 million for reclamation and other projects, AP reports. (Read more)

Forest Service research would involve logging in Daniel Boone National Forest

A U.S. Forest Service research project in the Daniel Boone National Forest would involve logging an estimated 610 acres. Environmentalists, however charge it is a guise to use science as a reason to cut and sell timber from the federal land.

Forest research scientist Callie Jo Schweitzer told reporters trees have grown so thick in the Daniel Boone they are competing for nutrients and are at risk of being killed by insects and disease. She said the project will look at whether the forest can be made healthier by cutting some of the trees, burning ground clutter and spraying herbicides, reports Andy Mead of the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Read more)

The Cold Hill Silvicultural Assessment Project would be conducted in the forest near London, and be one of the first projects in the nation to use the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003. That act allows up to 1,000 acres to be logged without an environmental impact assessment.

Kentucky Heartwood leader Perrin de Jong said the Forest Service is trying to use the forest as a test case. He told Mead, "It's just another justification for the same old logging." The project would cut trees on nearly one square mile of the forest. The project also calls for brush and saplings to be removed, ground into chips and burned in an electric generating plant. For The Courier-Journal version, click here.

Creationism museum says Earth 6,000 years old, man and dinosaurs coexisted

The nation's largest museum devoted to biblical creation science is under construction in Northern Kentucky, just outside Cincinnati, a place where dinosaurs and humans coexist.

"Set amid a park and 3-acre artificial lake, the 50,000-square-foot museum features animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics, and a half-dozen staff scientists. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark," writes Michael Powell of The Washington Post.

The $25-million Creation Museum expects to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors when it opens in early 2007. Kenneth Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-USA, which is building the museum, told Powell, "Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back. This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

Ronald Numbers, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and author of The Creationists, told Powell, "The creationists have been very successful in persuading conservative Christians to abandon any non-literal interpretation of the Bible. There is a very large constituency of Americans who are quite comfortable with Young Earth Creationism."

Polls have shown 45 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago and man is not related to apes. Twenty-six percent believe in evolution's principle that all life descended from a single ancestor. A recent poll showed 65 percent of Americans want creationism and evolution taught in schools, Powell writes. (Read more)

Canada's highest court clears way to seeking tobacco damages; billions at stake

The Supreme Court of Canada yesterday unanimously upheld British Columbia's legal right to sue cigarette companies for an estimated $10 billion in smoking-related costs of health care.

"The unanimous judgment applies to only one province, but paves the way for lawsuits by other provinces," writes Cristin Schmitz of CanWest News Service. Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, attorney general of British Columbia when the province filed the suit, welcomed the decision but denied the province's move is to bankrupt the tobacco industry. The industry could face claims of $80 billion or more if all the provinces decide to follow B.C.'s lead, writes Schmitz.

The ruling declared constitutional British Columbia's Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, enacted in 2001. The tobacco firms claimed the province was exceeding its legislative power, undermining judicial independence and violating the fundamental rule of law. Canadians who want to claim personal damages from tobacco firms have long been free to file individual or class-action lawsuits and can still do so. (Read more) For The Associated Press version, click here. And, for a different perspective from a business publication, click here.

Rural Calendar: Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy event Oct. 21-23

The second annual Fall Conference of the Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy will be held Oct. 21-23 at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center on Pilot Knob Cemetery Road in Berea, Ky.

For more information, contact Brook Elliot at (859) 623-2765 or KentuckySeeds@hotmail.com, or Roger Postley at (859) 278-4846 or RPostley@aol.com. Registration and charges: Pre-registered member $5, member at door $8, non-member $15 all or $10/day (fees will apply toward membership). Speakers pay no registration charge.

Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005

Wisconsin governor challenges and praises small-town papers at convention

At few times in America's recent history has a "fair, open and probing media . . . ever been more important," Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle told small-town journalists at the opening breakfast of the National Newspaper Association's 119th annual convention in Milwaukee this morning.

"We really need your aggressive instincts to come out" as the nation, states and localities consider their preparedness for disasters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, said Doyle, a Democrat who previously served as attorney general. "You can't just let the government look at itself."

Doyle cautioned journalists to use judiciously the technology that makes it easier to find and publish personal information about individuals, particularly old information that could hurt those individuals' efforts to "geta fresh start" in life. "There really becomes a need for editing like never before," he said.

But Doyle said most politicians don't understand that the editing process is usually done by "smart people with good values." He fondly recalled his visits to community newspapers in Wisconsin, saying he had been in more newspaper offices in the Badger State than anyone. "I love these places," he said. "I love what they mean to our communities. They are the heart and soul of our communites."

Doyle's remarks were warmly received. NNA President Mike Buffington of Georgia told Doyle as he left that if he were interested in serving as governor in a warmer climate, he would welcome him to the Peach State for its 2006 election, in which Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue plans to seek re-election. "To my Georgia colleagues in the back, grab this guy on the way out. We need some help."

Rural communities, tired of waiting on firms, setting up broadband services

Recent studies show most rural areas of the United States lack affordable high-speed Internet access. Fewer than half of Arizona's rural residents have access to this "fast lane" on the information highway, reports Lisa Nicita of The Arizona Republic.

"Tired of waiting for big telecommunications companies to bring broadband access to them, small communities throughout the state are going after it themselves," Nicita writes. Arizona's Government Information Technology Agency told the newspaper about one-quarter of the state's towns with more than 500 residents have no access to broadband. And in those having broadband, only half of the residents are able to access it."

David Evertsen, a consultant with a company that specializes in rural telecommunications development, told Nicita, "There are several communities that don't have what they need for services. Some communities are just off the superhighway."

Several Western congressional leaders are working to improve broadband infrastructure and connectivity. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.,and Sens. Jon Kyl, and John McCain, both Republicans from Arizona, are backing the proposed Rural Universal Services Equity Act of 2005, which would designate funds to supply broadband access to everyone. More than 850 rural communities across the nation have established their own municipal high-speed systems, Nicita writes. (Read more)

Hurricanes may boost argument for more low-power FM radio stations

Five years after Congress killed a similar effort, the Federal Communicaitons Commission is considering a proposal that could put more low-power radio stations on the air, a move boosted by some high profile low-power stations that helped many hurricane victims.

"The politics of low-power FM may have shifted considerably ... particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Although the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio scored a victory in crippling the LPFM push in 2000, low-power radio activists said new legislation in Congress, plus the urge for 'localism' in broadcasting, puts the momentum on their side," writes Drew Clark of National Journal's Technology Daily.

An experimental license the FCC granted to community activists could spotlight low-power radio's ability to reach segments of the population lacking other media options. Those activists started radio station at the Houston's Astrodome for Katrina evacuees and caught considerable national media attention, writes Clark.

Pete Tridish, founder of Prometheus Radio, a nonprofit organization that helps start low-power stations worldwide, told Clark , "The place that I hear the most fear about LPFM is from the lobbyists at NAB." Prometheus played a key role in starting the 6-watt station outside the Astrodome. (Read more)

The Oregonian calls for global anti-meth controls; cartels evade state laws

A leading newspaper in the Western U. S. called yesterday for a national effort to globally track and interdict the ingredients needed to make methampletamine, a highly addictive and deadly illegal substance that took hold first in and has wreaked havoc on rural areas and is now widespread.

In an editorial, Meth knows no borders; Congress must pair global controls with tough retail rules to slow down the drug cartels, The Oregonian of Portland said, "Oregon can take every last one of its cold pills and lock them up behind bulletproof glass, but no state alone can slow methamphetamine production without the help of tough federal laws to control the global flow of the key ingredient in meth."

The newspaper sent one of its top reporters, Steve Suo, to Oklahoma, one of the first states to pass strong anti-meth legislation which became a model. They note that Suo "reported [Oklahoma's] law ... has indeed reduced the number of home meth labs -- but has not made a dent in overall meth use." The newspaper notes that as "Oklahoma shut one door to meth ingredients, Mexican cartels started running more meth ... through another door. [And] the purity of meth ... is as high as ever, the number of users shows no sign of dropping, and drug-related crime is still rampant."

U.S. House legislation targets the international trade of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth. The bill "would finally use American foreign policy to take the fight against meth worldwide," writes The Oregonian, enabling, " U.S. officials to track sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine ... worldwide. [And] ... allow the Drug Enforcement Agency to set U.S. import quotas for the chemicals based on legitimate demand, just as the DEA does now for narcotic drugs," they conclude. (Read more)

Wisconsin alderman who opposed Wal-Mart loses seat in recall election

A Jefferson, Wis., alderman who helped block the coming of Wal-Mart to the town between Madison and Milwaukee lost his job in a narrowly dedcied, heavily voted recall election this week.

David Olsen, who voted against annexing land for a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, lost by 65 votes (3.6 percentage points) to Chris Havill, an automobile dealer who supported the annexation by the town of about 7,500. The effort was "begun by a group of citizens supporting Wal-Mart’s efforts to build a SuperCenter on Jefferson’s south side," reported the Daily Jefferson County Union. (Read more)

The recall drew 39 percent of the town's registered voters, high for such an election. Olsen "tried to turn the election into a referendum on whether Jefferson residents wanted a Wal-Mart," wrote Reid J. Epstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He told the paper that, as Epstein put it, "large corporations can trample over local governments and politicians."

"The fraud, in Olsen's view, is that the stated reason for the recall was that he may have violated the state open meetings law when he allowed Wal-Mart opponents to speak at a public meeting at which public input was not included on the posted agenda," Epstein wrote. "The owners of the land on which Wal-Mart would have been built filed a complaint with prosecutors, but Olsen was cleared of any wrongdoing early this month." By then, however, the petitions had been spproved and the election had been scheduled.

"When the recall effort began in July, Olsen said he was convinced Wal-Mart was behind it though he had no proof. Wal-Mart denied the accusations and the local woman leading the recall said the company had nothing to do with her efforts." (Read more)

Agriculture in Calif. pollution debate; smog, particulates raise asthma rates

California farm life may be making growing numbers of farm workers sick. The San Joaquin Valley, with its almond groves, cornfields and orange trees, lay trapped between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges and its smog-filled air has fostered widespread respiratory disease, writes Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.

Fifteen percent of the region's children have asthma, three times the national average. The valley's biggest city, Fresno, has the third-highest rate of asthma in the country, and the valley rivals Los Angeles and Houston for the worst air quality in the nation, writes Eilperin.

Environmental Defense analyst Tim Searchinger told Eilperin, "Unless [farmland] is extremely well-managed, it's going to create serious problems. But with some tweaks and a few bold approaches, farmers and ranchers could do a lot of good." Michael Kleeman, an environmental and civil engineering professor at the University of California at Davis, estimates that agriculture causes half of the valley's air pollution.

State Sen. Dean Florez is pushing to abolish farming's exemption from state air-pollution laws. When the state was in danger of losing federal highway funds because of high levels of pollution, Florez argued farms must curb emissions same as factories and power plants. Florez told Eilperin, "They've got to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Florez said. "It's a cultural change for them."

A state agency has ruled any existing farm with more than 1,000 milk cows had to apply for a permit on the grounds that large dairies -- which release volatile organic compounds and ammonia from cattle waste -- rank as major polluters. (Read more)

Colorado treasurer says tobacco settlement is unconstitutional tax collection

Colorado Treasurer Mark Hillman, less than four months into his new job, calling illegal the national tobacco settlement that provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually to 46 states.

"Hillman wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal arguing that the settlement, negotiated among state attorneys general and big tobacco companies, was unconstitutional because it set up a system to collect taxes without legislative authority," writes Steven K. Paulson of The Associated Press.

Hillman wrote in the column, published last week, "The billions generated by the tobacco settlement conceal the threat that activist attorneys general pose to taxpayers and to checks and balances on political power." Hillman told AP he is not saying states should give the money back, but agreed with a lawsuit filed in New Orleans federal court last month claiming the agreement was illegal.

The settlement requires tobacco companies to pay $206 billion to 46 participating states. In return, the states dropped lawsuits seeking health cost reimbursement. Many of the states have used the money for health, smoking-cessation and other programs. The Aug. 2 lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues the "settlement created a government-protected cartel that keeps cigarette prices artificially high. It asks that states be prevented from enforcing it. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Oklahoma, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas," writes Paulson. (Read more)

Crackdown on overweight coal trucks in Ky. may have saved lives, official says

A top state vehicle enforcement officers says a crackdown has drastically reduced the number of overweight coal trucks in eastern Kentucky.

Greg Howard, commissioner of the Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement Division, told reporters yesterday that 77 percent of coal trucks checked in April 2004 were found to be carrying loads in excess of state weight limits, but similar checks in April of this year found fewer than 4 percent of trucks running overweight, reports Lee Mueller of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In a news conference alongside U.S. 23 near the border of Floyd and Johnson counties, one of the major coal-carrying arteries in the heart of Kentucky coal country, Howard said, "At one time, if we weighed 100 trucks, 99 would be overweight. Now if we weigh 100 trucks, we might find 10 that are overweight." Howard contends lighter loads on the coal trucks make roads safer. "With this reduction in weight," he said, "these guys can control their trucks better." (Read more)

Appalachian coal producer purchases group's assets, operations in two states

A major Appalachian coal producer has agreed to pay $316.2 million for the coal assets of a privately held group with reserves and operations in West Virginia and Virginia.

The Nicewonder coal group is selling coal reserves and operations in southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, to Alpha Natural Resources Inc., ANR has announced, reports United Press International in a story datelined Abingdon, Va. (Read more)

The sale is expected to add about 4.3 million tons to Alpha`s coal output in 2006, an increase of some 20 percent over Alpha`s expected coal production this year, reports UPI . ANR and its subsidiaries operate mining complexes in four states, consisting of more than 60 mines feeding 11 coal preparation and blending plants. The company and its subsidiaries employ about 2,800 people, they report. For more details from an ANR news release on PRnewswire.com, click here.

Community journalism at all levels focus of Kansas University initiative

Kansas University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications is beginning a two-year initiative aimed at helping journalists better cover their communities.

"The school is partnering with the Harwood Institute of Public Innovation in Maryland. Representatives from the Institute were in Lawrence this month," reports The Lawrence Journal-World.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have given both the school and the institute $200,000 in grants for the initiative. The goal is to create "Web-based resources, including a community coverage handbook, information for journalism and newsroom trainers, and case studies of good community journalism," writes the newspaper. The school also will hold three symposia to discuss the relationship between journalists and communities and the conditions for credible coverage, they report. (Read more)

Rural Calendar: 'Helping Small Towns II' set Oct. 19-22; deadline Oct. 10

What do you want the future of your small town to look like? The Heartland Center for Local Development's Tools for Community Survival Institute could help answer that question.

Helping Small Towns II offers community development professionals and practitioners the basic skills to confront and control the hard work of community building. It runs Oct. 19-22 at the Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyo.

Daily sessions run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Saturday which ends at noon. Deadline for early registration has been extended until Oct. 10 at the early registration cost of $850, which pays for program fees and materials. Scholarships are still available on a limited basis.

To find out more about the Institute and registration, go to http://www.heartlandcenter.info and click on the Annual Institutes button. Or phone 800-927-1115 941 “O” Street, Suite 920, Lincoln, NE 68508 • (402) 474-7667 • Fax (402) 474-7672 • email: info@heartlandcenter.info

Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005

Justices to hear tax-credit arguments; rural areas use them to attract business

The U.S. Supreme Court will use an Ohio case -- which also affects Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee -- to decide next year whether the Constitution allows states to offer tax incentives to create jobs.

The justices will "hear oral arguments on whether Ohio officials acted constitutionally when they provided a $280 million package of tax incentives in 1998 to DaimlerChrysler to help finance a $1.2 billion Jeep plant in Toledo," writes Jack Torry of The Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio officials said the economic package helped persuade DaimlerChrysler to replace the antiquated Jeep factory with a new plant just north of downtown. Ohio law allows companies to take a credit by investing in new equipment and machinery, especially in economically depressed areas. In a ruling last year, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the 1995 Ohio law violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which states that Congress has the sole authority to regulate interstate commerce. Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, reports Torry. The circuit comprises Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

The law's opponents say it discriminates against interstate commerce by forcing state businesses to invest in Ohio, since tax credits might not exist elsewhere. Toledo attorney Terry Lodge filed the suit against Ohio, and he hopes the court issues a ruling that hurts similar laws in virtually every state. "We want to federalize a decision that might curb some of this insane waste of billions of tax dollars in the name of this corporate gimmickry," Lodge told Torry. (Read more) subscription required

"This case could have implications for rural economic development because states often relies on such incentives to attract industries to rural areas," writes Torry.

Average American spends most of the day with the media, study finds

A new study from Ball State University shows the average American spends more time using media devices, such as television, radio, iPods and cell phones, than any other daily activity.

"The media 'ecosystem' surrounding Americans - not just TV, radio, and newspapers but also the Web, PDAs, MP3 players, cellphones, video games, and more - keeps getting more widespread, personal, and diverse. The world is seeing 'a Cambrian explosion' of media usage, says Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future, a think tank in Palo Alto, Calif.," writes Gregory M. Lamb of Christian Science Monitor. (Read more)

"The study also found participants are adept at managing their use of two or more types of media at the same time," reports Newswise.com, a research-reporting service.Ball State's Center for Media Design (CMD) researcher Robert Papper said, "As a society, we are consumers of media. The average person spends about nine hours a day using some type of media, which is arguably in excess of anything we would have envisioned 10 years ago." (Read more)

Research team members spent several months studying about 400 "ordinary" people, collecting and analyzing data on 5,000 hours of media use. The studies took place in Muncie and Indianapolis, Ind., and researchers measured participants' use of myriad media. Papper said, "Television is still the 800-pound gorilla ...however, that is quickly evolving. When we combine time spent on the Web, using e-mail, instant messaging and software such as word processing, the computer eclipses all other media with the single exception of television."

Rita's aftermath Vol. 1: Texas, Louisiana school districts remain closed

A lack of power and damage inflicted upon buildings are keeping students out of school in many of the districts hit hardest by Hurricane Rita.

"About 84,000 students from the southeastern region of Texas will be out of school for the foreseeable future, as cities such as Beaumont and Port Arthur and smaller towns surrounding those areas assess the damage caused by Hurricane Rita. The storm also forced schools to remain closed in parts of southwest Louisiana," write Christina A. Samuels and Erik W. Robelen of Education Week.

Several districts that had closed based on early predictions about Rita's path, including the 210,000-student Houston district and the 9,100-student Galveston district, plan to reopen this week. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was scheduled to hold its first meeting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last night, reported Samuels and Robelen. (Read more)

Aftermath Vol. 2: Rain to spread soybean rust spores as far north as Canada

"With rains from Hurricane Rita continuing, USDA's soybean-rust model is predicting an area of new spore transport and depositions from the Gulf Coast into eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the western Florida panhandle, eastern Georgia, northward to Arkansas, Illinois, the Ohio River Valley, the Appalachian states, New York, New England, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec," writes Cheryl Rainford of Agriculture Online.

Spores were expected to move east Tuesday to include land east of the Appalachian Mountains from Florida north to Canada. Today's forecast limited new soybean spore transport to eastern Texas, northern Florida, and southern Georgia, reports Rainford.

Don Hershman, an extension plant pathologist with the University of Kentucky, said Monday that no soybean rust has been found in the upper Mid-south or Midwest. (Read more)

Pennsylvania proposal aims to protect underground miners, punish violators

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell introduced legislation this week to strengthen standards for
protecting Pennsylvania miners.

The legislative package includes some of the most significant changes in decades to the commonwealth's mine safety laws, reports Newswire.com. "Pennsylvania's mine safety program is a national model, but we want to make sure we have in place the highest standards to protect our miners and maintain our leadership in mining operations," Rendell said.

Some 4,600 underground miners work in Pennsylvania, and nine of them recently escaped disaster with a rescue at Quecreek, the governor said. Among that workforce, one fatality has occurred in the past three years, reports Newswire. The governor's proposal includes changes to the state's Bituminous Coal Mine Act to improve permit reviews, increase corporate responsibility and increase the state's ability to impose regulations and penalties.

The changes eliminate obsolete language in Pennsylvania's statutes, which were written in the late-19th century and last updated in 1961. Rendell's proposal would set criminal penalties, civil enforcement actions and civil sanctions for coal mining act violations, states Newswire. (Read more)

Virginia scholar calls intelligent design 'bad science'; national debate rages

A Virginia professor is joining the debate over teaching "intelligent design" in classrooms, with plans to use it as an example of "bad science" for his students.

President Bush has called for equal treatment of intelligent design alongside the teaching of natural selection. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania is trying a lawsuit filed by parents challenging the insertion of intelligent design into the curriculum in rural Dover, Pa.

George Mason University origin of life scientist and researcher Robert Hazen, opposes teaching intelligent design (ID) alongside science with a unique twist, reports Newswise.com. Hazen writes, "Indeed, ID is a quasi-scientific brand of Creationism – the doctrine that life arose through miraculous intervention. The teaching of Creationism has been prohibited in the science curricula of public schools exactly because its precepts are based on faith, not reproducible observations. Creationism isn’t science."

"Like most of my colleagues, I’m troubled by the thinly-veiled anti-evolutionist subtext ... but I also see an educational opportunity in this debate. That’s why I’ll follow our President’s advice in my ... classroom next semester. One way to develop a critical understanding of what constitutes good science is to take a close look at bad science," writes Hazen. (Read more)

For the latest on the trial in Harrisburg, Pa., click here for Testimony: Creationism was pressed by Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden. For another perspective on the court case from the York Daily Record, click here for Witnesses testified that board members had a history of talking about creationism, by Lauri Lebo.

Tennessee legislator under fire for comparing state's black caucus to KKK

A white lawmaker claims he was excluded from Tennessee's black legislative caucus because of his race, and is drawing fire for comparing the group to the Ku Klux Klan.

"My understanding is that the KKK doesn't even ban members by race," Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) told The Associated Press, adding that the KKK "has less racist bylaws" than the black lawmakers' group. "I definitely think they should allow white people in as members. If we work together we might be able to pull things off and get things done."

Tennessee Black Caucus member Rep. Larry Miller (D-Memphis) said no white lawmaker has ever requested membership. Miller said the group's bylaws mention only black lawmakers, but that white lawmakers might be considered, excluding Campfield. "He is using this as a joke. This is an insult coming from him," Miller told AP. "Why he chose to focus on the Black Caucus, I have no idea other than he is crazy and a racist." (Read more)

Campfield has chronicled his attempts to join the caucus via his blog. The blog also contains various postings that slam abortion and gay adoption.

Cumberland Falls community votes to stay dry; supporters wanted tourism boost

Rresidents near Kentucky's Cumberland Falls have voted down a referendum on the sale of beer and wine in their community despite a push for liquor sales to boost tourism.

Residents voted down the referendum 114 to 86, representing half the precinct's registered voters. The referendum was sought by a local resort owner. A million-plus tourists visit the area annually.

"When the results were announced, about a dozen showed up to hear them. Those against alcohol defeated the referendum started by Eagle Falls resort owner Jimmy Vance, who wanted to open a winery and sell alcohol in his restaurant," reports WKYT-TV of Lexington.

Vance questioned the vote, telling the television station he had 127 people sign a petition to get the issue on the ballot. Vance said "people either didn't come out to vote or they changed their minds," WKYT-TV reported. His opponents said Vance didn't advertise enough. Vance says he is planning to try again, and will seek a countywide referendum. (Read more)

Broadcaster appointed to replace convicted felon as county judge-executive

A local broadcaster has been appointed to fill a Kentucky county's judge-executive seat, which will is being vacated by a convicted felon.

"Gov. Ernie Fletcher yesterday appointed a replacement for Knott Judge-Executive Donnie Newsome, a convicted felon who leaves office Friday. Fletcher picked Randy C. Thompson, 48, owner of Hindman Broadcasting Co.," writes Lee Mueller of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Newsome will conduct his last fiscal court meeting tonight. "Newsome was convicted in 2003 of vote-buying in a 1998 Democratic primary and his administration has drawn the repeated attention of state auditors," writes Mueller.

Thompson's radio career started at Eastern Kentucky Broadcasting, and he recently became the Kentucky Broadcasters Association chairman. (Read more)

American Community Newspapers bolsters circulation with latest purchase

American Community Newspapers' total circulation is about to reach 1.1 million, following the purchase of Suburban Washington Newspapers Inc., reports The Associated Press.

The growing company is based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and publishes three dailies and 70 weeklies, almost all of which are in suburban locations. The most recent purchase adds 105,000 to American Community Newspapers' circulation total, according to the news service. Additions include two Sun Gazette papers that serve five communities in Virginia, according to AP.

"This acquisition furthers our suburban strategy to acquire strong community newspaper franchises in top 50 U.S. markets," Gene Carr, American Community Newspapers' CEO, told AP. (Read more)

Rural Calendar: Social scientists at Western Kentucky University, Sept. 30 - Oct. 1

Social scientists from Kentucky and Tennessee will visit Western Kentucky University this weekend for the 41st Annual Meeting of the Anthropologists and Sociologists of Kentucky (ASK).

The conference includes 11 paper sessions, two panel presentations, two film screenings and a keynote address. The paper sessions are on various topics, such as Religion, Distress and Recovery, Economy and Work, Youth and Tourism.

The meeting begins at 3 p.m. Friday and continues all day Saturday at Grise Hall. At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the Kentucky Workgroup on Civic Literacy and Education will present the findings of its recent report, Rediscovering Democracy. The group is chaired by Secretary of State Trey Grayson and includes key members of his administrative staff, representatives of the Department of Education, the Administrative Office of the Courts and Northern Kentucky University.

The keynote address at 4:45 p.m. Saturday will be presented by Lionel J. "Bo" Beaulieu, director of the Southern Rural Development Center, one of four USDA-sponsored regional development centers. For additional details and an event schedule, click here. All times listed are in Central Daylight Time

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005

Federal critical-access designation keeps some rural hospitals in business

In some rural areas, the health-care system is on life support, and for many hospitals the key piece of machinery is the special federal status of "critical access hospital." Cumberland County Hospital is one of more than two dozen Kentucky hospitals with the designation, which increases Medicare funding for hospitals deemed essential to their communities, writes Peter Smith in the latest installment of The Courier-Journal's series on Kentucky's health.

Hospital administrator Chip Sandford told Smith, "We'll never do hand surgery here," but added: "One of the hallmarks of rural medicine is that it's very, very personal." Thinly populated areas often are medically underserved, and Sanford noted that without the federal program, "we would have closed."

Hospitals deemed essential, with 25 or fewer beds, receive Medicare reimbursements of 101 percent of their costs. Medicare normally pays flat rates, but rural hospitals often don't have enough patient volume to break even. They typically have older populations, so their hospitals often live or die by Medicare funding. Nearly 60 percent of Cumberland County Hospital's revenue comes from Medicare. In less than a decade, 24 Kentucky hospitals have received the critical-access designation, writes Smith. (Read more)

C-J health-care reporter Laura Ungar, lead writer on the series, said she got the idea for the story when she heard Sandford speak in February at the Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues conference on covering health and health care in Central Appalachia.

Today's main story in the series, by Ungar and Smith, says that in many parts of Kentucky, doctors, clinics and hospitals are sparse and many lack insurance, their coverage is limited, or they have trouble getting to a doctor, "so the sick get sicker." University of Louisville professor of surgery Dr. Hiram C. Polk Jr. said failure to teach good health habits is the biggest culprit ... made worse by a provider shortage, especially in rural areas. (Read more)

Louisiana newspaper turns to Web after storm knocks out power, presses

One a newspaper's jobs is to be resourceful in the face of catastrophic events that knock out conventional methods of churning out the news. The Lake Charles, La., paper provides yet another stubborn example.

"Without power following Hurricane Rita's hit on the southwestern Louisiana coast, The American Press of Lake Charles has gone to the Internet full time," reports Editor & Publisher. Editor Brett Downer told E&P that reporters stationed in the newspaper's DeRidder bureau to the north are filing stories to the newspaper's Web site from laptop computers powered by car batteries.

Downer told E&P editors are being stationed in Lafayette and DeRidder to handle the Web site on a 24-hour basis. Photographers, with a generator-fired computer in Lake Charles, are getting photos to the site by e-mailing them first to their sister newspaper, The Daily News-Sun in Hobbs, N.M. Downer also provided a blog for readers at http://www.americanpress.blogspot.com.

The American Press has a daily circulation of about 40,000. Printed editions have been suspended. Also, the newspaper's regular Web site, which reproduces an entire edition, is down. (Read more)

Rita's devastation: Cattle stranded; rescuers scour 'Louisiana's outback'

With rescue efforts for hurricane victims underway in Texas and the Louisiana Gulf Coast, news organizations report that livestock are on the loose in remote bayou areas inhabited by alligators.

"With Hurricane Rita’s floodwaters receding along the Texas-Louisiana coast Monday, rescuers pushed deeper into hard-hit bayous to pull out residents on skiffs, crews struggled to clean up the tangle of smashed homes and downed trees, and Army helicopters searched for up to 30,000 stranded cattle," reports Brett Martel of The Associated Press.

The stranded cattle were also mentioned at the top of the CBS Evening News last night. Click here to see their story Animal Search And Rescue. PBS NewsHour referred to far western Cameron Parish as “Louisiana’s outback.” Click here for PBS stories.

Shades of Scopes! In rural Pennsylvania, homo sapiens pedigree again on trial

The debate about our origin continues today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. One side wants both evolution and "intelligent design" taught in schools, and the other side says stick to science. The court is trying a lawsuit filed by parents challenging the insertion of intelligent design into the curriculum in Dover, Pa., “a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000,” CBS News reported.

"A prominent biologist testified on the opening day of the nation's first legal battle over whether it is permissible to teach the fledgling 'design' theory as an alternative to evolution [saying] intelligent design is not science, has no support from any major American scientific organization and does not belong in a public school science classroom," writes Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times. (Read more)

The local paper, the York Daily Record, has three stories by Michelle Starr, including one reporting the view of The Discovery Institute, "the leading proponent of intelligent design," which said it opposes "mandating a policy that it says appears religiously based and shuts down discussions, but also took jabs on Monday at the plaintiffs' expert witness." For that story, click here; for a quick look at the proceedings, click here; for her overall story, click here.

CBS noted in its report that national polling shows most Americans favor teaching both evolution and intelligent design. (See the report: Click on Intelligent Design In Court) The Washington Post notes a chimpanzee DNA study reported in The Rural Blog Sept. 2 under the headline Man and monkeys have a lot in common that can aid medicine, says MIT study.

County leaders cultivate smaller businesses, entrepreneurs to create jobs

States and localities have long courted mega-corporations to catch "The Big One" to boost sagging economies. Now, some court smaller fish on the belief that the risks are less and the rewards greater.

The government of Union County, Ky., and its Economic Development Foundation, "long suitors of larger, industrial-style firms, are doing greater outreach to smaller up-and-coming entrepreneurs," writes Adam Smith of the Henderson (Ky.) Gleaner.

As part of this effort to help cultivate new business, Murray State University's Small Business Development Center District Director Mickey Johnson will speak at a seminar Oct. 13. hosted at a Morganfield restaurant. Paul Monsour, director of the Union County Office of Economic Development and former editor of the Union County Advocate, told Smith, "It's the first time I can recall, at least in recent memory, that we've done something like this."

Smith writes that the effort is aimed at helping would-be entrepreneurs like Jean Marple, a nurse who wants to start a small business. "Marple had no idea how to write a business plan, how to obtain a tax ID number, or how to discover what business permits she needed. The Office of Economic Development and the Morganfield Chamber of Commerce were very polite, but in terms of specific resource guides, little help was forthcoming."

The Murray center covers 24 Western Kentucky counties. Johnson will speak to "entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs on developing business plans, obtaining financing and navigating that dreaded first year," writes Smith. Johnson told Smith he doesn't expect everything to be covered in a one hour-long seminar, but hopes it will let small business developers know "they have an important ally in the wilderness of entrepreneurship." (Read more)

Anti-zoning stance hard to fathom, urban paper says; is rural heritage valued?

An editorial in Kentucky's largest newspaper said yesterday that a national recognition of a state historical area should make rural preservationists to put the money where their talk has been.

"The minset of rural people in Kentucky is hard to understand," opined The Courier-Journal. "Few rural counties have adopted planning and zoning. In a way, that's understandable: The commonwealth is not a wealthy place, and a strip mall or a Wal-Mart appears to have a lot more value than, for example, a historic building or a farm."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has awarded Kentucky a grant for preservation efforts in Boyle, Green, LaRue, Marion, Mercer, Nelson and Washington counties. The effort will serve as a pilot program for the country. The hope is to develop a stronger rural economy, "so folks don't feel pressured to move away or to sell off their farms, which could destroy part of what Kentuckians like about living here," writes the Louisville newspaper.

David Morgan of the Kentucky State Historic Preservation Office told the paper, "Kentuckians value their heritage." The editors say, "Well, the truth is, sometimes they value it, and sometimes they don't. If all goes well, three years from now, maybe everyone will value it a little more." (Read more)

Public broadcasting chairman steps down; new one takes reins, states duties

The man who opposed what he called the liberal slant in public broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, ended his two-year term yesterday as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and was succeeded by another Republican who suggested she would take a different attitude.

"'I've enjoyed about as much of this as I can stand,' said Tomlinson, dryly as he convened the last meeting of his tenure as chairman. He will remain on the board for at least a year," write Matea Gold and Johanna Neuman of the Los Angeles Times.

Two Republicans were elected chair and vice chair -- Cheryl F. Halpern and Gay Hart Gaines, respectively. Halpern signaled she would be different from that of her predecessor. She said, "We have a duty to provide the public an explanation for the kind of work we do -- and we must honor the principles clearly stated in our charter: to encourage objective and balanced programming." (Read more)

Rural Calendar: Mining teach-in starts tomorrow at University of Kentucky

Several organizations at the University of Kentucky will conduct a "teach-in" tomorrow through Friday titled "Lost Mountains: A Look at Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining in Kentucky."

The name comes from "Lost Mountain," a peak near Hazard and the central subject of an article this spring in Harper's magazine by Erik Reece, a professor in UK's English department and environmental studies program, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Read more)

Highlights of the teach-in include: Tomorrow, a panel discussion in Room 230 of the Student Center from 4 to 5:30 p.m. with Reece, citizens, lawyers and a mining engineer; Thursday, Judith Hensley of Wallins Elementary School in Harlan County, will tell how a student project helped prevent mining of Black Mountain, the state's highest peak, and Kentucky authors Anne Shelby, Erik Reece, Randall Roorda, Kayla Whitaker, Nick Smith, Anne Bornschein, Erik Tuttle and Gurney Norman will read; Friday, a combination panel-musical performance of "Lost Mountains, Found Voices" will conclude the series. For more information, call Shaunna Scott at (859) 257-6882.

Monday, Sept. 26, 2005

Rural health: TV series spotlights solutions, how journalists can spread word

"Kentucky’s harsh probabilities" are the focus of a new television series on health, which discusses the role journalists can play in promoting solutions.

The 13-part series called The Commonwealth of Kentucky will premiere at 8 p.m. Oct. 4 on Kentucky Educational Television. That first episode introduces viewers to The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which promotes successful health programs through a "Models That Work" initiative.

The positive role media can play by spreading the word about such programs is discussed in footage from a conference held in February by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health in Hazard. "Where you’re talking to someone who says they feel so much better because they’ve lost 30 pounds, they changed their regimen… personal testimonies mean a lot and the way we convey those testimonies is through the media," Institute Director Al Cross said at the conference. Part of the conference dealt with the high mortality rate of Appalachian residents, many of whom never get cancer screenings.

The KET series aims to provide "creative, innovative and common sense solutions." "It’s absolutely heart breaking to see someone who reaches an advance stage of disease with a problem like hypertension or diabetes only because they assume because they didn’t have insurance, they couldn’t be helped," says Judy Owens, of the UK Center for Rural Health, in the first episode. (Read more)

The Courier-Journal is publishing an ongoing series called Kentucky's Health: Critical Condition, which resumed yesterday as mentioned in The Rural Blog. Here's a link to today's coverage from the Louisville newspaper, Bad habits give birth to chronic diseases.

Rural communities rebounding from Rita; many devastated by one-two punch

The force of nature hits rural, urban and suburban communities much the same, but rural areas, often accompanied by higher poverty rates, can have the hardest time recovering.

"Hurricane Rita's floodwaters receded yesterday along the Texas-Louisiana coastline, revealing devestated rural communities. Along the central Louisiana coastline, where Rita's heavy rains and storm-surge flooding pushed water up to 9 feet in homes and into fields of sugarcane and rice, weary evacuees slowly returned to see the damage," writes Julia Silverman of The Associated Press. Tracy Savage, 33, whose house in rural Vermilion Parish was four feet underwater, told AP, "All I got now is my kids and my motorhome."

Helicopters helped with house-to-house searches. Chief Sheriff's Deputy Kirk Frith told Silverman an estimated 1,000 people were rescued in Vermilion Parish, and about 50 people remained on a 911 checklist. Frith said rescue operations should end today and they would then begin damage assessment.

In Cameron Parish, La. fishing communities were reduced to splinters. Debris was strewn for miles. Holly Beach, a popular vacation and fishing spot, was gone, Silverman writes. Shrimp boats steamed through an oil sheen to reach Hackberry, only to find homes and camps flattened. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who has asked the federal government for $34 billion to aid in storm recovery told reporters "In Cameron, there's really hardly anything left. Everything is just obliterated. We ask for God's blessings on them and their families." (Read more) For more, in Destruction spread across rural towns, by the Lexington Herald-Leader, click here.

High fuel prices force rural school system to cut schedule to four days

Record high gasoline prices have taken their toll on the nation's economy with consumers having to adjust to cope. But, the cutting has now extended beyond the home and into a rural Kentucky school.

Jackson County, "starting the week of Oct. 17, students will get every Friday off. Teachers will work half a day. With the move ... Jackson becomes the fourth school district in the state to implement a four-day week, and the first to do so primarily for financial reasons," writes Peter Matthews of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Jackson schools Superintendent Ralph Hoskins says people have reacted favorably. Some school employees and parents question the speed with which the district is moving.

In Kentucky, the pioneer of the four-day school week was Webster County, which made the change in 2003. Faced with a financial shortfall it studied a rural Colorado system which had moved to a four-day week. Webster officials say they realized the shorter week offered more planning time and training opportunities for teachers. In its first year, Webster has saved more than $150,000 in costs and pay for substitute teachers. It saved an additional $167,000 by cutting some jobs, eliminating some bus routes among other cuts, writes Matthews.

Kentucky Education Association Director of Communications Charles Main, told Matthews the KEA is concerned about teachers having adequate classroom time, and whether classified employees will be hurt by the changes. For more information on the Webster County Schools four-day week experience go to http://www.webster.k12.ky.us. (Read more)

Lawsuit seeks more study on Blair Mountain mining permit

"Aracoma Coal Co. wants to mine 12.5 million tons of coal from the hills around historic Blair Mountain, near Ethel in Logan County. In the process, the Massey Energy subsidiary would bury nearly 3 miles of streams. Over the next eight years, millions of tons of waste rock and dirt would be dumped into Camp Branch and Dingess Run," writes Ken Ward Jr. of the West Virginia Gazette.

When it approved the proposal in July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that Aracoma’s plan “does not significantly affect the quality of the human environment.”

On Thursday, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the corps finding. In their suit, the groups argue the effects are massive and warranted a detailed environmental impact study before Aracoma was granted its permit, reports Ward. (Read more)

The 25-page suit launched another major legal attack on mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. If successful, the case could force federal regulators to perform detailed and time-consuming studies before issuing any new mining permits. At the same time, it could require government agencies to more fully examine potential impacts on forests and streams, and consider those before deciding to allow mining.

For a story on the lawsuit by The Associated Press, click here. Blogger's note: Blair Mountain was the scene of bloody fighting between thousands of union miners and a force of coal mine guards and local law enforcement officers in 1921. U. S. Army forces, under the command of General "Black Jack" Pershing, were called in to put down the insurrection.

Co-op offers settlement to 200,000 farmers; growers could get at least $50 million

Attorneys involved a lawsuit against the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corp. report more than 200,000 tobacco farmers in six states would get a payout of at least $50 million - and potentially as much as $288 million - in a proposed settlement.

"The flue-cured growers' cooperative was created in 1946 to administer the federal tobacco program, and over the years it has accumulated substantial cash reserves. Farmers from southeastern North Carolina sued the cooperative [saying that with the ] buyout of tobacco quotas and the end of the federal tobacco program, [the co-op] had outlived its purpose and should be dissolved so that members could claim their assets," writes David Rice of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal

The settlement must still be approved by a Wake County judge, but its main elements include: At least $50 million - but possibly more - would be paid over three years to growers who sold flue-cured tobacco between 1985 and 2005 from the sale of surplus leaf that was left to the Stabilization co-op with the end of the federal tobacco program; At least $26 million in "certificates of interest" that were issued to farmers in connection with the sale of leaf from 1967 to 1973 will be paid to growers or their heirs who apply to have them redeemed, and the cooperative will allocate $110 million of paid-in capital on its books for members who paid "no net cost" assessment fees for the 1982-84 crop years, writes Rice.

Dennis Worley, an attorney for the growers in Tabor City, said that the settlement would not require farmers to remain members of the cooperative to claim their benefits. The settlement should protect most farmers who contract directly with cigarette-makers, Rice writes. (Read more - registration required)

Special prosecutor to probe claims of votes for smokes, liquor, pork skins

A special prosecutor is investigating a possible case of election fraud in Appalachia, Va., where residents of the coal town claim votes were bought with cigarettes and alcohol.

"Wise County Circuit Judge Tammy McElyea on Friday appointed Norton lawyer Tim McAfee to direct a special grand jury, which is scheduled to begin hearing testimony Oct. 3. The allegations and the investigation has stirred this town of 1,800," reports The Associated Press.

Rick Bowman first sought an investigation after losing his town council race in May 2004, and he said someone recently slashed his car's tires right in his driveway. "People around here are a little bit scared, because things are getting fairly heated," Bowman said. Sheriff Ronnie Oakes told AP that other complaints of residents being harrassed led to increased patrols this week. (Read more)

The fraud allegation originates with theess residents from the government-subsizied housing complex Inman Volaage, who told The Roanoke Times they were approached a candidates's supporters priot to the election. The resuident said they werte offered such items as a fifth of liquor, a pack of cigarettes and even fried pork skins for their votes. (Read more) For additional background from Coalfield.com, click here.

U. S. Department of Agriculture might shut 713 offices; cutting jobs

More than 30 percent of the nation's Farm Service Agency offices would close under a plan released by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The agency may also reduce its payroll by up to 655 jobs.

"The plan would close 713 of the 2,351 offices nationwide, according to a summary the department provided to the Senate Agriculture Committee. The biggest cuts -- 40 percent or more offices closed -- would come in Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia. In Indiana, 36 of the agency's 80 offices are targeted for closure, " reports The Associated Press. (Read more)

The FSA offices are a network in local communities dating to the 1930s, and the chief connection between farmers and the department.

"Agriculture is dynamic, and it is constantly changing. FSA must also change," outgoing FSA Administrator Jim Little wrote employees in a letter released Friday. It's unclear how many jobs will be eliminated. The department this week offered an employee buyout aimed at reducing as many as 655 jobs, Little said in an interview. He wasn't sure how many more of the 15,000 to 16,000 office jobs would be eliminated.

The goal is to move as many workers as possible into consolidated offices, because the department wants better staffing. The department also wants to modernize a system with rustic technology and underused offices. However, the effort already faces reluctance on Capitol Hill. Senators earlier this week voted to delay the closures until the agriculture secretary does a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

Veterinarians shortage: Women vets staying away from rural America

A rural veterinarians shortage continues to worsen with more retirements, and industry officials say that hurts livestock producing states' abilities to detect animal diseases early, writes Roxana Hegeman of The Associated Press.

"The concern is that if an unusual disease were to arise, it could spread before it's caught. The shortfall of veterinarians is also affecting government agencies - such as the U.S. Agriculture Department's food safety inspection service - which are entrusted to oversee food production, said Ralph Richardson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University," reports Hegeman

"It's not just a matter of a veterinarians in the rural community," Hegeman told AP. The shortage could keep getting worse since younger vets are being lured by lucrative practices in big cities. Many veterinary schools are teaching students from metropolitan areas.

Another contributor is that "most graduating veterinarians today are women - many with little interest in taking on the physically demanding and time consuming work involved with large-animal practices in rural areas, statistics show. Nationwide, women comprised more than 73 percent of students enrolled in 27 veterinary colleges during the 2004-05 school year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association," reports Hegeman. (Read more)

Rural Florida development gets another OK; nearby residents fear crime, traffic

"Gramercy Farms, a proposed 1,000-home development off Old Hickory Tree Road, moved forward Thursday with approval by the St. Cloud City Council of planned unit development zoning for the project," reports Jason Holland of the Osceola News Gazette.

The development includes single-family and town homes, with one third of the land set aside for parks and wetlands. The single-family homes will be set on 40- and 50-foot wide lots. One-third of the land is designated for parks and wetlands, which has been offered to the city for apossible aquatic center. The Osceola County School Board has voted to fund a feasibility study on such a project, writes Holland.

Nearby residents oppose the Gramercy Farms project, saying it would disrupt their lives and create crime, traffic and drainage problems. (Read more)

Rural Calendar: Community Survival Institute Oct. 19 - 22; early deadline Oct. 10

The Heartland Center for Leadership Development Helping Small Towns II is offering Tools for Community Survival Institute, designed to give community development professionals and practitioners the basic skills to confront and control the hard work of community building. The institute runs from Oct. 19th through 22nd, at the Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Daily sessions run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Saturday which ends at noon. Deadline for early registration has been extended until October 10, 2005 at the early registration cost of $850, which pays for program fees and materials. Scholarships are still available on a limited basis.

The Heartland Center for Leadership Development is an independent, nonprofit organization developing local leadership that responds to the challenges of the future. Heartland Center activities focus on training and facilitation for community capacity building nationwide. To find out more about the Institute and registration, go to http://www.heartlandcenter.info and click on the Annual Institutes button. The phone number is 800-927-1115. The address is 941 “O” Street, Suite 920, Lincoln, NE 68508 • (402) 474-7667 • Fax (402) 474-7672. You can e-mail your inquiry to info@heartlandcenter.info .

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005

Newspaper series shows how persistent rural poverty causes ill health

"Poverty is the single biggest reason Kentucky is one of America's sickest states. Not only is Kentucky one of the nation's poorest states, but it also is plagued by a type of poverty that makes things even worse — rural poverty that has eroded health for generations," Laura Ungar writes in The Courier-Journal's latest installment of the Louisville newspaper's series on Kentucky's health.

People in rural counties "are less likely to have jobs or health insurance and more likely to live with severe doctor shortages and transportation problems. And they die at higher rates," Ungar writes. "Of the 20 counties with the highest overall death rates in Kentucky, 17 are rural and designated as persistently poor, meaning that at least 20 percent of their people have lived in poverty for 30 years."

Lower-income people "are more likely to smoke, have poor diets and not get enough exercise — three unhealthy behaviors that are pervasive across the state and contribute to an epidemic of chronic illness," Ungar writes, citing research. "They tend to have lower levels of education, which experts agree affects everything from how much people know about health and nutrition to how well they understand risk factors or doctors' instructions." More than a fourth of Kentucky adults over 25 lack high school diplomas.

Also, Ungar notes, "Poorer people also have fewer options when it comes to exercise. They have less expendable income for such amenities as exercise equipment and are more likely to live in places where exercising outside may be dangerous. And they have more trouble maintaining a healthy diet." According to Diana Cassady, an assistant professor at the University of California-Davis, lower income Americans "tend to eat at cheaper fast-food restaurants, where menu items tend to be higher in fat," Ungar reports.

"They also live in areas less likely to have adequate supermarkets. . . . Such privations lead to higher levels of disease. And the poor also lose out in getting medical care. They may not have the means to pay for doctors' visits or medications. Many are uninsured, underinsured or lack prescription drug coverage. And they may have difficulty taking time off from work or lack reliable transportation to get to a doctor. This means illnesses are often caught late, and ... bring greater dangers of disability and death."

The above factors and rural poverty are concentrated in Kentucky's Appalachian area. Near the area's heart is the state's poorest county, Owsley, which "also has the state's highest death rate of 1,535.4 per 100,000 — a rate 80 percent above the national average," Ungar reports.

The newspaper's series, which began in July, continues tomorrow, Tuesday and next Sunday, with a package of recommendations promised in December. Today's report also includes maps, charts and stories about the Mud Creek Clinic in Floyd County and the Cranks Creek Survival Center in Harlan County, and changes in Appalachia since the 1960s. The Features section has a story and sidebar about the Frontier Nursing Service in Eastern Kentucky, now 80 years old.

Artist tours U.S., documenting and discussing uses of empty big-box stores

Julia Christensen is an artist, not an architect or urban planner, but she "often speaks to people in those professions," and they are listening -- at places like Stanford and Yale, writes Chris Poynter, development reporter for The Courier-Journal.

"Driving nearly 20,000 miles, sleeping on friends' couches or camping, the 29-year-old artist discovered how communities are reusing stores left behind as retail chains super-sized to bigger buildings," Poynter reports. "In Pinellas Park, Fla., she saw a Wal-Mart being resurrected as The Calvary Chapel, people praising Jesus where ladies once shopped for lingerie. ... Her work has piqued the interest of urban planners -- and made Christensen an academic celebrity."

Christensen, 29, is writing a book, and her Web site, www.bigboxreuse.com, was a "pick of the day" on Yahoo.com last December. "I'm the go-to girl on big boxes," she told art students at the University of Louisville. Carol Norton of the university's Center for Environmental Policy and Management said Christensen's project can help any size community because "It's really hard to refill that big footprint. . . . We need that inspiration."

Christensen's interest in reuse of big boxes began in 1991, when the Wal-Mart in her hometown of Bardstown, Ky., moved to a larger building. "A hulking building suddenly sat vacant across from My Old Kentucky Home State Park," Poynter notes. "Nelson County eventually bought the property, razed the Wal-Mart and built a courthouse on the land." (Read more)

Northeast Wisconsin's rural counties in trouble; regional collaboration urged

"Northeastern Wisconsin’s rural counties are an outdoor paradise. A place to go on the weekends and to retire to. They also are places where people live and strive to raise families, and that’s become increasing difficult as factories have closed and budgets have become tighter," reports Richard Ryman of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“A number of things are happening in the counties north of Green Bay and many of those things are very traumatic economic changes,” James Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, told Ryman. The area's unemployment rate is nearly double that of the state as a whole, its poverty rate is half again as much, and its per-capita income is almost a fourth lower.

A recent study "suggests that regional collaboration will be more effective solving economic problems than local initiative," Ryman writes. But “One of the main things is just making people aware this is a region. Our work forces commute back and forth and our tax dollars commute back and forth,” said Don Clewley, executive director of the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry. The region crosses state lines; representatives of Menominee and Dickinson counties in Michigan have also been invited to an upcoming regional economic summit.

Kentucky officials say state is well on way to universal broadband access

"Kentucky officials expect more businesses to locate in rural areas as high-speed Internet service expands across the commonwealth," reports Bill Wolfe of The Courier-Journal. "The state is on target, they say, to meet Gov. Ernie Fletcher's goal for border-to-border broadband by the end of 2007.

Commerce Secretary Jim Host told Wolfe that the broadband expansion that "is going to cause a huge boom in rural Kentucky, especially where there are entrepreneurs who want to come home." Wolfe cites an example, Todd Atchison, who was able to move his StreamerNet Corp. to Kuttawa because BellSouth Telecommunications had made digital subscriber lines (DSL) available there. "My company is broadband," Atchison told Wolfe. "Everything about us is broadband, from our daily operations to delivering our product. … It's the raw material of what I do."

The state legislature agreed to deregulate broadband last year after BellSouth, the state's largest phone company, promised to make it availabe in all its Kentucky exchanges in a relatively short time. Ellen Jones, regional director for BellSouth, told Wolfe, "We would have expanded anyway, but it would have been at a much slower rate." She said about 80 percent of the company's Kentucky customers can subscribe to DSL, up from 69 percent two years ago.

Broadband was already expanding rapidly in Kentucky. Wolfe cites a Federal Communications Commission report that 261,638 high-speed lines were added in the state in 2003-04, giving it 264 percent more than it had at the end of 2002. "We have led the United States in percentage of growth in the past two years," Host told Wolfe. He said about three-fourths of the homes and businesses in the state have access to at least one broadband service, and the most rural areas are still "the toughest gap to bridge." (Read more)

Wyoming tribe allowed to run casino games without agreement with state

The Northern Arapaho Tribe received gambling rules from the U.S. Interior Department Wednesday, "making it the first and only tribe" to receive federal approval to conduct Las Vegas-style gaming without an agreement with its home state, reported The Ranger of Riverton, Wyo.

"Ordinarily, states oversee or regulate Class III gaming under terms of a gaming compact," Walter Cook and Bob Peck reported. "The tribe had been battling the state for the right to bring Las Vegas-style games to the Wind River Indian Reservation as far back as 2000, but the state refused to negotiate with the tribe." On July 8, a federal appeals court reaffirmed its earlier ruling that "the tribe could operate Class III games since the state allowed certain forms of gambling for charitable purposes." The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows casinos on reservations if the state allows gambling.

The tribe's Wind River Casino south of Riverton said it would add some Class III games immediately and have table games in a new casino to be built nearby. "Construction at the new casino site has been largely idled for the past year while the legal arguments were ongoing," The Ranger reported. "The Eastern Shoshone Tribe also is pursuing a casino operation." (Read more)

Friday, Sept. 23, 2005

Poverty, unemployment worsen HIV/AIDS burden on rural towns, says study

A report in the Journal of Rural Health shows how poverty, unemployment, lack of education and other barriers increase the burden of HIV/AIDS in rural areas in the United States.

"The burden of HIV/AIDS has not been described for certain rural areas of the United States (Appalachia, the Southeast Region, the Mississippi Delta, and the U.S.-Mexico Border)," write Doctors H. Irene Hall, Jianmin Li and Matthew T. McKenna in the abstract of their full report.

These regions are "where barriers to receiving HIV services include rural residence, poverty, unemployment, and lack of education," the authors say. The study used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV/AIDS Reporting System to find HIV and AIDS diagnoses rates for the four regions by demographic and residential characteristics.

The rate of HIV diagnoses in 2000 was lower in rural areas than in suburban or urban areas, the report states. The highest race-adjusted rate was observed for the U.S.-Mexico Border, followed by the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia. (The full report is available in .pdf form; click here.)

Volunteer firefighter numbers declining in rural towns; Maine reports shortage

Fire departments throughout Hancock County, Maine are struggling to find volunteers. “A lot of it is a matter of people being spread too thin and working as much as they can to pay all their bills,” Franklin Fire Chief Bob Grindle, president of the Hancock County Firefighters Association, told Tom Walsh of the weekly Ellsworth American (circ. 10,981).

The Winter Harbor Fire Department first encountered the problem when a Navy base there closed in 2002, writes Walsh. “Recruiting is always a problem,” said Fire Chief Robert Webber. “We’re now up to 13 members, but we’ve been as low as eight. While the Navy base was here, I had 16 to 18, and there were always more people in town.” Webber said four volunteers are fishermen who might be miles offshore when needed. “In a town of 500, where people may work 30 minutes away in Ellsworth, you can’t always rely on there being five or six volunteers in town," he said.

Of Maine's 432 fire departments, "all but five — Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Lewiston and Portland — rely on volunteers totally or in part. The 8,300 members of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters include fewer than 1,000 paid firefighters. Of the estimated 1.1 million volunteer and paid firefighters across the country in 2003, 800,050, or 73 percent, were volunteers. That’s 10 percent fewer volunteers than there were in 1984, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council," reports Walsh.

Richard Cyr, president of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters, told Walsh that recruiting is hurt by a lack of young men and women. “We don’t have any more young people,” Cyr said. “Young people in Maine get out of high school, go to college and don’t come back. The ones who do stay, if they’re married, usually have kids, with mom and dad working two or more jobs. There’s just no time, and it’s hard to find people willing to take two weeks off, using vacation time, to do the training.” (Read more)

Online poker site offers Kentucky hamlet $100,000 to change its name

"An online poker site has offered $100,000 to the tiny Western Kentucky hamlet of Sharer to change its name to PokerShare.com. Sharer, located in the southeastern corner of Butler County near the Warren County line, is a wide spot in the road with no city council, no grocery and no post office. The whole idea has Butler County Judge-Executive Hugh Evans scratching his head. He doesn't know whether to hold 'em, fold 'em or call PokerShare.com's bluff," writes Greg Kocher of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"I can't speak for everybody, but certainly speaking for myself, this isn't going to happen," Evans said. "When you talk about poker and gambling, we're not for that in our county. It's very conservative."

Darren Shuster, who is employed by a California public relations firm working on publicity for the site, said, "If they say no, that's OK. We can go to another city," Shuster said. "Let them tell their constituents that they're going to turn down that kind of money. For what? Civic pride?" Shuster picked the hamlet during a MapQuest search on Yahoo because its name resembled PokerShare.com, writes Kocher.

Evans, who first heard from Shuster a week or so ago, said, "He told me, 'We're trying to get hold of the mayor.' And I said, 'They don't have a mayor.' And then he said, 'Well, we need to get hold of the board,' and I said, 'They don't have a board. That's a rural community.'" Evans told the Herald-Leader he is hesitant to connect Shuster with anyone in the Sharer community. "I'll tell you right now, there won't be nothing about poker in Butler County," Evans said. "We're a dry county, too, and we've got a lot of churches." (Read more)

First Katrina, now Rita: Emergency declarations helping states cope this time

"If it seems as if the whole country is in a 'state of emergency,' that’s because most of it is. And that’s before Hurricane Rita makes landfall," reports Stateline.Org.

"Fully 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, are now in a federally recognized state of emergency as they take in the Gulf Coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. President Bush also declared four of those states, where Katrina came ashore, 'disaster' areas. By comparison, only Virginia and New York were declared federal disaster areas following the terrorist attacks in 2001," writes Stateline.org's Daniel C. Vock. The story includes a complete list of Katrina-related emergency declarations.

This year, states are using emergency and disaster declarations to deal with problems ranging from hurricanes to drought to rampant crime. "The governors of New Mexico and Arizona issued state emergency declarations in August because of widespread crime, damaged livestock and other problems in border communities beset with illegal immigrants and drug traffickers," writes Vock. Peter Olson, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, said, “The declaration … helps free up red tape; it makes money easier to use.”

A gubernatorial order usually allows a governor to mobilize the National Guard, suspend state laws, spend state money and order an evacuation. Such declarations are also the first step in a process that allows states to recoup costs from the federal government for post-disaster cleanups or short-term evacuee housing. The U.S. government promised to cover 100 percent of the cost of housing evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in states not hit by the storm. (Read more)

FCC goes pro-active in Rita communications following Katrina lessons

Lawmakers and telecommunications executives said in a Senate hearing yesterday that Hurricane Katrina has reshaped the upcoming recovery efforts for Hurricane Rita.

"At the hearing [called] to review recovery efforts in Katrina's wake, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voiced his frustration at the slow progress. He said the storm bolstered the argument that first responders should get additional ... communications capabilities, as well as ways to [more easily] interconnect their wireless networks," writes Mark Rockwell for Wireless Week.

McCain said language in his Save Lives Act has repeatedly been watered down or sidelined. The legislation sets a deadline of Jan. 1, 2009 for the turnover of spectrum from broadcasters to emergency service providers, writes Rockwell.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said as Hurricane Rita bears down on Texas, he is s reaching out broadcastering and telecommunications contacts, rather than waiting until after the storm to see how they're preparing and what they need. "Martin said with the magnitude of the storm, it was hard to anticipate what kind of damage Rita might inflict on the Texas coast's wireless network," writes Rockwell. (Read more)

Gearing up for an insurance battle: Hurricane victims want floods covered

Hurricane victims, regulators, politicians and consumer advocates are gearing up for a contentious battle over insurance coverage responsibilities with billions of dollars in property claims on the line and possible nationwide ramifications. "Similar battles may take place in Texas if Hurricane Rita causes similar havoc when it rams the coast line this weekend," writes Duncan Mansfield of The Associated Press.

The battle hinges on whether homes and businesses in Katrina's path were battered by the 145 mph winds or a storm surge that shot Gulf waters up 30 feet high and beyond designated flood zones. Insurers are making a distinction in coverage based on wind damage versus flood damage, and many victims only have the former, reports Mansfield.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood argued in a lawsuit filed last week against Allstate, State Farm Insurance Cos., Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance and others that "they should pay for all Katrina damages, whether caused by wind, wind-driven water or storm surge flooding," writes Mansfield.

The lawsuit contends homeowners bought their insurance policies "for ... insuring against any damage that could possibly result from hurricanes originating from the Gulf of Mexico." "This wasn't Flood Katrina. This was Hurricane Katrina," attorney generals spokesman Jacob Ray said. (Click here to read more)

Maine turns down federal sex-ed funding; abstinence vs. information

Maine has stopped taking federal funds for an abstinence-based sex-education program, in part because federal guidelines don't allow the money to be used to teach so-called "safe sex" practices.

Gov. John Baldacci's decision comes amid debate over whether government should promote abstinence only or give students information on birth control and other aspects of sexual activity. Maine is the third state to turn down the federal money, following California and Pennsylvania.

"Maine accepted federal abstinence funds annually from 1998 through last year. But officials said the state did not apply for $165,000 in funds during the current federal fiscal year and it will not seek $161,000 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1," writes Paul Carrier of the Portland Press Herald.

The state has run public-service announcements on television encouraging abstinence and emphasized parent-child talks. New stricter federal rules state, "This money has to be part of an abstinence-only program." Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the state's public health director, told Carrier that would not allow providing "comprehensive information to encourage abstinence and help sexually active young people."

Teen pregnancy rates and teen abortion rates in Maine are down significantly, so, Dr. Mills said federal funds are not needed. She also said the federal government's guidelines say sex should be limited to marriage, making it hard to educate young people who are gay or lesbian. Mills said, "This money is more harmful than it is good," Carrier writes. (Read more)

Senate approves $100 billion agriculture bill, without big cut in farm programs

The Senate has passed a $100 billion spending bill for agriculture, food and drug programs without a $3.1 billion spending cut for farm programs that Congress ordered earlier this year. "Now, congressional negotiators must work out differences in House and Senate versions of the spending bill, which funds the Agriculture Department, FDA and related agencies," writes Libby Quaid of The Associated Press. "Agriculture committees plan to decide next month how to make the cut."

The Senate did pass several amendments, among them: A measure to keep Kobe beef off U.S. menus if Japan won't buy American beef. Senators want to retaliate against Japan, once a $1.5 billion-a-year customer of U.S. beef, for refusing to lift a mad cow-related ban. The Agriculture Department has a temporary ban on downer cattle, which are considered high-risk and are tested for mad-cow disease.

The bill also has a measure delaying an Agriculture Department proposal to consolidate local Farm Service Agency offices. One plan would close 665 of 2,353 offices nationwide. And, it also has an amendment banning the slaughter of wild horses to be sold as meat to foreign countries. Congress repealed the 34-year-old ban in December. Another provision in the bill would require that the FDA more widely disclose conflicts of interest by members of its advisory panel. (Read more)

Virginia farmers file suit asking judge to declare tobacco buyout illegal

Two farmers in Abingdon, Va., have filed a class-action lawsuit asking a federal judge to declare illegal the way the U.S. Department of Agriculture is handling the buyout of growers' federal quotas. William J. Neese and Daniel M. Johnson claim that the USDA's handling of the $10.1 billion buyout plan is contrary to the law Congress passed when it abolished tobacco quotas and price supports.

"The law required farmers who had grown tobacco for more than three years to receive $3 per pound based on 2002 market quotas, according to the lawsuit," writes Matthew Lakin of the Bristol Herald Courier. But the Agriculture Department is basing the payments on how much tobacco a farmer sold, not how much the quota allowed, with no allowance for crops lost due to drought or flood, the suit says.

Neese estimates that the buyout changes have cost him more than $373,000, and Johnson estimates a cost of more than $286,000. The government has until Oct. 24 to file a response. (Read more)

British report says farm spray risk to rural residents, calls for buffer zones

A royal commission looking into what is causing "cancer clusters" around the country warns farmers in Great Britain may be putting people's health at risk by using crop sprays too close to homes and schools.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's 184-page report, the result of a year-long investigation, has led it to call for new laws on spraying and buffer zones. "The report criticizes government ministers for making glib assurances about the safety of crop spraying [despite the lack of strong scientific support] and says allowing the Pesticides Safety Directorate to decide spraying policy could lead to conflicts of interest," writes James Goffin of the Norfolk (England) Eastern Daily Press.

"The report recommends: A five-meter no-spray buffer zone around fields to protect homes, schools, hospitals and retirement homes; New laws to prevent spraying in high winds; Stricter rules on who can use pesticides; Restrictions on the sale of pesticides to those licensed to use them; Yearly inspections of machinery," writes Goffin.

The commission spoke to farmers and residents who believe their illnesses were caused by spraying. Problems reported included trouble breathing, eye irritation and rashes Parkinson's-like tremors, liver disorders and asthma in the longer term. Some officials expressed concern about cancer clusters in rural areas. (Read more)

Tennessee judge disciplined following order that Hispanics learn English

"Disciplinary action has been taken against Wilson County Juvenile Court Judge Barry Tatum in connection with highly controversial court orders he issued requiring Hispanic mothers to learn English in child custody cases," writes Brooks Franklin of The Lebanon Democrat.

Documents from the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, which oversees judges' conduct, cited state law and the court's own rules in declining to specify how Tatum was disciplined, reports Franklin.

"In an eight-page 'explanation' to the court during its investigation, Tatum referred to 'the unique language and cultural barriers in these two cases' and said an underlying factor in the controversy was 'the atmosphere generated' by The Lebanon Democrat, which first revealed the rulings in January," writes Franklin. (Read more)

Revenue sharing money gone; rural Alaska towns struggle to stay afloat

A cash-strapped village of 200 people in rural Alaska has gone from boom to bust, another victim of the demise of the state's oil-rich revenue sharing program.

"Holy Cross, about 420 miles southwest of Fairbanks, is one of dozens of rural communities across the state facing serious financial problems, or in some cases have shut down, since the state ended a revenue-sharing program," writes Dan Joling of The Associated Press.

The Alaska Municipal League reports nine villages have ceased day-to-day operations. Eighteen have serious management or financial problems and another 39 communities have financial problems and could be insolvent in two years. Holy Cross Mayor Jeffrey Dementieff told Joling, "We've got no money to plow the roads. I've been having to ask for volunteers."

Revenue sharing and matching grants helped villages with maintenance and small construction projects. But, those programs were vetoed by the governor in 2003 in the face of a revenue shortage. Kevin Ritchie, the municipal league executive director, told AP the villages became dependent on the revenue sharing program. "It didn't create some huge political infrastructure, but it was enough to keep the lights on, have a city clerk that collected utility bills, things like that." (Read more)

Washington state board orders rural county to limit developments

A Washington state hearings board has ruled a county has allowed too much development in some rural areas and not enough in some urban places.

"Whatcom County allows too many houses on rural land, has not set proper limits on suburban areas and does not allow enough homes in some urban places, according to a state panel. The ruling by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board came following on an appeal by the statewide anti-sprawl group Futurewise. The board ordered the county to change its rules by Feb. 14," writes Audrey Cohen of The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald.

County Council Chairwoman Laurie Caskey-Schreiber agreed with the goal, but said, "That's going to be a monumental task to accomplish in that amount of time." Futurewise Executive Director Aaron Ostrom said the ruling "sends a clear message," and that the county "must better protect its rural lands from poorly planned over-development." The zoning rules affect more than 12,000 acres of rural land, according to Futurewise. The group has said such development could harm Puget Sound, be costly to serve and change the character of these areas.

State law generally allows no more than one house per five acres outside cities, areas designated for urban growth and limited suburban areas. These suburban areas must have a logical boundary based on what was built as of July 1, 1990. (Read more)

Meth film depicts addicts' slump; local funding, Hollywood stars behind project

An independent film being made in Iowa by a native doesn't pull punches in depicting the downward spiral to destruction that is the inevitable demise of meth addicts and their families.

"So the movie Iowa isn't exactly the image sought by the state tourism bureau, but sometimes you get Field of Dreams and sometimes you get meth junkie movies," writes Jeffrey Bruner, film critic for the Des Moines Register. Matt Farnsworth, 30, spent many summers in Centerville two years ago to film the movie. That is where his grandparents live. The film is "about a young couple who become addicts and begin a downward spiral," notes Bruner. The film was shot over 28 days in Centerville, Winterset and near Des Moines.

Farnsworth was able to get veteran actors John Savage of "The Deer Hunter" and Rosanna Arquette of "Desperately Seeking Susan" fame in his cast. The movie had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this summer. The movie opened Friday in Centerville at the Majestic Theater and runs through Sept. 29. Farnsworth told Bruner, "It's definitely worth it to get it up on the screen. Now it's time to see some return on this investment and hopefully change some people's lives." (Read more)

Pennsylvania woman keeps mining heritage alive with picnic, book

A Pennsylvania woman has vivid memories of mining. Each year she celebrates those memories with a picnic, and now a book vividly detailing her recollections to keep them alive.

"Dorothy Svitesic is passionate about the miners' history, their camaraderie and their struggles, and she loves to celebrate the coal mining heritage of the Harmarville area," writes Jan Adam in a special report to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Read more) Svitesic, 74, told Adam, "This is about keeping their stories alive -- all so they're not forgotten."

Every five years or so, she helps plan a picnic for those who worked in the mine and their families. In previous years, 500 people have shown up, In between picnics, she adds a story here and there to a book she began compiling 20 years ago, "Our Coal Mining Heritage, Harmarville, Pa." The third edition will be released at the picnic. It has grown from stories written on six sheets of paper to more than 230 pages.

"I remember the mine as a big black hole. We weren't allowed to go anywhere near it," she told Adam. "My dad didn't want another son going underground. It was so dangerous. Every time the mine whistle signaled there had been an accident, we all sat and waited. We held our breath till we knew it was OK."

The Harmar Mine Picnic will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Syria Mosque Pavilion, 5239 Brownsville Road, Cheswick. Admission is $12. For reservations, call 724-274-8062, 724-274-8141 or 412 828-2339. "Our Coal Mining Heritage, Harmarville PA" is published by John Towle, owner of Aspinwall Bookshop, 1 Brilliant Ave., Aspinwall, where the book is available.

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005

Hughes study refutes optimistic FCC data on rural access to broadband

A survey released by a satellite broadband provider reports more than three-quarters of small businesses in U.S. rural areas don't have access to cable-modem or DSL broadband Internet services, refuting data reported by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Hughes Network Systems (HNS) study also reports, "Another 44 percent of suburban small businesses don't have so-called terrestrial broadband services available, according to the survey conducted online by Survey.com. Sixty percent of all U.S. businesses with 10 employees or fewer said they didn't have access to cable or DSL. The survey covered 250 businesses with 100 employees or fewer," writes Grant Gross of IDG News Service. Speakers at a Washington, D.C. conference sponsored by HNS said the study shows the need for more education about the benefits of broadband and about alternatives to fixed-line broadband services, writes Gross. (Read more)

The FCC recently reported 95 percent of U.S. ZIP codes have at least one broadband provider. That figure became as part of the FCC's rationale for changing rules regarding network access among competing services. Critics say the figure is misleading, because if one individual or business in a ZIP code has broadband, even from an expensive T1 line or satellite service, the entire ZIP code is listed as having the service.

John Branscome, a legal adviser at the FCC, told Gross that broadband services are particularly important to rural areas that may not have the education or health-care facilities that urban centers do. He said, "[Broadband] has the power to make geographic isolation irrelevant. It allows students at small villages in Alaska to have the same resources that children here in the best schools in Washington receive."

Religious extremism map helps British track hot spots; is there a U.S. map?

Great Britain's anti-terrorist law enforcement agencies are mapping and tracking areas where extremism is flourishing, including rural parts of the country, information that is changing how that country deploys its anti-terrorism forces.

"Religious and other forms of extremism have spread to many rural areas and small towns, according to a top secret map of 'hot spots' drawn up by the police and intelligence services.The existence of the extremism map was revealed by Denis O'Connor, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, at a meeting of the Police Superintendents' Association," writes Toby Helm, chief political correspondent for The Daily Telegraph of London, England.

O'Connor said the map was a key factor in his decision to propose sweeping changes to the structure of policing in England and Wales. O'Connor wrote in a recently released report: "There is good reason to believe risks posed by civil contingencies, domestic extremists, terrorists and dangerous offenders are widespread." He added that based on the new information, they were unable to provide the "protective services the 21st century increasingly demands." O'Connor said he was unable to show the map for security reasons.(Read more)

We’d be surprised if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have such a map, and if some local police haven’t heard about it. Sounds like a scoop any number of American reporters, rural or urban, could get.

Virginia study says No Child Left Behind is costing the commonwealth

A study by Virginia officials and a Colorado consultant has found that the commonwealth and its school districts spent more than $61 million in the past year "to cover the costs of the No Child Left Behind law because the federal government has failed to fully fund the Bush administration mandate," The Washington Post reports.

"The study examined costs associated with the federal law at the state and local levels, including those incurred developing standardized tests, tracking scores of thousands of students, finding and keeping qualified teachers and imposing sanctions on schools that do not measure up," Rosalind Helderman and Maria Glod write.

"It found that the Virginia Department of Education and school divisions together spent an estimated $264 million on the law last year. That's 23 percent more than they say they received in new federal dollars meant to cover the law's costs. At the local level, the study found that school divisions spent $207 per student. But because of the federal funding shortfall, districts picked up $52.80 per student."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education challenged the study's methodology. Chad Colby said school officials inflated costs by including expenses they were already making. "He said state officials did a better job than school district administrators at including only costs related to the law. The report showed the state agency received a little more from the federal government than it spent," the Post reports. "School officials also quibbled with the study, saying it underestimates costs because it does not include all the efforts underway to help students pass the tests."

The study used a method developed by 12 states. "New Mexico, Connecticut and Hawaii each have released estimates of state spending using the same process, but Virginia's study is the first to look so broadly at state and local costs and compare them to federal funding," the Post reports. (Read more)

Rising gasoline prices, drive-offs prompt pre-pay law in Bowling Green, Ky.

Increasing gasoline prices and growing numbers of motorists filling-up and fleeing have prompted leaders in one Kentucky city to move toward requiring pre-paid purchases at the pump.

"An ordinance change requiring all gasoline buyers in Bowling Green to prepay passed city commissioners on a 3-2 split Tuesday night, overcoming a last-ditch attempt by Commissioner Brian Strow to gut its enforcement," writes Jim Gaines of the Bowling Green (Ky.) Daily News. If the new ordinance passes Oct. 4, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2006.

Commissioner Mark Alcott objected to fining retailers who refuse to require prepayment. Those stations could be fined $5 to $500 and jailed for up to 12 months. He told Gaines, "I believe if we're making the retailer the villain, it's a mistake." According to Mayor Elaine Walker, "practically all local gas retailers are in favor of required prepayment, but haven't done so themselves because at least some sought brief advantage by being the last to go to prepayment," Gaines writes.

Walker told Gaines gas drive-offs in the city last year cost retailers about $28,000, which they passed on in higher prices to consumers. She also pointed to the cost of 1,148 hours of police time spent on largely futile investigations. Walker also told the newspaper similar laws in other areas have virtually eliminated gas drive-offs, and that effect outweighs any inconvenience. (Read more)

West Virginia weekly reveals state funding disparities between counties

The State Journal, a Charleston, W.Va., weekly that focuses on state government and business, found significant disparities between levels of state economic-development assistance made to the state’s 55 counties between 1999-2004.

"Data from the West Virginia Development Office showed Ohio County received over $50 million in development funding, or about $1,100 for each resident, while 75 miles away in Doddridge County, the county got $550 for a single business, or about 7 cents per resident over the 5-year period," reported The State Journal's Beth Gorczyca. The Development Office said local effort and qualifications caused the disparity. It said counties must apply before they can receive any funds, projects must create jobs and improve the community, and the entity must have a means of paying back any loans.

Lorraine Brisell, treasurer for the all-volunteer Doddridge County Economic Development Authority, said hers is one of the few counties in the state without a part-time or full-time employee to handle economic development. The county has a small population and a limited manufacturing base with few large, private employers. However, similarly rural Ritchie County, received $151,500. "Ritchie County has a full-time economic development director, so they can pursue a lot more grants and programs than we can," said Brisell. "There are a myriad of funding sources out there, but it's having a person who can wade through it all." (Read more)

The newspaper considered only funds the West Virginia Development Office is directly responsible for. To download the map of the counties and the coordinating level of assistance, click here.

New York has a rural health-care crisis linked to ailing economy, doc says

In rural New York state, a medical expert warns, "Health-care issues are at a critical juncture at a time when the economy of many communities is failing or on the brink of collapse. The rural health-care crisis and upstate economic crisis are tightly interrelated, and the solution to both may lie in considering them together."

"The problem is due to the physical distances and the aging demographics. Rural residents are older, poorer and sicker and more than 30 percent live alone. This makes them more vulnerable to timely access to routine and emergency care. Delaying treatment results in more advanced disease and worse outcomes," writes Dr. Jon R. Cohen in an opinion piece for The Buffalo News. Cohen is chief medical officer of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

New York has half a million uninsured rural residents, notes Cohen. This number, he says "increases every year as private insurance is less available, farm families have less access to employer-based insurance and Medicaid is less accessible." Many upstate hospitals, Cohen writes, "are on the brink of collapse. They have significant manpower shortages, because they are unable to attract physicians, nurses, mental health and emergency workers. Furthermore, every time a health care professional leaves a rural community, there is an additional loss of approximately $100,000 to the local economy."

Cohen writes, "Good health care attracts new employers, a highly educated work force, young families, millions in federal funding and provides good jobs. Health care is essential for the growth of new businesses and for the prosperity of established ones." And he concludes, "Investment in rural health care is good medicine, both for the health of state residents and for the ailing upstate economy." (Read more)

Declines in some fish populations a 'wake-up call,' says Maine expert

A new federal report on groundfish stocks in the Northeast reveals that the cod population in the Gulf of Maine has dropped 21 percent from 2001 to 2004.

"The report also found the fishing pressure was reduced on 10 of 19 groundfish stocks studied. Ironically, population for at least six of those 19 stocks increased an average of 50 percent during the same timeframe," writes Tom Walsh for the Ellsworth American. (Read more)

Teri Frady, a spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, told Walsh, “The bottom line ... is, over a three-year period, we’ve had good overall success in bringing fishing rates down, but not as successful in getting the biomass (fish size and numbers) to rise.”

Ted Ames of Stonington, board chairman of the Penobscot East Resource Center and a member of the Stonington Fisheries Alliance, told Walsh the report's conclusions were a “reality check.” He told Walsh, “We need to keep making adjustments in fishing strategies, but I’m not sure the people who are fishing cod are too receptive.” The report updates 2001 stock assessments with data from 2002 to 2004.

John Boreman, director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, told Walsh, “Eliminating over-fishing is an important prerequisite to rebuilding stocks to sustainable levels.” Environmentalists also shared concerns about the practices of these fisheries. “It is simply irresponsible for New England’s

FEMA responds; mobile home makers ramp-up for storm victims' shelters

Only days after a number of national, critical news reports about mobile home manufacturers still waiting to hear back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about supplying shelters for Katrina storm victims, some of the largest manufacturers report they have received the go-ahead.

"Clayton Homes Inc. on [has] received an emergency order from FEMA to ship 2,000 more manufactured houses to the Gulf Coast to aid residents left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. The order is in addition to 1,800 homes Clayton already is shipping for use in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel in a combined staff and wire services story.

The Maryville, Tenn.-based company also is building 15 modular classrooms to be used in Louisiana and Alabama. Manufacturers have been gearing-up for Katrina victims since the federal government received their proposals two weeks ago. The companies began receiving responses Tuesday after FEMA set a Sept. 9 deadline to submit bids. FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said their response had been delayed because the Department of Homeland Security had to approve a housing plan. (Read more)

Phyllis Knight, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Champion Enterprises Inc., a mobile home manufacturer based in Auburn Hills, Mich. told reporters "A lot of people are waiting."

Katrina unmasks media caste system; Times-Picayune warnings unheeded

The media elite essentially ignored eerily accurate prophesies of a Katrina-like catastrophe at the peril of the Gulf Coast and the nation, a national media commentator charges.

"The Katrina disaster has peeled back the veil from many of America's shames and weaknesses. One of them is the press's caste system. The nation's media biggies, acting in character, had pretty much ignored the year-in, year-out reporting by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which kept warning that a hurricane tragedy of this magnitude was certain to befall the Gulf city. A five-part series three years ago described the likely evacuation that actually happened," writes Sydney Schanberg of the Village Voice.

The Times-Picayune wrote: "The risk is growing greater. . . . Eventually a major hurricane will hit New Orleans head on. . . . It's just a matter of time. . . . People left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive . . . " The Times-Picayune, Schanberg continues, "is a paper whose staff has performed a heroic service in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Flooded out of their offices, they climbed aboard newspaper delivery trucks and drove off to escape the rising waters. About 15 reporters and photographers stayed behind to chronicle the destruction and human chaos."

"Sadly, there's nothing new about the national press's pretending that important stories uncovered by regional papers or alternative papers like this one were trees that had fallen in a deserted forest. In short, these stories don't exist, except when the biggies deign to cannibalize them, usually giving little credit to the papers of origin," writes Schanberg." The caste system carries a heavy cost. It weakens the news business," Schanberg concludes. (Read more)

Scripps putting Birmingham Post-Herald out of business tomorrow

The Birmingham Post-Herald will publish tomorrow for the last time, The E. W. Scripps Company announced today. "The closing of The Post-Herald, a five-day afternoon newspaper, marks the end of a joint operating agreement between Scripps and Advance Publications Inc., owner of The Birmingham News, which manages the printing, marketing and distribution of both Birmingham newspapers" and will continue seven-days-a-week publication, Scripps said in a press release this morning.

"Scripps attributed its decision ... to the fact that the economics of publishing The Post-Herald were no longer favorable. The joint operating agreement between Scripps and Advance Publications was scheduled to run until 2015," the release said, quoting Richard A. Boehne, The E. W. Scripps Company’s executive vice president and head of the company’s newspaper division: “The Post-Herald has a long tradition of journalistic excellence and community service, but Scripps was left with no choice but to face economic realities.”

CBS blogger says the form is 'citizen journalism' and warrants respect

A blogger paid by CBS News to examine the network says much of the "citizen journalism" of blogging, which is creating a more global news community, deserves respect.

"Basically, a citizen journalist is someone from outside the news business who engages in the kind of journalism that is traditionally the purview of the professionals," writes Brian Montopoli in an article for CBS News' Public Eye.

"Both MSNBC and CNN have been tapping citizen journalists to augment their coverage – they've used their Web sites to solicit and post photos from private homes in New Orleans, audio and videos of how people are responding to Katrina, and stories about how high gas prices are affecting peoples' lives, for example, notes Montopoli.

"Are bloggers citizen journalists?" asks Montopoli. "Well, yes – and no. Many independent bloggers can certainly be considered citizen journalists: They report from war zones, do the kind of analysis one might find on opinion pages, and post photos of news events on their sites, despite the fact that they're not affiliated with news organizations," Montopoli writes.

"Most citizen journalists want to disseminate honest information. Despite the potential pitfalls, there are plenty of reasons to welcome the rise of citizen journalism – as long as news consumers understand what they're dealing with," Montopoli concludes. (Read more)

Rural Calendar: Healthy Food and Farms seminar signup deadline tomorrow

Best-selling author, Eric Schlosser will be the keynote speaker at the seventh annual Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference in Louisville. The event, which begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, October 1, will be held in Frazier Hall at Bellarmine University. The deadline for registration is tomorrow.

The conference will focus on the problems of industrial agriculture and the importance of a local food economy which protects small farmers, public health, and the environment. Speakers will discuss solutions to the industrial system, which has been termed unjust and energy-inefficient as well as harmful to the environment.

The event is open to everyone interested in the food we eat and preserving small independent farms in Kentucky. Cost for the event which includes breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack of all locally-grown, antibiotic and hormone-free foods prepared by Chef Michael Dahl is $40. Registrations can be made by contacting Community Farm Alliance at 502-223-3655 or at http://www.communityfarmalliance.org. Scholarships are available.

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005

Eight governors call for oil prices inquiry; gasoline price jump gouging?

The governors of eight states have asked President Bush and Congress to investigate profits made by oil companies following Hurricane Katrina and they want legislation requiring oil companies to refund to customers any profits found excessive.

Gasoline at the pump following Katrina jumped about 60 cents a gallon almost overnight. "Oil companies were obviously using the most devastating natural disaster in our nation's history to reap a windfall at the expense of American consumers," the governors wrote in a letter to the president. Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin is leading the effort. The letter also was signed by governors from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, reports The New York Times. "To make money off the severe misfortune of others is downright immoral," their letter stated.

An analysis by Donald A. Nichols, a University of Wisconsin economics professor, reported gas prices rose disproportionately compared with crude oil price increases. The markup from crude oil to gasoline has almost tripled since the hurricane, writes the Times. (Read more)

FEMA non-response has emergency mobile homes for storm survivors on hold

Mobile home manufacturers are gearing up to help Hurricane Katrina victims, but are still waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response 10 days after the agency asked for proposals.

Phyllis Knight, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Champion Enterprises Inc., a mobile home manufacturer based in Auburn Hills, Mich., told Bill Poovey of The Associated Press, "A lot of people are waiting."

FEMA set a Sept. 9 deadline for submitting bids, writes Poovey. Spokesman Butch Kinerney said a delay occurred because the agency's parent, the Department of Homeland Security, has yet to approve a housing plan. Kinerney said, "We want to make sure we are spending the money the right way. It doesn't mean people are going to go without." He said manufacturers should get responses soon.

Bidders still waiting included the largest manufacturer of mobile homes, Clayton Homes Inc., based in Maryville, Tenn., and Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. Clayton rounded up 1,800 mobile homes from retail lots across the country and sent them to a staging area in Texarkana, Texas. FEMA estimates 200,000 households have been displaced by Katrina, Poovey writes. (Read more) For more information from the Manufactured Housing Institute, click here.

Waiver of federal shipping law could help agriculture shipping slowed by Katrina

A coalition of 21 agriculture groups wants President Bush to temporarily waive part of a federal law, which in turn would help farmers trying to get crops to market via waterways slowed by Hurricane Katrina.

At issue is "The Jones Act,” a section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The coalition urges a waiver for agricultural products, which would provide additional transportation capacity for moving U.S. grains and oilseeds to ports in the Southeastern regions of the nation, reports the American Farm Bureau Federation's Farm Bureau News.

The coalition notes a temporary waiver for agricultural products through the end of 2005 would assist in the post-Katrina recovery effort of ports and waterways by easing the burden on the already overtaxed U.S. transportation system. The coalition claims without a waiver, "American farmers could be harmed, as traditional commodity buyers look to overseas suppliers, in an effort to avoid the current constraints of U.S. domestic transportation," writes Farm Bureau News.

The USDA recently reported the current corn crop at 10.6 billion bushels and the soybean crop at 2.86 billion bushels, the second largest on record. A similar request for a waiver of the Jones Act from the petroleum and gas industry was recently granted. (Read more)

Broadband loan critics say application process 'too long'; leader defends program

"The head of a government program designed to deliver modern technology to rural areas defended his division's record on granting loans for high-speed Internet access, as technology companies pressed for less cumbersome application procedures," writes Drew Clark of the National Journal's Insider Update.

The Rural Utilities Service, part of the Rural Development program at USDA, has lent $800 million in loans, but rejected applications totaling $1 billion, RUS acting administrator Curtis Anderson said. Alan Shark, executive director of the Rural Broadband Coalition, called the application process "too cumbersome and too long." Shark compared the rejections to "waving food in front of starving animals and not allowing them to eat," notes Clark.

Shark noted that RUS denies applications if broadband providers already exist in rural areas. Shark wants municipalities to get loans and RUS seemed receptive, reports Clark. "Clearly, we believe municipalities are eligible, so we need to make sure that is clear [and] encourage municipalities to apply," Anderson said.

With the requirement that only regions with less than 20,000 people be considered, no municipality has been approved. "Despite years of talk about closing the digital divide, there are still many small businesses in rural, suburban -- and surprisingly even urban areas -- who are overlooked by terrestrial broadband providers," Hughes Network Systems Senior Vice President Mike Cook told Clark. (Read more)

Federal Trade Commission taking up the municipal broadband cause

Federal Trade Commissioner Jonathan Leibowitz is fighting for the ability of municipalities to provide broadband Internet access, and will argue that any state legislation limiting broadband competition on the part of cities should be opposed, writes Drew Clark of the National Journal's Insider Update.

Leibowitz will address the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Thursday. NATOA represents municipalities on cable franchising and municipal broadband.

"In 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the ability of states to limit municipal broadband," writes Clark. Public interest groups and technology companies oppose municipal broadband restrictions, and they were pleased with draft legislation released last week by the House, which endorsed the idea of prohibiting states from limiting municipal broadband. (Read more)

Rural policy fellow says Washington deaf to rural development needs

A Rural Policy Research Institute fellow says the USDA's tour seeking comments for the 2007 farm bill is a road show that will create a lot of chatter but no real substantial change.

"USDA officials have already been to some 20 states on a national listening tour offering citizens the chance to comment on farm policy," writes RUPRI Fellow Thomas D. Rowley. "But if history is any indicator, one important truth won’t make that long obstacle-strewn journey from the ear to the brain to the pen of policymakers: agricultural policy is not the same thing as rural development policy."

Rowley sites a recent study by Mark Drabenstott, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank vice president and director of its Center for the Study of Rural America, which states, "farm payments fail to boost the rural economy in counties most dependent on them ... don’t promote job growth, [and don't] prompt new business establishment or stem population decline. Sometimes the payments even hurt those counties. Twenty-one percent of the 783 counties dependent on farm payments lost jobs from 1992 to 2002. Nearly 60 percent lost population."

“In short,” writes Drabenstott, “the payments appear to be linked with sub-par economic and population growth. Farm payments appear to create dependency on even more payments, not new engines of growth.” Rowley concludes his column, asking, "Is anybody listening?" (Read more)

Backyard burning ignites drive to raise awareness about health hazards

"Burning trash in a backyard burn barrel may be a common method of getting rid of garbage, but it's
also a hazardous one - more than previously thought," writes Terri McLean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"Open burning can have negative impacts on our environment and our health," Amanda Abnee, an extension associate at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, told McLean. "Many health issues have been linked to open burning, including asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and nervous system disorders." Other links include cancer, developmental disorders and birth defects.

Open burning creates dense smoke, which may contain hazardous pollutants, writes McLean. "Ashes containing these same compounds can settle on lakes and rivers or be washed into streams during heavy rains," Abnee said. "These pollutants can have immediate and long-term health effects."

Open burning of approved materials should adhere to a "common sense manner," Abnee told McLean. "As we move into the fall fire season, it is really important to remember the basic guidelines," she said. "These include locating fires away from homes and businesses and at least 150 feet from the nearest
forested area. And do not locate fires near streams, sinkholes or near utility lines because of the potential for even more environmental problems."

Rural Banks reserve $78 million for community eco-development projects

Rural communities in five upper mid-western states are taking advantage of a new program introduced by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Iowa to finance economic development projects.

"Bank members throughout Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota have already reserved more than $78 million in Rural Capital Advances (RCA). The low-cost funds have been used to finance housing and economic development projects in rural areas," states the Federal Home Loan Bank in a press release distributed by Primezone of Los Angeles, Calif. Bank President and CEO Patrick Conway states, "Not only is $78 million a boost to rural economies throughout our district, it demonstrates the commitment of our community bank members."

The Bank has set aside $100 million a year for five years to support and stimulate economic growth in rural America. After a state uses its $10 million, the other $50 million pool is available. "The Bank's goal was to disburse the first $100 million by the end of this year. We are well on our way to reaching this goal," stated Chief Operating Officer Amy Angle in the press release. (Read more)

The advances are being used for new construction, business expansion, historic preservation and more. For information on specific projects, contact Angie Richards at 800.544.3452 ext. 1014. For information on the RCA, visit the Bank's web site at http://www.fhlbdm.com or contact the Bank's Community Investment Department at 800.544.3452 ext. 1173.

Former CBS anchor blasts new TV journalism as 'dumbed-down, tarted-up'

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather charges a climate of fear runs through newsrooms now that is stronger than he has ever seen in his more than four-decade career.

"Addressing the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, occasionally forcing back tears, [Rather] said politicians 'of every persuasion' [have] gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a 'new journalism order,'" writes Paul J. Gough of Reuters News Service.

Rather said along with the "dumbed-down, tarted-up" coverage, 24-hour cable competition, the chase for ratings and demographics have taken their toll on the news business, adding, "All of this creates a bigger atmosphere of fear in newsrooms," writes Gough.

Rather and HBO Documentary and Family President Sheila Nevins received lifetime achievement awards at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Nevins told the gathering there's a certain kind of intimidation brought to bear these days, particularly from the religious right. "If we did a documentary on Darwin, I'd get a thousand hate e-mails."

Rather said in his early days with the network, "There was a connection between the leadership and the led . . . a sense of, 'we're in this together.'" Rather added that it's not that the then-leadership of CBS wasn't interested in shareholder value and profits, it just saw news as a public service, writes Gough. (Read more)

AP moves: Two Ohio positions filled; Virginia correspondent finds new home

Arkansas reporter David Hammer is now The Associated Press Washington regional reporter for Ohio, announced AP in a series of personnel moves. Hammer's resume includes covering former President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Library, national politics in Arkansas and Hispanic issues, retired Gen. Wesley Clark's presidential campaign and the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The second change in AP's Ohio roster is Doug Whiteman, a business news anchor and consumer news reporter for AP Radio, becoming Ohio's broadcast editor. Whiteman came on at AP in 1994 at the Broadcast News Center in Washington, starting as a general news anchor, writer and producer.

AP also announced that Sue Lindsey, interim correspondent in Norfolk, Va., will now be a correspondent in Roanoke. Lindsey worked for AP in Richmond from 1972-80, served as an editor and columnist for The Roanoke Times for 19 years and then returned to AP in Richmond in 2003. (Read more)

N.C. newspaper publisher and Ohio managing editor moving to new positions

Ken Svanum, publisher of the Star-News (circ. 53,571) in Wilmington, N.C., for the last five years, will resign next month and become the publisher and president of the Marin Independent Journal (circ. 40,245) in Novato, Calif., reports The Associated Press.

The Star-News is a New York Times newspaper and the Marin Independent Journal is owned by California Newspapers Partnership. Svanum will also oversee the Journal's subsidiary publications in Marin County. (Read more)

AP also reports that Anthony Conchel, assistant managing editor of the News Journal (circ. 31,345) in Mansfield, Ohio, will now become general manager and managing editor of the Telegraph-Forum (circ. 6,865) in Bucyrus, Ohio. Conchel is replacing Holly Harman Fackler, who will assume the assistant city editor post at the News Journal. Gannett Co. owns the News Journal and the Telegraph-Forum.

Rural Calendar: Local food farm workshop set for Sept. 30 at Bellarmine

The Community Farm Alliance will host a one-day workshop “Putting Local Food on the Table: Farms and Institutions in Partnership” on Friday, September 30 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Farmers, food service staff, educators, administrators, legislators and local food advocates will gather to explore strategies for bringing locally grown food to Kentucky’s schools, parks, nursing homes, and other community institutions. The workshop kicks off the 2005 Healthy Food, Local Farms conference, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 1 on the Bellarmine campus.

The workshop is designed to begin a dialogue between farmers and food services about their needs and resources, and to develop a plan for action. Panel and small group discussions will be guided by leaders from Community Farm Alliance, Mac Stone of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky State Parks Food Service Director Bob Perry and others.

The event is sponsored by the Farm Alliance, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Community Food Security Coalition. The workshop is free, but space is limited. Pre-registration is required to guarantee lunch. The pre-registration deadline is not stated on the Community Farm Alliance Web site promoting the event, but you can register by clicking here. For more information or to register, email cfarma@bellsouth.net or call the Community Farm Alliance at 502-223-3655. You can also contact Cait McClanahan at 502-223-3655 or by e-mail at caitcfa@bellsouth.net.

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2005

Rural broadband: As vital as water, sewer, power, says North Carolina official

A North Carolina group set up by state legislators is making a push for broadband expansion in rural areas, as a way to further enhance businesses.

"A growing number of rural entrepreneurs are turning to the Internet to market and develop their businesses, riding the expansion of broadband, the ultrafast service that's been generally more available in urban areas. North Carolina officials have pushed to advance the state's Internet service since 2000," write Monte Mitchell and M. Paul Jackson of the Winston-Salem Journal.

The state's E-NC Authority, established by the General Assembly, has awarded about $20 million in grants to develop Internet training programs in schools, local governments and community colleges, said Angie Bailey, the authority's senior associate of programs and operations. Bailey told Mitchell and Jackson, "We think that the cities that don't have high-speed Internet will get left behind."

Charlie Pittman, E-NC's senior director, told the Journal about 40 percent of North Carolina residents reported having broadband in 2004, an increase from 19 percent in 2002. Providers say too few customers make broadband a costly item. Pittman also said broadband in some areas is "almost as important as water, sewer and power." (Click here to read more; registration required)

Coal firm settles sludge-spill suit; terms confidential in major eco-disaster

An undisclosed out-of-court settlement was reached Monday between a coal company responsible for spilling 300 million-plus gallons of coal sludge and the communities affected five years ago.

The spill smothered fish, blackened the landscape, and cut off drinking-water supplies for some 60 miles along the Kentucky-West Virginia border, writes Roger Alford of The Associated Press. The attorney representing 12 of the people who lived in the affected area blasted the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), saying they should have known the impoundment was unsafe and should have forced the company to stop using it.

Kay Ward, one of the plaintiffs told Alford, "I feel like MSHA let us down." MSHA could not be reached for comment. The case against Martin County Coal and its parent company, Massey Energy of Richmond, Va., would have been the first involving the sludge spill to go to trial. (Read more)

Arkansas, Kentucky counties picked for Rural Heritage Development Initiative

Several Arkansas Delta and Central Kentucky counties stand to receive an economic facelift through a series of public and private investments and grants to promote heritage and cultural resources.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Monday that seven counties it calls "Central Kentucky’s Heartland" and 15 in the Arkansas Delta have been selected for the Rural Heritage Development Initiative, a new program that promotes preservation-based economic development strategies. The effort, funded in part through a $745,000 three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will revitalize streets and neighborhood housing, and provide a boost to heritage tourism, local entrepreneurial and business development, barn preservation and rural land-use planning.

"The Arkansas Delta ... along the Mississippi River [is] characterized by an agriculture heritage in decline, working to transition to new crops; and an indigenous music culture, including blues, gospel, and country. ... The region has five Main Street communities and two national scenic byways. The ivory-billed woodpecker was recently rediscovered near Brinkley, making the region a prime area for ecotourism," the National Trust says in its press release. (Read more)

"In Kentucky, Boyle, Green, LaRue, Marion, Mercer, Nelson and Washington counties were
selected for [the] national grant because of their heritage involving the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, African American influences and religious and historic themes related to the Catholic Church and the Shakers," reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. (Read more)

David Morgan, executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council, told Chris Poynter of The Courier-Journal that the program could explore how the decline of tobacco is changing the rural landscape and lead to more farmers' markets in the region. "We believe -- and apparently the National Trust agreed -- that Kentucky is the perfect location to serve as a national model in addressing historic places as economic resources in rural landscapes," Morgan told the Louisville newspaper.(Read more)

Latino farm laborers becoming common as far northeast as Maryland

A Maryland operation provides a microcosm of the national trend where more Hispanics are working on America's farms, replacing agriculture's once plentiful indigenous labor.

"Fireflies shot through the darkness like yellow sparks as Epifanio Mendoza reported for work recently at Teabow Farms. There seemed to be no light for miles in the Frederick County, Md., countryside. But inside the farm's bright office, Mendoza's boss, Larry Jarvis Jr., had already punched in. They greeted each other, and Jarvis using Mendoza's nickname, 'Epi.' The clock read 3:30 a.m. For the next 12 hours, the two men worked a punishing shift, sometimes side by side, sometimes at opposite ends of one of Maryland's largest dairy farms, but always separated by a cultural divide," writes Frederick Kunkle of The Washington Post.

"Mendoza, 27, a Mexican immigrant, knows more English than most Latinos at Teabow Farms, but not much. Jarvis, 41, knows more Spanish than the rest of his family, which owns the farm. But not much. Like those on other dairy farms in the region, however, the two represent the transformation of agricultural labor as growing numbers of Latin American immigrants replace local farmhands," writes Kunkle. Mendoza and Jarvis call their communication, "Barnyard Spanish." (Read more)

Stanley Fultz, a University of Maryland extension agent in Frederick County, said the Hispanic trend that began about 10 years ago on Maryland's largest farms has reached smaller farms, such as those with 200 cows. The local extension service held its first "Spanish for Dairymen" seminar last year.

Ethanol plants planned to satisfy growing need; Indiana may get up to 10

Seventy ethanol plants, costing approximately $75 million, may be built in the country within the next decade, said a representative of the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, D.C. Six to 10 of those plants may appear in Indiana in the near future, reported the Northwest Indiana Times.

Each plant should employ between 30 to 35 people and infuse $60 million into local economies each year, said Larry Schafer, vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We think this ... is so big that we call this the revitalization of rural America, the biggest thing to hit rural America since the New Deal back in the 1940s," he said.

Indiana has one ethanol plant, four more under construction and more being planned. Last month, the state began work on a $66 million Iroquois Bio-Energy plant, which will produce 40 million gallons of ethanol annually. Schafer and other panel experts were unclear about whether east-central Indiana would support the new plants, the paper reported.

At the beginning of this year, there were more than 80 ethanol plants nationwide, producing 3 percent of the total motor fuel sold in the United States. New standards set by the federal energy bill are expected to increase ethanol's share to 4.7 percent. The bill requires that by 2012, at least 7.5 billion gallons of motor fuel in the United States come from renewable sources, and the government is providing tax incentives to petroleum companies to use renewable fuels, the paper reported. Ethanol is also required in vehicles in large cities by the Clean Air Act. Schafer said the 70 new plants would be required to produce the amount of ethanol and soy bio-diesel required by the energy bill. (Read more)

From Appalachian coal mining heritage, football brothers tackled NFL

Two brothers have reached the heights of the National Football League with inspiration from their mother's hard work in the depths of Appalachian Virginia's coal mines.

In Big Stone Gap, Va., population 5,900, "There were times when Julius Jones and his big brother, Thomas, had difficulty falling asleep in the small bedroom they shared as young boys. They often lay wondering if their mother, Betty, would make it out into the sunshine from the dark and dangerous coal mine where she worked for so many years. They worried about cave-ins, fires, all the accidents they had heard about growing up in this tiny southwestern Virginia town nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains," writes Leonard Shapiro of The Washington Post.

Julius Jones told Shapiro, "'It was tough knowing that your mom could be down there miles under the ground and something bad could happen. She did what everyone else did in the mine. We knew what sacrifices both our parents made for all of us.' Now, at 24, it's payback time for Julius Jones, the running back on whom the Dallas Cowboys are pinning their hopes. And for Thomas, 27, who is the starting running back for the Chicago Bears," Shapiro writes.

Thomas was a running back at the University of Virginia. He told Shapiro, "I'm still kind of amazed that we both made it to the NFL, because this is what we always dreamed about. It's like having two people go through the same thing, and that's always stronger than just one." (Read more)

For a recent report on local recognition of the Jones brothers, in The Post of Big Stone Gap, by Editor Ida Holyfield, click here.

Flat-fee clinics come to rural America; doctors charge patients $500 a year

Two Dawsonville, Ga., doctors are on the cutting edge with a new medical trend that could help a rural America long plagued by a health service drought.

"Chestatee Emergent Medical Care is brimming with patients, each one signed on to a gutsy program that charges clients a flat annual rate of $500 for unlimited visits. Dr. Gary Berliner has been busy with a steady influx of patients plagued by a nasty infection," reports The Associated Press.

"Berliner’s patients can visit as often as they’d like without an appointment for checkups, X-rays, lab tests and even minor surgery. These types of medical offices have been offering flat fee care for years to affluent patients. But Dawsonville is no metropolis or well-to-do suburb. It’s a hilly rural outpost an hour north of Atlanta — an underserved community where Berliner says reliable health care is needed most," AP reports. (Read more)

Berliner and co-founder Dr. Dan Francis hope to start a trend in rural America, cutting hospitalization rates and providing at least a partial answer to insurance woes. Berliner told AP, “The average person takes four visits to the doctor each year. Two thousand people represent 8,000 visits. That’s one million bucks. You can completely run this clinic with that money and still handle the walk-ins.” For details on another medical service for rural patients in South Dakota, click here.

Green and black teeth posters target youth in anti-meth use campaign

In a youth culture that values bright, white smiles, a new anti-methamphetamine campaign poster boldly proclaims, "Smile if you're a meth addict." It shows one of meth's many scars; ugly green and black teeth.

Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson hopes the campaign will get the desired reaction of disgust. Larson told Cassondra Kirby of the Lexington Herald-Leader, "Appearance is everything to kids. What we are trying to do is show them the impact of methamphetamine."

The number of meth busts in Kentucky has risen rapidly to 493 labs raided in 2003, compared with 19 in 1998. Several more posters are planned in the future, writes Kirby. Six-thousand of the posters, paid for by Bluegrass Family Health, are being distributed. Costs were about $3,000, but Larson told the newspaper that is a small price to pay to deter Kentucky's children from meth. Larson said it's not the mouthful of rotting teeth that worries him and other Kentucky officials. It's death. (Read more)

U.S. power to protect endangered species would be limited under House plan

The chairman of the House committee overseeing natural resources filed a bill yesterday to make it more difficult for the federal government to set aside land it deems crucial to the health of endangered species.

"The proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act also increase the obligation of government agencies to tell landowners quickly if the law limits their development options, and to compensate them. The measure drew quick denunciations from groups like Environmental Defense, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. [It] was proposed by House Resources Committee chairman, Representative Richard W. Pombo, Republican of California," writes Felicity Barringer of The Washington Post. The bill could go to the full House early next week

Pombo said his legislation "will put the focus on recovery where it should be and will eliminate a lot of the conflicts we have had with private property owners." The earlier legislation put even greater restrictions on federal agencies that enforce the law, and would have automatically taken the law off the books in 2015, notes Barringer. The new measure abandons the 2015 goal and "creates new hurdles for federal agencies -- chiefly the Fish and Wildlife Service -- as they take actions to protect species," she notes.

The Endangered Species Act has been opposed by landowners, property-rights advocates and state and local governments, mostly in the West. They see it as onerous and costly. And, they are angered at how "people not directly involved in a dispute [can] sue the federal government to ensure compliance with the law," Barringer writes. (Read more)

Monday, Sept. 19, 2005

FEMA struggles with Katrina recovery, especially in rural areas

Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which critics say botched the rescue mission, is struggling to aid hundreds of thousands of storm victims, local officials, and evacuees, according to officials at all levels.

"Perhaps the greatest frustration expressed by state and local officials -- as well as by some federal officials -- is the pace of finding or setting up temporary housing to move people out of emergency shelters and the slow opening of specialized recovery centers," The New York Times reported Saturday. "Communication systems, especially in rural areas, were crippled and have still failed to return, making it impossible for residents as well as local officials to reach the federal government."

Many local governments can't get permission to start restoring their towns. Federal help centers that handle aid and assistance are sparse in the area. FEMA is uncertain about meeting the president's goal of providing housing for 100,000 people by mid-October. Despite FEMA's redoubled efforts to get food, money and shelter to storm victims, serious problems remain. Many towns in Louisiana and Mississippi are hurt by "a fragmented and dysfunctional system," Jennifer Steinhauer and Eric Lipton wrote for the Times. "Further, many of the residents affected had few resources and limited power to begin with. Isolation proved to be a liability. Those who had leaders with access to television cameras and a little political influence have begun to make out better than those without." (Read more)

"With little guidance from federal and state governments -- and no single person or entity in charge of the overall operation -- cities and counties have been left on their own to find survivors homes, schools, jobs and health care. A patchwork of policies has resulted, causing relief agencies to sometimes work at
cross-purposes," write Shankar Vedantam and Dean Starkman of The Washington Post. Bruce Hunter, of the American Association of School Administrators, told Vedantam and Starkman many school districts in Louisiana and neighboring states are struggling to cope with the tide of evacuees.(Read more)

News outlets all over U.S. are telling stories of relocated Katrina evacuees

Many rural newspapers and broadcast stations are publishing or airing stories about Hurricane Katrina evacuees; here is an example from the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star.

"James Dearinger knew it was time to abandon his Bay St. Louis home when he reached his car. The Mississippi floodwater was at its windows in the few seconds from when he left the house, where the water had been only ankle-deep, he said," writes Liz Fox of the California newspaper. Dearinger ended up at a shelter and went four days without speaking to his daughter, Alex, who stayed with her mother at a Mobile, Ala., shelter.

Dearinger hitchhiked to his daughter, and they headed for California. "Fast forward two weeks. Past the mud-caked chaos. Past the loss. Past the long and uncomfortable four-day cross-country bus trip. This week, Alex started at Yamato Colony Elementary School in Livingston, where she said she already knows her 27 new classmates," reports Fox, adding that the family has an apartment and food stamps.

"We are trying to give (hurricane victims) same-day appointments and (grant) the case the same day," Family Services Program Manager Cheryl Hendricks told Fox, "so they don't have to worry about transportation and all those other things." However, the scars left by Hurricane Katrina, both physically and emotionally, remain with the Dearingers. James has a vivid memory of the oil-filled floodwaters that contained sewage from busted septic tanks. "It was the most god-awful thing you could see or smell," he told Fox. (Read more)

Radio station at Houston hurricane shelter helps victims hear about home

Houston's Reliant Center hurricane shelter has only a few thousand evacuees from New Orleans left three weeks after the storm struck the Gulf Coast, down from nearly 30,000 a couple of weeks ago. Many still living in the shelter rely on special radio broadcasts for news about their home communities.

When a group of New Orleans evacuees began a Mardi Gras-style dance outside the Astrodome stadium one day, fellow hurricane victims inside heard about it on a radio station set up just for them. Operating from a small trailer in the parking lot outside, KAMP FM's 20 volunteers keep the shelter community informed with their low-power FM radio broadcasts, reports Greg Flakus of Voice of America (VOA) radio. (Click here to read more or listen to related stories)

Rice University graduate student Tish Stringer is one of the main organizers of this effort. She told VOA, "The most important programming on our station is the reading of announcements. Basic things like: UPS is offering free shipping of prescription drugs, how do you get a driver's license? Basic information ... is the mainstay of what we are announcing."

Many farmers donate to hurricane recovery efforts despite thin profits

Even in the face of rising fuel costs and narrowing profits in commodities from avocados to zucchini, California farmers have opened their wallets to Gulf Coast farmers ruined by Hurricane Katrina.

Sam Frye, a lemon and avocado grower who is helping to organize a farmer-to-farmer aid program based in Santa Barbara, told Michael Gardner of Copley News Service, "Even when prices are low and profits thin, I still have a roof over my head, water to drink and food to eat."

In San Diego County, the Farm Bureau is arranging jobs for displaced victims. The bureau will use proceeds from an annual charity golf tournament to help victims stay in college. The California Farm Bureau has sent $87,000 – $1 for each member – to the American Red Cross. Mississippi Delta cotton farmer Ken Middleton, praising California's response, said, "We all think you guys are nuts out there. Then you show your true colors." (Read more)

Katrina's wrath on agriculture is still being totaled. "Millions of chickens have been lost. Hundreds of acres of commercial pine trees are destroyed, as have rice, sugar cane, cotton and soybean fields," writes Gardner. But, Middleton told him, "Things always work out."

High-speed Internet moves up on public agenda; Congress to help out?

Across the nation, small towns and rural areas are increasingly turning their attention to the need for high-speed Internet service, as stories from either side of the country illustrated last weekend.

"Fewer than half of Arizona's rural residents have access to high-speed Internet. Tired of waiting for big telecommunications companies to bring broadband access to them, small communities throughout the state are going after it themselves," writes Lisa Nicita of The Arizona Republic.

''Community leaders have realized that high-speed broadband service is the new engine of economic development," Joe Nipper, vice president of American Public Power Association, told Alan Wirzbicki of The Boston Globe. ''It's just something that you have to have." (Read more)

Some in Congress want to help. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has proposed the Rural Universal Services Equity Act of 2005, which would designate broadband access funds for everyone. "GITA estimates the cost of laying fiber in rural communities to be between $25,000 and $65,000 per mile. However, costs of permits and legal issues can easily double or triple the cost of the entire project," writes Nicita.

Arizona' senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans, are co-sponsors. One-quarter of Arizona's towns with 500-plus residents have no access, and only half of the residents in broadband towns can access it, according to Arizona's Government Information Technology Agency (GITA) estimates. Nationwide, 850-plus rural communities have their own municipal high-speed systems, something more Arizona towns are considering, reports Nicita. (Read more)

Lobbied by telephone and cable companies, 14 states have outlawed or limited municipally-owned broadband systems. "Draft federal telecom legislation released Thursday defied industry pressure by protecting the towns' ability to offer their own broadband and cable TV services, which account for a growing number of service providers in rural areas," Wirzbicki writes.

Legal fight over mountaintop-removal coal mining returns to court today

A federal appeals court will consider the question, "Does mountaintop removal coal mining cause only minimal damage to hills, forests and streams?"

"The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in the latest legal effort to more strictly regulate Appalachian strip mining. In the case, the Bush administration and the coal industry are challenging rulings by U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in Charleston," writes Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. Goodwin blocked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from approving new mountaintop removal valley fills through a streamlined permit process that allows little public scrutiny.

In a series of rulings, Goodwin said the corps never concluded that valley fills have minimal impact on the environment. "Without that finding, the Clean Water Act does not allow the corps to authorize the fills through streamlined permit reviews, Goodwin ruled. He ruled in response to a case brought by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Coal River Mountain Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council," writes Ward. (Read more)

Lawyers for those groups outlined government findings that, "From 1992 to 2002, mountaintop removal and associated valley fills destroyed or seriously damaged 1,208 miles of Appalachian streams. Over that same period, mountaintop removal eliminated 380,547 acres of forest in the region. If past, present and future disturbance is combined, strip mining will impact more than 1.4 million acres of the region’s land." For The Associated Press story, click here. For more details from the appeals court, click here.

Federal and state agencies investigating sale of meth ingredients on eBay

Federal and state authorities are investigating at least 10 eBay auctions found last week that offered thousands of pills containing pseudoephedrine, the critical ingredient in methamphetamine.

"Quantities offered far exceeded new state laws on sales of the chemical. Three auctions continued to take bids Friday. Three others apparently were shut down either by their owners or by eBay," reports The Associated Press.

Ken Magee, assistant special agent in charge of Oregon for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said auctions originating in that state "piqued our interest tremendously." Oregon and many other states have passed laws restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine. Authorities say the tighter regulations are forcing buyers and sellers to find new ways to obtain the ingredient.

Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the DEA in Washington, D.C., said, "Crooks are becoming more savvy. They're realizing, 'Hey, here's a way to go through a keyboard anonymously, make cash and disappear.'" For at least six months, the DEA has worked with eBay and other online retailers to stop illegal sales of pseudoephedrine, Courtney said.

Peacock returning to roots? NBC courts heartland with down-home program

The NBC television network, once dominant, has fallen on hard times among rural folks. But, with consultants fanning out to see what the heartland likes, the "Peacock" is working hard to strut again down home.

"[The network] dominated the prime-time ratings for a decade ... only to tumble to fourth place last season. [But the new fall lineup, including] 'Three Wishes' is aimed, in no small part, at a churchgoing rural and suburban audience. And its marketing plan, evocative of a red-state presidential campaign, bears scant resemblance to any NBC has crafted before," writes Jacques Steinberg of The New York Times.

NBC has sent 7,000-plus DVDs of the first episode to ministers and other clergy members. The DVDs contain a recorded message to congregants from Amy Grant -- a pop singer who vaulted to fame singing Christian songs, crossed over to mainstream radio and recently released an album of hymns. "At its core, 'Three Wishes' is faith in action," she tells them, Steinbert writes. The network has also booked Grant for interviews on Christian radio and taken out advertising in small-town newspapers.

NBC also has been stuffing cash registers at stores nationwide with tens of thousands of $1 bills used for groceries and other basics. "The dollars are affixed with [removable] yellow stickers that ask, 'What's your wish?,' and implore people to watch the show. All told, the network expects to give away 150,000 of those dollar bills in 15 cities and towns," writes Steinberg. Barbara Blangiardi, the network's vice president of marketing and special projects, told Steinbert, "Absolutely the Christian community was a target audience." (Read more.)

Rural Calendar: Sept. 23 signup deadline for healthy food, local farms event

Kentucky Resources Council is proud to be among the organizations sponsoring the Seventh Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference at Bellarmine University in Louisville from Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

The conference is preceded by a day-long workshop on Sept. 30 for farmers, food service staff, administrators, educators and others on how to provide more local food in our schools and other institutions. The session is free but space is limited and pre-registration is required - email cfarma@bellsouth.net or call the Community Farm Alliance at 502-223-3655 for more information or to pre-register.

That evening, join Wendell Berry in a delightful evening of local food, music and readings at the Undercroft of the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville. The cost is $25 and registration by September 23 (this coming Friday) is required. Call 859-266-1532 or email alihowl@insightbb.com for more information and to register.

On Oct. 1, from 8 am until 5:30, Bellarmine University hosts the Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference with special guest speakers Dr. William Weida, an agricultural economist, Carole Morison of the DelMarva Poultry Justice Alliance, author Wendell Berry, and a keynote by author of Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser. The registration cost of $40 includes all conference expenses and two wonderful meals of local food. Register by Sept. 23 to cfarma@bellsouth.net or by calling 502-223-3655. Limited scholarships are available!

Friday, Sept. 16, 2005

Efforts continue to restore South's fuel supplies; businesses, schools struggling

Some public agencies, especially schools, in the Southeast, are uncertain how much longer they can stay open in light of a fuel shortage and higher gas prices after Katrina shut down the Gulf Coast.

Federal officials visited coastal Mississippi yesterday to review efforts to restore critical pipelines that supply much of the nation's fuel, reports The Associated Press based on a Hattiesburg American story. Jim Compton, the manager of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association, said, "If this is a national issue, let's fix it now so that so that we can take care of the needs of our people." One major pipeline serving the South was knocked out. Another was reduced to 25 percent.

School buses in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, are facing a crisis with their fuel, and the school district sent letters home last Friday saying classes may be canceled, reported Nicole Konkal of WCNC. The school began the week with enough fuel to bus students to school, but not enough to take them home. Fortunately, a last-minute delivery of fuel arrived, Superintendent. Harold Winkler told Konkal. Winkler asked the state if schools could operate four days a week, but that is prohibited by law. (Read more)

Schools in Dickenson County, Virginia, are more concerned with gas prices, reports Coalfield.com, the Web site of The Coalfield Progress and its sister papers in southwest Virginia. Rumors circulated that the school would have to alter its schedule to help with gas consumption, although Superintendent Damon Rasnick said he didn't anticipate that happening. (Read more) Other agencies are facing hardship over fuel costs as well, reported Coalfield, such as the sheriff's office. Sheriff Bobby Hammons said they have used one-fifth of the funding allocation, not four months into the fiscal year. (Read more)

Gas prices, worker supply force N.C. newspaper to cut carriers, use postal service

The subscribers of the Watauga Democrat will begin receiving the Boone, N.C., weekly newspaper through the mail on Oct. 5, rather than home delivery.

"The rising cost of gasoline and the low unemployment rate in Watauga County has put us in a position to make a decision concerning the delivery of the Watauga Democrat to our subscribers," Publisher Tommy Wilson said in an announcement on the newspaper's Web site. (Read more)

Several carriers have been with the paper for many years. "It is a part-time job for the carriers unless they deliver for other newspapers in the region and there are a limited number of folks in this area in need of part-time positions," Wilson said. "That leaves us with very few applicants for carrier positions."

Independent carriers will deliver to stores, racks and newspaper boxes. The Democrat will report breaking news via its Web site. "We will update our coverage immediately as news happens so those who have Internet access will have instant access to the latest Watauga County stories," Editor Jason Reagan said.

Christian Appalachian Project takes supplies, volunteers to storm-hit Mississippi

Volunteers and supplies from Eastern Kentucky have arrived in Mississippi to help hurricane victims.

"The Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) sent about 40 volunteers, two truck loads of supplies, and a group of vehicles. The group will partner with a church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to help residents who are still in their homes," reports WYMT-TV Mountain news in Hazard, Ky. (Read more)

"I would ask that everybody pray for our safety, pray for our work, and pray for all the people down there, and we'll see what happens. But I hope that our service by being the eastern Kentucky contingent in Mississippi will make a difference for a lot of people," said CAP President Bill Mills. WYMT's Operation Compassion donation drive is helping gather needed supplies for volunteers. Over the next two months, CAP will be sending additional volunteers and supplies each week. The four-day donation drive ended yesterday at Wal-Mart in Middlesboro.

Virginia Tech professor shows off pride in heritage, says being a hillbilly OK

Alice Kinder used to be embarrassed by her Appalachian dialect. Now she's danged proud of it.

Kinder graduated from southwest Virginia's Radford University, "the youngest of eight siblings and the first of her rural Tazewell County family to attend college," writes Hart Fowler in a special report to The Roanoke Times and its sister newspaper, the New River Valley Current. (Read more) "Now, with a master's degree and 20 years of teaching Appalachian and Southern literature at Virginia Tech, Kinder is still ... using 'dang,' 'plumb,' and 'right smart' as proudly as ever," Fowler notes.

Kinder's brothers are disabled coal miners and her father died of black lung disease when Kinder was 3. She tells Fowler, "Appalachia is also about an attachment to the land, an incredible sense of place, ... usually the place where your great-grandparents were born."

Professor and poet Jeff Mann, commenting on Kinder, told Fowler, "She brings ... a powerful passion for the work of mountain writers. Her warmth, honesty, and humor pervade her teaching." Steve Mooney, an English professor at Tech, told Fowler, "Alice knows the nuances and subtleties of Appalachian people and cultures. She innately knows things Appalachian because she is Appalachia!"

Kinder, a staunch defender of Appalachia culture, heatedly opposes stereotypes. "It's a rich and diverse culture that people don't realize because of the Duke boys and the Beverly Hillbillies stereotypes. I had a kid today come and talk to me after class who said he was happy to know someone who talked like him," she pauses. "You know there ain 't nothing wrong with being a hillbilly," Kinder told Fowler.

Lawsuit over huge 2000 coal-slurry spill goes to trial next week in Kentucky

A trial that has resulted from one of the nation's worst environmental disasters is set to begin Monday. The residents who filed the lawsuit saw their property get covered in gooey, black coal sludge five years ago.

"The case involves the spill on Oct. 11, 2000, of an estimated 306 million gallons of the molasses-like substance that gushed in torrents from a mountaintop reservoir, smothering fish, blackening the landscape, and cutting off drinking water supplies for some 60 miles along the Kentucky-West Virginia border," writes Roger Alford of The Associated Press.

Ned Pillersdorf, an attorney representing 12 people who filed suit against Martin County Coal Corp. and its parent company, Massey Energy of Richmond, Va., told Alford, "It is the first jury trial involving the issue. I'm expecting the trial to last a week or two." The case is in Martin Circuit Court.

The lawsuit claims the sludge spill deposited toxic chemicals on residential property, damaged underground water supplies and reduced the value of homes. The lead attorney for Martin County Coal, Jeff Woods, declined to comment on the case. Martin County Coal contends the sludge is basically harmless. The coal company, which spent about $40 million cleaning up the spill, agreed to pay nearly $3.5 million in penalties and damages to the state of Kentucky in 2002. (Read more)

Indiana to reclaim coal mine in face of hazardous-waste concerns

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) plans to release about $500,000 in performance bonds for the reclamation of the Squaw Creek coal mine outside of Boonville, over the objections of former miners concerned about hazardous waste release.

Local members of the United Mine Workers Union have long been concerned about the former mine, where millions of gallons of hazardous waste material was dumped. "Miners opposed the bond release primarily over health concerns, and wanted additional environmental site assessments conducted," reports Nathan Blackford of Warrick Publishing of Boonville, Ind.

Alcoa owns the former mine site. The company contends its reclamation work has been more than adequate. IDNR spokesman David Phillips said because the bond release was connected to the mine's south field, while the toxic waste dump site was in the north field, they feel the bond release was justified.

The union estimates about 71 million cubic feet of chromium sludge and 69 million gallons of coal tar pitch were dumped at the mine between 1965 and 1979. The University of Cincinnati is conducting a study on the health effects of the materials. Their study is funded by Alcoa. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management continues to study the situation. (Read more)

Federal judge orders Michigan Indian tribe to collect cigarette tax

A federal judge has ordered the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan to collect cigarette taxes on behalf of the state, taxes they had previously refused to impose.

"Judge Robert Holmes Bell threw out a lawsuit the tribe filed in December 2003. The tribe said that Michigan officials had no authority to seize tobacco products being shipped to the tribe's reservation," reports The Associated Press. (Read more) The lawsuit said the state couldn't tax tribal business owners selling tobacco products on the reservation. Indiana reservations are by law considered sovereign nations.

The tribe began selling tax-free tobacco products at its casinos and convenience store when the state ended a tax agreement with Michigan tribes in 1997. When tribes failed to impose the tax, the state began seizing tobacco shipments headed for the reservation.

Canada's tobacco farmers battle debt; industry hits hard times

Delhi in southwestern Ontario sits in the heart of Canada's tiny tobacco belt, north of Lake Erie, where fertile soil gives tobacco a distinct flavor. But, its a troubled heart where bountiful crops are being offset by abundant debt and government policies.

"It's harvest time, and the country's tobacco farmers are reaping the rewards of four months in the fields. But bankruptcy and depression are taking their toll on the growers, many of whom have left the family business after decades of tilling. Farmers say alcoholism and drug abuse are on the rise because of the crushing debt," writes Tara Brautigam of Canadian Press, who interviewed farmers including Mark Bannister of Vanessa, Ont. "Aggressive federal and provincial government policies to dissuade smoking have indirectly yet increasingly encouraged tobacco companies to use cheaper foreign leaf in Canadian-made cigarettes, Bannister says."

There were more than 4,500 tobacco farms throughout Canada in the 1960s. A decade ago, there were about 1,650 growers. Today, there are 680. Joe Stachura, a tobacco farmer of 25 years, told Brautigam, "This could be our last year. We have no idea what our future holds for us." (Read more)

Britain removes mad-cow control rule; allows more beef on world markets

Britain's farm ministry has accepted a proposal to allow some older cattle to enter the food chain, opening the way for the removal of one of the main measures used to combat deadly mad-cow disease.

"The news provided a major boost to the country's beef industry, which was devastated in 1995 following an outbreak of mad cow in the nation's herds," writes Nigel Hunt of Reuters. More than 140 people have died in Britain from apparent Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of mad-cow disease.

Kevin Roberts, director general of the Meat and Livestock Commission, said that relaxing the restriction will allow 185,000 more tons of British beef into the market next year, a 27 percent increase. The United Kingdom produces about 60 percent of the beef it eats, according to the commission, which forecasts production would rise to 875,000 tons in 2006, up from a projected 743,000 tons in 2005. Cattle born before August 1, 1996 will continue to be excluded from the food chain. (Read more)

Rural Georgia man ran meth operation from inside Florida jail

"The Charlton County, Ga., man who federal prosecutors say led a wide-ranging methamphetamine ring was able to conduct his drug business even while locked up in the Baker County Jail. James Merrett, incarcerated on a DUI charge, moved money and arranged drug pickups, according to U.S. Attorney Rodney Brown," writes Michael Rinker of the weekly Baker County Press in Macclenny, Fla.

Fourteen people have been indicted for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The investigation, dubbed Operation Sawmill in reference to Merrett's own sawmill, was a local and federal effort handled by a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, reports Rinker.

Investigators traced the operation from 2001 until present, a time in which "multi-pound quantities" of meth were moved, Brown said. Merrett used truck drivers to send meth across the country. Operation Sawmill started in late 2003 based on a tip that identified Merrett as the leader, said the Florida newspaper.

From jail, Merrett had no problem passing along instructions to his workers, writes Rinker. Merrett awaits trial on the drug charges. (Read more)

Exemplary rural broadcasters recognized by their colleagues in Kentucky

Don Neagle of WRUS Radio in Russellville and Jim Freeland of WCBL AM-FM in Benton received the Kentucky Mike award for outstanding personal contributions to Kentucky broadcasting yesterday at the fall conference of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association in Paintsville. Both are great examples of good small-town broadcasters (Freeland said "I have lived the dream"), but Neagle is an old friend of Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, so this item focuses on Neagle.

Francis Nash of Grayson, the recognized historian of Kentucky broadcasting, introduced Neagle as "a very historic radio figure." He said, "Don Neagle . . . has become a true household name in Western Kentucky, and I think Don certainly epitomizes what a small-town broadcaster is supposed to be, wearing every hat you can think of – announcer, salesman, news reporter, sports commentator and manager, and I’m sure probably swept a few floors, too. Folks in Logan County have been waking up to his smooth delivery, his sharp insights and his jovial manner for half of a century. His ‘Feedback’ show has served as a platform for local, regional and national figures. He’s earned the respect of the community there, and that respect has certainly gone beyond the boundaries of that community and the radio station."

Neagle, said, "This all I ever wanted to do. My mother made a picture of me at four years old talking into a little headset on my uncle’s crystal radio, pretending I was on the radio." Neagle, 68, started broadcasting in 1954 from a remote studio in his hometown of Greensburg for a Campbellsville station. He moved from Campbellsville to Harrodsburg to Glasgow to Bowling Green before going to Russellville in 1958, shortly after the arrival there of print journalist Al Smith, whom Neagle said "taught me something about integrity in reporting news." Cross, who worked from 1975 to 1977 at the newspaper Smith owned Russellville, writes: "Don Neagle is a shining example of the essential role that small-town journalists must play in their communities -- trusted reporters, valued commentators, active citizens, community builders and conveners of civil, public discourse."

Other awards presented were: Nash, Al Temple Award for service to KBA; Greg Stotlemyer of WTVQ-TV, Lexington, Kentucky Farm Bureau Communications Award; J.B. Crawley of Campbellsville and Roger Jeffers of Hopkinsville, J.T. Whitlock Life Member Award for retiring broadcasters; and Jack Crowner of Farm Service Radio Network, Ralph Gabbard Distinguished Service Award. Crowner, who retired in January from Clear Channel in Louisville, is a familiar name in farm circles; he was president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in 1970, its Farm Broadcaster of the Year in 1990 and inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004. Stotlemyer, who won the Farm Bureau award for coverage of big changes in tobacco, told the crowd he "thought tobacco was cabbage" when he moved to Kentucky years ago, but "I really enjoyed telling the stories of the farmers around the state, because they are the backbone of the state."

Federal judge says reporters can't be questioned about impressions

"Depositions of two reporters can focus only on what they saw and heard at controversial Dover, Pa., public school board meetings" on the issue of teaching "intelligent design," reports the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

This week, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III narrowed an earlier order, clariifying that Joseph Maldonado of the York Daily Record and Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of The York Dispatch can be asked about what they saw and heard, but not about their "motivation(s), bias, mental impressions, or other inquiry which involves matter extrinsic'' to what they witnessed, RCFP reports.

Some parents filed suit against the school board after it added intelligent design to its science standards. "The parents subpoenaed the reporters for their testimony regarding the school board meetings they covered," RCFP writes. "The reporters refused to testify, instead submitting affidavits attesting their stories were accurate as printed. That satisfied the parents, but the school board wanted to ask more detailed questions." (Read more)

Think tank at University of Missouri to mull future of journalism

A University of Missouri think tank will study journalism's future, a version that will likely be light-years ahead of the standard paper-and-ink products produced for centuries.

"From customized digital newspapers to electronic news on demand, the University of Missouri's new $31 million journalism think tank and futures lab is poised to lead the charge into an era of news delivery that many experts predict will make ink on paper obsolete," reports The Associated Press.

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute also plans "to reach out to an increasingly cynical public tired of the seemingly constant flurry of media missteps," AP writes. The institute broke ground Sept. 1 and will be fully operational in 2008, when the university's journalism school, the nation's oldest, turns 100. Institute Director Pam Johnson told AP, "The best journalism is going to emerge with new and closer relations with the public." Dean Mills, the school's dean said the institute is already well on its way to "help invent new forms of journalism." (Read more)

One example of new forms, EmPRINT, an electronic version of the daily Columbia Missourian, will increase publication to twice weekly later this month. The university is exploring a commercial option of EmPRINT that would allow other newspapers to use the technology developed at Missouri.

North Carolina Mountain Heritage Day tomorrow; fall foliage advice, too

A crowd of more than 25,000 is expected at the 31st annual Mountain Heritage Day on Saturday at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., for a celebration of traditional Appalachian culture.

Authentic mountain music and dance will be showcased on three stages, and the university's Mountain Heritage Center will offer demonstrations of traditional mountain crafts and skills such as woodcarving, basket making, blacksmithing, quilting and weaving, writes Paula Crouch Thrasher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Read more)

Mountain culture, from washboard laundry to storytelling, will be featured. There will be shape-note singing, exhibitions of the ancient Cherokee game of stickball, and a performance by Cherokee dancers. The arts and crafts midway will feature woodwork, pottery, paintings, clocks and quilts. There will be old-fashioned food from ham biscuits to Cherokee fry bread. The free event is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Close-in parking is limited, but shuttles operate throughout the day. For information, call 828-227-3193 or visit the festival Web Site. For lodging and tourism information, call 1-800-962-1911 or visit this Web site

Thrasher also writes of several of the best scenic Appalachian area mountain and valley routes where fall foliage will soon turn into a spectacular display, in another AJC report, Three roads to Autumn; Follow nature's colorful path to nearby mountains, valleys and waterfalls. (Read more) "The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Web site has links to Web cams to track the progress of fall colors through the Smokies beginning in early October in the higher elevations," she writes.

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2005

Amid a hurricane's toll, a call to be humane, listen; journalists, take note

In the mayhem of a catastrophe and the rush to cover it, journalists spout numbers on damages and deaths often immune to the full human toll. But, a volunteer at an Austin, Tex., relief center has issued a call for Americans to take time to listen to the stories of Katrina victims. The call has a special meaning for journalists who may be talking to victims for stories and may not realize the higher purpose their interviews can serve -- meeting the needs of victims to share their experiences with other human beings.

"What has touched me most ... is the need of the people there for nothing else but to be heard. Please take a moment today to consider ways you might be able to help," writes Ryan Clinton, an assistant solicitor general in the Texas attorney general’s office and a native of Baton Rouge, La.

In a short article that may see print soon and is posted on this Web site, Clinton tells of one victim who "believed the world had abandoned her at the New Orleans Convention Center. She saw the news helicopters flying above, and at least took comfort in the idea that someone was watching, even if only to report their deaths. She takes medicine for blood clots, [and] thought it was only a matter of time before she died. [She contemplated suicide]. Ultimately, she was rescued and flown to Austin."

Clinton's piece is titled Katrina's Ghosts. "Seems to me [this] is a call for journalists all over the country, rural and urban alike, to get out there and spend time talking to evacuees – not just to do stories, but to use their interviewing and interpersonal skills, even on their own time, to give these folks what they desperately need – someone to tell their stories to," said veteran reporter Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues.

Impoverished Eastern Kentucky helps victims with Operation Compassion

In one of the poorest regions in the nation, compassion appears abundant. People who know pain are reaching out to others greatly afflicted by Hurricane Katrina.

The Operation Compassion donation drive and the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) operating out of Pikeville, Ky., has been working to fill semi-trucks full of supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims, and by Tuesday they had enough to fill half of one truck, reports WKYT-TV in Lexington.

Genevee Slone told the television station, "I brought a lot of baby items, items for the elderly, water, cleaning supplies, things of that nature." Rachel Straight, who donated supplies, told the television station, "I can imagine those parents down there, and to think my kids not having food just breaks my heart." Others have given money, including one anonymous donation of $1,000. (Read more)

Some people in the Big Sandy region said organizations like CAP provide an opportunity for eastern Kentuckians to lend a helping hand. Slone told WKYT-TV, "When things happen around here other states are always helping us . . . floods, whatever." Straight said, "It shows what kind of people we are here in the mountains. We're loving, caring people, Christian people, and we care nothing but to share that with others." Blog note: Amen!

Hurricane's damage to agriculture mounts; could cost farming $6 billion

Louisiana and Mississippi Farm Bureaus report Hurricane Katrina could eventually cost the agriculture industry $5 billion to $6 billion, which will likely impact consumers at supermarkets nationwide.

Damage to Louisiana's agriculture community currently stands at $1 billion. "Estimates were made during a conference call for state Farm Bureau federations about the hurricane's impact," reports Drovers, a cattle industry news source in Shawnee Mission, Kan. (Read more)

American Farm Bureau Federation senior economist Terry Francl estimated total damage at $2 billion, Drovers reports. Diesel fuel for farm equipment is a major concern. Some farmers are driving 100 miles to get 15 gallons. Louisiana citrus, beef cattle, sugar cane, dairy and nursery sectors have been hard hit.

Up to 15,000 cattle may have been lost in Louisiana, reports the agriculture magazine. Some dairy producers have been without power for almost two weeks. Thousands of gallons of milk have been dumped and more than 60,000 gallons stored may have to be dumped. Some dairy farmers said they may not be able to start over again. The Louisiana Farm Bureau 's Web site is www.lfbf.org

Greg Gibson, of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, told Drovers his state's forest industry was hardest hit with $1.2 billion in estimated damage. Dairy and poultry also were hit with about 2,400 poultry houses damaged and 300 destroyed. Rod Hemphill, of the Florida Farm Bureau, reported an estimated $445 million in crop damages and $210 million in agricultural and residential structural damage.

North Dakota native named USDA rural development deputy undersecretary

North Dakota native Allan Johnson has been named Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Johnson, who will assist Undersecretary Tom Dorr, grew up on a family farm near Almont, N.D., and still owns it. The North Dakota State University graduate currently lives with his family in St. Charles, Ill., reports AgProfessional.com. (Read more)

Secretary Johanns said of Johnson's promotion, "For the past two years, Allan has demonstrated outstanding leadership at USDA Rural Development. The people we serve in rural America and USDA will all benefit from his experience and knowledge in this new position." Johnson has served as director of legislative and public affairs at Rural Development since 2003. Prior to that, he worked in the agricultural publishing and public affairs industries for more than 30 years, writes AgProfessional.com.

Virginia county fights to keep coal-tax money for economic development

For residents of one rural Virginia coal community, severance tax money is their life's blood. Without it, they would have a difficult time stimulating their economy. Now, they are struggling with the state to keep that money close to home.

"Tazewell County, Virginia’s Board of Supervisors is joining a multi-county effort to keep the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority alive. The authority uses coal severance tax money to help economic development in the state’s coal-producing counties," writes the Richlands News-Press.

If the authority is removed, the money would go in the state’s general fund instead of to the counties where the coal is produced, as is the case in Kentucky and West Virginia, Supervisor Donnie Lowe told Talbert. The county has received $6 million from the authority since 1998, which helped fund 25 development projects. The region has received $69 million from the authority, Lowe said.

However, VCEDA board member Ron Flanary warned that the rumblings from different county boards, including Tazewell, could be ignoring a chance for increased funding from the state’s larger pockets. Northern Virginia and other urban areas used the same logic as the board of supervisors regarding taxes generated for roads and schools, and those areas generally get 20 cents for every education dollar they send to Richmond in state taxes, writes News-Press reporter Jim Talbert.

Flanary warned, "There are 100 members of the House of Delegates and 40 senators. Our entire coalfield region legislative group can ride in a van together with plenty of room for baggage. I suggest you do the math," Talbert writes. (Read more)

Pennsylvania coal company fights state order closing mine, laying off 500

The future of a coal mine near Pittsburgh, closed by the state, may be decided in court as the company fights to reactivate the operation and put 500 miners back to work.

At issue is longwall mining under a stream, raising concerns of collapse possibly impacting the tributary. In longwall mining, pillars used to support the mine roof are eventually extracted.

"Maple Creek Mining's operations in Washington County has been dormant for nine months. Company Associate General Council Mike Gardner said, 'This ... shutdown of the mine [is] pending the outcome of the DEP ruling,'" writes Chris Buckley of The Valley Independent of Washington County, near Pittsburgh. (Read more)

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Rathbun said testimony before the Environmental Hearing Board will begin next week in the company's appeal of the state ruling prohibiting mining beneath the stream. Testimony should last two weeks. A decision is expected by early 2006, which Rathbun said won't necessarily end the legal battle. Garnder told Buckley, "If that decision goes against us, we'll take it to a higher court, out of the administrative courts and into the real courts."

Pennsylvania law as of 1994 allows coal companies to mine beneath homes and other structures built before 1966, as long as property owners are compensated for subsidence damage and water loss. Several homeowners have experienced mine subsidence damage.

Environmental group charges chemical weapons plant 'gags' employees

Following a report that gas leak monitoring devices at Kentucky’s Bluegrass Army Depot had been inoperative for months, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the Army Chemical Materials Agency issued a directive that any further disclosures must be approved in advance. Under the directive, PEER says, employees can be disciplined for releasing "sensitive" unclassified information.

"The sweeping order follows within a week of a request for a Pentagon inspection by Donald Van Winkle, an air-monitoring technician at Bluegrass, who charged that the monitors to detect VX agent had been configured so as to be ineffective until very recently. On September 12, 2005, Van Winkle was
ordered to sign a directive forbidding disclosure of 'potentially inappropriate information,'" writes Environmental Media News. (Read more)

PEER said Commanding General Benjamin Griffin issued the Aug. 2 directive and they are asking him "to clarify the memo so that it could not be interpreted to forbid Army employees from reporting problems to the Inspector General, state pollution agencies or Congress," writes, Environmental Media News.

Marshall symposium echoes Appalachia, reports Parthenon, student newspaper

The Marshall University Society of Yeager Scholars is hosting its 19th Yeager symposium Sept. 26 to Sept. 29 with the theme "Echoes of Appalachia."

The"symposium will feature storytelling, a gunsmith speaker, a Mothman speaker, folk dancing and a live bluegrass band, all of which are open to the public," writes Kristina Murrill of The Parthenon. (Read more) The Yeager Scholars is a scholarship and academic program named in honor of U.S. Air Force Brigadier General (Ret.) Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, and the principal subject of the movie, The Right Stuff.

Johnny Walker, co-chair of the symposium, told Murrill the symposium will be different. "We have a really strong lineup this time," Walker said, adding symposiums of the past have been mainly lectures. This year, however, students can get more involved with activities with which they relate.

Walker told The Parthenon that West Virginia residents are slowly forgetting the small things that make up their culture. "More and more ... [the state is] forgetting the small things such as storytelling and some of the bizarre folklore that surround this area," Walker said.

Sharlee Henry, Yeager Scholars program assistant, told Murrill the Appalachian theme will bring together the community and students. "I think a lot of times we take for granted the natural resources and crafts that we have in our area." Walker said. "It will also be a nice reminder and look back at the past of this state."

Obituary: The Squire publisher dead at 77; paper extension of his personality

For more than four decades, Tom Leathers' voice was heard through the pages of The Squire newspaper, which circulated mainly in south Kansas City. "He died Monday at age 77, and his newspaper will die with him," writes Jim Sullinger of the Kansas City Star. (Read more)

Banker Ben Craig said, “His [Leathers'] papers were extensions of his personality. He was a colorful writer with a sharp wit.” Leathers was a fixture in Kansas City’s journalism community, and will be remembered as a publisher who didn't flinch from criticizing Kansas City’s elite, Sullinger notes.

Leathers hosted talk shows on area radio stations and cable television. He was president of The Ad Center, an advertising agency, and publisher of more than 200 books by area and Midwest authors. He founded The Squire in 1959, and it was published as a weekly newspaper until 1996, when it became a monthly publication, Sullinger writes.

Rural Calendar: Violent Weather seminar application deadline tomorrow

Be prepared for the next Hurricane Katrina. Fifteen all-expenses paid fellowships are available for the four-day Understanding Violent Weather program for journalists at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Oct 23-26 conducted by the non-profit National Press Foundation (NPF).

"Covering blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and all the other manifestations of violent weather is a major responsibility of journalism. This four-day seminar offers journalists a chance to learn from world-class experts on violent weather at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma and to take your coverage to a new level," says an NPF news release.

Seminar topics include forecasting basics, scientific tornado chasing, computer modeling, climate change, and more. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Friday. The program is underwritten by The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. For more information, email Donna Washington at npf@nationalpress.org or call 202-663-7285.

To apply, send a letter making your case for attending, a letter of support from your supervisor, a brief bio, and a clip (not a Web site reference), VHS or audio tape to http://npf@nationalpress.org or fax 202-530-2855 or mail NPF, Weather Program, 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, #310, Washington, DC, 20036.

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005

Wireless experts aid hurricane victims, see opportunity to band together

Wireless Internet access experts have established high-speed connections in at least 15 relief centers in northern Louisiana, prompting many to argue for stronger policy incentives to create community and municipal broadband networks.

"Some people are using the occasion to argue that more spectrum should be allocated for unlicensed devices, such as those using the Wi-Fi standard. Others note that disaster relief and homeland security become important additional reasons to establish municipal broadband networks," writes Drew Clark of Technology Daily.

Mac Dearman, owner of Maximum Access, a Louisiana-based wireless Internet service provider, told Clark, "We brought in PCs, voice-over-Internet protocol phones, and the wireless broadband links to make them useful." Evacuees used the VoIP phones over Wi-Fi connections to call relatives, writes Clark. "You wouldn't believe how many hugs we got," added Dearman. Michael Anderson of part-15.org, an association of wireless ISPs told Clark, "We were being told by the Red Cross information technology department that our services were needed."

Technology Daily also has a report on a low-powered radio station being set up at the Astrodome in Houston. (Read more)

Katrina damage to agriculture mounting, but New Orleans port reopening

New Orleans has long been the gateway to a navigation system that serves 33 states and much of the nation's agriculture is transported over its waterways. That came to a halt following Hurricane Katrina, stymying the the nation's farming industry. But there are early signs of a resurgence.

"Normally, thousands of barges travel down the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and other rivers to New Orleans. More than 60 percent of the nation's corn and soybean exports go through New Orleans. The port of New Orleans set a goal to restart limited operations for trade ships by [today]," reports Barbara Klein of the Voice of America radio. (Read more, or hear her report)

The American Farm Bureau Federation said the storm caused at least $1 billion in damage to crops and farm animals with most of the losses in Mississippi and Louisiana. However, the bureau now says higher transportation and energy costs could add another $1 billion to the impact on agriculture.

For a New York Times report, Hurricane and Floods Overwhelmed Hospitals by Sewell Chan and Gardiner Harris, click here. To read about 1,000 hurricane refugees being taken to Baton Rouge, click here for the story by the Times' Joyce Purnick. For Evelyn Nieves of The Washington Post's report on the Mississippi coastal Region Starts to Stagger Back, click here.

One year later, Alabama's rural counties still learning from Hurricane Ivan

"Slowly but surely, the lives of residents are returning back to normal a year after one of the most devastating hurricanes to have hit the area in decades roared through the Gulf Coast and into rural areas," writes Managing Editor Mary-Allison Lancaster of The Brewton (Ala.) Standard, a weekly newspaper.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan. After the hurricane, city and government officials were criticized because many rural counties went unattended, reports Lancaster. Cities in Escambis County have persevered, though, and become better prepared for hurricanes like Ivan or even Katrina, said the county’s Emergency Management Agency director David Jennings. "The preparedness on all levels has increased 10-fold from the local citizens up to the government level," Jennings said.

In comparing his county's EMA to other rural counties, Jennings said that cooperation varies by county. "We're all rural counties - but we have so many people in our county that are progressive thinkers, and we get such great cooperation throughout the country whether it's through elected officials, department heads or just the citizens at large," Jennings told Lancaster.

Even with all the preparations being made, rural Alabama counties like Escambis face infrastructure obstacles that could hinder evacuation efforts, reports Lancaster. "With two-way roads as the main thoroughfares heading to the Interstate, evacuating when necessary is up to residents," she writes. Unlike on Interstate 65, the two-way roads cannot be reversed to enhance evacuation efforts. (Read more)

Bucking trends: Rural Policy research fellow suggests ways to scratch the itch

Rural Policy Research Institute Fellow Thomas D. Rowley has railed at the skies of late, berating what he calls big ugly trends in rural affairs. Now, he has some thoughts on how to scratch that itch.

"Rural America suffers an identity crisis that leads to confused, often misguided policies and programs. On the rare occasion that policymakers focus on rural issues that focus translates primarily into lip service and little else. Unfunded mandates passed down by the federal and state governments are becoming a bigger and bigger burden on under-staffed, under-resourced local governments. Civic engagement is in decline as more and more people see themselves merely as taxpayers rather than citizens in the fullest sense of that term," wrote Rowley a couple weeks ago.

In his latest treatise, he writes, "So much for the itch, what’s the scratch? How do we buck such trends? Here’s a few ideas: First, we’ve got to educate the public and policymakers alike about the needs in rural America." He stresses the need for everyone to work together: "We’ve got to be proactive, not reactive. I know that planning is sometimes a four-letter word in rural America," he writes, recalling voters' recent rejection of planning and zoning in the Texas county where he lives. (Read more)

In a recent report, Rural Policy Research Institute colleague Nancy Stark looked at effective governance in rural America. "Put simply, governance is the ways people and institutions make decisions about their collective well-being. It includes but is not limited to government," Stark writes. "Effective governance is an amalgam of specific practices that make the difference between stagnating and flourishing communities."

Newspaper, television station combine to combat meth crime in communities

An Oregon newspaper and a local television station have begun a "Meth Watch" service intended to combat the manufacture and sales of methamphetamine in their region of the state. Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon is working with the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., and KTVL Channel 10, to produce the program that will focus on people wanted by for delivery and/or manufacture of methamphetamine, the newspaper reports.

Viewers or readers who have seen the subject of each report or have information about their whereabouts should call Crime Stoppers at 800-3-DETECT (800-333-8328). Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Callers can remain anonymous.

In conjunction with Meth Watch, the Mail Tribune is compiling weekly statistics to demonstrate meth's effects on the community including arrest numbers, court appearance information, information on the welfare of children from meth families, and addiction recovery efforts. (Read more)

Prison officials say meth overloading facilities; urge community involvement

Idaho Department of Correction officials say rampant methamphetamine use is exacerbating overcrowded conditions in the state's prisons. They say Idaho prisons are at capacity and may soon be forced to ship prisoners out of state. Correction Director Tom Beauclair says the state's prison population is at an all time high, reports Sandra Forester of The Idaho Statesman in Boise.

Beauclair told Forester, "We need the community's help and support. I think the biggest thing you can do is be a guardian of your neighborhood." Beauclair said the department needs volunteer teachers, counselors and more. The department is conducting a series of "Safe Communities: Planning for the Future" forums to get more people involved.

More than 6,600 inmates are in state's prisons and more than 11,000 people are on parole or probation. Inmates may have to be sent out of state by the end of the year. Officials report more than half of the inmates released between May and August said meth led their incarceration, writes Forester. (Read more)

Researchers developing milk tracking system to combat terrorism risk

"The thought of someone sneaking onto a milk tanker and pouring a toxin into its contents might seem like something right out of a suspense novel. (Since) Sept. 11, 2001, such a scenario may be closer to fact than fiction," writes Terri McLean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"After 9/11, terrorism became a lot more heightened risk in the dairy industry," said Chris Thompson, milk coordinator for UK's Division of Regulatory Services. "While the dairy industry is well known for its safety and security, we had to come to terms with the fact that intentional tampering could occur." The federal government awarded $1.5 million to a group consisting of members from UK, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and the state's dairy industry to develop a prototype monitoring system for transporting milk from the farm to the dairy plant, reports McLean.

Milk transporters use plastic, numbered seals that do not always make cases of tampering clear. Most of the time, the only way to trace a broken seal and possible contamination is via handwritten records. Through this project, researchers are developing a wireless system that uses a biometric sensor to verify the driver's identity, a Global Positioning Satellite system to provide the truck's location and sensors on tank openings to allow access only to permitted personnel, notes McLean.

While the technology has long been, using it in a small-margin industry has been cost-prohibitive, Thompson told McLean. "Everything we come up with has to be applied, practical and cost effective," Thompson said. "If it's not, people are going to reject it."

Rural impact of 'self-sustaining community' worries Florida officials

"Syd Kitson talked about a process that will be used to build an environmentally sensitive, self-sustaining community where residents can ‘live, learn, work and play’ in the Florida forest," writes John Haughey of the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun. Charlotte County commissioners want safeguards if that plan does not translate into reality well. Kitson’s West Palm Beach-based firm bought the 91,000-acre Babcock Ranch in July. His plans include selling 74,000 acres to the state for preservation, and using the remaining 17,000 acres to build a "self-sustaining community" with 19,500-plus homes and 6 million square feet of commercial space, reports Haughey.

"Of the 19,500 units, 17,870 would be in Charlotte County -- 10,000 units more than its agricultural zoning would permit,” writes Haughey. "Such a variation would require Kitson to invest heavily in the county's transfer of density ordinance program, and file for a comprehensive plan amendment. But Kitson has proposed an alternative process that, he said, could be less time-consuming, less costly and more environmentally sensitive: the Rural Lands Stewardship Program."

The stewardship program promotes development, as long as natural resources are protected and urban sprawl is contained. First, before going through that process, the developer needs an "interim" comprehensive plan amendment and an agreement between Kitson, the state and Charlotte and Lee counties. That process alone could last several months, notes Haughey. (Read more)

University in New York to give Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting award

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of The City University of New York, has established an annual print journalism award for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting to encourage and recognize outstanding efforts to enhance the public's understanding crime related issues in America.

The deadline for entries is Oct. 15 and the first award will be presented at the college's symposium on Crime in America from Dec. 15-16. The symposium is being underwritten by a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, reports the college. (Read more)

The award comes with a $2,000 prize. Eligible stories or series include those related to police issues, corrections, prisoner reentry, courts or some other aspect of the criminal justice system. A panel of distinguished journalists will judge entries.

Entries must include five copies no larger than 11 by 17 inches. They may be accompanied by a one-page cover letter outlining the reporting difficulties faced. Mail entries to Sinead Keegan, Office of the President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City College of New York, 899 Tenth Ave., New York, NY 10019.

Obituary: Former city editor at Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star dies at 81

James P. McKnight, a former Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star city editor who helped take the newspaper from a small-town daily to regional status, died this past Sunday of cancer at his home in Stafford County, Va. He was 81.

"Known simply and respectfully as 'chief' by many of the reporters he schooled in journalism for 37 years as the paper's front-line editor, McKnight joined The Free Lance-Star in 1944 after having worked as a reporter at The Associated Press in Richmond and the Richmond Times-Dispatch," writes the newspaper's Rob Hedelt. (Read more)

When he arrived in Fredericksburg, McKnight was the newspaper's only full-time reporter, covering everything from the police to community news. He was named city editor seven years later, writes Hedelt. Jim Mann, a former editor who served under McKnight for many years, told Hedelt his former boss "never faltered in his role as a teacher of newcomers to the journalism profession. He has persevered in his demands for those who work for him to meet the highest professional and ethical standards."

Rural Calendar: Sponsors added for mountaintop-removal events in Lexington

Two additional groups based at the University of Kentucky, the Gaines Center for the Humanities and the Kentucky Women Writer's Conference, have joined the list of co-sponsors for "Lost Mountains: A Look at Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining in Kentucky" Sept. 28-30. The Appalachian Studies Program is the chief sponsor, with co-sponsorship from the Appalachian Center, the Appalachian & Minority Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Majors, the Creative Writing Program, the Department of Education Studies and Policy Evaluation and the Department of History. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is providing additional support. For details, click here.

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2005

Katrina migration: Move of 1 million across U.S. marks largest dislocation ever

Two weeks after a massive storm swept away much of New Orleans and many other Gulf Coast communities, America is a nation rearranged by the displacement of more than a million of its own, possibly the largest ever displacement of its citizens.

"Rhode Island has more than 100 evacuees in Navy housing. Ohio has 20 in Red Cross shelters, plus almost 2,000 staying with relatives or friends. California has 807 families in hotels, while Massachusetts is putting up some 200 individuals at an old military base on Cape Cod. States on the edge of the devastated area have larger numbers, of course, with 50,000 in Arkansas and 200,000 in Texan shelters and homes," writes Peter Grier of The Christian Science Monitor. (Read more)

Stephen Kleinberg, a sociology professor at Rice University in Houston, told Grier, "This is the biggest resettlement in American history. A whole city has been uprooted."

Red Cross and state relief officials report 374,000 refugees are in shelters, hotels, homes and other housing in 34 states and the District of Columbia, and the number may surpass 1 million. A large percentage, Grier writes, have been absorbed into their own relative's homes, but many have ended up far from home. For an Appalachian example of this "state-to-state generosity," Woman opens door to more than 40 friends, kin stranded by Katrina by Duncan Mansfield of The Associated Press from Marysville, Tenn., click here.

Bluegrass paper warns local planners to protect rural areas from sprawl

Planning and zoning is a frequent source of confusion and controversy in rural areas, as county planning commissions fight anti-regulatory opinions and handle (or mishandle) their own versions of urban sprawl. Often, rural media let the controversies play out without taking sides. Not The Kentucky Advocate, the Sunday edition of the Advocate-Messenger of Danville, Ky.

In a display of editorial leadership, the newspaper weighed in strongly about the proposed comprehensive plan for Boyle County, saying it would greatly accelerate rural development and bring "an outright attack on what’s left of the county’s rural character." The current plan directs growth into areas already served by public utilities, but the proposed plan encourages growth into rural areas, with no specifications on what utilities must be established.

"If this document is adopted, protecting farmland would no longer be a planning goal for Boyle County," the editorial said. It further deconstructed the discussion at the planning commission meeting about a supposed decline in local farming, noting the potential of agri-tourism and eco-tourism, and encouraging county residents to attend the meetings to show how they feel.

"We understand that Boyle County is not the farm community it once was, and the relative importance of farming as a source of income has declined," the editorial said. "But it’s for that very reason that the rural areas we have left should be preserved. They should be protected more, rather than less, as is being proposed." (Read more)

Seminar explores how to cover state and federal governments from afar

Technology has made it possible to cover state and federal governments without having reporters based in state capitals or Washington, and there are plenty of opportunities to cover politicians at both levels, 20 journalists from seven states were told last weekend at "Bringing the Capitals to Your Community," a two-day conference in Somerset, Ky.

The conference at the Center for Rural Development was presented by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, the National Press Foundation and the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism of The Ohio State University. It was underwritten by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (with major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and additional support from the Ford Foundation) and the Chicago Tribune Foundation.

The event was a "groundbreaking exercise for both the presenters and the attendees," half of whom were from weekly newspapers, said Al Cross, director of the Institute."Few programs like this are designed for journalists at the community level. We hope further such conferences will enrich and expand the news that community journalists bring to their readers, listeners and viewers." (Click here to read full seminar story)

NPF Programs Director Nolan Walters agreed: "I can't think of any other seminar that's had this focus or this target audience and I think it's a wonderful opportunity for everyone, not just for the journalists but also for the journalism educators who want to reach out to a new audience." Kiplinger Program Director Debra Jasper said, "We had a terrific group of journalists in attendance. We all learned a great deal from
each other, shared a tremendous amount of information and can't wait to do it again in 2006."

England investigates possible threat of mad cow disease to dental patients

England health experts are investigating whether the human form of mad cow disease can be passed on through dental procedures.

"Government scientists will use mice to discover whether they can catch variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) from contaminated dental instruments. They will use mice purposely infected with BSE to see if they show signs of the disease in the tissue in their mouths," reports Telegraph.com.

The three-year experiment was outlined recently at the Health Protection Agency's annual conference at the University of Warwick.The purpose is to give the Department of Health more guidance on the vCJD risks in dentistry and to determine if stricter advice on cleaning methods for dental instruments needs to be issued. Experts see the risk as small and hope controlled tests confirm that, reports Telegraph.com.

Researcher Joanne Dickinson said, "This is really an information gathering exercise. The Department of Health will have the information to decide what the level of risk is and what measures need to be put in place." An estimated 75 million dental procedures are conducted in the UK each year and 2 million are invasive root canal treatments. The study involved about 30 dental practices in the South West of England, reports Telegraph.com. (Read more)

New report shows ways to raise rural youths' aspirations and achievements

Rural community leaders, educators and families seeking to boost academic achievement among students can learn about improvement strategies in the report Peak Experiences: Raising Aspirations and Educational Achievement of Rural Youth in Adirondack Communities.

"Developed by Foundation for Excellent Schools (FES), the report describes the practices and impacts of FES's Adirondack Excellent Schools Program (AESP), a multi-year effort to help youth in 12 Adirondack communities gain a full understanding of the value of higher education and develop the motivation to succeed in college," writes the FES.

The report details strategies for ensuring young people overcome obstacles on the path to college, such as geographic isolation, the lack of college-educated role models, and economic challenges. It also details strategies for countering the alarming drop-out rate among first-generation students.

Some of the AESP results were: Moriah Central School (Moriah, N.Y.) posted the highest gains in its county on the eighth-grade mathematics assessment between 1999 and 2003. All participating schools saw a rise college-bound students. Crown Point Central School (Crown Point, N.Y.) students who went to college increased to 84 percent in 2004, up from 52 percent in 2002. More than 90 percent of AESP seniors planned to attend college. (Read more)

South Dakota homeland secure; bio-terrorism presents major concern

Terrorism, the new reality in rural America, can strike anywhere, say national officials, including the heartland state of South Dakota. But, officials there say they're not playing the odds, they're ready.

In the second of two packages of stories on South Dakota's approach to Homeland Security, Celeste Calvitto of the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal writes, "Health officials in South Dakota say that since Sept. 11, 2001, preparing for a bio-terrorism incident - along with a willingness of members of the medical community to work together - has enhanced the state's ability to detect and respond to 'real-world' public-health emergencies."

Bill Chalcraft, administrator of South Dakota's Office of Public Health and Preparedness, told Calvitto the state's medical providers, public-health workers and first responders "have enabled us to do a lot more than some of the more populated states," which he added translates into quicker and better responses.

Chalcraft said South Dakota is not a likely target of terrorism-induced disease outbreak, but "with modern travel, somebody who is exposed in New York City could be getting out of a plane in Sioux Falls in three hours." Chalcraft also said the focus has shifted back to some rare diseases such as smallpox. "Now, we train people on how to recognize smallpox, and we vaccinated health-care workers and public-health response teams." South Dakota leads the nation in per capita smallpox vaccination rates.

The state takes a regional approach to medical preparedness, with each of four regions in charge of developing a plan for deploying equipment and expertise to handle hundreds of casualties, no matter the cause. The South Dakota Health Department also has a $500,000 mobile laboratory capable of responding to disease outbreaks or routine public-health issues, Calvitto writes. (Read more)

Virginia tobacco farmer raises old-fashioned crop, advises others to follow suit

While questions abound about how tobacco will fare in its first free market in seven decades, some advice on raising modern-day leaf comes from an old-fashioned farmer.

David Nielsen, of Williamsburg, Va., has a tip for Kentucky tobacco farmers worried by many things including worms, reports WKYT-TV of Lexington, Ky., in a staff and wire sources report. "Run turkeys through the field. We do have some evidence of farmers doing just that," advises Nielson. Old fashioned lesson: Turkeys love worms. (Read more) Virginia is preparing for its 400th birthday celebration.

Nielsen is a rural trades interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg. He raises tobacco the old way. Each plant has skinnier leaves and sprouts from its own little hand-hoed hill. Nielsen told reporters, "The seed originated in Venezuela. We grow it because it most closely resembles 18th-century Virginia tobacco."

Nielsen's crop is for show, not sale. But tobacco was a big moneymaker in old Virginia and sometimes was used like currency. "Everything was done by hand in the 18th century," Nielsen said. That included warring with worms and battling bugs. Nielson said, "They didn't have pesticides in the 18th century."

Eastern Kentucky town threatens private prison lawsuit over failed payments

The financially strapped eastern Kentucky town of Wheelwright is threatening a lawsuit against Otter Creek Correctional Center, the private prison that briefly closed earlier this year.

Otter Creek's parent company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was paying $10,000 a month to the city, but stopped the payments earlier this year. Otter Creek held inmates from Indiana under a contract with that state. The prison was forced to close for a month after Indiana recalled the inmates, reports Mary Music of the Floyd County Times. (Read More - Registration required)

The Kentucky Department of Corrections signed a contract with the prison in July and moved 450 female prisoners into the facility, but the prison did not resume the monthly payments to the city. Wheelwright City Clerk Mary Ann Slone said the city's budget of $196,455 is strained without the payments, expected to total at least $64,800 this year, writes Music.

Mayor David Sammons said the company promised to pay 50 cents a day per inmate, but Sammons told Music, "Now, they refuse to pay us." The city is considering taking ownership of the prison. CCA attorney Chelli R. Jones said that cannot occur unless the prison ceases operation for two years or fails to keep enough prisoners to employ at least 30 people.

Rural Calendar: Folklife Festival explores Kentucky's tobacco farming families

The Kentucky Folklife Festival will explore changes in tobacco growing during a three-day event from September 15-17 in downtown Frankfort.

Admission to all three days including Kentucky Historical Society exhibits are included with purchase of a $4 Kentucky Folklife Festival collectible pin. Pins are available on site or for purchase in advance at the Kentucky Historical Society, 100 W. Broadway, Frankfort or Poor Richard's Books, 423 W. Broadway, Frankfort. For more information, call 502-564-1792 or visit the Kentucky Folklife Festival Web site.

Rural Calendar: 'Lost Mountains' teach-in Sept. 28-30 at University of Kentucky

The Lost Mountains: A Look at Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining in Kentucky teach-in begins Sept. 28th with an all-day showing and discussion of three surface mining films at the University of Kentucky Student Center. A panel discussion is scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. that day, followed by refreshments in the Rasdall Gallery.

Sept. 29 will feature the story of Black Mountain and readings from several noted Kentucky authors. There will be two sessions. The first is at 12:30 in Room 158 of the Taylor Education Building and the second at 2:45 in Room 230 of the Student Center. From 4 to 5:30 in the Student Center Theater, "Voices to the Hills" will be performed by eight authors.

At noon on Sept. 30, the teach-in will conclude with a combination panel-performance, "Lost Mountains, Found Voices" by a group of musicians off the lobby of the Lucille Little Fine Arts Library. The event is sponsored by these UK organizations: The Appalachian Studies Program, the Appalachian Center, The Appalachian & Minority Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Majors, the Creative Writing Program, the Department of Education Studies and Policy Evaluation and the Department of History. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is providing additional support. (For additional details, click here)

Rural Calendar: Prize to recognize media initiatives in rural communities

Oct. 1 is the deadline to apply for the Prize for Rural Communication, organized by UNESCO and the International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC). Projects that contribute to media development in rural areas are eligible for a $20,000 award.

The goal is to honor efforts to improve communication in every way, particularly through local newspapers, radio and TV programs. Participants should be individuals or groups in countries that are members of UNESCO. Works must be sent to the IPDC-UNESCO Secretariat, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 París Cedex 15, France, along with a description of the project and accomplished goals. UNESCO’s Executive Committee established the prize in 1985.

For more information, contact Wijayananda Jayaweera, director of UNESCO’s Communication Development Division, at w.jayaweera@unesco.org, or visit http://tinyurl.com/8mlxh.

Monday, Sept. 12, 2005

Congress creates a special fund to help make rural roads safer

Despite several national studies showing rural roads as disproportionately unsafe, and nationwide news media scrutiny about the scope of the problem, injuries and deaths continue to climb. But legislation that just passed Congress could mean millions of dollars for states trying to reverse the trend.

The highway approproatioons bill for Fiscal Year 2006, which begins Oct. 1, has $1.2 billion for a Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) geared primarily at making high risk rural roads safer. High-risk rural roads are rural major or minor collectors or rural local roads with a fatal and incapacitating injury crash rate above the statewide average for those functional classes of roadways. These roads may also experience an increase in traffic volume that leads to a higher than statewide average crash rate.

If a state certifies that it has met all its needs relating to construction and operational improvements on high-risk rural roads, it may use those funds for any safety improvement project eligible under the program. For a fact sheet on the program, click here. For statistics on all highways, including rural roads, from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, click here. For accident and fatalities specific to rural roads, click here.

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial today says, "It is disheartening that despite efforts by the government and non-profit groups to promote safe driving, traffic fatalities ... continue to rise. Over the Labor Day weekend and the Friday before it, 12 people were killed on the state's roads. So far this year, there have been 537 traffic fatalities." (Read more)

Rural Mississippi poor get help last in Katrina's wake; phones, power out

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the litany of stories about those still desperate for even basic necessities continues in many of Mississippi's counties.

"Destitute residents of the rural Pine Belt continue to suffer ... after Katrina's winds wreaked havoc on the area outside the media spotlight on the shocking ruins of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. They are isolated from less devastated areas to the north like Hattiesburg, where stores are reopening, and food and commodities are becoming more available again," writes Michael Gannon of the Hattiesburg American.

Gannon, who focused on Green County, writes of the town of McLain, where "gasoline supply is still sporadic and many lights remain dark." Residents don't blame the Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized by politicians and reporters for its slow response. Instead "they blame local and county officials."

Martha Hendricks, who with her husband, Joe, called the Salvation Army when no local officials seemed willing to help, told Gannon about a promise from a Greene County official in the days after the storm. She said, "He looked us in the eye and said he knows about our situation and he'd get us help. We haven't seen him again." (Read more)

"The county is composed of tiny burgs with only a handful of stores and its 13,000 residents largely live spread along wooded country roads. Almost 20 percent of Greene County's residents live below the poverty level. The figure, more than 50 percent above the national average, parallels Mississippi's overall 20 percent poverty rate, the highest of any state in the country," Gannon writes.

For an opinion piece in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Crews work to restore rural power, by Hobson Waits, CEO/Executive Vice President of the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi, click here.

Farm Aid reaching out to rural Katrina victims with donations, concert

Farm Aid co-founders Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp are striving to help Hurricane Katrina victims, especially those who live in rural areas.

Soon after Katrina hit, Farm Aid activated its Family Farm Disaster Fund to bring in money for farm families along the coast, writes Mike Thomas of the Chicago Sun-Times. Farm Aid's 20th anniversary concert will occur Sept. 18 at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, Ill., featuring among others country heartthrob Kenny Chesney, Chicago's art-rock band Wilco, and folk legend Arlo Guthrie. (Read more)

Interviewed by reporters Thursday, Mellencamp and Nelson both commented on the "seemingly inequitable relief for rural areas," reports Thomas. "The national media is exactly that, national media," Mellencamp said. "And they seem to, and understandably, cover the metro areas. But the small stories are always overlooked, are very rarely told ... The small stories are the foundation of this country."

"There's a lot of farmers and everybody in the agricultural business [on the Gulf Coast] that really need some help, so we're concentrating on them right now," Nelson said. "And there's a lot of other folks concentrating on the other areas, the urban areas, and that's great. And we'll help there as we can. But we see that our help mostly is needed in the rural areas through that part of the world over there."

Contribute to Farm Aid's disaster fund can be made at www.farmaid.org or by calling (800) FARM-AID.

Storm relief: Adopt a newspaper, buy an ad, says Louisiana Press Association

The Louisiana Press Association has launched Adopt A Newspaper, Buy An Ad, an initiative to assist Louisiana newspapers experiencing business and personal disasters due to Hurricane Katrina.

"We here at LPA know our member newspapers believe in a strong editorial presence and will publish regardless of the obstacles they face but we also know that they need advertising to survive. In many cases the commercial communities are devastated in these cities and towns. They will rebuild but it will take time," said Pam Mitchell-Wagner, LPA executive director. “There is no better way to support newspapers in a time of editorial demand and financial crisis, than with advertising."

"Listed (in the full story) are the LPA Louisiana newspapers most affected by the disaster, summary information about them, and their current status as we know it, along with the prices for a full-page and ½ page ad. The LPA advertising placement service will not be taking commission on any of the advertising placed through this program," she writes. (Read more)

To participate, select a newspaper(s) from the list in the full story or go to the LPA web site, and choose an ad size. Contact Bruce Washington at Bruce@LaPress.com with payment information and the ad copy. LPA will coordinate the placement of the ad in the adopted newspaper. Ads placed by individuals will need to be prepaid. Bruce may be reached by phone at 225-344-9309 or 800-701-8753.

Current estate tax rates will not lead to land sales, congressional study says

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the estate tax is a burden to the nation’s farms and they won't be forced to sell farms to pay the tax. "Exceedingly few farms will face the tax under the new exemption levels established by law in 2001," states the report.

The study, Effects of the Federal Estate Tax on Farms and Small Businesses, found that farms affected by the tax generally had enough liquid assets in 2000 to pay without selling their farms. At a $2 million exemption, 15 farm estates would have owed taxes than they could cover via liquid assets. At a $3.5 million exemption, 13 farms would have been in the same crunch.

"CBO cautions that it may have overstated the number of farm estates with liquidity constraints because certain assets held in trusts, like life insurance, were not used to calculate available assets," says the Center for Rural Affairs. "Estates with liquidity problems would also have had other options for paying the estate tax, such as spreading their payments out over 14 years."

CBO analysts defined a farm estate as one where the primary occupation of the decedent was farmer or farm worker. You can view the study on the CBO Web site.

Center for Rural Affairs urges Congress to limit payments to single farms

"Voters in Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota overwhelmingly support limiting federal payments to single farms to no more than $250,000 by a 67 percent to 31 percent margin. And they oppose cuts in rural development, nutrition, and conservation programs, by similar margins, in a recent Kellogg Foundation poll," reports the Center for Rural Affairs.

"As we have long believed, effective payment limitations are not only the best policy; they are overwhelmingly popular in farm states, among farmers, and across political lines. Sixty-eight percent of farm households back payment limits," states the center.

"Congress faces a stark choice – cut rural development, conservation, nutrition, and commodity programs that benefit family farmers and ranchers, rural communities, and disadvantaged children – or they can limit payments to the nation’s largest farms," writes the center. (Read more)

Creeks, streams baptism standard for mountain folk despite health danger

For many religious residents of Appalachian the tradition of being "washed in the blood," or baptized, still means in the waters of a nearby creek or stream, a tradition that persists, driven by faith and fervor despite fear and evidence the practice is unhealthy.

Rev. Ted Dawson, pastor of the Old Log Church, told Roger Alford of The Associated Press, "I would say 80 percent of our baptisms are in the creek." Dawson's evangelical congregation is near the historic coal town of Van Lear, Ky., best known as the childhood home of singer Loretta Lynn. "And, despite rampant pollution problems from ... straight piping of sewage into streams, many rural congregations, especially in Appalachia, still hold tight to the age-old tradition," Alford notes.

Dawson added, "It's the person's choice, but there are some creeks you can't baptize in, they're so nasty." Kentucky health officials have advised for years against swimming or "other full body contact" in various rivers and streams throughout Eastern Kentucky because of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which indicates the presence of untreated or inadequately treated sewage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found in 2000 that 39 percent of streams tested nationwide were at least partially unfit for swimming because of bacteria or contamination. In Kentucky, 48 percent were at least partially unfit in 2000, improving slightly to nearly 45 percent in 2002. Kentucky Division of Water spokeswoman Maleva Chamberlain told AP bacterial contamination in the state's streams "creates a potential for a number of diarrhea illnesses and other infectious diseases, which means people being immersed in the water could become sick." (Read more)

Coal-mining plan worries Montana residents; bull trout threatened

Canadian coal mining proposals near Montana keep cropping up year after year and that concerns West Glacier Clint Muhlfeld, writes Michael Jamison of The Missoulian.

"We know that our bull trout use the upper portion of the watershed," Muhlfeld told Jamison. "It's critical habitat, and the higher these proposals reach into those headwaters, the greater the impact on a fish that's already on the brink of extinction." Muhlfeld, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, wants to protect and recover endangered bull trout, which spend considerable time in nearby Canada. British Columbia's government wants rich resources in the same area.

Proposals to mine coal and gold and/or to drill for oil and gas have swirled around for decades. The latest coal mine proposal is along Foisey Creek in the headwaters of the Canadian Flathead. The 40 miles that separate the mine from Montana comfort some concerned residents, who endured years of proposals that literally touched the border between the state and country, reports Jamison. (Read more)

However, Muhlfeld, worries that by the proposal moving north, the bull trout will struggle to find clean, cold, fresh water. "A lot of the bull trout we've found are directly below some of these coal projects," Muhlfeld told Jamison. "These are some of the last strongholds for bull trout, and without that high-quality habitat they're going to have a tough time."

Indiana ethanol refinery seen as boon to railroads, trucking, farming

An ethanol plant in Indiana is filling economic development officials there with enthusiasm and drawing worldwide attention.

"Besides the construction jobs and the 31 full-time, permanent jobs the business created, [The Lincolnland Agri-Energy ethanol plant] is helping the regional railroad and trucking industries, boosting the price of corn by several cents a bushel, drawing international attention, and possibly attracting new industry," writes Seth Slabaugh of the Muncie Star Press.

The plant is in Palestine, in Crawford County, near the Ohio River. The area was the world's largest producer of oil about 100 years ago, Slabaugh writes. Bob Berty, executive director of Crawford County Development Association, said, "There are a lot of compatible industries. Ethanol plants emit carbon dioxide, which can be used to make dry ice. The dried distillers grain can be fed directly to cattle. A lot of distillers grain is shipped out of that plant -- over $10 million in gross revenue per year." And, he added, the plant is "another good customer for the railroad." The ethanol plant has attracted visitors from China and Argentina. (Read more)

Filmmaker keeps promise; Elizabethtown to premiere in Kentucky

The movie Elizabethtown wasn't filmed mainly in that Kentucky town, but will premiere there Saturday, as promised by its producer.

"The first U.S. screening of Elizabethtown, starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, will take place next Saturday in the Kentucky town that gives the movie its name. A second screening and party will follow Saturday night in Louisville," writes Judith Egerton of The Courier-Journal, who grew up in E'town, where one day of shooting was conducted.

"Hollywood director Cameron Crowe stuck by his word to introduce Elizabethtown in Kentucky, where many scenes were filmed," Egerton writes for the Louisville paper. Crowe will host a barbecue for about 250 invited guests at Elizabethtown's Freeman Lake Park at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The movie will be seen at 1 p.m. at the Elizabethtown Movie Palace, 1231 Woodland Drive. Bloom is expected to join Crowe that night in Louisville for a 7 o'clock screening, and for a post-show party downtown at The Brown Hotel, where the cast and crew stayed for several weeks last year. (Read more)

"This is the type of publicity that a community our size just could not pay for," Sherry Murphy, executive director of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau, told The News-Enterprise of Eliazbethtown, which broke the news in its Friday edition. The events are by invitation only, so the daily is conducting a contest for five tickets to the opening

Elizabethtown opens nationwide Oct. 14. To find out more about it and view a trailer, click here.

Rural journalism landmark, William Allen White home, opens to visitors

In Emporia, Kan., powerful figures would flock to The Emporia Gazette editor and publisher William Allen White's house to participate in their own marketplace of ideas. Now the late publisher's house is becoming a hotspot once again, but this time for tourists, reports The Associated Press.

"From 1895, when he bought the newspaper for $3,000, until his death in 1944, White wrote countless editorials," writes AP. "Many received a wide national audience, including 'To an Anxious Friend' in 1922, which won a Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote some 30 books. Seven presidents, from William McKinley to Herbert Hoover, came calling as guests at White's home. Politicians, authors, and artists sought advice and companionship."

Earlier this year, White's three-story, red sandstone and brick Tudor house opened as a state historic site. "Hopefully, the house will let people know how he played a role in American history," said Chris Walker, White's great-grandson and editor and publisher of The Gazette, still a family-owned newspaper. The Kansas State Historical Society and volunteers spent months working to restore the home to its 1920s heyday, complete with the original furniture, furnishings, books, and memorabilia, reports AP.

Articles about White's house are available in the Gazette's online archives.Paid subscription required.

Urban sprawl may lead to rural England's demise by 2035, group says

Urban sprawl might lead to the destruction of the traditional English countryside in three decades, warns a report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The onslaught of growth with roads, traffic, houses, industry and airports coupled with a traditional farming decline may spell an end to the distinction between rural England and cities, reported the Independent. "By accident rather than design, much of England has become an anywhere-place, unloved and unloving, a homogenous exurbia, in which everywhere looks the same as everywhere else," states the report.

The Independent went on to report that "climate change threatens to undermine the long-established natural processes in the countryside, and our response to the associated extreme weather and increased shortage of water could cause more damage still." (Read more)

CPRE wants the British government to require that: 75 percent of homes be built on already developed sites; develop an environmentally-friendly regional stance; promote food and commodity by purchasing, leasing, renting, or selling methods; and provide money to farmers for managing land, writes UPI.

Friday, Sept. 9, 2005

Paper works with American Cancer Society to keep readers from being victims

The Mountain Statesman of Grafton, W.Va., in an effort to combat growing numbers of cancer deaths in Taylor County, is partnering with the American Cancer Society to create a monthly column to educate its readers about cancer.

Between 1997 and 2001, 461 county residents were diagnosed with cancer, and there were 238 cancer-related deaths, the Statesman reported. The paper hopes that by explaining the signs and symptoms, and the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early detection, the community should be better informed about the disease.

The columns will focus on topics like tobacco, nutrition, different kinds of cancer, physical activity and patience service programs. “The earlier we are able to detect cancer, the better chance a person has to survive,” said the newspaper column. (Read more)

Except for lung cancer, related to the region's high smoking rate, Central Appalachia's incidence of cancer rate is not that much different from other regions -- but its mortality rate is higher, largely because residents fail to get screening, often for cancers of the private parts (colon, breast, etc.). That was one of the key points made at "Covering Health Care and Health in Mid-Appalachia," the first conference held by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. For more, click here.

Wireless networks helping reconnect Katrina victims in rural Louisiana

"Hurricane Katrina survivor Caprice Butler had been at a [Mangham Baptist Church] shelter in rural northeastern Louisiana for nearly a week when she finally heard her husband's voice on an Internet phone running on an improvised wireless network,” writes Arshad Mohammed of The Washington Post.

The Butlers will owe their reunion to volunteer techies who are connecting wireless networks at shelters across northeastern Louisiana using radio transmitters mounted on grain silos and a water towers. With many communication systems down, groups from across the country are coming to the area to create improvised networks for survivors and emergency personnel, reports Mohammed. (Read more)

The network at Mangham Baptist Church, about 200 miles from New Orleans, originated with Mac Dearman, a wireless Internet service provider who drove past the church last week and saw parked cars. Dearman realized they belonged to Katrina survivors and he decided to provided relief, including food, clothing and online access, writes Mohammed.

Most victims yearn for loved ones and are filling out Federal Emergency Management Agency forms for disaster aid. "They just call from shelter to shelter to shelter looking for their kids or for their daddies or their brothers because they got separated, and they are just finding each other in the last few days," Dearman told Mohammed.

Journalism organizations unite to provide aid; SPJ wants hurricane stories

Many journalism organizations are working to assist their members and others in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A list of those organizations has been compiled by the Council of National Journalism Organizations, a Washington, D.C.-based consortium.

The National Press Foundation is attempting to spread the word about the efforts to help in Katrina's aftermath and the organization is also accepting contributions. (Click here for details.)

In addition to making up to $25,000 available to journalism students forced to relocate to other schools by Hurricane Katrina, Quill magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists wants to hear from journalists working in the affected states. In 400 words or less, the magazine wants to know about challenges faced, personal losses, amazing sights and how job perspectives have changed. E-mail stories to jskeel@spj.org by Sept. 15 or mail them to Quill, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208.

Wheeling Jesuit University to accept students from Loyola U. of New Orleans

Wheeling Jesuit University of West Virginia is offering its academic resources to Loyola University of New Orleans students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Loyola plans to reopen in January 2006.

"We are prepared to accept up to 60 full-time undergraduate students as visiting students for the fall semester," says Rev. Joseph R. Hacala, S.J., President of Wheeling Jesuit University, on the university's Web site. "We join in solidarity with the other 26 sister Jesuit institutions that have generously offered support by making arrangements to accept Loyola students this fall semester."

"Wheeling Jesuit University will not charge additional tuition, fees, and room and board for the Fall 2005 Semester," states the Web site. "Students must demonstrate they are Loyola University students and that they have made payments for tuition, room, board, and fees to Loyola University New Orleans. Wheeling Jesuit University will accept up to 30 men and 30 women undergraduate students for the Fall 2005 semester through September 14." Students should call Ms. Carol Descak, Wheeling Jesuit University’s Dean of Admissions, at 1-800-624-6992 Ext 2312.

Katrina slows down river traffic, impacts corn prices and halts grain elevators

"A backup in river traffic because of the damage Hurricane Katrina left in New Orleans has depressed corn prices in Kentucky," a Kentucky Farm Bureau spokesman told The Associated Press.

Elevator operators near the Ohio River are offering about 16 cents less per bushel or about $1.78. Land-locked corn buyers are offering about $2, said Ed McQueen, director of market information for the Farm Bureau. "I would expect for this to be short-lived. ... Futures prices haven't dropped, so the market isn't expecting this to last," McQueen told AP.

Large ocean-going vessels, which pick up most of the U.S. grain exports, cannot currently enter the Mississippi River. However, barge traffic along the Ohio River is returning to normal after experiencing delays. The Coast Guard has given the OK for barges and most ocean-going vessels to enter the Mississippi River, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 63 percent of grain elevators in areas hurt by Katrina are operational again. (Read more)

Twenty-five North Carolina counties working on plans for national heritage area

Local government and tourism officials in North Carolina's Watauga County are busy working on a plan for their share of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA), writes Scott Nicholson of The Mountain Times (Boone, N.C.). (Read more)

BRNHA Executive Director Penn Dameron told Nicholson the group's goal is to look at the local resources worth being preserved, maintained and developed in line with existing resources. The 25 counties in the BRNHA, all located in North Carolina, are divided three groups, each of which must write a 10-year management plan. The counties include Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Swain, Macon, Jackson, Transylvania, Haywood, Madison, Buncombe, Henderson, Yancey, Mitchell, McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, Burke, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Wilkes, Alleghany, Surry, and Yadkin.

"As part of crafting a plan, the [Watauga] committee had to make an inventory of cultural assets, identify properties that reflected the region’s heritage, and list scenic and recreational opportunities," reports Nicholson. "Dameron said a number of ideas came from developing the local plans, including museums, festivals and other attractions. Dameron said about $2.1 million in federal grants are available for the heritage area, but they require a 50-percent local match."

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area covers 10,000-plus square miles and houses approximately 1 million people. It is bordered by Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. The ancient Cherokee called the area "The Great Blue Hills of God."

Bluegrass music goes from rural America to classrooms; scholars discuss genre

A symposium began Thursday at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky.,with scholars from 17 states and three countries discussing bluegrass music and its place in classrooms, writes Ryan Lenz of The Associated Press. (Read more)

More than a dozen universities offer folk studies program with classes on bluegrass, but most academics have yet to really engage the music, reports Lenz. "Poor rural whites are in a sense the last examined minority," said Erika Brady, a folk studies professor at Western who helped organize the symposium. "It's a group that it's taken the academic world a long time to get around to." Social groups and race must be discussed when looking at bluegrass studies, Brady said, and there are misconceptions that bluegrass' pioneers were backward country folk.

The symposium will ultimately attempt to define bluegrass music, which with its many influences from jazz to blues has often proved challenging to describe in a succinct manner, writes Lenz.

Proposed power line project scares farmers, draws criticism at hearing

"Josh Barlow's eyes welled with tears as he described the view from his family farm in Barren County. ‘I can see our cattle walking across from one side of our pasture to the other,’ he said. Barlow spoke Tuesday at a Public Service Commission meeting, gathering input about the proposed construction of new power lines," writes Raed G. Battah of The Daily News of Bowling Green, Ky. (Read more)

Several farmers said they fear their land could be hurt by proposed new 161-kilovolt electric transmission lines. The lines are needed to provide power to customers of Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp., which opted out of its contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority to join East Kentucky Power Cooperative.

To build the new lines, EKPC needs a certificate of public need and necessity from PSC. EKPC will makes its argument at an evidentiary hearing Tuesday, which will be taken into account by the PSC along with all the public input received.

Coloradoan names new head; publisher, executive editor resigned Wednesday

The Fort Collins Coloradoan named its new president and publisher Thursday, one day following the departure of its publisher and executive editor, reports the paper's Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard. (Read more)

Dorothy Bland, president and publisher of the Gannett Co. newspaper for 11 years, and Michael Limon, newsroom editor for three years, abruptly quit Wednesday without giving any reasons. Other newspaper officials have declined comment about the matter or said they were unaware of the pair's reasons.

Christine Chin will now head the 240-employee newspaper in Northern Colorado, which has a circulation of 28,000 weekday and 34,000 on weekends. Chin last served as president and publisher of The Bellingham Herald in Washington.

Texas tops list of states with highest amount of mercury emissions hurting water

In a report on power plants and mercury pollution in the United States, Texas tops the rankings of states with the highest amount of mercury emissions. Rounding out the top 10 are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina.

The state rankings are based on 2003 data analyzed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "With power plants responsible for a lion's share of mercury emissions, it's long past time for them to clean up their act," Samantha Yarbrough, a spokeswoman for the group, said at a news conference.

Mercury poisoning affects the brain, heart and immune system, Yarbrough told reporters. Since April 2000, Kentucky has had an advisory in effect warning people about mercury levels in fish. The advisory is a recommendation that people -- specifically women of child-bearing age and young children -- eat no more than one meal of freshwater fish pulled from Kentucky's waterways per week. For an Associated Press article about rankings and Kentucky's impact, click here.

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005

States uniting to take on hurricane relief; at least 40 providing military help

Nothing seems to unite the United States quicker and more firmly than adversity. State governments across the continent are kicking into action to cope with the far-reaching devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

"Nearly all states are pitching in somehow. At least 40 states are providing military manpower to restore order in Louisiana. So far, 19 are housing refugees from Louisiana and Mississippi. And several more are offering services, such as schooling, aimed at helping displaced residents carry on with their lives. National Guard troops are providing 74 percent of the military presence in the Gulf Coast relief effort, according to the National Guard Association of the United States," writes Daniel C. Vock of Stateline.org.

More than 43,000 Guard troops are in the affected areas. In Louisiana, Guard units are from 40 states. Units from 21 states are in Mississippi. "The thousands of soldiers heading to the Gulf Coast include engineers from Colorado, nurses from Delaware and firefighters from New York. Guard units have delivered more than 422,000 meals, 723,000 liters of water and 31,000 pounds of ice," writes Vock.

With an influx of refugees, states not hit by the hurricane now qualify for federal emergency funds. Evacuees are spreading across the country, especially after Texas said it could no longer accept new arrivals. President Bush has declared emergencies in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Nevada and Washington have also asked for the emergency relief, Vock writes. (Read more)

Farm and school updates: Yesterday, The Rural Blog reported growing concern about the hurricane's effects on agriculture nationwide as crucial crop-carrying barge traffic comes to a crawl on the Mississippi. Today, The New York Times reports that concern is growing. Click here for that story. Also, Education Week reports that federal officials are working to help schools in affected areas deal with the damage from record storm. Click here for that. Reuters reports that national news coverage of Hurricane Katrina victims has given a "voice to outrage." Click here.

FEMA asks no photos of New Orleans dead, bars news crews from rescue units

The federal agency at the forefront of criticism in the handling of Hurricane Katrina devastation in the days immediately following the storm slamming into the Gulf Coast, has stirred up another controversy.

"Forced to defend what some critics consider its slow and botched response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from New Orleans," reports Editor & Publisher.

FEMA rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims, Reuters reported Tuesday. A FEMA spokeswoman said space was need on the rescue boats and assured Reuters that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect. We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media." (Read more)

E&P draws a parallel between this later photo ban and a similar ban concerning dead soldiers returning from Iraq. "The Bush administration's decision ... fueled criticism that the government is trying to avoid images that put the war in a bad light," they write.

Urban evacuees saddened by relocation to rural mountains, fractured families

Being displaced and scattered by natural disaster is a gut wrenching experience for thousands of hurricane victims compounded for those urban evacuees relocated to the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas.

"Add culture shock to the long list of Hurricane Katrina's effects. Fifty thousand to 100,000 people, mostly from Louisiana, have made their way to Arkansas, mostly using their own resources, Gov. Mike Huckabee said in a telephone interview. About 6,000 -- the most destitute and desperate, and therefore the least able to negotiate terms about where they go next -- have been dispersed to places like Baptist Vista Encampment, [in Cass, Ark.]" writes Kirk Johnson of The New York Times.

Fort Chaffee, Ark., 50 miles from Cass, is a major storm victims operational center crawling with volunteers handing out clothes, water and food, and doors and hearts have been opened by places like Baptist Vista Encampment. Governor Huckabee, a Republican, told Johnson, "We're proud to have them and delighted we can help." After enduring a night on highway bridge in New Orleans, Betty Taylor cried when she got off the bus and saw where fate had delivered her.

Up to 20,000 more evacuees were expected at Fort Chaffee, with beds for only 4,000. Taylor's family would be moved again. Her 79-year-old mother, Jessie Jones, had been picked up in New Orleans by a rescue team and has not been heard from since. Some people who had not yet been shipped out of Fort Chaffee were fighting to stay because they feared that moving would make it harder for their families to find them. Mario Marshall told Johnson, "We're trying to avoid getting on a bus to God knows where. They're treating us like cattle." (Read more)

BellSouth says damage to system from Hurricane Katrina unprecedented

A top BellSouth executive has told a congressional panel damage from Hurricane Katrina to its telecommunications facilities was unprecedented for the company.

BellSouth Chief Technology Officer Bill Smith testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that while BellSouth rarely loses operations at central offices during hurricanes, Katrina was different. He told them, "Based on what we know today, we lost service in 24 of BellSouth's central offices in the impacted area." For more details on BellSouth recovery efforts, click here.

The company reports, based on data from BellSouth's field survey teams, "an estimated 810,000 lines remain impacted in the hardest-hit areas along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In this same area, BellSouth has 131 central offices, with all but 19 operating. These 19 central offices serve approximately 187,000 access lines, with 166,000 of these lines being in the New Orleans area. Restoration plans for these 19 offices are being developed," they write.

Broadcasters to participate in “BroadcastUnity Day” for relief funds

The National Association of Broadcasters has mounted a nationwide effort to raise $100 million in cash donations for relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “BroadcastUnity for Katrina Victims” includes a $1 million cash donation from the NAB to the American Red Cross.

The NAB and state affiliates have set tomorrow as “BroadcastUnity Day,” on which all stations will be asked to dedicate a minimum of 1 minute per hour to the relief effort. New, Katrina-specific radio and TV PSAs are available at www.nab.org or by e-mailing sroberts@nab.org. Each station is urged to air the PSAs at the top of each hour.

Group wants tobacco companies to pay for lung cancer research, screening

A lung cancer advocacy group has asked a feeral judge in Washington, D.C., to force the tobacco industry to help fund lung cancer research and a national program for the early detection of lung cancer, reports the Triad Business Journal of Greensboro, N.C.

"Lung Cancer Alliance filed a brief in the federal government's ongoing racketeering lawsuit against the country's biggest cigarette makers, which includes Greensboro-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American Inc.," they write. The organization argues the cigarette industry strategy of characterizing smoking as a "choice" has led to stigmatization of lung cancer patients and inadequate research funding.

Laurie Fenton, president of the Lung Cancer Alliance, said, "Survival rates for lung cancer over the past three decades have shown little to no improvement. We strongly believe the tobacco industry has contributed to this unacceptable situation. The legal situation and all its important remedies is an important step." (Read more)

The Justice Department sued cigarette makers arguing information about tobacco's harmful effects was deliberately kept from smokers. The main arguments in the case were completed in June. The case has been delayed by various appeals and controversy over the amount of damages being sought.

Many motorists are turning to ethanol as an answer to soaring fuel costs

Motorists who know the right places, and the right nomenclature, are seeking out a special blend of fuel that runs about $2.39 a gallon, where most gasoline in the nation is hovering around $3.00.

"The little-known E85 pump, which is an 85 percent blend of corn-based ethanol and gasoline, went from selling about 50 gallons per day to closer to 600 or 800 gallons. [Earlier this week], the pump ran dry, and another delivery was expected [soon]," writes Naomi Snyder of The Tennessean.

Regular gasoline in Nashville was above $3 per gallon after Hurricane Katrina, but some consumers found ethanol cheaper than regular gasoline, writes Snyder. It was $2.39 per gallon until it ran out at one Nashville station, a 72-cent discount to the average price of regular, according to the American Automobile Association.

Darin Rutledge, an EMT from Franklin, Tenn., who recently discovered an E85 pump in east Nashville after doing an online search, told Snyder. "My secret's out. I didn't think (the country) had ethanol anymore. Maybe this will come back." Not everyone can use E85, notes Snyder. An estimated 4.5 million vehicles can run on it. A list can be found at E85fuel.com.

Spencer Kelly, ethanol and biodiesel editor for Oil Price Information Service, told Snyder, "This year is one of the first years I can recall when ethanol was consistently lower than gasoline." Ethanol advocates said prices are about 20 to 30 cents cheaper than regular gas. (Read more)

Advocates say Corps of Engineers a threat to woodpecker once thought extinct

Once thought extinct, the creature known to swamp folks as "The Ghost Bird" is at the center of a controversy involving a group of environmentalists and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At issue are two federal water projects in Arkansas, which advocates say could damage the habitat of the highly endangered ivory-billed woodpecker.

"The controversy highlights how this year's rediscovery of the distinctive bird could complicate federal initiatives in the area. For years many federal officials and wildlife experts believed the woodpecker was extinct; now they are faced with the question of how to cope with its existence on land used by farmers, shippers and area residents, " writes Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation are filing a lawsuit challenging the Corps of Engineers' plans to spend $319 million to take water from the White River and give it to farmers. The Environmental Defense Fund says it will issue a policy report soon "blasting a nearby Corps transportation project on the White River," writes Eilperin. (Read more)

Arkansas Wildlife Federal President David Carruth told Eilperin, "The ivory-billed woodpecker reminds us that is a very special region. Protecting it means protecting an irreplaceable part of our country's wildlife heritage for future generations." Federal officials said they were confident the irrigation project would not jeopardize the woodpecker's environs. Jim Bodron, the project manager, told her, "This project has no significant negative environmental impacts." Bodron said not completing the project would cost local farms as much as $46 million a year Eastern Arkansas farmers raise more than 40 percent of the nation's rice.

Bird lovers had not seen the ivory-billed woodpecker in nearly 60 years when Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton announced in late April that researchers had spotted it in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

Rural Calendar: Sheltowee Trace 12-day promotional hike starts Sept. 10

Kentucky's Sheltowee Trace, for the uninitiated , is a nearly 300-mile trail in the heart of the Daniel
Boone National Forest
. To draw attention to its special nature a number of groups, headed by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, has planned a 12-day excursion along the historic trail.

Blake Newton, an entomology specialist with the Extension Service, said of the trace, "It's one of the richest, most interesting, diverse sections of biological habitat there is." Newton and eight colleagues plan to set out Sept. 10 on the 12-day promotional hike to create awareness of the trace as an educational and recreational resource.

The hikers will begin their trek at the southern end of the trail at the Kentucky/Tennessee border. They plan to hike up to 10 miles a day, with their final destination at Wildcat Battlefield Monument near Hazel Patch in Laurel County, the halfway mark of the trail. The hike coincides with Environmental Education Week in Kentucky. Follow the hikers' journey online at http://www.kentuckyawake.org. Thirteen people from various groups and agencies have already signed on for in the trek.

Sheltowee, meaning Big Turtle, was the name given to Daniel Boone when he was adopted into the Shawnee tribe. For more information about the hike, including how to participate, contact Newton at (859) 257-7453 or blaken@uky.edu. The hikers' schedule is at http://www.kentuckyawake.org.

Healthy food, local farms conference set in Louisville Sept. 30-Oct. 1

The Healthy Food, Local Farms, Home-Grown Prosperity: Eat Local, Eat Healthy conference is set at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky ., Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

In its seventh year, the conference is presented by the Sierra Club, Brown-Forman, Bellarmine University, Community Farm Alliance,EarthSave Louisville, Heine Brothers Coffee, Lillipoh Magazine, Partners for Family Farms, and Water Sentinels.

The agenda for Sept. 30: Putting Local Food on the Table: Farms and Institutions in Partnership, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., An Evening with Wendell Berry, including local food, music, readings by the author, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption Undercroft, Louisville. The charge is $25. Call 859-266-1532 to register by Sept. 23.

Berry and others will discuss how to make a local food economy work, the real cost of cheap food, the health and environmental effects of industrial agriculture, institutional buying, and activism in the garden. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, is the keynote speaker.

The agenda for October 1: Progrmaming from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The cost is $40 for two meals and all conference expenses. Register by Sept. 23. Call 502-223-3655. Scholarships are available.

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005

Katrina's destruction leads to rising fuel costs, impacts nation's farmers

About 90 percent of the Gulf Coast's oil output was cut off by Hurricane Katrina, which further increased fuel costs and exacerbated troubles for farmers gearing up for fall harvest.

Craig Gibson, area extension farm management specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, estimates that harvest combining costs will be about $1.65 higher per acre than last year, because of the increased prices for off-road diesel fuel. Pre-Katrina, farmers were dealing with higher fuel costs and poor crops, writes Aimee Nielson of the college's communications department. (Read more)

Gibson told Nielson, "We've noticed a lot of the corn is not standing well, which will result in a higher field loss and lower yields. Plus, combining is just not as efficient when you're harvesting a grain crop that's down; it costs more to get that crop out." The specialist noted that many farmers' profit margin is already lower than last year. "It's even more frustrating trying to predict the 2006 crop costs." Gibson said, adding that small farms and debt-heavy farms will be hurt most.

For a related story by James Romoser of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, Farming requires fuel, and higher costs hit harder at harvest time, click here. For a CBS/AP story - Hope Amid Suffering In Rural Gulf, detailing Katrina's impact especially on rural communities, click here.

SPJ and supporting foundation to give money to students displaced by Katrina

The Society of Professional Journalists and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation are making up to $25,000 available to journalism students forced to relocate to other schools by Hurricane Katrina.

"Students whose schools in the hurricane affected areas have shut and are admitted to other schools this semester will qualify for a one-time $250 grant from the foundation to help replace books and study materials lost in the hurricane and subsequent flooding. The Society will administer the fund. Membership in SPJ is not a requirement to qualify for this assistance," according to a SPJ news release. (Read more)

"[SPJ] is fortunate that its educational foundation has the resources to provide some measure of relief during this time when our nation needs to pull together and do all it can to help its citizens in need," said SPJ President Irwin Gratz. Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Todd Gillman said, "I can't think of a time when the need has been greater."

To qualify, students majoring in journalism and/or communications with a journalism emphasis must complete an application and have their new school send an official letter certifying the student's enrollment due to Katrina. Inquiries should be directed to: Executive Director Terry Harper at the SPJ headquarters in Indianapolis at 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, Ind. 46208, or by phone at (317) 927-8000, ext. 220.

Appalachian relief efforts for Katrina victims are continuing, expanding

Yesterday, The Rural Blog reported on efforts by a newspaper and radio station in Hazard, Ky., and the paper's sister publications in Kentucky and West Virginia to send tractor-trailers full of relief supplies to hurricane victims. Today, Associated Press Eastern Kentucky reporter Roger Alford writes about Appalachian residents providing relief for those suffering in Katrina's wake.

"Tractor-trailers loaded with supplies have been pulling out of mountain communities throughout eastern Kentucky en route to the Gulf Coast," reports Alford. "Many of the donors live in communities that haven't fully recovered from widespread flooding last year that killed six people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes." (Read more)

U.S. eases mad-cow rules; meat packers may use animal's small intestine

New U.S. regulations permit meat packers to use most of a cow's small intestine for sausage casings and in other food. Small intestines were once banned as a precaution against mad cow disease.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have approved the intestine for use in food products and in cosmetics as long as the end section of the organ ... has been removed, according to ... a spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service," reports Bloomberg.com. (Read more)

"It is no longer necessary to designate the entire small intestine as a prohibited cattle material," the FDA said in a statement. Scientists say the brain-wasting prions that cause mad-cow disease are found in a cow's brains, spinal cord and a part of the small intestines, known as the distal ileum. Prior to the new regs, meat packers discarded the entire small intestine since no consensus existed on the distal ileum's location.

Indiana's farmers of tomorrow seek careers with family ties, no hard labor

Future farmers in Indiana are a different breed. Many Hoosiers who grew up on farms are looking at new agriculture careers with family connections and none of the hard labor their forefathers endured.

"Educators and agriculture leaders said they hope emerging careers in agriculture will spark renewed interest in the industry that some once feared was dying," writes Ashley M. Heher of The Associated Press. (Read more) Interest in agriculture among youth shows a resurgence despite an 8 percent drop in the number of U.S. farms over the past three decades. Membership in Indianapolis-based Future Farmers of America is at a 22-year high, boasting nearly 477,000 participants, notes Heher.

The National Association of Agricultural Educators reports Indiana universities have experienced a 79 percent increase in students earning degrees in agriculture and natural resources between 1970 and 2002. Executive director Jay Jackman told AP enrollment is increasing in agribusiness and agricultural marketing programs, while the number of students studying traditional areas like agronomy is decreasing.

South Dakota meth seminar set for Sept. 22; part of nationwide effort

The Meth Awareness and Protection Project of South Dakota is inviting professionals who deal with the drug's effects on children to a special seminar focused on combating dangers poses to youngsters.

"Darcy Jensen, of Prairie View Prevention Services and a national trainer who travels the country for the National Alliance of Drug Endangered Children, will present the day-long seminar on Sept. 22. The training will take place at the South Dakota Capitol," writes Leta Nolan Childers of the Capital Journal in Pierre, S.D. (Read more)

The seminar's target audience includes medical professionals, law enforcement, court services professionals, child psychologists, emergency medical services, hazardous materials team members and others who might respond in cases involving children.

Seminar topics include recognizing meth users, strategies for safety, meth labs and dangers to children and response personnel, contamination in homes, as well as neglect and violence and building a solid drug endangered children case. The seminar is free. Registration must be received by Sept. 16. To obtain more information, call 605-716-7802 or e-mail mapp_rcsd@yahoo.com

Small Virginia coal town residents turn out to honor coal mining heritage

Coal country residents have for decades, if not centuries, appreciated coal mining and the trains that hauled it away to the big cities, even when coal has not been all that kind to them or their environment.

"People of all ages lined the streets of Pocahontas [Va.] Monday to continue a tradition of honoring coal and railroad workers through the 14th Annual Coal Miners' Reunion," writes Bill Archer of the Bluefield (W.Va.) Daily Telegraph. (Subscription required, full story - hard copy only)

Event coordinator Tom Childress told the newspaper, "The humble origin of the celebration in 1992 emerged from a gathering of a few people who met at the Emma Yates Library in Pocahontas." Childress told the 125 people near the caboose in Laurel Meadows Park, "It stays basically the same each year."

The celebration's highlight was the annual "Coal Miners' March" through the unofficial capital of the Pocahontas Coalfields, Archer writes. "A color guard from the American Legion post in Pocahontas led the parade, followed by several retired coal miners riding in a wagon, county and state officials, the Pocahontas High School marching band, several wheeled vehicles and some horseback riders," he notes.

California newspaper publishes sex offender profiles; need to know, says paper

The Daily Press, of Victorville, Calif., with a circulation of 29,000 has started publishing names, photos, descriptions and offenses of convicted sex offenders registered under Megan’s Law, reports the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA).

The paper runs two offender profiles on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the front of its B section, starting on Aug. 30. It’s something no other newspaper in the state is doing.

Editor Don Holland says the newspaper's move has triggered criticism, reports CNPA. (This story is currently not online.) Holland wrote, “What parent wouldn’t want to know who in the neighborhood is a registered sex offender?” The Daily Press gathered community input before starting the profiles. After two days of running the features, the newspaper "received several notes of appreciation from parents and three complaints from acknowledged registered sex offenders," notes the CNPA.

Asheville editor goes to Tallahassee; Jonesboro Sun editor goes to Pine Bluff

Two newspaper editors have moved on to new positions at dailies in Tallahassee, Fla. and Pine Bluff, Ark.

Bob Gabordi, executive editor of Gannett Co.'s The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times for four years, has been named executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, reports The Associated Press. Gabordi, 49, began work at the Democrat Aug. 29, replacing Mizell Stewart III, who left the newspaper when Gannett bought it from Knight Ridder in August. Gabordi is a former executive editor of The Herald Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va. He has worked as a reporter and editor for Gannett News Service. The Democrat is marking its 100th anniversary this year.

Larry J. Fugate, managing editor of The Jonesboro Sun, has been named editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial. He succeeds Larry Sullivan, who resigned to become news editor of the Omaha, Neb., bureau of The Associated Press. Fugate began his career in 1963 at The Joplin (Mo.) Globe. He worked briefly for Donrey Media and then worked for the Commercial in 1965 before taking a job with The Jonesboro Sun. Donrey Media is now known as Stephens Media, the owner of the Commercial.

Rural Calendar: Mountaintop-removal mining programs in Kentucky Sept. 28-30

Save the dates, they say. Authors, environmentalists, engineers, lawyers, educators, students, musicians, journalists and others will critically examine the phenomenon that has made treeless mesas out of forested mountaintops in Eastern Kentucky and the rest of Central Appalachia, in a series of afternoon and evening programs at the University of Kentucky from Sept. 28-30. More details will be announced soon.

UK sponsors and supporters include: Appalachian Studies Program, Appalachian Center, Appalachian & Minority Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Majors, Creative Writing Program, Department of Education Policy Studies and Evaluation, Department of History, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music.

Rural Calendar: Women in Agriculture state conference set for Nov. 2-4

The sixth statewide Kentucky Women in Agriculture conference will take place in Owensboro Nov. 2 through 4 at the Executive Inn Rivermont.

The nonprofit organization is dedicated to empowering women in agriculture through education, involvement and action. Kim Henken, University of Kentucky Extension associate for environmental issues and conference committee member, said, "Participants can learn about agritourism through a morning workshop and an afternoon tour [on Nov. 2]." The conference winds down Nov. 4 with a lunch featuring keynote speaker Jon Carloftis, a garden designer and author.

Registration is limited and costs $60 for KWIA members and $70 for nonmembers. Preconference registration is an additional $10 for the agritourism workshop. Included meals are lunch and dinner on Nov. 3 and breakfast and lunch on Nov. 4. Send registration and checks payable to Kentucky Women in Agriculture Inc., attention Kim Henken, University of Kentucky, 206 Scovell Hall, Lexington, Ky., 40546-0064. Preregistration is required and due by Oct. 20. For more information, visit the KWIA Web site.

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005

Katrina alters Mississippi River traffic; farmers unsure crops can be exported

Midwest farmers, their crops already diminished by drought, are facing uncertainty about what can be exported in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Flooding and silting may have significantly altered the Mississippi River, which would limit barge traffic.

"Drought may be the least of [farmers'] worries these days, as [they] feel the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Just two weeks before harvest begins, Illinois farmers who rely on the Mississippi River to carry their soybeans and corn down river for export cannot be sure their crops can get through and whether higher transportation prices will drive down earnings," reports The Washington Post. (Read more)

About 60 percent of the nation's grain exports move down the river.For a related story, from the Louisiana Farm Bureau, by Neil Melancon - Agriculture To Feel Storm Effects Long After Katrina Has Passed - click here.

The Mississippi handles about 500 million tons of cargo annually, including vast amounts of of coal, timber, iron, steel and chemicals. Louisiana ports "make up the largest port complex in the nation and are major terminals for oil and other petroleum products," write the Post's Caroline E. Mayer and Amy Joyce. "The extent of the damage upriver will depend on how soon and how completely the Mississippi and shipping facilities return to service."

The river was reopened Saturday to ships that extend no more than 35 feet below the waterline. The usual allowed draft is 45 feet below the water's surface. Hardest hit areas, like the Port of New Orleans, have become one-way channels. Ships have to wait for another to pass before they can move. They also have to navigate a dangerous, now questionable turn at Algiers Point, in the heart of New Orleans. Michael Titone, president of the Mississippi River Maritime Association, told Mayer and Joyce that 30 to 40 percent of vessels are expected to be rerouted away from the Mississippi. He said, "River buoys are gone and the channels are not clear, making it even more difficult to navigate."

Appalachian towns, news media help Katrina victims, get recognized by ABC

As a nation rushes to help those devastated by Hurricane Katrina, notable efforts are coming from big hearts in Eastern Kentucky mountain communities, organized in part by local news media.

"The compassion of a poor town in Kentucky brings hope to the weary in New Orleans," Ted Koppel intoned at the start of last night's "Nightlline" on ABC, introducing the story of how WSGS Radio in Hazard and the local sheriff's department organized a hurricane relief effort that outpaced those of many larger, richer places. "The citizens of Hazard, Ky., and Perry County filled up four 53-foot box trailers and this Cube Van with water and food and got us on the road," Deputy Randy Poff told Koppel. "And all these tractors and trailers and all these drivers donated their time to come down here on Labor Day weekend to, to help these people out."

Koppel replied, "Well, that's amazing. I, now, I must confess to you. I always heard that Hazard was a, was a pretty poor part of the country. I mean, folks, folks don't have a lot themselves, do they?" Poff answered: "It's pretty rough. I'd say it's, it's probably well under the median income level for the nation. ... It's coal country, and ... it's tough. But they're giving people. They're, they're faith-based people, they're giving people. And all it took was a one-hour radio show, and we told them what we needed. Set up at the Super Wal-Mart and just stood by and watched them fill up three trailers worth of stuff."

The first two trucks were filled in response to pleas of the Hazard Herald and its sister newspapers in Heartland Publications, The Floyd County Times and the Williamson (W.Va.) Daily News, Heath Wiley, publisher of the Hazard newspaper, told The Rural Blog. The latter shipments were a result of the radio station's efforts, Wiley said. Koppel reported that a woman in Hazard "helped organize this effort, but wanted no credit. Wouldn't even give us her name." But he put her on camera, and she said, "People gave like, they gave and gave and gave. And they're still giving, as we're down here. And they'll give and give, I know." Koppel concluded, "It will, of course, take many more Good Samaritans, to say nothing of all the resources of the federal government, to get relief to the victims of Katrina. But this seems like a pretty good start. And the folks from Hazard, Kentucky, are already preparing their next delivery."

Rural communities hit hard by Katrina wait in shadows; despair abundant

In an example of the often cited government maxim, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," rural communities hurt by Hurricane Katrina are taking a back seat to more populous areas, where the demands are loudest and most nationally visible.

In a story datelined Pass Christian, Miss. -- ground zero for the infamous 1969 Hurricane Camille -- San Antonio Express-News staff writer Jeorge Zarazua details all too familiar images of desolate and destroyed lives left by a storm that has established herself as more destructive than Camille: "A shirtless Dane Rabalais unloaded bags of ice ... from a neighbor's truck that had pulled into his front yard. Lizzy Lynn, whose home was destroyed by Katrina, washes her clothes on the beach."

While President Bush toured the destruction that Katrina wrought in Biloxi, about 20 miles east, many residents in this rural coastal community of fewer than 7,000 leaned on each other. Loretta Lizana's family opened their home to neighbors who lost everything. Thomas Drake, 58, left boxes of water at the local fire station before he evacuated eastward to Pensacola, Fla., reports Zarazua. (Read more)

Even though Army National Guard supply trucks arrived Friday, many didn't carry water or food. Rural communities in southern Mississippi have been hard hit, and unlike in Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola, there seems to be little progress in restoring electricity. Desperation, however, is in abundance.

Wal-Mart sets pace for donations in Hurricane Katrina recovery effort

Wal-Mart is donating an unrivaled $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers, as part of the nation's efforts to rebuild communities and lives destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The show of generosity "has turned the chain into an unexpected lifeline for much of the Southeast and earned it near-universal praise at a time when the company is struggling to burnish its image," write Michael Barbaro and Justin Gillis of The Washington Post. "Wal-Mart is being held up as a model for logistical efficiency and nimble disaster planning, which have allowed it to quickly deliver staples such as water, fuel and toilet paper to thousands of evacuees."

In Brookhaven, Miss., for example, Wal-Mart secured a special line at a nearby gas station to ensure that its employees could make it to work. "[Soon after Katrina] preparations at the Brookhaven distribution center ensured that goods desperately needed by ravaged sections of the Gulf Coast started appearing on Wal-Mart shelves," write Barbaro and Gillis. Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, said, "They were ready before FEMA was."

H. Lee Scott Jr., "Wal-Mart's folksy chief executive and its chief defender against a chorus of critics, has appeared on 'Larry King Live' to discuss the chain's response to the storm and was singled out by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton during a joint news conference yesterday in Houston," Barbaro and Gillis write. (Read more)

Wal-Mart workers end-run company resistance to unions, form association

Stymied by anti-union sentiments, American labor unions have helped form a workers' association to press Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to improve its wages and working conditions.

"With its first beachhead in Central Florida, the two-month-old group is already battling Wal-Mart, the nation's largest corporation, over what it says is the company's practice of reducing the hours that many employees work -- often from 40 a week to 34, 30 or even fewer -- jeopardizing some workers' health benefits," writes Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times.

Cashier Belva Whitt, who earns $7.40 an hour, said she joined the Wal-Mart Workers Association because of low wages and reduced hours from full-time to part time. She told Greenhouse, "I'm a single mother trying to raise my son, so not having that money makes it hard. Sometimes I have to decide, am I paying the rent or will I have food on the table?"

The association claims nearly 200 current and former Wal-Mart workers and says 30 workers join per week. Florida membership includes workers from 30 stores in the Tampa, Orlando and St. Petersburg areas, and Texas employees are being sought. Sponsors include the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Service Employees International Union, and Acorn, an advocacy group for low-income people. The effort has received support from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, which helps low-income families, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which promotes social justice. The group is urging Florida to give unemployment benefits to Wal-Mart workers whose hours have been cut.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman told Greenhouse, "Our wages are competitive within the retail workplace. We work hard to make health care premiums affordable." Fogleman told The Times the workers are free to form such an organization, but that the company hopes employees will bring concerns to upper management through their "open-door" policy. (Read more)

Unions tackle uphill battle to organize Southern poultry plant workers

"Hour after hour, Antonia Lopez Paz said, her supervisor at the Koch Foods poultry plant here told women on the deboning line that production demands were so great that they could not go to the bathroom," Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times reports from Morristown, Tenn. The case of Paz ultimately prompted a union drive, and several unions including the United Food and Commercial Workers are now focused on organizing such low-wage workers and immigrant workers.

The unions are seeking support from churches, politicians and immigrant groups. “They also plan to lend organizers to one other's drives, something the food and commercial workers could use because it has few Spanish-speaking organizers in areas like Morristown, where the Hispanic population is soaring,” reports Greenhouse. But he says the 700 poultry workers in Morristown could face several hurdles: Companies often fight such efforts, and many immigrants who initially voice support for unions later withdraw out of fear of employer retaliation. In Russellville, Ala., workers at the Gold Kist plant have complaints about line speed, wages and bathroom breaks, and most of the 1,500 workers are Hispanic.

"It's been extraordinarily difficult to organize factory workers -- and that includes poultry workers -- in the South," Daniel Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University, told Greenhouse. "There's plenty of employer resistance in this neck of the woods. And then there's another problem -- there's an unfamiliarity between unions and immigrants, far more so in the South than on the coasts. Unions here don't know much about the culture of immigrant workers, and then many immigrant workers are unfamiliar with U.S. labor unions." (Read more)

Ruling bars carriers from unionizing; C-J, Arizona Republic affected soonest

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled the newspaper carriers at the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press are independent contractors who do not have the right to unionize, a decision that impacts weeklies as well as dailies, because weeklies are increasingly using carriers.

"The California Newspaper Publishers' Association, along with the Missouri Press Association, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Knight Ridder, Tribune Co., Advance Publications, E.W. Scripps Co., McClatchy Co., Belo, North Jersey Media Group, Copley Press, Donrey Media and Landmark Communications, filed an amicus brief spearheaded by Newspaper Association of America, supporting the News-Press in the case," reports the CNPA.

The NLRB decision reversed a prior ruling that declared the nearly 400 carriers and haulers at the News-Press employees under federal law, and said they could organize. The first ruling said the newspaper committed unfair labor practices by discharging carriers who were engaged in union organizing activities.

The NLRB ruling also upheld precedent in determining what makes a newspaper carrier an independent contractor, and thus ineligible to unionize. The Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU) has been especially active in trying to organize carriers. In 2003, a regional NLRB director ruled that some carriers of The Courier-Journal in Louisville are employees who could vote to be represented by the GCIU. Last year, a similar ruling allowed a union vote at another Gannett Co. newspaper, The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. The most immediate impact will be at those two papers, said Nashville attorney Mike Zinser, who represented The News-Press. NLRB directors "are going to be hard pressed not to reverse rulings that the carriers at the papers are employees," he said.

Four Va. districts first to receive waiver from No Child Left Behind sanctions

Four Virginia districts can now provide free tutoring to students in low-performing schools before letting them switch to higher-performing public schools. The state is the first to be granted a waiver by the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The 'flexibility agreement' was outlined in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to Thomas J. Jackson Jr., the president of the Virginia Board of Education. While the secretary has granted a number of states increased regulatory flexibility under the law, it is the first time that either Ms. Spellings or her predecessor, Rod Paige, has invoked Section 9401 of the law, which permits the secretary to grant waivers of elements of the law itself," writes Lynn Olson of Education Week.

A number of states have pursued the flexibility option to block sanctions spelled out in the federal law. "The law requires all schools to meet annual targets for student performance in order to make "adequate yearly progress." Schools that fail to meet those targets for two years running must allow students to transfer to a higher-performing public school.

Under the pilot program, Virginia school districts in Alexandria, Newport News, Henry County (Martinsville) and Stafford County will be allowed to offer eligible students only tutoring during the first year. "Schools that are identified for a second year would have to offer both choice and supplemental services," Olson writes.

Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, told Olson, "It’s our feeling that if you allow schools to reverse the order of these sanctions, you’ll see students benefit sooner rather than later. Children who would not seek the public school choice option may well be interested in seeking supplemental educational services." (Read more)

Despair of rural areas in Great Depression told in vivid color exhibition

Most longtime news photographers say black-and-white images have a power that vivid color lacks, creating moods with monochromatic shades, grain and texture. But a display of color photos from rural areas in the latter part of the Great Depression is capturing national attention.

"Americans are accustomed to looking at the Depression in black and white. But a more vibrant nation appears in an exhibition of 70 color photographs that opens Thursday at the Library of Congress [in Washington, D.C.]," writes Elizabeth Olson of The New York Times.

"Culled from a collection of little-known color images made by photographers from the federal Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, the prints bring alive everyday rural life between 1939 and 1943," writes Olson. Scenes include five girls in pink dresses at a Vermont state fair, a quilt maker from Pie Town, N.M., displaying her product and square dancers in Oklahoma.

Beverly W. Brannan, the library's curator for prints and photographs, told Olson, "The 1,602 images ... recorded ... to document the Depression's effects on rural America and to rally support for government relief efforts, received little attention after ending up at the Library of Congress in 1946. There were questions for years about whether color photography was truly art. They were not taken as seriously as black-and-white images." (Read more)

The library also became the repository for 171,000 black-and-white photographs from the farm agency and the war information office. Brannan told Olson, "You always thought of your grandparents in black and white but here they are in color."

Friday, Sept. 2, 2005

Big papers, hungry for circulation, could learn from community journalism

What do obituaries have to do with the future of newspapers? The devolution of obits is emblematic of the decline in newspaper readership and the need for papers to reconnect with their communities, says Chris Waddle, director of the Ayers Institute for Community Journalism and the Knight Journalism Fellows at the University of Alabama. A study of obituaries at an Alabama newspaper was among the presentations at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in San Antonio last month, and Waddle used it to make a point in a column for The Anniston Star, the paper that he edited and that is now the site of his community-journalism program.

"They once connected every paper with every family Bible and taught green reporters accuracy and empathy for real people," Waddle wrote of obits. "Then clerks took over the task, which a sophisticated generation of journalists considered a distasteful chore. New, space-saving rules disguised as egalitarian conformity limited the rights of bereaved families to express their feelings. Finally, papers began charging for the space, which meant they were cashing in their stored-up capital known as goodwill. The result was the passing of an important part of community Americana and a disconnect between publisher and people. Ultimately a newspaper only has its influence and goodwill with a community to fall back on. Every drain on the relationship hurts."

Waddle (pronounced Wa-dell) wrote about other aspects of the conference, his new program, the future of journalism, and the role of community journalism. To help make his central point that "old media" can survive by reconnecting with their communities, and a secondary point that they shouldn't look down their noses at community newspapers, he used an Alabama example.

"The 10,000-circulation Daily Home of Talladega, Ala., really cheered me up journalistically one day last month," he wrote. "The top story showed Editor-Publisher Carol Pappas exhorting a leadership gathering to come together for the progress of the community. She co-founded the task force 'Community Conversation.' Forget the old rules dictating that journalists should report the news, not make it. Community is news. Carol was telling her community’s story to itself in person and in print. Her heart was with the people and the paper. She’s also a journalist people stop on the street to thank for tough investigative stories cleaning up the public water authority by going to court to wrest documents out of the corroded bureaucracy. Who said community journalists have to be soft?" (Read more)

Katrina ‘a societal problem of a magnitude that America has never seen’

Words, even pictures, have been inadequate to convey the scope of the human and physical devastation in New Orleans, Slidell and the Mississippi Gulf Coast -- and the impact on the rest of the nation, But David Von Drehle, one of the finest reporters and writers in American journalism, and co-writer Jacqueline Salmon do a yeoman's job of summing it up in today's Washington Post.

“The largest displacement of Americans since the Civil War reverberated across the country from its starting point in New Orleans yesterday, as more than half a million people uprooted by Hurricane Katrina sought shelter, sustenance and the semblance of new lives,” they write. “Red Cross officials reported that every shelter in a seven-state region was already full -- 76,000 people in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Hundreds of miles from New Orleans, hotels were jammed or quickly filling. ... Katrina has scattered more than twice as many people as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and unmoored more people in a few days than fled the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.”

The displacement could last a long time, history indicates. “More than 300,000 Japanese were left homeless by the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and some were still in makeshift camps three years later,” the Post notes. "The sudden influx of125,000 Cubans in the 1980 Mariel boat lift was only partially absorbed by families and volunteers across the country; some of the refugees remained in camps into the late 1980s.”

And the impact is and will be felt "from cities to hamlets," as rural and urban America pitch in to help, Von Drehle and Salmon report, quoting this posting on the Internet: "I am in Kewanee, IL, a small rural community in Illinois. ... I can fit 2-4 comfortably ... 6-8 in a squashed condition." U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., sums it up in the final paragraph: "This is not a one-day or a one-year crisis. This is changing people's lives. This is a societal problem of a magnitude that America has never seen." (Read more)

Craigslist vs. Katrina: "Where organizations like the Red Cross discourage anything other than financial donations, sites like craigslist allow people to meet up with victims for face-to-face aid," Keith Axline writes for Wired News. "Craigslist users have flooded the New Orleans site with offers of shelter and comfort. ... In addition to material aid, the craigslist New Orleans' site has emerged as a key source of information for those seeking word of missing friends and relatives." (Read more)

Rural impact grows: "The death toll continues to rise," National Public Radio reports. "Those left behind are desperately trying survive and be ushered to safe grounds. Just east of New Orelans is rural St. Bernard Parish. It was almost totally flooded. In the little town of Chalmette, more than 1,000 refugees are huddled on a pier waiting to get to safety." More than 100 have died, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., told NPR's Greg Allen on a trip to see disaster officials in Baton Rouge.. Click here to listen to the story.

Gulf Coast newspapers, Biloxi for one, publishing despite devastation

The Southern Newspaper Publishers Association reports that newspapers in the path of Hurricane Katrina have seen losses of both property and life, but they continued to serve their communities.

In Biloxi, as of two days ago, The Sun Herald had no e-mail service, Internet connectivity or phone service. Some satellite phones were in place. Several of the regular phones had stopped working and "phone magician" Bob McFarlin from Knight Ridder's Miami headquarters had been dispatched to help. Communications was extremely limited, says SNPA's e-bulletin. To read bulletin, click here.

About half the 240 Biloxi employees had reported in. The paper had begun sending out search parties to check whether the others were home. More reinforcements were arriving from throughout Knight Ridder. Employees of The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald were driving seven RVs to The Sun Herald. The RVs will give Sun Herald employees temporary shelter with toilets, air conditioning and small kitchens. The Bradenton paper plans additional support in the coming days.

People at The Sun Herald are sleeping on the floor. The company has been able to get enough food and water there to keep them going, and more is arriving with the reinforcements. The newspaper, they report, "is making good progress on getting organized on the most important fronts: developing logistics to keep operating; finding and helping employees; producing and distributing the newspaper." Asst. VP. for News Bryan Monroe had brought journalists in from several other newspapers.

The Sun Herald printed 20,000 copies Monday night at the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger Enquirer. "The newspapers were trucked into Biloxi for free distribution. The newspaper was able to distribute 12,000 of Tuesday’s 20,000 copies of the paper. They printed 20,000 again Wednesday, 24 pages in two sections. The Red Cross has asked for bulk copies to distribute," SNPA reports. (Click here for more)

Efforts begun to help journalists, others displaced, disposessed by Katrina

Knight Ridder has established a matching gift fund to assist employees affected by Katrina. Many Sun Herald staff members lost everything. Knight Ridder will match contributions up to $500,000. Checks can be made payable to Knight Ridder Inc. Fund and mailed to Leslie Spencer, Director of Treasury Operations, Knight Ridder, 50 West San Fernando St., San Jose, CA 95113. Donations can be made via PayPal at paypal@knightridder.com.

Other information from the Society of Professional Journalists: Newspapers affected by Katrina can post open and temporary positions for free, at Newspaper CareerBank. Prospective staffers can reply online, and an alert on the available positions will be sent to registered CareerBank jobseekers.

Extra online advertising inventory can be donated to the American Red Cross to help hurricane victims. Go to the Red Cross Web site to download available banner ads.

The McCormick Tribune Foundation has established a relief fund to help relief organizations assisting people affected by the hurricane. Details may be found on the foundation Web site.

The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV and have organized a community relief fund.

FCC aids Katrina-damaged media by allowing emergency modifications

The Federal Communications Commission has taken steps designed to enable broadcast and cable outlets affected by Hurricane Katrina to get back up and running.

The FCC Media Center said Wednesday, "In light of the ... essential need for broadcast services to the residents of the region, the FCC will provide additional assistance on an expedited basis to cable companies and broadcast stations in order to get the systems and stations back on the air as quickly as possible." writes John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable.

"The commission will expedite requests for temporary facilities or modifications for TV and radio stations and [cable] providers [and] waive notification requirements for those temporary fixes and extend the notification periods for stations that have gone dark. AM radio stations will be allowed to maintain full power at night to broadcast emergency information," writes Eggerton.

Cable operators will have temporary operational authority. And the FCC has extended fee deadlines to clear away red tape, for the time being. (Read more)

North Carolina mountain residents, tourists concerned about gasoline shortage

The shutting down of a major fuel pipeline that supplies the mountain communities of western North Carolina has sent shock waves through the tourism industry in that region and the closing of a number of gasoline stations has residents jumpy about fuel for basic transportation needs.

"The company shut the line down ... after Hurricane Katrina knocked out power. [The] new timeline has averted a fuel crisis ... [But) It does not mean there will be immediate relief for motorists, "writes Jon Ostendorff of the Asheville Citizen-Times. Bill Weatherspoon of the North Carolina Petroleum Council told the newspaper high prices and sporadic outages could continue for weeks. Some gas stations report having plenty of gas while others closed after selling out during panic buying. Some have shorter hours and limited sales, notes Ostendorff.

The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce and the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau both report many callers concerned more about the availability of gas than the price. "While the holiday is not a make-or-break period — it is important for WNC business, especially those still suffering from lost revenue after last year’s massive flooding," Ostendorff writes. Mark Clasby, Economic Development Commission director in Haywood County, told him, “Labor Day is certainly going to have an impact [in] an area that is still rebuilding from last year’s hurricanes. (Read more)

Marla Tambellini, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the newspaper, “If this thing extends into October, then we are looking at a very serious problem.” The Convention and Visitors Bureau has complied a list of area gas stations that are open. (Click here for list)

The Charlotte Observer reports the gasoline crunch is expected to continue into next week in that area. Click here for details. Roger Alford of The Associated Press reports service stations in Eastern Kentucky with older gas pumps are having trouble with displaying the higher prices, and some are holding the line at $2.99 a gallon. Click here for that story.

Resurgence of grape heritage gives hope for future of Kentucky agriculture

Two hundred years ago, Kentucky was one of the largest grape producers in the nation. Prohibition put an end to that, but recently grape production has made a comeback, with more than 250 acres so far.

Viticulturist Kaan Kurtural and Enologist Tom Cottrell at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture have been helping the comeback along, by visiting vineyards and wineries to find out how many grapes Kentucky can produce, sharing information about the crop and figuring out the needs of the wine industry, according to a press release from the college.

John Pitcock of Talon Winery and Vineyards, one vintner being helped by UK, said the future for the state’s grape and wine industry looks promising. "I think it has a great future in this state and I think as long as the wineries prosper, it's also very good for the farmers out there who have switched from tobacco to grapes trying to keep the family farm," he said.

Kurtural and Cottrell advised anyone getting into the grape business to start small, because it usually takes at least three years to break even. But they agree that Kentucky can have a successful and competitive wine industry. "The long-term outlook is great for Kentucky because we do have the climate and the sites," Kurtural said. To read more on this and other UK agriculture stories, click here.

On Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m., Talon Winery & Vineyards will have a wine tasting and concert by Jazzberry Jam. Tickets are $25. For more information call the winery at 859-971-3214.

Agri-tourism becoming boon to California farmers; Kentucky seminar set

Agriculture in rural parts of sunny California has dimmed over recent decades, as it has elsewhere, but now agri-tourism is offsetting some losses, and pointing in a direction others say could mean higher farm-related revenues nationwide.

"More than 100,000 people a year [come to a Ventura County farm] where visitors can climb hay bales, pick their own strawberries, and feed veggies to rabbits and cows," writes Fred Alvarez of the Los Angles Times. "At the reins of a team of Clydesdales, [farm owner] Craig Underwood posed for photos before taking [mostly urban tourists) on a wagon ride around his farm," Alvarez writes. Underwood told him, " ''Everybody looks at farm life as an idyllic way to live, and they want in some way to experience that." Underwood says agri-tourism now makes up one-third of his farm business.

More than 600 California farms "now offer a direct-marketing component, a fivefold increase over the past decade," reports Alvarez. In addition to "fruit stands and pick-your-own plots, growers are carving mazes in cornfields, opening dude ranches, and setting up pony rides and petting zoos to draw customers eager to experience farm life," he writes. "Agritourism or agritainment" is increasing as associations form to promote entertainment farming and regulations are relaxed to make it easier to start such ventures. Desmond Jolly, director of the University of California Small Farm Center in Davis told Alvarez, "Agritourism now generates an estimated $75 million annually throughout California, said . (Read more)

Meanwhile, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports today is the deadline for a workshop on agri-tourism in Central Kentucky. For details, click here. For information or to sign up, call Bluegrass Tomorrow at (859) 977-3792 or by e-mail at eth@bluegrasstomorrow.org.

New theory suggests mad-cow disease may have originated in humans

A new theory proposes that mad cow disease may have come from feeding British cattle meal that was contaminated with human remains infected with a variation of the disease.

The theory, outlined in the British medical journal The Lancet, suggests the infected cattle feed came from India, where bodies sometimes are ceremonially thrown into the Ganges River. Indian experts dispute the theory, but agree it should be investigated. "The cause of the original case or cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is unknown, but it belongs to a class of illnesses called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs," writes Ross.

The disease was not known to infect cows until 1986, when the first cases were noticed in Britain. About a decade later, a new permutation of CJD, which scientists dubbed variant CJD, started showing up in people there. Experts believe this new variant came from eating beef products infected with mad cow disease. But where the cows got the disease remains a mystery. The most popular theory is that cattle, which are vegetarian, were fed meal containing sheep remains, passing scrapie from sheep to cows, where it eventually evolved into a cow-specific disease. (Read more from The Associated Press)

Man and monkeys have a lot in common that can aid medicine, says MIT study

In the din of debate over the origns of man, evolution vs.creationism or "intelligent design," comes the clarion call, according to a comprehensive study, that man and monkeys are more alike that one species of that pair would like to admit -- but to the medical benefit of the one that walks more upright.

"The first comprehensive comparison of the genetic blueprints of humans and chimpanzees shows our closest living relatives share perfect identity with 96 percent of our DNA sequence, an international research consortium reported today," writes Newswise, a research-reporting service.

Led by scientists from the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium reported its findings in the Sept. 1 issue of the journal Nature. Comparison of the chimpanzee and human genomes reveals extraordinary similarities, significant differences and new paths for biomedical research, the study concludes.

Researchers said in a number of bullet points summing up the study, "It provides unambiguous confirmation of the common and recent evolutionary origin of human and chimpanzees, as first predicted by Charles Darwin in 1871.This sheds light on human biology and especially on human disease. This confirms an important evolutionary prediction, and may account for greater innovation in primates than rodents, as well as a high incidence of genetic diseases."

Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute, said, “The evolutionary comparison of the human and chimpanzee genomes has major implications for biomedicine. It can point us to genes that vary as a response to infectious agents and environmental pressures.” Conclusion: We may not like some of our relatives, but in a crisis, they may save us from extinction.

Some West Virginians facing higher home prices; vague tax code change cited

"West Virginians who own more than one home will be hit with a much higher tax bill next year…because of changes the legislature made to the state tax code two years ago. Assessors in many counties are trying to get the word out," reports West Virginia Public Radio's Cecelia Mason.

The state legislature, during its 2003 regular session, "passed a bill that allows some homeowners to retain their homestead exemptions when they become ill and must live in a nursing home or with a relative," notes Mason. But, she advises, "what seems like a run of the mill piece of legislation designed to take care of a specific problem….is forcing assessors across the state to reclassify and double the property tax on hundreds of second homes."

Terri Funk is Preston County’s assessor and president of the state assessor’s association. He told Mason the bill in question inserted the word "primary" when describing residential property. And the state tax department has interpreted that to mean only a residence occupied by its owner is eligible for a lower residential tax rate. Berkeley County Assessor Preston Gooden opposes the change, and told Mason, " It’s wrong for a father to have a cabin to take his son deer hunting and [have to] pay double taxation." (Click here to listen to the full report)

Rural Calendar: Landscapes, preserving our heritage convention set Nov. 1-3

The Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative Foundation (SAMAB) will be conducting its 16th Annual Conference on Southern Appalachian Landscapes: Preserving Our Heritage Nov. 1-3 at a casino on Appalachia's only Indian reservation.

The gathering will be held at Harrah's in Cherokee, N.C., and will feature field trips, presentations and social events focusing on landscapes of importance to southern Appalachian heritage in general, and to Cherokee tradition and culture in particular. Those wishing to make a presentation, should send an abstract of your proposed short talk, poster, field trip or workshop presentation that addresses one of the conference topics by Sept. 7 to: SAMAB, 314 Conference Center Building, Knoxville, Tenn. 37996-4138; by fax to 865-974-4609l or by e-mail (preferred) to samab@utk.edu.

Session, field and registration information, and a .pdf file of the conference announcement are available at http://samab.org. For additional information call 865-9744583. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Ramada Cherokee. Call 800-849-5263 or 828-497-4231 and mention SAMAB.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005

Ethanol boom putting more dangerous tanks on the rural rails

The increasing production of ethanol, a biofuel made from crops and oils, seen as a way to augment the nation's energy supply, may have some negative consequences for rural residents, as trail derailments near Hutchinson, Kan., raise safety concerns.

The two freight trains jumped their tracks near Hutchinson, leaking 30,000 gallons of the highly flammable fuel into a ditch and forcing the evacuation of 50 homes, reports The Hutchinson News.

Evacuated residents stayed at a nearby church, and a nearby school were canceled classes for the day. There were no injures. South Hutchinson Police Chief Scott Jones told the newspaper the primary concern was to assure the highly combustible fluid did not find an ignition source. Carlton Kennard, assistant general counsel for the parent firm of the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad, told Probst, it's not yet clear how two tankers full of denatured alcohol fell off the track."

The area near the spill is largely industrial and all businesses located within the evacuation site remained closed throughout the day as a precaution, writes reporter Jason Probst. Crews used heavy equipment to build embankments to stop the alcohol from spreading, he writes. (Read more)

Montana ad campaign targeted at teen meth use, higher than U.S. average

A powerful ally has joined Montana in its fight against the explosion of methamphetamine use in its communities -- software mogul and part-time Montana resident Thomas Siebel.

Siebel and others have unveiled "a hard-hitting, if not downright harsh, advertising campaign geared toward exposing Montana teenagers to the ugly reality of meth addiction," writes Carolynn Bright of the Independent Record of Helena. (Read more)

Developers of the multimillion-dollar campaign hope to reduce the number of first-time, youthful meth abusers, she continues. Siebel told Bright he knows some people will be upset by the content, but he believes revealing the toll meth addiction takes is the only way to make a difference.

The Montana Meth Project, a charitable organization founded in February through a $5.6 million grant from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, has purchased 18,000 television minutes, 18,000 radio minutes, 50 billboards and numerous newspaper advertisements to get that message across, The goal of the campaign is decreasing the prevalence and frequency of methamphetamine use in the state.

Siebel said the program was developed "using the results of a survey that measured young people's attitudes and behaviors related to meth. The project has two Web sites -- www.montanameth.org, which focuses on the project itself, while www.notevenonce.com is directed toward teens.

Statistics show methamphetamine use among young people in Montana is higher than the national average, 8.3 percent compared to 7.6 percent nationwide, and that the state ranks 11th for methamphetamine and amphetamine abuse, Bright notes.

Community newspaper examines local effects of No Child Left Behind law

A Kentucky newspaper tackled the complicated and controversial No Child Left Behind Act in a recent series, explaining to the paper’s readers what the law demands, and how it affects local schools.

President Bush signed the law in 2002, and rural, impoverished schools say they have trouble meeting its standards, such as those for teachers. The Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville highlighted all the issues, talking to local sources to help readers understand community impact and giving the series big play on the front page. (Read more from the last report, Educators differ on influence of economics on test scores, by Karen Campbell, Aug. 25.) Campbell described objections from the law’s critics, local results of tests required by the law, the influence of household income on test scores, and even talked to some elementary-school students about the pressure of standardized testing.

The law demands equal quality education for all children, and fails schools with gaps in scores between students of different groups. African Americans accounted for 31 percent of Hopkinsville’s population in the 2000 census, and 24 percent of Christian County’s. County School Supt. Bob Lovingood told Campbell that the district’s 69 percent poverty rate “means that a lot of children are starting with skills below their classmates as early as kindergarten, and that ground is hard to make up.”

These challenges caught up with some of the district’s schools. Thirty families took the opportunity to send their children to new schools after their previous schools had low test scores. Twenty-two came from a single elementary school.The newspaper’s series shows how these demands, along with problems based on economic and other sociological differences, have made the law a real challenge for local educators. Chuck Standiford, a Christian County Middle School teacher, summed up the concerns many educators voiced in Campbell’s series: “The idea of it is great. The problem is it’s sort of a utopian idea. Every kid can learn at a high level. But not all of them can learn at the same high level.”

Broadband access debates intensify after FCC drops sales requirement

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to no longer require telephone companies to sell digital subscriber lines (DSLs) independent competitors at regulated rates, changing the landscape of the broadband market.

"While the decision is final, public debate is heating up," writes Michael Myster of eweek.com. Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press, a nonprofit media reform organization trying to push affordable broadband access, told Myster, "If you deregulate a marketplace that is controlled by two technologies, it's disingenuous to say you're creating a free market."

The FCC and phone companies have argued the deregulation will allow large DSL providers to not only compete with cable modem providers but enhance service as well. Consumer advocates, however, believe it will decrease competition by eliminating smaller Internet service providers. "It's also not a given that dominant phone companies will immediately ramp up their innovation," Myster notes.

Joe Laszlo, research director at analyst firm JupiterResearch in New York, told eweek.com, "The one thing the FCC lacks is a stick to go after the phone companies if they don't improve their networks. Now that providers are essentially freed from these regulatory obligations, it is incumbent on the FCC to make sure those steps are taken."

Free Press, along with the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, the publisher of "Consumer Reports," also published "Broadband Reality Check," which challenged the FCC's overly "rosy picture," challenged the FCC's report in July touting growing numbers of broadband subscribers and availability. The groups will take their findings to Congress to encourage a change in policy to increase broadband availability, affordability and adoption, writes Myster. (Read more)

California's lower house unanimously urges reporters' federal shield law

The California State Assembly, by a unanimous vote, has urged Congress to enact a shield law to protect journalists nationwide.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association initiated the resolution, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the California First Amendment Coalition, Californians Aware, and the Planning and Conservation League. Noreen Evans, a Democratic member from Santa Rosa, authored the resolution, writes Mark Fitzgerald of Editor and Publisher.

Evans said, "The lack of a federal shield law undermines our ability to protect freedom of the press in California under our own laws." The resolution now goes to the state Senate Rules Committee, which is expected to waive a hearing so the measure can be voted on before the legislature adjourns for the year Sept. 9, writes Fitzgerald. (Read more)

Times-Picayune, for the time being online-only, looks for a missing reporter

Message from New Orleans Times-Picayune managing editor Peter Kovacs: "The Times-Picayune has lost contact with Leslie Williams, a reporter who was to cover the hurricane on the Mississippi Coast. Because our phones failed in New Orleans, we were unable to communicate with Leslie and he may not know that we are in Baton Rouge at LSU. If anyone ran across Leslie, please contact me at 225-578-9880. My cellphone is 504-352-5550 but it is still balky. My email is kovacs70003@yahoo.com. Leslie is experienced at covering hurricanes and is a native of the Mississippi coast. His mother still lives there and he sometimes stays with her."

Hurricane Katrina has ravaged New Orleans, but the "Times-Pic" keeps publishing.

"Much has been written about Katrina and the wholesale devastation left as the storm passed through New Orleans and into the Gulf Coast. Some stories capture the tragedy with emotion, others with an attempt at professional detachment. None ignore the impact on humanity," writes David Utter of e-business news.

The paper's printing presses have been silenced by the devastation, but its reporters and editors have continued going to press. Remote servers in New Jersey host NOLA.com, according to InformationWeek, and reporters have moved to Houma and Baton Rouge offices, Utter writes.

The web-only edition has been posted for a couple of days. Breaking stories have been posted by reporters in a blog fashion. Before the World Wide Web, information would have had to go to other news outlets, or arrive third-hand via broadcast networks or other newspapers. But, "even in the wake of a massive storm, those news reporters closest to the scene can still get their stories, in their words, to the public," writes Utter. (Read more)

South Carolina newspaper launches community blog, citizen journalism push

The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., has joined the citizen journalism revolution launching a stand-alone Web site the paper hopes will help it connect with local users and offer advertisers new and innovative ways to reach those users - TheColumbiaRecord.com.

"The paper has recruited 25 local "experts" to blog on a variety of topics ranging from astronomy to classical arts to forestry. Users who register at the site will be able to post items, upload photos, and submit events for inclusion in the community calendar," writes Jay DeFoore for Editor & Publisher.

TheColumbiaRecord.com takes its name from the now-defunct afternoon newspaper that The State's parent company, Knight Ridder, bought and then closed in the late '80s, DeFoore explains. Dave Roberts, The State's Online Editor, said the Record "had a storied history as a vehicle for community news, and the hope is that the new Web site can revive that tradition," writes DeFoore.

Roberts told DeFoore, 'By leveraging the newspaper's ability to reach 100,000 people [daily], we'll really be able to direct a large portion of our main news site to this community site, thereby increasing [reader] participation." The content management system, blog platform, and calendar system were purchased from iUpload, an Ontario-based company that also provides the back end for NorthwestVoice.com, the community paper and the Web site from The Bakersfield Californian, writes DeFoore. (Read more)

Indiana's new Office of Rural Affairs aims to level the playing field

As a representative of five rural counties in the Indiana State Senate for 12 years, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman saw first-hand what problems rural communities in the state faced each day. Now, there is an office devoted specifically to the concerns of rural Hoosiers.

"Skillman [has been] working to establish an Indiana Office of Rural Affairs. Legislators ... passed a bill creating the new office and [Skillman] is working to create a comprehensive strategy which will be unveiled in November," writes Chris Morris, managing editor for the New Albany Tribune. Skillman told Morris, "Our focus will be rural development. Rural communities don't face the same issues as urban areas. She told Morris the office puts all services -- for rural Indiana -- under "one umbrella."

She also told the newspaper, "Sixty-percent of rural Hoosiers don't have access to high-speed communications. We want to [develop] rural Indiana and give them the same opportunities as other Hoosiers." Skillman hopes the new office will help bridge the gap or level the playing field.

Morris focused his article on his paper's service area of Clark and Floyd counties, where the Georgetown Town Council has signed a proposal to revitalize the downtown area. Town Manager Ken Griffin told Morris it will cost between $600,000 to $625,000. An Office of Rural Affairs grant would cover $500,000 of that expense, Morris writes. Lt. Gov. Skillman and officials in the Office of Rural Affairs said group and work sessions are planned around the state to discuss rural strategy, he writes. (Read more)

Iowa counties’ safety agencies learn ways to better protect food supply

National, regional and local security experts meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa, emphasized to a number of Iowa safety organizations the difference between food safety and food security -- safety, they said, addresses the accidental contamination of food, while security deals with the deliberate intent to cause harm.

"Agencies from 17 counties that make up Bio-Terrorism Region 5 gathered in Ottumwa [earlier this week] to learn more about food security. Speakers from the Food and Drug Administration, FBI and Iowa Department of Agriculture presented programs to public health workers, emergency management officials and grocery stores," reports Danielle Wagner of KTVO -- Kirksville, Mo. (Read more)

Donnie Herteen of the Iowa Department of Agriculture told Wagner, "Hopefully they'll get the organizational structure, maybe some names that they'd be able to contact." The emphasis on food security stems from the 9-11 attacks, she notes.

Herteen stressed, "We look a lot more toward terrorism now, but ...with all the monies coming in, it has given us an opportunity to build some of our infrastructure, whether it be a terrorist attack of any sort or a tornado." Herteen said his agency is just now receiving money to get this information out to the public. George Hughes with the FDA told the television station, "There's a lot of vulnerabilities. As far as actual threats coming in, we haven't seen any direct threats, but we've seen interest in food." Hughes told Wagner, "I think the average person at home should know that there's a lot of good work being done in various agencies and most of it's done on the local level."

TV station highlights small communities' big talent with barbecue

When gourmands armed with avaricious appetite seek the Mecca of Mutton, the Pinnacles of Pork, and the Behemoths of Beef in barbecue, Tompkinsville, Ky., may not rise immediately to the top of an aficionado's list. But the Southern Kentucky town caught valuable, big-city media attention in faraway Louisville as a TV reporter traveled south to sample Monroe County's much touted "pork shoulder, thin-sliced, grilled and sprinkled" version.

Traveling bard Barry Bernson of Louisville's WDRB-TV went on what he called a "Quest for Q" in several Kentucky communities over the summer. We might argue with his spelling, but not with his enterprise, or his choice of Tompkinsville as the leadoff locale for his half-hour documentary on Aug. 26, assembled from a series of reports July 18-22. Bernson regularly appears on "Fox In The Morning." Bernson told The Rural Blog the station may put the series on its Web site.

As he highlighted specialists in the mouth-watering mounds of saucy meat, Bernson also traveled to Jeffersonville, Ind., and the much-touted Owensboro, but something about "T-ville" piqued his attention. "Tompkinsville has a huge number of thriving barbecue places," Bernson noted. He visited Frances's Barbecue, R and S Barbecue, Backyard Barbecue, Bartley's, and Sam and Terrie's to name just a few T-ville meateries. But he apparently missed the savory shacks in western Monroe County, at Gamaliel and Fountain Run, which also deal in the sliced shoulder, a hankering that may have migrated from eastern North Carolina.

Terri Gittings of Sam & Terrie's told Bernson, "People around this area, they love shoulder. They love it. I don't know why." Bernson notes there are 12,000 people in the county and eight places to eat barbecue in Tompkinsville, population 2,700. At Frances's, David Arms told him the secret to the sauce is "Lots of love and hard work." Meda Burnette, the area's economic-development coordinator, told Bernson, "The vinegar-based sauce here in Monroe County -- and the barbecue -- its like an addiction. Everybody loves to get a hit of barbecue everywhere here in Monroe County."

Rural Calendar: Public hearing on Ky. power-line proposal slated Sept. 6

The public can weigh in on proposed power-line corridors during a Kentucky Public Service Commission hearing Sept. 6 at Western Kentucky University. The meeting was postponed from Aug. 30 because of Hurricane Katrina, writes Raed G. Battah of The Daily News in Bowling Green.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative wants to construct 90-plus miles of transmission lines across Barren, Warren, Butler, and Ohio counties, which will serve Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. WRECC's contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority will expire in 2008, and a 30-year agreement with EKPC will begin. WRECC will not be allowed to use TVA lines at that time.

Mac Newberry's family has owned land in Barren County since 1787, and he said he believes the proposal is taking advantage of rural farms and families. "They wouldn't build this thing across a country club," he said. "We feel the same way about our property, though. ... They'll take the land cheap, land that we paid taxes on for years. And the aesthetic value will be ruined."

After Tuesday’s public hearing, the PSC will schedule an evidentiary hearing for the applicant to address the public’s questions. The final step will then be for the PSC to rule on the proposal. The PSC recently rejected an EKPC proposed power line through part of Daniel Boone National Forest. (Read more)

The public hearing begins at 6 p.m. CDT in the Carroll Knicely Conference Center at Western Kentucky University, South Campus, 2355 Nashville Road (US 31-W), Bowling Green.

Permission to reprint items from The Rural Blog is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an e-mail to al.cross@uky.edu

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues helps non-metropolitan media define the public agenda in their communities, through strong reporting and commentary on local issues and on broader issues that have local impact. Its initial focus area is Central Appalachia, but as an arm of the University of Kentucky it has a statewide mission, and it has national scope. Cooperating institutions include Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Marshall University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and West Virginia University. It is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Kentucky, with additional financial support from the Ford Foundation. To get notices of Rural Blog postings and other Institute news, click here.



Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues

University of Kentucky
College of Communications & Information Studies

122 Grehan Building, Lexington, KY 40506-0042

Phone: (859) 257-3744, Fax: (859) 323-9879

Questions about the web site: Contact Al Cross, Institute director, al.cross@uky.edu

Last revised: Sept.30, 2005