September 26, 2006
to revisit Sago, discuss mine safety at W.Va. symposium
Major coal-industry figures are set to arrive in Bluefield,
W.Va., for the three-day 2006 Bluefield Coal
Symposium that kicks off tomorrow and is sure
to feature mine safety as the main theme.
Attendees will include Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey
Energy, and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.
Presentations will include: several investigators of
the Sago Mine disaster; Ronald G. Stovash, senior vice
president of operations for Consol Energy;
Dan Gerkin, senior vice president/government and political
affairs for the National Mining Association;
Bill Rainey, president of the West Virginia
Coal Association; Bill Caylor, president of
the Kentucky Coal Association; Tommy
Hudson, president of the Virginia Coal Association;
and John Feddock, senior vice president of Marshall
Miller & Associates, reports Charles Owens
of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
A report on the Sago tragedy is slated for Friday.
Events will be held at the local Holiday Inn.
Limited reservations for the symposium may still be
available, notes Owens. For more information, contact The Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce at 304-327-7184. (Read
special, Sept. 30, 2006
Arkansas, Alabama and neighbor states don't spare the
Corporal punishment in schools has declined in recent
decades, as 28 states have banned it, but it remains
widespread "in rural parts of the South and the
lower Midwest," Rick Lyman of The New York
Times reports today. A map with the story shows
that and Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama lead the
nation in the practice, and that it is also prevalent
in the states bordering those three states.
"The most recent federal statistics show that
during the 2002-3 school year, more than 300,000 American
schoolchildren were disciplined with corporal punishment,
usually one or more blows with a thick wooden paddle.
Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating
more painful. Of those students, 70 percent were in
. . . Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas,"
"Often the battle over corporal punishment is
being fought on the edges of Southern cities, where
suburban growth pushes newcomers from across the country
into rural and religiously conservative communities.
In these areas, educators say, corporal punishment is
far more accepted, resulting in clashing attitudes about
child-rearing and using the rod."
Anthony Price, a Fort Wortht middle school principal
who recently resumed paddling and was pictured in the
Times with his paddle, told Lyman, “It's had a
huge effect” on behavior. “The rule is,
never hit in anger. We always talk to the child before
the punishment, make sure they understand why it’s
happening, and then talk to them again afterward. None
of it is cold or harsh. We try to treat the kids like
they’re our own.”
Lyman notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics,
the National Association of School Psychologists
and the American Medical Association and American
Bar Association "have come out against corporal
punishment. . . . Among adherents of the practice is
James C. Dobson, the child psychologist who founded
Focus on the Family and is widely regarded
as one of the nation’s most influential evangelical
about to surpass Wisconsin as the leading cheese state
More than a decade ago, California overook Wisconsin
as the leading milk-producing state, and it is on the
verge of overtaking the state of cheeseheads, “which
still proclaims itself America’s Dairyland right
on its license plates," when it comes to cheese
production, Monica Davey of The New York Times
“Last year, Wisconsin made 2.4 billion pounds
of cheese, while California crept ever closer, finishing
with 2.14 billion pounds — triple the amount it
made 15 years ago,” Davey reports. The executive
director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
told her, “They won’t roar by us, but they
will pass us.”
“For Wisconsin,” Davey writes, “this
is more than a simple battle over a commodity or a listing
in an obscure federal agriculture publication. Cheese
is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating,
sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life.”
Wisconsin “cheese makers say they are turning
their focus to high-priced specialty, artisan and organic
cheeses that take more time to produce, cheeses like
Asiago, feta and blue cheese, and those with names newly
dreamed up.” Such cheeses are now 15 percent of
the state’s production, Jeanne Carpenter of the
state’s Dairy Business Innovation Center
told Davey: “We’re moving on from
this whole quantity thing.”
September 29, 2006
in poor and rural areas rank low on heart care, data
Rural and low-income heart patients are treated at
facilities with much lower performance those in urban
and high-income areas, and may not get all the recommended
treatments, according to a Gannett News Service
analysis. “Using data provided by hospitals to
the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services and covering the period of October
2004 through September 2005, GNS rated the nation's
hospitals on heart care,” Robert Benincasa and
Jennifer Brooks write for the media chain's service.
“Only about one in nine rural hospitals fell
into the top-scoring category for treating heart attack
patients. More than a third were in the lowest category.
For heart failure patients, nearly a third of rural
hospitals fell into the lowest performance category,”
write Benincasa and Brooks.
“In low-income counties, top-performing hospitals
were scarce. In counties ranking in the lowest 20 percent
for median household income, only 5 percent of hospitals
were in the highest of five performance rankings for
heart attack patients. Nearly half of them fell into
the lowest category. In high-income counties, a quarter
of the hospitals were top performers.” (Read
pharmacists: Wal-Mart drug-price deal is bait and switch
The National Community Pharmacists Association
says Wal-Mart’s new $4 prescription
program could be mainly a tactic to lure customers into
the company's stores. What customers find when they
get there may be expensive, outdated or not what they
need, the lobby says. “NCPA also is seeking a
close examination of the anti-competitive nature of
Wal-Mart’s action. Wal-Mart is infamous for driving
small-town businesses out of business through deceptive
and predatory pricing practices,” said a press
“What happens to patients who walk into Wal-Mart
thinking that they will be able to get their medications
for $4, only to be told that the medicine they need
is not on the list and will cost much more?” NCPA
Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce Roberts said
in the release. “That is the classic bait-and-switch.”
“Of the nearly 9,000 generic drugs available
in the U.S., the Wal-Mart pilot program will offer fewer
than 300,” said the press release. “Of that
group: Fewer than 150 separate medicines are included.
For example, 12 different versions of the antibiotic
amoxicillin are included on the list. Only one of the
top 20 most frequently prescribed medications, in its
commonly used form, is on the list. Many older medications
are on the list and newer, replacement medications that
often work better or have fewer side effects are not
included on the list.” (Read
When Wal-Mart announced the plan, The New York
Times reported that it "includes only
about 124 separate medicines in various dosages, like
12 versions of the popular antibiotic amoxicillin. It
leaves out some popular drugs altogether, like the generic
version of the cholesterol-lowering treatment Zocor.
And while uninsured people should benefit from the program,
those with insurance may save only a dollar or so, making
a trip to Wal-Mart not worth their while, analysts said."
politically active churches; scholar suggests ‘pulpit
The Internal Revenue Service is investigating
several churches that might lose their tax-exempt status
for participating in partisan politics. To be tax-exempt,
a charitable organization must not participate in any
political campaigns or try to influence votes for or
against a party or candidate, Charles C. Haynes of the
First Amendment Center writes for the
National Newspaper Association.
“Last week, All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif.,
home to one of the nation's largest liberal congregations,
announced that it would not cooperate with an IRS investigation
into an anti-war sermon preached by the Rev. George
Regas two days before the 2004 presidential election,”
writes Haynes. “The refusal by All Saints to turn
over correspondence, sermons and other documents sets
the stage for a possible court case should the IRS decide
to pursue the matter. Since IRS investigations into
church activities are shrouded in secrecy and usually
settled quietly, a court battle would be a rare public
discussion about where the "partisan-nonpartisan"
line should be drawn for tax-exempt churches.”
This case may renew efforts from Republicans in Congress
who sought to amend the IRS code to allow churches to
give political support. “The challenge is to come
up with a narrowly focused ‘pulpit exemption’
that removes restrictions on speech when clergy are
speaking to their congregations, but retains prohibitions
against religious organizations' getting involved in
partisan political campaigns,” writes Haynes.
Web site in Colorado allows citizens to publish own
Wednesday, The Gazette in Colorado
Springs, Colo., launched a new Web site that will allow
citizens to participate in journalism. On Your
Hub at ColoradoSprings.com,
locals can blog and report their own news stories, reports
the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
“Starting Oct. 26, Your Hub at ColoradoSprings.com
will produce three zoned weekly tabloid newspapers filled
with the best citizen journalism stories and photos
submitted each week, plus some staff-generated stories
and photography,” SNPA reports. “There are
plans for six weekly Your Hub papers.”
"Citizen journalism is a frontier for those of
us who make a living collecting and reporting the news.
It is a little controversial, it's very interesting
and it's definitely here to stay. Think of it as a virtual
town square, a place where neighbors gather to share
information, personal experiences, opinions and concerns.
As others in the industry have pointed out, it is journalism
for the people, by the people, our freedom of speech
in pure form,” said Freedom Communications,
publisher of The Gazette. (Read
news from Internet but not from blogs, Knight study
High school students get their news from mainstream
Web sites but don’t read news blogs, according
to a study by the John S. and James L. Knight
“Students who go online get most of their news
from the news pages of Internet portals like Google
and Yahoo!, followed by national TV
news sites, and local TV and daily newspaper web sites.
Blogs came in fourth place, according to the survey,
part of Knight Foundation’s 2006 Future of the
First Amendment study,” reports the Southern
Newspaper Publishers Association.
“A majority of high school students find TV,
followed by newspapers, to be the most accurate news
sources,” writes the SNPA. “They don’t
trust the accuracy of blogs, according to the survey.
But despite their reliance on traditional news sources,
nearly half of high school students say they also get
news and information from entertainment programs like
The Daily Show and others at least
once a week.” (Read
more) To read the full report, visit www.firstamendmentfuture.org
impose fines, jail time for leaking classified information
Under the proposed Official Secrets Act, anyone who
“knowingly and willfully discloses, or attempts
to disclose, any classified information” would
be subject to fines and jail time. The Society
of Professional Journalists opposes this bill
and believes it would be harmful to news reporting.
“According to the First Amendment Center,
current law already criminalizes the most dangerous
of leaks and Congress has rejected version of this law
for more than 50 years,” SPJ says.
“The broad definition of “classified information”
in the bill would silence important sources, including
whistleblowers and elected officials, who would fear
inadvertently releasing information. The law would authorize
grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants
for their records and notes, according to the First
SPJ recommends that journalists contact their senators
and write columns that encourage their readers to do
the same. We agree. (Read
September 28, 2006
sale of phone lines could delay broadband efforts in
If Verizon sells 1.6 million local
phone lines in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, rural
customers may lose out on broadband and be left with
smaller Internet providers, continuing a disconcerting
trend in rural America, reports The New York
Internet access in some rural areas of New England
is already difficult, reports Ken Belson. Residents
say their slow dial-up inhibits business, government
and their daily lives. Most local phone companies have
broadband available on 95 percent of their lines, but
in Vermont Verizon has it on just 56 percent. In 2005,
it was fined $8.1 million by the state Public
Service Board for unsatisfactory service.
"Verizon and other former local phone monopolies
argue that since the cell phone, cable and Internet
companies that are luring away millions of their customers
are not compelled to serve remote and rural places,
then they should not have to bear that burden either,"
"Verizon has sold phone lines before. In 2005,
the Carlyle Group bought its business
in Hawaii. Verizon also sold 1.3 million lines in Alabama,
Kentucky and Missouri in 2002. Others have followed.
In May, Sprint Nextel spun off its
local phone division with 7.1 million lines and renamed
it Embarq. In July, Alltel spun off
its local phone group and merged it with Valor
Use tact and resist dramatizing suicide, a big rural
Did you know that suicides in the United States have
long outnumbered murders by 3 to 2? That suicide is
the No. 3 cause of death among youths, and second in
youth deaths in states with large rural populations?
That farmers and ranchers have a higher suicide risk
than most other occupations? That research has shown
that putting "suicide" or "self-inflicted"
in a headline increases the chance that a reader will
Because of those facts, and the possibility that dramatizing
suicides may encourage other individuals to do it for
attention, it is an important topic for journalists
to consider -- especially in rural areas. Some of these
facts, and some good advice about reporting of suicide,
are part of today's edition of Al's Morning
Meeting, by Al Tompkins of The Poynter
Institute. His tips for suicide reporting include:
Unless the suicide death took place in public,
the cause of death should be reported in the body of
the story and not in the headline. In deaths ... covered
locally, such as persons living in small towns, consider
phrasing for headlines such as . . . "John Smith
dead at 48." Consideration of how they died could
be reported in the body of the article.
In the body of the story, it is preferable to describe
the deceased as "having died by suicide,"
rather than as "a suicide," or having "committed
suicide." The latter two expressions reduce the
person to the mode of death, or connote criminal or
In covering murder-suicides be aware that the tragedy
of the homicide can mask the suicidal aspect of the
act. Feelings of depression and hopelessness present
before the homicide and suicide are often the impetus
for both. (Read
"Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death
in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death among
American youths," according to the National
Institute of Medicine, and No. 2 in youth deaths
"in states with primarily rural populations, especially
states in the rural Mountain West and Alaska,"
said a report from the Marshfield Clinic by the Children's
Safety Network. Click
here for the report.
Studies have also found that farmers and ranchers are
at high risk for suicide because of financial problems,
loss of land an livelihood, and mental heath conditions
that go untreated due to a lack of facilities, reports
Peter G. Beeson of the National Association
for Rural Mental Health. (Read
bill that would boost rural funding stalled by urban
An HIV/AIDS bill is being stalled by Senators from
California, New York and New Jersey because their states
would lose money and millions of dollars would go to
"The objections threaten to stall passage of the
$2.1 billion Ryan White CARE Act before Congress wraps
up work this week ahead of the Nov. 7 midterm elections.
The law, originally passed in 1990, sends money to state
and local programs for the neediest patients. A rewrite
that has passed House and Senate committees would funnel
more money to rural and southern states where AIDS is
spreading, but less money to larger states and urban
areas that traditionally have been at the front line
of the epidemic," reports Erica Werner of The
Opponents include Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of
California, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer of New
York, and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New
Jersey. Senate rules allow allow for the objection of
just one senator to block a bill's passage, notes AP.
The bill changes the way patients are counted from just
those with full-blown AIDS to those with the HIV virus
also. That move would favor areas where HIV/AIDS is
a newer problem, such as Southern and rural areas. (Read
nature group strike deals to protect habitat in Southern
Nature Conservancy, a non-profit group,
wants to save woodlands and provide a safe habitat for
migratory songbirds and other species in the Illinois
Ozarks by making land deals with farmers.
Ozark Plateau is almost 1.5 billion years old and is
the only significant highland in the U.S. "between
the Appalachian chain and the Rocky Mountains,"
notes Rudi Keller of the Southeast Missourian
in Cape Girardeau. "The project is one of 34 Nature
Conservancy projects along the Mississippi River from
Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico aimed at restoring ecological
balance to the river and the surrounding landscape."
The project covers 195,000 acres, shown on this
map provided by the group and the newspaper. About
half the land is publicly owned, and the group hopes
to secure more from farmers owning the other land. "What
happens is that a local farmer might be interested in
the fields but they won't want the woods," group
member Michael Baltz told Keller. "One of the reasons
we have been successful in buying land is that we are
willing to buy the whole thing."
Baltz predicts a minimal drop in farm production and
big benefits for wildlife and landowners who had trouble
selling land. "The average age of farmers is increasing
and economic opportunities continue to draw young people
away from the land," notes Keller. (Read
leftovers used to produce wood glue; may make alfalfa
Ethanol made with crops such as switchgrass may not
boast the same efficiency as that made from corn, but
research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
suggests that growing grass for fuel and using leftovers
for glue might pay off.
Paul Weimer, a microbiologist at the university's USDA-ARS
Dairy Forage Research Center, considers the
fermentation residue from ethanol production more valuable
than the ethanol itself. "Specifically, they used
it as wood glue," reports Newswise, a research-reporting
service. "Although the adhesive appears to have
great potential, there are still a few hurdles. For
one, it's quite viscous. For use in an industrial application,
the glue would need to be made easier to apply."
Weimer is also interested in preserving the country's
alfalfa crops and sees this as a way to encourage that.
"We'd like to keep alfalfa on the landscape because
it has a lot of environmental benefits," Weimer
says. "It's a good cover crop, it's drought-tolerant
and fixes nitrogen. But because farmers are moving away
from it as a dairy feed, we're trying to find another
use, and we think this glue might be a solution."
care struggles for funding in Eastern Kentucky, says
Rural health care in Appalachia needs innovative financing
to improve medical care in an area where the business
climate is shaky and where more patients are using Medicare
and Medicaid, according to a survey of more than 50
rural medical providers and bankers in Eastern Kentucky.
The survey, conducted by Mountain Association
for Community Economic Development, a small-business
lender focused on Kentucky's 51 Appalachian counties,
estimated the need for funding at $100 million. That
money is needed to improve and expand medical care in
the next three years, but loans are tough to secure
because of a struggling Medicaid system and the overload
of uninsured people in Appalachia, reports Barbara Isaacs
of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"The survey also found rural providers struggling
to keep up with the costs of innovation. Digital medical
records and X-ray systems and upgraded Internet service
would modernize health care, but few in the region can
afford them," writes Isaacs. (Read
more) For the study, click
federal vehicles help 940 rural fire departments in
A tanker truck used to transport water in Iraq might
help out Oklahoma firefighters. The reason: The state
houses a little-known U.S. Forest Service
program that gets surplus vehicles from the U.S.
Department of Defense and other agencies to
aid rural fire departments.
"Jim Pitts, of the Forestry Services Division
of the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department,
said the 940 rural and 'small town' fire departments
he contracts with throughout the state have access to
the surplus equipment. And, under the new Fire Fighters
Property Program, they get to keep it," writes
Melissa A. Wabnitz of The Norman Transcript,
adding that the program uses the Internet to find the
All fire departments usually have to do is paint the
vehicle, fit it with a tank and pump, and get it into
service within six months. All that work may cost $5,000
to $6,000, but rural fire departments gladly accept
that compared to the cost of purchasing a completely
new vehicle, reports Wabnitz. (Read
cash? Some churches offer ATM machines for quick donations
A struggle over whether to modernize is hitting rural
churches across the country, and some of the more traditional
ones might shiver when they hear Stevens Creek
Community Church, a 1,100-member evangelical
church in Augusta, Ga., is using ATM machines to boost
A "Giving Kiosk," of which three exist at
Stevens Creek, is "a sleek black pedestal topped
with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip
reader," writes Richard Fausset of The
Los Angeles Times. In "a ritual more common
in quickie marts than a house of God," the machine
simply prints a receipt and money is routed to church
coffers. At least seven other churches are known to
use such technology, and most of them are located in
The churches are hoping members' ATM habits in everyday
life crossover to the sanctuary, but not all churches
are gung-ho. "Six years ago, debit cards were used
in 21 percent of in-store transactions; today they account
for a third of them, according to the American
Bankers Association," reports Fausset.
"The need to generate earthly revenue can be a
sensitive topic for the clergy; lampooning their less
subtle solicitations has been a sport for generations
of critics, from Chaucer to heavy-metal bands."
The Augusta Chronicle broke this story
in July. To read it, click
September 27, 2006
enforcement divides local police; where do yours stand?
Are your local police among the "hundreds of state
and local departments [that] have inquired about"
enforcing immigration laws, according to The
Washington Post. A story by Post reporter Peter
Whoriskey shows what such enforcement can entail, and
exposes disagreements among police chiefs about what
has amounted to a "don't ask, don't tell"
policy in many jurisdictions.
The sheriff of Mecklenburg County, N.C., the seat of
which is Charlotte, started cracking down on illegal
immigrants in April and is sending more than 100 people
a month to deportation proceedings, the Post reports,
noting that this comes following a House debate earlier
this month over a measure reaffirming the power local
law enforcement agencies possess to arrest people on
suspicion of violating immigration laws.
"Besides Mecklenburg, six other state and local
law-enforcement agencies have started similar programs
in recent years," writes Whoriskey. "A dozen
more are being worked out with U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement. And in the past three
months, hundreds of state and local departments have
inquired about similar efforts, said Robert J. Hines,
who heads the program for the ICE."
"The law enforcement community is split on this
issue," Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for
the International Association of Chiefs of Police,
told Whoriskey. Police officers "are concerned
about the chilling effect it will have on immigrants'
cooperation with law enforcement," he said. (Read
to connect rural health-care providers via broadband
Rural health-care providers will get help connecting
with each other over broadband Internet through a program
announced by the Federal Communications Commission,
commiting up to $100 million.
"The pilot program will fund up to 85 percent
of the costs incurred to deploy state or regional broadband
networks dedicated to health care. The pilot program
will also fund up to 85 percent of the costs of connecting
the regional and/or statewide to Internet2, a dedicated
nationwide backbone that connects a number of government
research institutions, as well as academic, public,
and private health care institutions that are repositories
of medical expertise and information," the FCC
said yesterday. (Read
Many rural doctors use the Internet to communicate
with patients via e-mail and to communicate with nearby
health care providers. However, a lack of money and
lack of the infrastructure needed for high-speed Internet
are making those efforts slow to spread across the rural
U.S. The FCC pilot program aims to both connect doctors
and to provide them with the latest medical information.
More information about this program will be available
at the Rural Telecon '06 conference
slated for Oct. 22-25 in Little Rock, Ark. Speakers
will include FCC Commissioner Debra Tate and William
Englund, who heads the FCC's health-care program. For
information on the conference, click
offers look at transition from rural life to Iraq War
A new documentary titled Off to War: From Rural
Arkansas to Iraq provides a glimpse into the story
of two brothers leaving home for the war, and it's a
tale that may resonate with families across America.
The ten-part series looks at the 39th Brigade of the
Arkansas National Guard, which lost
39 soldiers in Iraq. "Luckily, the ample time spent
'behind the scenes' ensures that these aren't just nameless
soldiers in fancy uniforms: these are real people, with
families, friends and lives back home," writes
Randy Miller of DVD Talk, adding that
the DVD is slated for release Oct. 17 and parts of it
may be broadcast on cable.
Instead of just focusing on how rural men handle life
in Iraq, Off to War shines light on how families
deal with the changes back home. "Parents and wives
are glued to the television, carefully inspecting 24-hour
news channels for updates of any kind. Marriages are
tested through time spent apart; babies are born to
'single' mothers, holidays pass with empty seats at
the dinner table. It all adds up to a potent and layered
documentary, though it's safe to say that the harsh
reality of Off To War may be too much for some
viewers," writes Miller. (Read
churches see younger folks flock to 'rock and roll'
Across rural Ohio, many churches are searching for
answers on how to keep their doors open, as older congregations
fade away and younger people flock to modern services
"Some see a tension inherent in trying to keep
church relevant to younger generations, yet reverent
to God. 'You get a quality of irreverence' with the
casual dress of pastors, rock-and-roll music and high-tech
equipment that's transforming the way many growing churches
across the Miami Valley worship, said Elder Eddie Garrett,
73, who heads a membership of about 15 at the Thompson
Memorial Primitive Baptist Church in Franklin,"
writes Ben Sutherly of the Dayton Daily News.
One example of a church living on life support is the
195-year-old McKendree United Methodist Church in eastern
Miami County, where attendance totaled 13 people a couple
weeks ago. "There's a church in our conference
that has a McDonald's Playland in it,"
member Pat Hiegel told AP. "These little country
churches don't offer that. McKendree does not offer
guitars and drums and that type of music. It's very
traditional, very conservative. People today, they have
to be entertained."
"The United Methodist Church,
with the bulk of its churches in towns of under 50,000
or in the country, illustrates one measure of the decline:
Total membership in western Ohio slipped one-third between
1980 and 2004, from 352,348 to 237,374," reports
The Associated Press in a story spurred
by Sutherly -- who attended the national conference
on rural issues programmed by the Institute for Rural
Journalism and Community Issues last year at the Knight
Center for Specialized Journalism at the University
of Maryland. (Read
promise more tax money, but pose concerns for residents
Waterside resort developments in Tennessee promise
much needed property tax dollars and create jobs, but
some rural dwellers are worried about possibly higher
property tax rates and more traffic.
"Two major communities are planned along the Tennessee
River. Groundbreaking is expected within a few months
for Rarity Club at Nickajack Lake in Marion County,"
writes Cliff Hightower of the Chattanooga Times
Free Press."The communities will hold
approximately 1,000 homes each, priced from $300,000
to $500,000, the developers said. They will have championship
golf courses, clubhouses and other amenities. They will
be marketed to retirees from northern states and from
One developer said "he hopes the tax revenue
from new residents will be used to fight crime and help
build better schools," but residents are concerned
about the loss of waterside land once owned by the Tennessee
Valley Authority. When the developer acquired
several hundred acres in the Shellmound area on Nickajack,
that meant possible changes awaited the daily lives
of residents, reports Hightower. Some fear that the
developments may significantly reduce locals' ability
to access parts of the lake. (Read
Who is king
of ethanol? Iowa gubernatorial candidates battle over
Ethanol is perhaps the nation's most highly-touted
alternative fuel, and it is taking center stage in the
race for Iowa governor with both candidates claiming
they support it more than the other.
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver and his
opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, each sell
themselves as the state's No. 1 champion of ethanol.
Culver's campaign includes an alternative-fuel plan
that proposes starting a "Power Fund" for
altenative-energy initiatives. Culver and other politicians
have pointed out that Nussle voted to scale back the
nation's ethanol subsidy while serving on the House
Ways and Means Committee in 1995, reports Pat Kinney
of The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier.
Nussle spokesman Maria Cormella replied, "We're
reaping the fruits of Jim's labor and well-placed tax
incentives for ethanol development with 24 plants now
on-line, producing 1.5 billion gallons of Iowa ethanol
each year. With the Iowa Farm Bureau
and Iowa Corn Growers throwing their
full support behind Jim Nussle's candidacy for governor,
it seems Chet Culver has resorted to sour grapes and
negative attacks to cover-up his inexperience and incompetence
for Iowa's farmers and our economy." (Read
Such debate between candidates illustrates the prominence
that ethanol may play in this year's upcoming elections.
Are candidates in your state considering ethanol among
the many issues up for debate? How much are they stretching
their own records and distorting the opposition's?
September 26, 2006
Pearce, called Kentucky's best newspaper writer, dies
John Ed Pearce, whose many awards included part of
a 1967 Pulitzer Prize for The Courier-Journal's
campaign for stronger control of strip mining in Kentucky,
died yesterday of complications from cancer. It was
his 87th birthday.
Pearce was a native of Norton, Va. (shown in C-J
photo at right, in 1986), where his father founded
The Coalfield Progress. He briefly
edited the old Somerset (Ky.) Journal
before joining the Louisville paper in 1947.
Since 1990 Pearce "was a contributing columnist
for the Lexington Herald-Leader,"
that paper's Jennifer Hewlett noted. "His work
also appeared in The New York Times
and The Washington Post, and he wrote
several books." The C-J obituary by Sheldon Shafer
said Pearce "was revered in many corners for a
smooth, liberal-leaning prose that stirred readers and
often spurred politicians into action." (Read
Former C-J publisher Barry Bingham Sr. said in 1986
that Pearce "knows more about what really makes
this state different than anybody else I know."
Bingham said Pearce was the paper's "best writer
-- ever." John Carroll, former editor of the Herald-Leader
and the Los Angeles Times, told Hewlett,
"I always thought John Ed was the best newspaper
writer in Kentucky." (Read
Pearce co-founded the Kentucky Oral History
Commission, which has financed and preserved
interviews with more than 20,000 Kentuckians. He served
on the state parks board under Gov. Bert T. Combs (1959-63),
to whom he was close -- so close that when Barry Bingham
Jr. took over The Courier-Journal in 1971, he moved
Pearce to the paper's magazine, under a new ethics policy.
The magazine turned out to be Pearce's signature forum
-- for a column he continued into retirement, for probing
feature stories about Kentucky public figures, and for
a series on Kentucky counties that helped preserve the
paper's ties with rural readers. For a reflection by
Kentucky journalist and commentator Al Smith, who says
"the good humor with which he engaged the mining
of stories and the entertainment of dinner companions
only slightly masked a notion that life had not dealt
all the cards owed him," click
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at
Pearson Funeral Home at 149 Breckenridge
Lane in Louisville, where visitation will be from 4
to 8 p.m. Friday. His ashes will be scattered in Norton.
to a fighter for literacy in one of America's least
Ronnie Wise has retired after 30 years as director
of libraries for Bolivar County, Miss., where 41 percent
of the population cannot read. The number would be more,
and the literacy of many others limited, if not for
Wise, J.R. Moehringer wrote for the Los Angeles
Times in a 5,267-word tribute. An excerpt cannot
do justice to the story or to Wise, so we encourage
you to click on the story link below.
(Francine Orr photo)
"How many have learned to read because of Wise?"
Moehringer asked. "Hundreds, maybe thousands. He
doesn't care. As director of libraries for Bolivar County,
one of America's least literate places . . . Wise keeps
his mind on what needs doing, not what's been done,
which might be why he looks so cranky. He glances out
his office and spots someone headed toward Fiction,
meaning another reader will soon discover the picklock
words of Flannery O'Connor or Joseph Conrad, another
person will soon escape the Delta, using one of Wise's
libraries as the point of departure."
Moehringer continues: "People just don't realize
the stress of a Mississippi librarian's life, he says.
People don't understand what it takes to keep those
front doors open — or what's at stake if you don't.
Reading, Wise believes, is life. Illiteracy, therefore,
is death. He witnesses its stranglehold every day. Shopping
at the grocery store, standing in line at the bank or
post office, he's constantly accosted by strangers trying
to conceal their secret behind the same lie. "Excuse
me," they say. "Forgot my glasses —
could you tell me what this says?"
"People call him a librarian, and he surely looks
like a librarian, with his sedentary frame, thick eyeglasses,
fastidiously trimmed hair and goatee. But, deep down,
he feels like something else, something more. He feels
like the Sisyphus of Mississippi. He feels like a superhero
in one of his beloved comic books, even though he fights
the forces of darkness with little more than night classes
and meager grants, and he loses more than he wins."
Arsonists torched three of his libraries. (Read
fights Texas governor's push for coal-burning power
"Texas utility companies are proposing to build
17 new coal-burning power plants and one petroleum-coke
power plant over the next four years. They have the
support of the governor, but mayors in some of the state's
largest cities are putting up a fight," and so
are some ranchers, reports National Public Radio.
Gov. Rick Perry is fast-tracking state permits for
the proposed plants, but some Texas mayors, newspaper
editors, environmentalists and ranchers want to slow
the process until more Democrats are elected, NPR's
Wade Goodwyn reports. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and
Houston Mayor Bill White are leading the charge against
Perry's effort. "I don't think people have any
idea what it will be like if we have 18 power plants
now, and they wake up in five years and we have twice
as many then. I think you're going to see a significant
change in the way our sky looks," Miller told Goodwyn.
Miller is hoping utility companies utilize a development
in coal plant technology called "integrated gasification
combined cycle," which makes plants 70 percent
to 90 percent cleaner than the ones proposed for Texas.
That technology is more expensive than the traditional
coal technology included with the proposed plants, notes
Goodwyn. Seventeen other Texas mayors are joining Miller
and they represent about one-third of the state's population.
The coal and utility industries say Texas needs more
electric power now to fuel its growth, but the critics
say it doesn't need 9,000 more megawatts all at once.
In an op-ed piece for the Dallas Morning News,
Perry said delaying the proposed plants would damage
the state's economy and that utility companies would
reduce some pollutants by 20 percent or more. He also
criticized his opponents: "I would argue that they
want to return us to the era of horse and buggy –
except they would probably complain about the methane
gas from horse manure, too." (Read
to boost responsible forestry, protect woodland owners
A program started by landowners in southeast Ohio seeks
to promote responsible forestry and to keep timber buyers
from taking advantage of woodland owners who don't realize
the value of their trees.
"The Call Before You Cut Campaign originated eight
years ago in Appalachian Ohio as a way to educate woodlot
owners about sustainable harvests of their forests.
According to a press release, the campaign pairs landowners
with forestry experts and agricultural educators who
advise them on the worth of their forests and harvest
techniques that sustain healthy woodland," reports
The Athens News. The campaign is using
radio, billboards, Internet and the toll-free number
1-877-424-8268 to reach landowners.
Coordinators include the Ohio Division of Forestry,
Rural Action, and Ohio State
University Extension. Primary sponsors include
the Division of Soil & Water Conservation,
the Ohio Chapter of the Society of American
Foresters, the Ohio Federation of Soil
and Water Conservation Districts, The
Nature Conservancy and the Better Business
Many states have woodland owners' organizations with
similar goals. To learn more, click
stage traffic protest against proposed Wal-Mart in N.C.
Residents in and around Waxhaw, N.C., population 2,625,
took a stand against a proposed Wal-Mart
on Monday night by causing a traffic jam with their
vehicles on N.C. Highway 16.
"The group of protesting motorists said their
effort was designed to show town officials how a proposed
176,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter would cause
traffic problems in town," write Mike Torralba
and Steve Lyttle of the Charlotte Observer.
"Some of the demonstrators held signs outside their
windows, urging the Waxhaw Planning Board to give an
unfavorable recommendation. The Planning Board met Monday
evening and decided not to make a recommendation on
Wal-Mart's request. The proposal now goes to Waxhaw's
Board of Commissioners for a vote sometime this fall."
A traffic study submitted by Wal-Mart projected an
increase of about 500 more vehicles during peak hours
on N.C. 16. The town's fire and police chiefs have expressed
concerns over the potential increase in emergency response
times because of such a traffic flow, reports the Observer.
may push homeowners to get guns for crime prevention
City leaders in Greenleaf, Idaho, are considering a
"Civil Emergencies Ordinance" to encourage
every homeowner to own at least one gun with ammunition
and to learn how to use it.
The rural community 35 miles from Boise is hoping to
reduce crime, and the proposed ordinance resembles one
Kennesaw, Ga., adopted in 1982. "Greenleaf Mayor
Bradley Holton said he supports the spirit of the ordinance,
and pointed out that the proposal is not a mandate because
it encourages gun ownership, but does not require it
— as a similar law has done in the town of Kennesaw,
Ga. since the early 1980s. With that exception, Jett
said the proposed Greenleaf ordinance was modeled after
the Kennesaw measure," wrote Michael McAuliffe
for the Idaho Press-Tribune, the daily
in nearby Nampa. (Read
Jennifer Gelband of New West Boise
has another take on Greenleaf: "Interesting, however,
is the report from The Associated Press that
mentions the most violent crime in the past two years
was a lone fist fight. Also interesting is that the
town was originally founded by Quakers, the
Religious Society of Friends that preaches
nonviolence (and eating oatmeal?). The town’s
Quakers still maintain a meeting house and are opposed
to the gun rule."
The town's 900 residents will get a chance to debate
the proposal Oct. 3, then Greenleaf's four-member city
council will make a final decision in November, notes
officials break ground on $6 million broadband Internet
Virginia officials broke ground Monday on a $6 million
broadband project that will install optical fiber along
160 miles of corridor in the counties of Wise, Lee,
Dickenson, Russell, Buchanan and Tazewell.
"The project will be funded with $3 million from
the Virginia Tobacco Commission and
$3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s
Economic Development Administration. The Coalfield
Coalition, an equal partnership of the Lenowisco
and Cumberland Plateau planning districts, will oversee
the process," writes Jodi Deal of The Coalfield
Progress in Norton. Local officials hope broadband
Internet spurs technology industry growth once work
is completed in May 2007.
“The question that hangs out there is, ‘When
will broadband come to my house?’” Ron Flanary,
Lenowisco Planning District Commission Executive Director
Flanary, noted. “Right now we’re just running
the main lines and picking up the critical elements
along the way.” Such elements include school systems,
government offices and the University of Virginia-Wise,
reports Deal. (Read
September 25, 2006
firms flock to rural U.S., give college grads reason
A national trend is emerging with young professionals
and high-tech entrepreneurs opting to leave the metropolitan
scene in favor of rural areas with lower operating costs.
Is your area part of this trend? If not, why not, and
what can it do to take advantage of it?
"The costs are so much lower in these rural areas,"
Lawrence Gelburd, an independent consultant and lecturer
on entrepreneurship at the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania, told Samira Jafari of The
Associated Press bureau in Pikeville, Ky. "The
value that they get, the pace of life and the ubiquitous
nature of technology makes rural areas more attractive."
Rural places are seeking ways to bring home natives
who left for college, and these high-tech businesses
are helping them accomplish that.
The Internet is paving the way for moves to rural areas,
because businesses can communicate with clients all
the way from California's skylines to Appalachia's mountains.
"There's a new generation of entrepreneurs who
have really tight relationships virtually," Cornelia
Flora, a sociology professor Iowa State University
and director of the North Central Regional Center
for Rural Development, told AP.
Lower costs are a big attraction for businesses, said
Mike Mallet, founder and CEO of Corporate Research
International. "The business sector has
changed completely," he told AP. "The Wal-Mart
mentality has changed the world. It's all about cost
now." The only major hurdle facing some businesses
is getting around in rural areas, but even that does
not seem to be stopping this trend. (Read
boom poses storage problems for farmers meeting corn
A growing ethanol industry and economics that favor
corn over soybeans mean Iowa's farmers may harvest more
corn than area cooperatives can store this year.
Wil Manwieler, grain department manager of the Dunkerton
Cooperative, said his cooperative is just one
of many that expanded storage spaces. "The extra
capacity was needed as more farmers abandon traditional
50-50 crop rotations and plant more corn than soybeans,
which yield more," writes Matthew Wilde of The
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "Nationally,
the USDA estimates the second-largest
crops on record at 11.1 billion bushels for corn and
3.09 billion bushels for soybeans."
Vic Miller, head of the U.S. Grains Council,
predicts a storage crunch nationwide and a whole new
set of challenges for farmers. "Last year, Miller
stored 75,000 bushels on the ground himself. Luckily,
he has plenty of cement to help keep the corn dry and
clean. One advantage farmers have compared to past years
is the new ethanol plants in the region," reports
Wilde. Farmers can transport their crops to those plants
to avoid spoilage and potential financial losses. (Read
food, farmers markets make hospitals a prime destination
Hospitals across the U.S. are experiencing something
unusual: Patients are returning after their stays are
over to eat the locally grown organic food that is finding
a home in hospital cafeterias.
"Some hospitals have created onsite farmers markets.
Others have hired chefs and former restaurant employees
to run their kitchens," reports The Associated
Press. The story is reported from Oregon, but
says, "Medical centers from California to North
Carolina are hosting farmers markets where patients
and staff can grab fresh fruits and vegetables to snack
on, and some are even buying produce for the kitchen
there. The trend is more popular in the West, where
produce is abundant."
Many hospitals are eliminating unhealthy snack foods
typically found on coffee carts and in vending machines.
"The efforts are earning good feedback from staff
and patients, such as those who schedule their appointments
around farmers markets," notes AP. (Read
forced to find medical care in urban areas, says study
Rural children require more health care than their
urban counterparts and have to seek treatment elsewhere
because of limited services in their home counties,
according to a study by the Health and Human
Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
"The study ... analyzed access to and quality of
health care, health status, and other measures for children
in four types of counties--- large metropolitan, small
metropolitan, micropolitan, and non-core. Micropolitan
and non-core, which is the most rural type of area,
make up non-metropolitan (rural) counties," writes
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
"Children in non-core counties were more likely
to be hospitalized for potentially preventable conditions,
such as gastroenteritis, bacterial pneumonia, and dehydration,
than children in small and large metropolitan counties,"
writes Newswise. "Non-core and micropolitan children
had an emergency department visit rate larger than that
observed for children from large metropolitan counties
(17.5 percent and 19 percent vs. 12 percent). White,
non-Hispanic children outside of large metropolitan
counties tended to rely more on public coverage such
as Medicaid (18 percent in small metropolitan, 23 percent
in micropolitan, and 25.5 percent in non-core), than
children in large metropolitan counties (12 percent)."
rural southwest Virginia, a senator's presidential campaign
Six weeks ago, Virginia Sen. George Allen was one of
the early favorites for the 2008 Republican presidential
election. "Then he visited Breaks," Matthew
Continetti writes in The Weekly Standard.
Now Allen is fighting to keep his Senate seat against
Republican-turned-Democrat James Webb. Continetti's
long profile of Allen offers perhaps the most comprehensive
description in print of what happened in Breaks.
Breaks is in Dickenson County (Continetti misspells
it), "near the Kentucky border. It is a small community,
and relatively poor. In 2000, according to the census,
the county's population was slightly more than 16,000
people, including 70 Hispanics and 58 blacks. The census
calculated median household income at $23,431 in 1999
dollars. Breaks is a beautiful, historic, and conservative
part of rural Virginia -- the sort of place that led
George Allen to fall in love with the state three decades
ago" and settle there after law school at the University
On Aug. 11, "Allen visited Breaks and spoke to
supporters at a local park. Among those observing Allen
deliver his stump speech was a 'tracker' for the Webb
campaign. On the campaign trail, tracking is a common
phenomenon. A low-level staff member for the opposing
candidate follows a politician around, recording everything
he or she says and does. For a long time, trackers used
pad and pen. Today, it is typical for them to film a
candidate with a video camera. That day, Allen decided
to incorporate Webb's tracker into his speech.
"This fella here, over here with the yellow shirt,
macaca or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent,
he's following us around everywhere," Allen says
on the now-famous video.
"Someone in the crowd laughed, and Allen paused
and smiled," Continetti writes. "Allen turned
once more to the camera and pointed, saying, 'And he's
having it on film and it's great to have you here, and
you show it to your opponent.'" Continetti explains,
"Presumably Allen meant 'my' opponent. But the
crowd got the point. Someone clapped, and Allen continued:
'Because he's never been there and probably will never
come.' People cheered. 'So it's good to have you here,'
Allen went on -- and here the tape is garbled because
of the cheers and applause -- 'rather than living inside
the Beltway or -- his opponent actually right now is
with a bunch of Hollywood movie moguls.' Laughter. 'We
care about fact, not fiction.' Allen turned back to
the camera. 'So welcome. Let's give a welcome to macaca
here. Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia.'
A pause. 'Now my friends, we're in the midst of a war
on terror . . .' "
"'Macaca' was Shekar Ramanuja Sidarth, known by
his surname, or 'Sid' for short, a 6-foot-4-inch tall
20-year-old student at the University of Virginia who
grew up in the northern Virginia suburb of Fairfax County.
Sidarth's father, a wealthy mortgage banker, immigrated
to the United States from India a quarter of a century
ago," Continetti writes.
"He is also curious. As Sidarth tells it, after
the Breaks event he sought out a dictionary and looked
up 'macaca,' which he found refers to a genus of monkey,
and in certain cultures is used as an ethnic slur. Offended,
he circulated his video among some liberal bloggers.
In a few days The Washington Post got
interested in the story. And before he knew it, Allen
had a scandal on his hands. . . . The video lends itself
to television, where a viewer can't help finding it
strangely compelling: the absurdity of a professional
politician mocking a 20-year-old campaign volunteer;
the goofy, triumphant grin on Allen's face as he welcomes
"macaca" to America; the casual, unknowing
ease with which Allen moves from committing a potentially
career-ending gaffe to a canned discourse on fighting
The gaffe will doom Allen's candidayc because he will
no longer be "the Christian Right's preferred candidate,"
writes Jeff Sharlet of The Revealer, a daily online
review of religion and the media. "The Christian
Right -- the pro-Israel, pro-'racial reconciliation'
Christian Right -- doesn't want a wanna-be cracker (Allen's
from California) carrying its flag. The liberal blogs,
Salon, and now the mainstream media
(AP) have been making hay out of Allen's bigotry, but
the media that matters in this case won't be public.
It'll be email. It'll be telephone calls. It'll be the
quiet, behind-the-scenes conferencing by Christian Right
powerbrokers who are about to pull the rug out from
find good results with innovation attempts, says study
Small newspapers can benefit from being innovative,
diverse and using multiple forms of media. "Research
from the Readership Institute at Northwestern
University's Media Management Center shows
that smaller newspapers tend to score high on a 'Ready
to Innovate Index' developed by the Institute and research
partner Robert Cooke," writes Randy Craig in The
Inlander, the monthly publication of the Inland
Papers with a high score also tended to have higher
readership scores, greater percentages of female employees,
more diversity, younger employees and a constructive
working environment. One example of a paper using innovation
is The Montrose Daily Press in Colorado,
which partnered with KKCO, an NBC
affiliate in Grand Junction, Colo., to air
the "Daily Press Report," a short package
filmed by the newspaper and provided to the station.
The paper posts the videos on this Web
site, reports Craig.
Curt Chandler, editor for online innovation at the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said that
newspapers should be open to multiple media forms. "The
strength of each medium should be emphasized, Chandler
said. Print editions should focus on strong design,
packaging and analysis to help readers tackle subjects
they might miss in an online menu. Web sites should
focus on immedicacy, interactivity and multimedia reporting.
Both platforms must be easy to navigate. Cross-promotion
is a must," writes Craig. (Read
more) To read the study, click
grass-roots group pushes for state's succession from
A grassroots organization in Vermont is advocating
the secession of their state from the rest of the union.
"The 150 or so members of the Second Vermont
Republic envision a country much like Switzerland
— neutral and economically independent. They argue
their cause at public gatherings and private events.
Supporters march in parades and engage in political
theater, sometimes reliving the early days when Vermont
— like California — was its own republic,"
writes Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times.
"Its members argue that the U.S. government has
lost its concern for individual citizens and small communities.
They worry about global warming, the U.S. military presence
in Iraq and Afghanistan, unfair trade practices, and
the 'tyranny of multinational corporations,'" reports
Mehren. Member Thomas Naylor talked about the group's
optimism: "Part of why we are so optimistic is
the absurdity of it all. What could be more absurd than
tiny Vermont taking on the empire?"
"But the grass-roots secession campaign faces
a major sales job," writes Mehren. "A recent
study by the Center for Rural Studies at the University
of Vermont showed that only 8 percent of respondents
thought Vermont should separate from the U.S."
Friday, September 22, 2006
in competitive congressional races evenly split, poll
A bipartisan poll in rural areas of 41 congressional
districts and six states that have competitive House
and Senate races, respectively, indicates that the November
federal elections will be much closer among rural voters
than the last off-year election in 2002. Of the 41 House
districts where rural voters were surveyed, 32 are held
by Republicans, and all six Senate seats are GOP-held.
The survey, conducted in rural areas Sept. 17-19, asked
self-described likely voters if they would vote for
the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate
if the election were held that day. Each party got 45
percent of the rural vote in competitive congressional
districts, and Republicans led in Senate races 47 to
43 percent -- within the poll's error margin of plus
or minus 4.3 percentage points for each result.
That was a sharp contrast from 2002, when post-election
polling in competitive rural areas showed that Republican
candidates had a rural advantage of 60 percent to 36
percent. "What we see right now is that rural is
in play," said Dee Davis, president of the Whitesburg,
Ky.-based Center for Rural Strategies,
which sponsored the poll. "If the Republicans plan
to hold onto Congress, they're going to have to do better
in the rural areas than they're doing now," Davis
told Howard Berkes of National Public Radio.
"The nation’s rural voters are conflicted,"
writes David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register.
"While President Bush is more popular with them
than he is among all Americans, it’s still not
a great rating, and rural voters tend to agree with
Democrats on the need to get out of Iraq." (Read
An analysis by Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg and
Republican pollster William Greener said the war in
Iraq, terrorism and the economy "dominate the issue
landscape in rural America. Nearly three-quarters of
rural voters know someone serving or who has served
in Iraq, and a majority of rural voters favor a plan
to pull out of Iraq in the next year. They also, by
a significant margin, believe the country's economy
is improving mainly for the wealthy. . . . Immigration
is low on the list of concerns, and rural voters are
evenly divided over the issue of citizenship for illegal
The poll surveyed 529 adults who lived in a non-metropolitan
county and said they were almost certain to (84 percent)
or probably would (16 percent) vote in the Nov. 7 election
for Congress. Poll respondents typically over-estimate
their likelihood of voting. For more details, including
the questionnaire and a list of the 41 districts ranked
by competitiveness, click
restrict harvest labor, and Congress dithers, so fruit
Stricter controls of U.S. borders have reduced the
labor available to harvest American crops, leaving a
trail of rotting fruit and grower resentment against
Congress for fulminating about illegal immigration but
failing to pass a new program for agricultural guest
workers, The New York Times reports.
"Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal
Mexican migrant workers out of California this year,
farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains
on the state’s shrinking seasonal farm labor force,"
Julia Preston writes from Lakeport, Calif. "Labor
shortages have also been reported by apple growers in
Washington and upstate New York. Growers have gone from
frustrated to furious with Congress, which has all but
given up on passing legislation this year to create
an agricultural guest-worker program."
Preston continues, "Most California growers gave
up years ago on recruiting workers through the seasonal
guest-worker program currently in place. Known as H-2A,
the program requires employers to prove they tried to
find American workers and to apply well in advance for
relatively small contingents of foreign workers for
fixed time periods. . . . This year’s shortages
are compounding a flight from the fields by Mexican
workers already in the United States. As it has become
harder to get into this country, many illegal immigrants
have been reluctant to return to Mexico in the off-season.
Remaining here year-round, they have gravitated toward
more stable jobs. . . . Some economists and advocates
for farm workers say the labor shortages would ease
if farmers would pay more."
The Daily Times-Call of Longmont, Colo., reports that
the shortage of workers has been hardest on organic
farms "because organic-label standards limit them
from using many chemical herbicides, Longmont soil conservationist
Don Graffis said. Those farmers typically employ large
numbers of Hispanic workers to weed their fields and,
in many cases, to harvest them. Hand-picked vegetables
often receive less bruising than mechanically harvested
vegetables and sell for more money, he said." (Read
center of E. coli outbreak has been leader
in organic farming
The Earthbound Farm and Natural
Selection Foods plant in San Juan Bautista,
Calif., is the focus of investigation in the contamination
of spinach by E. coli 0157|H7 bacteria. Its
owners, Drew and Myra Goodman, started out as small-time
farmers, selling at roadside stands in their free time.
"Their company, Natural Selection Foods LLC, is
one of the largest fresh produce companies in the nation,
and it elbowed into conventional greens after becoming
popular for organic produce," write Michael S.
Rosenwald and Sonia Geis of The Washington Post.
"Natural Selection and Earthbound are noted both
for their size and their contributions to research on
organic farming, said Bob Scowcroft, executive director
of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in
Santa Cruz, which receives some financial support from
Earthbound," the Post reports. "Of the more
than 2,000 organic farms in California, most are small,
sole-proprietor businesses, Scowcroft said. Earthbound
Farm is one of two that have made a major business of
organic farming, he said.
"The Goodmans have not commented on the outbreak.
However, a company spokeswoman told The Associated
Press: 'We are very, very upset about this.
What we do is produce food that we want to be healthy
and safe for consumers, so this is a tragedy for us,'"
write Rosenwald and Geis. (Read
more) The source is elusive, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. (Read
small-animal work leaving U.S. short of large-animal
America is running short on large-animal veterinarians,
reports Kari Kramer in the East Texas Edition of Country
World, "the rural newspaper of Texas."
"According to the American Veterinary
Medical Association, (as of Jan. 1, 2006),
there are only 1,134 exclusive large-animal veterinary
practices in the United States. There are 2,268 large-animal
veterinarians working in those practices. There are
3,047 predominately large animal veterinarians at 1,219
practices; 4,515 mixed animal veterinarians at 2,258
practices; and 2,646 equine-only veterinarians at 1,323
practices. ... Only 23 percent of veterinarians reported
working on large animals," Kramer reports.
Treating large animals is usually not as lucrative
as treating small ones, and equipment costs more, vet
Michael Baird, who treats both, told Kramer. “If
the animal has got a name, they don’t mind paying
for it,” he said, adding that sometimes the cost
to treat a meat animal is greater than what the animal
would sell for.
The trend is toward small animals. The vets' association
says almost three-fourths of vet students are women,
and "Baird said working with large animals requires
great strength, sometimes difficult for a 200-pound
man, let alone a 130-pound woman." (Read
Roadless Rule would cut down on drilling, preserve wilderness
A federal court ruling reinstating former President
Bill Clinton’s Roadless Rule for 58 million federal
acres could help preserve undeveloped wilderness, reports
Cory Hatch of the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
"The reinstated ban on road construction
affects nearly a third of national forest land, overturning
a Bush administration rule that allowed states to decide
how to manage individual forests," Hatch writes.
Wednesday's ruling, striking down a Bush administration
rule, could make tapping fossil fuel more difficult.
"The Roadless Rule does not prohibit oil and gas
drilling in inventoried roadless areas, but could force
energy developers to use helicopters or directional
drilling to access fossil fuel deposits, according to
the Wyoming Wilderness Association and
Earthjustice," writes Hatch. The
rule will probably not affect land already leased for
oil and gas extraction , and motorized vehicles will
still be allowed in roadless areas.
Doug Honnold of Earthjustice’s office in Bozeman,
Mont., told Hatch the decision "is about how much
of our area is going to be managed for extraction, logging,
mining, oil and gas; and how much is going to be managed
for environmental values like fishing, hunting, and
wildlife viewing.” (Read
Republican Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado criticized the
ruling, saying a task force that takes citizens' input
is the right way to manage the state's wilderness, reports
Terence Chea of The Associated Press. "It
would be very unfortunate if we were to revert back
to a rule established hastily without public input during
the waning days of the Clinton administration,"
Owens said. "We simply should not have a federal
magistrate in San Francisco unilaterally dictating natural
resource policy for the entire country." (Read
more) For reaction from both sides of the issue
in Colorado, from the Montrose Daily Press,
rules on tiny particles, loosens those on coarse dust
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued
a stricter standard yesterday for particulates, tiny
particles such as soot that can enter the lungs and
blood. While it tightened rules on fine particles, it
abolished the annual limit for emissions of coarse particles,
such as dust, bringing a salute from the National
Mining Association and the National
Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.
The latter association said EPA abolished the annual
limit "due to a lack of evidence linking health
problems to long-term exposure to coarse particle pollution."
NMA President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz said, “We
are pleased that EPA’s analysis shows no evidence
of adverse health effects from coarse particulate emissions
associated with surface mines. Surface mining operations
are typically far removed from population centers and
they already control dust emissions on site. This rule
clearly recognizes the important distinction for human
health between urban fine-dust particles and coarse
particles from rural dust." Click
here for NMA contact information.
For a story on the change in rules on fine particulates,
from Jim Bruggers of The (Louisville)
drug deal good news for many, maybe not for small pharmacies
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday
it will charge $4 per prescription for 291 generic drugs.
"By using its might as the nation's largest retailer
and its ability to force suppliers to cut prices to
the bone, the company will begin the $4 price program
in its 65 stores in the Tampa area today, in all of
Florida in January, and in as many other states as possible
by the end of 2007," writes Kathleen Day of The
"Health-care industry analysts said the program
has the potential to transform the $230 billion prescription-drug
business the way Wal-Mart has transformed other industries,
including groceries and toys, where its aggressive pricing
has forced some competitors out of business and allowed
it to dominate entire categories of merchandise,"
writes Day. (Read
more) About half of Wal-Mart stores are in rural
Hashim Badr, pharmacist and owner of Asheville
Discount Pharmacy in Asheville, N.C., said
he sees the new drug program as an attempt to put small
pharmacies out of business, reports Adam Behsudi of
the Asheville Citizen-Times. “I
could match them or beat them,” Badr told the
Citizen-Times. “They couldn’t take a loss
for a long time because they have more overhead than
my store.” (Read
"For now, the price cuts will apply to fewer than
300 formulations of 150 drugs, a fraction of the roughly
2,000 generic drugs sold in most pharmacies," reports
The Wall Street Journal. (Read
more) Target Corp., the No. 2 discount
retailer in the U.S. after Wal-Mart, said it would match
the lower drug prices in its Tampa Bay stores immediately,
The Associated Press reported. Target
has not yet said whether it will match Wal-Mart's drug
prices as the program expands.
September 21, 2006
easements help farmers keep, buy land despite high prices
New forms of conservation easements are helping preserve
farmland by splitting land-purchase costs with farmers.
For example, some have conditions that the land must
be used for organic goods and that its proprietors earn
more than half their income farming it, reports Seth
Zuckerman of High Country News.
Since development of rural homes and country estates
have driven up land values in some areas, new farm owners
might make less than half of what is needed to pay off
debt, reports Zuckerman. Some farmers have been operating
on leased land in danger of being sold to developers,
and trusts that hold the conservation easements help
them to buy it.
Brian Crawford, the deputy director of planning in
Marin County, California, "cautions that these
'affirmative easements' may prove difficult to monitor
and enforce," writes Zuckerman. "It’s
easy to visit once a year and make sure the landowner
hasn’t built five homes on a cul-de-sac. It’s
a lot harder to prove that the land is no longer being
says federal shield law would hurt national-security
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday,
a top Justice Department official spoke out against
a proposed federal shield law that would protect reporters
from having to identify sources in many cases.
Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said the proposal
would hurt the department's ability to get information
needed for national security, but committee Chairman
Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is determined to push forward
with the bill. "The Senate proposal would allow
reporters to protect their confidential sources only
in some instances. There would be exemptions in cases
involving guilt or innocence, death or bodily harm,
eyewitness accounts of criminal activity, and unauthorized
disclosure of properly classified information,"
reports The Associated Press.
Little time is left before the November elections,
and differences still remain between the House and Senate
versions of the bill. The House version would permit
courts to compel reporters' testimony when necessary
to prevent "imminent and actual harm" to national
security, notes AP. (Read
more) For a detailed summary of the hearing from
the Society of Professional Journalists,
debate definition of ‘rural’ in economic-development
Utah lawmakers in rural areas are laboring over a draft
bill that proposes changes to the amount of economic
development financial incentives given to boost business
growth outside the state's urban areas.
The issue is defining "rural Utah," according
to Jeff Packer, co-chairman of the Governor's
Rural Partnership Board, a group working with
state officials on the bill, reports the Deseret
Morning News. "We want to make sure that
in the process of this kind of legislation that we don't
exclude some areas that truly may be disenfranchised
by this process if we too narrowly define this definition,"
Packer told the Workforce Services and Community and
Economic Development Interim Committee on Wednesday.
The bill defines an "economically disadvantaged
rural area" to any city of less than 10,000 population,
which some worry could leave out larger rural areas
needing the help, writes Brice Wallace. The bill calls
for "no less than 30 percent" of the Industrial
Assistance Fund — used to recruit or grow businesses
— to be used in rural areas, compared to the up
to 50 percent level in existing law. Critics argue that
always providing at least 30 percent might be troublesome
should cities not successfully recruit businesses. (Read
push renewable energy, electronic recycling in Oregon
Oregon environmentalists want legislators to expand
renewable-energy sources, electronic-recycling programs,
biodiesel production and regulations on industrial water
pollution during the 2007 session.
The Oregon Conservation Network, a
coalition of more than 40 environmental groups, released
those goals. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is already calling
for legislation to require 25 percent of the state's
power to be generated by new sources of renewable energy
by 2025. The coalition said such an emphasis would spur
new markets for Oregon crops used in biofuel production,
reports Beth Casper of the Statesman Journal
in Salem. Although there is already support for renewable
energy, some of the coalition's other priorities might
face an uphill battle.
"Oregon is falling behind other states in providing
for ways to safely dispose of the 'hundreds of thousands'
of old computers and other used electronic equipment
that is piling up in people's homes, according to the
conservation network. The Legislature needs to create
a program that gives all Oregonians easy access to recycling
programs for old televisions, personal computers, printers
and scanners, said Katy Daly of Recycling Advocates,"
writes Casper. (Read
to banning manure on soybean fields, to stem nitrate
Iowa's Environmental Protection Commission is hoping
to ban the spreading of manure on land planted with
soybeans, and such a measure could produce a big effect
"Row crop farmers use manure as fertilizer, and
livestock producers get rid of tons of animal waste
by applying it to fields. Environmentalists have argued
that soybeans don't need the nutrients provided by manure.
They say that its application on soybean fields creates
nitrate pollution by leaving too much nitrogen in the
soil, which then runs off into the state's waterways
-- some of the most nitrogen-rich waters in the world,"
reports The Associated Press.
"Many people will say that soybeans don't need
the fertilizer anyway, and that's the whole reason for
this" discussion, said Randy Clark, an attorney
with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Clark
is helping that department on a notice to start the
rule-making process for the ban, which would go into
effect three years after its approval for existing soybean
fields, notes AP. (Read
may let feds inspect meat; move could hurt small businesses
Indiana budget officials are considering whether to
give federal authorities control over the state's meat
and poultry inspection program in an effort to save
money. However, opponents to that argue that smaller
operations may suffer.
"Indiana is one of 28 states that handle their
own inspections for slaughterhouses and processors that
don't ship meat and poultry out of state. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture regulates companies
with interstate sales and handles all inspections in
22 other states," writes Lesley Stedman Weidenbener
of The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
"By turning over inspections to the federal government,
Indiana could save nearly $1.8 million annually. But
state meatpackers say that would be a big mistake, one
that could force smaller operators out of business or
send some underground."
Janice Fisher, executive secretary of the Indiana
Meatpackers & Processors Association, said
federal officials sometimes order costly plant changes
that are unnecessary. Indiana's program regulates 57
plants that slaughter livestock and poultry, and an
inspector is present for everything, including checking
every animal. Animal inspections include 83,000 head
of livestock and 34,000 chickens, turkeys or other poultry
a year, reports Weidenbener. (Read
N. C. troopers
step up arrests, seizures in rural drag-racing incidents
Drag racing on rural roads is growing in popularity
in central North Carolina and Highway Patrol troopers
are stepping up arrests of people doing it along with
seizing their souped-up rides.
At least two crackdowns have occurred on pre-arranged
drag racing in Nash and Halifax counties during the
last two years. Charges typically result in fines and
the forfeiture of vehicles. The problem is a combination
of speeding cars and suspected drug and alcohol use
by drivers. "You have people that are impaired
but are driving in the races. They are leaving these
races. They are standing out in the road. There's even
reports that people are stopping motorists going up
and down the road," Trooper Keith Stone told WRAL-TV
Drag races typically occur late at night when low visibility
is already a problem for motorists, who often call to
complain about getting stopped on a state road by drag
racers, reports WRAL. (Read
September 20, 2006
study by EPA looks at 40 communities across U.S.
Smart growth takes an environmentally sensitive approach
to development, and 40 rural and urban cities across
the U.S. are enjoyed an improved quality of life because
of it, according to "This Is Smart Growth,"
a study from the Environmental Protection Agency.
"In communities across the nation, there is a
growing concern that current development patterns --
dominated by what some call "sprawl" -- are
no longer in the long-term interest of our cities, existing
suburbs, small towns, rural communities, or wilderness
areas. Though supportive of growth, communities are
questioning the economic costs of abandoning infrastructure
in the city, only to rebuild it further out. Spurring
the smart growth movement are demographic shifts, a
strong environmental ethic, increased fiscal concerns,
and more nuanced views of growth. The result is both
a new demand and a new opportunity for smart growth,"
according to smartgrowth.org.
"The features that distinguish smart growth in
a community vary from place to place. In general, smart
growth invests time, attention, and resources in restoring
community and vitality to center cities and older suburbs.
New smart growth is more town-centered, is transit and
pedestrian oriented, and has a greater mix of housing,
commercial and retail uses. It also preserves open space
and many other environmental amenities." (Read
more) To read about cities using smart growth, click
aims to address public concerns about modern agriculture
America Project, a non-profit group based
in Indianapolis, wants to alleviate any concerns the
non-farming public might have about the agriculture
industry by educating them about what goes into the
process of producing goods.
President Brose McVey is getting members from "all
segments of the food industry, from the farm to McDonald’s
and Wal-Mart have begun the task of
identifying areas of concern. McVey says that already
they have identified biotechnology, nanotechnology,
irradiation and intensive livestock operations as areas
of concern," writes Dave Russell of the Brownfield
Network. If agriculture wants to avoid concerns
and opposition, then educating the public should accompany
the introduction of new technology, McVey said.
Grow America plans to poll the public this fall to
identify more concerns, and it will host a national
summit in Indianapolis from Oct. 25-26 to develop tools
for teaching the non-farming public about the importance
of agriculture, reports Russell. (Read
plan to jump-start broadband in rural areas with fiber
Rural telephone companies in Iowa are gearing up to
offer the kind of broadband Internet service typically
reserved for metro areas, and they plan to accomplish
that by extending fiber out to farm houses.
Seven companies are going to upgrade their services
using both Occam Networks' Ethernet
and equipment that runs over both copper and fiber to
provide voice, video and high-speed data to rural residents.
Participating companies include Farmers Mutual
Telephone Cooperative/USA Communications, Alpine
Communications, Northeast Iowa Telephone,
Baldwin/Nashville Telephone Company,
Schaller Telephone Company, Cooperative
Telephone Exchange and Andrew Telephone,
reports Jim Barthold of Telecommunications magazine.
“What you’re seeing is just that broadband
for rural communities is maybe even more important than
it is for those of us who live in cities,” Russ
Sharer, vice president of marketing at Occam, told Barthold.
“These guys all run small businesses out of their
home; they’re checking weather maps, futures for
corn and cattle, what’s happening on the market.”
Internet lags in rural Arizona; companies need building
Most of rural Arizona continues to miss out on high-speed
Internet because they cannot get the basic infrastructure
for wireless service and telephone and cable companies
are being overwhelmed by the high customer load outside
metro areas, reports The Arizona Republic.
"Operators of the state's 19 independent telecommunications
companies complain that the problems began in the late
1990s, when the state wouldn't allow Qwest
to sell 39 telephone exchanges around the state without
the corporation making significant service upgrades.
That has been compounded by companies waiting years
for building permits from many of the rural counties.
They also run the risk of constructing lines over many
miles in hopes of a sufficient financial return with
a limited customer base," Mark Shaffer writes.
The most recent study conducted by the Pew
Internet Project reported that 70 percent of
adults in urban areas are Internet users, aompared to
62 percent in rural areas. That study did not break
down access by state, but maps prepared by the Federal
Communications Commission show that Arizona's
rural woes are common throughout other states in the
region. More than half of Arizona's land base either
gets no Internet service or service from one to three
high-speed providers, while urban areas can pick from
seven or more providers, notes Shaffer. (Read
absence linked to income growth in rural Nebraska
"Nebraska counties where a Wal-Mart
is located have experienced on average a slower growth
in standard of living than counties without the world's
largest retailer, a preliminary University of
Nebraska-Lincoln study shows," reports
Newswise, a research-reporting service.
The study examined household income from 1979 to 2002
in 19 counties with Wal-Marts and 74 without, and it
may be the first to look at the retailer's effect on
the standard of living in communities it has entered.
Researchers tried account for the effects other economic
variables would have on household income in order to
isolate the Wal-Mart effect. The average annual growth
in median household income, adjusted for inflation,
in the 19 counties with a Wal-Mart was $142.62 under
the average in the 74 counties without a Wal-Mart from
1979 to 2002, notes Newswise.
"The study found that the magnitude of the Wal-Mart
effect differed depending on factors such as whether
counties are urban or rural; located along Interstate
80 or not; and how dependent their economies are on
agriculture. The counties whose standards of living
seem to benefit most from Wal-Mart, according to the
study, are those that do not have a store themselves,
but are adjacent to counties that do," reports
Newswise. Urban counties with Wal-Marts showed the biggest
negative impact in standard of living, according to
the research. (Read
to upgrade health care for minorities, rural residents
Rural and minority populations in Mississippi are set
to see an upgrade in health care thanks to a three-year
$15 million grant from the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services.
The grant money will be split up over the three-year
period and will go toward projects headed by various
partners, reports Leah Rupp of The Clarion-Ledger
in Jackson. The University of Mississippi Medical
Center is partnering with the following groups
in this effort: University of Southern Mississippi,
Alcorn State University, Tougaloo
College, Mississippi Primary Health
Care Association, Mississippi Hospital
Association, Mississippi Diabetes Foundation,
Mississippi Valley State University,
Rust College, Jackson State
University, Mississippi State University
and the Mississippi Department of Health.
September 19, 2006
account for a third of population growth in rural U.S.
Population growth in the rural U.S. totaled 2.2 percent
from 2000 to 2005, and immigrants comprised nearly a
third of that growth and all rural population growth
in the Midwest, according to a new study from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
"Between 2000 and 2005, population growth in the
Midwest resulted entirely from international migration,
because population growth from natural increase (births
minus deaths) was completely offset by domestic outmigration
of mostly young adults. In addition, international migration
contributed between 18 and 28 percent of total nonmetro
population growth for the West, South, and Northeast,"
according to the study titled "Rural America At
Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, and New Mexico posted the
largest percentage gains in rural population growth
from immigrants. The largest rural population drops
occurred in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and North Dakota.
"Nonmetro population growth was higher among Hispanics
than non-Hispanic Whites, both in number (497,000 compared
with 454,000) and rate (19 percent compared with 1 percent),"
according to the study. (Read
says Senate won't act on horse-slaughter ban this year
U.S. senators are not likely to address a ban on slaughtering
horses for human consumption this year, even though
the measure already gained approval from the House,
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley told reporters.
"Grassley says that there is not necessarily a
majority of senators against the bill, but not only
does he cite the Senate calendar being full between
now and adjournment, he says there are probably enough
lawmakers opposed to the bill to create a filibuster,"
writes Tom Steever of the Brownfield Network.
"Additionally, Grassley quotes colleagues who maintain
there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed.
While the measure is supported by several U.S. legislators,
several agriculture groups oppose any such ban, reports
producer buys chief competitor; violation of anti-trust
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods leads
the nation in pork production and is buying the nation's
number two producer, Kansas City-based Premium
Standard Farms, for $674 million.
"The deal comes amid disappointing earnings across
the meat industry, which is in the middle of what's
considered a "protein glut" -- or oversupply
of meat -- that has forced lower meat prices and reduced
profit margins," writes Peter Dujardin of the Daily
Press in Newport News, Va., adding that hog
growers may protest the deal on anti-trust grounds.
"The purchase, set to go through in early 2007,
is the largest purchase by Smithfield in at least two
years, and is expected to add 4,300 employees at facilities
and farms in Missouri, Texas and North Carolina to Smithfield's
A National Farmers Union press release
criticized the deal: “Approval of merging the
number one and number two pork producers all but guarantees
independent producers will be left without a market.
National Farmers Union has been steadfast in its call
for the federal government to start playing an active
role to ensure fair, open, transparent, accessible and
competitive markets for all agricultural commodities.
The current lack of enforcement of anti-trust laws has
failed America’s food producers and consumers,"
said President Tom Buis. (Read
up to $25 million for community digital news projects
S. and James L. Knight Foundation plans
to spend as much as $25 million over the next five years
on "community news projects that best use the digital
world to connect people to the real world."
The Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge
will invest as much as $5 million in its first year
in "new ideas, prototypes, products and leadership
initiatives that use innovative news methods to help
citizens better connect within their communities,"
the foundation said in a news release. "If the
quality of entries warrant it, the foundation may spend
as much as $25 million during the next five years in
the search for bold community news experiments."
The competition is open to anyone, not just those in
journalism. One thought behind it is imparting the core
values of journalism to the growing field of citizen
journalism, made possible by digital technology. “We’d
like to encourage the newest ways for people to pursue
a great American tradition: the fair, accurate, contextual
search for the truth. We want to help the citizens of
this new century get the news they need to run their
governments and their lives,” said Eric Newton,
Knight’s director of journalism initiatives.
“Nothing is too far out to qualify,” the
release said, suggesting journalism games, cell phone
documentaries, and new operating software for news collectors
“We hesitate to set too many rules,” said
Knight journalism program officer Gary Kebbel, “because
we expect the best entries will be ideas that totally
The Challenge Web site, with an online application
form, is at www.newschallenge.org.
The competition will accept applications through Dec.
31, and expects to begin announcing winners in the spring
of 2007. The foundation and its special panel of new
media advisors will look for innovative proposals that
contain a unique combination of vision, courage and
know-how in their ability to use cyberspace to better
connect people to the physical space where they live
reaching more U.S. high school students, says survey
More high school students are being exposed to the
First Amendment, and more think its rights go too far,
according to an update of a 2004 survey funded by the
S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Seventy-two percent of U.S. high school students report
that they have taken classes dealing with the First
Amendment, up from 58 percent in a 2004 survey. Also,
64 percent said school newspapers should have the power
to publish without officials’ approval, up from
58 percent in 2004. Fifty-four percent said all newspapers
should be able to publish with government approval,
up from 51 percent in 2004. However, 45 percent said
the First Amendment goes too far, up from 35 percent
A 2004 survey suggested exposing students to the First
Amendment’s rights increases their involvement
in the news media and student journalism. It also suggested
that exposing students to those rights raises their
appreciation for the amendment. To read the full findings
of the latest survey, click
Va. leaders seek grads who left area to fill job openings
A program called Return to Roots is
attempting to bring 15,000 high school graduates back
to Appalachian Virginia with the promise that a once-bleak
economic outlook no longer exists
"We've got this problem we've got more jobs than
we can fill," said Ed Whitmore, a member of the
program's steering committee. "We're like the dog
that caught the car. For 20 years we've been screaming
that we need high-tech jobs here. Now we've got them.
The problem is filling them." Funded by a state
tobacco commission grant of $135,000, the program is
using a Web
site and media campaign to find the 15,000 high
school graduates who have left Southwest Virginia and
connect them with new employers. Cities and counties
in the area have lost more than 1,700 residents since
2000, while the rest of the state's population grew
by half a million, reports Rex Bowman of the Richmond
"Economic experts say the population drop in the
coalfields represents a 'brain drain,' as high school
students who go on to college move away for good because
there have been few high-paying, high-skill jobs in
far Southwest Virginia to lure them back. But officials
said the mountainous region now has openings for software
developers and engineers, technical supervisors, information-technology
experts, lab technicians, project managers, electrical
and industrial engineers, nurses, therapists, physicians
and pharmacists," writes Bowman. (Read
N.C. cities seek river's resources; opponents fear drought
Water from the Catawba River is the subject of ongoing
meetings over just who can get some of it, reports the
Charlotte Observer in another example
of increasing fights over water around the United States.
"The scene, of neighbors competing for water,
evokes the conflict that has tied up Georgia, Alabama
and Florida in legal knots for years. North Carolina
itself spent 14 years in a losing fight to keep Virginia
Beach's straw out of Lake Gaston," writes Bruce
Henderson. "Communities fret that their growth
will be stunted by lack of the most basic resource."
The Cabarrus County cities of Concord and Kannapolis
have argued that the Charlotte region should share the
Water being piped from the Catawba to the cities in
its basin returns as treated wastewater, but water piped
"elsewhere is lost forever to communities downstream,"
notes Henderson. Opponents to piping the water elsewhere
cite the record drought of 2002, and they fear that
future droughts could be worse. (Read
September 18, 2006
among factors turning wheat acreage into corn, soybean
“Wheat is being steadily replaced by corn as
the crop of choice for American farmers,” largely
because of demand for corn-based ethanol but also due
to better seed technology, federal subsidies that haven't
been adjusted for higher yields of corn and soybeans,
lower consumer demand for wheat products (can you say
Atkins Diet?) and opposition to genetic engineering,
The New York Times reported Saturday
in a comprehensive and interesting story.
Wheat acreage has been declining for about a decade,
as the Times chart shows. “Driving the shift away
from wheat have been advances in hybrid and genetically
modified seeds for other crops. Major companies like
Monsanto have been spending millions of dollars developing
improved forms of corn, soybeans and cotton —
not wheat — and those investments are paying off
handsomely. Seeds engineered to resist drought and insects
have yielded huge gains and have helped produce record
corn harvests the last three years. The more-resistant
seeds have made it possible for farmers in colder climates
with shorter growing seasons to produce successful corn
harvests,” Alexei Barrionuevo writes.
“Buyers in Europe and Japan said they would refuse
American wheat if it was genetically modified. American
farmers are divided on the issue. Monsanto
dropped an effort to produce the world’s first
genetically engineered wheat two years ago, yielding
to the concerns of farmers that the crop would endanger
exports. The wheat was genetically modified to be resistant
to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which would have
allowed farmers to spray their fields to kill weeds
while not damaging the crop. The company has said it
is not giving up on wheat research. But the genetic
engineering of corn, cotton and soybean crops is less
controversial because those crops are used primarily
in animal feed, clothing and food oils, while wheat
is more likely to be used directly in food.” (Read
technology creates confusion among voters, threatens
"In the Nov. 7 election, more than 80 percent
of voters will use electronic voting machines, and a
third of all precincts this year are using the technology
for the first time. The changes are part of a national
wave, prompted by the federal Help America Vote
Act of 2002 and numerous revisions of state
laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting
machines with computer-based electronic machines, along
with centralized databases of registered voters and
other steps to refine the administration of elections,"
write Dan Balz and Zachary A. Goldfarb of The
"Help America Vote does not mandate electronic
voting, but it has greatly accelerated that trend. The
law banned lever machines and punch cards to end debates
about ambiguous 'hanging chads' of the sort that occurred
in Florida in 2000. What is clear is that electronic
machines have their own imponderables." Elections
follow state laws but are administered locally, so journalists
should look for this issue anywhere.
Although intended to improve the voting system, problems
with the new machines have caused delays in Maryland,
Ohio, Illinois and other states, report Balz and Goldfarb.
Not everyone knows how to use the machines so confusion
and human error are problems. Technical issues may also
pose a problem, particularly unreliable data keeping
and the possibility of hacking.
"Although Help America Vote imposed national standards,
it did not impose a uniform system," write Balz
and Goldfarb. "There are different styles and brands
of equipment in use, with the potential for different
bugs. The main systems are optical-scan machines and
touch-screen machines. The potential problems election
officials cite include machines breaking down or paper
ballots not being read by optical-scan machines."
hearing to protect confidential sources slated for Wednesday
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over a federal
shield law is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The
law would provide journalists with the legal right to
protect confidential sources from subpoenas. The Society
for Professional Journalists encourages interested
journalists to call or write their public officials
or to support the shield law in whatever way they feel
"Not sure you should say anything at all? Granted,
journalists with an ounce of good sense don't make a
habit of lobbying Congress. But c'mon. There are times
-- and this is one of them -- when we need to use all
the power we can muster to protect a free press and
the free flow of information to the public," writes
SPJ President Christine Tatum, assisatnt business editor
at The Denver Post. (Read
An article on the federal shield law appeared Sept.
8 in The Rural Blog. Click
here for the archived item.
of illegal immigrants cuts Ga. town's manufacturing
Stillmore, Ga., once housed more than 1,000 people,
according to the 2000 Census, until raids on illegal
immigrants cut that number to 730, reports Russ Bynum
of The Associated Press.
"More than 120 illegal immigrants have been loaded
onto buses bound for immigration courts in Atlanta,
189 miles away. Hundreds more fled Emanuel County. Residents
say many scattered into the woods, camping out for days."
Local store owners that catered to immigrant laborers
have seen a slide in business and entire trailer parks
have been emptied, reports Bynum. The local chicken
processing plant lost 600 of its employees to immigration
issues and is scrambling to find replacement workers.
"Last month, the federal government reported that
Georgia had the fastest-growing illegal immigrant population
in the country," writes Bynum. "The number
more than doubled from an estimated 220,000 in 2000
to 470,000 last year. This year, state lawmakers passed
some of the nation's toughest measures targeting illegal
immigrants, and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue last week
vowed a statewide crackdown on document fraud."
schools teach illegal, faith-based Bible classes, says
"A yearlong investigation by the Austin-based
Texas Freedom Network found that the
majority of Bible courses offered as electives in the
state's high schools are devotional and sectarian in
nature and not academic, as required by a host of rulings
from the U.S. Supreme Court on down," writes Lisa
Sandberg of the Houston Chronicle.
"With a few notable exceptions, the public school
courses currently taught in Texas often fail to meet
minimal academic standards for teacher qualifications;
curriculum, and academic rigor; promote one faith perspective
over all others; and push an ideological agenda that
is hostile to religious freedom, science and public
education," said the study.
"Courts have been consistent on the issue of religion
in the public schools, legal experts say: Public schools
can teach about religion, but they can't offer religious
instruction," writes Sandberg. "Texas officials
don't know which districts offer Bible electives and
do not monitor content, said Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman
for the Texas Education Agency."
discontinuation of layaway could hurt low-income customers
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that
it plans to discontinue its layaway service in a move
some say will hurt low-income clientele. Wal-Mart was
one the last stores to offer layaway services, which
has dwindled due to credit card use, service costs,
the bookkeeping required and the space needed, report
Ann Zimmerman and James Covert of the Wall Street
"But Wal-Mart's move could be particularly significant
for lower-income customers," write Zimmerman and
Covert. "About 9 percent of U.S. consumers don't
use a bank, according to one survey, and Wal-Mart gets
a disproportionate share of those shoppers, Jane Thompson,
president of financial services at Wal-Mart stores,
said in a May presentation to a banking conference in
New York. In addition, a certain percentage of its customers
either don't qualify for credit cards or chose not to
use them. For them, layaway was a particularly popular
option, especially at the Christmas and back-to-school
"A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company is studying
'ways and new programs that will help us continue to
serve customers with low credit,'" write Zimmerman
and Covert. "The retailer is currently testing
a prepaid debit card in three states and offers a Wal-Mart
credit card and a Wal-Mart Discover card with zero-interest
town legalizes deer hunting in city limits to reduce
In Heber Springs, Ark., deer hunting within city limits
has been legalized to thin out the intrusive deer population.
"Last fall, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
employees counted 387 deer in the city of about 7, 000.
This year the estimate jumped to 482. City officials
asked for the count after getting complaints about deer
being hit by vehicles. Residents also were disturbed
by the damage deer caused to landscaping. In May, 59.
4 percent of those casting ballots voted in favor of
the hunt," writes Katherine Marks of the Arkansas
A Game and Fish report said hunting would be the the
most cost-efficient way to deal with deer overpopulation,
reports Marks. Other options such as birth control,
relocating and sharpshooters would have cost hundreds
of dollars per deer. Only bow hunting is allowed and
hunters must shoot down from deer stands to avoid making
blind shots. Hunters must have permission from land
owners and must stay 50 yards away from private property
when they do not have permission.
Deer have become like pets some say that hunting them
is inhumane, but many agree that the population has
to be dealt with, reports Marks. Heber Springs is only
the second city in Arkansas to allow deer hunting within
city limits, but an informational video has been made
because other cities are interested. (Read
September 15, 2006
tax benefits of conservation easements to save rural
Rural land preservationists are encouraged by a law
recently signed by President Bush, which increases federal
tax benefits for landowners who establish conservation
easements this year and next year. "The new law
will benefit modest-income landowners who, under the
old rules, got credit only for a small portion of the
value of their donation," reports the Union-Bulletin
in Walla Walla, Wash.
Conservation easements are designed to preserve property
in its current state. The deduction for such donations,
which give up the right to develop property or sell
it for development, can now be up to half of a landowner's
adjusted gross income, instead of 30 percent. If most
of their income is from farming, ranching or forestry,
landowners can deduct all of their income.
"Even more important, donors can now carry over
deductions for their contribution for as many as 15
years instead of five years,'' Beth Thiel, executive
director of the Blue
Mountain Land Trust, told Union-Bulletin
writer Andy Porter. The trust, a non-profit based in
Walla Walla, has been accepting such donations for six
years in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon.
For details on conservation easments, from The
Nature Conservancy, click
said local news suffers as media ownership concentrates
The Federal Communications Commission
destroyed all copies of a study which indicated that
more concentration of media ownership would be detrimental
to local news coverage, said Adam Candeub, a former
lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau. “The report,
written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation
hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin,” writes
John Dunbar of the Associated Press.
Martin said that he and his staff were not aware of
“The analysis showed local ownership of television
stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total
news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of ‘on-location’
news,” writes Dunbar. “The conclusion is
at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003
to increase the number of television stations a company
could own in a single market. It was part of a broader
decision liberalizing ownership rules. At that time,
the agency pointed to evidence that ‘commonly
owned television stations are more likely to carry local
news than other stations.’”
“The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the
public and within Congress,” writes Dunbar. “In
June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency's
reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try
again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC
has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los
Angeles on Oct. 3.” (Read
more) For a FreePress.org copy
of the report, click
in to citizen pressure, passes rule to disclose earmarks
The U.S. House adopted a new rule yesterday that would
reveal which member sponsors earmarks in appropriations
bills. “Earmarking, the largely secret process
by which powerful members of Congress insert spending
provisions into legislation without going through the
normal budget process, has been widely used to do favors
for business and other interests in exchange for political
support, especially campaign contributions,” write
Noam N. Levey and Richard Simon of the Los Angeles
“President Bush issued a statement saying the
bill would make sure that ‘lawmakers and the public
are better informed before Congress votes to spend the
taxpayers' money,’” writes Jim Abrams of
the Associated Press. (Read
more) The Washington Post 's lobbying
reporter, Jeff Birnbaum, notes that the vote effectively
ends any possibility of a lobbying reform bill passing
this year. (Read
more) And the liberal Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities noted that the bill doesn't
apply to tax breaks. (Read
The House vote of 245 to 171 came in the wake of increasing
efforts by interest groups, bloggers and other activists
to reveal earmarks. Conservative
blogger Mark Tapscott posted Bush's statement and
video from a news conference of the "Ending Earmarks
Express," a coalition of activists and House members.
“But critics charged that the House bill left
gaping holes,” write Levey and Simon. “For
one thing, it will not apply across the board to all
legislation. Authors of some earmarks added to tax bills
may still go unidentified.” Critics describe the
change as “modest.” The bill is only effective
until the end of the year and it does not deal with
lobbying issues and overall ethics. (Read
school that trains doctors for rural areas turns 35,
The University of Illinois College of Medicine
at Rockford, started 35 years ago, is undertaking a
$32 million expansion of its National Center
for Rural Health Professions. “The rural
medicine specialty will get a major boost with the 58,000-square-foot
expansion [that] will include training for all aspects
of health care in small towns, not just physicians but
also dentists, pharmacists, nurses and public health
officials,” writes Nate Legue of the Rockford
“Students at the college spend more time in the
doctor’s office on patient interaction than any
other school in the country,” writes Legue. “All
students, not just would-be rural physicians, spend
one day a week practicing in one of the school’s
clinics in Belvidere, Rockton and Mount Morris. They
see the same patients over three years, giving them
an advantage in know-how and bedside manner when they
enter a residency.”
The college has a reputation for its thorough training
in primary patient care and for its graduates serving
small towns in need of health services, reports Legue.
School officials say that doctors in rural Illinois
are sorely needed. A primary care doctor should have
patient base of about 2,400 people but in 58 of 102
Illinois counties, there are too few doctors to go around.
in Minnesota have a deficit of new dentists
As one generation of dentists retires, some rural areas
in Minnesota are having difficulty attracting young
dentists to replace them. Young dentists may be discouraged
from moving to rural areas because they are not familiar
with a rural lifestyle, they may be concerned about
their spouse getting employment and they may perceive
a lack of access to education and entertainment, reports
The Daily Tribune in Hibbing.
The Minnesota School of Dentistry
is working to encourage young dentists to work in rural
areas. "Patrick Lloyd, dean of students at the
U of M School of Dentistry, said research shows that
students most inclined to go to rural areas for work
come from rural areas," writes Tribune reporter
Kjerstin Lang. "Keeping this in mind, he said being
from a rural area is one of the criteria they consider
when reviewing applications. He said half the students
they accept are from rural Minnesota."
"In addition, Lloyd said research shows that students
are also more likely to go to a small community if during
training they had an experience in a rural area,"
writes Lang. "He said starting in the fall of 2007,
all senior students will be required to spend two months
on outreach rotations and travel to various community
clinics outside the academic health center. One example
is the program at the Hibbing Community College
(HCC) Dental Clinic, a joint venture between
the U of M and HCC. Lloyd said it is a chance to serve
the underserved communities in need of dental manpower."
Lloyd suggested that small communities could attract
young dentists by offering office space at little or
no cost. He said this could be a strong incentive to
recent graduates who might leave school about $138,000
in debt, reports Lang. (Read
portrayal of Wal-Mart is unfair, says columnist George
Wal-Mart is greatly beneficial to the nation's economy
and the criticism it gets from Democrats is unfair,
says George F. Will, the leading conservative columnist
for The Washington Post.
"The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers
is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator
in the history of the private sector in this galaxy,
has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S.
military has uniformed personnel," writes Will.
"A McKinsey Co. study concluded
that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's
productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s,
which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the
Federal Reserve in holding down inflation. By lowering
consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs
among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates
. Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200
billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as
food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax
credit ($34.6 billion)."
"Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart
is a way of introducing the subject of class into America's
political argument, and they are more correct than they
understand," opines Will. "Their campaign
is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic
repugnance toward markets, because consumer sovereignty
results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast,
see the choices Americans make with their dollars and
their ballots and announce -- yes, announce -- that
Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by
. . . liberals." (Read
more) About half of Wal-Mart stores are in rural
areas, and the company rarely advertises in newspapers.
September 14, 2006
better for students, should be preserved, says report
Small schools are more beneficial to students than
larger schools and should not be shut down or consolidated,
according to a report by the Rural School and
Community Trust. "There is a battle going
on out there, and it’s not pretty and certainly
not rational. Across the country, states are pushing
to close their small rural schools with the mistaken
hope of saving money," writes Lorna Jimerson.
"The battle is even more illogical when compared
with the opposing trend in urban areas, where reform
efforts concentrate on breaking down dysfunctionally
large schools and forming new smaller learning communities,"
writes Jimerson. "Urban educators, recognizing
the proven advantages of small schools, are actively
pursuing a 'smaller is better' model."
According to the report, students in small schools
have a higher graduation rate, are more likely to take
advanced courses and have more overall economic success.
There is more participation in extra-curricular activities,
which leads to more positive attitudes about school
and higher self esteem. Students have a stronger sense
of belonging, which has been linked to less violence
and substance abuse. Small schools allow for more individualized
teaching in smaller classes that especially benefits
young children and disadvantaged students. Teachers
enjoy work more, work more with colleagues and take
more responsibility for their students' learning.
"Small schools are frequently the glue that binds
together small communities, serving as their economic
and social hub. Small villages that lose their schools
lose more than a building—they lose their collective
cultural and civic center," writes Jimerson. (Read
to clean up hard-rock mines effective, or an invitation
Debate is ongoing over whether a Senate bill to give
incentives for voluntary cleanup of abandoned hard-rock
mines would be effective or simply provide a loophole
The Environmental Protection Agency
started a duel of press releases when it issued one
saying, "Last August, as part of the President's
Conference on Cooperative Conservation, EPA
announced the Good Samaritan Initiative to encourage
voluntary efforts to reduce pollution from abandoned
hardrock mining sites," said an . It said many
owners of abandoned mines no longer exist and that volunteers
who want to clean up mines face legal obstacles. (Read
Some believe it is impractical to expect small groups
to have the means to clean up mines on their own. "In
the West, the biggest obstacle to tackling water pollution
from old mines is the lack of funding. States, local
governments, and local non-profit organizations simply
don't have the resources to act as 'Good Samaritans'
to clean up the rivers and streams," said an Earthworks
press release. (Read
Others see too many opportunities for environmental
abuse in the bill. "The committee-passed version
of S. 1848 is sweeping in scope: It would waive compliance
with the Clean Water Act, Superfund, the Toxic Substances
Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as well as
state, Tribal and local environmental laws for any activities
covered by a so-called 'Good Samaritan' permit,"
writes Joan Mulhern, Earthjustice senior
legislative counsel. She said that if the bill became
law, "mining companies will be able to use it to
avoid taking basic steps needed to ensure water quality
goals are met near these toxic sites." (Read
proposal for traveling training center for rural police
"A federal law enforcement training center based
in Georgia would get $10 million next year to begin
taking its programs on the road to help rural law enforcement
agencies under a proposal approved by the Senate Tuesday,"
reports The Associated Press.
The measure would authorize the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center in Glynn County,
Georgia, to launch a traveling Rural Policing Institute.
Cash-strapped police and sheriff's departments in rural
areas might otherwise go without specialized training
in areas such as criminal investigation, cyber terrorism
and port security, notes AP. If the proposal is approved
by the House and then signed by President Bush, the
institute would receive an additional $5 million each
year through 2012. (Read
e-mail communication growing, but slowly in rural U.S.
A small but growing number of doctors in rural and
urban areas are starting to use e-mail to allow patients
to schedule appointments, request prescription refills
or go over billing matters.
"A 2001 study by the Center for Studying
Health System Change, a nonpartisan research
organization in Washington funded by a philanthropy
devoted to health issues, found that one in five doctors
had the option to communicate via e-mail. Not surprisingly,
patients overwhelmingly favor the use of e-mail to communicate
with doctors. A Harris Interactive health-care poll
last year found that 81 percent of adults would like
to e-mail their doctors," writes Shari Rudavsky
of The Indianapolis Star.
Some of the challenges preventing doctors from using
e-mail include safety concerns, Internet costs and insurance
issues. As for the patients, many of them, especially
in rural areas, lack the ability to access the Internet.
Dr. Michael Weiner, a research scientist with the Regenstrief
Institute for Health Care would like to "use
e-mail more, but many of his patients do not have computers,"
reports Rudavsky. (Read
group aids emergency crews in effort to cut rural traffic
More fatal car crashes occur in rural areas than in
urban areas, and an Alabama group is hoping to help
emergency response crews that struggle with long travel
distances and problems locating accident sites.
Fifty-six percent of highway fatalities nationwide
occur on rural roads. "Last year, 787 of the 1,130
highway deaths were in rural areas,according to the
Alabama Department of Public Safety,"
writes Ginny MacDonald of the Birmingham News.
"A person injured in a wreck on a rural Alabama
road is twice as likely to die as one hurt in an urban
Safe Home Alabama, a coalition of
highway safety officials, wants to shorten emergency
response times. Ideas include equipping ambulances with
GPS tracking, a statewide trauma system to route ambulances
to hospitals and more incentives to hire emergency response
workers. Alabama's six regional emergency medical agencies
are being reorganized and medical data is being put
on an electronic database, reports MacDonald. (Read
group fights proposed Wal-Mart with study linking it
A group calling itself Washburn County First
is using a study that suggests Wal-Mart developments
increase poverty to keep the retailer out of rural Spooner,
Wis., population 2,653.
The study, called “Wal-Mart and county-wide poverty”
by Stephan Goetz of Pennsylvania State University,
came out in the June 2006 issue of Social Science
Quarterly. It studied counties across the U.S.
from 1987 to 1998, "during which average county-level
family poverty rates nationwide fell from 13.1 to 10.7
percent. In its conclusion, the study contends where
there is a Wal-Mart store in a county, the poverty rate
tends to be higher or the rate of poverty decrease is
less for the same period than for those counties without
a Wal-Mart," writes Frank Zufall of the weekly
Spooner Advocate, circulation 4,650.
A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the study is flawed because
it does not investigate several factors known to contribute
to poverty. “The causes of poverty are many and
varied. No mention was made of education, economic sustainability,
natural disaster, health, or other contributing factors,"
Senior Manager Rodderick Scott told Zufall. "No
mention was made of state, federal or local leadership
and how it affects poverty, not to mention that the
data set is nearly 10 years old.”
The Washburn County Board supervisors will vote Sept.
19 on whether to grant an extension for the company’s
developer to finalize a sales agreement for 35 acres
the county owns. "Possible reasons for the extension
are the delay in receiving the final approval for highway
infrastructure improvements from the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation, and two outstanding
lawsuits submitted by Washburn County First, one challenging
the county for allegedly holding illegal closed meetings
and possibly having a walking quorum, and another against
the city of Spooner’s Board of Appeal for alleged
failure to follow legal protocol in granting variances
to the Supercenter project," writes Zufall. (Read
September 13, 2006
boosts rural economies more if plants are locally owned
Locally-owned ethanol plants provide a bigger economic
boost for the communities where they are located than
plants owned by absentee investors, according to a study
released yesterday by the National Corn Growers
The study, “Economic Impacts on the Farm Community
of Cooperative Ownership of Ethanol Production,”
concludes that a farmer-owned cooperative ethanol plant's
contribution to the local economy can be as much as
56 percent more than that of an absentee-owned corporate
plant. "By putting money directly in the pockets
of local residents, farmer-owned ethanol plants have
spurred economic growth in rural communities across
the country," said Bruce Noel, chairman of the
NCGA Ethanol Committee, in a press
"A farmer-owned plant is more likely to spend
more money on plant operations in the community, including
accounting, administrative and marketing expenditures,"
writes Joe Poncer of the Dow Jones Newswires.
"Nearly half of all U.S. ethanol plants are owned
and operated by farmer cooperatives or LLCs and account
for 38 percent of total ethanol production. . . . According
to data from the Renewable Fuels Association
only two plants out of the 43 currently under construction
are farmer-owned." (Read
here for the study.
Bureau putting $5 million into rural economic development
The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is
starting a $5 million investment fund for start-up businesses,
to help boost rural economies and bring residents back
to those areas.
President Craig Lang said Renew Rural Iowa
aims to bring in an additional $20 million
to $30 million from about a half-dozen companies before
the year's end. "Lang said the group is responding
to farm members, who often earn part of their income
'off farm,' who want new markets for their crops and
who want their children to have 'a choice of quality
jobs' when they graduate from high school and college.
The answer, he said, is business development in rural
communities," writes Donnelle Eller of the Des
The project's main focus is helping businesses and
entrepreneurs in communities with fewer than 30,000
residents. "Lang said the ultimate goal is to bring
residents back to rural Iowa, which has seen population
decline as jobs are added in mostly urban areas. He
said the group should push for a 10 percent growth in
state population during the next decade," reports
bill appears dead in the water; could resurface next
The battle over net neutrality -- which would ban differential
pricing for placement of Internet content -- continues
to hold up a communications bill and could end up completely
derailing the legislation this year, including changes
in the way the government subsidizes rural telecommunications.
"The split centers on the question of whether
Congress should pass new laws barring network operators,
in general, from prioritizing their own Web content
and services. It also covers whether the operators should
be allowed to make special deals with third-party content
providers that want their material to be delivered more
quickly or prominently," reports CNETNews.com,
a technology news service. "But even if legislation
stalls this year, the Net neutrality debate isn't likely
to vanish anytime soon, some aides said."
"That issue is not going to go away until we have
a whole lot more (broadband) competition than we do
today, at least in my view," said James Assey,
a senior counsel to Democrats. Several Republican leaders
argue that net-neutrality regulations are unnecessary
and that companies like Verizon should
be allowed to charge more for additional offerings beyond
standard Internet service, Anne Broache writes. (Read
closer to locals, fight to keep wireless regulation
A coalition of state utility commissions, attorneys
general and consumer watchdogs are urging U.S. lawmakers
to axe a proposal that would pre-empt state regulation
of the wireless industry. This is an issue with local
impact because state-level regulation is subject to
local -- and thus, in many states, more rural -- influences.
Rural journalists should ask their members of Congress
"The language -- part of a comprehensive telecommunications
overhaul measure that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee
in late June -- would place the FCC in charge of handling
wireless customer complaints," writes David Hatch
in National Journal's Technology
Daily. Billy Jack Gregg, chief consumer advocate
for the West Virginia Public Service Commission,
said the language would keep state regulators from settling
disputes over billing, contracts, coverage areas and
Philip Jones, a regulator with the Washington
Utilities and Transportation Commission, said
the wireless industry is flourishing with 210 million
customers and the change is not needed, reports Hatch.
"This industry is not hurting, so we fail to see
what the problem is," Jones said. (Read
16th in broadband coverage, neglects rural areas, says
The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world in
making broadband Internet service more accessible and
affordable, especially for people living in rural areas,
according to a new report released yesterday by Free
Press, the Consumer Federation of America
and Consumers Union.
Criticizing the Federal Communications Commission
and Congress, the "Broadband Reality Check
II" blames existing broadband policy for higher
service prices, slower speeds and a lack of competition
for high-speed Internet service. Report findings include:
The U.S. ranks 16th in in broadband penetration, and
urban dwellers are nearly twice as likely to have home
broadband access compared to rural residents. One out
of 10 households with incomes below $30,000 have high-speed
Internet access, but six out of every 10 with incomes
above $100,000 had broadband.
To address these issues, the groups advocate net neutrality,
increasing the availability of "unlicensed spectrum"
for broadband Internet, and use of the Universal Service
Fund, financed by telecom users, to support broadband
here to read a press release and here
to read the report.
low incomes plague residents in rural Ohio; bartering
The Cleveland Plain Dealer used recent
U.S. Census figures and a report from
the Carsey Institute at the University
of New Hampshire to show that rural Ohio residents
are earning some of the lowest incomes in the country
-- and one in five children in those areas live in poverty.
Barb Galbincea of the Plain Dealer focuses on Appalachian
Ohio, in the southeasterm part of the state, and Scioto
County, near the southern tip. It posted one of the
lowest median household incomes ($28,348) in the country
for counties with at least 65,000 residents, according
to recently released Census figures for 2005. In other
rural counties, the challenge is simply finding a job,
reports Galbincea. Rural areas nationwide are struggling
with fewer job opportunities, lower wages, poor public
transportation, limited child care and fewer social
supports, she notes.
"When full-time opportunities end, some rural
families piece together part-time work or supplement
their income by bartering -- trading services such as
babysitting for a side of beef or for car repairs. In
Athens County, where trailers that predate 'mobile homes'
hug the undulating terrain, there are also scattered
reminders of the company towns that flourished when
King Coal ruled the local economy," writes Galbincea.
September 12, 2006
spurs economic boost for rural area via paper, foundation
George McLean, the owner of the Northeast Mississippi
Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., population
34,211, is committed to economic development in rural
America, and he became one of the first people to adopt
a regional approach through his Community Development
Foundation. The paper's circulation of 35,490
is larger than the population of its home city, so it
has a truly regional role, as its name indicates.
David Rumbarger, the foundation's CEO, recently told
economic consultant Jack Schultz of Boomtown
USA about how McLean began his effort:
“He would rent recent movies and go out with his
projector into some of the rural towns on Saturday night.
He would give a 20-minute talk before he would show
the movie. He also had a tote board in each town to
show them how they compared to other towns in the region.
He had them cooperating as a region but also competing
with each other to try to do better."
The paper's Web
site says the foundation aims "to be a catalyst
for positive change in Northeast Mississippi by committing
its resources to projects that will improve the quality
of life for all citizens of Northeast Mississippi and
by helping individuals and groups of providing financial
support to meaningful projects."
McLean elaborates on his regional approach and the
role played by the newspaper in a column: "The
good newspaper is its community's encourager which by
making known what groups and individuals are doing brings
mutual support for each other's projects and invites
still greater personal initiative. It is a community's
semi-official provider of pats on the back through news
stories, pictures or editorials. The good newspaper
can contribute perhaps more than any other institution
to development of an active, mutually serving citizenship."
live longer, healthier than blacks, Indians, says study
Whites in rural America live longer than western Native
Americans and most African Americans, partially because
of factors like tobacco and alcohol use, according to
a study published Monday in the Public Library
of Science Medicine journal.
"The difference is not directly related to income,
insurance, infant mortality, AIDS or violence. Rather,
the contributing factors, in order of importance, are
tobacco, alcohol, obesity, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, diet and physical inactivity, said Dr.
Christopher J. L. Murray of the Harvard School
of Public Health, who led the study,"
writes Thomas H. Maugh II of The Los Angeles
Times. "The life-span disparities are
so severe that the researchers concluded that there
are 'eight Americas,' each with its own racial, geographic,
income, and life expectancy. The report did not separate
The eight Americas identified by the study: 10.4 million
Asians in 1,889 counties (life expectancy 85 years);
3.6 million low-income whites in 112 rural counties
in the Northern Great Plains and Dakotas (79 years);
16.6 million low-income whites in 467 rural counties
in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley (75 years);
1 million western Native Americans in 359 counties (72.7);
23.4 million middle-income African Americans in 1,632
counties (73); 5.8 million Southern low-income blacks
in 427 rural counties (71); 7.5 million high-risk urban
blacks in 13 urban counties (71). The largest group:
214 million middle-income Americans scattered through
the country (77.9 years). Click
here for Maugh's story, and click
here to read the study.
Internet may be best bet for rural residents without
Dial-up is probably the best way for most rural people
to access the Internet, according to several experts
in Texas, reports the Daily Sentinel
in Nacogdoches, which serves a part of East Texas that
is sparsely populated and has hills that get in the
way of WiFi service. Just as those residents want solutions,
so do many rural dwellers.
"The problem we face in East Texas is all the
trees and hills," said Peter Fernandez at Omni
Computer Solutions in Nacogdoches. He recommended ISDN
(Integrated Services Digital Network), which can be
set up with a phone company, uses an inexpensive modem
and only costs a little more than a regular phone line.
Another option is satellite Internet, but it is not
always reliable and the equipment and service fee can
be expensive. DSL transmits information through a phone
line but it only works up to about 14,000 feet from
the provider, reports Michael Rodden.
Greg Harber, computer science instructor at Stephen
F. Austin State University, said Internet providers
focus more on urban areas since there are more customers.
"With fewer people living in rural areas, it doesn't
justify the cost it would take to spend the money to
reach the Internet out there," Harber told the
Daily Sentinel. WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for
Microwave Access) could help rural residents get high-speed
Internet, because it broadcasts from towers much like
cell phones. However, the frequency is a higher speed
than WiFi, and hills and trees might be even more of
a problem. (Read
Some more urban dwellers who read the story on BroadbandReports.com
did not see rural Internet access as important.
"Articles like these remind me of people who move
to small towns because they like the quaintness and
other silly things. These people then start whining
when they do have to drive 20 miles to the grocery store,
10 miles to get gas, 30 miles to the bank, etc. It is
not the fault of these companies that said people chose
to live so far away from civilization," posted
screename "pnh102" from Mount Airy, Md. That
began a lively discussion thread. Click
here to read more posts.
ranchers dislike salty water from coal bed wells in
In Montana, an excess of water has been pumped into
a usually arid climate as a by-product of tapping methane
in coal beds to produce natural gas. "Companies
are pumping water out of the coal and stripping the
gas mixed with it. Once the gas is out, the huge volumes
of water become waste in a region that gets less than
12 inches of rain a year," reports The
New York Times.
The water can be consumed by cows, but the surplus
is dumped. The excess water leads to soaking streambeds
that would usually be dry much of the year, killing
native plants such as grasses and box elder trees. "Ranchers
say the water contains high levels of sodium and if
it is spread on a field, it can destroy the ability
to grow anything," writes Jim Robbins.
"The companies say that sodium is not the problem
ranchers have made it out to be, and that the Montana
environmental standards cannot be met without great
difficulty. They have filed suit in federal and Montana
court to overturn the regulations. The fight pits Montana
against Wyoming. Wyoming has thrown the door open to
coal-bed methane producers, with 20,000 wells in the
[Powder River] basin. Wyoming says its water-quality
standards, while different from those in Montana, are
more reasonable and still protect water quality,"
writes Robbins. (Read
county silences call for noise ordinance aimed at mining
An ordinance proposal aimed at reducing noise from
mining activity is not going to be considered by the
Wise County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors because
of legal concerns about enforceability.
"Stephens residents Charlene Greene and Kathy
Selvage presented a five-page noise ordinance at supervisors’
July workshop meeting," writes Jodi Deal of the
Coalfield Progress."Both Greene
and Selvage and several other Stephens residents have
made multiple visits to supervisors’ meetings
over the past year to complain about noise caused by
a Glamorgan Coal Resources LLC surface
mine near their community. That mine is now shut down
because Glamorgan’s parent company has filed for
The proposal sought a ban from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday
through Saturday and from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m.
Sunday, and it also wanted to ban the detonation of
explosives where they could be heard from residences
between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. A county attorney advised
that the proposal probably could not "prevent,
prohibit or restrict a coal mine’s hours of operations
or its related noise in any circumstance, since mineral
extraction is a permitted use in all zoning districts
of the county," writes Deal. (Read
that Wal-Mart, other big-box retailers fought is dead
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley vetoed a "big-box"
minimum wage ordinance yesterday that would have required
retail giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
and Target Corp. to ante up or stay
"The measure would require that employees of retail
stores with at least 90,000 square feet operated by
companies with a minimum of $1 billion in annual sales
be paid at least $10 an hour and receive $3 an hour
in fringe benefits by 2010. The legislation was passed
35-14 by the council in July," write Gary Washburn
and Dan Mihalopoulos of the Chicago Tribune.
"Living wage" advocates immediately reacted
to Daley's veto with promises for another push for a
minimum pay measure in the future.
"The ordinance would affect more than 40 existing
retail stores in the city. There has been loud and lengthy
debate over whether it would stifle plans by retailers
for more big boxes in neighborhoods hungry for economic
development. Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Target
Corp. said they were putting plans for future stores
on hold pending the fate of the big-box ordinance, news
that drew scorn from ordinance supporters who contended
the Chicago market is too attractive for big retailers
to bypass," the paper reports. (Read
The Rural Blog previously reported on Wal-Mart's objections
to the ordinance. Click
here for that item.
September 11, 2006
Val McClatchey, a real-estate broker in
Indian Lake, Pa., took this photograph of smoke rising
from the crash of Flight 93. The Tribune-Democrat
of Johnstown had a story on the photo. (Read
rural side of 9/11/01: A reclaimed surface coal mine
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, are often represented
by the numeral "11" as it appears in our headline
-- plain, block vertical lines that resemble the twin
towers of the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is often
remembered as an attack site, because of its military
meaning and proximity to Washington. The other death
scene of that day lacks an easy graphic representation
and gets less attention -- but President and Mrs. Bush
will visit it today, as they did yesterday in New York
and will do today at the Pentagon, reports the Somerset
(Pa.) Daily American.
"The event is only for the families of those on
Flight 93" of United Air Lines, some passengers
of which crashed into the cockpit to stop the hijackers'
plan to slam the plane into the Capitol or the White
House, reports Vicki Rock of the American, the paper
serving the little village of of Shanksville, just south
of where the plane crashed, into a reclaimed strip mine.
The wreath-laying at the site will follow a public event.
"Monday's events begin at 10:06 a.m. with the
reading of the names and the ringing of the thunder
bell, with the observance to be held at 11:15 a.m.,"
Rock writes. "At noon, there will be the dedication
of the Flight 93 crew monument in the heroes' garden
on chapel grounds. The program will continue through
the afternoon. Shanksville Post Office will have a fifth-anniversary
cancellation mark honoring the passengers and crew from
9 a.m. to 4 p.m." (Read
more) Today's American has a special section on
Wendell Berry essay, made in the wake of 9/11, airs
Wendell Berry's essay, "Thoughts in the Presence
of Fear," written in the days after the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, serves as the narration for
a film of the same name put together by Herb E. Smith
of Appalshop, the Appalachian film
cooperative at Whitesburg, Ky. The film features scenes
of rural Kentucky, including strip-mine sites. An updated
version of the film will be broadcast on Kentucky
Educational Television beginning tonight at
10 p.m. EDT. Berry provides additional narration before
and after the film. It will be rebroadcast Thursday,
Sept. 14 at 2 a.m. and Sunday, Sept. 17 at 4 a.m.( yes,
agency proposes bigger fines to deter violations
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
proposed stricter saftey regulations for coal mines
on Friday, saying current penalty assessments are not
effective in deterring noncompliance at some of the
largest operations, reports Steve Twedt of the Pittsburgh
"The 21-page listing in the Federal Register
sets out a new structure for assessing fines, increases
penalty points and reduces the discount mine operators
currently receive for quickly correcting a problem,"
writes Twedt. Fines of $5,000 to $60,000 would be given
if mine operators did not notify officials of an incident
within 15 minutes. Flagrant violations would be given
harder penalties and operators would be fined more heavily
the more points they accumulated.
"MSHA officials estimate that, under the proposed
rate structure, the average penalty assessment for all
mines would increase from $213 to $587, and that total
assessments will increase from $24.9 million to $68.5
million," writes Twedt. Public hearings on the
issue include: Sept. 26 at the MSHA headquarters in
Arlington, Va.; Sept. 28 in North Birmingham, Ala.;
Oct. 4 in Salt Lake City; Oct. 6 in St. Louis; Oct.
17 in Charleston, W.Va.; and Oct. 19 in Pittsburgh.
gap between rural and urban America is widening
"There is an education gap between rural and urban
America, and it is widening," says the Center
for Rural Affairs, a non-profit research
and advocacy group based in Lyons, Neb.
Among residents 25 and older, more than 37 percent
of those in metropolitan areas have at least an associate’s
degree, while only 25 percent of those outside metro
areas do. "This education gap begins to significantly
diverge at the bachelor’s degree level. High-school
graduation and associate-degree attainment levels are
nearly identical," the center reports. "Nineteen
percent of metropolitan residents and 11 percent of
non-metropolitan residents have bachelor’s degrees."
Nearly twice as many metropolitan residents as rural
residents hold advanced and professional degrees.
"However, getting more rural high school graduates
to attend college will not increase their likelihood
of remaining in rural communities," the center
says. "In fact, based on existing data, these college-educated
rural residents are more likely to remain in or relocate
to the urban areas in which their education is obtained.
Further, many rural areas are unable to compete for
college-educated residents. College-educated workers
can command more from the labor market in urban areas
than in rural areas."
The center sees hope for an educated rural population
and workforce in the 8 percent of non-metro residents
who have associate degrees, which typically take at
least two years to earn. "The growing presence
of community colleges and vocational training institutions
in rural areas makes this an attractive investment,"
the center says. "Holders of Associate degrees
and technical education are also less likely to leave
rural areas than recipients of four-year degrees. .
. . An active investment in post-secondary community
college and technical training can help to resolve both
the rural “brain drain” and the rural-urban
income disparity." Associate-degree holders earn
nearly 13 percent more than those without any degree.
For more on rural education and other issues essential
to the quality of life in rural areas, click
here for the center's Rural Development and Asset-Building
Library. For its latest newsletter, click
races in rural swing districts don't stir House GOP
on rural issues
Republican incumbents in the U.S. House are “fighting
a strong push by Democrats to make inroads in rural
swing districts. Both parties say rural voters are in
a sour mood because of high fuel costs for farmers and
commuters, and concerns about the Iraq War in towns
where troop deployments and casualties have had a jarring
impact,” reports Congressional
Quarterly. (subscription required)
The most authoritative and comprehensive publication
about Congress reviewed 61 rural districts, where a
majority of voters live outside a metropolitan area
or a city of 25,000 or more. It found “Democrats
making strong bids for seven seats held by Republican
incumbents,” such as Rep. John Hostettler of southwestern
Indiana's 8th District, who was “swept into office
in the 'Republican Revolution' of 1994.”
“Despite polls showing that Hostettler and a
number of other rural Republicans are in tight races,
Majority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said House
leaders had no plans for new rural initiatives and had
not discussed $4 billion in drought relief for farmers
contained in the Senate version of an agriculture spending
bill. While Democrats have targeted rural voters, the
GOP has emphasized a 'suburban agenda,' with measures
aimed at swing voters in metropolitan areas, such as
tax breaks for college tuition and savings.”
tracking system prevents veterans from getting help
in rural U.S.
Veterans in rural America are struggling to get benefits
since the government is not tracking their specific
needs or locations, according to experts at a workshop
Friday on Capitol Hill.
Military members come disproportionately from rural
areas and many of them return to those areas following
their enlistments, said workshop organizer Jill Long
Thompson, a former member of Congress and Clinton administration
appointee and head of the U.S. Center for Agricultural
and Food Policy. In the absence of a way to
track those veterans, the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs is trying to track people
by zip code and county, reports Rick Maze of the Army
Rep. Michael H. Michaud of Maine, ranking Democrat
on the House Veterans' Affairs health subcommittee,
is sponsoring a bill to improve veterans health care
in rural areas. "With about 30 percent of military
recruits coming from rural areas, it is clear there
is a huge, unmet need for help, he said. Michaud recommends
a combination of federal, state and local services for
veterans in rural areas rather than asking any one part
of the government to help," writes Maze. (Read
September 8, 2006
ban passes House; industry predicts failure in Senate
The House passed a bill yesterday to ban horse slaughter
for meat with by a vote of 263 to 146. Horse slaughter
is a minor industry in the United States with only three
plants, one in Illinois and two in Texas, which process
meat mainly for France, Belgium and Japan, reports Todd
Gillman of the Dallas Morning News.
Last year about 88,000 horses and other equine animals
were slaughtered, according to the Agriculture
"Opponents of the practice showed photographs
of horses with bloodied and lacerated faces, the result
of being crammed into trailers that would carry the
animals to slaughterhouses. Defenders of horse slaughter
said it offers a cheap and humane way to end a horse's
life when the animal no longer is useful," writes
Noelle Straub of the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune.
Some of those who support the bill say that unwanted
horses could be adopted or euthanized. U.S. Rep. Barbara
Cubin of Wyoming, who opposed the bill, said that there
are not enough shelters to accommodate the horses that
would usually be slaughtered and it can cost from $250
to $325 to euthanize a horse. Some people, especially
those with small ranches, can't afford it, reports Straub.
"The fate of the ban now rests in the Senate,"
Gillman notes. "Big majorities there have voted
to shut down the industry in past years, but lawmakers
have only a month before going on recess for the November
elections. The industry-backed Horse Welfare
Coalition expressed disappointment over the
House vote but predicted that the ban would fail in
the Senate, thanks in part to opposition by Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns." (Read
The National Pork Producers Council
said the bill "sets a dangerous precedent by banning
a livestock product for reasons other than food safety
or public health." For their release, click
here. For a release from the ASPCA,
here. For one from the Humane Society of
the U.S., click
made in child's death that spurred mountaintop removal
Three-year-old Jeremy Davidson died Aug. 20, 2004
in Appalachia, Va., after a boulder rolled off a road
being widened to access a strip mine and crushed him
in his bed. The family has received $3 million from
A&G Coal in a civil settlement,
but the effect of Jeremy's death remains with them and
their region. The incident made national news and helped
crystallize the opposition to strip mining of Appalachian
coal by mountaintop removal.
Operators of equipment being used on a strip-mine road
said they didn't know there were homes below where they
where working, but there had been another similar incident,
reports Tim Thornton of the Roanoke Times.
When the road was first built, a boulder hit the church
next to the Davidson house.
Groups such as Southern Appalachian Mountain
Stewards and Mountain Justice Summer
marched in protest after Jeremy's death and
on its first anniversary. Mountain Justice Summer has
set up an office in the community of Appalachia, reports
to postcards: Small towns find economic success via
Morehead State University junior
Kendrick Dickerson paints a mural on a barn in Elliott
County, Kentucky, near Sandy Hook. (Photo by John Flavell,
The Daily Independent)
"A growing number of rural counties and small
towns that are struggling economically are showcasing
their history and culture through folk art projects,
historic museums and festivals, according to tourism
officials," reports Samira Jafari of The
Associated Press bureau in Pikeville, Ky.
The story focuses on Elliott County in northeastern
Kentucky. It is one of the nation's poorest, and faces
more economic reverses with the end of the federal tobacco
program. About 20 barns that were once used to cure
tobacco are being painted with murals of tobacco-farming
scenes to attract tourists.
An earlier set displayed images of quilts. The project
is pushed by Gwenda Adkins, a University of
Kentucky extension agent. "We're not dumb,
ignorant hillbillies," she said. "We have
a culture worth sharing and people will pay to come
here and see it." The $94,000 project, funded by
the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation
of Kentucky, reports
The Daily Independent of Ashland. For
a photo by of one barn, by John Flavell of the Independent,
Such efforts "seem to be paying off," AP
reports. "Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults, or
87 million, have taken a trip to a small town or village
within the past three years and 58 percent, or 84.7
million, included an historic activity or event on a
trip during the past year, according to the Travel
Industry Association of America. "We're
seeing a real increase in travelers and visitors wanting
to see small towns and rural areas," Carolyn Brackett
of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
Examples abound. Three counties in southeast Tennessee
started a tourist trade with their played-out gold and
copper mines and railroad line. After the furniture
trade began to die down in Lexington, N.C., the town
hired artists to paint a series of pig statues to highlight
the area's pork barbecue. (Read
Adkins and colleagues Mike Reed and Ron Hustedde recently
traveled to Serbia to help develop an education-and-outreach
organization similar to the Cooperative Extension
Service. For a University of Kentucky story
on their trip, click
here. For a U.S. Department of Agriculture
report and references on rural and agricultural tourism,
groups support Wal-Mart; Waltons support the groups
Conservative research groups, including the American
Enterprise Institute, the Heritage
Foundation and the Manhattan Institute
have written positive opinion pieces about
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. but have not disclosed
that they have received funds from the Walton
Family Foundation. The foundation is run the
children of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart's founder, who have
a controlling share of the company.
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy
Research has received more than $100,000 from the foundation
in the last three years, and Pacific Research
received $175,000 in 1999-2004. "The groups
said the donations from the foundation have no influence
over their research, which is deliberately kept separate
from their fund-raising activities. What’s more,
the pro-business philosophies of these groups often
dovetail with the interests of Wal-Mart," write
Michael Barbaro and Stephanie Strom of The New
"A spokesman for the Walton Family Foundation,
Jay Allen, said there was no organized campaign to build
support for Wal-Mart among research groups. All of the
foundation’s giving, he said, is directed toward
a handful of philanthropic issues, including school
reform, the environment and the economy in Northwest
Arkansas, where Wal-Mart is based," write Barbaro
"Last year, the National Committee for
Responsive Philanthropy, a research and watchdog
group, published a report, 'The Waltons and Wal-Mart:
Self-Interested Philanthropy," that warned of the
potential influence their vast wealth gives them. But
Rick Cohen, executive director of the group, said he
was more concerned about the role the Walton foundation’s
money might play in shaping public policy in areas like
public education, where it has supported charter schools
and voucher systems," write Barbaro and Strom.
More than half of Wal-Mart stores are located in rural
set on federal law to shield journalists' sources from
A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 20 on a U.S.
Senate bill to create a federal shield law that would
protect confidential sources from subpoenas. The bill
has been having a tough time, despite bipartisan support,
and we urge journalists to ask their senators and House
members where they stand on it -- and lobby them in
whatever way you feel comfortable, be it an editorial,
other written communication or a conversation.
Society of Professional Journalists Immediate
Past President Irwin Gratz said he hopes a federal shield
law would prevent journalists from being timid and self-censoring
because of fear of being prosecuted and allow sources
not to be be undesirably exposed. He said this is part
of a reporter's right under the First Amendment. (Read
In the 1972 Branzburg vs. Hayes case, the
Supreme Court ruled that a Louisville Courier-Journal
reporter had to testify before a grand jury
about what he saw at a hashish factory, but Justice
Lewis Powell argued that reporters should have "qualified
privilege" to withhold the identities of their
sources. "The asserted claim to privilege should
be judged on its facts by the striking of a proper balance
between freedom of the press and the obligation of all
citizens to give relevant testimony with respect to
criminal conduct," Powell said.
Journalists have been sentenced to jail for keeping
their sources anonymous from the court. Most recently,
Judith Miller of the New York Times was jailed for refusing
to reveal her sources, and Rhode Island television reporter
James Taricani received a home detention sentence.
doesn't hide unflattering description of him from his
It's not often that you find a newspaper publisher
described as follows in his own column: "A dilettante
and effete snob who imports Ivy League reporters just
to bedevil the community, and cares mainly about unnamed
famous friends." But that's how H. Brandt "Brandy"
Ayers translated for his readers the image of himself
presented by a new book about his town of Anniston,
Ala., and his paper, The Anniston Star.
The book, My City Was Gone, was written by
Dennis Love, a former Star feature writer. Ayers called
it "an entertaining, well-written, sometimes funny
and sad, gripping account of the titanic struggle to
wring justice and good sense out of Anniston’s
environmental crises," such as pollution by a chemical
plant and the fight over disposal of nerve gas stored
at the local Army post -- a fight that ended with the
alternative favored by the Star, incineration on site.
"Love couldn’t quite make up his mind about
The Star," Ayers wrote. "He quotes it dozens
of times, calls it progressive, an experience that gave
him a larger, more mature picture of his city, but through
some languid, mysterious path reached the wrong conclusion
about burning nerve gas. He is more certain about the
editor and publisher, me. In his pages, my nearly 50-year
career is reduced to a cartoon," quoted above.
"My liberal view of the world, constructed from
inheritance, education, experience with enlightened
Southern governors and presidents, wide reading and
travel, is reduced to flighty 'contrariness'. Frankly,
when I read that, the raging bull of ego flooded my
mind, its horns aimed straight for the soft fanny of
my former feature writer," Ayers wrote. "In
defense I will call only two witnesses: Time
magazine, which twice named us one of the nation’s
best newspapers, and Columbia Journalism Review,
which named us among America’s 30 best.
I rest my case." (The 25,000-circulation Star recently
became the teaching newspaper for the Knight Community
Journalism Fellows Program of the University
Then Ayers went back to praising Love's work, ending
with two requests to readers: "Read Dennis's book
. . . but . . . please clip this column and stick it
back with the index — just to keep him fair and
here to read more; the Star's Web site is for subscribers,
but it offers a one-day
Thursday, September 7,
doctor: Tolerance requires knowing 'more about each
Dr. Khalid Awan is used to praying five times a day
in Norton, Va., but airport security
asked him to stop praying during a visit to Philadelphia
last month. The reason given by the guard, according
to Awan -- “Because of terrorism.” Jodi
Deal of The Coalfield Progress interviewed
Awan about that and his way of life. She found a story
about tolerance and the real Muslim religion, not stereotypes.
More rural media need to seek out Muslims so their personal
stories can overcome fear and ignorance.
Awan moved from India more than 40 years ago after
reading materials, including the Benjamin Franklin book
he is reading above (photo by Jim Gibson) from
an American consulate’s office that led him to
believe the U.S. tolerated diversity and gave everyone
the and freedom to pursue any career. "But in recent
years, starting in the 1990s, political tensions have
made American life a little bit tougher for folks like
Awan. That’s because Awan, like millions of other
Americans, is a Muslim," writes Deal. "American
attitudes toward people who follow the religion of Islam
have been changing for years, Awan explained, but after
the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. political
and religious leaders started connecting the religion
to terrorist behavior."
Awan sees education and communication as keys to creating
more tolerance for Muslims and other groups that make
America diverse. “I feel like people need to know
more about each other,” Awan told Deal. “If
people knew more about each other, they would be more
tolerant of each other. I approach everyone as an American."
People must understand that any cruel or unjust acts
committed by Muslims have absolutely nothing to do with
the religion, he said. (Click
here to read more; subscription required)
women need push from advisers to get mammograms, says
Rural women have opportunities to get mammograms that
could save their lives, but many go without unless other
women teach them about the test and encourage them to
get screened, according to a study published Wednesday
in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
It is the first study to examine the role of lay health
advisors in rural areas and it confirms previous studies
on how the advisors impact urban women, said Electra
Paskett, lead author and associate director for population
sciences at the Ohio State University
Comprehensive Cancer Center. The half of the rural women
who had multiple visits from a health adviser had more
mammograms (42 percent) than the other half (27 percent),
reports Misti Crane of The Columbus Dispatch.
Disparities among those who get mammograms and those
who do not exist in poor, rural areas, and the need
for encouragement and financial support is great, said
LeighAnne Hehr, health promotions coordinator with the
American Cancer Society’s Central
Ohio region. "Especially in Appalachia and rural
areas, when you have a personal connection who says,
'This is important and you need to do it,' women are
a lot more apt to do it," she told Crane. (Read
more) To read the study, click
to abandon uniform approach, cater to ruralites, other
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hopes to boost
sales by abandoning its practice of stocking mostly
the same products at every store, and will instead cater
each store's merchandise to demographic groups. "About
half of Wal-Mart stores are in rural areas. Their product
mix will change the least," Ann Zimmerman reports
for The Wall Street Journal.
The company will stock stores with items to reflect
rural tastes and five other demographic groups -- African-Americans,
the affluent, empty-nesters, Hispanics, and suburbanites.
"Wal-Mart's attempt to break its approximately
3,400 U.S. stores into six different models is a huge
shift for a company that grew to be the largest retailer
in the world on the strength of standardization,"
"Wal-Mart got its start in rural Arkansas in 1962,
and grew to prominence by building stores in small towns
where executives knew what sold. As the company expanded
into suburban and urban areas, Wal-Mart's culture remained
very focused on Bentonville. Most decisions, including
on store layouts and even on how product should be arranged
on shelves, were made at company headquarters."
Now the company's regional managers live in the regions
they handle. (Read
more; subscription may be required)
might surprise people with their living conditions
The rural homeless may not be what the public expects
and may go largely unseen. Many homeless in rural areas
are families that have fallen on hard times due to foreclosure,
medical bills or economic conditions.
Housing is considered affordable if it takes no more
than 30 percent of a person's income, but many can't
pay the bills. The rural homeless may live in shelters,
subsidized temporary housing, their vehicles, motels
or double-up in the homes of their relatives, reports
Travis Neff of the Princeton (Ind.)
Few people served by Aurora Inc.,
a homeless-service organization in Southern Indiana,
have drug or alcohol problems, and more than a third
are under 18, Aurora's Kay Isbell of told Neff. (Read
"In rural areas, homeless people aren't staying
on Main Street. They're sleeping in barns, in parks,
in the woods, along the interstates. It's easier to
miss," Jennifer Bindernagel of an emergency housing
provider in Butler County, Pa. told Karen Kane of the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Read
see positive changes, opt to stay in Nebraska, poll
Rural Nebraskans are reporting more positive changes
in their communities, and a growing number who plan
to relocate are deciding to simply move somewhere else
in the Cornhusker State, many parts of which has suffered
majhor declines in rural population in recent decades..
The 11th annual University of Nebraska-Lincoln
poll is based on 2,482 responses from a survey sent
in March to households in Nebraska's 84 rural counties.
Thirty-two percent of respondents said they have seen
positive changes in their communities, up from 22 percent
in 2003. Only 23 percent reported negative changes,
and 45 percent said no change.
"On the question of moving on, the percentage
of people planning to leave their community over the
next year has remained relatively stable over the past
nine years; only 5 percent this year said they plan
to move. However, the expected destination for people
planning to move has changed over the last three years
-- with the percentage of those expecting to leave Nebraska
decreasing and the percentage of those planning to move
to the Lincoln or Omaha areas increasing," reports
The university's Center for Applied Rural Innovation
conducted the poll in cooperation with the
Rural Initiative and Public Policy Center
with funding from the Partnership for Rural
Nebraska and UNL Extension and the Agricultural
Research Division in the Institute of Agriculture and
Natural Resources. Click
here for the survey findings.
of Florida offers nation's first degree in organic farming
With the growth on demand for organic food, the University
of Florida will be the first in the U.S. to
offer a degree in organic farming. Five have signed
up for the major, and classes begin this fall. The university
hopes to support local food production.
"The sale of organic foods has grown nearly 20
percent annually since 1990 and accounted for $13.8
billion in consumer sales in 2005, according to the
Organic Trade Association. Organics
now represent 2.5 percent of all food sales, the group
reported. The trend has led to the development of nearly
2.2 million acres of organic farmland nationwide, according
to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics,"
writes Nathan Crabbe of The New York Times
Regional Newspapers, based in Florida.
The program will concentrate on research that improves
crop production without using synthetic fertilizers,
pesticides, hormones and drugs. It will emphasize the
law outlining the national organic standards set in
2002. The program will include old-fashioned farming
styles adjusted with modern methods, reports Crabbe.
September 6, 2006
ban on horse slaughter to get vote on House floor tomorrow
A vote on whether commercial horse slaughter will be
allowed to continue in the U.S. is scheduled for tomorrow
in the House, and the Humane Society of the
United States says at least 250 representatives
favor the measure -- far more than the 218 votes it
needs to pass the chamber.
"The industry claims support from veterinarians
and more than 200 farm and ranch groups that argue that
the slaughterhouses provide a needed service to horse
owners. About 90,000 horses were slaughtered last year
at foreign-owned plants in Kaufman, Fort Worth and DeKalb,
Ill. Most of the meat is sold in Europe and Japan,"
writes Todd Gillman of The Dallas Morning News.
Some opponents of the ban argue that shutting down slaughter
houses would give more business to Mexican plants.
Ban proponent Amy Nelson, daughter of country singer
Willie Nelson, said, "We're in a country where
we don't eat horses, and it seems so absurd to let other
countries capitalize off of our horses. What's next?
Will we be shipping dogs to be eaten in other countries,
too?" Another proponent, bill co-sponsor and U.S.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said horses "have never
been part of the food chain in America." (Read
more) The Courier-Journal of Louisville
took a closer look at the crusade by Whitfield and his
wife, Constance Harriman "Connie" Whitfield,
noted animal lovers. To read it, click
citizens to reveal anonymous 'holds' on bills in Senate
led a successful effort to identify Sens. Ted Stevens
of Alaska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia as those
who anonymously blocked a vote on a bill to create a
online database of federal grants and contracts. This
is an example of how average citizens and journalists
can hold legislators accountable -- especially when
it comes to the addition of "pork barrel"
spending tailored for their states and districts.
"The porkbusters led a pack of bloggers who outed
the two senators for bottling up a bill meant to help
the public track how its tax dollars are spent. . .
. Under an arcane Senate rule, any member who has concerns
about a bill can block it -- anonymously. Party leaders
know the blocker's identity but don't have to tell anyone,
even the bill's sponsor," the Chicago Tribune
explained in an editorial
"When the porkbusters learned about the so-called
'secret hold,' they issued a call for bloggers to contact
their own senators and demand to know: Are you the anonymous
blocker? Readers at TPMmuckraker.com
joined in, and within days they had denials from 97
senators. That's when Stevens decided to 'fess up."
"By Thursday, Byrd was the only senator who continued
to duck the question. Noting that Byrd's 'penchant for
pork would probably win him the Pork Crown if he weren't
saddled with minority status,' TPMmuckraker pressed
for an answer. By midafternoon, Byrd had admitted he
placed a hold on the bill -- and said he has now released
it," the editorial concludes. "It's a good
day for taxpayers and the bloggers who got to the truth.
And a bad day for secrecy in the U.S. Senate."
Unfortunately, the ways of Congress are many. A
story posted last night on GOPprogress.com
reports that another Democrat placed a secret
hold on the bill and that Stevens re-activated his.
As reported here Aug. 18, other blogger-citizen
efforts are trying to "bust pork," which often
appears in the form of earmarks anonymously added to
appropriations bills. The Exposing
Earmarks Project is starting with the current
bill for the Department of Labor and
the Department of Health and Human Services,
which has 1,867 earmarks. The project's Web site asks
participants to "Call the office of the congressperson
you think might have secured the earmark and ask them
if they are indeed responsible for it," to "Call
your member of Congress and ask whether they are responsible
for any of the earmarks in the upcoming Labor-HHS bill,"
and post findings at http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/node/1043.
known escape of transgenic crop, grass in Oregon, threatens
Genetically-modified bentgrass, resistant to a leading
herbicide and designed to ease golf-course maintenance,
is escaping from a control area in Oregon, and area
farmers are worried about an invasion.
"Discovery of genetically modified bentgrass in
the wild in Central Oregon -- the first known transgenic
crop escape in the United States -- has fulfilled critics'
warnings and raised the threat of contaminating the
state's nation-leading grass seed crop," writes
Alex Pulaski of The Oregonian. "In
Oregon, which has $373.5 million in annual grass seed
sales, conventional growers fear transgenic seeds will
contaminate their crops. The creeping bentgrass strain,
developed in partnership between Scotts Miracle-Gro
Co. and Monsanto Co., is designed
to resist the herbicide Roundup, the world's most widely
"Golf courses could plant the seed and keep other
grass varieties in check by spraying Roundup. Scotts
has waited more than two years for an arm of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to decide whether
to deregulate the crop, opening the door to seed sales."
coalition helps resolve conflicts over timber in Northwest
A coalition of interest groups on both sides of the
touchy subject of harvesting timber from national forests
learned to navigate disputes in eastern Washington by
eliminating an "us versus them" mentality
and by refusing to let little differences hurt the overall
The story is told in an article for the National
Association of Conservation Districts' monthly
publication, Forestry Notes,.by Craig
Rawlings of the Smallwood Utilization Network.
His group was formed by the Montana Community
Development Center to help the users of smaller
trees -- log furniture makers, post and pole plants
and organizations doing research on woody biomass for
Conservation District Forester Peter Griessmann witnessed
the "Timber Wars" in eastern Washington and
sought ways to bridge the conflict between extremists
on both sides, and to improve a U.S. Forest
Service process that amplified disagreements
by presenting alternative plans. Griessmann co-founded
Washington Forestry Coalition to help work
out conflicts first, then move on to the Forest Service
process with an agreeable plan, reports
The coalition agreed that tinder near populated areas
should be reduced, "but its members were far from
agreeing on how to get there," writes Rawlings.
"Obviously, this conflict-resolution group needed
to resolve its own conflicts." Meanwhile, timber
production in the Colville National Forest
equaled less than a quarter of its levels in the 1980s,
and disease was killing large portions of the overcrowded
When Rick Brazell was named supervisor of the forest,
he "took on the role of impartial problem solver,"
Rawlings writes. "One of his ideas was to bring
in a group of facilitators. Guided by these professionals,
the Coalition members evolved a method of agreeing to
disagree so that the little sticking points wouldn’t
stop the larger process." Gradually, "The
us versus them mentality started to go away," Griessmann
told Rawlings. (Read
churches use 'regional congregation' to combat rural
Eight Lutheran churches in and near rural Quincy, Ill.,
are exploring whether to try out the "regional
congregation" model being used in other states
to combat a growing shortage of pastors, resources and
dwindling congregations in rural areas.
The growing trend became one of the most-talked about
issues during a recent gathering of churches from the
Northwest Conference of the Central and Southern Synod
of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America,
reports Steve Eighinger of the Quincy Herald
Whig. "The emphasis is not on merger or
eliminating smaller congregations, but rather, helping
them survive and be more effective," said the Rev.
Jim Trutwin of Trinity Lutheran Church in Golden, Ill.
Regional congregations help eliminate costs and make
small staffs more efficient by combining churches' youth
groups, teaching events and mission festivals. The regionalism
trend is already finding success in Nebraska, South
Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, notes Eighinger.
may help expand high-speed Internet access in rural
Cisco Systems Inc. will soon offer
a smaller, less expensive version of its core routers,
which could help telecommunicatoons companies bring
high-speed Internet and video services to rural areas,
where cost may be a bigger factor for the territory
and the companies that operate in it.
Core routers play a key role in transferring Internet
data, and the demand for them is rising with the increase
in Web traffic. The Reuters wire service
reports, "The new version could be particularly
popular among companies setting up high-speed Internet
and video services in rural and sparsely populated areas,
the company said." Cisco plans to start selling
the item in November. (Read
September 5, 2006
more active in states, especially rural-heavy ones,
than in D.C.
With little action occurring on firearms-related
bills in Congress this year, the National Rifle
Association is concentrating on getting state
laws passed, and again finding success in state with
big rural votes.
"It successfully lobbied for laws that give citizens
the ability to carry firearms in 23 states in the past
12 years, including Kansas and Nebraska this year. It
has also legislated the right of gun owners to stand
firm and use deadly force in the case of a dangerous
attack in 15 states, 14 of them this year. In addition,
this year it got 10 states to agree not to confiscate
weapons during times of declared emergencies,"
writes Jeffrey H. Birnbaum in his every-other-week column
on lobbying for The Washington Post.
Gun-control proponents typically find support at city
councils across the country, because being closer to
violent, criminal gunplay means less of a push for laws
that allow or encourage the use of firearms, said Peter
S. Hamm, communications director of the Brady
Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the NRA's
chief nemesis. "It's rural versus urban, and state
legislatures disproportionately represent rural areas,"
Hamm told Birnbaum. "There is no way that the NRA
can get anything passed in the Cleveland City Council,
but in the Ohio state legislature it's a completely
different ballgame." (Read
Verlyn Klinkenborg opines in today's New York
Times about his native Minnesota becoming an
NRA stronghold, with passage of "concealed carry"
legislation and other laws. To read the column, click
drinking reaches deadly highs in Wyoming, Montana, Dakotas
"Barely five people per square mile live on the
high, wind-raked ground of Wyoming; the entire state
is a small town with long streets, as they say. The
open space means room to roam and a sense of frontier
freedom. It also means that on any given night, an unusually
high percentage of young people here are drinking alcohol
until they vomit, pass out or do something that lands
them in jail or nearly gets them killed," writes
Timothy Egan of The New York Times,
as he continues to ride the range and rope in good stories.
Binging is leading to serious consequences not only
for the drinkers, but everyone around them. “Had
a kid, drunk, flipped his car going 80 miles an hour,
and that killed him; and another kid, drunk, smashed
his boat up against the rock just a couple months ago,
killing two; and then there was this beating after a
kegger — they clubbed this kid to death,”
Scott Steward, the sheriff in Park County, Wyo., told
A federal government survey recently reported that
residents of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas drink
more than the national average and at very early ages.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration reported that in 2002-04 the
south-central Wyoming region led the U.S. in alcohol
abuse by people age 12 and older. Looking at 340 regions
across the U.S., the agency found that "7 of the
top 10 areas for under-age binge drinking — defined
as five or more drinks at a time — were in Wyoming,
Montana and North and South Dakota," reports Egan.
here to learn more about the recent government survey.
An older study found that rural youths ages 12 and 13
were twice as likely as urban ones to abuse alcohol.
farmers must either churn out more milk or face extinction
Churning out more and more milk is a key for Virginia's
dairy farmers who are struggling to keep their businesses
afloat in a market where milk prices are dropping and
fuel and land costs keep rising.
"Here, dozens of milk cows lumber about in the
midday heat, munching on nutrition-rich grains and lounging
on mounds of sawdust, hooves tucked under massive bellies.
Giant ceiling fans whirl above and a cool, dusty breeze
gusts through the cavernous barn structure keeping their
coats cool. Belying this seemingly leisurely setting
are dairy cows hard at work -- turning hundreds of pounds
of feed into thousands of gallons of milk," writes
Christina Rogers of The Roanoke Times
in a story that does a good job of explaining an industry
for a general audience.
"Along with increases in milk production have
come an excess of supply and flattening milk prices
that erode farmers' profits and threaten their livelihoods.
Milk cows are becoming more efficient and dairy producers
are relying on fewer of them to keep production steady.
Today the average dairy cow produces about 60 percent
more milk than it did 25 years ago, according to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. For
a dairy farm, even the slightest increase in milk production,
say an extra pound a day from each cow, translates into
thousands more dollars in revenue a year. But farmers
are awash in their own product and pursuing still higher
volume to make up for feeble profits."
Virginia's dairy farms are dwindling, though, with
about 100 closing every three or four years, and 796
existed in January, about half the number operating
in 1980. If small dairies do not gain new technology
and fail to develop cost-cutting measures, then they
basically start their own death, said Bennett Cassell,
a professor of dairy science at Virginia Tech.
"It is the equivalent of what Wal-Mart
did to retailing," he added. About 70 percent of
milk produced in Virginia comes from small operations,
and ones wishing to expand often find a dead end because
of high land prices, reports Rogers. (Read
of Illinois aims to educate public about environmental
A new Web site from the University of Illinois
Cooperative Extension Service identifies environmental
regulations that pertain to agricultural and horticultural
operations, which is good news for journalists in the
Land of Lincoln -- and an example for other states to
Called "EZregs," the site offers information
on applications of the regulations for livestock and
crop farms, turfgrass and lawn care operations. The
information can help explain environmental protection,
safe use of agricultural chemicals, and livestock facility
construction, management and sitting, historic preservation
and endangered species preservation.
EZregs is geared for livestock and crop producers,
green industry professionals, rural neighbors to farm
operations, policy makers, land use planners, and university
extension educators among others. However, journalists
may find the site useful when writing agriculture or
environment stories. (Read
child-care centers lack resources for quality, advocates
Many of Pennsylvania's rural counties lack child care
that meets high quality standards such as teacher training,
curriculum and assessment of children's development,
according to a report on school readiness from the nonprofit
group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
The report "found that 22 of Pennsylvania's 67
counties do not have child-care centers with national
accreditation or a maximum four-star rating under the
state's Keystone STARS program. Keystone STARS was started
in 2002 to encourage centers to raise their standards
voluntarily," reports Martha Raffaele of The
Associated Press. Nearly 4,300 child-care providers
are participating in Keystone STARS, about 50 percent
of all licensed facilities, which means they receive
training, workshops and special merit grants for centers
serving low-income children.
Pennsylvania is one of 11 states with voluntary child-care
quality rating programs. Terry Casey, executive director
of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association,
said the smaller child care facilities in rural areas
encounter many challenges. The 22 counties Pennsylvania
Partnerships identified as lacking in high-quality child
care "don't have enough resources ... and this
is a voluntary program. But I do see the glass as being
partly full in that so many counties did offer it,"
Casey said. (Read
more) For the report, click
libraries survive despite low funds, few trained librarians
Rural public libraries in Kansas are hitting hard times
because of declining populations and small property
tax bases, and one-third of the 54 members in the Central
Kansas Library System cannot afford to pay
a librarian to work just 10 hours a week.
"The Central Kansas Library System is one of seven
established in Kansas by the Legislature to provide
services for small libraries and help fund them. The
library system has the authority to levy property taxes
in rural areas to fund grants made annually to small
libraries," reports The Associated Press.
Rural libraries often provide services that metro locations
simply do not have the time for such as knowing visitors
by name and giving extensive one-on-one help. Leslie
Bell, an administrator of the Northwest Kansas
Library System, said staff members at most
rural libraries come with no college training as librarians.
"The majority are just people interested in libraries,"
Bell said. (Read
September 1, 2006
is deadline for nominations for Gish Award in rural
you know a publisher, editor, reporter or photographer
who has demonstrated courage, tenacity and integrity
in rural journalism? You are invited to nominate one
or more of them for the Tom and Pat Gish Award, presented
by the Institute for Rural Journalism &
award is named for the couple (right) who
are in their 50th year of publishing The Mountain
Eagle of Whitesburg, Ky. The Gishes have withstood
advertiser boycotts, declining population, personal
attacks and even the burning of their newspaper office
to provide the citizens of Letcher County the kind of
journalism often lacking in rural areas, especially
those dominated by extractive industries -- in this
case, primarily coal. Their coverage and commentary
go beyond the boundaries of Letcher County to address
issues in state and federal governments and other institutions
that have a local impact, such as a new regional drug-fighting
agency, the 40-year-old Appalachian Regional
Commission, and the Tennessee Valley
Authority and its coal-buying policies that
encouraged strip mining in Central Appalachia. These
are just some examples of the type of journalism worthy
of the award.
Gish Award is given to rural journalists who demonstrate
the courage, tenacity and integrity often needed to
render public service through journalism in rural areas.
The first award was made to the Gishes themselves in
2005. The Institute hopes to make it annually, depending
on the quality of the nominations.
for this year's award are due Sept. 1. The Institute
plans to present the award at one of its conferences
this fall. Nominations should be made by way of a letter
or e-mail giving details on the courage, tenacity and
integrity demonstrated by the nominee(s). You may be
asked to provide additional information.
your nomination to: Al Cross, director, Instiute for
Rural Journalism and Community Issues, 122 Grehan Journalism
Bldg., University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042,
or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions, e-mail us or call 859-257-3744.
more information on Tom and Pat Gish, click
rural journalists win awards from National Newspaper
Donald Q. Smith and Diane Everson will be honored at
the 120th annual convention of the National
Newspaper Association, where Smith will recieve
the James O. Amos Award and Everson will accept the
Emma C. McKinney Memorial Award.
"Recognized as the highest and most dignified
tributes in community journalism, the Amos and McKinney
awards are presented to a working or retired newspaperman
and woman who have provided distinguished service and
leadership to the community press and their community,"
Smith, retired publisher and editor of the Monticello
Times in Monticello, Minn., will receive the
Amos award, established in 1938 in honor of Gen. James
Amos, a pioneer Ohio journalist. Everson, co-owner and
co-publisher of the Edgerton Reporter in
Edgerton, Wis., will receive the McKinney Award, established
in 1966 to honor Emma McKinney, co-publisher and editor
of the Hillsboro (Ore.) Argus for 58 years. (Read
statehouse control at stake, rural vote could be a key
"This is potentially the most consequential
mid-term election since 1994, and we are approaching
it with that in mind," Richard Stevenson, deputy
Washington bureau chief for The New York Times,
told Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher,
whose story is a reminder for all journalists, not just
those in Washington. After all, every American has a
congressional race on the ballot in November, when there
is a chance that control of the House or even the Senate
might change, and most states will elect governors and
state legislators. (Read
Strupp's story focused on preparations
by daily, metropolitan newspapers, but non-metro papers
and weeklies will also be fulfilling their core First
Amendment responsibilities by helping voters make informed
choices. The rural vote will be "more crucial than
ever," the American Farm Bureau Federation
said in a press release this week. Because turnout will
be lower than in a presidential election, this one "presents
an incredible opportunity for rural voters — farmers
and non-farmers alike — to make their voices heard,"
wrote Cyndie Sirekis, director of news services for
the farm lobby.
"Although residents of rural America
make up but 20 to 23 percent of our nation’s population,
research shows they tend to turn out at the polls in
far greater numbers than their urban and suburban counterparts,"
the release said. "Each rural vote cast becomes
even more significant, if the overall voter apathy trend
continues among urban and suburban residents while rural
residents vote in droves. Among rural residents, farmers
and ranchers are well-known to have a high level of
political activity. As independent business families,
they have a lot at stake."
invited to political coverage workshop in Kentucky Sept.
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community
Issues and the Citizen Kentucky Project of the First
Amendment Center of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications
at the University of Kentucky will
hold a workshop on political reporting on Sept. 14 at
the studios of Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington.
The deadline for registration is Monday,
The program will be tailored to Kentucky journalists,
because virtually every office in the state is on the
ballot this fall and candidate filing for 2007 primaries
for the statewide constitutional offices, including
governor, will end in January. However, journalists
from other states will find the workshop useful.
Topics will include deciding what to cover and how,
researching information about issues, the special nature
of judicial elections, editorials and commentary, and
how to use computers to mine campaign-finance data.
To download a copy of the program, click
The program will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. KET is
located at 600 Cooper Drive in Lexington. For more information,
contact Institute Director Al Cross at Al.Cross@uky.edu.
bust in Georgia shows methamphetamine is still a big
Despite some reports that methamphetamine use and trafficking
are declining, there still appears to be a strong demand
for the drug, as illustrated by a recent meth bust in
Georgia, the biggest in the state's history. Authorities
seized 341 pounds, which the Drug Enforcement
Administration estimated to be worth $17 million
to more than $50 million.
North Georgia and the areas surrounding Atlanta have
become a hub for methamphetamine trafficking, said U.S.
Attorney David E. Nahmias. Law enforcement attributes
the insurge of meth to Mexican crime groups. 187 pounds
of meth were found in Buford, Ga., only two weeks earlier,
and similarly large busts have been made, reports Bill
Torpy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
more) To read the Justice Department press release,
supposedly smallest Minnesota town with a paper calls
The Milan Standard is out of business,
ending the west-central Minnesota town's claim to be
the smallest one in the state with its own newspaper.
"We lost a piece of our identity," Ron Anderson,
mayor of the town of 326 people, told the West
Central Tribune of Willmar. The 103-year-old
paper was no longer locally owned, but published by
Press since 1983. Publisher Leslie Ehrenberg
said the paper couldn't sell enough advertising to keep
going, but was difficult to abandon. "It's the
emotional ties," she said. "It's very hard
to let it go." Ehrenberg said the Press plans to
keep Standard Editor Andrea Johnson (also her sister-in-law)
on the payroll, keep using the paper's contributors
and have at least two pages a week about Milan.
The Standard was one of Minnesota's smallest weeklies,
with a circulation between 420 and 450. The circulation
of the Press is 3,600. An Associated Press
rewrite of the Tribune story reported, "Nearly
all of the town's postal patrons subscribed, said Joy
Olson, postmaster relief for Milan. Most of those living
in town timed their Tuesday visits to the post office
to arrive just after 1:30 p.m., when they knew the newspaper
would be in their boxes, she said."
Wal-Mart advertising campaign is misleading, may sue
Wal-Mart Watch, a watchdog group, said it will file
suit againt the company alleging false advertising in
a commercial campaign launched Tuesday and reported
in The Rural Blog yesterday. The ads are designed to
promote a positive image of Wal-Mart's employee treatment
and its effect on communities, reports Mya Frazier of
"In one of the spots in question, a 60-second
commercial dubbed 'Sam's Dream,' a narrator breaks in
among the smiling associates in blue smocks and says:
'It's been said that when Wal-Mart comes to town, it's
like getting a nice pay raise.' The spot then refers
to an oft-touted statistic that the retailer's low prices
save working families, on average, $2,300 a year 'which
buys a lot of things -- and a whole bunch of freedom,'"
"That's the part that is so disingenuous. If you
are only making $16,000 a year, how can you afford that?
Are you not going to feed or clothe your children?"
Chris Kofinis of WakeUpWalMart.com
told Ad Age. He said that on average, full-time Wal-Mart
employees make $2,200 below the poverty level. The group
says it plan to launch its own advertising campaign
countering Wal-Mart's claims. (Read
coordinators named for Sunshine Week, anti-secrecy effort
Sunshine Week is an effort by journalists to enlist
their communities in efforts to combat unwarranted government
secrecy. Sunshine Week 2007 will take place March 11-17.
"During Sunshine Week — which is led by
the American Society of Newspaper Editors
and supported by a grant from the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation — media organizations,
civic groups, libraries, schools, non-profit organizations
and others nationwide participate in coverage of and
discussions about the importance of protecting public
access to government," Sunshine Week says in a
"The Sunshine Week initiative is increasing public
awareness, it's coming up more often in policy conversations,
and the efforts of participants are being cited as real
forces for moving the public away from simply accepting
excessive and unwarranted government secrecy."
Regional coordinators for Sunshine Week will contact
media and civic groups to build a network for their
areas. Anyone, including individuals, schools and libraries,
who wants to be involved with Sunshine Week is encouraged
to contact their coodinator. (Read
The coordinators are: New England (CT,
ME, MA, NH, RI, VT), Thomas E. Heslin, managing
editor for new media, The Providence Journal;
Mid-Atlantic (DE, MD, DC, NJ, NY, PA),
Tim Franklin, editor, The Baltimore Sun;
South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC,
SC, TN, VA, WV), Mark Tomasik, editor, Scripps
Treasure Coast Newspapers; Midwest (IL,
IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI): Tom O’Hara,
managing editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer;
West (CO, ID, MT, NM, ND, OK, SD, TX,
UT, WY), Fred Zipp, managing editor, Austin
American-Statesman; and Far West (AK,
AZ, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA), Maureen West, senior
editor, Arizona Republic.