Tarkio College was once the economic and cultural engine driving this Missouri community. Alumni and residents now try to maintain and restore the campus, while searching for a new role for the town’s biggest asset.
An extraordinary set of Library of Congress field recordings from the 1930s and ‘40s captured the depth and breadth of American folk music. Folklorist and musician Stephen Wade revisits the South to tell 13 stories of the artists who helped define American identity while remaining virtually anonymous themselves.
(Image belt;20131031_prodigalfarm_shaena_mallett_0001.jpg) Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabbe moved from New York City back to Kathryn's home state of North Carolina, where they bought a former tobacco farm and created a dairy full of love and goats.
Five years ago at his grandmother’s funeral, Matthew Fluharty reflected on the value of rural culture and what he might do to help promote and enliven it. Today, the “Art of the Rural” project relaunches its online work with a more powerful website and bigger ambitions.
When it comes to providing quality healthcare, rural communities are a natural antidote to the power of larger, less caring institutions, says Tim Size of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. The status of underdog can be a strength.
Ted Wathen was one-third of a gang of young photographers who traveled the roads of Kentucky in the 1970s, shooting pictures in every county. Now, nearly 40 years later, Wathen examines why travling off the beaten path hits the spot.
Universal Broadband in Minnesota? • Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee • Apprenticeships for High Schoolers • Draining Rural Texas • Farm Bill Breakdown
Photo by the Associated PressKevin Beyer, general manager of Farmers, a century-old phone company, talks with mechanic Morrie Schacherer (left) and his father, Al, talk at the auto shop they run in Dawson, Minn., where the addition of rural broadband has enabled them to reduce tire inventory now that getting different styles and sizes is only a click away. Farmers laid down 600 miles of fiber cable beginning in 2011 with the help of $9.6 million in stimulus grants and loans
Universal Broadband in Minnesota? The AP’s Brian Bakst looks at Minnesota’s efforts to provide universal broadband access by 2015. It’s an ambitious goal, one that isn’t going to happen without some sort of government involvement, says the chairwoman of state broadband task force:
"Without that sort of intervention we are going to have a very difficult time getting to 100 percent," said task force chairwoman Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of the Minnesota High Tech Association. "There needs to be some sort of gap-closer."
In recent years, local phone companies and community cooperatives could get federal aid to run fiber through forests and fields to subscribers in sparse areas. Minnesota providers, many working with local government partners, drew more than $238 million in stimulus loans and grants from a national pool of $4 billion, according to state and federal data. All that money helped build out 105,000 miles of new or updated network connections across the country.
It's not just about having a broadband connection — more than 96 percent of Minnesota households have access to one — but about how fast it is. The state is striving to achieve download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 5 megabits per second.
Those rates are considered vital to unlocking the most technological opportunities: Seamless streaming of distance-learning courses in schools, telemedicine projects that allow for virtual doctor checkups and letting grandparents dote over their grandchildren via Skype or FaceTime without frustrating freeze-ups.
Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee The future of Tennessee’s rural hospitals rests with Gov. Bill Haslam, who has yet to decide whether to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, reports the Nashville Tennessean.
Expansion of the federal health insurance plan for low-income residents is essential, say hospital advocates. Hospitals need the new revenue from those patients to make up for decreases in funding that are occurring in other provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Photo by Katie Dunphy/The State PressDiane Humetewa, a former U.S. attorney in Arizona, would be the first Native American to serve as a U.S. judge, if her nomination is confirmed by the Senate. The change in Senate rules last month makes that approval more likely. The United States Senate is a curious institution. It's not democratic. It's not representative. And it's the ultimate millionaire's sandbox.
So in the U.S. constitutional scheme: The 38 million people living in California get two votes out of 100, the same as the 576,000 folks who are residents of Wyoming.
One person's vote is worth more if they live in a tiny state, but at least it's a vote. Because some four million American Indians and Alaska Natives -- citizens of tribal governments -- aren’t counted as a unique constituency. By land mass, Indian Country's 50-plus million acres are bigger than almost half the states. Even breaking that number up into population counts, Cherokee’s 819,000 people or Navajo's 350,000 is in the same ballpark as one of those small states.
But that’s the deal. And the Constitution is sacred script (roll the organ-heavy musical theme now). So get over it, right?
But the thing is the U.S. Senate, this undemocratic institution, is made worse by the filibuster. Especially now that the filibuster has become a routine, invoked on every nominee or every bill. Instead of 50 votes, a supermajority of 60 votes, was required to get anything done. That changed last month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, used another rule (one requiring just 50 votes) to overrule the filibuster on judicial and executive nominees. Only now that that procedure has been invoked, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster is gone forever. (The filibuster is only a tradition, not a constitutional procedure. It’s only been used for about a century. And in the past decade it’s use has increased significantly.)
Let’s be clear: The super-majority has not been good for Indian Country. One of the reasons it took so long to pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was that 60-vote hurdle. Or reach a final settlement on the Cobell lawsuit. Or we’ve been reading all about the complications with the Affordable Care Act. One of the key appointments, Donald Berwick, was never confirmed as the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and took the job with a limited timeframe as a recess appointment.
Irish plan to run power pylons through rural areas fits pattern of neglect, says advocate • Oil boom creates postal pressures in North Dakota • OSHA doesn’t have staff to do its job, newspaper reports • Democrats cede rural hearing on Obamacare to Republicans • A new name for Catholic rural group.
Irish TimesStudents participate in a protest against an Irish plan to erect high-tension power lines through rural areas.
Rural Group Opposes Irish Power Line Plan. Members of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association are joining other residents opposing a power company’s plan to erect high-tension power lines across the Emerald Isle.
Farm families see the move as part of the government’s larger abandonment of rural Ireland, the president of the association said at a national conference last week, the Irish Times reports.
“The State seems to be gradually withdrawing from rural life vis-a-vis rural post offices, DVOs (district veterinary offices), Garda stations, hospitals, schools and so on,” said John Comer, head of the milk suppliers’ association. The government wants to erect “a massive visual blight across the landscape of Ireland that’s going to be there for the next generation and the generation after that.”
He said rural residents don’t want “an Incredible Hulk flexed-muscle type structure looking down at them for the rest of their lives.”
The power line expansion program is part of improving electrical service to the nation, others say. Burying the lines instead of mounting them on pylons would be too expensive, said Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture.
Oil Boom, Postal Doom. Residents of boomtowns in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota are having trouble getting their mail because of a lack of postal employees, they say.
A postal union representative says letter carriers are “worked to the bone” and some are quitting as a result.
The Postal Service is recruiting more workers for the region, reports Forum News Service. That bucks the trend of Postal Service downsizing and post-office closures in other rural areas.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, held a roundtable to discuss post office issues in the state’s Bakken communities, a region experiencing a variety of pressures from oil-and-gas development.
Worker Deaths and OSHA. Big industrial accidents like the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, get the headlines, but most workers who are killed on the job get little notice because they die one at a time. But work accidents large and small have one thing in common, reports the Dallas Morning News: The places where these workers have died rarely receive inspections before the fact from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Reporters Randy Lee Loftis and Eric Holmberg look at several occupational deaths in Texas in recent years, especially ones involving dangerous work cleaning chemical tanks and other equipment that’s part of the oil and gas industry. They draw one conclusion: What little attention these workers in dangerous occupations attract comes only if they die. Because OSHA, the agency that’s supposed to enforce worker safety laws, doesn’t have the resources to conduct enough inspections and spot dangerous conditions before they result in an accident or death.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the renewable fuel standard (RFS) for 2014. The change threatens to undo the progress we’ve made in decreasing dependence on foreign oil and slowing the emission of carbon dioxide, says Richard Oswald.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty ImagesEarlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that the nation reduce its target for biofuels in 2014 by about 3 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons.
Passage of the autumnal equinox near the end of September used to mean approaching winter and an end to tumultuous summer weather. This year in 2013, on November 18, nearly two months after the equinox, devastating storms hit the eastern Corn Belt causing massive property damage costing the lives of six people.
Destructive contra-seasonal storms like these have become more common.
Should we be concerned?
Many scientists point to increased turbulence in the atmosphere caused by rising amounts of carbon dioxide, and warmer temperatures. The presence of more CO2 is thought to be a result of both developed and developing nations’ reliance on fossil-fuel coal and oil.
Burning fossil fuels returns carbon to the air millions of years after prehistoric organisms sequestered CO2 deep beneath the earth’s crust, buried there by their own ancient cataclysms.
Those organisms became sources of energy.
In other words, we're burning dead dinosaurs.
Burning them returns the earth to less stable times.
The renewable fuel standard (RFS) is meant to replace ancient dinosaurs and caramelized jungles they frequented with clean-burning ethanol made from today’s CO2, instead of yesterday’s.
The whole point of the RFS and the progress we’ve made to date has been to keep carbon buried deep inside the earth by recycling carbon in the atmosphere.
Bluegrass State seen as model for how Affordable Care Act ought to work • Lack of rural dental care prompts calls for new system • Farm bill talks stall • Iowans make broadband a gubernatorial issue • And Iowa governor accuses EPA of a “war on corn.”
Photo by Luke Sharrett / For The Washington PostJeff Fletcher claps his hands after Courtney Lively tells him he will get insurance. The 52-year-old disabled master electrician had been ignoring a spot on his lung that was discovered during a visit to the emergency room after he broke some ribs several years ago.
Bucking the trend of its neighboring Southeastern states, Kentucky opted to create its own marketplace, rather than use the federal system (you know – the one with all the website problems?). The state also accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid to residents who don’t make enough to qualify for government subsidies for private health insurance.
And while the nation bickers about Obamacare, reports Stephanie McCrummen, Kentucky is quietly getting people signed up for health insurance programs. McCrummen writes with a dateline in rural Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky:
This is how things are going in Kentucky: As conservatives argued that the new health-care law will wreck the economy, as liberals argued it will save billions, as many Americans raged at losing old health plans and some analysts warned that a disproportionate influx of the sick and the poor could wreck the new health-care model, [Courtney] Lively was telling [Woodrow Wilson] Noble something he did not expect to hear.
“All right,” she said. “We’ve got you eligible for Medicaid.”
Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday.
If the health-care law is having a troubled rollout across the country, Kentucky — and Breathitt County in particular — shows what can happen in a place where things are working as the law’s supporters envisioned.
Rural Hearing. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a field hearing today entitled “Obamacare Implementation: High Costs, Few Choices for Rural America.” The hearing was scheduled to start this morning in Gainesville, Georgia.
Something to Smile About. A new type dental practitioner – similar to a physician’s assistant in medicine – could help deliver dental care in underserved rural areas, writes Larry Dreiling in the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.
The Registered Dental Practitioner program is an emerging effort nationwide designed as a mid-level provider, similar to a physician’s assistant, that will increase access to dental care.
Under this model, registered dental hygienists can complete additional education and training to become RDPs. With the supervision of a dentist, the RDP is able to provide preventive care, cleanings, extractions and fillings.
Problems with the website aren’t helping, but the worst impediment to healthcare reform for some may be fear of dealing with the medical system, writes a former healthcare “navigator.” Marina Sáenz Luna explains how rural communities like those in the Rio Grande Valley can lead the way in helping folks get covered and get well.
Photo by Brian Snyder/ReutersChihn Ha, 8, gets a flu shot earlier this year. Could it be that the nation is just afraid to take its healthcare reform medicine?
I am 30 years old, computer savvy, own a laptop and even have one of those mobile hotspots on my phone. While I had everything I needed to enroll in the healthcare marketplace, I could not.
This time, I could not blame the website. I had to give myself a proper diagnosis: I was terrified of healthcare. To be more precise, I was terrified of the overwhelming process of selecting an insurance provider that I had equated with healthcare.
The last time I had the opportunity to pick my own health insurance was while working for a small non-profit organization. I avoided the process for nearly three years because I had no idea where to begin. The fear immobilized me from seeking coverage.
While in college, I took advantage of the clinic on campus when I needed mandatory physicals for employment. Aside from this, I have only had private health insurance for a combined three months in the last eight years.
When the Texas Tribune put together their report of 5.7 million uninsured Texans, I began to see my experience reflected in these numbers: 58.8% of uninsured Texans were Latinos; 80.2% of uninsured Texans are between the ages of 18 and 64. In the Rio Grande Valley, about 41% of residents were uninsured compared to only 15% nationally.
A portion of the Rio Grande Valley in southeast Texas. Political and geographic boundaries make the region difficult to enter and leave. Click map to enlarge.In the Valley, being left out is the norm.
There are many physical boundaries that enclose the Rio Grande Valley – making it a hard-to-reach area. We’re the abandoned child that cannot climb the border wall. We cannot cross the Falfurrias checkpoint to head north. We try to avoid the violence to the west (namely Starr County) and can't swim across the Gulf of Mexico to another land. In many ways, this corridor has been forgotten – leaving successive generations in survival mode.
There is, however, an incredibly affordable healthcare industry just across our border that caters to mobile retirees (better known as “Winter Texans”). Those with the privilege to cross the border are decreasing as border security gets tighter.
The cartel-related violence has also stopped quick day trips to México for more affordable health care. A recent interview with a community health worker by Kaiser Health News shows a new trend for those managing diabetes. Before, it was common to hear stories of families who would cross the border to get cheaper insulin and other types of prescription medications. Now, it’s more common to hear that family members prefer to share their insulin rather than risk crossing the border.