Sunday, August 30, 2015

08/11/2015 at 2:55pm

Senators John Roberts (R-Kansas), left to right, John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) are in the middle of the Senate fight over country of origin labeling.

Efforts to change federal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) may be stalled, but they aren’t on the back burner.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this summer to repeal COOL, but the House is now in in recess. In the Senate, a repeal clause is attached to a highway bill but faces unified Democratic opposition and the support of a few Republicans. It looks increasingly unlikely that any COOL legislation will see action before the end of the summer congressional recess.

Country of Origin Labeling requires that certain products, including beef and pork, are tagged with a label that says where the animal that produced the meat was born, raised, and slaughtered. 

The pressure for doing something about COOL is the result of a World Trade Organization ruling saying the legislation discriminates against beef and pork coming into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. U.S. packers claim that it is too difficult and expensive to keep track of animals requiring different labels in their plants.

The House has already passed COOL-repeal legislation by a margin of 300-131 and its adoption by the Senate would move repeal forward. To force the issue in the Senate, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), a long-time opponent of COOL, added language repealing COOL for beef, pork, and chicken products to a must-pass extension of the highway bill. His amendment does not include provision for a voluntary COOL program. “We can continue to discuss voluntary labeling programs similar to those already in the marketplace once COOL is repealed,” Roberts said.

Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) have introduced a bill in the Senate that would repeal mandatory COOL legislation and replace it with a voluntary COOL program. In support of her legislation Stabenow said, “It would be a sad day, and I believe irresponsible on our part, if we move back to the days prior to COOL where we were labeling meat that was born in a foreign country and spent most of its life in the foreign country but then could somehow come in and be harvested here and be called a product of the United States.”

Stabenow points out that Canada also has a mandatory country-of-origin labelling law for food products. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website, “When a food product is wholly manufactured outside of Canada, the label must show that the product is imported. … In addition, it is mandatory to state the country of origin on some specific imported prepackaged products, such as … meat products. … For example, prepackaged cheese from the United States imported into Canada is required to be labelled ‘Product of United States.’”

08/11/2015 at 7:17am

Photo by Emily Goldstein Patients seeking free medical care started lining up the day before the clinic opened to ensure they get a spot in the first-come, first-served system.

The Remote Area Medical clinic sets up shop only once a year in Southwest Virginia, but Michele Kokoska is a regular.

“At the moment it is my main source of health care,” said the resident of Coeburn, Virginia.

Veteran patients like Kokoska know to arrive early to be one of about 3,000 patients to receive care. She got the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia, at 7 p.m. on a Thursday to be near the front of the line when volunteers started handing out numbers at 3 the next morning.

Others arrived even earlier.

“Lack of insurance brought me out here today,” said Kokoska.

Although it began as an international relief program, Remote Area Medical (RAM) now also works domestically, traveling across the U.S. to provide comprehensive health care. 

For one weekend in July, the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia, are turned into a health-care carnival with participants traveling from all over Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina seeking medical care.  Although the Affordable Health Care Act has expanded access to medical care for some, gaps persist.

Glenn Burdick, R.N., a healthcare provider from Front Royal, Virginia, has volunteered at RAM for three years and runs a free clinic in Front Royal. He said he’s seen first-hand the pitfalls of the current health-care system. 

“It’s a shame we can’t put politics aside and take care of our people,” he said.

08/09/2015 at 9:08am

Timothy Collins The young owner of a 1913 Ford Model T does some engine work. The car, which he has had since the beginning of the year, was his grandfather’s.

Monmouth, Illinois, has a long Main Street and 9,444 residents, give or take a few.  

Once a year, Main Street is closed, turning into an island of maybe 1,500 antique and classic cars and trucks, including scads of hotrods surrounded by shifting sea of 15,000 people, give or take a few thousand.

It's summer, time for the Maple City Machines Cruise Night. The event, which goes back 20 years or so, happened on July 31. The same weekend, there was a car show in nearby LaHarpe, and another, much smaller cruise in on the Courthouse Square in Macomb, both on Saturday.

Car shows, cruise ins, and cruises are different. Car shows offer trophies and prizes. Some may be combined with sales. Cruise ins are park, look, and talk events. Cruises are just that, driving events.

Timothy Collins A 1950 Chevrolet from Iowa has only about 9,000 original miles, according to the sign. Car gatherings are fairly common in small towns around here during the warmer months from May to October. Small or large, these gatherings have character. Sometimes they are fundraisers. Sometimes they are just for fun, a pleasant way to socialize on a warm evening. Events in most rural towns don’t match the scale of Monmouth. Some are held at restaurants or on town squares. They always have some interesting cars and offer the chance to meet—or watch—intriguing people.

08/07/2015 at 7:05am

All photos by Leland Payton After being a plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop Truman Dam, I was let go from my job as a photographer with the University of Missouri Extension. To make a living, Crystal and I dealt in pieced quilts, mostly vintage. This is Pearl Thate, a quilt maker who lived in Carrolton.

Daily Yonder: Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about your background.
Leland Payton: Most of my childhood was spent in Sedalia, Missouri, which is on the border between the tall grass prairie and the hills of the Ozarks. In high school, I played jazz tenor sax, collected arrowheads, and fished the creeks every chance I got.

DY: You now live in Springfield, Missouri.  How did you end up there?
LP: We settled in Springfield primarily because of the excellent schools. Our older son had four years of Japanese by the time he graduated from high school and is now a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department. Our younger son has a master’s in English and an MBA both from Missouri State University here. He is a successful podcaster and freelance writer.

Because it’s close to Jefferson City, Bonnots Mill at the mouth of the Osage River has avoided the collapse of many Missouri villages.

DY: When did you first start taking pictures?
LP: All children draw. I never stopped. I always took a sketchpad when I looked for arrowheads or fished. I gradually started using a camera instead of pens and brushes in my mid twenties. This was a concession to commerciality.

DY: You and your wife, Crystal Payton, established Lens & Pen Press, a publishing company whose mission is to “document, explain and illustrate one of America’s least known but most surprising and distinct geographic and cultural regions.”  What do you find most surprising and distinct about the Ozarks and the Midwest?
LP: Through much of the American past, regionalism was acknowledged, even celebrated, and there were many representations of regional subjects in books and works of art in the national arts and media. In the last half-century big city, even international, interests have dominated. The things writers and artists found interesting about America’s regions are still present, they’re just not published or publicized on a national level as much as they once were.

08/05/2015 at 4:04pm

A new report on the most recent presidential elections argues that rural America isn’t “an undifferentiated bastion of strength for Republicans.”

Below the surface, there’s more diversity in the rural vote, the report says.

But you have to know where to look. And even when you find it, Democrats aren’t winning. They are just losing by a smaller margin.

The study by Dante J. Scala and Kenneth M. Johnson with the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire looked at the rural vote by the type of economic activity that dominated a county.

They found that while only about a quarter of voters in farming counties picked Obama in 2012, the number rose to about 42 percent in rural counties where the recreation industry dominated the economy.

Republicans still won by a landslide in recreation counties. But for Democrats – who lost four out of every five rural counties in 2012, according to an analysis by Bill Bishop – the better showing in recreation counties may seem like good news, at least in the future.

Recreation counties are places with cliffs to scale, rivers to paddle, or mountains to climb. And, more to the point, these counties tend to have young people who want to take advantage of those opportunities, either for their own enjoyment or to make a living.

In contrast, farming counties have been losing young people in recent decades.

“Most [farming counties] have experienced decades of migration loss, particularly of the young adults who have been among President Obama’s strongest supporters,” the report said. 

Recreation counties also have other demographic factors that favor Democrats.

“Residents of recreational counties tend to be wealthier, better educated, and are significantly more likely to reflect liberal stances than their peers in other rural areas,” the report says.

The trend may become more important in the future, if recreation counties continue to attract new residents, who are more likely to vote Democratic.

“Both the population and political influence of recreational counties in national elections are likely to increase given their appeal to the 70 million baby boomers who will retire in the next two decades,” the report said.

Recreation counties are home to about 16 percent of the rural population, and the size of that population has grown by a third in the past 20 years. In contrast, farm counties have 6 percent of the rural U.S. population and have grown by only 5 percent in the last 20 years, according to the report.

“Recreational and farm counties represent two poles that serve to underscore the political differences within rural America,” the report says.

08/04/2015 at 9:57pm

Women's adjusted lifetime major depressive dissorder (MDD) odds ratios (OR) by urbanicity and race/ethnicity shown are adjusted predictions of lifetime MDD with 95% confidence intervals. Analyses are adjusted for age, education, household income, and marital status.

Rural African American women who live in the South are less likely to suffer from major depression than their urban counterparts, a research report says.

This is true even though black rural women are more likely to live in poverty and have lower rates of education – factors that are associated with the incidence of major depression.

While rural black women fared better with depression, rural white women, on the other hand, fared slightly worse, the study found.

The researchers speculate that the lower rate of depression among rural black women may be because these women have better systems of social support than the other groups considered in the study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan sought to understand how factors such as poverty and low rates of education affect mental illness among rural women. Overall, women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to report being depressed than men.

08/04/2015 at 6:56am

Photo by Jack Powers Don West with his daughter, folksinger Hedy West, at the 1972 Folklife Festival.

By the time Don West created the Appalachian South Folklife Center in southern West Virginia in 1965, he already had many accomplishments as a poet, labor organizer, and educator. But the institution he established near the mountain town of Pipestem became his biggest legacy, according to friends who gathered to honor the center’s 50th anniversary earlier this year.

West devoted his life to creating radical political change in the South. But, like the folklife center he founded, he wasn’t tied to doing just one thing.

He was “kind of all things to all people,” said his friend Yvonne Farley.

West wore many hats – some of them controversial – said Warren Doyle, West’s immediate successor of the folklife center. But West’s identity as an artist was central, Doyle said.

“He wasn’t a communist, or maybe he was,” he said. “He wasn’t an agitator, or maybe he was. But he was a poet. And that explains why he moved through the world in the way he did.”

Doyle was among many of West's friends attending the 50th anniversary Folklife Festival at the center in July, listening to music and sharing oral histories about the center and West, who died in 1992 at the age of 86.

It’s a rich history, filled with lessons about organizing progressive education projects in rural communities.


Don West: Educator, Agitator, Artist

West was the son of a Georgia hill farmer. Before establishing the folklife center, he had organized miners in Kentucky, started a democratic education project in rural Georgia, written several books of poetry, and helped found the Highlander Research and Education Center with Myles Horton.

Like the Highlander Center, West’s Folklife Center drew inspiration from the Danish folk-school model, which are mostly rural institutions that provide popular education to adults.

“Don had traveled in Denmark when he was a young man, and there he had seen these folk schools,” said Meno Griffith, now board chair for the center. “Those were the model of what he wanted to build here – a place for people to learn to be self-sufficient.”

He focused on rural livelihoods and traditions, and he placed a high value on the knowledge of people who lived off the land, said Farley, who lived at the center during the 1970s. “I think Don was a peasant at heart,” she said.

West saw mountain culture and heritage as an avenue toward political change.

West faced fierce opposition throughout the 1960s and 70s. He was the kind of man who would walk into the Princeton Times offices to confront the editor who had denounced him as a communist. He ran off officials of the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture who were on his land to investigate his political leanings. He left small radical libraries in local bars.

His actions could be controversial. “My husband stayed up at his place one night because Don was worried some men with guns were coming,” said Edith Bell.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not watching,” his friend David Stanley remembers West saying. His dining hall burned to the ground in the 1970s, and West always suspected arson, his friends remember.

His experiment in Pipestem, in the heart of rural West Virginia, offered a chance to live out some of his ideas about radical education, Appalachian identity, and political revolution. It was a combination that fit well into the social upheaval of the 1960s.