Monday Roundup: Dentists, Fracking and Fructose

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Only two of Alabama’s 67 counties have enough dentists, the Anniston Star reports

The area around Anniston, Alabama, would need an additional six full-time dentists to be adequately served, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  This kind of extreme shortage isn’t peculiar to Alabama. It’s a national phenomenon, according to Dale Quinney, the executive director of the Alabama Rural Health Association. “There’s a serious shortage of dentists in the country,” Quinney said.

Alabama has exactly one dental school that admits 55 students a year, or 8 percent of the dentists the state needs to serve low-income residents.

• With government spending less on roads and bridges, cities and states are turning to tolls, the Washington Post reports

There are at least 70 privately-funded and managed infrastructure projects now underway across the U.S. One of the reasons there is less money for roads and bridges is that states are spending more of their money on keeping up the 46,876-mile federal highway system built over the last 60 years.

• The federal Environmental Protection Agency will regulate wastewater discharged by drilling companies extracting natural gas from shale formations, the L.A. Times reports

There is drilling in shale gas formations all over the country. Drillers use a technique known as hyrdraulic fracturing. A liquid mixture is forced into the shale formation, which forces out the gas. The mixture is made up of chemicals, salt, minerals and water. Sometimes this mixture is treated in wastewater treatment plants, but there is currently no national standard for treatment.

• Soldiers in Mexico who once spent their time cutting and burning fields of marijuana and poppies have been sent to the cities to battle gangs. As a result, reports the Washington Post, the acreage devoted to drugs has increased to record levels. 

• A federal appeals court Friday upheld a rule prohibiting roads on nearly 50 million acres of national forest land. 

Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association challenged the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, saying it could limit development of oil, gas and coal resources. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

• Schools continue to cut. The Post reports that nationally 120 school districts, primarily in rural areas, have gone to four-day school weeks in order to save on transportation and utilities. 

• A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that a suit seeking to stop the use of the term “corn sugar” to describe high fructose corn syrup can go forward.

The industry uses “corn sugar” in advertisements that are attempting to “rebrand” corn syrup, the sweetener used in sodas and many processed foods.

The sugar industry brought the suit.

• Farms weren’t the only businesses hurt by spring flooding in the Midwest. Amtrak ridership dropped by 16 percent in the last year in Iowa, mostly because of Missouri River flooding. 

• Budget cuts nip and tuck in ways we may soon regret. The New York Times reports that Congress is considering closing a research center aimed at making food imports from Mexico safe. 

• The Times writes about the harm done to horses with a ban on slaughter facilities in the U.S. 

“When they closed the plants, that put more of a hardship on our horses than the people who wanted to stop the slaughter can imagine,” said John Schoneberg, a Nebraska horse breeder who recently took in three horses from a nearby farmer who said that he was unable to pay for feed and would otherwise turn them loose.

 

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