Monday Roundup: New Yorker’s Blind Spot

Role of ranchers, farmers neglected – again – in story on Keystone XL pipeline • Does the farm bill have a fighting chance? • Rural Idaho has state’s worst broadband access • Rural medical workers train for disasters and careers • Secession movements in northern Colorado, northern California and other states

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Why It’s Called the New Yorker, Part II. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza wrote more than 9,000 words in the magazine’s September 16 issue about opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Lizza mentions Nebraska only twice and “ranchers” not at all.

That seems a bit skimpy, given that the first objections to the pipeline, which would carry Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast, came from ranchers in Nebraska. In fact, it’s a good bet that if Nebraska ranchers hadn’t first opposed the pipeline, construction would already be underway.

Ranchers saw right away that the pipeline would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer; any spills would endanger their primary source of water. Ranchers called meetings. The Nebraska Farmers Union weighed in. The Nebraska legislature called a special session two years ago and demanded that the company building Keystone find new route that avoided sensitive lands.

It was only after all of this happened in Nebraska that the U.S. State Department delayed action on a permit that is required before the pipeline can cross the U.S./Canada border. 

Lizza has a different version, one that revolves around environmentalists (former New Yorker writer Bill McKibben is a favorite) and the politics of Washington, D.C. 

This is the second time the New Yorker has written at length about Keystone, and twice that the magazine’s Nebraska blindness has failed to tell the full story of the pipeline. (See the Daily Yonder’s story from 2011, “Why It’s Called the New Yorker.”)

Farm Bill. The farm bill is fighting for air, squeezed between the Syria debate and the threat of another fiscal cliff at the end of the month. Politico reports that some key votes could occur as early as this week. Or not. The story describes important differences in how crop supports might be calculated. Reporter David Rogers said the disagreement is causing tensions among regions and farmers.

Worst in Show. Rural North Idaho has the worst broadband service in the state, the coordinator of LinkIdaho told state a legislative committee last week.

Mike Field, who runs the federally funded program that seeks to improve high-speed access in Idaho, said urban areas are doing relatively well.  But rural areas are a different story. “We do see a problem once we get outside our smaller rural communities,” he said. “You get past 3 miles, then it gets pretty iffy.”

How Hot Is “Not”? Maybe you’ve heard this term before, but it was new to us: “not spots.” These are places where broadband or cell service is lacking. A newspaper in Cornwall, England, uses the term in its report  on efforts to improve cell service. And another website, called Broadband Notspot, has a form for reporting “notspots,” places in Britain where broadband service is slow or nonexistent. Will the term catch on on this side of the pond? Or has it already done so, and we just missed it?

Click Here to Invite the Govenor. A hotel owner in northwest Colorado has started an online petition to get Gov. John Hickenlooper to visit Moffatt County. He hopes a town-hall-style meeting with the governor will help residents talk through an upcoming vote to secede from Colorado and make their own state.

Last month the Moffatt County commissioners voted 2-1 to put secession on the November ballot. Commissioners said they were concerned about how rural parts of the state are being treated by more densely populated parts of Colorado.

“[Craig resident Frank] Moe mailed an invitation, made an online request, sent a Facebook message and even tweeted the governor, asking him to come to Moffat County,” the Craig Daily Press reports. “I’d try sky-writing it, but I don’t think I could afford it,” Moe said.

The governor is consdiering the invitation, a spokesperson said.

Rural Coloradans aren’t the only Westerners thinking about secession. Residents along the California-Oregon border are also considering making a new state. The Sacramento Bee has a report on the recent vote by Siskiyou County commissioners to look into secession. The Bee reports that such efforts have a long history, going back to the earliest days of California statehood.

The story says in addition to the Siskiyou County and Colorado efforts, there are attempts to create new states in rural western Maryland and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Rural EMT Training. WXOW in La Crosse, Wisconsin, reports on a training day to help rural emergency medical personnel prepare for farm accidents. Law enforcement, fire fighters and other emergency personnel “practiced on plastic” so they can be ready for the real thing, one coordinator said. The practice scenarios included an overturned tractor, a tree-fall and an accident involving amputation.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina State newspaper reports on medical students serving third-year clinical placements as part of their education at the Sumter campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Janessa Hill sewed up an alligator bite injury. Classmate Jordan St. John got stuck behind a tractor on a two-lane road on the way to work,” reports Joey Holleman.  The students report enjoying the small-town experiences.

“Being from big-city Phoenix, it’s a nice change,” one medical student said. “The patients say, ‘Oh I saw you in the paper,’ and they recognize you. They’ll say ‘My husband was in the hospital the other day and told me about you.’”

 

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