Monday Roundup: Thanks To Nebraska Farmers

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Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told the Nebraska Farmers Union Sunday that it played an essential role in stalling the pipeline that was to cross the state’s environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region, the Grand Island Independent reports

“Your input made the difference,” Heineman said, referring to the Nebraska Farmers Union. “You put the pressure on, you kept giving us advice, you kept sharing letters and emails, you showed up at two public hearings in Atkinson and Lincoln with the State Department and three days worth of legislative hearings on this issue. That is how we got to where we are today.”

TransCanada had planned to construct a pipeline to carry oil sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coasts. The pipeline required a permit from the U.S. State Department, since it crossed an international border. The State Department delayed its decision until the environmental effects of the pipeline in the Great Plains could be studied.

Gov. Heineman said the state is working on an understanding with the State Department on the scope of those studies. And the governor said the state is discussing alternative routes through Nebraska with TransCanada, according to reporter Robert Pore.

“The citizens of this state were far ahead of elected public officials in terms of their desire to get criteria in place and routing and siting authority established because most citizens, when they looked at this issue, it made no sense to run an oil pipeline right through the heart of the Sandhills when it doesn’t need to go there,” said Nebraska Farmers Union President John K. Hansen.

• The L. A. Times has a long story about the rapidly rising rates of autism diagnosed among U.S. children. The rate of autism is now 20 times the rate found in 1980 — leading some to conclude this is an “epidemic of discovery” more than any real growth in a disease. 

One thing the Times finds is that autism is diagnosed far more often in cities and suburbs than in rural areas. The paper reports: 

In California overall, 1.1% of public elementary school students have been identified as autistic, a Los Angeles Times analysis found. But the rate in Orange County (1.6%) is nearly triple that of Fresno County. Many rural school districts list no autistic students at all.

Autism accounts for 14% of the caseload at the Central Valley Regional Center, one of the nonprofit agencies that arrange state-funded services for people with developmental disabilities. At the seven regional centers in L.A. County, it accounts for 34%.

Such variations are seen across the country. The autism rate in Minnesota schools, for example, is 10 times that in Iowa.

Researchers say the differences are too wide to represent true disparities in the prevalence of autism. More likely, they are the signature of social and cultural forces, reflecting how new perceptions and attitudes about autism have taken root to different degrees in different places.

Southern California, long a center of autism research and treatment, is simply further along.

But nearly everywhere, the new iteration of autism is spreading, one child at a time.

Kansas City Star reporter Lee Hill Kavanaugh went to Atchison County, Missouri, last week to see how things stood after the 2011 Missouri River flood. 

Things were, well, a mess — 90 homes destroyed and 47,000 acres scoured by floodwaters in Atchison alone. (See photo above.)

• A group of 18 Senate Democrats has written a letter to Senate leaders asking that Congress postpone the Postal Service’s closing of 252 mail-processing centers and instituting more than 100,000 job cuts. 

“While we may have very different views on how to financially improve the postal service, we all believe that democratically elected members of the Senate and the House have the responsibility to make significant changes to the postal service,” the lawmakers wrote.

• Iowa journalism professor Stephen G. Bloom tells readers of The Atlantic magazine what it’s really like to live in Iowa. It turns out that people actually hunt — with dogs, if you can believe it — and they even fish. Some Iowans have been known to go to such a thing called a “tractor pull.” Amazing! 

We are sure that readers of The Atlantic find all this very exotic, but we wonder about Bloom’s contention that Iowans are “isolated.” This is what journalists have written about Appalachia for a century, even as towns there were built by U.S. Steel, Ford and International Harvester.

Late last week, we heard more testimony about the large number of farmers who found their finances tied up in the collapse of MF Global. We would imagine that they wish they were more isolated.

Of course, one man’s isolation is another’s way of life. That readers of The Atlantic would find any of Bloom’s report surprising or out of the ordinary is proof of that.

• Lexington newspaper columnist Tom Eblen writes about the “big impact” of rural non-profits. 

The Appalachian Regional Commission has started a program to seed community foundations in rural counties that have none. The goal is to capture some of the transfer of wealth in the communities where it was created. 

• Gas and oil exploration companies disclose risks to environment to their stockholders, but not to landowners, according to the Environmental Working Group. 

The Environmental advocacy group released a report Monday saying companies tell investors more about the risks of hydraulic fracturing (a technique used to force larger volumes of hydrocarbons out of wells) than those living on the land being drilled. Nor do land acquisition companies tell landowners of the potential environmental effects of drilling.

 

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