Roundup: The Ad You Didn’t See

The R-word • Reforming the E-Rate program • Vicco endorses a single-payer health system • Disappearing Chinese villages

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Among the many things you didn’t see in yesterday’s Super Bowl (in addition to Broncos’ offense) was this promotional video from Change the Mascot and the National Congress of American Indians.

The video is part of a campaign to get the Washington Redskins to drop their name. The mascot name has drawn opposition from Native and civil rights groups for 40 years. Last year the team’s owner, Daniel Snyer, stated, “We will never change the name of the team.”

The campaign to change the mascot name has also published a lengthy article on the liberal blog “Think Progress” tracing the history of the mascot and efforts to remove it.

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New Hampshire’s junior senator and a member of the Federal Communications Commission team up to advocate for reforms in the FCC’s E-Rate program, which is supposed to help schools get affordable and fast broadband connections. In a jointly signed op/ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Commissioner Ajit Pai write:

A core component of E-Rate’s mission is to give rural students the same tech-driven tools as urban and suburban students. Congress had the right idea in the 1990s, but E-Rate today isn’t achieving its intended goals. And it’s not a matter of how much we spend, but how we spend it.

The reality is that E-Rate is leaving students in rural America behind. The way funding is currently distributed, states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana, and South Dakota get the least E-Rate funding per student.

In fact, New Hampshire is dead last when it comes to return on E-Rate investment. Granite Staters get just 25 cents back for every dollar they pay into the program through the universal service charge on their monthly phone bill. Meanwhile, in 2011, New Jersey received three times more funding per student than New Hampshire. That’s not fair: New Jersey is more urban and has a higher median income than New Hampshire, and broadband is more expensive in rural areas.

The op/ed says the FCC should simplify the E-Rate application process and allow schools greater flexibility in how they spend funds. Reforms should also “end the subsidies that result in citizens from rural states like New Hampshire paying for technology services in higher population states like New Jersey.”

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The small town of Vicco, Kentucky, is staying in the national spotlight. The city council in the coalfields town recently endorsed a statement of support of a single-payer health-care system. Last year, Vicco gained national attention for passing an anti-discrimination ordinance that attracted national coverage and a segment on the Cobert Report.

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The culture of China is disappearing with the rural villages that are being bulldozed in the push toward urbanization and economic change, reports Ian Johnson in the New York Times.

“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” says author and scholar Feng Jicai. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”

Johnson reports that in 2000 China had 3.7 million villages (not people, villages). They’ve been losing those villages at a rate of about 300 a day – the number was down to 2.6 million in 2010.

Destroying villages and their culture also reveals deeper biases. A common insult in China is to call someone a farmer, a word equated with backwardness and ignorance, while the most valued cultural traditions are elite practices like landscape painting, calligraphy and court music.

But in recent years, Chinese scholars have begun to recognize the countryside’s vast cultural heritage. A mammoth government project has cataloged roughly 9,700 examples nationwide of “intangible cultural heritage,” fragile traditions like songs, dances, rituals, martial arts, cuisines and theater. About 80 percent of them are rural.

But cataloging heritage and keeping it alive aren’t necessarily the same thing. The story raises a question that will be familiar to anyone interested in rural communities: Can a culture based on place survive in the absence of that place? It’s more than an academic question in China, where villages have been removed entirely, and the communities that once lived there and maintained cultural traditions are relocated to cities.

We would note that similar economic and cultural changes are afoot in the United States. The rural population declined in real terms for the first time in 2010, threatening traditions no less central to America’s cultural identity than those of rural China are to the Chinese.

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The West Virginia chemical spill saga continues. Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette writes that the state Department of Environmental Protection never reviewed two pollution-prevention plans from the owner of the chemical tanks that contaminated the Elk River and Charleston’s water supply. The tanks contained a chemical used in coal preparation.

Ward was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air interview program last week. He lays out the timeline of the disaster,  how the leak was discovered and the steps public agencies took – and didn’t take – to protect the public.

 

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