Roundup: Black Lung Makes Comeback

Black Lung Disease at 40-year High • Smithfield Food and Food Security • Preserving Tennessee's Traditional Music • And More!

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A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finds cases on severe Black Lung disease are at a 40-year high in Central Appalachia. 3.2% of miners had a severe case of the disease, up from 0.4% in 1998, the lowest rate in four decades.

"We had a general sense that especially in Central Appalachia we were seeing a comeback, but all of us were very surprised by these latest numbers," said David Blackley, a Niosh researcher who published the data.

“Better” coal mining machines are taking the blame here, due to their ability to grind coal into a finer dust than older machines.

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The purchase of U.S. pork producer Smithfield Food by Chinese company Shuanghui could set the table for many more such purchases in the future, reports PBS Newshour.

“I can tell you firsthand that this has paved the way for other deals,” said a lawyer for Shuanghui, which purchased Smithfield for $5 billion, well above the company’s market value. “We are now looking at a few other very large transactions for Chinese clients looking at other iconic brands in the United States.”

Newshour reports that the government of China played a critical role in helping facilitate Smithfield’s purchase. “In effect, the Chinese government does exercise management control,” reports Newshour.

China’s five-year plan enacted in 2011 instructed Chinese companies to buy more overseas meat producers. And the Chinese bank financed the purchase of Smithfield.

That raises big questions about food security, says U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).

“Food security is national security,” she said. “And I can’t imagine that the American people will feel comfortable if they wake up someday and find that half of our food processors are owned by China.  And I think there are some very, very tough questions that need to be answered.”

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Food & Water Watch has filed suit in federal court to block new poultry-inspection rules issued by USDA.

The suit says the rule illegally transfer authority for the inspections from the federal government to private poultry producers.

“These rules essentially privatize poultry inspection and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a news release. “The USDA’s decision to embrace the scheme —an initiative lobbied for by the meat industry for more than a decade — flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers. What’s more, we believe it’s illegal.”

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The political dividing line between Republicans and Democrats in Montana frequently occurs at the city limits, according to a story in the Missoulian. The one exception to the rural/urban leanings is in Indian country.

“It’s a rural-urban dividing line where there are almost no competitive rural (legislative) seats and almost no competitive urban seats,” says Dave Hunter, who’s run or helped run numerous statewide Democratic campaigns. “If we lose our ability to compromise, then this form of government doesn’t work very well. I don’t see anything that’s changing this trend.”

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We think of state park rangers helping preserve the natural environment. Tennessee Ranger Bobby Fulcher has also been preserving the state’s cultural legacy of traditional music. Fulcher reflects on 40 years of collecting, preserving and promoting the region’s traditional music as he nears the end of his park-service career.

 

 

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