Thursday Roundup: Smithfield Hearing

Rural poll story hits New York Times • “War on Coal” rhetoric resurfaces after climate-change announcement • Obama links Keystone decision to climate-change impact • Rural women with breast cancer more likely to seek mastectomy • Britain delays broadband goals – again.

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Smithfield Hearing in Senate Committee– The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Smithfield Food’s $4.7 billion sale to Shuanghui International, a China-based company. The head of Smithfield, Larry Pope, is scheduled to testify.

The hearing is aimed at determining whether the sale of the pork processor will cause any food-safety issues in the United States. Earlier, members of the Ag Committee sent a letter to the Obama administration asking them to include the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the administration’s review of the sale. The sale must be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which must certify that it doesn’t harm national security.

Verizon Challenged on Voice Link –  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a petition with the New York Public Service Commission yesterday asking that Verizon be blocked from “illegally installing” its Voice Link service for customers in New York’s Catskill Mountain region. Schneiderman claims that the wireless system cuts Internet access, home alarm systems and is susceptible to power failures.

After Hurricane Sandy destroyed landlines on New York’s Fire Island, Verizon was given permission to install Voice Link for local customers. However, they were denied permission to push Voice Link beyond the island.

“Verizon’s provision of Voice Link outside the confines of western Fire Island is illegal,” Schneiderman wrote. “Its open defiance of the commission’s May 16 order must be met with effective sanctions.”

Rural Poll. The New York Times picked up on a poll released at the National Rural Assembly earlier this week. The poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Affairs found broad support among rural voters for government action on economic and education issues, tempered with a strong desire for smaller government and less regulation. Steven Yaccino reports:

Voters in some of the nation’s most rural areas, long considered a mainstay of small-government sentiments, have mixed views about the role federal policies should play in their lives, according to polling released Tuesday by the Center for Rural Affairs.

Surveying more than 800 small-town and countryside residents across the Midwest, the Great Plains and the South, the rural advocacy group found that people were evenly divided about whether Washington should make more effort to strengthen rural communities or whether such involvement “will do more harm than good.”

The polling, released just days after a farm bill failed to pass the House of Representatives, paints a nuanced portrait of rural America, one with a strong belief in reducing government spending and regulations, but increasingly in want of more effective policies that promote job training, infrastructure investment and education programs for low-income children outside of cities.

“Rural voters get put in a box of being uniformly antigovernment,” said Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the center, based in Nebraska. “But they are not slaves to any ideology.”

War on Coal – President Obama’s climate-change initiative is getting a cool reception from legislators from states with big stakes in energy production. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III (West Virginia) and Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) both said the president was fighting a “war on coal.” Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell upped the ante, calling the announcement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions a “war on jobs.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the proposal would put “thousands and thousands” of people of out of work. He further claimed that 95% of Ohio’s electricity is generated from coal. In fact, Fact Checker says that number is more like 70 or 80%.

Nationally, coal generates less than half of all electricity. The percentage has declined in recent years because of declining natural gas prices and environmental regulations.

Keystone XL and Climate Change –President Obama said he will approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” (Washington Post) But a draft environmental assessment by the State Department says blocking the pipeline, which would carry tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through the center of the United States, wouldn’t have much impact on climate change one way or the other. That report says if the pipeline doesn’t go through, companies would find other ways to transport the oil.

Breast Cancer Treatment Differs –  A new study conducted by the Mayo Clinic says that rural women tend to get different treatment for breast cancer than those in urban areas. The clinic’s researchers found that women diagnosed with breast cancer in rural areas are more likely to get a mastectomy, and those who choose lumpectomies are less likely to follow up with radiation treatment.

“We are concerned that those who are having lumpectomy are not getting that post-operative radiation and if that’s going to be a concern for women who live in rural areas,” said Dr. Elizabeth Habermann.

British Broadband Pushed Back -The British government will delay is goal of getting  broadband to 90% of the country by 2015. Instead, the new goal will be to reach 95% of the country by 2017, said chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

Even with the target date reset, some are starting to worry if the project will ever get done. “This is the third time the government has moved the goalposts,” said opposition Member of Parliament Helen Goodman, who follows media policy. “They are trying to make it look like a golden fleece, when they’ve made a pig’s ear.”

 

 

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