Thursday Roundup: Post Office Meetings

Reduced hours will soon come to more than 6,000 post offices • End of corporate ag laws in Kansas? • Colorado River water runs short • Newspapers shed environmental reporters

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Save the Post Office reports that the Postal Service has already held over 5,400 community meetings about its plan to reduce hours to only two, four or six hours a day at these offices — and another 860 meetings will be held in communities by the first week in February. 

That means that with a few weeks, some 6,340 post offices will be operating on reduced hours. Most of those are in rural areas. If you want to see a list, Save the Post Office has it. 

The meetings have been held to discuss options, which really weren’t options at all. People could vote to close the post office, or keep it open at reduced hours. 

And, of course, there will be more closings in the future.

The picture here is from Greenwoord, Virginia, outside Charlottesville. They held their meeting about the post office in Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Dog Ownership — In case you’re wondering, Arkansas has the highest percentage of dog owners, with 47.9 percent of households having a pup. It’s followed by New Mexico (46%), Kentucky (45.9%) Missouri (45.9%) and West Virginia (45.8%).

When you combine cats and dogs, Vermont, the nation’s most rural state, has the highest percentage of households owning a pet — 70.8 percent.

Kansas Corporate Farm Laws — The Ag Secretary in Kansas has told the state’s legislature that it needs to repeal laws that restrict corporate involvement in agriculture — laws that have stood for 80 years.

“Our corporate farming laws need to be repealed,” Rodman, a former executive with agribusiness giant Cargill Inc., said during an orientation session for freshman legislators. “Basically, our state is an under-utilized asset.”

AP reports

Eight other states — Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota — have laws restricting corporate farming, according to the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas. However, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction in most of those states, has struck down voter-approved restrictions in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Kansas law generally limits corporate ownership of agricultural land to family farm corporations, family partnerships or corporations with 15 or fewer stockholders, who must all be Kansas residents. The state also generally requires at least one partner or shareholder to live on the land or be actively engaged in supervising the work.

There are exceptions to the law for feedlots and poultry operations. Also, counties can allow corporate dairies and hog farms within their borders, and legislators last year made it easier for them to do so.

Environmental Reporters — Inside Climate New reports that there are fewer than 10 environmental reporters left at the five largest U.S. newspapers. 

Rural Lawman — According to the AP, “From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama’s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions — and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.” 

Of course, there is no way to know if this is an accurate account. Sound right to you guys?

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that President Obama’s gun initiative could make it difficult to recruit Democratic challengers in swing Congressional districts in 2014. 

Not Union Jobs — U.S. manufactures have added a half million new workers since the end of 2009, but very few have belonged to labor unions. There are 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010.

All the new jobs are non union, reports the Washington Post.  At the same time, the wage differential between union and non-union wages has shrunk.

The Shift of King Coal — The National Journal’s Reid Wilson asks what happened in the coal region of Appalachia, which was once solidly Democratic, but is now a Republican base. 

Wilson notes that the coal region was Republican once before. West Virginia, after all, left Virginia to stay in the Union. The region turned Democratic with Roosevelt and the United Mine Workers of America. 

That turned again after the Clinton years, when issues of identity trumped the old economic politics of bosses and unions. Wilson writes:

Clinton was the last Democrat to win either state. During his administration, the environmental movement began to gain traction and importance within the Democratic Party, and the party itself gravitated more toward the liberal coasts than it had previously. And the Environmental Protection Agency, a bureau created by a Republican president, began asserting its will more broadly, issuing regulations that the coal industry opposed. That combination of factors, Republicans and Democrats alike agree, conspired to give the impression of a Democratic Party that no longer had Appalachia’s interests at heart.

“When you attack guns and coal, you’re attacking what they in the mountains consider their birthright,” said Jim Cauley, a Democratic strategist and Kentucky native who managed President Obama’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2004. “They’ll feel like you’re attacking their culture.”

Ken Ward Jr. tells us (correctly) how this is a gross over-simplification of what has happened in Appalachia, here.  And there is a lively debate on the DY Facebook page about what it all means……

California and Oil Shale — California has “Saudi Arabia-scale oil resources, notably in its largely untapped Moterey shale field, which stretches northeast for more than 200 miles from Bakersfield in central California,” writes Mark Mills in the Wall Street Journal.  Yes, this field would need to be fracked.

Mills suspects that Gov. Jerry Brown will like the taxes earned from an oil boom, as well as the jobs. 

New Interior Chief — Former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar will leave his post as Interior Secretary and return to his home state. 

Hemp Hysteria — With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, local growers of hemp are ecstatic. Along with the drug, the new law allows the legal cultivation of industrial hemp. 

Industrial hemp doesn’t have the psychoactive ingredient found in the more notorious plant, but its uses are many. You can eat it, wear it, even build auto bodies with hemp fibers. Now they’ll be growing it in Colorado.

50-Year Forecast for Colorado River — Planners and engineers have spent three years and $4 million to forecast water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin from now until 2060. They’ve concluded that the future could be dry

“The bottom line is demand is ahead of supply. We are living beyond our means, and the gap is greatest in the Lower Basin,” said engineer David Kanzer.

The report was made to the board of the Colorado River District. Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming all claim part of the river’s water.

Class and Education — A comparison of U.S. students and students in other industrial countries finds that kids here don’t do that poorly. 

This study, done by the education school at Stanford, took social class into account. Low-income U.S. students were compared to low-income students in other countries, for example.

The U.S. has a larger proportion of poor students and poor students do worse on the tests used to compare achievement. Only four percent of Finland’s students are poor, compared to 25 percent in this country, for example. That’s why the U.S. scores low on most international comparisons.

When poor students in the U.S. are compared to poor students in other countries — and rich are compared to rich — then the U.S. does much better. When that calculation is made, the results change. The U.S. rises from 14th in reading among 33 industrialized countries to fourth, and from 25th in math to tenth.

Montana Coal — The University of Montana released a report showing the benefits of developing coal reserves in the state. Now an environmental group has released a report saying the university’s study was flawed. 

 

 

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