Thursday Roundup: Silence on Keystone XL

Postal Service has reached its borrowing limit • Dairy failures in California • About those statewide scholarship programs • Hearing from an out-of-work coal miner

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There was a recent Government Accountability Office report saying overcrowding in federal prisons undermines the safety of staff as well as inmates. Of course, most of those prisons are in rural areas and the staff comes from rural communities. 

Federal Bureau of Prisons “officials reported increased use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios,” the September report says. “These factors, taken together, contribute to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff.”

Moreover, nearly every facilities is understaffed.

What New Coal Markets Mean For Miners — Since January, thousands of coal miners have been laid off in Central Appalachia. Forget the underlying causes for a minute, and think about what this means for coal miners.

Mimi Pickering and Sylvia Ryerson talked with Letcher County, Kentucky, miner Gary Bentley, who lost his job with Arch Coal in June and was leaving Eastern Kentucky for a mining job in the western part of the state. Here is their interview:

The EU and Biofuels — Chris Clayton reports that the European Commission has proposed imposing a 5 percent cap on biofuels made from food crops. The cap would be in place by 2020. 

“Much like the U.S., European leaders set out champion aggressive expansion of biofuels over the past decade, but the backlash over food prices and affects on livestock have been felt in Europe as well,” Clayton writes in DTN. “The EU, in rolling out its proposal, cites ‘indirect land use change’ among crop production as its rational for curbing biofuels.”

The head of a major farm lobby group said the cap “threatens feed supplies for animals, employment and green growth in rural areas across the EU.”

More Postal Service Woes — The Postal Service has reached its limit and can no longer borrow to keep afloat. 

The Postal Service has been hamstrung by the failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive postal reform bill. As a result, the Postal Service has developed severe cash flow problems. 

“With its borrowing limit reached, the Postal Service is now walking a tight rope with no net,” said Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service coordinator Art Sackler said in a statement. “There are 8 million private sector jobs that depend on the mail, and there would be catastrophic economic consequences if the Postal Service shuts down. The longer Congress waits to enact postal reform, the more difficult and more expensive the solutions become.” 

Keystone Debate Fizzles in Nebraska — After TransCanada rerouted its Keystone XL pipeline around “its noisiest opponents” in Nebraska, protests over the proposed pipeline have died down, reports InsideClimate News’ Lisa Song. 

The pipeline, which would carry oil sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, still goes over a portion of the Ogallala Aquifer, but it avoids the landowners who led the protests against the project. 

“When you look at a map, when you know the landowners, [you see] they’ve avoided the landowners who’ve gone to the press,” said Ben Gotschall, energy director for the advocacy group Bold Nebraska. “They’re just figuring out the easiest way to get their pipeline built.”

The End of Eastern Coal — At a coal industry conference, a mining consultant predicted the end of large scale mining in the Appalachian coalfields in the next 10 to 20 years. 

“This is the elephant in the room. No one wants to acknowledge that reserve depletion is profound,” said Alan Stagg, president and CEO of Stagg Resource Consultants Inc. “Mining conditions are difficult, and the cost to produce is high. That is a physical fact. It’s not pleasant. Nobody wants to acknowledge it. That is a fact, and companies that ignore that fact will not do so well.”

About Those Scholarships — It turns out that those state merit scholarship programs that guarantee college tuitions to all high school students who score high enough on state tests or maintain a certain grade point average have some unintended consequences. 

Sarah Butrymowicz says researchers find that the programs — such as the Hope Scholarships in Georgia and the Adams Scholarships in Massachusetts — “do little to improve college access because they typically go to students who already plan to attend college. If anything, these researchers say, the scholarships can widen existing income and racial gaps in college attendance.”

Kids who were going to college anyway were those most likely to take full advantage of the scholarships.

More Dairy Failures — The San Francisco Chronicle reports that drought and high corn prices “are devastating California’s $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can’t afford to feed their cows – and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.” 

Farm Apprentices — While California dairymen contemplate suicide, we learn that there is a growing demand for farm apprenticeships, but mostly for organic farms. 

These young, would-be farmers call it WWOOFing, for the organization that organizes the apprenticeships, the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

 

 

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