Thursday Roundup: Wrapping The Arkansas
Christo is coming to rural Colorado, so, of course, there is controversy.
The artist plans to spend $50 million to drape six miles of the Arkansas River with fabric that will run bank to bank. He's received approval from federal land managers, but people in Colorado are objecting. Wednesday, opponents filed a federal lawsuit in Denver to halt the project, which was scheduled for this summer.
Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, have draped things around the world, from the coast of Little Bay in Sydney, Australia, to the Reichstag in Berlin. They've set up big fabric umbrellas in Japan and gates in Central Park.
This summer was to be Colorado's turn, but the group ROAR (Rags Over the Arkansas River) has been fighting the artists. The project is backed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper but opposed by those who think the Arkansas River looks dandy just the way it is.
The suit says the cloth could bother longhorn sheep that live in the canyon.
• Movie director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) has bought a 2,636 acre farm in New Zealand. He says he and his family "intend to reside indefinitely in New Zealand and are acquiring the property to reside on and operate as a working farm."
• House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a bill authorizing the budget of the Federal Aviation Authority through 2015 that maintains most of the subsidy for rural airports.
Currently, the federal government spends $200 million a year to subsidize air service to smaller communities. That will be reduced to about $190 million.
Also, subsidies to communities that are within 175 miles of a hub airport and that average fewer than 10 passengers a day will lose service. Under that standard, about a dozen communities would lose service, according to the Washington Post.
• Do people really eat bad food because healthy food isn't available?
No, says Jane Black in The Atlantic. She writes:
A new survey from Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters program challenges a piece of the conventional wisdom. The poll of 1,500 families revealed that most low-income families are satisfied with the availability of good food. Seventy-seven percent of urban families were satisfied with their options, versus 69 percent of rural families. The greater obstacles to healthy meals are planning skills, time and, yes, price.
Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama was speaking on just this issue, at a market in Inglewood, California. "So let’s not be mistaken at any level," she said. "When we bring healthy food into our communities, we’re not just making this generation of kids healthier, but we’re working on the next and the next and the next."
Jane Black would say, maybe not.
• To help its rural economy, China announced that it was creating more small-scale financial institutions aimed at serving rural companies.
• Sometimes you just want to shout.
Farmers and communities suffering from Missouri River flooding last year had to apply for federal disaster aid by June 30. But for many, their homes, farms and businesses were under water — and remained that way until the fall.
In other words, farmers didn't qualify for disaster aid because they were in the middle of a disaster and couldn't apply.
• The Labor Department is relenting on proposed regulations that would limit the work children could do on farms.
The Obama administration scheduled a hasty press briefing Tuesday afternoon to say it will give broader exemptions to the rules for children whose parents own or operate farms. The rules would ban those under 16 from using most power equipment and prevent those under 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards.
Farm groups hit the ceiling when the rules were first proposed.
•President Obama appointed a former Monsanto vice president to a post as senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration in 2009 — and the efforts to get Michael Taylor removed from by post continue to this day.
The Washington Post reports that there are 60,000 names on a petition asking the President to fire the former ag company executive.
• Voters in two rural Florida counties (Gadsden and Washington) became the first in the state outside Miami to approve Las Vegas-style slot machines at local horse and dog tracks.
• The West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy is recommending that the state set up a trust fund, filled by coal severance tax money, that would be used to build a non-coal economy in the state, Ken Ward Jr. reports.
The Center is proposing a 1 percent addition to the current tax on coal and natural gas. The trust fund could be used for everything from early childhood education, college grants and workforce training.
• Prescription drug abuse is "killing our people," said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. The governor told a conference that "nothing is more important" than prescription drug abuse problem that kills nearly 1,000 Kentuckians a year, mostly in rural areas.