Barge traffic stuck on the dwindling Mississippi • Flu infects hogs at state and county fairs • Will wind blow Romney down in Iowa? • Drought hurts Kentucky pumpkin contest
The Federal Communications Commission reported today that 19 million Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet connections.
There’s been an improvement in access. Last year the FCC said that 26 million were without broadband.
“The lack of access continues to hamper rural Americans in particular,” reports Roger Yu at USA Today. “About 14.5 million rural Americans — or 23.7% of 61 million people living in rural areas — had no fast Internet service offered for their homes. In contrast, only 1.8% Americans living in non-rural areas — 4.5 million out of 254.9 million — had no broadband access.”
West Virginia had the least amount of broadband access, with 45.9 percent of the state’s population lacking fast Internet connection. Montana had 26.7 percent without broadband; South Dakota, 21.1 percent; and Alaska, 19.6 percent.
In California, 35 percent of rural residents couldn’t get a broadband connection.
An Election on the Wind — Will the presidential vote in Iowa depend on wind?
Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald travels east to find that Iowans like their wind power — and they don’t much like Republican Mitt Romney’s stance against incentives for wind power development. Romney says wind energy should be able to make it in the market without subsidies.
“Because the race is so close here, both candidates will try to latch onto any issue that will make a difference with Iowans,” said Dianne Bystrom of Iowa State University, a specialist in political communications. “In the past, it was ethanol. Now it’s wind.”
The tradition in Iowa is for politicians to favor wind energy. Hammel notes that every governor, regardless of party, in the past 20 years has supported wind energy production. And all seven members of the Iowa Congressional delegation favor the federal production credit for wind that Romney opposes.
Now, 20 percent of Iowa’s power comes from wind.
Vets’ Biggest Challenge — Two-thirds of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars say that their greatest challenge is finding a job.
A study of Iraq/Arghanistan era vets found that 44 percent of veterans said they were not ready to make the transition to civilian life. Half of those surveyed said they needed more education or technical training.
Vets in these wars disproportionately come from rural areas.
Only Two Pumpkins — How bad is the drought?
A friend just returned from the Kentucky State tells us that there were only two entries in the biggest pumpkin contest. The winner was a 1,074.5 pound pumpkin from Somerset, growth by brothers Jim and John Van Hook. Yes, that’s a record.
“It’s kind of sad just to see two” pumpkins, said Anna Lucio, the Agriculture Department official in charge of the contest. But she said it was indicative of a “really, really tough growing season” for fruits and vegetables.
Sick Fair Hogs? — There’s a new strain of flu being passed from pigs to humans and that has caused state fair officials in Minnesota to say the swine exhibits at the state fair should be closed.
A university official says the number of pig to human infections has been “unprecedented” this year. And since the viruses can change when they cross species, there is the possibility of a widespread health threat. The officials told the Minneapolis newspaper that “we’re tempting fate.”
The swine flue has infected 200 people in eight states. The flue is mild and primarily affects children who are exposed to pigs at state and county fairs.
The Minnesota fair is expecting 1,000 pigs to arrive at the fairgrounds in the next few days.
Privatized Child Welfare — In 2009, Nebraska shifted much of the responsibility for running the state’s child welfare system to private contractors.
The idea was to save money and make the system more efficient. That didn’t happen, according to an article by Kevin O’Hanlon for the Center for Public Integrity.
“In fact, the whole thing was such a dismal failure that state lawmakers passed a sweeping package of bills earlier this year aimed at fixing the system,” O’Hanlon wrote.
O’Hanlon explores why Nebraska has a very high percentage of its children in the child welfare system.
One in Four Hungry — One in four residents of Mississippi said there was at least one time in the past year when they didn’t have enough money to buy the food they or their family needed, according to a Gallup poll.
Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Nevada and Arkansas followed Mississippi. The states with the smallest percentage of residents who didn’t have enough money for food were North Dakota (9.6 percent); South Dakota (11.8 percent); Vermont (11.9 percent) and Wisconsin (12 percent).