Tuesday Roundup: Disaster Aid Interuptus

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Dan Louden moved into Needles, California, five months ago and started painting murals. The Los Angeles Times shows the colorful result

Firefighters are paying Louden out of their own pockets to spruce up the fire station.

• Rural Chinese essentially lose their legal status when they migrate to cities, the New York Times reports today on the front page. People are flooding into major cities from rural communities, Andrew Jacobs reports.

The Chinese are attempting to control this flow by making it hard for rural migrants to get a foothold in the cities. Private schools set up in Beijing for migrants are sometimes demolished by the government, Jacobs reports. He continues: 

Obtaining an urban residence permit, called a hukou, is possible only for those with deep pockets or top-notch connections, so struggling migrants live in a gray zone of pay-as-you-go medical care, dingy rented rooms and unregistered schools where the education is middling at best. Byzantine property ownership and bank-loan rules mean that most rural hukou holders are frozen out of the housing market even if they can afford a down payment on an apartment.

The challenges become even more heart-rending after middle school, when the children of migrants must either return to their parents’ hometown for high school — and thus live separated from their parents — or drop out. “It’s a cruel, unfair system that stops people from pursuing their dreams,” said Song Yingquan, a researcher at the Rural Education Action Project, an advocacy group.

Americans should note that the federal government in this country became worried in the 1960s about the flow of poor whites and blacks from rural communities into the cities. President Lyndon Johnson established a national commission on rural poverty and asked it to find ways to slow the flow of people into the cities.

• The National Broadband Plan prepared by the Federal Communications Commission “takes unbelievable and unacceptable steps backward for rural America,” writes the head of a Montana telecommunications firm. 

Mike Henning, general manager of 3 Rivers Communications in Fairfield, Montana, objects to the way the FCC will distribute money from the Universal Service Fund. Henning says his company is now using the fund to deploy fiber-to-the-home to everyone in his traditional service area. Henning writes:

By overreacting in the name of reform, the FCC proposal will cause financial harm to 3 Rivers. If implemented, there will be a change in the financial model 3 Rivers has depended upon to provide the services and infrastructure needed by our customers.

It goes beyond the effects to 3 Rivers; there also will be negative economic impacts on the rural communities we serve.

Richard Oswald
Richard Oswald’s farm shown early this week. His place has been flooded by the Missouri River since June — and now FEMA says it is suspending help in the Midwest to concentrate on the East Coast.
• The Federal Emergency Management Agency is “temporarily suspending some payments to rebuild roads, schools and other structures destroyed during spring tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Southern states and other recent natural disasters to pay for damage caused by Hurricane Irene,” reports the Washington Post. 

As you can see in the picture on this page, those states haven’t yet recovered from their various disasters. In fact, a bunch of land is still flooded in the Missouri River Valley, including Richard Oswald’s farm. 

It appears that the Obama administration will have to ask Congress for more disaster funding. That’ll be fun.

• WikiLeaks has produced diplomatic cables showing efforts by U.S. diplomats aimed at convincing foreign governments to approve genetically engineered crops. They were called “biotechnology outreach programs.” 

• The USDA will fund $900 million in improvements to generation and transmission facilities in rural communities in 14 states. It’s part of the administration’s “smart grid” efforts and the money will go to rural co-ops. 

•Every new farm comes with a blog. Check out a girl on a farm, about a couple starting a farm in Nebraska. 

• The National Journal predicts that President Obama’s new jobs plan (to be announced next week) will emphasize rural broadband. The National Journal reports

President Obama has called for broadband and wireless coverage of 98 percent of the country (about 68 percent is currently covered). The initiative would be aimed at opening isolated businesses to farther-flung markets, which could boost rural hiring. “The days are gone where any business is going to succeed just by selling right where they’re located,” Obama said on his Midwest tour.

 

 

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