Tuesday Roundup: More Diverse, Rural and Urban

Wind turbines getting taller • Flooded ranchland on the Mississippi Delta • The latest on post office closings and shortened hours

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America’s communities are becoming more racially diverse — everywhere, rural and urban.

A new study from Brown University finds a surge in Hispanic and Asian populations in smaller towns, as immigrants move away from traditional “gateway” cities. 

In the roughly 15,000 places in the country that have their own governments, 82.6% were majority white in 2010, down from 93.4% in 1980.

“It sort of alerts everyone to the fact that diversity is becoming a part of daily life throughout the country, not just something that is confined to immigrant gateways or large cities,” said Barrett Lee, the US 2010 study’s lead author and a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University.

What Coal Layoffs Mean — Reporters Taylor Kuykendall and Pam Kasey of the West Virginia State Journal wrote several stories last week on the impact of layoffs in the state’s coal mining industry. So far this year, 1,400 coal mining jobs have been lost according to the government; the United Mine Workers puts the job loss at more than 2,500. 

School Reform and the Chicago Strike — The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss sees that behind the Chicago teachers strike are school reforms being pushed across the nation by the Obama administration. 

Trouble is, she writes, “There’s no real proof that they systemically work, and in some cases, there is strong evidence that they may be harmful.”

These reforms include merit pay, an expansion of charter schools, teacher and principal assessment systems that are linked to student standardized test scores, a longer school day and job security for veteran teachers. These have been championed by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Strauss goes on to show that most of these reforms have been found to have little effect by researchers. The Chicago strike is mostly over these issues.

Disappeared Ranch Land — Hurricane Isaac did severe damage to some of the best ranchland on the Mississippi Delta, as it pushed brackish, foul-smelling floodwater across miles of pasture. 

“It’s heart-breaking,” said Charmion Delesdermier Cosse, a third-generation rancher with about 300 mother cows in Citrus Lands. “This year was probably the best calf crop we’ve seen in a long time.”

The AP story has a good description of how cattlemen run their herds on land that includes a lot of reclaimed marsh.

Enough Wind — There is enough wind to power the world, according to a new study. 

“Right now, humans use about 18 terawatts of power worldwide. And, technically, the study found, we could extract about 400 terawatts of wind power from the Earth’s surface and 1,800 terawatts of power from the upper atmosphere,” reports Brad Plumer in the Washington Post. 

This doesn’t mean it’s possible or feasible for this potential to be tapped, according to the study’s authors. And it doesn’t account for the tremendous grid problems of moving between unreliable sources of power.

No Farm Bill — A remarkable coalition of ag groups will rally in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to push for a Farm Bill — but that won’t be happening in Congress, reports Chris Clayton. 

Clayton notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) has a schedule chock-full of important items including “Cabin Fee Act, the Lions Club Commemorative Coin Act, correcting errors to the Trademark Act of 1946, the No-Hassles Flying Act (seriously, as if it isn’t hassle enough now, Congress has to make it worse?) and the No More Solyndras Act, known locally as the I Want to Be on Hannity Tonight Act.”

Post Offices Under ReviewSave The Post Office has the latest on the Postal Service’s review of about 8,000 local post offices to be reviewed for shorter hours or closing. There 13,000 post offices nationally. 

STPO explains how the process will work: 

The implementation plan involves scheduling the community meeting and then sending out the surveys about six weeks before the meeting.  Customers are asked to return the survey within two weeks, which will give the Postal Service about a month to tabulate the results.  At the meeting, the results of the survey will be shared and discussed, and those customers who haven’t filled out a survey can do so at the meeting. 

One week later, the Postal Service will announce its decision about the future of the post office.  If the decision is to reduce the hours rather than discontinue the office, the new hours of operation will be posted, and they’ll take effect 30 days later (or the beginning of the pay period after that). The surveys are being sent out now, the meetings will begin in October, and the reduced hours will take effect starting in November.

Mississippi Mayors Meeting — Mayors from towns and cities along the Mississippi River are meeting this week in St. Louis to discuss how both drought and flood have affected the river region. 

Slow Turning — The new wind turbines are taller and have longer blades that turn more slowly, reports David Shaffer in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 

The first Minnesota wind turbines breaking the 100 meter mark (328 feet) are being built. Last year, 5 percent of the new turbines were this size, but that percentage is expected to increase. 

“That trend has been underway for 30 years, and really there is no reason to expect it to stop,” said Fort Felker, director of the National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, Colo. “Generally you get stronger winds at higher elevations above the ground.”

 

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