Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wednesday Roundup: Rural Post Offices to Stay Open

05/09/2012

Food & Water Watch This isn't the most beautiful piece of art to ever appear on the Daily Yonder, but it's important. It shows the relative contribution of ag research money to land grant universities. You can see that as public investment in research has gone down, private dollars have become dominant. This comes from a recent Food & Water Watch report on the increasing control of public universities by large business interests.

The U.S. Postal Service announced this morning that it would keep all rural post offices open — although it will do so with reduced hours at more than 13,000 locations. 

The Postal Service was coming up on the end of a self-imposed moratorium on post office closings. The Postal Service said earlier that it would not close any local post offices until after May 16. Some 3,700 rural post offices were on a list to be closed.

Today's announcement by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe called off those plans. Donahoe said this latest plan of shortening hours at 13,000 rural post offices would save $500 million a year.

The agency still plans to close 223 mail sorting facilities.

The Postal Service plans to meet with communities to talk about a range of options for cutting costs at local offices. For example, the office could maintain an open post office and lobby (often a town meeting place), but reduce window hours to between two and six hours a day, according to the Wall Street Journal. In some cases, another local business (a drug store or gas station) could handle postal duties for the rest of the day. 

The Journal wrote: "Ultimately, any rural community that wants to keep its post office will do so, Mr. Donahoe said."

• The Institute of Medicine reported yesterday that it will take a massive overhaul of rules and regulations — from farm policies to zoning — to deal with the nation's "obesity epidemic." 

"People have heard the advice to eat less and move more for years, and during that time a large number of Americans have become obese," IOM committee member Shiriki Kumanyika of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told Reuters. "That advice will never be out of date. But when you see the increase in obesity you ask, what changed? And the answer is, the environment. The average person cannot maintain a healthy weight in this obesity-promoting environment."

A food industry group called the IOM "food nannies."

• We see these kinds of stories all the time, people swiping copper from air conditioners or electric lines (sometimes with the power still flowing). Mostly small stuff.

But two people were arrested and accused of stealing nearly $14,000 worth of copper wiring from a coal mining site in Harlan County, Kentucky. Now that's a real theft! 

• Mother Jones magazine reports on "how your college is selling out to big ag." 

Tom Philpott tells the story of how declines in public research dollars to universities have been replaced with corporate funding. There have been several reports on this phenomenon recently. The graphic at the top of this page comes from Food & Water Watch. 

It's more than just research funding. Food & Water Watch reported that universities are turning to corporate sponsors to fund building programs — again substituting private dollars for the dollars being cut by federal and state governments.

• How do successful cities do economic development these days? Raleigh, North Carolina, is recruiting talent, not businesses. 

• Lena Groeger at ProPublica reminds us that recent federal rules governing fracking (the oil and gas drilling technique) are quite limited. She reports

One major limitation: Although widely understood as “national” guidelines, the draft rules would in fact only apply to a sliver of the nation’s natural gas supply. That’s because they would apply to mineral rights managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which means areas beneath most BLM and tribal land, but scarcely any U.S. Forest Service, private or state-owned lands – where most drilling occurs. Industry has criticized the proposed rules as too restrictive.

Cattle prices are rising as ranchers rebuild their herds. A little rain didn't hurt prospects either. 

• USDA is spending $4 million to help sellers at farmers markets accept food stamps

• There were elections all over the country yesterday. Sen. Dick Lugar lost in the Indiana Republican primary. An anti-gay marriage amendment passed easily in North Carolina.

We were struck with the results in West Virginia, where Mitt Romney won the Republican primary easily, with 70 percent of the vote. President Obama, however, didn't do as well in the Democratic primary, and his opposition was, well, shall we say, weak. Here is the report from the Charleston Gazette: 

President Obama topped the state's Democratic ballot in his quest for a second term. He had 62 percent of the vote with 59 percent of precincts reporting. Obama's only opposition on West Virginia's ballot was from Keith Russell Judd, who's serving time at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999.

Judd carried about a third of the vote, further evidence of Obama's unpopularity in the Mountain State. Obama lost the 2008 primary here to Hillary Clinton, and then the general election to Republican John McCain. Polls show him with among his worst approval ratings in West Virginia. 

Politico notes that President Obama lost a good number of coal counties to the felon. It appears that the constant refrain that Democrats have waged a "war on coal" is doing some good for the Rs.