Weekend Roundup: An Act of Kindness

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David Knopf is the editor at the Richmond News in Missouri and we thank him for this  story about the great things that come with living in a small town.

As Knopf reports in his blog, The Magic Commute, a homeless man set up camp near Richmond. William Piacenza, 56, had left his job working at a hamburger joint and ran out of money. So, he (and his cats) camped. Floods knocked him out of one site, so a deputy sheriff moved Piacenza to the county fairgrounds. 

Then, as the weather started to turn, two members of the city council found the man (and cats) an apartment in downtown Richmond. One person objected, but the police checked into Piacenza’s background and found he had never had trouble with the law. The objections subsided and the man and his cats moved into town. 

“I’m homeless. This is homeless,” Piacenza told Knopf. “Everything I have basically is given to me. It makes me feel worthless. I certainly don’t get a thrill out of it.”

Piacenza and his cats have moved to the small apartment. The town is pitching in with clothes and food. Knopf writes:

William might’ve received help in a big city, but it would’ve been impersonal and institutional. In Kansas City, a homeless shelter or agency might’ve provided a place to live, but in Richmond it was one individual (actually several) helping another. 

And it was all done behind the scenes, quietly displaying the kind of compassion that we all admire. It makes us feel good about ourselves, our society and our potential as caring human beings.

 It often seems there’s not enough of that to go around; but in this instance, an act of kindness in rural America brought light and warmth to the world. 

• The Food and Drug Administration denied petitions that would limit the routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals. The New York Times editorial page objects

Rejecting these petitions is a bad decision that runs counter to the F.D.A.’s own research. Its studies — and the work of Margaret Hamburg before she became its commissioner — have shown the danger of feeding antibiotics to animals. In letters explaining its decision, the agency acknowledged that its own draft guidelines, released in June 2010, recommend limiting antibiotics to veterinary use to protect the health of animals on a case-by-case basis. But it says the review process involved in banning broad antibiotic use would take too long and would not be “resource-efficient.”

Instead, the guidelines for agricultural antibiotic use are voluntary. The agency wants the drug makers to police themselves, but they have no incentive to alter their practices and industrial agriculture certainly does not want them to do so. The petition denials make it clear that the F.D.A. is understaffed. But without government regulation and enforcement, the misuse of antibiotics in the farm industry will not change.

The New York Times reviewed more than 111,000 oil and gas leases, most in rural areas, and found that many lacked standard protection for landowners. 

For instance, fewer than half of the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination. Half don’t require compensation for damage to crops or livestock. And most leases give companies broad rights to cut down trees, build roads or store chemicals where they like.

Payments can be large. Last year, the energy industry paid out $1.6 billion in royalties. But there are many stories about vague contracts and high-pressure tactics. 

Diette Courrege at Education Week summarizes a new report finding that substance abuse is a bigger problem among rural teens than among their urban peers in part because of “limited expectations for students’ futures.” 

Kids just don’t see a future after high school, according to a report. “Although, college attendance and career development are available to youth in the area, it was clear that many share a very limited foresight about life after high school,” according to the study.

The college-going rate among rural students is 27 percent nationally. The national average is 34 percent.

•ABC’s Nightline ran a report on meth labs, concluding that “methamphetamine abuse is exploding across rural America….” In Kentucky, the program reports, the number of meth labs has tripled in the last three years. 

The one ingredient needed to make meth is pseudoephedrine, the ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines. Investigators now track those who buy (or steal) cold medicines from drug stores. 

• A U.S. Senate committee has asked for an investigation of mental health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Washington Post reports that the request came after testimony showing that managers at some facilities were “gaming” the system to meet goals rather than treating patients. 

• There’s a drought in Central and Eastern Europe. The Danube River is so low that cargo ships are stranded at the Serbia-Hungary border. 

This will affect food supplies, of course. The region had bumper harvests this summer, but if the drought continues, farmers expect the wheat crop will drop by at least 20 percent.

• A staff report from the Federal Communications Commission says that AT&T would build out its mobile broadband network to 97 percent of the U.S. population even without the purchase of T-Mobile.

AT&T had argued that extending broadband to rural areas was a prime benefit of the $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile. The FCC disagrees, saying the merger would remove an important competitor from the marketplace. 

AT&T asked the FCC to allow it to withdraw its merger application this week, after the agency voiced its reluctance to approve the deal. Then the FCC released its staff report on the merger.

AT&T called the report an “advocacy piece” that is “so obviously one-sided” that it was unfair.

• The Economist magazine writes about “Sweet Land of Subsidy: A new subsidy promises to get broadband to rural Americans.” 

The Economist is a free-market kind of magazine and so it is skeptical of government subsidies. 

AIDS is increasing among young adults in South Carolina, particularly in rural areas. 

 

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