Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Weekend Roundup: Fun in Vicco

03/02/2013

The Canadian Record This the look of last week's blizzard out the front door of The Canadian Record in Canadian, Texas. The Record was delayed by the unusual (and beautiful, at least from a distance) snowfall.

It had to happen.

Vicco, Kentucky, adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance covering sexual preference. Now the small Kentucky coal camp town is getting television offers. 

The Colbert Report was in town to film a segment. Now there are negotiations for a reality show.

"We've had so much press," said Johnny Cummings, Vicco's mayor. "I need to think of something else to say."

Cummings is skeptical of the reality show, but he enjoyed The Colbert Report. "That's the most fun I've had in the last six weeks," he said.

Vicco must be a fun place these days. For most people, being on the Colbert Report would be considered a lifetime achievement.

Keystone XL EIS — The State Department released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) late Friday "suggesting that the project would have little impact on climate change," the Washington Post reports

The pipeline must receive a permit from the State Department before it can cross the Canada/U.S. border. Keystone would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. 

Environmentalists have opposed the pipeline, saying it would open a particularly dirty source of fuel for consumption. Nebraska landowners have opposed Keystone because it will cross fragile land.

The 2,000-page report said denying the permit would not stop development of the tar sands — as environmental groups have argued. The report also said Keystone was not essential for U.S. energy needs.

The Omaha World-Herald said the report "minimizes some of the primary concerns raised by environmental activists in Nebraska." According to the newspaper:

It notes that the new route avoids the ecologically fragile Sand Hills region as defined by the State Department and concludes that the project is unlikely to hurt the endangered whooping cranes that migrate through the state every year. It also downplays the risk of pipeline leaks into the Ogallala Aquifer that underlies much of Nebraska — a primary concern among pipeline opponents. 

Jane Kleeb, head of Bold Nebraska, the landowners group that opposes Keystone, said the report used flawed maps to determine if spills from the pipeline could cause extensive damage.

“The route still crosses the Sand Hills, sandy soils and soils corrosive to the pipe,” she said. “The route still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, the Niobrara River, the Platte River and over 200 bodies of water in Nebraska alone, as well as countless private family wells.” 

The State Department will accept comments for 45 days. President Obama is not expected to make a decision on the permit until summer.

Ooops — Farm bills passed by the Senate and the House Ag committee last year would save $1.3 billion a year, not the $2.3 billion a year once estimated, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

Rep. Lucas Not Conservative Enough — The Club for Growth says House Ag Chair Frank Lucas of Oklahoma is a RINO, a Republican in Name Only. 

The CFG keeps a scorecard on Republicans, and it funds candidates who promise smaller government and lower taxes. No doubt Rep. Lucas ran afoul of the Club because of support for farm programs. 

Food (for Peace) Fight — There is "scuttlebutt," the National Journal's Jerry Hagstrom reports, that the Obama administration wants to change the way the Food for Peace program is funded. And that has caused a stir. 

For decades, Food for Peace has bought commodities from American growers and shipped them to hungry people overseas. The rumor is that the Obama administration wants a smaller program that sends money instead of food, so that food can be purchased locally instead of being shipped from Minnesota.

Farm state senators have already sent a letter to President Obama urging him to maintain funding for Food for Peace because “it is important to American farmers, shippers, and developing nations around the world.” Farm groups have agreed, as have unions and organizations representing shippers.

Columnist Alan Guebert points out that every independent review of Food for Peace has made the same recommendation: send more money and fewer U.S. commodities. It would be cheaper and it would help build local food markets.

Those recommendations never were followed, Guebert writes. The U.S. spent more money shipping less food on U.S. flag carriers. Nor is anything likely to happen this year, Hagstrom reports:

The administration may still include the proposal in its budget, but it’s unlikely that Congress will go along with the idea. But with opposition in the Senate already organized and the Republican-controlled House even less likely to allow U.S. taxpayer money to be used to purchase food aid overseas, the proposal would appear dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

Plains Wildlife — Drought followed by heavy snows is not helping wildlife on the Kansas plains

The Sequester and Rural Prisons — Brian Mann at North Country Public Radio reports that a shortage of guards in federal prisons is about to get worse. 

Most federal prisons are in rural areas. And two recent studies have found that there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of federal inmates all while federal prisons are working with too few guards. 

With the sequester of federal funding, there will be fewer guards still, Mann reports.

Waiting for Gas Profits — Decisions about how and where to drill for natural gas in New York's Marcellus Shale formation have delayed potential profits some landowners had been counting on, the AP reports. 

This is good for some, bad for others. The AP writes:

Decisions once thought to be right around the corner have been delayed for weeks that turned into months and years. Hopes to pay off crushing debt, repair barn roofs, replace old tractors, create good jobs locally so the kids don't have to move away, and just ease some of the chronic worry about making ends meet on the family farm have been put in limbo.

Some New York landowners fear their golden opportunity has already passed them by because the glut of gas from drilling in other states has brought gas prices way down, reducing the likelihood of big upfront lease-signing bonuses.

Other landowners who don't want gas leases welcome Cuomo's caution and hope fracking never gets approved. Their ranks include many organic farmers, vineyard owners, tourist business operators and town residents who agree with environmental groups that the risks of air and water contamination outweigh the financial benefits.

The Perfect Pig — The New York Times' John Eligon writes about one Iowa man's quest to breed the perfect pig.

Carl Edgar Blake II is the guy breeding  what he says is the best-tasting pork ever. Here is how he describes himself:

“I can build a motorcycle, I can fly a model airplane, I can throw somebody out of a bar, I can wrestle a pig and I can program a computer,” he said. “I’m a strange duck, that’s for sure.”

He combined a Russian wild boar with Swabian Hall and some Meishan hogs he found at Iowa State to create the Iowa Swabian Hall. Not everybody thinks it makes the perfect pork, but a lot do. 

This guy has quite a story — which includes police, poison and Amish farmers.