The impact of Indian Country votes • What 'War on Coal'? • Whither Vilsack and Sebelius • Post offices begin shortening hours in November • AT&T spending plan could cut basic service
How did Democrats Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester manage to win Senate seats in North Dakota and Montana?
Mark Trahant contends in Indian Country Today that it was because of the strong showing by voters in Indian country.
Trahant points out that New York Times election whiz Nate Silver missed these two races because “his wonderful models don’t include the Indiana vote.” Trahant continues:
And especially an Indian vote that out performed. Both North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Montana’s Senator Jon Tester not only understood that idea, but campaigned on reservations hoping that it would be the one factor no one figured.
Indian country out performed at the voting booth.
For instance, in Sioux County, North Dakota, native Americans make up 84.1 percent of the population. This county voted 83.9 percent for Heitkamp. “Across the country, American Indian and Alaska Native voters turned out in record numbers, the National Congress of American Indians reported Thursday,” Trahant reports.
• Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said just before the election, “I love my job.” But will he stay?
Same question applies to Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services, which has major responsibilities for food safety.
Odds are that they will leave. Nobody has held the ag job for eight years since Orville Freeman in the Kennedy-Johnson years, according to Food Safety News.
Vilsack might be the one to match Freeman. Vilsack helped President Obama win Iowa and the agency has been free of any major problems.
• For a while, 60 percent of Californians wanted mandatory labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients — at least according to the polls.
But then food companies and groceries spent $46 million to defeat the measure and they did. California voters turned down the proposition 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent.
What now? Proponents say they will move their fight back to Congress. “We think that attention is now going to shift back to Washington, with a whole lot more to discuss and a whole lot more people interested,” said Gary Hirshberg, the chairman of Stonyfield, an organic yogurt company.
Yet the failure of labeling initiatives at the polls in some of the nation’s most liberal, food-conscious states, such as Oregon and California, may mean the movement has not reached a critical mass, said Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, an expert on agribusiness and biotechnology regulation from the University of Missouri. “That they have been defeated in those states tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting to see a successful one anytime soon,” he told DTN. “Clearly, the issue is that a segment of the population is uneasy about biotech crops for a variety of reasons, but that’s all it is — a segment.”
• The first local post offices will see their hours reduced on November 17. At that time, 495 mostly-rural post offices will have their hours cut, according to Save The Post Office.
Some 13,000 post offices are being reviewed. Save the Post Office has links to files showing which offices are being reviewed and what decisions have been made. Another 643 offices will have reduced hours come January 12.
• AT&T says it plans to invest $14 billion in expanding wireline broadband and its wireless 4G network — and that will “accelerate the policy discussion about how to regulate the nation’s fiber optic communications infrastructure,” writes the National Journal.
“This totally reshapes the discussion,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge. The National Journal’s Adam Mazmanian writes:
AT&T is asking the Federal Communications Commission for permission to transition to an all Internet Protocol-based fiber network on a trial basis in a few of its wire centers. This experiment would in effect create a regulation-free zone in which AT&T could roll out fiber, roll back copper, and not be subject to rules that require them to continue to invest in their legacy networks.
Rural advocates see this as an end to the national commitment to universal basic phone service, including basic landline service. Mazmanian continues:
“From an engineering perspective, this totally makes sense,” Feld said. “We want to see better broadband in America.” However, he worries that the deregulatory push could have the effect of dialing back what’s meant by universal service. “We’re in danger of becoming the only industrialized nation to go back on access to basic phone service,” he said.
• So much for the “War on Coal.”
Ken Ward Jr. notes that one day after the election, the U.S. Forest Service ruled against conservation groups that were opposing the expansion of an Arch Coal site in the Sunset Roadless Area 10 miles east of Paonia, Colorado.