Weekend Roundup: Kristof Complaint

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Philadelphia Community Legal Services has complained to the New York Times about an article by columnist Nicholas Kristof on rural Owsley County, Kentucky. In his December column Kristof reported that parents in the eastern Kentucky county were preventing their children from learning to read so they wouldn’t lose disability payments from Supplemental Security Insurance. 

In a memo to the Times’ public editor, Legal Services said Kristof’s report “manifests serious problems in journalistic rigor, accuracy and professionalism.”  The memo says Kristof jumped to conclusions based on scant information and a limited understanding of the federal disability program, used a biased source to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the program and failed to consider legitimate reasons parents might not want social workers coming into their homes to help them parent their children.  

Kristof stands by his story, saying it was “thoroughly reported.” (He published the memo of complaint in his blog.) He compared defenders of SSI payments for children to people who opposed welfare reform in the 1990s – well intentioned, perhaps, but misguided.

The Times public editor has not commented on the memo.

Kristof was in Eastern Kentucky with staff of Save the Children, a nongovernmental organization that supports anti-poverty programs.

Ireland’s Rural Epidemic of Boredom — What’s wrong with rural Ireland? Nothing that a drink wouldn’t fix. Well, make that a double. The Associated Press reports that leaders (including a pub owner) in southwest Ireland would like to permit “isolated farmers” to drive drunk without fear of arrest. 

Backers of the proposal “say the measure is needed to combat an epidemic of boredom and depression on farms ever since Ireland imposed tough new blood-alcohol limits on drivers in 2011.”

More sober heads have prevailed so far. A Dublin official called the proposal “grossly irresponsible.” 

“Air of Condescension” — An editorial in the Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Herald Times Reporter takes on Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack for his comments about the relevance of rural America after the 2012 election. The paper criticizes the secretary not so much for what he said, but how he said it. (Vilsack said the shrinking proportion of the rural population made rural “less and less relevant to the politics of the country.”) 

“Vilsack’s admonition to change political tactics had enough air of condescension that many took offense, a reaction that goes to the heart of why ‘red’ and ‘blue’ America seems less and less able to find common ground.” The problem is the powerful interests in Washington fighting over the spoils of government instead of addressing the nation’s common concerns. 

“The people living in red and blue states have far more in common than is generally portrayed in our political narrative. They share the same hopes and aspirations; they want their kids to be safe in their schools and have prospects for successful lives; they believe in justice; they care about the environment now and for future generations; they seek fairness in our laws and policies.”

Going to the Dogs (and Cats) — Vermont, the state with the nation’s highest percentage of rural population, also tops the list of pet owners. Seven out of every 10 Vermonters own at least one pet. Their pet-ownership rate is 3 percentage points higher than the next most “pet populous” state – New Mexico. When the category is just dog ownership, however, Arkansas is ahead of the pack. About one in two Arkansans owns a dog.

Population Control — A gated community in San Jose, California, has decided to reduce the size of its troublesome deer population by sterilizing does. The herd is damaging landscaping, attacking dogs and creating road hazards, residents say. A wildlife management firm will tranquilize does with darts, then surgically remove the deer’s ovaries.  The wildlife managers said the sterilization plan is practical because the herd is relatively small and is isolated from other herds by the fence that surrounds the development. 

A plan to use archers to thin the herd in 2007 was stopped because of “angry protests,” presumably by residents, not the deer.

 

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