Monday Roundup: Brasher Gone


laid off 13 newsroom workers last week, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, Jane Schorer Meisner.

For Yonder readers, and for rural America, the most significant layoff was of Philip Brasher, the Register’s Washington, D.C., reporter. Brasher is one of a handful of reporters who cover ag issues in DC. His work has been solid and, until now, we would say indispensable. Now that Brasher has been dispensed, however, we’ll see.

Paula Crossfield writes about why Brasher’s layoff “is bad for food.” We think she’s right, but really this is bad for the country.

Brasher tweeted: “Saddest part: DM Register opened bureau nearly 80 yrs ago to cover ag policy when Wallace became ag secy.” Then, in an email to Crossfield, he wrote:

“This is a critical time for food and agricultural policy because of the deep budget cuts that are coming and the choices that Congress is going to have [to] make… about what money there is available. It’s vital that the public understands the impact of those policy choices and the tradeoffs they involve.”

•The tides roll in, the tides go out. Recently, there has been so much talk about the vital importance of cities. So, naturally, we are now learning that cities make people crazy.

Gareth Cook writes in the Boston Globe:

Cities have always been held back by the toll they exact on their inhabitants. The close social interactions that make a city so productive also proved ideal for tuberculosis, measles, the plague, and many other diseases. In European capitals, circa 1800, deaths exceeded births; these cities only grew because of the influx of people from the countryside. An average man in 19th-century Paris was physically shorter than his rural counterpart.

Then came the “sanitation revolution,’’ which redesigned cities around the newly discovered principles of preventing infection. Today, raw sewage no longer flows down the Thames, and, amazingly, people of almost any country who live inside a city’s borders are generally healthier than those outside.

Yet cities still exact a mental toll. People living in an urban setting are 21 percent more likely to experience an anxiety disorder, and 39 percent more likely to experience mood disorders. City life roughly doubles the chances a person will suffer from schizophrenia, and this threat increases with time in cities, like the effect of an accumulating toxin.

Last week, German scientists announced that they had found, for the first time, the specific structures in the brain affected by city life. Using brain scanners, they demonstrated that people who lived in cities showed a greater stress response in the amygdala, a brain area that processes emotions. And a second structure, which helps regulate the amygdala, showed a heightened stress response in people who were raised in cities, according to a report in the journal Nature.

•Water rushing out of the Gavins dam has made Yankton, South Dakota, a tourist destination

• When nuclear power plants were first built, they were located in rural areas. The AP reports that populations around these facilities have “swelled as much as four and a half times since 1980” and they aren’t so rural any more. 

• The Boston Globe also has a good review of “Romneycare,” the statewide healthcare system devised by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. 

Romney is now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and he has been criticized by his opponents for what he did with health care in Massachusetts. The Globe’s conclusion: Romney’s scheme basically worked. 

• The Los Angeles Times recounts Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s ag subsidies. 

Naturally, Bachmann denies receiving anything from the government. 

• The New York Times says the shale gas boom is not all it’s cracked (or is it fracked?) up to be. 

Ian Urbina finds a lot of people in the industry who say that the gas wells don’t produce the gas that is promised and that the lives of the wells are much shorter than originally projected.