Thursday Roundup: Health Care and Rural

Reactions from around the country on the Supreme Court health reform decision • Drought spreads; corn prices rise • Living in Alabama on three newspapers a week

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A message from the Rural Assembly

• The Census reports that, for the first time in a century, cities are growing faster than their surrounding suburbs. 

Young adults are delaying careers, marriage and children, and they are hunkering down in the cities. Some economists are saying this is temporary, but apartment builders are constructing new living spaces for the large group of 18 to 29 year olds, who make up one in six Americans.

The last time growth in big cities surpassed outlying areas was prior to 1920. City growth in 2011 surpassed or equaled growth in the suburbs in 33 of the nation’s 51 largest metro areas. Last decade, that happened in just five cities.

“City growth in recent years clearly has ramped up faster than suburban growth has declined, suggesting an increased attractiveness of cities,” said demographer William Frey. “The real question is, will cities continue to hold their own when the suburban housing market picks up? Cities that market themselves well to young people and that offer job growth, cultural amenities and access to rapid transit are likely to see continued growth.”

This story makes us want to jump in the car and find Urbanna, Virginia, there on the Chesapeake Bay, and get to Something Different Country Store. We’ll have the Virginia Sandwich, country ham and smoked turkey. 

• Drought in the Midwest is pushing up corn prices, as the percentage of the crop rated in at least good condition dwindles. The price of corn is up 27 percent in the last month and is now at $6.33. 

About a quarter of the U.S. is facing at least severe drought conditions. DTN reports that soybean plants are stressed and that crop conditions are the lowest in ten years. Bean farmers are placing their hopes on El Nino. 

• Vice President Joe Biden was in Iowa yesterday criticizing Mitt Romney for his reluctance to support tax credits for wind and solar. 

“We are importing less oil than [at] any time in the last 16 years,” Biden said. “But we think you got to bet on it all … You had our good friend Mitt Romney saying he dismissed wind and solar by saying they’re ‘two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative energy.’ Tell that to the 7,000 workers manufacturing wind power here in Iowa.”

• Alabama newspaperman Roy Hoffman writes about what it will mean when the papers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville start publishing delivered editions only three days a week. 

Many Alabamans don’t have regular Internet access. He begins by recounting the news that they would have missed — the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963; the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965; Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974.

Hoffman continues

I was recently covering a story in nearby Prichard, Ala., a town of 23,000 people with 36 percent of them beneath the poverty line; it made national news last year when it was too broke to pay pensions. In casual conversation I asked the police chief, a forward-looking official who carries both a gun and an iPad, what percentage of the town has Internet access. He figured 25 percent.

How many Prichard residents read the newspaper itself? Far more than subscribe, I’d hazard to guess. I’ve written many stories about people and places in that community, and I know how papers get passed around at the barbershop, the church social, the front porch.

Countless folks I’ve profiled in my home state have been old, poor or seen as marginal; they live down rural lanes or speak English as a second language. Yet they clutch the paper when it’s in their hands. They are hungry, too, for news of their community, town, state and nation seven days a week.

Hoffman was one of 181 workers at his newspaper to be laid off.

A message from the Rural Assembly

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