Idaho public radio reports that “changes in rural America are conspiring to make volunteer (firefighting) forces harder to maintain. And that could make it more difficult for communities to respond to emergencies like wildfire.”
Jessica Robinson reports that firefighters are now required to do more training, taking courses on everything from the handling of hazardous materials to counterterrorism. And volunteer firefighters don’t have the time to spare for these classes.
The number of volunteer firefighters has dropped in the last two decades. “And rural areas of the Northwest are among the hardest hit because they depend so heavily on unpaid forces,” Robinson reports. Washington, Idaho and Oregon have been running ads to recruit new firefighters.
Some fire officials say there is a declining sense of community across the country, leading to fewer people volunteering. Demographers say that as communities age, there are fewer people to volunteer.
Slaughterhouse to Reopen — A slaughterhouse in central California will reopen after it agreed to make a number of “corrective actions” demanded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The facility was shut down last week after an animal rights group released video of cattle being slaughtered even though they were unable to walk.
Welcome Isaac — The dry Midwest is already getting excited about Hurricane Isaac.
Forecasts say the storm could drop 2 to 6 inches of rain from eastern Arkansas into Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The rain could also help refill the Mississippi River.
Selling Off — The rains are coming too late for many Missouri ranchers, who are selling off their herds. There’s no grass left in the fields.
“It’s like the whole world is tan,” said rancher Greg Lee, 44, of Iberia, Missouri. “This is something guys my age haven’t ever seen before.”
Last week, 30,571 cattle were sold in Missouri, compared to 22,387 for the same week in 2011, according to sales tracked by the state Department of Agriculture.
Good and Bad Education News — The good news is that American students who aren’t poor are doing quite well in comparison to students of comparable wealth in other countries. The bad news is that America has a lot of students who are growing up in poverty.
Alonzo Porter writes in the Washington Post that U.S. children in schools where 10 percent or fewer of the students are poor do extremely well compared to other countries. But students who attend schools where half the students live in poverty rank near the bottom in world rankings.
Trouble is, the U.S. has a higher percentage of people living in poverty than other advanced countries. The U.S. has a poverty rate of 21.7 percent (in 2010), for example. In New Zealand it was 16.3 percent; Poland 14.5 percent, Denmark, 2.4 percent.
“The good news here is that teachers are not the hapless, inadequate, ineffective laggards they have been painted as,” Porter writes. “The bad news is that the attention and blame may soon place the spotlight on poor students in urban and rural districts as the central cause for the country’s long-time scholastic decline.”
Only Humanely-Raised Meat — Bon Appetit says it will only buy ground beef from suppliers that have been certified by one of four independent animal-welfare organizations for its 500-plus cafes and catering facilities.
“I’m out to change the industry, and I want to be able to influence the big players to change their practices,” says Fedele Bauccio, CEO and co-founder of Bon Appetit Management, based in Palo Alto, Calif.
The four groups are Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance, Humane Farm Animal Care and Global Animal Partnership.
The company bought 1.2 million pounds of ground beef last year.
Dooh! — The Postal Service produced 1 billion stamps featuring The Simpsons, but sold only 318 million.
A Postal Service inspector general’s report finds the Service could save $2 million a year by ending overproduction of stamps that never sell.
Nebraska Senate Debate — Bob Kerrey (Democrat) and Deb Fischer (Republican) debated over the weekend at the Nebraska State Fair. The two are running for a U.S. Senate seat.
Lincoln Journal Star reporter Don Walton describes the encounter as a “spirited debate with Kerrey on the offensive, Fischer counter-punching and an enthusiastic State Fair audience engaged and wanting more.”
Kerrey talked about how cooperation is needed in Washington, D.C., and how the country wouldn’t progress “unless we move to the middle.”
“I’m a conservative (who) believes in limited government,” Fischer countered. “I don’t support any tax increase.”
The two differed on health care. Walton writes:
Without prompting, Kerrey made the case for the health care reform law, arguing that it will benefit rural Nebraska with support of community hospitals, then responded to a Fischer question by suggesting that “we’re a better nation because we care for all of us,” including Americans who cannot afford or do not have health insurance today.
Fischer said she would “vote to repeal Obamacare” and support a “step by step” process of health care reform which would embrace tort reform.
Pigs and Proportion — Minnesota’s health commissioner notes that there have been 50 million visitors to fairs across the country, but only 277 cases of swine flu have been reported.