Tuesday Roundup: POs, Coal Study and Child Farm Labor


Wreaths Across America gathered 100,000 wreaths, and on December 10, with the help of thropusands of volunteers from Virginia and around the nation, laid them at Arlington. It took 20 trucks to transport the wreaths from Harrington, in eastern Maine, to Washington, D.C. Above, volunteers survey their work on Wreaths Across America Day.

We just found Save The Post Office, a wonderful site that collects news about the Postal Service. 

STPO is run by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor at the Gallatin School of New York University. Steve says he lives in the Hudson Valley and likes his post office. he has no other connection to the Postal Service.

There are maps and documents and a collection of everything in the news about the mess at the Postal Service. Great site.

We received our weekly edition of The Mountain Eagle yesterday and learned that first class mail sent from one resident of Whitesburg, Kentucky, to another will travel now to Knoxville, Tennessee, before it is delivered back to Whitesburg.

We wonder about delivery of rural newspapers. It used to be that papers printed and delivered to the Post Office on a Wednesday afternoon would be put in local mail boxes Thursday morning. Does this new system mean that local newspapers will be delivered on Saturday, or even on Monday?

• A new study finds that the ill effects of mountaintop removal coal mining continue for decades after mining and reclamation are complete. 

Ken Ward Jr. has the full details of the report done by Duke University researchers and published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The report finds: 

Our results demonstrate the cumulative impact of multiple mines within a single catchment and provide evidence that mines reclaimed nearly two decades ago continue to contribute significantly to water quality degradation within this watershed.

The researchers studied a section of West Virginia near the Kentucky border. They found “incredibly strong patterns” of pollution from the cumulative effects of coal mining.

• Turns out that U.S. school children are spending as much time in class as kids in any other nation. 

School reformers (including Education Secretary Arne Duncan) say as Gospel that American students don’t spend as much time in class as children in other countries. (Duncan has said that children in China and India spend up to 30 percent longer in class than our kids.) 

The National School Boards Association’s research arm looked into this and found that it just wasn’t true. Kids in India are in class the same amount of time as U.S. students. In Finland (everybody’s model for the best school system), students are in class for fewer hours than any state in the U.S.

• Republicans in Congress are trying to force President Obama to fast track the Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department had delayed a permit for the Canada to Texas pipeline after Nebraska objected to the route taking the structure over the environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills region and the Ogallala Aquifer. But Republicans have included a requirement that the State Department speed up its decision with a tax cut supported by the President.

And the fast-track provision was the idea of Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry, which has some people in the state mightily upset. “We feel like we’re being totally undermined,” rancher and farmer Randy Thompson told InsideClimate News. “I don’t see how this wouldn’t make him vulnerable in the next election. He might be in for a rude awakening in 2012.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times says the claims of great economic benefits from the Keystone XL pipeline are “claptrap.” 

• Fifteen schoolchildren died in a bus accident in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. This is the second rural bus accident this fall. In November, 19 preschoolers and two adults were killed in rural Gansu province.

• USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has released a statement on proposed rules that would govern farm work done by children. The issue has roiled farming communities. Proposed Department of Labor regulations would limit the work children could do for neighbors, for example, and for their family’s own farm if the farm is owned by a corporation.

Vilsack acknowledged that “kids benefit from good old-fashioned farm work.” But he noted that while ” only 4 percent of working youth are in the agriculture sector, 40 percent of fatalities of working kids are associated with machines, equipment, or facilities related to agriculture.  That’s way too high.  We don’t want to blur the line between teaching kids about a good day’s hard work, and putting them in situations more safely handled by adults.” 

The Department of Labor is review comments on the new regulations. 

• Farmers are asking Congress to tighten regulations in the futures industry, the Wall Street Journal reports.

 Many farmers discovered that their funds were missing after MF Global Holdings collapsed recently.