Weekend Roundup: Howdy, New Neighbors

1 in 2 new rural residents is Hispanic • Blast-site map shows detail of damage • Democrat-voting record-setter is rural • Jet passengers — better broadband than rural residents? • Fly technology wins U.N. prize.


[imgcontainer right][img:westmap.jpg] [source]NY Times

A New York Times infographic shows the extent of the damage from the West, Tex., fertilizer plant explosion. On Friday authorities announced that an EMT who was at the scene of the explosion had been arrested for possession of a destructive device. Authorities also announced they had started a criminal investigation into the blast. They did not say whether the arrest and the criminal investigation were related, making for another busy day of speculation on cable newscasts. Map links to New Times infographic.

Rural Diversity. The increase in Hispanic residents in rural Wisconsin is changing school districts, the legal system and the economy, reports Laural Morales for Fronteras, a consortium of public radio stations.

The Durand School District in west central Wisconsin has hired an English language coordinator, who helps Spanish-speaking students make the adjustment to the English-speaking classroom. In the Durand district the number of Spanish-speaking students has almost doubled in the last three years.  In a neighboring school district the number of Latino students now outnumbers non-Latinos.

“I never dreamed that this little corner of the world would have this immigrant presence,” said Shaun Duvall, an interpreter for many dairy farmers and their workers. She said the newcomers here have changed the community, and not everyone knows how to handle it.

“I mean diversity is if you’re Norwegian growing up in a Swiss community,” Duvall said. “You know that’s diversity! And so they don’t have experience. And so it’s not even so much discrimination, but just not knowing really.”

Morales’ report is built around data from the Rural Family Economic Success Action Network. The network’s recent report says one out of every two new rural residents is Hispanic. In the last two years, 1.5 million Latinos have moved into rural America. 

There Goes the Neighborhood. Take a look at the West, Tex., neighborhood obliterated by the fertilizer plant explosion. The New York Times has an infographic that shows the location of deaths and physical damage to buildings like a middle school, high school, nursing home, apartment building and scores of homes.

The Times also reports on the Texas antipathy toward workplace and fire-safety regulation. The state has the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities. “Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012,” report Times staffers Ian Urbina, Manny Fernandez and John Schwartz.

Song of the Solid South. Elliott County, Ky., is held up as one of the last vestiges of the New Deal coalition that brought FDR and the Democratic party to ascendancy in the rural South. Elliott County continues to vote Democratic in presidential elections, even while its neighbors have shifted toward the GOP:

The majority of Elliott’s 8,000 residents have cast their ballots for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since the county was incorporated in 1869 — the longest continuous stretch of any county in the United States. This despite the fact that Kentucky as a whole has trended Republican over the last several decades. In 2004, Elliott was one of 11 rural Kentucky counties to vote Democratic. In the 2008, that number dwindled to four. In 2012, Elliott became the last county to vote Democratic — not just in Kentucky, but among all predominantly white counties in the rural South.

Fly-over Broadband. The Federal Communications Commission has a plan for providing better high-speed Internet service to airline passengers.


If we’re able to provide high-speed connections for air travelers at 30,000 feet, shouldn’t we be able to provide broadband for more of rural America?

Maybe some of those big jets can share their broadband signal with “fly over” country as they buzz by.

A Different Kind of Fly-over. Fly larvae are the key ingredient in a new process that converts manure, blood, guts and other waste into animal-feed protein. 

“We’ve created the first industrial farming operation for flies,” said Jason Drew of AgriProtein Technologies, a South Africa company that invented the concept and won a $100,000 United Nations innovation award

Fly larvae consume the waste. Then the larvae are dried and ground up into a product sold to animal-feed producers.