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Rural News

To Control Forest Fires, Western States Light More of Their Own

Pew Trust | Posted on May 23, 2019

Tramping over a charred mountainside here one foggy morning, Matt Champa glowed with satisfaction. “Deer and elk will love this,” said the U.S. Forest Service “burn boss,” gesturing to a cluster of blackened trees that eventually will fall and create more space for forage plants. Champa and his team set fire to this area last month, part of the 1,900-acre Pingree Hill prescribed burn on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland to improve wildlife habitat and create space that firefighters could use to defend nearby residents and the Cache la Poudre River from a wildfire.The Forest Service and its partners hope over the next decade to carry out a series of such prescribed burns in Northern Colorado to protect communities and the river, which supplies water to about 300,000 people.Public and private landowners across the West are increasingly using prescribed fire to reduce wildfire danger. Over 3 million acres were treated with prescribed fire in Western states in 2017, up from the roughly 2 million in 2011, according to a survey by the National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils Inc.

Editorial:How to Grow the Rural Economy

Storm Lake Times | Posted on May 23, 2019

The population numbers since 2010 look bad for most rural Iowa counties: Pocahontas, down 7.8%; Sac, down 6.1%; Audubon, down 10%; Cass, down 7.3%; Adams, down 9.5%. A small sampling of isolated rural counties. They may have peaked in population in 1940 or before. The sad news is: Nothing is on the horizon to turn it around.This according to Iowa State University research economist Dave Swenson, who studies regional trade dynamics and population. “They’re not within driving distance of a market center,” he explains, as is much of the Great Plains. Too far from Omaha or even Sioux City. All the good job growth in Iowa occurred in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Iowa City and Ames. That is where the population is headed, not to Atlantic or Wall Lake. His colleagues in Extension are doing a Shrink Smart program that helps communities transition into maturity. It strikes us as hospice for rural America — give us an IV drip to keep the sewer and water systems in repair, and give us a hospital nearby and a nursing home, and let nature sort of take its course. 

‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’

The Washington Post | Posted on May 16, 2019

As emergencies rise across rural America, a hospital fights for its life. The hospital had already transferred out most of its patients and lost half its staff when the CEO called a meeting to take inventory of what was left. Employees crammed into Tina Steele’s office at Fairfax Community Hospital, where the air conditioning was no longer working and the computer software had just been shut off for nonpayment.The staff had been fending off closure hour by hour for the past several months, ever since debt for the 15-bed hospital surpassed $1 million and its outside ownership group entered into bankruptcy, beginning a crisis in Fairfax that is becoming familiar across much of rural America. More than 100 of the country’s remote hospitals have gone broke and then closed in the past decade, turning some of the most impoverished parts of the United States into what experts now call “health-hazard zones,” and Fairfax was on the verge of becoming the latest. The emergency room was down to its final four tanks of oxygen. The nursing staff was out of basic supplies such as snakebite antivenin and strep tests. Hospital employees had not received paychecks for the past 11 weeks and counting.

West Virginians were promised coding jobs in Appalachia. Now they say it was a fraud.

MSN | Posted on May 16, 2019

Many West Virginians like Ms. Frame signed up for Mined Minds, quitting their jobs or dropping out of school for the prized prospect of a stable and lucrative career. But the revival never came. Almost none of those who signed up for Mined Minds are working in programming now. They described Mined Minds as an erratic operation, where guarantees suddenly evaporated and firings seemed inevitable, leaving people to start over again at the bottom rungs of the wage jobs they had left behind.Over two dozen former students in West Virginia are pursuing a lawsuit, arguing that Mined Minds was a fraud. Out of the 10 or so people who made it to the final weeks of Ms. Frame’s class in Beckley, only one formally graduated. He is now delivering takeout.

As the Opioid Crisis Peaks, Meth and Cocaine Deaths Explode

Pew Trust | Posted on May 16, 2019

Most states are keeping a close eye on opioid overdose deaths, but they may need to start focusing on cocaine and other stimulants as well. It turns out that the same lethal drug that has been driving the nation’s spiraling opioid epidemic is also causing an historic surge in overdose deaths among cocaine users.That’s according to a new analysis of death certificate data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that fentanyl — a cheap synthetic opioid that is a hundred times more potent than morphine — and other opioids were involved in nearly three-fourths of all cocaine overdose deaths and an increasing number of methamphetamine deaths.In a drug overdose epidemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans since 1999, state and local officials have been primarily concentrating on opioids, which were involved in nearly 70% of overdose deaths in 2017.

Wild Pig Wars: Controversy Over Hunting, Trapping in Missouri

AgWeb | Posted on May 16, 2019

Under gray skies on a fall morning, Rick Clubb wears an expression of disbelief as he walks across 10 acres of strafe-bombed pasture and stares down at ground turned upside down overnight. Wild pigs have unleashed hell. Again. The field is flipped and cratered, green gone brown in multiple stretches, testament to the wrecking ball capacity of a phenomenally opportunistic survivor. Head in hands, Clubb rubs his temples as the proverbial dollars drain from his pockets, keenly aware of the stark reality on his southeast Missouri farm: The wild pigs always return. “I call it the hog apocalypse,” he says. “They’re multiplying so fast and nobody in my state wants to damn well admit it.”

26 U.S. states ban or restrict local broadband initiatives

Tech Spot | Posted on May 16, 2019

Faced with high fees, slow speeds and poor customer service, many communities in the U.S. have turned to community broadband projects to free themselves from the clutches of major telecom providers. But this isn’t an option for everyone, as 26 states either severely restrict or outright ban community broadband initiatives. Healthy competition is meant to be the cornerstone of the U.S. economy, but the telecom industry has not only never embraced that mentality, it has apparently gone one step further by successfully lobbying to reduce competition through restrictions and outright bans.

FCC Rural Broadband Fund Would Move Funds From Existing Program | Posted on May 16, 2019

The rural broadband fund that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed last week would rely on funding from an existing broadband program slated to expire next year, while also setting higher standards for internet speeds, according to the FCC. Around $2 billion has been available annually in recent years through the Connect America Fund and that same amount would be shifted to the new fund, dubbed the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, said Mark Wigfield. The new program, as envisioned, would differ from the Connect America Fund in some key ways, Wigfield said.For one, he said it would also establish a minimum speed threshold of 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads, as opposed to 10 mbps and 1 mbps.

Oregon dentists become first in U.S. to be able to give all vaccines

Oregon Live | Posted on May 16, 2019

Oregon is the first state in the country to allow dentists to administer vaccines to patients. In a year marked with heated debate about the state’s involvement in boosting vaccination rates, the bill was quietly passed and signed into law with little fanfare. But it sets a new precedent for the role dentistry plays in the health care system.Two other states have laws that allow dentists to give flu shots to adults, but in Oregon, dentists will soon be able to give out any vaccine available at a primary care doctor’s office.

Rural Canada’s voice in cabinet says feds looking at funding community ISPs

CKOM | Posted on May 16, 2019

A new plan to help rural Canada thrive will focus on expanding internet and cellphone coverage, even funding communities that want to be their own service providers, the minister in charge of it says. Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan is expected to unveil the strategy next month.In an interview this week, Jordan said the top complaint she hears on cross-country travels is the lack of high-speed internet in rural areas, which hurts businesses and efforts to woo and keep residents.The House of Commons emphasized that concern on Thursday, when its members unanimously backed a motion from a Liberal MP calling for expanded digital infrastructure in rural areas for economic and public-safety reasons. The motion highlighted struggles local officials faced in responding to flooding in place with poor cellphone coverage.The Liberals are promising to connect every household in the country to high-speed internet by 2030, through a $6-billion spending plan. Jordan said the government wants to entice big telecommunications companies to invest in rural areas, where populations are smaller and more spread-out than in urban centres.