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Rural News

Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history

The Washington Post | Posted on January 16, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched an unprecedented effort Wednesday to undertake the largest reorganization in the department’s 168-year history, moving to shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations and change the way the federal government manages more than 500 million acres of land and water across the country. The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries. The regions would be defined by watersheds and geographic basins, rather than individual states and the current boundaries that now guide Interior’s operations. This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation. Moving thousands of employees around the country would require congressional authorization. Zinke said the Trump administration plans to negotiate the reorganization in the upcoming budget approval process. “This proposal is concerning because it appears to eliminate the Navajo Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” said  Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). “A change of this magnitude should only come after extensive, meaningful government-to-government consultation with the affected tribes.  On its face, this looks more like a dismantling than a reorganization.” The politics of moving employees is often difficult, Jewell said. Interior sought to consolidate the BLM offices for New Mexico and Arizona because the topography of the states is so similar. “Congress came after us. You would’ve thought we were ending the world as we knew it. Politicians came out of the woodwork,” Jewell said. “You throw up your hands and say it’s not worth it. If you’re a politician it looks like your district lost and another district won.”At a budget hearing in June, Zinke defended a $1.6 billion proposed budget cut at Interior, saying he planned to shave 4,000 positions from the workforce. In September, he said a third of Interior’s staff was “not loyal to the flag,” meaning the Trump administration.


Animal research helps pets, too

JAVMA | Posted on January 14, 2018

This past October, the Foundation for Biomedical Research launched its "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" campaign to educate the public about how animal research has improved the health and welfare of companion animals. Similar public outreach efforts have focused on the benefits to human health derived from animal research, such as development of vaccines for polio and hepatitis A and B. "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" takes a new approach by highlighting a lesser-known issue: how animal research has led to innovations in veterinary medicine that help sick and injured cats and dogs.Animal research has improved and saved the lives of countless companion animals, according to a promotional brochure, which cites the following examples: vaccines to prevent distemper, rabies, infectious hepatitis, tetanus, parvovirus, and feline leukemia; technologies such as CT, MRI, and ultrasonography to help diagnose potentially deadly diseases; lifesaving emergency care for dogs and cats injured by cars; advanced surgical procedures to treat joint and ligament problems in dogs and cats, to transplant organs, and to implant pacemakers; and nutritional products to help puppies and kittens grow into


Trump declared an opioids emergency. Then nothing changed.

Politico | Posted on January 12, 2018

President Donald Trump in October promised to "liberate" Americans from the "scourge of addiction," officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic. That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done.Trump has not formally proposed any new resources or spending, typically the starting point for any emergency response. He promised to roll out a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign to spread awareness about addiction, but that has yet to take shape. And key public health and drug posts in the administration remain vacant, so it’s not clear who has the authority to get new programs moving. A senior White House official disputed the assessment of inaction, saying the emergency declaration has allowed the president to use "his bully pulpit to draw further attention to this emergency that he inherited." The official added that the declaration has enabled federal agencies to "really change their focus and prioritize the crisis," and that getting an effective media campaign underway "takes time."


Single payer could solve the rural hospital crisis

Jacobin | Posted on January 12, 2018

America’s rural hospitals are closing down at an alarming rate. According to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, there were seventy-two rural hospital closures between 2010 and 2016, close to double the number that shut down between 2005 and 2009. Hundreds more are teetering on the brink of closure. Consequently, rural America faces a serious health care delivery challenge, which is made all the more urgent by the fact that rural residents tend to be much sicker to begin with. They have higher rates of chronic conditions and greater psychological distress. Rural counties have higher death rates from unintentional injuries, more motor vehicle injuries, greater premature mortality (below age seventy-five), higher suicide rates among men, and higher infant mortality rates. Health disparities between rural and urban America are very well documented, and geographic access — the ease or difficulty of traveling to a health care provider — is one of the commonly offered explanations for this disparity, especially in the case of traumatic accidents or other medical emergencies. When these rural hospitals close their doors, the distance between a person’s home and the nearest medical facility increases dramatically, and so too does the time it would take an ambulance to reach them in an emergency. Now compare this with the possibilities of a single-payer health care system, where capital investment in health care is uncoupled from individual hospital operating budgets and individual hospital profitability and, instead, is driven by community need. In this system, whether a hospital’s operating costs remained under budget would not dictate the decision to buy a needed MRI machine or renovate the emergency room or even to keep the doors open. Instead, capital investments would be a product of conscientious regional planning that incorporates the voices and desires and health concerns of the community that the hospital serves.


Climate and Weather Disasters Cost U.S. a Record $306 Billion in 2017

Inside Climate News | Posted on January 11, 2018

Hurricane Harvey's extreme rainfall and the most devastating wildfire season on record contributed to $306 billion in damages from climate and weather disasters in the United States in 2017, shattering the previous record by more than $90 billion, according to a federal report released Monday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's recap of the nation's climate over the past year found that 2017 was the third-warmest on record. What's more, it was warmer than average in every state across the lower 48 and Alaska for the third consecutive year. "That's pretty unusual," said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA and the lead author of the report. Such a stretch hasn't occurred in many decades, he said, and is a sign of the degree to which the climate is warming. "The contiguous United States is a pretty big place, and there are features of the climate system that usually make some places colder."While 2017 was not the hottest year, each of the five warmest years since record-keeping began in 1895 have come since 2006. The average annual temperature in the contiguous U.S. last year was 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th Century average, and five states registered their warmest years on record: Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina.


New Jersey set to ban animals in circuses

| Posted on January 11, 2018

New Jersey could become the first state in the nation to essentially ban old-fashioned circuses, ones with wild animals. The state Assembly, in one of its last voting sessions scheduled for tomorrow, is slated to give final legislative passage to S-2508, a bill that would prohibit the use of elephants and other exotic animals in acts traveling to or around New Jersey. Odds for the bill’s passage in the lower house are good, given the full Senate approved the bill 32-5 with bipartisan support last October and the Assembly Appropriations Committee okayed it two weeks ago, also with the backing of both parties in a 10-0 vote.


Rural Pennsylvania’s Working Poor

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on January 11, 2018

For this analysis, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, using a modified definition from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, defined the rural working poor as: non-institutionalized individuals age 18 years old and older who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force during the preceding 12 months and whose household income was below the poverty level.The rural working poor make up about 5 percent of the total rural Pennsylvania workforce.


Research Examines Wildlife Tourism on PA Public Lands

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on January 11, 2018

Pennsylvania residents and visitors sometimes use Pennsylvania State Game Lands for hiking, bird and wildlife watching, horseback riding, rock climbing, and mountain biking. While these secondary recreational uses are allowed, the main purposes of the State Game Lands (SGLs) are to manage habitat for wildlife and provide opportunities for lawful hunting and trapping.At times, the non-consumptive use of SGLs has been a point of contention since some view non-hunting users on game lands as privileged, or sometimes, unwelcome guests. To learn more about the extent to which the general public participates in non-consumptive, or wildlife tourism activities, on public land in Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Ryan of California University of Pennsylvania conducted research by surveying hunters, non-hunters, and public policy stakeholders in 2016 and 2017.The research examined the characteristics of wildlife tourists and their non-consumptive use of wildlife assets on Pennsylvania public lands, specifically focusing on Pennsylvania SGLs, which are administered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.The research also reviewed policy issues surrounding the access and use of Pennsylvania SGLs, and gathered input on public policies that govern these lands.For the research, wildlife tourists were broadly defined as those who engage in non-consumptive or non-lethal wildlife activities for leisure purposes.Data from the surveys were summarized to present a profile of current wildlife tourists and Pennsylvania’s available wildlife tourism product. It also summarized findings on policy issues related to permits and land use access for non-hunters and non-hunting activities.


FCC uses bogus data to show big increases in broadband access

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 11, 2018

Across the country, the Federal Communications Commission wants millions of rural Americans to think they have broadband at home and the workplace – when they don’t. The self-reported claims of service are very convenient for large telecommunications companies, which might face more competition otherwise. At the end of the year, the Federal Communications Commission released data that it knows to be inaccurate, which will damage the lives and livelihoods of millions of our fellow citizens who live and work in rural America. In its publication of eligible census blocks for the Connect America Fund (CAF) auction, the FCC excluded 432,302 rural homes and businesses in areas that previously had been eligible to receive public support for broadband service.The vast majority of these areas had been determined by the FCC and the telephone industry to be too costly for the telephone companies to serve with broadband – even with subsidies – so the FCC initially decided to auction financial support for these remote areas. And yet, in the closing days of 2017, the FCC removed 30% of all the eligible rural locations from the CAF auction by applying newly released data regarding the availability of broadband service.


How much are students improving in your school district?

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 11, 2018

A new study that examines educational progress of millions of U.S. pupils over a five-year span finds that there are few patterns for predicting how geography or socio-economic status affect student improvement.Rural school districts don’t seem to do much better or worse than urban districts in raising student test scores over time. And both poor districts and rich districts have good and bad results. (The only exception is the generally good results in Tennessee.)The massive study by Stanford University professor Sean Reardon looks at standardized test scores of students in the third grade and again, five years later, when that same year of students reaches the eighth grade. The difference in test scores from third to eighth grade shows how much the student performance in U.S. school districts improved over the five-year period.


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