Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a new study. Glaciologists additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time.
Recently, Commonwealth Magazine ran an article speculating on the economic role that independent bookstores play in our downtowns, particularly in small and mid-sized city neighborhoods. The author, Amy Dain, is a public policy researcher who was “studying zoning for multi-family housing in 100 cities and towns in Greater Boston” when she noticed a strange phenomenon: that “many of [the] region’s little downtowns—and not just those in the most affluent communities—boast independent bookstores, even in this age of online shopping.” As a researcher, Dain could only offer confident speculation based on these observations, but as someone who had spent an enormous amount of time spending cities, it certainly seemed to her that these stores were functioning as economic mainstays in their communities, riding out the rise and fall of the chain bookstore and the shopping malls in which many cities placed their faith (not to mention their tax incentives) over the course of the last generation. Anecdotal or not, what she observed was compelling. Dain said, “I am happy to find that, for the moment, independent bookstores are anchoring our charming, antique village centers and other places, too.”
Employment in Nebraska remained solid through 2018, benefiting from strong gains in recent years by residents of the state’s suburban areas. Employment in Nebraska in recent years has increased most notably among residents of west Omaha and Sarpy County with rural parts of the state still struggling to add jobs. Overall, Nebraska’s unemployment rate has remained one of the lowest in the country and job prospects throughout the state are strong heading into 2019.
Electric cooperatives want to help bridge the digital divide between rural and urban America as more federal funding becomes available for rural broadband. But a 77-year-old law may prevent one of the nation’s poorest states from fully tapping into millions of new federal dollars to expand high-speed internet service to needy rural communities.Mississippi is among the states that rely most heavily on rural electric cooperatives, nonprofits that deliver power to their members in rural areas. Mississippi’s electric cooperatives’ service area covers 85 percent of the state's land mass.Yet since 1942, Mississippi state law has restricted its cooperatives to working in electric services. Its legislature is expected to take up bills that challenge the state law and the role of electric cooperatives early in its session that began on Jan. 8.Should the Magnolia State change its law, its electric cooperatives could compete for $350 million in loans and grants set aside to improve broadband access under the federal farm bill Congress passed last month. They also could go for a separate pilot program the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced days later that offers up to $600 million in loans and grants to connect rural areas that have poor broadband service.
Two days after he took office, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled sweeping measures to clean up Florida's troubled waters Thursday, including spending $2.5 billion and launching more aggressive policies to address algae choking Lake Okeechobee and polluting the state's coasts. The newly minted governor, who angered environmentalists on the campaign trail by dismissing climate change as a significant threat, also promised to establish a resiliency office to address looming dangers.
The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food wants to create a new label for New Hampshire milk to help keep local dairies afloat. Agriculture Commissioner Shawn Jasper is working with Gov. Chris Sununu and lawmakers on a House bill to create the program, called the Dairy Premium Fund.Gallons with the “New Hampshire’s Own” sticker would carry milk from New Hampshire farms, and would cost an extra 50 cents for customers. Some of this would go to advertising the new brand, but most of it would go back to farmers voluntarily participating in the fund.Jasper says the bill is in response to the nationwide decline in dairy revenue and dairy farms.“We’re down to under a hundred that are shipping milk in New Hampshire, and I’m aware of another three or four that will be gone by April,” he says.
The European Union’s executive body is supporting Poland’s slaughter of wild boars as a way of protecting farm pigs and meat production from the deadly African swine fever. The government’s decision to shoot some 200,000 wild boars this hunting season has drawn wide public protests but veterinary and Polish environment officials insist it’s an approved method.Massive boar hunts are planned for remaining weekends this month.
Activists in North Carolina’s two largest cities, Charlotte and Raleigh, knocked on an estimated 12,000 doors last year to talk to voters about immigration and upcoming sheriff elections. Thanks in part to that push, Democratic sheriff candidates in both counties won in November on a pledge to end participation in 287(g), a program that allows county sheriffs to help federal authorities deport immigrants living in the United States without authorization. The victors ousted incumbents who had pledged to keep the program in place.Sheriff Garry McFadden celebrated by cutting a cake frosted with an anti-287(g) message when he was elected to lead the law enforcement agency in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte. He said in a recent interview that he’s gotten “a thousand complaints and nasty messages a week” about his decision to stop the program, but he hasn’t changed his mind.“We need to build trust with a community that does not trust us,” McFadden told Stateline. “Imagine a robbery victim afraid to call the police or witnesses afraid to come forward. That’s what we were dealing with.”
Even as calls for “Medicare for All” grow louder among Democrats in Washington, D.C., at least 10 states are exploring whether to allow residents to pay premiums to “buy in” to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Currently, Medicaid recipients pay for their coverage in only a handful of states, and the buy-in plans that states are considering might not offer the full range of benefits available to traditional beneficiaries. But advocates say the policies might be an appealing option for people hard-pressed to pay for plans on the health care exchanges, and spur competition that could lower prices for everybody.The concept of enrolling all Americans in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, is probably a nonstarter in politically polarized Washington — at least for now. So, states have started looking at other ways to provide health care to more people at more affordable prices.Nevada’s legislature passed a Medicaid buy-in program in 2017, only to have its then-Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, veto it, saying the state needed more time to study the plan. Legislative supporters say they are planning to file a new bill shortly and are optimistic about passage. The state now has a Democratic governor. Studies of a buy-in option also are ongoing in California, Delaware, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. And newly elected governors in Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin have pledged support for Medicaid buy-in.
The small city of Storm Lake, Iowa, is full of surprises. Its population grows with each Census. Its public-school students speak 23 languages. It still has two newspapers, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. Art Cullen shows the complexity of today’s rural America in the book Storm Lake.