The victims, predominantly Guatemalan minors, were told by a trafficker that a better life awaited them in the US and were brought to Trillium Farms to pay off $15,000 of imposed debt.There, they were forced to work in poor conditions, allowed to keep only a fraction of their pay checks, and met with death threats in the event of protest.They were given such little freedom that one teen was at Trillium for four months before he managed to call his uncle in Florida for help. In response to his nephew's pleas, fear, and desperation - the uncle contacted the Collier City Sheriff's office.Two months later, federal and local authorities raided the trailer park where the workers were held, uncovering at least 10 victims of human trafficking.Senator Robert Portman - who was Chairman of the investigatory committee - said what authorities uncovered during the investigation that followed was 'flat out wrong'.
For nearly 10 years, residents in a California farming community have had to drive nearly 40 miles (64 kilometers) to see the latest film, a rare trip for some in a place where a third of the population lives in poverty. That all changed in May when Moctesuma Esparza, a Latino movie producer, opened his latest Maya Cinemas theater in Delano in his ongoing effort to open theaters in poor, rural areas in the U.S. that lack entertainment options. The $20 million project gives Delano's 53,000 residents access to recent movie releases in a high-end experience with luxury seating. In 1965, Delano helped spark Cesar Chavez's farm worker union movement. Esparza, who produced the 1997 movie "Selena" and has opened up four identical theaters in poor areas in California, said poverty shouldn't sentence residents to "movie deserts" where inexpensive leisure is limited. He has vowed to do his part to change the landscape in rural America.For years, rural communities in Appalachia, the American Southwest and the Mississippi Delta have seen small theaters close due to the high cost of technology updates and to economic downturns that discourage investors from taking over struggling movie houses.
Getting high-speed internet service into less-populated areas of Georgia remains a top priority of the House Rural Development Council, although providers have yet to propose an overall fix.Towers aren’t going away but small cells — “about the size of garbage cans,” Lumsden said — can be added to increase capacity and coverage in targeted areas. They’re mounted on poles in the public rights of way and can serve customers in a radius of 500 to 1,200 feet.Lumsden said future advancements are expected to bring devices attached to power lines that will add even more capacity as the demand for service continues to increase.“It will give providers the ability to build out their networks in a more cost-effective way than they’ve ever had before,” he said. “But they have to rely on rights of way and that’s where the rub seems to be.”Local governments have control over their rights of way and are unwilling to give that up. Rome City Commissioners discussing the issue said they welcome the service but have concerns about the potential for unsightly transmitters every quarter-mile, especially in historic districts.
The University of Memphis will no longer charge tuition to the children and spouses of fallen service members. The school becomes the first to offer the national Folds of Honor scholarship as a payment-in-full scholarship, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Monday, Memorial Day. The university already accepts the scholarship, which provides a $5,000 per year payment to undergraduate students under the age of 24 who had a parent severely injured or killed while on active duty. Spouses of any age can also receive it if they have not remarried. Fold of Honor recipients, both those currently enrolled and future students, will no longer need to pay for the rest of their education at the Tennessee school. The average cost of tuition at Memphis is reportedly about $9,700 a year, plus room and board, fees and textbooks. Any outstanding fees may also be covered by additional scholarships, said university President David Rudd.
Austin Steinbach said he was “dead set” on moving to this rural farming town for a job that offered benefits, a $500 signing bonus and a higher wage. But the 25-year-old father of two had to turn it down after a week-long search with his wife for a home failed to turn up anything livable or in their price range.“What they offered out there was great, but I can’t afford to move because I can’t afford to rent a house there,” he said. Instead, Mr. Steinbach will stay in Creston, Iowa, where he supports his family earning $2 less an hour power-washing farm equipment and has no benefits. Fewer homes are being built per household than at almost any time in U.S. history, and it is even worse in rural communities. Developers in less populated areas can’t tap into the economies of scale available in urban centers, making materials and labor more expensive. Rural areas are also seeing their populations stagnate or decline as younger people opt for urban living, adding to the gamble involved in speculative building.“As a developer or builder, you have to think hard about whether the risk is worth the reward,” said K.C. Belitz, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. “For a lot, it isn’t.”
The first step toward better connectivity came in 2014, when Suzanne Phillips Sims, Congress Elementary School’s technology specialist, stumbled upon a small microwave internet company that was installing equipment atop the town’s water towers. Microwave connections utilize transmission towers, which must be directly in the line of sight of a receiving antenna. Sims asked the technician installing the equipment, Wayne Markis, whether he’d provide internet at the school for an introductory rate. The school’s relationship with AZ Airnet was born. Congress Elementary saw a much better connection, and the teachers were pleased with the round-the-clock service.“We adore him,” Miller said of Markis, who owns AZ Airnet. “It’s finding a quality person that will provide that individualized service.”With AZ Airnet’s help, the school made big strides, but the connection was still slow and there were problems, like maintenance calls in the middle of the night. New funding will allow Congress Elementary, as well as 60 other schools and libraries throughout Yavapai County, to access to a new fiber-optic connection that will provide faster, more reliable internet.The money comes from $1.8 million federal grant as well as $400,000 from the state, through a funding initiative that began last year. The Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative grew out of a partnership between the state Department of Education, the Arizona Corporation Commission and a nonprofit, Education SuperHighway. It designates $11 million from the state budget and Universal Service Fund to help schools and libraries improve access to internet. Matching funds from the federal Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as E-rate, have amounted to more than $100 million for the state.
Southwest Virginia turned an unused railroad right of way into a critical part of a regional tourism powerhouse. Jacob Stump, a native of the region, begins a series on how those changes have affected the economy and culture of this Central Appalachian area. The Virginia Tourism Corporation’s 2014 Economic Impact Report showed that Southwest Virginia generated nearly $971 million in tourism expenditures. And, Friends of Southwest Virginia published a 2016 report that showed a 56 percent increase over a decade in tourism expenditures. These numbers are expected to grow in the coming years.
Cory Ritterbusch and Emily Lubcke sought out Shullsburg, Wisconsin (population 1,209), for the quality of life it offered them and their children. The young couple aren’t the only ones going to (or returning to) small towns. “People don’t move to your town for pity,” Winchester said. “They move for opportunities. Nobody cares that you lost the hardware store 30 years ago… And we’re not all farmers. We haven’t all been farmers in 100 years.” Winchester looked at Census data to show that the so-called rural “brain drain” popularized in the 2009 book “Hollowing Out the Middle” is being countered by “brain gain.” Rural communities may be losing high school graduates, but they’re gaining residents with more skills and education, according to studies in Minnesota and Nebraska. In Minnesota, Winchester found that most rural Minnesota counties have gained 30- to 49-year-olds, early- to mid-career Minnesotans with significant resources and connections.
Hurricane Maria likely killed thousands of people across Puerto Rico last year, more than 70 times the official estimate, a Harvard study released Tuesday says. Authorities in Puerto Rico placed the death toll at 64 after Maria roared through the island Sept. 20, destroying buildings and knocking out power to virtually the entire U.S. territory of more than 3 million people.Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, surveyed more than 3,000 households on the battered island. By extrapolating those findings, researchers determined that at least 4,645 "excess deaths" occurred during the storm and the weeks that followed.
Officials and volunteers in eastern Iowa have opened a park on a former vacant lot with hopes of increasing habitat for bees, butterflies and other insects and demonstrating the importance of such efforts. The Muscatine Journal reports that the Pollinator Park opened in Muscatine May 19. Volunteers planted new plants during the ceremony.Jon Koch is a founding member of the nonprofit Pollinator Park Project group. He says they hope to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other flying insects with the plants.Volunteers from Nature Conservancy of Iowa, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Muscatine County Conservation Board and City of Muscatine helped with the project. Bridgestone Bandag donated most of the seeds and Muscatine Community College donated the greenhouse.