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Rural News

Florida judge strikes down HSUS dog-racing ban, calling it ‘outright trickeration’

Florida Politics | Posted on August 9, 2018

Saying it “hide(s) the ball” and calling it “outright ‘trickeration,’ ” a Tallahassee judge has ruled that a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at ending dog racing shouldn’t go on the November ballot. But in a statement, Attorney General Pam Bondi – who supports a dog-racing ban – said her office “will appeal this decision immediately and seek an expedited review by the Florida Supreme Court.” Among other things, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ 27-page order (also posted below) said Amendment 13‘s ballot title and summary would mislead voters into believing a ‘yes’ vote was an outright ban on greyhound racing. The amendment bans betting on live dog racing in Florida, and doesn’t make clear that trackgoers in Florida could still bet on ‘simulcast‘ dog races outside Florida, she said. Live racing is still conducted at 11 tracks in the state. It also doesn’t make clear, Gievers added, that a vote for the amendment is a vote for other gambling – such as card games and slot machines – to continue at tracks that have them.

Broadband access: A regulatory call to action to protect utilities against cyber threats

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

Energy suppliers are taking cyber threats seriously by shoring up physical infrastructure and hardening against cyber warfare. But they are competing with one arm tied behind their backs because they are using decades-old private radio systems to control these facilities, as opposed to the advanced broadband technology available today.  That's because historically, most policymakers have been primarily focused on protecting consumers from rate hikes. That's an important objective. And Public Utility Commissions, or PUCs, also have the responsibility to facilitate technological and regulatory innovations that could enhance the consumer experience and promote more reliable and secure systems. By making access to dedicated broadband a priority for utilities — and by allowing them to include these investments in their rate base —​ PUCs will further enable grid modernization, vastly improving upon the dated technology employed today. That would result in the ability for first responders, health care providers and citizens to have lasting confidence in the reliability of the grid and the services they receive from it.

Rural broadband is a gateway to a better politics

Des Moines Register | Posted on August 9, 2018

But there is a glimmer of hope now as Congressional leaders on a bipartisan basis are pushing a major reform in the Farm Bill to wire rural communities with broadband – especially those places universally believed to be impossible to wire because of their relatively small population and the huge land masses and distances between users.  The Senate version of the Farm Bill pending now in Congress has a plan to solve this problem. It reforms broadband loan and infrastructure programs to ensure funds are targeted on areas that are currently unserved by high-speed internet. It enlists the two federal agencies with the most experience in broadband deployment – the FCC and NTIA – to map out and prioritize the unserved areas. And most important, it puts a stop to corporate manipulation that would divert funds needed to wire unserved rural areas into areas where broadband service is already available – putting an end to the wasteful practice where federal broadband funds are diverted to areas already served by the private sector, doubling up broadband for the “haves” while leaving the real “have-nots” marooned in the analog past.


Pets sheltered while families seek help from domestic abuse

The Courier | Posted on August 9, 2018

n the past, fear that an abuser would hurt a beloved pet made it less likely a family would flee a home with domestic violence. Now, victims can call for help knowing that their furry friend will be safe and that they’ll someday be reunited. Open Arms Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services, Pawsible Angels and Blanchard Valley Veterinary Clinic have created a new partnership with the owner of a shelter location who prefers to be anonymous. If a family calls Open Arms for help with domestic violence, the agency will ensure their pets get examined by a veterinarian, are kept safe and are eventually reunited with their humans.

Maryland: 'We're drowning in Pennsylvania's trash'

The Philadelphia Inquirer | Posted on August 8, 2018

Heavy rains and flood waters that flowed into the Chesapeake Bay in July might have exposed a serious problem along Maryland’s border: Pennsylvania. Record rains carried tons of sediment and debris over the Conowingo Dam, which regulates flow from the Susquehanna River coming out of Pennsylvania five miles upstream. The five days of rains from July 22 to 27 were so intense that the river ran three feet above flood stage, forcing Exelon — the power company that operates the dam — to open 20 flood gates. Flows at the dam exceeded 300,000 cubic feet per second, a rate not seen since Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.As the gates opened, trash, wood, plastic, and other objects came spilling out into a mass thick enough that it completely surrounded boats and docks miles downstream. Sediment containing polluted suburban and agricultural runoff also poured out.

Governor drops Medicaid adviser who spoke up for disabled Iowans after services were cut

Des Moines Register | Posted on August 8, 2018

Gov. Kim Reynolds has dropped an outspoken Medicaid adviser who repeatedly voiced concerns about how private management companies were treating Iowans with disabilities. David Hudson spent two years as co-chairman of Iowa's Medical Assistance Advisory Council, whose duties include monitoring the state's shift to private management of its $5 billion Medicaid program.“I felt that I was asking the questions the governor should have been asking,” he said in an interview at his Windsor Heights home. “… I guess I pushed back too hard or something.”

Caught in a Disaster? Your Rescuer Might Be an Amateur

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 8, 2018

On Sept. 19, 1985, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico City, collapsing more than 400 buildings and killing thousands of people. Immediately following the quake, people poured into the streets, trying to extricate trapped civilians and attend to wounded victims.Volunteers saved an estimated 700 lives following the natural disaster, said Natalie Enclade, director of the individual and community preparedness division at FEMA.But their lack of training also led them into dangerous situations. An estimated 100 volunteers died trying to save others, Enclade said.Heeding the lessons of the Mexico City earthquake, the city of Los Angeles — another earthquake-prone metropolis — developed an emergency response training program for civilians.“They recognized that citizens would likely be on their own during an emergency disaster — at least at first,” Enclade said.Disasters throughout California in the following years encouraged other agencies to adopt similar programs.In 1989, for example, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake ripped through the Santa Cruz mountains about 60 miles south of the Bay Area, causing significant damage in San Francisco, including in the heavily populated and tourist-filled Marina District. As in Mexico City years earlier, volunteers — many untrained — surged outside to help.In 1993 — after other states began developing their own local programs — FEMA took notice and created the federal CERT program and a common curriculum.Over the past 25 years, CERT programs have grown from a handful to about 2,800 nationwide.

Dead fish, birds, manatees, even a whale shark. Toll from worst red tide in decade grows.

Miami Herald | Posted on August 8, 2018

Florida’s southwest coast, a ribbon of inlets and barrier islands normally brimming with wildlife, has become a red tide slaughterhouse this summer. Dead fish by the thousands have clogged inlets and canals. Since Sunday, 10 dead Goliath grouper, the massive reef fish that can live four decades or more, have floated to the surface. At least 90 sea turtles have been found stranded as the tide stretches well into nesting season. And Tuesday, as hundreds of residents packed a standing-room-only Cape Coral yacht club to hear about the federal government’s efforts to deal with water conditions, a dead manatee washed up at a nearby boat ramp. The list goes on: earlier this month the carcass of a whale shark was found on a Sanibel beach with red tide in its muscles, liver, intestines and stomach. Hundreds of double-breasted cormorants, brown pelicans and other seabirds have been sickened or died.

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill To Limit Eminent Domain Use On Land Protected By Conservation Easements

Pennsylvania Environment Digest Blog | Posted on August 8, 2018

Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday signed House Bill 2468 limiting the use of eminent domain by government agencies on land with conservation easements for parks and open space purposes into law as Act 45.Two school districts in the state-- Cumberland Valley in Cumberland County and Lower Merion in Montgomery County-- have decided to use eminent domain to condemn privately-owned land permanently preserved by conservation easements held by local land trusts, over the objections of many residents of the communities. Other suitable non-preserved land in each vicinity is available, according to the bill sponsors.

The bill would require any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The procedure is similar to that found in the Agricultural Area Security Law which requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands. The Orphans’ Court is given authority in the Donated and Dedicated Property Act over certain transactions related to publicly owned lands held for public uses.The bill exempts public utilities that condemn land (like pipelines) and exempt “emergency” condemnations from the provisions of the bill.

The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in California

The Washington Post | Posted on August 7, 2018

Two blazes that began burning through Northern California late last month have grown at breathtaking speed to form a massive inferno that has now set a new mark for destruction. The twin wildfires, collectively known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, have together more than doubled in size in the past four days and burned through 283,800 acres of parched land — an area almost the size of Los Angeles.  As wildfires ravaged the Golden State, President Trump weighed in with tweets that puzzled fire experts and seemed to point fingers not at the toll of climate change, but at California’s environmental laws and use of water resources. The Mendocino Complex Fire began July 27 as two neighboring wildfires burning through 9,500 acres of land before spreading rapidly — at one point, by nearly 30,000 acres within hours.  Firefighters are unlikely to see much respite. Temperatures will dip slightly to the low 90s and high 80s this week, but no rain is in the forecast.Seventeen wildfires are burning up and down California.