Media reports over the past two weeks read like a litany of biblical wrath, permeated with details of unprecedented heatwaves, extreme drought, wildfires, persistent rains and damaging floods occurring around the world.In the United States, the National Weather Service said that dangerous heat will persevere through at least today as temperatures across the Southwest, California and parts of the Pacific Northwest continue to be well above average, prompting a heat advisory for 30 million residents. Areas in the Southwest and southern California can expect high temperatures near and above 110 degrees.The hot and dry conditions have aggravated wildfires that are forcing thousands of Californians to flee their homes. Torrential storms and flooding have plagued the Mid-Atlantic states in recent days and are now moving into the Northeast.Meanwhile, devastating fires and heatwaves, from Sweden to Japan, have claimed the lives of scores of people all over the world. In Greece, the death toll from fires stands at 80 and is feared to rise, while in Japan a heatwave claimed the lives of at least 65 people. Wildfires have raged from the Russian Far East to Quebec and Ontario, Canada, making this a truly global phenomenon.
NOAA has released the latest State of the Climate report, its annual checkup on our planet. So, how did Earth fare in 2017?Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: highest concentrations ever. Global surface temperature: near-record high. Sea surface temperature: near-record high. Global sea level: highest on record.Warm global temperatures have been a strong trend in recent years: the four warmest years on record all occurred since 2014, and last year was among them. In fact, 2017 was the warmest non-El Niño year ever recorded.The past three years were "substantially warmer than the previous — kind of establishing a new neighborhood in terms of global temperature," said Deke Arndt, a climatologist at NOAA and the lead editor of the report. "And 2017 reinforced that."
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.
Howard County pet owners could get bitten by fines depending on how they keep their dogs outside in excessive heat or cold. The County Council passed a bill Friday mandating that dogs must be protected from weather that could harm or kill them. It also requires proper shelters for dogs left unattended by owners for 30 minutes or more, specifying the size, type of bedding and access water at all times.
Vehicle malfunctions, lightning and alleged arson ignited some of the most violent wildfires of the 2018 season in the West, but prolonged drought, record temperatures and ready fuel have fed them. While fewer fires have sparked this summer than the 10-year average, they’ve burned wider — 1 million more acres than the January to July average, totaling 4.8 million. They’ve also wreaked havoc on communities, especially in California.
A national bond rating agency predicts Virginia’s hospitals and health systems will receive a boost to their bottom lines when the state expands its Medicaid program on Jan. 1.S&P Global Ratings said Monday that the impending expansion of health coverage for up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians will be “credit positive” for state hospitals by generally reducing the level of uncompensated and charity care they provide to people with no means to pay.
Something familiar happened in America in February: A gunman walked into a school, and shot and killed 17 students and staff in a horrific act of violence. But then something unfamiliar happened: State legislators — inspired by a movement led by the student survivors of that mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — started passing legislation to restrict gun access.This was a year of unparalleled success for the gun-control movement in the United States. States across the country, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people. State lawmakers still managed to expand gun access with at least 10 new laws in seven states. These measures — from allowing guns in K-12 schools to bolstering “stand your ground” laws — continued to carry weight in certain parts of the country, even as the gun-control movement steadily gained steam elsewhere.
Last month, Roberto de Jesús González spoke to state legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about his experience being held for three months in the Otero County Processing Center. “(I was) a victim of the private prison system,” he said — treated like an animal, poorly fed and given little respect by the guards. “This business is based on human suffering,” he told lawmakers. “That was my experience.” He wasn’t alone. At the hearing, convened by the state’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to consider better oversight of private detention facilities, a line of detainees formed behind de Jesús González to describe their own experiences with medical neglect, solitary confinement and spoiled food. All the while, they reminded legislators that they were either asylum seekers — meaning they hadn’t broken any laws and were seeking shelter from persecution or violence — or people who had been detained on civil charges. Leila, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, said she understood the government’s need for detention centers. But, she added, “There should be some fairness in the way they treat people.”
Many such towns face a turning point. John Ikerd, a retired University of Missouri agricultural economist, sees the rural mood as “a growing sense of impotence and dread.” Ultimately, a positive rural future hinges on rural residents taking the future into their own hands and working together for their community’s common good, says Ikerd. Several steps taken in the past 15 years have helped sustain Langford’s businesses, says Jensen. Glacial Lakes Area Development helps support local individuals and industries with tools like business development goals. In 2008, Langford started a foundation that earns $10,000 annually for community project grants. The Front Porch, a 5,000-square-foot facility, opened in 2015. It houses four new businesses, including a restaurant and bar. Funding came in the form of loans from economic development entities, local bank funding, cash donations, and stock purchases from 110 area investors. Off-farm income is vital in helping rural areas retain farmers and residents. David Peters, an Iowa State University Extension rural sociologist, summarized income trends for Iowa farms and farm families from 2003 to 2015. He found off-farm income was vital for two types of farms.
Investment in venture-backed companies in the United States reached $57 billion in almost 4,000 deals in the first half of 2018. Yet, only a fraction of those dollars found their way to funds and companies based in rural America. This capital deficit is starving innovative and valuable growth opportunities across rural communities. Many people think immediately of agriculture when focused on rural communities, yet it only makes up 6 percent of today’s rural economy.One way of addressing the issue of scale that is often a limiting factor for rural investment is the development of funds that target mid-tier investments. The recent wave of Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs) is a good example.Their charters limit their investments to rural-based businesses and their typical investment slice has been in the $1-5-million range. Another tool is a fund of funds approach, where many small funds are brought together by institutions as way of allowing their customers to obtain the diversity and scale that is denied them in more targeted funds.