The Python Elimination Program, run by the South Florida Water Management District, recently celebrated a milestone: the 1,000th Burmese python has been captured. “We’ve got the best hunters this state has ever seen,” Mike Kirkland, the program’s project manager, said. “We also have a great team of district staff too and together we’ve formed this cohesive unit working together and that’s why this program has been such a success.”Experts say there are between 10,000 and 100,000 pythons in the Everglades. It is difficult to tell because the snakes are experts at hiding.
Fewer cows have been breeding on the range since wolves migrated to northeast Washington, an economic loss little known outside the cattle industry, according to the owners of the region’s largest ranch. The Diamond M ranch estimates that the rate of “open cows” — females that didn’t become pregnant — has increased to about 20 percent from the historic rate of 5 percent.“If wolves were attacking people night and day, I don’t think you’d have too many people pregnant,” said Len McIrvin, the patriarch of the family-owned and -operated ranch.
Shutting down power plants that burn fossil fuels can almost immediately reduce the risk of premature birth in pregnant women living nearby, according to research published Tuesday. Researchers scrutinized records of more than 57,000 births by mothers who lived close to eight coal- and oil-fired plants across California in the year before the facilities were shut down, and in the year after, when the air was cleaner.The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the rate of premature births dropped from 7 to 5.1 percent after the plants were shuttered, between 2001 and 2011. The most significant declines came among African American and Asian women. Preterm birth can be associated with lifelong health complications.
The Arizona Department of Education hopes to make changes to science standards, which will affect K-12 districts and charter schools. The changes include removing the word "evolution" in some areas and describing it as a "theory" in others. Some educators and scientists are outraged by the change. According to the department, the standards are not curriculum or instructional practices. The standards focus on 14 core ideas regarding science and engineering that teachers use to create their curriculum.
Ashley Hanson believes in the power of performing arts to bring communities together. After all, she has seen that happen up close. Her organization, PlaceBase Productions in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, uses “radical playfulness” to stage events ranging from bonfires and singalongs to tongue twisters and town-square theater productions. The group’s productions and scripts address local culture, history and community issues.In her experience, community leaders need not worry about whether folks will participate.“The fact I’m most proud of: we have 100% participation from mayors of each community we have worked with,” Hanson told participants of the 2018 National Rural Assembly in Durham, North Carolina, this week. “Let me tell you, it is something powerful to be in a kick-line musical number with your mayor.”The responses from communities are overwhelming and cathartic, she said.
Within weeks, the Trump administration will make it easier for small businesses to band together to buy health insurance for their workers. The U.S. Department of Labor is putting the final touches on new rules for the insurance collaborations known as "association health plans." The plans won’t have to include mental health care, emergency services or other benefits required under the Affordable Care Act, making them a cheap alternative to the policies on the health care exchanges.But many states — blue and red — are sounding alarm bells, arguing that by weakening state authority over the plans, the changes would enable unscrupulous operators to sell cheap policies with skimpy or nonexistent benefits.It is not a theoretical concern: Before passage of the ACA in 2010, association health plans flourished across the United States and millions of Americans were enrolled in them.
Across the country, Americans’ anxiety about their finances is worsening. And rural residents are far more pessimistic about their financial prospects. Only 36% of Americans living in rural counties — who don’t earn enough to pay for the lifestyle they want — believed that situation would improve in the future, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Comparatively, nearly half of those living in urban and suburban areas who were in the same boat were optimistic about their financial futures. The findings were based on a survey of more than 6,000 people conducted between February and March. Driving this gap are rural residents who don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Among these people, only 34% believe they will eventually earn enough to lead the life they want. This demographic represents a larger share of residents in rural counties than it does in other parts of the country. Only 19% of people in rural areas have a bachelor’s degree, versus 31% of those in the suburbs and 35% of urban residents.Overall, the poverty rate is the highest in rural areas at 18%, versus 17% for urban areas and 14% for the suburbs. But it’s actually the suburbs that have seen a dramatic uptick in poverty: The number of residents in suburban counties who live below the poverty line increased 51% between 2000 and 2016, but only increased by 23% in rural areas.
Even before the opioid crisis peaked here in 2016, Ohio was already spending about the same on opioid dependency statewide as it did kindergarten through high school education, according to a recently released study. The enormous price tag in 2015 of opioid dependency in the state was somewhere between $6.6 billion and $8.8 billion. During the same time, the state spent about $8.2 billion on public education, according to the study released by Ohio State University’s C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy.Your Voice Ohio, a news collaborative, highlighted the study last week as the state’s behavioral health, addiction and rehabilitation workers are preparing to host the ninth annual opiate conference in Columbus next month. The two-day educational event is expected to draw 1,200 people.The study, “Taking Measure of Ohio’s Opioid Crisis,” aims to help policymakers make better decisions by evaluating the crisis. Among other things, the study zeroed in on the costs of opioid addiction across four categories: Health care and treatment, criminal justice, lost productivity among opioid abusers, and lost productivity following an overdose death.In 2015 — the most recent numbers used for this part of the study — those costs added up to between $500 and $999 for every person in Summit, Portage and Wayne counties, regardless of whether they used drugs themselves.The costs in Stark and Medina were lower, somewhere between $0 and $499 per person, the study said. But costs skyrocketed in the southwest part of Ohio, averaging more than $1,000 per capita in an area stretching from Dayton and Cincinnati east to Lawrence County, Ohio’s most southern county, which borders West Virginia.Because costs were so extraordinary in southwest Ohio, the study said “state efforts to reduce current and future opioid abuse should likely focus on this area of the state.”
Businesses and schools in two Illinois counties want to make sure students know about career opportunities in their own back yard and get the skills needed to fill the positions.The ECCEL Academy, pronounced “Ex-cel” and standing for Edgar Clark Career Exploration and Leadership, will initially focus on high school students, but organizers also want to later include fifth- through eighth-graders. “Everybody’s looking for skilled workers,” said Terry Elston, a member of the Paris Economic Development Corp. board. Eccel Academy will help fill that need while exposing students to options they may not have otherwise considered, he said.A major concern for educators, said Kevin Ross, superintendent of Marshall Community Schools, “is making sure kids get connected beyond high school. … The best thing we can do is have lots of experiences for students.”Schools must work to find where students’ talents lie so they can be better prepared for their future, he said.“We want them to know there are lots of opportunities in Edgar and Clark counties,”Businesses nationwide are struggling to fill positions and, while state and federal governments have taken note, “this has got to be solved at the local level,” Elston said.“Most of the students that are coming out of high school are not aware of all the opportunities that we have in the two counties,” Elston said. “They’re not aware of what our industries do.”Eye-opening examples, he said, include North American Lighting in Paris making products for such upscale autos as Lexus and Lincoln;, TRW in Marshall producing cameras for hands-free driving in the Cadillac CT 6; and the Paris Doncasters plant working on Rolls Royce aircraft engines.
A Detroit area study finds that energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs are more expensive and less readily available in high-poverty urban neighborhoods. One of the easiest ways for a household to save energy and money is to install energy-efficient light bulbs in as many sockets as possible. But, according to a new University of Michigan study, the low-income households that benefit most from these savings have a harder time finding CFL and LED bulbs than do households in more affluent neighborhoods. They pay more money for them, too.For the study, a team led by Tony Reames, assistant professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability and director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab, canvassed 130 stores across Wayne County, Michigan, which encompasses Detroit and surrounding suburbs. Graduate students Michael Reiner and M. Ben Stacey conducted much of the on-the-ground data collection.The researchers tracked prices and availability for inefficient incandescent and halogen light bulbs as well as high-efficiency CFLs and LEDs at five store types: large big-box retailers (Home Depot, Walmart); hardware stores; variety stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General); pharmacies; and small retail stores (mini marts, corner delis, and liquor stores).The survey found high-poverty neighborhoods lacked the large retailers offering lower prices and wider selection. CFL and LED bulb prices and availability differed across the county, but more limited availability and higher prices were the norm in high-poverty areas. The most expensive CFLs and LEDs were found at pharmacies and small retail stores located in low-income urban neighborhoods.