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Rural News

Fight over exotic fern threatens future of South Florida wildlife refuge

Los Angeles Times | Posted on December 15, 2016

Miami Old World climbing fern, the monster vine packing 100-foot long tendrils that has infested huge swaths of the Everglades, with a particularly ferocious choke hold on the tree islands of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on its northern tip, may have finally succeeded in killing the refuge. In August, the South Florida Water Management District, which owns the 144,000 acres occupied by the 65-year-old refuge, threatened to abolish a lease agreement with its caretaker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As landlord, the district said it could no longer abide by its tenant's lousy housekeeping and failure to control the fern. "I don't know what else you do. Three years ago the (governing board) out of frustration invited the Department of Interior to the refuge so they could see the damage," said district executive director Pete Antonacci. "The Department of Interior came down and saw the damage and did nothing." But the refuge, and a collection of environmental groups that have fiercely bird-dogged restoration of the Everglades, say they were surprised by the district's abrupt threat after years of collaboration. Since a 2000 lease was negotiated and spelled out a joint effort, the federal wildlife service has spent nearly $30 million to control invasive plants including the fern, now found from Jacksonville south to Cape Sable.

Teen use of any illicit drug other than marijuana at new low, same true for alcohol

Science Daily | Posted on December 14, 2016

Teenagers' use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco declined significantly in 2016 at rates that are at their lowest since the 1990s, a new national study showed.  But University of Michigan researchers cautioned that while these developments are "trending in the right direction," marijuana use still remains high for 12th-graders.The results derive from the annual Monitoring the Future study, now in its 42nd year. About 45,000 students in some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this national study, designed and conducted by research scientists at U-M's Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.Overall, the proportion of secondary school students in the country who used any illicit drug in the prior year fell significantly between 2015 and 2016. The decline in narcotic drugs is of particular importance, the researchers say. This year's improvements were particularly concentrated among 8th- and 10th-graders.Considerably fewer teens reported using any illicit drug other than marijuana in the prior 12 months -- 5 percent, 10 percent and 14 percent in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively -- than at any time since 1991. These rates reflect a decline of about one percentage point in each grade in 2016, but a much larger decline over the longer term.

Rural communities see steep increase in babies born with opioid withdrawal

Science Daily | Posted on December 14, 2016

The number of babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms from opioids grew substantially faster in rural communities than in cities, a new study suggests. Newborns exposed to opioids in the womb and who experience withdrawal symptoms after birth (known as neonatal abstinence syndrome) are more likely to have seizures, low birthweight, breathing, sleeping and feeding problems.The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, highlights a dramatic and disproportional rise in opioid-related complications among rural pregnant women and their infants. Researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University tracked newborns treated for opioid-related issues over 10 years.They found that in rural areas, the rate of newborns diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome increased from nearly one case per 1,000 births from 2003-2004 to 7.5 from 2012-2013. That's a surge nearly 80 percent higher than the growth rate of such cases in urban communities.

Fish Quickly Adapt to Lethal Levels of Pollution

Science Blog | Posted on December 13, 2016

Evolution is allowing some urban fish to survive in a lethal, human-altered environment, according to new results published in the journal Science. While environmental change is outpacing the rate of evolution for many other species, Atlantic killifish living in four polluted East Coast estuaries turn out to be remarkably resilient. These fish have adapted to levels of highly toxic industrial pollutants that would normally kill them.

Half of people believe fake facts, 'remember' events that never happened

Science Daily | Posted on December 11, 2016

In a study on false memories, Dr Kimberley Wade in the Department of Psychology demonstrates that if we are told about a completely fictitious event from our lives, and repeatedly imagine that event occurring, almost half of us would accept that it did. Over 400 participants in 'memory implantation' studies had fictitious autobiographical events suggested to them -- and it was found that around 50% of the participants believed, to some degree, that they had experienced those events.Participants in these studies came to remember a range of false events, such as taking a childhood hot air balloon ride, playing a prank on a teacher, or creating havoc at a family wedding.30% of participants appeared to 'remember' the event -- they accepted the suggested event, elaborated on how the event occurred, and even described images of what the event was like. Another 23% showed signs that they accepted the suggested event to some degree and believed it really happened.Dr Wade and colleagues conclude that it can be very difficult to determine when a person is recollecting actual past events, as opposed to false memories -- even in a controlled research environment; and more so in real life situations.These findings have significance in many areas -- raising questions around the authenticity of memories used in forensic investigations, court rooms, and therapy treatments.Moreover, the collective memories of a large group of people or society could be incorrect -- due to misinformation in the news, for example -- having a striking effect on people's perceptions and behaviour.

Census Bureau surveys highlight growing differences between rural, urban living

The Columbus Dispatch | Posted on December 11, 2016

If you live in rural Ohio, you're more likely than city dwellers to own your home, be a military veteran and be married, the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. On the other hand, urban residents' homes are worth more, and they are more likely to have a college degree and internet access. Rural residents, on average, are slightly older and less likely to be in poverty.Census Bureau statistics released today are culled from the annual American Community Survey, which provides in-depth state and regional information based on monthly interviews with individuals.The survey looks at statistics from all 3,142 counties in the U.S. The numbers released today cover the period from 2011 to 2015.The latest numbers show the increasing differences in lifestyles, economics and other factors between those who live in rural areas of the country and those who live in cities.

Washington state suing Monsanto over PCB pollution

The Seattle Times | Posted on December 9, 2016

Washington says it’s the first U.S. state to sue the agrochemical giant over pollution from PCBs. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit at a news conference Thursday afternoon. The chemicals, polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids. PCB contamination impairs rivers, lakes and bays around the country.

Rural Mainers deserve at least as much conservation attention as rural land

Bangor Daily News | Posted on December 9, 2016

Our state places a high value on protecting rural lands from the northern creep of hustle and bustle, but what about the people? What about the communities that foster rural wisdom and make rural places interesting places to visit? Rural Mainers provide the Mainer flavor that enhances any tourist’s Maine experience and all of our collective experience. The people who espouse the sensibilities born of a more rural lifestyle are a vital natural resource and deserve at least as much conservation attention — politically and financially — as we give to rural land.

How to encourage entrepreneurship in your town

Strong Towns | Posted on December 9, 2016

Entrepreneurship is a hot word these days. Lots of towns say they would like to attract more entrepreneurs and grow their small business communities. But how do you do it? There are many ways to encourage entrepreneurship in your community, both through government leadership and private sector/neighborhood-level work. 1. Adjust zoning codes to reduce business costs.2. Help facilitate walkable business districts. 3. Simplify local regulations for starting new businesses. 4. Dedicate resources to economic gardening. 1. Provide easy access to small business loans and/or grants. 2. Offer business development classes at local colleges and community education programs. 3. Host a small business day. 4. Get Social.

Education is the key

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 8, 2016

Teresa Jones and Anja Thiessen have very different backgrounds, but they both see education as a way to uproot entrenched poverty in the Mississippi Delta. Jones is from a small, unincorporated community about 25 miles east of the Mississippi River. Thiessen was raised near a different river, the Rhine, which flows past her hometown of Bensheim, Germany. Both women have helped build new education programs that focus on Delta youth. Jones’ efforts have focused on her hometown of Holly Bluff,  located about 20 miles west of Yazoo City between the Delta National Forest and the Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge. Thiessen is located in Coahoma County, which is about 70 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, and part of the Clarksdale Micropolitan Statistical Area.