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Rural News

Colorado to test taxing drivers by the mile instead of at the pump

Denver Post | Posted on November 17, 2016

Starting in December, state transportation officials will launch a program to test a new way to raise funds that could one day eliminate the need for the state’s 22-cent per gallon gas tax, which hasn’t been adjusted upward in more than two decades: Make motorists pay for every mile they drive.  The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Road Usage Charge Pilot Program will recruit 100 volunteers to track how far they drive and then “pay,” in theory, 1.2 cents per mile for their use of the road. No money will actually change hands, but CDOT hopes to get a sense of how such a system would work in terms of mileage reporting and revenue collection.


Northeast Iowa sand company gets go-ahead for underground mining

The Gazette | Posted on November 17, 2016

The Clayton County Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve a zoning change to allow the Pattison Sand Co. to expand its operations.  The panel’s approval was the final step in a yearlong process to rezone 746 acres from agricultural to heavy industry to facilitate underground mining of the silica sand used in the hydraulic fracturing process of extracting oil and natural gas.  A standing-room-only crowd packed the meeting room, and more than a dozen attendees spoke both for and against the proposal during the nearly three-hour meeting.

How some rural hospitals thrive

Daily Yonder | Posted on November 17, 2016

Under myriad pressures, an increasing number of rural hospitals are either shutting their doors or joining up with large systems. Some, though, continue to do quite well as independents.  Scores of rural hospitals around the country have closed in the last six years, but Southeastern Health’s 452-bed main facility and 30 primary care and specialty clinics remain open. That gives Langley the ability to focus on local care. The challenges to viability are many. According to the University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, 78 rural hospitals have shut down since January 2010. Fifty-one of those were in the South. Many rural communities have declining, aging populations, and rural hospitals receive a higher percentage of patients with no health coverage than their urban counterparts. They also tend to operate on tighter margins– tighter still in the aftermath of the March 2013 federal sequestration. Further cuts came when the federal government reduced the bad-debt reimbursement Medicare pays to hospitals for shouldering much of the cost of care for those who can’t afford it. This was done with the assumption that Medicaid expansion would help offset the lost revenue – which might at least partially explain so many closures in the South. Nineteen states have chosen not to expand Medicaid, 10 of them in the South. Mark Holmes, director of UNC’s Sheps Center, said there’s a lot of overlap in the map of where hospitals have closed and of states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. But, he cautioned, “I think it’ll be awhile before we can know for sure” the extent to which the closures can be directly attributed to decisions not to expand Medicaid.

Red squirrels in the British Isles are infected with leprosy bacteria

Science Daily | Posted on November 16, 2016

Microbiologists have discovered that red squirrels in Britain and Ireland carry the two bacterial species that cause leprosy in humans.

What Happens When Golf Carts Hit the Streets?

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on November 13, 2016

At retirement communities from California to Florida, golf carts have become a way of life. They’re energy-efficient, cheaper to buy and maintain than regular cars, and, seniors say, fun to drive. For many, they’re the main way to get from doctor’s appointments and dance classes to restaurants and shopping centers. But as the bare-bones buggies move from the back nine to the blacktop, safety experts and advocates for seniors say they’re worried about them sharing the road with larger, faster cars and trucks.

Scientists Try Bacteria to Halt Invading Cheatgrass in West

ABC News | Posted on November 13, 2016

It sounds like science fiction: An unstoppable invader is taking over the West and the best hope to stop its relentless advance is a small team of scientists. But that's what is happening in southwest Idaho, where experiments are underway to determine if soil bacteria can halt the century-long assault of non-native cheatgrass, which sends out roots that cheat other plants of water in the spring."We hope that we can identify the effectiveness of the bacteria on annual grasses and to identify non-target risk effects," said Matt Germino, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey running the experiments at three scattered sites of about an acre each. Cheatgrass dries out in the summer, transforming into extraordinarily effective tinder for wildfires. The fires then kill competing native plants and destroy habitat needed by cattle ranchers and more than 300 species of wildlife, including the imperiled sage grouse bird. The results are huge, cheatgrass-filled landscapes that serve as fuel for frequent wildfires, some reaching hundreds of square miles.

Hawaii buys 635 acres of conservation land on Oahu

Biz Journals | Posted on November 13, 2016

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has purchased 635 acres in Aiea in Central Oahu from Bishop Museum.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although funding for the acquisitions came from the state’s Legacy Land Conservation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition Program.

In Opioid Epidemic, Prejudice Persists Against Methadone

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on November 13, 2016

When Rebecca Schmaltz found out she was pregnant with her second child, she tried to quit heroin cold turkey. She stopped injecting for a day or two, became sick with withdrawal symptoms, and relapsed. She kept trying, though, to kick the habit on her own. Finally in her fourth month of pregnancy she passed out from severe withdrawal symptoms and ended up in a hospital. When she woke up, she learned a doctor had given her methadone to eliminate her symptoms, which can be life-threatening to the fetus. Her doctor told her she would have to stay on daily doses of methadone for the rest of her pregnancy or risk more hospitalizations and possibly lose her baby. But methadone wasn’t available in her hometown of Minot, North Dakota. In fact, the nearest clinic was nearly 450 miles away in Billings, Montana. Despite the nation’s decadelong surge in opioid addiction, large swaths of the U.S. still lack specialized opioid treatment centers that can dispense methadone, one of three medications available to treat addiction to heroin and prescription pain pills.

Michigan legislature gives final approval to autonomous vehicle bills

Michigan Free Press | Posted on November 13, 2016

In an attempt to position Michigan as the center of research for autonomous vehicles, the Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a package of four bills that allows for the testing of driverless cars in the state.  Without any discussion or debate, the House of Representative passed the package with overwhelming majorities. The Senate concurred this afternoon with technical changes made by the House and sent the bills to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.  The bills — SB 995-998 — approve testing of the new technology on 122 miles of roads in the state and open the way for the American Center for Mobility to redevelop the old Willow Run airport for autonomous vehicle testing and research. One of the bills ends a requirement that a human be inside driverless cars ready to take over if needed. Those driverless cars, used mainly by ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft, would have to be monitored by an individual who wouldn’t have to be inside the vehicle.


AP | Posted on November 13, 2016

Amid a national push for greater police accountability, voters in several major cities have approved measures to create or strengthen civilian oversight of law enforcement.  The trend reflects growing public demand for independent reviews of misconduct claims after deadly police encounters in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York spotlighted police use-of-force and interaction with minorities. Voters in New Orleans, Honolulu, Miami and San Francisco passed plans Tuesday to bolster existing civilian oversight programs. In Oakland, California, voters created a powerful civilian-run police commission to investigate problems within the department reeling from a sex scandal involving several officers. Denver voters added provisions to the city charter to protect the existing independent monitor system. The measure makes it impossible for officials to cut the position without another public vote.