Not that long ago, Alex Caicedo was stuck working a series of odd jobs and watching his 1984 Chevy Nova cough its last breaths. He could make $21 an hour at the Johnny Rockets food stand at FedEx Field when the Washington Redskins were playing but work was spotty Today, Mr. Caicedo is an assistant manager at a pizzeria with an annula salary of $40,000 and health benefits. The Caicedos are among the 3.5 million Americans who were able to raise above the poverty line last year according to census data.
The federal government's 5-year, $67 million rehabilitation effort following a 2015 rangeland wildfire in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon is entering its second year with another round of herbicide applications combined with plantings of native species. The U.S. Bureau of Land Managementhas started applying the herbicide Imazapic on federal lands to knock out invasive weeds in Oregon and will begin in Idaho in October, officials said. The rehabilitation is part of the federal government's plan to develop new strategies to combat increasingly destructive rangeland wildfires, mainly in Great Basin states that contain significant habitat for greater sage grouse, a bird found in 11 Western states. About 200,000 to 500,000 remain, down from a peak population of about 16 million. About 100 square miles of aerial spraying is taking place in Idaho and Oregon and visitors are asked to stay away from posted areas.
Websites take minutes to load and photos take hours to upload at Ryan Davis’ home in the small southern Tennessee city of Dayton. If Davis gets in his car and drives about half an hour south to Chattanooga, though, everything takes under a second. The city-provided fiber optic network there is so fast — up to 10 gigabits per second — that Chattanooga is known as Gig City. Chattanooga wants to expand outside of its current service area to Dayton and other rural spots. But a state law bans cities from doing so, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last month rejected an attempt by the Federal Communications Commission to block the state law. The court’s decision was limited to Chattanooga and Wilson, North Carolina, another city that wants to expand its service. But about 20 states have laws that ban or restrict municipal broadband, and the ruling means that any city that attempts to get around the laws won’t be able to turn to the federal agency for help. The outcome sends the fight back to the local level, where cities are looking for ways to work within the laws so they can reach residents on the other side of the digital divide.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a $54.6 million Community Facilities program loan to the Fulton County Health Center in Wauseon, Ohio, to renovate a critical access hospital that also offers treatment for substance misuse disorders. "USDA's investment in much-needed medical facilities is bringing state-of-the-art health care to residents in our rural communities," Vilsack said. "When complete, the hospital and new medical office building will have the staff and equipment to deliver quality medical services to Fulton County, including treatment for patients who have opioid and other substance use disorders." Secretary Vilsack is leading an interagency effort to address the rural opioid crisis, which disproportionately affects rural areas. He made the announcement here today as part of the White House's efforts this week to bring increased attention to the opioid crisis in rural areas. On Aug. 31, Vilsack announced an initiative to provide transitional housing for rural Americans who are seeking to recover from substance use disorders. Vilsack was on the campus of Clinton County's Wilmington College where a similar $19.7 million USDA Community Facilities loan in 2013 helped to finance the rehabilitation of Kettering Hall, home of the school's Center for Science and Agriculture.
Three hours south of the Field of Dreams, the words of the late W.P. Kinsella were invoked Monday night in front of the Iowa Supreme Court. Kinsella was the Canadian writer whose novel “Shoeless Joe,” a story of a ghostly baseball player written in in 1978 while he was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City, became the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” He died Friday at age 81. Monday night wasn’t primarily a eulogy for the man whose fiction in a roundabout way led 150 or so people to watch a real-life court drama in the Grand Theatre in downtown Keokuk, complete with free cookies. Most of the hour was spent haggling over whether the Dyersville City Council acted improperly four years ago when it rezoned the Field of Dreams from agricultural to commercial ground to make way for a youth sports complex with a couple dozen fields — the All-Star Ballpark Heaven that has yet to materialize. Attorney Susan Hess, speaking on behalf of 23 neighbors of the movie site who objected to plans to build a tournament baseball park on the 193-acre farm next door, quoted “Shoeless Joe” near the end of her rebuttal argument:
Louisiana's Shelter at Home program is a key component of the housing recovery plan for flood victims, but it may not apply to potentially thousands of people because mobile homes are automatically excluded. The quirk in the program has prompted angry calls to state lawmakers and others in recent weeks as the program, which provides up to $15,000 for homeowners to be able to quickly get back into their flood-damaged homes, begins to ramp up. "I've watched people repair manufactured homes," said state Sen. Bodi White, a Central Republican who is running for mayor of Baton Rouge. "I don't buy that you can't repair them or do a good bit of work on them. "It seems unreasonable to me," he added. Shelter at Home, which the state is already preparing to spend at least $400 million in mostly federal money on, allows homeowners to get basic repairs – drywall replacing, bathroom repairs, gutting and other work – done so that they don't need housing elsewhere in an already crunched housing market following the floods that left 13 people dead and thousands displaced. Livingston Parish had at least 11,000 mobile homes before the floods, and Ascension had more than 7,000. Both are among the hardest-hit parishes from the recent floods. It's unclear exactly how many of those homes and homes in the other parishes affected by the flood suffered damage. Leaders have estimated that more than 100,000 homes across South Louisiana were affected by the floods.
Dr. Bronner’s, a Vista, Calif.-based natural and organic body care products company known for its hemp-based soaps, has pledged to contribute upward of $660,000 to marijuana legalization campaigns in five states. Dr. Bronner’s plans to partner with organizations such as New Approach and the Marijuana Policy Project and to make financial contributions to legalization campaigns in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, which arevoting on recreational marijuana measures this November. “The expected sweep of these states will exert enormous pressure on federal lawmakers to end the racist outdated policy of cannabis prohibition, that shreds productive citizens’ lives and families for no good reason, and focus law enforcement resources instead on actual crime,” officials for Dr. Bronner’s said.
In New York state, it's the law that working police dogs injured in the line of duty must be transported to the nearest veterinarian in an ambulance. The law to authorize paramedics to transport injured police dogs to appropriate facilities was sponsored by State Senator David J. Valesky and passed during the 2015-2016 Legislative Session.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new USDA initiatives to strengthen outreach and education resources at the local level to combat the rural opioid epidemic, including an expanded series of state-led opioid awareness events and increased access to information in USDA local offices. The effort begins on Monday, Sept. 19, coinciding with President Obama's designated Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week from Sept. 18 – 23. Opioid addiction, including heroin and prescription drug misuse, is a fast-growing problem that played a role in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. The opioid crisis disproportionately affects rural communities in part due to the lack of outreach and treatment resources available in remote areas. In January, President Obama tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency initiative focused on curbing rural opioid misuse. Over the past nine months, Vilsack has visited regions of the country that have been hit hard by opioid addiction to host a series of White House Rural Council Townhalls to hear from local leaders fighting the epidemic on the ground and discuss possible solutions. To continue the important conversations happening in rural communities devastated by the opioid crisis, leaders from USDA's Farm Service Agency and Rural Development offices in key affected states will host opioid awareness events to bring together government officials, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue, forge partnerships, identify possible solutions and highlight the need for more treatment resources in rural communities. The series will kick off with these four events in September with more to follow in the coming months:September 19 : Tolland, Connecticut, September 20: Brighton, Colorado, September 26: Grants Pass, Oregon, September 29: Fayetteville, NC
If you’re baffled by the latest good news/bad news for the American middle class – word that in 2015 typical family income got its best boost in five decades, but families are still worse off than in 2007, just think about trickle-down economics and how it works. During an economic recovery, the modern U.S. business model of trickle-down capitalism focuses first on delivering corporate profits, then soaring stock prices on Wall Street and big stock bonuses for CEOs and corporate execs. And if the recovery goes on long enough, some of the nation’s income gains eventually trickle down to rank-and-file workers. So that finally happened in 2015. It’s an important milestone worth cheering that last year, families smack in the middle of the middle class saw their household incomes rise by 5.2% to $56,516, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While public policy does play a role today in amplifying economic inequality in America with low taxes on the rich and a frozen minimum wage, the good news/bad news scenario that now plagues the middle class is much less the product of presidential policies and much more the result of the private sector trickle-down business model. In the economy, the power to divvy up the nation’s economic pie lies in the hands of Corporate CEOs and small business owners who reward themselves and their shareholders first, while cutting jobs, moving plants overseas and freezing the pay of average employees.