Friday, September 02, 2011

Remembrances of, and resources for, 9/11

The Rural Blog is published primarily for rural news media, most of which stick to events and issues in their own communities, especially if they are weekly newspapers. But on rare occasions, a national news event is so significant and touches so many local people that it makes the front pages of such papers. The most recent was the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the next one is likely to be the 10th anniversary of the terror he wrought on Sept. 11, 2001.

This item has 9/11 material that rural media are using or may find useful at this time, such as The Associated Press's September 11 Style and Reference Guide.

Michael Perry of Napa, Calif., has spent the last 10 years collecting newspapers from Sept. 11 or 12, reports Howard Yune of the Napa Valley Register. (Register photo by J.L. Sousa) He has 790 papers, "from nearly every state and more than 20 nations," Yune writes. "Newseum curator Carrie Christoffersen admired Perry’s labors in pulling so many headlines together into one place, but decided his asking price of up to $250,000 was too much for the museum." (Read more)

The Kentucky Press Association collected state political figures' recollections of 9/11 and newspaper front pages, mainly from weeklies, accessible at

The Mississippi Press Association established a website to share newspapers' 9/11 content.

In a column for Associated Baptist Press,William Leonard of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity wrote about 9/11 at his school, where "Catholics and Protestants, Pentecostals and Anglicans" gathered to support each other, and earlier, at a previously scheduled weekly service, "Undergraduates galore came streaming through the doors, packing pews, leaning against the walls and sitting cross-legged on the floor of the sparse Davis Chapel. Staggered by the news, they grasped for sacred space to help them comprehend the moment." There's a lot more, including an amazing passage from the Book of Jeremiah in the Revised English Bible. Read it here.

Perhaps the main aftermath of 9/11 is what Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post calls "the American era of endless war," with far-reaching ramifications. Read about them here.

Television networks and magazines "have followed different paths in covering a solemn occasion that is also a business opportunity," The New York Times reports.

The U.S. Department of Education published a resources page for teaching about 9/11. USA Today reports on the topic. "Fewer than half the states explicitly identify the 9/11 attacks in their high-school standards for social studies, according to a forthcoming study," Erik Robelen of Education Week reports.

Oxford American's list of 'The Most Creative Teachers in the South' has strong rural flavor

The South is the nation's most rural region, in terms of population, so it shouldn't be surprising that the Oxford American's list of "The Most Creative Teachers in the South" is heavy with those at rural colleges, rural backgrounds or rural projects. Here are five examples:

David Haskell, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., "conducts biology courses structured around on-site or hands-on lessons. In his ornithology course, he distributes bird carcasses that he's collected around campus. Each student is given a different bird, ranging from owls to hummingbirds, and becomes responsible for cleaning and rebuilding the skeleton." He says, "It's like a little term paper of bone." He raises goats and rabbits and takes students to his farm.

Frank X. Walker, University of Kentucky, Lexington: A poet, he invented the word "Affrilachia" to describe the relatively little known culture of African Americans in Appalachia. It's now in Webster's. He "adopted the totemic initial 'X' in college, following the influence of leaders like Malcolm X whose quest to discover their pre-slavery heritage led them to remain 'nameless'." His teaching inspired a rally by students to protest racist expressions aimed at President Obama on campus.

Beth Glazier-McDonald of Centre College in Danville, Ky.: "A willfully lecture-based instructor in a time of low-key seminar-style pedagogy," she teaches "Biblical History and Ideas" and a course she founded, "Biblical Hebrew." The latter course challenges some Christians. "People often think that questioning the text, and questioning the deity, is anathema," she says. "So I say, 'Let's go to the text, let's see what it says about faith, about belief.'"

Sarah Hardy, Hampden-Sydney College, in the town of like name in south-central Virginia's Prince Edward County, "has the rare privilege of being the female professor of a course titled 'American Masculinity' at the all-male institution." The South Carolina native "uses her female perspective for the secondary purpose of furnishing an objective voice in the discussions of preconceived notions about traditional masculinity."

Andrew Freear, Auburn University, runs the land-grant institution's "low-income development architecture program, the Rural Studio," in which students design projects "ranging from individual houses to farmers' markets and 40-acre parks." He says, I'm there as a kind of psychiatrist, confidante, mother, father, psychoanalyst, friend, drinking buddy." (Read more)

Labor Department proposes stricter regulations for child farm labor; families still exempted

In response to grain bin deaths and other farming accidents involving children, the U.S. Department of Labor is proposing tougher regulations for child labor on farms. The revisions would be the first update to the Fair Labor Standards Act since 1970, Molly O'Toole of Reuters reports.

The revisions would include an exemption in place for youth working on a farm owned or operated by their parents, unless the farm is an LLC, in which case the child would be deemed to work for the farm, not the parents, David Bennett of Delta Farm Press reports.

The proposals would ban "children under 16 from cultivating tobacco or operating most power-driven equipment," prohibit them from working with animals, pesticides, timber and raw materials; limit child use of most power-driven equipment; and make grain elevators and bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards and livestock exchanges and auctions "off-limits to nonagricultural workers under 18," O'Toole reports. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration photo)

To see the complete list of proposed revisions, click here. The proposals are open for public comment until Nov. 1; a public hearing will follow, O'Toole reports.

Federal budget cuts reduce Legal Aid services, often a last resort for the rural poor

Legal Aid offices nationwide are facing more budget cuts and laying off employees, reducing services, and closing offices as demand for their services increases. The Great Recession has made 27 percent more Americans eligible for Legal Aid than in 2007, Elizabeth Crisp writes for USA Today. Legal Aid is often the last resort for poor people in rural areas, especially those where lawyers are not plentiful.

Legal Aid Service of Idaho has resorted to closing offices one day each month, requiring unpaid monthly furloughs and cutting several full-time employees to part-time, . By the end of the year, Legal Services of New Jersey plans to layoff 100 employees. Legal Aid of North Carolina announced its closing three branch offices and reducing staff and services, Jeff Fobes of Mountain Xpress reports.

This spring Congress slashed 4 percent, or $15.8 million, from the budget of the Legal Services Corp., a non-profit that distributes grants to 136 Legal Aid programs nationwide. Now the House Appropriations Committee is proposing an additional $104 million cut from the 2012 budget, Crisp reports. To find Legal Aid services available for your community, click here.

Drug abuse may be to blame for deputy shortage in county in southern West Virginia

A growing epidemic of drug abuse is limiting the number of applicants for deputy sheriff in one southern West Virginia county. Over the past two years, only three out of 100 applicants make it through the deputy application process at the Mercer County Sheriff's Department, Jessica Lilly of West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports. (Wikipedia map)

The application process consists consists of a physical agility test, background investigation, written test and medical exam, including a drug screen. Last year, 15 of the 54 applicants showed up for the physical test and only six passed. Of those six, three withdrew before the background check and two failed.

Major Darrel Baily of the Mercer County Sheriff's Department "suspects that the candidates withdraw before the background checks for fear of hard drugs in their past," Lilly reports. (Read more) To hear the audio report, click here.

'Superbugs' evolve to defeat natural insecticide in Monsanto's genetically modified corn

A recent discovery of western corn rootworms in Midwest corn fields raises concerns that the use of biotech crops could lead to "superbugs," reports Scott Kilman of The Wall Street Journal. Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist, discovered that rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields had "evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto's corn plant." While Gassmann believes these to be isolated cases, the concern is that some farmers may to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by Monsanto competitors and use harsher synthetic insecticides. The long-term effects are unknown.

The findings have biotechnology rivals scrambling to find the next generation of insect protection for crops. Pest concerns are at an all time high following reports of superweeds immune to Monsanto's Roundup in 40 states. Add Gassmann's discovery to that and it further muddles the debate about genetically modified crops' impact on farming practices. (Read more)

Farm-dust regulation and other myths debunked

We keep hearing talk from people who should know better (such as U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green, Ky., with Mandy Connell on Louisville's WHAS Radio last Friday) that the Environmental Protection Agency may, or plans to, regulate farm dust.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in the USDA Blog two weeks ago that EPA knows "you can't farm without dust." He explained, "This is another frequently repeated myth based on a congressionally mandated review that the EPA has conducted every five years for decades." EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said months ago that her agency has no plans to regulate farm dust.

Skeptical of two self-serving Obama Cabinet officials? How about Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer, the director and research assistant professor at the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee? They debunked the myth (and two others we won't honor with a mention here) on their Ag Policy blog last week, saying the tales had become "a distraction from the discussion of the substantial issues facing agriculture."

They concluded, "While we are not willing to speculate on the motivation of those who circulate these stories, we do hope that those who hear them will use at least one of the many websites that track down their truthfulness." (Read more) Unfortunately, there appear to be many more websites that jump to conclusions or make unjustified extrapolations about this topic; for example, an EPA effort to regulate particulates in a county that has many farms does not mean farms will be subject to regulation.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Regional health education centers help rural communities recruit and keep health providers

Many states have federally funded regional centers to help rural communities attract and keep health-care providers, by acclimating them to the surroundings. Kentucky has had such a system for 30 years, and it does many things, including working with middle- and high-school students to encourage them to pursue health careers, reports Tara Kaprowy of Kentucky Health News.

While officials say it's hard to credit the centers with specific numbers, "partly because many students are now required to do rural rotations," there is strong anecdotal evidence, Kaprowy writes.

Memorial to Flight 93 is incomplete and short of money, maybe because it's the only rural 9/11 site

"Of the three memorials that commemorate the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, the Flight 93 National Memorial stands out," Curtis Tate writes for McClatchy Newspapers. "It's the only rural site, a world away from the urban bustle that surrounds Ground Zero and the Pentagon. It's the only one Congress has designated as a national park. And it's the only one of the three that isn't yet fully funded." (Flight 93 National Memorial Foundation webcam photo)

The memorial near Shanksville, Pa., needs another $10 million to build "a visitors center and other signature features, including 40 tree groves, representing the passengers and crew who fought the terrorists and gave their lives," Tate reports, but $52 million has been spent, and it will be dedicated Sept. 10 and President Obama will speak at a memorial service there Sept. 11.

"Because of the Flight 93 memorial's rural location, 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, it has no natural source of corporate funding," Tate writes. "The only thing that united the 33 passengers and seven crew members was the flight manifest." King Laughlin, the memorial's main fund-raiser, "said his group reached out to every Fortune 500 company. Almost all of them turned him down, saying they lacked the money or the memorial didn't fit their guidelines for giving."
Calvin Wilson, whose brother-in-law, LeRoy Homer Jr., was Flight 93's co-pilot, told Tate, "Flight 93 has always been a footnote in 9/11, and that's unfortunate," though the 40 passengers probably saved thousands of lives. If the plane had hit the U.S. Capitol, its most likely target, "It would have been a tremendous blow to the American psyche," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa, told Tate. His story package includes renderings of how the memorial is to look when completed. For larger versions, from the memorial foundation, click here.

Some California are counties too big for the good of their rural areas, state rural experts write

"California faces an unusual challenge: Productive agricultural regions are growing cities in addition to fruits, vegetables and grains. This is causing a change in federal classification which makes it harder for truly rural areas to get needed government funding," reports Civil Eats, which says it "promotes critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems as part of building economically and socially just communities."

The problem is that "California’s counties are vast," Gail Wadsworth and Don Villarejo write, citing San Bernardino County (Wikipedia map), which covers 20,105 square miles and has 2 million people but has large areas that are sparsely populated. "However, because there are cities in the county with more than 50,000 inhabitants, the county as a whole is designated metropolitan. . . . A county-based definition of 'rural' does not work in California."

The increasing metro identity of such counties "has resulted in the inability to apply for funding that is channeled to rural regions," the writers note. "This, in turn, results in the decline of public health services, rural development and food access for rural residents. Much of rural California is now more populous, more Hispanic, but less healthy, poorer and less well educated than urban areas." (Read more) Villarejo is founder and director emeritus of the California Institute for Rural Studies and Wadsworth is its executive director.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Damage to rural areas in the East shows hurricane preparation and coverage were not exaggerated

Following Hurricane Irene, many in mildly affected East Coast cities wondered whether officials over-prepared the public, and some journalists said the story was over-hyped, but the damage in rural communities tells a different story, Curtis Tate and Kate Howard of McClatchy Newspapers report. Many rural communities will need federal assistance to rebuild. Twelve states have reported damage, and at least 40 deaths have been confirmed. (News & Observer photo by Chris Seward)

"Struggling with post-Irene problems can be especially trying for rural towns," reports The Day of New London, Conn. Irene brought as much as a foot of rain to upstate New York and Vermont, destroying roads and bridges and damaging homes and businesses. The Vermont Transportation Agency reported 30 state highway bridges and 260 state and town roads were closed due to flooding, Terri Hallenbeck and Matt Ryan of the Burlington Free Press report. "It's not going to surprise me to learn that they may have lost a school or a water treatment facility," Jeff Finkle, the president of the Washington-based International Economic Development Council, told McClatchy. Those are things that FEMA needs to help replace." (Read more)

Irene washed away a section of NC 12 (above), in Rodanthe, N.C., a major thoroughfare for tourism on the Outer Banks, and destroyed fields of tobacco, corn, cotton and other crops ready for harvest, Tate and Howard report. Ray Boswell, a tobacco farmer in Selma, N.C., whose 200 acres of crops were damaged told McClatchy, "In eastern North Carolina, there's not going to be much tobacco left." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said after a tour, "A corn crop that was probably on its way to being a bumper crop in North Carolina totally destroyed. A cotton crop that was in the process of being a very, very, good, solid crop was on the ground." For more from Brownfield Network, click here.

Lease payments from natural-gas frackers increasingly offset school districts' budget cuts

More and more school districts in areas rich with gas-bearing shales are leasing land to gas drilling companies to alleviate budget shortages, Ben Wieder of Stateline reports. (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection photo)

Blackhawk School District, 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, recently agreed to lease 160 acres to Chesapeake Energy at $2,000 per acre upfront and an additional 15 percent royalty on any profits from gas extracted, Wieder reports. The standard royalty is 12.5 percent. With a state funding reduction of $800,000, Jerry Wessel, the district's business manager, told Wieder, "The natural gas lease will help the budget situation some in the short term but hopefully even more over the long haul."

Other school districts see the benefits too. Last year, eight Texas districts received more than $5 million in bonuses and royalty payments from lease agreements with Cheseapeake.

While lease agreements may fill a financial void for many districts, environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing continue. Pennsylvania has toughened well-casing and drilling regulations and joined other shale-rich states in requiring disclosure of certain chemicals following what industry and environmental officials refer to as "isolated incidents" of fracking spills, Wieder reports. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill to ban fracking, instead suggesting a one-year moratorium and further study. New York is currently under moratorium but is expected to relax it, except in the area that supplies New York City's water. (Read more)

In 'seismic shift,' cotton growers prefer insurance over direct payments, ever more on chopping block

"A decision by the National Cotton Council to lobby for a revenue-based crop insurance program in the next Farm Bill may be the latest indication that direct payments, a fixture of U.S. agricultural policy since the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act, are headed for the chopping block," the Washington newsletter Agri-Pulse reports. "The NCC, a staunch proponent of the fixed, annual payments made to growers of so-called 'program' crops - cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and rice – concluded last week that a likely downsizing of agriculture’s budget baseline in the name of deficit reduction" would so undermine direct payments "that alternatives must be evaluated to ensure growers have access to the most effective safety net."

A spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, a leading critic of farm subsidies, called the switch "kind of a seismic shift." It reflects advice cotton growers got in 2008 from Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., then the chairman of the House Agrioculture Committee, "to move toward a safety net anchored by crop insurance."

The prospect of major deficit reduction legislation means “We may have a Farm Bill in the next two months,” Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University, told Agri-Pulse. He said “There are so many different plans out there now,” so production-agriculture interests are unlikely to coalesce behind a single risk-management plan, such as the one being assemble by Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

This gets pretty complicated, but Agri-Pulse has the details. It's a subscrption-only newsletter, but it offers a four-week free trial.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nominations for Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage in rural journalism due Tuesday, Sept. 6

The deadline is looming for nominations for the annual Tom and Pat Gish Award that recognizes courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism. Nominations should be sent to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues by Tuesday, Sept. 6. (The deadline was Sept. 1 but has been extended to give you one more weekend.)

The award is named for the couple, above, who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for almost 52 years. Last year’s winner was Samantha Swindler of the Tillamook Headlight-Herald in Oregon for her investigative reporting at The Times-Tribune in Corbin, Ky., and the Jacksonville Daily Progress in Texas. Earlier winners have been the Gishes; the Ezzell family, publishers of The Canadian Record in Texas; and former publisher Stanley Dearman and Publisher Jim Prince of The Neshoba Democrat of Philadelphia, Miss. For more details see

The Institute seeks nominations that measure up, at least in major respects, to the records of previous winners. Nominators should send detailed letters explaining how their nominees show the kind of exemplary courage, tenacity and integrity that the Gishes and other winners demonstrated in their rigorous pursuit of rural journalism. Documentation does not have to accompany the nomination, but will be needed in choosing finalists or a winner, and additional documentation may be requested or required. Nomination letters should be postmarked or emailed by Sept. 6 and sent to: Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, 122 Grehan Journalism Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042. For more information, contact Al Cross at 859-257-3744 or

Do these two look like Randall and Devil Anse? History Channel will make them McCoy, Hatfield

Next year's 150th anniversary of the start of the Hatfield-McCoy feud on the Kentucky-West Virginia border will be marked by a miniseries on the History Channel with an increasingly stellar cast. Bill Paxton, left, of "Big Love" will play clan leader Randall McCoy and Kevin Costner, right, will play his opposite number, Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield.

History announced this week that Tom Berenger, Powers Boothe and Mare Winningham will play brothers Jim and Wall Hatfield, brothers of Anderson, and Sally McCoy, wife of Randall. "The project follows the former friends and Civil War comrades who return home after the war to properties on opposite sides of the Tug [Fork of the Big Sandy] River border in Kentucky and West Virginia to increasing tensions that bring the neighboring states to the brink of another war," reports The Hollywood Reporter. Kevin Reynolds, director of Red Dawn, will direct the series for Thinkfactory Media. (Read more)

U.S. Department of Education's point man for rural outreach to hold forum on Twitter tomorrow

The U.S. Department of Education’s point person for rural outreach, John White, will host a forum on Twitter at #EDRuralChat Wednesday, Aug. 31, from 3 to 3:30 p.m. ET. Beginning today, Twitter users can submit questions on rural education to White, the deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach, using the hash tag #EDRuralChat. The forum is a follow-up to the department’s first Twitter town hall held by Secretary Arne Duncan Aug. 24. The department says it uses several Twitter accounts to share information. Click here for a list.

The department offers this guidance for education reporters: "For general news and information about ED, follow @usedgov. To keep up-to-date with Secretary Duncan, follow @ArneDuncan. Justin Hamilton, ED’s press secretary, can be found at @EDPressSec, and Massie Ritsch, deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach, shares information and converses with stakeholders, teachers and parents at @ED_Outreach.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thursday is deadline to apply for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting Workshop to be held Oct. 21-23

Thursday is the deadline to apply for the first Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting Mini-Boot Camp, to be held Oct. 21-23 at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City with instructors from Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. With funding from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, IRE and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues will select 12 applicants for fellowships that will include meals, lodging and travel assistance.

The workshop is being held in the Tri-Cities area partly to remind rural journalists that Daniel Gilbert, left, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for public service for the Bristol Herald Courier with his reporting on the mismanagement of natural-gas royalties in Southwest Virginia. He was able to crack the case with computer-assisted reporting skills learned at one of IRE's boot camps. Now journalists in the region will have a chance to gain most of the same skills.

These skills are needed to make effective use of millions of electronic records, which exist at every level of government from tiny city halls to bureaucratic bunkers in Washington. In these records are thousands of stories that need to be told. Every community has them, but not all community news outlets have the tools and skills to "mine the data." Here is a chance to get those skills, from some of the best trainers in the field.

To download a PDF of the application, click here. For more background information, go here. For information on the Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting, created at the Institute by a gift from Gilbert, click here.

Report answers questions about post office closures; rural advocate reacts to closings

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service released a report to address common questions about possible post-office closures. The report defines "post office," tells how many there are and how many face closure, describes the Postal Service's authority to close offices, explains the closure process and when it will occur, speculates on the number of employees who may lose their jobs, and identifies legislation on post offices.

The report says 4,380 retail facilities may close – 3,652 announced on July 26 and 728 identified in 2009. Of those earmarked for closure, "two thousand at the top of the closure list are primarily rural and frontier," Carol Miller, community organizer from Ojo Sarco, N.M., population 400, writes for the Daily Yonder. (Yonder photo by Miller)

Miller, whose local post office closed six years ago in a round of closings, suggests federal spending cuts almost always start with rural post offices referring to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 and the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that resulted in many changes to the postal service. "Nothing brings home to a community how absolutely unimportant they are to the federal government more than losing a post office," Miller writes.

Loggers lose Clean Water Act exemption; lawyer-farmer says farmers could be next target

An Illinois lawyer-farmer says farmers with drainage systems may be the next type of business required to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for storm water run-offs under the federal Clean Water Act.

Gary Baise, a trial attorney, writes in Farm Futures that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco will require loggers and counties to apply for NPDES permits for storm water from logging roads that is "collected in a system of ditches, culverts and channels and is then delivered into streams and rivers." He says that describes the tubes and tiles that drain millions of acres in the Midwest.

The decision came in a lawsuit involving an environmental plaintiff, the Oregon Board of Forestry, private foresters and Tillamook County, Oregon. Loggers had been protected through an exemption similar to the agricultural exemption.
Farming operations are currently exempt from needing an NPDES permit for storm water runoff, but Baise believes the latest ruling will soon draw attention to Midwest farmers. "My guess is we will see either EPA or environmental groups asserting in the near future that our farm tile systems and roadside ditches and culverts are point sources," which need NPDES permits, Baise writes.

Internet and computer use on farms is growing, but few farmers do business online

Sixty-two percent of U.S. farms have internet access, up from 59 percent in 2009, says a report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Of those, 38 percent connect with DSL, 20 percent with wireless and 15 percent with satellite, Bob Meyer of Brownfield Network reports. (eHow photo)

While many regions show growth in the numbers of computers on farms, Internet use for farm business is still low. Only 14 percent of farmers purchase agricultural inputs online and 12 percent market their products online, Meyer reports. However, 35 percent use the computer to conduct business with non-agricultural websites. (Read more)

Congressional report looks at impact and cost of proposed regulations on coal-fired power plants

As waves of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations to curb coal-fired power plant pollution are finalized, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has released a report separating fact and fiction following industry warnings of higher electric bills, more blackouts, and fewer jobs, Brad Plumer of The Wall Street Journal reports.

The report confirms that the new rules are likely to prompt closures of many coal plants between now and 2017, but the number is uncertain. "Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined-cycle natural-gas plants," the report states.

The impact of these closures on the electric grid will be minimal, according to the report. The recession and the increasing use of natural gas has resulted in excess generation capacity that can easily be tapped again to quickly add capacity, Plumer writes.

The report does not estimate or evaluate costs for complying with the new rules, but suggests industry estimates are overstated because many estimates were based on earlier proposals which have been changed to address some industry concerns, Plumer reports. (Read more; subscription may be required)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marking 9/11 anniversary? Get the terms right

Two weeks from today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people in the United States. News media large and small are preparing to mark the anniversary, and The Associated Press provides some help getting key names, words and phrases right, with a Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide.

Some examples: "ground zero" and "twin towers" are not capitalized; AP's spelling of the terror group is al-Qaida; and "Flight 93" qualifies for a short reference, unlike the other three that were hijacked.

The guide also includes basic references, such as a 9/11 timeline, the flights hijacked, where the planes crashed, the hijackers' full names, their names on second reference, and their pronunciation. It notes that 2,983 victims' names will be on the memorial at 1 World Trade Center, including six killed in the 1993 al-Qaida bombing of the center.

For details, via the Nieman Journalism Lab, click here.

Rural hospitals in S. Carolina are in jeopardy

Many of South Carolina's 30 rural hospitals, "once the heart of their communities, are struggling to find a niche in a health care system that values the complicated procedures offered at large hospitals much more than the basic and emergency services provided by rural hospitals," Joey Holleman reports for The State newspaper in Columbia.

In 2007-09, fewer than half the hospitals' beds were filled on an average day, and 10 of the 13 smallest lost money in those years, Holleman found, thanks to a study by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The hospitals' poster child, he writes, could be Bamberg County Hospital, which he uses as the story's main example. (Photo by Gerry Melendez, The State)

"Rural hospitals are caught in a vicious cycle," Holleman writes. "They don’t have the customer volume to help pay for new technology and facilities that might lure specialty physicians to rural areas. But without those specialists, the hospitals can’t perform the procedures that bring in the most money to pay for new technology and facilities." (Read more)