Friday, November 02, 2012

In Montana, a surface-mine expansion permit is giving cattle ranchers a lot to complain about

Coal is in a slump because utilities are switching to cheaper natural gas, but in Montana, where a quarter of the country's recoverable coal still lies unmined, the operators of the 25,000-acre Rosebud surface mine (right) are asking permission to add another 6,800 acres. And while the mine provides electricity to parts of Montana, Oregon and Washington, High Country News blogger Heather Hansen explains that owner Westmoreland Coal Co. is talking about exporting coal abroad for next 20 years because there are 120 billion tons of coal left in the mine and a huge market to exploit. But local cattle ranchers are getting touchy about their big neighbor, Hansen writes.

Those who have lived off the surface resources in the area "fret over what will become of their livelihoods in the shadow of the mines," Hansen reports. "The area's streams are important to them for watering their cattle, and they use the shallow underground aquifers to irrigate their hay. The ranchers have a problem, in particular, with how much water is being used by the coal operations, and the quality of water that’s left over."

And there's another problem, or two. One, ranchers don't trust the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which they think has a less-than-perfect record for protection of their assets. And listen to rancher Clint McRae, whose family has raised cattle for 130 years on nearby land: “I am expected to sacrifice our operation so a for-profit company can take my land to haul coal to China. I'll fight that tooth-and-nail." The ranchers have lawyered up. The public comment period on the proposed mine expansion ends Monday, Nov. 5. (Read more)

Fewer hunters than ever, but still spending plenty

Fewer of us are hunters than ever before. Maybe that explains why there are more white-tailed deer in the United States now than ever before. And yet, notes Tim Heffernan in this month's Atlantic magazine, "The average American hunter now spends nearly $2,500 a year on the sport, despite the fact that finding a deer to kill has literally never been easier."

Heffernan reports that, yes, something like 30 million white-tailed deer roam America, most of them east of the Rockies. In some areas, that makes them thick as ticks, with up to 100 deer per square mile. Still, with  fewer than 14 million Americans toting a gun with intent to kill a deer and those that do getting older by the day, they are, nonethless, way past ready. And then some, with everything from a good shotgun to chemical weapons to infra-red lasers. Heffernan reports that one of the largest of the mega-outfitters, Cabela’s, saw its annual sales in hunting arsenal gear grow from $500 million in the late 1990s to $2.8 billion today with items on its shelves that include doe urine -- taken while in heat -- to riflescopes and rangers that have "resolution beyond current military standards." (Read more)

Corn, soybean, wheat seed prices going up again

Farmers will pay a lot more for the seed they'll put in the ground in 2013 but will likely make up for it with better prices come harvest, a Purdue University agricultural economist told Agri-Pulse this week. And it's not just the drought to blame for the cost hike, though that is certainly a contributor. Seems that seed prices have gone up annually on consistent basis for more than a decade.

"There was a period of time in the early 2000s when producers were transitioning from non-genetically modified-type seed products to GMO types of seed products, which generally are more expensive.," said Alan Miller, a farm business management specialist. "Then we had the rise in commodity prices. And, recently, we've had two extremely difficult seed corn producing years in a row in the Corn Belt."

According to Miller, prices are expected to rise 5 to 7 percent for seed corn, 7 to 10 percent for seed soybeans, and more than 10 percent for wheat seed. In dollars, that means a bag of corn seed would sell for between just under $200 to more than $300. Soybean seed would go for about $50 a bag, with wheat seed priced in the low $20s per bag. And the profit picture? Should be very good, he said, but he's no weatherman.

Agri-Pulse, an agricultural newsletter, is subscription-only. Go here for a free 30-day trial.

N.Y. governor helps small dairy farmers expand by relaxing manure rule, but not everyone is happy

John Bach loads manure at his New York farm.
(Watertown Daily Times photo by Justin Sorenson)
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to help small dairy farmers enlarge their businesses by lowering manure-runoff standards has concerned the state's environmentalists. Opponents acknowledge the move will encourage milk production in the state, but say it would also contaminate water and endanger wildlife, Ted Booker of the Watertown Daily Times reports.

Cuomo's plan would raise the enrollment threshold for the state's Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations program to 299 cows from 200. The program requires farmers with more than the threshold "to add storage facilities and lagoons for holding manure during the winter," Booker notes. They also must hire a certified planner to develop a management plan for controlling waste and conduct annual inspections.

The change will encourage dairy farmers to expand. Carthage dairy farmer Lee Bach said that adding just 30 cows would make him about $15,000 to $20,000 a month after bills.

Katherine R. Nadeau, director of water and natural resources for the Environmental Advocates of New York, told Booker that manure's high nutrient level is detrimental to fish, plants and wildlife when it mixes with water. She said the state should explore other ways to offer farmers some help in dealing with CAFO requirements. (Read more)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Coal-dust violations found at mines after journalists report increases in Appalachian black-lung disease

Federal coal mine inspectors found more than 120 dust-level violations at 13 coal mines in September after the The Charleston Gazette, the Center for Public Integrity and NPR published an investigative report about the resurgence of black lung disease in Central Appalachia. The report exposed "widespread misconduct" by coal companies and often lax oversight by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the CPI';s Chris Hamby reports. MSHA insists the news reports did not prompt the inspections. (NPR photo by David Deal: Miner performs lung test)

Since the 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where excessive coal dust caused the massive explosion that killed 23 miners, inspectors have been going on blitzes of underground mines. The most recent inspections used new criteria that allowed officials to target mines that were most likely to have dust build-ups that can lead to black lung. Inspectors found that many companies failed to properly ventilate working areas and used "broken-down" equipment to suppress dust, Hamby writes. (Read more)

Renewable energy can benefit rural communities, but government policy changes can enhance them

Renewable energy development has increased in recent years, and since solar and wind farms need large amounts of land, rural areas attract much of that development. But the economic benefit from the industry in those areas is unclear. A new study from the global Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that renewable energy development does have a positive impact in rural areas, but is enhanced with a specific policy framework and long-term strategy, which many of those places don't have.

Case studies in 16 rural regions of Europe, Canada and the U.S. were examined for two years. Researchers found that renewable energy development grew by 26 percent from 2005 to 2010, to the point that it provides about 20 percent of the world's power. According to the report, "Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development," such projects can provide communities with new revenue sources, new jobs and business opportunities, affordable energy, capacity building and community empowerment.

However, the report says public policy on such projects should be "grounded in local conditions and opportunities . . . that focus on the competitiveness of rural areas." The report suggests rural communities embed energy strategy in local economic development, integrate renewable energy within supply chains in rural economies -- such as agriculture, forestry and green tourism -- ensure local acceptance by being clear about benefits to the community, and avoid types of renewables that aren't suited to specific communities.

Renewable energy should be integrated into a community rather than being forced into a community where it doesn't fit. Report author Raffaele Trapasso told Andreas Breyer of Solar Novus Today that "Renewable energy should not be considered as a stand-alone sector within the rural economy. It should be connected to local activities and business; possibly to a core specialization within the community."

The full report is available for purchase from the OECD, but the executive summary can be accessed here.

Climate change to dim mountains' vibrant fall colors?

The Appalachian mountains that stretch from Georgia to New York are known for brilliant color changes in the fall. It's a defining feature of many rural mountain communities, but those colors may become less vibrant as climate change continues to warm the planet and reduce rainfall, Robynne Boyd of Scientific American reports. (Photo by Ivy Brashear, 2010: Fern Lake on the Kentucky-Tennessee border)
There was a "desynchronization in leaf color changes" this year, Appalachian State University leaf specialist and biologist Howard Neufeld told Boyd. Basically, some trees turned colors before others. Dogwoods and some maples turned in early August, but oaks didn't start turning until the middle of October. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this schedule of change appears to be genetic. "Trees of the same species turn in unison whether on high or low [altitude] if located within the same latitude," Boyd reports.

Temperature and precipitation seem to have the biggest impact on leaf color, said Neufeld, who publishes an annual fall color report. "Conditions leading up to the fall were ripe for good fall color -- sunny, cool, no severe drought," he told Boyd. "But they didn't develop. I don't know why that is." But he does provide a theory: trees produce volatile organic compounds, which reflect the sun's radiation back into space. This "VOC armor" will not stay strong forever, Boyd writes. "It will weaken as the climate warms, and will one day demonstrate the same higher temperatures as most of the rest of the country."

Plants are cooled by evaporating water through their leaves, but "many tree leaves were were damaged as a result of the inability of root systems to supply sufficient water to leaves that experienced high temperatures" this year, Cornell University plant biologist Karl Niklas told Boyd. "The damage to leaves earlier in the season meant that many leaves could not color up or simply died while still attached." (Read more)

ABC answers 'pink slime' defamation suit by packer

ABC News claimed First Amendment protection in a motion filed yesterday to dismiss Beef Products Inc.'s $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against the network, Lisa Keefe of Meatingplace reports. BPI filed suit against ABC in September for disparagement and tortious interference after a series of ABC reports last spring about lean finely textured beef started a media blitz, and out the term "pink slime" into the popular lexicon. BPI was once a leading manufacturer of LFTB.

ABC's multi-part filing in a U.S. District Court in South Dakota offers several arguments for dismissal: BPI can't allege libel because the original complaint is about how LFTB was described, meaning only product-disparagement allegations can be made; ABC's reports don't qualify as disparagement because they didn't question LFTB's safety, only whether people would want to eat it; and the news reports are considered protected speech under the First Amendment as "imaginative expression" and "rhetorical hyperbole." The term "pink slime" was coined several years ago.

The filing "emphasizes the network's role as a watchdog for the public interest," Keefe reports. From the filing: "BPI's complaint . . . directly challenges the right of a national news organization, two USDA scientists, and a former BPI employee to explore matters of obvious public interest -- what is in the food that we eat and how that food is labeled." BPI counsel Erik Connolly told Keefe that he could oppose the motion to dismiss. (Read more)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rural broadband gap inhibits more than video and social networking; education and health at stake

The yawning technological gap between rural and urban America is growing. And since it's about speed -- about how fast and at what volume consumers can send and receive data -- it's not about to slow down, ever. That's the word from a policy analyst who is pushing government and private business to join together to even the playing field for rural America. To not do so, he warned, is to risk agriculture, manufacturing, education and health care in a vast part of the country, writes Julie Ardery of the Daily Yonder.

“Networks that connect research institutions in the United States can move 100,000 times more data per unit of time than the dial-up connections that some Americans still must use,” policy expert Hanns Kuttner told a gathering at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. “The technology gap is not a fixed deficit that once filled, stays filled. The technology gap will be larger—much larger—in the future, along with the information and technology gap, unless significant action is taken to overcome it.”

Ardery reports that 9.8 million rural Americans lack access to broadband speeds sufficient to handle common Internet functions such as videostreaming, which has become a mainstay in education, business and health care. "The Federal Communications Commission now defines 'basic broadband' as at least 4 megabits per second download speed and 1 megabit per second upload speed," the capacities needed for video and social networking. ("The National Broadband Map, below, which uses the more conservative thresholds of 3 Mpbs for download speed and 768 kbps for uploads, estimates 16 percent of rural Americans now lack access to basic broadband. In contrast, only 0.3% of urbanites lack broadband access," Ardery writes.) 
The disparity has significant implications for education and health, Kuttner says. He looked at the education gap in rural America, where the difference between college graduation rates for urban and rural counties has widened from 9.5 to 12.6 percent since 1990, and says each percentage point "represents $625 billion in lost wages and economic activity over a lifetime." He also points to the likely impact the technology differential, if not taken on by governmental entitities working together, will have on rural life expectancies because of rural hospital inefficiencies. (Read more)

To read the entire "Broadband for Rural America" report, go here. To view the National Broadband map interactively, and to enter your own address to find out what broadband speeds are available in your area, go here.

Nonprofit helps rural people improve homes, says 'poverty looks different in rural areas'

Rural, faith-based, nonprofit organizations often rely on volunteers and don't have much money, forcing them to raise funds in some interesting ways. Alabama Rural Ministry, which works to improve poverty housing in the state's eastern rural areas, is doing just that. Allison Griffin of The Prattville Progress reports that for the past four years the ministry has led a fundraising campaign called "No More Shacks!" during which Director Lisa Pierce spends a week in a makeshift shack next to a busy road in or near Auburn, Ala.

Pierce spends all day, every day, in the shack answering questions of passersby and collecting donations. This year, she built another shack and invited area preachers and volunteers to stay in it for 24 hours. Her goal is to raise $50,000, with all proceeds going directly to home repairs for low-income rural people. ARM typically works with elderly people or people with disabilities who are often on fixed incomes. (Photo by Mickey Welsh: Pierce works on shack)

Pierce started ARM at the Auburn Wesley Foundation 15 years ago, and has seen the organization grow ever since. "Working in outlying areas is the primary focus, Pierce said, because 'poverty looks different in the rural communities,'" Griffin reports. Many rural families are living on family land and dignity is very important to them, making even those who are need the most help reluctant to ask for help. "ARM spends times with the families it helps, getting to know them and letting them know that the work they will do is a partnership," Griffin writes. And ARM stays in touch with them when the work is done. (Read more)

Car-deer collisions keep rising; W.Va., S.D., Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania are the riskiest states

Hitting a deer with your car is becoming more common in rural areas, especially during the mating season, which is on now, but the chance of hitting one is higher in some states than others.

State Farm Insurance Co. annually calculates the odds of hitting a deer by using claims data and licensed-driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration. The company found, for the sixth consecutive year, that the chance of hitting a deer is greatest in West Virginia. (Photo by Joe Kosack, Pennsylvania Game Commission)

From second to fifth are South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The number of deer-related collisions nationally has increased by 7.7 percent over the past year, according to State Farm. The rate of deer-related accidents per driver increased over last year in each of the top five states. (Read more)

Coal-to-gas switch doesn't deter climate change as much as gas industry says, due to U.S. coal exports

The U.S. natural-gas industry says it is helping curb climate change by reducing the use of coal, but even as utilities have switched from coal, more U.S. coal is being shipped and burned overseas, which then contributes to climate change, according to a new University of Manchester study.

The International Energy Agency reported five months ago that the "shale revolution" had helped decrease U.S. carbon emissions by 450 million tons over the past five years, the largest drop among all countries it surveyed. But it did not account for increases in coal exports. There has been a "substantial increase" in coal exports to the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe and Asia, Pilita Clark of The Financial Times reports. According to the study, "More than half of the emissions avoided in the U.S. may have been exported as coal," Clark writes. (Read more)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eastern Ky. must face facts, improve schools and health, and fight corruption, native son writes

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, based in Whitesburg, Ky,. in the shadow of Pine Mountain, writes a 3,172-word essay in the Daily Yonder, which the center publishes, about the ills of his native Eastern Kentucky and his prescription for a better future.

"Not only are we the poorest part of the United States, the life expectancy here has slipped below that in countries like China and Mexico. We are ranked at the top in psychological maladies like clinical depression. Embarrassingly, we are the part of Appalachia where other parts of Appalachia send a Santa Claus train to help us come up with Christmas gifts for our children," Davis writes. "If what you are doing takes you to the bottom of the barrel, try doing something different."

That means facing the long-term facts about coal, Davis argues: "We are able to ignore facts about natural gas replacing coal in the market, the ever-declining need for miners, and all manner of scientific data about carbon’s role in climate change. . . . It is both convenient and comforting to believe that coal can save us because it confirms a story we have always been told. . . . We have done a lot of damage to the land and the people. If we continue to lead people astray, to believe things that we know in our bones are lies, to stand by as a culture of corruption infects our genuine prospects for moving forward, then we are going to get crazier. And if we refuse to acknowledge the reality of where we currently stand, then we don’t have much of a shot hanging on here."

Davis lays out several ideas for economic and community development, but says whatever measures are taken will fail if they do not challenge "the corrosive role of local corruption," he writes, citing Worlds Apart, a book in which Cynthia M. Duncan "points out that a culture of local corruption in many poor counties in the coalfields and in the Delta contributed to the disparity and their ultimate dysfunction." Duncan's main conclusion was that educational attainment is the great advantage a prosperous rural county in New England had over its chronically poor counterparts in Appalachia and the Delta.

"The schools are here. We just need to make them better, a lot better," Davis writes. "The health facilities and care providers are now mostly in place, we just need to make the system work. We have vocational schools and community colleges with training as their core services; we just need to make them more productive and a good deal more imaginative." He also calls for a push to improve the region's poor health status and fighting the drug addiction that plagues it.

"Many poor rural communities have been transformed from hard-scrabble to self-sufficiency and, in some unusual cases, to high-tech and amenity-rich zones of great wealth," Davis writes. "Strategies that work are not overnight 'get me a grant' successes; they are more often plodding developments where the benefits may only come a generation or two down the pike. That might not sound like much of a solution to an out-of-work miner who has truck, car, and house payments he cannot make, but in this neck of the woods we did not get to where we got fast, and it is going to take a serious do-over to get us out." He concludes, "Sometimes the proper response is courage. And sometimes the safest way forward is taking the greatest risk." (Read more)

Farmers cut irrigation to preserve Ogallala Aquifer

High Plains farmers who depend on the Ogallala Aquifer to irrigate crops are now reluctantly trying to conserve water to preserve the underground water source that has sustained bumper crops in the region for decades. Years of heavy use have depleted the aquifer to the point where some wells are drying up, and the federal government estimates there are two decades or less of adequate supply for irrigation. The drought has added to water-use fears, as farmers pumped more Ogallala water onto their crops to counteract it.

Farmers are afraid using the water source at current rates could eventually end irrigated agriculture and devastate communities that rely on it, leaving the next generation with few options, Mark Peters of The Wall Street Journal reports. Farmers in the High Plains face "a larger challenge for irrigated agriculture," Peters writes. Irrigation accounts for about one-third of annual water demand, and competition for water increases along with population.

Farmers who rely on the Ogallala agree that changes need to be made, but the devil is in the details, Peters reports. The High Plains Water Conservation District in Texas will start limiting water withdrawals in 2014. Some farmers in Kansas, where agreements have been made to cut water use, fear farmers in other states won't follow suit. Drawing boundaries on which fields can be irrigated and which should not be is drawing the most farmer ire, and concerns about water supply are "particularly acute" in western Kansas and northern Texas, where irrigation has long been used. (Read more)

Drought made Corn Belt ethanol states import corn

Areas that were spared by this summer's drought had record corn crops, and are now sending that corn into the Corn Belt, which suffered some of the largest crop losses in decades. Ethanol producers in No. 2 corn state, Illinois, imported millions of bushels from North Dakota. Northern corn was even sent to key livestock states, including Texas and Oklahoma. Southern states shipped up the Mississippi River into the interior, reversing traditional trade patterns, Julie Ingwersen of Reuters reports. (Reuters photo)

"Atypical corn shipments are not unheard of in the agricultural market," Ingwersen writes, but "Traders say the scale of this year's upheaval is unprecedented." It's been fueled mostly by the difference in drought-hit central states and unharmed bumper harvests in bordering states, and the prevalence of a naturally occurring toxin, aflatoxin, that can harm livestock.

"The unusual grain flow could foreshadow a scramble for quality corn supplies in the months to come as end-users work through the smallest U.S. harvest in six years," Ingwersen writes. The shift of corn trade could benefit logistics firms and big merchants, including Cargill, which said "atypical trade flows" would spur more demand for trading advice, she reports. Railroad companies are also gaining from the shift. (Read more)

Newspapers wary of tying Sandy to climate change

Hurricane Sandy left massive flooding in areas that have never seen flooding, and it's now causing snowstorms in Northern Appalachia. Many media outlets dubbed the event "Frankenstorm," but "Not one major newspaper has reported the scientifically established link that carbon pollution fuels more extreme weather," reports Rebecca Leber of ThinkProgress, which has a liberal viewpoint.

ThinkProgress did a search of major national newspapers and found that Sandy was mentioned at least 94 times, but terms like climate change, global warming and extreme weather weren't mentioned at all. She suggests two possible reasons for the disconnect: The presidential candidates have been silent on climate change and left it out of the debates for the first time since 1988, and climate denial campaigns try to undermine science. "There is still a gulf between public understanding and the scientific consensus," Leber writes. Al Gore says Sandy was worse because of global warming.

Atmospheric blocking events like the one that intensified Sandy are caused by warming temperatures, melting sea ice and rising ocean levels. Blocking events also shift jet streams further from normal patterns, and climate researcher Jennifer Francis told Andrew Revkin of The New York Times that Sandy's blocking event "may have been boosted in intensity and/or duration by the record-breaking ice loss this summer." Late season hurricanes aren't unusual, she said, but Sandy started during an anomalous jet-stream pattern and an autumn with record-warm sea temperatures in the Atlantic. "It could very well be that general warming along with high sea-surface temperatures have lengthened the tropical storm season," Francis said.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rural libraries facing budget concerns; residents depend on them for several services

Rural people often depend on local libraries for various services, including free Internet access and as a place to host events. But in the face of a slew of budget cuts and financial strain, many are being forced to reduce staff, cut operating hours or even close branches. (Joplin Globe photo by T. Rob Brown: Seneca Public Library branch manager reads to children)

Marcia Warner, former president of the Public Library Association, told Roger McKinney of the The Joplin Globe in Missouri that "when towns have to choose between funding police and fire department or libraries, libraries often lose." This, despite the fact that rural libraries are doing everything from holding reading groups for toddlers, to teaching seniors how to use new media. "There's that lifelong learning piece, and libraries are the ones helping to do that," Warner told McKinney.

McKinney tells the story of a community that realized that before it was too late. The Seneca Public Library in Seneca, Mo., a branch of the Neosho-Newton County Library, was slated for closure when residents rallied, keeping the facility open through June so the library system could buy some time and search for other funding. Losing the library would be a great loss for the community, many residents told McKinney. (Read more)

Grain bin and silo entrapment deaths stay steady as other farm fatalities drop; teen boys at risk

The rate of serious injury and death on U.S. farms has fallen, but the number of people dying by entrapment in grain bins and silos has remained steady, with the annual number of such accidents rising over the past decade and reaching a peak of 26 in 2010. Many of the victims are teenage boys, with 14 dying since 2007. "The deaths are horrific and virtually all preventable," John Broder of The New York Times reports. (Mirror-Democrat photo by Bob Watson: deadly Illinois silo accident rescue in 2010)

Experts say the high rate of silo deaths can be blamed on the large amounts of corn being stored in the U.S. to meet global demand for food, feed and ethanol-based fuel. The persistence of such deaths "reveals continuing flaws in the enforcement of worker safety laws and weaknesses in rules meant to protect the youngest farmworkers," Broder writes. Last year, the U.S. Labor Department attempted to strengthen farm child labor laws, but backed down after push-back from farmers who claimed they shouldn't be told by the government that their children can't work on the family farm. The legislation was never directed at farmers' families and wouldn't have covered conditions on small operations, which account for 70 percent of grain entrapments, Broder reports. Experts say most farmers are aware of the risks, but don't have the proper equipment or training to protect their workers against grain avalanche.

Purdue University agricultural professor William Field told Broder "virtually every entrapment is preventable" by following Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. Those guidelines require employers to turn off all power equipment before workers enter silos, provide workers with a harness or supporting chair and have an observer watch grain bin and silo workers at all times. (Read more)

New EPA water pollution tracker tells water quality in local communities' rivers and streams

The Environmental Protection Agency released a new interactive map about river and stream quality on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The map allows users to find out if waterways in their communities are polluted, with what, and what's being done to reverse the pollution. It could be a helpful tool for citizens, especially journalists, who can use the map to help them keep track of local efforts to clean up -- or let be -- polluted rivers.

"How's My Waterway?" also provides detailed descriptions of each type of water pollutant, the likely sources from which they came and potential health risks. Most information is based on 2010 data. "The practicality and convenience of [the map] may be its best asset," notes Appalachian Voices, an environmental advocacy group based in Boone, N.C. "Not many of us have time to sift through databases searching for the creek behind our community or our favorite fishing spot."

To check the health and quality of your local rivers, click here to access "How's My Waterway?"

Deaths from COPD more common in those who live in rural areas; smoking may be to blame

Deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more common in rural and poor areas, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report says many factors contribute to this trend, including higher smoking rates, lower air quality and limited access to health care.

Researchers analyzed Census Bureau data, identifying more than 900,000 deaths from COPD between 2000 and 2007. Of those, about 88 percent were people over 65 -- and rural areas had the highest number of COPD deaths. Smoking is the top risk factor for the disease, which the third leading cause of death in the United States. Study co-author James Holt told Health Magazine that "COPD patients, especially those in rural and poor areas, may benefit from additional case management and risk reduction." (Read more)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

AP defends, clarifies its use of 'illegal immigrant'

In response to requests that it stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” The Associated Press has defended and clarified its position on the term.

Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for standards and production, wrote that the AP doesn't use terms like “undocumented immigrants” or “unauthorized immigrants” because they "can make a person’s illegal presence in the country appear to be a matter of minor paperwork. Many illegal immigrants aren’t 'undocumented' at all; they may have a birth certificate and passport from their home country, plus a U.S. driver’s license, Social Security card or school ID. What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States. Without that right, their presence is illegal."

To concerns that the term connotes a criminal violation, not a civil one, Kent wrote, "Both are laws, and violating any law is an illegal act (we do not say 'criminal immigrant')." And to the notion that “illegal immigrant” suggests the individual's "very existence is illegal," he write, "We don’t read the term this way. We refer routinely to illegal loggers, illegal miners, illegal vendors and so forth. Our language simply means that a person is logging, mining, selling, etc., in violation of the law — just as illegal immigrants have immigrated in violation of the law." The AP Stylebook advises not to use terms like “illegals” and “illegal alien.”

Kent wrote that “illegal immigrant” is not accurate in some cases, "such as when referring to a child who was brought to the U.S. by parents who came here illegally," writes Mallary Jean Tenore of The Poynter Institute. "Kent doesn’t offer specific examples of when staffers should use 'illegal immigrant,' but he does offer some best practices, including this one: 'Be specific about nationalities. Don’t let terms like "illegal immigrants" be used synonymously with one nationality or ethnic group.' The AP Stylebook updated its entry on 'illegal immigrant' last year to address the nuances of the term." Tenore notes that some news organizations no longer use the term, and why. (Read more)

Billionaire's independent campaign for Mitt Romney includes magazine in weeklies and dailies in 4 states

So much money has gone into the presidential election for broadcast advertising that at least one outside group is trying a special section in weekly and daily newspapers to persuade voters in the swing states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia and Florida.

"In a retro move for a new media age, one conservative super PAC is spending more than $1 million in Wisconsin and four other battlegrounds on a breezy, pro-Romney, 12-page color 'magazine' . . . in some weekly papers on Thursday and daily papers on Sunday," reports Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"We're trying to get outside the clutter box," Will Feltus, ad man for TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who is funding the $10 million Ending Spending Action Fund campaign, told Gilbert, who writes: "The group's rationale is twofold: The airwaves are almost hopelessly saturated with TV spots, and newspaper readers are highly cost-effective targets for political communications because of their propensity to vote."

"The best predictor of whether somebody is going to vote or not is whether or not they read the newspaper," said Feltus, "who did media buying and targeting for the 2004 George W. Bush re-election effort," Gilbert reports.