Saturday, January 27, 2018

Study shows how coal's fall in Central Appalachia has hurt industry's suppliers and may threaten region's rail network

Major elements of the coal industry's supply chain
A 45 percent drop in Appalachia’s coal production from 2005 to 2015 has put other industries in the region at risk, says a study commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Researchers from West Virginia University and the University of Tennessee and identified the "coal industry ecosystem" in the region, mainly the industry's supply chain of goods and services.

"As these suppliers are impacted, jobs are imperiled, and the fiscal health of communities is weakened," says the study's executive summary. "Displaced workers will need to seek alternative employment opportunities that may entail investments in formal education and training, and this takes both time and resources. As the economic base suffers, state and local governments will see their capacity to fund education weaken as well." The report found the greatest such impact in Mingo and Boone counties in West Virginia; Harlan, Leslie, Martin, Pike, and Perry counties in Kentucky; and Buchanan and Dickenson counties in Virginia.

Changes in coal-fired power generation in Appalachia, 2005-2015
Appalachian coal, used overwhelmingly to make electricity, has been hurt by cheap and abundant natural gas. That is changing the structure and location of power plants, which "creates additional impacts on the economic base, tax base, and employment prospects," the summary says. Even more worrisome, "A vibrant rail transportation infrastructure has developed to support coal-related commerce, and this regional asset is now at risk. Retirement of portions of the railroad capital stock may translate into higher transportation costs and diminished opportunities for economic development tied to the movement of bulk commodities, inputs, and final products."

The report said the impact of all these changes has been greatest in Eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, where coal resources are more depleted and thus more expensive to mine. It predicts "a modest recovery" in Central Appalachia" due to higher global demand for metallurgical coal," used to make steel. "Overall, however, expected improvements will capture only a small fraction of the decline that has been observed over the past decade."

Court files help show how FDA enabled opioid epidemic

Approval of OxyContin, the drug that "arguably opened the floodgates of the opioid epidemic," came with a misleading sentence that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed in the drug's official label, Caitlin Esch reported for Marketplace last month. Her report, based on court files she unearthed, was excerpted this week on West Virginia Public Broadcasting's "Inside Appalachia."

On page 15 of the 21-page official label FDA approved for OxyContin in 1995 was this sentence: "Delayed absorption as provided by Oxycotin tablets is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug." A drug, not the drug; Purdue Pharma, its manufacturer, had done no research on its potential for addiction. Another sentence said addiction was rare under a doctor's care, but the study wasn't based on OxyContin.

The addiction potential was huge. The "contin" part of the drug's name stands for "continuous release," but the time-release pills were easily crushed, delivering the whole dose, which was 16 times a typical 10 mg Percocet pill, Esch reports. Purdue had rejected an FDA toxicologist's call for testing of crushed pills' addiction potential in 1993, and Dr. Curtis Wright, a FDA medical review officer, agreed. He and others approved the label in 1995, and he later testified that he couldn't recall who suggested the key sentence. He later worked at Purdue and declined to comment for the story. Purdue said in a written statement replying to questions that the sentence was suggested by FDA. The FDA declined to be interviewed, but offered a statement that looked forward, not backward.

The sentence was replaced with a warning label six years later, but by that time "the horse was out of the barn," Esch reports. The epidemic had begun, with prescriptions for Oxycontin increasing tenfold from 1995 to 2000. "Oxycontin was the only opioid that had a sentence like this in its label," Esch reports, and had been the centerpiece of its marketing campaign.

"That claim became the linchpin of the most aggressive marketing campaign ever undertaken by a pharmaceutical company for a narcotic painkiller," The New York Times reported in 2007. "Just a few years after the drug’s introduction in 1996, annual sales reached $1 billion. Purdue Pharma heavily promoted OxyContin to doctors like general practitioners, who had often had little training in the treatment of serious pain or in recognizing signs of drug abuse in patients. In 2007, the privately owned company agreed to pay the federal government more than $600 million in civil fines, and three executives pleaded guilty to misleading the FDA and agreed to pay $34.5 million in fines.

About 100 states and local governments are suing Purdue for its role in the opioid epidemic. Marketplace's story was based largely on files, some previously sealed, in a lawsuit that West Virginia filed in McDowell County in 2001 and settled in 2004 for $10 million.

EPA keeps Obama-era limits on proposed Alaska mine until 'full extent of risk' to Bristol Bay fishery is known

New York Times map; click on it to view a larger version
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is keeping, at least for now, restrictions that the Obama administration proposed for a huge gold and copper mine "because of the threat it could pose to fisheries in the Bristol Bay region," Alex DeMarban reports for the Anchorage Daily News.*

"It is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there," Pruitt said in a statement. "Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection."

Pruitt's move doesn't block a possible Army Corps of Engineers permit for the proposed Pebble Mine, "but it leaves open the possibility that development of the prospect could be greatly limited, or not happen at all," DeMarban writes.

Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier said in a statement, "We believe we can demonstrate that we can responsibly construct and operate a mine at the Pebble deposit that meets Alaska's high environmental standards," he said. "We will also demonstrate that we can successfully operate a mine without compromising the fish and water resources around the project."

*The Anchorage Daily News has reverted to its original name following its purchase and sale by the owners of the Alaska Dispatch.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Net neutrality fight shifts to states; governors in Montana and New York sign orders to protect it, but obstacle looms

Bullock (AP photo)
The Federal Communications Commission voted Dec. 14 to repeal the "net neutrality" rules, but now states are taking up the cause. "Legislators in at least 15 states, from California to Rhode Island, have introduced bills that would create state net neutrality laws or use other approaches to require that internet service providers follow net neutrality requirements in some way to ensure an open and equal internet," Jenni Bergal reports for Stateline.

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, was the first to protect net neutrality at the state level. On Jan. 22 he signed an executive order requiring internet service providers that operate in the state to embrace net neutrality principles in order to get lucrative state government contracts, John Nichols reports for The Nation. The order goes into effect on July 1. Meanwhile, Bullock is urging other governors to join him in pushing back against the FCC's decision, and even tweeted a link to a model executive order for other states to use.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed Bullock's lead and issued an executive order on Jan. 24 linking state government contracting to net neutrality, Michael Grass reports for Route Fifty. Montana and New York will likely face legal obstacles, since the FCC ruling bars state and local governments from creating their own net neutrality rules, Bergal reports.

Though most of the state-level net neutrality efforts are Democrat-led, in Washington state the Republicans are on board too. Republican state Rep. Norma Smith introduced a bill that would prohibit internet providers from blocking or slowing down traffic, or offering paid fast lanes. Smith, who represents a rural district, said that many people in rural areas don't have a choice about their internet provider, and can't just switch to another if they're unhappy with their service. "Many are working from home or are engaged in the economy online. We want people in rural communities to participate fully, and the concern is that they would not be able to in the future if they don’t have the acceptable internet speeds to do that," she told Bergal.

States may not have to take action in the end if net neutrality ends up being preserved at the federal level. Last week, 22 Democratic state attorneys general filed a lawsuit to block the FCC's rollback.

Research finds correlations between opioid overdoses, weather and farm income; researchers cite lack of treatment

"The overprescribing of opioid-based painkillers may be the main driver of the increased abuse of opioids in rural America, but economists say that other factors, including declining farm income, extreme weather and other natural disasters, may affect a crisis that is killing thousands of citizens and costing the country billions of dollars," Penn State News reports.

Penn State collaborated with Texas A&M at Galveston on a study of relationships between socioeconomic factors and opioid overdoses. They recently presented their findings at the Allied Social Sciences Assocation's annual meeting in Philadelphia. Using data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they determined that counties with more natural disasters have a higher rate of opioid overdoses. Head researcher Stephen Goetz, a professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, hypothesizes that a changing climate could lead to more extreme weather, which could have an effect on opioid-overdose deaths. 

The researchers also found that for each $10,000 reduction in net income per farm, a county's opioid overdoses rose by 10 percent. Opioid-related deaths are increasing in rural counties, they noted. Goetz encourages caution when interpreting data, because with the relatively small farming population, any bump in deaths makes an outsized statistical footprint.

They also found that overdoses among younger people are declining and the highest rates of overdose are among people age 45-64, as The Rural Blog has reported.

The researchers theorize that opioid overdoses are higher in rural areas overall because of the lack of available treatment. "There are far fewer mental-health treatment facilities, so if you have a problem, you might not know where to go for help," Goetz said. "We're thinking that one of the things we need to investigate in the future is whether awareness is the problem or is there a stigma? These are all important issues to consider and they could be addressed through educational or other programs."

Wisconsin newspapers OK with bill to allow public notices in free papers because some areas no longer have a paper

Directors of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association have decided not to oppose a bill that would allow publication of legally required, paid public-notice advertising in free-circulation newspapers if there is no paid-circulation paper in the jurisdiction.

In some areas, "There are no longer paid-circulation newspapers eligible to publish government notices," and in 17 counties that have only one paid-circulation paper, it "does not reach all of the citizens of the county," WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett told members. One county out of 72, coterminous with the Menominee Indian Reservation, has no paid-circulation paper.

Beth Bennett
"Local officials from these areas are approaching the Legislature on a regular basis arguing that because there is no newspaper, they should be allowed to publish on their government websites instead," Bennett writes. "It is for this reason that WNA sees the addition of 'qualified' free newspapers where there are no paid newspapers as being supportive of the association's effort to keep public notices in newspapers." She says Assembly Bill 731 would require free newspapers publishing notices to "meet all of the frequency, editorial content and distribution criteria currently required by law of a paid-circulation newspaper."

Bennett says the bill would "bolster the newspaper industry's readership/circulation in the state. The WNA consistently relies on strong readership/circulation numbers when arguing for the continued publication of public notices in newspapers. The WNA believes that this measure will also strengthen the presence of the newspaper industry statewide, providing more publisher contacts for our legislative efforts and more publications statewide for the industry overall."

The WNA board also decided not to oppose the bill partly because of "multiple attacks during the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the publication of public notices in newspapers," Bennett writes. Such attacks are ongoing in most states; the Public Notice Resource Center keeps an updated list.

Bennett's note includes a strong general argument for paid public notice, a source of newspaper revenue that has become more important as commercial advertising has declined: "Newspaper publication of public notices provides the necessary verification, certification and archiving that ensures that individuals'/taxpayers' rights are protected and preserved. While public-notice publication in newspapers has been a constant and reliable third-party check on governmental actors for generations, Wisconsin’s publishers have worked to continually adapt public notice requirements to ensure the broadest dissemination of public information."

Bennett notes that WNA, like many other state press associations, "began digitally archiving all public notices published in Wisconsin, making them publicly available online" at no cost to the advertisers, which include some business interests as well as government entities.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

GateHouse Media buys Eugene Register-Guard from family

"After more than 90 years of independent, family ownership," the company that owns The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, has been sold to GateHouse Media, the newspaper reports.

GateHouse, part of publicly traded New Media Investment Group, "has bought dozens of newspapers and related media ventures from longtime owners" in the past several years, the Register-Guard notes. "As of September, GateHouse published 130 daily newspapers, more than 640 community publications and over 540 local market websites that reach more than 21 million people each week, the company said. The company has publications in 36 states."

RG Media Chairman Tony Baker listens as GateHouse executive
Jason Taylor addresses employees. (R-G photo by Chris Pietsch)
The local Baker family has owned The Register-Guard since 1927, when Alton Baker Sr. bought The Eugene Guard. He merged it with the Eugene Register in 1930. Tony Baker, Alton Sr.’s grandson and chairman of RG Media Co., told the paper, “We’ve come to the realization that in today’s business environment it’s increasingly difficult for a stand-alone, family-owned daily newspaper to compete successfully and continue to provide products the owners are proud to deliver. Larger media companies have the necessary resources and are better suited to adapt to the fast-changing dynamics of the newspaper industry. We’re confident GateHouse has the experience and expertise that will enable The R-G to transition into the future and continue to serve our market in a professional and responsible manner.”

The newspaper said it has 240 full- and part-time employees, a print circulation of 37,454 and a digital audience of more than 600,000 unique visitors a month. The paper also has a digital-services business that offers website development and digital marketing. It will be GateHouse's largest operation on the West Coast.

In a meeting with employees, Jason Taylor, president of the company's Western division, "said the Eugene market, with the huge presence of the University of Oregon, is strong," the paper reports. Last year, GateHouse bought the Columbia Daily Tribune, in the hometown of the University of Missouri, and this year bought the 11 dailies and 29 weeklies of Morris Communications and the remaining five dailies and 18 weeklies of Dix Communications.

Trump's tariffs on solar panels could spark a trade war with China, hurting soybean farmers, but look good for coal

Soybean meal is loaded on a Chinese ship. (The Shipping Herald)
President Trump's decision this week to impose tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines is a "pivotal moment for U.S. trade relationships" and could "open the floodgates" to demands for protectionist tariffs on other products, as well as spark retaliation by trading partners, trade expert Chad Bown writes for The Washington Post. They have potential implications for rural industries such as agriculture and coal.

Trade has long been the issue that most divides Trump from Republicans in Congress. At least six GOP senators condemned his decision, saying further actions could start a trade war that would hurt the U.S. economy and threaten American jobs. "I don't agree with it. I think it's a bad path to head down," Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told the Post for another story. "The retaliatory tariff fight is never a good fight, and I generally think we need to be more positive about our trade opportunities." Trump said, "There won't be a trade war."

Most U.S. solar panels come from China, so the tariffs are a "pointed jab" against Beijing, Zeeshan Aleem reports for Vox. Because the move follows months of tough talk from Trump on China, the Chinese may already be taking steps to retaliate with stricter standards on soybeans imported from the U.S., Todd Hultman reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. "China has bought nearly every soybean in Brazil to avoid the U.S. before Brazil's next harvest starts shipping out, typically in February. . . . Given the building trade tensions, China's shunning of U.S. soybeans looks a lot like political retribution."

A trade tussle would come at a particularly vulnerable time for American soybean farmers, since robust soybean production for export has made trade increasingly important to their bottom lines. Soybean inventories have doubled since 2015, which can lead to lower prices per bushel, Keith Good reports for Farm Policy News.

While the tariffs are aimed at helping U.S. solar-panel makers, relatively few of the jobs in the U.S. solar industry are in manufacturing, and the tariffs expire after four years, so there is suspicion that the tariffs are part of Trump's pro-coal agenda. "The collapsing price of solar is the reason for all the new jobs. Increasing the price with tariffs looks like an insidious way to hurt the industry,” writes J. Patrick Coolican of the Minneapolis StarTribune.

"A GTM Research analysis predicts that White House tariffs on solar cell and module imports will cut U.S. solar installations by 11 percent over the next five years, compared to growth that would occur absent the penalties," Ben Geman reports for Axios. Most of the impact would be on the electric-power industry, which relies mainly on coal and natural gas.

Shortage of trucks forces shippers to delay shipments or pay more to get priority; could have rural impact

A nationwide truck shortage is forcing shippers to postpone deliveries or pay extra to get priority. Rural areas, which rely more on shipping, may thus find deliveries take longer than usual.

"Several factors have converged to overwhelm the trucking market. Freight volumes in December hit near-record levels for that time of year, on the back of a strengthening economy," Jennifer Smith reports for The Wall Street Journal. "Retailers are replenishing stocks after one of the strongest holiday sales seasons in recent years. Manufacturers are also shipping more cargo; in December, industrial production had the largest year-over-year gain since 2010, according to the Federal Reserve."

Other factors: the "bomb cyclone" earlier this month dramatically slowed down shipping, and a federal safety law passed in December, which obliged truck drivers to keep stricter tabs on their hours behind the wheel, made deliveries take longer, which increased freight fees. And diesel prices are near a three-year high, so fueling the trucks is also more expensive. "Literally every possible thing that could be going against a shipper is happening right now," Michael Redisch, a principal at Chicago-based freight broker Atomic Transport LLC, told Smith.

Trucking fleets are adding new trucks, but that can take months or years to catch up with the demand. Analysts expect trucks to become scarcer in April, when produce shipments pick up and full enforcement of the driver safety rule kicks in, Smith reports.

IRS says Earned Income Tax Credit can help rural residents

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a reminder to rural residents about the Earned Income Tax Credit as people start doing their 2017 taxes. Many in rural areas don't claim the EITC because they don't know about it, don't realize they qualify for it, or worry about the cost of paying for a tax preparation service, the IRS says. But many of them qualify for the tax break, because the average household in such areas is below the national average. Here's a short list of things to know:
  • Because it’s a refundable tax credit, those who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund.
  • An eligible taxpayer must have earned income from employment or owning a business or farm and meet basic rules.
  • To get the credit, taxpayers must file a tax return, even if they don’t owe any tax or aren’t required to file.
  • Single workers without a qualifying child who earn less than $15,010 may qualify for a smaller amount of the credit.
  • There are special rules for individuals receiving disability benefits and for members of the military.
  • The IRS recommends using the EITC Assistant on IRS.gov to determine eligibility and estimate the amount of credit.
Click here for more information on the EITC. 

Oregon voters OK health taxes to keep Medicaid expansion

In a special election Tuesday, Oregon voters approved a tax on hospitals and health-insurance plans to continue funding the state's Medicaid expansion. It's the first time a state has approved such a measure by referendum, and "the second time that the Medicaid expansion has won at the polls: Maine voters in November overwhelmingly supported bringing the Medicaid expansion to their state," Sarah Kliff reports for Vox. The tax could raise as much as $320 million over two years.

The referendum almost didn't happen, since last spring Oregon legislators considered ending Medicaid expansion to balance the state's budget. That would have made the state the first in the country to repeal an expansion. But the Democrat-controlled state legislature voted to pass a 1.5 percent tax on premiums collected by health insurers and a 0.7 percent increase on the tax rate collected from some hospitals, Elon Glucklich reports for The Register-Guard in Eugene. In response, some Republican state representatives gathered enough signatures to put the taxes up for vote through Oregon's referendum process.

About 62 percent of Oregon voters favored Measure 101, with more than 1 million votes cast; much of rural Oregon voted against it. The referendum's success "may catch the eye of other states with difficult budget situations as a way to bring in additional revenue," Kliff reports.

Apply for Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship, aimed at strengthening democracy through journalism, by Jan. 31

Wednesday, Jan. 31, is the deadline to apply for a 2018-19 fellowship with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. The Institute wants fellows with ideas for innovative projects that strengthen democracy through better journalism.

Fellowships can be residential, nonresidential, or institutional. Residential fellows spend eight months on the Mizzou campus and receive an $80,000 stipend as well as a one-time $10,000 housing or relocation allowance. Nonresidential fellows do their projects from their home or office with an occasional visit to the campus. They get a $20,000 stipend plus research and travel support. Institutional fellows stay at their jobs in a newsroom or other organization while developing an idea. Their $20,000 stipend is paid to their employer and can be used for salary relief or for another purpose to ensure the success of the fellowship project. Read more about the three kinds of fellowships here.

"Successful projects often include devising new strategies to take advantage of an opportunity or solve a problem, building new tools for news organizations, transforming an idea into a market-tested prototype or advancing a prototype so it’s ready for investment or a full product launch," RJI Associate Director Mike McKean writes. "Whatever your idea, its benefits should extend to other news organizations and the people who depend on them. To apply, please clearly describe your experience, relevant connections and expected outcomes during and immediately following your fellowship year."

RJI fellowships are open to U.S. citizens and news organizations as well as international news organizations. International journalists are welcomed if they plan to partner with U.S.-based news, technology or civil society organizations. The deadline to apply is midnight CST Jan. 31. Click here for more information and to apply.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ky. Medicaid enrollees sue against federal officials' approval of Medicaid changes and intent to do likewise in other states

Sixteen Kentucky Medicaid enrollees filed a class-action lawsuit in Washington on Wednesday, claiming that federal officials violated federal law by approving changes to Kentucky Medicaid and declaring their intent to approve similar changes in other states. Nine are seeking them.

The lawsuit alleges that work requirements in the program, to be phased in starting July 1, "sharply deviate from the congressionally established requirements of the Medicaid program and vastly exceed any lawful exercise" of the Department of Health and Human Services' authority to waive Medicaid rules for experiments that advance the goals of the program.

The suit also charges that HHS violated the law by authorizing income-based premiums to be paid by Medicaid enrollees, from $1 a month to 4 percent of their household income; locking people out of the program for failing to meet requirement, including paying premiums and making reports; by requiring cost-sharing for non-emergency use of an emergency room; and eliminating payment for non-emergency medical transportation.

In addition to the work and premium requirements, the suit also says the Kentucky plan violates federal law by eliminating of three months' retroactive coverage for disqualified enrollees who re-enroll. The suit says the plaintiffs will be unable to meet the plan's administrative requirements, and "Continuous and adequate health insurance coverage is fundamental for each plaintiff’s ability to work." It describes each plaintiff's situation in detail, taking up 30 pages of the 79-page complaint. For more from Kentucky Health News, click here.

Leaked Trump infrastructure plan includes incentives for rural transportation, broadband, utilities

A leaked draft of the Trump administration's infrastructure plan, obtained by Axios, shows plans to spur major development in rural areas. The plan has no dollar amounts, but calls for giving 25 percent of its budget to rural transportation, broadband, water and wastewater facilities, electric and other power facilities, and water resources, Jacob Pramuk reports for CNBC.

The plan says 50 percent of its budget would go for grants to encourage state, local and private investment in infrastructure. "Another 10 percent would go toward ​a “transformative projects program” to fund “exploratory and ground-breaking ideas," Mark Moore reports for the New York Post.

"The White House has previously promoted a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, Pramuk reports. "Previous reports indicate it would aim to spur $800 billion in state, local and private spending with $200 billion in federal spending."

White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters told Pramuk that the administration would not comment on the leaked document, but would present its plan in the "near future."

Community health centers are still waiting on federal funding; some say they are cutting back services

Though Congress finally funded the Children's Health Insurance Program when it passed a bill to reopen the government, another program important to rural America, community health centers, were left waiting. "Funding for the nation’s community health centers, which serve one out of every dozen Americans, also technically expired Sept. 30," Paige Cunningham reports for The Washington Post. "These centers, which provide a range of services to the low-income population, would lose $3.6 billion this year without renewal by Congress."

CHIP funding has run out before, though never as long as 114 days. Community health centers have never faced such a lack of funds. Republicans had proposed diverting Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood clinics to community health centers in health-care bills last summer.

Cunningham says it's rumored on Capitol Hill that Congress will include funding for the centers in the next spending bill it needs to pass, by Feb. 8. Meanwhile, the centers are getting nervous. Some say they have had to reduce services, including opioid treatment and prenatal care, because of the uncertainty.

"While we have supported and are very pleased that CHIP relief is included, the failure to do the same for health centers leaves them increasingly anxious that many more will face a loss of clinical health professionals, who are seeking other more stable work options, and some are facing closure of their clinic facilities because they cannot sign longer-term lease agreements," National Association of Community Health Centers Senior Vice President Dan Hawkins said. "This will only get worse if relief is not forthcoming very soon."

Research shows overdoses not disproportionately rural

Rural America has seen a sharp uptick in deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide in recent years because of declining economic conditions, and that despair is part of why rural America went strongly for Donald Trump. Or so goes the popular narrative of the past few years. Only it's not proven, Bill Bishop writes for The Daily Yonder: "Yes, there has been a startling increase in overdose deaths, but no research has ever found that declining economies were the primary cause. Nor has this increase in drug-related deaths in rural areas than urban ones," as The Rural Blog reported Jan. 8.

The idea first gained traction after Princeton University economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case published a study in 2015 about the increase in deaths among white men by overdose, alcohol and suicide. They labeled these "deaths of despair" and suggested that the increase was partially because of economic decay. The study came just in time for journalists trying to explain why rural America voted for Trump. "After all, Trump spoke often about the country’s decline and described 'carnage' in American communities. It all fit: failing economies in isolated places led to suicide, drug addiction and a Trump victory," Bishop writes.

But Deaton and Case argued in an op-ed for The Washington Post that the news media "gets the opioid crisis wrong" and that the rise in overdoses isn't disproportionately rural. Other research supports their argument; a paper by University of Virginia professor Christopher Ruhm that found that economic decline accounted for only a tenth of the increase in drug overdose deaths, at most. Ruhm also corroborated Deaton and Case's assertion that drug overdoses have increased more in urban areas than rural.

Ruhm concluded that the increase in drug overdose deaths was driven by the increasing prescription of opioids like OxyContin from 1999 to 2010; after that, illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl caused the most overdoses. "There was another change. From 1999 to 2010, overdose deaths increased rapidly for older white men while they dropped for younger white men. In 2010, those trends reversed. Overdoses increased rapidly among young men," Bishop writes. So people who were most likely to use drugs (and overdose on them) changed over time to younger urban men, which is a demographic prone to risky behavior. That means the trend wasn't driven by despair, according to Ruhm.

"With this latest paper by Ruhm and the further studies from Deaton and Case, maybe we can call an end to the stories that try to show that addiction is related to where you live or who you vote for," Bishop writes. "America has a drug problem. Everywhere." That being said, research also shows that rural areas have less access to drug treatment, which arguably worsens the impact of the problem in those areas. And Trump did better than Mitt Romney “in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates,” wrote researcher Shannon Monnat of Penn State.

Rural Montana recruits foreign workers for hard-to-fill jobs

Mary Jell Capillo is one of four Filipina nurses at NRMC.
(Missoulian photo by LeAnne Kavanagh)
It can be hard for employers to find qualified workers living nearby or who are willing to move to a rural area; in Montana, the shortage is so dire that some places, especially schools and hospitals, have begun hiring foreign workers, LeAnne Kavanagh reports for The Missoulian.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction reported 638 full-time openings in hard-to-fill areas in the 2016-17 school year. There were four openings in the Shelby district, and when Supt. Elliott Crump couldn't find any qualified applicants in the U.S., he ended up hiring four teachers from the Philippines. The new teachers have adapted well to their new home, and many are active in their church and their community.

The rural Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank has four Filipina nurses on staff, and may hire a fifth. CEO Cherie Taylor told Kavanagh that there is a nationwide shortage of registered nurses, and that U.S. nurses can't fill all the vacancies. "Thank goodness a lot of Baby Boomers are hanging on and not retiring, or we would be in a national crisis right now," Taylor said. Hiring foreign nurses is much cheaper than paying traveling RNs, she said.

According to a 2015 briefing compiled by CompeteAmerica, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there aren't enough college students getting science, technology, engineering or math degrees to meet the demand, and by this year the nation will face a shortfall of more than 223,000 advanced STEM-degree workers.

"In its 2017 study on Immigrants in Montana, the American Immigration Council reported that foreign workers are vital members of Montana’s labor force across a range of industries," Kavanagh reports. "The 11,265 immigrant workers comprised 2.2 percent of the labor force in 2015, the study said." In Montana, immigrant workers were most often employed in education, hotel and food services, mining and drilling, and health care.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Texas editor-publishers talk about dealing with disasters

Mary Henkel Judson, left, listens to Laurie Ezzell Brown
A state the size of Texas can have a wide range of disasters in a short time. That happened last year, as Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of the Gulf Coast less than six months after 32 wildfires in the Great Plains burned 1.2 million acres, many of them in the Texas Panhandle, and 15,000 cattle died. At last weekend's Texas Press Association meeting on Galveston Island, in a session called "Come Hell or High Water," editor-publishers from each locale talked about how they dealt with the disasters.

Laurie Ezzell Brown of The Canadian Record said the March 6 wildfires came three months after an ice storm "had given the area its last precious moisture" but laid waste to power lines and "beautiful old-growth cottonwoods that lined Canadian’s streets," leading to "weeks of cleanup," but "That moisture, though, seemed like such a blessing" after months of drought. Then came the grass fires, sparked partly by power lines short-circuiting in 70 mph winds.

"My cell phone was blowing up with text messages . . . while I attempted to take notes of the scanner traffic I heard," Brown recalled. " At some point, my staff took over, and I headed out with a camera, driving toward what was by then a wall of smoke and flame that spanned the western horizon, and seemed to be moving at a speed I’d never seen before. I listened to the scanner in my car, trying to figure out where the fire was. It was everywhere. I’ve never heard fear in the voice of firefighters. I heard it that day — and night."

Then, "The wind suddenly reversed course, turned on a dime, and headed for Canadian. I got close to that black wall—close enough to hear it roar, feel its heat, and take a few photos as I braced myself against the wind. I headed back to town . . . It occurred to me that we were also in danger. That our equipment, our archives, our building, were unprotected. And that my staff had families and homes they needed to take care of. Some left, came back, left again."

The town survived, bit some people did not, including "a young man who worked in Canadian [and] headed to Lipscomb to take care of his pregnant wife," Brown recalled. He went missing, and his mother called the newspaper, asking for help. "I posted her plea online, but had to tell her the road had been closed. Every firefighter available was on the fire line. Every law enforcement officer, every emergency medical worker; they were doing anything that could be done. Someone did heed her plea and volunteered to help. They found Kade Koch just a couple of miles from his home. He had been overcome by smoke, left his car, become disoriented. They found him, but could not save him."

"The fire’s destructive power was mighty," Brown said. "In the aftermath, kindness was mightier. The response from across the state and region—in donations of money and hay, fence posts, volunteer fencing crews who just showed up and asked to be put to work, even replacement bulls—were overwhelming, and proved to be a powerful silver lining to the firestorm we weathered. So when I started hearing the news of Hurricane Harvey, I knew only too well what my friends at newspapers in those communities were facing."

Mary Henkel Judson of the Port Aransas South Jetty said she, her newspaper and her town are still recovering from the hurricane, which forced them out of town for five weeks.

"Recovery takes time," she said. "You’ve probably heard people say, 'It’s a marathon, not a sprint.' They’re right. . . . With a disaster comes PTSD, a.k.a. Mush Brain. There were times when I questioned whether I should be driving. Your memory goes. You don’t sleep. You’re confused. And we had it easy compared to others. Everyone around you is in the same boat. No matter how little damage you might have suffered, it’s tough to see your town battered and on life support."

But her final point was upbeat: "This is what journalists live for – the big story. It’s a tragic disaster and an adrenaline rush at the same time. Our staff did more than just rise to the occasion. They were spread from Mission to Dallas and every place in between – but they were writing stories, selling ads, making up ads, printing labels and everything necessary to get the paper put together and distributed. In the face of their own personal losses, they stepped up and kicked butt and I am beyond proud of them and grateful for their work and dedication."

Judson spent most of her time talking about what they learned, and offering advice. The above quotes and the following points are taken from her prepared remarks.

• You have to have a plan (and based on Laurie’s experience, everyone, not just those in hurricane zones, has to have a plan no matter where you are – floods, ice storms and fires can happen anywhere -- almost). Everyone on staff has to know what that plan is.
• Take your checkbook or whatever you need to make payroll (no one missed a check during the five weeks we produced the paper off-site, or since). Make sure you have enough money in escrow at your post office to mail at least one edition of the paper.
• Make arrangements with an out-of-town post office to mail your paper if your post office is shut down (ours was).
• Make arrangements with a printer; back up your server to an external hard drive and take it with you; be prepared to pay for offsite accommodations.
• You’ll need a line of credit with your bank, whether you use it or not. The amount depends on where you are and what your payroll is.
• Take advantage of your Facebook page and Twitter accounts and let your readers and followers know that you are providing them with vital information in real time, and that you’re the go-to source for the best and most accurate information they’re going to get about their hometown. That’s something they won’t get from television news that covers the story in broad strokes. All our hurricane-related information was free access on our website.
• Make a list – literally, of everything you need to take in order to publish remotely.
• Make arrangements in advance for air transportation to take photos.
• Now that we’ve done this, we’ll have a news budget planned -- story and photo assignments made, at the start of hurricane season. There are more stories to cover than the obvious, but you really can’t know this until you experience a disaster.
• We have a new perspective on how we approach our hurricane season coverage. Now we really do know what people need to know to be prepared. It won’t be the same old dog and pony show.
• Take “before” photos of the interior and exterior of your office (and home) as well as your vehicles, if any are left behind.
• Be more flexible than you usually are. Things can change on a dime.

Two shot dead, 17 injured in shooting at rural Ky. school

A helicopter lifts off from the Marshall County High School grounds after the shooting. (Image from Reuters TV)
Marshall County (Wikipedia map)
Two people were killed and 18 at least 17 more were injured this morning in a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., a town of about 4,300, Gov. Matt Bevin said. A 15-year-old girl died at the school and a 15-year-old boy died at a hospital, he said. Some news reports said 19 were injured; Bevin said those included the two fatalities. Five are in critical condition, NPR reports. UPDATE: Sixteen of the 20 were hit by gunshots; four other people were injured in the chaos of the incident, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

"The shooting occurred in the common area of the school before classes started, said Brian Roy, the former Marshall County sheriff, who has spoken with people at the scene," the CJ reports. A sheriff's deputy arrested the shooter about nine minutes after the shooting. It happened around 8 a.m. CT just as students were headed to class, NBC reports.

The Marshall County Tribune-Courier reported on its Facebook page at 12:35 p.m. CT, "Two dead, 19 injured in school shooting; 14 injuries are gunshot-related. Five others are not gunshot-related. The shooter is a 15 year-old-male." The weapon was a handgun, State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders said at a news conference (video via Courier Journal). He said students, who recently had training in dealing with active shooters, reacted properly.

The online Marshall County Daily reports, "Two have been transported to Marshall County Hospital, at least one to Lourdes Hospital [in Paducah] and two life-flighted to Nashville hospitals with face, chest and leg injuries. . . . The name of the shooter has not been released." He will be charged with murder and attempted murder, officials said. Marshall County Attorney Jeffery Edwards said he would ask that the boy be tried as an adult.

Edwards "said it did not appear the gunman targeted specific people," the Courier Journal reports. Bevin and Sanders said they wouldn't answer questions, and the journalists didn't ask any. Sanders urged witnesses to talk to state police before talking to news media. "We don't want to do anything to hinder the prosecution," Sanders said.

The incident came a day after a 16-year-old boy shot a 15-year-old girl in a school cafeteria in Italy, Texas, a town of about 1,850. The girl was hospitalized in Dallas. A student told The Associated Press that "she'd complained about the boy at least twice to school officials, including to a vice principal," the Dallas Morning News reports. Cassie Shook, 17, "said she first went to school officials after the boy allegedly made a 'hit list' in eighth grade and her name was on it."

Children's Health Insurance Program extended for six years

After 114 days without a long-term budget, the Children's Health Insurance Program is getting funding for the next six years as a piece of the bill that reopened the government Monday night. The program, which provides health insurance for 9 million American children, has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1997, but has been increasingly employed as a political carrot by Republicans, one which the Democrats refused until today.

"Last fall, Republicans proposed a plan to extend the CHIP program for an additional five years. But that plan included a series of deeply partisan spending cuts to cover the costs of extending CHIP — such as slashing Obamacare programs and Medicare — and Democrats refused to support the bill," Sarah Kliff reports for Vox. States scrambled for emergency funding over the next few months, but Republicans left the program on the back burner in favor of priorities such as repealing and replacing Obamacare, and pushing through a bill cutting taxes.

In its December bill to keep the government open, Congress gave CHIP emergency funding for mid- to late-January, but the two parties still couldn't agree for how to pay for it in the long-term. Republicans wanted states to eventually start paying a greater share of the cost, and Democrats didn't. A Congressional Budget Office estimate ended that debate, saying the elimination of the ACA's individual mandate made it cheaper for states to have CHIP than not.

Republicans added a six-year funding extension for CHIP onto the latest bill to tempt Democrats, who were holding out for action on the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program. Democrats agreed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would schedule a vote on a DACA bill "and related issues" by Feb. 8 if the government remains open. The Democrats are hoping that, when the funding bill runs out that day, they will have more leverage on DACA without CHIP hanging over their heads, Dylan Scott reports for Vox.

Fact-checking Trump claims of 'saving' coal country

President Trump's promise to end the "war on coal" and put miners back to work was a mainstay of his campaign, and his administration has taken decisive steps to overturn Obama-era mining and energy regulations, some at the behest of coal magnate Robert Murray. Trump's assertions that the industry is now starting to make a comeback prompted The Washington Post to take a closer look at whether such claims are true, Nicole Lewis reports. The short answer is: not really. Here's a highlight reel:

On Dec. 5 Trump said “If you look at what’s happened in West Virginia and so many different places, we’re sending clean coal. We’re sending it out to different places — China. A lot of coal ordered in China right now. So a lot of things are changing, and they’re changing very rapidly.” But the Post says that in 2015 and 2016, West Virginia exported virtually no coal to China. Also, "there is no such thing as 'clean coal.' Electricity-generating plants can mitigate some of the effects of burning coal by capturing carbon dioxide and burying it, but that doesn’t make the coal itself cleaner. And more important, the bulk of the exports of coal to China involve metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, not generate electricity," Lewis reports.

Trump said at a rally in Pensacola Dec. 8 that "We’ve lifted the restrictions on American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean, beautiful coal, of which we have 1,000 years of supply." The Post counters that, though the U.S. has the second-largest recoverable coal reserves in the world, the total amount of coal is hard to measure because it's buried underground. But based on the Energy Information Administration's best estimate, the country's coal reserves will last us a little more than 250 years.

Read the entire piece for the whole list of claims and facts, but the upshot is that the president has exaggerated the facts or taken credit for things outside his control.

Ky. attorney general files suit against national drug distributor for flooding some counties with opioids

Kentucky's attorney general has filed suit against a drug wholesaler, saying the company employed unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices to flood the state with highly addictive opioid painkillers.

Democrat Andy Beshear alleges that San Francisco-based  McKesson Corp. failed to report large volumes of opioid shipments in rural eastern Kentucky to state and federal authorities. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of money and an order to keep McKesson from committing false, deceptive or unfair acts.

Floyd County, Kentucky (Wikipedia map)
"The lawsuit said that in the time at issue, McKesson, which supplies pharmacies, had just under a third of the market share. In Floyd County, that means the lawsuit attributed to McKesson about a third of the 56.3 million doses of painkillers — or more than 1,400 per person — distributed from 2010 through 2016," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The company knew, or at least should have known, that much of the hydrocodone and oxycodocone it was distributing was being sold illegally and abused, the lawsuit argued."

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article195929964.html#storylink=cpy

Suing drug manufacturers and distributors is an increasingly popular move among attorneys general, advocates, and Native American tribes. And Kentucky, which has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, has seen success with suing drugmakers for the opioid epidemic: Purdue Pharma settled a civil suit filed in Pike County by a previous attorney general for misleading doctors, patients and regulators about the addictive nature of OxyContin.

Beshear's lawsuit is similar to a suit filed last year by the U.S. Justice Department, which alleged that McKesson failed to report suspiciously large orders for opioids in Kentucky and other states, which contributed to the rise in opioid abuse. McKesson settled the federal case for $150 million. In 2008 the company agreed to pay $13.25 million for similar violations but didn't fully comply with the restrictions set into place after the settlement.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article195929964.html#storylink=cp

Monday, January 22, 2018

Keys to fighting opioids in Appalachia: quash stigma, educate public and doctors, share success stories in media

The stigma of opioid addiction in Appalachia "not only keeps some from seeking help, but follows those who did — putting them at risk for relapse," the Knoxville News Sentinel's Kristi L. Nelson reports, on a six-month study that interviewed residents and held discussions with them.

“We interviewed people who had been in recovery for 20 years, and they said they were still viewed in their community as a ‘junkie’ and an addict and can’t get a job,” said Jennifer Reynolds of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, which did the study.

Jennifer Reynolds and Kristin Mattson of Oak Ridge Associated
Universities discuss their report on communication about opioids
in Appalachia. (News Sentinel by Brianna Paciorka)
Reynolds and ORAU colleague Kristin Mattson "found grass-roots community organizations — some made up of people in recovery or families who’d lost loved ones to addiction — are having some impact on the stigma," Nelson reports, but the two said, “We still have a long way to go.”

"The researchers noted some cultural attitudes that contribute to the problem," Nelson reports. "They include an expectation of privacy that keeps neighbors or friends from intervening; a willingness to 'share' pills with someone else experiencing pain; a lack of other opportunities, especially for younger people; and a normalization of dealing with pain by taking pills obtained from a doctor. . . . Some people, they found, don’t realize prevention efforts are aimed at them." One said, “I’m not taking opioids, I’m taking hydrocodone.” That's an opioid. “So they dismissed the message,” Mattson said.

Physicians and rural isolation are part of the problem. "Every focus group had members who said physicians provided them or family members, including children, larger-than-necessary quantities of opioids; a few said they’d gotten 'pushback' from doctors when refusing pills, even when patients told doctors they were in recovery for opioid addiction," Nelson writes. Few, if any, pain-control alternatives are available in small rural communities, such as physical therapy, massage or acupuncture.

The residents said physicians need more training on how to inform patients about opioid use and abuse, and communities need more places to dispose of drugs, as well as better education about drugs, how to properly use opioids and what to ask doctors. Some also called for "random drug testing of youth — to link them with services, not punish them; better access to treatment, including medication-assisted therapies such as suboxone and methadone; peer support for those hospitalized after an overdose or jailed after a drug crime; and more nonjudgmental messages framing addiction as a long-term health problem rather than a moral failing."

The discussion groups also "suggested sharing detailed stories that could make a difference: how it feels to have your child removed because of your drug use; why your mother might be relieved you’re in jail because she knows — at least that day — you aren’t dead; how a legally obtained prescription from a doctor can lead to addiction; and how people do find a way back."

Reynolds, who is ORAU's section manager for health communication, recommends that the news media report more success stories so readers who use opioids don't feel discouraged. At least one recovering addict in Appalachia is being very proactive in taking his story to the public through local newspapers. Phillip Lee of Albany, Ky., writes a column for the Clinton County News and other area newspapers, free of charge.

Reynolds and Mattson's report, "Communicating About Opioids in Appalachia," was produced with two other federal agencies, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is based on interviews with 25 people in 12 of the 13 ARC states and a dozen focus groups in the Central Appalachian towns of London, Ky.; Kingston, Tenn.; Oneida, Tenn.; and Princeton, W. Va.

Senate Republicans blame expansion of Medicaid for increased opioid deaths, but research debunks claim

"Republicans in the U.S. Senate are trying out an interesting scapegoating tactic when it comes to the escalation of the nation’s opioid crisis. They are pointing the finger of blame at Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care coverage to millions of low-income Americans," Quinn Libson reports for Route Fifty.

The root of their argument: The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare has increased patients' access to prescription medications, including opioids; some of those patients abuse their prescription opioids and some sell them on the black market. So says a report released Jan. 17 by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a hearing that day with the goal of revealing the "unintended consequences" of Medicaid. In July 2017, Johnson wrote a letter making the same claim to the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general, saying: "Because opioids are so available and inexpensive through Medicaid, it appears that the program has created a perverse incentive for people to use opioids, sell them for large profits, and stay hooked."

But the facts don't bear out that argument, Quinn reports. Andrew Goodman-Bacon, an assistant professor of economics at Vanderbilt University, and Emma Sandoe, a health-policy Ph.D. student at Harvard University, analyzed Johnson's claim. According to their findings, published in Health Affairs, the claim is not credible for three main reasons: "First, trends in opioid deaths nationally and by Medicaid expansion status predate the ACA. Second, counties with the largest coverage gains actually experienced smaller increases in drug-related mortality than counties with smaller coverage gains. Third, the fact that Medicaid recipients fill more opioid prescriptions than non-recipients largely reflects greater levels of disability and chronic illness in the populations that Medicaid serves. While we do not reject the possibility that public policy has played a role in our current prescription abuse crisis, on balance we find little evidence to support the idea that Medicaid caused or worsened the epidemic."

Cheap corn bad for Iowa farmers, good for hog producers

Iowa Soybean Association photo
Higher pork export profits combined with low-cost feed have prompted a boom in swine barn
construction in Iowa, where a third of U.S. hogs are raised. Permits for hoghouses in the state are at a five-year high, according to data from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Hog feed is attractively priced because U.S. corn prices are around $3.50 a bushel, almost $1 less than three years ago. Meanwhile, rising incomes in China, India and other nations have increased global demand for pork. U.S. hog farmers have been quick to respond, increasing the U.S. hog herd to an all-time high of 73.2 million head as of Dec. 1, 2017, up 3- to 4 percent in one year.

"DNR’s 2017 statistics showed that approvals for construction of new hog barns capable of holding more than 1,250 head, and expansions of existing ones totaled 451, up nearly 12 percent from 2016," Theopolis Waters reports for Reuters. "The U.S. hog herd reached an all-time high 73.2 million head as of December 1, 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

New meat packing plants are keeping pace with the increased hog population. "Industry slaughter capacity in 2017 grew 8 percent vs. 2016 after new or revamped facilities came online in Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa, said John Nalivka, president of Oregon-based Sterling Marketing," Waters reports. "He expects capacity to rise another 6 percent in 2018 when another Iowa plant comes online."

Telemedicine shortens ER waits in rural hospitals

Emergency patients in rural hospitals that use telemedicine have shorter wait times than in those that don't have such technology, according to a study from the University of Iowa. Patients wait an average of six minutes less to see a live clinician; if the first clinical assessment is done via telemedicine, 42 percent of the patients in the study saw wait times nearly 15 minutes shorter. And patients who needed to be sent to other hospitals were able to get transferred more quickly because they were assessed more quickly and by more qualified specialists via telemedicine at the first hospital, John Commins reports for HealthLeadersMedia.

The study's lead author, Nicholas Mohr, an emergency physician and associate professor at the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, said the minutes saved could be the difference between life and death for a rural patient with a serious health problem: "Especially in remote hospitals, that 15 minutes saved could change outcomes for patients with particular conditions that we would expect would be most sensitive to that, such as severe trauma, stroke, myocardial infarction." Mohr is also a researcher with the university's Rural Telehealth Research Center.

The study showed that telemedicine is a valuable tool for the small number of cases that rural hospitals can't effectively assess and treat on their own. "The consultation rate was about 3.5 percent, meaning that if 30 people walked into a rural emergency department, 29 were going to be treated without ever consulting the TM provider," Mohr told Commins. "But, that 30th person is the one that the local clinician pushes the button and asks for help."

The study looked at data from 2,857 emergency department cases in 14 hospitals in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota that use telemedicine services from Avera eCARE Services, an emergency department telemedicine provider based in Sioux Falls, S.D. The telemedicine cases were matched with non-telemedicine control cases.

Telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular with rural hospitals, Mohr notes, as broadband access to rural areas improves. In North Dakota, 80 percent of critical access hospitals use telemedicine. "Mohr says that telemedicine is not the silver bullet that will remove obstacles to healthcare access in rural America, but he sees it as part of the solution," Commins reports.

Tennessee newspapers observing Public Notice Week

The Tennessee Press Association has declared this to be Public Notice Week, designed to remind citizens of the value of public notices -- legally required advertising, usually by local governments. "Legal ads" have become a larger share of newspaper budgets due to declines in circulation and advertising. Meanwhile, local officials across the country continue to ask state legislators to reduce or eliminate laws requiring legals to be published as paid public notice in newspapers. For state data, via an interactive map from the Public Notice Resource Center, click here.

Register for free First Amendment webinar

The National Press Foundation is taking us back to the basics about our First Amendment with a free one-hour webinar at noon EST, Jan. 31. 

First Amendment 101 will cover "everything you need to know about the origins and evolution of the First Amendment, from James Madison’s role to court rulings that shaped its meaning to its critical significance to journalism today."

The featured speakers will be Stephen Wermiel, a professor at the American University Washington College of Law, and Lata Nott, the executive director of the Newseum Institute's First Amendment Center

Advanced registration is required; click here to do so.