Friday, December 31, 2010

Drug smugglers misuse horses, worsening crisis

Drug smuggling from Mexico is exacerbating the problem of abandoned horses, Marc Lacey reports for The New York Times from Arizona: "Mexican traffickers strap heavy bales of marijuana or other illegal drugs to the horses’ backs and march them north through mountain passes and across rough desert terrain. With little food and water, some collapse under their heavy loads. Others are turned loose when the contraband gets far enough into Arizona to be loaded into vehicles." Mistreatment is common; some rescued horses have to wear hoof cushions (Times photo by Joshua Lott).

Some of the horses are sold and end up in Mexican slaughterhouses, but others "find their way to equine rescue operations, which help place them with homes," Lacey writes. Others are used by police agencies to chase smugglers. "State officials say the economic crisis has led to many more animals being let loose by owners no longer able to care for them. But the horses that are found with Mexican brands are presumed to be smuggling horses." (Read more)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rural mom says 'The Dr. Phil Show' tricked, ambushed, manipulated and misrepresented her

A rural Kentucky family that was featured on "The Dr. Phil Show" told their local newspaper that they felt tricked, ambushed, manipulated and misrepresented by the producers. After the show appeared Dec. 2, Willie and Laura Essex (in photo with host Phil McGraw) told their experience to The Lebanon Enterprise, which published a story about it this week.

Laura Essex said the episode, titled "Brat-proof your child," made it appear that she often yells at her triplets when she does not. She said the producers made the yelling appear worse by increasing the audio volume on home video she made for the show; told her husband to sit in the audience after telling them that they would be on the set together; and told them to say that they asked to be on the show, though they were recruited online by a show staff member. She had other complaints, including that McGraw revised some of his comments after the Aug. 23 taping and made it appear that they were made during the taping. "I think that was unfair," Essex told the Enterprise. "We couldn't change what we said."

The story has no comment from the show's producers, or any mention of an attempt to contact them. Writer Jeff Moreland, editor of The Springfield Sun, another Landmark Community Newspapers weekly, told us in an e-mail that he "tried but got no response." The story ends with this quote from Essex: "I have nothing to hide, but I think they really made me out to be a monstrous mom. My kids are well taken care of and loved, and I don't think they portrayed any of that on the show." (Read more)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Census data forecast less rural representation, but Farm Bill is due for renewal first

"The latest census numbers indicate that, while urban areas continue to grow nationwide and will add new Congressional seats, rural areas will have less representation in Congress," Ken Anderson reports for Brownfield Network. "That scenario could make it even tougher to build support for federal farm programs." (Read more) Yes, but the current cast of characters gets one more big chance; the story fails to note that reapportionment and redistricting won't take effect until the elections in 2012, the year the Farm Bill is up for its regular five-year renewal.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Poverty still high, getting higher in rural counties

"Poverty rates in rural America are higher than in urban or exurban counties, and these rates have gone up in the recession," the Daily Yonder reports after analyzing the latest census data. "But there are large regional differences between rural regions."

Bill Bishop writes, "Nearly one in six people living in rural America fell below the poverty line in 2009. . . . The poverty rate in rural America was 17.26 percent, according to the Yonder’s analysis of Census Bureau data. The rate in exurban counties was 13.3 per cent; and in urban counties, the rate was 13.9 percent. The national poverty rate in 2009 was 14.4 percent." (Read more; Yonder map)