Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interactive map shows more details of crude-oil train routes

Although the oil and gas boom in North Dakota has provided local economies with jobs and assisted the U.S. in becoming a net energy exporter for first time in generations, transporting Bakken Shale crude oil to the few refineries that can process it is putting towns and cities nationwide in danger, Isaiah Thompson writes for ProPublica.

Much of North Dakota's oil is transported by rail instead of through pipelines, which are safer. "Using rail networks has saved the oil and gas industry the time and capital it takes to build new pipelines, but the trade-off is greater risk: Researchers estimate that trains are three and a half times a likely as pipelines to suffer safety lapses," Thompson writes.

Since massive movement of crude by rail began in 2012, eight major oil-train accidents have occurred in North America. The worst killed 47 people and burned down a quarter of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. In most cases, residents didn't know the trains moving through their towns carried dangerous cargo. Local officials, environmental groups and concerned citizens wanted to know where the trains were going and how the towns could be prepared if an accident happened.

Though the U.S. Deptartment of Transportation has ordered railroads to provide route information, they tried to keep the information private because of security concerns. The available disclosures often lack important details, "consisting of little more than a list of counties through which crude oil is passing, without further specifics," Thompson reports. "A ProPublica analysis of data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration adds new details by plotting out where trains carrying crude have experienced safety incidents, most of them minor. . . . We've used the data to create an interactive map showing where safety incidents on trains were reported, where each train began its journey and where it was ultimately headed." To see the interactive map, click here; here's a screenshot:
Lines: BNSF(orange), UP(blue), CSX(yellow), NFS (red), other(green), multiple(purple)

NYT's miscues on Thanksgiving food don't obscure the value of family recipes and sharing them

Last week The New York Times published Thanksgiving recipes from all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, after soliciting them from readers. (It later published a sizable correction.)

Some submissions were criticized by those who felt they did not properly represent their state's culinary characteristics. "The largest offense seemed to come from Minnesotans, who were given a mixture of grapes and sour cream for their holiday dish, a recipe attributed to an anonymous 'Minnesota-born heiress,'" Smith writes. Linda Holmes of NPR accused the NYT of "fly-over elitism."

Lora Smith of Kentucky sent in a family recipe for dressing, which was chosen for publication. "I wasn't the only one surprised, as some readers in Kentucky sounded off about it failing to represent a state rich with culinary diversity," Smith writes for the Daily Yonder.

The recipe doesn't speak for all Kentucky citizens, and no recipe could do that, Smith writes. Her family has been making it for four recorded generations, and the recipe is attributed to her great-grandmother. The Times adapted the recipe for national audiences by recommending the patties be cooked "in oiled muffin tins for consistency of shape instead of hand patting them," Smith writes.

Pieces of the Kentucky recipe are "tied to a larger experience," Smith writes. "There's certain ingredients and aspects of the recipe that open the door to stories about other shared rural experiences: hunting traditions within families, foraging practices and the use of the once abundant American chestnut tree in our region before blight erased it from our landscape."

Trendy chef Sean Brock, who grew up in Virginia near the Kentucky border and emphasizes local food at his Husk restaurants in Charleston, S.C., and Nashville, wrote recently on the Huffington Post that diners "are realizing that the food of their grandmothers is the most important food they will ever eat. I think people are really starting to experience this new sense of pride in regions, hometowns and families." (Read more)

Rural fire departments continue to struggle to find enough firefighters

Rural fire departments have had difficulty finding rookie firefighters for the last few years, with the number of volunteers dropping 12 percent from 2005 to 2010. The latest report of the problem comes from Flathead County in northwest Montana. "We've got fewer volunteers, and yet the number of calls we get a year have nearly doubled," Somers/Lakeside Fire Chief Dave Hayes told Justin Franz of the Flathead Beacon. "When you show up to a major fire with only five or six people, it's tough to do our job safely."

Because of the economic downturn, many people have to work a second job and don't have time to volunteer at the fire department anymore. However, the number of emergency calls is increasing. In past years, Somers/Lakeside received 80 to 150 calls in a year, but this year they received more than 260 calls.

James Browser, the Marion Volunteer Fire Department chief and training coordinator for Flathead County Emergency Services, said all the volunteer departments in the Flathead Valley are struggling to find and keep firefighters. One reason: Training is becoming more involved than past years, as a result of more household items being made with plastics and chemicals, which make firefighting more complicated, Franz writes. Sometimes fire departments call for help from other communities, which can be effective, but can risk leaving those communities without necessary resources.

Browser said volunteering at a local fire department is not only a good way to assist the community but also a good steppingstone to becoming a career first-responder. Smith Valley Fire Chief D.C. Haas tries to attract new recruits that way. "For the younger individuals who are looking to make firefighting a career, volunteering at a local fire department can be a great way to get some experience under your belt before that first big interview," he told the Beacon. (Read more)

Telemedicine may be better for rural veterans with PTSD than visiting a VA clinic

Military veterans are disproportionately rural, with less ready access to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, but telemedicine could help rural veterans with PTSD, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. More than 500,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, and 66 percent of the veterans covered by the Veterans Health Administration live "closer to a VHA community-based outpatient clinic than they are to a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center," iHealthBeat reports.

The researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed journal "that it is not 'typically feasible' for outpatient clinics to hire on-site psychologists of psychiatrists who have expertise in PTSD," iHeathBeat reports.

In the study, the researchers randomly assigned 265 veterans exhibiting severe PTSD symptoms—most of whom resided in rural areas—to get either telehealth or standard care from outpatient clinics. Those with telehealth had access to "nurses who carried out care management via telephone; pharmacists available via telephone, who reviewed veterans' medication histories; psychologists, who delivered cognitive processing therapy via video chat; and psychiatrists who supervised the offsite care team and conducted interactive consultations via video chat."

The researchers measured the severity of participants' PTSD prior to and following the intervention. They also measured severity of depression and quality of life related to health. The researchers found that of those who received the PTSD telehealth intervention, 54.9 percent received cognitive processing therapy, and 27.1 percent attended at least eight cognitive processing therapy sessions. Among those who received standard care, only 12.1 percent received cognitive processing therapy, and 5.3 percent attended eight or more sessions. Also, those who received telehealth "experienced a greater decrease in severity of their PTSD symptoms and depression, compared with veterans who received standard care," iHealthBeat reports.

Although the researchers wrote that more research is necessary to further the widespread adoption of telehealth services for PTSD treatment, the study "introduced a promising model for managing PTSD in a treatment-resistant population." (Read more)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Restaurant chains, grocery delis, movie theaters are given a year to post calorie counts on menus

McDonald's already posts calorie content
In an effort to combat the country's obesity epidemic, which is worse in rural areas, the Food and Drug Administration issued final regulations Tuesday that will require chains with 20 or more restaurants, movie theaters and pizza parlors to post calorie counts on menus.

"The rules will have broad implications for public health," Sabrina Tavernise and Stephanie Strom report for The New York Times. "As much as a third of the calories that Americans consume come from outside the home, and many health experts believe that increasingly large portion sizes and unhealthy ingredients have been significant contributors to obesity in the United States."

“This is one of the most important public health nutrition policies ever to be passed nationally,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the authors. “Right now, you are totally guessing at what you are getting. This rule will change that.”

The numbers "could be a pretty big wake-up call," writes Jason Millman of The Washington Post. "The FDA rules are more comprehensive than expected, given the strong industry pushback since the menu labeling provision was included in the 2010 health-care law." The FDA proposed a rule in 2011, but heavy lobbying has delayed its finalization.

"Do people eat healthier when they can see calorie counts?" Milliman asks. "The evidence so far seems mixed. The impact seems to be greater when the calorie count is much higher than what consumers expect. What does seem clear from past studies is that people really are terrible judges of how many calories they consume when they dine out [and] are especially bad judges of the calorie content of the least healthy foods commonly found of restaurant menus."

The rules also cover food in vending machines, amusement parks, alcohol if it is on the menu or a menu board, and some prepared foods in supermarkets. Chain restaurants are defined as food establishments with 20 or more outlets.

The policy will take effect a year from now, "and seems likely to face legal and political challenges from some parts of the food industry, including grocery and convenience stores that sell prepared foods for takeout," the Times reports.

The National Grocers Association told the paper, “Grocery stores are not chain restaurants, which is why Congress did not initially include them in the law. We are disappointed that the FDA's final rules will capture grocery stores, and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members.”

Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the authors that the FDA interpreted the law too broadly. “If Congress wanted to cover any establishment that sells prepared foods, they would have said that,” he said. “No reasonable person is about to confuse a grocery store, convenience store or movie theater with a restaurant.” But retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who helped create the labeling requirement, said the rule “closely mirrors congressional intent.”

The FDA offered some concessions to grocers, convenience stores, pizza chains and vending-machine owners. For example, pizzerias can define their serving sizes and list calories by the slice, and vending machine owners have been given an extra year to comply.

Judge rejects Ky. settlement with coal firm that polluted and cheated, blisters state for weakness

Ever since Congress enacted environmental laws and allowed states to enforce them, there have been problems with spotty or weak regulation of industries with strong political influence in state governments. The latest chapter of that story is being written by a judge in Frankfort, Ky., who once ran the state's environmental agency.

Shepherd (Courier-Journal photo)
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd said in a ruling Monday that the state Energy and Environment Cabinet is so understaffed that it can't enforce the Clean Water Act, ignored evidence of environmental harm by one of the state's largest strip-mining firms, and proposed a settlement that would effectively reward the company for cheating on its water-pollution reports.

"When one company so systematically subverts the requirements of the law, it not only jeopardizes environmental protection on the affected permits, it creates a regulatory climate in which the Cabinet sends the message that cheating pays," Shepherd wrote. He rejected a proposed consent decree between the state and Frasure Creek Mining Co., a subsidiary of International Coal Group, saying its $310,000 civil penalty would be too weak to deter the firm from further violations. The penalties could have been as much as $38 million.

"The effectiveness and integrity of the . . . program depends on the trustworthiness of the regulated entities and vigorous agency oversight and enforcement," Shepherd wrote. But not only did the company falsify its reports, the state doesn't even know how many "outfalls," or sources of discharged water, there are at the 2,200 permitted coal-mine sites in Kentucky, Shepherd wrote. He also cited testimony by the state's environmental protection commissioner that Kentucky ranks 49th in federal funding per permit, and state budget cuts have made it impossible for the agency to effectively regulate systematic violators. "The cabinet has fewer staff today than it did in 1990, and far more responsibilities than it did in 1990," wrote Shepherd, who was the cabinet secretary in 1991-95. He cited one of his own findings as secretary, and a recent federal appeals court decision, to evaluate the proposed consent decree.

In his conclusion, Shepherd said the cabinet's lack of public notice for its proposal showed that its "primary concern" the impact on the impact on the coal company, "and not on the public or the environment." He noted that the violations were discovered by citizens' groups: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Appalachian Voices. Here is more background and reaction as reported by Jim Bruggers of The Courier-Journal and Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville, who adds a downloadable copy of the ruling.

Turkeys' story is America's story, from conservation to suburbanization; don't mess with wild ones

Photo from National Wild Turkey Federation
As you enjoy turkey this week, remember the wild version of the bird, whose history traces that of America and its conservation and environmental movements, and which is getting more familiar.

"It’s almost miraculous that the wild turkey didn’t join the unfortunate ranks of such extinct birds as the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet," writes Bryan Stevens in his "For the Birds" column in the Bristol Herald Courier. "Habitat destruction and a merciless commercial slaughter almost claimed the wild turkey, another uniquely American bird. Ironically, the wild turkey’s valued status as a game bird helped persuade many Americans to fight for its conservation. It’s an effort that succeeded admirably. Today, there are about seven million wild turkeys roaming North America."

Stevens adds, "Interest in the wild turkey as a game bird even inspired the establishment of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which is a national nonprofit organization that serves as a leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America." Stevens also offers many biological details about the turkey, and the old story about Benjamin Franklin saying it should have been made the national symbol, adding that George Washington agreed with Franklin.

The turkey's comeback is ruffling feathers in some suburbs, Michael Rosemwald writes for The Washington Post. "The soaring population has been a godsend for hunters, who are killing record numbers of wild turkeys, even in mostly suburban counties like Montgomery," in Maryland. "But their resurgence is not without drama. Sometimes small delegations of wild turkeys wander into residential neighborhoods on failed exploratory missions for good grub or companionship. For people unaccustomed to seeing turkeys, their appearances are entertaining and occasionally unnerving."

Rosenwald's story begins with an account of a turkey attack on members of a church in Frederick, Md., which led to production of a Destination America show, "When Turkeys Attack," scheduled to premiere at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday. Meanwhile, here's a Post video of wild turkeys in action:

Monday, November 24, 2014

EPA's repeated delay on Renewable Fuels Standard means action in the courts and in Congress

"The Obama administration’s decision to put off issuing quotas for the use of renewable fuels this year sets up fights in Congress and the courts over a program that’s been bitterly contested for nearly a decade," Mark Drajam and Mario Parker report for Bloomberg News. "With the EPA nearly a year late in setting the mandates for 2014 under a Bush-era law, fuel blenders were left scratching their heads all year over how much of the additive they were supposed to be using."

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which includes major oil refiners that want the RFS to be abolished, said today it will sue EPA "for failing to issue the targets by last November, as the law requires," the story says. "Lawmakers have worked to revise the mandates, although no compromise measure has advanced to a vote. . . . Not everyone is threatening to run to Congress or the courts. Biofuel producers praised the EPA’s delay, because they said the agency acknowledged their argument that a proposal to cut quotas would snuff out future investment in their fuels. They say EPA can use its authority to put the program on sound footing."

North Dakota goes easy on oil-patch violations

"A small state that believes in small government, North Dakota took on the oversight of a multibillion-dollar oil industry with a regulatory system built on trust, warnings and second chances," Deborah Sontag and Robert Gebeloff report for The New York Times. Some tidbits:

The state didn't fine "Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch," for its first 10 oil-well blowouts. Then it reduced the $75,000 fine to $7,500. "Forgiveness remains embedded" in the Industrial Commission, which levies fines.

"State leaders rarely mention the underside of the boom and do not release even summary statistics about environmental incidents and enforcement measures." The reporters "found that the Industrial Commission wields its power to penalize the industry only as a last resort."

"North Dakota’s oil and gas regulatory setup is highly unusual in that it puts three top elected officials directly in charge of an industry that, through its executives and political action committees, can and does contribute to the officials’ campaigns."

The Times has an interactive map of oil spills in the state. Here's a screenshot (click on image for larger version):

Hedge funds target distressed coal companies

"Hedge funds are betting that some of the largest U.S. coal companies are heading for the financial slag heap," report Timothy Puko, Matt Wirz and Matt Jarzemsky of The Wall Street Journal. (WSJ illustration)

"The coal industry is in a prolonged slump with a long list of causes topped by sluggish demand and competition from cheap natural gas, which have pushed prices to historic lows," the reporters write. "Many investors have abandoned the sector. Eight coal-mining companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange are down an average of 29 percent in the last year. The conditions are ripe for hedge funds that target distressed investments. They are first betting against the stock and debt of mining firms such as Walter Energy Inc., then snapping up the bonds when their prices fall as low as 40 cents on the dollar."

Once the hedge funds become the companies' bankers, they can exchange that debt "for controlling shares of the companies if they go bankrupt," the writers explain. "Once coal prices rebound, mines and other assets can be sold at a profit. . . Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Arch Coal Inc. have also seen heavy interest from distressed-debt buyers, people with knowledge of the matter said. Along with Walter Energy, the companies have a combined debt of $12.2 billion, according to Morningstar."

Overuse of herbicides erodes their effectiveness; companies seek to add new patents to old formulas

Farmers use chemical weed killers to save time and labor. They must keep using more when a chemical begins to lose its effectiveness. "Now there's a move afoot to add new patents to some of the old chemicals," Richard Oswald writes for the Daily Yonder.

Oswald writes that his father used the herbicide Roundup, Monsanto's brand name for glyphosate, to kill weeds and grasses and learned to be careful not to spray it too close to the crops. His father died just before Roundup Ready soybeans—genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup—were released in 1994. He ran a farm-supply business and sold feed, fertilizer and farm chemicals. "It wasn't unusual for me to have a stiff neck by the end of the day, something Dad said was the result of being so close to so many pesticides," or herbicides, Oswald writes. His father wasn't concerned about it.
Roundup Ready wheat is not yet available, but farmers are still using the herbicide on it. "With few reservations, glyphosate can be applied to wheat and small grains as a desiccant, which removes moisture by causing the plant to die," Oswald reports. In the '60s and '70s, farmers used atrazine, but over time it became completely ineffective for weed control.

Dow Chemical Co. plans to patent a gene that makes crops resistant to 2,4-D, a herbicide linked to health effects many Vietnam veterans experienced. "But scientists say it wasn't 2,4-D in the mix that sickened people, but the dioxin that was part of the mixture," Oswald writes. The herbicide is still effective on most broadleaf weeds. Some are concerned about planting 2,4-D-resistant crops because "the chemical might be applied throughout the growing season with many adverse effects on less tolerant crops and ornamental vegetation when vapors or spray drifts well beyond the edges of treated fields," Oswald writes. Planting crops genetically resistant to 2,4-D could lead to the the herbicide's loss of effectiveness.

"Development of crops that resist 2,4-D is kind of a freebie for seed and chemical companies," Oswald writes. "They could develop a profitable, new patented gene based on an old chemical, in lieu of doing expensive research on new, better, safer herbicides." (Read more)

Neb. poll shows older, younger residents define quality of life in rural community differently

According to a recent study by the University of Nebraska and its Rural Futures Institute, quality of life isn't always related to town population. "The 19th annual Nebraska Rural Poll was sent to 6,813 households in 85 counties and had a response rate of 1,943," Rita Brhel writes for the Press & Dakotan of Yankton, S.D.

At first impression, the poll's results may not seem to compliment rural communities, but it's worth a second look. More than half the participants said "that for any community to have a high quality of life, it must possess: a sense of personal safety, a school system, job opportunities, medical services, affordable housing, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership and churches," Brhel reports. However, fewer of the participants said their community possesses these things, particularly in the area of jobs, affordable housing, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership, medical services, a sense of personal safety and the presence of a school.

"It's problematic," said Cheryl Burkhart-Kreisel, community vitality specialist for the university's Cooperative Extension Service in Lincoln. "If you think these things are essential and they're not there, it could be frustrating. Obviously other characteristics are also very important to them."

Older people are more likely to report their communities as having a high quality of life, and younger people were less likely to do so. According to population records, people ages 30 to 49—people who typically have school-aged children—are moving in to rural towns, "after years of struggling against an exodus of young people," Brhel reports. The disparity in perspectives about what adds to the quality of life in a town seems to be related to the participants' ages.

Communities can strive to improve quality of life for both older and younger residents. The study shows that younger and older residents look for different things in their communities. Younger residents seem to be looking for jobs, personal safety, schools, affordable housing, childcare services, lack of traffic congestion, colleges and recreational opportunities, while older residents want "medical services, churches, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership, cleanliness, friendly people, a sense of community among residents, a local newspaper, acceptance to newcomers, a senior citizen program, leadership opportunities, public transportation and close proximity to relatives," Brhel reports.

Old 36-mile rail line becoming trail in Eastern Ky.

Officials in three economically distressed Eastern Kentucky counties want to transform a defunct rail line into a 36-mile biking, hiking and horseback-riding trail to attract adventure tourists and help the economy, Jim Warren writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"We think it could be an essential piece in the overall economic development puzzle," said Magoffin County's David May, vice president of the Friends of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, a citizens' group advocating the project. "Younger people gravitate to adventure tourism today, so we think the trail will bring in people. Hopefully, corporate heads would look at that and maybe locate companies here."

The first section of the trail, 18 miles from Hager Hill in Johnson County southwest to Royalton in Magoffin County, opened in June 2013. The next section will "take the trail nine miles closer to the Tiptop railroad tunnel on the Magoffin-Breathitt county line," Warren reports. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is providing most of the funding.

Officials hope to continue the trail through the tunnel and end it at Evanston, a former coal camp in Breathitt County. "It would form Kentucky's longest rail-to-trail project, offering a continuous 36-mile stretch free of vehicular traffic, taking visitors past rural homes and remote areas with beautiful scenery, running through old railroad tunnels and over numerous trestles," Warren writes.

"This fits into the administration's desire to promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging Kentuckians to be more physically active," Matt Sawyers, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, told Abby Laub, who wrote about it for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. "And these ventures have proven to spur economic development and build stronger communities.

Prestonburg attorney Jo Ann Harvey said she believes the trail is a smart idea. "I think it's a terrific asset for the area," she said. "It's beautiful, and you don't have cars to contend with. You can do a long, hard bike ride or an easy ride; get out on your horse; or just walk for exercise. It's great for kids and families. I can't wait for the whole thing to be completed." (Read more)

Apply for Science Immersion Workshop by Feb. 6

The Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting invites journalists to apply by Feb. 6 for fellowships to attend its 17th annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists, to be held June 7-12 at the Rhode Island University School of Oceanography.

The 10 fellowships includes travel support, room and board, and "career-changing professional training," Metcalf says. "Using Narragansett Bay – the world’s most-studied estuary – as a model ecosystem, Fellows learn how to interpret scientific data and sharpen their investigative reporting skills." The training aims to help fellows gain a greater familiarity with research methods and basic statistics, measure potentially harmful chemicals that are not currently monitored or regulated; attend lectures featuring top national researchers, policy makers and science communicators; and develop story ideas and expert sources. To apply, click here.

Caution: Thanksgiving is top day for cooking fires

Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day for cooking fires, and cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which offers these tips for a safe holiday in the kitchen:
• If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove or stovetop.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while such food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
If you have a cooking fire:
• Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• When using an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
If a fire breaks ot:
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
• When in doubt, just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.

Tiny paper shines big light on local homelessness

Click on image for larger version
Homelessness may be seen as an urban problem, but rural America has lots of homeless people, too, and they often have a tougher time of it than their city counterparts, due to lack of services and facilities. But they also have a lower profile than in urban areas because many live "out of sight, living "in the woods, campgrounds, barns, vehicles or abandoned or substandard housing not truly meant for habitation," Sid Salter wrote last year for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.

Another reason rural homeless may not be apparent is that rural news media don't pay attention when they should. That's not the case in Lee County, Kentucky, where The Beattyville Enterprise did a front-page package about the lack of a community shelter, the apparent result of governmental bungling, and the life of a homeless man in the county of fewer than 8,000 people.

The weekly paper, which has a competitor and a circulation of fewer than 1,000, noted that "the rate of child homelessness in Kentucky is the worst in the country," and quoted the city Housing Director Wilma Kelley as saying she "has helped approximately 150 people with a homeless issue" in Lee County or adjoining, even smaller Owsley County in the last two years: "Not all of them are homeless, she says. Some are almost there. They need help with rent or utilities. That is homeless prevention, Kelley says." (Read more)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

GateHouse Media, back in the black, buying most of Halifax, which bought NYT regional papers

New Media Investment Group, parent firm of GateHouse Media, is buying most of the assets of Halifax Media Group, which has grown to 24 daily newspapers and 12 weeklies since buying the 16 papers in the New York Times Regional Media Group less than three years ago.

Halifax is based in Daytona Beach and most of its papers are in the Southeast, but the chain also includes the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in Massachusetts, which it bought in May from Boston billionaire John Henry, who had bought it and The Boston Globe from the Times. GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis owns Worcester Magazine.

New Media already has a strong presence in New England. It recently bought The Providence Journal, its largest paper, and Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover, N.H., and owns such papers as The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., and the Cape Cod Times. Soon after buying the New York Times papers, it bought 19 Freedom Communications papers in North Carolina and northwest Florida.

New Media has been publicly traded since February. In September, it announced plans to offer 6.5 million shares of new stock, on top of the 30 million outstanding, the Boston Business Journal reported. "Primary backer Fortress Investment Group took GateHouse in and out of bankruptcy while acquiring a number of other daily and weekly papers and holding them all under the New Media umbrella," Managing Editor Jon Chesto wrote in September, speculating that the company's next target would be Digital First Media, which was formed as a new parent for MediaNews Group.