Friday, February 17, 2017

Farmers shun local stores to buy chemicals online; tool allows them to compare prices and save big

FBN tool shows what others
are paying for the same products
A growing number of farmers are shopping online to save money, Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge report for The Wall Street Journal. Last year Farmers Business Network Inc., a San Francisco-area startup backed by Google Ventures, "launched a service allowing farmers to monitor what their peers nationwide pay for hundreds of chemicals."

"Farmers use the data to negotiate for lower prices from local retailers or buy products directly from FBN," reports the Journal. "Online sellers, including some wholesale distributors and national farm retailers, often offer generic versions of popular pesticides that are cheaper than the branded counterparts frequently sold by co-ops. FBN says it also can offer products at a discount because it lacks expenses associated with brick-and-mortar facilities and is able to get better deals from manufacturers because of its national scale."

For instance, Illinois farmer Brandon Sinclair said last year he paid $26,000 online for herbicides for his corn and soybeans fields, "roughly half what he says he used to pay at his local co-operative," reports the Journal. The savings added up big, allowing Sinclair to afford "to spring for a helicopter to wrangle his herd of cattle. Now he is urging his neighbors to shop online, too."

Farmers who like online shopping say one problem is that "local prices for crop supplies can vary widely across the country," reports the Journal. Farm retailers, who say the season and the availability of supplies can fuel discrepancies in prices of chemicals, "argue that online portals can’t replace the relationships local co-ops foster with their customers and the logistics of shipping large volumes of hazardous chemicals can be a hurdle for upstarts." Others say they are considering turning to offering online sales "as a way to defend their turf."

Invasive bugs found in fallen trees three years after a tornado; be careful collecting firewood

Damage caused by ash bark beetles (Forest Service photo)
That firewood you collected from a fallen tree after a storm could be brimming with invasive species. U.S. Forest Service researchers collected firewood from ash, birch, maple, oak and pine logs once a year for three years after a 2011 tornado in Western Massachusetts, and found 38,121 beetles, comprising 42 species. The study was published in the journal Agricultural and Forest Entomology.

Eastern ash bark beetle was by far the most common species, accounting for 85 percent of the total, Holly Ramer reports for The Associated Press. "Nearly 40 states have imposed restrictions on the movement of firewood in an effort to protect forests from the pests. In New Hampshire, out-of-state firewood has been banned since 2011 and in some areas, is not allowed to be moved from county to county."

The Forest Service says of ash bark beetles: "Generally, the favored breeding material is recently cut or broken trees. Living trees weakened by mechanical damage or disease may also be attacked. Entrance, exit, and breathing holes can be found on the outside of infested trees. In July or August, the leaves on branches that have been girdled will turn yellow and then brown as the branch dies."

Unlike other federal agencies, EPA has not posted on social media since Trump took office

Screen shot today of EPA Twitter account
The Environmental Protection Agency has not posted on social media since President Trump took office, Chelsea Harvey reports for The Washington Post. Nothing has been posted on EPA's official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts since Jan. 19, the day before Trump was sworn in. An EPA spokesperson said the agency won't post anything until a new agency head has been confirmed, but other departments that lack a confirmed leader have continued to post to social media. (Today the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued EPA several times, as administrator of the agency, which issued a welcoming tweet.)

"Last month’s media restrictions were instituted by Trump administration officials within days of the inauguration," Harvey writes. "The order instructed employees of the EPA, along with other agencies, to restrict their communications with the public via news releases and official social-media accounts. A memo to EPA staff members, sent on Jan. 23, noted that a digital strategist would be coming on board to oversee social-media accounts, some of which it said may become 'more centrally controlled'.”

Other agencies "resumed social-media activity almost immediately and have gone on tweeting as usual," Harvey writes. "But nearly all the EPA’s social-media accounts have been silent since Jan. 19. A small group of satellite accounts, including Twitter accounts for a few regional EPA offices and the EPA’s Office of Water, continued to tweet for a few more days following the Jan. 20 inauguration, but also fell silent before the end of the month. The agency has continued to issue news releases on its website."

One month after opening Missouri state park closes because of 'potential public safety concerns'

Jay Nixon State Park (photo by
Missouri Department of Natural Resources)
One month after opening, Missouri's newest state park has closed over “potential public safety concerns," Kurt Erickson reports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Missouri Department of Natural Resources confirmed Wednesday that Jay Nixon State Park in Reynolds County" was shut down on Feb. 8. DNR spokesman Tom Bastian told the Post-Dispatch the park's status "was re-evaluated due to limited access and lack of facilities." There are reports that the park in the Ozark foothills is inaccessible and in no condition to hike. It is near two other state parks.

There also is talk of re-naming the park when it re-opens, Erickson writes. Nixon is a Democrat who was governor from 2009-2017 and "championed the state park system during his two terms in office, arguing that an expansion will help draw tourism spending to the state. In the weeks before he left office, Nixon oversaw the opening of four parks," one of which DNR decided to name after him, a move that has angered lawmakers and was cited as a reason behind the firing of the state park director, whom Nixon appointed.

Six states ask Supreme Court to hear lawsuit against California’s egg production law

Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma are asking the U.S. Supreme Court "to hear the case against California’s egg production law," Julie Harker reports for Brownfield Ag News. "California voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 requiring egg laying hens in that state to have enough space to extend their limbs and lay down. In 2010, California legislators expanded the law to ban the sale of eggs from hens that were not raised in accordance with that standard." Since California is the most populous state, that could have broad impact.

In 2014, Missouri's then-attorney general, Democrat Chris Koster, filed a lawsuit claiming the law "violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution and encroaches on Missouri sovereignty," notes the Springfield Business Journal. Last year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the states "lacked the standing to pursue the claims." Current Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, argued in new filings this week that "the Constitution gives states the right to defend its residents against out-of-state regulations."

Hawley told reporters, “The Constitution doesn’t allow California to regulate Missouri and we’re going to the Supreme Court to stop it. So if California is able to get by with this regulation. If they’re able to tell Missouri and other states what to do, rest assured that other states—usually big government, liberal states—will try the same sort of thing and that’s why we have to fight now.”

Colo. study links oil and gas industry to childhood cancer; state official says it's not persuasive

Oil and natural-gas operations can be linked to childhood cancers, says a study by researchers at the University of Colorado published in the online journal PLOS One. The study, which looked at 743 cases of reported cancer among people up to 24 years old living in rural Colorado from 2001 to 2013, found that "people ages 5-24 who were diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia were more likely to live in areas with a high concentration of oil and gas activity," John Ingold reports for The Denver Post.

Researchers looked at cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and "weighed the number of those cases reported in . . . oil and gas areas against the numbers of other kinds of cancer reported in those areas," Ingold writes. "While the researchers found no link between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and oil and gas development, they did find a statistically significant correlation between oil and gas and acute lymphocytic leukemia in people ages 5-24." (CU graphic: Number of oil and gas wells in 16.1-kilometer radius from a child’s home versus the minimum distance of an oil and gas well from the child’s home for children with at least one oil and gas well within the 16.1-kilometer radius)
Lead author Lisa McKenzie, professor at the UC School of Public Health, has been criticized before by the oil and gas industry for her research, Ingold notes. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the new study’s "conclusion isn’t convincingly reached. He cited limitations in the study’s design and data analysis." He told Ingold, “I don’t think the study supports the conclusion that they made."

Wolk said the study "didn’t adequately account for other potential causes of cancer and said it also didn’t look at neighborhood turnover or length of exposure to the pollutants," Ingold writes. "Previous CDPHE studies have found benzene levels in neighborhoods near oil and gas developments within the accepted ranges, he said." Wolk said the new research only found 16 cases "of acute lymphocytic leukemia in areas of high-density oil and gas development during the study period."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Repealing Medicaid expansion could put more rural hospitals at risk; Tenn. senator says not to worry

Repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could lead to an increase in the number of vulnerable rural hospitals, Shawn Radcliffe reports for Healthline. A report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health found that in states that expanded Medicaid in 2014, 36 percent of rural hospitals had a negative operating margin in 2015, compared to 47 percent in states that didn’t expand the program. When it comes to the worst category of operating margins (less than negative 5 percent) 18 percent were rural hospitals in Medicaid-expansion states, compared to 30 percent in non-expansion states.

The North Carolina Rural Research Program says 80 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and Chartis lists 673 rural hospitals as being vulnerable, Radcliffe reports.

Before Medicaid expansion, hospitals still treated uninsured patients, but weren't paid for the care provided, Radcliffe notes. "By increasing the number of people with health insurance, the Medicaid expansion directly benefitted rural hospitals." Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the Arizona Center for Rural Health, told Healthline that in states that expanded Medicaid, “we saw two important trends—reduction in uncompensated charity care and a reduction in the number, or the velocity, of the rural hospital closures."

Rural hospitals in the 19 states that chose not to expand Medicaid were more vulnerable, Radcliffe writes. Of the 80 hospitals listed by the North Carolina Rural Research Program 60 are in states that didn't expand Medicaid, led by 13 in Texas, seven in Mississippi, six in Tennessee and Georgia and five in Alabama. (Kaiser Family Foundation map: Medicaid expansion states)
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate health committee, told Politico last week that Congress will not only continue the Medicaid expansion, but broaden it.

Paper reveals its county, home to a big university, is high in poverty and low in upward mobility

Greg Townshend, recently released from prison,
found work in Boone County through a statewide
program for at-risk youth. (Daily Tribune photo)
The Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Mo., has published a series examining poverty in surrounding Boone County, which it says is "one of the worst counties in the country for socioeconomic mobility," which measures an individual's upward or downward movement on the economic ladder.

"Data show that if you’re born into poverty in Boone County, you’re more likely to die in poverty than in most other counties," Jodie Jackson Jr. reports in a story that looks at a job skills program that helps people earn a living wage.

Stories in the "Left Behind" series look at how Boone County residents face obstacles in getting access to health care, finding affordable housing, moving up the economic ladder, being able to afford to have children, the link between crime and poverty and how expanding Medicaid could benefit the poor in the county and the rest of Missouri.

"Children who live in low-income households in Boone County face challenges moving up the income ladder, according to a 2015 national study conducted by Harvard University researchers," Brittany Ruess reports in a story that looks at the county's lack of economic mobility. "The study shows that Boone County has the second-worst economic mobility in Missouri and is better than only 17 percent of counties in the country."

The Tribune, which the Waters family recently sold to Gatehouse Media, also is trying to get readers involved in the series by asking them to share their stories through social media or email.

What residents in one rural Arizona border town think about increased security, plans for a wall

Residents in a rural border town are not happy being told what should happen in their neck of the woods by Americans and politicians from other parts of the country who back President Trump's increased border security efforts and plans to build a wall, Danyelle Khmara reports for Tucson Weekly.

Arivaca, Ariz. (Wikipedia Map), a town with about 900 residents located 11 miles from Mexico, gained national attention in the 1990s when migrants from Mexico and Central America began crossing into the area through the Southern Arizona desert, Khmara writes. "The desert corridor was one of the few places for undocumented people to cross after a change in border policy blocked off urban points of entry."

"During the 2016 Fiscal Year, Border Patrol made almost 65,000 apprehensions in the Tucson Sector, which stretches from New Mexico to Yuma County," Khmara writes. "They wouldn't say how many were related to drug smuggling, but government data shows they seized 728,000 pounds of marijuana and 174 pounds of cocaine."

Despite a rise in border crossings, many residents say the immigrants are harmless and keep to themselves, Khmara writes. "Many humanitarians live in and frequent this little town at the crossroads of treacherous migrant trails and heightened border security . . . A lot of the population are retirees, keeping the town financially afloat. And even if there's no supermarket, the only grocery store, nicknamed 'The Merc' carries a lot of daily items."

Longtime resident Bradley Knaub told Khmara that increased border patrols seem pointless in such as small town, telling Khmara, "When I went to town last week, I had to go through two checkpoints, and I was photographed six times. That's a little intimidating. It's kind of Orwellian." Speaking of the all, he said, "The terrain is too rough to even consider, and the amount of damage to environment and endangered animals—it's just not going to happen."

Carlota Wray, who came to Arivaca from Mexico more than 30 years ago, told Khmara, "People that are not from here don't understand how it is to live in this border community. You don't know until they build the wall behind your property or they put cameras in front of you." Local resident Diana MacDonell said, "All the people making decisions, they don't live on the border. We live here. We are doing just fine."

Science website launched for whistleblowers, in response to Trump administration's gag order

Citing concern that the Trump administration will not be transparent, especially when it comes to climate change, the Union of Concerned Scientists "has created a webpage for federal scientists to report abuses, with instructions on how to avoid detection or hacking," Nicholas Kusnetz reports for InsideClimate News.

"Trump has called climate change a hoax, and one of his administration's first moves was to remove pages from the White House and State Department websites that referred to the issue," Kusnetz writes. "The Trump administration has sent memos and directives to agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service, that some employees reportedly interpreted as gag orders, though some of the directives were later reversed or disavowed."

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Kusnetz, "There have been a number of actions either proposed or taken by the transition team and the administration that make science more vulnerable to political interference. When you have hostile agency appointees, science becomes more vulnerable to political influence. So I think all these conditions taken together make it more important for federal employees to report what they see."

Rural Mainstreet Index highest since September 2015, but remains negative for 18th straight month

The Rural Mainstreet Index in February reached its highest level since September 2015, but still remains negative, below 50 on a 0-100 scale, for the 18th straight month, indicating economic weakness in the 10-state region that stretches from Illinois to Wyoming and is dependent on agriculture and energy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss surveys bank CEOs in rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

The index, measured on a scale of 100, was 45.8 in February, up from 42.8 in January. It was at 49 in September 2015. Only 14.9 percent of bankers indicated their local economy was expanding, while 34 percent said their local economy remains in an economic downturn. "On average, farmland prices have declined by 5.1 percent over the past 12 months. Approximately 73.9 percent of bankers expect agriculture-equipment sales to continue to decline in their area over the next year."

Goss said, “Weak farm commodity prices continue to squeeze Rural Mainstreet economies. However, the negatives are getting less negative. Over the past 12 months, livestock commodity prices have tumbled by 9.4 percent and grain commodity prices have slumped by 6.3 percent, both an improvement over last month." (Creighton graphic: Rural Mainstreet Index)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Near-disaster at California dam is a reminder that U.S. has thousands of high-hazard dams

Damaged spillway with eroded hillside near Oroville, Calif.
(California Department of Water Resources photo)
The near-disaster at Oroville Dam, which caused the evacuation of 188,000 people in Butte County, California, northeast of Sacramento, should be a reminder that the U.S. has many dams that are considered serious hazards.

As dams get older, experts say a growing number of people downstream are at risk, USA Today reports: "Among those high-hazard dams, nearly 1 in 5 lack an emergency action plan," and "the average age of the United States' 84,000 dams is 52, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' report." The Federal Emergency Management Administration explains how dams are rated for hazards, and states have lists of dams and their ratings.

The Oroville episode is an example of how changing weather patterns are affecting dam safety, Anne C. Mulkern reports for Climatewire. Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, said "a series of storms powered by a phenomenon known as the atmospheric river hit Northern California this winter. Those filled Oroville, prompting the release of water onto its spillway. Then that structure suffered a sinkhole that became apparent last week."

Dam operators last weekend "stopped sending water down the spillway, and flows crested the alternate 'emergency' spillway, essentially a hillside," Mulkern writes. "When that caused soil erosion headward, or in the direction toward the structure, dam officials feared the concrete spillway would collapse, sending a 30-foot wall of water downstream, causing 'catastrophic flooding,' Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown said in a letter to President Trump." The 770-foot-high dam is the tallest in the U.S.

Best Places map
The near-disaster didn't come as a surprise to environmentalists, Jeremy P. Jacobs and Hannah Northey report for Greenwire. In 2005 Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba River Citizens League predicted such as event. "They spoke directly to what would happen if the concrete lip became compromised, a situation they called 'loss of crest control,'" which "could not only cause additional damage to project lands but also cause damages and threaten lives in the protected floodplain downstream."

A July 27, 2006 memo from John Onderdonk, a senior civil engineer with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Dam Safety and Inspections, "said that if the emergency spillway were to be used, it 'would not affect reservoir control or endanger the dam,'' reports Greenwire. "He also said 'in the rare event of a discharge, the emergency spillway would perform as designed' and could conceivably handle a flow of water at a rate of 350,000 cubic feet per second. But last weekend, water flowed down the emergency hillside spillway at a maximum rate of about 12,000 cubic feet per second—a far lower rate—and significant erosion occurred."

Privatized fishing rights mean the industry has less economic benefit for coastal towns

A national push to make seafood more sustainable is forcing small and independent fishing operations to compete with wealthy investors and large corporations, Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios report for the radio program Marketplace. The problem is that the U.S. policy of "catch share," which limits how many fish can come out of the ocean, has become privatized. That means that having deep pockets buys you the rights to more pounds of fish.

Ryssdal, host of Marketplace, interviewed Lee van der Voo, whose book, The Fish Market: Inside the Big-Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate, details the issue. Van der Voo told Ryssdal, "The idea was give fishermen a stake in the ocean, and they'll become conservationists. But it was a bit of a gamble. It was like giving 100 people houses and betting everybody's going to cut their grass; you just don't really know. And the effect has been kind of mixed. Some people became the good stewards that conservationists envisioned when they pushed this policy in America, and a lot of people just became landlords."

Van der Voo told Ryssdal, "There are a lot of ways to enforce caps on the ocean, and I would say that private property rights have not been the best way to do it . . . It used to be, that if you were a fisherman and you wanted to grow in your industry, you would just get better at it. And you would, over time, be able to afford your own boat, afford your own equipment, afford the licenses to go fishing. Now you have to be able to afford the access to the ocean, which is tremendously expensive. And so, the next logical inheritor of the resource is no longer the fishermen, it’s investors, it’s corporations, it’s entities that are moving the economic benefits of fishing further and further away from coastal towns."

Van der Voo said, "People care about what they eat. Maybe not so much about the person that brings it to them, but maybe they should. You know, this is a pretty significant trend here in this nation. We've seen a lot in the last election, people talk an awful lot about what has happened to workers in the heartland, but we're not really talking about what's happening to workers in coastal communities. Right now, that halibut that's costing $28 to $30 a pound in the Whole Foods case, the guy that goes and catches that is paying up to 75 percent of the revenue of that trip to a landlord. That's a problem."

As rural areas become more conservative and cities more liberal, conflict between them increases

"The United States is coming to resemble two countries, one rural and one urban," says The Atlantic, over a story by David A. Graham that puts the initial onus on the city folks but soon focuses on rural legislators' moves to rein in the cities.

"American cities seem to be cleaving from the rest of the country, and the temptation for liberals is to try to embrace that trend," Graham writes. "Americans are in the midst of what’s been called “The Big Sort,” as they flock together with people who share similar socioeconomic profiles and politics. In general, that means rural areas are becoming more conservative, and cities more liberal."

Graham notes "Democrats are turning to local ordinances as their best hope on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to transgender rights. But if liberal advocates are . . . overlooking a big problem: Power may be decentralized in the American system, but it devolves to the state, not the city." He cites growing battles over pre-emption, the right of a state to tell cities and other creations of state government what they can and cannot do.

"Common examples involve blocking local minimum-wage and sick-leave ordinances, which are opposed by business groups, and bans on plastic grocery bags, which arouse retailers’ ire," Graham writes. "Some states have prohibited cities from enacting firearm regulations, frustrating leaders who say cities have different gun problems than do rural areas. . . . Nowhere has this tension been more dramatic than in North Carolina," where the legislature nullified a Charlotte ordinance banning LGBT discrimination, banned similar laws in other cities and make other pre-emption moves, some of which courts struck down.

The increased rural-urban divide has caused role reversals, Graham reports: "The GOP has long viewed itself as the party of decentralization, criticizing Democrats for trying to dictate to local communities from Capitol Hill, but now Republicans are the ones preempting local government. Meanwhile, after years of seeing Democratic reforms overturned by preemption, the party of big government finds itself championing decentralized power."

Nation's biggest fresh garlic producer quickly solves its labor shortage by raising wages $2 an hour

The nation's biggest producer of fresh garlic found a simple way to combat a labor shortage: offer employees better wages, Natalie Kitroeff reports for the Los Angeles Times. Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif. (Best Places map) found itself short 50 workers at the end of last year. So, the company announced it was raising pay from $11 to $13, with plans to go to $15 in 2018," four years earlier than what’s required by California’s schedule for minimum wage increases. It no longer has a labor shortage.

Christopher Ranch Vice President Ken Christopher "said the farm has been trying, without success, to draw new workers since 2014," Kitroeff writes. "Human resources frantically advertised open farm-labor positions, posting help-wanted ads online and urging employees to ply their networks for potential recruits. Nothing came of it."

Many blamed the labor shortage on stepped-up border enforcement by the Obama administration, which deported millions of undocumented workers; a stronger Mexican economy, and the financial crisis of 2008, which led more Mexicans to return home than migrated to the U.S. from 2009 to 2014, for the first time in decades, according to the Pew Research Center, Kitroeff reports. But once Christopher Ranch announced a wage increase, applications flooded in. "Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long."

Education secretary's lack of rural experience makes rural school advocates uneasy

Rural school advocates say Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's lack of rural experience is a cause for concern, Tim Marema reports for the Daily Yonder. Robert Mahaffey, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust, told Marema, “She’s coming into the job with no sense of the realities of rural education and no indication that she actually cares. Will that change? Will she be open to those conversations? It remains to be seen.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
DeVos supports school choice, which favors charter schools and private-school vouchers so parents can opt out of public schools and even bring taxpayer dollars with them. Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, told Marema, “I think there’s a lot of panic right now on school choice and vouchers. When you’re looking at rural areas, there’s not school choice a lot of times. It’s going to be difficult" because small districts often don’t have more than one school to choose from.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chaired DeVos’ hearing, said DeVos "would not push school choice on states that didn’t want it," Marema writes. Alexander wrote in a letter to constituents: "Mrs. DeVos has testified before our committee that, as much as she supports the idea of giving parents choices of schools, she does not believe Washington, D.C., should tell Arizona or Tennessee or any other state that they must adopt a school choice or voucher program. Additionally, she recognizes that she has no authority to create a voucher program without Congress passing a new law.”

Environmentalists sue over freeze on protections for rusty-patched bumblebee

Rusty-patched bumblebee (Rich Hatfield, Reuters )
The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service it oversees "for delaying protections for the rusty patch bumblebee from Feb. 10 until at least mid-March without allowing public comment or hearings," Darryl Fears reports for The Washington Post. The bee, which has lost nearly 90 percent of its population since the 1990s, was named endangered on Jan. 11 by Fish and Wildlife, but the Trump administration imposed a regulatory freeze before the status went into effect.

NRDC said in a statement: “The Trump administration broke the law by blocking the rusty patched bumblebee from the endangered species list. The science is clear—this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections for this bee. Freezing protections for the rusty patched bumblebee without public notice and comment flies in the face of the democratic process.”

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift "said the agency 'is working to review this regulation as expeditiously as possible and expects to issue further guidance on the effective date … shortly,'" Fears writes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to discern facts from 'alternative facts'

By Danielle Ray
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information

In an age where it is increasingly easier to make one's news intake an echo chamber, with sources that confirm beliefs rather than inform, it's more important than ever for news consumers to identify credible and non-credible sources.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, famously said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had offered "alternative facts" about President Trump's inauguration, which turned out to be false. That triggered increased attention on fact checking and source credibility.

Since then, many organizations devoted to news and information have published guides to help consumers recognize phony news. The University of Kentucky Libraries launched a website titled "Breaking News: Real, Fake or Mash-up?" The site features tips consumers can use to spot fake news:

Illustratuon via University of Kentucky Libraries
Consider the source. Check out the website, the organization producing the content, its mission and its contact information.

Read further. Headlines can be outrageous to serve as "clickbait" for traffic. Don't just take the headline at its word; read the story and look for others on the same topic.

Research the author. Who wrote the story? Search to ensure that the author is real and to see what else he or she has written.

Check sources. On what is the story based? Click any links in the story to determine if they actually support the story. Look for primary sources and direct quotations. Are the sources balanced, or do they only represent one side of the issue?

Check the date. Social media makes reposting old news stories easier than ever, so knowing whether a story is timely or simply recycled could depend on the time stamp.

Consider the tone of the information. If the content seems outlandish, it could be satire, the site notes. Entertainment "news" sites like The Onion have turned news satire into an art. Check out the author and the organization producing the content to be sure.

Keep your biases in check. That unbalanced, over-the-top political news item might validate your own beliefs, but ask yourself as you're reading if you enjoy the story because it's thoroughly researched and well-reported or simply because it tells you what you want to hear.

Ask an expert. When in doubt, go to a fact-checking site like FactCheck.org, or ask a librarian, journalist or other information disseminator who practices a discipline of verification.

The aptly named CRAAP test, published by California State University at Chico's Meriam Library, focuses on five evaluation criteria: currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy and purpose.

A two-part Pew Research Center study in early 2016 revealed a public that was cautious as it moved into a more complex news environment. The study, titled "The Modern News Consumer," found that few people have much confidence in the information they get from professional outlets or friends and family, but large majorities have at least some trust in both. About 22 percent of Americans trust local news outlets a lot, according to the study. However, 60 percent of Americans reported trusting local news only somewhat. Likewise, 18 percent said they trust national news organizations a lot; 59 percent trust them somewhat.

Social media, however, earned significantly lower trust scores. Only about 4 percent of American adults said they trust a lot the news they get from social media sites. About 30 percent said they trust it somewhat.

About 75 percent of Americans said they believe the news media performs a watchdog function for political leaders, but 74 percent said they believe that news media are biased in covering political and social issues. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the news media are biased: 87 percent of conservative Republicans, 77 percent of moderate to liberal Republicans, 73 percent of liberal Democrats and 57 percent of conservative to moderate Democrats.

For those on the other side of news consumption, The Associated Press published an e-book by Adam Clement, creative content manager at AP Content Services, focusing on transparency and trust in content marketing. Clement emphasizes four key points: be upfront, think like a journalist, listen and adapt and stand for something.

AP published a story by Barbara Ortutay in December with tips, much like those from the UK Libraries, for spotting fake news and propaganda on social media. Ortutay emphasizes checking sources, getting information from more than one source and being cognizant of emojis and unusual capitalization.

"Random use of ALL CAPS? Lots of exclamation points? Does it make sense when you read it out loud? Can you imagine a TV newscaster reading it out loud? Is there something just off about it? Does it sound very angry, inflammatory, emotional? None of these are good signs," she writes.

When it comes to social media, it's often hard for news consumers to distinguish fact from fiction. Information is rampant and relentless across social media platforms, but Ortutay warns that immediate access to unlimited content isn't always a news-lover's paradise.

"Facebook users often share articles without reading them. Don't be that person," she writes. "Instead, click on the link and read the story before hitting the 'share' button."

If you believe a story to be fake, report it to Facebook for outside fact-checking by clicking the gray arrow in the upper corner and select "report this post." Facebook and Google have recently taken steps to restrict the distribution of fake or poorly sourced news.

For more information on how to spot fake news, "truthiness" and clickbait, read Merrimack College's communication and media professor Melissa Zimdars's Washington Post story about her "fake news list" that went viral here and her original guide to analyzing news sources here.

Rural areas lead older Americans' increasing use of drugs that alter the user's mental state

Researchers have found that "the number of retirement-age Americans taking at least three psychiatric drugs more than doubled between 2004 and 2013, even though almost half of them had no mental-health diagnosis on record," Benedict Carey reports for The New York Times.

"The biggest jump was in rural areas," which suggests "that the increases partly reflect doctors and patients falling back on medications when they have little access to other options," Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University, and a member of the research team, told Carey. In rural areas, there is little access to "talk therapy, massage or relaxation techniques."
Tablets of antidepressants
(Getty Images photo by Jonathan Nourok)

The paper, which appeared in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, says "Inappropriate prescribing to older people is more common than previously thought. Office visits are a close, if not exact, estimate of underlying patient numbers," Carey writes. Geriatric medical organizations have warned against over-prescribing to older people, arguing that they are more susceptible to common side effects, Carey writes. "For more than 20 years, the American Geriatrics Society has published the so-called Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate use, listing dozens of drugs and their mutual interactions."

Despite the reports over the years, prescription rates of drugs like antidepressants, sleeping pills and painkillers have generally increased in older people, Carey writes. The new report, however, "captures one important dimension, the rise in so-called polypharmacy — three drugs or more — in primary care, where most of the prescribing happens. Earlier research has found that elderly people are more likely to be on at least one psychiatric drug long term than younger adults, even though the incidence of most mental disorders declines later in life."

The data analyzed "office visits by people 65 or older that resulted in the prescribing of at least three of a list of psychiatric, sleep and pain medications like Valium, Prozac, OxyContin and Ambien. The study found that "nearly 46 percent of people with at least three prescriptions had no diagnosis of a mood, chronic pain or sleep problem," Carey writes.

Olfson told Carey that one possible solution "would be to give patients and doctors greater access to alternatives, like psychotherapy and stress management. Only about 10 percent of the visits in the analysis included one of these options."

Voter turnout in Republican rural areas was much higher than in nearby Democratic industrial centers

Democrats still trying to figure out what went wrong during the presidential election need only to look at voter turnout from rural areas surrounding urban industrial centers, says Jonathan Rodden, a professor of political science and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford Universitywriting in The Washington Post. Donald Trump focused on rural white areas with typically high voter turnout rates that were largely ignored by Democrats, who concentrated on industrial centers with low turnout.

Democrats lost rural areas and small industrial towns, but their losses were especially dramatic in rural areas, Rodden notes. "In larger towns with an industrial history or a university (or both), Democrats still win majorities." (Post graphic: Dot size shows precincts' comparative size in Vigo County, Indiana, long a swing county. Blue is 2016 turnout; red is 2012 turnout. Voter turnout was much higher in rural Republican areas than urban Democratic ones.)
"The Trump campaign successfully appealed to high-turnout rural areas that had been either evenly divided or delivered slim Republican majorities in the recent past," Rodden writes. "As Democrats consider whether to completely give up on rural areas where they once brought in votes, they must keep in mind that rural voters might be able to make up for their dwindling raw numbers by voting at higher rates than growing urban populations."

Free conference will show journalists how to use Google and Facebook services to reach readers

The Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference 2017 April 6-8 at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri will focus on how journalists from weeklies and community newspapers can use Google and Facebook to better serve existing readers while also expanding their audience to reach new readers.

Participants will learn to use Google functions such as Public Data Explorer, Google Maps and Street View 360, as well as searching for other journalists and live streaming. With Facebook, participants will learn how a news feed works, how to use Facebook Live, how to get access to Facebook's partner portal, where to find online resources to train others in your newsroom, the pros and cons of pages and profiles and what the Facebook Journalism Project is doing for local newsrooms.

There is no cost to register, but registration is required by March 31. For information or to register click here.

Battle brewing between dairy lobbies and makers of plant-based 'milk' over use of the word

Dairy lobbyists are pushing to stop plant-based products from using the words "milk," "cheese" or "yogurt" on labels. Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post, "In December, dairy lobbyists persuaded 32 legislators to demand that the Food and Drug Administration act on 'imitation milk products.' Those efforts join preexisting initiatives, like a special logo (above) that differentiates 'real' dairy and several cutesy, industry-funded ads that champion milk over nondairy competitors." Plant-based companies have responded by hiring their own lobbyists, or meeting with FDA officials.

"The showdown between dairy and nondairy milks has been a long time coming," Dewey writes. "Consumption of conventional milk has been cratering since the 1950s, a product of both modern concerns about fat and the explosion of consumer beverage options after the World War II. In more recent years, sales of, first, soy milk and later almond, cashew, rice, coconut and quinoa milks, have steadily eaten into dairy milk’s already shrinking market share. According to Nielsen, almond-milk sales grew 250 percent between 2011 and 2016, a period when the milk market shrank by $1 billion." (Post graphic: Dairy consumption since 1970)
One problem is that FDA "has repeatedly declined to weigh in on the subject—despite repeat pressure from both the soybean and dairy lobbies," Dewey writes. "A spokesman for FDA said that the agency’s policy has not changed, and that it prioritizes efforts to ensure that food labels are 'truthful and not misleading.' Its last action on the milk issue was a brief aside in a much longer 2012 warning letter to a tofu company."

Lawmakers in December sent FDA a letter that said the word "milk" being used by plant-based companies is misleading to consumers and that the agency should “initiate a thorough investigation” into plant-based food labeling, Dewey writes. The National Milk Producers Federation consulted on House and Senate bills that would force FDA "to punish plant-based products that use dairy terms." Both bills have been sent to committee. The American Soybean Association and the Soyfoods Association of North America jointly sent a letter Monday opposing the bills.

Growing number of like-minded conservative Californians are migrating to rural Idaho

A demographic shift has led a large number of urban Californians to migrate to rural Idaho to trade in the big city life for the quiet countryside, Kirk Siegler reports for NPR. Much of the shift can be attributed to a growing sense of unease that began in the early 1990s. "That was around the time of the deadly earthquakes in California. There was a lot of racial tension after the Rodney King beating. Housing costs had already been soaring and the out-migration of Californians moving to nearby states such as Idaho really picked up."

Kootenai County, Idaho
(Wikipedia map)
Northern Idaho counties like Kootenai—which is 95 percent white, a minority race in California—have seen their population double, Siegler writes. "Even as late as 2015, the census shows that more than a quarter of all new residents moving to the state still came from California."

"The idea that like-minded people like to live together and in some cases are seeking one another out is being put in renewed focus in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election," Siegler writes. "This is regardless of whether it's in the more conservative rural areas or liberal cities. The rural vote in the Electoral College played a key role in the surprise election of Donald Trump. The Electoral College is weighted disproportionately to rural, now mostly red states like Idaho. So if you're a conservative and you move up to Idaho from California, your vote has nearly twice as much impact."

The phenomenon of Americans moving to like-minded areas is explored in the book The Big Sort, by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing.

Federal judge denies Dakota Access Pipeline restraining order; oil set to flow within 30 days

Bismarck Tribune photo by Tom Stromme
A federal district court judge on Monday "denied a temporary restraining order sought to stop drilling of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River/Lake Oahe," Lauren Donovan reports for The Bismarck Tribune. "The restraining order was sought by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on grounds that the pipeline would interfere with its indigenous freedom to practice religion in pure, clean water."

After an hour-long hearing, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg reasoned that "there would not be any risk of immediate harm until oil starts flowing," Steven Mufson and Spencer S. Hsu report for The Washington Post.

But Boasenberg did order the pipeline company "to provide weekly updates about when it expected oil to begin flowing, leaving open the possibility of further court intervention. He set a date of Feb. 27 for a hearing on whether to issue a preliminary injunction at that time."

The $3.8 billion, 1,150-mile pipeline is expected to carry as much as 570,000 barrels of Bakken Formation crude from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. David Debold, an attorney for Dakota Access, "said that oil could start flowing in 30 days or even earlier, a much faster schedule than other company representatives have given," reports the Post.

Monday, February 13, 2017

'School choice' may favor urban, suburban students, leaves rural schools with few options

New Education Secretary Betsy ­DeVos’s emphasis on school choice doesn't mean much in rural areas, where there is only one school to choose from and charter schools are unlikely, Jose A. DelReal and Emma Brown report for The Washington Post. The Trump administration's “school-choice” preference—favoring charters and private-school vouchers so parents can opt out of public schools and even bring taxpayer dollars with them—reminds the reporters that "Washington has long designed education policy to deal with urban and suburban challenges, often overlooking the unique problems that face rural schools." (Post graphic: Percentage of rural public schools in each state)
About nine million students attend rural schools, says a report by the Rural School and Community Trust. The Post went to Maine, where most schools are rural, to report its story. "Many of those schools look like this one in East Millinocket, where post­-industrial decline and poverty has amplified the role it plays in the community even as funding has become more scarce," the Post reports.

Washington Post map
East Millinocket Supt. Eric Steeves told the Post that if the school-choice model reduces student populations and funding for schools like his, “That could be disastrous. We’d lose tuition money. If we’re forced to bus students wherever they want, it would be catastrophic,” since ­Bangor schools are at least an hour away. “It depends on how it’s organized,” he said. “It may be up to their town to pay for that. And in this weather, it would be horrific.”

2016 election shows rurality is top predictor of how Republican a congressional district is

U.S. Rep. Sean Maloney of New York has been assigned to lead a review of what his fellow House Democrats did wrong during the 2016 election, reports Paul Kane for The Washington Post. Maloney, who examined 127 House races from 2016, found that "the three biggest predictors of the partisan bent of a House district are the percentage of it that is rural, how much of its population has received college degrees and how diverse it is." Generally, the more rural a place is, the less likely it its residents are to be college-educated or culturally, ethnically and racially diverse.

Maloney's district, New York's 18th
(Click on image for larger version)
Maloney found that "there are House districts that Democrats have competed in, or even represented for a long time, that have moved so sharply away from Democrats that they need to reassess whether to compete there ever again," Kane writes. "Yet there is also an emerging set of districts that have long been held by Republicans that are now bending toward Democrats faster than even the most optimistic strategists envisioned."

"The ones now on the table? Longtime Republican districts that are becoming more demographically diverse," Kane writes. "Off the table may be rural districts with little diversity, the very places where President Trump did well in 2016." Maloney said one problem is that Democrats need to "get out of the past" and embrace new ways of measuring party metrics.

The question "is whether they should recruit moderate to conservative candidates in rural districts or just abandon them altogether." Kane writes. "A beta test for 2018 will come in two special elections this spring to replace House members getting elevated to Trump’s Cabinet. Democrats regularly win governors and Senate races in Montana, where Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is set to become interior secretary, but it’s unclear whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will invest in that mostly rural at-large district." Instead, they may focus on winning back Democratic seats in urban and suburban areas. But ignoring rural areas was a recipe for disaster in 2016.

Industry's decline makes unmined coal worth less, leaving Ky. coalfield schools short of cash

School districts in Kentucky's two coalfields are suffering due to a decline in tax assessments of unmined coal, which presumably has become less valuable because coal is losing market share to natural gas. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said Wednesday that the decrease "will have a significant impact on at least 12 school districts, mostly in Eastern Kentucky, and their local tax revenue generated from the tax on coal assessments,"  Valerie Spears reports for the Herald Leader.

According to Pruitt, the estimated loss in unmined mineral tax revenue for those districts is at least $4.3 million, Spears writes. “We’ve got some districts that are going to be really struggling,” Pruitt said at the State Board of Education meeting. “I frankly don’t know what some of them are going to do. They’ve already dipped into the contingency funds to be able to keep the lights on in
some cases.”

School districts in the eastern counties of Knott, Bell, Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan,  Leslie, Letcher, Martin, Perry and Pike, and Hopkins and Union in the west, "are estimated to see losses of more than $100,000" each, Spears writes. "Pike County’s school district loss is estimated at $745,000."

"The Department of Revenue’s preliminary unmined mineral assessments have declined 43 percent from the prior year, or $955 million, Pruitt said. Also, the number of active mines has declined from 647 in 2006 to 184 in 2016," Spears notes.

The revenue could be even lower than forecast. Revenue officials told Department of Education staffers that some taxpayers with unmined mineral property were protesting the valuations, Spears writes. The protests essentially allow taxpayers "to dispute the value and provide the Department of Revenue with more information that may lead to a lower final unmined minerals assessment and less tax revenue for the school districts," Spears notes.

The finance director for Knott County schools, Greg Conn, told Spears that officials hope the state will give the district extra money to help make up for the shortfall. If not, Spears reports, "The district will be forced to cut jobs next school year because it can’t absorb the $1 million loss, Conn said."

Sanders' town hall in W.Va.'s poorest county axed after National Guard puts armory off limits

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Sunday in Charleston, W.VA.
(Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson)
An MSNBC town hall scheduled today with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Welch, W.Va., was canceled after the event's host, the National Guard armory, canceled on Friday and another location could not be found in time, reports the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

David Weigel of The Washington Post reports, "people with knowledge of the event say it had been planned for weeks, and they were told belatedly that the venue could not host a political event.


Welch is located in McDowell County, "the poorest part of West Virginia, with the highest rate of drug overdose in the state and the lowest life expectancy of any county in the U.S.—64 years," David Weigel reports. "In November, Donald Trump won 74.1 percent of the vote in the county, but in the Democratic primary six months earlier, Sanders won 55.2 percent of the vote."

Sanders said in a statement: “If anyone in West Virginia government thinks that I will be intimidated from going to McDowell County, West Virginia, to hold a town meeting, they are dead wrong. If they don’t allow us to use the local armory, we’ll find another building. If we can’t find another building, we’ll hold the meeting out in the streets. That town meeting will be held. Poverty in America will be discussed. Solutions will be found.”

Sunday, Sanders was in Charleston, where he spoke to a crowd of more than 2,000, Jake Jarvis reports for the Gazette-Mail. He "challenged the people of West Virginia to resist any efforts by President Donald Trump to become an authoritarian and undermine the country’s court system," telling the crowd, “What he is doing is what demagogues have always done, and that is to pick on minorities and try to divide this country up. What a real statesman attempts to do—what good government is about—is bringing people together to improve life for all.”

Tennessee teacher goes viral after using Christian values to question lawmaker about repealing ACA

Cookeville, Tenn. high school French teacher Jessi Bohan has gone viral after a town hall meeting Thursday at Middle Tennessee State University in which she used Christian values to challenge Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, over concerns that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be repealed, Greg Sargent reports for The Washington Post.

Bohan said to Black: “It’s my understanding that the ACA mandate requires everybody to have insurance, because the healthy people pull up the sick people. As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is to pull up the unfortunate. The individual mandate, that’s what it does. The healthy people pull up the sick. If we take those people, and we put them in high risk insurance pools, they’re costlier, and there’s less coverage for them. That’s the way it’s been in the past, and that’s the way it will be again. So we are effectively punishing our sickest people.”

Black said, "About 20 million people did actually come into the program who were uninsured. You don't want to hurt one group of people to help the another. We can help both groups at the same time," Jen Hayden reports for the Daily Kos. Bohon responded: "How many of those people were in states where they played a political game with people's lives?" Black, who appeared flustered, declined to continue, saying "I'm going to pass this one."

Bohan, who made the 90 minute trip to the town hall in Mufreesboro, said she purposely "framed the question the way she did because she is irked by politicians who say they are Christian but advocate for policies that don’t, in her view, reflect the faith’s principles—the looming repeal of the ACA, which could leave millions uninsured without a viable replacement," Helaine Olen reports for Slate.

Bohan, who grew up as one of three children of a single mom in rural Grundy, Va., a small Appalachian coal-mining town near the border with Kentucky, told Olen, “We were the poorest of the poor. We had no car, we were on welfare.” She said her mother “raised me with the belief that Jesus loves poor people, he loves the oppressed, he loves the most vulnerable and I will tell you that’s a lesson that stuck with me. I don’t go to a fancy church, I don’t really have a good grasp on the literal interpretation of the bible. I believe in the central message of Jesus, which was pull up the people.”

Did a lawsuit by walking horse competitors lead USDA to move animal-welfare information offline?

Chattanooga Times Free Press
photo by Alyson Wright
Tennessee walking horse activists say a lawsuit filed by show horse competitors who have repeatedly been found in violation of the Horse Protection Act is the reason why the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed animal welfare information from its website, Karin Brulliard reports for The Washington Post.

"Walking horse advocates see the move as a partial victory over what they depict as overreach by a federal agency that is influenced by animal rights groups," Brulliard writes. "While insisting their industry wants to comply with the Horse Protection Act, some argue that a shadow is also cast by public records that name 'violators' who have not had an opportunity to defend themselves."

At the heart of the issue is USDA inspectors giving horse show competitors Lee and Mike McGartland multiple warnings from 2013-16 for soring, the use of chemicals and physical abuse to induce high steps in show horses, Brulliard writes. "The McGartlands sued, arguing that the enforcement program denies due process to those accused of violations and breaks privacy laws by publishing personal information."

"The McGartlands’ lawsuit, now in mediation, contends that public disclosure of their warnings 'indict them by innuendo and are individualized and accusatory,'" Brulliard writes. Jeffrey Howard, the publisher of the Shelbyville, Tenn.-based Walking Horse Report, told the Shelbyville Times-Gazette: "The USDA has been unfairly punishing people by listing them as violators of the HPA while never allowing those parties an opportunity for notice and a hearing. The violations statistics that the animal rights movement and (the Humane Society) have used to further their cause have been false and misleading statistics and are not violations.”

While some call the removal of information an "assault on transparency" by the Trump administration, USDA was limiting information before he took office, Brulliard writes. Records had been available for seven years, but had not been posted since August, said Eric Kleiman, a researcher at the Animal Welfare Institute. He said other records were retroactively redacted.

USDA "has offered little explanation for its action, saying in statements that it is the result of a review, guided by court opinions, privacy laws and current litigation, that began last year," Brulliard writes. Former Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said he received recommendations to pull the records from the website and instead make them available via Freedom of Information Act requests, but he didn't have enough time to consider the suggestion fully.

N.Y. advertising agency visits small towns to uncover values held dearest by rural America

Last summer New York-based Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Agency interviewed more than 1,000 people in 30 rural towns in 13 states to find out what values rural Americans hold most closely, Katie Richards reports for Adweek. They found that rural Americans believe they are more independent than those in other areas, that they prefer handmade goods to machine-made goods and believe strongly in having a great sense of pride in where they live, which includes supporting local businesses and industries. The agency did not visit any towns in the South, which is the nation's most rural region.

"Sixty-four percent of those surveyed agreed they need to put themselves first, while 96 percent believe having the right tools to be self-sufficient is key in today’s marketplace," Richards writes. "Based on those findings the agency suggests that marketers who 'enable independence and give them the keys' will be the ones to build trust with these consumers."
The agency also found that while 86 percent of rural respondents prefer handmade goods, "many people believe that with the rise of machines, no one needs anything handmade," Ricards writes. Also, "96 percent feel that small-town innovation deserves more recognition, while 87 percent said they would rather support a small, local brand than a tech giant or conglomerate" and 95 percent said "having a sense of pride in where they currently live, not just their country of origin, is important," Richards writes.

Eve Pollet, trends and innovation strategist for Saatchi & Saatchi, told Richards, “The marketer takeaway here can be to celebrate these small town origins through an event or product and celebrate this pride of place, maybe even showcase a quirky local tradition that can give brands a unique advantage and give consumers something tangible to be prideful of and to display their pride. There are many ways again that brands can do that."

S.C. twice-weekly newspaper 'back among the living' after announcing its demise

The Calhoun Times, a twice weekly in St. Matthews, S.C., "is back among the living" after last month announcing its demise, Paul Fletcher reports for Forbes magazine. The Times reported Jan. 12 that its Feb. 2 edition would be its last, but it has since been acquired by The Aiken Leader, of Wagener, and will be renamed the Calhoun Times Leader.

Members of the Morris family, who had run the paper since the 1920's, will continue to work for the paper, Gene Zaleski reports for the Times & Democrat of Orangeburg. "Edwin C. Morris Jr., the third-generation publisher of the Times, will continue in that role. His 87-year-old father, Craddock Morris, had been editor; he now will be a freelance writer for the paper. Andrew O'Byrne Sr., owner and publisher of the Leader, will become the owner of the newspaper."

O'Bryne told the Times & Democrat: "A newspaper is important to the health of a community, and we are happy that we will be able to keep a paper in Calhoun County. A local newspaper facilitates dialogue between local government and the citizens, and we are committed to bringing the community the news it has relied on for so many years from The Calhoun Times."