The Federal Communications Commission recently awarded SpaceX $885 million to bring broadband internet to rural America via its Starlink satellite service, but the service may end up being too expensive for many rural residents, and the company is spending nearly 13 percent of the money on urban broadband expansion because of flawed FCC data maps, critics say."While underserved communities will be happy to have access to faster Internet, it can be expensive," Geoff Herbert of Syracuse.com writes for GovTech. "CNBC reported in October that Starlink’s 'beta' service costs $99 a month — plus a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink kit. The kit includes a user terminal to connect with SpaceX satellites and a Wi-Fi router that can be controlled by a Starlink app on Google and Apple devices."
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
SpaceX rural broadband plan may be too pricey, and it appears to have exploited flawed FCC broadband maps
Agribusiness consolidation helps drive rural-urban polarization, writes ag econ columnist, citing Wendell Berry
Guebert notes, "Lugar’s edict for 'legislatures' to stay out of Big Agbiz’s biz has remained in effect despite mountains of evidence that the corporatization of key ag sectors has cost farmers, ranchers, rural America and consumers billions of dollars and an untold number of jobs And that’s on top of what boneheaded farm policies advocated by AgBiz — like 1996’s Freedom to Farm — cost taxpayers. (From 1997 to 2002, F2F cost taxpayers $122 billion, or three times its projected cost.) Many of these policies also took down antitrust fences and, shortly thereafter, consolidation in ag inputs, production, and processing went into overdrive."
Quick hits: the top 10 agriculture stories of 2020; rural schools facing closures amid pandemic, and more
Small banks helped businesses win more Paycheck Protection Plan loans. Read more here.
A school district is suing parents for unpaid textbook fees during the pandemic. Does your state allow such lawsuits? Read more here.
Rural schools are more likely to hold in-person classes, but the pandemic is hitting staff and students in many areas, forcing closures. Read more here.
Ken Burns' Country Music documentary is "feel-good but badly conceived entertainment," writes one critic. Read more here.
Columnist shares ways to create caregiver-friendly workspaces in rural communities. Read more here.
DTN/The Progressive Farmer has the top 10 agriculture stories of 2020, one per day. Read more here.
A recent paper from the Aspen Institute takes a deep dive into the rural disparities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and how they might be tackled. Read more here.
The proposed nationwide bike and foot path is making progress. Read more here.
Investigative reporters place sensors around rural Illinois for a year, detect banned pesticides near homes and schools
In an admirable feat of investigative journalism, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting placed air-pollution sensors in five agricultural locations in central Illinois, where much soybeans and corn are grown. After periodically sampling the air from June 2018 to July 2019, the center "found the presence of pesticides near schools, parks and homes where vulnerable populations live," Claire and Johnathan Hettinger report. The chemicals have been linked to multiple health issues. Read more here.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Trump's Justice Department, after shielding Walmart from criminal charges in opioid epidemic, files lawsuit against it
The suit claims Walmart tried to boost profits by understaffing pharmacies and pressuring employees to fill prescriptions quickly. ProPublica reported in March that the company slashed drug prices to attract buyers, then when demand soared, pressured pharmacists to fill prescriptions faster. That made it harder for them to question suspicious prescriptions, increasing drug abuse, the suit charges.
Federal prosecutors in Texas began investigating Walmart in 2016. Walmart pharmacists there and in other states reported hundreds of thousands of suspicious or inappropriate opioid prescriptions to their supervisors. They knew these opioids were being prescribed by "pill mill" doctors, and begged the corporate office to allow them to refuse to honor such prescriptions. Some of the doctors had been banned from sending prescriptions to all of Walmart's major competitors.
Relief bill has more forgivable loans for community news media, expanded to include those owned by big chains
“Most of our requests were included in some way,” Wessner said. “What’s more, we learn again and again that members of Congress value the contributions of our newspapers to local communities. We take the recognition of our requests as an encouraging indication that Congress wants to see local newspapers survive and thrive as we get through this painful coronavirus disaster.”
"I've seen national media portray West Virginia—where I was raised—and Eastern Kentucky—where I now live—as the home of racist white voters, as a place of despair and conservatism, as a wasteland of drug epidemics and pollution. I've seen national media swoop in every four years for presidential campaigns, or stop in for a short story about the "drug overdose capital" of the country. I've seen national media seek out stories that fit a narrative they wrote long before their reporters set foot on mountain ground. What I've almost never seen is national coverage that portrays this place as the home of rich legacies of radical labor organizing, environmental organizing, and queer organizing, as the soil for rich artistic and literary traditions, as a region shaped by patterns of in- and out-migration, as a place that is complex, varied, diverse, and full."
Impoverished single moms in Appalachia don't have much access to the literary world, and are mostly portrayed inaccurately in popular media such as Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy film version of J.D. Vance's book, Alison Stine writes for Gen, a Medium publication about politics, power and culture: "The film gets so much epically wrong about the region it purports to reflect; its poverty fallacies have overshadowed how much it gets wrong about women, particularly single mothers."
Proliferation of paywalled content will make it more difficult for Americans to read a diverse range of news sources
More and more news sites are putting up paywalls, which helps news writers make a living, but also makes it harder for the public to read a wide range of reputable news."As paywalls grow more common (76 percent of American newspapers used them in 2019, up from 60% just two years prior) and stricter (publications are getting better at sussing out incognito mode and other tricks to dodge paywalls), most readers are still only willing to pay for one online news subscription," Mark Hill writes for Wired. "The media landscape, then, may come to resemble what it looked like before the internet, where it was difficult and expensive for any one consumer to traverse a wide range of viewpoints."
Coronavirus vaccine roundup: Rural providers fight distrust and conspiracies, and face distribution challenges
Rural communities face challenges in distributing the coronavirus vaccine. Watch the video here.
The first vaccines have been administered to hard-hit Native American communities. Read more here.
Rural doctors fight vaccine distrust and conspiracies along with the virus itself. Read more here.
The next six months will be "strange and confusing" as certain groups of people get vaccinated but others have to wait. Read more here.
Farmworkers, firefighters and flight attendants jockey for vaccine priority. Read more here.
A recent survey in Oregon shows that less-educated people were less likely to say they would take the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes available. It's unclear whether that's partly conflated with political and population fault lines, since Republicans and rural residents are less likely to have a college degree, and those segments are also less likely to report wanting the vaccine. Read more here.
The vaccine rollout in rural Oregon and Idaho poses unique challenges. Read more here.
Rural Louisiana also faces challenges in distributing the vaccine. Read more here.
Pandemic has boosted ranks of first-time hunters, and that could help fund state conservation and wildlife efforts
Monday, December 21, 2020
Survey of rural heartland bankers shows strongest growth since 2013, from farmland prices and farm equipment sales
|Creighton University chart compares current month to last month and year ago; click here to download the full report.|
The December Creighton University survey of rural bankers in 10 Midwest states that rely on farming and energy showed the strongest growth for farmland prices and equipment sales since June 2013. The index surveys bankers in about 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300 in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Blackjewel bankruptcy motion, apparently denied, would dodge mine cleanup laws, abandon miners' medical claims
America's Health Rankings makes annual report, based on more metrics than before but with no overall ranking
|America's Health Rankings map, with figures for states ranking high in multiple chronic conditions added by The Rural Blog|
The latest edition of America's Health Rankings, from the United Health Foundation, gives a set of snapshots for every state. The report usually gives each state an overall ranking, but this one does not, citing the health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
Churches all over the nation are trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas during the coronavirus pandemic, a decision influenced by shut-down laws, broadband availability, and local sentiment."Generally, religious leaders in the region predict a minority of people will physically be in church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but the ones who attend will in some instances have circumvented wait-lists and long lines," Michelle Boorstein reports for The Washington Post. "Other faith leaders have urged Christians to stay away from gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus, and they say the most apt way in 2020 to mark the narrative of Jesus’ birth is to focus on improving housing and health care."
In the Upper Midwest, "church announcements are marked not with parties and performances, but with deaths. South Dakota and North Dakota, states largely spared from the worst of the pandemic during the spring and summer, have seen a frightening pace of death since October. The states' per capita death over the fall was almost double that of even the next worst-off state," Stephen Groves reports for The Associated Press. "The virus has been a crucible on the neighborly harmony that is the pride of many towns. Impassioned debates over politics and mask requirements, the unrelenting discomfort of isolation, the pain of losing loved ones and the pressures on medical workers have all compounded into discord. Churches saw needs arising, even as they waded through divisions."
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