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Rural News

When Your Fixer-Upper Is Your Hometown

The New York Times | Posted on April 19, 2018

Darla Moore came from humble roots. She grew up in Lake City, S.C., an agricultural community with a population of 6,675. After college, she moved to New York, where she achieved tremendous success in finance. She was the first woman on the cover of Fortune magazine. And with Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, she became one of the first two female members of Augusta National Golf Club.About 10 years ago, Ms. Moore began spending more time in Lake City, where her grandparents had farmed and her father, a school principal and coach, was a local leader. She attributed her success to her upbringing among a diverse group of people who worked primarily in agriculture.But it seemed that Lake City’s best days in the tobacco and cotton trade were behind it, and Ms. Moore was determined to fix it up. In the last decade, she said, she has given about $100 million to support the town.Many once-great towns and neighborhoods in America have lost their luster. But the challenges of turning around a community are complex and may deter many philanthropists. For one, the job calls for more effort than just giving money. Experts say the person leading the charge needs to be part of the community, or substantial change will be difficult to accomplish.


What role do immigrants play in U.S. labor force?

Marketplace | Posted on April 19, 2018

President Donald Trump and many congressional Republicans are pursuing policies to reduce legal immigration to the United States, with proposals to prioritize admission for highly skilled and well-educated immigrants over those with family ties to residents and by deporting undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S.Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has fallen toward 4 percent, and employers increasingly say they're experiencing worker shortages.Economist Aparna Mathur at the American Enterprise Institute warns that reducing immigration to the United States over the coming decade will starve the economy of workers.“The baby boomers retiring is creating this deep hole in the workforce,” Mathur said. “U.S. birth rates are at all-time lows. We’re not seeing a huge amount of native workers entering the economy.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, immigrants — both documented and undocumented — made up 16.9 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2016, up from 13.3 percent in 2000. On average, immigrant workers are younger than native-born workers, and they have a higher labor force participation rate.


Melting of Arctic mountain glaciers unprecedented in the past 400 years

Science Daily | Posted on April 19, 2018

Glaciers in Alaska's Denali National Park are melting faster than at any time in the past four centuries because of rising summer temperatures, a new study finds.


Rural population grows in counties witrha lower digital divide

Daoly Yonder | Posted on April 19, 2018

When they live in remote rural areas, millennials are more likely to reside in a county that has better digital access. The findings could indicate that the digital economy is helping decentralize the economy, not just clustering economic change in the cities that are already the largest.  When looking at only rural counties (what the OMB classification system calls “noncore”) divided into five equal groups or quintiles based on their digital divide (1 = lowest divide while 5 = highest divide), the figure at the very top of this article shows that rural counties experienced an increase in millennials where the digital divide was lowest. (The millennial population grew by 2.3 percent in rural counties where the digital divide was the lowest.) Important to note is that this same pattern occurs in metropolitan and small city counties as well.


AG Jeff Sessions halts free legal assistance program for detained immigrants

Dallas News | Posted on April 19, 2018

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suspended a free legal assistance program for detained immigrants who need  basic advice as their cases wind their way through court. "Every day this program is not in operation puts family unity at risk, harms our communities, and infringes on the right of all people to make informed decisions about their legal claims," the Vera Institute said in a statement Wednesday. It said the program was cost-efficient and helped curb the record backlog of nearly 700,000 cases in the nation's immigration courts.   They also called the program a "lifeline for many immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and green-card holders —some who are fighting for their lives — who would otherwise not know the rights they have or the odds they face." 


Why More School Districts Are Holding Class Just Four Days a Week

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on April 19, 2018

The public school in Campo, Colorado, hasn’t required all its students to come to class on Fridays for nearly two decades. The 44-student district dropped a weekday to boost attendance and better attract teachers to a town so deep in farm country that the nearest grocery store is more than 20 miles away. “I think the four-day week helped us, initially, in recruiting teachers,” the superintendent, Nikki Johnson, said. “Now that so many districts are on four-day, that’s not much of an incentive.” In Oklahoma, for instance, where teachers recently staged a walkout to demand more school funding, cash-strapped districts have been using four-day weeks to cope with a teacher shortage and state budget cuts. Last school year, 97 districts of 513 ran on the compressed schedule, nearly twice as many as the previous year. Shorter school weeks are generally popular among families, students and teachers, and many school districts say the change saves money and makes it easier to recruit teachers. But the research is inconclusive: Shorter school weeks save only a little, according to education policy researchers. The impact on staffing hasn’t been well studied, and results are mixed on whether cramming a week’s worth of learning into four days helps or hurts students’ learning. And the changes aren’t universally popular. Critics say four-day weeks hurt working families who have to scramble to find child care and could prevent children from accessing free or low-cost meals five days a week. A recent study found that juvenile crime rates were higher in parts of Colorado where schools didn’t meet on Fridays.


Rural Poverty & Well-being

USDA | Posted on April 18, 2018

ERS research in this topic area focuses on the economic, social, spatial, temporal, and demographic factors that affect the poverty status of rural residents. Sections in this topic include the following: Poverty over time, including a historical look at metro/nonmetro poverty rates and deep poverty. The geography of poverty, including analysis of poverty in a regional context, maps of the incidence/severity of poverty, and the geographic persistence of poverty over decades. The demographics of poverty, including the breakdown of rural/urban poverty by race, family structure, and age. Background information and definitions (a note about data sources and how is poverty defined?).


Farm bill? Rural America doesn’t have the time.

The Food & Environment Reporting Network | Posted on April 17, 2018

The farm bill was the missing topic during a 45-minute session recently with farmers in southwestern Missouri, recalls Sen. Roy Blunt. “The farm bill never came up.” Instead, growers talked about threats to farm exports, over-regulation and the need for rural broadband. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says low commodity prices, the slump in farm income, attacks on corn ethanol and, most of all, anxiety about a possible trade war are the top concerns in farm country. There is no additional money for major changes in grain and soybean subsidies in the farm bill. So the biggest change the farm bill can offer grain and soybean growers would be the chance to switch to the Price Loss Coverage program, which is constructed like traditional farm supports, from the insurance-like Agricultural Risk Coverage program. The PLC approach is more valuable during a period of low commodity prices. Glauber said the traditional urban-rural alliance for passage of a farm bill is fraying, too: “Farm program proponents may need urban/suburban votes to get a farm bill passed but I don’t think the same is true for SNAP [supporters] since their programs don’t sunset after five years. Particularly, there is little in it for urban/suburban voters if the bill contains poison pills” on SNAP.


The Agony of Rural America's Inescapable Broadband Gap

Pacific Standard | Posted on April 17, 2018

Telecom giant T-Mobile received a sharp reminder on Monday from federal regulators: Its system still needs some work, and it can't just pretend otherwise.

The wake-up call came in the form of a $40 million settlement to address the Federal Communications Commission's claims the company used false ringtones to disguise issues of faulty calls. The use of phony ringtones, which "cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party's premises when it is not" per the FCC, was banned back in 2014, even though Reuters notes that T-Mobile had used the system since as far back as 2007.

But the settlement is also a reminder of the dismal digital divide that persists between rural and non-rural communities across America. Of the 11 percent of Americans who currently do not use the Internet, nearly a quarter (22 percent) are rural, according to March of 2018 from the Pew Research Center; another fifth (19 percent) have an annual income below $30,000, a significant barrier to access.


T-Mobile fined $40 million for faking ringtones and failing calls in rural areas

BGR Media | Posted on April 17, 2018

T-Mobile will pay the US Treasury $40 million to settle a dispute with the FCC over failed calls and faked ringtones for rural areas. The FCC annouced the fine, following a years-long investigation into actions that took place starting in 2016. The complaint broadly concerns how T-Mobile treats rural calls, specifically problems T-Mobile has with connecting calls to rural areas and the length of time taken to establish a call. The most significant problem appears to be that T-Mobile injected fake ringtones onto the line before the phone on the other end of the line started ringing, something that helps mask how long T-Mobile was taking to connect calls, but is also against FCC rules.  “The investigation also revealed T-Mobile’s practice of injecting false ring tones into certain calls. T-Mobile reported that it had done so on hundreds of millions of calls and admitted that its actions violated the Commission’s prohibition of injecting false ring tones on any calls.”


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