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Rural News

Can You Curate a Town?

The New York Times | Posted on November 5, 2018

Mr. Resnick, 50, a self-described “country boy” who has the hulk of a club bouncer but favors bright white sneakers and dad jeans, felt the same way. Six years ago, he bought 31 buildings in Mountain Dale — nearly all of them vacant — hoping to revive the town. He knew this required courting a new breed of visitors: weekenders, artists and escapees from New York City’s high rents. But as a high-school dropout who made his money manufacturing grocery store equipment, he didn’t know how to find them.Then a friend introduced him to DVEight, a regional magazine named for eight towns in the Delaware Valley that describes its audience as “a stylish and sophisticated readership interested in exploring modern rural life.”These were precisely the people Mr. Resnick wanted. And so he hired the magazine’s editor in chief, Nhi Mundy, 39, to be Mountain Dale’s “town curator.” Ms. Mundy’s role is to turn Main Street into a living version of the magazine. “If a museum does it, why can’t I do it?” Mr. Resnick said. Curating a town as one might an art collection is not a lonely pursuit. Wealthy individuals like Mr. Resnick, well-funded nonprofits and even corporations like Walmart have begun buying deserted American main streets, hoping to reinvent them with a fresh aesthetic. The people behind these ventures frequently install their friends and acquaintances in storefronts, while attempting to preserve (or exploit, depending whom you ask) local history. The practice is rarely free of conflict, even when developers have the best intentions.“Everybody in this country says Main Street America is dead. It’s a bad investment,” Mr. Resnick said. “I’m trying to recapture what I had as a kid. Everything was alive, every store was open.”And yet marketing the romance of rural living to city folk can seem like an affront to locals who are dealing with serious socioeconomic decline. Monson, a town in one of Maine’s poorest counties, was gutted a decade ago when the local furniture factory closed. Then a nonprofit called the Libra Foundation purchased 28 properties in town, hoping to create an artists’ retreat and, eventually, encourage painters and poets to settle there permanently.

August 2017-2018, job growth falters in rural counties

Daily Yonder | Posted on November 1, 2018

Job growth in rural America continues to lag the rest of the nation, according to the latest data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In the 12 months ending this past August, the U.S. added over 1.7 million jobs. But only 38,000 of those new jobs found their way to rural counties, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. More than two-thirds of the new jobs were located in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, those with more than a million people.  Rural America had 12.9 percent of the nation’s jobs in August 2018 but only garnered 2.2 percent of the jobs created in the previous 12 months. 

From Great Recession to Great Reshuffling

Economic Innovation Group | Posted on November 1, 2018

What we found amounts to a “Great Reshuffling” – a sorting of human capital, job creation, and business formation that has had vast implications for Americans and their communities. In the years following the recession, top-tier places have thrived, seeing meteoric growth in jobs, businesses, and population. Meanwhile, the number of people living in America’s most distressed zip codes is shrinking as the nature of distress becomes more rural. But the gaps in well-being between prosperous areas and the rest have grown wider, and national rates of growth have become more distant from the experience of the median community. What was once a country of disparate places that converged towards prosperity is now a country of places drifting further apart.The Great Reshuffling has left more Americans enjoying prosperity. The number of people living in prosperous zip codes swelled by 10.2 million between the two periods to a total of 86.5 million—more than any other quintile. Meanwhile, the number of Americans living in distressed zip codes fell by 3.4 million between the two periods to a total of 50 million—the smallest population of any quintile.While the overall population in distressed zip codes declined, the number of rural Americans in that category increased by nearly 1 million between the two periods. Rural zip codes exhibited the most volatility and were by far the most likely to be downwardly mobile on the index, with 30 percent dropping into a lower quintile of prosperity—nearly twice the proportion of urban zip codes that fell into a lower quintile. Meanwhile, suburban communities registered the greatest stability, with 61 percent remaining in the same quintile over both periods. Urban zip codes were the most robust—least likely to decline and more likely than their suburban counterparts to rise.

Reckoning with Opioids in Farm Country

Civil Eats | Posted on November 1, 2018

Rampant drug abuse has long been perceived as an urban plight. But when it comes to opioid painkillers—including oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and heroin—rural communities are on the frontlines. Five of the states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths—Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania—are predominantly rural. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that rates of overdose death in rural areas have been rising higher than they have in urban areas since 2006. Today, the agency says, people living in rural areas are almost twice as likely to overdose on opioids as urban residents.Drug overdoses killed 72,000 people in 2017, according to the most recent estimates from the CDC. Claiming nearly 200 victims per day, drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for people under 50 years of age. But it does not only affect the young: In 2015, adults in the 45-to-54 age group experienced the highest death rate from overdose.In rural areas where demographics skew older, the societal impacts of nonmedical opioid use run deep. And that population is declining not only due to lower birth rates, out-migration of young adults, and an aging population, but also from mortality of working-age adults from opioid overdose.

Animal species becoming extinct in Haiti as deforestation nearly complete

Science Daily | Posted on November 1, 2018

Species of reptiles, amphibians and other vertebrates are becoming extinct in Haiti as deforestation has claimed more than 99 percent of the country's original wooded areas.

Oregon hemp farming sees "explosive growth"

Oregon Business | Posted on November 1, 2018

The Oregon hemp industry is like a raging river, restrained by a dam that might soon break and allow products to flood an array of new markets. A provision in the 2018 Farm Bill before Congress would strike cannabidiol from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of Schedule 1 drugs, those the agency deems to have the highest potential for abuse. Nationally, hemp sales topped $820 million in 2017. The market is expected to reach $1 billion in 2018.In the roller-coaster cannabis industry, hemp enjoys a smoother ride than recreational marijuana. Oregon marijuana growers have produced heaping piles of weed far in excess of what consumers can smoke and ingest. Federal law prohibits growers from shipping outside the state, restricting demand in the legal market. Many growers are now fleeing to the more promising hemp trade.

Dolphins are simplifying their calls to make themselves heard over noisy humans

The Quartz | Posted on November 1, 2018

It’s a real sea of noise in the oceans these days. On top of the normal sounds of singing cetaceans, cracking shrimp, and surprisingly rowdy fish, humans have unloaded a veritable cacophony into the water: noises from boats large and small, the sounds of great honking container ships, the dull roar of seafloor mining, and the jackhammering of oil and gas exploration. And because sound travels fast, and far, through water, the noise pollution is magnified, spreading this high-decibel ambient sound all over the seas. So, what are dolphins to do, if they want to be heard over all that clamor? Well, they adapt, by simplifying their complex calls so they can better understand each other over the fray.

Anthrax kills 13 bison on Fort. St. John farm

CBC | Posted on November 1, 2018

Thirteen farm animals are dead after coming into contact with dormant anthrax spores on a farm near Fort St. John. The Ministry of Agriculture says there is no public health risk and it is rare for the disease to spread from livestock to humans.

A Sense of Alarm as Rural Hospitals Keep Closing

The New York Times | Posted on November 1, 2018

“Options are dwindling for many rural families, and remote communities are hardest hit,” said Katy Kozhimannil, an associate professor and health researcher at the University of Minnesota. Beyond the potential health consequences for the people living nearby, hospital closings can exact an economic toll, and are associated with some states’ decisions not to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.Since 2010, nearly 90 rural hospitals have shut their doors. By one estimate, hundreds of other rural hospitals are at risk of doing so.Part of the story is political: the decision by many red states not to take advantage of federal funding to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. Some states cited fiscal concerns for their decisions, but ideological opposition to Obamacare was another factor.In rural areas, lower incomes and higher rates of uninsured people contribute to higher levels of uncompensated hospital care — meaning many people are unable to pay their hospital bills. Uncompensated care became less of a problem in hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid.In a Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief, researchers from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management found that hospitals in Medicaid expansion states saved $6.2 billion in uncompensated care, with the largest reductions in states with the highest proportion of low-income and uninsured patients. Consistent with these findings, the vast majority of recent hospital closings have been in states that have not expanded Medicaid.

Rural Americans are ok with 'outside' help to beat opioid crisis and boost economy

NPR | Posted on November 1, 2018

Ronald Reagan summed up the feeling when he was president: "I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.' "But rural Americans have come across scarier phrases since then, like "the opioid epidemic.""So what you have are some very serious problems — particularly around the economy and opioid and drug abuse — that really worry people," says Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.Small towns face big problems. In rural America, rugged individualism is still prized, but so is the pragmatism that has begun to trump traditional disdain for government.Many rural communities are facing two big, persistent issues: drugs and economic stagnation. Take Belle, Mo., with its population of 1,500."Money is a big problem," says Kathy Stanfield, who is in her late 60s and raised her children here. "You don't have the tax base anymore that you used to have."Stanfield says Belle has struggled since the shoe factory closed decades ago. It was once the town's biggest employer.Increasingly, the town relies on grants to pay for basic maintenance, like replacing crumbling sidewalks or fixing faulty water lines. And that money is getting harder to come by.Belle has a drug problem, too, and Roxie Murphy, a newspaper reporter who covers Belle for the Maries County Advocate, says drug-related crime is on a lot of people's minds.