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Rural News

Texas’ immigration legislation collides with Harvey

The Washington Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

Texas’ crackdown on illegal immigration is about to run smack into Harvey, with local officials saying they’ll refuse to comply with a new state law that goes into effect Friday requiring police to check immigration status for those they believe to be in the U.S. illegally. Known as SB4, the law would be the furthest-reaching crackdown of any state. It punishes leaders of sanctuary cities, including police officials, and spurs officers to determine immigration status of those they encounter. A number of cities had already sued to block the law. But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said there’s no need to wait for a judge to decide, calling for the state to suspend the law. He said his city won’t be enforcing it during hurricane relief efforts.

Harvey’s Hidden Side Effect

New Republic | Posted on August 31, 2017

74 incidents of excess air pollution have been reported since the hurricane hit, totaling more than one million pounds of emissions. More is on the way.

Texas hurricane exposes flaws in flood protections

High Country News | Posted on August 31, 2017

“Today, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that homeowners covered by federal flood insurance pay just half of the “true-risk cost” to insure their properties. In the highest-risk areas, they pay just a third.” A series of disasters has left the NFIP struggling financially. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy devastated the flood insurance program’s budget and today, the program is about $24 billion in debt. As climate change fuels an increase in disasters, storms of the same caliber may become the norm.“There is actually a 50 percent chance within a 10-year period the NFIP will once again experience Hurricane Sandy-size losses,” Roy Wright, the director of the NFIP, wrote.Financial concerns aside, there are other problems as well. The program encourages people to build and stay in areas that flood constantly. There’s no incentive to leave because taxpayer subsidies rebuild homes and buildings, even if those structures have repeatedly flooded.Attempts to overhaul the NFIP have not been successful and repeatedly have been met with backlash. In 2012, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) introduced the Biggert-Waters Act, a law that would increase the rates for business properties in special flood zones and properties that experience repeated flooding. These proposed increases would have led to an enormous spike in premiums. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, premiums in flood prone areas in New York City would have increased by $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Even Rep. Waters was outraged once the numbers came in and was part of a bipartisan effort to draft a bill to make sure premiums wouldn’t suddenly spike. In 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which delayed the Biggert-Waters reforms for two years. Today, premiums now have slowly begun to increase. The current White House proposal for the program would certainly lead to more financial headaches. As part of deciding which areas are riskier, FEMA creates flood maps—but many of them are out-of-date. Funds had been previously allocated to update them, but Trump’s proposed 2018 budget included cutting $190 million from this effort. Without that money, FEMA would be forced to find money from somewhere else to fund mapping.Financial solvability aside, the NFIP is must be reauthorized by September 30. 

An alternative to wolf control to save endangered caribou

Science Daily | Posted on August 31, 2017

The iconic woodland caribou across North America face increasing predation pressures from wolves. A short-term solution to caribou conservation would be to kill wolves. But a new government policy looks at reducing the invasive species moose numbers propping up the wolf population. Researchers have now evaluated the effects of this policy on the caribou population. What happens when invasive and native species are eaten by the same predator? If the invasive species is abundant, the native species can go extinct because predator numbers are propped up by the invading species. This process is called "apparent competition" because on the surface it "appears" that the invading and native prey directly compete with each other, but really the shared predator links the two prey.This is exactly what is happening to the iconic woodland caribou across North America. Prey like moose and white-tailed deer are expanding in numbers and range because of logging and climate change, which in turn increases predator numbers (e.g. wolves). With all these additional predators on the landscape, more caribou become by-catch, driving some herds to extinction.Following the reduction of moose using sport hunting, wolf number numbers declined, with wolf dispersal rates 2.5 × greater than the reference area, meaning that dispersal was the process leading to fewer wolves. Caribou annual survival increased from 0.78 to 0.88 for the Columbia North herd, located in the moose reduction area, but survival declined in the reference area (Wells Gray). The Columbia North herd probably stabilized as a result of the moose reduction, and has been stable for 14 years (2003 -- 2017). By expanding their comparison across western Canada and the lower 48 states, they found that a separate herd subjected to another moose reduction was also stable, whereas at least 15 other herds not subjected to moose reductions are continuing to decline.

US interior secretary urges mining ban near Yellowstone

Chicago Tribune | Posted on August 30, 2017

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to speed up a proposal to block new gold mining claims on forested public lands in Montana near Yellowstone National Park and will also consider blocking other types of mining, agency officials said Monday. Federal officials are undergoing a two-year review of mining on more than 30,000 acres among the towering peaks of the Absaroka mountains just north of the park. Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said Monday that Zinke wants to move forward as quickly as possible with a proposed 20-year withdrawal of future mining claims in the area north of the park, known as Paradise Valley. The review of that withdrawal was scheduled to be completed by the U.S. Forest Service and Interior's Bureau of Land Management by November, 2018.

Report:Effect of pesticide exposure on birth outcomes

University of California Santa Barbara | Posted on August 30, 2017

Researchers unravel the negative effects of pesticide exposure on birth outcomes, such as weight, gestation and abnormalities.  A new study by researchers at UC Santa Barbara addresses the issue in a novel way — by analyzing birth outcomes in California’s San Joaquin Valley.With more than one-third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts produced there, the San Joaquin Valley, not surprisingly, is a heavy pesticide-use region. The UCSB team investigated the effect of exposure during pregnancy in this agriculturally dominated area and observed an increase in adverse outcomes accompanying very high levels of pesticide exposure.Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications. “For the majority of births, there is no statistically identifiable impact of pesticide exposure on birth outcome,” said lead author Ashley Larsen, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. “Yet mothers exposed to extreme levels of pesticides, defined here as the top 5 percent of the pesticide exposure distribution, experienced between 5 and 9 percent increases in the probability of adverse outcomes with an approximately 13-gram decrease in birth weight.”They found negative effects of pesticide exposure for all birth outcomes — birth weight, low birth weight, gestational length, preterm birth, birth abnormalities — but only for mothers exposed to very high levels of pesticides — the top 5 percent of the exposure distribution in this sample. This group was exposed to 4,200 kilograms of pesticides applied in the 1-square-mile regions encompassing their addresses during pregnancy.

Appalachian health: more ODs fewer MDs

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 30, 2017

A region-wide health study shows that the gap between Appalachia and the rest of the U.S. is widening for health indicators such as infant mortality, cancer deaths, and poverty. Appalachians are sicker and die younger from conditions like heart disease, cancer, and drug overdoses than the rest of the nation, according to a study released today by a government agency and private charities.Health problems are worst in the 13-state region’s most rural and economically distressed areas, according to a joint press release from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was also part of the research.The study reviews 41 population and public health indicators to provide a comprehensive overview of the health of the 25 million people living in the Appalachian region, federally defined as 420 counties stretching from northern Mississippi to the southern tier of New York.

A KY town aims to shine long after the great American eclipse

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 30, 2017

The small city of Hopkinsville had its day in the sun -- and dark -- on August 21, as an estimated 150,000 out-of-town guests swelled the city's population by a factor of five. Having company is always a good incentive to spruce things up. Will the town's careful planning for the eclipse pay off with longer-term benefits?

The promise of telemedicine depends on bandwidth and technology

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 30, 2017

Through telemedicine, healthcare providers can use intranet or internet networks to diagnose, administer, initiate, assist, monitor, intervene, or report a medical procedure. And the services can include mental and physical rehabilitation. Telemedicine touches every medical discipline, including psychiatry. Just about every person from newborns to seniors may have telemedicine influence their lives at some time.One thing hasn’t changed, however. Broadband may still determine whether rural residents are telemedicine’s “haves” or “have nots.” Broadband links between medical facilities and emergency responders with portable ultrasound devices can save lives. With more data reaching doctors, patients can get to and through the ER faster, or they can be routed to the correct medical facility to begin with. Communities’ healthcare administrators, emergency preparedness teams, and broadband planning teams should work together to create both the communication infrastructure and telemedicine equipment.Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and they understand if you have an illness in a particular part of the body, this can affect your brain, and similarly the brain and the mind can affect parts of the body as well. Dr. Kaftarian says mental illness, in it’s extreme, can lead to death. “We have 30,000 Americans die every year from opioid addictions. That’s double the homicide rate in the country. We have over 40,000 suicides every year in the U.S., many of those as a result mental illness.”

No hate in my holler

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 30, 2017

When Hale and others learned in February that a white supremacist group known as the Traditionalist Worker Party planned to hold a rally with the National Socialist Movement and the League of the South in Pikeville, they were stunned. In response, Hale headed up a day of making art at the Boone Youth Drop-In Center, where she coordinates workshops. That day, she developed a print that read “No Hate in My Holler,” with the hashtag #GoHomeNaziScum at the bottom. The image stirred something in the community’s imagination, and requests for prints and t-shirts followed. Hale’s image appeared on shirts of protesters throughout the rally that day, and #NoHateInMyHoller became a hashtag on Instagram and Twitter in the weeks that followed. Hale assumed the phrase would decline after Pikeville. This month, however, it was revived as neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups descended on Charlottesville.