Lawmakers are talking about the problems that plague some of Georgia’s smaller communities. Main Street businesses that have closed. Financially struggling hospitals. Poor internet connections. Schools that don’t offer all the classes that will help students get into the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. Young people moving to cities and never coming back. Now there’s a move afoot in the state House to try and look at all these things comprehensively. So far it doesn’t have a formal name, but House Speaker David Ralston, is calling it the rural development initiative. It could take the form of a study group or a working group or a commission, Ralston’s spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, said. But the speaker wants to put a focus on creating the right environment in rural Georgia for private industry to create jobs.
It it felt like this past year was hotter than usual, you were not imagining things. According to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Planet Earth’s surface temperatures during 2016 were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880. This finding makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures and continues what has been a long-term warming trend. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78°F warmer than the mid-20th century mean.
The health of rural America is failing, and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without adequate replacement could prove disastrous. A December 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that for the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the United States has declined, particularly in small cities and rural areas, where people are dying at much higher rates. This shocking trend is driven in part by increasing mortality rates for white, working-class Americans, many of whom live in rural America. There is no better indicator of well-being than life expectancy, and reversals like this are unusual for wealthy nations where successive generations increase in longevity. This has remained true for vulnerable, minority populations in America, as blacks and Hispanics continue to make gains in life expectancy even while experiencing significant health disparities.This drop in life expectancy in rural areas is linked to higher rates of chronic illness, obesity, drug overdose, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide. Death rates are most notable for rural white women, who are now much more likely than their grandmothers to suffer from obesity, smoking and alcoholism. Rising rates of opioid addiction have resulted in an increase in drug dependency in newborns born to rural mothers. Further, dwindling industry in these communities limits access to both employment and to health care.Taken as a whole, Medicaid expansion through the ACA has resulted in critical gains toward improving rural population health by expanding insurance coverage and stabilizing rural hospitals.
Telecom and cable industries are doubling back to make already existing state restrictions tougher, reducing the ability of local governments to create competition for telecommunications services. This time incumbents (the telecommunications companies or successors that were in place before telecommunications deregulation) are giving their bills pro-community broadband titles (Virginia Broadband Deployment Act) and paragraphs of complimentary rhetoric that lead to innocuous sounding directives that are actually quite harmful for municipal broadband advocates.
After a couple decades as a commercial photographer, Carl Corey made a pivot to and started shooting personal pictures in a more observational style. His latest project, Americaville, is a quiet saunter across the Great Plains to the Midwest, where Corey now lives. I talked via email to Carl about his work in small towns.
The state Assembly Monday voted to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to penalize veterinarians who declaw cats. Under the proposal, onychetomy -- the medical term for declawing -- would be added to the list of criminal animal cruelty offenses. The Assembly approved the measure by a vote of 43-10 with 12 abstentions. There was no floor debate on the bill. Some veterinarians have objected to the ban, saying the procedure has evolved in recent years to be less invasive. They also argue the ban may discourage adoptions. "We are not pro-declaw, we are anti-euthanasia. People who adopt feral cats may choose not to - that is our primary concern," said Richard Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association. Alampi said the surgical procedure and pain management strategies have vastly improved in the last 20 years, when extreme pain and behavior issues were associated with declawing. "Laser surgery is now common and pain management has advanced dramatically. The reports are kittens are running around playing the next day," Alampi said. The Assembly also approved another animal welfare bill -- one that creates a registry of convicted animal abusers and posts it on the state Department of Health website.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced new measures aimed at addressing the state’s growing opioid epidemic, including proposals to limit prescriptions for pain medications and increase prison terms for drug dealers convicted of distributing opioids that result in lethal overdoses. Hogan (R) also signed an executive order establishing a central “command center” to coordinate local and state efforts to combat opioid abuse, a problem that resulted in 1,400 fatal overdoses in Maryland last year. The governor, whose cousin died of a heroin overdose, said he will introduce legislation to restrict opoiod prescriptions to a seven-day supply, with exceptions for certain types of treatment such as for cancer and hospice care. Many experts say a growing number of heroin addicts started using the drug as less-expensive way to feed an addiction to prescription painkillers.
Who gets the house? Who gets the couch? Who gets the dog? If one of those items seems different to you, that’s probably because you, like many Americans, consider pets to be more like family members than furniture. But courts do not. In the eyes of the law, animals are property. So although pet custody battles are often passionate and sometimes truly wacky, courts think of them more prosaically: as part of the “property distribution” in a divorce. That’s why an amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes, which took effect last week, is making waves in the world of animal law. It makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. In a blog post, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.” “It is significant,” said David Favre, a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law. “For the first time, a state has specifically said that a companion animal has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property — that the court may award custody on the basis of what is best for the dog, not the human owners.”
Animal rights and environmental groups are asking for a halt to building more live chicken facilities in Arkansas until federal regulators assess the impacts of such facilities on animals, the environment and public health. Groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Arkansas Animal Rights Koalition are asking USDA and the Small Business Administration to stop making federal loans until the local impact of new facilities has been determined. The groups have submitted a petition calling for the studies as part of the National Environmental Policy Act in light of an estimated 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases that a network of poultry facilities in northeastern Arkansas would release each year
As candidates two years ago, the Republican governors of Kentucky and Arkansas swore they would do away with “Obamacare” if elected. But a funny thing happened between the campaign trail and the governor’s mansion: Reality set in. After promising to uproot Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin simply renamed his Democratic predecessor’s health care plan for low-income adults and proposed changes designed to help people find jobs and get off the rolls. In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson changed the name of the Medicaid expansion program and proposed adding small premiums for people with incomes above the federal poverty line, $11,880 for an individual. As Congress prepares to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, 14 other states with GOP governors that opted to expand Medicaid under the law may face the same reality Bevin and Hutchinson did: Taking health insurance away from hundreds of thousands of people is a complicated and risky proposition.