According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. just logged its second warmest year on record – a span covering 122 years of data. The average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 54.9°F, which was 2.9°F above the 20th century average. 2016 ranks only behind 2012 (55.3°F), and it represents the 20th consecutive warmer-than-normal year for the U.S. Globally, 2015 holds the current title of warmest year on record. In addition to the near all-time record warmth, during 2016, the U.S. endured 15 weather-related disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, causing a total of $46 billion in damages. This was the second highest number of billion-dollar events since 1980, only one less than 2011.
Plans are being laid in Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as Donald Trump takes the presidential oath of office. Hidden inside the law is a little-known provision unrelated to the health insurance expansion that helps rural hospitals across America stay open. It’s called the 340B drug discount program. The ACA made 1,100 rural hospitals eligible and it requires drug companies to supply these remote providers with discounted medications. These discounts can be passed along to patients unable to afford expensive medications or the savings can help fund essential medical services for their communities such as emergency rooms and labor and delivery. Rural hospitals across the country face daunting economic challenges. Eighty have closed since 2010 and 673 -- fully one third of rural hospitals -- operate at a loss and are at risk of closure. These are often the only medical facilities for hundreds of miles in any direction. Rural hospitals provide essential, lifesaving local access to health care close to home for the 62 million Americans living in rural and remote communities. Rural hospitals serve vulnerable Americans that are older, sicker and poorer then their urban counterparts. These patients are more likely to suffer with a chronic disease that requires monitoring and follow up care. That makes convenient, local access to health providers vital. It also reduces the overall cost of care and improves patient outcomes and quality of life. The 340B program makes it possible for these hospitals to offer necessary services needed in their communities.
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act could cost more than 2.5 million jobs, and many would come from the nation’s hospitals and health systems, new reports and industry lobbies say. The ACA’s subsidized private individual coverage and expanded Medicaid benefits have turned patients who couldn’t afford care into paying customers, allowing hospitals to hire more nurses, medical technicians, doctors and other caregivers to treat millions of newly insured Americans. “Given that our hospitals already operate with no margin on average, it's hard to see how they could avoid layoffs if repeal increases uncompensated care,” says Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at America’s Essential Hospitals, which represents public health systems across the country. A hospital is often the largest employer in a community, and healthcare facilities have been an economic engine that have helped reduce unemployment under President Obama . Friday’s jobs report again showed major growth in health industry jobs, "with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory healthcare services and hospitals."
December 25, 2016, marks the 70th anniversary of the release of It’s a Wonderful Life. This film is far more than a charming, nostalgic, and magical look at a different time in small-city America. As a member of the struggling, small-business middle class, George Bailey stands out as a different kind of “common man,” a theme so richly explored in director Frank Capra’s films. The intersection of an individual trying to do the right thing for the community, denying his life goals for the common good, and engaging in a class struggle in a competitive economy to protect the interests of the community’s working people represent the conflicts, opportunities, and choices all of us face in life, more especially, perhaps if we have dedicated ourselves to community building in one way or another. It’s a Wonderful Life was not well received originally, but has grown to become one of the most loved Christmas films. An individual’s unfolding acceptance of suffering and joy in his community and in his life ring true has overcome accusations that the film was a communist tool. At its heart, George Bailey’s wonderful life is the essence of learning to give and receive, of learning to be an individual who can fully share his gifts with others while graciously accepting the gratitude, love, and respect of his fellow citizens and friends.
Once-bustling Renwick, Iowa, lost its grocery, hardware store, school and Ford dealership years ago, but when its sole bar closed last June, it seemed to some residents there wasn't much of a town left. So a group of seven friends and spouses who had met for beers at the bar for decades took matters into their own hands. One of them bought the place and the others pooled their money to fix it up, showing up after work to replace floors and walls on steamy summer nights before reopening in September as the Blue Moose Saloon. It was an impressive achievement but one that is becoming more common as population continues to trickle away from rural America. Residents of some towns are scrambling to hold on to at least a few places where people can still get together. It's not just bars but groceries, cafes and other stores. They don't expect to turn around their communities' prospects, but after watching so many businesses shuttered, they feel they had to draw the line somewhere. "There are two places not too far, over in Lu Verne, but it's not our place," said one of the Blue Moose owners, Ron Oberhelman, a 59-year-old farmer who has seen the population fall from about 500 to 235 residents. "It's not our home town.
Urban-based conservation groups need get out of their isolated circles and do a better job of including rural communities in their efforts to protect public lands, says the director of a hiking-trail association in southern Oregon. Gabriel Howe, executive director of the Siskiyou Mountain Club, describes himself as a “proud Oregon boy with a barrel chest, tough feet, and calloused hands.” He’s also a “bleeding heart conservationist.” In an opinion piece in the January 1 Oregonian, Howe arg ued that some urban conservation groups in his state have looked down their noses at rural residents and created unnecessary and unproductive resentments in rural areas. They tend to focus on the needs of urban members and leave potential rural allies out in the cold, he said. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this criticism. But Howe’s op/ed articulated the complaint so skillfully, I asked him to elaborate for the Daily Yonder. He says there is a path to agreement between urban and rural conservationists, but we might have to clear away a little brush to make it walkable.
Illinois public schools and licensed daycare facilities will be required to test drinking water for lead contamination under a major compromise reached by key stakeholders. Long-running negotiations among environmental groups, lawmakers, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the governor’s office culminated in a compromise late last week, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office and the Illinois Environmental Council.
As Miracle-Gro® prepares to return to Pasadena, The Official Rose & Flower Care Company of the Tournament of Roses® announced today details for its 2017 float. ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’, Miracle-Gro’s fifth Rose Parade® float entry, honors the Parade’s namesake and the most popular flower in backyard gardens – the rose. Designed and built once again by Fiesta Parade Floats, all of Miracle-Gro’s past Rose Parade® entries have received awards, including the Governor’s Trophy for best depiction of life in California (2016); Isabella Coleman Award for best use of color in flowers (2015); Queen’s Award for most effective use of roses (2014); and Crown City Innovation Award for best use of imagination and innovation to advance float design (2013). “This year’s parade theme: ‘Echoes of Success’ celebrates the selfless contributions of others and their inspirational gifts,” said John Sass, Vice President and General Manager of Miracle-Gro. “More often than any other flower, the rose is held as the symbol of life, love and beauty. Our 2017 float not only pays tribute to the very flower for which the Parade is named, we’re celebrating the success gardeners have achieved for decades with the help of our products.”
Cuts in local government funds and tax changes made at the state level will cost Ohio counties and communities nearly $1.2 billion in 2017, as compared to 2010, a new report shows. Chief among those cuts were elimination of the state's estate tax, the halving of local government funds and accelerated phase-outs of local business taxes, a report from the liberal leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio found. But the report drew criticism from Gov. John Kasich's administration, which argues that focusing solely on cuts tells only part of the story. Growth in income and sales tax revenues as Ohio's economy recovers from the recession have helped offset the cuts, a spokeswoman said, citing alternative research. Policy Matters also looked more closely at 18 counties -- ranging from the 10 largest to some of the smallest -- and 20 cities within those counties to illustrate the impact at a local level.
Back in September 2016, I decided to fulfill my dream of traveling and photographing North America. Without any set itinerary, I hit the road and ended up driving and flying more than 24,000km (~15,000mi), experiencing some of the most amazing scenery and adventures. I had the trip of my life, and am so glad I decided to pick up my camera and embark on it. I’d like to share the very best of my trip in 20 pictures.