[imgcontainer right] [img:grantPO.jpeg] [source]Des Moines Register[/source] Will the post office in Grant, Iowa, close? [/imgcontainer]

The lead story in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman was about what state Medicaid cuts will mean for rural hospitals. It ain’t good.

“Proposed cuts in state Medicaid funding could lead to reduced access to health care across rural Texas,” reports Tim Eaton. Rural hospitals carry a higher load of Medicaid patients and have fewer ways to increase revenues in other areas. In particular, the cuts could shutter some hospitals (well, at least some of those that haven’t already closed). Eaton writes: 

Entire rural hospitals could go out of business. And that could make it difficult for tens of thousands of Texans to get obstetric care, emergency room access and general medical help.

Don McBeath, an official with the Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals, said that the implications of the cuts could be dire and that several rural hospitals across the state could be in danger of shutting down.

“People are going to die because they are not going to get care,” he said.

• Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky writes that there should be a national reporting system to monitor prescription drug abuse. Rural Kentucky is currently flooded with prescription drugs handed out in Florida. 

Kyle Munson in the Des Moines Register maps post office closures in small towns. Munson goes to Grant, Iowa and meets Greg Lightner, who told a public meeting about the worth of the local P.O.

“I see a lot of people here I wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for the post office,” said Lightner, who distributes his extra garden vegetables and old magazines to neighbors by leaving them at the post office. “It’s one of the last community areas we have. We have down at the Hayloft, you can go play cards at the fire station with the guys, or we’ve got the post office – that’s it.” 

• The Concord (N.H.) Monitor argues that “not all post offices should pay their way.”

It’s true that 26,000 post offices do operate at a loss and the postal service is reviewing 2,000 for culling (such as the Grant, Iowa, branch above). The postal service was given a monopoly, the paper writes, and with that monopoly comes responsibility. The paper writes: 

Some conservatives want to end the postal service’s monopoly and let private companies deliver rural mail. Rural residents, of course, would be charged rates commensurate with the cost of delivery. A move in that direction, however, would be a tragic break with history and a breach of the social contract, one that would be economically and sociologically devastating to much of rural America.

If it wants to maintain the national goal of universal service at an affordable price, Congress must be willing to pony up.

• The biodiesel business is making a comeback. 

• The New York Times produced a lengthy report on environmental problems with gas drilling. Ian Urbina reports finding newly discovered documents: 

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

• A bill is advancing through the Kansas legislature that would give a state income tax break to people moving into counties losing population. 

Check out the latest in snow plow technology in Vermont. Watch out when you see one of these babies coming the other way. 

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