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It turns out that most U.S. public hospitals are in rural areas, but they accounted for only 20 percent of the 5.6 million patients discharged in 2008. That makes sense, since rural America is home to about 20% of the nation’s population.

Rural hospitals average 59 beds while urban hospitals have 285 beds, according to the federal study.

• South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, a Democrat in a tight election, gives President Obama a “C”. Herseth-Sandlin said the President has “done better than people are giving him credit for,” but that he had a lower grade on “forestry issues,” biofuels and “an understanding of rural America.” 

• Walden Pond is invaded by jelly fish. Yuck.

The Boston Globe reports that dime-sized fresh-water jellies have bloomed in the iconic Massachusetts pond where henry David Thoreau mused.

Apparently, the jellies come and go. 

DTN’s Urban Lehner notes that the 4-H grand champion steer at the Iowa State Fair, a handsome devil named Doc, is the clone of the 2008 grand champion. (The two are above, the insert being Doc’s father/mother.)

Doc was entered to show the capability of cloning, according to David Faber, the father of the kid who showed Doc. Faber is also the president of a cattle breeding service.

Lehner recounts the arguments for and against cloning — banned in horse racing, but still allowed in Iowa 4-H livestock competitions.

Will cloning limit improvements in the breed. No, writes Lehner. “(W)hile cloning today’s best specimens may bring profits, cattlemen will go on looking to breed still better specimens even as they reap those profits,” according to the DTN editor. “Man’s spirit of invention will ensure against monocultures. Unless we throw needless obstacle in the path of that spirit, our scientists and inventors will continue to seek out “what hasn’t yet been” to the benefit of mankind.” 

• Mankind appears less skilled in regular old fashioned regulation. The USDA Inspector General finds that the country’s system for insuring that sick animals don’t enter the U.S. is full of holes.

• Agriculture and food industry political action committees are spending more this year than in ’08. Contributions from ag business groups totaled $13.6 million through August 22. Two years ago, these same groups had donated only $13.1 million through September 17. 

Dairies were the top givers.

• National Geographic reports on a news study finding that we have less coal than we thought. “A new study seeks to shake up the assumption that use of coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, is bound to continue its inexorable rise,” writes Mason Inman. “In fact, the authors predict that world coal production may reach its peak as early as next year, and then begin a permanent decline.” 

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