[imgcontainer] [img:jp-LAND-popup-v2.jpeg] [source]Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times[/source] Mayor Johnny Cummings of Vicco, Kentucky, works at his office just a few doors down from his hair salon. Cummings and the Vicco city commission passed an ordinance that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation. [/imgcontainer]

The most pro-Obama county in the country is….rural.

It’s Shannon County, South Dakota, home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It has a population of about 13,000 — 94.2 percent of whom are Native American.

The county has twice before cast the highest percentage of Democratic votes, in 2004 for John Kerry and in 2008 for Barack Obama.

Save the Landlines — Local exchange phone service is a right, not a privilege, writes Kentucky attorney Tom Fitzgerald. 

AT&T is back before the Kentucky legislature (and no doubt many others) asking for complete deregulation of basic local telephone service, which would remove the requirement that carriers provide access to landline service. If you have an “alternative voice service” (that is, wireless), then the companies would not have to provide basic local phone service.

This change would affect rural communities the most, of course. “Ending the obligation in Kentucky, without an assurance that comparable services will be available in a deregulated marketplace for those who are most in need of and least able to afford such services, is not in the public’s interest,” Fitzgerald writes.

Cod Cutbacks — Drastic cuts to the commercial harvest of cod along the Atlantic coast were voted in this week. The numbers of cod have become so depleted by fishing over the past decades that government officials fear the fish is on the verge of extinction. 

School Boards and Arne — The National School Boards Association has said that the Education Department under Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion” onto local schools. 

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.”

Going Backward on Renewables — Agri-Pulse reports that three states are ready to repeal or cutback on programs that have driven renewable energy production while two states are looking to expand their renewable energy goals. 

Vicco and Gay Rights — The New York Times’ Dan Barry goes to Vicco, the Kentucky coal camp that recently passed an ordinance banning discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  He writes:

Admit it: The Commission’s anti-discrimination vote seems at odds with knee-jerk assumptions about a map dot in the Appalachian coal fields, tucked between Sassafras and Happy. For one thing, Vicco embraces its raucous country-boy reputation — home to countless brawls and a dozen or so unsolved murders, people here say. For another, it is in Perry County, where four of every five voters rejected President Obama in the November election.

But the Vicco Commission’s 3-to-1 vote this month not only anticipated a central theme in the president’s second inaugural speech (“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law …”), it also presented a legislative model to the nation’s partisan-paralyzed Capitol, 460 miles away.

You discuss, you find consensus, you vote, and you move on, explained the mayor, Johnny Cummings. “You have to get along.”

New Senator’s Rural Roots — The new U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Mo Cowan, grew up in rural North Carolina

Cowan was born in 1969 in Yadkinville, North Carolina, a town of just over 2,000 west of Winston-Salem.

“I lived on one side of the street; I was related to everyone on that side of the street,’’ Cowan told The Boston Globe in 2010. “Everyone on the other side of the street was related to each other. So it was close-knit in that sense.’’

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