Will Forte, left, and Bruce Dern in a still from the new movie NEBRASKA.

[imgcontainer] [img:Nebraska_movie.jpg] [source]Photo via Paramount Vantage[/source] Will Forte, left, and Bruce Dern in a still from the new movie NEBRASKA. [/imgcontainer]

“Nebraska” Movie Gets It Right. A Nebraskan reflects on the film “Nebraska,” the critically lauded film by Alexander Payne. The film follows a father and son as they drive across the state. 

The movie works, writes Nebraskan Paul L. Underwood, because director Payne gets the specifics of the state just right. “In the wrong hands, it’s corny stuff,” says Underwood. “In Payne’s, it’s perfect. The emotions and the dialect are as flat as the landscape, beautifully captured in black and white.”

In making a movie about a specific place, he’s addressed universal themes, says Underwood. “We Nebraskans need hope just like anyone else. We just go about it in stupid ways sometimes.”

Idaho Group Launches Rural Education Reform Effort. An Idaho foundation has launched an education reform initiative for rural and frontier America, according to a press release.

“Schools in rural areas are often faced with unique challenges and opportunities. However, the amount of research on solutions that work for small and low-income rural schools is thin,” said John White, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. “Our nation needs experts in the field of education research to identify best practices and share timely and relevant models in ways that can be replicated as soon as possible. This important work may be conducted in rural Idaho but it has the potential to identify solutions for common challenges throughout rural America.”

The initiative is called the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, and it’s supported by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

A SWOT Analysis of Rural N.C. A business leader in Lumberton, North Carolina, analyzes his region using a SWOT grid. For those of you who haven’t sat through endless organizational development meetings, SWOT is short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

It’s an interesting list. We wonder how many of these items are unique to southeast North Carolina and how many might also be applicable to other rural parts of the U.S.:

— Strengths: Cheap land, good highway access, low cost of labor, low cost of living, wired for Internet, excellent climate, available grants and subsidies to relocating businesses, proximity to major ports, established history of farming, light manufacturing and an abundant work force.

— Weaknesses: Low average education, lack of amenities, no public transportation, distance from major cities, little political influence, low average wealth, high unemployment, low self-esteem and a historical tendency to settle for less.

— Opportunities: Advances in technology, overnight shipping of products, world markets opening wider, “new” industries emerging, foreign companies expanding to United States and a rising middle class in developing nations.

— Threats: Established industries dissolving, cheaper labor abroad, climate change, energy crisis, slow economic growth and political and social instability (both at home and abroad).

N.C. Drops Housing Grant. Also out of Lumberton, North Carolina, comes news that the state has canceled the Community Development Block Grant Scattered Housing Site Program. Robeson County officials say the grant program has been helpful to Robeson and other rural counties over the years. The Robesonian reports:

“The state has the philosophy that bigger is better,” Commissioner Raymond Cummings said. “They are sending the money to urban areas like Raleigh and Charlotte. They are doing the same with DOT (Department of Transportation) money and money that was in the past used to attract businesses to rural areas.”

The money for the Scattered Home Site Program, which provided for the demolition and construction of new housing units, has now been taken reallocated to be used for infrastructure, according to Adrian Lowery, the housing coordinator for the Lumber River Council of Governments, the local agency that administered the program.

“The state feels that better service can be provided if the money goes into infrastructure,” Lowery said. “But this is HUD money and HUD has restrictions for how housing money can be used. There is only so much that can go toward infrastructure.

“To me this hurts rural citizens,” he said. “… This program has been excellent for the county.”

National Rural Health Day. The Partnership for Better Health Tuesday received the Rural Health Program of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, reports the Sentinel of Carlisle. The award was part of activities related to Pennsylvania Rural Health Week.

States are celebrating National Rural Health Day on Thursday, November 21. The event is organized by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and rural health offices in the 50 states, according to a press release. The event includes free webinars on rural health topics.

China Touts Rural Education Efforts. China is increasing its financial support for rural teachers, in an effort “to attract talent into underdeveloped rural education,” according to Xinhuanet.com.

Seventy percent of China’s students who attend the nation’s compulsory nine-year education program live in rural areas.

A longer piece in Ecns.cn touts the Chinese government’s efforts to “improve teachers’ incomes and livelihoods in rural areas.” But the leader of the National Center of Education Development Research says government efforts are inadequate and spotty. “The financial status of local governments differs a lot and areas in urgent need of financial aid are the majority,” the official, Wang Ming, said.

Veterans Housing Grant Deadline Extended. The deadline to apply for a grant to support housing projects for veterans in rural areas has been extended to December 6, the Housing Assistance Council has announced. More information on the grant program, supported by the Home Depot Foundation, is available here.

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