A man walks in the snow down a road along the shore in Scituate, Massachusetts on Friday. The weekend’s winter storm forced cancelation of school in many areas, especially in rural communities, a story says.

[imgcontainer] [img:snow02.jpg] [source]Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP[/source] A man walks in the snow down a road along the shore in Scituate, Massachusetts on Friday. The weekend’s winter storm forced cancelation of school in many areas, especially in rural communities, a story says. [/imgcontainer]

Snow Days. School children across the nation are watching or listening eagerly today to learn whether they get a day off from classes because of the winter weather. A nifty little study in the Fargo, North Dakota, Forum confirms what most kids would claim intuitively: Rural districts in North Dakota and Minnesota are more likely to cancel class because of weather than city districts.

Reporter Helmut Schmidt gathered the data on closures and compared city and country districts. Then he talked to school officials to get their take on what he found.

“Taking more weather-related days off in rural areas makes sense because rural roads usually get fewer passes from snowplows,” Schmidt reports. White outs and drifts are more common in rural areas, he reported.

Rural kids may be more likely to be enjoying a day off now. But they will have to make up the days later, school officials said.

Insurance Advocates Face Hurdles in Rural Areas.  Advocates in rural areas who are signing up residents for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act face some tough challenges, the Associated Press reports. The story quotes outreach workers in the Florida Panhandle, eastern Idaho and the Thumb and Upper Peninsula regions of Michigan.

Lack of medical facilities, poor transportation options and negative press about the health insurance-plan’s website don’t make the job any easier, outreach workers say. Here’s a sample from Michigan:

In a sparsely populated area of Michigan, retired nurse Sue Cook crisscrosses the 960-square mile Sanilac County to help people sign up for insurance through the online exchange. The spread-out county has only 42,000 residents.

“There are many challenges we’re facing right now,” said Cook, who leads an all-volunteer team of health care professionals at Caring Hearts Clinic in Marlette, 65 miles north of Detroit. “You’ve got somebody in the northeast part of the county that has no transportation to get here to even sign up.

“We’re finding that even if I go to the far end of the county, there’s the issue of not having Wi-Fi to hook up to,” she said. “Those are huge hurdles for us to try to conquer in a large county like this.”

Sibling Harmony.  Like a lot of Kentuckians, Phil Everly was born in Chicago.

Everly died Friday at the age of 74. His older brother, Don, was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where their father was a coal miner and musician. By the time Phil came along, the family had moved to Chicago, like a lot of families from rural Kentucky in the first half of the 20th century.

The brothers grew up performing music in Iowa, Indiana and East Tennessee before they landed in Nashville and started producing No. 1 records.

The Everlys were a bridge from contemporary pop and country music back to earlier brother duos with deep connections to rural places and traditions – artists such as the Blue Sky Boys, the Louvin Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Delmore Brothers.

Here’s the Everly Brothers doing a Karl Davis song, “Kentucky.” Compare this the to Blue Sky Boys’ rendition.

YouTube video

Pollan on Plants. Forty years after the publication of the controversial and much discredited book The Secret Life of Plants, a new wave of scientists are looking into the ability of plants to sense and respond to their surroundings. The new breed of “plant neurobiologist” is haunted by the pseudo-science and New Age claims made in the Secret Life of Plants, reports Michael Pollan in the New Yorker.

“Depending on whom you talk to in the plant sciences today, the field of plant neurobiology represents either a radical new paradigm in our understanding of life or a slide back down into the murky scientific waters last stirred up by The Secret Life of Plants,” Pollan reports.

Impurities in Chinese Donkey Meat. It’s early yet, but here’s our headline of the year thus far:  “Walmart recalls donkey meat in China because it contained fox.”

Court Rules in Favor of “Unadmirable” Law Firm in Black Lung CaseA law firm that withheld evidence in a black lung benefits case didn’t act admirably, but they didn’t commit fraud on the court, a federal court of appeals has ruled.

The law firm Jackson Kelly PLLC held back two pathology reports that indicated miner Gary Fox suffered from black lung. Fox lost his claim to receive benefits for the debilitating lung disease, which is associated with coal mining.

Later, in another black-lung claim, Fox’s lawyer uncovered the withheld pathology reports. An administrative law judge said Jackson Kelly PLLC had committed fraud by not revealing the reports years earlier. The appeals court disagreed with that decision and blamed Fox for not asking the right questions to get the pathology reports admitted into the proceedings.

Fox died in 2009 from complicated black lung disease. His case was part of an investigative series by the Center for Public Integrity.

Prince William Studying Rural Issues. Britain’s Prince William is going back to school to learn about agriculture and rural issues, the BBC reports.

The prince, second in line to the throne, will attend a special series of lectures and meetings created solely for him at Cambridge University. The course is being paid for from private sources, the story reports.

The story links the prince’s interest in rural issues to the likelihood of his eventually taking over management of the Duchy of Cornwall, “a portfolio of land, property and investments” currently managed by his father, Prince Charles.

William’s rural studies have raised hope that the young prince could serve as a champion for the British countryside, reports the Telegraph.

Australia Debates Privatizing Postal Service. Australians are talking about selling off their postal system. Or are they?

The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is urging the government to consider selling off assets such as Australia Post, one report said. But Sims later backtracked, saying his remarks were a general statement of support for privatization, not specifically aimed at the government-run postal service.

Opponents of selling off the postal service say such a move would devastate rural areas.

”Communities around Australia will be worse off if Australia Post is privatized, especially those in rural and regional Australia who depend on its services,” acting shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland said.

”In many rural and regional areas, the Australia Post outlet is often the general store, the newsagent and provides banking and bill payment services … [and] all these services are under threat if Australia Post is privatized.

They Shall Take Up Serpents. The thought of purposefully touching a venomous snake probably doesn’t appeal to many people. But how about holding three at a time and shaking them around during a church service? Buzzfeed, the website best known for cat gifs and OMG/LOL/FAIL videos, reports on an east Tennessee church whose congregation handles snakes, drinks poison, and occasionally burn themselves with a butane torch as part of their worship.

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