[imgcontainer right] [img:bybee.jpeg] [source]Lexington Herald-Leader[/source] Jimmy Cornelison is either the sixth or seventh generation of his family to run Bybee Pottery in Madison County, Kentucky. Pressed by higher material costs, Bybee has laid off workers and may close for good. [/imgcontainer]

A report from the National Academy of Sciences released Wednesday recommends changes in Medicare that would increase payments to doctors in metropolitan areas while decreasing payments to doctors in rural areas. 

The intent is to send more money to higher cost areas and less to doctors living in lower cost regions, according to a report in the New York Times. 

A spokesman for the Iowa Medical Society quoted in the story said, “You could argue that it costs more to deliver health care in rural America, in sparsely populated areas, than in densely populated areas.” Michael Adams said that, yes, office space was more expensive in larger cities, but that Medicare’s payment formula gives too much weight to those kinds of differences.

•They’ve been making Bybee Pottery in Madison County, Kentucky, for over 200 years. Now the business may close.

Bybee’s work has been “suspended,” according to the Richmond Register. One of the problems is that the cost of materials has risen sharply this year, particularly the minerals that give Bybee its look. 

•Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a meeting of the Kentucky Coal Association that the Obama administration had declared war on the state’s coal industry and that he was backing bills that would rein in the power of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

McConnell says the EPA is taking too long to act on permits for new mining operations. 

McConnell, a Republican, is saying nothing different from Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who also says the EPA is waging a “war on coal.” Beshear is worried about new standards for coal-burning power plants.

Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald responds to Beshear here

• The Global Commission on Drug Policy has found that the “global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.’’ It urges ways drugs can be legalized.

The commission included former United National secretary general Kofi Annan, former Secretary of State George Schultz and former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volker. 

Here is a Washington Post story on the different sides in the debate over the AT&T merger with T-Mobile. Sprint, Nextel and Leap Wireless join rural carriers and consumer groups in opposing the merger before the Federal Communications Commission. 

• Last November’s election about did in the Blue Dogs, the coalition of conservative Democrats. Before the 2010 election there were 54 Blue Dogs. Then there were 26.

The Center for Public Integrity gives a rundown of what’s happened to the Dogs. Eight have gone into lobbying. 

• Even in ostensibly rural states, an increasing number of people live in urban areas.

The New York Times’ A. G. Sulzberger reports from Nebraska, where more than half the population now lives in three counties. Ditto with North Dakota, where 8 out of 10 counties lost population, but where Fargo boomed.

Sulzberger points out that as news legislative districts are drawn, rural parts of so-called rural states will have diminishing power in state legislatures. “It really is the next chapter in the long saga of the loss of rural political power in America,” said Tim Storey, a redistricting expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

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