[imgcontainer] [img:thebend.gif] [source]John Flavell/Ashland Independent[/source] Donald Lynn points out the contours of “The Bend,” a portion of Kentucky nearly cut off from the rest of the state by the Mississippi River. [/imgcontainer]

We particularly enjoyed Ronnie Ellis’ story about The Bend in the Ashland Independent, the little piece of Kentucky nearly made an island by the Mississippi River.  And John Flavell’s slideshow is a delight. 

Ellis writes:

The geographical oddity was created by changes in the Mississippi’s channel after a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, often referred to as the New Madrid Earthquake, separating the dot of land from the rest of Kentucky. The first settlers were David and Romena Watson whose daughter, Caroline, was the first recorded birth in The Bend in 1825. Its population peaked at 320 in 1890. For a time, Tennessee claimed it and fought Kentucky in the courts for it, but eventually gave up.

Mark Twain wrote about it in “Life on the Mississippi,” telling a humorous story of questionable origin about a family feud and a church in Compromise, Ky., right on the state line. Seems the middle aisle followed the state boundary and both feuding families attended the church, one family seated on the Tennessee side and the other on the Kentucky side of things — rifles and shotguns propped along the walls, you know, just in case.

“It’s the garden spot of Kentucky only not many people in Kentucky know about it,” said Fulton County Judge-Executive David Gallagher.

• Four states (Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee) have banded together to confront prescription drug abuse in their boundaries, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports

Drugs have been flowing into these states, particularly in rural areas, from pain clinics in other jurisdictions, such as Michigan and Florida. “We’ve all got a tremendous problem,” Beshear said in an interview. “This problem is destroying a lot of our families in Kentucky. … We think together we can be a lot more effective.” 

• Nothing particularly rural about this, but it’s interesting. 

Joel Achenback reports in the Washington Post that just before the earthquake struck the East Coast, animals in the Washington, D.C. Zoo went bananas. Just before the quake, Iris, a normally unflappable orangutan, “emitted a loud, guttural cry, known to scientists as belch-vocalizing. Iris then scrambled to the top of her enclosure,” Achenback reports. Five seconds later, the ground rolled.

Other zoo workers said they saw similar behavior among the lemurs, gorillas and flamingos. (The lemurs were crying 15 minutes before the quake.)

• One of the reasons AT&T wants to buy T-Mobile, the company says, is to speed the spread of 4G wireless to most of the country. “AT&T has argued to regulators that without the merger, it wouldn’t be able to expand high-speed mobile Internet access to as many rural areas as the U.S. government would like,” the Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang reports

However, the Federal Communications Commission has found in documents that AT&T figures it could extend 4G to 97 percent of the country for $3.8 billion — a sum considerably less than the $39 billion price tag of the merger.

The FCC is now asking for more information.

AT&T has argued to regulators that without the merger, it wouldn’t be able to expand high-speed mobile Internet access to as many rural areas as the U.S. government would like. 

“We understand that AT&T’s senior management concluded the transaction would improve the likely return on the additional LTE deployment to create a business case for this deployment where one would not exist absent the transaction,” wrote FCC senior counsel Renata Hesse. “Although AT&T has stated that it has not quantified the transaction-related changes in the business case for extending its LTE footprint, we ask that you supplement your filing with any documents or analyses explaining why the changes in cost, revenue, and/or profitability are likely to be large enough to change the overall business case for the additional deployment.”

• Meanwhile, here’s a report on comments received on a proposal to reform the Universal Service Fund. The Fund subsidizes rural  and low-income phone service. The FCC would like to use the $8 billion fund to expand broadband.

The cable industry doesn’t like the idea of the USF being used to subsidize the telecom industry. 

“For the first time in our nation’s history, the FCC has a real opportunity to rely on the USF to fund broadband facilities and services in rural communities, which the country must include in the Internet revolution,” Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association, a group of small and medium-sized cable companies, said in a statement.

“Without a doubt, the FCC will fall short of its mission if major phone companies insist on ballooning the size of [the fund] and demand on receiving USF money in markets where they face competition or where competitors can offer service more efficiently.”

• The Postal Service was going to close 36 local offices in Alaska. Now the USPS says it would only like to close 11. 

• HAZMAT crews were called out Tuesday morning in Nashville when four canisters of bull semen fell off a Greyhound bus.

• Clay Risen calls Moonshine, a new item to be bought at the nearest package store, “the world’s silliest liquour” and we have to say we agree.

Moonshine is nothing more that corn whiskey put into a fancy bottle.  Risen objects:

The problems are all in the name. First: If there is one thing that drives whiskey nerds nutty, it’s the often-willful misuse of the word “moonshine.” If it’s sold on liquor store shelves, it’s not moonshine. If it has a fancy website, chances are it’s not moonshine. If its owners were ever arrested by the ATF, it might be moonshine. Something tells me that the folks behind this product, “serial entrepreneur” Brad Beckerman and “Internationally renowned barbecue chef” Adam Perry Lang, are not, nor ever have been, wanted by the feds.

But wait, there’s more. Although moonshine can technically be made out of anything, in practice, it’s rarely if ever made from corn. Moonshine almost always comes from apples, peaches, or pears. Why? Because while corn might produce a great-tasting liquor, it’s much easier to make lots of alcohol with fruit—the sugars break down more quickly, and since you’re probably not going to age the stuff, the residual sweetness helps round out the alcohol burn. In fact, since table sugar is a lot cheaper and more available than it was in, say, the Prohibition era, it’s the base ingredient of most moonshine made today, making it rum, not whiskey. “Moonshine whiskey,” in other words, isn’t a contradiction in terms, but it’s hardly representative of the tradition.

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