[imgcontainer right] [img:blair+mountain+march-1142441583_v2.grid-6×2.jpeg] [source]Charleston Gazette[/source] Some 250 people are marching to Blair Mountain in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal strip mining. See story below. [/imgcontainer]

An outsized number of those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan come from rural communities. Rural vets account for 41% of all enrollees in the VA health system, according to the Kansas City Star’s David Goldstein

The Star reports, however, that the Veterans Administration’s programs for rural vets need improvement. Goldstein writes that an April internal audit found that the VA “lacked reasonable assurance” that its use of $273 million of the $533 million in rural health funding received in 2009 and 2010 “improved access and quality of care” for veterans.

“We basically couldn’t tell how effective each of these projects was because of the lack of project performance measures,” Gary Abe, a director in the inspector general’s office who oversaw the audit, told Goldstein. “The report’s message was the VA couldn’t determine if it was money well spent.”

Goldstein writes that the report also found that the VA’s Office of Rural Health did an “inadequate” job of judging the needs of rural vets and had “ineffective” oversight of rural health care programs. 

• One of the three data centers Apple will use to provide its “cloud” data storage service was recently completed in rural North Carolina

Good story and photos from Hamburg, Iowa, which is struggling to survive the flooding Missouri River. 

• New York Times columnist David Leonhardt tells us (with the certainly only be found in the New York Times) that ethanol subsidies are the product of the Iowa caucuses. Now former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he will have to bypass the Iowa event because he opposes ethanol subsidies — and that would make him sure to lose in the Republican primary. 

Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovish begs to differ. After all, Tim Pawlenty favors scaling back ethanol subsidies and he’s hustling in Iowa. She continues: 

Huntsman adviser John Weaver formerly advised John McCain, who skipped Iowa for the same reason in 2000. It was a bad idea then and an even worse one now. McCain didn’t do much in Iowa in the 2008 cycle, but he at least campaigned here before winning the nomination.

Huntsman could have come up with a variety of excuses for skipping Iowa. That he chose ethanol suggests he’s out of touch. If Sen. Chuck Grassley is willing to scale back ethanol subsidies, it can’t be such an alien concept to Iowa Republicans.

That Huntsman apparently doesn’t know that means he’s probably right on one point: He wouldn’t do very well in Iowa. It also means he won’t do very well in a lot of other states, besides.

• While we’re in Iowa — it looks like that state could face a shut-down as the legislature is locked up in conflict over a budget. 

Chefs and musicians from New Orleans are on their way to Joplin to cook a meal for 1,000 tornado survivors.  

• Some 250 people are marching the fifty miles from Marmet to Blair Mountain in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal coal mining. (See photo above.)

Paul Nyden writes in the Charleston Gazette about the significance of Blair Mountain, which could be strip mined:

The five-day event comes close to the 90th anniversary of the historic Battle of Blair Mountain, where more than 10,000 union miners marched from Marmet to help organize non-union coal mines in Logan and Mingo counties.

In 1921, the march from Aug. 24 through Sept. 4 was the largest armed confrontation in United States labor history. It ended when federal troops were sent into the area.

This year’s event is “to demand sustainable job creation in all Appalachian communities, abolish mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights and preserve Blair Mountain,” the groups Appalachia Rising and the Blair Mountain Coalition said on the march website.  

Here’s a report from day one of the march. 

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