[imgcontainer] [img:ice-sculpture.jpg] [source]Audrey Kletscher Helbling[/source] Visit the MinnPost for Audrey Kletscher-Helbiling’s report on ice sculptures. She found the horse and sleigh ice sculpture above just south of the Waseca (MN) County Courthouse in a shady spot on State Street. Artists Adam Scholljegerdes and Joe Christenson built this beauty to celebrate Waseca’s 62nd annual Sleigh and Cutter Festival. “She’s a beauty,” Audrey writes. More pics and a story right here. [/imgcontainer]
The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire has found that population growth in rural counties in the 2000s has slowed from the rates seen in the 1990s.
Demographer Ken Johnson writes that rural areas grew by 2.2 million people in the first ten years of the new century. That’s just half the rate of growth of the ’90s. The full report is here.
“Rural population growth slowed primarily because of fewer people moving to rural areas after 2000. During the 1990s, migration accounted for nearly two-thirds of the entire rural population gain. After 2000, it accounted for less than one-half of the gain. Rural counties gained 2.7 million residents from migration during the 1990s, but only about 1.0 million between 2000 and 2010,” Johnson said.
Johnson found that racial and ethnic diversity accelerated in rural counties, with non-whites accounting for 83 percent of the rural population growth between 2000 and 2010. “Thus, while rural America remains less diverse than urban America, minority growth now accounts for most rural population increase, just as it does in urban areas,” Johnson says.
• Federal prosecutors have indicted a third person in connection the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster of last year, the coal mine explosion that killed 29 West Virginia miners. Ken Ward Jr. reports:
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin alleged that Gary May plotted “with others known and unknown” to put coal production ahead of workers protection and then cover up serious safety violations on numerous occasions during the two years prior to the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners.
“‘Today’s charge is a significant step in the investigation of events at the Upper Big Branch mine,’ Goodwin said in a prepared statement. “Our investigation of those events remains ongoing.”
Clearly, prosecutors expect other action in the case as, in the words of one attorney, they “work up the food chain” in the corporate structure of mine management.
• A planned nuclear power plant in Iowa may become one fired by natural gas, the Des Moines Register reports.
The utility building the plant, MidAmerican, says it needs legislation from the Iowa legislature to give it “regulatory certainty.” Meanwhile, an Iowa Poll finds a majority of Iowans opposing a law that would give utilities the ability to charge customers for planning or building new nuclear power plants.
• California community colleges will be cutting classes and laying off workers as they deal with an unexpected $149-million budget shortfall.
More students are qualifying for fee waivers because of the ongoing recession and so revenues from student fees are below projection. So are property tax revenues. The system of 112 community colleges has already absorbed $809 million in cuts since 2008.
• If Canadian tar sands oil goes to British Columbia rather than the Gulf Coast, much of it will wind up in California refineries.
Half of the tar sands oil piped to ports in British Columbia would likely go to underused California refineries, according to one expert.
Canadians are pressing ahead with the westward-leading pipeline since the Obama administration has turned down a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would head south from the tar sands deposits in Canada to the Gulf Coast.
• The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about the decline in the nation’s beef herd — and hardship among America’s ranchers.
• The chief of one of the Army’s largest military hospitals on the West Coast has been relieved of his command as an investigation seeks to determine whether the Army has avoided diagnosing soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, the L.A. Times reports.
The inquiry is taking place at the Madigan Healthcare System in Tacoma, Washington. The Army is immediately reviewing PTSD claims from 14 soldiers.
A disproportionate number of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan come from rural communities.