[imgcontainer] [img:article-2271185-17441438000005DC-298_964x676.jpeg] [source]John Dominis[/source] The Charleston Mail has a feature using photos taken by John Dominis in 1964 in Eastern Kentucky. The photos were taken as President Lyndon Johnson began his “war on poverty” with a visit to Eastern Kentucky. [/imgcontainer]

Cities make you lose focus. We’ve all felt that way. A walk down most any street in New York is a barrage of sounds, smells and sights all vying for our attention. A lot of energy is spent picking through things that are assaulting our senses.

Eric Jaffe, writing in The Atlantic, tells us about new behavioral studies that have attempted to measure the “mental exhaustion of urban living.” 

A new report from a group of British psychologists “reports that people who live in cities show diminished powers of general attention compared to people from remote areas,” Jaffe writes. “With so much going on around them, urbanites don’t pay much attention to surroundings unless they’re highly engaging.”

The research compared two groups of the Himba people of Namibia. One group lived in cities. The other remained traditional cattle herders. In tests, the rural Himba showed much higher ability to focus their attention than urban Himba. 

The scientists don’t think city life depletes one’s powers of attention. Rather it is that people living in cities have become so inured to stimulus that they only pay attention when something is particularly noticeable.

“While reduced attentional engagement may be advantageous in high-demanding urban scenarios, it comes at the cost of a generally reduced level of attentional selectivity,” the researchers write.

Stress and Pregnancy — A University of Missouri study finds that low-income pregnant women in rural areas experience high levels of stress, but lack the means to manage. 

“Many people think of rural life as being idyllic and peaceful, but, in truth, there are a lot of health disparities for residents of rural communities,” said Tina Bloom, assistant professor of nursing and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing. “Chronic, long-term stress is hard on pregnant women’s health and on their babies’ health. Stress is associated with increased risks for adverse health outcomes, such as low birth weights or pre-term deliveries, and those outcomes can kill babies.”

Tennessee Fracking —  A proposal described as a study of the environmental impact of fracking has been delayed – because of concerns about the environmental impact of fracking.

The University of Tennessee has decided to slow down its plans to allow fracking in a research forest on the Cumberland Plateau, northwest of Knoxville.

The delay came after complaints from environmental groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, who were worried about the impact of drilling for natural gas in the Cumberland Forest, managed by the university’s College of Agriculture for forestry research.

The fracking plan will allow oil and gas companies to purchase 20-year leases on about 8,600 acres on the public land. With the proceeds, the college would conduct a study to evaluate the environmental impact of fracking and support other research.

University leaders decided to delay their request to the state for a month to allow further discussion of the proposed fracking.

Mining Deaths Low — Thirty-six miners died on the job in 2012, which is the second fewest on record. The record low was 2009, when 35 miners died. 

Nineteen of the miners who died were coal miners; the other 17 worked in other types of mines.

The federal mine safety agency said that 30 of these deaths involved continuous mining machines and could have been prevented if the machines were equipped with devices that could detect the proximity of miners.

Virginia Rural Jobs Panel — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has named a panel that will focus on creating jobs in the rural parts of the state. 

The Rural Jobs Council will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. 

Sheriffs and Gun Control — The New York Times picks up a story that has been rolling around in regional papers — which is that rural sheriffs aren’t all that happy about gun control legislation. 

A lot of the language is familiar from place to place. “As Sheriff, I will not enforce unconstitutional federal laws,” wrote Larimer County, Colorado, Sheriff Justin Smith. That is nearly an exact quote from a few Montana sheriffs we noted a week ago.

“I don’t plan on helping or assisting with any of the federal gun laws because I have the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution on my side,” said Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County, Colo. The Times notes that there are “dozens” of sheriffs from across the country who have piped up to oppose gun control legislation.

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