Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Love is in the Meadows"

That's the English translation of the name of the popular French television program that inspired "Farmer Wants a Wife," which premiers tonight on the CW channel. A story on NPR this evening described the French program, as well as French reaction to it. The program is quite popular in France, where 10% of French people watch it. Farmers there, of which 1 in 5 are single, are not so amused. They object to the stereotypes about rural living, with one commenting on the idea that rural living means getting up at 5 am and always "doing things for the cows." All of the farmers unions in France have condemned the program.

I wonder how the American counterpart will go over here. Looking at the promo on the CW website, I see that it, too, is buying into some unflattering rural stereotypes. Of course, lots of popular U.S. television programs have done that over the years. Recall "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres." A few years ago, an ad appeared in my hometown paper (Newton County (AR) Times) seeking people interested in participating in a new reality program that would have country bumpkins changing places/interacting with LA types. Don't know if it ever got off the ground, but I was offended by the concept.

Back to "Farmer . . . Wife," the photo is from the CW website. Most of the photos there showed the women looking ridiculous, doing things like chasing and feeding chickens in their $100 sunglasses and skimpy shorts. I opted for this one, which would indicate that Matt the Farmer doesn't even drive his own tractor. (He's in the trailer with the women). How disappointing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why is the descriptor "rural" used in this story?

A story in today's New York Times tells of the retirement of Ernie Chambers from the Nebraska State legislature -- after 40 years. Described as an "irascible firebrand," the African-American -- a former barber from Omaha -- is quoted as saying, "I'm not liked at all." The story is basically about Chambers' unconventional and controversial ways -- his four decades in the state's unicameral legislature now brought to an end by term limits. Twice in the story (one of them in a photo caption), journalist Susan Saulny describes Nebraska as a "mostly rural," conservative state. Here's the full textual passage:
Liked or not, Mr. Chambers, a black, divorced, agnostic former barber from Omaha with posters of Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass decorating his office, managed to rise to an ultimate level of power in a mostly rural, white conservative state on little more than sheer determination to do so.
Here's my question: Of what relevance to the story is the information about Nebraska being a largely rural state? What "work" is this information doing for Saulny? I ask this especially in light of the fact that Chambers has represented an urban area (Omaha); he is not from small-town Nebraska. We (readers, that is) already know that Lincoln and Omaha are not New York or Chicago, and Nebraska is not the South.

Is that point that blacks don't ascend to power in rural places? that rural people are racist? that rural places tend to be racially homogeneous -- white, that is? If so, isn't that information conveyed by the word "white"? Does "white" make "rural" redundant? Does "conservative" make "rural" redundant? I recall other stories from other parts of the country that have suggested a link between rurality and racism. I've suggested it myself in earlier posts. This link -- or the specter of it -- seems to me to invite attention and analysis.

Bad news for the rural poor, among others, in Supreme Court's ruling on voter ID law

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 yesterday that the state of Indiana can require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. This is bad news for rural voters, among others in low-income categories, because it places the onus on those who cast provisional ballots because of the lack of such ID to present acceptable identification or swear they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed. Such provisional voters must do so at the county clerk's office within 10 days of the election. While such a journey might seem "no big deal" to city dwellers, it will impose a hardship on many rural voters. I commented here in more detail on this issue, following the January oral arguments in the case.

New Louise Erdrich book depicts several generations of rural North Dakota

The New York Times has given Louise Erdrich's new book, "The Plague of Doves" a stunning review. Like much of her earlier work, it involves the Ojibwe tribe and is set in a small white settlement on the edge of the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. At the story's center is a horrifying act: the hanging of three Ojibwe men and a boy in retaliation for the murder of a white family at the turn of the 20th century. The actual killer goes free. The novel follows the succeeding generations, as well as the fictional town of Pluto which, "gradually metamorphosed from a thriving little frontier community into a dying village, its businesses folding or moving away, while its young people leave for brighter horizons."

For the ruralists among us, this passage from Michiko Kakutani's review is also particularly enticing:
Pluto, like the town of Argus depicted in many earlier Erdrich novels, is one of those little towns where everyone knows everyone else and knows virtually everything about everyone else’s family history. It’s a place where intimacy breeds feuds and gossip and long-simmering resentments, but also understanding and maybe even forgiveness, a place where the roots of neighbors’ family trees are often mysteriously twisted together, and where the younger generations find themselves reprising — or expiating — the actions of their elders.
I've enjoyed a number of Erdrich novels over the years and will certainly put this on my summer reading list. To read Kakutani's review is to be convinced that it must be Erdrich's best yet.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another way the law fails rural folk

A story on NPR this afternoon told of Alice Cousins, a New Orleans resident who has not been able to receive federal aid to repair her home post-Katrina because she does not hold title to the property. Because her parents left no will, Cousins and a number of relatives own shares in the property, though many are long-gone from New Orleans and have contributed nothing to its upkeep over the years.

In the midst of untangling this problem and the practice that created it, the reporter tells us that the informal practice of transferring land is a rural one, whereby a farmer might just say, for example, which son got what part of his farm upon his death. This practice was also sometimes followed in cities, especially among low-income families, as in the case of the Cousins family. One reason for the informal practice: title transfer can be expensive, as much as $5000 for even a modest home.

The legal expert interviewed, Malcolm Meyer, noted that the practice often deprived rural folks (as well as other folks, like Ms. Cousins) an important benefit of land ownership: the opportunity to use the property as collateral. Meyer is now working with Louisiana Appleseed, a legal aid non-profit, to get the legislature to consider simplifying and reducing the cost of title transfer. Such a change would benefit not only those like Ms. Cousins, but presumably also lots of rural Louisianans.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rurality Then and Now, Here and There (Part I)

I’ve been thinking some about the shortcomings associated with analyzing along a rural/urban axis. For one thing, it doesn’t accommodate regional differences. Plus, “rural” is used these days to mean so many different things, including exurbia. In academic language, I’ve been “problematizing” rurality. This is the first in a series of occasional posts I am planning on this topic.

Further thinking about the differences among rural places – as well as why we desire them – has been fueled by time my family has spent lately in El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties in California. These places are in the Sierra foothills, 1-2 hours from where we live in greater Sacramento. We decided a few months ago to start looking for property there, a place to build a week-end cabin, perhaps spend more time once we approach retirement.

I’ve been intrigued to learn, anecdotally from our realtors in each county, who lives in these places. We’ve been looking, for example, around Fiddletown, near the Amador wine region. Fiddletown itself is just a wide spot in the road (but on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to a fight a few decades ago to prevent a quarry hauling rock through there). It looks pretty local, with no amenities to speak of (but does have a nifty museum of items dating to Chinese immigration and work in the Gold Rush), even though we’re aware that the nearby wine region isn’t populated so much by locals these days. But our realtor tells us that many of the folks living in the Fiddletown area are exurbanites of a sort, driving to the Bay Area for a coupla’ days economic activity each week. It’s not just older folks, either, but also many families. Children attend school 10-15 miles away in Plymouth.

One Amador realtor must have used the phrase “end of the road” privacy half a dozen times in our first 3 hours with her. It resonates, which makes us re-examine exactly what we’re looking for and exactly what we would get out of owning such a “private” place, “in the country.” She suggested several times that this part of Amador County is like to “stay rural longer” than other parts in which we might look. A Calaveras County realtor referred to the area that included the 20 acres we were viewing there as “the Los Altos Hills” of Calaveras County. I guess she has more clients from the Bay Area than from Sacramento. I also suppose she also doesn’t really understand what we’re looking for -- or does she?

Again, all of this has us thinking hard about exactly what it is that we want from this property --besides maybe a cool-sounding address in a place like Fiddletown (superficial, I know). Do we want, ultimately, to be exurbanites? how much privacy is ideal? how much could we stand if we retired there? Why is it so important to have a property where the road ends? that no road crosses? I am not trying to get back to Newton County (AR), my very rural home county -- at least I don't think I am? So, what exactly is the attraction of a "place in the country"?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Life expectancy drops for women in many rural counties

Read the Associated Press story, as picked up in the Sacramento Bee, here. The regions most affected are the deep South and Appalachia, where the life expectancy of women declined significantly between 1983 and 1999. The trend for the rest of the country was an increase in life expectancy, + 7 years for men, + 6 years for women, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage.

Nether the Bee nor the Chronicle actually uses the word "rural" to characterize the affected regions, but many of these counties are rural. Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post story, which explicitly observes the rural angle:

The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas. The most dramatic change occurred in two areas in southwestern Virginia (Radford City and Pulaski County), where women's life expectancy has decreased by more than five years since 1983.
The Chronicle story says:

During the two decades prior to 1980, according to the study, not one of the 3,100 counties in the United States reported a decline in life expectancy of men or women; in the final two decades, the researchers found declines among women in 963 counties and among men in 59 counties.

Using stricter statistical standards that rule out the possibility that the declines were the results of random chance, the researchers still spotted outright declines in female life expectancy in 180 American counties, and for men in 11 counties.

Ezzati and his team linked the reversals to several diseases. Among women, declines were caused by increased rates of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - two smoking-related killers. Obesity-related illnesses such as adult-onset diabetes and hypertension also contributed to the declines in life expectancy found in men and women, while HIV and homicide caused significant declines in life expectancy for men.

These negative trends ran counter to the increasing life expectancy - seven years among men and six years among women - recorded for the nation as a whole. That underscores that there is a widening gap between the health haves and have-nots in the United States, and the study shows that whether the life expectancy news is good or bad has a lot to do with where a person resides.

In counties where declines occurred, they affected whites as well as blacks, which makes income seem a greater determinant than class. As for the gender divide reflected in the study, it is not immediately obvious to me why smoking-related diseases and hypertension should impact women more than men. Perhaps the impact of such diseases in these counties was already reflected in pre-1980 life expectancies for the male populace. Perhaps as the Washington Post reporter observed, this reflects the beginning of the consequences of the obesity epidemic, and the fact that women took up smoking in large numbers decades after men did so.

Oh, and the photo above, by Shelby Lee Adams, ran in the New York Times, where this study was analyzed on the front page of the Week in Review section. When I first glanced at it, I assumed it was from the Dorothea Lange era of images of rural poverty. In fact, the caption reads: "Vanessa, with a portrait of her great-grandmother last fall in Lost Creek, Kentucky. Life spans aren't keeping up in Appalachia."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rural women in politics

This piece by Marie Wilson in the Star Tribune last week, promoted on The White House Project website, talks of the value women bring to politics. Significantly for purposes of this blog, it also documents the path of women in rural northeastern Minnesota who are seeking or have been elected to local public office. I found their diversity, undertakings, and causes inspiring.

Could the housing slump represent good news for rural places?

A story on NPR this morning reported that, in the recent housing slump, houses in the suburbs and exurbs have fared worst in terms of loss of value. The values of homes in neighborhoods with short commutes and/or available public transportation have proven more stable. Analysts are seeing a halt in sprawl, previously believed to be inexorable: sprawl.

This is good news for families, the environment, and the preservation of rural places, though experts caution that it may prove temporary.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The rural/urban axis in China

I heard a story on NPR yesterday about the rural-urban divide in China and how the burgeoning urban middle class are increasingly drawn to rural China for week-end getaways. It sounded similar to the way we use rural America, but is a more recent trend there. The story highlighted some aspects of the rural-urban divide in China that I've given some thought to -- specifically how vast the divide is there, compared to here, economically and otherwise. For example, 10 million rural Chinese do not have electricity, according to the story. Educational and economic opportunities are so much greater in cities than the in the country that migration to the former is overwhelming. Somewhat more related to law are the reports I have read of disparities between rural and urban enforcement of the one-child policy.

So what do the rural Chinese think about the influx of urbanites, seeking inns and tranquil getaways, but also altering the landscape? According to the reporter, they say "bring it on." They see the urbanites' presence as an opportunity to sell their produce and crafts and to improve their own lot.

It's a good thing I was jotting down notes as I listened to the story because I couldn't find it on the NPR website when I wanted to add the link to this post. What I did find when I searched for "rural" and "China," however, was a long list of recent stories using both of those words -- which is interesting in and of itself.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Housing in rural Appalachia gets a helping hand in memory of a Virginia Tech victim

This poignant story on the eve of the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre is a reminder of the poor conditions in which so many rural Americans live.

The program featured in this story is Appalachian Service Project (ASP), which is now being endorsed by Bryan and Renee Cloyd, parents of slain Virginia Tech student Austin Cloyd. Cloyd had participated in four, week-long work projects with the program, which repairs dilapidated houses in Appalachia. Upon her death, Austin Cloyd's parents asked that donations be made in her honor to the program, and some $70K came in almost immediately. They realized they were on to something, and they have since escorted 150 Virginia Tech students and faculty on week-end house repair trips.

Austin's father said his daughter's experiences with ASP shaped her goals and that he is now honoring her passion for social justice. A Virginia Tech accounting professor, he comments about those who died there a year ago: "They should be known for how they lived rather than how they died." Thanks to the Cloyds' efforts, many residents of Appalachia will reap the rewards of that legacy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

And here's Bob Herbert with a plausible explanation for the gaffe

See Herbert's column here.

And here's William Kristol asserting the elitism of Obama's gaffe

Here's the editorial page piece from the New York Times. In it Kristol notes a number of points on which Obama's comments to that San Francisco audience appear inconsistent with both his positions on issues and the person he has held himself out to be.

But is the elitism Kristol asserts about the urban/rural (a/k/a small town) divide? Or it more of a class thing? On this issue, I found interesting the comments of Sherry Linkon, co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, and other guests on today's Talk of the Nation.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This piece on the rural/urban political divide was published a week before Obama's "small town ... bitter" gaffe

This story from the Daily Yonder uses recent events in Oregon to illustrate its thesis that "Rural/Urban Political Division is 'Recipe for Resentment.'" In March, the Oregon legislature took away money that funded rural development programs in the state. At about the same time, the Oregon governor closed the Office of Rural Policy, which he had opened only four years earlier. The story seeks to explain why rural voters, who previously voted Democratic, now tend to vote Republican.

It was an interesting fore-runner -- albeit in an admittedly obscure outlet -- to the comments about small-town voters that have Obama in hot water. What he said (bitterness of small town voters who've suffered economically for a quarter century explains why they cling to their guns and religion) and the audience to which he said it (San Franciscans) further illustrates the rural-urban political divide. It also illustrates the perils of trying to explain that divide in a way that seems to pit the interests -- and indeed character -- of one group against the other. Just as the high density of acquaintanceship associated with rurality means that rural residents know their neighbors are likely to hear gossip about themselves, in this age of media saturation about every word uttered by the candidates, Obama should have known that what he said about those small town voters would get back to them . . .

The fishbowl of rural life, exaggerated for a former president

A few aspects of this story about the "fishbowl" in which South Korea's former president is living struck me as interesting in relation to the rural. Journalist Choe Sang-Hun notes that Roh Moo-Hyun, who left office only in February, returned to live in his natal town, the tiny village of Bongha in Southeast Korea, population 121. While his approval rating was once as low as 30%, crowds now throng to the small town and chant outside his gate for him to make an appearance, which he does several times a day. Choe notes that, while many of the nation's presidents have hailed from rural areas, they have chosen to make their homes in Seoul once out of office.

How interesting that in a country associated with such a single massive city, Seoul, that a number of presidents have hailed from rural places. Indeed, in a country so densely populated, I find it amazing that "rural" places still exist. When I visited South Korea about a year ago, I was driven through the area where the former President now lives. I recall our guide talking about these "rural" parts of Korea, although the Koreans I met tended to refer to their entire county outside Seoul and the country's second city, Busan (less than an hour from the former President's home in Bongha), as "rural." Indeed, some areas through which I passed did look "rural." Some small-scale farms still exist, and in many ways, "country life" looks quite different to that in the city. Plus, at least in the Southeast where I visited, vast areas are essentially unpopulated and apparently unusable for agriculture because of the country's mountainous terrain.

Here's a passage from the story that reflects various rural themes or stereotypes:

“I didn’t particularly like him when he was president,” said Lee Soo-in, 22, a college student. “But it really feels good to be able to see a former president up close and see where he lives. He feels like an uncle next door. We don’t have such intimacy with other former presidents. They all maintain an authoritative, boring persona.”

Other visitors included a kindergarten teacher and her 67 students. The teacher said she brought the children so that they could be inspired by Roh's "rags-to-fame" story. The former president's family was too poor to send him to college so he was self-educated, even passing the bar exam without attending a law school.

These comments raise a few questions and observations related to the rural:
  • While the former president's presence has improved the economic lot of some locals, I wonder how they feel about the crowds who come day in, day out, apparently all day. It must be disrupting their routines in ways that are not altogether pleasing.
  • Would the former president seem "like an uncle next door" if he were living in Seoul? To what extent does his decision to return to his obscure, rural home cloak him in this persona?
  • In what ways does Mr. Roh's rural origin enhance his "rags-to-fame" persona? Perhaps his return to his home town gives Koreans a reason to wax sentimental about their own rural past, something I observed many doing when I visited last year. Indeed, from the generation who came of age after the Korean war, an era of rapid industrialization for the nation, I heard nostalgia for their rural past, even as they also acknowledge the wealth associated with their urbanized and high-tech present and future.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ah, the delights of out-of-the-way places (even in Texas)

I enjoyed this story about "The Texas Country Reporter," a television program comprised of human interest features from obscure corners of Texas, mostly rural and non-metro places that would otherwise go unnoticed, unknown. Host Bob Phillips has produced more than 2,000 programs in his 35-year career, and he's about to go national.

Here's a nice quote about what the program represents culturally, and in the context of 21st century journalism.
“For many of us who grew up here, Bob tells us about the Texas we remember and that is probably vanishing,” said Tony Pederson, professor and Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism at Southern Methodist University, Mr. Phillips’s alma mater. “His is a stop-and-smell-the-roses style of reporting that is so deceptively simple and yet so effective in terms of the quality of storytelling he produces. There’s a pretty good journalism lesson in that.”
Ah, there's that rural nostalgia thing again . . . I was also interested to learn that, in addition to being broadcast weekly on 25 Texas stations, the program is beamed eight times a week on the "rural satellite and cable network RFD-TV," which reaches 30 million households nationally. I'd never heard of this network, but then I don' t have cable. It's a clever name, though. For those of you who don't know, RFD stands for "rural free delivery," an initiative of the U.S. postal service early in the 20th century to deliver mail to rural residents, rather than require them to pick it up at a post office.

In light of all this, I assume the word "country" in the program's name is meant to connote "rural" (as in city mouse and the country mouse), rather than Texas's sense that it is a country (nation-state) unto itself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bandana Project -- Raising Awareness of Sexual Harassment and Violence against Farmworkers

The link to a story about an initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center is here. (Photo by Dave Bunder, Montgomery Advertiser).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Polish Farmers Frustrated by EU Regulation

A story about Polish farming in today's NYTimes depicts its practices as either hopelessly outdated or on the cutting edge of sustainable, organic production.

The tale is one of small-scale farmers who have not adapted-- and in many cases have no plans to adapt -- to EU agricultural regulations. The story is chock full of information about the delights -- and sustainability-- of Poland's agricultural tradition. Did you know, for example, that Poland boasts a tradition of what we now tout as organic farming? Journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal reports that Poland is "a rare bastion of biological diversity, with 40,000 pairs of nesting storks and thousands of seed varieties that exist nowhere else in the world." It's therefore not surprising that long-time Polish farmers eschew genetically modified varieties. Indeed, contrary to EU and WTO mandates, all 16 Polish states have banned genetically modified organisms.

One reason that this story resonated so greatly with me is that it reminded me of how my maternal grandparents farmed in rural northwest Arkansas: a dirt-floor barn, hand milking, slaughtering on the property, not at a slaughterhouse; plowing with a horse or mule. Like the Polish farmers, they would have pleased Wendell Berry in their sustainable practices.

In Poland now, however, these practices fail to meet EU sanitation standards, which prohibit hand milking and require certain equipment for slaughtering. A consequence of the Polish tradition, a trend to which the small farms cling, is a failure to meet EU regulations, which leads in turn to a reversion to subsistence. Why not enjoy designation as organic farms? The answer, apparently, is too much EU paper work.

Rosenthal queries: Are farmers like these visionaries or Luddites? Are they behind the times -- or ahead of them? Are they a "nostalgic throwback" or the future, assuming they survive? Advocates of these farmers find broader importance in their practices, such as not contributing to climate change and not polluting the environment.

I wonder what this trend portends for the Polish countryside? Without farm income, the reversion to subsistence will surely hurt rural economies, which must already be endangered in an over-crowded Europe.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Clash of cultures in the "rural" West?

A story in today's New York Times reports that rising silver prices are bringing a resurgence of mining to parts of the rural West. You have to love this headline, "In High Prices, Moribund Mines Find Silver Bullet." It is an interesting turn of events, not least because it puts mining interests, which have a long history in his part of the Idaho panhandle, into conflict with those retiring or building second homes there. There's a great deal of rich language in journalist William Yardley's story, including his lede: "The strangest thing happened here in the Silver Valley as it began the transformation from historic mining camp to yet another Western confection of ski slopes and condos for newcomers with money. The real estate market slowed, and the price of silver soared." While I am hardly a fan of mining, I am a fan of "traditional" rural places and, as my students well know, not so keen on rural gentrification. (Ok, it is a bit more nuanced than that. I can enjoy Telluride and Jackson Hole as much as anyone, but don't make the mistake of telling me they are "rural.")

Wallace, dateline for the story, sounds delightful. Yardley describes it as a "tiny triangle of 890 people and dozens of historic red brick buildings, all wedged between steep evergreen slopes and Interstate 90." Ok, the part about the interstate doesn't sound so delightful. In any event, the story continues:
Local officials say the revival of mining, however counterintuitive the idea may seem to the second-home aesthetic, is critical if the area is to remain affordable to a population whose families have lived her for generations.

* * *

The average pay for mining jobs in Shoshone County in 2006 was about $57,000, more than double the average of all other jobs ... And while the current total of 700 mining jobs is a small fraction of the 4,000 that the county had in the early 1980s, still it is 200 more than at this time last year.
Yardley reports that, for now, the increase in mining isn't creating conflict "with those nutruing a new Silver Valley." Well, maybe not, but then there's this quote from miner Greg Riley, "This is the Silver Valley, not the Tourism Valley. "

And you have to love this closing quote from the very cosmopolitan sounding Jacques Lemieux, a real estate agent in nearby Kellogg, where condo prices have fallen from $585K to $395K. Acknowledging that the developers got a bit ahead of themselves there, he nodded toward Wallace and said: "Wallace is the damnedest town . . . Wallace never gave up the mining dream."

Now those are the rural Americans I know and love -- tenacious and hard working.

Be sure to check out all the wonderful photos that accompany this story at the link above.

Another Drug Scourge in Rural America

Yesterday's New York Times featured a story titled, "A Grim Tradition, and a Long Struggle to End It," about drug-related deaths in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico (population 40K). The county has the highest per capita rate of deaths from drug overdoses in the country, at 42.5 per 100,000, compared to 7.3 across the nation. The good news is that state and local officials have instituted a needle-exchange program and are making available Narcan, an anti-overdose drug, to addicts and their families. A new state law (the only one of its kind in the country) limits the ability of police to arrest users who call 911 in order to save a companion who is over-dosing.

Journalist Eric Eckholm describes the county as "pastoral," a word often associated with rural places -- which most of the county is. And my impression when I passed through there five years ago was that it is, in fact, pastoral -- at least in parts. (One town there, Chimayo, is known for its Catholic shrine, where pilgrims flock for healing.) But the area also bears the scars of lack of opportunity and intergenerational poverty. Like many rural areas in New Mexico and elsewhere, it is economically depressed -- this in spite of its close proximity to popular tourist destinations like Santa Fe (to the South) and Taos (to the West), and to the relatively affluent Los Alamos National Laboratory area.

I applaud New Mexico's effort at "harm reduction," especially when intensified law enforcement and a flurry of new treatment programs have failed. But I remain deeply troubled at the shocking incidence of drug abuse in rural America -- including the abuse of prescription drugs, which is also mentioned in this story. I wonder when wide-scale federal efforts and resources will be brought to bear on this scourge, which -- like other rural problems -- remains largely out of sight, out of mind, for most Americans.