Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sean Lennon invokes the rural idyll to protest fracking

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and a musician in New York, published an op-ed in the New York Times a few days, "Destroying Precious Land for Gas."  As the title suggests, the piece protests the practice of fracking, and in it Lennon invokes the rural idyll--in particular his associations with the farm his parents bought in Delaware County, New York, before he was born.   Lennon writes of his early memories of the farm and many positive associations there:
My earliest memories there are of skipping stones with my father and drinking unpasteurized milk.  There are bald eagles and majestic pines, honeybees and raspberries.  My mother even planted a ring of white birch trees around the property for protection.  
Lennon serves up more reminiscences--of his first taste of raw milk there, of the ring of white birch trees his mother planted.  Some of his reminiscences relate to how others viewed the farm.  Lennon recalls seldom persuading his "schoolmates to leave Long Island for what seemed to them an unreasonably rural escapade."  Yet, Lennon continues, he was "lucky enough to experience trout fishing instead of tennis lessons, swimming holes instead of swimming pools and campfires instead of cable television."

What great phrasing:  "unreasonably rural escapade."  It makes you wonder if, even in the 1980s and 1990s, "rural" was associated with things "unreasonable" or--at least--dramatically out of the mainstream, especially in the context of uber-urban New York, dominated by the five boroughs.

Later in the piece, Lennon invokes rural-urban interdependence, noting that the water on his family's farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all of the state's reservoirs--including those supplying New York City.  "If our tap water gets dirty," he writes, "so does New York City's."

Lennon goes on to tell of a recent meeting at the high school near the Delaware County farm, a meeting where gas companies were pitching "a plan to tear through our wilderness" to make room for a pipeline associated with hydraulic fracturing.  Lennon says that the organic farmers and others at the meeting were "openly defiant," but their defiance had little impact on the business interests, who "gave us the feeling that whether we liked it or not, they were going to fracture our little town.

The rest of the piece mostly argues against fracking in New York, with lots of scientific information.  But he also invokes his father's memory more explicitly in closing:
My father could have chosen to live anywhere.  I suspect he chose to live here because being a New Yorker is not about class, race or even nationality; it's about loving New York.  
For Sean Lennon, who has with his mother started a group called Artists Against Fracking, that New York clearly extends to the state's more rural reaches.

Nonmetropolitan Delaware County, New York has a population of 47,559.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part CV): Raising money to run the new jail

Newton County's jail travails have been well documented in this space over the past few years.  Some posts are here, here and here.  At last, the new jail is nearing completion, but another problem looms:  How will the county pay for the cost of running the jail?  When county taxpayers voted in November, 2008, to support a one-half cent sales tax to finance the jail's construction, they voted down another one-half cent sales tax to support is maintenance and operation.   Now, however, the County Quorum Court is seeking a three-quarters-of-a-cent sales tax levy to finance the operation of the jail.  The proposal will be put to a vote during the November general election.

The story reporting this matter in the Newton County Times says that JPs (Justices of the Peace, who comprise the Quorum Court) considered asking for a half-cent sales tax this time around, but calculations showed that it would not generate enough revenue to finance the jail's operation.  The 3/4 cent sales tax--if it passes--will also fall short by $30,000 of the anticipated jail operation budget, $297,138 (to be precise).  However, Sheriff Keith Slape has assured the Quorum Court that the $30K deficit can be made up by "collection of outstanding warrant fees, fees for housing prisoners for other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and through pay for stay fees that would be added to court costs and fees when a defendant is adjudicated guilty."  Hmm, some of this sounds a bit like what is going on in Louisiana, as reported here.  Doesn't make me feel good about the new Newton County Jail (not that I feel good about a regressive tax, especially for such a regressive purpose) if it permits the county to make incarceration--including of other jurisdiction's prisoners--a cash cow for the county.

But the story provided yet more information that also caused me concern.  Slape said his office's expenses for housing prisoners at other facilities is currently about $5,000 a month.

What?  Just $60K a year?  Why then has the county just spent several hundred thousand on a new jail and how can they justify several hundred thousand a year to run the jail?

Slape suggests:
[J]udges are aware of the county's situation and they have been assessing fines rather than incarceration for many Newton County defendants adjudicated guilty.  He and his officers have not been serving some warrants and there is a growing backlog.  That backlog will be reduced as soon as he jail is open, he vowed.
If the sales tax request fails at the polls, the the new jail will remain closed and the sheriff's office will continue to operate without a jail.  How's that for a threat?

In other law and order news, a 35-year old many who was charged in September 2011 with "possession of a defaced firearm, a class D felony," has been sentenced to a year of probation and a $500 fine plus court costs.  The serial number was filed off the gun, which was found in the man's residence during an unrelated domestic violence investigation.  The charge was later amended to a Class A misdemeanor.

Charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, initially brought against a 47-year-old woman in September 2011, have been dropped at the request of prosecutor.  She had been accused of acquiring 4 grams of pseudoephedrine, lithium batteries, cold packs and other items used in the manufacture of meth. No reason is given for the dismissal, although the defendant failed to appear for a March 2012 court date.

The Newton County Sheriff's office is in the process of conducting a "Certified Auxiliary, Reserve and Part-Time II Office training" course between July 30 and Sept. 15.  The tuition of $130 is non-refundable.  Class instruction will include "basic law enforcement duties, crime scene investigation and traffic control" among other subjects.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trial of Amish sect members begins in Ohio

Yesterday, federal prosecutors in Cleveland, Ohio, began presentation of criminal charges against Samuel Mullett Sr. and 15 of his followers.  Mullett leads a small Amish sect "in an isolated settlement near Bergholz, Ohio," population 769.    Read the New York Times story here

The U.S. Attorney has charged Mullett and some of his followers with "multiple counts including conspiracy, hate crimes, kidnapping and destroying evidence."  The alleged crimes were all committed against other Amish with whom Mullett's sect had apparently fallen out.  Erik Eckholm for the Times reports:  
The assaults on the pacifist, plain-living Amish drew national attention because of their unusual nature--the forcible shearing of men's beards and women's long hair, both of which are central to Amish identity.
In one of the incidents the U.S. Attorney detailed, six grown children and their spouses, who were members of Mullett's group, attacked their parents, forcibly cutting their father's beard "down to the skin as he cried and screamed for them to stop," while five women "cut off two feet of the mother's hair as she prayed to God to forgive them."

Federal authorities assert in their filings that Mullett "confined followers in chicken coops for days or weeks to 'cleanse' them of impure thoughts or other sins, and had also had adult members hit one another with wooden paddles."

The trial of the matter will continue this week.  Bergholz is in nonmetropolitan Jefferson County, population 68,828, in east central Ohio. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A View from Down Under (Part IV): Food versus energy in the "Land of Plenty"

Among the agriculture and rural development issues I have become aware of during my time in Australia is the growing conflict over coal seam gas (CSG).  Coal seam gas, you ask?  That's what Aussies call the natural gas released by fracking, and Aussies are beginning to debate the practice as hotly as we are in the United States.  But the Australian context for this debate--which has evolved into outright conflict in several locales--is different in various regards to what it is in the U.S., including the legal schemes for regulating the practice and the extent to which farmers and others in rural areas can prevent it.

This February 2012 piece by Bond University law professor Tina Hunter summarizes several of the issues, including who has the power to regulate or prevent the practice.  In short--it isn't the individual land owners.  Hunter's headline speaks volumes, "Food security v energy security:  land use conflict and the law. "  She writes:
The development of unconventional sources of gas (such as coal seam and shale gas) is providing Australia with energy security, as well as generating a huge export industry in the form of LNG [liquified natural gas].
* * * 

However, many of the coal seam gas deposits occur in areas of high agricultural fertility.  This includes the Darling Downs area of Queensland, and the Liverpool Plains of NSW, which comprises only 6% of Australia's total agricultural area, but produces more than 22% of its food.

This is Australia's breadbasket.

 * * * 
This  creates conflict in land use; farmers are understandably reluctant to allow their prime agricultural land to be used for coal seam gas extraction.  However, as the law stands at present, even if a farmer owns the land, a government has the right to grant a licence to an energy company to extract the coal seam gas from under the ground, by drilling wells to extract the gas. 
Hunter notes that Queensland has "declared a two-kilometre exclusion zone on mining activities near towns with more than 1000 people," and that "farmers are calling for a similar embargo over prime agricultural areas."  

One thing that makes this tension between ag and energy particularly interesting in the Australian context is that both mining and agriculture have typically fallen within the purview of several states' Department of Primary Industries (DPI).  See, for example, the State of Victoria's website here.  But those departments are increasingly being divvied up.  The DPI website for Queensland redirects to the new Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), which mimics the federal delineation between the DAFF on one hand and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism on the other.  (Resources refers to mineral, oil and gas resources--which makes its clustering with tourism very odd.)  South Australia's site is here, and you can see that as of the beginning of the year, it transferred its minerals and energy resources division to a new Department of Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy.  Western Australia, which has seen the greatest benefit from the nation's resource boom but which has no coal seam gas wells, has separate departments for Agriculture and Food and for Mines and Petroleum.  Perhaps these relatively administrative divisions reflect that sense that ag and various extractive industries cannot peacefully co-exist, either within government or on the ground.  An earlier post about a conflict between farm and coal interests is here.

Hunter goes on to highlight the water issues in particular, noting Australia's perennial water shortages, particularly in the Murray-Darling basin, west of the Great Dividing Range, where the federal government has preached conservation and restricted farmers' use of water.  She notes that--contrary to Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are linked to the Great Artesian Basin.  This means that fracking chemicals entering groundwater there could contaminate a water supply of enormous importance.  Other academic analysis of the issues is here.  A report commissioned by industry is here.  A prominent Australian environmentalist comments here.

Recent Australian media coverage of fracking issues include this very recent story about Victoria banning new licenses on coal-seam gas projects (a story which the Chicago Tribune picked up this week-end), and this one about a blockade of a coal-seam gas project in Newcastle, New South Wales.  Here's an Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) website on the issue, which includes a map of existing wells.  You can see that many of the Queensland wells are in the areas south and west of Chinchilla and Dalby, not far from where I took the photo above.  The ABC site is called Coal Seam Gas by the Numbers, and not surprisingly, some of those numbers are jobs statistics.  The industry is predictably touting its job creation potential--as in a billboard I saw on one of my Queensland drives between the Darling Downs and Brisbane with a headline about job creation by CSG in Queensland.

Just this week-end, the Sydney Morning Herald's News Review section featured a front-page story about the resource boom, which is projected to end in the next half century or so, as different resources--from gold to coal--are exhausted.  As the nation asks what next, it remembers the decline of the agriculture sector, according to the story by Peter Martin and Matt Wade.  They write:
Those who grew up in the 1950s were forever being told the nation rode on the sheep's back.  Back then the farm sector accounted for one quarter of Australia's production.  Today it accounts for a little over 2 per cent.
That's a sobering statistic for the agriculture sector and one that would seem to bode well for the energy sector when its interests are in direct conflict with those agricultural producers.  It also seems to be bad news for rural communities generally because a great deal of Australian resource extraction is being done in "fly in, fly out" mining camps, which circumvent local economies.  One anti-CSG group picked up on the community angle in a statement earlier this month: 
Coal seam gas represents a serious risk to farm enterprises and water resources, to the future profitability of agriculture and other industries such as tourism, and to the social cohesion of rural communities.
 Read posts about the links--and conflicts--between fracking and agriculture in the U.S. here, here, and here.

Cross-posted to Agricultural Law

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Akin's rise attributable to rural folks?

That's the suggestion of this story from yesterday's New York Times, which analyzes the possibility that Todd Akin, the Republican nomination to be U.S. Senator for Missouri, can win the race following his recent foot-in-mouth comment suggesting that pregnancies don't result from "legitimate rape" because the woman's body has mysterious mechanisms to stop such conceptions.  John Eligon and Monica Davey's story discusses how Mr. Akin, who has served as a U.S. Representative from Missouri since 2001, got the coveted Republican nomination:
Yet [Akin's] ascent--and his prospects for survival--is a reflection of the state's political shift to the right in recent years.  Missouri, with its mix of rural and urban, Southern and Northern flavor, had for [   ] more than a century picked all but two of the nation's presidential winners.

In recent years, however, the state has had population growth in some of its more rural pockets in the southwest and in St. Charles County to the east, which Mr. Akin represents--areas made up of people who tend to be more conservative and Christian.  

The story goes on to note factors other than these "cultural" ones that have moved Missouri largely into the Republican column, including a sluggish economy and falling home values.  

In spite of Missouri's increasingly conservative political landscape, this story and other recent ones suggest that Claire McCaskill, the sitting U.S. Senator from Missouri and a Democrat closely aligned with President Obama, is experiencing a fund-raising boost in the wake of Akin's gaffe.  National Republican leaders have called on Akin to quit the race. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A view from down under (Part III): A return to non-lawyer judges

The Courier Mail reported yesterday that Queensland's government--in the midst of draconian cost-cutting measures because of a massive deficit--will begin staffing the state's Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) with justices of the peace instead of lawyers and magistrates.  This means JPs--"some of whom are currently only responsible for witnessing documents--would settle matters over debts, property damage, residential tenancy, and consumer and trader disputes, after only a few weeks' training."

This is, of course, similar to the way rural courts of first impression operate in several U.S. states, including New York, Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming.  Such courts have been upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in North v. Russell in 1976.  In the U.S., such non lawyer courts are associated with de novo trials to courts at the next level up, which must be staffed by those trained as lawyers.  As I understand it, this new situation in Queensland takes the state back to an earlier time, when JPs heard disputes in the state's rural reaches.

The Courier Mail story continues:
Opponents of the plan to clear the backlog of QCAT cases have described it as cost-cutting gone mad, and said any time and cost saving would be short-term and outweighed by the extra cost and delays associated with more appeals.  
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said the decision flew in the fact of the direction being taken by every other state and territory, where tribunals are being given increased power to make decisions. 
The story also notes--predictably--that opponents of the new scheme worry that QCAT will be "reduced to a 'kangaroo court.'"  It does not specify what rights of appeal exist from these Tribunal decisions.  It also does not specify whether the use of non-lawyer judges in these Tribunals will occur primarily in rural and remote areas, where fewer lawyers live and work.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Will Delta bypass kill a rural community?

The New York Times today reports from Courtland, California, population 355, a pear-producing area in the Delta that feeds into San Francisco Bay.  In late July, state and federal officials announced plans to build two 25-mile tunnels to take water from the Sacramento River near Courtland, which is just 17 miles south of Sacramento.   Norimitsu Onishi's story does a good job of articulating the pros and cons associated with the tunnels, including their consequences for Courtland and its denizens.
Like highways with no exits, the $14 billion giant pipelines would run under the delta in a straight line and deliver the water to aqueducts that feed water to large corporate farms and densely population regions in Central and Southern California.  
Supporters say the pipeline will improve the environment of an increasingly fragile delta by replacing the pumps that now suck water directly from the southern delta.  More than anything else, backers--led by Gov. Jerry Brown, who failed in his bid to build a similar project in his first term as governor three decades ago--say the tunnels will secure a supply of water to California's most economically vital areas.  
Among opponents are Courtland's residents, many of whom are engaged in pear production.  One of their slogans is "Build the tunnel.  Kill the delta."  They know that their economic impact is a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the value of the agricultural output farther south.  While delta farmers produced about $800 million in agricultural products in 2009, counties to the south--in California's Great Central Valley--produced some $25 billion worth.

But the delta's residents offer not only economic arguments; they offer sentimental ones, too:
Here in the upper delta, the least urbanized area of the region, small towns invariably described as sleepy dot winding levee roads.  There are family-owned general stores and no chain stores.  Old Victorian houses belonging to farm owners can be seen from the levees, as well as encampments for the migrant workers during harvest.  Vestiges of ethnic groups that build the levees or farmed the delta can be found in this area's fading Chinatowns and Japantowns, reinforcing the impression of an earlier time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A view from down under (Part II): Australia's salad bowl

Farm stand (and more) establishment in Queensland's Lockyer Valley
I have been in Toowoomba, Queensland, for more than a week now, as a guest of the University of Southern Queensland.  This perch atop the Great Dividing Range has given me ample opportunity to observe some things about "country" life in the state, including the extent to which that country life is dominated by agricultural pursuits.

Toowoomba is Australia's largest inland city (after Canberra, the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia), and it has a population of more than 100K.  As such, Toowoomba serves as a regional center for the Darling Downs, which stretch west from here, but also to all points west and northwest.  As you leave Brisbane headed for Toowoomba, the road signs indicate not only the mileage to Toowoomba and other smaller towns, but also that to Darwin, Northern Territory--a distance in excess of 3400 kilometers.  In short, there are few if any population centers over 10,000 between Toowoomba and Darwin.
Dalby, Queensland 
Signs of agriculture's significance to this area are all around me.  Driving from Brisbane, I passed through the Lockyer Valley, also known as the nation's salad bowl and the the "valley of variety."  Speaking of variety, I was impressed that the farm stands along the Warrego Highway there feature everything from tomatoes to avocados to snow peas, all grown locally.  One of these establishments is the "Orange Spot," pictured above.  The Lockyer Valley Regional Government's website boasts it as one of the "ten most fertile farming areas in the world," elaborating thusly:
State of the art technology can be seen in the production of paddocks full of potatoes, pumpkins, onions, lettuce, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, corn, cabbages, carrots, beetroot, beans, peas, cauliflower, capsicum and other color vegies are a sight to behold for visitors.  Other interesting crops like mangoes, olives, peaches and grapes also add to the scenery, while the bright greens of lucerne fields would make any horse hungry.   

Tractor driving through Toowoomba's
Central Business District
The Lockyer Valley's largest city is Gatton, also home to a campus of the flagship University of Queensland--in particular the campus that features UQ's veterinary school.  An insert in the Queensland Country Life weekly touted the campus's upcoming Open Day, which will feature demonstrations and activities such as
  • Animal display
  • Vet science hub
  • Sustainable foods and energy
  • Agricultural Science, Agribusiness, Animals, Food and Plants
  • It's a wild life
  • Gatton Research Dairy display
  • Plant Nursery
  • Centre for Advanced Animal Science tent
  • Equine Precinct Facility tour  
One photo in the UQ Gatton insert showed a teenaged girl holding a baby pig; another featured vets-in-training treating a cow.
Directional signs in tiny Marburg, including to show grounds
On the other side of Toowoomba, the Darling Downs are less (or differently) fertile, but the agricultural enterprises that spread westward are quite diverse.  The beef industry is huge, as is sheep ranching.  A front-page story in the July 26, 2012 issue of Queensland Country Life featured a shorthorn producer, Woolcott Shorthorns, from Meandarra, which won the first phase of the RNA Paddock to Palate Competiton among 150 producers at Mort and Co's Grassdale Feedlot at Dalby, which is about 80 km west of Toowoomba, with a population approaching 10,000.

Queensland, which styles itself the Sunshine State and is better known abroad for Great Barrier Reef destinations like Cairns, but the state's agircultural heritage was featured prominently in The Sunday Mail a few days ago with a two-page spread titled, "Harvest of Plenty on Land."  It featured the following producers:
  • A grain producer from Jandowae (population 784)
  • A mandarin producer from Gayndah (population 1,745)
  • A vegetable producer from Grantham (population 370)
  • A sheep producer from St. George (population 2,400)
  • A cotton producer from Dalby (population 9,778)
  • A cattle producer from Dirranbandi (population 437)
  • A banana producer from Wamuran (population 2,086)
The gist of the story was that Queensland farmers of various stripes are doing well, as suggested by the subheading:  "The bush has been transformed by rain--and rural towns are booming."  Rains in late 2010 and early 2011 (accompanied by flooding in many areas at that time) ended several years of drought.  Floods also hit in February of this year.  Here's an excerpt from the story, including the lede:
The bush has a new story to tell--and it's a good one. 
Everything is full--the dams, the grain silos, the cotton gins and even fruit trees. 
Rain, rain everywhere has brought new prosperity to the farming industry and for those on the land it feels like "winning the lottery."
* * *
The Department of Primary Industries is forecasting a 5 percent increase in the total value of Queensland farming commodities in 2011-12 to $14.68 billion.
* * * 
More wheat has been planted this year, with a 32 per cent increase in crop production expected, encouraging more farmers to plant again next season. 
The DPI estimates that the gross value of sheep and lambs will be up 3 per cent and wool up 33 percent.   
New hotels are being built in country towns and they're full, too, courtesy of the resources sector. 
Pubs and eateries are brimming with customers who have money in their wallets.  
Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Dan Galligan said farming was experiencing a 'remarkable recovery.'  
The story discusses to some extent the export market, in particular for mandarins to China and chickpeas to India.

With some products--bananas, for example--the harvest has been so robust as to drive prices below the cost of production.  Others have been hurt more than helped by the rain.  The vegetable grower from Grantham reports that the rainy season has led to veg rot, which has caused loss of up to three quarters of his crop.  Other negative factors include "feral pests," such as wild dogs, pigs, foxes, and "crop-eating kangaroos."    
Promoting Ekka as "country time" in central Brisbane
The Sunday Mail was also full of coverage of Ekka, which appears to be the Queensland Equivalent of the State Fair.  In a "Sunday Soapbox" feature in the paper that asked average Queenslanders on the street if they were going, one man said he would attend, commenting, "I love to go on the last day and get the produce.  The main things I like to go and see are the animals.  I feel the Ekka brings a bit of the country into the city."  Another woman commented that she liked the "dressage and the sheepdog trials."

The ag influence on pop culture is evident here, too.  I just saw an advertisement for a reality TV program called "The Farmer Wants a Wife," and an Aussie friend pointed out to me a relatively new genre of fiction which has gained great popularity:  Chook lit.  "Chook" is the Australian slang for chickens, so you get the idea.  The storyline of these novels seems to be city girl moving to the country--sometimes returning to her family's spread, or perhaps moving to be the town's new doctor or other professional--and becoming romantically involved with local farmer/rancher.  When I went to buy one, I was spoiled for choice--so many on offer.  I selected one by Rachel Treasure, The Cattleman's Daughter.  I'll let you know what I think in a subsequent post.
Showgrounds at Toowoomba
Cross-posted to Agricultural Law Blog.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A view from down under (Part I): Initial observations from Queensland

I arrived in Queensland, Australia a few days ago, where I have taken up a short visitorship at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, a regional center about 120 kilometers west of the state capital, Brisbane.

I had the pleasure of spending about 30 hours in Brisbane before heading out to Toowoomba, and I got a tiny sense of Queenslander culture from its capital city.  Two impressions stand out.  One is in the sign I saw every time a surface street meets a motorway--prohibiting animals and tractors among other things.  Since I have seen very few animals here--not even domestic ones, let alone farm ones--the sign seems a bit out of place.  Ditto the prohibition of tractors.  I haven't seen a one in the great conurbation that is Brisbane.  Can't help wonder if this prohibition somehow echoes the state's agricultural history--and the significance of agriculture in the state's hinterlands--and by that I mean places not too far from Brisbane.

The man who sold me my cell phone told me that Brisbane had a reputation as the "largest country town in Australia."  When I asked what he meant, he referenced the early closing hours.  I noted that the Telstra shop we were in was closing as we spoke, at 6 pm, with all other shops in sight already shuttered for the evening.   I have also noticed that people seem to get up early here.  Lots of folks were on their way to work in the Central Business District by 6 am.  I also note the public sculpture, pictured left, on King George Square.  This tableau depicts an English family, the Petries, who lived in what became Queensland.  The father is preparing to depart for a journey as his wife hands him supplies and the children look on.   One of the Petrie boys depicted in the tableau, John Petrie, later became Brisbane's first mayor.

In my initial read of The Australian newspaper on July 31, I found two references to rural and regional issues.  ("Regional" is roughly the equivalent to "micropolitan" in the U.S.; it refers to a regional center that serves surrounding, smaller cities and towns).  The first was in a front-page story headlined "Blueprint to lift teaching standards," which reported on New South Wales' proposal to reform the education and credentialing of teachers.  The challenge NSW is addressing is "to lift standards and address the lack of maths, science and language teachers and the oversupply of primary and secondary teachers."  The proposal would "attack the practice of universities using teaching courses as a cash cow by enrolling as many students as possible to subsidize other more expensive to teach degrees."  The NSW proposal responds also to the shortage of teachers in rural and regional secondary schools by proposing that universities "offer training positions only in areas of need, such as high school maths and science and in rural and remote areas, and reduce the number of places in primary schools and metropolitan areas."  

The second was in a story headlined "Tax pinches small hospitals."  It reports on the disparate impact the carbon tax is having on "private and community not-for-profit hospitals," which are apparently mostly located in regional and rural places.  While the federal government has increased funding to the states for public hospitals, in an effort to minimize the impact of the carbon tax, these groups of hospitals serving smaller communities have been left out.  The cost of the carbon tax--which raises electricity rates--is about $1200/bed for hospitals, and no government relief is currently in sight.