"Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today to announce the first report from last month’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit, as well as to reveal significant new partnership opportunities through the USDA – which the leaders said mean promising new strategies for the success of Eastern Kentucky and the entire Commonwealth."
"A tiny, invasive bug is bringing down hemlock trees from Appalachia to southern Canada. And scientists fear another treasured native tree may be going the way of the American chestnut, forever changing forest ecosystems. Researchers at Virginia Tech are hoping to beat the invaders at their own game. They’re using a new invasive species to keep an old one in check, and save the American hemlock tree."
"There are lots of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York, a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky, the last redoubt of the Scots-Irish working class that picked up where African slave labor left off, mining and cropping and sawing the raw materials for a modern American economy that would soon run out of profitable uses for the class of people who 500 years ago would have been known, without any derogation, as peasants."
"The 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty, which fell on Wednesday, reminds us how intractable that effort can be, despite the hope and determined idealism when the legislation was signed. Appalachia was one of the targets for the newly established Office of Economic Opportunity, utilizing programs such as Head Start and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). The anniversary also recalls how religion has motivated, shaped and sustained this effort, in many ways prefiguring the campaign, in both its successes and failures."
"Eastern Kentucky has just one of five communities across the US included in the first phase of an initiative the Obama Administration hopes will spur economic growth. So-called Promise Zones are intended to give depressed communities a leg up in securing federal dollars."
"Far below the Appalachian Mountains, in a space barely big enough to stand up straight, Bobby Combs works a job his father and his grandfather worked. Coal-mining is the highest-paying job available to him in eastern Kentucky. As he skillfully maneuvers a massive machine and rips into a seam of coal, though, Combs wonders if the family tradition ends with him."
"The company behind the massive chemical spill that made tap water unsafe for more than 300,000 West Virginians has filed for bankruptcy, according to documents obtained by The Huffington Post. According to bankruptcy filings, Freedom Industries, wholly owned by Chemstream Holdings Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday. Freedom Industries owns the storage facility responsible for leaking up to 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (a coal-cleaning chemical also known as crude MCHM) into West Virginia's Elk River."