Local News

Group Launches Whistleblower Website In Appalachia

A small group of activists and programmers have launched a whistleblower website similar to Wikileaks, but for the Appalachian region.

The site Honest Appalachia launched Tuesday. The goal is to develop working relationships with journalists throughout the region, said Garrett Robinson, 22, the project’s lead developer.

Environment Local News

Documentary Filmmaker to Explore Parallels Between Welsh, Appalachian Mining Communities

The coalfields of Appalachia are running out of coal, and there’s not a large-scale effort to diversify the region’s economy. But there are lessons to be learned from a similar transition in an unlikely place: the small United Kingdom country of Wales. Now, a documentary filmmaker is exploring parallels between 1980s Wales and modern-day Appalachia.

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Tom Hansell is a former Kentucky resident and a documentary filmmaker at App State’s Appalachian Studies Center. In After Coal: Welsh and Appalachian Mining Communities, he’ll look for lessons from Wales’ transition away from coal that could be applicable in Appalachia.

“So often you hear about coal issues, particularly in Kentucky, as very emotional ‘jobs versus environment,’” he said. “And I think there are real reasons for that, but what I’m hoping to do in this project is actually look beyond that immediate conflict.

“Because we know that coal is a finite resource. So what I want to do is look beyond that and imagine a future after coal and use the Welsh experience to start people talking about ‘what can we do when the mines run out?’”

Local News Politics

Kentucky Officials Praise Teach for America Expansion

Praise is pouring in for an initiative to place top-flight college graduates in teaching positions in three Eastern Kentucky counties.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, who grew up in Hazard, is excited about Teach for America’s decision to expand into Eastern Kentucky. Mongiardo says the program, which is recruiting top college graduates to teach in schools in Knox, Floyd and Martin counties, will be a boon for the area.

“We exchange our ideas with them, and they exchange their ideas with us. And we both, I believe, become better because of that. And I think this for Kentucky, especially eastern Kentucky, is going to be a starting point for big things in education,” he says.

Local News

Teach for America Coming to Appalachia

Three eastern Kentucky school districts have agreed to hire Teach for America instructors next fall. This will be the organization’s first operation in Kentucky and in Appalachia.

Teach for America places young teachers in impoverished and struggling schools, and about three fourths of the organization’s operations are in cities, the nearest being Nashville and Indianapolis.

Teach for America Appalachia will place 90 teachers in Martin, Floyd and Knox county schools over the next three years. Director Will Nash says he expects the partnership to extend beyond those three years, but not beyond Appalachia.

“Right now we’re focused on eastern Kentucky and we’re focused on our success there,” he says.

Local News Politics

UK To Host Rural Health Forum

By Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

New approaches to key health problems in Appalachia will be discussed Friday night at the University of Kentucky.

Topics will include obesity, drug abuse, physician shortages, and poverty. Kevin Donohue, who’s with the Kentucky Student Rural Health Association, is organizing the forum. Donohue says too often in eastern Kentucky, health care depends on a person’s income and social status.

“Outside the spheres of public health, there’s not a lot of awareness of the connections and the correlations between socio economic status and health outcomes.”

Donohue says his father, who once lived on Long Island, has practiced medicine in Pikeville for years. He says that gives him some insight into the issues faced by people in Appalachia. The 2010 Rural Health Forum begins at 7:00pm Friday at the University of Kentucky.

Local News

Louisville Added To Appalachian Drug Program

Louisville is now in the pool of federal money aimed at reducing drug trafficking in Appalachia. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has for many years allocated money specifically to southeastern Kentucky counties to help combat drugs that are prevalent in that area, like marijuana and methamphetamine.

Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth fought to get Jefferson County added to the funding list. He says when it comes to drug trafficking, Louisville and Appalachia are one in the same.

“In terms of the total picture, its total funds committed to one problem,” says Yarmuth, “and the benefit of including Jefferson County will accrue to the Appalachian counties, even though the money may not increase.”

It hasn’t been determined how much money Jefferson County will receive to fight drug trafficking – though early estimates are around $220-million in the 2010 budget.

First, local law enforcement agencies will coordinate with their federal counterparts to create a task force.

Environment Local News

Appalachia Consumes More Energy than Other U.S Regions

A new report commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission finds that nearly 80,000 new jobs could be created over the next 20 years if states in the region implement energy efficiency programs.  The report’s authors found that Appalachian states consume a higher percentage of residential energy than other areas of the country.  ARC spokesman Louis Segesvary says reducing energy usage will not only help reduce the need for new coal-fired power plants…it will also help states stay economically competitive.

“Competitiveness is critical in all areas of economic activity, and especially now in energy because Appalachia consumes such a disproportionately large share of energy compared to other areas of the country, you know, primarily because it has such large, conventional energy resources,” says Segesvary.

The report’s authors recommend that states adopt several energy efficiency programs. They include retrofitting heating and cooling systems in commercial buildings as well as adopting cleaner car standards and providing incentives for homeowners to install energy efficient appliances.