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Rural TV Network wants Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing access to rural programming

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Patrick Gottsch and RFD-TV unveiled an advocacy campaign to urge Congress to pass legislation, the Rural Communications Act of 2018, requiring that major multichannel video programming distributors to provide rural content to their subscribers.

The Rural Communications Act of 2018 requires that at least one percent of a distributor’s channels shall host content “dedicated to rural news and weather, information on commodity markets, rural healthcare, rural development, rural education, and other content relating to the needs and interests of farmers, ranchers, and the rural lifestyle.”

RFD-TV is the flagship network for the Rural Media Group, and is the nation’s first 24-hour television network featuring programming focused on the agribusiness, equine and the rural lifestyles, along with traditional country music and entertainment.

Patrick Gottsch is the President and Founder of RFD-TV. On Wednesday, Gottsch had a lengthy conversation with the Alabama Political Reporter about the Rural Communications Act of 2018.

President Gottsch told APR that all they are asking is that the major video delivery companies set aside just one percent of their channels for rural programming. On a 300 channel cable provider that would be just three or four channels.

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APR asked Gottsch if he had a Senator and Congress member to sponsor his bill yet.

Gottsch said that they are considering several and that reception for the bill has been supportive. Everyone I have talked to on Capitol Hill has expressed support for the legislation both from rural and urban districts.

Gottsch and his team argue that multichannel video programming distributors, including the cable companies, are not currently meeting the needs and interest of rural America. It is in the public interest for multichannel video programming distributors to meet the information needs and interests of rural America and there are special need for news, weather, and commodity market information, which is unique to rural America, is being ignored by urban news conglomerates. Recent mergers in the cable TV business have meant that cable TV has become even more over representative of urban America in its current programming.

“There are 70 million people in rural America,” Gottsch told APR, The problems of rural healthcare are different than healthcare in urban America. Rural America deserves to have their news reported. Rural education is different than urban education. Rural America has their own sports. Business channels broadcast from the stock market in New York. Our Market Watch programming broadcasts from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and is agricultural commodity focused.

“Urban cable conglomerates say they provide “rural tv,” but they don’t get it. Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies, and Dukes of Hazard are not the vital rural programming our viewers depend on,” Gottsch said in a statement. “Farmers and ranchers depend on rural news, weather, and commodities market information.”

The Rural Media Group owns both RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel, which focuses its programming toward the cattle industry, horse enthusiasts, and rodeo sports.

APR asked would this legislation make you a monopoly or do you think it would encourage more competition in the rural communications sector?

“Absolutely it would lead to more competition,” Gottsch said. “I know of people who have tried to start a competitor rural network.” and they went around and talked to the video delivery companies and they wanted them to buy their way in and the economics just weren’t there.

Gottsch said that he believed that the legislation would lead to RFD-TV having a competitor network,

“Rural folks have to have the ability to communicate,” Gottsch added. Not just to each other but also for rural America to talk to urban America. Comcast currently has 55 Hispanic channels and 8 African American channels. We support that diversity and believe that rural America should also have their voice represented.

RFD-TV would like to be part of everyone’s base channels package and not just be relegated to an upper tier channel that people have to pay more money for.

I have been testifying before Congress and to the FCC about the loss of rural programming Gottsch said. Rural Americans have special needs for news and information that are not being met now. There is a big push for expanding rural broadband and we support that; but we should also have rural programming along with that rural broadband.

“We want to attach this to the farm bill,” Gottsch told APR.

The House of Representatives has passed one version of the Farm Bill that sets Agriculture and supplemental nutrition assistance benefits for the next five years. The Senate has passed a different version of the Farm Bill. The two differing versions of the Farm Bill are now in a conference committee. Only 20 percent of the Farm Bill deals with agriculture policy. Eighty percent of the funding in the Farm Bill actually goes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many Americans still refer to this program as “Food Stamps.” The House Republican version of the bill requires that able bodied adult SNAP beneficiaries either be enrolled in an approved job training program or work at least 20 hours per week, and that can be in a volunteer role for a government, non-profit cause, or Church. The bipartisan Senate version of the bill has no work requirements to receive SNAP benefits.

APR asked Gottsch, we recently heard from Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) that if the conference committee approves a version of the Farm Bill with work requirements for SNAP that the Senate will not support it. We have talked with Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) and he told us that the House won’t pass a Farm Bill without the work requirements. Are you concerned about the Farm Bill not passing even with your legislation attached.

“I have heard the same thing.” Gottsch said. Gottsch however was optimistic that adding the Rural Communications Act to the bill would help find consensus and help the Farm Bill pass.

Gottsch said that the Rural Communications Act is not unprecedented. In 1893 the Congress passed legislation giving rural Americans free postal delivery (RFD) and in the 1930s urban America had electricity and rural Americans did not. The Rural Electrification Act of 1937 brought electricity to rural areas.

Patrick Gottsch has taken to the air waves, asking his viewers to call their Congress members and Senators to ask them to support the Rural Communications Act of 2018.

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Jones introduces bipartisan legislation forbidding mailed unsolicited “live” loan checks

Brandon Moseley

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Monday U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) joined Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) in introduced legislation that would end the practice of mailing high-interest loans to consumers in the form of “live” checks.

When consumers receive these loan checks, many unknowingly believe they have received money from their bank or financial institution, not realizing that the check is often a high-interest loan.

The Unsolicited Loan Act of 2018 would prohibit this practice and ensure that consumers access loans only when they proactively apply for them. This legislation mirrors the decades-old prohibition on the mailing of live credit cards.

“As working Americans look to make ends meet, lenders will often target cash-strapped families with these mailings,” Senator Jones said. “It is unconscionable that someone would take advantage of another person’s dire financial situation to make a quick buck for themselves. We need to end this predatory lending tactic and pass this legislation to protect consumers and their pocketbooks.”

“People should understand clearly when they are taking on debt,” Senator Cotton said. “But because ‘live’ checks mailed directly to consumers don’t require an application or any previous relationship with the consumer, many individuals don’t realize that these checks are actually high-interest loans until it’s too late. Just like Congress ended the practice of mailing ‘live’ credit cards nearly 50 years ago, Congress should pass our bill now to stop this underhanded practice.”

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“When you receive a check in the mail, it’s natural to assume that depositing it will help—not hurt—your bottom line,” Sen. Merkley said. “But these checks don’t pad consumers’ pocketbooks; instead, they send them into a vortex of debt. The practice of mailing high-interest loans disguised as checks is unconscionable and clearly predatory. Today, we’re sending a bipartisan message that this unacceptable practice must end.”

The sponsors said that it has been long recognized by Congress that consumer loans should require an application by a customer. In fact, Congress banned the mailing of unsolicited live credit cards nearly 50 years ago. In modern lending, a formal loan application can often take just minutes. The bill does not prohibit the direct marketing or mailing of a loan application. The sponsors say that this legislation would provide common-sense consumer protections without limiting access to credit for consumers who willingly apply and seek lending products.

The bill would also ensure that companies cannot shift from the mailing of live checks to other forms of transfer, such as a gift card or an “e-check.” In addition, it would ensure that customers are not liable for debt incurred from an illegal, unsolicited live check loan. The National Consumer Law Center has endorsed this legislation on behalf of its low-income clients.

According to usdebtclock.org the average American is carrying $58,849 in debt. American families owe over $19,371,000,000. Almost $15,374,000,000 of this is mortgage debt; but Americans also carry nearly $1,580,000,000 in student loan debt and almost $1,050,000,000 in credit card debt. According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, through November 703,130 Americans have already filed for bankruptcy in 2018, including 24,676 in Alabama.

Senator Jones was elected a year ago in a special election for the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions (R) when he accepted President Donald J. Trump’s (R) nomination to be U.S. Attorney General. Jones is the only Democratic candidate to win a statewide election in Alabama since 2008.

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Byrne applauds NOAA’s increased Red Snapper catch limit under new rule

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, applauded a new NOAA Fisheries rule to increase the annual catch limits and annual catch targets for the Red Snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This increase from NOAA shows exactly what those of us on the Gulf Coast have known for years: the health of the Red Snapper fishery is incredibly strong,” Representative Byrne said. “These latest numbers will further drive us to continue fighting for greater state control over the Red Snapper fishery and a full and adequate Red Snapper fishing season.”

The commercial annual catch limit would increase from 7.007 million pounds to 7.701 million pounds. The annual recreational charter boat catch limit would increase from 2.848 million pounds to 3.13 million pounds. The annual recreational private boat limit would increase from 3.885 million pounds to 4.269 million pounds.

The catch limits for Red Snapper are being increased because assessment of Gulf red snapper was completed in 2018 and indicated that red snapper was not overfished or experiencing overfishing, but the stock is still in a rebuilding plan. Based on the assessment, catch limits can be increased. The commercial, recreational, and component ACLs could also be increased.

The proposed rule would also decrease the annual catch limit of West Florida Hogfish from 219,000 pounds to just 129,500 pounds in 2019. It would increase to 141,300 pounds in 2020, and 150,400 pounds in 2021 and beyond.

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The current Red Snapper total ACL is 13.74 million pounds whole weight. Of that, 51 percent is allocated to the commercial sector and 49 percent to the recreational sector. The recreational sector’s annual catch limit is further divided into the private angling component (57.7 percent) and federal for-hire component (42.3 percent). These components were implemented in 2015 and are currently set to expire in 2022.

This is just a proposed rule. NOAA is seeking public comments. The comment period is open now through January 3, 2019. You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail. Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.

Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

Step 1) Go to:
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0130

Step 2) Click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields.

Step 3) Enter or attach your comments.

Submit written comments to Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Alabama federal and state officials have been troubled by federal red snapper rules for years. Last year, Congressman Byrne worked with Senator Richard Shelby and other Gulf Coast congressmen to secure a full Red Snapper season for Alabama’s recreational fishermen.

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Voyager 2 has left the heliosphere

Brandon Moseley

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The Voyagers have gone where no man-made spacecraft have gone before. For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA’s Voyager 2 probe follows Voyager 1 and has exited the heliosphere, the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

Members of NASA’s Voyager team discussed the findings at a news conference on at Monday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington. Only Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have ever journeyed this far from Earth.

Comparing data from different instruments aboard the trailblazing spacecraft, mission scientists determined the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on Nov. 5. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. Voyager 1 crossed this boundary in 2012, but Voyager 2 carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space.

Voyager 2 now is slightly more than 11 billion miles from Earth. Mission operators still can communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters this new phase of its journey, but the information, which is moving at the speed of light, takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

The most compelling evidence of Voyager 2’s exit from the heliosphere came from its onboard Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), an instrument that stopped working on Voyager 1 in 1980, long before that probe crossed the heliopause. Until recently, the space surrounding Voyager 2 was filled predominantly with plasma flowing out from our Sun. This outflow, called the solar wind, creates a bubble, the heliosphere, that envelopes the planets in our solar system. The PLS uses the electrical current of the plasma to detect the speed, density, temperature, pressure and flux of the solar wind. The PLS aboard Voyager 2 observed a steep decline in the speed of the solar wind particles on Nov. 5. Since that date, the plasma instrument has observed no solar wind flow in the environment around Voyager 2, which makes mission scientists confident the probe has left the heliosphere.

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“Working on Voyager makes me feel like an explorer, because everything we’re seeing is new,” said John Richardson, principal investigator for the PLS instrument and a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “Even though Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012, it did so at a different place and a different time, and without the PLS data. So we’re still seeing things that no one has seen before.”

In addition to the plasma data, Voyager’s science team members have seen evidence from three other onboard instruments: the cosmic ray subsystem, the low energy charged particle instrument and the magnetometer. The readings from those instruments are consistent with the conclusion that Voyager 2 has crossed the heliopause. Voyager’s team members are eager to continue to study the data from these other onboard instruments to get a clearer picture of the environment through which Voyager 2 is traveling.

“There is still a lot to learn about the region of interstellar space immediately beyond the heliopause,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at Caltech in Pasadena, California.

Together, the two Voyagers provide a detailed glimpse of how our heliosphere interacts with the constant interstellar wind flowing from beyond. Their observations complement data from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a mission that is remotely sensing that boundary. NASA also is preparing the upcoming Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), due to launch in 2024) to capitalize on the Voyagers’ observations.

“Voyager has a very special place for us in our heliophysics fleet,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “Our studies start at the Sun and extend out to everything the solar wind touches. To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun’s influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory.”

While the probes have left the heliosphere, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have not yet left the solar system, and won’t be leaving anytime soon. The boundary of the solar system is considered to be beyond the outer edge of the Oort Cloud, a collection of small objects that are still under the influence of the Sun’s gravity. The width of the Oort Cloud is not known precisely, but it is estimated to begin at about 1,000 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun and to extend to about 100,000 AU. One AU is the distance from the Sun to Earth. It will take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud and possibly 30,000 years to fly beyond it.
The Voyager probes are powered using heat from the decay of radioactive material, contained in a device called a radioisotope thermal generator (RTG). The power output of the RTGs diminishes by about four watts per year, which means that various parts of the Voyagers, including the cameras on both spacecraft, have been turned off over time to manage power.

“I think we’re all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone,” said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Now we’re looking forward to what we’ll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause.”

Voyager 2 was launched in 1977, 16 days before Voyager 1, and both have traveled well beyond their original destinations. The spacecraft were built to last five years and conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn. However, as the mission continued, additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible. As the spacecraft flew across the solar system, remote-control reprogramming was used to endow the Voyagers with greater capabilities than they possessed when they left Earth. Their two-planet mission became a four-planet mission. Their five-year lifespans have stretched to 41 years, making Voyager 2 NASA’s longest running mission.

The Voyager story has impacted not only generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization. A Voyager probe even appeared in Star Trek the Motion Picture, as the villain.

Voyager’s mission controllers communicate with the probes using NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a global system for communicating with interplanetary spacecraft. The DSN consists of three clusters of antennas in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

The Voyager Interstellar Mission is a part of NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL built and operates the twin Voyager spacecraft. NASA’s DSN, managed by JPL, is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency, operates both the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, part of the DSN, and the Parkes Observatory, which NASA has been using to downlink data from Voyager 2 since Nov. 8.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville employs thousands of Alabamians.

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Brooks lauds November jobs report

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, made a point to laud the good Bureau of Labor Statistics November jobs report Friday.

“The November Jobs Report is very good in the context of two troubling events: the threatened return of socialist, anti-growth policies of Democrats who have captured the House of Representatives and rising interest rates (caused by Federal Reserve hikes coupled with America’s dangerous deficits straining credit markets),” Brooks said. “These combined threats undermine the economic confidence of job creators which, in turn, risk causing adverse impacts on America’s economy.”

“Despite threatened socialist policies and rising interest rates, in November, America’s economy added 155,000 new jobs, average hourly income continued to grow at a 3.1% annualized rate, and unemployment remained steady at the 50-year low rate of 3.7%— all welcome news for American workers,” Brooks said. “I am very pleased that Americans are personally benefitting from the tax cuts and deregulation policies that spurred 2018 to be America’s strongest growth rate in over a decade!”

Brooks said that the key takeaways from the Bureau of Labor Statistics October jobs report are: America’s economy added 155,000 new, nonfarm payroll jobs in November 2018; America’s November unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, a year-to-year improvement of 0.4 percentage points over the 4.1 percent unemployment rate of November 2017; and over the past year, the average weekly earnings for all non-farm American workers increased by 0.2%, or six cents (to $27.35/hour). That is an 81 cent improvement in hourly wages over the past year.

Brooks said that African-American unemployment fell by 0.3 percentage points, to 5.9 percent, which is the all-time record low unemployment rate for African-Americans. Asian-American unemployment fell from 3.2 percent to 2.7 percent. The Caucasian-American unemployment rate actually rose from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent. The Hispanic-American unemployment rate rose from 4.4 percent to 4.5 percent. The labor participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9 percent. The long-term unemployed (those unemployed for 27 weeks or more), declined by 120,000 to just 1.3 million.

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This is the lowest the unemployment rate since December 1969, and this is the fifth consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent. There have only been 12 months since 1970 that the unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent. Seven of those months occurred this year.

More than 73 percent of adults entering employment are coming out of the labor force rather than from unemployment.

The gains were apparent in most industries. The biggest gains this month were in transportation and warehousing (25,000) and in manufacturing (27,000). Overall manufacturing has added 468,000 jobs since the election.

Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

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Rural TV Network wants Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing access to rural programming

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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