September 22, 2021

Craft Distilleries Are More Numerous Than Ever. The Pandemic Looks To Have Helped.

GETHSEMANE, KY. – Conditions last year could hardly have looked worse for craft distilling in Kentucky or any other state. Built on the intimacy of locally-produced spirits, virtually all of the more than 2,000 craft distilleries that operated around the country were imperiled by state health directives that closed tasting rooms.  Yet while the virus produced financial pain, it did not lead to many distillery deaths. Federal pandemic-related aid, consumer demand, important changes in state …

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Kentucky Coal Fields Display How Hard It Is To Redevelop Rural America

PAINTSVILLE, KY. – On April 23, 12 weeks after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that promised to help rural regions of the East and Great Plains move past their dependence on fossil energy markets, the administration identified $37.9 billion in existing federal grant and loan accounts to meet the president’s job creation and revitalization goals.   One of those accounts, administered since 2016 by the Department of the Interior, helped start a high-tech manufacturing …

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Benzie County’s Summer and Fall COVID Tourist Economy – Surprise! – Was Very Strong

BENZONIA — On May 15, persuaded that COVID-19 infections and deaths were convincingly low, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) lifted the executive order that for eight weeks had closed most businesses in Benzie and neighboring Northern Michigan counties. Six months later, as COVID-19 infections and deaths mounted as never before in Benzie and the rest of the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reinstated parts of the shutdown—calling for a three-week “pause”—from November …

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Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum Opens in Owensboro, Kentucky

OWENSBORO, KY. — This flourishing city of more than 59,000 residents has occupied the high ground on a big bend of the Ohio River so long that its history includes being the winter encampment for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Owensboro’s famous sons include Johnny Depp, who was born here in 1963. Among its notable achievements is surviving the loss of 6,000 General Electric manufacturing jobs at the end of the 20th century, …

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The White House Wants To Disrupt Elko County and a Whole Lot of Other Places in the West

ELKO, NEV. – From this rest stop desert city midway between Salt Lake City and Reno the snow peaks of the Ruby Mountains are like finely crafted wainscoting in an elegant ballroom. The slopes rise sharply to form triangles in the sky. In 1989, Congress approved permanently safeguarding 92,650 wooded acres along the ridge lines from any intrusions in the Ruby Mountain Wilderness. The big flat sagebrush valley that runs up to the base of …

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Parks and Promise in Emalahleni, South Africa

EMALAHLENI, South Africa — There’s enough disturbing news in the world. I’ve reported my share of it. So when a story crosses my path that is part of the global garden of embryonic hope, I relish telling it. One of those stories, about two young guys here in South Africa who turned trash dumps into a program to build neighborhood parks, was brought to my attention by environmental activists living in Mpumalanga province, the coal …

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Donghao Chung, Guangzhou’s Daylighted Refuge

GUANGZHOU, China — Can a polluted stormwater drain newly constructed as an urban park speak for a city? Can a place of refuge, where clear water slips past slick rocks and families gather near the sound and mist of fountains, be an extension of a nation? There’s always risk in heaping such rhapsody on a single example. Still, in the characteristically handsome Chinese design, and in the cooling embrace of its flowing water, the Donghao …

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Owensboro Convention Center Opens With Big Party; Senators Paul and McConnell Not Among The Guests

OWENSBORO, KY — In February 2009, in the very depths of the Great Recession, seven of the nine commissioners elected to lead this capable city and surrounding Daviess County took a long breath, understood the political consequences, and approved a modest increase in a local tax to generate $80 million to build a new downtown. Though just two of the seven officials remain in office, what they accomplished in a single courageous vote achieved three distinct …

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Where Cars Don’t Dominate, Rapid Transit and Strong Economies Do

BERLIN — There are few more impressive places to arrive by intercity train anywhere in the world than this city’s central rail station, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. A colossal steel and glass building opened in 2006, the Hauptbahnhof (pronounced hote-bonn-off) soars up four levels, from east-west high-speed platforms to high-speed trains running north-south. Stainless steel and glass elevators, and stainless steel escalators tie together the platforms and the various levels of the station, which is stocked …

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Doha’s Toybox Skyline

DOHA, Qatar — A decade ago Sheraton’s pyramid shaped hotel was just about the only modern building along this city’s Arabian (Persian) Gulf shoreline. Today the hotel is dwarfed by 21st-century skyscrapers designed by architects who seem to have been inspired by the shapes contained in a boy’s toybox. Yet along with the playful shapes comes an accompanying narrative of the rising concern about how development affects the Gulf’s ecological and economic security. We are …

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