10 Stories

China's Hunger for Ginseng Is Wiping It Out in Appalachia

The lucrative root is prized by poachers looking for a quick buck

(Newser) - A gold rush of sorts is taking place in Appalachia, but this one involves the plant ginseng. As a story by Suzy Khimm at Foreign Policy lays out in fascinating detail, the root is a hot commodity in China because of its purported medicinal values, but wild ginseng is practically... More »

Black Lung Rates Rise 900%: Report

Appalachian coal miners contracting disease with prevalence not seen since '70s

(Newser) - Just 15 years ago, scientists were confident that the advanced, incurable version of black lung disease had been all but wiped out. Now, coal miners in Appalachia are contracting the illness—also known as progressive massive fibrosis—at rates not seen since the 1970s, the Courier-Journal reports. A National Institute... More »

Tree-Munching Bugs Wage War on Christmas

Adelgids deplete fir tree population

(Newser) - Talk about a war on Christmas: It's happening right now in southern Appalachia, and the aggressors are freckle-sized bugs with no natural predators. The balsam woolly adelgid, as the creature is known, is wreaking havoc on Canaan and Fraser firs, famed as Christmas trees. The onslaught is leaving trees... More »

Appalachian Worry: Mountain Dew Mouth

Youth in the region are plagued by rotten teeth, say critics

(Newser) - You've likely heard of meth mouth, the nasty-looking damage to teeth that results from the use of methamphetamine. But Mountain Dew mouth? It's a thing, reports the Salt blog at NPR , and public health advocates in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia say the damage is real and widespread.... More »

Stop Making Fun of 'Hillbillies'

'Buckwild' and the like only hurt Appalachia: Alexandra Bradner

(Newser) - America loves to ogle , and often mock, "rednecks" and "hillbillies." But if we would never dream of treating minorities in the same way, then why is this behavior considered acceptable? Philosophy professor Alexandra Bradner takes on the question in Salon , focusing her ire particularly on MTV's... More »

Bad News for Miners: Black Lung Is Back

Cases have doubled in a decade despite regulations

(Newser) - Black lung was thought to be on its way out following new mining regulations in 1969—but the disease is resurging and has some health experts using the word "epidemic," according to an NPR /Center for Public Integrity investigation. Its occurrence has doubled over the past 10 years,... More »

Is Racism Driving Obama's Crappy Primary Showings?

But columnists think that's a little too simplistic

(Newser) - President Obama continued his lousy run last night in what Politico calls his "region of doom," a swath it defines as the "Upper South" that includes Appalachia. Obama's weak performances in Arkansas and Kentucky , of course, follow his close race against a felon in West Virginia.... More »

Vicious Small-Town Gossip Gets Online Forum

The virtual stuff is anonymous and nasty

(Newser) - It’s small-town gossip 2.0: Tiny towns in the Ozarks, Appalachia, and elsewhere are increasingly turning to the Internet for local chatter—and when posts are anonymous, they can get nasty. On sites like, cruel rumors get started virtually, and true or not, the fallout can be... More »

Rural Share of US Population Hits Record Low

84% of Americans now live in cities or suburbs

(Newser) - Small-town and rural America is fading away as the US becomes a nation of suburbanites and city dwellers, according to the latest census figures. The share of Americans who live in rural areas—including towns with fewer than 50,000 people that are out of commuting range of metropolitan areas—... More »

EPA Rules May End Mountaintop Mining

New pollution standard aims at destructive coal practice

(Newser) - New pollution restrictions put in place today by the EPA could all but end the controversial practice of mountaintop mining in Appalachia. Environmentalists hate the method, in which miners blow off the top of a mountain, extract the coal, and dump the extra rock and soil into the valley below.... More »

10 Stories