Mountain News & World Report: The 2015 SOAR Summit; NEA Chairman Jane Chu; Remembering Guy Carawan


the 2015 SOAR Strategy Summit in Pikeville, Ky. // blurry photo taken by Parker Hobson

In the latest edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we begin with a report from the latest SOAR (“Shaping Our Appalachian Region”) Summit, which took place in Pikeville, Ky., on May 11, 2015.  The day was billed as a ‘Strategy Summit’ that would build on the work done through SOAR thus far and set strategies for achieving goals in a variety of areas to help diversify Appalachia’s economy.  In this report from WMMT’s Parker Hobson, we hear clips from speakers & presentations at the Summit, and we also hear from some local people in attendance, who give their impressions of how the day aligned with their hopes and expectations.

Also in this show: we hear remarks from Jane Chu, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, on the importance of the arts to economic development.  Ms. Chu was in town visiting several east Kentucky organizations this Spring, including ours (WMMT/Appalshop, of which NEA is a funder), & WMMT’s Mimi Pickering has this report.

Finally, we hear a remembrance of the well-known & much-loved folk musician Guy Carawan, who passed away on May 2.  Carawan is perhaps best-known for popularizing the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” but he led a long & varied life in music and social justice, and spent much time in eastern Kentucky.  WMMT’s Rich Kirby has this remembrance, which originally appeared as an essay in The Daily Yonder (which you can read here!).

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for May 22, 2015

Fishpond Lake in Letcher County, Ky.  Local officials decided not to hear a proposal by TECO Coal to strip-mine near the lake // photo via

Fishpond Lake in Letcher County, Ky. Local officials decided not to hear a proposal by TECO Coal to strip-mine near the lake // photo via

Murray Energy plans to lay off up to 1,800 coal workers, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That number represents close to one quarter of Murray’s entire workforce. Murray mostly operates in northern West Virginia and southeastern Ohio, but also has mines in western Kentucky, Illinois, and Utah. This news of 1800 layoffs comes just after Murray announced that it was paying $1.4 billion for a controlling stake in Foresight Energy, which mines in the Illinois basin. Murray also just purchased 5 of the 6 largest-producing underground mines in West Virginia from CONSOL back in 2013. CEO Bob Murray said about the layoffs “the tide is just too high.” Industry analyst Andrew Moore from Platts Coal said that coal operators right now are “battling natural gas prices, and stockpiles continue to climb. There’s no export market to speak of. That’s resulting in mine closings and bankruptcies.”

For similar reasons, more layoffs have been announced in West Virginia. Alpha Natural Resources announced that it will idle the Camp Creek mine in Wayne County. 439 people will lose their jobs. Alpha had already laid off 135 people just this month in southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia. The Bristol Herald-Courier reports that CEO Kevin Crutchfield Continue reading Coal Report for May 22, 2015

Mountain News & World Report: Looking Ahead to SOAR; Examining Pres. Obama’s POWER+ Plan & Looking Back on the War on Poverty

Sandlick Creek in Letcher County, Ky., found to contain high levels of heavy metals from Acid Mine Drainage. The POWER+ Plan (proposed by the Obama Administration) would allocate $1 billion to the coalfields to employ people in cleaning up old mine sites // photo by Evan Smith

In advance of the second SOAR summit, which happened in Pikeville, Ky. on May 11, this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report brings together two pieces first aired earlier this year.  We begin with an updated version of a story on President Obama’s POWER+ Plan, which (if it gets passed in the federal budget, which is being deliberated in Washington right now) would allocate $1 billion from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund to put people to work in the coalfields by cleaning up old coal mine sites.  Also in this program, to place SOAR in a broader context, we hear a replay of an interview with two veterans of a previous government-sponsored initiative that, like SOAR, was meant to tackle some of the major issues that Appalachia faces–the War on Poverty of the 1960’s.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Mountain Health Monthly, Program 2: Autism Awareness


As April was national Autism Awareness month, in this edition of WMMT’s Mountain Health Monthly, host Carrie Lee-Hall welcomes a variety of guests to the program to discuss autism, and some of the many issues surrounding the condition. Those guests include: Gwenna Pennell of the Letcher County Autism Awareness Advocates; Dawn Pennell, daughter to Gwenna and the mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome; and Tammy Cook, who works in special-education instructional learning at West Whitesburg Elementary School.

Mountain Health Monthly airs on the 4th Monday of every month at 6 p.m. on WMMT. Each show, host Carrie Lee-Hall (a licensed nurse practicioner) welcomes local guests of all kinds to discuss health issues important to mountain communities. To hear past shows, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for May 15, 2015

Following Patriot’s bankruptcy, UMWA miners protest against Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, & Patriot in St. Louis on Jan. 29, 2013 // image via the UMWA

Amid the downturn in the coal market, and projections by industry experts that coal doesn’t seem likely to bounce back here in Appalachia, the Obama Administration has announced more than $35 million in grants to try to help communities that have been hard-hit by the loss of coal jobs. The Mountain Eagle reports that this money comes from the federal POWER initiative that was announced earlier this spring, and these grants will go towards diversifying the economies of coalfield communities. White House Senior Advisor Jason Walsh was in eastern Kentucky last week to speak with local people both about these new grants, and also about the proposed POWER + Plan, which is still up in the air in congress. If Power Plus gets passed, the plan would also allocate $1 billion in the next five years to put people to work in the coalfields doing reclamation work on old mine sites. Walsh said that these programs were just a few of many steps that the federal government wanted to take in our region, saying “…we’ve got a lot of folks who are struggling. We need to do as much as we can as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, local miners keep losing their jobs. WYMT-TV reports that Alpha Natural Resources has announced a new round of 71 layoffs. These include 35 miners from the Tiller #1 mine in Virginia; 19 miners in total from the North Fork mine in Letcher County, Ky. and Mill Branch Coal in Wise County, Va., and 17 workers in total from the Enterprise Continue reading Coal Report for May 15, 2015

It’s the 2015 Spring Fund Drive!

photo (2)Dearest Listeners, Friends, Frenemies, Anemones, Anathemas, Anachronisms, Apostles, Apostrophes, & everyone still undecided:

As you may have heard already this week, we are knee-deep in WMMT’s 2015 Spring Fund Drive!  As a volunteer-powered, non-profit radio station, we are here because of you.  Because you as community members come in and host shows as volunteer DJs; because you listen; and because you donate to keep this independent, non-commercial gem of a radio station on the air.  WMMT turns 30 years old this year, and the only reason we’ve made it this long as a non-commercial station is because all of you love this thing so much that you’re willing to donate a little bit of your hard-earned money to help keep it going.

And twice per year, we ask for your help to keep the microphones on, the board lit, and the transmitter humming up on Pine Mountain.  We truly couldn’t do this thing without you (and, as it says above, we truly wouldn’t want to).  So if you appreciate WMMT–if you appreciate the incredibly wide diversity of music you hear on this station; if you appreciate all of the different kinds of local personalities you get to hear all in one place; if you appreciate the sort of local news coverage that WMMT brings you, that you can’t find anyplace else; if you appreciate our Passing the Pick & Bow After-School program (teaching local youth traditional music, at taterlow/no cost to them)…. well, we could go on and on.  But if you appreciate this independent voice for mountain people, that has managed to help us tell our own stories–in our own words–for 30 years now, then help us keep it going.

Whatever it’s worth to you to be able to tune in and hear a Real-Live Person on your radio (and odds are, if you’re local, you know at least one of our 60-some volunteer DJs)–if you pledge, you will directly be a part of the reason you get to hear WMMT.  We’re not trying to sell you anything.  We’re not trying to make any money.  We’re not slick-talking radio professionals.  We don’t all even have the same opinions on everything.  And that’s ok–we believe in giving everyone in our community a voice, and WMMT is a rich, diverse slice of mountain life that you can tune into every day, whether you’re near or far (if you listen online).  And it’s only here thanks to you–so help keep it coming!

You can call in a pledge to your favorite DJ at (888) 396-1208, or you can donate online here by clicking the green “DONATE” button on your right.

radio-shirt-blueYou are why we’re on the air–THANK YOU!

Your (tax-deductible!) contribution doesn’t have to be huge–a bunch of $10 contributions add up just the same, and whatever you can afford to give, we’ll be delighted to hear from you.  If you can contribute at certain levels, though, we will send you stuff in return!  For a donation of:

  • any amount - an attractive WMMT bumper sticker
  • $50 – an attractive WMMT ballcap, **OR**
  • $50 – an attractive WMMT tote bag
  • $60 - an incredibly attractive WMMT t-shirt (that will look, roughly, like the image at right!), **OR**
  • $60 - a CD copy of the newest June Appal Release Glory to the Meetinghousethe debut record by Knott County native Charlie Stamper (son to Hiram Stamper; older brother to Art) (photo below)charlie-cover
  • $70 – a DVD copy of the Appalshop film Coalmining Women, which profiles a group of female coal miners
  • $88.70 - a WMMT t-shirt **AND** a WMMT tote bag (bundle)
  • $100 – Coalmining Women DVD **AND**  Glory to the Meetinghouse CD (bundle), **OR**
  • $100 – be a guest DJ on your favorite show
  • $200 – a whole day of broadcasting on WMMT dedicated to a person of your choice

Thank you all, and SO MUCH, for your support. We’ll see you on the radio.

What’s Cookin’ Now: Sorghum!


In this edition of the World’s Best Live Radio Cooking Show This Side of Opryland, hosts Jenny & Jonathan bring you a variety of dishes & drinks, all made with something we’re actually pretty good at here in Kentucky–sorghum!  As Jonathan describes it, sorghum syrup is “like molasses with a deep, dark secret,” and in this show, our hosts seek to grow sorghum’s presence in the kitchen beyond something just drizzled over a biscuit (not that this isn’t delicious).

To wit: Jenny sautees mustard greens (grown locally at a community garden in Hazard!) in a bit of vinegar, and combines this in a dish with peppers, sorghum syrup, and sauteed (and also locally-raised) alpaca meat.  Jonathan makes a roasted vegetable salad, consisting of roasted veggies on greens with sorghum added in.  And also in this show, of course–sorghum cocktails!

And tune in on Wednesday, May 6 at 6 p.m. for a live, brand-new What’s Cookin’ Now!

For more on What’s Cookin’ Now, including recipes, photos, essays, and more, check out their always-delightful blog:

To hear past episodes of the show, check out the streaming archives.

Coal Report for April 24, 2015


UMWA protestors at a recent rally in Charleston, W.V. The Wall Street Journal reports that the UMWA’s pension fund is in trouble, though the White House has proposed federal aid // photo from the UMWA facebook page via:

The agreement to sell TECO Coal is still not a done deal, The Mountain Eagle reports.  The closing date for the sale has now been pushed back to June 5.  TECO is the parent company of Perry County Coal, Premier Coal, and Pike-Letcher Coal Partners, all of which operate locally.  But TECO, which also operates power utilities in Florida and New Mexico, has been trying to get out of the coal business.  Booth Energy’s Cambrian Coal Company came along as a possible buyer last year.  TECO had asked for a sale price of $170 million, but because of the weak market for local coal, the price was cut to $140 million.  And Booth will only have to pay $80 million of that cost up front, and it would only owe the other $60 million if certain production goals are reached.  So it could end up that TECO Coal gets sold for less than half of the initial asking price.

An NPR investigation last year found that thousands of mines were operating with unpaid safety fines, and also that those delinquent mines had higher injury rates.  Now, NPR reports that a new bill has been introduced in US Congress to try to hold companies more accountable.  The proposed Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act would automatically shut a Continue reading Coal Report for April 24, 2015