Jeff Young

All hail his name

King Coal wins the midterms

In the final year of his remarkable life, Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving senator in US history, did one more remarkable thing. He called for serious dialogue on coal, climate change and the effects of mountaintop removal mining. “To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say 'deal me out,'” Byrd told his fellow West Virginians late in 2009. And on the EPA’s efforts to rein in the most egregious damage from mountaintop removal, he said, “West Virginians may demonstrate anger towards the EPA…but we risk the very probable consequence of shouting ourselves out of any productive dialogue.” Briefly, there was hope that the mountain state’s elder statesman might pull local politics away from a dead-end logic. Very briefly. Sen. Byrd died in June. By October, the man who would replace him in the Senate thumbed his nose at Byrd’s desire for reasoned discourse and picked up a gun.

Oliver twist

What’s that funny-talking TV chef doing in my West Virginia hometown?

It’s about 8:45 a.m. and I’m sitting in an audio booth, waiting to talk to Brit celebrity chef Jaime Oliver on the other end of a high-quality line. I’m his third, set-‘em-up-and-knock-‘em-down “interview” of the morning. The night before he was on Letterman. He’s 15 minutes late, and I have an uneasy feeling. Not about him being late. And not about being a cog in the hype machine for a TV show. No, I’m uneasy — downright queasy — because Oliver’s new show, Food Revolution, takes aim at “America’s unhealthiest town.” And it’s my hometown: Huntington, West Virginia. I work …

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