while the industry as a whole isn’t that large, job losses in the coal industry have an outsize effect, devastating coal towns (partly via multiplying effects). That’s because coal workers tend to be concentrated in small areas, around mines. Half of coal miners work in just 25 counties ... Those counties are in nine states: Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Parts suppliers in the American South compete for low-margin orders against suppliers in Mexico and Asia. They promise delivery schedules they can’t possibly meet and face ruinous penalties if they fall short. Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant, and safety is an afterthought... Many of the same woes that typify work conditions at contract manufacturers across Asia now bedevil parts plants in the South.

A pregnant woman's husband will have the power to stop her from having an abortion, even in cases of spousal rape, under a new law introduced in the US state of Arkansas... The ACLU of Arkansas has said it plans to challenge the abortion law in court before it goes into effect later this year. Six other states have passed nearly identical laws, and in all four states where the law was challenged ― Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia ― it was struck down by the courts.

More than 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies don’t report hate crimes to the FBI ... And many...do not appear to be particularly rigorous about documenting hate crimes and passing that information onto the federal authorities ... The data appars particularly spotty in much of the South, a region with a long history of racial strife. Police in Mississippi reported zero hate crimes in 2015. In Arkansas, the number was eight. In Alabama, it was 12

Alabama has an elected judiciary, and candidates compete to be seen as the toughest on crime ... The state imposes death sentences at the highest rate in the nation ... It’s also the only death-penalty state in which judges routinely overrule juries that vote against imposing death sentences. (In their campaigns, judges boast about the number of death sentences they’ve imposed.)

Like Colorado, Washington, D.C., is a center of extensive substance use ... ranking among the nation’s leaders for cocaine, alcohol and marijuana use ... As the most religious region of the country, the Southeast and Bible Belt have long tended to have lower consumption of intoxicating substances — particularly alcohol — than the rest of the country. Yet non-medical painkiller use is an exception to this general rule, with most of its top consumers being in or near this region

Alabama’s prisons — the most overcrowded prison system in the country — are operating at nearly 200 percent capacity. In recent years, the state’s department of corrections has been sued over medical neglect, abuse, dangerous conditions, and an extraordinary high level of violence. Stabbings are frequent, as are suicides ... Prison strikes have been on the rise in recent years, as prisoners organizing through a network of smuggled cell phones have established communication between prisons

Forget the idea of hobbyists printing off small plastic trinkets at home. Industrial 3D printers, which can cost up to $1m, are changing manufacturing...Compared with the $70 billion machine-tool market, additive manufacturing is still tiny. But it is expanding rapidly, and not just in health care. Overall, Wohlers estimates that 3D-printed products and services grew by 26% last year, to be worth nearly $5.2 billion.

Overall, the condition of U.S. rivers remains mixed, ... Water quality has improved dramatically in many places in the 40 years since the Clean Water Act was enacted. And some obsolete dams have come down, opening up more river miles to fish.

Alabama’s network of prisons is designed to hold 13,318 inmates. The population now stands somewhere past the 24,000 mark. It swelled for numerous reasons, including budget cuts to parole programs, which stifled the flow of prisoners back into civilian life, which caused overcrowding, which has created an even larger budget crisis ... Last year a law was enacted to make sentencing and parole reforms that should – in theory – reduce the number of inmates by 4,500 over the next five years.