Roundup: Hometown Teams

Smithsonian exhibit looks at hometown sports • “Rural call completion” issue hits Congress • Minnesota governor won’t back broadband appropriation • R-CALF says USDA ignored complaints over beef check-off program• Big phone companies are shirking rural, says Newsweek columnist. And more …

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Members of the Cobden, Illinois, Appleknockers, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their “Cinderella” season on Sunday.

In 1964 the high school of 147 students in southern Illinois came within five points of winning the state championship. They lost the final but won the hearts of the state, says retired Chicago Sun-Times sports writer Taylor H.A. Bell.

The 50th anniversary reunion of the “Amazing Appleknockers” will occur in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit “Hometown Teams,” which is touring in Illinois and other states. The exhibit, sponsored in Illinois by the state humanities council, is in Cobden through April 13 and then goes to Mattoon, Illinois, April 19.

 “Hometown sports are more than just games—they shape our lives and unite us and celebrate who we are as Americans,” the exhibit description says.

“Hometown Teams” includes photos, text, “replicated artifacts,” audio-visual displays and interactive elements. The exhibit is part of Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program. Here’s the national touring schedule.

For more great photos of the Appleknockers and Illinois hometown sports, visit the Illinois Humanities Council blog about the exhibit.

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A bill introduced by U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) would prevent long-distance companies from disrupting calls to rural areas. The bill’s title is the Public Safety and Economic Security Communications Act. The FCC is also currently looking into problems with “rural call completion.”

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Local and state governments are trying to determine the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Wyoming landowners who were fighting to reclaim control of land previously used as railroad right of way. The decision will affect some rails-to-trails projects. Governments have helped convert some old railway rights-of-way into bike and walking trails. But in some cases, the court said, that land should revert to the landowners who had to cede rights of way for railroads.

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Companies like Chesapeake Energy manipulated their royalty payments to landowners for oil and gas leases to help improve their bottom lines during tough times, reports Propublica. Chesapeake Energy was fined $765,000 last year. But one landowner who says he was shorted on royalty payments questions whether the punishment fits the crime. “If you or I did that we’d be in jail,” said Joe Drake, a third-generation Pennsylvania farmer.

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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton isn’t supporting a $100 million appropriation for broadband development in rural areas, even though the recommendation came from his own task force on rural communications technology.

Dayton said there weren’t enough specifics in the proposal.

During his campaign four years ago Dayton pledged to create a statewide digital communications solution for rural areas. He now says he will support broadband funding if he’s reelected in November.

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The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has named a new president: Juliette Majot, an environmental and economic reform activist who has served as deputy director of Friends of the Earth U.S. and executive director of International Rivers Network.

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A group of cattle producers is taking on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack over what they say is his failure to reform the beef “check off” program.

R-CALF, a group of independent cattle producers, has been complaining about the check-off program for four years. They say Vilsack said he would change things.

“It is now clear that not a word of what we were being told by you for almost the past four years was true,” R-CALF’s Bill Bullard writes in a letter to Secretary Vilsack. “Instead, our complaints and requests have been stonewalled … and you are no closer to validating our complaints and addressing our requests than you were in 2010 when we first began making them.”

The beef check-off program requires cattle producers to pay a fee on each head of cattle that goes to help market beef. The mandatory fee now goes to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. An audit found that NCBA has misappropriated $216,000 of those funds, according to a letter from R-CALF to Vilsack. The audit could not determine whether other funds were used in accordance with federal law, the letter says.

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Major telecommunications corporations like AT&T and Verizon are shortchanging America by refusing to build out their networks to underserved areas, as they said they would do, argues Newsweek columnist David Cay Johnston.

In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission announced the National Broadband Plan, which promised to provide 100 million American households with high-speed cable by 2020. Verizon has been expanding FiOS in major markets, and AT&T has been expanding its U-verse service. And now, instead of spending that war chest digging up streets and laying fiber cable, the cable and telephone companies have invested in a massive and very successful lobbying push. They are persuading state legislatures and regulatory boards to quietly adopt new rules—rules written by the telecoms—to eliminate their legal obligations to provide broadband service nationwide and replace landlines with wireless. This abrupt change in plans will leave vast areas of the country with poor service, slow telecommunications and higher bills.

This is good news if you own stock in Verizon, but very bad news if you have a small business that’s not in a city already wired up.

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The U.S. Postal Service is in much better financial shape than members of Congress are letting on, according to Mark Jamison over at Save the Post Office. Jamison has a long piece on the so-called “unfunded liabilities” of the post office, which require the Postal Service to have cash on hand to pay for expenses that are years in the future.

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Some rural readers in Oregon say that public safety comes down to owning a big dog and a firearm, says the Oregonian’s Les Zaitz. Zaitz is collecting comments on safety in rural areas after discussions around the shrinking size of rural police departments and longer wait times to get responses to 911 calls.

“Reader after reader from the rural area pointed out that living in remote areas means you learn how to take care of yourself,” says Zaitz.

 

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