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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $1.2 billion in grants and loans for 126 broadband projects in 38 states and tribal areas yesterday. (Anything not to talk about GIPSA or Shirley Sherrod.) The money comes from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. 

You can download a full list of the projects here

• Forget the tar balls. Dozens of times in the past year, batches of illegal drugs have washed up on Texas beaches, “wrapped in plastic and potentially worth millions of dollars on the streets,” reports Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle. Some 800 pounds of marijuana washed up on South Padre Island in one load. A 50 pound cache of cocaine came ashore at High Island. (And, no, we’re not making up the name of that island!) 

• The Dallas Morning News reports that “the government has made progress on enabling high-speed Internet for just a fraction of the homes and businesses that need it.” Even after the $7.2 billion in stimulus money is spent on broadband, reports Dallas Morning News’ Dave Michaels, “large swaths of Texas will remain unserved by broadband providers…”

Michaels goes to Kilgore, a town of 11,000, where Verizon still has not extended DSL to the full city. One Kilgore officials recalled the meeting with the phone giant: “Basically, Verizon said, ‘You’ll never get it. We’ll never do it. We can invest in a higher density city like Garland or Mesquite and get our money back. Y’all can go home now.’ “

• Austin American-Statesman writer Jason Embry follows Democrat Bill White into rural Texas. White is running for governor against the incumbent, Republican Rick Perry. Rural Texas is Republican territory, but White has been spending a lot of time there, according to Embry. (Above, see Bill White with ZZ Top.) He writes:

Wearing a white, oversized, short-sleeve shirt and khaki pants, White mentioned his son’s Scout troop three times during his 12-minute speech. He was quick to bring up the Trans-Texas Corridor, the one-time Perry transportation plan that went a long way toward costing Perry the endorsement of the Texas Farm Bureau in the Republican primary, and drew fast applause when he said, “We believe in work and opportunity, not handouts.” 

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