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The Netroots Nation is meeting in Las Vegas. President Obama spoke (by video) to the group to the liberal group of Internet activist that revolve around the Daily Kos website. For the first couple of years. Netroots had sessions on rural America — the Yonder participated in a few of those panels — so we decided to check this year’s gathering.

Nada. Oh, well, there’s a movie that “illustrates the challenges of being an outsider in a conservative rural community….” Nothing about farms or small towns. We guess they’ve given up.

• The New York Times has a story about Beatrice, Nebraska’s efforts to attract new residents by giving away vacant lots (above).  It’s really a story about property taxes and the lengths cities (small, large and in between) are going to in order to maintain tax revenues.

“Some tiny towns, particularly in the Great Plains, have made such offers before, mainly as a way to increase dwindling populations,” writes Times reporter Monica Davey. “But disappearing is not the fear in Beatrice, which is home to several lawn-mowing equipment manufacturers and where the population has held steady at around 12,000 for decades. Instead, city officials are hoping to return some of the many lots the city has accumulated, because of unpaid taxes or flooding risks from the Big Blue River, and return them to the tax rolls.” 

•Lots of articles about food safety — or the lack thereof. After scares, and deaths, due to tainted food, the nation still doesn’t have a new food safety law. The House passed  a bill last year, but the Senate has yet to act. The Austin American-Statesman has a story about the delay, and what Whole Foods stores are doing in the meantime. Food writer Eric Schlosser, in the New York Times, tells us that 325,000 Americans are hospitalized by a food-borne illness every year. “Nobody should lose a child because the Senate lacks the will and the leadership to act,” Schlosser writes.

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