[imgcontainer right] [img:Idol.jpeg] Scotty McCreery, left, won the Idol contest, edging out Lauren Alaina. Ryan Secrest holds the results. [/imgcontainer]

Okay, so Scotty McCreery is the new American Idol. He beat Lauren Alaina Wednesday. 

That’s the news, but Ann Powers notes that both finalists in the current season of American Idol are country music singers who have spent time in tanning beds.

Yes, they sing country, they are conservative and Christian, but, Powers writes

What’s missing from the country these kids make is not only any real whiff of the rural, but a sense of working-class life, once so endemic to the genre. But this distance from the “workin’ man” of whom Merle Haggard once sang also typifies today’s young country artists. Confronting economic crises — such as the killer explosion and subsequent closing of the ConAgra plant in McCreery’s hometown — might taint the mood set by songs about Mexican vacations and the perfect goodnight kiss.

The side of “real country” that speaks for coal miner’s daughters and other working people (many of whom, incidentally, are not white) isn’t one that McCreery or Alaina can comfortably take on. But that won’t hurt them, either in the competition or afterward. In the realm of “Idol,” “country” is just a suburb of Hollywood. The same often seems true now in Nashville too.

• Governors of nine states say they support the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile because the deal would help expand broadband coverage in rural areas

• Not only has the flooding Mississippi ruined crops, it has also hindered barge traffic

Normally, a tow can push 30 to 40 barges. In these conditions, a towboat can handle about half that number. 

Ethanol sales have been soaring as the price of gasoline has gone up. Sales of E85 in Iowa in the first quarter of 2011 were 64% higher than in ’10. 

• Calls to the Pentagon’s crisis hotline topped 14,000 in April, a record. The hotline is to help former or current military personnel who are thinking about suicide.

In some months, the number of suicides in the military outnumber those killed in action. 

• A Stanford Law School professor finds that “unionization predicts a substantial and significant decline in traumatic (coal) mining injuries and fatalities….” 

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