Candie Cerda, 17 from San Benito, TX, semi finalist in the the Big Squeeze, Texas Folklife's annual competition for young accordionists. Here she's playing in Austin on Saturday along with seven other young players. Every fall San Benito, on the Texas/Mexico border, holds its own festival of conjunto music, featuring accordion, drum, bass guitar and bajo sexto. The Freddy Fender Museum and Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame are also in San Benito.

[imgcontainer left] [img:candie.jpg] [source]Bill Bishop/Daily Yonder[/source] Candie Cerda, 17 from San Benito, TX, semi-finalist in the the Big Squeeze, Texas Folklife’s annual competition for young accordionists. Here she’s playing in Austin on Saturday along with seven other young players. Every fall San Benito, on the Texas/Mexico border, holds its own festival of conjunto music, featuring accordion, drum, bass guitar and bajo sexto. The
Freddy Fender Museum and Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame are also in San Benito. [/imgcontainer]

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times about a private investment firm started by Mitt Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, and Spencer Zwick, Romney’s top fundraiser in 2008. 

The nut of the story is that the private equity firm started by Tagg Romney and Zwick has a lot of ties with the Romney family and donors to the Republican’s current campaign. Nothing particularly startling with all that. Money and politics eventually get mixed up with money and business. 

One thing caught our eye, however. When Tagg Romney and Zwick were first setting up their new company, Solamere Capital, one of their early contacts was with John R. Miller, who was then the chief executive of National Beef Packing. Miller was CEO at National Beef Packing until 2009; he was the national finance co-chair of Romney’s 2008 campaign and is a “longtime family friend,” according to the Times.

Miller was an early investor in Solamere and he was among the first to donate to Romney’s leadership PAC after his 2008 loss.

The point here is that regulation of the beef industry was one of the more contentious issues in the Obama administration, which withdrew rules that would give ranchers and farmers more power in their relationship with the beef packing industry.

Now we see that a close family friend, family investor and early fund-raiser for Romney is a former beef industry executive.

• InsideClimate News is reporting that Ohio “has become a dumping ground for wastewater” created by oil and gas drilling. 

“Last year, drillers pumped more than 500 million gallons of toxic fluid—nearly 40 percent more than in 2010—into the state’s injections wells, where energy companies pump waste into porous rock formations deep underground for permanent storage,” reports Nicholas Kusnetz. “With more than 170 injection wells in operation, Ohio is by far the region’s leader in this area, with New York and Pennsylvania each having only a handful of injection wells. Ohio’s regulators approved 29 new injection wells last year.”

• The Washington Post editorial page says the case for approving the Keystone XL pipeline is getting stronger. 

The newspaper says that efforts to bottle up the tar sands have failed. Other pipelines are being built to move the tar sands oil out of Canada — so why not move that oil through the Keystone?

The paper makes no mention of concerns from Nebraska ranchers that the pipeline could damage the Ogallala Aquifer.

• The National Journal has a rundown of the most competitive U.S. Senate races — and the top five have large rural populations. 

The most competitive race, according to the Journal, is in Nebraska, where former Democratic governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey is trying to take the seat being left by Sen. Ben Nelson. “After a rocky start, former Sen. Bob Kerrey has started raising money at an impressive clip while the Republicans squabble,” the Journal reports.

Maine is second, but there former Gov. Angus King, a self-described independent, is expected to win, taking the place of retiring Republican Olympia Snowe. Democrats expect King to caucus with them.

The Journal says Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is “outpacing Republican Rep. Rick Berg” according to internal polling in North Dakota.

Missouri is in the top five, where Democrat Claire McCaskill is being strongly challenged. And in Montana, Democrat Jon Tester “is hugely vulnerable” although his “personal popularity remains high,” according to the Journal.

• While we’re on politics, in a poll just released, Sen. Jon Tester, the incumbent Democrat in Montana, has a five point lead on Republican Denny Rehberg. 

• Singer Steve Azar has released a new single, “American Farmer.” A portion of any sales of the song will be donated to local chapters of the FFA. Here’s a video of the song. 

• The Sunlight Foundation finds a curious relationship between donations from large food producers and opposition by legislators to voluntary guidelines aimed at restraining marketing of junk food to kids. 

Well, it’s not so curious. The donations came in and letters then came from legislators’ office expressing concerns about the guidelines. The Sunlight Foundation reports:

By the end of last year, when Congress included a provision in an appropriations bill that stalled the guidelines, nearly a third of the Senate had written to federal agencies to criticize them, according to Sunlight analysis of congressional correspondence. On the House side, 176 representatives, or 40 percent of the chamber, also wrote in protest. A number of lawmakers wrote in more than once, signing multiple letters.

Only three lawmakers, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., wrote to agencies in favor of the guidelines.

• The battle continues between the Humane Society of the U.S. and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Heineman has called the HSUS “bad guys” and has threatened to kick the group in the rump and drive it out of the state. 

“I think that threatening to kick someone’s a** is inappropriate,” said Jocelyn Nickerson, the HSUS’ state director for Nebraska. “The animal advocates in our state will see that and see that we’re not leaving.”

• A report prepared by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association finds that a “robust broadband network is the foundation of a smart rural community.” 

This is a good report on the benefits of broadband in rural America — with lots of examples of communities that are doing it right. The report concludes:

It is important to note that the mere presence of a robust, next‐generation broadband network does not create a smart rural community. Although each community is different, it is possible that the development of a smart rural community is dependent upon key foundation elements. Identifying these building blocks might assist with the continued evolution and prosperity of small‐town America. Collaboration is a key element to creating this innovative atmosphere—as witnessed by those communities profiled herein. 

The definition of a smart rural community is dynamic. Each local area must develop its own long‐term approach to achieving this goal. Further, the journey to create a smart rural community is an evolutionary process. To remain relevant and competitive, the community—and the network—will need to continue to evolve to meet future needs. 

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