[imgcontainer right] [img:own-cigarettes.jpeg] The Justice Department figures states are losing as much as $5 billion a year from people who are rolling their own cigs rather than buying highly-taxed packs. [/imgcontainer]

National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation did a show Thursday on rural America. NPR producers asked the Yonder for suggestions of people to be on the show and several Yonder contributors participated.

You can find a transcript of the hour here. You can also listen.  See what you think.

We were kind of confused by the discussion. It seemed like it proceeded from a premise that rural America is going down the tubes. The show was set up to hear from some of those folks living “out there” before they swirl away for good. 

A more reasoned analysis came into the Daily Yonder Facebook page  from Matt Fluharty, who runs The Art of the Rural site. Here’s what Matt had to say: 

I just had the opportunity to hear the full program. More than anything, I wish the NPR producers had the foresight to keep Dee Davis on the line with Neal Conan for the whole segment, so that he could have helped contextualize the excellent perspectives of the guests. 

No fault of Neal’s, but the dots did not get connected. (If this was a show about the Xbox, there would have been a video game expert sitting next to Neal for the whole segment.) 

This is telling: culturally speaking, as Americans, do we all assume we “know” the rural equally well? Do we admit that the “face” of rural America is changing, that there are many people in cities who identify as “rural,” and that rural youth have a stake in these discussions? 

Neal’s language during the transitions spoke (alternately) to all the old assumptions about rural America: it’s either a pastoral or a broke-down ghetto. The guests offered perspectives that challenged this, but I worry that the format of the segment and Neal’s questions may, in the end, not have done the work of challenging his listeners–something NPR is generally adept at doing.

Interesting interview in Indian Country Today with Yonder contributor and author Mark Trahant. Trahant is talking about his book, The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars. 

The Yonder’s Mary Annette Pember reviewed the book here

• Roll your own has a meaning to more people in Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The tax on cigarettes is plummeting in the state (down 17.2% from last year), now that, with higher taxes, the cost of a pack has reached $3.25. People aren’t buying as many packs.

That doesn’t mean people are smoking less, however. Instead, they are buying loose leaf and rolling their own cigs. The Department of Justice figures nationally that states are losing $5 billion a year as people find ways to get their tobacco in forms that aren’t taxed as highly as cigarettes. 

• The U.S. Postal Service is planning to cut 20 percent of its workforce (120,000 people) and withdraw from the federal health and pension plan, according to the Washington Post

The Postal Service would have to break labor agreements to complete its plan and it would require congressional approval. The Postal Service said it would be insolvent next month because of “significant declines in mail volume” and retirement and health care costs.

The service is also considering closing 3,700 post offices, mostly in rural areas. And it has asked Congress to allow five day a week delivery instead of six.

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