[imgcontainer] [img:donkeysmoke.jpeg] [source]Mark Davis/Omaha World News[/source] Smoke the Donkey became a “battle buddy” of troops serving in Afghanistan. He became so important to the soldiers' morale that a doctor wrote a “prescription” saying Smoke was a necessary companion to the men and women in his care. Those who served with Smoke eventually brought him to a Nebraska ranch, where he died this week. Here he is with retired Marine Col. John Folsom soon after he arrived in the States. [/imgcontainer]

Will your school district be applying for one of those Race to the Top federal grants?

“Odds are, probably not,” write Michele McNeil and Alyson Klein of Education Week. “Not only is the 116-page application complex and demanding, but the eligibility requirements will make it difficult for a majority of districts to apply.”

AND, more than half the nation’s school districts will be ineligible because they are too small to apply on their own. The Obama Administration’s Department of Education says to apply for part of the $400 million Race to the Top funding, a district must have 2,000 students.

That’s right. You can be too small to apply for funding.

Oh, well, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is occasionally aware of his department’s large school bias and so there is a way for smaller districts to apply, according to McNeil and Klein. They can join with NINE other districts to submit a proposal. But hurry, that proposal is due in less than three months.

Talk about an outrage. The latest data tells us that 47 percent of the nation’s school districts had fewer than 1,000 students in the 2010 school year. Another 24 percent had between 1,000 and 2,500 students. Clearly, most school districts can’t apply on their own to this federal program.

And to think that it is easy or even feasible for ten school districts to cooperate on a joint application means that the people who drew up the guidelines don’t get out much.

McNeil and Klein write that “it doesn’t take much to guess that the applicant pool will be dominated by large, mostly urban districts.”

A New Coal Market — A company in India will buy $7 billion of coal from Kentucky and West Virginia.

Election To Be Decided By One Older Rural Woman In North Carolina — A Democratic state official in North Carolina tells columnist E. J. Dionne that he hoped the Republicans’ choice of Paul Ryan as V.P. could move “older white rural women without college educations.”

Women already favor President Obama in North Carolina, according to Dionne. The thought is that Ryan’s Medicare proposals could push this “one holdout group” to the Ds.

Satellite Internet — Dish plans to expand its Broadband Satellite services to all of the country, but the cost……

Dish’s Broadband Internet service starts at $79.98 per month after a $99 installation fee.

Sugar is Sugar — Yes, obesity rates started going up at about the time that high fructose corn syrup began replacing sucrose in food production. But that doesn’t mean that it was corn syrup in particular that made us fat.

In a test, overweight people were given the same diet, but some included corn syrup as sweetener and some did not. It turns out that the resulting weight of the participants didn’t change according to which sugar they consumed.

Conclusion: Sugar is sugar.

Quit Worrying About Food Prices Already — The USDA predicts that food price inflation will be all of 3 percent next year, about what it’s been every year since 2004.

Meat prices might fall in the near term, as ranchers cull their herds.

Ethanol and Corn Prices — A study by Purdue University economists finds that corn prices would not necessarily moderate if the ethanol mandate were temporarily suspended.

The Farm Foundation reports that the study “suggests that under some scenarios with certain market conditions, corn prices could fall if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a partial waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s corn ethanol provision.”

Wind and Ethanol Politics — The headline in the National Journal reads: “GOP Ticket’s Views on Renewable Energy Raising Concerns in Rural Red States.”

Mitt Romney opposes the wind energy production tax credit, and Paul Ryan opposes a national mandate for ethanol production. Both are popular in the windy and corn-filled Midwest and Plains.

At the same time, President Obama has been pressing for passage of a Farm Bill this year.

“We’re delighted that the president is talking about the farm bill. This is the first time that I can recall presidential candidates debating farm legislation,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, which has not endorsed a presidential candidate. “We’ve been encouraging him to talk about it. Secretary Vilsack has been talking about it for a long time. If there’s anything that unites us in the agriculture sector, it’s the desire to have a farm bill passed by September.”

Smoke the Donkey — Wonderful story here about Smoke the Donkey, a friendly little animal who helped U.S. troops in Afghanistan and was eventually brought to the U.S. Smoke died this week.

Nebraskans Support Keystone XL — The Nebraska Rural Poll finds that most rural Nebraskans favor building the Keystone XL pipeline. But, and it’s a big one, they also think the pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf Coast should be routed away from the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Two-thirds of those answering the poll say the pipeline should be built outside the Sandhills and away from the aquifer.

$1 Billion Missing; No Charges — MF Global disappeared $1 billion in customer money — including quite a bit from farmers — but since nobody intended for bad things to happen, there will be no criminal charges, the New York Times reports.

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