Nebraska Farmers Make Good Progress on Harvest
Recent mild weather has helped Nebraska farmers make good progress on harvesting their crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says more soybeans are being harvested now because farmers are waiting for corn to dry out a bit more. But the corn harvest is underway.
Roughly 69 percent of the soybeans have been harvested. That's behind last year's 77 percent and the average of 81 percent at this time of year.
About 28 percent of Nebraska's corn has been harvested. That's similar to last year but well behind the average of 45 percent harvested at this point in the fall.
But the warm weather actually slowed the sugar beet harvest in western Nebraska.
UNL: 7 Students Ticketed, Arrested in Death of Student
UNL police have arrested and/or cited seven people as a result of the investigation related to the Sept. 5, 2014, death of Clayton Real, an 18-year-old UNL student and member of Farmhouse Fraternity.
The UNLPD investigation revealed that on the night of Sept. 4, 2014, Real had attended a "frosh" party at 2009 S. 16th St. in Lincoln, hosted by his fraternity. Fraternity members provided alcohol to the residents in exchange for their permission for use of their residence for the party. House officers and members of the fraternity purchased and provided alcohol for all attendees at the party, many of whom were under 21. Witnesses said alcohol was provided to Real and other under aged attendees. After passing out from intoxication, Real was transported from the party back to his room at Farmhouse by fellow house members, where he later died in the night.
An autopsy concluded that Real's cause of death was acute alcohol intoxication. His alcohol level was .378.
The following people were arrested Oct. 23, 2014, for Felony Procuring:
Vance A. Heyer, age 21 UNL student, Farmhouse Fraternity Vice President was arrested and lodged in Lancaster County Corrections for Procuring Alcohol to Minor Resulting in Injury/Death (felony).
Thomas D. Trueblood, age 19 Farmhouse Fraternity Freshman Social Chair was arrested and lodged in Lancaster County Corrections for Procuring Alcohol to Minor Resulting in Injury/Death (felony).
Cory F. Foland, age 21 UNL student, Farmhouse Fraternity New Member Educator, was arrested and lodged in Lancaster County Corrections for Procuring Alcohol to Minor Resulting in Injury/Death (felony).
Ross E. Reynolds, age 22 UNL student, Farmhouse Fraternity member was arrested and lodged in Lancaster County Corrections for Procuring Alcohol to Minor Resulting in Injury/Death (felony).
The following people were cited Oct. 23, 2014, as a result of the investigation:
William J. Miller, age 21 UNL student, Farmhouse Fraternity member was cited for Procuring Alcohol to Minor
Marin L. Hartfield, age 20 UNL student was cited for Maintaining a Disorderly House
Lauren A. Williams, age 20 UNL student was cited for Maintaining a Disorderly House
Procuring alcohol for a minor that contributed to a death is a Class IIIa Felony. Procuring alcohol for a minor is a Class I Misdemeanor. Maintaining a Disorderly House is a city ordinance violation; a misdemeanor.
At this time, these activities do not appear to meet the elements under the state statute of hazing. The investigation is continuing. No other charges are expected at this time.
Second Ebola Patient At NMC Virus-Free
The second patient with the Ebola virus to be treated in the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medicine - Nebraska Medical Center will be allowed to leave the unit Wednesday morning. A CDC-confirmed negative blood test showed that Ashoka Mukpo no longer has the virus in his bloodstream and is free to head back to his home state of Rhode Island.
"Recovering from Ebola is a truly humbling feeling," said Mukpo. "Too many are not as fortunate and lucky as I've been. I'm very happy to be alive."
Mukpo contracted the virus while working as a videographer for NBC News, but he's not sure how he got it. "I was around a lot of sick people the week before I got sick," said Mukpo. "I thought I was keeping a good distance and wish I knew exactly what went wrong."
He says coming down with the virus doesn't change how he feels about the people of Liberia. "I don't regret going to Liberia to cover the crisis. That country was a second home to me and I had to help raise the alarm."
Mukpo spent a little more than two weeks inside the Biocontainment Unit, arriving on 6.
"Our staff was confident it would be able to successfully care for another patient," said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medicine Nebraska Medical Center.
"We've learned first-hand that caring for a patient with the Ebola virus presents challenges you don't face in the regular hospital environment. But our years of training on protocol in the unit and gaining familiarity with all the personal protective equipment was certainly an advantage for us."
Mukpo is the second patient to be treated for the Ebola virus here. Dr. Richard Sacra was declared virus-free when he left the Biocontainment Unit on Sept. 25. Like Dr. Sacra, Mukpo says he was grateful for the treatment he received. "I want to say a big thanks to the Nebraska Medical Center's medical staff," Mukpo said. "Amazing people. I'm profoundly lucky to have been treated by such professionals."
Capitol Hosts Final Hearing on Minimum Wage
Nebraskans will have their last-minute questions answered Tuesday night at the final minimum wage hearing at the State Capitol in Lincoln.
At least 80,386 signatures were required to add the petition initiative to the ballot. At least five percent of those who signed had to come from 38 of the state's 93 counties.
"In this case, 89,817 signatures were verified which was more than enough to meet the threshold," said Secretary of State John Gale.
The measure, which was placed on the November 4 ballot through the initiative petition process, would increase the minimum wage by 75 cents an hour to $8 in January 2015, and to $9 in 2016. It's the first initiative to appear on a statewide ballot since 2008.
Gale said the next step will involve formalizing the dates for three public hearings to be held in each of the three congressional districts as well as production of a brochure about the minimum wage initiative that will be distributed to each of the county election offices.
Governor Dave Heineman opposes the ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in Nebraska to $9 an hour by 2016. Heineman says he understands it's difficult to live on a minimum wage salary, but he thinks it's better to help workers improve their skills through training so they can get better jobs.
Currently, Nebraska's minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Political experts say the measure is also likely to boost voter turnout, and that could hurt Republicans because groups that support raising the minimum wage tend to back Democratic candidates.
Driving Safety a Concern During Deer Season
It's that time of year again when deer start to make their way out of the country and into the roadways, but there are some ways you can keep your family safe.
It's mating season for White Tail Deer, which means they're on the go, just like motorists.
Ronald Reece walked away from a motorcycle versus deer accident on Saltillo Road in Lincoln Sunday night with only a few bumps and bruises.
"I was riding along the speed limit at 55 miles per hour, a nice day to be riding," said Reece. "The deer took one look at me and jumped straight into me, knocked me off my bike, and I went rolling back and my bike went sliding."
And Reece isn't the only one coming across deer this fall.
"Usually towards the end of October and during November there are more car versus deer accidents at that time," said Lancaster County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Mike Peschong.
"Deer travel early mornings and in the evenings, so you really need to be cautious when you're driving during those peak times," said Peschong.
Mating, hunting, and harvesting seasons all play a role in more of these four-legged animals on the road.
"Really any roadway where there's treelines or fields, there are going to be deer," said Peschong. "So you have to make sure you're paying attention."
But what should you do if you see one while driving?
"If you see a deer, you need to make sure you don't swerve, apply your brakes firmly, and try to maintain your lane of traffic," said Peschong.
And if you happen to hit a deer, LSO says always play it safe.
"Try to find a safe place to pull over and contact law enforcement to work the accident," said Peschong.
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Gov. Heineman Touts E85 Gasoline
Gov. Dave Heineman and state agricultural leaders are urging Nebraskans to buy E85 fuel the next time they pull up to a gas pump in a flex fuel vehicle.
Heineman touted the blended fuel on Friday during a conference call. E85 is a fuel mix that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline.
The governor's office says there are about 180,000 flex fuel vehicles registered in Nebraska. Nebraska is the nation's second-largest ethanol producer, and is home to 24 ethanol plants that produce nearly 2 billion gallons annually.
The Renewable Fuels Association has developed a "Flex-Fuel Station Locator" app to help drivers locate E85 pumps.
Nebraska Commission to Consider Fishing Changes
Commissioners on the Nebraska Game and Parks board will consider changes to 2015 fishing regulations later this month.
Game and Parks staff will present the commissioners fishing recommendations during the board's Oct. 23 meeting in Scottsbluff.
The recommendations include those on sport fishing, bait collecting and dealers, and aquatic invasive species regulations.
Public hearings will be held on those issues the morning of the meeting.
Second Beef Checkoff Proposed
Tuesday morning, 43 State Cattlemen Associations as well as the National Cattlemen Association wrote letters to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in hopes he'll drop his want for an additional beef check off.
Recently, Secretary Vilsack proposed a possible second beef checkoff that checkoff would fall under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act.
A beef checkoff is a fee that is collected when producers sell their cattle. Right now, they are charged one dollar per head. If the second checkoff is approved, it would be increased to two dollars. That money is overseen by the Cattlemen's Beef Board and USDA for advertising beef products.
"Or else no one is going to buy it, it's just like any other product, a car or insurance, they advertise. That is what the beef checkoff dollars fund, advertising and promotion of our product," said Holly Roeser, owner of North Platte Livestock Auction.
Now some believe this second checkoff is due to the fact that many cattle were killed off due to drought and natural disasters.
"With less cattle in the country there's less checkoff dollars and so they probably have the same promotion and advertising budget but less income to work with," said Roeser.
Roeser believes if there was a second checkoff the majority of cattlemen wouldn't feel the impact this year because beef prices are at record highs.
"It took us an entire lifetime to get cattle to a dollar per pound, and in the last year we went from a dollar fifty a pound to three dollars a pound for a five weight calve. So it increased and doubled in the last 12 months," she said.
Now according to Agricultural Economist Matt Stockton, Secretary Vilsack can put the second checkoff into law. That measure will last for three years, which will then open it up for a vote by producers if they want to keep it or not.
Right now the second checkoff is still just a proposed idea.
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Nebraskans To Prepare For Earthquakes October 16
Nebraska Emergency Management says no Nebraska community is immune from natural hazards, and earthquakes are just one of the many natural hazards Nebraskans could face.
"While rarer in Nebraska than in some places, earthquakes are still a potential risk, and it is one of the contingencies we plan for here at Nebraska Emergency Management Agency," said Bryan Tuma, NEMA assistant director. "For the Great ShakeOut on Oct. 16, we are asking Nebraskans to take a minute out of their day to drop, cover and hold on, as a practice for what you would do during an actual earthquake.
The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill is an annual opportunity for people in homes, schools and organizations to practice what to do during earthquakes, and to improve preparedness. Millions of people worldwide will practice how to Drop, Cover and Hold On at 10:16 a.m. on Oct. 16.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the two largest earthquakes to strike Nebraska occurred March 28, 1964, near Merriman and Nov. 15, 1877, in eastern Nebraska. Both were 5.1 magnitude earthquakes and while classified as a moderate event they caused considerable damage. The 1964 earthquake was felt in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming, and the 1877 earthquake was felt in parts of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Drop, Cover and Hold On is the established protocol to follow to reduce injury and death during earthquakes.
"We want all Nebraskans to know that they should drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table and hold on until the shaking stops," Tuma said. "If it's not possible to get to the floor to safely take cover, find an inside corner of the room near you that is away from windows and objects that could fall on you."
Deaths From Flu More Likely Than Ebola
With more than 4,000 deaths in West Africa, and the first official death of a U.S. patient less than one week ago, how real is the threat of catching Ebola compared to the common flu?
As flu season approaches, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department says you may want to worry more about getting the flu shot than worrying about the deadly disease.
You've heard of it by now, but what are the chances of you getting Ebola?
Tim Timmons, Communicable Disease Program Supervisor with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department says chances are low in comparison to more common illnesses seen every year.
"The risk for people is very low, versus something like influenza," said Timmons. Influenza season is something that we're coming into. Every year, depending on the severity of the flu season, we lose 3,000 to 49,000 individuals to flu-related illness."
Unlike the flu which can be an airborne virus, Ebola can only be spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids through an open sore, wound, or the eyes, nose, or mouth of a person who has obvious symptoms.
Timmons says this makes the likelihood of contracting Ebola very low.
"The risk of getting cancer is a lot higher," said Timmons. "The risk of coming in contact with HIV and getting it through blood or sexual contact is a lot higher than coming into contact with someone who has Ebola."
Timmons says he's confident health care in the U.S. can handle the spread of Ebola, making people less likely to contract and die from the virus than in West Africa, where the chances of survival are a lot lower.
"Our ability to deal with this is a lot better than AIDS in the early 80s when we didn't know what was causing it or how you got it," said Timmons. "We know what it is and how it works, and how you get it and how you don't get it."
Timmons says because the threat of dying from the flu is much higher than the dying from Ebola, he reminds people of all ages to get the flu shot as soon as possible.
UNL Students Learn Disaster Preparedness
UNL and ReadyCampus held an event Tuesday to promote disaster preparedness for University students.
Representatives from FEMA teamed up with other partners to teach students how to prepare for emergencies.
The theme for the event focused on pet and animal preparedness, and students were able to interact and watch a search and rescue demonstration using specially-trained dogs.
FEMA Spokesperson, David Gervino, said, "A lot of students were happy we were here. Emergencies aren't something people think of. When they're on their way to class and things, it's not always something you think of when it happens. So, that's why it's important to take steps in advance to be prepared."
In the last year alone, there have been six ReadyCampus events held at universities in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, to teach
these important safety tips.
Nebraska Offers Tax Breaks to Beginning Farmers
Nebraska offers tax breaks to beginning farmers, but anyone interested in receiving the incentives next year must apply before Nov. 1.
State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says the program offers both a tax exemption for beginning farmers and tax credits for any established farmer or rancher who works with a beginning farmer or rancher.
Beginning farmers can get an exemption on up to $100,000 of equipment or property used in farming.
To qualify for tax credits, the begging farmer and experienced farmer must apply together, and the begging farmer must be leasing land from the experienced farmer.
The program has helped 308 beginning farmers and ranchers and provided $6.4 million in tax credits since 1999.
Friends Raise Money for US Journalist with Ebola
Friends of the American freelance journalist with Ebola are turning to crowdsourcing to help pay for what they say is expected to be more than $500,000 in medical bills.
Ashoka Mukpo, of Providence, Rhode Island, contracted Ebola while covering the crisis in Liberia. He was working for NBC News as a cameraman when he was diagnosed.
NBC and the VICE Media Group say they're coordinating to assist in paying for his medical care. NBC says it wants a solution where he and his family won't have to pay anything.
A fundraiser on the website Gofundme had raised more than $47,000 by Monday afternoon, with more than 650 donations.
The fundraising page says Mukpo's travelers' insurance doesn't cover his treatment.
Nebraska Medical Center has said Mukpo is improving.
Nebraska Free Vision Tests Offered to 3-year-olds
A new program will see participating Nebraska optometrists offering free vision tests to 3-year-old children.
The program was created by the Nebraska Optometric Association in cooperation with the Nebraska Foundations for Children's Vision. It coincides with Gov. Dave Heineman's proclamation naming October "See to Learn" month.
York optometrist Nancy Dob says 20 percent of children entering kindergarten have an undetected vision problem. She says that increases to more than 30 percent by the time those children graduate from high school.
Parents can find out which optometrists are participating in their community by calling 1-800-960-EYES or visiting www.nechildrensvision.org.
Loaded Gun Found in Carry-on Bag at Omaha Airport
Transportation Security Administration officials say they have released a man after a loaded handgun was found in his carry-on bag at an Omaha airport.
The TSA says the Taurus Slim 40 pistol loaded with seven rounds was discovered during a checkpoint screening on Wednesday afternoon at Eppley Airfield.
Omaha Airport Authority police confiscated the weapon and interviewed the passenger.
No charges have been reported. The passenger's identity hasn't been released.
Authorities say it's the 13th firearm discovered during a screening at the airport this year. The TSA can levy a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for people who bring guns to checkpoints.
Heineman Renews Call for Action on 'Good Time'
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman is renewing his call to eliminate automatic "good time" credit for violent prisoners.
Heineman argued Wednesday that lawmakers should have passed a bill introduced at his request in response to the Nikko Jenkins case. Jenkins killed four people in Omaha last year shortly after he was
released, despite violent behavior and signs of mental illness.
Current law allows inmates to receive one day of "good time" credit on their sentences for each day they spend in prison. The bill would have required inmates to participate in treatment programs to qualify.
It faced scrutiny and stalled in the Legislature's Judiciary Committee. Some committee members described the bill as an illusion because many prison treatment programs long waiting lists. Prisoners could still earn credit while waiting.
Mountain Lion Harvested in Northern Nebraska
A mountain lion has been harvested in northern Nebraska.
The state Game and Parks Commission says the 157-pound male mountain lion was harvested Sunday in Knox County near Lewis and Clark Lake.
It marks the first mountain lion harvested in the Prairie Unit since it opened in January.
Mountain lion hunting in the unit is open until the end of the year. All other mountain lion units are currently closed.
US Supreme Court to Hear Nebraska Case
A Nebraska case challenging how long officers can hold drivers during traffic stops will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will listen to oral arguments next year. Dennys Rodriguez is challenging his drug conviction, saying police violated his right against unreasonable search and seizure.
Court records show Rodriguez was pulled over in 2012 by a Valley officer after he swerved on the road. He was given a written traffic warning.
The officer asked if he could walk his drug dog around Rodriguez's vehicle, and Rodriguez declined.
Rodriguez was asked to step out of his car while the officer called for backup. The dog indicated the presence of drugs after another officer arrived. They searched his vehicle and found a bag of meth.
Beatrice Business 'Store Kraft' Closes Down
Hundreds of people are out of work as a staple in the Beatrice community, Store Kraft, closes down.
Store Kraft has been in Beatrice since 1920 and the news has many stunned. The company employed thousands of Nebraskans in the nearly century-old business but on Monday they told their employees they can no longer work there.
"I was shocked, I spent half my life at this place, now I gotta go out and find something," said laid-off employee Mike Oblinger.
Oblinger has worked at Store Kraft for the past 32 years, he even got his son a job at the business. But now he's forced to find another job.
"We were told we were having a meeting so we all went to this meeting and the CEO of the company told us that they have been losing money and they decided the best thing to do is close the plant," said Oblinger.
Beatrice city administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer says he was told the bad news around noon on Monday but says the city will try to help these laid-off employees.
"Look for Beatrice to at this point to find the best for those employees short term and long term, hopefully find some new businesscome in and get new employment," said Tempelmeyer.
Tempelmeyer believes it was no secret Store Kraft was struggling, the city helped the business out earlier this year, but he didn't expect this. "Certainly is a shock when you find out 100-125 people, lost an employment."
For Oblinger, he's keeping his head up and trying to move on. "I've got 9-10 years left you know, it will be hard to find something, I'd like to find something here in town but if I'll have to go out of town, I'll have to do that."
Tempelmeyer did say the city will help them file unemployment claims, job services and use Engage which is the local economic development corporation.
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Funding Options Sought for Nebraska County Bridges
Nebraska counties will ask lawmakers for help next year in repairing thousands of crumbling rural bridges that allow farmers to haul their products to market.
Possible options include targeted state aid for roads and bridges, or giving counties more freedom to use bonding for bridge repairs. The suggestions came during a final legislative hearing Tuesday on how to address the problem.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, the committee chairwoman, says the issue has become a state problem because the lack of infrastructure makes it harder for farmers to do their jobs.
A national report released in July says 19 percent of Nebraska's bridges have structural deficiencies. The bridges are generally considered safe, but they might have size and weight restrictions that prevent farm machinery and trucks from crossing.
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New Bridge Connecting Nebraska, Iowa Set to Open
Officials say a new $140 million bridge spanning the Missouri River to connect southwestern Iowa and southeastern Nebraska will open in three weeks.
An opening ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 22, just before traffic is allowed on the bridge that will extend U.S. Highway 34 from Interstate 29 west of Glenwood, Iowa, toward Platteview Road and U.S. Highway 75 in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Larry Winum, president of the Mills County Economic Development Foundation, says the opening of the bridge will be the catalyst for development along the Highway 34 corridor in both Iowa and Nebraska.
The bridge is expected carry 2,000 cars every day.
Nebraska Drops Taxes on Farm Equipment Parts
Nebraska farmers and ranchers who want to fix some of their equipment will be able to save a little money, now that the state has dropped its sale and use tax on repair and replacement parts.
The state last week dropped the taxes it had been charging on repair and replacement parts for agricultural machinery and equipment that qualify.
The change was prompted by legislation the Legislature passed earlier this year. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Annette Dubas, of Fullerton.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau has cited estimates that the state's farmers and ranchers collectively will save between $9 million and $10 million a year.
Nebraska Governor Candidates Set to Debate
Nebraska's governor candidates will have another chance to contrast themselves before voters in what could be their final debate.
Republican Pete Ricketts and Democrat Chuck Hassebrook will once again share the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday at the NET News studio in Lincoln.
Ricketts holds a solid fundraising lead, and Nebraska is widely viewed as a GOP stronghold. The candidates are vying to replace Gov. Dave Heineman.
The race has turned ugly in recent weeks. Hassebrook, a former directorof the Center for Rural Affairs, has accused Ricketts of supporting policies that favor the wealthy. Ricketts' campaign has criticized Hassebrook for his support of the federal health care law.
Hassebrook has called for a third and final debate in Omaha on Oct. 23, but Ricketts' campaign so far has declined.
Bicyclist Hit by Truck in Serious Condition | Driver May Have Dozed Off
Sheriff's deputies reopened part of Highway 43 just north of Bennet after a pickup versus bicycle crash.
It happened near Highway 43 and Saltillo Road just before 5:00 Wednesday night.
The Lancaster County Sheriff's Department said the driver of the pickup truck was going south on Highway 43, just south of Saltillo Road when the driver veered to the right and hit the southbound cyclist from behind.
LSO said the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Star Care life flighted the bicyclist to Bryan West Campus. He's has serious injuries, but is in stable condition. LSO said the cyclist was wearing a helmet.
Deputies also said the driver of the pickup truck was not speeding and alcohol not believed to be a factor.
No tickets have been issued at this time.
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Nebraska Faces Worker Shortage in Manufacturing
A leading state business group says Nebraska needs more skilled workers to fill its manufacturing jobs.
The president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Wednesday that the shortage is the greatest challenge that its
manufacturing members face.
Barry Kennedy, the group's president, says many Nebraska businesseswould hire more people if they could find ones with adequate training to work with technology. His remarks came during an appearance with Gov. Dave Heineman, who proclaimed October as Nebraska Manufacturing Month.
Heineman says the shortage demonstrates the need to boost enrollment in Nebraska's community colleges and universities.
Chris Roth, president of Reinke Manufacturing Company in Deshler, says his company needs workers with specific training in computer technology, math and science.
Nebraska State Capitol Official Defends Chair Cost
The State Capitol administrator is defending the cost of restoring 46 antique statehouse chairs at a cost of nearly $2,000 each.
The wood-and-leather chairs are the original furniture used when the State Capitol opened in 1932. State Capitol administrator Bob Ripley says the $87,400 spent for the chairs will save money in the long run.
Two members of the Capitol Commission also defended the refurbished chairs. State Sen. Greg Adams says the furniture will last a long time. Former state Sen. Jim Cudaback says the chairs should be preserved in its original state as much as possible.
But Gov. Dave Heineman, who heads the commission, said in an emailed statement that Ripley should've been more sensitive to the cost.
Nebraska Corn, Soybean Harvest Lagging Behind
Corn and soybean crops are in good condition but the challenge for farmers is getting the crops harvested before the weather turns cold.
Late planting caused the crops to mature later than normal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in its weekly update Monday that 60 percent of the corn crop is mature, well behind the five-year average of 70 percent. Soybeans are two percentage points behind the average.
Just 7 percent of the Nebraska corn crop is harvested far less than the 16 percent average. About 6 percent of soybeans are out of the fields, behind the 17 percent average.
Winter wheat farmers, however, have planted 78 percent of the crop better than the 68 percent average.
State Senators to Look at New Prison Sentencing Issue
A legislative committee will investigate Nebraska's newest prison sentencing problems, which took place while officials were rounding up inmates who were released too early.
Sen. Steve Lathrop, the committee's chairman, said Tuesday that members will look into the issue during an Oct. 10 hearing.
The committee is already reviewing problems in the Department of Correctional Services, including the premature release of hundreds of inmates. The Omaha World-Herald reported Sunday that the department failed to follow a 2008 Nebraska Supreme Court ruling while rounding up those prisoners.
Lathrop says that ruling made clear that prisoners who committed crimes after their early release should have to serve the time that they originally owed. It also said those prisoners are accountable for time owed if they were aware a mistake had been made.
Nebraska Reconsiders, Discloses Oil Train Records
Three trains loaded with at least 1 million gallons of crude oil routinely cross eastern Nebraska each week.
Nebraska officials released the information Tuesday after earlier refusing to disclose it when The Associated Press and others requested the details.
BNSF railroad says the trains enter northeast Nebraska from Iowa and are carried across Dakota, Thursday, Burt, Dodge, Saunders, Cass, Lancaster, Gage, Johnson, Pawnee and Richardson counties.
Federal transportation officials ordered the railroads this spring to notify states about trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude oil.
Railroads are under pressure to improve safety after several fiery derailments involving crude oil, including one in a small Canadian city in eastern Quebec where 47 people died last July when 60 cars derailed and exploded.
Haulers Reminded Proper Permits Needed During Harvest Season
With the arrival of harvest season in Nebraska, the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) Carrier Enforcement Division would like to remind haulers to obtain the proper permits and make sure their equipment has been inspected and is safe for use.
Haulers are reminded that the Seasonal Harvest Permit or farmer issued statement are not valid on any part of the Interstate System, to include I-129 in Dakota County and I-180 in Lancaster County.
The Seasonal Harvest Permit, as well as the issued statement of origin and destination by a farmer, allows a vehicle transporting seasonally harvested products to exceed the legal weight limitations by 15 percent, from the field to storage or market.
Such loads may still obtain Conditional Interstate Use Permits to exceed the 80,000 pound maximum on the Interstate System, but all axles and groups of axles must remain legal. This would include no more than 20,000 pounds on any single axle, and no more than 34,000 pounds on any true tandem.
The NSP Carrier Enforcement Division also encourages owners and haulers to ensure their equipment is properly maintained.
"Braking component violations are the most common problem we discover during commercial motor vehicle inspections," said
Captain Gerry Krolikowski, Carrier Enforcement Division Commander. "Having a properly functioning brake system is critical to the safety of everyone on the roadway and we encourage owners to assure these items are thoroughly inspected."
Individuals with questions on this topic are asked to contact the Nebraska State Patrol Carrier Enforcement Division office in Lincoln during regular business hours, Monday-Friday at (402) 471-0105.
Nebraskans React to Possible Drop in Gas Prices
How does it sound to pay less than $3 for a gallon of gasoline?
The average price of gas could drop down to less than $3 per gallon in up to 30 states by the end of the year according to energy experts.
Gas prices typically decline in the fall due to lower driving demand following summer vacations.
This year, prices are dropping even lower as global oil prices are falling.
Drivers said they could use the extra cash they'll save with lower prices.
"It takes away from our personal spending money and we need to come up here to go shopping, there's no grocery store in Guide Rock," said Guide Rock resident Amy Lefevre.
John Dondlinger of Shickley said, "As long as the world situation doesn't go up, I think they're going to stay this way because ethanol is putting a lot of pressure on the oil."
And Amanda Schukei of Cozad added, "We have two young kids and we have to stay on budget. Going out of town isn't always an option."
The average price for a gallon of gas is currently $3.29 in Nebraska according to gasbuddy.com.
That's below the current national average of $3.35. Though that's about 10 cents less than the same time a year ago.
Ebola Patient Released From Omaha Hospital
The CDC has declared Dr. Rick Sacra free of the Ebola virus. He is being released from the hospital on Thursday.
"I feel great, except that I am extremely weak," said Dr. Sacra at a news conference at Nebraska Medical Center late Thursday morning. He said he felt very sick the first few days that he was admitted.
His wife, Debbie, was by his side at the press conference discussing his release. She added that they are thankful that no one staff at the hospital where Dr. Sacra had been working caught Ebola.
Dr. Sacra said that while his crisis has reached a successful end, "I would like to request a continued outpouring of prayer and practical help for the people of West Africa." He would not rule out a return there.
"Thanks to God and to the team here at the Nebraska Medical Center. On behalf of my family and SIM, thank you so much. You have made me feel so welcome that I am now an official lifetime Huskers fan. Go Big Red!"
Dr. Sacra state that he believes early, intensive, supportive care is the best way to combat this illness in West Africa.
The aid worker contracted the deadly Ebola virus in Africa last month.
Dr. Sacra has been in the hospital's isolation ward since he arrived from Liberia on Sept. 5.
Dr. Sacra has improved over the past couple weeks, and doctors said earlier this week he might be well enough to leave the isolation unit soon.
The 51-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, contracted Ebola while working at a hospital in Liberia with the North Carolina-based missionary group SIM.
He was the third American aid worker to contract Ebola. Two other doctors were treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and released after recovering. A fourth American with Ebola is still being treated in Atlanta.
The World Health Organization says the Ebola virus is believed to have killed more than 2,900 people in West Africa.
Tax Incentives Help Young Nebraska Farmers
Thursday Nebraska State Senators evaluated current Farm Tax Credits and discussed how well they're assisting young farmers. The average age of a Nebraska Farmer is currently in their 50's, with many elderly farmers looking to get out of the industry.
Certain tax incentives allow older farmers to work with young farmers, who through this program can eventually take over their operations.
"It's so difficult to get into the farming industry as a young person without capital. The state some years ago put that program into place to enable a partnership with older farmers and younger farmers to get the younger guys going," Said District 43 Senator Al Davis.
Recommendations to improve these incentives were also presented, those recommendations will be voted on October 16th.
Trains Congested in Picking Up Grain Crop
The hauling of natural resources like Oil and Coal by train have grown rapidly over the past few years. Taking away trains that would instead be picking up grain.
"The oil boom in North Dakota prevents it from getting resolved very quickly, we ship a lot of coal through Lincoln and because of that it tends
to fill up the railyards, farmers are secondary," said Jordan Dux with the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
With less Railcars coming through to pick up grain, some Co-op's are seeing this crop pile up at locations across the state.
"Only have so much room in their bins, so you may have some grain companies delaying farmers from dropping off their grain," said Dux.
For farmers, not being able to dump that grain immediately could result in losses in parts of their yields.
"So much time waiting can hamper the quality of that product, so farmers are going to try to get that product out as soon as they can," said Dux.
In a conference call today with BNSF, Nebraska Farm Bureau Officials spoke with the railroad about how to alleviate the congestion on the tracks.
Courtesy of Our Partners at 10/11 News.
Nebraska AG: State Firms Can Get $125 Refund of Record Fee
Nebraska companies misled by a record-keeping firm can get a refund of the $125 fees they paid.
State Attorney General Jon Bruning announced the settlement with Corporate Records Service on Tuesday.
More than 1,000 businesses will be eligible for refunds. Bruning says affected companies should receive letters within the next month with instructions.
Bruning says Corporate Records Service used forms that appeared to be official government documents when it approached businesses. But Bruning says the documents did not fulfill Nebraska corporate record-keeping requirements.
Heineman: Nebraska's Highways Ranks #2 in Natl Highway Report in Overall Performance, Cost-effectiveness
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Gov. Dave Heineman highlighted the 21st Annual Highway Report on Wednesday that ranks Nebraska 2nd in the nation for overall highway performance and cost effectiveness. The report, by Reason Foundation, named Nebraska among the very best in the country based on pavement condition and cost effectiveness.
"I am proud of our highway system and of the support Nebraskans show their local and state agencies as they work to maintain and improve our roads," said Gov. Dave Heineman, about the favorable report.
Nebraska has ranked #2 in the overall rankings for two years in a row, and Nebraska has been in the top ten for several years. This year, only Wyoming ranked higher overall. In subcategories, Nebraska ranks 1st in the nation for rural interstate pavement condition, 9th in urban interstate pavement condition and 12th in urban interstate congestion.
"We are pleased to see this independent foundation validates our progress towards meeting our goals at the Department of Roads. We are performance based, focusing carefully on our precious fiscal, human and technical resources to provide the dependability, mobility and satisfactory pavement conditions that Nebraskans come to expect," said Department of Roads Director Randy Peters.
The study's lead author, David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., P.E., Emeritus Professor of Transportation Studies at University of North Carolina Charlotte has been comparing states' official performance data for the past 28 years.
"Each of the 50 states is required to send detailed information to Washington each year on the condition of pavements and bridges and congestion and so on, and also information on their budgets," Hartgen says. "We take that information and compare it head-to-head. I look at how and what states do with the budget, challenges and conditions they have to work with. We look at how states are doing on each measure and then how they're doing overall."
On spending, Nebraska ranks 5th in total disbursements per mile and 5th in administrative disbursements per mile. Nebraska's highways rank 22nd in the fatality rate and 28th in the percentage of deficient bridges. Nebraska's state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 28th largest system in the country.
Economy Remains Slow in Rural Parts of 10 States
A new survey suggests economic growth in rural areas of 10 states in the Plains and the West will continue slowing down in the next few months.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said Thursday that crop prices are significantly lower than last year, and that's a drag on the economy in rural areas.
The overall economic index from the monthly survey of bankers declined to 48.2 in September from August's already weak 48.3 reading.
The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in the months ahead.
The bankers continue to doubt the economy. The confidence index fell to 33.4 in September from August's 39.9.
Bankers from rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Nebraska Jobless Rate Holds Steady at 3.6 Percent
A newly released report says Nebraska's preliminary unemployment rate held steady at 3.6 percent in August.
The Nebraska Labor Department said in the report released Friday that the rate matched the July rate and was four-tenths of a point under the August 2013 rate of 4 percent.
The new Nebraska figure remained well below the preliminary national unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in August, which was a tenth of a point below the revised July figure of 6.2 percent.
Tree-Planting Week Scheduled in Nebraska
Trees will be planted in at least 40 Nebraska communities as part of a weeklong event.
A grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust will provide more than 400 trees to the communities during Nebraska ReTree week. The week runs through Sunday.
The 10-year initiative promotes the proper planting and care of 1 million trees in Nebraska by 2017.
Jessica Kelling, the event's coordinator, says fall is the perfect time to plant trees because cooler temperatures help them establish strong roots for spring growth.
Many of the tree-planting events seek to replace street trees lost in recent years due to drought, severe weather, invasive species and poor planting. Nebraska's first lady, Sally Ganem, will participate in a tree-planting in Kearney.
Regulators Deal With Growing Beer, Wine Industries
Beer and wine are booming in Nebraska, and state regulators are struggling to keep up.
The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission is asking lawmakers and the governor for additional staff to oversee the state's fast-growing brewpub and winery industries, and to approve liquor licenses for special events.
Hobe Rupe, the commission's executive director, says the employees are needed because of the increased workload due to the popularity of locally produced beer and wines.
The number of licensed brewpubs in Nebraska has grown from 21 to 37 in the last two years. The state also has 34 farm wineries this year, up from 28 in 2012.
The commission also predicts that it will approve 4,300 special licenses for weddings and events such as Lincoln's Ribfest.
Nebraska Corn Board Donates $2M for UNL Professor
The Nebraska Corn Board is donating $2 million to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to create an endowed professorship.
The donation will support a professor at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources who will focus on corn and finding new uses for the crop.
The money will support the professor's salary and an annual stipend for research. Similar positions focused on wheat and soybeans already exist.
Farmer Tim Scheer, who leads the Corn Board, says developing more uses for corn will help ensure strong demand for the crop in the future.
$4.2 Million Going to State Behavioral Health Services
LINCOLN, Neb.-- Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman announced that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will meet next week with the state's six Behavioral Health Regions to discuss the allocation of funds that were not spent by the regions during the last fiscal year. Last year, the regions were allocated $71 million, with $4.2 million unspent. The funds are used for mental health, substance abuse and preventive services throughout the state.
"More than $4.2 million in general funds earmarked for behavioral health services, but not used by the Behavioral Health Regions, will be reallocated by the Department of Health and Human Services to be used for services this fiscal year," said Gov. Heineman.
While Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides funding, Nebraska's six Behavioral Health Regions are established in state law as multi-county government entities, with each county appointing one county commissioner to represent that county and participate in the decision making of the regional board.
"These dollars are critical in the statewide delivery of mental health, substance abuse and preventive services, and the reallocation is consistent with legislative intent," said Scot Adams, Director of the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health.
Dir. Adams said the approximate minimum funding available to each region is as follows: Region 1 $207,000; Region 2 $237,300; Region 3 $529,500; Region 4 $485,100; Region 5 $1,027,000; Region 6 $1,569,700.
Gov. Heineman added, "This funding is especially critical to Lancaster County and I am pleased that the State can assist them. Director Adams' strong leadership has been crucial in this reallocation of funds."
Nebraska's six Behavioral Health Regions purchase services from providers in their area. If necessary, services are purchased from other service providers throughout Nebraska. A map of the regions is available at the DHHS website: http://dhhs.ne.gov/behavioral_health/Pages/beh_nebhrgb.aspx
Study: Minimum Wage to Boost State Economy
Nebraskans for Better Wages released the results of a minimum wage study conducted The National Employment Law Project (NELP).
The study - Raising Nebraskans Minimum Wage: The Economic Benefits and Demographic Impact of Increasing Nebraska's Minimum Wage to $9.00 Per Hour showed that raising Nebraska's minimum wage to $9.00 per hour would generate more than $73.9 million in new economic activity and supporting the creation of over 400 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand.
Other key findings in the report include:
An estimated 143,000 low-paid workers in Nebraska nearly one out of every six
workers in the state would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $9.00
Raising Nebraska's minimum wage to $9.00 per hour would spur new consumer
Adults 20 years of age or older comprise 78.3 percent of all workers who would benefit
from raising the minimum wage $9.00 per hour; 75.5 percent of affected workers work
more than 20 hours per week; and 43 percent of affected workers have at least some
college education; and
Over 64,300 children in the state have a parent who would receive a raise if the minimum
wage were increased to $9.00 per hour in Nebraska;
"The data is clear. Citizens should vote for Initiative 425 to boost our state's economy and to
make hard work pay for Nebraska families," said state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha. "A
modest increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour is clearly the right
thing to do for Nebraska's future."
Nebraskans for Better Wages is a broad coalition of citizens, educators, child advocates, business owners, rural advocates, and faith leaders. For more information, please visit www.BetterWagesNebraska.com.
NELP is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.
Courtesy of Our Partners at 10/11 News
Trice Found Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder
MADISON - For the second time, De'Aris Trice has been found guilty of 2nd degree murder.
The verdict was handed down to the 25-year old Norfolk man in Madison County District Court Wednesday after a two-and-a-half day non-jury trial. District Court Judge James Kube said in his decision that there was not enough evidence to suggest that Trice stabbed to death Timothy Warren, Jr. in December of 2010 because of a sudden quarrel or provocation. That would have qualified Trice for a manslaughter charge.
Trice was originally found guilty of 2nd Degree Murder by a Madison County jury in 2011. The Nebraska Supreme Court threw out Trice's conviction last year, saying the jury received faulty instructions during sentencing.
Trice was originally sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. He'll be sentenced on his new conviction on Nov. 21.
Lea Boras Named to Avila University All-Tournament Team
Posted: 09/17/14 06:50
Peru, Neb.) A strong performance against one of the top-ranked volleyball teams in the NAIA landed Bobcat Lea Boras on the Avila University All-Tournament Team. The team was selected by a vote of the coaches of each team with the top ten players receiving the highest amount of votes being honored
Boras, a 6-2 junior outside hitter from Makarska, Croatia, played the right side against the 12th-ranked Park University Pirates and helped stop some of the NAIA's top outside hitters. Park, following the weekend of the Avila Tournament was 10-0 and had won all of their games in straight sets to that point in the season.
In the game against the Pirates, Boras finished with six kills and hit .200. In addition, Boras had two solo blocks.
Following the game, the Pirates coach informed the Peru State coaches that the Bobcats were one of the first teams to stop their outside hitters so far in the season.
Boras and her Bobcat teammates finished the tournament 2-2 and currently are 7-5 on the season.
Pius X Named in 2014 School of Excellence Honor Roll
Pius X High School is recognized as the Catholic Education Honor Roll 2014 Schools of Excellence. The school is in the top 5% of all Catholic schools nationally.
Pius X High School was recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society as it released this year's list of schools selected as the Catholic Education Honor Roll 2014 Schools of Excellence. This distinct honor places Pius X among the top 5 percent of Catholic High Schools in the United States.
Since 2004, the Honor Roll has highlighted quality Catholic education. Honor Roll schools receiving this designation are marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics.
This year, Pius was one of seventy-one schools who received the honor of being named as a School of Excellence, and was the only school in Nebraska to earn this distinction.
This honor comes as Pius X celebrates its largest ever enrollment since opening its doors in October of 1956.
Pius X High School tuition is among the most affordable in the nation, with an average of $1,525 annual tuition compared to $9,622 nationally for incoming freshmen. This enables students from all socioeconomic backgrounds who seek a Catholic education in Lincoln to attend the school.
Pius X is in its 59th year and serves more than 1,170 students in grades 9-12.
Sen. Chambers Urges Gale to Rescind Ballot Decision
Nebraska's longest-serving state senator is urging Secretary of State John Gale to rescind his decision to allow a name switch on the November ballot for lieutenant governor.
Sen. Ernie Chambers argues in a letter that Gale shouldn't have let Republican Pete Ricketts replace former Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann with State Auditor Mike Foley as his running mate on the ballot.
Heidemann resigned and withdrew from the race after a judge approved his sister's request for a protection order. Ricketts later announced Foley as his new running mate.
Chambers argues that the switch was illegal because it came after a state deadline to name a running mate.
In a statement last week, Gale said he has a duty as Nebraska's chief elections administrator to ensure ballots are accurate and not confusing.
Nebraska's Uninsured Rate Held Stable in 2013
Nebraska's rate of uninsured people stayed relatively flat last year while those in neighboring states and the nation declined slightly.
New U.S. census data released Tuesday show that 13 percent of Nebraskans under age 65 were uninsured last year. The rate in 2012 was 12.9 percent.
David Drozd of the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs Research says Nebraska's rate may not have changed much because the state didn't shed as many jobs during the recession.
The uninsured rate in Iowa dipped from 9.8 percent in 2012 to 9.5 percent last year. In Kansas, the rate slipped from 14.4 percent to 14.2 percent.
Nationally, the uninsured rate dropped to 16.7 percent in 2013 from 16.9 percent the prior year.
Speakers Named For Nebraska Wind Power Conference
The head of the American Wind Energy Association will be one of the featured speakers at this year's Nebraska wind and solar power conference.
Organizers recently announced that the trade group's Tom Keirnan will be one of the four keynote speakers at the conference in La Vista.
One of the other speakers will be the U.S. Energy Department's Karen Wayland who is an expert in energy and environmental policy.
The mayor of Greensburg, Kansas, Bob Dixson, will also be one of the featured speakers. Greensburg rebuilt after a 2007 tornado, and the town is now powered renewable energy.
The conference will be held at the La Vista Conference Center on Oct. 29-30.
Norfolk Woman ID's Herself as Twin After Arrest
NORFOLK - Police say a Norfolk woman tried to pose as her twin sister after being arrested for shoplifting. Norfolk Police Captain Mike Bauer says that 26-year old Teri Anderson was arrested for shoplifting from Norfolk's Wal-Mart Sunday afternoon. Bauer says when officers gave Andersen the citation, she told them she was Traci Andersen, her twin sister. She now faces criminal impersonation charges to go along with two counts of shoplifting. She's currently housed in the Madison County Jail.
Drunk Driver Damages FRHS Sign
NORFOLK - A woman is in jail after police say he damaged the Faith Regional Health Services emergency room sign with her car.
Police Captain Michael Bauer says 30-year old Melissa Rivera-Colon was arrested last Sunday night. Bauer says police were dispatched to Faith Regional at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Police say Rivera-Colon was the driver of a vehicle that hit the ER sign, drove off and then returned when police arrived.
Bauer says Rivera-Colon failed field sobriety tests and was arrested for driving under the influence. She's currently housed in the Madison County Jail.
American Battling Ebola Steadily Improving in Omaha
Omaha, Neb. The Nebraska doctors treating an American aid worker infected with Ebola say he has responded well to aggressive treatment in the past week.
Dr. Phil Smith said Thursday Dr. Rick Sacra received blood transfusions from an Ebola survivor shortly after he arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center last Friday.
The 51-year-old Sacra, who had been working at a hospital in Liberia, also received an experimental drug that doctors refuse to identify. And he has received supportive care including IV fluids.
Smith says doctors wanted to treat Sacra with everything available to give him the best chance of recovering.
USDA Boosts Corn, Soybean Harvest to New Records
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The nation's corn and soybean farmers will harvest by far the largest crops ever this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday in a new report.
Bigger crops have been expected this year as adequate rain and cool temperatures made for favorable growing conditions, but the new estimates far surpass previous records.
Corn farmers are expected to harvest nearly 14.4 billion bushels of corn, up from last year's 13.9 billion bushel record. The 171.7 bushels per acre yield is significantly higher than the previous record set in 2009 of 164.7 bushels per acre. Record yields will be set in 18 states, the USDA said.
Despite the strong forecast, concerns have grown in recent days that early cold weather is creeping into the upper Midwest and some crops are maturing later this year. Temperatures below freezing could slow or stop crops from reaching full maturity and affect the harvest. That possibility was not reflected in Thursday's report.
Ten states including Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska have the highest number of ears per corn stalk ever, the USDA said.
After meeting all current demands for corn -- including exports and use for animal feed, ethanol and food for people -- the USDA estimated 2 billion bushels of corn would remain in stock. That's the highest ending stock in a decade.
The soybean harvest estimate also moved upward to a new record of 3.9 billion bushels. The previous record was 3.4 billion bushels in 2009. The per-acre yield is now estimated at record 46.6 bushels per acre.
Rail Union Rejects Deal That Allowed One-man Crews
OMAHA, Neb. -- A railroad union has rejected a deal with BNSF that would have allowed one-person crews under certain circumstances.
A unit of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union said its members voted the contract down.
The deal would have allowed BNSF to use one-person crews on tracks where a system capable of stopping the train remotely had been installed.
The Fort Worth, Texas, railroad says it has Positive Train Control systems installed on about 60 percent of its 32,500 miles of track.
But trains that carry hazardous materials, such as crude oil and chemicals, would have continued to have two-person crews.
BNSF Vice President of Labor Relations John Fleps says the railroad will respect the wishes of union members who decided not to support one-person crews now.
Gale Okays Ballot Request | Ricketts, Hassebrook React
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Secretary of State John Gale says he will accept Pete Ricketts' nomination of Mike Foley as his running mate. As a result, Mike Foley's name will appear on the ballot as the lieutenant governor nominee.
Gale received Lt. Governor Lavon Heidemann's declination yesterday as the running mate in the Republican campaign for governor. He also received the filing of Mike Foley who was named as the new running mate by Ricketts.
While acknowledging that state statue only provides for the removal of a candidate on the statewide ballot by September 1, Gale said that it was his duty as chief election administrator to supervise the conduct of elections in the state to insure the accuracy of the ballot and prevent voter confusion. "In addition, a gubernatorial candidate has the sole constitutional right to designate his or her running mate for the ballot. This constitutional right must be heavily weighed against any statutory deadline."
Gale noted that there is judicial case law in Nebraska which allowed for a substitution of a candidate after a withdrawal deadline, which was September 1 in this case, and indicated that the constitutional argument presented by the Ricketts' campaign was persuasive. Neb. Const. art. IV §1 vests exclusive authority in the candidate for governor to select a person to be the candidate for lieutenant governor on the general election ballot. Given that the ballot for the November 4, 2014 general election has not been certified, the refusal to accept Rickett's selection for lieutenant governor could be viewed as a direct violation of his constitutional rights under Article IV, §1 of the Nebraska Constitution.
In addition, the Nebraska Supreme Court recently confirmed the scope of Gale's authority when interpreting the appropriateness and inclusion of ballot issues. "There is no issue of greater importance than ensuring the accurate reflection of candidates on the ballot. And for that reason, I feel compelled to act."
In light of the Secretary of State's decision to allow Mike Foley's name to be placed on the ballot, Chuck Hassebrook has released the following statement:
"The Nebraska statute is clear. Public officials must observe the rule of law if we expect to restore public trust in elected officials to truly serve Nebraskans.
"By his own admission, my opponent knew of the problems with his running mate well before the legal deadline to replace him on the ballot. He had ample time to make a decision within the legal time frame. And now he is disrespecting Nebraska law by bending it to suit his own needs.
"I will not go to court to challenge the ruling. I choose to take the case for my election to the people of Nebraska. But this presents another example of how one party rule has resulted in a culture of arrogant leaders that see themselves above the law. Pete Ricketts did not act in accordance with the law because he did not have to, and that attitude will only worsen the multiplying messes in state government."
The Ricketts campaign today responded to Secretary of State John Gale's decision to place Mike Foley's name on the ballot as Ricketts' running mate for lieutenant governor.
"We feel this is a sound decision," said Ricketts campaign manager Matt Miltenberger. "The State's Constitution is clear: Nebraskans have given gubernatorial candidates the right to designate their running mates. In this case, the ballot can now be certified in a manner that accurately reflects the choices before Nebraska voters."
Courtesy of Our Partners 10/11 News
Governor Reminds Nebraskans to Fly Flags at Half-Staff for Patriot Day
LINCOLN, Neb. In anticipation of an expected Presidential Proclamation, Gov. Dave Heineman is directing that flags at all state buildings and facilities be lowered to half-staff on Thursday, Sept. 11 in observance of Patriot Day.
"I hope all Nebraskans join me in remembering those we lost on September 11, 2001 and in honoring their sacrifices. As Americans, we are the envy of many throughout the world. We must always appreciate our freedoms," Heineman commented.
The Patriot Day remembrance honors the victims lost in the 2001 terrorist strikes in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Nebraska residents are encouraged to fly flags at half-staff in recognition of Patriot Day.
Courtesy 10/11 News
Gale to announce decision on Ricketts-Foley ballot
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale says his office is reviewing whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts can switch his running mate on the November ballot.
Gale will issue a decision Wednesday on whether to allow State Auditor Mike Foley onto the ballot instead of Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann. Heidemann resigned Tuesday and said he is withdrawing from the GOP ticket.
Attorneys for the Ricketts campaign say Nebraska's constitution trumps a state law which imposes a Sept. 1 deadline for him to name a running mate.
Vince Powers of the Nebraska Democratic Party says there's no legal way to make the switch because the deadline has passed. Powers says placing Foley on the ballot would expose the Ricketts campaign to a legal challenge from any Nebraska voter if he wins.
Rare Enterovirus 68 Invecting Kids Across Midwest
From Indianapolis, to Kansas City, to Denver, hundreds of kids across the Midwest are victims of a serious respiratory virus known as Enterovirus 68.
Cases are confirmed in at least 10 states, so far none reported in Nebraska.
Dr. Luke Anschutz, a pediatrician at Complete Children's Health in Lincoln says he has never seen this particular stand before.
Anschutz says the enterovirus isn't something new, this strand is rare.
The symptoms are just like the common cold, says Anchutz. But this virus goes beyond that and travels through the lungs and causes problems. It make the kids require more oxygen to breathe and it spreads easily through the air.
Anschutz says schools and daycares are part of the problem so if a kid is suspected of being sick it's recommended to keep them out of daycare or school.
Other advice, Anshutz recommends taking your child to the doctor if you see any signs of breathing problems.
Currently, there's no vaccine or treatment for Enterovirus 68. The recovery time depends on how fast the immune system can fight the virus off.
Officials: Iowa Man Shot Mountain Lion in Nebraska
Officials say an Iowa man faces fines for shooting a mountain lion out of season in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the 23-year-old man was hunting deer on Saturday at the Ponderosa Wildlife Management Area in Dawes County when the shooting occurred.
The man, whose name was not released, contacted law enforcement officials that night. Officials later recovered the body.
The man faces up to $1,500 in fines for shooting in a closed season.
Officials believe the female mountain lion had cubs in the vicinity. They are trying to locate them, and will attempt to place them in zoos.
Work to Begin on N-2, Lincoln to Nebraska City
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Work is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 8, on N-2 between Lincoln and Nebraska City, Reference Post 465.47 to 503.43, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Ten Point Construction Company, of Denison, Iowa, has the $533,450 contract to repair the concrete.
Traffic on this 38-mile project will be controlled by one lane work zones.
The project is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2014.
The Department of Roads' project manager is Bill Jasa of Tecumseh.
Motorists are urged to use caution when driving through construction zones.
Nebraska Medical Center to Treat Ebola Patient
The Nebraska Medical Center will be treating an Ebola patient at the facility's Biocontainment Patient Care Unit. The patient is expected to arrive Friday morning.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Dr. Phil Smith said, "The Biocontainment Unit is built for this sort of event."
Dr. Angela Hewlett said this will be the third Ebola case treated in the United States and the first here at the Medical Center., "It's a scary virus," she said but she added she wanted to emphasize that it is spread by direct contact. Hewlett said, "What we're concerned about is body secretions."
Med Center officials said the patient has suffered complications but he was able to get on the plane in Liberia under his own power.
Dr. Hewlett said, "We will provide aggressive supportive care for him."
Prior to the Medical Center news conference NBC News sources said that International Christian mission organization SIM announced Thursday that missionary doctor Rick Sacra, recently infected with the Ebola virus while serving in Liberia, is being flown to The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment.
According to NBC sourcess, Dr. Sacra is expected to arrive in Omaha Friday morning and begin treatment in the hospital's Biocontainment Patient Care Unit.
Over the summer federal health officials said were currently seeing the worst Ebola outbreak in modern history. The Nebraska Medical Center has been on notice to help stand guard.
The U.S. State Department targeted the Med Center's Bio-Containment Unit as a resource to help should it become necessary.
As that was announced in August, Dr. Angela Hewlett, an Infectious Disease Specialist with the Bio-Containment Unit, said, "We would provide supportive care to the patient, which again would be things like IV fluids, possibly blood products, antibiotics that may fight secondary infections that can develop with this illness but essentially what it is, is it is just provided support to that patient, whether that is mechanical or ventilation or having difficulty breathing, again hydration, that is really the essence of treating this illness."
The Bio-Containment Unit houses five rooms that fit two patients each. It is staffed with physicians, nurses and others who are on call 24 hours a day.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Announces Death of K9 Ringo
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office announced today, "It is with deep regret that we report the death of Jefferson County Sheriff's Office K9 Ringo."
Ringo came to the Sheriff's office in 2007 and served diligently, from 2009 to 2010 Ringo served with the Fairbury Police Department and 2011 Ringo returned to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office where he served until the time of his death.
Ringo suffered from a medical condition that was being treated by a Veterinarian.
Ringo passed away the morning of September 3rd, 2014.
Ringo was a great asset to the community and to Law Enforcement in and around Jefferson County.
Veterans Affairs Office to Host Lincoln Town Hall
LINCOLN, Neb The Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting a town hall event in Lincoln.
The event is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Lincoln VA Regional Office. Veterans, their relatives and the public are invited to attend to give feedback and make recommendations for VA programs.
The town hall is one of many the VA is holding around the country in an effort to improve services and rebuild trust among veterans. The Lincoln meeting is open to the public and the media.
Barrington Sentenced To Jail For Memorial Day Tent Accident
NELIGH- An Oakdale man will spend the next few months behind bars on charges related to a Memorial Day accident.
Forty-three year old Stephen Barrington was arrested in May after getting behind the wheel of his truck after drinking and driving into his backyard, running over a makeshift campsite and injuring four boys in the process.
On Wednesday, Barrington was sentenced to 150 days in jail, given a $500 fine, and ordered to serve six months probation as punishment for the crime.
Barrington also will have drivers license revoked for 6 months following his release from jail.
Wayne Tornado to be Commemorated
WAYNE - With the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Wayne tornado coming up, a group of students are making sure the day is remembered forever. The Wayne City Council on Tuesday approved a location for a historical marker commemorating the October 4th tornado. The marker will feature a plaque that was designed by students in Wayne State's emergency management course, taught by Dr. Jason Karsky. Karsky says the students have been collaborating with city officials to make sure the tornado and its affects are properly remembered.
Dr. Karsky: "The students can see from the ground up how a project goes from an idea to actually fruition to being completed. Most importantly, during that process they see just how many people are willing to help."
Karsky says the plaque is dedicated to community residents, business owners, employees, volunteers and responders affected by last year's storm. He says the plaque will be finished in time for the one year anniversary of the tornado on October 4th, and will be dedicated some time around the anniversary itself at the Wayne Sports Complex.
2014 Public Access Atlas Now Available for Hunting and Fishing
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the 2014 Public Access Atlas is now available for those looking for places to hunt and fish in Nebraska.
The atlas lists locations of land enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters program, which allows private land to be open to hunters and anglers for walk-in access. It also provides information on public state and federal lands open to hunting and fishing.
Printed atlases are available where hunting and fishing permits are sold. A digital version may be viewed, downloaded and printed at OutdoorNebraska.org.
Other resources are the 2014 Hunting Guide, Big Game Guide, Early Teal Guide, Turkey Guide, Boating Guide and the 2013-2014 Fishing Guide. The 2014 Waterfowl Guide will be available by mid-September.
Low Attendance at 2014 Fair, Officials Still Pleased
Welcome signs are being taken down and vendors are packing up their booths. The state fair has officially come to a close. Members of the state fair board say overall, they're pleased with how it went. Especially because early results from the survey of 10 thousand fair goers are positive.
"We scored, 4.55 out of 5 in family friendliness and that's really important to us," said Jana Kruger, the District 2 Board Member.
The fair scored well in overall enjoyment too, even though attendance dropped more than 5 percent from last year. However, one weekday saw a big boost.
"I think we maybe have found the magic pill if you will, for some weekday attendance. So the $2 Tuesday was very successful, we saw about a 30 percent increase over the previous year," said Joseph McDermott, the Executive Director - for the fair.
The deal for Tuesday did so well, McDermott said they are thinking about doing something similar for Thursday next year.
Fair officials say the record rainfall affected attendance and ticket sales, but vendors have a different opinion.
Dustin Beener, the owner of Hardenbrook's Concessions said,"Cooler weather was good and the rain happened at the best time possible, I would say. Later and during the weekdays when business was slower anyway."
Beener said out of 56 years in business with the fair, this was his best year yet. And Lisa Bailey said despite the rain, she still made a profit.
"Yeah, I believe we did. I believe we did. We had a great turnout and the customers always love the pecan rolls. We have lines forever. Honestly, overall, we had a great time," said Bailey.
Orphan Grain Train Delivers Mobile Church to Pilger
PILGER - A northeast Nebraska church displaced by this summer's tornado strike now has a temporary place to congregate.
The St John's Lutheran Church was one of several public buildings destroyed in Pilger during the June 16th storm, with only the bell tower left as a reminder of the parish's existence. The Orphan Grain Train of Norfolk decided to help the church by constructing a mobile chapel through a generous grant from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Disaster Response.
On Tuesday morning, the mobile unit was brought to Pilger with the help from Stahla homes of Norfolk. As far as the future plans for a permanent congregation, St John's Pastor Terry Makaelin says he is in the process of talking with architects about rebuilding the church in its prior location.
Makaelin: "Once we get an architect to help guide us and draw on paper what that looks like, we may build the same foot print. Or we may tear this up and build again, but it will be on this spot."
The chapel and other furnishings will be installed tomorrow. The church will hold a dedication ceremony for the mobile chapel this Sunday afternoon at 4.
Nebraska Turns to 'Diplomats' to Lure New Business
LINCOLN - Nebraska officials are turning to local business leaders in hopes of attracting more companies to the state. Governor Dave Heineman on Tuesday announced an upcoming "Nebraska Diplomats Passport Weekend" to encourage economic development.
Gov. Heineman: "In today's modern world with all kinds of technology, you can locate anywhere. We're out there promoting everyday why Nebraska is the best place to work, to live and to raise a family."
The nonprofit Nebraska Diplomats group recruits local business leaders who agree to promote the state in their business travels and to personally reach out to executives from elsewhere. Its members are working in tandem with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to try to grow the state economy.
Why Beef Prices Are at a Record High
The beef industry is the largest economic driver in Nebraska, with more than $2 billion infused into the state's economy each year. That's why Thursday is Nebraska Cattleman's Day at the state fair and the cattlemen say they don't mind the current record-high beef prices.
Today, feeder cattle can sell for up to two fifty a pound. That's up from around a dollar the past few years. And it's all because of the weather.
"We have a shortage of cows in the country. Cattle numbers were down, due to the drought, due to fires, you know, and people had to sell off a lot of cows," said Bill Angell, the Fair's Livestock Superintendent.
Parched pastures aren't the place for growing calves so now that herds are smaller, it can take around three years to expand. But Angell sees it as a good thing for both cattlemen and the consumer, who gets tastier meals.
"It costs a lot to raise good beef, but...so it's about time they start getting, the value of what it costs and in order to raise good quality beef," said Angell.
But cattlemen won't get to pocket all of their profits.
Lowell Minert, who is on the livestock committee for the fair said, "The economics of it is making it so that cattlemen are able to pay off some debt, get their operations in order and gradually increase their numbers and not do it really rapidly."
For Ken Real, who lives and works out in McCool Junction, he's faced some difficulties, but says he can't complain.
"Cattle have been profitable for the last six months. It's been hard to place cattle, the numbers are short. A lot of interest, a lot of demand for calves. But it has been good," said Real.
There are a plethora of activities going on at the fair Thursday to allow cattlemen to showcase their hard work including the open beef cattle show. The Nebraska Cattlemen's Beef Pit will provide a special barbecue dinner for cattlemen along with remarks from Gov. Heineman.
Lincoln Police to Focus on Underage Drinking During Football Season
LINCOLN, Neb. -- With the start of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln fall semester and seven home football games on the schedule, an increase in tailgating and weekend parties is expected. Often, these social events are attended by students who are less than 21 years of age. Underage and binge drinking can be associated with these events.
The Lincoln Police Department's Northwest Team has coordinated an underage drinking project in an effort to increase awareness and impact illegal behaviors.
From August 30, 2014 through September 27, 2014, uniformed and plainclothes officers will patrol the North Bottoms neighborhood. Officers will focus on party disturbances, underage drinking and impaired driving.
This increased enforcement is funded by a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.
Friday Night Lights Initiative Urges Teens to Buckle Up
Fans attending high school football games across the state will once again be the focus of a special initiative designed to increase awareness of the need to wear your seat belt, every trip, every time.
The "Friday Night Lights" initiative is designed to help reduce serious injury and fatality crashes involving teen drivers by providing them with firsthand knowledge of what can happen when you don't buckle up.
Fans at select high school football games will have the opportunity to experience a ride in the NSP Seat Belt Convincer and/or view a presentation of the Rollover Simulator prior to kick-off.
"Football is a team sport and highway safety is a team effort," said Colonel David Sankey, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. "Far too often teen drivers are seriously injured or killed in crashes in which they aren't buckled up. We hope to encourage young drivers to join our team and make safety a priority every time they get behind the wheel."
During breaks in the football action, troopers will use a T-shirt shooter to catapult shirts with a seat belt safety message to football fans. The shirts were purchased through a $10,000 grant to the Nebraska State Patrol Foundation from the AAA Nebraska/Cornhusker Motor Club Foundation.
Colonel David Sankey said, "We encourage teens to wear their t-shirts and help us promote seat belt safety."
For a schedule of games in your area, or to request a Friday Night Lights demonstration contact your local NSP Troop Area Headquarters.
State Supreme Court Weighs Decision on Gambling Amendment
LINCOLN, Neb.-- When the horse gates open and the race begins, some in Nebraska prefer the betting remain as it always has - without the help of "slot" machines.
That's how Pat Loontjer, the executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, describes a new type of horse race betting machine that may make it's way to Nebraska.
The group filed a lawsuit this year to prevent an amendment from going on the November ballot. According to Loontjer, the Legislature passed an initiative that will allow voters to 1) approve a new form of gambling and 2) approve how the proceeds should be divided - all in one question.
Loontjer said the amendment violates the state's single subject law requiring the voter to answer one question in one vote, and not two.
Supporters of the amendment, however, said Nebraska's lawmakers vetted the initiative before approving it and that it does not violate the state's constitution. They also said that Nebraskans will gain property tax relief from gambling revenues, if the measure is approved.
Loontjer said the court will likely decide whether to allow the amendment to go to vote or not by Sept. 12. That's the deadline for when the ballots would be printed, Loontjer said.
Early Numbers Show Nebraska State Fair Attendance is Down
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Nebraska State Fair goers say the 2014 fair is better than the last. That's according to surveys given to attendees.
But, fair officials announced Tuesday morning that attendance so far this year is at 100,101. That's down 4 percent from last year's attendance numbers at the same time.
Joseph McDermott, Executive Director of the fair said he's pretty sure he knows why.
"Last year on opening Sunday, 2013, Trace Adkins played at the Nebraska State Fair and if I remember there were 4,000 people there. This year we did not have a concert on Sunday," McDermott said.
This past Sunday, attendance was down over 5 percent from the year prior when Trace Adkins performed. McDermott added that he doesn't determine the fair's success on attendance, but how fairgoers rate it.
Veteran Affair Town Hall Held
While national attention has turned to flaws and delays at Veterans Affairs clinics around the country, it turns out Nebraska and Western Iowa veterans are happy with the care they get. But still, the system has issues vets came to share with panelists Tuesday.
Richard Vlach, a Department of Veterans Services Officer in Nemaha County says the employees got a taste of what he considers problems that they probably were unaware of.
Concerns like difficulties registering, issues in consistent care and veterans paying out of pocket for quick treatment surprised panelists, but they did know about the one issue that had cheers of support from Vlach and other attendees: the call system.
"I know I live about an hour and a half drive from here and it's easier for me to wait until I come to Lincoln and come here to get a question answered than try to get a response over the telephone," says Vlach.
Director Marci Mylan said they're already working to change that phone system. She adds most issues expressed Tuesday can be resolved quickly and easily.
Nebraska Schools Rely Heavily on Property Taxes
A new report says Nebraska's K-12 public schools rely more heavily on local taxes for funding than any other state in the nation.
The report released Monday by the OpenSky Policy Institute notes that more than 55 percent of school funding came from local sources in the last school year, while nearly 37 percent came from the state. The rest came from federal sources.
Executive director Renee Fry says most local funding comes from property taxes, which has created a divide between rural schools and urban districts with more students. Farmers in rural districts often pay more because they own valuable land, not because of their incomes.
The report does not make specific recommendations, but could factor into debates next year among lawmakers who are looking at the funding formula.
Some Nebraskans Think Ballot Initiative Process Too Strict
NORFOLK - Is the process to put initiatives on the ballot in Nebraska too strict? Some residents think so. Currently, state law requires signatures from 7% of the population, made up of at least 5% of at least 38 Nebraska counties. Secretary of State John Gale says some states require only 3% of the population's signatures in order for measure to end up on the ballot, and there are those that would like to see that here in Nebraska. Gale says he worries that loosening the requirements that much would lead to too many ballot issues per election cycle.
Gale: "Some of the issues would take a fair amount of education. So, if you have one or two issues people can handle that. If you have fifteen issues, people are stretching themselves to have adequate information to vote on that many."
A measure to lower the signature threshold to 3% of the population didn't make it out of committee in the 2014 legislative session. Gale says he expects the issue to come up again in the near future. This year Nebraska has two initiatives on the ballot, pertaining to increasing the minimum wage and betting on replayed horse races.
Sustaining Water While Growing Food Production
During a forum at UNL's new Innovation Campus, agriculture experts discussed how to meet the demands of feeding a growing world population, without using more water.
While Nebraska sits comfortably on the Ogalalla Aquifer, the importance of using our water efficiently in farming is important due to the fact that very little of the world's water supply can be used for food production.
"What most consumers don't understand is that less than one half of one percent of the water on the globe can be used for food production," said Terry Fleck, Executive Director of the Center for Food Integrity.
These experts also discussed how changes in technology to products like irrigation systems could help curve the use of water being spent on irrigating farmland.
Gov. Heineman Completes Ice Bucket Challenge
Gov. Dave Heineman took an ice-cold shower outside his home to raise awareness about a devastating disease.
Heineman completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday with help from his wife, first lady Sally Ganem. People who take the challenge douse themselves with a bucket of freezing water to raise money for Lou Gehrig's disease research.
Heineman was challenged by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and University of Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball coach John Cook.
Heineman also donated $100 to the cause through the ALS Association's Nebraska Chapter. A video of the drenching was posted on the governor's Facebook page at the link below.
Nebraska ACT Scores Top National Average
A new report says Nebraska's 2014 high schoolgraduates scored higher on the ACT college entrance exam than students nationally and better than the state's 2013 graduates.
The Nebraska Education Department says Nebraska's average ACT composite score was 21.7, seven-tenths of a point higher than the national average of 21.0 out of a possible score of 36. Nebraska's 2013 figure was 21.5.
Statewide, 17,768 graduating seniors took the test, or 86 percent. That's up from 84 percent last year.
Most Midwest colleges and many across the country accept or require the ACT for admission. Many colleges accept or require the SAT exam instead, especially on the coasts.
Financial Program Prepare Students for High Costs of College
Throughout the 2014-2014 school year, over 2,000 students within 81 Nebraska Schools used the NEST Financial Literacy Program. They learned how to save money and where to gain assistance in fundingtheir college education.
"College has become more and more expensive. We can help parents and grand parents save for their children in a tax advantage way that helps in a way so that less goes to Uncle Sam," said Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg.
The program was put in place to give students more clarity on how to handle all of the fees and bills that come with getting a degree.
"We're seeing lots and lots of student loan defaults across the United State and I think that's partly because of poor planning," said Stenberg.
NEST also teaches High School Students how much certain University Degrees will cost, guiding them towards making the right financial decision now.
"You need to think about what I can save, what it costs. Maybe I can't afford to go to this more expensive school, maybe I need to stay closer to home," said Stenberg.
While Stenberg and others are hopeful this program will spread into more Nebraska Schools, they know that they are creating more financially literate teenagers across Nebraska.
Willie Nelson, Neil Young Plan Nebraska Concert in Protest of Oil Pipeline
Willie Nelson and Neil Young will headline a concert next month in a Nebraska cornfield organized by opponents of a proposed pipeline that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast.
Bold Nebraska said Monday the concert will be held Sept. 27 on a farm near Neligh in northeast Nebraska. Tickets go on sale Wednesday.
Earlier this year, protesters carved an anti-pipeline message into the cornfield, which is in the path of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Pipeline critics hope the project will be rejected because they fear it could contaminate groundwater and contribute to pollution.
TransCanada has said the pipeline will have upgraded safety measures and should be allowed. The company has already built and is operating the southern leg of the pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas.
Fort Carson Honoring 2 Killed by Afghanistan Bomb
Fort Carson is honoring two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last month.
Soldiers are gathering at the post near Colorado Springs on Friday for a memorial service for Staff Sgt. Benjamin G. Prange of Hickman, Nebraska and Pfc. Keith Williams of Visalia, California.
Both were members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, the last combat brigade from Fort Carson serving in Afghanistan. They were killed in Kandahar Province on July 24.
Prange was in his third tour of duty in Afghanistan but it was the first for Williams.
Alcohol Enforcement Aimed at Recreation Areas
Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol made 79 contacts with motorists during a three-week long special enforcement effort focusing on recreational areas in Lancaster County.
The enforcement which focused on reducing the potential for alcohol related crashes around Lancaster County recreational areas, resulted in two arrests for Driving While Intoxicated , one Open Container citation, six citations for illegal possession of alcohol on the beach and one citation for Minor in Possession of Alcohol.
Citations and warnings were also issued for Speeding (6), Driving Under Suspension (1), and Seat belt violation (3).
The special enforcement, which took place from July 25, through August 14, focused primarily on weekends, and was paid for thanks in part to a $3,000 grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety
Driver of Truck Identified | 11 Students Hurt in Bus vs. Truck Crash
Authorities say one person is dead and two others are listed in critical condition after a truck and school bus collision in Saunders County.
Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz says the accident occurred around 7:30 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of county roads H and 29. That's about six miles north-northwest of Valparaiso.
Officials say the bus was going west and three construction workers from Schuyler, Nebraska were in a pickup going south. The bus and truck collided in a unrestricted intersection.
Sheriff Stukenholtz says the truck rolled, throwing the driver Steven Jedlicka from the vehicle, the other two passengers were seriously hurt. Jedlicka was pronounced dead at Bryan Health. The names of the two passengers in the pickup truck are being withheld pending notification of relatives, but they were taken to Bryan Health. Sheriff Stukenholtz says the men were from Colfax County and were building a garage in the neighborhood.
Eleven students were on the East Butler Public Schools bus along with the driver Lyle A. Divis of Brainard. None of the students were seriously injured but were transported to the Butler County Health Care Center and the Saunders Medical Center as a precaution. The Nebraska State Patrol is assisting with the investigation.
NORFOLK SURGEON REATTACHES FINGERS IN 17-HOUR SURGERY
NORFOLK - A Northeast Nebraska woman is recovering after hospital staff spent more than half a day reattaching fingers she lost in an accident.
On the morning of July 24th, a woman in her 30's was brought to Upper Extremity Surgeon Dr. Tristan Hartzell and his staff at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Dr.Hartzell says she was the victim of an industrial accident, and all five fingers on her right hand had been severed.
Dr. Hartzell and a 13-member medical team worked for a grueling 17 hours, attempting to reattach each of the woman's fingers, while also helping her recover from losing over half of the blood in her body. Hartzell says while he was the main surgeon, the surgery wouldn't have been successful at all without the help of his anesthesiologists, physician assistants and other staff.
Dr. Hartzell: "With the set-up, often assisting is more difficult then the surgery. A monkey can drive a needle from one point to the other, but having it all set up for me so that I can drive the needle from one point to the other is what I depend on them for."
The surgery resulted in the successful reattachment of each of the woman's fingers. She was discharged Wednesday, and Dr. Hartzell says she still has a long road of recovery to go. He says compared to what she's been through, 17 hours in surgery in nothing.
Dr. Hartzell: "I'd do longer if I needed to. It doesn't matter how long. This is a young woman's hand. The time actually remarkably flies by."
Dr. Hartzell said that successful reattachment surgeries often depend upon the condition of the detached finger or limb when the patient arrives at the hospital. He says the ideal way to handle the part is to put it in a moist saline gauze, in a baggie and on top of an ice slush.
Nebraska Vietnam Vets Gathering in Norfolk
Hundreds of veterans are expected to attend the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans reunion this weekend in Norfolk.
The Norfolk Daily News says the reunion begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Most of the activities will be at the Divots Conference Center.
Bruce Bounds of Norfolk was on the committee that organized that first reunion three decades ago. He says the idea then was to get veterans together "and start a healing process." He says the Norfolk event will provide opportunities for the veterans to connect with each other.
Programs on Friday and Saturday will address number of topics, including the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on spouses, significant others and friends of veterans.
Butler Co. Sheriff Passes Away After Heart Attack
The Butler County Sheriff's Department said Sheriff Mark Hecker died Tuesday afternoon, following a heart attack late last week.
The department said the 53-year-old had a heart attack Friday.
On Friday, emergency crews took him from the hospital in David City to Lincoln. On Saturday he was then taken to a hospital in Omaha.
In a post on the Facebook group "Prayers for Mark Hecker" it said "Sheriff Mark Hecker passed away resting comfortably and surrounded by his loving family."
Another post said, Hecker "incurred substantial damage to his heart and other organs."
The sheriff's department said funeral arrangements are pending.
Rain Raised Topsoil Moisture Levels in Nebraska
Last week's rain in most of Nebraska has reduced irrigation demand and aided dryland crops.
A weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture report says parts of the state last week got upward of 2 inches of rain. Topsoil moisture was rated at 59 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture rated at 58 percent adequate, with no surplus.
The USDA says only scattered fields of winter wheat remain to be harvested. The report says 98 percent of the crop has been harvested, just short of the five-year average of 99 percent by this date.
The report says 71 percent of the state's corn crop was rated good or excellent, and 70 percent of the soybean crop was rated in good or excellent condition.
Nebraska Veterinarians Watch for Horse Virus Spreading in Colorado
With more cases of a vesicular stomatitis showing up in Colorado, veterinarians in Nebraska want horse owners to keep their eyes open.
According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the state's veterinarian's office has placed 69 locations under quarantine.
This comes after horses and one cow tested positive for vesicular stomatitis.
The virus can be painful for animals and costly to their owners.
The virus typically causes oral blisters and sores--causing difficulty in eating and drinking.
"The first sign you might see is salivation," said Dr. Richard Keeten from the North Platte Veterinary Clinic."[You may] see your animal slobbering a lot. Look in the mouth and see if you notice anything odd."
Dr. Richard Keeten says the virus can be spread by any contact-- like sharing water or feed buckets.
It can also spread by flies, mosquitoes and other insects.
He says if you're planning to take your animals to Colorado, make sure you are aware of which areas have been affected.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture says the quarantines are located in Adams, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Larimer, and Weld counties.
Six Injured in Two Vehicle Accident Near Fairbury
Six people were injured in a two vehicle accident east of Fairbury Monday afternoon.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, shortly before 3 p.m. a Ford F-150 was traveling west on 713 Road, when it was hit in the intersection at 571 Avenue by a southbound Chevy Van.
The F-150 rolled until it knocked over an electrical pole. The van also rolled until it came to rest in a ditch.
The driver of that van, 65-year-old Chester Veatch of Fairbury, was ejected from the vehicle and found a considerable distance from his car. He was airlifted to a Lincoln hospital with serious injuries. Two juvenile males inside the vehicle were also injured.
The driver of the F-150, 41-year-old Brenda Bush of Fairbury, was also injured. Two female passengers in Bush's car were also injured. One of those occupants remained trapped in the car until surrounding power lines were turned off.
Officials do not believe alcohol played a part in the accident.
Governor Announces Criminal Investigation For Sentencing Miscalculations
LINCOLN, Neb.-- Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced Thursday that they have directed the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation of the sentencing miscalculations of inmates by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
"Those responsible for these errors will be held accountable," said Gov. Heineman. "As I said earlier, a decision on a criminal investigation would be made once the personnel investigation was complete. Now is the time to move forward with a criminal investigation."
Heineman said the results of the criminal investigation will be provided to Attorney General Bruning and Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
"Accountability and transparency are critical to restoring the public trust. Access to the details uncovered through this process and investigation will be available to the public at the earliest possible date," said Attorney General Bruning.
In addition to directing the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation, Gov. Heineman sent an email today to all Corrections Department employees emphasizing that no one is above the law and when the Nebraska Supreme Court issues a ruling, the expectation is that every state employee and every state agency comply with the law.
"Public safety is priority number one. The citizens have lost their trust and confidence in the Department and there's a lot of work to be done to rebuild that," said Gov. Heineman.
Governor Heineman's email to Department of Correctional Services employees follows:
I want every Corrections Department employee to understand that no one is above the law. When the Nebraska Supreme Court issues a ruling, I expect every state employee and every state agency to comply with the law.
If you are asked or told by someone in your chain of command to ignore or to not follow a court order, I want you to contact your Director, Mike Kenney, and me immediately. I want to emphasize that you are to contact both of us and that contact should be made immediately.
I also want you to be aware that the independent personnel investigation by the Jackson Lewis law firm is complete and Director Kenney is in the process of taking disciplinary action.
Today Attorney General Bruning and I directed the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation regarding the sentencing miscalculations.
To the extent legally allowed, I am determined to hold those responsible for these mistakes fully accountable. No one is above the law.
The Corrections Department employees who made these mistakes have embarrassed the Corrections Department and the State of Nebraska. All of us need to acknowledge that the citizens of Nebraska have lost their trust and confidence in the Department and I want to challenge every Corrections Department employee to work very hard every day to regain the public's trust and confidence.
Public safety is priority number one and I want to work with you to make sure that we accomplish that goal.
Courtesy 10/11 News
Flags to be Flown at Half Staff in Honor of the Staff Sgt. Prange
Governor Dave Heineman has granted the request of Mayor Chris Beutler for flags to be flown at half staff in Lincoln Friday, Aug. 8 until sunset in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Benjamin G. Prange of Hickman.
The 30-year-old Norris High graduate was killed July 24 while on duty in Afghanistan. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Southwood Lutheran Church in Lincoln.
A memorial fund has been set up in his honor at First State Bank, with all proceeds going to his wife and two sons.
State Climatologist Says Drought Conditions Continue
LINCOLN Drought conditions have plagued the central and southern plains over recent growing seasons, hindering crop yields for many producers in the region. Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher says that if more rainfall doesn't come soon for south central and southeast Nebraska, the impact to the corn crop could be significant.
Dutcher: "If these conditions continue for a couple more weeks in south central and southeast Nebraska, I think many locations could be looking at 10-15% yield productions."
As it stands now, the official U.S. Drought Monitor is showing areas in Nebraska that fall south of the Platte River to be in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, while areas north of the Platte River have received normal to above normal rainfall and are not in a drought.
Dutcher said the upcoming 10 day period is forecasted to be the wettest, and forecasted rainfall will be of great importance to the corn crop condition in especially southeast Nebraska.
Jury to Examine Inmate Death at Tecumseh Prison
A grand jury will look into the prison death of a Nebraska inmate who attacked a state caseworker in 2011.
A Nebraska Department of Correctional Services news release says a prison worker found 42-year-old Patrick Howley unresponsive in his cell at Tecumseh state prison just before 7 a.m. on July 27. Howley was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Johnson County Hospital in Tecumseh. Officials suspect that Howley killed himself.
Johnson County Attorney Julie Smith on Tuesday told The Associated Press that autopsy results have not yet returned. Under Nebraska law, a grand jury investigates whenever someone dies in custody or while being taken into custody.
Howley was serving a sentence of 116 to 162 years for trying to kill a Lincoln Correctional Center caseworker.
Nebraska Sued Over Processing of SNAP Benefits
Two advocacy groups are suing Nebraska on behalf of a single mother who says she faced repeated delays when renewing her federal food benefits.
The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Health and Human Servicesfailed to process the request in a timely manner, as required by federal law.
It was filed on behalf of Tami Leiting-Hall, a fast food worker in Lincoln, and other Nebraskans who have applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program since Jan. 1, 2012.
Nebraska processes SNAP benefits through the ACCESS Nebraska system, which has been criticized in recent years for causing delays and errors. Leiting-Hall is represented by Nebraska Appleseed and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
Nebraska DHHS spokesman Russ Reno says the department doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.
Neb. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry Hosts Town Hall, Covers Major Topics
LINCOLN, Neb.-- Congress has district work days right now. That means representatives head back home to talk to constituents. Neb. Representative Jeff Fortenberry was at Lincoln Southwest high school Monday talking on some of the big issues - the border, the budget and international affairs.
When it comes to immigration, Fortenberry emphasized the need to secure the American border. He talked specifically about kids being brought across the border. He said they're being trafficked and put in dangerous situations. He added that it's crucial to not only look at the situation here in the States, but also in the countries of origin.
"Do three things. You have to protect the children, protect the border, and prevent the problem. The House of Representatives has passed a bill and I've proposed this as well. National Guard troops at the border to give the border patrol some relief. You also additionally aid and protect the children," said Fortenberry.
Fortenberry said there's no agreement on Capitol Hill about how to best handle the situation.
While the border situation may be dragging out, that's not the case on a Fortenberry-led, bipartisan resolution condemning the persecution of religious groups in Iraq.
"This is a human genocide. The international community has to try to heighten the awareness of this, at least try to get humanitarian assistance there," he said.
Fortenberry said U.S. troops will not return to Iraq in this situation. He said the U.S. can't help the country if the country can't help itself. But, he said bringing international attention to, what he calls, a genocide is important.
Fortenberry also commented on the lawsuit the House passed against the President. He said he supports the lawsuit. He added it takes the evaluation of President Obama's actions out of Congress' hands and gives it over to the justice system.
Public Asked to Comment on Revised English Language Arts Standards
Every five years, the state is required to change their standards for English Language Arts.
The current standards were adopted in 2009 so the Nebraska Department of Education revised them.
The State Board of Education and Nebraska Department of Education encouraged educators and the public to provide their feedback.
One of the public input sessions was held at the Department of Education Tuesday morning.
The department will incorporate the feedback into the standards and present it to the State Board for adoption in September.
According to the Department of Education, the biggest differences between the 2009 and 2014 English Language Arts standards are challenge and innovation.
The new standards will focus on deeper thinking, encourage innovation, and require students to support their thinking with evidence.
They will also have a greater emphasis on technology and allow students to use it as part of their learning.
TransCanada Representative Gives Update on Pipeline to Antelope CO Board
NELIGH - A member of TransCanada was present at a meeting of the Antelope County Board of Equalization Tuesday morning. Jeff Rauh gave an update on the status of the pipeline project and it's stall in the judicial process. Rauh said TransCanada has received 80% of the easements they are seeking to build the pipeline through landowners' property.
Rauh: "A number of landowners have said they are awaiting a decision on the pipeline at the federal level, so that is certainly a decision that we are looking forward to."
Rauh said local landowners who fall in the 20% of landowners who have yet to give their easement to TransCanada. Rauh continued by saying that if a decision was made soon at the state and federal levels, construction on the pipeline could begin as early as next year for TransCanada.
Heineman: Let us Know if You're Placing Illegal Children in Nebraska
LINCOLN - Nebraska is continuing to feel the impact of Central Americans sending their children to the U.S. under a false impression that they are granted automatic amnesty. Governor Dave Heineman is working with members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation to obtain specific information about the reported 200 illegal unaccompanied immigrant children that have been placed in the State of Nebraska.
Gov. Heineman: "I think the key to the future, and most governors agree with me, let us know if you're bringing people who've crossed the boarded illegally into our state. We should be entitled to that information."
Heineman then said that there should be speedy and appropriate deportation hearings.