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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

May 29, 2017

McCook Gazette. May 25, 2017

Yes, we know it’s dangerous, but we still text and drive

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Eustis woman, 19, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular homicide in a plea deal after her can ran a stop sign, slamming into another vehicle and killing a 59-year-old passenger in that car and seriously injuring her husband, 64, the driver.

Authorities say the younger woman was likely distracted by a text message moments before running the stop sign.

She pleaded guilty after prosecutors reduced the charge from a felony.

The case illustrates what can happen, in a split second, during an activity most of us, admit it, are guilty of participating in.

Driving a car and using a smartphone are two of the most mundane pastimes of modern American existence, but combining the two is dangerous.

State Farm says a survey shows there’s good news and bad news as we approach one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

“The good news is that when it comes to using a phone while driving, we’ve seen only small increases in risky behaviors,” said State Farm spokesman Jim Camoriano. “The bad news is that with this year’s survey, we’re finding that drivers are taking more pictures and recording more videos than they did in the past. Drivers want to share what they see while traveling.”

With 91 percent of drivers owning a smartphone, it’s not a small issue.

According to the survey:

50% talk on a hand-held phone

35% text while driving

29% access the internet while driving

26% read email behind the wheel

21% respond

22% access social networks

23% take pictures

14% record video

93% talk to passengers

23% attend to children

21% attend to pets in the car

People who responded to the survey admitted using their phone while driving, even while acknowledging it’s distracting and can lead to a crash.

Asked why, they said they used their phone to improve efficiency in getting work done, stay in touch, search the Internet, capture something they saw — and simply because it’s a habit.

They also said using a phone helps them keep awake or from being bored while driving.

Really? Staying wide awake but not watching the road doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.

State Farm offers an effective “2N2: rule: Always keep 2 eyes on the road and 2 hands on the wheel.

If you, and all the other drivers on the road, observe the same rule, we’ll all be more likely to reach our Memorial Day destinations safely.

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World-Herald editorial May 25, 2017

Nebraska makes combating human trafficking a state priority

Nebraska lawmakers, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Gov. Pete Ricketts are standing shoulder to shoulder on a new state priority: Cracking down on the coercion of young adults and children into prostitution.

New legislation, approved unanimously in the Legislature and signed into law, will greatly increase the allowable penalties against pimps as well as patrons. In particular, penalties will be steeper for trafficking a minor younger than 16 or using force to traffic a minor.

These changes, under legislation by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, are intended to give the state greater leverage to deter pimps from forcing young people and children into the sex trade. An additional goal is dissuading patrons from exploiting these vulnerable young people.

The Attorney General’s Office under Peterson’s leadership has taken strong steps on this issue. Peterson has assigned full-time staff to combat trafficking and created a task force that has provided training to more than 600 law enforcement personnel and service providers.

Such training helps police and prosecutors take more effective action in human trafficking cases and better enables the state to help victims.

As The World-Herald’s Joe Duggan explained in a recent news story, Pansing Brooks’ legislation is the latest in a series of efforts by Nebraska to address sex trafficking, going back to the early work on the issue in 2006 by then-Sen. Amanda McGill Johnson.

Over the years, Nebraska has created a task force to help define the extent of trafficking in the state; increased penalties for children compelled into prostitution; and given adult victims of sex trafficking immunity from prostitution charges.

In 2015, Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, now the speaker of the Legislature, sponsored legislation to take steps against sex trafficking. He has been a strong proponent of Pansing Brooks’ legislation this year.

“Human trafficking is not an issue that is foreign to Nebraska,” Scheer said during discussion of his 2015 legislation. “It treats the vulnerable as a human commodity.”

Pansing Brooks says her legislation this year is intended to send a needed message to pimps:

“Nebraska will no longer tolerate your inhuman violations of our people, and your punishment will do everything we can to reflect your heinous actions.”

A worthy cause, indeed.

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Lincoln Journal Star, May 24, 2017

Trump again disregards Nebraska agriculture

Nebraska’s farmland and ranches were big-time Donald Trump country in November.

Yet he wants to repay some of his staunchest conservative supporters by slapping them and their way of life in the face — once again. His budget proposal, which admittedly is unlikely to pass in this form, would gut many of the supports for agriculture in the United States.

The president and Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, boasted that these cuts, coupled with unrealistically ambitious growth forecasts, could balance the federal budget in a decade. But doing so in this fashion would come at a devastating cost to the agrarian Midwest by obliterating the farm safety net at the worst possible time.

Most notably, cuts to crop insurance and caps on direct commodity payments — both major tools to help boost farm income at a time where producers are struggling to make profits — are cause for deep concern in Nebraska.

Why? Producers nationwide have reported a 50 percent decline in farm revenue since 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Trump’s proposal would cut crop insurance by an estimated $29 billion — 36 percent — and several USDA programs benefitting producers and rural communities by nearly $14 billion. Meanwhile, a cap on the premium subsidy and removal of the widely used harvest price option would further wound farmers already battling back from a few years of reduced revenues.

That’s not responsible budgeting; it’s downright reckless for major ag states like Nebraska.

Congress, which is ultimately responsible for producing and approving the budget, must stand up for farmers, since the president’s actions have once again spoken louder than his words on the campaign trail. Those actions have repeatedly left farmers and ranchers high and dry.

His proposed budget follows threats to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement — which has been a huge boon to help with agricultural exports, particularly helping offset low commodity prices following the ongoing downturn. Industry groups are rightfully worried about the impact of his plan to renegotiate the trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of this state’s farm products, which buy billions of dollars of Nebraska products annually.

In winning the presidency, Trump energized agriculture, marshaling farmers, ranchers and industry groups behind his campaign. But his latest reward for them is the specter of more cuts - and how many more gut punches can the already bruised agriculture industry take after four years of declining revenues?

Trump promised the moon, but he’s instead delivered only another dark cloud over the Cornhusker State’s fields and pastures. The lion’s share of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers supported the president; however, his choices indicate he doesn’t seem interested at all in supporting them or their livelihoods.

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Kearney Hub, May 16,2017

Hitchhikers could ruin our streams, power plants

Over the years we’ve offered a lot of advice in the Hub Opinion column. Read to your children. Be a good sport. Eat a healthy diet. Support main street. Enjoy the fall colors.

Unfortunately, the day finally has arrived when it’s necessary to share advice about a problem that for years has plagued other lakes and streams in the United States, but pretty much has spared Nebraska’s waters.

We’re talking about the curse of zebra mussels. They look like snails or clams, and even though they’re only about the size of a finger nail, they can be very destructive. They can foul boat propellers and hulls, and worse, impact lakes and rivers. The mussels are known to clog intakes of electrical generating plants, which rely on water to cool turbines and nuclear devices.

Zebra mussels are beginning to show up in our lakes and streams. The tiny invaders can become lodged on boats used in other states. When the boats arrive in Nebraska, they could be carrying living zebra mussels on their hulls or trailers.

Zebra mussels multiply so quickly they can rapidly coat dock pilings, ruin fisheries and impede flow into municipal water systems or power plants.

According to Nebraska Public Power District, zebra mussels have caused millions of dollars in damage, and now they’re starting to become a nuisance in lakes and rivers in and around Nebraska.

Boaters can help slow or stop the spread.

“Zebra mussels spread by attaching to a boat and hitching a ride to the next body of water. Their microscopic larvae can survive in water left in a boat, live well, or bait bucket,” said NPPD Environmental Manager Joe Citta.

The Nebraska Invasive Species Program shares these recommendations:

- Clean your boat and trailer to remove all visible plants, animals, fish and mud. Power washing is a good option.

- Drain water from the bilge, motor, live wells, ballast tanks and any equipment that holds water. A cup of diluted bleach will kill zebra mussels.

- Completely dry your boat, trailer and all equipment before relaunching.

To learn more about combating zebra mussels, visit the Nebraska Invasive Species Program website at www.neinvasives.com. Boaters need to be alert and not spread the mussel problem here.

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