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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

July 30, 2018

Omaha World Herald. July 28, 2018

Blomstedt right to call for an educational emphasis on respect

Too often in today’s culture, the word “respect” seems to be an empty word.

The smart-aleck response, the quick insult, the wounding remark — such jabs are all too common, whether on social media or in general debate. Things become worse still when ugly remarks take the form of slurs against an individual’s race, ethnicity or mental or physical ability.

Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt commendably issued a call this week for schools to embrace a positive culture that nurtures respect. Nebraska’s educational community, he said, should send the clear message that skin color, national origin or mental ability are no grounds for insults.

Blomstedt said he’s “sick of” the hostility some people display at sporting events and in schools, as reflected in reports to his department.

“I ask you to challenge derogatory comments about our students,” he told a conference of about 1,000 Nebraska school leaders on Wednesday. “Challenge those. Don’t let those stand.”

One example is derogatory language hurled at students at majority-Latino high schools, a problem highlighted in an essay this year by Jim Kasik, the athletic director at Schuyler Central High School.

Blomstedt spoke of how, in the 1960s, his grandparents started a school for an uncle of his who had Down syndrome and nowhere else to receive an education. In the past, our society misunderstood special needs children, who were subject to insults merely because of who they were.

It’s vital for our society to promote a culture of respect. As Blomstedt says, our schools are an excellent place to do just that.

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Scottsbluff Star-Herald. July 29, 2018.

Time for texting change

One second you are diving safely down the road, the next you are dead. It can and does happen that fast and all because you felt you had to send or read a text message on your cell phone.

One in three American drivers ages 18-64 report reading or writing text messages while driving, according to the Center for Disease Control. Yet the vast majority of Americans — one report said 97 percent — know texting and driving is dangerous.

What will it take to change this bad habit?

Nine Americans die every day because of texting and driving. This includes innocent victims in vehicles hit by people who are texting while driving.

You may survive if you are the cause of one of the 1.6 million accidents from texting and driving, but can you live with the thought of killing someone else? If this happens, you will be charged with vehicular homicide, which means you will spend time behind bars.

“That is a scare tactic,” you may say. “I’m good at multi-tasking, it just takes a few seconds to send or read a text.”

On average, it takes five seconds to read or write a text. If you are cruising down the road at 55 mph and read or write a text you can travel the length of a football field in those five seconds. You could easily cross into oncoming traffic, drive up onto a sidewalk and kill yourself and/or others.

Forty-six states, including Nebraska, ban texting and driving. In Nebraska, however, it is a secondary offense. This means you cannot be pulled over just for texting. As long as you are obeying all other laws of the road, you can text while driving next to a Nebraska law enforcement officer and they can do nothing.

Nebraska is one of only four states who treat texting as a secondary offense, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The other three states are Florida, Ohio and South Dakota. Arizona and Missouri ban texting for young drivers but not adults and you can text away in Montana, because they have no statewide ban.

Iowa made the change from secondary offense to primary in 2017. Since doing so, the Iowa State Patrol said citations for texting while driving has increased by over 620 percent. The Nebraska State Patrol saw about a 50 percent decrease over the same period.

Does this mean Iowans text and drive more than Nebraskans?

No, it means the tougher stance is catching offenders. Hopefully, after a ticket or maybe two or maybe three, drivers will change their habits and stop putting themselves and others in danger because they feel it so important to text while driving.

Besides being dangerous, texting while you drive is foolish and selfish. You are saying my need to communicate is more important than the lives of others. Your need to find out what your friends are doing, saying or eating is more important than focusing your attention on driving your compact car (3,000-4,500 pounds), your minivan (5,500-6,500 pounds), light truck or SUV (5,000-7,000 pounds) or full truck (7,500-12,000 pounds) safely down the road.

“It is my personal right you are infringing upon by taking away my choice to text or not to text,” you may say.

Yes, but your texting does not only impact you. If you cross the center line and hit another vehicle, you have infringed on their rights to live, all because of your bad choice.

It is time for the Nebraska Legislature to change the ban from a secondary offense to a primary offense for the sake of all drivers.

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The Grand Island Independent. July 24, 2018

Defending beef vital to keeping industry strong

The beef industry is vitally important to Nebraska’s economy. It is the largest industry in the state. According to the Nebraska Beef Council, the $6.5 billion in cattle sales each year has an economic multiplier impact on the state of $12.1 billion every year. In fact, all cattle and calves in the state on Jan. 1 totaled 6.8 million head.

So there is a reason Nebraska is called “The Beef State.”

However, the beef industry has faced many challenges over the years. Authors and others have questioned the impact of eating beef on diets and health. Others have questioned the impact on the environment.

So it was good to see Jim Jenkins, a Nebraska rancher and restaurateur, give a spirited defense of beef in a speech to the Grand Island Rotary Club last week.

One of his major points was that grazing cattle is the best use of pasture lands in the Sandhills of Nebraska. There is really no other viable use, he said.

Cattle grazing manages the grasslands and prairie and helps with water detention. In Nebraska, 50 percent of the land is pasture and rangeland. That totals 23 million acres. Cattle grazing helps keep pasture land healthy, which always depends on the weather and getting the needed rain.

Furthermore, ranchers in Nebraska are good custodians of the land. There is no one who wants to keep the land healthy and vibrant more than ranchers because their livelihood depends on it.

Jenkins also stressed that beef is an important source of protein in diets of people throughout the world. More and more studies are stressing the importance of protein in a healthy diet, and beef has high quality protein.

In addition, beef has many other nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, three B vitamins and essential fatty acids.

So beef can play an important role in a healthy diet.

Another point is that cattle can be raised year-round. That is different than crops such as corn and soybeans that must be grown in a period between freezes and cold weather.

Cattle aren’t like that. They can still be raised in the winter and keep beef-processing jobs going throughout the year.

Grand Island is a city whose economy depends greatly on the beef industry. Certainly corn and soybeans are the big crops in the area and vital to the economy. However, Grand Island’s biggest employer, JBS, is a beef-processing plant. Thousands of cattle are processed there every week, and JBS employs approximately 3,200 workers in Grand Island.

So it is good that there are people like Jenkins who are willing to speak out in defense of the beef industry.

Critics can hurl darts at the industry, but knowledgeable people such as Jenkins can ably defend the industry. As he said, the industry certainly can learn and improve, but its importance to the economy and to diet and health is real and must be defended.

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Lincoln Journal Star. July 27, 2018

Debates must be accessible to all Nebraskans

Candidates for governor and U.S. Senate have yet to take the stage to debate each other - but they’re already debating how many and what kind of debates will lead up to November’s general election.

The campaigns continue to hash out when, where and how the candidates will spar over the myriad topics that concern Nebraska voters. As they proceed, the Journal Star editorial board urges all parties to ensure as much of the state as possible has access to watch the incumbents and challengers in action and hear their messages.

As of Friday, Gov. Pete Ricketts and state Sen. Bob Krist have agreed to appear side by side three times - the traditional debate at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, another in Wayne and a candidate forum in Omaha. U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould also publicly announced a debate at the fair.

Only the daytime debates at the fair have their live media outlets confirmed thus far. An Omaha TV station will presumably carry them over the air, while they will assuredly be streamed online.

The Omaha Designated Market Area only reaches 16 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, which combine to occupy nine media markets based in six states. Meanwhile, a significant percentage of Nebraska’s land area, particularly in more sparsely populated counties in northern and central portions of the state, lacks sufficient internet speeds to effectively stream a live broadcast.

By no means are these voids intentional. They’re merely symptoms that come with the territory of occupying a spread-out state with so much, well, territory. But closing coverage gaps to the fullest extent possible must be front and center as the campaigns finalize the debate details.

Nebraskans, regardless of their address, need to have the fullest picture possible when deciding which candidate they want representing them in the Governor’s Mansion or on Capitol Hill.

Debates are a key part of that informative process, joining with independent research and following news reports, for any voter. Seeing the candidates go head-to-head provides an unvarnished look, one without any partisan spin, at the fellow Nebraskans seeking to serve all 1.9 million of us in positions of immense authority.

On a national scale, it’s well documented that presidential debates have proved to be decisive factors in multiple races as America elected its future commander-in-chief. And while the appearances on which we’re focusing occur solely on the state level, they can nonetheless sway voters’ opinion.

Therefore, the four campaigns in these statewide races must be diligent in ensuring the greatest number of Nebraskans have access to the upcoming debates. Though doing so won’t necessarily be easy, it must be a consideration as debate details coalesce.

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