Omaha World Herald. August 2, 2018

Korean War was a laudable cause that has brought freedom for millions

Our country rightly paused last week to honor the service of America's Korean War veterans and to note our continuing interest in helping protect a democratic South Korea.

Fighting in the Korean War came to a halt 65 years ago, when negotiations finally yielded an armistice that halted hostilities, created the Demilitarized Zone and separated the Korean Peninsula into a north-south division. The conflict, which included some of the American military's most desperate battles and most inspiring demonstrations of heroism, took the lives of 36,000 Americans.

Among the dead was Marine Pfc. Edward "Babe" Gomez of Omaha, a graduate of Omaha Central High School. During combat on Sept. 14, 1951, Gomez fell on a grenade to save his fellow Marines. He "gallantly gave his life for his country," reads the Medal of Honor citation signed by President Harry Truman and awarded posthumously to Gomez.

During a ceremony Friday with Gov. Pete Ricketts at the Nebraska State Capitol, South Korea's deputy consul general in Chicago, Donghan Yang, presented "Ambassador of Peace" medals to Korean War veterans and to the families of those who had died or could not be there.

"Sixty-eight years ago, U.S. soldiers were sent to fight in a country they didn't know, for a people they'd never met," the Korean representative said. "The Korean people will remember the courage and sacrifice of the U.S. soldiers forever." Ricketts told the gathering of about 70 Korean War veterans: "We're here to tell you ... that your sacrifices are remembered, and honored."

Less than a week before the 65th anniversary of the armistice, Sun-Ha Lim, a former two-star general in the South Korean Army, died in Omaha. As The World-Herald's Mike Kelly reported, Lim once advised Gen. Douglas MacArthur about wartime conditions on the Korean Peninsula. Lim commanded the 3rd Republic of Korea Division in the final battle of the Korean War. He later married Sandra Krajicek, a graduate of Omaha South High School and Omaha University. President Dwight Eisenhower awarded him the Legion of Merit Command Degree, the highest military honor given to foreigners.

Veterans of the Korean War and their loves ones need have no doubt that the fight those many decades ago to preserve freedom for Koreans was worth it. Just look at the enormous contrast between the two Koreas.

South Korea's economy, based on market principles and business innovation, churns out a robust annual output of $1.9 trillion — larger than that of Spain or Canada. North Korea's annual output? Only $28 billion. South Korea is Nebraska's fifth-largest overseas market, buying about $517 million worth of Nebraska goods annually.

North Korea remains in the grip of its eccentric dictator, Kim Jong Un, while South Korea is a vigorous democracy allowing free-wheeling political debate. Park Geun-hye, a former South Korean president, is in prison, sentenced to a total of 32 years on a range of corruption charges. That's a striking illustration of the rule of law.

On the 65th anniversary of the armistice, by no means should the Korean War be forgotten. Let's remember and honor it for the accomplishment it was — a laudable campaign that has allowed generations of Koreans to prosper and live in freedom.

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Scottsbluff Star-Herald. August 2, 2018.

Is there anything to do?

"There is nothing to do around here."

If you have lived in western Nebraska or eastern Wyoming for any length of time, you have heard this statement. You may have even made this statement, but is it true?

Well, let's see.

In Scottsbluff and Gering, you can go to the Riverside Discovery Center, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Legacy of the Plains Museum, the Monument Valley Pathways, Midwest Theater and the West Nebraska Arts Center just to scratch the surface of things to do on a weekday, weeknight or weekend.

If you enjoy the arts, Theatre West offers top-notch performances and the music and theater departments at Western Nebraska Community College offer excellent performances throughout the school year.

Drive a few miles outside of town and you can find plenty to do at Lake Minatare, the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center, Chimney Rock Natural Historic Site, Courthouse and Jail Rock and more.

If you are willing to travel an hour or two in any direction out of the Scottsbluff/Gering area, you will find even more to keep you busy.

Down south, you can find Panorama Point, which is the highest point in all of Nebraska. From this point you can see into Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming.

"Absolutely incredible," a visitor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said on TripAdvisor about their visit to Panorama Point.

Travel east of Scottsbluff/Gering and you can find Ash Hollow.

Up north you can visit a place that a visitor from Virginia defined as "so quirky" and a visitor from Cincinnati, Ohio, called a "fun stop at an unusual attraction and it's free," on TripAdvisor. It is the "faithful recreation of Stonehenge," another reviewer said of Carhenge outside of Alliance.

In Alliance, the art lover will find themselves at home at the Carnegie Arts Center.

You can find something to keep you busy at Toadstool Geological Park and/or Agate Fossil Beds. At Fort Robinson you can learn about history, go fishing, horseback riding and much more.

Across the border into eastern Wyoming, you have Glendo and Guernsey state parks and Fort Laramie.

Back in the Scottsbluff/Gering area, if you are looking for sporting event, you find motocross racing just south of Mitchell, stock car racing east of Gering and, of course, right now you can take in the final Western Nebraska Pioneers' game. Even better, make plans to take in their first ever playoff game Tuesday, Aug. 7. If our team wins, we will have a championship series to attend.

In a month, high school sports will get started, giving any sports lover a hometown team to cheer for and a couple of community colleges to watch.

Throughout the summer had something happening from Tabor Days in Minatare to Heritage Days in Alliance to keep you entertained.

Coming up Friday, Aug. 17, and Saturday, Aug. 18, is the Old West Balloon Fest with hot air balloons launching from the old Mitchell airport. The list is by no means a complete listing of things to do or places to visit in our backyard. In fact, this only scratches the surface.

So is the statement, "there is nothing to do," correct?

Clearly the answer is a resounding "NO!"

There are plenty of things to do in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming.

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The Grand Island Independent. August 1, 2018

Early voter mailing list may improve turnout

If given a choice, we would prefer that all voters go to the polls on Election Day. There is something about the communal experience of people being at the polls together.

However, that ship sailed long ago.

Early voting is now done by many. In fact, there were 1,100 early voters in Hall County in last May's primary election.

Many people enjoy the convenience of getting a ballot early and being able to sit at home, study it and fill it out and return it on their time. Because of work or travel, some just aren't able to go to the polling places on Election Day. So having an alternative way to vote is important.

So the Hall County Board of Supervisors made a good decision in allowing the county to compile an early voting request list. Early voters in this November's election will be able to check a box that puts the voter on a mailing list where they will receive an application for early voting before every election. Signing and returning the application will get them an early ballot without having to go to the election commissioner's office.

"I think it will really help voters in the long run, particularly those voters that maybe have some challenges getting around and down to the election office every year," Hall County Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet told the board.

One could see this being valuable to an elderly or disabled voter who may have trouble getting around.

Other counties in Nebraska also are doing this. In fact, Lancaster County has 24,000 people on its early voter card list. Lincoln County has 2,087 on its list.

Voter turnout is often poor in Nebraska, and throughout the country. So measures such as this that encourage people to vote are worthwhile. A reminder, such as being on a mailing list, can encourage people to get a ballot and vote. It's important that all voters be heard.

There is, though, always a caution about early voting. There is the danger that some news might break that would change the mind of how someone would vote. Voting early prevents a voter from getting all the information possible on a candidate or an issue.

But early voting has become an important convenience for many, and it is better to get more people to vote than it is requiring that they wait until Election Day.

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Lincoln Journal Star. August 3, 2018

University of Nebraska request for state aid reasonable amid cuts

Following two years of declining state aid, the University of Nebraska has requested a small increase in its appropriation by the Nebraska Legislature for the next biennium.

The proposal - for 3 percent growth in 2019-20 and 3.7 percent in 2020-21 - goes before the NU Board of Regents Friday. Given the modest, responsible nature of the ask in light of losing 3 percent of its state aid the past two years, we encourage the regents to approve the request and applaud university leaders for being cognizant of state budget uncertainty.

Immediately restoring the funding to roughly the 2016-17 level will help the university cope with a declining cash reserve and anticipated yearly hikes for salary and insurance costs.

Much of the requested increase will be set aside for wages and benefits, as directed by Department of Administrative Services. Of the proposed $39 million increase in state aid from $571 million this year to $610 million for 2020-21, more than 85 percent will go to these adjustments for its 12,000-plus full-time employees across the state.

The Journal Star editorial board has long supported a vibrant NU. Editorial upon editorial over the years has stressed the importance of a strong university for preparing the workforce of tomorrow and the unmatched return on investment - more than $6 in returns for every $1 spent - enjoyed by all Nebraskans.

But three rounds of cuts instituted in 14 months left NU weaker at the end of the school year than the beginning. Ending academic and athletic programs, on the heels of millions of dollars in spending reductions outside the classroom, because of budget pressure leaves any university less able to serve its students and state as a whole.

Remember that, at its June meeting, the Board of Regents approved the dramatic step of allowing NU President Hank Bounds the authority to unilaterally increase tuition midyear if declining tax receipts meant state funding fell short of expectations - after raising tuition both years of this biennium.

Steps that drastic aren't taken by institutions funded adequately. They occur only when all other options - spending cuts, attrition, revenue increases, etc. - have been deployed in short succession. And NU has left no stone unturned in recent years.

Furthermore, with state tax receipts a bit in flux following changes to federal tax code and insecurity surrounding Nebraska's ag economy, the university's request is cognizant of a murky outlook for the budget. Gering Sen. John Stinner, who chairs the Nebraska Legislature's Appropriations Committee, correctly characterized it as "meager" and "austere."

The last two years have been tough for the University of Nebraska, amid declining funding and undue political pressure. Still, it's hard to argue NU has been anything short of a good steward of tax dollars.

Therefore, NU's proposed modest growth for the coming years appropriately balances its responsibility to students and taxpayers.

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