- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

Kearney Hub. May 9, 2014.

With legal backing, what will EPA do?

The Supreme Court has handed the Environmental Protection Agency an important clean-air victory. The court’s 6-2 ruling Tuesday upholds the EPA’s authority to limit power-plant emissions that blow across state lines. It’s a step forward for President Obama’s effort to improve the air quality of states downwind from polluting coal-fired plants.

And, depending upon how emboldened it makes the EPA, the ruling could be a significant setback for states such as Nebraska and scores of others that generate the majority of their electricity by burning coal in the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants.

Power companies estimate the costs of implementing the EPA rule at about $800 million a year. That sounds like a huge sum, but if science could somehow find an effective way to eliminate coal plant emissions, Americans might be able to save billions of dollars every year in health and environmental costs.

Coal-fired plants are the single largest source of the nation’s carbon emissions, responsible for about 40 percent of the total.

The court’s ruling says power plants in 28 states have a responsibility to reduce the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution that goes into the air and drifts to other states.

Downwind cities and states have argued for years that pollution from coal-fired plants outside their jurisdictions has prevented them from meeting air pollution standards. The court validated this claim, laying to rest the contention that the EPA had placed an unfair economic burden on polluters.

It won’t be long before Americans get a clue about how costly it will be to adhere to EPA clean-air regulations. The new rules will be unveiled in June. If there is a silver lining for Nebraska - other than the potential health benefits of cleaner air - it could come in an increased interest in clean and renewable fuels, including ethanol.

Not all of the focus will be on the types of energy we use to reduce emissions. Technological advances in conservation will prove almost as important in cleaning up the air as scrubbing power plant emissions or tapping cleaner energy sources. Think about conservation efforts to reduce the demand for energy, and you’ll have a clearer idea of what the future might hold.

We Americans might be smarting a bit as the initial costs of going greener hit us in our wallets, but if those costs can be made bearable and the EPA’s standards achievable - a little at a time - Americans will likely do what the EPA calls upon them to do.

___

McCook Daily Gazette. May 9, 2014.

‘Nebraska Nice’ harnesses state’s greatest asset

Social media hasn’t been kind, and you’d never guess it by some of the current political campaigns, but the Nebraska Tourism Commission did get one thing right: the friendliness of Nebraska’s people is the state’s greatest asset.

That’s the conclusion reached after months and $75,000 worth of research, three online surveys of visitors, potential visitors, residents and community/visitor industry stakeholders.

“Nebraska is about genuine friendliness and relaxation across all audiences, but also a fun place for nonresidents,” the report concludes.

Other states have their beaches, mountains and amusement parks, Kathy McKillip, Nebraska Tourism Commission executive director told the Lincoln Journal Star, but no other state has focused on its people as its No. 1 asset.

All Nebraskans must step up, believe in and sell the notion that it’s so nice here that people are going to want to experience it, she said.

Tourism officials have their work cut out for them, according to a social media sampling this morning.

“Nebraska Nice. um, well, that’s safe.”

“Nebraska Nice is dumb. Bring back ‘The Good Life.’”

“If we’re gonna steal from Iowa, let’s really steal from Iowa.”

“In all fairness, it’s better than the runner-up, ‘Could Be Worse’ with an arrow pointing to Iowa.”

“Don’t blame me, I voted for ‘Nebraska Naughty.’”

“Should we draw straws on who has to tell Nebraska that it’s not actually Minnesota or Nice, France…?”

“Nebraska Nice … Try.”

“‘Nice’ is how you describe your day when you don’t want to talk about it.”

“‘Nebraska: Alright at Times.’ More honest slogan.”

McCook boosters know the problem. Before our current “The Go-To City of Southwest Nebraska,” we suffered through “City Without Limits,” ”Nebraska’s Hot Spot” and “The American Experience.” (Did the PBS show sign off on that one?)

Despite all the sniping, most Nebraskans genuinely are nice and love to share “The Good Life” with visitors, when given the chance.

___

Omaha World-Herald. May 10, 2014.

Only ‘liberals’ in GOP Senate race?

Throw up the grainy black-and-white photo. Cue the ominous music. Roll that menacing voice. You know what’s coming: another negative campaign ad.

If the last Nebraska voters have turned off their television sets by now, it’s easy to understand why.

The onslaught of misleading, preposterous and insulting ads is enough to send even the most ardent TV viewer off in search of a good book.

One of the latest distortions being aimed at voters is being aired by the anti-tax group Club for Growth. It accuses U.S. Senate hopeful Sid Dinsdale - banker, Republican and candidate endorsed by former Gov. Charley Thone - of being “really liberal.”

Huh?

It seems the Washington-based interest group, which backs Ben Sasse in the GOP primary, views a few of Dinsdale’s past political donations and his comments about raising the debt ceiling as making him unfit for the nomination.

Hold on a minute. Nebraskans have elected both Republicans and Democrats to top political posts for decades. Raising the debt ceiling means the government can pay the bills Congress already has run up. Paying your bills IS fiscally conservative; spending money you don’t have is not.

So it’s easy to take things to extremes - and make a cockeyed claim about almost any candidate.

An ad could say - but shouldn’t - that GOP Senate candidate Shane Osborn must be a liberal because he spent much of his adult life cashing checks from Uncle Sam and the State of Nebraska.

It’s true, sort of. Osborn earned those paychecks as a U.S. Navy pilot and as the state treasurer. Serving your country and handling the state’s money aren’t reflections of political philosophy.

An ad could say - but shouldn’t - that Republican candidate Ben Sasse must be a liberal since he followed Barack Obama to Harvard University and later received what the Tea Party Express calls “a Master of Arts in Liberal studies.”

It’s true, sort of. Sasse holds several advanced degrees, including some from Yale, the alma mater of both Presidents Bush. (And by the way, the Tea Party Express says it “proudly endorses” Sasse.)

So are Nebraska Republicans stuck with nothing but liberals to choose from?

Obviously not.

Many Nebraskans have decried this year’s onslaught of negative commercials. But that hasn’t put a stop to them.

Political campaigns use these ads because, at least until now, they seem to persuade enough voters to be worth the backlash.

There is another way. Study the candidates’ positions on issues. Evaluate their records in business and/or government. Listen to their comments in speeches and debates. Look to see if they offer a vision beyond mere sound bites.

Then ignore the ads and make up your own mind.

___

Lincoln Journal Star. May 9, 2014.

Government fails on death penalty

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma adds to the evidence in support of the conservative argument against the death penalty.

The personnel charged with killing Lockett couldn’t find a suitable vein in his arms, legs or neck to administer the lethal injection, so they put a needle into a vein in his groin, according to The Associated Press.

It didn’t work as intended. A doctor reported later that the vein had collapsed. Lockett writhed on the table, tried to sit up and cried out. The execution was stopped. Lockett died 10 minutes later of a heart attack.

The circumstances affirm the conservative viewpoint that government is often inept, as well as inefficient and costly. It can’t be trusted to administer the death penalty properly.

To be sure, it’s almost impossible to muster sympathy for Lockett. Based on the court record, Lockett’s crime was truly heinous. He and two other men beat a 19-year-old woman, sexually assaulted her and then buried her alive.

Nonetheless, the founders decreed in the U.S. Constitution that convicts should not be sentenced to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In order to uphold that requirement, U.S. officials have moved from hangings and firing squads to gas and electrocutions. Lethal injections were supposed to be an improvement.

It should be pointed out that the bungled execution is not the first. For example, in Florida in 2006 a convict named Angel Diaz continued moving and grimacing after a purportedly lethal dose of chemicals. Officials gave him a second dose. An autopsy showed later that in the first attempt the needle had gone through the vein and out the other side.

Also bolstering the conservative argument against the death penalty recently was a statistical study by a team of researchers that concluded that 4.1 percent of people sentenced to death were actually innocent.

The researchers examined data on 7,482 defendants who were given death sentences between 1973 and 2004 and death row exonerations during the same period. Then they applied a statistical method usually used to determine the success rate of a new medical therapy to obtain their findings.

In Nebraska, officials are currently without the means to implement the death penalty because they have run out of a lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental, and have not revised the protocol for administering lethal injections.

That’s for the best, because the longer government tries to use the death penalty fairly and according to the U.S. Constitution, the more evidence there is that it’s just not up to the task.

Nebraska should repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.

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