- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

Omaha World-Herald. Mar. 5, 2016

Crime lab merger talks a good sign.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert had some encouraging words for taxpayers in last week’s State of the City address. She said the city is in “serious discussions” with Douglas County to open a full-service crime lab on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The talks between UNMC, city and county officials are in their early stages, but Stothert said she’s going to ask the City Council and Douglas County Board to pass resolutions supporting the concept of an accredited, independent crime lab based at the university.

City and county residents should hope they all get on board with a merger. After a decade of mostly fruitless consolidation talks, the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office still run separate labs, although they have agreed to cooperate more often.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine has said that public safety would benefit from merging the operations into a single, nationally accredited crime lab. And merging the two could be more efficient for city and county taxpayers, with one group of managers instead of two, one set of facilities, one array of equipment.

The county’s crime lab has had more than its share of problems. One director, David Kofoed, was convicted of planting evidence. In December, the County Board approved a $195,302 settlement with the lab manager who’d been brought in to clean things up.

The need, pricetag and funding mechanism for an all-new facility will be key issues for taxpayers to monitor. The county’s 5-year-old lab cost $4 million in drug forfeiture money, and it was certainly built to last.

But the mayor believes a merged lab would provide faster evidence processing, noting: “We need it to be a lot more efficient.”

Hard to argue with that.

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The Lincoln Journal Star. Mar. 4, 2016

Learning about equal pay.

There may come a time when Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion will contribute in a meaningful way to discussion of pending legislation.

His comments on a bill aimed at combating gender wage discrimination do not achieve that goal.

As the bill was debated on the floor of the Legislature Kintner offered that for every statistic showing that women are paid less than men, he could come up with one disproving the assertion.

“Let’s think about this. If you really could pay women less than men, why wouldn’t the company hire all women if I can save 30 percent, right?” Kintner said. “The whole argument just falls apart when men and women sometimes have different goals and different lifestyle choices.”

Oh my. Where to begin?

Let’s start by being charitable to Sen. Kintner. Perhaps he saw a headline somewhere that said the gender pay gap is a myth. He should have read the whole story.

A number of analysts have pointed out that official Bureau of Labor statistics showing that the median earnings of fulltime female workers are 77 percent of the median earnings of fulltime male workers obscure important variables.

In fact the Washington Post fact-checker gave President Barack Obama a Pinocchio for claiming that “the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.”

June O’Neill, former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in a book co-authored with her husband, concluded that actual illegal discrimination “is unlikely to account for a differential of more than 5 percent but may not be present at all.”

The Pew Research Center did its own estimate based on the earnings of both full- and part-time workers, and pegged the pay gap at 16 cents on the dollar. For women born after 1980- the gap is seven cents, Pew said.

As Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha put it, “The pay gap is not a myth. It’s math.”

Regardless of how precisely the pay gap is measured, surely a large majority of Nebraskans would agree that when a man and woman stand side-by-side doing the same work they should be paid the same.

That’s the goal Cook was trying to reach when she introduced a wage discrimination bill that was later replaced by LB928 introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello after negotiation with business representatives. The bill would align state law on wage discrimination with the existing federal law, providing protection at businesses with two or more employees.

In a Q and A with the Journal Star Kintner once said, “Women. No one understands them.”

We have a suggestion. Kintner could use the debate as a learning experience to come to an important realization. Women want equal pay. And most men think they deserve it.

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The McCook Daily Gazette. Mar. 2, 2016

Imported pot ‘treats’ threat to kids, dogs.

One thing about bringing “legal” marijuana back from Colorado.

Don’t. Just don’t.

For one, it’s no longer legal once you cross the state line

For another, it’s an edible marijuana product, you could be placing your family and pets in medical danger as well as yourself in legal jeopardy.

In Wisconsin, a 3-year-old boy accidentally ate marijuana-laced candy left on a table by his father, who brought it home from Colorado.

An Oregon boy got sick after an outing to a rock quarry - he found a cookie in a wrapper on the ground and ate it, always a bad idea.

“I felt like I was vibrating up and down,” Jackson hart said. “And that everything wasn’t real.”

His mom took him to the hospital to be treated for marijuana poisoning.

The Wisconsin boy was minimally responsive when he reached the hospital. Young children can’t metabolize the drug, and the THC can suppress their respiratory rate to the point they suffer brain damage, both from the drug and the lack of oxygen.

A 2015 report shows the number of marijuana poisonings has doubled since pot became legal in Washington in 2013.

Of the 272 marijuana calls in 2015, 46 percent were for people under 19. The majority of calls, 24 percent, were for kids 13 to 19.

And, if you think chocolate is bad for dogs, which it is, consider the outcome if it’s a marijuana brownie.

The Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour pet poison control center, has seen a four-fold increase in calls concerning pets experiencing marijuana intoxication over the past three years, the greatest jump over the last year.

Symptoms are typically stumbling, head-bobbing, lethargy and dribbling urine.

The best course of action is to keep tempting marijuana treats out of your cars and homes altogether.

Barring that, keep your phone handy to call 911, your veterinarian, health care provider or the Nebraska Regional Poison Center, 1-800-222-1222.

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The Scottsbluff Star-Herald. Mar. 2, 2016

Science fairs provide learning opportunities for everyone involved.

Science fairs aren’t about slapping together some paper-mâché to look like a volcano and making it explode. There is a lot of work that goes into creating a project, including knowing the Scientific Method, clearly explaining it to judges and other observers, being creative and original and communicating with others.

Judges also have to be prepared. You can’t just show up, ask a couple of questions and “wing it.” You need to know the Scientific Method in order to be able to ask questions of students. Fortunately, I spent four years working at Gering Junior High and sat through dozens of classes where students learned about the Scientific Method. I had the opportunity to be a judge at the Nebraska Panhandle AHEC Regional Health/ Science Meet on Wednesday. It was a great learning opportunity and an inspiration to see so many students who want to learn more about the world around them.

I wanted to know what makes a good judge. The Internet taught me most of it is common sense. Ask insightful questions. Be fair. Be knowledgeable. Listen to the students’ explanations of their project. Ask follow-up questions.

Other articles I read about science fairs, however, bothered me. I found one article that said science fairs don’t prepare students for anything. I disagree. The students I questioned had to learn time management skills just to complete the project. Then, they had to prepare their presentation and know the material in order to present it and answer questions. They needed to document their steps and analyze their conclusions. They also needed to be precise when conveying answers because they don’t have a lot of time to impress the judges. Those communication skills will be used the rest of their lives, no matter what career path they take.

Science projects need to follow the Scientific Method. It’s not just a good thing to know for a science fair, it’s good information for many aspects of life. It is a good skill to have in life. You learn how things work and why. Every student I spoke to understood that the step to “analyze and draw conclusions” can result in changes in research and knowledge and can often be different than your hypothesis. It is why science changes and revises over time. There is always new information to test. Science is not static and the Scientific Method allows for that flexibility of change.

It angered me that some major publications on the Internet didn’t value the hard work students put into learning or the creativity involved. One article complained that parents had a hard time helping their children. Parents aren’t supposed to be helping the students. It’s about what the student learns. It’s about the student’s ideas. It’s about letting students be creative and problem-solve. It’s about inspiring the next generation of scientists.

We teach student athletes from a young age to improve their skills. Shouldn’t we be doing the same with students who have a curiosity and a desire to learn about the world around them?

Other parents on the Internet complained science fairs asked their children to do something that wasn’t age-appropriate. I must be getting old because all the examples I read were things I thought were age-appropriate.

I can’t say if all science fairs are like the one I had the opportunity to judge, but what I saw was 25 children eager to learn. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City held the first science fair in 1928. Its goal was to allow children in urban areas to learn about and understand nature and their surroundings. Though the topics cover different disciplines today, the main focus hasn’t really changed.

We don’t want children to simply regurgitate facts. We want them to learn about the world around them. A science fair should be a place to do that even if they don’t win.

Lisa Myles, staff developer at ESU #13, told the participants, “We’re counting on you for the future. I have faith you’re going to be helping our world.”

Another article I read said people look for science projects online. The students I judged came up with the idea for their project on their own. They may have used the Internet to research their projects, but the ideas came from their everyday life and a desire to understand their surrounding. If the enthusiasm, excitement and joy of science remains with these students, they will be our future scientists and will make a difference.

If I had one criticism of a science fair, it would be to make the placement of the student’s name in the same spot mandatory. Finding student names would have been easier if that step was standardized. Random spots on presentation boards meant less time for me as a judge to learn about a project.

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