- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

The Grand Island Independent. Mar. 24, 2016

Europe must work with Muslims to root out terrorists.

The world woke up to the news of another terror attack Tuesday when Islamic State terrorists struck an airport and subway station in Belgium. The bombings killed 31 people and injured 270 in Brussels.

The shock and dismay at seeing the pictures of bleeding and dazed people stumbling through the smoke-filled station hit people throughout the world.

When will this senseless terror end?

However, instead of dismay, it is time for resolve.

Speaking in Argentina Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, but my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world.”

Let’s hope the president holds true to his words. ISIS must be defeated in its base in Syria and Iraq. Progress has been made, but ISIS still holds large areas. The world can’t let up in its fight. ISIS knows only hate and terror.

While that fight is grueling, even more difficult may be finding the terrorists that ISIS has sent out throughout Europe and elsewhere. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Islamic State has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe. These fighters are part of terror cells such as the ones that carried out the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

The U.S. and Europe must beef up their intelligence capabilities so these cells can be detected and apprehended before they carry out more attacks. This will take the cooperation of Muslims throughout the world. They must not let these terror cells hide in the shadows. They must expose them.

That’s why talk against all Muslims is counterproductive. The U.S. and Europe must work with Muslims to root out these terrorists. Radical Islam is to blame, but not all Muslims. The rights of innocent people shouldn’t be trampled because of their religion.

The attacks in Paris and Brussels also point to the need for tighter border security both in the U.S. and in Europe. Excluding visitors because of their religion isn’t the American way, but using intelligence capabilities and better screening of suspected terrorists is appropriate.

The U.S. and Europe also must fight the propaganda and hate that ISIS is spreading over the Internet in order to find disaffected people to join it. The misinformation that ISIS sends out must be countered with the truth.

It is time for vigilance. It is time for resolve. And it is time for the world to unite against ISIS and the terror it seeks to spread.___

Lincoln Journal Star. Mar. 24, 2016

Secrecy bill a disservice to the public.

The Legislature’s 38-8 vote to exempt the University of Nebraska from public records laws when searching for key leadership positions wasn’t a surprise.

The university, the Board of Regents and an impressive array of business organizations and leaders flexed their legislative muscles, convincing more than enough lawmakers that, “to stay competitive,” the university system needed to be able to identify a single candidate for public vetting before hiring, instead of the four finalists required by the soon-to-be former law. Only Gov. Pete Rickett’s signature is needed to make LB1109 official.

“We gotta run this thing like a business,” is today’s mantra.

Well, the university system isn’t a business. But if it were, the people running it just slapped the owners (taxpayers), employees (faculty) and customers (students) in the face. And 38 state senators helped them, taking what was already a compromised public records law - done on the university’s behalf but applying to all elected bodies - and making it even more restrictive. The university wants its taxpayer money, but, if isn’t too much trouble, they’d like it with as little accountability as possible.

The law, as passed, applies only to the University of Nebraska, but how long do you think it will be until a local school board wants to apply it to a superintendent search or a mayor to apply it to a police chief search? The passage of LB1109 doesn’t just put Nebraska on a slippery slope. It gives us a headlong shove that will require citizens and senators alike to help regain the right balance.

Public records and public meetings laws aren’t there to make life easier for government. They exist to make government more responsive, more accountable and, ultimately, more effective. If government is to do the will of the people, the people ought to know how the government is doing, and we learn that through a process of legally defined inclusion.

The 38 senators who backed LB1109 have voted for exclusion, unresponsiveness and unaccountability. They’ve put a dubious business proposition - the potential hiring of a marginally better candidate - above the interests of the people who sent them to the Capitol.

Their overwhelming approval shows their regard for the public’s access to information. We hope that senators - and voters - will be vigilant to guard against any further erosion. The public deserves to know more, not less, about how our public institutions are run.___

Omaha World-Herald. Mar. 27, 2016

Schools act to prevent teen suicide.

Nebraska school personnel interact daily with students, and they get many indications of students’ moods.

Speaking tone. Body language. Changes in approach to homework. Demeanor in the classroom. Behavior on the playing field.

It’s not only teachers and counselors who can pick up on these signs. The same goes for other school personnel, from coaches to paraprofessionals, nurses to librarians, principals to English as a Second Language instructors.

These Nebraskans are among the adults best positioned to recognize important signs that a student is suffering from serious emotional difficulties - difficulties that in the worst cases may lead young people to harm themselves.

In Nebraska and Iowa, suicide is the secondleading cause of death for those 15 to 19, according to the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Nationwide, a teen suicide occurs every 12 days on average. Nebraska saw nine suicides by youths 17 and younger during 2015, according to provisional data collected by the state. The total in 2014 was 14. In 2013, it was seven.

These deaths, each tragic in itself, also produce painful ripple effects across families, schools, houses of worship and communities.

An additional concern involves hospitalizations and bodily damage that stops short of being fatal. Across the country, an average of 157,000 young people ages 10 to 24 receive hospital treatment annually for self-inflicted injuries.

Nebraska is taking commendable action on this troubling issue. As required by a 2013 state law, Nebraska is using evidence-based, online software to train school personnel in understanding warning signs and appropriate responses. Training has now been given to almost 36,000 school staff members and administrators across the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

“The feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive toward the training content,” Jolene Palmer, the department’s school safety and security director, told The World-Herald.

Dr. David Miers, a longtime leader with the suicide prevention coalition, notes that the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention “specifies that suicide prevention is a health issue that must be addressed at all levels including educational institutions.”

“Youth suicide is preventable, and schools play an important part in this statewide effort,” says Miers, counseling and program development manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln.

Dawn Deuel-Rutt, a high school social worker with Grand Island Public Schools, says her district has created a multipronged strategy on this issue. “We want to be proactive in addressing suicide risk,” she told The World-Herald.

With a committee coordinating the effort, she said, the district provides training for all staff and advanced training for counselors, social workers and school psychologists. The district screens all at-risk youths from pre-K to 12th grade for emotional difficulties.

The statewide training effort for school personnel is only one part of strategic efforts by an array of Nebraska institutions - nonprofits, government agencies, medical centers, school systems and clergy - to address youth suicide, with the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition a central coordinating agent. This is a vital initiative deserving the public’s applause.

As for the schools, they indeed can play a crucial role - starting with something as simple as noticing an all-important change in a student’s behavior.

Picking up on that change and addressing it can make all the difference in the world.______

McCook Daily Gazette. Mar. 25, 2016

Candy’s not key part of Easter.

A popular cartoon shows two chocolate Easter bunnies. One, which has its tail bit off, says “My butt hurts!”

The other, missing its ears, says “What?”

If you’re like most Americans, the first one belongs to you. Eighty-nine percent of us eat the ears first, 6 percent start with the feet and 5 percent with the tail.

You’re also in the majority, 65 percent, if you prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, 27 percent.

It took a lot of chocolate to make the largest Easter egg ever made, 24 feet high, weighing 16,000 pounds, and the largest bunny was 12 feet tall, weighed 6,635 pounds and took four South Africans three days to sculpt.

Candy makers are cashing in, of course, with M&Ms; offering pastel spring colors for the past 30 years, and Reese’s making peanut butter eggs.

The first chocolate Easter eggs appeared in Europe in the early 1800s.

But it’s not all about the chocolate.

Candy companies turn out as many as 5 million Marshmallow Peeps a day to get ready for Easter, a process that used to take 27 hours per peep in 1953, but which now takes only six minutes. Most of them are yellow, but others are pink, lavender, blue and white.

We eat 16 billion jellybeans each year, enough, which lined end-to-end, would circle the globe nearly three times.

William Schrafft is thought to have invented them in his Boston candy shop, running advertisement urging people to send jellybeans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.

Most kids age 6-11 like to eat jellybeans one at a time, but nearly a quarter, most of them boys, eat them by the handful.

It’s a good season for celebration, especially with green grass and daffodils showing their colors after this week’s snowstorm in Southwest Nebraska.

While they enjoy the candy as much as anyone, devout Christians here and around the world remember the message of one who died for their sins on Good Friday, rising three days later to offer eternal life.___

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