- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

Omaha World-Herald. August 18, 2017

Midlands food banks are combating rural hunger

Urban areas in Nebraska and Iowa have no monopoly on financial stress and food insecurity. Big challenges with hunger are found in rural communities, too.

That’s why Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland is sponsoring mobile food banks, from June through October, in rural communities in Nebraska and western Iowa.

It’s an eminently worthy cause. The agency estimates that nearly 214,000 Midlanders in its 93-county service area, 11.8 percent of the population, struggle with food insecurity.



As The World-Herald has reported, food stamp usage in Nebraska has increased for the past two years, though part of the rise was due to greater outreach by anti-hunger advocates and improved processing by the state.

The Food Bank for the Heartland and the individuals and businesses that support this effort deserve applause for helping tackle this major social need.

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Lincoln Journal Star. August 16, 2017

Prison suit highlights conditions that must change

The lawsuit filed Wednesday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding conditions and overcrowding in Nebraska’s prisons should come as no surprise.

The concept behind the suit is far from new. Overcrowding and understaffing have long plagued Nebraska’s penal system, and the Journal Star editorial board has for years called upon state officials to address the health and safety concerns of incarcerated Nebraskans.

What is new is the level of detail in the allegations, including the lack of accommodations for those with disabilities and statistics highlighting the scope and extent of overcrowding and use of isolation that are among the highest in the nation.

Most importantly, the 84-page filing indicates what we’ve come to expect from Nebraska’s prisons is not normal. With litigation against the Department of Correctional Services, Nebraska Board of Parole and three officials in those departments now officially pending, the state must swiftly take overdue action to improve the conditions in its facilities.

State and federal data indicate Nebraska prisons are at 159 percent of their designed capacity. They have zero psychiatrists currently on staff and battle ever-increasing staff turnover. The suit alleges they resort to segregation more frequently and on more inmates than recommended. Federal stats show a prisoner suicide rate nearly 30 percent higher than the national average.

This is not normal. But, sadly, it has become so in Nebraska prisons.

Prisoners may not be a politically expedient group to appease, seeing as felons don’t have the right to vote for two years after their release and are invisible to most voters. But they are Nebraskans and Americans nonetheless - and didn’t lose their rights as such by entering prison.

Yet, in a statement released Wednesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the lawsuit “threatens public safety by seeking the early release of dangerous criminals and could endanger our Corrections officers by further limiting the tools they have to manage the inmate population.”

Prisoners aren’t there to be managed, simply held until their release. These men and women in the corrections system need adequate care and resources if they hope to be rehabilitated for re-entry into society - hence the use of the word “corrections” - as nearly all will one day be eligible to leave.

Accordingly, it’s in the best interest of the state and its taxpayers to ensure inmates leaving state prisons and reintegrating into Nebraska are healthy, functioning, contributing citizens. The more of them who hold jobs and pay taxes helps reduce the financial burden of support paid by all Nebraskans.

For decades, Nebraska’s prison system has been in disrepair. After years of inadequate investment and inmate care, the status quo cannot continue - and must see dramatic improvement after the introduction of this lawsuit.

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The Grand Island Independent.  August 18, 2017

An August storm for the record books

Farmers and ranchers are hard-wired to think of rain as liquid gold.

They have been given pause by a freakish summer storm of biblical proportions that washed across a massive section of the Great Plains Tuesday night, reaching from southern South Dakota into Kansas and from Wyoming and Colorado on the west to Iowa on the east, virtually covering the entire state of Nebraska.

The power of the storm and extent of the damage it rendered caught farmers and ranchers off guard, as the weather system was more typical of a spring or early summer pattern than the normal hot, dry conditions of mid- August.

Tuesday night’s record-breaking fury dealt Central Nebraska another hard blow while some areas were still recovering from last weekend’s devastating storms.

Prior to Tuesday’s storm, Custer County had been drenched by 10 to 15 inches of rain and shredded by a series of wind and hail storms.

Responding to the sudden end of a long dry spell, Mark Rempe, Custer County emergency manager, observed, “We’ve been waiting for rain all summer, and we got it all in one shot.”

Rempe reported wind and hail crop damage was suffered over a 6- to 10-mile-wide swath stretching across the county from border to border.

Flooding took out additional acreages of grain fields and pasture and flooded roads and feedlots.

The timing of the damage could not be worse, as it hit at the peak of the growing and summer grazing seasons, leaving no time for recovery. Rural residents and communities throughout Central Nebraska are also dealing with toppled trees, flooded streets, power outages and damaged homes and cars.

In rural Nebraska, the recovery is in full swing, with neighbors helping neighbors. Our hearts go out to the farmers and ranchers of the region and all who were harmed by the storms. We share in their loss and pray for better days ahead.

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McCook Daily Gazette. August 16, 2017

Predator case reminds parents to remain vigilant

It’s a transition time for many families, with McCook children heading off to school today, offering new adventures and challenges for both the students and their parents.

Just how much freedom should be offered to a child at any given age? How much privacy should a child be allowed, and how far should parents go when it comes to monitoring their activities?

It’s hard to go too far, especially with younger children, when one considers a Grand Island case earlier this week.

The Nebraska State Patrol acted quickly when it learned that a man had begun a sexual conversation on Facebook with a 12-year-old girl, and persisted even after she informed him of her age.

Thankfully, her parents knew what was going on and turned her account over to the State Patrol Monday, which assigned an investigator trained in undercover operations for online Internet crimes against children.

Posing as the girl, the investigator arranged a meeting in a Grand Island park, where the man was arrested that afternoon.

Ideally, children will have the kind of relationship with their parents that promote the kind of honest communication that lead to the Grand Island arrest.

Before being allowed on the Internet, children should demonstrate their willingness to follow some basic rules.

They include:

(asterisk) not giving out address, telephone number, parents’ workplace or other private family information.

(asterisk) telling parents right away if coming across something inappropriate.

(asterisk) never arranging a face-to-face meeting with someone “met” online without informing their parents.

(asterisk) talk to parents about posting personal or family pictures.

(asterisk) not responding to mean or aggressive messages.

(asterisk) setting up rules in advance for online and mobile behavior.

(asterisk) keeping passwords secret except to parents.

(asterisk) not downloading or installing anything without permission.

(asterisk) be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is illegal.

Anyone who suspects a child has been exposed to an online predator should contact law enforcement as soon as possible.

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