- Associated Press - Monday, February 6, 2017

Omaha World-Herald. February 1, 2017

Nursing shortage affects Midlands

Now’s a good time to go into nursing.

As demand for medical care for an aging population continues to rise, the supply of new nursing school graduates continues to fall short of need.

Nationally, the Department of Labor expects a shortfall of 1.1 million. Nebraska alone could face a shortage of about 4,000 nurses by 2020.



That drives competition for nursing talent in the Omaha area and elsewhere. The result: Nursing students are being offered thousands of dollars in signing bonuses, training in specialty care, student loan help and more, in addition to starting salaries above $55,000 a year.

The Midlands were insulated during some of the recent economic downturn from the worst of the national nursing shortage, thanks primarily to older nurses who delayed retirements and part-time nurses who picked up more hours.

That is no longer the case, as The World-Herald’s Julie Anderson reported Sunday.

Of Nebraska’s 93 counties, 71 have fewer than the national average of 9.2 registered nurses per 1,000 people. The Nebraska Hospital Association showed a statewide vacancy rate for nurses of nearly 11 percent. Traveling nurses from local and regional staffing agencies, a more costly option, are being used to fill in some of the gaps.

Part of this is simply a numbers game. More people today are seeking medical care because more have access to health insurance, through Obamacare, Medicare or Medicaid.

And insurers and hospitals are changing the way Americans are medically treated and hospitalized. While fewer people are admitted to hospitals these days, those who are typically are sicker, which increases staffing demands.

Private health care providers, working with the state and others, are trying to answer the call. CHI Health, Methodist Health System, Nebraska Medicine, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Clarkson College, Creighton University, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and other teaching institutions are making aggressive efforts to train nurses statewide and boost the education of nursing assistants and others who want new jobs.

The problem is nationwide. But here’s hoping the Midlands’ unique blend of private donors, public supporters, lawmakers and civic leaders keeps finding creative ways to address it.

In the meantime, young people with an interest in science and helping others would do well to consider nursing. Schools have openings, and hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other medical businesses have good jobs waiting.

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Lincoln Journal Star. February 3, 2017

Don’t siphon money from public schools

School choice comes at a cost. The proposed vouchers for private schools, tax credits and the like drain money from the public school system.

That’s something to keep in mind as advocates for school choice make a big push this legislative session.

Their cause has never found much traction in Nebraska, but things may be changing.

School choice supporters have an ally in the governor’s mansion and new, supportive senators in the legislative chambers. They also have a nominee for U.S. Education Secretary who has devoted much of her life to the charter school movement.

In Nebraska, lawmakers including Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill and Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion are submitted a host of proposals.

Around the country, the charter school movement found fertile ground in areas where public schools were in dire straits. In Nebraska, however, public schools are doing a great job, with a few, isolated exceptions.

For example, Nebraska has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country at 89 percent. It also ranks among the top 12 states in all categories of the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Interestingly, Nebraska also has a long tradition of school choice - just not the kind that private school advocates are pushing. In Lincoln, for example, hundreds of students go to public high schools outside of their attendance areas.

In fact, 22,148 Nebraska students use their option enrollment to attend public schools in other districts, Ralston Public Schools Superintendent Mark Adler wrote in a Local View column.

There is absolutely no doubt parents should have the right to send their children to private schools that emphasize religious values.

But should other taxpayers be forced to subsidize that choice? Many Nebraskans send tax dollars to public schools districts even though they have no school-age children. Should that money be diverted so some parents can send their children to schools with daily prayer and church services?

Although charter school proponents make it sound like private schools invariably do a better job than public schools, the reality is that around the country some charter schools have failed miserably. In Ohio, state auditors have found more than $27 million spent improperly.

Another reality is that providing tax breaks for parents who send their kids to private schools often means that most of the benefit flows to the wealthy. In Wisconsin, tax filers making more than $100,000 a year claimed two-thirds of a private school tuition tax cut, the Madison State Journal reported this month.

In Nebraska, the push to give tax breaks for private schools seems like a solution in search of a problem. State senators should do the same thing they have done every time similar proposals have been offered: Vote them down.

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Kearney Hub. February 3, 2017

Films ask: Can race bring us together?

A rose to … the cinema, which magically transports us to worlds we’ve never been and challenges us to think and feel beyond the everyday. Those are the effects UNK Spanish professor Michelle Warren hopes to evoke with a trio of films she’s bringing to The World Theatre during the next three months.

The series is, “Race, Ethnicity and Their Effects on Society,” and it arrives in Kearney as Americans are examining their attitudes about physical, cultural and spiritual differences and whether these should separate us or draw us together.

Warren recently organized the “Mujeres” exhibit of Latin women’s art at the Museum of Nebraska Art, a show that exposed the beauty of diversity as much as it displayed Latin creativity and expression. In the “Race, Ethnicity and Their Effects on Society” series, viewers will again experience the unfamiliar and, we hope, gain enlightenment.

“These are all films you could watch on Netflix, but gathering together to see them, as a shared experience with an audience of 200 other people, is a good way to process the stories and the messages of the films,” Warren said. “We organized this film series as a way to explore the effects on society of race.”

The series begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with a free screening of “Ixcanul (Volcano).” The film depicts the difficulty of life in the highlands of Guatemala. English subtitles will aid viewers who need brushing up on their indigenous Kaqchikel and Spanish. Other films - “Chloe & Theo” and “The Whistleblower,” respectively, are scheduled in March and April.

Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment are funding the films, which will challenge viewers to decide whether mankind’s differences should push us apart or draw us together.

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McCook Daily Gazette. January 31, 2017

New reminders of the wisdom of an old truth

It’s a tired old adage, but as true as ever:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The latest to learn the hard way are customers of Creative Creations, which got a little too creative with travel packages back in 2014 and 2015.

PatriciaUrbanovsky of Omaha, 31, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $4.7 million in restitution.

She was convicted of 16 counts of wire fraud after claiming to have a special relationship with another travel company and an airline that enabled her to sell airline tickets and vacation packages far below the market rate.

Urbanovsky was able to keep the scheme going by using money from new customers to buy actual tickets in time for earlier customers to use.

Like all Ponzi schemes, however, it collapsed under its own weight, cheating nine victims out of almost $4.7 million.

That included a group of 27 eight-graders and 20 adults who paid nearly $13,000 for a trip to Washington D.C. After the fraud came to light, sympathetic donors pitched in to enable the kids to make the trip three months later.

The main victim was a credit card company that suffered more than $4.6 million in losses from charge backs from Creative Creation accounts.

Travel voucher victims can find some small solace in knowing they have something in common with Steven Spielberg, Kevin Bacon, Larry King and many more celebrities.

They were victims of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, losing $65 billion to Bernie Madoff, who doesn’t seem to be taking rehabilitation seriously while serving 150 years in prison.

His latest scheme involves cornering the market on hot chocolate.

Reporter Steve Fishman says Madoff hasn’t lost his business touch in prison.

“At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market. He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. He monopolized hot chocolate! He made it so that if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.”

Fishman’s interviews with Madoff are part of an Audible series called “Ponzi Supernova.”

Just two more reminders to stop and think before money leaves your hand in exchange for a promise of products or service.

Always try to deal with someone you trust, and even if you do, if the deal they are offering seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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