- Associated Press - Monday, July 17, 2017

Omaha World-Herald. July 12, 2017

There are tech-sector opportunities for women, minority workers

The nation’s economy can be helped significantly if the pace picks up in boosting the number of skilled workers for the tech sector, labor analysts report.

Take the example of computer science. The U.S. Department of Labor projected last year that by 2020 the country will likely be producing fewer than one-third of the new computer specialists needed by private industry.

An important strategy to address the tech-sector challenge is to increase the number of women and minority graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

There’s considerable opportunity. The National Science Foundation points out that while only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science go to women at present, 45 percent of eighth-grade girls scored at proficiency level on a national test of technology and engineering skills.

In 2015, the Washington Post reported that the field of statistics has had greater success at recruiting and retaining women than have most other STEM fields.

Ingredients for success, experts said, include creating more welcoming environments, establishing a critical mass of female students and promoting qualified female leaders. The article pointed to the statistics department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a successful example.

World-Herald staff writer Rick Ruggles has reported on efforts in Nebraska and Iowa to boost outreach to female and minority students in tech-related majors.

Frantzlee LaCrete, an award-winning graduate of Chadron State College, will start medical school this fall at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, for example. A biracial student from Lewellen, a small town in western Nebraska, he is a participant in the Rural Health Opportunities Program, a collaboration of UNMC and Nebraska’s state college system to encourage rural residents to go into health care professions.

LaCrete has long shown a scientific aptitude and cites the importance of mentors in encouraging him.

A number of schools in Nebraska and Iowa are offering outreach programs in hopes of encouraging more women and minority students to explore science and related fields. Among them:

“ Creighton University funds undergraduate and graduate-level scholarships for women studying science or math and established the Clare Boothe Luce Faculty Chair for Women in Science.

“ The University of Nebraska at Omaha partners with Girls Inc. to provide a girls summer camp focusing on STEM opportunities.

“ The College of St. Mary gives scholarships annually through its Marie Curie scholarship program for women in biology, chemistry or math.

“ Nebraska Wesleyan University offers STEM scholarships to low-income students.

“ Minority students receive dozens of scholarships in engineering, agriculture and other disciplines at Iowa State University. The scholarship program is named after prominent African-American scientific inventor George Washington Carver, who attended Iowa State and served on its faculty.

The country fortunately is seeing progress. Between 2008-09 and 2014-15, total degrees in STEM were up 39 percent for women, 30 percent for blacks and 76 percent for Hispanics.

That’s the kind of progress that’s needed. Encouragement from mentors and support from institutions of higher learning are opening up important opportunities to help students and our economy.


Kearney Hub. July 13, 2017

Voters want fairness, not government intrusion

It used to be that Americans recognized government intrusion and recoiled against it, but in the era of terrorism, we’ve become so accustomed to Uncle Sam watching over us that we hardly take notice when the feds attempt to dig deeper and know more about us.

An example of this new permissiveness can be observed as the White House attempts to obtain voter records from each of the 50 states to support Donald Trump’s claim that 3 million votes were fraudulently cast in the presidential election.

Last week the curiously labeled federal Commission on Election Integrity asked for detailed information on every voter in the country. Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale balked initially, but agreed to turn over some information with assurances none of it would fall into the wrong hands. We would rather that Gale would have refused the commission’s request, citing concerns about unwarranted intrusion, but for now a court has put a hold on the release of voter info until it determines the legality of the commission’s request.

Across the border, our friends in Kansas have a big problem.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is sold on Trump’s voter fraud claim and is willing to intrude to whatever degree necessary to uncover the alleged 3 million fraudulent voters. Kobach serves as vice chair of the Commission on Election Integrity and drafted the letter that went to the nation’s secretaries of state requesting the voter data.

Kobach wants names, addresses, birth dates, party registrations, voting histories and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.

Some states have refused the request, some have just not responded. Others said they would hand over their voter records.

Americans should be deeply concerned by the commission’s inquiry, supposedly in the name of election integrity.

Every American wants honest and fair elections, but the commission seeks information that serves no valid purpose. However, it does provide unethical lawmakers the toehold they need to suppress voters, such as repealing motor-voter registration laws. Gale should retract his approval, and all secretaries of state should refuse to comply, or they’ll risk voter privacy and worse, lose trust they’ve worked hard to earn from voters.


Lincoln Journal Star.  July 13, 2017

Environmental plan hits right notes for Lincoln

Sustainability must be far from an unfulfilled campaign promise or a feel-good suggestion; it must be a concrete plan to conserve the air, water and land for future generations.

A draft of an environmental plan released Tuesday by Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler appears to do just that, setting a path for the capital city to reduce its energy consumption and waste, improve efficiency for all forms of transportation and grow environmental stewardship and conservation.

The detailed 21-page document lays out what we view as a sound effort to start a community conversation on a wide range of environmental issues - ranging from car traffic to storm runoff - that affect all Lincolnites.

“If we can increase recycling, keep our water and air clean, preserve our natural resources and reduce the emissions that harm our local environment,” Beutler said, “we will have left a legacy for our community for the next century.”

These simple goals, stated both in the plan and at Tuesday’s press conference, should be rallying points and a common desire for everyone. Sustainability and the environment affect all of us.

However, far too many people view “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” as dirty words. They’re often panned as ways to needlessly increase government control and regulation at the expense of taxpayers and business.

Beutler’s proposal seems to work with those groups rather than against them, highlighting success stories on voluntary efforts undertaken by a handful of Lincoln’s large employers and noting additional cost savings that accompany using more energy-efficient technologies - though some items, such as expanded recycling efforts, obviously come with a price tag.

What’s notable is that the plan doesn’t build upon the cardboard ban the City Council approved this spring - which is a good thing. The carefully crafted compromise needs to remain in place until its impact can be analyzed. We’re pleased to see Beutler didn’t immediately dump that for a more far-reaching proposal simply because he now has a Democratic majority on the council.

Though Beutler called for reviews and updates to this document every two years, some of the plan’s goals are efforts already in progress, such as improving traffic flow to reduce emissions, replacing and diversifying tree populations killed by the emerald ash borer, replacing street lights with LEDs and increasing waste diversion and recycling rates.

The mayor’s plan is available for public comment, both on the city’s website and at an open house later this month. By all means, Lincoln, make your voice heard.

We’re doing the same here. From our perspective, Beutler’s environmental plan appears to be a reasonable starting place to benefit and improve the quality of life for Lincoln’s current and future residents.


McCook Daily Gazette. July 13, 2017

A tragic reminder of the need for safety outdoors

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Cambridge High School grad Chad Fuller, his family and friends after a weekend accident in which he suffered a broken neck and paralysis.

His father, Bob, is a former McCook High School?football coach now at Grand Island Central Catholic, and his mother, Jo, is a Cambridge city councilwoman.

The accident is a reminder of how our lives can change in an instant.

Enjoying a family get-together over the weekend in St. Paul, Chad suffered the injury on a popular slip-and-slide device at his brother’s home on a lake.

He’s an assistant principal at David City.

Chad and his family are receiving an outpouring of support from the school and coaching community across the state, and as anyone who has gone through a similar experience knows, it is needed and appreciated.

Unfortunately, stories of tragedies are all too common during the summer, but we shouldn’t let them prevent us from enjoying exercise and other activities that are only available this time of the year.

It goes without say that we should take simple precautions and watch out for ourselves and others while we’re enjoying the outdoors.


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