- Associated Press - Monday, October 9, 2017

Omaha World-Herald. October 6, 2017

Tree-planting campaign continues a Nebraska tradition

Tree planting has a venerable, important history in Nebraska.

Arbor Day’s roots lie deep in the state’s soil and the inspiring vision of J. Sterling Morton. More recently, Omahans launched a tremendous tree-planting campaign after the massive ice storm, 20 years ago this month, that downed about a third of the city’s tree inventory.

Each year, dozens of communities promote tree planting through ReTree Nebraska. Now volunteers are planting trees in Omaha in a proactive effort to compensate for tree loss from an expected emerald ash borer infestation.

Nebraskans have long appreciated what a vital asset trees can be for a community. All involved in these planting efforts deserve a salute.

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Lincoln Journal Star. October 2, 2017

Whiteclay ruling an overdue victory for Pine Ridge

History books overflow with Native tribes being wronged by federal and state governments. In ruling that Whiteclay’s beer stores must remain closed, the Nebraska Supreme Court has awarded a rare victory to the tribes residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Barring an unforeseen legal development, the four beer stores in the Sheridan County hamlet that exported 3.5 million cans of beer, primarily to the adjacent reservation, will remain closed. That decision is the long-awaited victory for the tribes and activists who sought this outcome for decades.

A Native activist called the ruling’s impact for the Oglala Lakota people possibly the biggest for the tribe since Sitting Bull defeated George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

In 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt all but eliminated a 50-square-mile buffer zone around the Pine Ridge that was designed to prevent alcohol sales, unscrupulous traders were more than happy to make a quick buck by hawking liquor to Native populations. Until this year, Nebraska had been the hub for selling alcohol to the officially dry reservation.

After the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission ordered the stores closed in April, vagrants were no longer passed out on Whiteclay’s sidewalks. Alcohol-fueled assaults and killings stopped. Last week’s ruling reaffirming the state edict is both cause for celebration and a reminder of the long road ahead.

Closing down the nearest and most convenient beer stores won’t solve the problems of widespread substance abuse - and the health crises it causes - on the reservation.

Bootlegging remains a problem, one Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has accused the beer store owners of abetting. Still, people determined to purchase booze have showed they’re willing to drive to Rushville or Chadron to get their fix. Three fatal alcohol-related car crashes near the reservation have demonstrated as much.

But Nebraska fueled this problem for more than a century. It’s our turn to begin undoing the legacy of harm peddled across the state line in South Dakota, where the reservation reports high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome and a life expectancy similar to a Third World country.

The court’s ruling ends Nebraska’s overt, direct contributions to the scourge of alcoholism at Pine Ridge. But it by no means absolves this state of responsibility in the community and family problems caused by Whiteclay. A victory in the courts is only the first step toward fixing the societal ills to which Nebraska contributed for years.

By essentially guaranteeing Whiteclay will remain dry, the Nebraska Supreme Court has blotted out the stain of beer sales. Now, Nebraska must help in the long, arduous process of restoring the fabric of the Pine Ridge reservation after years of worsening the Natives’ plight.

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Kearney Hub.  October 3, 2017

Harvest brings fields electrifying dangers

It’s harvest season and the inclination for farmers is to look down, not up. They look down from their seats in combines at the thousands of rows of corn and beans they’re harvesting and carrying away to silos and big piles at collection stations.

Although the inclination is to look down, Nebraska Public Power District is urging farmers to look up and around. The safety message is going out because last week, a grain trailer contacted an NPPD powerline. The trailer’s tires were damaged, as was the NPPD powerline, but fortunately nobody was injured or killed.

According to NPPD’s Transmission and Distribution Manager Art Wiese, last week’s grain trailer accident was one of several this fall, so farmers need to be careful to put safety first, even in the rush of harvest.

NPPD suggests starting each day of harvest with a safety briefing that includes a reminder of all of the electrical lines and poles that drivers of harvest equipment need to avoid. Taller trucks, trailers and combines - many of which are significantly wider than in the past - multiply the likelihood that accidents might happen.

What should equipment operators do if they accidentally run into a powerline and are entangled?

NPPD said you’re probably safest if you patiently remain inside the equipment. Call for help and stay put until it arrives.

If the line is energized, anyone who steps outside could become the path for the electrical current - a deadly mistake.

If you must, the safe strategy is to jump - not step - with both feet hitting the ground simultaneously. NPPD advises to jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle to safety, keeping both feet as close together as possible as you leave the area.

While looking up and around for the big machinery, don’t overlook the little stuff. Ladders, poles and even tree limbs and ropes can conduct electricity if they’re damp or contaminated with dirt.

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Grand Island Independent. October 5, 2017

Getting career-ready

Grand Island Public Schools announced its initial plans for setting up the Grand Island Prep Academy program at Grand Island Senior High last week.

The plan is for every high school student in the district to enter one of five academies at the beginning of their sophomore year, after a year spent in the Freshman Academy exploring their options.

This will be a huge change from the traditional approach currently being used at the school. Every student will choose a focus that will determine what classes they take, with the goal of preparing to either enter a specific career field after graduation or pursue further education toward a career.

The academies are based on the H3 model created by the state of Nebraska. H3 stands for high-wage, high-skill and high-demand jobs. Students will have the following options:

Health Sciences Academy: Pathways for students interested in health care, sports medicine/physical therapy and emergency/first responder careers.

Human Services Academy: Pathways for students interested in education, criminal justice/law, JROTC aerospace and environmental sciences/public works careers.

Technical Sciences Academy: Pathways for students interested in construction technology, manufacturing, welding, drafting/design and automotive technology careers.

Power, Robotics and Security Academy: Pathways for students interested in engineering, alternative energy, power and cybersecurity/information technology careers.

Business and Communication Academy: Pathways for students interested in finance, entrepreneurship, graphic arts, media production, logistics and agribusiness careers.

In order to be college ready, all freshman will visit a college campus and all juniors will take the ACT college entrance exam, as the state of Nebraska is now requiring in public schools.

In order to be career ready, students will complete a course load designed for their particular academy.

The district recognizes that not all students will find that their first academy choice is a good fit, so there will be the opportunity to switch to a different academy. But the further a student proceeds in high school, the harder it will be to change direction.

Another issue will arise with students whose career aspirations don’t land comfortably in one of these five academies. We hope that the Senior High administration and faculty will encourage students to use elective classes to steer themselves toward a satisfying career.

Public meetings are being planned to explain the Prep Academy program for parents of high school and eighth-grade students. Along with the career focus comes a big change in the school’s daily schedule, so some explanation will be needed.

But with the Freshman Academy beginning next August and the other academies beginning a year later, there is still time for the district to tweak its plans, so we also encourage the district’s administration to encourage input from parents and students and use that input to improve the program before it starts.

The district’s Career Pathways Institute has been a very successful step toward preparing Senior High students for careers, but the Prep Academies is all-encompassing and seeks to ensure that all students are getting what they need to be successful when they enter the world of work.

The keys will be developing a passion in each student for their chosen career and providing each of them the guidance and encouragement they need to pick the best educational course for themselves.

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