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Omaha World Herald. April 11, 2018

Goodwill Omaha makes welcome changes in pursuing a new path

Goodwill Omaha is taking numerous steps to remedy concerns from the recent past, redirecting more resources to its programming and adopting guidelines for responsible operations. The charity says it still has a ways to go in meeting all its goals, but the overall direction is encouraging.

World-Herald reporting in 2016 found that the charity had awarded more than $5 million in no-bid contracts over the past decade to two major Omaha companies whose executives sat on the nonprofit's board.

Some family members and friends of Goodwill Omaha leaders received smaller no-bid contracts. The charity was putting more of its revenues from sales of donated goods into pay for its leaders than in the jobs programs that are the basis of its nonprofit mission and tax-exempt status.

Under its new CEO, Michael McGinnis, Goodwill Omaha underwent an internal ethics review and has revised its code of ethics, adopting guidelines from the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands.

It has ended its practice of paying some disabled workers less than minimum wage and has reduced the number of employees paid more than $100,000 from 14 to three. The charity's full board of trustees now weighs in on all compensation decisions.

The nonprofit aims to strengthen its services, including a program for high school special education students and its work in Iowa and rural Nebraska communities, says McGinnis, a retired Army brigadier general who formerly served as chief executive of the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum and the Peter Kiewit Institute.

These are all welcome steps. Goodwill Omaha and the Omaha area as a whole will benefit as McGinnis and his colleagues continue to move the charity down this positive path.

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Scottsbluff Star Herald. April 10, 2018.

Fire needs put out quickly

The majority of American farmers went into the voting booth in November 2016 and voted for Donald J. Trump. The Midwest farm belt, Kansas, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, and beyond gave Trump the electoral votes to become President Donald Trump.

Today, as our Pesident leads us foolishly into a trade war he said would be "easy to win," those who put him into the Oval Office are the first casualties.

Trump announced 25 percent increase in tariffs against Chinese products. Before the ink could hardly dry, China imposed $50 billion in American products including beef and pork. China is a major buyer of U.S. Pork.

Of the top 10 pork producing states, according to pork.org, eight, including Iowa, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska, saw their electoral votes help put Trump in office.

As for beef producers, all but one state (California) in the top five for cattle and calves and one state in the top five for cattle in feedlots (Colorado), according to beef.org, gave their electoral votes to candidate Donald Trump. Nebraska ranked second to Texas in both.

The tariffs have and will continue to hit hard. Pork prices dropped to a 16-month low last week in response to China's action.

In response to China's new tariffs, Trump is now proposing to implement another $100 billion in new tariffs.

"Hopefully, the president is just blowing off steam again but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts," U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (NE) said in a press release in regard to the president's statement on THE $100 billion of tariffs. "China is guilty of many things, but the President has no actual plan to win right now. He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. That is the dumbest possible way to do this."

Ag producers are struggling with low prices and are are operating on top of kindling ready to burn. The last thing they need is a President they helped get elected throwing in the match.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan, officially called the European Recovery Program, was implemented to help rebuild Europe, according to history.com. The United States gave $13 billion (about $130 billion at today's dollar value) in economic support for war torn Europe.

Will farmers and ranchers get equal treatment at the end of this trade war?

Mr. President, if you are taking this country into a long drawn out trade war, do you have a Marshall Plan in the works to provide economic support and recovery for what will be a war torn agricultural sector?

The men and women working in the agriculture sector who wake up every morning and work late into the night contribute over $992 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, according to the USDA's 2015 numbers. In 2016, 21.4 million full-and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors.

These are big numbers which should not be ignored or seen as temporary casualties. The wounds inflicted by a trade war on these American farmers and ranchers will leave them crippled and/or dying.

"I encourage the Administration to sit down and find a solution to this tariff war with China that protects the U.S.'s agricultural economy, promotes fair and free trade, and protects our intellectual property," U.S. Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02) said in a press release.

Bacon and Sasse are correct — Nebraska has way too much to lose in this trade war.

Mr. President, please, bring this foolish trade war to a quick end without leaving behind a scorched economy for those who helped put you into office.

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Lincoln Journal Star. April 13, 2018

Knowledge key to getting anywhere on gun debate

Perhaps the loudest cheer of a recent forum on student safety came after an attendee's forceful plea to solve gun violence: "Nobody needs a f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) semiautomatic rifle."

On the surface, that might sound appealing to many supporters of stricter gun regulations, given that weapons such as the AR-15 — used in the shooting that killed 17 in a Florida high school — would fall under the category. Chatter about such a ban has increased in recent months.

To gun owners, though, this proposal presents an obvious problem: It criminalizes the firearms used lawfully by hunters in addition to those commonly classified as assault weapons.

This illustrates perhaps the greatest roadblock to finding common ground on the divisive topic of guns. Too often, zeal drives while facts are relegated to the backseat. A lack of knowledge and understanding of why others think differently only perpetuates anger and discord that overshadow any discussion of the proper balance of gun rights and restrictions with those who hold different views.

Everyone wants to end the senseless slaughter of innocents, but it seems we as a nation are too entrenched in our individual viewpoints to understand those with whom we disagree. Such narrow-mindedness promotes tribalism and an unwillingness to see the other side.

Part of the problem comes with the utter ease with which intelligent individuals can wrap themselves in echo chambers.

Many who want stricter gun control have never been around law-abiding gun owners and can't understand the allure of these weapons. Others who are comfortable around firearms, meanwhile, fail to grasp how their familiarity with guns isn't universal.

Nothing is inherently wrong with either perspective. But before demonizing the other side, learn why people hold their beliefs. What good does it do to brand gun-rights advocates as some kind of ignorant Yosemite Sams? Or labeling those who support stricter gun laws as freedom-hating hippies?

Nothing productive occurs as a result, but plenty of irreparable damage can be done to civil discourse along the way. Since compelling arguments can be made on both sides — hear us out, regardless of your own persuasions — people can dig their heels in without ever being exposed to other opinions.

The semiautomatic rifle debate referenced above, just one of countless threads comprising the broad tapestry of guns in America, illustrates how nuanced any gun discussion must be to encompass the full picture. Unfortunately, that nuance is often lost as a side effect of the fervor stoked by what's increasingly become a controversial conversation.

The Second Amendment guarantees Americans won't live without guns. We must learn to live with them in a way that reduces the mass shootings plaguing this country — and that can't happen until we begin to better understand one another.

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McCook Daily Gazette. April 13, 2018

McCook, state in good position to attract millennials

We wish McCook Economic Development Corp. director Andrew Ambriz all the best as he moves on to a similar position in Broken Bow.

He and his wife recently welcomed a new baby, and we completely understand a desire to share a growing family with grandparents and other family members.

Ambriz's loss is a blow to the MEDC not only because of his attitude and abilities but as a millennial, he is in a good position to play to one of Nebraska's strong suits.

In concert with the McCook Chamber of Commerce's stated mission of making McCook a great place to live, work and play, the MEDC has been making strides to appeal to the important millennial demographic, which is generally defined as those born between 1981 and 1996.

Compared to many states, Nebraska has affordable housing, which is reflected in a study (http://bit.ly/2He7A83) by the personal finance website WalletHub.com, which found Nebraska is the No. 6th best state for millennials who are not living with their parents and 10th for housing costs.

Overall, Nebraska ranked as the 8th best state for millennials, ranking 2nd in unemployment, 19th for the number of millennials living here, 20th for insured millennials and 30th for homeownership rate.

McCook EDC President Dennis Berry said the group has "many balls in the air," including the potential for new retail businesses, a possible truck stop and the availability of space and utilities in the city's business park in southeast McCook.

Nothing can be accomplished without financial backing, of course, and the announcement that the U.S. Treasury Department had approved the designation of parts of McCook and a rural area to the northeast as an "Opportunity Zone," can help provide that backing.

Those who invest through certified investment vehicles created as "Opportunity Funds" can benefit from tax incentives such as deferrals on capital gains tax.

McCook has made great strides in recent years in alleviating housing shortages, and is blessed with several major employers as well as a number of businesses started by young entrepreneurs.

City officials are in the process of deciding which civic projects deserve priority status in the coming years, and are welcoming public input.

The Opportunity Zone designation, as well as continued emphasis on the needs of millennials, provide a couple more pieces to the puzzle of sustaining a vibrant, growing community.

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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