Nebraska News

University leader in Lincoln addresses racism in community
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A leader at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says the school is taking steps to address issues of racism on campus and in the community. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Chancellor Harvey Perlman wrote a letter to organizers of a "Black Lives Matter" rally held in November. He responded to the organizers' list of seven specific requests by outlining the steps the university is taking to make campus a more inclusive space that values all of its community members. He said some of the organizer's requests are already being met as academic departments look to incorporate multicultural programs and the university focuses on increasing diversity through new hires. Rally organizers say the most important part of the statement was the chancellor's acknowledgment that racism is present at the university and in the Lincoln community.

Farm income declining in region so loan demand growing
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says farm income continued to decline during the fourth quarter in Midwestern and Western states, so farmers are borrowing more. But the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri said Thursday that bankers report few problems with farmers failing to make loan payments. Farm income is down because prices have declined for cattle, soybeans, wheat and corn. The value of farmland continues to decline. The value of non-irrigated land declined 4 percent in the fourth quarter, and irrigated land values slipped 2 percent from the previous year. The value of ranchland was flat in the quarter after declining an average of 8 percent in the first nine months of 2015. The 10th Federal Reserve District covers Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, northern New Mexico and western Missouri.

Opponents urge lawmakers to snuff out tobacco tax increase
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's tobacco tax could more than double under a bill that is drawing praise from health officials but strong criticism from retailers, grocers and smokers. A legislative committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill by Senator Mike Gloor that would bump Nebraska's cigarette tax from 64 cents to $2.14 per pack, generating an estimated $120 million in state revenue. Opponents say the bill taxes an addiction and does not guarantee smokers will quit. A law enforcement consultant testified that states with high cigarette taxes have created a lucrative black market that attracts organized crime. Medical professionals say the bill would encourage smokers to quit and help finance important state health programs. The bill is LB1013.

Nebraska gambling opponents launch anti-casino campaign
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A coalition that has for years battled expanded gambling in Nebraska will muster its resources to fight a ballot campaign that would allow casinos at licensed horse racing tracks. Gambling With the Good Life launched its campaign against the ballot measure Thursday at a news conference, backed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, family advocacy groups, and former Husker football coach and U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne. Circulators are gathering signatures for a petition proposing three measures for voters in November. The measures would officially allow casinos, create a commission to oversee them, and require casinos to pay a one-time state licensing fee. Gambling With the Good Life Executive Director Pat Loontjer says her group cannot compete with the money financing the petition drive, but will rely on citizens and business leaders.

Canadian Pacific creates website to argue for rail merger
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Canadian Pacific has created a website to showcase all of its arguments for its proposed takeover of Norfolk Southern railroad. Most of what's on the WWW DOT CP Consolidation DOT com website is from Canadian Pacific's previous statements and reports on the proposed merger. But the site also lists the question Canadian Pacific plans to ask Norfolk Southern shareholders this spring. Canadian Pacific wants Norfolk Southern investors to vote on whether they want the two railroads to discuss a merger. Norfolk Southern has rejected all of Canadian Pacific's takeover offers. The latest one was worth roughly $30 billion. Norfolk Southern doesn't plan to create its own website about the proposed deal. All of its statements on Canadian Pacific's offers are listed on the news section of its corporate site, .

Hospital says stolen laptop contained patient ID information
McCOOK, Neb. (AP) — Community Hospital in McCook has told nearly 4,200 former patients that their identity information was contained on a laptop computer that was stolen in December. Hospital officials say the laptop belonged to an employee of the hospital's auditing company, Seim (seyeme) Johnson of Omaha, and that it was stolen in Nashville, Tennessee. The hospital says Seim Johnson's subsequent investigation couldn't confirm that the laptop's encryption software was functioning. The hospital's health information manager, Rachel Berry, says the hospital is "not aware of any activity that would make us believe the information has actually been accessed or viewed." On Thursday Berry said all of the former patients notified are receiving a free year of identity monitoring. A Seim Johnson representative didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Western Nebraska man sentenced for theft of government funds
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A western Nebraska man has been sentenced to 90 days' home confinement and ordered to repay more than $92,000 for working while collecting disability payments. U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg says 42-year-old Frank Sanchez Junior was sentenced Thursday in a Lincoln federal court for theft of government funds. Sanchez must also perform 150 hours of community service and serve five years' supervised release. Authorities say Sanchez worked at BNSF Railroad from August 2004 through July 2007, when he filed for a Railroad Retirement Disability Annuity because of medical conditions. Prosecutors say Sanchez filled out a report in 2009 stating his condition hadn't changed and that he had not returned to work. Officials discovered in 2012 that Sanchez had returned to work at the railroad in 2009 while still collecting disability benefits.

Woman whose Omaha babysitter was killed to read statement
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A woman who was at the scene of her babysitter's murder as a child is now protesting the convicted killer's early release. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Beth Bushon will read a written statement Friday at a resentencing hearing for Christopher Garza, one of the two men serving life sentences for Christina O'Day's murder nearly 26 year ago. Garza, who was 16 during the 1990 murder, is eligible for a lighter sentence under a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared that life sentences without parole were unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. Under the ruling, judges can still impose life sentences, but they must consider other options. Garza is one of 27 Nebraskans are being resentenced as a result of the ruling.

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