November 2008

Notice:

Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

Health Savings Accounts: Offering a solution to health care funding

By Tanya Dick

We are living in a day and age where health insurance premiums continue to escalate and health care costs continue to rise. Everyone agrees that something must be done to ease the monetary burden on employers and still allow consumers to receive and pay for the medical services they need. Let’s explore a recent proposed solution for many, which is the Health Savings Account or HSA.

Concern about CERN: Thomas Jefferson versus James Dobson

By Eli S. Chesen

Not unexpectedly, the media has been saturated with the political campaigns, the election and, most of all, our multitrillion-dollar financial misadventure. As of the time of this writing, the election has not yet taken place and I will defer to the journalists and pretty-faced commentators to fill the pages and airwaves, respectively, with political and financial commentary. We are truly entering dour times with deferred retirements, Lilliputian-sized 401(k)s and the unemployment rate for Wal-Mart greeters soaring.

Alfredisms

“Polking Around”
Oct. 2, 1980

A cock pheasant strolled into our backyard Sunday morning. He was obviously exploring new territory, taking cautious steps, stopping to glance warily at the house, pecking at something in our crabgrass lawn and, finally, after peering intently at the neighbor’s rhubarb and asparagus patch, disappearing into it.

Cultural connections / Las conexions cultural

By Suzanne Smith Arney

The murals along south 24th Street, Hispanic holidays, mariachi and McDonald’s burgers with chipotle—everywhere in Omaha one finds the influences of Mexico, Central and South America coloring our already vibrant landscape. Some of these shades are very old, contributing to a rich foundation. Other hues are added in wide bands or dotted lightly on the surface. In this imaginative and ever-changing landscape, color defines shape, brightens, darkens, creates tension, assumes symbolic meanings. Color adds life!

Chinese art at the Lentz Center for Asian Culture

By Barbara Banks

From Nov. 11 through Nov. 16, the Lentz Center for Asian Culture and the Confucius Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be honored to present Professor Xu Yinsen as their new artist-in-residence. Professor Xu will also give a public lecture and demonstration at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in Room 15, Richards Hall at the corner of Stadium Drive and T Street.

Book Review: “Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother’s Life in Politics” by Beth Boosalis Davis

Review by Chris Beutler

“Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics”
Author: Beth Boosalis Davis
Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press

Mayor Helen Boosalis, My Mother’s Life in Politics” is the story of a woman successful in politics at a time when societal prejudices made it difficult for a woman to be successful in a great many careers. First elected to the Lincoln City Council in 1959 (and reelected three times), Helen’s involvement in the political life of our state of Nebraska and the country stretched forward for nearly half a century. In 1975, she became the first woman to serve as mayor of Lincoln (and only the second woman nationally to serve as mayor of a city larger than 100,000). She served for eight eventful years. During that period, she impressed not only her local constituency but a national constituency. In 1980, she became the first woman ever elected president of the prestigious U.S. Conference of Mayors. The book details her activities in all of these roles.

The ballet: Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company to perform Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"

By Carrie Butler Skiles

The power of ballet to captivate the minds and hearts of audiences around the world comes in part from the mysteries of its beauty. The appearance of such delicate, ethereal beauty and lightness projected by the dancers and choreography of ballet belie the intense physical effort and training required to support this illusion. The balance between the delicate beauty and the raw power of ballet is fascinating on a basic level. This seeming contradiction can make ballet difficult for us to understand, or it can inspire us to learn and expand our appreciation of the rich history and influence of this art. Artistic director of the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company, Shari True, believes that while “it is hard to dabble in ballet because it is such an exact science,” it is possible and can be very rewarding to learn to appreciate ballet by going to shows, learning more about the art form, becoming involved in the dance community through volunteering and becoming a patron of dance companies.

Book Review: "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism" by Andrew Bacevich

Review by Dick Herman

“The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”
Author: Andrew J. Bacevich
New York: Metropolitan Books

These words of review were composed before we knew the results of the 2008 elections. It was generally assumed some seriously major changes in national leadership would be the consequence if ballot results favored Barack Obama. There was also a parallel hypothesis. Just by themselves, recent financial tidal waves could be shock treatment severe enough to work lasting changes in the American future. Those economic and cultural changes ultimately may be more historically important to the country than the identity of the incoming president.

 

Can chemical-free beekeeping save the world?

By Twyla M. Hansen

Honeybees and other pollinators are in trouble. Most flowering plants rely on insects, birds, bats or other animals to carry pollen from male to female plant parts, leading to fertilization and food production. In the last 10 years there has been a die-off of insect pollinator species. In North America and parts of Europe, a high percentage of the managed honeybee colonies have been lost to colony collapse disorder (CCD), honeybee pathogens, and other cultural and environmental problems. Yet few people realize that one-third of the food we eat depends on these underappreciated friends doing their work.

The lower Platte River: Flowing just under the radar, part 2

By Rodney Verhoeff

Traversing its way through eight counties in Nebraska and braiding its way past 24 communities, this dynamic river system crosses rural landscapes, flows past tree-lined bluffs, and bisects the Omaha-Lincoln metro corridor on the way through eastern Nebraska to its mouth where Louis and Clark stopped on their historic journey. Frequently cutoff from upper stretches of the Platte River because of low base flows near Columbus, the lower Platte River receives much of its base flow from the Loup River and Elkhorn River Basins. Rarely, if ever in recent history, has this stretch of the Platte gone dry. In fact, flooding is often more of a concern from spring rains and wintertime ice jams. Flow (discharge) can range from an average of 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to nearly 16,000 cfs annually. Compare this to flow (discharge) just upstream of the lower Platte stretch (near Duncan, Neb.) that ranges an average of 286 to 3,700 cfs, with a particular emphasis on the lower values in recent years. This year was quite exceptional with the many spring storms and resulting high precipitation and runoff into the lower Platte River. Although high flows sound good for providing adequate water supplies, creating a continuous river channel for movement of fish and other aquatic species, and scouring unwanted vegetation and debris, they can also be problematic because of flooding, seasonal loss of sandbar habitat, and increased transport and distribution of noxious weed seeds further downstream.

Local snake helps zoo in efforts to conserve endangered species

By Kelli Mattson and Jonathan Aaltonen

Researchers at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo are developing reproductive technologies in snakes to improve breeding conditions and enhance the genetic diversity of endangered snake species. Scientists gain insight into snake reproductive physiology by using a species common to the Midwest, the corn snake (Elaphe gutatta), as a research model. Corn snakes are easy to maintain, help keep the rodent populations down, tend to have a docile nature and are easily bred in captivity. For these reasons, they are the perfect candidate for developing reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination. 

Sonny's Corner - Lawyers, low incomes and legal aid: The case for making sure people have access to our justice system

By Douglas K. German

Legal aid is one of the best-kept secrets in town. It can go a long way toward solving some of the challenges confronting communities. It can save us some money and make us some money. (For example, for every dollar Nebraskans invest in Legal Aid of Nebraska returns $4 to the local economy.)

Book Review: "The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics With an 18th-Century Brain"

Review by Don Hanway

“The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics With an 18th-Century Brain”
Author: George Lakoff
Viking Penguin, 2008

If you have found the past seven years of American political life puzzling and frustrating—or if, on the other hand, you have been thrilled at how easily our current president has managed to establish the unitary executive under the rationale that we are a nation at war with terrorism—this book will help you understand how fundamental changes in the American system of government have been accomplished.

Immigration in Nebraska

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