January 2014

Saving for College, Reducing Your Taxes: Nebraska's College Savings Plans

By Don Stenberg

Encouraging children to dream big and helping families prepare for those big dreams are at the heart of the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), a division of the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office.

NEST is Nebraska’s state-sponsored, tax-advantaged college savings program.

By opening a NEST college savings account yet this year—or by making an additional contribution to an existing account—Nebraskans can receive significant tax benefits.

No Safe Tan

By David Watts

During her junior year of high school, 17-year-old Kasey Shriver noticed a small but unsightly dark blemish between her shoulder blades. The lesion was visible above the back of her prom dress, so her mother took her to the doctor to have it removed.

Then the call came that changed everything. The biopsy had shown that Kasey had an aggressive cancer of the skin called malignant melanoma. Additional tests revealed that the cancer had already spread to a lymph node under her left arm. Kasey had joined a sharply rising number of young women in the U.S. diagnosed in recent years with melanoma, a potentially deadly cancer of color-producing skin pigment cells called melanocytes. Her doctors agree that early overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (abbreviated “UV radiation”) likely caused her melanoma.

Alfredisms: Mother Alfred, Part One

The New Yorker for May 22, 1995, has A Reporter At Large story by Andrew Solomon on euthanasia, which is based on his mother’s decision to end her life when she developed ovarian cancer and faced the prospects of a painful death. I have no intention of relating the details of that story except to say she did commit suicide with her family around her.

While reading the story “A Death of One’s Own,” I was reminded of my mother, who died at age 95. The last time I saw her alive, she was lying in her bed at the Covenant Home in Stromsburg, curled up in the fetal position. I told the attendant I’d be back in the morning. I should have stayed the night on deathwatch, but I was tired and the attendant thought the possibility was good she would still be breathing in the morning. “Your mother has a strong heart beat.” During the night it quit beating.

It Is Long Past Time for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Kieran McCarney

A common criticism of the labor movement is that we only seek the betterment of our members and leadership. The stereotypical union boss, with a fedora and thick urban accent, enriching himself and his henchmen has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. However, both the prototypical union member and the modern labor movement could not be further from these images. At its heart, and since its founding, organized labor has devoted itself to two major goals: safe working conditions and fair and equitable treatment for all workers. From our earliest fights for the safety of miners in West Virginia and factory workers in Massachusetts, to the enactment of a 40-hour workweek and child labor standards, we have always stood for those who lacked a voice in the workplace. It is with these guiding principles in mind that we now stand united for comprehensive immigration reform.

The Farm Bill and What It Should Look Like

By Traci Bruckner

The Center for Rural Affairs has always held that family farm agriculture plays a critical role in strengthening small towns and rural communities and shaping the character of rural life. Quite simply, who farms matters to the health and well-being of rural communities.

Research has found that communities surrounded by farms that are larger than can be operated by a family unit have a few wealthy elites, a majority of poor laborers and virtually no middle class. The absence of a middle class has a serious negative effect on social and commercial services, public education and local government.

Federal Flood Insurance Reform

By W. Don Nelson

This publisher has read the Wall Street Journal, daily, for more than 35 years. We believe that it remains as one of the best newspapers in the world. Prairie Fire, as its readers can note, has a free market business plan and thus shares a common bond with the Journal. It is noteworthy, however, when Prairie Fire and the Wall Street Journal editorial page occasionally share a common opinion on matters of public policy. Such is the case with one of the Journal’s Dec. 2, 2013, editorials captioned “Flooding Taxpayers Again.”

Poor Boys at the Hoedown: One Hundred Years of Nebraska Farmers Union, Unauthorized and Unabridged, Part One

By Sally J. Herrin, Ph.D.

Small farmers are the main source and stronghold of freedom and independence for any people, many—myself included—believe. After all, everybody eats. This American agrarian idea, that all true wealth and virtue are derived from the land, as Thomas Jefferson maintained, has served as the underlying principle for most of the organized U.S. agriculture movements in the 19th and 20th centuries and until this day.

American farmers historically have been apathetic and unpredictable political actors, John A. Crampton notes in “The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group.” The Poor Boys of my title are not Farmers Union members but rather the mass of farmers and ranchers who never joined and never will, those who benefit most from Farmers Union labors, like any workers who won’t join their unions but enjoy the pay and rights and benefits the unions win.

The Republican Party: Now and Then

By Randy Moody

My, how times—and Republican Party politics—have changed. Someone reminded me the other day that it was 30 years ago that I was elected Lancaster County Republican chairman. Thirty years! And, I was elected by the County Republican Central Committee as an abortion rights advocate. Hard to believe, now that being against safe and legal abortions is a litmus test for any Republican wanting to hold party or public office. Not just against, but as 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney might say, “severely” against.

Pastoral Art that Relates to the Viewer

By Amanda Mobley Guenther

Pastoral landscapes and bucolic scenes of Nebraska by oil painter Wendy Hall are on view at Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City through March 23, 2014. Painting professionally for almost 20 years, Hall’s work has gone through some evolution. As the exhibition title, “Pastoral, Bucolic, Idyllic: Home with Wendy Hall,” conveys, the paintings are deeply connected to the peaceful landscape surrounding her Ashland, Neb., farm. The paintings encourage viewers to engage with the subject.

A Conifer Conundrum

A saw-whet owl, unfortunately not on a conifer. (Paul A. Johnsgard)

By Jack Phillips

Nebraska is filigreed with deciduous fingers. The eastern hardwood ecosystem does not concede the prairie easily, pushing westward through draws and valleys. Of course, widespread oak savannas were obliterated during early waves of agriculture, leaving ravines and canyons as remnant strongholds. One of my favorites, tucked in the Kansas-Colorado corner, is packed with big presettlement bur oaks. In this canyon oasis salamanders flourish in a spring-fed meander as leopard frogs launch with every step. Intruders are scolded by flycatchers and serenaded by warblers. Signs of coyote and packrat and maybe cougar abound, and I once saw a porcupine (in southwest Nebraska!); humans watch for rattlers but are more often startled by a hognose. The beauty of that place makes one forget the poison ivy, ticks and the prospect of snakebite. But something much more dangerous now threatens to ruin paradise: eastern red cedar and its avian accomplices.

Immigration in Nebraska

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