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).

The new face of behavioral health care

By Topher Hansen, JD

It wasn’t that long ago that we thought drug treatment was a separate issue from alcohol treatment. We didn’t think about providing housing for people with addiction or that many of the addicts we saw also had a mental illness. It was not unusual to ask our new clients about their substance issues, but we didn’t venture over the border to the mental health questions or the primary care issues they may face. We didn’t think about it. Mental health counseling was not what we signed up for, was outside our scope of practice and funding streams do not pay for it.

New war, new pain

By Roger Lempke

New technologies and tactics have added distinct peculiarities to American wars and in turn caused new types of injuries and new treatments. At the time of the American Civil War, newly invented cylindrical lead bullets called minié balls produced an advanced level of deadliness. Torso penetrations were usually fatal and hits on extremities tended to crush and mash bones. Amputation became the main form of “treatment” for arms and legs damaged by large-caliber minié balls. Wooden prostheses were so much in demand after the war that lumber shortages resulted. World War I is remembered for the introduction of chemical warfare and its attendant injuries. World War II and the Korean Conflict saw dramatic improvements in battlefield evacuation (the helicopter was introduced during the Korean War) and field hospital treatment. Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became associated with the Vietnam War. The recent War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, a fight generally against insurgents, has developed a signature injury known as traumatic brain injury—or TBI.

The term “traumatic brain injury” covers a wide range of injuries to the brain from sudden trauma. Classified from severe to mild, the milder forms of TBI can be difficult to diagnose and treat because of latent symptoms. Severe trauma is quickly suspected when visible signs such as bleeding, bruising, swelling and object penetration are evident. The mild form, or MTBI, is not as easily identified because external wounds do not exist and telltale signs, such as memory loss, dizziness and confusion can be somewhat subtle and slow to emerge, making diagnosis difficult. In many situations, treatment goes beyond repairing physical wounds, requiring medical rehabilitation programs to restore motion functions, vision, speech and memory.


“The Sense of Belonging”
Sept. 11, 1986

“Your newspaper is about people. Polk is about people. Our newspapers, and big cities, are about institutions, organizations, and events. Urban people are nameless, faceless statistics, folks caught up in what Thoreau called ‘lives of quiet desperation.’ Big cities are loneliness factories; the Polks of this world are cottage industries that turn out men, women, and children who have a sense of belonging. Even should they leave Polk, the sense of belonging has a way of sticking. That’s why I subscribe, anyhow.

Prairie Fire Newspaper is celebrating our one-year anniversary!

Our gratitude goes out to those who have helped us build and maintain the Prairie Fire network: our contributors, advertisers, distributors, many faithful volunteers, and all of you who have given guidance and support. A special thanks goes to Oakcreek Printing who ahs come through for us month after month. And lastly, of course we thank our 33,000-plus readers, who will be the ultimate judge of our success.

We look forward to another year of being the progressive voice of the Great Plains!

Emerging Africa: Democracy, development and environmental change

By Robert K. Hitchcock

The continent of Africa is often seen as a continent in decline, one in which droughts, famine, disease, poverty, failed states, economic stagnation and poorly thought-out development projects are pervasive. As Jared Diamond asked in his recent book, “Collapse” (2005), “Is the African continent doomed eternally to wars, poverty, and devastating diseases? I think not.” All one has to do is to look at book titles: “Africa in Crisis,” “Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth, and Re­sources in Sierra Leone,” “Prisoners of Freedom: Human Rights and the African Poor,” and “Conflicts over Land and Water in Africa.” Africa was characterized by “The Economist” (May 13, 2000) as “the hopeless continent.” If one sees the film “Darwin’s Nightmare,” one cannot help but despair at the massive environmental, social and economic problems facing the populations residing in and around Lake Victoria. Yet Africa received only 3 percent of the world’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the early part of the new millennium.

Jung, Hitler and Indiana Jones: Fright of fission

By Eli S. Chesen

While this essay offers up at least a partial and, I think, inevitable solution to a worldwide shortage of accessible energy, the ironic inspiration for this piece is derived from the most recent incarnation of the “Indiana Jones” genre: “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” This iteration of the popular Spielberg-Harrison Ford series features a now-geriatric Indiana Jones.

The psychology of tanning

By Rodney S. W. Basler, M.D. In 1978, as I was finishing my tenure on the academic faculty of the University of Arizona and preparing to return to Lincoln, I published a paper in a medical journal entitled “Damaging Effects of Sunlight on Human Skin.” To my surprise, this seemingly innocuous review article, covering the handful of preliminary studies on the subject that were starting to appear in the medical literature, ignited a mini-firestorm of controversy and considerable interest. I was interviewed by a number of newspapers, including The New York Times and answered questions on talk radio.

The carbon conundrum: Hybrids and other short circuits

By Eli S. Chesen Carbon, carbon, carbon: What’s a person to do? Society’s worry du jour goes something like this: We have an insatiable carbonaceous appetite for oil, coal, ethanol and natural gas, and we have, already, in a single century, picked and burned the low-lying fruit from the derrick. In the meantime, there smolders an ongoing debate over the whys and wherefores of ethanol, wind, synfuels, nuclear, photovoltaic and other alternative sources of energy.

...They all fall down

By Arthur I. Zygielbaum At the end of February 2008, there was a brief flare-up of stories about a spy satellite about to fall from the sky. The stories ended almost as rapidly as the satellite, after it was pulverized by a Navy missile. While that story faded, it is important to note that there are tens of thousands of objects in earth orbit. Some are useful—like communications satellites. Some are not—like thousands of frozen drops of nuclear reactor coolant leaking from Soviet-era satellites. Unless they are in extremely high orbits, all of these objects will eventually return to earth.

Mostly misguided Mozart: Gray matters

By Eli S. Chesen Countless parents subscribe to the notion that exposing their child to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart might convert their progeny into prodigy. The commonly held delusion here is that equipped with a handbook and handful of CDs, Johnnie has an advantage over those other kids who are growing up on Twisted Sister and Mötley Crüe. Unconventional wisdom says that even brief exposure to the 18th century musical savant will make your kid smarter and, after all, Mozart had pushy parents, too.

Alfredisms: "Polking Around"

“Polking Around”
June 4, 1970
We entered a world of fantasy yesterday. Not the fantasy world of the Pentagon, who use B52 bombers in fighting a guerrilla war; nor the fantasy world of Vice President Agnew, in which he is right and everybody else is wrong; but the fantastic world of breakfast foods on the shelf at Stromburg’s IGA.

Fame and misfortune: Murder, mayhem and McLuhan

By Eli S. Chesen A recent news story out of Texas tells us of a loving mother having ghostwritten a winning essay, “My Daddy Died This Year in Iraq,” on behalf of her daughter, which would have given the six-year-old four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert and a makeover replete with a Hannah Montana hairpiece. The stakes were frighteningly high in this contest.

Seeing in the dark

By Kristin Van Tassel The second week of December, an ice storm hit the Plains states, and thousands of families lost power, some for a week or more. My family was among them, and the experience gave me an epiphany I call the Light Bulb Theory of Materialism. Never mind the other manifestations of electricity - climate control, communication, transportation, mass production. The light bulb is the foundation of consumption.

Advanced Care Planning: Does 'negative' information have an adverse effect on the patient?

By Apar K. Ganti, M.D. Advance care planning (ACP) represents a way for patients to put down their wishes regarding the kind of care they would like to receive in the event they are unable to make their own decisions due to illness. However, current estimates suggest that less than 10 percent of adults in the United States have engaged in advance care planning. One of the major reasons that patients and physicians are unlikely to initiate discussions regarding this issue is that it inevitably raises the issue of death and dying. It has also been anecdotally believed that discussion of "negative" information may have an adverse effect on the patient, who, as in the setting of cancer care, comes to the doctor hoping for cure.

The Nebraska charitable tax credit and community endowments

By Maxine Moul Caring for those less fortunate has been a hallmark for Nebraska from its earliest days. Raising barns and harvesting crops for neighbors in need are traditions that have been passed down through the generations, and we still read of farm families who gather for spring plantings or urban folks who open their wallets and their hearts to those less fortunate.


By Eli S. Chesen On a light news day, there might typically be a feel-good special-interest story in the local rag about a child who was found, motionless, out in the lake, saved by an alert young fisherman, who pulls the victim out of the water and promptly and successfully performs CPR on him. The kid coughs up some water and begins breathing, just after which the rescue squad arrives. The EMT person peruses the situation and announces that, in another 30 seconds, the child would have died! The Samaritan receives kudos from the mayor, enjoys a free lunch at the Rotary Club and is the beneficiary of a $50 gift certificate, good at any Nike Store.


Immigration in Nebraska

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