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Omaha World Herald

Federal drug agents say the seizure of illegal drugs in Nebraska surged last year and warn that methamphetamine and the powerful painkiller fentanyl remain dangerous threats in the state. The Omaha field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says in a news release that authorities in Nebraska seized 421 pounds (191 kilograms) of meth last year — a jump of 68% from the year before. Officials also seized 4,644 pounds (2,106.5 kilograms) of marijuana, six times the amount seized the year prior.

Daily Sentinel

The Colorado company working to build a mine in southeast Nebraska to extract a rare heat-resistant element says it has purchased a key piece of land the mine would be built on. NioCorp Developments said Monday that it had purchased the land near Elk Creek where the proposed niobium mine would be built. The company didn’t release the price of the land, but the purchase came a week after NioCorp secured $10 million in funding from an investment fund. The proposed mine is expected to create over 400 jobs and require more than $1 billion in construction costs.

NIFA

Nebraska has launched a federally funded aid program for renters and landlords who have lost income due to the pandemic, but residents of the state’s two largest counties won’t be eligible. The program managed by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority offers a maximum of 15 months of rental or mortgage assistance per applicant, up to $20,000. State officials say it’s only available to tenants who make 80% or less of their county’s median income, and who can show they’re unable to pay rent because of a financial hardship caused by the pandemic or they’re at risk of becoming homeless.

This past year has been like no other in recent memory regarding the great need for help so many in our community have experienced.  The statistics are staggering.  Catholic Charities has given out nearly six times the amount of food they usually do in a single year.  They have helped twice the amount of people.  That all takes funds and they are able to raise those funds with their 29th Annual Irish Fest Gala event.

Fr. Mike Eckley joined Mike Hogan "Live & Local" to discuss the massive volume of assistance, safety, comfort, and help Catholic Charities has provided and to invite one and all to join Irish Fest this year.

Top notch talent has gotten very creative to provide an evening of fun and entertainment for the entire family.   The livestream program will be produced and directed by nationally known Choreographer, Otis Sallid, and Founder of Broadway Dreams, Annette Tanner.  Sallid and Tanner have been bringing Broadway entertainment to people across the world for decades and have strong ties to the Omaha entertainment scene.

More information can be found at https://www.ccomaha.org/irish-fest-2021

Omaha World Herald

The coronavirus has devastated many types of businesses, and a new study in Nebraska shows just how hard the pandemic has hit child care centers. The Scottsbluff Star-Herald cited a new legislative study that found 231 licensed child care providers in the state have closed permanently since the pandemic began. Hundreds more shuttered temporarily, and more than half of operators say they will close permanently without further government financial assistance. Nebraska ranks highest in the nation for households with children where both parents work. 

The Mayor of Lincoln is asking for input from the public on who should be the city's next police chief. Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said the city will be hosting listening sessions and focus groups with residents on the skills and qualities they would like to see in the head of the department. The mayor said the goal is to "identify a police chief who best meets the unique needs of Lincoln's vibrant, diverse, and growing community." 

NPR

Some coronavirus vaccination events have been canceled across Nebraska because winter weather delayed vaccine shipments. Health officials in Beatrice and Hastings canceled vaccination appointments that were scheduled for this week. The West Central District Health Department in North Platte said it has enough vaccine on hand for the appointments it has scheduled this week, but it may have to delay next week’s vaccination clinics because of the shipment delays. The state estimated that 6.5% of Nebraska’s population has now received both required doses of the vaccine.

Step Up to Quality, Nebraska’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care and early childhood education providers, has reached a significant milestone: more than 500 programs across the state are participating, and have been rated.

Step Up to Quality Director, Lauri Cimino, spent some time with Mike Hogan of “Live & Local” recently to discuss the milestone and explain the multi-step program which helps improve the quality of childcare across the entire state.

If parents want information about what QRIS means for their children or if a childcare provider wants to know how to participate in the program, go to the website https://stepuptoquality.ne.gov

This month, SHARE Omaha turns two years old!  They have spent the past 730+ days connecting metro supporters throughout eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa to local causes. 

Executive Director Marjorie Maas spent a little time with KIOS-FM’s “Live & Local” host to talk about what everyone has been doing to help make this area a great place to live. 

She also discusses how as we enter 2021 with renewed energy, SHARE Omaha will continue to serve this eight-county metro region in Nebraska and southwest Iowa.  Continually expanding upon their mission of helping local nonprofits to fulfill their missions, year-round, by connecting everyday philanthropists – (that’s YOU!) -  to easy ways to do good.

For more information, go to the website https://shareomaha.org/stories/share-omaha-turns-two-years-old

The Nebraska Regional Officials Council (NROC) announces the launch of a statewide broadband mapping initiative.  Every Nebraskan is encouraged to partake in the one-minute speed test from any internet-enabled device, including cell phones.  Speed data will provide decision makers a better understanding of where internet accessibility is limited or not available, and where speeds are not meeting the needs of today’s users.

Tom Bliss, Executive Director of the Southeast Nebraska Development District, took the time to chat with Mike Hogan “Live & Local” about this important project.  During this two-part interview, Tom says the purpose of this initiative is to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas.  The captured information will provide statistically sound data that can be used by communities, counties, and key stakeholders as they plan for broadband infrastructure expansion or enhancement projects.

For more information or to participate in the speed test, one can go to the websites https://www.nebraskaspeedtest.org/ or www.speedtestne.org.  Thanks for helping!

KLKN

Nebraska ranks in the middle of the pack in the rate of administering coronavirus vaccines, but state officials are working to speed up distribution of the shots. The state ranked 33rd among states and the District of Columbia by administering 14,770 shots per 100,000 people as of Sunday, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, Nebraska has administered 285,708 of the 407,500 doses it has received — or roughly 70% of the doses. Lincoln Dr.

Nebraska Department of Corrections

The director of Nebraska’s prison system has unveiled plans to convert the state’s oldest prison into a minimum-security facility, but he says the plan would only work if lawmakers agree to build a separate, $230 million prison for higher-risk inmates. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes says the proposal to overhaul the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln is part of a larger effort to ease overcrowding in the state prisons. Some lawmakers have questioned the costs.

To serve diligence as requested by power companies, officially KIOS Radio moved to "low power" at 1:58 PM to serve the Omaha Metro area.  Fringe areas outside a 25 to 30 mile radius  from the site will be affected adversely.

Streaming options at www.KIOS.org continue to run with full functionality.

KIOS will return to full power at 12 noon on Thursday, February 18th after rolling power outages have subsided.  Thank you for your patience and support!

A number of Nebraska school districts are planning to expand summer school sessions and offer other additional help to students who fell behind because if the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska’s largest school districts said that between a quarter and one-third of high school students attending classes remotely failed two or more classes last semester. That failure rate is significantly higher than it was before the pandemic.

Siouxland Proud

Frigid weather that has sent temperatures plunging across Middle America also has power and gas utilities urging customers to dial down the thermostat. Utility companies serving Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri issued the plea Sunday and Monday for customers to conserve power as temperatures dropped to nearly 30 below in parts of western and northern Nebraska early Monday, sending the wind chill to as low as nearly 50 below in some places.

Lincoln Journal Star

A Nebraska City woman and lifelong Republican who unsuccessfully ran for the Nebraska Legislature is suing her own party, claiming the Nebraska GOP defamed her in ads and robocalls it sponsored to help her rival. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Janet Palmtag's lawsuit accuses the Nebraska Republican Party of knowingly lying in campaign ads that said she had broken the law and lost her real estate license. The party's campaign efforts in the race were intended to help state Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, who won the seat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.

KLIN

Gov. Pete Ricketts has chosen an Iowa state government official to serve as the next director of the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Ricketts has appointed John Selmer, director of the strategic performance division of the Iowa Department of Transportation. Selmer, of Story City, Iowa, has served in his current job since 2012. Selmer has served in the Iowa agency for 31 years in a variety of roles, including administrative jobs. He spent nearly a decade as a district engineer.

Following a two-year search process, a unanimous decision, and a much-anticipated announcement, Ankush Kumar Bahl returns to Omaha to conduct his first performance as recently named Music Director Designate of the Omaha Symphony.  The Maestro takes the podium to  lead the orchestra in a jubilant program featuring Mendelssohn’s unfettered concert overture, “The Hebrides” and Sibelius’ colorful Symphony No. 2 in D Major.

Ankush recently sat down with Mike Hogan for a two-part "Live & Local" interview about his new role, how he stayed “fresh” during the shutdowns, and gave insights into his conducting heroes.

Performances with Ankush on the podium will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 14 at the Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Hall. 

Performances at the Holland Performing Arts Center feature physically distanced seating and will only be seated at a maximum of 30 percent capacity.  All patrons will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to accessing their mobile tickets via the Ticket Omaha app.  Masks are required at indoor Omaha Symphony performances.

For information, one can go to the website  https://www.omahasymphony.org/concerts/mendelssohn-sibelius

WOWT

Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center are notifying patients and employees whose personal information may have been compromised in a data security breach last fall. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the breach may have affected up to 219,000 people in Nebraska and other states. Health system officials said in a statement that an investigation begun in late September found no evidence that peoples’ personal information from the breach had been used to commit fraud or identity theft. System technology employees discovered the problem on Sept. 20.

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska's top federal prosecutor is stepping down.  United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska Joseph Kelly has submitted his resignation to President Joe Biden effective February 28th.  Kelly was appointed by former President Donald Trump and served more than three years in the position.  President Biden asked for the resignations of all U.S. Attorneys by the end of this month as he starts the process of replacing them with appointees from his administration. 

ABC News

Nebraska should see at least 43 retail pharmacies participating in a new federal program to help provide coronavirus vaccinations, although state officials say they don’t have a good way to communicate with all of them to avoid mistakes. Gov. Pete Ricketts says he’s grateful for the additional 5,700 doses Nebraska will get through the federal program, but is concerned about how all the different businesses will coordinate with the state’s efforts. He says the federal program didn’t include a way for states and the retailers to ensure they’re on the same page. 

On the third Thursday of each month, Live Wire will be opening its virtual doors for a happy hour to share yet-to-be-released interviews and exclusive content, offering an inside peek at the magic behind Live Wire Radio!

WOWT

Nebraska officials expect nearly 70,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to be available in the state this week as they continue to work to distribute more shots. The state said 69,600 vaccine doses total should be released in Nebraska this week, up from 61,750 a week ago. Most of those vaccines are being distributed through local health departments, but nearly 6,000 doses will go to a new program that is just getting started to distribute vaccines directly through some retail pharmacies.

Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, Max I. Walker has made the difficult decision to postpone the 2021 event.  

Due to space limitations Max I. Walker is only able to accept donations of long formal dresses and modern wedding gowns until further notice.

Steph Dorland and Casey Walker of Max I. Walker joined Mike Hogan on the “Live & Local” show to talk about the cancellation and the hope that this event will still take place sometime this year.  They have also asked that people please consider donating short or cocktail dresses, mother-of-the-bride dresses, and vintage or other dresses to another local charity at this time.

More information can be found at https://www.maxiwalker.com/ultra-chic-boutique/

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.  Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations.

MENTOR Nebraska, formerly Midlands Mentoring Partnership, was launched in 1999 to improve the number and quality of mentoring programs available for Nebraska’s youth.  Training and Partnership Development  Manager, Marisa Hattab, joined Mike Hogan for a two-part interview discussing the rewards of mentoring, the recruiting drive currently underway, that no one is expected to be perfect, (just engage with the kids), and her favorite part of the job.

For more information, to donate, or to get involved, one can go to the website https://www.mentornebraska.org/

A former northeast Nebraska deputy sheriff has pleaded guilty in a nearly $11 million wire fraud scheme. Craig Harbaugh, former Dodge County deputy sheriff, admitted Monday that he defrauded six people and a bank. Prosecutors said he falsified purchase orders and contracts for his business, “Tactical Solutions Gear,” a federal firearms licensee formerly located in Fremont. He used the false purchase orders and contracts to persuade people to invest in his firearms business, and to get a loan from a bank. Prosecutors say Harbaugh did not have any purchase orders or contracts.

Lincoln Journal Star

The number of people getting vaccinated for the coronavirus increased nearly 5% last week in Nebraska. State officials said 48,982 doses of the vaccines were administered last week, up from 46,806 doses the week before. The state is working to speed up distribution of the vaccines. So far, about 4.6% of the state’s population has received both required doses of a vaccine. Nebraska said Monday that it has administered 232,896 doses of the vaccines. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska fell over the past two weeks from 849.14 new cases per day on Jan.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Family members say the adult daughter of a former Omaha mayor who had been missing since late last month has died. The Otoe County Sheriff’s office said Friday that it had found Amber Tjaden’s Jaguar SUV in a rural area of the county and a deceased person was found. Authorities haven’t released the identity of the dead person, but family members said Saturday that Tjaden had died. The 48-year-old daughter of former Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle had been missing since Jan. 27.

Siouxland Proud

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has announced its new special agent in charge of its Omaha Division that covers all of five Upper Plains states. The agency named Justin King as the division head overseeing the division's 11 offices, according to a news release sent Thursday. King began his new duties on Monday, replacing Richard Salter Jr., who retired from the DEA in January. King's territory includes Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and a handful of counties in western parts of Wisconsin and Illinois.

CNBC

Nebraska will receive $2.59 million over five years as part of a multistate settlement with a firm that worked with opioid manufacturers to promote addictive painkillers. Attorney General Doug Peterson says Nebraska is part of a coalition of 53 attorneys general who collectively won $573 million in a settlement with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. The settlement will be split among 47 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The settlement will be used to address problems caused by opioids in the participating states.

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