These are the stories of our communities facing the floods, encountering tragedy, banding together and embarking on the long road to recovery.
Martha Hollis has never doubted who killed her daughter, Camisha, a mother of three who has been missing more than a year.
On Thursday, her suspicions were given added weight when Omaha police booked Camisha Hollis’ longtime boyfriend, Marvin Young, on suspicion of first-degree murder.
“I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when,” Hollis said. “I’ve been praying and believing. It’s great that they’ve charged him. Now, he should say what he did, it would take a big burden off of him.”
Young, 37, is to be formally charged Friday morning, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said.
Kleine declined to describe the evidence that led to the charges.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of work done in the last year,” Kleine said. “We felt the hard work done by the Omaha Police Department has gotten us to the point where we could file charges. ... We feel we can prove premeditation.”
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Hollis and Young were home with their three girls — ages 10, 8 and 6 at the time — the night she disappeared. The girls have told authorities that their dad gave them purple liquid so that they would sleep. The oldest said she spat hers out because she was scared by her parents’ fight — one that was “very loud and scarier than any time prior,” according to court testimony.
She also said that she saw her father holding a steel-toed boot that he often used to hurt her mother and that before she fell asleep, she heard her father beat her mother.
Their mother hasn’t been seen since April 1, 2018.
When the girls woke up the next morning, they were alone and their parents were gone, along with their mother’s red car and the oldest girl’s cellphone.
Officers found Hollis’ blood and two spent shell casings in the family’s home near 56th Street and Hartman Avenue, authorities have said.
On April 4, 2018, police found Hollis’ 2018 Hyundai Elantra in the parking lot of the 402 Hotel, 2211 Douglas St.
Hollis’ body has not been found and that can make prosecuting a homicide case more difficult. Still, Kleine said he is undeterred.
“We’ve prosecuted cases like this before,” he said.
While Young has not been convicted, Martha Hollis said there is something else she hopes will come from prosecution — the location of her daughter’s body.
“He should just tell the truth for the sake of his kids — where their mother is — let them bury their mama.”
Young has been in the Douglas County Jail awaiting trial on three counts of intentional child abuse/no injury and a charge of resisting arrest.
Martha Hollis said it was just this week that she was given guardianship of her three grandchildren.
“He didn’t want to give up his rights to them,” she said.
Martha Hollis is equally sure that her daughter would not have willingly left her kids and then disappeared.
“A mother always thinks of her kids,” she said. “There is no way on Earth that Camisha would have left them.”
The children are doing “OK,” their grandmother said.
“They have some good days and some bad days,” she said. “They ask about her. They miss her.”
Martha Hollis said she can’t help but think of other women in abusive relationships.
“I hope Camisha’s case touches a lot of women. ... If they’re looking at the same situation, maybe they can just get out of it.”
WASHINGTON — A House panel voted Thursday to authorize additional funding for flood recovery efforts at Offutt Air Force Base.
GOP Rep. Don Bacon pushed the House Armed Services Committee to add the $2.3 billion overall in military base recovery money to its $733 billion annual defense policy bill.
“I made it clear upfront I was going to throw down,” Bacon told The World-Herald later. “I was going to pound the table on this one.”
The Omaha-area congressman said Offutt could expect to see about $300 million of the total, which also covers recovery efforts at other bases struck by natural disasters, such as the Hurricane-ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
That recovery funding was initially included in the legislation, Bacon said, but pulled out at the last minute.
It appears some on the committee thought the afflicted bases would be taken care of by funding included in the recently passed disaster relief package. Bacon said that money represented only a portion of what is needed.
He argued for restoring the money as the committee debated many amendments to the bill throughout the day Wednesday, then late into the night and then into Thursday morning.
Ultimately, the committee agreed to restore the recovery funding as part of a package of amendments adopted shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday. The marathon session wrapped up around 7 a.m.
These are the stories of our communities facing the floods, encountering tragedy, banding together and embarking on the long road to recovery.
Among other provisions authorized by the legislation:
The panel voted 33-24, largely along party lines, to advance the legislation to the House floor.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recently passed its own version. The bill still must be approved by the full House and the Senate before heading to the president’s desk.
Bacon was one of only two Republicans on the committee to vote for the bill. Other Republicans objected to a number of specific provisions, as well as the overall funding total — they wanted $17 billion more.
Bacon said that top-line number was less of a concern for him than a couple of individual provisions — restrictions on any expansion of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and limitations on addressing the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ultimately, Bacon said, he appreciated that the bill would not completely shutter Gitmo. But he said the restrictions on using defense funding or troops at the border could be deal-breakers for him if that language remains in the final version.
Bacon said he agrees with Democrats’ argument that President Trump should address the border through the regular process of funding the Department of Homeland Security.
But he said Democrats have made that impossible by refusing to compromise with the White House.
“The president, I think, feels his back is against the wall on what’s going on at the border and he feels like he has to go to the military and they’re taking those tools away,” Bacon said.
MANAMA, Bahrain — The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, as the escalating tensions in the region sparked concerns about the potential for a wider conflict.
"Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington.
Pompeo said the assessment was based on intelligence, the types of weapons used and the sophisticated nature of the attacks, framing the incident as part of a wider series of assaults by Iran and its "surrogates" in the region.
Early Friday, the U.S. military released a video it said showed Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the targeted oil tankers, suggesting that the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene.
Iran has denied being involved in the attack, calling it an "unfounded claim" in the U.S.'s "Iranophobic campaign."
Crews had to be rescued at sea after the incidents near the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route for oil between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Global oil prices surged after the alleged attacks.
The Norwegian company Frontline said a fire broke out on its Front Altair oil tanker after an explosion. Kokuka Sangyo, the Japanese company operating the Kokuka Courageous, said its tanker had been attacked.
The 21 Filipino sailors on the Kokuka Courageous abandoned the ship and were later rescued from a lifeboat. The ship's methanol cargo was intact, and the freighter was not in danger of sinking, said a spokesman for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the German shipping company that managed the ship.
The black-and-white footage, as well as still photographs released by the U.S. military's Central Command, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous.
Despite damage, there were no immediate concerns for the environment. Last month, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks targeting four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, though it has not offered proof. Iran denied the accusations.
A week later, Iran-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for drone attacks on two oil pipeline booster stations operated by Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia in Riyadh province.
The U.S. then announced military movements to the Gulf region, raising the prospect of a further escalation between Washington and its Sunni Arab allies, on the one side, and Iran on the other.
Iran is investigating the cause and has sent several teams of experts to fly over the scene, according to a spokesman for the Maritime Search and Rescue Centre in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the incident involving the tanker connected to Japan was suspicious, as it coincided with a high-profile meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. President Donald Trump referred to the visit and thanked Abe, but said it is "too soon" to make a deal with Iran, saying both sides were not yet ready. Previously, the president had indicated that he might be willing to talk with Iran.
The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and has since imposed a raft of tough sanctions on Tehran. Beyond the nuclear issue, the U.S. has turned its focus to Iran's support for Shiite militias in the Middle East.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern after the latest incidents and warned of a potential "major confrontation" in the Gulf region, saying that that is something the world can't afford.
"I strongly condemn any attack against civilian vessels," Guterres said in remarks to the U.N. Security Council in New York.
Iranian media released footage said to be of the fire on the Front Altair, which its operator said was loaded with 75,000 tons of the flammable oil naphtha. Iranian authorities have referred to "explosions" and not "attacks."
The U.S. Navy in Bahrain was providing assistance after receiving two separate distress calls Thursday, U.S. military spokesman Joshua Frey said.
In Washington, senior officials said the U.S. will reevaluate its presence in the region and is considering a plan to provide military escorts for merchant ships.
Tensions have escalated in the Middle East as Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that Trump repudiated last year. The deal saw Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations don't offer it new terms to the deal by July 7.
Already, Iran says it quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Buying health care should be more like buying a watch.
“If I go to a watch store and say, ‘How much is that watch I really want?’ and they say it’s $5,000, I can say, ‘I’d never pay that much for a watch.’ But health care is different.”
Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News and a trained doctor, is explaining one of the flaws in the U.S. health care system. If she bought the watch, she’d not only have known the price up front — she’d have agreed to pay it. That isn’t always the case in health care.
“Consumers accept practices in health care that they would not tolerate in any other area,” she said.
Rosenthal was in Omaha this week, invited by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson to speak about health care costs.
Conversations about rising costs and lack of transparency within the health care system — and Rosenthal’s book on the topic — helped spur Peterson to organize a regional conference for attorneys general to explore states’ roles in combating costs and ensuring quality care.
While health care policy typically is viewed as a federal issue, Peterson said he’s not confident that it can be fixed in Washington, D.C.
Rosenthal said there’s tremendous power at the state level to hold the health care system more accountable in terms of its business practices.
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“States can certainly challenge the status quo,” said Rosenthal, a former New York Times reporter who worked as an emergency room doctor. “Big health system reform may be made in Washington, but a lot of how health care is delivered and billed and charged is in the hands of states.”
Colorado, for instance, recently adopted a law capping the price of insulin for insured patients at $100 a month, a response to spiking costs for a medication many diabetics need to survive.
A growing number of states also are adopting surprise billing laws.
State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln this year introduced a bill intended to address the steep tabs patients can receive when they go to a hospital in their insurance network but receive treatment from a professional outside their network. That bill remains in committee.
Peterson said he hopes the conference, which continues Friday in Omaha, will engage states’ attorneys in talking about solutions and in considering stronger consumer protections.
Rosenthal is the author of the 2017 book “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.” She spoke ahead of the conference about what states and individuals can do — and in some cases, have begun doing — to combat high costs. Her responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How are we starting to see these concerns about cost and transparency addressed?
We’re seeing a lot of bipartisan support for surprise billing laws. When I buy something on my credit card, I know I’m buying it, and I’ve agreed to pay for it. But when I’m a patient with a broken jaw or a heart attack and I go to an in-network hospital, I have no agency, and I never agreed to pay an out-of-network person. And anyway, my jaw is broken and I’m having a heart attack, so I’m not in a good position to refuse.
We’re somehow stuck in this position where we don’t consent to pay for things in advance, the prices are crazy high, and yet we’re expected to pay, and if we don’t pay we’re sent to collections, and that’s just not fair.
If you could change just one thing about the health care system, what would it be?
Can I pick three? I’d like everyone to get bills that are in plain English and transparent so they know what they’re paying for.
I’d like drug prices to be lower so people can afford their medicines.
Next up would be a standard for collections, so that medical bills are not sent to collections the way unpaid credit card bills are sent. That forces people to destroy their credit rating over a medical bill that they never consented to. That’s the threat that gets people to pay outrageous bills — the collectors are calling. I think that has to end.
Whose responsibility will it be to make those changes?
Different players have the ability to do different things. That’s part of the point of my book: I feel everyone can do something.
Attorneys general have been very successful and very aggressive in looking at drug prices. They’ve proven with certain generic drugs that different generic drug makers were conspiring to raise prices. But we see a whole lot of other drugmakers raising prices in tandem. When we talk about anti-competitive behavior, it may be that three drug makers all raising their prices in tandem is kind of anti-competitive, even if it may not fit our current notion of antitrust law.
We’re also seeing states trying importation laws for drugs.
(Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed a law that eventually could give Floridians access to cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, if the federal government signs off. DeSantis has said President Donald Trump approves of the initiative.)
Maybe we’ll see those bills pop up in a lot of other states, and that would bring down prices, too.
In terms of individual patients, I think it’s really important that they start rising up and acting like consumers and asking questions. So your doctor says you need these blood tests. I now say to my doctor, “OK, but they have to go to an in-network lab. You can’t just send them to your hospital lab, which is out of my network and is going to be billed literally 10 times as much.”
We have to feel OK saying to our physician, “You think I need a knee X-ray. Tell me why and how it’s going to change my care.” And tell me which radiology center in the city will do it for a reasonable price.
The first time I said that to my doctor, he said, “I don’t know which ones are cheaper.” But that’s your job, to refer me to the cheaper ones and say to the ones that are charging $1,000, “I’m not going to send you patients anymore because you’re ripping them off.”
I’m just saying you should use the market levers you have even though they feel inadequate and hard at the moment. It sends a really strong signal to the system that we’re not going to take this anymore.
When they give you the financial consent form that says I agree to pay for anything my insurer doesn’t cover, I tell people to write in — and I did on my husband’s financial consent form a few weeks ago — “so long as it’s in my insurance network.” And then hold your ground.
If you get an estimate from the hospital, hold them to that. You wouldn’t say to your contractor, “Oh, it’s three times as much for the kitchen. I’m just going to pay it.”
I know these things are hard. The ultimate solution is our state representatives and our state attorneys general should help create and enforce laws so we don’t have to go it alone.
The U.S. Senate is discussing a proposed surprise bill law. What would you like to see in such a measure?
The initial one was in New York, and that said the hospital and the insurer have to work out how much you have to pay. But the onus is still on the patient when you receive that surprise bill, to protest it and to send it back to the hospital and the insurer.
A better surprise bill law would say, if I go to an in-network hospital, everyone who touches me is either going to be in-network or considered so.
Are there any new issues that have jumped out in the last year or so?
I’ve seen more physician contracts where if they move their practice they can’t take their patients with them. That’s really not fair for patients.
Some things have gotten better. I was really encouraged there are surprise billing laws now.
I’m grateful the attorneys from so many states are looking at generic drug price hikes.
It was a good thing that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services required hospitals to post their price lists. I actually asked for that in the book.
The next step is to put everything in English and in a usable form. We’ve got to know what the real price is.
We’ve got such a long ways to go, but I feel encouraged that there are all these debates going on, that states’ attorneys are taking them up and state legislatures are taking them up.
I hope a long-term solution will be a big focus of U.S. politics in the next two to four years. But in the meantime, there’s a lot that can be done.