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Kara Eastman will donate contribution from billionaire Tom Steyer to nonprofit for immigrant workers

WASHINGTON — Omaha congressional candidate Kara Eastman announced Friday that she is giving away a campaign donation she received last year from billionaire Tom Steyer.

Eastman made the decision after the Associated Press reported that a top Steyer aide had offered contributions to Iowa politicians in exchange for endorsing Steyer’s presidential run.

Kara Eastman

Such overtures are not illegal and there’s no evidence any Iowans accepted the offers, according to the AP, but the story will doubtless reinforce suggestions Steyer wants to use his wealth to buy the election.

“I immediately saw this as an example of the problem of money in politics, an issue that I have campaigned on since the beginning,” Eastman said in a press release.

Tom Steyer

Eastman said that after seeing the story she asked her campaign staff to determine whether she had ever received a contribution from Steyer — and they found a $2,700 donation from September 2018.

Eastman narrowly lost her bid that year to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Don Bacon. Eastman is now vying with several other Democrats for the party’s nomination to face Bacon again in 2020.

“While this was well in advance of his declared presidential campaign and was not given to us in exchange for any endorsement, my campaign — like all campaigns should be — is founded on transparency and integrity,” Eastman said in the release. “I am therefore announcing that I will contribute this money to a nonprofit in this district that provides services for Latinx immigrant workers.”

Dave Pantos, a top Eastman campaign aide, said the money will be donated to Heartland Workers Center.

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Potential culprit found in vaping-related lung injuries and deaths

WASHINGTON - Federal health officials have identified vitamin E acetate in the lung fluids of 29 people sickened in the outbreak of dangerous vaping-related lung injuries. The discovery is a "breakthrough" that points to the oil as a likely culprit in the outbreak that has sickened more than 2,000 people and killed at least 39, a top official said Friday.

"These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest findings point to growing evidence of vitamin E acetate as "a very strong culprit of concern," she said.

Although the findings announced Friday do not rule out other possible compounds or ingredients that may be causing the lung injuries, Schuchat described the lab results as a "breakthrough" in the investigation. CDC tested for a wide range of substances that might be found, including plant oils and petroleum distillates, such as mineral oil.

But, she said, "No other potential toxins were detected."

CDC officials found vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from the vitamin, in all 29 samples of lung fluid collected from patients who had fallen ill or died from lung injuries. THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was also found in 23 patients, including three who said they had not used THC products. Nicotine was detected in 16 of 26 patients.

Vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from the vitamin, has already been identified in previous testing by federal and state laboratories in vape products that contain THC. Virtually all the products were obtained on the illicit market. Vitamin E acetate has been used in recent months as a cutting agent or additive on the cannabis black market to stretch the amount of THC in vape cartridges, officials and industry experts have said.

The findings are significant because for the first time, scientists have been able to connect results from product testing with clinical specimens from patients, she said.

Vitamin E acetate is found in many foods and in cosmetic products, especially skin care products. It's not known to cause harm when swallowed or applied to the skin, Schuchat said. But when it is heated and inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung function. Its properties could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials and experts have said.

Ten Commandments, Apple Pay, hypernationalism all part of Nebraska's social studies standards

Nebraska public schoolkids will be encouraged to look at history from multiple perspectives and to develop inquiry skills under new social studies standards adopted Friday.

Members of the Nebraska State Board of Education voted 8-0 to approve the standards.

Written by a group of Nebraska educators, the standards describe what K-12 students should know about and be able to do in history, government, civics, geography and economics.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these standards,” board member Deborah Neary said.

Board member Rachel Wise called the adoption “a great step forward.”

State law requires the board to update standards every seven years.

School districts must within a year adopt the standards or their own of equal or greater rigor. The state does not dictate curriculum — the courses, materials and lessons for teaching the standards. That is developed by local districts.

While the current standards, adopted in 2012, encourage examining history from different perspectives, the importance of understanding different points of view is weaved throughout the new standards, with examples to emphasize the point.

The draft standards specify that marginalized groups may view historical events differently.

The draft mentions, for example, the perspectives of religious, racial and ethnic groups, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people and Native American nations.

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LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or, in some usages, questioning.

Before adoption, several speakers expressed support for the new standards.

Lori Broady, an educator at Educational Service Unit 4 who taught social studies for 23 years at Johnson-Brock Public School, was on the writing team.

Broady said the standards are written to encourage inquiry instead of rote memorization.

“It’s having students do something with them, instead of just learning facts,” she said.

Jacquelyn Morrison, a tax attorney for the Nebraska Department of Revenue, praised the emphasis on financial literacy and the focus on multiple perspectives.

A lot of children in Omaha come from different countries and backgrounds, Morrison said.

“This new curriculum allows them to celebrate how they’re the same as a lot of their classmates, but also how they’re different,” she said.

It will help teachers discuss inclusion, too, she said, allowing children to be better prepared to live in a globalized society.

Former Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said he “wholeheartedly” supports the standards.

Gale said that while in office, he became concerned about a lack of civics education, which he said the new standards will help to address.

Gale said the standards incorporate new approaches that will help foster in students a commitment to be active and participating citizens and to strengthen democratic institutions.

The standards had drawn some criticism from conservatives.

Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom had sought further revision. Among their complaints were that the standards were overly critical of European Americans’ role in the country’s history and that the standards supported internationalism at the expense of nationalism and patriotism.

The group also said the standards gave too little attention to the dangers of socialism and communism or to the U.S. military’s role in safeguarding the nation.

Several words and phrases appear in the new standards that aren’t in the existing ones, including “LGBTQ,” “the Ten Commandments,” “Brexit,” “Apple Pay” and “hypernationalism.”

The new words and phrases are listed as examples to help teachers develop lessons around the standards.

Native American tribes in Nebraska receive greater attention, particularly the history of their forced removal and relocation from other states to Nebraska.

Fourth graders, for instance, will identify key events in American history that shaped or were shaped by Nebraskans. Examples include the Ponca Trail of Tears, the Santee Exile and Winnebago Removal, and Native American boarding schools.

The Ponca Trail of Tears is mentioned in the current standards, but the Santee Exile and Winnebago Removal are new, as is the mention of boarding schools.

References to the tribes specify that their nations are sovereign, addressing a concern expressed by some tribal leaders that students don’t always understand the concept of sovereignty.

Marian Holstein, a Winnebago school board member and member of the Nebraska Indian Education Association, said the standards are an improvement over the 2012 version.

But Holstein told the board that further tweaks could better represent Native Americans, including introducing more about the tribes in early elementary grades and teaching about native history before the arrival of Europeans.

The standards include the addition of Will Brown as an example of a Nebraskan important to the state’s past.


The standards include the addition of Will Brown, a black man lynched in a 1919 race riot, as an example of a Nebraskan important to the state’s past.

Brown was a black man lynched in a 1919 race riot in one of Omaha’s darkest episodes.

During the riot, thousands of white people stormed the courthouse, set it on fire, lynched Brown and desecrated his body. They tried to hang the mayor when he attempted to stop them.

The standards mention immigration as a topic for examination.

Students will evaluate the impact of people, events and ideas, including various cultures and ethnic groups, on the U.S.

Students will “explain reasons for historical and present day migrations to and within the United States.”

Third graders will learn flag etiquette. The standards also reference the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case West Virginia v. Barnette, in which the court said students couldn’t be forced to salute the flag.

Fourth graders will learn about Nebraska state government and the unicameral Legislature.

In fifth grade, students will “investigate and summarize” contributions that resulted in the foundation and formation of the U.S. constitutional government.

As examples, the standards note early state constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights and tribal constitutions.

Students will identify the structure and function of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

They will examine the “unique nature of the creation of the United States leading to a nation based upon personal freedom, inalienable rights and democratic ideals.”

Economics lessons will put greater emphasis on financial literacy, addressing a wide range of topics, including using a debit card or Apple Pay and world trade.

The Ten Commandments appear in a section dealing with the foundations, structures and functions of governmental institutions.

Under the standards, sixth grade students will identify the development of written laws. The Ten Commandments are among the examples given, in addition to the Code of Hammurabi, Greek democracy, Axumite, Confucius and Indian deities.

Brexit — the United Kingdom’s scheduled withdrawal from the European Union pursuant to a 2016 referendum — appears in a section that calls on high school students to analyze the impact of trade policies such as tariffs and quotas. It suggests that students could research the North American Free Trade Agreement and Brexit.

The term “hypernationalism” is listed as a topic of exploration in high school.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it as extreme or excessive nationalism. The word appears in a section where students would “examine the spread of cultural traits and the potential benefits and challenges of cultural diffusion, economic development and globalization.”

Socialism, injected into the national political scene by the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is dealt with in a manner similar to that in the existing standards.

It appears in seventh grade and high school standards as one of several economic systems to be compared and contrasted, along with traditional, market, communist, feudal and caste systems.

The standards do not characterize whether socialism is a good or bad government system.

Omaha-area high schools ranked by 2019 ACT scores

Omaha-area high schools ranked by 2019 ACT scores

special report
After elk cause $100K in damage, Nebraska farmer granted rare permit to kill 50, upsetting hunters

Hunting elk in Nebraska is a unique privilege — only 7% of elk permits were approved this year, and nearly 5,000 would-be hunters were left empty-handed.

But after a state senator pressed Nebraska Game and Parks about an elk herd marauding through cornfields, officials this fall issued an unprecedented permit for a single Morrill County rancher to kill up to 50 of the animals.

The decision drew a barrage of criticism from hunters, directed at Game and Parks, State Sen. Steve Erdman and the landowner.

One hunter, who called the permit for 50 elk “extreme,” summed it up this way: “As a concerned sportsman and outdoorsman, this decision hits an all-time frustration with how our wildlife in the state is being managed by the Game and Parks Commission.”

Only five cows and three bulls have been killed since the special permit was issued, a first for elk in the state of Nebraska. But the rancor from the decision has been far more difficult to tabulate.

It’s created friction between Game and Parks officials and Erdman, who says he’s been unfairly made a scapegoat for the decision. And it has left the landowner reluctant to even pick up his ringing phone under a barrage of criticism from hunters.

The landowner in the middle of it all, Butch Schuler of Bridgeport, is apparently done talking. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

“He is not interested in giving any comments,’’ said his wife, Susan.

Schuler did speak at a September public hearing of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee in Scottsbluff, part of an interim study introduced by State Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango. LR 142 was created, he said, to take an in-depth look at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, especially how it is handling big game wildlife management.

Dan Hughes

At the hearing, Schuler reported that he suffered more than $100,000 in damage to his corn crop by a herd of an estimated 100 elk. Drone footage provided by Schuler showed extensive crop damage.

After pressure from Erdman, Game and Parks then issued what is called a depredation permit. Such a permit can be issued if Game and Parks staff finds evidence of serious damage caused by wildlife. Depredation permits are more commonly issued in Nebraska to control deer, and are used when normal hunting doesn’t provide enough relief from damage.

The permit allows Schuler to have “shooters” kill up to 50 elk. The shooters are vetted by Game and Parks and the meat from animals harvested is donated, in this case to families in the area.

“It’s not a hunt, it’s a shoot. A way to change the behavior of the animals,’’ said Alicia Hardin, wildlife division administrator.

Alicia Hardin

Although Game and Parks has received seven to nine elk complaints, the only other elk depredation permit issued has been for six cows.

Jim Douglas, Game and Parks director, said there are reasons Schuler was given the permit to kill so many elk.

“We issued the 50 this time, because we got a demand from a senator that we needed to respond immediately to really severe damage occurring,’’ he said. “We did not want anyone to believe that we weren’t responding in the right proportion to the situation. We also know it was highly unlikely that anything approaching that number would actually be killed. Which has proven to be the case.’’

Jim Douglas

But the decision ignited a firestorm among hunters. There were so many complaints on the Western Nebraska Big Game Hunting page on Facebook that Game and Parks posted an explanation on the site.

Some blamed Erdman for the high number of elk on the permit, and called for his resignation. Others wondered why only Schuler was issued the special permit when others have problems, too. Others wanted to know why hunters couldn’t kill the elk instead of special shooters.

Steve Erdman

Erdman, who lives in Bayard and represents District 47, said he is being unfairly blamed for the decision.

He said that in a phone conversation he asked Douglas how he was going to follow through with comments Douglas made at the Scottsbluff public hearing. One of those comments was that Game and Parks was responding more vigorously to landowner complaints. Erdman followed the call with an email to Tim McCoy, a deputy director at Game and Parks.

“They made the decision,’’ Erdman said. “I just reminded them of what they told me they were going to do. I didn’t talk to them about a number at all.’’

A copy of the email provided by Erdman does not make a request for a certain number of elk to be shot on the depredation permit.

Erdman says his phone and email blew up a few days after the permit was issued. He said the same thing happened to the landowner, Schuler.

“Game and Parks told people that a state senator sent us an email and forced us to do something. So, consequently, they threw me under the bus for a month. They (hunters) called and emailed, everything they could to tell me how stupid I was,’’ Erdman said.


Butch Schuler of Bridgeport, Nebraska, said about 100 marauding elk caused more than $100,000 in damage to his corn crop.

It would have been better, Erdman said, to start with a permit to kill five elk and then add other permits as needed. Schuler said at the hearing that five wouldn’t be enough.

Hughes said he agrees that Erdman, his fellow state senator, was unfairly blamed for the decision by Game and Parks.

He said the permit was issued because there was a big problem with elk on Schuler’s property. He said that had the permit been issued sooner, at least some of the crop damage could have been avoided.

“Game and Parks hasn’t been as responsive as they should have been in handling problems with excessive wildlife numbers,’’ said Hughes, who was at the September public hearing.

Hardin said the Scottsbluff hearing was the first time Game and Parks had heard directly from Schuler about his elk problem.

Wildlife destroying property is the No. 2 complaint in Hughes’ southwest Nebraska district, he said, and an issue he’s been trying to address for years.

Erdman said the problem in this case is too many elk. Game and Parks doesn’t have exact numbers but estimates there are about 2,500 to 3,000 elk in the state. Erdman thinks the number is much higher.

“We need to figure out how many animals we can sustain. What is the method we’re going to use to sustain that herd?’’ Erdman asked. “It’s pretty obvious the method we’re using right now is not working.’’

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Hughes echoed that, saying that was the reason for the hearings in Scottsbluff and McCook. Several Game and Parks Commission members were in attendance, and Hughes hopes that after hearing from landowners it will lead to change.

Hardin said Game and Parks is trying to maintain a balance between healthy wildlife populations, recreational hunting and social tolerance for big game management in Nebraska. Hunting is the preferred method of action to keep numbers down, and Game and Parks has begun issuing more elk permits, going from 329 in 2017 to 374 this year. There were 5,300 applicants this year for those 374 permits.

Hardin said the landowner was satisfied with the action by Game and Parks. The elk have moved from the cornfields, likely into pasture ground, and Game and Parks has received no requests for help from anyone else in the area.

Hardin said Game and Parks would like to work with Schuler earlier next summer to prevent similar problems.

Although anger about the decision has died down, Erdman said he’s heard from several property owners with large numbers of elk on their land. So the overall issue of wildlife damage to crops will likely continue.

Hardin said the permit sent a clear message that Game and Parks recognized the problem and took action to help a landowner.

“I would say,’’ Douglas said, “if (landowners) have an issue they should contact us and we’ll help them.’’

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