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What's in that e-cig? For kids, it's becoming more likely it's marijuana, UNMC study indicates

Researchers and public health officials have known that vaping has increased sharply among teens in recent years.

What they didn’t know was precisely what teens were puffing in those e-cigarettes.

Marijuana use in e-cigarettes by U.S. middle and high school students increased significantly between 2017 and 2018, according to an analysis by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher.

Among all students, the proportion who reported ever using marijuana in an e-cigarette increased from 11.1% in 2017 to 14.7% in 2018.

While that might not seem like a lot on its face, said Hongying Dai, an associate professor in UNMC’s College of Public Health, the increase represents a million young people.

The analysis, published online Wednesday as a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at responses from 38,000 students to the federal National Youth Tobacco Survey, and used the most current data available at the national level.

Another analysis of a different survey, the long-running, federally funded Monitoring the Future survey, also found significant increases in marijuana vaping among youths, in that case between 2018 and 2019. That analysis by University of Michigan researchers also appears in JAMA.

Specifically, the Monitoring the Future survey indicated that 14% of 12th graders reported vaping marijuana within the preceding 30 days, an increase of 6.5% from 2018. Results also indicated significant increases for eighth and 10th graders in 30-day vaping. The increase among 12th graders for past 30-day use was the second-largest single-year increase tracked by the survey for any substance in its 45-year history. Increased nicotine vaping from 2017 to 2018 ranked first.

Both surveys rely on students to recall and report their own behaviors, a potential limitation.

Dai said the increase she observed comes as a surprise to her, given marijuana has not been legalized in Nebraska and many other states. That indicates many young people who vaped marijuana probably got it through informal sources such as friends, family members or illicit dealers.

Marijuana use in adolescence, she said, is a concern because it could lead to adverse effects on brain development, mental health and academic performance.

In addition, e-cigarette use recently has been associated with severe respiratory illness. As of Dec. 10, some 2,409 people had been hospitalized with the condition now known as EVALI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 52 deaths had been confirmed.

Nationally, about 77% of cases of such illness were in people with a history of vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.

The analyses come as Congress considers raising the age to purchase both e-cigarettes and cigarettes to 21 from the current 18, a move partly designed to reduce teens’ ability to get e-cigarettes from older friends or acquaintances.

On Jan. 1, Nebraska will raise the legal age to buy and use cigarettes and vaping products from 18 to 19.

Dai’s analysis found that 42.7% of students who ever used e-cigarettes in 2018 also indicated that they had used marijuana in the devices. Same goes for 53.5% of current e-cigarette users and 71.6% of those who said they used multiple forms of tobacco.

Nicotine addiction is another concern, Dai said. Many vaping juices contain nicotine, which is a difficult habit to break and one that started at an early age can lead to use of tobacco and illicit drugs.

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Researchers, she said, still don’t know the long-term effects of vaping. Making that determination, she said, could take years. Public health officials don’t want to see young people put at risk in the meantime.

The good news, she said, is that public health officials and tobacco education groups are working to get the word out. UNMC public health officials and Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands recently partnered to host a vaping prevention retreat at Midlands Hospital for local school staff.

Autumn Sky Burns, the advocacy group’s Sarpy County coordinator, said educators and others brought about 100 devices they’d confiscated at schools. For the first time, the haul included at least two pods that contained cannabis.

The Papillion La Vista Community Schools recently hosted an informational Facebook live event about students and vaping.

“We need to raise awareness among parents and the general public,” Dai said. “Many people thought what they vape is just steam or water. That is not (the case).”

This report contains material from the Washington Post.

Photos: OWH front pages through the years

Photos: OWH front pages through the years​

Omaha Councilman Palermo gets probation, fine in tax case; Harding, Melton call for new council VP

South Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo says he won’t resign from office, and he intends to run for reelection in 2021.

Palermo expressed relief Wednesday after U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher sentenced him to four years of federal probation, not prison, for failing to file federal income tax returns in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“My wife and kids, we needed this black cloud to go away,” he told The World-Herald. “(Federal investigators) knocked on my door almost three years ago.”

Palermo pleaded guilty in September to the three misdemeanor counts.

Palermo will have to pay a $35,000 fine, on top of the $21,209 he has already paid in restitution for taxes owed from his local tree-trimming business. He also will be required to perform 120 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said Palermo knew or should have known to file tax returns related to his business on gross income of $145,434 in 2012, $220,400 in 2013 and $129,612 in 2014. He and his lawyer, James Martin Davis, agreed.

“It’s easy for me to play the victim, and instead of doing that, I actually accepted responsibility,” Palermo told reporters after the sentencing.

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The City Charter allows for the removal of a council member if the council decides a member has committed a crime in violation of their oath of office.

But Palermo’s council colleagues have made no move to remove him.

Council members Brinker Harding and Aimee Melton issued separate statements Wednesday afternoon asking Palermo to step down as the council’s vice president. Both said another member should take on that role for the council.

“It is imperative that we lead with the highest ethical standards at all times,” Harding said, adding that he does not plan to pursue Palermo’s removal. “I believe in this instance that Mr. Palermo’s actions have violated the public’s trust.”

Said Melton: “Whether through recall or the next election, it will ultimately be up to the voters of District 4 to determine if they condone their representative on the council violating federal law.”

Palermo said Wednesday that he will not step down from the vice president’s role.

Council President Chris Jerram offered no immediate comment when reached after the sentencing.

Mayor Jean Stothert, who has sometimes clashed with Palermo, said the council will have to decide whether it wants him to continue serving. She said South Omaha deserves “the best and most focused representation possible.”

The judge on Wednesday said he took into account Palermo’s lack of a criminal record in sentencing him to probation. 

Buescher said he departed from federal sentencing guidelines, which called for up to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. He said he found no public purpose for sending Palermo to prison, but he wanted a larger fine to reflect the seriousness of the offense.

“This situation is a financial crime,” Buescher said. “Mr. Palermo, you were running a cash business. Problem is, you didn’t file taxes for several years.”

Palermo said Wednesday that he should have asked questions sooner when his accountant told him he owed no taxes. Palermo said he was working a full-time job in the early 2010s, with taxes being withheld, while he was trying to get his tree-trimming business going. He said he figured he’d invested too much money into running the business to make money or owe taxes.

Instead, he later learned, he owed more than $200,000 in taxes. He has since filed his returns for those years and paid his taxes.

Palermo’s accountant at the time was indicted in 2013 for, among other things, conspiracy to defraud the government by filing false tax returns. Federal prison records show he was released in 2017. The accountant could not be reached for comment.

Palermo said he has since hired a new accountant and is far more aware as a business owner of what needs to be paid and when. He said he now pays business-related taxes quarterly.

Palermo was elected to the council in 2017, having served previously as a member of the Omaha Public Schools board.

World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole and chief librarian Sheritha Jones contributed to this report.

8 local mayors and their salaries

8 local mayors and their salaries

In historic vote, House impeaches President Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming only the third American chief executive to be formally charged under the Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The historic vote split along party lines Wednesday night, much the way it has divided the nation, over a charge that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.

The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial. If Trump is acquitted by the Republican-led chamber, as expected, he still would have to run for reelection carrying the enduring stain of impeachment on his purposely disruptive presidency.

“The president is impeached,” Pelosi declared after the vote. She called it “great day for the Constitution of the United States, a sad one for America that the president’s reckless activities necessitated us having to introduce articles of impeachment.”

Trump, who began Wednesday tweeting his anger at the proceedings, pumped his fist before an evening rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, boasting of “tremendous support” in the Republican Party and saying, “By the way it doesn't feel like I'm being impeached.”

The votes for impeachment were 230-197-1 on the first charge, 229-198-1 on the second.

Democrats led Wednesday night’s voting, framed in what many said was their duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the nation’s system of checks and balances. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called the whole affair a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham,” and sometimes all three.

The trial is expected to begin in January in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds is necessary for conviction. While Democrats had the majority in the House to impeach Trump, Republicans control the Senate and few if any are expected to diverge from plans to acquit the president ahead of early state election-year primary voting.

Pelosi, once reluctant to lead Democrats into a partisan impeachment, gaveled both votes closed, risking her majority and speakership to follow the effort to its House conclusion.

No Republicans voted for impeachment, and Democrats had only slight defections on their side. Voting was conducted manually with ballots, to mark the moment.

On the first article, abuse of power, two Democrats, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is considering switching parties to become a Republican, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against impeaching Trump. On the second article, obstruction, those two and freshman Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted against. Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted “present” on both.

The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, explained

What Pelosi called a sad and solemn moment for the country, coming in the first year after Democrats swept control of the House, unfolded in a caustic daylong session that showcased the nation’s divisions.

The House impeachment resolution laid out in stark terms the articles of impeachment against Trump stemming from his July phone call when he asked the Ukrainian president for a “favor” — to announce he was investigating Democrats including potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.

At the time, Zelenskiy, new to politics and government, was seeking a coveted White House visit to show backing from the U.S. as he confronted a hostile Russia at his border. He was also counting on $391 million in military aid already approved by Congress. The White House delayed the funds, but Trump eventually released the money once Congress intervened.

Narrow in scope but broad in its charges, the impeachment resolution said the president “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” and then obstructing Congress’ oversight like “no president" in U.S. history.

“President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it said.

Republicans argued that Democrats were impeaching Trump because they can’t beat him in 2020.

Said Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah: "They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash."

But Democrats warned the country cannot wait for the next election to decide whether Trump should remain in office because he has shown a pattern of behavior, particularly toward Russia, and will try to corrupt U.S. elections again.

"The president and his men plot on,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the Intelligence Committee that led the inquiry. “The danger persists. The risk is real.”

The outcome brings the Trump presidency to a milestone moment that has been building almost from the time the New York businessman-turned-reality-TV host unexpectedly won the White House in 2016 amid questions about Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Democrats drew from history, the founders and their own experiences, as minorities, women and some immigrants to the U.S. spoke of seeking to honor their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Rep. Lou Correa of California spoke in Spanish asking God to unite the nation. “In America,” said Hakeem Jeffries of New York, “no one is above the law.”

Republicans aired Trump-style grievances about what Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko called a “rigged” process.

“We face this horror because of this map,” said Rep. Clay Higgins of Alabama before a poster of red and blue states. “They call this Republican map flyover country, they call us deplorables, they fear our faith, they fear our strength, they fear our unity, they fear our vote, and they fear our president.”

The political fallout from the vote will reverberate across an already polarized country with divergent views of Trump’s July phone call when he asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election, Biden and Biden's son Hunter, who worked on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was the vice president.

Trump has repeatedly implored Americans to read the transcript of the call he said was “perfect.” But the facts it revealed, and those in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the probe, are largely undisputed.

More than a dozen current and former White House officials and diplomats testified for hours in impeachment hearings. The open and closed sessions under oath revealed what one called the “irregular channel” of foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, which focused on investigating the Bidens and alternative theories of 2016 election interference.

The question for lawmakers was whether the revelations amounted to impeachable offenses.

Few lawmakers crossed party lines.

Van Drew, who is considering changing parties over his opposition to impeachment, sat with Republicans. Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan conservative who left the Republican party and became an independent over impeachment, said: “I come to this floor, not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, but as an American."

Here's what a Trump impeachment trial might look like

Beyond the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, this first impeachment of the 21st century is as much about what the president might do in the future as what he did in the past. The investigation of Richard Nixon ended when he resigned rather than face the House vote over Watergate.

Rank and file Democrats said they were willing to lose their jobs to protect the democracy from Trump. Some newly elected freshmen remained in the chamber for hours during the debate.

Top Republicans, including Rep. Devin Nunes on the Intelligence Committee, called the Ukraine probe little more than a poor sequel to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller spent two years investigating the potential links between Moscow and the Trump campaign but testified in July that his team could not establish that Trump conspired or coordinated with Russia to throw the election. Mueller did say he could not exonerate Trump of trying to obstruct the investigation, but he left that for Congress to decide.

The next day, Trump called Ukraine. Not quite four months later, a week before Christmas, Trump was impeached.


Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly, Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

Midlands lawmakers vote along party lines as Trump becomes third president to be impeached

WASHINGTON — Republican House members from Nebraska and Iowa stood united with President Donald Trump as the House voted Wednesday to impeach him.

Each of the four GOP lawmakers voted against the articles of impeachment after delivering floor speeches denouncing them.

Don Bacon

“No law was broken,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. “No high crimes or misdemeanors. No impeachable offenses.”

The Omaha-area congressman represents exactly the kind of suburban-heavy swing district Democrats hope to flip next year, in part because of Trump.

But Bacon didn’t shrink from defending the president as he spoke on the House floor.

Democrats charge that Trump abused his official position to further his own political interests, that he leveraged U.S. military aid in a bid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

They point to evidence ranging from the rough summation of Trump’s call with Zelensky to testimony of U.S. diplomats who worked on Ukraine policy.

But Bacon noted that Ukraine ultimately received the military assistance in question despite never announcing any investigation into Biden.

“Simply put, there was no quid pro quo and no crime,” Bacon said. “There was only the majority’s disdain for the president, and that is not an impeachable offense.”

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Bacon suggested Democrats simply want to remove a president they don’t like so that he can’t be reelected in 2020, which the congressman said could become the new normal going forward.

“I want my statement to be in the record for the end of time to show I was on the side of the Constitution, that I opposed the majority taking down a duly elected president who committed no crime and I defended the truth,” Bacon said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., responded to Bacon by saying: Of course Trump released the aid after realizing he’d been busted.

“This is what my colleagues would have you accept — that because the president got caught in the act we must look the other way,” Schiff said.

That’s not the way the law or the Constitution works, Schiff said.

“Our oath of office requires us to impeach a president that abuses his power whether he gets away with it or he gets caught,” Schiff said. “And in this case he got caught.”

Jeff Fortenberry

In his own floor speech, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said the House impeachment process came with a predetermined guilty verdict and called for moving on.

“The House has had its cathartic moment,” Fortenberry said. “Tomorrow, we’ll begin a new day, and let’s get back to work.”

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, noted that Biden talked publicly about leveraging U.S. aid as vice president to get Ukraine to fire a corrupt prosecutor.

Democrats have defended Biden’s actions as a reflection of U.S. policy at the time and an effort to get more investigations.

But Republicans have raised the idea that Biden was trying to shield his son’s Ukrainian business dealings from investigation.

“You’re accusing Donald Trump of doing that which Joe Biden has confessed to doing,” King said.

Adrian Smith

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said the articles of impeachment against Trump don’t offer evidence of specific criminal violations but instead are written as broadly as possible to fit the Democrats’ narrative.

“This lopsided and hyperpartisan, biased impeachment process has been predetermined as an outcome from the very beginning,” Smith said.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, responded to Smith by asserting that the president’s actions were clearly criminal.

“Although the violation of a federal criminal statute is neither necessary nor sufficient to justify impeachment, President Trump’s conduct violated the federal anti-bribery statute very clearly,” Nadler said.

Cindy Axne

Across the aisle, Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, backed impeachment, saying in a statement earlier this week that she swore an oath to protect the Constitution.

“After carefully reviewing the evidence presented from the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, it’s clear the President abused his power by using $400 million in taxpayer money for his own personal, political gain and obstructed justice by ordering his administration to refuse to testify or provide subpoenaed documents,” Axne said.

Jane Kleeb

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said Bacon, Fortenberry and Smith “have put their party ahead of our country and Constitution.”

It will now be up to the Republican-controlled Senate to conduct a trial of the president, a process widely expected to result in an acquittal.

Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a press release Wednesday night that she will assess all the information available to her. But she also slammed the House actions.

“From the day President Trump was elected, Democrats have wanted to impeach and remove him from office, and today’s vote was the culmination of their efforts,” Fischer said. “This process was unfair, secretive, and highly partisan.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, issued his own release criticizing House Democrats.

“I expect President Trump to be fully exonerated by the Senate,” Ricketts said.

Meet the Nebraska state senators