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Teachers renew push to get protection from unruly students

Staff and wire

LINCOLN — A group representing Nebraska public-school teachers is pushing once again for a state law that would allow educators to physically restrain violent students who pose an imminent threat.

The Nebraska State Education Association released a survey of its members Thursday in which teachers reported getting bruises, cuts, torn ligaments, a broken nose and concussions from students.

At least one educator said she was hit in the stomach while pregnant, according to the survey.

“We are urging state lawmakers to work with us to address this crisis of violent student behavior,” said Jenni Benson, president of NSEA, in Thursday’s news release. “We need additional mental and behavioral health resources for our students, and we need statewide clarity regarding when and how school staff can intervene to protect themselves and their students,”

The group repeatedly has asked lawmakers for legal protections over the last few years, but the measures have stalled. Opponents argue that such a law could be used disproportionately against minority students and students with disabilities. School administrators have previously raised concerns about such proposals, as well.

One bill, LB147, is on the docket for the 2020 legislative session. The bill intends to provide provisions that allow school administrators or teachers to physically restrain students if the student acts violently or destructively. The bill protects teachers from legal action or administrative discipline, if the teacher acts in a “reasonable manner.”

The bill also lets teachers remove students from their classrooms, and the teacher must consent for the student to return to the classroom later.

LB147 is pending in the Legislature. It could be debated during the session that starts Wednesday, but its prospects are unclear.

The bill defines physical restraint as holding a student’s hands, wrists or torso and specifically excludes the use of mechanical devices or binding students to an object.

LB147 was introduced by state Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte. Groene submitted a similar bill ago three years, but that bill failed.

Thayer County artist shares pencil-carving process with Disney

CHESTER — As the final hours of 2019 counted down, Cindy Chinn watched views on Instagram of a short film she did with Disney get closer and closer to 2 million.

The 87-second video depicts the process Chinn, a Chester artist, goes through carving wood and graphite to make figurines from pencils — including using a microscope.

The filming was part of the Disney Art Workshop series.

Trains are Chinn’s most common pencil carvings, but for Disney she made Rapunzel and Pascal carvings from the movie “Tangled.”

Chinn filmed in August, but Disney posted the video to its social media on Saturday. The video had 1 million views on Disney’s Instagram page within 24 hours and reached 2 million views on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s just an amazing response,” Chinn said.

Courtesy/Art Whitton  

Chester artist Cindy Chinn carved this Rapunzel pencil sculpture for a Disney short film.

Producers of the Disney Art Workshop series found Chinn through her Etsy profile.

“They saw my pencils and said ‘I wonder if she could do a pencil of one of the princesses?’ ” she said.

When she first was approached by Disney, Chinn — who works in a variety of media — wanted to do a “Lion King” pencil carving because she worked on the “Lion King” video game.

Disney asked Chinn to carve a Rapunzel pencil because in “Tangled” Rapunzel is an artist.

“I was like ‘Yeah. I’ll do Rapunzel. No problem,’ ” she said. “I had never done Rapunzel before.”


Chester artist Cindy Chinn carves a pencil sculpture of Rapunzel from the movie “Tangled” for a Disney short film.

Each pencil takes Chinn about 30 hours to complete. Having never carved a Disney princess before, Chinn had to go through a lot of trial and error to get the dimensions right working with such a thin and delicate medium.

Because she had just one day of filming, she had several pencils in various stages of completion with her on set to depict the process from beginning to end.

Many of the comments on Chinn’s video on social media are from people amazed Chinn could create such intricate work on such a small scale and from something as mundane as a pencil.

“People, I think, are amazed by the whole idea of taking something that’s an everyday object and turning it into artwork,” she said. “A lot of people wouldn’t think to take a pencil and turn it into art.”

Chinn often works with materials not typically thought of for pieces of art.

“I’ve been accused of that,” she said. “I’ve been accused of seeing differently.”

She also makes sculptures from old handsaws.

She’ll save materials for artist friends she knows work with a specific material. When she presents the materials to her friends they tend to be confused.

“They’ll say, ‘I just don’t see things like you. I would’ve never thought to do that,’ ” she said. “My thought process is probably a little different.”

Because filming Chinn’s process included extreme close-up shots of her fingers in action, Disney asked her to get a manicure.

“You could see every little scar,” she said. “You could see every fingerprint, every divot, everything on my fingers.”

Courtesy/Art Whitton  

Chester artist Cindy Chinn carved this pencil sculpture of Pascal the chameleon from the movie “Tangled.”

Working right up until she left for California made it impossible to get a manicure in Nebraska. After arriving in Los Angeles, Chinn couldn’t find a salon with availability until 11 p.m. the night before filming.

“Thankfully I got a manicure done,” she said. “It turned out really nice. My fingers looked clean and neat.”

Future use of mall property unknown

The Imperial Mall was sold to a Scottsbluff real estate group Nov. 15, 2019, following an online auction that ended in late October.

Cheema Investments LLC holds the deed to the 33.5-acre, multi-parcel property after purchasing it for $340,000, according to the Adams County Assessor’s website.

Cheema Investments is working with Perry Reid Properties, a property management and development company based in Lincoln. Craig Reid, president of Perry Reid Properties, said Perry Reid has worked with Cheema Investments before and was brought in to determine options for the location.

“We’ve got to sit down and figure out what we’re going to do,” Reid said. “We just step in to help them decide what they’ve got and what they could possibly do with it.”

Perry Reid Properties currently owns two apartment complexes in Hastings: California Pines at 418 S. California Ave. and Regency Heights at 1040 S. Wabash Ave.

The company also is working to build another apartment complex, Pioneer Trail Flats at 424 East 31st St. Construction on that property is under way.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

The Imperial Mall, shown Oct. 10, 2019, was sold for $340,000 to Cheema Investments LLC, based in Scottsbluff on Nov. 15.

Michael Krings, executive director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation, said HEDC is optimistic about future actions for the Imperial Mall and is willing to help with any potential development.

“As a corporation, we’re optimistic something positive will come out of this in the long run, but we understand there’s a long road between now and then,” Krings said. “We’d be willing to sit down and have a conversation to help them navigate all those challenges so that in the end, we see something positive happen out there.”

Krings said that while HEDC has not worked with Cheema, they have worked with Perry Reid with success.

“I think the people at Perry Reid are invested in the community much more than just as developers,” he said.

Krings said he isn’t sure what the future holds for the mall, but the decision will be based on development cost and expected return on investment.

“It’s got to be a nice balance of what makes sense for the area, what makes sense for the community, but what also makes sense for the developer, who’s going to end up putting significant funding into it,” Krings said

The Imperial Mall sale was made on an online auction site.

Namdar Reality Group, a company headquartered in New York, had owned the property since June 2015, when it was purchased for just over $1 million.

The property stretches west and south from the intersection of 12th Street and Marian Road.

It includes the main building, an adjacent theater known as Imperial 3, and an outparcel building that includes a Pizza Hut carryout and delivery location. Pizza Hut is the only tenant still occupying the property.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune/  

The Imperial Mall, shown Oct. 10 2019, was sold at an online auction in October 2020. The property was purchased by Cheema Investments LLC, based in Scottsbluff, Neb. on Nov. 15.

The Imperial Mall was closed by order of the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office May 31 after Namdar Realty Group failed to fix code deficiencies in the main building.

Iran's Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD — The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump.

An airstrike killed Soleimani, architect of Iran’s regional security apparatus, at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, Iranian state television and three Iraqi officials said, an attack that’s expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests.

The Defense Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.

A statement released late Thursday by the Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, Iraqi officials said. The PMF media arm said the two were killed in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Citing a Revolutionary Guard statement, Iranian state television said Soleimani was “martyred” in an attack by U.S. helicopters near the airport, without elaborating.

Their deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and if the U.S. carried them out, it represents a drastic change for American policy toward Iran after months of tensions.

Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for a US airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Iran's top general. The Defense Department said it killed General Qassem Soleimani because he was actively planning attacks on US diplomats and service members.

Tehran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone and seized oil tankers. Meanwhile, the U.S. blames Iran for a series of attacks targeting tankers, as well as a September assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that temporarily halved its production.

The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to The Associated Press that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack shortly after midnight. Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which was involved in the New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhandis had arrived to the airport in a convoy along with others to receive Soleimani, whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike took place near the cargo area after he left the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and others.

Two officials from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces said Suleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack while they did not find the body of al-Muhandis. Asenior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject and because they were not authorized to give official statements.

As the head of the Quds, or Jersualem, Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani led all of its expeditionary forces. Quds Force members have deployed into Syria’s long war to support President Bashar Assad, as well as into Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of Tehran.

Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of the embattled Assad.

U.S. officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against U.S. troops after the invasion of Iraq. Iran has denied that. Soleimani himself remains popular among many Iranians, who see him as a selfless hero fighting Iran’s enemies abroad.

Soleimani had been rumored dead several times, including in a 2006 airplane crash that killed other military officials in northwestern Iran and following a 2012 bombing in Damascus that killed top aides of Assad. Rumors circulated in November 2015 that Soleimani was killed or seriously wounded leading forces loyal to Assad as they fought around Syria’s Aleppo.

Earlier Friday, an official with the Popular Mobilization Forces said seven people were killed by a missile fired at Baghdad International Airport, blaming the United States.

The official with the group known as the Popular Mobilization Forces said the dead included its airport protocol officer, identifying him as Mohammed Reda.

A security official confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack on the airport, describing it as an airstrike. Earlier, Iraq’s Security Media Cell, which releases information regarding Iraqi security, said Katyusha rockets landed near the airport’s cargo hall, killing several people and setting two cars on fire.

It was not immediately clear who fired the missile or rockets or who was targeted. There was no immediate comment from the U.S.

The attack came amid tensions with the United States after a New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The two-day embassy attack which ended Wednesday prompted President Donald Trump to order about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East.

It also prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to postpone his trip to Ukraine and four other countries “to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday.

The breach at the embassy followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The U.S. military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the U.S. blamed on the militia.

U.S. officials have suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq.

“The game has changed,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq — including the rocket attack on Dec. 27 that killed one American — will be met with U.S. military force.

He said the Iraqi government has fallen short of its obligation to defend its American partner in the attack on the U.S. embassy.

The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.


Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed reporting.