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News
Dinner honors parade grand marshals
  • Updated

I n an effort to honor veterans for the service and sacrifice they’ve given to the country, community groups organized a dinner Oct. 27 to recognize four veterans who have been selected as grand marshals for the 2021 Veterans Day parade on Nov. 6.

Duane Norris with Hastings Elks Club Lodge 159 acted as master of ceremonies for the event.

“Thank you to every veteran,” he said during his opening remarks. “We are here because of you and there is no other way to look at it.”

The 2021 parade grand marshals are Nickolas Blankenbaker, J. David Bogan, Erich Goldstein and Richard Johnson.

Nickolas Blankenbaker was born in Red Cloud in 1944 and grew up on a farm southwest of Inavale.

He entered the U.S. Army on Jan. 18, 1966. He completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and was then stationed at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam with Company D of the 87th Construction Battalion as an Army specialist-mason.

While stationed in Vietnam, he helped build hospital wards, petroleum storage facilities, and drove and maintained supply trucks.

Blankenbaker earned the rank of Specialist 4 and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Army Marksmanship Qualification Badge, Sharpshooter M-14 Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. His active duty with the Army ended on Jan. 17, 1972.

Originally settled in Hastings, Blankenbaker and his wife, Patricia, moved back to Webster County where he worked as operations manager of a stockyard, working cattle and training horses. He helped his father with the family farm and took over the operation after his father’s death.

In 2001, he became an operator at the Municipal Power Plant in Red Cloud and retired in 2012.

A man of few words, Blankenbaker said he was honored to be selected as parade marshal and being able to have his family join him for the recognition dinner.

“I think it’s a good deal, myself,” he said.

Patricia Blankenbaker said the events are a stark contrast to the hostile reception from the public that her husband and other soldiers faced after returning from service in Vietnam.

She said those memories influenced her husband’s decision to participate in the parade. He hadn’t participated in the Veterans Day parade in the past.

“He didn’t want to do it but I told him it was different now,” she said.

On the other end of the spectrum is J. David Bogan.

He’s often participated in the parade as a veteran with the Elks Club over the last 10 years, an organization he’s been associated with for 78 years.

He is honored to be a part of the parade this year as parade marshal.

“It’s great,” he said. “I’m glad they recognize it.”

Bogan was born Jan. 16, 1922. He joined the Army on Sept. 29, 1942. His basic training was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with advanced training at Fort Lewis, Washington in general hospital activities before being deployed to Alaska. His unit’s primary designation was the protection of Alaska and they operated the 1933rd SCU Prisoner of War Camp holding 800 German POWs until World War II ended.

During his deployment, Bogan received the Asiatic Pacific Medal, American Theater Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Victory Medal. He separated from the Army in 1946 with the rank of technical sergeant.

He coached Little League baseball, enjoys Nebraska football and the Kansas City Royals. He loves golf and continues to play at age 99.

Bogan is a life member of Elks No. 159 in Hastings and a previous Exalted Ruler for the group. He is a member of the Disabled American Veteran, Veterans of Foreign Wars and local American Legion.

Representing the U.S. Marine Corps this year is Erich Goldstein.

Goldstein was born in California and raised on a cattle farm in upstate New York. He joined the Marines on Feb. 13, 2005, and was stationed at Quantico, Virginia. He was honorably discharged as a corporal on Feb. 13, 2020.

Goldstein was an optical ordnance repairer and received education in fire control instructor repair and small missile maintenance.

During his service, Goldstein received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Letter of Commendation, Letter of Appreciation, Certificate of Appreciation, Rifle Qualification Badge, Pistol Qualification Badge, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Goldstein holds an associate’s degree for heavy equipment operation technician and a CDL-A with tanker license. He is currently in the work study program at Central Community College Veteran and Military Resource Center. He is chapter president of the Student Veterans of America at CCC.

Since arriving in Hastings two years ago, he has looked for ways to help the younger generation understand the importance of military service.

Goldstein said he is excited and honored to serve as a marshal for the parade this year. While he hasn’t met many other Marine veterans in the area, he said it’s an important branch of the military.

He said parades can help the younger generation understand the importance of veterans and their service to the country.

“Any time there has been a Veterans Day parade, I always make time to go see it,” he said.

Another longtime parade participant is Richard Johnson, who has long been a member, and even past master, of Hastings Masonic Lodge 50. He has ridden on parade floats during the Veterans Day parade in the past, but this year he will be parade marshal.

“I feel this is an honor to be a part of this,” he said. “I want to thank all the veterans for coming down to support this.”

Johnson was born in upstate New York and his family moved to Hastings when he was a child. After high school, Johnson volunteered to join the U.S. Navy in 1966, during the Vietnam War.

In the Navy, he served aboard the USS Terrell County and the USS Paul Revere. He served on both ships as ship service petty officer 3 and was in charge of ship stores.

While on the USS Paul Revere, Johnson served as talker for the captain to gun control and other places as needed. The ship transported troops from its home base in San Diego, California, to Vietnam.

The USS Terrell County was based out of Yokosuka, Japan, where Johnson served as first loader fire support to aid Army and Marine troops along river coasts in Vietnam. He was first responder for fire control.

He separated from the Navy in 1969. During his service, he received the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Device, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with three stars and a Battle Efficiency Award.

“I was honored to serve my country,” he said.

Johnson said that during the festivities, he also wants to draw attention to his fellow soldiers who didn’t make it home.

“Those are the heroes,” he said. “There’s no greater sacrifice.”

It’s with the sacrifice of everyone who’s served in mind that the organizers continue to host the recognition dinner and parade.

Phil Odom with Hastings Masonic Lodge 50 said they started the Veterans Day parade and recognition dinner in 2005.

“As a fraternity, we recognize what the military means to the life we have today,” he said. “It’s a way to say thank you to the veterans who helped keep our democracy/republic in place.”

In 2008, they partnered with the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. Funds for the meal, catered by Hastings Eagles Club 592, were donated by Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home and Cremation Center and Hastings Masonic Lodge 50.

Mikki Shafer, president of the chamber, said they offer organizational help and outreach to the community.

“It’s always important for the chamber to recognize the veterans who have served,” she said. “We want to bring awareness to their sacrifice.”

She encouraged anyone wishing to support veterans by entering in the parade on Nov. 6 to contact the chamber at 402-461-8400.


News
AC team punches ticket to national land judging competition
  • Updated

Adams Central student Julianna Zubrod took fourth place individually at the Nebraska State Land Judging Competition near Smithfield last week, leading AC to a fifth-place team finish and a chance to compete at nationals in May 2022.

A total of 134 students plus instructors from 39 high schools met at the Bertrand Community Building in Bertrand Oct. 20, then went out to judge at the Platte Republican Diversion pasture west of Smithfield.

During the competition, students judged four soil pits using an evaluation card to make assessments on soil depth, surface texture, permeability, slope, thickness of surface and erosion. Each evaluation card was scored, and the scores were added together to arrive at team scores.

The four-person team from the Adams Central FFA chapter included Zubrod, Justin Barbee, Creighton Jacobitz and Jack Trausch. Together, scored 1,103 points.

To compete at state, teams had to advance from one of seven regional competitions that took place across Nebraska earlier in the month.

The Tri-Basin Natural Resources District and U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service teamed up to play host for the state competition.

“We are honored to host the state land judging contest,” said John Thorburn, Tri-Basin NRD general manager, in a news release. “It is critical that young people learn about the value of our soil resources. Holdrege Silt Loam is Nebraska’s official state soil, so this are is ideal for a land judging event. I’m so thankful for the many volunteers and partnering agencies who helped make this contest a tremendous success.”

The pasture where the students did their judging stands on the divide between the Platte and Republican river drainage basins.

The competition challenges students to gain a better understanding of soil structure and land evaluation. Each participant learns to recognize the physical features of the soil, determine land capability for crop production, and evaluate management practices needed for proper stewardship.

The top five teams advance to the national competition in Oklahoma City May 3-5, 2022. They include Hampton (first place), Fullerton (second), Heartland (third), Holdrege (fourth and AC (fifth).

Individual champion and individual runner-up were Brayden Dose and Evan Pankoke, both of Hampton. Gage Friesen of High Plains was third, followed by Zubrod (fourth) and Charlie Wells of Holdrege, fifth. Aiden Bewley of Alma was sixth.

The Alma team finished sixth, just behind Adams Central, with 1,094 total points, just missing qualifying for nationals.

Other Tribland schools competing at state included Doniphan-Trumbull, Deshler and Franklin.


Health
AP
Biden announces 'historic' deal — but still must win votes
President Joe Biden says he has reached a “historic” framework with Democrats in Congress on his sweeping, though scaled-back domestic policy plan
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he and Democrats in Congress have reached a “historic” framework for his sweeping domestic policy package. But he still needs to lock down votes from key colleagues for what’s now a dramatically scaled-back bill.

Eager to have a deal in hand before his departure late in the day for global summits, Biden made his case privately on Capitol Hill to House Democrats and publicly in a speech at the White House. He’s now pressing for a still-robust package — $1.75 trillion of social services and climate change programs — that the White House believes can pass the 50-50 Senate.

The fast-moving developments put Democrats closer to a hard-fought deal, but battles remain as they press to finish the final draft in the days and weeks ahead.

“Let’s get this done,” Biden exhorted.

“It will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better,” he said about the package, which he badly wanted before the summits to show the world American democracy still works.

Together with a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Biden claimed the infusion of federal investments would be a domestic achievement modeled on those of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

“I need your votes,” Biden told the lawmakers at the Capitol, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private remarks.

But final votes will not be called for some time. The revised package has lost some top priorities, frustrating many lawmakers as the president’s ambitions make way for the political realities of the narrowly divided Congress.

Paid family leave and efforts to lower prescription drug pricing are now gone entirely from the package, drawing outrage from some lawmakers and advocates.

Still in the mix, a long list of other priorities: free prekindergarten for all youngsters, expanded health care programs — including the launch of a new $35 billion hearing aid benefit for people with Medicare — and $555 billion to tackle climate change.

There’s also a one-year extension of a child care tax credit that was put in place during the COVID-19 rescue and new child care subsidies. An additional $100 billion to bolster the immigration and border processing system could boost the overall package to $1.85 trillion if it clears Senate rules.

One pivotal Democratic holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said, “I look forward to getting this done.”

However, another, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, was less committal: “This is all in the hands of the House right now.”

The two Democrats have almost single-handedly reduced the size and scope of their party’s big vision, and are crucial to sealing the deal.

Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed, forcing Biden to rely on the Democrats’ narrow majority in Congress with no votes to spare in the Senate and few in the House.

Taking form after months of negotiations, Biden’s emerging bill would still be among the most sweeping of its kind in a generation, modeled on New Deal and Great Society programs. The White House calls it the largest-ever investment in climate change and the biggest improvement to the nation’s healthcare system in more than a decade.

In his meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol, Biden made clear how important it was to show progress as he headed to the summits.

“We are at an inflection point,” he said. “The rest of the world wonders whether we can function.”

With U.S. elections on the horizon, he said it’s not “hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week.

At one point, Biden “asked for a spirited, enthusiastic vote on his plan,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Twice over the course of the hour-long meeting Democratic lawmakers rose to their feet and started yelling: “Vote, vote, vote,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia.

Biden’s proposal would be paid for by imposing a new 5% surtax on income over $10 million a year, and instituting a new 15% corporate minimum tax, keeping with his plans to have no new taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year, officials said. A special “billionaires tax” was not included.

Revenue to help pay for the package would also come from rolling back some of the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts, along with stepped-up enforcement of tax-dodgers by the IRS. Biden has vowed to cover the entire cost of the plan, ensuring it does not pile onto the debt load.

With the framework being converted to a 1,600-page legislative text for review, lawmakers and aides cautioned it had not yet been agreed to.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the progressive leader, said her caucus endorsed the framework, even as progressive lawmakers worked to delay further action. “We want to see the actual text because we don’t want any confusion and misunderstandings,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Biden asked the House to vote on the related $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which already cleared the Senate but became tangled in deliberations over the broader bill. But Jayapal said she did not hear an urgent request from him, which emboldened progressives to halt the hoped-for Thursday vote.

“When the president gets off that plane we want him to have a vote of confidence from this Congress,” Pelosi told lawmakers, the person at the private meeting said.

But no votes were scheduled.

Progressives have been withholding their support for the roads-and-bridges bill as leverage until they have a commitment that Manchin, Sinema and the other senators are ready to vote on Biden’s bigger package.

“Hell no,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., about allowing the smaller infrastructure bill to pass.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., shared her own story of making “pennies” at low-wage work, struggling to afford child care and wanting to ensure constituents have better.

“We need both bills to ride together. And we don’t have that right now,” Bush said. “I feel a bit bamboozled because this was not what I thought was coming today.”

Instead, Congress approved an extension to Dec. 3 of Sunday’s deadline for routine transportation funds that were at risk of expiring without the infrastructure bill.

The two holdout Democratic senators now hold enormous power, essentially deciding whether Biden will be able to deliver on the Democrats’ major campaign promises.

Sinema has been instrumental in pushing her party off a promise to undo the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts. And Manchin’s resistance forced serious cutbacks to a clean energy plan, the elimination of paid family leave and the imposition of work requirements for parents receiving the new child care subsidies.

At the same time, progressives achieved one key priority — Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders’ proposal to provide hearing aid benefits for people on Medicare. However, his ideas to also include dental and vision care were left out.

Other expanded health care programs build on the Affordable Care Act by funding subsidies to help people buy insurance policies and coverage in states that declined the Obamacare program.

Overall, the new package also sets up political battles in future years. The enhanced child care tax credit expires alongside next year’s midterm elections, while much of the health care funding will expire in 2025, ensuring a campaign issue ahead of the next presidential election.ed to this report.


Nebraska_state_news
AP
Water service outage at Nebraska prison raises new concerns
Nebraska’s largest and oldest state prison lost running water because of a plumbing issue, forcing inmates and staffers to use bottled water and portable toilets and raising concerns about conditions at the facility
  • Updated

OMAHA — Nebraska’s largest and oldest state prison lost running water because of a plumbing issue, forcing inmates and staffers to use bottled water and portable toilets and raising concerns about conditions at the facility.

Officials at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln said they had to shut off the water Tuesday when they discovered numerous leaks in the facility’s old, brittle pipes.

Laura Strimple, a spokeswoman for the state corrections department, said in an email Thursday that crews had restored water service to the prison, although she didn’t specify when.

State Sen. Terrell McKinney visited the prison on Wednesday and said he saw toilets filled with human waste. He said he was told that prisoners were getting two water bottles a day, but some complained that they had only received one, and a few prisoners were using mop buckets to shower.

“From what I saw, it was horrible,” McKinney said. “You could smell it when you walked in.”

Prison officials said the problem demonstrates the need for a new $230 million facility proposed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts. But some state lawmakers, including McKinney, an Omaha Democrat, argue that a new prison isn’t necessary, especially when other states are closing prisons to save money.

The Nebraska State Penitentiary was built in 1869 and has undergone several renovations, but corrections officials have argued that it’s no longer cost-effective to upgrade the facility with an average population of nearly 1,300 inmates.

“There are limits to how much work can be completed at any given time within a fully occupied prison,” Strimple said. “The issue has never been money, it’s a reflection of an aging infrastructure.”

The prison’s water system has faced numerous problems for years, including five water main breaks between December 2017 and September 2018, according to an independent watchdog agency that oversees the corrections department.

In September 2018, one water main broke in two areas on consecutive days, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System. Inspector General Doug Koebernick wrote in the report that it “appears as though it will be a regular issue due to the aging infrastructure of the facility.”

James Davis III, a deputy state ombudsman for Nebraska corrections, said Thursday he was investigating the matter after getting complaints from inmates and their families.

McKinney said he remains opposed to building a new prison and would rather see prison officials focus on upgrading the existing state prison. He said building another, larger facility doesn’t make sense, given the chronic staffing shortages within the corrections department.

“I would say the situation should be a concern for all Nebraskans,” he said.


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