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Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway have picked well-known author and Harvard professor Dr. Atul Gawande to transform the health care they give their employees.

The three corporate titans said Wednesday that Gawande will lead an independent company focused on a mission they announced earlier this year: figuring out ways to improve a broken and often inefficient system for delivering care.

Health care researchers have said any possible solutions produced by this new venture will be felt well beyond the estimated 1 million workers the three companies employ in the United States. Other companies that provide employee health coverage are eager to find solutions for health care costs that often rise faster than inflation and squeeze their budgets in the process.

Berkshire Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett has described health costs as a "hungry tapeworm on the American economy."

Leaders of the three companies have said little about how their Boston-based venture plans to tackle this problem, but they have noted that it will take time to figure out solutions, a point they emphasized again on Wednesday.

"We said at the outset that the degree of difficulty is high and success is going to require an expert's knowledge, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a prepared statement. "(Gawande) embodies all three, and we're starting strong as we move forward in this challenging and worthwhile endeavor."

Employer-sponsored insurance covers about 157 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's nearly half the total U.S. population and the biggest slice of the country's patchwork health insurance market.

Neither companies nor many of their employees are happy with how the system currently works. Employers have reacted in part to rising costs by raising deductibles and other costs, asking their workers to pay more of the bill and to shop around for better deals. Many patients, especially the sickest, struggle with that.


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Nebraska advances execution plans despite secrecy concerns

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials are forging ahead with their effort to execute the state's longest-serving death-row inmate without disclosing where they obtained lethal injection drugs, despite a judge's order this week to identify their supplier.

The Nebraska attorney general appealed the judge's ruling on Tuesday as it pushes in a separate case to set a July 10 execution date set for Carey Dean Moore.

State officials are scrambling to execute Moore before their supply of a key execution drug expires in August, while simultaneously fighting a legal battle that could force them to reveal who gave them the drugs.

The administration of Gov. Pete Ricketts has also sued the Legislature to block a subpoena that would force the state corrections director to testify about Nebraska's execution protocol.


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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A new court in Nebraska is working with veterans facing felony charges to get their lives back on track.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the Lancaster County Veterans Treatment Court has accepted six veterans into the program since it began about a year ago. The court serves combat veterans with little or no criminal record before their service ended, who were honorably discharged and have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury.

Corry Starks has both and was facing two felony drug charges. He says the program is a full-time job, but it's helping him transition back into society.

Coordinator Tony Conell says the program is beginning to welcome more applicants. He says they're looking to extend treatment to combat veterans with mental health disorders beyond PTSD and brain trauma.


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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The state's preliminary May unemployment rate matched the April, March and February rate of 2.8 percent, the Nebraska Labor Department said in a report released Friday.

The rate is down a tenth of a point from the 2.9 percent of May 2017, the department said, and remained well below the U.S. figure, which dropped to 3.8 percent from 3.9 percent in April.

"Total nonfarm employment for May 2018 marks an all-time high for Nebraska," said state Labor Commissioner John Albin. "Contributing to this growth were the Lincoln and Omaha metropolitan areas, which also reached historical highs."

State nonfarm employment for May was 1,039,557, up 12,760 over the year and up 13,162 over the month. Private industries with the most growth year over year were manufacturing, up 3,539; leisure and hospitality, up 3,442; and professional and business services, up 2,857.

Month to month, the largest gains were seen in mining and construction, up 3,525; trade, transportation and utilities, up 3,378; and leisure and hospitality, up 2,736.

The preliminary Omaha-area rate dropped to 2.8 percent from 2.9 percent in April. The new rate is a tenth of a point lower than that of May 2017. Lincoln's preliminary rate remained unchanged at 2.6 percent in May, matching the year-ago figure. Grand Island's preliminary rate for May dropped to 2.9 percent from 3 percent in April. The new figure was a tenth of a point higher than May 2017.

The unemployment rates for Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha have not been seasonally adjusted, so they cannot be directly compared with the state unemployment rate.

Here are preliminary area labor market unemployment rates for May, followed by the April rates:

— Beatrice: 3.0, 3.1

— Columbus: 2.8, 2.8

— Fremont: 2.8, 2.8

— Hastings: 2.8, 2.9

— Kearney: 2.5, 2.3

— Lexington: 2.7, 2.9

— Norfolk: 2.5, 2.6

— North Platte: 2.9, 2.9

— Red Willow: 2.6, 2.5

— Scottsbluff: 3.2, 3.3


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(GRAND ISLAND, NEB.)  — Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol have arrested two men and seized 149 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop on Interstate 80.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, a trooper stopped an eastbound 2017 Dodge Caravan for failing to signal near York, at mile marker 353. During the stop, the trooper observed a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana plainly visible inside the vehicle.

Troopers and deputies from the York County Sheriff’s Office searched the vehicle and discovered 149 pounds of marijuana. The estimated street value of the marijuana is $447,000.

The driver, Robert Rosenwasser, 56, of Florida, and Milton Coore, 53, of Jamaica, were arrested for possession of marijuana – more than one pound, possession with intent to deliver, and no Drug Tax stamp. Both men were lodged in York County Jail.


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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe.

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Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol issued more than 100 citations for seatbelt violations during the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign which ran for two weeks surrounding Memorial Day.

The enforcement ran from May 21 through June 3 in conjunction with efforts of numerous other departments around Nebraska and agencies all over the country. The campaign included high-visibility patrols, special enforcement areas, and vehicle checks.

In addition to the 101 seatbelt violations, NSP issued 27 citations for improper child restraint and made 37 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Troopers also arrested 68 people on drug possession charges and performed 460 roadside motorist assists.

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The Nebraska State Fair announced today Kelly Clarkson will launch the 2018 Nebraska State Fair on opening night Friday August 24th…. and country superstars Old Dominion will take the stage Friday Aug 31th. Rounding out of the state fair concert series is Night Ranger on Sunday September 2nd… All tickets go on sale Tuesday May 1st at 10 am… 

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline plans to meet with landowners along its planned route through Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana this week and will start aerial surveying of the route in all three states, a company spokesman said Monday.

ransCanada Inc. spokesman Matt John said the company will make financial offers to all landowners along the proposed route, including those who have already granted the company access to their land. Company officials are forging ahead despite pending lawsuits in Nebraska and Montana that aim to derail the project.

"It's important that all of our landowners are treated fairly, and offering these agreements to all landowners who have previously signed easements is part of our commitment," John said.

The $8 billion, 1,179-mile pipeline would transport Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

John said company officials will offer a "construction completion bonus" as an incentive to get landowners to sign easement agreements. They also plan to award bonuses to early signers and will give landowners time to review the contracts with outside attorneys. John said TransCanada still hopes to begin construction in early 2019.

Opponents said they're still confident they will thwart the project.

In Nebraska, landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. A federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project, which was necessary because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

President Barack Obama's administration studied the project for years before Obama finally rejected it in 2015, citing concerns about carbon pollution. Trump reversed that decision in March 2017, but John said the State Department has begun a supplemental environmental review of the route. The State Department has previously reviewed the route, but another analysis became necessary because the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved a different route than the one TransCanada had preferred.

"We know this song and dance very well," said Jane Kleeb, president of the Bold Alliance, a leading pipeline opposition group. "This pipeline will never be built. It's all P.R., and this is so typical of TransCanada."

The pipeline faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route who worry about its long-term impact on their groundwater and property rights. But in Nebraska, many affected landowners have accepted the project and are eager to collect payments from the company.

"People here are a step above being OK about it — they're enthusiastic," said Ron Schmidt, a Madison County commissioner and farmer who owns property on the route. "I've talked to landowners who want the route to move just a little so it can go through their property."

Schmidt said he views the project as a one-time boost for the local economy that would help generate tax revenue. He said he also sees it as a way to promote the nation's energy independence, an assertion that many opponents dispute.

Farmer Art Tanderup, who has fought the pipeline since 2012, said he's still hopeful the project will never move forward and that TransCanada is "trying to appease its investors" with its announcement.

He said he opposes the project because of its potential impact on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive groundwater system in Nebraska and seven other states, and concerns about a foreign company trying to use eminent domain on U.S. landowners.

"It's easy for us to tell them 'no' if they do come knocking," Tanderup said.


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