July 4th World-Herald Offered Good Examples
Of Daily Offerings Of Good Newspapers

I decided to try something different this week—a column based entirely on news stories and commentaries which appeared in a single issue of The World-Herald—the issue distributed on the Fourth of July.

So herewith my commentary on a very small but interesting sample of the variety of news and views (not quoting but giving credit for a good deal of entertaining features, as Rainbow Rowell and Hagar the Horrible would want me to remind you) available in The Omaha World-Herald and other good daily newspapers:

Let’s start with an example of one of the variety of “hard news” stories in the July 4th World-Herald:  The continuing bloody efforts by the majority Sunni Muslims to show their continuing hatred of the Shiite Muslim minority which controls the Iraqi government.

On a single day, a series of bombings in Shiite-controlled territory killed at least 50 people.  Members of the Sunni majority were blamed.

Remember that this continuing violence in Iraq has Muslim killing Muslim.  Consider the potential threat in Egypt, where the Muslim  Brotherhood’s candidate for president was elected.  He has promised fair treatment of all Egyptians, regardless of religion.

But during the presidential campaign, the new president had been introduced at a rally by a speaker who declared:  “Our capital shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing.”

Unspoken but clearly implied:  The only way to move the Egyptian capital to Jerusalem would be to destroy Israel.

The United States experience in Iraq, as I see it, underscores the futility of what, under President Barack Obama’s leadership, the United States has been trying to accomplish—quite unsuccessfully and at the cost of a good many American lives—in trying to bring peace and stability in Muslim-dominated Afghanistan.

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Repulse Of British Bombardment Not Only Heroic,
Helped Bring Peace In The War Of 1812

Very prominent in the July 4th World-Herald was a full page display of all the words of The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key after he watched British warships’ unsuccessful attempt to silence the guns of Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

Key was a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet who watched the British bombardment while in custody on a British warship.  He was held because of his advance knowledge of the British plans to attempt to neutralize the fort in what proved to be their unsuccessful effort to occupy Baltimore.

The War of 1812 was started by the United States, largely as a reaction to British harassment of American vessels.  The British captured Washington and burned the national capitol building but failed in efforts to gain control of several major American cities.

On December 24, 1914, a peace treaty was signed, but word did not reach British and American commanders preparing for a decisive battle for control of New Orleans.

So the Battle of New Orleans, which resulted in an American victory and fame for American General Andrew Jackson, who later became President of the United States, was fought after the war had officially ended.

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Good News For Beatrice Care Center;
Tea Party Activists Challenge Gov.Heineman

Back to the “hard news” in the July 4th World-Herald:

Good news indeed in the announcement that all units of the controversy-plagued Beatrice State Developmental Center have regained federal certification for Medicaid-funded assistance.

Governor Heineman and Jodi Fenner, responsible for operation of the Beatrice Center treating children with serious physical handicaps, announced the good news.

The century-old state institution had lost its federal certification three years ago because of repeated failure to meet proper-care standards.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, chairman of a legislative oversight committee, praised Fenner and her staff.  “It’s a good day for the families who have loved ones at BSDC,” Lathrop said.

Also prominently displayed in the July 4th World-Herald was a story telling of a truce between Governor Heineman and Tea Party conservatives who are challenging the governor’s traditional prerogative of naming his political party’s state chairman.

There was agreement to put off until next year any showdown over the ultra conservative wing of the party efforts to usurp the governor’s traditional power of naming a new party chairman.

Ironic and possibly significant is the fact that the Tea Party candidate for state chairman is John Orr, chairman of the Washington County Republican Party and son of former Governor Kay Orr.

The story contained no indication of Kay Orr’s position in the matter.  But as governor, Orr certainly exercised all the traditional prerogatives of the gubernatorial office.

* * *

Penn State Deserve Big 10 Death Penalty?
What Chance For Olympic Trials ‘3-Peat’?

The July 4th sports pages were full of news and commentary, of course, including some top-of-the-sports-page commentary calling for serious consideration of kicking Penn State out of the Big 10 Conference because of the school’s handling of the youth-abuse scandal involving primarily an assistant football coach.

World-Herald columnist Lee Barfknecht goes into orbit quite frequently, either indignant or enthusiastic over events which are interesting but which other observers can address without going ballistic.

This time, Barfknecht suggested that despite the conviction of the offending coach and impending sentences which may imprison him for the rest of his life, and despite the disgrace and discharge of legendary football Coach Joe Paterno and resignation under pressure of Chancellor Graham Spanier, Penn State still hasn’t been penalized enough and perhaps should be kicked out of the Big 10.

As I see it, Penn State and the officials involved have been appropriately penalized—firing a legendary coach and a chancellor is pretty heavy punishment, for example.  To go further would indicate that the entire institution is somehow guilty.  It would penalize the thousands of faculty members and students, including athletes present and future who had no hand at all in the scandal.

Also on the July 4th front page of the sports section is the question of whether, after a superb second hosting of the U.S. Olympic team swimming trials, Omaha can realistically host a “three-peat” four years from how.

I had written previously that I think it’s a very long shot, since the U.S. Olympic Committee has said it’s going to throw the 2016 Olympic swim trials open to all bidders.

But does Omaha’s flawless performance in hosting two Olympic swim trials, including a particularly impressive second hosting role just completed, strengthen the possibility of the trails coming to Omaha for a third time?

On the possibly negative side, as I see it, is the fact that Omaha civic interests presumably would have to come up with a good deal of money to bid successfully for the 2016 trials.  Relatively little known—unless you read my column, he said immodestly—is the fact that Omaha had to come up with $3 million to win the right to host the 2012 trials.  The bid for a three-peat presumably could be considerably more costly.

There is also the question of the 2016 trials being held in an open air pool, to simulate the conditions under which the Olympic swimming competition will be held during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Stay tuned.

* * *

Fireworks Cannonading Now More Explosive Issue

Also in the “hard news” category in the July 4th World-Herald was a story which appeared under this headline:  “Fireworks injuries send 21 to hospitals.”

Twenty fireworks victims had reported for emergency room care at the University of Nebraska Medical Center by Tuesday afternoon, July 3rd.   (One had been treated at the Creighton University Medical Center.)

In contrast, Dr. Debra Reilly medical director of the burn unit at the UNMC hospital, reported:  “Last year we saw 21 people the entire month of July.”

Need I remind you that the Nebraska Legislature has, since 2011, substantially liberalized the legal fireworks laws?

Notice I didn’t say legal fireworks “restrictions,” since any Omahan who hasn’t lost his or her hearing realizes the absence of reasonable restrictions—or the absence of law enforcement—as the cannonading goes on until midnight or so before, on and after the 4th of July.

* * *

Chicago Mayor Way Off Base
Let’s Talk About Joe Ricketts The Builder

Let me close today on an upbeat note with a salute to Joe Ricketts.

No, not Joe Ricketts in his role as a conservative who reportedly was considering plans—reportedly squelched after a New York Times story triggered a barrage of critical comment—for bankrolling a number of conservative political candidates this year.  (Ricketts had previously received modest media attention for helping bankroll State Senator Deb Fischer’s successful campaign for the Republican senatorial nomination in Nebraska.)

I am writing about Joe Ricketts the founder of Omaha-based Ameritrade.  The Joe Ricketts who built TD Ameritrade to a major employer and economic force in Omaha.

TD Ameritrade is currently finishing construction of a 12-story new corporate headquarters building.  TD Ameritrade currently employs about 2,000 persons in Omaha.

Joe Ricketts comes out of the controversy over his reported but now denied political spending plans looking a lot better than Rahm Emanuel, who left a job as President Obama’s chief of staff to run—successfully, as if there were ever any doubt—for mayor of Chicago.

As reported in the July 4th World-Herald, angered by reports of Ricketts’ considering since-denied plans to spend as much as $10 million on behalf of conservative candidates, Emanuel has blown the whistle on a plan to put—or at least a request to put—a good deal of city funds into a $300 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, owned by the Ricketts family.

Has Emanuel, known for political hardball, thrown a bean ball at the Cubs’ hopes for a renovation of their historic home?  The Cubs have enough problems without having to face the wrath of a mayor who can’t tell the difference between politics and baseball.

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