May 25, 2015

“Sham” cancer charities now subject of massive lawsuit

Better Business Bureau logoNebraskans are warned to do their research before contributing to a charity.

The advice from Chris Coleman, at the Better Business Bureau, is in response to a federal lawsuit involving all 50 states against four phony cancer charities.

The complaint says the organizations collected $187 million in donations over five years and only about five-precent of the money actually went to help cancer victims.

“It gives all of us real heartache because of all of us know family members or friends who are victims of cancer or have suffered through that disease,” Coleman said.

The defendants in the lawsuit include Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. Most donors in Nebraska, upon hearing the charities’ names, probably felt comfortable making a donation.

“They borrowed a name of a good charity, I’d say they hijacked it,” Coleman said. “They steal the good reputation of many charities.”

The complaint claims a large majority of the contributions to the sham charities benefited only the defendants, their families and friends, and professional fundraising groups.

“If this causes consumers to do more research to verify the legitimacy of charities before they make a contribution, that will help all good charities and we feel confident about that,” Coleman said. “We want our information to spotlight the best charities so people know where to contribute and where their gift can make the most difference.”

Charities can be checked out at the Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving” website.

 

Study: Nebraska needs more kids in families & foster families

Tracey Feild, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Tracey Feild, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A new report shows Nebraska has made improvements, but still has too many children living in institutions and group care situations, not families.

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds 16% of children in the foster care system in Nebraska were placed outside of families, compared to the national average of 14%.

Tracey Field, director of the foundation’s child welfare strategy group, says over-reliance on group placement is becoming the norm.

“While 16% isn’t terrible, we are certain that they could do better,” Feild says. “The best states have 5% of kids in group facilities or institutions, so there’s a long way to go to get to the highest performance and get to the best environment for kids’ living situations who must be removed from their families.”

Research in the “Every Kid Needs a Family” report shows youth in group placements were more than twice as likely to be arrested compared with similar youth in foster families.

Feild says children, especially teenagers, need a strong moral compass to help develop into productive adults, something they can get in a family setting.

“When kids grow up and age out of institutions, they don’t do as well,” Feild says. “They don’t have the same educational attainment, they don’t have the same employment abilities and they aren’t able as well to develop families of their own.”

In addition to the toll on a child’s cognitive and social development, the report finds group placements cost the state seven to ten times what it costs to place a child in family or foster care. The organization offers several suggestions, Feild says, to start turning the numbers around.

“Let’s try and provide services in the home, in their birth families, to give the families and to give the kids help in dealing with the conflicts that often emerge in their teenage years,” Feild says. “Second, is to better support our foster parents and our kinship caregivers.”

A third area would be to require more and better justification when a child comes into the foster care system before the child is put in an institution. She says that should be a temporary solution, at the most, not long-term.

AAA: This will be the biggest Memorial Day for travel in 10 years

gas-pump-111Nebraska’s highways and interstates will be exceptionally busy next weekend, the first big holiday travel weekend of the year.

Gail Weinholzer, spokeswoman for AAA-Nebraska, says it’s forecast to be the busiest Memorial Day weekend for travel in a full decade.

“We expect a nearly 5% increase in travel for this Memorial Day over last year,” Weinholzer says. “In fact, it will be an all-time high for the past 10 years. We expect 37.2-million Americans to travel at least 50 miles or more between Thursday the 21st and Monday the 25th.”

The biggest factor in the travel forecast is the price of gasoline, which has fallen a long ways from Memorial Day of 2014.

“We’re seeing fuel prices about a dollar below where they were last year at this time,” Weinholzer says. “That certainly provides people with an added incentive to travel. Of the 37.2-million Americans that are traveling, 33-million will be traveling by personal automobile and obviously, they’ll be taking advantage of the lower fuel costs.”

The national average for a gallon of unleaded self-service gas is $2.65, which is several pennies above what Nebraskans are paying at the pump.

“The state of Nebraska’s average today is $2.55 as compared to a year ago today when it was $3.53,” Weinholzer says. “So, obviously, that’s a significant savings.”

Holiday air travel is expected to rise as well, due to lower fuel costs. The average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are 2% cheaper this year compared to last year, falling to $222.

 

Bugged by bugs? New USDA program may help fight hungry pests

The Mediterranean fruit fly

The Mediterranean fruit fly

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching an effort the could help Nebraska farmers and homeowners in the fight against plant pests.

Mike Watson, with the USDA, says those bugs and the diseases they carry can cause a lot of expensive damage.

“Hungry pests cost the United States approximately $120-billion a year. That impacts everything from our food to our health to our environment to our parks to our home landscaping,” Watson says.

The pests range from aphids and beetles to moths and fruit flies.

The agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is recruiting an ally in the fight against hungry pests by helping to teach middle school students what they can do.

“Teachers can download this curriculum for free. It meets the national Common Core standards and it allows the teachers to use this module to help educate the students about how these pests got here, the damage they cause and what they can do to help stop the spread of these pests,” Watson says.

Teachers can access the information at hungrypests.com.

 

Grand Island man makes “no contest” plea in murder of co-worker

GavelA Grand Island man is facing a life prison term for fatally shooting one of his co-workers following a dispute outside the Gibbon Packing plant last December.

Angelo Bol, 34, pleaded no contest in Buffalo County District Court to first-degree murder of Karel Perez-Almaguer, 34, on December 15th at the Gibbon Packing parking lot.

In exchange for his plea, a charge of using a firearm to commit a felony was dismissed.

According to Buffalo County Attorney Shawn Eatherton, the incident began December 14th after an altercation at Gibbon Packing between Bol, Perez and others.

Based on the incident, Bol and another man were fired the following day. After being fired, Bol went to his home in Grand Island, then returned to Gibbon Packing with a handgun and waited hours for Perez to get off work.

As Perez left work shortly before 5 p.m., Bol approached him in the parking lot and shot him several times in the chest and head. Perez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bol remains in the Buffalo County Jail on $3 million dollars bond. Sentencing will be in June.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney