November 27, 2015

Filling up the tank is cheaper for the holiday trek

gasGasoline prices are below $2 a gallon in many locations as Nebraskans prepare to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. AAA-Nebraska spokeswoman Rose White says motorists are thankful for low gas prices that haven’t been seen in seven years.

“Approximately 42-million Americans are expected to take a road trip this Thanksgiving and drivers should pay the lowest pump prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2008,” White said.

The U.S. Energy Administration reports domestic crude oil inventories are near an all-time high and White says many Midwest refineries are back on-line after planned or unplanned maintenance.

“Production in the region is at its highest rate in nearly two months and that has attributed to a steady decline in prices across the Midwest,” Rose said. This morning, AAA reports the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has dropped to $2.12.

“Nebraskans traveling across the state are seeing significant savings compared to last year,” Rose said. “They’re saving about 76-cents per gallon. With a 15-gallon tank, that means they’re saving about $11.40 each time the fill their vehicle.”

The national average is a few pennies lower than Nebraska at $2.06 a gallon.


Bennington teen to be honored as “hero” at Friday’s big football game

Kassee Jones, of Bennington

Kassee Jones, of Bennington

A teenager from the Omaha area will be recognized as a hero during Friday’s Nebraska-Iowa football game in Lincoln.

Back in mid-June, 18-year-old Kassee Jones, of Bennington, was working as a lifeguard at Camp Legacy in Omaha when she spotted a six-year-old boy not moving at the bottom of the shallow end of the pool.

Liz Dorland, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, says Jones reacted right away.

“She quickly put her Red Cross lifesaving skills that she learned to use, pulled him out of the water and gave him resuscitation,” Dorland said. “The child was breathing again when paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital.” The boy was rushed to the nearest medical center.

“Paramedics took him to Childrens Hospital here in Omaha where he made a full recovery,” Dorland says. “He’s doing well today.”

During the halftime ceremony, two heroes from Iowa will also be honored. Iowa State Trooper Tracy Bohlen and nurse Jane McCurdy helped save the life of a motorist who had a seizure while driving his truck on Interstate 35 near Des Moines in April.

Doland says, “They’ll be recognized on the field during halftime and they’ll be receiving an award from the University of Nebraska, the University of Iowa, Hy-Vee and the American Red Cross for their life-saving efforts that they did.”

Fans of both schools were invited to nominate residents of Iowa and Nebraska who performed extraordinary acts of heroism and service in their communities for the “citizen hero” award. Staff and volunteers from the Red Cross selected the winners.

Kickoff for Friday’s “Heroes” game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.


The IRS issues new warnings to taxpayers about identity theft

IRS LogoThe Internal Revenue Service is launching a campaign with the Nebraska Department of Revenue and the state’s private sector tax industry to nudge Nebraskans into taking more precautions with their sensitive financial information.

Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the IRS in Nebraska, says identity thieves are becoming more sophisticated all the time and taxpayers need to keep up or they may become victims.

“We want to encourage people when they file their taxes at home and whenever they’re working with personal information at home, to use security software to protect their computers,” Miller says. “That includes firewalls and anti-virus protection.”

Authorities say ID thieves are using personal data from real taxpayers to create fake state and federal tax returns to claim real refunds. Miller says Nebraskans have to be on guard for crooks who are trolling to rip you off using telephone and email “phishing” cons.

“If you get a call from someone posing as an IRS agent and they threaten you with jail or lawsuits, it’s a scam, hang up,” Miller says. “We also want to encourage people to protect their personal information. Do not routinely carry your Social Security number.”

Also, oversharing on social media gives identity thieves even more personal details. The new IRS campaign is called “Taxes. Security. Together.” and it aims to raise public awareness that even routine actions on the Internet and with personal electronic devices can affect the safety of financial and tax data.

“Your tax returns are sensitive data so you have to treat that information just like you would cash, don’t leave it laying around,” Miller says. “Properly dispose of old tax returns and other sensitive documents by shredding them before you put them in the trash.”

The campaign includes several components, including YouTube videos, consumer-friendly Tax Tips each week and local events. Several IRS publications are being added or updated to help taxpayers and tax professionals at, state web sites and platforms used by the tax preparation community.

The campaign will continue through the April tax deadline.

If your car ends up snowbound today, are you prepared?

Icy Car MirrorWith snow in the forecast and Thanksgiving travel next week, Nebraska motorists are encouraged to take a few precautions, pronto. An emergency kit is a must for your vehicle’s trunk, so you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Ann Avery, the Nebraska spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance, says several staples should be in everyone’s vehicle, before the winter winds start whipping.

“Some of the things include: jumper cables and making sure you have an ice scraper back in the car,” Avery says. “Check the spare tire, make sure it’s in the car and that it’s at the proper inflation. Be sure you have blankets, extra warm clothing. A cell phone charger — we depend on that cell phone. If you get into an emergency, make sure you are able to charge it.”

Other helpful items to have handy include: road salt or cat litter to help with tire traction, a flashlight (with working batteries), matches or a lighter, duct tape, a small tool kit and a tow strap. Avery offers a few more suggestions.

“A first aid kit, water, food that won’t expire in the trunk, and crucial medications,” Avery says. “If you should get caught and stuck on the side of the road, you want to make sure you have those medications.”

If there’s a teenage driver under your roof, Avery says you should talk to them about the importance of this kit.

“Our information shows a lot of teens reported not having all the necessary supplies they need in their trunk,” Avery says. “Check the car the teen is using as well. Have them put the emergency kit together with you so they see what goes into it and understand why it’s all there.”

Other items that you might consider for your emergency kit are: a hazard triangle with reflectors, flares, a brightly-colored flag or “HELP” sign, and a tarp for sitting or kneeling in the snow for doing exterior work like a tire change.

Omaha Tribe moves forward with plan for Iowa pot farm

MarijuanaMembers of the Omaha Tribe are moving ahead with a feasibility study on a proposed marijuana-growing operation in western Iowa that would provide pot for medical, industrial and recreational uses.

Tribal members have voted on three referendums now giving the Tribal Council the authority to legalize marijuana on the reservation in northeast Nebraska. Chairman Vernon Miller says input from tribal members was vital.

“We needed to really gauge the opinions of the Omaha Tribal members,” Miller says. “We didn’t want to take action without their approval and their opinion. They are pretty controversial issues. We posed those questions to the people and they voted on all three and supported all three.”

Miller says the Tribal Council will take the time to research what’s viable.

“Recreational is the most controversial from a legal standpoint so we really need to weigh what’s going to be most feasible at this time…dealing with law enforcement agencies as well as U.S. Attorneys from both Nebraska and Iowa,” Miller says. “That’s something we’re really going to have to weigh after the feasibility study is done, what’s going to be something that we can really effectively do here.”

Miller says generating cash for the tribal community is the biggest priority.

“Is it something that’s going to require the least amount of investment but that’s going to provide the biggest ROI, return on investment,” Miller says. “That’s the only reason we’re really pursuing the profit aspect of it, to generate some revenue. My community has a 69% unemployment rate. We have no jobs. Being a soverign nation, we’re going to take that soverignty and provide for ourselves.”

Miller says the tribe will work to ensure that any plan would not violate federal or state laws. The proposal would allow for the creation of the crop on tribal land in western Iowa’s Monona County. For more than 20 years, the tribe has operated a casino there, near Onawa, with Las Vegas-style gambling.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton