WBEZ | Nebraska http://www.wbez.org/tags/nebraska Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Nebraska repeals death penalty, but U.S. isn't quite ready to abandon it http://www.wbez.org/news/nebraska-repeals-death-penalty-us-isnt-quite-ready-abandon-it-112100 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/nebraskadeathpenalty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Nebraska&#39;s Legislature voted Wednesday to abolish the death penalty, overturning Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts&#39; veto. The state&#39;s unicameral legislature overwhelmingly approved the measure in a series of three previous votes.</p><p>The repeal comes as other states have experienced complications with new lethal-injection cocktails. But Americans overall still support the practice.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="760px" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/death-penalty-20150527/child.html?initialWidth=767&amp;childId=responsive-embed-death-penalty-20150527&amp;parentUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fsections%2Fitsallpolitics%2F2015%2F05%2F27%2F410081971%2Fnebraska-repeals-death-penalty-but-u-s-isn-t-quite-ready-to-abandon-it" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Support for the death penalty has slowly fallen over the past couple of decades, from a high of 80 percent in favor in the mid-1990s to just over 60 percent currently, according to Gallup.</p><p>That is actually near a 40-year low, but the longer history of public opinion on the death penalty is much more unstable. Views of other social issues, like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/183272/record-high-americans-support-sex-marriage.aspx">same-sex marriage</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="http://www.livescience.com/22654-american-public-opinion-abortion.html">abortion</a>, have told somewhat clearer stories. Americans increasingly approve of same-sex marriage and have remained relatively deadlocked on abortion for decades.</p><p>What accounts for this? Any number of complicated factors combine to affect Americans&#39; views on the death penalty. Here are four potential explanations for the huge swings in Americans&#39; opinions:</p><p><strong>1. Fear.</strong>&nbsp;&quot;There are spikes in death-penalty support appearing during particular eras of what can be described as fear mongering,&quot; contended Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that studies the policy. He explained that during the &quot;red scare&quot; of the 1950s, American support for the death penalty picked up. It fell off in the early 1960s, only to pick up again in the late 1960s and early 1970s after a rash of high-profile assassinations &mdash; Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., for example, and the attempted assassination of George Wallace. All of that contributed to a national conversation about the death penalty as the Supreme Court in 1972 found some death penalty statutes to be unconstitutional (effectively ending the practice for several years), but a 1976 decision opened the doors again. Then, the racially charged political rhetoric on crime in the 1980s (think Willie Horton) likewise fueled that support, according to Dunham&#39;s explanation.</p><p>Conversely, if a culture of fear contributes to support of the death penalty, public distrust of the government turns people against the policy, Dunham explains. During the Vietnam War era, when people started to question the government&#39;s choices, they also questioned the death penalty as a valid form of punishment.</p><p><strong>2. Violence.</strong>&nbsp;This is a case in which it&#39;s easy to read correlation as causation &mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/28/lower-support-for-death-penalty-tracks-with-falling-crime-rates-more-exonerations/">shifts in American support</a>&nbsp;for the death penalty&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115405/death-penalty-support-and-violent-crime-there-correlation">look remarkably similar</a>&nbsp;to those in the violent-crime rate since 1960. It&#39;s&nbsp;<em>possible</em>&nbsp;that as people perceive less crime happening, they also aren&#39;t as enthusiastic about meting out death as a punishment, but, of course, the direction (or size) of causality here is unclear.</p><p><strong>3. Wrongful convictions and DNA.</strong>&nbsp;As of today, 153 death row inmates have been exonerated. And the resulting stream of news about wrongful convictions &mdash; and potential wrongful deaths &mdash; is one of the main reasons Dunham gives for the recent decline in death penalty support.</p><p>&quot;As more and more executions occurred, more and more injustices came to light,&quot; Dunham said. &quot;There are [also] serious concerns about the poor quality of representation. But a lot of people think that the trigger was really the development of DNA.&quot;</p><p>Indeed, as of 1991 &mdash; only shortly after the introduction of DNA evidence in criminal trials &mdash; only 11 percent of people opposed to the death penalty&nbsp;<a href="link:%20http://www.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx">told Gallup</a>&nbsp;it was because of possible wrongful convictions. By 2003, 25 percent gave this as their answer, though the share has fallen some to 17 percent since then.</p><p><strong>4. It&#39;s costly.</strong>&nbsp;Republicans remain far more likely to support the death penalty than Democrats, but support has fallen off among both parties, as well as independents, since the mid-1990s. Indeed, both Republicans and Democrats in the Nebraska Legislature voted against the death penalty. One reason those Republicans gave is the cost of executions, as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/05/26/409859650/nebraska-governor-vetoes-bill-that-repealed-death-penalty">NPR reported</a>.</p><p>Over the past couple of decades, there has been mounting evidence that death penalty cases cost more than non-death-penalty cases, and that they&#39;re getting&nbsp;<a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2014/12/17/six-reasons-the-death-penalty-is-becoming-more-expensive">even more expensive</a>. Not only that, but there&#39;s evidence that executions&nbsp;<a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-03-07-exepensive-to-execute_N.htm">cost more</a>&nbsp;than life in prison.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/05/27/410081971/nebraska-repeals-death-penalty-but-u-s-isn-t-quite-ready-to-abandon-it"><em>via NPR&#39;s It&#39;s All Politics</em></a></p></p> Thu, 28 May 2015 08:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/nebraska-repeals-death-penalty-us-isnt-quite-ready-abandon-it-112100 Driver licenses for undocumented youths? http://www.wbez.org/news/driver-licenses-undocumented-youths-101986 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/immigrant%20map.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 369px; width: 600px; " title="WBEZ asked eight states whether they are planning to provide driver’s licenses to immigrants who receive Social Security and employment-authorization cards as a result of President Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” policy. (WBEZ map by Elliott Ramos)" /></p><p>Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio are planning to provide driver&rsquo;s licenses to undocumented immigrants who get work papers under a new federal policy.</p><p>The Obama administration policy, called &ldquo;Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,&rdquo; will allow as many as 1.7 million illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to get Social Security and employment-authorization cards, along with a deportation reprieve. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications Aug. 15.</p><p>&ldquo;As long as the Social Security Administration issues an individual with a Social Security number, and they have the other documents that are required under Illinois law, then they can apply for a driver&rsquo;s license,&rdquo; said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who oversees that state&rsquo;s driver licensing.</p><p>WBEZ surveyed eight Midwestern states about their response to the policy change. Along with the four states planning to provide licenses, Wisconsin and Iowa officials said they had not decided yet, while Minnesota and Missouri officials did not respond to numerous WBEZ inquiries.</p><p>The states planning to issue the driver&rsquo;s licenses differ from Arizona, Nebraska and Texas, where governors have vowed to block illegal immigrants from getting licenses.</p><p>The immigrants must meet several requirements to get the Social Security and work-authorization cards, including having been younger than 31 on June 15; having arrived in the U.S. before turning 16; having lived in the country continuously since June 2007; being a student or graduate, or having served in the military; and having no serious criminal record nor posing any public safety threat. The work authorization will last up to two years and, if the federal policy stays in place, be renewable. The policy does not provide a path to citizenship.</p><p>Assuming some of the immigrants have been driving illegally, states that enable them to get a license could make roads safer. &ldquo;They have to pass the road exam, they have to pass the written exam, and they pass the vision test,&rdquo; Haupt said about Illinois. &ldquo;We require so many different things of our young drivers and &mdash; by doing so &mdash; they, of course, become better drivers.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois also requires proof of liability insurance on the car the driver uses for the road test. So it&rsquo;s possible that allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally could reduce the number of uninsured vehicles.</p><p>The immigrants themselves have more at stake. Karen Siciliano Lucas, an advocacy attorney of the Washington-based Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., points out that driver&rsquo;s licenses are vital for working and attending school in most regions of the country. &ldquo;Not only that, it is a state-issued identification that shows who you are,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The issue is complicated because most states require driver&rsquo;s&nbsp;license applicants to prove &ldquo;lawful status&rdquo; or &ldquo;legal presence&rdquo; in the United States. Officials in some states say the work authorization under the Obama policy will be sufficient proof. But a USCIS statement says the policy &ldquo;does not confer lawful status upon an individual.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s unclear whether courts will enable states to define lawful status differently than the federal government does.</p><p>States expecting Obama administration guidance about the driver&rsquo;s licenses could be waiting awhile. In response to WBEZ questions, the Department of Homeland Security sent a statement saying the department does not comment on state-specific matters.</p><p>Until federal courts weigh in, states are likely to face lawsuits no matter their course. &ldquo;We will see battles on this,&rdquo; Lucas predicted.</p><p>Making matters more complicated is the federal Real ID Act, a 2005 law aimed at fighting identity theft and keeping terrorists out of federal buildings and airplanes. Among other things, the act requires states to verify that driver&rsquo;s license applicants have lawful status in the United States.</p><p>The law is set to take effect in January, but it&rsquo;s not clear how the Obama administration will enforce it. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has fought for the measure&rsquo;s repeal, calling it unworkable.</p><p>That irks advocates for tougher immigration enforcement: &ldquo;If you want to protect against identify theft, you&rsquo;ve got to eliminate the fraud,&rdquo; said Janice Kephart, who focuses on national security policies for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. &ldquo;That means you have to eliminate the illegal-alien community out of that scheme. It doesn&rsquo;t mean that states cannot give driver&rsquo;s licenses to illegal aliens. It just means that they have to do it outside the Real ID Act.&rdquo;</p><p>Kephart praised Utah, which has created a &ldquo;driving privilege card&rdquo; specifically for undocumented immigrants.</p><p>At the moment the only other states that let undocumented immigrants drive legally are New Mexico and Washington, which provide them the same licenses that U.S. citizens can get.</p></p> Mon, 27 Aug 2012 13:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/driver-licenses-undocumented-youths-101986 Regulator signs off on threatened Nebraska nuclear plant http://www.wbez.org/story/regulator-signs-threatened-nebraska-nuclear-plant-88392 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-27/Nebraska nuclear plant_Reuters_Lane Hickenbottom.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>BROWNVILLE, Neb, June 26 (Reuters) - A top regulator said on Sunday that a nuclear power plant threatened by flooding from the swollen Missouri River was operating safely and according to standards.</p><p>"I got to see a lot of efforts they're taking to deal with flooding and the challenges that presents," Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said after touring the Cooper Nuclear Station near the village of Brownville and meeting with plant officials and executives.</p><p>"Right now, we think they're taking an appropriate approach. This is a plant that is operating safely and meeting our standards," he added.</p><p>The plant is located about 80 miles south of Omaha, where snow melt and heavy rains have forced the waters of the Missouri River over its banks, although they have not flooded the plant and receded slightly on Sunday.</p><p>Jaczko said he was not doing an official plant inspection. He was briefed by NRC resident inspectors -- the agency staff who work on-site every day -- plant officials and executives, said Mark Becker, a spokesman at the Nebraska Public Power District, the agency that runs the plant.</p><p>The power plant sat about 4 feet above the river's level on Sunday. The river had surged over its banks near the plant and filled in low-lying land near the Cooper plant.</p><p>Water levels there are down after upstream levees failed, Becker said, relieving worries that water will rise around the Brownville plant as it has at another nuclear plant north of Omaha in Fort Calhoun.</p><p>Art Zaremba, director of nuclear safety at Cooper, backed the assessment.</p><p>"The plant is very safe right now, and we've taken a lot of steps to make sure it stays that way," Zaremba said.</p><p>Residents near the plant were largely unconcerned about any potential safety risks from flooding ahead of Jaczko's visit.</p><p>"I just don't think the water is going to get that high," said Brownville resident Kenny Lippold, a retired carpenter who has been following each step of the flood preparations in this riverside village of 148 residents.</p><p>"They claim that they are going to keep operating," Lippold said, adding that he will not flee his home of 29 years even though it is less than a mile from the Cooper reactor.</p><p>Local shop owner Katy Morgan, 28, said her fears have been assuaged by information she has received via plant officials, who give out emergency radio equipment to residents within a 10-mile radius of the Cooper plant.</p><p>"I know everybody freaks out when they talk about nuclear," said Morton, who runs a boutique on Brownville's main thoroughfare. "I suppose if there was a drastic increase in the river I would be concerned. If they say 'evacuate' then I would be concerned," Morton said.</p><p>Jaczko will visit on Monday the Fort Calhoun plant in the town of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, about 20 miles north of Omaha, an agency official said.</p><p>Flood water up to 2-feet deep is standing on the site of the 478-megawatt Fort Calhoun plant, which will stay shut down until the water recedes, the NRC said.</p><p>On Sunday afternoon, workers accidentally deflated an auxiliary berm at the plant, said Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson.</p><p>Hanson said the "aqua dam" was a supplemental measure that provided workers "more freedom" but was not essential to keeping the plant dry.</p><p>"The plant itself is still protected," Hanson said. Floodwater would need to rise over 7 feet to flow over the berms and enter the plant, Hanson said, adding that the supplemental dam was not in original flood prevention plans.</p><p>An NRC inspection at Fort Calhoun two years ago indicated deficiencies in the flood preparation area, which have now been remedied, the agency said.</p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 15:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/regulator-signs-threatened-nebraska-nuclear-plant-88392 Floodwater seeps into Nebraska nuke plant building http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/floodwater-seeps-nebraska-nuke-plant-building-88378 <p><p>Officials say that floodwater seeping into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on the banks of the Missouri River is not a safety risk.</p><p>Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said Monday that seepage was expected at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and that pumps are handling the problem.</p><p>Hanson says no nuclear material is kept in the turbine building and that "everything is secure and safe." The plant has been closed for refueling since April.</p><p>The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be inspecting the plant on Monday and talking to OPPD officials.</p><p>An 8-foot-tall, water-filled temporary berm collapsed at the plant early Sunday. Vendor workers are at the site to determine whether the berm can be repaired or will require replacement. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1309182736?&gn=Floodwater+Seeps+Into+Nebraska+Nuke+Plant+Building&ev=event2&ch=1003&h1=U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137445325&c7=1003&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1003&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110627&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 08:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/floodwater-seeps-nebraska-nuke-plant-building-88378