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Joel Sartore shares harrowing experience in Africa

Lincoln’s own Joel Sartore shares the life-threatening experience he had in Africa earlier this year:
Africa’s Albertine Rift – A Special Essay by Joel Sartore – National Geographic Magazine.


Charlie Janssen’s campaign site taken over

If you plan to run for office again, it’s always a good idea to pay a few bucks to renew your domain name — especially if that name is on all your campaign literature and you’d like to use it again.

Because if you neglect to renew the name, bad things can happen. Like what happened to Sen.


Wisconsin fans asked to clean up their potty-mouths

The University of Wisconsin athletic director and football coach sent a letter to students this week asking that they clean up their filthy mouths and stop with the “vulgar chants.”

UW students are notorious for chants that include colorful words that begin with F and S. The AD and coach said they’ve received letters from fans who are not impressed — particularly those who bring children to the games.

Here’s a sample: “The vulgar profanity the students chant back and forth to one another for amusement inside the stadium during the game is simply pathetic. I expected much more from the Wisconsin program.”

The AD and coach wrote asked students to be a little more creative. “We believe you want to represent yourselves, your university and the football program in a classier manner than this. We believe you can have a great time at Camp Randall without chanting four-letter words.

We tell our student-athletes all the time that the way they behave in public is a reflection on themselves, their families, the football program and the university. We are asking you to reflect on the impression you are leaving on other fans.

The letter did give the kids credit for the tradition of singing charming songs like this:


Osborne “about the most popular person in American history to lose an election”

In the miscellaneous section of the recent voluminous poll done by Public Policy Polling were some interesting nuggets about the unprecedented popularity of one Tom Osborne, with Bo Pelini following close behind.

Nebraska AD Tom Osborne

The pollsters found “an amazing” 86 percent of Nebraskans have a favorable opinion of Osborne —

“He has to be just about the most popular person in American History to lose an election,” the pollster said.

The pollster was also amazed that 70 percent of Nebraskans polled had a favorable view of Nebraska Coach Pelini.

“It’s rare when we poll a state to find a college football coach that 70 percent of voters have ever even heard of, much less have a positive opinion of,” the pollster wrote. “If there’s a state in the country that embraces a college football program more than Nebraska does the Cornhuskers I haven’t polled it yet.”

Yeah, let’s see how those numbers look if the Huskers start losing. Remember that moment before halftime of the last game, when the crowd started booing and Bo sorta waved them off. As long as he’s winning, we love Bo. But if he loses, well, it’s a tenuous relationship.

Other nuggets of note:

• 65 percent of those polled supported the move to the Big 10.

• The Chicago Cubs are Nebraskans’ favorite major league baseball team, edging out the Kansas City Royals, 20 percent to 17 percent. (My Minnesota Twins are only loved by 4 percent.)

• Nebraskans’ favorite NFL team? Green Bay Packers, at 17 percent.


And you thought our roundabouts were confusing…

Check out this roundabout in York, England. Councilman Jon Camp was in England a few days ago and snapped this photo of the roundabout, which his friends billed as “the world’s smallest roundabout.”

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“I was fascinated and watched traffic for nearly an hour to see how different types of vehicles negotiated the roundabout,” Camp said. And even though the British roundabouts are often cited by the more well-traveled, cosmopolitan among us when arguing in favor of more roundabouts in America, Camp said some Brits even disparage the curlicue-like roads as being unsafe. Camp, by the way, is neutral on the 14th and Superior roundabout.


Hundreds show up to oppose roundabout at 14th and Superior


Several hundred Lincolnites showed up for a public meeting Wednesday night about a controversial three-lane roundabout scheduled for construction later this month at 14th and Superior streets.

And many of them were mad.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. but the city wasn’t scheduled to begin a presentation until 6:30 p.m. By 6:28 p.m., people were getting itchy and one man stood up and started loudly asking what time it was and why the presentation wasn’t beginning. People began clapping in unison – faster and faster as if to say, “Let’s get it started.”

The city gave out full-color, glossy fliers explaining the $11 million project and the merits of the three-lane roundabout that is its centerpiece, but opponents also stood by the door handing out their own black-and-white fliers outlining concerns. The city ran out of fliers at 200.

Miki Esposito – the city’s interim public works director – was baptized by fire as she had the unenviable task of trying to run the meeting. She opened by asking people to be patient and respectful. She said her son attends Kooser Elementary School and she uses the 14th and Superior intersection to get to work.

Thomas Shafer, head of design and construction for the city public works department, told the audience he lives in North Hills and drives through the intersection about 20 times a week – and then a man started yelling at him. Shafer said the roundabout is the safest, most cost-effective option and will be able to handle more traffic than a signaled intersection. He said the intersection has had 90 accidents in three years, and cited a 2000 report that said crashes dropped 39 percent after traditional intersections were converted to roundabouts. Injury accidents dropped 76 percent and fatal or incapacitating accidents dropped nearly 90 percent, according to the report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by auto insurers and associations.

But when Shafer began citing those stats, a man yelled, “That’s not true!”

When Shafer pointed to a computer simulation of what the roundabout should look like in 2025, some people hooted and howled.

“That is never gonna happen like that!” one yelled.

At that point, some people started leaving. Many people were frustrated because even though city officials say they’ve held 20 meetings on the topic, many felt city officials did not listen to them.

When City Engineer Roger Figard said the roundabout went through “a lot of process,” someone yelled “Who discussed it?”

At one point, someone asked people who supported the roundabout to raise their hands, and about a dozen did so.

The meeting seemed on the verge of spiraling out of control when Shafer wisely invited former Police Chief/current Public Safety Director Tom Casady to come up and give his opinion. In a quiet, soothing voice, Casady calmed the crowd somewhat — speaking like a teacher in control of a classroom, he said, “I’ve spent most of my adult life being yelled at by people. If you wanna hear what I have to say… before the yelling starts. If you don’t, I’ll go home and cook.”

Casady said he was skeptical before the city built the roundabout at 33rd and Sheridan Boulevard and wondered whether the city was ready for it.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in Lincoln looking at a detour sign like cattle looking at a new gate,” he said.

In the eight years before the Sheridan roundabout was installed, there were 104 crashes, 27 with injuries. In the eight years since, Casady said there have been 21 crashes, two with injuries.

However, a person yelled that the Sheridan roundabout has “One lane not three!”

As for the underpass that some people fear will be unsafe for middle school kids, Casady said it’s better than having students bolt across the street. When someone began yelling, Casady said, “Do you mind, sir?” The man kept yelling, so Casady asked the crowd, “How about everybody else?” and many applauded in agreement that the man should zip it.

After the city finished its presentation, city officials tried to steer people toward the back of the room to privately ask questions at several booths set up with renderings of the project, but they were basically buffaloed into allowing people to come up to the front of the room and ask questions via microphone.

For the rest of the meeting, people came up and asked questions, complained and occasionally offered support.

One of the leading opponents, Carol Brown, questioned why the city shelved the other option: a traditional intersection with dual left turns, two through lanes and a right turn lane.

“This is not gonna work there,” she said of the roundabout.

Figard said the city used world-renowned consultants who have done roundabouts all over the nation, and tested the new double roundabout by Memorial Stadium with semis, fire trucks and city buses — all of which were able to navigated them. But he knows roundabouts are controversial: He said typically 60 to 80 percent of people oppose them.

“Roundabouts are coming,” he said. “They’re now in the driver’s manual.”

Construction is set to begin Oct. 24 and the roundabout is scheduled to open in November 2012. The whole project — which is being paid for with all local money — is scheduled to be done in May 2013.

This is the first time I’ve seen the city allow a true public meeting to be held on a city project. The city normally sets up booths with pictures of the project and allows people to ask questions of the people manning the booths. No public presentation, no Question & Answer period, no opportunity for things to spiral out of control like they nearly did tonight. However, I applaud the city for making an exception. It was democracy in action, even though it probably makes city officials nervous and certainly the mayor will not like seeing the TV news and headlines about the rancor.

Unfortunately for opponents, I don’t think they can stop this train. After the meeting, as people were trickling out, I asked the public works director whether there was any chance the city would reconsider the roundabout.

“The project is going forward,” Esposito said, moments after a woman predicted a child would be killed in the roundabout some day, and told her she’d have blood on her hands when it happened.


State senator rents land to TransCanada while negotiating

Sen. Annette Dubas

State Sen. Annette Dubas is one of four senators meeting today with the Canadian oil company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.

She also has a conflict of interest — the Fullerton senator’s family rents and owns land that TransCanada would be building a pipeline on. Dubas disclosed this conflict of interest to the state Accountabiity & Disclosure Commission in February 2010, but said she still intended to participate in discussions about the pipeline because it’s an important issue in her district.

Dubas and three other senators are meeting with the oil company today to discuss concerns about the pipeline path — and some lawmakers want to hold a special legislative session about the pipeline, which has faced significant opposition in Nebraska.


South Lincoln mini-mall springs to life with new shops

The mini-mall (do we still call them that?) south of SouthPointe Pavilions (what pavilions?) sure seems to be filling up with places to eat and shop.

I was there to try one of Hollenbeck Farms’ burgers in their new restaurant, Crave, (and the burgers are awesome, but a bit pricey) and noticed a few doors down a Pepper Jax Grill is “coming soon.” You can already eat at Chipotle, Noodles and then get dessert at Cherry on Top. Not to mention a Starbucks beforehand (who’s counting calories?).

Farther west in the mall there’s a new clothing store called Neebo — a national chain of college bookstores that is a division of Nebraska Book Company. Lots of adorable Huskerwear there.


Ex-Big 12 commissioner says Perlman fought revenue-sharing

Former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe tells that a guy named Harvey Perlman fought hard against Beebe’s proposal two years ago to equally share revenue from TV rights.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman

He says the Cornhuskers stood in the way of a revenue-sharing proposal that has been adopted since Beebe’s ouster.

“It could have kept all 12 together,” Beebe said Saturday, nearly three weeks after his contract was bought out by the Big 12 board of directors on Sept. 22. “I proposed it two years ago when Nebraska and Colorado were in the league as we prepared for our television negotiations we did last spring.”

Beebe said none of the Big 12’s recent defections had to occur.

“I asked for them to consider it,” Beebe said of the revenue-sharing pact. “Nebraska was one of the biggest objectors of equal revenue rights, and their president Harvey Perlman said that. We could have done this two years ago and none of this would have happened.”

Read the story here.


Now this is what I call sports reporting

Seems like an appropriate time to read this story — The Shame of College Sports – The Atlantic — doesn’t it?

It’s a long one, but worth the time. Read it. (And tell me that video of author, Taylor Branch, doesn’t remind you of LJS’s Don Walton…)

But if you don’t give a hoot whether schools like UNL make millions of dollars off the backs of often poor, African American college athletes, and you’re more interested in reading about estrogen than testosterone — you can always read this hilarious column about menopause called The Bitch Is Back.

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