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CAMBRIDGE, Neb. (AP) — A March 4 sentencing hearing is scheduled for two 18-year-olds accused of planning to attack a high school in south-central Nebraska.

Furnas County Court records say Joseph Williams, of Oxford, and Aron McMains, of North Platte, pleaded no contest Monday to misdemeanor attempted terroristic threats. Prosecutors had lowered the charges from felony counts.

Court records say Williams, McMains and two 17-year-old boys had been discussing an attack on Cambridge High School for months. When one student transferred to a different school, they tried to recruit another student.

One of the students told police he thought the plan was a joke but wasn't sure whether the others felt that way.

Both 17-year-olds are seeking to be prosecuted as juveniles.

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A personal loan company in Nebraska is once again asking lawmakers to raise the maximum interest rate it can charge customers.

A representative for OneMain Financial spoke in favor of a bill Tuesday that would allow lenders to charge interest of up to 29 percent per annum. Current law lets lenders charge up to 24 percent per annum on principal amounts up to $1,000, and 21 percent per annum on any remaining unpaid balance.

The bill drew sharp criticism last year from some lawmakers. Sen. Ernie Chambers, of Omaha, said the measure would benefit "cutthroat gougers."

Company officials say they face intense competitive pressure from online, out-of-state lenders that can charge higher rates on so-called installment loans. They say they've closed 11 branches in the last decade.

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TALMAGE, Neb. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in southeastern Nebraska have safely destroyed a live grenade found in a trash bin.

The Nebraska State Patrol says the grenade was found Monday in a dumpster in Talmage as the home of person who had died was being cleaned out. The Otoe County Sheriff's Office, which was initially contacted about the grenade, called the patrol's bomb squad for help.

The patrol squad used a counter charge Monday night to destroy the grenade. No one was injured.

The patrol used the incident to remind people who find an explosive device not to touch it and immediately call emergency responders.

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LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced the agenda for the 31st Governor’s Ag Conference, which brings together ag producers, industry leaders and agri-business managers in Nebraska on an annual basis to talk about the future of agriculture.  The conference is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, March 4-5, 2019, at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.

“For 31 years, the Governor’s Ag Conference has been a premiere forum for Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and industry leaders to come together to discuss agriculture and how to keep growing our state’s number one industry,” said Governor Ricketts.  “We hope you can join us to talk about the future of agriculture in Nebraska.  It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss.”

“We’ve asked industry experts at the local, state and federal level to lead discussions at this year’s Governor’s Ag Conference and share their knowledge and experience with producers and agribusiness leaders from around the state,” said Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman.  “Conference speakers and attendees can use this opportunity to connect with colleagues and prepare for the future.”

The conference starts Monday, March 4, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. with a panel presentation featuring Nebraska entrepreneurs and recruiters.  The panel includes representatives from three innovative Nebraska companies and three organizations involved heavily in recruiting companies to Nebraska.

On the entrepreneur side, the panelists are Vishal Singh with Quantified Ag; Lukas Fricke with ChorChek; and Mitch Minarick with FARMAFIELD.  These speakers will discuss their companies, goals, visions and why they chose Nebraska communities to start their businesses. 

The three people representing recruitment success are: Phil Kozera with Bio Nebraska; Dan Duncan with Innovation Campus; and Bryan Slone with the Nebraska State Chamber.  They will discuss their efforts in recruiting and how to find and attract startups as well as how to connect to established industries. 

Governor Ricketts will moderate this panel presentation that will include questions and answers from the audience.

The annual “Celebrate Nebraska Agriculture” reception, at 6 p.m. on March 4th will feature an assortment of food and beverages from Nebraska.

The conference resumes on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at 9 a.m. with a presentation from Jim Smith, executive director of Blueprint Nebraska, an organization that is spearheading a statewide, citizen-led economic development initiative.

Governor Ricketts, NDA Director Wellman and Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Dave Rippe will update conference participants on legislative initiatives in agriculture and highlight the work being done between state agencies to grow Nebraska.  This panel presentation will be moderated by NDA Assistant Director Amelia Breinig.

Next on the agenda will be Jim Wiesemeyer, with Pro Farmer, giving participants an update on the national farm bill and how it will impact farmers and ranchers nationwide as well as here in Nebraska.   

The Governor's Ag Conference is coordinated by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and is co-sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America.  A $125 registration fee covers participation at activities on both Monday and Tuesday.  Registration and additional information is available online at www.nda.nebraska.gov, or by calling NDA toll-free at (800) 831-0550.

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — A Grand Island woman is accused of stealing more than $36,000 from an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities.
Hall County Court records say 39-year-old Kellie Murphy is charged with felony theft. The records don't list the name of an attorney who could comment for her. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 12.
Police say Murphy is suspected of taking the money between Jan. 3, 2017, and Sept. 3 last year while working for Integrated Life Choices.

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Officials say an online site can provide winter travelers with information about Nebraska road conditions from the perspective of snowplow drivers. The Nebraska Transportation Department said in a news release Tuesday that the online Plow Tracker interactive map shows state plow trucks on highways. At the click of a mouse, site users can see what the snowplow drivers are seeing, thanks to forward-facing dashboard cameras. Plow Tracker automatically refreshes information every minute. Department operations manager Tom Sands says the weather conditions can often be worse than they appear on the dash cameras, which show only a portion of a roadway.


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CHAPPELL, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say a man stabbed outside a mobile home in the Nebraska Panhandle has died.
Deuel County Attorney Joel Jay says that Robert Mick died Thursday. He'd been stabbed Jan. 13 in Chappell.
A woman accused of stabbing Mick, 49-year-old Susan Glenn, so far is charged with assault and use of a weapon. Jay says it's not yet been determined whether any changes in the charges will be made. Her attorney didn't immediately return a call Monday from The Associated Press.
Court records say a witness who'd been standing outside the home talking to Mick was on the phone with 911 dispatchers when Glenn came out of the residence, stabbed Mick and fled in her car.
She went to the county sheriff's office later, and the records say she acknowledged stabbing Mick.

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STANTON, Neb. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a man and motorcycle last seen on the ice of a lake in northeast Nebraska.
Dive teams were called in Monday to help search an area of open water spotted at Maskenthine Lake. He was last seen riding on Sunday afternoon. It wasn't clear whether the open water was a result of the motorcycle or something else breaking through the ice. The lake sits about 2 miles (3 kilometers) north of Stanton in Stanton County.
The man's name hasn't been released.

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DEWITT, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say a 2-year-old Nebraska boy died after he was hit by a bus driven by his father.
The Beatrice Daily Sun reports the incident happened Saturday in the driveway of the family's rural home about 5 miles east of DeWitt in southeast Nebraska.
Just before 1 p.m. Saturday, the family called for help after the boy was run over. Two-year-old Maddox Weber died at the scene.
The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating.

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska is likely to face a prison overcrowding emergency next year that will force state officials to consider releasing all eligible inmates, a prospect some lawmakers fear would endanger the public.
Nebraska corrections director Scott Frakes acknowledged Friday that his department will probably fail to meet a mandatory deadline to reduce the state's prison population by July 1, 2020, triggering the emergency.
Frakes said prison officials have more work to do after members of a legislative committee repeatedly asked him if he believed the goal was still attainable.
"Based on the current population, it's doubtful," Frakes said to the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.
The deadline imposed by the Legislature requires the Department of Correctional Services to lower its inmate population to 140 percent of what its facilities were designed to hold. If the department falls short of that target, the prisons will fall into an automatic "overcrowding emergency" that will force state officials to consider paroling all eligible inmates right away.
Lawmakers set the deadline as part of a 2015 prison reform package to hold the corrections department accountable in its efforts to reduce prison crowding. The package was designed to reduce the number of inmates by placing more emphasis on parole and rehabilitation, but it hasn't yet produced all the desired results.
As of last month, Nebraska's prison overcrowding was worse than when lawmakers approved the 2015 reform package. The prisons housed 5,338 inmates in facilities that were designed to hold 3,375, placing the population at roughly 158 percent of its design capacity, according to the Department of Correctional Services.
Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned that state officials will end up "staring at an emergency" if they don't act now to release more inmates in a safe, controlled manner.
"Tell us what you need, because this is a concern," said Lathrop, of Omaha.
The law allows parole board members to deny parole if they believe inmates pose a "very substantial" risk of violence or are deemed likely to violate parole.
Frakes said he takes the issue seriously and promised he and his staff will "do everything we can" to reduce the inmate population. But he gave lawmakers no recommendations other than approving the budget request Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled last week on his behalf.
The request seeks $49 million for two new high-security units at the Lincoln Correctional Center, which Frakes said would help relieve overcrowding by adding space for 384 new beds. Construction likely wouldn't be complete until 2023 at the earliest — two years past the deadline.
Frakes said the new units would allow corrections officials to place the state's most dangerous inmates in one central location in Lincoln, where they'd be less likely to cause problems that make it harder to rehabilitate other prisoners. High-security inmates are currently housed at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln and the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, a facility in rural southeast Nebraska that struggles to fill job openings.
Sen. Wendy DeBoer, of Omaha, said the longer-term approach is good but voiced concern that prison officials aren't doing enough to address the immediate problem.
"I feel a little bit like we're in a house that's on fire, and we're installing fireproof tiles," she said.
Frakes said some factors that fed the overcrowding are beyond his control, including a small percentage of inmates who refuse to participate in rehabilitative programs. Corrections officials also have no influence over the number of inmates that are sent to their facilities, he said.
Nebraska Board of Parole Chairwoman Rosalyn Cotton has said her board is working to release as many parole-eligible inmates as possible, but doesn't want to compromise public safety just to meet the deadline.
Sen. Kate Bolz, of Lincoln, said lawmakers may also want to look at state agencies outside of corrections, such as parole, probation and the court system, to help reduce the inmate population.

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