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ATHLETICS
Big Ten moves to conference-only schedule for all fall sports, including football

The Big Ten announced Thursday it is moving to a conference-only schedule for all fall sports, including football, becoming the first power conference to drastically change its season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement came the day after the Ivy League — which is in the FCS and is a smaller league compared to the Big Ten — announced it was cancelling all fall sports. The other power conferences — ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — have not yet announced any changes to their fall sports calendar.

"We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority," the Big Ten said in a released statement.

The decision applies to all fall sports, which for Nebraska includes football, volleyball, soccer and cross country. The Big Ten will determine at a later time how each sport will be affected, including changes in scheduling. The decision means the volleyball team will no longer be able to play nonconference matches against teams in its surrounding area as planned, including Creighton.

Though the move shows optimism of sports restarting soon, the Big Ten concluded its statement by saying it's "prepared to not play" at all "should the circumstances so dictate."

"This is not a fait accompli that we're going to have sports in the fall. We may not have sports in the fall, we may not have a college football season in the Big Ten,” Commissioner Kevin Warren said on BTN. “This allows us to be able to just take another step in this entire process.”

By limiting its teams to only conference games, the Big Ten said it has more flexibility to adjust its plans based on the pandemic, including having conference-wide testing protocols.

For Nebraska football, nonconference home games against Central Michigan (Sept. 12), South Dakota State (Sept. 19) and Cincinnati (Sept. 26) will be canceled. If the Huskers play fewer than their originally scheduled seven home games, especially if there are limits on fan attendance, the athletic department could lose millions in game-day revenue. According to the most recent financial filings, Nebraska makes about $4.6 million off each home game.

Nebraska was also set to pay $1.3 million to Central Michigan, $515,000 to South Dakota State and $400,000 to Cincinnati for those games in Lincoln.

“Today’s news out of the Big Ten was disappointing,” said Cincinnati Athletic Director John Cunningham, who holds a law degree from the University of Nebraska. “We were looking forward to the opportunity of playing at Nebraska.”

This will be the first time Nebraska will have a football season without nonconference games since it joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1921.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, Chancellor Ronnie Green and Athletic Director Bill Moos praised the decision in a joint statement.

“The most important thing is the safety of our student-athletes and that of our Athletics staff and coaches, and we appreciate the thoughtful approach taken by the Big Ten,” the statement read. “Athletics is a valuable part of campus life, and important to our community and the state of Nebraska. We are fortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been as widespread in Nebraska and look forward to safely hosting Big Ten competitions. While there are still many details left to be worked out, we are eager to safely cheer on our Husker student-athletes.”​

Most of Nebraska’s fall sports athletes are on campus undergoing voluntary summer workouts. Coaches are able to begin working with players in person in late July. Preseason practices are able to begin Aug. 7.

“While many uncertainties still exist, today’s decision will provide the greatest amount of flexibility as we move forward,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said in a statement.

Nebraska was previously slated to play nine conference games, four at home and five on the road. The schedule will likely change. Below is a look at the Huskers' conference games as originally scheduled:

Sept. 5: Purdue

Oct. 3: at Northwestern

Oct. 10: Illinois

Oct. 24: at Rutgers

Oct. 31: at Ohio State

Nov. 7: Penn State

Nov. 14: at Iowa

Nov. 21: at Wisconsin

Nov. 27: Minnesota

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Photos: Husker fans through the years

News
Omaha dealing with one of the hottest summers on record

Hot, hot, hot.

This has been one of Omaha’s hottest summers on record as much of the nation bakes under persistent heat. While the weekend should bring temporary relief to the metro area, the heat is expected to return stronger next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The effect has been wide-ranging but not always obvious since the heat has been chronic, not extreme. Electric bills are up, tomatoes are refusing to set fruit, and drought is beginning to emerge.

It’s the kind of summer we’ll need to get used to as the planet warms because of rising greenhouse gases, climate scientists say.

“The conditions thus far in June and July point to a sign of what is to come (in Nebraska), warmer summers, warmer days, high humidity,” said Martha Shulski, state climatologist for Nebraska.

Omaha’s fifth hottest summer

Through Wednesday, Omaha was averaging its fifth hottest summer since record-keeping began in 1871, said Van DeWald and Paul Fajman, meteorologists with the weather service.

The reason? Nearly every day since June 1 has been above average. Just six days have seen temperatures below average, and generally just by a few degrees.

From June 1 through Thursday, Omaha’s high reached at least 90 degrees on 22 days. That’s more than the 19 recorded in June through August of 2019, DeWald said.

The first nine days of June also were Omaha’s longest, earliest stretch of 90-degree days.

And while daytime highs are what people notice, it’s at night that Omaha’s temperature records have been set so far this summer. Warm nights are considered one of the chief markers of a warming planet.

Omaha set a June record for the average low temperature being the highest since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. In other words, nights averaged the record warmest for any June in 125 years. On two nights, Omaha set individual records: June 7 and 8, when the overnight low failed to drop below the upper 70s.

“We just have had a lot of consistently warm days, and we’re not cooling off much at night,” Fajman said.

Omaha’s been hot because the central U.S. has been well above normal from Kansas north into the Dakotas. Nebraska averaged its ninth hottest and 18th driest June on record, according to data released this week by the National Centers for Environmental Information.

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Rising electrical need

Electric bills are rising as people, many homebound because of the pandemic, crank up their air conditioners. The Omaha Public Power District reports seeing an increase in residential electric use in June.

David Houk, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald’s weather consultant, said the need for air conditioning is up 60% in the Omaha area over normal, based on “cooling degree days.” From June 1 through Wednesday, Omaha had accumulated 520 cooling degree days compared with the usual 322.

A cooling degree day is a proxy for energy use, based on how much the average daily outdoor temperature varies from what’s considered comfortable without air conditioning.

Punky tomatoes; worries about drought

Nearly the entire state was shy on rainfall in June, and some areas received only 10% to 25% of normal rainfall, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Almost a third of Nebraska is at risk of slipping into drought, and 14% already has, according to the National Drought Monitor. Likewise, drought is creeping into western Iowa.

The heat and lack of rain are worsening those conditions, Shulski said. “Depending on amount and timing of rainfall, conditions could continue to deteriorate relatively quickly this time of year,” she said.

Pastureland, corn and cattle are most at risk, said Shulski and Al Dutcher, associate Nebraska state climatologist.

Pastures are the immediate concern, and several bouts of rain will be needed for them to be semiproductive, Dutcher said. Heat stress can prove fatal to cattle, and the risk next week is being closely watched. Corn, too, is at risk of diminished yields because of heat stress.

In the backyard garden, vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers aren’t setting fruit because it’s been so hot, said Scott Evans, horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. By this time of year, tomato plants should at least have green tomatoes on them, and so far many don’t, Evans said. The problem? Once temperatures rise above 90 degrees, the pollen can become sterile or the flowers can drop without setting fruit, he said. “That is all heat-related,” he said.

A hotter world

While it’s hard to tie the weather in a given season at one locale to global warming, the type of weather Nebraska has seen this summer is indicative of climate change: chronic heat, hot nights and extreme precipitation, Shulski said.

“The question is not did climate change cause it, the question is how much worse did climate change make it?” Shulski said.

Rising night-time temperatures, which are increasing at a faster pace than daytime temperatures, are one of the insidious aspects of global warming, climate scientists say. That’s because it is at night that living things — plants, animals, humans — have a chance to recover from daytime heat. With less chance to recover, food production could be affected and mortality could increase from heat waves.

Summer 2020 forecast: Expect more heat

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says the odds favor warmer than normal weather for the rest of July across much of the U.S., including Nebraska and Iowa. The agency said much of eastern Nebraska and most of Iowa are at high risk of excessive heat late next week.

Dutcher said the key to next week’s weather will be this week’s rains and next week’s winds. If it’s rainy, the landscape will have more moisture to fuel humidity. If that happens and winds don’t kick up next week, then models indicate that the weather could become dangerously hot and muggy.

“If we can maintain a decent breeze (greater than 8 mph), then it will be tolerable,” he said. Otherwise, he said, heat index values late next week could exceed 110 degrees.


‘The Night of the Twisters’ in Grand Island 40 years ago

Photos: 'The Night of the Twisters' in Grand Island 40 years ago

Local
special report
Why Republicans might knock on your door, but Democrats might not — yet

The next knock on your door might not be a delivery driver from Amazon. In Nebraska, it could be a candidate running for office.

After leaning heavily on phone and digital outreach, many political campaigns are sending volunteers to voters’ doors ahead of the general election.

So far, it’s mostly Republicans campaigning at the stoop. Democrats are still debating whether and how to safely canvass for the Nov. 3 election.

Most door-to-door campaigning was put on hold in March as the country shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans started ringing doorbells again in mid-June in Nebraska’s most competitive congressional race, the Omaha area’s 2nd Congressional District.

Volunteers for Rep. Don Bacon wear masks and practice social distancing, said Kyle Clark, a Bacon campaign spokesman. Clark said the response from GOP voters answering doors has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Bacon’s team takes public health seriously, Clark said, and “will continue to monitor the COVID situation and adjust our plans.”

Bacon’s key challenger in the 2nd District House race, Democrat Kara Eastman, is not yet ready to knock on voters’ doors. She said through a campaign spokesman that she wants to be smart with people’s health.

Her volunteers are chatting with voters by phone, text and video conferencing and using other forms of digital outreach, the campaign said.

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One day soon, that could change, but only “in a scenario where we determine it to be safe for the voters and our hard-working volunteers,” said Dave Pantos of Eastman’s campaign.

Not all Republicans are resuming door-to-door campaigning. State Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, who’s in a hotly contested legislative race with another Republican, real estate agent Janet Palmtag, said her campaign is sticking with phone calls and virtual meetings for now. “We’re closely monitoring the confirmed cases in District 1,” Slama said.

A spokesman for Douglas County Health Director Adi Pour said she has “no particular concerns” about door-to-door campaigning, as long as people wear masks, keep their distance and stay outside.

That’s what the Nebraska Republican Party is doing while knocking on doors for candidates up and down the ballot, said the state party’s executive director, Ryan Hamilton.

Party volunteers have been asked to stand 8 to 10 feet away from doors after they knock and to wear masks, though Hamilton said voters often ask that the mask be removed.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Joey Prestley, a staff canvasser for the Progressive Turnout Project, left, talks with Andrew Stamps and his partner, Alison Gammie, while reaching out to voters in the age of the new coronavirus in northwest Denver. The coronavirus pandemic isn't going away anytime soon, but campaigns are still forging ahead with in-person organizing.

Grace Buttermore, a 19-year-old Omaha Republican, has been knocking on doors for GOP candidates, including Omaha City Councilman Rich Pahls, a former state senator who is running for his former legislative seat representing southwest Omaha.

One example: She and Pahls, masked up, spoke to a veteran who was sitting on his porch near 156th and Q Streets. He seemed surprised to speak with the candidate he had backed for City Council.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is going door to door in the 2nd District, too, said Samantha Cotton of Trump Victory. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is not, at least not yet, officials confirmed.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Molly Safreed said Trump’s team contacted a total of nearly 13,000 District 2 voters last weekend by phone, social media and in person.

Election experts say face time with voters is historically the most effective form of campaigning.

Some candidates, including Democratic Senate hopeful Alisha Shelton, lamented the loss of in-person campaigning. She tweeted Wednesday that she missed “being able to connect with Nebraskans.”

But local Democrats are holding yard sign pickup drive-thru parties, texting and calling voters, reaching out on social media and dropping off campaign pamphlets at people’s doors.

“We do not think it is safe for our staff members and voters’ health to be conducting conversations at the doors right now,” said Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Omaha-area Democrats will get some knocks at the door soon from a group of national progressives interested in boosting Eastman’s chances in the House race. Those efforts were scheduled to start Thursday.

The Progressive Turnout Project, a national $52.5 million effort to get more people to vote this, aims to knock on 50,000 doors in Nebraska’s 2nd District, said Will Mantell, a spokesman for the group.

The reason: The group does not want to cede to Republicans or Trump the most effective way to encourage voters to cast their ballots.

Mantell said the group’s volunteers will have masks, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and instructions to stay at least 6 feet from other people, and to stay outdoors, even if invited in.

“It’s essential that we get to work now by having the kind of early, face-to-face conversations that our research shows boost Democratic turnout,” said Alex Morgan, the group’s executive director.


Our best staff images from July 2020

Photos: Our best staff images from July 2020

Articles
Rulings keep president's finances hidden, probably through Nov. 3
TRUMP LASHES OUT AT COURT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump scored a tactical victory in the Supreme Court that will most likely keep his personal financial records out of public view through the November election, but he framed Thursday's two rulings as a loss imposed by his enemies.

The president was rebuffed in his broader effort to establish that a president can't be forced to give in to the demands of Congress and prosecutors, prompting a series of angry tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats and at the court.

In practical terms, the court effectively ensured that voters won't see potentially embarrassing documents from his bank and accounting firms at least for months to come.

Rather than claim partial vindication, as did his personal attorney Jay Sekulow, Trump seized on the rulings to repeat his argument that he's an outsider fighting against a "deep state" that even includes a U.S. Supreme Court with a conservative majority.

"Courts in the past have given 'broad deference,' " he tweeted. "BUT NOTME!"

Critics have said those records sought by Congress and prosecutors — including tax returns that past presidential candidates made public voluntarily — would show that Trump has overstated his net worth to promote his image as a billionaire developer, understated it for tax purposes and engaged in hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him.

The justices sent back to lower courts a case about the House's demands for his financial records, doubtless delaying a resolution of that dispute well past the Nov. 3 election. Although they refused to give Trump the categorical immunity he sought from a New York grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, they allowed the president to pursue "subpoena-specific constitutional challenges" in federal district court.

"We're basically starting all over again, sending everything back down to the lower courts," Trump told reporters at the White House. "Frankly, this is another political witch hunt, the likes of which nobody's ever seen before."

Even if Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance succeeds in winning access to the documents, they would be turned over under grand jury rules that will keep them secret at least as long as an investigation continues.

With his approval ratings sagging months into a coronavirus pandemic that has weakened the economy and left 134,000 Americans dead, Trump is waging anti-establishment battles on multiple fronts, from overruling the conclusions of his own public health experts to denouncing efforts to remove Confederate iconography from public spaces.

His goal is to replicate his surprise 2016 victory, when he battled back from dismal poll numbers to narrowly win the presidency thanks to a dedicated and enthusiastic core of supporters alienated by the status quo.

He depicted the bid by Vance as only the latest in a line of politically motivated bids to delegitimize his presidency.

He called it "a second, third, and fourth try" after the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller and an impeachment effort led by Democrats hadn't succeeded.

"Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President," he wrote in a series of tweets. "This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT."

The subtext of the president's complaints was made plain by his conclusion, that "despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!"

The Supreme Court's rulings defer but don't necessarily eliminate the pain for Trump — particularly if he wins reelection. If Vance is able to convince a grand jury that there's reason to believe Trump acted illegally, a second term may be at least partially defined by a continuing investigation of the president's hush-money payments.

The court also laid out specific criteria for lawmakers seeking access to the president's financial records — with House Democrats already indicating that they will press for Trump's records under just such terms.

"The path that the Supreme Court has laid out is clearly achievable by us," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, adding that the ruling was "not good news for the president."

And Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has seized on the issue, noting on social media that he has released 21 years of his own tax returns and repeating his call for Trump to make his public.

Still, Trump's refusal to release his tax returns in 2016 didn't prove damaging to his political prospects. And with voters weighing the continuing pandemic, persistent unemployment and concern over racial inequality, the president's personal financial dealings are unlikely to sway many headed to the polls.

And while revelations to come might frustrate the president, it's not clear that they would inflict new damage to him politically. Some of the tax schemes used by the president earlier in his life were already exposed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story published by the New York Times, and Trump argued during the 2016 campaign that avoiding payments to Uncle Sam made him "smart." After the Times report, Trump said he was a "big beneficiary" of loopholes.

"But I'm working for you now," he said. "I'm not working for Trump."

Nor has Trump ever faced much political fallout for questions about his personal life, thanks in part to his success in winning over evangelical voters through his success in adding more conservative judges to federal courts.

Voters never seemed to particularly believe Trump's claims to be worth more than $10 billion. Only 20% of voters in a 2016 poll by Morning Consult pegged the president's net worth that high, with 43% saying his total holdings amounted to less than half that amount. A Bloomberg News analysis conducted last year pegged the president's assets at about $3.5 billion, with debt of about $550 million.