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Interesting planetary alignment visible this week

Lawrence to host Bull Bonanza on Main Street

Photos sought for Nebraska's 150th birthday

NNA asks Congress to intervene with postal service


Interesting planetary alignment visible this week

By Don Wiest
A planetary alignment that hasn't happened since 2005 is visible in the sky before sunrise for the next several days. All five planets that can be seen with the naked eye (well, actually there are six) are lined up from the near the southeastern horizon to the southwestern sky. Don't be concerned if the sky is cloudy because the planetary alignment will be visible through most of February.
To see it, you will want to be outside at about 7:15 a.m. and facing toward the south. If the sky is clear, and you have no trees or buildings in the way, you will be able to see Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter all aligned from east to west. You may need binoculars to see Mercury, which is a yellow color. Venus is bright and white. Saturn is a yellow color. Mars is red. And Jupiter is white.
Two bright stars will be visible between the planets. Red Antares is to the lower right of Saturn, and blue-white Spica is to the right of Mars. The moon will be moving past these planets from west to east from Jan. 27 to Feb. 6 which will make the experience even more interesting to see.
You should be able to see six planets with your eyes only. Who can tell me what the sixth planet is? The next alignment of these five planets will be in mid-August of 2016 in the evening sky.

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Lawrence to host Bull Bonanza on Main Street
If you want to see bulls on Main Street and do not want to travel to Pamplona, Spain- then you can simply travel to Lawrence on Saturday. Hopefully, you won't have an opportunity to run with the bulls as you could in Pamlona. At Lawrence the plan is to safely confine the bulls in pens.
The South Central Cattlemen's Association is holding their 8th annual Bull Bonanza that day. Pens of bulls will line the Lawrence Main Street featuring consignments of bulls from cattlemen from across the south central Nebraska region. Display times will be from 10:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m.
The Bull Bonanza will provide an opportunity for area cattlemen to showcase their bulls! It also provides the opportunity for the public and potential bull buyers to view a selection of area raised bulls of various breeds and ages. There will also be opportunities to visit with the cattlemen about their breeding and genetics program and their cattle, or perhaps discuss issues concerning the beef industry. Attendees may also register for a nice array of door prizes to be given away during the day.

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Photos sought for Nebraska's 150th birthday
Do you know, your county has a unique opportunity to help the state of Nebraska celebrate its 150th birthday? Nebraska's sesquicentennial will be held during 2017 and your help is needed.
To include all Nebraska counties in this year-long celebration, the Governor's Nebraska 150 Commission has endorsed a statewide photography call titled "Bridges: Sharing our Past to Enrich the Future." This juried exhibition is sponsored by the Hildegard Center for the Arts, the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the Nebraska State Historical Society. Photographers everywhere are being called to submit photos of historic sites and hidden treasures found in all 93 Nebraska counties. Selected photos will be featured in a statewide traveling exhibit as part of Nebraska's 150th birthday celebration in 2017.
Organizers report there have been no photographs received yet for Nuckolls County. The deadline is March 21. For guidelines or to submit, go to To learn more about the Governor's Nebraska 150 Commission, visit

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NNA asks Congress to intervene with postal service
If Congress does not act quickly to reform the U.S. Postal Service, small-town America can expect a further slow-down of the mail, said Chip Hutcheson, publisher of The Times-Leader in Princeton, KY, when he testified to a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday.
Hutcheson, president of the 130-year-old National Newspaper Association, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that the closing of many mail processing plants by the troubled Postal Service over the last decade has already hurt mail service, which in turn damages local economies. He said a survey of his 2,300-member association of community newspapers indicated more than 92 percent had recent problems getting newspapers through the mail on time. Nearly half reported problems with First-Class or Priority Mail as well. NNA represents community newspapers, including more than 2,000 weeklies that largely depend upon mail distribution to reach readers.
Congress has been trying since 2008 to reach agreement on legislation to help the postal service address falling mail volumes, but still serve every household in America. Postmaster General Megan Brennan testified the postal service had incurred $56.8 billion in net losses since 2007.
The testimony was offered by NNA in a hearing called by Committee Chair Ron Johnson, R-WI, entitled "Laying Out the Reality Of the Postal Service." Johnson and his committee has been asked by a coalition of businesses that use the mail and of postal workers to prevent further mail cutbacks.
Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, has introduced the Improving Postal Operations, Service and Transparency (iPOST) Act, to prompt action on Capitol Hill. Hutcheson told the committee the bill could serve as a foundation for congressional action this year, but urged Congress to act before April, when USPS finances are expected to worsen by $1 billion because of a court-ordered postage rollback.
One aspect of iPOST is to end the double-funding of retiree health benefits for postal workers, both funded by postage payments. iPOST would shift postal retirees onto Medicare upon retirement, to which postage-payers contribute on workers' behalf. A separate federal health care package for postal workers is also supported by postage payments. USPS employee groups have supported the shift to Medicare integration to help USPS address its financial troubles. By streamlining the payments, USPS would no longer be required to pay into the separate benefit fund, mailers would not have to support a dual track system and more money would be available to support postal operations.
Hutcheson said the change would give the postal service the relief it needs to keep the mailing system fluid and effective without damaging taxpayers. He objected to the current funding mandate, which he said makes small businesses like his contribute extra postage payments while struggling to provide benefits for their own workers.
"The taxpayers have benefitted for some years now by our extra postage obligations. It is time for Congress to end this unfair hit on small businesses," he said.
Finding financial solutions for USPS such as the Medicare integration is critical, Hutcheson said, so that more service cutbacks can be avoided, which he called particularly damaging for smaller communities.
Hutcheson addressed the digital divide, in which a third of rural residents do not have broadband service. Dependence upon print communications and the mail in general is heavy among minorities, the poor and in rural areas, he said. Where newspapers are concerned, the printed newspaper in the mail supplies the revenue to support the digital news that younger and more affluent readers may use.
"All of this makes the mail absolutely critical. In small-town America, we need it for medicines, to apply for jobs, to vote and to receive the newspaper," he told the committee. He commended the Postal Service for initiating a new study to measure on-time delivery for rural areas, and said NNA looks forward to the results of the study this year.
In April, USPS is under court order to lower postage rates so it is no longer collecting extra funds permitted during the Great Recession. The rollback is expected to deepen the agency's financial woes. Hutcheson said his organization had reluctantly concluded that the rollback should not occur and urged the committee to pass legislation in time to prevent it.
"NNA's support for suspending the mandate to roll back postage rates in April is contingent upon the Postal Service's commitment to enact no further systematic service cuts and to live within its means without more exigency increases. To us, that translates into suspending further plant closings and continuing the postmaster general's commendable efforts to trim costs without risking more mail volume loss through service cuts," Hutcheson said.

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