You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
juliekoch / HONS 

This photo provided by Bud Light shows a scene from the company's Super Bowl spot. For the 2018 Super Bowl, marketers are paying more than $5 million per 30-second spot to capture the attention of more than 110 million viewers. (Bud Light via AP)

editor's pick topical
Title X funding for Nebraska family planning clinics debated

People who testified at a legislative hearing Monday on a budget provision that would prioritize which clinics get federal family planning funds disagreed on whether the provision added by Gov. Pete Ricketts was needed. 

They also disagreed about its effect on Title X providers, depending on how it's interpreted, and whether patients would continue to have access to care.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland became the focus of much of the testimony, as did an audit by the Nebraska State Auditor's office, which was brought up by Bo Botelho, chief operating officer for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The provision in the budget bill (LB944) would allow the state to prioritize federal family planning funding for clinics that do not provide or refer for abortions. 

Ricketts put the provision, which is similar to language included last year in the 2017-19 budget, in for a second time, saying Nebraska is a pro-life state, and the state’s budget should reflect those values. 

Action by Congress last year allowed Nebraska to take new steps to protect unborn life by ensuring that Title X dollars are not used to fund abortions, he said. 

Health clinics, including Planned Parenthood, are prohibited from using federal funds to perform abortions. But abortion opponents have argued that any Title X money given to Planned Parenthood frees up other money that can be used for abortions. 

With the Ricketts provision, health providers that receive Title X funding for services such as breast exams, contraception, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screening would be required to show a legal, physical and financial separation from any abortion services, including referrals or counseling, that they provide.

Botelho said a state audit showed abortion services were mixed into Title X funding, but he didn't have a lot of answers to senators' questions about it. 

The audit was for fiscal year 2014-15 and he said HHS did not have adequate monitoring procedures to ensure payments were for allowable services.

Monthly expense reports were reviewed, the audit showed, but invoices and supporting documentation were not required. 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had abortion-related services charged to its grant.  

Julie Reno, former manager of Title X programs for HHS who retired in December, said the Title X program was audited three years in a row, and the main focus was Planned Parenthood. 

Many of the audit findings on use of Title X funds for abortion services were financial coding mistakes, she said. 

Appropriations Committee member John Kuehn said Reno was illustrating the very problem that prompted the need for the Ricketts provision, to ensure funding for family planning services is separated from abortion services. 

"When we have organizations that there is not a clear delineation within the organization of how the funds are used, we open ourselves up to these potential mistakes. And these mistakes are costly," Kuehn said. 

No one wants to restrict access or eliminate a provider, he said. The provision would ensure absolute separation, clarity and integrity of the programs. He said he was incensed by what the audits showed and how it jeopardizes the entire Title X program in Nebraska. 

"These agencies all do wonderful work," Reno said. "The federal government has never had a problem (with the use of Title X funding by clinics). The problem has been here, because it's been a constant witch hunt against birth control and family planning.

"If you're worried about women being able to receive (sexually transmitted infection) treatment, if you're concerned about children in poverty, if you care about Nebraska women suffering from cancer, if you'd like to see fewer children in foster care, you must be against LB944," Reno said. 

Last year, the Legislature removed Ricketts' Title X provision, with the recommendation that senators study it over the interim and bring it back as a policy issue rather than a budget issue.

When Ricketts announced he would bring it back, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland attorney and public affairs manager Meg Mikolajczyk responded that his action was a direct attack on the organization and part of an extreme agenda to dismantle reproductive health care access. It could mean 8,000 Nebraskans would lose access to the health care they receive at Planned Parenthood, she said. 

The attacks on Title X and Planned Parenthood were politically motivated and medically ignorant, she said. 

Jeff Tracy, director of the Community Action Health Center in Gering, testified that, as drafted, the budget provision would put all Title X clinics at risk, including those that serve low-income women in rural communities. 

Nebraska's health centers serve nearly 85,000 patients annually, he said. They are safety-net clinics that provide care regardless of insurance status.

"With many miles separating Title X providers in rural Nebraska, elimination of even one provider would severely limit access to reproductive health care," Tracy said. 

Markets waiting a while for a pullback. Then, pow!

NEW YORK — The long, smooth, record-setting ride on Wall Street is over. The stock market pullback that experts had been saying was long overdue has finally come.

Investor fears about higher interest rates escalated into rapid, computer-generated selling Monday that wiped out all the market's gains for the year. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,000 points in less than an hour, and it ended with its worst day in more than six years. The Standard & Poor's 500 is now down nearly 8 percent from its record high, set a little more than a week ago.

Market professionals warned the selling could continue for a bit. But many also were quick to say they see no recession looming, and they expect the strengthening global economy and healthy corporate earnings to help stock prices recover.

"The reasons for the increase in rates is the stronger economy," said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. "The reasons are positive. It's not as if something like 2008 or financial Armageddon is coming."

The trigger for the sell-off came at the end of last week when a government report showed that wages across the country rose relatively quickly last month. While that's good for workers, traders took it as a signal that higher inflation may be on the way, which could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than expected. Higher rates not only make it more expensive for people and companies to borrow, they also can drive investors away from stocks and into bonds.

The sell-off Monday was so steep that some market-watchers blamed automated trading systems. These systems are programmed to buy and sell based on several variables, and they may have hit their sell triggers following the first wobble for stock prices after an unusually placid run.

That may mean even more volatility in the coming days, something that investors haven't had to deal with during a blissful year-plus of record-setting returns. Before Monday, the S&P 500 index had gone a record period of time — roughly 400 trading days — without a drop of even 5 percent.

Monday was the first day in office for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, and investors are wondering how closely he will stick with the low interest-rate policies set by his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

Still, many market-watchers said they remain optimistic that stocks will recover.

Despite worries about interest rates, they still see a recession as a long shot. With economies growing around the world, profits for U.S. businesses are expected to continue rising, and stock prices tend to follow the path of corporate earnings over the long term.

"The rate worries have been the trigger" for the stock market's swoon, said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. "But fundamentally, we don't see any new news. It's earnings season, the time that we get more direct feedback from our companies, and we don't see any concerns."

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have told investors how they performed in the last three months of 2017, and most have topped analysts' expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even more encouraging is that more than three quarters of them reported more revenue than expected, which means it's not just cost-cutting and layoffs that are allowing companies to earn more.

The White House cited some of those trends Monday and said "long-term economic fundamentals ... remain exceptionally strong."

President Donald Trump frequently has commented on gains by the market during his first year in office. He has stayed silent in the face of market gyrations over the past week.

If the stock market does indeed bounceback, though, many market-watchers expect returns to be more muted than in prior years because prices have already climbed so high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 292 percent since bottoming in early 2009.

And investors should remember that drops like those of the past two days aren't a unique occurrence for stocks. They're inherently risky investments, and investors should be prepared to see drops of 10 percent. Such declines happen so regularly that analysts have a name for them: a market correction.

Richard Drew, Associated Press 

Trader Peter Tuchman works Monday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 1,100 points as stocks took their worst loss in 6 1/2 years. 

top story topical
Aubrey Trail says Sydney Loofe died of accidental asphyxiation at his hands

Aubrey Trail confessed Monday that Sydney Loofe died at his hands — the result of accidental asphyxiation, he claims — and that he has offered to give the FBI information about another, similar incident two years ago.

Despite his public admissions of responsibility for Loofe's death, which happened nearly three months ago, it remained unclear Monday when criminal charges might come.

The FBI only has called Trail and his girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, persons of interest in the death of the 24-year-old Lincoln woman, whose remains were found Dec. 4 in Clay County.

While investigators quietly work the case, Trail has taken to the media to claim "responsibility" and "accountability" in recent weeks.

On Monday, he put it bluntly: "I killed Sydney Loofe."

"I am accountable. I physically am the one who caused the end of her life. Me and only me," Trail said in a call to the Journal Star from the private prison in Kansas where he's being held on federal stolen goods charges.

Trail first confessed that he killed Loofe in an interview aired Friday night on Lincoln TV station KOLN/KGIN.

Monday, he told the Journal Star the "incident" started at the Wilber apartment where he and Boswell lived. She brought Loofe there Nov. 15. Trail said they moved around that night, before Loofe died early the next morning in a house elsewhere in Saline County.

He wouldn't say where the house is.

Trail said he was in a room with Loofe and two other women, and that he was holding an unspecified object that restricted Loofe's breathing and — according to him — unintentionally caused her death. Boswell was not in the room, he said.

The Journal Star has chosen to leave out more sensitive details.

Asked why they didn't call 911, Trail said it would not have been treated as an accident, based on how they lived.

"We didn't, I guess, live a fine, upstanding lifestyle," he said.

But, Trail said, he wasn't making excuses: "Sydney Loofe should not have died. I deserve life (in prison) or death."

Trail said there is "no way on this planet" he would be exonerated at trial based on the evidence.

"I'm guilty. I did it," he said.

Trail said he promised Sunday to give investigators information about another case similar to Loofe's almost two years ago, before he met Boswell. But he declined to elaborate in his Monday interview.

Trail said he told the FBI he would continue to provide the media with increasingly "gruesome" details about Loofe's death if he doesn't get what he wants from investigators.

He anticipates prosecutors will charge him and Boswell both in connection with Loofe's death.

Until now, Trail on multiple occasions since his arrest in November has stopped short of confessing.

"I don't want a witch hunt for people who shouldn't be witch-hunted," he told the Journal Star.

Soon after, Trail said, he didn't want anyone to believe a word he said, but to verify.

Trail claims he has given the details to law enforcement as recently as Sunday, when he spoke with Lincoln police and FBI investigators.

Trail has implored prosecutors to charge him in the case and Monday said he would plead guilty, even if facing the death penalty.

An FBI spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.

Joe Jeanette, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nebraska, said federal prosecutors are only involved in trying Boswell and Trail for an alleged fraud scheme that bilked a Kansas couple out of more than $400,000.

Loofe's case probably will be prosecuted in state court, not the federal system, Jeanette said.

Neither Saline County Attorney Tad Eickman nor Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly immediately responded to a request for comment. One of them likely would make the decision.

Kelly's office has hired a special investigator to look into the case.

Trail's attorney, Korey Reiman, also declined to comment on Trail's statements to the media.

Courtesy photo 

Sydney Loofe