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Emily McMinn, For the Lincoln Journal Star 

Mafabi Shadrach sheds a tear while his father holds him at the Bless A Child Foundation playground in Kampala, Uganda.

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'Hate will never win': Husker hoops takes stance against white supremacist videos

The tweets began appearing shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday.

One by one, members of the Nebraska men's basketball team shared a unified message: "Hate will never win."

Friday morning, Husker coach Tim Miles said his team will continue to work to spread a positive message in response to videos that surfaced earlier this week of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student claiming to be "the most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area."

"What I’m proud of is, they’re taking a strong stand in putting a positive message out against hate, racism, prejudice. And they’re having a unified message that, they want to include other student-athletes, and they want to include the students at UNL on this whole process going forward," Miles said. "This is not a one-time thing. This is something we want to continue, to champion that cause, and I’m proud of the guys for that."

Miles himself tweeted a screen shot of his players' tweets with the message "I love these young men!"

Early Friday afternoon, Miles was flanked by two of his players at a news conference originally scheduled to preview Saturday's home game against Rutgers. Instead, senior guard Evan Taylor and junior guard Glynn Watson spoke thoughtfully on their team's reaction to the video.

Taylor, a team captain, opened by reading a statement.

"In light of the recent events on campus regarding hate speech, on behalf of the Nebraska basketball team, we would like to deliver a message against racism that encourages positivity. We encourage all of the Husker athletes and student body to get behind us," Taylor said. "The message that we want to send is that hate never wins, and to spread love."

Wednesday, Miles attended a rally organized by the group UNL Against Hate outside the Nebraska Union.

"I think it just shows how much Coach Miles has our back," Taylor said. "For him to take time out of his day, especially in the midst of our season, take a couple hours out of his day to go hear something that doesn’t really concern him, but it concerns his players, it just lets us know that he has our back."

Friday evening, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos added his support in a written statement.

"I fully support the positive and unified message our men's basketball team is sharing," Moos said. "I'm proud of our student-athletes for taking a stance against hate, prejudice and racism, and I want them to know that the safety and well-being of all of our student-athletes is our top priority."

The original video, featuring UNL student Daniel Kleve in a Google Hangout with other white nationalists, depicted him discussing his desire to be violent.

Anger over that video has continued to simmer on campus this week, particularly among students of color, even as administrators and safety officials have sought to assure students that they reject Kleve’s ideology and put student safety at the forefront.

At an hour-long listening session with faculty Friday morning, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and Executive Vice Chancellor Donde Plowman heard faculty reiterate the blistering concerns voiced by students a day earlier.

Green has said UNL won’t expel a student, citing Kleve’s right to free speech.

“(Students) are absolutely dismayed at the fact that violence can be talked about in this environment, but yet the response appears to be … academic, it’s intellectual, not feelings and heart and understanding what students are having to think about and be concerned about every day,” said Gwendolyn Combs, an associate professor of management at the College of Business.

Reshell Ray, an associate director of student involvement on East Campus, said the existence of racism was not new to UNL or to the country. She said faculty were standing in solidarity with students against bigotry and hatred.

“Fear will not intimidate us and we will see this institution continue,” Ray said. “For 30 years I’ve been on this campus and for 30 more will I stand to continue to fight for the rights of our students.”

The Husker players plan to wear T-shirts with the "Hate will never win" slogan during warmups for Saturday's game against Rutgers, and the team is in the process of putting together a video that will be shown either before or during a timeout in Saturday's game. 

Miles said Friday the players were contributing to the video, in cooperation with UNL's multicultural groups.

Miles said he first noticed something was bothering his team after Nebraska's Tuesday win at Minnesota, a huge victory in bolstering the team's NCAA Tournament hopes.

Instead of a celebratory locker room, the coach found his players to be subdued.

In the minutes after the game, Miles received text messages from Anton Gill and Taylor requesting a team meeting.

The team met on the plane ride home from Minneapolis to discuss the issue. Among the responses discussed was a boycott of the Rutgers game, before the team voted "overwhelmingly" to play.

After returning to Lincoln, the team met with NU system president Hank Bounds and other school officials to voice their concerns.

Bounds released a statement Friday morning. 

“Yesterday Bill Moos asked me to join him in speaking with Husker basketball players who, like many members of our community, are concerned about the white nationalist ideology and activities of one of our students. I share the disgust and anger over these reprehensible views, which are not in keeping with my personal values or those of the University of Nebraska," Bounds said in the statement. "I have been monitoring this situation closely with appropriate University authorities and we are carefully reviewing our options. The safety of our students, faculty and staff is my highest priority.

"The statements of unity by our players later in the evening showed remarkable maturity and grace. I could not be prouder of these young men. That — not the hatred and bigotry espoused by a few — is what the University of Nebraska stands for. That's the ideal we're going to continue to work toward, every day, any way we can."

With extraordinary political optics, Winter Olympics begin

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — In an extraordinary show of unexpected unity, North and South Korea sat side-by-side Friday night under exploding fireworks that represented peace, not destruction, as the 2018 Winter Olympics opened on a Korean Peninsula riven by generations of anger, suspicion and bloodshed.

The sister of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — and appeared genuinely pleased — while they watched an elaborate show of light, sound and human performance. Minutes later came a moment stunning in its optics and its implications: the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, sitting a row in front of Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the North's nominal head of state, all watching the Games begin — officials from two nations that many worry have been on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Not long after, North and South Korean athletes entered Olympic Stadium together, waving flags showing a unified Korea — the long-time dream, in theory at least, of many Koreans both North and South. It was the rivals' first joint Olympic march since 2007. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach then handed the podium to Moon, who declared the Olympics officially open.

The ceremony's signature moment delivered another flash of unity and deft political stage-managing, too. Two athletes from the joint Koreas women's hockey team climbed stairs to the cauldron with the Olympic torch. At the last moment, though, they handed off the flame to former Olympic champion figure skater Yuna Kim, arguably South Korea's most famous person. She actually lit the cauldron as the home crowd roared.

Moon, in a statement, said athletes from North and South will "work together for victory." And Bach lauded the joint march of the two Koreas as a "powerful message."

"We are all touched by this wonderful gesture. We all join and support you in your message of peace," Bach said.

After years of frustration, billions of dollars and a nagging national debate about their worth, the opening ceremonies took place before a world watching the moment not only for its athletic significance and global spectacle, but for clues about what the peninsula's political future could hold.

There is a palpable excitement in this isolated, rugged mountain town, as one of the poorest, coldest and most disgruntled parts of an otherwise prosperous South Korea kicks off two weeks of winter sports, spectacle and, from the looks of things, some inter-Korean reconciliation.

After a chaotic year of nuclear war threats and nuclear and missile tests from the North, the opening ceremony proved to be an evening of striking visual moments.

The significance of Pence and the North Koreans sitting in the same box was not immediately clear, though it seemed to run counter to the mission he was supposed to undertake. He'd been dispatched from Washington for the Olympics in part, he said, to make sure the world didn't forget that North Korea was a misbehaving and dangerous neighbor in the community of nations.

What did seem clear was that, deliberately or not, the North Korean government had managed to edge its way onto center stage during the South's biggest global moment in years.

A huge crowd gathered in the freezing Olympic Stadium as performances displayed the sweep of Korean history and culture. The march of athletes from the world's many nations saw them girded against a frigid Korean night, with temperatures that dipped below freezing and biting winds.

Members of a delegation from North Korea, part of an Olympics partnership between the two Korean rivals, watched from high in the stadium a performance called "The Land of Peace" and as past South Korean athletes paraded a large southern flag. The North Koreans, dressed in identical garb, cheered in careful coordination.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures to mark the games. More than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries will compete here, making it the biggest Winter Olympics in history.

Pyeongchang was not supposed to share the spotlight with Pyongyang. This was not supposed to be, as some in Seoul grumble, the "Pyongyang Games," a play on the North Korean capital's phonetic similarity to Pyeongchang.

After two failed Olympic bids that emphasized the high-sounding notion that the Games could help make peace with North Korea, Pyeongchang finally sold its successful try in 2011 on the decidedly capitalistic goal of boosting winter sports tourism in Asia.

But North Korea has a habit of not letting itself be ignored when it comes to its southern rival.

Its agents blew up a South Korean airliner ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics in an attempt to dissuade visitors; then it boycotted its rival's Olympic debut on the world stage. A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis. It has only deepened over the years as the North closes in on the ability to field an arsenal of nukes that can hit U.S. cities.

And so, with a little help from a liberal South Korean president eager to engage Pyongyang, the 2018 Pyeongchang Games open.

They do so with as much focus on the North, which has no real medal contenders, as the South, which in the three decades since its last Olympics has built a solid winter program as it went from economic backwater and military dictatorship to Asia's fourth-biggest economy and a bulwark of liberal democracy.

All sides claim budget win; immigration fight looks tougher

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders, top Democrats and President Donald Trump are all claiming big wins in the $400 billion budget agreement signed into law Friday. But the push to pass the massive legislation underscored enduring divisions within both parties, and those rifts are likely to make the next fight over immigration even more challenging.

In Washington's latest display of governance by brinkmanship, the bipartisan accord bolstering military and domestic programs and deepening federal deficits crossed the finish line just before dawn — but not before the government shut down overnight.

Passage left nerves frayed and Democrats with little leverage to force congressional action on their most high-profile priority: preventing deportation of hundreds of thousands of the young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and remain here without permanent legal protection.

Lawmakers rushed to limit the disruption and impact over the lapse in government funding, voting in the middle of the night to reopen agencies before workers were due to report to the office. It was the government's second shutdown in three weeks, and most lawmakers were eager to avoid a big show of dysfunction in an election year.

Sen. Rand Paul did not share the urgency. Late Thursday, the tea party leader and Kentucky Republican put the brakes on the bill in protest over Congress' sudden willingness to embrace big deficit spending. Paul noted that he and many in his party railed against deficits when Democrats held the White House, but now seemed willing to look the other way with Republicans in control.

He said he hoped his stand would teach conservatives "to not accept just anything because it comes from a GOP Congress."

Paul's call clearly angered Republican leaders — Sen. John Cornyn called it "grossly irresponsible" — and it exposed a contradiction that may come to haunt Republicans as they try to fire up conservatives in midterm elections.

The budget measure provides Pentagon spending increases sought by Trump and the GOP, more money for domestic agencies demanded by Democrats and $89 billion that both wanted for disaster relief. The two-year pact, which also continues the government's authority to borrow money, postpones any possible federal default or likely shutdowns until after the November elections.

But the 652-page budget bill says nothing about protection for the "Dreamer" immigrants. That omission largely explains why a quarter of Senate Democrats and a third of House Democrats voted no, and why immigration now becomes the next battle. In January, after a three-day closure, Senate Democrats secured from GOP leaders the promise of a debate and vote on a deal to protect the younger immigrants from deportation.

"Democrats have fought hard but, in the end, many opted to say yes to other priorities and leave Dreamers behind," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration America's Voice. He called that decision, plus opposition by many Republicans, "inhumane and indecent."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set next Monday as the start of a free-wheeling immigration battle, a debate he promised when Democrats agreed to vote to reopen the government last month. Ryan hasn't scheduled House consideration, infuriating Democrats, but he said Friday, "We will focus on bringing that debate to this floor and finding a solution."

Democrats want to extend the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets the immigrants temporarily live and work in the U.S. but that Trump would end March 5. The Democrats also want to make the immigrants eligible for citizenship or permanent residence.

In exchange, Trump wants $25 billion to build his beloved, proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and other barriers. He also wants reductions in legal immigration, including limiting the relatives whom legal residents can sponsor and eliminating a lottery that offers visas to residents of diverse countries.

There's no obvious compromise that could win the 60 votes from Republicans and Democrats needed to prevail in the Senate. The most promising outcome may be a narrow bill extending DACA protections for a year or so and providing some border security money for Trump.

Whatever happens, this week's budget battle dealt a clear immigration defeat to Democrats, who'd initially vowed to block spending bills until there was a deal to help the Dreamers. The setback left party members divided.

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, a leader in the immigration fight, said the budget pact "opens the door" for Senate votes on protecting the young immigrants. But Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said anyone supporting the spending measure was "colluding with this president and this administration to deport Dreamers."

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is preparing compromises to offer during his chamber's upcoming debate and says his party will suffer in November if the issue isn't addressed. No. 3 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana says Republicans still disagree about "how to handle this number of people that Barack Obama encouraged to come in here illegally."

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Sasse, Smith vote no on massive budget bill

Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Adrian Smith voted no on passage of the massive bipartisan budget agreement approved by Congress early Thursday morning.

"The bill is too expensive and too unwilling to prioritize," Sasse said in a written statement.

"Yes, we need more spending on defense. But, no, we do not need more across-the-board spending on every single government program every single bureaucrat ever imagined."

Sasse was in the minority on a 71-28 Senate vote.

Smith, the 3rd District congressman who represents western and central Nebraska along with the northeastern and southeastern corners of the state, said the budget deal "does not take the necessary steps to rein in our national debt."

"From raising spending caps by $300 billion to pushing off crucial decisions on the debt ceiling for another year, I could not support the deal," he said.

"We owe the American people greater responsibility in the way we budget and govern," he said.

Smith was in the minority on a 240-186 House vote.

Sen. Deb Fischer, who voted to enact the budget, pointed to the importance of the bill's military funding.

"By passing a bipartisan, two-year budget agreement, our troops will have the resources necessary to do their job," she said. 

Fischer said the spending deal also "delivers in other areas like improving care for our veterans and providing relief for seniors."

"Protecting Medicare is a priority for me," she said, and the measure also ensures continued funding support for the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon voted for the bill.

"With the Senate so evenly divided, I believe the bipartisan budget deal is the best compromise possible that funds defense, supports our veterans and gives us a start to fund future infrastructure and opioid initiatives," Bacon said.

"I'm gravely concerned about the budget deficit, but even more so with the gross undermining of our military the last 10 years while we are fighting two wars."

Bacon, who represents metropolitan Omaha's congressional district, said "the alternative to this compromise leads to more gridlock, budget shutdowns and a dilapidated military."

All five members of Nebraska's congressional delegation are Republicans. 

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star file photo 

Adrian Smith

Zach Pluhacek / The Associated Press file photo 

Sen. Ben Sasse