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KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star 

OPEN WIDE

Yereldin Valdez holds up a cow puppet as her sister Jaylan practices brushing teeth Friday during the annual Dental Day at the UNMC College of Dentistry. About 140 children received dental services and health checks. More photos @JournalStar.com.


Legislature
editor's picktopical
Bill advances to ensure Airbnb-type rentals can't be prohibited

A bungalow in Bethany that sleeps four and rents for $100 a night on Vacation Rentals By Owner, aka VRBO, is frequently booked — already reserved for more than half of February. 

A two-bedroom apartment near downtown, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Memorial Stadium sleeps four for $41 a night, and is usually full-up through Airbnb. 

Those and other short-term rentals in Lincoln and around the state, booked on popular internet sites, would be protected in a bill (LB57) advanced Friday to a second round of consideration.

Lincoln has some restrictions on short-term rentals that fall under several ordinances and zoning codes.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld's bill would keep cities from prohibiting the booking of short-term rentals of residences online, such as those advertised through VRBO and Airbnb.

The bill would allow regulation of the rentals for health and public safety reasons, just as cities pass ordinances and regulations for long-term rentals. For example, the short-term rentals couldn't house sex offenders or be used for selling illegal drugs or for sexually-oriented business. Cities could regulate noise, nuisances and property maintenance. 

And, with the bill, taxes could be collected efficiently and remitted to the communities and state, Morfeld said. 

The bill advanced on a 29-1 vote, with some questions from senators about regulation and taxation on the short-term rentals. 

This is a growing business and an opportunity for citizens to rent a room, an apartment or their entire residence out for short-term rental — not more than 30 consecutive days, Morfeld said.  

In Nebraska last year, there were 46,000 guest arrivals for these short-term rentals, with visitors paying $4.3 million to residence owners and in state and local taxes. 

"Airbnb is a service I have personally used numerous times and found it to be safe, efficient, affordable and a fun way to travel and meet people," Morfeld said. "It is also an important addition to our efforts to expand and promote tourism in Nebraska." 

He said he's heard from rural participants in Airbnb there aren't a lot of short-term rental options when an event comes to a smaller Nebraska town, and this allows them to provide lodging when there would not otherwise be places for visitors to stay. 

The bill was introduced last year and added to an Urban Affairs Committee omnibus bill (LB873) that was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, after the Legislature adjourned sine die, because it contained an expansion of Nebraska's land bank system. 

Ricketts said in his veto letter that Morfeld's bill was a provision of LB873 he supported because it would provide clarity on the taxation and regulation of online hosting platforms, such as Airbnb. The bill would have been a valuable and needed addition to Nebraska law, he said.


Music
editor's pick
Maroon 5's James Valentine excited to play Super Bowl halftime show

To say James Valentine is excited about playing the Super Bowl LIII halftime show is an understatement.

The Maroon 5 guitarist — and Lincoln native — took to Facebook on Friday, posting: "This weekend!! It’s going to be the highlight of my career.”

The multi-platinum album-selling pop band fronted by Adam Levine skipped the usual pre-game news conference this week, likely in part to avoid the controversy over artists playing the Super Bowl amid criticism of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem while with the 49ers.

Levine, however, talked with "Entertainment Tonight" and said the band expected the backlash against its performance.

“I’m not in the right profession if I can’t handle a little bit of controversy,” he said. “It’s what it is. We expected it. We’d like to move on from it and speak through the music.”

In that interview, Levine implied that Sunday’s show will be less about the production and more about music.

“The spectacle is the music,” he said. “We wanted to bring it back to a time when it was a little more simple, when the focus was the connection to the songs.”

Maroon 5 will be joined during the 12-minute halftime show by rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi. Valentine seemed to imply there may be additional guests, but could give nothing about the show away.

“I wish I could tell you guys what we’re doing and who with,” he posted.

More than 100 million people are expected to watch the halftime performance, which will likely take place close to 7 p.m. on CBS. That is, by far, the largest annual audience for any musical performance in the world.

Not surprisingly, Valentine posted: “Not going to lie, I’m nervous.”


FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star file photo 

Wide receiver Zavier Betts of Bellevue West eyes an incoming pass during a drill at a Friday Night Lights camp at Memorial Stadium last summer. Betts has offers from both Nebraska and Iowa.


Journal Star file photo 

Maroon 5 guitarist and Lincoln native James Valentine speaks between songs during a performance in April 2017 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.


FlyAway Geese, Courtesy photo 

Border collies are used as goose dogs.


Washington
AP
Trump suspends arms treaty to focus on China, Russia threats

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is pulling the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia, lifting what it sees as unreasonable constraints on competing with a resurgent Russia and a more-assertive China. The move announced Friday sets the stage for delicate talks with U.S. allies over potential new American missile deployments.

In explaining his decision, which he had foreshadowed months ago, President Donald Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with "impunity" by deploying banned missiles. Moscow denies it is in violation and has accused Washington of resisting its efforts to resolve the dispute.

Democrats in Congress and some arms-control advocates criticized Trump's decision as opening the door to an arms race.

"The U.S. threat to terminate the treaty will not bring Russia back into compliance and could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond," the private Arms Control Association said. It argued that Washington had not exhausted options for drawing Russia back into compliance.

Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will "move forward" with developing its own military response options to Russia's banned deployment of cruise missiles that could target western Europe.

"We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other," Trump said. Other officials said the treaty could still be saved if Russia reverses course and returns to compliance, but that window of opportunity will close in six months when the American withdrawal is due to take effect.

Trump's decision reflects his administration's view that the arms treaty was an unacceptable obstacle to more forcefully confronting not only Russia but also China. China's military has grown mightily since the treaty was signed, and the pact has prevented the U.S. from deploying weapons to counter some of those being developed in Beijing. 

Leaving the INF pact, however, risks aggravating relations with European allies, who share the administration's view that Russia is violating the treaty but who have not endorsed a U.S. withdrawal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters after Trump's statement, said Russia will be formally notified Saturday that the U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty, effective in six months. In the meantime, starting today, the U.S. will suspend its obligations under the treaty.

Pompeo said that if, in the coming six months, Russia accepts U.S. demands that it verifiably destroy the cruise missiles that Washington claims are a violation, then the treaty can be saved. If it does not, "the treaty terminates," he said.

Administration officials have dismissed concerns that the treaty's demise could trigger a race to develop and deploy more intermediate-range missiles. U.S. officials have emphasized their fear that China, which is not party to the treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty's limit. Whether the U.S. will now respond by deploying INF noncompliant missiles in Asia is unclear. In any case, it seems unlikely Beijing would agree to any negotiated limits on its weaponry.

Russia accused the U.S. of unilaterally seeking to neuter the treaty.

"I 'congratulate' the whole world; the United States has taken another step toward its destruction today," said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament.

INF was the first arms-control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 310 miles and 3,400 miles. At the time, in the late stages of the Cold War, the U.S. and its allies were mainly concerned by the perceived threat of Russian medium-range nuclear missiles that were targeted at Europe. The U.S. deployed similar missiles in response, in the 1980s, leading to negotiations that produced the INF treaty.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat and new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted Trump for raising the risk of nuclear war.

"The administration's ideological aversion to arms control as a tool for advancing national security is endangering our safety, as well as that of our allies and partners," Smith said. 

U.S. officials say they have little reason to think Moscow will change its stance in the next six months.

"We have raised Russia's noncompliance with Russian officials — including at the highest levels of government — more than 30 times," Pompeo said. "We have provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its way. Tomorrow that time runs out."

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that Russia can still save the treaty by returning to compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect.

"But at the same time, we have started to assess the consequences, look into options," Stoltenberg said. "We need to make sure that we respond as an alliance, all 29 allies, because all allies are involved and all allies are affected."