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Lottery Unveils Hot and Spicy Scratch Ticket

The Nebraska Lottery says it will be selling Sriracha-scented scratch tickets.

It's called Hot Sriracha, and each ticket contains a scent replicating that of the famous Asian sauce. Acting Nebraska Lottery director Jill Marshall says in a news release that lottery officials think the new game ``is the first Sriracha-scented scratch game ever made.''

Lottery spokesman Neil Watson said Thursday that tickets are being distributed and cost $2 to play. They will available at the Nebraska State Fair beginning on Saturday.

Doniphan Woman Gets Probation for Harboring Apes

A Doniphan woman who reported her pet gibbons as stolen has been sentenced to two years probation for having the apes as pets.

Nancy Stephens also was fined $4,000 Thursday. She had pleaded guilty in June to violating the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits the transportation, shipment or receipt of endangered species.

Stephens said she bought her two apes for $22,000 and transported them here from Florida. She reported they were stolen from her home by two men in September 2013.

The primates were eventually found in Florida and placed in a sanctuary.

Prison Time for Attacker in Hookup, Holdup Incident

A Kearney man will spend time in prison for his role in a January home robbery.

24-year-old Colbey Dunn was sentenced Thursday to three to eight years behind bars. On January 25, Dunn robbed and assaulted a Colorado man who was lured to a Kearney home by a woman for sex.

Three other men have also been convicted for their roles in the incident. In addition, 22-year-old Anne Schuster will be sentenced in December for her role in luring the man to the home.

32-year-old Melissa Callahan also is awaiting sentencing for her involvement.

EPA's 'Waters of the U.S.' Rule Put on Hold

The EPA's new 'Waters of the United States' rule has been put on hold by a federal judge in North Dakota.

The Republican Attorney General's Association says the District Court issued the preliminary injunction because the 13 states fighting the rule were likely to succeed in their case.

Nebraska ag producers say the rule oversteps the EPA's authority. Attorney General Doug Peterson said yesterday that the order is an important first step for those states challenging the rule.

The EPA's ruling would have gone into effect Friday.

Hastings Woman Arrested in Connection to Toddler's Death

A Hastings woman accused of causing a toddler to choke to death made her initial court appearance this morning.

33-year-old Azudany Serrano-Contreras was extradited to Hastings from Texas yesterday on a charge of felony intentional child abuse causing death. An arrest affidavit alleges she stuffed a baby wipe down the throat of 19-month old Aliyana Peterson on March 14. Investigators determined that the toddler's death was a homicide after an autopsy revealed that the only way the wipe could be lodged in her throat was by force.

The judge denied a request to lower Serrano-Contreras' bond from $1 million to $100,000. The prosecutor said she poses a flight risk because of her many contacts outside of Nebraska and the United States.

Her attorney was not present today, so the initial hearing in the case was delayed until September 11th. If convicted, Serrano-Contreras faces 20 years to life in prison.

Pro Rodeo Competitors Coming to Hastings

More than 200 cowboys and cowgirls will make their way to Hastings this weekend for the 24th annual Oregon Trail Rodeo, with nearly $50,000 up for grabs.

The event has several national and world champion competitors coming to Hastings.

"Sage Kimsey, who is leading the world standings in bull riding and is last year's world champion, the Wright brothers from Utah. A father and son and brother are all competing. Two of the three have won saddle bronc riding championships," said Ruth Nicolaus, publicist for the Oregon Trail Rodeo.

The event kicks off Friday with a Kids Day event, something unique to this rodeo.

"We have fourth graders come in. They learn about the rodeo events, agriculture, Nebraska history and how rodeo has been involved in Nebraska history. It's just a great fun morning for all of the fourth graders," said Judy Mignery, Adams County Ag Society board member.

Friday and Saturday's performances will be at 7 p.m. and Sunday's event takes place at 5 p.m. at the Adams County Fairgrounds.

Nebraska Joins National Effort to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

Nebraska is joining a national effort this weekend aimed at reducing traffic fatalities. It's called the I-80/I-35 Challenge.

Colonel Bradley Rice, Supt. of the Nebraska State Patrol says August is one of the deadliest months for travelers and that officials are aiming for zero fatalities during this special enforcement.

"During this time, motorists can expect to see a very strong law enforcement presence as troopers and other officers work to reduce crash causing behaviors such as speeding, driving while impaired or distracted and we're also looking for those people to use their seat belts," he said.

Between 2009 and 2013, there were 92 people killed on I-80 during the month of August. Grand Island Police Chief Steve Lamken says his department also is focusing on eliminating drunk drivers from the roadways.

"Drunk driving has been and continues to be a major problem and in our communities. Grand Island is no exception. The cost is staggering. Just one crash can easily result in tens of thousands of dollars in property loss, personal injury and death. The suffering of people involved is immeasurable," Lamken said.

The I-80/I-35 Challenge coincides with the "You Drink You Drive You Lose" campaign and runs Friday through Sunday, Aug. 28 to Aug. 30.

Houser Named Interim Hall County Jail Director

Hall County Supervisors have named an interim jail director. By a unanimous vote this morning, former Richardson County Sheriff Randy Houser was approved for the position.

Houser will begin his duties tomorrow. He replaces former director Fred Ruiz who was ousted last week following an investigation of his management style and jail operations. Assistant director Jimmy Vann was also fired.

Former Hastings police sergeant Ric Hallett was the other candidate interviewed by board members at a special meeting yesterday. Board Chairman Scott Arnold says Houser will serve as interim director for the next three or four months until a permanent director is found.

Hastings Couple Escapes Mobile Home Fire

A Hastings couple was displaced from their mobile home after a fire last night.

Dennis and Joan Clark narrowly escaped the fire thanks the quick action of their neighbor Jorge Calderon who first noticed the flames.

"He went to the door, alerted them and helped Mr. Clark out the front door, passed the fire. The fire grew to engulf in front of the trailer and did damage to a recreational vehicle and a second trailer that was parked beside it," said Kent Gilbert, Hastings Fire Chief.

It happened just after 9 p.m. in the 1200 block of East Park Street. Gilbert says the Fire Marshal was called in to investigate the cause of the fire.

"We don't have an exact cause at this time. We believe it to be accidental. We'll have a more defined cause for the fire in seven to 10 days," he said.

Thankfully no one was injured although the home is a total loss. Gilbert says the couple will be staying with relatives.

Kearney Police Investigating String of Burglaries

The Kearney Police Department is investigating a recent string of burglaries involving homes, garages and a local church in southeast Kearney.

The most notable incident occurred sometime Friday morning when someone broke into a home in the 1400 block of Avenue I and stole a safe containing more than $17,000 in cash and jewelry. Similar incidents were also reported recently involving residential homes and the Church of Christ. Police Captain Mike Kirkwood:

"Up until this point we're still investigating the break-ins. A lot of them were attempts and did not appear to take anything. The house where the majority of the money was taken was from the safe and appears to be an isolated incident," he said.

Anyone who may have information about the recent break-ins is asked to contact the Kearney Police Department or Crimestoppers.

HPS Continues to See Improved NeSA Reading Scores

Hastings Public Schools continue to see improvement district wide in reading proficiency.

The district announced today the results of the latest NeSA reading, math and science scores. For a fifth consecutive year, the elementary schools made significant improvements in reading, most notably at the third grade level which was at 58 percent in 2010 and is now at 91 percent in 2015 and nine percent above the state average.

Chad Dumas, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment says the improvements made will change the lives of several students.

"We know that there are some states that look at third grade and fourth grade reading and determine how many prisons they need to build. Last year I did the math on this and I haven't done it yet for this year, but last year it was between 250 to 300 kids. We have changed the trajectories of their lives where the likelihood of them someday being in prison has been dramatically reduced," he said.

Dumas says the areas where teachers are doing PLC work with clear focus are where they are seeing the most impact on learning.

Elsewhere, the district scored six points better than the state average in math and science for 2015 with increases in both district wide.

CNH to Layoff Several Employees

One of Grand Island's major manufacturers has announced more layoffs due to current market conditions.

Case New Holland Industrial says approximately 70 full-time employees will be laid off at its Grand Island plant, which manufactures combines. According to company spokeswoman Kathleen Prause, the layoffs are indefinite and will begin in October. More than 130 layoffs were already announced earlier this year due to market conditions.

The sale of combines are currently down 40 percent nationally.

Runza to Help Support Hastings Library

A local fast food restaurant is helping out the Hastings Public Library.

All three Hastings Runza locations tomorrow will donate 15 percent of its sales to the library as part of the Great Books for Great Kids fundraiser. Beth McCracken, education librarian explains how the funds will be used.

"One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward buying children's books. Last year we raised $1,300 through this fundraiser," she said.

McCracken says the children's section plays a key role in the library's effort to increase childhood literacy.

"Seeing the joy in their eyes when they get to check out the books that they want to check out, they bring them up to story time. Sometimes they ask me to read the stories they've checked out. So it's just building a relationship around books," she said.

In the last 12 years, Runza has generated more than $362,000 in donations to various organizations throughout the state.

Grand Island Budget Cuts to Again Affect Library

The City of Grand Island has trimmed its new employee list ahead of today's continued budget discussions.

The city's library had hoped to hire an Assistant Director, a position that was eliminated from the library a few years ago due to budget cuts. After discussions began last week city officials have decided to cut that position. The proposed hire accounted for nearly half of the library's $170,000 in hiring requests. The city has budgeted an estimated $480,000 for additional employees this year.

The city has a special budget meeting planned for tonight at 7 p.m.

Planned Parenthood Nixes Kearney Expansion

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has dropped its plan to expand to Kearney.

Officials say their current plan is to stabilize the organization to better accommodate newly hired CEO Suzanna de Baca. Currently Planned Parenthood operates two locations in Nebraska in Omaha and Lincoln. The organization has come under scrutiny in recent months after hidden camera videos showed some national officials discussing the sale of fetal organs and tissue.

The organization provides a variety of reproductive health care services including abortions at some locations.

UNK Introduces New CarShare Program

The University of Nebraska at Kearney welcomed students back to campus on Friday by formally introducing a new affordable transportation option for the coming school year known as "Enterprise CarShare." Scott Benson, Assistant Director of Business Services at UNK explains how the program works:

"CarShare is a program that we are going to pilot this year. For the first semester, students will be able to rent cars for $5 an hour and that includes fuel, insurance and maintenance. It's an affordable option for those students who cannot bring a car to campus, such as international students," he said.

Membership is only $1.00 to sign up for online. Benson says the program can be utilized for a variety of purposes:

"Students can rent them to go to Walmart or go to the mall. It's open to students, faculty, staff and community members. Cars are fuel efficient and so it's a green initiative as well and we'll have less cars on campus to help alleviate some of the parking issues we have," he said.

Enterprise CarShare is available in more than 35 states, Canada and the U.K. on more than 100 university campuses. For more information, you can visit their website at enterprisecarshare.com.

Hastings College Students Come Back to Many Changes

Hastings College students arrived this weekend to several new changes. Among them are three different construction projects including a new art center, a closed 9th Street and new parking spaces.

The college is also welcoming three new full-time professors this semester. Dr. Amanda Solem will serve as Assistant Professor of Biology, Dr. Caitlin Williams joins the Physics Department and Taylor LaSalle will work in the Physical Education and Human Performance Department.

Washington Monthly today named Hastings College 26th out of 350 colleges in the Best Baccalaureate Colleges category. Also in July, the Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed the school's accreditation for the upcoming school year.

College officials say this year's freshman class is the fifth largest in school history.

Hall County Corrections Officials Fired

Following a closed door session that lasted nearly four hours yesterday, two top Hall County Corrections officials were ousted.

The Hall County Board unanimously voted to fire Jail Director Fred Ruiz and Assistant Director Jimmy Vann. One of four former corrections officers who attended the public meeting presented supervisors with a letter that said they and other officers had quit their jobs because of management issues under Ruiz and Vann.

The county is also preparing for a possible lawsuit from a 30-year employee who retired from the jail in June. Former Sgt. Debb Rea submitted a letter to the county board detailing management and operational concerns at the jail. The specifics of the complaint have not been made public.

The firings are effective immediately. Hall County Attorney Jack Zitterkopf will be in charge of the jail until the county board can appoint an interim jail director.

Minden Crews Respond to Collision

Emergency crews from Minden were called out Tuesday night after a farm tractor collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Hwy 34 and Hwy 6.

It happened shortly before 9 p.m. Initial reports indicate one person was injured and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney by ambulance.

A small fire also broke out following the collision which was extinguished by the Minden Fire Department.

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