Obama administration rejects Keystone XL pipeline project

President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project today in an announcement at the White House. File photo: Reuters

President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project today in an announcement at the White House. File photo: Reuters

Today President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made it official. TransCanada’s 2,639-mile long Keystone XL project will not be permitted to build and operate on U.S. soil a multi-billion dollar pipeline. It was rejected because President Obama said the pipeline:

  • would not make a meaningful contribution to America’s economic recovery
  •  would not lower gas prices for American consumers
  • shipping dirty crude oil into America will not increase the country’s energy security, reverse the negative impact of climate change, or contribute to clean energy development
  • approving the project will undercut global leadership in the fight to reverse the worst effects of climate change around the world

The pipeline was slated to move 700,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day from Hardisty, Alberta in Canada across America’s heartland and on to oil refineries on America’s Gulf Coast. After years of “over inflated” political debate the pipeline project has been rejected. Stay tuned- I’m curious to see what legal or other political maneuvers will seek to reverse today’s decision.

08pipeline-map-popupPersonally, I’m happy to hear the news. I’ve never believed there was a good reason to build the pipeline. Supporters claimed it would create jobs, give the U.S. more energy independence and security, and serve as a hedge against rising global oil prices.

Opponents say the costs will be  the pipeline’s “dirty” extraction process, human health problems, permanent damage to Canada’s forests and a pollution threat to places like Nebraska’s Sand Hills country and the Ogallala fresh water aquifer.

Over the past three years I’ve blogged my own views about the controversial pipeline.

Four years ago, I wrote this about the Obama administrations review of the pipeline proposal.

The real story: The Keystone XL pipeline is a litmus test of President Obama and our political leadership’s resolve to make a true commitment to alternative energy in America and ween ourselves from foreign energy reliance? It’s also a test of the American consumers’ ability to consume less energy and create less waste.

Dust hangs in the sunset sky above the Suncor Millennium mine, an open-pit north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Canada's oil sands are layers of sticky, tarlike bitumen mixed with sand, clay, and water. Around a hundred feet of soil must be stripped off to reach many deposits. Photo: Peter Essick, National Geographic

Dust hangs in the sunset sky above the Suncor Millennium mine, an open-pit north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Canada’s oil sands are layers of sticky, tarlike bitumen mixed with sand, clay, and water. Around a hundred feet of soil must be stripped off to reach many deposits. Photo: Peter Essick, National Geographic

And it has been in 2015. My thoughts on the project today, after the Obama administration and U.S. State Department’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline? They are stil the same as when I wrote this four years ago:

What is the state of our nation’s political accountability and transparency? Can we create sustainable energy policies that support our economy and democracy while, at the same time, provide America greater control of its destiny? These are real questions. The decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project will tell us if the Obama administration is truly willing to act in the best interests of our country and set us on a new course of self-reliance and energy sustainability.

What are your thoughts on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal? I’d like to know.

Here’s more on the Keystone XL pipelines chronology leading up to today’s rejection of the project by the U.S. State Department and Obama administration.
//storify.com/barneymccoy/the-keystone-xl-pipleine-a-chronology.js?border=false[View the story “The Keystone XL Pipleine: A chronology” on Storify]

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A social media snapshot reveals the power and reach of mobile

What the heck is that?

The illustration below is a NodeXL tool map graph created via the Social Media Lab at the University of Nebraska Omaha. It illustrates the various flight paths of Tweets that made mention of the MobileMe&You conference hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications last week. The conference was dedicated to discussing the power of mobile media and its potential to improve our daily lives.

To have more fun, click on the image below. It will take you to the interactive Tweet map designed by friend and UNO School of Communication professor Jeremy Harris Lipschultz.

The #MobileMeUNL Twitter NodeXL SNA Map. Courtesy: Social Media Research Foundation

The #MobileMeUNL Twitter NodeXL SNA Map. Courtesy: Social Media Research Foundation

What does it do? The map graph represents the network of 281 Twitter users whose tweets contained “#MobileMeUNL”, who were replied to, or mentioned, in those tweets. The Tweet data was collected from Twitter on Wednesday, 04 November, 2015.at 21:11.

What’s fascinating about the map graphic is that it nicely illustrates the interconnected way people and organizations communicate, aggregate, filter and disseminate  information when they use social tools. Many of the Twitter messages include other social media links that were created, shared, re-tweeted and shared again as comments, quotes, research and reaction from the MobileMe&You conference. All this information rippled from Lincoln, Nebraska and spread globally across the web.

Those who sent out #MobileMeUNL Tweets included students, faculty, session participants and audience members at the conference, as well as legacy and digital news media. Univision, NBC, The Washington Post, CNN, CNNMoney, Spotify, and the BBC were all found to be Tweeting or re-Tweeting about the conference. Many of the Tweets also linked to url’s that featured live webcasts from the conference, Periscope broadcasts, Storify links, Medium updates, and other related topical reports and materials.

Here’s a more visual representation of the graphic Twitter map from the conference.

TwitterMap2MobileMeYouConfabYou’ll notice larger island groups that surround top message influencers who Tweeted about the conference. Not all of them had the most followers, some simply had interesting and relevant Tweets that were picked up by others, especially news organizations, and re-tweeted again.

Noted Lipschultz: “The NodeXL tool creates the clusters or groups based upon relative position in the overall social network. Conference leaders, for example, were near the center of the largest grouped conversation.”
It’s one thing to Tweet a message. It’s something else to see how those Tweets spread within seconds on the maturing wings of social media and it’s all propelled through an increasingly mobile world. Pretty amazing.
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The Kansas City Royals parade has an interesting historical contrast

royals celebration 110315 pano x18

Inside a city of 467,000, an estimated crowd of 800,000 Royals fans gathered in Kansas City, Missouri Tuesday to salute the World Series champions. The bodies packed from the steps outside the station to the grass of Liberty Memorial. Photo: Kansas City Star

An ocean of royal blue. Or was that Royals blue? Many who witnessed the hundreds of thousands of Kansas City Royals fans packing the streets of Kansas City, Missouri this week said the parade and World Series Championship celebration may have been the largest gathering in city history. It was a tribute to the Kansas City Royals. It was also a celebration of the team’s fans and the city’s optimistic, never quit spirit. The Kansas City Star said Mayor Sly James estimated the crowd at “up to 800,000 people.” The KC Star headline was:

The biggest crowd you have ever seen came out to celebrate the Royals

The Kansas City Star seemed swept-up in the hyperbole surrounding the joyous celebration of a baseball team that beat the odds, played with pride and class, and won baseball’s ultimate crown. Events like this don’t happen often, so a bit of hyperbole is understandable. The Star admitted that maybe its crowd estimate was high, “Nobody can really know.”

It’s hard to argue with the outpouring of people from across the region who attended the parade and cheered the subsequent speeches by Royals players and management as they all packed the area outside Union Station, stretching south onto the expansive lawn of the Liberty Memorial. “We may never know how many were actually there. How do you measure the size of one heart?,” said KC Star reporter and friend Monty Davis. The Kansas City Sports Commission pegged the crowd at a half-million people.

There is an interesting historic contrast to this week’s Royals celebration. It took place in almost the same spot, on almost the same day, 94 years ago. It was the dedication of the World War I Liberty Memorial site on November 1, 1921. This panoramic photo (click on it to see the large size) from the dedication is testimonial to the large crowd that turned out that bright autumn day in Kansas City, Missouri more than nine decades ago. Notice there was even a large group of spectators watching from the roof of Union Station.

KC WWI Memorial  libmem-dedication-lg (2)

The Liberty Memorial site dedication outside Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921. Photo: Library of Congress

Here’s another look at the dedication facing north from the entry drive into the Liberty Memorial site.

The Liberty Memorial site dedication looking north in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921.  Photo: Library of Congress

The Liberty Memorial site dedication looking north in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921. Photo: Library of Congress

On that day, more than 60,000 WWI veterans and American Legion members marched down Kansas City’s streets to take part in the dedication ceremony. They were part of the four-million U.S. soldiers who fought with Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and several other nations against Germany in the Great War. As was the case in yesterday’s parade, crowds packed deep along the Kansas City parade route to cheer the marching veterans.  This panoramic photo (click on it to see the large size) shows how many Kansas Citians were on hand. Again, you’ll see folks watching from neighboring rooftops, even climbing telephone poles to get a better view.

American Legion Parade marching veterans passing the reviewing stand, Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 1, 1921 Photo: Library of Congress

American Legion Parade marching veterans passing the reviewing stand, Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 1, 1921 Photo: Library of Congress

Hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians turned out on that November day to honor the veterans, and their former WWI commander, General John J. Pershing, a Missourian by birth who helped preside over the dedication. Talk about Kansas City spirit- To build the Liberty Memorial, local residents raised more than $2.5-million in two weeks for the project. In 2015, that amount would be equal to about $32-million.

Here’s how the day was described by the Kansas City Star in 1970:

Never before or since has such a line of martial marchers moved down Kansas City’s streets as did for the American Legion parade at the time of the national convention here in late October and early November, 1921.

Sixty thousand veterans, splendidly uniformed officers and men, with tanks and equipment from World War I, moved through the downtown streets to the brisk music of 85 bands and drum and bugle corps, and passed the reviewing stand at Eighteenth street and Grand avenue, before five of the world’s greatest military and naval leaders.

Photo: Moxie Hanley, courtesy Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Special Collections

From left to right: Allied commanders Lieutenant General Jacques of Belgium, General Diaz of Italy, Marshall Foch of France, General Pershing of the United States, and Admiral Beatty of Great Britain at the dedication of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, November 1, 1921.. Photo: Moxie Hanley, courtesy Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Special Collections

Present were Marshal Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces; Admiral Earl Beatty, commanding the British navy; Baron Jacques, commander-in-chief of the Belgian army; Gen. Armando Diaz, commander-in-chief of the Italian army and our own Gen. John J. Pershing.

Also on the stand were governors; Congressional Medal of Honor men; disabled veterans; Calvin Coolidge, vice-president of the United States; Admiral W.S. Sims; John W. Weeks, secretary of war; Edwin Denby, secretary of the navy; Rear Admiral Robert E. Coontz; Maj. Gen. J.A. Lejeune of the Marine Corps; John G. Emory, commander of the American Legion, and city and legion officials.

General John. J. Pershing was born in Leclede, Missouri, commanded U.S. troops in WWI, and was the only living six-star general in U.S. history.

General John. J. Pershing was born in Laclede, Missouri, commanded U.S. troops in WWI, and was the only living six-star general in U.S. history.

Kansas City homes were opened to the distinguished guests and hotels were packed. Admiral Beatty was entertained at the R. A. Long home, Baron Jacques was the guest of Mr. And Mrs. J. W. Perry, General Diaz was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob L. Loose, Calvin Coolidge stayed at the Walter S. Dickey home and General Pershing and Marshal Foch and their staffs were guests of Mr. And Mrs. Irwin Kirkwood.

Ground for the proposed Liberty Memorial, across from the Union Station on Pershing Road, was dedicated during the convention.-Kansas City Star, November 7, 1970

On this day, the supreme Allied commanders, among them Missouri son General John J. Pershing, spoke to a crowd of more than 100,000 people. It was the only time in history these leaders were together in one place. What a memory that must have been for the city and its citizens as America emerged victorious from its first global war and established itself as an international power. As was the case with this week’s Kansas City Royals celebration, that memorable place was Kansas City, Missouri.

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Make it clear to your audience: In this tragic story NBC doesn’t, CNN does

Tech. Sgt. Marty Bettelyoun (left) and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Officer Jr. Air Force Special Operations Command

Tech. Sgt. Marty Bettelyoun (left) and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Officer Jr.  Photo: Air Force Special Operations Command

It’s a journalism basic: Make the story understandable to your audience. It’s especially important when the story involves a death.

The story involves a military training mishap this week that caused the deaths of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Timothy A. Officer Jr. and Tech Sgt. Marty B. Bettelyoun. CNN makes the basic details clear in this report.

CNN’s reporter says the airmen died in a parachuting free fall accident. It was a part of their special forces training. The Air Force Times story on the training accident also makes clear the association between “parachute training” and “free fall” in the fatal accident.

NBC’s coverage, on the other hand, assumes everyone knows the term “free fall” is associated with a parachute training exercise.

Said the NBC report: “A two-time recipient of the Bronze Star and a father of five were killed during military free-fall training in Florida, the Air Force announced late Tuesday.”

No mention of parachute training in the NBC print or video story. The term “free fall” may describe a number of different circumstances.

“Free fall” could be associated with a drop in the stock value of a company, a polling drop in public support for a politician, the name of a choreographer’s dance program, a decline in the real estate market in New Delhi, India, or  the violent disintegration during a test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Here’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term:

Full Definition of FREE FALL

:  the condition of unrestrained motion in a gravitational field; also :  such motion
a :  the part of a parachute jump before the parachute opensb :  a rapid and continuing drop or decline <a free fall in stock prices>
free–fallintransitive verb

Three NBC employees, , and NBC News correspondent Tamron Hall read the story on the NBC Today Show. She didn’t make the distinction either between a “parachuting free fall” accident and a “free fall” accident.

The NBC report adds that “Both were Special Tactics Airmen, a force made up of specially-trained air traffic controllers, pararescuemen specializing in rescue operations, and military weathermen and forecasters.”  Not sure most viewers/readers know what a pararescueman is either. The Merriam-Webster dictionary does define the word :”pararescue” as “a search and rescue mission by specially trained personnel who can parachute to the site.”

Make your stories understandable journalism students. Your credibility, and the credibility of your news organization may be at stake; especially when the story involves the deaths of two men serving their country in the U.S. military.

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Bevo Francis; basketball scoring legend who saved his college dies

Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande College teammates and classmats in 1953. Photo: Life magazine

Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande College teammates and classmates in 1953. Photo: Life magazine

Bevo Francis is doing something he hasn’t been able to do for a long, long time. He’s dropping jump shots from every place on some basketball court far removed from earth, far removed from physical boundaries and his battle against throat cancer. Bevo’s former Rio Grande teammate and friend Don Vyhnalek told me that Bevo died today at his eastern Ohio home with his family close by.He was 82-years-old.

Wayne Wiseman, another former teammate and friend of Bevo’s said he had talked by phone with Bevo a couple of days ago. “Bevo said he just wasn’t doing any good,” said Wiseman. “We’re at that age where these things happen. Can’t stop it. Can’t do anything about it. You just live with it, until you can’t,” Wiseman said.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet Bevo years ago when I produced and directed a documentary about him, his fiery coach Newt Oliver, and his talented teammates. The documentary is called “They Could Really Play the Game: Reloaded.”  It’s largely about Bevo, the legendary former college basketball player who still owns several all-time college scoring records.
Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande University team barnstormed across America in the early 1950’s, winning most of its games against far larger foes, capturing the attention of the national press, and saving their school from going broke through the tickets they sold. This unlikely team, from an impossibly small college in rural Appalachia, also helped revive America’s love affair with college basketball after a nasty national gambling scandal in the early 50’s that involved star players from major college basketball schools.
Bevo and his Rio Grande teammates also kept the doors open at their college which provided a path out of poverty for thousands of residents who came from the Appalachian country surrounding what is now called the University of Rio Grande.
In his brief two-year college career, Francis destroyed almost every major scoring record in college basketball. Imagine a player averaging 47 points a game in the days before the 3-point scoring line and one-and-one free throw. That was Bevo Francis. Imagine a player who broke the 100-point-per-game scoring mark twice in his college career. The last time he did it was in 1954 against Michigan’s Hillsdale College. Even though he was double and triple teamed by his opponents, Bevo scored 113 points in the 40 minute regulation basketball game. Whenever someone called Bevo a star, he was the first to say he owed his success to his teammates.

We don’t sell copies of the documentary, but click here or on the “Watch on Vimeo” link below and you, as well as people everywhere can watch it for free. Many viewers on public television have seen the documentary and liked it. It even won an award from the Canadian International Film Festival this year.

Chris Hedrick, WOSU, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, R. Bruce Mitchell, Diana Markley Guidas, Brad Richmond, Eric Smith and so many others contributed their talents to the documentary.

Tonight, Bevo is free of his battle against cancer. He deserves to be remembered for what he and his teammates accomplished; for the game of college basketball, and for his school. Bevo’s family could also use your your prayers. Spread the word and send it forward.

They Could Really Play the Game: Reloaded from Blue Skies HD Video & Film on Vimeo.

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Update to U.S. Postal Service Fail- Package returns home after 5 weeks

After a five week journey, this two day priority package never made it to its intended recipient, but it did manage to find its way  (return to sender) back home.

After a five week journey, this two day priority package never made it to its intended recipient, but it did manage to find its way (return to sender) back home.

June 3, 2015–Guess what arrived in the mail? Yep! The long lost priority mail package my wife sent to our daughter at the University of Kansas on April 28th finally made it’s way back to us as returned mail. (Read more on the story here) If that package could only talk, I’m sure it would have an interesting story to tell. Quite a saga.

May 15, 2015- – My Lord! The USPS package was delivered this morning to the place where our daughter no longer resides in Lawrence, Kansas. (Click here for original saga) ( See the tracking ticket below.)

That’s after a helpful Lincoln USPS employee told me earlier in the day that the college finals care package has been circling for more than two weeks because a second address label was attached to the package. She said she was under the impression the package would be routed back to us here in Lincoln. NOT!

We’ll be very curious to see that that second address label looks like, but only if someone in Lawrence gives the package back to the postman to return to sender. Hmmm.

I guess we can make a claim for the fossilized cookies that were in the care package. However, the USPS gentleman I spoke with today in Lawrence says Two-Day Priority Mail is no guarantee the package will get to its destination in two or three days….or in this case 17 days.


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Concealed carry of guns on Kansas campuses: Potentially deadly consequences

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill allowing people to carry  concealed weapons into public buildings, including college campuses in the state.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons into public buildings, including college campuses in the state.

I’m the father of two daughters. One is a Kansas University graduate. Our other daughter is currently enrolled at KU, where three generations of our family have taught or attended.

So, I have to raise my voice in opposition to the 2013 Kansas law that will allow people to carry concealed guns on college campuses in 2017, even without concealed-carry permits. How can that be? The law provides no guarantee that someone, anyone toting a gun on a Kansas college campus would be qualified to possess the firearm or use it safely.

“The right to bear arms has long been among those constitutional rights held most sacred by the citizens of Kansas,” Gov. Sam Brownback said after signing the bill into law in April of 2013.

Right-to-carry or concealed-carry laws have generated much debate in the past two decades. Do they make society safer or more dangerous? Last November, a Stanford University study found that right-to-carry gun laws were connected with an increase in violent crime. The study debunked claims that more guns lead to less crime. Distressingly, the Stanford study found that homicides increased in eight states that adopted right-to-carry laws during 1999-2010.

I suspect many parents and students may share my concern over Kansas’ concealed-carry law. Should the law take effect, parents may decide not to enroll their children in the state’s public colleges. Many Kansas college students, concerned for their own safety, may take similar action. For the same reason, faculty resignations could follow. If this happens, enrollment declines, teacher resignations and associated revenue losses could be significant.

“Our students would rather not have them,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in a 2013 Lawrence Journal- World story. “There is not a group on campus as a whole that would prefer to have concealed-carry on campus.”

A year earlier, Richard Johnson, chief of University Police at KU Medical Center, said allowing concealed-carry on campuses would increase security risks and complicate the job of law enforcement.

“Police must treat any report of an armed individual on campus with extreme caution and rapid response,” said Johnson in testimony before the Kansas Legislature. “How does the responding officer know which person in the classroom of 300 students is legally in possession of a firearm or is armed with the intention of killing others?”

The concealed-carry law will make matters worse for families, students, teachers and higher education in Kansas. It’s a loss for us all if it happens, and a risk I believe we should avoid. What do you think?

Posted in concealed carry, gun control, Kansas, Lawrence Journal World, LJWorld.com, The United States, University of Kansas | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Postal Service Fail: 2 Day Priority Mail – Still Failing

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That’s supposed to be the creed of the United States Postal Service. Poppycock!

Unfortunately, in this age of sometimes impersonal service, my wife and I found the Postal Service is still failing miserably to deliver a priority mail package to our daughter. To phrase it another way; The postal service can’t deliver on its promise because it still can’t deliver a package.

usps_promiseNormally, I don’t get grumpy about stuff like this, but when your daughter’s involved it’s personal. Especially when the USPS states: “Our Priority Is, Was & Always Will Be You.”

Two weeks and two days ago, my wife Joanne Lohr McCoy sent a USPS Two-Day Priority mail care package of fresh baked cookies to our daughter Marian McCoy for her finals exams at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. It was meant to be a loving token of parental support for our daughter as she wrapped up a busy school year and faced that last deluge of studies and tests for her final class grades of the year.

uspsMay13The priority mail package never arrived. You can see the latest tracking information for the package on the left. The package continues to circle in some U.S. Postal Service black hole to which there seems no escape.

The latest update from USPS on its tracking website is the following:

Processing Exception

OMAHA, NE 68108 

The package is delayed and will not be delivered by the expected delivery date. An updated delivery date will be provided when available. The Postal Service has identified a problem with the processing of this item at 4:03 am on May 13, 2015 in OMAHA, NE 68108. The local facility has been alerted and is taking steps to correct the problem.

usps marian cookies

Marian McCoy gratefully displays the package of fresh chocolate chip cookies Susan Hall of Lawrence, Kansas baked when she heard of our daughter’s USPS package delivery mix-up.

The USPS touts priority mail with this claim: “Get more for your money with fast domestic service in 1, 2, or 3 business days1based on where your package starts and where it’s being sent. ” A quick Google search of the term “USPS 2 day priority late” reveals many customer complaints about problems associated with the service.

We brought Marian home from college yesterday. Her finals are done and her KU address is now vacant.

What’s most frustrating about his ordeal is that, despite a half dozen phone calls to USPS employees, many of them kind and sincere, no one from the USPS has been able to tell us why this has happened. Nor has anyone from the U.S. Postal Service been able to intervene and redirect the package back to us here in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The USPS tracking website is not very helpful either with up to five-day gaps in providing any information about our daughter’s package.

Not that it would make much difference at this point. The cookies in the priority mail package may now be fossilized.  Our well-intentioned thoughts in sending the cookies to our daughter is about all that’s left to smile about.

Actually, there is something else good and kind that’s come from this- One person who did intervene on Marian’s behalf was Susan Hall of Lawrence, Kansas. When Susan heard about Marian’s USPS package plight, she kindly baked into the night and delivered freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to Marian’s place at KU to get her through finals.

Thanks Susan! We can’t tell you how much your kind act meant to us all. If only the U.S. Postal Service were as kind as you.

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A Nebraska legend turns 100: Don Meier

Don Meier, creator of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," turned 100 on february 2, 2015.

Don Meier, creator of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” turned 100 on February 2, 2015.

Happy 100th birthday Don Meier. This Oshkosh, Nebraska native and College of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln strides across the century mark today. I talk with Don and Lorena by phone several times a year and count our conversations as memory highlights. Meier is as full of curiosity, optimism and enthusiasm today as when he entered this world on a chilly (-12), clear winter’s day in 1915.  Of course you don’t turn 100 without some perseverance. Millions of people don’t know Meier by name, but they do know him by the television program he created.

In 1963, Meier’s program “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” debuted on the NBC television network. It was the first TV wildlife program to take viewers into the natural habitat of the creatures the world over who were highlighted in each “Wild Kingdom” episode. This was visceral television. Charging elephants covered in dust and sweat. Blood stained lions devouring prey. Venomous cobras and cold-blooded killer crocodiles. No program before captured it as well as “Wild Kingdom.”

Don Meier visited Africa to film several episodes of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" during the program's 25 year run on television.

Don Meier visited Africa to film several episodes of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” during the program’s 25 year run on television.

It was a dream fulfilled for creator and executive producer Don Meier. Within a few years, “Wild Kingdom” became appointment television for 34 million U.S. viewers each Sunday. “Wild Kingdom” remained the definition of a television wildlife program for the next quarter century with Marlin Perkins, Jim Fowler and others hosting the program. In the process “Wild Kingdom” helped cultivate and inspire an environmental consciousness in generations of TV viewers.

Don and Lorena Meier received several Emmy Awards for "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" program and have also underwritten several scholarships for students at the University of Nebraska.

Don and Lorena Meier received several Emmy Awards for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” program and have also underwritten several scholarships for students at the University of Nebraska.

Which takes me back to Don Meier’s perseverance. Looking back at “Wild Kingdom,” it seems the program’s strong audience appeal and ultimate ratings success would make it a surefire pick for potential sponsors. Not so. Don Meier invested all of his and wife Lorena’s savings to produce a TV pilot for the program in 1960. Meier took out a second mortgage on the couple’s home. He spent the next several years traveling across America, visiting with scores of prospective sponsors, trying to convince one of them that “Wild Kingdom” could be a commercial success. Meier never stopped believing that America would watch the right kind of wildlife program. He made 84 visits to advertising companies across America; New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee and a long list of other U.S. cities. Eighty-four times Meier was turned down.

Don Meier in the early days of Chicago television in the 1940s where being a TV pioneer meant you did everything from producing TV programs to sweeping the floors after their conclusion.

Don Meier in the early days of Chicago television in the 1940s where being a TV pioneer meant you did everything from producing TV programs to sweeping the floors after their conclusion.

Then, serendipity struck. Marlin Perkins, during a visit with the president of the Mutual of Omaha, learned the insurance company was looking to sponsor a new TV program it might build a national image around. A half hour later, Mutual of Omaha was on the phone with Meier, asking him to fly to Omaha to show the company’s executives his pilot for “Wild Kingdom.” The rest, as they say, is history. In late January, 1963 “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” debuted on NBC and to this day still remains one of the highest rated TV programs in U.S. history. Mutual of Omaha still uses the “Wild Kingdom” name for a series of branded Web programs hosted by Stephanie Arne.

A young Don Meier entered the pioneering world of television in the late 1940's after serving as an officer in WWII.

A young Don Meier entered the pioneering world of television in the late 1940’s after serving as an officer in WWII.

Don himself could have been an actor. He had the dashing good looks of a young motion picture star. Fortunately, Don stayed behind the camera. There, his true genius as a producer and program creator was unmistakable. In “Wild Kingdom,” he left us with a TV wildlife program that entertained, informed, educated and inspired viewers the world over. That was Don Meier’s gift to us.

There have been many others too. Don and Lorena Meier have established more than a dozen scholarship funds here at the University of Nebraska. Those scholarships continue to allow many young men and women to achieve their dream of a college degree and the higher education experiences that go with it.

On this day, my gift to Don is this small recognition of his 100th birthday. So, happy birthday Don Meier. You have been a mentor to me and many others through your actions and deeds. You are a reminder to us all to persevere so we can keep paying it forward.

Click here to listen to a radio report featuring Don Meier two years ago on the 50th anniversary of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”

Posted in broadcasting, history, television | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Delta Airlines experience: Good service, lousy commuter planes

Just returned home from the Yucatan Peninsula and flew Delta Airlines both ways.


  • I do like the Delta staff- Friendly, professional and helpful.
  • I dislike the Bombardier CRJ900 commuter planes that Delta uses a subcontracted “Delta Connection” branded regional airline to fly out of Lincoln and other smaller Delta hubs. The planes are uncomfortably too cold or too hot. American, Canadair, US Air and other airlines also fly the CRJ900 under agreements with other subcontractors.

Here’s the problem: The CRJ900 ventilation system is very poor to the point of being almost nonexistent.

The Bombardier CRJ900 commuter airliner has a ventilation system that can make flying downright uncomfortable for passengers sometimes.

Have you ever experienced this issue?

On our outbound flight a week ago between Lincoln and Atlanta our plane was so cold most of the passengers were asking for blankets to bundle up in even though we already had our winter coats on. It felt like a meat locker inside the plane during our flight.

The flight attendants kindly apologized and told us there was nothing they could do about the cold cabin temperature.

It was the opposite situation on our return flight last night from Atlanta to Lincoln. In the rear of the CRJ900 where our family sat the temperature was so hot (I’m guessing in the 85-90 degree Fahrenheit range) passengers were peeling their clothes off and the air flow was negligible. Very stuffy and hot. Too bad we couldn’t just roll down the windows.

Some passengers complained that the conditions made them feel nauseous. The flight attendant was as kind as she would be. She agreed to ask plane’s pilot if there was anything that could be done about the situation but said “probably not.” She explained that passengers in the front of the aircraft were complaining that it was too cold where they sat. The temperature was consequently reduced a few degrees but the air flow was still poor and we continued to be hot, hot hot for the better part of two-and-a-half hours.

The flight attendant agreed it was stuffy and hot in the rear of the plane. She conceded that it can be a very real problem with the CRJ900 planes. She told us that’s why she preferred to spend more time up front in the plane. Unfortunately, it was little consolation for us passengers stuck in the back (row 19) of the plane without an option to relocate to a cooler place in the aircraft.

I had a similar experience with these ventilation problems last summer when flying the CRJ900. A quick web search  reveals similar complaints about issues involving the plane’s air venting and circulation system. Is this just poor engineering or something else?

Another regional airline pilot blogged about some of the inherent CRJ issues:Okay, WHY is it always so darn cold in the cabin of a CRJ? I had on thick socks and leather boots and my toes were icicles! It’s all about air circulation. Basically, you have the gaspers (air vents) up top, and larger vents for heating/cooling on the sides near the floor. Those floor vents are a bit bigger, so the temp closer to the floor (and your little piggies) is going to be less (If it’s set to a cooler setting. Plus, cool air tends to sink. So the air near the floor of the cabin is going to be cool than at the top. Also, since at cruise, the cabin is at 8,000′, your circulation might not be as good. Nothing dramatic, but just enough for you to feel like your toes will snap off and rattle around in your boots. Also, the F/A’s (flight attendants) are up and moving. They’re going to feel the temperature in the cabin differently than you in your chair due to their physical activity. They’re also the ones who tell the pilots (i.e., the F/O) to turn the temp up or down.” 

Hope you’re listening Delta Airlines, Delta flight subcontractors and Bombardier.

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