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Cargill, Schuyler

The Cargill meatpacking plant in Schuyler in 2008.

A long time ago, in 2000, Gov. Mike Johanns issued an order that resulted in creation of a meatpacking workers bill of rights.

That action, designed to inform workers of their legal rights and to monitor working conditions in Nebraska's meatpacking plants, was prompted by a series of stories that cast a spotlight on the workers and the challenging lives they live.

A new study by Human Rights Watch released last week demonstrated that two decades later not much has changed.

Except already-punishing line speeds are increasing now.

And government health and safety oversight is declining.

Workers are injured and they leave, many of them with permanent impairments. At work, they labor under strenuous and dangerous conditions that too often is accompanied by badgering and humiliation.

It's a job that takes advantage of immigrants, some of whom are here without legal documentation and therefore essentially powerless and vulnerable.

All true in 2000.

Still true today.

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Lots at stake in next year's presidential and congressional elections, including perhaps the future size of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mitch McConnell's unilateral decision to block the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, along with McConnell's stated intent to move ahead with confirmation of a President Donald Trump nominee if a seat opens during the coming presidential election year, puts that possibility in play.

The seat that Obama attempted to fill in 2016 was vacant for more than a year with McConnell arguing that it should be filled by the winner of the presidential race.  

With judicial nominations increasingly employed as a partisan political tool, Democrats may be tempted to try to even the score if they win the White House and the Congress next year, further politicizing an increasingly politicized court.

McConnell already has removed the Senate filibuster as a tool that can be employed to block Supreme Court nominees, paving the path to payback.

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And no, it does not take a constitutional amendment to increase the size of the court.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have signed on to a pledge to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and institute a climate test for all energy projects, Jane Kleeb reports on Twitter.

* Sen. Ben Sasse has an article in The Atlantic this month titled: "17 Questions Every College Should Be Asking."

* It's hard to distinguish the difference between a session of the raucous British House of Commons starring John Bercow, its bellowing Speaker, and Saturday Night Live when John Belushi was wide-eyed and raging and in full bloom a long time ago.

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* A comparison of tax rates in nearby or neighboring states ought to take into account the fact that some of those states rely on revenue from other sources like casino gambling and marijuana and some have far fewer sales tax exemptions.

* Former state Sen. Tanya Cook has been appointed to the Metropolitan Utilities District board in Omaha. 

* So, we're going to have to wait a year for military aircraft in the air over Lincoln.

* Poll results from the eight legislative districts represented by members of the Legislature's Revenue Committee compiled by the Platte Institute: 62% favor a new state law placing stronger limits on local property tax levies or valuations; 51% support a firmer cap on increases in local government spending.

* Startling fact of the week: An estimated 13,000 people now commute between Lincoln and Omaha each workday. Lincolnites have the tougher commute, driving into the rising sun and the setting sun.

* Alabama appears to have survived Hurricane Dorian. It was exactly the opposite of Roll Tide!

* The Red Sox now have 21 pitchers on their roster as they attempt to extend their games, if not their season. Bring your pajamas to the ballpark.

* How about Kansas State in basketball every year? They're good and they're neighbors, just down the road.

* The Sooners are next up on Nebraska's reunion schedule with old conference rivals and it's not that far away. At Norman in 2021. Adrian Martinez will be a senior and both Ohio State and Michigan will play in Lincoln that year.

* Can't remember the last time a Husker loss bothered me as much as this one.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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