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by Ben L. Kaufman 09.04.2013
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 09.04.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

 • I was at UPI in London during the 1963 March on Washington. I read about it in London dailies and the Paris Herald-Tribune. Since then, all kinds of “marches” on Washington have cheapened the brand. So has the obsessive replaying of snippets from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as if it were the event. I’m grateful to news media that went further in recalling the magnitude of the 1963 march and roles played by organizers and other speakers. This was part of the 1960s that I missed. 

• Court rulings allow the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s heir to own and control his “I Have a Dream” speech to the 1963 march. Anyone wanting to use more than a few words must pay. My first reaction was “WTF? It was a public event in a public place and a public speech to the public. That can be ‘owned’? Yup. 

• Stenographic reporting of the so-called debate over whether to bomb Syria back into the Stone Age helps build acceptance for a new war. Similarly, assertions that Assad’s forces gassed civilians are repeatedly reported as evidence or proof. 

As of this writing, reporters have quoted no top Obama administration official willing to offer evidence or proof. Instead, as evidence, we have unverified videos online and interpretations of what the images show. Reporters don’t tell us who provided death figures or who provided information that White House is using the claim Sarin gas was used. 

• Meanwhile, the constitutional expectation that only Congress can declare war has suffered the same fate as the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable seizures and searches; dying if not dead. 

Germany and Japan attacked us. Congress responded for the most recent time: 1942. Russia’s surrogate attacked our dictator across the 38th Parallel in 1950 and triggered the still-unresolved Korean police action. LBJ was conned or knowingly lied about reported 1964 attacks on American warships in the Tonkin Gulf and moved us into the undeclared Vietnam War. Luckily, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait in1990 and started Gulf War I. The CIA’s totally mistaken 2002 “slam dunk” assurance about Weapons of Mass Destruction was used by Bush to justify undeclared Gulf War II. After 9/11, Afghans sheltered Osama bin Laden before our allies in Pakistan sheltered him and that was used to justify our unfinished and undeclared war against the Taliban in both countries although the Taliban never attacked us. Let’s not even get into the invasion of Panama or Grenada or fiasco in Somalia. All that’s missing in this latest rush to bash a hornets nest is a repeat of the New York Times sycophantic reporting that Saddam Hussein had and would use weapons of mass destruction. 

• If you want a weapon of mass destruction, how about the AK-47, the totemic Soviet assault rifle that is ubiquitous on every continent or the simple machete/panga with which millions have been and are being murdered and/or mutilated. No chemical, biological or nuclear weapon has killed so many people. 

• When will some national reporter ask, “What’s surgical about a surgical strike?” Nothing unless we’re comparing it to carpet bombing a la Germany, Japan, Laos or Vietnam. 

Other than assassinating Assad with a drone-launched guided missile — good enough for Americans in Yemen —  any attack on Syria will create  “collateral” damage. They used to be called innocent victims, sort of like French civilians killed by Allies’ D-Day bombing. 

“Surgical strike” is a debasement of the language. I’m surprised that surgeons — whose marketing mavens constantly promote ever-smaller and more precise bodily invasions — don’t ask the Pentagon to abandon the phrase, “surgical strike.” 

However, it’s no mystery why news media are willing, even eager to echo this desensitizing insider language. It recalls “RPG,” “IED,” “smart bombs,” “boots on the ground” and similar military language embraced by civilian reporters for their civilian audiences. Except those buzz words weren’t for civilian audiences; it was how reporters assured military sources that journalists were savvy and sympathetic listeners. 

“Surgical strikes” serves us as badly as reporting unsupported assertions and assumptions as fact. Accurately reported bullshit is still bullshit. 

• Accurate reporting requires context. Why is gassing hundreds of Syrian civilians in Damascus worse than shooting and killing as many or more civilians about in and around Cairo? Why is the killing and wounding of thousands in Cairo worse than endlessly raping, wounding, mutilating and killing millions of civilians in the horribly misnamed Democratic Republic of Congo? 

• Our selective condemnation of poison gas recalls the 11th-century papal ban of the cross bow; peasant crossbowmen could kill armored knights from an unmanly and impersonal distance. That also was bad for the social order. Welsh bowmen faced no such opprobrium although their arrows killed far more mounted knights.

Jump ahead almost a millennium. There is debate on what is a chemical weapon and not all gasses — think tear gas — are poisonous. Poison gas was used infrequently but without sanction during the past 100 years. 

Germans and the British gassed each other during World War I. Communists were accused of using poison gas during Russian Civil War. Italians gassed native troops in Ethiopia in the 1930s in years when colonial powers were suspected/accused of gassing rebellious native troops. Japanese gassed Chinese during early World War II. Egyptians gassed Yemeni forces in the 1960s but Americans denied using toxic/blister gasses in Vietnam and Laos. Iraq deployed lethal gas against its own people and Iranian forces in the insane Iraq-Iran 1980s war. Politicians and UN officials fulminate against gassing civilians but they only remind us how selective agony and journalism can be. 

• No less authority than President Obama relegated the comparative to the dustbin of grammar. His speech at the Lincoln Memorial last week praised King and other civil rights activists, saying “Because they marched, America became more free and more fair.” True, but I’ll bet King would have said, “freer and fairer.” 

• Everyone’s lauding David Frost’s evocative interviews with disgraced Richard Nixon after he resigned the presidency. He died after a heart attack on Saturday.

My memory of Frost is different: TW3, the original That Was the Week that Was on BBC TV. It was as irreverent as posh Brits from Oxbridge could be and Frost was a central figure in its creation in 1962 and weekly broadcasts until it was cancelled to avoid criticism as the 1964 general election neared. Two skits stand out in my memory, in part because my Saturday night duties at UPI included watching and filing a story on anything newsworthy that TW3 did/said. 

The first showed an otherwise empty set with seemingly naked Millicent Martin, then young and drop-dead lovely, astride and leaning over the back of a curvy, modern Arne Jacobsen chair. It was the same pose call girl Christine Keeler used when photographed during the scandal over her affair with government minister John Profumo. You can see the original Keeler image at www.vam.ac.uk. Martin resembled Keeler just as Tina Fey looked like Sarah Palin. Martin looked straight at the camera and said something like, “John told me I was sitting on a fortune.” That was it. Perfect lampoon but there was no way to use that skit on UPI’s wire.

The second memorable skit followed the apparent TW3 and BBC late night sign-off. A De Gaulle look alike, right down the uniform and kepi on his head, addressed the Brits contemptuously over some strategic or diplomatic blunder. Then the broadcast ended. That skit was newsworthy. BBC said its switchboard operators — remember, this was the early 1960s — were overwhelmed. Seemed the perfect jab at the Establishment by its children fooled a lot of Brits; they thought BBC really had broadcast a De Gaulle speech.  

• On a celebratory note, authorities dropped charges against Tim Funk, religion reporter for the Charlotte Observer, who   arrested while he interviewed “Moral Monday” demonstrators at the Statehouse in Raleigh, NC.  He was charged with second-degree trespass and failure to disperse. 

Tim’s a Northern Kentuckian and among the ablest of decades of my undergraduate students. After the local prosecutor came to his senses, Tim told the AP, “It was clear to everyone there that I was a news reporter just doing my job interviewing Charlotte-area clergy about how they felt about being arrested. The reporter’s job is to be the eyes and ears of the public who can’t be present at important public events like this protest. That’s all I was doing.”  

When his June 10 arrest was reported, at least one respondent noted that Tim was among the first detained, stopping him from seeing how police handled demonstrators. 

His editor, Rick Thames, told AP, “This is clearly the right result, and we congratulate the district attorney for making the right decision. Tim Funk was working as a journalist inside the most obvious public building in our state. The videotape of Tim’s arrest demonstrates clearly that his only purpose in being there was to provide our readers a vivid firsthand account. He was clearly not obstructing the police. It’s hard to understand why he was arrested in the first place.”

• Cincinnati taxpayers need to know more about competing — and inescapably costly — plans to overcome years of city council shortchanging the city pension fund. The news isn’t good. As the Enquirer’s James Pilcher put it Sunday, “if every man,woman and child living in the city of Cincinnati contributed $2,000 apiece, it still wouldn’t be enough to fill the plan’s current $870 million gap.”

There’s a timeline with his explanatory story that screams for elaboration: What, if any, roles did mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley play in council decisions to deepen the pension debt?

And I howled at the quote from state auditor Dave Yost: “ . . . the city is in a fork in the road . . . And I’m concerned Cincinnati is not doing enough to avoid going down that fork in the road.” 

Don’t try this at home. Sort of like standing with a foot on each side of a barbed wire fence. Reminds me of a friend who’d look right, point left and say, “Go this way.” 

Maybe with Yost’s sense of direction, Cincinnati should consider the road not taken. 


 
 
by Bill Sloat 11.29.2012
 
 
puerto-rico-flag

Ohio Democrats Push for Puerto Rico Statehood

State Rep. Alicia Reece only local legislator listed as co-sponsor

A group of Ohio House Democrats wants Congress to move quickly and grant statehood to Puerto Rico, which has been a U.S. possession since the Spanish-American War ended in 1898.  The Ohioans do not say where the star should go on a redesigned American flag, but they said statehood would “respect the rights of self-governance through consent of the governed of our fellow United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico.”

The chief sponsor of the resolution, H.C.R. 57, is State Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain, a northern Ohio city where about 25 percent of the 64,000 residents are Hispanic. Lorain is considered the most Hispanic city in Ohio, and nearly 20 percent of its population claims Puerto Rican descent. The resolution urging statehood was introduced this week in the Ohio House where it likely faces an uncertain future. The current term of the legislature is scheduled to end in December, and it has no Republican co-sponsors.  The GOP controls the House, which means that Democratic proposals often get bottled up or receive short shrift.

Earlier this month, a slight majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the Caribbean Island. It was the first time a statehood referendum has won there, and the non-binding vote was seen as signaling that many Puerto Ricans appear ready to end the island’s status as a U.S. commonwealth. The move by the Ohio House Democrats also appears aimed at cementing the party’s support among Hispanic voters. Some 70 percent of Hispanics backed the Democrats and President Obama on Election Day, and Hispanics are emerging as a key bloc with increasing power at the ballot box.    

With the exception of State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, all of the other House Democrats backing the statehood resolution are from Columbus or further north in Ohio. The resolution urges Congress to take swift action “towards admitting the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the Union as a State.” Statehood decisions are up to Congress. The Ohio resolution points out that Puerto Ricans are already U.S. citizens (although they cannot vote in presidential elections), and that many serve in the U.S. military. A 1917 law granted residents U.S. citizenship.

There is a historical footnote involving Cincinnati in Puerto Rico’s fate. Former GOP President William Howard Taft, a Cincinnatian who went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the 1920s, delivered a major legal decision in 1922 that helped keep Puerto Rico separate. Taft said the congressional act that conferred citizenship on the islanders did not contemplate that they would be incorporated into the Union. He ruled the U.S. possession had never been designated for statehood. Taft gave the island a unique status that has been described as a commonwealth, or as it is said in Spanish, “Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.17.2012
 
 
barack obama 2

Obama Announces Trade Action against China at Cincinnati Stop

Local Republicans criticize president's record on deficit in counter-rally

President Barack Obama announced a new trade action against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native automakers and auto-parts producers.

The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade practices by China.

“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,” Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.”

“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win.

Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger, saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.

The Romney campaign countered with an email after the rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private sector and harmed manufacturing.

“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote. 

“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”

The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.

Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with Speaker John Boehner.

“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.

Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.

The president in his speech said he did have a plan to reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.

Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the state 18 times during his campaign.

Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.14.2012
 
 
pink-slime_0

Morning News and Stuff

UPDATED 11:20 a.m.: Here's a picture of Nick Nolte in a bumper car.

Fact-checkers at The Columbus Dispatch said a new TV ad by Ohio treasurer and Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Josh Mandel “might be the most audaciously over-the-top ad to run so far in the expensive and bitter race for the U.S. Senate.” The ad accuses Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown of missing more than 350 official votes and voting to raise his own pay six times. The Dispatch points out that Brown has a 97 percent voting record during his entire time in Congress, which started in 1993 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to GovTrack. According to the Dispatch, “Mandel … borrows a tactic from GOP campaign guru Karl Rove’s playbook: Identify your own weakness and find a way to assign it to your opponent to confuse voters.”

The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved new summary language for Issue 2, which would take the decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and task a nonpartisan commission with redrawing congressional lines. The Dispatch reports that the new summary removes factual inaccuracies and included previously omitted information about who would select members of the new citizens commission. Secretary of State and Ballot Board Chairman Jon Husted said the board tried to make the language as generic and concise as possible, but Democrats and voter advocates say the new language is too long and technical and would confuse voters.

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first elected official in the nation to host an online town hall. The Enquirer reports that Sittenfeld is taking questions on the online tool CrowdHall and by next Friday will have answered them via text or video. He is also asking Cincinnatians to post suggestions as to how they would balance the budget or spend the new casino revenue.

Rush Limbaugh on Thursday theorized that Al Qaeda colluded with President Barack Obama to give up Osama bin Laden to help Obama look good and win reelection. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defines “middle income” as $200,000 to $250,000 a year. The Associated Press reports that Romney made the comments during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Census Bureau meanwhile reported this week that the median household income is just over $50,000. CityBeat’s reporting staff wishes management would promote us to middle income level.

Speaking of ABC, they’re being sued by Beef Products Inc. for $1.2 billion over a report of the beef filler “pink slime.” The beef company says the defaming report disparaged the safety of pink slime.

Obama again apologized for America called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and called on him and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand with Washington against protesters who are attacking the U.S. Embassy in what The New York Times called a “blunt phone call.”

Jimmy Kimmel took the iPhone 4S onto the streets, telling people it was the new iPhone 5, proving that Apple cultists enthusiasts will love anything the company puts out.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.22.2012
Posted In: News, Business, Foreign Relations at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
usabc2012_v2_321_1

U.S.-Africa Business Conference Concludes Today

Two-day summit follows the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act forum in D.C.

The two-day U.S.-Africa Business Conference, which took place at the Westin Cincinnati Hotel in downtown Cincinnati, wraps up today, concluding a summit congregating business experts from across the world to discuss business concerns related to energy, transportation, water and sanitation. 

The conference, organized by the U.S. State Department, is intended to serve as a forum for Cincinnati area companies to connect with African business leaders in hopes of creating longstanding partnerships while helping African nations improve economy and infrastructure. It follows the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum which took place in Washington, D.C. June 14-15. The U.S.-Africa Business Conference is intended as a way to expand on the AGOA, offering U.S. businesses a platform to showcase business expertise to potential African clients and highlight investment opportunities in Africa for U.S. exporters and investors, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Federal agencies that have participated in the conference include the Departments of State, Transportation, Energy and Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Commercial Service-Cincinnati and the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the U.S. State Department, Cincinnati was selected as the 2012 conference location due to its "potential to increase commercial partnerships with Africa at local, state and regional levels." The conference includes site visits to GE Aviation, CVG International Airport, EPA Testing and Evaluation Facility, Cincinnati State Renewable Energy Labs, Duke Energy Envision Center and others.
 

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.24.2012
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Mitt Romney's campaign has reportedly entered an “audition phase” in its search for a vice presidential candidate, and local boy Rob Portman is on the AP's speculative list. With three months to go before the Republican National Convention, Romney's people will soon be asking intensely personal questions of potential VPs, such as whether they've ever had marital problems, affairs or mental health counseling. In preparation, many Republicans are already speaking out against President Obama with hopes of sounding like a guy that can help Romney win in November.

The AP included in its rundown of the more high-profile candidates the strengths and potential weaknesses of each:

"The Republicans who are informally auditioning would each bring different strengths — and drawbacks — to the presidential ticket.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman supported Romney early, has a solid rapport with the candidate and hails from Ohio, a critical battleground state that could decide the election. But he wouldn't necessarily appeal directly to Hispanic or women voters.

(Louisiana Gov. Bobby) Jindal, the Louisiana governor, could help Romney turn out the religious right and would add diversity to the ticket as an Indian-American, but he struggled during a national debut rebutting the 2010 State of the Union address.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell appeals to social conservatives but signed a controversial state law that requires Virginia women to have ultrasounds before having an abortion.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's campaigned frequently with Romney, could help with female voters and in her swing state of New Hampshire. But she's from New England, the same region of the country as Romney, while (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie, a conservative favorite who can work a crowd, is from New Jersey.

(Florida Sen. Marco) Rubio could bring Florida, always a deciding factor in a general election, and appeal to Hispanics, a fast-growing voting bloc, but he's run into some trouble over a foreclosed home and possible misuse of an official credit card. And Ryan is a serious, leading policy mind with a bright future — and a brand name that's directly tied to a controversial budget that would make major changes to Medicare."

Meanwhile, Romney says Obama doesn't even understand free enterprise.

A Columbus tavern owner has lost his freedom isn't free battle in the Ohio Supreme Court, which yesterday unanimously ruled that the state's smoking ban is constitutional. The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village had racked up thousands of dollars in fines after 10 citations for violating the ban from July 2007 and September 2009. The state has reportedly threatened to seize the bar if the fines are not paid.

Meteorologists say after this weekend's heat wave this spring could be the hottest on record.

The Reds defeated the Atlanta Braves last night on a Todd Frazier walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the Reds' fifth straight win, and they're currently a half game behind St. Louis for first place in the division.

The Pakistan conviction of the Osama bin Laden doctor who helped the CIA find him is not going over well with the U.S. government. Pakistani authorities sentenced Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison for treason, and Afridi was not entitled to representation, though he has a right to appeal. The U.S. has threatened to cut aid to the country, arguing that informants work against al-Qaeda and not Pakistan.

Britain's recession is worse than expected, as the country's economy shrunk by .3 percent during the first quarter.

The SpaceX shuttle passed some tests necessary to move forward with its landing on the International Space Station Friday morning. President Obama called the company's CEO to congratulate him and he answered despite thinking it might be a telemarketer.

John Malkovich is in the latest Apple advertisement for Siri, during which Malkovich gets some life advice. The ads follow those released starring Hollywood actors Zooey Deschanel and Samuel Jackson last month.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012
 
 
gun

Morning News and Stuff

A major roundup of people suspected of committing violent crimes in Cincinnati continues today. On Thursday, police announced they had arrested 30 people and confiscated more than 200 guns in raids in neighborhoods including Avondale, Madisonville, Price Hill, Walnut Hills and elsewhere. Cincinnati police are being assisted in the effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Police Chief James Craig said the sweep would be ongoing for the next few days. About 100 additional suspects are being sought.

A 52-year-old woman who hasn't been able to speak for her entire adult life has now found her voice. Jan Christian recently completed a series of seven operations on her larynx to restore her speech at University Hospital. When she was 17, Christian was in a severe automobile accident in which she was thrown forward and hit her throat on the dashboard. She also broke her neck in four places.

Kentucky has changed a law so Amish people can drive their horse-drawn buggies without committing a crime. Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows the Amish to use reflective silver or white tape on their buggies rather than the traditional fluorescent orange signs that makes the buggies more visible to approaching motorists. Some Amish farmers in western Kentucky had served jail time for refusing to use the emblems. They said the triangular shape represents the Trinity, which they are not allowed to display, and that the fluorescent orange calls undue attention to them against the norms of their religion.

In celebration of National Hug Day (yes, that's a real thing), several students from Xavier University will give free hugs on downtown's Fountain Square today. About 20 students will flock to the square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., holding up signs that read, “free hugs.” Oddly, National Hug Day actually is celebrated on Jan. 21. Well, people always say Cincinnati is a little bit behind the times.

Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in an attack against a gay man last year, marking the first time the law has been applied in a case involving a victim's sexual orientation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lexington announced the charges against two Harlan County men on Thursday. A statement said David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins were indicted in an April 2011 attack on a gay man in an eastern Kentucky park.

In news elsewhere, U.S. and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea's failure to launch a rocket into orbit Thursday will prompt the nation to take some sort of aggressive action in an attempt to restore its honor. The most common fear is that the secretive, authoritarian regime will conduct a nuclear test, which could heighten tensions with South Korea and Japan. The botched launch was supposed to carry a satellite into orbit for weather observation, as the centerpiece of a national holiday weekend to honor the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

As if that's not troubling enough, the Russian military anticipates an attack will occur on Iran by summer and has developed a plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic. Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to NATO, warned against an attack on Iran. "Iran is our neighbor," Rogozin said. "If Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security."

A United Nations team of military observers is ready to deploy to Syria to begin a monitoring mission as soon as the Security Council approves its mission, which could be later today. The team is standing by to begin overseeing a tenuous but apparently stable ceasefire, which is now in its second day. Protests in the wake of that ceasefire have broken out across the nation, and government forces have responded by firing into the air, reportedly killing one protester, activists alleged.

Apple Inc. is rejecting the U.S. Justice Department's allegations that it colluded with publishers over electronic book pricing, calling the charges "simply not true." The U.S. government this week sued Apple and five publishers, saying they conspired to fix the prices of electronic books. It has reached a settlement with three of the publishers that could lead to cheaper e-books for consumers.

The mayor of Newark, N.J., was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house. Cory Booker arrived home when he saw flames and smoke from the second floor of the building next to his home, and no residents outside. Booker rushed in and his security detail followed. Guards rescued two people on the first floor, while Booker rescued a woman on the second floor. No serious injuries were reported. (Mark Mallory, you need to step up your game.)
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.20.2012
 
 
xavier

Morning News and Stuff

Today is Presidents' Day and even though it's a federal holiday, most readers probably don't have the day off from work. You can console yourself about this affront to George and Honest Abe by learning all about the holiday's quirky history. For example, it was the first holiday authorized to commemorate an American citizen (Mr. Washington) and was split among three different holidays until President Nixon decided to consolidate them in 1971. (Thanks for that, Dick.) And here's CityBeat contributer Ryan Carpe's account of interesting anecdotes involving several presidents from Ohio.

Xavier University is facing yet another federal investigation for possible civil rights violations. The probe, the third since December, again involves allegations that campus officials didn't appropriately investigate and punish complaints of sexual assaults filed by female students. In the latest incident, 2011 XU graduate Caitlin Pinciotti charges that she was sexually assaulted in late 2008. She says the university allowed the student found responsible in a March 2009 campus disciplinary hearing to flout terms of his one-semester suspension and frequently return to campus.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. looks back on his 41-year political career as he prepares to retire later this year. Leis, 77, was county prosecutor and a judge before being elected to his first term as sheriff in 1987. He is perhaps best known for his 1977 prosecution of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, which was later thrown out on a technicality, and his temporarily shutting down a photographic exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1990, both of which helped solidify Cincinnati's image as a backwards, culturally inept burg on the national scene.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is in town today, stumping before Ohio's March 6 primary. Romney will visit Meridian Bioscience in Newtown this afternoon, then hold a $2,500-a-plate fundraising dinner at downtown's Great American Tower at 5 p.m.

Do you plan on using the bridge that replaces the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River whenever it's finally built? Then you'd better have some change ready. Greater Cincinnati business leaders said tolls likely will be part of whatever financing plan eventually is cobbled together for the $2.3 billion project.

In news elsewhere, a Washington Post analysis of various speeches and documents from years past reveals that GOP presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich criticized President Reagan and often took moderate positions on some issues until it became more politically expedient to portray himself as a staunch conservative.

Nuclear inspectors from the United Nations are visiting Iran to verify that its uranium enrichment work is peaceful in purpose and isn't designed to make weapons. International tensions have risen due to speculation that Israel may soon carry out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

It's not just the United States and Europe that's having problems with deficits. Japan is posting a record trade deficit in January as fuel imports rose sharply following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster. January's deficit totaled $18.5 billion, the highest since the nation began record-keeping in 1979, officials said.

Canada is threatening a trade war with the European Union over the bloc's plan to label oil from Alberta's vast tar sands as highly polluting in a key vote scheduled for Thursday. Canadian officials believe it would set a global precedent and derail its ability to exploit its tar sands, which are the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.16.2012
 
 
art22722widea

Morning News and Stuff

Greater Cincinnati's index of economic indicators was flat in December, indicating weak job growth in the coming months, The Business Courier reports. The index held steady at 97.5, the same as in November. That indicates "poor employment growth through winter and early spring," said the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which compiles the index. (Thank God Congress reached that jobs deal, right?)

Cincinnati City Council will appeal a judge's ruling that allows demolition of the historic James N. Gamble House in Westwood. Although the city's attorney said the likelihood of the appeal's success was low, council voted 6-3 to pursue one. Councilman Chris Seelbach introduced the proposal; he said the structure is a landmark that should be preserved.

She just wants a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t when she gets home. Kierra Reed, 22, is facing a charge of aggravated menacing after she allegedly attacked her boyfriend for not buying her a Valentine's Day gift. Reed began hitting and scratching Henry Brown, police said, and when he locked himself in a bedroom, Reed allegedly got a knife from the kitchen and tried to cut through the door to stab Brown.


U.S. officials have received a copy of the formal charges lodged by the Egyptian government against pro-democracy activists in the Arab nation. Forty-three people, 19 of them Americans, are to be put on trial for allegedly setting up groups without licenses and receiving illegal funding. Critics say the charges are bogus, and being pushed by pro-Islamist groups to prevent dissenting voices from gaining a foothold in the new Egyptian government.

Although it's only about one-third the size of the bill President Obama proposed in September, Congressional lawmakers agreed early this morning to a compromise version that results in a $150 billion jobs plan. The deal includes a 10-month extension of a payroll tax holiday that lets the average worker keep an extra $1,000 a year. Also, it would extend unemployment benefits through the rest of this year.

In a major turnabout, General Motors reported $7.6 billion in profit for 2011, a 62 percent increase from the previous year. Still, all isn't rosy for the automaker. It reported a $700 million loss in its European operations, and a $100 million loss in South America. The firm, which faced bankruptcy two years ago, saw sales rise 7.6 percent last year to more than 9 million vehicles.

The secret is out. Confirming what's been rumored for weeks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the U.S. government is conducting secret three-way negotiations with the Taliban and his government. Karzai said he believes most Taliban are "definitively" interested in a peace settlement to end the 10-year-old war.

Despite the Obama administration's pledge to put an end to “too big to fail” banks, critics allege more are being created. The Federal Reserve Board has just approved a merger that makes Capital One the fifth-largest bank in the nation, over the objections of smaller banks and consumer advocacy groups.
 
 

 

 

 
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