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by German Lopez 11.07.2012
Posted In: News, Economy at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ohio's Jobless Face Uncertainty

Expiration of unemployment benefits could hurt state's economy

It’s only one day after President Barack Obama’s re-election, and some groups are already demanding action. In a new report by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, the group says the expiration of federal unemployment benefits could leave Ohio’s jobless stranded.

If Congress doesn’t renew federal benefits, the impact in Ohio will be immediate and negative,” said Zach Schiller, research director for Policy Matters, in a statement. “Not only will the unemployed suffer, but the state economy will take a hit as well.”

If Congress and the president do not act by Dec. 29, funding for emergency unemployment benefits approved in mid-2008 will be cut off. Nearly 50,000 Ohioans have been getting federally supported benefits every week, and the bulk will be cut off if funding expires, according to the report.

Even without expiration, Ohio is already in a bad spot when it comes to insuring the jobless. Altogether, the number of unemployed receiving benefits is lower than the national average, according to the report. Since 2001, Ohio’s unemployed have received fewer benefits than the national average. In 2011, 63 percent of Ohioans who filed claims received payments, while 71 percent of claimants all around the country got benefits.

The state program seems to be particularly weak. In 2012, the amount of unemployed Ohioans getting state benefits was 22 percent, while the national share was about 26 percent. The report shows getting fewer benefits in Ohio has been the majority trend for at least 29 years.

One statistic that drives the report’s point home is the fact the state only provides up to 26 weeks of benefits, yet the average unemployed Ohioan is jobless for 33.5 weeks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means the average unemployed Ohioan would be left without unemployment benefits for 7.5 weeks if the federal program did not exist.

And it’s not like the benefits offer an easy ride. The benefits “are hardly magnificent,” says Schiller. “Three-hundred dollars a week, you’re not going to take a jet to Tahiti and spend time on the beach with that kind of money. So, in fact, what people do with their $300 a week is spend it on necessities and in their communities.”

Schiller says the trend is poor economics, and the federal and state government should make sure Ohio’s unemployed continue getting benefits they need.

“When I was in high school, we heard of unemployment insurance as what was called an ‘automatic stabilizer,'" he says. “When the economy went into a dive, you would see increases in unemployment insurance that would automatically help stabilize the economy. This was seen by economists as a very useful and important thing that would reduce the depth of recessions.”

Schiller’s claim is backed by economic data. In a May 2012 report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan agency that measures the effect of federal budgets and policy, said the repeal of extended emergency unemployment benefits would lower spending by $26 billion in the 2013 fiscal year. It would also increase the deficit, according to the CBO report: “The weakening of the economy that will result from that fiscal restraint will lower taxable incomes and, therefore, revenues, and it will increase spending in some categories — for unemployment insurance, for instance.”

Unemployment compensation also kept 2.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

by German Lopez 12.14.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Transportation, Economy at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands

It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large, statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!

City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously, all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here. The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.

Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.

A study found a gap in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.

The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.

In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform 32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.

Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”

A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.

A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.

NASA discovered the largest river ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez River here.

Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.

by German Lopez 11.08.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Economy, Homelessness at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Homeless to Homes plan approved, unemployment benefits could expire, fiscal cliff looms

With a push from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and City Council approval, the Homeless to Homes plan is moving forward. The shelter-moving plan, which was originally put together by Strategies to End Homelessness, will use $37 million in loans to build new shelters for the Drop Inn Center, City Gospel Mission and the YWCA. But some homeless advocates have criticized the plan because it forces them to move homeless shelters they don’t want to move. Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says the money could be spent better developing affordable housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.

Just one day after President Barack Obama’s re-election, one left-leaning Ohio group was already making demands. They want federal unemployment benefits renewed. The group’s research director, supported by economic data, says the expiration of those benefits could have bad repercussions for the unemployed and the federal and state economies.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati investment professionals are beginning to renew worries about the federal fiscal cliff. The fiscal cliff, which includes emergency unemployment benefits, is a mix of tax hikes and budget cuts set to automatically occur at the end of the year. The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency that measures the impact of federal budgets and policy, has warned about the fiscal cliff’s potential economic damage. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has also warned lawmakers about the fiscal cliff.

A state appeals court ruled today that the city of Cincinnati is allowed to reduce retirees’ health benefits. The cuts in benefits are meant to shore up the city’s pension plan, but retirees, including former City Clerk Sandy Sherman, filed a lawsuit arguing the benefits can only be increased, not decreased. The case could still move to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Hamilton County’s new Democratic sheriff, Jim Neil, is already making plans. He says he favors alternative sentencing to deal with jail overcrowding, and he wants to audit and restructure the sheriff department’s budget to cut waste.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will be in Cincinnati Thursday to unveil Cincinnati’s first prescription drug drop box. The drop boxes are meant to reduce prescription drug abuse and improper ingestion.

A sign of what could come to Cincinnati next spring: Columbus’s casino reported $18.3 million in revenue for its first month. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino is currently being constructed and is expected to open in spring 2013.

Blue Ash-based Empire Marketing Strategies is buying a plant site in Mason for about $820,000, and it could create 200 jobs.

In case you missed it, CityBeat posted comprehensive election results for Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio and the U.S.

State Democrats and Republicans have an explanation for two incumbents losing in the Ohio Supreme Court: names. On Democrat William O’Neill defeating Republican incumbent Robert Cupp, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett said O’Neill won because he has an Irish-American name. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Sharon Kennedy is a great ballot name. That’s why she won.” Redfern says he will introduce legislation that will require party affiliation to appear on the Ohio Supreme Court ballots.

The election didn’t change much in the Ohio Board of Education. It remains five Democrats and six Republicans.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said the approval of Issue 4, which extends City Council terms to four years, will be good for local business. She argues “there’s a great business case to be made for having a more stable and reliable local government.”

While marijuana was legalized in some states, Butler County led what it believes is its biggest marijuana bust in history. More than 900 lbs of marijuana were seized.

Bill Cunningham, local conservative radio talk show host, may retire due to Obama’s re-election. Oh well.

In the story of another conservative meltdown, CityBeat has a special letter for the Lebanon tea party: We’re sorry.

Perhaps the national media’s most under-reported story of election night was that Puerto Ricans favored statehood in the polls for the first time. If Congress and Obama act, the island could become the 51st state.

Popular Science has an open letter to President Barack Obama. While they like how Obama generally supports science funding more than a President Mitt Romney would, they want Obama to do more.

by German Lopez 02.07.2013
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Governor, Taxes at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Kasich Tax Cut Favors Wealthy

Top 1 percent to get more than $10,000 a year from cuts

Gov. John Kasich says he’s cutting everyone’s taxes in his 2014-2015 budget, but an analysis released Thursday found the plan is actually raising taxes for the poor and middle class. The Policy Matters Ohio report reveals the poorest Ohioans will see a tax increase of $63 from Kasich’s budget plan, while the top 1 percent will see a tax decrease of $10,369.

For the poorest Ohioans, the new tax burden comes through the sales tax. On average, the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder will have their income taxes reduced by $8, but the sales tax plan will actually increase their average sales tax burden by $71.

The middle 20 percent fares slightly better. Under the budget proposal, they will get a $157 income tax cut on average, but their sales tax burden will go up by $165 — meaning they'll end up paying $8 more in taxes.

The top 1 percent get the most out of Kasich’s tax plan. Their income taxes will be reduced by a whopping $11,150. The top 1 percent do see the highest sales tax increase at $781, but it’s nowhere near enough to make up for the massive income tax cut.

Kasich says his budget is all about creating jobs and spurring the economy, but the regressive tax system defies economic research. A previous analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which measures the budgetary and economic impact of federal policy, found letting tax cuts expire on the wealthy would barely dent the economy. The same report also found the economy greatly benefits from tax and social welfare programs that disproportionately benefit the lower and middle classes.

Another report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) also concluded tax hikes on the rich would have negligible economic impact. The findings made national Republicans so angry that they pressured CRS to pull the report. CRS later re-released the study — except this time it had nicer language to appease politicians that can’t handle reality.

Kasich’s plan proposes cutting the state income tax by 20 percent across the board and lowering the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. To pay for the cuts, the proposal broadens the sales tax so it applies to additional services — including cable TV services, coin-operated video games and admission to sports events and amusement parks — while keeping exemptions for education, health care, rent and residential utilities.

For more analysis of Kasich’s budget, check out CityBeat’s other coverage:

by German Lopez 01.29.2013

Morning News and Stuff

Democrats sue over Terhar, JobsOhio ignores lawsuit, Monzel to change county mission

Ohio Democrats are moving to sue the state if it continues blocking access to texts from State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati. The school board leader has been facing criticism for making a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The post was a picture with the caption, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” There is no historical evidence Hitler made that quote.

Despite ongoing litigation questioning its constitutionality, JobsOhio intends to move ahead with plans to sell liquor-backed bonds. The Supreme Court agreed to take up ProgressOhio’s challenge of JobsOhio last week. JobsOhio is a nonprofit private agency set up by Gov. John Kasich to drive economic growth, but bipartisan questions have surrounded its legality and constitutionality since its conception.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel wants to change the county’s mission statement. His proposed changes would remove references to equity and add conservative language about the county government living within its means. The county is already required to balance its budget.

Ohio State University expects to save nearly $1 million a year due to wind power. The university signed a 20-year agreement in October to buy 50 megawatts annually from Blue Creek Wind Farm, the state’s largest commercial wind farm.

The city of Cincinnati is tearing down hundreds of blighted houses. The demolitions, which are being funded by a grant, are meant to make neighborhoods safer.

A Cleveland man was the first to benefit from a law that expedites payouts to those who were wrongfully imprisoned. After being imprisoned for 16 years, Darrell Houston will receive a partial judgment of nearly $380,000.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking at removing 34 positions. One of the potentially affected jobs is a counselor position that helped apprehend a man suspected of kidnapping two teenaged girls.

Ohio may soon require the replacement of old license plates.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is assisting eleven companies in investing more than $51 million across Ohio. In Hamilton County, Jedson Engineering will spend an additional $2.8 million to create 30 full-time jobs.

StateImpact Ohio has an in-depth look at Nate DeRolph, one of the leaders in school funding equality.

A new gun shoots criminals with DNA tags, which lets cops return to a suspect during less confrontational times. The guns will be particularly useful during riots, when attempting an arrest can result in injuries.

by German Lopez 01.04.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, John Boehner, Streetcar, Budget at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar delayed to 2016, unemployment steady, Boehner re-elected speaker

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016. The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive $52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.

The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December, with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well. Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about 192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force, which includes anyone working or looking for work.

U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker. Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and recent developments in Europe have shown.

Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years.

Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets, largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won awards in 2012.

If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.

A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team. But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case.

Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate.

Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes.

The newest Congress is a little more diverse.

In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems.

People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres.

A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.

by German Lopez 02.04.2013
Posted In: Prisons, Privatization, News, Economy, Budget at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Liberty for Sale

Morning News and Stuff

Violence at private prison, JobsOhio gets liquor funds, Kasich's budget blueprint

There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to call in the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here.

There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio.

Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax base. The governor has long been eying an income tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition.

In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project.

The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached a limited agreement to meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.

Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race.

Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs.

Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program. The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the program is now $112,375.

The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building.

Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked.

Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare.

Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.

by Andy Brownfield 09.12.2012

Biden Praises Diplomats During Dayton Visit

Vows to bring to justice killers of U.S. Ambassador to Libya

DAYTON – Vice President Joe Biden took time at the beginning of his Wednesday campaign stop in Dayton to condemn an overnight attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, while praising the work and courage of American diplomats and promising to bring to justice those who carried out the attack.

“(This) brave — and it’s not hyperbole to say brave –— ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on. Our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while the war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on,” Biden said.

“These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors.”

The Tuesday attack took place during a protest against an amateur short film made in the United States that protesters say insulted the Prophet Muhammad. U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members were killed.

“Let me be clear — we are resolved to bring to justice their killers,” Biden said.

The vice president made no mention of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which he characterized as “akin to an apology” and a “severe miscalculation,” but the vice president quickly segued into politics, alluding to Romney’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy.

“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests and causes and the cause of freedom abroad, it is also to build a nation here at home, to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said. “Whether we do that and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice we face in this presidential election. It really is that basic, and foreign policy is not some sideline to all of this.”

The Romney campaign in Ohio was quick to respond, calling Biden’s remarks “hypocritical” in an emailed statement.

“Vice President Biden’s appearance in Dayton only served further damage to his credibility as he reprised hypocritical and widely debunked attacks against Mitt Romney. Not only did the Vice President mislead Ohioans, but he attacked Mitt Romney for supporting the same tax policy the Obama Administration supported just last year,” Romney Ohio spokesman Christopher Maloney wrote.

“With today’s Census report showing nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty and incomes continuing to decline, it appears that misleading attacks are all the Obama campaign has left to offer 400,000 Ohioans looking for work.”

Maloney’s email also fact-checked a claim made by Biden during his speech. Biden said that he opposed the so-called “territorial tax,” which he said would allow American companies that invested abroad to avoid paying taxes in the United States.

The email included links to an Associated Press fact checking article that concludes that Romney’s proposal was aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S. rather than overseas.

Biden spoke to a packed house at Wright State University in Dayton, with overflow crowds estimated in the hundreds viewing in separate rooms in the Student Union.

The vice president reiterated many of his usual stump speech points — the Romney tax plan’s negative effects on the middle class, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration’s commitment to manufacturing — but much of Biden’s speech focused on education. He said a president Romney would cut funding for Pell Grants, meaning many students in the audience would have to leave school. He also lauded President Barack Obama’s administration’s enactment of a tax break of $2,500 for every family that sends a child to college.

The usually bombastic Biden wasn’t without his gaffes. Twice he referred to Wright State as “Wayne State,” which is in Detroit, despite a large Wright State University banner displayed in the conference room where he gave his speech.

The crowd was quick to correct him after the second time he misspoke.

“Wright State, which also includes Wayne State,” Biden said after he was corrected, eliciting laughs from the audience.

by German Lopez 12.27.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, News, Economy, Business, Courts, Prisons at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
scioto jcf

Morning News and Stuff

Youthful prisons get mixed report, Leis to stay on public payroll, shelter move approved

Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation. The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court supervision.

There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge. Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.

An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate. The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”

Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.

U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas. Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in hopes of selling excess inventory.

Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.

The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.

Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans. 

Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.

Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.

Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.

by German Lopez 11.21.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Health care at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati unemployment drops, Ohio standardized test to be replaced, gas prices rise

Public service announcement: There will be no Morning News and Stuff Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving, and CityBeat will see you again on Monday!

With gains in the civilian labor force, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent. The city’s unadjusted unemployment rate is below the nation’s rate of 7.5 percent, but it’s above Hamilton County’s 6.2 percent rate and Ohio’s 6.3 percent rate.

The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. As part of broader reform, state education leaders have agreed to establish new standardized tests with a focus on college and career readiness. But the reform faces some concerns from Democrats, who worry the new standards, particularly the school report cards that evaluate schools and districts, may be unreasonably tough. An early simulation of the new school report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D- under the new system, with 23 CPS schools flunking.

Gas prices in southwest Ohio appear to be on the rise. Since Monday, they have moved up 10 to 20 cents.

The Horseshoe Casino is hiring again. This time, the casino is looking for people experienced in restaurant management, hosting, banquet, finance, marketing and guest services.

One problem Ohio must consider in its decision to expand Medicaid or not: a doctor shortage. Still, one study found states that expanded Medicaid had notable health gains. Contrary to the fiscal reasons normally cited by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, another report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money by lowering the amount of uncompensated care.

Thirteen people are going for the Ohio Supreme Court. The vacant slot needs to be filled after Justice Evelyn Stratton announced she was stepping down earlier in the year. Her replacement, who will be picked by Gov. Kasich, will finish the two years of her six-year term. Some of the candidates are from the Cincinnati area, including Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, the newly elected First District appellate judge. Surprisingly, Republican Justice Robert Cupp did not submit an application despite recently losing re-election.

A ban on internet sweepstakes cafes is on its way. The cafes are allegedly susceptible to illegal activities such as money laundering, racketeering and sex trafficking.

Marc Dann, the Democrat formerly in charge of the Ohio attorney general’s office, lost his law license for six months. Dann resigned from the role of attorney general in 2008 after 17 months of scandal-ridden service.

Three staffers at Gov. Kasich’s office were cleared by the Ohio inspector general’s office of engaging in political activity during work hours.

The mediation between Hostess and a striking union failed. The company is blaming the union for shutting down, but the free market is a likelier culprit.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is some science on weight gain.

A new way to give drugs to patients: injectable sponges that expand inside the body.