Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.
From The Toledo Blade:
Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.
The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.
The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.
The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.
Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.
The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.
United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.
Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.
Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.
The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.
The ongoing saga involving Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig and his nonexistent policing powers will continue into July, as a hearing scheduled for Thursday has been continued. Craig's attorneys will argue in front of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission that his prior experience, and certification in three other states, should exempt him from a state rule requiring all officers pass a certification exam before earning police powers. Craig believes he was hired to do things other than study for an entry-level policing test, and some states would already have certified him.
A statewide ban on texting while driving moved through the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. The law makes the writing, sending or reading of a text message while driving a secondary offense, meaning officers may not pull over an adult driver for the act. Teens, however, under House Bill 99 will be prohibited from using any electronic device other than GPS and may be pulled over for it.
Kasich on Tuesday followed through with the GOP plan to overturn its own controversial election law that was to go before voters in November. State Republicans and election officials now say there's no reason for the law to go in front of voters thanks to the 300,000 signatures gathered by President Obama's re-election campaign and other opponents, but opponents of the election law point out that the repeal still reaffirms an election law change that would end early voting the weekend before an election. Democrats plan to keep the issue on the ballot.
But people on both sides of the issue say there's no precedent for a legislative repeal of a bill that also is the subject of a referendum, so it's unclear how a court might rule if a legal challenge is filed.
Jennifer Brunner, a former Democratic secretary of state and a leader in the Fair Elections Ohio campaign that brought the referendum, said Tuesday that the action taken by Gov. John Kasich and Legislature doesn't force the removal of the question from November ballots.
"Since this issue is a case of first impression for any court, we do not see the statement of the Secretary of State to be determinative on this issue," Brunner said in an email. "The issue remains on the ballot."
More drama from Columbus: Republicans are moving forward with a test program requiring some welfare recipients to submit to drug testing in order to continue receiving benefits. Opponents say the process stigmatizes the poor, while the GOP says it's just a simple process involving poor people paying the upfront costs for drug tests, being reimbursed if they pass and living on the streets for six months if they fail.
Northern Kentucky leaders plan to use the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine as a model for reinvesting in their urban core. A nonprofit organization has raised $10 million during the past five years to get started spurring commercial and residential investment.
Two Kentucky high school students who were turned away from their senior prom for arriving as a same-sex couple have argued that if their Catholic high school wants to ban students based on upholding the church's teachings, such a ban should include couples who have had premarital sex and kids who plan to get wasted after the prom.
Apparently viewers of Harry's Law, which was set in Cincinnati and used a stage-version of Arnold's as the lawyer gang's regular hangout, are too old to attract advertising dollars despite their relatively high numbers.
The show ranked very low among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about. In fact, its young-adult numbers were beneath those for "Prime Suspect," a cop show that NBC canceled earlier this season, and roughly on par with those of "Off Their Rockers," the Betty White show about senior citizens pulling pranks on younger people.
"It was a difficult decision," an NBC executive said Sunday, quoted by the site Deadline.com. "Everyone here respects 'Harry's Law' a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and it is hard to monetize that."
President Obama raised $44 million during April for his and other Democratic campaigns.
John Boehner says that when the federal government raises the debt limit again America can expect another prolonged fight about cuts.
George W. Bush has found “freedom” wherever he ended up after having little to offer the GOP after his tumultuous two terms as president. From ABC News:
We don't see much of Bush these days. He's the president that a lot of people would like to forget, still so toxic that he's widely considered more likely to hurt than help the Republican Party by participating in the 2012 campaign.
Bush's speech Tuesday morning was a rare exception. He spoke in a small, nondescript room to about 200 people about democracy activists, promoting a human rights campaign that's part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
His presence on the national stage is perhaps best seen in his presence on the small stage at 1777 F Street. At the end of the affair, Bush and his wife were called back up to be presented with writings by Czech human rights icon Vaclav Havel. They posed for pictures as the audience clapped, and when they were done, Bush glanced around as if unsure what to do next.
He walked back to his seat, but then quickly walked back onto the stage and behind the lectern. He leaned forward into the microphone, paused, and said slyly, "Thanks for coming."
Bush waited a second or two. Then he said, "See ya later."
He waved, and then he left.
Is U.S. energy independence a pipe dream? This article says no.
Apple might soon give you a larger iPhone screen.
A private rocket launch this week could be the start of commercial space travel.
Here are some important tips about sunscreen as summer approaches and the circle in the sky threatens to burn off our skin.
Gov. John Kasich has something to say to anyone waiting on federal funding to help fix their bridges (and while we're at it, any local governments who need funding for something other than food and water): Forget about it. During an interview with Enquirer editors and reporters yesterday,* Kasich said tolls are the best means for funding a new Brent Spence Bridge.
“I do not believe that a white charger is going to come galloping (from Washington) into Cincinnati with $2 billion in the saddlebags,” Kasich said. “So if that isn’t going to happen and all we do is delay, delay, delay and we push this thing out until 2036 ... holy cow!”
* CityBeat had a similar meeting scheduled but we forgot about it and weren't here at the time — sorry Kasich, we'll get ya next time!
Things are about to get weird in a Clermont County courtroom if David Krikorian and Chris Finney get their wish — to have Jean Schmidt on the witness stand on May 17. Finney, the attorney for Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), has been representing Krikorian, a former Democratic and independent candidate who unsuccessfully ran against Schmidt for Ohio's 2nd congressional district seat, has served Schmidt with a subpoena as part of Krikorian's lawsuit claiming a Schmidt lawsuit against Krikorian was frivolous. COAST's ghost-written blog posted commentary in February in response to accusations from Brad Wenstrup that Schmidt was using campaign funds to pay off legal fund debt from earlier campaign nonsense against Krikorian. Eastsiders mad.
Some high-level Procter & Gamble executives are getting the Bearcat Bounce out of Cincinnati, heading to Singapore where the company believes growth opportunities for its beauty care products are the highest. About 20 positions will be moved to the Singapore office during the next two years.
Does it matter that Mitt Romney might
have led a group of teenagers in a “pin that dude down and cut his
hair” prank during the '60s? The Nation says Obama's gay-marriage
announcement caught Romney off guard.
As expected, Obama's fundraiser at George Clooney's house raked in the dough, raising $15 million in one night.
British Prime Minister David Cameron only recently learned what LOL means in text-speak. The explanation occurred during witness testimony from Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's the now-defunct News of the World. Brooks was forced to resign last year amid a phone-hacking scandal.
"He would sign them off 'DC' in the main," Brooks said, referring to Cameron's initials. "Occasionally he would sign them off 'LOL' — 'lots of love' — until I told him it meant 'laugh out loud,' and then he didn't sign them off [that way] anymore."
It was certainly an LOL moment during Brooks' testimony in a London courtroom Friday as part of a judicial inquiry into media ethics. But the disclosure also underscored the warm personal ties between the prime minister and Brooks, the former head of media baron Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers who was forced to resign in disgrace last summer.
Someone found a really old Mayan calendar, and it offers good news: It goes way beyond Dec, 12, 2012.
Major League Baseball phenom Bryce Harper is in town for a three-game series with his Washington Nationals. The 19-year-old was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and is the first superstar-caliber player to make it to the big leagues this quickly prompting comparisons to Ken Griffey, Jr. at that age. Here's the local spin about on freak outfielder coming to town for a weekend series against the Reds.
The tougher reading standards could potentially hold back 12 percent of Ohio third-graders, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
With the new rules, kids would be tested every year starting in Kindergarten. Any kids who are below standards would receive special tutoring, and any who fail to improve to “proficient” or above by the time of the third-grade reading test would be held back.
Similar standards were passed in Florida a decade ago. While it was rough at first with 13 percent of third-graders in Florida being held back, scores have begun improving, Patricia Levesque, former education advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told The Dispatch.
However, research shows holding kids back hurts them more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found that grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.
Kasich has also proposed tougher grading standards for schools and districts, which he hopes will hold schools more accountable.
Republican critics don’t necessarily oppose all the reforms, but they would like to see the reforms implemented more carefully and slowly. School officials, state education groups and teachers unions have repeatedly asked for more time to tell parents and teachers about the upcoming changes.
The news comes at a time when states around the country are moving to enact education reform after years of disappointment. In 2010, the U.S. fell to a rating of “average” in the international rankings released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. ranked No. 14 out of 34 OECD countries in reading, No. 17 for science and a below-average No. 25 for math.
One bright spot was found earlier this year when a report showed U.S. high school graduation rates had increased to 75.5 percent in 2009, up from 72 percent in 2001.
President Barack Obama has tried to encourage widespread education reform with his “Race to the Top” initiative. The program pushes states to compete for funds with education reform plans. The states with the best programs are then rewarded federal funds as they implement reform.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland won funds for Ohio with his reform plan, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan congratulated Ohio for being on schedule with reforms earlier this year.
City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a measure that will offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees. The measure was introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 8-1, the lone “no” vote coming from Charlie Winburn. Seelbach told The Enquirer that domestic partner benefits not only affect same-sex couples, but are also applicable to non-married partners, which is an added attraction to lure talented employees to the city. Covington officials passed a similar measure Tuesday.
If you owe the city of Cincinnati any parking fines, now would be a good time to pay them. Cincinnati police are going to start hearing descriptions of vehicles with multiple outstanding tickets during roll call and then head out to find them during patrols.
Eric Deters wants to be a real lawyer again. The attorney/radio personality/cage fighter says his current predicament — Kentucky law license suspension — is mostly because someone making the rulings “hates him” and is not due to the “ethical lapses” that caused his original 61-day suspension. If Deters can't get the Kentucky Supreme Court to help him out he'll have to go in front of a Character and Fitness Committee and explain all the crazy stuff he's done.
Gov. John Kasich is making changes to the state's Medicaid program, which he and its officials say will save money, though it will cause disruptions in the form of some recipients needing to find new providers, many of which have less access to medical advice and financial help. A similar program implemented in Kentucky last year resulted in complaints that patients couldn't get services authorized and providers didn't get paid on time, according to The Enquirer.
New Osama bin Laden documents published
online by the U.S. Government show concern over Muslim distrust of
his organization before he was killed last May, and much of which was due to the high numbers of civilians it was responsible for killing.
It's not very fun to be John Edwards these days. Already charged with using $1 million in campaign money to hide a pregnant mistress, testimony in his case for violating campaign finance laws has revealed that his mistress had a better idea in response to the National Enquirer's report on the affair: She wanted to say she was abducted by aliens.
Target is done selling Kindles, and although it didn't give a reason analysts suspect it is in response to Amazon's attempts to get retailers who see the products in a store to then purchase them online. Amazone last holiday season indroduced a Price Check app that offered in-store price comparisons and up to a $15 discount online.
Retired NFL linebacker Junior Seau was found dead at his home yesterday in an apparent suicide. Seau, who played in the NFL for parts of 20 seasons, was found shot to death. He was 43.
Gov. John Kasich today denied a request for executive clemency from Mark Wayne Wiles, who was convicted in 1986 of the murder of 15-year-old Mark Klima in the northeast Ohio township of Rootstown.
Wiles is scheduled to
be executed April 18 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in
Lucasville. According to the clemency report, members of the Ohio
Parole Board on March 2 interviewed Wiles via video-conference from
the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, after which arguments in
support of and in opposition to clemency were presented. The board
voted 8-0 against recommending clemency.
Ohio was subjected to a moratorium on executions from November of 2011 until April 4, 2012, when U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of Newark lifted the moratorium he invoked for the state’s inability to follow its own execution protocol. The moratorium was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in February.
CityBeat reported here that despite lifting the moratorium, Frost expressed frustration with the state’s problems carrying out executions, despite the errors being largely minor paperwork technicalities, including “not properly documenting that an inmate’s medical files were reviewed and switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection.”
From CityBeat’s Politics/Issues blog April 6:
Since the moratorium, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has allegedly scrutinized its procedural policies and implemented a new "Incident Command System," which sounds like an initiative for ORDC Director Gary Mohr to more closely micromanage the processes during state executions.To date, Ohio has executed 386 convicted murderers. Click here for a schedule of upcoming executions in Ohio and here for recent clemency reports.
"This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit the scheduled execution," Frost wrote regarding his rejection of Wiles' stay of execution. "The court reaches this conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio's history of telling this court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions and then not following through on promised reforms."
Dan Whitten, a vice president at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a Washington-based trade group, had already expressed opposition to the idea, on March 8 telling Bloomberg in an email: “Natural-gas production is a capital-intensive undertaking and we believe generally that fees should be directed to communities where we work, with careful consideration of the possible direct jobs impacts.”
Other trade organizations today spoke out against the increased tax rates, as they would prefer to take all the energy out of Ohio’s land and not pay higher taxes.
Thomas Steward, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that his organization will fight the tax increase when the plan goes before lawmakers.
"This sounds like something that would have come from the left," Steward said.
Among the methods of extracting the natural gas is a controversial process called fracking, which involves blasting pressurized slurries of water, chemicals and sand into ancient shale formations, thousands of feet below ground. CityBeat reported on Jan. 24 that 43 households have filed a class-action lawsuit in response various environmental hazards allegedly caused by fracking in Geauga County, Ohio. From the story:
Fracking in Ohio is booming rapidly, thanks in part to the barely tapped potential of the vast Utica Shale, a gassy, 445-million-year-old rock formation that lies beneath a third of the state, at a depth of around 7,000 feet. Until last year, only three permits had been granted for horizontal drilling into the Utica, but in 2011 the number exceeded 40.
In 2004 Ohio’s State Legislature repealed the abilities of elected local governments to regulate or refuse gas drilling, instead handing full authority to the industry-friendly Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). In 2005, the U.S. Congress ruled to exempt fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The gas extraction
process has been found to be so environmentally detrimental that
France and Bulgaria have banned the practice in their countries. New
Jersey is the only U.S. state where it is banned. CityBeat in
January reported that State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill) had
sponsored one of three state bills that would tighten fracking
regulations and Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced a bill to
put a moratorium on wastewater injection.
Kasich’s interest in reducing income taxes comes one year after his two-year budget cost counties, municipalities and townships $167.1 million, according the The Columbus Dispatch, which described the plan’s impact on the state in the following manner: “Kasich's budget slashes aid to local governments: Tuition hikes limited to 3.5% for higher education.”
Ohio’s budget deficit was $8 billion when Kasich offered his 2011 budget, which his administration said would save $1.4 billion through reform measures that included reduced funding for social service programs such as the health and developmental disability departments.
Despite the still existing state budget deficit, Kasich wants to reduce income taxes, even though his spokesman Scott Milburn proudly told Bloomberg that, “the governor has already cut taxes by more than $800 million.”