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by Kevin Osborne 02.17.2012
 
 
1

Morning News and Stuff

Duke Energy announced Thursday night that it will help fund a campaign to raise private and government money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge. It will cost about $2.3 billion to replace the span, which carries traffic from I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig said
an audit to determine methods for improving the Police Department’s efficiency is continuing. Among the latest recommendations, the department will no longer seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and that response of a recent shift to 10-hour workdays has been positive.

Three development groups
have submitted proposals to Covington officials, each vying to be selected to reshape that city’s riverfront area. One of the proposals, drafted by Corporex Realty & Investment and Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, involves refurbishing the Waterfront Restaurant and creating a floating boardwalk, marina and wharf.

A Cincinnati police officer assigned to the Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) program
was suspended without pay this week after she was charged with tampering with records, securing writings by deception and forgery. Sandra Johnson, 38, allegedly said she taught DARE classes and got paid for them when she didn’t. DARE is among the programs being ended by Chief Craig; he has called it ineffective.

In news elsewhere,
German President Christian Wulff resigned from his position today as head of state amid mounting criticism over a home loan scandal. Wulff has been plagued by allegations since mid-December over his connections to wealthy businessmen, initially over an advantageous home loan from a friend's wife. He then faced claims he tried to hush up the story, as well as reports of free vacations accepted from friends.

The Obama administration’s newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
wants to begin monitoring and regulating debt collectors and credit bureaus for the first time. Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said he wants to ensure people aren’t subjected to abusive practices.

An influential group of scientists issued a report this week
pressing U.S. officials to tighten regulations of so-called “fracking” operations to reduce environmental and health risks. The independent review of fracking by professors at the University of Texas in Austin said that the development of shale gas was "essential to the energy security of the U.S. and the world,” but added the process needs more oversight.

The recent brouhaha over a new federal rule that requires insurance coverage of birth control for women reveals that
the Roman Catholic Church has lost its influence in U.S. politics, some observers said. An AlterNet article noted that even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to a compromise rule pushed by President Obama, many other Catholic groups — including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Health Association — are ignoring the conference and accepting it.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, have arrested 16 students in
a major drug bust at Texas Christian University, a conservative evangelical institution. The drugs involved included marijuana, ecstasy pills, a powdered form of ecstasy commonly called “molly” and prescription drugs such as Xanax, hydrocodone and Oxycontin. Four football players were among those arrested.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.16.2012
 
 
issa

No Women Allowed (At First)

GOP congressman blocks woman from testifying about birth control rule

Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a hearing today in the House after a Republican colleague blocked a woman from testifying about a new federal rule that will require most employers to provide free birth control.

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) left the hearing after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) prevented the woman from being added to the witness list.

Announced last month, the rule reclassifies birth control as a preventative health measure, which means most employers must cover contraception in their insurance plans with no cost sharing like co-pays or deductibles. Initially, an exemption was granted for churches but not for religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, which angered some Catholic bishops and others.

In a compromise unveiled Feb. 10, President Obama said religiously affiliated schools and hospitals wouldn’t be forced to offer coverage for free contraceptives. Rather, insurers will be required to offer the coverage free to any women who work at such institutions.

That wasn’t good enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some conservative politicians, who said the coverage shouldn’t be required at all.

Issa’s staff informed Democratic members of the committee that the hearing was about religious liberty in general, and not the contraception mandate, in explaining why Sandra Fluke couldn’t testify.

“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the (Obama) administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” Issa’s staffers wrote in a letter.

Fluke wanted to tell about an incident involving a 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition. Because the woman’s insurance didn’t cover contraception, the friend couldn’t afford her medication and eventually lost her ovary.

Read what Fluke had planned to tell the panel here.

Eleven people were on Issa’s witness list, led by the Rev. William Lori, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Eight of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic or evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.

Originally, Issa only planned on calling nine witnesses — all men. After the public flap, he added two women to the list.

 

 
 
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.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.14.2012
 
 
jillstein

Morning News and Stuff

Perhaps sensing they were losing the public perception battle, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Monday agreed to extend the payroll tax cut for another 10 months without getting offsetting reductions elsewhere in the budget. The action is a victory for President Obama, who opposed the GOP’s attempts to force pay cuts for federal workers and require them to contribute more to their pensions.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.09.2012
 
 
assad

Morning News and Stuff

With 273 days remaining until the presidential election, some of our readers might already be getting sick of listening to the latest blather from the candidates. Still, a rather blistering analysis of President Obama’s recent actions at Politico is worth checking out. Maybe this line will pique your interest: “So much for the high road: Victory is more important than purity … He’s made a series of calculated, overtly political gestures that are far more transactional than transformational.”

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by Kevin Osborne 02.08.2012
 
 
food stamps

Morning News and Stuff

If you care about politics, no doubt you’ve heard by now that birth control opponent Rick Santorum scored upset victories Tuesday in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and Missouri’s non-binding primary. No delegates were awarded in any of the races, but the showing further undermines presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s efforts to solidify his image as Republican frontrunner.

One of the best number crunchers around, Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight blog, says the latest results mean Romney will have a long slog to win the party’s nomination. Given history and voter demographics, Romney should’ve easily won in Minnesota and Colorado and the fact that he didn’t should serve as a warning for him, Silver adds.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.07.2012
 
 
cloudy

Morning News and Stuff

Even though he has criticized super PACs in the past, President Obama has decided he will allow a pro-Democratic one to assist him in his reelection bid. Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by two former White House aides, will help Obama counter the deluge of money being raised by GOP groups during the 2012 election cycle.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a conservative radio talk show host on Monday that he doesn’t support funding for Planned Parenthood and believes Susan G. Komen for the Cure should have stuck by its original decision to pull grants from the organization.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.06.2012
 
 
quinlivan

Morning News and Stuff

Despite all of the incessant hype, there actually are other things going on in the world besides the Super Bowl. So, grab your beverage of choice, sit back and we’ll tell you about a few of them. (And we promise nary a mention of Tom Brady or Eli Manning. Well, after this paragraph, that is.)

A study by Chicago University’s Booth Business School found that the use of social media might be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol. A team used BlackBerrys to gauge the willpower of 205 people between the ages of 18 and 85 in and around the German city of Würtzburg. The researchers say sex and sleep still appear to be stronger urges, but tweeting and checking email are more irresistible to some people than smoking or drinking.

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by Kevin Osborne 01.26.2012
 
 
iran

Morning News and Stuff

It’s yet another gloomy, rainy morning in Cincinnati, so let’s let our minds take a voyage around the Internet and see what is going on in the world during the last 24 hours.

House Speaker John Boehner is probably cringing at a CBS News poll that found an overwhelming majority of Americans like the proposals mentioned in President Obama’s State of the Union address. And by “overwhelming,” we mean a whopping 91 percent of respondents. (You read that correctly.)

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by Kevin Osborne 01.25.2012
 
 
obama

Morning News and Stuff

The big news this morning is President Obama’s State of the Union address, which revealed an assertive, populist side to B-Rock that’s largely been missing during the first three years of his term.

Will Obama keep his promises to go after Wall Street excesses and reckless financial firms, or is it mere election year posturing like apparently many of his statements in 2008 were? Only time will tell.

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