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by Danny Cross 05.25.2012
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News and Stuff

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.

According to a new poll, President Obama leads Mitt Romney in Ohio by six percentage points. Wonder if Obama's “cow pie of distortion” speech had anything to do with his lead.

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.

From USA Today: “Profits at big U.S. companies broke records last year, and so did pay for CEOs.

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.

by Danny Cross 05.04.2012
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Sen. Rob Portman is sitting on more cash than nearly all of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, despite the fact that he’s not up for re-election until 2016. There has been widespread speculation that Portman is a Republican vice presidential candidate, and only three Senators have more money on-hand than his Promoting Our Republican Team PAC (PORTPAC) leadership committee.

Companies upstream from Cincinnati have been dumping pollutants into the Ohio River since the 1940s, and federal authorities have reached a $5.5 million settlement to start cleaning it all up. Eighteen companies and several federal agencies will collectively contribute to restoring the Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeast Ohio. Here's the latest from Dredging Today (the authoritative voice of underwater excavation activity and other earth-altering digs).

Locals who have recently “pimped their rides” might want to read up on a bill passed by Ohio lawmakers yesterday that bans hidden compartments in vehicles. Police don’t want to have to open those fancy compartments to check whether there are drugs inside or just a 10th tiny TV. Hear that, Colerain?

Here’s what Obama and his advisers do on Sundays (after the prez’s round of golf, of course): size up Mitt Romney.

More insights from the letters and notes released on Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: “Bin Laden worried about legacy and sought to kill Obama.

U.S. job growth was down in April, adding only 115,000 positions after seeing 154,000 added in March. The unemployment rate dropped .1 percentage point to 8.1 percent, largely due to workers leaving the labor force. Republicans have some thoughts on the matter (Obama’s fault).

Ted Nugent is not looking so hot these days. He’s also thoroughly offended at the notion of not being a moderate. The following are comments he made today on CBS This Morning:

"If you examine how I conduct myself," Nugent said, "I don't think a day goes by in my life for many, many years now that we don't do charity work for children. ... Call me when you sit down across from someone who has more families with dying little boys and girls who get a call to take them on their last fishing trip in life.

"Call me," Nugent continued in a raised, irritated voice, "when you meet someone who does that more than I do. Because that's really moderate. In fact, you know what that is? That's extreme. ... I'm an extremely loving, passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy. ... And if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll [expletive]. Or [expletive]. How's that sound?"

Headline: “Tech world is out for blood.” Apparently Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s decision to start a patent war was not such a good idea.

New York Yankees future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera tore his ACL during pregame batting practice yesterday, putting the 42-year-old’s career in jeopardy. There had already been speculation that Rivera would retire after this season, and recovery from ACL surgery usually takes more than nine months.

by Danny Cross 10.24.2011

Morning News and Stuff

After three nights of arrests, Occupy Cincinnati protesters Sunday night chose to leave Piatt Park at its 10 p.m. closing time and march on the sidewalks around the park. Eleven members were arrested Saturday night for staying on the square after a rally past the 3 a.m. time allowed by its permit. The group is still waiting for a federal judge to rule on whether or not Piatt Park's 10 p.m. closing time is a violation of the First Amendment.

Chicago Police arrested 130 Occupy Chicago protesters over the weekend, and the group plans to picket Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office in response. Protesters described harsh treatment by police, with some spending more than 24 hours in jail. The picketing at City Hall will reportedly include a nurse's union in response to two nurses and a union organizer being arrested while volunteering at Occupy Chicago.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.07.2012

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 Danny Cross 05.22.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was arrested early Monday morning for driving with a suspended license in Grove City, outside of Columbus. Chapman, who has previously purchased vanity plates that read MPH102 and 101MPH based on his ability to throw a baseball way faster than you're allowed to drive, was caught doing 93 on I-71.

The Music Hall Revitalization Co. will meet Thursday to consider its next move after the city of Cincinnati decided not to sell the historic building to the nonprofit organization, prompting the resignation of the Revitalization Co.'s leader. The resident arts organizations issued a joint statement yesterday offering to work with the city and private donors to revive the project in some form. Some arts supporters contend that local philanthropic leaders will not donate to the project while it is city owned.

In the wake of last season's Crosstown Shootout melee, officials from UC and Xavier have decided to play the annual game at U.S. Bank Arena for the next two seasons. The behavior of players and fans will reportedly be evaluated after that time. The game was scheduled to be played at UC's Fifth Third Arena this year.

The commercial space vehicle today finally launched after shutting down its first attempt to fly to the International Space Station without the government's help. Exploration Technologies Corp.'s SpaceX rocket is scheduled to touch down on May 25 and could help jumpstart the privatization of space station servicing.

Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, but he's not quite ready to do it again.

Facebook shares went down a little bit after analysts revised their outlooks.

Fuel economy is more important to consumers than overall car quality, according to a new survey by Consumer Reports.

Is Brad Pitt's new film Killing Them Softly an anti-capitalist screed? Pretty much.

Everything you need to know about (writer-director Andrew) Dominik's worldview came with a moment in the news conference in which the Australian said that in his experience America is largely about making money, and that that went double for Hollywood.

Or, as the film's touchstone piece of dialogue has it: "America isn't a country -- it's a business.”

Ever wonder what would happen if the NBA rookie of the year dressed up like an old man and played ball with dudes at some random courts, with at least some of the players not knowing what's going on? Wonder no more:

by Danny Cross 07.03.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Someone really smart in Todd Portune’s office warned his or her superiors that the monthly first-Wednesday siren test might scare the living hell out of tens of thousands of foreign people visiting Cincinnati for the World Choir Games, so there will be no siren test this month. 

River Downs applied for some slot machines, the second racetrack in the state to do so.

Here’s the latest person to write about how screwed Mitt Romney is due to the constitutional health care mandate or, more importantly, the similar one he passed in Massachusetts. MSNBC says the Bain attacks are hurting Romney. And Mother Jones says this: “Romney Invested in Medical-Waste Firm That Disposed of Aborted Fetuses, Government Documents Show.”

And Obama is “feeling the pain” of campaign fundraising. Whatever that means. 

Here’s all you need to know about torture in Syria. Thanks, Human Rights Watch. 

Anderson Cooper publicly announced that he’s gay after a discussion with friend and journalist Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast regarding celebrities coming out. Cooper emailed Sullivan about the matter and gave him permission to print it. 

“I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

“The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

Chrysler’s sales are up 20 percent, but the company hasn’t specifically thanked JLo for boosting the Fiat marketshare.

Scientists are saying that recent heat waves, wild fires and other seemingly random natural disasters are due to global warming. And we thought it was only going to be our kids’ problem. :(

Meanwhile, European physicists hope to find the God particle by the end of the year, explaining the creation of the world. Here’s video of a British guy trying to explain what the particle is using a plastic tray and ping pong balls.

The NFL is going to back off some of its local blackout rules. Teams now must only hit 85 percent of their ticket sales goal rather than 100 percent to avoid making local markets watch crappy regional games instead of their favorite teams.  That means more Bengals games, less crappy Browns broadcasts.

by Danny Cross 05.15.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The private group hoping to purchase Music Hall for $1 is now asking for $10 million in city contributions to its effort to update the historic building, double the initial $5 million it asked for. The Music Hall Revitalization Co. says failing to strike a deal before June 1 will jeopardize the proposed $165 million renovation. Among the updates the city is being asked to fund are $75,000 buffers to block noise from the streetcar and a $150,000 escrow account to pay for any future disruptions due to the streetcar.

City Council yesterday spent some time considering ways to fix the city's retirement fund deficit. Cincinnati's retirement board wants the city to contribute $67 million to the pension system this year, though Council has reportedly contributed only about half of that.

CVG today will unveil its updated Concourse A, which has undergone a $36.5 million renovation. It is part of the airports attempt to lure a low-cost airline to the hub that formerly housed Delta.

Cleveland is the first Ohio city to open one of the state's four new casinos, drawing about 5,000 to a grand opening last night. Cincinnati's casino is expected to be the last of the four to open, with Hollywood casinos scheduled to open in Toledo May 29 and in Columbus this fall. Cincinnati's' Horseshoe is scheduled to open next year.

Barack Obama's Super PAC is airing TV ads questioning Mitt Romney's business record, specifically his commitment to workers.

Prosecutors today decided to bring charges against former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, who along with her husband and four others will be charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The alleged incidents occurred in response the phone hacking allegations, and the charges are apparently quite embarrassing to Rupert Murdoch and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

JP Morgan today said, “Surprise! We lost a bunch of money!” Two years after congress tightened regulations on Wall Street, the industry now fears that regulators will now listen to their fears even less as they enact stricter reforms.

Humans are consuming more resources than the earth can replenish, according to the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report for 2012.

Lady Gaga yesterday cancelled a cold-out Indonesia performance in response to conservative protests over her clothing and dance moves.

National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar, responding to the pressure, said Tuesday that the permit for her June 3 "Born This Way Ball" concert had been denied.

Indonesia, a nation of 240 million people, has more Muslims than any other. Although it is secular and has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.

Hard-liners have loudly criticized Lady Gaga, saying the suggestive nature of her show threatened to undermine the country's moral fiber. Some threatened to use physical force to prevent her from stepping off the plane.

Lawmakers and religious leaders, too, have spoken out against her.

by Andy Brownfield 10.08.2012

ODP Asks State, Feds to Investigate Coal Company

Letters allege Murray Energy coercing employees to donate to Republican candidates

The Ohio Democratic Party is asking both state and federal prosecutors to look into allegations that a major coal company is coercing its employees to donate to political causes against their will.

The ODP on Monday sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach and Acting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty asking them to launch a criminal investigation into Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation.

The letters allege that Murray Energy “may have engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, extorting millions in financial contributions from employees and vendors for Republican candidates running for public office.”

Murray Energy fired back in a Monday statement, saying the allegations “are simply an attempt to silence Murray Energy and its owners from supporting their coal mining employees and families by speaking out against President Barack Obama’s well known and documented War on Coal.”

The allegations stem from an Oct. 4 investigation by left-leaning magazine The New Republic.

The article is based on the accounts of two anonymous former Murray managers and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees. It suggests that employees are pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee. 

“There’s a lot of coercion,” one of the sources told the magazine. “I just want to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake.”

ODP Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters during a conference call that party research found that Ohio political candidates — including all current statewide officeholders — had received almost $750,000 from Murray Energy, its subsidiaries and employees.

Neither Dettelbach or McGinty returned CityBeat calls for comment on any pending investigations.

Murray Energy in its statement called The New Republic biased and radically liberal. The company’s characterization in the article is incorrect and untruthful, according to the statement. 

Murray had previously come under fire when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a campaign event at one of its mines. Some workers claim they were pulled out of the mine early when it closed for the event and forced to attend without pay.

by Andy Brownfield 09.14.2012

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 German Lopez 10.30.2012
anna louise inn

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast last night. At least 16 people are believed to have died from the storm, and as many as 7.5 million were left without power. Areas of New York and New Jersey also faced major flooding. It took until 4:30 a.m. for Sandy to go from hurricane to tropical storm. 

The Anna Louise Inn will be in court at 9 a.m. today arguing in front of the First District Court of Appeals, which could overturn a May ruling and allow the Inn to move forward with its renovation. CityBeat will have online coverage for the hearing later today.

Hamilton County’s probation department is facing sexual harassment charges. The charges are coming from a county worker who said her promotion was denied due to her actions “for opposing discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free from acts of discrimination.”

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to reverse the August reworking of the Blue Ash airport deal. For COAST, the lawsuit is mostly to stall or stop the financing for the $110 million Cincinnati streetcar.

City Council will vote next week to decide whether the city should borrow $37 million to fund development projects and a portion of the Homeless to Homes program. But Homeless to Homes is generating some concern due to its requirement to move three shelters.

Three Cincinnati charity groups are coming together to help veterans with disabling injuries. The organizations will pool available resources to hopefully find jobs for veterans.

Mitt Romney is running a new ad against President Barack Obama in Ohio that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. The ad, which Chrysler says is false, warranted a snarky response from the car company: “Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” The Obama team also responded with its own ad. It is somewhat understandable Romney would be getting a bit desperate at this point in the race. Ohio is widely considered the most important swing state, but aggregate polling has Romney down 1.9 points in the state. Romney is up 0.9 points nationally.

State Republicans are refusing to pull an ad that accuses William O’Neill, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, of expressing “sympathy for rapists.” This is despite the fact that Justice Robert Cupp, O’Neill’s Republican opponent, has distanced himself from the ad. At this point, even the most nonpartisan, objectives watchers have to wonder why the Republican Party can’t keep rape out of its messaging. In comments aired first on Aug. 19, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri said on pregnancy after rape, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” On Oct. 23, Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate for Indiana, said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Ohio is getting closer to the health exchange deadline with no plan in sight. Obamacare asks states to take up health exchanges that act as competitive markets for different health insurance plans. States are allowed to either accept, let the federal government run the exchanges or take a hybrid approach. As part of the health exchanges, the federal government will also sponsor a heavily regulated nonprofit plan that sounds fairly similar to the public option liberals originally wanted in Obamacare.

Meanwhile, Ohio and other states still haven’t decided whether they will be expanding their Medicaid programs. In the past, state officials have cited costs as a big hurdle, but one study from Arkansas found Medicaid expansions actually saved money by reducing the amount of uncompensated care. Some states that expanded Medicaid also found health improvements afterward.

An inspector at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was caught not doing her job. The inspector was supposed to do 128 site visits for in-person safety inspections, but she apparently never showed up to some of the schools and filed fraudulent reports.

Peter Cremer North America could add 50 jobs in Cincinnati over three years in an expansion.

A San Francisco firm bought a major stake in Cincinnati Bell.