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by German Lopez 05.09.2012
 
 
kasich_2

Education Reform Struggles in Ohio Legislature

Kasich faces opposition from fellow Republicans

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been put at odds with his own party during the past few days over a battle for education reform. On Tuesday, Republicans in the Ohio Senate pushed to slow down Kasich’s reforms, which would call for tougher reading standards and report-card rating systems in Ohio schools and districts.

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.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.09.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Washington, Republicans, Sex at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
where-the-wild-things-are-book

Morning News and Stuff

Walnut Hills High School has once again been recognized among the country's top high schools, ranking No. 1 in Ohio and 90th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's annual Best High Schools rankings. The ranking considered 22,000 public high schools, distinguishing some with gold, silver or bronze medals based on factors such as state proficiency standards and students' college preparedness. Indian Hill High School ranked third in Ohio and 140 in the country, with Wyoming High School fourth in the state and 143 nationally.

In other education news, state legislators have introduced bipartisan legislation to curb pension debt, while will result in teachers working longer and paying more into the retirement system. The bills were introduced by Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) and Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-North Avondale).

Anyone willing to admit to having purchased male sexual enhancement product Enzyte is eligible to receive a piece of $24 million that the U.S. Justice Department has released to pay people who bought products sold through fraudulent practices. The former Forest-park based company's founder Steve Warshak was convicted in 2008 for conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and producing stupid commercials involving a smiling white guy's penis-like garden hose working better after using the company's product.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a 35-year incumbent, was handily defeated by Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock on Tuesday after Mourdock spent weeks arguing that Lugar had drifted from conservative principals. Here's some reaction to the news of the 80-year-old's primary loss.

As expected, North Carolina yesterday passed its ban on gay marriage, 61 percent to 39 percent. The Los Angeles Times reports that the measure is more restrictive than other states' marriage amendments: "The measure is more restrictive than all but three of the marriage amendments passed in other states, according to a study published by 11 family law professors at seven North Carolina universities. The measure could even deprive unmarried women of protections against domestic abuse, while restricting child custody and visitation rights for unmarried gay or straight couples, they said."

The Atlantic recounts a series of potentially misleading reports about the CIA thwarting of an Al-Qaeda plot to destroy a U.S. bound plane. Initial reports suggested that a CIA double agent infiltrated the terrorist organization, but later accounts attribute the work to an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia.

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, died Tuesday in Connecticut, four days after suffering a stroke. The following is an excerpt from a Philadelphia Inquirer obituary, which notes that an estimated 10,000 of Sendak's works and papers are collected in Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum & Library:

Jonathan Bartlett, a University of the Arts graduate, now a freelance illustrator in Brooklyn, said, "What matters to me most as an illustrator is that he was incredibly honest in his books. He had no qualms about speaking the truth to kids. That's why his work has had such visceral impact for so many years."

Jerry Spinelli, a children's book writer living in Wayne, said, "He focused on the fringes, the backwaters, the side-pools, the under-noticed areas of common human experience, and he could transform that into stories, told with pictures even more than with words."

Former Cincinnati Red Josh Hamilton hit four home runs last night to lead the Texas Rangers to a 10-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Today the team decided to go ahead and reengage in contract extension talks with the 30-year-old former overall No. 1 pick.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
 
 
layoffs

Morning News and Stuff

In an effort to avoid an estimated $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education decided Wednesday to eliminate 237 teaching jobs for next school year. Of the job cuts, 35 are layoffs, 112 are retirements or resignations, and 90 are long-term substitutes. In March, the board also approved laying off 40 administrators. The actions are expected to create $20 million in savings, but officials say more cuts are needed.

Cincinnati City Council has approved an ordinance cracking down on so-called “predatory towing.” Some local towing companies haven't been following state guidelines about how much may be charged for the towing and impoundment of vehicles. The city law clarifies that they must be complied with, and companies that violate the fees can lose lucrative towing contracts with the Cincinnati Police Department.

As part of their standard procedures, state regulators are reviewing the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets this week to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background.

Although Earth Day isn't until Sunday, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking the holiday early by sponsoring an e-waste recycling drive today to collect and recycle unwanted electronic waste from guests. Collection is from 4-6:30 p.m., and all electronic devices will be recycled by 2trg, a certified recycler that operates under zero landfill and zero export policies. A $10 cash fee will be charged for each TV set, and all other acceptable items will be recycled for free. Other acceptable items include cables, CD-ROM drives, cellular phones, DVD players, keyboards, laptops, LCD monitors, microwave ovens, printers and more.

Locally-based Fifth Third Bank says its first-quarter net income quadrupled, thanks in part to its stake in the payment processor Vantiv, which had its initial public offering. The company reported net income of $421 million today, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $88 million, or 10 cents per share, reported in the same period last year. Apparently, there's only a recession going on for some of us.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is dismissing criticism brought against the Republican budget plan by Catholic bishops. Referencing Matthew 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that help them. But Boehner, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.” (Hey, John: Maybe you should take another look at the Pentagon's budget.)

Six former employees of a company connected to a firm founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney filed a federal lawsuit this week, alleging they were fired because they weren't Mormon. The plaintiffs worked for Sorenson Capital Partners, whose managing directors and officers are former partners or executives at Bain Capital and Bain & Co. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 after working for Bain & Co. The plaintiffs seek $5.35 million in damages for breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation.

If the CIA gets its way, acting suspicious will be enough to get you killed in Yemen. The spy agency is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. Remember: They hate us because we love freedom.

Syria and the United Nations have reached a tentative deal to deploy observers to monitor the nation's ceasefire, officials from both sides said. A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the observers' functions and Syrian government's responsibilities. It came after the U.N. secretary general said Syria was failing to comply with its peace plan obligations. The plan seeks to end unrest which has killed at least 9,000 people.

The global economic downturn is even visible in China, where large amounts of retail and office space sit vacant, in nearly pristine condition, having never been used. Part of the problem is Chinese industry has been producing massive amounts of steel, cement, and aluminum, so much that its economy cannot absorb all of the output. For example, the seven-story Global Furnishing Design and Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, is known as “the ghost mall of China” due to its empty corridors and vacant stores.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.18.2012
Posted In: Technology, Education, Police, Sports, War , President Obama at 08:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qr code

Morning News and Stuff

Cemeteries have officially arrived in the 21st Century. A Crawfordsville, Ind., firm is now using Quick Response barcodes on tombstones. The Allen Monument Co. says the code can connect users to an entire memorial site about a deceased person, provided by Cincinnati-based Making Everlasting Memories. The site can include photos, a biography and other information. All it takes is a simple scan from a smartphone. That's either a brilliant step forward for convenience or a sign of consumerism and technology run amok. You decide.

It looks like charter schools aren't quite the draw that many conservatives believed they would be. Cincinnati Public Schools will lose fewer students than expected next year to private schools and state-funded vouchers, a school official said Tuesday. Only 899 new students applied for new Educational Choice scholarships for the upcoming school year. That’s down from 1,078 applicants from CPS last year and it’s far below the 1,377 students that district officials had estimated to lose this spring.

A Northern Kentucky police chief charged with drunken driving wants to suppress police dashboard camera footage of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. An attorney for Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse made the request during a pretrial hearing this week. Rouse is suspended without pay after his March 1 arrest by Alexandria police. We wonder if the Wilder Police Department uses dashboard cams in its cruisers. (What's good for the goose, etc.)

They had better come on strong. The Bengals will be featured on the season opener of Monday Night Football on ESPN in September. The team will face off against the Ravens in Baltimore. Other highlights of the 2012 schedule, which was released Tuesday, include the Bengals playing their first regular season game in week two against the Cleveland Browns in Cincinnati, and playing divisional foes the Steelers in week 16 at Pittsburgh.

A large swarm of bees has invaded Cincinnati's Covedale neighborhood. Residents on Woodbriar Lane are concerned about thousands of active bees going from yard to yard looking for a place to make a hive. The bees have been doing it for the last couple of days, and residents say they're swarming around different locations, changing locations in as little as 30 minutes in some cases. The buzzing sounds can be heard from 20 feet away or more, they added.

In news elsewhere, friends of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insist their pal isn't an android. Romney is a nice guy, they said, adding they are at a loss to explain his stiff demeanor and unusual syntax on the campaign trail. Maybe he's simply trying too hard, some friends told The Washington Post. Yeah, that's it, I'm sure.

Reacting to rising gasoline prices, President Obama proposed new measures this week to reduce oil market manipulation. The proposals, which observers say are unlikely to get support from a divided Congress, include increasing civil and criminal penalties on individuals and companies involved in manipulative practices involving commodities speculation.

In yet another setback for U.S.-Afghan relations, photographs of American troops gleefully posing with corpses of insurgents they've killed were given to The Los Angeles Times. The U.S. soldier who released the photos said he did so to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.

A shadowy conservative group that works behind-the-scenes to push laws that call for stricter voter identification requirements and “stand your ground” initiatives is disbanding its “Public Safety and Elections” task force. The task force, part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives, not just restrictive voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities. In recent weeks, numerous of ALEC's corporate members have left then group including Coca-Cola, Intuit and McDonald's.

Thousands of documents detailing crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review concluded. Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.17.2012
 
 
hunter

Morning News and Stuff

More than 17 months after the election occurred, officials finally are ready to count some disputed ballots in a race for a judicial seat on the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. A federal appeals court Monday upheld an earlier ruling that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams. Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.

Hamilton County commissioners met with state lawmakers Monday to discuss their legislative priorities for this year. They include trying to restore some of the cuts to Ohio's local government fund and reauthorizing a countywide 911 user fee, which is set to expire soon.

Monthly customers at the large Central Parking System lot along Cincinnati's riverfront are angry about a provision involving Reds games. Parkers must be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days or their key cards won't work, subjecting them to an additional event fee. A county official said monthly customers can get 24-hour access cards, but those cost $25 more than the regular $100 fee. (Just call it death by a thousand cuts.)

Northern Kentucky University will make what it calls an "historic" announcement today regarding the schools presidential search. Various reports indicate NKU's trustees have selected Cleveland State University Provost Geoffrey Mearns for the job. Current president Jim Votruba announced last month that he would retire at the end of this school year.

Cincinnati officials have selected an empty industrial site in Over-the-Rhine as the location for a streetcar maintenance facility. The property is located on Henry Street, between Elm and Race streets. Based on an independent appraisal, City Hall has offered to buy the site for $1.4 million but the owner is seeking an unspecified higher price, according to The Enquirer.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department is under fire for remaining quiet about problems in the testing of forensic evidence at the FBI's crime laboratory. Officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled, The Washington Post reported.

President Obama is being accused of ignoring a 2008 campaign pledge to impose a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies. As a candidate, Obama said he would tax large oil company profits that would flow back to families in $1,000 rebate checks, but hasn't mentioned the idea since taking office. An Obama aide told Politico the White House decided that it had a better chance at persuading Congress to repeal tax subsidies than enact the tax on oil and gas company profits.

Groundbreaking on homes fell unexpectedly in March, but permits for future construction rose to their highest level in nearly four years, Commerce Department data showed today. March's decline in housing starts was the biggest percentage drop since April of last year, although most of the fall was in the volatile multi-unit category, which declined 16.9 percent. Starts for single-family homes dropped 0.2 percent.

Australia has announced that its troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan nearly a year ahead of a previously scheduled 2014 withdrawal date. Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minster, said today that most of 1,550 remaining Australian troops in the nation were expected to return home by the end of 2013. The timetable means the largest force provided by any nation outside of the NATO alliance would leave Afghanistan a year ahead of the proposed December 2014 withdrawal date for all international forces. The United States currently has 90,000 troops stationed there.

A right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in Norway last year has called his attack "spectacular,” claiming he would do it again if he could. As his trial continued for a second day, Anders Behring Breivik, 33, called himself a commander in an anti-Communist, anti-Islamic militant resistance movement called the Knights Templar.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.11.2012
 
 
mayor

Morning News and Stuff

“Accentuate the positive” has always been Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's motto when giving his annual State of the City address, and Tuesday night's speech was no different. Mallory talked about the new development in Over-the-Rhine and The Banks riverfront district, adding that type of vision for the future must continue. The mayor also said city officials must strive to improve the quality of life for residents.

A national teachers' union said Cincinnati Public Schools officials have used faulty budget estimates to justify a plan to lay off up to 225 teachers next week. CPS says it will have a $43 million deficit next year and already has laid off 40 administrators. At the request of the local union president, the American Federation of Teachers reviewed the CPS budget forecast and declared it has identified at least $17.9 million in savings, enough to save at least 197 teaching jobs.

Less than a week after the Reds agreed to a major contract extension for Joey Votto, the team now has struck a deal with Brandon Phillips. The second baseman will get a six-year, $72.5 million contract. Referring to the deals, Sports Illustrated wrote, “the small-market Cincinnati Reds show that they're serious about winning.”

A University of Cincinnati student remains hospitalized today after a toxic chemical explosion on campus overnight. Police say a female student was working with the chemical alone at the engineering building around 1 a.m. when a reaction caused an explosion. The student was working on a process known as aluminum etching.

Oxford police have had to stand watch while members of a fraternity that was ordered to shut down at Miami University clear out their belongings from the frat house. Sigma Chi International officials yanked the local charter and ordered the 29 frat house occupants evicted by today after years of sanctions for alleged drug use, alcohol abuse, hazing and property damage. Police had to arrest an apparently inebriated 21-year-old student from Chicago for refusing to leave the scene after he repeatedly barked at a police dog. (How douchey.)

In news elsewhere, Rick Santorum announced Tuesday he was leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination, clearing the path for Mitt Romney. Although Santorum — an ex-Pennsylvania senator who lost reelection in 2006 — said his decision partially was prompted by health concerns about his three-year-old daughter, Bella, most pundits agree he likely was afraid of losing the primary election in his home state on April 24, which could've dashed his plans for a political future.

More Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court justices will be acting mostly on their partisan political views than on a neutral reading of the law when they decide the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News. Only 40 percent of respondents expect their decisions to be rooted primarily “on the basis of the law.”

Attorneys representing George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of an unarmed black teenager dropped out of the case Tuesday, saying they've had no contact with their client since Sunday. The attorneys, who conceded they had never met their client in-person, said Zimmerman had been in contact with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity during the same period. Meanwhile, special prosecutor Angela Corey said Tuesday she would hold a press conference “in the next 72 hours.” Corey will decide whether Zimmerman should face criminal charges for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

McDonald's has become the fifth major company to recently drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The shadowy group, which has ties to the Koch brothers and the NRA, provides model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce on various conservative and “free market” issues. ALEC has been criticized for pushing the “stand your ground” law in Florida that allows people to kill someone in public places if they feel their life is threatened. Other firms that have dropped membership are Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Intuit.

A massive earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean today, sending residents in coastal cities fleeing to higher ground. The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was centered about 19 miles beneath the ocean floor. At least one aftershock also has been reported.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.04.2012
 
 
gay t-shirt

Morning News and Stuff

In desperate need to bolster his low popularity numbers, Gov. John Kasich visited Cincinnati Tuesday to praise a deal that allows a local company to expand downtown and add jobs. Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding firm, will move from Third Street to a long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets, where it will build a new complex and add 550 jobs. Dunnhumby is getting the maximum 15 years of state Job Creation tax credits to help with the move.

The head of faculty at Xavier University is questioning the college president's abrupt, unilateral decision to stop offering birth control coverage in insurance for faculty and staff. Shannon Byrne, faculty committee chair, says President Michael J. Graham’s announcement Monday might violate XU's own rules about how such decisions can be made. She is scheduling a meeting April 12 so faculty can discuss the situation and decide how to respond.

ARTIMIS signs are supposed to alert motorists to traffic congestion and missing persons, but area residents have said they've noticed a lot of them don't work. As a result, transportation officials say 29 malfunctioning ARTIMIS signs will be replaced as part of upcoming construction projects on Interstates 471 and 275. All of the upgrades will be completed by July.

A Waynesville High School student is suing the school district for preventing him from wearing a T-shirt to class that depicted a pro-gay message. Maverick Couch wants to wear the shirt, which states “Jesus is not a homophobe,” to school on April 20 to show support for the Day of Silence, a national event that draws attention to the silencing of gay and lesbian students through bullying. School officials, however, initially told Couch the shirt was disruptive and later that it was too religious. Now they allege it violates rules prohibiting clothing that is “sexual in nature,” which Couch's attorney said is “absurd.”

Yahoo! Sports has released the rankings of Major League teams with the most players claimed in fantasy baseball leagues, and some Reds are among the sought-after stars. The Yankees and Rangers tied for the top spot as most popular on Yahoo!. Both teams have 13 players owned in at least 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. But the Reds also make a good showing, with seven players owned in at least 50 percent of the fantasy leagues.

In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney left his rival, Rick Santorum, in the dust Tuesday. Romney won all three primaries that were held — in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia — and emerged with substantial gains in delegates.

Despite widespread opinion to the contrary, a private investigator alleges in a new book that O.J. Simpson didn't murder his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, in 1994. Instead, William C. Dear said his inquiry revealed that O.J. was covering up for the real culprit: Jason Simpson, O.J.'s son from his first marriage. Dear said he discovered a knife in a storage unit that was rented by Jason that he believes is the murder weapon, along with a forged time card from the night of the killings. Dear alleges that Jason Simpson was working as a chef in a Beverly Hills restaurant that day and had put together a special meal for the family. Brown didn't attend, however, angering him. The P.I. said Jason was on probation for assaulting his previous employer with a knife and has spent time in a psychiatric unit.

If you're an evangelical Christian, you might want to skip this next item. A new medical study finds that older adults who say they've had a life-changing religious experience — in other words, are “born again” —  are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the part of the brain critical to learning and memory. Researchers asked 268 people, ages 58 to 84, about their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Over the course of two to eight years, changes to the hippocampus were monitored using MRI scans. The researchers suggested that stress over holding religious beliefs that fall outside of the mainstream may help explain the findings. Or they're just stupid.

A major Chinese analyst said the senior leadership of the Chinese government increasingly views the competition between the United States and China as a zero-sum game, and believes the United States is a declining power that is trying to disrupt China's economic and military growth. Wang Jisi revealed his findings in a monograph published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a Pakistan-based group blamed for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, has demanded proof after the United States announced a $10 million bounty on his head. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Saeed said the U.S. action was prompted by his organizing rallies against the reopening of military supply lines through Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.03.2012
 
 
xu

Morning News and Stuff

Even though it has provided it for years, Xavier University will stop including contraceptives in its health insurance coverage for faculty and staff beginning July 1. The Jesuit university employs about 950 people. In a letter posted on the university website, Xavier President Michael J. Graham wrote, “it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures which the church opposes.” Of course, some Catholic bishops, including Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, are raising a stink about a new federal rule that requires most religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals to begin offering birth control as part of health-care reforms. Either Mr. Graham got a sudden bout of conscience or he's politicizing an item that caused no controversy for years, until the church hierarchy decided it was time to flex its collective muscle.

Stores and other businesses that want to use off-duty Cincinnati police officers for security might soon have to pay more for the privilege. City Hall staffers are recommending the city start charging an hourly fee when they use the off-duty cops. Officials said they need the funds to cover the administrative costs of the program.

If you like stopping by Findlay Market to pick up some sushi, gelato or fresh produce, you might want to consider riding your bike there or taking the bus starting later this month, if you need to save money. That's because the market's three main parking lots will become pay lots for the first time since 1999, beginning April 23. The new fees are 50 cents an hour Monday-Friday, and $1 an hour on weekends with a $2 maximum, although motorists will get the first hour free. Also, monthly parking permits will cost $45.

Joey Votto, the talented Cincinnati Reds first baseman, is close to signing a new deal that likely would make him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball. According to the website MLBtraderumors.com, Votto is close to reaching a long-term deal with the Reds. Details haven't been disclosed, but the website speculated it would have to be near the $200 million that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got last year.

Hamilton County commissioners have rejected a request to place a property tax levy on the November ballot that would've raised $150 million to pay for repairs at the historic Union Terminal. It's the second consecutive year that commissioners rejected the request, citing the bad economy. Also, they said taxpayers shouldn't pay for the entire cost and that private donations should be sought.

In news elsewhere, there are primary elections held today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is trailing rival Mitt Romney in delegates won so far, and polls suggest Romney will score some crucial victories tonight. In fact, President Obama has begun treating Romney as though he's already won the Republican nomination. Obama's reelection campaign is running a new TV ad in five swing states attacking Romney by name for the first time.

The U.S. Justice Department is offering a $10 million bounty for the arrest of of Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The reward is intended to increase the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups.

Two forensic voice experts have concluded it wasn't shooter George Zimmerman that is heard crying for help on a disputed 911 call before an unarmed teenager was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. The experts, hired by The Orlando Sentinel, reviewed the tape using state-of-the-art voice identification software, and said the cries weren't from Zimmerman and instead were from Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who died that night. “You can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman,” one of the experts said.

The notorious Koch brothers, the ultra-conservative industrialists that discreetly bankroll various far-Right causes, are having a bad time recently. The FBI announced it was investigating two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political organization they founded and fund. Then, a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain nonprofit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list.

Researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies have compiled the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as U.S. military actions in Pakistan. PBS commentator Bill Moyers recently summarized the findings which include 224,475 lives lost, 365,383 people wounded and 7.8 million refugees and internally displaced people, along with $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations, between $3.7-$4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers and $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the United States borrowed for war (mostly from China). Was it all worth it?
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.26.2012
 
 
steve_chabot,_official_109th_congress_photo.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Supporters of low income housing programs are criticizing a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood). Chabot's proposal would impose restrictions on people who use the federal Section 8 housing program, which provides vouchers to help poor people pay their rent. Among his changes, people only would be able to use the program for five years. In Cincinnati, however, 53 percent of clients already leave the program within five years. Of the 47 percent who remain, many of them have problems like mental health issues and likely would become homeless and more expensive to deal with for the government, a housing advocate told The Enquirer.

To prepare for an influx of foreign visitors when the World Choir Games begin here in July, a new language translation tool is being launched. Cincinnati-based Globili is testing its text and mobile application for cellphones and smartphones that translates signs, menus and ads into about 50 languages. The event will be held July 4-14 at various locations in downtown and Over-the-Rhine including the Aronoff Center for the Arts and Music Hall.

It's been 147 years since the U.S. Civil War ended, but Kentucky lawmakers are just now getting around to abolishing a pension fund for Confederate veterans. The measure, which passed Kentucky's House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29, now heads to the state Senate for a vote. No one who is eligible to receive the pension has been alive for at least 50 years, lawmakers said. I guess things really do move more slowly in the South.

Business at the venerable Blue Wisp Jazz Club has increased since it moved to a new location at Seventh and Race streets in January. The club's owners attribute the jump to more pedestrian traffic and the number of hotels located near the new site. The front room includes a bar and restaurant accessible with no cover charge, while the back room is reserved for performances by Jazz musicians.

Steep spikes and drops on standardized test scores, a pattern that has indicated cheating in Atlanta and other cities across the nation, have occurred in hundreds of school districts and charter schools across Ohio in the past seven years, a Dayton Daily News analysis found. The analysis doesn't prove cheating has occurred in Ohio, but documents show state officials don't employ vigorous statistical analyses to catch possible cheating, discipline only about a dozen teachers a year and direct Ohio’s test vendor to spend just $17,540 on analyzing suspicious scores out of its $39 million annual testing contract.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court begins its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law today with a basic question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time? The justices will hear 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law — the Anti-Injunction Act — means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.

When it recently was announced that a U.S. soldier who allegedly went on a shooting spree in Afghanistan would be charged with 17 counts of murder, many people wondered about the number. After all, early reports indicated Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Norwood native, allegedly killed 16 people. Military officials decided to charge Bales with murder for the death of the unborn baby of one of the victims, a senior Afghan police official said today.

In a possibly related incident, a gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO soldiers today at a base in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has said. Details were still sketchy, but NATO said in a statement that an individual wearing an Afghan soldier's uniform had turned his weapon against international troops. Coalition forces then returned fire, killing the gunman.

China and the United States have agreed to coordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch, the White House says. North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite, but U.S. officials say any launch would violate United Nations resolutions and be a missile test.

Somehow, 71-year-old Dick Cheney managed to get a heart transplant Saturday after spending nearly two years on a list waiting for a suitable organ to become available. Cheney, a former U.S. vice president and — some would say — unindicted war criminal, got the transplant even as much younger, healthier people continue to wait for a new heart. (My guess is he made a pact with Beelzebub.) Cheney has had five heart attacks over the years, the first occurring at age 37.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
exorcism

Morning News and Stuff

To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.

A retired local judge told WCPO-TV's I-Team that his dismissal from a United Nations tribunal was the result of a “purge” because some U.N. officials disliked the reforms that he and his colleagues were implementing. Mark Painter, who is a former municipal court judge and appellate court judge in the Cincinnati area, served three years as the only American on a new tribunal that makes final judgments on internal United Nations disputes. But the committee that selects judges chose not to renominate him for a full seven-year term. Painter said it's because the tribunal made its decisions binding, but U.N. officials denied the allegation.

About 40 people attended an event Monday night at downtown's Piatt Park to mark Occupy Cincinnati's return to the plaza. As part of a deal signed last week with the city's attorneys, Occupy members are now allowed to remain in the park overnight as long as they are quiet and don't erect tents. Less than 10 people chose to stay until this morning.

In other protest-related news, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave permission for a Catholic priest in a Dayton suburb to perform an exorcism outside of a medical clinic that performs abortions. The Rev. Tim Ralston of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kettering performed the rite Sunday at the Women's Med Center. About 300 anti-abortion activists attended the event.

Gov. John Kasich is trying to force out the leader of the Ohio Republican Party before November's elections. Party Chairman Kevin DeWine announced Sunday he wouldn't seek reelection when his two-year term expires in January, but Kasich wants DeWine gone now. Kasich wants to name his own appointee, and hopes to oust DeWine when the GOP’s newly elected 66-member central committee meets April 13.

In news elsewhere, public outcry has prompted the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest. More than 435,000 people signed an online petition calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was killed Feb. 17 while walking home after buying Skittles and iced tea at a nearby store.

More details are emerging about the past of the Norwood native who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree. Before he enlisted in the Army, Robert Bales' career as a stockbroker came to an end when a court arbitrator ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million for taking part in “fraud” and “unauthorized trading.” The client, Gary Liebschner, a 74-year-old retired engineer, told The Washington Post that he “never got paid a penny” of the award.

Meanwhile, the shooting spree may lead to Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning a major concession from the United States. Officials are mulling whether to modify the use of controversial night raids by troops and giving Afghans more oversight. The Obama administration is discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, a U.S. official said Monday.

JP Morgan Chase is closing the Vatican bank's account with its Italian branch based on concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See's financial institution. Italian newspapers reported JP Morgan Chase informed the Vatican bank that its account was being closed because it had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers. The institution has been accused of tax fraud and money laundering in the past.

The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.
 
 

 

 

 
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