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by Kevin Osborne 04.10.2012
Posted In: Mayor, City Council, Republicans at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
winburn

Local GOP Has Dueling Responses to State of the City Address

Winburn, Murray will speak after Mallory's speech

In a replay of the Republican kerfuffle after President Obama’s State of the Nation address last year, there will be dueling GOP responses tonight to Mayor Mark Mallory’s State of the City address.

The Hamilton County Republican Party sent a press release this afternoon announcing that Amy Murray, an ex-Cincinnati City Council member, would provide the GOP’s formal response to Mallory’s speech.

A Democrat, Mallory will give his seventh State of the City address at 6:30 p.m. It will be presented in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.

After the press release about Murray’s response arrived at 2:55 p.m., however, current City Councilman Charlie Winburn sent a notice from his council office at 3:39 p.m. In the notice, Winburn announced he “will be available to give the Republican response” immediately after the mayor’s speech.

Winburn’s release helpfully noted that he is “the only Republican on Cincinnati City Council,” in case anyone wasn’t sure.

The concurrent responses are similar to what occurred after Obama’s speech in January 2011. At that time, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was selected to give the GOP’s official response to the address. But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), then a rising star in the Tea Party movement, decided to give her own response.

At the time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) called the move "a little unusual." 

Bachmann’s performance was widely lambasted, as she didn’t look directly at the camera but off to the side, and appeared disconnected and halting during her remarks. Bachmann later sought the GOP’s presidential nomination but dropped out of the race early after several disappointing primary finishes.

Murray is a former Procter & Gamble employee who now owns a consulting firm that tries to attract Japanese companies to Cincinnati. The party’s release stated she would give her response immediately following Mallory’s address in the Fifth Third Bank Theater’s lobby at the Aronoff Center.

A Hyde Park resident, Murray ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati City Council in 2009, finishing in 12th place out of 19 candidates. She then was appointed by party leaders in January 2011 to fill the remainder of Councilman Chris Monzel’s term, but lost election in her own right the following November. In that election, Murray again finished 12th, this time out of 22 candidates.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 04.10.2012
Posted In: City Council at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 
pitbull-smile

City Council Could Repeal Breed-Specific Law Soon

Seelbach says he has support of four colleagues for repealing pit bull ban

Repealing discriminatory breed-specific legislation could come sooner than expected for Cincinnati. Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach is working to draft a motion that he says could be ready for council signatures as early as today.

Yesterday, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach tweeted this:

Last week, CityBeat's April 4 cover story, "Losing Fight," discussed Cincinnati's legislation that's outlawed ownership of pit bulls within city limits since 2003. Seelbach reveals to CityBeat that he made a pledge to work to repeal the city's ban on pit bulls when he was first elected to office in December 2011, and has met in with stakeholders in the past to discuss reform strategies. "I've always believed that entire breeds should not be punished — we need to punish bad owners," he says.

Seelbach's motion reportedly will seek to increase punishments for negligent owners, removing all breed-specific language and re-allowing the possession of pit bulls within Cincinnati city limits, similar to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Substitute House Bill 14, which was signed into effect in February.

Once the motion is drafted, Seelbach says he'll need to obtain a minimum of five signatures from his eight council colleagues before the motion can be voted on in a committee. He counts off the names of four council members he's already heard are in support of creating new legislation, before the motion has even been discussed.

If the committee — most likely city council's public safety committee, according to Seelbach — chooses to pass the motion, it would then proceed to a formal vote before city council.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.02.2012
Posted In: Courts, City Council, Spending, Neighborhoods, Poverty at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
shelia

Morning News and Stuff

The person hired 15 months ago to lead the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office is having extreme conflicts with her staff, according to an assessment done for the commission that oversees the office. Before she was hired here, Shelia Kyle-Reno headed a much smaller public defender's office based in Elizabethtown, Ky. “It is obvious that the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office is an office characterized by high conflict, mistrust, poor communication and a lack of a shared vision,” the report states. The office provides free legal services for poor people charged with crimes.

Cincinnati City Council's budget and finance committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening to get input on what cuts to make to deal with a reduction in federal funding. The city is grappling with a $630,000 drop in grant funding for neighborhood projects and a $300,000 drop in funding for affordable housing. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is urging his colleagues to block a plan to spend $4.4 million to renovate City Hall's atrium so it can be rented for special events, and instead spend that money to avoid cuts in the other programs.

A 20-year-old soldier from Kentucky was killed in Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Department said Army Spc. David W. Taylor, of Dixon, Ky., died on Thursday in Kandahar province. The military didn't say how Taylor died.

Here's some good news for people getting ready to graduate from college. Hiring of college graduates is expected to climb 10.02 percent on campuses in 2012, a increase from the previous estimate of 9.5 percent, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

A Republican-backed bill that would limit the amount of damages paid to consumers by businesses found to have engaged in deceptive practices is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this week. The bill would exempt businesses from paying certain damages if a consumer rejects a settlement offer and is later awarded less in court. The National Consumer Law Center has said Ohio would have one of the weakest consumer protection laws in the nation if the bill is signed, reducing incentives for companies to change fradulent practices.

In news elsewhere, research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans age 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, and more than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, some Social Security checks are being garnished and debt collectors are harassing borrowers in their 80s about student loans that are decades old. Some economists say the long-touted benefits of a college degree are being diluted by rising tuition rates and the longevity of debt.

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and other Republicans seeking elective office this year are strenuously avoiding any mention or appearance with the most recent president from their party, George W. Bush. Although Romney recently picked up endorsements from Dubya's father and brother, George H.W. Bush and Jeb Bush respectively, POTUS No. 43 is keeping a low profile. Do you think it might be due to two bungled wars and the recession that started on his watch? Nah. (And yet they want to continue his policies.)

Some British politicians and civil rights activists are protesting plans by the government to give the intelligence service the ability to monitor the telephone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet use of every person in the United Kingdom. Under the proposal, revealed in The Sunday Times of London, a law to be introduced later this year would allow the authorities to order Internet companies to install hardware enabling the government’s monitoring agency to examine individual communications without a warrant. George Orwell was right: Big Brother is watching you.

In what's becoming an increasingly frequent headline, TV commentator Keith Olbermann has been fired from another job. Olbermann was terminated Friday by Current TV, and replaced by ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Olbermann had hosted Countdown, which he brought from MSNBC after his exit there, since June. Sources say Olbermann was let go for various reasons including continual complaints about staff, refusing to toss to other peoples' shows or appear in advertisements with them.

Iraq's “fugitive” Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has rejected Baghdad's demand for Qatar to extradite him, stating he enjoys constitutional immunity and hasn't been convicted of any crime. Hashemi is accused of having operated a secret death squad in Iraq.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.29.2012
 
 
bike_touring

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials appear ready to ignore the recommendations of city staffers and allow a project that would add a bicycle lane along an East End road to proceed. The city's Transportation and Engineering Department had wanted to delay the bike lane on Riverside Drive for up to two years while construction was occurring to reconfigure a portion of I-471 in Northern Kentucky. Engineers were worried that motorists would use Riverside as an alternate route to avoid 471, and any work there might cause rush hour bottlenecks. But a Cincinnati City Council majority indicated Wednesday it doesn't agree with the assessment. Council members will discuss the issue again at a committee meeting in two weeks.

Cincinnati officials are mulling whether a 118-year-old pump station and water tower behind Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park could be sold and converted into a micro-brewery. The Cincinnati Beer Co. approached the city to redevelop the 7,000-square-foot property so it could make small batches of beer there to sell to local restaurants. The buildings are now used for storage.

E.W. Scripps Co. gave more than $4.4 million in cash and stock awards last May as a severance deal to the person who once managed the firm's newspaper division. Details on severance payments to Mark Contreras were disclosed in Scripps' proxy statement to shareholders on Monday. Contreras was a senior vice president for six years until he was fired on May 25, 2011. The Cincinnati-based media giant wouldn’t say why Contreras was terminated. During Contreras’ tenure, Scripps eliminated 2,500 newspaper jobs, including those lost when The Cincinnati Post was closed in 2007.

Oxford police say two Miami University students who were left bloody and battered in an altercation probably were attacked because they are gay. Michael Bustin told police he was walking home from a local bar near campus and holding hands with a male friend when four men approached them, yelled a slur, then began hitting them. That's when other students intervened and stopped the attack. The university responded swiftly, Bustin said, sending a bulletin to the campus community.

Meanwhile, an LGBT group in Lexington, Ky., has filed a discrimination complaint against a T-shirt printer after the company refused to honor a bid to produce apparel for an event. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed the complaint Monday with the city’s Human Rights Commission. The group's president said it chose Hands On Originals to print t-shirts for a local gay pride festival, but the company refused to take the order. A Lexington official said the firm is subject to the city’s human rights ordinance because it deals in goods and services to the public.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. government blocked a court case arising from a multimillion-dollar business dispute so it could conceal evidence of a major intelligence failure shortly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, British officials were told this week. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, said the FBI planned to begin eavesdropping on all telephone calls into and out of Afghanistan in 1998 to acquire intelligence on the Taliban, but the program was delayed more than a year in a turf war with the CIA. It finally was implemented on Sept. 8, 2001. When a related court case was filed in New York, it was blocked and all records removed from the courts' public database on the grounds of the State Secrets Privilege, a legal doctrine that permits the U.S. government to stop litigation on the grounds of national security.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, according to a government report that indicates an economic recovery is underway. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said today.

A police detective told the father of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin that his son initiated two confrontations with the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot him. Tracy Martin, describing the police version of events Wednesday to The Washington Post, said he didn't believe the official account, which was conveyed to him two days after his 17-year-old son was killed Feb. 26.

In related news, police surveillance video of the teenager's killer, George Zimmerman, appears to contradict portions of Zimmerman's version of what happened that night. The video shows no blood or bruises on Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground. The video, obtained by ABC News, shows Zimmerman arriving in a police cruiser. As he exits the car, his hands are cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led away, still cuffed.

A major influence in Bluegrass music died Wednesday. Earl Scruggs, the banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of players, died in a Nashville hospital at age 88. Although Scruggs had a long and critically acclaimed music career, he is perhaps best known to the public for performing the theme song to the TV sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, with his guitar-playing partner, Lester Flatt.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012
 
 
471

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials approved a deal Wednesday that offers up to $12 million in tax incentives to a local firm in return for it agreeing to build its new headquarters at the long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets downtown and maintaining certain employment levels. City Council said it was important to keep Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding company, located here. Dunnhumby will build a $36 million complex that includes 250,000 square feet of office space and create 550 new jobs by 2014, along with retaining its 450 current employees. Under the deal, the city would pay Dunnhumby up to 75 percent of the new income tax generated each year as the company adds jobs.

A plan to reconfigure I-471 in Northern Kentucky is delaying a road project across the Ohio River in Cincinnati's East End neighborhood. The city's project would make Riverside Drive more like a neighborhood street, instead of a major thoroughfare, and add bicycle lanes. But the I-471 project means motorists who need to reach the East Side during rush hour will likely be using Riverside Drive, so city engineers don't want to restrict traffic there until the highway construction is done. The change means the Riverside Drive work will be delayed between one and two years.

Partially based on local complaints, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. for allegedly being involved in a price-fixing scheme. The lawsuit alleges the two companies divided up the Ohio rock salt market between themselves, agreeing not to compete with each other and driving up rock salt prices over the past decade. In 2008, Hamilton County said it saw signs that collusion was occurring when it was getting only one bid for salt at triple the usual price.

A man who rescued a child from a burning house in Northside is among a group of people recognized for their heroism. Ryan Phillips, 43 of Cincinnati, saved a 3-year-old child from a fire in February 2011. He is among the 21 winners of Carnegie Medals for heroism. Carnegie medalists receive a financial reward from a fund. More than $33.9 million has been awarded to 9,516 honorees since its 1904 inception.

Boosted by expansion at hospitals and colleges, the number of construction jobs in Ohio is slowly increasing. The state’s construction industry employed 177,300 workers in January, an increase of 4,500 — or 2.6 percent — from January 2011, according to a new analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost half of the gains came from the Columbus area. (For the record, the mayor of Columbus and a majority of its City Council are Democrats. Just saying.)

In news elsewhere, after a long standoff and a gun battle, French police today stormed into the apartment of a young Islamic radical suspected of killing seven people. The suspect, Mohammed Merah, was shot and killed in the confrontation. He is believed to be the person that murdered three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in an eight-day terrorism spree.

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea bargain negotiations, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions, the high court vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers. About 97 percent of convictions in federal courts were the result of guilty pleas. In 2006, the last year for which data was available, 94 percent of convictions in state courts were the result of such deals.

Even though he came in fourth, behind Ron Paul, in the Illinois primary this week, Newt Gingrich isn't giving up hope about his struggling presidential bid. The ex-House Speaker told NPR that he sees no reason to exit the Republican presidential race and that there's a chance of a new contender emerging at the party's convention in August. "I'm not so sure you wouldn't get a series of brand new players" stepping forward during a brokered convention, he said. Dream on, Newt.

Soldiers in Mali have taken over state-operated television and announced they have seized control of the government. The soldiers said the coup was necessary because of the mishandling of an insurgency in the north. For those of you scratching your heads, Mali is in western Africa, near Algiers, and has a population of 14.5 million people. (It's not to be confused with Malawi, where Madonna likes to adopt children.)

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean executives over an oil leak in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2011. Prosecutors on Wednesday accused the executives of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil's oil regulator about their safety plans and not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill. At least 416,000 liters of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron well off the Rio de Janeiro coast.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
heritage1

Conservative Group Hires Beckett

Longtime City Hall staffer joins Heritage Action

A local conservative activist has found another job in politics.

Brad Beckett recently was appointed as Heritage Action for America’s first regional coordinator for the Cincinnati area. Beckett served for years as chief of staff for City Councilman Chris Monzel, until Monzel left that group in January 2011 to become a Hamilton County commissioner.

In his new role, Beckett will be responsible for growing Heritage Action’s grassroots infrastructure in Cincinnati and nearby areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

“Brad brings a wealth of experience in and knowledge of Cincinnati politics,” said Michael Needham, Heritage Action’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

“His knowledge of Cincinnati and the surrounding region will be essential to ensuring that the American people’s voices cut through the big-government noise in Washington as we fight to save the America dream,” Needham added.

Prior to his latest gig, Beckett almost had the top job in Butler County government. When Monzel was elected to the Hamilton County commission, Beckett discreetly lined up another job as Butler County administrator. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind a day before Beckett’s employment was to have begun, leaving him without a job.

More recently Beckett has been working at the Apple Store in Kenwood Towne Center and launched The Political Daily Download, a right-leaning blog. Also, he assisted in Tom Brinkman’s unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican nomination to run for the Ohio House 27th District seat.

Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The newer group’s motto is “we hold Congress accountable to conservative principles,” and it was formed mostly because the foundation isn’t allowed to back pieces of legislation due to its tax-exempt status.

One of Heritage Action’s first projects was to organize opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law pushed by President Obama.

Among Heritage Foundation’s primary donors is Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers duo. They’re the industrialists who helped form the Tea Party movement, which advocates for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class.

Also, the Kochs led the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.16.2012
 
 
scrap-metal-theft

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati’s new law for selling scrap metal, which was scheduled to take effect today, has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by two local dealers. The law, approved by City Council last month, would require people who sell scrap metal within the city to get a license and make businesses that buy the metal pay dealers by check with a two-day hold, among other changes. The law was designed to cut down on metal theft in Cincinnati, but Cohen Brothers in the East End and American Compressed Steel in Carthage argued it would adversely impact their livelihood. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler issued a preliminary injunction Thursday afternoon.

In related news, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that requires scrap metal dealers to photograph anyone who sells them scrap. Dealers would be prohibited from buying metal from anyone who refuses to be photographed. Also, dealers must keep the photos on file for 60 days. The Ohio House will now consider the bill.

Last week we learned that Aaron Boone would be the grand marshal of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, and now we know who will throw out the first pitch at the opener against the Miami Marlins. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., who will retire later this year after a 41-year career in public service, has been selected for the honor. Just how far the 77-year-old Leis will be able to throw the ball remains to be seen, but we're betting he will do a better job than Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did a few years ago.

Clermont County residents who suffered property damage in the tornado two weeks ago will be able to apply for Small Business Administration loans beginning this morning. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is now open at the Washington Township Hall, located at 2238 Highway 756. Renters could receive up to $40,000 in loans while homeowners could receive up to $200,000 in loans to rebuild their home or replace furniture, said disaster relief officials.

Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, is among the retailers that use so-called “pink slime” in some of its ground beef products. U.S. consumers generally have reacted with disgust after learning that many fast food restaurants and grocers use ground beef that contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed. About 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the meat filler, according to reports.

In news elsewhere, a United Nations official this week formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment toward Bradley Manning, the American soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source. Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier's arrest at a U.S. military base in May 2010. He concludes that the U.S. military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture, London's Guardian reports. American media, however, seem curiously quiet on this news.

Although President Obama reiterated his intention this week to stick to a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure is mounting to quicken the schedule. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is demanding that NATO withdraw its forces from the small, rural outposts around the nation and confine its soldiers to military bases. The demand is the latest fallout after the burning of Korans by U.S. service members last month and the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians Sunday, allegedly by an Army staff sergeant who went on a rampage.

The Columbia Journalism Review looks at what The Gannett Co., the owner of The Enquirer, could've bought with the $37.1 million compensation package it gave recently departed CEO Craig Dubow. CJR's findings include that the money would've paid for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website. “In October, four months after handing 700 employees pink slips, Gannett gave Dubow a $37.1 million package, also accumulated over decades. He earned a mere $9.4 million in 2010, some of which padded his retirement package. A few weeks later, the company announced it would force employees to take their fifth unpaid furlough in three years,” the magazine reports.

Much attention has been paid to a column published Wednesday by The New York Times, in which Greg Smith explained why he was resigning after 12 years at Goldman Sachs due to what he said was the unethical and corrupt culture at the investment firm. But lesser known is this letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission by an unidentified whistleblower at JPMorgan Chase. The writer describes similar reckless practices at that firm, adding, “I am now under the opinion that we are actually putting hard-working Americans – unaware of what lays ahead – at extreme market risk.”
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.15.2012
Posted In: County Commission, Business, City Council, Youth, War at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hartmann1

Morning News and Stuff

In the works since December, Hamilton County commissioners completed the sale of the county-owned Drake Center rehabilitative hospital in Hartwell on Wednesday. Commissioners voted 2-1 to sell the facility for $15 million to the University of Cincinnati, with Greg Hartmann casting the sole “no” vote. Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune want to use the proceeds to fund a one-year extension of a property tax rebate promised to voters as part of the 1996 campaign to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for new sports stadiums. Hartmann called the deal fiscally irresponsible, noting Drake is worth at least $45 million and possibly more.

A state lawmaker is proposing a bill that would ban new ownership of exotic pets like gorillas and lions. State Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) hopes the bill would prevent incidents like the one in eastern Ohio last year that led to 48 animals being shot to death after their suicidal owner let them loose.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday released its list of priorities for 2012 and it didn't contain any surprises. Once again, the business advocacy organization wants Cincinnati City Council to repeal its Environmental Justice Ordinance, despite offering no evidence that it has adversely affected any of its members' businesses. Also, the chamber opposes the taxation of stock options and supports a permanent extension of George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts.

Speaking of City Council, it will vote soon on a proposal to create a Youth Commission that would serve as an advisory group to the mayor and council members. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson introduced the proposal, and said the commission would make recommendations to address issues involving crime, poverty, education, employment, health and development. How this will differ from Mayor Mark Mallory's “Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet” or similar groups formed by council over the years is anybody's guess.

In honor of Cincinnati's storied history as “porkopolis,” two local companies are jointly creating a new sausage to commemorate St. Patrick's Day. Queen City Sausage Co. and Christian Moerlein Brewery created a new beer-flavored sausage, which contains Hudepohl Amber Lager.

In news elsewhere, today marks the one-year anniversary of the ongoing anti-government uprising in Syria. The conflict against President Bashar al-Assad's regime has resulted in at least 8,000 deaths so far, according to the United Nations.

Syrian activists gave a cache of more than 3,000 confidential emails allegedly hacked from Assad's private account to London's Guardian newspaper. The emails indicate the president took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, and leads an opulent lifestyle while violence plagues the nation's cities.

The Pentagon is investigating more than 1,700 recruiters and hundreds of recruiting assistants for allegedly making $92 million in fraudulent transactions involving “bounties” paid to get people to enlist in the Army National Guard and Reserve. The alleged fraud involves programs that paid $2,000 bounties to soldiers or civilians who signed up as “recruiting assistants” and brought in new enlistees. Investigators have found evidence that recruiters for the Guard and Reserve who weren't eligible for the bounties worked with some assistants to secretly secure and split up the money.

Supposedly secret negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. government to end the decade-long war in Afghanistan have been suspended, the Taliban announced in a statement issued today. The statement said U.S. officials kept changing the terms of the negotiations, and had presented a "list of conditions" in their latest meeting that contradicted earlier arrangements. The announcement comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded foreign troops pull out of villages, a few days after a U.S. soldier’s shooting spree in southern Kandahar province left 16 civilians dead.

Closer to home, Senate Democrats are pushing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives. Some lawmakers want to expand financing for and broaden the scope of domestic violence programs, but conservatives dislike it because it would allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.14.2012
 
 
lizrogers

Morning News and Stuff

A recent vote by Cincinnati City Council to give nearly $1 million in grants and loans so a Hamilton restaurant could open a second location in The Banks district is again coming under scrutiny. Council's vote occurred after a week’s delay when members learned owner Liz Rogers owed more than $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. As it turns out, Rogers turned herself in at the Butler County Sheriff's Office Tuesday on a warrant related to another debt. The warrant was issued after Rogers failed to appear at a December 2010 hearing on a $3,000 debt she owes to Queen City Computer Press of Blue Ash. Rogers was released on a $3,100 bond posted by her husband.

Although some City Council members expressed misgivings after the latest turn of events, Rogers told WCPO-TV (Channel 9) that City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. knew about all her outstanding debts before he recommended that she get city funding.

Meanwhile, Rogers' legal troubles are adding to the embarrassment over a recent feature in The Enquirer. When the newspaper published a high-profile, above-the-fold list of the “20 Professional Women to Watch in 2012” on Feb. 12, it was criticized in journalism circles for including its own editor, Carolyn Washburn, among the honorees. But the list also included Rogers as a person to keep an eye on. That sounds about right.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has dropped the case against a woman charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after viewing video from the dashboard camera of the Addyston police officer who stopped her vehicle. The video shows Officer Jeremie Keene pulling Tiffany Becker from her vehicle, pushing her to the ground and cuffing her on Feb. 10, after her van allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at an intersection. Keene's police report said Becker spat at him and refused to leave her vehicle, but the video footage tells a different story.

The Kroger Co. has hired Suzanne Lindsay as its director of sustainability, a new position responsible for reducing the firm's energy consumption and waste, and increasing its transportation efficiency. Lindsay previously held a similar position at PetSmart. Cincinnati-based Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery retailer with more than 2,400 stores in 31 states.

In news elsewhere, Tuesday night likely will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Newt Gingrich's presidential aspirations. Although the ex-House Speaker placed second in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, outright victories in the two southern states near his native Georgia were considered crucial to proving the viability of his campaign.

Despite pouring massive amounts of cash into campaigning in the two states, Mitt Romney placed third in both primaries. Rick Santorum won both contests. He got 34.5 percent of the vote in Alabama, compared to Gingrich's 29.3 percent and Romney's 29 percent. In Mississippi, Santorum got 32.9 percent, compared to Gingrich's 31.3 percent and Romney's 30.3 percent.

An advocacy group that helps victims of pedophile priests said attorneys from the Roman Catholic Church are using legal tactics to harass it into silence. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn't a plaintiff or a defendant in the pending cases against priests, but it has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis. Also, SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of church attorneys for more than six hours in one case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has cancelled a planned April trip to Toronto, stating that conditions in Canada are too dangerous. Cheney had planned on giving a speech about his time in office, but had second thoughts after a September incident in Vancouver. While speaking at a private club, protesters massed outside the front door and harassed ticket holders. Cheney reportedly was held inside the building for more than seven hours as police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators. Maybe Dick should plan a trip to Baghdad instead?

A new medical study indicates the eyes and brains of astronauts who have spent long periods of time in orbit can develop abnormalities. Magnetic resonance imaging on 27 astronauts found effects similar to those of intracranial hypertension, which results in a build up of pressure within the skull, researchers said. I guess that explains why Capt. Kirk was always such a loose cannon.
 
 
by Danny Cross 03.12.2012
 
 
296302_231411926915411_223119174411353_644662_413173918_n.nar

Occupy Settlement Grants 24-Hour Public Space, Keeps Rules

Encampments, tents still banned during 1-year 'Open Period'

The city of Cincinnati and Occupy protesters have reached a legal settlement that will erase criminal charges against protesters and designate part of Piatt Park a 24-hour public space for one year. The open space will still be subject to park rules, which include the “prohibition or restriction on noise, encampments, open flames, tents, and common law nuisance principles.”

The Enquirer reported today that the settlement was expected to be filed in court this morning. The settlement will end protesters’ federal lawsuit against the city, which was based on the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. The far eastern section of the park, which is where Occupy Cincinnati set up its encampment starting in October and where many of the arrests occurred, will reportedly be designated a 12-hour public space for one year beginning 10 p.m. March 19.

Should the city refuse to extend the Open Period, Occupy protesters are allowed to institute a new lawsuit challenging the park rules.

The city has agreed to install new signage at the park noting its modified closing time and will install signage or placards at least 14 days prior to the open time’s scheduled expiration at 11:59 p.m. March 18, 2013.

The city retains the right to terminate the Open Period should park rules not be followed. According to the lawsuit:

Consistent and persistent violations of Park Board Rules and/or generally applicable laws which constitute a public nuisance under Chapter 3767 of the Ohio Revised Code, including without limitation any conduct in violation of prohibitions or restrictions on noise, encampments, open flames, or tents, shall constitute a breach of this Agreement. As a remedy for such breach, the City may terminate the Open Period prior to the expiration date set forth in Section 3 above by obtaining an order from a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining any such nuisance and finding that termination of the Open Period is necessary to abate any such nuisance.

City Hall will appoint an individual to function as the liaison of the Park Board and schedule a public meeting within 60 days and another within 180 days to accept public input.

 
 

 

 

 
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