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by Kevin Osborne 02.03.2012

Komen Restores PP Funding

Despite its founder’s insistence Thursday that reaction had been mostly favorable, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity abruptly reversed course today and is restoring funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Los Angeles Times reports Nancy G. Brinker, Komen's founder and CEO, said that the breast cancer foundation's decision to halt funding to providers who were under investigation was not done for political reasons and was not meant to penalize Planned Parenthood specifically.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.02.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The big news breaking the Internets is that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, is pulling its grants from Planned Parenthood affiliates. The charity gave about $680,000 last year and $580,000 in 2010, which is mostly used to provide free breast exams for low-income women.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.12.2012

Morning News and Stuff

It took awhile, but it's finally out. Firefighters battled a huge blaze at Rumpke's recycling plant in St. Bernard for 26 hours, finally clearing the scene around 8 p.m. Wednesday. In all, 150 firefighters from 10 departments responded to the fire at the massive Vine Street facility. Officials think a truckload of recyclables contained something hot that ignited the surrounding trash, although the exact cause remains under investigation.

Judge Robin Piper has recused himself from ruling on Ryan Widmer's murder conviction appeal that will be argued next week. Piper was assigned to hear the case in the 12th District Court of Appeals but decided to step aside because he is a former Butler County prosecutor. Widmer is serving 15 years to life in prison for drowning his wife in their bathtub after he was found guilty in his third trial. Defense attorneys have filed an appeal for a fourth trial, stating that errors were made that violated Widmer's constitutional rights.

Three students were caught vandalizing an anti-abortion display at Northern Kentucky University, and a fourth student later turned himself in. The students allegedly cut a display, erected by National Right to Life, that consisted of baby clothes on a line with a red "x" through every fourth one. Campus police have charged the students with criminal mischief, and college officials will hold a separate hearing to determine whether further discipline is needed.

Ohio's largest gay rights group isn't supporting a ballot initiative that would overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriages. A representative for Equality Ohio said he's concerned there might be problems with the language proposed by the amendment's backers and that more analysis is needed. The ballot issue would ask voters to repeal a 2004 amendment that says Ohio recognizes only a marriage between a man and a woman. Supporters must collect about 385,000 valid voter signatures for the issue to appear on the ballot. Some critics believe the amendment is designed to increase voter turnout among conservatives in a presidential election year.

A Butler County man who was convicted in the 2010 beating death of a baby alpaca is in trouble with the law again. Marcus T. Miller, 19, has been charged with receiving stolen property in Middletown Municipal Court. Miller was sentenced to 14 months in prison in January 2011 for his part in the theft and beating death of a baby alpaca from a Browns Run Road farm in January 2010.

In news elsewhere, media is abuzz about the second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman that was announced Wednesday evening. Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. Although Zimmerman alleges he acted in self-defense, special prosecutor Angela Corey said facts in the case prove otherwise. Zimmerman is in a Seminole County jail cell, and will appear today at a 1:30 p.m. court hearing.

A Republican congressman from Florida told a town hall meeting audience that "he's heard" up to 80 U.S. House Democrats are Communist Party members, but wouldn't name names. U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Plantation), who made the remarks, is a Tea Party candidate first elected in 2010 and is being pushed by Sarah Palin as a potential vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney.

In a significant setback for so-called “ex-gay” programs, Dr. Robert Spitzer is repudiating his much-criticized 2001 study that claimed some “highly motivated” homosexuals could convert from gay to straight. His retraction occurred in an American Prospect magazine article published this week. Spitzer’s rejection of his own research, which originally was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is a devastating blow to “pray the gay away” organizations because it eliminates their claim that homosexuality can be reversed through therapy and prayer.

Meanwhile, a new study has found a link between conservative ideology and "low-effort" thinking. The study's lead author, University of Arkansas psychologist Dr. Scott Eidelman, cautioned that the findings don't necessarily mean conservatives are lazy thinkers. "Our research shows that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism, not that political conservatives use low-effort thinking,” he said.

A baby that was born prematurely in Argentina was declared dead and spent nearly 12 hours in a coffin at a morgue before the parents, opening the coffin to say their last goodbyes, discovered the girl was alive. A health ministry official said five medical professionals involved have been suspended pending an investigation.
by Ben L. Kaufman 01.22.2013

Curmudgeon Notes 1.23.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

Enquirer reporter Sharon Coolidge’s use of open records law documented Cincinnati’s lax enforcement of lead paint removal orders. She told CityBeat that her coverage included positive impacts in addition to those above in my main column:

The day after her story was published, Mayor Mark Mallory ordered health officials to explain why they hadn't forced problem landlords to clean up their properties. 

Three public hearings led to a comprehensive city plan to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010. The plan lowers the medical threshold at which health officials can intervene, thus catching lead poisoning in its earliest stages. 

City Council gave the health department more than $1 million to finance reforms. Poor families are getting kits to detect whether their homes are contaminated.

In one of his first acts as new governor, Ted Strickland allowed cities to sue lead-paint producers; Cincinnati is suing Sherwin-Williams.

State lawmakers are considering a new law, named after a family featured in the Enquirer story, to provide $20,000 grants for lead removal.

A more recent public benefit from open records laws involved the Enquirer suit to obtain secret streetcar vendors’ bids.  Attorney Jack Greiner, who handles First Amendment issues for the paper, said that Cincinnati's ordinance requires bids be available for public review. Faced with resistance, the Enquirer went to court. Hamilton County appellate judges agreed with the paper, rejecting company arguments that records were exempt from public records law as "trade secrets." 

Unless you’re living under a Rock of Cliches, you’ve read or heard that flu is sweeping the nation. Every sneeze, every cough, every chill and shiver warns us that the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is tethering his pale horse at our curb. The catch is that despite breathless news media offerings, little unusual is happening except for an early, aggressive onset of the perennial scourge. Thousands die every year from flu, most of them elderly. It would be news if we didn’t. Annual death estimates — hampered by incomplete reporting and similar health problems — range from 3,000 to 49,000.  

An Enquirer Sunday Forum carried Michael Kinsley’s column about Hillary Clinton’s extensive foreign travel as secretary of state. Kinsley doubts the value of much of her travel but in today’s world, “The less important the trip, the more prestige you gain by taking it.” Having time and money to waste proves you have time and money to waste . . . even if you’re on the taxpayers’  clock and paycheck. Maybe that explains an otherwise inexplicable Enquirer revelation that Steve Chabot is a foreign policy expert, citing his extensive foreign travel at taxpayer expense.

Enquirer reporter Dan Horn produced two nay-saying front page stories. Both were welcome surprises from Cincinnati’s “get on the team” daily. One questioned the argument that right-to-work laws provide an economic boost in states like Indiana, Michigan, or, potentially, Ohio. That anti-union policy was a staple topic in my 1950s high school debating days. Economic analysis, like divining why crime rates change, is more complicated than whether union membership is optional or required in a “union shop.” Too many union/right-to-work debates — fueled by no-compromise advocates putting re-election before public benefit — ignore complexity. 

A second invocation of skepticism by the Enquirer’s Dan Horn raised serious doubts about feel-good gun buy-back programs. I’ll go this far on guns: each firearm bought back and destroyed (not bought back and sold to dealers for resale) is a gun that won’t kill someone. Cincinnati Police destroy buy-back weapons not needed for investigations. Buy-back, however, won’t change life on Cincinnati streets where scores of young men kill each other each year. Anyone who wants a firearm can get one faster than you can say, “Your money or your life.” Similar doubts about Cincinnati’s gun buy-back program made Page 1 of the New York Times.  

Fox 19’s Dave Culbreth came up with a smart take on the controversial idea of arming teachers and school administrators. He interviewed Target World assistant manager Amy Hanlon who demonstrated how a woman could carry a concealed handgun. As Culbreth noted, there was nothing special about her clothing: slacks, blouse, overshirt.  By the end of the interview, she’d removed nine concealed semi-automatics or revolvers, including one tucked under her bra in a holster that also was displayed on a counter-top mannequin bust. 

WCPO-TV plans an online local news challenge to the Enquirer’s  Cincinnati.com, according to Business Courier’s Jon Newberry. It’s a pioneering effort by Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps that could go national, Newberry suggested. Whether additional reporters, producers, editors, etc., will come from the Business Courier and other established news media was not clear. Scripps — a Cincinnati-based national print and broadcast company—  published the Cincinnati Post until it closed the barely-sustaining joint operating agreement with the Enquirer ended in 2007. 

Blogger Peter Heimlich tipped me to Channel 19 anchor Ben Swann’s web gig called Full Disclosure. Swann says there are enough witnesses to challenge official police narratives of single shooters at three recent massacres: the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh temple; Aurora, Colo., Batman movie premiere, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, ConnSalon.com challenged Swann about his apparent validation of those counter-narratives and he replied in part, “The bottom line for me is the issue of asking questions. As you will notice, I don’t call these operations ‘false flag’ as many people do … (his ellipses) But as a journalist, that is not my job. Rather, my job is to be a critical thinker.” And he added, “most of our media fail to question stories . . .  a journalist’s job is not to have the answers, it is to ask the questions and search for truth.” 

There’s a pathetic undercurrent in the Enquirer’s Monday Page 1 profile of Henry Heimlich’s efforts to regain American Red Cross support for his eponymous “maneuver.” The physician claims there is no research to support the Red Cross’s decision to return to back slaps rather than Heimlich abdominal thrusts as first response to choking. Other than Heimlich’s self-serving claims, there is no research proving his maneuver works as well or better than back slaps. Assertions are not evidence. Moreover, the Red Cross adopted Heimlich’s maneuver years ago without the research Heimlich is calling for now. Heimlich has anecdotal evidence of lives saved but that’s not research. Wisely, reporter Cliff Radel quoted skeptics and critics of the maneuver. That kind of even-handedness usually escapes admiring Enquirer stories about Heimlich. And if the paper ever corrected a Memorial Day feature on water safety, I missed it. The Enquirer drew national ridicule with its illustration on how to use Heimlich’s maneuver to revive a standing near-drowning victim. 

It’s spitting into the wind to ask sports reporters to question what jocks tell them, especially when truth-telling endangers future access. In the Good Old Days, who read about fornicating, drunken and racist professional athletes? More recently, golf reporters and publications didn’t write about married Tiger Woods’ screwing around. This time, it’s Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s stories about the heart-ripping death of girlfriend Lennay Kekua from leukemia. Editors loved it. Now, it seems she was a fiction amplified by incurious and credulous reporters. It took sports blog Deadspin.com to reveal the fraud after its reporters could find no public records of her birth, life, education or death. Almost as nauseating as the saccharine original stories about her death are the faux introspection by sycophant reporters caught by the fraud. 

We’ve gone a week without a promo for Oprah’s interview with champion liar-cheater Lance Armstrong. That’s closure.  So what does Armstrong do now? Pitch performance enhancing drugs and blood transfusions on ESPN and late TV? 

Al Gore sold his troubled Current cable network to Al Jazeera, the satellite network based in Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Good. Nothing bars foreigners from owning a cable network here, unlike the law that forced Australian Rupert Murdoch to obtain U.S. citizenship after he bought Fox.

Backed by the ruling Qatari emir, Al Jazeera scandalized Americans for broadcasting tirades by Osama bin Laden and other anti-western Arab leaders.  We should have welcomed what they said in Arabic for home audiences. Too often, we  rely on sanitized remarks for non-Arabic-speaking audiences or Washington assurances it was trying to verify that speakers were who they said they were.  Al Jazeera also infuriated Arab audiences by carrying interviews with American and Israeli officials that others in the Middle East ignored or rejected. 

Most American cable companies won’t carry the newer Al Jazeera English but its website is one of my daily stops, especially when, say, AQIM kidnaps oil workers in Algeria or French Legionnaires assist Mali’s pathetic army in trying to halt and turn back Islamist rebels. 

Al Jazeera coverage of “Arab Spring” was so aggressive that embattled North African rulers correctly accused it of supporting anti-government demonstrators. So is Al Jazeera open to interference by the Qatari government? Yes. Are its biases plain to anyone who listens or reads? Yes. We don’t ignore Fox News for its biases. 

American news media employ local nationals in foreign bureaus for their contacts and language skills. That reliance failed when no one reported the 2010 anti-semitic rant by Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who now is Egypt’s president. In part, Morsi called Jews “apes and dogs” and shared the fantasy that the Palestinian Authority was “created by the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people and its interests.” 

Still nastier, he urged listeners “to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews . . .  bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.” 

A stump speech in his Nile Delta hometown, it took more than two years to reach English-language news media. The original Arabic video is on YouTube now. I encountered a translation of Morsi this month on a Forbes website that, in part, chided the New York Times for missing or killing the story. Days later, it was on Page 1 of the Times. After that, the Obama administration an official “tut-tut.” 

Maybe they’ll blame one of those ominous Canadian Cold Air Masses (meteorological, not theological) for the brain freeze that disabled news judgment at the Toronto Star. Flippant columns about rape aren’t funny. Jimromenesko.com posted these first two paragraphs of Rosie DiManno’s column about testimony during the sexual abuse trial of a local physician: 

“She lost a womb but gained a penis.

“The former was being removed surgically — full hysterectomy — while the latter was forcibly shoved into her slack mouth..."

Headlines are an art that always risks a step too far in an attempt to cure the copy editor boredom and draw readers to a story. This one, from philly.com, achieves both in what has become a national story about a popular and well-connected parish pastor: “Catholic priest/meth dealer liked sex in the rectory.” You know you’d read more. 

Finally, this from Shannyn Moore, who blogs on HuffPost as “Just a Girl from Homer, Alaska.” It appeared first in the Anchorage Daily News and makes her points without venturing beyond the pale into bad taste: “I'm not advocating for no guns. I like mine and am not about to give them up. But in this country, my uterus is more regulated than my guns. Birth control and reproductive health services are harder to get than bullets. What is that about? Guns don't kill people vaginas do?”

by Kevin Osborne 02.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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by Kevin Osborne 02.09.2012

Morning News and Stuff

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

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by Kevin Osborne 02.07.2012
Posted In: News, Women's Health, Not-for-profit, Internet at 04:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Handel Resigns from Breast Cancer Charity

The anti-abortion politician who urged Susan G. Komen for the Cure to pull its funding from Planned Parenthood has resigned from the charity.

Karen Handel, who was Komen’s vice president of public policy, submitted her resignation letter today, the Associated Press reported. Handel said she stands by her goal of ending grants to Planned Parenthood and is disappointed that Komen leaders reversed the decision after public outcry.

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by German Lopez 11.12.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, City Council, Women's Health at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

OTR more popular, E.W. Scripps' record revenues and tax break, GOP against abortion

People are feeling better about downtown and Over-the-Rhine, according to a new survey. Out of respondents who said they visited downtown, about 83 percent said their opinion of Over-the-Rhine was more favorable now than it was in the last year. Bars and parks topped activities, while dining and events on Fountain Square topped attractions.

The E.W. Scripps Company posted its best TV revenues ever thanks to the presidential election. The company’s consolidated revenues rose 31 percent to $220 million. The company recently netted a $750,000 tax break from Cincinnati City Council to hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.

The University of Cincinnati’s Women's Health Center will open a branch in West Chester in spring 2013. The new offices will have 47 exam rooms, large and small conference rooms, a retail store and a café.

Ohio Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda. Much to the dismay of pro-choice groups, Gov. John Kasich appointed two people from Ohio Right to Life to important positions, and the Ohio Senate is now looking into a new version of the heartbeat bill. Starting with a hearing Wednesday, Ohio Republicans will also move to defund Planned Parenthood.

In his post-election presser, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suggested basing Ohio’s electoral vote on congressional districts. Due to how Republicans redrew district boundaries, that would have given Mitt Romney most of Ohio’s electoral votes even though Romney lost the popular vote. Districts were redrawn by the Republican-controlled process to give Republicans an advantage in congressional races. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Warren County, which shifted the district in favor of Republicans and diluted Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urbanites. The proposal seems like another attempt at voter suppression from a secretary of state that has been heavily criticized for how he and his party handled the run-up to the election.

Redistricting also helped Ohio Republicans take Congress. 

Last-minute negotiations may push Ohio’s puppy mills bill to the finish line. The state currently has a reputation as one of the worst for abusive puppy mills, and the bill would try to place some additional regulations on the mills. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mill and dog auction problem in Ohio.

A new study found Ohio may be one of the worst states to retire in. The state did poorly in terms of property crime and life expectancy of seniors, but it was found to have good economic conditions, a relatively low tax burden and lower-than-average cost of living.

Ohioans’ food stamp benefits will drop by $50 a month next year. The change is coming due to a shift in how the federal government calculates utility expenditures for food stamp recipients.

Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee, which requires holding back third-graders who do not meet state reading standards, now has some research supporting it. A new study found girls who struggle to read early on are more likely to become teen mothers. However, other research shows holding kids back hurts more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.

In response to President Barack Obama’s re-election, the infamous boss of Ohio-based Murray Energy fired more than 150 workers around the country. One of those workers decided to leak a letter from the boss. The letter blames the firings on Obama’s supposed “war on coal,” but it’s likely the coal industry would be facing trouble even if Obama wasn’t in office.

Climate change just got a lot worse. It might make some coffee beans go extinct.

Two gay penguins became dads at the Odense Zoo in Denmark.

Ever wanted a microscopic glimpse at a Pop Tart? Well, you're getting it anyway.

by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A study by a housing advocacy group found that foreclosures in Hamilton County dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous year. But representatives with Working In Neighborhoods, the group that did the research, said the figures don't necessarily mean that homeowners aren't being affected by the economic downturn. Rather, they note that many large banks were delaying foreclosures due to the so-called “robo-signing” crisis, waiting until they struck a settlement deal with the federal government. In fact, many observers expect foreclosures to increase this year.

After a lengthy trial, former Bengals player Nathaniel “Nate” Webster was convicted Wednesday of having sex with an underage girl. A jury acquitted Webster on three charges, but found him guilty on four others. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler ordered Webster jailed until his June 6 sentencing, when he could be sent to prison for up to 20 years. Webster signed a five-year, $11.3 million contract with the Bengals in 2004, but played only in a few games.

City commissioners in Dayton are considering an ordinance to establish a domestic partnership registry which could be used by unmarried, same-sex couples. The registry is voluntary, and a couple doesn't need to live within the city. The ordinance says the registry will assist “businesses and universities in the recruitment of a talented and diverse workforce.” The registry would help area businesses that extend benefits to the partners of employees, straight or gay, by having a formal registry of such committed relationships. Local bloggers and others have been pushing for such a registry in Cincinnati for the past few years, but groups like Equality Cincinnati have said the time is not right.

What were the odds of that happening? A Columbus police officer who investigated a four-vehicle accident Tuesday that involved Gov. John Kasich is the same person that the governor had called “an idiot” in an earlier encounter. Officer Robert Barrett responded to the mishap on Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus that happened in stop-and-go traffic and did not result in any serious injuries. Shortly after taking office last year, Kasich recalled the citation he received from Barrett in 2008 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, calling Barrett an idiot during a meeting with state employees.

State lawmakers removed a proposal this week to enact a priority funding system for federal family planning dollars that would've essentially blocked funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates across Ohio. The Republican-controlled House Finance and Appropriations Committee pulled an amendment to Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review that was inserted last week. A committee chairman said the amendment mirrored that of House Bill No. 298, which is being worked in the House Health and Aging Committee. About $1.6 million of the $4.3 million in federal family planning money the state received last year went to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is lowering expectations that the GOP will retain control of the House after this fall's elections. At a closed door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, Boehner reiterated his concerns the party could lose seats in the House in November, according to The Los Angeles Times. "We’ve got a fight on our hands," Boehner said. Some observers wonder if Boehner believes the gloomy forecast or if it's a scare tactic to get unruly Tea Partiers to toe the party line.

After he scored victories in five primary elections this week, the Republican National Committee formally embraced Willard Mitt Romney as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee on Wednesday. Reince Priebus, the RNC's chairman, said in a statement that the party organization and its resources were now at the disposal of Romney’s campaign. Also, the campaign staffs of the RNC and Romney will merge and begin coordinating their efforts. Game on.

George Zimmerman received firearms training and bought a gun on the advice of an animal control warden, as a method for dealing with a belligerent neighborhood dog. That's one of many revelations in interviews with Zimmerman's relatives and neighbors conducted by Reuters News Service. Zimmerman is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla.

It's beginning to look like Israel's military isn't in as big of a rush to start a war as the nation's politicians. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief, said Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the statements of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Gantz said international sanctions have begun to show results and could relieve pressure on the Obama administration, undercutting efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to consider a potential military strike on Iran.

International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague, the BBC reports. Taylor has been on trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years. He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
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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