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by David Krikorian 06.10.2011
Posted In: Congress, Republicans, Ethics, Environment at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Guest Column: Why Schmidt is Pushing Pesticide

(* David Krikorian is a businessman from Madeira who twice ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Jean Schmidt to represent Ohio's 2ndCongressional District. Schmidt is suing Krikorian for defamation, after he called her a “puppet” of special interests for accepting large amounts of cash from the Turkish government. Meanwhile, the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating Schmidt’s receipt of legal assistance from a Turkish-American interest group.)

CityBeatrecently reported that an "odd coupling" of Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, a Republican, and State Rep. Dale Mallory, a Democrat, held a joint press conference publicly calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its 2007 decision banning the pesticide Propoxur so that it can be used to combat bedbugs in apartments and homes.

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by 04.28.2010

Bortz and the Letter

As anyone who viewed The Enquirer’s Web site Tuesday night or read the newspaper this morning knows, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz received an advisory opinion from Ohio ethics officials last year indicating he shouldn’t participate in any decisions about the proposed streetcar project.

Although CityBeat asked Bortz last week about any potential conflicts of interest involving the project, he didn’t disclose the June 2009 letter from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

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by 05.06.2010
Posted In: City Council, Public Transit, Ethics at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Qualls: Bortz' Claim Is Wrong

In this week’s Porkopolis column, I wondered how Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls felt about “being continually used as a human shield” by City Councilman Chris Bortz on an issue of a potential conflict of interest.

Apparently, the answer is, “Not too good.”

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by 04.29.2010

Jeffre Files Ethics Complaint

That didn’t take long.

Less than 48 hours after it was revealed that the Ohio Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion last year stating Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz shouldn’t take part in decisions about a proposed streetcar project, a formal complaint has been filed with the commission.

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by Ben L. Kaufman 05.01.2013
Posted In: News, Media Criticism, Media, Ethics, Terrorism at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Curmudgeon Notes 5.1.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

In a disturbing decision, public radio’s Radiolab (WVXU-FM 8 p.m. Sundays) gave Cincinnatian Phil Heimlich critical control over its March 5 program on Phil’s dad, Henry Heimlich. 

Phil arranged the interview with the aging physician, for whom the Heimlich Maneuver is named. However, producer Pat Walters had to promise to exclude the voice of Phil’s estranged younger brother, Peter, from any subsequent broadcast.  

Peter is a scathing critic of their father’s therapeutic claims for the Maneuver and more recent medical experiments. 

Phil told Curmudgeon that he feared Walters would ask their father about the troubled family relationships. “Like any son, I’m somewhat protective of him,” Phil said. “He’s 93 . . . We don’t let just anybody come up and interview him.” 

Peter told Curmudgeon that he was unaware of this bargain when he cooperated with Walters for the Radiolab story.

I have no trouble with Phil’s setting conditions for arranging the interview. My beef is with Radiolab. It could have refused. Similarly, I’m not going into Heimlich’s therapeutic theories and claims; I’m writing about Radiolab’s handling of the story. 

I’m troubled by Radiolab’s willingness to silence an important critic and a source of its information in exchange for access to the elder Heimlich. Further, if Walters failed to tell Peter about his deal with Phil, that’s unethical, especially since Walters told Peter, “I want you to speak for yourself.”  

Peter elaborated in a recent email to Curmudgeon: “I was first approached by Radiolab last August when they asked to interview me for broadcast. I wasn't informed that, five months earlier, they'd cut the censorship deal, so they obtained my interview under false pretenses. Further, in the following months, Radiolab producer Pat Walters took up hours of my time, encouraging me to provide him with information and documents. I only learned about the censorship deal a couple weeks ago, when the program disclosed it on their website. If I'd known that Radiolab was this underhanded, I wouldn't have given them a minute of my time -- and I'd encourage other sources to keep their distance.”

Over the years, Peter has dealt with lots of reporters. I asked, "Have you encountered this kind of deal before?" 

Peter responded, “I've never heard of a deal like this . . . and how many other Radiolab stories have included deals like this?”

Radiolab’s website includes a link to the 25-minute program, including the interview with Heimlich. Radiolab’s website text says:

“In the 1970s, choking became national news: thousands were choking to death, leading to more accidental deaths than guns. Nobody knew what to do. Until a man named Henry Heimlich came along with a big idea. Since then, thousands and thousands — maybe even millions — have been rescued by the Heimlich maneuver. Yet the story of the man who invented it may not have such a happy ending.

“Producer Pat Walters wouldn't be here without the Heimlich maneuver — it saved his life when he was just 11 years old. And one day he started wondering - who was Heimlich, anyway? And how did he come up with his choking remedy? Pat had always kinda assumed Heimlich died in the mid-1800s. Not so. The man is very much alive: he's 93 years old, and calls Cincinnati, Ohio, home.”

Given the conflict of interest, letting choking survivor Walters do the interview was a mistake. Here are the guts of Radiolab’s online Producer’s Note: 

“We made some minor changes to this story that do not alter the substance.

“(W)e removed the audio of Peter Heimlich, Henry Heimlich’s son, from the version now on the site. When we approached Henry’s other son Phil to arrange an interview with his father, one of Phil’s conditions was that we not air audio of Peter. We thought he’d waived that provision in a subsequent conversation but he contends he did not. So we are honoring the original request.”

The version available online begins with a light-hearted exchange among Radiolab personalities in their WNYC studio of New York Public Radio. The conversation between Walters and Henry Heimlich at Heimlich’s home maintains that chummy tone. 

Then Walters shifts to controversies over Heimlich’s Maneuver to resuscitate drowning victims and other medical theories. Walters also interviews experts who disagree with Heimlich. When Walters lets Heimlich speak for himself, the physician accuses critics of jealousy and self-interest.  

Walters lets the American Red Cross explain why it (quietly) abandoned decades of support for the Maneuver as the first response to choking and returned common backslaps.

“Nonsense,” Heimlich responded. 

The Red Cross also abandoned Heimlich’s name for its maneuver. Now, it’s “abdominal thrusts.” Heimlich says abdominal thrusts are not the same as his Maneuver and he’s offended by the whole affair. 

Peter —  who provided emails from which I worked — continues to press Radiolab on its decision to erase his voice from its broadcast. Its latest response refers him to the program’s original online statements.

Stunning, avoidable reporting mistakes followed the Boston Marathon bombing. They began when the New York Post said a Saudi man was hospitalized, under guard and might be a bomber. Days later, as the hunt ended, CNN said the  captured younger suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was driven away by police. CNN said Tsarnaev was not wounded or his wounds were so slight that no ambulance was required. Wrong. He left in an ambulance; his wounds were so serious that it was unclear when he would speak to interrogators or appear in court.

Was there a gun battle after a Watertown resident saw the wounded man in his boat and called police?  Some media say no gun was found or the 19-year-old didn’t shoot. 

Speaking of mistakes, Businessinsider.com described another blunder when reporters didn’t name sources or verify leaks. “According to a source at CNN, the network was the first to report that a suspect had been identified. Anchor John King sent in a  report around 1 p.m. that a source ‘briefed’ on the investigation had told King a positive identification had been made. CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist approved that report, according to the source.

“According to the source, who was reviewing internal email logs, Fran Townsend was the first at the network to say that an arrest had been made. ‘As I think everyone knows, we really fucked up. No way around it,’ the source said.

“The source said that the network's email network went quiet for a 15-minute period shortly after the retraction — ‘so people [were] either being more cautious or getting yelled at.’

“Townsend's report came around the same time as other outlets, including the Associated Press and the Boston Globe, also reported an arrest, so it is not clear whether CNN was the first to make the mistake . . . Wednesday's false arrest reports also drew a scathing rebuke from the FBI, which urged the press ‘to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting’."

This is shabby journalism. CNN went with a report attributed to someone who had been briefed by someone who knew something. No names. No identifiable links to investigation. Simply assertions. We could have waited until CNN verified or debunked the report but editors fear that hesitation can drive viewers to other, less scrupulous sources. At least Businessinsider.com appeared accurate in its use of its unnamed CNN sources. 

Social media — better called anti-social media in the aftermath of the marathon bombings - spread so much misinformation and falsely accused so many young men that the FBI had to release images of its suspects: the Tsarnaev brothers. It was the only way to protect wrongly accused men from vigilante justice, even though the suspects might be following the chase on their cellphones. 

London’s Daily Mail reported some inadvertent humor among the errors:  

Boston’s Fox 4 scrolled across the bottom of the screen that the suspect sought in Watertown was “19-year-old Zooey Deschanel.” Alerted to her new and unwanted celebrity, Uproxx.com said, the 33-year-old star of the Fox sitcom, New Girl, tweeted, “Whoa! Epic closed captioning FAIL!” 

Gawker.com said NBC anchor Brian Williams cut to New England Cable News for an update on the Watertown chase and listeners heard an unnamed reporter, “Oh, you’re not listening? Well, I don’t know shit.”  

It’s no surprise that Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post was unmatched for sheer bloodymindedness. Here’s the HuffingtonPost.com summary: 

The Post said 12 people had died, when only three had; it said a Saudi man was a “suspect” in “custody” when he wasn't; and it splashed pictures of two young “BAG MEN” on its front page even though it did not know whether they were suspects. They were innocent. One was 17 years old; he told the Associated Press that he was “scared to go outside.” And that doesn’t include Post doctoring the photo of an injured spectator to hide her leg wound. 

Rather than apologize, Murdoch blamed others outside the Post.  

Murdoch’s Post wasn’t alone in falsely accusing men of being bombers. The LA Times said “Reddit is apologizing for its role in fueling the social media witch hunts for the Boston bombings suspects. The social news website . . . became a place for amateur sleuths to gather and share their conspiracy theories and other ideas on who may have committed the crimes. The online witch hunts ended up dragging in several innocent people, including Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old Brown University student who went missing last month (and has since been found dead). 

“After viewing the FBI's photos of the suspects Thursday, Redditors became convinced that Tripathi was one of the bombers, with countless posts gleefully pointing out the physical similarities between Tripathi and Suspect No. 2, who ended up being 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The growing wave of suspicion surrounding Tripathi led his family to release a statement the next day saying they knew ‘unequivocally’ that their son was not involved.

“On Monday, Reddit General Manager Erik Martin posted a lengthy apology on the site, saying the crisis ‘showed the best and worst of Reddit's potential.’ He said the company, as well as several Reddit users and moderators, had apologized privately to Tripathi's family and wanted ‘to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations,’ the post said. ‘Some of the activity on Reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The Reddit staff and the millions of people on Reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened’."

Reddit said it does not allow personal information on the site in order to protect innocent people from being incorrectly identified and "disrupting or ruining their lives," according to the LA Times. "We hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong," Reddit’s Martin continued. "The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the types of vindictive Internet witch hunts our no-personal-information rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different."

The LA Times added valuable context to what followed the bombings: they “were the first major terrorist attack on American soil in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. But the watershed moment for social media quickly spiraled out of control as legions of Web sleuths cast suspicion on the innocent, shared bad tips and heightened the sense of panic and paranoia.” The LA Times added that Boston police asked “overeager” Twitter users to limit what they posted because that overly detailed tweets could compromise officers' position and safety.

Detroit Free Press editors published a detailed online illustration of how to make a pressure cooker bomb, like that reportedly used by the Boston bombers. When their brain fart passed, they took down the instructions and images. Of course, now, anyone can turn to Jimromenesko.com screen shot of the Detroit Free Press illustration . . . 

Newcomers to the Tri-State puzzle over the lifelong identification with high/prep school. When a Cincinnatian was involved in the emergency surgical response to the Boston Marathon bombings, the Enquirer noted he went to St. X. Only later did Our Sole Surviving Daily tell us he was graduated from UC’s medical school before going off to Boston for his surgical residency.  

by 04.12.2011
Posted In: Congress, Republicans, Courts, Ethics at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Schmidt's Lawsuit Gets Nat'l Attention

A congresswoman's lawsuit against a local businessman and onetime political opponent is featured in an article today on the popular Politico website.

U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) is suing David Krikorian, who ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008 for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District and also unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat last year. He lost that race to Surya Yalamanchili, a former contestant on a reality TV show who lost the general election to Schmidt by capturing 35 percent of the vote.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012
Posted In: Congress, Ethics, Courts, 2012 Election, Protests at 04:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schmidt Drops Lawsuit

Congresswoman sought $6.8M from opponent

Nearly two years after she filed the lawsuit, a congresswoman who lost in the March primary election has dropped her legal action against a political opponent.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) told
The Enquirer today that she decided to drop her defamation lawsuit against Madeira businessman David Krikorian. Schmidt filed the suit in June 2010, and had sought $6.8 million in damages.

Krikorian is claiming victory in the dispute, and told
CityBeat the lawsuit was an intimidation tactic by well-funded special interests.

“Her lawsuit was entirely without merit,” Krikorian said. “It was meant to silence and intimidate me and cost me money.  It did not work.”

Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008; he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat in 2010 and again this year.

During the ‘08 campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey had committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.

But the lawsuit proved to be Schmidt’s undoing. She received more than $400,000 in free legal assistance from the Turkish Coalition of America to support her suit. In August 2011 the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but didn’t “knowingly” violate the law. She was ordered to repay the coalition, which she has yet to do.

Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, dubbed Schmidt as
one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

All of the drama took its toll: Schmidt lost the GOP primary earlier this month to challenger Brad Wenstrup. He defeated her 49-43 percent.

“It’s time to move on,” Barrett Brunsman, Schmidt’s spokesman,
told The Enquirer today about dropping the lawsuit.

The Turkish Coalition of America was among Schmidt’s top contributors, donating $7,500 to her 2010 reelection campaign through its political action committee, and donating $7,600 to her in 2008.

Schmidt also traveled to Turkey at least twice while in office. The coalition picked up the tab for one of the trips.

Politico reported March 12 that Schmidt was in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, March 6, at a private luncheon with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan.

“At times, Rep. Jean Schmidt has been closer to Turkish interests than those of her Cincinnati-area constituents,”
Politico’s Jonathan Allen wrote. “Never was that proximity problem more telling than on Tuesday, when Republicans denied Schmidt renomination to run for another term.”

When Allen sought comment for the article, Brunsman refused to confirm if the meeting occurred and sent an email that stated, “I think you have lost your way.”

For his part, Krikorian said the experience has taught him that Ohio needs to pass legislation that penalizes lawsuits filed solely to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition. Such a tactic is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.

“I think the Ohio Legislature should consider passing an anti-SLAPP statue to prevent these kinds of abuses of the legal process,” he said. “This lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate and silence me by Rep. Schmidt and the Turkish lobby.”

Krikorian apparently lost in the March 6 Democratic primary by just 59 votes to William R. Smith, a virtual unknown from Pike County who didn’t campaign, answer questionnaires or grant interviews. A recount is under way and Krikorian has asked for a federal investigation of Victory Ohio Super PAC, which made robo-calls on Smith’s behalf but isn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission.

Krikorian picked up 14 more votes in Hamilton County on provisional ballots once the results were certified. Meanwhile, Clermont County certifies its results on Tuesday.

by 09.07.2010
Posted In: 2010 Election, Congress, Ethics at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Burke Seeks Chabot Probe

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke is asking for a special meeting of the county's Board of Elections to investigate what he says are false claims made by Steve Chabot and Mike Robison.

Chabot and Robison allegedly have told people that State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-31st District) has contacted the Board of Elections about switiching her name on the fall ballot from Driehaus to her married surname. The implication is that she is trying to distance herself from her brother, Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill), who is in a heated campaign against Chabot.

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by 01.12.2011
Posted In: Congress, Republicans, 2010 Election, Ethics at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mag: Boehner 'The Ultimate Beltway Hack'

Perhaps the perfect antidote to The Enquirer's fawning, superficial coverage of the new House Speaker is the profile of John Boehner that appears in the new issue of Rolling Stone.

West Chester's favorite son — who is now second in line to the presidency — doesn't come off well in the lengthy article by political writer Matt Taibbi, who quotes both named and anonymous sources from both sides of the political aisle who have worked with Boehner over the years.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.13.2012

Morning News and Stuff

After months of delays, a federal judge on Monday sentenced a once prominent Butler County politician to prison. U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith imposed a penalty of four years behind bars on Mike Fox, an ex-Butler County commissioner and former state representative. Fox's attorneys had tried to argue he should get home incarceration because he is morbidly obese and suffers from diabetes and depression, but Beckwith wasn't swayed. Fox agreed to a plea deal in early 2011 on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

In another sign that higher education and collegiate sports are becoming Big Business, Miami University in Oxford has trademarked the nickname, “Cradle of Coaches.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the request last month, capping a two-year effort by school attorneys. The university has used the phrase since 1959.

Gov. John Kasich is expected to announce a plan Wednesday in which he will keep a campaign pledge to cut Ohio's income tax rate by filling the budget hole it will cause by by raising taxes on oil and gas companies involved with fracking.

A bus driver who drove into a local TV news van in January was found guilty Monday of making an improper lane change and was ordered to pay a $100 fine. Joann Searles, 48, was the driver of a GoBus that clipped the WCPO-TV (Channel 9) van during live coverage of a news conference on the Horseshoe Casino collapse on Jan. 27, just outside the construction site of the new casino on Gilbert Avenue, at the Greyhound Bus Terminal. Searles already has lost her job because of the incident. Here's an idea: Don't hold a press conference at a busy bus terminal or park your van in the middle of a driveway. Casino officials should give this lady a job.

City planners are seeking public input from residents about how Cincinnati should grow and be developed during the next 30 years. The city's Department of Community Planning and Buildings is drafting Cincinnati's first comprehensive plan since 1980 and will hold an open house Wednesday. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the seventh floor of Two Centennial Plaza, 805 Central Ave., downtown.

In news elsewhere, a federal investigation has concluded that managers at major banks ignored widespread errors in the foreclosure process, in some cases instructing employees to adopt make-believe titles and speed documents through the system despite internal objections. The probe by the Department of Housing and Urban Development said managers were aware of the problems but did nothing to correct them. Some of the banks involved include Bank Of America and Wells Fargo.

Some critics of President Obama are saying he's being given a pass on policies that would have triggered outrage if they had been done by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The actions include aggressively filling his reelection war chest with Super PAC money and approving shoot-to-kill orders against an American terror suspect overseas. The disconnect reveals a double standard, Politico reports.

A former editor at The Sun newspaper in Britain is among six people arrested by Scotland Yard detectives on suspicion of conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice,” as part of the investigation into telephone hacking by media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rebekah Brooks, 43, was arrested this morning at her home. The arrests form the biggest single swoop yet by police in its ongoing investigation into alleged voicemail interception; so far, 23 people have been held, with two people released without charge.

At least 30 people are feared dead after a ferry collided with a barge in the Meghna River in Bangladesh. About 35 passengers were rescued by another ferry but more than 150 passengers remain unaccounted for, officials said.

A major detergent brand from Procter & Gamble has become the target of thieves nationwide, police said. Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it. One thief in Minnesota stole $25,000 worth of the product before he was arrested last year. Tide has become a form of currency on the streets and the retail price is steadily high, making it a popular item on the black market.