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by Kevin Osborne 03.21.2012
 
 
naming rights1

Morning News and Stuff

One day a few years from now Cincinnati motorists might drive their vehicles across the Procter & Gamble Bridge. Ohio's transportation officials are considering ways to create public-private partnerships to help pay for large, expensive projects like the planned replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge, which is estimated to cost $2 billion. The Ohio Department of Transportation has formed a new Division of Innovative Delivery to ponder new methods for raising revenue, which might include selling the naming rights to bridges and roads or using more tolls. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Corporate States of America.

The expansion of Cincinnati's recycling program is yielding good results. 2011 was the first full year for the expanded program that included larger containers and the use of the RecycleBank rewards program. The amount of recycled material increased 49 percent when comparing 2011 to 2009, while participation jumped by 75 percent. As a result, the city saved more than $900,000 in dumping fees and related costs. Each ton of refuse shifted from the landfill to recycling saves the city about $100.

A transgender student at Miami University in Oxford is challenging campus officials for not allowing him to serve as a resident assistant in an all-male residence hall. Instead, he was offered a position in a suite living with female students. Kaeden Kass, who was born a female but dresses and identifies as male, filed a complaint against the dean of students and the university council.

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order this week creating an “employment first” policy requiring case managers for disabled people to first look for job placement at private businesses rather than turning to more typical sheltered workshop environments, where nearly all the employees are disabled. The new policy applies to the state departments of Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health and Education; the Rehabilitation Services Commission; and school districts.

Cincinnati firefighters are investigating the cause of a series of fires that occurred early this morning in the city's Carthage neighborhood. Crews had to extinguish blazes involving at least three garages and two vehicles in separate incidents. Officials are calling the fires suspicious and are working to find a possible suspect. Damage is estimated at $20,000.

In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary Tuesday. Romney received 46.7 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Rick Santorum. Oh, yeah: Ron Paul got 9.3 percent and Newt Gingrich got 8 percent. (That's right, Paul beat Gingrich.) The results give credibility to GOP fears that Santorum's appeal is limited to the Deep South and conservative areas in the West.

The next primary is Saturday in Louisiana, which is causing some controversy. A super PAC that supports Romney has started sending mailers to Louisiana voters but didn't quite get the details correct. Restore Our Future told voters in the mailer they should vote for Romney on Tuesday, March 24. But the 24th is actually a Saturday, not Tuesday. The super PAC has said the mixup was accidental, but some Santorum supporters suspect it was intentional to confuse voters.

A detailed study shows increased oil drilling in the United States doesn't affect gasoline prices at the pump. A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by the Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and gas prices. If more domestic oil drilling worked as some politicians allege, motorists would now be paying about $2 a gallon for gas. Hey, Mitt and Rick: It's time to try a new scare tactic.

French police were locked in a standoff this morning and exchanged gunfire with an Islamic militant barricaded in an apartment who is suspected of being the gunman who killed three French soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi over the past eight days. Authorities identified the suspect as Mohammed Merah, 24, a French citizen who has spent time with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At least 11 boys were castrated while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic church in the 1950s to rid them of homosexuality, a newspaper investigation reports. One person, who was 18 at the time, was castrated in 1956 after telling police he was being sexually abused by a priest. Dutch officials ordered an investigation after the report was published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.28.2012
 
 
boehner

Morning News and Stuff

About 75,000 workers in Greater Cincinnati don't have insurance coverage for contraceptives, The Enquirer reports. Most of those who don't are employed by hospital systems connected to the Catholic Church or religiously affiliated universities, which try to adhere to the church's stance against using birth control. Still, as reporter Cliff Peale writes, “They follow the Catholic directives first, but also have set up financial models that depend on millions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and federal student aid programs, and employees who might very well be non-Catholics.” In other words, they want federal largesse, they just don't want to follow federal rules.

Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, will be one of the speakers next week at Procter & Gamble's digital marketing summit. The event, known as Signal P&G, will be held March 8 at the corporation's downtown headquarters. About 20 executives will participate in the summit, which will feature a full day of case studies and one-on-one interviews with industry leaders.

If you live within Cincinnati's city limits, your day for garbage pickup might be changing. Beginning March 5, some trash collection routes will change, which means the day of the week when garbage and recycling are collected will be affected in some neighborhoods. Check this website for more details.

The Cincinnati Board of Education announced today that it wants to renew the contract of Mary Ronan, who has been schools superintendent since April 2009. The board authorized negotiations to be conducted with Ronan over the next month on a three-year contract extension that would take effect on Aug. 1, 2012 and end on July 31, 2015.

In news elsewhere, today might well be the rubicon for the campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Primaries will be held today in Arizona and Romney's native Michigan, where his family is something of a political dynasty. Many pundits say that unless Romney scores a convincing victory in Michigan, his campaign could be in serious trouble against the surging Rick Santorum.

Meanwhile, Romney is angry that some Democratic voters in Michigan are vowing to cross over and cast ballots for Santorum in the GOP primary, to sow chaos. But Romney used a similar tactic and cast a Democratic ballot in Massachusetts's 1992 primary. "In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary," Romney told ABC News. Until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994, Romney had spent his adult life as a registered independent. "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican,” he added.

The Orange One is facing criticism again for his leadership style, or lack thereof. West Chester's favorite son, House Speaker John Boehner, is being chided for fumbling the passage of a major transportation bill. Because Boehner couldn't round up enough votes to pass the bill – which is being touted as the GOP's main jobs plan for 2012 – Boehner had to split the bill into three component parts.

Anti-government protestors in Syria said they found the bodies of 64 men dumped on the outskirts of the city of Homs. An unknown number of women and children who had been with the men are missing, protestors added. The uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March, and pressure for U.S. or NATO military intervention is growing due to the violence.

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe, about 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World. Time to start changing those history books.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.24.2012
Posted In: Science, Public Policy, Environment at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
asian-carp-invasion

Carp Attack!

Obama administration gives $50 million to protect Great Lakes from invasive Asian Carp

Coming soon to a Great Lake near you: giant, evil fish out for blood. OK, hopefully not, but it's possible, wildlife experts say, if the new plan to control Asian carp, a pesky freshwater fish with a penchant for destroying some of the U.S.'s greatest natural water habitats, doesn't end successfully. 

The fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes is nothing to be tampered with, and the Obama administration is taking steps to make sure it's not. On Thursday, officials announced that $51.5 million would be invested this year to protect the Great Lakes from the destructive Asian carp.

In case you're wondering, these aren't the same gentle giants that are swimming around in your local pond
these babies grow up to as large as 110 pounds and are capable of eating up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. To put that in perspective, for a 150-pound human, that's 30 pounds of food a day. That's not even Takeru Kobayashi material. There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a severe threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. These species eat plankton, algae, mollusks, mussel and sturgeon in large quantities, which strips the ecosystem of food sources for other types of fish. Think Lake Placid of the carp world.

Say they're just fish, but beware: Asian carp have caused whiplash, broken jaws and noses. Concussions and severe boat damage are some of the "charges" alleged by boaters caught off guard. The fish literally "jump" as high as 10 feet in the air, causing swarms of volatile flying fish. Not kidding.

The money will implement strategies to control the fish, including DNA testing, underwater cameras, trapping and netting, scent testing to "lure" the carp to a capture area, development of an acoustic water gun to scare carp from endangered areas and poisons to directly target Asian carp without harming native species.

What's most interesting about the investment is that we're the ones who brought these fish foes to U.S. waters in the first place; they were imported from Southeast Asian in the '70's to control algae in water treatment facilities and farm ponds. Not surprisingly, the species escaped confinement and found their way into the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers. The Illinois River is also connected to the Great Lakes system. Should the carp invade the Great Lakes system (it's possible some already have), scientists say it could cause up to $7 million in damages to the fishing industry, not to mention adversely impacting the Great Lakes' tourism industry by detracting from the safety of recreational lake activities.
 
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee advises people who come across Asian carp to freeze the fish in sealed plastic bags and immediately contact their state's Department of Natural Resources or Environmental Conservation.  


 When Asian Carp Attack:




 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
Posted In: Economy, Financial Crisis, Congress, Public Policy at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
unemployment

Don't Believe the Hype About Jobs

There is an old saying that goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It’s alternately been credited to writer Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

No matter where it originated, though, the quote applies well to unemployment figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.

Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years. That is good news, but not quite as good as it first appears.

Using that measure, 12.3 million people are unemployed, which is a decline of 0.2 percent from December.

The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for six months or more — was 5.5 million people, accounting for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.

Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate, however, say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers.” Those are people who are jobless and have looked for work sometime in the past year but aren’t currently looking because of real or perceived poor employment prospects. In other words, they’ve given up.

Federal data shows a disproportionate number of young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and men comprise the discouraged-worker segment.

Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. Some analysts, however, believe that grossly understates the numbers. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)

Here’s some context. In the modern era (1948-present), the U.S. unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent — reaching a record high of 10.8 percent in November 1982 and a record low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.

As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, “we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily.”

Krugman added, “at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.”

In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last week that the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the CBO — which is the official, objective analyst for the federal government — estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014.

If that’s not depressing enough, consider this: The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than a year — referred to as marginally-attached workers— topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.

The CBO stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession and its aftermath, which results in weak demand for workers.

To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.

“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.

“Despite the near-term economic benefits, such actions would add to the already large projected budget deficits that would exist under current policies, either immediately or over time,” it added. “Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”

Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.

Republicans, are you listening?

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.17.2012
Posted In: Public Policy, Ethics, Government at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
courtgavel

Ohio Executions On Hold

Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that state has failed to follow proper protocol

A ruling that resulted in a temporary halt in Ohio executions last week means there are 148 inmates on Ohio's death row with uncertain futures. Ohio's death penalty is currently under scrutiny, largely due to opposition that's been raised from documented failures to follow protocol in state executions.

In January, Federal District Court Judge Gregory Frost of Newark, Ohio halted condemned murderer Charles Lorraine's Ohio execution because Ohio has allegedly demonstrated problems over the last several months upholding the execution protocol the state put in place itself in 1981. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost's decision, saying that because Ohio had been proven to stray from its own execution policies, it couldn't be trusted to carry out Lorraine's execution or any other death sentences. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for April.

Frost is one of several advocating for the abandonment on Ohio's death penalty. "For close to eight years, the Court has dealt with inmate challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution protocol. During that time, the litigation has morphed from focusing primarily on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment to allegations of equal protection violations. Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," said Frost in his written opinion.

He goes on to describe instances in which state agents lied to the Court concerning state executions, expressing frustration about the state's lack of commitment to constitutional execution. "No judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in the ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties," said Frost.  

That's just a piece of it; there are other judicial bigwigs hoping to have Ohio's death penalty overturned, including Senior Associate Justice for the Ohio Supreme Court Paul Pfiefer, who helped write Ohio's death penalty law when he was a state senator more than 30 years ago. According to Pfeifer, he's changed his mind because he sees the option of life without the possibility of parole more moral and socially beneficial.

Evidently, most of the deviations from the execution regulations were minor paperwork technicalities. Huffington Post reports the errors included switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection and not properly documenting that the inmate's medical records were reviewed.

Those in support of the hold, however, make another point. Controlling life and death is the most important power the state of Ohio holds; if it can't follow minor rules that it set for itself, who's to say there won't be larger, more detrimental errors in the future?
 
It's difficult to tell whether or not Ohio will just get a slap on the wrist for its slip-ups or if reform will be seriously considered. The death penalty has almost always been a part of Ohio's history, since it became a state in 1803. Ohio ranked third in the U.S. for executions among the 34 states that have the death penalty in 2011.

Listen to Paul Pfeifer and hear more about the controversy on The Sound of Ideas radio program below.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.07.2012
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Social Justice, Public Policy at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
no-8-01

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

In a long-awaited decision, a federal appeals court today declared that California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a lower court judge correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedents when he declared in 2010 that Proposition 8 was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian people.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.06.2012
 
 
iudone

ACLU, Archbishop Spar Over Birth Control

As Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other Catholic officials speak out publicly against a new federal rule involving free birth control, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defends the switch and says the criticism is misguided.

Last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known informally as “ObamaCare” — would require nearly universal coverage of contraception.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.02.2012
Posted In: Government, Community, Public Policy at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
privatization

Pros and Cons of Privatization

The push to privatize services traditionally provided by government is the focus of a community forum slated for next week.

Since the Reagan era, privatization — or the outsourcing of public services to the private sector — has been touted as a way to make government more efficient and less costly. Critics, however, allege it is a form of union-busting that often leads to lower wages for workers and reduced accountability to the public.

Read More

 
 
by Martin Brennan 01.25.2012
 
 
imgad.nar

Online Pirating: An Old-School Gamer's Only Option?

Last week I blogged about SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in Congress that, if passed, would allow both copyright holders as well as the US Department of Justice to severely restrict access to and advertising on any website accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Needless to say the bill’s sparked a huge controversy on the web. Many sites such as Reddit.com blacked out their services on Jan. 18 in protest, and those against the bill are saying the bill inhibits free speech and will effectively “ruin the Internet” if passed.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.23.2012
Posted In: News, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Public Policy at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
lethal

Groups Call for Execution Moratorium

Ohioans to Stop Executions and other human rights groups are asking Gov. John Kasich to halt any further executions of inmates until the Ohio Supreme Court completes its review of the state’s death penalty process.

The groups, which include the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) in Cincinnati, say the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to review an August 2011 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That means the exoneration of Death Row inmate Joe D’Ambrosio is upheld.

Read More

 
 

 

 

 
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