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by Danny Cross 06.08.2012
 
 
392widea

Morning News and Stuff

County Commissioner Todd Portune's idea to borrow more money and extend a half-cent sales tax in order to keep up with stadium costs has been shot down by a Bengals lawyer who used 15 bullet points to demonstrate that Portune's plan “proposes to breach one or both leases.

Duke Energy is asking state regulators if it can bump customers' rates up again. Duke says the increases are to pay for infrastructure investments. The change would increase customer costs of electric service by $86 million and for natural gas by $44 million. A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy that accuses the company of paying kick-backs to corporations opposing a 2004 rate increase.

A rally for “religious freedom” will take place on Fountain Square today in response to federal health care legislation requiring women to have abortions employers to provide insurance that covers birth control. The law includes a religious exemption, which bishops have said isn't enough.

A group pushing to ban dog auctions in Ohio has halted its effort to put the issue on the November ballot due to lack of funding and time. CityBeat in February reported the group's efforts to ban the sale of dogs through auctions or raffles, as well as all trafficking in dogs from out-of-state auctions.

New York City officials, including Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, are arguing that the city's “Stop and Frisk” policy is racist. The policy allows police to stop an individual and pat him or her down for contraband if they suspect illegal activity. From USA Today:

Clarke says the program, known as "Stop, Question and Frisk" or "Stop and Frisk," amounts to racial profiling. It is based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that police could stop people on the basis of "reasonable suspicion."

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin approved class-action status for a lawsuit that alleges the practice subjects people to race-based illegal searches.

President Obama's health care law helped 6.6 million young adults stay on their parents' plans during the first year and a half.

Rick Santorum has formed a new conservative organization aiming to recruit 1 million supporters to help get Barack Obama out of the While House. No word on how Santorum's “Patriot Voices” group will differ from the tea party patriots.

NASA says it has spotted the universe's first objects.

Black members of the Netherlands soccer team were subjected to racist chants at their Euro 2012 practice facility in Krakow, Poland. The team says fans were making monkey chants at the players.

LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics last night, forcing a deciding Game 7 for the Eastern Conference championship. The Oklahoma Thunder await in the NBA Finals.


 
 
by Danny Cross 06.05.2012
 
 
dukeenergy

Morning News and Stuff

A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy. The lawsuit accuses Duke of paying kickbacks to local companies in order to gain support for a 2004 electric rate increase. The lawsuit alleges that Duke appeased the more powerful opposing companies by including rebate deals for them. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and seeks to represent all Ohioans affected by the rate increase.

Todd Portune is continuing his quest to become the East Side's county's property tax rebate savior, yesterday offering a new idea to bail out the stadium fund: extend the half cent sales tax past 2032. The revenue created by extending the sales tax, which has no sunset clause, would repay loans the county could use to pay for maintenance and projects at the stadiums now. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel is open to “any ideas,” though Democratic Commissioner Greg Hartmann says otherwise:

“Todd, here we go again,” snapped Commissioner Greg Hartmann. “Walking away from these leases is just fantasyland.

“How many times are we going to do this?” he asked.

Rob Portman will test out his GOP rallying cries at the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. next week.

Bill Clinton says a Mitt Romney presidency would be “calamitous” for the U.S.

The Senate will vote on a gender pay equity bill today.

China and Russia say they'll help the UN more going forward, though they've been supporting Syria more than anyone really wants them to.

Here's an explanation of the Transit of Venus, for those who don't get it yet.

Nintendo has revamped its Wii to try to lure gamers from free Internet games they play on iPads.

A new PC virus can infect computers by imitating a Windows update.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.02.2012
 
 
portune

Morning News and Stuff

If you come from a large family, you might remember when older siblings would always get new clothes when you were a child and you'd get their hand-me downs. That's also been the situation at Paul Brown Stadium in the past, but Hamilton County commissioners are putting a stop to it. Because the county's Riverfront Parking Operations needs two new trucks, the plan had been to move two trucks from Paul Brown to parking services and buy new ones for the stadium. Commissioners balked at the plan Tuesday, saying the new trucks should be bought for Parking Operations. Commissioner Todd Portune estimates the county will save up to $20,000 because Parking Operations doesn't require the same kind of heavy-duty trucks the stadium uses.

Cincinnati City Council is considering restoring $250,000 to the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Council had cut the money from CIRV's budget in late 2010, but statistics show that the number of shootings increased in the city afterward. When CIRV was in full effect, the percentage of shootings linked to gang activity fell from nearly 70 percent in 2007 to around 50 percent in 2008 and 2009, but has bounced up to 60 percent in 2011 and so far this year. Part of the cash allocated to CIRV would pay for a statistical analysis by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, to determine if there is a verifiable link.

Federal prosecutors want the jury in the upcoming insider trading trial of former Procter & Gamble Co. board member Rajat Gupta to hear secretly recorded telephone conversations with another man as evidence of the alleged conspiracy between them. The government said in a pre-trial filing that the conversations showed Gupta, also a former Goldman Sachs director, leaked Goldman board secrets at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded the calls.

The Reds postponed Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs due to high water on the field at Great American Ball Park. Heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon and evening saturated the area, and the stadium was no exception. A makeup date hasn't been announced. The action marks only the sixth time that the Reds have postponed a game since Great American opened in 2003.

Cincinnati Public Schools will make energy-saving renovations at 28 schools using a nearly $27 million low-interest loan. The school board approved the plan Monday, despite some board members' concerns about moving ahead with the projects while the district cuts jobs and faces an estimated $43 million deficit.

In news elsewhere, the rumors were true: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was hiding at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since escaping house arrest last month. Chen's presence was revealed today when he left the diplomatic compound to seek medical treatment after receiving assurances from China’s government that he would be treated humanely. Chinese leaders agreed that Chen would be reunited with his family, moved to a safe place and allowed to enroll in a university, U.S. officials said. (Well, that's one international crisis averted, and only about 50 more to go.)

One of Willard Mitt Romney's top campaign spokesmen is leaving his job less than two weeks after his appointment. Richard Grenell, Romney's national security spokesman, resigned after some hardcore conservatives complained about the hiring of the openly gay man. Others, however, say it also was because Grenell was coming under fire “for numerous sexist and impolitic statements he had made about prominent women and members of the media.” After the complaints, he scrubbed over 800 tweets from his Twitter feed and deleted his personal website. Some reporters who dealt with Grenell while he was a spokesman for the United Nations years ago called him the "most dishonest and deceptive press person" they had ever encountered.

An eyewitness to the 1968 assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy says she heard two guns firing during the shooting and authorities altered her account of the crime. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, who is now 78, is coming forward as a federal court prepares to rule on a challenge to Sirhan Sirhan's conviction in the assassination. Sirhan, who is now 68, wants to be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence.

President Obama made a surprise visit Tuesday to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just before today's first anniversary of the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney has been criticizing the president's recent comments about bin Laden's death, but the Obama campaign questions whether Romney would've made the same decision, given his past statements. While in Afghanistan, Obama signed a security pact that means the United States will maintain a military presence there through 2024 – despite supposedly ending combat operations at the end of 2014. (For those keeping track, the deal means the United States will stay in Afghanistan for 23 years; let's just end the suspense and declare it our 51st state.)

Tuesday was May Day, which traditionally is a day to celebrate workers' rights around the globe — or protest the lack of same. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its various off-shoots held demonstrations in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere across the United States to commemorate the occasion.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.05.2012
 
 
reds

Morning News and Stuff

At the risk of alienating some readers, we have to say it: If you don't know that today is Opening Day, you're not a real Cincinnatian. The 93rd annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade begins at 1 p.m., and the Reds will kick off the 2012 season with a game against the Miami Marlins at 4:05 p.m.

Hamilton County commissioners want to help you enjoy the day if you're heading downtown to catch either or both of the events. They've lowered the parking rates today at the garages in The Banks district near Great American Ball Park. There are now 6,000 parking spaces near the stadium that will cost $10 for the day, down from $12 last year.

Just in time for the season opener, first baseman Joey Votto has agreed to a $251.5 million, 12-year deal with the Reds, the longest guaranteed contract in Major League history. The deal adds $225 million over 10 years to his previous contract and includes a club option for 2024, when the 2010 National League MVP turns 41.

Shortly after an independent assessment criticized her performance in the job, Hamilton County Public Defender Shelia Kyle-Reno has reached a deal to leave the position nearly a year before her contract ends. Until a permanent successor is found, Kyle-Reno will be replaced by W. Kelly Johnson, a former federal public defender who will work for free.

A recount is under way this morning to see which Democrat will challenge Brad Wenstrup for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt's seat in Congress. For now, the winner of the 2nd District Democratic primary is William Smith, a Pike County man that party leaders had never even met before he beat David Krikorian by 60 votes. Because the margin of victory was so small, Ohio's Secretary of State ordered a recount in 13 of Hamilton County's 222 precincts.

In news elsewhere, a new poll finds Google beats out Apple Computer in favorable ratings by 82 to 74 percent. The Washington Post-ABC News poll also found Facebook has a 58 percent favorable rating.

An important historical document has recently been uncovered and released. In 2006 an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authored a memo opposing the Bush administration’s torture practices. The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived deep in the State Department’s files and was declassified this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. The memo argues that the Convention Against Torture, and the Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, do indeed apply to the CIA’s use of “waterboard(ing), walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement.”

Syrian troops have launched new assaults on rebels as an envoy of United Nations mediator Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus today to discuss implementing a ceasefire plan. Anti-government activists said several towns, including Homs, Deraa and the Douma suburb of Damascus, have been shelled. U.N. officials report the conflict has cost more than 9,000 lives since it began a year ago. The Syrian government blames violence on "terrorist gangs" and allege about 3,000 members of the security forces have been killed. The U.N. wants a truce deal by April 12.

A major Chinese insurance company said it will stop indemnity coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil beginning in July, narrowing insurance options for Iran's main export that already are constricted by economic sanctions pushed by the United States. This is the first sign that refiners in China, Iran's top crude oil buyer, may struggle to obtain the shipping and insurance to keep importing from the Middle Eastern nation. Iran's other top customers -- India, Japan and South Korea -- are facing similar problems.

In lighter fare, an animal rights group is urging a pastor who preaches about the importance of marital sex to teach about how becoming vegan can add extra spark to the faithful's sex lives. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told The Rev. Mike Scruggs that vegans are less prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity than meat-eaters, and they often have more stamina, lower body weight, and a reduced risk of sexual dysfunction. People who choose vegan meals are also following God's call to mercy, PETA added, as plant-based meals save animals from immense suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.03.2012
 
 
xu

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies have compiled the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as U.S. military actions in Pakistan. PBS commentator Bill Moyers recently summarized the findings which include 224,475 lives lost, 365,383 people wounded and 7.8 million refugees and internally displaced people, along with $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations, between $3.7-$4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers and $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the United States borrowed for war (mostly from China). Was it all worth it?
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
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 03.15.2012
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 03.13.2012
 
 
greg harris

Harris Drops Out of Commission Race

Job will take him out of state often

A Democrat who was challenging Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann in this fall’s election has left the race due to work commitments.

Greg Harris, a West Sider who is a former Cincinnati city councilman, said Monday night that a contract awarded to his educational consulting firm means he will be spending a large amount of time outside of the region. Harris’ firm, New Governance Group, recently was awarded a major contract with a nonprofit group in Delaware that seeks to improve public education in that state.

“When I filed (to run for commissioner), I filed in all sincerity,” Harris said. “It was before I got this contract.”

He added, “I feel bad. This was a race I really wanted to run in, but with all the traveling, I’m not equipped to give it the time it deserves.”

Harris, 40, announced his candidacy in early December, when he filed paperwork to run against Hartmann, a Republican incumbent who is seeking his second term.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party now will be able to select a replacement for Harris on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Harris was appointed in January 2009 to Cincinnati City Council to fill the unexpired term of John Cranley, who was facing term limits. But Harris lost in an election that November, finishing 10th in balloting for the nine-member group, missing the final spot by about 3,400 votes. During his brief term, Harris angered the city’s police and firefighter unions by suggesting changes that he said would improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Through his consulting firm, Harris had served as public policy advisor for Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national education philanthropy that seeds educational practices and policy reforms.

An Illinois native, Harris moved to the region in 1993 to attend graduate school at Miami University in Oxford. He stayed here after graduation and served from 2000-05 as executive director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, a nonprofit public advocacy group that promotes good government, volunteerism and civic involvement.

Harris ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) twice, in 2002 and 2004. He also was prepared to challenge Hartmann for the Hamilton County Commission seat in 2008 until Democratic Party leaders cut a deal with the GOP and asked Harris to step aside and let Hartmann run unopposed. A reluctant Harris complied.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.09.2012
 
 
monzel

Morning News and Stuff

A plan by two Hamilton County commissioners to help solve a $14 million deficit in the stadium account by reducing operating expenses at the county-owned facilities for the Reds and Bengals and hosting more events there isn't feasible, county staffers said. In December Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune proposed the plan rather than reduce a property tax rebate for homeowners. Erica Riehl, the county’s sales tax fund specialist, wrote in a memo that most operational expenses are “non-negotiable” and establishing a revenue goal is not “practical or dependable” as an annual revenue source, The Enquirer reports. Time to find a real solution, guys.

Today's sunny weather might put you in the mood for spring and some baseball. Although the Reds' Opening Day isn't until April 5, fans can begin camping out today at Great American Ball Park to score tickets to the opener against the Miami Marlins. Tickets will go on sale 9 a.m. Saturday; there are 1,000 view level seats for $35 each and 500 standing room only tickets for $25 each. Hurry up, though: Last year the tickets sold out in less than an hour.

Speaking of sports, two special visitors will travel to Ohio next Tuesday to attend the first games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton. President Obama will bring British Prime Minister David Cameron to the Gem City to watch some hoops.

The turnabout is now complete. Ohio Gov. John Kasich sent a letter Wednesday afternoon to President Obama asking for a presidential disaster declaration for Clermont County. Shortly after last Friday's tornado, Kasich had said he didn't believe federal aid was needed. Then, after public outcry and a personal appeal from U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), Kasich switched course earlier this week and allowed Federal Emergency Management Agency teams to inspect the area. Obama already issued a major disaster declaration Tuesday for Kenton and Pendleton counties in Northern Kentucky.

An Ohio lawmaker from Greater Cincinnati wants to repeal daylight savings time in the Buckeye State. State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) will introduce a bill today to keep Ohio on standard time throughout the year. Combs called the World War I-era practice outdated and unneeded. “While it may have made sense when the government was fighting a war, it has no place in a modern world. Nowadays, all it does is inconvenience people twice a year,” he said.

The city of Cincinnati is preparing to sell historic Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine to a nonprofit group for just $1. Although the 134-year-old structure has an appraised value of $12.7 million, it needs major renovations and city officials say a private owner would have an easier time raising $165 million to upgrade and improve the facility. The private group, Music Hall Revitalization Co. Inc., also would be responsible for future operating and maintenance costs.

In news elsewhere, emails obtained by hacker group Anonymous and posted by WikiLeaks indicate terrorist leader Osama bin Laden might not have been buried at sea last year by the U.S. military, as Obama and U.S. officials said. The emails, from high-profile intelligence service Stratfor, said bin Laden was flown to Delaware on a CIA plane, then taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Md. The official version of bin Laden's death had alleged he was wrapped in a sheet and “eased” off the decks of a naval ship into the North Arabian Sea just hours after he was killed on May 2 in a raid by Navy SEALs.

Taliban fighters in Pakistan pledge to attack government, police and military officials if three of bin Laden's widows aren't released from Pakistani custody, a Taliban spokesman said today. Pakistan's government has charged bin Laden's three widows with illegally entering and staying in the nation, which observers said was probably done at the urging of U.S. officials.

Many Republican political campaign professionals believe Mitt Romney will win the GOP's presidential nomination but is perceived as weak and needs to quickly and decisively recast his image. Otherwise, they add, Romney will suffer the same fate as Bob Dole in 1996, when he lost the election to Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton.

U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete three of the best months of hiring since the recession began. The unemployment rate was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work force. The Labor Department said today that the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent last month, the lowest in three years.

European leaders are praising a recent Greek debt swap deal, adding it will pave the way for another eurozone bailout. Holders of 85.8 percent of debt subject to Greek law and 69 percent of its international debt holders agreed to a debt swap. Athens needed to get 75 percent to push through the deal, which is a condition of Greece's latest bailout. The Greek deal with its lenders is the largest restructuring of government debt in history.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 12.14.2011
 
 
alex t

Local GOP: No Deal This Time

Even as the local Republican Party searches for a competent person willing to take on Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune in next year's election, the GOP chairman insists the party won't be cutting another deal to let Portune run unopposed.

With the Dec. 7 filing deadline now past, the Hamilton County Republican Party has listed one of its staffers, Finance Director Maggie Nafziger Wuellner, as a placeholder to reserve a spot on the ballot against Portune, a longtime Democratic incumbent.

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