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by German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Government, Marijuana at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
connie pillich headshot

Morning News and Stuff

Pillich to run for treasurer, medical marijuana language approved, Medicaid rally today

State Rep. Connie Pillich announced today that she will run for state treasurer, putting the Greater Cincinnati Democrat on a collision course with current Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who ran for U.S. Senate last year. Before becoming state representative, Pillich was in the Air Force, a lawyer and a small business owner. “Whether as a captain in the Air Force, a lawyer and owner of a small business, or a representative in the legislature, I’ve dedicated my career to listening to concerns, creating a plan of action, and working hard to deliver real results,” she said in a statement.

Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the ballot language for an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, opening the possibility that the issue will be on the ballot in 2013 or 2014. CityBeat wrote more about the amendment and the group behind it here.

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion are hosting a public meeting and presentation today at 10 a.m. at the Red Cross headquarters at 2111 Dana Ave. CityBeat previously covered the Medicaid expansion, which supporters claim will save the state money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, here.

Ohio is one of many states preparing to adopt Common Core standards and other reforms in schools, but a recent survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute of the state’s superintendents declared that the state is not ready for all the changes being proposed. Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says Ohio should consider slowing down to give legislators and educators more time to work through the new requirements.

A new Ohio bill would require only one license plate per vehicle, potentially saving the state $1 million a year. But critics say the bill would limit the amount of tools available to law enforcement to fight and prevent crime.

Nearly two-thirds more suburban residents live below the poverty line in comparison to 2000, according to “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” a book by two Brookings Institution fellows. The book uses U.S. Census Bureau data to form a clearer picture on U.S. poverty trends. Previous analyses have correlated the U.S. rise in poverty with welfare reform, which former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.

Ohio and U.S. gas prices are spiking this week.

It’s going to be hot today.

A study found a correlation between fiscal conservatives and big biceps.

The first American mission to sample an asteroid is moving forward.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.09.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Sex, Environment at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_prostitution_jf003

Morning News and Stuff

Council combats human trafficking, Medicare reveals price data, Duke tops 'Dirty Dozen'

With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem. The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington.

Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.

Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

Commentary: “Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics.”

City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement, Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded, it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.

Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.

Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy. The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.

The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.

Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.

They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.08.2013
Posted In: Health, Health care, News at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
health transparency

Medicare Data Reveals Huge Price Variation at Local Hospitals

Charges and payments can differ by thousands of dollars

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled price data today for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals, revealing large price variations between hospitals around the nation, including in Cincinnati.

For treating chest pain, charges from three Cincinnati hospitals varied by thousands of dollars: Bethesda North charged on average $17,696, Christ Hospital charged $12,000 and University Hospital charged $10,130.

But the initial charge seems to have little relation to what Medicare ultimately paid out. In the three cases for chest pain, Medicare on average paid $3,242 to Bethesda North, $3,657 to Christ Hospital and $5,463 to University Hospital.

In other words, University Hospital charged about 57 percent of what Bethesda North charged, but University Hospital was ultimately paid 68 percent more.

The price variation wasn’t exclusive to chest pain, either. For major joint replacement or reattachment of a lower extremity without major complications, Bethesda North charged $61,947 and was paid $12,712 on average, Jewish Hospital charged $38,465 and was paid $14,069 on average and University Hospital charged $46,463 and was paid $20,116 on average.

In fact, all of the 100 metrics tracked by CMS had at least some degree of variation in charges and payments. Whether it was chest pain, joint replacement, diabetes or cardiovascular complications, prices always varied between hospitals — sometimes greatly, other times by a little.

The data from fiscal year 2011 shows how much hospitals initially charged Medicare for the 100 most frequently billed discharges and how much Medicare ultimately paid out. The difference between charges and payments is usually large because Medicare negotiates prices down.

CMS says the price discrepancy is happening at hospitals all around the nation: “As part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, data are being released that show significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services.”

Still, some health care advocacy groups say Ohio is doing worse than other states. A study from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a “D” for health care price transparency, based on the states’ laws and regulations. That was actually better than 29 other states, which flat-out flunked with an “F.” Only New Hampshire and Massachusetts received an “A,” the highest grade possible.

Even then, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute cautioned in the study that their grades were given on a curve, which means all states would likely fare worse if the organizations measured them based on ideals instead of comparatively.

Many health care experts and advocacy groups claim the price variation is caused by a lack of transparency in the health care system, which gives hospitals free reign to charge without typical market checks (“Healthy Discussion,” issue of April 10).

 
 
by German Lopez 04.12.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health, Health care at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio House Republicans to Defund Planned Parenthood

Pro-choice groups rebuke Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan

Pro-choice groups are criticizing Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan for pulling money from Planned Parenthood and shifting federal dollars to “anti-choice” crisis pregnancy centers.

The Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would redirect federal funding for family planning services in a way that would strip funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning providers.

During hearings at the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee today, multiple women’s health advocates, ranging from health experts to members of Planned Parenthood, said these services mostly benefit low-income women, particularly in rural areas. On the other side, representatives from anti-abortion groups spoke in support of the Ohio House Republicans’ measures, citing health care options, family values, abstinence and chastity.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says the defunding measure has become a recurring trend for Ohio Republicans, who have taken up the Planned Parenthood measure multiple times in the past couple years. But she says the threat could have more weight this time around.

“This feels different,” Copeland says. “They’ve always kind of tried to hide it before. This time they were a lot more upfront about it. It seems like they may be willing to put political capital into this fight this time.”

A separate section of the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan redirects federal funding to a program that will fund crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which provide abstinence-only family planning services.

Some researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.

A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.

Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.

A study released in January by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found CPCs routinely mislead patients. The study, which looked at CPCs around Ohio in an “undercover investigation,” said 47 percent of CPCs give misleading information about mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provide false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion.

Some supporters say the Ohio House Republicans’ budget measures aren’t specifically about Planned Parenthood, abortion or birth control. Instead, they argue they’re trying to establish more health care options for women.

But the providers that would be able to get more funding already apply for it; they just lose out to Planned Parenthood’s services, which are deemed superior by state officials who distribute the funds during the competitive distribution process.

Copeland says “no thinking person” should fall for the reasoning given by Republicans and supporters who say abortion is not one of their concerns.

“They’re trying to impose their morals on you,” Copeland says. “These are not health care experts. These are not people who are trying to find real solutions for the problems that real people face. These are people who want to impose their personal views, their personal morality on you.”

Some anti-abortion supporters, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, say abortion and broader cultural issues are absolutely part of the reason they support the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan.

“Our mission is to support the right to life from conception to natural death,” Leipold says. “Abortion happens to be a big problem right now because in the past 40 years it’s become part of the culture.”

She adds, “Now kids are learning that responsible sex means that you can have sex but just use birth control. That’s not supposed to be the attitude. The attitude is supposed to be that sex is for a committed relationship between a man and a woman in a marital relationship.”

During testimony today, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, asked state legislators to support the organization’s numerous medical services, including women’s health, family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment.

Kight also said state and federal funds do not go to abortions. Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are instead funded by private donations.

At the hearings, Republican State Rep. Ron Maag asked Kight why Planned Parenthood doesn’t shut down its three abortion clinics in Ohio if those clinics are potentially threatening the “good work” Planned Parenthood does elsewhere. Kight said Planned Parenthood believes its abortion services are “good work.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.21.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Health care at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
odjfs

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati unemployment drops, Ohio standardized test to be replaced, gas prices rise

Public service announcement: There will be no Morning News and Stuff Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving, and CityBeat will see you again on Monday!

With gains in the civilian labor force, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent. The city’s unadjusted unemployment rate is below the nation’s rate of 7.5 percent, but it’s above Hamilton County’s 6.2 percent rate and Ohio’s 6.3 percent rate.

The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. As part of broader reform, state education leaders have agreed to establish new standardized tests with a focus on college and career readiness. But the reform faces some concerns from Democrats, who worry the new standards, particularly the school report cards that evaluate schools and districts, may be unreasonably tough. An early simulation of the new school report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D- under the new system, with 23 CPS schools flunking.

Gas prices in southwest Ohio appear to be on the rise. Since Monday, they have moved up 10 to 20 cents.

The Horseshoe Casino is hiring again. This time, the casino is looking for people experienced in restaurant management, hosting, banquet, finance, marketing and guest services.

One problem Ohio must consider in its decision to expand Medicaid or not: a doctor shortage. Still, one study found states that expanded Medicaid had notable health gains. Contrary to the fiscal reasons normally cited by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, another report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money by lowering the amount of uncompensated care.

Thirteen people are going for the Ohio Supreme Court. The vacant slot needs to be filled after Justice Evelyn Stratton announced she was stepping down earlier in the year. Her replacement, who will be picked by Gov. Kasich, will finish the two years of her six-year term. Some of the candidates are from the Cincinnati area, including Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, the newly elected First District appellate judge. Surprisingly, Republican Justice Robert Cupp did not submit an application despite recently losing re-election.

A ban on internet sweepstakes cafes is on its way. The cafes are allegedly susceptible to illegal activities such as money laundering, racketeering and sex trafficking.

Marc Dann, the Democrat formerly in charge of the Ohio attorney general’s office, lost his law license for six months. Dann resigned from the role of attorney general in 2008 after 17 months of scandal-ridden service.

Three staffers at Gov. Kasich’s office were cleared by the Ohio inspector general’s office of engaging in political activity during work hours.

The mediation between Hostess and a striking union failed. The company is blaming the union for shutting down, but the free market is a likelier culprit.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is some science on weight gain.

A new way to give drugs to patients: injectable sponges that expand inside the body.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: Governor, News, Health care at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
kasich_2

Kasich Says No to State-Managed Health Exchanges

Decision means federal government will take over

Gov. John Kasich is refusing to work with Obamacare. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the governor today declined to have the state government run its health insurance exchange. With the move, the federal government will be put in charge of managing Ohio’s exchange.

Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. As part of Obamacare, states have to decide by Dec. 14 whether they’ll manage the exchanges or let the federal government do it.

Conservatives were quick to praise Kasich's decision. Americans for Prosperity applauded the choice in a statement. The Buckeye Institute put up a blog post calling the move “the right decision for Ohio.” The Coalition Opposed to Additional Taxes and Spending (COAST) called the move the right choice.

At first, the choice seems like a contradiction for conservatives. After all, they’re the group that normally rails against a big federal government. Why let the federal government take over a new, major part of the health-care system? Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, justified the decision in a statement: “Ohio would have no flexibility to shape an exchange to our needs and its costs will be so high that it just doesn’t make sense for the state to operate a health exchange under Obamacare.” In other words, even if the state managed the exchanges, it would still have to answer to the federal government.

In his letter, Kasich also stated Ohio will not give up its right to regulate the insurance market. So the federal government will have the final say on exchanges, but Kasich wants to keep the rest of the market under state regulatory control. The state will also keep control over deciding Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) eligibility.

Ohio is not alone in declining to supervise exchanges. Other states have signed off on letting the federal government manage them, including Florida and Texas.

Still, Republicans may want to proceed cautiously. Recent polling has shown that support for repealing Obamacare has massively dropped. That shift could reflect reality catching up to public opinion. Republicans tend to rail against Obamacare by saying it’s too expensive, but a Congressional Budget Office report found repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit by $109 billion between 2013 and 2022.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.09.2012
 
 
kasich_2

Republican Anti-Abortion Agenda Renewed

Governor, legislature criticized by pro-choice group

Here they go again. Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda in Ohio. Two of the governor’s October appointments have been criticized by a pro-choice group, and the state legislature is now considering a new version of the heartbeat bill.

Yesterday, Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Ohio legislature, in cooperation with anti-abortion groups, is giving another look at the heartbeat bill. When the heartbeat bill was first suggested, many on the left labeled it the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. If it became law, the bill would have banned abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically visible in ultrasounds by the sixth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Legislators and anti-abortion groups aren’t offering specifics on the new bill. Ohio Right to Life opposed the heartbeat bill when it was first suggested because the group believed it was too likely to fail in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld abortion rights in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The new version of the heartbeat bill will likely be retooled to sustain any court challenges.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says Republicans haven’t taken the right lessons from the Nov. 6 election: “It’s clear that they didn’t get the memo. Pro-choice Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to re-elect President Obama and reject this war on women. Here we are, we haven’t even made it to the weekend, and our senate president is resuming attacks on women’s reproductive health care.” She added, “I think they didn’t care what Ohio women thought before the election, and it’s clear they don’t care now either.”

In response to questions about whether the governor will support a new heartbeat bill, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Republican Gov. John Kasich, said in an email, “We are watching the Senate’s activity closely.”

A few appointments from Kasich have also come under scrutiny. On Oct. 12, Kasich appointed Marshall Pitchford, a board member at Ohio Right to Life, to a committee in charge of filling a vacancy in the Ohio Supreme Court. On Oct. 29, Kasich appointed Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, to serve a five-year term on the State Medical Board of Ohio, which is in charge of the state’s medical regulations.

In a statement, Copeland criticized the appointment to the Supreme Court committee: “Because legislation promoted by Ohio Right to Life is likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court, it is inappropriate for Pitchford to be placed in a position where he can cherry-pick a justice to serve on that court.”

She also criticized the appointment of Gonidakis to the State Medical Board. Copeland says she’s “concerned” that he’s on the board to regulate and restrict access to abortions. “No group in the state of Ohio has done more to interfere with the private medical decisions of Ohio women,” she says. “For their leader to now be on the State Medical Board is completely inappropriate and disturbing.”

She added that the two appointments show Kasich is “playing a more active role in the war on women than Ohioans realize.”

According to Gonidakis’ biography on the Ohio Right to Life website, Gonidakis went to school for law at the University of Akron. No professional medical experience is noted.

Nichols said in an email the appointments should come as no surprise: “The governor believes strongly in the sanctity of human life, so it's a surprise that someone would be surprised that he practices what he preaches.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.09.2012
 
 
niehaus copy

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio may get anti-abortion law, city budget proposal soon, state ponders health exchange

If Tuesday's election was supposed to be a strong message from social progressives, women and younger voters, Ohio Republicans are not getting it. Instead, they are continuing their pursuit of the heartbeat bill. That’s what Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday.  At the time the heartbeat bill was originally suggested, it was called the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Yet Republicans, in cooperation with anti-abortion organizations, are pushing a version of the bill once again. Ohio Republicans have also shown interest in continuing their crusade against Planned Parenthood, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Cincinnati’s budget proposal is coming later this month. Specifically, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says it will arrive Nov. 26. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and his budget team are currently working on a budget to close a $40 million general fund deficit. One idea that was suggested recently in a memo was privatizing parking services, but it faces skepticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget will first go through Dohoney, then the mayor and then City Council. However, this calendar year’s budget will only cover six months, and then the city will transition into filing budgets based on fiscal years on July 1.

To match some of Obamacare’s requirements, Ohio officials are considering a hybrid approach to health care exchanges. The exchanges are federally regulated insurance markets. As part of Obamacare, states have the option of creating their own exchange programs, which have to be approved by the federal government; setting up a hybrid approach, which is what Ohio is looking into doing; or putting the responsibility on the federal government.

During the lame duck session, the Ohio legislature will take up legislation to regulate puppy mills and election reform. Regulations on puppy mills were previously covered by CityBeat when a group tried to get dog auctions banned in the state. Election reform could mean a lot of things. The current Republican-controlled legislature previously tried to restrict and limit in-person early voting before repealing its own rules. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has also suggested “more strict” voter ID laws.

In other election news, an upset federal judge demanded Husted’s attorneys explain a last-minute directive that changed rules on provisional ballots. U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley told the lawyers, “You have a lot of explaining to do.” The directive, which Husted sent out Nov. 2, shifted the burden of providing identification for provisional ballots from poll workers to voters. Voter advocates argued the directive was against Ohio law and would lead to more provisional ballots, which are ballots filed when a voter’s eligibility to vote is uncertain, being wrongly rejected. Husted and Republicans were heavily criticized for alleged attempts at voter suppression in the run-up to the election.

City Council approved a $750,000 tax break for the E.W. Scripps Company. As part of the deal, Scripps will hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.

The Wall Street Journal covered Cincinnati’s “pie war” between Frisch’s and Busken Bakery.

CincyTech, a nonprofit venture organization, has invested $14.3 million since it began five years ago. Its investments, which focus on information technology and life sciences, have helped create more than 360 jobs, according to company officials.

As part of a national movement, Cincinnati-based Kroger will be making an effort to hire more military veterans. 

Republican Gov. John Kasich is focused on his re-election bid for 2014. When asked about whether he will run for president in 2016, Kasich said he has not made any announcements. The news came shortly after the Ohio Democratic Party began printing signs that say “Kasich... you’re next” on one side and “2014 can’t come soon enough” on the other.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel won’t be leaving state politics any time soon. He says he’ll be running for re-election in 2014. Mandel is the Republican who led a failed bid for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. His campaign was notorious for its dishonesty.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, may take up running the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2014. That would put him in charge of managing the Republican Party’s senate campaigns for the year. Republicans are expected to make gains in the U.S. Senate in 2014 because 20 Democratic seats will be up for grabs, in comparison to 13 Republican seats, and 12 of the Democratic seats are in swing or red states.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives won the popular vote, but they ultimately lost the House. The culprit for the discrepancy seems to be politicized redistricting. In Ohio, the Republican-led committee redrew congressional district boundaries to give Republicans an advantage. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Warren County, which slanted the district in favor of Republicans and diluted the say of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urbanites. On this year’s ballot, Issue 2 attempted to tackle the redistricting issue, but Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted it down.

Some scientists are really excited by the discovery of “Super Earth.”

What doomed the Mayans? Climate change.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.23.2012
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was last night. The general consensus from media pundits is Obama won by a substantial margin. But political scientists say debates typically have negligible electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up in Ohio by 1.9 points and Romney is up nationally by 0.6 points. Ohio is looking like a must-win state for both campaigns, so Obama’s advantage there is a very bad sign for Romney. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ election forecast blog, has an explanation of how and why the current electoral landscape favors Obama.   

In a follow-up to the debate, Romney will be visiting Greater Cincinnati Thursday.

A new motion by City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could encourage more people and businesses to make use of the city’s LEED program. The program uses special tax exemptions to encourage buildings to be cleaner and greener. 

Cincinnati’s City Planning Commission approved Plan Cincinnati Friday. With the approval, the plan’s only hurdle is City Council. If passed, the plan will reform city policies to put a new emphasis on the city’s urban core. That means a cleaner, greener city with more transportation options, ranging from walking and biking to the streetcar and rail. CityBeat wrote about Plan Cincinnati here. The full plan can be found here.  

Three Republicans in the state legislature, including Cincinnati’s Sen. Bill Seitz and Rep. Louis Tehrar, introduced a bill that would require health insurance providers to cover autism. Critics say the move could cost small businesses too much during an economic downturn, but supporters say it’s necessary to Ohio’s mental health coverage requirement, which was passed in 2007. Seitz says the bill could also save money by bringing down special education costs.

In a sign of Ohio's education funding problems, one report found two of three Ohio school levies are asking for additional funding. But Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) levy will only not ask for extra funding or higher taxes; instead, it asks for funding and taxes to remain the same. CityBeat covered Issue 42, the CPS levy, in-depth here. 

A new report found Ohio students graduate with more debt than most of the nation. The report named the state a “high debt state” with an average of $28,683 in student loans — above the national average of $26,600.

Despite what a recent conflict between Commissioner Greg Hartmann and Mayor Mark Mallory implies, Cincinnati and Hamilton County are working together. The city and county are cooperating on the Banks project, funding the Port Authority and operating the Metropolitan Sewer District. 

Cincinnati is working harder to enforce a chronic nuisance disorder. A property is classified as a chronic nuisance when it surpasses a certain amount of crimes and violations. The law is meant to hold property owners accountable for what happens in their buildings.

There are more signs that Ohio’s fracking boom may not be sustainable. Natural gas producers are not seeing the profits they expected from the boom. For many, the boom is quickly turning into a bust. Still, natural gas prices have massively dropped, and an analysis at The Washington Post suggests natural gas could play an important role in reducing carbon emissions. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the fracking boom in Ohio and the faulty regulations on the industry here. 

The Ohio Board of Regents is using a grant to award 1,300 associate degrees to transfer students over two years.

Fourteen recreational trails in Ohio will get $1.6 million in federal funding, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, none of the trails are in Hamilton County.

The key to humanity: cooked food.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.12.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Health care, News, Education, Voting at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
joebiden

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The vice presidential debate between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan took place last night. The general consensus among pundits is the debate was a draw, with perhaps Biden edging out ahead. Regardless of who won, political scientists say debates have little-to-no electoral impact in the long term, especially vice presidential debates.  

Mitt Romney made a bit of a flub yesterday. He told The Columbus Dispatch, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack.’” However, that’s not completely accurate. Research shows the uninsured are a lot more likely to die from a heart attack, mostly because they get substantially less preventive health care.  

PolitiFact Ohio says Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is wrong about Issue 2. Specifically, Husted said if a member of the independent commission was bribed, the member could not be kicked out of office. PolitiFact says the claim is false because methods for removing unelected officials from office exist outside of the redistricting amendment. If Issue 2 passed, redistricting would be handled by an independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials redraw district boundaries, but they often use the process for political advantage. The Republican majority redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, to include Warren County, giving Republicans an advantage by giving them more rural voters that are more likely to vote for them.

But Husted did have some good news yesterday. A federal appeals court judge upheld a decision requiring election officials to count provisional ballots that were brought about due to poll worker mistakes. Husted didn’t much care for that part of the ruling. However, the judge also said a legal signature must be required on every provisional ballot, overturning that part of the previous decision. A very small win, but Husted seemed happy in a statement: “I am extremely pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with me that we must have a valid, legal signature on all provisional ballots.”

The mayor and Cincinnati Public Schools announced a new joint effort that won a $40,000 grant yesterday. The effort will go to 50 tutors, who will help 100 students meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

However, a loophole in the Third Grade Reading Guarantee may allow third-graders to skip tests to move onto the fourth grade.

Out of 12 similar regions, Cincinnati ranks No. 10 on 15 indicators including jobs, cost of living and population. Cincinnati did fairly well in terms of just jobs, though; the city was No. 6 in that category. The ranks come from Vision 2015 and Agenda 360.

With the support of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio is trying to do more with university research. The theme of the push is to build stronger links between universities and the private sector to boost stronger, entrepreneurial research.

Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Ohio’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is in trouble again for not answering questions. A testy exchange on live radio started when Ron Ponder, the host, asked Mandel about potential cronyism in the treasurer’s office, and Mandel replied by implying Ponder is with the Brown campaign. Ponder got so fed up he eventually ended the exchange by saying, “Hang up on this dude, man.”

Does eating more chocolate earn a nation more Nobel prizes? Science says no. I say yes.

 
 

 

 

 
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