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by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012
 
 
gun

Morning News and Stuff

A major roundup of people suspected of committing violent crimes in Cincinnati continues today. On Thursday, police announced they had arrested 30 people and confiscated more than 200 guns in raids in neighborhoods including Avondale, Madisonville, Price Hill, Walnut Hills and elsewhere. Cincinnati police are being assisted in the effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Police Chief James Craig said the sweep would be ongoing for the next few days. About 100 additional suspects are being sought.

A 52-year-old woman who hasn't been able to speak for her entire adult life has now found her voice. Jan Christian recently completed a series of seven operations on her larynx to restore her speech at University Hospital. When she was 17, Christian was in a severe automobile accident in which she was thrown forward and hit her throat on the dashboard. She also broke her neck in four places.

Kentucky has changed a law so Amish people can drive their horse-drawn buggies without committing a crime. Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows the Amish to use reflective silver or white tape on their buggies rather than the traditional fluorescent orange signs that makes the buggies more visible to approaching motorists. Some Amish farmers in western Kentucky had served jail time for refusing to use the emblems. They said the triangular shape represents the Trinity, which they are not allowed to display, and that the fluorescent orange calls undue attention to them against the norms of their religion.

In celebration of National Hug Day (yes, that's a real thing), several students from Xavier University will give free hugs on downtown's Fountain Square today. About 20 students will flock to the square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., holding up signs that read, “free hugs.” Oddly, National Hug Day actually is celebrated on Jan. 21. Well, people always say Cincinnati is a little bit behind the times.

Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in an attack against a gay man last year, marking the first time the law has been applied in a case involving a victim's sexual orientation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lexington announced the charges against two Harlan County men on Thursday. A statement said David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins were indicted in an April 2011 attack on a gay man in an eastern Kentucky park.

In news elsewhere, U.S. and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea's failure to launch a rocket into orbit Thursday will prompt the nation to take some sort of aggressive action in an attempt to restore its honor. The most common fear is that the secretive, authoritarian regime will conduct a nuclear test, which could heighten tensions with South Korea and Japan. The botched launch was supposed to carry a satellite into orbit for weather observation, as the centerpiece of a national holiday weekend to honor the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

As if that's not troubling enough, the Russian military anticipates an attack will occur on Iran by summer and has developed a plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic. Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to NATO, warned against an attack on Iran. "Iran is our neighbor," Rogozin said. "If Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security."

A United Nations team of military observers is ready to deploy to Syria to begin a monitoring mission as soon as the Security Council approves its mission, which could be later today. The team is standing by to begin overseeing a tenuous but apparently stable ceasefire, which is now in its second day. Protests in the wake of that ceasefire have broken out across the nation, and government forces have responded by firing into the air, reportedly killing one protester, activists alleged.

Apple Inc. is rejecting the U.S. Justice Department's allegations that it colluded with publishers over electronic book pricing, calling the charges "simply not true." The U.S. government this week sued Apple and five publishers, saying they conspired to fix the prices of electronic books. It has reached a settlement with three of the publishers that could lead to cheaper e-books for consumers.

The mayor of Newark, N.J., was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house. Cory Booker arrived home when he saw flames and smoke from the second floor of the building next to his home, and no residents outside. Booker rushed in and his security detail followed. Guards rescued two people on the first floor, while Booker rescued a woman on the second floor. No serious injuries were reported. (Mark Mallory, you need to step up your game.)
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.09.2012
Posted In: Taxes, Public Policy, Sports, Police, Business, Courts at 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tickets

Morning News and Stuff

Buyer beware! Cincinnati police are investigating reports of several hundred counterfeit tickets to Thursday's Opening Day game. The Cincinnati Reds say the tickets were sold on the streets in the lead up to the game versus the Marlins. At least 47 of the bogus tickets were collected when people tried to use them at the gate.

Government, business and civic leaders are mulling a proposal to ask Hamilton County voters to raise the sales tax to help fund the operation and maintenance of the region's arts institutions. If a sales tax is proposed, voters could be asked to increase the current 6.5 percent sales tax by either one-quarter or one-half of a cent. Beneficiaries of the revenue might include the Museum Center at Union Terminal, Music Hall, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig congratulated 10 at-risk youth Saturday who are the city's first boot camp graduates. The students from Rothenberg School were formally recognized for graduating from the first official Children in Trauma Intervention Boot Camp.

A Pennsylvania man and two Illinois homeowners are suing Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank and six mortgage insurers, alleging the bank got "kickbacks" from the insurers in violation of federal law. Fifth Third had arrangements with the insurers under which they bought "reinsurance" from the bank, according to the complaint. From 2004 to 2011, Fifth Third received $54 million in reinsurance premium payments from insurers and paid out $4.9 million in claims.

A fraternity at Miami University is suspended from operations at the Oxford campus. Sigma Chi has been told to move out of their chapter house by their national headquarters. Officials didn't release details of the suspension, only stating it's the result of some kind of inappropriate behavior. Fraternity members have until Wednesday to move out. Let the speculation begin.

In news elsewhere, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq are criticizing U.S. policy toward their nation. They say the Obama administration is ignoring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasingly authoritarian behavior. Since U.S. troops withdrew in December, Maliki has extended his reach to take on his political rivals, drawing accusations from Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities that he is intent on establishing a dictatorship.

Comedian and author Bill Cosby said in an interview that George Zimmerman never would've confronted Trayvon Martin if Zimmerman hadn't been carrying a gun, and that no neighborhood watch volunteers should be carrying weapons. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin — an unarmed African-American teenager — Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., allegedly in self-defense. “The power-of-the-gun mentality had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for backup in similar situations,” Cosby said. “When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody.”

Independent voters like President Obama better but feel ideologically closer to Mitt Romney, according to a new poll of a dozen battleground states released Monday. The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group for the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, examined attitudes of “swing independents” who express views of Romney or Obama that are neither strongly favorable nor unfavorable. In the poll, he led Romney 44 percent to 38 percent.

Syrian forces have fired across the border into Turkey, hitting a refugee camp, just hours before a United Nations deadline to end the violent uprising in the nation is slated to take effect. Five people – three Syrians, one Turkish translator and one Turkish policeman – were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilis, according to the governor Yusuf Odabas.

Veteran TV journalist Mike Wallace, best known as one of the original co-anchors of 60 Minutes on CBS, died Saturday at age 93. The network plans an hour-long tribute to Wallace and his career on 60 Minutes next Sunday. In announcing his death, CBS lauded the brazen tactics that it said had made Wallace a household name "synonymous with the tough interview — a style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago." For the past three years, Wallace lived in a nursing care center and reportedly suffered from dementia.
 
 
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 03.23.2012
Posted In: Business, Police, Environment, War , President Obama at 08:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pink-slime_0

Morning News and Stuff

Amid a growing public outcry, Kroger has joined the list of grocery store chains that will stop using so-called “pink slime” in their ground beef. The Cincinnati-based grocer announced Thursday it will no longer sell beef with the additive. Ever since ABC News did a report a few weeks ago on the meat filler, many consumers have pushed to have it either eliminated or clearly identified on packages. The product contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed, which is then treated with ammonia. Just eat more chicken.

The police chief of Wilder, Ky., entered a not guilty plea Thursday to a drunken driving charge. Alexandria Police arrested Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse on March 1 for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. During the court hearing, a prosecutor said Rouse violated the conditions of a pre-trial release from jail by allegedly driving a vehicle after drinking in a bar. Rouse said he was unaware of the conditions surrounding his pre-trial release. Chief, call a cab next time.

A team of doctors from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is partnering with a hospital in Ghana to complete more than 30 advanced surgeries there during a week-long mission trip. The team's focus will be on pediatric colorectal and gynecological conditions, specialties not widely practiced in Africa.

About 128,000 Ohio workers hold jobs related to the production of “green” goods and services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s first-ever green jobs report. Those workers represent 2.6 percent of total employment in the Buckeye State and are spread across various industries, based on a 2010 survey. Critics, however, say tax incentives create an artificial demand for such jobs.

Ohio leads the nation in property insurance claims for the theft of copper and other metals, according to an organization that fights insurance fraud. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says Ohio property owners made 2,398 such claims during the three-year period from 2009-11. Texas ranked second, followed by Georgia, California and Illinois.

Covington officials are upset about a rowdy St. Patrick's Day crowd in MainStrasse last weekend that resulted in a serious assault, unruly behavior and piles of trash left for residents to pick up. The owners of Cock and Bull English Pub and Pachinko's were apologetic Thursday after their advertised St. Patrick's Day parties drew a larger than expected crowd, which they blamed on the holiday falling on a Saturday this year and the unseasonably warm weather.

In news elsewhere, civil liberties advocates are concerned by new rules approved by the Obama administration that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism. The changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center to keep information for up to five years. Previously, the center was required to promptly destroy, usually within 180 days, any information about U.S. citizens unless a connection to terrorism was evident.

A U.S. soldier who allegedly shot and killed civilians in Afghanistan reportedly will be charged with 17 counts of murder. Robert Bales, an army staff sergeant and Norwood native, also faces six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault, an official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Bales, 38, is suspected of leaving a military base in Kabul, entering homes and shooting villagers, including nine children, in their sleep on March 11.

A teenager in Minnesota is being prevented from bringing a porn actress to his high school prom. Mike Stone, 18, tweeted various actresses in the porn industry, seeking one to go to the prom in St. Paul. Megan Piper – star of films like “Tugged by an Angel” and “Squirting 2” – said on her Twitter account that she would go if Stone paid for her transportation from California. Once school officials learned of the plan from another parent on an Internet message board, however, they put a stop to it. They said her visit would violate a school policy that states visitors are allowed unless "the visit is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district." Hate the game, don't hate the player.

Census officials soon will allow first-time, instant public access to records that provide a snapshot of Americans at the end of the Great Depression and on the verge of World War II. Beginning April 2, the 1940 Census will be available online for free. The records document details of 132 million people, including 21 million who are still alive today, and what their lives were like. The project is expected to be a boon for history buffs and researchers.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.06.2012
Posted In: Police, City Council, Spending at 05:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Sittenfeld Wants Police Recruit Class

Councilman: It’s needed to offset retirements

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld wants his colleagues to approve a police recruit class for next year, the first since June 2008.

There currently are 1,022 sworn officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, along with 115 non-sworn staff. The high-mark during the past decade occurred in 2008, when there was a total of 1,148 sworn officers and 229 non-sworn staff.

By November 2013, based on department retirement projections and without the addition of a new recruit class, the Police Department's complement will be down to 964 sworn officers — 184 fewer sworn officers than in 2008.

“By the end of 2014, without the addition of a recruit class, our police force will be 197 officers below the authorized complement level,” Sittenfeld wrote in a memo to his colleagues.

“The Police Department has communicated the importance of a recruit class as a simple reflection of the numbers,” he added. “In the same way that council has needed to be realistic about our highest police staffing levels being financially unsustainable, we must also be realistic about how low we can allow staffing levels to fall and still provide the service that is expected.”

Other council members haven’t yet weighed in on the issue, which is a topic that likely will be brought up during budget hearings later this year.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.05.2012
 
 
kasich

Morning News and Stuff

Even though more than 250 buildings were damaged in the small Clermont County town of Moscow by Friday's tornado and severe weather, Gov. John Kasich so far is standing by his decision not to seek federal aid. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin assessing damages in Northern Kentucky and Indiana today, but Kasich said it's premature to know if FEMA help is needed here. The agency can provide low-interest loans to repair damage not covered by insurance.

Hamilton County commissioners voted in December to sell the Drake Center hospital in Hartwell to the University of Cincinnati, but the transaction still hasn't been completed. Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune agreed to sell Drake for $15 million, for a cash infusion to cover a property tax rebate to homeowners for one year. The rebate was promised in 1996 to convince county voters to approve a sales-tax increase to build new stadiums for the Reds and the Bengals.

The police chief of a small Northern Kentucky city was arrested Thursday night for allegedly driving while drunk. Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse was arrested in nearby Alexandria after police there received a tip about 30 minutes earlier. Sounds like Rouse might have an enemy or two.

And that's one for the Reds. After a 6-6 tie game against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, the hometown team scored an 8-6 victory Sunday in preseason play in Goodyear, Ariz. WCPO's Mark Slaughter is concerned about the inconsistent performance of pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who gave up a hit and a walk to the first two players he faced. The teams play again at 3:05 p.m. today.

Tuesday is Ohio's eagerly awaited primary election, part of the multiple contests going on nationwide that day. But once again, the Buckeye State is viewed as the key battleground that could make or break the campaigns of some Republican presidential hopefuls. A Quinnipiac University poll released today finds Mitt Romney has the momentum. Quinnipiac said 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters prefer Romney, compared to 31 percent for Rick Santorum, a 10-point shift from a Feb. 27 poll that favored Santorum.

In news elsewhere, some Republican Party insiders are comparing the GOP's position this year to the 2005 film, Batman Begins. In that flick, a group of villains believe Gotham City is beyond saving and the only way to fix it is to first destroy it, then let something better rise from the ashes. The Republican Party's contentious presidential primary battle might be the exact type of showdown between its moderate and conservative factions that is needed to let the party recover and prosper in the future, some strategists believe. (So, does that make Rick Santorum the Scarecrow?)

Love him or hate him, Ron Paul is refreshingly candid and free of spin. The Republican presidential wannabe expressed doubt Sunday that radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was sincere when he apologized for calling a law student a "slut" over her support for President Obama's new policy on insurance coverage of contraceptives. Limbaugh only did it because advertisers were leaving his show, Paul said on Face the Nation. Well, duh.

An Iranian-American convicted in Iran of spying for the CIA will get a new trial. In what's being viewed as an improvement in relations between the two nations, Iran's Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence given to Amir Mirzai Hekmati, stating his earlier trial “was not complete.”

There appears to be little chance that a proposal by the Obama administration to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent for all companies, while also eliminating loopholes and deductions, will advance this year. Some politicians are leery of abolishing the deductions in an election year, NPR reports.
 
 
by Danny Cross 03.02.2012
 
 
art17205widea.nar

Morning News and Stuff

O’l girl Leslie Ghiz is back on local government’s payroll after being hired by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, which will allow her to run in a judicial race as a badass crime-fighting prosecutor (The Enquirer’s words, not mine). Deters, of course, is the former chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party and Ghiz is the former City Council woman who was voted out last fall and then decided to move out of Cincinnati.

Tim Burke, head of the Hamilton County Democratic Party called the move “political as hell,” while Ghiz had Deters’ spokeswoman explain how Deters’ office is still allowed to hire one more lawyer if it wants to.

Ghiz will earn a $55,000 salary, down from $60,000 she made in the part-time position of City Councilperson.

Gov. Kasich is apparently really proud of the new energy goals he outlined yesterday, as evidenced by the 15 press releases he's sent to the media since then. Kasich: We have other stuff to write about other than your thoughts on how cool it is that someone called Ohio “the Saudi Arabia of coal.”

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig would like to skip the police certification process even though he wouldn’t be able to arrest people if he does.

Riverbend has gone the way of 1970’s Riverfront Stadium, installing artificial turf on its concert lawn.

Milford 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz was voted off American Idol island last night, not quite reaching the round of 13. Good try, Eben!

Oh snap! Obama on Iran: “I don’t bluff.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are coming to Ohio, and they’re reportedly “neck-and-neck.”

A mentally disabled South Carolina man who has been on death row for 30 years could soon be out of prison for a bond hearing. Edward Lee Elmore’s sentence has already been overturned three times and reduced from the death sentence to life in prison. From The Washington Post:

As other death row inmates were exonerated because of new DNA testing technology, Elmore’s attorneys asked a judge in 2000 to overturn his convictions because a blond hair found on Edwards after her death did not match her or Elmore.

Elmore’s lawyers thought the blond hair may have belonged to Edwards’ next-door neighbor and they asked a judge to exhume the man’s body to test his DNA, but a judge denied the request.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Elmore began to see his fate turn around. A South Carolina judge ruled he was mentally unfit and could not be executed, per a 2002 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

State prosecutors didn’t oppose a judge’s decision to sentence him to life in prison, and Elmore was, after 28 years, moved from the state’s death row to another maximum-security prison.

Weather services (and people know what the sky is supposed to look like) are concerned about tornadoes in the Midwest today. Most worrisome are extreme southern Indiana, central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee, with storms expected across the Gulf Coast states afterward.

Google offers some answers to questions about its weird privacy changes.

Oh, and it’s Bockfest Weekend. Grab your digital camera and the biggest mug you can find.


 
 
by Danny Cross 02.24.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, President Obama, Science, Sports, Police at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
art23269widea

Morning News and Stuff

The Enquirer today looks into an issue CityBeat investigated back in May of last year — the ongoing debate weighing the danger police pursuits pose to innocent bystanders and the police officers themselves. Our story referenced the March 16, 2011 deaths of a downtown taxi driver and his passenger when a fleeing suspect broadsided the taxi. In that case, the Cincinnati Police Department determined that police had followed the department’s pursuit policy. The Enquirer’s story suggests that Cincinnati Police routinely fail to follow the pursuit policy and that crashes and injuries during police chases occur more here than the national average.

President Obama dropped $90 mil on a couple of local non-profit development companies. Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) and the Uptown Consortium were awarded $50 million and $40 million tax credits, respectively, by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as part of a program aimed at spurring retail and residential growth. 3CDC says it plans to create a rock climbing wall/juice bar/light-free techno dance hall in order to draw more YPs to the area. (Just kidding.)

P&G plans to cut 5,700 jobs next year (and we just had our resumes all cleaned up to prove we could write the best stories about how Tide makes clothing — and life — better for everyone…).

A 15-year-old Milford High School freshman named Eben Christian Franckewitz has advanced to next Thursday’s live episode of American Idol. Franckewitz is reportedly the first area reside to become one of the 24 Idol semifinalists. Pick it up, area talented people!

The New York Police Department is defending its recent practice of spying on mosques using tactics it normally reserves for criminal organizations. The AP got a hold of documents that showed police "collecting the license plates of worshipers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and cataloging sermons through a network of informants."

The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD's roster of paid informants monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The records offer the first glimpse of what those informants, known informally as "mosque crawlers," gleaned from inside the houses of worship.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says his police would never spy on Muslims.

Officials in Australia have opened another investigation into the 1980 death of a 9-week-old baby whose parents say was taken away by a dingo. The mother was convicted of murder and later cleared of the charge.

Seven Marines were killed in a training crash near the California-Arizona border Wednesday night, one of the deadliest training crashes ever. Officials say it will take weeks to determine why the two helicopters crashed in midair during a routine exercise.

JC Penny lost $87 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. CEO Ron Johnson says it’s cool, though, because the company was getting a makeover and those are expensive.

On the other side of the fence dividing companies that lose money and companies that make mass of it, Apple is so flush its CEO says the company has too much cash. Tim Cook is reportedly “wondering what to do with the company's $97.6 billion.

More drivers than ever are about to be paying $5 per galling for gas, although if we vote Newt Gingrich for president he’ll make it $2.50.

A new study says that global warming could shrink the human race. Wait, what?!? It’s true: NEW GLOBAL WARMING THREAT: HUMAN RACE MAY SHRINK. Great ... just great.

Oh, and the UC basketball team beat No. 17 Louisville last night, a big step toward playing in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Nice, one-handed jam, Dion!

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.17.2012
 
 
1

Morning News and Stuff

Duke Energy announced Thursday night that it will help fund a campaign to raise private and government money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge. It will cost about $2.3 billion to replace the span, which carries traffic from I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig said
an audit to determine methods for improving the Police Department’s efficiency is continuing. Among the latest recommendations, the department will no longer seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and that response of a recent shift to 10-hour workdays has been positive.

Three development groups
have submitted proposals to Covington officials, each vying to be selected to reshape that city’s riverfront area. One of the proposals, drafted by Corporex Realty & Investment and Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, involves refurbishing the Waterfront Restaurant and creating a floating boardwalk, marina and wharf.

A Cincinnati police officer assigned to the Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) program
was suspended without pay this week after she was charged with tampering with records, securing writings by deception and forgery. Sandra Johnson, 38, allegedly said she taught DARE classes and got paid for them when she didn’t. DARE is among the programs being ended by Chief Craig; he has called it ineffective.

In news elsewhere,
German President Christian Wulff resigned from his position today as head of state amid mounting criticism over a home loan scandal. Wulff has been plagued by allegations since mid-December over his connections to wealthy businessmen, initially over an advantageous home loan from a friend's wife. He then faced claims he tried to hush up the story, as well as reports of free vacations accepted from friends.

The Obama administration’s newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
wants to begin monitoring and regulating debt collectors and credit bureaus for the first time. Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said he wants to ensure people aren’t subjected to abusive practices.

An influential group of scientists issued a report this week
pressing U.S. officials to tighten regulations of so-called “fracking” operations to reduce environmental and health risks. The independent review of fracking by professors at the University of Texas in Austin said that the development of shale gas was "essential to the energy security of the U.S. and the world,” but added the process needs more oversight.

The recent brouhaha over a new federal rule that requires insurance coverage of birth control for women reveals that
the Roman Catholic Church has lost its influence in U.S. politics, some observers said. An AlterNet article noted that even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to a compromise rule pushed by President Obama, many other Catholic groups — including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Health Association — are ignoring the conference and accepting it.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, have arrested 16 students in
a major drug bust at Texas Christian University, a conservative evangelical institution. The drugs involved included marijuana, ecstasy pills, a powdered form of ecstasy commonly called “molly” and prescription drugs such as Xanax, hydrocodone and Oxycontin. Four football players were among those arrested.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.23.2012
Posted In: News, Republicans, Police, Congress at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
giffords

Morning News and Stuff

Hey, did you hear that Newt Gingrich pulled off an upset victory in South Carolina over the weekend? Of course you did; you’re CityBeat readers, so you’re all well read. But any rational observer must wonder if Republicans truly think Newt can win in a general election, where there are actual moderates and progressives voting.

There’s already a fake front page of The Washington Post circulating around the Internet with President Obama smiling broadly at news of Gingrich’s victory.

Read More

 
 

 

 

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by German Lopez 02.04.2014
Posted In: News, Science, Police, State Legislature at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City to add more cops, evolution “debate” today, Winburn considers State Senate race

Mayor John Cranley, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other city officials yesterday announced a police plan to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and reach out to youth. Blackwell acknowledged more cops alone won’t solve or prevent the city’s heightened levels of violent crimes and homicides, but he said changing the level of enforcement through new tactics, such as hot spot policing, could help. A lot of research supports hot spot policing, although the practice can sometimes backfire, as “stop and frisk” did in New York City, if it targets minorities.

Bill Nye the Science Guy today will debate Creation Museum owner Ken Ham. The debate will focus on evolution, which is overwhelmingly supported by science, and biblical creationism, which has no scientific evidence to support it. The debate will be streamed live here.

Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is considering a run for the Ohio Senate. Winburn would run in the heavily Democratic 9th Senate District. So far, there are two likely Democratic opponents: former Councilman Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Dale Mallory. The seat is open because State Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic incumbent, is term limited.

Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel might get two Democratic opponents in this year’s election: Sean Feeney, a North College Hill resident who already filed, and potentially Paul Komerak, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive committee. If both Komerak and Feeney run, they could face off in a Democratic primary.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved tax credits for Tom + Chee to entice the grilled cheese and tomato soup chain to keep its headquarters downtown as it expands nationally. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned whether tax breaks should be given so leniently, but other council members argued the tax deals keep jobs in the city.

City Council might structurally balance the budget and fix the underfunded pension system to stabilize Cincinnati’s bond rating.

The Ohio Senate is still mulling over ways to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. CityBeat covered the standards in greater detail here and here.

Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper wants to reform how the state picks outside law firms to avoid appearances of pay-to-play that have mired Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. A previous Dayton Daily News investigation found firms lobbying for state assignments contributed $1.3 million to DeWine’s campaign.

Attorneys for the Ohio inmate next scheduled for execution asked for a stay to avoid a “lingering death” similar to the 26-minute, seemingly painful execution of Dennis McGuire. CityBeat covered McGuire’s execution and the concerns it raised in further detail here.

Enrollment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities dropped by 2 percent in the latest fall semester.

Ohio gas prices ticked up at the start of the week, but the lowest average was in Cincinnati.

Scientists claim space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.

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by German Lopez 02.03.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Mayor at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cpd more cops

City Unveils Plan to Add More Cops

Proposal shifts enforcement to overtime, hot spots and youth outreach

City officials on Monday announced a new public safety initiative that promises to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and do more to reach out to youth.

The comprehensive plan comes after a rough start to the year, with homicides and violent crime ticking up even as the weather remains cold.

Among other initiatives, the plan will add more cops on the ground through new hires, more overtime and a new recruit class — the first since 2008.

“The message to people is that help is on the way,” Mayor John Cranley said.

The plan will come at higher costs to an already-strained operating budget. Cranley said the Cincinnati Police Department set aside nearly $1 million for the proposal through June, while the remaining $5.6 million should be funded in the city’s $370-plus million operating budget.

When asked whether initiatives like the one announced Monday will hurt the budget, Cranley reiterated his long-standing position that public safety takes top priority in the city budget.

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said the refocus intends to prevent, not just solve, crimes. He acknowledged more cops alone won’t end the citys crime problem, but he argued increasing the level of evidence-based enforcement — through new tactics supported by more cops on the streets — could make a difference.

Cranley and Blackwell cautioned the results might not be immediate, but they said it’s an important step to stop levels of crime local residents are clearly unhappy with.

Hot spot policing carries a high level of empirical support. In two different studies from Rutgers and the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands, researchers argued the strategy doesn’t always displace crime; it can also prevent crime by deterring and discouraging future incidents in hot spots and surrounding areas — what researchers call a “diffusion” of benefits.

But the concept also needs to be executed carefully. In New York City, “stop and frisk” became a fairly unpopular type of hot spot policing after some reports found the strategy targeted racial makeups in neighborhoods more than levels of crime.

Of course, better policing isn’t the only way to combat crime. As two examples, lead abatement and ending the war on drugs could prevent violence by reducing aggression and eliminating a huge source of income for drug cartels.

This story was updated to include more information from the city managers memo.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.03.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Drugs, 2014 election at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

City to add more cops, bill enables needle exchanges, Portune drops gubernatorial bid

Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.

A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.

Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.

Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.

Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.

January birthed a few cute zoo animals.

A study found 1,300 airborne microbes in Beijing's smog.

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by German Lopez 01.07.2014
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up

If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.

Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."

The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race.

Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.

The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."

The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.

Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.

About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.

Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.

Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.

A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.

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by German Lopez 01.06.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Guns at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Police Explain Local Increase in Homicides

Gang-related activity driving increase in violence, according to police

Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to address the local increase in homicides.

The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to police statistics.

“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell agreed are unacceptable across the country.

“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said. “That’s what those stats are saying.”

The key driver of the increases, according to police, is gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade.

“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.

Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories.

“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”

Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.

“We are significantly short of police officers, so we desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to improve our technology platform here in the police department.”

Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.

Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity.

“If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city are going to help,” he said.

How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade.

City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.

Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span across all local districts:
• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.

• District 3:
Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.
• District 1 and Central Business District:
Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.
• District 5:
Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..
• District 4:
Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.

Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.05.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Streetcar, Police at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Council pauses streetcar, issue could make it to ballot, groups call for police camera fixes

City Council yesterday voted to allocate $1.25 million to pause the $132.8 million streetcar project and study how much it will cost to continue or cancel the project. The final 5-4 votes to pause came despite offers from private contributors to pay for the $250,000 study and construction for the one or two weeks necessary to carry out the cost analysis. The city administration warned council earlier in the day that pausing the project for one month could cost $2.56-$3.56 million, while previous estimates put continuing construction for the month at $3 million. After the cost study is finished, council members expect to make a final decision on whether to continue or cancel the project.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson filed a motion to draw up a city charter amendment that would task the city with completing the current streetcar project. If the charter amendment gets council approval, Cincinnatians would vote on the issue approximately 60 to 120 days afterward. But it’s unclear whether the $44.9 million in federal grants for the streetcar project would survive through the months; the federal government previously warned a delay could be grounds for pulling the money.

Commentary: “Atmosphere at City Hall Changes for the Worse.”

Following various cases of malfunctioning or disabled police cruiser cameras, various groups, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, are asking to get to the bottom of the issue. Police officials say old, deteriorating technology is to blame, but critics claim some officers are purposely tampering with the technology to avoid filming themselves during controversial moments in the line of duty. For both sides, getting the cameras working could be mutually beneficial; functioning cameras would allow police to clear their names but also show when officers make mistakes.

The University of Cincinnati asked Hamilton County judges to crack down on criminals targeting students on or near campus.

State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati says he won’t give up his Democratic candidacy for lieutenant governor despite $825,000 in unpaid state and federal taxes.

Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati canceled a vote for a proposal that would greatly weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. But he vowed to pursue a “three-pronged strategy to reform the current envirosocialist mandates,” including potential litigation. Environmental groups argued Seitz’s proposal would have effectively eliminated the state’s energy standards. According to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition, repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal in greater detail here.

The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday approved a bill that establishes a state panel to oversee Medicaid and recommend changes for the costly program. Republicans insist the measure isn’t about reducing benefits or eligibility for Medicaid; instead, they argue it’s about finding ways to cut growing health care costs without making such cuts. Gov. John Kasich must sign the bill for it to become law.

Months after rejecting Kasich’s proposal to do so, Ohio House leaders introduced a scaled-down measure that would slightly raise the oil and gas severance tax and cut income taxes. Unlike the governor’s previous proposal, the House plan seems to have support from the oil and gas industry.

Another Ohio House bill seeks to reintroduce prayer in public schools.

Ohioans are borrowing more to pay for college, but the debt load remains less than the national average.

Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “CVG board votes to hire investigator for butt-dialed call.”

It seems Metropolitan Sewer District rates will increase by 6 percent.

Cincinnati could get three to six inches of snow tomorrow.

Robert Carr, a 49-year-old Cincinnati man, has been going into the homes of strangers and trying to claim them as his own. He’s now being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center on six felony charges for breaking into homes.

Ohio gas prices fell below $3 a gallon.

According to a study from the Library of Congress, 70 percent of America’s silent films are lost and a good portion of the remaining films are in poor condition.

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by Hannah McCartney 11.12.2013
Posted In: Media, Media Criticism, News, Ethics, Courts, Police at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
defamation

Gannett Weekly Loses Appeal in Defamation Suit

Court upholds decision that the paper's 2010 statement was made with actual malice

A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge has denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser's request to appeal a 2012 ruling that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages.

In an article published in the Advertiser on May 27, 2010 titled "Cop's suspension called best move for city," the paper implicated Miami Township police officer James Young, who years before had been mired in legal trouble for accusations of sexual assault that were eventually disproven, in its article discussing another sex scandal in the area.

According to court documents, in 1997, Young was initially fired from his job after a woman named Marcie Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. An internal investigation revealed that the two had actually been engaged in a relationship prior and that Young had spent time at Phillips' house while on duty. The allegations, however, were entangled in questions about Phillips' character and concern that she could have been lying about the rape because the relationship between the two had recently ended on rocky terms.

When DNA testing on semen found on a rug in the woman's home proved that the DNA didn't match Young's, he was exonerated and reinstated to his position

The Advertiser article explained that Young had been terminated for sexual harassment, immoral behavior, gross misconduct and neglect in the line of duty and also stated that "Young had sex with a woman while on the job," which formed the basis for Young's defamation suit.

The 2010 article dealt with similar accusations lodged against Milford Police Officer Russell Kenney, who pleaded guilty to charges that he'd been having sex with Milford Mayor Amy Brewer while he was on duty on multiple occasions.

Kenney was suspended from his position for 15 days, but was later reinstated even though Milford's police chief planned to recommend his termination to avoid having to use an arbitrator to dissect the case.

Although the article is attributed to writer Kellie Giest, the lawsuit revealed that the paper's editor at the time, Theresa Herron, inserted the section of the article that went to trial. According to court documents, Herron added the paragraphs about Young to Giest's story because she felt the article needed more context about why the city wanted to avoid arbitration.

According to court documents from the suit Young filed against the Gannett Satellite Information Network, Gannett responded the to initial complaint by acknowledging that the statement was a defamation of character, but that the statement was made without actual malice on the part of Herron. There is a high legal threshold for plaintiffs to establish a defamation claim, which require the plaintiff to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt; for public officials, the threshold is even higher because they most prove that the offender acted with actual malice — in this case, knowing the claim about Young was false and printing it anyway — to win a lawsuit.

In its appeal, Gannett argued that Young, as a police officer, did not meet the threshold of a public official required to successfully establish a defamation claim and that Herron's inclusions were based on rational interpretations of documents on the case — even though Young denied having sex with plaintiff Marcie Phillips, he admitted the two had kissed and the arbitrator's report documented one instance in which Young was at Phillips' house while on duty.

In the court's opinion denying Gannett's appeal, Judge John Rogers writes that Herron admitted she had read the arbitrator's report from Young's case, which provided no evidence that Young and Phillips ever actually had sex at all.

"There was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Herron was well aware that the statement she added to the article was probably false," it reads. "Herron was also reckless in failing to conduct any investigation beyond the records of the original case. She did not seek out Young for comment, nor did she talk to anyone involved in his case."

 
 
by German Lopez 11.12.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Education, Police at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

Police investigate cruiser crash, council holds last finance meeting, achievement gap widens

The Cincinnati police officer who struck a pedestrian with his cruiser on Saturday was apparently driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, which violates the Cincinnati Police Department's guidelines that limit officers from driving more than 20 mph above the posted limit. Officer Orlando Smith was responding to a call to help an officer when he struck Natalie Cole of Dayton, Ky. She remains in critical condition at University Hospital Medical Center following the incident. CPD is conducting an investigation that is expected to be completed within two weeks. But Smith's cruiser camera mysteriously failed to record for three minutes as the events unfolded; the latest recording available prior to the incident shows Smith leaving a grocery store parking lot with his lights and sirens on, as required by department policy when responding to help an officer. Witnesses told WCPO that Smith was actually driving in excess of 60 mph without his siren on and the victim flung 40 feet after she was struck. Smith is on paid administrative leave as the investigation finishes, which is routine police procedure.

City Council's Budget and Finance Committee will hold its final scheduled meeting today, less than three weeks before the new mayor and council are sworn in on Dec. 1. The committee's agenda is fairly packed after council canceled so many meetings throughout September and October for election season, but most of the items are uncontroversial incentive packages that aim to bring jobs and develop more housing opportunities in the city.

The achievement gap between white and black students in Ohio grew in the past two years, according to the results from a series of tests known as "the Nation's Report Card" from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Chad Aldis, the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute, told StateImpact Ohio the results are disappointing because the achievement gap between black and white students in Ohio was already way too big and above the national average in math and English, the two categories in which the gap widened. Overall, Ohio's students ranked slightly above the national average in all areas but showed no significant improvement since 2011. Aldis says Ohio's adoption of Common Core standards, a set of stricter expectations for students embraced by 45 states, should help challenge students and lead to improvement.

Here is an interactive map of marijuana seizures in Ohio this year, which were down from a record high in 2010. Some experts say marijuana and other drugs should be legalized following the failure of the decades-long war on drugs to seriously curtail supply and demand, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Mayor-elect John Cranley on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. will answer questions from readers and the editorial board at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The two chairmen of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Republican Party will on Nov. 21 switch roles and argue the other side's position on alleged voter fraud as part of the "Beyond Civility" debate series. The initiative seeks to bring public officials together in a less partisan environment.

The Cincinnati area's most prominent white-collar crime case will start hearings in December after a jury is picked by the end of the month in the trial of Matt Daniels, the former Kenwood Towne Place developer who's accused of various charges of fraud. Daniels' attorney talked to the Business Courier here.

Ohio homeschoolers can now join public schools' sports teams.

President Barack Obama will stop in Ohio on Thursday to discuss U.S. manufacturing.

Boy choirs are having a more difficult time filling roles as boys hit puberty earlier.

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by German Lopez 10.27.2013
Posted In: News, Privacy, Police at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Panel Recommends Limiting Facial Recognition Access

New program requires better oversight and clear protocols, say criminal justice officials

A panel of nine criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access to Ohio’s facial recognition program and establishing protocols that would seek to make the program less prone to abuse.

The panel’s recommendations follow a nearly two-month review of current procedures and public criticisms over the programs secrecy and alleged lack of oversight.

The panel broadly looked at the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), a state database of criminal justice histories and records, but largely focused on the controversial facial recognition program, which was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.

The panel recommends limiting access of the facial recognition program to law enforcement, meaning police departments, sheriffs offices, state highway patrol, county prosecuting attorneys and other local, state or federal bodies that enforce criminal laws or have employees who have the legal authority to carry out an arrest. Anyone else who wants to tap into the system would need to do so with written permission from the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

For those who would retain access, the panel says written policies and protocols should be developed and implemented. The recommendations extend from written rules for out-of-state officials to a training program that better establishes clear penalties for misuse and guidelines for reporting and prosecuting infractions.

The report calls for improved monitoring of the system, which it states is “perhaps the most effective measure of whether the system is being properly implemented for its intended criminal justice purpose.” The oversight should include random audits of OHLEG, one person in charge of monitoring OHLEG’s use in each local agency and a model for ideal use, according to the report.

The panel says the attorney general should also establish a steering committee comprised of criminal justice officials, along with an advisory group. The committee would be in charge of OHLEG training, monitoring and policy review, among other oversight functions.

The panel also advises the attorney general’s office to launch an education campaign that tells the public of the potential benefits of OHLEG’s programs.

Separately, the Ohio Public Defender’s Office recommends allowing citizens to access their own criminal history records through a secure Internet portal with a social security number, similar to AnnualCreditReport.com.

The panel included former Ohio Supreme Court justices, judges and law enforcement officials, among other criminal justice leaders from around Ohio.

DeWine, a Republican, says the facial recognition program is a vital tool for law enforcement to more easily identify and catch potential criminals. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper, say the program was allowed to operate for far too long without public knowledge or proper checks in place.

When asked if DeWine will implement the recommendations, Lisa Hackley, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email, “The Attorney General has committed to implementing the recommendations. Some are already in progress. Others, such as those requiring new computer programming, may take longer.”

The full report:



Updated at 10:04 p.m. with comment from the attorney generals office.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.18.2013
Posted In: News, Police, Abortion, The Banks at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
county courthouse

Morning News and Stuff

Audit slams former sheriff, part of The Banks sold, local abortion clinic could close

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

An audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) found former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25 years in charge of HCSO. The Oct. 15 audit claims the agency was “largely frozen in time” and didn’t meet the most basic modern standards, including a failure to adopt computer spreadsheets and other modern technologies instead of keeping paper-based records that only one person can access at a time. The audit claims a few possible consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff. To fix the mistakes, the audit recommends various investments and changes to policies that could prove costly to the county — perhaps too costly to a county government that has been forced to make budget cuts for the past six years. Read more about the audit here.

Developers sold the apartments and 96,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in the first phase of The Banks for $79.5 million. In a memo, City Manager Milton Dohoney claimed the sale is a sign of the strong market that’s being built in Cincinnati. Dohoney noted that the sale will provide nearly $1.2 million for the city and county, which will likely go to other projects in The Banks, and allow Carter and The Dawson Company to repay the city and county’s nearly $4.7 million retail fit-up loan three years in advance. The sale should also increase the property’s assessed value, which Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes previously put at $52 million, or $27.5 million less than it actually sold for, and subsequently lead to higher property-based tax revenue, according to Dohoney.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could force the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to close after a health examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license because it couldn’t establish a patient transfer agreement with a nearby hospital. Abortion rights advocates touted the closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich in June signed the state budget and its anti-abortion restrictions into law. Meanwhile, Ohio Right to Life praised the state for closing down or threatening to close down five abortion clinics this year.

Reminder: Officials project the streetcar will have a much greater economic impact in downtown than Over-the-Rhine, despite what some detractors may claim.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office last night began threatening to arrest homeless people who refuse to leave the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center and find another place to sleep, according to Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The sheriff’s office says the steps are necessary to put an end to public urination and defecation on county property, but homeless advocates say the county should focus on creating jobs and affordable housing to solve the root of the problem. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.

Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson questioned her fellow Republicans’ legal threats against Gov. John Kasich’s plan to bypass the legislature and get the federally funded Medicaid expansion approved through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel. Davidson says Kasich is on “firm ground” legally because the state budget contained a provision that allows the state’s Medicaid director to expand the program. The Kasich administration on Oct. 11 announced its intention to call on the Controlling Board to take up the expansion, which will use federal Obamacare funds for two years to extend Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Ohio Libertarians and Greens threatened to sue the state if the legislature passes a bill that would limit ballot access for minor political parties. The Ohio Senate already approved the legislation, and an Ohio House committee is expected to vote on it at a hearing on Oct. 29.

More charges have been filed against a local spine doctor accused of carrying out unnecessary surgeries in the Cincinnati area and Florence, Ky., and billing health care programs millions of dollars, according to court documents released Thursday.

A race car managed to swap fossil fuels for hydrogen power.

 
 
 
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