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by Kevin Osborne 03.13.2012

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A major detergent brand from Procter & Gamble has become the target of thieves nationwide, police said. Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it. One thief in Minnesota stole $25,000 worth of the product before he was arrested last year. Tide has become a form of currency on the streets and the retail price is steadily high, making it a popular item on the black market.
by Danny Cross 09.20.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Do you enjoy looking at slideshows of rich people? Here's a good one, themed “Most Corrupt Members of Congress.” Guess which local Eastside representative made the list … Here's a hint: Jean Schmidt.

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by 08.14.2009
Posted In: Healthcare Reform, Congress, President Obama at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Well Said, Sir Winston

Conservatives generally adore Winston Churchill, the prime minister who led Great Britain during the dark days of World War II and again for a period in the early 1950s. The bulldog-faced Tory represents most of the values conservatives hold dear, so much so that he beat Ronald Reagan for the top spot as “Man of the Century” in a poll by Right Wing News.

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by Andy Brownfield 11.02.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Only four days left to early-vote in person. Find out where to do that here.

U.S. employers hired 171,000 people in October and revised job growth over the previous two months, finding it had been stronger than previously thought. However, unemployment inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, due to more out-of-work people looking for work. People are only considered unemployed if they’re actively searching for work. More people entering the workforce and increased job growth had the stock market jumping, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures up 30 points within minutes of the opening bell.

COAST has been keeping busy this week. The anti-tax group filed two lawsuits, one trying to block the sale of some land near the former Blue Ash Airport to prevent the cash from being used for the streetcar, and the other against Cincinnati Public Schools over allegations that staff used school emails to promote voter registration drives and offering to volunteer and contribute to the campaign supporting the CPS school levy (issue 42).

A firm specializing in storm damage forecasting estimates that superstorm Sandy could cause $30 billion to $50 billion in damage, making it the most second-most expensive storm the U.S. has ever seen, right behind Hurricane Katrina.

The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has been expensive, no doubt. But what has all that money gone to? An analysis by The Enquirer shows that the nearly $30 million spent by both campaigns on the race has gone from everything from pollsters to Cincinnati Reds tickets to a used Jeep Cherokee. The largest expenditure for Brown’s campaign was $1.7 million for staff salaries, while the largest of Mandel’s expenditures was $1.7 million on TV ads.

People thinking about entering law school next year, rejoice. Despite a dire job market for new graduates, both campaigns have mobilized armies of lawyers in preparations to sue for votes in battleground states. If the next election is this close, you might have a job in four years. Assuming the Mayans were wrong about the apocalypse and everything.

A joint committee of Cincinnati City Council met Thursday to discuss allegations that workers at the University Square development in Clifton aren’t being paid enough. They didn’t take any action, other than asking the city to investigate, but agreed that there needs to be better oversight to make sure workers on taxpayer-funded projects are paid what they’re supposed to earn.

If you are accused of a crime in Ohio and police take your DNA, they get to keep it on file, even if you’re acquitted. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that DNA samples are like fingerprints and can be kept even if a suspect is acquitted of a crime.

A federal judge on Thursday refused to change an Ohio law that could prevent some prisoners from voting.

A bunch of dirty hippies “light warriors” buried hundreds of muffin-crystal-thingies in at Serpent Mound to help realign the energy of the ancient Native American burial mound. They were caught because they made a YouTube video of their alleged desecration.

by Kevin Osborne 02.17.2012

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 Danny Cross 06.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay. Jonathan Zeng says he went through the school's extensive interview process, was offered a position and then called back in for a discussion about religious questions in his application, during which he was asked directly if he is gay. Zeng says he asked why such information was pertinent, and an administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are gay because they work with children and something about the sanctity of marriage. When contacted by local media CHCA released the following statement:

CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.
Cincinnati's deficit isn't going to get better any time soon, according to a new report.

The Reds drafted high school pitcher Nick Travieso in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday. Here's a rundown of their other picks Monday and Tuesday.

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace, and the Dems are going to stick it in their faces during this year's campaigns. From the AP:

As expected, the pay equity bill failed along party lines, 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. But for majority Democrats, passage wasn't the only point. The debate itself was aimed at putting Republicans on the defensive on yet another women's issue, this one overtly economic after a government report showing slower-than-expected job growth.

"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement after the vote.

"Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He should show some leadership."

The Washington Post wonders whether Mitt Romney can use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's template for surviving a recall election to try to win the presidency. It involves “big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base.” Exit polls in the state suggest Obama is ahead, however.

China wants foreign embassies to stop releasing reports and Tweeting about its poor air quality.

Gonorrhea growing resistant to antibiotics? Rut roh.

Dinosaurs apparently weighed less than scientists previously thought. Adjust paper-mache Brontosaurus as necessary.

Facebook is considering letting kids younger than 13 use the site.

The Boston Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat on Tuesday and could send Bron Bron and Co. back home on Thursday.

by Kevin Osborne 02.16.2012

No Women Allowed (At First)

GOP congressman blocks woman from testifying about birth control rule

Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a hearing today in the House after a Republican colleague blocked a woman from testifying about a new federal rule that will require most employers to provide free birth control.

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) left the hearing after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) prevented the woman from being added to the witness list.

Announced last month, the rule reclassifies birth control as a preventative health measure, which means most employers must cover contraception in their insurance plans with no cost sharing like co-pays or deductibles. Initially, an exemption was granted for churches but not for religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, which angered some Catholic bishops and others.

In a compromise unveiled Feb. 10, President Obama said religiously affiliated schools and hospitals wouldn’t be forced to offer coverage for free contraceptives. Rather, insurers will be required to offer the coverage free to any women who work at such institutions.

That wasn’t good enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some conservative politicians, who said the coverage shouldn’t be required at all.

Issa’s staff informed Democratic members of the committee that the hearing was about religious liberty in general, and not the contraception mandate, in explaining why Sandra Fluke couldn’t testify.

“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the (Obama) administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” Issa’s staffers wrote in a letter.

Fluke wanted to tell about an incident involving a 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition. Because the woman’s insurance didn’t cover contraception, the friend couldn’t afford her medication and eventually lost her ovary.

Read what Fluke had planned to tell the panel here.

Eleven people were on Issa’s witness list, led by the Rev. William Lori, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Eight of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic or evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.

Originally, Issa only planned on calling nine witnesses — all men. After the public flap, he added two women to the list.


by Danny Cross 07.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Steve Chabot’s self-righteous attempt to block federal streetcar funding found new criticism yesterday, as The Enquirer spoke to several credible sources who say his amendment is broad enough to affect federal funding for transportation projects beyond the streetcar, including bus lanes or ferries.

Mayor Mark Mallory and 3CDC representatives were scheduled to kick off a grand opening celebration of Washington Park at 10 a.m. this morning. The $48 million renovation includes an underground parking garage, concession building, dog park and concert space. A rally against the renovation and displacement of residents was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CityBeat’s Mike Breen blogged away yesterday about the park’s scheduled weekly music series. 

It’s going to be another sucky hot weekend in Cincinnati.

U.S. hiring is being weak again.

Walgreens is buying mass drug store chains, preparing to cash in on that ObamaCare money. 

Brad Pitt’s mom wrote a pro-Mitt Romney, anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage letter to the editor of a Missouri newspaper. Brad, for the record, is pro-gay marriage and donated to the 2008 anti-Proposition 8 campaign in California. 

I have given much thought to Richard Stoecker’s letter (“Vote for Mormon against beliefs,” June 15). I am also a Christian and differ with the Mormon religion.

But I think any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality just because he is a Mormon.

Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.

I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility.

First they were telling us that the Higgs boson is the building block of the universe. How Professor Peter Higgs says he has no idea what the discovery will mean in practical terms. Come on, Higgs!

Apparently 250,000 people are going to wake up without the Internet on Monday. 

Scientists believe they’ve created the most realistic robot legs ever. 

by Danny Cross 05.14.2012
bike month

Morning News and Stuff

Bike to Work Week today kicked off its series of morning commuter stations offering free coffee and treats all week long in an effort to encourage residents to try cycling to work, meet fellow cyclists and learn about bike advocacy. The city was scheduled to announce an award for its Bike Program this morning at the Coffee Emporium bike commuter station on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine.

Find a schedule of Bike to Work Week morning and afternoon commuter stations here.

The Enquirer over the weekend checked in with another of its “in-depth” pieces, this one detailing the huge amounts of money energy companies will make once they're allowed to treat northeastern Ohio's land like they do Texas. The story accurately described the fracking process as “controversial,” though it took the liberty of describing Carroll County as an “early winner” because 75 to 95 percent of its land is under lease to an oil or gas company. Here's a link to the weird slideshow-style presentation. And here's a sidebar on the issues surrounding fracking, which includes the following regarding the industry's oversight:

Fracking was exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act under the Bush Administration, so it now falls under state jurisdiction. In Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources issues permits for all oil and gas wells, including fracking wells. The department also inspects the drilling of all wells in the state.

The New York Times came to Ohio to see how the good, working class folks feel about the president who has spent three-and-a-half years trying to help people like them during a recession he didn't start. Turns out many still won't vote for him because he's still black.

Madiera is a really nice suburb, and some residents plan to keep it that way by blocking developers from building luxury condos so “renters” can't move in and “alter the landscape of their charming suburb.”

Ohio State University has released a plan to combat hate crimes in response to several incidents on its campus this spring. The "No Place to Hate" plan includes 24 recommendations including a public safety division “hate crime alert” line staffed by operators. The OSU campus reportedly had a mural of President Obama defaced and found spray-painted messages supporting the death of Trayvon Martin.

Good news from the AP's strangulation beat: “States cracking down on strangulation attempts.”

Newsweek's May 21 cover shows Barack Obama with a rainbow-colored halo over his head and the headline, “The First Gay President.”

National media are talking about HBO's Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary detailing America's obesity epidemic. CityBeat's Jac Kern told y'all about it last week.

John Edwards' defense attorneys are reportedly basing a lot of their case on the definition of the word “The.” That should go well.

Joey Votto hit a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam to win yesterday's game for the Reds, 9-6 over the Washington Nationals. It was his third home run of the day.

A Russian satellite has taken an awesome 121-megapixel photo of Earth.

by Danny Cross 06.22.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The Kentucky Speedway and state of Kentucky will find out soon whether the $10 million they spent on highway infrastructure improvements in response to last year’s traffic mess at a NASCAR race was worth it. The Speedway and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will hold a news conference today to outline plans to actually get all of the race attendees into the venue to watch the race rather than sit in traffic all day and get super mad.

A Cincinnati police officer with a long record of wrecking police vehicles was arrested on Monday and charged with assaulting a woman who he’s already been charged with assaulting once before. The Enquirer detailed the disciplinary history of officer Kevin Jones, who was also charged with two counts of assault from an incident that occurred May 19. 

Politico says President Obama’s recent announcement of a new immigration policy that allows many young immigrants who have never been in trouble with the law to stay in the country, and even travel across its borders, was a really smart move. The policy is not permanent, which leaves Mitt Romney to answer the question of whether or not he would repeal it if elected. The idea is reportedly similar to legislation that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential Romney running mate, has been considering introducing. 

“This is a stroke of political genius,” Bruce Morrison told me. A former Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Morrison was chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, a member of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and House author of the Immigration Act of 1990. He’s now an immigration attorney and lobbies on a wide variety of immigration issues.

“Obama has taken Rubio’s idea and put it into action,” Morrison said. “He has given these people a work permit, the ability to remain in this country, but no permanent status.” Their legal status can be terminated at any time. “But it won’t be terminated by Obama,” Morrison said.

A breast cancer survivor who has undergone a double mastectomy has been allowed to swim topless by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation after stating that wearing a bathing suit over her chest causes pain. 

(Jodi) Jaecks opted against reconstructive surgery. "I don't see a need to fake having breasts," she said.

"My ultimate goal is to change policy at beaches and pools, to increase people's awareness of cancer and the realities of the human condition," Jaecks told Reuters.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title last night, completing a 4 games to 1 series victory over the Oklahoma Thunder. It is the first title for James, who has been widely mocked for stating that he’d like to win more titles than Michael Jordan’s six. James, who is 27, won his first a year younger than Jordan did, thought Jordan then won the title in six of eight years. 

Two alien plants planets around the same star apparently rise in the night sky of each other, looking like a giant full moon. The planets, Kepler-36b and Kepler-36c, are 1,200 light-years from Earth and 1.2 million miles apart, the closes two planets known.