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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 04.03.2012
Posted In: LGBT Issues, Human Rights at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

UC and Miami to Host Rallies Against Hate Crimes

Coinciding events are in response to recent assault on gay students in Oxford

University of Cincinnati and Miami University student organizations will hold rallies at 5 p.m. Thursday in response to the March 24 assault of two students — one from UC and one from Miami — on the Miami campus. The events are meant to show support for GLBT people and call for an end to hate crimes.

Miami University student Michael Bustin and a male friend were reportedly walking home from a drag show when someone yelled a derogatory slur at them. Bustin's friend was then attacked by four men who also reportedly assaulted Bustin when he tried to help, according to WLWT-TV. The two men had been holding hands during their walk home. Miami University sent a memo to the community and reached out to Bustin soon afterward.

The rallies’ Facebook page says the other man was a University of Cincinnati student. The police have released a sketch of one of the accused attackers and are seeking the public’s help to find those involved.

Both events will begin at 5 p.m. Those attending the Miami rally are encouraged to wear "Love is the New Label/White Out Hate" shirts or just white T-shirts or tops. After the rally, participants will line up holding hands in a demonstration of solidarity and to show that “no one deserves to be hurt for showing affection.”

More from the rallies’ Facebook page: “We, the students of the LGBTQA alliances of Miami University and University of Cincinnati, stand united in our demand for a safe places to live, learn, work and show affection. It is unacceptable for anyone to be assaulted, but it is especially repulsive for the victims to be targeted because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other classification.”

The Miami rally will take place at the Phi Delt Gates on the Miami Campus, while the UC event will take place at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Clifton Avenue. The events are being organized by Miami Spectrum and UC Alliance.

For more information, click here or search on Facebook: “Emergency Action: Miami & UC Unite Against Hate!"

by Hannah McCartney 06.27.2013
Posted In: Health, Health care, News, Women's Health, LGBT Issues, Sex at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planned Parenthood Offering Free HIV Testing Today

National HIV Testing Day to raise awareness, promote health

To honor National HIV Testing Day — a day meant to raise awareness about the virus — Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio region is offering free HIV testing at three locations in the Cincinnati area.

Free HIV testing is available today at from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center (3200 Vine St.) and from 1-5 p.m. at the Lower Price Hill Health Center (2136 E. Eighth St.). The test is done quickly using a method called rapid HIV testing, which produces results immediately.

About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV at any given time, and about one in five of those don't even realize they're infected. 

That means those one in five could, at any time, be unknowingly transmitting the disease to their partners, or that they're missing out on taking important preventative measures that could keep the infection from developing into AIDS. The HIV virus is most commonly spread through unprotected sexual contact or sharing needles, or can be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. For more basic information about HIV, click here.

In 2012, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio provided 1,225 HIV tests amongst its eight facilities, among a number of other preventive services. Currently, Planned Parenthood branches across Ohio are being threatened by Ohio conservatives' efforts to defund the organization, which provides myriad health services in addition to abortion, including cancer and STD screenings, birth control, pregnancy testing and health care for both men and women. State and federal funds used by Planned Parenthood aren't used to fund abortions, which are instead funded by private donations.

If successful, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature could pass a budget this weekend that would put Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funds. A separate set of federal funds would also go to crisis pregnancy centers, which have a history of using scare tactics and false information about abortion.

Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, which will go into effect in 2014, insurance providers will be required to cover HIV testing and birth control.

by German Lopez 08.02.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The audio for the 911 call Councilmember Chris Seelbach made to report being assaulted has been released to the public. During the call, Seelbach admits to drinking alcohol that night. Apparently, people are shocked that Seelbach is a human being that drinks alcohol.

City Council voted yesterday to put a ballot initiative before voters that, if approved, would let councilmembers remain in power for four years, up from two years under current law. The initiative would let local policymakers worry more about passing good policy and less about getting reelected every other year.

City Council also approved an ordinance that bans wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking, within city limits. But the ordinance is little more than politics at this point, considering the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no permit requests for injection wells in southwestern Ohio, and ODNR spokesperson Heidi Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes injection wells unfeasible.

There are more benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage than just giving a bunch of people basic rights without hurting anyone. A new study found that Ohio could gain $100-126 million in economic growth from same-sex marriage legalization. The study is being used by Freedom to Marry Ohio to promote the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, which the organization hopes will be on the November 2013 ballot.

Comair Inc. disclosed that 1,194 employees will be losing their jobs when the airline halts operations on Sept. 29. The airline, which is owned by Delta, is headquartered at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced yesterday that 10 Cincinnati pools will remain open for one whole extra week — keeping them open until the beginning of the school year. Since the city can’t pay for the entire extra week, Chesley raised $25,000, which the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation matched with another $25,000, to keep the pools open. All pools but one will also have free admission for the rest of the year. The one exception is Otto Armleader Pool at Dunham, which will have $2 admission, down from $5.

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich passed the “second chance” law. The law will make it easier for convicted criminals to continue on with their lives after their time is served.

More good news for Ohio Democrats: A new poll says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading challenger Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, by 12 points. Mandel is known for excessively lying in campaign attacks.

President Barack Obama was in Akron yesterday.

Glenn Beck says he is planning a big event in Ohio for the week of Sept. 12. Beck is known for literally crying on national television and disapproving of most of what Obama does.

In completely unsurprising news, temperatures in July broke heat records.

But worries about excessive heat may be a thing of the past. Scientists have invented a shirt that can lower a person's body temperature.

by Hannah McCartney 05.31.2012
Posted In: Equality, LGBT Issues at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional in First Circuit

Lawyer calls 1996 law "across-the-board disrespect"

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled today that the 16-year Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional for banning federal benefits for married same-sex couples.

The Court's three judges ruled unanimously that DOMA is discriminatory because it denies equal rights to same-sex married couples. The ruling applies only to the regions included in the circuit: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico.

Despite the unanimous decision, no changes will take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case, which is expected to be appealed. The ruling still marks a significant victory for the gay rights community, as it signifies a unified federal effort to institute provisions that support marriage equality across genders and sexualities.

The decision also comes just days after the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, which challenged Attorney General Mike DeWine's approval of the legality of the language in a proposed state ballot which, if passed, would legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Ohio.

DOMA, passed in 1996, doesn't specifically invalidate same-sex marriages in states that rule to legalize them, but it trivializes the meaning of marriage for such couples by specifically prohibiting married gay couples from possessing same benefits as married homosexual couples, including the ability to:

  • File taxes jointly

  • Take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse

  • Receive spousal, mother’s and father’s, or surviving spouse benefits under Social Security

  • Receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees

The Court did not rule on the second provision of DOMA, which verbalizes that states that don't approve of same-sex marriage can't be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal, nor did the court decide whether or the act of gay marriage is actually constitutional.

Since its passage, several states have taken their own stances on gay marriage, while eight states — beginning with Massachusetts in 2004 — have legalized same-sex marriage. In Feb. 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA's constitutionality after several large-scale challenges to the act — a decision quickly combated by Ohio House Speaker John Boehner with the formation of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, an assemblage of standing House representatives, to defend DOMA.

In arguments before the Circuit Court in April, Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), called DOMA a result of Congress' "moral disapproval."

"It is simply that, frankly, Congress just didn't want to deal with same-sex couples ... this is across-the-board disrespect," she stated in the hearings.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to openly approve same-sex marriage.

Ohio belongs in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also encompasses Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

by Hannah McCartney 11.07.2013
Posted In: LGBT, LGBT Issues, Governor, Government, News at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center to Close Doors

Organization cites need to "evolve with the times" for virtual switch

In two days, the physical space that's housed Cincinnati's Gay and Lesbian Community Center for the past 20 years will be vacant, but the organization won't disappear entirely.

Instead, the Center will become a completely virtual informational resource for the region's LGBT community and act as a funding resource for other Cincinnati organizations.

The Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the closure.

A letter from the board of directors sent out on Oct. 28 announced that the decision to close was based on a need to "evolve with the times." The letter states that the organization will continue to answer emails and voicemails and maintain its popular annual fundraiser, Pride Night at Kings Island, and that the board is working on selecting a public location to hold annual meetings. 

Pride Night at Kings Island, which has consistently been the Center's most profitable and popular fundraising effort, brought out record crowds this year.

The private, nonprofit volunteer-run foundation, which has been located in Northside for the past 20 years, uses its profits to provide grant to other Cincinnati-area LGBT groups. The organization's first grant for 2014 will provide Cincinnati Pride with $5,000 to expand promotions for Cincinnati Gay Pride on May 31, 2014, and for the city's celebration of Pride Month, which runs through June.

by German Lopez 12.12.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Turnpike could remain public, asbestos bill passes, $150 million bid for parking services

The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.

The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.

City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”

LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.

The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.

The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.

Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.

Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.

Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.

However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.

Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.

Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.

The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.

Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.

In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.

Dogs are now capable of driving, and parrots now have vehicles too. But can our new animal overlords shoot magic foam into the body to stop major bleeding? Because we can.

by German Lopez 11.28.2012
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Cincinnati Gets Mixed Results in LGBT Index

City tied with Cleveland, behind Columbus in ranking of 137 cities

When it comes to LGBT rights, Cincinnati received a score of 77 out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign's first Municipal Equality Index (MEI). Cincinnati tied with Cleveland, but lost to Columbus, which scored an 83.

The index looks at cities’ laws, policies and services to gauge how friendly they are to LGBT individuals. With 47 criteria in hand, 137 cities were scored.

Cincinnati gained positive marks for its non-discrimination laws, which protect employment, housing and public accommodations for LGBT people. The city was also praised for its openly gay leadership, notably Councilman Chris Seelbach. Even the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) got some LGBT love; it was marked positively for having an LGBT liaison and reporting 2010 hate crime statistics to the FBI.

But Cincinnati had mixed results elsewhere. The city was praised for enacting some anti-bullying policies and an equal employment opportunity commission, but docked for not having a mayoral LGBT liaison or office of LGBT affairs. While the city did well in having domestic partner health benefits and legal dependant benefits, it was knocked for not having equivalent family leave for LGBT individuals.

The city did particularly poorly in relationship recognition. The HRC analysis notes that gay marriage and civil unions are state policies, which Cincinnatis government has no control over. But the city did lose points for not having a domestic partner registry, which both Cleveland and Columbus have.

A few of Cincinnati's LGBT improvements came just within the last year: Seelbach was elected in 2011, domestic health benefits were passed in May and the LGBT liaison for the CPD was named in October.

Overall, Cincinnati wasn’t among the top in LGBT rights. About 25 percent of cities scored an 80 or higher, including Columbus. Eleven cities scored 100: Long Beach, Calif.; Los Angeles; San Diego, Calif.; San Francisco; Boston; Cambridge, Mass.; St. Louis, Mo.; New York City; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia; and Seattle.

In this week’s cover story, CityBeat covered Ohio’s evolution on same-sex marriage.

by Danny Cross 06.25.2012
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Leaders of the nonprofit Music Hall Revitalization Co. seemed to have compromised last week when the group proposed a 99-year lease of Music Hall as part of a $165 million renovation. But the lease included a clause that would allow the group to acquire the historic building for $1 at the end of the lease or at the end of a second 99-year lease. The permanent sale of the building is what held up the initial plan to turn the renovation over to the nonprofit group, which says its donors will not offer the financial support without the city turning over ownership. Mayor Mark Mallory told The Enquirer that the proposal will not be approved. “I don’t care if it’s 99 years, 198 years, 500 years or 1,000 years, the city should always retain ownership,” Mallory said. “That should never change.”

The George W. Bush Presidential Library denied a request by a Democratic super PAC for documents related to Sen. Rob Portman’s work in the George W. Bush administration. The library says it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that all are welcome to see the documents in 2014. The super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has been researching GOP candidates as Mitt Romney moves closer to choosing a running mate.

“When you look at the roster of V.P. candidates, each of them is significantly flawed,” American Bridge senior adviser Ty Matsdorf said in a statement. “For Portman, it is his calamitous record on fiscal issues while working at the Bush White House. It shouldn’t be a shock that he is going to want to keep that under wraps for as long as possible, but unfortunately it’s pretty hard to hide a record as terrible as that.”

CNN is live blogging from the Supreme Court to see if there are any rulings on the health care law or immigration.

Gay pride celebrations took place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco over the weekend, and Obama organizers were there to recruit volunteers.

Spain formally asked for European aid for its banks.

The sea level is rising faster along the Atlantic Coast than other places in the world.

Facebook has created a new “find friends nearby” function that will allow users to see friends and people they don’t know who are at events or social gatherings. From some Facebook engineer’s comments on the story:

I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).

For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.

HBO’s The Newsroom premiered last night, and this guy at the Toronto Star said it kind of sucked while the New York Times says CNN could learn something from it.

by 01.21.2011
Posted In: LGBT Issues, Public Policy, Human Rights at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feds Ready New LGBT Protection

Federal officials Thursday unveiled new pending regulations that offer more protection from discrimination for LGBT individuals in regard to housing and mortgage issues.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the proposed regulatory changes that explicitly protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under certain circumstances.

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