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by German Lopez 07.31.2012
Posted In: Mayor, News, Education, Governor at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor Mark Mallory announced a trade deal between the small Greater Cincinnati-based Solutions Plus, Inc. and the giant Saudi Arabia-based Diversified Lines Petroleum Company. The deal will produce $20 million in business in the next two to five years, said Solutions Plus President Charlie Weaver. The deal is largely due to a trade mission to Saudi Arabia Mallory led in January.

The Cincinnati streetcar project is moving forward. On Wednesday, City Council will be voting on a routine ordinance to transfer $3 million to the streetcar project.

Cincinnati is studying the feasibility of a bike share program. If enacted, the program would begin next summer in Over-the-Rhine and Uptown.

Kings Island is taking down the Son of Beast. The attraction, which was originally advertised as the only wooden roller coaster with a loop, has been closed since 2009 due to a series of problems.

Gov. John Kasich announced the approval of 25 new economic projects by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. The approval should pave the way to 2,003 new jobs and $212 million in investment in Ohio, according to the announcement. Three of the projects will be in the city of Cincinnati: Integra LifeSciences Corporation, Southern Air Incorporated and Corbus, LLC.

Kasich wants answers. Yesterday, the governor gave his opinion on the ongoing investigation into the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio schools for fraudulent data reporting. Kasich said both schools and the Ohio Department of Education should be held accountable if necessary.

Democrats are setting the groundwork to endorse same-sex marriage in the official party platform for the 2012 election. The news would echo President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this year.

Medical marijuana is heading to court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will be hearing whether or not the federal government is right to classify marijuana as having no medical value.

James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of murder in the case for the Colorado theater massacre.

Mitt Romney praised Israel’s health-care system, which does a lot of what he’s opposing in Obamacare.

Japanese developers have built a real-life mech robot. The robot can be piloted, and it can shoot 6,000 BBs in a minute.

by Andy Brownfield 09.12.2012

Biden Praises Diplomats During Dayton Visit

Vows to bring to justice killers of U.S. Ambassador to Libya

DAYTON – Vice President Joe Biden took time at the beginning of his Wednesday campaign stop in Dayton to condemn an overnight attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, while praising the work and courage of American diplomats and promising to bring to justice those who carried out the attack.

“(This) brave — and it’s not hyperbole to say brave –— ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on. Our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while the war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on,” Biden said.

“These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors.”

The Tuesday attack took place during a protest against an amateur short film made in the United States that protesters say insulted the Prophet Muhammad. U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members were killed.

“Let me be clear — we are resolved to bring to justice their killers,” Biden said.

The vice president made no mention of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which he characterized as “akin to an apology” and a “severe miscalculation,” but the vice president quickly segued into politics, alluding to Romney’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy.

“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests and causes and the cause of freedom abroad, it is also to build a nation here at home, to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said. “Whether we do that and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice we face in this presidential election. It really is that basic, and foreign policy is not some sideline to all of this.”

The Romney campaign in Ohio was quick to respond, calling Biden’s remarks “hypocritical” in an emailed statement.

“Vice President Biden’s appearance in Dayton only served further damage to his credibility as he reprised hypocritical and widely debunked attacks against Mitt Romney. Not only did the Vice President mislead Ohioans, but he attacked Mitt Romney for supporting the same tax policy the Obama Administration supported just last year,” Romney Ohio spokesman Christopher Maloney wrote.

“With today’s Census report showing nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty and incomes continuing to decline, it appears that misleading attacks are all the Obama campaign has left to offer 400,000 Ohioans looking for work.”

Maloney’s email also fact-checked a claim made by Biden during his speech. Biden said that he opposed the so-called “territorial tax,” which he said would allow American companies that invested abroad to avoid paying taxes in the United States.

The email included links to an Associated Press fact checking article that concludes that Romney’s proposal was aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S. rather than overseas.

Biden spoke to a packed house at Wright State University in Dayton, with overflow crowds estimated in the hundreds viewing in separate rooms in the Student Union.

The vice president reiterated many of his usual stump speech points — the Romney tax plan’s negative effects on the middle class, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration’s commitment to manufacturing — but much of Biden’s speech focused on education. He said a president Romney would cut funding for Pell Grants, meaning many students in the audience would have to leave school. He also lauded President Barack Obama’s administration’s enactment of a tax break of $2,500 for every family that sends a child to college.

The usually bombastic Biden wasn’t without his gaffes. Twice he referred to Wright State as “Wayne State,” which is in Detroit, despite a large Wright State University banner displayed in the conference room where he gave his speech.

The crowd was quick to correct him after the second time he misspoke.

“Wright State, which also includes Wayne State,” Biden said after he was corrected, eliciting laughs from the audience.

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

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by German Lopez 02.18.2013
Posted In: Budget, Governor, News, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

PUCO appointment criticized, poll supports school funding, superintendent investigation

Gov. John Kasich appointed a former Republican to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) seat that must go to a Democrat or Independent, according to The Plain Dealer. M. Beth Trombold will finish her term as the assistant director in Kasich’s Ohio Development Services Agency in April, when she will then take up the PUCO position. The appointment immediately drew criticism from some Democrats. State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland called the appointment “another example of Kasich cronyism running rampant.”

A poll from Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found Kasich’s budget proposals aren’t popular with most Ohioans. The poll found 62 percent of Ohioans prefer prioritizing school funding over reducing the state income tax, while only 32 percent prefer tax reduction. When asked what Ohio lawmakers should prioritize in the coming months, 56 percent said job creation, 38 percent said school funding, 24 percent said keeping local property taxes low and 18 percent said cutting the state income tax.

A school superintendent from Warren County may face prosecution for misusing public resources after he wrote a letter to parents urging them to campaign against Kasich, reports Dayton Daily News. Franklin City Schools Superintendent Arnol Elam was apparently angry with Kasich’s new school funding formula, which did not increase funding for poor school districts like Franklin Cities, but did give increases to Springboro, Mason and Kings — the three wealthiest districts in Warren County. County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he will be investigating Elam for engaging in political activity with public resources.

Kasich will give his State of the State Tuesday. The speech is expected to focus on the governor’s budget and tax reform plans.

As part of an agreement with the city, Duke Energy is suing over the streetcar project, according to WLWT. The lawsuit is meant to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar. CityBeat covered the agreement between the city and Duke here and how the streetcar will play a pivotal role in the 2013 mayor’s race here.

Thousands of people in Butler County, mainly students, are benefiting from Judge Robert Lyons’ criminal record seals, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Lyons’ practice of sealing cases came to light after he sealed the case for the Miami University student who posted a flyer on how to get away with rape. In the past five years, Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases — more than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed.

Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of original revenue projections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. It’s uncertain why that’s the case, but some are pointing to Internet-sweepstakes cafes. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which will open March 4, was spurred by the original projections.

StateImpact Ohio reports that many Ohio teachers are concerned with new teaching evaluation rules.

Two Cincinnati Republicans will begin reviewing the effects of legislation that deregulated phone companies in Ohio, reports Gongwer. State Rep. Peter Stautberg, who chairs the House Public Utilities Committee, and State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee, will hear testimony from PUCO Tuesday.

Downtown’s Chiquita center has landed in bankruptcy, reports WCPO. The building lost its major tenant last year when Chiquita Brands relocated to Charlotte, N.C.

“Star Trek” is becoming reality. University of Cincinnati researchers are developing a tricorder device to help users monitor their own health, reports WVXU.

Are you worried about space rocks recently? Popular Science says NASA is concerned as well.

by German Lopez 08.14.2012
Posted In: Education, News, 2012 Election, Economy, Republicans at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

A Hamilton County budget shortfall could force officials to cut more than 300 county jobs, according to Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman. If the county doesn’t fix its problems, it could fall into “fiscal emergency.” Officials are worried some cuts could jeopardize functions required by state law. A recent study found that the national unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if it wasn’t for government job cuts.

More than $85 million has been awarded to local transportation projects by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The funding will go to Metro buses, roads, traffic signals and more.

City Councilmember Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, is thinking about running for mayor in 2013. Mayor Mark Mallory is currently serving his last term, so he will not be able to run again.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will visit Miami University Wednesday. Ryan graduated from Miami in 1992. Even though he graduated from a public university, Ryan would massively slash education funding if he got his way. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed Ryan’s budget.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he is considering establishing uniform early voting hours statewide. Recently, Democrats have been accusing Republicans of a statewide conspiracy to extend voting hours in Democratic counties and shrink voting hours in Republican counties.

Ohio was the 13th fattest state in 2011, according to a new report from the Center of Disease Control. Fortunately, Ohio managed to stay under a 30 percent obesity rate, unlike the 12 fattest states.

In the future, Ohio will be the ninth worst state to live in, according to a new Gallup analysis. Ohio still beat Kentucky, which ranked third worst. Not so fortunately, Utah topped the ranks. I’ve been to Utah, and I prefer Ohio. I don’t trust your math, Gallup!

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who is also running against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, is scheduled to appear with presidential candidate Mitt Romney today. Mandel is also famous for earning the “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer for his excessive lying in campaign ads.

The Medicaid expansion does not have to be permanent, according to federal officials. States can expand then scale back, although it will cost federal funds. Medicaid expansions have been proven to save lives and boost health, but Gov. John Kasich is still undecided about the expansion.

The Cincinnati Museum Center earned top accreditation.

Unmanned drones could soon be flying in domestic skies.

by Kevin Osborne 04.11.2012

Morning News and Stuff

“Accentuate the positive” has always been Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's motto when giving his annual State of the City address, and Tuesday night's speech was no different. Mallory talked about the new development in Over-the-Rhine and The Banks riverfront district, adding that type of vision for the future must continue. The mayor also said city officials must strive to improve the quality of life for residents.

A national teachers' union said Cincinnati Public Schools officials have used faulty budget estimates to justify a plan to lay off up to 225 teachers next week. CPS says it will have a $43 million deficit next year and already has laid off 40 administrators. At the request of the local union president, the American Federation of Teachers reviewed the CPS budget forecast and declared it has identified at least $17.9 million in savings, enough to save at least 197 teaching jobs.

Less than a week after the Reds agreed to a major contract extension for Joey Votto, the team now has struck a deal with Brandon Phillips. The second baseman will get a six-year, $72.5 million contract. Referring to the deals, Sports Illustrated wrote, “the small-market Cincinnati Reds show that they're serious about winning.”

A University of Cincinnati student remains hospitalized today after a toxic chemical explosion on campus overnight. Police say a female student was working with the chemical alone at the engineering building around 1 a.m. when a reaction caused an explosion. The student was working on a process known as aluminum etching.

Oxford police have had to stand watch while members of a fraternity that was ordered to shut down at Miami University clear out their belongings from the frat house. Sigma Chi International officials yanked the local charter and ordered the 29 frat house occupants evicted by today after years of sanctions for alleged drug use, alcohol abuse, hazing and property damage. Police had to arrest an apparently inebriated 21-year-old student from Chicago for refusing to leave the scene after he repeatedly barked at a police dog. (How douchey.)

In news elsewhere, Rick Santorum announced Tuesday he was leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination, clearing the path for Mitt Romney. Although Santorum — an ex-Pennsylvania senator who lost reelection in 2006 — said his decision partially was prompted by health concerns about his three-year-old daughter, Bella, most pundits agree he likely was afraid of losing the primary election in his home state on April 24, which could've dashed his plans for a political future.

More Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court justices will be acting mostly on their partisan political views than on a neutral reading of the law when they decide the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News. Only 40 percent of respondents expect their decisions to be rooted primarily “on the basis of the law.”

Attorneys representing George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of an unarmed black teenager dropped out of the case Tuesday, saying they've had no contact with their client since Sunday. The attorneys, who conceded they had never met their client in-person, said Zimmerman had been in contact with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity during the same period. Meanwhile, special prosecutor Angela Corey said Tuesday she would hold a press conference “in the next 72 hours.” Corey will decide whether Zimmerman should face criminal charges for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

McDonald's has become the fifth major company to recently drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The shadowy group, which has ties to the Koch brothers and the NRA, provides model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce on various conservative and “free market” issues. ALEC has been criticized for pushing the “stand your ground” law in Florida that allows people to kill someone in public places if they feel their life is threatened. Other firms that have dropped membership are Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Intuit.

A massive earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean today, sending residents in coastal cities fleeing to higher ground. The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was centered about 19 miles beneath the ocean floor. At least one aftershock also has been reported.
by Danny Cross 05.30.2012
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has already had a rough week, having to give back more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation. Today The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Politifact website looked into one of the five claims made in Mandel's new 30-second TV ad, and it seems to be pretty false. Mandel claims that his opponent, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, “cast the deciding vote on the government takeover of health care." Politifact notes that since the health care overhaul passed by the minimum 60 votes necessary, that every vote was technically “deciding.” But, on the other hand, Brown was an early supporter of the legislation, and it is widely known that Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the final “yes” vote to join. Plus, technically, Brown was the seventh person to vote because it was taken in alphabetical order.

Ohio public schools have received a waiver for parts of No Child Left Behind that will remove a requirement to get all of their students proficient in math and reading by 2014. Nineteen states have received the waiver, meaning they'll have to create their own federally approved academic progress standards.

Covington leaders are expecting staff reductions as part of balancing the 2012-13 budget to cover $1.5 million that was left out. The city is facing $1.6 million in cuts to public-safety services and about $700,000 across other departments.

Mitt Romney officially won the Republican presidential nomination yesterday, but no one's talking about it because all the stories involve Donald Trump and the fact that his iPhone app misspelled “America.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has two weeks to offer arguments against extradition to Sweden after a U.K. supreme court ruling.

The makers of Blackberry are considering how to remake their products into something people will actually want again.

Facebook's public offering drama has caused experts to ask questions such as, “should investors see the wretched performance of Facebook’s IPO as any sort of signal about the likely future direction of the overall stock market and the economy?

While the rest of us were living our lives, two asteroids zipped past the earth early this week. Don't worry — they were small.

by Kevin Osborne 01.25.2012
Posted In: News, Education at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

UC Creates Journalism Dept.

Beginning Aug. 1, the University of Cincinnati (UC) will have its own Journalism Department.

The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday to create a separate, stand-alone Journalism Department at the institution.

Read More

by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project.

The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.

Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.

With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.

The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.

Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.

But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.

Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.

With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.

Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.

Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.

Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.

by Kevin Osborne 04.18.2012
Posted In: Technology, Education, Police, Sports, War , President Obama at 08:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
qr code

Morning News and Stuff

Cemeteries have officially arrived in the 21st Century. A Crawfordsville, Ind., firm is now using Quick Response barcodes on tombstones. The Allen Monument Co. says the code can connect users to an entire memorial site about a deceased person, provided by Cincinnati-based Making Everlasting Memories. The site can include photos, a biography and other information. All it takes is a simple scan from a smartphone. That's either a brilliant step forward for convenience or a sign of consumerism and technology run amok. You decide.

It looks like charter schools aren't quite the draw that many conservatives believed they would be. Cincinnati Public Schools will lose fewer students than expected next year to private schools and state-funded vouchers, a school official said Tuesday. Only 899 new students applied for new Educational Choice scholarships for the upcoming school year. That’s down from 1,078 applicants from CPS last year and it’s far below the 1,377 students that district officials had estimated to lose this spring.

A Northern Kentucky police chief charged with drunken driving wants to suppress police dashboard camera footage of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. An attorney for Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse made the request during a pretrial hearing this week. Rouse is suspended without pay after his March 1 arrest by Alexandria police. We wonder if the Wilder Police Department uses dashboard cams in its cruisers. (What's good for the goose, etc.)

They had better come on strong. The Bengals will be featured on the season opener of Monday Night Football on ESPN in September. The team will face off against the Ravens in Baltimore. Other highlights of the 2012 schedule, which was released Tuesday, include the Bengals playing their first regular season game in week two against the Cleveland Browns in Cincinnati, and playing divisional foes the Steelers in week 16 at Pittsburgh.

A large swarm of bees has invaded Cincinnati's Covedale neighborhood. Residents on Woodbriar Lane are concerned about thousands of active bees going from yard to yard looking for a place to make a hive. The bees have been doing it for the last couple of days, and residents say they're swarming around different locations, changing locations in as little as 30 minutes in some cases. The buzzing sounds can be heard from 20 feet away or more, they added.

In news elsewhere, friends of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insist their pal isn't an android. Romney is a nice guy, they said, adding they are at a loss to explain his stiff demeanor and unusual syntax on the campaign trail. Maybe he's simply trying too hard, some friends told The Washington Post. Yeah, that's it, I'm sure.

Reacting to rising gasoline prices, President Obama proposed new measures this week to reduce oil market manipulation. The proposals, which observers say are unlikely to get support from a divided Congress, include increasing civil and criminal penalties on individuals and companies involved in manipulative practices involving commodities speculation.

In yet another setback for U.S.-Afghan relations, photographs of American troops gleefully posing with corpses of insurgents they've killed were given to The Los Angeles Times. The U.S. soldier who released the photos said he did so to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.

A shadowy conservative group that works behind-the-scenes to push laws that call for stricter voter identification requirements and “stand your ground” initiatives is disbanding its “Public Safety and Elections” task force. The task force, part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives, not just restrictive voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities. In recent weeks, numerous of ALEC's corporate members have left then group including Coca-Cola, Intuit and McDonald's.

Thousands of documents detailing crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review concluded. Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.