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by Kevin Osborne 04.02.2012
Posted In: Courts, City Council, Spending, Neighborhoods, Poverty at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
shelia

Morning News and Stuff

The person hired 15 months ago to lead the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office is having extreme conflicts with her staff, according to an assessment done for the commission that oversees the office. Before she was hired here, Shelia Kyle-Reno headed a much smaller public defender's office based in Elizabethtown, Ky. “It is obvious that the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office is an office characterized by high conflict, mistrust, poor communication and a lack of a shared vision,” the report states. The office provides free legal services for poor people charged with crimes.

Cincinnati City Council's budget and finance committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening to get input on what cuts to make to deal with a reduction in federal funding. The city is grappling with a $630,000 drop in grant funding for neighborhood projects and a $300,000 drop in funding for affordable housing. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is urging his colleagues to block a plan to spend $4.4 million to renovate City Hall's atrium so it can be rented for special events, and instead spend that money to avoid cuts in the other programs.

A 20-year-old soldier from Kentucky was killed in Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Department said Army Spc. David W. Taylor, of Dixon, Ky., died on Thursday in Kandahar province. The military didn't say how Taylor died.

Here's some good news for people getting ready to graduate from college. Hiring of college graduates is expected to climb 10.02 percent on campuses in 2012, a increase from the previous estimate of 9.5 percent, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

A Republican-backed bill that would limit the amount of damages paid to consumers by businesses found to have engaged in deceptive practices is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this week. The bill would exempt businesses from paying certain damages if a consumer rejects a settlement offer and is later awarded less in court. The National Consumer Law Center has said Ohio would have one of the weakest consumer protection laws in the nation if the bill is signed, reducing incentives for companies to change fradulent practices.

In news elsewhere, research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans age 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, and more than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, some Social Security checks are being garnished and debt collectors are harassing borrowers in their 80s about student loans that are decades old. Some economists say the long-touted benefits of a college degree are being diluted by rising tuition rates and the longevity of debt.

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and other Republicans seeking elective office this year are strenuously avoiding any mention or appearance with the most recent president from their party, George W. Bush. Although Romney recently picked up endorsements from Dubya's father and brother, George H.W. Bush and Jeb Bush respectively, POTUS No. 43 is keeping a low profile. Do you think it might be due to two bungled wars and the recession that started on his watch? Nah. (And yet they want to continue his policies.)

Some British politicians and civil rights activists are protesting plans by the government to give the intelligence service the ability to monitor the telephone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet use of every person in the United Kingdom. Under the proposal, revealed in The Sunday Times of London, a law to be introduced later this year would allow the authorities to order Internet companies to install hardware enabling the government’s monitoring agency to examine individual communications without a warrant. George Orwell was right: Big Brother is watching you.

In what's becoming an increasingly frequent headline, TV commentator Keith Olbermann has been fired from another job. Olbermann was terminated Friday by Current TV, and replaced by ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Olbermann had hosted Countdown, which he brought from MSNBC after his exit there, since June. Sources say Olbermann was let go for various reasons including continual complaints about staff, refusing to toss to other peoples' shows or appear in advertisements with them.

Iraq's “fugitive” Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has rejected Baghdad's demand for Qatar to extradite him, stating he enjoys constitutional immunity and hasn't been convicted of any crime. Hashemi is accused of having operated a secret death squad in Iraq.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.30.2012
 
 
sarah jones

Morning News and Stuff

Ending months of speculation about why a special prosecutor was investigating her, a Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader was indicted Thursday for allegedly having sex with an underage student while she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood. A grand jury indicted Sarah Jones on first-degree sexual abuse and a charge of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts. The charges are felonies that are punishable by up to five years in prison. She resigned from her teaching job in November. Jones won $11 million in a default judgment in summer 2010 arising from a libel lawsuit she filed against Thedirty.com, a gossip website. An online post had claimed Jones had two venereal diseases and was having sex in her high school classroom. The website has asked that the judgment be dismissed, while Jones has appeared on TV shows like ABC’s 20/20 to discuss cyber-harassment.

Cincinnati officials are touting how the violent crime rate in Over-the-Rhine has dropped in recent months, on the heels of the FBI and local police arresting five alleged gang members Thursday that are accused of committing crimes there. Police note there hasn't been a homicide in Over-the-Rhine in the past seven months, adding stepped up patrols partially are responsible..

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Thursday that is designed to crack down on human trafficking. His order creates a task force to coordinate statewide rescue efforts, law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, and services for victims. The task force is scheduled to report back to Kasich within 90 days on the problem's scope and how best to address it.

As The Enquirer's parent company this week sheds numerous employees by offering a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal, a union representing reporters at The Dayton Daily News are fighting efforts to replace older, more highly paid workers. The Dayton Newspaper Guild rallied outside the Cox Media Center on Wednesday, as the union resumes contract negotiations with the media company. Guild leaders said newspaper executives are seeking unlimited power to use freelancers to replace professional journalists, along with wanting to abolish job security for its most experienced workers by eliminating seniority-based layoffs. Cox also owns newspapers in Mason, West Chester, Hamilton and Middletown.

A Columbus man is crediting his friend for saving his life after a freak accident involving a turkey. Ohio State University “super fan” John Chubb, who also is known as “Buck i Guy,” was recently driving home on Interstate 79 from Pittsburgh after the Buckeyes’ win over Gonzaga when a turkey crashed through his windshield and knocked him unconscious. Chubb's friend, a retired Columbus firefighter, grabbed the steering wheel and safely brought the car to a stop. (Shades of Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”)

In news elsewhere, a group launching a $3.6 million advertising campaign criticizing President Obama for high gasoline prices is connected to the notorious Koch brothers. The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and sources told Politico that both groups are funded partly by industrialists Charles and David Koch and their donor network. In all, the brothers’ network is aiming to steer significantly more than $200 million to conservative groups for political advertising and organizing ahead of Election Day.

A conservative think tank with ties to local politicians has been drawn into the controversy over Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's shooting death. The unarmed 17-year-old was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer who is expected to use Florida's “stand your ground” law as his defense. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers, promoted "stand your ground" laws. A statement issued by ALEC said the law probably is being misapplied in Martin's case: “It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation." State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here.

Meanwhile, the police reports from the two officers who first responded to the scene of Martin's shooting have been posted online. They reveal what the officers encountered and how shooter George Zimmerman reacted upon being confronted by police.

Newt Gingrich's recent casual attitude toward his supposed presidential campaign might now have an explanation. The Washington Times has revealed that Gingrich secretly met with GOP rival, Mitt Romney, on Saturday. The ex-House Speaker said he has made no deal to end his bid for the Republican nomination, adding he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out. Curiouser and curiouser.

The Human Rights Campaign has obtained confidential documents from a prominent anti-gay rights group that indicates its legislative strategy includes trying to divide African-American and gay voters and pit them against one another. The documents, from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), were unsealed this week in a Maine court case. “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,”the NOM report states. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” Seems like that strategy worked with our local NAACP president, Christopher Smitherman.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.28.2012
 
 
pigs

Morning News and Stuff

Here they come again: the pigs, that is. Artists around Cincinnati are putting the finishing touches on another round of decorated fiberglass pigs that will be unveiled in May as part of the next Big Pig Gig. Co-sponsored by ArtWorks and C-Change, the event is modeled after the one held from May to October 2000 when local artists and schools decorated more than 400 statues and installed them throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The pigs eventually were auctioned off, raising money for area nonprofit groups. This year's pigs will debut at the Flying Pig Marathon in May and go on full display during the World Choir Games in July. The theme is the city's architecture, or as organizers call it, "pork-itecture."

A decision is expected today in a lawsuit to stop a $12 million renovation project at the Anna Louise Inn. Western & Southern Financial Group wants to purchase the land on Lytle Street where the battered women's shelter is located and build upscale condominiums there. Union Bethel, the group that owns the shelter, have said they feel bullied by the powerful corporation.

Gov. John Kasich is an odd man, so it should be no surprise that some items in his recent state budget proposal also are downright bizarre. They include reclassifying bottled water as a food so consumers no longer have to pay sales tax on it, and repealing a 2006 regulation that required all Ohio employers to have applicants fill out a form attesting that they weren't affiliated with any terrorist organizations. (Ahh, the early 2000s. Good times.)

Trustees at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College have authorized bids to construct two 10-unit hangars at its Cincinnati West Airport in Harrison. The new structures would be built next to existing hangars, which house 22 planes and are leased to capacity.

Longtime Reds sportscaster Thom Brennaman assessed the team's prospects for the upcoming season from its spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz. The interview can be found at the website for WNKU (89.7 FM).

In news elsewhere, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich appears to have conceded that he cannot win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to nab the party's nomination. The ex-House Speaker from Georgia is reducing his campaign schedule, laying off about one-third of his cash-strapped campaign’s staff and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy. Gingrich will now focus on winning in a contested party convention scenario in Tampa, Fla., when the party meets there in late August.

If you like the fact that an insurance can't drop you for a preexisting condition under President Obama's health-care reform law, or that a company can't impose a limit on paying the cost of your medical care, then you'd better hope the Supreme Court upholds it. That's because Obama and Congress have few contingency plans about what to do if the high court strikes down the mandatory insurance requirement.

A dispute is brewing in Israel over plans to prevent the Canaan, an ancient breed of dog mentioned in the Bible, from going extinct. In recent decades, many Canaan dogs were destroyed in rabies eradication programs, and now only a few hundred subsist in the Negev desert. But the Israeli government is threatening to close the operation that has been helping preserve the breed by collecting rare specimens in the desert, breeding them and shipping their offspring to kennels around the globe.

Syria's tentative acceptance of a United Nations-backed plan to end the nation's violent uprising has triggered skeptical responses from U.S. and British officials, amid concern that President Bashar al-Assad is trying to buy time and divide his opponents.

Neighbors of the west African nation of Mali have threatened to use economic sanctions and expressed a readiness to use military force to dislodge those behind last week's coup, urging them to quickly hand back power to civilian rulers. A summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sent a team of diplomats to confront the coup leaders in coming days. Meanwhile, the United States has cut off aid to Mali in protest.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.26.2012
Posted In: Protests, Courts, Racism, Social Justice, Human Rights at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
malloryhoodie

Local Rally Planned for Trayvon Martin

Participants will wear hoodies on the square

A rally will be held at Fountain Square today to commemorate the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and to demand a thorough investigation of the incident.

The event begins at 5 p.m. and attendees are asked to bring signs that aren’t posted on sticks, to comply with a local law, and also to wear hooded jackets. Martin, 17, was wearing a “hoodie” when George Zimmerman allegedly killed him Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.

Rallies have been held across the nation during the past week to protest the handling of Martin’s case. Many of the participants have worn hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teenager, often carrying signs that state, “I am Trayvon Martin.”

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory posted a similar photograph on his Facebook page over the weekend. It’s unclear if Mallory plans to attend today’s rally.

Among the groups organizing the rally are Occupy The Hood and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.

Zimmerman, 28, who says he belongs to a neighborhood watch program in his gated community, began following Martin at about 7 p.m. for what he described in a 911 call as “suspicious behavior.” Martin was walking back to his father’s condominium after buying iced tea for himself and Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother.

"This guy looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something," Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher.

Some sort of encounter occurred that resulted in Martin’s death. Sanford Police didn’t arrest Zimmerman, saying that it appeared he acted in self-defense.

Sanford Police accepted Zimmerman’s version of events at face value. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him,” Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee told ABC News earlier this month.

After the incident became publicized through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, public outcry grew. More than 2 million people have signed an online petition demanding justice, and the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have launched investigations.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012
Posted In: Congress, Ethics, Courts, 2012 Election, Protests at 04:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
schmidt

Schmidt Drops Lawsuit

Congresswoman sought $6.8M from opponent

Nearly two years after she filed the lawsuit, a congresswoman who lost in the March primary election has dropped her legal action against a political opponent.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) told
The Enquirer today that she decided to drop her defamation lawsuit against Madeira businessman David Krikorian. Schmidt filed the suit in June 2010, and had sought $6.8 million in damages.

Krikorian is claiming victory in the dispute, and told
CityBeat the lawsuit was an intimidation tactic by well-funded special interests.

“Her lawsuit was entirely without merit,” Krikorian said. “It was meant to silence and intimidate me and cost me money.  It did not work.”

Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008; he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat in 2010 and again this year.

During the ‘08 campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey had committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.

But the lawsuit proved to be Schmidt’s undoing. She received more than $400,000 in free legal assistance from the Turkish Coalition of America to support her suit. In August 2011 the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but didn’t “knowingly” violate the law. She was ordered to repay the coalition, which she has yet to do.

Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, dubbed Schmidt as
one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

All of the drama took its toll: Schmidt lost the GOP primary earlier this month to challenger Brad Wenstrup. He defeated her 49-43 percent.

“It’s time to move on,” Barrett Brunsman, Schmidt’s spokesman,
told The Enquirer today about dropping the lawsuit.

The Turkish Coalition of America was among Schmidt’s top contributors, donating $7,500 to her 2010 reelection campaign through its political action committee, and donating $7,600 to her in 2008.

Schmidt also traveled to Turkey at least twice while in office. The coalition picked up the tab for one of the trips.

Politico reported March 12 that Schmidt was in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, March 6, at a private luncheon with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan.

“At times, Rep. Jean Schmidt has been closer to Turkish interests than those of her Cincinnati-area constituents,”
Politico’s Jonathan Allen wrote. “Never was that proximity problem more telling than on Tuesday, when Republicans denied Schmidt renomination to run for another term.”

When Allen sought comment for the article, Brunsman refused to confirm if the meeting occurred and sent an email that stated, “I think you have lost your way.”

For his part, Krikorian said the experience has taught him that Ohio needs to pass legislation that penalizes lawsuits filed solely to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition. Such a tactic is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.

“I think the Ohio Legislature should consider passing an anti-SLAPP statue to prevent these kinds of abuses of the legal process,” he said. “This lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate and silence me by Rep. Schmidt and the Turkish lobby.”

Krikorian apparently lost in the March 6 Democratic primary by just 59 votes to William R. Smith, a virtual unknown from Pike County who didn’t campaign, answer questionnaires or grant interviews. A recount is under way and Krikorian has asked for a federal investigation of Victory Ohio Super PAC, which made robo-calls on Smith’s behalf but isn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission.

Krikorian picked up 14 more votes in Hamilton County on provisional ballots once the results were certified. Meanwhile, Clermont County certifies its results on Tuesday.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012
 
 
471

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials approved a deal Wednesday that offers up to $12 million in tax incentives to a local firm in return for it agreeing to build its new headquarters at the long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets downtown and maintaining certain employment levels. City Council said it was important to keep Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding company, located here. Dunnhumby will build a $36 million complex that includes 250,000 square feet of office space and create 550 new jobs by 2014, along with retaining its 450 current employees. Under the deal, the city would pay Dunnhumby up to 75 percent of the new income tax generated each year as the company adds jobs.

A plan to reconfigure I-471 in Northern Kentucky is delaying a road project across the Ohio River in Cincinnati's East End neighborhood. The city's project would make Riverside Drive more like a neighborhood street, instead of a major thoroughfare, and add bicycle lanes. But the I-471 project means motorists who need to reach the East Side during rush hour will likely be using Riverside Drive, so city engineers don't want to restrict traffic there until the highway construction is done. The change means the Riverside Drive work will be delayed between one and two years.

Partially based on local complaints, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. for allegedly being involved in a price-fixing scheme. The lawsuit alleges the two companies divided up the Ohio rock salt market between themselves, agreeing not to compete with each other and driving up rock salt prices over the past decade. In 2008, Hamilton County said it saw signs that collusion was occurring when it was getting only one bid for salt at triple the usual price.

A man who rescued a child from a burning house in Northside is among a group of people recognized for their heroism. Ryan Phillips, 43 of Cincinnati, saved a 3-year-old child from a fire in February 2011. He is among the 21 winners of Carnegie Medals for heroism. Carnegie medalists receive a financial reward from a fund. More than $33.9 million has been awarded to 9,516 honorees since its 1904 inception.

Boosted by expansion at hospitals and colleges, the number of construction jobs in Ohio is slowly increasing. The state’s construction industry employed 177,300 workers in January, an increase of 4,500 — or 2.6 percent — from January 2011, according to a new analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost half of the gains came from the Columbus area. (For the record, the mayor of Columbus and a majority of its City Council are Democrats. Just saying.)

In news elsewhere, after a long standoff and a gun battle, French police today stormed into the apartment of a young Islamic radical suspected of killing seven people. The suspect, Mohammed Merah, was shot and killed in the confrontation. He is believed to be the person that murdered three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in an eight-day terrorism spree.

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea bargain negotiations, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions, the high court vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers. About 97 percent of convictions in federal courts were the result of guilty pleas. In 2006, the last year for which data was available, 94 percent of convictions in state courts were the result of such deals.

Even though he came in fourth, behind Ron Paul, in the Illinois primary this week, Newt Gingrich isn't giving up hope about his struggling presidential bid. The ex-House Speaker told NPR that he sees no reason to exit the Republican presidential race and that there's a chance of a new contender emerging at the party's convention in August. "I'm not so sure you wouldn't get a series of brand new players" stepping forward during a brokered convention, he said. Dream on, Newt.

Soldiers in Mali have taken over state-operated television and announced they have seized control of the government. The soldiers said the coup was necessary because of the mishandling of an insurgency in the north. For those of you scratching your heads, Mali is in western Africa, near Algiers, and has a population of 14.5 million people. (It's not to be confused with Malawi, where Madonna likes to adopt children.)

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean executives over an oil leak in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2011. Prosecutors on Wednesday accused the executives of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil's oil regulator about their safety plans and not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill. At least 416,000 liters of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron well off the Rio de Janeiro coast.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012
 
 
exorcism

Morning News and Stuff

To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.

A retired local judge told WCPO-TV's I-Team that his dismissal from a United Nations tribunal was the result of a “purge” because some U.N. officials disliked the reforms that he and his colleagues were implementing. Mark Painter, who is a former municipal court judge and appellate court judge in the Cincinnati area, served three years as the only American on a new tribunal that makes final judgments on internal United Nations disputes. But the committee that selects judges chose not to renominate him for a full seven-year term. Painter said it's because the tribunal made its decisions binding, but U.N. officials denied the allegation.

About 40 people attended an event Monday night at downtown's Piatt Park to mark Occupy Cincinnati's return to the plaza. As part of a deal signed last week with the city's attorneys, Occupy members are now allowed to remain in the park overnight as long as they are quiet and don't erect tents. Less than 10 people chose to stay until this morning.

In other protest-related news, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave permission for a Catholic priest in a Dayton suburb to perform an exorcism outside of a medical clinic that performs abortions. The Rev. Tim Ralston of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kettering performed the rite Sunday at the Women's Med Center. About 300 anti-abortion activists attended the event.

Gov. John Kasich is trying to force out the leader of the Ohio Republican Party before November's elections. Party Chairman Kevin DeWine announced Sunday he wouldn't seek reelection when his two-year term expires in January, but Kasich wants DeWine gone now. Kasich wants to name his own appointee, and hopes to oust DeWine when the GOP’s newly elected 66-member central committee meets April 13.

In news elsewhere, public outcry has prompted the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest. More than 435,000 people signed an online petition calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was killed Feb. 17 while walking home after buying Skittles and iced tea at a nearby store.

More details are emerging about the past of the Norwood native who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree. Before he enlisted in the Army, Robert Bales' career as a stockbroker came to an end when a court arbitrator ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million for taking part in “fraud” and “unauthorized trading.” The client, Gary Liebschner, a 74-year-old retired engineer, told The Washington Post that he “never got paid a penny” of the award.

Meanwhile, the shooting spree may lead to Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning a major concession from the United States. Officials are mulling whether to modify the use of controversial night raids by troops and giving Afghans more oversight. The Obama administration is discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, a U.S. official said Monday.

JP Morgan Chase is closing the Vatican bank's account with its Italian branch based on concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See's financial institution. Italian newspapers reported JP Morgan Chase informed the Vatican bank that its account was being closed because it had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers. The institution has been accused of tax fraud and money laundering in the past.

The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.14.2012
 
 
streetcar

Duke's Streetcar Claim Might be Crumbling

Ohio law has exception for wire-powered vehicles

A review of the fine print in Ohio law could spell trouble for Duke Energy in its dispute with Cincinnati about who must pay to move utility lines to accommodate the city’s streetcar project.

Readers of CityBeat’s March 6 cover story know that one of the legal arguments made by Duke Energy is that it said the system qualifies as a utility itself under Ohio law. And one utility has no legal obligation to reimburse another utility, Duke added.

City officials disagree with Duke’s interpretation, and the two sides currently are trying to negotiate a compromise to the impasse.

The city is willing to pay $6 million to relocate Duke’s natural gas, chilled water, fiber and electrical infrastructure along the streetcar route, but the firm insists it will cost at least $18.7 million and possibly more.

A close reading of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), however, reveals it is unlikely that a streetcar system qualifies as a “public utility.”

Under Ohio law, the following items are defined as public utilities:

“A motor transportation company, when engaged in the business of carrying and transporting persons or property or the business of providing or furnishing such transportation service, for hire, in or by motor-propelled vehicles of any kind, including trailers, for the public in general, over any public street, road, or highway in this state.” ORC §4905.03

But motor-propelled vehicles aren’t defined under Ohio law. The ORC does, however, define “motor vehicle” as:

“(B) “Motor vehicle” means any vehicle, including mobile homes and recreational vehicles, that is propelled or drawn by power other than muscular power or power collected from overhead electric trolley wires. “Motor vehicle” does not include utility vehicles as defined in division (VV) of this section, motorized bicycles, road rollers, traction engines, power shovels, power cranes, and other equipment used in construction work and not designed for or employed in general highway transportation, well-drilling machinery, ditch-digging machinery, farm machinery, and trailers that are designed and used exclusively to transport a boat between a place of storage and a marina, or in and around a marina, when drawn or towed on a public road or highway for a distance of no more than ten miles and at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour or less.” ORC §4501.01(B)

Streetcars operate using overhead trolley wires, thus they aren’t considered motor vehicles under Ohio law. But do they even qualify as vehicles? The ORC defines vehicles as:

“(A) “Vehicles” means everything on wheels or runners, including motorized bicycles, but does not mean electric personal assistive mobility devices, vehicles that are operated exclusively on rails or tracks or from overhead electric trolley wires, and vehicles that belong to any police department, municipal fire department, or volunteer fire department, or that are used by such a department in the discharge of its functions.” ORC §4501.01(A)

Of course, streetcars run on rails and use power from electric trolley wires. So, they aren’t vehicles either.

The conclusion: Either “motor-propelled vehicles” mean the same as “motor vehicles” (in which case it doesn’t apply to streetcars) or “motor-propelled” is an adjective to “vehicle” (which also doesn’t apply, as streetcars aren’t vehicles).

In each instance, a streetcar system doesn’t fall into the legal realm of a “motor transportation company” and therefore isn’t a “public utility.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.14.2012
 
 
lizrogers

Morning News and Stuff

A recent vote by Cincinnati City Council to give nearly $1 million in grants and loans so a Hamilton restaurant could open a second location in The Banks district is again coming under scrutiny. Council's vote occurred after a week’s delay when members learned owner Liz Rogers owed more than $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. As it turns out, Rogers turned herself in at the Butler County Sheriff's Office Tuesday on a warrant related to another debt. The warrant was issued after Rogers failed to appear at a December 2010 hearing on a $3,000 debt she owes to Queen City Computer Press of Blue Ash. Rogers was released on a $3,100 bond posted by her husband.

Although some City Council members expressed misgivings after the latest turn of events, Rogers told WCPO-TV (Channel 9) that City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. knew about all her outstanding debts before he recommended that she get city funding.

Meanwhile, Rogers' legal troubles are adding to the embarrassment over a recent feature in The Enquirer. When the newspaper published a high-profile, above-the-fold list of the “20 Professional Women to Watch in 2012” on Feb. 12, it was criticized in journalism circles for including its own editor, Carolyn Washburn, among the honorees. But the list also included Rogers as a person to keep an eye on. That sounds about right.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has dropped the case against a woman charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after viewing video from the dashboard camera of the Addyston police officer who stopped her vehicle. The video shows Officer Jeremie Keene pulling Tiffany Becker from her vehicle, pushing her to the ground and cuffing her on Feb. 10, after her van allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at an intersection. Keene's police report said Becker spat at him and refused to leave her vehicle, but the video footage tells a different story.

The Kroger Co. has hired Suzanne Lindsay as its director of sustainability, a new position responsible for reducing the firm's energy consumption and waste, and increasing its transportation efficiency. Lindsay previously held a similar position at PetSmart. Cincinnati-based Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery retailer with more than 2,400 stores in 31 states.

In news elsewhere, Tuesday night likely will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Newt Gingrich's presidential aspirations. Although the ex-House Speaker placed second in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, outright victories in the two southern states near his native Georgia were considered crucial to proving the viability of his campaign.

Despite pouring massive amounts of cash into campaigning in the two states, Mitt Romney placed third in both primaries. Rick Santorum won both contests. He got 34.5 percent of the vote in Alabama, compared to Gingrich's 29.3 percent and Romney's 29 percent. In Mississippi, Santorum got 32.9 percent, compared to Gingrich's 31.3 percent and Romney's 30.3 percent.

An advocacy group that helps victims of pedophile priests said attorneys from the Roman Catholic Church are using legal tactics to harass it into silence. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn't a plaintiff or a defendant in the pending cases against priests, but it has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis. Also, SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of church attorneys for more than six hours in one case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has cancelled a planned April trip to Toronto, stating that conditions in Canada are too dangerous. Cheney had planned on giving a speech about his time in office, but had second thoughts after a September incident in Vancouver. While speaking at a private club, protesters massed outside the front door and harassed ticket holders. Cheney reportedly was held inside the building for more than seven hours as police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators. Maybe Dick should plan a trip to Baghdad instead?

A new medical study indicates the eyes and brains of astronauts who have spent long periods of time in orbit can develop abnormalities. Magnetic resonance imaging on 27 astronauts found effects similar to those of intracranial hypertension, which results in a build up of pressure within the skull, researchers said. I guess that explains why Capt. Kirk was always such a loose cannon.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.13.2012
 
 
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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.
 
 

 

 

 
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