CityBeat Blogs - Death Penalty http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-110.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Mayor John Cranley appears to be working on another parking deal to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking meters, although the mayor’s office says this plan won’t give up control of the city’s parking meters to a private entity. At the same time, it seems the deal won’t produce a large lump-sum like the defunct parking privatization plan did. Cranley and other opponents of the old parking plan have long said that, even without privatization, the city’s parking meters need to be upgraded to accept credit card payments, among other modern features.

The warden who oversaw Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute, seemingly painful execution says it went “very well.” The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted use of the death penalty in 1999, drew international attention, particularly because many blamed the long time to kill on the state’s use of a cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The warden’s statements essentially reject those concerns. Still, state officials say they’re conducting a third review of McGuire’s execution in particular, which is apparently uncommon. CityBeat covered the execution in further detail here.

An Ohio House bill could boost funding to local governments affected by the fracking boom by hiking the severance tax on oil and gas companies. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. Its widespread use has spurred an economic boom across the country, including northeast Ohio. While it’s boosted the overall economy, it’s also raised environmental and displacement concerns, particularly in areas where the boom is most active. CityBeat covered the fracking boom in further detail here.

In response to complaints about slow snow plowing, the city tweeted, “We’ve got 2,800+ lane miles to clear. It’s going to take some time. Please, go slow & be patient today as our crews work ’round-the-clock.”

In light of yesterday’s “debate” over evolution and biblical creationism, here are four things the anti-science crowd denies.

An Ohio Senate bill would prohibit sales of e-cigarettes to those younger than 18, but some anti-smoking activists worry the bill’s classification of e-cigarettes as an “alternative nicotine product” instead of a tobacco product could loosen regulations on the potentially cancer-causing product.

Meanwhile, CVS plans to stop selling tobacco products as it focuses more on health care.

Ohio’s standardized tests for grades 3-8 could be delayed after winter storms forced so many school closings.

The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the possibility of using drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — in the future through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati.

A Salvadoran newspaper used a drone to cover a presidential election.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

Got any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

For some, Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute, seemingly painful execution raises constitutional and ethical questions about Ohio’s use of the death penalty. In particular, the convicted killer’s family and medical experts say the state’s use of a new cocktail of drugs presented problems even before McGuire was killed, with one Harvard professor of anesthesia warning the state prior to the execution that its dosage was too low for McGuire’s size and the drugs inadequate. Jonathan Groner, a professor of clinical surgery at Ohio State University, told CityBeat, “I wouldn’t want what he got to have my appendix out. … I would be concerned that I would feel something.”

Hamilton County commissioners yesterday accepted a Mount Airy facility offered to the county as a gift by Catholic Health Partners, with plans to use the former hospital as the campus for a new crime lab. The acceptance came despite previous warnings that the Mount Airy facility could not be taken in by the county if the Board of Elections didn’t also move its office and early voting to the Mount Airy location, where only one bus line runs, from its current downtown office. A party-line tie vote left the Board of Elections move in limbo, with a tie-breaking decision expected from the Republican secretary of state in the next few weeks. Democrats oppose the move because it would limit voting access for people who rely on public transportation, while Republicans argue free parking at the new facility would outweigh the loss of bus access.

Officials plan to break ground today on the Anna Louise Inn’s new location at Mount Auburn. The start of construction marks the beginning of the next chapter for the Inn afters its owner, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), lost a contentious legal battle against financial giant Western & Southern. CUB sought to keep the Inn at the location it has been at since 1909, while Western & Southern aimed to claim the property to invoke its full development vision on the Lytle Park neighborhood. After two years of litigation, both sides reached a settlement in which CUB agreed to move.

Commentary: Media Should End Reliance on “He Says, She Says.”

A local abortion clinic asked a Hamilton County judge to suspend a state order that would shut down the facility. The Sharonville clinic would close down by Feb. 4 if courts don’t step in.

With bipartisan support, the Ohio House cleared a bill that reduces the costs and speeds up the process of adoptions. But some Democrats worry the bill goes too far by shortening the period a putative father must register with the state if he wants to be able to consent to an adoption.

The tea party failed to put forward a Republican primary challenger to Gov. John Kasich.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says he’s talking to former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford as a potential running mate in a Democratic primary challenge against gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald. With less than one week left, Portune needs to name a running mate and gather 1,000 valid petition signatures to actually run — a prospect that’s looking dimmer by the day.

A federal judge sentenced an Ohio man who threatened to kill President Barack Obama to 16 months in prison.

Cincinnati-based Kroger might test an online ordering system.

Gladys, the Cincinnati Zoo’s newest gorilla, celebrated her first birthday party with cake.

Scientists developed hair-growing cells from ordinary skin cells, potentially providing a new option for curing baldness.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Local early voting could move from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, following a split, party-line vote from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Democrats oppose the move because they say it will make early voting less accessible to people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans support the move as part of a plan to consolidate some county services, particularly a new crime lab, at the Mount Airy facility. With the board split, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could step in to break the tie vote.

But Husted's spokesperson said the secretary of state might encourage the Board of Elections to "take another look" at the issue, and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county will not move the Board of Elections without a majority vote.

Gov. John Kasich called for a one-time increase in the number of school calamity days to cope with the unusually severe winter weather this year. Under state law, schools are normally allowed five calamity days before extra days off start chipping into summer break. The state legislature must approve legislation to enact the temporary increase.

Ohio officials found no substantial evidence that a public defender coached convicted killer Dennis McGuire to fake suffocation during his execution. Eye-witness accounts report McGuire visibly struggled, snorted and groaned as he took 26 minutes to die — the longest execution since Ohio restarted using the death penalty in 1999.

Despite what a local state senator says, there are a lot of differences between Ohio's Clean Energy Law and Stalinism.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate continues working on a proposal that would weaken Ohio's renewable energy and efficiency standards. But it's unclear if the new attempt will be any more successful than State Sen. Bill Seitz's failed, years-long crusade against the Clean Energy Law.

Local Democrats endorsed Christie Bryant for an open seat in the Ohio House, even though five interviewed for the position and could run in the Democratic primary. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke previously told CityBeat local Democrats endorse prior to a primary in some special situations. In this case, the party wanted to guarantee a black candidate, and Bryant is the most qualified, according to Burke.

A new report found Ohio's prison population ticked down by nearly 2 percent since 2011, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) says it is now trending back up. To address the recent rise, ODRC Director Gary Mohr says legislators need to provide more opportunities for community-based drug treatment, mental health care and probation programs to help reduce prison re-entry rates.

More than 112,000 Ohio students dropped out of high schools between 2006 and 2010.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will shape plans this year to remake some of Queensgate and Camp Washington into manufacturing, engineering and laboratory hubs with high-paying jobs.

Hamilton County might sell some of its six downtown buildings.

Former Mayor Mark Mallory took a job with the Pennsylvania-based Chester Group, which provides "energy, water and wastewater solutions to public and industrial clients across the United States and internationally," according to a press release.

Councilman Chris Seelbach's vegan chili won the Park+Vine cook-off.

Confirmed by science: Walking while texting or reading a text increases chances of injury.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

]]>
<![CDATA[FitzGerald Supports Death Penalty]]>

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Wednesday told reporters he supports the death penalty — a position that aligns him with his Republican opponent, Gov. John Kasich.

The debate over the death penalty recently re-ignited in Ohio after state officials took 26 minutes to kill Dennis McGuire, a convicted killer and rapist, with a cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. It remains unclear if the drugs prolonged McGuire’s death or if other factors are to blame.

Asked whether the state should place a moratorium on the death penalty in response to the botched execution, FitzGerald said state officials should investigate McGuire’s execution.

“I think they have to go through a very thorough and exhaustive review of how that unfolded and if it can be done in a way that meets the commonly accepted standards,” he responded.

FitzGerald said he based his support for the death penalty on his experiences as a special agent for the FBI and assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

“I understand there’s … legitimate moral concerns about it, and I respect people that have a different opinion on that,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday called on Kasich to halt the death penalty following McGuire’s prolonged execution.

McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming McGuire’s death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction plans to carry out five more executions in 2014. It remains unclear if the agency will use the same cocktail of drugs used to kill McGuire.

FitzGerald’s comments, courtesy of Capital Blog:

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.

Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.

A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.

The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.

Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

]]>
<![CDATA[ACLU Calls For End to Death Penalty]]>

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.

McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its previous supplies.

With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to state-sanctioned killing.

“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”

The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”

McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following McGuire’s execution.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.

In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.

Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."

Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before noon.

As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.

The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus. But some students and parents say the school should pursue more aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus bookstore.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.

Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.

Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.

More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]> Happy Government Shutdown. Check out CityBeat's coverage here.

Opponents of H.B. 7, a new law that will enforce Ohio's ban on Internet cafes that promote illegal gambling operation, failed to gather enough signatures for a referendum. The law, signed by Gov. John Kasich on June 4, goes into effect today.

Fountain Square's new locally-owned, independent bookstore and cafe, The Booksellers, hosts its grand opening today and Saturday. Read CityBeat's interview with Booksellers owner and founder of Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Neil Van Uum, here.

Entertainment Group 4EG is offering "government shutdown discounts" to all federal workers who can produce a government ID at its locations: Get $2 domestic beers at Igby's, The Lackman, Righteous Room, Pavilion, Sandbar, The Stand, St. Clair and Tap & Go, plus discounted appetizers at its Keystone Bar & Grill locations.

Ohio's
revised execution policy maintains use of pentobarbital in its death-penalty protocol, but now allows the state to secure the drug from compounding pharmacies. The state has currently been securing the drug, in short supply all across the country, from manufacturers and distributors. The revisions, however, don't address the shortage of the drug, which the state claimed it ran out of after using it to administer Harry Mitts Jr.'s exuection on Sept. 25.

Ten thousand Pacific walruses have beached themselves on a remote island off Alaska's northwest coast, unable to find sea ice as the result of climate change.

Fox News is being sued for broadcasting footage of an Arizona man shoot himself in the head on live air at the end of a car case on Sept. 28, 2012.

Dusty Baker has been canned from his position as Reds manager three days after his team lost the National League Wild Card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Mariam Carey, the dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn., who was killed outside the Capitol building yesterday in a high-speed police car chase after she allegedly tried to ram the White House gates, suffered from post-partum depression. 

Here are the six best science lessons we've learned from Walter White.

Have any questions for City Council candidates? It's your last chance to submit them here and we may choose your questions at tomorrow's candidate forum at 7 p.m. at the Greenwich in Walnut Hills.

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

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

State Rep. John Becker, a Cincinnati Republican, is pushing to expand the death penalty to include some sex-related crimes. His proposal, made Friday, would allow the state to consider execution in cases of rape, sexual battery and improper sexual contact if the suspect has a previous sex crime conviction and there are aggravating circumstances. Becker says he was inspired to propose the death penalty expansion after hearing about three Cleveland women who were kidnapped, held and raped for years by Ariel Castro before they escaped in May. But Castro, who was convicted earlier this month, wouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s plan because he didn’t have a previous sex crime conviction.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) officials are developing a 10-year plan for the school district, following in the footsteps of the Columbus and Cleveland systems and their unique plans. The school district is asking for more community support and $29 million from the state to, among other plans, boost its community learning center initiative, a nationally recognized program that turns schools into community hubs with extra services such as dental care and college preparation; expand early education, which is often heralded as one of the best economic investments; and provide more options through charter schools, which have generally performed worse than public schools but provide more choices for students. Unlike the other big city systems, CPS has posted decent academic ratings in the past few years, so the changes might not be as drastic or require legislative involvement.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was found to be the busiest central library in the country for the second year in a row by a report from the Public Library Association. Overall, the report found the Cincinnati system is the seventh busiest public library system in the country and second busiest in Ohio right after Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will use an $8,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Historic Preservation Office to help revitalize approximately 13 buildings in the neighborhood. The grant will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to research and apply for federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places, which would unlock more tax credits for the buildings and area. The rest of the money for the project will come from private funds. “Exciting things are happening in Over-the-Rhine,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a statement. “Helping the neighborhood receive this historic designation will allow the continued revitalization of this growing community.”

With a state ban lifted, Ohio is getting more online schools for the first time in eight years. Three e-schools were approved to open this fall, and five more could be approved this year. The moratorium on new e-schools was held until the state approved e-school standards, which were drafted by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an association funded in part by e-schools, and include no mention of proper budgeting or attendance tracking. A CityBeat look at e-schools last year found e-schools generally perform much worse but get more state funding than traditional public schools.

Five Miami University students helped install a wheelchair-accessible swing in Hanover Township.

Ohio gas prices are rising but still below the national average.

Ohio is among 24 states asking the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone manufacturers to test unmanned flying vehicles within state borders.

The Western & Southern Open had record attendance this year, with nearly 200,000 people turning up.

A 12-year-old electronics prodigy and teacher is working on a plan to revamp the U.S. education system to make it more fun.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]>

Ohio death row inmate Billy Slagle, who was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 7 was found hanged in his cell on Sunday.

Slagle, who fatally stabbed his neighbor 17 times in 1987, was recently denied clemency by Gov. John Kasich, despite a rare request from prosecutors to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison. CityBeat last week covered the situation here.

The restraining order granted last month to Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, the gay Ohio couple who in July flew to Maryland to officially tie the knot after 20 years of marriage, is set to expire today, meaning the judge overseeing the case must either renew the restraining order or issue a preliminary injunction. Arthur, who suffers from debilitating ALS, a neurological disease, is not expected to live much longer, which is why the two are fighting for their marriage to be recognized in their home state; in the case of Arthur’s death, Obergefell wants to be rightfully listed as his “surviving spouse.”

The first in-vitro hamburger, made of edible beef cells without actually killing a cow, was served today in London. According to food experts, the mouthfeel is similar to a conventional hamburger, but the traditional fatty flavor is still lacking. 

A pool of mosquitoes in Dayton's Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark has tested positive for the West Nile virus, the first in the region this season. 

Two Pennsylvania children have been prevented from discussing fracking for the rest of their lives under the terms of a gag order issued to their family in a settlement from drilling company Range Resources, who offered the children's family $750,000 to relocate from their fracking-polluted home, where they suffered from "burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and earaches" and other ailments as a result of their proximity to Range's drilling. 

It's Shark Week, y'all.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Although this year’s cuts are being undone, City Hall has been cutting resources to the homeless, long-term unemployed, crime victims and casualties of domestic abuse since 2004. Aid to those groups is part of human services funding, which is supposed to receive 1.5 percent of the operating budget but currently gets a quarter of that at 0.4 percent. To explain the decade of cuts, the city administration typically points to citizen surveys and meetings conducted as part of the priority-driven budgeting process. But a CityBeat analysis of the demographics of the process found they were skewed in favor of the wealthiest Cincinnatians and against low-income people, who benefit the most from human services. For the agencies that receive funding, the history of cuts is even more worrying as Cincinnati prepares for more budget gaps in the next few years.

The state of Ohio will execute Billy Slagle on Aug. 7, even though the prosecutor’s office behind the charges asked the Ohio Parole Board to grant him clemency. The parole board denied the request, and Gov. John Kasich last week declined to commute the sentence to life in prison. Slagle was convicted in 1988 of murdering a 40-year-old woman in a gruesome stabbing. His family says he was in an alcohol- and drug-fueled haze at the time and has a history of problems at home, including domestic abuse, that presents extenuating circumstances.

Two longshot mayoral candidates are really upset about Cincinnati’s primary system: Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers, and Libertarian Jim Berns quit the race. Under the current primary system, multiple mayoral candidates are allowed to run. But come Sept. 10, voters will select the top two contenders in a primary. Those frontrunners will then face off in a final election on Nov. 5 to pick who will take over City Hall on Dec. 1. Noble and Berns claim the current system favors the two frontrunners — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — by helping them get the most exposure through televised debates after the primary election.

Commentaries:
• “GOP Continues Playing Politics with Ohioans’ Health
Is Ohio’s New License Plate the Worst or Just Bad?

Cranley has raised more money than Qualls in the mayoral race, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday. Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to $348,000 for Qualls. Cranley also has about $264,000 in the bank, while the Qualls campaign has about $192,000 in hand.

Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children will be eligible for in-state tuition at Ohio public colleges, following a decision from the Ohio Board of Regents. The change will save the students thousands of dollars at the state’s public schools, which were charging exorbitant out-of-state and international rates before. The undocumented immigrants qualify for legal benefits because of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier in the year that prevents the federal government from prosecuting them. The order falls short of actual legalization on the books, but it grants many benefits under state and federal law.

In quite possibly the worst news ever, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones announced they’re leaving “Parks and Recreation” after the 13th episode of the upcoming season.

German scientists have proposed a new strategy for combating climate change: turn coastal deserts into forests.

By science, ostriches can now fly:

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

During a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado last night, a gunman walked into a theater, threw tear gas, and opened fire. Police identified James Holmes as the suspect in the shooting. Twelve were killed and at least 50 were wounded. On Twitter, one witness lamented that “there is no dark knight, no hero, that could save us from anything like this.”

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will learn later this summer if he'll be required to undergo additional training and take the state police exam. Craig and his attorneys yesterday told the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission about his 36 years of policing experience.

This summer, Ohio families will receive health insurance rebates as part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The average family will receive $139. In total, Ohioans will be getting back $11.3 million. 

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent in June, down from 7.3 percent in May. That’s the lowest unemployment has been since 2008.

An Ohio Supreme Court task force approved changes that will help prevent racial bias in death penalty cases.

Gov. John Kasich can’t get even his own people to agree with him on his tax plan. An Ohio Tea Party group came out against the plan yesterday.

Speaker of the House John Boehner called the issue of Mitt Romney’s tax returns a “sideshow” and said that Americans don’t care about it. But Romney apparently disagreed with Boehner’s perspective in 1994 when he asked then-Senator Ted Kennedy to release his tax returns.

First giant mirrors, then volcanoes. Now, scientists want to use plankton to help fight global warming.

]]>
<![CDATA[Racial Bias in Death Penalty Cases Gets Ohio Supreme Court's Attention]]> Ohio’s death penalty came under scrutiny again today, when the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty heard presentations from three different subcommittees on strategies to make sure the process in administering a death penalty sentence in Ohio is transparent and fair.

The task force heard presentations from the Law Enforcement Subcommittee, Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee and Clemency Subcommittee; the Clemency Subcommittee's recommendation was passed, while the Law Enforcement Subcommittee's recommendations were tabled for the next task force meeting, pending further review.

The Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee presented recommendations for dealing with evidence of longstanding racial bias in Ohio death penalty cases.


A 2005 Associated Press study concluded that offenders who killed white victims were significantly more likely to receive the death penalty than when victims were black, regardless of the race of the defendant. See the below chart, courtesy of the Associated Press, which charts the rate of death sentencing for defendants charged with killing white versus black victims during the course of the study, which was conducted from Oct. 1981-2002.




The Supreme Court’s Race and Ethnicity subcommittee made seven recommendations, three of which passed. Those passed include a mandate that all attorneys and judges in death penalty cases attend training to detect and protect against racial bias, and that attorneys must seek recusal of judges who are suspected of being motivated by racially discriminatory factors. Implementing the recommendations won't be immediate; according to Bret Crow, Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Ohio, task forces typically submit a final report to the Ohio Supreme Court for input, a process that might not be completed until into 2013.

Recommendations that were tabled to be reconsidered at a Sept. 27 meeting of the task force included the recommendation that all death penalty-eligible homicide cases be maintained and monitored for evidence of racial bias by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender.

According to the Associated Press, the data collection would apply to both old cases and any future homicides that could result in death penalty allegations. It wouldn’t, however, impact whether or not the death penalty should be an option of punishment in the state of Ohio.

Ohio’s death penalty has come under fire several times over the last year, even experiencing an extended moratorium on executions set forth by a U.S. District Judge, who ruled that Ohio unconstitutionally wasn’t following its own death penalty procedure and couldn’t be trusted to ethically carry out executions.

CityBeat reported on July 3 about the avoided execution of Abdul Awkal, a Muslim who narrowly escaped his death penalty sentence with the help of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC). Awkal was ruled not competent enough to be executed after making several statements suggesting he didn’t understand the reason for his execution.
 

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hamilton County has been killing people more often than Ohio counties of similar size, despite actually asking for the death penalty less often. Today's Enquirer takes a look at the growing opposition to the death penalty in other states and recent legislation and task forces aimed at either studying its effectiveness or stopping the practice altogether. Prosecutor Joe Deters says he's going to kill all the people who deserve it because the law is still the law.

Would you like to pay tolls or higher gas taxes in order to have a new Brent Spence Bridge? No? Then you're like a majority of people who take the time to respond to Enquirer polls.

City Manager Milton Dohoney plans to ask City Council to raise the property tax rate in response to a projected $33 million 2013 deficit that everyone knows was coming.

The Community Press on the East Side says Norfolk Southern is willing to consider selling the Wasson Way right of way that some would like to see turned into a bike trail. CityBeat in March found the proposed trail to have support among cycling enthusiasts but some resistance from light rail supporters.

President Obama hooked up an 11-year-old kid with a note excusing him from class on Friday.

“He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name?” Sullivan told ABC. “And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president.'"

Fortune magazine has taken exception to Mitt Romney's recent criticism of Solyndra, the solar panel company that went out of business despite a $500 million Department of Energy loan.

So last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra's shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said:

"An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors."

Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference.

Small problem: No inspector general ever "concluded" such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements.

Wisconsin Gov./Union Crusher Scott Walker holds a slight lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to a recent poll.

George Zimmerman is back in jail after what his attorney is calling a misunderstanding over telling a judge that he had limited money even though a website set up to fund his legal defense raised more than $135,000.

Legal issues will be involved in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban giant sodas.

Jason Alexander has released a lengthy and quite thoughtful apology for referring to the sport of cricket as "a bit gay" during a recent appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

Why do people on the West Coast get to see all the cool stuff that happens in space? First the eclipse and now the Transit of Venus, when Venus will cross paths between the sun and earth. Next time it will happen is 2117. And Australia got to see a partial lunar eclipse the other day, too.

]]>
<![CDATA[Another State Ends the Death Penalty]]>

Connecticut will soon join the list of states that have ended the use of capital punishment.

 

In an 86-63 vote, legislators in Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday night. The state Senate approved the measure April 5, in a 20-16 vote.

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, probably sometime this week. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, in 2009.

 

Connecticut’s law is prospective in nature, and won’t affect the sentences of the 11 people currently on the state’s death row.

 

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty, according to CNN. California voters will decide the issue in November.

 

Other states that have abolished capital punishment are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

Meanwhile, a man who spent 21 years on Ohio’s death row until he was exonerated in 2010 will speak tonight at a forum in Clifton.

 

Joe D’Ambrosio will discuss his experience and why he believes the death penalty should be scrapped at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, located at 328 W. McMillan St. D’Ambrosio will be joined by the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who worked to get him released.

 

D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010.

 

D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.

 

This week’s Porkopolis column looks at a report from Amnesty International about the use of capital punishment throughout the world, and how the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that still condones the practice.

 

]]>
<![CDATA[Kasich Denies Clemency For Mark Wayne Wiles]]>

Gov. John Kasich today denied a request for executive clemency from Mark Wayne Wiles, who was convicted in 1986 of the murder of 15-year-old Mark Klima in the northeast Ohio township of Rootstown.

Wiles is scheduled to be executed April 18 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. According to the clemency report, members of the Ohio Parole Board on March 2 interviewed Wiles via video-conference from the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, after which arguments in support of and in opposition to clemency were presented. The board voted 8-0 against recommending clemency.

Ohio was subjected to a moratorium on executions from November of 2011 until April 4, 2012, when U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of Newark lifted the moratorium he invoked for the state’s inability to follow its own execution protocol. The moratorium was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in February.

CityBeat reported here that despite lifting the moratorium, Frost expressed frustration with the state’s problems carrying out executions, despite the errors being largely minor paperwork technicalities, including “not properly documenting that an inmate’s medical files were reviewed and switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection.”

From CityBeat’s Politics/Issues blog April 6:

Since the moratorium, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has allegedly scrutinized its procedural policies and implemented a new "Incident Command System," which sounds like an initiative for ORDC Director Gary Mohr to more closely micromanage the processes during state executions.

"This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit the scheduled execution," Frost wrote regarding his rejection of Wiles' stay of execution. "The court reaches this conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio's history of telling this court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions and then not following through on promised reforms."

To date, Ohio has executed 386 convicted murderers. Click here for a schedule of upcoming executions in Ohio and here for recent clemency reports.  ]]>
<![CDATA[Groups Call for Execution Moratorium]]>

Ohioans to Stop Executions and other human rights groups are asking Gov. John Kasich to halt any further executions of inmates until the Ohio Supreme Court completes its review of the state’s death penalty process.

The groups, which include the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) in Cincinnati, say the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to review an August 2011 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That means the exoneration of Death Row inmate Joe D’Ambrosio is upheld.---

The denial was announced today by John Q. Lewis and David Mills, D’Ambrosio’s attorneys.

D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010. D’Ambrosio had spent 21 years in prison while awaiting execution and appealing his case.

D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.

The Plain Dealer had reported that Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg dismissed all charges against D'Ambrosio and ordered him released in March 2010, shortly after U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley ruled D'Ambrosio couldn’t be retried for the 1988 killing.

“This case exemplifies one of the most serious flaws of our death penalty system — the dangerous risk Ohio runs of executing someone for a crime he didn’t commit,” said Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, in a prepared statement.

“Joe D’Ambrosio is exonerated today by sheer coincidence. It was a coincidence that Joe met Rev. Neil Kookoothe who is trained as a lawyer and critical care nurse and that Rev. Kookoothe was willing to look closely at this case,” Werner added. “Coincidence is not the standard we should be comfortable with when our justice system is seeking to execute people.”

In a statement issued today, IJPC said: “It's crystal clear that executions must stop in Ohio. No one should be executed under a system of justice while that very system is being closely examined to assess its fairness and accuracy.”

IJPC is urging people to call Kasich at 614-466-3555 and tell him to impose the moratorium on executions.

Statistics show that 94 nations — including most democracies like Canada and those in the European Union — have abolished capital punishment, while 10 others only allow it under special circumstances.

Fifty-eight nations allow the death penalty, with most of them totalitarian in nature like China, Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. The United States, Japan and Singapore are the only fully developed countries that still use the death penalty.

Ohioans to Stop Executions is a nonprofit organization that includes faith and community leaders, activists, attorneys, Death Row exonerees and murder victims’ families who work toward abolishing the death penalty in Ohio.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson has some explaining to do after being caught yesterday receiving a shipment of 2.5 points of weed to his home. Authorities found another 6 pounds inside the Crestview Hills house, which Simpson owns. Here's how the incident will affect your fantasy football team, should you have made the mistake of drafting Jerome Simpson.---

The income gap between white and black families in the Cincinnati area is larger than the U.S. average. (Insert racist comment [here].) According to The Enquirer's Mark Curnutte (who formerly covered the Bengals beat but probably got tired of how dumb it was):

In the city, the median household income in 2010 for whites was $46,615 and $22,216 for blacks. In the county, the median household income was $53,967 for whites and $27,619 for blacks. The 2010 federal poverty level for a family of four was $22,050.

City Council yesterday approved $21 million in infrastructure work so there will be sidewalks and roads around the new casino. Chris Bortz was the only dissenter, but he also thinks it's cool to split 3's in Blackjack so no one was really surprised.

East Coast states are apparently very affluent. [Expletive] liberals.

In the meantime, Cincinnati and Cleveland are among America's poorest big cities.

Troy Davis was killed yesterday by the state of Georgia after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his latest request for a stay of execution. Davis, whose conviction of a 1989 murder has been doubted due to multiple witnesses changing their testimony or alleging that police coerced them, reportedly addressed the victim's family from the gurney, proclaimed his innocence and asked mercy for those about to kill him.

Why Obama and Warren Buffett are bros now.

So, NASA expects a satellite to fall from space one of these days onto Earth. But don't worry — it's not expected to smash into North America.

Annoyed with your new FaceBook layout? There will soon be an iPad app you can complain about. The company is going to meet with some developers and entrepreneurs this week to discuss creating more things for people to hate but still use all the time.

Apparently the world's largest sperm bank, Cryos International, in Denmark, has stopped requesting samples from redheads due to a lack of demand. I bet this Hoyt guy would be disappointed:

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

President Obama's Cincinnati bridge visit is an attempt to literally and figuratively connect Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. No word on whether the top two Republicans in Congress will show up, but Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is reportedly going to pop in. ---

A new report suggests that Ohio health insurance costs could either go up a lot or down quite a bit when the national health care overhaul takes full effect in 2014. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called the situation “alarming” then later used the term “Obamacare” and lost all credibility on the matter.

The Cincinnati U.S.A. Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday stated its opposition to Issue 48, the proposed charter amendment that would block construction of Cincinnati's planned streetcar system. According to CityBeat's favorite Coffee Stealer/News Editor, Kevin Osborne:

Regarding Issue 48, the Chamber stated, “The charter amendment would prohibit city spending or appropriating funds for a streetcar system before 2020. The Chamber does not support any measure that eliminates the community’s ability to develop transportation or other economic development projects.”

The Enquirer posted this story yesterday, titled “Exchange of looks led to I-75 shooting, crash,” which probably should have been titled, “Exchange of looks led to I-75 shooting, crash, according to a witness, said a police spokeswoman.” A simple “allegedly” might have helped the story look like something a freshman journalism student wouldn't get a “C” on.

Let's just accept it now: Poll season is about to begin. Fourteen month of polls. Straw polls, phone polls, skewed polls, favorable polls, fake polls and polls with margins of error so big they can't mean anything. Here's one suggesting that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are tied in Florida, with Romney slightly ahead of Obama. Ugh.

European banks reportedly have a $410 billion credit risk. Should have paid your student loans, yo!

The clock is ticking for Troy Davis (literally — Georgia is going to kill him at 7 p.m.), despite these facts: “Since his conviction, seven of nine witnesses have changed or recanted their testimony, some have said they were coerced by police to testify against Davis and some say another man committed the crime. No physical evidence linked Davis to the crime.” Davis' attorneys have asked for a polygraph test in a final attempt at proving his innocence.

The state of Utah's liquor laws prove that freedom really isn't free, and they're reportedly becoming more restrictive:

Utah's alcohol laws already were unique. You can't order a double, or a stiff drink; happy hours and any other drink discounts, even for 3.2 beer, are illegal; licensed restaurants must use electronic ID scanners on patrons who look as if they're under 35 to make sure they're 21.

An oil rig exploded in Oklahoma, but no one was injured. Worker: “My B!”

Will the iPhone 5 be announced Oct. 4? Please, God, just give us our iPhones!

Users of FaceBook and Pandora today logged on to new designs and then started complaining like a bunch of old people whose newspapers were thrown in the yard instead of on the porch.

Many Charlie Sheen fans aren't happy with Ashton Kutcher's performance in Two and a Half Men. Maybe they forgot how stupid the show was after Sheen's hilarious meltdown.

]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

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

Gov. Kasich did his part this week to make Ohio cool, offering pharmacy company Omnicare $6 million in tax breaks to move to Cincinnati from Covington. If any of its 500 employees like the way music makes them feel, feel free to tell them about the MidPoint Music Festival this weekend.

Cleveland has a new “Complete and Clean Streets” policy going into effect Jan. 1 requiring that 20 percent of money spent on road projects goes to making streets more pedestrian friendly and energy efficient by including bike-only lanes, crosswalks, energy-efficient lighting and porous pavement.

A Georgia pardons board has denied a plea for clemency for Troy Davis, who was convicted in 1991 for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. It is the fourth time Davis has been scheduled to die, even after several witness have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured by police to testify or sign statements against Davis. According to Amnesty International:

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles — the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

President Obama yesterday offered his debt-reduction plan to a bunch of mopes who are going to complain about it, then he threatened to veto any plan that cuts benefits without raising taxes on the wealthy. Then he started sounding like campaign-Obama:

Spending cuts alone "will not solve our fiscal problems. We can't just cut our way out of this hole," he added. "It's going to take a balanced approach. If we're going to make spending cuts -- many of which we wouldn't make if we weren't facing such large budget deficits -- then it's only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share."

“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is no longer an American military policy, just a stupid former policy.

Apple won't tell us anything about the iPhone 5, but there are enough dorks eager enough for information that there exists “leaked documents, secret sources and speculation” suggesting that the new model could be launched in October. PLEASE APPLE GIVE THEM THEIR PHONES SO THEY SHUT UP!

Scientists found a new raptor dinosaur whose big, spiky toe had permanently broken away from the foot joint to be used as a weapon instead of for walking.

Chronic diseases — cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease and respiratory disease — could cost the world $47 trillion over the next 20 years. Probably still worth the delicious taste of corn syrup.

Here's what Ashton Kutcher was like as the Charlie Sheen replacement on CBS's Two and a Half Men. The account  notes that there were no witnesses to Sheen's character being pushed in front of a Paris subway car and suggests that the closed-casket funeral leaves open the possibility for his return to the show someday. But this report says he's real dead, probably at the hands of Rose, whoever the [expletive] that is. Hopefully he comes back as a ghost.

]]>