CityBeat Blogs - Neighborhoods http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-111.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> CityBeat’s full Election Issue is in stands now. Check out our feature stories on three remarkable City Council challengers: Mike Moroski, Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman. Find the rest of our election coverage, along with our endorsements, here.

Atheist marriages may last longer than Christian ones. Research shows that divorce rates are highest among Baptists and nondenominational Christians, while more “theologically liberal” Christians like Methodists enjoy lower rates. The findings showed that Atheist marriages held the lowest divorce rates. 

A group of Westwood residents held an event Wednesday at Westwood Town Hall in response to Westwood resident Jim Kiefer’s racist Facebook post directed at Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. The residents also created a change.org petition to dispel negative perceptions about the neighborhood. “For too long, the largest neighborhood in our great City has been publicly identified by the negative statements of a few disgruntled, racially insensitive and regressive individuals,” reads the petition. 

Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook wall that read: “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati (sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” 

According to Simpson, Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her in June, when he told her not to return to the West Side of Cincinnati.

Feeling bummed by this gloomy weather? Watch this photographer's stunning time-lapse video compiled from about 10,000 photos he took during a road trip across the country and feel better. 



Councilman Wendell Young led a motion signed on Oct. 30 that asks the city administration to allocate $2 million to address racial disparities in Cincinnati, including disproportionate infant mortality rates, unemployment rates and statistics that cite the city’s black population, which make up nearly half of the city’s residents, hold only 1 percent the area’s of economic worth.

Dogs' tail-wagging could have deeper meaning than we thought: Researchers have concluded that the direction in which dogs wag their tails expresses their emotional state. Left-side tail wagging indicates anxiety, while right-side tail wagging is a stronger symbol of companionship.

The Pacific Ocean warms 15 times faster than it used to. That helps explain why the average global surface-air temperatures have been warming at a slower rate than projected, but scientists aren't sure what kind of impact the warming has on ocean life yet.

The chair of Jelly Belly, Herman Rowland, Sr., donated $5,000 to an anti-LGBT conservative efforts “Privacy for All Students” initiative to overturn California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act, which protects the rights of transgender students to participate in school activities. 

Montgomery Inn has sold 30 million bottles of barbecue sauce. 

Here’s a video of a porcupine making really hilarious noises while eating a pumpkin:



Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day (Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

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<![CDATA[Building Preservation Group Scrutinizes Transitional House]]>

Anywhere but here.

That's the common response when city residents are asked where group homes for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction should be operated.


While most citizens seem to agree that the group recovery facilities like halfway homes and supportive housing are generally a good thing, there's one point everyone seems to disagree on: where to put them.

Most recently, a 100-unit supportive housing development that would house chronically homeless and disabled, low-income individuals became the subject of much ire when residents near the proposed site in Avondale complained the facility would threaten the safety and revival efforts in an area already oversaturated with low-income housing.  

Now, a Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the Greater Cincinnati area is facing scrutiny from the Ludlow Historic Society, a small advocacy group that works to promote and preserve the neighborhood's historic buildings.

In an email to society members obtained by CityBeat, Ludlow Historic Society President Ruth Bamberger wrote:

While we believe that ex-addicts need housing, the city has serious concerns with its ability under current law to control or limit housing to this population. The Ludlow Historic Society is likewise concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.

Bamberger specifically cited concerns about the program’s legitimacy, its proximity to schools and its affect on the Ludlow housing market. 

New Foundations Transitional Living (NFTL), a for-profit, private transitional housing operator founded in 2010, runs seven sober houses across the Greater Cincinnati area for men and women who have successfully completed a detox or rehab program and have been discharged from the court system. 

NFTL also works with treatment centers and probation officers to monitor residents entering the program. The program supports itself completely from rental fees paid by patients in the program; residents are charged $322 per month for housing, amenities and some therapeutic and rehabilitation services. 

Transitional living facilities for drug and alcohol rehabilitation generally provide low-cost housing to people recovering from addiction interested in getting their lives back on track, while "halfway houses" usually cater to people recently released from incarceration that need more rehabilitation to assimilate back into society.

Jason Lee Overbey, director for New Foundations Transitional Living, thinks that Bamberger’s contempt is berthed from misinformation and stereotyping.  “New Foundations is not low-income housing,” he says. “We are not a shelter. We are an organization providing residents a safe place to reside — with structure, observation and assignments — to begin and maintain their journey in recovery."

Overbey says that all applicants go through an extensive screening prior to being accepted. NFTL doesn't accept sex offenders, arsonists or anyone with an open felony or misdemeanor warrant, and prospective residents also have to commit to stay drug- or alcohol-free and maintain employment.

“The people that live in our facilities dress nice, they smell nice, they’re educated,” he says. “A lot of our residents are professionals themselves. They pay taxes, shop, go to church, give back to the community in Ludlow. Who should we be more worried about, them or someone anonymous in the neighborhood who could be violent or actively abusing?”

The Ludlow, Ky., location, Elm Men's House, currently houses 13 patients who have either willingly checked themselves into the program and were accepted following a comprehensive application process or ordered to live in one of the facilities by a court, although those mandated comprise less than half of NFTL's residents.  

The Historical Society held a private meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8 in Ludlow's City Council chambers with City Administrator Brian Richmond. Overbey says the Historical Society has not responded to New Foundations' meeting requests.

Neither of the two buildings encompassing the Ludlow facility are actually designated as "historic."

There’s not much information on the community ripple effects of transitional housing, although one 2010 study found residents were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence, ultimately concluding:

The promising outcomes for SLH residents suggest that sober living houses might play more substantive roles for persons: 1) completing residential treatment, 2) attending outpatient treatment, 3) seeking non-treatment alternatives for recovery, and 4) entering the community after criminal justice incarceration.

The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.

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<![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.

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<![CDATA[City Launches Continuing Effort to Reduce Infant Mortality ]]> Another effort to reduce Cincinnati's alarmingly high infant mortality rates launched today, which local leaders hope will help educate first-time parents in the city's most afflicted zip codes on proper ways to put their infants to sleep.

The new city coalition created to address infant deaths, coined Cradle Cincinnati, announced an educational effort to address infant deaths from improper sleeping habits.

According to the Cincinnati Health Department, 36 babies died from unsafe sleeping conditions between 2010-2011. The campaign addresses simple "ABCs" of safe baby sleep to stop infant mortality deaths that otherwise could have been prevented. The most important things to remember, according to the campaign, are that infants should always sleep alone, in a crib and on his or her back. The health department provides other helpful tips here    

It's another step forward in addressing a concern that plagues neighborhoods across the city. Some Cincinnati zip codes in the past have held higher infant mortality rates than those of third-world countries.

The campaign is also donating 1,000 onesies to area birth hospitals that read "This Side Up" on the stomach — a friendly safety reminder to new parents. Kroger is also partnering with the campaign by helping to spread the tenets of the campaign in diaper and baby food aisles at local stores.

According to a Cincinnati.com editorial by Noble Maseru, Cincinnati’s health commissioner, the recent efforts have been working. He says the city’s 2013 infant mortality rates are projected at 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 52 percent reduction in fatalities that brings the city drastically closer to the national average. 

Previously, the infant mortality rate in Cincinnati was more than double the national average: 13.3 babies out of 1,000, compared with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 nationally.

In June, the city of Cincinnati announced the community partnership spearheaded by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune to lower infant mortality rates, uniting health experts, political leaders and some nonprofits to share ideas and best practices to better overlap city efforts. 

University of Cincinnati Health president and CEO Jim Kingsbury agreed to offer the new collaboration initial funding from the county’s sale of Drake Hospital.

Mayor Mark Mallory also entered the city into a contest in February to earn a grant to expand the city's Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which monitored the pregnancies of new mothers in high-risk areas across the city with an updated database. The city's entry was a finalist, but ultimately didn't win a grant.

Today, the Infant Mortality Surveillance Network still works with both University Hospital and Christ Hospital to collect data on new mothers from zip codes with the worst infant mortality rates and provides them with information, education, depression screening and home care help, if needed.

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<![CDATA[Motion Could Strip Council Support for Commons at Alaska]]>

The controversial permanent supportive housing facility proposed for a residential area of Avondale that caused outrage amongst Avondale community members took a small blow today when Cincinnati City Council members Pam Thomas and Charlie Winburn introduced a motion at a City Council meeting to rescind council's original support for the facility.

The proposed facility, Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit housing facility providing residency and supportive services to the area homeless population, particularly those with severe mental health issues, physical disabilities and histories of alcohol and substance abuse. CityBeat covered extensively the Avondale community's concerns about the location of the facility and how the project's developers felt the facility was misunderstood ("Home Invasion," issue of Sept. 4). 

On Feb. 13, City Council offered its official support for the Commons at Alaska project in a resolution, a decision members of Avondale 29, the group formed to oppose the project, say was made without proper community outreach and neglect for proper considerations of the facility's effects on the already-blighted surrounding neighborhood. At that time, Christopher Smitherman and Cecil Thomas (before he resigned his position) were the only two members of council who did not vote to pass the resolution.

The motion reads: "When the resolution was heard by City Council, a small minority of the 18,000 members of the Avondale Community expressed their support for the development. Further, the North Avondale Community Council has voiced their opposition to the development. With this resolution, the majority of the community who are opposed to the development are being heard."

The developer, National Church Residences, is a well-respected developer and manager of housing facilities for the homeless nationwide. In June, the project received more than $1 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which would allow NCR to move forward with building plans and eventually begin construction in summer 2014.

City Council's official support was originally cited in NCR's application to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which may have factored in to OHFA's decision to award the tax credits. The motion will be voted on in council's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.


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

Plunderbund Ohio reports that Gov. John Kasich has picked up his first endorsement for a presidential bid from Citizens for Community values president and executive director and self-professed former porn addict Phil Burress, following Kasich's signing of some of the country's most archaic and restrictive anti-abortion provisions in the nation. This week’s news story by CityBeat’s most glamorous misanthrope, German Lopez, explains how the recently passed state budget caters to Republicans by lowering taxes for the rich, tries to block health care for the poor and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood and its valuable health services.

Eleven school buses were hijacked from the Petermann Bus Company bus lot in Golf Manor. All but one of the buses has been recovered. Ralph Brown, who supervises the company, speculated some kids just wanted to take a "joy ride."

Columbia Parkway is open again after massive flash flooding and landslides inundated the road, but this weekend's wet forecast could cause it to flood again.

SPCA Cincinnati is adopting out cats and kittens for just $5 through this weekend in honor of Independence Day. Visit the Northside or the Sharonville location. 

"God buried fossil fuels 'because he loves to see us find them.'" No. 5 on Rolling Stone's top 10 list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming comes from Bryan Fischer, director at the American Family Association.

Men can eat a lot more weiners than women. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 36.75 hot dogs yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island's 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, earning first place in the women's division, while male title winner Joey Chestnut ate 69 dogs IN 10 MINUTES.

Here's why hot temperatures sometimes can make you cranky

Women in Egypt are at a staggeringly high risk to become victims of sexual assault. More than 80 women were raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted during Wednesday night’s mob celebration of the forced departure of president Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

Buttercup, a duck born with his left foot twisted backward, is now on top of the world after his owner used 3D printing to create a brand new foot for Buttercup. Here is a video for good measure.

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<![CDATA[Council Approves Plan Cincinnati]]>

Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved the first comprehensive plan in the last 32 years to direct future city growth and development.

All eight present members of council voted in favor of the plan, after a 10-minute “love-fest,” as Councilwoman Yvette Simpson put it, praising one another and the team that created the plan. The nine-member team worked on the comprehensive plan for the last three years.

Councilman Chris Smitherman was not present for the vote.

I can’t use the term that Joe Biden, our vice president used, but this is a big deal,” said Mayor Mark Mallory, referencing an infamous gaffe where Biden uttered an expletive into a hot microphone.

The 228-page plan emphasizes urban development over suburban, citing population movement back into city centers.

The plan focuses on key areas and offers proposals for the near-, middle- and long-terms.

These include proposals to stabilize residential and business areas, improve quality of life, improve housing choices and affordability and offer alternative means of transportation to automobiles, including the controversial streetcar.

CityBeat previously covered the plan in depth.

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<![CDATA[Tucker's Restaurant Could Claim Cincinnati's First Parklet]]> There's not much green in the area of Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street, where Vine Street still finds itself home to a slew vacant buildings, vandalism and littered sidewalks. You won't find trees; just the occasional wayward clumps of grass that manage to triumph through cracks in the concrete.

That's an odd dichotomy to correspond with a neighborhood claiming the largest area of historic Italianate architecture in the country.

As efforts to preserve historic landmarks across the neighborhood continue to flourish, others are taking notice of another key element in revitalization that's been neglected: the presence of a safe, green public space that could spark a type of interest in urban renewal more conscious of natural greenery and it. That's been achieved in the area of Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street with the expansive Washington Park, leaving its northern counterpart noticeably more drab.

That sentiment is what propelled a trio of designers and architects to mold a proposal for a parklet in front of Tucker's Restaurant, an iconic Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon that attracts both locals and tourists in a somewhat deserted portion of the neighborhood, bereft of the nearby Gateway Quarter's bubbly atmosphere.

Mike Uhlenhake, a local architect, was first introduced to the parklet concept in San Francisco, where the parklet was founded and now flourishes. A parklet is exactly what it sounds like: a small, urban "park" that typically only occupies enough space to displace two parking spots. They're praised as a way to offer a public, green gathering point in urban areas where parks or wildlife are especially lacking; they might include trees, fountains, sculptures or small cafe tables.  Uhlenhake sensed the need for something similar in the northern area Over-the-Rhine, which remains largely untouched by the mass renovation efforts taking place just blocks away.

"That stretch [of Over-the-Rhine] really seems to lack life. It feels empty, like no people are ever on the street ... it needs a more homegrown feel," says Uhlenhake. "A place like Tucker's really deserves something like this if they want it."

When the University of Cincinnati Niehoff Urban Studio and the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati held the D.I.Y. Urbanism Competition this spring, Uhlenhake teamed up with two members of Flourish Cincinnati, Michelle Andersen and Becky Schneider, to create a formal entry for the contest, which can be found here or nestled in the back of Tucker's Restaurant on the rear wall.

Their proposal earned the People's Choice Award, which granted them $250 toward implementing the parklet. They've since partnered with local artist Alan Sauer, who assisted in the creation of Tucker's plot in Cincinnati PARK(ing) Day 2009, which staged a tiny patio in front of Tucker's featuring live music and chalk art.

Today, they're all working on putting together a PowerPoint presentation to present to City Council, which would provide an overview of the parklet, design sketches and an outline of its benefits. Once presented, City Council would just have to agree to give up the two parking spots directly in front of Tucker's; although Uhlenhake isn't exactly sure how much the parklet will cost, he's confident fundraising efforts will be all that's needed to foot the bill. Tucker's customers have been the main point of support, he says — dozens have offered to pledge some kind of help to make the vision come true after seeing the plan on Tucker's back wall.

"
This really needs to be a community project. The more people we can get to help, the better."
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<![CDATA[Mock Rally For Western & Southern Scheduled For Wednesday]]>

UPDATE: The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless has canceled its Wednesday mock rally for Western & Southern Financial Group. The Coalition Tuesday evening released the following statement: "Due to a change in plans the mock 'Rally to Support Western and Southern' has been canceled. Stay tuned for upcoming gatherings and events to support the Women of the Anna Louise Inn as we fight for the right of self determination."

The following is CityBeat's Tuesday afternoon blog post in response to the event announcement:

The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless is helping to organize a mock rally to support what it believes is the bullying of the Anna Louise Inn women’s shelter by Western & Southern Financial Group. The mock group will be called “Citizens for Corporate Bullies” and will hold signs that say “Greed is Good,” “We Support Corporate Bullies,” “Poor Women Not Welcome” and “W&S Take Whatever You Want.” The event begins a noon May 2 at 4th and Sycamore streets.

The Coalition has created a fake persona who supports W&S’s desire to build condos to attract a more desirable class of residents and rhetorically asks, “Besides, what gives the Anna Louis Inn the right to stay in that building just because they own it and it’s been there for a hundred years?”

The protest is in response to ongoing legal issues surrounding the Inn’s proposed expansion and W&S’s development efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat last October reported on the situation in a story titled, “Putting on the Pressure: Western & Southern won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” The following is an excerpt summarizing the situation then:

Last summer the facility’s owners rebuffed an offer from the powerful Western & Southern Financial Group to buy their property, triggering a heated legal battle. The company, located near the Anna Louise Inn in the affluent Lytle Park district on downtown’s eastern edge, wanted the site so it could demolish or redevelop the Inn and build upscale condominiums.

After the offer was rejected, the Anna Louise Inn continued with a long-planned renovation and was awarded a $2.7 million loan by Cincinnati City Council. That’s when Western & Southern filed a lawsuit against the Inn and the city, alleging zoning violations. 

The showdown pits the Inn, opened in 1909 with the help of prominent attorney Charles P. Taft, against a company that ranks in the Fortune 500 and is headed by CEO John Barrett, an ex-chairman of the Cincinnati Business Committee who is widely considered one of the most powerful men in the city.

The facility’s owners and some city officials say Western & Southern is trying to use its sizable financial resources publicly, along with its political clout behind the scenes, to strong-arm opponents and get what it wants.

Representatives for W&S have stated that the company's $3 million offer to purchase the building is fair and have also offered to aid the Inn in finding a new location.

WVXU reported that supporters of the Inn held a rally April 4 calling for a quick judgment in a court case that could delay funding for the renovation.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Cincinnati City Council will soon create a working group of leaders from six neighborhoods near the planned downtown casino site. Once organized, the working group will examine ways to maximize the benefits from the visitors, jobs and tax revenue the new casino will bring, while dealing with any problems like possible increases in crime. The neighborhoods involved in the effort are downtown, Pendleton, Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills.

A winner has finally been announced in a disputed judicial election from November 2010. Once a count of provisional ballots was completed Friday, Democrat Tracie Hunter was declared the victor over Republican John Williams by 71 votes. Because of the close margin, however, a recount likely will be held. Hunter seemingly lost the 2010 election by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table. Hunter filed a lawsuit, and two federal courts ultimately agreed the ballots should be tallied.

Since taking office in October, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler has cracked down on bail bond agents who owe money to the court system. During the past seven months, Winkler has collected $1.3 million of the $2.1 million owed by bond agents and their insurance companies. Since the early 1990s, several previous clerks of courts allowed some bond agents not to pay bonds forfeited when their clients didn’t appear in court, resulting in a large amount of forfeited but uncollected bonds owed to the governments involved in the cases.

The results of an investigation into the recent actions of Villa Hills Mayor Mike Martin will be released at a meeting tonight. Martin is accused of retaliatory behavior and comments, misuse of city facilities, violating the Open Records Act and burning city documents, according to WCPO-TV (Channel 9). Several council members have requested that Martin resign, but he has refused.

Motorists that use the Norwood Lateral to access southbound Interstate 75 will have to find a new route for the next 45 days. Beginning today, work to replace a bridge deck will require a closure of the ramp from westbound Norwood Lateral to southbound I-75. Traffic will be detoured to northbound I-75 to Paddock Road to southbound I-75.

In news elsewhere, the CIA is ignoring the Pakistani government's directives and has resumed the use of automated drone attacks within that nation's borders. The drone strikes killed four al-Qaeda-linked fighters Sunday in a girls’ school they had taken over in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some politicians said the drone strikes might set back negotiations over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that Pakistan blocked five months ago.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules to strike down the federal government's mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, some observers say state governments might have to enact their own versions or pass other measures to draw healthy people into the system so their insurance markets remain viable. Ironically, lawmakers in the states opposing the federal mandate could face pressure from insurance companies to pass state mandates if the high court doesn’t also strike down the rules preventing them from charging more or denying coverage to sicker people.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said negotiations with Iran should be given time to work before launching a military strike against the nation's nuclear facilities. Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006-09, was in office when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in five years ago.

A few days after the United Kingdom entered into a double-dip recession, Spain has followed suit. The recession, defined as two months of “negative growth,” was blamed on weak domestic demand that was only partially compensated by exports, according to data from the National Statistics Institute. It was the first official estimate to confirm a recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist under house arrest in China, has escaped his captors and gone into hiding. A dissident who met Chen in Beijing after his escape said Chen scaled a wall by night to escape from his village in eastern China, past guards and surveillance equipment. A human rights group says Chen has taken shelter in the U.S. embassy, but American officials have not publicly confirmed the reports.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The sole Republican and independent members of Cincinnati City Council have called a special meeting of the group tonight to address black on black crime. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an independent, want their colleagues to allocate an extra $300,000 for CrimeStoppers, which offers cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest of suspects in crimes. Winburn and Smitherman, both of whom are African-American, say more needs to be done to help quell shootings and violence in Avondale and elsewhere. The special session is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, located at 801 Plum St., downtown. Smitherman also is president of the NAACP's local chapter.

Winburn, however, was part of a council faction that voted two years ago to dramatically reduce funding for the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). The program involves using “violence interrupters,” usually ex-offenders, to intervene with gang members and offer advice for leaving their lives of crime. City Council cut CIRV's budget from $861,000 in 2010 to $184,000 for 2011, which reduced the number of street advocates from 16 to five. Councilman Cecil Thomas, an African-American and a retired police officer who heads council's Law and Public Safety Committee, opposed the cuts and said CIRV needs more support.

The unexpected death of attorney and real estate investor Lanny Holbrook in January has led to an awkward legal battle over a promised donation to a Catholic high school. In fall 2001 Holbrook pledged $500,000 to McAuley High School in College Hill, in return for renaming a section of its building The Nancy & Lanny Holbrook Art Wing. A few payments were made, but Holbrook fell behind before his death. Now the school is seeking the $430,000 that was never paid.

A well-known Cincinnati chef who once had his own television show on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) was arrested in March for drunken driving. Officers stopped Jean-Robert De Cavel on March 16 in Fairfax. De Cavel refused a Breathalyzer test, and eventually was convicted of a reduced charge of reckless operation. He served three days in a driving program and got his license suspended for six months with limited driving privileges. De Cavel owns Jean Robert's Table, and is a former executive chef at The Maisonette.

Sunday was Earth Day, and Kemba Credit Union marked the occasion a day early by offering free paper shredding services at its locations in Bridgetown, West Chester and Florence, Ky. More than 100,000 pounds of paper were shredded and recycled, using special equipment donated by Cintas Corp.

In news elsewhere, George Zimmerman was released early this morning from the Seminole County Jail in Florida. Zimmerman, the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, posted $150,000 bail and left the Sanford jail fitted with an electronic monitoring device that the Sheriff's Office and Seminole County probation officers will use to keep track of him while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

The trial of one-time vice presidential candidate John Edwards begins today in Greensboro, N.C. Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair. Edwards rejected a plea deal in the case, which would've required him to admit wrongdoing and serve some time in jail.

What liberal bias? President Obama received more negative coverage from the mainstream media than GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, according to a new study. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington nonprofit that examined 52 key newspaper, television, radio, and Web outlets from Jan. 2-April 15, found Romney’s coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative and 29 percent neutral. That compares to Obama’s coverage, which was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative and 34 percent neutral.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to lure Far Right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round. Francois Hollande came top with 28.6 percent of the vote, compared to Sarkozy's 27.1 percent. It's the first time an incumbent president in France has lost in the first round. The second round of voting will be held May 6.

Syrian government troops reportedly stormed the Damascus suburb of Douma early Sunday, with soldiers shooting at an armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. A United Nations team of observers has arrived in Syria to try to get both sides to abide by a cease-fire agreement.
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<![CDATA[Sittenfeld Proposes Litter Law Change]]> Cincinnati officials are about to give property owners more of an incentive to clean up their yards.

City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed changing Cincinnati’s litter laws to allow for a full refund of fines for first-time violators if they remedy the problem within 10 days of being cited.

Currently, when the city issues citations for littered properties, owners can recoup half their money if they clean up the property within that time period.

The proposal already has the signatures of six other City Council members, giving it enough support for passage.

Sittenfeld's proposal is an acknowledgement that illegal dumping is widespread in Cincinnati, he said, and the problem isn’t always the fault of the owner.

Of all customer service requests to the city in 2011, more than 9,000 — or 14.2 percent of all requests — were related to litter, making it the single most frequent complaint.

Sittenfeld timed the proposal’s introduction to coincide with the Great American Cleanup and Earth Day, both of which happen this weekend.

To increase the public’s interest, Sittenfeld is asking residents to take a before-and-after picture of the area they clean up over the next week, and send the photos to his council office no later than April 27. Sittenfeld will then personally mow the lawn of whoever has the most dramatic cleanup.

The photos may be mailed to pg.sittenfeld@cincinnati-oh.gov.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The Samuel Adams Brewery in Cincinnati's West End is using $3.6 million in grant funding to expand its facilities. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the grants so the firm could expand its operations onto an adjacent contaminated site that once contained dry cleaning and automotive businesses. “They had a business choice,” said Scott Nally, EPA director. “They could have chose to stay here and be landlocked or to expand and take some risk or to move out of the state.”

Cincinnati Public Schools is grappling with rising transportation costs, which are contributing to a deficit. The district will spend $29.5 million this year to transport 21,000 kids to and from school each day. That’s nine percent, or $2.3 million, more than budgeted and $1.3 million more than last year. Officials are looking at options to reduce costs. One is negotiating with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati about changing some start times at parochial schools to allow CPS to run fewer routes, which would save about $400,000.

Seven inmates have been mistakenly released at the Butler County Jail this year, including four in recent weeks. Some of the prisoners were jailed for misdemeanors such as traffic violations, but others were locked up for more serious crimes such as theft and burglary. An official said court personnel misread the court documents in some cases, but also admits a failure in oversight that led to nine jail employees being disciplined. (Maybe Sheriff Richard Jones should focus more on running the jail, and less on rounding up undocumented immigrants.)

Starting today, motorists headed to Over-the-Rhine may park in the new garage that's been built under Washington Park, across from Music Hall. The garage has 450 spaces. Construction crews still are working above ground to renovate and expand the park itself, which is slated to open July 1.

A southeastern Ohio village mayor suspected of repeatedly raping a girl has pleaded not guilty and is being held in jail in lieu of posting a $1 million bond. Michael Shane Shuster – who is mayor of Stockport, located near Athens – is charged with 10 counts each of rape, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition. He pleaded not guilty in a Morgan County court on Wednesday.

In news elsewhere, the Obama administration has revealed that even after the United States withdraws its combat troops from Afghanistan in late 2014, the nation and its allies still will spend spend about $4.1 billion annually to prop up Afghan army and police forces. Most of the money will come from the U.S., they added. (Maybe that's the real reason politicians are telling us we need to cut Social Security and Medicare. Which would be a better investment in the long-haul?)

Meanwhile, a U.S. military Black Hawk helicopter with four crew members on board crashed in southwestern Afghanistan on Thursday. A senior U.S. military official told NBC News there was bad weather in the area at the time of the crash, but couldn't rule out the possibility that enemy activity downed the helicopter.

A proposed “personhood” law in Oklahoma that would grant embryos the same rights as people beginning at the moment of conception failed in the state's Legislature Thursday without coming to a vote in the House of Representatives. The bill, which backers hoped would provide a path to roll back the constitutional right to an abortion, had sailed through the Oklahoma Senate in February but Republican caucus leaders indicated some medical professionals and business leaders expressed their dislike for the measure. It's unclear if the bill will be revived for a final vote after this fall's elections.

Fenway Park, the much-beloved home of the Boston Red Sox, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Thousands of diehard fans are expected to pour into the stadium today to help the team commemorate the event.

In an effort to shore up his support from social conservatives, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney will deliver the commencement address at Liberty University in Virginia on May 12. The evangelical Christian college was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a TV preacher known for – among other things – blaming the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on gays and feminists angering God and incurring his wrath. The university estimated that 14,000 students will graduate at the ceremony, with some 34,000 guests watching.
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<![CDATA[City Gets $3M Grant for Lead Abatement]]>

Cincinnati officials will hold a press conference Thursday to announce that the city will receive a $3 million federal grant to address lead paint problems in apartments and houses.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the grant to the city’s Community Development Department. City staffers will work with some local nonprofit agencies in allocating the funds.

At least 240 residential units will be able to have lead abatement completed, officials said.

Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. will formally accept the money, which is the fourth lead-related HUD grant given to Cincinnati, in council chambers at 10 a.m. Thursday. The chambers are located on the third floor of City Hall, 801 Plum St., downtown.

Representatives from the agencies that will help the city use the money also are expected to attend. They include Price Hill Will, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, Cincinnati Housing Partners, People Working Cooperatively, Working In Neighborhoods and the Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

Lead poisoning is the leading environmentally induced illness in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. At greatest risk are children under the age of six because they are undergoing rapid neurological and physical development.

The United States banned the use of lead in household paint in 1978, but it often can be found on the walls of dwellings in cities with older housing stock like Cincinnati.

An estimated 19,000 children under age six in Ohio have unsafe levels of lead in their blood, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group. The number includes an estimated 1,400 children in Hamilton County.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.

Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.

Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.

In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.

President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.

The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.

As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.

The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Workplace safety inspectors have cited six companies for violations in connection with the Jan. 27 accident at the construction site of the Horseshoe Casino. More than a dozen workers were injured in the mishap. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed more than $108,000 in fines on the companies, which include such local stalwarts as Messer Construction and Jostin Construction. In a statement, Messer's CEO says the firm “respectfully disagrees” with the findings and will request a meeting with OSHA.

A man who was the police chief of Elmwood Place for 11 days is trying to get his record expunged of the five criminal charges that cost him his job. Jeremy Alley briefly served as chief in 2003, until he was caught using his police department computer to seduce someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl but actually was a police officer. Hamilton County prosecutors, however, are opposing the expungement request.

A billboard advertising a cat litter brand was recently removed in Over-the-Rhine after some residents complained that it insulted their neighborhood. Tidy Cat's billboard stated, “You're so Over-the-Rhine,” followed by “#lifestinks.” It was part of its “NoMorePU.com” ad campaign, which used the billboards to mention things in life that stink. Tidy Cat's maker, Purina, issued an apology on Twitter that said "We're sorry. Our billboard was meant to be humorous, but to many of you it wasn't. We'll take fast action to correct this."

Construction began Monday on a long-delayed retail, office and hotel project in Norwood. Developers broke ground on Rookwood Exchange, which will include a 15,000 square foot retail building along Edwards Road and a 230,000 square foot retail/entertainment/office building, along with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, two restaurants and a parking garage. A legal dispute with homeowners involving eminent domain held up the plans for several years.

Local ticket scalpers, who are licensed by the city, are upset with the Cincinnati Reds. After a counterfeit ticketing scheme on Opening Day, the team is urging fans to only buy their tickets from its website, or online at StubHub or TicketMaster. But legitimate scalpers, who pay $400 per year for a license, says the counterfeiters came from Atlanta and are giving them a bad name.

In news elsewhere, FBI statistics indicate that although violent crime continues to decrease across the United States, the killings of police officers are increasing dramatically. Seventy-two officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008. The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents and was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds President Obama holds clear advantages over Mitt Romney on personal attributes and various major issues, but remains vulnerable to discontent with the pace of the economic recovery. Obama has double-digit leads over the likely Republican presidential nominee on who would do a better job of protecting the middle class, addressing women’s issues, handling international affairs and dealing with health care.

A decision about whether George Zimmerman will face criminal charges for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida could be announced today. Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said Monday that she won't present the case to a grand jury, which legal experts say means that Corey won't charge Zimmerman with first-degree murder, because that charge requires an indictment by a grand jury. In a statement, Corey's office stressed that the decision not to call a grand jury "should not be considered a factor" in whether Zimmerman will ultimately be prosecuted in Martin's death. If Zimmerman is charged, it likely will be for the lesser charge of manslaughter, experts added.

In related news, activists in Sanford, Fla., said the investigation into Martin's death isn't the first case involving the death of an African-American person that the local Police Department has botched. Leaders in Sanford's black community say police have repeatedly failed to properly investigate crimes involving minority victims. In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully.

A psychiatric examination has found that confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is not criminally insane, despite a claim based upon an earlier assessment. Today's finding comes six days before the 33-year-old man is set to stand trial on terror charges stemming from a bomb and shooting rampage that killed 77 people last summer in Norway.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Duke Energy lost its appeal Thursday that sought to get more money from its customers to reimburse the firm for damages it sustained to equipment in the September 2008 windstorm. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) involving the restoration of electrical service after the storm that was caused by Hurricane Ike. In January 2011, PUCO ruled to allow Duke to recover about $14.1 million of the $30 million it had requested. With revenues of $14.53 billion for 2011, we're confident Duke can absorb the loss. Besides, isn't that the sort of thing that qualifies as “the cost of doing business?” Buck up, James Rogers.

The Reds emerged victorious Thursday in its season opener against the Marlins, winning 4-0. Reds Manager Dusty Baker credited pitcher Aroldis Chapman's performance for helping put the team over the top. It was the team's first Opening Day shut-out since 1980. Players might have been buoyed on by the 42,956 people watching them play – the second-largest attendance at Great American Ball Park, surpassed only by a playoff loss to Philadelphia in 2010.

As might be surmised from the above figures, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade before the game also had one of its largest crowds ever. Organizers credited the turnout to sunny weather, a later start time and optimism about the Reds' prospects this season.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is asking Avondale residents to help patrol the neighborhood as part of efforts to stop an uptick in shootings there. At least five people were shot Sunday night a few blocks from the Avondale Pride Center, police said. Officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood, but residents said they know the solution must involve a network of community members working with police.

A series of meetings will be held this month to give the public a chance to offer input on various plans for updating or replacing the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River. The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 11 at Covington City Hall, with later sessions planned for April 24 at Longworth Hall and April 25 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. economy added a relatively weak 120,000 jobs in March, compared with 240,000 in February, but the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, the Labor Department reported today. Analysts had forecast a 205,000 gain in non-farm payrolls, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Some critics are alleging the Republican National Committee was actively helping Mitt Romney win the GOP's presidential nomination, instead of serving as an impartial arbiter of the process. The list of grievances ranges from “issues the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romney’s flailing rivals,” Politico reports. The committee agrees that some states that went for Romney jumped the line in the primary schedule, a violation of party rules. But it shrugs off other complaints, like that it undermined rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by formatting a delegate tracking list to pad Romney’s tally.

An Iraqi defector whose lies helped spark the United States' decision to invade Iraq, starting a nine-year war that cost more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, confessed to making up his tale to get U.S. leaders to act. In his first British TV interview this week, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi – known as “Curveball' in intelligence circles – admitted that he knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, as he had alleged.

A Florida woman was arrested after allegedly offering to have sex in exchange for two hamburgers off of McDonald's dollar menu. Christine Baker, 47, was walking on a Southwest Florida street last Friday when she was approached by a detective working in the Manatee County Sheriff Office’s special investigations division, according to a sheriff’s office report. After the undercover detective invited Baker into his car and the talk turned to sex, she said her fee would be two double cheeseburgers.

A British infant that essentially was born without any blood is being hailed by doctors as a miracle baby by her doctors for surviving her ordeal. Olivia Norton, who is now six months old, was born completely white because she had such a low count of hemoglobin – the chemical which carries oxygen in red blood cells – that it could not officially be classified as “blood.” She was nicknamed "ghost baby" and given less than two hours to live, but survived thanks to emergency transfusions.
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<![CDATA[Mallory to Give State of the City Address]]>

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory will deliver his annual State of the City address next week.

The address, which will be Mallory’s seventh since taking office, will be given 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will be held in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.

When CityBeat asked what the theme would be for this year’s address, a spokeswoman for Mallory declined comment.

“Our office won’t be previewing or giving information out about the speech this year,” said Julianna Rice, a policy aide to the mayor.

Generally, because seating is limited, anyone wishing to attend must receive a ticket through the mayor’s office. For more information, call 513-352-3250.

Mallory, a Democrat, was sworn in as the 68th mayor of Cincinnati on Dec. 1, 2005 and was reelected in 2009.  He cannot run again in 2013 due to term limits.

Mallory’s election marked a new era for City Hall as the first two-term mayor under the city's new “stronger-mayor” system, as well as Cincinnati’s first directly-elected black mayor, and the first mayor in more than 70 years who didn’t first serve on City Council.

Mallory celebrated his 50th birthday on Monday.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Even though it has provided it for years, Xavier University will stop including contraceptives in its health insurance coverage for faculty and staff beginning July 1. The Jesuit university employs about 950 people. In a letter posted on the university website, Xavier President Michael J. Graham wrote, “it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures which the church opposes.” Of course, some Catholic bishops, including Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, are raising a stink about a new federal rule that requires most religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals to begin offering birth control as part of health-care reforms. Either Mr. Graham got a sudden bout of conscience or he's politicizing an item that caused no controversy for years, until the church hierarchy decided it was time to flex its collective muscle.

Stores and other businesses that want to use off-duty Cincinnati police officers for security might soon have to pay more for the privilege. City Hall staffers are recommending the city start charging an hourly fee when they use the off-duty cops. Officials said they need the funds to cover the administrative costs of the program.

If you like stopping by Findlay Market to pick up some sushi, gelato or fresh produce, you might want to consider riding your bike there or taking the bus starting later this month, if you need to save money. That's because the market's three main parking lots will become pay lots for the first time since 1999, beginning April 23. The new fees are 50 cents an hour Monday-Friday, and $1 an hour on weekends with a $2 maximum, although motorists will get the first hour free. Also, monthly parking permits will cost $45.

Joey Votto, the talented Cincinnati Reds first baseman, is close to signing a new deal that likely would make him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball. According to the website MLBtraderumors.com, Votto is close to reaching a long-term deal with the Reds. Details haven't been disclosed, but the website speculated it would have to be near the $200 million that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got last year.

Hamilton County commissioners have rejected a request to place a property tax levy on the November ballot that would've raised $150 million to pay for repairs at the historic Union Terminal. It's the second consecutive year that commissioners rejected the request, citing the bad economy. Also, they said taxpayers shouldn't pay for the entire cost and that private donations should be sought.

In news elsewhere, there are primary elections held today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is trailing rival Mitt Romney in delegates won so far, and polls suggest Romney will score some crucial victories tonight. In fact, President Obama has begun treating Romney as though he's already won the Republican nomination. Obama's reelection campaign is running a new TV ad in five swing states attacking Romney by name for the first time.

The U.S. Justice Department is offering a $10 million bounty for the arrest of of Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The reward is intended to increase the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups.

Two forensic voice experts have concluded it wasn't shooter George Zimmerman that is heard crying for help on a disputed 911 call before an unarmed teenager was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. The experts, hired by The Orlando Sentinel, reviewed the tape using state-of-the-art voice identification software, and said the cries weren't from Zimmerman and instead were from Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who died that night. “You can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman,” one of the experts said.

The notorious Koch brothers, the ultra-conservative industrialists that discreetly bankroll various far-Right causes, are having a bad time recently. The FBI announced it was investigating two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political organization they founded and fund. Then, a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain nonprofit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list.

Researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies have compiled the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as U.S. military actions in Pakistan. PBS commentator Bill Moyers recently summarized the findings which include 224,475 lives lost, 365,383 people wounded and 7.8 million refugees and internally displaced people, along with $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations, between $3.7-$4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers and $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the United States borrowed for war (mostly from China). Was it all worth it?
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<![CDATA[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.
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