CityBeat Blogs - Human Rights http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-118.html <![CDATA[Saturday Homelessness March to Protest Displacement ]]> If you had to guess how many people are in Cincinnati are considered homeless, what would be your guess? Would it be anywhere near 7,000?

That's the number of Cincinnatians cited in a 2012 report from Strategies to End Homelessness that are either staying in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation. 

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition will coalesce to recognize the plight of those 7,000 when it holds its annual Homeless Awareness March on Saturday, Oct. 26 starting at 3 p.m. at Buddy’s Place, a permanent housing facility for the homeless located at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.  

Josh Spring, executive director at GRHC, says the march will explore areas in Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District particularly plagued by homelessness. There will be about 10 stops, each of which will be marked by a speech from representatives of several advocacy groups, including the Interfaith Workers' Center, OTR Community Housing, Streetvibes, People's Coalition for Equality and Justice and the Drop Inn Center.

The march comes at a particularly auspicious time for GRHC, which recently helped four homeless plaintiffs file a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for depriving homeless people of their constitutional rights by threatening to arrest people who sleep or inhabit the common areas around the Hamilton County Courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center downtown. 

Those areas have recently become the center of a public health debate between groups like GRHC and county officials, who have been forced to clean up urine and feces left behind the homeless and argue they just don’t have the resources to keep up.

The GHRC held a protest on Oct. 16 in front of the courthouse asking Sheriff Neil to rescind the policy, the same day the lawsuit was filed.

In an effort to compromise, Spring and other supporters have asked the county to at least wait to stick to the policy until the winter shelter opens in December, but county officials are hesitant to ignore the cleanliness problem for that long.

Advocates such as Spring, however, argue the city should take a “prevention first” approach instead by figuring out what will keep Cincinnatians from becoming homeless in the first place.

Spring says he hopes the march will draw both people who have come specifically to protest displacement and others who come to learn about the nature of homelessness in Cincinnati. "We really hope people walk away with some passion to go and do something about this," he says.

Last year's march was centered around protesting Western & Southern's manipulative legal disputes with the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to low-income women. The battle came to an end in May when Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, signed an agreement with Western & Southern to move from Lytle Park to Mount Auburn.

November is National Homeless Awareness Month. Here are a few volunteer opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati area to look into this winter.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]> Ohio energy provider FirstEnergy, who last June won a bid to provide Cincinnati with “100 percent green” aggregated energy, was fined $43.3 million yesterday by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for grossly overcharging its customers for renewable energy credits, or RECs. The issue dealt with FirstEnergy’s overcharging of customers across Northern Ohio from 2009-2011, so new FirstEnergy customers in Cincinnati are unaffected.

A Cincinnati spine doctor, Abubakar Atiq Durrani, accused of performing millions of dollars worth of unnecessary surgery on unsuspecting patients was indicted yesterday for five counts of health-care fraud and five counts of making false health-care claims.

Staff members of the Cleveland Scene yesterday snatched up the Twitter handle @PlainDealer after the Cleveland daily accidentally forgot to claim/reclaim it along with @ThePlainDealer. The Scene earned a delivered case of Great Lakes’ Oktoberfest and a six-pack of PBR in ransom.

Hamilton Country fares worse than Ohio overall when it comes to the economic well-being, health, education and safety of our children, according to a report released Aug. 7 by the Children's Defense Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation. Although median income is higher in Hamilton County than the statewide median, our rates are worse in child povery, fourth-grade reading and math proficiency, felony convictions and the amount of babies with low birth weights, an early sign of bad health.

If you don't have anything nice to say about living in North Korea, you will get stuck working in a coal mine. Last week popular stand-up comedian Lee Choon Hong was sentenced to an indefinite period of hard labor in a COAL MINE after she told a bad joke that "satirized" aspects of North Korean society. She was apparently yanked off statge in the middle of her performance and sent straight to the mine without the chance to say goodbye to her family.

This week in news: The historic building that houses the Emery Theatre is threatened by controversy between the owners of the building, the two organizations that run it and the nonprofit group The Requiem Project, who was billed in 2008 to program the theatre and raise money for the its renovation.

Last week the Requiem Project sued the University of Cincinnati, which owns the building, Emery Center Corporation and Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP), for violating a "letter of intent" and attempting to forcefully evict Requiem from the building, although its leaders, Tara Gordon and Tina Manchise, say they've never been told why they've been "backed into a corner."

A public housing project in Paris is the subject of an experimental heating project through which the warmth generated by human bodies milling around a nearby Metro station will be used to heat the building.

This intern for NextMovie.com fucking cited every single line of Mean Girls by heart in less than 30 minutes.

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<![CDATA[Attorney General Releases Human Trafficking Report ]]>  New data released today in the first annual Human Trafficking Statistics Report, compiled by the state’s Human Trafficking Commission, provides reports on human trafficking investigations conducted by local law enforcement agencies across the state.

Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law, also known as House Bill 262, was passed June 27 last year to combat Ohio’s human trafficking plague by harshening penalties for traffickers and offering trafficking victims more resources to heal. Included in the legislation was the mandate that the established task force, the Human Trafficking Commission, collect statistics and reports on human trafficking investigations, cases and arrests, for an annually published report. 

The report chronicles 30 different human trafficking investigations, which have resulted in 15 arrests and 17 prosecutions over the past year. Some of the investigations are still ongoing.

Thirty-eight sex trafficking victims were identified by local law enforcement last year, most of whom where identified as white or between the ages of 18 and 29. Only one reported victim was male. That represents just a fraction of the thousands of total Ohioans who fall victim to human trafficking in Ohio each year; around 1,000 Ohio youths and 800 foreign-born were trafficked across Ohio. Thousands more are considered "at risk" of becoming trafficking victims, which makes grand estimates on the total number of actual victims virtually impossible.

Law enforcement officers were also asked to identify possible social and economic vulnerabilities that made certain victims more susceptible to trafficking, which included a history of being oppressed or impoverished and possibly experiencing alcohol and drug dependency issues, although enforcement wasn't able to distinguish whether dependency issues actually made victims more vulnerable or if the experience of being trafficked facilitated dependency problems.

Most traffickers were males between the ages of 21 and 29, according to the data.

In 2010, the state of Ohio was considered among the "worst states" for human trafficking by the Polaris Project, a national organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking. In a 2012 report from Polaris, Ohio was ranked one of the "most improved" states of 2012, thanks to the passage of the Safe Harbor Law.

However, in January, anti-human trafficking organization Shared Hope International gave Ohio a "C" for its human trafficking legislation, up several points from a "D" in 2012.

In Ohio, two high-profile trafficking cases, including that of captor Ariel Castro, who kidnapped three young girls and locked them in a basement for nearly 10 years, and the four Ashland, Ohio, residents who enslaved a mentally disabled woman and her daughter into forced labor, have recently made international headlines.

In Cincinnati, City Council recently approved a four-pronged set of initiatives to battle local issues with human trafficking and prostitution, which are especially prevalent along McMicken Avenue and in the neighborhoods of Camp Washington and Lower Price Hill.

Ohio House Bill 130, which was recently approved unanimously by the Ohio House, would, if passed, further increase penalties for sex-trafficking and prostitution related offenses involving minors and disabled persons and also establish a spousal notification requirement for convicted trafficking and prostitution offenders. It will now move to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

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

Gov. John Kasich is ready to support further action on human trafficking. Members of the Ohio legislature have already committed to further action. The next few measures will address the statute of limitations for trafficking, parents who traffic their children and laws affecting children services and child welfare. Last session, the legislature passed a “safe harbor” law that changed the classification of children caught in prostitution from criminals to victims. A 2010 bill also increased penalties for human trafficking and related crimes.

A Texas-based company wants to ship thousands of barrels of fracking waste through river barges to Ohio. But the U.S. Coast Guard is halting the plan while it investigates whether the waste can be transported through water routes and the plan’s potential environmental impact. Critics are worried Ohio is becoming a dumping ground for fracking waste.

Mayor Mark Mallory took a tour with federal officials to show off developments going on in the city and the potential route for the streetcar. The tour was meant to show off projects that have gotten help from the federal government. After the bus tour, Mallory acknowledged the city has “a lot of work to do,” but he added, “There really is a buzz about Cincinnati around this country. It is true.”

A Cincinnati Children’s Hospital survey found one-third of teen girls report meeting with someone they’ve met online. Psychologist Jennie Noll says abused or neglected girls are more likely to present themselves in sexually provocative ways on the Internet and meet more people in real life. Noll warned the meetings can be dangerous for young girls. Apparently, the meetings seem to happen regardless of Internet filtering software, but high-quality parenting and monitoring can help.

Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is planning housing development for Mount Healthy. The development is coming after a study found the need for more housing in the area.

A controversial luxury apartment complex has been approved in Blue Ash. The approval came despite neighbors complaining that the complex will be an eyesore for the community.

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Cincinnati will hire 200 positions.

A recent rise in smuggling led a Conneaut, Ohio, councilman to send a letter to Gov. John Kasich asking for the state to intervene at Corrections Corporation of America’s Lake Erie Correctional Institution. But Col. John Born, superintendent at the Ohio State Highway Patrol, wrote in a response that criminal incidents have gone down at the CCA facility, even though drug smuggling has gone up. He also writes the state has deployed more cruisers, but he claims local law enforcement have better means and legal authority to deal with cases at the prison.

In other prison news, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director Gary Mohr wants to keep misbehaving inmates in prison longer. In the last legislative session, Mohr helped push laws that reduced sentences for low-crime offenders.

Looks like State Treasurer Josh Mandel is firing 10 percent of his staff. The press release for the announcement has great wording for the bad news: “Treasurer Mandel announces further payroll reductions and personnel consolidation.”

Ohio gas prices ticked up in response to hopes of a larger economic recovery.

The Cincinnati Zoo has another adorable animal: the Brazilian ocelot kitten.

Science says global warming won’t suck for everyone. Canadian killer whales tend to make gains, for example. Should humanity really risk making killer whales even stronger? They can already take down animals that are on solid surface.

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<![CDATA[W&S Flyby: ‘Stop Bullying Anna Louise Inn’]]> Spectators at the Western & Southern Open’s finals on Sunday also saw a plane flying overhead pulling a banner protesting the tournament’s corporate sponsor. The banner read: “W&S Stop Bullying Anna Lou Inn STPWS.COM.” 

Activists continue to protest Western & Southern’s treatment of the Anna Louise Inn, which has been helping women in the Lytle Park neighborhood for more than a century. CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the property when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn to leave the neighborhood anyway. 

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, released a statement on Saturday describing the protest banner as proof for local and national leaders that Western & Southern’s actions won’t be tolerated. The statement read: “We will continue to up the ante until you stop attacking the hard-working women of the Anna Louise Inn.”

Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in an email to CityBeat that the plane flew for two 30-minute stints on Sunday. Spring said protesters distributed 2,000 flyers outside the tournament’s gates and that the people who learned what Western & Southern was doing generally expressed frustration. The banner was made possible by contributions from several local organizations, including Occupy Work and Wages, Amos Project, the Homeless Coalition, SEIU Local 1, Mount Auburn Presbyterian church and other concerned citizens and groups. 

The banner asks people to go to stpws.com to learn more. The website redirects to www.southernwestern.net, which is the site where activists finally were able to publish a satirical video parodying a Western & Southern spokesperson proud of his company’s attacks on the Anna Louise Inn. The video was originally posted in June to YouTube and Vimeo, but was removed for copyright infringement shortly after Western & Southern found out about it. Western & Southern didn’t return CityBeat’s calls back then asking whether or not W&S was involved in forcing the removal of the video. The website includes a change.org petition asking Western & Southern to stop suing the Anna Louise Inn.

Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board is scheduled to hear arguments on Aug. 27 that could lead to a conditional use permit and allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a renovation Western & Southern stalled by suing the Inn. It will take place 3 p.m. on the seventh floor of 805 Central Ave.

Read this week's CityBeat cover story on the issue here.

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

The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners yesterday voted to keep senior and mental health levies flat. As a result, senior and mental health services will lose funding. Commissioner Todd Portune, the Board’s sole Democrat, offered an alternative measure that would have raised funding to levels providers requested, before voting with the two Republicans. Portune’s measure would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 of property worth.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a new report detailing human trafficking in Ohio. The report found one-third of trafficking victims got involved in trafficking as minors. In all of Ohio, law enforcement officials topped the list of buyers for human trafficking. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, factory workers and truckers. Forty percent of trafficking victims in Cincinnati reported being raped.

At the commissioners meeting Wednesday, a Jehova’s Witnesses group clashed with Harrison Township over land. The religious group wants to build a hall that they say will attract Jehova’s Witnesses to the area and bring in tax revenue, but Harrison Township is worried the building will cause too much disruption. The board will reach a decision in a few weeks, Commissioner Greg Hartmann said.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised Cincinnati Children’s accomplishments during a visit to a local medical center Wednesday. She also said the medical progress in Cincinnati “can now be mirrored across the country.”

The Ohio State Bar Association has declared opposition to the Voters First redistricting amendment. The association says it has “deep concerns” over getting the judicial system involved in the redrawing process.

Local political group COAST has been misinforming its followers about the Blue Ash Airport deal. The misinformation continues COAST’s campaign to stop anything streetcar-related.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is among the top choices for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential list, but a new analysis from the New York Times shows Portman might not benefit Romney much. Apparently, Ohio voters either don’t know Portman well enough or feel completely apathetic about him.

Ohio’s mortgage delinquency rates are falling. The rate fell from 4.73 percent to 4.54 percent. However, the average mortgage debt for individual borrowers went up in the second largest jump in the country. The average Ohio mortgage debt holder now owes $131,701, up from $126,503.

The number of swine flu cases in Butler County is still going up.

Ohio school levies apparently struggled in the special Aug. 7 election.

The U.S. trade deficit is at its lowest in 18 months.

Apparently, the Olympic Village is a giant orgy.

A new study is linking eyes to sexual orientation. ]]>
<![CDATA[Ohio AG Releases Disturbing Human Trafficking Report]]> The Ohio Attorney General’s office today released a report on human trafficking in Ohio which found that out of 328 self-identified human trafficking victims, more than one-third were trafficked while they were minors.

The victims were taken from all around Ohio, including Cincinnati. The report found that 63 percent of the victims had run away from home at least once, 59 percent reported having friends involved in selling, 47 percent were raped more than a year before being trafficked and 44 percent reported to be victims of child abuse.

In Cincinnati, the most common risk factors reported were dropping out of school and having an older boyfriend. Rape was third with 40 percent of Cincinnati victims reporting being raped.

In all of Ohio, the most common buyers for victims were law enforcement. Businessmen and drug dealers were second and third, respectively. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, followed by factory workers, then truckers.

The report highlights the severity of human trafficking in Ohio. A 2010 report by the same commission found that 1,000 American-born youth had been trafficked in Ohio over the course of the year, and as many as 3,000 American-born youth in Ohio were at risk for trafficking.

Since the 2010 report, Gov. John Kasich has signed H.B. 262 into law, which outlaws human trafficking and enforces tougher rules.

However, the commission does not believe current law is enough, and it’s pushing for more rules against human trafficking. The new rules would identify trafficking as child abuse, place a focus on arresting and convicting buyers and invest in responding to adult sex trafficking. The commission also wants a better response to youth runaways, and it wants to establish better protocols for dealing with at-risk youth, especially in correspondence with school officials.

When contacted by CityBeat, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said they have no suggestions to specifically deal with law enforcement officials, which topped the list of buyers, who are involved in human trafficking.

The report was issued by the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission. It was authored by commission member Celia Williamson, who is also a professor at the University of Toledo. The full report can be found here.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Mitt Romney's campaign has reportedly entered an “audition phase” in its search for a vice presidential candidate, and local boy Rob Portman is on the AP's speculative list. With three months to go before the Republican National Convention, Romney's people will soon be asking intensely personal questions of potential VPs, such as whether they've ever had marital problems, affairs or mental health counseling. In preparation, many Republicans are already speaking out against President Obama with hopes of sounding like a guy that can help Romney win in November.

The AP included in its rundown of the more high-profile candidates the strengths and potential weaknesses of each:

"The Republicans who are informally auditioning would each bring different strengths — and drawbacks — to the presidential ticket.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman supported Romney early, has a solid rapport with the candidate and hails from Ohio, a critical battleground state that could decide the election. But he wouldn't necessarily appeal directly to Hispanic or women voters.

(Louisiana Gov. Bobby) Jindal, the Louisiana governor, could help Romney turn out the religious right and would add diversity to the ticket as an Indian-American, but he struggled during a national debut rebutting the 2010 State of the Union address.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell appeals to social conservatives but signed a controversial state law that requires Virginia women to have ultrasounds before having an abortion.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's campaigned frequently with Romney, could help with female voters and in her swing state of New Hampshire. But she's from New England, the same region of the country as Romney, while (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie, a conservative favorite who can work a crowd, is from New Jersey.

(Florida Sen. Marco) Rubio could bring Florida, always a deciding factor in a general election, and appeal to Hispanics, a fast-growing voting bloc, but he's run into some trouble over a foreclosed home and possible misuse of an official credit card. And Ryan is a serious, leading policy mind with a bright future — and a brand name that's directly tied to a controversial budget that would make major changes to Medicare."

Meanwhile, Romney says Obama doesn't even understand free enterprise.

A Columbus tavern owner has lost his freedom isn't free battle in the Ohio Supreme Court, which yesterday unanimously ruled that the state's smoking ban is constitutional. The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village had racked up thousands of dollars in fines after 10 citations for violating the ban from July 2007 and September 2009. The state has reportedly threatened to seize the bar if the fines are not paid.

Meteorologists say after this weekend's heat wave this spring could be the hottest on record.

The Reds defeated the Atlanta Braves last night on a Todd Frazier walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the Reds' fifth straight win, and they're currently a half game behind St. Louis for first place in the division.

The Pakistan conviction of the Osama bin Laden doctor who helped the CIA find him is not going over well with the U.S. government. Pakistani authorities sentenced Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison for treason, and Afridi was not entitled to representation, though he has a right to appeal. The U.S. has threatened to cut aid to the country, arguing that informants work against al-Qaeda and not Pakistan.

Britain's recession is worse than expected, as the country's economy shrunk by .3 percent during the first quarter.

The SpaceX shuttle passed some tests necessary to move forward with its landing on the International Space Station Friday morning. President Obama called the company's CEO to congratulate him and he answered despite thinking it might be a telemarketer.

John Malkovich is in the latest Apple advertisement for Siri, during which Malkovich gets some life advice. The ads follow those released starring Hollywood actors Zooey Deschanel and Samuel Jackson last month.

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

In news you've likely already heard from your favorite website, social network, radio station, print publication, TV or the guy in your neighborhood who likes to talk about current events, President Barack Obama yesterday announced his support for same-sex marriage, becoming the first-ever sitting president to do so. The news has spawned analysis from across the land, ranging from “risky but inevitable” to “matters less than you think.” The Enquirer says the decision is going to “echo in Ohio” (whatever that means).

One thing we know for sure: Hollywood celebs are preparing to pack George Clooney's house tonight and fill up Obama's briefcase with money.

The “No. 2 official at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office” says the jail being next to the casino will be bad for business, according to an Enquirer story detailing worries over jail overcrowding leading to accused criminals to go into the casino to “get warm, panhandle customers or just give visitors a bad impression of Cincinnati.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune yesterday cancelled a new truck order for Paul Brown Stadium, instead giving the vehicles to Parking Operations. Parking Operations was supposed to get the stadium's used trucks after the stadium received new ones, but Portune said the stadium doesn't need brand new stuff all the time.

Up north, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman says his city wants an NBA basketball team now that the public has purchased the arena the Columbus Blue Jackets play in.

Poll watch: Portman on GOP ticket doesn't change Ohio race

New claims for unemployment benefits dropped again last week, nearing a four-year low.

Facebook will soon launch an App Center, because it's so annoying to have to leave Facebook to get cool new apps.

Famous hairdresser Vidal Sassoon died yesterday after a bout with leukemia. He apparently played a large role in creating “wash and go” hairstyling and later revolutionizing the hair-care industry. Here's a Philadelphia Inquirer obit. And five ways Vidal Sassoon changed people's hair. Sassoon, according to the book Insider's Guide to Cincinnati, had a home in Mount Adams (his wife was a Greater Cincinnati native).

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<![CDATA[City, State Move Forward With Same-Sex Rights]]>

Cincinnati inched closer to equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance benefits.

With a push by Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who abstained.

The approval came after a city report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77 partners took advantage of the benefits.

The report suggested City Council mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.

If the measure passes City Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states, countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.

Altogether, it seems like a small step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was, same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender.”

The amendment now moves forward to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.

Ohio banned same-sex marriage in 2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is moving toward support of gay marriage.

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<![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.

 

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<![CDATA[UC and Miami to Host Rallies Against Hate Crimes]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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<![CDATA[Ohio Creates Human Trafficking Task Force ]]> “Can you tell me how a 13-year-old kid can be snatched, blackmailed, drugged, raped, in our state? In our country?”

That’s the question Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked audiences Thursday before signing an executive order to create the Human Trafficking Task Force, which is intended to combat human trafficking across the state and help victims recover.

“I don’t think I can think of a greater evil than what we know as the human slave trade,” said Kasich, before signing the  order.

A 2010 study conducted by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission revealed that about 1,000 American-born children are forced into sex trade in Ohio every year, while about 800 immigrants fall victim to human trafficking, either through sexual exploitation or manipulation into hard labor.

Kasich’s executive order will give the task force 90 days to examine Ohio’s current ability to identify victims. The board of the task force will be comprised of representatives from youth prisons, public safety departments, state health and human services and the state Cosmetology Board (some trafficking is suspected in nail salons, which the Cosmetology Board oversees).

“They’ll tell me where the holes are, but we have lot more work to do,” Kasich said. “We need everybody in America to step in on this.”

Ohio is suspected to be a major player in the U.S. human trafficking industry because of its large immigrant population, proximity to Canada and growing demand for cheap labor in light of difficult economic times, according to the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report.

There’s currently no state funding set aside for the task force; the task will work hand-in-hand with Attorney General Mike DeWine's Human Trafficking Commission to buffer already existing efforts.

Human trafficking as a problem that pervades the Western world; it’s often defined as a third-world ailment, one that’s found in countries ridden with poverty and a lack of industrialization. The issue of human trafficking, however, is one that pervades nearly every country, although it’s an issue that garners far less attention in developed nations.
 

At any given point in time, an estimated 2.5 million people across the world are subjects of forced labor (including sexual exploitation) as a result of human trafficking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human rights activist and author Kerry Kennedy, one of the late Robert F. Kennedy’s daughters, will be in Cincinnati Friday to speak about women who create social change.

Kennedy will appear at an event sponsored by the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati. The speech will begin at 7:30 p.m.
at the Millennium Hotel, 150 W. Fifth St., in downtown Cincinnati.

Tickets to the event cost $25 for the lecture or $125 for the lecture and a reception with the speaker afterward, and are available online in advance or at the door.

She will present a speech entitled, “The Power of One: Stories of Inspiration 
from Women on the Cutting-Edge of Social Change.”

Kennedy, 52, is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Also, she is chairwoman of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council.

Kennedy is author of the best-selling books, Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk about Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning, along with Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World.

She is the seventh of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children. From 1990-2005, she was married to Andrew Cuomo, the current New York governor and son of Mario Cuomo.

Founded in 1915, Woman’s City Club has worked to foster civic reform and social justice in Cincinnati. Among its many activities, the club helped establish the city’s first race relations committee and held study circles on various issues to encourage greater civic participation.

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<![CDATA[Local Rally Planned for Trayvon Martin]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> In a move that's been expected for months, the parent company of The Enquirer informed investors Wednesday that all of its websites will implement a paywall model by year's end. Under the switch, online users will be able to access a limited number of articles for free every month, then must subscribe if they want to see additional digital content. Gannett Co. executives said it would probably offer between five and 15 articles for free per month, and compared the change to a system implemented by The New York Times last year. That newspaper, however, offers 20 free articles per month.

Hamilton County will soon have its first female coroner. The local Democratic Party's central committee will meet tonight to vote on the appointment of Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, a radiologist who lives in Indian Hill. She will replace Dr. Anant Bhati, who died last week from injuries sustained in a fall.

In a sign that the economy might be improving, local home sales increased in January. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says sales last month rose almost 11 percent over January last year.

The city manager and his staffers at City Hall seem to be keeping pertinent facts from Cincinnati City Council. First, council members said they weren't aware that a Hamilton restaurant in line to get almost $1 million in grants and loans to open a location at The Banks just paid off a delinquent property tax bill that was almost two years old on their eatery in Butler County. Then, council members learned the city's recently hired human relations director had to resign from her previous position in Detroit over a controversy involving a severance payment. Although Georgetta Kelly said she had nothing to do with a $200,000 payout to a woman who voluntarily left a county job to become CEO of an airport, her signature appears on some of the documents.

In news elsewhere, a Georgia lawmaker who is disturbed by Republicans' increasing attempts to pass new legislation involving abortion and birth control has offered a proposal of her own. State Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, wants to begin regulating vasectomies. If approved, her bill would ban the practice of male sterilization except in cases where a man faces serious health risks without one. It was crafted as a response to a so-called “fetal pain bill” proposed by Republicans, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Even though he wants to end the Afghanistan war and impose a more isolationist foreign policy, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received more donations from members of the military than all of his GOP rivals and President Obama combined during 2011's fourth quarter. Paul raised more than $150,000 from active-duty military personnel.

As banks foreclose on an increasing number of properties nationwide, tenants are discovering many of those lending institutions are neglectful landlords, NPR reports.

The United Nations has a secret list of top Syrian officials who could face investigation for crimes against humanity for their violent crackdown against anti-government protestors, according to a U.N. report. The list includes Syrian President Bashar Assad, said London's The Independent. Sources tell the newspaper as many as 500 children have been killed in the violence.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The wife of an Israeli diplomat in India and her driver were injured Monday when the car they were traveling in was bombed, while another bomb was defused outside an Israeli embassy in Tblisi, Georgia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran, which he called “the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”---

Readers should remember, however, that several Iranian scientists have been assassinated in recent years, with Professor Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan and his driver killed in a bomb blast in north Tehran just last month. U.S. officials last week confirmed that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency had been funding and training Iranian dissidents to assassinate nuclear scientists involved in Iran's nuclear program. What comes around goes around. 

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden told his children "not to follow him down the road to jihad" before his death, according to an interview his brother-in-law gave to Britain’s The Sunday Times. "He told his own children and grandchildren, 'Go to Europe and America and get a good education'," said Zakaria al-Sadah. I suppose this can be viewed two ways: Either Osama was offering sage paternal advice so his children wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did, or the terrorist thought only the wealthy deserved a good life while the poor and uneducated served as cannon fodder for his political aims.

Malaysia has deported a young Saudi journalist who is wanted in his native country for Twitter posts about the Prophet Mohammad that led to calls for his execution, Al Jazeera reports. Hamza Kashgari, 23, is on his way back to Saudi Arabia, which is a U.S. ally. "We all agree that what he has done is absolutely wrong. He did tweet certain doubts about the prophet, which is blasphemous," said Abdullah al-Alami, a Saudi activist. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had urged Malaysia not to send Kashgari back, to no avail.

Victories in Republican primaries in Michigan (Feb. 28) and Ohio (March 6) are crucial to Rick Santorum staying in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Santorum’s strategists told Politico. “The privately held hope in the Santorum camp is that beating Romney in his native state of Michigan or in the ultimate general election battleground of Ohio would discredit, on a grand scale, the on-and-off Republican frontrunner and make the other candidates in the race irrelevant in the remaining contests,” it reports.

Want to see “vulture capitalism” in action? After singer Whitney Houston’s death on Saturday in Beverly Hills, iTunes increased the prices on her albums. For example, the price of Houston’s 2007 Ultimate Collection jumped from $4.70 to $12.60 within 30 minutes of the news about her passing, causing critics to blast Apple and Sony Music for their crassness.

Locally, some vacant and dilapidated homes might be demolished thanks to last week’s national mortgage settlement between several state attorneys general and five major banks. Ohio will get $75 million from the deal, and several area mayors are urging that some of the money be used to raze the eyesores.

Republicans on the Hamilton County Board of Elections this morning voted to appeal a federal judge's decision from last week that ordered the board to count 286 additional votes in the juvenile court race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams from 2010. That means the case will go to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although it appears the Republican-dominated Hamilton County Commission plans to block a public vote on a property tax levy for the Museum Center, a Democratic challenger said he would let it proceed, if elected in November. Greg Harris, the Democrat running against incumbent Republican Greg Hartmann, said “I will support allowing arts and cultural institutions to put their full requests to voters in the form of levies, and campaign in full to support them.”

 

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<![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.

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<![CDATA[Israeli Ambassador Visits Cincinnati]]>

Israel’s ambassador to the United States will speak at an event in Cincinnati on Saturday night.

Michael Oren will speak about U.S.-Israeli relations and current events affecting both nations. Time will be allowed for questions following Oren’s speech.

Several area politicians are scheduled to attend the event including U.S. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) and Steve Chabot (R-Westwood); State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill); Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel; and a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park).---

The event will be held at 8 p.m. at Mayerson Jewish Community Center. It’s located at 8485 Ridge Road, in Amberley Village.

Although the event is free, the center already has reached capacity level for the crowd through reservations, and is discouraging walk-ins. But the center will videotape the ambassador's remarks and the question and answer session, and post them online next week.

Oren has been criticized for defending Israel’s blockade and military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. A United Nations fact-finding report concluded that the Israel Defense Forces were guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Further, some critics have blasted Oren’s endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support for some tyrannical regimes in the Arab world instead of promoting democracy and self-determination.

Oren, 56, was born in upstate New York. He was active in Zionist and Jewish youth groups and made his first trip to Israel at age 15. After graduating from Columbia University, Oren immigrated to Israel in 1979.

Also, Oren is a former member of the Israel Defense Forces. He served in the 1982 Lebanon War, the 2005 Gaza Strip disengagement and the 2006 Lebanon War.

Netanyahu appointed Oren as ambassador to the United States in May 2009.

For more information on the event, contact the Jewish Federation at 513-985-1500.

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