CityBeat Blogs - Family <![CDATA[Local Leaders Collaborate to Combat Infant Mortality ]]> Some parts of Cincinnati suffer from higher infant mortality rates than third-world countries. In the city as a whole, infants die at rates more than twice the national average.

We’ve been asking, “Why?” for a long time; this mysterious plague wiping out our infants hasn’t been solved even as our hospitals are recognized worldwide and as it continues to be at the forefront of our public health discussions.

Local politicians, hospitals, health experts and advocates are hoping the answer is one that's been lying in front of them the whole time: collaboration.

Today marked the official conjoining of local politicians, health experts, advocates and Cincinnati’s top hospitals providing birthing services in hopes of working together to reduce the areas’ infant mortality rate to below that of the national average within the next five years.

The new partnership is comprised of Hamilton Country Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel, who co-chair the effort; the Center for Closing the Health Gap; Mayor Mark Mallory; Councilmember Wendell Young; and hospitals including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital, Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and the UC College of Nursing.

While the hospitals are typically competitors, the disturbing, long-standing statistics Monzel described as an "embarrassment" have fueled area health providers to set aside competition and unite Cincinnati’s top health experts to bring Cincinnati's infant mortality levels below the national average within the next five years.
“We’re checking egos and names and brands at the door,” said Commissioner Portune. "Enough is enough."

Efforts to reduce infant mortality, Portune explained, have been active for years; however, because they've been fragmented — disconnected from one another — establishing best practices just hasn't been possible.

Initial funding comes from an agreement that County Commissioners Portune and Monzel made with Jim Kingsbury, UC Health president and CEO, as part of the county's sale of Drake Hospital.

Representatives plan to meet on a regular basis to share best practices, exchange ideas and report data.

In February, Mayor Mark Mallory entered the city into the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a national competition to inspire city leaders to solve urban problems. His proposal involved the creation of the Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which would have followed new mothers in high-risk areas through pregnancy, creating a database of new mothers and monitoring pregnancies.   

In Mallory’s submission, he put the problem into perspective: “In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate.”

Although Cincinnati was named one of the top 20 finalists out of more than 305 cities, it was not selected as one of the five to receive up to $5 million in funding to jump-start the initiative.

Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6; the national average is 6.

Cincinnati’s black community is especially afflicted by infant mortality. In Ohio, black infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants.

To look at a map of infant mortality rates in Greater Cincinnati by zip code or to read about some of the leading causes of infant mortality, visit the Cincinnati Health Department's website.

<![CDATA[Trial Begins for Pregnant Teacher Fired by Archdiocese ]]>

The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has been mired in quite a bit of trouble over the past several years for its morally outdated (and unjust) policies, and now one of the allegations has reached the courts. Today marked the second day of juror hearings in a schoolteacher's lawsuit against the Archdiocese and the two schools from which she was fired for violating her civil rights.

In 2010, schoolteacher Christa Dias, a single, non-ministerial employee at both Holy Family and St. Lawrence Schools, parochial schools owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, became pregnant via artificial insemination. At five and a half months pregnant, she asked her employers for something millions of U.S. women ask for every year: maternity leave.

She got more than she bargained for, though, when her employers fired her, assuming Dias had engaged in premarital sex (one of the many "moral" no-nos in the Catholic Church — for women, at least). She was informed that she was let go because she'd violated a moral clause in the Catholic doctrine that she'd agreed to adhere to when she signed her employment contract, which, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, makes it okay to discriminate when the discrimination falls under something called "ministerial exception" —  a pesky and vague part of civil labor laws exempting religious policies from some basic rules for equality in the workplace.

Ergo: Women who are fired by the Catholic Church for getting pregnant face unfair discrimination because men aren't held to the same standard. Obviously, it's impossible to detect whether or not single male employees are engaging in premarital sex (but they probably are). The basis of Dias' lawsuit is that that little gender caveat is an inherent for of discrimination against women because women and men aren't held to the same moral standards.

Although her employers originally told her she was fired for premarital sex, they later retracted that assertion and said that the use of artificial insemination was immoral, also a violation of the Catholic doctrine.

According to the AP, Dias today told jurors she didn't realize that artificial insemination was a violation of church doctrine or that having the procedure could get her fired. The archdiocese's attorney, Steve Goodin, says that Dias was not discriminated against because she signed a contract that clearly commanded she abide by the Catholic doctrine.

CityBeat reported on a similar case of discrimination by the Catholic Church earlier this year ("Unforgiven Offenses," issue of Jan. 9, 2013), which detailed a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio by former schoolteacher Kathleen Quinlan, who was also fired from her non-ministerial position at Ascension Catholic School in Kettering, Ohio, in December 2011 after she approached her principal, told him about her pregnancy and offered to work behind-the-scenes until she gave birth. 

Again, her employers and the Archdiocese used the "morality clause" to defend their position.

And then there was Johnathan Zeng ("Gays, Even Christians, Need Not Apply," issue of June 13, 2012), who was offered a job as a music teacher at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) Armleder School after two weeks of discussions; Zeng even put on a teacher demonstration in front of a third grade class. When a board representative asked him point-blank if he was gay, Zeng told the truth: yes, he was gay. All of a sudden, Zeng was out of the running, even though he was already pinpointed as the most qualified applicant.

The outcome of Dias' case could set a major precedent for courts ruling on ministerial exception in the future. Last year, the Supreme Court ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, courts sided with the church in a fired teacher's discrimination lawsuit, ruling that because she had some religious duties as a teacher, federal discrimination laws didn't apply.

Some local Catholics, at least, are firing back against the archdiocese's archaic policies; recently, Debra Meyers was ordained as Cincinnati's first female Catholic priest by the Association of Roman Woman Catholic Priests, despite opposition from local Catholic leaders and the Vatican. Read our interview with her here.

<![CDATA[War Is Declared! On Babies!]]>

America is a country at war. While the war in Iraq ostensibly drew down in December 2011, the United States has been quagmired in a war in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

But we're also in the midst of a number of other wars — cultural wars. It started with Nixon’s War on Drugs, then quickly escalated.

President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations on coal mining caused proponents to claim he had declared a War on Coal. The Affordable Care Act’s mandate that companies pay for employee contraception caused many faith groups to claim a War on Religion.

Statements from Republican politicians about “legitimate rape” and “binders full of women” caused some Democrats to claim the GOP had declared a War on Women.

And the ever-vigilant conspiracists news hounds at FOX News have exposed a scheme by Jesus-hating liberals to wage a War on Christmas for trying to remove constitutionally questionable dolled-up trees and pastoral scenes of babies in unsuitable barn-life cribbery faith-based displays from public property.

But by far the most heinous altercation being waged originated with Republican Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, who has declared a War on Babies.

As first reported by The Enquirer, conservative groups this week sent out a press release vilifying Niehaus for killing tons of babies in a mass effort to wipe out the state’s youth population a 17-month old bill that would give Ohio one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Niehaus moved the so-called Heartbeat Bill — which would ban all abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — from the Health Committee to the Rules and Reference Committee to avoid a forced vote on the legislation. He also removed staunch anti-abortion Senators Keith Faber and Shannon Jones from that committee.

“I’m shocked by Tom Niehaus’ war on pro-life women,” wrote Lori Viars in the news release. Viars is the vice president of Warren County Right to Life and vice chair of Warren County Republican Party.

Viars called for Republicans to remove Niehaus from Senate leadership. Niehaus is term-limited and will not continue on in office after this year.

Niehaus blamed Romney’s loss for his decision to kill the bill, saying that the Republican’s victory would have increased the likelihood of a U.S. Supreme Court lineup that would uphold it against a likely challenge.

<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Visits Cincinnati on First Early Voting Day]]>

While the presidential candidates prepared for Wednesday’s debate, Michelle Obama urged Cincinnatians on Tuesday to take advantage of the first day of early voting, before leading a group to the board of elections to cast their ballots.

“I’ve got news for you: Here in Ohio it’s already Election Day. Early voting starts today,” Obama told a crowd of 6,800 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center. She urged everyone to reach out and encourage their friends to vote after they had cast their own ballots.

“Twitter them. Tweet them. What do you do? It’s tweeting, right? Tweet them,” she joked to the crowd.

Earlier in the morning, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off its “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express” statewide bus tour in downtown Cincinnati. 

The tour started in Hamilton County before moving through Butler County and is scheduled to end the day in Preble County.

The bus is scheduled to make its way through every region of Ohio during the early voting period and will serve as a mobile campaign headquarters, dispensing voter contact materials and featuring Romney campaign surrogates, according to a news release.

At the convention center, Michelle Obama avoided some of the direct attacks employed by her husband or the Romney campaign, but used her 30-minute speech to counter some of the criticisms from the GOP nominee, recapping some of her convention speech.

“Our families weren’t asking for much,” Michelle said of her own and Barack’s families. “They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, you know, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did, in fact they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to succeed.”

Her comment seemed to come in response to an attack that the Romney campaign levied against Barack Obama after his infamous “you didn’t build that” comment, where the GOP candidate argues that Obama and Democrats are fostering enmity among the middle class by stoking jealousy of rich, successful Americans like Mitt Romney.

“Our families believed also that when you work hard and have done well and finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle Obama continued. 

“No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. You see, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. … We learned that the truth matters – you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules.”

She went on to say that Americans are part of something bigger than themselves and obligated to give back to others, counter to the Republicans’ narrative of the individual pulled up by his or her own bootstraps.

Danielle Henderson, 40, a teacher’s assistant from Cincinnati, said she was a fan of the first lady’s and joked that she wanted to know if Michelle was running for president in 2016.

“Behind every good man is a good woman,” Henderson said. “Honestly, a woman is a backbone of the family.”

She said she thought the first family was a good model for the rest of the country.

Henderson’s mother-in-law Barbara joked that she was excited to see what the first lady was going to wear.

“I see trends she sets trickle down to other politicians’ wives,” she joked.

<![CDATA[Natalie Portman Supports Obama in Cincinnati]]>

Actress and acclaimed rapper Natalie Portman played up her Cincinnati ties in a Wednesday appearance at the Obama campaign-sponsored Women’s Summit at Union Terminal.

The Academy Award-winner said her mother graduated from Walnut Hills High School and her grandfather — Art Stevens — grew Champion Windows in Cincinnati after starting as a door-to-door salesman.

“Because of that, I see President Obama’s support of small businesses as so crucial to our economy,” Portman said, adding that Obama has cut taxes for small businesses 82 times since taking office.

Portman said the Republican Party and their presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did not have the best interests of women at heart. She pointed to attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s mandates that insurers provide birth control to women and ensure preventative care such as mammogram screenings for breast cancer is covered, as well a bill sponsored by Ryan and embattled congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that would eliminate all abortion funding except for cases of “forcible rape.”

“We need to stand up for ourselves,” Portman told the packed auditorium that was crowded with an audience of mostly women. “Our mothers and our grandmothers made giant steps for us. We can’t go backwards. We need to go forwards.”

Portman was joined by Obama Campaign National Women’s Vote Director Kate Chapek, former Ohio first lady Frances Strickland, Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece and Obama campaign volunteer Mary Shelton.

An Ohio Romney rep said the campaign did not have a comment on the Women’s Summit, but is hosting a “Women for Mitt” call night featuring former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in Kenwood on Thursday.

“Ohio women believe in the Romney-Ryan path for America that will result in lower taxes, less spending, less government and more economic growth,” said a release from Romney’s campaign.

The Obama event on Wednesday catered to women, with Chapek telling the audience she knew how difficult it was for women to get there with jobs and the challenge of getting their kids to school. She framed women’s role in the election as a conversation.

“The conversation starts like this: women, turns out, we’re not a constituency,” Chapek said. “Who knew? Apparently Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, because they don’t realize that women are actually a majority in this country.”

She told the women gathered to have conversations with their neighbors and friends and encourage them to volunteer at phone banks or knocking on doors.

Strickland talked about the need to reconcile qualities traditionally seen as masculine — like power — with those seen as feminine — like love.

She also took the opportunity to riff on a statement made by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said political wives were heroes because while they’re husbands were on stage in the limelight, they were at home doing things like laundry.

“I even did the laundry last night so I could come here today,” Strickland said. “Even (former Gov.) Ted does the laundry.”

Summit attendee Ray Boston, a 67-year-old retired writer for AT&T, said Natalie Portman’s presence caught his eye.

“I’m a celebrity photo enthusiast,” he said. “Nothing’s official until I’ve taken a picture of it.”

Boston said he didn’t vote in 2008, but felt the upcoming November election was too important to sit out. He said he was leaning toward voting for Obama and liked his health care overhaul, but was opposed to the president’s views on gay marriage for religious reasons.

Gwen McFarlin, who works in health care administration, said she was there to support President Obama. She supports his health care overhaul, but thinks it’s a first step to further changes.

She said she was encouraged by the diversity of the women in attendance.

“For me, I’m sure the women who are here represent all the world, not one issue,” she said. “We’re here as a group of women working to empower all the U.S. and the world.”

<![CDATA[Oral Arguments in Planned Parenthood v. DeWine Begin June 7]]> Since Ohio House Bill 126 was passed in June 2004, abortion-inducing medication mifepristone has been regulated in such a way that physicians can only administer the exact amount approved by the FDA in 2000. Tomorrow, the case will continue to move forward when proponents for overturning the law present oral arguments in Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region v. DeWine at 8 a.m. at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 100 E. Fifth St., Downtown.

It's been a regulation deeply contested by physicians and women's rights advocates, who argue that alternate dosages of the medication are often legitimate and necessitated based on current medical knowledge, such as when a patient might warrant a lower dosage proven to safe and effective with fewer or less severe side effects.

According to a legal docket from the ACLU of Ohio, which backs a repeal of the law, "HB 126 is a unique law that effectively freezes medicine in time based on evidence more than ten years old."

A lawsuit, originally called Planned Parenthood of Cincinnati v. Taft, has been floating around in courts since 2004, when Planned Parenthood affiliates filed an injunction in an attempt to prevent the law from going into effect.

According to the case schedule from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, each side, plaintiffs and appellants, will receive 15 minutes to present.

<![CDATA[Cincinnati is 8th Worst for Air Pollution]]> Cincinnati and Hamilton County fared poorly on a national list of places with polluted air that was released Wednesday.

The Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington metropolitan region ranked as the eighth-worst for air particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County was given an “F” grade for its number of high ozone days, and a “D” grade for air particle pollution by the Lung Association.

The rankings were included in the group’s “State of the Air 2012” report. The annual air quality report grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions.

The 13th annual report uses the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2008-10 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. Also, the report uses the EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels.

Generally, the report found that air quality in America’s most polluted cities was at its cleanest since the organization’s annual report began 13 years ago. This year’s report details the trend that standards set under the Clean Air Act to cleanup major air pollution sources — including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs — are working to drastically cut ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) from the air. Despite this progress, unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist and in some parts of the nation worsened.

More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health. That means more than 127 million people are living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks or premature death.

The Cincinnati region ranked 21st for high ozone days out of 277 metropolitan areas. Also, it ranked 39th for 24-hour air particle pollution.

Still, the region is improving. The region has had 19.4 fewer high ozone days annually on average since 1996, and 10 fewer high-particle pollution days since 2000.
<![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.

<![CDATA[Group Pushes for Ohio Tax Change]]>

A nonpartisan think tank that advocates for poor and working class families is urging that Ohio adopt its own version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).


The group, Policy Matters Ohio, said a state version of the federal tax credit, set at 10 percent, would divert just $210 million from Ohio’s coffers but would benefit 949,000 low-income working families across the state. Such a credit would provide families with an average of $221 each, which Policy Matters Ohio described as “modest but helpful.”


Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have Earned Income Tax Credits, ranging from 3.5 percent to 50 percent of the federal credit.


“A state EITC program enables families to work and build assets while reducing the impact of regressive income tax changes,” said a statement released by Policy Matters Ohio.


“A state EITC makes sense because recent changes to the personal income tax have provided greater tax reductions for higher-income earners than they have for lower- and middle-income families,” the statement continued.


The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and medium-income individuals and couples, and is considered the nation’s largest poverty relief program. When the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who qualify and claim the credit.


To qualify for the EITC, a recipient must have earned income of $49,000 or less. The credit is worth significantly more for families with children and is refundable, which means families receive cash refunds above their tax liability.


Created in 1975, the federal EITC is aimed at helping lift families with children about the poverty level, along with offsetting the burden of Social Security taxes and maintaining an incentive for people to work.


In Ohio, 949,692 people currently claim the federal EITC. The credit generates $2.1 billion for state residents, and the average refund is $2,211.


Founded in 2000, Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that seeks to create “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” through research and policy advocacy.


Based in Cleveland and Columbus, the organization is funded primarily through grants from groups like the Ford Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Corp. for Enterprise Development and others.

<![CDATA[Republican 'War on Women' Marches Forward]]>

Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.

But, apparently, there was one other priority.

Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.

An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.

Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.

Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.

Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.

So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.

There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.

Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.

But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.

In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.

<![CDATA[Freestore Begins Holiday Distribution]]>

The Freestore Foodbank today began its annual distribution of Thanksgiving meals to needy families. The delivery of meals will continue through Wednesday afternoon.

Workers at the Freestore will deliver boxes to about 23,000 families throughout the Tristate region.---

Each household will receive a box of food, a bag of produce, and either a chicken or turkey, depending on family size, according to the organization. Larger families receive larger boxes, but every family receives canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned cranberry or pumpkin, stuffing or rice, onions, potatoes, apples, macaroni and cheese, and brownie mix or another dessert.

The Freestore still is accepting donations of money or nonperishable food items, especially canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, tuna, canned chicken and soups. Donations may be made at the Customer Connection Center at 112 E. Liberty St., in Over-the-Rhine. Drive-up donations are accepted at the front bay from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Every dollar donated to the Freestore provides about four meals, a spokesperson said.

In recent years, the Freestore has seen the demand for its services increase due to the recession and high unemployment rate.

The Freestore was founded in 1971 by Frank Gerson, a worker at Cincinnati’s city dump who collected discarded items to help the needy. Since then, it has to become one of Ohio’s largest food banks. The Freestore provides food to about 450 pantries in a 20-county area in the Tristate, ranging from rural Indiana to Portsmouth, Ohio.

Facilities that receive the food include pantries operated by churches, battered women’s shelters and group homes.

Overall, the Freestore serves about 250,000 people each year, including roughly 110,000 in Hamilton County. About 40,000 people visit the Liberty Street facility for emergency food assistance annually.

The ambitious programs are possible due to the efforts of a staff of about 100 people, along with dedicated volunteers who offer 60,000 hours of help each year.

Funding is provided through a mix of federal grants, contributions from corporations and private foundations and from individual donations.

For more information, call 513-241-1064.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>
Bill Cunningham is still trying to do TV, even though he looks like a doll who's come to life to murder people. This report explains how his new spray tan, hair coloring and expensive suits have contributed.---

President Obama will be in town this week to discuss the importance of the Brent Spence Bridge and the American Jobs Act. Hopefully he's prepared to hear from local Republicans about how they agree with him but think he's wrong.

Some Tea Party mope is going to challenge John Boehner in next year's Republican primary, planning to campaign on a single issue: Boehner’s backing of a federal budget that didn't completely crush Planned Parenthood, which he calls “the largest killer of unborn babies in America.”

Gov. John Kasich is continuing to make the government smaller. Hope everybody is enjoying their extra freedoms, especially the 2,958 workers he's fired.

Residents of the Anna Louise Inn have sued Western & Southern Financial Group, which has been trying to purchase/shut down the women's shelter so it can redevelop the Lytle Park neighborhood for rich people. From Fox 19:
The suit says that Western & Southern has "encouraged business entities and community organizations to oppose the Financing Subsidy of the Inn on the grounds that Anna Louise Inn is detrimental to the well being and development of downtown Cincinnati" and the company has "engaged in frivolous challenges to the approval by the Historic Review Board and has frivolously challenged the building permit for these renovations."

The city of Cleveland is buying guns from its residents, offering gift cards in exchange for weapons. This year's “gun buyback” collected 706 guns, more than the amount collected in any of the past three years.

Here's a brief electoral college education in the wake of Pennsylvania Republicans attempting to redefine how the process works.

How tablets will drive e-commerce. How Google will let you pay for stuff with your phone.

Online gamers were given a new 3D-model game (and several cases of Mountain Dew), and three weeks later have “untangled the structure of a key protein in the virus that causes AIDS, a mystery that has left scientists stumped for decades.” Nice work, nerds!

Here's what we thought about last week's season premiere of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. (B-)

And our rundown of cool things to do this fall, from the Cool Issue. More of such here.

Miss CityBeat's Emmy Awards Live Chat? Relive the glory here. Or read this article on how Modern Family and Mad Men did really well.

<![CDATA[The GOP, 'Family Values' and Hypocrisy]]>

What did they know and when did they know it? Moreover, why aren't they commenting on it?

“They,” in this case, are leaders of the Ohio Republican Party. And “it” is the drunken driving arrest of State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg (R-Green Township). In the 16 days since the April arrest became publicized through the media, the state GOP has been curiously silent about the matter.---

Mecklenborg was arrested April 23 for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. An Indiana state trooper stopped him shortly before midnight in Lawrenceburg, Ind., and the lawmaker failed three field sobriety tests. Also, Mecklenborg — who is married and the father of three children — had a woman in his vehicle who some media outlets say works at Concepts Show Girls, a nearby strip club. Toxicology texts showed Mecklenborg had Viagra in his blood, according to police documents.

WLWT-TV (Channel 5) was the first media outlet to report the incident, on June 29.

The muted reaction is a far cry from what occurred in early June, when Ohio Republican leaders felt the need to weigh in on the texting controversy surrounding then-Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York), who sent photos of his penis to females through Twitter and the Internet.

Although Weiner hadn't committed a crime, Christopher Maloney, the Ohio Republican Party's communications director, issued an overheated public statement urging U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to call for Weiner's resignation.

"Talk is cheap. It's time for Sherrod Brown to walk the walk when it comes to draining Washington's 'ethical swamp'; it's time for him to join his fellow candidates for U.S. Senate, and Democratic Party peers, in calling for Anthony Weiner's resignation," Maloney said in the June 9 statement. "Sherrod Brown sits on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics. As long as Sen. Brown intends on continuing to incorporate ethics and good government into his 2012 campaign platform, he should join with his Democratic colleagues and provide Ohioans with an answer on whether Anthony Weiner should resign his seat in Congress."

Ironically, Mecklenborg — a self-styled “family values” conservative on social issues — is a member of the Ohio House's Judiciary and Ethics Committee.

CityBeat sent an email to Maloney and Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine, asking them why the party hasn't made an official statement about Mecklenborg's arrest. Specifically, the email asked whether the party thinks Mecklenborg should resign. Also, it asked if party leaders were aware of the arrest when it occurred in April. If not, it asks if Mecklenborg should've informed them. And if they were aware, the email asks why no public statement was issued at the time.

Neither Maloney nor DeWine have replied.

The first elected Republican to address the incident was House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina), just two days ago. He said Wednesday that Mecklenborg should resign from office.

A blood test given by police registered Mecklenborg's blood-alcohol content at 0.097 percent, above the 0.08 percent level at which a driver in Indiana or Ohio is considered drunk.

The political web site Plunderbund has said Mecklenborg's young companion that night, Tiona Roberts, works at Concepts Show Girls strip club on Arch Street, not far from the Hollywood Casino.

CityBeat contacted the club and a woman who identified herself as the business' bookkeeper wouldn't confirm Roberts' employment. Further, the woman said that the club's owner was declining comment about the incident or whether Mecklenborg is a regular customer.

On a web site featuring reviews of the club, one customer described Concepts as follows: “Dances were 10 dollars and I was definitely up for it. (Mandy) was outstanding for one way grinding. She moved in all kind of positions for the best grinding. The songs were long and I paid for six straight songs. Some of the best one way contact I have had.”

Since the news first broke, The Enquirer hasn't mentioned details of the incident or done any follow-up articles, unlike other daily newspapers across Ohio.

Some media critics have wondered if that's due to Mecklenborg's day job as an attorney at the powerful Dinsmore & Shohl law firm on East Fifth Street downtown.The law firm represents Procter & Gamble, among other large local corporations, and a managing partner is board chairman of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Although The Enquirer hasn't followed up on the incident officially, a person who posted on its “Moms Like Me” discussion board made an interesting allegation.

In a comment posted online at 11:07 p.m. July 2, someone using the screen name “Daynamariee1981” wrote: “I was employed at Concepts for five years while I was in college. Bob came into the club at least three times a week. He is extremely perverted and would offer almost every girl money for sex. I had no idea he was a State rep. I had no idea that he was married because his text messages were so dirty. I really think it should be up to the voters. He is great at his job, he is just a lousy husband.”

Of course, the allegation might be unfounded; still, most observers would think the region's daily newspaper of record would track down the user using its administrative access to the board and try to verify the information for an article.

<![CDATA[YMCA to Close One Site, Alter Another]]>

As part of a realignment of its facilities in the urban core, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati will close the Williams branch in East Walnut Hills in August. Also, although the YMCA will continue some programs at the Melrose branch in Walnut Hills, it also will end general membership services there.

Both changes are effective Aug. 22, YMCA officials said.---

The Melrose branch in Walnut Hills will continue to host the YMCA's Community Services, Black and Latino Achievers, Mentoring Center and Child Development Services programs.

Melrose and Williams members will be able to transfer their membership to any YMCA branch.

The decision-making process for the realignment included a review of factors such as declining levels of membership and program participants, overlapping membership bases, the age and design of the buildings and others.

Participation in programs at the Melrose YMCA has declined 50 percent in the past four years, while the Williams YMCA had a 29 percent decline in membership over the past three years, officials said.

Other YMCA facilities in the urban core — including the Carl H. Lindner YMCA in the West End, the R.E. Lindner YMCA in Norwood and the Central Parkway YMCA downtown — are unaffected by the changes.

These are difficult decisions.We have wrestled with the future of Williams and Melrose for years,” said Sandra Berlin Walker, the YMCA's president and CEO, in a prepared statement.

These two buildings simply no longer provide the opportunity to deliver the vibrant experiences that all Y members deserve, especially our members in the city core,” she added. “That is why we made these most difficult decisions.”

<![CDATA[Remembering Those Who Died Homeless]]>

Today is the winter solstice, the day of the year with the longest amount of darkness. That means it's also Homeless Memorial Day.

Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless has held memorial services for individuals who have died from causes related to their lack of housing on this day.---

The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless marked the day with a press conference held at the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street downtown, near a highway overpass where many homeless people often camp. Coalition officials are calling for the creation of more emergency shelters that can house entire families together; they said the recession and high unemployment rate have increased the need for such spaces.

“The face of homelessness is changing,” the coalition said in a prepared statement. “In past years, families that hit hard times were often able to stay with a family member while they got back on their feet. Today, families have either exhausted this resource or their family members are too close to the edge to care for them.

“In recent discussions, family shelters reported that they no longer have enough options for many of the families that are lucky enough to enter their shelters,” the coalition added. “Jobs are no longer available, the affordable housing is already inhabited and funding for emergency services simply no longer meets the new demand.”

There are an estimated 1,300 men, women and children who are homeless in the Greater Cincinnati region.

For more information, contact the coalition at 513-421-7803 or through its Web site.

<![CDATA[Organizers Plan Human Rights March]]>

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day and the event will be commemorated locally with a march to several local offices, urging state and federal policymakers to reduce deficits through other means than hurting the poor, the disabled, children and the elderly.---

The march begins at 11 a.m. at the Contact Center, located at 1227 Vine St., in Over-the-Rhine. It will include stops at the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, the Justice Center, and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich’s office, downtown near Walnut and Seventh streets.

Speakers with personal stories, original poetry and caroling will be featured at each stop.

Among the groups organizing the march are the Contact Center, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, Over-the-Rhine for Education in Public Schools, and The People's Empowerment Coalition of Ohio.

The march will focus attention on the human rights to have health care, afforadable housing, and an economic safety net of employment and — for those unable to work — income assistance, organizers said. They will call on Congress to extend unemployment insurance to the 2 million Americans being cut from this basic safety net of cash assistance.

International Human Rights Day is observed annually by the United Nations to call for human needs to be met by all nations. One in every five children in the United States lives in poverty, which organizers said shows the need for a basic economic safety net.

For more information, call 513-381-4242.

<![CDATA[Senate Kills Paycheck Fairness]]>

A bill that supporters say would've ensured women are paid the same as men for doing the same work was blocked today by the U.S. Senate in a 58-41 vote. All Republican senators — including George Voinovich from Ohio — voted against allowing debate on the bill.

The bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, was approved by the House in January 2009 and was supported by President Obama.---

If enacted as law, the bill would've made it easier for women who suspected they were victims of wage discrimination to address the issue and allow employees to disclose salary information with co-workers despite any workplace rules that prohibited disclosure. Also, employers would've been required to show that any wage discrepancies were based on genuine business requirements and related to specific characteristics of the position that weren't based on gender.

Voinovich, a Republican who is retiring, voted against the bill while U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, was in favor.

The bill was designed to supplement the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Data from the U.S. Census in 2008 showed women earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by men.

Opponents, including most business groups, said that wage differences were based on other factors such as negotiating skills and women taking jobs that were more family-friendly with benefits rather than wages.

Those arguments are rejected by supporters including the National Association of Working Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The pay gap is evident in almost every occupational category, in every income bracket; it’s a constant despite education, despite experience,” said Linda Meric, the association's executive director. “Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the gap, it’s critical that the significant disparities in pay that remain be addressed.

“Our U.S. Senate must consider how the pay gap places families of today in jeopardy; at risk, especially in these tough economic times,” she added. “But if that doesn’t do it, maybe they should consider something else. They should think about their own daughters, their granddaughters, great-granddaughters. They should think about how they prize them, how they love them, how they treasure them, how they would fight for them. Are they really worth less?”

Statistics show women comprise about half of the U.S. workforce, and that mothers are the primary- or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of households.

<![CDATA[Marine Mom Speaks Out]]>

Can a person support the troops without supporting the two wars? Peggy Logue replies with an unqualified “yes.”

Logue pondered the question deeply when her 19-year-old son, U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Logue, was deployed to a volatile area of Iraq, an action that clashed with her anti-war views. The result of her soul-searching is the book Skin in the Game: Journey of a Mother and her Marine Son, Supporting the Troops Without Supporting the War.---

Logue will read excerpts from her book and sign copies tonight as part of Final Friday events in Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. The reading will be held from 7:30-8:30 p.m. at the Peaselee Neighborhood Center, 215 E. 14th St.

Logue’s reading is sponsored by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), which has advocated nonviolent solutions to social and political problems for the past 25 years.

Kristen Barker, IJPC’s director, said about Logue’s book, “The love and respect between mother and son is uplifting even as they view the war differently. Reading it increased my respect for the Marines, their courage, their community, the way they look out for each other and fight for the Marine on the right and the Marine on the left. It increases my desire to keep working for a peaceful world where conflicts are resolved peacefully and our sons and daughters aren’t sent off to foreign wars to die or be wounded.”

Fore more information, call 513-579-8547.

<![CDATA[Focus on the Family Focuses on the Super Bowl]]>

It’s a time for frothy beer commercials and girls dancing in bikinis. A time for bulldogs riding skateboards and wardrobe malfunctions to rock your television set in between plays of actual football. It’s time for the Super Bowl. But apparently it’s also a time to think about where you stand on the issue of abortion. ---

A few days ago it was announced that after years of refusing to air advocacy related ads CBS has agreed to run an anti-abortion commercial during the upcoming Super Bowl, paid for by the Colorado based conservative group Focus on the Family. Many are outraged by the sudden change in policy, and petitions are already circulating. And others complain that the movement to stop the ad is an example of pro-choice hypocrisy, an attempt to stifle any debate or opposing viewpoints on the issue. But who exactly is doing the stifling?

On Jan. 29, just a few days before CBS made the sudden leap from its policy against advocacy ads to one that allowed them, the network refused to run a commercial for a gay dating web site, which depicted two men discovering each other while reaching for a potato chip bowl and then kissing passionately. CBS rejected the ad on the grounds that it "is not within the Network's broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday,” this according to CBS also rejected a 2004 ad by and another from the United Church of Christ, the first calling into question the fiscal responsibility of then-President George W. Bush and the latter showing a same-sex couple being welcomed into the United Church of Christ after being cast out from another church.

Focus on the Family’s ad, which the group claims doesn't carry a political agenda but merely centers around the theme of “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” shows college football star Tim Tebow and his mother discussing an incident where Mrs. Tebow was urged to terminate her pregnancy (she was carrying little Tim) due to medical reasons but refused. But despite Focus on the Family’s claim, the intention of this ad is clear, as it is in all of them.

All of these ads have an obvious political viewpoint behind them, and just as obvious are the biases behind CBS’s decision to reject one advocacy related ad and then a few days later agree to run another. The hypocrisy comes not from efforts to get Focus on the Family’s ad off the air before the Super Bow, but rather from the original stance CBS took on keeping all ads of this nature off the air to begin with and then turning around and making an exception just in time for one group to have its say during one of the most widely viewed events of the year.

If an open conversation is to be had on the issue of abortion, then both sides need to be heard from — rather than allowing exposure to one while ignoring the other.

<![CDATA[We're on Team Levi]]>

The personal travails of Sarah Palin’s family life normally wouldn’t be newsworthy if it weren’t for Palin’s sanctimonious public statements and campaigning on issues like teen sex, abortion and so-called “family values.” With that in mind, watching the protracted custody battle between Palin’s daughter, Bristol, and ex-boyfriend Levi Johnston over their daughter holds the same bizarre fascination as driving by a car accident on the highway.---

In the latest twist, Palin’s attorneys filed a filed court documents this week seeking part of Johnston’s money from posing nude in Playgirl. Palin wants $1,750 per month in child support from Johnston. The documents state that Palin believes Johnston has earned “in excess of $105,000 in 2009 through various media interviews and modeling-related activities.”

Who knew magazines continued to pay so well despite the recession?

The documents state that Johnston has paid a total of $4,400 in child support since their son, Tripp, was born in December 2008.

Bristol Palin’s request would seem reasonable except it’s made while Johnston has said Bristol and her mother, the fact-challenged former Alaska governor, have continually blocked his access to the child.

We tend to believe Johnston’s claim because almost everything else he’s said publicly about Sarah Palin has proven to be true.

Last summer, Johnston said the elder Palin abruptly resigned her governorship because she wanted to cash in on the lucrative deals being offered to her, including ones for a book and a reality TV show. Since then, Palin has written a memoir and joined Fox News as a commentator.

Say what you will about Johnston, but he keeps it real -- unlike the Palins.