CityBeat Blogs - Religion http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-131.html <![CDATA[Curmudgeon Notes 3.20.2013 ]]> Amanda VanBenschoten’s reporting on both sides of the river has won her the new position of Northern Kentucky news columnist at the Enquirer. We’ve been friends since she was an undergrad in my ethics class. I had the pleasure of holding up a copy of the NKU’s paper, The Northerner, and showing our class her first page 1 byline. She was editor of NKU’s paper, The Northerner, and worked for a Northern Kentucky weekly where she regularly broke stories ahead of daily reporters. I warned the then-editor of the Kentucky Enquirer to follow Amanda’s work because, “she’ll eat your lunch.” Soon after, that wise editor hired Amanda. I’m looking forward to Amanda finding her own voice after years of quoting others. 

Scott Aiken died this month. We’ve been colleagues and friends for more than four decades. My wife and I moved to Cincinnati in 1967 and subscribed to the Enquirer. I called Scott to compliment the analyses of foreign events for which he’d been hired on the Enquirer editorial page. After swapping tales about our work overseas and people we knew there, he offered to introduce me to Bob Harrod, the local editor, who hired me for weekend reporting. It was the perfect antidote to grad school. That began 30-plus years at the Enquirer for me. Scott and I stayed in touch after he left daily journalism for corporate public relations. Our friendship survived my reporting of accusations of illegal wiretapping by Cincinnati Bell; Scott was head of the telephone company’s public relations. Our last lunch shared stories of his and Anne’s visit to Rome. Sheila McLaughlin’s obit on March 9 covers his career admirably, including Scott’s accidental matchmaking for a young reporter/colleague. 

•  Urbi et orbi. Accusations of omission and commission by Pope Francis when he was a priest and Jesuit leader during Argentina’s murderous “Dirty War” demonstrate how religious leaders risk charges of collaboration when a dictatorship falls. Recent examples taint the Russian Orthodox Church and South Africa’s Dutch Reform Church. But it’s a rare priest who rises to the modern papacy without the historians, news media and others questioning their careers. Pius XII is accused of being too close to Nazi Germany as diplomat Cardinal Pacelli before World War II. John XXIII was the subject of debate whether, as a chaplain sergeant in World War I, he gave Italian troops the order to leave their trenches, “go over the top” and attack. Fourteen-year-old Joseph Ratzinger was drafted into the Hitler Youth near the end of World War II, something everyone learned when he became Benedict XVI. 

The 200-plus complaints about papal coverage moved NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos to admit he, too, was “pope-ed out.” One listener wondered if NPR stood for National Papal Radio? Schumacher-Matos blogged that “NPR aired 69 stories since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Feb. 11 and Pope Francis was selected as his successor Wednesday. That averages out to about two radio magazine or call-in segments per day, not including the steady drumbeat of shorter items delivered by hourly newscasts that are not transcribed. Most of the complaints have concerned the 47 stories that aired in the four weeks between the day after Benedict announced his resignation and the morning before Francis was announced — a period during which there was less major news about the subject and more ‘horse-race’ speculation about who might be selected.” 

Of course, there was a Cincinnati connection to the papal election: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a contributing writer to Article 25, Cincinnati’s street paper dedicated to human rights, was detained by Italian police for demonstrating at the Vatican for women’s ordination. The French news agency, AFP, missed her connection to Article 25, identifying her only as “an excommunicated female priest” from Lexington, Ky., and a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. It was unclear whether Sevre-Duszynska was arrested or removed as a distraction when cardinals assembled to elect a new pope. AFP did not respond to CityBeat questions about her detention. She was dressed in liturgical robes and carrying a banner, “Women Priests are Here.” AFP quoted Sevre-Duszynska as saying, "As the cardinals meet for their conclave to elect the new pope, women are being ordained around the world! There are already 150 female priests in the world. The people are ready for change."

Much as I would have loved to be back in Rome covering the election of the pope, there was an even better assignment that kicked my envy into overdrive. The Economist sent a reporter on 112-day road trip through and around Africa. I once hoped to travel the mythic Cairo Road from Capetown to Cairo. Not going to happen. The Economist’s reporter did that and more. He found more cause for cautious optimism than is reflected in typical stories of rebellion, massacre, poverty, disease and stolen elections. 

Why did Cincinnati Business Courier take down its online story about Henry Heimlich’s attempts to save his reputation and that of his Heimlich Maneuver? Granted, it wasn’t flattering, but it didn’t go beyond what Curmudgeon has reported.  Reporter James Ritchie forwarded my request for an explanation and editor Rob Daumeyer responded, “Thanks for asking, but we don't have anything to add for you.”

I like the tabloid Enquirer. I worked on daily and weekly tabloids overseas; it’s a familiar format. Whether readers enjoy turning pages to find stories promoted on section covers is uncertain; with logos, ads and visuals, there’s little else.  Inside, long stories jump from page to page to accommodate reduced page size. I hope Enquirer editors recognize the power of the back page in each section and treat it as prime news space.  And I’m looking forward to reporters and editors learning to produce sharp, short stories suited to tabloids; it still reads like the old Enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes on Feb. 20 shouldn’t take credit for Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster over Obama’s assassination by drone. However, the Kentucky Republican echoed Curmudgeon’s anxieties whether Obama will use drones to kill Americans in our country.  To his credit, Paul’s almost 13-hour standup routine forced an answer from prevaricating Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder’s letter repeated and answered Paul’s question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no.” Perfectly clear? No. Who defines combat? Deadly confrontations with feds at Ruby Ridge, Wounded Knee, or David Koresh’s Branch Davidian Ranch near Waco, TX?  

Enquirer’s Cliff Peale is probing the costs of post-secondary education and how many recent debt-burdened college grads can’t find full-time employment requiring their costly degrees. Coincidentally, Cincinnati Business Courier reports how local vacancies for skilled workers threaten the region’s economy. Is the conventional wisdom — everyone must earn a BA or more — undermining our economic security? Maybe Peale can probe high school curricula and counseling to see if capable students are being steered away from well-paid blue collar careers and into crippling debt for degrees of dubious value. Maybe it’s time to interview welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, etc., to find out what their ROI (Return on Investment) is. 

It’s an old problem: courtiers mistaking their privilege of emptying the king’s chamber pots for royal power. Poynter.org reports this example from the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service:

Dana Rosenzweig, a staffer for Vice President Joe Biden, ordered Capital News Service student reporter Jeremy Barr to delete photos he took at an event in Rockville, Md., when Biden announced an anti-domestic violence initiative

Barr quoted Rosenzweig, saying, “I need to see your camera right now.” She called Barr’s presence in the non-press area an “unfair advantage” over the other members of the media (whatever that meant). Rosenzweig watched him delete the photos, Barr said, and then she looked at Barr’s iPhone to make sure no photos were saved there. 

“I assumed that I’d violated a protocol,” Barr told Capital News Service. “I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures.”

J-school Dean Lucy Dalglish complained in a letter, saying, “Rockville is not a third-world country where police-state style media censorship is expected.” Biden press secretary Kendra Barkoff responded with an apology to Dalglish and Barr. 

My comment: Dalglish is a lawyer. Before taking the dean’s job she was executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It’s ironic that her student reporter didn’t know there is no “protocol” or “proper procedures” that required him to give up his images. He should have held on to his images and phone and told Rosenzweig to fuck off.  

Intimidating a student reporter (above) wasn’t a first for Biden’s staff, jimromenesko.com added. “After the vice president made a remark during the presidential campaign that Republicans would put voters ‘back in chains,’ Politico’s Jonathan Martin reported the veep’s staff ‘tried to edit media pool reports for any potential landmines that could be seized on by Republicans and even hovered at close range to eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations with attendees at Biden rallies’.”

Republicans evince an unnatural fascination with our dead ambassador at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Often, in their frenzy of blame, Obama critics mistakenly call the torched facility the “Embassy.” Ignorance now appears to be nonpartisan. Maybe repetition has warped liberal minds.  For instance, in her blog on the thedailybeast.com, Caitlin Dickson repeated the error. In Libya, our embassy is in Tripoli, the capital.  

Jimromenesko.com says media worldwide were suckered by a satirical column on the Internet about Nobel-winning economist, professor, columnist and blogger Paul Krugman declaring bankruptcy. 

The Boston Globe’s boston.com wasn’t immune. Under the headline, “Paul Krugman Files Chapter 13 Bankruptcy,” someone using the nom de plume “Prudent Investor” wrote that “Paul Krugman, the king of Keynesianism and a strong supporter of the delusion that you can print your way out of debt, faces depression at his very own doors.  According to this report in Austria’s Format online mag, Krugman owes $7.35 million while assets to his name came in at a very meager $33,000. This will allow the economist and New York Times blogger to get a feel of how the majority of Americans feel about their dreadful lives . . . “

Romenesko says Globe editor Brian McGrory told Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “The (Krugman) story arrived deep within our site from a third party vendor who partners on some finance and market pages on our site. We never knew it was there till we heard about it from outside.” The paper, McGrory says, did “urgent work to get it the hell down” from boston.com. McGrory adds, “The idea that we’d have a partner on our site is actually news to me” and the Globe plans to “address our relationship with that vendor.”

My comment: the editor of New England’s dominant daily has a “third party vendor” who provides content for business  pages and the editor doesn’t know what that content is? 

Paul Krugman, who isn’t bankrupt (above), responded tongue in cheek on his New York Times blog, The Conscience of a Liberal. “OK, I’m an evil person — and my scheming has paid off. On Friday I started hearing from friends about a fake story making the rounds about my allegedly filing for personal bankruptcy; I even got asked about the story by a reporter from Russian television, who was very embarrassed when I told him it was fake. But I decided not to post anything about it; instead, I wanted to wait and see which right-wing media outlets would fall for the hoax. And Breitbart.com came through! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give a lavishly paid speech to Friends of Hamas.”

Weekly Standard senior writer Matt Labash’s March 18 column suggests he’d be a great guy to meet in a bar. Here’s a sample: “ . . . there are enough headline-hunting researchers making enough questionable discoveries (about health) that the four shakiest words in the English language have come to be, ‘a new study shows’.” And here’s another:  “I am a professional journalist. It’s my job to pretend to know things that I don’t.” 

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<![CDATA[Rob Portman Doesn’t Think Gayness Is Gross Anymore]]> Terrace Park isn’t the likeliest of neighborhoods for Cincinnatians to mingle with diverse groups of people, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if Sen. Rob Portman maybe didn’t have much experience interacting with gay people before his son came out two years ago.

But boy what a difference a gay son and two years of reflection make.

Portman had to prepare his own coming out speech yesterday, this one to his GOP senatorial brothers and sisters, none of which support same-sex marriage. Imagine how nervous he must have been, sleeves rolled up, flag pin hanging slightly askew as he spoke to reporters in response to the op-ed he published supporting gay marriage. If he stuttered at all it’s not because he wasn’t earnest — he just really loves his son.

Two years ago Portman’s son, Will, was a freshman at Yale when he came home and explained that being gay “was not a choice,” which seems to have resonated with Dad. Portman consulted with religious leaders and other men who have been anti-gay even though they have close family members who are homosexual, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who probably said something like, “Dude, it doesn’t matter anymore now that Obama is talking about queers in the State of the Union and shit. Roll Tide.”

Portman explained his new found interest in respecting millions of fellow humans this way: "[I want] him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”

Portman says he would like to see congress overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a redundant and discriminatory piece of legislation banning federal recognition of gay marriage, which he helped pass in 1996. But he still doesn’t think the federal government should tread on the states and make them recognize it if they don’t want to.

Meanwhile, in Washington Harbor, Md., Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday discussed their bigotry during a panel called "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition." The featured speaker was Jimmy LaSalvia, whose Republican gay-rights organization GOProud wasn’t allowed to sponsor the conference.

While gay-rights leaders celebrate the support and the possibility of other powerful Republicans realizing that they know and care about someone who is different, the announcement brings attention to other conservatives trying to remove yuckiness from the party’s official stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.

NBC News today recapped a few other Republicans who have recently come out in support of gay-marriage:

Jon Huntsman, a GOP presidential candidate in 2012 who had endorsed civil unions, said this year that he supports marriage rights. Furthermore, he framed it in conservative terms. 

"There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love," he wrote. 

And Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, has been one of the lead attorneys challenging California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage in that state. (Portman fretted in his op-ed that a court decision might hamper the political movement toward legalizing gay and lesbian weddings.) 

And Fred Malek, a Republican power-broker, told NBC News this week that conservatives shouldn't feel threatened by gays and lesbian couples who wish to marry.

"I've always felt that marriage is between a man and a woman, but other people don't agree with that," he said. "People should be able to live their lives the way they choose. And it's not going to threaten our overall value system or our country to allow gays to marry, if that's what they want to do."

Nearly a quarter of Republicans reportedly support same-sex rights, leaving the door open for plenty more GOP leaders to search for gay family members on Facebook who might offer insight inspirational enough to frame their own stories of new found compassion and respect for other people.

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<![CDATA[Local Faith Leaders Endorse Freedom to Marry Ohio]]>

Some of Cincinnati’s religious leaders gathered at a press conference today to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights (“Testing Faith,” issue of Feb. 13), all took part in the event — showcasing a diversity of religious support for marriage equality.

In a statement, Underhill said UCC was the first major Christian denomination to embrace marriage equality. He added, “All people have the right to lead lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent and pleasure.”

The sentiment was echoed by the other religious leaders. Moroski said in a statement, “I’m elated to stand here today with these wonderful faith leaders, who truly, deeply and spiritually believe that two people who love one another deserve the right to be married.”

FreedomOhio is aiming to get its amendment on the ballot as soon as November, according to Ian James, the organization’s co-founder.

“Our balanced amendment gives a loving same-gender couple the right to marry while respecting a religious institution’s freedom to choose to recognize and perform that marriage or not,” James said in a statement.

CityBeat previously covered the Freedom to Marry Ohio amendment and some of its hurdles with other LGBT groups (“The Evolution of Equality,” issue of Nov. 28).

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<![CDATA[Curmudgeon Notes 2.20.2013]]>  • Giovanna Chirri, the veteran Vaticanista who understood the pope’s Latin, broke the news that he’d just announced his resignation. She works for the Italian news agency, ANSA. Her skill recalled Ernest Sackler at Rome’s UPI bureau when I was a photojournalist stringer during John XXIII’s papacy. Ernest truly understood Vatican Latin well enough to turn it into flowing English; colleagues spoke of him with awe. 

• I’m grateful to the Enquirer for running a story on Sen. Rand Paul’s response to the State of the Union Message. It wasn’t on NPR or any other network that I could find. His Washington office did not respond to my question of whether the Kentucky Republican offered his remarks to any broadcasters/cable networks. 

• Tens of millions of Americans will become eligible for subsidized medical care under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Who’s going to treat them? I haven’t seen that in the news. And while reporters are working out that story, ask how the required additional primary care physicians will pay off college and medical school debts on the salaries that will be paid to their specialties.  

• And once journalists dig into the supply of physicians to handle Medicaid expansion, I hope they’ll ask who’s going to staff quality preschool education for every American child. Obama can be aspirational, but we’re not talking about minimum wage diaper changers. Early learning centers require trained pre-school educators. And while they’re at it, reporters should ask where these new early childhood educators will train and who’s going pick up the tab. After all, they’ll never repay college loans on day care wages. 

• Maybe I missed it in the admiring coverage of our government killing American Islamists abroad with drone rocket attacks: What prevents Obama from killing Americans in this country with drone strikes? None of the news stories or commentaries I’ve read or heard addressed that point. 

There would be no shortage of targets. Wouldn’t the sheriff have loved a drone-launched missile to kill Christopher Dorner, the rogue ex-LAPD cop? That might have spared the deputy whom Dorner killed during the flaming finale in the San Bernardino mountains. And what prevents our increasingly militarized police from using their own armed drones? 

Imagine what authorities could have done with armed drones during earlier, infamous encounters:

A missile fired at armed members of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee, S.D., could have avenged inept, vain and foolish George Armstrong Custer and FBI agents killed in the 1973 siege. 

No feds would have died if a drone-launched missile incinerated Randy Weaver’s family with during its deadly 1992 confrontation with feds at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. 

David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious sect were incinerated by the feds’ 1993  armored assault in Texas. That would have been a perfect photo op for a domestic drone attack.

• Sometimes, “national security” is the rationale for requested or commanded self-censorship, even when secrets aren’t secret. 

For instance, British editors held stories about Prince Harry until he returned the first time from Afghanistan. However, an Australian women’s magazine reported he was in combat. The non-secret was a secret because no one paid attention.

More recently, the new U.S. drone base in Saudi Arabia was supposed to be a secret. Obama officials asked major news media to hold the story and they agreed. National security, you know.

But it wasn’t a secret. Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple said Fox News already had reported U.S. plans to build the facility in Sept. 2011. Three months before that, the Times of London reported construction of the Saudi drone base. 

When the New York Times broke the agreement and reported the Saudi drone base, everyone jumped on the story. Now, the Times, the Post and AP are trying to explain why they kept the non-secret from us.  

• Gone are the days when senior Israeli government officials could call in top editors and broadcasters and tell them what they could not report. Last week, a tsunami of technology overwhelmed official Israeli efforts to censor the story of Prisoner X. Israeli journalists were not to report his existence or mention the censorship order. National security, you know. However, an Australian network named an Aussie as Prisoner X and said he reportedly committed suicide three years ago in an Israeli prison. Social media and the online world took it from there: "Aussie recruited by Israeli spy agency dies in Israeli prison." Israel dropped efforts to censor the Prisoner X story and is issuing official statements about the case. 

• San Bernardino’s sheriff asked journalists to quit tweeting from the final gunfight with former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner. Bizarre. If authorities feared Dorner would gain tactical information, they misread his situation: Dorner was surrounded in a mountain cabin, tear gas was being lobbed in and men outside were trying to shoot him. He probably was too busy to read tweets. Moreover, only one reporter was close enough to tweet anything remotely useful to anyone. Most reporters initially or finally ignored the sheriff. 

The tweet issue first arose during the 2008 Muslim terrorist attack on Mumbai when invaded the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Some authorities reportedly feared accomplices outside were reading news media tweets and forwarding tactical information about police and army movements to gunmen inside. I don’t remember if anyone asked reporters to quit tweeting. 

• A new poll says Fox hit an alltime low for the four years Public Policy Polling has tracked trust/distrust among TV networks: 41 percent trust Fox, 46 percent do not. The poll didn’t find anything for other networks to brag about. Only PBS had more “trust” than “distrust” among viewers: 52 percent trust, 29 percent don’t trust. The poll questioned 800 voters by telephone from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. 

• Garry Wills’ new book, Why Priests, sets out to debunk Catholicism’s dearest dogmas and doctrines concerning priests, bishops and the papacy. NPR’s Diane Rehm gave him an hour last week to say why Catholic ordained clergy are an unnecessary accretion. Then she asked an outgunned parish priest from the Washington, D.C. area for a rebuttal. If she really wanted a lively, informed argument, there is no shortage of priest-scholars who could have matched Wills’ credentials and talents as an historian. It was unfair and cringe-worthy. 

• It’s touchy when an unpleasantry is brought up in an obit: a long forgiven conviction, a “love child,” whatever. More often, predictably awkward moments are omitted in the spirit of de mortuis nil nisi bonum. Here’s HuffingtonPost on a full-blown omission in the recent obit on former New York mayor and mensch Ed Koch: 

“The New York Times revised its Friday obituary . . . after several observers noticed that it lacked any mention of his controversial record on AIDS. The paper's obituary, written by longtime staffer Robert D. MacFadden, weighed in at 5,500 words. Yet, in the first version of the piece, AIDS was mentioned exactly once, in a passing reference to ‘the scandals and the scourges of crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS.’ The Times also prepared a 22-minute video on Koch's life that did not mention AIDS. This struck many as odd; after all, Koch presided over the earliest years of AIDS, and spent many years being targeted by gay activists who thought he was not doing nearly enough to stop the spread of the disease. Legendary writer and activist Larry Kramer called Koch ‘a murderer of his own people’ because the mayor was widely known as a closeted gay man.”

• New York’s Ed Koch admired Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl’s recorded last words before Muslim terrorists beheaded him. Koch had Pearl’s affirmation of faith engraved on his own tombstone in Manhattan’s Trinity Church graveyard: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”  

• A former student reporter rarely rates an obit in the national media, but Annette Buchanan wasn’t ordinary. In the mid-1960s, she refused a court order to name sources for her story about student marijuana use on the University of Oregon campus. Her story ran in the Oregon Daily Emerald, the campus paper. No shield law protected her promise of confidentiality. The Emerald said she was fined the maximum $300 and the state supreme court affirmed her contempt of court conviction. That led to the creation of Oregon’s shield law for journalists. She died recently.

• An unresolved First Amendment issue is whether bloggers can be protected by state shield laws that allow journalists to keep sources secret. The latest case is from New Jersey. Poynter.com said blogger Tina Renna refused to identify government officials whom she said misused county generators after Hurricane Sandy. Union County prosecutors demanded the 16 names, saying Renna wasn’t a journalist protected by New Jersey’s shield law because she’s been involved in politics, her blog is biased and she’s often critical of county government. 

The Newark Star-Ledger took her side. It said shield law protection “shouldn’t hinge on whether someone is a professional, nonpartisan or even reliable journalist. It’s a functional test: Does Renna gather information that’s in the public interest and publish it? Yes.” Renna “can be a little wild, she’s not the same as a professional reporter and she drives local officials crazy. But part of democracy is putting up with Tina Renna.” A court will probe whether Renna is a journalist as defined by the state shield law; that is, whether bloggers can be included by analogy under protected electronic news media.

• Few ledes — introductory sentences in news stories — are as lame as those saying the subject “doesn’t look” like some stereotype. For years, it usually referred to a woman in an unconventional (read men’s) occupation or pastime. “She didn’t look like a steelworker . . . “  or, “You wouldn’t think a tiny blonde bagged a deadly wild boar with a huge .44 magnum revolver.” Male subjects aren’t immune, as in this lede from a recent Washington Post story: “Farmer Hugh Bowman hardly looks the part of a revolutionary who stands in the way of promising new biotech discoveries and threatens Monsanto’s pursuit of new products . . . ”

What do revolutionaries look like? Lenin was pictured in suit and tie. Gandhi wore a white, draped sari or dhoti, Mandela and fellow ANC rebels often wore suits and ties. Young 1960s American and French student rebels never wore suits and ties and needed haircuts. Today’s young North African activists dress the same for class or a demonstration. 

“Doesn’t look like” wouldn’t even fit an androgynous male model in the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show. He’d be there because he looks like a classic, young, leggy “angel.” 

• Have you noticed how hurricanes, floods, blizzards and tornadoes are morphing from evidence of climate change into photo ops? News media see them as so common that little reporting is required beyond images and stories of hardship: shoppers hoarding sliced white bread, downed trees and shattered homes, marooned airline passengers and days without power. Maybe there’s the throwaway quote from some climatologist about change affecting weather, but for the most part, that’s it. I’m betting this deliberate ignorance is a Republican Party plot to show that increasingly frequent, dangerous weather reflects the Intelligent Design that gave us dino-riding cavemen a few thousand years ago. 

The Enquirer devoted Page 1 to a dramatic OMG! graphic and story suggesting Cincinnati was terrible because it had no black candidate for mayor. An accompanying list of movers and shakers had few blacks. The presentation suggested the all-white mayoral contest meant amiss in a city where whites are the largest minority. However, whites and blacks told reporters that leadership rather than color was foremost among attributes they sought in a mayor. Moreover, with so many African Americans in visible leadership roles in the city, having a black mayor succeed a black mayor was less of an issue than the paper suggested. 


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<![CDATA[Letter: Keep Politics off Pulpit]]>

The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati this week sent a letter to all local parishes warning them to keep politics off the pulpit.

The letter reminds pastors and parishioners that church leadership may not endorse parties or candidates or take any action that could be construed as endorsement, let candidates or parties use church facilities, distribute political materials in church or use church publications to promote a party or candidate.

“The Church has the responsibility to provide moral guidance on political issues; however, the Church does not wish to engage in political activity,” Chancellor the Rev. Steve Angi wrote in the Oct. 24 letter.

Some Cincinnati-area parishes had placed stacks of tickets to a rally for Rep. Paul Ryan or stacks of Republican sample ballots, according to Parishes Without Politics, a group of lay Catholics.

“We think the Cincinnati Archdiocese’s letter should be a model for bishops nationwide and the rest of the Church leadership,” group spokesperson Deborah Rose-Milavec wrote in an emailed statement.

“Catholics should feel free to vote their own consciences without being bombarded by partisan political messages from the pulpits, on parish websites, in parish bulletins, in the vestibules or anywhere else on parish property.”

CityBeat has previously written about how both major parties are using different aspects of Catholic social teaching to woo voters.

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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[Jehovah's Witnesses, Harrison Twp. Duke It Out Before County]]> The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners heard both sides Wednesday in an appeal that pits the Jehovah’s Witnesses against Harrison Township.

The dispute stems from a plot of land that, through some legal wrangling and a Joint Economic Development Agreement, Harrison Township officials say can only be used for industrial purposes that create jobs.

The Southwest Ohio Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to build a massive assembly hall that they say would be a draw to the 28,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region and create jobs in surrounding service sector businesses. 

The Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission denied permission to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, citing fear over the impact to local businesses and traffic, causing the religious group to appeal the decision to the Board of County Commissioners.

Board President Greg Hartmann said commissioners would set a date in the coming weeks to arrive at a decision. 

Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes lawyer Chris Finney represented the Witnesses before the board. 

Finney argued that the Zoning Commission was wrong to deny permission to build the assembly hall. He pointed to the positive economic impact such halls have had in other states and brought witnesses to testify about the potential impact it could have on Cincinnati.

According to a slide show presented before the board, the hall could result in $1.19 million in annual tax revenue and create 421 jobs in the service industry surrounding the site.

Being a religious institution, the hall would be tax-exempt and would be staffed by volunteers.

Harrison Township officials argued that the area was created under a special agreement that requires industrial use and that any businesses located there create jobs and enhance economic development. 

Mayor Joel McGuire said the township had offered up other locations for the assembly hall, but the Witnesses were fixated on the one.

“That’s why we’re in the all-or-nothing situation we’re in because they insist on this particular spot as opposed to the many other locations where there’d be no problems at all,” McGuire said.

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

Someone really smart in Todd Portune’s office warned his or her superiors that the monthly first-Wednesday siren test might scare the living hell out of tens of thousands of foreign people visiting Cincinnati for the World Choir Games, so there will be no siren test this month. 

River Downs applied for some slot machines, the second racetrack in the state to do so.

Here’s the latest person to write about how screwed Mitt Romney is due to the constitutional health care mandate or, more importantly, the similar one he passed in Massachusetts. MSNBC says the Bain attacks are hurting Romney. And Mother Jones says this: “Romney Invested in Medical-Waste Firm That Disposed of Aborted Fetuses, Government Documents Show.”

And Obama is “feeling the pain” of campaign fundraising. Whatever that means. 

Here’s all you need to know about torture in Syria. Thanks, Human Rights Watch. 

Anderson Cooper publicly announced that he’s gay after a discussion with friend and journalist Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast regarding celebrities coming out. Cooper emailed Sullivan about the matter and gave him permission to print it. 

“I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

“The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

Chrysler’s sales are up 20 percent, but the company hasn’t specifically thanked JLo for boosting the Fiat marketshare.

Scientists are saying that recent heat waves, wild fires and other seemingly random natural disasters are due to global warming. And we thought it was only going to be our kids’ problem. :(

Meanwhile, European physicists hope to find the God particle by the end of the year, explaining the creation of the world. Here’s video of a British guy trying to explain what the particle is using a plastic tray and ping pong balls.

The NFL is going to back off some of its local blackout rules. Teams now must only hit 85 percent of their ticket sales goal rather than 100 percent to avoid making local markets watch crappy regional games instead of their favorite teams.  That means more Bengals games, less crappy Browns broadcasts.

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

While anti-urban Cincinnatians gripe over the twice-approved $95 million streetcar project — some going so far as to attach anti-funding amendments to federal bills that will never be included in the final legislation — authorities on the other side of the river are demonstrating just how little $20 million on transportation funding can provide. The state will widen KY 237 in Boone County using elevated ramps to allow for left-hand turns, adding a freeway-style element to the residential/corridor area. The two-year project will be paid for using Federal Surface Transportation Program funds.

Starting this fall all students in Newport Independent Schools will get free breakfast and lunch because the district is participating in the Community Eligibility Option in President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

CBS News says Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the other four conservative justices but wasn’t prepared to strike down the entire health care law. Roberts wrote the court’s majority opinion, which upheld most of the legislation. 

Here’s three ways the ruling hurt Mitt Romney, according to the Boston Globe. 

The Mark Wahlberg/teddy bear film, Ted, brought in $54.1 million over the weekend. CityBeat's film dude said it was good, too. 

Scientists say they are on the verge of finding a “God particle” that could explain the creation of the universe. 

For particle physicists, finding the Higgs boson is a key to confirming the standard model of physics that explains what gives mass to matter and, by extension, how the universe was formed. …

Rosen compared the results scientists are preparing to announce Wednesday to finding the fossilized imprint of a dinosaur: “You see the footprints and the shadow of the object, but you don’t actually see it.”

Spain won the 2012 European Championship soccer tournament on Sunday with a 4-0 victory over Italy. The Spanish team is being considered one of the greatest ever, as it has won three straight major tournaments, including the 2010 World Cup and 2008 Euro. 

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

County Commissioner Todd Portune's idea to borrow more money and extend a half-cent sales tax in order to keep up with stadium costs has been shot down by a Bengals lawyer who used 15 bullet points to demonstrate that Portune's plan “proposes to breach one or both leases.

Duke Energy is asking state regulators if it can bump customers' rates up again. Duke says the increases are to pay for infrastructure investments. The change would increase customer costs of electric service by $86 million and for natural gas by $44 million. A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy that accuses the company of paying kick-backs to corporations opposing a 2004 rate increase.

A rally for “religious freedom” will take place on Fountain Square today in response to federal health care legislation requiring women to have abortions employers to provide insurance that covers birth control. The law includes a religious exemption, which bishops have said isn't enough.

A group pushing to ban dog auctions in Ohio has halted its effort to put the issue on the November ballot due to lack of funding and time. CityBeat in February reported the group's efforts to ban the sale of dogs through auctions or raffles, as well as all trafficking in dogs from out-of-state auctions.

New York City officials, including Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, are arguing that the city's “Stop and Frisk” policy is racist. The policy allows police to stop an individual and pat him or her down for contraband if they suspect illegal activity. From USA Today:

Clarke says the program, known as "Stop, Question and Frisk" or "Stop and Frisk," amounts to racial profiling. It is based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that police could stop people on the basis of "reasonable suspicion."

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin approved class-action status for a lawsuit that alleges the practice subjects people to race-based illegal searches.

President Obama's health care law helped 6.6 million young adults stay on their parents' plans during the first year and a half.

Rick Santorum has formed a new conservative organization aiming to recruit 1 million supporters to help get Barack Obama out of the While House. No word on how Santorum's “Patriot Voices” group will differ from the tea party patriots.

NASA says it has spotted the universe's first objects.

Black members of the Netherlands soccer team were subjected to racist chants at their Euro 2012 practice facility in Krakow, Poland. The team says fans were making monkey chants at the players.

LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics last night, forcing a deciding Game 7 for the Eastern Conference championship. The Oklahoma Thunder await in the NBA Finals.


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

A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay. Jonathan Zeng says he went through the school's extensive interview process, was offered a position and then called back in for a discussion about religious questions in his application, during which he was asked directly if he is gay. Zeng says he asked why such information was pertinent, and an administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are gay because they work with children and something about the sanctity of marriage. When contacted by local media CHCA released the following statement:

CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.
Cincinnati's deficit isn't going to get better any time soon, according to a new report.

The Reds drafted high school pitcher Nick Travieso in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday. Here's a rundown of their other picks Monday and Tuesday.

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace, and the Dems are going to stick it in their faces during this year's campaigns. From the AP:

As expected, the pay equity bill failed along party lines, 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. But for majority Democrats, passage wasn't the only point. The debate itself was aimed at putting Republicans on the defensive on yet another women's issue, this one overtly economic after a government report showing slower-than-expected job growth.

"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement after the vote.

"Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He should show some leadership."

The Washington Post wonders whether Mitt Romney can use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's template for surviving a recall election to try to win the presidency. It involves “big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base.” Exit polls in the state suggest Obama is ahead, however.

China wants foreign embassies to stop releasing reports and Tweeting about its poor air quality.

Gonorrhea growing resistant to antibiotics? Rut roh.

Dinosaurs apparently weighed less than scientists previously thought. Adjust paper-mache Brontosaurus as necessary.

Facebook is considering letting kids younger than 13 use the site.

The Boston Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat on Tuesday and could send Bron Bron and Co. back home on Thursday.

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

Cincinnati City Council took the first step Tuesday in repealing the city's ban on owning Pit Bull terriers. Council's Livable Communities Committee voted 5-1 to support repeal, saying it was unfair to single out a specific breed for harsher treatment. Experts have said Pit Bulls aren't inherently vicious, and that their treatment and training by their owners is responsible for any bad behavior. Councilman Cecil Thomas opposed the repeal, stating he was concerned about “enforcement issues.” The full City Council could make a final decision as soon as this afternoon. CityBeat examined the ban in-depth here.

Police Chief James Craig met Tuesday morning with 19 ministers and community leaders in an Avondale church. Craig wants to create a partnership with clergy to combat youth violence and shootings. It was the second such session that Craig has held this month. Since police presence was increased in Avondale April 2, no more shootings have occurred in the neighborhood.

A Cincinnati police officer was hospitalized after being hurt for the second time on the job. Officer Jerry Enneking has survived four car crashes while on-duty. The 23-year police veteran was rear-ended in a five-car crash Tuesday. Seeing another driver trapped, Enneking ignored his own injuries and helped rescue the person.

Tim Tebow, the prayerful quarterback for the New York Jets, will be in town today for two events at Cincinnati Christian University in Price Hill. The first already is sold out, but there are $500 tickets still available for a banquet. Both events will focus on how Tebow balances his life in the NFL with his faith.

The School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Over-the-Rhine is being awarded a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The SCPA competed with more than 300 other groups for the cash, which will be used to support the school's Master's Artist Series and Artists in Residence programs for the next school year.

In news elsewhere, an ex-drilling engineer for BP Oil has been arrested on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.

As expected, Willard Mitt Romney swept the five Republican presidential primaries held Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor got 67.4 percent of the vote in Connecticut, 56.5 percent in Delaware, 62.4 percent in New York, 58 percent in Pennsylvania, and 63.2 percent in Rhode Island. Most of the other GOP contenders have conceded the nomination race to Romney.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States had the worst job creation record in decades, suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression and borrowed billions of dollars from China to support two wars. If you've been wondering how Romney or other Republican politicians running for office would do anything differently, wonder no more. Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in an interview last week that the GOP's economic platform will be the same as that under Bush, just “updated.” There, voters: You have been warned.

A Brooklyn district attorney is resisting a public records request to divulge the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges there during the past three years. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the "tight-knit" nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims. A Jewish newspaper might file a legal challenge to the decision.

Despite numerous cuts to government spending in the name of austerity — or perhaps because of it, if you listen to some economists — the United Kingdom has now officially sunk into a double-dip recession, its first since the 1970s. Economic indicators reveal the U.K. economy has performed even more weakly since the current financial crisis began than in the Great Depression.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> In desperate need to bolster his low popularity numbers, Gov. John Kasich visited Cincinnati Tuesday to praise a deal that allows a local company to expand downtown and add jobs. Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding firm, will move from Third Street to a long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets, where it will build a new complex and add 550 jobs. Dunnhumby is getting the maximum 15 years of state Job Creation tax credits to help with the move.

The head of faculty at Xavier University is questioning the college president's abrupt, unilateral decision to stop offering birth control coverage in insurance for faculty and staff. Shannon Byrne, faculty committee chair, says President Michael J. Graham’s announcement Monday might violate XU's own rules about how such decisions can be made. She is scheduling a meeting April 12 so faculty can discuss the situation and decide how to respond.

ARTIMIS signs are supposed to alert motorists to traffic congestion and missing persons, but area residents have said they've noticed a lot of them don't work. As a result, transportation officials say 29 malfunctioning ARTIMIS signs will be replaced as part of upcoming construction projects on Interstates 471 and 275. All of the upgrades will be completed by July.

A Waynesville High School student is suing the school district for preventing him from wearing a T-shirt to class that depicted a pro-gay message. Maverick Couch wants to wear the shirt, which states “Jesus is not a homophobe,” to school on April 20 to show support for the Day of Silence, a national event that draws attention to the silencing of gay and lesbian students through bullying. School officials, however, initially told Couch the shirt was disruptive and later that it was too religious. Now they allege it violates rules prohibiting clothing that is “sexual in nature,” which Couch's attorney said is “absurd.”

Yahoo! Sports has released the rankings of Major League teams with the most players claimed in fantasy baseball leagues, and some Reds are among the sought-after stars. The Yankees and Rangers tied for the top spot as most popular on Yahoo!. Both teams have 13 players owned in at least 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. But the Reds also make a good showing, with seven players owned in at least 50 percent of the fantasy leagues.

In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney left his rival, Rick Santorum, in the dust Tuesday. Romney won all three primaries that were held — in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia — and emerged with substantial gains in delegates.

Despite widespread opinion to the contrary, a private investigator alleges in a new book that O.J. Simpson didn't murder his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, in 1994. Instead, William C. Dear said his inquiry revealed that O.J. was covering up for the real culprit: Jason Simpson, O.J.'s son from his first marriage. Dear said he discovered a knife in a storage unit that was rented by Jason that he believes is the murder weapon, along with a forged time card from the night of the killings. Dear alleges that Jason Simpson was working as a chef in a Beverly Hills restaurant that day and had put together a special meal for the family. Brown didn't attend, however, angering him. The P.I. said Jason was on probation for assaulting his previous employer with a knife and has spent time in a psychiatric unit.

If you're an evangelical Christian, you might want to skip this next item. A new medical study finds that older adults who say they've had a life-changing religious experience — in other words, are “born again” —  are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the part of the brain critical to learning and memory. Researchers asked 268 people, ages 58 to 84, about their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Over the course of two to eight years, changes to the hippocampus were monitored using MRI scans. The researchers suggested that stress over holding religious beliefs that fall outside of the mainstream may help explain the findings. Or they're just stupid.

A major Chinese analyst said the senior leadership of the Chinese government increasingly views the competition between the United States and China as a zero-sum game, and believes the United States is a declining power that is trying to disrupt China's economic and military growth. Wang Jisi revealed his findings in a monograph published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a Pakistan-based group blamed for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, has demanded proof after the United States announced a $10 million bounty on his head. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Saeed said the U.S. action was prompted by his organizing rallies against the reopening of military supply lines through Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Hey, I want to let you in on a secret: There's an election in Ohio today. Super Tuesday is finally here, with more delegates at stake in the race for Republican presidential nominee than any other single day in the 2012 campaign season. There are seven primaries (Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) and three caucuses (Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota) today. A total of 410 delegates – or 17.9 percent of the total – are up for grabs.

Officials at the Hamilton County Board of Elections are estimating that 30 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots today. Turnout probably will be low because the elections board only has received about 8,000 absentee ballots so far, compared to 26,000 by this time in 2010. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. If you're unsure where to vote, click here.

City Council is moving ahead with a plan to spend up to $100,000 to introduce priority-based budgeting in Cincinnati. The cash will fund a consultant to survey community leaders and residents to establish strategic priorities. City leaders would then try to align resources with what the community values the most, said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who heads council's Budget and Finance Committee. Council will convene a series of public forums in the next two months, and attempt to identify five to seven priorities based on the input.

Just two days after he said it was premature to ask the federal government for help, Gov. John Kasich has reversed course. A team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will arrive today in Clermont County to survey storm damage and gauge whether the region qualifies for financial assistance. Kasich had a change of heart after he spoke with U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), who told the guv that local officials wanted immediate federal aid. (So, when exactly is the next gubernatorial election?)

Little Miami Local School Board members want to meet with Ohio education officials after a commission rejected their plan to restore some services in the school district. The state Financial Planning and Supervision Commission unanimously rejected the district’s reconfiguration plan for 2012-13. Little Miami was placed in fiscal emergency by the state after several levies failed before a November levy narrowly passed.

Reductions to Medicare and other federal health-care programs could total $360 billion over the next 10 years, causing problems for hospitals that depend on the government payments, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service. Medicare covered 39 percent of in-patient days at Greater Cincinnati hospitals in 2010, a market overview found. (I don't want to hear a single complaint about this from our conservative Republican readers, as this is what you've sought for years.)

In news elsewhere, Iran is starting to feel the impact of international sanctions as demand for its crude oil begins to drop. In January, China, South Korea and Singapore reduced their oil purchases from Iran, and Shipping Corp. of India last month canceled an Iranian shipment because its European insurers refused to provide coverage for the tanker. Traders say Iran's troubles only will increase once an European Union oil embargo begins July 1.

Crazy religious dude is at it again. No, not Rick Santorum – we're referring to Pat Robertson, the erstwhile host of TV's The 700 Club. On the program Monday, the aging pastor opined that the recent outbreak of tornadoes might not have occurred if people had prayed for divine intervention. “If enough people were praying, He would’ve intervened," he said. "You could pray, 'Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.'” He also told viewers who live in areas prone to natural disasters that it’s “their fault, not God’s.” Way to show the compassion of Christ there, Pat.

If you're under the impression that the Constitution gives the rights of due process and equal protection under the law to U.S. citizens, Attorney General Eric Holder is going to set you wacky kids straight. In a speech Monday at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, Holder tried to defend the practice of using automated drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas who have never been convicted of a crime. "The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen," Holder said to a mostly disapproving crowd.

Civic leaders in eastern Libya have called for semi-autonomy for the oil-rich region, saying their area has been neglected by the nation's central government for decades. The push for self-government is strong in the region of Cyrenaica, but the governing National Transitional Council says it could lead to Libya's demise as a unified nation.
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<![CDATA[Anti-Health Care Fight Is Un-Christian]]>

There are protesters who have been standing outside of a pediatrician’s office almost daily since at least the summer. Why? Someone else in that same tiny complex is offering abortions. A woman who has taken her special needs daughter to that pediatrician’s office for more than 20 years was recently told by her minister’s wife that she needed to switch pediatricians. Abortion is “murder,” of course, so going anywhere near the “scene of the crime” must make her a co-conspirator.

On the opposite side of town is a Catholic organization made up of young people who were praying the rosary daily in hopes of a veto on the law that required Catholic employers to provide health care that included birth control coverage. Furthering their attack on small families are two Republican candidates for president. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney seem to want to reverse the bill that legalized the sale of contraception.

Yes, the Bible says “Be fruitful.” The Bible also says to take care of children. Statistics from UNICEF report that in 2009 roughly 2.1 million children are currently orphaned in America. Who is taking care of them? Should anyone be so adamantly against birth control when they’re also clearly unwilling to help take care of the result from a lack of birth control?

Before abortion was legalized, women were forced to take to back alleys in order to end unwanted pregnancies. Those terminations consisted of the use of things like scalding water or hangers. Many women contracted infections from those unsterile and unsafe methods. Too many women died from those infections. Why wasn’t anyone looking out for them?

Many of the comments we’ve received at CityBeat in response to coverage of these issues have focused on the sinfulness of abortion and birth control (and, of course, homosexuality). Why are they overlooking all the other “sins” the bible suggests?

Click the jump for a list of all the crazy things the Old Testament says are also sins. ---

Here’s a list of things the Old Testament says are also sins:

• Turning away from foreigners (Leviticus 19:33)

• Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)

• Working on “The Sabbath” (Leviticus 19:3)

• Slander/Gossip (Leviticus 19:16)

• Having sex with your wife while she’s on her cycle (Leviticus 18:19)

• Cursing your mother or father (Leviticus 20:9)

• Wizardry (Sorry, Potter.) (Leviticus 20:27)

• Harvesting the corners of your field (Leviticus 19:19)

• Waiting to pay the lawn guy until tomorrow (Leviticus 19:13)

• Wearing linen-wool blends (Leviticus 19:19)

• Cross-breeding animals (Your puggle is going to Hell!) (Leviticus 19:19)

• Trimming your beard (Leviticus 19: 27)

• Eating meat that’s still bloody (Leviticus 19:26)

• Lying about your weight (Leviticus 19: 35-36)

There’s an obvious rebuttal for all of these.

“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Seems legit.

Christ’s sacrifice should solve all the problems. Except, it doesn’t. People are still being chastised for their “sins.” Why? The Bible doesn’t say, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of Christians.”  Nor does is say, “Christ was sacrifice once to take away the sins of many … except the gays and the whores.”

The bible does say, however, that none of us are sin-free and to “Let he without sin cast the first stone,” (John 8:7). Splitting hairs over the equality of sins is pointless. If you’re a Christian, you believe that we are all sinners. The big picture is that God tells you to stop condemning your fellow brother, sister and human being and look at yourself, instead. It’s commanded right here:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

You think birth control is a sin? That’s cool. But it’s not your job to keep people from sinning. Your job is to keep yourself from sinning. God gave us free will for a reason: He wants humans to each decide whether they want to follow him or not. By not allowing people to make their own choices, you’re nullifying the very essence of that free will. 

Remember this: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> About 75,000 workers in Greater Cincinnati don't have insurance coverage for contraceptives, The Enquirer reports. Most of those who don't are employed by hospital systems connected to the Catholic Church or religiously affiliated universities, which try to adhere to the church's stance against using birth control. Still, as reporter Cliff Peale writes, “They follow the Catholic directives first, but also have set up financial models that depend on millions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and federal student aid programs, and employees who might very well be non-Catholics.” In other words, they want federal largesse, they just don't want to follow federal rules.

Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, will be one of the speakers next week at Procter & Gamble's digital marketing summit. The event, known as Signal P&G, will be held March 8 at the corporation's downtown headquarters. About 20 executives will participate in the summit, which will feature a full day of case studies and one-on-one interviews with industry leaders.

If you live within Cincinnati's city limits, your day for garbage pickup might be changing. Beginning March 5, some trash collection routes will change, which means the day of the week when garbage and recycling are collected will be affected in some neighborhoods. Check this website for more details.

The Cincinnati Board of Education announced today that it wants to renew the contract of Mary Ronan, who has been schools superintendent since April 2009. The board authorized negotiations to be conducted with Ronan over the next month on a three-year contract extension that would take effect on Aug. 1, 2012 and end on July 31, 2015.

In news elsewhere, today might well be the rubicon for the campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Primaries will be held today in Arizona and Romney's native Michigan, where his family is something of a political dynasty. Many pundits say that unless Romney scores a convincing victory in Michigan, his campaign could be in serious trouble against the surging Rick Santorum.

Meanwhile, Romney is angry that some Democratic voters in Michigan are vowing to cross over and cast ballots for Santorum in the GOP primary, to sow chaos. But Romney used a similar tactic and cast a Democratic ballot in Massachusetts's 1992 primary. "In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary," Romney told ABC News. Until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994, Romney had spent his adult life as a registered independent. "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican,” he added.

The Orange One is facing criticism again for his leadership style, or lack thereof. West Chester's favorite son, House Speaker John Boehner, is being chided for fumbling the passage of a major transportation bill. Because Boehner couldn't round up enough votes to pass the bill – which is being touted as the GOP's main jobs plan for 2012 – Boehner had to split the bill into three component parts.

Anti-government protestors in Syria said they found the bodies of 64 men dumped on the outskirts of the city of Homs. An unknown number of women and children who had been with the men are missing, protestors added. The uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March, and pressure for U.S. or NATO military intervention is growing due to the violence.

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe, about 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World. Time to start changing those history books.
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<![CDATA[Priest Returns to Cincinnati Amid Allegations]]>

For the second time in three years, a Catholic priest has been pulled from parish duties from out of state and returned to Greater Cincinnati following allegations of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Robert F. Poandl was relieved of his ministry assignment as pastor of Glenmary missions in Georgia earlier this month and ordered to return to the Glenmary Home Missioners residence in Fairfield.

The action was taken after the Rev. Chet Artysiewicz, Glenmary president, was informed of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor against Poandl. The abuse allegedly occurred about 30 years ago. Poandl, who is 70, has denied the allegation but isn’t allowed to publicly function as a Catholic priest during the investigation process, Artysiewicz said.

Artysiewicz is Poandl’s direct supervisor.

Police have been notified of the anonymous allegation, as have bishops in the dioceses affected by the investigation, including the Diocese of Savannah where Poandl was serving. The chairperson of the Glenmary Review Board was notified on Feb. 11, and an internal investigation was launched to determine the allegation’s credibility.

"I am committed to maintaining accountability and transparency as this investigative process unfolds," Artysiewicz said in a prepared statement. "Father Poandl and I have both pledged our full cooperation in this investigation, and I will do whatever I can to meet the pastoral needs of all those involved."

In August 2010, just days before his trial on molestation charges in West Virginia was set to begin, all charges against Poandl were dropped. Poandl allegedly abused a boy on a trip there in 1991, when the complainant was just 10 years old. The case was dropped due to unspecified issues during the discovery process related to the boy's medical records.

The turn of events prompted the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to write to 11 bishops in dioceses where Poandl worked, asking them to use their resources to contact others who might have been sexually abused by him, but only one in Texas replied.

Besides Cincinnati, Poandl worked in Kentucky (Franklin), Louisiana (New Orleans), Pennsylvania (Mifflintown and Doylesburg), Mississippi (Aberdeen), Oklahoma (Hugo), Texas (Pittsburgh and Mount Vernon), and most recently in Georgia (Claxton, Pembroke, Sandhill, Blairsville and Dahlonega).

He is originally from Metuchen, N.J., and studied in Ohio, Indiana and Mexico.

After the most recent allegation, SNAP has urged Artysiewicz to put Poandl in a secure treatment center away from children and pro-actively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered from his alleged crimes.

In other news of possible priestly misconduct, jury selection continued today in a Philadelphia case involving two priests charged with rape and a monsignor charged with protecting them.

Monsignor William Lynn lost a bid to have his case thrown out based on new evidence found in a 10th-floor safe at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A memo turned over by the archdiocese this month states the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered his top aides to shred a list of 35 accused priests still in ministry in 1994 — a decade before the child abuse scandal became widely publicized.

Lynn said he prepared the list and gave it to Bevilacqua after he became secretary for clergy in 1992 and started reviewing secret archives of priest abuse complaints. The complaints were kept in a secure room, rigged with an alarm, at the archdiocese's downtown headquarters.

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<![CDATA[ACLU, Archbishop Spar Over Birth Control]]>

As Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other Catholic officials speak out publicly against a new federal rule involving free birth control, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defends the switch and says the criticism is misguided.

Last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known informally as “ObamaCare” — would require nearly universal coverage of contraception.---

The rule, which takes effect in 2013, reclassifies birth control as a preventative measure, which means most employers will be required to cover contraception in their health insurance plans with no cost-sharing like co-pays or deductibles.

Among the institutions affected by the change are insurance plans offered to employees of Catholic hospitals and schools, but only those where the majority of employees are non-Catholic.

Catholic teachings prohibit the use of artificial birth control such as birth control pills, condoms and intrauterine devices.

Shortly after the announcement, Schnurr wrote a letter that was read during Mass at area churches Jan. 28-29.

The archbishop wrote, “In so ruling, the (Obama) administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.”

The letter added, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of goodwill in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.”

Schnurr urged Catholics to write members of Congress to support legislation that would overturn the decision. Meanwhile, some churches are hosting forums about the rule change, like St. Cecilia Parish in Oakley on Feb. 15.

Some Catholic politicians, including GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, echo Schnurr’s sentiment.

“This is a tremendous infringement of religious liberty,” Gingrich said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Every time you turn around the secular government is shrinking the rights of religious institutions in America.”

During the show, Gingrich said host David Gregory took the "ACLU’s" position after Gregory attempted to explain religious exemptions for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

ACLU leaders said Gingrich and others are distorting what the rule requires.

“To be clear, the rule does not require churches or other houses of worship that hire people of the faith to carry out religious practices to purchase birth control coverage for their employees,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director. “It does require organizations like hospitals and universities that operate in the public sphere to play by public rules. We should all be alarmed that Mr. Gingrich and other extremists are asking that religious groups should get a license to discriminate and impose their beliefs on others who may not share them.”

Romero added, “The Constitution's rights to privacy and equal treatment under the law, consistently held up by the Supreme Court, guarantee that all women have access to basic and essential medical services. Religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether to use birth control, based on our own beliefs. The contraceptive rule ensures that millions of women will be able to follow their own conscience when it comes to their health and their families.”

Two other groups — one consisting of Catholic theologians, the other consisting of Catholic politicians — have submitted open letters to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging her to resist pressure from Catholic bishops and cover all women under the proposed regulations regarding preventive health services, including contraception.

The letter from the theologians states, in part, “among American Catholics the sensus fidelium — the graced and experience-fed wisdom of the faithful that has always been one of the sources of truth in the Catholic tradition — is clear on the matter of contraception, the only area that is covered by the exemptions. The overwhelming majority of Catholics favor and use contraception. The majority of Catholic moral theologians hold that artificial contraception is a moral option and, in some instances, even a moral mandate.”

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<![CDATA[Tebow, Islam and Bad Columnists]]>

A recent plodding column by The Enquirer’s Krista Ramsey asked the red herring question in its headline, “So what if Tebow believes his audience is God?” Tebow, of course, refers to Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos who has a tendency to dramatically kneel down on the gridiron, close his eyes and pray before games.

Tebow’s showy, ultra-demonstrative displays have drawn some criticism. Although the player says he does it to honor God and get nonbelievers curious about his faith, many people counter the display is more about drawing attention to Tebow than to any divine entity or creed.---

Even more than other media outlets grappling for market share,
The Enquirer is obsessed with Internet hits. (At one time, some bonuses for editors were based on reaching quotas for web hits.) So, it wasn’t too surprising that Ramsey rolled out a hackneyed “Christian as suffering martyr” theme in her Jan. 12 column. Surely, she knew it would be red meat for all the evangelical Christians in southwest Ohio that would be compelled to check out its content.

Ramsey couldn’t understand why Tebow’s prayers before the TV cameras disturbed so many.

“His faith is who the man is, even more than his ability to run the football or rally his team from a fourth-quarter deficit,” Ramsey wrote. “The notion that anyone can simply segregate his religious beliefs — slice them off from the rest of his identity — is a patronizing thought. The idea that Tebow should do it because his beliefs make others uncomfortable is truly an arrogant one.”

Ramsey, it seems, either has had an intimate conversation with Tebow or can somehow otherwise peer into his thoughts and judge him pure in mind and character. Praise be!

Readers probably shouldn’t expect much insight from Ramsey. She is, after all, the same columnist who once wrote a gushy column commemorating Joe Deters and his 12 ½ years in office, making him the longest-serving Hamilton County prosecutor in history. In the piece, Ramsey praised Deters for his work ethic and long days spent at the office. As most of Deters’ staffers can tell you, he’s rarely in the office. That leaves him ample time to moonlight at a private job, unlike most county prosecutors, for Stan Chesley’s firm. But I digress.

The clueless columnist completely misses the larger issues at play in the controversy over “Tebowing.”

First, exactly
what does Tebow pray for before the game? Is it for strength or safety, or for something more crass like a Broncos’ victory? According to Ben McGrath’s New Yorker profile, young Mr. Tebow might not be so selfless:

“That was a huge play,” Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow said. Yes, there was the rookie linebacker making a clutch, overtime tackle of San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert for a four-yard loss. The play forced the Chargers into a just-too-long 53-yard overtime field goal attempt that wound up off course.

Not that Tebow saw either play.

“I can’t say I saw too much of it,” Tebow said. “I was praying.”

Praying for a miss?

“I might have said that,” Tebow laughed. “Or maybe a block. Maybe all of it.”


How inspiring.

Another point missed by Ramsey is whether such ostentatious displays are truly Christian. Here’s what the Bible has to say about public prayer:

(Matthew 6:5-6)

5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Even worse, Ramsey missed the overarching aspect to the controversy: Would NFL fans be as tolerant if Tebow was Muslim, knelt on a prayer mat and faced Mecca before a game? Or how about if he was Buddhist, and did chants?

A real columnist would’ve explored this uncomfortable point, instead of merely trying to mollify readers with treacle.

A column by Marcus Cederstrom of Salon asks those tough questions, rather than taking the easy road:

So I ask, what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? How would our society react if during every interview, Tebow said “Insha’Allah” or “Allāhu Akbar” rather than thank his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

… (A)s as Tebowmania makes its way into politics, sports, religion and the everyday life of the mainstream United States, it is important to think about how we approach religion in this country. How we approach religious freedom in this country. Do we accept freedom of religion, any religion? Or do we accept freedom of Christianity?

To use Ramsey’s own argument, should a Muslim athlete refrain from public displays on the field because “his beliefs make others uncomfortable?”

Given their historical inclinations, I think I know how Ramsey and
The Enquirer's editorial board would come down on that issue.

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