CityBeat Blogs - Technology <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

A new survey by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati found that local teenage marijuana use is up slightly. Mary Haag, president and CEO of the coalition, says it’s the organization’s biggest concern — makes sense considering the organization is dedicated to creating a drug-free Cincinnati, but shouldn’t someone be concerned about this, too?

Cincinnati police will stop using a certain breathalyzer machine due to a recent court ruling that the machine must be cleared after each use. City Prosecutor Charlie Rubenstein says attorneys are consistently questioning in court the Intoxilyzer 8000’s use, causing a backload of cases.  

President Obama will visit Cincinnati on Monday, though no details have been released. 

Mitt Romney might not like running as a potential Bush third term, but he’ll take whatever money Dick Cheney can raise for him at an event in Wyoming. 

In response to heated negotiations over the price of Viacom networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, DirecTV this week told its users where to find Viacom content online for free (Viacom's website). Viacom yesterday shut down the free streaming shows, replacing them with a video explaining how to complain to DirecTV that SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t available and your kids are pissed.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh said a report released today that Penn State and Joe Paterno concealed critical facts about Jerry Sandusky and showed a total disregard for the safety of his victims. 

A new drug has been found to protect healthy people exposed to HIV, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time is considering approving a drug which could prevent individuals from acquiring the virus.

Hackers released 453,000 Yahoo! passwords, potentially helping many log into their accounts after forgetting their passwords years after switching to Gmail.

The Hubble telescope found a fifth moon orbiting Pluto, which is still not a planet anymore. 

<![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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Former Bengal Chad Ochocinco will return to Cincinnati Oct. 7 as a member of the Miami Dolphins, if reports by his OchoCinco News Network are true: Ocho says he has signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Cincinnati Public Schools on Monday voted unanimously to put a levy renewal on the November ballot. The current levy is set to expire in 2013, and the renewal would be for $51.5 million for five years.

The second day of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial continues today, with a second accuser expected to testify. In his opening statement, Sandusky's lawyer questioned the credibility of the eight young men accusing him of multiple crimes over several years, claiming that they have a financial motive to make false claims. He also acknowledged that Sandusky's behavior and his showering with young boys was “kind of strange” but said it was not sexual abuse.

Mitt Romney says Barack Obama's “Forward” slogan is absurd. And so is the notion that he wants to reduce the number of police, firefighters and teachers. Absurdity.

The LA Times says Obama's complicated message will pose a challenge to convey, especially against Romney's simple argument: Y'all mad and it's Obama's fault.

Obama's counter-argument is layered with nuance and complexity.

It starts with an attempt to undercut Romney. As a corporate buyout executive, Romney shipped jobs overseas and reaped millions of dollars in fees from takeover deals that destroyed U.S. factory jobs, the Obama campaign says. As Massachusetts governor, Romney built a poor record on job creation, the argument continues.

Turning to his own record, Obama tells voters that he inherited an economy on the brink of collapse and averted a depression. He takes credit for a resurgence in manufacturing, the rescue of the automobile industry and the creation of more than 4 million jobs since February 2010.

Obama also slams Republicans in Congress for blocking his plans to stimulate more jobs. To inoculate himself from potential setbacks over the summer and fall, he warns of economic trouble spilling over from Europe.

In the end, Obama says, he would keep the country moving forward while Romney would take it back to the George W. Bush policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.

Verizon is changing up its cell phone plans, moving toward monthly plans that allow users to connect up to 10 devices, including tablets and PCs, to their cell phone network.

There's a new Retina-display-bearing MacBook Pro. Whatever that means.

Sunday night's Mad Men season finale broke a ratings record with 2.7 million viewers.

The Los Angeles Kings won the NHL's Stanley Cup on Tuesday, the organization's first ever championship.

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Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.

From The Toledo Blade:

Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.

The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.

The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.

The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.

Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.

According to a new poll, President Obama leads Mitt Romney in Ohio by six percentage points. Wonder if Obama's “cow pie of distortion” speech had anything to do with his lead.

The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.

United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.

Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.

From USA Today: “Profits at big U.S. companies broke records last year, and so did pay for CEOs.

Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.

The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.

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City Council is considering increasing cab fares prior to the World Choir Games in July as part of an overhaul of the city’s taxi industry. During a Rules and Government Operations Committee meeting Monday, Councilman Wendell Young described the industry as having little regulation and often undesirable experiences, The Enquirer reports. Council last spring removed a city rule that made it illegal to hail a cab. Among the recommendations expected to be made are the standardization of rates, an increase in the number of permanent taxi stands and the visible display of a Customer Bill of Rights.

The two men hired to beat a Columbia Tusculum man over a property dispute admitted in court yesterday to having been paid by Robert Fritzsch to whoop on Tom Nies Jr. The beaters will avoid jail time in exchange for testifying against Fritzsch. The beating was allegedly a retaliation after a court ordered the removal of Fritzsch's addition to his home that blocked the river view of Nies' house. 

Robert Chase is a member of Ohio’s oil and gas commission, in addition to operating a private consulting firm that deals with many of the private companies interested in making mass money off the state’s drilling leases. The Ohio Ethics Commission this week warned Chase that such consulting work could present a conflict of interest, though Chase says he’s not surprised and that he knows what his ethical responsibilities are.

NBC has picked up a sitcom set in Cincinnati starring Anne Heche, who reportedly plays an Indian Hill housewife who believes she can channel God after surviving an accident involving nearly choking on a sandwich (with humorous results?). The show, which will have a 13-episode first season, is titled Save Me.

The Obama administration might be hinting at considering same-sex marriage rights during a second term, but the folks down in North Carolina are having none of it: A state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions is on today’s ballot, despite the existence of a state statute that already outlaws it.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is busting Mitt Romney up for choosing not to address a woman’s suggestion that Obama should be tried for treason.

During an event near Cleveland yesterday, a woman asked Romney if he thinks President Obama is "operating outside the structure of our Constitution," and "should be tried for treason."

Romney did not respond to the treason comment, but instead criticized Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court -- drawing a rebuke from the Obama campaign.

Romney says he doesn’t correct all the questions that are asked of him and that he obviously doesn’t believe Obama should be tried for treason. USA Today pointed out that the incident is similar to one that occurred during the 2008 election, which John McCain handled quite differently:

It was one of the defining moments of the 2008 presidential campaign: A woman at a rally for Republican John McCain, while asking McCain a question, called Democratic contender Barack Obama "an Arab" who couldn't be trusted.

McCain took the microphone and said, "No ma'am. He's a decent family man ... who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." McCain's response symbolized his discomfort with the volatile crowds he was seeing as his campaign faded during the final days of the 2008 race.

A study suggests that fighting obesity will necessitate a broader approach than blaming the individual, likely involving schools, workplaces, health care providers and fast-food restaurants.

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has apologized for pretending to have a degree in computer science. Thompson says he’ll update his resume but has no plans to step down.

The U.S. could make a $1.5 billion profit on its bailout of insurance company American International Group, Inc. At least that’s what the Government Accountability Office says.

Google’s driverless cars have received their permits in Nevada. What's next? Drive down every single street in America and photographing it?

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City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a measure that will offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees. The measure was introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 8-1, the lone “no” vote coming from Charlie Winburn. Seelbach told The Enquirer that domestic partner benefits not only affect same-sex couples, but are also applicable to non-married partners, which is an added attraction to lure talented employees to the city. Covington officials passed a similar measure Tuesday.

If you owe the city of Cincinnati any parking fines, now would be a good time to pay them. Cincinnati police are going to start hearing descriptions of vehicles with multiple outstanding tickets during roll call and then head out to find them during patrols.

Eric Deters wants to be a real lawyer again. The attorney/radio personality/cage fighter says his current predicament — Kentucky law license suspension — is mostly because someone making the rulings “hates him” and is not due to the “ethical lapses” that caused his original 61-day suspension. If Deters can't get the Kentucky Supreme Court to help him out he'll have to go in front of a Character and Fitness Committee and explain all the crazy stuff he's done.

Gov. John Kasich is making changes to the state's Medicaid program, which he and its officials say will save money, though it will cause disruptions in the form of some recipients needing to find new providers, many of which have less access to medical advice and financial help. A similar program implemented in Kentucky last year resulted in complaints that patients couldn't get services authorized and providers didn't get paid on time, according to The Enquirer.

New Osama bin Laden documents published online by the U.S. Government show concern over Muslim distrust of his organization before he was killed last May, and much of which was due to the high numbers of civilians it was responsible for killing.

It's not very fun to be John Edwards these days. Already charged with using $1 million in campaign money to hide a pregnant mistress, testimony in his case for violating campaign finance laws has revealed that his mistress had a better idea in response to the National Enquirer's report on the affair: She wanted to say she was abducted by aliens.

Jobless-benefits claims were down last week, and the reduction was the greatest in three months. And U.S. stock futures rose in accordance.

Target is done selling Kindles, and although it didn't give a reason analysts suspect it is in response to Amazon's attempts to get retailers who see the products in a store to then purchase them online. Amazone last holiday season indroduced a Price Check app that offered in-store price comparisons and up to a $15 discount online.

Retired NFL linebacker Junior Seau was found dead at his home yesterday in an apparent suicide. Seau, who played in the NFL for parts of 20 seasons, was found shot to death. He was 43.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Cemeteries have officially arrived in the 21st Century. A Crawfordsville, Ind., firm is now using Quick Response barcodes on tombstones. The Allen Monument Co. says the code can connect users to an entire memorial site about a deceased person, provided by Cincinnati-based Making Everlasting Memories. The site can include photos, a biography and other information. All it takes is a simple scan from a smartphone. That's either a brilliant step forward for convenience or a sign of consumerism and technology run amok. You decide.

It looks like charter schools aren't quite the draw that many conservatives believed they would be. Cincinnati Public Schools will lose fewer students than expected next year to private schools and state-funded vouchers, a school official said Tuesday. Only 899 new students applied for new Educational Choice scholarships for the upcoming school year. That’s down from 1,078 applicants from CPS last year and it’s far below the 1,377 students that district officials had estimated to lose this spring.

A Northern Kentucky police chief charged with drunken driving wants to suppress police dashboard camera footage of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. An attorney for Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse made the request during a pretrial hearing this week. Rouse is suspended without pay after his March 1 arrest by Alexandria police. We wonder if the Wilder Police Department uses dashboard cams in its cruisers. (What's good for the goose, etc.)

They had better come on strong. The Bengals will be featured on the season opener of Monday Night Football on ESPN in September. The team will face off against the Ravens in Baltimore. Other highlights of the 2012 schedule, which was released Tuesday, include the Bengals playing their first regular season game in week two against the Cleveland Browns in Cincinnati, and playing divisional foes the Steelers in week 16 at Pittsburgh.

A large swarm of bees has invaded Cincinnati's Covedale neighborhood. Residents on Woodbriar Lane are concerned about thousands of active bees going from yard to yard looking for a place to make a hive. The bees have been doing it for the last couple of days, and residents say they're swarming around different locations, changing locations in as little as 30 minutes in some cases. The buzzing sounds can be heard from 20 feet away or more, they added.

In news elsewhere, friends of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insist their pal isn't an android. Romney is a nice guy, they said, adding they are at a loss to explain his stiff demeanor and unusual syntax on the campaign trail. Maybe he's simply trying too hard, some friends told The Washington Post. Yeah, that's it, I'm sure.

Reacting to rising gasoline prices, President Obama proposed new measures this week to reduce oil market manipulation. The proposals, which observers say are unlikely to get support from a divided Congress, include increasing civil and criminal penalties on individuals and companies involved in manipulative practices involving commodities speculation.

In yet another setback for U.S.-Afghan relations, photographs of American troops gleefully posing with corpses of insurgents they've killed were given to The Los Angeles Times. The U.S. soldier who released the photos said he did so to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.

A shadowy conservative group that works behind-the-scenes to push laws that call for stricter voter identification requirements and “stand your ground” initiatives is disbanding its “Public Safety and Elections” task force. The task force, part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives, not just restrictive voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities. In recent weeks, numerous of ALEC's corporate members have left then group including Coca-Cola, Intuit and McDonald's.

Thousands of documents detailing crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review concluded. Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.
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O’l girl Leslie Ghiz is back on local government’s payroll after being hired by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, which will allow her to run in a judicial race as a badass crime-fighting prosecutor (The Enquirer’s words, not mine). Deters, of course, is the former chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party and Ghiz is the former City Council woman who was voted out last fall and then decided to move out of Cincinnati.

Tim Burke, head of the Hamilton County Democratic Party called the move “political as hell,” while Ghiz had Deters’ spokeswoman explain how Deters’ office is still allowed to hire one more lawyer if it wants to.

Ghiz will earn a $55,000 salary, down from $60,000 she made in the part-time position of City Councilperson.

Gov. Kasich is apparently really proud of the new energy goals he outlined yesterday, as evidenced by the 15 press releases he's sent to the media since then. Kasich: We have other stuff to write about other than your thoughts on how cool it is that someone called Ohio “the Saudi Arabia of coal.”

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig would like to skip the police certification process even though he wouldn’t be able to arrest people if he does.

Riverbend has gone the way of 1970’s Riverfront Stadium, installing artificial turf on its concert lawn.

Milford 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz was voted off American Idol island last night, not quite reaching the round of 13. Good try, Eben!

Oh snap! Obama on Iran: “I don’t bluff.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are coming to Ohio, and they’re reportedly “neck-and-neck.”

A mentally disabled South Carolina man who has been on death row for 30 years could soon be out of prison for a bond hearing. Edward Lee Elmore’s sentence has already been overturned three times and reduced from the death sentence to life in prison. From The Washington Post:

As other death row inmates were exonerated because of new DNA testing technology, Elmore’s attorneys asked a judge in 2000 to overturn his convictions because a blond hair found on Edwards after her death did not match her or Elmore.

Elmore’s lawyers thought the blond hair may have belonged to Edwards’ next-door neighbor and they asked a judge to exhume the man’s body to test his DNA, but a judge denied the request.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Elmore began to see his fate turn around. A South Carolina judge ruled he was mentally unfit and could not be executed, per a 2002 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

State prosecutors didn’t oppose a judge’s decision to sentence him to life in prison, and Elmore was, after 28 years, moved from the state’s death row to another maximum-security prison.

Weather services (and people know what the sky is supposed to look like) are concerned about tornadoes in the Midwest today. Most worrisome are extreme southern Indiana, central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee, with storms expected across the Gulf Coast states afterward.

Google offers some answers to questions about its weird privacy changes.

Oh, and it’s Bockfest Weekend. Grab your digital camera and the biggest mug you can find.

<![CDATA[Here's What Facebook Censors]]>

Never piss off the proletariat.

Upset about his low pay and dismal working conditions, a worker at one of Facebook’s Third World contractors has leaked the social media site’s ultra-secret document about what type of content it censors.

Amine Derkaoui, a 21-year-old Moroccan man, worked for an outsourcing firm last year that scanned Facebook members’ pages for banned content. Given Facebook’s profitability, Derkaoui became angry about its stinginess with workers.

As a result, Derkaoui gave
a copy of Facebook’s internal guidelines about what content it will delete to Gawker, a top Internet gossip site.

Some of the forbidden items are obvious like racial slurs, depictions of human or animal mutilation, photographs or cartoons of sexual activity, violent speech and content that organizes or promotes illegal activity.

But some of the other verboten items are more unusual, if not downright strange.

For example, naked “private parts” including female nipple bulges and butt cracks are forbidden, but male nipples are allowed. The list specifically mentions “mothers breastfeeding” as unacceptable.

Also, most depictions of bodily fluids are unacceptable, but not all. It lists “urine, feces, vomit, semen, pus and ear wax" as unacceptable (yes,
ear wax). But, it helpfully notes, “cartoon feces, urine and spit are OK; real and cartoon snot is OK.” Well, that's good to know.

Other items subject to deletion include cartoon nudity, images of internal organs, bones, muscles, tendons and “deep flesh wounds,” along with “blatant (obvious) depiction of camel toes and moose knuckles.” (Confession: I had to Google “moose knuckle” to know what that meant.)

Images of “crushed heads, limbs, etc. are OK,” however, as long as “no insides are showing” and the person posting them doesn’t express delight or gratification.

Moreover, all criticism of Ataturk, the founder of the nation of Turkey, along with images depicting the burning of Turkish flags are forbidden. It’s believed this restriction is due to certain European laws that, if violated, could cause the site to be blocked in Turkey.

The 17-page manual includes
a one-page “cheat sheet” so workers can quickly reference it when making decisions about what to delete.

Gawker said Derkaoui found his job through the outsourcing firm oDesk, which provides content moderation services for Facebook and Google. About 50 people across the globe — mostly in Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico and India — work to moderate Facebook content. They work from home in four-hour shifts and earn $1 per hour plus commissions.

"It's humiliating. They are just exploiting the Third World," Derkaoui told Gawker.

<![CDATA[Monsanto Is Pissing a Lot of People Off]]>

You poison one little French farmer and all hell breaks loose. Giant chemical-maker Monsanto yesterday announced it plans to appeal a Monday ruling that one of its herbicides in 2004 poisoned French farmer Paul Francois, who says inhaling a Monsanto weedkiller led to “memory loss, headaches and stammering”(coincidentally, these are the same symptoms of the accidental hangover™).

In addition to the French farmer being pissed enough at the company for giving him a hangover when he was trying to work his farmland, there are about a million other people officially declaring themselves as against Monsanto via “Millions Against Monsanto,” an organic consumers association that campaigns for “health, justice, sustainability, peace and democracy.” If you accept the possibility of Monsanto obstructing even a majority of these five concepts, it’s easy to believe the company has enemies from a lot of different backgrounds.

That’s why Monday’s ruling by a French court finding Monsanto legally responsible for poisoning Francois and ordering it to compensate him has enlivened a bunch of angry activists.

Millions Against Monsanto offers a wealth of content documenting the agricultural biotechnology corporation’s government ties, tendencies to take small dairies to court, refusal to compensate veterans for Agent Orange and getting their nasty chemicals in normal people’s water supplies. (Wikipedia is hilariously filled with references to things like dumping toxic waste in the UK, Indonesian bribing convictions and fines for false advertising.) Even 'ol boy Obama has gotten caught up in the mix with charts like this one circulating on Facebook:

The latest news out of Millions Against Monsanto is the moving forward of a California ballot initiative to require mandatory GMO labeling that polls show has 80 percent support. According to the site:

"A win for the California Initiative would be a huge blow to biotech and a huge victory for food activists. Monsanto and their minions have billions invested in GMOs and they are willing to spend millions to defeat this initiative. California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Labeling laws in CA will affect packaging and ingredient decisions nation-wide. The bill has been carefully written to ensure that it will not increase costs to consumers or producers."

Back in France, our friendly farmer will have to wait a while for whatever compensation poisoning amounts to, as Monsanto says it will appeal the ruling. According to The Washington Post: Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher says the company does not think there is “sufficient data” to demonstrate a link between the use of Lasso herbicide and the symptoms Francois reported.

"We do not agree any injury was accidentally caused nor did the company intentionally permit injury," Helscher said. "Lasso herbicide was ... successfully used by farmers on millions of hectares around the world."
<![CDATA[Online Pirating: An Old-School Gamer's Only Option?]]> Last week I blogged about SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in Congress that, if passed, would allow both copyright holders as well as the US Department of Justice to severely restrict access to and advertising on any website accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Needless to say the bill’s sparked a huge controversy on the web. Many sites such as blacked out their services on Jan. 18 in protest, and those against the bill are saying the bill inhibits free speech and will effectively “ruin the Internet” if passed.---

But I already talked about that all in my last blog. This week I wanted to cover another subject related to SOPA; namely, online piracy.

It’s obviously become a big problem, or else Congress wouldn’t have bothered proposing a bill as extreme as SOPA in the first place. And I can certainly understand why media companies are rallying in support of it. Every time a TV show, song, movie or video game is either streamed or downloaded illegally, they’re losing money.

But why do people pirate in the first place? The most obvious answer is to save money. Hell, why pay for something you can get for free, even if it means bending the rules? However, as an avid gamer and internet users…I know for a fact there are other reasons gamers such as myself might be tempted to pirate as well.

I personally love old-school video games. I grew up in the era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. And I still think some of the best games ever made exist for those consoles. The problem is, these days you’d probably be hard pressed to find a Snes for sale in your average game or toy store. It’s old technology. There’s no money in it anymore.

Any games made before the era of Sony’s Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox or Nintendo’s Gamecube are becoming increasingly hard to find. And even those are getting out of date with the newer consoles nearing on five or six years since their release. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a whole slew of ‘next-gen’ consoles within the next year.

So what’s all this got to do with online piracy? Simple: It’s pretty much impossible to find old video games anywhere but online these days. There’s myriad sites out there dedicated to ‘emulation’…or, to put it in layman’s terms, the distribution of programs that will allow you to play video games on your computer.

Given, there’s absolutely no excuse for the pirating of more recently released games. But in the case of some of the older games from the 1990s, and even the early 2000s, emulation’s pretty much the only option. Companies aren’t distributing these games anymore. The only alternative to pirating is trolling antique shops and the inventories of game collectors - and even then it’s a shot in the dark. Even if you find the game you’re looking for, you’d better be willing to pay an outrageous price for it. Hard copies of Earthbound, a popular role-playing game for the Super Nintendo, can go for over $100. And it’s not the only one, I assure you.

Fortunately, Nintendo, at the very least, seems to be sympathetic to the plight of a gamer seeking to relive the nostalgia of older-era games. Owners of the Wii can download older games to play using the ‘Virtual Console’ feature, given they’re willing to pay (typically $5-$20 depending on the game). It’s a nice feature, but the inventory’s still quite limited. Popular games like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda are easy to find, but several more obscure titles remain unavailable.

Unfortunate as it is, emulation is the easiest and cheapest method for a gamer looking to find and play older games. Unless you’ve held on to your old consoles and copies, you’re pretty much out of luck. Stores have begun to stop stocking games for consoles even as recent as the Playstation 2 and Xbox. As I mentioned before, companies no longer care to distribute new copies - there’s simply not enough of a market for it.

And admittedly, it is a small market. But not small enough to stop gamers from pirating hacked copies to play on their computer. It may not be the main concern of the organizations dedicated to stopping piracy, but with SOPA and other similar bills being proposed and voted on, it probably won’t be long before sites dedicated to video game emulation are targeted as well.

<![CDATA[SOPA: Stopping Pirating or Needless Censorship?]]>

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I'm a total Internet junkie. I spend a lot of my free time online, browsing various sites like Youtube, chatting in forums with friends and otherwise killing time. As of late, though, one particular subject seems to have pushed itself into the forefront of internet denizens everywhere. That is, SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a censorship bill which was proposed by the US House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011. It's created quite a buzz online, and with all the people talking about it and what it supposedly proposes, it's hard to get one's facts straight. Friends of mine claim that the government's trying to censor the internet, block access to certain sites - that SOPA will cripple the World Wide Web as we know it.--- has even proposed a rally against the bill, encouraging sites to black out their services today in protest. Several other web services and sites have joined, even Internet giants such as Google and Wikipedia have joined the protest. Either way, SOPA's causing a big stir online. But what does it actually propose? Is all the protest warranted? I decided to do a little research into the bill myself. I looked up the bill on Wikipedia in order to read about what it was proposing, in layman’s terms.

In a nutshell, if passed, SOPA would allow both copyright holders and the US Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites either accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on the order, several actions could be taken against the accused website, including barring advertisement, barring search engines from linking to the site, and requesting that Internet providers block access to such sites. The bill would also make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted media a crime punishable by prison sentences.

Those supporting the bill claim it will protect artists' intellectual property, reduce illegal pirating of media and help bolster copyright laws against foreign websites. Those against argue that SOPA violates free speech, will threaten whistle-blowing and otherwise effectively debilitate the web as we know it.

So who's in the right? There's no question that pirating is a major problem these days. There are thousands of websites out there dedicated to the illegal downloading and streaming of copyrighted material.

On the other hand, SOPA doesn't just target these sites in general, but also those accused of "facilitating" said sites. How is this going to affect my internet browsing? Is SOPA going to bar my access to websites I frequent on a daily basis? Just how far does the policy of free use extend to the internet?

Bottom line, there are still too many "what ifs" for me to support such a bill. I prefer my internet uncensored and would appreciate it if things stayed that way.

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Ohio voter advocates say there was a big elephant in the room during the creation of Ohio's controversial redistricting map, and it was super tan and cried a lot. The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting says John Boehner was central in the process, working with map-making consultants and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here's a link to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report. From The Enquirer:

"The report found: decisions were not made in public; public input was ignored; there was limited opportunity for the public to review proposed maps; the public was not provided with relevant data for proposed districts; nonpartisan redistricting criteria were not used; and the criteria used to evaluate plans were never publicly identified."---

A group of people including the daughter of the late Procter & Gamble CEO John Smale yesterday asked City Council for approximately $8 million more in funding for a riverfront park just south of The Banks. Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes apparently has no thoughts on such spending as of yet.

Charlie Winburn says there should be no water rate hike but everyone should get married in the City Hall courtyard.

Police removed Occupy Baltimore protesters yesterday, and protesters plan to begin squatting in vacant buildings next.

Lowe's is still facing heat for pulling its ads from a Muslim TV show, but now with people like Russell Simmons buying up air time to prove a point/make mass money, the show is guaranteed to be a success.

Retail sales in November rose for the sixth straight month, but still disappointed some forecasters.

Apple's Mac App Store has passed 100 million downloads.

Finally, a robot that can make you a sandwich.” Well said, Mashable.

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Despite the economic troubles affecting the state, Ohioans are smoking more than ever, according to a study that found the highest percentage point increase of any state. An official with the Ohio Department of Health attributes the increase to the stress people are under, though the Ohio General Assembly also cut funding to the state's smoking cessation help line, so there's that. Ohio ranked as the 36th healthiest state in 2011, down from 33 rd in 2010, while Indiana came in at 38th and Kentucky 43rd.---

Most Hamilton County residents will pay considerably more for water and sewers next year when a 7.5 percent rate increase goes into effect. The increase will be $73 per year, slightly more than the property tax rollback savings for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Covington leaders are looking for development ideas for the city's property between the Roebling Suspension Bridge and Madison Avenue. They say they're open to private and/or public development, so long as it is pedestrian friendly with some greenspace.

Most people dislike the cold rain Ohio has been receiving for the past few days, few more than Ohio's deer hunters who in addition to getting really wet and cold came back with the lowest harvest of dead deer in years.

At lest we're not in New Mexico, which is getting blasted with snow and coldness.

The Ohio ACLU is asking Franklin County to reconsider its jail fees. One option: develop programs that keep people out of jail such as job counseling and mental health treatment.

Newt Gingrich leads the very important South Carolina primary, among others.

Apple, publishers named in EU e-book antitrust probe”: Uh, oh. Apparently the EU's antitrust group “is investigating whether Apple and major publishing houses are guilty of colluding to cut back competition in the e-book market.”

Plus, the Kindle Fire is grubbing on the iPad's market.

Why is people dancing to Christmas music so funny?

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Occupy D.C. protesters built some type of structure in a park Saturday night, and police on Sunday notified them that they didn't have a permit and took it down, arresting dozens in the process. It was a pretty nice structure, though.---

City Council will begin discussing City Manager Milton Dohoney's 2012 budget today, and it's expected to be fairly smooth since there are no proposed layoffs, or closings of health clinics, rec centers or school nurses.

State officials are trying to get construction companies to pay for the roads they mess up with their giant equipment. After that they can try to figure out what to do about the state's pending loss of jobless benefits in the new year.

Reds executives head out to baseball's Winter Meetings today. Here's their shopping list.

"One please!"

The leaders of Germany and France are pushing a new treaty that could save the Euro. Some see it as a long shot, though.

Carbon dioxide emissions jumped by the largest amount ever last year. Coal combustion was responsible for half the growth.

A group of luxury car enthusiasts in Japan crashed a bunch of expensive cars in a freeway pileup. Involved were eight Ferraris, a Lamborghini and two Mercedes. Safety first, people!

Madonna will perform at this year's Super Bowl halftime show.

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A new study has found high levels of arsenic in fruit juices that millions of kids are drinking because there's pictures of actual food on the label. Too bad government regulation is just a big waste of money that hurts the economy.

A full 10 percent of the juices tested by the magazine had arsenic levels higher than what is allowed in water by the Food and Drug Administration.

“What we’re talking about here is not acute affects,” Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, told TODAY. “We’re talking about chronic effects. We’re talking about cancer risk. And so, the fact that 10 percent of our samples exceeded the drinking water standard underscores the need for a standard to be set in juices.”

Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple and grape juices sold around the country. Included among those tested were popular juices like Minute Maid, Welch’s and Tropicana.---

Details of the Southgate House's pending close are coming out, with a sibling court battle at the center of the controversy. Then Enquirer spoke to Armina Lee, who is the sister of Ross Raleigh, the man who had run the club for three decades. Lee and her husband reportedly bought Raleigh out of the building and plan to renovate and sell it. Raleigh has said he plans to find a new club and continue booking music. It is unclear which party will own the rights to the Southgate House name.

Meanwhile, over in Cincinnati, Mayor Mallory says he doesn't know why Chiquita chose North Carolina after Cincinnati offered it “$40 billion to stay.” The mayor is funny.

Kroger is pumped about some new Delta flights out of CVG. Still waiting to get that nonstop service to Paris back, though.

Convicts entering the Franklin County jail better come correct with $40. Sheriff Zach Scott proposed the new fee in response to commissioners asking him to generate revenue.

Los Angeles Police raided the city's Occupy camp, arresting 200 people. Fifty more protesters were arrested in Philadelphia.

Herman Cain's latest accuser — this one regarding extramarital affair rather than sexual harassment — says the affair was casual and that Herman still wouldn't be a good president .

U.S. companies added more than 200,000 new jobs in November. “Things are getting better for the economy,” said Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact & Opinion Economics in New York. “It means the news we have on Christmas shopping and on an increase in consumer confidence may have some validity.”

And frequent soccer-ball headers could cause brain damage in frequent amateur players, starting with the good ones who score on headers a lot.

Google Maps is about to go streetview inside some stores and airports, although most people already know what a Macy's, Ikea or airport looks like on the inside.

Did a nude yoga class really cause Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries to breakup? Relationships are difficult.

<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The Hamilton County Commissioners' stadium funding failures have caused County Auditor Dusty Rhodes to describe a “dream world” where politicians think their inaction doesn't affect anybody. Today's news that the stadium fund will be bankrupt by March without additional funding has not deterred Republican Chris Monzel and Democrat Todd Portune from giving property owners the tax credit that convinced them to vote for the 1996 sales tax increase.

"It would be the height of irresponsibly to commit funds they knew were not there," Rhodes said. "I've long criticized various governments for living in dream world.

"This takes it to a whole new level," Rhodes said.---

Things aren't much better over at the congressional supercommittee, which former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has described as disastrous.

"If anybody understands the consequences of the failure of the committee of 12, they're horrendous," O'Neill said. "It's basically the consequences of an institution that's found itself unwilling to set priorities, which is what we elected them to do."

UC-Davis students have set up an Occupy camp on school grounds in response to university police casually spraying protesters with pepper spray after Chancellor Linda Katehi requested that they be removed. Now the chancellor is asking the DEA to investigate the department's use of force.

Headline: “GDP revised downward; corporate profits up.” Awesome.

Two new studies suggest that smart kids grow up to be heavier drinkers, with unscientific attempts at explaining the trend including evolution, boredom and “dealing with morons.”

The average number of people on Facebook separating any two people in the world is 4.74.

The University of Cincinnati basketball team had a couple funny quotes come out of its postgame press conference last night after defeating Northwestern State 71-43.

Yancy Gates on the attendance of 4,505: “I guess when Big East play starts, they’ll come to see the other team. It’s their money. They can spend it like they want to.”

Mick Cronin on the embarrassment of losing to Presbyterian on Sunday: “I have slept four hours in two days. I have taken more stomach pills in four days that they might have to pump my stomach. I haven’t left my house. I’m embarrassed to stop and get coffee.”

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Cincinnati police didn't give out any citations in Piatt Park last night, saving the people in the Justice Center a lot of paperwork and wasted time. Some occupiers and local homeless activists have planned a march on Saturday to highlight causes of homelessness.

New York officials delayed a monthly park cleaning that would have meant having to clean lots of protesters too. The movement is spreading to Canada, where occupy protests are scheduled to begin this weekend in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax.---

Do you think America's many problems would be best solved by “simple solutions and a leader willing to say 'I don't know'?” Vote Herman Cain! Also, even business groups are calling Cain's horseshit 9-9-9 plan a “jobs killer.”

Americans are cool: U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in September as Americans spent more on cars, clothing and fuel, an indication that consumers remain willing to shop despite high unemployment and a weak recovery.

Meanwhile, in Texas... Rick Perry's wife says poor Ricky was "brutalized and beaten up and chewed up" by the presidential campaign last month. Ricky nods his head in agreement.

Hey Cleveland Browns fans: We know your team sucks, but you still have to bring your kids home from the football game even if they didn't have a good time.

Materialistic couples have more trouble than couples who don't care much about possessions. Ha.

Years of previous research have turned up compelling evidence that materialism isn't great for anybody, Carroll said. Multiple studies have found that people who are materialistic are also more anxious, depressed, and insecure than non-materialistic types. A stronger love of money has also been linked to trouble at home, as these individuals tend not to balance family evenly with work.

50 Reasons Why The World Is Ending On October 21, 2011

Oh no! Gap is going to close 21 percent of its namesake retail stores by 2013. Where are we supposed to get our pants?!?

BlackBerry's recent outage is a threat to the brand, causing people who knew it was still a brand to wonder why, how.

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Occupy Cincinnati protesters lined up for more citations last night at Piatt Park, with more than 20 occupiers receiving tickets while more protesters stood outside the park, protesting in un-ticketable fashion. There are now about 15 tents in the park.

Authorities in Boston arrested approximately 100 Occupy Boston protesters around 1 a.m. this morning after warning protesters to return to their original little encampment. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino says he sympathizes with the protesters but that they'll have to find ways to occupy that aren't considered civil disobedience.---

The Ohio Supreme Court is putting state Democrats' lawsuit over Republican-drawn congressional maps on the fast track. Seems important.

A ship carrying massive amounts of oil crashed into a reef off the coast of New Zealand, causing the country's “worst-ever maritime environmental disaster.

Hank Williams Jr. has written a song about Fox & Friends and Monday Night Football being mean to him. Not sure how much credibility writing a song on one day, recording it the next and then releasing it the following day shows for his songwriting process or the production value of country music, but whatever.

Apple's iPhone 4S preorders have broken some type of early order record. Now you have to wait in line, wait until November or bid on this one on eBay that's currently $640.

Authorities in Hungary confiscated more than 100 fake weapons Brad Pitt was going to use to film a new zombie movie over there. Give 'em back, Hungary!

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More than 20 Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night received citations for staying at Piatt Park after its official closing time, a process which included warnings by police and then some peaceful ticketing before police left the occupiers to their business. CityBeat has launched a page dedicated to our ongoing coverage of the protests, including a live feed of #occupycincinnati and #occupycincy hashtags. ---

The New York Times explains how the Occupy Wall Street movement has spurred dialogue over economic inequality despite how many conservatives call its individuals childish things. Here's an interesting report on how the 99 percent movement has intrigued religious scholars, some of whom are comparing the social justice dimensions to those of many religions.

Jump to the bottom of the page for a thoughtful explanation of the movement by former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, standing up to some mope named P.J. O'Rourke on Real Time with Bill Maher.

When County Commissioners find a little extra money, they apparently believe it best to send it on over to the the sheriff's, prosecutor's and public defender's offices rather than Jobs and Family Services so the police can better patrol and prosecute people who don't have jobs or family resources and then do crazy things.

Those proposed public- safety increases come at the expense of Job and Family Services, which is slated to get $843,260 in 2012 — a 26.6 percent decrease. It's the largest percentage cut of any department.

The AP reports that Gov. John Kasich is “literally” barnstorming in support of SB 5 while describing no literal storming of barns, just one of the term's many definitions, this one meaning traveling around the country making political speeches. He's arguing in favor of performance-based pay for teachers, assuming those who navigate the murky methods of teacher evaluation and the questionable legitimacy of standardized texts deserve more money.

Republican presidential candidates are reportedly distancing themselves from a Dallas Baptist pastor's thoughts about Mormonism (considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity). Perry is breaking out the 'ol flip-flop label. 2012 is going to rule.

Two Americans have won the Nobel prize in economics for explaining some of the ways government policy affects the economy. Probably had plenty of data on the subject after 2008.

Are you one of the 1 million people who preordered the iPhone 4S during the first day you could? Y'all impatient.

California has banned indoor tanning for people younger than 18, citing cancer risks (and the state's abundance of sunlight?). The state also bans openly carrying guns. Who does either of those things?