CityBeat Blogs - Drugs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-204.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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<![CDATA[Poll: Ohio Moving Left on Social Issues]]>

Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.

The poll found an overwhelming majority — 87 percent — of Ohioans support legalizing marijuana for medical uses. About 51 percent support allowing adults to legally possess a small amount of the drug. And 83 percent agree marijuana is equally or less dangerous than alcohol.

At the same time, 50 percent of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not.

A plurality of voters — 34 percent versus 26 percent — also disapproved of Gov. John Kasich’s handling of abortion. (In the latest state budget, Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature imposed new restrictions on abortions and abortion providers.)

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio voters from Feb. 12 to Feb. 17 for the poll, producing a 2.7 percent margin of error.

The findings indicate the state is moving left on the biggest social issues of the day.

In 2004, Ohioans approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Last year, a Saperstein Associates poll conducted for The Columbus Dispatch found 63 percent of Ohioans favor legalizing medical marijuana, but 59 percent said they oppose full-on legalization. (Given the different methodologies, it’s unclear how Saperstein Associates’ results compare to Quinnipiac University’s poll.)

Whether the liberal shift applies to ballot initiatives remains to be seen. This year, two groups aim to get medical marijuana and same-sex marriage on the Ohio ballot.

Contrary to what polling numbers might imply, it currently seems more likely same-sex marriage will end up on the ballot this year. FreedomOhio, which is leading the effort, says it already has the petition signatures required to get the issue on the ballot in November, even though other LGBT groups, including Equality Ohio, say the effort should wait until 2016.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Rights Group admits it doesn’t yet have the signatures required to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The organization has until July to gather 385,247 petition signatures, which in large part must come from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties. In the very unlikely scenario the Ohio Rights Group gets all the petitions in circulation back with 36 legitimate signatures filled out on each, the organization would have about 246,000 signatures.

Still, with support seemingly growing, it seems unlikely medical marijuana and same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Ohio for much longer.

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

Mayor John Cranley says his parking plan intends to alleviate Cincinnati’s ongoing budget woes by increasing parking revenue, but the plan will need approval from a majority of City Council to become law. The plan wouldn’t increase parking meter rates downtown, but it would increase neighborhood rates by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. The plan would also increase enforcement at parking meters, which could lead to more tickets, and extend enforcement hours to 9 p.m. around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the plan would not give control of the city’s parking meter rates and hours to outside entities, like the parking privatization plan did. Cranley plans to send the proposal to the Neighborhood Committee, with a full council vote possible in two weeks.

An Ohio House committee yesterday cleared a pair of controversial election bills that would reduce the state’s early voting period by one week — effectively eliminating a “Golden Week” in which voters can register and vote at the same time — and restrict counties’ abilities to mail out absentee ballot applications. The bills wouldn’t go into effect until after the May 6 primary. Democrats say the bills are blatant attempts at voter suppression, but Republicans, some of whom acknowledge they politically benefit from reduced access to voting, say the reform is necessary to eliminate voting disparities between urban and rural counties. The bills still need approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.

A bill placing age requirements on electronic cigarettes yesterday passed an Ohio Senate committee. Critics of the bill argue it doesn’t go far enough because it puts e-cigarettes in a different category than tobacco, which exempts e-cigarettes from higher taxes and stricter regulations even though they contain addictive substances and potential health risks. Kasich and the rest of the legislature need to OK the proposal before it becomes law.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reopened three school-based health clinics closed after Neighborhood Health Care’s abrupt shutdown.

A poll worker in Avondale allegedly voted twice, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

The Ohio Department of Education plans to increase the number of weeks schools can administer state tests to alleviate time concerns brought on by excessive snow days.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House plans to vote on a bill that would let schools take on more snow days this year.

A Christian university located south of Columbus gets public dollars to teach “biblical truth,” an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found. And the school’s president and lobbyist just happen to sit on the Ohio Board of Education.

NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw revealed he has cancer.

RoboCop isn’t that far off from reality.

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

Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.

A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.

Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.

Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.

Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.

January birthed a few cute zoo animals.

A study found 1,300 airborne microbes in Beijing's smog.

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<![CDATA[Drug History Scholar Touts Alternative to War on Drugs]]>

Rises in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.

The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.

But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.

Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity.

CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic?

Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally use. That’s No. 1.

No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons of overdoses.

CB: The governor unveiled an initiative essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use with students. And then the state legislature is considering strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know, do these kind of solutions work?

IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them. They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something else.

They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before, so they’ve changed to something else.

I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that.

CB: As you alluded to, one study found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?

IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do — and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a crackdown on that.

Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium.

So all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know what the dosage is.

CB: Based on your research, what kind of solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose program.

IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the street and buying from black-market dealers.

CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties, criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they could be doing better in this regard?

IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease of the brain.

I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict.

Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter.

But addiction problems are real problems. People really do become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are illegal. …

We can’t really expect the government to figure out all these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way.

CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year, Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization could help put an end to this kind of violence?

IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs.

Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal.

It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding more violence.

CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons?

IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s incredible.

CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000 worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that?

IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium- or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those organization will be weakened.

I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology to thwart the high technology being directed at them.

Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states. But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that sort of thing.

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<![CDATA[National Drug Take-Back Day Set for Tomorrow ]]>

If your medicine cabinet could use a good fall cleaning, think about de-cluttering tomorrow during National Drug Take-Back day so you can properly dispose of the pills and make sure they don't get into the wrong hands. 

The local prescription take-back is sponsored by the Hamilton Country Sheriff Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Prescription drug abuse is a rampant public safety and health issues, and take-back programs are one of a number of public health measures communities can take to reduce prescription drug abuse in their neighborhoods.

Even flushing the pills down the toilet poses its own risks; the chemicals could make their way into our water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that fish have suffered serious deformities from pharmaceutical-tainted water supplies, and it could affect humans, too, although the research isn't strong enough to draw any solid conclusions yet. 

There are three locations around the city where you can bring old prescriptions (all locations are open from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.):

  • Miami Township Community Center, 3780 Shady Lane, North Bend, OH 45052
  • Symmes Township Safety Center, 8871 Weekly Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45249
  • Anderson Center, Five Mile Road, Cincinnati, OH 45230

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for reasons other than which they were prescribed. In 2010, 7 million Americans abused a prescription drug; pain relieving medications like Vicodin and Oxycontin are the most commonly abused drugs.

Unintentional drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio. The state has experienced a 440 percent growth rate in accidental overdose deaths from 1999 to 2011.

According to DrugAbuse.gov, teenagers are especially likely to abuse medications because of their easy accessibility and a lack of awareness about the consequences of abuse.

Needles, IV bags and radioactive medicines will not be accepted.

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

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts. The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a “change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in anti-discrimination statutes.

A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.

Ohio officials are considering rules that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

A state senator proposed a bill that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at 3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.

A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.

The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.

Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.

Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

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

Anywhere but here.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff ]]> Happy Government Shutdown. Check out CityBeat's coverage here.

Opponents of H.B. 7, a new law that will enforce Ohio's ban on Internet cafes that promote illegal gambling operation, failed to gather enough signatures for a referendum. The law, signed by Gov. John Kasich on June 4, goes into effect today.

Fountain Square's new locally-owned, independent bookstore and cafe, The Booksellers, hosts its grand opening today and Saturday. Read CityBeat's interview with Booksellers owner and founder of Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Neil Van Uum, here.

Entertainment Group 4EG is offering "government shutdown discounts" to all federal workers who can produce a government ID at its locations: Get $2 domestic beers at Igby's, The Lackman, Righteous Room, Pavilion, Sandbar, The Stand, St. Clair and Tap & Go, plus discounted appetizers at its Keystone Bar & Grill locations.

Ohio's
revised execution policy maintains use of pentobarbital in its death-penalty protocol, but now allows the state to secure the drug from compounding pharmacies. The state has currently been securing the drug, in short supply all across the country, from manufacturers and distributors. The revisions, however, don't address the shortage of the drug, which the state claimed it ran out of after using it to administer Harry Mitts Jr.'s exuection on Sept. 25.

Ten thousand Pacific walruses have beached themselves on a remote island off Alaska's northwest coast, unable to find sea ice as the result of climate change.

Fox News is being sued for broadcasting footage of an Arizona man shoot himself in the head on live air at the end of a car case on Sept. 28, 2012.

Dusty Baker has been canned from his position as Reds manager three days after his team lost the National League Wild Card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Mariam Carey, the dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn., who was killed outside the Capitol building yesterday in a high-speed police car chase after she allegedly tried to ram the White House gates, suffered from post-partum depression. 

Here are the six best science lessons we've learned from Walter White.

Have any questions for City Council candidates? It's your last chance to submit them here and we may choose your questions at tomorrow's candidate forum at 7 p.m. at the Greenwich in Walnut Hills.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

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

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Local business groups, unions, progressive organizations, the mayor and all council members are united against a tea party-backed ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, and a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute helps explain the opposition. The report echoes concerns from both sides: It finds new employees would have their benefits cut by one-third under the tea party’s proposed system, but it also shows that, when measured differently, Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability might currently stand at $2.57 billion, more than three times the $862 million estimate city officials typically use. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city employees contribute to and manage their own individual retirement accounts; under the current system, the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to move workers from a public system to private, 401k-style plans. Voters will decide on the amendment when it appears on the ballot as Issue 4 on Nov. 5.

Environmental and business groups argued in front of the Ohio Senate yesterday that a new deregulatory bill would effectively gut Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and hurt the state’s green businesses, but the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), claims it’s “not as loosey-goosey” as environmental and business groups make it seem. The biggest point of contention: Seitz’s bill would allow utility companies to count energy savings that are seen as “business as usual” toward energy efficiency standards. That, green groups argue, would let businesses claim they’re becoming more energy efficient without making any real energy-efficiency investments. It could also cost Ohioans more money: A previous report from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found the bill could increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s bill in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the deregulatory attempts here.

The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill that expands local authority to pursue needle-exchange programs that would provide clean needles to drug addicts. Supporters of the bill say it would help local communities reduce drug-related infections and perhaps drug addiction, but opponents claim it surrenders to drug pushers by enabling more drug activity. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization found “a compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at either the individual or societal level.” CityBeat covered the war on drugs and the changing approach to combating Ohio and the nation’s drug problems in further detail here.

Some help for voting: “2013 City Council Candidates at a Glance.”

The Cincinnati Bengals want a new high-definition scoreboard that could cost county taxpayers $10 million. But taxpayers don’t have much of a choice in the matter; the stadium lease requires taxpayers purchase and install new technology, including a scoreboard, at the Bengals’ request once the technology is taken up at 14-plus other NFL stadiums.

Women gathered at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday to protest measures in the recently passed state budget that restrict access to legal abortions and defund family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. CityBeat covered the state budget, including the anti-abortion restrictions, in further detail here.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says Republican legislators should forget their fight against Obamacare and instead focus on a deficit-reduction package. Republicans helped cause a federal government shutdown by only passing budget bills that weaken Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to negotiate over the health care law, which is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s legacy-defining domestic policy. Meanwhile, Obamacare’s online marketplaces opened on Tuesday, allowing participants to compare and browse subsidized private insurance plans. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote them in further detail here.

The $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will require tolls, according to a study released by Kentucky and Ohio transportation officials on Thursday. Officials at every level of government have been pursuing a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge as concerns mount over its economy-damaging inadequacies.

A $26 million residential and retail development project is coming just north of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works is using an extra layer of ultraviolet disinfection treatment to make local water cleaner.

The second round of Ohio’s job training program offers $30 million to help businesses train workers so they can remain competitive without shedding employees.

“Project Censored” analyzes the stories the mainstream media failed to cover in the past year. Check the list out here.

A new study found eye contact makes people less likely to agree with a persuasive argument, especially if they’re skeptical in the first place.

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

With the war on drugs widely considered a failure after more than four decades, experts are suggesting legalization and decriminalization as viable alternatives. One concern: Despite recent attempts at sentencing reform, Ohio’s prison population is set to grow further and breach a capacity barrier previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling against California. With costs rising and drug use rates seemingly unaffected by harsher enforcement, groups of academics, former law enforcement officials and civil libertarians say it’s time to look at states and countries that have abandoned criminalization and harsh enforcement with great success. To read the full story, click here.

A planned supportive housing facility in Avondale is raising concerns for residents who claim the complex could hurt a neighborhood already plagued by poverty, crime, obesity, unemployment and homelessness. Particularly worrying for Avondale 29, the group opposing the plans, is that the facility is near a daycare and elementary school, which the group says could have a negative impact on neighborhood children. Supporters of the facility say the opposition is based on widespread misinformation. They point to a similar similar supportive housing facility in Columbus, which, according to the Columbus Police Department’s Gary Scott, had a positive impact on the community surrounding it.

Opponents of Cincinnati’s parking lease were dealt two major blows in court yesterday: The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear their first legal challenge and effectively upheld the city’s referendum-immune emergency powers, and the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court refused to place a temporary restraining order on the lease despite claims that the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the deal without City Council approval. Both the challenges come from the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims parking rates and enforcement hours will rise because the city is ceding too much power over its services by leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. Supporters of the parking lease argue the plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets to finance development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.

Commentary: “Secrecy Plagues Potentially Good Programs.”

The city is fighting to have a document removed from its legal battle over the streetcar with Duke Energy. City officials says the document is “nothing scandalous” and the city just made a mistake by accidentally disclosing it, but a Duke attorney says the document is a source of “embarrassment” for the city and important to the case. As part of an agreement, Cincinnati and Duke are arguing in court to settle who has to pay an estimated $15 million to move utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar route.

Advocates of the federally funded Medicaid expansion yesterday filed petitions to the state attorney general’s office to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. If they accept, the federal government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three years then indefinitely phase down to 90 percent. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure half a million Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and state Democrats support the expansion, but Republican legislators are resisting it.

More than two-thirds of Ohioans support laws that protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, but more than four in five mistakenly think such laws are already in place at the state and federal levels, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey also found a slim majority of Ohioans oppose amending the state constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which somewhat contradicts earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University that found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.

State agencies are probing the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison in the past month. Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man who was sentenced to life for kidnapping three women and beating and raping them as he held them for a decade, was found hanging on Tuesday after an apparent suicide. His death was the seventh suicide in an Ohio prison this year and the 35th since 2008. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be, the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and others,” said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, in a statement. “Questions remain whether Mr. Castro was properly screened for suicide risk and mental illness.”

The Ohio Development Services Agency is offering $30 million in loans and grants to employers who train their workforce. “Building a strong economy is about ensuring Ohio’s workforce has the tools it needs for success,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a statement. “We want our workforce to be ready for the competitive jobs of tomorrow.”

Ohio legislators are asking the federal government to pursue a balanced-budget amendment. Although the amendment might sound like a good idea in campaign platitudes, many economists agree it’s a bad idea because it limits the federal government’s flexibility in reacting to economic downturns that typically cause deficits by lowering tax revenues and increasing the amount of people on government services.

A Fairfield, Ohio, woman is being forced by the Fairfield Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of five of her seven dogs. The woman, who says she suffers from depression, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, says she needs the dogs to cope. The zoning board said it had heard anonymous complaints from neighbors, which apparently convinced the board to not provide an exemption for Fairfield’s two-pet limit.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is considering dropping some products and offering low-price alternatives for others in response to growing concerns about lacking performance.

For the second time in a year, an Ohio judge is publicly shaming a convicted idiot.

A new implant allows doctors look into people’s brains.

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

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

Also, take our texting while driving survey here.

With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the program is experiencing hurdles as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs, which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job training. But critics, backed by county officials and business organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.

The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.

Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants” at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.

Commentary: “JobsOhio: Something to Hide, Something to Fear?”

With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s swimming pools.

Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was “reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious courses outside of school.

Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.

Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.

NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.

Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.

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<![CDATA[Mayoral Candidate to Hand Out Marijuana Plants]]>

Update (June 5, 11:20 p.m.): Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn't hand out marijuana plants at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.

In perhaps an act of civil disobedience, Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is planning to hand out marijuana plants at a campaign event Wednesday.

But the event could run foul of state law for both Berns and attendees. Ohio law prohibits obtaining, possessing or using a controlled substance — a category that includes marijuana.

The event will take place at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Clifton Avenue on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

"If you want one of the plants I suggest you get there early," Berns said in a statement.

In this year's mayoral race, Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally considered the top contenders, although neither candidate has received an official endorsement from the local Democratic Party.

Berns has differentiated himself from the frontrunners by pushing marijuana legalization in his platform.

Drug prohibition laws are generally dictated at state and federal levels, but city governments can legalize or decriminalize certain drugs and force police departments to give the issue lower priority.

Marijuana is already decriminalized in Ohio. Cincinnati re-criminalized the drug in 2006, but the drug was decriminalized through a city budget passed in 2010.

Some groups are attempting to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. CityBeat covered those efforts in further detail here.

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

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD) attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.

A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda, leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again. Still, lawmakers say theyre only giving the law one hearing as required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the nation.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334, which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.

Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.

Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor. So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice — supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on Election Day.

A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?

The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.

Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.

In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:

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

School superintendents will hear about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”

Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers following a late December report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff, affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has held for years.

A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate for drug testing to lower the costs, while others argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users. Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and harmful.

The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.

The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding. The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.

A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.

The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.

A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.

Ohio gas prices are still rising.

Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.

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

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

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

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

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


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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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The ongoing saga involving Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig and his nonexistent policing powers will continue into July, as a hearing scheduled for Thursday has been continued. Craig's attorneys will argue in front of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission that his prior experience, and certification in three other states, should exempt him from a state rule requiring all officers pass a certification exam before earning police powers. Craig believes he was hired to do things other than study for an entry-level policing test, and some states would already have certified him.

A statewide ban on texting while driving moved through the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. The law makes the writing, sending or reading of a text message while driving a secondary offense, meaning officers may not pull over an adult driver for the act. Teens, however, under House Bill 99 will be prohibited from using any electronic device other than GPS and may be pulled over for it.

Kasich on Tuesday followed through with the GOP plan to overturn its own controversial election law that was to go before voters in November. State Republicans and election officials now say there's no reason for the law to go in front of voters thanks to the 300,000 signatures gathered by President Obama's re-election campaign and other opponents, but opponents of the election law point out that the repeal still reaffirms an election law change that would end early voting the weekend before an election. Democrats plan to keep the issue on the ballot.

But people on both sides of the issue say there's no precedent for a legislative repeal of a bill that also is the subject of a referendum, so it's unclear how a court might rule if a legal challenge is filed.

Jennifer Brunner, a former Democratic secretary of state and a leader in the Fair Elections Ohio campaign that brought the referendum, said Tuesday that the action taken by Gov. John Kasich and Legislature doesn't force the removal of the question from November ballots.

"Since this issue is a case of first impression for any court, we do not see the statement of the Secretary of State to be determinative on this issue," Brunner said in an email. "The issue remains on the ballot."

More drama from Columbus: Republicans are moving forward with a test program requiring some welfare recipients to submit to drug testing in order to continue receiving benefits. Opponents say the process stigmatizes the poor, while the GOP says it's just a simple process involving poor people paying the upfront costs for drug tests, being reimbursed if they pass and living on the streets for six months if they fail.

Northern Kentucky leaders plan to use the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine as a model for reinvesting in their urban core. A nonprofit organization has raised $10 million during the past five years to get started spurring commercial and residential investment.

Two Kentucky high school students who were turned away from their senior prom for arriving as a same-sex couple have argued that if their Catholic high school wants to ban students based on upholding the church's teachings, such a ban should include couples who have had premarital sex and kids who plan to get wasted after the prom.

Apparently viewers of Harry's Law, which was set in Cincinnati and used a stage-version of Arnold's as the lawyer gang's regular hangout, are too old to attract advertising dollars despite their relatively high numbers.

The show ranked very low among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about. In fact, its young-adult numbers were beneath those for "Prime Suspect," a cop show that NBC canceled earlier this season, and roughly on par with those of "Off Their Rockers," the Betty White show about senior citizens pulling pranks on younger people.

"It was a difficult decision," an NBC executive said Sunday, quoted by the site Deadline.com. "Everyone here respects 'Harry's Law' a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and it is hard to monetize that."

President Obama raised $44 million during April for his and other Democratic campaigns.

John Boehner says that when the federal government raises the debt limit again America can expect another prolonged fight about cuts.

George W. Bush has found “freedom” wherever he ended up after having little to offer the GOP after his tumultuous two terms as president. From ABC News:

We don't see much of Bush these days. He's the president that a lot of people would like to forget, still so toxic that he's widely considered more likely to hurt than help the Republican Party by participating in the 2012 campaign.

Bush's speech Tuesday morning was a rare exception. He spoke in a small, nondescript room to about 200 people about democracy activists, promoting a human rights campaign that's part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

His presence on the national stage is perhaps best seen in his presence on the small stage at 1777 F Street. At the end of the affair, Bush and his wife were called back up to be presented with writings by Czech human rights icon Vaclav Havel. They posed for pictures as the audience clapped, and when they were done, Bush glanced around as if unsure what to do next.

He walked back to his seat, but then quickly walked back onto the stage and behind the lectern. He leaned forward into the microphone, paused, and said slyly, "Thanks for coming."

Bush waited a second or two. Then he said, "See ya later."

He waved, and then he left.

Is U.S. energy independence a pipe dream? This article says no.

Apple might soon give you a larger iPhone screen.

A private rocket launch this week could be the start of commercial space travel.

Here are some important tips about sunscreen as summer approaches and the circle in the sky threatens to burn off our skin.

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<![CDATA[Marijuana Group to Hold Forum]]>

A retired Cincinnati police captain will be among the speakers Thursday at a local event about legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in Ohio.

 

Howard Rahtz, who retired from the Cincinnati Police Department in 2007, will speak at a forum organized by the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association (OMCA). The group is trying to collect enough signatures to get an amendment to Ohio’s constitution on the ballot that would allow the use of cannabis with a physician’s prescription.

 

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Room 500 at Swift Hall on the University of Cincinnati campus.

 

Other speakers will include Theresa Daniello, a mother of five children who is OMCA’s executive director, and Mark Ramach, the group’s attorney.

 

After their presentation, attendees can participate in a question and answer session about the proposed amendment.

 

Rahtz, who is a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a conservative who has no interest in using drugs but supports legal and controlled public sale of marijuana. With a dual background in drug treatment and drug interdiction, Rahtz has first-hand experience with drug enforcement policy.

 

“I defy you to find anybody who will applaud what the war on drugs has accomplished,” Rahtz told CityBeat in June 2011. “Use rates have not changed in four decades. We’ve accomplished nothing. We spend more money, we incarcerate more people than any other place in the world and we end up with less for it. The fact is, what we’re doing isn’t working. My question is, particularly in this age of shrinking resources, are we going to continue pouring money down this rat hole?”

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