by Kevin Osborne
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.
by Kevin Osborne
Shadowy ALEC group helps push for the laws
An analysis of U.S. crime data by a British newspaper has found there’s been a 25 percent increase in civilian justifiable homicides since the controversial “stand your ground” (SYG) laws started being introduced in 2005.London’s Guardian newspaper analyzed data from FBI and state sources. It concludes that the spike in civilian justifiable homicides is related not only to SYG laws, but also weak gun control laws in certain states.Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Most were passed in 2006. Ohio doesn’t yet have such a law, but it’s believed that gun advocates might be planning a campaign for one here soon.Florida’s SYG law is expected to be part of the defense made for George Zimmerman, if he is charged with a crime. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The incident has triggered widespread public outrage.The Guardian’s analysis shows that SYG laws alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides. But in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun control laws — as defined by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — it found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides.Across the United States, such killings have risen sharply over the past five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. From 2001-05, there were 1,225 homicides classified as justifiable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-10. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling."The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We're evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force,” said Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an ex-police sergeant in Florida. "People are literally getting away with murder."SYG laws allow a potential crime victim who is in fear of “grave harm” to use deadly force in public places, not just inside their own homes. They eliminate the legal requirement to retreat before a person may claim he or she acted in self-defense.SYG laws have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use.State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here. The group, which held its annual meeting in Cincinnati last spring, has a membership of nearly 2,000 state legislators and around 300 private-sector members.Funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association, oil companies and others, ALEC’s model bills have served as the template for "voter ID" laws that swept the nation in 2011, for the voucher programs that privatize public education, for anti-immigrant legislation, and for the wave of anti-labor union legislation pushed during the past two years in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere.This week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dropped their memberships in ALEC, amid the threat of boycotts.In 2010 National Public Radio reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private-sector ALEC board member, participated in the drafting of Arizona Senate Bill No. 1070. The report documented the behind-the-scenes effort to draft and pass the law and how the CCA stood to benefit from people incarcerated under it.Marvin Meadors, a Huffington Post contributor, has described ALEC as “a bill-churning mill which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the Far Right and encourages crony capitalism.”
by Kevin Osborne
Ending months of speculation about why a special prosecutor was investigating her, a Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader was indicted Thursday for allegedly having sex with an underage student while she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood. A grand jury indicted Sarah Jones on first-degree sexual abuse and a charge of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts. The charges are felonies that are punishable by up to five years in prison. She resigned from her teaching job in November. Jones won $11 million in a default judgment in summer 2010 arising from a libel lawsuit she filed against Thedirty.com, a gossip website. An online post had claimed Jones had two venereal diseases and was having sex in her high school classroom. The website has asked that the judgment be dismissed, while Jones has appeared on TV shows like ABC’s 20/20 to discuss cyber-harassment.Cincinnati officials are touting how the violent crime rate in Over-the-Rhine has dropped in recent months, on the heels of the FBI and local police arresting five alleged gang members Thursday that are accused of committing crimes there. Police note there hasn't been a homicide in Over-the-Rhine in the past seven months, adding stepped up patrols partially are responsible..Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Thursday that is designed to crack down on human trafficking. His order creates a task force to coordinate statewide rescue efforts, law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, and services for victims. The task force is scheduled to report back to Kasich within 90 days on the problem's scope and how best to address it.As The Enquirer's parent company this week sheds numerous employees by offering a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal, a union representing reporters at The Dayton Daily News are fighting efforts to replace older, more highly paid workers. The Dayton Newspaper Guild rallied outside the Cox Media Center on Wednesday, as the union resumes contract negotiations with the media company. Guild leaders said newspaper executives are seeking unlimited power to use freelancers to replace professional journalists, along with wanting to abolish job security for its most experienced workers by eliminating seniority-based layoffs. Cox also owns newspapers in Mason, West Chester, Hamilton and Middletown.A Columbus man is crediting his friend for saving his life after a freak accident involving a turkey. Ohio State University “super fan” John Chubb, who also is known as “Buck i Guy,” was recently driving home on Interstate 79 from Pittsburgh after the Buckeyes’ win over Gonzaga when a turkey crashed through his windshield and knocked him unconscious. Chubb's friend, a retired Columbus firefighter, grabbed the steering wheel and safely brought the car to a stop. (Shades of Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”)In news elsewhere, a group launching a $3.6 million advertising campaign criticizing President Obama for high gasoline prices is connected to the notorious Koch brothers. The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and sources told Politico that both groups are funded partly by industrialists Charles and David Koch and their donor network. In all, the brothers’ network is aiming to steer significantly more than $200 million to conservative groups for political advertising and organizing ahead of Election Day.A conservative think tank with ties to local politicians has been drawn into the controversy over Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's shooting death. The unarmed 17-year-old was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer who is expected to use Florida's “stand your ground” law as his defense. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers, promoted "stand your ground" laws. A statement issued by ALEC said the law probably is being misapplied in Martin's case: “It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation." State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here.Meanwhile, the police reports from the two officers who first responded to the scene of Martin's shooting have been posted online. They reveal what the officers encountered and how shooter George Zimmerman reacted upon being confronted by police.Newt Gingrich's recent casual attitude toward his supposed presidential campaign might now have an explanation. The Washington Times has revealed that Gingrich secretly met with GOP rival, Mitt Romney, on Saturday. The ex-House Speaker said he has made no deal to end his bid for the Republican nomination, adding he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out. Curiouser and curiouser.The Human Rights Campaign has obtained confidential documents from a prominent anti-gay rights group that indicates its legislative strategy includes trying to divide African-American and gay voters and pit them against one another. The documents, from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), were unsealed this week in a Maine court case. “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,”the NOM report states. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” Seems like that strategy worked with our local NAACP president, Christopher Smitherman.
Local activist exposes decades of secret legislation
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Within two hours of helping stage a loud protest outside a spring convention of conservative policymakers, Over-the-Rhine resident Aliya Rahman got a telephone call that has now triggered a media groundswell. “I have information about ALEC,” said a voice. Six weeks earlier, 29-year-old Rahman had been a Miami Univeristy Ph.D. student and labor organizer who wondered why an Ohio budget clause threatening to deregulate wages.