by Kevin Osborne
Many people in Greater Cincinnati still are reeling from the revelation over the weekend that the U.S. soldier who allegedly killed 16 people in Afghanistan grew up in Norwood. Military officials identified U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Bales as the suspect in the case, which has inflamed tensions between Afghanistan and the United States and led to a renewed push to withdraw troops before the planned 2014 departure. Bales, 38, is a 1991 graduate of Norwood High School who joined the Army in November 2001, and was serving his fourth tour of duty when the incident occurred. Bales has been flown to a military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to await trial.The Cincinnati Fire Department is seeking a $6 million federal grant so it can increase staffing levels. If the department wins the grant, it will hold a recruit class to add up to 40 firefighters. The federal funding would cover two years' worth of salary and benefits for the recruits, but the city would have to pay training and equipment costs.Basketball fans are celebrating now that Ohio has four teams in the NCAA Tournament's “Sweet 16.” Ohio University scored an upset victory Friday against Michigan, winning 65-60, and winning 62-56 against South Florida on Sunday night. The Bobcats join the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and Ohio State University in advancing in the tournament.The Buckeye State didn't fare so well in an analysis of government transparency and integrity. Ohio ranked 34th out of 50 states and got an overall grade of “D” in a study by the the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.In news elsewhere, if Mitt Romney gets the Republican Party's presidential nomination and somehow beats President Obama in the fall, he had better reward Puerto Rico in some fashion, possibly by bestowing statehood on the U.S. territory. Romney handily won the GOP's primary there Sunday, getting 83 percent of the votes. Because he won more than 50 percent, Romney will receive all 20 delegates at stake — giving him a much needed boost in his race against Rick Santorum. The next primaries are Tuesday in Illinois and Louisiana.Rick Santorum is turning to a secretive group of rich conservatives to pump cash into his campaign. The ex-Pennsylvania senator is relying on the Council for National Policy to fill his coffers and urge right-wing Republicans to unite behind his presidential bid. The council helped Santorum raise $1.8 million last week in Houston. Formed in 1981, the group brings together some of the Right's biggest donors, and helped George W. Bush in 2000 when his campaign was floundering.Four people are dead after a gunman burst into a Jewish school in France and opened fire. The victims include a teacher, his two sons and another child. Officials said a man arrived in front of the school on a motorcycle or scooter. This is the third attack involving a gunman escaping on a motorcycle to take place in southwestern France during the past week, although police say it's unclear whether the attacks are terrorism-related.Heavy fighting broke out today between Syrian security forces and anti-government activists in a wealthy neighborhood of Damascus. At least 18 members of the security forces were killed in the battle, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but the official SANA news agency put the death toll much lower.An upsurge in fracking means North Dakota will overtake Alaska as the second-largest U.S. producer of oil within a few months, behind Texas. State data released this month showed energy companies in January fracked more wells than they drilled for the first time in five months, suggesting oil output could grow even faster than last year's 35 percent increase.