by Nick Swartsell
43 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:46 AM | Permalink
Court upholds Ohio same-sex marriage ban; McConnell says likely no tolls for Brent Spence; this 100-year-old transit map is crazy
Hey all. Here’s what’s going on around the city and beyond this morning.The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled yesterday to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee. You can read more right here about that ruling, and whether it means a Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage.• Freshly reelected Sen. Mitch McConnell has weighed in again on the Brent Spence Bridge dilemma. The bridge, which is 50 years old and functionally obsolete, though still structurally sound, will need replacing. That comes with a hefty $2 billion price tag, however, which neither Kentucky nor the federal government seems eager to pay for. One solution proposed has been a toll road over the bridge, but that idea has met with stiff opposition from a cadre of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati-area politicians, business leaders and others. McConnell said yesterday that opposition isn’t likely to fade anytime soon, but that there may be a possible solution… corporate tax breaks. He sees the potential for more highway funds that could be used for projects like the bridge through a corporate tax fix that he says could lure more companies back to the U.S.• McConnell’s fellow Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul dreamed up that highway funds proposal, and McConnell says he’s “intrigued.” There’s another news item here entirely, and one perhaps more interesting on the national stage. McConnell and Paul, who have had some cold relations in the past, have been pretty warm to each other lately, and McConnell has signaled he’d be supportive of a Paul presidential bid in 2016.• A bill to simplify Ohio’s tax system may also cost the state’s municipalities a ton of cash. The potential law would change the way businesses like construction companies are taxed, possibly cutting into municipal tax receipts. Mayor John Cranley, along with other regional political leaders, are fighting the bill, and may try to introduce a statewide ballot initiative should the bill pass in the Ohio Statehouse. • Kentucky’s Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson is on his way out of the state, heading for the White House. He’ll be a deputy assistant to President Obama, helping the prez and the federal executive branch coordinate with other governmental bodies, including state, county, city and tribal governments. Given the huge ideological divide between supporters of local and federal power, that sounds like a really, really fun job.• A small group of protesters have gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to draw attention to what they say is a serious problem: drug overdoses in area jails and prisons. Many attendees are members of anti-heroin groups who have had family members of friends die of overdoses. They’re questioning how the drug is able to make its way to people behind bars. The region is suffering from a severe heroin crisis, with overdose deaths increasing significantly in the past few years.• So, now that Republicans control the Senate, will the new top Senator on science be Texas' Ted Cruz, a noted climate-change denier? Could happen. Cruz looks to be next in line for chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space. Republican Sen. James Inhofe, another doubter when it comes to climate change science, looks likely to chair the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which is also going to be a big change-up.• Finally in our truncated Friday edition of morning news, I have a confession: There are many things in this world I’m a huge dork about, but history, maps and public transit are all near the top. That said, I just want you to take a look at this amazing, 100-year-old 3-dimensional transit ridership map from Germany. Dang man.
by Nick Swartsell
96 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:07 AM | Permalink
Mahogany's seeks deal with city; Kentucky felons could regain voting rights; journalists are the most caffeinated
Hey Cincinnati! Here’s your news for the day. Mahogany’s at The Banks is closed, but the controversy continues. The restaurant closed Friday after its landlord asked it to vacate The Banks due to state sales tax violations and back rent the restaurant owed. Yesterday, owner Liz Rogers and her attorney presented the city with a proposal via a multi-page letter to City Manager Harry Black. The letter said that Mahogany’s had indeed closed its location at The Banks, but suggested a seven-point compromise between the city and the restaurant. That compromise includes forgiveness of a $300,000 debt Rogers owes the city and a $12,000 payment from Rogers to the city for furniture and equipment purchased with the city loan. The letter charges that the city, while accommodating in some ways, set the restaurant up to fail by not providing conditions necessary to keep the business going and by leaking information about its financial struggles to the press. Rogers’ attorney states that she was told there would be a hotel and other amenities that would draw people to the riverfront development and suggested she could sue the city and her landlord for fraud, defamation of character, discrimination, breach of contract and other charges for not meeting its end of the bargain. It’s a fairly brazen move, considering Mahogany’s has fallen behind on loan and rent payments and that the city of late has been less than interested in making further deals with the restaurant. No word on a response from the city yet, but we’ll be updating as that happens.• When folks say the Brent Spence Bridge is falling apart, they mean it literally. A group of Bengals fans Sunday got a rude surprise when big concrete chunks of an offramp from the bridge plunged from a support beam into the windshield of their car, parked just East of Longworth Hall. They were at the game at the time and no one was injured, but the incident underscores the precarious condition of the vital bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River. An annual inspection of the roadways around the bridge is scheduled to begin today. • Officials in Butler County are mulling converting part of a struggling county-run nursing home into a detox center for heroin addicts.
Support for government-run nursing homes has been waning for years, and
Butler County’s is one of the last in the state. Officials with the
nursing home argue there is a need for the facility and that by
extending care to those needing addiction treatment, they can serve
another need while staying solvent. But some county officials, including
outspoken Sherriff Richard Jones, aren’t convinced the nursing home
should continue to exist at all, and they see addiction treatment there
as more risk than it's worth. • Kentucky is moving closer to restoring voting for people with certain felonies. Currently, Kentuckians who have served time for a felony need a pardon from the governor to regain their voting rights. Only three other states have this requirement. Three bills proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution are currently being considered in the Kentucky legislature. An amendment, which requires passage by 60 percent of legislators and a statewide vote, would allow felons to cast ballots again after they’ve served prison time and probation. Those convicted of homicide, treason, bribery or sex crimes would not be eligible. One supporter of the proposal is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has been using justice system reform as a way to reach out to voters outside the traditional Republican base as he positions himself to run for president in 2016.• In national news, the Census Bureau tomorrow will release its 2013 poverty statistics for America, giving us data on how much slow-moving economic recovery from the Great Recession has aided the country’s lowest earners. The news is not expected to be overwhelmingly good: While the unemployment rate has been falling, the poverty rate has barely budged, revealing that simply employing folks in any old (increasingly low-wage) job can’t get us back to where we were before the recession. Jared Bernstein, an economist with progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, sums up his projection of the data thusly: “…if I’m in the ballpark, Tuesday’s release will be another reminder of why many Americans still feel pretty gloomy about the recovery: It hasn’t much reached them.”• Finally, I just have to throw this in here: a new study says that journalists consume more coffee than those in any other profession, drinking an average of four cups a day. I’d say I’m still just a fledgling journalist, and so I stick with one cup, though like my dark, cynical journalist heart, it is always completely black, ice cold and nearly bottomless. No, seriously, I get the biggest one Dunkin Donuts has, which is roughly the size of a small wastebasket.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Northside Community Council voted July 21
to create a needle exchange program in the neighborhood. The effort,
run by the Cincinnati Exchange Program, will start sometime in August
and operate from a van one day a week for three hours at a time. Planned
Parenthood will also participate, providing testing services for
diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:40 PM | Permalink
UC professor suggests different approach to addressing opiate epidemic
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 31, 2013
out about Melissa’s death on Dec. 15, 10 days before
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A food writer for website Deadspin ranked eating Cincinnati chili as a more painful experience than getting hit by a car. CINCINNATI -2
Local efforts join state battle against sex trafficking, prostitution
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In our present-day American society, the
term “modern-day slavery” sounds almost like an oxymoron. Slavery, we
think, is a dark stamp in a long American history; at worst, it’s
something we think is isolated to poorly developed countries.