by Kevin Osborne
Even though it has provided it for years, Xavier University will stop including contraceptives in its health insurance coverage for faculty and staff beginning July 1. The Jesuit university employs about 950 people. In a letter posted on the university website, Xavier President Michael J. Graham wrote, “it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures which the church opposes.” Of course, some Catholic bishops, including Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, are raising a stink about a new federal rule that requires most religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals to begin offering birth control as part of health-care reforms. Either Mr. Graham got a sudden bout of conscience or he's politicizing an item that caused no controversy for years, until the church hierarchy decided it was time to flex its collective muscle.Stores and other businesses that want to use off-duty Cincinnati police officers for security might soon have to pay more for the privilege. City Hall staffers are recommending the city start charging an hourly fee when they use the off-duty cops. Officials said they need the funds to cover the administrative costs of the program.If you like stopping by Findlay Market to pick up some sushi, gelato or fresh produce, you might want to consider riding your bike there or taking the bus starting later this month, if you need to save money. That's because the market's three main parking lots will become pay lots for the first time since 1999, beginning April 23. The new fees are 50 cents an hour Monday-Friday, and $1 an hour on weekends with a $2 maximum, although motorists will get the first hour free. Also, monthly parking permits will cost $45.Joey Votto, the talented Cincinnati Reds first baseman, is close to signing a new deal that likely would make him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball. According to the website MLBtraderumors.com, Votto is close to reaching a long-term deal with the Reds. Details haven't been disclosed, but the website speculated it would have to be near the $200 million that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got last year.Hamilton County commissioners have rejected a request to place a property tax levy on the November ballot that would've raised $150 million to pay for repairs at the historic Union Terminal. It's the second consecutive year that commissioners rejected the request, citing the bad economy. Also, they said taxpayers shouldn't pay for the entire cost and that private donations should be sought.In news elsewhere, there are primary elections held today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is trailing rival Mitt Romney in delegates won so far, and polls suggest Romney will score some crucial victories tonight. In fact, President Obama has begun treating Romney as though he's already won the Republican nomination. Obama's reelection campaign is running a new TV ad in five swing states attacking Romney by name for the first time.The U.S. Justice Department is offering a $10 million bounty for the arrest of of Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The reward is intended to increase the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups.Two forensic voice experts have concluded it wasn't shooter George Zimmerman that is heard crying for help on a disputed 911 call before an unarmed teenager was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. The experts, hired by The Orlando Sentinel, reviewed the tape using state-of-the-art voice identification software, and said the cries weren't from Zimmerman and instead were from Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who died that night. “You can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman,” one of the experts said.The notorious Koch brothers, the ultra-conservative industrialists that discreetly bankroll various far-Right causes, are having a bad time recently. The FBI announced it was investigating two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political organization they founded and fund. Then, a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain nonprofit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list.Researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies have compiled the human, economic, social and political costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as U.S. military actions in Pakistan. PBS commentator Bill Moyers recently summarized the findings which include 224,475 lives lost, 365,383 people wounded and 7.8 million refugees and internally displaced people, along with $1.3 trillion in Congressional War Appropriations, between $3.7-$4.4 trillion estimated total costs to American taxpayers and $1 trillion more in interest payments through 2020 on money the United States borrowed for war (mostly from China). Was it all worth it?