WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 01.30.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Education, Voting, Budget, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich

Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong. Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights. Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012. That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012. A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.” Cincinnati is extending its contract with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties. When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state. Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014. Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.28.2013
Posted In: Economy, Education, Drugs, News, Budget, Prisons at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers

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.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2013
Posted In: Education, Energy, Environment, Economy, News, Budget at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
debe terhar

Morning News and Stuff

Terhar compares Obama to Hitler, Cincinnati unemployment drops, Portman's deficit plan

Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November. The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force, which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18, the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to get the spending cuts they so badly want. Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015, when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to gradually rise. A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving. The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in the 2006-2007 school year. A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer.  As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013. The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game. Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?
 
 
by German Lopez 01.18.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy, Economy, Redistricting at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State unemployment drops, GOP embraces redistricting, Cincinnati climate-friendly

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent in November, according to new numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in December. The amount of unemployed dropped from 391,000 to 388,000. Unfortunately, the amount of employed also dropped, indicating that some people are leaving the labor force. The Republican State Leadership Committee admitted the only reason Republicans kept a House majority was politicized redistricting. The admission from a memo titled “How a Strategy of Targeting State Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in 2013.” The report even singled out Ohio as a state that benefited Republicans due to redistricting. CityBeat previously covered the issue in-depth here. Cincinnati is among three finalists in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour City Challenge. The contest judges efforts to combat global warming. Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco were chosen by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for preparing their cities for a “climate-friendly future,” according to a statement from WWF. At this point, it’s looking like Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals will take months for legislators to sort through. The proposals include major changes to taxes, the Ohio Turnpike, education and Medicaid. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed a landmark water agreement to leverage Greater Cincinnati’s water technologies. The agreement seeks to spur legislation, according to the Business Courier. The Cincinnati Zoo may need a levy to stay afloat. Ohio hospitals spent $3.1 billion in free health care in 2010, up from $2.9 billion in 2009, according to an Ohio Hospital Association report.  On the bright side, overall crime is down in Cincinnati.  Bad news, everyone. Chipotle is likely to raise prices this year. To avoid Obamacare’s health care requirements for businesses, some businesses may begin cutting jobs. Some in the scientific community want to establish national parks on Mars. 
 
 

Unforgiven Offenses

The Catholic Church’s interference with its employees’ private lives is becoming an increasingly public matter

5 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
In the 1940s, upholding a dainty, proper nuclear family wasn’t just common — it was the absolute standard for social acceptance. Seventy years later, that’s no longer the case.    
by German Lopez 01.04.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, John Boehner, Streetcar, Budget at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar delayed to 2016, unemployment steady, Boehner re-elected speaker

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016. The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive $52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December, with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well. Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about 192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force, which includes anyone working or looking for work. U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker. Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and recent developments in Europe have shown. Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years. Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets, largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won awards in 2012. If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team. But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case. Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate. Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes. The newest Congress is a little more diverse. In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems. People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres. A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.28.2012
Posted In: Economy, Education, News, Government, Governor at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Local unemployment unchanged, schools could open enrollment, 2013 challenges schools

Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment. The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have enough support from the district’s board. It might now.Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools. Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to change the school funding formula.Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9 percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300 in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500 left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4 percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for seasonal factors.Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects. Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52 cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.21.2012
Posted In: Barack Obama, Budget, Economy, News, Government at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
apocalypse

Morning News and Stuff

End of world today, state unemployment dips, fiscal cliff plan abandoned

Today is the end of the world. Whatever. Life sucks anyway. Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent in November. Gains were concentrated in trade, transportation, and utilities, financial activities and educational and health services, with losses in construction, leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business services and information services. Overall, the state’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased by 1,600. But could the recovery last? U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is now ditching efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in at the end of the year. Boehner could not get Republicans to vote on a tax hike for people making more than $1 million a year, which isn’t even enough to make President Barack Obama’s demand of increased taxes on anyone making more than $400,000. If the United States goes over the fiscal cliff, the spending cuts and tax hikes will likely devastate the economy. CityBeat wrote about U.S. Congress’ inability to focus on jobs here. Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished the lame-duck session by signing 42 bills into law. The laws include loosened restrictions on gun control, an update to Ohio’s education rating system and $4.4 million in appropriations. The loosened gun control law in particular is getting criticized from Democrats in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. The law allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse garage, loosens concealed carry rules and changes the definition of an unloaded gun so gun owners can have loaded clips in cars as long as they are stored separately from guns. CityBeat wrote about the need for more gun control in this week’s commentary. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suggested arming teachers to avoid school shootings, but a considerable amount of research shows that doesn’t work. Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig says arming teachers is a bad idea: “Certainly we can look at other options, but when you talk about arming  school teachers or a school administrator without the appropriate training, and training is not just going to a target range and being able to hit center mass. How do you deal with a crisis? We're talking about a place with children.” Craig is now pushing crisis training as a major initiative. Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman says school shootings need a holistic approach. The Ohio Republican says he will consider further restrictions on guns and armed school officials. It seems a housing recovery is well underway. Cincinnati home sales are showing no signs of a slowdown. Cincinnati is getting six historic preservation tax credits from the state government. As part of the ninth round of the program, the Ohio Development Services Agency is giving the city credits for parts of Main Street, parts of East 12th Street, parts of East McMillan Street, Abington Flats, Eden Park Pump Station and Pendleton Apartments. The U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether Ohio charter schools discriminate against students with disabilities. Overall, charter schools in the state enroll as many students with disabilities as traditional public schools, but students with disabilities are concentrated in a few charter schools. A federal judge upheld Ohio’s exotic animal law, which restricts who can own the animals in the state. Judith French, a Republican, will replace retiring Justice Evelyn Stratton on the Ohio Supreme Court. Gov. Kasich’s appointment of French keeps the court’s makeup of six Republicans and one Democrat. Genetics is perfecting the Christmas tree. From the Twilight Zone archives comes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas special.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.14.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Transportation, Economy at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands

It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large, statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin! City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously, all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here. The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants. Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here. A study found a gap in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects. The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible. In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform 32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district. Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.” A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry. A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent. NASA discovered the largest river ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez River here. Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
 
 

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
If someone turned on the news during the past few weeks, it would be hard to blame him if he thought the most pressing issues in the world right now are budgets and abortions.   

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