by German Lopez
Facial recognition program insecure, mayoral primary tomorrow, startup innovates cooking
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is taking steps to secure Ohio’s facial recognition program against hackers after potential problems were found.
The program allows law enforcement and other public officials to use a
simple photo to search driver’s license and mugshot databases to get
contact information. In the past, officials needed a name or address to
search such databases. But the program apparently wasn’t following
proper security protocols and lacked typical requirements for passwords,
including a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special
characters, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Previously, Gov. John Kasich compared the program’s potential for abuse to breaches of privacy made through federal surveillance programs such as the National Security Agency and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Tomorrow is the day of the mayoral primary, in which voters will decide between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble.
The two winners will move on to a head-to-head face-off on Nov. 5.
Currently, Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. It’s
difficult to predict how many people will turn out to vote, but only 21 percent of Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral primary in 2005.
A Cincinnati entrepreneur is aiming to innovate solar energy through his GoSun solar cooker, which will use solar collectors traditionally seen on solar panels to cook food. Patrick Sherwin launched a Kickstarter campaign
for the project on Sept. 5. He says his original interest in solar
energy came from a desire to move away from harmful fossil fuels that
are warming the planet, and this project gives him a chance to inspire a
small cultural shift.Councilman Chris Seelbach will today introduce new legislation
that will help crack down on cellphone theft by making it more
difficult to sell stolen devices. The initiative will require the
hundreds of dealers who currently buy cellphones second-hand to get
licensed with the city and keep full records of the transaction,
including a serial number of the device, a photocopy of the seller’s ID
and other contact information. Seelbach has likened the requirements to
existing regulations for pawn shops. The hope is that cracking down on
dealers will make stolen cellphones more difficult to sell and less
lucrative to potential thieves.
Four finalists remain in the search for Cincinnati’s new police chief: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the
Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the
Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy
superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
Butler County turns away more veterans seeking aid than any county in Ohio. In 2012, veterans asked for help 432 times; they were turned away nearly 40 percent of the time.
Although tax receipts are up, they’re coming in below estimate for the first two months of the new fiscal year. The lower-than-expected revenue could cause deficits in the state budget.
Ohio gas prices are rising toward the national average.
Human babies are apparently hardwired to pay attention to lemurs.
If you’re job searching, remember that a job interview can almost always go much worse:
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 4, 2013
When her pet chicken ate her valuable diamond earring, a
woman in England decided to wait eight years for the chicken to die to
get her jewelry back rather than possibly killing the pet poultry by
removing it surgically. WORLD +1
by German Lopez
Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media
As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward
with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding
shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is
Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free
through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step
toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited
stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly
federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost
hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal
grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and
cutting some routes.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation
capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and
scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major
moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the
changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their
electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22
percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of
Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from
Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”)
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat,
for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him
over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have
similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking
plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response,
Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The
stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has
included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in,
the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re
marijuana and lots of free ice cream.
Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”:
Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the
lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really
favor downtown over neighborhoods.
Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel
if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned
space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block
complex with 305 apartments.
State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase
in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous
spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for
people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places
people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”
Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday
announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical
housing and clinical services for homeless veterans. The grants are
part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative
called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside
local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor
John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin
Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.
Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.
Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.
Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working
on a bill that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy
efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and
by German Lopez
State senator pushing new bill is on group’s board of directors
State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working on a bill that
would cap how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and solar power. But the proposal isn’t completely unique to Ohio, which is just one of many states
in which national conservative groups are working to weaken state energy
Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, told Gongwer
that his bill will keep requirements for utilities to provide 25
percent of their electricity from alternative sources and reduce
customers’ consumption by 22 percent by 2025. But the other measures will likely weaken renewable energy and efficiency standards set by Ohio’s Clean Energy Law in 2008.The bill is presumably the result of Seitz’s review of Ohio’s energy rules, which the state senator announced earlier in the year. FirstEnergy, an Akron-based utility company, says the review is necessary because the regulations impose too many costs. But there’s another major group involved: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Seitz is on the board of directors of ALEC,
a conservative group that’s gone from state to state to push legislation
that typically favors corporate interests. Some state officials, including Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, reportedly attended ALEC’s 40th annual meeting in Chicago Aug. 7-9.
Just a couple weeks after that meeting, Seitz announced he still intends to rework Ohio’s energy standards.
ALEC previously teamed up
with the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that gets much of its funding from oil
companies, to write the standard for legislation that pulls back state
energy rules. Many of the effort’s backers, particularly at the
Heartland Institute, deny man-made global warming, even though scientists are 95 percent certain climate change is influenced by human actions.
ALEC’s efforts have so far failed in every state in which legislation has been proposed, as shown in this map from ThinkProgress:
But Ohio may be the first state to buck that trend if
Seitz insists on pushing his review.A report from advocacy group Environment Ohio found the current energy standards, which require Ohio utility companies get 12.5 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, have successfully spurred clean
energy projects all around the state, particularly in Cincinnati. One local example: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2011 installed solar panels in its parking lot that will generate enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the zoo’s electricity needs and reduce pollution associated with global warming by 1,775 tons annually, according to the report.But the standards are written in a way that favors in-state sources, which was supposed to ensure that at least half of the renewable energy development spurred by the Clean Energy Law happened in Ohio. A June 2013 ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that the in-state preference is an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause.Seitz will introduce his bill in the next two weeks.
by German Lopez
Ohio could weaken energy rules, CPS struggles in new report cards, pension group advances
National conservative groups have brought their concerted effort to weaken state energy standards to Ohio.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s on the board of directors of the conservative American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), says he will introduce a bill
within two weeks that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy
efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and
solar power. ALEC and the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank
backed in part by oil companies and global-warming deniers, have teamed
up to undo energy standards in different states, but so far the groups’
efforts have failed. Seitz’s proposal would weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy
Law, which environmentalists and other green energy advocates say have
revitalized wind, solar and other renewable projects around the state.
Cincinnati Public Schools got six F’s, one D and two C’s
in the 2012-2013 school report card released yesterday by the Ohio
Department of Education (ODE). The scores come with a big caveat: The
school district is still being investigated for scrubbing data,
which could be favorably skewing results for CPS. This is the first
year ODE is using its A-F grading system, which is much more stringent
than the previous system — to the point that no school district earned
straight A’s this year, according to StateImpact Ohio.
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the
controversial pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this
November, officially registered with the state.
The group isn’t disclosing how much money it’s raised so far. The tea
party-backed amendment would privatize the city’s pension system, a
pooled fund that’s managed by an independent board, so future city
employees — excluding cops and firefighters, who use a different system —
contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. City officials
and unions say the amendment will raise costs for the city and hurt
gains for employees. Tea party supporters say it’s needed to deal with
Cincinnati’s rising pension costs. CityBeat covered the pension amendment and the national groups who may be helping fund its campaign in further detail here.
Ohio’s oil and gas boom has apparently failed to create all the jobs
state officials previously promised. “Total employment growth has been
much less robust than sales activity in Ohio's shale country,” claims
the Ohio Utica Shale Gas Monitor, which is produced quarterly by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. CityBeat covered Ohio’s oil and gas boom in further detail here.
A company that received a tax credit through JobsOhio two years ago is moving some executives and operations from Ohio to Chicago.
Rittal Corp. has not received the tax credit yet, but it intends to
uphold its tax agreement through other operations. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Kasich and allies argue its privatized, secretive nature allow it to
more quickly establish job-creating development deals, but Democratic
opponents argue the agency is too difficult to hold accountable.
CityBeat commentary on JobsOhio: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Ohio has received more than $383 million as part of the
national mortgage settlement, which has helped more than 10,000 Ohioans,
according to the state attorney general’s office. The payout, which is paid by banks as part of a settlement reached with states and the federal government, is meant to provide
some relief to Americans who were impacted by the housing and economic
crisis of 2008.
Enrollment at Ohio colleges, including the University of Cincinnati, is continuing its steady rise.
A campaign supported by AAA, local school officials and police is attempting to reduce the amount of car accidents involving school children. The “School’s Open — Drive Carefully” campaign aims to give drivers a few tips for navigating roads filled with children going to school.
Local startup incubator Hamilton County Business Center was granted $250,000 by the state to help develop tech companies. Cincinnati recently gained national recognition for its tech boom in Entrepreneur and CNBC, with Entrepreneur calling the city “an unexpected hub for tech startups.”
Cincinnati-based Macy’s will pay a civil penalty to settle accusations that it engaged in unfair documentation practices against immigrant employees.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank for allegedly discriminating against a couple with disabilities.
The bank and others reportedly required unnecessary medical
documentation from the couple when the two attempted to refinance their
home mortgage with a Federal Housing Administration loan.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble paid its CEO $2 million during his first five and a half weeks back on the job.
Popular Science: “Forget Tweeting, Meet The Birds Who Blog.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Using an iPhone to watch one hour of video a week consumes more energy annually than two new refrigerators. WORLD -2
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for
millions of dollars if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling
operation, according to a report released on July 18 by advocacy group
by German Lopez
Environment Ohio finds taxpayers could be forced to pay millions for cleanups
A report released today suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation.
The report from advocacy group Environment Ohio looks at
the costs related to “fracking,” an extraction technique that involves
pumping millions of gallons of water underground to unlock oil and gas
Recent technological advancements have
spurred a boom in fracking, leading to hundreds of new wells in Ohio and
thousands more around the nation.
When oil and gas companies obtain a permit to build a
fracking well, they typically have to provide some financial assurance
to the state in case something goes wrong. In Ohio, that assurance comes
through bonds and specific insurance requirements.
If a well operation is completed without a problem, the cost of the bonds is returned to the operator. If something goes
wrong, the company has to fix the mess before it gets its money back.
But Environment Ohio finds companies in Ohio only have to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well. That’s not enough for a
company to fear the financial consequences of a disaster, which means it could act
recklessly with little disincentive, according to the report.
The report says that could pose a huge cost to taxpayers:
Simply reclaiming a well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands
of dollars. Actually paying for damages, such as contaminated
groundwater and ruined roads, can cost millions.
Under normal circumstances, private and public entities
could sue for the damages, but that’s unrealistic if a well operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unwilling or
incapable of paying.
Another potential problem: The bond payments are only held by the
state until a well is plugged and the site is reclaimed to the
satisfaction of state operators. That doesn’t account for health and
environmental damages that can surface after a drilling operation ends,
according to the report.
The issues are further compounded by
loopholes, which allow companies to avoid bonding requirements
altogether if they prove they hold a certain amount of in-state assets.
Environment Ohio calls it “an exceedingly easy test to meet.”In what it calls “common sense” reforms, Environment Ohio says the state should impose more
assurances for longer periods of time. The organization favorably cites
other states that require $250,000 in upfront bonds — much higher than
Ohio’s $5,000. For companies, that would mean a much higher financial
hurdle when taking on a fracking project, but the high cost could
provide a powerful incentive to avoid dangerous risks.The report also finds that insurance requirements in the
state are weak, with operators required to fulfill a $5 million
liability cap regardless of whether they’re running one well or 100.
recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory
“At a minimum, Ohio needs an adequate severance tax to
fund impacts on communities and provide a cushion for long-term risk
management,” said Wendy Patton, director at left-leaning think tank
Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement released by Environment Ohio.
An oil and gas severance tax was suggested by Republican
Gov. John Kasich to pay for income tax cuts, but Republican legislators
rejected the proposal.
The report’s findings were not exclusive to Ohio. It also
found issues and suggested solutions for other states and the federal
government, including a similar call for stronger bonding requirements on
CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
A research study found that
China’s policy of giving residents free coal to heat their homes has
reduced life expectancies of its residents by about 5.5 years, causing
increased cardio-respiratory deaths and higher rates of heart and lung
disease. WORLD -2