Hicks drove the mile and a quarter and arrived behind the first dozen police officers. She started taking photographs through her windshield and captured her image of a line of children being led away from the slaughter. “I’m conflicted,” Hicks said about her photo. “I don’t want people to be upset with me, and I do appreciate the journalists, especially, who have commented, saying ‘We’re just documenting the news.’ It’s harder when it’s in your hometown and these are children we’re gonna watch grow up, the ones who made it. I know people are gonna be upset, but at the same time I felt I was doing something important.”
Fellow editor John Voket explained what was behind that image. “Police and school system have a protocol” for evacuation. “Children get into a conga line, shoulder to shoulder, and the only person that’s allowed to keep their eyes open is the locomotive at the front of the line, usually an adult. And every other kid has to keep their eyes closed from the minute they were exiting the classroom to when they got about a couple hundred yards into the parking lot.”
• Voket arrived about 20 minutes later and colleague Hicks “passed the baton” to him. Hicks also is a volunteer firefighter. The firehouse is next to the school. “I literally put on my firefighter gear . . . I was there as a firefighter probably for not even more than 20 minutes before my editor said he wanted me back in the office to work with him to coordinate coverage from there.”
• Voket continued reporting, but “We operate a little differently because our job is to take care of the community so we were inside helping to comfort victims and trying to provide human support without necessarily making reporting the No. 1 priority. The publisher came down to comfort some of the families a little later in the day.” R. Scudder Smith has been Bee publisher since 1973; he is the fourth member of his family to run The Bee since they founded it in 1877. The paper, which has a full-time editorial staff of eight, circulates to about two-thirds of the community of about 29,000.
• It was Friday and the weekly Bee front page was ready to print. It couldn’t be changed. “We’ve been putting everything on our website,” publisher Smith told AP.
Voket added that the traffic surge repeatedly crashed the website until the Bee acquired “an intermediary service to supersize our bandwidth . . . We got back up and running this (Saturday) morning.” The staff used social media to spread information about school lockdowns, re-routed traffic, and grief counseling. “Facebook and Twitter accounts have been a lifeline to our community and it shows because 20 percent of the community are following us.” The Bee also was “looking at doing a special extra to be on the newsstands Monday.”
• For those of us outside Newtown, Conn., we can turn to the renewed duel over gun control. If it were a song, tired and familiar gun control lyrics would be among “Worst Hits Ever.” It didn’t take long for gun control advocates to embrace the Sandy Hook massacre and the bellicose NRA to opt for rare silence. Obama renewed his unredeemed calls for gun control although he and Mitt Romney dodged the issue in the just-ended campaign. It was a hornets’ nest neither man opted to kick and reporters apparently were unable to raise with the candidates.
• After the Sandy Hook slaughter, fair and balanced Fox News banned discussion of gun control from the cable network. Maybe Fox News feared we really would decide if they really reported. New York magazine said the ban spotlights the “growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News president] Roger Ailes.” Ailes reportedly is a gun enthusiast. Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News, had tweeted a call for stricter gun control, imploring for “some bold leadership action” from Obama.
• Let me be churlish when everyone else is sympathizing with families, survivors and first responders. Slaughtering 20 children is awful, but reporters and editors are familiar with how badly Americans treat urban, suburban, small town and rural children every day. In Obama’s Chicago and many other urban areas, gunfire is an omnipresent fact of childhood. Possibly one-fourth of all American children live in poverty as defined by federal guidelines. For these kids, federally funded school meals might be more than a complement to home meals. Health care for poor and malnourished children isn’t much better than their educations. Medicaid is among the anti-poverty programs high on the GOP priorities for absolute cuts and/or reduced annual increases. And let’s not even get into continuing coverage of physical and sexual child abuse, trafficking minors and lifelong handicaps from poor or nonexistent prenatal care or maternal drug and alcohol abuse.
• Only foolish or ignorant reporters credit pious assertions that legislation can prevent disturbed individuals from obtaining guns and killing as many people as they can. There are more than 310 million people in this country. Some are or will become seriously mentally disturbed and obtain one or more of the hundreds of millions of firearms Americans own. A Columbine or Sandy Hook could happen again any day.
• Focusing on the shooting victims rather than shooters might reduce any copycat effect. Stories and photos elevating killers to celebrity have been blamed for further rampages. Even though the killer never was identified, that was the inference drawn from Tylenol poisonings 30 years ago; copycats tried to poison Tylenol capsules. When coverage began to fade, so did copycat crimes.
• NRA leaders realized years ago that traditional (and valuable) Eddie Eagle gun safety comics and courses were insufficient to motivate and keep members and their dues. Fear and anger would be more effective. Real and imagined government controls became NRA’s cause. Few modern American movements have been as durable and effective as the NRA.
• NRA is powerful because we are a democracy. It can mobilize more than 4 million members and fellow travelers as voters, donors and voices in the news media. Elected representatives who want to keep their jobs quite reasonably try to avoid the NRA’s opposition. Gun control advocates evince nothing like this single-minded devotion to their cause.
• In 1994, the Clinton administration won a10-year limit on the sale of assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines for their ammunition. I went to a gun store in Hamilton to cover a rush to beat the ban. Chinese assault-style rifles and curved high-capacity magazines were selling as fast as staff could pry open crates. As I watched, the price rose $10 with each new crate: demand and supply. Men who talked to me said they were buying because of the imminent controls on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. A few admitted fear of civil unrest or some undefined federal assault. Most said they wanted a military-style rifle for shooting targets or empty beer cans and this might be their last chance.That 10-year ban died in 2004 when Republicans owned all three branches of federal government and didn’t seek renewal. However, recent killings that required assault-style weapons with large-capacity magazines might prompt reconsideration of the ban. Adam Lanza reportedly carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in high-capacity magazines. No one knows why he didn’t use them.
• Any gun control measure that’s not DOA will have to respect millions of long guns — rifles and shotguns — used by hunters, farmers and others. That distinction is an important part of this story already handicapped by the paucity of journalists who hunt or otherwise own firearms.
• In addition to an unfamiliarity with firearms, partisan hyperbole also handicaps writing about guns and gun control. It can be hard to find neutral sources who share reporters’ interest in accurate coverage. Stenographic reporting giving “both sides” isn’t good enough; journalists must know enough to challenge obvious partisan misstatements. We are not obligated to report what we know to be untrue or to label it as such.
• Unfamiliarity with gun control cropped up in a recent Enquirer story about a failed armed robbery attempt inside a suburban Sunoco station. Employees with a handgun and a shotgun fatally wounded the would-be bandit. The Enquirer story said it was unclear whether the employees had conceal-carry licenses for those firearms. Unless someone somehow cloaked a shotgun’s 18-28” barrel, no conceal/carry permit is required. Unless the other Sunoco clerk carried the pistol under his clothes, he didn’t need a permit. Wearing it openly or storing it under the counter does not require a conceal/carry permit. So what was the point of that line in the story? Just because a cop might have said it doesn’t mean the reporter had to share it. That’s what I’m talking about.
• Missing in much gun control coverage is Congress’ inability to craft sensible, workable bipartisan gun control specifics that can survive NRA opposition and Supreme Court scrutiny. Firearm confiscation is out of the question. So is universal registration which raises NRA-orchestrated fear of confiscation — by ATF, the UN or some other demon de jour — to hysteria. Moreover, the court affirmed an individual Second Amendment right to own guns in 2010 but it did not rule out federal, state or local regulations governing firearm use.
• Reporters faced with new rage over shootings should remind partisans that we have gun control already. Forty nine states issue conceal/carry permits but specify where those handguns may not be carried. Illinois — State No. 50 — is under court order to replace its ban with a conceal/carry permit system. Many if not most municipalities bar gun owners from firing their weapons within city limits with the exception of self-defense. States commonly limit when hunters can use rifles and/or shotguns and they can require a certain size bullet for large-game hunting. Landowners may bar hunters from their property during state-sanctioned hunting seasons.
There are federal limits on how short a “sawed off” shotgun or rifle barrel may be. There are laws limiting ownership of silencers and fully automatic machine guns and submachine guns. Federally licensed firearms dealers must run background checks on prospective buyers and turn away those who fail or won’t comply. Dealers can deny convicted felons a gun under federal and many state laws. A legal purchaser may not buy a firearm for someone who would fail a federal background check. Mentally-ill customers can be turned away by dealers.
• Few of the roughly 12,000 Americans shot to death annually are killed with shot with shotguns or rifles. They’re shot with pistols. So when gun control is promoted, reporters should press advocates to say what they mean: handguns.
• Before reporters share the lunacy of arming teachers, ask local cops how many rounds typically are fired from their handguns in an armed encounter . . . and how many of those bullets hit their target. Not many. It's very, very difficult for someone trained even at the level of police to accurately fire when adrenaline is pumping. The teacher might end up shooting more students than the intruder. Better to count on the low probability of an armed intrusion. Think about how rare this is. Awful when it happens, but very, very rare, even in communities where other shootings are far more frequent.
The Ohio State Senate’s top Republican wants to beef up ethics laws for state lawmakers.
Senate President Tom Niehaus tells The Columbus Dispatch that he plans on rolling out a new ethics bill within a few weeks. He didn’t offer specifics on what it would cover, but said disclosure and transparency would be the main themes.
Ohio’s ethics laws governing the relationship between public officials and lobbyists haven’t seen significant updates in more than 17 years. Niehaus told the newspaper he wants to see lawmakers vote on it before his legislative career ends this year.
The last major overhaul of Ohio ethics laws came in 1994, when the legislature banned public officials from receiving money to appear at dinners and receptions and required disclosure of all gifts costing more than $25.
The law also banned gifts costing more than $75, but oftentimes lobbyists will split up more expensive gifts among a number of lobbyists.
Plans to put a culture tax in front of voters have been put on hold due to a potential conflict with a Cincinnati Zoo tax renewal levy that will be on the 2013 ballot. Backers of the culture tax — a 0.25 percentage-point sales tax increase that would raise $30 million annually — fear that overlapping the tax increase and levy could be confusing and potentially hurt the chances of either to be approved. The culture tax will likely be put on the 2014 ballot.
City Council this fall will consider a new form-based development code that will allow individual neighborhoods to create their own codes that supporters say will reinforce neighborhoods' existing urban fabric while aiding in development. Supporters include the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Cincinnati Inc. “For developers, there is more predictability and basically no battles. And once they know the parameters, (developers) can really turn their creativity loose,” David Ginsburg, president and CEO of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., told The Enquirer.
The Enquirer on Sunday checked in on
the state's higher education situation, finding that many recent
college graduates and families of potential college students are
wondering if college is even worth it considering the high cost —
“total student loan debt is nearing $1 trillion, or more than
$20,000 for each graduate” — and lack of guaranteed return —
“government data this year show that fully half of graduates 25 or
younger are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t use
the skills they learned in college." No word on whether Enquirer-endorsed Gov. John Kasich thinks his kids should skip college and go straight into the service industry.
A record number of participants ran in this year's Flying Pig Marathon over the weekend. The winners were Californian Sergio Reyes, who also won the men's race in 2009, and Rachel Bea, a Kenwood resident.
Joe Biden says he is “comfortable” with same-sex marriage, though he doesn't know the answer to the question of whether a second-term Obama administration would come out in favor of legalizing gay marriage.
Europe's election results have gone and spooked the markets, due to political uncertainty in Greece and the defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy by Socialist Francois Hollande.
Vladimir Putin is back in business in Russia, amid protests.
Al-Qaeda has released a video of an elderly American hostage who says he will be killed if President Obama doesn't agree to Al-Qaeda's demands, which include ending military strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
An ad campaign linking global warming believers to terrorists only lasted a few hours before public outcry forced the Heartland Institute, a libertarian organization funded by a bunch of corporations who don't want to stop polluting the earth, to take them down. One billboard included Ted Kaczynski's mug shot with the words: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
The supermoon was in full effect over the weekend, reportedly “wowing” viewers.
Sen. Rob Portman is sitting on more cash than nearly all of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, despite the fact that he’s not up for re-election until 2016. There has been widespread speculation that Portman is a Republican vice presidential candidate, and only three Senators have more money on-hand than his Promoting Our Republican Team PAC (PORTPAC) leadership committee.
Companies upstream from
Cincinnati have been dumping pollutants into the Ohio River since the
1940s, and federal authorities have reached a $5.5 million settlement
to start cleaning it all up. Eighteen companies and several federal
agencies will collectively contribute to restoring the Ashtabula
River and Harbor in northeast Ohio. Here's the latest from Dredging Today (the authoritative voice of underwater excavation activity and other earth-altering digs).
Locals who have
recently “pimped their rides” might want to read up on a bill
passed by Ohio lawmakers yesterday that bans hidden compartments in
vehicles. Police don’t want to have to open those fancy
compartments to check whether there are drugs inside or just a
10th tiny TV. Hear that, Colerain?
Here’s what Obama and his advisers do on Sundays (after the prez’s round of golf, of course): size up Mitt Romney.
More insights from the letters and notes released on Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: “Bin Laden worried about legacy and sought to kill Obama.”
U.S. job growth was down in April, adding only 115,000 positions after seeing 154,000 added in March. The unemployment rate dropped .1 percentage point to 8.1 percent, largely due to workers leaving the labor force. Republicans have some thoughts on the matter (Obama’s fault).
Ted Nugent is not looking so hot these days. He’s also thoroughly offended at the notion of not being a moderate. The following are comments he made today on CBS This Morning:
"If you examine how I conduct myself," Nugent said, "I don't think a day goes by in my life for many, many years now that we don't do charity work for children. ... Call me when you sit down across from someone who has more families with dying little boys and girls who get a call to take them on their last fishing trip in life.
"Call me," Nugent continued in a raised, irritated voice, "when you meet someone who does that more than I do. Because that's really moderate. In fact, you know what that is? That's extreme. ... I'm an extremely loving, passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy. ... And if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll [expletive]. Or [expletive]. How's that sound?"
Headline: “Tech world is out for blood.” Apparently Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s decision to start a patent war was not such a good idea.
New York Yankees future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera tore his ACL during pregame batting practice yesterday, putting the 42-year-old’s career in jeopardy. There had already been speculation that Rivera would retire after this season, and recovery from ACL surgery usually takes more than nine months.
Cincinnati inched closer to equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance benefits.
With a push by Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who abstained.
The approval came after a city report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77 partners took advantage of the benefits.
The report suggested City Council mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.
If the measure passes City Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states, countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.
Altogether, it seems like a small step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was, same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender.”
The amendment now moves forward to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.
Ohio banned same-sex marriage in 2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is moving toward support of gay marriage.
The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.
While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.
Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.
A nonpartisan think tank that advocates for poor and working class families is urging that Ohio adopt its own version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The group, Policy Matters Ohio, said a state version of the federal tax credit, set at 10 percent, would divert just $210 million from Ohio’s coffers but would benefit 949,000 low-income working families across the state. Such a credit would provide families with an average of $221 each, which Policy Matters Ohio described as “modest but helpful.”
Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have Earned Income Tax Credits, ranging from 3.5 percent to 50 percent of the federal credit.
“A state EITC program enables families to work and build assets while reducing the impact of regressive income tax changes,” said a statement released by Policy Matters Ohio.
“A state EITC makes sense because recent changes to the personal income tax have provided greater tax reductions for higher-income earners than they have for lower- and middle-income families,” the statement continued.
The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and medium-income individuals and couples, and is considered the nation’s largest poverty relief program. When the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who qualify and claim the credit.
To qualify for the EITC, a recipient must have earned income of $49,000 or less. The credit is worth significantly more for families with children and is refundable, which means families receive cash refunds above their tax liability.
Created in 1975, the federal EITC is aimed at helping lift families with children about the poverty level, along with offsetting the burden of Social Security taxes and maintaining an incentive for people to work.
In Ohio, 949,692 people currently claim the federal EITC. The credit generates $2.1 billion for state residents, and the average refund is $2,211.
Founded in 2000, Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that seeks to create “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” through research and policy advocacy.
Based in Cleveland and Columbus, the organization is funded primarily through grants from groups like the Ford Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Corp. for Enterprise Development and others.
Connecticut will soon join the list of states that have ended the use of capital punishment.
In an 86-63 vote, legislators in Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday night. The state Senate approved the measure April 5, in a 20-16 vote.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, probably sometime this week. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, in 2009.
Connecticut’s law is prospective in nature, and won’t affect the sentences of the 11 people currently on the state’s death row.
In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty, according to CNN. California voters will decide the issue in November.
Other states that have abolished capital punishment are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, a man who spent 21 years on Ohio’s death row until he was exonerated in 2010 will speak tonight at a forum in Clifton.
Joe D’Ambrosio will discuss his experience and why he believes the death penalty should be scrapped at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, located at 328 W. McMillan St. D’Ambrosio will be joined by the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who worked to get him released.
D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010.
D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.
This week’s Porkopolis column looks at a report from Amnesty International about the use of capital punishment throughout the world, and how the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that still condones the practice.
A retired Cincinnati police captain will be among the speakers Thursday at a local event about legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in Ohio.
Howard Rahtz, who retired from the Cincinnati Police Department in 2007, will speak at a forum organized by the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association (OMCA). The group is trying to collect enough signatures to get an amendment to Ohio’s constitution on the ballot that would allow the use of cannabis with a physician’s prescription.
The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Room 500 at Swift Hall on the University of Cincinnati campus.
Other speakers will include Theresa Daniello, a mother of five children who is OMCA’s executive director, and Mark Ramach, the group’s attorney.
After their presentation, attendees can participate in a question and answer session about the proposed amendment.
Rahtz, who is a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a conservative who has no interest in using drugs but supports legal and controlled public sale of marijuana. With a dual background in drug treatment and drug interdiction, Rahtz has first-hand experience with drug enforcement policy.
“I defy you to find anybody who will applaud what the war on drugs has accomplished,” Rahtz told CityBeat in June 2011. “Use rates have not changed in four decades. We’ve accomplished nothing. We spend more money, we incarcerate more people than any other place in the world and we end up with less for it. The fact is, what we’re doing isn’t working. My question is, particularly in this age of shrinking resources, are we going to continue pouring money down this rat hole?”