Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a hearing today in the House after a Republican colleague blocked a woman from testifying about a new federal rule that will require most employers to provide free birth control.
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) left the hearing after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) prevented the woman from being added to the witness list.
Announced last month, the rule reclassifies birth control as a preventative health measure, which means most employers must cover contraception in their insurance plans with no cost sharing like co-pays or deductibles. Initially, an exemption was granted for churches but not for religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, which angered some Catholic bishops and others.
In a compromise unveiled Feb. 10, President Obama said religiously affiliated schools and hospitals wouldn’t be forced to offer coverage for free contraceptives. Rather, insurers will be required to offer the coverage free to any women who work at such institutions.
That wasn’t good enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some conservative politicians, who said the coverage shouldn’t be required at all.
Issa’s staff informed Democratic members of the committee that the hearing was about religious liberty in general, and not the contraception mandate, in explaining why Sandra Fluke couldn’t testify.
“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the (Obama) administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” Issa’s staffers wrote in a letter.
Fluke wanted to tell about an incident involving a 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition. Because the woman’s insurance didn’t cover contraception, the friend couldn’t afford her medication and eventually lost her ovary.
Read what Fluke had planned to tell the panel here.
Eleven people were on Issa’s witness list, led by the Rev. William Lori, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Eight of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic or evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.
Originally, Issa only planned on calling nine witnesses — all men. After the public flap, he added two women to the list.
A prominent Republican congressman is under investigation for insider trading. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who heads the House Financial Services Committee, is being probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics for making suspicious trades and buying certain stock options while helping oversee the nation’s banking and financial services industries.
The House Health Committee heard testimony from bill supporters and opponents. "If PP is defunded, we will still offer a full range of options for care, but the working poor will have no way to pay for them," testified Beth Lonn, Chief Operating Officer of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, according to a tweet from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio.
Opponents of HB 298 express concern that the reprioritizing of funds would deny high-need women, particularly those of low income, access to preventive, affordable health care services. "More than 96% of what we do is to provide essential lifesaving cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, sex education and counseling to nearly 100,000 Ohio women and families, regardless of one’s ability to pay," reads a segment on the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio website.Rep. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood) expressed her concern for bill supporters' motivation, noting, "The proposed defunding bill is is a move based on ideology, not on practical needs of Ohioans...There are many counties in Ohio without alternatives to PP. It's a 'Health Care Desert.'"
Supporters of the bill such as Ohio Right to Life tout the measure as a way to steer funds away from the "abortion industry." The bill is now awaiting a committee vote.
The big news breaking the Internets is that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, is pulling its grants from Planned Parenthood affiliates. The charity gave about $680,000 last year and $580,000 in 2010, which is mostly used to provide free breast exams for low-income women.
Area 1 Court Judge Robert Lyons ordered all case records sealed Nov. 8 after the student pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to pay an undisclosed fine. Six days later the Cincinnati Enquirer sued Lyons in the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that the case file is a public record.
Lyons, represented by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser, filed his answer Thursday. He denied violating the Enquirer’s claim of a constitutional right to a hearing where it could have argued against secrecy.
That Lyons is
standing his ground comes as no surprise, but his answer contains one
head-scratching statement. He — that is, Gmoser — wrote that “there was no
plea” in the case. Yet in a first-person account of the case in the Miami
University Student on Nov. 8, Gmoser
wrote that the defendant pleaded guilty. The court’s own schedule for Nov. 8
says the case was up for the entry of a guilty plea.
Despite its founder’s insistence Thursday that reaction had been mostly favorable, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity abruptly reversed course today and is restoring funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Los Angeles Times reports Nancy G. Brinker, Komen's founder and CEO, said that the breast cancer foundation's decision to halt funding to providers who were under investigation was not done for political reasons and was not meant to penalize Planned Parenthood specifically.
Financial giant and Lytle Park bully Western & Southern has accused city officials and other Anna Louise Inn advocates of repeatedly deceiving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain federal funds for the long-awaited, $13 million renovations to the Inn.
Those renovations are the same ones that have been blocked over and over by a series of legal entanglements initiated by Western & Southern, which tried to purchase the Inn back in 2009 for $1.8 million, refusing to buffer the Inn's $3 million price tag. In 2011, the Hamilton County Auditor valued the plot at $4 million.
Now, the corporate giant, which owns a number of other plots of land in Lytle Park, wants to buy the Inn and convert it into an upscale hotel.
Western & Southern’s lawyer, Glenn Whitaker, sent a letter obtained by CityBeat dated March 19 to City Solicitor John Curp accusing city officials of knowingly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing the owner of the Inn, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), to pursue federal funding for renovations while providing services to exclusively women in need, which the letter alleges would “discriminate on the basis of gender” and “expose the City to liability under both the federal False Claims Act and the FHA.”
“We share this with you because — no matter where one stands on whether ALI’s renovations comply with Cincinnati Zoning Code — it is in the public interest for the City to avoid a lawsuit that could lead to a significant payout in today’s budget environment,” reads the letter.
Of course, that lawsuit is one that would be entirely fabricated and launched by Western & Southern, on top of years worth of zoning violation allegations that, so far, have failed to gather much merit.
Some women-only shelters are deemed permissible due to safety issues, but in the letter, Whitaker alleges that the renovation plans expose ALI to discrimination liability by, in theory, making the safety issue moot by providing clear, separated spaces for men and women. The renovation plans include converting what are now dormitory-style units with shared bathrooms into private residences with private bathrooms and kitchens, according to the letter.
Curp, who received the letter, says the city’s relationship with HUD is one that hinges on constant communication, and though Western & Southern's allegations were unexpected, they'll be taken seriously.
“We work with them closely, we have a great relationship with HUD. They were the first organization we contacted when we got this letter, ... so they understood the nature of the allegations and because they’re one of our development partners. We have lots of development partners in the city, frankly, including Western & Southern. ... We're disappointed that the city has been pulled into what is otherwise a third-party dispute."
The letter also accuses a number of community members, including 3CDC, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the YMCA of conspiring to move low-income residents from the Metropole to the Anna Louise Inn in order to ease litigation with the Homeless Coalition and make way for the new, upscale 21c Museum Hotel.
John Barrett, Western & Southern’s CEO, is also on the board of 3CDC, which adds an extra element of mystery to the lodged accusations; at best, it seems extreme they'd be willing to accuse ally 3CDC of wrongdoing or conspiracy for the sake of a discrimination lawsuit against a nonprofit social services agency whose stated goal for more than 100 years has been to provide a haven for women in need.
Ideally, explains Curp, HUD will respond equipped with some sort of past precedent that would absolve the city and the Inn of alleged discrimination and make the lawsuit irrelevant.
"I think a lawsuit would be very much premature. ... Like I said, our first step is to talk to HUD and to make sure that between the both of us, we don’t see any discrimination or compliance issues. If there’s any chance of that ... after our review and a review by HUD, we will fix it to bring it into compliance," he says.
"As I sit here today, I can't imagine this situation hasn't been dealt with in the past. I'd be shocked if HUD hasn't dealt with this in another community and come up with a set of guidelines for us to follow."
People are feeling better about downtown and Over-the-Rhine, according to a new survey. Out of respondents who said they visited downtown, about 83 percent said their opinion of Over-the-Rhine was more favorable now than it was in the last year. Bars and parks topped activities, while dining and events on Fountain Square topped attractions.
The E.W. Scripps Company posted its best TV revenues ever thanks to the presidential election. The company’s consolidated revenues rose 31 percent to $220 million. The company recently netted a $750,000 tax break from Cincinnati City Council to hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.
The University of Cincinnati’s Women's Health Center will open a branch in West Chester in spring 2013. The new offices will have 47 exam rooms, large and small conference rooms, a retail store and a café.
Ohio Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda. Much to the dismay of pro-choice groups, Gov. John Kasich appointed two people from Ohio Right to Life to important positions, and the Ohio Senate is now looking into a new version of the heartbeat bill. Starting with a hearing Wednesday, Ohio Republicans will also move to defund Planned Parenthood.
In his post-election presser, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suggested basing Ohio’s electoral vote on congressional districts. Due to how Republicans redrew district boundaries, that would have given Mitt Romney most of Ohio’s electoral votes even though Romney lost the popular vote. Districts were redrawn by the Republican-controlled process to give Republicans an advantage in congressional races. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Warren County, which shifted the district in favor of Republicans and diluted Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urbanites. The proposal seems like another attempt at voter suppression from a secretary of state that has been heavily criticized for how he and his party handled the run-up to the election.
Redistricting also helped Ohio Republicans take Congress.
Last-minute negotiations may push Ohio’s puppy mills bill to the finish line. The state currently has a reputation as one of the worst for abusive puppy mills, and the bill would try to place some additional regulations on the mills. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mill and dog auction problem in Ohio.
A new study found Ohio may be one of the worst states to retire in.
The state did poorly in terms of property crime and life expectancy of
seniors, but it was found to have good economic conditions, a
relatively low tax burden and lower-than-average cost of living.
Ohioans’ food stamp benefits will drop by $50 a month next year. The change is coming due to a shift in how the federal government calculates utility expenditures for food stamp recipients.
Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee, which requires holding back third-graders who do not meet state reading standards, now has some research supporting it. A new study found girls who struggle to read early on are more likely to become teen mothers. However, other research shows holding kids back hurts more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.
In response to President Barack Obama’s re-election, the infamous boss of Ohio-based Murray Energy fired more than 150 workers around the country. One of those workers decided to leak a letter from the boss. The letter blames the firings on Obama’s supposed “war on coal,” but it’s likely the coal industry would be facing trouble even if Obama wasn’t in office.
Climate change just got a lot worse. It might make some coffee beans go extinct.
Two gay penguins became dads at the Odense Zoo in Denmark.
Ever wanted a microscopic glimpse at a Pop Tart? Well, you're getting it anyway.