by Kevin Osborne
In an effort to avoid an estimated $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education decided Wednesday to eliminate 237 teaching jobs for next school year. Of the job cuts, 35 are layoffs, 112 are retirements or resignations, and 90 are long-term substitutes. In March, the board also approved laying off 40 administrators. The actions are expected to create $20 million in savings, but officials say more cuts are needed.Cincinnati City Council has approved an ordinance cracking down on so-called “predatory towing.” Some local towing companies haven't been following state guidelines about how much may be charged for the towing and impoundment of vehicles. The city law clarifies that they must be complied with, and companies that violate the fees can lose lucrative towing contracts with the Cincinnati Police Department.As part of their standard procedures, state regulators are reviewing the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets this week to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background.Although Earth Day isn't until Sunday, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking the holiday early by sponsoring an e-waste recycling drive today to collect and recycle unwanted electronic waste from guests. Collection is from 4-6:30 p.m., and all electronic devices will be recycled by 2trg, a certified recycler that operates under zero landfill and zero export policies. A $10 cash fee will be charged for each TV set, and all other acceptable items will be recycled for free. Other acceptable items include cables, CD-ROM drives, cellular phones, DVD players, keyboards, laptops, LCD monitors, microwave ovens, printers and more.Locally-based Fifth Third Bank says its first-quarter net income quadrupled, thanks in part to its stake in the payment processor Vantiv, which had its initial public offering. The company reported net income of $421 million today, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $88 million, or 10 cents per share, reported in the same period last year. Apparently, there's only a recession going on for some of us.In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is dismissing criticism brought against the Republican budget plan by Catholic bishops. Referencing Matthew 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that help them. But Boehner, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.” (Hey, John: Maybe you should take another look at the Pentagon's budget.)Six former employees of a company connected to a firm founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney filed a federal lawsuit this week, alleging they were fired because they weren't Mormon. The plaintiffs worked for Sorenson Capital Partners, whose managing directors and officers are former partners or executives at Bain Capital and Bain & Co. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 after working for Bain & Co. The plaintiffs seek $5.35 million in damages for breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation.If the CIA gets its way, acting suspicious will be enough to get you killed in Yemen. The spy agency is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. Remember: They hate us because we love freedom.Syria and the United Nations have reached a tentative deal to deploy observers to monitor the nation's ceasefire, officials from both sides said. A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the observers' functions and Syrian government's responsibilities. It came after the U.N. secretary general said Syria was failing to comply with its peace plan obligations. The plan seeks to end unrest which has killed at least 9,000 people.The global economic downturn is even visible in China, where large amounts of retail and office space sit vacant, in nearly pristine condition, having never been used. Part of the problem is Chinese industry has been producing massive amounts of steel, cement, and aluminum, so much that its economy cannot absorb all of the output. For example, the seven-story Global Furnishing Design and Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, is known as “the ghost mall of China” due to its empty corridors and vacant stores.
by Kevin Osborne
Cemeteries have officially arrived in the 21st Century. A Crawfordsville, Ind., firm is now using Quick Response barcodes on tombstones. The Allen Monument Co. says the code can connect users to an entire memorial site about a deceased person, provided by Cincinnati-based Making Everlasting Memories. The site can include photos, a biography and other information. All it takes is a simple scan from a smartphone. That's either a brilliant step forward for convenience or a sign of consumerism and technology run amok. You decide.It looks like charter schools aren't quite the draw that many conservatives believed they would be. Cincinnati Public Schools will lose fewer students than expected next year to private schools and state-funded vouchers, a school official said Tuesday. Only 899 new students applied for new Educational Choice scholarships for the upcoming school year. That’s down from 1,078 applicants from CPS last year and it’s far below the 1,377 students that district officials had estimated to lose this spring.A Northern Kentucky police chief charged with drunken driving wants to suppress police dashboard camera footage of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. An attorney for Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse made the request during a pretrial hearing this week. Rouse is suspended without pay after his March 1 arrest by Alexandria police. We wonder if the Wilder Police Department uses dashboard cams in its cruisers. (What's good for the goose, etc.)They had better come on strong. The Bengals will be featured on the season opener of Monday Night Football on ESPN in September. The team will face off against the Ravens in Baltimore. Other highlights of the 2012 schedule, which was released Tuesday, include the Bengals playing their first regular season game in week two against the Cleveland Browns in Cincinnati, and playing divisional foes the Steelers in week 16 at Pittsburgh.A large swarm of bees has invaded Cincinnati's Covedale neighborhood. Residents on Woodbriar Lane are concerned about thousands of active bees going from yard to yard looking for a place to make a hive. The bees have been doing it for the last couple of days, and residents say they're swarming around different locations, changing locations in as little as 30 minutes in some cases. The buzzing sounds can be heard from 20 feet away or more, they added.In news elsewhere, friends of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insist their pal isn't an android. Romney is a nice guy, they said, adding they are at a loss to explain his stiff demeanor and unusual syntax on the campaign trail. Maybe he's simply trying too hard, some friends told The Washington Post. Yeah, that's it, I'm sure.Reacting to rising gasoline prices, President Obama proposed new measures this week to reduce oil market manipulation. The proposals, which observers say are unlikely to get support from a divided Congress, include increasing civil and criminal penalties on individuals and companies involved in manipulative practices involving commodities speculation.In yet another setback for U.S.-Afghan relations, photographs of American troops gleefully posing with corpses of insurgents they've killed were given to The Los Angeles Times. The U.S. soldier who released the photos said he did so to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.A shadowy conservative group that works behind-the-scenes to push laws that call for stricter voter identification requirements and “stand your ground” initiatives is disbanding its “Public Safety and Elections” task force. The task force, part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives, not just restrictive voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities. In recent weeks, numerous of ALEC's corporate members have left then group including Coca-Cola, Intuit and McDonald's.Thousands of documents detailing crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review concluded. Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.
by Kevin Osborne
“Accentuate the positive” has always been Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's motto when giving his annual State of the City address, and Tuesday night's speech was no different. Mallory talked about the new development in Over-the-Rhine and The Banks riverfront district, adding that type of vision for the future must continue. The mayor also said city officials must strive to improve the quality of life for residents.A national teachers' union said Cincinnati Public Schools officials have used faulty budget estimates to justify a plan to lay off up to 225 teachers next week. CPS says it will have a $43 million deficit next year and already has laid off 40 administrators. At the request of the local union president, the American Federation of Teachers reviewed the CPS budget forecast and declared it has identified at least $17.9 million in savings, enough to save at least 197 teaching jobs.Less than a week after the Reds agreed to a major contract extension for Joey Votto, the team now has struck a deal with Brandon Phillips. The second baseman will get a six-year, $72.5 million contract. Referring to the deals, Sports Illustrated wrote, “the small-market Cincinnati Reds show that they're serious about winning.”A University of Cincinnati student remains hospitalized today after a toxic chemical explosion on campus overnight. Police say a female student was working with the chemical alone at the engineering building around 1 a.m. when a reaction caused an explosion. The student was working on a process known as aluminum etching.Oxford police have had to stand watch while members of a fraternity that was ordered to shut down at Miami University clear out their belongings from the frat house. Sigma Chi International officials yanked the local charter and ordered the 29 frat house occupants evicted by today after years of sanctions for alleged drug use, alcohol abuse, hazing and property damage. Police had to arrest an apparently inebriated 21-year-old student from Chicago for refusing to leave the scene after he repeatedly barked at a police dog. (How douchey.)In news elsewhere, Rick Santorum announced Tuesday he was leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination, clearing the path for Mitt Romney. Although Santorum — an ex-Pennsylvania senator who lost reelection in 2006 — said his decision partially was prompted by health concerns about his three-year-old daughter, Bella, most pundits agree he likely was afraid of losing the primary election in his home state on April 24, which could've dashed his plans for a political future.More Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court justices will be acting mostly on their partisan political views than on a neutral reading of the law when they decide the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News. Only 40 percent of respondents expect their decisions to be rooted primarily “on the basis of the law.”Attorneys representing George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of an unarmed black teenager dropped out of the case Tuesday, saying they've had no contact with their client since Sunday. The attorneys, who conceded they had never met their client in-person, said Zimmerman had been in contact with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity during the same period. Meanwhile, special prosecutor Angela Corey said Tuesday she would hold a press conference “in the next 72 hours.” Corey will decide whether Zimmerman should face criminal charges for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.McDonald's has become the fifth major company to recently drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The shadowy group, which has ties to the Koch brothers and the NRA, provides model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce on various conservative and “free market” issues. ALEC has been criticized for pushing the “stand your ground” law in Florida that allows people to kill someone in public places if they feel their life is threatened. Other firms that have dropped membership are Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Intuit.A massive earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean today, sending residents in coastal cities fleeing to higher ground. The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was centered about 19 miles beneath the ocean floor. At least one aftershock also has been reported.
by Kevin Osborne
To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.A retired local judge told WCPO-TV's I-Team that his dismissal from a United Nations tribunal was the result of a “purge” because some U.N. officials disliked the reforms that he and his colleagues were implementing. Mark Painter, who is a former municipal court judge and appellate court judge in the Cincinnati area, served three years as the only American on a new tribunal that makes final judgments on internal United Nations disputes. But the committee that selects judges chose not to renominate him for a full seven-year term. Painter said it's because the tribunal made its decisions binding, but U.N. officials denied the allegation.About 40 people attended an event Monday night at downtown's Piatt Park to mark Occupy Cincinnati's return to the plaza. As part of a deal signed last week with the city's attorneys, Occupy members are now allowed to remain in the park overnight as long as they are quiet and don't erect tents. Less than 10 people chose to stay until this morning.In other protest-related news, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave permission for a Catholic priest in a Dayton suburb to perform an exorcism outside of a medical clinic that performs abortions. The Rev. Tim Ralston of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kettering performed the rite Sunday at the Women's Med Center. About 300 anti-abortion activists attended the event.Gov. John Kasich is trying to force out the leader of the Ohio Republican Party before November's elections. Party Chairman Kevin DeWine announced Sunday he wouldn't seek reelection when his two-year term expires in January, but Kasich wants DeWine gone now. Kasich wants to name his own appointee, and hopes to oust DeWine when the GOP’s newly elected 66-member central committee meets April 13.In news elsewhere, public outcry has prompted the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest. More than 435,000 people signed an online petition calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was killed Feb. 17 while walking home after buying Skittles and iced tea at a nearby store.More details are emerging about the past of the Norwood native who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree. Before he enlisted in the Army, Robert Bales' career as a stockbroker came to an end when a court arbitrator ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million for taking part in “fraud” and “unauthorized trading.” The client, Gary Liebschner, a 74-year-old retired engineer, told The Washington Post that he “never got paid a penny” of the award.Meanwhile, the shooting spree may lead to Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning a major concession from the United States. Officials are mulling whether to modify the use of controversial night raids by troops and giving Afghans more oversight. The Obama administration is discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, a U.S. official said Monday.JP Morgan Chase is closing the Vatican bank's account with its Italian branch based on concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See's financial institution. Italian newspapers reported JP Morgan Chase informed the Vatican bank that its account was being closed because it had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers. The institution has been accused of tax fraud and money laundering in the past.The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.