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Gorilla's death brings trolls out; medical marijuana initiative closes shop; Portman releases TV ads in Senate race

click to enlarge Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman

Hey all. Hope your Memorial Day weekend was grand. Mine involved bicycles, friends from near and far, brunch, puppies, beers and big sales on outdoor gear. So, yeah, basically everything that’s good in life.

Sometimes, the news is about everything that’s not so good in life. You’ve almost certainly already heard about the tragic death of Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was shot and killed after a 3-year-old child fell into his pen. Harambe's death has made national and even international news. Zookeepers say it was necessary to shoot the gorilla because he had started dragging the child and because tranquilizers and other ways to neutralize him wouldn’t work fast enough. The incident has caused waves of controversy here in Cincinnati and around the country, because, apparently, that’s how we are now. Internet commenters have launched hateful, sometimes racially tinged attacks on the parents. They’ve blasted the zoo. They’ve even tracked down other people in Ohio with the mother’s name and harassed them. Harambe’s death is definitely a tragedy, but the really awful thing about this is how terrible people are.

• This weekend’s Taste of Cincinnati mostly went off without a hitch, but there were some troubling moments, including one in which a 15-year-old was arrested for firing a gun. No one was hurt in that incident, but it’s the kind of thing Councilwoman Yvette Simpson says shows that more work needs to be done engaging teens at the event, which is mostly adult focused. Last year, 19 teenagers were arrested at Taste, mostly for curfew infractions. This year, Simpson took to the streets around the festival with a dozen or so volunteers to engage teens downtown. Simpson says she’s pitched more formal youth engagement measures for the festival to the city’s chamber of commerce. Those ideas weren’t taken up this year, but the councilwoman and potential mayoral candidate has pledged to make them a reality next year.

• The last remaining health clinic providing abortions in the greater Cincinnati area will stay open another year, thanks to a last-minute variance to state rules granted by the Ohio Department of Health. Planned Parenthood, which runs the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, has been fighting with Ohio around recently instituted rules that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges with local hospitals. Those rules also prohibit publicly funded hospitals from entering into those agreements, which cost the Mount Auburn clinic its agreement with UC Hospital a few years ago. But clinics can apply for exceptions to the rule if they have physicians on staff with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals. Over the last few years, the Mount Auburn clinic has been applying for those variances, though ODH has been slow in granting them. The clinic’s position was made all the more tenuous by another new Ohio law that gives the health department just 90 days to approve a variance request before it is automatically denied. The new rules have cut the number of clinics in the state from 16 to nine.

• Ohio voters won’t be weighing in on a medical marijuana initiative that a national group had hoped to get on the November statewide ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project and its Ohio arm, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, on Saturday suspended their campaign for the ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana for medical reasons, just days after the Ohio legislature passed its own, stricter medical marijuana legislation. The group needed to gather more than 300,000 signatures by early July to make the November ballot. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana originally decried the effort by state lawmakers currently awaiting Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s approval, saying it didn’t go far enough. Another group called Grassroots Ohio is shooting for a more expansive legalization effort for the 2017 ballot.

• Finally, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Wednesday will unveil his first three television ads in his bid for reelection in Ohio. Those ads highlight Portman’s role in fighting the state’s heroin crisis are another salvo in the tight battle between Portman and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat looking to take the incumbent Republican’s seat. The race is seen as pivotal in Democrats’ efforts to take back the Senate, where they currently face a slight majority held by Republicans. Portman is seen as vulnerable in that quest, and, indeed, he and Strickland are running neck and neck here. Strickland has hit Portman on his refusal to grant a hearing to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and for his endorsement of Donald Trump as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

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