Good morning all. Here’s your news today.
Was the Greater Cincinnati area a test market for potent, additive-laden heroin? In the aftermath of a huge spike in overdoses, some officials, including Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco, think so. They say the influx of heroin laced with fentanyl and carfentanil, two powerful synthetic opiates, suggests that dealers have targeted the region as a proving ground for the drugs. Other law enforcement officials have also cited reports of local, street-level dealers handing out free samples that later caused overdoses as signs that local addicts might have been used as guinea pigs by higher-level dealers. Fentanyl is an opiate developed by drug companies and widely prescribed prior to the current heroin crisis, as this CityBeat story details more in-depth. Carfentanil is a similar, more powerful drug used as a tranquilizer for larger animals like elephants. Both are many times more powerful than uncut heroin. Authorities believe much of the supply of the drugs is originating in China.
• If you were bummed that the feds nay-sayed a proposed enormous, multi-million dollar Ferris wheel at Newport on the Levee because it seemed unsafe, rejoice! The plan could be back on after all.
• The local host of a controversial conservative online radio show who was arrested during the January militia standoff in Burns, Oregon might have his charges dropped soon. Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Courts to drop counts of conspiring to impede U.S. Interior Department employees brought against Cincinnatian Peter Santilli after he was among those arrested during the tense showdown between the department and anti-government activists who took over a wildlife refuge in Burns. Santilli’s attorneys say he never stayed the night at the refuge with the militia, however, and that the First Amendment protects the information he broadcast while he was covering the occupation. Prosecutors seem to agree, recommending that charges not be pursued further.
• Let’s stay in the legal realm for a bit: A Cincinnati attorney is bringing a class-action lawsuit against the company that makes EpiPens, the emergency treatment that can reverse severe, even life-threatening allergic reactions. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the company that produces the drug, has seen big controversy nationwide over the past few years after a 500-percent price surge for the product. In a suit filed with Hamilton County Common Pleas Court recently, attorney Carl Lewis argues that the price increase amounts to price-gouging and is in violation of Ohio consumer protection laws. Among the 25 plaintiffs: a woman whose son has a peanut allergy who says the price of the pens went from $50 last year to about $600 this year. The company has blamed overly complex regulations and health plans as the reason for the hike and says it will work harder to make sure consumers can obtain the drug.
• A federal judge should not have kept polls open during the March primary, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. District Court Judge Susan Dlott ordered polls to remain open past their normal closing time due to a car accident that left some drivers stranded on I-275 during voting hours on March 15. However, Dlott did not receive any written complaints about an inability to get to the polls, only phone calls. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted challenged Dlott on her order, and the circuit court agreed with him, saying Dlott did not follow the proper procedures for extending voting hours. About 65 people in the county voted during the extended time frame.
• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s 2015 campaign is… still raising money? Yep. Despite the fact Bevin won last year’s election after contributing more than $4 million to his own campaign and now holds the governor’s office, he’s still holding fundraising events. Some say that’s to pay back all those checks he wrote to get himself elected. Bevin’s big self-contributions and any efforts to pay himself back for them were once illegal in Kentucky, but the laws forbidding such practices were struck down by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. A representative for Bevin’s campaign says the organization still has ongoing expenses and will continue to raise money to meet them. The campaign was quick to point out that Bevin has never withdrawn money from campaign accounts to pay himself back for his bid, but did not comment on whether he would in the future.
• Finally, a surprising bit of national news on the presidential campaign front. One of the country’s most traditionally conservative major newspapers (and, full disclosure, a former employer of mine) has endorsed the Democratic nominee for president for the first time in three-quarters of a century. The right-leaning editorial board of the Dallas Morning News yesterday released a surprise editorial throwing its support behind Hillary Clinton, opining that her opponent, Donald Trump, is not a true Republican. What’s more, DMN’s endorsement of Clinton was not the tepid, lesser-of-two-evils argument you might expect. It probably won’t sway the Lone Star State — Trump leads there, though his advantage is only in the single-digits, compared to Mitt Romney’s 12-point trouncing of Barack Obama in 2012 — but the piece is another sign of the antipathy many mainstream conservatives have toward The Donald. What a world, what a world.