Thursday, June 26, 2014

Senate Democrats out-raise Portman

COLUMBUS - According to a Columbus Dispatch report, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the chief fund-raiser for Senate Republicans, is still not raising as much money as Senate Democrats for the 2014 elections. Last month, Senate Democrats raised $8.3 million compared to $5.8 million in May for Senate Republicans.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

How Many KKK Chapters Are In Your Area?

File Photo - The Clever Peasants
The number of hate groups has spiked nationwide since 2008. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified over 30 hate groups in Ohio including Ku Klux Klan chapters.

Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Mystic Knights Of The Ku Klux Klan, Dayton

New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Dayton
Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Amelia

International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Cleveland

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ODNR to award $3.9 Million for local park projects

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is now accepting applications for grant funding assistance for local park projects through the state NatureWorks Grant Program. Before the end of this year, ODNR will be awarding $3.9 million to local communities all across the state to assist in providing Ohioans with enhanced outdoor opportunities.

The Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Fund was passed by voters in 1993. Additional legislation authorized the creation of the NatureWorks program. This is the 21st round for NatureWorks grants.

NatureWorks funding is available for cities, villages, counties, townships, park districts and conservancy districts interested in securing funds to assist with local park projects. Applicants and project scopes must meet the eligibility requirements under the NatureWorks Program, and all applications for the NatureWorks grant program must be postmarked by Sept. 1, 2014.

The NatureWorks grant application can be found at:

The General Assembly recently allocated nearly $8 million to the NatureWorks Program for the next two fiscal years, FY 14 and FY 15. ODNR is currently offering half of these funds for local park projects, awarded projects can be started as early as spring 2015.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Southeast Ohio News: Community engagement key to solving Appalachian homelessness

Keith Wasserman Of Good Works addresses the audience
By Michael O’Brien

JACKSON – Representatives of over a dozen federal, state and local advocate groups and nearly 100 community members came together recently to develop community-based solutions to the housing crisis faced by many people in southeast Ohio.

Sponsored in part by Serenity House in Jackson, Ohio, the first Community Solutions to Housing and Homelessness was held at the Christ Community Methodist Church. The conference featured several panel discussions on the overall problem of access to affordable housing, existing programs focused on addressing the need, to the challenges of sustainable funding sources.

Described in various ways, from homelessness to people without homes, the housing crisis in Appalachian Ohio highlights the critical need for both agency-based support services and community involvement. This need was made poignantly clear by powerful and moving testimony from women who were or are homeless.

Regardless of the county, the stories were similar with families barely eking out a living, struggling just to eat. Home could be a windowless, unheated shack, or for some the underside of a bridge constantly exposed to weather, crime, ridicule and harassment from law enforcement.

The number of people without homes in Appalachia far exceeds that of other areas of the country. Approximately 27 percent of central Appalachian households earn less than $20,000 per year compared to a national average of just over 18 percent.

In southeast Ohio, Athens, Vinton, Meigs, Nobel, Pike and Adams counties are identified as distressed with unemployment rates at least 1.5 times that of the country as a whole. The poverty rate is 1.5 to 2 times the U.S. average.

With these disconcerting statistics as a backdrop, conferees worked not to find immediate solutions, but to begin an ongoing dialogue among groups, agencies and officeholders that can, in long run, develop strategies to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Melissa Kimmell
During the course of her own presentation, and those of other conferees, Serenity House Executive Melissa Kimmel stressed the importance of breaking down the negative stereotypes of people without homes. Kimmell began by defining exactly what being homeless is.

Kimmel pointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, definition of individuals and families without homes. This includes being literally homeless, in imminent risk of becoming homeless, homeless under various federal laws and fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence.

Myths of Homelessness

Kimmell was quick to debunk the many myths surrounding the subject of homelessness
“I think it’s important for people to understand that homeless people come from all walks of life and from many different situations” Kimmel said.

Among oft-heard misconception about people without homes is they are most often men and lazy moochers who won’t work.

Many of the homeless are among the working poor and most make too much to receive government assistance,” Kimmell said. “Women make up over half of the rural homeless population.”

Many conference attendees were surprised to that government does not provide enough funding for making low cost housing available to low income people.

“More money is spent for middle and upper class housing in the form of tax deductions than is spent to subsidize low income housing,” Kimmell said. “And contrary to conventional wisdom people without homes are not all drug addicts, alcoholics or have mental health issues.”

People without homes in rural areas like southeast Ohio can be found seeking shelter in a number of places, from couching surfing in the home of a friend or family member to sharing space in single family dwelling housing multiple families.

It is not uncommon for people without homes to establish tent cities in wooded areas. Still others are forced to take refuge in abandoned homes and barns or in cars, campers and under bridges.

Heartbreak and Hope

Personal testimonies brought to life the loneliness and hardship of being homeless in rural Ohio.

The Homeless and Formerly Homeless panel made a profound impression on the audience. Kimmel was no exception.

“I was very impressed with the comments made the panel members, especially the homeless and formerly homeless panel members” Kimmel said. “I appreciate them for telling their stories and also the respect shown by the audience during that time.

One by one, though sometimes overwhelmed by emotion, each woman told stories of life filled with pain, struggling to overcome homelessness, hunger, and barriers they faced fighting to gain or maintain employment. Physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of spouses, boyfriends and family members, drug addiction, and the challenges of single parenthood often made those struggles too much to bear.

Choked with emotion, one of the panel members summed up not only her own wish but most certainly the wish of those who spoke before her including the advocates on the panel.

“I just want a place to live where I can have my kids, a normal life and a job!”

“One Can of Corn”

Pike County HealthCommissioner Wally Burden
Several speakers represented area agencies with programs offering various levels of assistance and guidance to people and families without homes. Pike County Health District Commissioner Wally Burden expressed his frustration with the challenges associated with reaching out to homeless families.

“We’re failing these people as a community,” Burden said. “Pike County has one the highest rates of poverty in the state yet we can only reach 50 to 60 families a year. There is no upper education in Pike County.”

Burden stressed that fear of the government and social service agencies are a significant barrier to reaching out the homeless families. Parents fear losing their children or are ashamed of their situation. Burden stressed that drugs are not the cause of poverty but rather a symptom of a larger problem, the absence of jobs.

“Under stress, people will turn to drugs as an escape, a way to self-medicate,” Burden said. “When we visit a home to find one can of corn and a beer as the only food items, it’s distressing to us. Imagine the stress on the family.”

Get Involved

One of the final panelists to speak was John Rogers who represented the Ohio Association
John Rogers, Ohio Association of Food Banks
of Food Banks. With all the passion and fervor of a country preacher, Rogers put a sharp point on the theme of that conference.

“If we can’t get help from somebody else we have to help each other” Not matter what county you’re in, if you have an idea bring in to the table. We discuss it, we’ll work it out if it’s possible,” Rogers said.

According to Rogers, the Village of Beaver, Ohio has a population of 444 and has a poverty rate exceeding 75 percent. He has seen homeless people get turned away from the local food pantry.

“You can see they haven’t eaten for a while, and they were homeless and they didn’t get no food! You know why? Cause they didn’t have an address,” Rogers said. “You can’t put down that I live under the bridge at 19th street. So what are we supposed to do kick ‘em out the door and let em’go?”

“We have got to help these people, nobody’s gonna help us, we have to help ourselves,” Rogers continued. “The only way we’re going to do that is get involved and it’s not just us, it’s the people the community, the corporations, the small businesses. We have all got to get involved.”

All photographs by Michael O'Brien

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Tip results in Vinton County arrests

Emzy Mullins
MCARTHUR – Several suspects were arrested on drug-related charges June 12 at a Murphy Road residence.  According to the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were acting on a tip regarding four subjects wanted in connection with alleged crimes in Athens and Jackson counties.

According to a media release Deputies arrived at 37143 Murphy Rd. in McArthur and after receiving permission from Emzy Mullins, 57, McArthur, conducted a search of the premises.  The search uncovered alleged drugs and paraphernalia including a brown tar substance , believed to be heroin and a bag of so-called bath salts.

Bath salts describe a wide variety of street drugs and can contain a cathinone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone or mephedrone. The drug can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected and the effects can range from headaches to hallucinations and paranoia.

Taken into custody were Mullins, Scott A. Kight, 30, of McArthur and Rashella Nickells, 30, also of McArthur. A fourth suspect, Sharon K. Slutcher, 30, of Columbus, was found hiding in a closet.

Mullins is charged with complicity and is being held in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail, SEORJ, on $2,000 bail. Nickells had arrest warrants outstanding from Athens County, while Kight was wanted in Jackson County.

The suspected drug items were sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation Lab for further processing.  The investigation has been forwarded to the Vinton County Prosecuting Attorney for review.

2 States Beef Up Oil-by-Rail and Pipeline Safety After String of Accidents

July 6, 2013 oil train accident in Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec
By Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News

New Hampshire and Minnesota take steps to deal with gaps in federal regulations.

2 States Beef Up Oil-by-Rail and Pipeline Safety After String of Accidents | InsideClimate News

BREAKING NEWS:Supreme Court hands gun lobby a loss

WASHINGTON. D.C.  The U.S. Supreme Court today dealt a serious blow to the gun lobby, ruling against a challenge to federal law which forbids misrepresenting the identity of the actual gun buyer or so-called straw man gun purchase.

In Bruce James Abramski, Jr., Petitioner V. United States, the court affirmed, in a 5 to 4 decision, the conviction of Ambramski of knowingly making false statements “with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale” of a gun.

The Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U. S. C. §921 e, seeks to prevent the transfer of firearms to people not legally entitled to purchase or possess any firearm. The Court ruled that Abramski’s false statement prevented the dealer from insisting that the true buyer appear in person, provide photo identification, and submit to a background check.

Abramski, a former Virginia law enforcement officer, was purchasing a gun from a licensed gun dealer with the intent to give the gun to a family member. The federal background check asks if the buyer is the “actual transferee/buyer” of the gun. Abramski was charged with lying when he answered in the affirmative on the form.

Read the ruling:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Crime Advisory: Thieves targeting work trucks

MCARTHUR-- The Vinton County Sheriff's Office has issued an advisory involving thefts from two work trucks.

According to the advisory, during the last 24 hours, thieves targeted two work trucks in seperate areas of the county. Both vehicles were parked in private drives.

"If you take a work vehicle home and have it parked in your driveway, please keep a good eye on it," Justice said.

Residents who witness or suspect suspicious activity should call Vinton County 911.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gunman kills student, self at Portland-area high school

TROUTDALE, OR - A lone gunman entered Reynolds High School this morning shooting and killing one student before taking his own life. The identity of the victim and the shooter have not been released.

Troutdale is located approximately 16 miles northeast of Portland.

Details are sketchy as authorities conduct a room-by-room sweep of the school. Police have cordoned off the area as parents wait for information. 

READ MORE: Troutdale school shooting

Texas GOP endorses 'reparative therapy' for gays

FORT WORTH, Tx - In a move widely criticized by the LBGT and mental health communities, the Texas Republican Party gave final a controversial platform plank..

The Texas GOP now endorses so-called "reparative therapy" for gays under a new platform given final approval at its annual convention.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ex-Bush Official: GWB Would Have Made Same Deal To Free Sgt. Bergdahl

A former Bush administration official John Bellinger broke with Republicans on Tuesday to defend President Obama’s prisoner exchange, arguing that since “the war in Afghanistan is winding down,” the United States would be required to return prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan.

Ex-Bush Official: GWB Would Have Made Same Deal To Free Sgt. Bergdahl

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slippery suspect apprehended

Roger Dale Barber
MCARTHUR – A plan hatched by Vinton County Sheriff’s Deputies netted an Albany man who had eluded arrest on several outstanding warrants including one for alleged aggravated drug possession.

According to a Vinton County Sheriff’s Office media release, Roger Dale Barber, 23, was apprehended June 2. Deputies caught up with Barber in an undercover sting after past attempts to arrest Barber failed. Part of the plan relied on catching Barber as he returned to his residence. When Barber arrived deputies were able to surround his vehicle preventing his escape.

Barber was arrested without incident and was transferred to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. Held on a $175,000 cash or surety bond, Barber faces additional charges violating probation and drug cultivation. A preliminary hearing date has not yet been released.