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Talking Trash 

The Ohio EPA dumps its work on you.

The good people of the Ohio EPA apparently believe they have too much work, so they're dumping it on you. According to a proposed change in the agency's laws, it will no longer deal with "nuisance odors" unless the stank is causing health problems or property damage.

And how exactly does one prove that a factory, a dump, or a large hazardous waste site ["Tomb With a View," January 10] is causing one health problems? Well, that's up to you too.

The proposed changes have some up in arms. "The average citizen doesn't have the wherewithal to produce some sort of environmental study," says Senator John Boccieri (D-New Middletown). "They just know that it smells bad and it's making them sick."

(Punch wanted to ask the EPA about the proposal, but it has a policy against speaking to us.)

Commissioners from Stark, Wayne, and Tuscarawas counties have vowed to fight the change. Last week, almost 60 people descended on Columbus to protest a public hearing. Hundreds more have sent complaints to David Held, who directs solid-waste management for the three counties.

"We're not asking the EPA to track every bad smell in the state of Ohio," Boccieri says. "We're just asking them to enforce their regulations."

But since that would require actual work -- banned by the EPA's Quit Bothering Me I'm Reading the Sports Page Pact of 1986 -- you know that ain't happening. So tiny Lawrence Township, in Tuscarawas County, will be ready. Residents have long complained about a particularly lethal landfill, which the EPA refuses to investigate. Officials there have spent almost $10,000 on Nasal Rangers -- $1,500 devices that electronically measure the toxicity of odors and, coincidentally, also make great party favors.

Obama makes friends
Faced with the challenge of appealing to both blacks and whites in 2008, presidential hopeful Barack Obama has asked George Forbes, a man held in suspicion by both groups, to serve on the Illinois senator's exploratory committee.

This is the same George Forbes who, while a member of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation's Oversight Commission, approved investing in doomed MDL Capital Management, which just happened to employ his daughter Mimi. The company lost $215 million of injured workers' money, which also makes Forbes the favorite to become the first Obama staffer to be indicted.

It seems an odd choice for Obama, a guy so clean that he bragged up his pot smoking in an effort to seem "edgy." Unfortunately, his first two choices -- Atlanta child killer Wayne Williams and former California gubernatorial candidate Gary "Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout Willis" Coleman -- were busy.

"I guess George [Forbes] is a Democrat again, after working with George Voinovich and Bob Taft," says former Cuyahoga County Republican Chairman Jim Trakas. "Barack ought to talk to Attorney General Marc Dann, who was calling for George Forbes' head just a year ago."

Neither Forbes nor a spokesperson for Obama returned Punch's calls. The senator is now rumored to be courting former boxer Mike Tyson to help appeal to the battered-woman vote.

Jagged little pill
After years of stalling and sidestepping, the FDA last summer finally ruled that Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, could be sold over the counter without a prescription.

Apparently, this news has yet to hit Ohio.

In Columbus last week, a 23-year-old woman claimed a Wal-Mart pharmacist "shook his head and laughed" when she requested the morning-after pill. A pharmacy technician told the woman that she would have little luck getting it. (A Wal-Mart spokesman says "appropriate action" is being taken to ensure this doesn't happen again.)

Then a Planned Parenthood volunteer went into a nearby Meijer's, where the pharmacist said that they didn't carry Plan B either. If she wanted the pill, she should "probably go somewhere else," the pharmacist said.

The refusals have pro-choice activists seething.

"It's bad enough that pharmacists think they could refuse to refill a prescription, but Plan B has over-the-counter status," says Mary O'Shea of Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland. "It has the status of cough drops. How does a pharmacist think he has the right to say no to this?"

A title for Cleveland?
Leave it to a former crack dealer and the World's Wildest Afro® to bring Cleveland its best shot at a sports title.

Ray Austin, an ex-con who grew up brawling on Cleveland's East Side, learned last week that he'll fight for the International Boxing Federation's heavyweight title this March.

This is interesting, because no one who knows boxing ranks Austin among the world's top heavyweights. And the guy he'll be fighting is Wladimir Klitschko, widely considered the best in his class. But Austin has something actually qualified boxers lack: a promoter with juice. Thanks to Don King, Austin will compete for a championship belt.

"Ray is probably one of the most ridiculous . . . heavyweight title fights I've ever seen," says Dan Rafael, who covers boxing for ESPN.com. "He's got a promoter that's put him in this position. It's pathetic."

Even if he loses, Austin could rake in six or seven figures, Rafael says. "Then he'll get knocked out and go back to making $25,000 a fight."

Delayed justice
The last time Scene caught up with Randy Resh and Bob Gondor, they insisted they'd been convicted of a murder they didn't commit ["No Way Out," January 15, 2003].

In 1988, Resh and Gondor were convicted of murdering 31-year-old Connie Nardi. But the case long seemed a textbook effort in coerced testimony, concealed forensic data, and a prime witness whose principal motive was saving his own ass.

In 2002, a Portage County judge agreed. But thanks to appeals filed by the prosecutor's office, it would be five years before Resh and Gondor would actually receive their reward.

On January 19, the Ohio Supreme Court decided to uphold Bannon's decision. The next day, Resh and Gondor were sent home, where they await a new trial scheduled for spring.

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