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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 5:18 PM

The Center for Community Solutions notes another dubious distinction:

In Ohio’s cities, the ranks of those living in poverty are growing, according to Census Bureau data released today. Nearly one-third of Cleveland residents eke out an existence below the poverty line, making it the second poorest city in America. The poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,050.

Ohio has the dubious distinction of being the only state with more than one large city among the 10 poorest in America. Cincinnati ranked seventh with 25.1 percent in poverty, and Toledo ranted eighth with a poverty rate of 24.7 percent.

Here's the whole list:

Detroit, MI 33.3 %
Cleveland, OH 30.5 %
Buffalo, NY 30.3 %
Newark, NJ 26.1 %
Miami, FL 25.6 %
Fresno, CA 25.5 %
Cincinnati, OH 25.1 %
Toledo, OH 24.7 %
El Paso, TX 24.3 %
Philadelphia, PA 24.1 %


Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 2:14 PM

You probably know that members of Congress have a pretty good healthcare package. You probably didn't know just how good — and how cheap — it really is. From ABC News:

Services offered by the Office of the Attending Physician include physicals and routine examinations, on-site X-rays and lab work, physical therapy and referrals to medical specialists from military hospitals and private medical practices. According to congressional budget records, the office is staffed by at least four Navy doctors as well as at least a dozen medical and X-ray technicians, nurses and a pharmacist.

Sources said when specialists are needed, they are brought to the Capitol, often at no charge to members of Congress.

"If you had, for example, prostate cancer, you would go to one of the centers of excellence for the country, which would be Johns Hopkins. If you had coronary artery disease, we would engage specialists at the Cleveland Clinic. You would go to the best care in the country. And, for the most part, nobody asked what your insurance was," [former staff physician Dr.] Balbona said.

Wait, it gets better:

Members of Congress do not pay for the individual services they receive at the OAP, nor do they submit claims through their federal employee health insurance policies. Instead, members pay a flat, annual fee of $503 for all the care they receive. The rest of the cost of their care, sources said, is subsidized by taxpayers.

Last year, Congress appropriated more than $3 million to reimburse the Navy for staff salaries at the office. Sources said additional money to operate the office is included in the Navy's annual budget.

In 2008, 240 members paid the annual fee, though some sources say congressmen who didn't pay the fee were rarely prevented from using OAP services.

The members of Congress who vehemently oppose any sort of public option for us have world-class government-run healthcare for themselves, and pay less than $10 a week, if they pay at all. We need a new word for this, because "hypocrisy" doesn't begin to do it justice.— Frank Lewis


Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Until fairly recently, Harvey Pekar says, he “always had a lot of trouble” getting artists to illustrate his stories. “I had to work with some people who were not that good. It was either that or nothing.”

  • Rick Parker
That’s not the case anymore, as one look at his new online project and real-world gallery exhibit proves. The Pekar Project is a web comic series published by SMITH magazine, edited by Jeff Newelt. It’s a multifaceted adventure in the real-life stories of Harvey. New comics are published every other week at, along with interviews, artist spotlights and other material. Artists include New Yorkers Rick Parker and Sean Pryor, Los Angelino Joseph Remnant and Clevelander Tara Seibel.

“I met Tara at a workshop at Lakeland [Community College],” says Pekar. “The other three came to me from Jeff, who just sent me people he thought were real good. They were really anxious to work with me, even though they weren’t getting paid.”

Not getting paid is not unusual in the world of storytelling and comics, especially online. Pekar is hopeful that the Pekar Project will attract the interest of a print publisher.

For the first Project, Siebel depicted a conversation Pekar had with comic-book colleague R. Crumb. They talked about contemporary artists’ and musicians’ struggle to find an audience, which was a key concept in the opera Leave Me Alone, for which Pekar wrote the libretto.

  • Tara Siebel
The stories he’s currently writing for the project are about his trip to and from a speaking engagement in Muncie, Indiana. Once he’s “run into” a story, Pekar writes it in the format of a comic strip, with word balloons and stick figures. “No matter how many times I copy, it’s always messy and sloppy,” he says.
“If nothing ever comes of [the Pekar Project], it wouldn’t be a big huge loss. It’s not like I’ve been chiseling away at a big block of stone to make a sculpture or something.”

And whether the Pekar Project sees print or not, the Pennello Gallery (12407 Mayfield Rd., 216.707.9390) will show original art from the series in an exhibit called The Pekar Project Live: From Web to Walls. It opens with a reception from 7-11 p.m. Friday, October 3, and continues through October 9. — Michael Gill

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Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Erin O’Brien describes the difficulties she encountered in reporting this week’s cover story, “Drill Baby Drill":

The research required sorting through complex regulations. At times, I turned to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for help and clarification. But every ODNR representative I spoke with wanted my questions in writing. I often felt like they were trying to get me off the phone. The ODNR did eventually respond to my queries, but not until after my deadline. An e-mail snafu contributed to the delay.

Scott Kell, deputy chief of the Ohio Division of Mineral Resource Management, had this to say about his agency’s policy regarding data-tracking for well incidents: “The ODNR Division of Mineral Resources Management responds to all citizen or industry-reported oil release incidents that are reported to us. Owners routinely provide courtesy notice to DMRM regarding oil releases in spite of the fact that federal regulations do not require such notice. Because existing rules do not mandate notification of DMRM, we cannot currently claim that we have a complete accounting of all oil releases. This does not mean that we don’t ‘track’ releases and subsequent remedial efforts at those releases that are reported to us.” (Complete statement here.)

Field Inspector Norburt Lowder’s August 18 “Notice of Violation” report regarding the well next to my house said this: “Approximately 1-1.5 bbl of fluids (water and crude oil) was released covering an area approximately (10’X20’). The soil was scraped up and a lined dike was constructed to hold the fluids and the soil. This area is approximately 10’X20’ and will be removed when the swabbing operation is completed in 2-3 days. While on site I checked area for gas using my meter. NO Natural Gas or H2S was detected.”

However, when I had asked Lowder about testing weeks earlier, he had said he did not conduct air tests during his inspection. I called him to clear up the conflicting information

“I didn’t remember at the time,” said Lowder in reference to our first conversation. “It’s something I normally do without question. I have [the meter] on me all the time. I just do it.”

As for the 10-by-20-foot affected area, Lowder reported, the newly seeded area next to the well is approximately 50-by-90-feet (I measured it). I asked Lowder about that discrepancy. He declined to elaborate and asked me to put any additional questions in writing.

“That’s the way the directive is coming down from our Columbus office,” he said. “I’ve stretched my limit right now.”

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Akron Robber Focuses on Dough, Crispy Chicken Skin

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Some capers should be easier to crack than others, and this robbing spree in Akron falls distinctly under that category.

A 300-pound man wanted for a string of armed robberies has hit a few more joints this week, logging three heists in a mere 12 hours. Now, narrow down the search by the fact that you're looking for a 300-pound man, and further whittle the focus down after realizing that of his targets, three have been a Kentucky Fried Chicken and two Church's chicken. If it wasn't apparent from his girth, now you know that the man not only digs money, but digs his fried poultry.

If Akron police aren't staking out Popeye's and every other fried chicken join in the city, they're not doing their jobs. — Vince Grzegorek

(via ABJ)

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Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 3:47 PM

The Gay Games are coming to Cleveland in 2014. reports:

“Cleveland demonstrated to the Federation of Gay Games that they understood the mission of the Gay Games and our principles of ‘Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best,’” said Kurt Dahl and Emy Ritt, FGG co-presidents in a statement. “We were highly impressed by the facilities and infrastructure, the widespread community sport, their financial plan and the city’s experience in hosting large scale sports and cultural events.”


Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman will kick off the Cleveland Public Library’s 2009-2010 Writers & Readers series Sunday, 2 p.m., at the Cleveland Public Library’s Lake Shore Facility (behind the Memorial-Nottingham Branch), 17109 Lake Shore Blvd. Gaimain wrote the Sandman graphic novels, the New York Times young-adult bestseller The Graveyard Book, and the novel that became the movie Coraline. Call 216.623.2800 for more information. All Writers & Readers events are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Gaiman books, including his new short young adult novel Odd and the Frost Giants, will be available for sale.

Click the pic for the trailer of Graveyard Book, which won a Newbery Medal and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 51 weeks straight. Gaiman has said via his Twitter account (@neilhimself) that if it's there for a full year week, then everybody gets pie. This week's sales aren't in, but if you're going to cash in on the pie offer, this is probably your best chance. — D.X. Ferris


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