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Friday, November 27, 2020

Activists Say Enhanced Protest Punishments in Ohio Will Lead to More Police Misconduct

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 1:34 PM

  • Sam Allard / Scene
Police already have been overly aggressive in this year’s civil rights protests, some protesters say. If Ohio adopts enhanced penalties related to protests, that will only aggravate the problem, they say.

Worse, according to the activists, the bill’s provision allowing deadly force by people who feel threatened during “riots” will only encourage people to go to protests seeking violence.

In contrast, the bill’s sponsors last week didn’t acknowledge that police had engaged in misconduct in Ohio or elsewhere during last summer’s wave of civil rights protests — which were themselves touched off by police misconduct when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on an unarmed Black man’s neck for more than eight minutes, killing him.

The legislation, House Bill 784, was introduced by two lawmakers from Southwest Ohio last Thursday.

In addition to allowing people to use deadly force in what is loosely defined as a “riot,” the bill also would make felonies of what currently are riot-related misdemeanors.

Also, it would allow law-enforcement officers claiming harm in demonstrations to sue any organization supporting the demonstration for treble damages. Taken together, HB 784’s provisions are meant to intimidate protesters from turning out in the first place, said one activist.

“It’s terrifying,” Samantha Grimsley said at rally outside the Statehouse last week against HB 784. “It’s meant to keep people from wanting to come out.”

That’s not how its sponsors see it.

“Our legislation is straightforward. It embraces the right of all Americans to step forward and peaceably assemble and make their voices heard,” one of them, Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, told the House Criminal Justice Committee. “But it also says that when you break the law, there will be consequences. Freedom and speech and freedom of assembly are important cornerstones of our democracy. Whether I agree or disagree with what someone has to say, I will defend their right to say it.”

The bill is divorced from the reality of what police did last summer during protests of the Georgy Floyd killing, activists say.

On May 29, the day Floyd was killed, Columbus police moved in, using pepper spray to disburse a crowd, part of which was throwing water bottles into the police line. In the aftermath, some smashed downtown windows — including at the Ohio Statehouse.

Whether the protests themselves or the aggressive response by police are most culpable for the damage is hotly debated. But in the ensuing weeks, police were repeatedly criticized for aggressive tactics.

For example, police on May 30 pepper-sprayed a crowd that included U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce — all Black. Beatty said that one protester had a foot in the street as police were trying to keep the crowd on the sidewalk.

Grimsley said the summer saw many, many instances of overly aggressive policing in Columbus.

“George Floyd brought me out, but the police kept me out,” she said.

Across the country, police excesses during the protests seemed rampant. The news organization ProPublica in July reviewed 400 videos posted on social media and found “troubling conduct” in almost half of them, including improper use of pepper spray and punching and kicking protesters.

Police also went after journalists in the protests, with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker reporting more than 328 “press freedom violations” between May 26 and June 6, Forbes reported. In Columbus, reporters — including student journalists — also reported being attacked by police during the protests.

But on Thursday, HB 784 cosponsor Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, didn’t acknowledge police misconduct. She said that police only use mace or pepper spray after multiple warnings. As for the pepper-spraying of Beatty and the other elected officials, she said, “I don’t know those people, so I don’t know. But I do know for a fact that (police) tell you at least three or four times ‘Please step back,’ and they do it in a very polite fashion.”

The bill’s sponsors appeared struggle to explain its provision to allow deadly force by people who feel threatened in protests.

Abrams described a situation in which a motorist might find himself or herself engulfed by demonstrators and in fear of being attacked as a situation where deadly force would be justified. Indeed, in early July a disabled Columbus man inadvertently drove amid a demonstration at Broad and High streets, where angry protesters did more than $8,000 worth of damage to his car before other protesters pulled him to safety.

But Aileen Day, who helped organize last week’s demonstration against HB 784, said its deadly force provision has other implications. She said that during last summer’s demonstrations, some people — including white supremacists — went to protests looking for violence. She said she’s terrified that the bill’s sanction of deadly force would only embolden them to start trouble and then kill.

Amid violent protests in Kenosha, Wisc., in August, police praised armed civilians for turning out to protect businesses. Then one of them, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, used his AR-15 to kill two men and wound another. His supporters say he acted in self defense, but Rittenhouse now faces homicide and other charges.

On Thursday, Ohio Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, wanted to know if HB 784 might incentivize armed people to go to protests looking for violence. Carruthers said, “If it was pre-planned, they will be dealt with.”

“Are they going to be charged with a homicide, or are they going to be excused under this bill?” Crossman asked.

Abrams didn’t seem to know the answer.

“I’m not a prosecutor and I am certainly not a judge and I’m certainly not a homicide detective, so that would be up to them to decide who they’re going to charge,” she said.

Originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.

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Here’s Why COVID-19 Vaccines Like Pfizer’s Need to Be Kept So Cold

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 10:49 AM

  • Pfizer
Pfizer is racing to get approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, applying for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on November 20. But the pharmaceutical giant faces a huge challenge in distributing its vaccine, which has to be kept an ultrafrosty –70° Celsius, requiring special storage freezers and shipping containers.

It “has some unique storage requirements,” says Kurt Seetoo, the immunization program manager at the Maryland Department of Public Health in Baltimore. “We don’t normally store vaccines at that temperature, so that definitely is a challenge.”

That means that even though the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is likely to be the first vaccine to reach the finish line in the United States, its adoption may ultimately be limited. The FDA’s committee overseeing vaccines will meet on December 10 to discuss the emergency use request. That meeting will be streamed live on the agency’s web site and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels.

The companies are also seeking authorization to distribute the vaccine in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, making its deep-freeze problem a global challenge.

A similar vaccine developed by Moderna and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also requires freezing. But it survives at a balmier –20° C, so can be kept in a standard freezer, and can even be stored at refrigerator temperatures for up to a month.. Most vaccines don’t require freezing at all, but both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are a new type of vaccine for which the low temperatures are necessary to keep the vaccines from breaking down and becoming useless.

Both vaccines are based on messenger RNA, or mRNA, which carries instructions for building copies of the coronavirus’ spike protein. Human cells read those instructions and produce copies of the protein, which, in turn prime the immune system to attack the coronavirus should it come calling.

So why does Pfizer’s vaccine need to be frozen at sub-Antarctica temperatures and Moderna’s does not?

Answering that question requires some speculation. The companies aren’t likely to reveal all the tricks and commercial secrets they used to make the vaccines, says Sanjay Mishra, a protein chemist and data scientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

But there are at least four things that may determine how fragile an mRNA vaccine is and how deeply it needs to be frozen to keep it fresh and effective. How the companies addressed those four challenges is likely the key to how cold the vaccines need to be, Mishra says.

The cold requirement conundrum starts with the difference in chemistry between RNA and its cousin, DNA.

One reason RNA is much less stable than DNA is due to an important difference in the sugars that make up the molecules’ backbones. RNA’s spine is a sugar called ribose, while DNA’s is deoxyribose. The difference: DNA is missing an oxygen molecule. As a result, “DNA can survive for generations,” Mishra says, but RNA is much more transient. “And for biology, that’s a good thing.”

When cells have a job to do, they usually need to call proteins into service. But like most manufacturers, cells don’t have a stockpile of proteins. They have to make new batches each time. The recipe for making proteins is stored in DNA.

Rather than risk damaging DNA recipes by putting them on the molecular kitchen counter while cooking up a batch of proteins, cells instead make RNA copies of the recipe. Those copies are read by cellular machinery and used to produce proteins.

Like a Mission Impossible message that self-destructs once it has been played, many RNAs are quickly degraded once read. Quickly disposing of RNA is one way to control how much of a particular protein is made. There are a host of enzymes dedicated to RNA’s destruction floating around inside cells and nearly everywhere else. Sticking RNA-based vaccines in the blast freezer prevents such enzymes from tearing apart the RNA and rendering the vaccine inert.

Another way the molecules’ stability differs lies in their architecture. DNA’s dual strands twine into a graceful double helix. But RNA goes it alone in a single strand that pairs with itself in some spots, creating fantastical shapes reminiscent of lollipops, hair pins and traffic circles. Those “secondary structures” can make some RNAs more fragile than others.

Yet another place that DNA’s and RNA’s chemical differences make things hard on RNA is the part of the molecules that spell out the instructions and ingredients of the recipe. The information-carry subunits of the molecules are known as nucleotides. DNA’s nucleotides are often represented by the letters A, T, C and G for adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine. RNA uses the same A, C and G, but in place of thymine it has a different letter: uracil, or U.

“Uracil is a problem because it juts out,” Mishra says. Those jutting Us are like a flag waving to special immune system proteins called Toll-like receptors. Those proteins help detect RNAs from viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and slate the invaders for destruction.

All these ways mRNA can fall apart or get waylaid by the immune system create an obstacle course for vaccine makers. The companies need to ensure that the RNA stays intact long enough to get into cells and bake up batches of spike protein. Both Moderna and Pfizer probably tinkered with the RNA’s chemistry to make a vaccine that could get the job done: Both have reported that their vaccines are about 95 percent effective at preventing illness in clinical trials (SN: 11/16/20; SN: 11/18/20).

While the details of each company’s approach aren’t known, they both probably fiddled slightly with the chemical letters of the mRNAs in order to make it easier for human cellular machinery to read the instructions. The companies also need to add additional RNA — a cap and tail — flanking the spike protein instructions to make the molecule stable and readable in human cells. That tampering may have disrupted or created secondary structures that could affect the RNA’s stability, Mishra says.

The uracil problem can be dealt with by adding a modified version of the nucleotide, which Toll-like receptors overlook, sparing the RNA from an initial immune system attack so that the vaccine has a better chance of making the protein that will build immune defenses against the virus. Exactly which modified version of uracil the companies may have introduced into the vaccine could also affect RNA stability, and thus the temperature at which each vaccine needs to be stored.

Finally, by itself, an RNA molecule is beneath a cell’s notice because it’s just too small, Mishra says. So the companies coat the mRNA with an emulsion of lipids, creating little bubbles known as lipid nanoparticles. Those nanoparticles need to big enough that cells will grab them, bring them inside and break open the particle to release the RNA.

Some types of lipids stand up to heat better than others. It’s “like regular oil versus fat. You know how lard is solid at room temperature” while oil is liquid, Mishra says. For nanoparticles, “what they’re made of makes a giant difference in how stable they will be in general to [maintain] the things inside.” The lipids the companies used could make a big difference in the vaccine’s ability to stand heat.

The need for ultracold storage might ultimately limit how many people end up getting vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine. “We anticipate that this Pfizer vaccine is pretty much only going to be used in this early phase,” Seetoo says.

The first wave of immunizations is expected to go to health care workers and other essential employees, such as firefighters and police, and to people who are at high risk of becoming severely ill or dying of COVID-19 should they contract it such as elderly people living in nursing facilities.

Pfizer has told health officials that the vaccine can be stored in special shipping containers that are recharged with dry ice for 15 days and stay refrigerated for another five days after thawing, Seetoo says. That gives health officials 20 days to get the vaccine into people’s arms once it’s delivered. But Moderna’s vaccine and a host of others that are still in testing seem to last longer at warmer temperatures. If those vaccines are as effective as Pfizer’s, they may be more attractive candidates in the long run because they don’t need such extreme special handling.

Originally published by Science News. Republished here with permission.

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Ohio Ranks No. 14 Most Overweight and Obese State in America

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 6:56 AM

  • pexels

It's no secret that Americans struggle with obesity. In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 70% of American adults age 20 and older are either obese or overweight.

Personal finance website WalletHub recently produced a study that evaluates which states throughout the U.S. are the most overweight and obese based on a number of key metrics.

The study took into consideration 31 key metrics across 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Key metrics included obesity and the prevalence of those who are overweight in each state. The data was broken into categories including:

  • Share of overweight or obese adults, share of obese children and the projected obesity rate in 2030;
  • health consequences, which included the amount of adults with type 2 diabetes, heart disease rates and obesity-related death rates;
  • and food and fitness, which included fast food restaurants per capita, health-food access and the share of middle and high schools offering salad bars.
  • Based on the assessments, Ohio was ranked the No. 14 most overweight and obese state in America, decreasing four spots from last year's No. 10. We ranked No. 16 for obesity and overweight prevalence, No. 14 for health consequences and No. 15 for food and fitness.

West Virginia came in at No. 1 as the most overweight and obese state in America, while Utah once again ranked the least at No. 51.

According to the study, Ohio's most popular comfort food is buckeyes — a sweet peanut butter and chocolate treat that resembles the nut from a buckeye tree and is also the mascot for The Ohio State University. A typical serving of buckeyes is 362 calories.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Blaine Griffin to Chair City Council Safety Committee after Matt Zone Departure

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:08 PM

  • City of Cleveland
Ward 6 Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin has been appointed to chair the legislative body's safety committee. Griffin fills the vacancy left by chair Matt Zone, who resigned to take a leadership role at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a nonprofit which city council funds annually for environmental consulting, this month.

Griffin, who was appointed to fill Mamie Mitchell's council seat in 2017 and was elected to a full term shortly thereafter, had been chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. In that role, he oversaw the passage of prominent citywide legislation including marijuana decriminalization and a lead-safe ordinance, (spurred by the organizing efforts of CLASH). He was also a leading voice in the city's declaration of racism as a public health crisis.

City Council President Kevin Kelley, who appointed Griffin to fill Zone's seat, cited Griffin's experience as the director of Cleveland's community relations board. Kelley said that experience would serve Griffin well.

Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack will become the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and Ward 2's Kevin Bishop will join the finance committee to fill Zone's vacancy there.

Last week, Zone's replacement in Ward 15, Jenny Spencer, was formally introduced via Zoom after council voted to accept Zone's recommendation. Spencer had been the managing director of the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization.

Alongside the lack of public comments at meetings, council's appointment tradition, where outgoing members hand-select their heirs, is one of its anti-democratic conventions that has been most thoroughly decried in recent years.

Spencer is a natural successor to Zone, and becomes only the third woman on the 17-member body. But she joins recent appointees Kerry McCormack, Blaine Griffin, Brian Kazy, Charles Slife and Brian Mooney as members who were initially installed without public participation. 

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TikToker Fired by Sherwin-Williams Over Viral Paint-Mixing Videos Lands a New Job in Florida

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:03 PM

A 22-year old TikToker who became famous for his viral paint-mixing videos just landed a job in Florida.

Ohio University student Tony Piloseno has amassed 1.4 million followers and 24.2 million likes on TikTok for his aesthetically pleasing paint videos. On Nov. 11, though, he released a video detailing how he was fired by Sherwin-Williams as a result of his account gaining traction.

According to Buzzfeed News, Piloseno received job offers from major paint companies like Benjamin Moore and Behr, but announced in a video released on Nov. 24 he had agreed to a full-time position with the Orlando-based Florida Paints. While building his @tonesterpaints account, Piloseno’s main passion was mixing paints in an actual store, which he’ll be doing as a sales associate for Florida Paints.

"I talked to a bunch of people from a bunch of companies, but Don Strube, the co-owner of Florida Paints, he really connected with me when he called me and talked about his passion for paint," Piloseno said to Buzzfeed News. "I found that very special."

He’s arranged to finish his degree at Ohio University online while working in Florida. He’s also using funds from a GoFundMe originally intended for paint supplies to help with the move.

Originally published by our sister paper in Tampa.

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Cleveland Pandemic Response Has Organized a Holiday Gift Drive for Needy Families

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 11:41 AM


Cleveland Pandemic Response, the mutual aid organization that popped up in April to fill the need gaps of residents during the coronavirus crisis, has launched a holiday gift drive for 20 needy families in Cleveland this year.

Wishlist items can be found on Dreamlist, where generous Clevelanders can match with specific items and families, all of whom are struggling with unemployment, childcare and the prospect of a Christmas torpedoed by pandemic.

"Since March 2020, CPR has facilitated the delivery of items or referral of services to over 600 individuals and families all over Cleveland, including food, masks, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, diapers, and e-gift cards, oftentimes calling on its strong network of over 300 volunteers to coordinate deliveries to homebound requestors," the organization said in a release. "When CPR is unable to meet a requested need, it connects requesters to other individuals or organizations that may be able to help. To continue helping Cleveland’s struggling individuals and families, CPR needs support. Residents can connect with local organizations that are offering services and support through CPR’s Community Hub, at"

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Dennis Kucinich "Seriously Considering" Running for Cleveland Mayor

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 10:28 AM

Dennis Kucinich electrifies the crowd at the Lakewood Women's Pavilion (3/29/2018). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Dennis Kucinich electrifies the crowd at the Lakewood Women's Pavilion (3/29/2018).
In an interview with Channel 3 News' Mark Naymik ostensibly about a new memoir, former mayor, congressman and presidential candidate Dennis! Kucinich confirmed what has long been rumored: He is "seriously considering" running once again for Cleveland Mayor in 2021.

Unmentioned is that Kucinich has been laying the groundwork for a campaign since at least early 2020. The Ward 11 resident has nevertheless insisted, while writing op-eds about the West Side Market for and issuing press releases about Cleveland Public Power and other topics, that he is merely a "concerned citizen."

Last week, he sent a press release to local media in response to the soaring violent crime rate. He called for the city to double the number of its homicide detectives, to launch a new community relations approach targeting high-crime areas, and to provide mental health counselors in those areas.

Scene asked Kucinich this summer why the media should pay these press releases any mind. If Kucinich was merely a concerned private citizen, after all, why would these policy proposals rise above the level of Facebook posts?

The answer is and has always been that these are campaign materials, designed not only to establish policy priorities for Kucinich's potential platform, but to generate publicity (and mystery!) about his run. He has not personally admitted his intent to seek the office until now, i.e., when the presidential election is in the rearview mirror and residents can focus on city matters in an undivided way. Like Frank Jackson, Kucinich is shrewd enough to understand that declaring one's candidacy means one headline; teasing reporters for months about a potential candidacy means continuous headlines.

There's no sense denying that Kucinich remains far and away the most gifted campaigner of all the potential mayoral candidates in Cleveland. First-time challengers would do well, in fact, to pay close attention to how he operates. His strategy involves regular contact with the media and specific policy proposals on hot-button issues.

Kucinich is sometimes mischaracterized as a pure opportunist and a kook. I think that misses the mark. He is, however, very smart about pairing his decades-long commitment to progressive causes (his brand, for lack of a better word), with the issues on most folks' minds during a given election season. Have a look at how central gun legislation was in his platform during the 2018 gubernatorial primary, in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The current disaster at Cleveland Public Power and the statewide scandal at FirstEnergy is the stuff of divine bequeaths. For the former Boy Mayor who staked his career on saving Muny Light, the campaign narrative is writing itself.

Crucially, Dennis! also has the luxury of operating outside City Hall and can therefore call out the incompetence and dismal track record of current city leaders without risking personal relationships.

That's important, because the incompetence and track record of current leaders need to be called out. Candidates like City Council President Kevin Kelley, and indeed, Mayor Frank Jackson, will have to convince voters to keep them in power despite the misery and poverty over which they've presided. 

Some will say that Kucinich is a curious candidate to call out incompetence, that given the storied tumult of his lone mayoral term, (1977-1979), he is playing pot to Jackson's kettle. Far more depressing, though, is that a Kucinich campaign likely means a strengthened Frank Jackson campaign, which will drain resources away from new, younger candidates. 

Scene reported earlier this year, and confirmed again recently, that many of Jackson's donors are still very much behind him and would prefer to see him run again. They are expected to redouble their commitments should Kucinich mount a serious challenge. Jackson himself reportedly remains undecided. He has said he has not ruled out running next year.

Incidentally, for Cleveland history buffs, Kucinich's memoir appears set for publication at last. (Another nice campaign publicity boost.) It's been in-progress for years. Getting Kucinich's interpretation of what went down during the epic Muny Light battle in the late 70s, especially given Kucinich's penchant for drama and his flair with prose, should make for a page-turner. 

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