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Scene & Heard

Friday, February 21, 2020

'Toni Morrison Day' is One Step Closer to Becoming a Reality in Ohio

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 3:37 PM

From the film, "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" - MAGNOLIA PICTURES
  • Magnolia Pictures
  • From the film, "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am"
Update: Feb. 18 is one step closer to officially becoming Toni Morrison Day in Ohio.

A bill introduced by Ohio State Reps. Stephanie Howse, (D-Cleveland) and Joe Miller, (D-Amherst), set to honor the deceased writer on her birthday, passed the House with a vote of 84-7 yesterday.

“Toni Morrison is the embodiment of the promise of Ohio. She made the most of her innate talents with ceaseless hard work and rose to the pinnacle of literary achievement," Rep. Miller said in a statement. "I am excited that we have the opportunity to recognize Ms. Morrison as one of Ohio's most accomplished creative minds.”

The bill now moves along to the Ohio Senate.

(Original Post 8/27/2019): Ohio State Reps Joe Miller, (D-Amherst), and Stephanie Howse, (D-Cleveland), introduced a bill this week to honor author Toni Morrison, who died earlier this month at the age of 88.

Miller and Howse want Morrison's birthday, Feb. 18, to be designated as "Toni Morrison Day" in Ohio. Their bill is now en route to the House Rules and Reference Committee and should get a committee assignment soon.

Morrison was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. She won both the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes for her groundbreaking novels that chronicled the African-American experience with wisdom and emotional force.

Her life and work were remembered this weekend in a memorial community reading hosted by Literary Cleveland at the Glenville Arts Campus.

Reps. Miller and Howse feel that designating a day in Morrison's honor will encourage a new generation of writers to tell their stories, stories which celebrate the "beautiful diversity of humanity.”

“In the Lorain area, Toni Morrison has long been a source of inspiration for our youth,” said Rep. Miller, in a statement provided to the media. “Her legacy is one of perseverance, dedication to education and leadership by example. I am hopeful that the designation of Toni Morrison Day will remind all Ohioans to learn from the body of work that inspired so many during her lifetime.”

Rep. Howse added, "Toni Morrison’s life and writing exemplified her unique gift for creating passionate, elegant and timeless literature that is cherished by Ohioans and people around the globe. Her work stirred our souls, challenged our conscience to confront injustices and encouraged the rest of the world to do the same."

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Ohio Lawmakers Could End Life Sentences Without Chance of Parole for Juveniles

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 12:09 PM

  • Photo via Thinkstock

Ohio lawmakers are considering changes that could require judicial review for juveniles sentenced to life in prison — a move a wide swath of advocates say could give some young offenders a second chance later in life while saving the state money.

In a hearing before the Ohio Senate's Judiciary Committee yesterday, supporters lined out those arguments in favor of Senate Bill 256, which would create a procedure by which the state's parole board would review exceptionally long sentences for minors. In some cases, minors as young as 15 have been sentenced to as much as 110 years in prison or more for violent offenses.

The language of the Senate bill specifies crimes for which life in prison without parole is a possible punishment and adds provisions specifying that "no person who is not found to have been eighteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the offense shall be imprisoned for life without parole."

The change in state law would bring Ohio in line with U.S. Supreme Court and Ohio Supreme Court rulings that say that sentencing juveniles to extended sentences without any practical chance of review and eventual release violates the Constitution's 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Some state judges say the proposed law would clear up current litigation involving the state around those high court decisions.

Juvenile justice reform advocates point to neurobiological evidence showing that young peoples' brains aren't fully developed yet and that decision-making abilities are weaker for minors.

"Children are less culpable than adults," Niki Clum of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender told the committee yesterday. "They have less control over their environments. They are more susceptible to peer pressure and their brains, specifically the frontal lobe which is responsible for executive functioning, are not fully developed to weigh long-term consequences."

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center also supports the bill, noting that juvenile life sentences on average cost the state of Ohio more than $4 million each.

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CatVideoFest Returns to Cedar Lee Next Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 11:55 AM

  • Photo via YouTube
The internet often feels like it was invented simply to supply gobs of adorable cat videos to the masses. Hours and hours of footage with cats jumping at the sight of cucumbers or sitting sprawled out like a human has brought endless joy to a world where so much has gone wrong.

Next weekend, CatVideoFest returns to the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights, bringing the biggest (furry) internet sensations to the big screen.

CatVideoFest, which roams around the country helping to raise money for cats in need while partnering up with local charities, features a 90-minute compilation of the latest as well as classic family-friendly cat videos. A portion of the proceeds for the Cleveland iteration goes to the Euclid Beach Cat Project.

The event goes down Saturday, Feb. 29, at 11 a.m. and Sunday, March 1 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 and can be found right here.

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Cleveland State's Termination Letter to Men's Basketball Coach Dennis Felton Last Year Includes All Sorts of Nasty Allegations

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  • Cleveland State University

Horizon League reporter Bob McDonald recently discovered that former Cleveland State University men's basketball coach Dennis Felton has sued the school over his dismissal last year.

The wrongful termination lawsuit itself isn't very interesting, but the university's termination letter to Felton, included as an exhibit in CSU's response, is.

This being Cleveland State basketball, and the Vikings being what they've been in recent memory, it's not entirely surprising that there wasn't a whole lot of local reporting on Felton's firing. Sure, he sucked, the team sucked. Terry Pluto had a little information in a July 2019 column, including that players objected to Felton's conditioning programs, that academic performance had lagged during his tenure, and that Felton couldn't seem to stop talented players from transferring.

The termination letter (below) lays out those claims, but it includes so much more. In it, CSU Athletic Director Scott Garrett alleged:

- That Felton mishandled or failed to report to the Office of Institutional Equity a possible instance of dating violence by a member of the team.

- That Felton hired to assistant coaches with previous discipline issues by the NCAA. One of those assistants, while at CSU, asked a player for $25,000.

- That despite ongoing issues with academic performance, Felton sought commitments from players who were not academically eligible.

- That Felton failed to initially report to CSU an incident where student athletes were pulled over by the Ohio Highway Patrol, who found drugs in the vehicle, and that Felton's eventual report to the university was inaccurate.

- That Felton went on vacation without notifying the Athletic Director or completing paperwork to document his use of vacation time.

In his lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, Felton says those claims are inaccurate and made only so that CSU might avoid forking over money for the three remaining years of his contract.

In its answer, the university stood by its decision to fire Felton for cause and attached the termination letter as evidence.

Felton is now an assistant coach at Fordham.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Statewide Conservative Anti-Death Penalty Group Will Work to Abolish Capital Punishment in Ohio

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 1:58 PM

  • Photo via Thinkstock

A new Ohio network called Ohio Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty today announced at a press conference that it will work to get the state to abolish the death penalty.

As far as politicians go, members of the group mostly include former lawmakers.

Ohio hasn't executed a death row inmate since July 2018, and Gov. Mike DeWine has postponed five executions since then as manufacturers have refused to sell the state drugs for its lethal injection cocktail.

Previous bills to end the death penalty have been introduced only by Democrats, and those bills have gained no traction.

The current, unofficial moratorium has seen Republicans at the statehouse voice tepid support toward putting Ohio's capital punishment to an end, though they've cautioned nothing is likely to be done this year.

“We don’t know that there is an option right now,” Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder told media outlets in December. “We may have a law in place that allows for a death penalty that we can’t carry out. And the question is: Are the costs that are associated with that and retrials and all these things, at the end of the day, is it worth that?"

DeWine himself remains noncommittal.

"The waste of taxpayer dollars is one reason why conservative Republican lawmakers in Ohio and across the country are reevaluating the death penalty," Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a press release. “They not only believe in limited government, they also value life."

Limited government is but one of the reasons for their opposition. Executions are expensive and problematic - according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 166 Death Row inmates have been exonerated since 1973.

Twenty-one states have abolished the death penalty. The Ohio conservative group joins 13 others around the country working to overturn it in remaining states.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Dan Gilbert Gives First Interview Since Stroke, Says Recovery is Slow But He's Getting Back to Work

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 1:48 PM

  • FlickrCC/TechCrunch

Billionaire developer Dan Gilbert is slowly rebuilding his life after suffering a stroke in May with the help of a wheelchair and a black Lab service dog named Cowboy.

On Friday, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans plans to deliver his first public speech since the stroke as he’s honored by Crain’s Detroit Business as the publication’s first Newsmaker Hall of Fame.

"When you have a stroke, here's the problem with it: Everything is hard. Everything," Gilbert told Crain's. "Like you wake up, getting out of bed is hard, going to the bathroom is hard, sitting down eating at a table is hard. You name it. You don't get a break. You're like trapped in your own body."

Gilbert had an ischemic stroke on the right side of his brain, which temporarily paralyzed his left arm and leg. His recovery has been steady, but he has a long way to go.

“I can grab a ball and drop it into a box sometimes,” he told Crain’s. “But not always.”

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CMSD's Joseph Gallagher Middle-School Chess Team Still Making History

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 12:31 PM

Coach Amit Ghose and the Joseph M. Gallagher chess team are once again making history. Last week, the CMSD K-8 school in Detroit-Shoreway announced on its Facebook page that the chess team became the first middle-school team ever to defeat all the high school teams at the local "Legends Tournament" held at Brush High School.

The feat is only the latest for a chess program that, last year, made waves regionally and nationally with its unprecedented success. (Scene spent time with the Gallagher chess team to document their season of triumphs.)

Last year's team was led by mostly 8th-graders, who are now Freshmen in high school across the district. And though Coach Ghose said last year's achievements may never again be replicated, current 8th graders Sunita Magar and Reyosh Biswakarma are anchoring the squad as they conquer new challenges and set new benchmarks.

Gallagher has the highest percentage of Asian students among CMSD schools, and the chess team has been composed chiefly of recent immigrants from India and Nepal. Coach Ghose, himself an immigrant from India, recruited the students in large part to give them a social outlet because they were struggling to make friends. Their success in tournament play was a bi-product of their close friendships. 

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