Lieutenant governor to speak at Martin Luther King Jr. event

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s new lieutenant governor will be the featured speaker at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in the state’s capital city.
Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (HYOO’-sted) is speaking at noon Thursday at the event at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus.
The free event is open to the public.
Other speakers include four students who won first-place honors in their age divisions in Ohio’s 2018 oratorical contest honoring King. That contest is sponsored by Ohio MLK Holiday Commission.
Husted and the commission also are presenting awards to four individuals and three organizations for carrying on the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.

Federal judge allowing open phone line during execution

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge is once again allowing the use of an open phone line to his courtroom during an Ohio execution.
Tuesday’s decision by Judge Michael Merz permits use of a system created in 2017 when defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to stop an execution based on the inmate’s reaction to the lethal drugs.
Under the order, attorneys for condemned killer Keith Henness and an assistant attorney general will be on the line with the judge and a court reporter in case something goes awry.
The 55-year-old Henness is set to die next month for the fatal shooting of volunteer addiction counselor Richard Meyers in Columbus in 1992.
Henness says he’s innocent and received poor legal help at the time of trial. Prosecutors say Henness is lying about his innocence.

Ohio man sentenced in terrorism funding case

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — One of two brothers from Ohio who admitted giving money to a friend who sent it to an al-Qaida leader has been sentenced to five years in prison.
A federal judge in Toledo sentenced Sultane Salim on Tuesday after he earlier pleaded guilty to concealing the financing of terrorism.
His brother, Asif Salim, was sentenced in October to six years in prison on the same charge.
Sultane Salim said in court Tuesday that the money was a loan repayment. He says he lied to FBI agents about who the repayment was for and never wanted to give money to terrorists.
Prosecutors say the money went to Anwar al-Awlaki, a key al-Qaida leader who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

First dispensaries in state ready to sell medical marijuana

CLEVELAND (AP) — Four dispensaries are ready to begin selling medical marijuana for the first time in Ohio.
Two of the dispensaries opening Wednesday morning are in the southeast Ohio community of Wintersville, outside Steubenville. The other two dispensaries set to open are in Sandusky in northern Ohio and in Canton in northeast Ohio.
A fifth dispensary outside Cleveland in the city of Wickliffe is expected to open later this week.
The only products available for sale currently are plant material, known as flowers or buds that state law allows to be vaporized but not smoked.
Other products, such as edibles, tinctures and lotions won’t become available until marijuana processing facilities are finally operational.
People are eligible to buy medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation for one of 21 qualifying medical conditions.

Federal food assistance arriving early because of shutdown

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohioans who receive food stamps are getting February’s benefits this week.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asked states to issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aid no later than Jan. 20 for the nearly 40 million Americans in the program. The Trump administration said SNAP will be funded through February despite the partial federal government shutdown.
State authorities are cautioning recipients that the early-arriving benefits aren’t a bonus and they need to budget them to last until their assistance cards are loaded again in March.
In Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Job and Family Services office plans social media posts, robo calls, phone recordings and the sharing of information with community partners and the news media to explain the situation. The county has some 100,000 recipients who will receive February benefits Wednesday.

New governor sworn in at home before public inauguration

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Flanked by family and close friends, Mike DeWine became Ohio’s 70th governor shortly after midnight today in private ceremony at his farm near Cedarville.
Sworn in by his son, Ohio Supreme Court Judge Pat DeWine, the governor, 72, took the oath of office with his hand on a stack of family Bibles including one owned by his late daughter, Becky DeWine; one acquired in Jerusalem; and one that first lady Fran DeWine gave her husband on their 10th wedding anniversary, the Xenia Daily Gazette reported.
DeWine will again be sworn in at a public inauguration later today at the Statehouse and conclude his weekend of activities with the inaugural gala at the Statehouse Monday night.
The Republican didn’t waste any time putting his stamp on the state. Immediately after signing the oath of office inside a packed farmhouse across the drive from his main home, DeWine signed six executive orders.
“We said we were going to hit the ground running,” he said.
The first created the Governor’s Recovery Ohio Initiative, placing one person – Alisha Nelson – in his administration in charge of coordinating the state’s anti-drug effort.
The others created the Governor’s Children’s Initiative; established Ohio as a disability inclusion state and model employer of individuals with disabilities; elevated foster care priorities in Ohio; put an anti-discrimination policy back in effect adding pregnancy, young children and foster parents as protected classes; and elevated prevention within the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
The next order of business?
DeWine is about halfway through a weekend of celebration that included a Sunday afternoon appearance at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, where he and the first lady participated in Science, Discovery and Family Fun Day.
“We’ve got to get up at 7 a.m. to head to Columbus,” DeWine said as friends and family filed out of the farmhouse. “It’s been a whirlwind. (But) it’s great to see so many friends here tonight.”
DeWine — the oldest Ohioan to become governor — brings decades of political experience to the Statehouse. He was most recently the Ohio Attorney General, in office since January 2011. Prior to that he served as a U.S. Senator for 12 years, lieutenant governor under George Voinovich for four years, U.S. Congressman for eight years, and state senator for two years. He’s also a former Greene County prosecutor.
He said of those elected positions helped him prepare for this job.
“We will not let you down,” he told the crowd.

Gambling revenue tops nearly $1.9 billion statewide

CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio’s casinos and racinos recorded 1.86 billion in revenue last year, marking a record profit for the industry that launched in the state in 2012.
Gambling revenue — the amount of money kept by the facilities after paying out winnings — rose more than 7 percent at the state’s seven racinos to just over $1 billion last year. reports revenue increased more than 2 percent to $837 million at the state’s four casinos.
The casinos have both table games and slots under the regulation of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. The racinos, regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission, are permitted to offer only slot machines. Sports gambling is currently not legal in Ohio.
About one-third of the gambling revenue is turned over to the state in taxes or fees.
Information from:,

Fire breaks out at apartment building, 6 hospitalized

CINCINNATI (AP) — Six people have been hospitalized after a large fire broke out at a Cincinnati apartment building.
Fire crews responded to the blaze that started in the middle of the multi-story apartment building around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Resident Cheryl Dennis tells WCPO-TV neighbors banded together to help people escape, including a group that created a human chain to carry out wheelchair users.
A “mayday” call was issued for one firefighter who had his face piece knocked off while battling the blaze. Cincinnati Fire Chief Roy Winston says the firefighter was treated at the scene and is back on duty.
Six people have been transported to area hospitals for treatment. Red Cross officials say at least 32 people have been displaced.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

DeWine era to mark shift away from volatile Kasich, Trump

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The inauguration of Ohio Gov.-elect Mike DeWine will mark a shift away from volatility in a state buffeted in recent years between the shifting ambitions of an outspoken governor and the frequent outbursts of an unpredictable president.
Even before taking office Monday, DeWine, who is currently the attorney general, has moved through the transition process with a methodical calm. He’s laid out his slate of diverse, bipartisan Cabinet picks at amply announced news conferences and politely declined to answer questions that might step on outgoing Gov. John Kasich’s toes.
The theme of DeWine’s inaugural — “Faith, Family and Friends” — feels like a dose of comfort food after Kasich’s bold “New Day” and two years of President Donald Trump.
A return to predictability may have been in many voters’ minds this fall as they delivered DeWine a comfortable 3.7-point victory over his Democratic challenger, Obama-era consumer protection chief Richard Cordray.
“Mike DeWine has a long track record and is known by a lot of Ohioans,” said election analyst Mike Dawson. “So, they knew what they were getting with Mike DeWine.”
DeWine, a Catholic family man who lives on an historic farm in rural Cedarville, will be Ohio’s oldest governor at 72. His governorship will cap a political career that began as an assistant prosecutor in rural Ohio in the 1970s and saw election to seats in the Ohio House, U.S. House, the state lieutenant governor’s office and the U.S. Senate.
His style isn’t the only thing that will differentiate DeWine from Kasich. He’s also expressed willingness to embrace some more conservative policies. That includes moving in his final days as attorney general to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s congressional districts and saying he’s willing to sign a heartbeat abortion ban that would be one of the most stringent restrictions on the procedure in the country.
But whether supporting an abortion bill that Kasich twice vetoed means DeWine’s inauguration will mark a shift to the right for Ohio is unclear.
Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said the idea of banning abortions at the first detectable heartbeat has become less extreme as society and science change. Just three weeks ago, the anti-abortion Ohio Right to Life, which got Kasich to sign 21 of its bills over eight years, adjusted its longstanding neutral stance on the heartbeat bill to support.
“Things are a lot different than they were in 1973 (when Roe v. Wade legalize abortion as legalized). They’re different than they were in 2003,” Borges said. “The idea of who can be kept alive, the stigma that was attached to unwanted pregnancies, perception has changed, things are different.”
Kasich enjoyed a popularity driven by Ohioans of both parties, having won over many Democrats with his heartbeat vetoes, advocacy for Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law and his work on bipartisan policy solutions that included a package of “common sense” gun restrictions.
DeWine campaigned with both Kasich and the man he often criticizes, Trump, to win the election. He also has a reputation for “governing from the middle,” Dawson said.
That has made it difficult for political observers to know what Ohio voters had in mind when they pulled the lever for Republicans this fall. Democratic strategist Aaron Pickrell said he doesn’t believe it was policies that are drastically more conservative.
“If Kasich is sort of more of the face of the Republican Party and DeWine’s not a super polarizing figure, I think, to a certain degree, it was more a status quo kind of election here and not a tack to the right,” he said.
Kasich blasted into office in 2011 with a barrage of big ideas for revamping Ohio’s government operations and budgeting — along with his fair share of verbal fumbles. Since running for president in 2016, he’s taken on Trump’s flamboyant leadership style and tried to position himself as a level-headed advocate of bipartisan policy solutions.
Justin Barasky, who managed Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s successful re-election campaign in November, said he believes DeWine will be both a more predictable and a more conservative leader for the state.
“Mike DeWine is someone Ohioans know very well,” Barasky said. “He’s not going to call police officers an idiot, he’s not going to go from being this hard-core right-winger to every Democrat’s favorite Republican like Kasich, he’s not going to fire off all-caps tweets in the middle of the night like the President of the United States does. He’s going to do a lot of terrible stuff, but he’s not going to surprise a lot of people.”
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WWII vet who got degree delayed by nearly 7 decades has died

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A World War II veteran who flew planes for the Navy and received his college degree last spring nearly 70 years after he last sat in a classroom has died, his family said. He was 97.
Bob Barger died Wednesday at a Toledo retirement community where he lived, according to Newcomer Funeral Home and a family friend.
He graduated from the University of Toledo in May after a review of his transcripts from the late 1940s showed he completed enough courses to qualify for an associate’s degree — a two-year diploma not offered when he was still in school.
“It was something I never dreamed of,” he said after learning he would get his diploma. “I knew I couldn’t go back to school now.”
Barger was honored at the school’s commencement ceremony, where he received his degree to a standing ovation. The White House later paid tribute to Barger, who received a letter from President Donald Trump.
Getting the degree, he said, reminded him of all the friends and family who were a part of his life.
The university took a look at Barger’s old school records because of a friendship he struck up with Haraz Ghanbari, the school’s former director of military and veteran affairs.
Ghanbari found out that Barger never graduated from the university, even though he took a full load of classes from 1947 to 1950.
The records showed Barger completed 83 credit hours — about 20 more than what’s required for the associate’s degree.
Barger was a pilot in the Navy, enlisting after seeing an advertisement that said “join the Navy and get an education.”
He flew seaplanes for scout observation over the Gulf of Mexico and later was a flight instructor.
Barger returned home to Toledo with his wife and young daughter and studied business and advertising while working for a paper company. He remembers history was his favorite class at what was then called Toledo University.
He never gave much thought about not graduating. When Ghanbari told him that he would finally get a degree, he let out a hearty laugh. “I can’t believe this. I’m 96 years old,” said Barger, whose wife died in 2011.
Members of the university’s Student Veterans of America chapter bought him a cap and gown and the assisted living center where he lived held a big graduation party for friends and family.
Barger wore a shirt in the school’s colors that said “Alumni” for the party.
Ghanbari said he was humbled to meet Barger just over five years ago. “It was a privilege to escort him across the stage during his graduation,” he said.
Newcomer Funeral Home said there will be a visitation Jan. 18 and a funeral Jan. 19 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Toledo.
This story has been corrected to show that Barger graduated in May, not June.