Governor issues emergency status in flood-impacted counties

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A state of emergency has been declared in 20 Ohio counties damaged by flooding last month.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine declared the emergency status in the affected counties on Monday. DeWine said in a statement that many of those counties were still recovering from last year’s severe flooding. The emergency declaration is aimed at helping secure recovery assistance.
Some counties in the emergency proclamation are Adams, Athens, Brown, Gallia (GAL’-yuh), Guernsey, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence and Meigs (mehgz). The proclamation also includes Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, and Washington counties.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency are meeting with county and township officials in each of the affected counties this week to assess the extent of the damage.

Fire chief: Plane crashes into Ohio home, killing pilot

By ANGIE WANG Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — A small plane crashed into a suburban Cincinnati house Tuesday afternoon, killing the pilot and sending dark smoke billowing from the backyard.
Emergency responders said no one was in the home at the time of the crash, and first responders got two dogs inside out safely in the city of Madeira, some 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Cincinnati.
Authorities weren’t certain if anyone besides the pilot was in the heavily damaged twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo and didn’t immediately release any information about the pilot’s identity.
Madeira’s fire chief, Steve Ashbrock, said the plane crashed into a family room at the back of the home, and then went nose-first into the back yard. Firefighters put out flames from the plane.
The aircraft is registered to Marc Inc., the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The company, which is based at John Bell Williams Airport in Bolton, Mississippi, referred all questions to its attorney, Thomas Bryson, who was not available for comment.
The crash was around 3:15 p.m., before many residents returned home from work and school to find the swarms of fire, police and TV vehicles in their neighborhood.
“It made a terrible noise,” Judith Lampe, who lives nearby, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. She said firefighters were spraying water on the smoking wreckage. “The back of the house is pretty much open to the elements.”
Neighbor David Moore said he was at his son’s house waiting to pick up his grandchildren from the school bus when he saw the plane coming in low over trees, then nose-dive into the yard.
The Federal Aviation Administration said federal investigators were responding and that the National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of probing what happened. Multiple state and local agencies also responded.
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Associated Press writers Dan Sewell and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and John Seewer in Toledo contributed.

Doc, hospital face another lawsuit over drug doses, deaths

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Another family is suing an Ohio hospital and a critical-care doctor accused of ordering excessive doses of pain medication for dozens of patients who died.
Attorneys for the family of Peggy Francies filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the Columbus-area Mt. Carmel Health System and Dr. William Husel (HYOO’-suhl). The health system and Husel face at least two dozen wrongful-death lawsuits.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday says 73-year-old Francies was admitted to Mount Carmel West Hospital in October 2017 for treatment of sepsis due to renal failure. The lawsuit alleges she died after she was administered an excessive dose of the powerful painkiller fentanyl.
Mount Carmel fired Husel in December. It found he ordered potentially fatal drug doses for 29 patients over several years.
Mount Carmel has apologized . Husel’s lawyers aren’t commenting.

Federal appeals court OKs Ohio law aimed at abortion funding

By DAN SEWELL Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — A divided federal appeals court Tuesday upheld an Ohio anti-abortion law that blocks public money for Planned Parenthood.
The full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower federal court ruling. The Ohio law targeted funding that Planned Parenthood receives through the state’s health department. That money is mostly from the federal government and supports education and prevention programs.
The law bars such funds from entities that perform or promote abortions.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote the opinion for an 11-6 majority, saying the judges rejected the contention by two Planned Parenthood affiliates that the Ohio law imposes an unconstitutional condition on public funding.
“The affiliates are correct that the Ohio law imposes a condition on the continued receipt of state funds. But that condition does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a due process right to perform abortions,” Sutton wrote.
Sutton wrote for the majority that while Planned Parenthood contends that the Ohio law will unconstitutionally deprive women of the right to access abortion services without undue burden, that conclusion is premature and speculative because Planned Parenthood has stated it will continue to provide abortion services.
Judge Helene White wrote the dissenting opinion, saying such laws allow targeting of abortion providers who are “merely a proxy for the woman and her constitutional rights” and are trying to make them “cry uncle.” She said using the majority’s reasoning, “the government can do almost anything it wants to penalize abortion providers so long as they resist the coercion and continue to perform abortions.”
Planned Parenthood leaders said Tuesday the funding has helped provide tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, domestic violence education, and efforts to reduce infant mortality.
Dr. Leana Wen, the organization’s national president, said the ruling will “roll back the gains to public health — harming women’s health, children’s health and the health of families across Ohio.” She in a statement called it “unconscionable” that politicians continue seeking to restrict access to essential health care.
Planned Parenthood didn’t say immediately whether it will seek to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court
A U.S. district court ruling had agreed with Planned Parenthood that denying the organization funding if it continued to perform abortions violated the organization’s right to due process, and that denying funding for promoting abortion violated its free speech rights.
A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit appeals court agreed with the lower-court ruling for an injunction against the 2016 law, prompting then-Attorney General Mike DeWine last year to seek a full-court hearing. The Republican took office this year as governor, succeeding Republican John Kasich.
DeWine’s office said he was “pleased by today’s decision as he has long believed that the people of Ohio, through its state legislature, have the right to decide what it funds and what it doesn’t fund.”
David Pepper, Ohio’s Democratic Party chairman, said the ruling hurts Ohio kids and families, but that DeWine chose to side with “anti-abortion extremists.”
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, women have a constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. Anti-abortion groups and politicians around the country have continued efforts to undermine that ruling or get it reversed by a Supreme Court with two new justices nominated by Republican President Donald Trump.
Planned Parenthood is a national target because of its role as the largest U.S. abortion provider.
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Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed in Columbus.
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Contact Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

Ohio Dominican students knit hats, scarves for homeless

By ERIC LAGATTA The Columbus Dispatch
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s Computer Helpdesk are putting away the electronics to knit hats and scarves they plan to hand out to homeless men and women. Their goal is to have 500 items to donate by Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They may work in technology, but whenever they have some downtime, student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s computer help desk happily put away the electronics.
Instead of idly scrolling through their phones in between service calls, they pick up a round loom and some yarn and start knitting.
“You’re not just playing on your phone,” said Lorelei Theve, a freshman marketing and public relations major at the small Catholic university on the Northeast Side. “You’re actually making something.”
Theve, who is from Grove City, is one of eight student employees at the help desk who actively knits hats — and sometimes scarves and blankets — that they plan to hand out to homeless men and women in the fall and winter.
The effort began in December when Noelle Lines, Ohio Dominican’s assistant director of Technical Services, talked to the students about her love of knitting. One day, Lines brought in supplies and sat with them during breaks to teach them the craft. All told, it took about just 20 minutes for them to pick it up.
“As soon as she shows you, it’s so easy to go off and do it,” Theve said. “You can really bust it out.”
Many of the students continued with the hobby during their winter break — Theve, for instance, said she knitted several hats as Christmas gifts for friends and family — so when they returned to campus, they hatched a plan.
Lines said she often sees homeless men and women around Galloway, where she lives, so she asked the students if they’d like to knit warm items for them to protect them from the cold. The students’ enthusiasm for the cause immediately was palpable.
“I jumped right on board,” said Lancaster native Skyler Vance, a junior majoring in both biology and chemistry. “I think it’s amazing.”
The group set a goal of 500 hats that they plan to start handing out in person around Thanksgiving and Christmastime. However, it’s a target that Lines said she fully expects them to eclipse after the students took to the initiative with a zeal she could never have anticipated. Already they have about 80 hats, scarves and other warm items of various hues and patterns.
“I was proud of how excited they are to be doing something for someone else” Lines said. “They have the power to drive change; they can take 20 minutes of their time and do something so profound and have a product they can hold in their hands and help another person.”
The students not only work on the hats during their breaks at work, but between classes and even at the end of the day when they’re at home.
On a recent day, spools of yarn of varying colors were splayed across a table in Lines’ office as four of the students cheerfully worked on hats. Piled in the corner were the fruits of their labors thus far.
Lines provided the looms and restocks most of the yarn with her own money, making it all accessible to the students in a box outside her office.
But the students as well often venture to a nearby Michaels craft store to buy their own supplies. The creativity that comes from experimenting with a variety of colors and designs is part of the fun, they said.
“We call them our help desk field trips,” Vance said. “We go to Michaels and we’re like, ‘Let’s pick all the random colors.'”
Vance estimated that it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to complete a hat, depending on the size. The students said their time spent knitting is often meditative, a welcome respite from the stresses of school.
“It’s relaxing,” said Reynoldsburg resident Jon Caruso, a senior majoring in computer science. “It takes my mind off of stuff.”
“I’d rather be knitting than doing homework,” Vance agreed.
The charitable component is also motivating. Most of the students have volunteered their time to worthy causes in the past — Caruso with his church, Vance with the Fairfield Area Humane Society and Theve with the Buckeye Ranch, which provides mental health services for children and families.
“It’s always been a thing in my family where you just help out where you can,” Theve said. “It’s really important to use that privilege in a productive way.”
Even though Caruso graduates in May, he said he plans to join the others when they venture into central Ohio neighborhoods to hand out the items. And despite the amount of hours they’ve put into the products, the students say it won’t be hard to part with them.
“When we go to hand them out it’ll make it even more meaningful,” Vance said. “It shows the impact you can have on your community by doing something so small.”

Police: Car crashes into pole; 2 die

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities in Ohio say a car has crashed into a pole and the two people in the vehicle have died.
Dayton police say another driver came upon the scene after the crash that occurred around 8 p.m. Saturday and called police. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has identified the two who died at the scene as 39-year-old Melvin Gipp and 19-year-old Willie Finklea, both of Dayton.
Investigators are working to reconstruct the crash in order to determine exactly what caused it.
Police say the speed limit in that area is 40 mph, but they believe the driver was going much faster than that.
Authorities say no other vehicles appeared to be involved and they had found no witnesses to the crash that split the vehicle in half.

Task Force nears 800 indictments from rape kit probes

CLEVELAND (AP) — A sexual assault kit task force in an Ohio county has opened cases connected to more than 7,00 rape kits and is nearing 800 indictments from those investigations.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reports Rick Bell, chief of special investigations with the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH’-guh) County Prosecutor’s Office, says the task force first focused on getting indictments in decades-old cases before the statute of limitations for prosecution expired.
The task force then turned its attention to identifying and investigating possible serial rape cases and cases that happened in recent years, especially if the suspect wasn’t in prison.
Bell says it could take two to three more years to finish the current investigations. He says there could be up to 1,000 indictments by the time that work is completed.
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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

Ohio Republicans defending state congressional map in court

By DAN SEWELL Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — Attorneys for Ohio Republican officials will call witnesses this week to defend the state’s congressional map.
A federal trial enters its second week Monday in a lawsuit by voter rights groups that say the current seats resulted from “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.” Their witnesses have included Democratic activists and voters who have expressed frustration and confusion with districts that have stayed at 12 Republicans, four Democrats, since they were drawn ahead of the 2012 elections.
Attorneys for the Republican officials being sued say the map resulted from bipartisan compromise, with each party losing one seat after population shifts in the 2010 U.S. Census caused Ohio to lose two congressional seats.
Among potential GOP witnesses is former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (BAY’-nur) of West Chester, Ohio.

Community college to offer degree in cloud computing

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new two-year program at Columbus State Community College aims to teach students about cloud computing.
The college says the new associate of applied science degree in software development will be developed in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College and the education arm of Amazon Web Services. The Columbus Dispatch reports Columbus State has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for nearly $600,000 to create the curriculum.
Amazon says cloud computing relies on a “cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.”
College official Todd Warner says Columbus State will be one of fewer than 20 higher-education institutions across the country to partner with AWS to develop a program in cloud computing.
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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

Last car to roll off assembly line at Ohio GM plant

By MARK GILLISPIE and TOM KRISHER Associated Press
LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — A sprawling General Motors’ assembly plant near Youngstown will be idled on Wednesday after more than 50 years producing cars and other vehicles, a move that will eliminate nearly 1,700 hourly positions by months’ end.
GM announced in December that Lordstown along with three plants in the U.S. and one in Canada would close at some point this year.
The Cruze, once a popular and well-reviewed compact car made in Lordstown since 2011, has become the victim of consumer tastes as car buyers in an era of inexpensive gasoline have shown strong preferences for trucks, SUVs and crossover-type vehicles, all of which produce far bigger profits than sedans for GM
While Wednesday could be the last day for the Cruze, GM spokesman Dan Flores said the plant’s parts-stamping operation will continue producing fenders and other replacement parts through most of March.
The 6.2 million square foot plant (nearly 600,000 square meters) will be placed in a “state of readiness,” Flores said, meaning it will be heated and fully maintained to allow for a resumption of operations. A final decision on the plant’s future is expected to be made during upcoming contract talks with the United Auto Workers that begin this summer. The UAW’s national contract with GM expires in mid-September.
The union claimed in a recent federal lawsuit that its existing contract prohibits GM from idling plants. UAW 1112 President Dave Green has urged workers to remain hopeful, saying their fate will ultimately be decided at the bargaining table.
Meanwhile, production of the Cruze sedan and hatchback will continue in Mexico, where the car is made for markets outside the U.S.
Recently promoted company President Mark Reuss said in January that GM is “looking at a lot of different options for the plant,” without providing specifics. When asked if that means Lordstown could get a new vehicle, he said that hasn’t been decided.
“We’ve just got to keep an open mind here, and we are,” he said.
Reuss also said GM can’t keep operating a plant with a slow-selling vehicle like the Cruze, and still have enough money to invest in the future. It also doesn’t want to get caught like it did in 2008 with too many factories and workers, a problem that helped to push the company into bankruptcy protection.
“We’ve got some history of that, to be honest,” Reuss said. “We don’t want that history to repeat.”
Lordstown’s history dates back to 1966. More than 16 million vehicles have rolled off its assembly line since then, including nearly 1.9 million Cruzes since the car went into production in 2011.
The automaker has said most of its blue-collar workers whose jobs are eliminated in the U.S. will be able to transfer to plants in the Midwest and South.
The other plants slated to close this year are assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.
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Tom Krisher reported from Detroit.