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News Recap: Week Ending February 17, 2024

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We understand life gets busy for everyone. To help you catch up, here's a quick recap of the news highlights from the past week that you might not have had the chance to see.

Ohio News Recap

Ohio Voter Registration Surges Among 18-Year-Old Demographic

There has been a significant increase in voter registration among 18-year-olds, with numbers rising from 36,153 in late August to 48,684 by January 6, 2024, marking a 35% boost. This surge is attributed to young Ohioans' reactions to various high-stakes political issues, including bribery scandals, gerrymandering, and legislative actions concerning abortion rights and gender affirming care for trans youth. The state's enactment of one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws, efforts to prevent constitutional amendments, and initiatives protecting abortion rights and challenging partisan gerrymandering have likely motivated this uptick. Additionally, a campaign for an independent redistricting commission indicates a proactive stance against gerrymandering. With the voter registration deadline for November approaching on October 7, young residents are encouraged to register, even before turning 18, to participate in the upcoming elections, highlighting a growing political engagement among Ohio's youth.

Read more from The Civics Center

ACLU Challenges Ohio's Ban on Transgender Minor Healthcare

The ACLU of Ohio is set to challenge House Bill 68, which bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors, through a lawsuit aiming to protect their rights to access necessary medical treatments. This action comes after the Ohio Legislature overrode Governor DeWine's veto, with the law scheduled to take effect on April 23, 2024. The ACLU argues that the ban, supported by no major medical association, infringes on constitutional rights and the ability of families to make healthcare decisions based on professional medical advice. This lawsuit marks a significant response to legislation that the ACLU deems cruel and unconstitutional, highlighting the organization's commitment to defending the health and dignity of transgender youth in Ohio.

Read more from ACLU Ohio

Ohio Democrats Push for Inclusive School Meals and Higher Teacher Salaries Amidst Political Hurdles

In a notable legislative push, Ohio House Democrats have introduced two bills aimed at significant education reforms: ensuring free school meals for all students who request them and increasing base teacher salaries to $50,000 annually. These proposals emerge against a backdrop of Republican dominance in both the Ohio House and Senate, casting uncertainty over their future. The first bill, spearheaded by state Reps. Darnell Brewer and Ismail Mohamed, mandates that public schools provide meals to every student upon request, without the stigma of unpaid meal debts—a response to both prior incidents of meal denial and recent budget amendments enhancing meal accessibility for low-income students. The second bill, proposed by state Rep. Joe Miller, targets the elevation of teacher salaries to address wage stagnation and disparities in comparison to other college-educated professionals. This legislative effort confronts the systemic issues of meal debt stigma and teacher underpayment, highlighting the need for structural changes in Ohio's education system. However, with the current political landscape, these bills face challenging paths to enactment, underscoring the complex interplay between policy ambitions and political realities.

Read more from Ohio Capital Journal

Former FirstEnergy Executives Indicted in Ohio's Largest Corruption Case

Two former FirstEnergy Corp. executives, ex-CEO Chuck Jones and former Senior VP Michael Dowling, have been indicted as part of the extensive investigation into a $60 million bribery scheme, marking a significant development in what is considered the largest corruption case in the state's history. This scheme has already led to a 20-year prison sentence for former state House speaker Larry Householder. The charges against Jones and Dowling, announced by Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, include bribery, theft, engaging in corrupt activity, tampering with records, and money laundering, among others. The indictments come after both were fired in 2020 for violating company policies, amidst investigations highlighting their potential involvement. Despite their denials and assertions of innocence, the case continues to unravel the deep-seated corruption within Ohio's political and corporate realms, further implicating additional figures such as Sam Randazzo, former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, with new felony counts. This sprawling investigation underscores the undermining of state government trust and the law, with FirstEnergy already admitting to its role in the bribery scheme in a 2021 agreement to avoid federal prosecution.

Read more from The Associated Press

National Recap

Fox News Analyst Criticizes GOP on Border Bill Stance

Fox News' Chief Political Analyst, Brit Hume, criticized hardline Republicans for their role in defeating a Senate-negotiated border bill, warning of the GOP's risk of appearing as a "do-nothing Congress." The GOP-led House rejected a $118 billion border security bill, with conservatives arguing it falls short on curbing illegal immigration. Additionally, a significant aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, passed by the Senate, faces opposition in the House, jeopardizing funding for key international conflicts and alliances. Hume highlighted the potential political fallout for Republicans, suggesting their inaction could weaken their position against President Biden on critical issues like border security and international support. The debate reflects broader tensions within the GOP and challenges in addressing complex policy matters amidst internal divisions.

Read more from Newsweek

Misinformation and the "Trans Terrorism" Narrative

In a recent tragic event at Joel Osteen's Lakewood megachurch in Houston, Texas, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, a 36-year-old woman, opened fire, resulting in two wounded and her own death by off-duty law enforcement. Following the incident, far-right figures and accounts quickly moved to label the act as "trans terrorism," inaccurately claiming Moreno was transgender, based on misrepresented details. This narrative was further amplified by prominent individuals, despite police clarifications that Moreno did not identify as anything other than a cisgender woman. The shooter's motivations remain unclear, with no evidence linking her actions to her gender identity, which was falsely attributed in social media claims. This misuse of a tragic event underscores ongoing attempts to vilify the LGBTQ community, despite the lack of evidence supporting claims of increased violence among transgender individuals. Instead, research shows transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence and that gender-affirming care improves mental health outcomes. This incident highlights the dangers of misinformation and the need for responsible discourse around complex issues of identity, mental health, and violence.

Read more from Vice

FBI Informant Charged with Spreading False Information About Bidens

Alexander Smirnov, 43, has been indicted on charges of providing false information to the FBI regarding President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. Arrested in Las Vegas, Smirnov's indictment is part of an investigation led by special counsel David Weiss. Since 2010, Smirnov had been an FBI informant but allegedly disseminated fabricated claims about the Bidens and their connections to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden was employed. He falsely asserted that Burisma hired Hunter Biden for protection through his father and claimed both Bidens received $5 million in illicit payments. These allegations, made after Joe Biden announced his presidential candidacy, were later identified as unfounded, with Smirnov accused of twisting his previous, non-incriminating interactions with Burisma into bribery accusations against Joe Biden. This case highlights the complexities of political investigations and the impact of misinformation on public perception and electoral politics.

Read more from CNBC

Photo Release of GOP Electors in False Claim Case

A photograph showing 16 Republicans falsely claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election was released by the Michigan Attorney General's office, intensifying the legal scrutiny surrounding their attempt to overturn the election results. Taken on December 14, 2020, at the Michigan Republican Party headquarters, the photo captures the group as they signed certificates asserting Trump's victory despite Joe Biden's certified win. This act has led to eight felony charges, including forgery, against each of the GOP electors involved. Their defense argues a lack of criminal intent, suggesting they were following legal advice from Trump's campaign lawyers. Attorney General Dana Nessel criticized the electors' actions for eroding public trust in election integrity, marking a significant moment in the ongoing debate over the 2020 election's legitimacy and the legal ramifications for those attempting to subvert its outcome.

Read more from Detroit News


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