Investigation that benched Meyer cost Ohio State $1 million
By KANTELE FRANKO
Thursday, January 3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The investigation that led to a three-game suspension of Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer cost the university $1 million, twice the amount originally requested for it, the school said Thursday.
The original $500,000 amount “was preliminary and did not represent the total anticipated cost,” spokesman Benjamin Johnson said Thursday. He said the school had no further comment about the bill.
Johnson confirmed that OSU paid law firm Debevoise and Plimpton last week for the investigation.
Meyer retired as coach this week after defeating Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl, citing “cumulative events” including pain from headaches caused by an arachnoid cyst in his brain.
He turned over the program to coach Ryan Day, who led Ohio State when Meyer was suspended before the season opener after an investigation led by a former federal prosecutor.
The investigators concluded Meyer mishandled repeated professional and behavioral problems from now-fired assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic violence. Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith were suspended for their handling of Smith, who is the grandson of Meyer mentor Earle Bruce.
Smith denied abusing his wife. He wasn’t charged with domestic violence.
The $1 million for the public university to pay Debevoise and Plimpton was approved in mid-December by the state Controlling Board as part of a larger request dealing with legal expenses for state entities, said John Charlton, a spokesman for the Office of Budget and Management, of which the board is a part.
The contract had a $1 million cap on fees, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which provides legal counsel for the public university.
Despite the stain of the investigation, Meyer hangs up his whistle with a mostly glowing legacy at Ohio State, where his record was 82-9 over the past seven years.
He won’t be a stranger around campus as he takes on new roles as an assistant athletic director and an instructor in a “Leadership and Character” class for the business school.
Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10
Airport drop-off changes raise access, expense concerns
Wednesday, January 2
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland airport is now restricting passenger drop-offs in front of the terminal as traffic and congestion have increased — likely to the displeasure of travelers, according to transportation companies.
Changes at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport take effect this week. Private car services and ride-share drivers will no longer be able to drop their passengers off on the upper, ticketing level of the terminal, at departing airlines’ doors with the changes.
The Plain Dealer reported drop-offs will happen instead at one end of the lower, baggage-claim level.
The airport explained the change, saying roads in front of the terminal now sometimes back up onto a nearby state route.
At the same time these rules are going into effect, the airport is also increasing fees it charges transportation companies to pick up and drop off travelers. Taxis and ride-share drivers already pay the $4 per trip fee.
Alexander Jagodik, who owns Cleveland Taxi Limo, said his clients will be paying more for less service. “We will for sure lose business because of this,” he said.
Michele Dynia, a spokeswoman for the airport, said the new fees will equalize what different transportation companies pay for drop-off privileges. The new revenue will fund airport improvements without increasing already-high airline fees, according to airport officials.
Jagodik said that while he’s not happy about the fee increase, he’s more upset about the changes in drop-off and pick-up locations.
The fee increase is expected to raise about $1.8 million a year, which will be used to pay for improvements to the Ground Transportation Center.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com
Ohio man, girlfriend accused of plotting violent attack
By JOHN SEEWER
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Federal prosecutors say an Ohio couple charged last month in a terrorism investigation is now accused of obtaining guns and explosives in a plot to kill others.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the indictments that include conspiracy charges against the pair from Toledo.
Authorities in court documents filed in December said both Vincent Armstrong and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Lecron, had talked about carrying out violence and had bomb-making supplies and weapons inside their home.
Investigators also say the two traveled to Colorado in 2018 to see the site of the Columbine High School massacre.
Armstrong’s attorney says she has not yet reviewed the new charges. A message seeking comment was left Lecron’s attorney.
The charges include conspiracy to transport or receive guns and explosives.
Ohio Investigative Unit and Ohio Liquor Control cracking down on secondary market liquor sales
COLUMBUS – In December, agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) teamed up with Ohio Liquor Control (OHLQ), charging five people throughout Ohio after an investigation into secondary market liquor sales.
Secondary market liquor sales often take place on web sites, such as Craigslist and Facebook groups and Marketplace. An example of secondary sales is when sellers go to other states, purchase bottles of liquor not found or difficult to find in Ohio and turn around to resell them. In Ohio, consumers may only purchase spirituous liquor from authorized sources such as an OHLQ location, which are private businesses that sell the product on behalf of the state of Ohio or permitted retail establishments, such as bars and restaurants.
“When people purchase bottles on the secondary market, there is no guarantee of the health and safety of the bottle’s contents,” said Captain Gary Allen, commander of OIU. “Ohio has controls in place to ensure the contents inside liquor bottles are genuine and safe when purchased from authorized sources.”
Agents charged Robert C. Jaskolka,73, of Brunswick; Dennis M. Rigney-Carroll, 44, of Upper Arlington; Brian L. McSwain, 42, of Mason and Joshua D. Ulam, 35, of Walton, Ky., with illegal sale of beer or intoxicating liquor without a permit, a first-degree misdemeanor. Agents also charged Gerald R. Osborne, 52, of South Point with illegal sale of intoxicating liquor, a first-degree misdemeanor, illegal possession of intoxicating liquor, a first-degree misdemeanor, and illegal transportation of intoxicating liquor, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The cases are not connected.
“Secondary sales are a no-win situation. They hurt the small businesses that sell these products legally and put consumers at risk,” OHLQ Superintendent Jim Canepa said. “Consumers are susceptible to both counterfeit or tampered with products. We’re grateful the Ohio Investigative Unit takes these cases seriously to keep our market fair and consumers safe.”
The cases will be forwarded to local municipal courts. If convicted, each person could receive the maximum 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Osborne may also face another maximum 210 days in jail and $1,250 fine.
OIU and OHLQ will continue to investigate secondary market liquor sales. If you know of anyone selling alcohol illegally, contact OIU at #677.
Robert C. Jaskolka’s case has been presented to Medina Municipal Court. Brian L. McSwain’s case has been presented to the Mason Municipal Court. Gerald R. Osborne’s case has been presented to the Lawrence County Municipal Court. Dennis M. Rigney-Carroll’s case has been presented to the Franklin County Municipal Court. Joshua D. Ulam’s case has been presented Warren Municipal Court.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Ohio Investigative Unit agents are plain-clothed fully sworn peace officers. OIU is charged with enforcing the state’s liquor laws and is the only state law enforcement agency specifically tasked with investigating food stamp fraud crimes. Agents also investigate tobacco violations. Follow OIU on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ohio-Investigative-Unit/165782203506269 and on Twitter by logging onto http://twitter.com/Ohio_OIU.
Why Jefferson’s vision of American Islam matters today
Updated February 19, 2018
Author: Denise A. Spellberg, Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Disclosure statement: Denise A. Spellberg does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The new Congress includes its first two Muslim women members. One of them, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, considered getting sworn in privately using a copy of the Qur’an from the library of one of America’s Founding Fathers.
She told CNN this shows “Islam has been part of American history for a long time.” I explored this little-known history in my book “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.”
Islam, an American religion
Muslims arrived in North America as early as the 17th century, eventually composing 15 to 30 percent of the enslaved West African population of British America. (Muslims from the Middle East did not begin to immigrate here as free citizens until the late 19th century.) Even key American Founding Fathers demonstrated a marked interest in the faith and its practitioners, most notably Thomas Jefferson.
As a 22-year-old law student in Williamsburg, Virginia, Jefferson bought a Qur’an – 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence.
The purchase is symbolic of a longer historical connection between American and Islamic worlds, and a more inclusive view of the nation’s early, robust view of religious pluralism.
Although Jefferson did not leave any notes on his immediate reaction to the Qur’an, he did criticize Islam as “stifling free enquiry” in his early political debates in Virginia, a charge he also leveled against Catholicism. He thought both religions fused religion and the state at a time he wished to separate them in his commonwealth.
Despite his criticism of Islam, Jefferson supported the rights of its adherents. Evidence exists that Jefferson had been thinking privately about Muslim inclusion in his new country since 1776. A few months after penning the Declaration of Independence, he returned to Virginia to draft legislation about religion for his native state, writing in his private notes a paraphrase of the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:
“[he] says neither Pagan nor Mahometan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”
The precedents Jefferson copied from Locke echo strongly in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which proclaims:
“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”
The statute, drafted in 1777, which became law in 1786, inspired the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause and the First Amendment.
Jefferson’s pluralistic vision
Was Jefferson thinking about Muslims when he drafted his famed Virginia legislation?
Indeed, we find evidence for this in the Founding Father’s 1821 autobiography, where he happily recorded that a final attempt to add the words “Jesus Christ” to the preamble of his legislation failed. And this failure led Jefferson to affirm that he had intended the application of the Statute to be “universal.”
By this he meant that religious liberty and political equality would not be exclusively Christian. For Jefferson asserted in his autobiography that his original legislative intent had been “to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
By defining Muslims as future citizens in the 18th century, in conjunction with a resident Jewish minority, Jefferson expanded his “universal” legislative scope to include every one of every faith.
Ideas about the nation’s religiously plural character were tested also in Jefferson’s presidential foreign policy with the Islamic powers of North Africa. President Jefferson welcomed the first Muslim ambassador, who hailed from Tunis, to the White House in 1805. Because it was Ramadan, the president moved the state dinner from 3:30 p.m. to be “precisely at sunset,” a recognition of the Tunisian ambassador’s religious beliefs, if not quite America’s first official celebration of Ramadan.
Muslims once again provide a litmus test for the civil rights of all U.S. believers. Today, Muslims are fellow citizens and members of Congress, and their legal rights represent an American founding ideal still besieged by fear mongering, precedents at odds with the best of our ideals of universal religious freedom.
Reclaiming lost calories: Tweaking photosynthesis boosts crop yields
January 3, 2019
Author: Amanda Cavanagh, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Disclosure statement: Amanda Cavanagh receives funding from Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), an international research project that is engineering crops to photosynthesize more efficiently to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).
What if your ability to feed yourself was dependent on a process that made a mistake 20 percent of the time?
We face this situation every day. That’s because the plants that produce the food we eat evolved to solve a chemistry problem that arose billions of years ago. Plants evolved to use carbon dioxide to make our food and the oxygen we breathe – a process called photosynthesis. But they grew so well and produced so much oxygen that this gas began to dominate the atmosphere. To plants, carbon dioxide and oxygen look very similar, and sometimes, plants use an oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. When this happens, toxic compounds are created, which lowers crop yields and costs us 148 trillion calories per year in unrealized wheat and soybean yield – or enough calories to feed an additional 200 million people for a whole year.
Improving crop yields to grow more food on less land is not a new challenge. But as the global population grows and diets change, the issue is becoming more urgent. It seems likely that we will have to increase food production by between 25 and 70 percent by 2050 to have an adequate supply of food.
As a plant biochemist, I have been fascinated by photosynthesis for my whole career, because we owe our entire existence to this single process. My own interest in agricultural research was spurred by this challenge: Plants feed people, and we need to quickly develop solutions to feed more people.
Supercharging photosynthesis to grow more food
It can take decades for agricultural innovations such as improved seeds to reach growers’ fields, whether they are created via genetic approaches or traditional breeding. The high-yielding crop varieties that were bred during the first green revolution helped prevent food shortages in the 1960s by increasing the proportion of grain-to-plant biomass. It’s the grain that contains most of the plant’s consumable calories, so having more grain instead of straw means more food. But most crops are now so improved that they are close to their theoretical limit.
I work on an international project called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), which takes another approach. We are boosting harvests by increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis – the solar-powered process that plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water into greater crop yields. In our most recent publication, we show one way to increase crop yield by up to 40 percent by rerouting a series of chemical reactions common to most of our staple food crops.
Photorespiration costs a lot of energy
Two-thirds of the calories we consume across the globe come directly or indirectly from just four crops: rice, wheat, soybean and maize. Of these, the first three are hindered by a photosynthetic glitch. Typically the enzyme that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, called Rubisco, converts carbon dioxide into sugar and energy. But in one out of every five chemical reactions, Rubisco makes a mistake. The enzyme grabs an oxygen molecule instead. Rather than producing sugars and energy, the chemical reaction yields glycolate and ammonia, which are toxic to plants. To deal with this problem, plants have evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that recycles these toxic compounds. But toxin recycling requires so much energy that the plant produces less food.
Photorespiration uses so much energy that some plants, like maize, as well as photosynthetic bacteria and algae, have evolved mechanisms to prevent Rubisco’s exposure to oxygen. Other organisms, like bacteria, have evolved more efficient ways to remove these toxins.
These natural solutions have inspired many researchers to try to tweak photorespiration to improve crop yields. Some of the more efficient naturally occurring recycling pathways have been genetically engineered in other plants to improve growth and photosynthesis in greenhouse and laboratory conditions. Another strategy has been to modify natural photorespiration and speed up the recycling.
Chemical detour improves crop yield
These direct manipulations of photorespiration are crucial targets for future crop improvement. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption boosts photosynthesis, allowing the plant to use more carbon. You might assume that that this will solve the oxygen-grabbing mistake. But, higher temperatures promote the formation of toxic compounds through photorespiration. Even if carbon dioxide levels more than double, we expect harvest yield losses of 18 percent because of the almost 4 degrees Celsius temperature increase that will accompany them. We cannot rely on increasing levels of carbon dioxide to grow all the food we will need by 2050.
I worked with Paul South, a research molecular biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and professor Don Ort, who is a biologist specializing in crop science at the University of Illinois, to explore whether modifying the chemical reactions of photorespiration might boost crop yields. One element that makes recycling the toxin glycolate so inefficient is that it moves through three compartments inside the plant cell. That’s like taking an aluminum can into three separate recycling plants. We engineered three new shortcuts that could recycle the compound in one location. We also stopped the natural process from occurring.
Tested in soil
Agricultural research innovations can be rapidly tested in a model species. Tobacco is well-suited for this since it is easy to genetically engineer and grow in the field. The other advantage of tobacco is that it has a short life cycle, produces a lot of seed and develops a leafy canopy similar to other field crops so we can measure the impact of our genetic alterations in a short time span. We can then determine whether these modifications in tobacco can be translated into our desired food crops.
We engineered and tested 1,200 tobacco plants with unique sets of genes to find the genetic combination that recycled glycolate most efficiently. Then we starved these modified plants of carbon dioxide. This triggered the formation of the toxin glycolate. Then we identified which plants grew best – these have the combination of genes that recycled the toxin most efficiently. Over the next two years, we further tested these plants in real-world agricultural conditions. Plants with the best combination of genes flowered about a week earlier, grew taller and were about 40 percent larger than unmodified plants.
Having shown proof of concept in tobacco, we are beginning to test these designs in food crops: soybean, cowpea, rice, potato, tomato and eggplant. Soon, we will have a better idea of how much we can increase the yield of these crops with our modifications.
Once we demonstrate that our discovery can be translated into food crops, the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA will rigorously test these modified plants to make sure they are safe for human consumption and pose no risk to the environment. Such testing can cost as much as US$150 million and take more than 10 years.
Since the process of photorespiration is common across plant species, we are optimistic that our strategy will increase crop yields by close to 40 percent and help find a way to grow more food on less land to be able to feed a hungry global population by 2050.