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Morning Headlines: Voters Requesting Record Number of Ballots; UA Finalizes Athletics Review Group

photo of voting stickers
Ohioans are requesting absentee ballots in record numbers with over one million voters having submitted absentee ballot applications.

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, September 10: 

  • Ohio absentee ballots requested in record numbers
  • OSU part of vaccine trial now on hold
  • Enquirer releases federal numbers on Ohio nursing home deaths
  • UA finalizes athletics review group
  • Sen. Portman casts doubt on story in The Atlantic 
  • Poll shows COVID-19 is top issue in election
  • State watchdog seeks probe of utility tied to bribery scheme
  • $3M bond set for suspect in slaying of detective, informant
  • Akron police, federal authorities bust illicit pot shop
  • Cleveland accepts $8M grant for "Operation LeGend"

Ohio absentee ballots requested in record numbers
Ohioans are requesting absentee ballots in record numbers with less than two months until Election Day. More than one million voters have submitted applications so far. Secretary of State Frank LaRose predicts that around half of the state’s votes in November could come through the mail. Despite President Donald Trump calling mail-in ballots a fraud, LaRose says Ohio’s system is strong and secure, and that “county boards of elections are prepared.”

OSU part of vaccine trial now on hold
A vaccine trial at Ohio State University is on hold as part of a worldwide pause called by drug-maker AstraZeneca. The Columbus Dispatch reports that around 500 people were being recruited in Columbus among 30,000 people globally in a phase 3 trial of the new coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The company decided to pause the study after a patient in the UK had an adverse reaction. Another study is underway with volunteers at University Hospitals and the Cleveland VA testing a separate vaccine being developed by Pfizer and a German biotech company.

Enquirer releases federal numbers on Ohio nursing home deaths
New numbers are being released about nursing home deaths and the coronavirus. The Cincinnati Enquirer analyzed federal data after Ohio officials refused to identify facilities where residents have died. It found at least 250 nursing homes in Ohio have had deaths due to COVID-19 or its combination with other health problems. The deaths were concentrated in a quarter of those facilities. Four nursing homes had per capita death rates so high that 1 of every 2 residents succumbed to the coronavirus. The facilities are located in Coshocton, Monroe, Ottawa and Wayne counties. Fourteen facilities had more than 20 deaths.

UA finalizes athletics review group
The University of Akron has finalized members of a group that will consider the future of athletics and look for ways to cut costs. The Athletics Review Working Group is chaired by Matthew Juravich, associate professor of management and faculty athletics representative. It’s made up of UA trustees, administrators, professors, coaches and others. It’s expected to deliver its recommendations in late spring 2021. Faculty members have criticized the university for eliminating nearly 100 faculty positions to stem a deep budget deficit. The university has reduced the athletics budget by about 20%, including cutting three teams.

Sen. Portman casts doubt on story in The Atlantic
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman says he’s not buying an account published in The Atlantic that claims President Donald Trump disparaged American war dead. The article claimed that during a 2018 visit to military cemeteries in France, Trump referred to servicemen buried there as “suckers” and “losers.” In a call Wednesday with reporters, Portman questioned the magazine’s use of anonymous sources. Portman says what he is certain of is that President Trump has “restored our military.” The Atlantic editor-in-chief has stood by the story.

Poll shows COVID-19 is top issue in election
A new poll shows the COVID-19 crisis is number one on Ohio voters’ minds heading into the election. The media collaborative Your Voice Ohio along with the University of Akron sampled more than 1,000 registered voters early in July. People were asked to rank 16 issues in order of importance. The largest percentage, nearly a third of respondents, said COVID-19. The economy and health care came next. But one in five people said the most important issue is problems with the political process. The poll shows people consistently blame the opposing party for those problems. Issues such as race relations, unrest and crime were also a concern.

State watchdog seeks probe of utility tied to bribery scheme
Ohio's consumer watchdog wants a regulatory agency to investigate whether the state's largest electric utility used customer money to fund an alleged $60 million bribery scheme involving one of Ohio's most powerful politicians. The Ohio Consumers' Counsel has asked the Public Utility Commission of Ohio to seek an independent investigation to determine whether FirstEnergy Corp. violated any state laws or regulations. Federal officials say FirstEnergy spent the $60 million to help win passage of a $1 billion customer-funded bailout for two financially struggling Ohio nuclear plants owned by a FirstEnergy subsidiary until early this year.

$3M bond set for suspect in slaying of detective, informant
A judge has set a $3 million bond for an 18-year-old man charged in the fatal shooting of a Cleveland police detective and his informant during a robbery. David McDaniel Jr. didn’t enter a plea during his first court appearance Wednesday. He faces two counts of aggravated murder in the slayings of 53-year-old Detective James Skernivitz and 50-year-old Scott Dingess. They were killed last Thursday night as they sat in Skernivitz’s unmarked car as they prepared for a drug operation. Skernivitz's funeral is invite-only Friday at Rocket Mortgage Field House.

Akron police, federal authorities bust illicit pot shop
Akron police retrieved 18 guns and more than a ton of marijuana, pot edibles, vape cartridges and marijuana wax during a bust on the city’s east side. The Beacon Journal reports that it followed a 19 month investigation into the Bubba Dubba’s Vape Shop. DEA agents assisted in the arrest of three men charged with dealing in marijuana and THC.  The arrests were part of the FBI “Operation Vapor Trail.”

Cleveland receives $8M grant to boost police force
The city of Cleveland will use a nearly $8 million grant to add 30 police officers as part a federal initiative to address violent crime. The officers will work with federal and state law enforcement in a collaborative effort the White House has dubbed Operation LeGend. City council voted to accept the grant Wednesday, but not without a lengthy debate over whether it’s the best way to address rising crime.  The new officers will replace 30 veteran officers detailed to work with federal law enforcement task forces. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there have been 66 people charged with federal crimes under Operation Legend in Cleveland