Ohio briefs

State fair officials ban sale of Confederate flag

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State Fair officials say vendors won’t be permitted to sell Confederate flag merchandise at the event, which starts July 29.

A letter Thursday to fair merchants from the general manager says the policy complies with the fair’s long-standing rule banning the sale of merchandise with offensive wording, lettering or graphics.

Fair spokeswoman Alicia Shoults tells the Northeast Ohio Media Group she isn’t aware of any merchants who’ve sold the flag or related items at the fair.

Any vendors selling Confederate flag merchandise will be asked to remove it.

The flag has come under renewed scrutiny since nine black churchgoers were fatally shot during Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. The suspect charged in the shooting, Dylann Storm Roof, appeared in photos holding the flag.

Ohio to require meningitis immunizations

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio will require students to be immunized against meningitis under a new law.

Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law Thursday.

It requires students to be immunized against meningococcal disease once they reach a certain age, which will be determined by the Ohio Department of Health. The requirement would start in the 2016-17 school year.

With few exceptions, the proposal would apply to students at public and nonpublic schools that are subject to state standards. Students could be exempt for medical or religious reasons.

The measure was sponsored by Republican Sen. Cliff Hite of Findlay. Hite has said his family learned how quickly meningitis can affect young people when his niece died hours after contracting the disease.

Police investigating OD deaths of 2 toddlers

COLUMBUS (AP) — Columbus police have opened investigations into the May deaths of two toddlers who died of drug overdoses in separate incidents.

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz said an 11-month-old boy and a 14-month-old girl both died from acute intoxication of heroin mixed with fentanyl.

The Columbus Dispatch reports police are treating both deaths as unrelated.

In the case of the 11-month-old, officers responded to a call reporting that the baby was not breathing and had turned purple. The 14-month-old was traveling in a car when a call was placed saying that the girl was not breathing.

Ortiz says autopsies and toxicology tests could not determine whether the children died by accident or homicide.

Homicide Sgt. Christ Holzhauser says the coroner alerted police this week that the children’s deaths were drug-related.

Jobless rate 5.2 percent for June

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.2 percent in June, unchanged from the previous two months.

The Friday morning report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services showed Ohio had 296,000 unemployed workers in June, down 6,000 from 302,000 unemployed workers in May.

Ohio’s June unemployment rate was down from the same month last year, when it was 5.6 percent.

The state saw gains in June in sectors including educational and health services and local government. Areas with the biggest job losses were leisure and hospitality and professional and business services.

Ohio’s unemployment rate has remained below the national rate, which was 5.3 for June.

OU donor apologizes for ‘race card’ email

ATHENS (AP) — A major contributor at Ohio University has apologized for email comments advising administrators to “play the race card” in a dispute.

In an op-ed published Thursday in The Athens News, Steven Schoonover apologized for the email he wrote April 2 after hundreds opposed spending $1.2 million on a new residence for President Roderick McDavis, who is black. In the note, Schoonover urged university leaders to do what he said Democrats do when Republicans criticize President Barack Obama: “call them racists.”

The email made public last week sparked student and faculty protests.

Schoonover says his statements weren’t intended to be serious. He says the “race card” comment was a criticism of how things are handled elsewhere, not at Ohio University.

Schoonover has donated $7.5 million to the Schoonover Center for Communication.

Historic rainfall puts damper on local events

CINCINNATI (AP) — The National Weather Service says rainfall in the Cincinnati area over the last month is the most the region has recorded for that time period since the 19th century.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the area has received more than 10 inches of rain between June 15 and July 14. The National Weather Service says that’s the most rain recorded in the region for that time period since 1871.

The rain has had a ripple effect on local events.

Riverbend Music Center officials say a Friday James Taylor Concert has been delayed, citing concerns the stage could become flooded from the rising Ohio River.

In Rising Sun, Indiana, organizers of the Seaplane Splash-In are expecting lower turnouts at the Ohio River event this weekend due to water levels and strong currents.

Ohio Dem leader: Council should focus on crime

CINCINNATI (AP) — The chairman of Ohio’s Democratic Party is calling on current Cincinnati council members to focus on a solution for the city’s recent crime spike.

Chairman and former city councilman David Pepper tells The Cincinnati Enquirer the increase in crime is a crisis. He says Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who’s running for U.S. Senate, should put in the time to make a difference in the community.

Sittenfeld has served three years as a councilman and is running for Senate against the Ohio Democratic Party’s wishes. He says he’s focused on public safety and plans to attend an upcoming neighborhood block watch.

City Council hopes to add 15 officers to the next police recruit class and has invested $2 million into improving cruiser technology.

Man convicted of killing policeman gets new trial

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a Cleveland man sentenced to death for killing a police officer 15 years ago can have a new trial because prosecutors improperly excluded a black woman from the jury.

A jury convicted 44-year-old Quisi Bryan of aggravated murder and recommended he be sentenced to death in 2000 for the fatal shooting of Cleveland officer Wayne Leon at a gas station. Bryan didn’t dispute during trial that he’d shot Leon.

The judge’s ruling says a prosecutor injected a racial component into what were otherwise race-neutral concerns that the black juror expressed in a court questionnaire, then dismissed her.

A statement from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor says he believes Bryan would be sentenced to death again in a new trial.

DNA testing yields another rape conviction

CLEVELAND (AP) — An effort to process a backlog of rape kits for DNA matches has yielded another conviction and long prison sentence in Cuyahoga County.

The county prosecutor’s office says 70-year-old Warren Durham was sentenced to 41 years in prison on Wednesday for raping four women in the mid-1990s. DNA testing of old rape kits linked him to the unsolved sexual assault cases that occurred between November 1993 and November 1995.

Durham was found guilty by a jury last month of charges including rape, kidnapping and gross sexual imposition.

Processing of the backlog of rape kits in Ohio’s largest county has led to the convictions of at least 10 serial rapists. More than 3,900 sexual assault kits from the county have been tested for DNA through the initiative.