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NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE

Priebus speaks to Urban League meeting in Ohio

CINCINNATI (AP) - The Republican Party chairman has assured participants at a civil rights organization conference that the GOP is making a serious effort to build ties with minority voters.

Reince Priebus (ryns PREE'-bus) tells the National Urban League meeting in Cincinnati that Republicans are building up staff and will work even in non-election years to reach out to black voters "all the time."

Priebus spoke ahead of a planned appearance this morning by Vice President Joe Biden. It's Biden's second speech to a major civil rights group this week. The Democrat spoke Wednesday to the NAACP convention in Las Vegas, decrying a wave of voter restriction efforts.

Black voters overwhelmingly backed President Barack Obama in his two elections.

Urban League president Marc Morial (MAW'-ree-al) says the nonpartisan organization likes a diverse discussion.

WORKERS COMP-OVERCHARGES

Settlement ends Ohio workers comp case

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit charging that Ohio's state insurance fund for injured workers overcharged employers hundreds of millions of dollars over several years.

The agreement announced last night creates a $420 million fund to repay businesses that were overcharged for workers' compensation premiums from July 2001 to June 2009. About 270,000 small business owners in the state were affected.

An appeals court had ruled against the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation in the case. The court said that the agency set up an illegal rating system that resulted in employers being overcharged nearly $860 million.

Both sides said they were satisfied with the settlement. Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation administrator Steve Buehrer says the state has made major changes to its system.

SLAVE LABOR-SENTENCE

Ohio woman to be sentenced in slave labor case

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - A northeast Ohio woman convicted along with her boyfriend of enslaving a mentally disabled woman in their home for nearly two years will be sentenced in federal court in Youngstown.

Thirty-three-year-old Jessica Hunt faces a possible sentence of 30 years to life on Thursday. A jury convicted her in March of forced labor, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to illegally obtain prescription drugs.

Hunt's boyfriend, Jordie Callahan, was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday on the same charges. Both are from Ashland, about 70 miles southwest of Cleveland.

The couple was accused of threatening to harm the woman's daughter if the woman did not do chores, shop and clean up after their pit bulls.

The couple's attorneys have argued that government witnesses at the trial were unreliable.

URANIUM PLANT CLEANUP

Meeting set about layoffs in uranium plant cleanup

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Local officials are hosting a public meeting to discuss warnings about 675 potential layoffs for workers decontaminating and decommissioning a Cold War-era uranium plant in southern Ohio.

Layoffs are expected to begin in October for some workers cleaning up the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, roughly 60 miles south of Columbus. It produced enriched uranium until 2001.

Pike County commissioners say representatives from the project, the unions, local government and congressional offices were invited to discuss the situation at a public meeting Thursday night in Waverly.

The federal government and the contractor leading the cleanup say the layoffs may be necessary because uranium transfers fund much of the project but uranium prices have dropped. They say the next proposed federal budget appropriation wouldn't make up for that decrease.

TEEN GIRL SLAIN

Vigil remembers slain teen on her 18th birthday

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A candlelight vigil staged by family and friends remembered a slain central Ohio teen on the day she would have turned 18.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the gathering at an east Columbus park on Wednesday night came after Shevona Whitehead was killed when she was shot in the chest while hanging out with friends two nights earlier.

A 15-year-old boy who allegedly pulled the trigger ran from the scene and was arrested by Columbus SWAT officers at his girlfriend's house Tuesday night. Prosecutors have filed paperwork to move his murder case to adult court. Police said he admitted shooting Whitehead.

The slain girl's mother, Danielle Whitehead, told the young people gathered at the park that they are the future and need to stop killing each other.

WIFE'S DEATH-CHARGES

Ohio man charged with fatally drugging wife

MARYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A central Ohio man accused of fatally drugging his bedridden wife with her prescription medications has been charged with aggravated murder.

Fifty-six-year-old Jon Costell of Milford Center also was indicted in Union County for involuntary manslaughter, domestic violence and failing to provide for a functionally impaired person. He was arraigned Wednesday, with bond set at $500,000. Online jail records did not say if he had an attorney.

Fifty-eight-year-old Debra Costell was found dead at home Sept. 25 after her husband called 911 and reported she wasn't breathing.

A coroner ruled it a homicide.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the Union County prosecutor says that authorities don't believe it was act of mercy and that the couple had a history of trouble, including earlier domestic violence allegations.

BAKERY-LISTERIA RECALL

Lab finds no risk from bacteria at Ohio bakery

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - An independent lab has found that bacteria discovered at a commercial bakery in northeast Ohio poses no risk to public health.

Production at the Schwebel Baking Co. facility in Youngstown was stopped Tuesday after environmental sampling conducted by the company found an undetermined species of listeria, a naturally occurring bacteria.

The bakery reported the findings to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and immediately initiated a voluntary withdrawal of all products shipped to markets in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New York, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Test results found the listeria poses no health threat to workers or consumers.

Company president Paul Schwebel tells The (Youngstown) Vindicator that full production will resume soon.

CINCINNATI ICONS

Crowd sounds off about plan to rehab Cincy icons

CINCINNATI (AP) - Residents are sounding off about a taxpayer-supported $331 million plan to fix up two Cincinnati icons that have been listed among the nation's most endangered historic landmarks.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the plan came out to a convention center on Wednesday night to offer their opinions to Hamilton County commissioners who will decide the fate of the plan to rehab Music Hall and Union Terminal.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that most came to support the proposal. They held signs urging commissioners to "Save Our Icons."

Critics of the plan say it would be unfair to impose a quarter-cent sales tax increase to cover part of the project cost.

Commissioners must decide by Aug. 6 whether to put the proposed sales tax on the ballot.

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