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It's embarrassing enough that Akron was dubbed Ohio's "meth capital" by the Beacon Journal. Akronites, already tired of defending their turf, will now have to suffer jokes about hillbillies and Sudafed.
But the worst part is that it isn't even true.
For more than a decade, papers throughout the country have been dubbing their cities the "meth capital of [insert state, region, or hemisphere of your choice]." Even such sleepy towns as Lawrence, Kansas, and Des Moines, Iowa, have earned the half-baked honor. But the evidence always leaves something to be desired.
The Beacon drew its ammo from a study by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network (OSAM), which notes that Summit County accounted for one-third of the state's meth-lab busts. But Sanford Starr, who oversees OSAM, says that doesn't mean it has the highest meth use. "It has more to do with the fact that Summit County has the largest and most aggressive meth task force in the state."
For a city that's supposed to be the meth capital, Starr says, there isn't much trafficking, and less than 1 percent of people who seek treatment say meth is their primary drug of choice.
Hence, under the standard applied by the Beacon, Akron could also be called the Amaretto Sour Capital of Ohio.
Stay tuned for this shocking story in Sunday's Beacon Journal.
U.S. Senator Mike DeWine lost a lot of Republican friends when he helped cut a deal to end the stalemate over President Scooter's judicial nominations. But he's gained at least one friend among Democrats -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who suggested DeWine as a candidate for the Supreme Court.
High-level sources say the comment was not meant as a joke, a childish act of defiance, or even the remnant mumblings of a Whip-It buzz. "It was just an example of trying to find a consensus candidate," says Reid spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner. "The justices suggested maybe it shouldn't be a judge; maybe they should think outside the box."
Surely DeWine would bring a fresh perspective to the high court. For starters, he'd be the only justice with a law degree from Ohio Northern University, considered by many to be the Harvard of Northwest Ohio.
But DeWine's office insists that he has no intention of leaving the Senate. "I think the senator thought it was a pretty interesting idea," says spokesman Jeff Sadosky, though DeWine has "no interest whatsoever in the Supreme Court."
Which means, alas, that Ohio is stuck with him.
Ode to manly journalists
It's no secret that journalists are a dainty sort who whine more than lawyers with scraped knees. But at least in Youngstown, they're still making 'em sturdy.
Nearly eight months after 179 employees of the Youngstown Vindicator walked out, they're still getting their strike on ("Striketown," December 15, 2004). The union hasn't met formally with management since March. And unless the paper betters its offer of a 1-percent pay bump, the two sides may not meet anytime soon, says Deb Shaulis, union vice president.
But the union believes it's wearing down the bosses. Shaulis says out-of-town scabs have been replaced by college student scabs -- whose souls, of course, are now cursed by God.
Vindy GM Mark Brown did not respond to interview requests, but Shaulis says the paper is also cutting back its goon-squad budget. Guards brought in to monitor the picket lines used to spend the night in motels. Now they're sleeping on cots and showering in the press room, Shaulis claims.
Jane's plain domain
The Galleria has added a prominent new tenant, but it's not likely to prompt comeback celebrations for the beleaguered downtown mall. The campaign headquarters for Mayor Jane Campbell opened in late June in a space long occupied by Brentano's bookstore.
Campbell's corner office achieves a bold aesthetic complement to the Galleria's many empty storefronts. Handsomely appointed in Soviet Bloc Revivalist style, it boasts no decor or furnishings, apart from the empty bookshelves left behind by Brentano's, a few garlands and pieces of bunting, and a plastic Re-Elect Mayor Jane Campbell sign rigged over the entryway. A handful of office chairs are lined up on one side, a resting place for would-be visitors.
So far, they have been few.
"Some days are better than others," says Rhoni, a cheerful volunteer who chose not to provide her full name, which speaks volumes for Campbell's lukewarm support. She also declines to elaborate exactly how much better some days are. On this weekday afternoon, Punch was the only rube in sight.
"It's been slow," she finally admits.
Frito-Lay, enemy combatant
While soldiers fight the insurgency in Iraq, a Wooster snack-maker has turned traitor.
It was recently revealed that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has a serious jones for Doritos. In fact, he loves 'em so much, he can pound a whole bag in one sitting.
Who can we blame for the orange smile pasted on Hussein's face? Covert operatives in Wooster.
At the Doritos plant there, the mood is tense. Paranoia has set in. No one wants to be publicly associated with the evil dictator. And yet . . . production of chips continues, only contributing to the enemy's growing belly.
Lab manager Stephanie Myers became defensive when Punch reached her by phone.
"How does it feel, knowing Saddam is enjoying your snacks?" we asked.
"I will not answer that," said Myers.
"Is there any relation between Saddam and the Pringles guy? They kind of look related."
Howey: The best
The Society of Professional Journalists has named Scene theater critic Christine Howey the Best Critic in Ohio.
In announcing its annual awards, the society granted 11 honors to Scene. They include:
· Jason Bracelin, 1st place, Best Arts Profile; 2nd place, Best Arts Reporting.
· Tom Francis, 2nd place, Best Arts Profile.
· Aina Hunter, 2nd place, Best Investigative Reporting; 2nd place, Best Consumer Reporting.
· Chris Maag, 1st place (tie), Best Sports Profile.
· Frank Lewis, 1st place, Best Business Profile.
· Denise Grollmus, 2nd place, Best Social Justice Reporting.
· Kevin Hoffman, 2nd place, Best Criminal Justice Reporting.
· Erich Burnett, 1st place, Best Headline Writing.