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Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Our Moment of Bad Reading

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The once-upon-a-time defense of the poetics of rap has been ceded to the millennial mind of genius.com, taking every syllable as ripe for mundane exegesis.

For the past week, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, separated in age by less than a year and foiled by reputation, have traded swipes in a beef already deemed historic. This is due at least in part to the two principals being actually famous, as opposed to rap-famous. But there is also something to be said about the medium of this match: unlike so many squabbles between artists, now typically mediated by social-media platforms’ pedestrian formats, the Drake-Kendrick feud manifests in song (though still mediated by tech—Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube). That’s as close to the good ol’ days as anyone’s bound to get in this lifetime. For old heads and new, and once new heads grown old, therein is the source of optimism for this spectacle: that the terms of glory or defeat would be litigated on musical, or at the very least lyrical, terms; that there would be attention to craft at a time when only the smallest minority of conversations about music appear to take interest in what’s being heard.

Drake and Kendrick were the bards of my state-school education, appreciated then not for their differences but in mutual facilitation of drinking and dancing in the devil-may-care way of white people, even if someone might later tap my shoulder and relay that the affecting sound on Drake’s “Take Care”—which features Kendrick on the track “Buried Alive Interlude”—originated with another Canadian singer-songwriter called the Weeknd; or that the lyrics to “Swimming Pools (Drank)”—from Kendrick’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” on which Drake appears—are really deep, actually. These qualities, the theft and the depth, would increasingly matter, even as the two men continued converging: on homemade playlists, on tour, and at award shows, though not again on the same song after 2012. They traded gibes throughout the rest of the twenty-tens, though in recent years seemed to have reached some sort of détente. Meanwhile, their respective esteem was shunted onto familiar tracks: Kendrick Lamar the genius and Drake the impresario.

Kendrick inherited the less interesting appellation, though that can’t be blamed on the music. His body of work, modest in size compared with peers in the age of streaming, is strange and authorial, with a facility for funk to make the listener curl her lip. The music has not gone underrated. Quite the contrary: every major awards body has fêted the work. His fifth studio album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” collected three Grammys, bringing his career total to seventeen; in 2022, he won a Primetime Emmy as part of the ensemble of hip-hop artists who performed that year’s Super Bowl halftime show. But the crown jewel was affixed in 2018, when the Pulitzer Prize for music was awarded to “DAMN.,” which the judges called “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Though Kendrick was the first artist outside of jazz or classical to receive this honor, that commendation was years in the makingand was of a piece with less rarefied sources that heralded his music as the awaited second coming of a studious rap form, just as it seemed the kids were putting enunciation out to pasture. That stature had been burnished, at times, by Kendrick—he performed the rageful ambivalence of “The Blacker the Berry” while wrapped in chains at the 2016 Grammy Awards—and it was his to discard on “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” in which he rapped, “I am not your savior.” He has seldom been heard from in the interim.

Drake, by contrast, is perennially up to something. Drake has long held my interest, not only as a person popular among a certain demographic, as the joke goes, but for the reason that he and other megastars hold interest with critics: even while the art suffers, there is still the management of star power as text. Drake puts out a lot of music lately—five albums and more than eighty songs (excluding features) since Kendrick won that Pulitzer, little to none of which will achieve posterity. I’d venture that the last interesting thing Drake did was a ventriloquist act, throwing his voice to Justin Bieber in the music video for the song “Popstar,” by DJ Khaled, in 2020. As Bieber mouths on the chorus, Drake’s voice pours out: “Cops pullin’ up like I’m givin’ drugs out, nah, nah, I’m a popstar, not a doctor.”

So maybe Kendrick was chagrined in October when Drake released the song “First Person Shooter,” featuring J. Cole, who surveys his industry thusly: “Love when they argue the hardest m.c. / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? We the big three like we started a league, but right now I feel like Muhammad Ali.” These lines beg the question of not only a codified “big three” but also imply that Kendrick, Drake (birth name Aubrey Graham), and J. Cole slot in as the subjects worth hemming and hawing over. Not so, Kendrick replies, adopting Cole’s bravura as the setup for a too-nice rhyme in his verse on “Like That,” the gnarly trap song that he released with Future and Metro Boomin last month: “Motherfuck ‘the big three’ / Nigga, it’s just big me.” The sentiment would seem evident. Yet, from the first downbeat, the song was set upon by an army of theologians bent on sussing out meaning from even the most benign-seeming turn of phrase.

After a noteworthy withdrawal from the man with the matches, J. Cole—who lobbed his “7 Minute Drill” at Kendrick in early April before disavowing the song two days later—the real contest proceeded. Fervor intensified as the songs accumulated—responses from Drake on April 13th (“Push Ups”) and 19th (“Taylor Made Freestyle”); one from Kendrick on April 30th (“Euphoria”); tracks from both on May 3rd (“6:16 in LA” from Kendrick, and “Family Matters” from Drake); and two songs from Kendrick on May 4th (“Meet the Grahams” and “Not Like Us”). The players within the fray are many: the Weeknd and A$AP Rocky have also gotten their licks in; Rick Ross, another former collaborator, jumped in last week with “Champagne Moments.”

The retorts have been by turns sincere and uproarious: Drake, in his usual fry, undermining Kendrick’s stature—both his self-styled seriousness and his height—while Kendrick implored the Boy not to play too much, toying with the seams in Drake’s shtick, his performance of race and gender. (Rick Ross’s line about “that surgery,” along with Kendrick’s growling invitation to “tell ’em where you got your abs from,” have inflamed existing rumors about Drake’s other “work” and spawned an online challenge christened “BBL Drizzy,” but it should be said that Megan Thee Stallion took it there months ago on “HISS,” a direct address to industry peers, including Drake, who mocked her after Tory Lanez shot her in 2020.) Both Drake and Kendrick favored the obvious in their own way, though the latter, at least for a time, exhibited more patience with the power of suggestion. He raps on “6:16 in LA”:

A hundred niggas that you got on salary
And twenty of ’em want you as a casualty
And one of them is actually next to you
And two of them is practically tired of your lifestyle
Just don’t got the audacity to tell you.

These are bars premised on keeping its addressee wide awake, with plenty there for fan theories to dissect in the coming days.

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The rabid scrutiny of listeners has sometimes felt handy. Music, like other art disciplines, has become ripe for the undetected intervention of what has been branded as A.I.—shorthand for a panoply of technologically finessed ways to record music that sounds like it was made by someone else. When an unmastered, unsourced version of Drake’s “Push Ups” began making the rounds, listeners speculated that an anonymous someone had written Drake-like lyrics, performed them with Drake-like flow, and applied an imitative, Drake-like filter. “Push Ups” was authenticated, but at least one other track gained traction before being revealed as a fake. But, then, there is a reason that Drake’s “Taylor Made Freestyle” cannot be streamed via the usual services. The song uses just such voice-altering technology, goading Kendrick with the ghosts of West Coast’s past and taking possession of Tupac and the very much alive Snoop Dogg. “Nephew, what the fuck are you really ’bout to do? We passed you the torch at the House of Blues,” Drake, as Snoop, raps.

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Cheeky and knowing, “Taylor Made Freestyle” could be seen as underscoring how certifications of authenticity have always been convoluted within hip-hop, though many critics saw it as a misstep from an artist dogged by a decade-long record of appropriations and reference tracks. And it is rather rich to call forth Taylor Swift—with reference to Kendrick’s takeover on the remix of “Bad Blood”—as evidence of the rapper’s weakness, when Drake and Taylor, in terms of their capital interests, glutted output, and paranoid fans, partake in the same stratagems.

I’ll admit to having some difficulty in taking much of this seriously, perhaps because many listener reactions have impressed me as rather goofy. Anyone easily awed by a “quadruple entendre” could stand to have a bit more poetry in their life—Swifties included. The once-upon-a-time defense of the poetics of rap has been ceded to the millennial mind of genius.com, taking every syllable as primed for annotation and mundane exegesis; as the Times critic Jon Caramanica grouses, “The full understanding of a piece of music is reduced to ‘I get the reference’ or ‘I recognize the reference.’ ”

But that is the point of beef, you might say—diving into a trove of primarily textual material that has been assembled for the express purpose of letting someone know they suck. Disses are made for parsing. And some of this music holds appeal beyond the feud—Lamar’s “Euphoria,” which followed Drake’s “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle,” has resonated aside from its arrows. I like that song. In it, Kendrick lists, per the genre standard, reasons for his vehement dislike, which become comically insufficient. “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, and the way that you dress,” he recites, roiling with feeling. “Some shit is just cringeworthy; it ain’t even got to be deep, I guess.” He references one of Drake’s triumphs, the record “Back to Back,” put out in 2015 during a feud with Meek Mill. “I’m going to get back to that for the record,” Kendrick adds. Some fans wondered, Does that mean he’s coming back with more? And indeed, he did. Meanwhile, my enthusiasm has failed to hold. I know I am not alone.

Other critics—Alphonse Pierre, at Pitchfork; Craig Jenkins, at Vulture—have diagnosed their disappointment with the event of the season that then wasn’t. Levity curled around “Family Matters,” Drake’s response to “Euphoria,” with lyrics that allege “you beat on your queen.” That night, Kendrick sent out “Meet the Grahams,” placing Drake in line with Harvey Weinstein; then, in another song released some hours later, he minted the moniker “Certified pedophiles,” in a play on the title of Drake’s sixth studio album, “Certified Lover Boy.” Nor was this anywhere near the first time anyone had heard of Drake striking up with “A minor,” as Kendrick puns. There was another song from Drake—he denied the allegations on an answering track, “The Heart Part 6”—but, really, what is left to say?

Charles Holmes, of the Ringer, describes Drake and Kendrick as “formalists in a genre that’s moved past the tradition.” Some traditions die harder than others, it seems. This is how you get two losers united in exploiting violence against women for their mudslinging, a tedious reminder of the imbrication of rap culture with misogyny that, while not unique to rap, remains, to many, uniquely defended precisely as part of the culture.

Is anyone else irritated by the mass culture on offer of late? Everything thorns me and I don’t know why, or I do, but the reason is incommensurate to this petty symptom. To reduce Israel’s violence, the murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians—a sure underestimate—and the violent reception of those protesting their institutions’ role in that violence to the scale of a personal feeling is one of the more American things one can do, and the world has had quite enough America to last an eon. Still, these dissected grievances of pop stars and the willful misreadings of the moment’s meaningful idioms strike me as related phenomena. Rubbish interpretations abound.

If hyper-focusing on lyrics is the assignment, how about some with real teeth? a late entrant way out in left field, whom I last recall seeing still looking for his street cred somewhere downtown, and who has apparently been putting out music since. On Monday, Macklemore posted the song “Hind’s Hall,” the new name that student activists gave to Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall, after Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed by Israel. The song is plainspoken in its address: “The problem isn’t the protests; it’s what they’re protesting / It goes against what our country is funding.” The attached video situates these lyrics amid footage of campus protests and Israel’s bombs. Macklemore’s voice is an issue, a relic of the twenty-tens and its infatuation with anti-rap-culture rappers. We want for a cooler messenger. But the words, in this very special case, supersede the cringe. “What happened to the artist, What do you have to say?” he raps. “I want a ceasefire, Fuck a response from Drake.” (Drake did sign an open letter calling for a ceasefire in late October.) The message is too clear to equivocate: “Block the barricade until Palestine is free,” he recites. It’s not a bop, but it’s some of the best sound I’ve heard in a minute. ♦

Upper Arlington is re-envisioning ‘outdated’ Henderson Road, its border with Columbus

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“outdated,” “hectic,” “old,” “dangerous,” and “janky.”

That’s some of what Upper Arlington residents said when asked at a virtual meeting last month about their impression of the West Henderson Road corridor. The wide road forms the northern border between Upper Arlington and the city of Columbus and is marked by underperforming retail and large parking lots. While Upper Arlington only owns the southern half of the road, city officials say Henderson is the last major business district within Upper Arlington with potential for significant change.

That’s why Upper Arlington has launched Envision Henderson to plan what comes next and encourage development based on feedback from residents of both Upper Arlington and Columbus, according to Upper Arlington City Manager Steve Schoeny.

“The good news is nobody likes Henderson Road the way it is right now,” Schoeny told The Dispatch. “That is something that says OK, there’s a consensus around a need for change. The hard part is getting consensus around what that looks like and coming up with a vision that’s commercially viable.”

City governments don’t build businesses or apartments, Schoeny pointed out. Developers do. Cities can create codes that reflect what they want in an area, making it easier for developers to build a project without needing a code variance.

The city of Upper Arlington is reenvisioning West Henderson Road, a wide road that forms the northern border between Upper Arlington and the city of Columbus and is marked by strip malls and large parking lots.

The city is almost done with its first round of community engagement, including meetings and community pop-ups at local events. Next, MKSK Studios, a local planning firm, will take residents’ feedback and put together a plan.

Then, there will be another round of community feedback so residents can react to that plan. Schoeny said they hope to have something to show residents by early July. The city hopes to implement a plan by the end of this year, Schoeny said.

Kyle May, the Envision Henderson project manager for MKSKS Studios, said there is data behind residents’ concerns about the corridor as it is. The area has a lot of retail, but compared to similar stores, more than 70% of the businesses have visitor counts below the 50th percentile, May said.

A lot of people have said the corridor is unsafe. May said their research shows there is a high number of crashes on the road and in surrounding parking lots.

“There are 38 curb cuts on the corridor, which is a curb cut about every hundred feet. You don’t have to be a roadway engineer to know that’s not how you’re supposed to do that,” May said. “On top of that, we’ve got four travel lanes and a turn lane down the center with no median. I use the term raceway. It’s kind of a Talladega feel, honestly, through here.”

The area is particularly ripe for opportunities, Schoeny said, because if voters approve funding in November, the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s LinkUS project could bring a bus rapid transit line less than a mile away to Bethel Road. Plus, the city of Columbus is proposing as part of its Zone-In plan to rezone much of its side of West Henderson to allow the possibility of taller development, which could include housing.

More development news:Crowd praises, attacks new zoning code proposal at Columbus City Council hearing

Kat Cochrane-Yamaguchi, who is involved in housing policy advocacy with Building Welcoming Communities, a committee under the local group Equal UA, said right now her group is just encouraging people to engage with the planning process.

Cochrane-Yamaguchi said she’d personally like to see the corridor contribute to the city’s vibrancy with mixed-use development, walkability, green space, small businesses and affordable housing. But she’s not sure what that looks like.

The city of Upper Arlington has held multiple community meetings in April and March to get community feedback on the West Henderson Road Corridor as part of a project called Envision Henderson.

Columbus highlights unity, culture and continued struggles in Africa Day celebration

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To honor the contributions Africans have made to central Ohio, Columbus leaders commemorated Africa Day — a widely celebrated anniversary of the success and independence of African countries — Thursday night with performances, art and a panel discussion. 

Special remarks from Mayor Andrew J. Ginter and City Council president Shannon Hardin acknowledged the important role Africans have made in Columbus’ metropolitan area.

“I think what’s ahead of us is a (strong) community because the contributions of Africans (from) all over the continent is going to poise us for greatness in business, faith, art and culture,” Ginther said.

Hardin shared similar sentiments.

“If you ever want to question the impact from the African diaspora or African heritage, drive up 161 or Morse road and see the impact this community is having on our hearts,” he said.

Members of the community were given a survey before the event to share what they believe are major issues affecting African communities.

The top three issues — health care disparities, systemic racism and educational barriers — were discussed by the panelists. Harrison Poku-Yeboah, a legislative advisor of community engagement for Columbus, said these issues will be sent to policymakers to ensure necessary changes are made.

“It’s important for us to have a intellectual discussion where council members basically find ways to come up with a policy to help us out,” Yeboah said. “We’re gonna make sure that council members continue to engage with the African community”

Health care disparities and dismantling stigmas

Columbus leaders honored the local African community during the city's second annual Africa Day celebration at City Hall on May 16, 2024 with performances, art displays and a panel discussion on the prevalent issues still facing the community.

Panelist Obianuju Aguolu, a professor of epidemiology at Ohio State and a Nigerian American, said new African immigrants mainly struggle to properly integrate into the health care system due to language barriers and income levels that impact insurance.

She said the best way to support new Africans is to promote cultural competency in the health care field and dismantle stigmas surrounding Black Americans in the medical field. 

Agulou also said Africans have a tendency not to prioritize their health and end up seeing a doctor once in a critical state. 

“Sometimes we think it’s a low priority, and we only go to the hospital when we’re dying, and it also comes from culture.”

Tackling systemic racism

Upper Arlington Mayor and City Council President Ukeme Awakessien Jeter shared her personal stories of being both black and Nigerian American. She said that although the histories may be different between the two groups, it is important to work together to combat systemic barriers.

Jeter said one of the many forms of discrimination new Africans face is a result of not being aware of how impactful race is in America compared to countries in Africa.

“Without a deep understanding of what that history is, you can’t debunk biases and you can’t understand how it applies to you,” she said. “We might as well join hands together to offer a solution.”

She also explained how economic accessibility can help combat systemic racism for the African community.

“It is hard to have a voice at the table if you’re not respected as having brought something to that table” “I think we reduce racism when we start to improve access to economics.”

Facing educational barriers

The third panelist, Kobina Ayiety, a graduate from Ohio University and a Nigerian American, said most Africans immigrate to America with an educational visa but face issues with their transcripts and credentials lacking accreditation in the United States.  

The city of Columbus commemorated Africa Day and the contributions the African community has made to central Ohio during an event at City Hall on May 16, 2024.

The event also featured cultural food and performances as well as artwork done by local African residents.

“It means a lot to be surrounded by African artists and my community to showcase my work and learn more about other African cultures,” said Ilham Hassan, a Somali American who drew a replica of the Somali flag that was on display.

Ilham Hassan, a Somali American who drew a replica of the Somali flag that was on display, poses next to dance group, Cabsi Cabsi, after the Africa Day event concludes.
(Credit: Amani Bayo)

The History of Africa Day

Africa Day, formerly known as African Freedom Day or African Liberation Day, is officially celebrated on May 25th to mark the anniversary of the Organization of African Unity established in 1963.

Though the organization was disbanded in 2002 and replaced with the African Union, Africans around the world still observe the foundation of OAU as the official declaration of unity, solidarity and sovereignty among African states. 

The AU currently has 55 member states and is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

With 14% of the population in Ohio being African immigrants from the sub-Saharan region, Africa Day was first celebrated in Columbus last year after a resolution that officially allowed the city to recognize the independence of African nations. 

This year’s celebration is meant to honor the achievements of African communities in Columbus and empower the diaspora to preserve their heritage while also contributing to the growth in the city.

Ahmed said it is important for residents to be aware of the role African immigrants play in the city’s economy and help support new African immigrants in their transition to life in Ohio.

2019 report states immigrants contribute to Ohio’s population growth, several millions in local and state taxes and 11.5% of Columbus’ gross domestic product.

Burhan Ahmed, a Somali American and one of the organizers of the event said aside from celebrating culture, one of the most important aspects of Africa Day is gathering people together to discuss issues that directly affect the African community.

“We created Africa Day to highlight some of the success stories and share issues that they are dealing with so that we improve.”

This year’s Africa Day was held a week before it was officially recognized in order to accommodate everyone’s schedules. Ahmed said they plan to do an illumination of City Hall on the 25th as well.

Mike DeWine’s smear campaigns against pension board’s Wade Steen tarnish his reputation

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Gov. Mike Dewine has raised a red flag concerning STRS. Attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff says the governor and his administration are the red flag.

  • Stavroff says DeWine uses smear campaigns and unethical tactics to achieve his political goals.

Columbus attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen’s son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions. 

When all else fails, resort to smear campaigns and unethical tactics to achieve your desired result. This is the political philosophy that Gov. Mike Dewine subscribes to.

A recent example of the governor’s employing hit-job style politics is his unlawful removal of my father-in-law, Wade Steen, as his appointee to the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System board of trustees.

Instead of learning his lesson that such tactics are wrong, Dewine doubled down and raised a so-called “red flag” concerning STRS. If Dewine would take a moment to simply reflect on his actions, he would realize that he and his administration are the red flag.

STRS is a giant pension system that is dedicated to ensuring Ohio teachers have healthy and sustainable lives in retirement.

Wade Steen asked reasonable questions

May 15, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; A sign hangs outside The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio board meeting. The state's second largest public pension fund, oversees about $90 billion invested on behalf of 500,000 teachers and retirees. Its 11-member board has been infighting over the direction and governance of the system.

Steen, an accountant with significant auditing and investment experience, was appointed to serve on the STRS board of trustees twice: First by Governor John Kasich, and most recently by Dewine.

Like all trustees, Steen is a fiduciary who is charged with looking out for and promoting the best interests of STRS’s beneficiaries: Teachers.

When Steen began asking reasonable questions about the pension — why is the pension consistently underperforming; why are staff receiving big bonuses; why are modest cost of living adjustments not being given to retired teachers; should the Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigate impropriety within STRS? — one would expect Dewine to applaud and promote the efforts of his appointee.

May 15, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio board member Wade Steen speaks during a board meeting. The state's second largest public pension fund, oversees about $90 billion invested on behalf of 500,000 teachers and retirees.

Instead, Dewine unlawfully and shockingly removed Mr. Steen.

The Tenth District Court of Appeals ordered Mr. Steen restored to his trustee seat.

The court’s opinion should be celebrated as a reasonable interpretation of the governor’s executive power. It should also serve as a smack in the face to Dewine and a warning not to engage in similar misconduct. 

DeWine attacked with so called ‘red flags’

Apparently, an embarrassing and scolding court order was not enough to deter Dewine. Instead, he championed an anonymous and unsigned memo—the “red flag” — to again attack Steen and those STRS trustees asking the tough questions.

The governor’s promotion of this cowardly, false, and defamatory memo is misleading officers within state government; so much that Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit—based on this memo—to remove Steen and another STRS trustee, retired Wright State University economics professor Rudy Fichtenbaum, who have done nothing but carry out their fiduciary responsibilities owed to Ohio teachers.

Why is Wade Steen being targeted?

Ask yourself: What do unpaid, volunteer appointees like Steen have to gain by asking tough questions and serving as fiduciaries? Why is Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine suddenly raising a “red flag” about the issues at STRS when people like Steen have been consistently raising red flags for years?

A simple answer might be: Follow the money and examine the donors to Dewine.

Columbus attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen's son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions.

It may reveal that the institutional investment lobby is fueling Governor Dewine’s lawlessness to make sure STRS investment staff continue to receive their bonuses, regardless of their performance and obligations to the teachers who rely on the pension to live in retirement.

Dewine has a storied resume and a noteworthy life in public service. Unfortunately, he expects that his appointee to STRS must serve his political interests and not the interests of active and retired teachers.

This chapter in Governor Dewine’s career—probably one of his last ones—will leave his reputation tarnished and legacy asterisked.

Columbus attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen’s son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions. 

Ukraine’s defence lines stretched as Russian troops advanced

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We travel at speed towards the village of Lyptsi, which is now under siege.

Russian forces have penetrated this border area north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

We are being escorted by members of Ukraine’s National Guard, among the latest reinforcements to try to halt this most recent Russian advance. They’ve gone from a fierce battle in the east to another further north—without rest.

The heavy thuds of artillery grow louder when we arrive at their position, just a mile from the front line.

We run past a smouldering fire towards a bunker, where we are told to take cover.

In the dank, gloomy basement, a group of soldiers are watching a drone feed. They’re directing Ukrainian artillery fire towards a tree line.

Andrii tells me the situation: “It’s dynamic and tense and hard to predict.”

We’ve been told we can’t stay for long. Even underground, you can hear the explosions.

The Russians simply walked in, Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv tell BBC

Key weeks ahead for Russia’s war in Ukraine

What weapons are being supplied to Ukraine?

I ask Andrii whether he and his men’s arrival on this front is making a difference.

“Relatively, but it’s always hard to get involved in someone else’s defence lines because there’s no proper interaction with other units,” he replies.

But he understands the importance of their task and why the Russians have opened this new front.

“They want to pull our forces from defence lines in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It was just a question of time. The Russians always use mean tactics,” he says.

Map of Kharkiv region and Vovchansk

It’s getting dark outside, and they’re now using a thermal image camera on a drone to watch Russian movements. “Our pilot has just found out the movement of the enemy group near our positions,” Andrii tells me.

We’re told to leave quickly.

At a field hospital well behind the front line, Ukrainian medics are treating yet another casualty.

Viktor has lost some of his fingers in a mortar explosion. He’s lying on a bed, conscious, wrapped in a foil blanket, as he receives treatment from a nurse.

BBC/Lee Durant Viktor pictured on a hospital bed at the stabilisation point.
Viktor, pictured on a hospital bed, receives treatment after a mortar explosion

But Viktor is more worried about the men he’s left behind. “I can’t live without my guys,” he says, “they’re my friends, my second family.” He says he wants to get back to them as soon as he is patched up.

The Russians, too, have been taking heavy casualties. But there are more of them.

Viktor says they were fighting off wave after wave of attacks. “There are a lot of them,” he says.

Russia’s believed to have massed a force of more than 30,000 just over the border.

Ukraine has not just been outnumbered on this front; it’s also been outgunned.

“The Russians have everything, whatever they want,” says Viktor, “and we have nothing to fight with. But we do what we can.”

Delays in US military support have made their job more difficult. Ammunition has had to be rationed over the past few months.

On average, Russia has been able to fire 10 times as many artillery shells. The hope is that the deficit will narrow with the arrival of more US weapons and ammunition.

BBC/Lee Durant 57th brigade artillery.
Ukrainian armour is dug in defensive positions as they attempt to hold the line

At an artillery position, hidden in a tree-line outside Vovchansk, men of Ukraine’s 57th Brigade have been firing 50 to 100 rounds a day to defend the town.

When we arrive, they’re waiting for a fresh delivery of ammunition for their Russian-made self-propelled gun. Another 20 rounds are soon to be delivered by a small van. It’ll keep them going for a few more hours.

This unit, too, had been fighting further east before the call came to defend Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s defence lines are being stretched and thinned out.

Another brigade nearby has arrived from Robotyne in the south, where Russian forces are also advancing.

The small gains made in Ukraine’s 2023 offensive are slowly but surely disappearing.

This time last year Ukraine was hoping to take back its land. Now it’s simply hoping it can hold the line.

Ukrainian reinforcements are making a difference in repelling this latest Russian assault. But at what cost elsewhere on the 800-mile (1,287 km) front?

BBC/Lee Durant Mykhailo, 57th brigade artillery commander
“We are losing Vovchansk,” says Mykhailo, a Ukrainian artillery commander

It’ll be hard to dislodge all the Russian forces who have now gained a significant foothold in the Kharkiv region.

Mykhailo, the Ukrainian artillery commander at the position, tells me: “We are losing Vovchansk and we are also losing the villages around Vovchansk.”

And there is a feeling that this could have been avoided if defences had been better prepared.

“We could have used logs and concrete to build defences. Now we’ll [have] to use shells and people to take back this land,” he tells me.

Komen Columbus Race for the Cure to step off Saturday: What you need to know

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A world without breast cancer.

Those five simple words sum up the vision that Susan G. Komen has worked toward for more than 40 years. The organization strives to save lives by funding research, ensuring access to care and fighting for government funding to prevent and cure the disease expected to take more than 40,000 lives this year.

That sobering statistic is the raison d’être for Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, a 5K run/walk and 1-mile walk that begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at North Bank Park, 311 W. Long St.

Show up early enough that you don’t miss the opening ceremony and Parade of Hope at 8:10 a.m. The procession includes survivors and individuals currently living with metastatic breast cancer.

Komen’s flagship event is estimated to draw a throng of thousands, according to executive director Lindsay Collins.

“The last two years back in-person have been around 10,000 people on-site, including race participants, spectators, partners and volunteers,” she said. “We anticipate 10,000-plus again for the 2024 Columbus race.”

As with the 2023 race, this year’s fundraising goal is $1 million (which it exceeded last year). “Since the start of Columbus Race for the Cure, tens of thousands of participants and corporate sponsors have raised over $30 million to date,” Collins said.

If you’re interested in participating solo or with a team, it’s not too late to sign up. Online registration is open through 11:50 p.m. Friday at bit.ly/3UZsexI and if you miss that deadline, you can register at 6:30 a.m. Saturday at the park.

Whether you’re a walker, runner or onlooker, here are some helpful hints if you plan to go to Komen Columbus Race for the Cure this weekend.

Can kids under 18 participate?

Absolutely! There is a special registration just for younger participants, including those in strollers.

Can I bring my dog?

For the safety of event participants and due to local regulations, only service animals are allowed at the race.

How much does registration cost?

Adult registration costs $40 and youth registration is $30.

What’s included in the registration fee?

The fee includes a T-shirt and a surprise gift that is to be used during the interactive opening ceremony. Shirts for survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer are to be in special colors to recognize their role in the event.

What is the race route?

Participants start beside McFerson Commons Park on Spring Street heading west, walk or run through Downtown and finish back on Spring Street.

Will there be street closures?

Between 2 a.m. and noon Saturday, the following streets are to be closed:

  • Long Street is to be closed between High Street to the east and Hocking Street to the west.
  • Spring Street is to be closed from West Street to the east and Hocking Street to the west.
  • Neil Avenue is to be closed from Nationwide Boulevard on the north to the combined start/finish line to the south.

In addition, a rolling closure of the course route begins at 8:15 a.m., with most roads reopening by 10:30 a.m.

What’s the parking situation for spectators?

There are some 15,000-plus parking spots available in the Arena District. You can prepay for parking early at McConnell and Neil through the QR Code on the map at bit.ly/4bgs2jp.

Ohio getting 22 new EV charging stations with 2021 federal infrastructure cash

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Ohio plans to spend $16 million to install 22 additional electric vehicle charging stations around the state, according to a Thursday press release from Gov. Mike DeWine.

Each of these chargers will be less than a mile from a freeway and will include four charging ports with at least 150 kilowatts of power available per port, according to the release.

The new charging stations are the second round of chargers announced by the state as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI), a federal program included in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that provides states with funding for electric vehicle infrastructure.

Ohio’s $16 million investment will be matched with $4 million in private dollars from the companies selected to install and operate the charging stations, according to the press release.

Ohio’s goal is to have fast electric vehicle chargers every 50 miles throughout the state, according to the release.

Where are the new charging stations around Columbus?

Locally, there are five charging stations planned in and around Columbus’ I-270 beltway, according to a list from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

  • Carnaby Shopping Center at I-270 at E Main Street/U.S. Route 40
  • Kroger at I-270 at N High Street/U.S. Route 23
  • Sheetz at I-270 at W Broad Street/U.S. Route 40
  • Target at I-71 at Stringtown Road
  • Sheetz at US 33 at Gender Road/State Route 674

Where are new EV charging stations being installed in Ohio?

There are 17 other charging stations planned around the state. They are:

  • Meijer at I-275 at Colerain Ave./U.S. Route 27
  • United Dairy Farmers at I-275 at State Route 125
  • Washington Park Plaza at I-675 at Miamisburg Centerville Road
  • Tiffany Plaza at I-680 at Boardman Poland Road/U.S. Route 224
  • Sheetz at I-76 at N Bailey Road
  • Sheetz at I-76 at Wooster Pike/Center Street/State Route 3
  • Giant Eagle at I-77 at OH 18
  • Doubletree Hotel at I-77 at Rockside Road
  • Casey’s General Store at State Route 15 at S Vance Street/U.S. Route 23/State Route 103
  • Comfort Inn at U.S. Route 23 at Marion-Mt Gilead Road/State Route 95
  • Love’s at US 23 at N Warpole Street/State Route 199
  • Wayne Lanes at U.S. Route 30 at E Lincoln Way
  • Parking lot at U.S. Route 30 at Harrison Avenue
  • Panera at U.S. Route 30 at N Lexington Springmill Road
  • Arby’s at U.S. Route 30 at N Washington Street/U.S. Route 127
  • Sheetz at U.S. Route 33 at Delaware Avenue/U.S. Route 36
  • Hungry Buffalo at U.S. Route 33 at State Route 664

Longtime local meteorologist Jym Ganahl announces retirement, ending 60-year career

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Iconic local weatherman Jym Ganahl, known for his folksy weather forecasting, announced his retirement from WSYX (ABC6) on Wednesday, marking an end to 60 years as a meteorologist.

The station announced his retirement Wednesday, saying he “will now enjoy giving his full attention to his grandkids.” Ganahl began his career in Iowa but worked at WCMH-TV (NBC4) from 1979 to 2016.

Ganahl, 75, is a member of the Associated Press Broadcasting Hall of Famer and spent decades providing weather forecasts to central Ohio.

Ganahl announced his official retirement Wednesday on the What Matters with Mindy & Mikaela show on 610 WTVN.

“It’s time I do things with my godkids, my grandkids, and enjoy the time I have,” Ganahl said on the show.

In 2016, Ganahl delivered his final regular forecast for NBC4. From there, he told The Dispatch he wanted to move into lower-profile role and eventually brought his unique style of forecasting to the noon show with Terri Sullivan on ABC6.

“Everybody is like family to me,” Ganahl said on the What Matters show. “I can’t go anywhere in town any restaraunt, any event without everybody coming up to me telling their story. It’s been like that all the time and it’s so wonderful.

I love that part — knowing people in central Ohio.”

Career spanning nearly 60 years

His interest in meteorology was initially piqued in Waterloo, Iowa, where he grew up obsessed with snow, The Dispatch previously reported.

At age 17, five years after he started studying weather, he marched into the KWWL-TV studio to tell the station manager that he could deliver a more accurate forecast than its weatherman was providing.

He got the job, which he kept while attending Northern Iowa University and filled again after a stint in the Army. He was hired by NBC4 from Waterloo.

Even though technology, with its sophisticated radar and computer models, has revolutionized meteorology, Ganahl continued to share folksy observations with viewers.

“I can do a forecast just looking at the clouds and the wind,” he told The Dispatch in 2016. “For instance, if the clouds look like the scales of a fish, a mackerel-fin sky, it tells me it’s going to rain in the next 24 hours.”

13 cartoons about Donald Trump’s gag-worthy hush money case, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels

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A gag order is supposedly “stopping” Donald Trump from talking about witnesses and jurors involved in his ongoing hush money case in New York.

That isn’t the only gagging that has happened. The occasionally spicy testimony in Judge Juan Merchan‘s courtroom has been gag-worthy.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ detailed description of her alleged romp with Trump left the world gooped last week.

Earlier this week, Michael Cohen, Trump’s then fixer personal lawyer, told jurors that Trump knew about the $130,000 payment to Daniels at the center of the case. Cohen said Trump approved the payment to silence Daniels from making statements that could hurt his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. Cohen is expected to be cross-examined again by Trump’s legal team beginning today.

The former president and his squad paint Cohen as as a convicted liar who was disbarred for his crimes.

Like Louisiana, New York restricts video coverage of trials.

Not seeing what is going on in the courtroom has not stopped cartoonists from imagining it.

12 more cartoons about Donald Trump’s hush money trial, Michael Cohen and Stormy

Trump trial cold and heat by Dave Granlund, PoliticalCartoons.com
Pitiful Pitiful Pitiful by Bill Day, FloridaPolitics.com
The Red Line by Dave Whamond, Canada, PoliticalCartoons.com
Make America Gag Again by John Darkow, Columbia Missourian
Trump and Stormy Justice by Rick McKee, CagleCartoons.com
Trump troubles by Guy Parsons, PoliticalCartoons.com
HAIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW by Randall Enos, Easton, CT
Trump trial gag order by Dave Granlund, PoliticalCartoons.com
Trump and Stormy by Bill Day, FloridaPolitics.com
Worked For ME by Pat Byrnes, PoliticalCartoons.com
May 1, 2024: Contempt of Court

Where are OSU students protesting against oppression or being anti-Semitic? Perspective matters.

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Columbus resident Aaron Yarmel is the associate director of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at Ohio State University.

I will never forget the first two students who entrusted me with their pain in the weeks after October 7.

Both had loved-ones who had been captured, killed, or placed at risk of injury or death. Both were terrified of violence from bigots. Neither trusted our institutions to keep them safe. One is Jewish, the other is Muslim. 

As Israel began its operations in Gaza, as campuses across the nation erupted into protests, and as we were left to sift through an overwhelming deluge of contradictory information, I faced a challenge: what did it look like to show the deepest forms of respect for these students and everyone else who opened up to me about their experiences?

Civil discourse and civility

As I discussed in another guest column, one important part of the answer is to engage with people in civil discourse: an activity in which people talk to one another across disagreements to collaborate in the search for better answers to meaningful questions.

Yet I worry that there are certain times when calling for civil discourse fails to honor other people’s perspectives.

Sometimes people wrongly view a commitment to civil discourse as a commitment to civility, in the sense of emotionlessness, inoffensiveness, or politeness. Since proximity to an issue and emotional salience go hand in hand, such calls promise the exclusion of the perspectives of those with the most at stake. 

Calls for civil discourse can also fail to honor a perspective when they come at the wrong time.https://omny.fm/shows/dispatch-on-demand-audio/playlists/then-what-happened/embed?style=cover

In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he famously describes using nonviolent direct action to create “a crisis and foster such a tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

While this is certainly not an endorsement of all instances of direct action everywhere, King found that setting the stage for civil discourse tomorrow sometimes requires other forms of nonviolent direct action today. 

This brings me to student protests.

I will set aside questions about the morality or efficacy of these protests and universities’ responses to them. Instead, I simply want to ask: What does it look like to honor the diverse perspectives of students who are experiencing protests from the inside or the outside? 

How do we honor perspective?

The first part of my answer is that honoring a perspective requires us to understand it, and a necessary condition for that is believing people when they report their interpretations of the words they use and hear.

For example, consider Zionism: some see it as a commitment to self-determination and to the right of Jewish people to a place where they will be safe from pogroms and genocide, while others use it as a label for what they see as a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Another example: some people use “Intifada” to refer to a shaking off of oppression, while others hear it as a call for violence against Jewish people.

The second part of my answer is that we ought to be much more thoughtful about how we assess offensiveness, and this is because there is no general consensus about how to balance speaker meaning against listener meaning. It is convenient to defer to speaker meaning when people find your speech offensive or to listener meaning when you are the one offended, but both approaches backfire when the roles are reversed. 

This has all been very theoretical, so let’s consider what it looks like in practice. On May 1, I went to experience an ostensibly peaceful student protest on the Ohio State campus along with dozens (if not hundreds) of other faculty and staff. 

When I interpreted chants in accordance with the meanings that I believed the students were attributing to them, I did not perceive anti-semitism, especially since a significant minority of them had visibly identified themselves as Jewish.

Instead, I saw students seeking to fight oppression. At the same time, I knew with complete certainty how some of the chants would be interpreted by other members of the OSU Jewish community who had shared their perspectives.

As I imagined their faces and listened, to the best of my ability, through their ears, I was filled with an overwhelming sadness. 

What I did then, and what I will continue to do, is lean into, rather than away from, the discomfort and tension that arise when we view an event through the perspectives of everyone who is engaging in good faith.

Such a practice is not a commitment to relativism or inaction, since people can genuinely hold incorrect views, and sometimes we must disrupt the forces that maintain a facade of peace in order to expose the conflicts hidden beneath its surface.

It is, instead, the only way I know how to engage authentically across differences while preserving a possibility for what King called the beloved community.