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By: | Associated Press

Boehner: 'I'm focusing on jobs, not gay marriage'

WASHINGTON (AP) House Speaker John Boehner says he's staying focused on jobs and the economy in the 2012 elections and not President Barack Obama's support for gay marriage.

The statement Thursday by the nation's highest-ranking elected Republican sends a strong signal to party activists in this high-stakes election year, in which the presidency and majorities of Congress are at stake. Obama's stewardship of the economy is the issue that matters, Boehner said in response to questions about how prominently Republicans should play it on the campaign trail.

Republicans have been stung in the past over social issues, and many activists believe such matters are most useful for energizing the conservatives at the core of the party. The economy, on the other hand, is the top issue on voters' minds, according to polls.

BOEHNER-SMALL BUSINESS

House Speaker Boehner to talk small business

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) plans a meeting with small business leaders in his home district in Ohio.

The 8th District Republican from West Chester was to hold what he calls a listening session with business executives Friday at United Performance Metals in Hamilton in southwest Ohio.

After President Obama announced his support for gay marriage this week, Boehner said he's staying focused on jobs and the economy in the 2012 elections.

DEATH PENALTY-OHIO

Condemned Ohio double-killer asks for mercy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A condemned Ohio inmate who killed his estranged wife and brother-in-law in a courtroom in 1992 is asking the state parole board for mercy.

Abdul Awkal (ab-DUHL' AW'-kuhl) is scheduled to die June 6, one of 11 executions scheduled over the next two years.

Awkal was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, Latife Awkal (la-TEE'-feh AW'-kuhl) and brother-in-law Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz (mak-MOOD' ab-DUHL'-ah-ZEEZ) in a Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County room where the Awkals were taking up divorce and custody issues.

The Ohio Parole Board, which heard arguments for and against clemency Thursday, will make a recommendation on May 18 to Gov. John Kasich, who has the final say.

Ohio resumed executions last month after a six-month delay due to court arguments over lethal injection procedures.

NAVY VETS-SCAM CHARGES

Scam suspect relents, gets lawyer in Ohio court

CLEVELAND (AP) A former fugitive charged with identity theft and running a $100 million scam collecting donations for veterans has tried a new role, representing himself in court in Ohio.

But the defendant, who goes by the name Bobby Thompson, balked at lawyering Thursday and changed his mind repeatedly before agreeing to accept a court-appointed attorney in Cleveland.

Authorities don't think Thompson is his real name but have been unable to identify him.

He told the judge he isn't an attorney but wouldn't say if he has law school background because that relates to the issue of identity theft.

Authorities believe he defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states, including in Ohio. A fraction of the money has been found.

He was arrested last week in Portland, Ore.

DRILLING INSPECTORS

(Information in the following story is from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com)

CLEVELAND (AP) The Ohio Department of Natural Resources plans to triple its staff of oil and gas field inspectors to keep up with the increase in drilling activity around the state.

Department spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans tells The Plain Dealer in Cleveland the state hopes to have 90 inspectors working by early next year. It currently has more than 30.

Director James Zehringer says the department has started hiring and training inspectors to make sure shale wells are built and inspected properly.

A district supervisor for the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management says keeping up with inspections can be a daunting task.

The state had more than 55,000 wells operating in 2011 and inspected more than 11,000 of them.

DISABILITY RETIREMENTS

(Information in the following story is from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com )

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Some Ohio legislators are questioning high rates of disability retirements among Dayton's police and firefighters.

Ohio Police & Fire Pension fund officials say more than 2 percent of Dayton's forces retired on disability last year. That's compared with rates of less than 1 percent in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Akron and Toledo.

Republican state Sen. Keith Faber of Celina says that means other cities are subsidizing Dayton's rates. He suggests a surcharge for high disability rates.

The Dayton Daily News reports that city commissioner Nan Whaley says it wouldn't make sense to penalize the city. She says Dayton would cooperate with pension fund officials to understand the rates.

Faber says statewide, police and firefighters retire on disability at much higher rates than Ohio state troopers.

OHIO STATE-HATE CRIME

Ohio State announces plan to combat hate crimes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State University has released a set of recommendations meant to combat hate crime and intolerance on campus and support diversity.

The "No Place to Hate" plan was released in response to a series of incidents on campus this spring, including the defacement of a mural of President Obama and spray-painted slogans supporting the suspect in the death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida.

The 24 recommendations include the creation of a hate crime alert that would be issued by the public safety division and a helpline staffed by operators trained in responding to reports of possible hate crimes.

Students could also ask to receive emails from campus diversity groups and student staffers would be required to participate in multicultural training.

PORTMAN-HOUSE DISTRICT

Ohio senator campaigns with GOP House nominee

CINCINNATI (AP) Sen. Rob Portman will return to his old U.S. House district to campaign in southern Ohio with the new Republican nominee.

Portman planned a five-county swing Friday across the 2nd House District with Brad Wenstrup. The podiatrist and Iraq War veteran upset Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt in the March primary and will face little-known Democrat William Smith in November.

Portman won the seat seven times before leaving to work for the George W. Bush administration. Schmidt first won it in a 2005 special election.

Elected to the Senate in 2010, Portman has been mentioned often as a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Portman has campaigned in other states for Romney, and has been a frequent national TV advocate for him.

PROCTER & GAMBLE-RESTRUCTURING

P&G to move some beauty units to Singapore

NEW YORK (AP) Procter & Gamble Co. says that beauty executive Virginia Drosos will leave the company Sept. 1 and several key beauty categories will move their headquarters to Singapore.

The world's largest consumer product company said Thursday that Drosos, global president beauty, skin, cosmetics and personal care, was the architect behind the move but elected not to move herself because it was in the best interest of her two teenage children and husband.

P&G, which makes Olay skin cream and Tide laundry detergent, also said it is moving its skincare, cosmetics and personal care corporate headquarters from its main office in Cincinnati to Singapore over the next two years.

Procter & Gamble and other consumer goods companies are increasingly looking to emerging markets in Asia.

EXOTIC ANIMALS-CRACKDOWN

Exotics release counts as calamity day for schools

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Three eastern Ohio school districts that canceled classes when dozens of tigers, bears and other exotics animals were let loose don't have to make up an extra school day.

Three districts in Muskingum County canceled classes Oct. 19 as a safety precaution because local law enforcement wasn't sure whether the creatures released by their suicidal owner were still prowling the area. Authorities were forced to kill 48 animals.

The state superintendent on Wednesday approved waivers for the schools under the state's definition of "calamity day."

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education says the schools couldn't transport the students to class because of safety concerns that were beyond districts' control.

The state allows schools five so-called calamity days for circumstances such as hazardous weather or disease epidemics.

THRIFT STORE PICASSO

Ohio man's luck changes with signed Picasso print

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) An Ohio man has received quite the return on his investment after selling a signed Picasso print for thousands more than the $14 he chalked up to buy it.

Zachary Bodish (BOH'-dish) of Columbus saw the print at his local thrift store in early March and bought it for $14.14. He became curious of its true worth after he closely inspected some faded red writing on the piece.

Art experts say Picasso designed the print for a 1958 ceramics exhibition in France. Bodish's print is marked as number six of a 100-set Picasso signed. But it's possibly one of only a handful the artist personally reviewed.

After a short brush with celebrity, Bodish recently sold the piece for $7,000 to a buyer who wants to remain anonymous.

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