News

Ashley Lopez, WFPL

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul’s efforts to appeal to minority voters hit a rough patch over the past week.

The junior senator from Kentucky made some off-hand comments during the peak of unrest in the city of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray—a black man who died in police custody. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently said there is probable cause to file criminal homicide charges against six police officers following Gray’s death.

Paul told a conservative talk show host Tuesday he was glad his train didn’t make a stop in Baltimore during the riots and protests there.

There was almost immediate backlash, mostly from minority groups.

But later in the week, Paul said there was nothing to apologize for.

“My comments I think were misinterpreted in some ways,” he told reporters during a small event in Buckner on Friday.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dave Connor

Officials with the Kentucky State Police have no plans at this time to purchase body cameras for their troopers.

The issue of equipping law enforcement officers with body cameras has gained increased national attention following several high-profile deaths of unarmed African-Americans during encounters with police. KSP spokesman Paul Blanton says troopers were asked about the possibility of using body cameras after some field-tested the technology about three years ago.

“We had the troopers fill out a questionnaire to see if it was something that would assist them in doing their job, however that project has not moved forward into a next step.”

Blanton says while troopers largely responded favorably to using body cameras, the biggest concerns related to the technology are the costs, and how to store the large amount of video that would be recorded.

While state police aren’t equipped with body cameras, Blanton points out that about one-third of the agency’s troopers have cruisers with dash-mounted cameras that begin to record whenever the vehicle’s sirens are turned on. Those same troopers also wear body microphones that record audio of any encounters that take place after the cruiser’s sirens are engaged.

It took nearly six grueling hours and a sleepless night for Indu Bhattari to find out her family was safe following the massive earthquake that devastated the country. 

She was able to talk to her brother in Nepal just minutes after the quake hit, and learned that he and their parents had survived.

"That was a very hard moment for me," the 24-year-old WKU grad student said. "But everybody is fine."

For most of us the news of the Nepal earthquake was riveting, for Indu, it was personal. Her parents live in Kathmandu, Nepal's largest city and a place devastated by unspeakable damage and thousands of deaths. Her brother lives in another part of the country that was spared the brunt of the quake. He was able to get a call through almost immediately.

The unemployment rates in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties declined from March 2014 to March 2015, but only a few actually saw an increase in employment over the past few years.

Only 28 Kentucky counties have more people employed in March 2015 than in March 2007, according to a recent analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Job growth has been concentrated in parts of Kentucky with industries that have enjoyed recoveries in the wake of the recession—namely, healthcare, education and the auto industry, said Jason Bailey, the executive director of KCEP.

“We have a very uneven recovery, a recovery where wealthy parts of the state, places that have more infrastructure, more connections to industries that are growing and recovering are seeing job growth,” Bailey said.

Scott County, near Lexington, saw the largest growth with a 16 percent increase in the number of people employed.

Coal jobs in Kentucky declined sharply in the first quarter of this year, according to the state’s latest quarterly coal report.

As of April 1, there were an estimated 10,356 people employed at Kentucky coal mines. That’s a decrease of 1,230 jobs—or 10.6 percent—from Jan. 1. And the job losses weren’t limited to Eastern Kentucky, where market conditions and power plant retirements have hit hardest. Western Kentucky coal mines shed 13.7 percent of coal jobs during the quarter, while the Eastern Kentucky coal workforce decreased by 8.7 percent.

And these numbers will likely decline further. Division for Energy Development and Independence Assistant Director Aron Patrick said there are several hundred layoffs pending that will likely be reflected in the next quarterly report.

Coal production in both basins decreased too. Kentucky mines produced only about 16.6 million tons of coal in this quarter. For Eastern Kentucky, production is only a third of what it was in 2008.

Kevin Willis

President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in parts of Kentucky affected by severe winter storms.

The White House said the disaster declaration was signed Thursday, ordering federal aid to help state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by snowstorms, flooding, landslides and mudslides earlier this year.

Three of Kentucky's top Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Obama earlier Thursday urging him to approve Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's request for federal funds to help clean up from the storms.

U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul along with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers sent the letter saying counties throughout the state suffered extensive damage.

Beshear requested the disaster declaration on April 16. It took several weeks for state officials to do all of the work to submit the request, the result of new procedures implemented by FEMA.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says there will be lane closures on Interstate 65 in northern Hardin County during the next couple of weeks.

The northbound lanes will be affected starting Sunday night, with the inside and center lanes closed at 7 p.m. for concrete repairs between mile points 102 and 104 near the Bullitt County line. The work should be finished Friday, depending on weather.

Southbound lanes will be reduced to one lane between mile points 104 and 102 beginning at 7 p.m. May 10, also for concrete repairs. That work is expected to be finished May 13 if weather is clear.

The cabinet advises reducing speed and preparing for slow or stopped traffic when approaching the work zones. Expect delays during peak hours, and consider alternate routes.

WKYU PBS

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a new legal argument that he says will scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The EPA’s proposal—which hasn’t yet been finalized—will set greenhouse gas emissions reductions for each state. These greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are contributing to climate change. The plan is expected to give states the option of creating individual plans to comply, or to work with neighboring states to formulate a regional plan.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has been a vocal opponent of the EPA and the Clean Power Plan. Most recently, he urged states to hold off on submitting individual plans to the government, in hopes that lawsuits against the rules will prevail. In a subcommittee hearing Wednesday, McConnell told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that he believed he had found another legal avenue to oppose the proposal.

McConnell pointed to Section 102 (c) of the Clean Air Act, which requires Congressional approval for any multi-state agreements to reduce air pollution. And that Congressional approval, McConnell said, would not be coming.

Groups trying to influence lawmakers at the Kentucky General Assembly spent 11% more this year than they did two years ago—which was the last time the legislature met for a 30 day session.

This year, companies spent nearly $7 million in lobbying and advertising, up from $6.2 million in 2013.
According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, much of that increase came from a new requirement that lobbyists report spending on advertising.

The top spender for the entire session was Anheuser-Busch, which spent $380,000 on lobbying against a bill that sought to prevent out-of-state brewers from owning distributors in-state. That law ultimately passed.
Their opponents in the beer battle, a craft-beer lobby group called Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs and Growth, was also a top spender, dropping over $130,000 on lobbying and advertising.

Kevin Willis

It’s the time of year when animal shelters across the state become inundated with kittens.

Margie Patton, with the Barren River Animal Welfare Association in Glasgow, says many in the shelter community come to dread the spring and summer months because of the number of cats that are dropped off.

She says it’s a problem that could be largely solved by increased spaying and neutering.

“Most people don’t realize that female cats can get pregnant when they’re four or five months old, and so often people come in and they’ve had this surprise litter,” Patton says. “So we’re trying to encourage people to spay or neuter their cats before they’re four months of age.”

According to Patton, BRAWA has made solid gains in recent years in the number of dogs it’s been able to match with new owners. But the ability of cats to procreate at such a prolific level makes it nearly impossible for the shelter to handle the number of felines that are dropped off.

“They can have three litters a year, four litters a year. The females will stay in heat and just keep having kittens. We’ve had some who were in here to get spayed, who had eight-week old kittens, and they were already pregnant again.”

Patton says many kind-hearted people feed stray cats in their communities. She suggest bringing those strays to the shelter to be spayed or neutered is an even better idea, because it’s much easier to find a home for one cat, as opposed to a litter of kittens.

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