News

J. Tyler Franklin

Over the past few days, top Republicans have given hints that they are considering some gun control measures in the wake of the mass-shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. That’s a sea change for GOP leaders who have typically blocked any new restrictions on gun ownership, citing Second Amendment rights.

The chief proposals include gun-purchasing restrictions for those on the FBI terrorist watch list and expanding background checks for gun buyers.

On Tuesday, several media outlets quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he was “open to serious suggestions from the experts as to what we might be able to do to be helpful.”

And on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted: “I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.”

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The number of overdose deaths in Kentucky continues to rise and a new report shows it’s largely due to a powerful opioid drug that dealers are secretly mixing with heroin.

Over the past year, more drug dealers have been lacing heroin with fentanyl, an opioid that the Drug Enforcement Administration says is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin alone.

The results of this are evident in the state Office of Drug Control Policy’s latest report, which found that there were nearly 300 more fentanyl-related overdoses last year than in 2014.

Director Van Ingram said many overdoses happen because users don’t realize they aren’t taking pure heroin.

“Often people are buying what they think is heroin, which is heroin mixed with fentanyl or just fentanyl itself in a powdered form,” said Ingram.

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates say heated political rhetoric and policies dealing with sexual orientation in recent years are partly to blame for violence like the Orlando shootings at an LGBT night club.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, said the rhetoric has created an atmosphere that allowed the shooting to happen.

“I feel like everyone who has stood against LGBT rights is in a way complicit in the atmosphere that’s been created that suggests LGBT people are ‘less than,’ that they deserve to be victims of violence or prejudice or discrimination,” Hartman said.

Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. Authorities are still investigating the motive of the attacks and whether the rampage was fueled by Islamic extremism, homophobia or some combination.

Becca Schimmel

White signs advocating for the protection of pension and healthcare benefits were waived at a United Mine Workers of America rally in Lexington Tuesday. An estimated 4,000 miners, retirees, and family members filled the city’s convention center. They gathered to demand that Congress pass legislation protecting pensions and health care benefits for miners and their families.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said miners have earned what they’ve been promised.

“We have stood up for America and it’s time America stood up for us! America owes us! And we will collect on that debt!” Roberts told the crowd.

Miners could lose their retirement benefits this fall if Congress doesn’t act. Roberts says union members will march on Washington D.C. and risk being arrested if that’s what it takes. He told miners to go home and find at least five others that would be willing to rally at the nation’s capital.

Spouse Becky Gardner says she wants what the miners were promised.

Bowling Green PD

A woman is in custody and a man-hunt continues in Tennessee for a man accused of robbing the Citizens First Bank on Campbell Lane in Bowling Green Tuesday morning.

The woman, 53 year old Colleen Watkins, was captured Tuesday afternoon following a vehicle pursuit. The unidentified man ran from the van she was driving and is still at large.

Video from the bank shows the man waiting in line and then demanding money from a teller when he got to the counter. No gun was shown.

The man then ran behind the bank and got into the van driven by Watkins.

Franklin police spotted the van several hours later and chased it into Portland, Tennessee, finally stopping it with the use of spike strips that flattened its tires.

The male passenger took off into the woods off Tennessee Route 25.

Watkins is in the Sumner County jail on a first degree robbery charge. More charges are possible.

Flickr/Creative Commons/llmicrofono Oggiono

The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame is accepting nominations for the 2017 class. The recognition is for those who teach kindergarten through grade 12 who have  made a noteworthy contribution to the lives to children.

Deadline for nominations is July 15.

The hall of fame was established in 2000 through a gift from former Governor Louis B. Nunn. It is based at Western Kentucky University.

More than 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in Kentucky last year.  Heroin accounted for 28 percent of those deaths, but state officials are most concerned about a prescription drug being mixed with heroin. 

Fentanyl is an opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and can prove deadly at very low levels, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

A report issued Tuesday by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy underscores the dangers of Fentanyl, which accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state. 

Former heroin addict Chris Thomas of Bowling Green says Fentanyl has a tranquilizing effect.

"The effects of heroin, when you use it, you're going to be drowsy and a lot people almost pass out  immediately, and Fentanyl is going to increase that," Thomas told WKU Public Radio.  "It's a cheaper drug than heroin and you think in the end you're getting a better product, but it's going to be more likely to kill you."

Thomas says some heroin users could be consuming Fentanyl and not be aware of it.  Fentanyl accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state.  The drug’s high potency allows traffickers to reap more profits.  The legislature passed a bill last year to improve treatment and increase penalties for traffickers.

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A Western Kentucky University researcher says hospitals now have more incentive than ever before to achieve patient satisfaction.

Neale Chumbler, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at WKU, says a federal survey of hospital patients is creating a comparison of care providers across the country.

The survey’s official name is Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Its goal is to measure patients’ perspectives on the care they’ve received.

Chumbler says the results are also being scrutinized by insurance companies.

“As a hospital CEO, whether you get more or less reimbursements through insurance, these types of results will bear a lot of important findings.”

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

Hartfield & Company opened their doors in September of 2015, making it the first bourbon distillery in Bourbon County since Prohibition. It’s a small craft operation that opened with little fanfare — but it’s already outgrown its space.

“We can’t keep our stuff on the shelf, actually,” says founder Andrew Buchanan. “We are currently in about 2,000 square feet, but to keep up with demand we need a much larger facility and are moving into about an 18,000-square-foot building.”

This is just one example of the “bourbon boom” that the spirit industry is experiencing, and it’s a development that has a real economic impact in the state. As part of the Kentucky Bourbon Affair — a six-day schedule of tours and tastings at local distilleries — Mayor Greg Fischer welcomed nearly 2,000 thirsty visitors to the city Tuesday.

“Today is National Bourbon Day, and there’s no better place to celebrate our signature spirit this week than Louisville,” Fischer said in a news release. “We look forward to sharing our unique Bourbon culture and booming culinary scene with a glass of Kentucky’s finest amber nectar.”

Diocese of Owensboro

The Catholic Diocese of Owensboro has suspended the pastor of a Union County church who is accused of sexual misconduct decades ago.  The Rev. Freddie Byrd was removed as pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Morganfield. 

A complaint issued this month accuses Byrd of inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old juvenile in 1983.  According to a statement from the diocese, Byrd was not a priest at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.  The diocese says it is conducting its own investigation and has notified law enforcement. 

The Most Rev. William Medley, bishop for the Diocese of Owensboro, issued the following statement:

“Any allegation of the abuse of a minor is unsettling. The Diocese of Owensboro has offered support to the alleged victim in this case. In a sad moment such as this, it is always incumbent upon us to address any who may have ever suffered abuse within the embrace of the Catholic Church and invite them to come to us that we might offer support and assure that no one else is ever harmed.”

The Messenger-Inquirer reports Byrd’s name was mentioned in a suicide letter left by an Owensboro man who shot himself outside of Blessed Mother Catholic Church in 2008. The church was led by Byrd at the time of the death. The letter discussed sexual abuse, but never accused the pastor of misconduct.  An investigation by the Owensboro Police Department cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing.

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It’s going to be a hot next few weeks in Louisville, with temperatures projected to reach the upper 80s or 90s almost every day.

Flavio Lehner says to get used to it.

Lehner, a post-doctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, is the author of a study on summer temperature projections. Using climate forecasting data, he and his colleagues found that if carbon dioxide emissions continue on their current pace, it’ll translate to hotter summers for most of the globe.

“Towards the end of this century, under a scenario where we continue emitting greenhouse gas unabated, you will see a very large chance that basically every summer in most parts of the world will be as hot or hotter than the hottest we’ve seen up to date,” Lehner said.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has abolished and reorganized the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission for the second time in just over a month, as a court decides whether he has the power to do so.

The commission nominates administrative law judges to the governor, who then appoints them to oversee workers compensation cases throughout the state.

Bevin abolished the panel in early May, terminating seven commissioners appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear before their terms ended. In response, a group of labor unions, injured workers and a former commissioner sued Bevin.

Last week, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s initial reorganization, forbidding the governor from appointing any new judges unless they were nominated by the old commission.

Shepherd called the executive order a “wholesale firing of duly appointed state officials” and that the move has “never been upheld by case law, even if such a tactic has been commonly employed by past governors.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Brent Moore

A number of remembrances are being held throughout the country in honor of those who died over the weekend in the mass shooting in Orlando. 

A prayer service will take place Monday evening at The Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green.  Pastor Matthew Covington says some of the church’s members are openly gay. He hopes they don’t feel singled out by the attack.

"All of us in the world needs God's mercy and care, and to single them out as a certain group that deserves  punishment or rebuke is short-sided," Covington told WKU Public Radio.  "This is something that should not have happened, and it is a symbol of brokenness in our community and world."

Covington says he believes the shooting was more than an attack on gays, but an attack on America.  

The service in Bowling Green is open to the public and will start at 6:30 p.m. at The Presbyterian Church on State Street.

St. Catharine College

Several Kentucky colleges and universities are courting students from St. Catherine College in Springfield.

Citing debt and declining enrollment, the school announced this month that it will close at the end of July.

Among the schools reaching out to the students is Brescia University in Owensboro.  Vice President for Enrollment Management Chris Houk says Brescia and St. Catharine have many things in common.

"We compete in the same athletic conference within the NAIA," explained Houk.  "While Brescia University is more of an urban campus, our day program population is very similar in size and we offer very similar programs to those students."

Brescia and St. Catharine are also both Catholic universities. 

Brecia is offering its Catholic Connections Grant to all St. Catharine students, regardless of their religious affiliation.  The grant allows Catholic students, with the recommendation of their parish, to receive half-price tuition.  Brescia is also holding a reception for prospective students Wednesday evening in Frankfort.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

At first, they say, it seemed like just part of the music.

It was a Saturday night and the dance tracks had been pounding at the Pulse Orlando nightclub, which calls itself the city's hottest gay bar. A sharp, staccato sound, arriving shortly after 2 a.m. ET, didn't seem out of place.

"I thought it was a Ying Yang Twins song or something," club-goer Christopher Hansen told reporters. "It went with the beat almost."

Luis Burbano, who was also inside the Orlando nightclub, told ABC News that at first he thought the noise was the DJ's doing — just a sound effect.

Rosie Feba's girlfriend thought the sounds were shots. But even as people around them were getting down on the floor, Feba wasn't convinced, she told the Orlando Sentinel.

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