Kentucky News Network

When the Academy Awards are presented in Los Angeles later this month, actress Jennifer Lawrence won't be the only Kentucky connection: Robyn Stuart of Frankfort is making candy for the Oscar Gifting Lounge--3,500 bourbon balls to be exact. 

Stuart says she got her start watching her mom make bourbon balls around the holidays. 

"That was her way of saying 'thanks' and so she gave them to the garbage man, the mail man, everybody she wanted to say thank you to," says Stuart.

A Kentucky National Guardsman will be awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.  Captain Shannon Ison will receive the medal during a ceremony this weekend in Louisville. 

Ison was a member of the 206th Engineer Battalion when he responded to a vehicle that had struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008.  Ison pulled wounded soldiers from the vehicle while under attack by the enemy. 

The Silver Star is the military's third highest honor for valor.  A citation notes that without Ison's courageous acts, several lives would have been lost.

Shakeout.org

An earthquake drill known as "The Great Central U.S. Shake Out" is scheduled for Thursday morning at 10:15 a.m. central.

A series of magnitude eight quakes struck western Kentucky 200 years ago, centered at New Madrid, Missouri, so emergency management officials across the state want people to be prepared.

Their message is drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and hold-on until it stops. Families should also have a preparedness plan and a disaster kit.

Many schools aross the state will also take part in a drill.

We have a link with more information and how you can participate here.

That Ray Lewis jersey you purchased may be a fake. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection operation has found nearly $3.5 million in counterfeit items at the UPS hub in Louisville and DHL hub in Cincinnati. Over 60,000 items were confiscated in just over a week including many Super Bowl jerseys, purses, wallets, watches, shoes, and electronics.

Customs officers typically find a lot of fake items surrounding big sporting events. Counterfeit items are usually easy to spot because of their poor quality, bad stitching, and possible misspellings. The jerseys have been confiscated and will be destroyed. They came from China and were headed to a number of different destinations. The investigation is continuing.

Drivers in Louisville spent more than 26,000 hours sitting in rush-hour traffc in 2011. That's according to a report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The annual study found Americans spent a total of 5.5 billion hours stuck in traffic.

The report shows each driver in Louisville was delayed a total of 35 hours at a cost of $776 in time and gas in 2011.

The good news: Louisville scored well in the overall rankings at No. 42.

Muhammad Ali's daughter knocked down rumors of her father being near death Sunday, saying he was at home watching the Super Bowl. 

May May Ali said she talked to her father Sunday morning on the phone and he was fine. She said he was watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona, wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey.

The family later posted a photo on Twitter of Ali sitting in a chair wearing a Baltimore Ravens T-shirt.

The rumors were started by a report in a British tabloid quoting Ali's brother as saying the former heavyweight champion was near death. The report was widely repeated on the Internet, drawing expressions of condolences on Twitter and Facebook.

Ali suffers from Parkinson's disease. He celebrated his 71st birthday last month.

paulorberson.net

State and federal authorities are accusing a University of Kentucky athletics booster of running a massive pyramid scheme. A lawsuit has been filed against Fortune High-Tech Marketing, a Lexington company owned by Paul Orberson. 

The self-made millionaire has donated more than $1 million to UK athletics. Attorney General Jack Conway says Fortune High-Tech scammed more 100,000 people out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Conway says 96% of people who bought into Fortune High-Tech lost their money.

Mother Nature is causing problems across much of Kentucky and southern Indiana, with freezing rain and sleet causing lots of travel issues.

In Louisville, numerous accidents have been reported on Interstates 65 and 64. South of Louisville, I-65 was shut down at milemarker 56 at the Barren/Hart County line after a bus slid off the road early this morning. Icy conditions are to blame. Access to the interstate has also been restricted in Hardin County from Elizabethtown to LaRue/Hart County because of multiple accidents.

Understanding that veterans have a higher unemployment rate than the population as a whole, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is launching two programs to help veterans find work.  The Homegrown by Heroes initiative will place a label on food items produced by Kentucky veterans. 

It's like the Kentucky Proud symbol, but includes a flag in the background and a veteran saluting.

"We've been getting calls from many other states and this is something I believe will be a nation model as a way to help market farm products by our military veterans," Comer remarked at a news conference Tuesday at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort..

Comer is launching another program called Kentucky Proud Jobs for Vets.  The initiative will maintain a database of farmers and agri-businesses looking for workers.  The database will be shared with military support groups like USA Cares.  Comer says many people like hiring veterans because of their strong work ethic and service to the country.

Jennifer Lawrence continues to bring in the Hollywood honors. The Louisville native has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film "Silver Linings Playbook."

It is the second Oscar nod for the 22-year-old Lawrence. She was nominated for best actress in the 2010 film "Winter's Bone".

The Civil War saga "Lincoln'' leads the Academy Awards with 12 nominations, including best picture, director and actor.

The winners will be announced February 24th.

U.S. Army

One of the nation’s top warriors is being remembered by a member of the Kentucky National Guard.  Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Hilbrecht served as a tank platoon commander under General Norman Schwartzkopf during Desert Storm.

“When I had a chance to meet General Swartzkopf, I saw him as a big, barrel-chested man who really had the military bearing and presence that really told you that he was the guy in charge," recalls Hillbrecht.

Hillbrecht, who is the Public Affairs Officer for the Kentucky National Guard, credits Schwartzkopf with being very media savvy, allowing reporters embedded with troops to do live reports.

The former head of USA Harvest is expected in federal court Thursday to face felony charges.  Stan Curtis of Louisville is accused of embezzling some $183,000 from the charity.

He is also accused of filing false tax returns over a four year period, in which he failed to report over a half million dollars in income from USA Harvest.

Earlier court appearances were delayed, due to health issues. He is expected to enter into a plea agreement at court on Thursday.

Kentucky health officials say flu cases are being seen earlier this year.  State epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh says it's hard to predict if that could mean a more severe flu season or if we'll reach peak season earlier. "We've already reached what we call a regional level of flu activity in the state and that's one level away from widespread and that's the highest category," explains Humbaugh.

Flu season in Kentucky typically peaks in January or February.  The earliest flu activity this season was reported in August in eastern Kentucky.  Dr. Humbaugh says the number of statewide cases has climbed over the past few weeks. 

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months.

It should be a merry Christmas for Kentucky retailers.  Many are expecting sales to be up this year. "This is the first time in the six years that we've done this survey that we've seeing the kind of optimism among our membership," says Laura Leigh Goins with the Kentucky Retail Federation.

Jefferson County Public Schools are going tobacco free. The policy will keep cigarettes and tobacco off school property. Designated smoking areas outside of the schools will be gone. Employees will have to go off campus to smoke.

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