Kentucky News Network

The Louisville Cardinals are atop the college basketball world, capturing the NCAA men's championship Monday night in Atlanta.

Luke Hancock scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half and Louisville won its third national title by rallying for an 82-76 win over No. 4 Michigan. He was 13-for-18 from the field in the last two games to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan were mostly silent in the first half before helping the Cardinals outscore the Wolverines 45-38 in the second. Siva finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Behanan chipped in 15 points and 13 boards.

The Wolverines were ahead 35-23 late in the first half, but the Cardinals went on a 14-3 run and led by as many as 10 in the second half en route to their first championship since 1986.

Jefferson County Schools could be the first in the state to act to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18.  School board member Chris Brady says he'll bring the issue up for discussion Monday night and could pursue a vote.

"I think it's in our best interest to set the expectation that everyone graduates by at least age 18 and to say it's not okay to dropout before that time," Brady adds.

Brady says it's important for JCPS to act quickly to send a message to the state and the community that the district wants to do everything it can to reach all students.  JCPS is the state's largest district.  
Governor Beshear just signed the bill last week. It leaves the decision up to individual districts. Once 55% of districts raise the age, it will become mandatory for all four years later. Over 6,000 Kentucky students drop out each year. Over 1,000 JCPS students are dropping out each year.

The state wants to hear the opinions of teachers across the state. They're being asked to complete the TELL Kentucky Survey. TELL stands for teaching, empowering, leading, and learning.

Schools will use the information gathered for their annual improvement plans. The state will also use the data to make improvements. Questions on the survey cover everything from school leadership and community support to use of time and managing student conduct.

The survey is being done every two years. 2011 was the first year, with 80% of Kentucky teachers responding. State officials hope to get that number to 90% this year. The online survey is anonymous and takes about 30 minutes to complete. It runs through March 29.  Click here for more information on the survey and to see response rates, by district.

Elizabethtown Police are investigating two horrific cases of child abuse.  A three-month-old infant is in the hospital, severely malnourished and with several broken bones.  The baby boy has a fractured skull, broken ribs, a broken leg, and multiple bruises.  Elizabethtown Police Officer Virgil Willoughby adds the infant was malnourished almost to the point of death.  

"The photographs show this infant was literally skins and bone, says Willoughby.

The baby actually weighed less than he did at birth.  The parents, 18-year-old Alexander Irwin and 19-year-old Jessica Capponi are charged with criminal abuse.  Irwin is also charged with assault.  He told police the baby fell out of his arms and hit the floor.

Concerned citizens protested Tuesday morning outside the Taylor County animal shelter. The shelter will be closed to the public in April, and will instead, become a holding facility. Animals won’t be available for adoption by the public. Instead they will be transferred to other county shelters after spending one day in the holding facility. 

Harry Reif is president of the Taylor County SPCA.  He, among others, is looking for answers.

"It's Taylor county tax money that pays for the shelter, and the people of Taylor county feel they should have a voice in how it's operated and what the facility is used for," suggests Reif.

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.

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.

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.