Kentucky News Network

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.

Lieutenant Governor and former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says he's wide open about maybe seeking a higher office. Abramson says he’s contemplating whether to challenge Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's 2014 re-election bid.

Kentuckians voting in the election Tuesday will be asked if hunting and fishing should be rights protected by the state constitution.  State lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment earlier this year, sending it to voters to ratify or reject. 

Kentucky News Network

Two pre-schoolers were killed and four others injured, when their bus crashed Monday afternoon in Carroll County.  State Police say a Head Start bus taking nine children home, and was traveling on Boone Road, when it ran off the road, partially overturned onto its side and struck a tree.