Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

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The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is providing some additional money to test rape kits that have languished in the state crime lab. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced his office is providing $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police crime lab to buy additional equipment and hire more workers to conduct the testing.  The money comes from unrelated lawsuit settlements won by the state.

Beshear said the kits are more than a box on a dusty shelf.

"They represent victims who have had the courage to not only report, but to undergo one of the most thorough physical, forensics examinations that can be asked for, and what have we done?  We've locked that courage in a box and let in languish on a shelf, but no more," stated Beshear.

An audit last year found that more than 3,000 kits in the commonwealth had gone untested due to a lack of funding and staff. 

Flickr/Creative Commons/World Bank Photo Collection

Bowling Green is preparing to welcome Syrian refugees later this year who are fleeing their country’s civil war.  The Warren County-based Kentucky International Center has agreed to resettle 40 Syrians, but the decision is raising concerns in the local community.

Someone trying to allay those fears is Bashar Mourad of Owensboro.  The physician, who is Muslim, immigrated to Chicago in 1989 on a student exchange visa.  He later on worked in Houston before settling in rural western Kentucky.

"I was actually concerned when I first moved," Mourad recalls.  "I didn’t know how I would be received, but people were so nice to us.”

Mourad did what thousands of fellow Syrians are trying to do now, although under different circumstances.  Syrians today are fleeing their war-torn country in search of a better life.  Some are hoping to find one in Bowling Green, a city that already is home to a large immigrant population.

WKU Athletics

A former football standout from Western Kentucky University has pleaded not guilty to assault and other charges stemming from an altercation outside a club in Bowling Green.  Tyler Higbee made a brief appearance in Warren Circuit Court Thursday for arraignment.

Higbee was drafted last week by the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.  Defense attorney Brian Lowder says Higbee’s legal woes will not keep him from participating in the team's rookie mini-camp this weekend.

"The court is generally flexible with respect to letting people earn a living and that's what we expect him to be doing," Lowder told WKU Public Radio.  "I would anticipate we will be accommodated with regard to him earning a living and playing football."

Higbee is charged with assault, evading police, and public intoxication.  Higbee has denied using racial slurs before hitting Nawaf Alsaleh, which witnesses said preceded the fight last month.  Alsaleh received a concussion and brain hemorrhage, and has since been released from the hospital.  Higbee claims he acted in self-defense.

Higbee is due back in court on June 17 for a status hearing.

WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University says building services attendants will get “pretty similar” benefits when their work is transferred to a private contractor. 

In a budget-cutting move announced this week, around 200 BSAs will work for Sodexo after July 31.  Dr. Gary Ransdell took questions from them and other employees at a forum Thursday afternoon. 

Under the change, employees will get fewer sick days. That’s a concern for Paul Barbour, whose wife works as a BSA.  Barbour says she’s taken a lot of time off because of ailments related to a car accident. Barbour fears the Sodexo will put productivity over people.

"Her main concern is that she's going to lose her job because Sodexo, being a private contract company, will not be as lenient with her as Western was because they're more into getting things done than being nice to employees," Barbour told WKU Public Radio.

Sodexo is also expected to offer less paid vacation time around Christmas time.  Employees will get three days off in December compared to the 10 days they were given by WKU.  

WKU

The cost of a college education in Kentucky continues to inch upward.  Meeting in Bowling Green Tuesday, the Council on Postsecondary Education approved tuition ceilings for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The state’s two research schools, the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville, will be allowed to raise their in-state undergraduate rates up to 5 percent each for the 2016-17 academic year. 

For the state’s six comprehensive universities, the increases vary from school to school.  The CPE approved a 4.65 percent hike for Western Kentucky University; 4.95 percent for Northern Kentucky; and 5.4 percent for Morehead State. 

Tuition costs can rise at Eastern Kentucky University by 5.3 percent; 10.4 percent at Murray State; and 5.8 percent at Kentucky State.

The CPE is allowing the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to hike tuition by $9 per credit hour.

Alltech staff

A craft brewery with ties to Western Kentucky University is now producing beer in Bowling Green. 

Lexington-based brewing and distilling company Alltech has opened a production line in the WKU Center for Research and Development. 

College Heights Brewing gives students hands-on experience while earning a certificate in brewing operations.  Dr. Andrew McMichael, assistant dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters at WKU, says the school tailored a certification program based on conversations with existing Kentucky brewers and distillers.

Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

Kentucky schools could provide another tool in the state’s fight against heroin. 

The pharmaceutical company AdaptPharma is donating the antidote Narcan, also known as Naloxone, to Kentucky schools. 

"We understand the crucial role schools can play to change the course of the opioid overdose epidemic by working with students and families," said Thomas Duddy, Executive Director of Communications for AdaptPharma.

The free kits will contain a nasal spray that can reverse heroin overdoses.  Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the program could help reduce the number of young people killed by heroin.

"It's still largely focused on the adult population, but we are seeing younger and younger adults involved in the use of heroin," Ingram told WKU Public Radio.  "It's just another tool in the tool belt as public health, law enforcement, and a host of others trying to minimize the harm caused by this epidemic."

Each Kentucky school district can decide whether or not it wants to participate in the program, which will begin this fall.

A western Kentucky business is bringing industrial hemp to market. 

Kentucky Hemp Works has opened a processing facility in Christian County.  Owner Katie Moyer says the small, family-run business is taking hemp seed and turning it into oil that can be used in a number of products, including salves and lip balms. 

"Quite frankly, a lot of farmers aren't going to want to put seeds in the ground if they don't think there's a market for it," Moyer told WKU Public Radio.  "We need to develop those markets and show farmers and elected officials that there is a market for these things."

According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the state has 35 processors participating in a pilot program allowed under the federal farm bill.  Kentucky Hemp Works is the first to locate in western Kentucky.

Kentucky began growing hemp in 2014 for research purposes after a decades-long federal ban.

Flickr/Creative Commons/World Bank Photo Collection

Bowling Green is preparing to welcome Syrian refugees later this year who are fleeing their country’s civil war.  

In a meeting Tuesday, the Bowling Green International Center and its community partners agreed to begin accepting 40 Syrian refugees in October.  The resettlement has drawn the ire of some locals who are worried about the threat of terrorism. 

"Many of our leaders and citizens of Bowling Green are not comfortable with the Obama administration's assertion that the federal government can confidently vet refugees from this part of the world," said Bowling Green City Commissioner Melinda Hill.

Immigrants relocating to the United States must complete a 14-step vetting process, according to Albert MBanfu, executive director of the Kentucky International Center.

"The fear is real," MBanfu told WKU Public Radio.  "At the same time, we cannot allow fear to overcome the best we have in us as Americans."

Mbanfu added that any Syrian wanting to harm the U.S. would likely not come through the refugee program.  Instead, they would likely arrive with a visitor’s visa that doesn’t require background checks. 

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

The just-concluded legislative session contains a major victory for Daviess County.  

The final budget agreement includes funding to create a Family Court. District and circuit judges currently handle family issues.  

John Minton, Jr. has been advocating for the judgeship since becoming Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2008.  He says the goal is to keep family cases before the same judge.

"It's possible under the system without Family Court for a family to have issues in different places before different judges with different outcomes, so Family Court allows us to process all the issues around families in one place.

Family judges preside over cases such as divorce, child custody, adoptions, and domestic violence.  Daviess County is the largest county in the state without a Family Court judge.

Once the law becomes effective in mid-July, Governor Bevin will appoint someone to serve as Daviess County Family Court Judge until the position is up for election in November.

Grant Short

An Owensboro man who hopes to replace Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says lawmakers need to do more to strengthen working-class families. 

Grant Short is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Republican incumbent Rand Paul. 

In Bowling Green on Wednesday, Short talked about his Family Values Plan that calls for child care subsidies, federal sick days, and universal Pre-K, among other things.  Short added that he has a plan to pay for it all.

"I've high-balled this at $1.8 billion to implement over ten years," Short told WKU Public Radio.  "The way you pay for it is by subsidizing human beings the same way as subsidized global oil companies.  We subsidize them on a rate of a trillion dollars, so I think we can find one-tenth of that to subsidize the American family who is struggling."

Flickr/Creative Commons/401kcalculator.org

Federal authorities say they have recently prosecuted a number of tax preparers in Kentucky who falsified returns.  During a news conference in Louisville Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky John Kuhn, said it’s important that the public guard against dishonest preparers.

"Taxpayers have to remain diligent when they work with return preparers," emphasized Kuhn.  "Taxpayers remain responsible for the contents of their returns."

Two Logan County tax preparers, Tara L. Mitchell and Mechelle Blankenship, were recently charged with falsely claiming education credits for taxpayers who were not entitled to them. 

Kuhn explained that some preparers who charge clients a percentage of their tax refund intentionally prepare false returns to increase their clients’ refund and their own fees.

A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year.  Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. 

The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky.  Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early.  Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill.  She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year.

"I've traveled the state and people feel it's something that we should already have," Grimes stated.  "Much like online voter registration, it's something they expect."

The Kentucky County Clerk’s Association opposed the bill.  Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates said the group feels expanded early voting would be a burden for county clerks with small staffs.

Lisa Autry

One-third of eligible Kentuckians are not registered to vote, but the state’s chief election officer hopes to change that with online voter registration. 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says more than 15,000 Kentuckians have logged on to GoVoteKY.com to register or update their registration since launching three weeks ago. 

Speaking at Western Kentucky University Thursday, Grimes said online registration has several benefits.

"As other states have experienced, it will help us increase the accuracy of our voter registration rolls and offer the convenience that the voters have demanded, and allow us to reach those Kentuckians who aren't yet registered," Grimes explained.  "The accessibility is a great factor."

Eligible voters previously had to visit their county clerk’s office or mail a voter registration application.

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Mark Perlstein/Feature Photo Service

Even though it’s late in the season, the number of flu cases is on the rise in Kentucky.  State health experts are still encouraging vaccination.

For the ninth week in a row, the flu activity level is widespread, meaning that at least half of the state’s regions are reporting an increase in cases of the flu.  The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.  Increased flu activity began later this season than usual in Kentucky.  Due to the late peak in the season, both in Kentucky and nationally, increased flu activity is anticipated to continue well into May.

Teresa Casey, a registered nurse at the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green, says people should think of others when they consider getting the vaccine.

"You may not decide to get the flu vaccine because you never get sick, but think about the people you are around, and if you did get the flu, who you would pass that on to," stated Casey.

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