Rick Howlett

Rick has been a member of the WFPL News team since 2001 and has covered numerous beats and events over the years.   Most recently he’s been tracking the Indiana General Assembly and the region’s passion for sports, especially college basketball.

Abbey Oldham

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he spoke to Donald Trump Wednesday and congratulated the president-elect on his victory in Tuesday’s election. Republicans also maintained their majorities in the House and Senate.

McConnell says Trump’s victory came in a “stunning” election.

“And clearly an indication that the American people would like to try something new,” he says. “And I know the speaker shares my view that we would like to see the country go in a different direction and intend to work with him to change the course for America.”

McConnell says he expects Trump to act quickly in nominating someone to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and to initiate the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

U of L

United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was in Louisville Monday to accept the Brandies Medal, awarded by the University of Louisville.

It’s named in honor of Louisville native, Justice Louis Brandeis, who began serving on the high court a century ago.

Kagan says she’s long admired Brandeis, especially the prescience of his judicial opinions.

“He really had a sense of like, what was coming down the pike,” she said. “Sometimes decades away. The best example of this is his dissent in ‘Olmstead,’ where he basically, there he is in like 1920 or something, and he’s foreseeing the surveillance state that we’re now thinking about.”

Kagan was also interviewed by two U of L law school professors, but did not discuss any specific cases from her tenure on the court.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

J. Tyler Franklin

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation, the latest step in an ongoing public records fight.

The Foundation, led by former U of L President James Ramsey, manages the university’s some $700 million endowment.

The suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to force the Foundation. to release ethics and disclosure forms, along with payroll and financial documents first requested by KyCIR in February.

The Foundation has resisted releasing the documents, saying the records requests were burdensome because they were “overly broad and blanket in nature.”

University of Louisville

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will be honored this week by the University of Louisville law school.

Kagan will receive the 2016 Brandeis Medal. It’s named for Louis Brandeis, a former justice and law school namesake.

She’ll be in Louisville Thursday, when she’s scheduled to place a wreath at Brandeis’ gravesite at the law school.  Kagan will receive the medal at an evening ceremony at the Seelbach Hotel.

Law school dean Susan Duncan says that’s when Kagan will be interviewed by one of her protégés.

“The person who will be conversing with her, interviewing her is a professor named Justin Walker, who was actually her law student when she was the dean at Harvard,” says Duncan. “And he is a former Supreme Court clerk himself.”

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s attorney general is suing health care and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for allegedly failing to disclose the potential risks associated with one of its surgical products.

Beshear’s office has filed a civil suit against the company and its medical supply unit, Ethicon for what it says was deceptive marketing of a vaginal mesh implant. The surgical mesh is a synthetic fabric used to treat common pelvic conditions experienced by women.

During a news conference Tuesday, Beshear said the company failed to disclose the potential risks and side effects associated with the product, including chronic pain and loss of urinary or sexual function.

“It’s chronic pain that they experience that prevents the most basic functions: using the restroom — and we’re not talking about discomfort, we’re talking about serious, searing pain — sexual relations, difficulty sleeping, sitting, working, moving,” Beshear said.

J. Tyler Franklin

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he still supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, despite the latest firestorm that has erupted over Trump’s most recent remarks about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

McConnell addressed the Middletown Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Many say Trump encouraged violence this week when he suggested “maybe there is” something supporters of the Second Amendment could do to stop Clinton from choosing Supreme Court justices. Trump’s campaign said he was referring to the political weight of the National Rifle Association and gun-rights advocates.

Met with laughter from the crowd, McConnell declined — tongue-in-cheek — to respond when asked what he thinks about Trump.

Rick Howlett

A central Kentucky college officially closes on Monday, after 85 years of operation.

Officials at St. Catharine College near Springfield announced in June that the school would shut down, citing declining enrollment and a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over a cut in financial aid.

The move left several hundred students scrambling to find a new school.  Many have transferred to similar-sized institutions such as Bellarmine, Midway and Kentucky State University.

More than 100 faculty and staff members were laid off.

St. Catharine President Cindy Gnadinger said it’s been a trying time for everyone.

J. Tyler Franklin

The first meeting of the reconstituted University of Louisville Board of Trustees has ended with the job status of school President James Ramsey apparently unchanged.

Ramsey was expected to offer his resignation to the new board. But Chairman Junior Bridgeman told reporters after the meeting that Ramsey did not submit his resignation, nor was he asked to resign.

Bridgeman said the new board will decide on Ramsey’s status after it reviews the matter more.

“I would just suggest and ask that you give the board the time to understand everything, and then everything will become evident,” he said.

Rick Howlett, WFPL

After years of planning, fundraising and a legal battle with the state, the Ark Encounter theme park opens to the public Thursday near Williamstown, in Northern Kentucky.

The park — which features a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark — was dedicated earlier this week in a ceremony that included the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. Some 7,000 donors got an early look at the ark, a literal interpretation of the story of Noah’s Ark told in the Old Testament of the Bible.

It was built by the Christian group Answers in Genesis, which also operates the Creation Museum not far away in Petersburg.

The official opening marks a moment of jubilation for the group’s founder, Ken Ham, and the park’s creators. But opponents aren’t staying silent.

Rick Howlett

A Noah’s Ark attraction built by the group Answers in Genesis is ready to open in northern Kentucky. The group held an open house for media and donors Tuesday at the $100 million park near Williamstown, Kentucky.

The long-awaited Ark Encounter theme park is based on the Old Testament story. The centerpiece is a 510-foot wooden ark, filled with exhibits based on descriptions in the Bible.

Its construction has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education. They’ve also criticized the group’s faith-based hiring practices, which were at the core of a legal battle over tax rebates awarded, then withdrawn by the state.

That case was won by Answers in Genesis. Founder Ken Ham says a federal judge rightly ruled that religious preference in hiring is legal.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Rick Howlett, WFPL News

General Electric’s Louisville-based appliance division has a new owner.

GE Appliances is now part of the China-based Haier Company. The multibillion-dollar sale was finalized on Monday.

About 6,000 people work at Louisville’s Appliance Park, which was constructed by GE more than 60 years ago. The division will now be called “GE Appliances, a Haier Company.”

Chip Blankenship will continue as president and CEO. He said employees should not expect any major shakeups under the new owner.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Creative Commons

Negotiators for United Parcel Service and the Independent Pilots Association will resume talks later this month in hopes reaching a contract agreement.

The latest round of federally mediated negotiations ended last week in Washington.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract for five years. The IPA, which represents some 2,500 pilots, has been preparing for the possibility of a strike.

Earlier this month, the union set up a strike operation center at its Louisville headquarters, a move dismissed by UPS as a publicity stunt.

For a strike to be called, the mediator would have to declare an impasse and release the two sides from talks. That would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period.

Union president Bob Travis said the IPA and UPS have been called back to Washington by the National Mediation Board for what he called “two consecutive weeks of intensive negotiations” starting the week of May 16.

Union officials said some of the remaining sticking points involve flight schedules and crew fatigue. Both sides say there was some progress made in the most recent round of talks.

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