David Boyd, Sockeye Fire Information (Via Alaska Public Media)

Kentucky Division of Forestry firefighters are heading to Alaska to battle a number of wildfires.

The 16 full-time and 5 part-time firefighters will be joined by personnel from several federal agencies - including Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area - forming two 20-person crews.

Division of Forestry public information officer Jennifer Turner says the assignment is for 14 days. She says it was Kentucky’s turn on a rotation of southern states that answer calls for aid from the U.S. Forest Service.

“Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky are up for the rotation to be called in if they need help and they called in yesterday and we’re sending help,” Turner said.

Kentucky’s firefighters are often called to aid other states this time of year. Turner says the commonwealth’s peak fire seasons are February 15-April 30 and October 1-December 15.

“So because of that, our firefighters are down in the summer time and that gives them the opportunity to be able to help out west when it’s their high fire season," Turner said.

Daviess Co Fiscal Court

An estimated 1,000 African-Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War are being honored in Owensboro.

The Daviess County Bicentennial Committee is unveiling a historical marker on the courthouse square Friday evening for the Daviess County men who fought in what were known as “colored” infantries and cavalry units during the war.

The marker will be unveiled at 6 p.m. at the northwest corner of the courthouse.

Committee Co-chair Aloma Dew was one of the driving forces behind getting the marker established. She says the black men who volunteered for the units took great personal risks.

“We know of a couple of men who walked from Pleasant Ridge, which is about 15 miles outside of Owensboro, into Owensboro to sign up. They were slaves and they knew that if they were apprehended there would be a high cost to pay,” Dew said.

Ft. Campbell

Local leaders around Fort Campbell are waiting for a decision by the end of this month regarding possible troop reductions at the base on the Kentucky/Tennessee border.

The Army is looking at cutting around 40,000 troops in total due to military budget constraints. One scenario called for as many 16,000 personnel cuts at Fort Campbell.

Katie Lopez is the director of military and governmental affairs at the Christian County Chamber of Commerce. She says she isn’t sure if recent efforts to fight the potential reduction through lobbying and community outreach will be successful.

“We do know that after our listening session in January, we did get a lot of great feedback from the Department of the Army,” Lopez said. “They were very impressed with our turnout and with our responses. So, I’m confident in saying that we made a really great impression on them.”

Lopez says she isn’t expecting the possible reductions to be on the high end of projections. She says an increase is even on the table when the decision comes down from the Department of Defense.

Annual Ohio River Sweep Saturday

Jun 16, 2015
Emil Moffatt

It’s time to clean up the Ohio River again this weekend.

Kentucky is one of six states that takes part in the annual volunteer project. Owensboro volunteers are asked to meet at eight o’clock Saturday morning at English Park. They’ll clean along the riverfront at the park and also around the Little Hurricane boat ramp.

If you’re going, wear clothes you’re not afraid to get dirty and closed toed shoes.

Last year Owensboro had 14 volunteers show up, this year they’d like to see 20.

All volunteers get a River Sweep-themed shirt and all the Starbucks coffee you can drink.

A growing number of Kentuckians don’t affiliate with any religion, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.  It’s part of a nationwide trend that should get the attention of politicians.

Between 2007 and 2014, the number of Kentuckians who considered themselves to be religiously “unaffiliated” increased from 12 to 22 percent, according to the report.  That includes atheists, agnostics, and people who say they subscribe to no religion in particular.

Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, says if the trend continues, someday politicians might not play the religion card as much.

“If this continues to evolve this way with the population being less religious then it’s probably going to be to politicians’ advantage to not emphasize religion so much because it will turn off more voters," stated Cross.

According to Pew, people who don’t identify with a religion are less likely to vote than religious people.  Millenials are the most likely demographic to identify as religiously unaffiliated.

A commercial vehicle crash has closed I-65 Northbound near Mile Point 73 between Bonnieville and Sonora. 

Motorist are being detoured off at Exit 71 via 728 to KY 357 to continue north.   Temporary detour signs are installed to direct motorists back to I-65. 

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the estimated time for the closure is 3-4 hours.

Traffic is very heavy.  Please consider an alternate route in advance of Exit 71.

Union workers at a western Kentucky aluminum smelter have ratified a new contract which ends a month-long work stoppage. 

About 560 employees of Century Aluminum have been locked out of the Hawesville plant because of a contract dispute between Century and the United Steelworkers Local 9423.  

The union posted on its website that its members voted 68 percent in favor of the five-year agreement on Thursday.  The contract includes pay raises and fixed insurance premiums, among other things. 

Union members will report back to work at the plant Monday morning.

Death Row Inmates Lose Appeal Challenging Clemency System

Jun 11, 2015

Two men awaiting execution in Kentucky have lost their appeal challenging the clemency powers given to the governor.

Robert Foley and Ralph Baze claim the governor's absolute clemency authority violates their due-process rights. Kentucky's Supreme Court rejected their argument in a unanimous ruling Thursday.

The two condemned inmates claim most states require clemency hearings. In Kentucky, no recommendations or hearings are needed for the governor to decide whether someone should not be put to death. Foley and Baze say that could lead to arbitrary life-and-death decisions.

In writing for the court, Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson said the presumption is the governor would abide by state and federal constitutional requirements when deciding on requests by inmates for a commutation or pardon.

Foley and Baze are awaiting execution for multiple killings.

A tentative agreement has been reached to end a work stoppage at a western Kentucky aluminum smelter. 

About 560 employees of Century Aluminum have been locked out of the Hawesville plant for nearly a month because of a contract dispute between Century and the United Steelworkers Local 9423.  A previous labor contract expired in April followed by several rounds of failed negotiations. 

In a news release, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service says an agreement was reached with the help of federal mediators.  The agency declined to comment on details of the agreement. 

Union members will vote on the agreement Thursday.

The attorney for a former Pulaski County preacher charged with three counts of murder has withdrawn from the case.

Attorney Bethany Stanziano filed a motion on Monday, saying she was not in the state of mind to provide effective assistance in the wake of her husband's fatal shooting a year ago.

Public defender Sandra Downs replaces Stanziano and Brad Coffman as the attorney for 49-year-old Kenneth A. Keith.

Keith is accused of shooting and killing three people in 2013 at a Danville pawn shop. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Stanziano took over Keith's defense after her husband, lawyer Mark Stanziano, was killed outside of his Somerset office last June.

Bethany Stanziano also cited her lack of experience in death penalty cases.