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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.

City of Owensboro

An Owensboro shelter for victims of domestic violence could lose as much as a half-million dollars in federal funding later this year. The executive director of “Oasis” blames a change in philosophy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jill Faulkner told the Owensboro Messenger – Inquirer HUD’s “Continuum Care” program is focusing now more on finding permanent housing for the homeless and moving away from funding transitional housing facilities like “Oasis”.

The federal grant makes up a third of the facility’s annual budget. They’ve received the money for more than 20 years.

Funding runs through the end of November and Faulkner says they’ll spend that time looking for other funding sources and maybe appeal the decision. Whatever happens, she says, “Oasis” will not close its doors.

Last year "Oasis" served 125 women, three men and 138 children in the shelter and more than 1,000 through outreach.

A former Franklin County constable ran a prostitution ring for years out of his private security company, and kidnapped a teenager while masquerading as a law-enforcement officer, according to two grand jury indictments filed Monday.

Among those enlisted by Thomas Banta as a prostitute was a woman who called him “Boss” and who told investigators she began working for him as an eighth-grade cheerleader and while he was a football coach, providing free sex to him “any time he wanted it,” according to search warrant affidavits obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The woman, now an adult, alleged that in addition to Banta, she routinely had sexual encounters with 15 to 20 men per day, twice a week. She ceased prostituting for Banta in December 2015, she said.

Banta, 67, was in the Franklin County jail Wednesday morning, held on five felony charges, including promoting prostitution, kidnapping a minor and impersonating a peace officer. A co-defendant and alleged former co-worker, Hendra “Dre” Chanault Valentine, also was indicted for kidnapping and impersonating a peace officer.

Creative Commons

The federal Department of Justice is closing its investigation into the hiring practices of the Bowling Green Police Department.

Last summer the DOJ said it was looking into the low number of African-American police officers on the force.

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says federal investigators have told the city they found nothing out of the ordinary.

“They went through the process and what we understand, there was a statistical anomaly regarding the number of minorities that have been employed over the last couple of reviews and they wanted to examine our practices to determine that we weren’t setting up any artificial barriers to the hiring of minority applicants”

Bowling Green conducted its own investigation into the police department’s hiring practices.

Ira Gelb/Creative Commons

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will pump millions of dollars into the Louisville-area economy.

But it will also bring an increase in the number of sexually exploited women and children.

That’s the warning from Amy Leenarts, the director of the Louisville-based anti-trafficking group Free2Hope.

She says people who make money through human trafficking are drawn to high-profile events like the Derby.

“There is a syndicate that runs across the country, and they just simply go to all these big events all over the country, and they bring people with them—girls who are enslaved.”

Leenarts is asking the public to be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

“It can be a child at a hotel where they shouldn’t be, when they’re obviously not with parents. It can be a young adult who has several different phones, or key cards from multiple hotels.”

A former Barren County magistrate is pleading guilty to several federal charges related to his dental practice.

Chris Steward was indicted last month on charges that he illegally distributed controlled substances outside his medical practice.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports that Steward acknowledged in a plea agreement released Tuesday that he wrote prescriptions to individuals who then gave him pills.

Steward also admitted to defrauding the state’s Medicaid system by writing fake prescriptions paid for by the program.

Steward faces up to 67 years in prison, and a $3.25 million fine.

Judge Temporarily Blocks Removal Of Confederate Monument

May 2, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

A judge has temporarily barred the city of Louisville from removing a 70-foot-tall Confederate monument from the University of Louisville campus.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman signed a restraining order Monday morning forbidding the city from moving the 121-year-old obelisk honoring Kentuckians who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Mayor Greg Fischer and University President James Ramsey announced Friday that they would remove the monument, marking the latest government to reconsider its display of Confederate symbols following the massacre of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina last summer.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Everett Corley, a Republican running for Congress, filed for the restraining order on Monday. The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning.

Confederate Statue At U of L To Be Removed

Apr 29, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville President James Ramsey announced Friday the Confederate statue on U of L’s Belknap campus will be removed.

Ramsey, via Twitter, said the monument would be removed immediately. “It is time for U of L to step forward in partnership with the city of Louisville to remove the monument…in respect of all people.”

Ramsey said a campus diversity committee recommended the university remove the statue.

The removal of the Confederate monument will also be the first tangible action for reworking the Third Street corridor near the entrance to the recently opened Speed Art Museum, Ramsey said.

It's been almost a year since the badly decomposed remains of a woman were found in Hart County. The body was beyond recognition, but now Kentucky State Police are teaming up with the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System to put a face, and hopefully a name, to the woman.

Last June 25, a truck driver jogging near Waterloo Road in Hart County noticed what appeared to be a dead body. Troopers called to the scene confirmed they were human remains but an identification was impossible.

All they had to go on was it was a female between 24 and 47 years old, wearing a necklace with the letter "S" emblem on it, a gray stud earring with a pink stone, a medium sized "Southern Comfort" t-shirt, red underwear and white Wilson sneakers with green laces. She was entered into NamUs just four days later as UP 13979.

The Hart County Coroner and Kentucky State Police reached out to Project EDAN (Everyone Deserves A Name) and Certified Forensic Artist Jeanne Cybulski of the Mesa, AZ police department took up the case.

Creative Commons

A Pulaski County school crossing guard has died after being hit by a truck. 

According to Kentucky State Police, 69 year old Doyle Patterson of Somerset died Wednesday night at University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

Patterson was struck Wednesday afternoon at Southwestern High School. 

The pickup driver was 62 year old Windell Phelps, also of Somerset.

No drug or alcohol use was suspected, and police don’t expect any charges to be filed. Police say Phelps is also a school employee.

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.

Funtown Mountain Facebook

A south-central Kentucky country music radio station owner has bought a closed recreational park in Cave City.

The Courier-Journal said David Froggett Jr. purchased the two tracts of land and buildings for $295,000 at auction Wednesday.

Froggett, of Edmonton, owns WHSX-FM. He told the Daily News of Bowling Green last week that he plans to turn the attraction into a "resort park-nature park combination."

The park started as the Western-themed Guntown Mountain in 1969. It was purchased in May by a Louisville businessman who planned to turn it into a Kentucky-themed park, but he was unable to follow through due to health issues.

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.

The federal government is encouraging Kentuckians to sign up for an online service that lets you check your Social Security benefits.

To be eligible for an online account, you must be at least 18 years old, and have a U.S. mailing address, Social Security number, and valid e-mail address.

Social Security Administration spokesman B.J. Jarrett says those who don’t currently get benefits can also sign up to see what they’re eligible to receive in the future.

"Folks can review and verify their lifetime earnings history for accuracy. They can also see estimates of their future Social Security benefits--not only retirement, but if they were to become disabled, what their family could receive."

Nearly 1 million Kentucky residents receive Social Security benefits.

‘My Social Security’ accounts can be set up here.