News in Brief


Work progressing on Mountain Parkway expansion

SALYERSVILLE (AP) — A Transportation Cabinet official says travelers passing a new bridge on the Mountain Parkway are seeing progress in an expansion project that started six months ago.

Construction crews placed more than 90 tons of concrete beams this week to create a new crossing in Magoffin County. Workers set 18 beams to support a 275-foot bridge over the Middle Fork of the Licking River. The bridge will carry two lanes of eastbound traffic near the new Gifford Road interchange.

Cabinet engineer and project manager Marshall Carrier says when work starts next year on a segment to extend the parkway from its eastern end at U.S. 460 to the beginning of Kentucky 114, nearly one-fifth of the projects will be underway.

The new bridge and a parallel span to carry westbound traffic are expected to be finished this fall.

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Police find bomb during traffic stop in W.Ky.

EDDYVILLE (AP) — Kentucky State Police say a man has been charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction after troopers found a homemade bomb inside a vehicle during a traffic stop, shutting down a western Kentucky highway.

Police said Interstate 24 was shut down Thursday after troopers stopped the vehicle traveling east near Eddyville and noticed what appeared to be a small improvised explosive device. Authorities said around 3 p.m. CDT that the highway was open again after police rendered the device safe.

Police arrested 45-year-old Michael Jack Higgs of Grants Pass, Oregon, and also charged him with firearms, drug and traffic offenses. He was being held in the Caldwell County jail.

A passenger in the vehicle did not face charges.

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State educators receive high marks in new evaluation system

FRANKFORT (AP) — More than 93 percent of teachers and 89 percent of education leaders who were evaluated have been rated “exemplary” or “accomplished” in the first year of statewide implementation of Kentucky’s Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.

Those figures were released to the Kentucky Board of Education during its August meeting Thursday in Frankfort. The system evaluates about a third of certified educators in the state each year.

The ratings showed 28 percent of teachers and 26 percent of leaders were rated “exemplary,” while 65.5 percent of teachers and 63 percent of leaders were rated “accomplished.” The Education Department said in a news release that 6.3 percent of teachers and 11 percent of leaders were rated as “developing,” and less than 1 percent of teachers and none of the leaders were rated “ineffective.”

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Kentucky State Police trooper killed in crash

HODGENVILLE (AP) — Kentucky State Police say a trooper has been killed in a crash in the central part of the state.

Police spokesman Jeff Gregory said the crash occurred Friday morning in LaRue County, near the Green County line.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said the highway, KY 210, is closed due to the two-vehicle crash and urged motorists to find another route. A statement says the road is expected to be closed all day while the crash is investigated.

No other details were immediately available.

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Indictment reverberates in national, Ky. campaigns

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The indictment of Republican strategist Jesse Benton on charges of conspiring to buy support for Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential campaign reverberated Thursday from Rand Paul’s bid for the White House to a Kentucky campaign for auditor.

Benton and some other top aides to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign were charged Wednesday with conspiring to buy the support of a key Iowa lawmaker in the days leading up to that state’s 2012 caucuses.

Benton managed Rand Paul’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Kentucky in 2010. Rand Paul is Ron Paul’s son.

Hours before he was to participate in the first debate of the 2016 campaign for the White House, the younger Paul questioned the timing of the indictment, according to WBKO-TV of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Rand Paul’s hometown.

“We kind of think it’s a little suspicious that President Obama’s administration is bringing this forward in the middle of a presidential debate and probably unfortunate that they chose to do it in a political way,” Paul told the station.

Benton, who has strong tea party ties, said Thursday he is taking a leave of absence from America’s Liberty, a super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s presidential run. Benton said in an email that he “will return soon when I am exonerated.”

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State’s 1st GOP presidential caucus would be March 5

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s proposed Republican presidential caucus would be March 5 and candidates would only need 5 percent of the vote to qualify for delegates as the state seeks to woo the large field of contenders and their millions of dollars amid Rand Paul’s sluggish campaign.

State party leaders agreed to switch the state’s format from a primary to a caucus so that Paul could run for president and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat at the same time without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice. Paul, once seen as a leading candidate for the nomination, has struggled to gain a foothold in a field of 17 candidates while dealing with the fallout from the indictment of a close confidant and leader of his powerful Super PAC.

However, Paul did qualify for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland on Thursday night, giving him national exposure with six months left before the Iowa caucuses.

The state party’s central committee is scheduled to vote on the new rules Aug. 22. Committee members are already reviewing the proposal.

“Rand Paul might have been the impetus for getting the ball rolling, but if most members … are going to vote for it it’s going to be with the eye of making us relevant,” said Scott Lasley, chairman of the special state party committee that wrote the proposed caucus rules. “If Rand Paul is 8th or 9th in the polls come December, I think that encourages even more participation.”

By moving the caucus to early March, it ensures delegates would be awarded proportionally instead of a winner-take-all format. The proposed rules say candidates would need just 5 percent of the vote to qualify for delegates.

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Judge dismisses wrongful death lawsuit against attorney

PRESTONSBURG (AP) — A state judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging an eastern Kentucky attorney contributed to a man’s suicide after he lost his federal disability benefits.

WYMT-TV reports Floyd County Circuit Judge Thomas Smith dismissed the case last Friday. Emma Burchett sued attorney Eric Conn because her husband, Leroy, killed himself after receiving a letter that his federal disability benefits had been suspended. The letter was sent to more than 1,000 of Conn’s clients.

The Social Security Administration later temporarily reinstated those benefits. Smith ruled that because Emma Burchett testified she could not have foreseen her husband’s suicide that Conn could not have foreseen it either.

“This is a big victory, but it’s not a surprising one,” said Conn’s attorney, Kent Wicker. “We’ve heard a lot of noise over the last few months, but as these cases and allegations get examined, they’re all coming out in Mr. Conn’s favor.”

Burchett’s attorney, Ned Pillersdorf, disagreed with the ruling and said he plans to appeal.

“I think the judge is totally legally wrong,” he said. “If this ruling stands, you can never sue anyone for a wrongful suicide.”

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Fourth defendant pleads guilty in bourbon theft ring

FRANKFORT (AP) — A fourth defendant is facing up to a year in jail in connection with a Kentucky bourbon theft ring that investigators say sold thousands of dollars of bourbon illegally.

The Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1hmWc99 ) reports that 42-year-old Dustin Adkins of Georgetown pleaded guilty Thursday in Franklin Circuit Court to an amended charge of criminal conspiracy to receive stolen property over $10,000.

In his plea agreement, Adkins says he acted as a middleman for Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger of Frankfort in the sale of stolen bourbon from Frankfort’s Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Adkins was among nine people indicted in April on charges of stealing more than $100,000 worth of bourbon from two distilleries.

Adkins says he’ll cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of co-defendants. He has agreed to testify if called upon.

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Driver charged in deaths of 6 added to Tenn. most wanted

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Bureau of investigation has added a truck driver facing six counts of vehicular homicide to its Top 10 Most Wanted list.

The grand jury in Chattanooga this week returned the homicide charges against Benjamin Brewer, of London, Kentucky, who was the driver of an 18-wheeler that collided with vehicles stopped in a construction zone in June. They also indicted him on four counts of reckless aggravated assault, driving under the influence of narcotics, speeding and making false reports about his duty status.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that Brewer had been on duty for about 50 consecutive hours in the three days leading up to the crash. Federal regulations limit truck drivers to be on duty to a maximum of 14 consecutive hours.

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New tempered glass company startup to open in Louisville

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A new glass tempering business opening in Louisville hopes to create 150 jobs in the next five to 10 years.

310 Tempering is opening a facility in Jeffersontown and investing $6 million in the project.

The startup will begin with about 30 new jobs, but officials say the company plans to hire an additional 120 employees within the next five to 10 years.

The company will purchase an existing facility in an industrial park in Jeffersontown to house its operations. The company will design and fabricate custom glass pieces, including shower doors, glass railings, office partitions and storefront entrances.

The company was started in April by Greg Abrams and Chris Murphy.

They plan to begin hiring employees in September and begin production later this fall.

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University of Kentucky hires new public health dean

LEXINGTON (AP) — The University of Kentucky has hired a former president of the American Heart Association as its next dean of the College of Public Health.

The school says Donna Arnett was selected by UK Provost Tim Tracy for the job.

Arnett has been associate dean at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Public Health.

UK says that during her term as president of the American Heart Association from 2012 to 2013, Arnett built relationships with business and health care leaders around the world. Arnett, a Kentucky native, has published more than 450 peer-reviewed papers and two books.

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