News in Brief

Number of drug-dependent babies in Ky. skyrockets

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The number of Kentucky hospitalizations for drug-dependent newborns has continued to skyrocket.

The Courier-Journal reports that the number of hospitalizations for drug-dependent newborns in the state rose 48 percent last year, compared to 2013.

Those 1,409 hospitalizations last year represent a 50-fold increase from just 28 hospitalizations in 2000.

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, admissions of drug-dependent babies to U.S. hospitals nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013.

Dr. Veeral Tolia, a Texas doctor and lead author of the journal article, says the surge is a result of a recent national opioid abuse crisis.

Researchers say more pregnant women are being prescribed painkillers, which both raises the risk of having a drug-dependent baby and can sometimes lead to abuse and addiction.


Kentucky State Fair Board to consider ban on flag sales

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The Kentucky State Fair Board has decided to consider a request to ban sales of the Confederate battle flag or merchandise with its image starting with this year’s state fair.

The Courier-Journal said the board voted unanimously Thursday to put the NAACP’s request on the agenda for its meeting July 23.

The fair is set to start Aug. 20.

Kentucky NAACP chapter President Raoul Cunningham read a letter at the meeting asking for the ban as well as a ban on giveaways of products bearing the flag’s image. He noted Kentucky didn’t join the Confederacy and was the first state in the South to pass a civil rights law, in 1966.

Board members didn’t ask any questions or comment during the meeting.


State panel seeks public input on Davis statue

FRANKFORT (AP) — Debate on the fate of the Jefferson Davis statue could heat up this summer, when a state panel takes comments on whether the tribute to the Confederate leader should be exiled from the state Capitol rotunda.

The state Historic Properties Advisory Commission agreed Thursday to seek written input from the public as well as art and history experts until July 29, leading up to another meeting scheduled for Aug. 5.

Commission chairman Steve Collins said the panel wouldn’t be pulled into making a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“Public sentiment does weigh heavily in making those decisions, but there are lots of other criteria that we would examine as well,” Collins told reporters after the commission met.

Collins didn’t commit to a decision on the statue’s fate at the next meeting, but sounded open to a vote if the group reaches agreement. Gov. Steve Beshear asked the commission, which by law determines what is displayed in the rotunda, to review the statues in the place that routinely hosts statehouse rallies.

Several state leaders have endorsed moving the Davis statue, a decades-old fixture in the rotunda, in response to a shooting rampage that killed nine black people in a South Carolina church last week.


Former lawmaker testifies during federal corruption trial

PIKEVILLE (AP) — A former Democratic state lawmaker who owns coal mines and helped regulate the coal industry on the House Natural Resources Committee told a federal jury Thursday that it was “awkward” when a state mine inspector assigned to his mines asked him for money.

But W. Keith Hall said he gave Kelly Shortridge the money anyway because Shortridge was a friend and, as a powerful state lawmaker in impoverished eastern Kentucky, that’s what you did to help people.

Federal prosecutors said it was more than awkward for Hall to make loan payments for Shortridge and pay him $25,000 as part of an acquisition deal with Jim Justice, a billionaire whose coal companies have a history of safety violations, that netted Hall millions of dollars.

“Isn’t part of that deal that you would have an inspector that was on the take?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Roth asked Hall during his testimony Thursday.

Hall said he never asked Shortridge for favors, but that he hired him as a private consultant because of his connections in the coal industry. Shortridge was one of three consultants Hall hired to help him find a buyer for one of his coal mines in eastern Kentucky. One consultant was House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, who Hall said set up a dinner meeting with officials from Kentucky Fuels, one of Justice’s companies, that eventually led to the company purchasing the mine and, prosecutors say, earned Hall more than $5 million.

But Hall described Shortridge as a “good political friend,” a popular figure in this tight-knit community who once ran for school board and helped run a Little League program. He said their relationship soured when he refused to pay Shortridge for a deal that fell through, causing Shortridge to intimidate some of Hall’s business partners. Hall said Shortridge complained to state officials about him, calling him a “wacko” and an “out of control Lex Luthor,” a reference to the villain in the Superman comic book series.


Something’s rotten: Stench from fridge sends 11 to hospital

LEXINGTON (AP) — Officials say a smelly refrigerator at the University of Kentucky sent nearly a dozen people to the hospital.

Multiple news outlets report that workers smelled a strong odor coming from the fridge when they came to work Wednesday at the Dimock Animal Pathology building. They opened the fridge to an overpowering smell.

University officials say movers had brought the fridge there from another campus building Tuesday evening but didn’t detect anything amiss.

Fire battalion chief Joe Best says people reported minor irritation to the skin or eyes and some nausea. Eleven were taken to the hospital. Firefighters evacuated the building and kept people away as a precaution.

University spokeswoman Kathy Jones says officials believe the odor was caused by a chemical residue left by something that had been inside the refrigerator. The building was reopened Wednesday afternoon.


Coroner: Man injured in Lexington park shooting has died

LEXINGTON (AP) — One of five people injured in a Lexington park shooting on Father’s Day has died.

Multiple media outlets report the Fayette County Coroner’s Office has confirmed that 42-year-old Kwame El-Amin died Thursday night at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

Lexington police say the shooting occurred on June 21 at Douglass Park during a basketball tournament. One woman and four men were shot.

Investigators say they do not believe the five victims were players in the tournament.

No arrests have been made in the case. Police say they believe one shooter is responsible for the incident.


Fair housing conference planned in Louisville

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is planning a one-day conference focusing on fair housing issues.

The one-day conference is set for next Tuesday in Louisville.

Commission officials say the conference will look at the status of fair housing issues in Kentucky. They say the event will highlight efforts in the past year to reduce housing-related discrimination.

Officials say the conference should be of particular interest to community representatives, human rights advocates, real estate agents, housing finance representatives, government officials and members of the legal community.

Two sessions are planned on Tuesday — one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT at the Brown Hotel.


Carolina Southern rail selling to Ky. company

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — A Kentucky company is buying a closed railroad company that operated a line between Myrtle Beach and Whiteville, North Carolina.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reported that Carolina Southern Railroad and R.J. Corman Railroad have agreed to complete the $14 million sale by August.

It’s been nearly four years since Carolina Southern halted operations because of structural problems with some bridges on the 80-mile line.

R.J. Corman Vice President Bill Henderson says the company is excited to restore the service in the Carolinas.

An agreement for the sale was signed last year between Carolina Southern owner Ken Pippin and a commission representing Horry County, South Carolina, and Columbus County, North Carolina.

Henderson said R.J. Corman sees the potential for forestry products and agriculture products to use the rail.


Daviess County animal rescue group sues fiscal court

OWENSBORO (AP) — A Daviess County-based animal rescue group has filed suit against the Daviess Fiscal Court over a rule requiring rescue groups to return dogs they adopt from the county animal shelter if the owner is found.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports Saving Paws Animal Rescue filed the lawsuit on June 10 against county officials.

County policy allows Animal Control to put dogs out for adoption after they have been at the shelter for five days.

In 2012, the fiscal court declared rescue groups adopting dogs from the shelter must first sign an agreement, where they promise to return the dog if the owner comes forward within 30 days of the dog arriving at the shelter. The rescue group says the rule is improper and unenforceable.

No hearings have been scheduled.

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