Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hillbilly Days Kicking off Festival Season in the Mountains

It may sound hard to believe but festival season kicks off today in the mountains as thousands of people will take to the streets of Pikeville to celebrate Hillbilly Days.

On Wednesday, city officials helped food and craft vendors set up in preparation for this weekend's event.

Pikeville Public Safety Director Paul Maynard says several roads in the downtown area will be shut down.

"When you come into Pikeville for the festival, obviously the downtown area is going to be closed. There will be city employees stationed on Hambley Boulevard on each end of the closure. You will have to seek alternate routes," said Maynard.

Hillbilly Days runs through Saturday night.

Jury Finds Johnson County Woman Guilty

The trial of a Johnson County woman charged in the August crash that killed a teenager is over. 
Myra Castle, was found guilty of manslaughter and DUI charges in the death of C.J. Mollett.

After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury found Castle guilty of second degree manslaughter and DUI.

The jury recommends a seven year sentence for the manslaughter charge and a 30-day sentence for the DUI.

Sentencing for Castle will be held on May 16th.

Union Gives ARH Strike Notice

Member of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United who work at Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will strike May 1 absent an agreement on a contract, the according to a statement posted on ARH's website Monday.

That strike would last one day, according to ARH System Director of Employee and Labor Relations, Julius Pearson.

The two opposing sides held a meeting to come to an agreement Monday, but no agreement came.

Union representatives are waiting for ARH to come to the table with compromises.

Issues still to be resolved include vacation/paid time off, health insurance premiums, and compensation for some nurses.

Both sides said a strike would harm the region, and union leaders remained optimistic Wednesday a strike could be avoided.

FDA Proposes First Regulations for E-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The proposal being issued Thursday won't immediately mean changes for the popular battery-powered devices that heat liquid nicotine, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing industry.

The agency says the proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products but the rules don't immediately ban flavors of e-cigarettes, curb marketing and online sales, or set product standards.

Once finalized, the agency could propose additional restrictions on e-cigarettes. Officials didn't provide a timetable for that action.

Steve Nunn Assigned Public Defender

Kentucky taxpayers will now foot the bill for Steve Nunn's ongoing court battle.

The former state lawmaker is serving a life sentence for killing his former fiance, Amanda Ross in 2009.

The Department of Public Advocacy recently ruled that Nunn was indigent, clearing the way for him to be assigned a public defender.

Nunn has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. A hearing scheduled for Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court has been delayed to allow his new attorney to become familiar with the case.

He comes from a well-known Kentucky family, and was a lawmaker at one time. Admitted killer Steve Nunn filed court documents in Fayette County asking to be declared a pauper.

He's also been ordered to pay more than $24,000,000 to the Ross family as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Last month, authorities put a hold on Steve Nunn's prison account, the one he used to pay for items at the prison commissary, like food and toiletries. That money is supposed to help pay off the $24,000,000 Nunn owes to the Amanda Ross family in the wrongful death lawsuit. Now Nunn is saying he can't afford to appeal. He's requested the court consider him broke.

New coal dust rule aimed at battling Black Lung

New regulations designed to limit coal miners’ exposure to coal dust underground have been rolled out by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Health Safety and Labor Administration. The new rule announced Wednesday in Morgantown intends to lower levels of exposure to coal mine dust, increase sampling and give the industry a two-year period to implement the new regulations.

“Today we advance a very basic principle: you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for your livelihood. But that’s been the fate of more than 76,000 miners who have died at least in part because of black lung since 1968,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “I believe we can have both healthy miners and a thriving coal industry. The nation made a promise to American miners when we passed the Coal Act in 1969 – with today’s rule we’re making good on that promise.”

This final rule is part of the Labor Department’s End Black Lung – Act Now! Initiative. 

Prolonged exposure to coal dust can cause debilitating lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, emphysema and progressive massive fibrosis. These diseases, collectively referred to as black lung, can lead to permanent disability and death.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health over 76,000 miners have died since 1968 as the result of the disease.

“It’s profoundly moving to be here with miners and miners’ families who have been directly affected. Sometimes when you inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. you don’t have an appropriate feel for the impact,” admitted Perez. “You’ve got to make house calls.”

More than $45 billion in federal compensation benefits have been paid out to coal miners disabled by black lung and their survivors. Evidence indicates that miners, including young miners, are continually being diagnosed with the disease.

“Rather than figure out how to prevent it we deal with the consequences of the train wreck,” said Perez. “What we’re doing here is following the science and using the technologies that are out there that prevents the disease.”

The final rule:

- lowers levels of miners’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust and further reduces dust exposure by closing loopholes and improving sampling practices to better reflect actual working conditions and protect all miners from overexposures;

- increases sampling and makes use of cutting-edge technology developed for the mining environment to provide real-time information about dust levels, allowing miners and operators to identify problems and make necessary adjustments instead of letting overexposures languish; also requires immediate corrective action when a sample finds an excessive concentration of dust; and

- has a common-sense phase-in over a two-year period to give the industry the time it needs to adjust to the new requirements, acquire monitoring equipment and obtain compliance assistance from MSHA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kentucky highway fatalities dropped to a 64-year low in 2013. That's a 14 percent reduction in deaths over 2012.

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety released the numbers Tuesday for 2013. There were 638 fatalities last year. There were 746 in 2012.

Gov. Beshear’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety has a strategic highway safety plan titled “Toward Zero Deaths,” which focuses on four critical elements: engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response.

Of the 638 fatalities last year, 483 were in cars.  245 were not buckled, and 138 involved drugs or alcohol. Motorcyclists accounted for 79 fatalities, with 53 not wearing helmets.

The KOHS offers various highway safety educational programs to the public, distributes federal highway safety grants to state and local highway safety agencies, and promotes the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” impaired driving campaign and the new “U Text. U Drive. U Pay” texting while driving campaign.