Monday, August 31, 2015

KSP Increasing Labor Day Patrols

The national campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs through Labor Day weekend and is aimed at reducing deaths and injuries caused by motorists driving drunk or impaired by drugs. During the 2014 Labor Day holiday, there were six alcohol-related highway deaths on Kentucky roadways. Statewide, law enforcement officers arrested 55 people for DUI during that same time period. The 2015 Labor Day enforcement period begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept.4 and extends through Monday, Sept. 7 at 11:59 p.m.

In addition to statewide DUI enforcement, KSP will conduct statewide traffic safety checkpoints in an effort to enforce all traffic laws of the Commonwealth. Special detail will be paid to occupant protection (seatbelt adherence), vehicle safety, insurance compliance and registration violations.






Alpha Natural Resources executive resigns amid restructuring

(AP) — An Alpha Natural Resources executive has left the coal producer amid a financial restructuring.

Alpha says in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that Brian D. Sullivan resigned to pursue another employment opportunity. Sullivan's resignation was effective on Friday.

According to the company's website, Sullivan had served as executive vice president and chief commercial officer since September 2012. He also was president of Alpha Australia LLC, serving in that position since February 2011.

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 3. The company is one of the nation's biggest coal producers and has mines in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kentucky has more than 30,000 homeless students

(AP) — A review of federal education data shows more than 30,000 students in Kentucky are homeless.

According to reports, the analysis shows Kentucky has the nation's highest rate of student homelessness.

The number of homeless students in Kentucky has nearly doubled in less than six years, reaching a high of more than 35,000 students in the 2011-12 school year. In 2013-14, the number dropped slightly from more than 31,000. But that's still far more than the 17,716 homeless students recorded in 2006-07.

Under a definition by the U.S. Department of Education, children are considered homeless if they are living in a shelter, motel or campground, car, outside or with another family member due to loss of housing or economic hardship.

Education commissioner search narrowed to 2 finalists

(AP) — The Kentucky Board of Education has chosen two finalists in its search for a new state education commissioner.

Media reports say the board did not identify the two final candidates in the running to succeed education Commissioner Terry Holliday. He is retiring at the end of the month after nearly six years on the job.

The board narrowed the list of candidates from five to two after conducting a second round of interviews Friday and Saturday.

The board says it will commission in-depth background checks on the two finalists, a process likely to take several weeks.

Board Chairman Roger Marcum says he doesn't expect the board to publicly name the two finalists. He says it's up to those candidates if they choose to identify themselves as finalists.

Friday, August 28, 2015


Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced today that a consumer representative from the Attorney General’s Office will conduct mobile office hours throughout southwestern West Virginia. The representative will be available to discuss the latest scams the Office has noticed in the state and provides consumers with tips to protect their personal, identifiable information.

Peni Adams, a consumer outreach and compliance specialist with the Office, will host the mobile office hours, which are scheduled below:
  • 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 3 at the McDowell Commission on Aging, 725 Stewart St., Welch;
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m.  Sept. 8 at the Wyoming Council on Aging, 695 Mountaineer Highway, Mullens;
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 9 at CASE WV Commission on Aging, 600 Trent St., Princeton; and
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Wharton-Barrett Community Center, 178 Bennett St., Wharton
“Every month our Office conducts mobile office hours throughout the state to engage with local consumers in their home communities,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “These mobile office hours allow consumers to learn more about the Office, consumer protection issues and the scams they need to be cautious about.”

The mobile office hours are open to the public; reservations are not required.

For information about the mobile office hours, contact Peni Adams 304-993-9106.

W.Va. attorney general warns of medical supply shipments

(AP) — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers about out-of-state enterprises sending unsolicited order forms, medical supplies or medications to insurance customers without their consent.

The Consumer Protection Division has received several reports of consumers receiving what appear to be order forms for medical supplies and prescriptions from out-of-state pharmacies. Consumers and medical providers are also receiving supplies and prescriptions from these pharmacies, even though they have not placed orders from these companies.

Many of these reports are from residents who are diabetic and frequently fill prescriptions for diabetes medications and testing supplies.

Morrisey's office is looking into whether there has been a data breach or theft of customer prescription information.

Unemployment rates drop in 115 Kentucky counties

(AP) — State officials say unemployment rates declined in 115 of Kentucky's 120 counties between July 2014 and last month.

The state Office of Employment and Training says Woodford County had the lowest jobless rate at 4 percent. It was followed by Fayette and Owen counties at 4.1 percent each. The next lowest rates were Boone County at 4.3 percent and Scott County at 4.4 percent.

Three counties each had a 4.5 percent rate — Campbell, Jessamine and Kenton.

Magoffin County had the state's highest jobless rate at 12.8 percent. It was followed by Harlan County at 12 percent, Leslie County at 11.1 percent, Letcher County at 10.8 percent and Carter County at 10.3 percent.

Legal aid group to train lawyers for disability hearings

(AP) — A legal aid group is holding a training session for attorneys who want to help represent some of the 1,500 people who are in danger of losing their federal disability benefits.

The Appalachian Research and Defense Fund will train volunteer lawyers on Saturday at the University of Kentucky Law School Courtroom. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the training lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call Mary Going at (800) 678-8525, extension 1315, to RSVP.

The Social Security Administration is reviewing the federal disability benefits of about 1,500 people who were represented by eastern Kentucky attorney Eric Conn. Conn has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

Each of the people being reviewed will have a hearing and needs to be represented by an attorney.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

W.Va. regulators cite 2 companies in fatal mine accidents

(AP) — Two companies have been cited by West Virginia regulators in separate fatal mine accidents.

The Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training issued two citations to Rogers Petroleum Services Inc. and eight citations to Murray Energy.

A Rogers Petroleum employee, 52-year-old Von Bower, was killed earlier this year when his truck overturned at a surface mine in Raleigh County.

Forty-five-year-old John M. "Mike" Garloch of Neffs, Ohio, was killed and three other workers were injured earlier this year in a roof and rib fall at Murray Energy's Marshall County mine near Cameron.

State inspectors briefed the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety on reports on their investigations of the accidents on Wednesday.

The companies say they are reviewing the reports.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

W.Va. wellness center to receive $200k in federal funding

(AP) — The Williamson Health and Wellness Center will receive $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced the funding on Tuesday.

The money is designated for enhancing psychological and social health care services for people with diabetes, congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The goal of the Rural Health Care Coordination Network Partnership Program is to provide more effective care for rural patients living with chronic conditions by integrating behavioral health care into primary care.

W.Va. state workers file grievances over payday switch

(AP) — A change in pay periods for state employees has prompted grievances from workers who say they won't receive their full salaries during the switchover.

The state began switching pay periods in June from twice monthly to biweekly. Pay periods will increase from 24 to 26.

Gordon Simmons with the West Virginia Public Workers says some employees discovered that they will receive 25 paychecks in the switchover year. Overall, he says the change could cost employees millions of dollars.

The grievances include one filed by David Harper Gardner Jr. and 23 other Department of Transportation employees. Gardner says he discovered that he'll lose about $212.

State Auditor's Office spokesman Justin Southern says it's his understanding that no one will lose pay because of the change.

Kentucky ACT results lagging national levels

(AP) — Kentucky lags behind national averages for ACT college-readiness benchmarks in core subjects, with the biggest deficit in math.

The best performance among Kentucky's 2015 high school graduates was in English, with 60 percent of students meeting the ACT college-readiness benchmark. The national average was 64 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the organization that administers the exam.

The report says Kentucky's lowest scores were in math and science. Thirty-two percent of Kentucky test-takers achieved the college-readiness measurement both in math and science. National averages were 42 percent in math and 38 percent in science.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring, says the low math score should be a motivator for action. Holliday says it's time the state puts together a math task force and looks at teacher preparation.

Conway backs more severance tax money for coal counties

(AP) — Democrat Jack Conway says he would push to return more severance tax money to Kentucky's coal-producing counties if he's elected governor.

His Republican opponent, Matt Bevin, says he would be open to considering a formula change that would give coal counties more revenue but he didn't commit to it. Both candidates acknowledged financial challenges facing Appalachian counties where coal production has dropped sharply.

Bevin and Conway spoke Wednesday to a gathering of local officials from counties that produce coal, oil and natural gas. The downturn in the Appalachian coal economy has become a key issue in statewide elections in Kentucky. Coal severance tax revenue has dropped sharply in recent years.

The two are running in the Nov. 3 election to succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Board of Education continues search for new commissioner

(AP) — The Kentucky Board of Education is meeting again Tuesday as it looks for a successor to Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring at the end of the month.

The Education Department says the board will meet in Lexington to discuss additional information gathered on candidates and possibly conduct more interviews in closed session.

The board interviewed 12 candidates earlier this month.

The board is also expected to decide Tuesday whether to release finalists' names.
Final interviews are scheduled Friday and Saturday in Lexington.

Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin C. Brown will serve as interim commissioner until a new commissioner begins.

Taxpayers facing $2.3 million tab in same-sex marriage case

(AP) — Attorneys who successfully challenged Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage have submitted a bill for more than $2 million in legal fees, court costs and related expenses. Under federal civil-rights law, the state of Kentucky gets stuck with the tab as the losing party in the case.

According to published reports, the private attorneys hired by Gov. Steve Beshear to handle the state's appeals have a $260,000 contract. According to state records, $231,348 had been paid by July 20.

The total cost to Kentucky taxpayers is $2,351,297.

Beshear said Monday he will challenge the plaintiffs' legal bill as "unreasonable."
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III gets the final say on the matter.

The governor acknowledged the state must pay "reasonable attorneys' fees" to the winning side.

Beshear: Kentucky to get $2.6 million for cancer screenings

(AP) — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has announced Kentucky will get $2.6 million in federal grant money over the next five years to encourage people in Louisville and Appalachia to be screened for colon cancer.

Beshear said Tuesday that nearly 9,500 people die from cancer in Kentucky every year, the most of any state in the country. Beshear has set a goal of reducing cancer deaths 10 percent by 2019. One of his main strategies for doing this is to increase the number of people who are screened for colon, lung and breast cancer.

The money comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says the five-year survival rate of colon cancer is 90 percent when detected and treated early. Statistics show screenings are lower among the poor, black men and people with low education levels.

Monday, August 24, 2015

W.Va. agency orders more travel guides to meet demand

(AP) — The West Virginia Division of Tourism has ordered another 50,000 copies of the state travel guide from a vendor to keep up with demand.

Reports indicate that more than 8,000 people requested a copy of the "Wild Wonderful West Virginia" travel guide in July alone.

The Division of Tourism has distributed about 450,000 travel guides this year. The guides also are available at interstate welcome centers.

Tourism Commissioner Amy Goodwin says the division plans to improve the content and appearance of next year's guide.

Junior chefs head to Kentucky State Fair to compete

(AP) — Junior chefs will be in the spotlight during an event this week at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

The Kentucky Agriculture Department says 15 high school teams will compete for scholarships and a trophy at the third annual Kentucky Proud Farm to School Junior Chef Tournament.

The championship round will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Gourmet Garden Stage in the lobby of South Wing A.

Sullivan University will offer a $6,000 scholarship to each member of the champion team, a $4,000 scholarship to each runner-up team member and a $2,000 scholarship to each member of two semifinalist teams.

The Agriculture Department says the program encourages students to learn to cook healthy meals from local ingredients and teaches students about agriculture, marketing, organization, teamwork and community involvement.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Judge orders 300 prospective jurors in W.Va. coal CEO case

(AP) — A federal judge is ordering a jury pool of 300 southern West Virginians in the criminal case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

In southern West Virginia federal court Thursday, Judge Irene Berger ordered a random selection of 300 prospective jurors from the Charleston and Huntington divisions.

Prospective jurors will have to complete a questionnaire by Aug. 31.

Blankenship's trial is scheduled to start Oct. 1 in Charleston. He faces charges that he conspired to violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. An explosion at the mine in 2010 killed 29 men.

National conference in Kentucky to explore future of hemp

(AP) — A nonprofit association that advocates for hemp growers is hosting an annual conference with a keynote address by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

The Hemp Industries Association organized the three-day conference, which begins on Sept. 27. Its members are hemp businesses and farmers. It's the first time the conference will be held in Kentucky.

University of Kentucky agronomist David Williams will also speak on the potential of hemp. The conference at the Hilton in downtown Lexington will focus on the expansion of the industry and market in North America and include a hemp farm tour.

The group says in the U.S., 26 states have removed barriers to hemp production.

Ky.'s jobless rate rises slightly in July

(AP) — Kentucky officials say the state's unemployment rate rose slightly last month but remained below the national rate.

The state Office of Employment and Training said Thursday that last month's seasonally adjusted rate in Kentucky was 5.2 percent. Officials say the preliminary July rate was up from a revised 5.1 percent rate in June but was well below the 6.2 percent statewide rate in July 2014.

The U.S. jobless rate remained at 5.3 percent last month.

Kentucky officials say employment gains were made last month in the government, financial activities, leisure and hospitality and information sectors.

Sectors that had employment declines in July included mining and logging, construction, manufacturing, educational and health services, professional and business services and trade, transportation and utilities.

Two charged after child sexual assault allegations

Two Williamson residents have been arrested in connection to the sexual assault of children. Another arrest is still pending. Williamson City Police and West Virginia State police arrested 22-year-old Maximo Ayala of Peter Street, for first-degree and third-degree sexual assault involving two minors. One, a 14-year-old; the other, 7. The arrest warrant states the 14 year-old is pregnant and also has a 5 month-old-child, both believed to have been fathered by Ayala.  The abuse was reported by a parent of one of the victims. Ayala is currently being held at the Southwestern Regional Jail on a $200,000 cash bond. In the same case, one of the victim’s mother, Thelma Louise Thomas, was arrested for sexual abuse involving a parent or guardian. She is also being held at the Southwestern Regional Jail on a $100,000 cash bond. Her husband, Rodney Thomas, has not been located. The investigation is ongoing and more charges could be pending.

Senior Scam Jam offers tips to avoid fraud

An event held today at the Floyd County Extension Office aimed to help seniors avoid becoming victims of scams. The event, called Senior Scam Jam, featured speakers and vendors who provided valuable information to seniors about potential fraud schemes. Organizers of the event said Scam Jam is meant to make seniors more savvy about potential financial predators, and to provide information on how to protect themselves and loved ones.

Today’s event helped participant identify red flags of financial fraud, tips to avoid becoming a victim, as well as what to do after becoming a victim. The event was organized by the Department of Financial Institutions, with cooperation from the Big Sandy Council on Elder Maltreatment and the Floyd County Cooperative Extension Office.

USDA restoring forests in Appalachia

The USDA is bringing forests back to Appalachia. Across the 13-state Appalachian region, large swaths of forest have disappeared due to mining, replaced only by shrubby brush after reclamation. The USDA estimates that 1 million acres of deciduous forest has disappeared. The problem is that much of the soil which formerly hosted the forest has been buried under reclaimed lands. Not only do trees not grow well in the new topsoil, but invasive species are able to take root in it and overrun the land. Now, the USDA is working with the Appalachian Regional Commission, Green Forest Works and the Appalachian Regional Restoration Initiative to reforest the region. The groups have worked to reclaim the soil and plant 1 million trees across 2,000 acres. Another 1,000 acres has been reforested with native American chestnut trees that have been bred to resist fungal blight that nearly wiped out the tree a century ago.