News in Brief

Ky. health officials confirm first 2 cases of flu

FRANKFORT (AP) — State health officials have confirmed the first two cases of the flu in Kentucky this season.

The cases are from Jefferson and Kenton counties. Jefferson County includes the state’s largest city, Louisville. Kenton County is in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati.

Officials with the Kentucky Department of Public Health file a weekly report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Kentucky’s flu status. Officials say Kentucky is classified as “sporadic,” the lowest level of flu activity.

Health officials urged people to get a flu shot as soon as possible. It takes about two weeks to develop immunity to the virus after you receive the shot. Officials say they expect Kentucky will not have a shortage of flu vaccines this year.


More than 16,000 children got health insurance after new law

FRANFORT (AP) — An analysis of health insurance data shows more than 16,000 Kentucky children obtained health insurance during the first year of the Affordable Care Act.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the State Health Access Data Assistance Center say the Kentucky’s uninsured rate among children dropped 4.3 percent during the first year of the federal Affordable Care Act. Their analysis revealed more than 10 percent of the private insurance plans purchased on the state health exchange were for children.

Researchers say the increase is because the state health exchange offered discounted insurance plans to people who did not qualify for public insurance programs. And the increased marketing of the state health exchange prompted people who were already eligible for Medicaid to enroll.


West Virginia official says drug abuse on rise among miners

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The director of West Virginia’s mine safety office says there is a growing substance abuse problem among miners.

Director Eugene White of the Office of Mine Health, Safety and Training told legislators on Monday that more than 800 miners have failed drug tests over the last three years, according to The Register-Herald.

This year, White said 214 mining certificates have been suspended because of drug abuse. He said prescription drugs are the most commonly detected substance, while marijuana is second.

While White said the number of substance abusers is a small percentage of all miners in the state, the statistics are still alarming.

Besides current miners, White said 165 people failed pre-employment drug and alcohol screening.


Humana, Aetna shareholders approve $37 billion merger

(AP) — Humana says shareholders at a special meeting overwhelming approved the company’s takeover by fellow insurer Aetna.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based company said Monday that more than 99 percent of shares voted at the meeting were in favor the deal, which was announced in July. That total represents about 87 percent of Humana’s total outstanding common shares.

Separately, Aetna, of Hartford, Connecticut, says that shareholders approved the issuance of stock to Humana shareholders.

The $37 billion deal will create the country’s second-largest managed care company. It’s still subject to approval by regulators and other closing conditions. Humana Inc. and Aetna Inc. expect to complete the transaction in the second half of 2016.


UK researchers to study school’s local food purchases

LEXINGTON (AP) — University of Kentucky researchers are taking a closer look at local food purchases after dining vendor Aramark said half of its local purchases were for soda and ice.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports UK’s 15-year, $245 million contract with Aramark includes $5 million for the Food Connection. That program aims to “enhance the production, distribution and consumption of healthful Kentucky grown and produced food.”

Aramark spent $10 million on food in fiscal year 2015. Purchases considered local included $1 million for Coca-Cola beverages, $45,000 for ice, $39,000 for Pepsi products and $5,000 for drinks from Winchester’s Ale-8-One.

Scott Smith is the director of UK’s Food Connection. He said researchers will begin studying UK’s local food purchases more carefully in order to increase how much is bought from Kentucky farms.


Call center opens in Pulaski Co., adds 150 jobs

SOMERSET (AP) — A call center has opened in south-central Kentucky, adding 150 jobs to the area.

Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced the opening Monday of EOS USA in Somerset. The company provides accounts-receivable management and business-process outsourcing services. Beshear’s office said in a news release the company is investing nearly $4 million in the project.

The company is leasing a 20,000-square-foot facility for the operation.


Preschool funding dominates lieutenant governor debate

LEXINGTON (AP) — Democrat Sannie Overly promised a Jack Conway administration would spend more money on public preschool programs while Republican Jenean Hampton said it was a “non-issue” for Matt Bevin during a statewide televised debate of Kentucky’s major party nominees for lieutenant governor just two weeks before the election.

“This whole issue, this is a non-issue for us. This wasn’t even on our radar,” Hampton said when asked if a Bevin administration would provide public preschool programs in Kentucky. “The reason the Conway camp is blowing this out of proportion is they have no other substance to offer. So they do what they always do, which is deflect attention from the real problems in Kentucky.”

After the debate, Hampton told The Associated Press she meant that cutting spending for public preschool programs was the non-issue, saying “it wasn’t even on our radar for budget cuts or anything else.”

“I rose out of poverty. Obviously I care about kids education,” said Hampton, who was raised in Detroit by a single mother who could not afford a television or a car.

Still, Overly pounced on the comment after the debate, calling it “an extreme position” and “contrary to all of the research.”

“Those folks don’t represent the mainstream of even the Republican party,” Overly said.


Ohio River’s huge algae bloom a warning for water suppliers

(AP) — A toxic algae outbreak that snaked more than 600 miles down the Ohio River past four states is forcing water utilities to reassess the threat from harmful algal blooms that are popping up increasingly around the nation.

Treatment plant operators and researchers along the river were surprised by the large bloom and said it should be a warning to cities that get their water supply from lakes, rivers and manmade reservoirs.

“You need to be ready and have a plan in place,” said Roger Tucker, who monitors algae sampling for the Louisville Water Co. in Kentucky. “The Ohio River is proof of that.”

The bloom appears to be winding down now, two months after being detected in the middle of August. It made its way from Wheeling, West Virginia, and past Cincinnati and Louisville, setting off warnings about boating and fishing in the river. Organizers canceled a swim from Cincinnati to northern Kentucky.

What surprised many along the river was the unprecedented size and level of toxins detected in some areas — well above those found recently in algae-plagued western Lake Erie.

The last toxic bloom on the river came in 2008. But that one covered about 30 miles and lasted a couple weeks.


RGA back on the air in Ky. governor’s race

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Republican Governors Association has purchased more than $1 million worth of ads in the final two weeks of Kentucky’s competitive governor’s race.

The RGA pulled out of Kentucky last month. At the time it was a blow to Republican nominee Matt Bevin, who has run a mostly self-financed campaign. Democratic nominee Jack Conway has $1.6 million more than Bevin, according to the latest financial disclosures.

But the RGA says its new ad buy features a 30 second TV ad that will run in seven markets across the state through election day. The ad compares Conway with president Barack Obama and blames their policies for higher health care costs.

Conway’s campaign responded with a new 30 second TV spot featuring his pledges to expand public preschool programs and cut taxes.


Concerts to benefit New Albany’s historic Town Clock Church

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) — Two gospel concerts in southern Indiana will raise money for restoring a historic church’s clock tower that was once a sign of freedom to fugitive slaves.

The concerts benefiting New Albany’s Town Clock Church will be held Wednesday at New Albany High School’s auditorium and Thursday at the 19th century church in the Ohio River community.

Both concerts will raise money for restoring the church’s 150-foot-tall clock tower.

The News and Tribune reports the tower was a prominent landmark for slaves who sought refuge at the church after fleeing north across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, through the Underground Railroad.

The church dating to 1849 was built by an abolitionist Presbyterian congregation and is now used by the Second Baptist Church, which has a predominantly black membership.


Horse Park offers off-site wagering for Breeders’ Cup

LEXINGTON (AP) — The Kentucky Horse Park is offering indoor and drive-thru wagering for the Breeders’ Cup races next week.

Wagering will be available at the Alltech Arena during the CP National Horse Show Oct. 29 to 31. Simulcasting will be broadcast inside the arena all three days, with Keeneland’s race card shown on Oct. 29 and Breeders’ Cup races on Oct. 30 and 31.

Off-site wagering will open an hour before racing begins and close 30 minutes after the last race at Keeneland each day.

The park is also planning activities in the week before the Breeders’ Cup. One event will be the unveiling of a newly engraved headstone for 19th century jockey Isaac Burns Murphy, who is buried at the park. The event is at 2 p.m. this Thursday.


After expensive Senate campaign, Grimes goes back on the air

LEXINGTON (AP) — Alison Lundergan Grimes is back on TV for the first time since her 2014 race against Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell shattered state spending records.

The Democratic Secretary of State has a new 30 second TV ad out Tuesday morning to support her re-election campaign. In the ad, Grimes speaks directly into the camera saying the last few years have been “noisy” in Kentucky, a reference to the hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of ads by her and about her that aired during the 2014 campaign.

Grimes said her job as Secretary of State is to “make sure your vote is counted” and calls it “a job I love.” Grimes is seeking a second term. She faces Republican challenger Stephen Knipper in the Nov. 3 general election.


2 micro distilleries added to Bourbon Trail Craft Tour

FRANKFORT (AP) — Two more distilleries have been added to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, bringing the total number of micro distilleries included to 10.

They are Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. and Hartfield & Co. Distillery.

The new state-of-the art Kentucky Peerless distillery opened in June in downtown Louisville. Corky Taylor and his son, Carson, have revived the brand that their ancestor, Henry Kraver of Henderson County, made famous in the 1880s.

Andrew and Larissa Buchanan became the first licensed distiller in Bourbon County since 1919 when they opened The Gentleman Distillery in Paris last year and recently changed the name to Hartfield & Co. to reflect their family’s distilling heritage in Green County in the 1800s.

The tour was founded in 2012 to complement the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail.


Portion of highway to be renamed for slain female officer

HARRODSBURG (AP) — A portion of U.S. Route 127 in Mercer County will soon be designated as “Officer Regina Nickles Memorial Highway,” in honor of Kentucky’s first slain female officer.

Mercer County Sheriff Ernie Kelty tells local media that a sign unveiling ceremony will be held Sunday afternoon in honor of Nickles, who was shot and killed in October 1998 while responding to a call of a suspicious person outside of an automotive parts factory in Harrodsburg. The man who shot her is serving a life sentence.

The designation of the memorial highway will be from the city limits of Harrodsburg north to the Anderson County line.

The road was designated by action of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The dedication ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the McAfee Fire Station.


Search suspended for Ky. man missing in Washington

STEVENSON, Wash. (AP) — Officials have called off their search for a Kentucky man who was last seen a month ago in Washington state.

The Skamania County Sheriff’s office says 39-year-old Glenn “Austin” Oldfield, of Louisville, Kentucky, had planned a two-week-long camping trip in southwest Washington. His girlfriend last heard from him on Sept. 17 by text message, and a pair of hunters reported seeing him two days later near Lone Butte in Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Sheriff Dave Brown said Oldfield told the hunters he was lost, but when they offered to show him the way to the road, he turned and ran the opposite direction.

Brown said Monday that about 50 people spent the weekend searching an area near where a car and campsite were found. He says deputies will continue posting flyers to alert people to Oldfield’s disappearance.


W.Va. lifts algae advisory for Ohio River algae

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia public health officials have lifted an advisory warning of potential risks associated with an algae bloom in the Ohio River and some of its tributaries.

The advisory that ended Tuesday was issued Sept. 4 for public water systems and the public.

The commissioner and state health officer for the Bureau of Public health said the advisory was lifted after “thorough ongoing monitoring and testing” of water along the Ohio River by state and federal officials.

Dr. Rahul Gupta praised local officials and neighboring states for their vigilance.

The toxic algae outbreak was first detected in mid-August. It made its way from Wheeling, and past Cincinnati and Louisville.

Scientists say heavy rains in early summer washed algae-feeding pollutants into the river.

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