Thursday, May 1, 2003

Kentucky News Briefs



U.S. sends $23 million for runway project

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has received its first installment of $132 million guaranteed from the federal government for construction of a runway.

The Federal Aviation Administration released $23.4 million for the construction Wednesday, the largest single grant ever given to the local airport.

Construction on the new 8,000-foot north/south runway has begun, and the new landing strip is to open in December 2005.

The airport is also extending the western end of the 10,000-foot east/west runway by 2,000 feet.

Meeting to target 'predatory drugs'

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will hold a public meeting in Cincinnati tonight to warn against the growing threat of club and "predatory drugs" that are popular with some teenagers and college students.

The meeting is part of a nationwide campaign, dubbed Operation X-Out, that targets drugs such as ecstasy, "Special K" and GHB.

Those drugs have grown in popularity in recent years, primarily among young people who use them at dance clubs, bars and parties.

Some of the drugs are described as predatory because they have been linked to date rape and sexual assaults. Others have caused serious injury and death.

DEA officials estimate that emergency room cases linked to the use of ecstasy nationwide have risen from 637 in 1997 to 5,542 in 2001.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. tonight at the Event Pavilion at the University of Cincinnati.

Law enforcement officers and experts on drug abuse will be on hand to answer questions.

Investigators question use of funds in Knott

FRANKFORT - Investigators from the state auditor's office released a report on Wednesday alleging several instances of improper spending and conflicts of interest in an eastern Kentucky county government.

The investigators questioned the spending of more than $785,000 for projects awarded in Knott County without using a competitive bidding process.

"We investigated allegations of improper purchasing activities, conflicts of interest, misuse of county assets and inadequate safeguarding of county assets," said State Auditor Ed Hatchett. "Unfortunately, all of those allegations proved accurate."

The investigators said federal funds were paid to Judge-executive Donnie Newsome's son-in-law and a campaign contributor for cleaning up roadside dumps.

The investigators allege that Newsome made frequent trips to riverboat casinos in his official vehicle, running up bills on county credit cards for fuel and hotel stays and reporting professional training hours for time he actually spent in casinos.

Newsome couldn't immediately be reached for comment. He didn't return a call made to his office in Hindman.

Investigators seek help identifying bodies

WINCHESTER - Investigators in the case of three Hispanic men found dead in the Kentucky River said Wednesday they are still seeking someone to come forward and help identify the bodies.

But Melony Joy Cunningham, a case worker at the Lexington-based Hispanic Initiative Network, said getting information from the Hispanic community could be difficult without photos of the men to go on and a community that may be hesitant to talk to government officials.

Of the 1,500 people her company helps each year, the majority do not have legal U.S. documentation, Cunningham said.

Investigators have set up a phone number and already allow for people to come forward with anonymous information about a case, and have contacted Spanish-language radio stations and newspapers.

Leno apologizes for 'Hitler' comparison

WHITESBURG - Tonight Show host Jay Leno has apologized to a Whitesburg doctor for remarks he made about him on a recent show.

Dr. Ricky Collins said he accepted the apology regarding an insinuation that he looked like Adolf Hitler.

"It's not one of those things I've dwelled on," Collins said. "Call it fortunate, unfortunate - something good did come out of it."

The good was that Leno donated $500 to a nonprofit group that builds homes for the poor in the Appalachian region after he learned that Collins serves on the group's board of directors.

"When you have a job like this that pays you more than you're worth, you have to give a little back sometimes," Leno said.

On the show, Leno showed an advertisement announcing that Collins would be joining the staff of a local medical clinic.

The ad included a photograph of Collins, who has dark hair and a small mustache, with the words: "A familiar face in a new place."

New chapter of honor society formed

GEORGETOWN - A new chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's largest academic honor society, has formed at Georgetown College.

The new chapter, which includes 40 students, was formally installed on Sunday. Georgetown joined 285 other institutions in Phi Kappa Phi, which was founded in 1897 and is based in Baton Rouge, La.

"I'm excited that we have climbed the second step of honorary organizations that we need membership in to have true academic credibility," Georgetown president Bill Crouch said.




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