Rand Paul’s Jalopy Putters Along

More Republican dollars are flowing into Kentucky to help GOP candidates in the four special House elections on March 8. [H-L]

President Barack Obama has said that a college degree “has never been more valuable.” But if you borrow to finance your degree, the immediate returns are the lowest they’ve been in at least a generation, new data show. [HuffPo]

Local governments in Kentucky can increase the minimum wage, but a federal judge ruled Wednesday that they can’t ban labor unions from requiring employees to join them. [C-J/AKN]

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign has reportedly raised $3 million since Monday night’s Iowa caucuses. [The Hill]

Marlow Cook may forever be remembered by Louisvillians as the Jefferson County Executive who purchased the Belle of Louisville, but I remember him not only as my first boss, but also as someone who directly and significantly shaped my life and the lives of so many in public life [John Yarmuth]

Global equity markets rose on Thursday as diminished expectations of U.S. interest rate hikes this year pushed the dollar lower, which in turned boosted the prices of commodities. [Reuters]

The more we learn about Jamie Comer’s hemp-related shenanigans, the more disappointed we all become. Here’s hoping his nonsense doesn’t impact the overall industry. [Page One]

In internal memos, groups opposing tighter state campaign finance rules coach their local supporters on how to battle disclosure of political donors. [ProPublica]

A new study shows that Kentucky and Arkansas had the sharpest decline in the percentage of adult residents without health insurance from 2013 to 2015. [Business First]

Rand Paul was hustling to a TV hit on Fox News when security officials on hand stopped him. You’ll love the delusional reaction from Doug Stafford. [Politico]

Efforts by the Harlan County School District to replace Wallins elementary with a new facility received a boost when the board of education submitted plans that put that project at the top of its list of needs. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

There’s still a long way to go until November’s US presidential election. But it’s not too early to look at the possible presidential administrations of some of the leading candidates. [BBC]

Cheers, Kentucky: Bourbon and American whiskey sales in the United States were up 7.8 percent to $2.9 billion in 2015, according to figures released Tuesday morning by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. Looking at exports, sales of American whiskey were up 4 percent by volume, although the value fell 2.7 percent to about $1 billion, putting total sales of American whiskey at just less than $4 billion for 2015. [H-L]

Not all polluters are created equal. Just five percent of industrial polluters account for 90 percent of toxic emissions in the United States, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters last week. [HuffPo]

It’s Frankfort Tidbit Update Time

Adam Edelen should take the KDP chairmanship.

Stop asking people, Adam, and just do it.

Unless you’re in another nervous sweat over talking out of both sides of your mouth about members of the executive committee? I can assure you no one outside of that bunch of elderly good old boys cares. Just like no one will care that you’ve publicly praised a racist fearmonger (John David Dyche).

If you don’t take the job, you can’t expect to have much of a political career. Gonna need to leave some of your drunk friends behind, though.

The Dale Emmons/Alison Daddy’s Name Grimes/Jerry Lundergan/Jonathan Hurst crew involved in Jim Gray’s race are already alienating people. It’ll be like 2014 all over again. MIA candidate, bitter asshole staffers, a lot of money and a lot more disappointment.

Unless something changes quickly. (Spoiler alert: nothing will change)

State Rep. Chris Harris, a man many credit with taking down W. Keith Hall’s regime, got his open records bill (HB 80) unanimously released from committee this week.

Because he’s pro-transparency and anti-corruption, he’s being primaried by a Ray Ray Jones/UMG-supported guy. And on the Republican side? UMG has a candidate alleged to be funded by Leonard Lawson set to take Harris on.

This is why Eastern Kentucky can’t have nice things.

Hearing from Frankfort insiders that Jamie Comer’s hemp efforts may end up being soured… by Jamie Comer.

The hot gossip (it’s not really gossip) is that Democrats have been denied hemp approval left and right, while Republicans aligned with Comer sailed through the approval process. Not sure that’s a big deal, really. Probably much more good old boy back scratching than partisanship. Because at least one longtime Democrat with ties to illegal cultivation and alleged drug smuggling from the Julian Carroll era was granted a permit. His name’s prominently displayed on state government websites even though he should be nowhere near hemp. Comer knew it at the time but turned a blind eye because of the guy’s ties to Woody Harrelson. Allegedly. Cough.

Flash back to this October 22 story:

The Shell Farm and Greenhouses in Lancaster is turning its fields away from tobacco, growing 157,000 hemp plants on 40 acres outdoors and 3,500 plants in a greenhouse.

“And we’ll be growing it indoors all winter,” Giles Shell said. Shell’s greenhouses once raised flowers; now he’s working on hemp genetics.

“There’s no seed crop, so we have to take cuttings to get the plants in the field. So I’m selecting genetics, for a hardier plant — bigger, fuller,” Shell said. “We’ve got a problem with variegation or chimera, so I trying to select away from it.”

Next year, Shell intends to grow even more hemp.

“We’re going to quit raising our tobacco crop, and if we do any flowers, it will be downsized,” Shell said.

-SNIP-

The Shell family, which has a three-year contract with GenCanna, certainly is now.

“We were very leery — I was the most reserved in my family of starting to do this,” Giles Shell said. “But … I felt like we were the best route to help commercialize this crop. Demand is really high, and supply isn’t there. Basic economics will tell you that’s profit.

“We’ve got a year ahead of everybody else that’s going to get into the game.”

One of the big partners of GenCanna? State Rep. Jonathan Shell’s relative.

Why does that matter? Shell sits on the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee.

Consider these minutes from July 1, 2015. That’s a lot of money to be throwing around to hemp. Particularly while Shell’s relatives are knee-deep in it. Smells a lot like a CBD monopoly in the works.

Meanwhile, Comer’s telling people who have been shut out that he has no idea what’s going on, blaming Ryan Quarles left and right. Reality? Comer started this mess. And he controlled the secretive hemp committee that no one knows anything about – the group of people doling out permits.

Comer’s crew ought to back up a taste before they ruin it for everybody.

P.S. Hearing there’s a freshman state senator (R) about to be (already?) permitted despite never having farmed a day in his life. Andy Beshear’s office is gonna have its work cut out for it.

Quick, Scare The Meemaws With Zika!

Amid many aspects of Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed state budget, one line item in particular raised a lot of eyebrows: $21 million to renovate and expand the University of Kentucky’s Wildcat Coal Lodge, the deluxe accommodations for UK’s basketball team that opened in 2012. [H-L]

Hillary Clinton delivered a fiery response to a Muslim veteran’s question about Islamophobia in the United States. [HuffPo]

The University of Kentucky’s 4-year-old Wildcat Coal Lodge, home of the men’s basketball team, could be heading for a renovation. [C-J/AKN]

President Obama said Monday he will ban solitary confinement for juveniles in the federal prison system and reduce the practice for certain other inmates. [The Hill]

London will be wet. Registered voters within the city limits took to the polls Tuesday to answer one simple question: “Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city limits of London, Kentucky?” The result was a resounding “yes.” [Richmond Register]

Lockheed Martin Corp said on Tuesday it reached a deal to combine its information systems and government services business with Leidos Holdings Inc, and reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue. [Reuters]

City of Ashland personnel policy contradicts what City Manager Ben Bitter said about a vacation pay advance made to a department head this summer. [Ashland Independent]

Standing at a podium before the World Economic Forum, Leonardo DiCaprio briefly smiled as he received an award for his leadership in tackling climate change. Once settled under the spotlight, he quickly moved away from his grateful statements, and began railing on corporate avarice. [ThinkProgress]

City Attorney Rich Alexander released Tuesday the transcript from a portion of a disciplinary hearing that he acknowledged Monday he incorrectly closed to the public. [Glasgow Daily Times]

American scientists studying the Zika virus have warned that it could be a decade before a vaccine is publicly available. [BBC]

Marc Guilfoil is the new executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. [Ronnie Ellis]

The Federal Reserve has decided to keep its benchmark interest rate where it is, even as Fed officials expressed somewhat more caution about global economic conditions. [NPR]

Victims of domestic violence could break rental agreements without fear of penalty to get away from their abusers under a bill approved Wednesday by a Kentucky House panel. [H-L]

Will he have the guts to stand up? Every single Democrat in the Senate, and the two independents who caucus with them, are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act quickly to help the island of Puerto Rico restructure its debt. [HuffPo]

Mitch McConnell Just Ruins Everything

Alpha Natural Resources can pay potential bonuses of up to $11.9 million to senior managers during its bankruptcy, a judge has ruled. [H-L]

Mitch McConnell (R-Grandmother) really doesn’t like idea that President Barack Obama could use executive power to make more corporations disclose campaign spending. [HuffPo]

Louisville barely missed the brunt of a winter storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in some parts of Kentucky and created hazardous road conditions for hundreds of folks across the state. [C-J/AKN]

Scientists have described a new species of bird in northern India and China, called the Himalayan forest thrush. [BBC]

Rattled by forecasts of a major snowfall, Kentucky lawmakers left town a day early Thursday after a light legislative schedule and canceled Friday’s scheduled session. [Ronnie Ellis]

Mitch McConnell made a quiet move [last] week on a sweeping war authorization measure written by one of his most hawkish members — an effort to pressure the White House to craft a war proposal more to the GOP’s liking. [Politico]

Bourbon is a bigger deal than coal because it brings in gobs of tourism dollars. Tourists our pouring into Kentucky to visit distilleries on Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. [Richmond Register]

While Flint, Michigan battles a water crisis in the north, a different predominantly black town in the south is facing its own devastating public health epidemic, one that seems to come straight out of the Dark Ages: tuberculosis. [ThinkProgress]

The 16-year-old girl who died in a Kentucky juvenile-detention center last week was found unresponsive on a bed in a private room, according to the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. [WFPL]

A California waste management company has launched a legal challenge to a new U.S. labor board standard for “joint employment” that could make it easier for unions and regulators to hold companies accountable for the practices of staffing agencies, contractors and franchisees with which they partner. [Reuters]

The Harlan County Fiscal Court discussed the possibility of purchasing some land in Baxter during a meeting on Monday. [Harlan Daily Independent]

Conservatives who disapprove of Donald Trump have converged upon their belief that Trump’s rise does not reflect any flaw in conservatism itself but can be blamed, in whole or in part, on Barack Obama. [NY Magazine]

The daughter of a man who was fatally hit by a Stanford police cruiser last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officer, the police chief, the mayor and the city of Stanford. [H-L]

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a conservative network to oppose Democrats, have actually done very well for themselves since President Barack Obama took office. [HuffPo]

GE Sale Has Louisville A Bit Anxious

More than 17,000 Kentucky food stamp recipients in eight counties must begin part-time work, education or volunteer activities in order to keep their benefits under a requirement reinstated this month. [H-L]

After Mitt Romney’s resounding defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee commissioned a 97-page report that laid out “a path forward for the Republican Party to ensure success in winning more elections.” It sounded great. But its drafters probably didn’t envision that the GOP’s “path forward” would involve its 2016 presidential front-runner arguing in a nationally televised debate that its second-place contender is ineligible to serve as president. [HuffPo]

Papaw Beshear’s back at Stites in Lexington. They even sent out a fancy press release about it. [C-J/AKN & Press Release]

President Barack Obama has vigorously defended his legacy while striking an optimistic note for America’s future in his final State of the Union address. [BBC]

Litigation surrounding the license for a Corbin quarter horse racing track continues after an injunction hearing scheduled for Tuesday was postponed. [Richmond Register]

The conservative state of Texas has for years scaled back its pollution laws as it sought to keep a business-friendly atmosphere, all to the dismay of environmentalists. Now, two environmental groups are pushing back against the state. [ThinkProgress]

The longer jackasses fawn over Kim Davis, the longer Kentucky looks stupid. [WKYT]

The Obama administration on Friday said it would announce the next steps in its planned overhaul of how the United States manages coal development on federal land, which sources have said includes freezing new leases. [Reuters]

Things in Bowling Green apparently suck so badly that people are making pipe bombs. [BGDN]

The United States has spent nearly half a billion dollars and five years developing Afghanistan’s oil, gas and minerals industries — and has little to show for it, a government watchdog reported. [ProPublica]

This is a sad, frustrating situation no matter how you look at it. [WAVE3]

Obama administration officials are set to announce plans Friday to overhaul the program that allows private companies to mine coal on federal land. [The Hill]

Prompted by new federal regulations, the state’s two largest utility companies are closing several storage ponds that collect the coal ash burned by power plants. [H-L]

General Electric Co agreed to sell its appliances business to China’s Qingdao Haier Co Ltd for $5.4 billion in cash, the companies said on Friday. The move comes weeks after GE abandoned a $3.3 billion deal with Sweden’s Electrolux following months of opposition from U.S. antitrust regulators. [HuffPo]

Need cheap mobile phone service? Maybe even for a backup cell phone? I’m talking $6/mo cheap? Use our Ting referral code and we’ll all get a sweet credit. You get $25 — enough for a couple months of service to determine whether you like it. Both CDMA and GSM options. [Ting]

Frankfort Is Already Ruining Everything

The Kentucky General Assembly began its 60-day law-making session Tuesday with a squabble over rules that could affect which party controls the state House in coming months. [H-L]

The gunmen who have occupied a federal building here for three days will resist with force any attempt to remove them, Ammon Bundy, a leader of the militants, said Sunday. But federal authorities have no immediate plans to rush in to retake the remote building. [HuffPo]

People are losing their damn minds over President Obama’s gun proposals. [C-J/AKN]

Mitch McConnell is again confirming he has no plans other than to stand in the way of President Barack Obama. Because his base of support is comprised of racist mouth-breathers who fear brown people. [Salon]

The Kentucky state legislature has gaveled in to begin work on a two-year state spending plan under a new Republican governor. [WKYT]

Military suicides among Army reservists have ticked up from last year, according to new third quarter data for 2015 released by the Pentagon on Monday. [The Hill]

Twenty-eight bottles of the most sought-after bourbon will be available to the public, after it is released from the court. [WAVE3]

Or will they? Franklin County’s sheriff says the bourbon will be destroyed. [H-L]

U.S. manufacturing contracted further in December as lower oil prices undercut spending in the energy sector while construction spending fell in November for the first time in nearly 1-1/2 years, suggesting the economy ended 2015 with less momentum. [Reuters]

State lawmakers convened here Tuesday for their bi-annual, 60-day budget session to confront badly underfunded state pension systems and other issues in a politically charged atmosphere. [Ronnie Ellis]

The success or failure of a farming operation depends hugely on the vagaries of weather and climate. For a farmer, a single intense rain event or prolonged dry period can mean a year of lost crops and income. [ThinkProgress]

he final phase of a complete road upgrade to provide better access from West Liberty to Morehead is expected to begin this spring, according to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins. [Ashland Independent]

Donald Trump is taking to the television airwaves, and his first advert prominently features his controversial call for temporarily halting the entry of all Muslim into the US and a border wall “paid for by Mexico”. [BBC]

The University of Kentucky has hired a new dean for the College of Medicine, officials announced Monday. Robert DiPaola, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and vice chancellor for cancer programs at the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences center, is expected to start in March, pending approval from the UK Board of Trustees. [H-L]

The Obama administration on Monday defended its deportation tactics and confirmed it has begun raids on families, despite Democratic candidates and immigrant advocates saying officials could be sending mothers and children to their deaths. [HuffPo]

Watching Kentucky’s Environmental Death Speed Up At The Hands Of The Bevin Administration

NOTE: We’ll do update posts like these the next couple days but probably not much else. Just like every year in the past, this end-of-year slowness is taken advantage of. There may be a few stories here and there, so feel free to check daily. Back in full-time action in January.

’Tis the season for shopping, from the pre-dawn chaos of Black Friday to the last after-Christmas and New Year’s Day sales. The annual shopping frenzy got me to thinking about Lexington’s retail landscape and how much it has changed in just my lifetime. It makes me wonder what it will be like in another 50 or 60 years. [H-L]

The latest report on the Arctic by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds dwindling sea ice and temperatures as much as 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) above average are disrupting walrus and fish populations and having major impacts on the ecosystem. [HuffPo]

Kentucky’s new top environmental regulator, recently retired from working for the coal industry, has filed a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first rules to curb power plant pollution blamed for causing climate change. [C-J/AKN]

Middle-school students in urban areas may benefit from in-school mindfulness programs, a new study suggests. [Reuters]

Alpha Natural Resources continues to scale back its coal-mining operations. [Richmond Register]

Nursing home workers across the country are posting embarrassing and dehumanizing photos of elderly residents on social media networks such as Snapchat, violating their privacy, dignity and, sometimes, the law. [ProPublica]

The year 2015 has been one of progress, when taking into consideration the improvements that have been made in town such as street repairs, sidewalk improvements or the launch of a new industrial site, according to Cave City officials. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Seems like only yesterday Mitch McConnell was touting these plans as the savior. Despite facing mounting evidence federal officials were overpaying some Medicare health plans by tens of millions of dollars a year, the government dialed back efforts to recover as much of the money as possible, newly released records show. [NPR]

Teach For America celebrated Computer Science Education Week by having a Hour of Code at Hazard High School. [Hazard Herald]

Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician in Baltimore, was used to living on a tight budget, carefully apportioning his Social Security and pension benefits to cover his rent and medication for multiple sclerosis. [NY Times]

An expert marksman with a cowboy hat and remarkable intuition, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens was a fictional lawman from Harlan County known around the nation for his exploits on the award-winning TV series Justified. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

A New York University official’s response to an email from a senior at Brown University asking for a fee waiver has set off a firestorm on Twitter about low-income students’ access to higher education. [ThinkProgress]

The $1.1 trillion spending package passed by both houses of Congress on Friday includes $30 million for Kentucky’s coal producing regions to redevelop abandoned mine sites with an eye toward boosting the economy. [H-L]

White man’s alleged bomb plot against Muslims is a reminder that nobody has a monopoly on terror. The suspect had expressed support for Donald Trump, saying he’d “follow this MAN to the end of the world.” [HuffPo]

Your support is crucial if you want to see us continue. While other media outlets ignore scandals like those in Montgomery County, we’re shining the bright lights of transparency on issues that directly impact you across the Commonwealth. Love us or hate us, we’re putting in the time and effort to spend years reporting on issues from the pension crisis to government-sanctioned animal cruelty to educational corruption and we get real results. [Help Us!]