Environment Local News

Lawsuit Alleges Damages From “Whiskey Fungus”

A lawsuit filed today in federal court alleges a black substance coating the homes of residents in some areas of Louisville is caused by whiskey distilling.

Attorney Bill McMurray says for years, residents have seen a black substance growing on metal surfaces, and it’s nearly impossible to remove.

“And it’s only recently been understood within the last couple of years what the actual cause for that blackening is, and it’s this particular fungus,” he said.

The so-called “whiskey fungus”—or Baudoinia compniacensis—coats metal surfaces. It’s caused by ethanol—which is released during distilling—mixing with moisture.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Novelist Creates Own Drinking Game at Readings

Louisville author Patrick Wensink has discovered one simple strategy to help people pay attention during book tour readings. He’s made a drinking game out of his.

“I’ve always felt like the worst part of a book reading is the book reading,” says Wensink. “I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve sort of zoned out in the past and haven’t paid attention to every word.”

Wensink hands out a list of six words before he reads an excerpt from his new novel. Every time he reads one of the key words, everyone (author included) takes a sip.

“I did a reading last month in Portland and I finished two and a half beers in, what, ten minutes? Fifteen minutes, maybe, depending on how fast I read? I suffer for my art, I guess,” he says.

It might be a gimmick, but at least it’s thematically sound. Wensink’s new book, “Broken Piano for President,” is a dark comedy about a loser who tends to black out after a couple of beers.

Local News

Preliminary East End Bridge Work Set for August

Indiana officials are advertising for bids for preparatory work on the state‘s portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield says construction will begin this summer on a road extension between Utica, Indiana and the River Ridge Commerce Center.

It’s the first step toward construction of a new east end bridge.

“We anticipate with bids opening July 11 that we’ll be breaking ground about August in terms of beginning work there. The road extension would open about June, 2013, and obviously we still have the larger procurement for the east end bridge that will be ongoing at that time,” Wingfield said today.

Wingfield says officials hope to have the east end bridge finished by 2018, if not sooner.

Kentucky officials are working with potential contractors on the larger portion of the bridges project, construction of a span in downtown Louisville and the reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction.

Environment Local News

AEP to Reconsider Alternatives to Coal at Eastern Kentucky Plant

Big Sandy PowerplantAmerican Electric Power may have changed its mind about the future of the coal-fired Big Sandy Power Plant in Eastern Kentucky. The company has an application pending with the Kentucky Public Service Commission to install pollution controls at the plant to continue burning coal. But WFPL has learned that AEP filed to withdraw the application today.

Now, instead of moving ahead with the retrofit of the Big Sandy plant, the company plans to re-evaluate alternatives to comply with upcoming air pollution standards.

Spokesman Ronn Robinson said the company made the decision to reconsider alternatives to coal because outlooks suggest more energy capacity in the market in the next few years. “We will look at everything again,” he said. “We will look at the continued use of coal, the scrubber may stay an option, we will look at gas, we will do a total review, in light of the new energy landscape to make the decision that’s in the best interest of our customers and ratepayers.”

Earthjustice attorney Shannon Fisk represented environmental groups that intervened in the case, arguing that it would be more cost-effective to replace the plant’s capacity with a mix of other natural gas, renewable energy and efficiency measures.

Fisk called AEP’s application withdrawal a victory for both the environment and ratepayers, and said it’s a move that he hopes will be noticed around the country.

“It’s clearly not economic to retrofit this coal plant in the heart of coal country,” he said. “And that really sends a message for coal plants throughout the country, if it’s not even economic to do it in Kentucky, it’s certainly not economic to be spending hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars on aging coal infrastructure like Ohio and Michigan and Tennessee.”

Local News

State Tax Overhaul Panel Begins Regional Hearings

From Chad Lampe, Kentucky Public Radio

Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky’s Blue Ribbon Tax Commission are seeking public comment to help develop recommendations on overhauling the state tax code.

Abramson says around 100 people attended the first of six regional public hearings last night in Paducah. The commission wraps up public meetings in August and will have three months to finish the plan by a November deadline. Abramson is hopeful the plan will pass the legislature.

“I’m sure there will be people that will disagree with whatever the consensus decision recommendations are from this blue ribbon group. But, you need a majority. The hope is that we’ll be able to with democratic and republican legislators on the commission that they that they will help us with their respective caucuses to move the proposals forward,” he said.

With the plan complete before Thanksgiving, the governor could call a special session to pass the recommendation, which would only require a simple majority of votes in each chamber. If Gov. Beshear waits until the next legislative session in January it would take a super majority in each chamber to pass the legislation.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Paul Proposes Cutting Pakistan Aid to Help Release bin Laden Informant

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to introduce legislation to cut all aid to Pakistan until the foreign country releases a physician who assisted the U.S. in killing Osama bin Laden.

According to reports, Dr. Shakil Afridi worked with U.S. intelligence officials to run a number of a fake hepatitis B vaccine programs in order to prove the terrorist leader lived in the Abbottabad compound.

Last week, a Pakistani court sentenced Afridi to 33 years in prison for treason under tribal law.

“Pakistan must understand that they are choosing the wrong side. They accuse Dr. Afridi of working against Pakistan, but he was simply helping the U.S. capture the head of al Qaida. Surely Pakistan is not linking their interests with those of an international terrorist organization,” Paul said in a statement.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Louisville Innovative Delivery Team to Tackle Urban Problems

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has put together a special team that will take on five urban challenges.

The projects range from to expanding recycling and reducing the number of low-severity 911 calls to implementing a more efficient rezoning process. Fischer announced a six-member “Innovation Delivery Team” will deal with the five goals, which will be funded by a $4.8 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies that the city received last year.

Fischer says the hope is to bring breakthrough ideas to Metro Government, such as new ways to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties.

“We’re soon going to take legal action to foreclose on 100 of the most market desirable properties. Once the city acquires these properties, they’re going to be converted to productive use by putting them into the hands of people who will improve and restore them,” he says. “So the goal with this project is to reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent within three years and 67 percent in five years.”

Local News Politics

Yarmuth Hosting Third Annual Workshop for Job-Seekers

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., will host the third annual “Build Your Skills” workshop next month at Jefferson Community and Technical College’s downtown campus.

The event is hosted in conjunction with KentuckianaWorks, the Louisville Urban League and Metropolitan College, and is free and open to residents.

Yarmuth says Louisville residents who are unemployed, underemployed or looking to change their careers are invited to attend, where they can receive professional advice on resume writing, job-hunting, and interviewing.

The workshop is scheduled for June 15 and will be from 9 a.m. to Noon. Check-in for the event begins at 8 a.m., for more information call 502-582-5129.

Frankfort Local News

National Progressive Group Targets Kentucky Lawmakers for ALEC Ties

A national progressive organization that’s pressuring Democrats to drop their memberships in a conservative nonprofit is now operating in Kentucky.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has spearheaded several national campaigns, like the push to recall Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and with Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s U.S. Senate bid.

The group is also encouraging lawmakers to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC helps draft and pass state legislation, and the group has come under fire recently for its involvement in Florida’s controversial “Stand your ground” law.

The PCCC has been working for months to encourage lawmakers in other states to drop their ALEC memberships. Now, PCCC state director James Ploeser says the group is focusing on three Kentucky Democrats: Gerald Neal, Walter Blevins and Kathy Stein.

Defining Fairness Local News

Growing Up Gay in Appalachia: Whit Forrester, Defining Fairness

The thought of growing up gay in rural Eastern Kentucky would make many Louisvillians cringe. But how much of that reaction is rooted in stereotypes we hold about rural Kentucky? Whit Forrester spent some of his childhood in Leburn, Kentucky—a town in Knott County, with a population of around eight hundred people. Whit says when people hear he’s from Appalachia, “they’re like barefoot, pregnant, in a trailer… and you know how to change a propane tank.”

Whit spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis about growing up gay in Appalachia.

The audio portion of this conversation contains descriptions of situations that may make some listeners uncomfortable and may not be appropriate for younger listeners.

Audio MP3

On Labels

"I think that there's a strength, and sometimes also a weakness, in immediately identifying into a categorization, whether it is one that you've chosen yourself or one that society's given you. So sometimes when people are like, 'How would you describe yourself?' I can rattle off, 'Oh, I'm a queer, Scotch-Irish, Appalachian individual, cisgendered…' you know, I have all the words to sort of line up who I am, if that's what we're getting at. But sometimes it seems like you can close down a conversation that would have been more open before that.

When we're using just those identity words, a lot of times that's like a shortcut around a conversation. I would rather be like, this is what I enjoy doing sexually, and this is how I identify gender-wise, and these are my experiences. It becomes a conversation. And I think that's kind of what we need. "

On Class Divisions within the LGBTQ Community

"People who are closer to power feel like they can actually get it. So when you're talking about a straight-acting white guy who wants to lobby for gay issues, it's going to be his gay issues. So marriage. Sure. Why not. But simultaneously, hunger is a gay issue. Domestic violence is a gay issue. You can go down the line. Everything is a gay issue.

And that's kind of where I think that a lot of the white activist community kind of messes up, is that those folks–people who are identifying as white–they can't be leaders. I don't think that they should be the ones calling shots, or doing this community organizing. Which doesn't mean that you just run out and find a person of color, or find a queer street kid, and be like, 'You're a leader now! Hop on up, let's show you how to do this.' But I do think that that needs to be really centralized in the conversation, that your best intentions are just basically paving the road to hell."

On Activism

"People are in these various level of activism, whether it's lobbying, working in non-profit sectors, working in bike collectives, teaching young trans kids how to make a dress out of a sheet. All those are necessary components of what we're building. And I think that another issue is that we don't really know what we're building. We're just trying to build something different. 

Again, people with great intentions want to know what to do. They want to do something. We have this idea of what activism looks like. For me,  what's been really important in my own development and my own support structures have been cooperative institutions. A lot of times I wish that there were more conversations about that, so that folks weren't just given the opportunity to give money or go to fundraisers, but there were places to put your body. Whether it's like at the local volunteer co-op… something. Not your money. Your body."