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City Threatens to End Insight Contract, Richie Farmer Hired Girlfriend for State Job, JCPS Will Use More Local Produce, Bowling Green Draws Praise from Obama on Green Measures: Afternoon Review

In case you got a jump start on the weekend, here are some of the stories we’ve covered today.

Louisville Metro Government will cancel its contract with Insight Communications if it can’t reach a new deal over how the cable company operates soon. The city has filed the necessary paperwork to end its agreement with Insight next month unless a new contract is signed. If that happens, the city will look for a new cable provider, though Insight could continue to operate in Louisville until a new contract is signed.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer hired his girlfriend to a $5,000 a month state job shortly before this year’s elections.

Several local farmers met with Jefferson County Public Schools staff on Thursday to claim some of its $1.7 million dollar produce budget. Last year, the district received 13 percent of its produce from local farmers. This year, the district wants to expand that to 25 percent.

And The Obama Administration is pointing to the success of federal spending in thirteen rural communities, including Bowling Green. A recent report by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities praises the Warren County City for installing energy efficient windows in public housing units and creating green jobs.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

McConnell Blasted For Citing Casey Anthony Trial to Justify Gitmo Tribunals

Citing the verdict in the Casey Anthony case to justify trying terror suspects in military tribunals sounds like a stretch, but that was what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Sunday and it’s put the commonwealth’s senior Senator under increased criticism.

“We found with the Caylee Anthony case how difficult it is to get a conviction in a U.S. court,” McConnell said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Across the web, political observers are lambasting McConnell for the comparison between a local murder case and federal detention of terror suspects, saying he’s attempting to draft the child’s death and her mother’s case into the War on Terror.

From Barefoot & Progressive:

How far is Mitch McConnell willing to go when it comes to the blatant partisan hypocrisy and fearmongering on the terrorists charged in Bowling Green?

From Huffington Post:

Never mind the old American principle about convicting and sentencing only those who have actually been proven guilty. According to McConnell on Fox News this past Sunday, and then former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson in the National Review, we need a court where we can guarantee in advance that any suspected terrorists, arrested anywhere in the world and regardless of whether they pose a threat to the United States, will be convicted and sent away for life (or perhaps executed).

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Bowling Green Rejects Moving Terror Suspects Trial

Despite warnings from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to move the criminal proceedings out of the state, the Bowling Green Board of Commissioners voted against a resolution to relocate two Iraqi nationals charged with terrorism.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, McConnell said the decision to treat Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi as civilian criminal defendants in a Bowling Green federal courtroom is “ill-advised” and widely opposed by Kentuckians.

However, city lawmakers, including Mayor Joe Denning, opposed a resolution that would have asked Holder to move the trial. The measure was defeated by a three-to-two vote.

“We are legislators here as city commissioners and we understand the process to move the trial to some other location should be left up to the judicial system and not the city of Bowling Green,” Denning said in a statement.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

McConnell Urges Gitmo for Iraqi Suspects

Responding to the pending trial of two Iraqi nationals facing terrorism charges in Kentucky, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,  wants the duo shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

In May, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi were arrested in Bowling Green and have been accused of attempting to provide cash and weapons to al Qaida in Iraq. The two men have been indicted on 23 counts and if convicted they could face life in prison.

“Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won’t be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky,” McConnell said Tuesday in a Senate floor speech. “Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can prevent Kentuckians from having to cover the cost and having to deal with the disturbances and disruptions that would come with a civilian trial. And sending them to Gitmo is the best way to ensure that they get what they deserve. So today I’m calling on the administration to change course—and get these men out of Kentucky.”

McConnell has been a frequent critic of President Barack Obama’s failed efforts to close the controversial military base located in Cuba and forceful opponent against any attempts to prosecute terror suspects in civilians courts.

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Local News Politics

Terror Suspects Arrested in Bowling Green Due in Court

by Dan Modlin, Kentucky Public Radio

Two Iraqi men who are facing terrorism charges are due in court tomorrow (Wednesday) in Bowling Green. The hearing will determine whether the men should be held without bail while their case is pending.

The two were indicted on 23 counts in connection with their alleged attempts to provide cash and weapons to al Qaida in Iraq. If convicted of all counts, they could face life in prison.

Court filings indicate the men were involved in IED attacks against American soldiers before they came to the United States. They were arrested in Bowling Green in May. Their case has raised a number of questions about how the men were able to enter the U.S. Senator Rand Paul has called for congressional hearings to investigate the matter.

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Local News

GM Invests in Corvette Plant

by Dan Modlin, Kentucky Public Radio

General Motors will spend $131 million to upgrade its plant in Bowling Green.

GM North America Preisdent Mark Reuss says the money will upgrade the plant so it can build the next generation of Corvettes.

“Last week we announced a number of significant improvements to the 2012 Corvette coming this fall. The third generation will continue for at least two more years, while behind the scenes work will begin to update the facility and ensure the Corvette will continue to be the true American sports car, built here for many years to come,” he says.

Reuss says the expanded capabilities at the facility will eventually create about 250 new jobs.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Smaller, Independent Theme Parks Thriving

In recent years, the economy has sent some theme park profits and attendance numbers rolling downhill. Profits flattened after a near decade of increasing revenues that topped out at more than $12 billion. Last year, the theme park chain Six Flags filed for bankruptcy after it carried heavy debt into the recession. But smaller parks have been able to ride out the recession due to some specific strategies.

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Between farms and cornfields dotting Indiana’s southwestern landscape sits Holiday World, a 64-year-old theme park where families line up to pay one admission price to access all rides. But Matt Eckert, its general manager, says these lines aren’t where he saw evidence of the recession nearly two years ago.

“We started seeing a lot of our picnic customers canceling,” Eckert says. “Obviously if a company’s having a down period one of the first things they’re going to cut is you know their employee parties.”

Although company picnic business fell off by about 30 percent, attendance numbers for the everyday customer — which accounts for 85 percent of the park’s business — actually increased. Eckert says this was in part due to admission being fairly inexpensive at about $42. That includes Holiday World’s newest ride — the Wildebeest, the world’s longest water coaster. It’s a series of yellow tubes where flowing water helps shoot riders on a raft through the very wet labyrinth.

Regularly adding new rides is one of the strategies parks like Holiday World use to get customers to return each year and attract new ones. Eckert sums it up this way: “We like those E-S-T words — the biggest, the tallest, the fastest, the best,” he says. “We always go for something that’s going to top something else in the industry if we can.”

The Wildebeest cost more than $5 million — no chump change during a recession. But Eckert says that ride is a factor in business being up this year over last. And he says the company picnic crowd is starting to return. Holiday World has done drawn crowds by making investments over several decades. One of the biggest was adding its Splashin’ Safari water park 1993.

“The water park was huge,” says Pat Koch, the matriarch of the family that started the park. “The water park really helped to increase attendance when it was a very hot, humid day.”

And it has helped business this summer, with its record high temperatures, says Koch, who is also the mother of Will Koch. He oversaw the park’s rapid growth and died last month in an accidental drowning. She says the family is dedicated to continuing the family business and growing it, just as Will Koch would have wanted.

And other independently owned parks in the region are growing — including Bowling Green’s Beech Bend, with its adjoining auto race tracks. It spent $5 million to add a water park with a wave pool and other water rides, which it recently opened after a massive clean up following the April floods. Now, park-owner Dallas Jones says attendance is up.

“I’m going to say we’re in the 7 or 8 percent bracket, if I had to guess,” Jones says. “It may be even a little higher than that. The sad part of it is we’re about six weeks behind.”

These smaller parks, which appeal to people vacationing near home during this recession, are a bit of an anomaly in a sea of larger theme park companies that have seen revenues drop. They’ve had had to cut expenses and slash ticket prices to bring customers through the gates. With that backdrop, industry eyes were keenly focused on last months opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, says Dennis Speigel who consults theme parks nationwide. He says in these times, large bureaucratic companies often have limited access to credit and are unable to commit to new attractions.

“When you’re an independent operator, and assuming you have the capital, you can make these decisions rather quickly and implement them rapidly,” Speigel says.

Louisville businessman Ed Hart says he understands the strengths of these smaller parks. He once operated Kentucky Kingdom before selling it to Six Flags. He built up that park with big rides and one of the industry’s first water parks accessible with a general park entrance fee. While Six Flags closed that park earlier this year, Hart is now in negotiations to reopen Kentucky Kingdom next summer. He says he sees the smaller parks leading the way in the industry.

“Park owners are starting to realize that the future is more in creating family entertainment as opposed to just trying to appeal to teenagers with these high-thrill rides,” he says.

And industry observers say that kind of thinking could be to the ticket to a rebound for the industry.