89.3 WFPL http://wfpl.org Louisville's NPR® News Station Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:53:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Police Brutality Protest Shuts Down Busy Louisville Intersection http://wfpl.org/police-brutality-protest-shuts-busy-louisville-intersection/ http://wfpl.org/police-brutality-protest-shuts-busy-louisville-intersection/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:31:01 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28709 A protest against police brutality briefly shut down a busy Highlands neighborhood intersection early Saturday afternoon. About 50 protestors halted traffic near Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway. They held signs aloft, carried replica caskets and cited several recent, high-profile police shootings and an … Read Story

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A protest against police brutality briefly shut down a busy Highlands neighborhood intersection early Saturday afternoon.

About 50 protestors halted traffic near Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway. They held signs aloft, carried replica caskets and cited several recent, high-profile police shootings and an in-custody death in cities across the country.

Police made no arrests and issued no citations issued during the hourlong protest.

Travis Mayberry said he was doing his “due diligence” when he stood in the middle of the road with the intention to stop traffic.

“Black lives matter, all lives matter,” Mayberry said.

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Protesters gather at Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway to mourn the victims of police killings.

 

All who took part chanted the now common phrase: “No justice, no peace.”

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Protesters gathered at Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway on Saturday afternoon, stopping traffic for nearly an hour.

 

Police peacefully disrupted the gathering shortly after 2 p.m.

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Louisville Metro Police disperse a protest Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.

 

The gathering was similar to other protests that have popped up around the country in recent weeks after grand jury decisions to not indict police officers responsible for killing unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.

 

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Protesters lined Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway Saturday afternoon.

 

Mayberry, 25, said stopping traffic is a way to “disrupt business as usual” and show that changes need to happen.

Travis Mayberry, Louisville native.Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Travis Mayberry, Louisville native.

Those changes, Mayberry said, include making sure local police officials to equip officers with body cameras.

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A protester stands with her hands above her head as Louisville Metro Police keep watch Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.

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Strange Fruit: Going Home Gay for the Holidays http://wfpl.org/strange-fruit-going-home-gay-holidays-2/ http://wfpl.org/strange-fruit-going-home-gay-holidays-2/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:01:53 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28665 Even under the best of circumstances, the holidays can be stressful. For some queer folks, they also mean deciding whether to go home to a family who doesn’t fully embrace them. This time of year, we like to listen back to … Read Story

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Even under the best of circumstances, the holidays can be stressful. For some queer folks, they also mean deciding whether to go home to a family who doesn’t fully embrace them.

This time of year, we like to listen back to a conversation we had with Dr. Stephanie Budge, who has taught workshops on coping with the holidays as an LGBTQ person.

She said while some families do overtly antagonistic things (like using the wrong pronoun for trans folks, yelling, or refusing to let their LGBTQ family member bring a partner to holiday functions), what she hears about the most is simply ignoring. A person might come out as queer to their family, only for the response to be silence and an unwillingness to acknowledge their identity.

Dr. Budge gave us some coping strategies we can all use during moments of holiday stress and family conflict, how to take full advantage of your chosen family’s love when your family of origin doesn’t support you, and how to tell when things are so unhealthy or unsafe it might be better to skip going home altogether.

If you are experiencing a crisis, The Trevor Project can help. Call their lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or visit the website for instructions on how to text them or chat online. Stay safe, Fruitcakes. We love you.

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we continue to indulge in our end-of-the-year-list mania with 2014′s top Google searches, both nationally and globally. Last year, everyone was asking Google how to twerk. This year, we really just wanted to know whether we had Ebola. Also on the list was Ray Rice, Ferguson, the Sochi Olympics, the missing Malaysian airliner, and the World Cup (a sports competition that doesn’t involve Wade Davis, Britney Griner or Michael Sam, so we don’t know much about it).

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Is Kentucky Prepared for an Infectious Disease Outbreak? http://wfpl.org/kentucky-prepared-infectious-disease-outbreak/ http://wfpl.org/kentucky-prepared-infectious-disease-outbreak/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:01:26 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28561 Yesterday, NPR reported on a study that found many states are not prepared for outbreaks of infectious diseases. The report, Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases, issued failing grades to half of the states and the District of Columbia on 10 … Read Story

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Yesterday, NPR reported on a study that found many states are not prepared for outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The report, Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases, issued failing grades to half of the states and the District of Columbia on 10 measures of preparedness. They looked at state’s efforts to get half the population vaccinated for flu; reduce the number of bloodstream infections caused by central lines for people in the hospital; and response time for emergency laboratory tests.

Kentucky scored three out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks like ebola, enterovirus and superbugs.

Indiana scored five points on the report.

Rich Hamburg, deputy director of the non-profit Trust for America’s Health, said the report was designed to look at the underlying gaps that may exists in a state’s preparedness.

“These are indicators that are important to have in place to prevent the spread of disease, detect, diagnose and respond to outbreaks,” he said. “If you don’t meet them all or you meet a smaller amount does it mean you’re unprepared? No, not necessarily.”

But the report may be still concerning, he said.

The state received a total of three points for meeting the Healthy People 2020 target:

  • 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months receiving recommended doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine
  • conducting an exercise or utilizing a real event to evaluate the time for sentinel clinical laboratories to acknowledge receipt of an urgent message from laboratory between July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014;
  • and meeting the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported E. coli O157 cases within four days.

Public health funding in the state has decreased by 8.1 percent from fiscal year 2012-2013 to 2013-2014.

The report also said the state has made budgetary cuts for public health the last three years.

“Funding is absolutely an important component, if not the most important component, in emergency preparedness,” he said.

Hamburg said that there have been dramatic improvements in state and local capacities, but state officials still need to be vigilant.

“We have formerly deadly diseases—polio, mumps, measles—that we thought were eradicated that you see coming back because there isn’t a prioritization of those outbreaks since we’re confronting other outbreaks,” he said.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The report was issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health.

It also outlined actions state public health officials could adopt to manage potential outbreaks, such as quickly diagnosing outbreaks with laboratory testing and having investigators who can tract contacts.

Testing and contract tracing were used to contain the Ebola cases in Texas, and are used routinely by state and local health department to combat outbreaks of food-borne illness and containing outbreaks with vaccines, medications and other countermeasures, including quarantine.

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Kentucky House Democrats’ Top Priority: The Local Option Sales Tax http://wfpl.org/kentucky-house-democrats-top-priority-the-local-option-sales-tax/ http://wfpl.org/kentucky-house-democrats-top-priority-the-local-option-sales-tax/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 01:10:05 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28698 FRANKFORT—Kentucky Democratic House leaders announced Friday that their highest priority in the upcoming legislative session will be passing a bill allowing local governments to enact local option sales taxes. The legislation, designated House Bill 1, would allow local governments to … Read Story

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FRANKFORT—Kentucky Democratic House leaders announced Friday that their highest priority in the upcoming legislative session will be passing a bill allowing local governments to enact local option sales taxes.

The legislation, designated House Bill 1, would allow local governments to put public projects on November ballots, and allow residents to vote on whether they should pay a one cent sales tax for a limited amount of time to fund the project.

A study conducted by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute on found that Louisville has the highest income tax rate among its 14 peer cities, a finding similar to that in a 2011 national study which ranked Louisville as the fifth most tax-burdened city in the country. U of L researchers also found that the city’s poorest residents—those making between $10,000 and $15,000 annually—would be hit the hardest.

But Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said those numbers are wrong.

“First, your facts aren’t accurate on where our position is on that. We’ll be happy to give you a paper on that,” said Fischer, who told WFPL last year that the U of L study—a $25,000 report sponsored by Louisville Metro Council Member Ken Fleming, R-7—was valuable in helping Fischer gain support for the measure.

“Look, any time there’s a sales tax that argument is going to be made. That’s why the state put their exemptions on food, medicine, utilities—it lessens the regressivity of it,” said Fischer.

“What a local county or city has to decide is: ‘Do they want to play to win?’”

Fischer’s office has claimed that a LOST could bring Louisville $90 million annually with a one percent hike to the sales tax, though the U of L study found that it would generate $138 million.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, was against the local option sales tax last year, when similar legislation failed to muster enough support among rural representatives to be called for a vote in the House.

Less than a year ago, he said: “There’s a lot of options that they have, that they haven’t used, for local option taxes if they want to utilize them. So I don’t necessarily favor it.”

But Stumbo said Friday that he changed his mind after Gov. Steve Beshear convinced him last spring that locally collected taxes would reduce the need for state budget dollars to fund large projects.

“What they’re saying is that if you have to pay a little bit more because you make less but remember—as Mayor Fischer pointed out correctly—the exemptions that currently exist in state would follow through in the event that these taxes were adopted by the local communities,” said Stumbo.

House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, an Owensboro Democrat, called the measure “A tide that lifts all boats.”

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, however, found that even with tax exemptions on items like groceries, low-income residents will still be paying out a greater percent of their earnings than high-income residents on the tax.

“A sales tax that includes groceries is more regressive than one that does not,” reads the report. “But, as the graph shows, even with the exemptions the poorest 20 percent of Kentuckians pay five times more of their incomes in sales taxes than do the richest one percent of Kentuckians.”

Their findings echo those of the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy:

Even with an uneven impact on poorer families, a 2013 Bluegrass Poll found that 72 percent of voters support the proposal.

Sponsors of the measure will need that same type of widespread support in the legislature. Since the bill is a constitutional amendment, a constitutional majority—or two thirds of both chambers—must vote in favor before it can become law.

Stumbo estimates that the bill will garner 35 to 40 co-sponsors in the House, among them Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, a Jamestown Republican, who appeared beside Democratic leaders in support of the bill.

Hoover believes revenue-raising measures belong in the hands of local government, but he has regrets about the bill.

“The biggest regret about this legislation for me is the fact that it’s not part of a larger, comprehensive tax reform,” he said. “I’ve been an outspoken advocate for comprehensive tax reform for several years now and we have to do that in this state. I regret this is not part of it.”

Hoover’s Republican counterparts in the state Senate, however, may be less supportive of the local option sales tax. Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, said last year that his caucus was not focused on adding taxes.

Stivers told WFPL last year the 24 members of his caucus only favor tax reform which creates jobs and “does not subject the individual to anymore liability, but brings more people into the base.”

WFPL asked Stumbo: With evidence that a sales tax hits poor people harder, why not push for the type of local option tax that effects all income levels equally?

“I never really agreed with those numbers personally. I think we ought to have a national sales tax and do away with the federal income tax,” said Stumbo. “I don’t agree that 0.6 percent of disposable income for lower-income individuals, I don’t think, is necessarily onerous.”

When asked whether there would be a possibility for a local option tax on luxury items, Stumbo grinned.

“We’ll probably have to cross one bridge at a time,” he said. “But I don’t think any of us obviously, or any of us here or any of us in either on of these chambers, want to place any more hardships on people earning minimum wage.”

The 2015 session of Kentucky General Assembly begins Jan. 6.

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EPA Finalizes First National Regulations for Coal Ash http://wfpl.org/epa-finalizes-first-national-regulations-coal-ash/ http://wfpl.org/epa-finalizes-first-national-regulations-coal-ash/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:11:07 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=28632 The federal government has released the nation’s first-ever rules on how to handle, store and dispose of waste from coal-fired power plants. The final iteration of the regulations has largely disappointed environmental groups—who hoped for more stringent rules. Industry groups … Read Story

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ash_landfillErica Peterson | wfpl.org

The federal government has released the nation’s first-ever rules on how to handle, store and dispose of waste from coal-fired power plants. The final iteration of the regulations has largely disappointed environmental groups—who hoped for more stringent rules. Industry groups were more optimistic, but largely said they would have preferred the Environmental Protection Agency not finalize the rules at all and leave the matter up to Congress. The EPA was choosing between two options, and chose to regulate coal ash as akin to household garbage, rather than hazardous waste.

When coal is burned for electricity, the resulting byproduct is a dusty product called coal ash (sometimes also called CCR, for coal combustion residuals). Coal ash is stored in dry landfills and wet ponds around the country, including at Louisville’s Cane Run and Mill Creek power plants. The ash contains toxic materials like arsenic and selenium, but until now, it hasn’t been regulated on a federal level. In Kentucky, various aspects of the pond and landfill were regulated by the state.

As environmental regulations have cracked down on the air pollution emitted from plants, the amount of coal ash produced has grown. Most of the heavy metals and other toxic contaminants aren’t going out the smokestacks anymore, but instead remain in the ash. Environmental analyses have suggested that many coal ash storage ponds are leaking and contaminating nearby groundwater. And in the past decade, there have been several large spills where the dams containing the ash in those storage ponds have been breached, resulting in widespread destruction. The most famous of these spills was in December 2008 in Kingston, Tennessee, where 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash covered more than 300 acres of rivers, fields and homes.

“EPA is taking action to protect our communities from the risk of mismanaged coal ash disposal units, and putting in place safeguards to help prevent the next catastrophic coal ash impoundment failure, which can cost millions for local businesses, communities and states,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. “These strong safeguards will protect drinking water from contamination, air from coal ash dust, and our communities from structural failures, while providing facilities a practical approach for implementation.”

But the new rule isn’t as stringent as environmental groups had lobbied for. Organizations like the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council had hoped the EPA would regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, which would also require federal enforcement. Under the new rule, enforcement will be left up to citizens (or states) filing lawsuits.

Mary Ann Hitt of the Sierra Club called the rules a “modest first step.”

“Some parts of what the EPA has handed down will provide useful tools for communities, like requiring groundwater monitoring and dust controls around coal ash sites and making that data available to the public, but we are disappointed that it allows utilities to continue disposing of coal ash in ponds and does not incorporate strong federal enforcement,” she said in a press release.

“Today’s announcement still leaves people to largely fend for themselves against powerful utility interests that have historically ignored public health in favor of delayed action.”

Industry groups praised the decision to not regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, which they argued would make it harder to recycle the substance. In 2013, about 40 percent of the nation’s coal ash was recycled into products like concrete and wall board.

“We still have concerns with the self-implementing nature of the rule and the way in which EPA has left the door open to one day regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, creating additional uncertainty for electric utilities,” said Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn in a statement. “These regulations will add to the challenges the electric power industry faces in providing reliable, affordable and increasingly clean electricity to power the U.S. economy and to enhance the daily lives of all Americans.

“Passing legislation that establishes state-enforced federal requirements for the disposal of coal ash would address many of our concerns and help eliminate uncertainty. EEI will continue to advocate for such legislation in the next Congress. As always, EEI’s member companies support and comply with our nation’s environmental laws, and our industry continues to ensure that those laws are fully met.”

There’s also an online petition spearheaded by the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group to ask Congress to regulate coal ash, rather than the EPA.

The new rule will have implications for coal ash storage at both of Louisville’s coal-fired power plants. Louisville Gas & Electric’s Cane Run Power Station is scheduled to close next year; the company is building a natural-gas fired plant in its place. Under the new rules, if LG&E removes all the water from the ash pond at Cane Run and installs a cap, the pond can avoid regulation under the new rules.

The plant’s neighbors have spent years registering concerns about the coal ash that leaves the plant’s landfill and contaminates their homes. Kathy Little lives across the street from Cane Run, and she said she would like to have seen the material classified as “hazardous waste.”

“I’m very disappointed,” she said. “Because it is [hazardous]. As far as all of the things that fly ash is composed of, is a very dangerous material. And I’m very let down that it wasn’t deemed hazardous.”

Under the new rule, companies will have to take steps to avoid groundwater contamination and fugitive dust from landfills.

Local Sierra Club organizer Tom Pearce noted that the right to sue companies in federal court is a silver lining to the rule. “We’re going to be on them,” he said. “We’re going to be like a hound dog and be on them until they’re cleaned up.”

LG&E spokeswoman Liz Pratt said the company is still working to analyze the federal rule.

“We have been ahead of the curve across our coal-fired power plant fleet,” she said. “We’ve been putting plans in place starting several years ago to move to dry storage facilities. Our newest special waste dry landfill designs incorporate all current environmental requirements and are expected to meet the standards from this rule.”

These rules are years in the making. The EPA first proposed the measures four-and-a-half years ago, but didn’t take the steps necessary to finalize them. Earlier this year, environmental groups filed a lawsuit to force the agency’s hand, and the EPA agreed to today’s deadline.

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