President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are preparing for their first debate this week, and observers are eager to see if it will impact the race.Both campaigns have been complimentary of each other and are trying to lower expectations before the televised debate in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday in order to gain an advantage going in. But experts agree that stakes are higher for Romney, who trails the president according to most polls in battleground states.Tiffany Dillard-Knox is acting director of the University of Louisville debate team. She says people are excited to watch the first presidential debate, but that the forums are becoming more of a liability."I think the debates more likely can make you lose a candidacy more so than win one. You can say the wrong things. I don’t think people are really listening for the right things anymore. But I think people are taking into consideration when the candidates are saying the wrong things," she says.Other debate experts have said that Mr. Obama has the strength of focus while he often comes off as emotionally detached and at times condescending. They also say Romney’s asset is coming off as well-prepared and smooth, but that he often appears as out of touch or too slick for average voters to connect with.Polls show Mr. Obama ahead on key issues, but observers say there is still ample time for Romney to surpass the president. Romney is expected to focus on the cost of President Obama’s policies, including the health care overhaul. The GOP challenger will also likely criticize the rising debt and sluggish economic recovery."Romney has to use the debates as an opportunity to make up for some of the rhetorical mistakes he’s made over the last few months. And I think that’s the benefit of the debates for Romney," says Knox. "But I think that President Obama has proven historically that he can hold his own with regards to being attacked or questioned about what he’s done or what he hasn’t done."You can listen to the first presidential live on WFPL 89.3 FM on Wednesday.
A federal judge has ruled against environmental groups who wanted a mountain in West Virginia to be returned to the National Register of Historic Places.Blair Mountain, in southern West Virginia, was the site of a significant battle in the fight to unionize the coalfields. But it's also a mountain in southern West Virginia, which means it has significant coal reserves, and a coal company interested in mining them. There was a march for the mountain last year, and some Louisville residents and Kentuckians attended.Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette has a brief post about the ruling on his blog, Coal Tattoo.I’ve posted a copy of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton here, but in short, the judge ruled that the citizen groups could not meet one of the requirements to show “standing” to bring the case, that of “redressability,” or that a favorable ruling from the court would redress their injury. The judge explained:It is likely, therefore, that surface mining would be permitted on the Blair Mountain Battlefield as a result of permits that were acquired prior to the historic district’s inclusion on the National Register. An order from this Court restoring the Blair Mountain Battlefield to the National Register, therefore, will not prevent mining from occurring should the coal mining companies who own existing permits choose to exercise their rights afforded by the permits. The Court having only a limited ability to redress the plaintiffs’ asserted injuries, the plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden under the final prong of the standing inquiry.
The University of Louisville Wings Clinic is consolidating patient care to its downtown Louisville branch. Wings is a research and treatment facility for patients with HIV and AIDS, and used to offer patient care one day a week in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Now, University of Louisville spokeswoman Julie Heflin says it makes sense to merge the operations in downtown Louisville.“There is expanded opportunity to be seen here five days a week instead of just a half day on Thursday morning,” she said. “So those patients will still be seen, they’ll just have to come to the downtown Louisville location and walk-ins are welcome at this clinic.”Heflin said that the Jeffersonville clinic will be notifying its current patients of the change, and that the clinic will help patients who wish to find a healthcare provider in southern Indiana.
During a televised debate with Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Ma., voiced his displeasure with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and said he's undecided on voting for him to lead the GOP caucus.President Obama is leading in Massachusetts by at least 30 points, and Brown is stressing his role as a moderate Republican with a bipartisan record. Asked if he'd support McConnell next year, Brown said he was undecided and voiced disgust with Congress.Watch (h/t LEO Weekly):Brown is engaged in a close general election race against Warren, who is a popular challenger in Democratic circles. In 2010, Brown won a special election with heavy Tea Party support to replace the late Ted Kennedy.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the recipients of their 'Genius Grants' yesterday, and one of them is a scientist dedicated to studying the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Nancy Rabalais is a marine ecologist and the executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.A 'dead zone' is an area of a body of water that has extremely low oxygen, which makes it difficult for the area to support any type of aquatic life. The Gulf of Mexico's dead zone is the U.S.'s most notorious; in 2010, it was the size of New Jersey.This dead zone is something that's come up in the Ohio River Valley before, because states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana are contributing to the dead zone by letting pollution from wastewater treatment plants and farms discharge into the Ohio River, which eventually makes its way down to the Gulf. In August, 2011, in an effort to stop contributing to the dead zone, environmental groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for pollutants like phosphorus and nitrogen (which right now, are regulated by the states). The petition was denied.As a MacArthur Fellow, Rabalais gets $500,000 with no strings attached. She has said the money will come in handy for her research, at a time when federal support is harder to get, and plans to spend at least some of the funds on new equipment.
Big money is being spent this week by the political parties and outside groups in the Indiana Senate contest between Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock.The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reportedly bought another $439,000 in advertisements for this week and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is following suit. For the past week, the conservative super PAC American Crossroads bas been running a nearly $1 million ad buy against Donnelly for his votes in support of President Obama's agenda. But a gang of liberal organizations led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Majority PAC, announced Tuesday that they are launching a $1 million campaign against Mourdock this week to highlight his opposition to the auto bailout.Check it out:Majority PAC will be joined by AFSCME and Center Forward in the TV ads.
The last of WFPL's Jefferson County Board of Education election debates is tonight at 6:30 pm.WFPL has held District 2 and District 4 debates in previous weeks and all five candidates vying for southeastern Louisville's District 7 seat have confirmed their attendance tonight.Candidates, Jonathan Robertson, Marty Bell, Chris Brady, Chris Fell and James Sexton are all vying to replace retiring board member Larry Hujo.The event is free and open to the public. The debates begin at 6:30 pm Thursday night at 619 South Fourth Street. Please arrive early.
The last of 48 Jefferson County Public Schools students involved in a bus accident last week was released from Kosair Children’s Hospital Monday.The district will continue offering counseling services throughout the week as needed.On Friday, a bus heading toward Frost Middle School was hit by a car carrying three students from Butler High.District officials say none of the injuries were life threatening and most of the students were released either last Friday or over the weekend.Spokeswoman Christi Linear-Robinson said the district reached out to parents over the weekend and counselors were in schools Monday, but will continue to be available throughout the week.“Counselors will be on hand for as long as needed. They were there today and will probably be there tomorrow but they will continue to be available to students and their families as long as is needed," she said.Some families were critical of the district’s response immediately following the accident, but district officials said they responded according to the information provided by EMS.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission will begin a study of smart grid technology, and whether the devices will help electric consumers.The term “smart grid” is used to refer to technology like smart meters, and other equipment that helps utilities monitor electricity and detect outages. PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says the tools can be useful for consumers, too.“Smart grid technology enables the use of dynamic pricing, which ties the cost of power to the time of day that it is used and to the overall demand on the system,” he said. “Customers can use the technology to monitor pricing and alter their usage accordingly.”This order marks the third time since 2006 the PSC has studied smart grids. The commissioners plan to look at all the issues related to implementing the technology, including implementation cost and whether the devices would encourage energy efficiency.Opinions on smart meters nationwide are mixed. Many environmental groups have embraced them, as a way to improve energy efficiency, and they’re supported by lobbyists and special interest groups. But some say there are concerns about privacy and health effects. Consumers Digest concluded in 2011 that the devices may not deliver on the cost savings they've promised.A few experts suggest that smart-meter conversion represents little more than a boondoggle that is being foisted on consumers by the politically influential companies that make the hardware and software that are required for the smart-meter conversion. And based on our investigation, it’s difficult to disagree.NPR’s Planet Money team also looked at the issue in 2010, and spoke with a behavioral economist who argued smart meters may cause people to use more electricity. “Electricity is really amazingly cheap. It's amazingly cheap to air-condition your whole house for a few hours,” said George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon. “And if the smart meter is giving you objective information about how much it's costing you, you might be surprised at how cheap it is rather than surprised at how expensive it is.”There’s no timeline yet for the Kentucky Public Service Commission’s study of the issue. All the major electric utilities in Kentucky—including Louisville Gas and Electric—are automatically parties to the case, and will be required to provide information to the PSC.
Since taking office, Senator Rand Paul has constantly talked about reducing the national debt. It's also an issue that Congress seemingly discusses for every spending bill, large or small. The economy hasn't escaped this year's presidential race either, with President Barack Obama continuing to champion a plan that includes increased taxes on the wealthy to help pay down some debt. But in a speech to the Horse Cave Rotary Club, Paul pushed back on that idea. Paul argued doing so would hurt private enterprise, which he said helps fund public works the government does."If you have a local business person who opens a Wal-Mart here in town or manages a Wal-Mart in town and they're successful, by all means that’s just the success of them selling something people want," Paul said. "We have to figure out what to do to get ahead through it shouldn’t be about envy and class warfare." Paul said he agrees with President Barack Obama that everyone should work together to address the debt, but he disagrees on how achieve those goals.“It isn’t about us vs. them. It’s not you vs. me. It’s not someone at your table who makes more money than you. We’re all in this together. The president is right in that sense. But what you have to understand that there are two pies. There’s the private sector pie and the government pie," Paul said.Paul told the group that the goal shouldn’t be for Americans to race to get the last slice of that proverbial pie, but to find ways to make the pie bigger.Paul then pointed out that entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, are a gigantic part of the budget, and addressing issues with those programs is the better way to fix the debt. Paul favors tying benefits for the programs to individuals' incomes, then gradually raising the minimum qualification ages.The senator admitted those proposals won't be popular with the general public, but said if accomplished, both programs would be healthy again and there would be more money in the federal budget for education and other programs.
The Louisville Ballet opens its 2012-13 season this week with Val Caniparoli’s “Lady of the Camellias.” The ballet, with music by Frédéric Chopin, runs for three performances on Friday and Saturday in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts’ Whitney Hall.“Lady of the Camellias,” a romance based on a 19th century Alexandre Dumas novel, tells the story of Marguerite, a courtesan whose doomed affair with Armand, a provincial member of the middle class, meets a tragic end. Dumas’ story has been adapted in nearly every medium, from Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” to the 1936 Greta Garbo film “Camille.”The ballet comes with its own tragic backstory as well. This adaptation was originally conceived in the early 1990s by choreographer Norbert Vesak and costume designer Robert Glay de la Rose for Ballet Florida. With libretto written and music chosen, but no choreography yet designed, Vesak died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.The project lied dormant until Ballet Florida recruited Caniparoli to rekindle the show, which premiered at Ballet Florida and Ballet West in Salt Lake City in 1994. It was Caniparoli’s first full-length work.“It’s a challenge to take something someone started and turn it around and make it your own,” says Caniparoli. “This was a huge challenge, because no way could I do it the way Norbert was going to do it. I turned the music around. The concept of the libretto, I changed it around and totally reworked it to make it my own, but also to honor Norbert Vesak at the same time.”Caniparoli, whose “Lambarena” was last seen in April’s 60th anniversary mixed repertory program and who revamped “The Nutcracker” for the Louisville Ballet in 2009, drew his inspiration for “Lady of the Camellias” not from Verdi, but the Garbo movie and film noir in general.“A lot of the images that are so incredible in the film, I tried to incorporate into the ballet itself,” says Caniparoli.Caniparoli calls the last five minutes of this ballet one of his most poignant endings, though the dancer doesn’t dance a step.“It’s her looking in the mirror, dying,” he says. “This is ballet, it’s not a film, it’s not a theatrical event. It’s dance and it’s told just through gesture. I think it’s a challenge for the ballerina who does this role. You use your body but it’s mostly in your eyes.”“A lot of times we—dancers—especially in this country, are not trained in acting,” he adds.But Caniparoli was—he even played Armand, Marguerite’s lover, in the stage adaptation in college. Caniparoli studied music and acting before fibbing his way into dance training at 20 (“I lied and said I was 16 to get a Ford Foundation scholarship, and everyone bought into that.”), giving him a strong foundation in storytelling on stage."Before I took a step I was doing music and theater," says Caniparoli. "I know now how to try to bring that out of dancers."In its nearly two decades on stage, Caniparoli’s “Lady of the Camellias” has been revised and refreshed several times, expanding to fit large companies like the Boston Ballet and decreasing its run time by about 40 minutes through storyline editing. The costumes remain Glay de la Rose’s original designs. For this production, a company premiere, Caniparoli has replaced some of the music. He considers this flexibility a benefit of working with the Louisville Ballet, artistic director Bruce Simpson and this company of dancers.“They’re willing to try a lot of things. I love placing demands on them and they go for it,” says Caniparoli. “I love the attitude in the studio of really wanting something to work. The egos are set aside.”
Louisville has been selected to host the American Bus Association’s 2016 Marketplace showcase.Louisville will host the American Bus Association’s Marketplace event in 2016. The annual event brings in around 3,000 visitors for the January showcase and officials say the economic impact of the convention will be around $4.4 million.But they further say there is also the potential for further business after showing off Louisville to tour operators.The ABA represents around 1,000 motor-coach and tour companies in the United States and Canada. The convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri before coming to Louisville.This will be Louisville’s first time hosting the event.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has accepted a settlement in a rate case involving Big Rivers Electric Corp., which provides power to several electric co-ops in western Kentucky.When Big Rivers proposed environmental upgrades earlier this year, the improvements were estimated to cost ratepayers more than $283 million. The company planned to install more stringent pollution controls at four of its power plants, and convert the coal-fired Reid Plant in Sebree to natural gas.But the day before the case was scheduled for a hearing before the commissioners, a federal court overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The rule would have limited sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in several states, including Kentucky.With those regulations no longer on the horizon—but with the knowledge that different re-written rules could come in the future—the company and the intervening parties worked out an agreement. Under the settlement, Big Rivers won’t undertake its two most expensive pollution control projects: a $139 million scrubber at the Wilson Power Plant in Centertown and an $81 million nitrogen oxide control system at the Green Power Plant in Sebree. The Reid plant will still be converted to natural gas, and some smaller pollution controls will be updated.The Office of the Attorney General, the Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers, Inc. and the Sierra Club all intervened in the case. Sierra Club Attorney Kristin Henry says it didn’t make sense to require Big Rivers to comply with the recently-vacated Cross State Air Pollution Rule.She says the company did agree to conduct full-scale testing suggested by Big Rivers’ engineer, to ensure that the new technology used to reduce nitrogen oxide doesn’t cause more than the allowable amount of particulate emissions.But Henry says the Sierra Club’s stance is still that coal-fired power plants aren’t the least-cost option.“Whenever they have to do their next big pollution control equipment upgrade—maybe a baghouse for particulate matter, maybe a scrubber for pollution controls—we hope the commission will recognize that these plants are not economical to retrofit and it’s more economical to retire them.”The settlement agreement will cost ratepayers $58.5 million, an 80 percent reduction from the original proposal.