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US Government Lowers Level Of Kentucky Lake To Avoid Dam Break January 23, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Kentucky News.
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP)–Fearing a dam break that could cause catastrophic flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the water level on Lake Cumberland on Monday.

The measure was aimed at reducing pressure on the weakened 240-foot-high dam, said Lt. Col. Steven J. Roemhildt, commander of the Corps of Engineers’ Nashville office.

“We must take this emergency action to reduce risk to the public and to the dam itself,” he said in a statement.

If the dam, which is nearly a mile long, were to break, flooding in communities downstream along the Cumberland River could kill people and cause an estimated $3.4 billion in damage, Roemhildt said. Cities along the Cumberland include Nashville, Tenn.

The dam, which has a concrete core surrounded by earth, was built near Jamestown in the early 1950s. The lake it holds back was created as part of a federal plan to control floods along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Roemhildt said water has been seeping under the dam and eroding the limestone on which the concrete rests. He said crews were pumping grout into the ground to counter the erosion.

Reducing the water level could have a major ecological and economic effect as well. Roemhildt said people can expect fish kills because of a rise in water temperature, and boats could at marinas could be left high and dry.

Kentucky Commerce Secretary George Ward said as many as 90% of the launching ramps will be unusable because they won’t reach the water’s surface.

US Judge Approves Kentucky Sex Abuse Suit Against Vatican January 15, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Catholic, Kentucky News.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)–Three men who accuse Catholic priests of sexually abusing them in childhood can pursue damages from the Vatican in a negligence lawsuit, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling lets the men pursue their claim that top church officials should have warned the public or authorities about priests in the Louisville Archdiocese who were suspected of abusing children.

William McMurry, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the ruling could open the way to take depositions of Vatican officials and to obtain copies of church records and documents.

“Our whole purpose is to hold the Vatican accountable,” McMurry said.

Many lawsuits stemming from the clergy sex abuse crisis have named the pope, the Vatican and other high-ranking church officials as defendants. But the Holy See is typically immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II dismissed claims that the Holy See was negligent by failing to protect children entrusted to the clergy. He also threw out claims of deceit and misrepresentation by the Vatican.

Jeffrey Lena, a California-based attorney for the Vatican, said the ruling was in many respects favorable to the Holy See because the remaining allegations rely on the unproved assumption that U.S. bishops act as agents of the Vatican. He predicted that claim would not be borne out as the case proceeds.

Vatican officials declined to comment.

McMurry is seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class action, which would allow other accusers to join the case. McMurry represented 243 sex abuse victims that settled with the archdiocese in 2003 for $25.3 million.

One of the three plaintiffs is Michael Turner of Louisville, who also filed the first lawsuit against the archdiocese. The Rev. Louis E. Miller was removed from the priesthood in 2004 by the late Pope John Paul II after pleading guilty in 2003 to sexually abusing Turner and other children in the 1970s. He is serving a 13-year prison sentence.

The two other plaintiffs, James H. O’Bryan and Donald E. Poppe, have not settled. Both live in California and allege that they were abused by priests while growing up in Louisville.

US Senator McConnell Backs Bush Iraq Troop-Hike Plan January 11, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Kentucky News, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday he supports President George W. Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops serving in Iraq.

Bush is expected to announce in a televised address Wednesday night that he would like a “surge” in U.S. troops. While several U.S. military commanders have advised against the move, Bush will argue that the troop increase will allow Iraq to become sufficiently stable for the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops.

“I think what the President is going to announce is both courageous and correct and I am going to support him,” McConnell told a group of reporters after meeting with the president and fellow congressional leaders at the White House Wednesday afternoon.

Democrats and some Republicans have suggested that the U.S. should instead begin withdrawing troops from the country, drawing parallels to the U.S.’s unsuccessful involvement in Vietnam.

McConnell countered Wednesday that “when we left Vietnam, they didn’t come here.”

In contrast, terrorists fueling the fires in Iraq can and would try to turn their attention to the U.S.

McConnell said that while some think it is coincidence that the U.S. hasn’t been attacked directly since the war in Iraq began, he is certain it is because the U.S. is on the offensive in its war on terrorism.

Democrats are considering efforts to try to pressure Bush to reduce troops.

Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., suggested that the initial justification for Congress’s authorization for military operations there has lapsed.

But McConnell said Democrats have little leverage in the fight, given the president’s constitutional prerogatives on matters of war and foreign affairs.

About the only way to force the president to act would be to cut funding for the military, and that is a step Democrats so far have been unwilling to take, McConnell said.

By John Godfrey, Dow Jones Newswires

Probe Finds Violations Caused Kentucky Mine Explosion December 1, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Kentucky News.
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HARLAN, Ky. (AP)–The use of a cutting torch and flawed construction of a safety barrier caused a May 20 explosion at an eastern Kentucky coal mine that killed five miners, a state investigation has concluded.

Citing a series of safety violations, the state Office of Mine Safety and Licensing found that the underground blast was triggered by two miners using the torch to remove a metal roof strap intersecting an area of the Kentucky Darby No. 1 Mine that employees knew was leaking methane, according to The Courier-Journal’s web site.

The seal, intended to keep methane from leaking into the working part of the mine, was improperly constructed; use of the torch in that part of the mine was illegal; and the leaking methane should have been immediately corrected when it was first noted, according to the report.

In addition, the mine superintendent, co-owner Ralph Napier and two other company supervisors admitted to investigators that they were not familiar with approved procedures for constructing the seals, the report said.

As a result of their supervisors’ ignorance, the employees who built the seals were not properly trained to do the job, the state concluded.

Napier’s attorney, Kent Hendrickson, on Thursday characterized the state’s report as “incomplete” and said Kentucky should have waited to release its findings until the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration ends its investigation.

MSHA spokesman Dirk Fillpot said Tuesday that its investigation probably will be completed and made public early next year.

Kentucky Darby was cited by the state for seven violations.

The explosion was so powerful that it ruptured oil cans and broke mirrors on vehicles parked outside the mine.

US Soldier Sentenced To Life In Iraqi Rape, Murder Case November 16, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Kentucky News, Military News, US News.
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP)–A soldier was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with the possibility of parole for conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her family.

Spc. James P. Barker, one of four Fort Campbell soldiers accused in the March 12 rape and killings, pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others to avoid the death penalty.

Under terms of the plea agreement, Barker will not serve more than 90 years in prison, said Lt. Col. Richard Anderson, the military judge presiding over the court-martial. The sentence and the plea agreement now must be ruled upon by a military legal official overseeing the case.