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News Around the State

Ky. reports lower statewide jobless rate in December

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials say the state’s unemployment rate fell slightly in December.

The Kentucky Center for Statistics says the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 4.4 percent in December. The preliminary statewide figure was down from the 4.5 percent rate reported for November. The statewide unemployment rate was also 4.5 percent in December 2017.

State officials say employment in Kentucky’s professional and business services sector rose by 2,200 jobs in December. They say construction employment increased by 1,600 jobs in December, and the state’s manufacturing sector expanded by 900 jobs.

Officials say Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector fell by 1,300 jobs last month, while the government sector had 500 fewer jobs.

Employment in the state’s mining and logging sector was unchanged in December.

Enerblu delays eastern Ky. project at least 1 year

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A proposed battery manufacturing plant on a reclaimed coal mine in eastern Kentucky has been delayed at least one year after the company discovered problems at the construction site.

EnerBlu President and CEO Daniel Elliott said the company has not found a way to build its facility at Pikeville’s industrial park, The Lexington Herald Leader reported . Elliott told the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that it would cost $30 million in soil work to fix the problem, a price he said the project could not withstand.

“We’re trying like hell,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than we thought.”

EnerBlu announced in 2017 that it would build a $372 million plant in Pikeville. Company officials said it would employ 875 people, with the chance to grow to 1,500 people over time. The company received a $6 million grant last year from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands. Last year, the company moved its headquarters from Riverside, California, to Lexington, Kentucky.

The plant was originally scheduled to open in 2020. Elliott said Thursday that the company hopes to open the plant in 2021. Elliott also said the company has not yet acquired permits needed for a proposed warehouse and research facility in Lexington, Kentucky, a process further delayed by the partial federal government shutdown.

The EnerBlu project is often mentioned alongside Braidy Industries’ planed $1.68 billion aluminum mill in Ashland, Kentucky, as the catalyst for jumpstarting an eastern Kentucky economy that has been crippled by the declining coal industry.

Elliott said the company plans to find a solution for the Pikeville project. Pikeville City Manager Phil Elswick said the city “will work through any development issues as they come up.”

Police: 3 dead, 1 wounded in shooting at Ky. home

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Police were trying to determine who killed three people and wounded another in a shooting Thursday at a home in western Kentucky.

Investigators had not yet established a motive that led to the shooting in Owensboro, police said. Nor had they identified the shooter.

“We believe, at this point, that this is an isolated incident,” Owensboro police spokesman Andrew Boggess said. “But as to who the suspect may be or what the exact motive is, I can’t speak to that at this point.”

All the victims were adults but authorities didn’t know if they were related, he said. The shootings occurred around 11 a.m. The victims had not yet been publicly identified.

Police think the shootings occurred inside the home, Boggess said.

Owensboro is just south of the state’s border with Indiana and about 107 miles (172 kilometers) southwest of Louisville, Kentucky.

Officers called to the home found two people dead and two others critically wounded, Boggess said. One of the wounded died later at a hospital, he said.

Detectives were searching the home for clues as to what caused the shootings, he said.

“We’ve got all of our resources devoted to this,” Boggess said. “We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.”

Company working to retrieve $500K hemp seized by police

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (AP) — The president of a medical-grade hemp company in Colorado is working with authorities in Oklahoma to get back a shipment of about 18,000 pounds (more than 8,000 kilograms) of hemp that was seized by police.

The Daily Camera reports that Panacea Life Sciences President Jamie Baumgartner says the shipment is worth $500,000 and is not insured.

Pawhuska Police Chief Rex Wikel says the department doesn’t know if it’s hemp or marijuana.

Baumgartner is trying to find out what documents he needs to get back his hemp.

Baumgartner called the seizure a test case to provide clarity about the interstate transfer of hemp.

Baumgartner’s company had ordered hemp from Kentucky that was being shipped to Colorado via Oklahoma. Baumgartner says the transportation company was avoiding traveling through Kansas and Nebraska under instructions from state transportation officials.

Vet pleads guilty to conspiracy connected to moving cattle

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Federal officials say a veterinarian faces five years in prison for helping a Kentucky company move cattle out of state without proper inspections.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that 65-year-old John M. Moran of Flemingsburg pleaded guilty Thursday to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. He had been scheduled for trial next week.

Court records show Moran was accused of pre-signing paperwork certifying that cattle sold by Eugene Barber & Sons were safe without inspecting them. Prosecutors allege Moran falsified 600 certifications for shipment of more than 60,000 cattle over state lines between 2013 and 2015.

Eugene Barber pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to defraud and is scheduled to be sentenced in February.

Moran’s sentencing was set for April 25.

Pentagon IDs 3 Americans killed in Syria suicide bomb attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon has identified three of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Syria this week.

They are Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor. The four were killed in the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Wednesday. The attack also wounded three U.S. troops and was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.