News briefs from around Kentucky at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Saturday, May 24, 2014

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Ky. agriculture officials receive hemp shipment

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Tiny hemp seeds that produced a drawn-out legal fight were freed from confinement and delivered Friday to Kentucky’s Agriculture Department for experimental plantings, marking a limited comeback for the non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana.

The seeds from Italy that drew so much suspicion from federal drug officials were unceremoniously unloaded from a UPS truck and then weighed by state agriculture officials. The shipment featuring 13 seed varieties came in at 286 pounds.

It marked an uneventful conclusion to a standoff that pitted the state’s Agriculture Department against the federal government. Seed deliveries for pilot projects across Kentucky could start as early as Friday, with plans to put the seeds in Kentucky soil in coming days.

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who sees hemp as a potential cash crop for farmers and a jobs creator for processors, said the arrival of the seeds puts Kentucky at the forefront of efforts to reintroduce the long-banned crop in the United States.

“As this program grows, so too will opportunities for our farmers and jobs for all Kentuckians,” he said in a statement.

The seeds were detained for two weeks by U.S. customs officials in Louisville, Kentucky, delaying pilot growing projects meant to gauge the crop’s potential. Six universities are assisting with the research for the highly versatile crop.

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Democrat Nunn calls for VA secretary to resign

ATLANTA (AP) - Democrat Michelle Nunn, who’s seeking Georgia’s open Senate seat, has joined a chorus of congressional candidates from both parties calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to leave amid a growing crisis over veterans’ health care.

Nunn stopped short of calling for Shinseki’s firing in a statement Friday. Her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, was a moderate who represented Georgia for years and once served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Her father was also heavily involved in drafting the 1986 Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which reworked the military’s command structure and increased the powers of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“It has become increasingly clear that we need new leadership to build confidence, focus and accountability at the VA to fix what is wrong with the agency,” said Michelle Nunn. “I hope that Gen. Shinseki will step aside to allow for fresh leadership to tackle these pressing issues and support the veterans that the general is deeply committed to serving.”

And the number of sitting politicians and challengers calling for Shinseki’s resignation continues to grow as the VA investigates 26 facilities nationwide over allegations of treatment delays and deaths. Also Friday, one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., added his name to the list, saying “by stepping aside, Secretary Shinseki will help to restore the trust our veterans must have in the VA and will demonstrate a commitment by this administration to address the system’s serious shortcomings.”

A day earlier, Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky also called for new leadership, saying: “I don’t see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place.”

Georgia and Kentucky are key battlegrounds in the upcoming midterm elections, as Democrats see Nunn and Grimes as their best opportunities to thwart efforts by Republicans seeking a majority in the Senate. Grimes is challenging Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the GOP needs just six more seats to take control of the chamber.

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