SENATE-DEMOCRATS

Democratic Senate candidates defend Obama during forum

FLORENCE, Ky. (AP) — After years of being a political punching bag in Kentucky, President Barack Obama has gotten favorable reviews from several Democrats running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Rand Paul.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination, said at a candidates' forum Monday evening that Obama "deserves more credit than he gets for what he's achieved." Another Democratic candidate, Tom Recktenwald, said terror leader Osama bin Laden was killed during Obama's presidency and the stock market has rebounded.

For several elections, Kentucky Republicans have made inroads while tying Democratic candidates to Obama, especially for his push for stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

In a later question about energy policy, Gray said the state's coal sector is struggling due to regulations and market trends.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR-INVESTIGATION

Ethics commission says it can't stop Bevin's inquiry

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says it cannot stop Republican Gov. Matt Bevin from investigating whether his Democratic predecessor violated state ethics laws.

Bevin says he will hire a private law firm to investigate whether former Gov. Steve Beshear coerced state employees to donate to political campaigns.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear's son, asked the ethics commission to tell Bevin he does not have the authority to conduct such an investigation. Commission Executive Director Kathryn Gabhart wrote back on Monday saying the commission does not have the authority to stop Bevin.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the commission was right to reject Andy Beshear's request. She said Bevin welcomes the commission to conduct its own investigation.

Andy Beshear said any investigation by Bevin would not be credible.

CONFEDERATE MONUMENT-KENTUCKY

Judge temporarily blocks removal of Confederate monument

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A judge has temporarily barred the city of Louisville from removing a 70-foot-tall Confederate monument near the University of Louisville campus.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman signed a restraining order Monday morning forbidding the city from moving the 121-year-old obelisk honoring Kentuckians who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Mayor Greg Fischer and University President James Ramsey announced Friday that they would remove the monument, marking the latest government effort to reconsider displaying Confederate symbols following the massacre of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina last summer.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Everett Corley, a Republican running for Congress, filed for the restraining order on Monday. The judge scheduled a hearing Thursday morning.

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This story has been corrected to say the monument is near University of Louisville instead of on campus. Corrects writethru sequence. Will be updated.

DEM 2016-SANDERS RALLIES-KENTUCKY

Sanders plans 2nd event during visit to Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has added a second stop during his visit to Kentucky in advance of the state's May 17 primary election, with a rally now planned for Lexington on Wednesday.

The Sanders campaign previously announced he would be in Louisville on Tuesday for a rally at Waterfront Park's Big Four Lawn.

Both events are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Admission is first-come, first-served. People are asked not to bring bags. Weapons, sharp objects, chairs, signs and banners on sticks will not be allowed through security.

Doors open for the Louisville event at 4 p.m. The next day in Lexington, doors open at Lexington Center's Heritage Hall at 4 p.m.

JIM BEAM-MILESTONE

Jim Beam fills 14 millionth bottle of bourbon

CLERMONT, Ky. (AP) — Jim Beam has filled and sealed its 14 millionth barrel of bourbon since the 1933 repeal of Prohibition, achieving a first in the bourbon industry.

Seventh-generation master distiller Fred Noe and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin sealed the barrel Monday at the company's flagship distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, about 20 miles south of Louisville.

The milestone comes two years after the distillery filled its 13 millionth barrel.

Noe said in a news release that the achievement speaks to the success of the company's whiskey and the increasing worldwide enthusiasm for bourbon.

Bevin said that Kentucky bourbon is now an international symbol of the state's heritage and craftsmanship.

TREE HUG CHALLENGE

Calling all tree huggers: Come help break Guinness record

(Information from: The News-Enterprise, http://www.thenewsenterprise.com)

CLERMONT, Ky. (AP) — Officials at Bernheim Forest in central Kentucky are putting out a call to everyone: Come hug a tree in an effort to break a world record.

Dr. Mark Wourms, who is director at the arboretum and research forest in Clermont, told The News Enterprise that preregistration is open for the Bernheim Big Tree Hug Challenge on June 4. Officials are hoping to break the Guinness world record for the largest number of people hugging trees. He said it appears the current record is 1,200 people. Bernheim is hoping to get 3,000 participants.

Wourms said it would be a fun way to capture people's attention and get them involved with planting and caring for trees.

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.