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Louisiana at 2 a.m. on Thursday
Good morning, Louisiana editors.
If you have any contributions for or questions about the report, call 1-800-662-7717. To report technical problems: 1-800-469-1362. AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616). The news editor is Brian Schwaner. The breaking news staffer this morning is Bill Fuller.
NEW ORLEANS — Five very sick children died after a fungus apparently brought into a New Orleans hospital on sheets and other linens made them sicker, federal and state investigators said Wednesday. The children died in 2008 and 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although an article scheduled for publication in a European medical journal said severe infections are nearly all fatal, officials said the fungus was not the primary cause of any death. By Janet McConnaughey. SENT: 664 words.
(Information in the following story is from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com)
MONROE, La. — The staff member of U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister who is accused of leaking a video that captured him kissing an aide resigned Wednesday. The News-Star reports (http://tnsne.ws/1tc6QB8 ) Adam Terry, McAllister's chief of staff, confirmed Leah Gordon's resignation late Wednesday. He said Gordon was not fired from her post as McAllister's Monroe District Office manager. SENT: 351 words.
XGR-FLOOD PROTECTION LAWSUIT
BATON ROUGE, La. — Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection. The bill by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, was a direct response to Gov. Bobby Jindal's anger over the actions of one of the levee boards, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. That board had filed a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies over coastal damage. By Melinda Deslatte. SENT: 510 words.
AP Photos LAMD101-0416141250.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Chalmette lawmaker on Wednesday shelved a proposal that would have let school employees who possess concealed- handgun permits bring their weapons to work. Rep. Ray Garofalo, a Republican, pulled his bill after getting negative feedback from the House criminal justice committee, but he said he hopes to revive it this session. By Lauren Langlois. SENT: 465 words.
NEW ORLEANS — Artists began picking through an array of stocks, barrels, revolver cylinders, trigger assemblies and other firearm parts spread across the floor of a New Orleans gallery Wednesday to mark the beginning of a project that will turn the weaponry into art. City officials and artists gathered for the launch of the "Guns in the Hands of Artists" project said they hoped the result will provoke thought and civil discussion about dealing with the gun violence that plagues New Orleans and other cities. By Kevin McGill. SENT: 315 words.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two of the country's top disaster experts on Wednesday challenged emergency managers and forecasters from Texas to Maine to help educate coastal residents and developers about hurricane hazards. Speaking at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged city and county officials to factor disaster preparedness and risk into proposals for any new coastal development or post-storm reconstruction, along with job creation and tax revenues. But Craig Fugate also said he wouldn't necessarily discourage building along the country's storm-prone coastline. By Jennifer Kay. SENT: 394 words.
HEALTH CARE POLITICS
WASHINGTON — The outlook for the president's health care overhaul suddenly appears brighter, and some Democrats are saying it's time for the party to openly embrace the law that Republicans consider their best campaign weapon. Activists in one Senate race are doing just that. Other Democratic candidates, however, remain wary, unsure that a modest dose of good news will be enough to offset countless TV ads denouncing "Obamacare." By Charles Babington and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. SENT: 1,072 words.
AP Photos WX109-1205121245, WX108-1111131057, WX107-0306131446.
TOW BOAT RESCUE
NEW ORLEANS — The owner of a tow boat that grounded in Lake Pontchartrain says waves pushed by a passing storm front broke a line connecting the vessel and a barge it was pushing. Todd Eymard of Hugh Eymard Towing Inc. says the captain had no choice but to run the Todd Michael onto the rocks at the lake's south shore to keep it from sinking. The Coast Guard says two men were hoisted from the boat by an MH-65 helicopter. A third man was taken off the barge by a Coast Guard patrol boat. They were treated for minor injuries. The barge wasn't carrying cargo and had been moved to another site by Wednesday morning. Eymard says he is working with the Coast Guard on a plan to salvage the Todd Michael. SENT: 300 words
AP Photos NY107-0416140104, NY108-0416140104
JACKSON, Miss. — Southwest Mississippi residents and businesses affected by severe weather and flooding that occurred on March 28-29 can apply for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said Tuesday that the loans were made available in response to an April 8 letter from Gov. Phil Bryant, requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Wilkinson County, and the adjacent counties of Adams, Amite, and Franklin in Mississippi; and Concordia, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes in Louisiana. Contreras-Sweet says loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate and homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. SENT: 242 words.
BATON ROUGE — State Superintendent of Education John White has received a favorable job evaluation. The review was done by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Board President Chas Roemer announced the news Tuesday after an hour-long, closed-door meeting with White and the panel. White said he received an average of 3.05 on the observation side of the evaluation and an average of 3 on the data side. He said last year that his overall rating was 3.15. The scores mean that, for the second year in a row, White got the second highest of four ratings — effective/proficient. That is defined as meeting between 75 percent and 99 percent of the annual goals. SENT: 283 words.
SORRENTO — Efforts to revitalize the Sorrento Police Department seem to be stagnating while the police chief's position sits vacant and the days pass without anyone actively seeking liability insurance for the department. Mayor Mike Lambert said Tuesday that the governor's office is having a difficult time finding a replacement to serve out the rest of former Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr.'s three year-term. Theriot resigned in February and pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent about inappropriate sexual contact with an intoxicated woman the chief had picked up after a call on Nov. 1. Lambert says the governor's office has released little information about the search, even declining to share with him the names of people they have considered to fill the vacancy. SENT: 354 words.
LAFAYETTE — Two eggs sitting on a nest of marsh grass and sticks in a crawfish pond offer a hope in a project to bring back the endangered whooping crane to south Louisiana. State wildlife and fisheries biologist Sam Zimorski says they're fingers are crossed that next week there will be chicks hatching there. It's been 75 years since a whooping crane egg was documented in the state, and the birds had disappeared from the Louisiana landscape by 1950, the victim of habitat loss and hunting. Tuesday's announcement of the new eggs was made in Lafayette at the North American Crane Workshop meeting, a gathering of scientists and conservationists interested in crane issues. SENT: 373 words.
HOUMA — The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Chauvin man serving life in Angola Prison after he was convicted of killing a 10-month-old boy in 2007. William Henderson had requested an appeal from the Supreme Court after the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his request for post-conviction relief last year. Henderson is serving life in prison after a jury found him guilty in 2012 of smothering Kaleb Nelton to death. In his appeal, Henderson claimed the court had erred during the cross examination proceedings, by selecting a racially biased jury and in preventing a cross examination of the trampoline witness who he claimed would have perjured herself. The court also rejected five other claims. SENT: 367 words.
NATCHEZ — A riverfront project for which the City of Natchez is hoping to enlist help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to "complete" was finished nearly 20 years ago, a Corps spokesman said. Mayor Butch Brown asked the Corps last week for help to reconnect Silver Street to Roth Hill Road along the riverfront, which he said would complete a 1996 project that restored 11 of 22 acres. Under-the-Hill that washed away following the rerouting of the Mississippi River that occurred after the Giles cut was made in 1933. Brown made the request to the Mississippi River Commission while aboard the Motor Vessel Mississippi during the commission's annual high-water inspection trip on the river. He has made the request to the commission multiple times in the past year. By Lindsey Shelton, The Natchez Democrat. SENT: 563 words.
LOUISIANA IN BRIEF
Editors: The following brief items moved Wednesday on AP's Louisiana wire and may be of interest for your Thursday editions.
THIBODAUX, La. — A 10-year-old boy is in custody after he allegedly brought a loaded handgun to an elementary school in Thibodaux. Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre says administrators at Thibodaux Elementary School learned Wednesday that a student was in possession of a .380 caliber automatic pistol. A School Resource Officer confiscated the weapon after it was found in the child's school bag. SENT: 132 words.
(Information in the following story is from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com)
NEW ORLEANS — An ex-jailer at the Orleans Parish Prison has been accused of smuggling cellphones and marijuana to inmates in exchange for cash. NOLA.com ' The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1hK80PI ) Tyrell Sutherland faces a single felony conspiracy charge after prosecutors say he delivered the contraband to federal inmates three times for $200 to $300 in each instance. SENT: 283 words.
(Information in the following story is from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com)
COVINGTON, La. — A 16-year-old arrested last year after he allegedly attacked a man with a machete following an argument has pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. NOLA.com ' The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1j15baz) the teenager must serve the sentence without the benefit of probation, parole or a suspended sentence. SENT: 153 words.
COVINGTON SKATEBOARDING BAN
COVINGTON — An ordinance that would have limited skateboarding in Covington was voted down by the City Council after dozens of opponents rallied in protest of the ban. Opposition to the ordinance had been building since it was introduced by the council last month. SENT: 127 words.
BATON ROUGE — East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies say an altercation between two step-brothers turned deadly with one shooting the other. Sheriff's office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said in a news release that 52-year-old Jeremy Gray died at the scene in north Baton Rouge. SENT: 69 words.
SCHOOL BUS-WOMAN STRUCK
HOUMA — Houma police say a 54-year-old woman died after intentionally walking in front of a school bus. Police say the woman was pronounced dead at University Hospital in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. She was initially treated at Terrebonne General Medical Center. SENT: 99 words.
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish Judge Durwood Conque says he will retire when his six-year term ends in December. Conque was first elected to the 15th Judicial District bench in 1987. SENT: 80 words.
LAFAYETTE — School meals could increase by 25 cents to help cover the rising costs of food and other expenses to staff Lafayette Parish school cafeterias. The proposed increase would raise full-price lunch costs for elementary students from $1.50 to $1.75 and for middle and high school students from $1.75 to $2. Lunch for visiting adults would increase from $3.50 to $3.75. Breakfast prices also would increase by 25 cents to $1.50 for students. SENT: 99 words.
TEACH FOR AMERICA
BATON ROUGE — The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved a $1 million contract for Teach for America. The group recruits top college students, puts them through five weeks of training initially and more later and sends them to some of the nation's most challenging public schools for at least two years. SENT: 122 words.
ASCENSION SCHOOL RAISES
GONZALES — The Ascension Parish School Board approved a 3 percent pay raise for all school district employees, the first permanent raise since 2008. After Tuesday's vote approving the raise, School Board President Troy Gautreau said that pay was one of the top items mentioned as an area for improvement in an employee survey given this school year and the school board took it seriously. SENT: 111 words.
BATON ROUGE SPENDING
BATON ROUGE — Consumer and business spending in East Baton Rouge Parish increased by 6.2 percent in February compared with a year ago. Sales tax collection figures released by the city-parish Finance Department on Tuesday show businesses and consumers spent $636.4 million in February. That compares with $599.1 million in spending in February 2013. The figures do not include vehicle sales, which are generally examined separately when looking at spending as an economic indicator. Sales were up in all categories, including food services and drinking establishments, which were up by 5.9 percent from the year before, and retailers, up by nearly 6.2 percent. SENT: 249 words.
GULFPORT, Miss. — Regional bank Hancock Holding Co. said Wednesday that it has met efficiency targets nearly a year early, as quarterly profits bounced back thanks to lower expenses. Hancock, which operates Hancock Bank in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and Whitney Bank in Louisiana and Texas, posted first-quarter 2014 profit of $49.1 million, or 58 cents per share. That's up slightly from $48.6 million, or 56 cents per share, in 2013's first quarter. But the numbers are up sharply from profits in the last six months of 2013, when Hancock spent $38 million to reduce costs, cutting into its bottom line. SENT: 443 words.
NEW ORLEANS — Tyreke Evans had 25 points and 10 assists, and the New Orleans Pelicans closed out a difficult season with a crowd pleasing 105-100 victory over the playoff-bound Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. It was the second straight victory for the Pelicans, both starring Evans' relentless hustle and forceful dribble-drives. Evans was nearly held out of the low-stakes games with a bruised right knee, but insisted on playing. By Brett Martel. SENT: 451 words.
AP Photos LAGH107-0416141814, LAGH106-0416141913, LAGH104-0416142025, LAGH103-0416142027, LAGH102-0416142032, LAGH105-0416142021
NEW ORLEANS — The left knee surgery Eric Gordon had scheduled on Wednesday was little more than an arthroscopic "cleanup" and all five of New Orleans' injured regulars should be ready for the start of next training camp, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said Wednesday. Demps, who spoke as the Pelicans prepared for Wednesday night's season finale against Houston, could not immediately discuss the results of Gordon's procedure, but asserted, "I don't think it's a major surgery. ... Obviously, any time someone has surgery, it's a concern, but from what we've been told he'll be ready to go at the beginning of next season." By Brett Martel. SENT: 513 words.
PHOENIX — Former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper's DNA was found in an examination of one of two women who accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them at a Tempe apartment, a detective said Wednesday. Tempe police Detective Kevin Mace said at a bail hearing in Phoenix that Sharper's DNA was recovered from one of the women's clothing, but none of his DNA was found during an exam of the other woman. By Jacques Billeaud. SENT: 594 words.
SPORTS IN BRIEF
(Information in the following story is from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com)
NEW ORLEANS — Three more champions of golf's majors have committed to play in next week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy, whose organization produces the tourney each spring, said Wednesday that Vijay Singh, Lucas Glover and Geoff Ogilvy have committed to the April 24-27 event at TPC Louisiana. SENT: 130 words.
NEW ORLEANS — The Houston Rockets, already locked into the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, have decided to rest James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons for Wednesday night's regular season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans. The decision by coach Kevin McHale removes from the lineup two starters and a regular reserve who've combined for an average of 54.5 points. SENT: 131 words.
AP Photos TXPX113-0412141816, MNAH111-0411142044, HTR103-0414141941.
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