Good morning, Louisiana editors.
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BATON ROUGE — U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry picked up the backing Tuesday of Republican Party leaders from two-thirds of the parishes in the newly-drawn 3rd Congressional District as he seeks to oust fellow GOP incumbent congressman, Charles Boustany. Landry has been endorsed by the Republican Party executive committees in Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes. The endorsements line up support from parish GOP hierarchy as Landry works to chip away Boustany's advantage in a district redesign that favors Boustany because it contains much of his prior district. The two congressmen were forced into the same district when Louisiana lost a congressional seat after the latest U.S. Census, a rare contest this election cycle in which sitting lawmakers are running against each other. By Melinda Deslatte.
GULF OIL SPILL-LITIGATION
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed claims by BP fuel stations and convenience stores that the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico diminished the value of the oil giant's brand and cost them business. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's ruling says the dealers' claims against BP PLC aren't viable under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, general maritime law or state law. Thomas Bleau, a lawyer for BP dealers Tobatex Inc. and M.R.M. Energy Inc., argued during a hearing last month that consumer animosity and bungling by BP corporate executives after the nation's worst offshore spill severely damaged the company's brand name. Switching brands wasn't an option for the dealers because many are locked into long-term contracts, he told Barbier. The judge's ruling, however, says the BP dealers' allegations "do not state a claim for which relief may be granted." He didn't pass judgment on whether BP dealers have viable claims for economic losses based on a decline in tourism after the spill. By Michael Kunzelman.
GULF OIL SPILL-CLEANUP
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana's Republican U.S. senator blasted oil giant BP PLC on Tuesday for what he called its attempt to run from its full cleanup responsibilities for the nation's worst offshore spill, the 2010 disaster that left the Gulf Coast heavily oiled. U.S. Sen. David Vitter also charged during a field briefing in New Orleans that the Coast Guard had "too cozy" a relationship with the energy company. He spoke during a briefing of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, a Senate body that oversees environmental issues. When Hurricane Isaac struck Louisiana's coast in late August, the storm's waves exposed sections of buried oil along Louisiana's coast and also stirred up debate about how much oil remains. By Cain Burdeau.
NEW ORLEANS — An Alabama man has pleaded guilty to two counts of obscenity for sexually taunting an unconscious LSU fan in a Bourbon Street restaurant after the BCS national title game last January. Prosecutors said a deal reached Tuesday morning before the scheduled start of trial for Brian H. Downing of Smith Station, Ala., calls for him to be sentenced to two years in jail. State District Judge Karen Herman set sentencing for Nov. 29. A video that went viral on the Internet appeared to show someone in a University of Alabama jacket performing a simulated sex act on an unconscious man at the restaurant after the Crimson Tide beat LSU for the BCS football championship on Jan. 9. Downing had pleaded not guilty in May to charges of sexual battery and obscenity. By Michael Kunzelman. With AP Photo.
BATON ROUGE — Lawmakers agreed Tuesday to regulations that will govern a package of new business tax breaks pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, even as they continued to worry about how much tax breaks are costing the state treasury. Louisiana's economic development secretary will be able to offer three tax incentives to businesses considering whether to relocate or expand here. They include rebates for payroll, relocation costs and corporate income and franchise taxes. A joint House and Senate committee overwhelmingly agreed to the rules overseeing the tax breaks, which were passed by lawmakers earlier this year. Objections to some of the regulations Tuesday came from two senators who pushed for more details from the Department of Economic Development about what the tax breaks could cost and which independent economist will be chosen to analyze projects slated to get the incentives. By Melinda Deslatte.
WIFE AND SON KILLINGS
NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction and death sentence of a man who killed his estranged wife and 5-year-old son and attempted to kill his two daughters. Jurors convicted James Magee for the 2007 shooting deaths of his 28-year-old wife, Adrienne, and their son, Zach, in the Tall Timbers subdivision north of Mandeville. He also was found guilty of attempting to kill his daughters, then-8-year-old Ashleigh and then-7-year-old Aleisha.
DEQUINCY — Officials say C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center began its final month of full operations by shipping a quarter of its inmate population to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Warden Robert Henderson said five buses carrying 230 prisoners departed DeQuincy Monday, headed for the maximum-security prison in West Feliciana Parish, near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.
MONROE — A former teacher at a private school suspected of calling in bomb threats to three Ouachita Parish schools — including the one he worked at — faces a second bond hearing Wednesday. State District Judge Fred Amman denied bail Monday for David Reyna, but set another hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday. Reyna's formal arraignment, where he will be officially charged, has been set for Nov. 12. Reyna, 30, was arrested Friday.
MONROE — The finance committee of the Ouachita Parish School Board will recommend the board reinstate a $75 classroom supply allowance for teachers, despite the $98,000 cost to the district. The supply allowance was one of many items that were cut or suspended to allow the board to balance its budget. Board president Jerry Hicks said he believes the additional $2 million in Minimum Foundation program funding the district will receive as a result adding 245 students to the district's rolls should make the expenditure possible.
LOUISIANA IN BRIEF
LAKE CHARLES — A Texas man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles. A federal judge sentenced 34-year-old Charbel Tannous, of Katy, Texas, last week to 37 months in prison and ordered him to pay more than $900,000 in restitution. Prosecutors say Tannous was the leader of a plot to rig roulette games at the casino by bribing two dealers to let him and another person place late bets at the wheel. FBI agents seized $10,000 in cash and nearly $40,000 in cashier's checks when they arrested Tannous at a Houston airport before he could board a flight to Lebanon, which doesn't have an extradition agreement with the U.S.
POT PICTURES BUST
METAIRIE — A Metairie man sought by authorities after burglars exposed his alleged marijuana grow house has been arrested on new charges stemming from pictures found in his cellphone of a boy sniffing the plants and giving them a thumbs-up, Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies say. Andrew Brekeen, 28, was booked with cruelty to a juvenile and multiple drug charges related to the alleged marijuana-growing operation. Authorities declined Tuesday to reveal the child's age, but said he is a minor and is depicted in several photos. Brekeen had been sought since allegedly escaping custody in August after authorities received a 911 call reporting a burglary at his apartment. Deputies said they found the marijuana plants during their investigation.
BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal says he supports the state paying for half of a new $100 million engineering education complex at LSU's flagship campus in Baton Rouge. Jindal announced Tuesday that he'll include the $50 million proposal in the state's annual construction budget, when he proposes it to lawmakers next year. The other half of the funding is expected to come from private donations, about $8 million of which has been raised so far. The project involves improvements to an existing building, along with the construction of a new annex dedicated to chemical engineering. Under the plans, construction would begin in fall 2014, estimated for completion two years later. When the complex is complete, the LSU College of Engineering will double its academic footprint on campus, according to the governor's office.
LITTLE ROCK SHOOTING
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A memorial service and funeral are planned for a first-year Arkansas Baptist College student who was killed in a shooting near campus last week. The college says a memorial for 19-year-old Derek Olivier will be held Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the school's Old Main Auditorium. The school says funeral services will be held Wednesday at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Lydia, La. The viewing will begin 8 a.m. Wednesday and the service will begin at 2:30 p.m. School officials say Olivier was changing a tire with two other people Thursday evening when someone started shooting. Little Rock police spokeswoman Sgt. Cassandra Davis says authorities haven't named a suspect or made any arrests in connection to the shooting.
BATON ROUGE — A dead young dolphin apparently has washed ashore in the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge. A state Wildlife and Fisheries agent says it's the farthest upriver a dolphin has ever been found. The marine mammal was first reported Monday near the Highway 190 bridge. It's reportedly four to five feet long. Adults range from 6 to 12 1/2 feet long.
GRETNA — A Gretna couple has been arrested and booked with pandering for allegedly turning their home into a brothel. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office says 39-year-old Bethin Benites-Miranda, and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Juan Gonzalez, are accused of arranging prostitution dates with a third woman who was also arrested following an undercover investigation by the sheriff's Vice Squad.
BATON ROUGE — LSU has been awarded $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation to investigate whether southern coastal Louisiana has reached the tipping point, becoming too costly to sustain. The interdisciplinary research project will investigate the sustainability of coastal communities that are especially vulnerable to natural resource loss and natural hazards. Nina Lam, professor of environmental science and principle investigator, said Tuesday it's the first study to look at both environmental factors and the human element. Research will focus on the Lower Mississippi River Basin in Louisiana. Lam's group will look at areas north of Lake Pontchartrain and compare to portions south of the lake. Officials say the project's findings will inform policymakers and the public on how to increase the region's resilience and provide scenarios for a sustainable plan.
BATON ROUGE — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is extending federal disaster aid in eight parishes to include supplemental funding for infrastructure repairs in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. Eligible applicants in Catahoula, Franklin, Lafayette, Morehouse, St. Landry, St. Martin, Union and Vermilion parishes can now apply for FEMA Public Assistance reimbursement for repairs to roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities, parks and recreational facilities and other facilities. The eight parishes had been designated previously for FEMA Public Assistance funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures.
JENNINGS-FATAL HOUSE FIRE
JENNINGS, La. — Officials say a house fire in Jennings has claimed the life of a handicapped man. State Fire Marshall Butch Browning said the fire occurred at 11:30 p.m. Monday. The body of 55-year-old Kenneth Ray Riggs was discovered inside the home. Officials say Riggs' mother, Marguerite "Maggie" Riggs, and his brother-in-law, Leon, escaped from the home.
MANDEVILLE — The state is implementing its controversial plan to close Southeast Louisiana Hospital near Mandeville and moving 60 patient beds to a similar state-run mental health facility in Pineville. On Oct. 9, the state Department of Health and Hospitals will transfer an additional 34 beds to the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System facility in Jackson. DHH is still identifying private partners in the New Orleans areas for the remaining 17 adult acute care beds and 50 youth patient beds.
NEW ORLEANS — A traveling exhibit about professional football in America is coming to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. "Gridiron Glory, The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame" includes a section about football during World War II. It also will have a home-team area for each host city. It's part of the Hall of Fame's 50-year celebration and features more than 200 of its artifacts. The exhibit opens Oct. 6 in Pittsburgh. It moves to New Orleans for an opening on Jan. 26 — just before the Super Bowl — and runs through May 5. From there it will go to St. Louis, Detroit and New York/New Jersey, where it will be open during the 2014 Super Bowl.
PORT GIBSON, Miss. — Entergy Nuclear has locked out union security workers at its nuclear plant near Port Gibson, Miss., after contract negotiations with the United Government Security Officers of America Local 36 failed. A three-year contract with security officers at Mississippi's only nuclear plant expired at midnight Sunday. Mike Balduzzi, Entergy Nuclear's senior vice president of nuclear technical services, said in a statement that Entergy Nuclear used a contingency staffing plan to ensure that a professional security force remained at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station after the contract expired.
LAFAYETTE GENERAL EXPANSION
LAFAYETTE — Another renovation and expansion of Lafayette General Medical Center begins later this month and includes a new four-story addition to house upgraded emergency and surgical services and a six-story parking garage. David Callecod, hospital president and CEO, said Monday the $52 million project includes a unique feature for Acadiana — a trauma elevator that will provide direct access from the hospital's helipad to the new emergency department and operating suites to save minutes for trauma patients. Groundbreaking on the four-story addition is set for 10 a.m. Monday. Callecod said the project is expected to be complete by summer 2014.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. —Florida has bragged about its offensive line for months. The 10th-ranked Gators have repeatedly called the unit the strength of the team, a group of guys who have made steady improvement since spring practice in March. They're supposedly bigger, stronger and more experienced — and the main reason Florida's offense has made strides in coach Will Muschamp's second season. How the line performs against No. 4 LSU on Saturday will either validate or negate all that chatter. By Mark Long.
SALT LAKE CITY — Three-and-a-half seasons have passed since Utah stole the national spotlight with its Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. Since then, the Utes haven't fared so well against the best of the best. They have gone just 2-5 against Top 25 opponents. That said, there's little question what Thursday night's nationally televised matchup with No. 13 Southern California means. "It's huge," said Utah quarterback Jon Hays.
AP LOUISIANA OUTDOOR WRITERS EXCHANGE
NEW ORLEANS — When local outdoors folk look back on the summer of 2012 they may well remember it as a season of questions. Such as "What happened to the speckled trout?" And "What happened to the teal?" And "How did a Category 1 storm spread so much damage?" I found part of the answer last week when I spotted the bodies. They were laying along the shoulders and on the neutral ground of Highway 23 between Lake Hermitage and Port Sulphur. Some in starkly sad isolation, others twisted together where the storm's surge had left them, still others extending from 20-foot piles of debris being dropped into trucks by heavy equipment. Two weeks earlier they had been residents of the southeast Louisiana marsh, full-grown clumps of spartina grass complete with a foot-thick supporting plug of delta mud, something that might have taken the river decades to lay down - when it could still reach its delta. By Bob Marshall, The Times-Picayune.
— The Associated Press, New Orleans