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Metro Council votes to hire attorney to fight St. George incorporation

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, left, speaks as fellow councilman Joel Boé, right, listens, during discussion about attorney Mary Olive Pierson in the Metro Council meeting Wednesday night.

What promises to be a long and hard-fought legal battle between the city of Baton Rouge and the proposed city of St. George has just begun. The Metro Council voted Wednesday evening to hire Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson to represent the city-parish in its efforts to halt the St. George incorporation, over… Continue reading →

Funeral arrangements announced for Rev. Than Vu; death called 'a tremendous loss' for Baton Rouge

Advocate file photo by Liz Condo. --  Father Than Vu, center, pastor of Christ the King Catholic church, washes the foot of a member of his congregation with the help of Kathy Screen, left, and Kendrick Roberson, 13, right, during Holy Thursday mass. The tradition of foot washing on Holy Thursday is drawn from a Bible story in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Father Matt Lorrain of Christ the King says the Holy Thursday mass celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood in the Catholic faith.

The Very Rev. Than Ngoc Vu had a serious title but an oftentimes whimsical approach to his ministry. He was the sort of priest who once wore a shamrock hat and matching glasses atop his robes while finishing a service on St. Patrick’s Day. He would also invite parishioners up to the altar while giving the… Continue reading →

Source: NFL, NBA not likely to worry about past lawsuits against Gayle Benson

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER --  Lane Murdoch, Jr. photographs Hornets owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle Monday, October 1, 2012 at the Alario Center in Westwego during media day. Before Tom Benson came into her life, Gayle suffered financial challenges and was the subject of litigation and foreclosure.

Neither the Saints nor the Pelicans anticipate Gayle Benson’s record of being sued numerous times in New Orleans civil court will dissuade either the NFL or the NBA from approving a plan to make her the future owner of the two teams owned by her husband, Tom Benson, a source close to the situation said Wednesday.… Continue reading →

The high school coach of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris told him to leave LSU

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU quarterback Brandon Harris (6) throws during warmups for the game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 in Auburn.

. David Feaster, Brandon Harris’ high school coach at Parkway, told the quarterback to transfer to a junior college after his first semester at LSU, the coach said on a north Louisiana radio show Wednesday morning. Feaster tried to talk Harris into transferring, he said on the Tim Fletcher Show, and he said LSU is telling… Continue reading →

Jindal says he’ll suggest ‘options’ to reduce budget cuts

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during his prayer rally,

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday that he’ll offer lawmakers “suggested solutions” in February that could lessen the depth of next year’s budget cuts as the state grapples with a $1.6 billion projected shortfall. The Republican governor’s 2015-16 budget proposal is due to lawmakers Feb. 27. It will outline Jindal’s recommendations for closing the gap in the fiscal… Continue reading →

Officials: Reports of bulkhead failures at False River need more study before blaming the drawdown

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Boaters prepare to pull a pair of tubers on False River in New Roads on Aug. 31. A drawndown of the lake in Pointe Coupee Parish is being blamed for the failure of bulkheads at properties along the lake. State officials say poor construction of the bulkheads may be to blame.

State officials told owners of property along False River at a meeting Wednesday night that any failures on some of their bulkheads were most likely caused by construction flaws and not the temporary drawdown of the oxbow lake’s water level. But many of those landowners have said the they believe the drawdown… Continue reading →

Vitter grills attorney general candidate

Associated Press photo by J. SCOTT APPLEWHITEAttorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama's choice to run the Justice Department, wraps up a full day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., aggressively questioned attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch about her defense of the Obama administration’s controversial immigration policy in her confirmation hearing Wednesday. “I have a huge concern regarding what I think is the president’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty,” Vitter said to Lynch in the U.S. Senate Judiciary… Continue reading →

‘Beyond Bricks EBR’ participants call for more arts and music education, community schools with stable faculties

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Anna Fogle, left, gives statistical information to the attendees as Beyond Bricks EBR held the first of three listening sessions Wednesday at the BREC facility located at 6117 Cadillac Street. The initiative aims to get people in EBR to say what they want in public education.

In a cavernous gym on Cadillac Street, a few blocks from Glen Oaks High School, about 40 people sat down Wednesday afternoon to say their piece about public education in East Baton Rouge Parish and what they think could make it better. “We need to talk about the good things are happening in this district,” said… Continue reading →

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former spiritual adviser to Pres. Obama, accepts invite to speak at Southern University

Associated Press file photo / Chattanooga times Free Press, Doug Strickland -- Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a former spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, is slated to speak at Southern University next month. According to the university, Wright — who has been a lightning rod and controversial figure for Obama critics throughout Obama’s presidency — was invited to give the public speech on campus by College of Social and… Continue reading →

Water quality issues discussed at Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association annual meeting

Industries in Louisiana have been working with environmental groups, state agencies and university scientists to brainstorm potential solutions addressing water quality issues. Ranging from wetlands restoration to reducing the size of the annual low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, the collaboration through the Louisiana Water Synergy Project is meant to deal with potential… Continue reading →

Hezbollah, Israel exchange fire

Israeli soldiers treat a wounded soldier near the Israel-Lebanon border, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. A missile fired by the Lebanese Hezbollah group struck an Israeli military convoy on Wednesday, killing two soldiers in an apparent retaliation for a deadly airstrike attributed to Israel that killed many Hezbollah fighters in Syria earlier this month. The violence was the deadliest Hezbollah attack on Israel since a 2006 war between the two sides. (AP Photo/Gili Eliyahu, Jinipix)

SHEAR YASHUV, Israel — The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group fired a salvo of missiles at an Israeli military convoy in a disputed border area Wednesday, killing two soldiers and triggering deadly clashes that marked the most serious escalation since the sides’ 2006 war. The flare-up, which left a U.N. peacekeeper dead and seven… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge police investigating Plank Road shooting

Baton Rouge police are investigating a Wednesday night shooting on Ontario Street that left a man with serious injuries. The shooting happened about 7 p.m. in the 2900 block of Ontario Street, near Plank Road, said Cpl. Don Coppola, a Baton Rouge Police spokesman. The victim was taken to a hospital with “potentially life-threatening injuries,”… Continue reading →

Metro Council gives nod to St. George Fire Department to seek separate tax renewal and increase in May

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  Mayor Kip Holden shakes hands with St. George Fire Chief Gerry Tarlton, right, during discussions concerning tax proposals for the St. George Fire Protection District in the Metro Council meeting Wednesday night.

The St. George Fire Department will hold a May 2 election for a tax renewal and increase after the Metro Council gave it the go-ahead Wednesday despite rejecting the election earlier this month. A split 6-6 vote at the previous council meeting made it appear the Fire Department would have to wait until fall… Continue reading →

Public hearing set on permits for proposed gravel pit in Watson

A public hearing on the water quality certification for Southern Aggregates’ proposed gravel pit in Watson is scheduled March 19. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct the joint hearing at 6 p.m. in the Live Oak High School cafeteria, 36079 La. 16, Denham Springs. Southern… Continue reading →

Albemarle misses Wall Street earnings projections

Baton Rouge-based specialty chemicals maker Albemarle Corp. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $18.5 million, or 24 cents per share, compared to a profit of $155.9 million, or $1.91 per share a year ago. For the year, the company reported a profit of $133.3 million, or $1.69 per share, compared to $413.2 million, or $4.90 per share.… Continue reading →

Legislators unlikely to act on hospital stability plan

Legislators likely won’t act on a constitutional provision approved by Louisiana voters in November that would have protected some of the money hospitals are paid to provide medical care for the poor and uninsured. “I’m 99 percent sure we are not doing anything,” said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, who sponsored the constitutional amendment… Continue reading →

Plans for export facilities in doubt

Plummeting oil prices mean that two natural gas export projects in Cameron Parish that are already underway may be among the few such planned facilities in the U.S. that experts say will actually be built, potentially leaving $31 billion or more in other proposed Louisiana projects at risk of going undeveloped. Eleven proposed Louisiana projects are… Continue reading →

Pro-Jindal super PAC soliciting donors

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

The political action committee that’s been set up to support Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s potential run for president started circulating letters to Republican donors Wednesday, pitching Jindal as a “once-in-a-lifetime leader.” Buzzfeed obtained a copy of the letter, which is signed by former Congressman Bob Livingston, chairman of the pro-Jindal “Believe Again” super PAC. Continue reading… Continue reading →

Smoking ban proposal headed to Lafayette council before summer

Advocate Photo by BRAD KEMP Bar patron Jake Kulbeth, right, holds a cigarette while sitting at the bar in Marley's downtown Lafayette, La., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015.

The City-Parish Council could decide before the summer whether to ban smoking in bars. Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux announced at a news conference on Wednesday that he plans to bring a proposed ban to the full council within 90 days. The councilman said he has no illusions of easy passage, considering the nine-member council is… Continue reading →

The high school coach of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris told him to leave LSU

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU quarterback Brandon Harris (6) throws during warmups for the game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 in Auburn.

. David Feaster, Brandon Harris’ high school coach at Parkway, told the quarterback to transfer to a junior college after his first semester at LSU, the coach said on a north Louisiana radio show Wednesday morning. Feaster tried to talk Harris into transferring, he said on the Tim Fletcher Show, and he said LSU is telling… Continue reading →

Special ed teacher sues Carencro principal for alleged harrassment

Advocate file photo by Bryan Tuck.-- Carencro Middle School.

A special education teacher claims Carencro Middle School Principal Spurgeon Banyard sexually harassed her during her time working at the school and denied her leave for medical appointments because she rebuffed his advances. Special education teacher Sandra Stevens filed suit in state district court Monday against the “state of Louisiana through Lafayette Parish School… Continue reading →

Tom Benson’s estranged heirs make renewed plea for psychiatric evaluation after 'pattern of bizarre behavior'

Pictured from left, Tom Benson, Gayle Benson, Renee Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc

Lawyers for the three relatives Tom Benson once had tapped to inherit his sports teams but has now cut off reiterated in court documents filed Wednesday that it is “clearly” necessary for the 87-year-old billionaire to be examined by a geriatric psychiatrist because his physical and mental state is in dispute. Tom Benson’s granddaughter… Continue reading →

‘We’ve never had anything like this’ — Ascension deputies still working to solve two shooting deaths in Donaldsonville

Advocate staff photo by ELLYN COUVILLION - A memorial set up by a family member at the Donaldsonville home of Chad Nichols, who was slain there on Monday.

The stepfather of the man slain in his front yard Monday said Ascension Parish Sheriff’s detectives told him they feel confident the perpetrators will be caught. Marvin Gros, stepfather of Chad Nichols, said Tuesday that detectives are in touch with him regularly. “They’ve been keeping me abreast; all the detectives feel… Continue reading →

New Orleans smoking ban ignites debate in Baton Rouge, but Kip Holden tight-lipped so far on issue

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Phill Beard, bar manager of Pelican House, enjoys a cigarette while playing pool at Duvic's Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  Beard said about Pelican House,

Less than a week after New Orleans passed a local law to ban smoking in bars and casinos, some Baton Rouge medical professionals and local leaders are pushing the capital city to strike while the iron’s still hot. On Tuesday, Mayor-President Kip Holden and leaders from area hospitals announced a Tobacco-Free Awareness campaign… Continue reading →

Unique New Orleans-based Dinner Lab expanding into Baton Rouge

Photo provided by REAUX PHOTO -- New Orleans-based Dinner Lab operates social dining clubs in 25 cities that give chefs a chance to try out new dishes while offering members access to unique

Dinner Lab, a social dining club that gives chefs a chance to try out new dishes while offering members access to unique “pop-up” restaurants, is expanding into Baton Rouge. The New Orleans-based company was founded about two years ago to allow emerging chefs to get feedback on which meals work and which don’t.… Continue reading →

Hummingbird viewing program set for Friday, Saturday in Baton Rouge

Photo provided by the Baton Rouge Audubon Society -- A hummingbird. The Baton Rouge Audubon Society will hold its annual winter hummingbird program Friday, Jan. 30, at the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center Education Center.

The Baton Rouge Audubon Society will hold its annual winter hummingbird program this week and teach participants a little more about the backyard visitors. From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, hummingbird watcher Dennis Demcheck will talk about winter hummingbirds that can be seen in Louisiana. The talk will be held at the Bluebonnet… Continue reading →

More guns found in carry-ons at U.S. airports

The Transportation Security Administration says officers discovered 2,212 firearms during safety screenings last year, a 22 percent jump over 2013.… Continue reading →

Photos: Rev. Than Vu through the years: From leading mass to serving Baton Rouge community

Advocate file photo by Liz Condo. -- Father Than Vu, right, pastor of Christ the King Catholic church, washes the foot of Chukwudi Chukwudozie, left, with the help of Kathy Screen, center, during Holy Thursday mass. The tradition of foot washing on Holy Thursday is drawn from a Bible story in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Father Matt Lorrain of Christ the King says the Holy Thursday mass celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood in the Catholic faith.

Baton Rouge’s Rev. Than Vu died early Wednesday morning after a long battle with cancer. Funeral arrangements are still pending. Vu spent about 30 years in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He was 56.… Continue reading →

Mormon leaders call for gay rights protections

The Mormon church announced a campaign Tuesday for new laws that protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination while also protecting people who assert their religious beliefs.… Continue reading →

Funeral arrangements announced for Rev. Than Vu; death called 'a tremendous loss' for Baton Rouge

Advocate file photo by Liz Condo. --  Father Than Vu, center, pastor of Christ the King Catholic church, washes the foot of a member of his congregation with the help of Kathy Screen, left, and Kendrick Roberson, 13, right, during Holy Thursday mass. The tradition of foot washing on Holy Thursday is drawn from a Bible story in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Father Matt Lorrain of Christ the King says the Holy Thursday mass celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood in the Catholic faith.

The Very Rev. Than Ngoc Vu had a serious title but an oftentimes whimsical approach to his ministry. He was the sort of priest who once wore a shamrock hat and matching glasses atop his robes while finishing a service on St. Patrick’s Day. He would also invite parishioners up to the altar while giving the… Continue reading →

After killings by police, a debate over grand jury secrecy

In this Dec. 3, 2014, photo, people gather in New York's Grand Central Terminal to protest after it was announced that a grand jury had decided the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner would not beindicted. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a limited lifting of the grand jury veil when police kill unarmed civilians and a New York City judge will consider whether to release transcripts of the grand jurys investigation into Garners police-chokehold death. (AP Photo/Jaime Holguin, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — For centuries, grand juries have held some of the criminal justice system’s best-kept secrets. But their private process has come under extraordinary public scrutiny after recent decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed men. Calls for more transparency have sounded in Congress, statehouses and editorial pages, mixed with notes… Continue reading →

Readers share memories of Baton Rouge's Rev. Than Vu: 'Most inspiring priest I ever met'

Advocate file photo by Liz Condo. --  Father Than Vu, center, pastor of Christ the King Catholic church, washes the foot of a member of his congregation with the help of Kathy Screen, left, and Kendrick Roberson, 13, right, during Holy Thursday mass. The tradition of foot washing on Holy Thursday is drawn from a Bible story in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Father Matt Lorrain of Christ the King says the Holy Thursday mass celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood in the Catholic faith.

Rev. Than Vu -- a fixture in Baton Rouge's Catholic community -- died early Wednesday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 56. Continue reading →

Grambling could lose undergraduate nursing program

GRAMBLING (AP) — Grambling State University officials will meet with the Louisiana State Board of Nursing next month to learn the fate of the university’s undergraduate nursing program. For the past three years Grambling’s undergraduate nursing program has been on the board’s “conditional approval” list because it has not maintained an 80 percent passing rate by students… Continue reading →

LSU Healthcare, CVS to collaborate on patient care

Patients at LSU Healthcare Network in New Orleans will be able to help with medication counseling, chronic disease monitoring and wellness programs at CVS Health pharmacies and MinuteClinics under an agreement announced Wednesday. CVS Health will also provide critical prescription and visit information to the participating medical centers through the integration of secured electronic medical record systems.… Continue reading →

Government tells agents to ID which immigrants not to deport

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2014, file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on the impact of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obamas plans to avoid deporting them, according to internal training materials obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obama’s plans to avoid deporting them, according to internal training materials obtained by The Associated Press. Agents also have been told to review government files to identify any jailed immigrants… Continue reading →

Investar reports record profits for fourth quarter, year

Baton Rouge-based Investar Holding Corp, the holding company for Investar Bank, reported its fourth-quarter profit soared to a record $2 million, or 27 cents per share, compared to $200,000, or 4 cents per share, a year ago. For the year, Investar also generated a record profit of $5.4 million, or 93 cents per share, compared to $3.2… Continue reading →

Sasol delays $14B fuel facility

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- An investment decision has been delayed on a $14 billion gas-to-liquids plant that would be part of the site for an expansion at the Sasol plant in Westlake. The pond would be filled for the expansion. Sasol's existing ethylene plant is in the background.

A decision on a $14 billion chunk of a project touted to be the most expensive industrial investment in Louisiana history was delayed Wednesday because of the collapse in oil prices. South African energy giant Sasol said it will delay its final investment decision on its proposed gas-to-liquids plant in the Lake Charles… Continue reading →