Sanders offers lower-cost bill to reform VA

The U.S. Capitol is seen in early morning light in Washington, Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s chairman has offered to scale back a Senate-passed bill to improve health care services for veterans. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Thursday that a new proposal to improve veterans’ access to health care would cost less than $25 billion over three … Continue reading →

Jurors begin deliberations in Port Allen murder trial

Marcus Richardson

A West Baton Rouge Parish jury has begun deliberations in the second degree murder trial of Marcus Richardson Port Allen. Richardson is accused in the May 2012 shooting of Justin Warner, an 18-year-old student at Brusly High School, in the parking lot of the La. 1 Exxon Truck Plaza. The shooting occurred around 10 … Continue reading →

Nichols says Common Core legal requests needs more review

Kristy Nichols

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Thursday morning she needs more information on the state school board’s request to hire special legal counsel in the battle over Common Core. In a letter to state Superintendent of Education John White and Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Nichols said … Continue reading →

BR casino revenues down for June

Advocate staff file photo by Mark Saltz -- The winnings at Baton Rouge’s three riverboat casinos were lower in June than they were the year before, because of a dropoff in activity at Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge.

The winnings at Baton Rouge’s three riverboat casinos were lower in June than they were the year before, because of a dropoff in activity at Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge. The three local riverboats brought in nearly $22.5 million during June, compared with almost $25.6 million in June 2013, a 4.7 percent drop, according to figures released Thursday … Continue reading →

2 Southern Belle truck stop robbery suspects arrested

Joshua Wells

Two Zachary men suspected in the Monday night armed robbery of Southern Belle Truck Stop near the south end of West Feliciana Parish have been arrested in East Baton Rouge Parish, authorities announced. Joshua Wells, 21, of 421 E. Flanacher Road in Zachary, and Reginald Jackson, 21, of 474 E. Flanacher Road in Zachary, each face one … Continue reading →

Soccer tourney helped lift BR hotel revenue 41 percent

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- The Futboleros' Alexander Mendoza performs for the crowd during the opening ceremony of the US Youth Soccer Region III Tournament on Thursday at the Baton Rouge River Center. The Futboleros are a soccer entertainment company based in Los Angeles.

Hotels took in $6.7 million in revenue during last month’s regional youth soccer tournament in Baton Rouge — a 41 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The figures from lodging industry firm STR are for June 19-26. Local hotels collected $4.8 million for the same period in 2013. The first day of the … Continue reading →

BR banks Business First, American Gateway merging

Advocate staff file photo -- American Gateway Bank, with 10 locations, and its parent company are being acquired by Business First Bancshares Inc. The combined company will have 16 locations and more than $1 billion in assets.

Business First Bancshares Inc. is acquiring American Gateway Financial Corp., combining two Baton Rouge banks into a financial institution with $1 billion in assets and 16 locations. The two companies are the parent companies of Business First Bank and American Gateway Bank. The combined company will operate under the Business First brand. “While we continue to … Continue reading →

IberiaBank earnings rise

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette-based IberiaBank Corp.

Lafayette-based IberiaBank Corp.’s second-quarter earnings climbed to $18.5 million, or 60 cents per share, compared to $15.6 million, or 53 cents per share. However, the holding company for IberiaBank’s results included non-operating costs, mainly for acquisitions, of 36 cents per share. Without those costs, IberiaBank would have generated a profit of 96 cents per share. … Continue reading →

House advances lawsuit bill

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans cleared the way Thursday for a House vote on legislation authorizing an election-year lawsuit that accuses President Barack Obama of failing to implement the 4-year-old health care law. The vote in the Rules Committee was 7-4, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. Republicans say the lawsuit is necessary … Continue reading →

Obama wants limits on U.S. company mergers abroad

President Barack Obama waves to supporters as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Los Angeles, for a 24-hour visit.  (AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Barack Obama is tapping into growing misgivings about tax-driven overseas mergers by U.S. corporations, issuing a new call to end the practice quickly and questioning the patriotism and citizenship of those companies. The push comes amid a developing trend by companies to reorganize with foreign entities partly to reduce their tax payments … Continue reading →

Grand Isle prepares for its busiest weekend

Photo provided by LOUISIANA OUTDOOR WRITERS ASSOCIATION -- Lance Schouest shows off the 228.81-pound tarpon he landed in 2013 in the gulf.

GRAND ISLE (AP) — Thousands will descend on Grand Isle this weekend for this year’s International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo. The town bills the rodeo that began in 1928 as the “oldest fishing tournament in the United States.” It runs from Thursday through Saturday. The Couier reports ( ) the rodeo is an annual staple for … Continue reading →

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

Advocate file photo -- The Riverbend Nuclear Plant in West Feliciana Parish.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says a key lesson from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident is that the nation’s nuclear industry needs to focus more on the highly unlikely but super-serious worst case scenarios. A National Academy of Sciences report says that means thinking about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, solar storm, multiple failures and situations that … Continue reading →

FAA lifts ban on U.S. flights to Tel Aviv airport

Associated Press photo by Dan Balilty -- A arrivals flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights Wednesday in Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights after a Hamas rocket landed Tuesday within a mile of the airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its ban on U.S. flights in and out of Israel. The end of the ban, which the agency had imposed out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets, was effective at 11:45 p.m. EDT Wednesday. “Before making this decision, the FAA worked with … Continue reading →

Air Algerie plane disappears from radar

The logo of the Air Algerie company office, at the Opera avenue in Paris Thursday July 24, 2014. A flight operated by Air Algerie has disappeared from radar while traveling from Burkina Faso in West Africa to Algiers. Authorities say it was carrying over 100 passengers and crew when air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair plane 50 minutes after takeoff earlier this morning. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

ALGIERS, Algeria — A flight operated by Air Algerie and carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital disappeared from radar early Thursday, the plane’s owner said. Air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday), … Continue reading →

Metro Council meeting ends without LGBT vote

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Proponents and opponents of a fairness ordinance crowd into the East Baton Rouge Metro Council chambers hoping to speak during the regularly-scheduled Metro Council meeting Wednesday night.  The meeting was adjourned without a vote as time expired after lengthy debate from proponents and opponents.

After hours of passionate speeches from members of the public about a proposed ban on discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Baton Rouge Metro Council abruptly ended the meeting Wednesday without voting. Councilman John Delgado, a supporter of the ordinance, filibustered the remaining three minutes of the meeting, essentially blocking a … Continue reading →

Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

The Arizona state prison where the nearly two hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood took place on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, is photographed in Florence, Ariz.  Wood was convicted in the 1989 shooting deaths of Debbie Dietz, 29, and Gene Dietz, 55, at an auto repair shop in Tucson. (AP Photo)

PHOENIX — A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead … Continue reading →

Partisanship trumps Russia-Ukraine crisis

Not even an international crisis can break the partisan gridlock in the U.S. Senate. That’s a cynical, and simplistic, view of the impact — or lack thereof — of the conflict in Ukraine on the debate over exporting liquefied natural gas. But the bottom line is that export-boosting efforts by U.S. Sen. … Continue reading →

36 vehicles burglarized near Denham Springs

Updated at 9:22 p.m. –

Casino employment increases in La.

Advocate staff file photo -- Casinos in Louisiana employed more people and generated more state and local tax revenue in 2013 than in 2012, ranking the state fourth natiionally in casino jobs.

While the number of people working in Louisiana’s commercial casinos increased from 2012 to 2013 and taxes paid to state and local governments also went up, a new report noted that employee wages, benefits and tips dropped during that time. According to the American Gaming Association, the number of permanent full-time workers in the … Continue reading →

Lafayette has ‘critical shortage’ of classroom teachers

The Lafayette Parish School System declared a critical shortage of classroom teachers Wednesday to open the door for it to hire retirees to fill about 40 positions still vacant as the clock ticks down on the first day of school on Aug. 12. Superintendent Pat Cooper blamed the school system’s operational budget … Continue reading →

Lafayette police blotter for July 23, 2014

A call to police about a domestic disturbance in New Iberia led to a late-night evacuation of four homes after the discovery of a methamphetamine lab in the 600 block of McDonald Street, officials said. Iberia Parish sheriff’s Lt. Richard Fleming said in a statement that deputies found the suspected lab … Continue reading →

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

WASHINGTON (AP) — Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form. The mistake primarily stems from an online form change to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, made … Continue reading →

Social Security spent $300M on ‘IT boondoggle’

This Jan. 11, 2013, file photo shows the Social Security Administration's main campus in Woodlawn, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, an internal report says the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement. … Continue reading →

GM issues 6 more safety recalls

In this April 21, 2009, file photo, General Motors world headquarters is shown in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors issued six more recalls on Wednesday, bringing its annual total to 60 recalls covering almost 30 million vehicles. The latest recalls cover almost 718,000 cars and trucks. The largest is for faulty seats in just over 414,000 cars and small SUVs. Other problems include incomplete welds on seat brackets, turn signal failures, … Continue reading →

New Iberia meth lab found, homes evacuated

A call to police about a domestic disturbance led to a late-night evacuation of nearby homes after discovery of a methamphetamine lab inside a house in the 600 block of McDonald Street, officials said. Iberia Parish sheriff’s Lt. Richard Fleming said in a statement that deputies received the domestic disturbance call at … Continue reading →