Louisiana news briefs

From The Associated Press.
3 new cases of West Nile virus in Louisiana 
NEW ORLEANS  (AP) — Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals reports three new West Nile virus cases, all of them flu-like West Nile fever.
A news release Friday said diagnoses in Ascension, Lafayette and Ouachita parishes bring the year’s total to 58 cases.
While most people never have any symptoms, about 10 percent get West Nile fever and some get infections of the brain or spinal cord, which can lead to brain damage, paralysis and death. Louisiana has had 34 such neuroinvasive cases, four of them fatal. Twenty people had West Nile fever and four had no symptoms.
Sweet potato crop is average 
CHASE  (AP) — An LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist says sweet potato quality is good this year, and the yield is average.
Mavis Finger says the sweet potatoes are smaller than usual because a cool, wet spring delayed planting statewide. She says growers are harvesting a lot of the premium grade, No. 1, but fewer of the jumbo potatoes used for processing.
Louisiana has about 7,500 acres of sweet potatoes. That’s 25 percent down from last year.
Louisiana, Mississippi: 
Fs for premature births 
NEW ORLEANS — The March of Dimes has given Louisiana and Mississippi grades of F for high premature birth rates, noting that both states have large numbers of uninsured women and women who smoke.
About one in six babies born in each state last year spent less than 37 weeks in the womb, the organization said Friday in an annual report that grades the percentage of premature births in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The figure was about 15 percent in Louisiana and 17 percent in Mississippi. Alabama and Puerto Rico got the only other failing grades. Other Southern states got Cs and Ds. The March of Dimes has set a national goal of 9.6 percent and grades states by how far they are from that figure.
Premature birth risks a host of medical problems including heart defects, immature lungs, anemia, damaged bowels, eye disease, problems with sucking, and sleeping and alertness difficulties.
Louisiana has a long way to go but a campaign that started in November 2010 to reduce the premature birth rate did so by three-tenths of a percentage point from 2011 to 2012, said Kathy Kliebert, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals.
Police: Woman in coma 
after illegal injections 
NEW ORLEANS  (AP) — New Orleans police are searching for a beauty pageant performer suspected of illegally injecting silicone into the hips and buttocks of two women, one of whom lapsed into a coma.
Local media outlets reported that the suspect, 32-year-old Armani Nicole Davenport, is a transgender woman whose birth name is Larry Tremmell Bernard. The reports said that police obtained an arrest warrant Friday for Davenport on a charge of negligent injuring.
According to the local news reports, police believe two women voluntarily received silicone injections from Davenport at a New Orleans home on Oct. 24. One of the women summoned paramedics after her friend developed breathing problems.
Investigators believe Davenport is a Baton Rouge native who lives in Dallas and often travels between Louisiana, Texas and Georgia to perform in pageants.
La. private investigator arraigned in bribery case 
LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette private investigator has pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in an alleged plot to solicit money from people facing state criminal charges in exchange for promising to help favorably resolve the cases.
The private investigator, 64-year-old Robert Williamson, was freed on $50,000 bond following his arraignment Wednesday in federal court. He was indicted in February on six counts of bribery and one count each of conspiracy, Social Security fraud and making false statements to a federal agent.
Williamson allegedly participated in a “pay-for-plea” scheme to solicit thousands of dollars from people with criminal cases, mostly drunken driving charges, pending in the state’s 15th Judicial District Court.
Three former employees of District Attorney Mike Harson’s office also were charged in the case and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.
Ex-N.O. court bookkeeper charged with theft 
NEW ORLEANS  (AP) — A man who served as chief financial officer for New Orleans Traffic Court has been indicted on charges that he overbilled the city and used court funds to pay for personal expenses.
Friday’s 12-count federal indictment charges 40-year-old Vandale Thomas, of Prairieville, with theft, money laundering and illegally structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements.
The traffic court hired Thomas and his firm, Thomas & Thomas Accounting Services LLC, in November 2008 to provide accounting and bookkeeping services.
The indictment accuses Thomas of overbilling the city for his services by more than $680,000 between 2009 and 2011. Prosecutors say he also illegally obtained money from the court to buy more than $10,000 in chips from a New Orleans casino and to make a down payment on an $80,000 Bentley GT Coupe.
Pollock 4-H camp gets 
final donation for building 
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The LSU AgCenter has the final donation needed to build a multipurpose center at 4-H Camp Grant Walker in Pollock.
The camp needs a place where campers can assemble when it’s stormy or brutally hot, said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture.
Camp Director Christine Bergeron said storms now scatter campers into various buildings.
A $30,000 gift Monday from AT&T completed the $1.2 million needed in private donations and in-kind gifts of supplies and building materials, AgCenter spokeswoman Linda Foster Benedict said.
She said bids will go out soon for the building, expected to cost $1.6 million.
Louisiana 4-H Foundation director Jeff Bush said architectural plans have been completed and groundbreaking is likely in January.
“I do want this place to be up next summer,” Richardson said.
He said private donations, including two previous AT&T donations totaling $50,000 and a $500,000 check from the RoyOMartin forest products and forest management company, made it possible.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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