Associated Press

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  The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to restore 24-hour service to the most important locks on the Ouachita River navigation system after more than two years of lobbying from the Ouachita River Valley Association.

Bill Hobgood, executive director of the association, says 24-hour service will be restored on the Jonesville and Columbia locks, where more than 90 percent of commercial navigation takes place, by late summer or fall. The two uppers locks, Felsenthal and H.K. Thatcher in Arkansas, will continue to operate on two eight-hour shifts each day.

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  Treasurer John Kennedy says state officials, seeking to stave off a downgrade to Louisiana's credit rating, asked a national rating agency to give Louisiana time to clean up its budget mess.

Moody's Investors Service notified the state its rating committee will meet later this week to decide whether to drop Louisiana's credit rating.

Kennedy said he, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and the chairmen of the legislative budget committees held a conference call Wednesday with Moody's to urge against the downgrade.

 A Monroe police officer has been fired because of racially offensive comments made on social media following a white Ferguson, Missouri, policeman's shooting and killing of a black suspect last fall.

Chief Quentin Holmes said Monday that Officer Doug Lambert was fired following an internal investigation. The News Star reports Lambert had been on administrative leave since November.

In one Facebook post Lambert said, "I've got an idea how to clear the streets in Ferguson, Missouri. Let's have a crop duster fly over and drop out job applications. That'll do it."

Grambling State Univesity

  Louisiana's budget problems are making Grambling State University's presidential search more difficult.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley released a letter from the search firm hired to recruit candidates that says the threat of deep budget cuts has stymied efforts to find a new Grambling leader.

The Hollins Group says potential candidates won't consider applying until the financial future of the university is clearer. The search firm says candidates want to make sure Grambling has a "positive future" before they'd accept a job offer.

nola.com

Baton Rouge, La. (AP) - When it was created last year, a $40 million incentive fund to pay for college programs that fill high-demand jobs in Louisiana was hailed as critical to both higher education and the state's workforce needs. 

Now, with the state grappling with deep budget problems, Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to strip financing from the fund that only months ago he described as among his top priorities.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says a female whooping crane released about a year ago has been shot in Vermilion Parish and had to be put to death.

Spokesman Adam Einck said Wednesday there's a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot the endangered bird.

He says the bird was found Nov. 2 with an apparent bullet wound in her upper left leg and was euthanized the next day at the Louisiana State University veterinary school.

The city of New Orleans is offering musicians a chance to learn the business side of the industry at the "Y'Heard Me? Music Business Summit" on Saturday.

The free conference, to be held from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ellis Marsalis Center, will give aspiring musicians the opportunity to learn from industry professionals about copyright and intellectual property law, artist management and goal setting, fan engagement and Internet marketing, licensing music to motion pictures, and small business development.

In a move to protect the health of musicians and late-night workers, the New Orleans City Council has voted unanimously to ban smoking in bars and gambling halls.

New Orleans had been one of the last major American cities to allow people to smoke tobacco in bars. Smoking at indoor restaurants is no longer permitted. The new ban is expected to take effect in three months.

The ban was tweaked before being approved. For instance, New Orleans police won't have to enforce the ordinance and smoking will be allowed within 5 feet of bar entrances — not 25 feet away.

La. Tech University

The Board of Trustees of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation has presented Louisiana Tech University with a gift of $920,000 to fund scholarships for first generation and academically outstanding students.

The university says it will seek $80,000 in matching funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents to establish a total scholarship fund of $1 million.

The foundation, founded by Taylor and his wife, Phyllis, presented the check recently to university President Les Guice and President Emeritus Dan Reneau.

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Lawyers for the government and oil giant BP are preparing for trial in New Orleans that could add more than $13 billion in penalties to the billions BP already has shelled out as a result of 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Federal lawyers say BP should pay as much as $4,300 per barrel spilled after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion at BP's Macondo well. Based on a court finding that 3.19 barrels polluted the Gulf, the penalties could reach $13.7 billion.

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