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September 27, 2018 - 12:00 am

ABORTION-LOUISIANA

Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals does not violate women's constitutional abortion rights.

Wednesday's 2-1 ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals notes a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down an admitting privileges law in Texas. But, the majority said, Louisiana's law does not impose the same "substantial burden" on women as the Texas law.

The majority said there is no evidence that any Louisiana clinics will close because of the law.

Supporters of the law said abortion doctors need to be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles (50 kilometers) in case of medical complications. Opponents said the law would make it very difficult or impossible for many women to obtain abortions.

TRAFFIC STOP-COCAINE

63 pounds of cocaine found in Louisiana traffic stop

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Authorities in Louisiana say a weekend traffic stop resulted in the confiscation of about 63 pounds (28.58 kilograms) of cocaine.

A news release Wednesday from the Lake Charles Police Department says it happened Sunday afternoon on Interstate 10, when a tow truck was pulled over for a traffic violation.

Cpl. Chad Booth became suspicious of the driver, who refused consent for a search of the truck. Police say they conducted a legal "probable cause" search after a drug-sniffing dog walked around the car and reacted to the scent of narcotics.

Police say they found 27 bundles of powder cocaine. Arrested was 42-year-old Elton Joseph Richard of Church Point. The release says he was jailed with bond set at $250,000. It was unclear if he had an attorney who could comment.

NEW ORLEANS-BUS GRANT

Louisiana city gets $6.3M federal grant for new buses

(Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana city with an aging bus fleet has been awarded a $6.3 million grant for 17 new buses.

The New Orleans Advocate reports the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority hasn't replaced most of its fleet since just after Hurricane Katrina.

The agency announced the grant Tuesday. It's one of more than 100 organizations nationwide awarded Federal Transit Administration grants to help states and agencies replace buses and bus depots.

The agency's manager, a French conglomerate called Transdev, attempted and failed to get a $20 million award for buses in the 2017 fiscal year. Transdev then recommended RTA's board purchase eight electric buses for about $9 million.

The board instead decided on cheaper diesel-powered buses as it says many of its buses are nearing the end of their useful lives.

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MEDICARE FRAUD-SENTENCE

6 New Orleans area residents sentenced in Medicare fraud

(Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Six people have been sentenced to prison for their role in a Medicare fraud scheme in the New Orleans area.

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reported four doctors, a biller and an office manager were sentenced this week for their convictions in May.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the scheme involved more than 20 people and netted millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare reimbursements.

Those sentenced have been ordered to pay $30 million in restitution.

The group worked for Abide Home Care Services. Prosecutors say Abide ran a scheme in which employees would find Medicare beneficiaries and schedule a visit, usually with a "house doctor." Prosecutors said the "house doctor" would sign bogus care plans and medical orders for patients who did not need home-health services.

Abide then billed Medicare for unnecessary services.

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BURNED WOMAN

Unknown hitchhiker: Link to Mississippi burning death?

BATESVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A woman says she picked up a hitchhiker the night a Mississippi woman was fatally burned, but she's unsure whether it's the man prosecutors have on trial.

Sherry Flowers testified Wednesday in the capital murder retrial of Quinton Tellis, accused of killing Jessica Chambers near a small Mississippi town in 2014. A jury couldn't reach a verdict in Tellis' first trial last year.

Flowers isn't identifying Tellis and agrees with a prosecutor that she didn't know who she picked up. Still, prosecutors seek to connect the ride's timing to Chambers' death. Prosecutors have said Tellis left Chambers' car before returning to set it and her on fire. The defense disputes the timing.

A medical examiner says Chambers' death was a homicide from soot and smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

FISH FARMING-NOAA RULES

Judge: NOAA can't regulate fish farming under fisheries law

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge in New Orleans has thrown out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rules for fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the agency lacked authority to make them.

Tuesday's ruling halts open-water aquaculture for now.

The Center for Food Safety represents groups that sued NOAA. It calls the ruling a landmark victory and "the test case for similar rules planned off all other U.S. coasts."

A plaintiff and land-based aquaculture advocate says a bill by Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is now the open-water industry's only way forward. The Recirculating Farms Coalition is fighting that bill.

NOAA says it's considering whether to appeal. A statement says NOAA remains committed to expanding marine aquaculture's "social, environmental and economic benefits," and notes that the ruling doesn't forbid marine aquaculture.

FATAL SHOOTING-NEW ORLEANS

Police ID suspects in New Orleans shooting, ask for help

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans police say they've identified "prime suspects" in a summer shooting that killed three people and wounded seven others, but they need help to "close" the case.

Police Superintendent Michael Harrison told news outlets Tuesday that they've identified suspects, but that "doesn't mean we have enough evidence." The July shooting killed 28-year-old Jeremiah Lee, 38-year-old Kurshaw Jackson and 27-year-old Taiesha Watkins.

Police initially said the shooting was likely gang-related, but Harrison declined this week to describe a motive. The New Orleans Advocate reports an internal police memo says police identified Lee as the target of the shooting and as an "affiliate" of a gang.

The executive director of Crimestoppers GNO, Darlene Cusanza, said Tuesday that there's a $27,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

MEDICAID EXPANSION-STATES

As federal Medicaid funding declines, states mull costs

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage says federal regulators want to know how Maine would pay for Medicaid expansion.

But it's unclear just how that issue will play out as federal regulators consider Maine's expansion plan. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told The Associated Press Tuesday it works to ensure states pay for their share of Medicaid expansion with "proper" financing.

States haven't expanded Medicaid since 2016, when federal funding covered all expansion costs.

Federal funding has since phased down, and drops to 90 percent in 2020.

Maine became the first state to pass Medicaid expansion by referendum last fall. But LePage blocked expansion, and a legal battle has ensued and continues at a Thursday hearing.

Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voters are set to consider November ballot measures to expand Medicaid.

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