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News in Brief- January 17, 2018

News in Brief- January 17, 2018

US rig count jumps by 15 to 939; Louisiana, New Mexico add 5

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 15 this week to 939.

That exceeds the 659 rigs that were active this time a year ago.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported on Friday that 752 rigs were drilling for oil and 187 for natural gas this week.

Among oil- and gas-producing states, Louisiana and New Mexico each gained five rigs, Oklahoma increased by three, Colorado gained two and Alaska and Utah each increased by one.

Texas lost two rigs.

Arkansas, California, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.

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Former postal carrier admits burning US mail for months

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — A federal prosecutor says a former U.S. Postal Service worker who burned at least 20 tubs of mail over five months has pleaded guilty to a single count of delaying or destroying the mail.

U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook said in a news release Friday that 50-year-old Mark Wayne Thompson took mail from his rural postal route in Louisiana to his home in Pitkin, where from Dec. 1, 2016 to May 1, 2017, he burned at least 20 tubs of mail.

The former letter carrier now faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is set for April 6.

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Audubon Zoo says new male gorilla is 'very inquisitive'

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Audubon Zoo's newest gorilla, Okpara, has a "large personality," is "very inquisitive" and is settling in well, his caretakers said last week. Okie, as he is called, moved to New Orleans in early December from Boston.

Okie, a 24-year-old male Western lowland gorilla, is one of two new primates at the zoo. In October, Tumani moved to New Orleans from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado. She's a 10-year-old Western lowland gorilla.

The two gorillas join Praline, a female who was born 21 years ago at Audubon Zoo. Another female gorilla may join the new troop later this year, helping the zoo mimic social groups in the wild of multiple females and a single adult male.

In November, the two female gorillas went through the process successfully and now they cohabitate in Audubon's World of Primates gorilla habitat.

The new male is a big change for the zoo. For 15 years, Casey was the lone male in the troop. However, the 35-year-old gorilla didn't produce any offspring despite being paired with four females. He left in June for Louisville Zoo and his animal care teams are hopeful that the change of scenery for Casey will result successful breeding for the critically endangered species.

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

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Kids chained in Calif. house of horrors; parents arrested

PERRIS, Calif. (AP) — A 17-year-old girl called police after escaping from her family's home where she and her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions, some so malnourished officers at first believed all were children even though seven are adults.

The girl, who was so small officers initially believed she was only 10, called 911 and was met by police who interviewed her and then went to the family home in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark, foul-smelling surroundings, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

The children, ages 2 to 29, "appeared to be malnourished and very dirty," according to a press release announcing Sunday's arrest of the parents. "The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving."

David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, each were held on $9 million bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment.

It wasn't immediately known if they had attorneys.