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News in Brief- July 22, 2018

News in Brief- July 22, 2018

Pay raises for Louisiana corrections officers win approval

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's civil service board has signed off on pay raises for the state's prison guards.

Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said the increases are needed to lessen corrections officer turnover rates that he says are so high they threaten safety.

The pay hikes vary from 2 percent to 5 percent.

The civil service department said Tuesday that the raises were approved without objection by the Civil Service Commission last week.

The increases, approved by lawmakers, took effect immediately.

The minimum hourly wage for a cadet, the lowest-ranking corrections officer, grew from $12.70 to $13.97, a raise of more than $2,600 annually. For the highest-ranking position of colonel, the minimum hourly pay of $25 rose to $25.50, a more than $1,000 yearly increase.

The pay hikes cost more than $9 million annually.

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Louisiana reports first 6 West Nile infections of 2018

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Six people in Louisiana have been infected by the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, including three who developed life-threatening brain and spinal cord disease, the state health department said Wednesday.

They are the state's first reported West Nile cases of the year.

The Department of Health news release said the three with neuro-invasive disease, the most serious type of West Nile infection, were in DeSoto, St. Tammany and Livingston parishes.

Neuro-invasive West Nile disease can leave the victim with brain damage and paralysis. In some cases, it is fatal.

Ouachita and East Baton Rouge parishes each reported a case of the less serious, flu-like West Nile fever. And one person in East Baton Rouge was infected with the virus but showed no symptoms. That person's infection was discovered because of a blood donation.

While some West Nile infections can lead to serious health problems, health officials say most people who are infected with West Nile show no symptoms.

The department renewed calls for people to avoid mosquito bites by using repellant, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for extended periods and avoiding perfumes and colognes when outdoors.

The release also encourages people to try to rid their property of mosquito breeding places by clearing standing water from planters, pots, buckets or other containers.

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Investigation into weeping Virgin Mary statue continues

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces continues to investigate a Virgin Mary sculpture in a Hobbs church that appears to be weeping.

The sculpture, which stands in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, has been attracting attention worldwide since visitors first reported the fluid in May.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of the diocese said Friday a sample of the fluid collected from the sculpture was sent for chemical analysis, and it was determined that it was olive oil, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

"Some of the witnesses claimed it smelled of roses, so something similar to the oil I bless and consecrate each year that we use for baptism, for confirmations and for ordination of the priests," Cantu said.

That fact doesn't preclude the occurrence from being deemed a church miracle. But an investigation is under way to determine whether there was a natural cause behind the liquid found on the hollow bronze sculpture, Cantu said.

The diocese also examined the interior of the statue and determined nothing irregular, Cantu said.

"There's nothing on the interior that's not supposed to be there, except for cobwebs," he said. "So we took pictures; we examined it."

Cantu was reassigned last week to a diocese in California. His last day in the southern New Mexico diocese is Sept. 28. But he said one of the items remaining on his agenda before he leaves is to take a trip to Hobbs and see the sculpture himself.

Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com