Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Meet the woman who rescues Louisiana rats

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 6:31 PM

  • Delilah the rat.

It's been a ratty couple of weeks in New Orleans (well, rattier than usual).

Sparked by a viral clip of chubby brown rats taking the air at a Decatur Street restaurant, suddenly rats were everywhere — the evening news, the front page of The New Orleans Advocate, all over Twitter, where reactions ranged from "Rats in the Quarter, what's new?" to "I'm never leaving the house again."

But there's one Louisiana woman who's a staunch defender of rats' right to ... rat. As founder and director of For the Love of Rats Rescue in Walker, Darleen Watts says rats aren't something to be feared. Since 2012, she estimates she's rescued more than 4,000 rats — both wild and domestic — including hoarding cases that bring in more than 100 rats at a time.

She's also kept pet rats, who sometimes take their own star turn on her Facebook feed.

"Of course you get those comments — "'Ew, how disgusting,'" she says. "And then you get those comments of 'Oh, how cute.'"

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Y@ Speak: #CityofYes

Posted By on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 at 5:30 PM

And a legislature of "noooooooo."

Plus: Happy Pride from the guy who tweeted "sex gifs" and rats ahoy.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

An appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court aims to grant voting rights to thousands more people on probation and parole

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 5:36 PM


Days after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a measure that will restore voting rights to potentially thousands of Louisiana residents on probation and parole, an appeal before the Louisiana Supreme Court could determine the voting rights for thousands more.

The court may consider a request for an appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld a 1976 Louisiana law barring people convicted of a felony who are on probation and parole from entering the voting booth.

The bill Edwards signed — effective March 2019 — restores voting rights to most people convicted of felony crimes after a five-year period after leaving prison, which will impact roughly 3,000 of the state’s 70,000 formerly incarcerated people under probation and parole.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Y@ Speak: extremely New Orleans

Posted By on Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 4:40 PM

New Orleans: Authenticity War is heating up, plus everyone hates the heat and the Louisiana Legislature goes to special session heaven.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Down to the wire on the Louisiana budget — and the Louisiana Department of Health is in the crosshairs

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 4:24 PM

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, proposed the House budget that would cut health programs and TOPS funding. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, proposed the House budget that would cut health programs and TOPS funding.

The Louisiana Senate Finance Committee today questioned a Republican budget passed by the House that would fully fund hospitals for the poor but slash funding for other health programs by $116 million.

Including federal matching dollars, the total cuts to the Louisiana Department of Health would amount to over half a billion dollars, compromising mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs when temporary revenue measures expire on July 1.

“We can’t continue to cut and appropriately meet the needs of the people of this state,” said Health Secretary Rebekah Gee.

The hearing illustrated the continuing divide between House Republicans, who are focused on cutting the size of state government, and many senators, who want to raise more revenue to avoid cuts in health care and the TOPS scholarship program.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Alanah Odoms Hebert named executive director of ACLU of Louisiana

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 9:55 AM

Alanah Odoms Hebert for Gambit's 40 Under 40 in 2017. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Alanah Odoms Hebert for Gambit's 40 Under 40 in 2017.
Former Louisiana Supreme Court counsel Alanah Odoms Hebert has been named executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, whose former director Marjorie Esman retired last year after a decade at the helm of the civil rights organization. Jane Johnson served as interim executive director.

Hebert was recently Director of the Division of Children and Families at the Louisiana Supreme Court, and for four years she served as the deputy general counsel for the court. She also is chair of a statewide program to reduce pretrial detention among youth offenders through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. She moved to Louisiana to work at the New Orleans District Attorney's office after graduating from Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 2008.

In 2016, she was appointed as a liaison for the judicial arm of the state's Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which she says helped her see "firsthand how the justice system often harms the very communities it ought to protect — fueling a mass incarceration crisis with staggering human costs and stark racial disparities."

"So, for me, this is personal," she said. "Joining the team of dedicated freedom fighters at the ACLU is the opportunity of a lifetime to stand on the shoulders of giants and help build a more just and equitable future for all.”

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Monday, May 21, 2018

A Y@ Speak That Floods

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 5:30 PM

You know the drill. A look at a wet week, below:

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Louisiana to restore voting rights to people on probation and parole for felonies

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 10:25 PM


After an hourlong debate over the definition of “incarceration,” the parables of Jesus, and whether a person’s time in prison is enough to pay their “debt to society,” Louisiana is poised to restore voting rights to potentially thousands of formerly incarcerated people convicted of felony crimes.

The state House already had approved the measure last week. But when the bill returned to the House from the Senate to approve a set of amendments, the bill faced nearly an hour of pushback and debate from conservative lawmakers, threatening to kill the bill despite backing it a week before.

On May 10, the bill passed the House — on its third try — by a vote of 59-42; it later passed the Senate by a vote of 24-13.

The House approved the amended bill May 17 by a vote of 54-42 and it now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who’s expected to sign it.

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Lawmakers urge Louisiana Department of Health to study kratom: why?

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 12:30 PM


The Louisiana Department of Health has been tasked with studying kratom, the over-the-gas-station-counter supplement with a cult following, to determine whether it should be classified as a “controlled dangerous substance.”

Without any debate or line of questions May 16, the Louisiana House unanimously approved a resolution from state Rep. Frank Hoffmann directing the department to study the plant and products containing kratom. The resolution directs the department to submit a report to the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice no later than two months before the beginning of the 2019 legislative session.

Processed from a southeast Asian plant, kratom products (as an herb or in pills or tea) are commonly used as a painkiller and sedative or stimulant — it targets opioid receptors and largely impacts neurological and cardiovascular functions. It’s been used as a natural alternative to treat chronic pain, anxiety and other issues, including withdrawal symptoms.

There are no approved uses for it under the Food and Drug Administration, so it exists largely in a legal limbo with several states banning or looking into banning it while the feds mull over its future and warn against its use as an opioid alternative. But locally, it's only a minor issue on health officials' radar — while they may be skeptical of the science of its medicinal use, its impact isn't as dire as federal warnings suggest.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lawmakers support bill to help Louisiana renters recover more of their security deposits

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 6:30 PM


Losing out on security deposits is a familiar, frustrating rite of passage for many renters in Louisiana, which has few legal protections for renters. The Louisiana Legislature even issued a resolution in 2014 that recognized the lack of those protections. More than half of all residents in New Orleans rent, and for many of those renters, a deposit is another burden adding to the costs of housing, often expected to never be seen again.

Senate Bill 466 would allow renters to collect a slightly larger check from negligent landlords that have illegally held on to a security deposit, along with all or part of the security deposit. Last week, the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle in the House by a 56-23 vote and now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards' desk for approval.

Effective Aug. 1, the bill from state Sen. Ed Price would raise the maximum penalty that renters can recover from a landlord that illegally withheld a deposit to up to twice the amount of the deposit.

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