WASHINGTON — Students in the U.S. perform better than the global average, but still lag behind many of their peers in Asia and Europe, an international study found.
Fourth-graders have improved their scores in reading and math over the past four years, according to a study released Tuesday. But progress seems to fall off by eighth grade, where math and science scores are stagnant.
Meanwhile, kids in countries like Finland and Singapore are outperforming American fourth-graders in science and reading. By eighth grade, American students have fallen behind their Russian, Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts in math, and trail students from Hong Kong, Slovenia and South Korea in science.
“These 2011 international assessments provide both encouraging news about our students’ progress and some sobering cautionary notes,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who applauded gains among fourth-graders but warned those gains aren’t being sustained in later grades. “That is unacceptable if our schools are to live up to the American promise of giving all children a world-class education.”
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pirls/
Remains are of woman missing since 2010
ALEXANDRIA — Human remains found last month in LaSalle Parish have been identified as those of Dorothy Eyvonne Rosier a young central Louisiana woman who disappeared almost three years ago.
The woman was 25 when she was reported missing in January of 2010. She lived in Pineville at the time.
Hunters found her remains Nov. 21 near Trout.
Authorities in Rapides and LaSalle parishes continue to investigate the death as a homicide. No cause of death has been released.
Rapides Sheriff William E. Hilton issued a statement monday encouraging anyone with knowledge about Rosier’s disappearance or death to come forward.
“Someone knows something and we want you to do the right thing and come forward so this family will not have to spend another Christmas knowing the suspect in Dorothy’s murder is still out there,” Hilton said.
According to a flier released when Rosier disappeared, she was just under 5 feet tall and weighed about 110 pounds. She had brownish-blonde hair- and hazel eyes.
Woman, 89, dies after SUV veers into creek
BATON ROUGE — Authorities in Baton Rouge say they’ve recovered the body of a woman from a sport utility vehicle that veered off a road and into a creek near the Mall of Louisiana.
The accident was reported Monday afternoon. It took roughly four hours for searchers to locate and remove the vehicle from the water. The woman was identified as 89-year-old Vivian Augustin of Baton Rouge. An autopsy was pending.
Witnesses said the Toyota Rav 4 ran off the Interstate 10 frontage road and into the water around 1:30 p.m.
Jefferson Parish lawmaker to resign
BATON ROUGE — Jefferson Parish Rep. Tony Ligi is resigning from his legislative post next year.
Ligi, a Republican from Metairie, is leaving the state House because he is taking a new position as executive director and chief legal counsel for the Jefferson Business Council.
Although he starts his new job on Jan. 2, he said he likely will not resign from the Legislature until April. He said he wants to wait until a successor is chosen through a special election so his district will continue to be represented.
Covington firefighter pleads guilty to rape
COVINGTON — A 29-year-old Covington firefighter accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl has pleaded guilty to forcible rape.
The St. Tammany Parish District Attorney’s Office says Theodore George Williams could face up to 40 years in prison when he returns to court on Jan. 22 for sentencing.
Williams entered his plea Monday.
Williams also must resign from the Covington Fire Department, per a plea deal with the state.
A grand jury indicted Williams for aggravated rape in November 2011, two months after he was arrested on the charge. If convicted, he faced an automatic life sentence.
Right-to-work debate heats up in Michigan
LANSING, Mich. — Even with the outcome considered a foregone conclusion, the heated battle over right-to-work legislation in the traditional union bastion of Michigan shows no sign of cooling.
Authorities in Lansing were bracing for an onslaught of demonstrators Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol as the Legislature reconvenes for what could be final votes on bills. Hundreds of people gathered early Tuesday to get inside.
If it is passed and signed into law, Michigan would become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.
Panetta says Syria chemical threat slowed
KUWAIT CITY — The Syrian government seems to have slowed preparations for the possible use of chemical weapons against rebel targets, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.
Last week, U.S. officials said there was evidence that Syrian forces had begun preparing sarin, a nerve agent, for possible use in bombs.
Speaking to reporters flying with him from Washington to Kuwait, Panetta suggested the threat was no longer escalating, although he was not specific about any Syrian military preparations.
Investigators study Mexican singer’s crash
LOS ANGELES — Tearful fans set up candlelight shrines and memorials to Jenni Rivera from California to Mexico, as investigators said it would take days to piece together the wreckage of the plane carrying the Mexican-American music superstar and find out why it went down.
Authorities, meanwhile, began looking into the history of the plane’s owner, Starwood Management of Las Vegas, which had another one of its planes seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in McAllen, Texas in September.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help investigate the crash of the Learjet 25, which disintegrated on impact Sunday with seven people aboard in rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.
HSBC to settle
LONDON — HSBC avoided a legal battle that could further savage its reputation and undermine confidence in the global banking system by agreeing Tuesday to pay $1.9 billion to settle a U.S. money-laundering probe.
Europe’s largest bank by market value will pay the biggest penalty ever imposed on a bank after facing accusations it transferred funds through the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations such as Iran that are under international sanctions.
It’s the latest scandal to hit banks over recent years since the financial crisis started in 2008. Hours earlier, Standard Chartered PLC, another British bank, signed an agreement with New York regulators to settle a money laundering investigation involving Iran with a $340 million payment.
Gunmen attack Egyptian protesters
CAIRO — Masked gunmen attacked opposition protesters camped out at Cairo’s Tahrir Square early on Tuesday, firing birdshot at them and wounding nine people, security officials said.
The attack stoked tensions just hours ahead of rival mass rallies in the Egyptian capital by supporters and opponents of the country’s Islamist president over a disputed draft constitution. The charter has vastly polarized the nation and triggered some of the worst violence since Mohammed Morsi took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president.
It was unclear who was behind the pre-dawn attack on the protesters who have been staging a sit-in at Tahrir for nearly three weeks, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The protesters belong to the liberal opposition, which claims the draft of the charter restricts freedoms and gives Islamists vast influence over the running of the country. The draft, hurriedly adopted late last month by Morsi’s Islamist allies, is going to a nationwide referendum on Saturday.
Suspect pleads not guilty in B.R. rape
BATON ROUGE — A 41-year-old man accused in the 2009 rape of a college student in Baton Rouge pleaded not guilty and will remain in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison until the case is resolved.
James Harold Crockett Jr. is serving a 35-year prison term in the July 6, 2009, rape of a college student in Hattiesburg, Miss. If convicted in the July 5, 2009, rape in Baton Rouge, he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison.
East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Crockett, formerly of Chalmette, on a charge of aggravated rape last week.
Crockett appeared Monday before state District Judge Bonnie Jackson. The judge appointed the local Public Defender’s Office to represent him.
Prosecutors have said Crockett used a stun-gun in both assaults.
Port Allen mayor-elect: Desire for change won
PORT ALLEN — Port Allen Mayor-elect Demetric Slaughter says she believes the community’s need for change was a main factor in her win Saturday in the runoff election against incumbent Roger Bergeron.
Slaughter defeated Bergeron by capturing 55 percent of the votes cast, according to unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.
Slaughter said she has not heard from Bergeron since she won the election, but intended to reach out to him later this week.
Man pleads not guilty to holding hostages
LAKE CHARLES — A 26-year-old Lake Charles man accused of taking six people hostage in August has pleaded not guilty in state court.
Joshua Jermaine Plumber entered the plea Monday at his arraignment.
A trial date of June 24, 2013 was set.
Police say Plumber held three adults and three children hostage for four hours following a fight with his girlfriend
Plumber, who faces a total of 15 counts, is being held on a $137,000 bond.
He is charged with six counts of false imprisonment, home invasion and second-degree battery.
Alan Alda asks scientists to explain: What’s time?
MINEOLA, N.Y. — Professor Alan Alda has a homework assignment for scientists. Yes, that Alan Alda.
The actor known for portraying Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on the TV show “MASH” and more recent guest shots on NBC’s “30 Rock” is also a visiting professor at New York’s Stony Brook University school of journalism and a founder of the school’s Center for Communicating Science.
The center is sponsoring an international contest for scientists asking them to explain in terms a sixth-grader could understand: “What is time?”
Alda is well-known for his affinity for science and is the longtime host of PBS’ “Scientific American Frontiers.”
He said it is vital for society to have a better understanding of science, and puts much of the onus on scientists to better explain their work.
“There’s hardly an issue we deal with today that isn’t affected by science,” Alda said. “I’ve even heard from a number of people in Congress that they often don’t understand what scientists are talking about when they go to Washington to testify, and these are the people who make the decisions about funding and policy.”
for a 2008 tax rebate
BATON ROUGE — Time is running out for those who want to claim a state tax rebate for a special assessment charged on property insurance bills in Louisiana in 2008.
The annual assessment has been made since 2006 to pay off bonds issued to keep Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — the state’s so-called insurer of last resort — solvent after the many claims that followed hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The deadline for claiming state tax rebates for the 2008 assessment is Dec. 31.
A news release from state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says 52 percent of the $100 million in Citizens assessments for 2008 remains unclaimed.
Policyholders can also visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov and follow links to a web application to help people claim their rebates if they have not yet done so.
FEMA to help elevate Terrebonne homes
HOUMA — More structures in Terrebonne Parish will get a boost above future storm surges with another wave of federal grants.
about $3 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency money will be used to elevate 11 homes and one commercial building in Terrebonne Parish.
The money comes from the Repetitive Flood Claims, Severe Repetitive Loss and Pre-disaster Mitigation grants. This is the first time the parish has received Repetitive Flood and Pre-disaster grants. It is the fourth Severe Repetitive Loss grant awarded to the parish, bringing the total to $12.6 million to elevate 60 structures.
Since hurricanes Lili and Isidore flooded Terrebonne in 2002, more than $50 million in federal-grant money has been used to elevate more than 800 often-flooded bayou homes.
Audit: Clerk did not collect $175K from son
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has released a scathing report alleging that former St. Bernard Parish Clerk of Court Lena Torres failed to collect $174,300 in court fees from her son, attorney Sidney D. Torres III.
The 86-page report says the clerk did not collect advance court costs for at least some of the 581 civil suit filings by her son related to insurance claims and damages caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The clerk also allegedly failed to charge or collect fees from her son on 23 suits, which should have totaled $4,830.
By allegedly allowing her son to not pay advance fees for two years, the audit says Lena Torres may have provided a “loan of public funds,” a violation of the state constitution.
Man pleads guilty
to killing 7 in wreck
CLINTON — The 30-year-old Greensburg man accused of killing seven people in a May 30 head-on collision pleaded guilty to seven counts of vehicular homicide Monday before a state district judge and a crowded courtroom audience.
State District Judge William G. Carmichael set March 12 as a sentencing hearing for Brett G. Gerald.
Gerald was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday. As a result of the plea, he faces five- to 30-year prison sentences on each count and possible fines ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 per count.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said Gerald was not offered a plea bargain in the case, and the sentence will be up to the judge after he receives a pre-sentence investigative report from the state Office of Probation and Parole.
Five people in a car driving on La. Highway 67 south of Clinton died instantly in the collision with Gerald’s pickup: the driver, Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36, all of Baton Rouge.
Two other passengers, Willie Gaines Jr., 15, and Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13, also of Baton Rouge, died several days later. All but Mosely were members of the same extended family.
They had attended a service at a Clinton church pastored by Mosely’s father and were traveling home to Baton Rouge when Gerald’s vehicle crossed into their lane of traffic, narrowly missing a vehicle traveling ahead of the Gaines car.
Gerald had been celebrating his 30th birthday at a Zachary restaurant and bar before the collision.
A state trooper who investigated the crash testified earlier that an analysis of a blood sample taken at Lane Regional Medical Center showed Gerald’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent.
In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving. The newspaper reports Gerald had three other DWI arrests before the crash.
Man accused of kidnapping wife
WEST MONROE — A 39-year-old West Monroe man has been arrested for allegedly kidnapping his wife and forcing her to buy crack cocaine.
Marvin Christopher Jenkins was booked with battery-domestic violence abuse, simple kidnapping, possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice.
The arrest report states that Jenkins hit his wife and forced her into his vehicle. He then drove her to an unknown location and forced her to buy $40 worth of crack cocaine.
Police arrested Jenkins Sunday at his home and found two large rocks of suspected crack cocaine.
It was unclear whether Jenkins has an attorney.
Teen killed; car crashes into tree
DENHAM SPRINGS — State police say an 18-year-old was killed after he drove his vehicle off La. 1032 in Livingston Parish and hit a tree.
Trooper Jared Sandifer says Brice J. Harris, of Denham Springs, was not wearing a seat belt.
The crash occurred just after 7 a.m. Monday south of Denham Springs.
Sempra seeking LNG permit in Hackberry
HACKBERRY — San Diego-based Sempra Energy has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to begin building natural gas liquefaction and export facilities at the company’s existing Cameron LNG terminal in Hackberry.
Sempra said on Monday the permit request is an important milestone in the company’s effort to begin exporting liquefied natural gas.
According to Sempra, the project would create nearly 3,000 construction jobs and about 130 full-time jobs when the facility begins operating.
The federal agency will review the application and conduct an environmental study of the project before acting on the permit. Additional permits and approvals will be required before construction on the Cameron liquefaction project can be completed.
From The Associated Press.