Associated Press

The countdown to Mardi Gras is under way in New Orleans.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu planned to note the beginning of the Carnival season with a news conference today. It's planned at a riverside warehouse where many of the floats for Carnival parades are on display.

And revelers known as the Phorty Phunny Phellows scheduled their annual streetcar ride through town tonight. It's a decades-old tradition marking the 12th night after Christmas and the official start of the season.

Mardi Gras falls on February 17 this year.

The newest members of Louisiana's congressional delegation are officially taking their seats.

Recently-elected Congressman Ralph Abraham and Garret Graves, both Republicans, will be sworn into office today, along with 56 other freshmen lawmakers from around the country. They will join a growing Republican majority in the House.

Residents and businesses in the French Quarter will be holding a rally Tuesday in Jackson Square, calling for more police protection. 

They want action by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey and New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison.

Landrieu asked Governor Bobby Jindal on Friday to send troopers to support the city while it works to fill vacancies in police department ranks.

The head of state police tells Times-Picayune that option would leave other parts of the state short-handed.

Office of Rep. Steve Scalise

Lawmakers from both parties are defending the number-three House Republican leader over a speech he gave 12 years ago to a white supremacist group.

Congressman Steve Scalise — now House Majority Whip — says the speech was a mistake he now regrets. Party leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, have backed him.

Several rank-and-file lawmakers are adding their support, including Utah's Mia Love, the first black female Republican elected to the House.

Love tells ABC's "This Week" that Scalise has shown humility and apologized, and should remain in leadership.

Celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans are on tap for next week.

New historical research is revealing how pivotal the victory was.

A big discovery has come from British records. A researcher recently went to London and found a set of secret orders given to General Edward Pakenham, the commander of the British invasion of the Gulf Coast.

The orders directed him to fight on and capture New Orleans regardless of any peace deal with the Americans.

The New Orleans Police Department set out this year to show that the city's 2013 homicide numbers, the lowest in nearly three decades, were not a fluke.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that as of late Wednesday afternoon, New Orleans had recorded 150 homicides in 2014. That’s a marginal decrease from the 156 counted in 2013. Officials say it is encouraging sign.

Homicides fell 19 percent from 2012 to 2013.

City leaders say they had not aimed to reduce the city's murder rate by any specific percentage in 2014.

House Republican leaders have been supportive of Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise since the revelation that he appeared before a white supremacist organization 12 years ago.

That support may suggest the flare-up will fade.

Several Democrats have criticized Scalise, but have issued no calls for his resignation.

Scalise is the Republican whip in the House. He says he regrets making the speech in 2002, and condemns the views of such groups. He says that as a state legislator he spoke to many groups at that time.

A state judge says the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources was too quick in granting a permit for a proposed coal export terminal in Plaquemines Parish.

State Judge Kevin Conner in Belle Chasse ruled that the state agency should not have granted a permit to RAM Terminals because too little research was done into alternative locations.

He ordered DNR to re-evaluate the permit.

The coal terminal has become a point of contention.

Louisiana Travel / Flickr

Tales of the fire that devastated Lake Charles in 1919, and other historical information and ghost stories all are part of a free new smartphone app about the city's Charpentier Historic District.

Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Angie Manning said the app offers half-hour and one-hour tours. Manning says it explains that the area's Victorian homes reflect the personalities of the carpenters who built them. The city did not have any architects until the 1900s.

New Orleans' first black mayor, Ernest "Dutch" Morial, is being reburied 25 years after his death.

The Morials have bought a new family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery Number 3.

It's about 2 miles from St. Louis Cemetery Number 1, where Morial was buried in 1989. That tomb, in the city's oldest cemetery, is inscribed with his slogan, "Keep the drive alive."

This morning’s ceremony will be ecumenical. A news release says it will include a blessing from Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond and prayers from a rabbi, a Muslim imam and a Baptist church's bishop emeritus.