The Associated Press

"Treme" actor and musician Wendell Pierce is scheduled to read to more than 500 New Orleans elementary school students in an effort to break the world record for largest reading lesson.

The current Guinness world record in the category is 440 participants.

The event marks the start of a years-long campaign to boost literacy rates in New Orleans by 2018, the city's 300th birthday. According to a 2012 study conducted by Central Connecticut State University, New Orleans ranked the 25th most literate city among the nation's 75 cities with populations of 250,000 or higher.

Stuart Seeger / Flickr

Supporters of legalized marijuana made their pitch to state lawmakers, saying it could generate tax dollars, provide a new agricultural crop, shrink the jail population and lessen pain for people with medical ailments.

State health and law enforcement officials outlined their opposition, saying marijuana users have increased risk of health conditions and describing marijuana as a "gateway drug" to more toxic substances.

The testimony Tuesday was part of a study by the House criminal justice committee, upon the request of Rep. Dalton Honoré, a Democrat from Baton Rouge.

Most of LSU's charity hospitals and clinics have been turned over to private managers. But federal officials still haven't decided whether they'll agree to the financing plans that are being used to pay the new hospital operators.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration expresses confidence that the deals will eventually gain approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. The administration says that these types of complex arrangements take time.

CMS isn't talking about how far apart the two sides are in negotiating final terms.

Muddy roads will soon give way to asphalt and bare ground transformed with sod and landscaping as construction of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery near Slidell enters its final stages.

The Times-Picayune reports the $8 million cemetery is scheduled to open in April. The 75-acre site is on the north side of Interstate 12 next to the Louisiana National Guard's Camp Villere in St. Tammany Parish.

The price tag for defending Gov. Bobby Jindal's education policies against legal challenges is growing.

The Department of Education is boosting its contracts for outside lawyers by $750,000, to represent the department in lawsuits against Jindal's voucher program that uses tax dollars to send children to private schools.

A majority of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Tuesday to the legal spending.

Seven more jurors have been chosen to hear a class-action lawsuit against Jefferson Parish and its former president, Aaron Broussard, for Hurricane Katrina flooding.

The Times-Picayune reports Tuesday's action brings to 12 the number of people empaneled to hear evidence in the case.

Attorneys will return Wednesday for a third day of questioning prospective jurors in an attempt to select four more people who say they can be fair and impartial.

A planned 1,000-acre range on New Orleans' west bank will serve as a haven for antelope and bird species that aren't breeding as well as zookeepers would like, giving some of the animals a chance to roam in herds that zoos don't have space for.

Groundbreaking on the project begins Wednesday. New Orleans' Audubon Nature Institute and the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy are partners on the project.

Developers have closed a $2.1 million deal to buy property that will be part of plans for a $24 million retail center in New Orleans' Central City neighborhood.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that a development group led by Covington-based Stirling Properties purchased the five parcels of land from the city and other owners on Dec. 23.

After years of divvying up budget cuts, state lawmakers have a pleasant financial problem: They have to decide how to spend as much as $300 million in unallocated cash from Louisiana's treasury.

The dollars include a surplus from the last fiscal year and excess collections from a recent tax amnesty period that generated more than expected.

Disputes are already burgeoning about how to allocate the money. The state has a list of needs far surpassing available income.

Sheriff's detectives have charged two men with shooting out windows of at least 166 vehicles in Jefferson Parish.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand says detectives on Tuesday arrested 19-year-old Christopher Flanagan and 20-year-old Dacotah Hamilton, both of Marrero, charging them with 42 counts of misdemeanor and felony criminal damage.

It's not clear if either man has a lawyer.

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