BRAC, Episcopal High partner to bring B.R. grads back home
After signing agreements with alumni associations at LSU and Southern University in May to promote job opportunities in the Capital Region that could lure native talent back to the area, BRAC this morning announced it is also working with Episcopal High School to promote its emerging talent development program. Under the agreement, BRAC and Episcopal will promote employment opportunities within the Capital Region at various events throughout the community. BRAC will also identify career opportunities for Episcopal graduates who have since left the Baton Rouge area, and provide résumés of alumni members interested in returning home to local employers with openings. "My hope is that this program will bring home a 'passel' of folks who can join us in accelerating the Baton Rouge area's natural emergence as a great and advancing city in the South and in the U.S.," says Episcopal Head of School Hugh McIntosh in a prepared statement. BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp is commending the school for "being the first of many high schools in the area to work with us in this initiative." BRAC is working to build a comprehensive talent database that can be accessed by regional companies who are looking to fill positions. Those seeking work in the area can also have their résumés included. Complete details are available on BRAC's website here. The talent development program is a core initiative of BRAC's five-year strategic plan called The Creative Capital Agenda.
'225 Weekender': 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' at Manship
Beginning today, the Central Community Theatre presents Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Manship Theatre downtown. This high-spirited musical romp is set in New York City in 1922 and follows the story of young Millie Dillmount, who has just moved to the city in search of a new life. Filled with frisky flappers, dashing lead men and a dragon-lady of a villainess audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a perfectly constructed evening of madcap merriment. Tickets are $21.50-$26.50 and can be purchased here. Shows continue through Sunday. Read the rest of the new 225 Weekender e-newsletter here for more of what's on tap this weekend in the Baton Rouge area.
Gas drilling research stalled from lack of funding
Is gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, really ruining the air, polluting water and making people sick? The evidence is sketchy and inconclusive, but a lack of serious funding is delaying efforts to resolve those pressing questions and creating a vacuum that could lead to a crush of lawsuits, some experts say. A House committee in June turned down an Obama administration request to fund $4.25 million in research on how drilling may affect water quality. States, meanwhile, have been slow to fund their own research. Environmentalists claim the fluids associated with drilling could rise and pollute shallow drinking water aquifers, and that methane leaks cause serious air pollution. The industry and many government officials say the practice is safe when done properly, and many communities welcome the jobs and the royalty payments landowners receive. But there have also been cases in which faulty wells have been proven to have polluted water. Scientists, residents and even some energy companies agree on one thing: Without credible answers, the fears and lawsuits over possible public health and environmental impacts are likely to grow. Disputes over possible effects on drinking water have already led to lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Texas and other states. For more on the private and public efforts to fund research on fracking, on what studies completed thus far show, and on details of related lawsuits, read the full story here.
Today's poll question: Do you believe hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is causing significant pollution or public health problems?
Plaintiffs say they're moving forward with suits against Gerry Lane
Despite an announcement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission late Wednesday that it will not pursue a federal discrimination lawsuit against Gerry Lane Enterprises, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case says his clients intend to move forward with lawsuits accusing Gerald R. Lane and his company of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Joseph Long, who represents current and former Gerry Lane employees, says his clients declined to participate in the investigation that led to the commission's decision Wednesday. While he did not elaborate on why they declined to participate, Long says in a prepared statement, "We are pleased the EEOC has completed its investigation so that we can get on with litigation." His statement conveys a desire to move forward expeditiously: "The government has finally granted us the right to sue in Federal Court regarding our first six plaintiffs. The law gives us 90 days to file our federal complaint. We will be filing shortly. We also have many other plaintiffs who are awaiting their right to sue letters." In total, Long says he anticipates as many as 14 former employees will file suit. You can learn more about the charges being made by some former employees in a previous story from Daily Report here.
Oil dips below $88 as prices at the pump climb
The price of oil is falling this morning after the head of the European Central Bank disappointed investors by failing to take immediate action to prop up the euro zone economy. ECB President Mario Draghi said last week that he would do "whatever it takes" to save the euro. Draghi was expected to quickly back that up with a plan to spark spending and borrowing in the European Union. So far he hasn't delivered. In a speech today, Draghi suggested the ECB could buy bonds to lower borrowing costs for European countries, but he offered no specific measures. Benchmark crude gave up $1.04 on the news, to $87.87 per barrel, while Brent crude rose 23 cents to $106.19 per barrel in London. Retail gasoline prices across the United States rose 1.3 cents to $3.53 per gallon. Since mid-June, motorists in Baton Rouge have seen prices rise about 20 cents per gallon. As of this morning, the local average was $3.39 per gallon, according to BatonRougeGasPrices.com, a subsidiary of GasBuddy.com, which tracks average prices at 250 cities throughout the country. Check out the website here for local station-by-station prices.
Iran losing $133M a day on embargo
U.S.-led sanctions against Iran are costing OPEC's third-largest producer $133 million a day in lost sales without raising global crude prices, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shipments from Iran have plunged by 1.2 million barrels a day—or 52%—since the sanctions banning the purchase, transport, financing and insuring of Iranian crude began July 1. Annualized, that would cost President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's country about $48 billion in revenue, equivalent to 10% of its economy. While Iran's threats to disrupt the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf sent crude to a three-year high in March, increased production from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. output boom and the slowing global economy have left prices 0.7% lower in 2012. As a result, Iran has to contend with a weakening currency and rising unemployment. "It's been an unqualified success," says Mike Wittner, head of oil-market research for the Americas at Société Générale SA, of the embargo. "There were a lot of concerns sanctions could backfire by causing an oil-price spike, but in the end the U.S. and Europeans got their cake and they ate it too, because volumes are down and prices are down." Read the full story here.
News roundup: U.S. rate on mortgages rise from recent record low … Clearances lured shoppers to spend more in July … Online and outspoken: China's microblog craze
A matter of interest: The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage has risen this week after falling to new record lows in each of the past 13 weeks. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports the rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 3.55%. That's up from 3.49% last week, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, increased to 2.83%. That's also above last week's record low of 2.80%.
In all their summer fashions: Hot weather and clearance sales drew Americans into stores in July, giving retailers solid sales gains and helping to offset worries about jobs and the economy. Results came in better than expected for many retailers: an encouraging sign as the back-to-school season, the second-biggest shopping season behind the holidays, kicks off. Reuters reports this morning that three-quarters of retailers are saying their sales beat expectations in July. Get all the details in the full story here.
Looking far off into the east: China's Twitter was raucous this morning with horn-tooting over Beijing's gold rush at the London Olympics, a digital reflection of the nation's exuberant mood—embellished with flashing emoticons. Launched in 2009, China's leading microblog site, Sina Weibo, has given a digital megaphone to more than 300 million Chinese, prompting many to wonder if it might drive Arab Spring-style political change and democratic reforms. Others see the platform as a brilliant new surveillance tool for the communist government in Beijing. Read the full feature from The Associated Press here.