News roundup: Louisiana to get share of some $2M in federal funding for passenger rail service … ‘Nature’ names LSU professor one of top 10 scientists in the world … Audit finds extensive problems with state labor agency’s computer system

    On track: More than $2 million in federal funds will go to 11 communities in Louisiana and two other Southern states to restore and improve passenger rail service, The Associated Press reports. The Southern Rail Commission today announced that communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana will get Federal Railroad Administration funding for station-area planning and construction projects to improve safety, access and convenience. In Louisiana, the cities of Baton Rouge and Gonzales, as well as St. John Parish, will benefit. Funds will be made available early in the new year, and projects are expected to be completed within two years of receipt of funds.

    At the top: LSU Professor Gabriela González has been named one of the top 10 scientists in the world by the scientific journal Nature. González, a professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, serves as the spokesperson for the 1,000-member international LIGO Scientific Collaboration. LIGO detected the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and opened a new window of discovery to the cosmos, a news release says. González also was named Scientist of the Year by Great Minds in STEM, and one of the top 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Read the full announcement. 

    Issues: Problems with the Louisiana labor department’s new computer system have caused widespread disruptions in the state’s unemployment program, a legislative auditor’s report released today says. As The Associated Press reports, the audit found that some people were overpaid unemployment benefits, while others were underpaid by the Louisiana Workforce Commission during the budget year that ended June 30. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration started using the new system on Nov. 9, 2015. Auditors say the computer system couldn’t properly determine eligibility and benefit amounts, didn’t correctly process payments and was unable to produce reliable financial reports about the unemployment program. Because of the problems, auditors say about 35,000 possible fraud investigations couldn’t be worked as of September. The workforce commission has paid at least $4.2 million in contract costs to the companies involved with the computer system. See the full audit.

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