5) Hurricane Season Gets Early Downgrade
In the same week that it officially began, the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season has been downgraded by meteorologists at Colorado State University. They are now predicting a slightly less active than normal season this year, with 11 named storms, down from an earlier forecast of 14 named storms. They also expect five hurricanes this season. They credit predicted cooler water temperatures and the moderating effects of the weather pattern known as El Nino for their forecast downgrade.

4) Saints Announce Sold-Out Season
For the fourth straight year, the New Orleans Saints have sold out the Louisiana Superdome. Season ticket holders renewed on a massive scale and snapped up the 70,000 seats in the Saints’ home stadium. Saints’ officials say the waiting list for season tickets is now more than 50,000 and continues to grow.

3) Gill Pratt, Jefferson Siblings Plead Innocent
Former New Orleans Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt, her companion Mose Jefferson, New Orleans tax assessor Betty Jefferson and her daughter Angela Coleman all pleaded innocent to federal racketeering charges brought by the government last month. The two Jeffersons are brother and sister to former U.S. Congressman William Jefferson, who is due in court next week for the start of a separate trial on allegations of corruption while in office. Gill Pratt, Mose and Betty Jefferson and Coleman were all indicted on charges that they skimmed taxpayer money from nonprofit groups purportedly serving low-income New Orleans residents.

2) FBI: NOLA Leads Nation for Murders
The FBI’s annual report on national crime has once again named New Orleans as the American city with the most murders per capita. The FBI’s data showed that overall violent crime in the city dropped last year by 17 percent, based on information reported to it by law enforcement agencies. The FBI used a 2008 population estimate for New Orleans of 281,440, which has been successfully challenged by local groups and raised by the Census to 311,853. New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley criticized the ranking as being misleading, although even by the most generous estimates of the New Orleans population today the FBI’s data still shows the city with the most murders per capita by a wide margin over the second highest-ranked city, St. Louis.

1) New Buyer for Mid-City Hospital

Lindy Boggs Memorial Medical Center, the Mid-City facility previously known as Mercy hospital, may get a new lease on life thanks to a proposed deal announced this week. The nonprofit nursing care facility St. Margaret’s of New Orleans says it hopes to purchase the hospital property near Bayou St. John and rebuild it as its new home. The Lindy Boggs site has been empty since Katrina and has been heavily vandalized and looted in the intervening years. St. Margaret’s intends to present its preliminary plans to the public later this month.

Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at imcnulty@cox.net.