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More troopers will be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras

State Police announce that 150 additional troopers will be deployed to New Orleans for this year's Mardi Gras season.  Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson says the troopers will be working in the city through Fat Tuesday.  

Edmonson says that number is up from past years.
"And we're going to be able to keep all the troopers in one specific area in the French Quarter.  So, when they finish working, they're going to spend the night so we'll have them fresh and get as much work out of them as we need to."

He says the detail will include a visible uniform security presence in the French Quarter and Central Business District as well as plain clothes officers.  Edmonson says, looking forward, there will be an increased number of troopers in the city for events like French Quarter Fest, Jazzfest, and numerous conventions.

"We're going to be in smaller quantities, different numbers, depending on what's needed.  We'll bring in troopers for all of those different events.  So we're looking at things that will put us in the city on a regular basis through May."

Edmonson says an increased number of troopers will be working in the Big Easy through the end of May.  He says it's extremely important to have a contingency of law enforcement in areas where you will have a large amount of people.

"Look, for the state of Louisiana to be successful from an economic standpoint and tourist standpoint, it starts in New Orleans.  New Orleans is the number one destination in the country and number five destination in the world." 
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Swift confident Sasol project will move ahead

Sasol's announcement of a delay in their final decision to invest in a proposed gas-to-liquids plant in southwest Louisiana has raised some concern in the business community.   But George Swift, President of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, says construction has already begun on Sasol's $8 billion ethane cracker and that quells his concern.

"So with this huge project already underway, we're confident that they will come in with the gas-to-liquids at a later date."

The South African energy company cites falling oil prices as the reason for their announced delay.  Swift says the decline in the price of oil has given his organization a reason to be concerned, but projects like this are focused on long-range goals.

"These projects are done on a 30 to 40 year basis, so they're looking long term for their investment.  So we are confident it will go ahead."

Swift says his confidence that the project will go ahead is boosted by the infrastructure work that Sasol is doing around the site of the proposed plant.  He says even though Sasol's decision to delay is disappointing, it could have a silver lining.

"The delay does give Louisiana residents more time to get training and it could help us in filling the workforce needs." 
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Governor Jindal featured in article on The Onion

The Onion, a satirical news website, recently wrote an article skewering Governor Bobby Jindal that's getting national attention.  The fictitious article claimed that Jindal's presidential campaign would last about two months before he pulled out of the race.  

ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says a couple of things may have put Jindal in the cross hairs of The Onion.
"I think he has drawn the ire of The Onion for his comments about 'no-go zones' and probably, in part, his prayer rally held on the campus of Louisiana State University."

The tongue-in-cheek article claimed that Jindal isn't sure he would want to put his family through the ordeal of a two-month presidential campaign.  Stockley says The Onion is really taking two shots at Jindal.  He says the first jab focuses on Jindal's potential presidential campaign.

"Basically, what The Onion is indicating, is that Governor Jindal's presidential launch, if you will, or attempt to launch his presidential campaign is not going smoothly, if at all."

Stockley says The Onion writing an article about Jindal is not flattering and not the kind of national attention that the governor would prefer at this time.  He says the underlying joke in the article is one that Louisianians will surely understand.

"He may officially have a two month presidential campaign, but, I think, we all understand that he's been running for president for five or six years, now." 

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David Duke says he wants to run against Steve Scalise on The Jim Engster Show

Michelle Southern reporting.
Former KKK leader and State Representative David Duke says Congressman Steve Scalise is a sellout and he may consider running against him. In a rare interview on Louisiana Radio Network's Jim Engster show, Duke says the Congressman should step down for apologizing about speaking to a white supremacists group in 2002.

"He should resign because the difference between Steve Scalise and I is that we ran under the same principals of the Republican Party," said Duke. "But he sold out."

Scalise recently came under fire when the story broke that he was a guest speaker at an event hosted by Duke. The Congressman said it never should have happened and Duke says that is an insult to every member of Scalise's 1st district which is why he's seriously considering running against him.

"He's insulting every one of the members who actually voted for him, because he's suggesting that they're racist for supporting my views," Duke said.

Duke, who currently lives in Mandeville, says he's not registered to vote but he would just to run for office against Scalise. He says by apologizing, Scalise is suggesting that everyone who voted for him is racist.

"I call on him to step down because he's betrayed his people."
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Sasol announces delay in 14 billion dollar plant in Lake Charles area

Michelle Southern reporting.
Sasol announces its delaying a decision on whether or not to make a final investment into a proposed gas-to-liquids plant in southwest Louisiana. The South African energy company says they are not moving forward with the 14 billion dollar project due to tumbling oil prices.

LSU Center for Energy Studies Executive Director David Dismukes says Sasol's decision is not a surprise, considering the scope of the project.

"It would be very dependent upon a good differential between natural gas and crude oil -- so when oil tumbles, it's not unexpected to see a slow down on industry spending," said Dismukes.

Sasol has already approved an $8.1 billion ethane cracker in Westlake, but right now the company says they are working to conserve as much money as possible in the wake of falling oil prices.

There are several other announced industry sites out there as well in Louisiana and Dismukes says the farther it's away from completion, the more likely a delay will take place.

"Those might be more risky than the ones that are coming in line or under construction right now," said Dismukes. "Most of those are probably already locked in."

If Sasol green lights this GTL plant, it would be the most expensive industrial project in Louisiana history, totaling $22 billion when combined with the cracker facility. 

Dismukes says this decision is reflective of the entire energy industry, which is re-evaluating its thinking on certain projects. 

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Slidell man wakes up to find sleeping burglar on his sofa

Slidell Police say a homeowner woke up this morning to find something quite unusual in his home.  Detective Daniel Seuzeneau says the homeowner immediately called police and responding officers found 31-year-old Sharrod McCullum sound asleep on the victim's sofa.

"Obviously this was a shock to both the homeowner and the officers.  They woke up Mr. McCullum and he appeared to be intoxicated and said he didn't realize where he was at."

McCullum was arrested without incident.  Seuzeneau says authorities discovered that McCullum forced entry through the rear door of the residence.

"He was in possession of a screwdriver and a GPS unit which is suspected to be stolen from a vehicle somewhere else within the neighborhood."

McCullum faces one count of simple burglary and one count of criminal damage.  Seuzeneau says other charges could be filed in the near future.  He admits it's funny, but scary, at the same time, to wake up and find a stranger sleeping in your house.

"We're just very grateful that nothing else happened and we're very happy that the officers were able to get there quickly and take the suspect into custody without any further incident."

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Scalise to meet with civil rights leaders

Republican Congressman Steve Scalise has agreed to a meeting with two civil rights leaders in the aftermath of reports that Scalise spoke to a group of white supremacists in 2002.  The pair want to ask Scalise to help advance civil and human rights issues, like the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.  

Political analyst Clancy Dubos thinks this is a good move for the Congressman.
"And to the extent that anybody out there has doubts about him, this is an affirmative step, a proactive step, that he can take to put some action behind his words that he uttered in the wake of the news about him meeting with EURO."

The Congressman has acknowledged it was a mistake to speak to the group and has apologized.  Dubos feels Scalise has been sincere in his remarks since the news came out.

"His friendships in the Black Caucus, particularly with Congressman Richmond, is an old friendship, it's a very close friendship, and I think this is a step he can take to show that he meant what he said when he's against bigotry in all forms."

The House Majority Whip will meet with former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, and Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, next month.  Dubos says Scalise should use this meeting as a real chance to communicate.

"I think it's important just that he sits and talks with them and maybe listens to them.   Any kind of dialog among people who disagree in Congress is a good thing."
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Benson responds to lawsuit claiming he's mentally incomptent

Tom Benson has fired back at his daughter and two grandchildren who are attempting to get a judge to declare the Saints and Pelicans owners is not competent to make sound business decisions.

In a court filing, Benson says for years he attempted to groom Renee Benson and his two grandchildren to take over the professional franchises, but they never rose to the task. He adds the decision for his wife to take control of the teams following his death was a deliberate and reasoned decision.
Renee Benson, along with Ryan Leblanc and Rita Benson Leblanc filed a lawsuit last week, challenging a succession plan that would put Gayle Benson in control of the Saints and Pelicans after Tom Benson's death. They claim Mr. Benson's mental state has been weakened and portrayed Gayle Benson as a gold digger.  
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Study: More women becoming involved with guns

Studies show more and more women are buying guns and becoming more familiar with how to use them. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 74 percent of gun shops saw growth in female customers in 2013. Barret Kendrick, a firearms trainer in Covington, says they have seen a major increase in the number of women coming into the gun market.

"More of them, as mothers and parents, are worried about the safety of their young ones," said Kendrick. "More women want to be able to defend themselves and their children."

Kendrick says women want to be able to protect themselves and their children and not feel like they have to rely on a man to protect them. He says three years ago he'd see just one or two females in a concealed carry training course.

"With the launch of our new class last year, I typically see about 80-100% female attendance during our introductions defensive handguns course," said Kendrick.

Kendrick says he's found many of his female students go from being scared of weapons to really enjoying a training course and having fun. He believes the trend of women becoming involved with guns will keeping getting bigger.

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Split playoffs are up for discussion at LHSAA annual convention

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association's annual convention begins today and the main agenda item is the current split of the football playoffs. There is a proposal to expand the postseason split of public and private schools to other sports.
But new LHSAA executive director, Eddie Bonine, is asking schools to give him a year to study the issue and come up with a proposal that a bulk of the schools can feel comfortable with. 
"Put together something that we can get all of the stakeholders together and put together some proposals that I'm hopeful will unify the state again," Bonine said.
Bonine, who was hired in December, has spent the last couple of weeks talking with schools and getting their input. He believes since he's new on the job, the best course of action is to stay with the split football playoffs for another year, so they can work on a better solution. 
"There's a good chance that the majority of the schools really want to give the LHSAA and myself an opportunity to get this thing right."
The LHSAA voted in 2013 to split the football playoffs between public and private schools, because of concerns that private schools had certain advantages over public schools. Bonine says he wants more time to dive into the issues that created the split and work with schools on a plan that will make it more equitable for teams to win a championship 
"I don't want to push something through that we are going to have to come back and visit and do another trial on."  
A vote on proposals for next year's high school football playoff format will take place on Friday.  
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Boudin King Cake goes viral

Michelle Southern reporting.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear "Boudin King Cake?" Well it's out there. The brains behind the now crazy viral concept is Acadiana food critic Bob Carriker who is a UL-Lafayette history professor. He says he reviews King Cakes and Boudin from all over the nation and decided to combine the two and share the idea on his Facebook Page.

"I figured if people were interested I could make a few for friends and family and people in the immediate area," said Carriker. "But it went far beyond that and the interest literally started coming in in minutes."

Carriker says the King Cake uses a bread that is savory, not sweet, stuffed with boudin, topped with Steen's cane syrup then sprinkled with cracklin. 

He says his idea immediately went viral so he ran down to a local baker, Billy Guilbeaux who co-owns Twins Burgers and Sweets with his twin Denny.

"We talked about how we could go ahead and start getting these into peoples hands because the reaction was so dramatic," said Carriker.

Guilbeaux says they began cooking and selling the Boudin King Cake which each come with its own bottle of Steen's, and within 2 hours they had used 120 containers of the cane syrup and had to run to Abbeville to get 700 more.

Carriker says he's gotten messages from Alaska, New York, Washington and California all with people who want one.

"People have been emailing me and telling me I'm a great American for this," said Carriker. "Some people say it makes them more proud to be a Louisianian and they have to get it into their stomach as soon as possible."


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The number of employed in Louisiana continues to go up and so does the unemployment rate

Labor numbers for December show it was another record breaking month for Louisiana employment. Louisiana Workforce Commission director Curt Eysink, says total nonfarm employment grew to 1,992,200, as private employers added 34,000 jobs over the year. He says professional businesses services is one of their strongest sectors for job growth.

"These are people who are well educated, they earn really good salaries and their work typically is important in producing or generating projects that employ other people," Eysink said.
Louisiana's unemployment rate also continues to go up, even though the number of people who are employed is also increasing. Eysink says the higher unemployment rate is not because of layoffs, but because more people are looking for jobs. 
"People are entering our labor force in record numbers and there's a break there, between the time they start looking for work and when they find work," Eysink said. 
The statewide unemployment rate for December was 6.7 percent, up 1.3 percent from the year before. 
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Is the price of gas bottoming out?

According to the American Automobile Association, the statewide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is at $1.87 for the second day in a row.  So has the price bottomed out?  

AAA fuel analyst Don Redman says that is possible as the price of crude oil has stabilized between $45 and $48 a barrel.
"We're looking at the wholesale gasoline kind of settled between the $1.31 - $1.33 range.  So it does look like, indeed, that we have reached some kind of plateau."

But he says there is a chance that we could still see prices slip as we head into February.

"But, certainly, by mid to late February, I think we'll start seeing some of those prices moving upward as we start heading into spring."

Redman says the drop in fuel costs is astounding, especially when you compare prices to this time last year.

"It's almost a dollar a gallon difference.  It's pretty significant change in how the prices have fallen from just over a year ago." 
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Ascension deputies working double homicide

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff's office says they are investigating a double homicide in Donaldsonville. Chief Deputy Tony Bacala says they got the call Monday around 3:30pm and when they arrived at the scene they located 37-year-old Chad Nichols dead on the front lawn of his house.

29-year-old Benny Booker of Prairieville was found shot in the doorway of the residence and he succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

Bacala says as of right now they don't know who is responsible for these murders.

"They came to that house in a 2008-2011 white BMW 3 series vehicle and when they left the also stole Bookers vehicle which is a 2007 white Dodge Magnum," said Bacala.

Investigators are actively searching for both cars at this time.

Bacala says they believe the victims were targeting by the shooters.

"We feel like somebody went there probably to rob them," said Bacala.

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Louisiana students find themselves in blizzard

As the northeast gets pounded by a blizzard, a group of Louisiana high school students find themselves in the middle of it in New York City.  Students from Cedar Creek School in Ruston are in the Big Apple on a school trip.  

Director of Student Activities Elizabeth Walker says yesterday's curfew cancelled the Broadway show they planned to attend, but they are making the best of the situation.
"Had a couple of snow ball fights and just making the best of what we do get to see in New York.  This is the first time for several of us to be here, so we want to take advantage of what we can."

Walker says the group totals 27 people, including 14 students.  She says that, even with the weather conditions being less than optimal, they are taking in as much of New York as they possibly can.  Walker says the group did get to experience Central Park.

"We felt like we were the only ones in Central Park, yesterday.  We had several snow ball fights and took in the beautiful scenery.  It was a great experience for us."

Walker says the eight inches of snow has actually made this a fun trip for everyone in the group.  She says this trip is one that everyone will remember for a long time.  Walker says they are scheduled to fly back home tomorrow.

"As far as we have heard, we should still be able to get out, but there is a chance our flight could be cancelled.   So, if it is, then we're just going to truck another day in New York and find something fun to do."
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New DHH program promotes a healthier Louisiana

The State Department of Health and Hospitals sets up a program that encourages Louisiana residents to take control of their health.  The program is called "Own Your Own Health".  It's a three month wellness challenge that can assist residents in living a healthier lifestyle.  

Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Director Rudy Macklin says you can participate as an individual or part of a team.
"And they can choose one of two challenges, the weight loss challenge or the physical activity steps challenge.  It's like two challenges in one."

The challenges are meant to motivate Louisianians to make small daily steps in creating and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.  You can sign up at oyohla-dot-com.  To help keep participants on-track, Macklin says a daily e-mail will be sent.

"Here's your meals for the day:  here's your breakfast for the day, your lunch, and your dinner.   And here are the physical activities we recommend that you do based on your age.  Because we have a nutrition plan based on age."

They're also offering prizes for participants who log-in and update their progress.  Macklin says another aspect of OYOH is called "Own Your Own Health Now" which helps you make the correct choices regarding your own wellness.

"All those things to do with health care, in general, we show you how to manage your health care and how to, basically, just take responsibility for your own health." 
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Louisiana's budget woes get worse

Falling oil prices will result in an 103-million dollar reduction in spending this fiscal year by state government. That determination was made by the Revenue Estimating Conference, after hearing from the chief economist for the Louisiana legislature, Greg Albrecht.

"We've got further weakness in oil prices and a little bit better picture about oil prices but the news is bad," said Albrecht. 

And based on economists projections, the Revenue Estimating Conference has increased the budget deficit for next fiscal year by another 203-million dollars to one-point-six billion. Albrecht says weak oil prices are to blame for these falling oil prices.

"We're going to end this fiscal year and move into the next fiscal year at an oil price that is half of what we ended it in last fiscal year and moved into this fiscal year with," said Albrecht. 

The 103-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year means, the Jindal administration will be forced to make cuts in the next few weeks.

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ATM skimming scam along I-10 corridor

State Police are assisting in an investigation looking into an ATM scheme where customer's debit card numbers and pins may have been compromised along the I-10 corridor. Whitney Bank issued a statement acknowledging they found devices called "skimmers" on ATM machines. 

"Right now we have several ongoing investigations including many local jurisdictions and also the Secret Service which is now getting involved because it is across many jurisdictions and even across some of our neighboring states," said State Police Sgt Nick Manale.
Whitney bank says as an extra precaution they have deactivated and reissued about 71- hundred debit cards. Manale says people need to be watching their accounts and statements to check for possible fraudulent charges.
"We suspect that it is a group of individuals who are working some major cities along the I-10 corridor but the biggest message right now for our listeners is to be aware of the activity going on in their own account," said Manale.
Manale says "skimmers" are placed to look like they are part of the ATM. He says these devices steal some of the bar code information off of card as well as the PIN number entered into the machine.
"It may look like something that is added to the credit card slot or a piece of the ATM that may or may not look right and it's something you can immediately report to your bank and they can look into," said Manale.
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Entergy opens new power plant

Entergy cut the ribbon on a new power plant in suburban New Orleans that company officials say will reduce fuel costs and produce reliable and affordable power for Louisiana customers.

Entergy Spokesperson Mike Burns says Ninemile 6 is already using 30 percent less fuel than other natural gas combustion plants.
"Well the unit is projected to reduce fuel costs by about 50 million dollars in 2015 and another 69 million dollars in 2016," Burns said.
This is the first power plant Entergy has opened in Louisiana in 30 years. Burns says Ninemile 6 was completed under budget and ahead of time.
"The plant was finished several months ahead of schedule and at a cost of about 655 million dollars, substantially below the original budget of 721 million dollars," Burns said.
The plant helps Louisiana's economy by creating more jobs. Burns says Entergy plans to keep improving and modernizing their services and plants.
"We have a lot of older resources that need to either be upgraded or replaced and that is Entergy's plan moving forward," Burns said.
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Study finds increase in reports of falls among the elderly

A University of Michigan Medical School study finds there has been an almost 30-percent increase in the report of falls among the elderly since the late 90s.  Dr. Cathi Fontenot, with LSU Health Internal Medicine, feels the increase could be, in part, due to older people maintaining higher levels of activity that make them susceptible to falls.

"Like walking and cycling and thinking that it's okay to continue to clean the gutters because they're in good health and can still get on ladders."

She says older adult's higher activity levels are a result that they are generally feeling better and in better health.

"And think they can continue to do things that they probably shouldn't engage in, like climbing ladders.  As you get older, your sense of balance just typically gets a little worse."

She says the weakening of core muscles in the elderly affect their sense of balance.  Fontenot says it's important to keep those core muscles as strong as possible to help maintain your balance.

"Going to a gym, working out with a trainer, doing sit to stand exercises and anything that strengthens core muscles." 

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