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US House approves training for Syrian rebels against ISIL

The US House voted to give President Obama authority to train and arm Syrian rebels in the effort to defeat ISIL forces in the Middle East.  The authorization passed on a 273-156 vote that crossed party lines.  Republican Minden Congressman John Fleming is the only member of the Louisiana delegation to vote against the authorization.  

Fleming says he feels we are going down the wrong path in dealing with the militant group.
"The President, instead of addressing the issue straightforwardly, wants to make a mercenary force out of, what he's already characterized as, a bunch of farmers, pharmacists, and doctors."
Fleming says it would easily take two years to get any type of group trained just for the basic ability to fight.  He says while training is taking place, ISIS forces will be adapting and gearing up.  However, Republican Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany, who voted in favor of the measure, says this is a necessary first step, although it is insufficient.  He says we need a broader strategy that involves a coalition. 
"This first step will show that American resolve to friends and foes alike, as well as those who are on the sideline.  We will demonstrate that and pull this coalition together."
Boustany says this will help the President have the necessary leverage to put this coalition in place to defeat ISIL.
"But also to get to a broader political settlement in the region.  Because what's going on in Syria, beyond ISIL, is a national security threat to the United States."
Fleming feels this is a situation that US troops need to handle.  He says if it is necessary to go in there after ISIL, then we need to acknowledge the truth:  it will require boots on the ground.  Fleming says this move to train Syrian rebels will not help us build a coalition. 
"And I don't think that other nations are going to be willing to take the risk with us, and pour in their treasure and blood if we're not going to do that."
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Thursday. 

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Brees defends the reputation of the NFL

The NFL's image is suffering because of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case and now Vikings star Adrian Peterson is facing child abuse charges. Saints Quarterback Drew Brees says unfortunately the perception is NFL players beat their wives and children but that's only a handful of cases in a league that has 17-hundred players.

"There's a lot of guys (NFL players) that are doing a lot of great things and they represent all the great things about humanity and what its like to be a leader and great member of your community."
Brees is considered one of the faces of the NFL. He says with the league is taking a lot of P-R hits, he understands the importance of demonstrating how to represent the NFL in a positive light on and off the field.
"I'm going to be the husband, father that I am, the best I can be. I do understand the platform I'm on, being in this position."
Brees says the Rice and Peterson cases provide examples for other players that there are consequences for poor decisions away from the field.
"It's caused discussion, which I think is healthy and it gets guys on the right path."
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Louisiana's prison population on the decline, but still the highest in the US

A federal report says Louisiana's prison population fell two-percent last year, but the state still has the highest incarceration rate in the US, well ahead of Mississippi who is second.
Dr. Peter Scharf, with the Justice and Public health institute at the LSU Health Sciences Center, says there's an effort to lower the prison population, but it will take time. 

"We're trying to dig out of hole that occurred way before many of us got involved," Scharf said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana's prison population in 2013 was at 39-thousand, a drop of nearly nine-hundred people from 2012. Scharf anticipates the state's incarceration rate will continue to decline, but it will take time to get it at more acceptable level.
'There's a backlog of people with very long sentences."
Scharf says the department of corrections has put programs in place to help recently released inmates stay out of jail and there's been a push in the legislature to lower sentences for certain crimes. He says the mindset on how to punish criminals is changing and that should help lower the prison population. 
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Boustany: Bills limiting IRS power pass House

Michelle Southern reporting.
The US-House has passed three bills by Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany that spotlight recent IRS controversies and would ultimately limit the power of the federal agency. Boustany says House Republicans learned a woman was forwarding emails from her official IRS email account to a personal account to conduct business.

He says this should never be happening.

"So the first bill prohibits officers and employees of the Internal Revenue Service from using personal email accounts to conduct any official business," said Boustany.

Boustany, who is the chair of the oversight subcommittee of the tax-writing House Ways and means Committee, says safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the public's trust is not breached.

He says another issue he wanted to address was that some denials of tax exempt status were not subject to appeal which he thinks is wrong.

"And so the second bill amends the tax code to provide for the right of an administrative appeal in the event of an adverse determination with regard to tax exempt status of certain organizations," Boustonay said.

Boustany says the third bill would permit release of reports about investigations into unauthorized leaks of taxpayer information to the victims.

He says Americans are demanding higher ethical standards from public servants and they plan to continue to expose the rot at the core of the IRS's culture.

"And they need to be fully accountable and I'm going to continue to bring sunshine to this agency," said Boustany.

The Senate still needs to approve the bills.

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LSU looks to keep shutout streak going against Miss State

LSU heads into Saturday's SEC match-up with Mississippi State riding a streak of 31 straight possessions without allowing a point. The Tigers also lead in the SEC in four defensive categories--- total defense, pass defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Defensive Coordinator John Chavis says the defense is playing with a lot of confidence.

"I think our players are doing a good responding to the situations they are in and recognizing what they need to do. There's a bunch of young guys who are a big part of it. You feel really good that they are able go out there to hold up and continue to play well as a defensive unit." 
Chavis says his defense still has room to get better and that starts with better communication between players while they are on the field.
"It starts with communication. It makes it even more difficult for young kids with fast tempo offenses, but that's the nature of the beast that's what we deal with it week after week."
The Tigers host Mississippi State this Saturday. The Bulldogs are averaging nearly 44 points a game and Chavis says his defense will be tested.
"It's a game that you have to play your best."  
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Louisiana tops nation for number of single people

Michelle Southern reporting.
According to a new report with data compiled from the US census, Louisiana has the most single people in the nation. The Martin Prosperity Institute study found 55.7% of adults here are nor married. Demographer Greg Rigamer says this could be because after Katrina and the BP Oil spill, Louisiana got a big boost in job opportunities.

"You know very often it's someone who is coming to just get a job," said Rigamer. "And the New Orleans area in particular is very attractive to younger people."

Rigamer says there has also been a significant increase in the number of people here between the ages of 20 and 29.

"You look at this influx of young people coming in, it's really not surprising we have a high number of unmarried adults," said Rigamer.

New Orleans topped the list as the metro area in the US with the highest number of single people at 58%.

Rigamer says many people think of The Big Easy as a great place to live, but many people don't associate it as a place you'd come start a family.

LSU Professor of Sociology Tim Slack says there is also growing number of people in the nation who are single and living alone.

"This is a real departure from the past when most people traditionally lived in family households," said Slack. "And this is a trend we're seeing nationally."

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Judge strikes down Edmonson retirement increase

A district judge threw out the law that would give State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and another trooper a major retirement boost.  Judge Janice Clark ruled the provision to be unconstitutional stating lawmakers did not follow proper procedure in passing the pension change.  

State Treasurer John Kennedy says this measure was not only unconstitutional, it was unfair.
"It gave special, extra retirement benefits to people who had the political clout to get a special bill passed by the legislature and that's not right."
This law was passed in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session.  He says the benefit increases would have been drawn from an expense account that funds cost-of-living increases for retired state troopers and their families.  Kennedy says laws are supposed to apply to everybody equally. 
"It doesn't matter whether you're a prince or a pauper, you're supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law and this bill was given special treatment."
Both Edmonson and the other trooper had said they had no intention to accept the increased benefit.  Kennedy hopes the book is now closed on this matter. 
"I just think it's unfortunate that this ever happened.  But the only thing worse would have been to allow this law to stay on the book."
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Jindal not deterred by low presidential poll numbers

Governor Bobby Jindal is not concerned about poll numbers that show him receiving little support when compared to other potential presidential candidates. Jindal received only three percent in a recent CNN poll of New Hampshire republican voters that listed ten other candidates. Jindal says he doesn't look at polls.

"I didn't look at polls when I ran for governor," Jindal said. "The first time I ran for office, I was polling within the margin of error, which means I was at zero."
Other polls taken have also shown Jindal failing to receive much support compared to other possible republican presidential candidates. 
"I think at this point polls are measuring name ID."
Jindal made these comments in Washington DC after unveiling a US energy policy that was developed from his nonprofit group called America Next. The governor says he is thinking abour running for President and a decision will be made after the November election. But he says his decision will have nothing to do with polls or fundraising. 
"I made the decision to run for Governor and Congress, because I felt I had something to offer. I was offering specific solutions and experiences that I didn't think other candidates were offering at that time."   
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Morrell: Colleges need policies for addressing sexual assault reports

Michelle Southern reporting.
The state Board of Regents releases a reporting showing students at colleges are more vulnerable when it comes to sexual assault because there is no statewide policy in place for handling such allegations. New Orleans Senator JP Morrell requested the report.

He says no two Louisiana colleges have the same guidelines for handling sexual assault accusations.

"That is a huge problem because if there is no benchmark for what is minimally expected, every college is going to do a very very different thing," said Morrell.

Morrell says Louisiana needs to establish a benchmark that all colleges must meet when it comes to the way sexual assault claims are handled.

"We're grading them against nothing right now and because of that a lot of them are doing way less than what should be required," said Morrell.

Morrell says alleged college student victims need to all feel comfortable reporting any potential sexual assault which is why specific steps should be followed in the investigation process. 

He says LSU-Baton Rouge indicated they've only had 22 reports of sexual abuse over a five year period.

"That number is absurdly low. That would mean that LSU is like Disneyland with security in every corner," said Morrell. "At the very least I think the case could be made that there is definitive under reporting."

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