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Public Service Commission looks to keep energy customers informed


In the wake of the power outages that recently plagued portions of the state, the Louisiana Public Service commission will consider implementing a new system for power companies to better keep the public informed when outages occur. 
 


 
Commissioner Foster Campbell explains.
 
"I want them to text or telephone all these customers and say, 'We know you're out of power, you don't have to call us.  We know you're out of power.  Here's where we are and we will keep you updated.'"
 
The system would send automated telephone and text messages to customers when outages occur.  He says Entergy power companies have already implemented such a system.  Campbell says he'll ask all electric utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission to do likewise.
 
"This is the 21st century.  Let's get innovative, here.  You know, if you can do it by computer or you can do it by text or you can do it by telephone.  Whatever you got to do it by, come on, tell the people what they can expect."
 
The topic will be discussed at the PSC's August 6th meeting in Baton Rouge.  He says storms and power outages are a reality in Louisiana and with modern forms of communication, power companies can easily tell customers what they need to know quickly.  Campbell says this system would ease a lot of customers frustrations during an outage.
 
"They call my office and my lines are busy.  They call the SWEPCO office and their lines are clogged up.  We need to be proactive in calling these people and say, 'Look, we know that you're out of electricity.  Here's what you can expect.  And we will be back if there are any other changes.'  That's the least we can do and I'm going to get that done."
 
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Louisiana reports its first West Nile virus death of 2014


State health officials say a man from Caddo Parish has died from the West Nile Virus. The department of health and hospitals is not providing many details about the victim, citing confidentiality rules, but they can say the individual was between 60 and 74 years. State Epidemiologist Raoult Ratard says this is a reminder West Nile can be fatal.

"Usually when the virus attacks the brain, 10% of the people die from it," Ratard said. 
 
This is the first fatality of the year from West Nile Virus. Ratard says they've only recorded nine total cases this year, but the season is just starting.
 
"We expect cases to last until November, maybe early December."
 
Ratard says take precautions to keep mosquitoes out of your house, our of your yard and off your skin. 
 
"So you either protect your skin with long pants and long sleeves or you wear mosquito repellent."
 
 

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LSU Health Sciences Center participating in new treatment for lung cancer


The LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans is offering a possible break through treatment for those diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Eileen Mederos is the program manager of the clinical trial and she says participants will receive a personalized medicine approach based upon the genetic makeup of their cancers.


"This maybe a better way to treat cancer as opposed to a blanketed approach, because not everyone responds to the same drug." 
 
Mederos says LSU Health Sciences Center is one of a just a few sites in the country to offer this new way of treating of lung cancer. She says it's a targeted therapy based on the genetic changes fueling the growth of the tumor. 
 
"They would receive treatment based off of the genetic testing."
 
Mederos says they are partnering with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, which has several locations in Southeast Louisiana to offer this cutting edge treatment. She lung cancer patients can call the LSU Health Sciences Center to participate in the clinical trial. 
 
"Eventually it will be offered across the country, but for now we are one of the first five sites." 
 
For more information call Eileen Mederos at (504) 407-7395
 

 
 

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JPSO: Man shoots neighbor in the groin, kills him


Michelle Southern reporting.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office says a man is dead after his neighbor allegedly shot him in the groin last night. Col John Fortunato says they responded to an apartment complex around 1:30am and found the body of a 54-year-old at the door step of the suspect's residence. Witnesses told investigators the two had a long time feud.

"Sometime during the early morning hours, the victim was kicking on the front door of the suspect over and over and wouldn't stop," said Fortunado.

Fortunato says the shooter is identified as 61-year-old Frank Stewart, "At some point the suspect opened the door and fired one shot to the victim in the groin and he was pronounced dead on the scene."

Fortunato says Stewart was taken into custody and transported to their investigations bureau for questioning, but he was not arrested. He says the case has been turned over the District Attorney.

"No decision has been made as of yet on whether or not to charge Stewart with a crime," said Fortunato.



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Former Baldwin officer allegedly gets teenage girl pregnant


Michelle Southern reporting.
Louisiana State Police say a former Baldwin Police officer is under arrest amid allegations he fathered a baby with a 14-year-old girl. Master Trooper Brooks David says they were initially called to investigate 39-year-old Joseph Brent about possible drug dealing in 2013, but they ended up finding more information.


"He possibly was fathering a child with a 14-year-old juvenile," said Brent.

David says detectives couldn't substantiate the narcotics allegation. He says they discovered instead that Brent was living with a minor who was carrying his child. David says the baby was born this month and DNA was collected from all parties.

"Once the DNA samples came back, the results showed Mr. Brent was the father of the child," said David.

David says Brent left his job as a police officer a few months ago unaware that he was under investigation by the state. He says they learned through DNA that the suspect was the father of the teenager's baby.

The suspect was booked into the St. Mary Parish Jail for molestation of a juvenile, malfeasance in office and sexual battery.


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Saints start training camp in West Virginia


White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, has rolled out the red carpet for the New Orleans Saints who begin training camp there today. The Black and Gold will spend the next three weeks getting ready for the upcoming season at the Greenbrier resort.

Kara Dense, with the Greenbrier Convention and Visitor's Bureau, says they were thrilled when the team bus rolled in.
 
"There were people on the streets with signs, balloons, and it was kind of a first opportunity for all the players come and visit with us and see how exited we are that they will be with us for the next few weeks."
 
For the past few seasons, the team has held training camps exclusively at their Meterie facility. Dense says this is a great chance for some out of town Saints fans to watch the team play.
 
The county, home to only 35 thousand people, isn't used to getting big name stars like Quarterback Drew Brees. Dense says the locals are eating it up.
 
"We were so excited. We were following Drew Brees on twitter last night and he ate at one of our local country kitchens in White (Sulfer) Springs. Wow, what great exposure for our area."
 
 
 
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International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo this weekend


The annual International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is underway and thousands of people are expected descend on coastal town to enjoy the festivities.  Anglers from across the area will compete to see who can catch the biggest fish in a number of categories. 
 


 
Property tax clerk for the town of Grand Isle, Bonnie Pizani, says there's a lot more going on than just fishing.
 
"They have events at the pavilion for children.  They have crab races.  They have craft venders, merchandise booths, and the awesome band line-up that we have this year."
 
The fishing rodeo began in 1928 and is informally referred to as the "Mardi Gras of Grand Isle."  Pizani says businesses across the island look forward to the economic boost the thousands of people who attend the event bring every year.
 
"The grocery store will be packed.  The marinas will be packed.  This is our big event of the year."
 
Grand Isle bills the rodeo, which runs through Saturday, as "the oldest fishing tournament in the United States".  Pizani says if you plan to attend, you may want to leave early as traffic tends to creep along Highway 1, the only road that accesses the island.  She says the locals get into the spirit of the rodeo, too.
 
"They'll pop out a pool in their front yard and they'll have little celebration parties at their camp in their front yard after getting in from their fishing and, hopefully, catching the big catch to put on the board."
 
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Wednesday storms in northwest Louisiana claim life of Shreveport woman


The National Weather Service in Shreveport says a bad storm that blew through northwest Louisiana last night left thousands without power and claimed the life of one person. Senior Meteorologist Jason Hansford says they saw 60-70 mile per hour winds which downed numerous trees and power lines.

"At one point during the peak of the power outages we had 70,000 people without power," said Hansford.

Hansford says as of early this morning there were still over 50,000 people who did not have power. He says one woman even lost her life.

"A 64-year-old female was struck by a very large tree limb that fell during the height of the storms there yesterday evening," Hansford said.

Hansford says the victim was walking down a street during the height of the storms when the winds really started picking up.

"So she turned around and was heading home, and at the same time a big gust of wind blew threw and downed the limb that fell on top of her," said Hansford. "Unfortunately she later succumbed to her injuries."



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The push is on to produce more oil workers in the Gulf


A commitment is in place to produce more workers for the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry. Higher education leaders, state officials and representatives from the oil industry have formed a long-term public-private partnership to come up with solutions to meet with workforce needs.
 
Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association President Chris John says about 40-percent of the workforce that's experienced in the Gulf of Mexico will retire in the next ten years. He says that's a concern, especially since deep water exploration and production is expected to increase.
 
"The biggest concern to our members is that we don't have the skilled workforce to handle the kinds of projects that were are doing out in the Gulf." 
 
John says this Memorandum of Understanding between the various entities will come together to form a curriculum so prospective gulf of mexico oil workers could be certified in two years.
 
"Once that person graduates and gets that certificate they almost certain to get a job at that point of time."
 
 
 


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Rate hikes coming for thousands who purchased insurance through the ACA


State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says 60-percent of the Louisiana residents who purchased insurance through the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act face a double-digit rate hike next year. Donelon says that's based on paperwork filed by the federal government with the state's insurance department.

"The question then becomes does the premium increase make it unaffordable again for them, even after they qualify for the subsidy."

Donelon says 101-thousand Louisiana residents have health care through the individual marketplace and they anticipate the average rate increase to be about 12 to 13 percent. 
 
He says the double-digit rate hike is the result of a federal premium tax that's been placed on the policies and the rates have been capped for the elderly and least healthy. 
 
"That's going to drive up cost for young and healthy policy holders."
 
 

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Monroe couple charged with abusing their 7-week-old child


A man who is reportedly a teacher at Carroll High School and his wife are under arrested for allegedly repeatedly abusing their 7 week old infant. Monroe Assistant Police Chief Don Bartley says neither 29-year-old James Hall or his wife 27-year-old Emily Rae Hall could give an explanation as to why their baby was in the hospital with bleeding on the brain.

Bartley says doctors,who examined the child, told cops the 7-week-old had been abused. 

"After tests were performed, they advised the police department, the child had a history of abuse, based on the various stages of healing they observed on the brain." 

James and Emily were booked into the Ouachita Correctional facility each on $50,000 bond. Bartley says the infant remains in the hospital in critical condition. 
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Traps set for Emerald Ash Borer


Following a discovery in Arkansas, Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain says the USDA is conducting trap surveys across the state to watch for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetles.  Strain says the EAB is an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees.
 


"This particular insect will bore into the ash trees.  Ash trees are located mainly in urban areas. They are also found in our estuaries and our swamps and also on a lot of our land that's in CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program."
 
He says when the pest gets into an ash tree, it generally kills the tree in three to five years.  The EAB was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and is now present in 24 states.  Strain says the beetle is often transported into an area by infested firewood.
 
"We recommend that you don't move firewood any more than ten miles from where you buy it.  If you use it for camping, use all the firewood before you leave the campground or the forest.  Use it all, burn it all.  Don't leave any unused firewood."
 
He says the EAB has a distinctive look.
 
"It is a brilliant green little beetle.  It is about a half an inch long and about an eighth to a quarter inch wide.  It is a very, very noticeable beetle once you take a look."
 
For more information on the EAB go to www.emeraldashborer.info

 
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Black and Gold merch flying off shelves as Saints training camp gets underway


Michelle Southern reporting.
The New Orleans Saints report to football camp in West Virginia today and the Black and Gold nation is already stocking up on their gear for the mega-hyped 2014 season. Lauren "FleurtyGirl" LeBlanc is the owner of a popular Saints fan shop in New Orleans.

"This is the time of the year when we want our customers to walk into the stores and the black and gold just hits them in the face," said LeBlanc. "That's all they're coming in for."

The Saints begin pre-season play August 8th and the regular season begins less than a month later.

Many have said that this year's team could be better than the Black and Gold Superbowl team on paper, but LeBlanc says Saints fans will load up on swag before ANY season.

"Saints fans love this team and want to wear the colors of this team no matter what," said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc says even though the Saints aren't practicing in Metairie this year, it's not stopping the merchandise from flying off the shelves.

She says her regulars come in every year looking for the one shirt that's going to be their lucky shirt for the season.

"The fans want to feel like they are contributing to the success of the team," said LeBlanc. "It's funny how the wearables play into that."




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