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LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center launches child-focused obesity reduction initiative

Michelle Southern reporting.
LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center launches an initiative providing doctors in Louisiana with proven strategies to reduce and treat obesity in children. The project is lead by Dr. Amanda Staiano who says the Child Obesity Treatment Toolkit helps primary care physicians determine who's at risk for obesity.

"It teaches doctors ways to assess obesity and ways to treat childhood obesity in clinic settings," said Staiano.

Staiano says childhood obesity is a very serious issue in Louisiana with half of our kids being overweight or obese. She says they have great recommendations on how to treat obesity and screen for it, but many physicians aren't using them.

"This toolkit is trying to get into the hands of doctors, nurses & dietitians, so they can better understand what children are most at risk for obesity," said Staiano. "And then give that advice to parents and families."

Staiano says they have over 2,000 hard copies of the toolkit they plan to distribute throughout the state or doctors can download it online at www.pbrc.edu/obesitytoolkit. 

She says Louisiana ranks near the top of obesity prevalence even in preschoolers.

"It's really important to intervene early in a child's life," said Staiano. "Make sure that child is set up with good eating habits, good physical activity and also good self-esteem."
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BESE President urges parents to have their children take the Common Core test

Amid reports that some families are opting out from having their child take standardized tests that are part of Common Core, the chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Chas Roemer, is encouraging parents to have their child take the test in March.
"It's important to not only our accountability system, but it's more important to better understand their own child, and what areas their student may have strengths and what areas they may have weaknesses," Roemer said.
Based on news reports, only a handful of families have decided that their children will not take the Common Core-aligned tests, because they believe its harmful to their children. Roemer says the new standardized tests are more rigorous than previous ones and an important component to determine student achievement.
"We're going to spend time between now and testing to make sure every parent is fully informed of what's happening and try to reinsure them that this is the best interest of their student," Roemer said. 
Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order that calls on BESE to have an alternate test for those students who opt-out of the Common Core exam. But Roemer says Jindal doesn't have the constitutional authority to do that and he accuses the governor of creating chaos. 
"it's what he does best and he's doing that because it's in his political interest, this par for the course," Roemer said. 
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LHSAA votes against split playoffs in other sports, football stays the same for 2015

High school principals vote to keep the current split between public and private schools that exists with the football playoffs and allow the new executive director of the LHSAA, Eddie Bonine, develop solutions that could possibly bring the classes back together. Bonine says his first step will be to organize a committee to examine the issues that caused the split.

"Find out what the problem was that led up to it and address those particular issues, so we can eventually, if that's what everybody wants to do, have one weekend of state championships like we've had many, many years." 
This past season, the state football championships were split over two weekends. Four state titles for private schools one weekend, and five state titles for public schools the next weekend. 
Many principal Norman Booker authored proposals to divide the postseason between public and private schools in other sports, but it was voted down. Booker says private schools have advantages in the student enrollment process over public schools and he'll seek try to help come up with a solution as well. 
"Trying to get things right and whatever that maybe, we'll come back in a years time, and if it's worked out, then it works itself out, if not, then we'll go back to the drawing board," Booker said.
Bonine says he wants to take a hard look at the issues that caused the split, and see if he can solve those, before he proposes a playoff format that high school principals can vote on next January. 
"If I'm able to identify where some concerns are, I'll go to where the concerns are and have those conversations and address them."  
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With Mitt Romney out, what does that mean for Jindal?

Michelle Southern reporting.
Mitt Romney announced Friday he's decided not to run for president next year, so what could that mean for Governor Bobby Jindal? 2016 would have been Romney's third run at the White House. UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says this is one less main-stream contender that Jindal has to compete with.

"This will limit the number of mainstream Republicans and make it more likely that the GOP will choose someone from the younger generation," said Cross. "One of the people more associated with their very very conservative wing."

Cross says Romney passed on Jindal as a vice presidential contender last time saying the two never really connected so him bowing out of the race also helps The Governor.

"So if Jindal would be a viable vice presidential candidate, whoever does get the nomination may feel better about Jindal than Romney does."

Cross says anytime one of the main candidates drops out of a presidential race it's a victory for all of the remaining contenders.

"It's kinda like who gets voted off the island, if someone takes themselves off it's better for everyone else," said Cross. "So I'd have to think Jindal thinks he's got one down, about 12 to go."

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BESE member concerned about Common Core opt-out

With Common Core testing scheduled for March, some families have decided on opting their kids out of taking the tests.  BESE member Lottie Beebe says, according to information provided by the Department of Education, this will cause negative implications for schools and school systems.

"Those students who are non-participants in the assessment will receive a zero and, of course, this will be passed on to schools and school systems."

Beebe says another concern with this issue is whether or not a student who refuses to take the tests will be promoted.  She says, right now, that's up to the individual school districts, but it should be state policy.

"If there are punitive consequences assigned to those students who choose not to participate in the assessment, then it should be uniform across the state."

So far, only a handful of families have opted their kids out of Common Core testing, but more are expected as the testing dates approach.  Education Superintendent John White has recommended a "wait and see" approach to the issue, but Beebe says they need to be pro-active.  She says BESE should hold a special meeting to address the "opt-out" movement.

"We have a responsibility to our constituents.  We need to hear their concerns." 
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Marksville mobile home fire claims four

State Fire Marshal's officials are investigating a fire in Avoyelles Parish that has left four dead.  Fire Marshall Butch Browning says the fire occurred just before midnight Thursday night at a mobile home in Marksville.

"We've got a father, the father's mother, and then two children, a female and a male of the father, that all died in this fire."

The victims' ages range from 10 to 73-years-old.  Browning says firefighters tried to do a search of the mobile home, but the flames were too intense...

"So they did their best to quickly extinguish the fire and try to get in there.  Typically we find in these type of fires, in normal fire environment, people could actually perish in the fire within minutes of the fire starting."

Browning says they believe the four victims were asleep at the time of the fire.  He says the mother of the children was at work when the blaze broke out.  Browning says the investigation is in its initial stages.

"It'll be several days 'til we can work with the coroner to determine exact causes of death and what actually caused this fire." 
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Tulane study: Cities whose teams are in the Super Bowl see an increase in flu deaths

A Tulane University study discovers that cities who have teams in the Super Bowl see a spike in flu deaths. Researcher Charles Stoecker, says based on county-level statistics, there was an 18-percent increase in flu deaths among those over the age of 65 in cities whose teams were in the Super Bowl that year. He says big games bring more people together.

"People are going out more, they are going out in public more, they are in more close contact with other people and somehow that's spilling over to the over 65 set," said Stoecker. 
Stoecker says based on his research people in Boston and Seattle need to practice good hygiene and his study also reveals the effect is worse in years when the flu strain is more virulent like this year's strain. 
"Those are years where it's more dangerous to have your team in the Super Bowl," Stoecker said.
Stoecker says another interesting aspect of his study found the host Super Bowl city does not see an increase in flu cases or deaths. 
"The Super Bowl is usually hosted in these warmer weather cities like New Orleans and it's not as amenable to influenza transmission as some of the other Super Bowl contenders." 
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Three more synthetic marijuana compounds banned

After more Louisianians have been hospitalized and even died as a result of synthetic marijuana, Governor Bobby Jindal has announced the ban of multiple new synthetic marijuana compounds.  The new banned compounds are called "PX 1", PX 2", and "MDMB-CHMICA".

Dr. Mark Ryan, Director of the Louisiana Poison Control Center, says the state is staying pro-active in fight against synthetic marijuana.
"We identify a new substance.  We know that it's here.   We wait to see if it's going to cause problems, and these substances have.  And as soon as we note that those problems are occurring, we move to regulate those substances."

Ryan feels Louisiana is one of the most pro-active states in the nation in quickly regulating these substances once they are identified.  He says there have been several deaths in the state in the last few months related to synthetic marijuana, sold under names like "Blue Diamond" and "Mojo".

"And we have had at least one death related to these substances, in particular."

Ryan says at least one death can be attributed to these new banned substances.  He says not only are people who use synthetic marijuana are being harmed, but the people around them are harmed as well.  He says, if you are concerned that a product contains an illegal substance, just look for the words "Not For Human Consumption" on the back of the package.

"That is almost a super tip off way to look at it and say 'This has an illegal drug in it.'"
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Louisiana ranks 3rd for teacher-student inappropriate relationships

A new study ranks Louisiana third nationally on a per-capita basis for inapproprate teacher-student relationships. Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the US Department of Ed and now chair of Drive West Communications, says he found 23 reported cases in 2014 and in many of those situations, social media was used to advance a teacher-student relationship to an inappropriate level.

"39% of the cases involved teachers reaching out on social media to students and having private electronic communications, sometimes in the middle of the night," Abbot said. 
Abbott says there's also a higher percentage of inappropriate relationships involving female teachers than the national average. 
"It's hard to say what all drives it," Abbott said.
And Abbott says it's disturbing there's already been six reported cases in 2015 in Louisiana. He says school district leaders need to get serious about this problem and so do lawmakers, who can pass legislation to create stronger penalties for offenders.
"We have too many teachers who commit sexual assaults of children and then wind up without any jail time," Abbott said.  
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Saturday's Powerball prize up to $298 million

The Louisiana Lottery says we've now hit the biggest Powerball jackpot of 2015 with tomorrow's drawing worth a whopping $298 million dollars. Spokeswoman Kimberly Chopin says the current jackpot has been running since the end of November. She says the last big jackpot winner in Louisiana was from a May 2013 drawing so we're due.

"We've been about a year now without a big Powerball winner," said Chopin. "But we have have 15 since we joined the Powerball game."

Chopin says the current jackpot has a cash value of about $198.4 million dollars. She says since the match 5 prize has increased to a million dollars we've had plenty of those winners in Louisiana.

"In fact one just claimed a million dollar prize just this month," said Chopin. "Pete" Blakeney bought his ticket in Pearl River."

Chopin says when the jackpot gets high like this they find a lot of people play who don't normally buy tickets -- or even for the first time.

"They don't realize, even if you don't match all 6 numbers you can win a lot of different prizes on Powerball," said Chopin. "So check your tickets right after the drawing and remember it only takes one to win."

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Duke's chance for another Louisiana office? Highly unlikely.

So how likely would it be that former KKK leader and Louisiana lawmaker David Duke would be elected again here? Not very likely according to political analyst Bernie Pinsonat. Duke challenged Congressman Steve Scalise to step down for apologizing about speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002. Pinsonat says Duke is only milking this for attention.

"David Duke is not going to get elected to Congress and he certainly won't beat Steve Scalise," said Pinsonat. "I think since he's gotten a little national coverage he's going to take advantage of it for as long as possible."

Duke took it a step further and said that he would consider challenging the House Majority Whip in the next election for the 1st District Seat. 
Pinsonat says Duke is just trying to get publicity and he will probably never get re-elected in Louisiana if he chooses to run.

Duke made the comments on Louisiana Radio Network's Jim Engster Show.

Pinsonat says if anything, this would allow Scalise to set the record straight that he doesn't agree with Duke.

"It may be an opportunity for Scalise, if he does run again, to show how much disdain and dislike he has for David Duke and what he stands for."
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Calhoun fire ruled a murder suicide

The State Fire Marshal's Office has determined that yesterday's fire in Calhoun, where two bodies were recovered, was a murder suicide.  Fire Marshal Butch Browning says they believe the situation began with a domestic dispute between 52-year-old Larry Lisotta and his wife, 57-year-old Diane Lisotta.

"The evidence that we have right now, it appears the male in that home had actually shot the female and set the home on fire and then committed suicide himself." 

Browning says hey have determined that Larry Lisotta shot his wife in the head and then turned the gun on himself.  He says this appears to be an isolated incident and do not believe anyone else was involved.

"It started out as a domestic dispute and it ended in these two tragic deaths."

He says the investigation is ongoing.
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Benson family legal dispute could drag on

The legal drama between the Benson family over ownership of the Saints and Pelicans could drag on for a year or more.  The scene will play out in courtrooms in New Orleans and San Antonio.  

Legal analyst Tim Meche says an Orleans Civil District Court Judge could rule whether or not Tom Benson is physically and mentally fit to handle his business affairs by spring.
"He could require that Mr. Benson be monitored.  He could require that any transactions he does be approved by a court or a third party and that's the most likely result."

Meche says the real litigation will take place in San Antonio involving whether or not Tom Benson can transfer the teams out of the family trust.  He says, thus far, Benson has been unsuccessful in his attempts to do so.

"That will ultimately play out in a San Antonio court room and be decided by a judge who has no ties to New Orleans or the Saints or the Pelicans."

He says that case will involve a lot of litigation and possibly courts of appeal.  There is always a chance that the two sides could negotiate a settlement which would bring this to a quicker solution.  Meche feels, at this point in the game, both sides are engaging in a public relations war.

"And every filing is catered to play out in the court of public opinion.  And they're starting to air their dirty laundry and I think that is only going to get worse." 
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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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