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Louisiana Farm Bureau's Mike Danna passes away at 54

Michelle Southern reporting.
Mike Danna, a staple in the agriculture broadcasting industry, has died of cancer at the age of 54. Danna was the director of public relations for the Louisiana Farm Bureau and host of This Week in Louisiana Agriculture. He passed away peacefully in his sleep shortly before 9am Friday morning. 


Louisiana Farm Bureau spokesperson Neil Melancon says Danna's biggest passion was his career.

"Day in and day out he was a dedicated employee to not only Farm Bureau but to agriculture as a whole," says Melancon. "Most of his friends were employed in agriculture or were in the ag industry in some way, shape or form."

Melancon says Danna spent more than 30 years in agriculture journalism coming to work for the Farm Bureau in 1985. Danna extended the public relations department to not only cover ag in Louisiana, but all over the world.

"He was a man who was committed to this idea that our way of life is based on agriculture and that its promotion is fundamental to everyone," said Melancon.

Danna is quoted as saying that the most rewarding thing he's ever done is work with farmers to bring the message that nothing is more important than the production of food and fiber. Melancon says Danna was born to be in public relations as he never met a stranger.

"We're getting notes of mourning from all across the country," said Melancon. "Everywhere we traveled, there's somebody he related to and became friends with."
 
 



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Former LSU player sentenced in 2011 Port Allen shooting

A former tight end on LSU's 2003 national championship team has been sentenced to five decades in prison for his involvement in a 2011 truck stop casino shooting in Port Allen.  32-year-old Demetri Robinson pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted second degree murder.  

West Baton Rouge Parish Prosecutor Tony Clayton says Robinson received the maximum sentence.
 
"50 years on both counts.  So he has to do 47 years flat in prison for what he did."

Robinson was sentenced to 50 years in prison on each count, but each count is set to be served concurrently.  Clayton says Robinson walked into the casino in September 2011 after being banned from the establishment.  He says a cashier asked Robinson to leave.

"At this time he pulls and shoots her in the head.  Pulls the gun on the manager.  The manager starts begging for his life.  Drawing down on him, the manager takes off running into a door and shuts that door behind him and he shoots through that door.  Luckily he didn't hit the manager."

Robinson fired at and missed another employee.  Clayton says the cashier who was shot is suffering from traumatic brain injury.  Robinson entered his plea one day before his trial was scheduled to begin. 



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More rain coming by the end of the weekend

After waking up to cold temperatures Friday morning, it appears things will brighten heading into the weekend.  Baton Rouge set a record low this morning of 26 degrees and record lows were tied in New Orleans and Shreveport.  


Andy Tingler, with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, says the weekend will start with sunny skies and warmer temperatures.
 
"However, rain chances will come back, during the later part of the weekend, on Sunday and will linger out through most of next week."

Tingler says rain chances will increase Sunday and not really drop off until maybe Thursday of next week.  He says much of the state can expect gray skies and light rain for much of the week.

"We may not pick up a lot of rain in one given day, but it will linger throughout several days.  So, there may be some areas that pick up two to three inches."

He says some areas of the state could pick up two to three inches of rainfall next week.  Tingler says temperatures will be a little below average for the coming week.

"With the clouds returning throughout next week, temperatures will tend to linger in the 50s and 60s for highs and the 40s for lows." 



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New Iberia man cited with illegal killing of Louisiana Black Bear

The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says a man is charged with the illegal killing of a Louisiana Black Bear while he was hog hunting in St. Mary Parish. LDWF spokesman Adam Eick says 52-year-old Richard Picard of New Iberia Jr. accidentally shot the animal thinking it was a feral hog.


"He was with a group of hunters that were all out hog hunting that day," said Einck. "A bear came into an open field and was running and he shot it with his 12 gauge shotgun."

Einck says it happened last Saturday when Picard was out hunting with a group of friends on private land when their dogs starting chasing the bear.

"This man misstakingly thought it was a hog running and he put it down with his shotgun with a buck shot," said Einck.

The state citation brings a $900 to a $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail, but Picard also faces up to a $10,000 civil restitution for the replacement value of the black bear.

Einck says one of the very first rules of hunter safety is to identify the target before pulling the trigger and know what you are shooting at.

"Feral hogs and bears are fairly similar but this bear was 350 pounds which is bigger than what a hog would be," said Einck.




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"Marsh Madness" happening in Lake Charles

"Marsh Madness" gets ramped up today in Lake Charles as three girls' state championship basketball teams will be crowned tonight.  Four more championships will be decided tomorrow and the boys' Top 28 tournament will begin there next week.  


Sales Director of the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Eric Zartler, says these events are great for the local economy.
 
"Last year's event had over a $3.5 million economic impact for our area, so we're looking for more of the same this year."

This is the second year Lake Charles has hosted both the boys' and girls' state basketball tournaments.  Today's state championship games will be highlighted by the Class 3-A title game between Mansfield and Baton Rouge's University High.  Zartler says they're excited about tonight's championship clash.

"We're really looking to pack the house.  I think we've got a good shot of filling this place up with that match-up."

Zartler says if you're a hoops fan, the best basketball in the state will be played in Lake Charles over the next two weeks.  He says they're hopeful that they can make "Marsh Madness" a tradition.

"We're excited to get back to the bid table and present a great bid for the next two years, as well."



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LSU spring football begins Saturday

Spring football gets underway for LSU on Saturday and Tiger fans hope the the 14 practices that will lead up to the Spring Game on April 18th will result in improved play out of the quarterback position. Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham expects the quarterback battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris to continue into the fall. 
 
"I think probably the best course of action is to let both of those guys not knowing what their role is," Worsham said. "And making them fight for it, and see who wants it more and see who is going to put the hours of film and be around the football office more." 
 
Worsham says spring football will give a chance for some of the Tigers young wide receivers to mature like Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn. 
 
"These guys were absolutely thrown into the deep end and sometimes they sank and sometimes they swam. I think this year the wide receiver is going to be much better."
 
On the other side of the ball, LSU needs two new starting defensive ends. Worsham says this is a big spring practice for six-foot-five junior Tashawn Bower and the rest of the Tigers D-Line. 
 
"He's a guy that has the measurables to be an NFL defensive end, can he take the next step up?"  
 
 
 
 



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BESE rejects proposal to waive penalties for students who opt-out of Common Core

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rejects a proposal to waive penalties against schools who have students that opt out from taking the Common Core exam. In a 7-4 vote, BESE agreed with Superintendent of Education John White, who says let's wait and see how many opt outs there are first.


A zero score will be given for each student who doesn't take the test, which could lower a school's performance score. Critics say that's not fair to the school or the child, but White says lets wait and see what happens March 16th to the 20th when students take the standardized test.
 
"We'll need to look at the facts of the situation and as we always do, try to come up with the best policy, but right now we don't know the facts of the situation."
 
Before the vote, BESE members heard from frustrated parents and educators who are upset over the new academic standards and the tests tied to them.
 
Bossier Parish school board member Bill Lott complained to BESE that he's for higher standards but Common Core teaches children liberal messages. 
 
"I don't want Islam to be taught to my children. I don't want global warming to be taught to my grandchildren."
 
 
 
 



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Bossier Doe Identified

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Bossier Parish Sheriff's office says they are pleased to announce that after 34 years "Bossier Doe" now has an identity. Sgt. Dave Faulk says in January 1981 hunters found a partially decomposed body of an unknown white female who had been murdered and left in the woods. He says all these years they didn't know who she was or where she came from.


"Over the course of those years, several things happened," said Faulk. "New developments in social media, new developments in modern science, DNA and modern technology. It all brought this together."

Faulk says in November of last year they launched a full DNA profile of Bossier Doe then in February, in a desperate attempt to find out who she was, detectives launched a Facebook page in the name of Bossier Doe.

He says someone recognized the composite on Facebook as looking familiar to a picture of a woman missing from Michigan on a Craigslist ad.

"Upon further investigation, we learned more about Carol Cole from Kalamazoo Michigan and the pieces just started lining up," said Faulk.

Authorities were able to gather more information about 17-year-old Carol Ann Cole of Kalamazoo Michigan and determine through DNA testing that she was Bossier Doe. 

Faulk says she was stabbed to death and this is now an open homicide investigation.

He says there are so many things to be grateful for in finally getting this family closure.

"DNA technology, social media, the power of good ole fashioned police work digging in and not giving up," said Faulk. "And the fact that someone loved her and the family never gave up looking for her."




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Legislative auditor proposes oyster lease rate increase

A report released this week by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera suggests that Louisiana can increase revenues by increasing oyster lease rates.  The audit report recommends almost tripling the lease rate, from $2 and acre to $5.20.  


Sal Sunseri is with P&J Oysters in New Orleans.
 
"I understand that we have to find any nook and cranny to come up with some money, funding for a lack of budget for the general fund, but this is not the route."

Louisiana has the second lowest oyster lease rates among the top six states that produce Eastern Oysters.  Sunseri says oyster farmers have continuously put back in the building of infrastructure to further strengthen the industry.  He says the oyster industry is not a subsidized farming industry like many industries in agriculture.

"We are a farming industry, but we're not under the same category.  So, we're doing all the right things.  When there's a lull and there's a bad year, we don't get subsidized."

Sunseri says a reasonable rate increase would be acceptable, but what is proposed is just too great.  He says this proposed rate increase will effect more than just the consumer.

"They're going to pull all these farmers that are putting back in.  You're going to lose a tradition.  You're going to lose farmers." 



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Experts: Up and down temps could make you more susceptible to sickness

Michelle Southern reporting.
Many people feel like these dramatic changes in the outside temperature fuels a greater opportunity for sickness and there are some healthy measures you can take from experts. High temperatures were in the 70s yesterday and today they are in the 30s and 40s.


James Diaz, Program Director of Occupational Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans, says during seasonal changes you need to make sure air passages are dry.

"Drying out of your nose, your upper respiratory tree," said Diaz. "And make sure you remain well hydrated."

Diaz says if this weather is causing your nose to get crusty, use saline nose drops. He says if you haven't already done so, it's extremely important to get your flu shot.

"This is time of year is another bump in influenza and influenza infections," said Diaz.

Diaz says when the temperature changes your immune system can weaken and make you more susceptible to germs. He says after it rains, the rise in pollen can make your allergy symptoms worse. Diaz says there are simple things you can do to protect yourself.

"So wash hands, drink plenty of fluids and get your flu shot," said Diaz. "It's not too late if you didn't get one in the fall."


 



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Ringling Bros. to end elephant acts

It looks like the end of an era is coming for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Feld Entertainment, the circus' parent company, has announced they are phasing out their fabled elephant acts by 2018.
 


Jeff Dorson, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, wants to thank Ringling Bros. for finally doing the right thing.
 
"These animals, taken from the wild, some of them are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, should never have been in use for our entertainment.  This is a difficult life for them."

The 13 elephants currently in the circus' shows will be transferred to their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.  Many in the public have voiced concerns regarding how elephants and other animals have been treated by the circus.  Dorson says negative reinforcement is often used to train animals.

"There have been documented cases of cruelty, so I'm delighted Ringling Bros. is sensitive to the public's wishes."

Ringling Bros. says they will continue to use horses, dogs, tigers, and other animals in their performances.  Dorson says that's a fight for another day.

"I'm sure we'll, at some point, address the other animals.  But, for today, we'll take it as a major victory." 



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Spring forward sleep tips for kids

Sleep experts have some tips for parents on ways to prepare their children for losing an hour of sleep this weekend as we spring forward. Mother of six, Laura Swartz with Healthy Happy Sleep says plan on  keeping sleep patterns the same after the time has changed. 


"The ways that you can prepare is to wake them up. Its really important to get them back on their normal track as fast as possible. So waking them up about 15 minutes earlier in the days leading up is the best way to go about it." 

Swartz says give yourself permission to relax about this change since parents tend to over think the process. She says starting today wake up your kids 15 minutes earlier than usual. 

"They get up at 7, I would go ahead and wake them up at 6:45, and then the next day wake them up at 6:30 so by the time they get to Sunday morning they are waking up at the new time of 7," 

Swartz says the rhythms of daily life will regulate your childrens new sleep schedule. She says the change will be easy for naturally early risers but most parents will know if they're children are sensitive to changes in their routine. 

"We tend to want to control everything and make sure it doesn't get out of wack. The reality is our families have natural rhythms of our own and so when the time changes we tend to fall back into our old rhythms of when our meal times are and when we have certain activities," 
 



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BESE to discuss Common Core

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet today and one of the items on the agenda is the question of what to do about Common Core Opt-Outs. Some families who oppose the education standards have said they won't let their child take the PARCC test. BESE member Jane Smith seeks to delay consequences for schools who have students who opt out.


"What I'd like to do is have BESE clarify this in policy for this year," says Smith. "Those students that are opting out of taking the PARCC assessment would not be a zero towards their school's performance socre."

Smith says students who opt-out of taking the Common Core test won't be punished but it's the school that would get a zero for that student towards its performance score. She says parents not letting their kids take the PARCC test is a variable that punishes the school but that they can't control.

"I'm hoping that we will make the decision to revise our accountability policy," said Smith.

Smith says BESE needs a least a year to figure out a compromise when it comes to Common Core because clearly there issues as students opt-out of the tests because their parents don't think it's appropriate.

"So for the 2015 year only, why don't we pause any kind of punitive measures, not only to the students, but to the school districts and teachers."




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Report: Saints to release Pierre Thomas

Michelle Southern reporting.
Sources say the New Orleans Saints have released running back Pierre Thomas from the team. The 30-year-old will save the Black and Gold $1.7 million dollars against the salary cap. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says it's a heart breaking move, but not really a surprise.


"He's getting up in age and I think with running backs you almost have that philosophy that you'd rather get rid of him a year too early rather than a year too late," said Detillier.

New Orleans needs to continue to move or lay-off some players by March 10th to get below the salary cap. 

Detillier says Thomas, who's spent all of his 8 seasons with the team, gave New Orleans the screen game back like no one since Dalton Hilliard.

He says what the Saints will really miss is his pass protection skills.

"But, you know what? In the NFL it never lasts forever and it rarely ends storybook with one team," said Detillier.

Thomas complied 3,745 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns on 187 carries for New Orleans.

He was a key component in the Saints Super Bowl win. 

Detillier says you could argue Thomas was the best undrafted free agent in the Sean Payton era.

He says the fans love him and he's very active with the community and quick to speak to the media, but this is about winning games.

"But like in every profession you get old," said Detillier. "And I think that Pierre has a lot of life in him but in this day and age it's all much you can produce and how much they're paying you."




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Man running with shot gun in Schriever dies in custody

The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's office says a man is dead after officers responded to reports that the suspect was shooting a gun into the air in the middle of the street. Captain Dawn Foret says they got several 911 calls early this morning with reports of a man who was running in the middle of the road with the weapon near the Schriever Overpass.


"We got additional calls that he was also firing the gun in the air," said Foret.

Foret says when cops responded they located 49-year-old Troy Brady sitting in the middle of the road with a shot gun near him.

"He was detained at that time, and as our units arrived within minutes the subject became unresponsive," said Foret.

Foret says Brady was detained and then shortly after he became unresponsive.

"Acadian Ambulance was immediately dispatched and sent the subject to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead," said Foret.

She says there was no obvious signs of trauma to Brady so they've ordered an autopsy to determine cause of death.




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North Louisiana under Winter Storm Warning through Thursday morning

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for parishes north of I-20, ahead of a strong cold front that will move through the state this evening.  Gary Chatelain, with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, says rain is forecast for the area today and that could become a problem as that front descends across north Louisiana.


"As the air temperatures become freezing, then we'll begin to see perhaps some ice on some area bridges, overpasses, your car windshield, maybe some trees and power lines."

The Winter Storm Warning is in effect through tomorrow morning.  Chatelain says a Winter Weather Advisory is also in effect along and south of I-20.  He says areas under this advisory will not be hit as hard as areas north of the interstate.

"Anywhere along the south of I-20 it'll probably be just freezing rain and maybe a few sleet pellets before ending tomorrow by noon or so."

Chatelain says this weather event should not be as severe as last week's, especially on roadways.  He says warmer ground temperatures will melt a lot of the ice on roads, but the main concern is bridges and overpasses freezing over.  He says this cold front will mainly bring freezing rain to the state.

"There may be a transition over to sleet and snow in northern sections, especially through parts of the Ark-La-Tex." 



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Big change in weather coming

Get ready for a big change in the weather. State climatologist Barry Keim says high temperatures today will be in the 70s and tomorrow they'll be back in the 30s and 40s as a result of a strong cold front.
 
"So expect big changes in the temperature today, once that front begins bearing down on your location," Keim said.


This front has the potential to produce another round of winter precipitation. Keim says the northern half of the state could see see freezing rain during the overnight hours. 
 
"Which will include the Alexandria area, and all points north of Alexandria in Louisiana, including Shreveport and Monroe." 
 
Eleven parishes are under a winter storm warning and it covers Shreveport, Monroe, Farmerville, Oak Grove and Ruston. The National Weather Service says there's a potential of up to a quarter of an inch of freezing rain and sleet accumulations during the early morning hours on Thursday in these areas.  
 
 



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Kennedy sees pros and cons in proposed budget

State Treasurer John Kennedy sees pros and cons to Governor Bobby Jindal's budget proposal.  The governor has proposed scaling back certain tax credits and cut spending in other areas to address a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall.  


Kennedy says some of the proposed reductions in spending make sense, especially in the area of consulting contracts.
 
"He's going to get rid of a call center consultant, I think, for about $3.3 million.  He's going to reduce the number of consultants at the Department of Education, $6.8 million."

Kennedy says the proposed budget looks to reduce the 60-percent of the deficit by repealing tax credits and 40-percent by reducing spending.  However, Kennedy does question the proposal of closing all health clinics in New Orleans, which will effect about 57,000 people.

"That's going to drive people to the emergency room and it will cost four to five times more to threat them in an emergency room than in the private clinic.  So, while in the short term, there may be a reduction, in the long term it could cost us more money."

Kennedy spoke about the budget on Louisiana Radio Network's Jim Engster show.  He says the budget's biggest revenue increase comes with the repeal of the inventory tax credit, which would add about $525 million dollars to the state's coffers.  Kennedy says he's not sure this was chosen wisely.

"Increasing this inventory tax is going to really effect a lot of businesses, about about a thousand businesses in Louisiana.  And many of them are going to be small businesses." 



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LABI plans to fight repeal of the inventory tax credit

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry plans to fight Governor Bobby Jindal's proposal to repeal the inventory tax credit.  Such a move would save the state an estimated $380 million which could be used for health care and higher education.  


But LABI Vice President, Jim Patterson, says a repeal of this tax credit would be devastating to business across the state.
 
"And, to the degree that this will now cease, as the governor declares these amounts non-refundable, the impact will be very adverse to our economy."

Patterson says the vast majority of states do not have inventory taxes, so if the refund went away, jobs could leave as well.

"If, in fact, this occurs, businesses make the logical decision to shift their inventories to, let's say, states who do not have such a tax."

Patterson says if those inventories are moved, it would mean countless warehouse jobs across the state would be lost.  He says Louisiana is one of only 13 states that have an inventory tax on the books.  Patterson says if the inventory tax credit is repealed, then business will have to make up that money somewhere.

"Business will, necessarily to the degree that they can, businesses will pass this along to consumers." 



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Shreveport Police looking for second suspect after fatal home invasion attempt

The Shreveport Police Department says they are looking for a suspect following an overnight fatal home invasion. Corporal Marcus Hines says officers were called to the scene around 1am.


"When officers arrived on scene there was a suspect fatally shot inside the residence," said Hines. "Evidence at the scene suggest the home owner shot the man."

Minor children inside the home at the time of the shooting were not injured and authorities with child welfare were notified. Hines says they believe the two men entered the home wearing masks and one of them was armed with a semi-automatic rifle

"A second suspect did flee the scene," said Hines. "We don't know if he was shot by the homeowner or not but he has not been captured."

He says evidence seized during a search of the residence suggest illegal narcotics may have been a motivating factor in the attempted robbery.

"Right now officers are working that angle to see if that played a role in the shooting," said Hines. "We're pretty confident that had some degree of involvement."
 
Officers have arrested two people living inside the home, because of illegal drugs inside the home.




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