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Four players scored in double figures for the LSU Tigers, who defended their home court by beating Texas A&M 76-71. Ben Simmons had 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it was Craig Victor's play in the 2nd half that really sparked the Tigers.
 
Victor missed most of the 1st half after picking up two quick fouls. But in the 2nd half he scored 14 points and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line to finish with 16 points for the game.  
 
LSU outscored Texas A&M in the 2nd half 43-34.  
 
Keith Hornsby had 15 points and Antonio Blakeney chipped in with 10 points. Both Hornsby and Blakeney knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.
 
A&M was led by Danuel House who had 18 points.
 
The Aggies also shot 57% from the field for the game. But Texas A&M committed had 19 turnovers and LSU scored 20 points off those turnovers. 
 
LSU also did an exceptional job getting to the free throw line and making them. They were 23-of-29 from the free throw line, while the Aggies were just 6-of-7.
 
The victory improves LSU's record to 16-9, 9-3 in the SEC. The Bayou Bengals remain undefeated at home in conference play. The Tigers are tied with Kentucky for first place in the SEC. The Wildcats walloped South Carolina 89-62 on Saturday. 
 
LSU's next game is Wednesday night at home against Alabama.  
 
 

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Two Baton Rouge police officers were shot this morning and authorities say the suspect is in surgery after receiving a gunshot wound as well.  
 
Baton Rouge police spokesperson Sergeant Don Coppola says the officers responded to a call about damage to property. When officers arrived, a suspect fled in a car, eventually driving off the road.
 
Coppola says the suspect got out of his vehicle about two miles later and with some sort of rifle, started shooting at the officers and the police returned fire. The officers are in stable condition.  
 
It's been reported the injuries to the officers are not considered life-threatening. They've also been placed on paid administrative leave per standard procedure. 
 
The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Calvin Smith. He's listed in critical condition at a Baton Rouge hospital.  
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards says TOPS students will not get a tuition bill this semester, despite money troubles with the popular taxpayer funded program. Edwards says if the state is unable to pay a TOPS recipient’s tuition, colleges will absorb those costs.

"That is not a cost that's going to be passed along to the students who are on TOPS in the current semester."

Edwards says not enough money was appropriated for the TOPS program this year. He says they are about 28-million dollars short and it will be up to each individual or college to pick up the rest of the costs.

"Students who are in school on TOPS are not going to get a tuition bill."

Edwards says while TOPS students will have their scholarships fully paid for this year, next school year is a different story, if the state doesn’t raise revenue to help pay for this government program and others.

"I cannot guarantee students that the state general fund portion of TOPS will be funded next year."

 
 
 

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Louisiana’s Longest Know Married Couple of 2016 has been announced by the Louisiana Family Forum. For the second year in a row, Lawrence and Varrie Player have been the married the longest in Louisiana, tying the knot 81 years ago. LFF President Gene Mills says Lawrence is 101-years-old and Varrie is 97.

“And they’ve been together in Benton, Louisiana, raising a family, growing children, and living the lords legacy and we want to celebrate them.”

Mills says the Player’s are unable to travel to the special reception honoring the top 10 longest married couples at the Governor’s Mansion today, so a celebration will be hosted at their home in Benton. He says this couple is a model for Louisiana families.


“Mrs. Varrie Player offered this bit of advice, when asked ‘What does it take for a marriage to go the distance?’ You have to remember, this is almost a centenarian, she said ‘when somebody wants to fuss, we just let them do it all by they self.”

 
 
 

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The Americans for Prosperity releases a poll that shows a majority of Louisiana residents oppose Governor John Bel Edwards’ proposals to increase sales and personal income taxes to address the state’s budget deficit. AFP state director Phillip Joffrion says these increases are disrespectful to the people of Louisiana.

“They have to figure out, we as citizens have to figure out how to live within our means but the government doesn’t seem to want to have to live within their means.”

Joffrion says the sales tax increase would put Louisiana at the highest combined local and state sales tax in the country. Americans for Prosperity also released an online ad criticizing the governor’s proposals. Joffrion says their goal is to educate the people of Louisiana about these proposed tax hikes.

“This is quickly after his inauguration, he calls a special session and the session is going to be short. So we want to make sure the citizens of Louisiana are informed so they can have their say.”

Joffrion says their poll shows the citizens of Louisiana were more accepting of the increase of cigarette and alcohol taxes. But he says ultimately more taxes are not the solution to our state’s budget crisis and citizens who oppose higher taxes need to speak up.

“Ultimately the legislators are going to have to take votes here in the next couple of weeks. So we’re encouraging folks across Louisiana to go to enoughisenoughLA.com and contact their legislators to fight for us.”

 
 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Governor's Executive Budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year will be presented to lawmakers Saturday. The adopted economic forecast projects the next deficit is around $2 billion dollars. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says they don't plan to sugarcoat the facts.


"We will present a balanced budget," said Dardenne. "There will be no contingencies. No above the line and below the line items. This is the doomsday scenario."

Dardenne says if lawmakers want to spend only the money that they think is coming in to Louisiana in FY-17, here's the budget and it's not pretty. He says this is not what they want.

"In fact we're going to accompany the budget with a letter that sets forth what we think outta be done during the session to prevent that budget from becoming a reality," said Dardenne.

Dardenne says legislators and the public aren't going to like it, but they will be given the honest truth.

"This will not be based on fabricated revenues that aren't there," says Dardenne. "Or those that somehow we think are going to materialize that we know are not going to materialize."
 
 
 
 
 

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In a special televised address Governor John Bel Edwards said there is a possibility there will be no LSU football next fall unless legislators resolve the state’s budget deficit. Political analyst Clancy Dubos does not think Edwards wants to make these cuts, but the governor’s hands are tied unless taxes are raised.

“Clearly the governor wants to get people’s attention, and he has succeeded at that,” Dubos said.

The state’s budget deficit is $940 million for this fiscal year, and almost $2 billion for the next fiscal year. Dubos says this kind of scare tactic is common among government officials who seek to raise taxes.

“This is the kind of thing that is not new. Governors have been doing that, not just in Louisiana, but everywhere,” Dubos said.

Dubos said former four-term Governor Edwin Edwards used scare tactics effectively to raise revenue.

“Governor Edwin Edwards did that in 1984 when he raised almost a billion dollars in taxes by saying that we’re gonna have to unplug the kidney machines,” Dubos said.

Dubos says although Governor Edwards is not directly going after LSU football, these cuts are a real possibility. The special legislative session to address the state’s budget begins Sunday.

 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards says colleges and hospitals will close and critical healthcare services will be eliminated if the state legislature does not approve higher taxes to help close a $940 million budget deficit this fiscal year. Edwards made the comments during a special address that was aired on TV and radio stations. 

“These are not scare tactics. This is reality- an unstable state budget will not only hurt children and working families in our state, it will devastate communities, businesses and local government as well,” Edwards said.

Edwards even suggested there would be no college football next fall because the players would not be able to complete their spring semester if colleges are forced to close before May. The governor says he is proposing significant cuts to the budget, but it will also take from the legislature to raise revenue in order to stabilize the budget.

“Tell your legislators we need a responsible fix for this budget- a balance of necessary cuts and responsible revenue that will make out budge realistic and our state strong,” Edwards said.

After Edwards spoke, State Treasurer John Kennedy provided the Republican Party’s response from the WVLA television studio in Baton Rouge. Kennedy says raising revenue is not the answer to the state’s budget problems.

“I don’t care how high they raise revenue. As long as they spend more money than they take in, they’re gonna run deficits,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says there are plenty of areas the state can reduce spending and he has provide the legislature with ample suggestions.

“Now I’ve sent the governor and each legislator over 400 different ideas and suggestions about how they can reduce spending without hurting anyone,” Kennedy said.

 
 

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Louisiana is experiencing one of its slowest flu seasons in several years. That’s according to Dr. Frank Welch, an influenza expert with the state department of health and hospitals. Welch says doctors are seeing very few flu cases.

“We are at very few flu cases. We're down around 2%, and what that means is 2 out of every 100 visits to a doctor or hospital are for flu-like illness,” Welch said. 

This slow season comes in stark contrast to last year’s terrible flu season, which exerts said was one of the worst.

Welch says that the flu virus can be unpredictable, but this season has been off to a slow start. He credits this year’s warmer weather for the low number of flu cases.

“Certainly the warmer weather around the country is noted for keeping people outdoors. It's when in gets cold that people stay shut in that the disease spreads a lot better,” Welch said.

Welch says that more people were vaccinated for the flu this year, which may be another contributing factor for this year’s slow flu season. He advises people to get flu vaccines to keep the number of flu cases at a minimum.

“If you haven't gotten one yet, just as an added precaution if the flu season gets a lot busier, you can still be protected by getting that flu shot,” Welch said.  

The peak of the Flu season in Louisiana typically peaks in late February or early March. Welch says we will not be out of the woods until early April.

 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Now that the giant burn chamber has arrived at Camp Minden, the process of disposing of the millions of pounds of M6 propellant can begin. Louisiana National Guard spokesman Col Pete Schneider says it will take about 4 days to get the massive structure installed.


"Then we'll go through and make sure that all the connections are connected, all the seals are sealing and all the filters are properly operating," said Schneider.

The 400,000 pound tank made the journey by road from the Port of Natchitoches to Minden this week, and Schneider says they've had fantastic cooperation from communities, law enforcement and utility companies affected by the move.

He says they expect it will take about 30-35 days to make sure everything is working properly.

"Once that is done, we should be able to begin full scale burning," said Schneider.

Explosive Service International is in charge of the contained burn and Schneider says their intent is to burn non-stop once they check then double check that everything is in order.

"As long as they're operating within the safe parameters, and everything is functioning properly, they will burn 24-7 those 16 million pounds," said Schneider.
 
 

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The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance has notified colleges and universities that due to uncertainty over potential budget cuts they are holding off on making any TOPS payments. Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says it would be a huge disaster for Louisiana if it’s unable to pay a TOPS recipients full tuition for this semester.

“It’s hard to imagine how the state’s gonna justify to parents that something that was promised to them is now being taken away,” Pinsonat said.

A spokesperson for the office of student financial assistance says the suspension of TOPS payments to public colleges is just a precautionary measure. Pinsonat says the state’s taxpayer funded scholarship program is very popular and this development will have TOPS recipients alarmed.

“I think they’re gonna have to give the public a lot more reasonable explanation than warning the universities. What about talking to the parents of these kids? It’s almost outrageous,” Pinsonat said.

Pinsonat says he can’t see how the state doesn’t fufill its promise that they would pay a student’s full tuition if they reached certain academic achievements.

“I would thinkthis is gonna be a pretty interesting firestorm, and I don’t know why they’re doing this at this point in time without more warning and more explanation,” Pinsonat said.

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The State Department of Health and Hospitals is investigating two possible Zika cases in Louisiana. Dr. Frank Welch, with the Louisiana Office of Public Health, says officials learned of these two cases after the patients complained to their doctors about feeling ill after visiting the Caribbean.

“Fortunately, in adults who are not pregnant, it’s a very mild illness. They have completely recovered,” Welch said.

Neither of the patients required hospitalization and they were counseled to avoid mosquito bites, so the disease doesn’t spread in Louisiana. Welch says at this point, Louisiana residents shouldn’t be concerned about getting the Zika Virus, because local transmission is very unlikely at this time….

“This disease is mostly spread through a particular type of mosquito, which is not active in Louisiana right now,” Welch said.

Most people who get the Zika virus are unaware they have it. Welch says it’s a mild illness, but it can cause birth defects if pregnant women are infected. He says Zika could become a problem in Louisiana when the weather gets warmer.

“The bad news is this type of mosquito is active in Louisiana in the summer. So we really want to pay attention. We want to be prepared,” Welch said.

Welch encourages people to do what they can to prevent the spread of the virus by wearing long sleeves and bug repellent, avoiding standing water, and watching for possible Zika symptoms.

 
 
 

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After an identity hearing in California today, a judged has ruled Frank Selas is former Monroe TV personality “Mr. Wonder” who is accused of committing sex crimes in Louisiana in the 70s. Lt. Tommy Carnline with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office says now the process of getting Selas back to Louisiana begins.

“If he waves extradition, it’ll be pretty simple we’ll just extradite him back to Louisiana. If he fights extradition then we’ll have to go through a proceeding called a governor’s warrant.”

Mr. Wonder was living in San Diego at the time he was arrested. Carnline says everyone in Rapides Parish is anxious to get Selas back in Louisiana.


“We knew it was him and we’re just very pleased. This is just one more step to bringing people just who have been needing justice for the last 37 years.”

 
 
 

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Louisiana Researchers have played a role in detecting gravitational waves, which Albert Einstein predicted would occur as part of his general theory of relativity. LSU astronomy professor, Gabriela Gonzalez, says their observatory in Livingston Parish observed the ripples in the fabric of spacetime on September 14th.

“Not only that we detected gravitational waves, but these waves were produced by the coalescence of black holes,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzales says two black holes colliding some one-point-three billion years ago created the gravitational wave that was detected in Livingston Parish and at another facility in Washington…

“From the amplitude of the waveform you can tell how far away the system was. It was more than a billion lightyears away,” Gonzalez said. 

Instruments recorded the sound of the black holes colliding. All it is was a “chirp” that lasted less than a second. But Gonzales says this type of discovery can help scientists learn more about how the universe works.

“Now that we have detectors able to detect these systems, now that we know binary black holes are out there, we’ll begin listening to the universe,” Gonzalez said.

 
 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Louisiana is going through some major financial trouble right now, but analysts say we aren't the first or last state to see issues like this. Political pollster Ron Faucheux says most states have improved their fiscal situation since the the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.


"So even though Louisiana isn't in it by ourselves, for the most part it is an exception to where things are right now," said Faucheux. "Most other states have rebounded."

Governor John Bel Edwards is broadcasting a rare address this evening to let the public know exactly what Louisiana is facing.

The projected shortfall for this fiscal year is around $870 million dollars, and the budget year that begins July 1st is short about $2 billion.

Faucheux says, unlike Louisiana, other states struggle when gas prices are high.

"Another thing too with Louisiana is that, at a time when other states were experiencing a down turn economically, there was a lot of federal and FEMA money being pumped into the state after the hurricane," said Faucheux.

Faucheux says this doesn't mean Louisiana is isolated from the rest of the nation, but economic waves tend to be felt here on a different time table. He says raising taxes and cutting spending are quick ways to rebound, but money matters here run much deeper.

"The problem is that Louisiana has serious structural fiscal problems," said Faucheux. "And we're lurching from crisis to crisis when we need structural fiscal reform."
 
 
 
 

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State Police is partnering with Blue Cross to help with the safe disposal of prescription medication in central and northwest Louisiana. Trooper Michael Reichardt says in the front of the Troop F station in Monroe they’ve set out a box similar to a mail box for people to safely discard old or unwanted medication. He says the abuse of prescription medication in teens has become a growing problem.

“They just go in your medicine cabinet in your house and get whatever drugs you have in there. So, we’re trying to combat that. Ages 12 to 17, prescription drugs are the number one substance of abuse for their age group.”

Reichardt says the normal methods of flushing old prescriptions down the toilet or throwing them in the trash are still effective. He says this is just an additional option of getting rid of the medications.


“You know if they live close to the troop, they’re not sure what to do with it, not sure where to take it, you can bring it to our office.”

Reichardt says drop boxes are outside of Troop E and F stations in Monroe and Alexandria. He says they won’t take any needles or intravenous drugs in the boxes.

“Of course no illicit substances. Marijuana, methamphetamines, stuff like that. The stuff that we’re going to take is the stuff prescribed by a doctor.”

 
 
 

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The fast food chain Burger King announces they’ll add hot dogs to their menu starting February 23rd. LSU Marketing Professor Dan Rice says McDonald’s just went to all day breakfast and this is Burger King’s way of opening a new market.

“They’re trying not so much to focus on offering in the breakfast terms but compete in another way to expand their sales by saying ‘you’re already here, what better goes with a burger than a grilled dog?’”

Fast food chain Sonic also sells hot dogs, but they have a lot of varieties. Rice says Burger King decided to only offer the classic grilled hot dog and the chili cheese dog. 

“They’re hoping that those will be big sale items. They had considered going with multiple product offerings but found in the test markets that maybe those just didn’t react they thought they did.”

Rice says t remains to be seen how well the hot dogs will do, but Burger King is calling it their biggest launch since the chicken sandwich in the 70s.


“The test markets in some of the big cities they had last year seemed to be pretty positive. So, they’re hopeful that for this launch it’s a pretty good sized segment.”

 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards will address Louisiana citizens tonight to discuss the state’s historic budget deficit. This address comes ahead of the special legislative session that begins Sunday, where lawmakers will have to come up with a plan to combat an 870-million dollar budget deficit.  UL Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says that this kind of speech is unprecedented.

“It’s definitely gonna get the public’s attention because it is so unprecedented. Secondly, it’s gonna really let the legislature know that the eyes of the people are likely to be on them,” Cross said.

Louisiana needs to boost state revenue and make cuts to the current budget to resolve the $870 million budget shortfall, which must be filled by June 30th. Cross says this will be a difficult task for legislatures.

“We need revenue. We need some budgetary things that are gonna be hard to get through.”

The address will be aired at 6:30 pm on major television and radio stations. Cross says that the Governor’s address should make the public aware of the magnitude of the current budget crisis.

“It alerts everyone to the gravity of the situation. I think it’s time for no more business as usual,” Cross said.

 
 
 

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A Baton Rouge lawmaker has filed a bill for the regular session that seeks to change the state constitution to allow Louisiana residents to possess a concealed handgun without needing a permit. Republican State Representative Barry Ivey says that this law would apply only to non-felon residents.


“It eliminates the crime of illegal concealed carry without a permit, but only for people who are law-abiding citizens, number one. Number two, are not otherwise prohibited from of a firearm,” Ivey said.

Current Louisiana law allows residents 21 and over to carry a non-concealed handgun without a permit. A concealed carry permit requires completion of a safety course and payment of a $125 fee for a 5 year permit. Ivey attempted to pass a similar bill to stop requiring a permit in 2014 but was unsuccessful. He says this time he has a much better chance.

“There is a more coordinated effort this time around that there was two years ago,” Ivey said.

Ivey’s proposed constitutional amendment would need two-thirds approval in the House and Senate and a majority vote from the public. Ivey has been collecting signatures for a petition on this issue for the past two years. He says public support will have a huge impact on passing the bill and encourages voters to contact their legislatures.

“I believe that the biggest factor that will help with this effort would be the engagement of the people of Louisiana,” Ivey said.

 

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Fresh off his primary win in New Hampshire, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump will hold a rally tonight at the Baton Rouge River Center. Political Analyst John Couvillion says new life has been breathed into Trump’s campaign, but to get the nomination, he’ll need to outperform Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the southern states.

“Donald Trump’s visit to Baton Rouge Thursday is an admission that Louisiana will certainly play an important part in the presidential race in the immediate aftermath of Super Tuesday on March 1st.”

The Louisiana Presidential Primary election is March 5th. Couvillion explains why Trump is visiting Louisiana tonight, when the next primary is in South Carolina.


“So I think that he is basically thinking the long game now. In other words, he’s starting to think ahead to those primaries in March and April when the race will be concluded.”

Couvillon expects the tonight’s rally in downtown Baton Rouge to be packed with supporters. He says the record turnout of Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire shows we’ll likely see engaged primary voters attending.

“A packed house in Baton Rouge will be further confirmation of my opinion of that trend.”

 
 
 

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