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Fourth anniversary of capping the BP well

Four years ago today workers were able to cap the BP well that created the largest environmental disaster in the history of North America.  Executive Director for The Coastal Protection Restoration Authority, Kyle Graham, says, four years later, most of the oil has been removed from the coastal beaches and marshes in Louisiana.

"But, yet, there is still oil out there.  And given the depth and the distance and the amount of oil, we anticipate that we'll be seeing oil on Louisiana's coast for decades."
He says it's still too early to tell what the long-term effects the oil-spill will have on the ecosystem along the state's coast. 
"There are still a lot of studies ongoing to look at individual species and to look at the populations of the various fauna and things that make up our coastal environment to determine what the total amount of that impact will be."
Graham says they have been receiving money associated with the criminal penalties as a result of the spill.  He says some of that money has been used to progress the engineering and design of barrier island and diversion projects. 
"We are hoping to, in the next six months, actually, to see some of that money spent on construction of barrier island projects here in Louisiana."
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Analyst skeptical of Fox News poll showing Landrieu losing major support

Michelle Southern reporting.
A new poll conducted by Fox News shows Republican US-Senate candidate Bill Cassidy with a substantial lead over the incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu in a head-to-head match-up. The survey shows Cassidy with 51% of the vote and Landrieu with 38% in a potential runoff scenario.

ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley questions the validity of this poll.

"Is it entirely within the realm of possibility that Landrieu has lost some support? I suppose," says Stockley. "However I'm skeptical that she sits at only 38%."

The poll interviewed just over 600 likely Louisiana voters between September 14th-16th. 

Stockley says it's possible that Landrieu has lost some support, but he's skeptical that she's all the way down to just 38% support.

He says so many other polls on this race show Landrieu in the mid to upper 40s.

"Typically when you have one poll that is substantially different from the trend, or the other polls - one should treat it skeptically," said Stockley.

According to the poll numbers in the jungle primary, Landrieu has 31% support, Cassidy has 35% and Republican tea-party favorite Rob Maness has 7%. Stockley says that would mean that Maness is taking votes away from Landrieu which is highly unlikely.

"How is it possible for those voters to not support Landrieu in favor of Maness by Maness being in the race," said Stockley. "That flies in the face of what everything else is telling us about the electorate in this state."


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Pineville officer-involved shooting determined justified

The investigation into a fatal officer involved shooting in Pineville has determined that shooting to be justified.  Rapides Parish Sheriff's spokesman, Lt. Tommy Carnline, says Pineville Police Officer Vince Deville responded to a call and was confronted with the suspect,  Christopher Leblanc, brandishing a large sword.  

Carnline says witnesses said they heard the officer order the suspect to drop his weapon "repeatedly and loudly".
"The suspect then charged toward Officer Deville.  And as the officer was trying to create distance, backing up, giving verbal commands, the suspect kept coming toward him and he discharged his weapon, firing multiple rounds, hitting the suspect multiple times in the torso area."
Leblanc was pronounced dead at the scene.  Carnline says the officer responded to a tense, uncertain, rapidly evolving situation and performed in accordance with his training and the law. 
"The fact remains that the subject failed to comply with the officer's commands and he had to use deadly force on him, not only to save himself, but the other civilians in the area."
Detectives say the sword Leblanc was holding was 38-inches long with a slight curve and extremely sharp.  Carnline says Leblanc was an immediate and continuous danger to Officer Deville and the other civilians in the area.  He says the use of deadly force is not something any officer wants to do and this situation could have been avoided. 
"Whenever someone confronts an officer, and they are ordered to comply, that's what they should do.  And this officer was given no alternative."
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Louisiana men paid 33% more than women

Michelle Southern reporting.
According to new census data, Louisiana women make about two thirds of what men in The Bayou State are paid. The figures show males here earn 33 percent more than females which is the largest pay gap in the nation. Tulane Business Professor Dr. Mark Rosa says high paying fields of study are dominated by men in Louisiana.

"The programs that are here that generally pay more, there are more males in the classroom," said Rosa.

Rosa says, from a geographical standpoint, very few women work in the high-paying oil and gas area in the south and certainly Louisiana.

"You just have the number of men out there are occupying the positions that pay better," said Rosa.

Rosa also believes women in Louisiana, even if they have a high paying degree, are more inclined to stay home and not work in favor of raising their family.


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Louisiana ranks 40th in the nation for highway conditions

The condition of Louisiana's highways rank 40th in the nation in a report released today. The Reason Foundation, which is a think tank out of Los Angeles, says Louisiana has fallen 16 spots from its 2011 highway report. Author of the study, David Hartgen, says the pavement condition of the state's rural and urban interstates contributed to the poor ranking.

"For urban interstates, 15-percent of the payment was rated poor that's almost doubled from the prior year," Hartgen said.
A spokesperson for the state department of transportation says Louisiana has spent six-point-four billion dollars since 2008 in highway improvements. But Hartgen says their ranking also takes into account highway safety and Louisiana does not fare well in that category.
"Louisiana has had a relatively high fatality rate."
Hartgen says Louisiana also gets poor marks for the percentage of deficient bridges.
"28% of the bridges are rated as deficient. That's considerably higher than the national average, which is around 21%." 
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CPSO arrests mailman for allegedly stealing marijuana from packages

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Caddo Parish Sheriff's office says a United States Postal worker is under arrest for allegedly stealing marijuana from packages he was supposed to be delivering. CPSO spokesman Bobby Herring says they got an anonymous tip that 31-year-old Russell Leon Ellis of Shreveport was stealing the mail he thought contained pot.

"He would poke holes in the packages and smell them," said Herring.

Herring says initially Ellis was charged with possession of schedule I marijuana.

He says narcotics agents moved in on the mailman as he was removing the drugs from the postal packages.

"And when they caught him in the act he had about 476 grams of marijuana on him with a street value of just under $5000," said Herring.

They were able to obtain a search warrant for the suspect's home and there they found an additional 618 grams of suspected marijuana with a street value of $6100, 25 weapons and $15,000 in cash.

Herring says the suspect was targeting packages being sent from states that have legalized marijuana.

"And that was kinda his tip off and that's why he would punch the holes and smell it," Herring said.

The United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General also investigated this case and Ellis could face federal charges.


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LFEA plans to study economic impact of film industry in Louisiana

The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association announces a plan to commission a study on the economic impact of Louisiana's film tax credit incentive program.  The study is estimated to cost $150,000.  

LFEA President Will French hopes the results of this study will show what the program actually costs the state.
"We know what we are giving out in terms of tax credits, that can be tracked.  But we don't know what we're getting back exactly and those numbers are kind of hard to quantify."
The state commissions an analysis of the film tax credits every two years and their most recent study shows it costs the state about $4.35 for every dollars' worth of credits collected.  French says Louisiana Economic Development projects economic benefits by merely plugging in spending numbers.  He says the state's analysis doesn't take into account tourism dollars the film industry brings in, among other factors. 
"How many people are moving into the state and buying houses and sending their kids to schools and buying cars and helping to grow the local economy as a whole."
The group will launch a Kickstarter campaign later this month to help with the cost of the study.   French says their study will look at every component  that could be providing an economic benefit to the state because of the industry and try to account for what that benefit likely is. 
"I have a feeling, that if we do that, we'll see that the net cost to the state of this program is very, very low.  In fact, we may find there's a net benefit, a positive return on investment."
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LSU instructor urges parents to "room share" instead of co-sleeping

It's a question many new parents deal with, should your children sleep in your bed? Jennifer Kelley, who is a pediatrics  instructor at the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, says an estimated 45-percent of families co-sleep. Kelley says proponents say it encourages breastfeeding and babies seem to sleep better, but she says it's also dangerous.

"Even though it maybe to convenient to put a baby in your bed, we have to put the baby's safety first." 
A study published in Pediatrics found 74-percent of deaths in babies younger than four months occurred in a bed-sharing situation.  Kelley recommends "room sharing," which means having your baby in the same room and keeping him or her in a bassinet or crib for up to the first year of their life.
"It is more convenient for breastfeeding mothers and it's keeping the baby safe."  
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US House approves training for Syrian rebels against ISIL

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

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

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Brees defends the reputation of the NFL

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

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

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

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

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

He says this should never be happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate still needs to approve the bills.

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LSU looks to keep shutout streak going against Miss State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Judge strikes down Edmonson retirement increase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Louisiana teachers still retiring at a high rate

Louisiana schools are still seeing a higher number of teachers retiring compared to what they saw three years ago. Nearly three-thousand K-through-12th grade teachers retired during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. Scott Richard, director of the Louisiana School Board Association, blames it on the turmoil that's ongoing in public education.

"That results in many of our most valued employees deciding to hang it up and retire early in some cases," Richard said.
Richard says the dispute over Common Core and new way of evaluating teachers has caused anxiety within the profession.  He says the higher than normal number of retirements is causing problems for school districts when it comes to finding math and special education teachers.
"There's just a high level of frustration right now and hopefully that will change in the future."  
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3-year-old accidentally shoots/kills self

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Talluah Police Department says a little 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself after finding a loaded handgun in a home. Spokeswoman Yvonne Lewis says emergency personnel got the call around 4:10 Monday afternoon.

"Apparently a little African American male found a gun inside the home and shot himself," said Lewis. "He did die from the injury."

Lewis says the mother left the home for about 3 to five minutes to get the kids something to drink at a store nearby and when she returned the child had already found the gun and shot himself.

"The mother had the gun under a mattress in the house and that's where the child found it," said Lewis.

Lewis says investigators did a test on the child and learned that the 3-year-old did in fact shoot himself. She said they believe this really was just a tragic accident.

Lewis says the mother lived very close to a grocery store and was gone only a short amount of time.

"I'm sure she thought she could just run over, get something real quick and be right back," said Lewis. "But it only takes a few seconds for something like this to happen."


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Peterson opens discussion on disciplining children

The recent indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has opened a nationwide discussion on disciplining children with corporal punishment.  Peterson allegedly used a switch, a tree branch stripped of its leaves, on his son reportedly causing multiple injuries to the child.  

State Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier says corporal punishment is considered legal in Louisiana within reason.
"The agency has to take into account the possibility of accidental injury or that the injury resulted from what might be considered a reasonable exercise of discipline for the child's misbehavior.  That's really what the children's code states."
She says the Louisiana Children's Code requires the agency to take into account the possibility of accidental injury or that the injury resulted from what might be considered a reasonable exercise of discipline.  Sonnier says when a parent is being alleged of abuse when disciplining a child, DCFS looks at several factors. 
"What occurred, what was the injury, was there need for medical attention, any other surrounding issues that may be there.  We look at every case individually based on that evaluation."
Sonnier says there is nothing in Louisiana law that explicitly says what you can or cannot do when it comes to disciplining your child.  She hopes parents put a lot of thought into how they discipline their child and consider using alternative methods to corporal punishment. 
"What is the lesson that they really want their child to learn and is there a way to provide that lesson and to support that lesson without having to use that is certainly something to consider." 

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