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Alario to meet with Jindal this week

Senate President John Alario plans to meet with Governor Jindal this week to discuss ways to reduce a potential budget cut of up to $380 million dollars to Louisiana's public colleges. He says that kind of cut would completely devastate higher education not only to the universities but to the children who are seeking it.

"I think you'll find courses being shut down and institutions very much on the verge of shutting down," said Alario.

Alario says he's also heard that LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center is in danger if this type of cut comes down. He says they need to put their heads together and try to figure out how to fix this problem.

"I'm not sure we can eliminate it all, but we are looking at all options," said Alario.

Alario says one of the items of discussion that's on the table is trying to increase revenue.

"Governor Jindal has been stead fast about raising additional taxes," said Alario. "That's what makes this a tougher job."
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Weekend rotation unknown as LSU baseball begins full squad workouts

LSU Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri says sophomore left-hander Jared Poche will start opening day on February 13th against Kansas, but he's not sure on what the rest of his starting rotation will look like. Mainieri says he has several freshmen to choose from and the situation will play itself out during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

"They may all be good pitchers, but one guy may show a particular strikeout pitch, which make may him a better closer than someone else," Mainieri said.
Right-handers Alex Lange, Jake Godrey and Doug Norman, along with southpaw Jake Latz are four freshmen pitchers that Mainieri will count on this season.
Mainieri has confidence he'll strong staff by the end of the season, because of pitching coach Alan Dunn.
"If they keep improving at the rate, that I've seen so far, they are going to be special," Mainieri said.
Poche was a weekend starter last season and a Freshman All-American. The former Lutcher standout is one of eight returning pitchers and he likes what he sees from the young arms that have joined the team. 
"Sky's the limit, with these young guys we have coming in. These guys have a lot of talent, it's just a matter of them adjusting to college," Poche said.  
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Louisianians heading to Washington for Mardi Gras

This weekend, the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians will be hosting the DC Mardi Gras in our nation's capitol.  A reported 3,000 Louisianians will fly in for the festivities at the Washington Hilton.  

LaPolitics-dot-com publisher Jeremy Alford says, with this being an election year in Louisiana, you can expect to see a lot of candidates attending looking for support.
"The gubernatorial candidates are going to be here.  Jefferson Parish President John Young, who is running for Lt. Governor, was on the flight that I was this morning.  So, it's really a 'Who's Who' of Louisiana politics."

Alford says a "Who's Who" of Louisiana politics will be attending.  He says the bar at the Hilton becomes Louisiana's 65th parish during DC Mardi Gras.  Alford says one topic has been dominating the conversation there this year and that's money.

"Everybody wants to know how we're going to maneuver around a $1.4 billion budget and others are talking about how Super PACs are going to influence this fall's elections.  Other folks are talking about oil prices and what's going to happen in the oil patch."

In the past, this was an event where Louisiana politicians could really let their hair down.  But Alford says, due to technology, there is now a reluctance among politicians to have too much fun in public.

"It really hit a peak last year when Attorney General Buddy Caldwell was caught on a cell phone camera serenading Mary Landrieu in her hospitality suite and it ended up being made into a campaign commercial."

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Protests planned for Global Prayer Rally

Protests are planned outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for Saturday's Global Prayer Rally.  The American Family Association, known for its opposition of gay rights, is putting on the event and gay rights advocates plan to protest.

"The Response" is a planned day of prayer for America.  Spokesman of the event Doug Stringer says we live in a country where we have freedom of speech and people do have the right to protest.
"They have the right to say whatever they want, but I'm just saying that it's not going to be what they think.  We're not against them, we're for our position with God.  It's not about them."

Stringer calls the rally a call to prayer for a nation in crisis.  Governor Bobby Jindal is scheduled to be one of many participants praying at the 6-hour event.   Although hundreds of protesters are expected, Stringer says that will not distract them from their mission.

"My focus is to not waste energy on everybody's different opinions and views.  Our position is how do we come before the Lord, young and old alike, calling for a solemn assembly for the sake of our nation."

Peter Jenkins is the organizer of "Organize, Reflect, Act", who will be protesting at the event.  Jenkins says it's important to note that his organization is not against a prayer rally, rather they oppose the American Family Association.

"This is an organization which is trying to help provide capital punishment for homosexuals in a foreign country and now they're asking you to forget that aspect of their ideology and come pray with them."

He says the American Family Association has a history of making anti-gay remarks.  Jenkins says his event will begin with a march through the LSU campus and will be followed by several speakers and workshops.  He says Saturday will not just be about protesting the American Family Association.

"We're going to take this and we're going to learn how to be better organizers and to promote positive change in our communities."
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Benson family feud commonplace according to experts

Michelle Southern reporting.
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson's dirty laundry is being aired after he announces he's decided to leave the franchises to his wife instead of his daughter and grandchildren. The former heirs have filed a lawsuit claiming it was a decision made out of incompetence.

Dr. Michelle Moore is a clinical psychologist at the LSU Health Sciences Center.
She says a family battle like this is happens all the time.

"It's very common for there to be conflict between biological children and step-children," said Moore. "I think a lot of this revolves around trust and being able to depend on certain people and how that changes over time."

The 87-year-old Benson responded to the lawsuit saying the allegations that he's incapacitated are false and he intends to fight them every step of the way. Moore says this family battle can be repaired with simple open communication among members.

"Trying to talk about it without people being defensive, without putting guards up, being ugly with each other or using ugly words," said Moore.

The family suit claims Gayle Benson is a gold digger who has talked her husband into completely disconnecting himself from the kids and grand kids. Moore says this situation is that much more difficult because there is a ton of money involved.

"Even more emotions are running so high because there is so much money at stake here," said Moore.

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GE to close Pineville facility

Multiple sources have reported that employees of General Electric's plant in Pineville have been told that the facility is closing with the manufacturing jobs transferring to Jacksonville, Florida.  The valve plant employs about 300 people.  

Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields says they haven't gotten any official report from GE.
"I guess we're somewhat like there employees were when a meeting was held and that's literally where a lot of information flowed from."

Fields says employees were informed of the closing in a meeting held Thursday morning.  He adds that there was no prior indication that the plant would potentially close down.  Fields says this closing, not only will affect the 300 employees and their families, but also on other merchants in the area.

"Depending on who GE was supplying, it could also have an impact on other local businesses.  So we're bracing ourselves for that if it all comes to fruition."

Pineville has seen several facilities close in recent years, including Cotton Brothers Bakery and International Paper.  Fields says they are currently looking for prospects to fill those sites.  He is hoping the city's luck will change in the near future.

"We've got some state facilities that have downsized, our Huey P. (Long) medical center closed and Pineville Craft and now GE.  So we need something positive and hopefully that will happen pretty soon." 
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Super PAC is formed to assist in Jindal's presidential aspirations

Republican supporters of Governor Bobby Jindal establish a super PAC that could assist him in a presidential bid. Former Louisiana Congressman, Bob Livingston, is the chairman of the political action committee, called Believe Again PAC. Livingston acknowledges this is the first step in a possible run for the White House.
The super PAC can raise an unlimited amount of money, but Jindal can't direct or coordinate how the money is spent. Livingston says the super PAC will get Jindal ready, if he chooses to run for President.
"We certainly hope to give Bobby Jindal some support that he'll need to structure his operation," Livingston said.
Livingston says organizers of the super PAC have not set a goal of how much they plan to raise. 
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Benson former heir says her grandfather is incapacitated

Michelle Southern reporting.
A day after New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson announced his wife will assume ownership of the Saints and Pelicans when he dies, his former heir files suit claiming her grandfather is incapacitated. Rita Benson LeBlanc, her mother Renee Benson and brother Ryan LeBlanc filed the petition in Orleans Civil District Court Thursday.

"This will ultimately depend on Tom Benson's current metal state," says legal analyst Tim Meche. "And if there's evidence that he is somewhat incapacitated that means she has a chance."

The suit makes several claims that Benson is not fit mentally and physically to manage his personal or business affairs and that Renee should be executor of his sports and business ventures with Rita in the secondary position.

Meche says they will have to prove that Tom Benson is not capable of making decisions on his own.

"And that will depend upon the metal health professionals," said Meche. "And obviously he will have a lot of legal fire power himself that he will bring to the table."

The suit also alleges that Tom Benson's wife, Gayle, is trying to take advantage of her husband's unfit mental state and that she is only after his money.

Meche says ultimately the complainants would have to come up with evidence that Benson is too handicapped to handle his affairs.

"Either from witnesses or by describing prior incidents," said Meche. "If there is enough evidence like that then it's very likely he would have to undergo some type of mental evaluation."

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Could the rest of the state follow New Orleans' ban on public smoking?

The New Orleans City Council has approved a ban on smoking in bars and casinos, so could we see the Louisiana legislature pass a similar law that would impact the entire state. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says a statewide ban on smoking in bars and gambling halls is something legislators might consider.

"It's hard for me to say at this point in time, I'm not sure, I don't have anything specific, but we'll look at the big picture and move slowly and carefully in deciding how we need to handle it and what need to do," Hoffman said.
Hoffman says an ordinance that prohibits smoking in bars and bingo halls in all of Ouachita Parish went into effect last January and it's been well received by bar owners.
Hoffman authored legislation that went into effect at the start of this year that prohibits smoking near the entrance of state buildings. 
He says a public smoking ban in New Orleans could convince legislators that it's time to do it statewide.
"I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see what New Orleans did," Hoffman said.  
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A convicted child killer has been released from prison

Michelle Southern reporting.
A self-confessed child killer named Phillip DeSelle is was released from prison Thursday and the family of the little girl, along with residents in Evangeline Parish are outraged. Erin Keyser is the aunt of Averie Evans of Natchitoches who was killed by DeSelle when she was 11 years old.

Keyser says the man served just 24 years in prison on a 50 year sentence.

"We've all just been devastated that he's going to be released," said Keyser. "We anticipated having to battle through parole hearings, but we really were not prepared for him to knock that much time off of his sentence."

Keyser says DeSelle, now 65, was given time off for good behavior because of the laws that were in place when he was convicted in the early 90s. DeSelle is expected to make his new home in the town of Turkey Creek, which is in Evangeline Parish. And he'll have to report to his probation officer in Ville Platte. 

Keyser says they are spreading the word and putting his picture out there so people know this is happening.

"So now they have a face with a name, and a warning to all communities in Louisiana that a killer is going to be out there," said Keyser.

She says Turkey Creek residents are extremely unhappy as their worst fear is that DeSelle could snap again.

"They should be concerned," said Keyser. "They are taking the appropriate steps to protect their community and their children especially."

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New Orleans City Council approves public smoking ban

The New Orleans City Council has unanimously approved a controversial ordinance that prohibits smoking in bars and casinos.  

Claudia Rodas, with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, is in favor of the ordinance, which will go into effecdt in 90 days.  She says it will protect bar and casino workers from the dangers of second hand smoke.

"And this ordinance will do just that to protect those employees who have been left behind and are not protected through the current smoking ordinance."

Alex Fine, President of the French Quarter Business League, points out that there are already over 100 bars in the city that do not allow smoking.   He says owners should be allowed to make the decision on whether or not they want to be smoke-free.

"We feel like there's been enough government regulation on how we run our businesses up until this point and we just feel like we should be able to run our businesses as we see fit."

Rodas says employees in bars and casinos should be able to work in a smoke-free environment, like people who work in the restaurant industry.  She says this is much bigger than a business decision, it's a public health issue.

"And the dangers of second hand smoke.  The US Surgeon General has clearly said that there is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke."

Fine says they are concerned about the revenue hit this measure could have on business, on top of the 20 to 30 percent drop in business due to the crime crisis in the city.

"Most of the studies we have read have shown at least a 20-percent drop in revenues within the first year of the smoking ban." 
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Woman charged with first-degree murder in toddler's death

The Acadia Parish Sheriff's Department has arrested a 24-year-old woman in the May 2014 death of her fiance's 3-year-old son.  After an eight month investigation, Brittany Marie Prejean of Rayne is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Keaghyn Parsons.

Spokesperson Maxine Trahan says Prejan was often left to care for the toddler.
"The child would go over to visit with the father and, if the father was working, she would in turn take care of the child."

Prejean was caring for the toddler the day of his death.  Trahan says an autopsy was performed on Parsons and the Calcasieu Parish Coroner ruled his death a homicide.  Trahan says it was determined that the child had a perforation of the small intestine.

"And that was caused by blunt force trauma to the child's stomach and that is what they're saying is the cause of death."

She says Prejean was booked into the Acadia Parish Jail.

"There is no bond that has been set on her and, at this time, we're just awaiting for her to go before a judge to see if he will set bond." 
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Woman behind LSU FACES laboratory retiring after 30 years

Michelle Southern reporting.
The woman who has assisted law enforcement locally and nationally in identifying human remains, Mary Manhein, announces she is retiring from the LSU FACES Laboratory after more than 30 years. Also known as "The Bone Lady," Manhein has consulted on hundreds of forensic cases including mass disasters.

"So that to me has been one of the most rewarding things," says Manhein. "At the very least to get these people identified and to let their families know at least where their loved ones are and what happened to them."

Manhein says her last day is April 30th and she'll then turn over the reigns of the program to another generation. 

She says some of the most rewarding work she's done was in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Issac in which they were able to assist cemeteries who were having problems with graves.

"That had been disinterred and had floated down the road," said Manhein. "This kind of expertise for helping with mass disasters is something the FACES lab is known for."

Manhein says she's loved that her job has enabled her to work with families of victims in helping resolve cold cases of unidentified persons. She says through the cold case "hit" program, they've had instances where the DNA from an unidentified person get matched up with someone from across the country.

"We've had several of those in our cold case work and it's a very rare thing," said Menhein.

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Benson changes succession plans for Saints and Pelicans

Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson announces ownership of both teams will transfer to his wife, Gayle, upon his death.  This move effectively cuts out Benson's daughter, Renee, and grandchildren, Ryan Leblanc and Rita Benson Leblanc, from the sports franchises.  

The voice of the Saints, Jim Henderson, says this had to be an agonizing decision for Benson to make.
"This is something that comes at the expense of your daughter, your granddaughter, your grandson, and the people that are part of their families, as well.  This is a rough one."

Benson stated that this change in succession is necessary for the long-term success of both teams.  There are reports that there was tension at team headquarters with Renee, Rita, and Ryan.  Henderson says if you looked closely, you could observe the strain.

"Tom Benson was always flanked by Gail on one side and Rita on the other.  And I think they more than on one occasion, butted heads in probably vying for his affection and support."

Henderson says this is a very bold move on Benson's part.  It was expected that Rita would succeed her grandfather in leading the sports empire.  He says Rita was suspended a couple of years ago for lack of attention to the job and that could have weighed on Benson enough to make this change.

"Maybe he didn't see, and didn't in the past see, in Rita, I think, some of the commitment that he felt everybody in the organization, granddaughter or not, should have."   
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Jindal defends "No Go Zones" claims

Governor Bobby Jindal continues to insist there are neighborhoods in Europe where authority is ceded to a more harsh version of Islamic law. The governor has received criticism for making those statements and was given a chance to back down from those comments in a one-on-one interview Neil Cavuto on Fox News.
"There are absolutely neighborhoods where the police are less likely to go in," Jindal said. "There are neighborhoods in the UK and France that have been documented by Ambassador (John) Bolton and others, where there are attempts to impose Sharia law."  
Fox News previously reported the same claims, but has since apologized and said those reports were false. CNN's Anderson Cooper has also issued a similar apology for previous reports of No Go Zones in Europe. 
While speaking with Neil Cavuto, Jindal expressed concern a similar situation could develop in this country, if our federal government doesn't take appropriate measures to make sure immigrants are not trying to overturn our culture.
"We're going to see our own "No Go Zones" if we don't insist on assimilation and integration."  
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LSU receives commitment from 5-star cornerback

One of the top high school football prospects in the state announced his decision to play at LSU today. Riverdale defensive back Donte Jackson chose the Tigers over Georgia and USC. Football analyst Mike Detillier says Jackson is a great talent. 

"He has tremendous ball skills, that's something you can't teach, you either have it or you don't," Detillier said. "Just great closing speed to the football, he finds it quickly in flight." 
The five-foot-eleven cornerback from New Orleans had five interceptions as a senior and played well in the U-S Army All-American Bowl. Detillier could see Jackson playing in the NFL one day, because of his speed and ability to cover. 
"He's one of the best cover cornerbacks I've seen on the prep level in the last 10 to 12 years," Detillier said.
Jackson is expected to sign with the Tigers on National Signing Day which is February 4th. LSU's 2015 recruiting class also features a couple of other outstanding defensive backs in Kevin Toliver and Xavier Lewis. 
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Wanted man arrested after shooting of Ascension Parish deputy

The Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested the man wanted in the shooting injury of a deputy.  Sheriff Jeff Wiley says the deputy stopped the suspect vehicle while responding to a shoplifting complaint.

"The passenger of the wanted vehicle, the shoplifters, came out blasting.  It was a high powered revolver and shot the sheriff's unit and shot the deputy in the hand."

That passenger is identified as 35-year-old John McMullen.  Wiley says the deputy was released from the hospital and will hopefully make a full recovery.  Wiley says, after a five hour search, McMullen was found hiding near the Assumption Parish line.

"In a treeline of a big, big sugar cane field.  So all are in custody."

A man and a woman, who were in the car with McMullen, were arrested earlier.  Wiley says McMullen is wanted in Florida for numerous charges, including attempted first degree murder.  He says McMullen and the others are facing major charges now in Louisiana.

"Attempted murder on a police officer, of course the shoplifting.  There was an armed robbery in the middle of all of this where the two bad guys tried to steal a car from a citizen in the area where the shooting took place."

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Opelousas woman accused of burning son with cigarettes

The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested an Opelousas woman for allegedly burning her child with cigarettes.  26-year-old Jessica Deville is facing a charge of cruelty to a juvenile.  

Lt. Clay Higgins says they were alerted by a local hospital emergency room about the alleged abuse.
"Regarding a 5-year-old child that had what appeared to be cigarette burns on his hands and his torso."

The child was brought to the emergency room by his father.  Higgins says authorities spoke to both the father and child.

"And from interviewing him and the child, it became clear that that's something that had happened to the child while he was under the care of his mother, Miss Deville."

Deville denies the accusation, but Higgins says since the injuries occurred under her care, she is held responsible.  The child is recovering and living with his father.  St. Landry Child Protection Services is continuing to investigate.  Higgins says a crime like this is just shocking.

"Anytime a young, innocent child is subjected to that kind of thing, it's just outside of the realm of something that we can really comprehend." 
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State begins accepting bids to dispose of M6

The state is set to begin accepting bids from companies to submit proposals for how they would handle disposing of the 15 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden.  Frances Kelly with Louisiana Progress Action (LPA) says they want the state to publicly post all bids submitted.

"The best way to ensure that a good decision is made to ensure our safety is for citizens to have the ability to see what's going on in this process and know what the options are."

There is a concern that an open burn of the propellant poses a health risk for citizens who live nearby.  According to LPA, the state's Request for Proposals was only intended for the open tray burn of the M6.  Kelley says a recent EPA decision opens the door for alternative methods of disposal.

"But the state doesn't have to choose the open burn because the EPA has indicated that they have this 90 day extension and also that they would be willing to work with them to figure out an alternate remedy to the open burn."

The EPA recently delayed the open tray burn of the propellant for at least 90 days and said they would be open to alternative methods for disposing of the M6.  Kelley says with all of the uncertainties surrounding an open burn of the material, officials should look at other solutions to the problem.

"We believe that there are a lot of alternate technologies to choose from that have been approved by the US Army for disposing of M6 and that our state should work with the EPA and the Army to implement one of those solutions." 
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Secretary of State launches digital media archive documenting Louisiana history

Michelle Southern reporting.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Louisiana Public Broadcasting announce the launch of a site which contains videos of stories from throughout our state's history. He says the Louisiana Digital Media Archive puts the history of Louisiana into visual film that anyone can enjoy online.

"For future generations to look at and study from a learning and educational standpoint," said Schedler.

Schedler says preserving our state's unique history in a format the average person can explore has always been one of the critical missions of the State Archives. He says says the site, "ladigitalmedia.org", will be a great place to pull up historic events in Louisiana and national history.

"Whether it be the JFK assassination to Hurricane Katrina and Camilie," said Schedler. "All the way to political issues going back to Huey Long."

Schedler says they were able to take old videotapes that had a risk of becoming destroyed due to deterioration over time and digitize them so they will always be available.

"We think this is a great educational tool and I like to tell people it's like a historic Facebook," said Schedler.

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