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New study suggests longer sleep could put you at higher risk for stroke

Michelle Southern reporting.
A new study suggests people who sleep longer face a greater risk of having a stroke. Researchers followed patients for 10 years and found that someone 63 or older who sleeps more than eight hours a day is 46 percent likelier to suffer a stroke in the next decade than adults who sleep for 6-8 hours.

"We've actually characterized pretty well the effect of sleep deprivation," says Dr. Caroline Barton, an assistant professor of neurology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. "But we've not really characterized very well what the effect of too much sleep is on people."

Barton says you can't diagnose a stroke before it happens but studies like this help give doctors clues as to what might be causing them. She says stability of sleep as a trait is very important.

"Because they noticed that the people who tended to have strokes because they slept longer, 10 years prior when they were first studied slept normally," said Barton.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology. Barton says the study also noted that if someone had a significant change in their sleeping habits it was a bad sign.

"They said long sleep could be a cause, consequence or an early marker of ill health that could eventually result in stroke," said Barton.


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Meeting tonight to discuss downsizing at Fort Polk

As the military, once again, looks to reduce the number of troops at the Fort Polk Army base, the Army is holding a meeting tonight to listen to concerns about the potential effects a troop reduction could have on the area.  Fort Polk Progress Chairman, Michael Reese, says the listening session is the final event in their evaluation process.  

He says they will host three events in Leesville, Lake Charles, and Alexandria.
"That will be simultaneous events that will be simulcast back to the listening session in Leesville where the evaluation team will be."

Reese says these events will show the Army the breadth of support Fort Polk enjoys and will be something unique they won't see at other installations.  The military is considering troop reductions at 30 bases nationwide.  He says Fort Polk faced a reduction last year and the base only lost around 250 troops.

"That was a substantial savings at Fort Polk, keeping the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain there, which really is the level of stationing needed at Fort Polk in order for these off base communities to provide any of the services they currently provide."

Reese says attendance at these events is very key and critical to there mission of avoiding massive troop reductions at Fort Polk.  He says if you can attend one of the three events, your presence could speak volumes to the Army.

"Numbers matter.  Driving that point to the military that our communities understand what's at stake, understand what's going on, understand the economic impact, is something that can't be done in reports" 

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Higher education looking for funding solutions

Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo says Governor Jindal's proposed budget is about 200-million dollars short of what's needed to fully fund the state's public college and universities. Rallo says if the funding situation doesn't change, campus leaders will have to make some tough decisions.

"Probably come the latter part of this month, certainly by the beginning of April, they will start cancelling classes, a significant numbers of classes, they will be looking at not hiring faculty members," Rallo said. 
The state's budget problems have raised concerns that one possible solution is to close college campuses. But Rallo says the state will not see the kind of savings some might expect by shutting down a school.
"Take for example if you have a residence hall on your campus, how is that residence hall paid for, it's paid for because the students live there and pay rent," Rallo said. "So if you close the institution, the debt doesn't go away."
He says higher education leaders are looking at various options to improve their funding situation, one idea that's been thrown on the white board is to privatize some public universities. 
"It's incumbent upon us to look at a lot of different things. It doesn't mean it's even possible."

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Man arrested after throwing daughter to the ground while fleeing police

Slidell Police has arrested a Baton Rouge man after he threw his young daughter to the ground while fleeing officers during a shoplifting attempt.  Detective Daniel Seuzeneau says officers responded to a call that 24-year-old Lamar Causey was attempting to steal cologne and perfume from a cosmetics store.

"And when they went to approach him, Causey literally threw his 17-month-old daughter to the ground, causing her to hit her head."

One officer stopped and cared for the child, while the other officer chased Causey down and apprehended him.  Seuzeneau says the incident was truly shocking for everyone involved.

"The officer, who went to the aid of the infant, said that he has never seen somebody do that before and that Causey literally threw his daughter down as if she was a toy doll."

The little girl was transported to a local hospital for her injuries.  She was released to family members and will make a full recovery.  Police recovered 14 bottles of stolen cologne and perfume on Causey valued at almost $1,200.  Seuzeneau says Causey was booked into the Slidell City Jail.

"And he was charged with a slew of charges:  theft of over $1000, cruelty to juveniles, child desertion, resisting an officer by flight, public intimidation, and possession of schedule II narcotics."

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LSU and Chavis battle over $400,000 buyout

LSU and its former defensive coordinator John Chavis are in a legal battle. The two sides filed lawsuits against each other. LSU claims Chavis owes them $400,000 contractual buyout for accepting a job with Texas A&M. 

Chavis filed the first lawsuit in Texas, claiming he took the proper steps when he left LSU to avoid paying a 400-thousand buyout. LSU counter sued, seeking to dismiss Chavis' suit and have the case heard in Baton Rouge. Legal analyst Tim Meche says having the home court advantage is critical in this case. 
"I mean no Baton Rouge judge or jury is going to rule for John Chavis, likewise LSU will be handicapped before a Texas judge or jury," Meche said. 
Meche believes this case will be settled out of court, because it's in the best interest of the LSU and A&M football programs not to have Chavis or Tigers Head Coach Les Miles go through a deposition. 
"They would be subject to answer questions under oath about intricate details of the program and recruiting, and this is information that nobody wants to come out in the public," Meche said. 

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Jindal winds up in 12th in Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll

A straw poll conducted at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference showed Governor Bobby Jindal finishing in 12th place among Republican presidential hopefuls.  Jindal received less than one percent of the ballots in that poll.  

UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says this group has not had a good record in predicting presidential nominees.
"It's really more about who is hot in the very, very conservative community, right now, and apparently Bobby Jindal is not that person."  

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won the poll, followed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  Cross doesn't think the results of this straw poll will discourage Jindal's presidential aspirations.

"I think he's going to move forward.  I think if he has a bad showing in Iowa and, maybe, one or two other states, he might hang it up."

Cross says Jindal is not necessarily looking to gain the Republican nomination for this presidential election.  He says the governor is looking to get his name out there and becoming one of the players in the Republican Party for future presidential races.

"Looking down the road in 2020, '24, '28, he would still be well within the range of age for presidential candidates."

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Lawmakers look to revamp Louisiana's film tax credit program

Michelle Southern reporting.
As the Louisiana filmed blockbuster "Focus" opened over the weekend, a group of lawmakers is looking at ways we can improve the state's film tax credits. Some have argued that the movie credits here are corrupt and too generous.

New Orleans Senator JP Morrell, who is working on reform legislation, says he fully supports the program but it has major issues.

"When you have taxpayer dollars involved in any program you have to make sure that money is being spent wisely, it's not being exploited and the money being spent delivers the maximum return to those citizens who are paying for it," said Morrell.

Economic impact numbers revealed "Focus" filmed here for 43 days and spent over $8.3 million on local labor at in-state businesses and on location.

Morrell says they don't want to lose the fact that Louisiana has become an industry film leader in the country and earned the name Hollywood South. But he says there are things that must be done to restore taxpayer confidence in the film tax credit program.

"The goal with this right now is to really turn our film tax credit program from the step child to the poster child," says Morrell. "Really kind-of make it almost a template, so-to-speak, of going and reforming all of our tax credit programs."

Morrell says drafts of possible legislation will be discussed on Wednesday in a meeting with the Entertainment Industry Development Advisory Commission.

He says in addition to legislators, that group also is made up of stakeholders in the industry and the goal is a "comprehensive reform" of the film tax credit program.

"To be honest, no one is in love with anything we're doing. There are people who want the credits to go away and there are people who want them left the same," says Morrell. "I've always had the thought that when you're trying to compromise or fix a problem, if everyone walks away sort-of dissatisfied then you're on the right track."

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After week one, 3 contestants on NBC's The Voice have Louisiana connections

Michelle Southern reporting.
NBC's hit show "The Voice" begins its second week of the new season tonight and Louisiana already has ties to three contestants who made it through the blind auditions. 22-year-old Rob Taylor, who was raised in Baton Rouge and now lives in Donaldsonville, gets to move on to the battle rounds which take place next month. 

Taylor says he never thought he would get such an opportunity.

"Being from a small town and with my family," said Taylor. "I never thought anything would come like this, but I'm so glad I never gave up."

The Voice's blind auditions continue tonight at 7. Taylor says when he graduated high school he was offered a partial scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music, but he chose to stay home to care for his mother who was sick.

He says his biggest musical influence is his grandmother.

"She was a choir director and really big into church music," said Taylor. "She started me with everything."

Also vying to win a recording contract this season is Tonya Boyd-Cannon who's from Jackson, Mississippi but currently lives in Chalmette. And Meghan Linsey who's from The Big Easy but currently lives in Nashville. 

Taylor says one of the things that influences him the most musically from Louisiana is that styles here are so eclectic.

"There's a little bit of something for everyone and that's the vibe I wanna put off on the show," said Taylor.

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Quarterman's triple double leads LSU to 3rd straight victory

LSU continued its push to get in the NCAA Tournament as the Tigers defeated Ole Miss 73-63 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 10-6 in the SEC, 21-8 overall.
Tim Quarterman registered the first triple-double in LSU history since Shaquille O" Neal did in 1992. Quarterman had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Jarell Martin also had 18 points and added 12 rebounds. Keith Hornsby added 16 points and added four 3-pointers.  
LSU also played some outstanding defense, as they held to Rebels 38% shooting. One of the top scorers in the SEC, Stefan Moody of Ole Miss was just 3-of-16 from the field.
The Tigers will close out the home portion of their schedule when they host Tennessee on Wednesday.  

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Lawmakers react to Jindal's budget proposal

The Jindal administration has said they are willing to scale back 526-million dollars in tax credits for businesses, but Chairman of the republican house delegation, state Representative Lance Harris of Alexandria is disappointed the governor didn’t suggest reeling back some of the film tax credits.
"In the movie tax credit we pay 30% of there expenses to come make up a movie in Louisiana, 30% and then we offer that as a tax credit to someone else," Harris said. 
As a way to help reduce cuts to higher education, The Jindal administration proposes higher fees to attend public college, but provide a tax credit to offset those costs, which would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax. But Harris doesn’t like the idea of a cigarette tax. 
"I do not support any tax that's drilled down to the individual, because I think individuals pay enough taxes as it is now."
The governor has highlighted 12 tax credits that could become non-refundable which would give the state more money to spend. But the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Amite representative John Bel Edwards, says legislators should look beyond those tax credits as a way to raise revenue.
"I'm talking about the giveaways, the loopholes, then the governor put on the table in order to do a comprehensive job," Edwards said.
Edwards says he’s not a fan of Jindal’s proposal to raise cigarette taxes and have that money pay for a tax credit for those individuals who pay higher fees at colleges. 
"Why do we have to do a fee and a tax credit and that's because Governor Jindal is jumping through hoops in order to satisfy Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform," Edwards said. 
Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform.  

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Proposed bill would protect against penalties for Common Core opt-outs

In two weeks, students will begin Common Core testing and a state lawmaker has introduced a bill that will prohibit penalties if a student decided to opt out of the testing.  Abbeville Representative Bob Hensgens' bill would protect students, schools, and school systems from non-participation penalties.  

He says there is no law that levies penalties for not taking the tests, but that's not what he's hearing from school districts.
"We're getting school districts telling their parents, 'We're not going to let this child go into honors course next year.' or "We're going to make the test a grade for regular school.'  And that's not what it's intended to do."

Currently students who opt-out of the testing will be given a score of zero, which will be transferred to the performance score of schools and school districts.  Hensgens says the decision for a student to take these tests belong to the parent and not the government.

"If the parents say I don't want my child taking this test, which does nothing for their academic career, then they shouldn't have to.  And they shouldn't be bullied into taking it by saying they won't get into honors classes in the future."

Education Superintendent John White says they will address opt-outs when they see how many students actually opt-out of the exams.  Hensgens says it shouldn't be left up to White to determine if penalties should be levied if someone decides not to take the Common Core tests.

"We're not going to leave it up to one guy to decide maybe later, if he so decides, that it won't hurt or it will hurt.  He's not going to be the guy who's the arbiter of the punishment or not punishment, in my book.  The whole state's going to decide this." 

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Jindal administration proposes solutions to budget problems

The Jindal administration presented a proposed budget today that provides a starting point on how to prevent drastic cuts to health care and higher education, despite a one-point-six billion revenue shortfalll for next fiscal year. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says they want lawmakers to scale back a dozen refundable tax credits which would save the state 526-million dollars.

"This does not increase the current tax obligation of any Louisiana taxpayer and Louisiana will continue to promote economic growth through tax incentives and exemptions, however we can not pay more than we take in," Nichols said. 
Even with a cap on certain tax credits, the cut in the proposed budget to higher ed is 211-million dollars. Nichols offered solutions to further reduce cuts to higher education and one includes raising the cigarette tax and using those revenues to provide families with a tax credit to help offset the costs for higher fees at public colleges. 
"The cigarette tax itself, if we move to the Southern average could generate about 100-million dollars," Nichols said. 
The potential drop in funding for health care sevices is 235-million dollars according to the proposed budget. Lawmakers who serve on the budget committees seemed to like some of the ideas and Delhi Senator Franics Thompson is glad the cuts to higher ed and health care are not as bad as once feared. 
"I'm please we have temporary fix to the problems that we have," Thompson said. 
Lawmakers will now spend the next several weeks going over the budget and will eventually approve a spending plan in June. 

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Vitter gets endorsement from former President George H.W. Bush

Republican gubernatorial candidate, US Senator David Vitter, is getting the endorsement of an ex-president.  The Vitter campaign sent an e-mail to supporters announcing the endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush.  

ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says this is significant, especially on top of the endorsement of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
"You're not only getting significant names within the Republican Party establishment, but you're gaining the support, and potential support of their donor base, and that's hugely critical."

In his endorsement, Bush describes Vitter as an effective, conservative leader and urges people to contribute to his campaign.  Stockley says the backing of Bush and Paul are a big boost to Vitter's quest to become governor.

"Vitter could overcome his opponents, not just with the endorsements, but the tremendous financial advantages that come with having these two individuals on your side."

Vitter is the front runner in this year's governor's race, ahead of Republicans Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Democratic state Representative John Bel Edwards.  Stockley says Vitter's opponents will now have to step up their game.

"Unless the other three do something substantial and similar, they will see themselves clamoring for second place behind Vitter." 

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This week's cold temps could hamper this weekend's crawfish supply

This week's wintry weather that hit Louisiana could result in a lower supply of crawfish this weekend.  Mark Shirley, with the LSU AgCenter, says pond water temperatures dropped into the 40's this week, which keeps crawfish from crawling into traps.  

Shirley says if you want some crawfish this weekend, you may want to get them early.
"I think, if you want to eat crawfish this weekend, you can find crawfish at some of the drive-thru boiling places or some of the restraunts.  The supply may not be there."

He says you will be able to find crawfish this weekend, but the supply will be below normal.  Unfortunately, the decrease in production will see a rise in the price of mudbugs.  Shirley says you should see an improvement in the price as temperatures warm up.

"It kind of depends on the size that they're grading the crawfish that they're selling and some other factors, in there.  But we're still in winter mode, so you're going to see higher prices now compared to springtime."

Because of the cold temperatures, you may see some smaller crawfish on your plate, but Shirley says crawfish are good, no matter what size they are.  He says, although the winter weather has slowed the crawfish harvest, it hasn't shut it down completely.

"Crawfish are available now.  They're going to get more available the rest of Lent on through Easter Week.  So don't delay in enjoying some Louisiana crawfish." 

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Several prominent Louisiana shot films being readied for release

The new movie "Focus", featuring Will Smith, hits theaters this weekend and it's just one of many major Louisiana shot movies to be released this year.  Chris Stelly, Executive Director of Louisiana Entertainment, says "Focus" could top the box office this weekend.

"Will Smith is still considered one of the bigger box office draws in Hollywood and I'm very excited about that movie.  I think it will showcase the city of New Orleans and the city of New Orleans really well."

The streak started last weekend with the release of "Hot Tub Time Machine 2". Stelly says other Louisiana films scheduled to open this year include "Pitch Perfect 2" in May and "Jurassic World" in June. Stelly says he's looking forward to seeing "Get Hard" starring Will Farrell and Kevin Hart that will open next month.

"Of all of the trailers that have come out recently, this certainly looks like one of the funniest ones to date.  You've got two comedic geniuses at work, playing off of each other, so I'm very excited to see that one."

This summer will also see the release of "Terminator Genisys" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in July and the reboot of the "Fantastic Four" franchise in August.  Stelly thinks this summer is going to be a blockbuster season for films shot in Louisiana.

"Continuing on that great tradition of Louisiana films that are shot here and that have become part of our ever expanding canon of films." 

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Controversy surrounding tonight's Lafayette Bill Cosby show

Michelle Southern reporting.
The embattled comedian Bill Cosby is appearing tonight at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette. There are some who aren't happy about that due to allegations which recently surfaced accusing Cosby of sexually abusing women. 

Ebony Tucker, Director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, is concerned people who still buy tickets to Cosby's show don't take these alleged victims seriously.

"Particularly these people who are putting these events together," said Tucker. "We would hope the public would be more sympathetic towards the women who have come forward."

The comedian released a statement thanking fans for love, support and trust and added he can’t wait to warm the hearts of the audience with the gift of laughter.

Turner says it's their hope that people in the audience tonight realize that famous people also have private lives that are very different from who they portray.

"Just because you like The Cosby Show doesn't mean Bill Cosby isn't capable of criminal activity," said Tucker.

The performance is set for 8pm.

Tucker says there has been so much victim blaming surrounding the Cosby allegations that people are separating Dr. Huxabtable from someone who is capable of committing a horrible crime.

"I'd like for people who are going to this event know that just because this is a talented person it doesn't mean he doesn't have the ability to commit sexual assault."


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PSC still needs to approve CLECO sale

Michelle Southern reporting.
Cleco's shareholders have approved the sale of the Pineville-based company, but the Public Service Commission still has to give its consent.

A North American investor group led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and by British Columbia Investment Corporation is seeking to purchase the utility company. PSC Commissioner Clyde Holloway says he'll need to study this proposed merger carefully.

"I'm 50/50 right now on where I stand," said Holloway. "There's a lot of things I would like to look into and be sure that I'm taking care of Pineville and present employees."

Holloway says their job is to take care of people who work for CLECO and its customers. He says he knows what they have now with CLECO, but they don't know what they'd be getting with Macquarie -- a company outside of the US.

"We're going to study this very closely and I hope I can help influence other Commissioners to do what's totally in line for the rate payer and for the employee," said Holloway.

Holloway says he expects a vote before the PSC during the latter part of the third quarter of this year.

"We have consultants already in place and they are looking at it and will report what their findings are."


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29-percent of Louisiana bridges are deficient

2014 Federal Highway Administration data shows that 29-percent of Louisiana's nearly 13,000 bridges are deficient.  That's the 14th highest percentage in the United States.  

Louisiana DOTD spokesman Rodney Mallett says motorists should not take this description of bridges in Louisiana too literally.
"'Structurally deficient' or 'deficient' or 'functionally obsolete' are unfortunate terms used by engineers to describe the need of repair for certain bridges, but it doesn't mean that it's unsafe."

He says DOTD is working to replace and repair as many bridges as they can.  Mallett says most bridges are on an inspection schedule of once every two years, with some on a six month schedule.  He says there are 81 bridge inspectors throughout the state.

"As they go out, if they determine that there need to be any repairs, then we have a maintenance group that will go out and repair and replace bridges as needed."

Mallett says, since 2008, DOTD has spent $1.3 billion to replace or repair 467 bridges across the state.  He says motorists should not think that that they can't safely cross bridges in Louisiana.

"If a bridge is unsafe, then we will close that bridge and we've done that in the past."

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Former Alexandria cop accused of having sex with juvenile arrested

The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office says a now former Alexandria Police Officer is under arrest amid allegations he had sex with a juvenile. Lt. Tommy Carnline says they first got the complaint on December 1st of last year.

"The Sheriff's Office was contacted in reference to allegations of criminal sexual misconduct involving an Alexandria Police Officer," said Carnline.

He says the city of Alexandria conducted their own internal investigation after the alleged incident occurred and the accused, 38-year-old Deric Reed, was placed on leave immediately.

"We finished our investigation and turned it over to the DA's office," said Carnline.

Carnline says the alleged inappropriate sexual conduct occurred while Reed was off duty and it was outside the City of Alexandria. He says Reed no longer works for the Alexandria Police Department.

The suspect was arrested today for 1 count of Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile.


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Two Slidell residents arrested for making a one-year-old drink beer

Two Slidell residents have been arrested after they allegedly forced a one-year-old to drink beer. Slidell police detective Daniel Seuzenau says the child's grandfather noticed signs of abuse.
"So we opened up an investigation and discovered that Brett Flower, who is the boyfriend of the mother, Krysten Verdin, was pouring beer down the child's throat."

24-year-old Brett Flower and 23-year-old Krysten Verdin were arrested on cruelty to juvenile charges. Seuzenau says Flower poured the beer the down the infant's throat, because he thought it was funny. 
"Obviously it's sick, it's not funny and we are very glad the grandfather came forward."
Seuzenau says when Flower poured the beer down the child's throat, it caused him to choke and regurgitate and Verdin then would get upset with the child. 
"She would then slap the child on the back of the head, causing him to fall to the floor, this happened on several occasions, according to witnesses.  

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