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Nine years after Hurricane Katrina preparedness improves

Today marks the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana.  Even after nine years, memories are still fresh and recovery continues. 

Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Kevin Davis, says the state has made great strides in hurricane preparedness since Katrina.
"Communication, number one.  Statewide radio system, number two.  Continually doing exercises, planning, and training with all of our local partners and the parishes are very well in tune to their response and their recovery nine years later."
Davis was President of St. Tammany Parish when Katrina hit.  He says he feels the people of Louisiana have learned quite a bit about hurricane preparedness as a result of Katrina.  Davis is very confident on the local and statewide level that officials are prepared for any type of disaster.
"You have a wealth of information and experience as we're doing planning and training.  And you bring all that forward to help those new folks who come into the systems to be better prepared."
Davis says recovery after a storm is always difficult because every community is different.  But he thinks the knowledge gained after Hurricane Katrina will benefit Louisiana for years to come.
"I think the lessons learned and what we've experienced through that process, nine years later, that wealth of information and then applying it to today, in case there is something in the future, will mean a faster recovery."
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LSU fans gearin' up!

Michelle Southern reporting.
Tomorrow is LSU's first game of the season so it's crunch time for Tiger Fans to get geared up in their purple and gold! Jennifer Feduccia is the owner of a LSU fan shop called Holiday Hallmark in Baton Rouge. She says they've seen a huge influx in LSU women's apparel that is flying off the shelves.

"They don't make just plain t-shirts anymore..they make the most GOOD looking LSU shirts that have a little bling to them and they fit you like a lady," said Feduccia. "No longer do ladies have to try to wear a man's shirt at the game."

LSU introduced a new logo this season and basically said goodbye, officially, to the old Tiger logo that was extremely unpopular with fans. Feduccia says her customers are EXTREMELY glad to see "Toonces" go.

"I mean there was nothing wrong with our original Mike, we loved him," said Feduccia. "People really love the Tiger Eye."

Feduccia says fans have been coming in and out all week to get their favorite shirt that will be "THE" lucky shirt they wear for the 2014 season.
 She says one of their new items that fans are literally eating up is the LSU "fan pan".

"You can make LSU ice cubes, LSU cupcakes, LSU cakes all in the shape of LSU," said Feduccia.


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Ruling anticipated Friday on lawsuit against new abortion law

A federal judge is expected to rule Friday on a new law that critics of the legislation say will force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.
The law in question was passed by the state legislature earlier this year and it goes into effect Monday. It requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the court challenge last week, claiming not enough time was given for doctors to get responses from hospitals.
A hearing on a request to temporarily block enforcement of the law was held Thursday and the judge asked both sides to try come to an agreement, before he issued a ruling.  
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Victims say murdered Baton Rouge TV personality sexually and physically abused them as young boys

Michelle Southern reporting.
Troubling allegations are coming out about a Baton Rouge TV personality who was fatally shot yesterday allegedly by his producer who then turned the gun on himself. The news of Scott Rogers death shocked people who admired him. 
(<< Scott Rogers, Source: WAFB) 

But this morning on The Jim Engster Show, nameless victims came forward and claimed Rogers had been physically and sexually abusing them since they were children.

"Were you ever intimately involved with him," Engster asked.

The victim stated, "By Scott? Absolutely. It started when I was about, *sigh*, 13."

A second victim claimed he contacted federal authorities to tell his story in America when he learned Rogers adopted two young children.

Rogers had been the subject of a federal grand jury this week and was being investigated in the US for allegedly lying on citizenship documents about prior arrests.

The anonymous man described Rogers as a master manipulator monster.

"He is an expert at brainwashing and he is the worst predatory pedophile that you can ever imagine," said a second victim.

Rogers was reportedly booked on child molestation charges in the UK, but never disclosed that information when he came to America which is why the feds were asking questions. 

Victim #2 said Rogers fostered and adopted the children he abused and tortured.

"We were beaten and there were numerous occasions where if you refused his sexual advances, then the sexual abuse became very violent," said the nameless individual.

The alleged gunman, Mathew Hodgkins, is in critical condition.


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Family of handcuffed man who allegedly committed suicide wants answers

The family of a 22-year-old New Iberia man who sustained a fatal gunshot wound while in police custody is asking the US Justice Department to investigate the circumstances of his death. The Iberia Parish coroner has ruled Victor White's death to be a suicide. But Monroe lawyer Carol Powell-Lexing says  how could White shoot himself while he's handcuffed.

"It just seems illogical that he actually could shoot himself in the chest." 
Powell-Lexing has been hired by White's family to represent them. White says people who knew White are skeptical that he decided to end his life after he was arrested on drug charges.
"There's nothing mentioned in the autopsy about having any type of gun power residue on his hands."  
The incident with White happened in March and a full summary of the autopsy on White's body was released this week by the Iberia Parish coroner. State Police's investigation is still ongoing, but Powell-Lexing says an independent autopsy is likely needed in this case.  
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Deadly brain eating amoeba found in St. John parish's water system

Officialin St. John the Baptist Parish are increasing the chlorine levels in their water system after test results confirmed the presence of a deadly brain-eating amoeba. State health officer, Doctor Jimmy Guidry, says the department of health and hospitals has issued an emergency order to perform a chlorine burn throughout the water system to kill the amoeba.  

"We want to get the word out for people not to put tap water up their noses, because that's the way it will get up their brain."
Guidry adds the water is safe to drink and to cook with.
The brain-eating amoeba was previously detected in St. Bernard and DeSoto parishes and its killed three people in Louisiana since 2011, and in all three cases, it was from tap water getting up the victims' nose. Guidry says Louisiana is the only state in the nation that's conducting tests for amoebas.
"We'll continue to look around the state to find other areas, to make sure the people of Louisiana have the protection they need."
Guidry says they've learned the deadly amoeba can get into a water system when the weather is hot and there's not enough chlorine to burn it off.
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LBP to air documentary on LSU's Leonard Fournette

Michelle Southern reporting.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting will air a special tonight about the life of LSU's Leonard Fournette, one of the nation's most heavily recruited football prospects out of St. Aug. "Road to Stardom: The Leonard Fournette Story" is produced and directed by Kenny Chenier.

He says the program documents Fournette's early days growing up in the 7th Ward of New Orleans.

"From becoming this amazing young athlete and becoming widely recognized at the age of 14 and appearing in Sports Illustrated," said Chenier. "And also getting a Division I scholarship offer after appearing in his first high school football game."

Chenier says it's very obvious to most people what Fournette is capable of on the football field, but the Tiger running back is so much more -- inside and out.

"This kid is very very special," said Chenier. "He's probably the most grounded and humble teenager that I've ever seen."

LSU Coach Les Miles has used Michael Jordan's name when describing Fournette's desire to be great. Chenier says they interview Miles in the documentary and also LSU recruiting coordinator and running back coach Frank Wilson.

"So it really gets in depth into why they were interested in this young man," said Chenier. "And what they thought about Leonard Fournette the football player and Leonard Fornette the man."

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AAA: More people traveling for Labor Day since recession

Michelle Southern reporting.
The American Automobile Association says more people are traveling for the Labor Day Holiday than since the recession. AAA spokesman Don Redman says 34.7 million people are projected to journey 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend.

"I mean these are numbers we haven't seen since 2008," said Redman. "So it's really an indication that it looks like we're getting past the great recession."

The Labor Day Holiday travel period is defined as Thursday August 28th to Monday September 1st. 

Redman says nearly 86 percent of travelers will celebrate the holiday with a final summer road trip.

He says another significant bullet point from the 2014 Labor Day Travel Forecast is that more people are using the credit cards for the trip.

"It's an indication that people are feeling more confident in their personal finances that they can start assuming some debt," said Redman.

Redman says automobile travel will increase by 1.4 percent this year with 29.7 million travelers hitting the road. He says another boost to the travelers confidence is likely related to the low price at the pump.

"We're looking at a statewide average almost 17 cents cheaper than it was this time last year," said Redman.

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Dardenne optimistic about Louisiana tourism in 2014

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says tourism is encouraging for 2014 following last year's record setting year.  Over 27 million people visited Louisiana in 2013, a nearly 4-percent increase from 2012.  

Dardenne says international travel to Louisiana was up 18-percent last year, which is the largest percentage increase in the country.
"We're certainly accomplishing our task of getting international visitors to come see us in Louisiana.  They spend more money, they stay longer, they're much more curious about all areas of the state."
Domestic and international visitors spent nearly 11-billion dollars in the state last year.  Dardenne says there are no hard numbers available for 2014, as of yet.  But he says the LouisianaTravel-dot-com website and their social media activity has been ranked number four among all tourism sites in the US. 
"Which is certainly one of the goals I had when I took this office.  That is great news.  Our usage, our number of hits, and our degree of social media, Facebook and Twitter and what have you, ranks us fourth tops in the nation."
The top three leisure travel activities for Louisiana domestic travelers are visiting friends and relatives, shopping, and fine dining.  Dardenne says his office will continue to work on enticing people to come visit the Bayou State.  He says an upcoming article in the next issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine will help. 
"They call Louisiana the Weirdest Country in America.  It's a flattering story, though, talking about all of the unique things one can find in Louisiana."
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Jindal files suit against federal government over Common Core

Governor Jindal has filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging  the Obama administration violated the Constitution by using federal grant money to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. Jindal says Common Core is the latest effort by the feds to have Washington D-C in control of everything.

"The federal government in Washington is out of control and now they want to run our schools."
Jindal says the Constitution and federal laws leave it up to the states to control education content, but through Common Core the federal government can dictate curriculum. 
"The know-it-alls in Washington think they know better than Louisiana parents, kinda like with Obamacare, when they tried to put the IRS in charge of our health care."  
Jindal, a one-time supporter of Common Core, has taken steps this year to keep the new math and english standards out of Louisiana. US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said Jindal's actions are about politics, not education 
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PETA files complaints over treatment of animals at Hammond Swamp Tour

Michelle Southern reporting.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says they have some serious problems with a swamp tour operation out of Hammond. PETA council Brittany Peet says they received the complaints from a visitor to Harvey Kliebert's Turtle & Alligator Farm & Tours. She says the animals there are living in deplorable conditions.

"At Kliebert's alligators, crocodiles and turtles are all packed into these small murky pools by the hundreds or even thousands where they have to fight for food and for space," said Peet.

Peet says reptiles are rarely seen suffering in the wild but when they are held in captivity it can take years for them to die from stress, malnutrition and infection. She also says they have a problem with Kliebert's putting their employees at risk.

"By encouraging or requiring them to hand feed alligators and even tempt the animals to bite their hands for these tours," said Peet.

Peet says they've filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to investigate reports of employees being required to taunt the animals. 

She says they've also filed a complaint with Child Protective Services regarding the manager's 6-year-old son who is allowed to wrangle alligators.

"And he's already apparently been bitten," said Peet. "So we're calling on a local investigation into this child's welfare in light of this extremely reckless conduct."
Kliebert's has yet to respond to our request for comment. 
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NCHS principal says random act of violence led to student's death

Natchitoches Central High Principal Bill Gordy says it was a random act of violence that led to the death of 18-year-old Johnquaries Smith. Smith died yesterday from the head injury he sustained during a fight with another student at school. Gordy says the two students had no interaction prior to their altercation.

"They walked up to each other face-to-face," Gordy said. "Then after about two to three seconds, the young man hit him."
The 16-year-old who punched Smith has been charged with manslaughter. He's been identified as Timothy Ray Robinson and prosecutors plan to charge him as an adult. Gordy says they don't know much about him, because he just started at NCHS.
Gordy describes Smith as a nice young man, who he spoke to frequently and was a member of the football team.
"I always found Johnquaries to be a polite young man, I can't say enough good things about Johnquaries." 
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Electronic cigarettes may help some quit smoking

The American Heart Association has released a statement saying the use of electronic cigarettes may help some people quit smoking.  The recommendation is for the use of e-cigarettes as a last resort with several notes of caution.

Associate Dean for Research at LSU, Dr. Ed Trapido, says he'll go along with that for now.
"Until we know more about the effects of e-cigarettes and really understand what's in them, how they're regulated, I'll agree with that statement."
The recommendation was written by a group of scientists, physicians, and researchers after studying the latest information available on e-cigarettes.  It's emphasized that e-cigarettes should be used as a last resort to help quit smoking.  Trapido says there are several proven cessation methods that one should try first. 
"From quit lines, to support groups, to nicotine patches, to medication like Chantix that have been shown to be effective at reducing cigarette dependence."
The group's statement admits that much more research needs to be done as there is a lack of knowledge on the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes.  Although he agrees with the AHA statement, Trapido says there is concern in the public health community. 
"We're concerned that this is being viewed as an answer to quit smoking but, in fact, we don't have evidence to that."
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Casino Intercept Program gets $2 million in winnings from deadbeat parents

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Department of Children and Family Services says they've collected more than $2 million dollars in casino winnings from parents who owe back child support. Deputy Assistant Secretary Lisa Andry says this is a huge milestone for the Casino Intercept Program which launched in September 2011.

"We certainly don't want non-custodial parents who owe money to be gambling," said Andry. "So this really is a great thing."

Andry says each collection made, whether large or small, is proof that this program is an essential tool for collecting what is owed to Louisiana's children.

"Some of these parents, mostly single moms, are getting the only collection they've ever seen," said Andry.

Andry says a total of 2 million fifty two thousand dollars was taken from 1,526 non-custodial parents who owed back child support. She says when someone wins over 1200, the casino has to cross check the winner with people who owe money in the DCFS database.

"And they put in the information and get a real time response of exactly what that person owes at that time," said Andry.


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Natchitoches Central High School student succumbs to injuries

The 18-year-old Natchitoches Central High School student who was involved in an altercation with another student at school has died as a result of injuries he sustained.  Johnquaries Smith passed away Tuesday morning.  

Natchitoches Police Captain Brad Walker says the incident happened Monday afternoon.
"The victim was punched and then fell to the ground, hitting his head on the concrete, suffering injuries that ultimately cost him his life."
Walker says rumors that this was a gang fight are not true.  In fact, he says it wasn't a fight at all.
"We're classifying it as a battery, which means one suspect was the aggressor and then the victim, of course, was not."
Walker says the 16-year-old suspect was originally booked into the Ware Detention Center on second degree battery charges. 
"We're going up to Coushatta, retrieving that suspect, bringing him back down to Natchitoches PD where he will be charged with manslaughter."
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Drew and Brittany Brees are proud parents of a baby girl

Saints Quarterback Drew Brees is the father of a new baby girl. Brees says his wife Brittany gave birth their fourth child and their first girl last night. He says mom and child are doing just fine.
The family’s first girl will be a little sister to brothers Baylen, Bowen, and Callen. Brees says the entire family is excited.

"We've obviously been talking about it for a long time, even going back to when Brittany first got pregnant, we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl, just asking if they want another brother or a little sister, and they all said baby sister. So they got their wish." 
Brees is holding off on announcing the girl's name until its on the birth certificate. And he believes this will be the last addition to their immediate family.
"I think is four is a good number. Brit was looking at me during that delivery, hey this is the last one buddy."
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Louisiana ranked third best tax-friendly state

Michelle Southern reporting.
According to the personal finance magazine Kiplinger, Louisiana is the third most tax friendly state in the nation. Senior Associate Editor Sandy Block says their rankings were based on rates for income, sales and gas taxes. She says a big boost for Louisiana is the fact that we have the lowest property taxes in the nation.

"That's a big help for a lot of people because up north in places like New York and New Jersey, property taxes can be 10 times what they are in Louisiana," said Block.

Block says property in Louisiana is assessed at 10 percent of its fair market value. She also says our gas tax is well below average at 20 cents a gallon. Block says as a result, Louisiana is a very tax friendly place for retirees.

"And in that tax map which will be coming out in a few weeks, additional issues will be addressed such as whether or not social security is taxed and Louisiana continues to well in all of those categories too," said Block.

Block says the most tax friendly state is Delaware followed by Wyoming, then Mississippi and Alabama are ranked just below Louisiana. 

She says they have a tax map tool on their website, kiplinger.com, to help people make the most financially sound decision when considering a move to another state.

"This is a helpful tool to figure out just how much of your income would go to state and local taxes," said Block.

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ACLU-LA: School should let Rastafari student wear dreadlocks

Michelle Southern reporting.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sent a letter to the Plaquemines Parish School Board and South Plaquemines High School administrators regarding a student who has been suspected because of his hairstyle.

The student is Rastafari with ACLU-LA Executive Director Marjorie Esman says his long dreadlocks are religiously mandated.

"He's been told that he can not return to school until he cuts his hair which he can not do in keeping with his religious faith," said Esman.

Esman says the student is not new to the school but last year his parents were unaware of the right he has to keep his hair the way his religion mandates.

"But since then they realized that the school was wrong and that he has the constitutional right to have his hair as his reglion requires," said Esman.

Esman says they are seeking an expedited hearing before the full school board very quickly with the expectation that they will do the right thing.

"He needs to go back to school," said Esman.

Calls to the school board were not returned.


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Miles: Both quarterbacks will play against Wisconsin

13th ranked LSU is just four days away from the season opener against 14th Wisconsin and it remains a mystery to the public who will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers. Coach Les Miles is staying tight lipped, but he says Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will get a chance to play against the Badgers.

"We have guys that can play, but right now, they have not separated themselves," Miles said.

Miles says how Jennings and Harris perform during the games will determine how long they go with a two quarterback system.

"Well, right now, if there was one quarterback that gave us all the advantages to play, then at some point in time, that guy would be our starter after he determined that it was an advantage to his team to play him in all situations from start to finish.  That separation has not occurred." 
Miles also doesn't anticipate the battle for starting quarterback to be a distraction for his team. 
"I think the distraction is and can only be brought in by other people.  Because the only opinion that's worth a damn is that opinion that's derived in our building.  So that opinion will play those guys and everybody in that building will understand that's the reason why." 

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US Senate debate scheduled for October 14th

Council for A Better Louisiana is partnering with Louisiana Public Broadcasting to present a US Senate debate on October 14th.  Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican challengers Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness will all participate.

CABL President Barry Erwin says this race is hugely important for the state.
"It's also important when you look at the map across the country in the US Senate and we're just really delighted to have this opportunity to kind of help voters find out more about where the candidates stand."
The debate will take place at Centenary College in Shreveport beginning at 7PM.  It will be broadcast statewide on LPB television stations.  Erwin says there are still working on the format of the debate, but there shouldn't be a shortage of topics. 
"I think there's going to be a whole flavor of questions from things that are really local and have to do with things in the state, but also trying to understand what these candidates really feel and believe about some of these other international issues that also effect us here."
Erwin says there are several pressing issues important to the state tied to this election.  He says it's important nationally because, potentially, the balance of power in the Senate could be determined by the outcome.   

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