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More Louisiana students are graduating high school than ever before. That’s according to state Education Superintendent John White, who says this year’s graduating class maintained record gains made by the class of 2015.

“Nearly 39,000 young people graduated from high school last year. That’s more graduates than any class in the history of Louisiana,” White said, “Twenty-two thousand graduates from that class entered college.”

White says more than 3,500 more students graduated in 2016 than in 2012. He says as a state we’re moving towards greater graduation rates and higher levels of education for students who graduate from high school.

“Between 2014 and 2014 we increased nearly 3 percentage points, a tremendous gain. This year we sustained that gain with a 77 percent graduation rate,” White said.

White says 43 percent of the graduating class earned college credits or industry-based credentials, and 2,500 more graduates qualified for TOPS than the class of 2012. He says these gains are the result of the state’s work to increase the number of graduates and to increase the education levels of those grads.

“In 2012 we put in some fundamental systems requiring the ACT for all students and rewarding advanced placement and duel enrollment college course work in our system,” White said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Eight distinguished athletes will be honored Saturday night as they are inducted into the 2017 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. Hall of Fame CEO and President Ronnie Rantz says this is a very diverse class. He says some remarkable people are being honored this weekend, one being LSU’s longtime gymnastics coach.

“It is a fantastic, dynamic group. Of course, everybody loves DD Breaux, 40 years at LSU and then Calvin Borel, the jockey, three time Kentucky Derby winner.”

There were 127 individuals nominated. Rantz says former Southeastern Louisiana basketball star C.A. Core and former LSU and Nicholls State coach Ray Didier are being inducted posthumously. He adds two time first team All American at LSU in 1988 and 1989, David Toms of Monroe is one of the best golfers to come out of Louisiana and is also being inducted.

“Double digit PGA Tour champion and of course won a major in 2001. A PGA Championship, he won the Junior Amateur National Championship when he was younger.”

Rantz says baseball star from Alexandra, Juan Pierre will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame after being a leadoff hitting outfield who played 14 seasons in the majors. He also says NFL and LSU star Eddie Kennison of Lake Charles will be honored along with Ed Reed, who had a 12 year NFL career.

“But I mean he’ll be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for sure, as well as the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, so these are big time national Hall of Famers, not just state Hall of Famers.”

 
 

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Angola inmate John Floyd has been set free after spending 36 years behind bars after a U.S. District Court judge tossed his life in prison conviction. Deputy Director and attorney for the Innocence Project New Orleans says Floyd was wrongly convicted of second degree murder in 1982 for the murder of Williams Hines. He says new forensic evidence was found in the case.

“Also that the trial that he had in 1982 was unconstitutional because finger print evidence from the crime scene was not given to him by the police and prosecutors at the time.”

Davis says Floyd plans to spend his days of freedom working on a farm in the Lafayette area with a businessman he met during his time at Angola.

“But his case isn’t over because the prosecutor can still appeal this ruling to the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.”

Floyd’s case came to the attention of the Innocence Project in New Orleans in the early 2000s. Davis says Floyd’s wrongful conviction comes after he confessed to the crime. But he says Floyd has a severe mental impairment.

“Definitely a case where this happened to John because he was so vulnerable to police pressure and not understanding his rights properly.”

 
 

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The National Safety Council has launched a vehicle recall campaign to allow motorist to enter in their VIN number to determine if a there has been a manufacturer recall on the vehicle. President and CEO of the National Safety Council Deborah Hersman says Louisiana has the third highest rate of open recalls in the country.

“The campaign is called check to protect. Drivers can visit checktoprotect.org to learn more information and access a free tool to check for open recalls.”

One in four vehicles on the road in Louisiana have an open recall. Hersman says many drivers don’t understand the urgency to get a recalled vehicle fixed. She says recalls are not to be taken likely and it’s very easy to check.

“Enter in your vehicle’s VIN number or vehicle identification number, it’s a 17 digit code, you can find it on the driver’s side near the windshield or the door.”

Hersman says cars with open recalls pose an urgent and serious risk to drivers and passengers. She says the Check to Protect website will also give a motorist information on a nearby dealership to receive repairs.

“People need to recognize that all of the recall work is free. Checking the VIN number is free and getting it in to the dealer and having them make the repair, it is all free of charge.”

 
 

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The 67th Annual Ruston Peach Festival begins today at noon. Ruston Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Judy Copeland says even though the peach harvest wasn’t good this year, visitors can try a large variety of different peach flavored foods.

She says all vendors are required to have a least one item on their menu with peaches.

“You can get some peach tea, peach lemonade, some peach ice cream, some peach fitters. You name it, it’s probably here.”

Copeland says about 23,000 people come to the festival each year and it’s always a success. She says a favorite for festivalgoers is the great music concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We have some local bands playing but we always try to get a big headliner to come in, so Friday night we have The Chee-Weez, they’re coming up and they come on at 10.”

Uncle Kracker is the headliner for Saturday night. Copeland says there are some other events that take place outside the festival that bring in a big crowd.

“Like our rodeo, our bass tournament, our 5K, our tennis tournament, several other events that are happening like our arts and crafts show attract other people as well.”

 
 

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LSU advances in the College World Series following the win against Florida State last night, and now the Tigers must beat No. 1 Oregon State twice in Omaha to make the finals. LSU fell to The Beavers in embarrassing fashion on Monday, but Tiger Rag Associate Editor James Moran says Friday’s contest will be a whole new ballgame with ace Alex Lange on the mound.


"The game on Monday really went downhill because Eric Walker had to leave with a forearm injury after two innings," said Moran. "Then they had to go to some guys you frankly don't plan on pitching in a College World Series setting. But if Lange gives them a good game and they don't avalanche early then I think they have a good chance on Friday."

First pitch tomorrow is set for 2pm. Moran says Saturday will be a taller order when right-hander Caleb Gilbert gets the start.

"You're pitching a guy that hasn't really been a starter against a team that's only lost four times all year," said Moran. "Obviously it's a tough hill to climb, but LSU feels they'll get off to a better start at least."

This is the furthest the Tigers have advanced into the tournament since winning it all back in 2009. The Beavers have only lost 4 games and Moran feels LSU would be the underdog even if they just had to beat OSU once.
 
 

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The Louisiana Nursing Home Association announces 18 facilities in the state have been chosen as a recipient for the Bronze-Commitment to Quality Award. This achievement spotlights providers who have demonstrated commitment to quality care for seniors. Lisa Gardner with CommCare nursing centers says all these facilities have shown a great improvement.

“Show the ability to put a plan in place, process in place that you can duplicate and that addressed the areas that you’ve targeted.”

Gardner says this Bronze achievement points nursing homes in a direction to improve their facilities even more. She says there are three levels of commitment, bronze, silver, and gold.

“We think even though that’s a more difficult step, you have to meet higher criteria, we think that’s achievable. But of course the pinnacle is the gold.”

The 18 facilities that received the achievement are located throughout the state from Bossier City to Houma. Gardner says this shows many facilities in Louisiana are dedicated to improving the lives of our senior citizens. She says the award is not easy to receive.

“In a state where so many times we’re at the top of the bad list and the bottom of the good list, that 18 centers actually applied for this and received this award, that’s remarkable.”

 
 

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State Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson advises residents to take caution while driving today. He says 18 corridors across the southern half of the state have road closures on them because of high water. Wilson says drivers should never cross flooded roadways.

“Turn around, don’t drown because you’re always uncertain about how much water is on the road and what are the conditions under that water,” Wilson said.

Wilson encourages motorists to visit 511la.org for up to date travel information. He says over 37,000 people have visited the site in just 24 hours. He says this is the most central location for information on road closures.

“When you get to that site, you have the opportunity to choose different layers, to see any closure on the road, but more importantly where we have high water,” Wilson said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The Board of Regents has granted a license for ULM to host New York Institute of Technology’s new medical school in northeast Louisiana. ULM President Dr. Nick Bruno says this will give students throughout north Louisiana the opportunity to attend medical school right on the ULM campus.

“We’re optimistic that it will increase our undergraduate population particularly in the health science field that is our major strength,” Bruno said.

Bruno says this is an incredible opportunity that’s been about two years in the making. He says the targeted timeline for enrolling students is fall of 2019. He says it’s exciting to host a medical school at the only publicly funded pharmacy school in the state.

“The addition of a medical school along with our other 11 health sciences begins to define ULM as a health science institution in northeast Louisiana,” Bruno said, “so we’re extremely excited, as is the community.”

Bruno says this new med school could also help to improve the health of the community, which is one of the poorest regions in the country. He adds the economic impact could also be quite significant. He says the Stubbs Hall building on campus could be the future home of the medical school.

“There’s studies being conducted now whether that building can be fully renovated, partially renovated, or demolished and rebuilt new for the med school,” Bruno said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Tropical Storm Cindy has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but heavy rains continue around the state. State Climatologist Barry Keim says Cindy made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border around 3 o’clock this morning. He says the system is inland and weakening, but it’s still a rainfall threat to Louisiana.

“This rainfall threat is going to remain in place pretty much throughout the day today. We can expect breezy conditions across the state for the rest of the day with periods of heavy rainfall, some of which could be extraordinarily heavy and create some flash flooding,” Keim said.

Keim says the system is inland now and weakening, but we still need to be vigilant. He says northwest Louisiana is likely to get the heaviest rains with potential for up to five inches. He says we aren’t out of the woods yet.

“The storm is clearly winding down. It’s not over with yet. So hang in there for the rest of today through tonight, especially in north Louisiana where this could linger into tonight and even early tomorrow morning,” Keim said.

Flash flood watches remain in effect for much of the state through this evening. Keim says strong winds could also cause problems in some areas.

“The breezy conditions can take down some trees and power lines, and there could be some power outages that still plague the state,” Keim said, “I don’t see it as being widespread, but there certainly could be some isolated areas with complications because of the wind.”

 
 
 
 
 

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Forecasters warn residents to be alert as Tropical Storm Cindy treks across the state today. Stephen Carboni with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles says Cindy still carries the risk of life-threatening flash flooding.

“Southwest Louisiana, we’re looking somewhere in the neighborhood of three to six inches, but depending on where these rain bands set up, those amounts could easily increase up to 8 or 10,” Carboni said.

Carboni says tropical storm force winds will also be a concern. The winds can down tree limbs and power lines, and he warns the public to be aware of that possibility.

“We’ll see those tropical storm force winds start to spread inland, sustained winds probably in the 35 to 45 mph range, and there could be some higher gusts associated with that,” Carboni said.

Alek Krautman with the National Weather Service in New Orleans says the heaviest rains will be on the eastern side of the storm. He says three to 6 inches is possible across the state, with some areas receiving 12 inches or more.

“Extreme southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast we think will be getting the most rain, but there will be another maximum from the thunderstorms close to the center of Cindy,” Krautman said.

Krautman says along with the strong winds and heavy rains, there’s also an increased risk on the roadways. He advises drivers to take caution if you have to get out in the storm.

“With these heavy tropical downpours, we just encourage folks to be aware of the greatly reduced visibility inside these downpours. If you’re on the road, slow down and drive with extreme caution,” Krautman said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A West Monroe man is facing a murder charge after human remains were found in western Ouachita Parish. Glenn Springfield with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office says the homicide appears to be three years old.

“The investigation led us to an abandoned residence in western Ouachita Parish, where human remains were found. Investigators are currently working to recover the remains and identify the victim in this case,” Springfield said.

Springfield says 24-year-old Titus Harris has been booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center on one count of second degree murder. He says they aren’t releasing any more details about the victim until the identity can be confirmed, which can be difficult given the remains are years old.

“It’s a scientific process and a very detailed process, but it can be determined. There’s still DNA and other things that can be determined as to the appropriate identity. It just takes time,” Springfield said.

Springfield says more arrests are possible as the investigation is ongoing.

 
 
 
 
 

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With Tropical Storm Cindy moving inland, the Louisiana National Guard wants residents to know they are ready if assistance is needed. Major General Glenn Curtis with the Louisiana National Guard says they have pre-staged 100 high water vehicles and 33 boats throughout the southern and central regions of the state. He says they have additional assets available if needed.

“We probably have at least 200 more high water vehicles and about 50 more boats we could put into missions if and when they are needed. We currently have 4 helicopters on standby.”

20 parishes had declared a state of emergency as of Tuesday and it’s expected more will follow. Curtis says they are working closely with parish governments.

“I will tell you that we have talked to all of the parishes that are potentially affected and making sure that we understand what the local leadership may need us to do if and when the time comes.”

Curtis says the National Guard has staged vehicles all along with I-10 and I-12 corridors beginning in the Lake Charles area.

“We just wanted some forward so when the immediate request comes we can move quickly to save lives and get them out of harm’s way.”

 
 

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Tropical Storm Cindy has weakened a bit as of late this morning, but rain still remains a major threat. The system is expected to make landfall on the western Louisiana coast early tomorrow morning. That’s according to State Climatologist Barry Keim, who says Cindy has sustained winds at 50 mph, and will bring in a lot of wet weather.

“Rain really is the big threat from this storm, as three to five additional inches are possible across parts of Louisiana over the next couple of days. This includes all of southern Louisiana and in addition western Louisiana all the way up to Shreveport,” Keim said.

Keim says there’s also potential for isolated tornadoes from Cindy. He says the system is ingesting some dry are, which is disrupting the rain bands a little bit, but not enough to reduce the threat.

“There’s still a lot of rain associated with this storm, and with all this saturated ground we have all across Louisiana all the way to the panhandle of Florida, you put another three to five inches on top of that, there’s going to be some flooding issues,” Keim said.

Keim advises the public to be prepared because there’s a lot of storm still to come. He says Cindy should finally push out of the state late Thursday night.

“Then we’re just coping with the aftermath of having the rivers subside, but as far as the rain goes, it should all be over with by tomorrow evening,” Keim said, “and then we just have to cope with the response from the rivers.”

 
Gov. John Bel Edwards said today it’s too early to call for evacuations, but he’s encouraging residents to be prepared for flooding and high winds. The governor issued an emergency disaster declaration early Wednesday in advance of the storm. Tornado watches remain in effect for most of the southern half of the state through 7pm. 
 
 
 

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The FBI announced at a briefing this morning, James Hodgkinson, the man who allegedly shot Congressman Steve Scalise at a baseball practice last week, has no ties to terrorism. Hodgkinson was shot by Capitol Police Officers and later died at a Washington D.C. hospital. FBI Special Agent Tim Slater says the shooter acted alone and has a history of anger problems.

“While the shooter was not known to have a history of diagnosed mental illness, he was known to have an anger management problem.”

Slater says Hodgkinson had a storage unit in the area where investigators found ammunition, and that the man visited the spot on the morning of the shooting. He says they found a piece of paper on the shooter that contained the names of six Republican members of Congress, and they also know he had a grudge against the GOP.

“The shooter made numerous posts on his social media accounts, espousing anti-Republican views, however, those posts appear to be first amendment protected rights.”

Congressman Steve Scalise continues to make good progress. He is now listed in fair condition and is beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation. Slater says their investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, as they aren’t sure exactly how the man knew practice was taking place that day.

“He did not search the actual events on the internet, the baseball game itself or the practices, so we will determine that as the investigation unfolds.”

 
 

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Southwest Louisiana residents are gearing up for Tropical Storm Cindy to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border tomorrow. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso says they’ve moved boats and high water vehicles to both sides of the river in preparation for the storm. He says they’re as prepared as they can be.

 

“Unfortunately we’ve had several storms in the last 10 years that we’ve become very proactive. We’ve planned and planned and planned, and we’ve actually had to put our plans in action,” Mancuso said, “We know what works and what doesn’t work. So I think we’re ready.”

Mancuso says they’ve been urging residents to get ready for this storm. Schools and state offices are closing early today in an effort to keep people off the roadways. He says they don’t expect this weather event to last long, maybe 24 hours, but it’s important to be prepared just in case.

“Hopefully everybody’s got some extra water and food in the event we have some power outages. I suspect we’ll have limited power outages, and they just need to be prepared for that,” Mancuso said.

Mancuso says deputies will be on standby to assist resident if needed. He says everyone should be prepared for this kind of weather throughout hurricane season. He says even if this storm isn’t as destructive as it could be, more storms could hit as the season progresses.

“They need to be better prepared for anything more significant than what we’re dealing with. It’s not time to do it right before it happens. The time to do it is when hurricane season starts and be prepared for the whole season,” Mancuso said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board along with Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser crowned the first woman, Chef Bonnie Breaux, the queen of Louisiana Seafood. After competing against 11 contestants, Breaux, of St. Martinville, took the title at the 10th annual Seafood Cook-Off in Lafayette.

Chef Cory Bahr of Monroe, who is currently a contestant on Food Network Star, made the big announcement.

Breaux is from the St. John Restaurant and her winning dish was a crackling crusted black drum with fennel marmalade, Abita Amber potatoes and jumbo lump crabmeat. She says she can’t believe she won this tough competition.

“I am in total shock. I competed against some amazing chefs and I am just so thrilled to have this title, I appreciate it.”

The Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off was moved from New Orleans this year to the Cajundome in Lafayette in order to help their struggling economy. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser,

“It’s great, at a time where the oil industry is really hurting this area of the state, this is a great opportunity for us to lift up the Lafayette area with tourism numbers.”

 
(photo courtesy of the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off)  
 
 
 

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Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to make landfall tomorrow near the Texas-Louisiana border. Stephen Carboni with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles says southwest Louisiana can expect strong winds, as tropical storm winds will spread into the area today.

“There’s already plenty of observations offshore showing frequent gusts to and in excess of tropical storm force,” Carboni said, “and so tropical storm force winds will be gradually spreading westward toward southwest Louisiana.”

Carboni says forecasts are calling for sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph, and even higher along the coast. Rainfall totals are expected to reach two to four inches in southwest Louisiana, but wind damage will be a bigger concern.

“Gusts getting up perhaps as high as 50 to 60 mph, especially along the coast. Those types of winds, there’s definitely capable of causing some power outages, tree limbs down,” Carboni said.

Rain will be more of a problem in the southeastern portion of the state. Alek Krautman with the National Weather Service in New Orleans says forecasters expect periods of very heavy rainfall to last until Thursday.

“That will result in area wide rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches with the potential of 10 to 15 inches or more in some communities,” Krautman said.

Krautman says what’s unique about this storm is that it has lot of tropical moisture on the eastern side. He says although the center of the storm will move westward, the eastern side of the state will get most of the rain.

“The heaviest rainfall will be 200 to 300 miles east of that center across southeast Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and the Alabama Gulf Coast,” Krautman said.

 
 
 
 
 

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After the shootout on members of congress at a Virginia ball park, a bill is expected to be filed that would allow congressmen to carry concealed weapons. Richland Parish Congressman Ralph Abraham says he will the proposed law by his colleague Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. He says while it’s important to protect members of congress, he also wants to keep bystanders safe.

“My concern is for my staff and certainly those that are around me at a particular event, the people that have come to see me. I’m not as concerned for myself,” Abraham said.

Abraham says lawmakers are well protected by Capitol Police in on Capitol Hill, but not as much elsewhere. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise thankfully had his security detail with him the morning of the shooting, but other members of congress do not have such protection. Abraham says that’s why federal lawmakers should be able to protect themselves.

“Once we get off campus per se and we move from the Hill to other events, there simply are not enough Capitol Police to watch every one of us,” Abraham said.

Abraham says as a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, he’s all for people having guns and using them properly. But not all congressman have the experience the north Louisiana lawmaker does. He says it’s important to make sure that those who do carry know how to do so safely.

“I would certainly advise anybody that has a concealed carry permit to make sure they undergo a good concealed carry course,” Abraham said.

 
 
 
 
 

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There is a new law that allows the state Office of Tourism to sell naming rights or grant leases for state parks to add new attractions. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser says the state parks have always been a burden on taxpayers that never brought in any money.

But he says this new law should change that and allow them to upgrade park attractions.

“We can’t keep going back to the taxpayers for our state parks and museums. This will allow us to use our properties to make money, putting things like zip lines in state parks or horseback riding,” Nungesser said.

Nungesser says they’ll ensure that whatever businesses they bring in to these partnerships does not compete with local business. He says they’re thrilled at all the possibilities for new attractions at Louisiana state parks.

“We’re getting all kinds of ideas from canoe rentals to horseback riding, zip lines. There’s really a tremendous amount of opportunities, and we’re just excited about all the opportunities for us,” Nungesser said.

The bill by Houma Representative Norby Chabert was recently signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. Nungesser says companies are already expressing interest in partnering with state parks. He says they’re already drawing up proposals for some of the plans.

“We’ve got a gentleman at Bogue Chitto already clearing trails as we work out an agreement with him to bring his horseback operation into that state park,” Nungesser said.

 
 
 
 
 

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