News alert: Stanford convicted on 13 of 14 counts
A Houston jury has convicted Texas financier R. Allen Stanford on all but one of the charges he faced for allegedly bilking investors out of more than $7 billion in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history. The federal jurors found Stanford guilty on 13 of 14 counts he faced. They found Stanford not guilty on one count of wire fraud. The 61-year-old Stanford looked down when the verdict was read. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the most serious charges but could be imprisoned for much longer if a judge orders his sentences be served consecutively. Prosecutors say Stanford orchestrated a 20-year scheme that took billions through the sale of certificates of deposit from his Caribbean bank.
EBR schools getting three new superintendent candidates
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board will get the names of three new hopefuls for the superintendent job later this week, according to board President Barbara Freiberg. Speaking this morning on The Jim Engster Show on WRKF-FM, Freiberg said the board's consultant, Gary Solomon, is vetting the three additional candidates and will forward their names to the board by Friday. Freiberg also said the board learned yesterday that all those who interviewed for the position last month are eligible to keep their names in the hat for the parish's top education job. A contentious search process ended inconclusively last month after Samuel King—superintendent of Rockdale County (Ga.) Public Schools—withdrew his name from consideration shortly after being chosen as the lone finalist by a sharply divided board. Monday's decision clears the way for Herman Brister to continue his quest for the job, if he is so inclined. The system's chief academic officer was considered the insider favorite for the position last time around but did not get the votes from the board. "We all agree Dr. Brister is an excellent educator," Freiberg said, "but the issue is, do we believe someone can make real change who is so closely tied to the system and the central office?" Carlos Sam was chosen Feb. 16 as interim superintendent while the board searches for a permanent replacement for John Dilworth, who left the job on March 1. —Stephanie Riegel
Classroom 'creationism' law under fire again
There's a renewed movement afoot to repeal what is widely viewed as Louisiana's creationism law. The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 allows teachers to help students "understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner," using textbooks and "other instructional materials." But critics consider it a backdoor delivery of creationism and other religious beliefs into high school biology classes by allowing teachers to introduce materials questioning the validity of scientific tenets widely accepted within the mainstream science community, including evolution and climate change. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, offers up Senate Bill 374, which would effectively kill the law as soon as the governor signs it. A similar bill died last year in committee, but this time around the measure is being supported by some heavy-hitters in the scientific community. Rice University freshman Zack Kopplin, who last year was a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High, is still the driving force behind the movement and now has more than 70 Nobel laureates in the sciences signed on to the repeal effort. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau immortalized the debate last year in Doonesbury, with a Louisiana high school teacher telling his students they "are entitled to learn an alternative theory supported by no scientific evidence whatsoever." "This year, the governor has asked the Louisiana legislature to focus on education," Peterson says. "If this legislative session is truly about improving Louisiana's education system, then the first place to start is to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act." Read Peterson's bill here. —Penny Font
Today's poll question: Do you think creationism should be taught in public schools alongside evolution?
Executive spotlight: Jason Jacobs
RenderQuick was born from company owner Jason Jacobs' teenage obsession with computer-generated modeling and animation. Since 2003, the company has enabled clients to visualize their plans through 3D renderings. "Designers can sell their ideas. Developers can pre-sell their properties. Obviously, they can do these things without 3D, but not nearly as efficiently or effectively," says Jacobs. "Good 3D work is a necessity these days." The Central native says he would cast Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) or Jason Bateman to play him in a movie "because I look similar to both of those fellas." Jacobs says Chris Hemsworth (of Thor fame) could probably pull it off, too, "but he'd have to bulk up a bit to play me." Read the full Q&A here. Here's a sample:
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
"The greatest personal obstacle that I overcame was my inherent moral and ethical corruption. But really, it wasn't me who overcame it. It was God, who by His mercy and grace changed me from the terrible person I once was into who I am today—a dude who wants to make God happy in all that I do. If you want to hear more about that, contact me!"
Woman's Hospital buys physician offices
For just less than $1.6 million, Woman's Hospital has purchased a physician office at 8425 Cumberland Place currently occupied by Associates in Plastic Surgery. Hospital spokeswoman Amiee Goforth says Woman's plans to continue leasing the property to the current occupants, who also practice at Woman's. "Woman's owns several properties in the Connells Village development that we lease to physicians who practice at Woman's, and this is just another example of that," Goforth says. The sale was recorded March 1. The buyer is the Woman's Hospital Foundation, and the seller is TGR Partnership, whose agents are listed as Drs. Michael Teague, John Dean and Ann Reilley—all practicing physicians at Associates in Plastic Surgery. The sale price was $1,591,250. The office is located next to the current Women's Hospital site on Airline Highway, but the hospital is about 13 weeks away from moving to new facilities further south on Airline Highway, at the Pecue Lane intersection. —Steve Sanoski
Good Growth Awards Gala to include people's choice award
For the first time, the Baton Rouge Growth Coalition is letting the public have a say in the group's annual Good Growth Awards Gala, taking placing Thursday at the Renaissance Hotel. A People's Choice award will go to one of four recent developments that "has had, or will have, the biggest positive impact on the quality of life in our community," as voted on by the public. The four up for the award are gala host, Renaissance Hotel, as well as Perkins Rowe, BREC's Liberty Lagoon Waterpark and the North Boulevard Town Square. You can cast your vote here. The winner will be announced with the rest of this year's honorees at Thursday's gala, which begins at 6 p.m. The Good Growth Awards event annually recognizes and honors professionals in the development profession who are "raising the bar" of development in the Baton Rouge area. This year's gala theme is "Back in the Black." More info, as well as lists of previous winners, is available here.
Nominations for Women in Business awards now open
Do you know someone in the community who deserves to be honored with a Business Report Influential Women in Business award? Nominations for the 2012 awards opened this morning, and you can make yours here. Nominations will be accepted through 5 p.m. Friday, April 6. Winners will be honored at a June 5 luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and will be profiled in the May 29 issue of Business Report. Additional details and ticket info for the June 5 luncheon will be announced as the event nears.
News roundup: Donelon warns of possible insurance scam … Zehnder Communications wins international Telly Award … Isom to try out for LSU Tigers football team
A brand-new gimmick every day: Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon is warning licensed insurance producers of an alleged scam he is currently investigating that involves possible fraudulent insurance covering habitation risks including homeowners associations, hotels, condominium developments and apartment buildings. According to Donelon, possible invalid coverage, binders and or/policies have been placed through an unlicensed individual named Michael A. "Mike" Ward of Illinois and his related entity, JRSO Inc. Donelon is asking asked any producer who's been in business with or has been contacted by Ward or JRSO Inc. to report it to his office by calling 800-259-5300 or filing a complaint online here.
Getting the word out: Zehnder Communications has been honored with an international bronze Telly Award in the education category for a promotional video the agency produced for the Young Leaders' Academy of Baton Rouge. Zehnder's five-minute video, which was made pro bono, tells the academy's story featuring students, alumni and staff. Presented by the New York-based Telly Awards organization, the Tellys annually honor the best local, regional and cable-television commercials and programs, as well as the best video and film productions. Each year, judges consider more than 13,000 entries from 50 states and five continents. Less than 10% of entries win top honors. Check out the video here. Zehnder has offices in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Nashville.
Breaking barriers: LSU women's soccer senior goalkeeper Mo Isom will get her chance today to see if she has what it takes to join the Tigers' football team, WDSU-TV reports. Isom, who is six feet tall, worked out with the football team in September, practicing kickoffs and field goals. Isom would still have one year of eligibility should she be selected for the football team. In 2003, Katie Hnida became the first woman to kick for an NCAA Division I-A football team, participating in one regular season game as part of the University of New Mexico program. Ashley Martin was the first woman to kick in the lower-level I-AA division, playing for Jacksonville State University in 2001. Isom was recently included in the 225 people to watch in 2012 feature. Check it out here.