Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, September 17, 2012

News alert: LSU evacuated due to bomb threat

LSU has issued an emergency alert calling on the Baton Rouge campus to be evacuated due to a bomb threat. "A bomb threat has been reported on the LSU campus. Please evacuate as calmly and quickly as possible. Check lsu.edu for updates,” the message reads. No specific location has been identified, LSU says, and all buildings on campus are being evacuated. Anyone with information is being asked to contact LSU police at 578-3231. Read Daily Report PM for additional coverage.

Louisiana ranked No. 32 for tech employment in U.S.

With 3,815 tech sector businesses employing 40,930 people across the state, Louisiana ranks 32nd in the nation for tech employment and No. 40 for average annual income among tech sector workers. That's according to the TechAmerica 2011 CyberStates Report, which looks at tech sector employment across the country by state. According to the report, the average tech job pays about 54% better in Louisiana than all other jobs—$61,852 annual versus $40,123. Total tech payroll in the state totals $2.7 billion. Not surprisingly, California leads the nation when it comes to both total tech jobs and highest average pay. The telecom industry in Texas has that state ranked second in the country for total tech jobs. Check out an interactive map with detailed info on tech jobs in each state here.

NASA defends deal with N.O. film studio

NASA's deal with a New Orleans film studio does not undercut other Louisiana studios, says Robert Champion, deputy director of NASA's Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans. Big Easy Studios has been renting space at Michoud, which a Baton Rouge studio head says is unfair to studios that built and own their facilities and have higher overhead. Champion says NASA works with state and regional economic development agencies to ensure that the rates the agency charges to outside entities do not underprice the regional market. Jerry Lathan, a partner with Big Easy Studios, says it chases major productions that aren't even considering Louisiana otherwise, and therefore does not compete directly with facilities such as Raleigh Studios Baton Rouge at the Celtic Media Centre. Lathan says Big Easy's ability to attract large productions benefits the entire state. "On a per-square-foot basis, our prices are higher," Lathan says. Patrick Mulhearn, director of studio operations at Celtic, which also has hosted big-budget movies, claims he has heard that Big Easy charges lower rates than he can. "The taxpayers didn't fund [Michoud] to make movies," he says. "I know that the O'Connors never would have built this facility if they knew they were going to have to compete with NASA." To see the agreement between Big Easy and Michoud, click here; to see NASA's rules about "Space Act" agreements, click here. —David Jacobs

La. continues to shed state government jobs

A total of 173 state employees have been laid off in the first two months of the fiscal year that started July 1. Lindsay Ruiz de Chavez, with the state Department of Civil Service, tells The Times-Picayune that the latest figures show that from July 1, 2008, to Aug. 31 of this year, 2,373 jobs have been abolished. During the first two months of the present fiscal year, 448 job positions were abolished, including positions that were vacant. The largest number of jobs lost came at Forcht-Wade Correctional Center near Shreveport, where 158 positions were abolished and 76 individuals were laid off. The state has more than 51,000 employees on the payroll under Civil Service and about 33,000 employees outside of the system.

Louisiana named among 10 worst states for retirees

A relatively high crime rate, low average life expectancy and high percentage of retirees living below the poverty threshold have caused Louisiana to land on a list of the 10 worst states in which a person could choose to spend their golden years. Bankrate.com, a Web-based aggregator of financial rate information, has compiled the list, which you can check out in its entirety here. The rate of property and violent crimes per 100,000 people in Louisiana is 4,197, according to the list, while average life expectancy is 75.4 years and 11.5% of retirees live below the poverty line. Judging by those numbers alone, perhaps Louisiana does look like a dangerous and harsh place to spend your retirement. But everyone knows numbers don't tell the whole story, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has begun a push to tell retirees the rest of the story. Last week, while in Texas, Dardenne began promoting the state's new "Retire Louisiana Style" campaign, which was launched this month. Depending on which metrics are used, Louisiana often finds itself on lists of both the best and worst states in which to retire. For example, the state was also this month ranked No. 8 on a list of the 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees by Kiplinger. "For retirees, every day is like Mardi Gras in Louisiana," the list says.

Sanford pins Supreme Court hopes on reaching independent voters

Baton Rouge attorney Jeffry Sanford knows he's a long-shot candidate in the hotly contested race for the 5th District Louisiana Supreme Court seat, which includes a candidate field of six sitting judges and prominent local lawyer Mary Olive Pierson. Sanford has never held an elected seat—or even run for one—and he's the only independent in the race. "I think it gives me a competitive advantage due to the fact that one-third of voters in Louisiana are independents who are tired of the partisan politics," says Sanford, who cut ties with the Republican party in 1996 and has been an independent ever since. Sanford says he'll primarily self-fund his campaign, but that the grassroots effort is beginning to garner some donations, albeit very small ones. "I just got one of my first campaign contributions here, in the amount of $35, and there's another one around here for $15," Sanford says. "That's the way it's going to happen for me. It's going to be hard, certainly, with so many people running and all the money that's going to be spent. But I'm not worried about money, because when you tell the truth, people like it and they're going to support it." Sanford is a Baton Rouge native, a graduate of University High School at LSU, as well as LSU, and has been principal attorney at Sanford & Associates law firm since 1996. Learn more about Sanford at his campaign's website here. —Steve Sanoski

Emanuel to striking Chicago teachers: See you in court

The Chicago teachers strike may not end the way the city's public school educators want it to, The Los Angeles Times reports. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Sunday evening to sue the union and force what he called an illegal strike to end immediately. "I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," the mayor's office says. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children." Following more than two hours of reportedly contentious deliberation on Sunday afternoon, 800 teachers union delegates voted against ending the strike after negotiators from the district and the union had reached a tentative deal. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says the delegates were "not happy" with the agreement and that "they'd like for it to be a lot better for us than it is." Jewish delegates, anticipating the arrival at sundown of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, also requested more time to examine the proposed three-year contract. Union officials pushed the next delegates meeting back to Tuesday, meaning teachers wouldn't be back in class until Wednesday at the earliest. Emanuel's office says it has told the city's legal counsel to work with the school district's attorneys to file an injunction in court to return students to their classrooms "immediately."

Today's poll question: Do you think teachers, during difficult collective contract negotiations, should remain in the classroom or go out on strike?

News roundup: Appliance and electronics retailer h.h.gregg opening B.R. store … N.O. firm buys shallow-water Gulf assets for $550M … Apple: iPhone 5 preorders top 2M in 24 hours

Baton Rouge bound: Indianapolis-based appliance and electronics leader h.h.gregg announced this morning that it will open a store in the Mall of Louisiana at an undetermined date this fall. The retailer says it is beginning to take applications online to fill 60 jobs at the Baton Rouge store, its first in the city and third in the state. Learn more at the store's website here. h.h.gregg operates 223 stores in 20 states.

Double down: EPL Oil & Gas Inc., a New Orleans-based independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company, is buying some shallow-water Gulf of Mexico assets from Hilcorp Energy GOM Holdings LLC for $550 million. The properties in the deal include three fields that Houston-based Hilcorp had acquired from Chevron Corp. on the Central Gulf of Mexico shelf in the vicinity of EPL's existing core field areas. EPL President and CEO Gary Hanna says the buyout nearly doubles the company's proved reserves to about 74 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Off the hook: Apple reports initial iPhone 5 preorders topped 2 million in 24 hours—more than double the amount of preorders it had for the iPhone 4S. The company says because demand exceeds initial supply, some preorders will be delivered in October, although most will be delivered Friday. Also this morning, AT&T reports having set a sales record for the iPhone 5, with customers ordering more of them than any previous iPhone model on the first day of preorders and over the weekend. The Associated Press has the full story here.

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