Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, March 16, 2012

EBR schedules superintendent interviews as one finalist withdraws

H. Allen Smith, executive director of the Summit Schools Network in Denver, has withdrawn from consideration to be the next superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, leaving two finalists to be interviewed next week. The school board will hold workshops with Maria Pitre-Martin, director of K-12 curriculum and instruction for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Bernard Taylor, superintendent of schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., will be interviewed Wednesday, also at 5 p.m. Both workshops will take place at the Instructional Resource Center, 1022 S. Foster Dr. The public is encouraged to attend the interviews, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates. A special board meeting will be held Thursday, at which a single finalist is expected to be announced, a system spokesman says.

More LSU medical grads to stay in La. for residency training

Nearly two-thirds of LSU Health Science Center graduates participating in the National Resident Match Program—108 of 171, or 63%—are choosing to remain in Louisiana to complete their training. That's up from 60% a year ago, according to the LSUHSC. Locally, 36 of 37 match program slots at Earl K. Long Medical Center have been filled, and it's possible the last spot will also be filled before residency programs begin on July 1. The National Resident Matching Program is the primary system matching applicants to residency programs with available positions at teaching hospitals and academic health centers across the country. All graduating medical students in the U.S. found out at the same time today where they will spend their years of residency training. "We're proud to continue providing the majority of new physicians for our state and of the fact that so many of our graduates will stay on and practice here," says Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the School of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, in a prepared statement.

B.R. firm's renovation of historic Brusly church named best in U.S.

An extensive renovation of the 104-year-old St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Brusly has earned Baton Rouge-based Faulk and Meek General Contractors the 2012 Alliant Build America Award for the country's best renovation project under $10 million. Billed as the "Oscars of the construction industry," the Alliant awards annually recognize the nation's most significant construction projects. Presented by the Associated General Contractors of America, the awards honored just 15 firms this year. "The Faulk and Meek team carefully demolished and restored the church to its original appearance, building new sacristies, a vestibule, gathering areas, choir loft, stained glass, a new bridal annex, and a 90-foot tall steeple," AGCA says. "Because the church was originally constructed without the modern techniques of today, the project required constant collaboration with architects and structural engineers, and careful scheduling. Despite several unanticipated construction challenges, the project was completed two months ahead of schedule, allowing the congregation to celebrate the Lenten season in the newly renovated church." You can check out photos of the renovated church at the firm's website here. Cajun Constructors and the Louisiana chapter of AGCA also received Alliant Build America Awards for 2012. Read about those honors in a Daily Report story here.

Lease deal on N.O. Arena: A signal of Hornets' commitment to stay?

Gov. Bobby Jindal says the state and the Hornets have reached an agreement on a 10-year lease extension at the New Orleans Arena. The governor announced the new deal, which will run through 2024, earlier today. The deal requires legislative approval of a bond issue that will help fund about $50 million in arena improvements that should give the Hornets more revenue streams. The new lease would not require any new taxes. The extension was done in conjunction with the NBA's efforts to find a new owner for the team, which is currently owned by the league. A new owner would be bound to the new lease. NBA Commissioner David Stern says in a news release that the "announcement is an important and necessary step toward reaching an agreement with a new owner." The hope is that a long-term lease and new ownership will stabilize a franchise that has at times been on shaky ground since moving to Louisiana from Charlotte in 2002. The Hornets also spent two full seasons in Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005. The new lease does not have such an escape clause, which is meant to send a message to fans in Louisiana that the new ownership is committed to the region long-term. Read the full story from The Associated Press here.

'225': Louisiana's big loser

It's hard to imagine a less auspicious time and place to implement a new diet and fitness plan than south Louisiana during the holidays. But starting with the first turducken and running just past the last slice of king cake, popular food blogger and occasional 225 contributor Jay Ducote did just that. And he documented every step of his culinary and physical journey with friend and filmmaker Tommy Talley. Ducote, already known for his Bite and Booze website, will share his quest to slim down and shape up without drastic changes to the Louisiana lifestyle he loves through a series of web-based video episodes called I'm Not Trying to Be an Underwear Model. The series is set to launch this month with 15 four- to five-minute segments, available on YouTube and easily shareable through social media. "We're not trying to recreate The Biggest Loser," says Ducote, even though Talley actually worked behind the camera on seasons one and two of the top-rated reality show. The as-yet-untitled web series is the first time to direct for Talley, who recently returned to Baton Rouge after six years spent working in Los Angeles. The two men started kicking their quest idea around last summer, and the project began in earnest in early December. The pair racked up some 500 hours of footage. "It's so much easier shooting him than shooting other people," says Talley. "Jay is so energetic in front of the camera." Read the full feature by Maury Hawking in this month's issue of 225 here.

Army Corps reviews making breach sites landmarks

The head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says a panel of historians will study whether two of the main levee breaches that led to the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina should become national historic landmarks. In a letter to state officials released earlier today, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary of civil works, said corps historians would take a look at a proposal to get the 17th Street Canal and Lower 9th Ward breaches placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Darcy says she would report on the panel's recommendations by the end of March. The effort to get the sites on the historic register has been led by Levees.Org, a New Orleans group that formed after Katrina to push for change at the corps.

News roundup: Initial jobless claims down in Louisiana … La. loses 6 oil, gas rigs in weekly U.S. count … States consider whether Facebook is part of a person's estate

Work it: First-time claims for jobless benefits fell 6.2% in Louisiana last week. The Louisiana Workforce Commission reports 3,097 initial claims from the newly jobless for the week ending March 10. That's a drop from 3,302 the previous week. The four-week moving average of claims—considered a less volatile measure of jobless claims—dropped to 3,018 from 3,029. For the comparable week ending March 12, 2011, Louisiana recorded 3,231 initial claims. Last week, those still looking for work filed for an additional 36,518 weeks of benefits—down from 37,773 the previous week. For the comparable week of 2011, the state received claims for an additional 44,607 weeks of payments.

Up and down: The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States is up by 11 this week to 1,984, but Louisiana lost six rigs on the week. Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. reports that 1,317 rigs were exploring for oil and 663 for natural gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago this week Baker Hughes reported 1,720 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Oklahoma gained 12, Colorado four, and Alaska and North Dakota one each. Texas dropped three, Arkansas two, and Wyoming one. California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were unchanged. The rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.

The afterlife: What happens to your Facebook page after you die? Lawmakers and attorneys in at least two states are considering proposals that would require social networks to let family members access the account of a deceased person. The issue is growing increasingly important as people record more thoughts and experiences online and more disputes break out over that material. Oklahoma was the first state to take action, passing a law last year. Now Nebraska and Oregon are considering similar measures. Facebook already has a system to report deaths. When the site learns that a member has died, it puts that person's account in a memorialized state. But the legislation would go beyond that practice by making the site contents part of a person's digital estate.

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