Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, May 10, 2012

Martin named lone finalist to oversee Colorado State University System

The Colorado State University's governing board is beginning negotiations with LSU Chancellor Mike Martin after naming him as the lone finalist for a job overseeing the Colorado State University System. In an email to LSU staff, faculty and students, Martin notes he has not been made a formal offer but will carefully consider one to be chancellor of the three-campus system. "My single criteria for deciding what to do at this stage of my professional life is this: Where do I have the best chance of making a positive difference?" he says in the statement, which you can read in its entirety here. In a news release announcing Martin as their finalist choice, Colorado State University governing board members called him a visionary and proven leader who can build strong relationships with civic leaders, lawmakers and businessmen. Martin was recommended to the board by an 11-member committee after an eight-month search. See the board's complete comments on Martin at the CSU website here. The current chancellor of the Colorado State University system, Joe Blake, is retiring from the position to which he was named in May 2009. If Martin is on his way out, it would be LSU's second high-profile departure within a month. The LSU Board of Supervisors fired system President John Lombardi in April after criticism that he didn't work well with campus leaders or state lawmakers. Martin, 65, a former president of New Mexico State University, has a year remaining on his LSU contract. Since he was hired in 2008, he has been charged with leading a university that has faced repeated budget cuts in recent years—with more slashing on the horizon.

Louisiana House debates $25B budget for next year

Louisiana House members disagreed today over whether they should use nearly $270 million in one-time money to piece together next year's budget or instead make more deep cuts to public colleges and health care programs. The $25 billion spending plans under discussion would pay for agency operating expenses and programs in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. At issue is how much one-time cash legislators want to patch into the budget to pay for continuing services. Conservative Republicans say the dollars create false expectations in state agencies, paying for services that the state won't be able to afford year after year. Other lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration say stripping the money would force harmful cuts to critical services. On the chopping block and most vulnerable to further reductions are health care services and public college programs. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, a Jindal ally who handles the budget bills, is urging the House to keep the one-time cash in the spending plans, saying it's the right thing to do for the citizens of the state. He disagrees with suggestions it is fiscally irresponsible to use the money, and says when the economy begins to improve, state income tax revenue will pick up. He equated the use of one-time money to tapping into a savings account to continue paying for household bills when a family's income drops. Read the full story by The Associated Press here.

B.R. startup's solution to nutria problem: Make dog treats

A lot of seemingly wacky ideas have been bandied about through the years to get Louisiana's nutria problem under control, but this one may take the cake—or biscuit, rather: Turn them into dog treats. A new Baton Rouge-based company called Marsh Dog says its new "Louisiana-made Nutria biscuits provide dog owners a healthy alternative that not only tastes good, but helps protect Louisiana's coastal wetlands." The company and the dog treats are the brainchild of Baton Rouge attorney Hansel Harlan and his sister, Veni Harlan, a graphic designer. After securing a grant from The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, the company was born. Marsh Dog's first product, Barataria Bites, has just hit the shelves at three Baton Rouge stores: Greco's Pet Supply, Neighborhood Pet Market and All Pets Hospital. The company says the Barataria Bites—named after the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary, which is the fastest disappearing land mass in the world and the source of the "high-quality nutria meat" used in the biscuits—will enter other markets soon. The dog treats are made, baked and packaged in Baton Rouge. "Marsh Dog supports local farmers by using Louisiana products, such as brown rice and sweet potatoes, in its biscuits," the company says in a news release. "The biscuits contain no corn, wheat, soy, chemicals, artificial colorings or preservatives, or other additives, and are packaged in recyclable bags." Get full details on Marsh Dog and its nutria biscuits at the company's website here.

Nalco, Jindal outline expansion of polymer facility in Garyville

Nalco Company, an Illinois-based global supplier of water treatment and process improvement services, today detailed plans on a dry polymer production facility under construction at its Garyville plant in St. John the Baptist Parish. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined company officials to discuss the economic impact of the expansion, on which Nalco plans to invest $18.7 million. The new 300,000-square-foot facility will produce dry polymers, which are used to remove contaminants from wastewater, increase production efficiency in the paper industry, and recover minerals in the mining industry. Construction began in October, and the dry polymer production plant is set for completion at the end of this year. Nalco says the new plant will create 22 new jobs, retain 235 existing jobs and lead to the creation of 167 new indirect jobs. The 22 jobs directly created will pay an average annual salary of $63,700, plus benefits. Nalco will benefit from the state's Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs incentive programs, the latter of which provides rebates on sales or investment taxes for companies that create well-paying jobs. More details on the plant expansion are available at Jindal's website here.

Entergy warns utility customers of billing scam

Entergy Corp. today began warning utility customers not to fall for a scam where people claim President Barack Obama is providing credits or payments toward bills. The company says more than 2,000 customers—mainly in Louisiana but also in Texas—have been affected. No instances have been reported in Mississippi and Arkansas, but Entergy is also alerting customers there. Under the scam, customers are asked to provide personal information that could be used against them, officials of New Orleans-based Entergy say. They also warn that payments made using bogus instructions won't process correctly. Entergy says it's identifying affected customers by looking at electronic payments that didn't process. Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartman says the company is working to correct accounts and remove bad payment fees. She says no scammed customers will be disconnected.

Bing to duel Google with Facebook-friendly format

Microsoft's Bing search engine is heading in a new direction as it drills deeper into Facebook's social network and Twitter's messaging service to showcase information unlikely to be found on Google. The changes, unveiled today, will reshape how Bing displays its search results. It represents Microsoft's most dramatic shift in Internet search format since the software maker introduced Bing as a "decision engine" nearly three years ago. Microsoft Corp. is counting on the new format to loosen Google's stranglehold on the lucrative Internet search market. In the process, Microsoft hopes to turn a profit in its online division, which has lost more than $6.3 billion since Bing's June 2009 debut. In 2009 Bing replaced Live Search, a mostly futile attempt to challenge Google. Microsoft touted Bing as a Google alternative that would provide more meaningful results by helping people make important decisions, such as picking a doctor and finding the best time to buy an airline ticket. For the past two years, Bing has been taking advantage of Microsoft's close relationship with Facebook to make search results more personalized and more relevant to users. But Bing has failed to come up with an approach compelling enough to lure away most Web surfers from Google. Bing is trying to fix that with the latest changes, which come out next month. Microsoft plans a marketing blitz on television and the Internet to promote the changes. Anyone seeking a peek during the next few weeks of testing can click here to sign up for an invitation. The testing period will begin Tuesday.

Sports roundup: Still no developments in Saints contract talks with Brees … NFL looking at possible replacement refs … The Dream Team's very bad day

The stalemate continues: And now for the weekly no-update update on the contract talks between quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Citing a league source, The Times-Picayune reports the two sides still have not resumed negotiations. Talks have been practically nonexistent for more than a month, both sides apparently choosing to defer action in hopes the other will budge first. The first real so-called deadline that could spur some action is the start of organized team activities on May 22. However, it's unclear which side will feel more pressure as that date nears. The Saints will want Brees on the field when they begin their first real on-field activities, especially since they'll be installing their offense without oach Sean Payton present. At the same time, Brees will want to be there with his teammates, especially since he highly values his role as a leader. Last year, Brees valued the OTAs so much that he organized his own version of them during the NFL lockout.

Earning their stripes: The NFL is looking for potential replacement officials while it negotiates with the officials association on a new contract. The previous contract expired after last season, and another negotiating session is expected later this month, NFL Referees Association executive director Tim Millis says. Millis says he is "surprised by the timing" of a league memo to its officiating scouting department to begin identifying possible replacements. He says the NFL "did something like this" during contract talks in 2001 but did not do it during negotiations in 2006. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says, "We expect to reach an agreement, but must have contingency plans in place."

Off the dribble: The video, nearly 20 years old now, shows the Dream Team doing something they never did at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona: losing. Prior to the start of Olympic play, the ultimate U.S.A. team faced a group of top college players including Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Penny Hardaway and Chris Webber, who vowed: "I'm not going to be intimidated." The never-before-seen coaches' tape is part of a new documentary, NBA TV's The Dream Team, presented by Right Guard, that will be shown on the league's network on June 13. In part, the video shows Webber gleefully jamming and Hurley easily slicing through the Dream Team defense. "These young kids were killing us," Scottie Pippen says in the documentary. "We didn't know how to play with each other." The final score of the scrimmage in La Jolla, Calif.—Collegians 62, Dream Team 54—looked nothing like the results of the Olympic games that the Dream Team won by an average of 43.8 points. The New York Times has the full story here.

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