Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shreveport historical buildings bulldozed for parking lots.

Shreveport's skyline attracts visitors and big time movie business, but what you see could slowly disappear. People are bulldozing historical buildings downtown, one after the other. No law protects these treasures from the past. Nbc 6 news reporter Karen Hopkins discovered a group is fighting back to preserve Shreveport history.

You may remember the old Nanking building. It was about 100 years old. Now it’s gone. A parking lot has replaced it. About a dozen old buildings have been torn down in recent years. These two structures on Milam Street across from the courthouse could go next. The facades people gaze at from the Robinson film center---also at risk of demolition. “I hate to go downtown and see block after block where there was once six buildings and now there are two. The thing to remember is you cannot rebuild history," Neil Johnson of Shreveport Historic Preservation society.

History is not always protected by law in Shreveport. Owners have the right to demolish their property.
Many can't afford to renovate and putting in a parking lot is profitable. “Many people don't come downtown, and don't notice we've got a brand new vacant lot here. A parking lot. "21:35 i just see shreveport's heritage disappearing," Conway Link, Vice President of Shreveport Historic Preservation Society says.

“One of the reasons the film and production business is so prominent in Shreveport these days is because we have this inventory of interesting looking buildings that make good sets,” Don Shea, Executive Director Downtown Development Authority says.

“I saw my downtown deteriorating and wanted to do something about it," Sarah Wilkerson President of Shreveport Historic Preservation Society says.

People are taking action. The historic district committee will start a commission to watch over Shreveport’s treasured buildings. The plan will add tax incentives for people to invest and establish a law to delay demolitions.

“A whole line of buildings that each has a 100 years in this town gives that whole block a spirit,” Johnson says.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Economy hurts home that cares for sick children, families

Imagine having a sick child, and dealing with thousands in medical bills at the same time.
As the health care debate rages on in Washington, people in Shreveport are taking action, helping children with cystic fibrosis.

A fundraiser at the fairgrounds today will benefit the Hilman House. The center helps families afford lifesaving treatment.

The Hilman House relies on donations to support cystic fibrosis patients, but tough times have money tight and people fighting to keep services. Nbc 6 reporter Karen Hopkins spoke with a mother who says the home keeps her child alive.

Meet 3-year-old Kolten. While he looks like any happy kid, he suffers from an incurable, genetic disease.
Cystic fibrosis causes his tiny body to make thick mucus that could keep him from breathing.
“You just want to give him the best childhood, when he's sick and constantly in the hospital having blood drawn. Like most children, he's always got a smile on his face even when he's in the hospital," mom Rebecca Simms says.

The Simms family drives from the Ruston area to visit doctors in Shreveport every month.
Everyone stays at the Hilman House. It's a homelike place for CF patients and their families to live and eat for free, while undergoing treatment in Shreveport.

Families like the Simms, also get help from the center with bills not covered by health insurance.
On average, cystic fibrosis patients pay $10,000 to $250,000 a year in medical costs. “If we didn't have places like the Hilman House, you'd have to pay a hotel. Some people don't have the money. We'd have to miss a doctor’s appointment because we can't afford to come," dad Steven Simms says. “It has kept him alive. “I've got my home away from home. We could go there refresh, take baths, eat, anything we needed," Rebecca Simms says.

About 200 volunteers, like Scott Boswell, help run the Hilman house. The center relies solely on donations. Boswell says the economy has corporate giving down. They're organizing more fundraisers to keep help here. “I've been fortunate to do things in my life to help, help out." Boswell says your support could gives kids like Kolten a chance.

Anyone can donate or volunteer at the Hilman House. Visit its website for how to help.

Banning Energy Drinks for Kids

Children are gulping down energy drinks, to manage demanding schedules: like school, sports and homework. But doctors say, each sip brings dangerous health risks. Nbc 6 reporter Karen Hopkins joins us now live in the studio to tell us about, an effort to keep the "high caffeine cans" out of the hands of kids.

This energy drink has three times the amount of caffeine than this can of soda. Your kid has the right to buy this without you even knowing it but that could change.

With names like Crunk, Rip It and Monster, kids are drinking them to get high on caffeine. They're doing it, to get a boost at school or on the court. “It makes you more powerful, have more energy.”

If you read the label, there's two main ingredients sugar and caffeine. One serving has double the kick of coffee. Pediatrician Neera Chhabra says that’s a lot, especially for a kid. “It’s more detrimental to children because their systems are more sensitive. Caffeine does effect the absorption of calcium which could decrease bone mass at a time when they are growing and trying to deposit calcium into their bones. Children may replace caffeine drinks for milk so they don't get the calcium they need in addition to loosing it."

Too much caffeine can make children irritable, cause anxiety and insomnia. Drinking while playing sports can lead to severe dehydration. Chhabra says Australian researchers found even more risks. “They have gone as far as saying it could affect the growing brain. The brain is growing until at least 16.”

For children under 16, Louisiana State Sen. Robert Adley wants to ban the sale of energy drinks. The bill would make it illegal for storeowners, like Ronnie Toney, to knowingly allow kids to buy the beverages. “If they make it illegal for me to sell it to kids, kids are going to come in to try to buy it. When I sell it, they will try to write me a ticket." That ticket, could cost him up to $500 under the proposed legislation.

In 2008, Kentucky, Maine and Michigan tried to ban energy drinks for kids. None of the bills passed. Other countries have been more successful. The French government banned Red Bull after the death of an 18-year-old athlete who drank four cans at a game. Denmark and Norway have also outlawed Red Bull.

Energy drinks became popular in Asia long before they reached the US. Japan began making the beverages in 1962. The first drink to reach the US was "jolt cola" in the 1980s. Then Red Bull hit the shelves in the US in 1997.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pastor speaks about church controversy.

When people tithe at their church, they trust it's in the right hands. However, for nearly two years, there's been controversy over money at one Shreveport’s most beloved and historic churches.

The pastor of Little Union Baptist Church, C.E. McLain is speaking out only on Nbc 6 news, hoping to set the record straight. Reporter Karen Hopkins did some investigating and sat down with McLain.
Karen what did he tell you?

Pastor McLain says people are envious of the power of the pastor. A former church member argues he just wanted to see the financial records. The drama came down to a vote. Should McLain stay as pastor?

“You are saddened to see this because it was so unnecessary but you also know people feed on this drama,” McLain says. “You have friends against friends, family members against family members; everybody chooses sides and nobody really wins,” former church member Carl Pierson says.

The battle at Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport started nearly two years ago.
Former church member Carl Pierson says a group became suspicious after some bills were not paid on time. “We never missed a bill,” McLain says.

Pierson wasn't convinced. He and ten others wrote a petition asking for financial records.
State law gives church members the right to view them. McLain says he was caught in the middle.
“I was told by members who didn't want their records exposed that they would sue if I gave the records. I don't want anyone seeing what I contribute or I would be so embarrassed pastor.”

“I think that was a way to make excuses for not giving us the records,” Pierson says. A Caddo parish judge ordered McLain to hand over the information. McLain says the church could not find all documents dating back to 2000. Next the judge called for an election.Church members would decide if McLain stays.
An outside court appointed panel counted the votes. McLain came out on top. “Now that it’s over how do you feel? Relieved. There is no sense of joy and happiness because the church has been fractured and divided under my watch,” McLain says. “I think the good Lord spoke and he said that enough was enough and he wanted Rev. McLain to remain there, and we're through with it, it's over,” Pierson says.

But anyone. At any church can take note. “The church is also a business people pay into it,” Pierson says. “The congregation needs to be kept abreast more than maybe she wants to know,” McLain says.

Little Union formed more than a century ago in 1892, and played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there in 1962.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Veterans take shot at Hollywood.

Veterans are coming home from war and ending up unemployed in a tough economy.
Some are taking a shot at another action packed career, Hollywood. Nbc 6 news reporter Karen Hopkins found how the film industry is putting American heroes in the spotlight.

“The whole time I was gone that's what I thought about. I love my wife. My son was my buddy and that's all that was on my mind when they took me was I may not see my son again.” Paul Murray says he was kidnapped by Iraqi soldiers during desert storm. He was a prisoner of war for a couple days before escaping. Coming home wasn't easy. “It takes some adjusting. It took me a good two years to adjust back to being in a civilian mode.”

Many military people have trouble transitioning, especially into the workforce. The national unemployment rate last year for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans hit 21.1 percent. “It's depressing; you fall into a slump trying to find work in what you've trained for and not being able to do that you stare at the walls a lot. Their training in weapons, tactics there's not many careers that you can really come back to.” Former police officer Dave Valle knows how hard it is. An injury took him off the job. “Becoming disabled, I found my way into the film industry.

He partnered with Murray who owns a local shooting range. The pair started Tac One Ops 6 months ago.
The nonprofit helps people with law enforcement and military training use those skills on the big screen. 18 people in Shreveport have signed up. The latest role--playing extra officers in Nick Cage's new movie, Drive Angry. “So the vets that really enjoy military service, there's a way to use that knowledge and training. If you're on a set and simulating a battle that happened they’re getting to do what they're trained to do and what they like doing.”

Veterans can advise movie makers how to handle explosives. Others are trained to make blank bullets and teach actors how to shoot them safely. Even shooting blanks can cause a lot of damage.

Valle says vets can make up to $300 a day on set. While the business in Shreveport has been busy,
it’s not always steady. “I hope it keeps going.” So does the community. Murray says a Shreveport veteran who owns a uniform company donated thousands of officer outfits to keep Tac One in action.

The group has other vets signed up to be body guards for the stars of Twilight when they visit New Orleans. Anyone with law enforcement background can get involved with Tac One.
Visit the website for more information:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Facebook could help fix flooding.

No one wants to wake up to water rushing inside their home. Internet technology could help solve some flooding problems here in the Arklatex. Nbc 6 news reporter Karen Hopkins discovered how Facebook's playing a role to prevent devastating disasters.

Imagine walking home to this, water damage. Susan Thomas is one of many Shreveport homeowners who have dealt with flooding. For years the city, parish, levee board and LSU have researched the problem separately. Now all are coming together, forming the Caddo Parish Stormwater Partnership.
“We're trying to work outside the box.” It starts online. Caddo parish commissioner Matthew Linn says social networking will help the group come up with plan to eliminate flooding for the next century. “Principally the citizens who have suffered from flooding can look at everything we've done and put their two bits in."

Once the Facebook site is ready, anyone can report water troubles. Red River Watershed researchers will compare the data to previous records. “If some homeowner documents minute by minute, hour by hour flooding in their neighborhood, that could provide data not available without their help." Red River Watershed assistant, Amanda Lewis says.

After all information is organized, engineering students will find ways to fix flooding in Caddo parish.
Linn says the University of Iowa designs solutions for the entire Mississippi flood plain. The planning is a senior project, at no cost to taxpayers. “If they're qualified to do the Mississippi flood basin, they're qualified to do bayou Pierre. Those are the people we'll be looking for to help us with these issues," Linn says.

Help means a lot to people like Thomas. She's dealt with two floods in two years.

The plan is gaining speed. The levee board has already endorsed it, the Caddo commission will vote on Thursday. The Facebook page could launch within a month.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

High school coach faces charges of touching girls.

A high school coach accused of having sexual relations with underage girls, is facing a Caddo parish judge. Nbc 6 reporter Karen Hopkins listened to a woman testify that the coach seduced her inside a school office.

“I can't explain to you the feeling that comes over my body whenever I hear something that's not true about him, because I know him.” Bree Helmick played on Greg Frazier's softball team at Shreveport’s Southwood High school. The coach was arrested three years ago, charged with sexually touching underage girls. If convicted, he could spend up to 15 years behind bars.

“The allegations are Mr. Frazier has molested multiple girls, but it’s up to the jury to determine if any of that is true,” Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland says.

Frazier’s ex wife testified she was a sophomore cheerleader at Parkway High school in the 1980s, when she caught his eye. She says what started as flirting, kissing and touching at school lead to much more. She told the judge, she had sex with coach Frazier on the high school football field when she was just 15 years old.
“I feel as strongly about this as any other case, where the state believes that children have been molested,” Holland says.

Helmick is standing behind her coach. “It makes me very mad because I played for him. He is an amazing coach, guy. He has never done anything inappropriate or touched me.”

Frazier's ex wife said in court, she divorced him after discovering he was having sex with another high school girl. Frazier denies having any inappropriate relations with underage students.

Frazier's trial could last for a few more days. Holland says the coach could face more charges for having sexual relations with underage students.