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The American flag lies burned on the War Memorial Monday Morning. Photo courtesy of Brently Mims

By: Mike Costello

At 5:15am Monday morning, LSU Police responded to a call on the Parade Ground after the American flag had been cut down from the War Memorial and burned (Click to learn about flag laws Ashes of America’s utmost symbol of freedom covered the memorial, used to honor LSU veterans who have given their lives in wars dating back to World War I.

The incident happened the morning after President Obama announced to the nation that U.S. forces had killed Osama Bin Laden.

A suspect, 23-year-old University Student and Baton Rouge resident, Isaac Eslava was seen fleeing the scene as police engaged in a foot chase. LSU police recovered Eslava’s vehicle nearby and found a knife with fibers from the cable supporting the flags on the War Memorial as well as drug paraphernalia in his vehicle.

According to a press release issued Wednesday by the University, Eslava is charged with two felony counts of simple criminal damages, arson, theft, resisting an officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police say there was about $7,530 worth of damage at the memorial.

LSU’s Army ROTC battalion (  got the news that morning and by sunrise set up a temporary American flag to be flown over the Parade Ground until LSU’s administration could replace the damaged cable and flags. Together with the Air Force and Marines on campus, cadets took shifts to guard the area throughout the day.

Justin Bryson , LSU Junior and Army cadet said, “It’s a War Memorial. People died for those colors to fly here. When we [the cadets] found out the colors were burned, we took it upon ourselves to replace them.”

By noon Monday, LSU students had organized at the Parade Ground for a peace prayer to pray over the suspect and the University’s damaged monument. LSU junior David Jones addressed the crowd of almost 100 students and faculty and local media, “I could tell people that [what happened] was wrong and we can move forward but I wasn’t satisfied with that and I knew that other students wouldn’t be satisfied with it either.”

Ernie Ballard, University Relations Director, said the LSU administration is very proud of the way students banded together to stay positive in the wake of such a tragic incident (Visit the LSU Facebook page to see what students are saying . “It showed patriotism, unity that everyone had coming together and the diligent work that ROTC, facility services and everyone had,” said Ballard.

A press release issued by the University Thursday afternoon said that suspect Isaac Eslava turned himself in to LSU Police at 2:50pm (Watch the video of Eslava being taken into custody Eslava’s lawyer saw a press release earlier in the week and facilitated Eslava’s return to Baton Rouge and his apprehension. Eslava remained silent when questioned by police. He was transferred to East Baton Rouge Parish prison for holding.



911 Response Times

Baton Rouge 911 Response Time

By: Mike Costello

Early Tuesday morning Nicole Dahmen’s home alarm was activated and auto-dialed 911. A Baton Rouge police officer arrived at Dahmen’s home 30 minutes later to check the house for signs of danger ( The alarm was false but, “Had there actually been a problem a lot could have gone wrong with me and my small children in thirty minutes,” said Dahmen.

According to Sergeant Don Stone, Baton Rouge police spokesman, the city receives thousands of home alarm calls every year yet the majority of them are false. Emergency dispatchers give these calls the lowest priority. “We’re coming, but it’s not a top priority call. They will dispatch code two and code three calls before they dispatch a code one call,” said Stone.

The BRPD has been understaffed by almost 50 uniformed officers since January of 2010. The city is allotted a total of 698 officers, currently only 642 officers are on the force. But Stone said the number of police on the street does not affect the department’s service, “We maintain our status with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of good people and we’re able to stay on top of things,” said Stone.

However, not all cities respond to every 911 call they receive. “[Some police departments] leave it up to the homeowner to check their house and if they find that the house has been burglarized, then the police come out. We got out on everyone of them,” said Stone.

BRPD employs a statistician to record and track trends in types of crimes and their locations to identify patterns throughout the city. If a particular area sees an increase in home burglaries, the police will respond to those calls right away. Stone said they have had success catching criminals by locating crime hot spots ( across the city.

For in-depth information regarding local law-enforcement statistics, visit


Baton Rouge Police Sergeant Don Davis explains the process a 911 call goes through before police respond to an emergency.

Baton Rouge Crime Statistics for 2010

Baton Rouge Crime Statistics for 2009
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Information Overload: Too Much e-mail?

By: Mike Costello


Each day approximately 294 billion e-mails are sent and received all around the world. Since 2001, that number has grown eightfold from just 36 billion e-mails sent each day. For college students living in the digital age of iPhones, Androids and a constant connection to the Internet, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with too much information.

“It’s actually really stressful because I’m extremely organized with this kind of stuff,” said Logan Hunt, LSU sociology sophomore. Like many others in school, Hunt receives between 30 and 40 e-mails a day from the University, teachers, students and friends and keeping it all organized can be a challenge. “I try to keep all my e-mails in categories. I have 20 different labels in TigerMail that I use to categorize the e-mails I receive,” said Hunt.

However, many of the e-mails coming through student’s inboxes are never read. According to the Radacati Group, a market research firm that studies e-mail and information technology, between 80 and 90 percent of e-mails sent and received every day are spam. “The e-mails from LSU are stuff I never read anyway, the labels take those away so I never have to read them. That helps with cleaning out my inbox and I use that a lot,” said Hunt.

But it’s not just college students that are facing the constant wave of e-mails. In a study conducted by Glasgow University in the United Kingdom, computer researchers and psychologists found that “34 percent of workers felt ‘stressed’ by the sheer number of e-mails and obligation to respond quickly and a further 28 percent were ‘driven’ because they saw them as a source of pressure.” It was also found that office workers were switching back and forth between e-mail and other computer applications 30 or 40 times an hour. Additionally, women were more likely to feel pressure to respond quickly to messages than men.

But, there are ways to combat e-mail stress. Lisa Gullett, Administrative Coordinator for LSU’s Center for Academic Success, emphasized prioritization. “You can’t completely ignore e-mail. You’ve got to skim through and pick out the e-mails [that are important] and you have to prioritize,” said Gullett. Additional suggestions include not feeling pressured to respond to e-mail as quickly as you would a phone call. Refraining from constantly checking your e-mail by setting aside specific times through out the day designated for checking and sending messages will also help to reduce time and stress devoted to e-mails.


By: Mike Costello

The state of Louisiana is quickly becoming a hot spot for alternative fuel production, namely compressed natural gas. The Haynesville Shale ( located in parts of northern Louisiana is the nation’s highest producing shale gas play, according to reported pipeline flows.  It recently surpassed the Barnett shale, located in north Texas, in production of natural gas.

There is a steadily growing infrastructure for alternative and cheaper fuel sources, with four public CNG fill stations located throughout Baton Rouge. Lauren Stuart, LSU Center for Energy Studies research, said that the current CNG infrastructure in Baton Rouge supports larger companies that operate fleet vehicles.Entergy and AT&T fleet vehicles based in Baton Rouge are large consumers of CNG energy. Because the infrastructure for alternative fuels is still growing, it’s easier and more cost effective for companies that operate many vehicles to make the switch to CNG. The public has access to buy CNG powered vehicles and fueling stations but according to Stuart the awareness of alternative fuels just isn’t there yet.

As of this week (March 23, 2011) CNG price per gallon equivalent was $2.49, compared to $3.44 for regular unleaded and $3.73 for diesel fuel. The state and federal government are offering rebates of up to .50 cents per gallon on CNG fuel. Vehicles that are CNG powered get approximately the same gas mileage as traditional vehicles running on regular unleaded. Imagine spending just $1.99 or less on gas for your car compared to $3.45 and the savings can add up  very quickly.

Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition president (, Harold Moise said that while north Louisiana is benefiting from the Haynesville Shale, Baton Rouge and New Orleans are still behind in terms of actual CNG development and infrastructure in the area. However, Moise expects that boom in development in the north to make its way down south in the near future.

Other nations including Brazil, Germany, the U.K. and even Pakistan are already widely using compressed natural gas as a form of alternative fuels. Additionally, CNG burns between 80%-90% cleaner than the cleanest traditional petroleum fuels. To learn more about compressed natural gas, visit the Department of Energy at

(click to see map of CNG fill stations)

Harold Moise explains that compressed natural gas has a significantly higher safety record than that of petroleum.

By Mike Costello

Red Stick Roller Derby of Baton Rouge ( is a quickly expanding sport that offers an alternative to women looking for competition and a break from the ordinary.

According to league president who goes by “What a Tuesday” the league is filled with moms, lawyers, library assistants and others who are “subdued at work” but looking to escape from their “9 to 5” job during the evenings and weekends.

Dressed in striking and eccentric clothing for practices and games, these women quickly stand out from any crowd of regulars one might expect to find at a roller rink (see for roller derby attire).

The league consists of two teams: the Diables Rouges, a team for more experienced derby queens and the Capital Defenders for those newer to the sport of Roller Derby. Both teams compete against other women’s leagues in the south (see for information regarding the sport on a national level).

President “What a Tuesday” said that they will hold tryouts in future seasons, rather than letting all girls walk on the teams due to of recent growth and interest in the sport, a fact current league members are very proud of.

Both teams have a match coming up on March 19th at the Baton Rouge River Center.


Four Loko XXX

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By Mike Costello

In January, Phusion Projects (, the makers of adult beverage Four Loko, released a new alcoholic drink, “Four Loko XXX Limited Edition.” The drink is similar to the already popular Four Loko in a few ways: both contain 12% or 6% alcohol by volume (according to different state regulations) and both are sold in 23.5-ounce cans.

An unidentified representative from Phusion Projects said, “The unique thing about it is, it features a new flavor profile every four months. It’s really just an extension of the products that are out there.” The differences between the two drinks, if any, are yet to be discovered.

Last December the Food and Drug Administration pressured Phusion Projects, to change the formula of its drinks after college students wound up in hospitals after consuming Four Loko (

However, Kathy Saichuck, LSU Health Promotion Coordinator says the lack of caffeine or stimulants in the beverage doesn’t make it any safer. “[The lack of stimulants] may cut back on the feelings of alertness so people may feel or recognize that people are getting intoxicated a little bit more but the bottom line is its still 12 percent alcohol and the alcohol by itself is harmful.”

Phusion Projects said both Four Loko and Four Loko XXX are being sold nationwide however, I was unable to find any Baton Rouge stores stocking the Four Loko XXX before this article was published. It is unclear if and when XXX will make an appearance in the Baton Rouge market.

By Mike Costello

LSU is paving the way in developing sustainable technologies for future roads and highways. Assistant professor of Construction Management and Industrial Engineering, Dr. Marwa Hassan is testing a surface treatment that purifies volatile vehicular emissions by pulling the gases from the air and into the pavement.

Hassan is the first in the United States to test this new technology. “This is the first photocatalytic pavement in the U.S. capable of purifying outdoor air from nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide resulting from traffic emissions,” said Hassan.

The field-testing is being conducted on asphalt and concrete strips on Aster St. and in front of the LSU Union, respectively. So far, Hassan reports a reduction in nitrous oxide levels by 30 percent.

These positive results are good news for the future of the program. The research itself is being funded through an $80,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Center for Evacuation & Transportation Resiliency. Associate Director for the Center, Dr. Dinayak Dixit, says he believes LSU will become the center of development for this technology in the United States. According to Dixit, the program has received attention from the US Department of Transportation and the DOT is optimistic about the technology and its future.

Although the project is still in the testing phase at LSU, both Hassan and Dixit predict two to five years before the technology is available to the market. The field-testing will end a year from now and bring with it the results of the study. Hassan is currently working to obtain funding from the National Science Foundation as a means to continue and expand her research.

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