Week in Review, Jan. 3: Industrial Hemp, Giant Rockets and Wizard World 2020

NEW ORLEANS – Despite several major international stories dominating the headlines, it’s been a slow news week in New Orleans and south Louisiana as locals count the minutes to LSU’s next game, the Saints’ next four games and the official start of the Carnival season.

On Monday, the AP reported that St. John the Baptist Parish (between New Orleans and Baton Rouge) will receive a windfall from Marathon Petroleum, the parish’s largest taxpayer, after a set of industrial tax breaks are about to expire. Marathon’s payments will increase from $16 million in 2019 to $60 million this year.

On Tuesday, the AP reported that Louisiana is one of the first three states to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its industrial hemp licensing plans. Last year, the federal government legalized hemp, which is related to marijuana and is used to produce textiles, rope, paper, cosmetics, fuel and CBD (cannabidiol). Louisiana will begin accepting license applications  in February after the USDA approves its rules and regulations.

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On Wednesday, NASA began the process of transporting the recently completed “core stage” of its powerful new Space Launch System rocket on a barge to the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The rocket will be tested and then delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its first launch sometime in late 2020 or 2021. The new technology is intended to power trips to the moon and beyond.

On Thursday, the Idea Village announced that 12 local startups have been selected to participate in its 2020 VILLAGEx accelerator cohort, a 16-week, intensive acceleration program for a group of companies with innovative, technology-focused business models. This year’s class includes PeakSeason, a talent marketplace for resort areas and seasonal hiring; Blockpad, creators of a new kind of spreadsheet software; and Unlock’d, a peer-to-peer platform that helps home sellers and buyers complete a transaction on their own.

On Friday, thousands of pop culture fans began to gather at the Morial Convention Center to participate in Wizard World 2020, a convention celebrating movies, TV shows, comics, video games and more. Stars of “Outlander,” “Smallville,” “The Princess Bride” and many other TV shows and movies will be present to interact with their admirers.

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