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Vitter asking Louisianans to go see The Interview

Michelle Southern reporting.
US Senator David Vitter is asking Louisianans to go see the movie "The Interview". The film depicts the assassination of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and had originally been pulled from release after Sony was hacked apparently by the country. It is now being shown in select theaters and Vitter says it's important that ALL Americans stand up to dictatorship.

"We don't tolerate this sort of bullying," said Vitter.

Vitter says he will be seeing the movie with adult members of his family at Chalmette Movies on Monday. It is also being shown at Hollywood Cinemas in LaPlace and the Robinson Center in Shreveport. Vitter says please keep in mind that the movie is rated "R" and some people may consider it crude.

"But within those parameters I think Americans need to send a strong, clear message to North Korea," Vitter says.

Vitter says he's also written a letter to President Obama asking him to show the movie at the White House for Members of Congress. He says that would be another clear signal and strong message to North Korea.

"I think this could also foster a discussion among the President and other members about the other serious measures we need to take to counter bullying and cyber attacks," said Vitter.


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Flash Flood Watch for southeast Louisiana this weekend

Scattered heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to roll through Louisiana this weekend.  Gavin Phillips, with the National Weather Service in Slidell, says a Flash Flood Watch is being placed in effect for a majority of southeast Louisiana starting at midnight Friday night.

"It'll continue into Sunday afternoon and then the rainfall should taper off by later Sunday afternoon and evening."

Rain is expected to continue to fall across most of the state through Sunday.  Phillips says the state will see significant amounts of precipitation this weekend.

"Rainfall estimates to be around the two-to-four to two-to-five inch rainfall, with locally higher amounts possible."

He says dryer conditions and cooler temperatures lie ahead as we enter next week.  But Phillips says more wet weather could be on the way later in the week.

"Another chance of weather, possibly, by the New Year's time frame.  So it could be cooler and damp by that time period."
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Duck Commander Independence Bowl kicks off Saturday

The Duck Commander Independence Bowl kicks off Saturday afternoon in Shreveport.  This year's matchup sees South Carolina facing off with the University of Miami.  

Media Relations Director, Stefan Nolet, says the excitement level has been high for this game since they made the announcement.
"It is a big matchup for us, we finally get that SEC team back in here.  And to have South Carolina matched up with Miami, that's huge."

Miami and South Carolina come into this game looking to put a positive end on disappointing seasons.  Both teams are 6-6 on the season.  But Nolet says both squads have passionate fan bases and is hopeful the distance to Shreveport doesn't keep them away.

"But they do have a good opponent on the other side and I think their fan bases are excited about the opportunity to play each other."

The game will kickoff at 2:30 and be televised on ABC.  This is the first time the I-Bowl will be on national broadcast network television since 1991.  With Duck Commander being the game sponsor, Nolet says you can expect to see the Robertson family out in full force.

"Uncle Si is going to participate in the coin toss,  Missy Robertson is singing the national anthem, Willie will be presenting the trophy to the winning team after the game."
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Day after Christmas could be big for retailers

Christmas is over but that doesn't mean shoppers are done with finding great deals.  Louisiana Tech Marketing Professor, Barry Babin, says the day after Christmas is a big day for retailers.  

He says most retailers have a couple of objectives.
"If they did have a bad Christmas season, they have to entice people into the store to try make up for lost ground.  I think, you're also looking at a chance to clear out goods and get ready for new merchandise to arrive in the spring."

Babin says you can still find great deals on electronics.

"As technology continues to evolve faster and faster, the things that used to be really new, just even a year ago or a year and a half ago, you can find deep discounts on now."

He says with the day after Christmas falling on a Friday this year, this is a potentially big weekend for retailers.  Babin says the true post-Christmas shopper knows where to find the best deal.

"You will see some people going out and buying a lot of Christmas decorations the day after because they're probably your best bargains the day after Christmas." 
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State Police reminds motorists to keep safety in mind this Christmas

It's Christmas Day and State Police are urging motorists to be extra careful on the road.  Many people will be on Louisiana roadways today visiting friends and family.  

Sgt. Nick Manale says they want this to be a safe time of year for everybody.
"The easiest thing that you can do is, of course, to always make sure you are properly wearing your seat belt and make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly wearing their seat belt and properly restrained.

He also says you should never drink and drive.  Manale says troopers will be out patrolling Louisiana highways and interstates today.

"They're not out there to ruin anybody's holiday, but just to make sure that everybody's being safe and get to their destination and have a happy holiday."

Manale says, unfortunately, they see an increase in serious injury and fatality crashes around the holiday season.  He says troopers do what they can to help drivers be safe, but motorists need to do their part, as well.  He says it's important to make smart decisions behind the wheel.

"Not drinking and driving, not riding with impaired drivers and, of course, just making good choices, being responsible, and enjoying the holiday season." 
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2014 Year in Louisiana politics

The 2014 year in Louisiana politics will be one for the history books. Among the notable points -- the Republican party finished its return to dominance, Mary Landrieu lost her US-Senate seat and former Governor Edwin Edwards finally ends his hopes of being in public office again.

Political analyst Clancy Dubos says then there's the 5th District Kissing Congressman Vance McAllister.

"It's rare to see someone burst on to the scene, then fizzle out all within 12 months," said Dubos. "That's what happened to Vance McAllister."

Dubos says it's his feeling that Edwin Edwards political career was over when he went to federal prison. He says the fact that the former Governor made the runoff had nothing to do with his popularity, but that there was no other significant Democratic candidate in the 6th District race.

"So he inherited the Democratic base, but he didn't get any more than that in the runoff," said Dubos. "What he did was guarantee the election of whoever his Republican opponent was and that happened to be Garret Graves."

Dubos says there were many careers that ended this year not just Landrieu's, Edwards' and McAllister so he'd consider 2014 a year of closure in Louisiana politics.

"Voters closed the books on many political chapters and I put Landrieu in that category," said Dubos. "They all happened for different reasons but they all happened this year."

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NORAD: Santa's journey has begun!

Michelle Southern reporting. 
The North American Aerospace Defense Command has already started tracking Ole Saint Nick on his present delivering journey around the world. 

NORAD spokeswoman Major Beth Smith says making sure the skies are safe is part of their mission and they began tracking Santa in 1955 when a number for the jolly guy was misprinted in the media and instead kids were calling their center.

"And rather than dash the child's hopes by telling him that Santa wasn't there, Colonel Harry Shoup decided to play along and track Santa for him," said Smith.

Smith says the reindeer journey looks smooth so far and they don't anticipate there being any disturbances in St. Nick's path this year. She says the NORAD military command is well equipt to track anything that travels in the sky including Santa.

Smith says trackers can call 1-877-Hi-NORAD to inquire about Santa's whereabouts or go to www.noradsanta.org. 

She says he should be arriving in Louisiana sometime tonight likely between 10 and midnight and he does know when you're sleeping and when you're awake.

"So you've got to go to bed because that's when Santa will show up," said Smith.
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LDWF offers $7,000 reward for information on black bear killing

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is offering up to  a $7,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the illegal killing of a black bear found in Avoyelles Parish.  Spokesman Adam Einck says they were first contacted about the incident on December 5th.

"...about a dead bear in the woods in the Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge.  We were able to get some officials out there to the scene and collect the bear and determined it was shot."

Authorities say the bear was shot with a bullet that went through the abdomen and was dead for over a week before it was found.  Einck says anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to call their Operation Game Thief hotline.

"...at 1-800-442-2511.  We also have a "Tip 411" app on Google Play and the Apple App Store."

An examination of the 70 pound bear suggests the animal was a juvenile.  Einck says the LDWF is working to raise the black bear population in Louisiana.  He says those efforts are increasing the hunter-black bear contacts in the wild.

"We urge all hunters to carry a can of bear spray.  This would be a non-lethal way of deterring any type of bear interaction.  So that way we don't have to have this kind of situation occur in the future."
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DOTD provides traffic information to motorists

Many Louisianians will be hitting the roadways to visit family and loved ones this Christmas. Louisiana Department of Transportation spokesman Rodney Mallett says there are many different resources drivers can use to check on traffic and road conditions on Louisiana roadways.  

He says you can plan your travel through their 511LA-dot-org website.
"It will give you up-to-date information that we have gathered through our cameras and our police resources and we put up road notices on the website."
Mallet says another resource for drivers is their "Way to Geaux" app, which is available for your smart phone.  He says you won't have to worry about constantly looking at your phone for information with this app.

"This is a hands-free app.  You can just turn it on and set it down and it will give you an update as you're driving.  It'll say that there's congestion or that you need to find an alternate route."

Mallett reminds motorists to be patient and courteous on the road this Christmas weekend as roadways will see increased traffic.  He says drivers can also get up to date road conditions by paying attention to the message boards set up across the state.

"We're trying to provide as much information as possible, so folks can have a nice, safe travel through Louisiana." 
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Annual St. James bonfires will light the sky tonight

The annual Bonfires on the Levee takes place tonight in St. James Parish.  Rhonda Lee, President of the Festival of the Bonfires, says this is a tradition in the parish dating back more than 100 years.  

She says, this year, 130 bonfires will be lit.
"In a line from Gramercy all the way to Convent, which is really Veterans Bridge to the Sunshine Bridge.  We have bonfires all along the levee."

Lee says the popularity of the Christmas Eve bonfires has been growing steadily over the last 25 years or so.  She expects the levees to be packed tonight with revelers.  Lee says people from all over the United States plan their Christmas vacations to check out the bonfires.

"And every year we see more and more people from other countries that come and actually spend the time with us."

If you plan on heading to the Bonfires on the Levee celebration, it's recommended that you get into the area before 6PM.  The fires will be lit around 7PM.  There are several stories about how the bonfires started in St. James Parish, but Lee says one stands out.

"We light the way for Papa Noel to make sure that he comes deliver all the presents to our little children."
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Washington Parish Sheriff's Office saves Christmas from Mr. Grinch

Michelle Southern reporting.
A thief with a heart two sizes too small is behind bars after the Washington Parish Sheriff's office got a tip that Mr. Grinch was trying to steal Christmas. Sheriff Randy Seal said they did some investigating and were able to apprehend the suspect's dog and attach a surveillance recorder to it.

"We were able to locate the Grinch and after a race through the woods we took him into custody and put him in jail," said Seal.

Seal says the 56-year-old infamous Mr. Grinch was allegedly planning to take Christmas trees, ornaments, decorations and presents for children. He says now the people of Washington Parish can sleep easier now that the cuddly as a cactus suspect has been caught.

"Matter of fact when I booked him into jail I turned to him and said, 'You're a mean one Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel,'" Seal said.

Seal said they found Grinch hiding in the woods near Highway 62 and were able to listen in on his plans to ruin Christmas. 

He says they sent out this release to put smiles on faces and let citizens know there is a warm and fuzzy side to cops and they don't stink, stank, stunk.

"On Facebook last night I got a little note from a 6-year-old kid and it really touched my heart," Seal said. "It said, 'Now we can have a Merry Christmas thanks to Sheriff Seal.'"

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Tornado damage in Tangipahoa Parish

The National Weather Service says a tornado touched down in Tangipahoa Parish near Amite on Tuesday causing damage to nearly 20 homes. Jeff McKneely, with the Tangipahoa Parish Emergency management, says thankfully no one was hurt.
(Picture from Tangipahoa Parish Government)

"But unfortunately, right here going into Christmas, there are some houses that have some pretty severe damage," McKneely said. 
One home had its roof torn off.
The twister also knocked down trees and power lines, causing power outages. McKneely says the whole incident happened really quick. 
"Our alert service here in Amite, through the National Weather Service went out, said that we had a tornado moving through the area, around 1:10 to 1:15, and then we immediately started getting reports of this storm."
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St. John Parish group constructs Hands Up bonfire for Christmas Eve

Michelle Southern reporting.
A group of people in St. John Parish have constructed a "Hands up!" bonfire on the Mississippi River West Bank. The structure, which is a reaction to a grand jury's decision not to indict the cop in Ferguson who shot and killed Michael Brown, is built across from Harold LaGrange's home in Lucy. He says they construct a creative bonfire every Christmas Eve.

"We do it to light the way for Papa Noel," said LaGrange. "This is trending so we decided to do Hands Up."

LaGrange says they've been getting a lot of support from the community. He says he's appalled by Brown's killing but the bonfire is in no way meant to be negative.

"This is not a protest or rally, this is for our kids," said LaGrange. "Saving our kids starts with educating them at home."

LaGrange says they will light the bonfire at about 7pm tomorrow night. He says they want to get people talking about what happened and teach their children that police are there to protect you.

"We're just showing solidarity," said LaGrange. "We have no issue with police officers. This is about being positive."
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Search for missing 4-year-old in Baton Rouge ends tragically

Baton Rouge Police say the search for 4-year-old Jassiah Clark came to a sad end last night when the boy's body was found in a deep hole less than 10 yards from his home.  Sgt. Mary Ann Godawa says last night officers were doing a follow up search in the neighborhood where Clark was last seen.

"...when an officer came upon a muddy area, that we realized that it was actually a large hole, and she discovered what is believed to be the body of Jassiah."

The boy's body was found in a deep hole, which was filled with dirt and water, in a vacant lot behind the child's home.  Godawa says recent rains camouflaged the hole.

"But it looked like, because it had rained last weekend and there had been fresh dirt around it turned into mud, so it just looked like a muddy area."

That hole was an old, abandoned sewer pump station site that had been backfilled earlier this year.  She says more will be known after an autopsy is completed.  Around one hundred officers from different agencies, including the FBI, were involved with the search and Godawa says this case really affected them.

"Whenever it involves a child, and then a child at Christmas, it just seems to magnify the situation.  It was just a real tragic ending." 
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Flu outbreak is getting worse

Michelle Southern reporting.
The flu outbreak in Louisiana that was already bad, is becoming even more widespread and just in time for the Holidays.  Dr. Frank Welch, medical director of the Louisiana Office of Public Health, says this is one of the worst seasons for influenza he has ever seen.

"Almost 6 out of every 100 visits to a doctor or hospital in Louisiana, is for flu-like symptoms," said Welch. "We're still in the thick of it."

He says it's spreading from person to person so the more people that are infected, the more likely it is they are going to give it to somebody else.

"We often find that when a kid comes home from school and they have the flu, they infect two other people in the house," said Welch. "It just gets progressively worse and worse."

Welch says one of the reasons we're seeing such a bad outbreak this season is because the strain H3N2 is what's going around and it's not covered in this year's flu shot.

He says that should not discouraging you from getting the flu shot because it will still be better than no protection at all.

Welch says nobody wants to give the gift of the flu this Christmas.

"It keeps giving and giving to other people and we don't want to do that," said Welch.

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Record number of Americans hitting the road for Christmas/New Year's

According to the American Automobile Association, 98.6 million Americans will hit the road during the year-end holiday period.  AAA spokesman Don Redman says that's a four-percent increase from last year.

"AAA has been been recording holiday travel projections since 2001 and this is our highest number of travelers forecast to travel for the Christmas/New Year's holiday."

Redman says a record number of travelers are expected to hit the road for the Christmas/New Year's holiday.  The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, December 23rd through Sunday, January 4th.  Redman says this uptick in travel can be attributed to increasing disposable income and consumer confidence.

"I think the falling gas prices have just really encouraged a lot of people, who may not have otherwise traveled as far or decided to stay as long, have decided that their budgets now can afford them to take that Christmas holiday travel"

Travelers are expected to pay the lowest gas prices since 2009.  Nearly 91-percent of travelers will take a road trip to celebrate the holidays.  Redman says the calendar is definitely playing a role in the increased holiday travel this year.

"Some of the worst times we see is when Christmas falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but it falling on a Thursday, people are having an extended period for their vacation time and they're utilizing it."
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Duo busted dealing drugs from Opelousas sno-ball stand

Michelle Southern reporting.
The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's office says two men are under arrest accused of selling weed out of their sno-ball stand. Sgt. Clay Higgins says they had been getting complaints from the community about the T&E Soul Food and Sno-Ball stand in Opelousas. He says the narcotics enforcement team gathered enough evidence to obtain a search warrant.

"The search warrant resulted in the seizure of some high quality drugs and each man was charged," said Higgins.

Higgins says 37-year-old Jermaine Doucet and 32-year-old Bryant Fields, both from Opelousas, were caught selling a side dish of "Hydro" marijuana to customers.

"It's more dangerous than regular marijuana because the THC level is higher due to the way it is grown and cultivated," said Higgins.

The charges on each man include possessing marijuana and transaction involving proceeds from drug offenses. Higgins says this story is especially disturbing because hundreds of children passed the Hydro weed Sno-Ball stand every day.

"The business was within drug free zones at two facilities," said Higgins. "A church and an elementary school."

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Saints get ready for Tampa Bay, with no chance of reaching the playoffs

The Saints are out of playoff contention, which makes this Sunday's game against Tampa Bay meaningless in the minds of many fans. But Coach Sean Payton anticipates his players will prepare as if they are fighting for a playoff spot.

"Our preparation, our approach won't change in regards to the hours we are spending, the time we are on the practice field and I think the leadership in this locker room and the players here understand that," Payton said.
With the Saints missing out on the playoffs for the third time since 2008, changes are likely to occur with the roster. Payton says games like this Sunday are part of the evaluation process, when it comes to determining who should return next season. 
"I think our players from a response standpoint as we prepare to play this game will be just fine. They understand it's their resume they are constantly putting on film," 
Payton says it is disappointing to have to play a game, knowing you can't get into the playoffs. 
"There is nothing like winning and that feeling of being successful and having the chance to get in the tournament and playing for something. When there is that finality of not accomplishing that there is a disappointment and all of those emotions."  
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Depression can worsen during winter

Now that winter has officially begun, lots of folks may start experiencing Holiday Blues. Michele Many (Main-EEE), a clinical social worker with the LSU Department of Psychiatry says it's very common to become depressed during the Christmas season. She says this happens, in part, because we're getting less UV exposure due to the shorter winter days.

"So we have a lot less sunlight on our skin giving us Vitamin D and a lot less light hitting our retinas," said Many. "We feel better when we have more of it."

Many says if there have been some losses during the year, Christmas can be a painful reminder that a person isn't here with us. She also says other people may have sadness around the fact that they don't get a long with certain family members or relationships are a little strained.

"During the Holidays we tend to idealize other people and think everyone is perfect and happy and we should be the same way," said Many.

Many says one of the best ways you can battle the "bah humbugs" is to take care of yourself physically and try not set standards that are impossible to live up to. She says the Holidays are a prime time people develop impractical views about what our life should look like.

"And what our relationships should be like," said Many. "So we get sad and feel like we aren't meeting that unrealistic expectation."
(Image by Dawn Ellner via flickr)
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Twin girls die in Alexandria fire

The State Fire Marshall's Office is still investigating what caused a fire that killed twin two-year-old girls in Alexandria on Saturday.  Firefighters responded to the deadly blaze just before 2:30 Saturday afternoon.  

Fire Marshal Butch Browning says this is still a very active investigation.
"We're looking at a lot of different angles, right now.  We don't have any conclusive cause.  We're looking at several different things in the home."

The children were at home with their father when the fire broke out.  Browning says firefighters were able to remove the children, named Annaya and Makaya, from the home.

"...and given emergency medical care and transported to two separate hospitals by ambulance where they actually died from their injuries sustained, at the hospital, from the fire."

Autopsies are pending on both girls.  Browning says it will be after the Christmas holiday before the investigation is complete.  It is unknown at this time if the home had working smoke detectors.  Browning says it appears the fire started near a bedroom.

"At this point, we're looking at maybe the bedroom the children were in as a possible place where the fire started.  Both of the children were actually in the bedroom at the time of the fire, together."


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