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Louisiana jobs set another record in November

Michelle Southern reporting.
New employment numbers are out and Louisiana's labor force grew to a record 2,179,837 in November. The number of people employed in the state jumped by 59,419 over the year. LWC 

LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink says people are responding to Louisiana's strong and sustained job growth by joining our workforce in record numbers. 
"What I suspect is that the national news about this growth is prompting people from around the country to come to Louisiana to get these jobs," said Eysink.

Eysink says, over the month of November, we added about 7,000 people working in Louisiana. He says this is outpacing a national trend.

"Nationally it balanced out to only 4,000 more people working from October to November," said Eysink.

Louisiana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in November which is a .9 percent increase from last year. But Eysink says the main reason our unemployment rate has risen is because of the speed of the growth of the labor force. 

He says industrial announcements keep coming and people from around the nation are paying attention.

"Given that the announcements are still coming, I think that bodes very well for the future," said Eysink.

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Ads tie Scalise to Obama

A group called Senate Conservatives Action is sponsoring radio ads that target Republican Metairie Congressman Steve Scalise.  The ads accuse Scalise of siding with President Obama instead of standing on the conservative platform.  

LaPolitics-dot-com publisher Jeremy Alford says this attack stems from the Congressman's efforts to help pass a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill.
"Really, they're lashing out at him because he supported a bill that did not defund the Affordable Care Act and did not reverse the President's executive order on immigration.  But it was, really, just a bunch of bills that kept the government from shutting down."

Alford says this is interesting since Scalise was able to capture the whip position because he was a favorite of the tea party movement, where the Senate Conservatives Action finds its roots.  He says there is a bit of political intrigue here as this group supported Rob Maness in his run for the US Senate.

"Looking forward, one of the rumors that's being floated is that he could end up running against Steve Scalise."

Rumors are circulating that Maness may challenge Scalise in 2016.  Alford says these kind of threats cannot be taken lightly.  He says the big question is whether the Senate Conservatives Action is going to continue to hammer away at Scalise.

"If this is a one and done, flash in the pan, type deal, Scalise doesn't have much to worry about.  But if he's part of a larger strategy, then this is definitely something he's going to be looking over his shoulder and wondering what's coming next."

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An average fall shrimping season ends Monday

The fall shrimping season comes to a close on some state waters Monday and some are calling this an average season for fishermen.  Daren Martin, owner of Martin's Fresh Shrimp in Chauvin, says this was a fair season for shrimpers.

"We've had better, we've had worse.   We try and judge this fall season on longevity.  In other words, if you get some quik cold fronts come early in the year, the season ends rather abruptly."

Martin says there were those early cold fronts that came through the state, but the water stayed in the marsh allowing shrimpers to continue to work.  He says he's seen better seasons and worse seasons.

"It wasn't a big catch, but it stayed pretty steady for longer than some seasons have."

Martin says the price of shrimp fluctuated a bit during the fall season, but, on average, was a little better than they are used to getting.  He says, now that shrimpers will have to go into the Gulf of Mexico to get shrimp, consumers should expect to see a bit of a price hike.

"Because it costs us more to get out there and it's more wear and tear on the equipment and whatnot."
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Super Saturday expected to be as busy as Black Friday in 2014

Michelle Southern reporting.
The last Saturday before Christmas could be as big a shopping day as Black Friday especially if you're still looking for TVs, appliances or clothes according to experts. Andrew Kuo (quoe) is a marketing professor at LSU.

He says the downside of the so-called "Super Saturday" is that shoppers are typically at the mercy of the retailers.

"And I'm sure everyone has been in the situation where if you've waited till the last minute to get that perfect gift, there's nothing you wouldn't spend," said Kuo.

MartketWatch reports Super Saturday could edge out Black Friday as the top sales day of the year in 2014. Kuo says the Day after Thanksgiving sales weren't as high this year as they have been in years past which is another reason stores are expected to be packed tomorrow.

"This is one of the last chances for many people to get to the mall and department stores because online shipping is over," said Kuo.

Kuo says this weekend you can expect excellent apparel sales, discounted appliances to help folks get ready for guests in their home and last minute TV deals. He says with the growing popularity of online shopping, consumers have been spreading out their store shopping throughout the entire month of December.

"Retailers like Amazon continue to dominate the online space and brick and mortar stores are doing more and more business online," said Kuo.

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Motorists to enjoy low gas prices over the Holiday period

Gas prices are about 75-cents lower than a year ago as we head into what should be a busy two weeks of traveling during this holiday period. Gregg Laskoski, with gas-buddy-dot-com, says with the statewide average at about $2.30 a gallon, it should help consumers pay for other expenses.

"More presents for the family, it might be on a little bit more food, it could be on better accommodations as they travel greater distances," Laskoski said. 
Laskoski says gas prices have been on a sharp decline since October and this trend should continue into next year. He says the US Department of Energy is projecting a national average price of $2.60 a gallon for 2015. 
"If they are accurate, what that suggests also is that crude oil prices will remain well below $80 a barrel for a long, long time."
Laskoski says this Christmas gift of lower gas prices is the result of a decline in global crude oil prices.  
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58% disapprove of Governor Jindal's job performance

A new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll shows 58-percent of Louisianians disapprove of Governor Bobby Jindal's job performance as he heads into his final year in office.  600 likely Louisiana voters were surveyed.  

Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says you probably won't see the Governor's popularity increase very much as he ends his term.
"Cuts to the budget - teachers, teachers unions, state employees - all of those groups have been affected by some of his reforms and the people who don't like him have piled up."

But Pinsonat points out that the poll shows 70-percent of Republicans give the governor a positive job rating.  With both houses of the state legislature being controlled by Republicans, Pinsonat doesn't see these poll numbers changing the way Jindal will do business in his last year.

"Jindal can not do anything he wants, but he's still got support in there by the Republicans because they've got to pay attention that Jindal's popular with 70-percent of their voters."

He doesn't think these poll numbers will factor into Jindal's decision to run for President in 2016.  But Pinsonat says this could be something that could potentially hurt him.

"At the present time, Jindal's doing well enough with Republicans and some whites where he can get away with it.  If it gets any worse, and he starts losing Republicans and then is unpopular with whites, then it will definitely hurt him." 
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Rain coming to Louisiana today

Some much needed rain will be hitting Louisiana today.  State Climatologist Barry Keim says this rain is coming at a great time as the state has been rain deficient over the last two months.  

Keim says there is a coastal storm forming off the coast of Texas this morning.
"Which is going to track from west to east along Louisiana's coast today all the way through Saturday morning."

He says rainfall amounts with this storm could be anywhere from a half inch up to four inches of rain.  Keim says there is the possibility of severe weather depending on the track of the storm.

"But, right now, the chances are very, very low as they have the storm tracking right along the coast.  But if the storm actually ventures inland a little bit, it could increase the chances for severe weather."

Keims says the entire state is teetering right on the edge of drought with everything east of the Atchafalaya Basin experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.  Keim says the precipitation will be short lived with conditions clearing by Saturday morning.

"Leading to an absolutely beautiful weekend with high temperatures in the 50s in the northern half of the state and highs in the 60s in the southern half of the state." 
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Reward offered for St. Rose hit and run driver

Michelle Southern reporting.
Louisiana State Police is offering a $2500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for allegedly running over and killing a pedestrian in St. Rose on Thanksgiving morning. Spokeswoman Melissa Matey says the crash took place on La 626 in St. Charles Parish.

"We've been working on this case and obtained surveillance video," said Matey.

Matey says 25-year-old Christin Allday was walking across the road at 1:30am and did not yield to the oncoming vehicle when she was struck. The victim sustained fatal injuries as a result.

Matey the vehicle did not stop or return to the scene of the crash and they now have surveillance video.

"It's from in and around the neighborhood at the time of the crash," said Matey. "They believe they have a suspect vehicle but we do need help from the public."

The suspect vehicle is believed to be a dark colored truck or SUV. Matey says callers do not have to give their name or testify to receive the cash reward. 

The Crimestoppers Hotline is 504-822-1111.

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SMOR Poll has Vitter with a double-digit lead in horse race for 2015 governor's race

A new poll on the 2015 governor's race shows republican senator David Vitter with a solid lead over three other opponents. Southern Media and Opinion Research pollster Bernie Pinsonat says Vitter benefits from high name recognition and because he's a vocal critic against President Barack Obama.

"Most voters are reeling against the national policies coming out of Barack Obama and the national democrats, and who benefits from that of course is Senator David Vitter," Pinsonat said.  

Southern Media and Opinion Research surveyed 600 likely voters and 36-percent support Vitter. Pinsonat says Vitter is leading the field of three other opponents in the governor's race, even though 40-percent of the poll respondents disapprove of Vitter's job performance. 
"He's always had high negatives with a certain segment of voters, probably about 30%, but it's not a concern for him until he gets into a runoff."
Democratic state representative John Bel Edwards finished second in the race horse poll, receiving 26-percent, followed by republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne at 19-percent. Pinsonat says Edwards benefits by receiving most of the African-American vote. 
"He only needs a few white (votes) for him to get into a runoff and there are enough low-income whites that will vote for him that pretty well assure himself into a runoff spot," Pinsonat said.  
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What does resumed trade with Cuba mean for Louisiana?

Now that the United States and Cuba have announced plans to renew diplomatic relations and resume trade, what does that mean for Louisiana?  Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says resumed trade would be a big benefit for the state, especially the Port of New Orleans.

"Prior to 1961 about 65 percent of all the imports and exports to Cuba went through the port of New Orleans."

Cuba was the Port of New Orleans' largest trade partner, prior to the embargo.  Governor Jindal opposes the President's plan to "normalize" relations with the Communist nation calling it a disservice to those in Cuba who wish to be free and who live in fear of a dictatorial regime.  However, Strain says other non-democratic countries enjoy normal trade relations with the US.

"We've normalized trade with China and with Vietnam.  And, of course doing this with Cuba, we'll do this in a step-by-step fashion, but I think now it is time."

A 2005 visit to Cuba by then Governor Kathleen Blanco established limited trade between Louisiana and the island nation.  Strain says Cuba needs what Louisiana can provide, especially rice and poultry.  But he says food will not be the only thing being exported there.

"It's also going to be able them to buy small types of agricultural equipment, small tractors and that sort of thing." 

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One week till Christmas: Try to keep your cool

Michelle Southern reporting.
Christmas is one week from today and many people would call the next 7 days the most stressful of the year. LSU AgCenter Life specialist Diane Sasser says it's a good idea to get plenty of rest and if you're too tired -- slow down. 

She says it's important to keep smiling and stay positive because getting too easily irritated is unproductive.

"Or everything else you do is just shot down the drain because you're SO stressed out about it you forget what this is really about," said Sasser.

Sasser says you'll be doing yourself a big favor if you get solid plans in place now so there isn't a big scramble next week. She says trying to achieve the "perfect" Holiday can cause worry and tension.

"Because of mom is unhappy, then dad is unhappy and the whole family gets that way," said Sasser. "Talking it out will help everyone understand the way you feel."

Sasser says if you're lonely or missing a loved one, attending a community holiday event may brighten your spirits. She says it's always good to stay on budget and keep a list of everything if at all possible.

"If you think you're going to get a certain number of things at X amount, stick to it," said Sasser.

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Boustany wants answers from VA

Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany plans to meet with Veterans Affairs officials today over their decision to push back the completion date of two new VA clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.  It's reported that the opening of both clinics are delayed by almost a year to 2016.  

Boustany says these delays are unacceptable.
"They have delayed things time and time again.  We had beurocratic problems, I solved all this.  We got the legislation passed in August, overcoming a number of hurdles.  And then to get this kind of treatment again from the VA is just purely ridiculous."

Boustany says his office has not been contacted by the VA in regard to this issue.  He says he learned of the delays second-hand.  Boustany says the VA is sending mixed signals to veterans and he intends to get to the bottom of this.

"They need to quit being part of the problem and the VA needs to come clean and be very specific on what they're doing."

It's reported that VA officials made the announcement of the delay at a town hall meeting in Lake Charles.  Boustany says he's determined to get answers becuase our veterans deserve to be treated a whole lot better than this.  He says this mistreatment of veterans has gone on long enough.

"My concern, after getting through these hurdles with the legislation and finally getting it passed, was that the VA would come up with some other stupid scheme for delaying things.  And it sounds like it." 
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Opelousas to hold rally against non-indictments in officer involved killings

Michelle Southern reporting.
A public demonstration is being held this evening in downtown Opelousas to protest grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York where charges were not pressed in officer involved deaths. It's being organized by newly-elected alderman Tyrone Glover who says the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, Opelousas Police, the DA's office and the city marshal are all participating.

"I wanted to do it in conjunction with law enforcement, instead of law enforcement being on one side and citizens being on the other side," said Glover. "We want to show that we can stand together and we are concerned."

In New York, Eric Garner died in a choke hold while saying, "I can't breathe" and the officer detaining him is not being indicted. Glover says today's rally will not be a march but a dialogue among all participants to make sure everyone is on the same page should something like this happen in St. Landry Parish.

"The District Attorney's Office is the watchdogs, and before something like this explodes we wanted to get together and vow to make peace," said Glover.

The rally will begin at 5pm in Opelousas' Courthouse Square. Glover says he's good friends with Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and they both agree law enforcement responded the wrong way in Garner's case and in the Ferguson case of Michael Brown. Glover says this rally will be a peaceful one, not negative.

"I applaud law enforcement for taking this leap, because I know it's not easy," said Glover. "It's sad that the good cops have to suffer for the bad."
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Saints a win and a Carolina loss away from an NFC South title

The Saints can win the NFC South this Sunday, if they can beat their biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons, and if Carolina loses to Cleveland. Even though this has not been a great season for the Black and Gold, Quarterback Drew Brees says they are still in position to accomplish one of their main goals.

"This is at the beginning of the season what you hoped for, right, is the opportunity to playing for something significant this time of year," Brees said. "It' doesn't get any better than this." 
Even though Atlanta comes in with a record of 5-9, Quarterback Matt Ryan is playing at a high level. He's thrown for 300 or more yards in his last three games and for the season he has 41-hundred passing yards and 27 touchdowns.
Saints Coach Sean Payton says the Falcons have an explosive offense: 
"And not just in the passing game, there numbers in the last six weeks with regards to big plays, they're a team that starts fast, they've got great tempo, obviously a veteran quarterback that gets them in some advantage looks." 
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Prayer rally at PMAC expected to draw protests

Many people on LSU's campus are not happy the Pete Maravich Assembly Center will be the site for a prayer rally featuring Governor Jindal next month. The American Family Association is funding the event and LSU Associate english professor Chris Barrett says she considers the A-F-A a hate group for its views and stance on homosexuality.

"The whole mission of this organization is to defame and demonize the whole LGBTQ community," Barrett said.
Barrett says it's her hope LSU will tell the organizers to hold their rally somewhere else, if not, she and hundreds of others plan to protest outside of the PMAC that day, because of the A-F-A's involvement. 
"I think this is really a matter of...Does hate belong at LSU? And if you love LSU like I do, then you say then no, it actually doesn't it."  
American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fisher says he doesn't understand why there's controversy surrounding their Prayer Rally on January 24th. 
"I find it rather bizarre that anybody would have objection for getting together to pray and repent," Fisher said.
Fisher says he's not surprised gay activists would come out against this event. 
"The more they bang on their pots and pans, the more attention it draws to the prayer rally, and so that works in our benefit," Fisher said.  
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Cuban native blasts the President over new Cuban policies

A native of Cuba, who lives in New Orleans, blasts President Obama for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.  George Fowler, Vice Chairman of the Cuban-American National Foundation, feels that there will probably be some cosmetic changes in US-Cuba policy but nothing significant.

"That's because the Castro brothers never deal in earnest.  They don't give anything back that's worth anything in connection with their deals on the embargo."

Another part of the deal with Cuba saw an exchange of prisoners.  Cuba agreed to release American Alan Gross in exchange for three Cubans imprisoned in the US accused of spying.  Fowler says he condemns this action by the President because it will put Americans everywhere in the world in danger.

"They'll grab an American and then they'll cut deals to get their terrorists out of jail.  So, they'll grab the good guys, Americans, and they'll trade them for their bad guys who should be in jail."

Fowler doesn't see much benefit for the US in expanding trade with Cuba.  He says Cuba is a bankrupt Communist country and has been for many years.  Fowler says there may be one benefit of resuming trade.

"Maybe we'll be able to get back Cuban cigars because the good Cuban cigars they ship to friends who are enemies of our country."
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Scalise supports Vitter in Governor's race

Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Metairie says he supports US Senator David Vitter in his campaign to become governor.  Scalise made his comments on The Jim Engster Show.  

The House Majority Whip thinks Vitter would do a great job as Louisiana's governor.
"I think he's laid out some things that are really good to move our state forward, to continue to shed the populism of our past that's held our state back."

Vitter is one of three Republicans running for Louisiana's highest elected office, with Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle being the other two.  Amite Representative John Bel Edwards is the lone Democrat in the race.  Scalise believes Vitter would be more friendly to business in the state as governor.

"More friendly for, frankly, building a middle class for our state."

Scalise as House Majority Whip, has the most clout of the Louisiana Congressional delegation.  He believes that the Senator is the right man to replace Governor Jindal.  Scalise says he's worked with Vitter on several issues in Washington and has seen Vitter's commitment to Louisiana.

"You can see his focus.  So I think he's doing a really good job of laying out his case and, obviously, there is still a long time left in that race."  
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New LWC app connects careers to lifestyles

The Louisiana Workforce Commission has launched a new online mobile tool that would help people find careers that interest them while supporting the standard of living they want to maintain. LWC spokesman Tom Guarisco says it's called "My life. My way." and it's a fun way to envision the life you want.

"So you can make sure if you want to drive a brand new pickup truck or live in a certain house, it factors that in based on what city you've chosen and will connect you to the right careers," said Guarisco.

Guarisco says users can learn how much they need to earn by choosing from 8 regions in Louisiana then making lifestyle choices about housing, food, transportation. He says the app will then connect you to the appropriate career.

"And you can either apply for jobs directly, or if you don't qualify and have to go through a journey or process," Guarisco says. "You can connect to training providers in your area that will prepare you."

Guarisco says you can find the tool online at laworks.net/mylife

He says this is great for students, but it can be used by anyone who may be thinking of re-locating in the state and how much it would cost to live there and keep your current lifestyle.

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More teens now using e-cigarettes

According to a new national survey, for the first time more teens are smoking e-cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes.  The annual University of Michigan "Monitoring the Future" report surveyed over 40,000 8th, 10th, and 12 graders.  

DHH Health Promotions Director Caroline Brazeel says they are currently analyzing data for Louisiana but expects to see a similar trend here.
"Consistently, over the last several years, Louisiana teens and youth have a higher prevalence of using all tobacco products versus the national trends."

It is cited that a possible reason for the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teens is the perception that they do not harm your health.  Brazeel says that's not the case because nicotine can have a negative impact on brain development.  She says another reason for their popularity is the tobacco industry marketing e-cigarettes to teenagers.

"Things like flavored e-cigarettes are something that's commonly cited in the literature as being something that the industry has tried to do to appeal to a younger audience."

There is also concern that the use of e-cigarettes can become habit forming for teens.  Brazeel says it's important that the state does what it can to protect the health of the youth in Louisiana.  She says the Louisiana Legislature took a critical first step in trying to combat this growing trend.

"A law was passed last session to prevent youth from purchasing e-cigarettes or to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors." 
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Mississippi man cited for drowning a deer in the Mississippi River

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says a Mississippi man has been cited for allegedly drowning a deer in the Mississippi River in Concordia Parish. Adam Einck with L-D-W-F says a witness observed 40-year-old David Hayes of Natchez, Mississippi, drive his boat up to a deer swimming in the river.

"And he put a rope around the deer's antlers and preceded to drown the deer," Einck said.
Einck says a Wildlife and Fisheries' agent found Hayes with a dead eight point buck lying in front of the vessel. He says Hayes admitted to drowning the buck in the river on the Louisiana side. 
Hayes faces several hundreds of dollars in fines and up to 90 days in jail, if convicted. He also might have to pay a two-thousand dollar restitution charge for the replacement value of the deer. Einck says they don't see many cases where a person is cited for drowning deer. 
"He must have thought it must have been good idea to approach it and try to get it in his boat apparently," Einck said.  

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