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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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Is Bill Cosby getting privilege? Wife issues statement.


Michelle Southern reporting.
Bill Cosby's wife Camille has issued a statement defending her husband against the accusations of sexual assault made by several women. She says Bill Cosby is the fatherly image we all know and there has been no vetting of his accusers. Rachel Hebert is the executive director of Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response in Baton Rouge.


She says these cases are so difficult because drugs and alcohol are involved.

"We've seen many incidents of perpetrators using drugs and alcohol, whether or not the victim took them willingly," said Hebert. "But they use that to diminish a victim's credibility."

Camille Cosby says her husband has been falsely painted as a predator by individuals whom many in the media have given a pass. There have been no moves to arrest Cosby on these claims and Hebert believes it's because of his perfect image before these accusations were made.

"We're seeing a huge backlash of people who want to believe these stories are fabricated," said Hebert. "I think we as a community not wanting to hold Bill Cosby accountable points to a larger issue."

Hebert says one of the things we can take away from this case is not to be so quick to rush to judgement.

"It's our knee jerk reaction to believe that the victim has no credibility but we need to learn to listen and believe," said Hebert.

(Image via Flickr: wacphiladelphia) 

 
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Port Allen man arrested for solicitation of murder


State Police report that a Port Allen man is under arrest after they learned he was attempting to solicit murder.  37-year-old Tommy Joe Gioele is charged with two counts of solicitation of murder.  


Trooper Jared Sandifer says the investigation began Sunday evening.
 
"An individual came forward to the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and stated that a man had approached him asking him to actually kill two people in Pointe Coupee Parish."

Sandifer says the relationship with Gioele and the man is unknown.  He says, after learning of Gioele's plans, officers went to work.

"Our detectives and sheriff's deputies placed some undercover phone calls to him and actually learned that this was a pretty legitimate deal."

Gioele was taken into custody at his home without incident.  Sandifer says it's fortunate that this murder plot did not go any further than it did.

"Our detectives, working with the sheriff's offices, acted as quickly as they could, upon learning about this, in order to prevent something tragic from happening and they were able to do so."  
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EDMONSON: High number of fatal crashes in Louisiana over last 30 days not acceptable


Michelle Southern reporting.
State Police say 61 people have died in crashes they've investigated since the day before Thanksgiving this year. Not being properly restrained, impairment and driver distraction were the contributing factors.


Col Mike Edmonson says in his 34 years with state police, he's never seen a worse 30 day period than this one.

He says the tragedies have become too frequent and the people who have lost their lives in these crashes can't be viewed as just a statistic.

"These are people who had a name, a face, a vision, a future," said Edmonson. "I can assure that future was not to die in an automobile accident."

Edmonson says he's been thinking about the family from Texas who died on I-20 on their way to Disney World and the sisters on their way to Dutchtown High School. He says it's for these people we all need to make a commitment to buckle up, don't drink and drive and avoid distracted driving.

"We're going to do everything we can in Louisiana State Police to get out there and be aggressive on our drivers who choose to drive above the speed limit in a reckless manner, impaired and with distractions," said Edmonson.


 
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Ugly a big trend at Christmas parties


Michelle Southern reporting.
The ugly Christmas sweater is becoming more and more popular every year for Holiday gatherings. So what is all the fuss about? LeShai Brown is a vendor at Polished Peasant in Sulphur which specializes in tacky Christmas attire. She says people have a blast with silly festive gear.


"They are seeing it as a fun way to get together, everyone laughing at each other and cutting up," said Brown.

Brown says many people throw specific "Ugly Christmas Sweater" parties with the goal of being the one in attendance with the most hideous holiday shirt.

"People love to have a good time during the Holidays and I definitely expect this trend will continue," said Brown.

Brown says a lot of her customers will buy an ugly Christmas sweater then go home and add even more flair.

"Lights, tinsel, garland," said Brown. "The more garby the better."


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UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns head to The Big Easy today


Michelle Southern reporting.
The UL-Lafayette football team leaves today for New Orleans where they'll play in the R L Carriers Bowl for the 4th straight time. The Ragin' Cajuns will travel to The Big Easy to take on Nevada in the Mercedes Benz Superdome Saturday with a 10am kickoff. 


 UL Athletic Director Scott Farmer says this is always an exciting game for fans.
 
"Obviously 2 hours away from Lafayette and a large majority of our fans," said Farmer. "You can get there and park your car and never have to get in it again. Everything is very accessible."

The game has set attendance records all three years -- 42,841 when UL beat San Diego State in 2001, 48,828 when it beat East Carolina in 2012 and 54,728 when it beat Tulane last December.

Farmer says ticket sales are down so far for the game but they hope the Ragin Cajun Nation will show up in full force.

"Even if you have to get up on Saturday morning and gather everyone in your house," said Farmer. "Drive on down to New Orleans and be a part of something really special."

As part of the New Orleans Bowl festivities, Friday night food and beverages will be available for purchase from a variety of vendors at Champions Square for a free concert featuring Kool and the Gang and Cheap Trick. 

Farmer says it means a lot that they've been associated with this bowl now for four years.

"We're building something really special here, and we're looking for consistency and getting better each year," Farmer said.


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Governor Jindal heads back to Iowa


Although he has yet to declare his intent to run for President in 2016, Governor Bobby Jindal returns to Iowa today.  The Iowa is a key Presidential primary state. Jindal will headline the Polk County Republican Winter Victory Dinner in West Des Moines Tuesday night.  
 
"There will be probably in the neighborhood of 150 central Iowans who will meet him at this event for the Polk County GOP," said Radio Iowa news director Kay Henderson. 
 
Henderson says Jindal has been doing the things that one does if your are planning a presidential campaign, doesn't consider him in the top tier of potential presidential candidates.  She says Jindal has a lot of work ahead of him when it comes to educating voters.

"He has to remind Iowans over and over what his record is and what his personal story is."

This is the governor's fourth trip to Iowa this year and third in the past three months.  She says a Jindal victory in Iowa would not be out of the question with the caucuses over a year away.  Henderson says Mike Huckaby was virtually unknown in Iowa a year from the 2008 caucuses.

"In the end, he was able to assemble a coalition of voters that vaulted him past the favorite in that year which was Mitt Romney." 
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Saints are in 1st place in the NFC South after beating the Bears


The Saints are in first place in the NFC South after winning on the road again. New Orleans beat the Bears 31-15 at a soggy Soldier Field in Chicago. After getting blown out at home last week, New Orleans took it to the Bears as Quarterback Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and the Saints defense intercepted three passes and sacked Chicago QB Jay Cutler seven times.


"There's a sense of urgency that we need to create each week and we need to be mindful of how important that edge is to play well and it's something that we kinda of focused on and made a point of emphasis with everyone," Saints Head Coach Payton said.
 
The Saints are now three and four away from New Orleans. Payton's team will look to snap a four-game home losing streak this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. 
 
"You wanna play well, especially when you are playing at home, you wanna take advantage of that. Look, we're gonna have another chance here this week, we gotta a big home game on Sunday, and were going to have to do better job there." 
 
 
 
 
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Miles touts LSU's future; doesn't want to talk about Michigan


Even though LSU's Les Miles didn't want to go on the record to talk about the vacancy at his alma mater Michigan, the Tigers head coach made it clear with reporters on Monday night he's not interested in the job. When Miles allowed for cameras and recorders to roll, he gave this thought on LSU's quarterback situation.


"We're again looking at competition at several spots, we are giving some other guys the opportunity to step forward and see what they have," Miles said. "And also Brandon Harris is being groomed in a like fashion."
 
While Miles wouldn't discuss the Michigan job, he spoke highly of LSU's future and what the Tigers can accomplish in the future, especially if they don't lose a lot of underclassmen to the draft. 
 
"This team has the potential to play in championships and should the juniors recognize how close we are to being in the tournament," Miles said.
 
LSU plays Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on December 30th.  
 
 
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Department of Public Safety officer accused of touching woman inappropriately


State Police say a Louisiana Department of Public Safety officer is charged with sexual battery and malfeasance in office following a traffic stop in Zachary.  Michael Selders of Clinton was booked into the East Baton Rouge Prison.  

Lt. JB Slaton says the victim contacted the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's office after the traffic stop.
 
"The victim alleges that Officer Selders pulled her over for a traffic violation and inappropriately touched her in a sexual manner."

Selders is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.  Slaton says the victim was aware of Selders before the incident because he frequented her place of employment.

"Initially, when the traffic stop was made, I think they both recognized each other, knew each other, and at that point a hug was exchanged.  And what happened from that point needs to be determined fully."

The victim claims Selders continued to touch her inappropriately after they exchanged a hug.  EBRSO detectives say there were several inconsistencies in Selders' accounts of the incident.  Slaton says these types of allegations are something that State Police take very seriously.

"We serve the public, we're there for the public, and if any of our officers conduct their business in this manner, they will be dealt with swiftly." 
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A couple of areas of the Gulf reopened to fishermen


The state has reopened a couple of areas in the Gulf of Mexico that were affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to commercial fishermen.  Areas off the coasts of Elmer's and Grand Terre Islands have been closed since the spill in 2010.  

Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard's Seafood in Grand Isle, says both of these areas are good areas for shrimp.
 
"The first day they opened, I had one boat caught 7,000 pounds right off of Grand Terre.  In fact, I had a couple of boats call me this morning that they're coming to ice up and they're all going out there for this week."

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reopened these areas, near Grand Isle, December 10.  Blanchard says reopening these areas will be a big help for the industry going forward.

"We've been running about 60-percent of what we were doing before the spill and we're hoping that will boost our numbers back up.  Hopefully, in a year or two, we'll get back to normal."

There is still an area near Barataria Bay that remains closed to fishing.  Blanchard says the more shrimp fishermen are able to harvest will put more on the market and drive the cost of Gulf shrimp down.  He says they are keeping a close eye on these shrimp to make sure they aren't affected by the spill.

"We didn't see nothing wrong with it yet.  But we've been inspecting it and everything looks good so far."
 
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LSP: A suspected drunk driver causes wreck that kills 3 in Beauregard Parish


State Police say a suspected drunk driver heading the wrong way on a four-lane highway in Beauregard Parish struck another vehicle head-on, resulting in three fatalities. State Police Sergeant James Anderson says they believe 28-year-old Kristi Poteet was traveling south in the northbound lanes of US 171.


"That vehicle hit the northbound vehicle head-on," Anderson said. "Two occupants of the southbound vehicle were pronounced dead at the scene and as well as the driver that was heading north."
 
Poteet and a passenger in her car were killed at the scene. 41-year-old Ricky Gill of Singer was the driver of the other car who also died. Anderson says they believe Poteet was impaired at the time of the crash. 
 
State Police say nine people were killed over the weekend. No seatbelts, impaired driving and driver error were the contributing factors. 61 lives have been lost since the week before Thanksgiving in accidents investigated by State Police.  
 
 
 
 

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