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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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Congressman-elect Ralph Abraham to serve on Ag and Veterans affairs committees

Michelle Southern reporting.
5th District Congressman-elect Ralph Abraham says he's ready to begin his duties in Washington D.C. The Republican from Richland Parish says he's already be told he's secured assignments on the House Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committees.

"I'm very pleased to be on the Ag committee," Abraham says. "The 5th Congressional District in Louisiana is the largest row crop district in the nation."

Abraham says he's requested to be put on the Veterans committee because we all care about those who have served and are serving our country and it's important to protect them. He says he also hopes to be placed on the Armed Services Committee because of Fort Polk and Barksdale.

Abraham is a physician, veteran, farmer and business owner. He says on the AG committee he's going to push for looser EPA restrictions because farmers need freedom to grow a crop without a lot of government oversight. 

Abraham says as a doctor he realizes how vital it is that we properly take care of our Veterans which is not happening in many parts of the country.

"We've got to get that fixed and we've got to do it quickly," Abraham says. "Our Veterans have to be ensured that when they walk into any Veterans hospital in this nation that they will get timely care and the right care."

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Time to get those packages in the mail for Christmas delivery

The United States Postal Service says if you are shipping by standard post, today is the last day to get that package in the mail for an on-time Christmas delivery.  Spokesman McKinney Boyd says today is the post office's busiest day where they'll process in the neighborhood of 354,000 packages statewide.

"That doesn't include letters.  When it comes to the cancellation of letters and cards, we're looking at processing more than 1.5 million cards and letters tonight."

He says if you are shipping by First Class or Priority Mail, the deadline is Saturday for a Christmas delivery.  Boyd says you can avoid lines at the post office by going to their website and schedule a free package pickup.

"Just package your particular presents at home, got to the website, print out a shipping label, and let your letter carrier pick it up."

The web address is www-dot-usps-dot-com.  For the true last minute shopper, December 23 is the deadline to send a package using Priority Mail Express.  Boyd admits that most people communicate electronically these days, but says there is still nothing like receiving a Christmas card in the mail.

"It's still a treasure to be able to open it and see that you've got a hard copy letter or note from a friend or loved one from many miles away" 
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People Magazine profiles Port Barre Elementary principal who was the janitor for 27 years

Michelle Southern reporting.
A man who was once the janitor at Port Barre Elementary School and years later became the principal is being featured in a People Magazine series called "Heroes Among Us." Joseph "Gabe" Sonnier says one day in the mid-80s the then-principal at the school told the janitor he knew he was very smart and capable of doing more with his life.

"He said he'd rather see me grading papers than picking them up," said Sonnier. "I took those words to heart."

Sonnier says later he decided to go to school full-time while he continued working as the custodian. He says after getting his associate's degree and bachelor's degree he began teaching a Port Barre Elementary School.

"During that time I also got my master's then after 5 years and three months of teaching, I became principal of Port Barre Elementary," said Sonnier.

Sonnier, now 53, says he got his master's degree then was appointed principal at the same school where he worked as a janitor for 27 years. His story has inspired many people and Sonnier has been featured on several TV shows and magazines. He says this is his lesson to us all.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," said Sonnier. "Never let the situation that you're in, stop you from achieving your goals and dreams."

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