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Senate debate on Monday night as accusations swirl over Cassidy's part-time job at LSU

Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu and republican challenger Bill Cassidy will meet in a televised US Senate debate Monday night. Political analyst Clancy Dubos says you can bet Landrieu will bring up the recent allegations that Cassidy, who is a doctor, was paid by the LSU Health Sciences Center for work he never did.

"That's possibly going to get some traction in the last week of the campaign," Dubos said. "And Cassidy will simply continue to say Obama, Obama, Obama, no matter what the question is." 
Political bloggers first reported that some of Cassidy's time sheets from LSU did not add up to the hours he actually worked. Dubos says this issue will likely come up in tonight's debate, but it might be too little too late for Landrieu's re-election chances. 
"Typically when something like this breaks, it takes days for voters to recognize it, talk about it and let the impact sink in."
In published reports, Cassidy denies the accusations that he received payments for work he didn't do at the LSU Health Sciences Center. 
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Christmas Tree time is here

It's the time of year where people start looking for that perfect Christmas Tree to display in their home for the holiday season.  If you're looking to get a fresh tree, Kevin Steele, Louisiana Director of the Southern Christmas Tree Association says there is an ample supply in Louisiana.

"Primarily the tree we have in Lousiana now is Leylend Cypress.  We also have Carolina Saffire, Blue Ice, and Burkii Cedar."

Steele owns and operates a choose-and-cut Christmas Tree farm in Washington Parish.  He says a problem many people have with fresh Christmas Trees is needles falling from the tree.  Steele says if you don't like falling needles, you may want to consider purchasing a Leyland Cypress.

"It does not have a needle.  It's more like a fern as far as the way the leaf or the branch is formed.  And there's nothing that falls off."

He says many people struggle with keeping their trees fresh as they go through the season.  Steele says it's important to hydrate your tree to keep it fresh.

"It absorbs a tremendous amount of water from the soil and after its been cut it will still conitnue to absorb and that's what's going to keep the tree fresh.  And so the main thing is to put the tree in a water-holding stand."

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Attorney General reminds shoppers to shop smart

The Louisiana Attorney General's Office reminds shoppers to stay safe and shop smart this holiday season.   Director of the Public Protection Division, Sam Pleasant, says you should be on the lookout for holiday shopping scams.  

She says it's very important to protect your identity.
"Make sure you keep those credit cards and debit cards in a secure place and when you're shopping online, make sure that you're using a secure website from a legitimate retailer."

She says it's important to keep your card and PIN number from prying eyes while you are out shopping.  Pleasant says you should be very aware of suspicious looking point of sale terminals or scanning devices.

"Because a lot of scammers will install their own phishing devices or fake credit card transaction devices that you swipe your card through it and they are able to gain your information."

She says you should review your financial statements and documents frequently for unusual discrepancies.  Pleasant says if you plan on doing some holiday shopping online, be aware of look-a-like or phony websites.  Pleasant says you should make sure you are on the proper website before purchasing anything online.

"If you can type in the retailer's web address directly, that's best.  Try not to click on any links or if things pop up in your e-mail or while you're browsing, don't click on those."

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Black Friday is here

Black Friday is here and shoppers are crowding stores looking to find that great deal for their holiday shopping.  Louisiana Tech Marketing Professor Berry Babin says you can expect blockbuster specials in stores this morning.

"...in limited quantities only as they are lures to get people into stores.  I think what you see over the last few years is that the line between shopping online and shopping in the store is a lot more blurred."

He says retailers are now offering Black Friday deals online, as well as in-store.  Babin says electronics will still be a hot item this holiday season.  However, he says some electronics experts say the sale of tablets will be down this year.

"Now that laptop computers have gotten smaller and phones have gotten bigger, the tablet is kind of getting squeezed out as something that's practically useful for a lot of people."

Retailers are optimistic that this holiday shopping season will be strong.  Babin says, even though online shopping is increasing, you shouldn't expect the Black Friday shopping crowds to go away anytime soon.

"I think that there's still a lot of people who really enjoy going to the stores, in the crowd of it.  I think it's something you either love or hate."

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LSU holds on to beat the Aggies 23-17

LSU had twice as many yards then Texas A&M on Thursday night, but despite that domination, the Tigers had to hang on for a 23-17 win over the Aggies.

LSU rushed for 384 yards. Leonard Fournette led the way with 146 yards on the ground, including an impressive 22-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter. Starting quarterback Anthony Jennings had 119 yards on the ground. Jennings also threw for 107 yards, on one touchdown and one interception.
LSU led 20-7 going into the 4th quarter. But a couple of missed field goals by the Tigers and nine penalties kept the Aggies in the game.
Texas A&M scored 10 points in the 4th quarter to get back in the game. LSU finally secured the victory with a Jalen Collins interception on the Aggies final offensive drive of the night.
LSU finishes the regular season with a 8-4 record, 4-4 in the SEC. They'll wait to find out where they'll play in a bowl game.  
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SWAC Title game appearance on the line in Bayou Classic

One of the best stories in college football this season will get national attention on Saturday when the Grambling State Tigers try to complete their remarkable turnaround, by beating Southern in the Bayou Classic.
Kick-off on NBC is at 1:30 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  

With a win, the Tigers can win the SWAC Western Division after winning just two games in 2012 and 2013. First-year Coach Broderick Fobbs says despite some recent dark days at Grambling, the winning tradition never left the school.
"To have an opportunity to represent the West in our conference is what we aspired to in the beginning, so everything is in front of us and we look forward to the challenge," Fobbs said.
The winner of Saturday's game will represent the western division in the SWAC Championship. Southern is also 7-and-1 in the league as they've won six in a row. Fobbs has a lot of respect for Jaguars Head Coach Dawson Odums. 
"You can tell from looking at his team's play, they really get after it, they play fast, they're physical and very technically sound," Fobbs said.  
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Jindal and DEQ oppose new emission rules

Several metro areas in Louisiana are in jeopardy of not meeting the federal government's new ozone standards. The US Environmental Protection Agency is lowering the acceptable amount of how much ozone pollution should be in the air. State Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Greg Langley says it will force many industries and businesses to reduce their emissions. 

"Well even if they install controls and equipment to do that, processes to do that will be expensive," Langley said.
Governor Bobby Jindal says the new environmental regulations will kill jobs and increase energy prices. Langley says D-E-Q agrees with that assessment.
"It's clear that this is a standard that will result in perhaps a loss of jobs and some cost to industry," Langley said.
But EPA administrator Gina McCarthy says lowering the standard will protect children and the elderly, who have trouble breathing because of ozone pollution. Langley says the new rules will take effect next October, but first there will be a 90-day comment period. 
"They are opening it for public input," Langley said.  
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Cleco offers energy efficiency program

Cleco is now offering its customers an energy efficiency program  to help reduce their monthly energy use.  Spokesperson Robbyn Cooper says the best way to manage your bill is to manage your energy consumption.

"This energy efficiency program that we're offering allows customers to make some improvements to their home that will help them save energy in the long run and, therefore, helping manage their electricity bill."

The program is available to all of Cleco's 284,000 customers in Louisiana.  Cooper says there are many features to this program and more information can be found on Cleco's website.  She says the process will start with a free energy assessment.

"And show them where they can help improve their home and save energy."

The assessment will show customers where they can make energy efficient improvements to their home.  Cooper says that, if you need to have work done on your home to improve its energy efficiency, you can save by using one of Cleco's approved contractors.

"Contractors will actually give you an instant rebate on the invoice as a discount at the time that some work is being done." 
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Federal judges overturn gay marriage bans in Mississippi and Arkansas, what about Louisiana?

Mississippi and Arkansas became the latest states to have a federal judge rule that their gay marriage bans violated the US Constitution. Those two rulings came down Tuesday.
But Loyola University law professor Dane Ciolino says Louisiana's ban on same sex marriages is safe for now, because U-S District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans upheld Louisiana's gay marriage ban with a ruling he made in September.

Ciolino says because there are conflicting rulings from various federal judges and appellate courts, the Supreme Court will be forced to make a ruling. 
"At the end of the day, it's going to be up to the US Supreme Court over the course to next 6 to 8 months or year to resolve this," Ciolino said.
Ciolino says rulings made in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas have been or are in the process of being appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. He says it's likely that appellate court will rule against same-sex couples. 
"It should be a close call, but I would think many court watchers would expect to find the 5th circuit to find the bans constitutional, given its conceived conservative bent," Ciolino said. 
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Floating Columbus museums in Houma

Replicas of Christopher Columbus' ships, the Nina and Pinta, will be on display in Houma starting today.  The ships are floating museums educating the public on the type of ship that Columbus used during the age of discovery.  

Captain of the Nina, Stephen Sanger, says the ships attract people of all ages.
"It's great for the kids and it's good for the wives to get the husbands off the couch and drag them out to do something on the weekend." 

The ships will be on display through December 7th at the Downtown Marina in Houma.  Sanger says both of these ships are Portuguese Caravels that were hand crafted in Brazil.

"..by eighth generation Portuguese shipwrights.  So the techniques on how to build these ships were passed down through generations."

Both ships spend about 10 months out of the year traveling around the United States giving people a glimpse of what life was like for sailors in the 15th century.  Sanger says while the Pinta is a slightly larger replica than the original, the Nina is an exact replica of Columbus' ship.

"She was constructed using only hand tools and was finished in time to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his crossing in '92." 
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Most people traveling this Thanksgiving since 2007

The American Automobile Association says more than 46 million Americans will be hitting the road to celebrate Thanksgiving which is the most since 2007. The travel days are defined as today through Sunday.

AAA travel analyst Don Redman says they attribute this jump to an improving economy.
"Let's don't make any mistake that the idea the past several months we've been seeing the lowest gas prices in almost four years," said Redman.

Redman says more than 90 percent of travelers will be doing so by vehicle. He says folks will be enjoying the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in five years.

"It will give them a little more disposable income to take on those Holiday trips," said Redman. "We're looking at an increase of slightly more than four percent which is almost 2 more million people traveling this year versus last year."

He says though gas prices are going to be lower, there are other travel expenses that are moderately higher this year over last year.

"Hotel and motel stays, if you're planning to rent a vehicle and also if you're planning to fly this year," said Redman.


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Turkey Tips for Thanksgiving

It maybe a tradition at your household to rinse the turkey before putting it in the oven for the Thanksgiving feast. But LSU AgCenter nutritionist Denise Holston-West advises against it. She says washing poultry or meat can spread bacteria.

"Some of the harmful bacteria, just by rinsing the turkey alone, can really spread up to three feet to nearby counters on the floor and cross contaminate some other work areas in the kitchen," Holston-West said. 
Once the turkey is in the oven, use a food thermometer to make sure it cooks to 165-degrees. Holston-West says the stuffing should be cooked in a separate casserole. 
"But if you are going to stuff your turkey and cook the stuffing within the turkey, you want to use a thermometer to actually measure the temperature of the stuffing, which should also be 165-degrees," Holston-West said.  
She also advises against having food out on the table for more than two hours. 
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FDA to mandate caloric intake be put on all prepared food

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Food and Drug Administration announces new rules mandating chain restaurants and supermarkets serving prepared food put calorie counts on the menus. The regulation applies to any establishment that serves food, even movie theaters, and have 20 or more locations. 

"I really view this FDA ruling as a creation of a public health education tool," says Melissa Martin, the state Department of Health and Hospitals "Well-Ahead" manager. "Many consumers are maybe under the impression that the caloric content is a lot different than the option actually is."

The rules also apply to gas stations, bakeries, coffee shops, amusement parks and vending machines and they all have until November 2015 to comply. Martin believes these new rules will help people make a more informed decision when they are ordering food and drinks.

"Also when you have an empowered consumer there's an opportunity for healthy behavior change," said Martin. "I think behavior change is the cornerstone for improved health."

Martin says menu labeling ensures customers process calorie information as they decide what to eat and drink. She feels this ruling will promote a healthier population.

"I think it's moving people in the right direction," said Martin.

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Destrehan High School sex scandal teacher pleads not guilty

The Destrehan High School teacher involved in a sex scandal with a 16-year-old student pleads not guilty today. 

34-year-old Shelley Dufrense appeared in court Tuesday and was officially charged with carnal knowledge of a juvenile in St. Charles Parish. The suspect is accused of arranging to meet at another teacher's apartment in September with the, then, 16-year-old male student for a threesome. 

Dufrense is out on $200,000 bond and her house restrictions were also loosened up today so she can help her husband out with their three young children and attend Jazzercise class.

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Family fights dog ban

A Moreauville family is fighting the town that is trying to enact a ban on vicious dogs.  Joanna Armand, whose family owns a pit bull named Zeus, is fighting to lift that ban.  Armand began an online petition and it has already generated over 245,000 signatures.  

She's also reaching out to dog owners in Moreauville and Avoyelles Parish.
"Because if it's going to be just pit bulls and rottweilers, right now, who knows in the future it could spread to German Shepherds or boxers or dobermans or huskies."

Moreauville passed an ordinance banning pit bulls and rottweilers from town limits.  If the ban goes into effect, the family would be forced to give up one-year-old Zeus, who has no history of aggressive behavior.  Armand says giving up Zeus would devastate her family since the dog provides love and support for four of her children who have special needs.

"For each of them he has a place.  He has a job with them.  And that is a job he's taken on solely himself that he's acquired, he's learned.  And that's their outlet.  That is their helper."

Armand calls Zeus a "Mom's Helper" for the role he has taken with her children.  It's reported the ordinance was passed because several residents said they were chased by dogs in neighborhoods, although no attacks have been documented.  The ban was to go into effect December 1, but that date has been put on hold.  Armand feels the town handled this situation in the wrong way.

"I don't think it was put to a town vote.  It was strictly five people sitting up on a bench that decided the fate of basically the thousand plus residents of Moreauville."

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Lawmaker wants extended early voting to make up for Holidays

Michelle Southern reporting.
A Monroe lawmaker filed a lawsuit this week seeking to extend the early voting period for the December 6th runoff because two days were lost this time due to the Thanksgiving Holidays. Governor Bobby Jindal declared this Friday a state holiday, Acadian Day, and polls are closed.

Representative Marcus Hunter says he hopes the court knows the will of the legislature when it comes to voting.

"The intent has always been to give the voter every opportunity to vote," said Hunter.

Hunter says this election, with the US-Senate race at the top of the ballot, is too important to shorten the amount of time someone is given the opportunity to vote. He says he hopes a judge will add those two extra days back.

"I would like to see the judges ruling extend early voting to Friday and Monday or Monday and Tuesday," said Hunter.

Hunter says it's the responsibility of Secretary of State Tom Schedler to make sure voter turnout in Louisiana is as high as it can possibly be. But Schedler says the law is the law.

"When a Governor calls a declared Holiday, as he has, then voting is suspended," said Schedler.

Hunter says he hopes his case will be heard either today or tomorrow before the judges take off for Thanksgiving. Schedler says this is not the first time that polls have been closed during the early voting period when state offices are closed.

"But it is the first time we've ever been challenged in court," Schedler said.

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Diabetes costs Louisiana $5 billion a year

As the rate of diabetes continues to rise, new numbers show the disease costs Louisiana's five-billion dollars a year.  The study was conducted by LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
The facility's executive director, Dr. William Cefalu, says the cost of prediabetes went up 74-percent and undiagnosed diabetes grew 82-percent since 2007. 

"The real increase in costs of diabetes and prediabetes is just the sheer number of cases."

Nationally, the cost of diabetes has grown to $322 billion per year in excess medical costs and lost productivity.  Cefalu says diabetes is becoming an economic burden for the entire country.

"I think it was stated that one in ten dollars is now spent on this condition."

Cefalu says increased awareness and action to stem the disease is needed to cut down the cost.  He says previous studies show that prediabetes can be controlled.

"This is where lifestyle and increased physical activity, we know we can reduce greatly the number of cases progressing to diabetes." 
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Saints drop 3rd straight at the Superdome

Last week it was Jeremy Hill who ran through the Saints defense, on Monday night Baltimore's Justin Forsett rushed for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Ravens beat the Saints 34-27.
The loss snaps New Orleans 14-game winning streak in home prime time games. It also marks the first time in 13 years the Saints have lost three in the Superdome. 

But New Orleans still shares the lead in the NFC South with Atlanta, despite a 4-and-7 record. The Falcons own the tie breaker, because they beat New Orleans in the season opener.
The Saints had momentum going into halftime as Quarterback Drew Brees connected with Marques Colston on a 26-yard touchdown pass. Colston's TD catch gave New Orleans a 17-14 halftime lead.
But Baltimore took control of the game in the 3rd quarter, with the game tied at 17, the Ravens Will Hill intercepted Brees and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
Brees threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns, but that interception was the difference in the game.  
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Louisiana employment continues to set records

The state continues to set new employment records. Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink says total nonfarm employment in Louisiana reached 1,988,900 in October, which is a new record high.

"We have more jobs than ever before, more people working than ever before, and the number of people available to work is bigger than it's ever been in Louisiana," Eysink said. 
Eysink says the number of private employment jobs has grown by 31-thousand over the last year.
The state's unemployment rate is also going up, along with the number of people who are employed. The unemployment rate for October was six-point-two percent, up four-percentage points from last year. Eysink says it's an indicator people are responding to the state's strong job growth. 
"To people who are now thinking, well maybe I'll get back into the workforce there are jobs there. And I think we are seeing people maybe moving into Louisiana for the jobs that we have," Eysink said. 
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Edwards slams Graves at Press Club

Michelle Southern reporting.
Former Governor Edwin Edwards took several shots at his opponent in the 6th Congressional District race in a debate where Garret Graves did not show up. Edwards accuses Graves of playing dirty politics in a flyer he sent out prior to the November 4th election that may lead voters to believe Paul Deitzel is gay.

"It was scurrilous and unfair and I thought it was subject to innuendos that can neither be proven or dis-proven," said Edwards. "In campaigns this really hurts."

Edwards is also accusing Graves of helping his family profit from Government contracts when he was the head of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Under that leadership, Edwards says Graves' father was awarded $130 million dollars in state contracts and he bought coastal restoration office space then made his brother-in-law the leasing agent.

"When you look at what he did for his father and his brother-in-law, I think he's very correct in saying he's a family man," said Edwards. "But what about our families? What did we get out of his tenure spending all that money over all that time?"

Graves and Edwards are scheduled to face off in a debate on December 2nd in Denham.

Edwards was asked if he thought Senator Mary Landrieu was affecting his campaign. The former governor joked that it's The President hurting them both.

"Both Mary and I would be better off if Obama died tomorrow, but I'm not wishing that," Edwards said. "In a way it helps because Mary is working hard to get the vote out and I can assume that most of her voters would also vote for me in this district."

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