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West Monroe state representative Frank Hoffmann has been the voice of the ULM Warhawks for the last 42-years but Saturday, he will call his last game against when ULM takes on Arkansas State. Hoffman says it’s bitter sweet to end his long play by play career.

“You got family, you’ve got grandkids, you’ve got age, you’ve got work. Sometimes it’s time to just hand off to someone else and I guess I’ve sort of reached that stage. But I frankly do have mixed emotions because I love doing it.”

Hoffmann is the eighth active longest play by play voice for a university in the nation. Hoffman says he’s called some great wins over his 42-years.

“We had some great games, opened the season with a 44-7 win over Louisiana Tech, had a big win at Southern Mississippi. They had a quarterback named Brett Farve, you might’ve heard of him. We beat Southern Miss 34-24.”

Hoffmann says the most memorable game he’s ever called was when the ULM won against Northwestern State on a Hail Mary pass and then went on to win the National Championship in 1987.

“It’s been great fun and I love the university but sometimes it’s time to just get out of the way and let other people move on. I may not be the voice of the Warkhawks anymore but I’ll be the fan of the Warkhawks.”

 
 

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Nobody wants to be that parent who wasn't able to get their hands on the most popular toy this holiday season. So what's hot in 2017. Chris Byrne, aka "The Toy Guy," plays with toys for a living for the consumer review website TTPM.com. He says arts and crafts are a huge trend this year.


"We really like the Sweetlings Sprinkle Shop which is cake decorating with clay," said Byrne.

Byrne says on the high tech end, KidiBuzz from VTech is all the rage. He says it's essentially a kid-friendly smartphone, that's not a phone.

"It's kind-of the size of an iPhone Plus," said Byrne. "It's got 40 apps on it, but uses Wifi. Kids can text their parents through an app."

Byrne says as time goes on they are finding that parents aren't very loyal to specific retailers when it comes to toys at this busy time of the year. He says some of the hottest holiday toys for the season are already in short supply, so if you see something you want, buy it right then.

"You can always return it, but it's all about your peace of mind," said Byrne.
 
 

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The Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program has offered grant awards for nearly 3,100 homeowners affected by the floods in 2016, totaling nearly $92-million.

Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes says these funds are helping people rebuild their homes and many of the homeowners are reimbursed for work already done.

“A good 70% of the households we get to have done some or all of their work. Folks in Louisiana are resilient, they’ve been pulling up their sleeves and getting to work.”

Forbes says they still have a long way to go as this is less than 10% of the people they hope to serve. He says they have Homeowner Assistance Centers in Baton Rouge, Hammond and Lafayette to help those still in need of funds.

“We have folks to help homeowners at every step of the way. Even if they’re using their own contractor, we have construction technical assistants who can help guide them through the process of getting bids from contractors.”

Over 38,000 homeowners have qualified to receive assistance. Forbes says there is no risk of running out of this federal grant money and encourages more people to take the next step in the application process.

“We also have a lot of folks who have completed the survey. We have invited them to come complete the formal application and they have not yet done so.”

Visit restore.la.gov for more information on the application.

 
 

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds holiday chefs to be conscious of food safety when cooking this year’s Thanksgiving turkey. Sarah Lichtman with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says the first step when it comes to food safety is cleaning your hands and surfaces before and after touching raw meats. She says the next step is to separate.

“Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross contamination between raw meat and poultry and foods that are ready to eat like your prepared side dishes, fruits and vegetables and things like that.”

About 128,000 people are hospitalized each year as a result of foodborne illness. Lichtman says it’s also important to make sure you cook your turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. She debunks the common myth that the before cooking your turkey it needs to be washed in the sink.

“It can actually be counterproductive and it can spread bacteria around your kitchen and that can spread up to three feet when you’re rinsing that turkey, so it’s best to just put your turkey right in the oven.”

Lichtman says it’s important not to forget about leftovers sitting out on the table.

“They should be stored within two hours of cooking that turkey and all of the side dishes. You want to divide those into small proportions and refrigerate those or freeze those in covered, shallow containers.”

 
 

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The lines have become blurred between family traditions on Thanksgiving and getting the good deals before everyone else to kick off the holiday shopping season. National Retail Federation’s Ana Serafin Smith says many stores are opening earlier on Thanksgiving. It all started with one retail giant.
 


"It started with Walmart actually making an announcement.  It ten years ago they said they were going to start Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving Day and then everyone else followed suit."
 
According to best-black-Friday-dot-com, 38 retail chains will be open Thursday. They include Best Buy, Gamestop, JcPenney,’s, Sears and numerous others. The four Louisiana K-Marts are expected to open as early as 6am. Most other retailers will remain closed until early afternoon. Smith says the consumer demands it and retail will answer.
 
"The consumers have a lot of voice.  We have to remember that they're the ones that really are the power end of the industry.  Without them, the retailers cannot succeed during the holidays." 
 
Surveys show more consumers are expected to shop online this year compared to shopping at brick and mortar stores. Smith says for some shoppers there’s a great attraction to shopping on Thanksgiving night. 
 
"They ate too much.  They want to walk it off and they want to spend that little bit of  extra cash they have available on the day they're off." 

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AAA predicts nearly 51-million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, a 3% increase from last year and it's the highest number since 2005. AAA spokesman Don Redman says gas prices are about 35-cents higher than last year, but that's not stopping the expected 45-million that will hit the highways. 

"It's not just the price of gasoline itself that determine if people wiill drive, but it's their personal economy."
 
Air fares are the lowest since 2013, which Redman says will mean about a five percent increase in air travel, but Redman warns air passengers may pay more after they land.
 
"Unfortunately if you're using a car rental at your destination you're flying to or a hotel, we've actually seen an increase."
 
Redman says planning ahead is the key to making it to your destination safely. 
 
"Kind of map out where you're going.  It's going to be a parking lot at certain times.  So pay attention to alternate routes."
 
Redman adds AAA expects to service over 300-thousand due to automotive problems. He says make sure your vehicle is inspected before leaving.
 

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Holiday shopping is expected to increase in Louisiana. That’s the view of LSU Marketing Professor Dan Rice who says households have largely recovered from the 2016 floods and the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008.
 
 
 
 

 
"The economic indicators are making it appear people have the opportunities to probably on average spend more on this year if they wish to  And the polls are showing they intend too."
 
 
National Retail Federation spokesperson Ana Searfin Smith says they are anticipating a 3-percent increase in shopping overall.
 
"We're expecting consumers to spend an average of around 967-dollars per person on all things holiday.  That includes gifts, food, decorations as well as a beautiful Christmas tree."
 
But the big question for shoppers may not be what gifts to buy as much as where to get them. Smith says consumers will keep using the internet to fill out their shopping lists 
 
"Online shopping has actually picked up a little bit Year over year.  About 59 percent of consumers are planning to shop online more than what they have in the past."
 
 

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Two years ago today, John Bel Edwards was elected as Louisiana’s 56th governor. Edwards’ approval ratings are solid, but political analyst Clancy Dubos says there’s no guarantee the Democrat from Amite will be re-elected.

"His Republican adversaries are planning to run any one of a number of a number of potential candidates against him and they're already raising lots of money. They are trying to thwart him legislatively so he cannot claim too many victories."

Dubos says if the governor is able to help solve the state’s fiscal problems, it will greatly help his re-election chances in 2019.

"Voters want the state's fiscal problems solved. They do not want cuts to higher ed, they do not want cuts to public hospitals."

Edwards sent an email today to supporters asking for donations. The governor’s latest campaign finance report shows he has three-point-three-million dollars on hand, but Dubos says Edwards will need every penny he can get it.

"And he has to raise money because his adversaries are raising money already against him and messaging against him."

 
 
 

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A report released today finds that Louisiana’s drug, alcohol and suicide death rate could increase 42 percent in the next ten years. Well Being Trust helped put the study together and it’s chief policy officer, Ben Miller, says the opioid epidemic is at the root of this troubling report.
 

 
"How do we get people away from opioids that they're addicted to?  When we do that, people turn to other lethal means to keep themselves addicted."  
 
Miller says those who find themselves trapped by drug abuse need to know that there is a way out. Members of the medical community and those in mental health need to help lower the risk of suicide by making the first step.
 
"we must go upstream and we must proactively engage people before their problems become so profound we might actually see them commit suicide."
 
Miller says the report outlines a strategy of prevention, early identification and treatment for those addicted to opioids. 
 
"First of all reduce our dependence on drugs and alcohol and how do we more aggressively address suicide when we first encounter it." 

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Nicholls State is preparing to host its first ever college football playoff game. Athletics Director Matthew Roan says since the announcement was made that the Colonels are hosting a playoff game, the ticket's office phones have not stopped ringing.


"I was in the office Sunday morning at 8:30 and left at one o' clock, I was back in Monday morning and we are still rolling today," Roan said. 
 
The Colonels will host South Dakota at 3 PM at John L. Guidry Stadium on Saturday in the opening round of the FCS playoffs. Roan gives a lot of credit to third-year head coach Tim Rebowe, who has been successful on and off the field. 
 
"The way he and his staff and his student-athletes are present in the community is a big deal and he's really worked hard to improve the academic profile of the program," Roan said. 
 
The Colonels made the 24-team field by finishing 8-3 in the regular season and winning seven games in the Southland Conference. Nicholls is making just its fourth appearance in the playoffs and the first since 2005.
 
Roan says they are good enough to make a deep run in the playoffs. 
 
"We hope this the first of many games this postseason, but more than that we hope this becomes an annual tradition as well," Roan said.  

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Delhi Senator Francis Thompson, who has served in the state legislature for 40 years, will undergo surgery next month for prostate cancer. Thompson says he’s never spent a night in the hospital, even when he was born.

"My grandfather was a rural physican and he delivered all of us at home so this is a very new experience for me."

The 76-year-old Thompson says an MRI discovered the cancer and he’s hoping for a quick recovery.

"I'm going to do like I do any other problem I have facing me, I'm going to give it my best shot and I'm sure things will work out well."

Thompson was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1974. Senate President John Alario is the only other state legislator who has served longer than Thompson. The chairman of the Senate Ag committee plans to be ready for the next legislative session.

"If anybody has any suggestion that I won't be in politics, they'll be wrong."

 
 

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State Police is reminding holiday travelers that buzzed driving is drunk driving. Sgt. James Anderson says 10 people died and over 700 injured in crashes in Louisiana during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“We’re asking everyone to designate a sober driver before going anyplace where alcohol will be consumed. Ensure that you wear a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of a crash.”

Anderson says troopers will be out in full force under the Zero Deaths for the Holidays campaign to put an end to drunk driving.

“You don’t have to be falling down drunk to hurt yourself or someone else behind the wheel. Any amount of alcohol impairs your ability to drive and it lessens your ability to stay safe behind the wheel.”

State Police will proactively patrol our state’s highways during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period focusing on impaired driving and occupant protection. Anderson says Troopers urge all drivers to ensure everyone in the vehicle is property restrained

“I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen that would be alive today had they only worn a seatbelt. We don’t want to knock on anyone’s door this weekend and tell them someone they care about is not coming home because their loved one chose not to wear a seat belt.”

 
 

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A Christmas light extravaganza is set to light up the night in Calhoun in Ouachita Parish. Candy Cane Lane opens Thanksgiving night and will take visitors on a magical on a mile long journey. Owner Ben Hanson says the planning has been underway for nearly a year.
 
 


"Between Christmas and New Year's we hit every department store, Walmart, home improvement outlets between Fort Worth and Jackson, Mississippi and we ended up with about 1.3 million lights."
 
Lights started to be strung on August 3rd and Hanson and his family have been working nonstop since looping lights around trees and plywood cutouts of characters, even constructing two light tunnels over 100 feet each. Hanson says this year is just a start and hopes to grow the attraction in the future.
 
"We hope to be able to offer hay rides, pictures with Santa, possibly have some food vendors come out.  Who knows, maybe even some live entertainment."

Hanson says the attraction will be so bright, travelers along I-20 will be able to see it. So how much electric does it take to power it?

"I've got 15 200-amp meters just to serve the park.  That's equivalent to 15 house meters."
 
They will be open Thursday through Sunday nights until December 21st, then will be open nightly through January 1st. 
 

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A state audit finds that the Louisiana Department of Health is not calculating Medicaid rates for nursing facilities accurately. Louisiana Legislative Office Director of Performance Audits Karen LeBlanc says they discovered 19.7 million dollars the state could have saved this past year was spent on patients not covered by Medicaid.
 
 
 
 

"Ideally, LDH should have gone and recouped that from them and made then not eligible." 
 
Medicaid payments to the 260 private nursing home facilities in Louisiana reached one-billion-dollars last year, yet nursing home populations went up less than one-percent. LeBlanc says better procedures are needed to ensure the nursing homes are compensated accurately. 
 
"They don't do full scope audits on all the nursing homes which will identify costs that shouldn't be included in the rates.  We recommended they expand the use of the those audits so they can identify those disallowed costs."
 
The number of nursing care residents have remained the same, yet Medicaid payments have increased over all by about one-billion-dollars in the last ten years. LeBlanc says she’s afraid nursing home rates and payments from Medicaid will continue to rise since an inflated rate methodology gets to stay in place.
 
"They got a constitutional amendment passed that locked in nursing home rates, they can never be reduced unless they get a two-thirds vote to get them reduced." 

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Today in Atlanta, the Georgia Dome was imploded after 25 years in existence. Meanwhile, the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans continues to be one of the top entertainment venues in the country.

Alan Freeman, General Manager of the Dome, says when the facility was built, the architects took a long range view of the stadium’s future.

“The marching orders that the architects and engineers were given were very far sighted. There’s a lot of things about the Superdome that clearly are very practical.”

Freeman also credits the success of the Superdome to the great relationship they have with the New Orleans Saints. He says the state owns the arena and provides the funds to keep up with improvements as the building ages, especially after Hurricane Katrina did major damage.

“The state came up with $85 million in upgrades to the building that really put us back on the forefront as far as buildings that are capable of hosting Super Bowls, Final Fours and WrestleMania.”

Freeman says the Superdome is a viable building and in a city that thrives on hosting major events. He says they have plans to make the facility bigger and better than it is now.

“We are in the process of working on the master plan that is going to require a sizable investment to keep this building where it is positioned today for the next 25 or 30 years.”

 
 

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A new study out of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University finds from 2001 to 2014, black students were twice as likely as white students to be suspended. Low income students were about 1.75 times more likely as non-low income students to be suspended.

Researcher Nathan Barrett says these numbers are troubling.

“I think it’s well established that these disparities exist, but what we’re adding is that they exist within schools and they exist within incidents.”

Barrett says they also found that punishments resulting from fights between a black student and white student are different.

“We found that on average, black students are suspended longer than white students in these interracial fights. It’s along the lines of for every 20 fights, it’s about a total of one day difference.”

Barret says it’s hard to determine if adults are intentionally punishing students differently. He says reducing discipline disparities based on race and income requires addressing both within-school and across school disparities.

“If we want to design sound policies, we need to tend to both what adults are doing within schools and what students are doing outside of school.”

 
 

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A well known north Louisiana chef was arrested after allegedly stalking a woman by calling and texting her 54 times. Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Glen Springfield says 35-year-old William Blake Phillips was asked several times to quit calling. However the woman claims Phillips went a step farther.">

"Mr. Phillips had shown up at the residence several times after being advised not to return and had in fact threatened the complainant."
 
After making contact with Phillips, Springfield says Phillips denied some of the allegations.
 
"We made contact with the subject and evidence indicated that had in fact did contacted her by text and phone calls roughly that number of times.  He did deny ever going to the residence."
 
Phillips was named the 2016 Louisiana Seafood King and has managed restaurants in the Monroe area. 
 

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There are plenty of reasons to be proud of the New Orleans Saints right now, and fans are loading up on black and gold gear more now than even before the season. That observation is from Pat Randazza with Purple and Gold Sports and Black and Gold Sports in Baton Rouge.


"It started off a little slow but it's picked up much better now, it's great," said Randazza. "With the talk of going to the playoffs heating up I expect it to keep on."

Randazza says her biggest seller with Saints fans is by far the jerseys. She says the hottest one right now, other than Drew Brees, is the Alvin Kamara #41 jersey. The running back, who is having a breakout rookie season with the Saints, recently told fans to go ahead and buy his #41 jersey because he’s not changing it.

"Kamara jerseys, that's the one thing that's so hot right now. We just got our shipment a couple of weeks ago," said Randazza. "Always Drew Brees. Those are always the hottest."

Randazza says the third most popular jersey is running back Mark Ingram’s which she said spiked big time mid-season.

She also expects a busy holiday season and now is about the time shoppers are coming in to buy gifts for their fellow sports maniac friends.

"Things for your automobile are huge for Saints," said Randazza. "That's always a popular one for gifting."
 
 
 
 

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High school students who are in good standing with the FFA now have an opportunity to get a $500 scholarship to attend a community college. Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan says they hope this will help convince more students to continue their education past high school.


"One of the things we've recognized over the years is that we have about 40,000 students who graduate high school every year in Louisiana.  About 10,000 of those don't register for secondary education of any kind."
 
Sullivan says they have made it easy for students to apply for the scholarship by eliminating unnecessary paperwork.
 
Students very simply make application to a community or technical college and indicate they are a member in good standing or graduated as a member in good standing and automatically gets the award."

Sullivan says this is the first time they have entered into a partnership with an organization to provide scholarships, but it is generating a lot of excitement.

"Lots of students, parents, counselors, principals, superintendents, folks just asking questions on how they can become involved." 
 

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You will see a slight savings this year on Thanksgiving dinner. An American Farm Bureau Marketbasket survey estimates it will cost $43.27 on average in Louisiana. Farm Bureau Federation News Director Neil Melancon says a large inventory of turkeys are helping to drive prices down.
 
"Turkey producers went into overdrive last year.  Poultry was doing pretty well and just built up a stockpile of surplus.  Especially here the week before Thanksgiving, they're trying to move the stuff out."

That is over three-dollars cheaper than 2016 for a 16-item meal including turkey and all the trimmings. Melancon says since turkey prices are very low right now, he recommends to shop around and compare.

"99 cents, 80 cents per pound is what we found and there's a lot of discounts out there.  Do shop around if you're not seeing it in the 13-dollar range." 
 
Melancon says we are paying less for other items, some which are grown locally.
 
"We produce a lot of sweet potatoes.  The national average price for yams is $3.60.  Here in Louisiana it's $2.94."

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