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Life expectancy has decreased in the US for the first time in more than 20 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The report found that overall life expectancy dropped by one month from 2014 to 2015. Doctor Ben Springgate with LSU Health New Orleans Internal Medicine and Public Health says this may be due to an increase in heart disease.

“Heat disease if of course linked to things like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and so it’s very likely the increase in obesity over time in our country has contributed to this,” Springgate said.

The report found that the death rate from heart disease rose by nearly 1% last year. Springgate says life expectancy has increased in years past, because of medical advances. But he says health outcomes are declining because of people’s lifestyles.

“As much as we have advances in medicine, we have also seen other changes in society, including increased consumption of fast food, increased consumption of sugars in our diet,” Springgate said.

Springgate says obesity leads to things like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. According to the report, male life expectancy decreased from 76.5 over the last year, while it fell from 81.3 to 81.2 for females. He says there are steps we can take to boost life expectancy.

“If we really focus on population health approaches to improving diet, improving exercise, and trying to decrease our body weight, then we can tackle this and hopefully reverse the trend,” Springgate said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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President-elect Donald Trump will be in Baton Rouge today to support Republican John Kennedy in the US Senate race. The visit comes after Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence endorsed the State Treasurer. Kennedy says he’s humbled by Mr. Trump’s visit.

“I’m honored and obviously pleased. I didn’t expect it. He’s a busy man, obviously,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy has been leading in the polls since the primary, but he says he’s not taking anything for granted. He hopes the visit from the President-elect will encourage voters to get out to the polls on Saturday.

“Really the only poll that does count is on Election Day, and we need people to go vote. Whether you vote for me or not, go vote. Now I’m not kidding you, I’d like you to vote for me,” Kennedy said.

Trump will speak in the Dow Chemical Hangar at the Baton Rouge Airport this afternoon. Democrat Foster Campbell isn’t worried Trump’s visit will give his opponent an edge on Election Day.

“That’s fine. What it means to me politically is this race is tight. He wouldn’t be coming here if it wasn’t tight. That tickles me to death,” Campbell said.

Campbell says anytime a president comes to a state it’s good for the state, so he doesn’t mind Trump visiting the Capital City. The Public Service Commissioner says he agrees with plenty of things Trump will push for after taking office.

“He’s taken some of my ideas. If he wants to have term limits, I can vote for that in about two seconds. If he wants to build roads and bridges, I’m all about that too,” Campbell said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards talked about some of his priorities for 2017 during a speech at the Council for a Better Louisiana annual conference. Edwards says his big goal is to ensure the state uses money from the Transportation Trust Fund in the right places, like improving the daily congestion in Baton Rouge near the I-10 Mississippi River Bridge.

“We are going to fix this problem at the Washington Street exit in Baton Rouge with a new Terrace Street exit.”

Edwards also says the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge will be widened, along with other sections of I-10 in Baton Rouge. The governor’s task force on transportation will likely support a higher gasoline tax in order to improve our highways. Edwards says our interstate system needs to be upgraded, as we saw portions of our major highways closed because of flooding this year.

“And we’re telling the folks incorporate into your design an elevation of that section of interstate that was underwater, that had to be closed because if we’re going to invest that kind of money we don’t want that to ever happen again.”

The governor says he’s proud some of the successes the state has had this year, like Medicaid expansion. Edwards added he’s looking forward to working with President-elect Trump to help address Louisiana’s needs. He says next year we’ll have the chance to enact criminal justice reform.

“We can do better on all fronts, incarceration, recidivism and public safety by simply doing what other southern conservative states like Texas, South Carolina and Georgia have done.”

 
 

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Louisiana is seeing the coldest temperatures of the season so far and many folks are finding themselves becoming more in the holiday spirit as a result. That's according to Dr. Michelle Moore, clinical psychologist with LSU Health Sciences Center. She says you could even argue the cold weather Christmas Spirit is good for the economy.


"It gets people out shopping more," said Moore. "Hopefully our local stores will get to see that benefit this weekend while it's cold."

Moore says for kids and even grownups, since Santa lives in the North Pole, we feel closer to Ole Saint Nick when we're cold. She says there are many Christmas traditions centered around cold weather.

"I think a nice moment around Christmas and in the winter is to sit by the fireplace with hot chocolate," said Moore. "You can' really do that when it's hot and it's not as fun."

Moore says we'll even become more in the holiday spirit the colder it gets.

"I think the colder it gets, yes, and if we see a few snow flurries, then we'll really feel the Christmas spirit," Moore laughed. "I think stores will be busy this weekend and the cold weather will bring everybody inside in a good way."
 
 
 

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An Affordable Housing Expo will be held in Baton Rouge this weekend for flood victims. Mike Steele with GOHSEP says there are people at different stages of recovery, so there will be a variety of housing options on display. He says people can come see manufactured and modular homes, park trailers and pre-fab housing.

“It’ll give the people a chance to actually go through these units, take a look at them, and see if any of these options may work for them as they continue their recovery,” Steele said.

Another housing option featured at the expo will be the newly popular tiny houses, which are less 500 or less square feet and they contain a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Steele says while a lot of people use these as permanent homes, they will also work as temporary housing options while people rebuild.

“Some people may be moving into this next phase now where they need to see what types of options like this are available. So this would be a good chance for people to tour them, see how they’re made,” Steele said.

The free expo will be held at Celtic Studios, where the disaster recovery center is set up. Steele says they’ll have a kids area with activities to keep children entertained while parents tour the homes. He says other services will also be available at the expo.

“In addition to all of the housing options, there’ll be legal services available. There’ll be realtors available. Flood insurance experts will be on hand,” Steele said.

The expo will be open from noon until 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. until 3 pm Saturday.

 
 
 
 
 

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Secretary of State Tom Schedler says based on the likelihood of low turnout on Saturday’s elections, he would like to have a conversations with the legislature about ending December elections. He says it might make more sense to have the primary for federal elections in early October and the runoff in November.

“It hurts us with seniority with our Congressman and our Senator because they are elected 30 days after their freshmen class, and it affects them throughout their career with committee assignments and the like and seniority,” Schedler said.

Schedler says Louisiana is the only state that still has elections looming in December. He says it’s difficult to get voting machines delivered during the holiday season because so many trucks are being used to deliver Christmas cards and presents from online orders. He says they also have a hard time finding commissioners to work December elections.

“A lot of them are elderly and traveling visiting kids or they’re shopping or they have parties so they’re cancelling out, they can’t attend,” Schedler said.

Schedler says having the runoff in December leads to lower voter turnout because people are so fed up with elections by this time. He says he’ll talk to legislators more about this next year in the hopes of moving up the federal elections in 2018.

“Everything would conclude with the presidential election, and that’s the way every other state in the country does it with the exception of Louisiana. We’re the only one in the country that is sitting there trying to finish an election cycle for this year,” Schedler said.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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The two remaining U.S. House races in Louisiana are heating up as the election is only two days away. In the 3rd Congressional District, two Republicans are facing off for the open seat.

ULM Political Science Professor John Sutherlin says Clay Higgins has taken to social media portraying himself as the Cajun Donald Trump and that’s brought in supporters.

“We always say turnout, turnout but it is import. If there is a significant number 20%-25% African American turnout on Saturday, you’d have to give the advantage to Scott Angelle.”

Sutherlin says Higgin’s opponent, Scott Angelle, is far more moderate and he expects African Americans will be drawn to him. He says Higgins has been so successful because he’s riding a wave of anti-establishment politicians.

“I think he’s done a fairly good job of putting Scott Angelle into a category of a career politician.”

There seems to be less excitement in the northwestern part of the state in the 4th Congressional District race with Republican Mike Johnson and Democrat Marshall Jones. Sutherlin says Johnson is projected to win this seat.

“If you had to say where it was right now it would be hard to say that it’s not a 60-40 race at this point, perhaps even higher depending on African American turnout, depending on white Democrats.”

 
 
 

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Tis the season for holiday parties, and that means your company Christmas party too. Tulane business professor Dr. Mark Rosa says now that we’re out of the recession, he expects most companies will throw parties this year.

“The economy is doing much better. I think that would be fairly routine at this point for companies to offers some type of holiday get-together,” Rosa said.

Rosa encourages everyone to attend their company’s holiday party. He says corporations put on these events so that employees can get together and socialize. He says it’s important to circulate at the party and detach from technology.

“People don’t mingle enough. You end up hanging around with the people in your own department, and you don’t walk across the room to introduce yourself to somebody else,” Rosa said.

Rosa says people should avoid “talking shop” at their office parties and keep the conversation light, and they should avoid running out early. He says people can have fun at their company parties, but says moderation is key.

“I think everything is in moderation. We can drink, we can dance, we can be with our friends and colleagues, but it’s just everything in moderation,” Rosa said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A report from Associated Builders and Contractors ranks Louisiana as the best business climate for construction. Vice President of Governmental Affairs with ABC of Louisiana, John Walters, says that’s due in large part to legislation state lawmakers have passed that benefits the construction industry.


“Louisiana passed right to work legislation, which gave employers the ability to not be forced to join a union, Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions were passed by the legislature, the elimination of project labor agreements,” Walters said.

Walters says the report shows you can have a very good career in the construction industry and there’s a demand for those workers.

“They need skilled, qualified people to fill some of those roles, and so we spend a great deal of time and effort in training and education trying to make sure there is a skilled, qualified workforce in Louisiana,” Walters said.

Another ABC report ranked Louisiana 8th for year-to-year changes in the construction unemployment rate. Walters says that’s because projects come and go in the Bayou State. But he’s optimistic that this new ranking will persuade more companies to build in Louisiana.

“A ranking like this shows that if you are coming to Louisiana to build a facility or expand your facility, that our environment certainly lends itself to have a good set of workers,” Walters said.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Cold temperatures are on the way to the Bayou State. That’s according to state climatologist Barry Keim, who says it’s time for Louisianans to break out the winter gear.

“We have a large dome of Canadian air that’s about to settle in over the eastern half of the United States, and of course this includes Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast. As a result, we can expect much colder temperatures to occur across the state,” Keim said.

Keim says people in some areas of the state will want to bring an umbrella with them today, and high temperatures will only be in the 40s for most of the state.

“Today is expected to stay cloudy and cool with some chance for additional rainfall because we’re still just close enough to this frontal boundary that’s anchored offshore from Louisiana,” Keim said.

Keim says below freezing temperatures will arrive before the weekend starts.

“By Friday and Saturday morning, that front is going to push its way on through southward, and the cold air is going to arrive in Louisiana with a vengeance. We’re looking at temperatures in the 20s across the northern half of Louisiana and 30s across the southern half,” Keim said.

Keim says we’ll go back into a warming stage by early next week.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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A landmark mental health reform bill co-authored by Republican U.S Senator Bill Cassidy is on its way to be signed into law by the President. Cassidy says this measure will expand access to resources for those who need treatment for mental illnesses.

“There are portions of the bill that will work to increase the number of psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and others to provide more access to those who have mental health needs.”

Cassidy says this legislation will also keep mentally ill individuals from going to jail and instead allow them to receive out-patient treatment. He says family members will also have an easier time to converse with doctors about the mental health of a loved one.

“What’s the treatment plan going for, what medicine they’re on. We try and clarify that yes, the doctor can communication with a family member who is the care taker of an adult patient.”

The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 also strengthens suicide prevention. And he says the measure will provide more funding for the massive opioid crisis.

“There’s a billion dollars to help states and communities. They will apply for the money to put in programs to help address the epidemic and death related to that addiction.”

 
 

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LSU releases the details on defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s new three-year contract extension that also makes him the associate head coach. Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says he’s earned the distinction of being the highest paid assistant in college football.

“Wherever he’s been he has produced and to keep away any potential suitors, which I’m sure there are many, LSU gave him a lot of money and I think he deserved every dollar.”

Aranda’s contract runs until March of 2020 and includes a first year salary of 1.8 million dollars. It goes up to 1.9 million in the final year. Worsham expects whoever is hired as the offensive coordinator will receive a similar salary.

“They’re going to invest. That’s the whole approach now with Ed Orgeron is to make him the CEO and to delegate out to bright minds at the coordinator spots and we’ll see how sustainable it is.”

Aranda’s deal is pending approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors. Worsham says the contract contains buyout language that favors LSU, which means Aranda should be here for awhile…

“He doesn’t strike me as the head coaching type, he strikes me as a guy who wants to run a defense. Wants to be involved in the x’s and o’s and the nitty gritty of a defense. So, I think he’s happy at LSU and LSU is certainly happy to have him.”

(photo courtesy of TigerRag.com)  
 
 
 
 

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The US House Appropriations Committee has approved a continuing resolution that contains $1.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Louisiana flood relief.

The governor’s communications director Richard Carbo says they still have a long way to go, but they’re thankful for the support their seeing from Congress.

“We know homeowners need additional help to rebuild. Communities and businesses need to rebuild, and so the governor is working closely with the entire congressional delegation to get the assistance down as quickly as possible,” Carbo said.

Carbo says it’s not the full amount they’re requesting, but they’re pleased with this allocation, which will be used to help flooded homeowners. He adds that Congress should be voting on the proposal by the end of the week, which will also contain dollars to fund other flood repair projects.

“There’s also going to be additional assistance for the Army Corps of Engineers for highway and infrastructure projects, and we’re still waiting to hear from Congress what those allocations will be for Louisiana,” Carbo said.

Carbo says the governor will head back to Washington in the spring to seek the additional funding Louisiana needs for flood recovery. He says the federal government has outlined the guidelines for allocating the $438 million the state has already received, and the state is working on the plan for spending the money.

“We’ll return that plan to the federal government for approval. So it’s still several months away, but the process is still moving along at a record pace,” Carbo said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The Republican Party of Louisiana has confirmed President-elect Donald Trump will be in Baton Rouge on Friday for a get out to vote rally encouraging voters to cast their ballot for Republican John Kennedy for U.S. Senate.

UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross expects a huge frenzy of supporters to be in attendance.

“Never having held political office, grabbing the highest office in the land. I mean, it’s a story that people can really relate to. He’s quicksilver right now, he’s lightening in a bottle.”

The event is open to the general public, but they must RSVP. Cross says Trump understands the importance of having another Republican in the Senate. He says he’ll have a clear message to voters.

“You elected me to make some changes and John Kennedy is part of the change I’m hoping to make. Please elect John Kennedy and help me do what I’m trying to do.”

The event beings at noon inside the Dow Chemical Hanger at the Baton Rouge Airport. Cross says Trump’s visit isn’t really necessary given Kennedy is leading Democrat Foster Campbell by double digits in the polls, but it’s a nice gesture by the President-elect.

“The President would come back to Louisiana, a state that supported him very strongly and one of those states where he was quite popular and it’s got to help John Kennedy.”

 
 

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An entire family from Bunkie has been arrested on bomb making charges. Avoyelles Sheriff Doug Anderson says they executed a warrant on 38-year-old Jenus Juneau, who was accused of stealing $12,000 worth of household goods, guns, and jewelry on Sunday. 

 
(pictured: Jenus C Juneau)  


“During the search of the residence, a backpack was found with what was described as a pipe bomb and other bomb related material inside the bag. The scene was immediately cleared and a safe zone established,” Anderson said.

Anderson says Juneau’s wife, Kristina, and their two 19-year-old children were also charged with manufacture and possession of delayed action incendiary device. He says they’re still working to determine why this family was making pipe bombs.

“We’re not sure at this time. We never had a problem with these people being violent in the past. We’re looking into it more, and we’ll come up with the reason why,” Anderson said.

Bond was set at $50,000 for Jenus, who is also charged with theft, and $40,000 for the rest of the family.

 
 
 
 
 

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With people getting ready to hit the road for holiday travels, AAA warns drivers to avoid drowsy driving. According to the AAA Foundation report, you double the chances of getting into a wreck if you only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and the risk increases by 11 if you get less than four hours of shut eye.

Spokesperson Don Redman says being tired behind the wheel is a form of impairment.

“If there suddenly comes a breaking need, you’re really slow to react. It’s almost like you are impaired as if you were having a couple of cocktails,” Redman said.

Redman says nearly 21% of fatal crashes result in people falling asleep behind wheel, resulting in about 7,500 fatalities nationwide a year. He says it’s no surprise most drowsy driving is reported between 2 am and 5 am. But he says a lot of people admit to being tired behind the wheel in broad daylight.

“Twelve hours later in that period between 2 in the afternoon and 5 in the evening, almost an equal number of people are falling asleep behind the wheel,” Redman said.

AAA finds that nearly one in three drivers admitted to drowsy driving at least once in the past month. Redman says there are ways people can avoid being tired while driving on long trips.

“Every hundred miles, every 2 hours, get out of your vehicle and move around. Obviously the best thing to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel is to get more sleep,” Redman said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Ronald Gasser, the man accused of fatally shooting former NFL player and John Curtis star Joe McKnight last week, has been charged with manslaughter, so what will be the key factors in a likely trial? Legal analyst Tim Meche says Gasser’s testimony will be the biggest factor. He says if Gasser can explain a reasonable fear to the jury, he could be found not guilty.

“It’s got to be bolstered by the other witnesses who say Joe McKnight. If they describe him as acting like a crazy person and a nut it helps the defendant.”

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand says it’s possible the manslaughter charge could be upgraded or downgraded based on future evidence. Meche says the Jefferson Parish DA’s office could also let a grand jury have a say.

“In a case like this the District Attorney might be smart to take it to a grand jury and let them decide the appropriate charge, that takes a lot of political heat off of him.”

Meche says it appears the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted a very professional investigation in a tidal wave of criticism, which will likely help them build a better case. He says there is a state law that will play a big role in this case and that gives a person the right to shoot and kill someone attempting to invade your vehicle.

“We have a specific statute in Louisiana that says you can shoot and kill somebody if they are trying to forcefully enter your vehicle, yes, and I think that statute is going to control this case.”

 
 

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Louisiana broke the state’s record for the number of foster children adoptions within a year. 735 children were adopted by 532 families between October of 2015 and September of 2016.

Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters says she couldn’t be more thankful for these families.

“With the floods and the sessions and the shootings, it feels like it’s been such a hard year for the state and this is one of the really bright spots we can celebrate.”

Walters says all of the children in state care have a history of either abuse or neglect with a big majority being under the age of five. She says while it’s exciting so many children found foster homes, many are still without a family.

“There are still 200 children that are currently in the foster care system who have not found a permanent adoption placement and will spend Christmas in foster care this year.”

For information on adopting a foster child, visit the department of children and family services website. Walters says many people adopt more than one child with 109 families adopting two kids, 19 families adopting three and nine adopting four children. She says foster parents get so much out of adoption.

“They learn so much from these children. They fall in love with these children just as every parent should fall in love with their child and they get back so much from being a parent.”

 
 
 

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The first day of the murder trial for former-Saints star Will Smith was filled with emotional testimony. Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says the biggest surprise was that former running back Deuce McAllister took the stand early in the day to testify about his friendship with Smith and his time with the Saints.

“The reason it was a surprise to me is that the prosecution was trying to impress upon the jurors that this case was not about emotion and not about celebrity, but one of their first witnesses was all about emotion and celebrity,” Ciolino said.

Current and former Saints players Drew Brees, Steve Gleason, Roman Harper, and Jahri Evans were also in the courtroom showing support for Smith’s family. Ciolino says it makes a difference who the victim is in any homicide case, which is the biggest problem Cardell Hayes’ defense is facing.

“When you’ve got a homicide with very likable and very sympathetic victims, it makes any homicide case difficult for the defense and particularly one where it’s a self-defense case,” Ciolino said.

The prosecution is arguing that Hayes was the aggressor in the incident because he rammed Smith’s car. The defense says that Smith was the aggressor and that he was reaching for a gun. Ciolino says the jury being sequestered will make everyone want to get through with the trial as quickly as possible.

“I don’t think the sequestration order benefits the prosecution or the defense, but it certainly will cause the trial to go later into the evening to move along at a quicker pace,” Ciolino said.

Testimony is expected to resume at 9 am Wednesday.

 
 
 
 

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Some LSU fans are gearing up to head to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl later this month, but so far ticket sales are lagging a bit. That’s according to LSU ticket manager, Brian Broussard, who says so far only about 4,000 tickets have been sold and the school was allotted 9,500.

“We’re moving along. It’s been a little slower than we would have hoped, but we’re still excited and trying to get fans to make the travel arrangements necessary to get out to the game,” Broussard said.

The Tigers will face Louisville in the bowl game on December 31. Broussard says they still have over 5,000 tickets available through their ticket office and you can get a good seat at a good price.

“The seats are all in the lower level primarily. The better ones that we have available range from $140 down to we’ve got some tickets still available at $31 that are in the end zone in the lower levels,” Broussard said.

Broussard says this game will be a good matchup and hopes fans will come out and support the Tigers. He says LSU fans shouldn’t let the 11 am Eastern Time kickoff discourage them.

“It’s a little earlier than our fans are used to or like to have, but you can start early and continue throughout the night through New Year’s,” Broussard said.

 
 
 
 
 

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