If you're a fan of Independent cartoonist Greg Peters' weekly "Snake Oil" cartoon, Greg has some serious news to report.
"In about a week, I will be undergoing open-heart aortic valve replacement at the Cleveland Clinic, with an option to remain hooked to a heart-lung machine and be put on a transplant list if things go wrong," says Peters. "If things go right, I'll be home in 10 days. If things go really wrong â?¦ at least one doctor has put my chances of getting off the table alive at 50-50, although he is a) is not my surgeon and b) also described my heart in terms that led me to think he was describing a nice London Broil and was perhaps merely hungry.
"The comics 'Suspect Device' and 'Snake Oil' will be going on indefinite hiatus starting next week.
"It's been fun. With any luck, it'll continue to be fun."
The whole Independent staff has Greg in our thoughts, and we wish him a speedy recovery. To send Greg get-well wishes, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. ' Scott Jordan
THE DIGITAL POLITICIAN
Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal essentially announced last week what everyone else knew already ' that he will probably run for governor against Democratic incumbent Kathleen Blanco in 2007. But what's unusual about the announcement is that Jindal did it through e-mails to supporters and the media.
Dr. G. Pearson Cross, a professor of political science at UL Lafayette, says it was likely a calculated move by Jindal. For starters, when Jindal eventually does have a press conference to officially announce, he'll get another week of press. But more importantly, it sends a warning shot that he's not the same old candidate. "He's showing us that his campaign is not going to be politics as usual," Cross says. "He's showing us that he's a new kind of candidate ' young and intelligent and willing to use this technology."
The e-mail also provided a link for donations, with Jindal suggesting amounts ranging from $25 to $5,000. He already has more than $330,000 in his state account, according to the most recent campaign finance filing on record with the state, but it's going to take millions to unseat Blanco. As for money and an endorsement from the Louisiana Republican Party, executive director James Quinn says it's too early and might alienate anyone else who is considering a run. "We support all Republicans," he says. There is a Republican State Central Committee meeting Dec. 2, which is the forum where an endorsement would come, but Quinn says nothing is on the agenda regarding the race. "I wouldn't expect that anytime soon," he says. ' Jeremy Alford
LAND GRAB, THE SEQUEL
As the state continues to trudge through its recovery process, another series of laws may be needed to help the state seize land for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. That's one of the official recommendations to be released later this month when the state publicly issues a new master plan for the coast. Expropriation laws, also know as quick-take in some instances, are nothing new to Louisiana. Municipalities and state government can already seize land for roads and certain construction projects, and in recent years voters have approved similar constitutional amendments for coastal restoration and levee maintenance. It's a volatile issue in the Legislature, and what's currently on the books likely won't be adequate to help the state recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, officials say. "We have to look at all the possibilities and make sure we have the ability to quickly take land that is needed," says Jon Porthouse, an engineer with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which has oversight over flood control, coastal restoration and hurricane protection, has been overseeing the new master plan since last year's hurricane season and is expected to hold hearings in coming months. Similar plans have been released in the past, covering everything from single projects to multi-layered approaches, but the intent of the new master plan is to pull everything together under one umbrella ' levees, freshwater diversions, dikes, locks, floodgates and like mechanisms. No funding sources have been identified, but several different appropriations bills are usually pursued for such undertakings. There is not yet a cost analysis or wetlands benefit ratio available for the plan, which is still in the conceptual stages, Porthouse says, although several projects have been included in preliminary drafts. Controversial sections of the plan include abandoning parts of lower Plaquemines Parish to bolster northern areas; closing the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel near New Orleans; and establishing floodgates and dikes in relation to Borgne and Pontchartrain lakes. After the proposed plan is released in draft form later this month, and ushered through a public discussion period, the CPRA will issue a final version sometime in February.
From there, it will undergo legislative debate, then U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review, and finally it's included in the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan, which Congress is expected to vote on next year. ' JA
RAILING AGAINST CYPRESS SALES
The Save Our Cypress Coalition, a nonprofit association consisting of several environmental groups from around the state, is targeting some of the better known big box stores in the country and asking them to immediately cease all sales of cypress mulch products. Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's are all on the list, and the chains are being criticized for profiting from Louisiana's endangered cypress-tupelo swamps, which are regularly clear-cut to feed a growing demand for mulch.
Leslie March, chair of the Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club, says the coalition wants the retailers to stop selling cypress mulch products until a credible, third-party certification system is operating to ensure that nothing is being sourced from non-renewable cypress swamps. "We are calling on these three retailers to live up to their corporate policies of sustainability to help save Louisiana's coast," she says.
A strong argument against clear-cutting can be traced back to Hurricane Katrina, says Dr. Gary Shaffer, a biologist with Southeastern Louisiana University. "Satellite imagery shows that most trees in Katrina's path were downed while contiguous cypress forests stood strong and actually protected the rest of the ecosystem," he says. Shaffer adds that cypress mulch does not provide any superior attributes and alternatives to pine straw, pine bark nuggets and eucalyptus mulch, all of which provide the benefits of mulch without destroying coastal wetlands. ' JA
REBUILDING GULF COAST LIBRARIES
Gulf Coast librarians and community leaders will gather in Baton Rouge to address the ongoing rebuilding of public libraries, Nov. 28-30. The Summit ' "Building Libraries, Building Community: A Summit on the Role of Public Libraries in Re-Creating Community on the Gulf Coast" ' is hosted by the Southeastern Library Network, in partnership with the Mississippi Library Commission and the The State Library of Louisiana.
After the summit, public libraries will be eligible for grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's three-year initiative to rebuild libraries damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Mississippi. Thirty-one public libraries were destroyed by last year's hurricanes. ' R. Reese Fuller
ROLLIN' WITH FORMER STM RECEIVER JAVON WALKER
Lafayette's Javon Walker was spotlighted last week on Sports lllustrated's Web site, in NFL writer Michael Silver's "Rollin' With" column. The Denver Broncos wide receiver talks about his controversial exodus from the Green Bay Packers and his resurgence with Denver after coming off a knee injury. In the interview, Walker also heralded the local invention of Lafayette's Lance Strother that's catching on with some college and NFL players:
"SILVER: You're involved with a device, Great Catch (http://www.greatcatch.org), that's being used by other receivers in the NFL and college football to help them learn to catch the ball with their fingers. Tell us about it.
WALKER: Back when I was in high school (at St. Thomas More in Lafayette, La.) our offensive coordinator, Leland Padgett, used to say to us, 'You don't really have great hands, you have great fingers.' Well, one of my high school teammates, Lance Strother, decided to build on that idea, and we came up with a device that prevents the palm from catching the ball. It's this band that goes across each hand and attaches the equivalent of a golf ball to each palm, which means you have to catch with your fingertips. I use it on my days off or on the field during pregame warmups."
In other Louisiana sports/Sports Illustrated news, last week's SI college basketball preview ranked LSU No. 4 in the nation in its preseason rankings. ' SJ