Iberia Parish Audit expected soon, Senators bicker over Morganza and more
SPEAKING UP ON RECOVERY ISSUES

Last week, Louisiana Public Broadcasting aired a TV special hosted by Lynn Whitfield called "Our Voice. Our Plan. Our Future." Part of the Louisiana Public Square series, the program sought input from viewers on four areas of Louisiana's recovery process ' coastal protection and restoration, community development and transportation, safety, and economic development. If you missed the show, you can still add your two cents by taking an online poll until Feb. 10 on the Louisiana Speaks Web site at www.louisianaspeaks.org. ' R. Reese Fuller

IBERIA PARISH PRESIDENT TO GET AUDIT JAN. 31

A legislative audit investigating contractual relationships between Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais and service contractors that may be in violation of the parish charter will be in the hands of Langlinais this week. Dan Daigle, director of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor Compliance Audit Division, says both the parish president and newly-elected chair of the Iberia Parish Council, Caesar Comeaux, will receive the confidential draft document on Wednesday, January 31.

"We've wrapped up our work, and we're going to present it to the agency [Iberia Parish Government] for their response. They have two weeks to respond," says Daigle. Depending on Langlinais' response, the auditor's office will make adjustments to the document, which will then be released to the public by late February. It has taken the legislative auditor's office nine months to finalize the fact-finding audit, which was requested by Iberia Parish Councilman Bernard Broussard in April 2006. "We can't wait to get it to the public," Daigle says. ' Mary Tutwiler

BUILDING CODE BACK TO DRAWING BOARD?

The state's new, tougher building code, passed in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, is falling under fire, and political interests are taking sides. Complaining the new standards for walls, windows and other intricacies increase homeowner costs north Louisiana lawmakers want a complete review that may include placing a moratorium on parts of the code or rewriting the whole shebang. It promises to be a controversial battle in the upcoming regular session, and possibly even into the governor's race later this year.

Up until now, the pomp and pageantry has been confined to elected officials, but now special interests are weighing in. The Louisiana Home Builders Association, an industry lobby with 5,800 members, wants the code to stay as is and recently launched a public information campaign, linking it closely with another hot issue for the coming spring session ' insurance. "The availability and affordability of insurance for our citizens and our businesses, across the state, are imperative for continued economic development in our state," says LHBA President Erich Ponti. ' Jeremy Alford

SENATORS BICKER OVER MORGANZA

Louisiana's two U.S. senators can't seem to agree on how the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection project should navigate the legislative process in coming months. Much of the disagreement centers on the words and actions of a Republican from Oklahoma, Sen. Tom Coburn, who likened the Morganza project to "pork-barrel" spending in December when he summarily blocked passage of the sponsoring legislation. The project, an unparalleled undertaking with support from virtually every branch of Louisiana government, has been a part of the Water Resources Development Act for seven years, but Congress has been unable to move the measure. A last-ditch push was made late last year to pass WRDA with Morganza included, but Coburn mustered a goal-line stance and stopped the bill.

Sen. David Vitter, a Kenner Republican, contends he has addressed the situation, "Sen. Coburn said he supports including the project as a part of the larger WRDA bill and will not oppose moving it forward," Vitter says. Coburn issued his own simple statement. "I support this project being a component of the comprehensive WRDA bill, which is the right way to do it," he says.

Coburn's rhetoric, however, isn't enough to appease Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, who has filed her own standalone bill to authorize Morganza. Landrieu argued that Coburn's support is merely ruse to keep Morganza inside the WRDA bill and to kill her proposal. "Insisting that the project be tied to the prospects of a long-overdue WRDA bill, which may or may not be passed this year, simply kicks the matter down the road one more time while a speedier alternative is available," she says. "Sen. Coburn continues to stand by his previous position, and we urge him to withdraw his opposition to the legislation we've introduced."

Morganza is a 72-mile winding path that will connect levees, locks and other systems in south central Louisiana, all of which is expected to cost upwards of $886.7 million for Category 3 hurricane protection. Vitter, meanwhile, is moving forward with the WRDA bill and is predicting committee passage in coming weeks. ' JA

ANOTHER HAT IN THE RING

Add another candidate to the list of challengers for Gov. Kathleen Blanco's seat in the 2007 governor's election. T. Lee Horne III, a Libertarian candidate, is scheduled to make his candidacy official Feb. 3. The 57-year-old Horne is touting his business experience in real estate and oil mineral leases, as well as his computer programming and networking skills. Visit Horne's Web site, www.governor.ws, for more info. ' Scott Jordan

THE TABASCO DIET

Dr. Spiro Antoniades' The Hot Sauce Diet might work in other parts of the country, but it's unlikely to gain traction here, where few meals are complete without Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce. But could a shot of the hot stuff discourage a craving for doughnuts or hot, home-made brownies so much so that excess weight will melt away?

It worked for Antoniades, an orthopedic surgeon from Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Md., who slimmed down in less than a year on his way to becoming a health nut who runs every day and watches what he eats. When he craves something unhealthy, the good doc grabs the hot sauce instead.

Antoniades' behavior modification book's been getting a lot of national attention lately. And while the science of his method may be in question, he could be on to something. Capsaicin, the fiery compound that gives chili peppers their bite, just might pack health benefits. While research on its potential side effects is ongoing, some medical professionals point to clinical studies that show capsaicin to be effective for cluster, migraine and sinus headaches; as an anti-inflammatory and for gastric relief. Duke University researchers think it may help lead to a cure for some intestinal diseases.

Indeed, capsaicin is an active ingredient in many "fat burning" supplements, said to increase metabolic activity, which helps the body burn more calories and fat.

In any case, do pass the Tabasco, please. ' Leslie Turk

THE GRAMBLINITE SUSPENDED

Grambling State University officials said last week that their student-run newspaper was so awful, they were shutting it down, citing numerous errors and instances of plagiarism as reasons for suspending the weekly publication. But The Gramblinite's editor, Darryl Smith, told The News Star in Monroe that the administration's action ' although under the guise of "quality control" ' was simply a way to gain prior review of a publication that had been critical of the administration in the past. "I think they're going to pull stories, and I think they're trying to control content," Smith said.

The ban lasted for only 24 hours, lifted after students submitted a proposal to the administration for improving the paper and establishing higher standards for editorial content. But by Monday morning, the latest edition of The Gramblinite, expected to distributed on Friday, still hadn't been printed. Smith told The News-Star that one of the requirements for resuming publication of the paper was to have the copy of each edition edited by the paper's faculty adviser, Wanda Peters. Smith alleged Peters took home the latest edition for review over the weekend and had not returned it to the staff. "This is what happens with prior review, we can't get the issue out on time," Smith said.

The shuttering of The Gramblinite piqued the interest and the support of national organizations like The Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center. "Unfortunately, this happens all the time," said SPJ President Christine Tatum in a press release. "Students should, regardless of their academic interests, consider an institution's commitment to free speech before deciding whether to attend." ' RRF

A HORSE IS A HORSE, UNLESS IT'S A COURSE

Louisiana's senior senator has filed legislation that would ban the slaughtering of horses for human consumption. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, contends her equestrian-horror bill is a "bipartisan" effort started last year with a major legislative package that essentially disbanded the federal inspection program for these slaughters and outlawed human consumption nationwide. Landrieu's bill would stiffen the law by amending the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping or donation of any horse for people-eats. "The slaughter of horses is both cruel and inhumane, and it is our responsibility to ensure that it no longer occurs," she says.

While not particularly popular in south Louisiana, or America for that matter, horse meat is considered a delicacy in Belgium, France, Italy and Japan. Obviously, some domestic farms had found a niche market in these countries. ' JA

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