By The Associated Press - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – The Army Corps of Engineers built a “tragically flawed” levee system…
NEW ORLEANS – The Army Corps of Engineers built a “tragically flawed” levee system for New Orleans — but isn’t liable for claims that excavation work by a government contractor weakened a floodwall and caused it to breach in two places during Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. said he can’t hold the Corps or its contractor, Washington Group International Inc., responsible for the 2005 failure of a floodwall meant to protect the city’s Lower 9th Ward and neighbouring St. Bernard Parish.
Duval said the floodwall was a “disaster waiting to happen” due to several “anomalies,” including a structural defect. But he ruled that plaintiffs’ attorneys failed to prove the breaches were caused by “uplift pressures” created by WGI’s work.
“The Court cannot and will not find as a certainty what exactly caused these breaches,” he wrote in the ruling, issued Friday.
By The Associated Press - Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard was searching Saturday for two workers missing after…
NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard was searching Saturday for two workers missing after a fire broke out on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, sending an ominous black plume of smoke into the air reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that transformed the oil industry and life along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The blaze, which started Friday while workers were using a torch to cut an oil line, critically injured at least four workers who had burns over much of their bodies.
Coast Guard officials said in a news release Saturday that helicopters were searching for the missing workers from the air, while a cutter searched the sea.
The images Friday were eerily similar to the Deepwater Horizon blaze that killed 11 workers and led to an oil spill that took months to bring under control. The fire came a day after BP PLC agreed to plead guilty to a raft of charges in the 2010 spill and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties.
There were a few important differences between this latest blaze and the blaze that touched off the worst offshore spill in U.S. history: Friday’s fire at an oil platform about 25 miles (40 kilometres) southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, was put out within hours, while the Deepwater Horizon burned for more than a day, collapsed and sank.
The site of Friday’s blaze is a production platform in shallow water, rather than an exploratory drilling rig like the Deepwater Horizon ooking for new oil on the seafloor almost a mile (1.6 kilometres) deep.
The depth of the 2010 well blow-out proved to be a major challenge in bringing the disaster under control.
The Black Elk platform is in 56 feet (17 metres) of water — a depth much easier for engineers to manage if a spill had happened.
A sheen of oil about a half-mile (800 metres) long and 200 yards (180 metres) wide was reported on the Gulf surface, but officials believe it came from residual oil on the platform.
“It’s not going to be an uncontrolled discharge from everything we’re getting right now,” Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski said.
BP’s blown-out well spewed millions of gallons (litres) of oil into the sea, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River on the east side of the river delta. The crude fouled beaches, marshes and rich seafood grounds.
After Friday’s blaze, 11 people were taken by helicopter to area hospitals or for treatment on shore by emergency medical workers.
The production platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy is on the western side of the Mississippi River delta. The Coast Guard said 24 people were aboard the platform at the time of the fire.
Cubanski said the platform appeared to be structurally sound. He said only about 28 gallons (106 litres) of oil were in the broken line on the platform.
David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in Washington, said an environmental enforcement team was dispatched from a Gulf Coast base by helicopter soon after the Coast Guard was notified of the emergency. Smith said the team would scan for any evidence of oil spilling and investigate the cause of the explosion.
Black Elk is an independent oil and gas company. The company’s website says it holds interests in properties in Texas and Louisiana waters, including 854 wells on 155 platforms.
John Hoffman, Black Elk’s president and CEO, said in an email early Saturday morning that he was leaving Houston for Louisiana to assist in the investigation and help the families of the missing and injured workers.
“My entire focus is the families and workers. Nothing else matters at this point,” he wrote.
Associated Press Writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this story.
By The Associated Press - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM - 0 Comments
VENICE, La. – An explosion and fire ripped through a Gulf oil platform Friday…
VENICE, La. – An explosion and fire ripped through a Gulf oil platform Friday as workers used a cutting torch, sending four people to a hospital with burns and leaving two missing in waters off Louisiana.
Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski told a news conference in New Orleans the well was not producing at the time and no oil was leaking. A small amount of oil spilled from the rig when workers using a torch cut into a 75-foot-long, 3-inch-wide line on the platform. Cubanski said a sheen one-half mile long and 200 yards wide was reported in the area.
“It’s not going to be an uncontrolled discharge from everything we’re getting right now,” Cubanski said.
The fire had since been extinguished, said Coast Guard spokesman Drake Fore. He said Coast Guard aircraft and boats were searching for two missing people. Nobody was believed killed in the fire.
Taslin Alfonzo, spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center in suburban New Orleans, said four injured workers were brought to the hospital in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns over much of their bodies. Three arrived by helicopter at 9:55 a.m. and one by helicopter at 10:10 CST.
Two were sent by ambulance to the Baton Rouge Burn Center. Two others were to be sent later. She could not release identities or any other information.
The production platform owned by Black Elk Energy is about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La. The Coast Guard said 26 people were aboard the platform at the time of the explosion.
The platform is for oil production from an established well, unlike the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was drilling an exploratory well for oil giant BP in mile-deep water when it blew up and triggered a massive oil spill in 2010. That site is well to the east of Friday’s explosion.
Cubanski said the platform appeared to be structurally sound. After the April 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, that rig burned for about 36 hours before suffering structural collapse and sinking to the Gulf floor.
The Black Elk platform is in 56 feet of water. Cubanski said 28 gallons of oil were in the broken line.
The Coast Guard got the call about the fire at 8:42 a.m. CST.
A federal official in Washington said a team of environmental enforcement inspectors was flying to the scene.
David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the team was dispatched from a Gulf Coast base by helicopter soon after the Coast Guard was notified of the emergency. Smith said the team would scan for any evidence of oil spilling and investigate the cause of the explosion.
Black Elk is an independent oil and gas company headquartered in Houston, Texas.
The company’s website says it holds interests in properties in Texas and Louisiana waters, including 854 wells on 155 platforms.
By John Geddes - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 8:35 PM - 0 Comments
The National Gallery of Canada is set to open a show later this week of recent acquisitions, called “Builders: Canadian Biennial 2012,” and the exhibition’s most prominent piece might be a large outdoor sculpture by the mid-career Montreal artist Michel de Broin. It’s hard to resist, given its shape, touting Majestic as the star of the show.
De Broin created its exploding-star form by taking a mixed bag of New Orleans street lamps that were damaged and uprooted by Hurricane Katrina and attaching them to a hub. There’s playfulness in the outsized Tinkertoy-like result, but knowing how the parts were salvaged from disaster and turned into something beautiful lends it, at least to my eye, a feeling of drama and optimism.
It was created to be installed temporarily last year in downtown New Orleans and was only recently moved to a lawn beside the National Gallery, where Parliament Hill rises in the background. I went to look at it just last weekend in a fall drizzle. I haven’t seen it after dusk with its lights on yet, except in photographs, and I expect that to be a whole different experience.
De Broin plans to be in Ottawa for the official unveiling on Wednesday, which by a strange coincidence, given Majestic’s origins, will come in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He’ll be arriving fresh from Changwon, South Korea, where he had travelled for an exhibition, and it was from there that he answered some questions for me by email.
By Joseph Boyden - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM - 3 Comments
It’s been a year since the BP disaster, and nobody has learned anything
Already it’s been a year since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Eleven men lost their lives in that tragic—and absolutely avoidable—event, one that ushered in a new, dark era for the population of the Gulf Coast. What we witnessed slowly, sickeningly unfold down here over the next several months, like some crawling black plague into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, was not just the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, but one of the worst in recent world history.
Yes, we along the coast were already steeled to face federal, state and local government inaction and plain old confusion, masked by lies that tried to downplay the scope of the crisis. A hurricane half a decade ago prepared us for that. What many of us sadly weren’t prepared for was to have British Petroleum, that monstrous multinational powerhouse, whisper sweet nothings into our ears about how everything was going to be just fine, us little guys bent painfully over its leaking oil barrels. Apparently, it’s the whole “fool me once, shame on you” scenario playing out its second chorus, and so shame on us for not wanting to dare envision that after only one short year of BP playing out its good cop/bad cop act, or should I say responsible corporation/profitable corporation ruse, it now begins the act of walking away, wiping its hands of any further blame or restitution.
People down here seem to me to exist in two very different worlds of anger when it comes to what BP has rendered in our lives. There are those most directly impacted by the spill—the commercial fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers, the very ones who deserve to be most livid—who seem to be the ones who’ve learned to temper their anger in an almost Zen-like way. And then there are the rest of us who care, a large and amorphous group, the ones who were less directly affected and yet, ironically, seem the most deeply angry at this mess that’s been left behind on our doorstep.
By John Parisella - Friday, August 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM - 0 Comments
It has been five years since the disastrous Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of…
It has been five years since the disastrous Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico and the bordering states. Many reports this week are showing the incomplete but nonetheless significant resurgence of New Orleans. The citizens of the Gulf states, most recently affected by the BP oil spill, have endured much in the last few years. But they are examples of the American character in action—resilience and the ability to rebound have once again won the day.
What is it in the American character that promotes this capacity to recover, to reverse course when necessary and act in a way that brings progress? Some will argue that American history is full of examples where values and principles gave way to expediency. When slavery was abolished, segregation soon took its place. Yet today, America is governed by an African-American. It may take time, but it seems this most influential of all nations eventually gets it right.
The ongoing resurgence of New Orleans, the resistance to despondency by New Yorkers after the terrible events of 9/11, and the ability to revisit decisions like the one to go to war in Iraq speak to the nature of the American character. The mood in America has been decried of late as angry, with the rise of the Tea Party and the bitter debate over the Ground Zero mosque cited as evidence. This weekend Glenn Beck will deliver an angry address at the Lincoln Memorial, an attempt to simulate the Second Coming or his version of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Meanwhile, the upcoming election cycle has already been interpreted as a rejection of America’s current course of action. But somehow Americans will make it through this period of fierce polarization. The one consistent trait of this country is its character. Five years after Katrina, that much should be clear.
[John Parisella is currently serving as Quebec's Delegate General in New York City]
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
The BP oil spill is killing the local fishery—and making the region’s chefs search for creative alternatives
About a month after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans restaurateur Tommy Cvitanovich introduced a new signature dish at his restaurant: charbroiled mussels from Prince Edward Island. “Ninety-five per cent of the tables here order charbroiled oysters,” he says of the original signature at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant. “So when we were faced with the possibility of losing our supply, we had to come up with something.”
Cvitanovich is just one of many Louisiana chefs and restaurateurs scrambling for local seafood in the face of what seems like a never-ending oil spill. About a third of the Gulf’s federal waters have been closed to fishing, and many of the shrimpers and oystermen who could work on open areas of the coastline have signed up with BP to help in the cleanup. Ewell Smith of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board says the US$2.4-billion industry is “devastated.” Production levels for shrimp are at about a third; oysters, a quarter. Morale is at “a record low.”
By Joseph Boyden - Friday, April 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 3 Comments
Award-winning writer Joseph Boyden gets caught up in the magic of the new HBO series ‘Treme’
The New Orleans of cliché: Bourbon Street as the fog rolls in off the Mississippi, a lone jazzman blowing a plaintive tune on his sax; tourists in garish shirts walking through the French Quarter, drunk on syrupy frozen daiquiris and hurricanes, gawking at souvenir shop windows stuffed with voodoo dolls made in Taiwan and T-shirts reading “I got bourbon-faced on S–t Street”; nubile young women ﬂashing their jiggling breasts as rowdy crowds on balconies shower down Mardi Gras beads. Notice how all the clichés, by the way, are French Quarter-focused?
Certainly there have been many heroic celluloid attempts to capture the “real” essence of this brilliant, mouldy city. Exhibit No. 1: The Big Easy. Dennis Quaid and his awful Cajun accent (by the way, no real Cajun would ever dare live in this town, never mind one who’s a cop) tracking Ellen Barkin through the humid streets filled with, you got it, fog, breasts, and Mardi Gras beads. Exhibit No. 2: Angel Heart and its spinning ceiling fans, wrought iron balconies, and, you got it, voodoo dolls. Exhibit No. 3: do we really need a No. 3? If so, here’s one: K-Ville, a short-lived post-Katrina television police drama that tried (it really did!) to break out of the cliché but only ended up being consumed by it. A crooked NOPD officer who wants to come clean? Come on! Police corruption in New Orleans is so prevalent that it is one of those rare but deserving clichés.
And so when I heard word that the next poor fool of a director/visionary/genius had decided to try capturing the “real” New Orleans, I did the clichéd groan. And when I heard that this fool of a director/visionary/genius was actually basing a central character on one of my very own real-life friends of almost 20 years, a friend who I fondly consider a wastrel, a musical hack, and a drug fiend whose band played at my wedding, I spat my frozen daiquiri/hurricane concoction straight over my proverbial wrought iron balcony and onto the young breasts below. What? Say again.
Other friends assured me, “No, really, this is going to be different. This is going to be it.” What did they mean, “it”? The last time someone would ever try to capture this city in a TV show? Did “it” refer to the Apocalypse? “No,” my friends assured me, “David Simon is making a show about New Orleans.”
David Simon. Writer and producer of such critically acclaimed TV fare as Homicide: Life on the Street, Generation Kill, and, as my friends gushed so hard I worried something vital might spill from their ears, HBO’s The Wire, a show so great, if you are to believe my friends, it makes The Sopranos look like, well, K-Ville.
I’m going to admit something now and just get it out of the way: I’d never watched The Wire. I admit this knowing that I have dropped severely in the estimation of my friends-in-the-know. I have done something unbelievable in not having ever seen a single episode of The Wire. My wife, Amanda, who writes for a living at home like me, who keeps the identical schedule as me, has somehow seen episodes of The Wire. And, of course, she gushes over it.
What do I hear so many of you say? Do I hear you daring to admit that you’ve never seen The Wire, either? A quick online exploration reveals that this series, while critically acclaimed to the point of nausea, was certainly not a record-breaker in terms of viewership for HBO, and certainly not a “hit” by normal TV viewing standards. So what does this mean? That TV can somehow be like literature? Critically acclaimed yet poorly visited? This can really exist in the dog-eat-dog world of popular television?
Hence the question: can someone capture New Orleans, the real New Orleans and not the hackneyed cliché of New Orleans, on film, and for TV? I was invited, as a member of the foreign press (never mind that this city has been my home for well over a decade, but hey, I am Canadian), to a private viewing of the pilot episode of Treme (which airs Sunday, April 11, at 10 pm ET/MT, on HBO Canada). I imagined a small theatre, a group of us in fedoras with our press cards tucked into hatbands, busily scribbling in the darkness of said theatre in a shorthand that shamefully, I’ve never learned.
Instead, five of us foreigners gathered in a hotel room of a nice place on the edge of the French Quarter, squeezed side by side into chairs in front of a rather small television as the very nice HBO representative slipped a DVD into the player and worried about dimming the lights and the appropriate volume. To my left sat a young woman working for a newspaper in Italy, to my right a handsome young Frenchman writing for Le Monde. The group also included a rather serious man from Sweden and a woman who I assumed was eastern European but who never introduced herself. I feared she spoke no English.
For the next 80 minutes, I sat entranced. Okay, maybe I wasn’t entranced for the first while as I tried to get used to the amazing Steve Zahn playing my wastrel friend and while I watched other real-life friends in bit parts, friends I’ve known forever, second-lining down a wrecked just-post-Katrina street. I was also pulled out of the show at times in my worry for my new foreign journalist friends on either side of me. How could they possibly understand what the men on the screen were saying in their New Orleans patois? Shouldn’t the nice HBO woman turn on the closed captioning for them?
But then it took me over, it being the David Simon magic that my hip friends talked about. I felt like I was watching an impeccably filmed home movie of this town that care truly has forgotten. Simon and company introduce us to the storylines of a number of people in this first episode that opens just a few months post-Katrina, New Orleans still a dirty toilet bowl with a scum ring running chest high around it. We’re introduced to a down-and-out white radio DJ, a black trombone player trying to get by on whatever gigs he can scrape up, a Mardi Gras Indian chief who’s returned against the wishes of his children, a white chef trying to get her restaurant back up, and John Goodman as a university professor who bellows to anyone who will listen about how the disaster was man-made and not a natural one.
There are other central characters, believe it or not, and all are introduced with a casual nod as the viewer is swept up into the complications of their world. And get this: not one French Quarter scene and no ridiculous Cajun accents! What impresses me most is that Simon breaks all the rules of formulaic and horrible TV. No car chases, no random violence yet—there wasn’t a single murder in New Orleans for months after Katrina—and certainly no ridiculous plot twists to make us groan out loud. Simon applies the rules of good fiction to his art, it appears: strong character development is key to good story. And we get plenty of that. By the time the 80 minutes were over, I felt like I’d just spent time with people who are going to become good friends in the not-too-distant future. And I felt like someone might very well be getting at least the musical and food-inspired parts of this town very right.
I talked with a number of the actors as well as Simon and co-writer Eric Overmyer. Every one of them seemed genuinely passionate about this city and the future of it. All spoke of New Orleans being a birthplace for so much that is the good America: music, food, cultural tradition. At one point, I almost felt like I’d entered the cult of the Crescent City with all the love flying around.
Certainly, one of the tenets of the show is to do everything possible to get the city right. This includes plenty of local musicians in small roles. And certainly there is a strong feel of this being a real insider’s show. None of the strange customs of New Orleans are explained, including the Mardi Gras Indians or second lines—large gatherings that wander through the streets fuelled by live brass band music and plenty of beer and weed. In fact, the opening episode is often so “insider” that I can’t help but wonder what strangers to this place might walk away with. When I expressed this concern to Simon and Overmyer at different times, both were casual with virtually the same answer: they trust their viewers, and their viewers like emotional payoff. Those who watch the series will absorb a lot of the great city of New Orleans over time. Sounds to me like the same experience of reading a good book.
When I asked David Simon if he thought this show might be a hit, he answered, smiling, “I haven’t had a hit yet, but HBO keeps giving me enough rope.” With that, I understood the man a little better, I think. Of course viewer numbers are important to him, but capturing some truth about this place seems to be his guiding principle. There’s a lot of excitement in town as the airing date fast approaches. And I think it’s a safe bet to say that a lot of us here will soon feel that finally, indeed, somebody got a little something right for once.
Author’s postscript: sadly, on March 30, 2010, David Mills, co-executive producer and a writer of Treme, died on set. This article is dedicated to the man and his work.
By Ken MacQueen - Friday, October 23, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 2 Comments
Newsmakers of the week
The thorn in Stelmach’s side
It was a rough week for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. A new poll suggests he and his Progressive Conservatives are in free fall. His televised speech, intended to reassure Albertans about his handling of the recession, was widely panned and his attempt to set an austerity example with a 15-per-cent cut in his premier’s allowance fell on deaf ears. The nurses’ and teachers’ unions have rejected his call for voluntary wage freezes. And on Saturday, the Wildrose Alliance chose former journalist Danielle Smith as its new leader—continuing the Alliance’s evolution from cranky protest party to credible conservative alternative.
To ghostbust, you must first believe
Peter Aykroyd, an 87-year-old former federal civil servant who lives in a spirit-infested family homestead north of Kingston, Ont., has penned one of the season’s odder memoirs. A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters tells the multi-generational story of his spiritualist family. The foreword is supplied by his famous son, Dan, Saturday Night Live comedian and co-writer of the hit movie Ghostbusters. Dan writes how his family, from his great-grandfather onwards, were serious and scientific investigators of the paranormal. “Part of Ghostbusters’ appeal derives from the cold, rational, acceptance-of the-fantastic-as-routine tone that Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, director Ivan Reitman, and I were able to sustain in the movie,” he writes. With good reason: the Aykroyds are believers. Dan’s grandfather was a Bell Telephone engineer who considered the possibility of contacting the spirit realm via a crystal radio set. And one of Dan’s daughters, he writes, claims “glops of light and other shapes attend her when pictures are taken in and around the old family farmhouse.”
They did it for their families
An extramarital affair with a legislative assembly clerk has damaged the personal life and reputation of Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland. Now his political future rests with Ted Hughes, a no-nonsense former judge and one-time B.C. conflict-of-interest commissioner. Hughes conducted a hearing in Yellowknife to determine if Roland breached the public trust by keeping secret his relationship with clerk Patricia Russell. Both were married and have since left their spouses to live together. During the hearing Russell denied allegations she shared confidential caucus discussions with her lover. Roland told Hughes they kept the affair secret out of consideration for their families. Hughes may table his report by the end of October.
Beatles vs. Stones, next generation
The children of two of rock’s biggest names have taken a different approach to fame. James McCartney, son of Paul, has always avoided attention. He recently debuted his band Light to just 30 people in a tiny Oxford pub. McCartney, 32, and his band went to extraordinary attempts to conceal the name and parentage of their lead singer. “James has a way with melody,” wrote an approving gossip columnist for the tabloid Sun, “and a set of pipes which are more than a match for his dad’s.” Meantime, Mick Jagger’s toothy daughter Georgia May Jagger is sprawled topless atop a Union Jack in a new advertising campaign for Hudson Jeans. While crossed arms or strategic camera angles keep the photos just on this side of decency, they have still caused a stir, because, to paraphrase an old Beatles tune, she is just 17.
This little piggy went to Paris
Newsmakers spoke in haste last week when it suggested Paris Hilton was unlikely to acquire a British-bred micro-pig because the extremely intelligent animals aren’t available in the U.S. Hilton has now ordered a bred-in-the-U.S. Royal Dandie Extreme miniature pot-bellied pig from an Oregon breeder. “So excited for my new piglette [sic] to come home to me,” she Tweeted on Friday. The always predictable folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are less than enthused, saying she treats her pets as “disposable.” In fact, the pet-loving Hilton has quite a menagerie; it’s boyfriends that end up in the discard pile.
From hell, straight to Whistler
Skateboarding San Diego chef Dave Levey survived the fire-and-brimstone of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to win the top prize on his Hell’s Kitchen reality show on Fox TV. Levey wins a job for a year working under executive chef James Walt at Araxi Restaurant in Whistler. He starts Jan. 4, barely a month before the start of the Winter Olympics. Of course, he’s survived greater challenges. Not only did he endure the usual hazing by Ramsay, he spent most of the competition in pain after breaking his wrist. Such grit, combined with the 32-year-old’s skater-boy vibe, should make for a perfect Whistler fit. Levey says the tightly edited reality show was mostly real. “What people saw,” he says, “is very similar to who I am.”
Curves and all
Meghan McCain, daughter of former U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, would like to get something off her chest. “Don’t call me a Slut,” she thundered in her column on the Daily Beast website. The furor erupted after McCain used Twitter to post a picture of herself spilling out of a low-cut tank top. Reaction to a revealing photo of a Republican-values gal generated almost as much Web traffic as a certain Colorado family’s errant balloon. First an abashed McCain Tweeted an apology: “I have clearly made a huge mistake and am sorry 2 those that are offended.” Then she got mad. “Honest, I don’t feel that I have anything to feel ashamed of,” she wrote in her column. “I’ve always embraced my curves and will continue to do so.”
Kids say the darnedest things
Lisa Scott of Paulina, La., promised her son Tyren she’d take him to see U.S. President Barack Obama, so last Thursday they went to the President’s town hall meeting in New Orleans. Tyren raised his hand during a question period and Obama gave him the floor. “I have to say, why do people hate you?” he stammered. “They supposed to love you…. God is love.” The President gave a diplomatic reply about how such anger is politically motivated, and people are worried about their futures. The answer was fine, but the question later gave some commentators pause. Just when and why had the hate and rage so troubling to a young boy become a daily part of American discourse? “It was a pretty good question, I must say,” Tyren’s mother later reflected.
Free from Evin
Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari was released on bail Saturday after almost four months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Maziar, who holds dual Iranian- Canadian citizenship, was arrested June 21 after reporting on the demonstrations following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election. “Hopefully this is a sign that other journalists who continue to languish in jail in Iran will also be released in the near future,” said Annie Game, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expres sion. Bahari’s wife, Paola Gourley, is confined to a London hospital where she is due to give birth to their first child on Oct. 26. It’s unclear if Bahari, who still faces charges, can leave Tehran to attend the birth.
Fortunately, only the marriage is dead
Just three years ago they were rockers in love. The musical marriage in 2006 of Avril Lavigne and Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley ended last week with Lavigne filing for divorce. Neither said what caused their “irreconcilable differences.” Lavigne was seen this summer in St. Tropez with oil heir Brandon Davis. Whibley was recently in Las Vegas with model Hanna Beth Merjos. It may simply be they married too young. As Lavigne said on her website, “Deryck and I have been together for 6 years. We have been friends since I was 17, started dating when I was 19, and married when I was 21. I am grateful for our time together, and I am grateful and blessed for our remaining friendship.” And Whibley is grateful to be alive. Internet rumours last weekend had him dead—not a good start to single life. Luckily that was just a hoax.
There’s a bit of a ham in any politician but the Elvis-loving former Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi is uncommonly blessed. He once famously crooned the King’s tunes while on an official tour of Presley’s Graceland mansion. But now Koizumi, 67, is really reaching for the stars. His newest gig is as a voice actor for an extraterrestrial hero who fights aliens from outer space in the movie Mega Monster Ball: Ultra Galaxy. Sure, it was great to be premier of a major world power, but being Ultraman King has its advantages.
Sarko’s son also rises
Jean Sarkozy, all of 23 and repeating his second year at the Sorbonne, has been given a boost into the family business by his father Nicolas. The French president has appointed his son chairman of La Défense, the public agency administering France’s biggest business district, in west Paris. There are predictable cries of nepotism and even some of Sarkozy’s cabinet squirm at claims he is running a presidential monarchy. Sarkozy has denounced the “hysterical manhunt” against his son. Jean maintains a dignified silence, relying on what critics concede are two of his greatest assets: his golden good looks and his very nice hair.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 7:09 PM - 4 Comments
The 40th edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival unfolded in a manner that would not have shocked audiences at the first 39. A dozen stages, tents and other-shaped venues opened on the grounds of a New Orleans racetrack for the last weekend of April and the first of May. Bands took turns at each of the stages. Most were from New Orleans. Many were not. The operative noun in the festival’s title is not “jazz” but “heritage,” and in New Orleans more than in most places the word can have many meanings. It is not a great place to make serious study of the state of jazz music. It is a glorious place to eat crawfish and bask in the sun. Still, there was indeed music, and here is what some of it sounded like. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:12 PM - 0 Comments
Here’s Jonathan Batiste, the latest of many illustrious alumni of the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts, the finest performing-arts high school in the southern United States. We’re all really glad New Orleans and everyone who works to preserve it did better work and had better luck this time than last.
By Paul Wells - Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:27 AM - 0 Comments
A quick note on what’s happening in New Orleans, which looks like it could be fairly harmless — except for the way those floodwaters are overtopping the Industrial Canal levee near the Lower Ninth Ward. Here’s a picture from Tulane University geologist Stephen Nelson, who gave me a tour of Katrina flood damage in 2006:
See that trench along the floodwall? It’s important to understand something: that’s the “dry” side; the flooding was happening on the other side. But as it splashes over the top of the wall, it lands, with some force, on the “dry” side and starts eroding a trench, quite rapidly. And if the floodwall isn’t dug down deep enough, that erosion can combine with the pressure from the other side to tip part of the floodwall over. It’s quite clear that happened along some of the levee breaches in 2005 (there were several breaches, cause by different failures in different locations). That’s why the footage of water splashing over the top of the Industrial Canal floodwall is causing a lot of worry right now.
By Paul Wells - Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 9:05 PM - 0 Comments
Three articles in which I tried to explain why New Orleans is important and, later, why its recovery is so precarious.
• From 2005, five months before Katrina, a column about the complex interaction of race and music in New Orleans.
• From later that year, a week after Katrina’s landfall, a column about the joy, not just the suffering, that is due to the city’s location.
• From the first anniversary of Katrina in 2006, a longer look at a movie debut, a banjo player, and the shaky state of the reconstruction.