Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleads guilty to corruption charges

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle, who resigned in early October, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this morning to accepting two bribes from contractor Aaron Bennett — CEO of Benetech — in 2008, as well as conspiracy to commit mail fraud for falsely reporting more than $100,000 in campaign expenditures in 2009.

Hingle, who faces up to five years in prison for his crimes, accepted a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Under the terms of the deal, Hingle will not face any additional corruption charges for his conduct while in office. Judge Sarah Vance today said she would defer her decision on accepting the deal until she sees a pre-sentencing report. Vance set Hingle's sentencing hearing for March 7.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said that prosecuting law enforcement officials with whom he has partnered on investigations in the past is "really tough" for him and his staff.

"This is not something we enjoy," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten during a press conference after the hearing. "We saw [Hingle] in the hallway, and he apologized to us. But we're not the ones who need his apology. The citizens need his apology."

(Video of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's press conference after the jump)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Oil and Water: Shannon Wheeler's sketches

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Shannon Wheelers sketches from the Gulf Coast for Oil and Water.
  • Shannon Wheeler's "sketches" from the Gulf Coast for Oil and Water.

In this week's cover story, I talked to the Steve Duin and Shannon Wheeler, author and illustrator of Oil and Water, a mostly nonfiction graphic novel about a group visiting the Gulf of Mexico last year — days after the Deepwater Horizon well had been capped.

The group, part of the real-life PDX 2 Gulf Coast project, was condensed from its 22 participants to 10 characters, and they quickly realize the oil disaster is a much larger and more complex problem than they believed. Duin and Wheeler were part of the real-life group, and Wheeler sketched and painted more than 300 pages over his 10 day tour across the coast.

After the jump: Wheeler, a New Yorker cartoonist and creator of the award-winning Too Much Coffee Man, shares his thoughts and some of his collection of sketches and paintings, from the Lower 9th Ward and French Quarter to people and places in coastal communities.

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Jail reform group collects more than 2,000 signatures on petition demanding change at OPP

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 3:37 PM

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With just two days to go before City Council votes on the 2012 budget, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition today delivered a petition to City Hall demanding that the city reject Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman's budget allocation.

The group, which claims to have collected more than 2,200 signatures on the petition, is asking Council to end OPSO's current per diem funding formula, where the sheriff is reimbursed $22 per inmate per day of incarceration. The petition also calls for city government to guarantee that the new, currently under construction OPP facility be limited to a 1,438 inmate capacity.

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Creative juices flow like gravy at Po-Boy Fest

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Getting ready at the Po-Boy Festival

There were plenty of traditional po-boys to be had at the 2011 Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, though there’s no doubt that the festival has become an annual showcase for new and imaginative interpretations of our city’s gift to the world of sandwiches.

I never pass up a shot at an old school Vaucresson hot sausage, a favorite at many local festivals, but the unique pleasure of the Po-Boy Festival is the chance to sample lots of different twists and novel combinations inside the po-boy loaf. The festival’s official judges seemed to agree, based on their picks for the event’s 2011 awards, which were announced this week:

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More holdovers from the New Orleans Fringe Festival

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Nancy Hartmans Shut Up, Youre Fat is a collection of politically incorrect travel and show biz stories.
  • Nancy Hartman's Shut Up, You're Fat is a collection of politically incorrect travel and show biz stories.

Several shows included in the New Orleans Fringe Festival have extended their runs.

Sarah (reviewed below) has added two weekends(Dec. 8-11, 15-18). Staged in a Bywater home under renovation, it's the story of a couple struggling to maintain some semblance of balance and sanity as their world and relationship is turned upside down.

Nancy Hartman's (pictured) politically incorrect travelogue Shut Up, You're Fat, which was cancelled during the festival, is running at Cafe Istanbul (8 p.m. Mon.-Wed., Dec. 5-7, 12-14). Hartman recounts tales of touring with Penn & Teller at renaissance faires and the humiliating tribulations of trying to make it in show business. And it's a scratch-and-sniff show for willing participants.

Pchile Goyin is running this Thursday and Friday. The phantasmagoric show follows a woman who is swallowed by a lake and appears in another world and sense of consciousness in a piece incorporating masks, puppets and physical theater. The performance is at 1919 Burgundy Street. Visit the website for details about the show and reservations.

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New Orleans ranked #1 when it comes to "America's Strangest People"

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 10:04 AM

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All those cities that give themselves a collective hernia trying to be self-consciously wacky — Keep Austin Weird! Keep Portland Weird! — can take a leaf from New Orleans' effortless style. Travel+Leisure has just named New Orleans No. 1 when it comes to "America's Strangest People."

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Big Freedia, Katey Red featured in Prince Paul bounce documentary

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 10:01 AM

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Hip-hop DJ and producer Prince Paul stopped in New Orleans as part of a six-part series documenting music culture across the country. Pauls' "Adventurous Musical Journey" (part of Scion A/V, which put out Big Freedia's EP) checked out New York's dance scenes, garage rock in Kansas — and now bounce in New Orleans. "I heard there's gonna be a lot of booties, and I want to see the booties, definitely," Paul says at the beginning of the video.

Paul is an authority on hip-hop and rap music if there is one, ever. He's produced tracks and albums for De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and dozens others. Here, the pioneer gives his blessing to New Orleans bounce (not that it needed it — also it's overdue).

Paul and his crew (Soce the Elemental Wizard and pal Mr. Dead) stop at bounce hotbed Caesar's, learn dance moves from hype man Big Choo and his Game Ova crew, and interview Rusty Lazer, Big Freedia and Katey Red. An interview at Buffa's Lounge with Katey and Freedia went something like this:

Soce asks, "So, you guys are both part of the sissy bounce movement? ... Yes and no?

Freedia looks down and smiles, and Katey smiles and says, "Yeah, just say yeah. Just say yeah."

"Definitely we're part of the label," Freedia says.

"You got a problem with the label," Paul says.

"It's not sissy bounce," Freedia says. "It's really just bounce music."

But, Katey says, "If sissy bounce is the label I need to be under to get to where I need to go —"

"I'm there," Freedia laughs. "Sissy bounce it is."

Check out the video after the jump.

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Philip Gould: photographing Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 8:34 AM

Photographer Philip Gould captures Louisiana’s culture through his ability to recognize the right moment. Whether people or places, deliberate or by chance, his well-structured, balanced compositions are easy on the eye yet impossible to duplicate, reflecting his personal and unique viewpoint. Ironically, however, his devotion to Louisiana stems from distant roots.

To understand a place, to see its ethos in a way necessary to capture a culture so that both natives and outsiders take notice, requires a certain perspective. It requires, specifically, a fresh eye, whether one immersed from childhood, then abandoned and returned, or one, like Gould, raised elsewhere.

The coastal marsh near Leeville in Lafourche Parish
  • Philip Gould
  • The coastal marsh near Leeville in Lafourche Parish

Philip Gould, born in 1951 in Massachusetts and raised in San Francisco by a Danish mother and a “hard-scrabble” Yankee father, graduated with a degree in photojournalism from San Jose State University. He discovered south Louisiana at age twenty-three when The Daily Iberian offered him a job, responding to his ad in a trade journal. It was, according to Gould, “the biggest cultural leap one can make.”

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Press release: Mayor Landrieu's 10-year plan to end homelessness

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu released his "Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in the City of New Orleans" today.

A little context: 10-year plans to end homelessness (or sometimes just "chronic homelessness") have become quite common over the past decade. The first page of an Internet search on the phrase shows 10-year plans in Denver, Seattle, Portland, Milwaukee and Arlington, Va. The model was proposed and developed in 2000 by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Now the press release:

MAYOR LANDRIEU, HUD OFFICIALS & HOMELESS SERVICES WORKING GROUP RELEASE 10-YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS IN NEW ORLEANS

NEW ORLEANS, LA— In June, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed an executive order establishing the Homeless Services Working Group- an official Mayoral Advisory Committee - tasked with developing a strategic master plan to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness in New Orleans. Today, Mayor Landrieu, along with the Working Group, and officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), unveiled the strategic plan. Support for the plan was provided by the Obama Administration through the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, a new federal-local government partnership designed to support local priorities through customized technical assistance in six pilot cities.

(End of release plus the full plan after the jump)

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New Orleans 2011 out-murders New Orleans 2010

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Happy holidays!

With two double homicides (for a total of four homicides) on Sunday, Nov. 27, New Orleans reached 178 murders for 2011. That's three more than the 175 in all of 2010, and there's still more than a month left in the year.

There is apparently some confusion, at least at the daily newspaper, as to when murder number 175 happened.

(Note: Reducing these tragedies to and subsequently being finicky over crime statistics is arguably morbid and disrespectful. However, we're getting to the end of the year. These numbers are going to be appearing in the media a lot. If we in the media are going to be morbidly disrespectful — a lot — anyway, let's at least try not to confuse everyone while we're doing it.)

Today's front page story "Murder rate tops 2010's after double homicides" (not available online for some reason, so here's a picture of the front page) correctly says that Sunday's four killings "bring the total number of homicides in New Orleans for 2011 to 178," meaning that before Sunday, the city was still at 174.

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