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Millions of pounds of mercury enter the environment each year, much of it coming from coal-fired power plants along the Gulf Coast, all of which currently are unregulated for mercury emissions. Mercury contaminates waters and leaves seafood eaters at greater risk of lung disease, asthma attacks, heart attacks, infertility and neurological birth defects. With the help of Chef Susan Spicer and other local restaurateurs, the local Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) are calling out an SOS (Save Our Seafood) this Friday with the aim of educating diners about the risks of mercury contamination. Participating restaurants will offer literature about mercury, and a portion of the day's proceeds will go to GRN, which works to eliminate the discharge of mercury from oil and gas rigs in and along the Gulf of Mexico.

"We're known for seafood in Louisiana, so we want to make sure that restaurateurs and consumers know what species to avoid and when they should avoid them," says Aaron Viles, the local organizer for U.S. PIRG. Viles stresses that the campaign is not meant to scare diners away from seafood altogether.

Pregnant women need to be most vigilant about avoiding mercury-contaminated seafood, since the principal exposure route for the fetus is through the mother's fish consumption, according to a U.S. PIRG report issued last year. Swordfish, tuna, sea bass, Gulf oysters and halibut -- all widely served in area restaurants -- are among the fish and shellfish pregnant women should avoid.

If passed, pending legislation will demand controls on mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants. "We would also like to see state agencies track learning disabilities and asthma so we could learn more about the environmental impact of contaminants like mercury," says Viles. Restaurants participating in this Friday's SOS include Bayona, Herbsaint, Commander's Palace, Lulu's, Lilette, Sugar Magnolia, August Restaurant, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Schiro's, Juan's Flying Burrito, Tujague's, Gautreau's, Fresco Cafe, Rene Bistrot and Martinique.

Borne's Book
Harry Lee
celebrated his 23rd year as sheriff of Jefferson Parish on Tuesday, April 1. Only Assessor Lawrence E. Chehardy, who took office June 14, 1976, has served longer than Lee among officials elected parishwide.

That's the kind of historical trivia readers can glean from Jefferson Parish Politicians of the Past and Present: 1825-2001, a self-published work by Frank J. Borne Jr., an executive assistant to Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer.

The 2001 reference compendium of parish election returns and brief political biographies sold for $25 a copy. Borne says he put two years of research into the book, which was receiving favorable reviews and some good buzz in parish political circles -- until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which dampened sales of his and other books released during that time. "It was starting to go good until then," Borne recalls. Still, he sold 250 volumes to buyers such as parish libraries and metro area historical societies. A member of the Jefferson Parish Historical Association and a fellow of the Loyola University Institute of Politics, Borne hopes to finish an expanded edition in the spring of 2004. "I'm running for the Republican parish executive committee, plus I've got to re-elect my boss," Borne says of Gegenheimer. "So, I've got a little bit more going on than last time."

To contact Borne, email him at


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