The ‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ That Terrifies the Gulf Coast (Vice. July 2016).

“When I shuffled into the water, I felt my foot go into something’s mouth,” recalls Kelly Blomberg of her last fishing trip to Grand Isle, Louisiana. “There was blood everywhere. LSU’s biology department determined it was a baby blacktip shark. Thank god I didn’t lose my foot from that!

But the bite quickly became the least of Blomberg’s problems. That wound allowed vibrio vulnificus—a rare microorganism sometimes called “flesh-eating bacteria”—to enter Blomberg’s bloodstream.

Vulnificus doesn’t actually eat flesh, but instead excretes a toxin that causes white blood cells to destroy the flesh to banish the intrusion. “At first my foot got huge, then there was a red line running up my leg. I was freaking out,” says Blomberg, who after three months off work is only now beginning to heal. “The whole time that it was getting worse, nobody told me I had flesh-eating bacteria… there were tendons and muscle showing… They had to do a skin graft.”

Though it’s uncommon—the Centers for Disease Control confirm just 124 vibrio vulnificus cases reported in 2014—it can be a frightening and even deadly occurrence; many vulnificus victims lose a limb and around half of them die. “Vibrio has destroyed the lymphatic system on most of the left side of my body,” Jocko Angle, who contracted a vulnificus infection after incurring an open wound at a Mississippi beach three years ago, tells VICE. “My left leg looks it has a bad case of diabetes. I’ve gone to several surgeons, and I’ve asked them to remove it.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at Vice

Or watch this scary video about vibrio in Florida:

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Obit for NOLA musician Mike Joseph (OffBeat. July 2016).

New Orleans musician Michael James Joseph passed away Monday, July 11, at the age of 48. Joseph was known as the bass guitarist for legendary New Orleans rock ’n’ roll bands Black Problem, Lump and Norco Lapalco, and as a longtime horn player for Egg Yolk Jubilee.

“Mike could pick up any instrument from any country in the world and in 30 seconds he’d be making real music with it,” attests guitarist Lou Thevenot, who started Black Problem with Joseph in 1987. “He had a sense of humor and warmth, and very importantly a lack of ego and pretention, that made him easy to be in a band with. He was fun to make music with because of those things.” obit

Joseph worked at Southern Candymakers in the French Quarter and as a waiter and manager at Morning Call in Metairie. Joseph graduated from Archbishop Rummell High School, alma mater of most members of Egg Yolk Jubilee.

“I considered Mike and [Black Problem/Lump drummer] AP Gonzalez one of the best rhythm sections in rock, ever,” says Egg Yolk guitarist, Geoff Douville. “They were an authoritative machine, and played some of the best shows I have ever seen in my life, still to this day.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at OffBeat Magazine…

Or watch this live video of Joseph’s band Norco Lapalco:

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New Orleans’s Confederate Monument Controversy (Guardian UK. Jan 2016).

After David Mahler’s company won a New Orleans city contract to move four civil war monuments from their places of public honor, some of his clients reportedly threatened to discontinue business with him. Local groups filed a lawsuit to keep the monuments where they stood. Still, Mahler’s team went ahead and measured the memorial to Jefferson Davis – the “president of the Confederate States of America” – for what seemed its inevitable removal.

But death threats followed, until Mahler finally decided to take his team off the job. Then, a week after he backed out, his Lamborghini was found burned to cinder in the parking lot of his company.

Burned car
Photograph: Tannie Guidry/Facebook

The renewed fight over confederate monuments began last summer when Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans at a revered black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and cloaked his reasoning in the Confederate flag. When the state of South Carolina lowered its American flag to half-mast alongside its continuously flying Confederate flag at the Statehouse, activist Bree Newsome climbed up and took the “rebel flag” down herself. Governor Nikki Haley later signed the papers and made it official.

Following South Carolina’s lead, other cities began liquidating their confederate symbols. Baltimore commissioned the removal of monuments to Roger B Taney, Robert E Lee and Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson. Memphis, Tennessee, is removing a bust of KKK founder Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest. North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Kentucky have publicly debated what to move where, and even Alabama, whose police uniforms feature the stars and bars, are ripping down rebel flags and statues.

New Orleans city government came to the battle this June, when mayor Mitch Landrieu assigned the city council to debate and vote on removing four specific confederate monuments.

There is the Battle of Liberty Place monument, which commemorates the 1874 insurrection wherein around 5,000 members of the Crescent City White League killed roughly 100 of the 3,500 black and white federal officers sent to New Orleans oversee the Reconstruction. In 1932 an inscription was added to it, celebrating the League’s role in preserving “white supremacy in the south”. In 1974, the city tacked on an odd plaque essentially walking back its support of the monument before, in 1989, it was moved to a more out-of-the-way local and its inscription drastically softened. In 1993, America’s favorite klansman David Duke held a re-dedication ceremony for the Liberty Place statue. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at The Guardian UK…

Or watch this footage of New Orleans’s City Council’s controversial vote to remove the statues:

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About New Orleans’s expanded Hong Kong Market (Gambit Weekly. March 2016).

Hong Kong Market (925 Behrman Road, Gretna, 504-394-7075) gained a reputation for its extensive selection of Asian foods, particularly Vietnamese items. It has expanded in size and offers a greater array of ethnic specialty items, bulk produce and wine and spirits.

“Our Hispanic section, the Indian food, Caribbean — everything’s grown,” says Sean Lyons, a San Francisco bail bondsman who moved to New Orleans last June to spearhead the renovation for his sister-in-law, Hong Kong Market owner, Jennifer Campbell. “We’re now a one-stop shop.”

The market added 11,000 square feet of display space, including a walk-in produce cooler. Alongside banh mi and other prepared foods, there are Taiwanese drinks, exotic fruit smoothies and more. It also has increased its “American” department.

Customers will notice the larger selection of liquor and wine.

“The wine and spirits section has really taken off like gangbusters,” Lyons says. “People are coming in and buying $2,500 bottles of Hennessey Imperial Perdis — a top of the line cognac. I didn’t know this, but cognac’s a big thing here at Hong Kong Market, a mainstay within the Asian community.”

Having connections in the restaurant industry, or just asking politely, could almost always get a customer some items in bulk at Hong Kong Market, but now that option is open to everyone. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at Gambit Weekly…

Or watch this nice video tour of the Hong Long Market!

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The goat renaissance: how pop culture learned to love the devilish-looking creatures (Guardian UK. Jan 2016).

he Fabulous Beekman Boys do not travel with their own goats. Thankfully, they could borrow my wife’s. This is how Brent Ridge and his husband Josh Kilmer-Purcell ended up posing outside of New Orleans’s Morial Convention Center with my two goats, Jesse and Willamena.

The couple were flown down here to promote their lucrative “lifestyle brand”, Beekman 1802, endorsed by Martha Stewart. Most famously, the couple starred in two seasons of the reality TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys, wherein Brent and Josh transformed from “obnoxious” Manhattan yuppies into slightly less obnoxious yuppie goat farmers. To cement their pop culture legacy, they then won The Amazing Race in 2012.

Heads turned in their direction as their photoshoot progressed. A crowd started to gravitate – though everyone ignored Brent and Josh, instead fawning over my family’s goats.

It’s true – people go friggin’ crazy for goats. When my wife has taken ours out on the town, I’ve learned how it must feel to hang out with Katy Perry or Justin Bieber. “I have always wanted to get a goat!” every third person squeals.

“This pop culture obsession with goats seems to be something recent,” Josh told me, agreeing that 2015 was not just the Year of the Goat in terms of the Chinese calendar. “There continue to be so many goat memes and videos: the fainting goats, the screaming goats, that recent one with goats singing Christmas Carols.” “Have you seen the goats singing Taylor Swift?” Brent piped in. “Rosanne Barr tweeted us with a question about goats; she has a goat farm in Hawaii. Tori Spelling has goats in Beverly Hills – she wanted us to go on her show with her goats.”

“There is something about the connection you can have with goats,” Brent added. “They are very social animals, so they’re more like a dog. They really look in your eyes – most farm animals won’t hold your gaze, but goats do.”

Along with a colorful history as a drag queen (as documented in his book, I Am Not Myself These Days) Josh comes from a professional advertising background. Both men casually pepper their speech with marketing phrases like “value added”. The couple’s business acumen is their biggest strength.

The goat-powered Beekman 1802 lifestyle is aimed at 1) Those who yearn for a more bucolic existence but probably won’t ever go through with it 2) Martha Stewart fans 3) yuppie entrepreneurs inspired by Josh and Brent’s monumental life-branding feat, and lastly 4) we who fetishize goats. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at The Guardian UK…

Or watch this cute video from the Beekman Boys’ goat nursery!

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Interview with Xavier University’s new President (Louisiana Weekly. Feb 2016).

On February 27, nine months into his new job, C. Reynold Verret, 61, was formally inaugurated as Xavier University’s new president.

Verret’s family first fled to America from his home country of Haiti in 1963, settling finally in Brooklyn, New York. His accomplishments since then would be impressive even without his immigrant story: He earned his undergrad degree in biochemistry from Colombia University, his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went on to serve as a postdoctoral fellow at the Howard Hughes Institute for Immunology at Yale University and the Center for Cancer Research at MIT.Dr. Verret joins Xavier from Savannah State University where he served as provost and chief academic officer from 2012.

Over two decades ago, Dr. Verret moved to New Orleans to teach at Tulane. “New Orleans was a new city for me at the time,” says Dr. Verret. “I discovered the similarities to Haiti really after I arrived here. When I tasted the rice and beans there was that feeling of, ‘Oh this looks like something I’ve seen before!’ New Orleans is clearly the Creole culture of old Haiti. And today New Orleans is even more of a true melting pot, with new people coming to NOLA that I have not seen previously—plus the Haitian population has grown too, since I have been here.”

Dr. Verret’s biochemistry background makes him a good fit for Xavier, which sends more black Americans on to medical school than any other college, as documented in a recent NYT magazine piece. Xavier boasts an even higher number of Black graduates in biology and physics. The school has worked its way through post-Katrina challenges by focusing on building up its STEM education—whereas Dr. Verret has helped develop programs to prepare STEM teachers, secure tuition support for teacher certification in STEM fields, among other similar accomplishments. As chair of the Chemistry department at Clark Atlanta University, he increased research extramural funding by almost $10 million.

But Dr. Verret says Xavier picked him out of 300 candidates for other reasons. He stresses his extensive experience dealing with issues such as declining enrollment, retention and graduation rates. “The post-Katrina changes have been somewhat striking,” he admits of the storm that, for a while there, chopped Xavier’s 3,000-member student body almost in half. “We’ve been dealing with some challenges of how we communicate ourselves, to keep students at Xavier.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the interview at Louisiana Weekly…

Or watch this video interview with the President:

 

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The Time I Hitched a Ride with Muhammad Ali (Vice. June 2016).

In the spring of 1971, Muhammad Ali faced two of the toughest fights of his career, one against Joe Frazier, the other against the legal system. That March, Ali returned to boxing after being banned from the sport for refusing to comply with the draft, but he lost a unanimous decision to Frazier. A month later would come the main event: the Supreme Court hearing that would result in the justices ruling in favor of Ali, finding that a lower court gave no reason for refusing to grant the Muslim convert conscientious objector status.

Beyond those two major battles, the once and future champ had plenty to keep him busy, traveling the country speaking about his political and religious beliefs to anyone who would listen: journalists, college audiences, even a 19-year-old Illinois hitchhiker named Louis Diamond who found himself suddenly in a car with the most famous man in America.

VICE spoke to Diamond, now a 63-year-old Chicago social worker, about his unexpected, but meaningful, personal encounter with the recently departed great while the boxer was on his way to speak at Northwestern University, just before the Supreme Court hearing.

VICE: So I’m dying to hear how you randomly met Muhammad Ali.
Louis Diamond: Well, every Sunday in Chicago for many summers [in a park on the North Side], bands would set up and play, and people would come hang out to be around one another and drink cheap wine and pass around doobies. Sometimes people would be leafleting for political stuff. The Chicago police’s Red Squad [who were in charge of infiltrating and sabotaging left-wing groups] would have cops with very new bellbottom pants and T-shirts taking pictures of all the people there.

I was still living with my folks in a nearby suburb, and instead of taking public transportation, I would hitchhike about ten miles.

So you were hitchhiking home?
Yes, I was on the roadside waiting for a ride, and it had been a while, and it was incredibly hot. I was sweating. And I’m looking at the heat waves rising from the street and the cars coming at me, and this big, big RV started heading toward me… And I remember thinking, Gee, that’d be really cool if that thing stops for me. And then it slows down, then slows down some more, then it stops.

The door opens, and I get in, and there are five or six well-dressed black guys —dress shirts, polo shirts, some pressed suits—and one of them comes in and says, “Hi, would you like to meet the Champ?” What? And I look over, and Ali’s stretched out on this bed in this motorhome! There’s the Champ! CLICK HERE to read the rest of this interview at Vice…

Or watch this REALLY amazing Ali documentary, When We Were Kings, about the “Rumble in the Jungle”:

When We Were Kings

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